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Keywords:

  • global warming;
  • economic activity;
  • spurious regression

Abstract

A series of climate model simulations of the 20th Century are analysed to investigate a number of published correlations between indices of local economic activity and recent global warming. These correlations have been used to support a hypothesis that the observed surface warming record has been contaminated in some way and thus overestimates true global warming. However, the basis of the results are correlations over a very restricted set of locations (predominantly western Europe, Japan and the USA) which project strongly onto naturally occurring patterns of climate variability, or are with fields with significant amounts of spatial auto-correlation. Across model simulations, the correlations vary widely due to the chaotic weather component in any short-term record. The reported correlations do not fall outside the simulated distribution, and are probably spurious (i.e. are likely to have arisen from chance alone). Thus, though this study cannot prove that the global temperature record is unbiased, there is no compelling evidence from these correlations of any large-scale contamination. Copyright © 2009 Royal Meteorological Society