That’s No Small Change in the Temperature Anomaly!

It has remained an irritant in the back of my mind, like a burr itching through.

Ever since I watched the documentary Jesus Camp, from time to time, I hear the mother home-teaching her son about how the change in the temperature anomaly is small.

I know it’s a familiar, if not exhausted denial claim (like the rest), but I think it bugs me so much more when I see it taught to a child. I don’t blame the mother so much – I don’t think she’s meaning to misinform, but is equally misinformed herself.

This burr however got me thinking. The temperature anomaly is not a measure of fluctuating weather, but long term climatic conditions – closer to our measure of the mean surface temperature. When you compare 2, 4, 6 and 8OC of warming against the mean surface temperature, it looks like the following;

We will pass 2OC of warming regardless, so, in all honestly, we’re looking at an increase between 20-57% increase in the mean!

Suddenly a few degrees doesn’t sound so insignificant.

I also added a rough measure of the likely mean surface temperature at the last ice age to put the graph into perspective. Think about how different that world must have been than the one we know today. Look again at the 6 and 8OC of warming and try to tell me that such worlds wouldn’t be just as different to ours. I’d prefer not to find out just how different.


5 thoughts on “That’s No Small Change in the Temperature Anomaly!

  1. That image is one of the finest pieces of science communication regarding climate change I think I’ve ever seen.

    And in retrospect, it’s blindingly obvious that part of the problem all along has been that the numbers have been misinterpreted by far too many as ‘trivially small’ when in fact they are ‘hugely significant’. I’ve stolen the image; I hope you don’t mind…


    1. By all means – that’s why I placed the “CC” badge on the site; it’s all share-and-share-alike. As long as credit is given back to the source, I feel the most powerful way to reach a wide audience is through such an approach. Maybe I should’ve place my name to the graphic.

      To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was onto a winner with this approach. It seemed blindingly obvious and so I thought it might not mean much to others. I ran it by Mike and he liked it and thought I should go with it (he also suggested I make it a graphic rather than, as I originally had done, talk it out).


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