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Global temperature does not exist

By Tom Harris - posted Thursday, 1 February 2024

It seems that not a day goes by when we don't hear about skyrocketing "global temperature." The problem is-global temperature doesn't exist.

Yet Bing AI reports:

According to my search, there were about 1,820,000 results for "global temperature" in the media from January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2023. This means that the phrase was referenced on average about 182,000 times per year, or 500 times per day, in the past ten years.


Of course, governments, the United Nations and even some scientists also use the term often, hyping meaningless records in an imaginary parameter in order to frighten us about something that doesn't matter.

Climate activists venture even further into the realm of unscientific fantasy chanting "1.5 to stay alive," meaning that we must prevent the "global temperature" from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (oC) above pre-industrial levels or we are all doomed. But the so-called "global temperature," at least the way the UN calculates this make-believe parameter, has already risen 1.2 oC since pre-industrial times. Only a climate hypochondriac would think that a further 0.3oC rise would be noticeable, let alone catastrophic.

Unknown to most of the public, and indeed many scientists who should know better, is the fact that "global temperature" or "global average temperature" or even "global temperature anomaly" is not real. It is merely a statistic that, outside of politics, has no meaning in the real world.

In their award-winning book, "Taken By Storm," Canadian researchers Christopher Essex and Ross McKitrick explain,

Temperature is not an amount of something [like height or weight]. It is a number that represents the condition of a physical system. In thermodynamics it is known as an intensive quantity, in contrast to quantities like energy, which have an additive property, which we call extensive in thermodynamics.

For example, a person's height is an extensive quality; it can be added to other people's heights to give a meaningful result, namely the total height of all the people involved if they laid head to toe on the floor. Dividing that total height by number of people gives the mean height, or the average height of the people in the group. The same applies to weight and other extensive qualities. We can combine two or more systems and the values of extensive variables for the whole system will simply be the sum of the values of the individual components.


But this does not apply to intensive qualities like density, pressure, chemical potential, concentration and, of course, temperature, none of which can be added up in any meaningful fashion. Intensive variables are independent of system size and represent a quality of the system.And, if you can't generate a physically meaningful answer when you add them up, how can you end up with a meaningful answer when you divide the total by the number of measurements? You can't.

Let's say, at a particular moment in time, you measure 1,000 temperatures, ranging from 0oC (or, in the absolute temperature scale used in science, 273 degrees Kelvin, oK) to 20 oC (293 oK) at 1,000 different locations. Adding them yields a number, perhaps 283,000. That means nothing of course. There is no place or thing that measures 283,000 oK. So, how can you take that meaningless number and divide it by a meaningful number (1,000, the number of temperature measurements) and generate a meaningful result? In fact, that is a test that reveals whether measurements can generate a meaningful average; does the intermediate sum mean anything?

In the final analysis, it is no more meaningful to calculate an average temperature for a whole planet, or even a state or a city (or even a room in your house), than it is to calculate the "average phone number" in the telephone directory of a city. If you called that "average phone number," would you be in touch with the average citizen? Individual telephone numbers are useful and meaningful, while the sum or average of the telephone numbers in a directory have no meaning. Similarly, temperature, like viscosity and density, is not something that can be meaningfully averaged. "Global temperature" does not exist.

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About the Author

Tom Harris is an Ottawa-based mechanical engineer and Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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