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Context of 'April 13, 2001: Study Drawing on Historical Data Suggests Anthropogenic Causes for Rising Sea Temperatures'

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Nature publishes a study by climate scientists Raymond Bradley, Michael Mann, and Malcolm Hughes concluding that the last few decades were warmer than any comparable time period in the last 1,000 years. Their study shows that the pace of warming was most dramatic during the last century. The authors identified the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as the dominant factor in the observed increase in global temperatures. [Nature, 4/23/1998 pdf file; San Francisco Chronicle, 6/23/2006]

Entity Tags: Malcolm Hughes, Raymond Bradley, Michael Mann

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases its third assessment report on global warming, concluding that the planet’s atmosphere is warming faster than expected, and that evidence supports the theory that it is being caused by human activity. The study predicts that the world’s average surface temperature will rise 2.5 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit between 1990 and 2100. The IPCC’s 1995 estimate had only projected an increase of 1.8 to 6.3 degrees. The higher temperatures will cause glaciers to recede, pushing sea levels between 3.54 and 34.64 inches higher, the study says. Tens of millions of people living in low-lying areas will be displaced by the rising sea levels. The report also supports the conclusions of a 1998 study arguing that the last few decades of the twentieth century were warmer than any other comparable period in the last 1,000 years (see April 23, 1998). The IIPC’s 1,000 pages-plus report, written by 123 lead authors from all over the world, drew on the work of 516 contributing experts. At a news conference coinciding with the report’s release, IPCC chairman Robert Watson says, “We must move ahead boldly with clean energy technologies and we should start preparing ourselves for the rising sea levels, changing rain patterns and other impacts of global warming.” [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2001; Reuters, 1/22/2001]

Entity Tags: Robert Watson, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The journal Science publishes a study suggesting that a major factor in rising ocean temperatures is likely “the increase of anthropogenic gases in Earth’s atmosphere.” The study’s conclusions are based on analysis of historical ocean data pertaining to the latter half of the twentieth century. These findings are supported by results that were produced by an atmosphere-ocean general circulation model. [Levitus et al., 2001 pdf file]

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The National Research Council issues a report on global climate change that was commissioned by the White House. The opening paragraph of the document reads: “Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability. Human-induced warming and associated sea level rises are expected to continue through the 21st century. Secondary effects are suggested by computer model simulations and basic physical reasoning. These include increases in rainfall rates and increased susceptibility of semi-arid regions to drought. The impacts of these changes will be critically dependent on the magnitude of the warming and the rate with which it occurs.” [Committee on the Science of Climate Change, National Research Council, 2001; CBS News, 6/19/2003; Boston Globe, 6/20/2003]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), National Research Council (NRC)

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The Office of Management and Budget, which is reviewing the EPA’s forthcoming “Draft Report on the Environment” (see June 23, 2003) advises the EPA that the report “needs balance” and asserts that “global climate change has beneficial effects as well as adverse impacts.” The office also suggests removing the discussion on global warming completely from the report’s executive summary. “[D]elete climate change or use previously agreed upon material,” writes one staffer at the White House Council of Environmental Quality. Similarly, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy suggests removing a discussion of the potential impacts climate change might have on human health and ecology. The Department of Energy also gets involved, arguing through the White House that EPA should delete any discussion of atmospheric concentrations of carbon because it is not a “good indicator of climate change.” Another official warns, “Take care here and be sure to be consistent with existing administration policy. Let us try to avoid another CAR scenario.” This is a reference to the Climate Action Report (CAR) (see May 2002) that the US submitted to the UN in May 2002. That report concluded that human activities are “causing global mean surface air temperature and subsurface ocean temperature to rise.” White House officials also suggest making edits to particular sentences. For example, the OMB asks the EPA to delete the phrases, “alter regional patterns of climate,” and, “potentially affect the balance of radiation.” It also suggests replacing the passage, “changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly the result of human activities,” with, “a causal link between the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the observed climate changes during the 20th century cannot be unequivocally established.” Several of the edits are made by CEQ chief Philip Cooney, a former oil industry lobbyist. According to a congressional investigation, Cooney removes climate change “from a discussion of environmental issues that have global consequences, delete[s] a chart depicting historical temperature reconstruction, and insert[s] the word ‘potentially’ in several places to reduce the certainty of scientific statements regarding the impacts of climate change.” Cooney also advocates the removal of references to a 2001 National Research Council report (see June 2001) concluding that human activities contribute to global warming and information from a 1999 study indicating that global temperatures rose significantly over the previous decade compared with the last 1,000 years. Cooney also adds a claim to the draft report that satellite data does not support global warming, and removes a phrase that says “regional patterns may be altered” by climate change. In one memo, Cooney writes, “These changes must be made.” [New York Times, 6/19/2003; CBS News, 6/19/2003; Associated Press, 6/20/2003; US Congress, 1/30/2007 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Philip A. Cooney, Office of Management and Budget, Bush administration (43), Office of Science and Technology Policy, Council on Environmental Quality

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

In an internal EPA memo, agency staff describe three different courses of action the EPA administrator can take in dealing with the changes that the White House has made to the forthcoming “Draft Report on the Environment” (see June 23, 2003). Over the last several weeks, White House officials have made so many changes (see April 2003) to the climate change section of the report that scientists no longer believe the section accurately depicts the scientific consensus on the issue (see April 29, 2003). The first option suggested in the memo is that the EPA administrator could accept the edits made by the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Management and Budget. The memo notes that this would be the “easiest” road to take, but warns that the “EPA will take responsibility and severe criticism from the science and environmental community for poorly representing the science.” The altered report “provides specific text to attack,” the memo adds. According to the memo, the White House edits “undercut” the conclusions of the National Research Council (see June 2001) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (see October 1, 2001). Alternatively, the memo suggests, the EPA administrator could opt to cut the entire climate change section from the report. The last option discussed in the memo is that the EPA administrator could stand firm against the White House’s “no further changes” edict and attempt to reach a compromise. While EPA staff seem to prefer this approach, believing that this is the “only approach that could produce a credible climate change section,” they caution that confronting the White House could “antagonize” officials and that “it is likely not feasible to negotiate agreeable text.” The EPA will ultimately choose to remove the climate section completely from the report. [US Congress, 1/30/2007 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Council on Environmental Quality, Office of Management and Budget, Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The Journal of Climate publishes a paper by hurricane expert Robert Tuleya and NOAA climate scientist Thomas Knutson suggesting that an increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may increase the intensity of hurricanes. Knutson’s study is based on computer analysis performed at the Commerce Department’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J. The two scientists created some 1,300 virtual hurricanes using a more powerful version of the same supercomputer simulations that the NOAA uses to track and predict the behavior of real hurricanes. The New York Times reports that according to independent experts “this study is particularly significant… because it used half a dozen computer simulations of global climate, devised by separate groups at institutions around the world.” MIT climate scientist Kerry A. Emanuel says Knutson’s study “is by far and away the most comprehensive effort” to analyze the issue using computer simulations. [New York Times, 9/30/2004; Tuleya and Knutson, 2005 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Thomas Knutson, Robert Tuleya

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Joe Barton, the chairman of the House of Representatives committee on energy and commerce, begins an inquiry into the careers of climate scientists Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley, and Malcolm Hughes. The three scientists had published a study in 1998 (see April 23, 1998) concluding that the last few decades were warmer than any other comparable time in the last 1000 years. Barton’s investigation is spurred by a recent report in the Wall Street Journal reporting that an economist and a statistician, neither of whom have a background in climate science, have found that the study was flawed. Barton’s investigation is demanding that the three scientists provide the committee with details about their funding sources, methodology, and other studies they have published. Barton, who has close ties to the fossil-fuel lobby, “has spent his 11 years as chairman opposing every piece of legislation designed to combat climate change,” notes the Guardian of London. Responding to Barton’s actions, 18 of the country’s most influential scientists from Princeton and Harvard write in a letter: “Requests to provide all working materials related to hundreds of publications stretching back decades can be seen as intimidation—intentional or not—and thereby risks compromising the independence of scientific opinion that is vital to the pre-eminence of American science as well as to the flow of objective science to the government.” Barton’s investigation also draws criticism from within his own party. Sherwood Boehlert, the chairman of the house science committee, says she objects to what she sees as a “misguided and illegitimate investigation.” [USA Today, 7/18/2005; Guardian, 8/30/2005] Congress eventually asks the National Academy of Sciences to review the issue. A year later, the Academy will publish a report confirming that the last few decades have been hotter than any other period since 1600. However, it says there is not enough data to make a solid conclusion regarding temperatures before that time (see June 22, 2006). [San Francisco Chronicle, 6/23/2006]

Entity Tags: Raymond Bradley, Malcolm Hughes, Michael Mann, Joe Barton

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, responding to a reporter’s question, says, “The National Academies of Science came out with a report in 2001 (see June 2001) that was requested by the President; it took a look at science of climate change, and in that very report it talked about how there are considerable uncertainties.” [White House, 6/8/2005]

Entity Tags: Scott McClellan

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

Rick Rosen, the assistant administrator for the NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, contacts Ahsha Tribble and suggests that the agency issue a press release to publicize a piece by climate scientist Chris Landsea that will be published several months later in the Journal of Climate. Landsea’s article, dealing with the issue of hurricane intensity and climate change, takes a position that is supportive of the Bush administration’s view on the issue. Rosen writes in an email, “It challenges the conclusions reached by Knutson and Tuleya (2004) (see September 28, 2004) regarding the potential for more intense hurricanes in a warmer climate. It is not likely to attract the same media attention as the original Knutson and Tulyea [sic] paper, but we should consider drafting a NOAA press release nonetheless.” Often, proposed press releases suggesting a link between human activity and global warming or global warming and hurricane intensity are delayed because of the “politically sensitive” nature of the topic. Sometimes they are not published at all. Such was the case for the 2004 Knutson and Tuleya study referred to by Rosen. Knutson submitted a press release on the paper, but it was never approved (see Before September 28, 2004). [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 30 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Rick Rosen, Ahsha Tribble

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Erica Rule, a public affairs officer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), informs scientist Chris Landsea that all media inquiries concerning a soon-to-be-published paper by MIT climatologist Kerry Emanuel (see August 1, 2005) will be directed to him. Emanuel’s paper links rising sea temperatures to stronger hurricanes, a view that is not favored by the White House. Landsea, who is familiar with the paper, has said he has “strong concerns about [Emanuel’s] methodology.” Another climate scientist who has read the article is Thomas Knutson. Knutson co-authored a paper the year before tying higher carbon dioxide levels to the increased intensity of hurricanes (see September 28, 2004). Media requests to interview Knutson will be redirected to Landsea (see July 29, 2005-August 1, 2005) as a result of this decision. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 12 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Erica Rule, Chris Landsea

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Thomas Knutson receives a voicemail from NOAA public affairs officer Kent Laborde asking him if he would be interested in appearing on an MSNBC talk show to discuss hurricanes and climate change. The journal Nature has just published an article (see August 1, 2005) linking rising sea temperatures to hurricane intensity and MSNBC wants to interview Knutson who has published research on that topic (see September 28, 2004). Knutson decides to contact the show directly, since it is a weekend and Laborde is probably not at the office. He agrees to appear on the show and asks that MSNBC contact Laborde Monday morning. But on Monday morning, Laborde tells Knutson that the White House objects to the appearance. “White House said ‘no,’” he explains. Laborde adds that he has already called MSNBC to cancel his appearance. He told the show that Knutson was too tired for the interview because of a trip he had taken over the weekend. [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 30 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Chris Landsea, Kent Laborde, Thomas Knutson

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The journal Nature publishes an article by MIT climatologist Kerry Emanuel suggesting that rising sea temperatures are producing stronger hurricanes. His study found that a combined measure of duration and wind speeds among North Atlantic hurricanes and North Pacific cyclones has almost doubled since the 1970s. “The best way to put it is that storms are lasting longer at high intensity than they were 30 years ago,” says Emanuel. [Emanuel, 2005; USA Today, 7/31/2005]

Entity Tags: Kerry Emanuel

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Reporter Peter Lord of the Providence Journal calls the NOAA public affairs office and requests an interview with scientist Thomas Knutson, the author of a 2004 paper (see September 28, 2004) suggesting that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may increase the intensity of hurricanes. Lord speaks with public affairs officer Kent Laborde, who tells him that NOAA has discounted research linking global warming to more intense hurricanes. “What we’ve found is, if you look at a couple segments of science, observational or modeling, there is no illustrated link between climate change and hurricane intensity,” Laborde says. “We actually have periods of intensity followed by periods of lower intensity. We have evidence of periods going back to the 1930s. It follows a clear pattern.” When Lord says he would like to interview Knutson, Laborde asks, “What is the topic?” Lord says he wants to talk about Kerry Emanuel’s “theories linking climate change to worsening hurricanes.” Laborde responds, “Chris Landsea would be better. He’s an observational scientist.” Unlike Knutson, Landsea does not believe hurricane intensity is influenced by global warming. [Providence Journal, 3/26/2006; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 79 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Chris Landsea, Kent Laborde, Peter B. Lord

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) concludes that there is an 84 percent chance that human activity is responsible for rising sea surface temperatures (SST). Climate scientist Tom Wigley, one of the study’s authors, says data from 22 different computerized climate change models showed “exceptional correlation” between human activity and climate change. The only plausible explanation for the dramatic increase in sea surface temperatures is deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels. “There is less than a one percent chance that the changes in SST could be the result of non-human factors,” Wigley explains. The paper also finds that higher sea surface temperatures are increasing the frequency and intensity of storms in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. [Inter Press Service, 9/12/2006; Boston Globe, 9/12/2006; Santer et al., 9/19/2006]

Timeline Tags: Global Warming


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