Scotch mist and COP26

The most common definition of Scotch Mist is “A cold and penetrating mist, verging on rain.” There is however another definition: “Something that is hard to find or does not exist”. The latter is the one I am using as a basis of this post, and I’ve chosen it because I am going to look for evidence of warming in Scotland. Glasgow is in Scotland and is, of course, the venue for the COP 26 climate meeting so all the eyes of the world are on that country.

The first question to examine is “Is Scotland different to England?” The British Meteorological Office publishes long-term climate data for almost 40 climate stations covering all constituent countries of the United Kingdom. So, for a start let’s compare the long temperature records of Oxford and Stornaway Airport. Oxford is in England and almost as far form the sea as it is possible to be in that country. Its record started in 1853. Stornaway is on the Island of Lewis, to the west of Scotland, and its data go back to 1873.


The chart shows the temperature record of the two stations from 1873, when both stations were operating, to 2020. For both stations the lines represent the difference from the mean for the period 1873 to 1970. The fine line shows the annual average temperature values for both stations and the broader line shows 11-year moving average values. Three things are immediately obvious. The first is that temperatures are, in general, rising for the whole period. Secondly, the record for Oxford shows more variation. This is to be expected as it is further from the moderating influence of the sea. The third thing it shows is that in recent years the temperature has been rising more for Oxford than for Stornaway. This is particularly noticeable for the last ten years as over that period Stornaway temperatures were stable but those for Oxford continued to rise. This third point suggests that rising temperature is, perhaps, an urban rather than a global phenomenon

A separate factor, which I discussed a few years ago on this site and will come back to in the future, is that the temperature rise is far from constant: there are even periods when the temperature is falling. This is not built into current climate models. In my earlier post I showed that this increase and fall in the rate of temperature increase was coincident with the ‘Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation’. In the latest, 2021, IPCC report there are 37 references to that phrase, all but three of are in titles of publications. I can understand their dilemma. If they were to admit that global temperatures were influenced by a natural climate driver, and that over the last two decades this had, at least in part, led to rising temperatures, it would weaken their argument that humans were causing damaging temperature increases.

A final point related to this graph. From 1879 to 1899 the temperature at Stornaway rose by 2.49 degrees. For the same station the temperature rose by 2.48 degrees from 1979 to 2003. This suggests that the rate of increase of temperature in recent decades is not unusual.

Whilst the above chart and the data on temperature rise in different periods are indicative, using just one climate station for the northern part of Britain is, of course, insufficient to prove anything.

The Met Office website has data for 9 Scottish weather stations. Six of these are land based and three, including Stornaway, are in islands.


This chart is a plot of temperature data for all stations, the blue line, and for land-based stations, the orange line. The land-based stations are a degree or so warmer than the sea-based stations, they are generally further south, but otherwise there is no major difference. The following analysis uses all stations.


The final chart in this posting shows the annual temperature trend averaged over all 9 met stations for two periods. The lines are in blue, from 1970 to the year 2000, and orange, from 2000 to 2020. The dotted lines show the trend in temperature over time. The trend line for the last 20 years shows that there has been no sensible increase in temperature in Scotland.

So, the proof of global warning, at least as it effects the venue of the latest COP, is indeed “Something that is hard to find or does not exist”. I am, of course, fully aware that what happens in a small country surrounded on three sides by the sea is not representative of the whole world. Nevertheless, the fact that the data represent stasis can be considered a "canary in the mine".   


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Flight of Fancy

Every year there is a meeting of national delegates of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The schedule was broken by COVID restrictions and no meeting was held in 2020. A couple of years ago I posted some comments on the meeting held in Poland in 2018 (http://www.climatedata.info/blogger/index.php?id=6854117018301138519). The last meeting to be held took place 2–13 December 2019 in Madrid, Spain


During the previous meeting of the COP, 60 of the participating countries had no temperature stations in the GCHM (Global Historical Climatology Network) data base and only 15 of the 193 parties had more climate stations than members. In COP25 the equivalent numbers were 72 countries with no temperature stations and only 11 countries had more temperature station than delegates. So, in terms of data availability for assessing what was happening to the climate, the situation was clearly getting worse.


Disturbing though these figures are, this is not what I want to concentrate on. With one notable exception the delegates would have flown to Spain to take part in the meeting and have flown home afterwards. The exception of course was Greta Thunberg who, interestingly but in a different way, was making the point that I am about to make. Air travel is significant source of greenhouse gases and the meeting of the UNFCCC involved a lot of air travel. How much? Let’s see.


For the distance flown by delegates I based my estimates mainly on the web site ‘distancefromto.net. I assumed that delegates from Spain and neighbouring countries would have travelled by land. There were 6,048 delegates from 197 states. On average each delegate flew 11,700 km. Sixteen of the delegations clocked up more than 1 million air km. Heading the list was Indonesia whose 142 delegates flew an estimated 12376 km each way making a grand total 3.5 million air kilometres. Bangladesh, 1.96 million km of flights, and Tonga, 1.38 million km, have no climate stations in the data base. In total the delegations clocked up 71.3 million air miles. Before you get apoplectic at these figures – cool down – there’s worse to come.


The total attendance at COP25 was 22,354, made up of 11,414 representing states and organisations, 8,775 representing observer organisations and 2,165 from the media. So, the 71.3 million km clocked up by the country delegates were only part of the total. I realise that it is not possible to assume that other participants averaged the same distance as those representing countries. An analysis of those delegates who came from a named country suggested an average distance of 7,300 km, much less than flown by delegates. So, to get the total additional air miles I will use a distance of 7,000 km and exclude the media. That gives a value of 14,121 participants whose air km come to 198 million air km.


The COP 25 meeting of the UNFCCC in 2019, with the ostensible aim of saving the planet, led to an extra 269 million kilometres of flights.


The CO2 emissions per air passenger are around 105 g per kilometre flown. So, COP 25 led to 28,450 tonnes of CO2 being added to the atmosphere. Let’s put this into perspective.


Scotland, where the next meeting will be held, has 2.5 million cars. The average UK car travels 11800 km/year or 32 km/day. CO2 emissions average 125 gm CO2 per km. So, at the time of the meeting the daily CO2 emission of all the cars in the Scotland will be 10,000 tonnes per day. In other words, by comparison with other measures of CO2 emission, COP 25 was a significant polluter.


To believe that such blatant hypocrisy would convince anyone to reduce their business or holiday flights is indeed a ‘flight of fancy’.


Footnotes:

1.     The details of participation were taken from ‘The List of Participants’ (https://unfccc.int/documents/184482) which was published on 13 December 2019.

2.    The number of climate stations used for temperature data was taken from the file ‘ghcnm.tavg.v4.0.1.20210928.qcu.dat’ downloaded on 29 September 2021. GHCN stands for “Global Historical Climatology Network” and is the largest data base of global monthly temperature.

1.     The values for fuel consumption and car use represent typical values taken from more than one site. 

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