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Guess: When Was the Last Time that the Globe Had a Month Cooler than the 1951-1980 Average? What Are the Chances of That?

There Is No Global Warming, screams a NewsMax headline yesterday.

No Global Warming? Let’s play make-a-guess using NASA’s GISS temperature data dating from January 1880 to May 2015 to test that assertion.

To play the game, make a guess: how many months has it been since the globe had a monthly temperature reading cooler than the 1951-1980 average global temperature? Really, go ahead. Make a guess.

Now read on.

If there has been no global warming, as the NewsMax headline baldly asserts, then whether the globe is warmer or cooler than the 1951-1980 average since 1980 should be essentially a flip of the coin, with some months warmer, some months cooler, but no overall tendency for temperatures warmer than the 1980 average since 1980. If there has been no global warming, then the chance that any particular month is warmer than the 1951-1980 average should be 50% and the chance that any particular month is cooler than the 1951-1980 average should be 50% too.

Now here’s the answer, according to NASA’s GISS temperature data across the globe over land and sea. The last time that a month was cooler than the 1951-1980 average for that month was February 1994. That was 256 months ago. In every one of the 255 months since then, the global temperature has been warmer than the 1951-1980 average.

If global warming really did not exist, and whether a month was warmer or cooler than the 1951-1980 average was just a flip of the coin, then you’d randomly get that chain of 255 warmer than average months only 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000173% of the time (1/2 to the 255th power).

That’s how outrageous it is to say there has been no global warming.

25 thoughts on “Guess: When Was the Last Time that the Globe Had a Month Cooler than the 1951-1980 Average? What Are the Chances of That?”

  1. ella says:

    OKAY Jim Cook! That is some actual empirical evidence. (Whatever empirical means.) You just did a real good. That is the way to use statistics!

  2. David King says:

    You’re so right, Jim. That article in Newsmax is a rehashed advertisement for a book by an “investor” who is invested in selling his point of view. A good takedown is here:

    My broader worry is that the “deniers” have closed their minds and won’t meaningfully engage in conversations about climate change. I’ve had that experience up-close with a handful of legislators, and I’m left wondering… is it possible to “change” people’s minds? What would it take?

  3. ella says:

    “…I’ve had that experience up-close with a handful of legislators, and I’m left wondering… is it possible to “change” people’s minds? What would it take?”
    The problem with legislators is that they live in a controlled environment 24/7. They have the money to created their living situations and never want to see the ‘outside world’. In time the ‘outside world’ ceases to exist, other than as the source of maintaining their personal Utopias. Vote them out of office and take away their Utopian privileges. Allow them more than a 5 minute view of the spaces between controlled environments, and outside of the Capital. Remove the silk and fine wool suits and replace them with cotton. Cut their salaries $100,000 a year and remove their privileged investments that have made most of them millionaires. And then there is the minor income from bribery for votes that is no longer even hidden. Corruption is a strongly persuasive mistress. She wears pink shades.

  4. thedogfacedboy says:


    One extremely simple suggestion: term limits for all.

    Not a total solution of course, but a step into the right direction.

    Which is exactly why most career politicians resist it so strongly.

    1. ella says:

      I have signed petitions for that purpose many times. But guess who the petitions go to? Of course they are not going to vote to cut themselves out of the most lucrative profession in the USA. It would have to be a Constitutional Amendment ratified by the states. That takes several petitions, an organization to oversee the authenticity of the signatures, the present the petition to the individual states in which the signatures were collected, and finally to the U.S. Supreme Court for legitimacy. I actually tried that once and got somewhere in three states. Then I ran into something I did not expect and since it was me and the ether I did give up. I do know a bit more now about how those things need to go, but it really does take money and an ground organization to push a grass roots endeavor. If you know of an organization up to trying to do that, I’ll gladly get on board.

  5. Mark says:

    Another simple solution:
    Decrease the size of Congressional districts to about 100,000 people. This would increase the number of Congressmen to over 3000. There’s no way they could all reside in DC. Most of them would have to set up offices in their own districts and work there most of the time. Think of how much access this would give to the average citizen.

    1. ella says:

      They’d move out into the surrounding communities as many of them do now. Good thought though! They all have offices at home. Just ask their local secretaries and staffs. They ‘help the local economy’ that way.

      1. Mark says:

        Don’t they have to, by law, be residents of the district they serve?
        They may all currently have home offices, but how often are they really there? I’ve met my Congressman in his home office. He’s there for only about 1 day a month and I could get no more than 5 minutes with him.

        1. ella says:

          Congratulations! My Congressman does come to visit various communities around election time and may be in his office from time to time. Right now, concerning the climate, take a look at this bill which is before Congress at this moment. It is to pull the teeth out of emission standards for fossil fueled energy plants. Interesting wording, only for “fossil-fuel power plants”. Big oil is kicking again.

    2. Mark says:

      Just for fun I played with some numbers this morning.
      Based on 2014 population estimates, setting the maximum Congressional District size to 100,000 people would yield 3206 Representatives to the House.
      The range of residents per seat would be 89,509 (Vermont) to 99,966 (Florida).
      The current range is 527,587 (Rhode Island) to 1,023,579 (Montana). (Can anyone say that this is even remotely fair?)
      The range in seats per state would be 6 for Wyoming and 389 for California.
      They currently have 1 and 53.

      1. thedogfacedboy says:

        That’s an interesting study. However, I question whether just having more idjits wasting their time and our money will get anything better accomplished.

        I don’t know if there is any direct correlation between the ratios and “better” government, whatever that is. As organizations grow in size, communications certainly suffer, and they harder to organize and manage. I would see more levels, breakdowns and committee leaders. And those are some of the things today that gum up the works.

        As far as the ranges of numbers, I don’t know if that is inherently unfair. That’s a conclusion drawn without any justification.

        Good for talking about though. All kind of off-topic from this article however.

        To the point of the article:”….If there has been no global warming, then the chance that any particular month is warmer than the 1951-1980 average should be 50% and the chance that any particular month is cooler than the 1951-1980 average should be 50% too….”

        Here’s why this is faulty reasoning.

        The author is using a monthly tally to represent “the flip of the coin” as to whether a month is higher or lower than “average”. That time period (monthly) is a totally artificial construct, unless you’re trying to prove the temperature has something vaguely to do with lunar cycles.

        It all has to do with the randomness of the data’s “noise” and whatever periods of fluctuation there is inherently in the earth’s temperature “cycles” if such a time period exists. Certainly we have hemispherical-based winter and summer seasonal temperature fluctuations. But this data supposedly represents a global average.

        Maybe the oscillation period is measured in years or decades or longer. Then, looking a monthly swing high or low is randomness in the noise and represents nothing of any real control interest.

        The author appears to be greatly out of his intellectual element, or he is trying to mislead people.

        I don’t want this to become too hard for non-statistical people to grasp. Let’s look at a simple example to illustrate the possible fallacy:

        Let’s say you decided to flip a coin to represent the sampling of you observing if the sun was clouded over. On a moderately-cloudy day, assuming you flipped it every minute and looked up at the sky, maybe 50% of your “flips” were cloudy, and 50% were sunny. Then you keep flipping it and a big storm front comes in. Now, maybe you get a break in the cloud cover like once every two hours, so you see flip after flip being “cloudy”. Or you keep doing it into the night, and everything looks “cloudy”, because you can’t see the sun at all. (you are not especially observant in this example)

        You would not want to start drawing a conclusion about cloud cover based on how many one-minute samples of the sky you took,because the cloud movement is not tied at all to that arbitrary sampling period. The same goes for monthly temperature cycles. Aggregating the data into months and drawing this conclusion above is just plain wrong.

        1. Jim Cook says:

          You’re discussing the issue of temporal autocorrelation, which is a fine issue to raise in the abstract. In this concrete example, averages by month are not arbitrary because the dataset presents deviations by month for that calendar month, and also because the difference between the predicted probability

          1. Jim Cook says:

            …(sorry for the interruption) by random chance and observed occurrences is so large. No matter what time frame you choose, the difference is statistically significant in this case.

            For instance, it has been 39 years since the annual global temperature average (at the level of a year as measured in the NASA GISS dataset) has been cooler than the 1951-1980 average. On a yearly basis, the chance of a chain of 38 years going by without a single year cooler than the 1951-1980 average on a random basis is 0.000000000364%, also entirely ridiculous in its improbability, especially when just making observing 38 annual observations (such an occurrence is literally as small as possible over that span).

            If a person wants to start asserting that there has been temporal autocorrelation at a larger scale than a year, then we’re beginning to talk about climate trends rather than weather, which is kind of the point.

          2. Gary* says:

            Climate over the years is clearly not a random event, and is tied to the previous year, decade, century and millennium since there are factors that affect global temps that span those timeframes. The odds calculated above are completely invalid. Not to mention the time span is way too short to be meaningful.

            It was still warmer during the Midevil and Roman warm periods, and cooler during the Little Ice Age. You can repeat this type of calculation get similar “unlikely” odds everywhere. Plus, your more likely to get “unlikely” results like this since GISS applies an ever increasing adjustment to recent temps, on the order of a whole degree since the 1960s. In fact, the trend they present for the last 15 years is completely an artifact of the adjustments. In other words, there is a definite bias in the data set.

            The truth is there has been a pause for the last 18 years of so based on satellite data, which is the most accurate, most comprehensive measurements available. It is also indicated by the fact that there has been numerous papers addressing the cause the pause. This would hardly be needed if it didn’t exist.

            Eighteen years. It may or may not mean anything. Maybe we should be glad it’s not as bad as predicted thus far.

          3. J Clifford says:

            Actually, Gary, as we’ve discussed before with you, the evidence for a pause in global warming over the last 18 years is not supported by the full range of climatic data that’s available. What is a fact is that many of the predictions of negative consequences of global warming have proved to be too conservative.

          4. Gary* says:


            If you disagree with something I have said, please quote exactly the words I have said so everyone can understand exactly what you disagree with. Do you think the satellites data is in error? Why? Do you believe the Midevil or Roman warm periods didn’t exist? Do you think there have been no papers related to the “pause”? What exactly is “the full range of climatic data” you are referring to? I have spent years looking at all the data that is available. What more is there?

            Also, I would really like to for you to delineate the many predictions you refer to. I really would.

  6. thedogfacedboy says:

    I call BS entirely, and you should know why.

    The point is climate trend. You can’t keep mixing discussions about weather and climate trends.

    Our recorded history of scientifically-valid climate data over long-ago periods is pretty poor. While Europe certainly suffered under the so-called mini-ice-age, I doubt we have anybody who can reasonably prove what the global average was during those periods. It may have been mostly in Europe. And the “proofs” I’ve seen so far of the causes are less than overwhelming.

    1. Jim Cook says:

      Yes, the point is climate trend, which is what I’ve been consistently discussing. You’re the one who brought weather in.

  7. ella says:

    You speak of the oscillations as a factor in global temperature. The sign wave pattern of the Equatorial oscillation moves masses of temperate air either north or south of the equator. The distance, say to the 15th degree, north has certainly brought tropical air northward. Disturbances in the wave pattern have been dramatic in recent history. The Arctic Oscillation also has no periodic cycle. Of course, for that reason oscillations cannot used be a reliable factor of temperature data in any particular area of the globe. Oscillations are a good example of what moves air temperature over land and water. The Equatorial Oscillation can be used to indicate La Nina events in the Indian Ocean/India sub-continent. That is weather. Can weather and climate be correlated? Yes, in some instances. For example: It is known that a ‘deep El Nino’ will bring an enhanced stormy pattern across the northern tier of the U.S., following will come stormy patterns on the West Coast. What part of that is climate? When records we have kept reflect that, as time progresses, changes trend to extremes. In temperature, in rainfall, in wind events, in drought. That shows climate altering.

    1. ella says:

      It might be interesting to see if a match could be made between the sine wave pattern of the Equatorial Oscillation during a solar maximum and then again at the solar minimum. Is the solar maximum still around eleven years? It was beginning to occur more frequently. Perhaps the approach of the sun that ‘whizzed past Earth a mere one light year away’ also has had some effect on our solar activity, hence climate. 1951-1980 solar minimums and maximums were fairly stable and constant.

  8. ella says:

    Station PHXX average temperatures from 2005-2015 show that 2005 was the coolest of those years. Of course records are only to June of 2015.

  9. ella says:

    Gary, I would like to say something concerning this comment you made:

    “It was still warmer during the Midevil and Roman warm periods, and cooler during the Little Ice Age.” (I think you meant Medieval, but that fits the time period.):)

    How long has it been since the Arctic tundra has thawed out? Consider that this day Alaskan natives are having to relocate.

    When it was frozen, a great deal of plant material was suspended in time, not rotting. But now that it is being freed from ice, even more greenhouse gases are being released.

    1. Gary* says:


      Thanks for the correction. I am not too familiar with your example, although I recall reading about it.

      I did find a few references, including the following paper by Clegg et al (2010) that found “Over the past 2000 years, our TJuly record displays patterns similar to those inferred from a wide variety of temperature proxy indicators at other sites in Alaska, including fluctuations coeval with the Little Ice Age, the Medieval Climate Anomaly, and the First Millennial Cooling.”

      1. ella says:

        The Alaskan Arctic tundra is all that the United States has and the populations of natives concerns our Government enough for studies. The Arctic though is very important, like a canary-in-the-coal-mine. Obviously the Arctic climate was much warmer at one time. Without the Arctic Oscillation sending cooling air southward, mid latitudes will be much warmer. Changes are happening much more rapidly than scientists forecast and we are preparing for it. But can we forecast the next cooler cycle using the recent historical information?

  10. ella says:

    And Gary, thank you very much for the link, I enjoyed that and went on from there for a bit.

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