Skip to comments.Did Media Or NASA Withhold Climate History Data Changes From The Public?
Posted on 08/09/2007 2:58:33 PM PDT by Neville72
A change in climate history data at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies recently occurred which dramatically alters the debate over global warming. Yet, this transpired with no official announcement from GISS head James Hansen, and went unreported until Steve McIntyre of Climate Audit discovered it Wednesday.
For some background, one of the key tenets of the global warming myth being advanced by Hansen and soon-to-be-Dr. Al Gore is that nine of the ten warmest years in history have occurred since 1995.
McIntyre has been crunching the numbers used to determine such things as published by GISS, and has identified that the data have recently changed such that four of the top ten warmest years in American history occurred in the 1930s, with the warmest now in 1934 instead of the much-publicized 1998.
As McIntyre wrote Wednesday (emphasis added, h/t NBer dscott):
There has been some turmoil yesterday on the leaderboard of the U.S. (Temperature) Open and there is a new leader.
Four of the top 10 are now from the 1930s: 1934, 1931, 1938 and 1939, while only 3 of the top 10 are from the last 10 years (1998, 2006, 1999). Several years (2000, 2002, 2003, 2004) fell well down the leaderboard, behind even 1900.
Most importantly, according to the GISS, 1998 is no longer the warmest year in American history. That honor once again belongs to 1934.
As global warming is such a key issue being debated all around this country and on Capitol Hill, wouldn't such a change by the agency responsible for calculating such things be important to disseminate? When this correction was made by Hansen's team at the GISS, shouldn't it have been reported?
In fact, it is quite disgraceful that it wasn't, as it suggests that a government agency is actually participating in a fraud against the American people by withholding information crucial to a major policy issue now facing the nation.
Think this will be Newsweek's next cover-story?
No, I don't either.
Post facto thought: If Hansen's team had made changes to the data which showed that ten of the ten warmest years in American history occurred since 1995, do you think that would have been reported?
Yeah, I do, too.
*****Update: This appears to be necessary given some very silly e-mail messages that I've received. Gore's claim concerning warmest years in history pertains to data for the entire planet. The changes at GISS are only for American data.
However, as e-mail messages from various scientists around the world have pointed out, American climate data collection is the finest on the planet. It is expected that when these changes are made to numbers across the globe, the worldwide rankings might see some changes as well.
Yet, still more to the point is the fact that American data were changed without any announcement.
Noel Sheppard is an economist, business owner, and Associate Editor of NewsBusters.
I guess this is another reason why Al Gore did not stick around to talk to Bjorn Lomborg at the House Hearing on Global Warming back in March. :)
Interestingly my latest Discover Magazine had an article that actually showed the other side of the global warming issue. I was stunned.
Even more from Ace of Spades:
Even More: Commenters assure me this explanation of how this all unfolded is crazy-delicious. I haven’t had the time to read it yet; I’m throwing it up as fast as possible.
Cuffy Meiggs, who I often think of as “Drew,” says “dig deeper” into that Tech blog site TigerHawk links. Here’s the thing: James Hansen, who accused Bush of politicizing global warming science, is responsible for the bugged algorithms that produced the erroneous figures. Furthermore, he refused to release his algorithms so that they could be checked. The bug was discovered by someone who took the time to reverse-engineer Hansen’s flawed algorithm, and then, having accurately done so, proved NASA’s numbers were wrong. Thus causing the revision.
So James Hansen, who claimed Bush was politicizing Global Warming, refused to provide his algorithms to other researchers so they could simply check his work, hiding his own errors from them and distorting the science he claims to care about oh-so-much until some persistent researchers went to the great trouble of reconstructing his algorithms themselves.
Fire him. Immediately.
Oops, sorry, I guess it wasn’t the most recent (I have been catching up on them so I can ship them off to my son). But here is the article on their website anyway.
The sad thing is the average person really doesn’t understand the science, and so they just have to go along with what the media tells them. And when the media doesn’t very publicly admit mistakes, most people go on believing what they originally heard.
What's next, they'll tell me the Hockey Stick is wrong and it really was warm during the Medieval Warm Period when they were farming in Greenland???
The only thing worse than normal junk science is demoKKKrat science.
But wait, it is August 9th in Texas and we have YET to have a single day reach 100°F.
That date usually hits last week of June or first week of July. Sometimes. 1980 saw almost two months above 100°F.
This has been the coolest summer with the most rain EVER.
God I love glo-bull warming.....
Breaking News: Recent US Temperature Numbers Revised Downwards Today
This is really big news, and a fabulous example of why two-way scientific discourse is still valuable, in the same week that both Newsweek and Al Gore tried to make the case that climate skeptics were counter-productive and evil.
Climate scientist Michael Mann (famous for the hockey stick chart) once made the statement that the 1990’s were the warmest decade in a millennia and that “there is a 95 to 99% certainty that 1998 was the hottest year in the last one thousand years.” (By the way, Mann now denies he ever made this claim, though you can watch him say these exact words in the CBC documentary Global Warming: Doomsday Called Off).
Well, it turns out, according to the NASA GISS database, that 1998 was not even the hottest year of the last century. This is because many temperatures from recent decades that appeared to show substantial warming have been revised downwards. Here is how that happened (if you want to skip the story, make sure to look at the numbers at the bottom).
One of the most cited and used historical surface temperature databases is that of NASA/Goddard’s GISS. This is not some weird skeptics site. It is considered one of the premier world temperature data bases, and it is maintained by anthropogenic global warming true believers. It has consistently shown more warming than any other data base, and is thus a favorite source for folks like Al Gore. These GISS readings in the US rely mainly on the US Historical Climate Network (USHCN) which is a network of about 1000 weather stations taking temperatures, a number of which have been in place for over 100 years.
Frequent readers will know that I have been a participant in an effort led by Anthony Watts at SurfaceStations.org to photo-document these temperature stations as an aid to scientists in evaluating the measurement quality of each station. The effort has been eye-opening, as it has uncovered many very poor instrument sitings that would bias temperature measurements upwards, as I found in Tucson and Watts has documented numerous times on his blog.
One photo on Hall’s blog got people talking - a station in MN with a huge jump in temperature about the same time some air conditioning units were installed nearby. Others disagreed, and argued that such a jump could not be from the air conditioners, since a lot of the jump happened with winter temperatures when the AC was dormant. Steve McIntyre, the Canadian statistician who helped to expose massive holes in Michael Mann’s hockey stick methodology, looked into it. After some poking around, he began to suspect that the GISS data base had a year 2000 bug in one of their data adjustments.
One of the interesting aspects of these temperature data bases is that they do not just use the raw temperature measurements from each station. Both the NOAA (which maintains the USHCN stations) and the GISS apply many layers of adjustments, which I discussed here. One of the purposes of Watt’s project is to help educate climate scientists that many of the adjustments they make to the data back in the office does not necessarily represent the true condition of the temperature stations. In particular, GISS adjustments imply instrument sitings are in more natural settings than they were in say 1905, an outrageous assumption on its face that is totally in conflict to the condition of the stations in Watt’s data base. Basically, surface temperature measurements have a low signal to noise ratio, and climate scientists have been overly casual about how they try to tease out the signal.
Anyway, McIntyre suspected that one of these adjustments had a bug, and had had this bug for years. Unfortunately, it was hard to prove. Why? Well, that highlights one of the great travesties of climate science. Government scientists using taxpayer money to develop the GISS temperature data base at taxpayer expense refuse to publicly release their temperature adjustment algorithms or software (In much the same way Michael Mann refused to release the details for scrutiny of his methodology behind the hockey stick). Using the data, though, McIntyre made a compelling case that the GISS data base had systematic discontinuities that bore all the hallmarks of a software bug.
Today, the GISS admitted that McIntyre was correct, and has started to republish its data with the bug fixed. And the numbers are changing a lot. Before today, GISS would have said 1998 was the hottest year on record (Mann, remember, said with up to 99% certainty it was the hottest year in 1000 years) and that 2006 was the second hottest. Well, no more. Here are the new rankings for the 10 hottest years in the US, starting with #1:
1934, 1998, 1921, 2006, 1931, 1999, 1953, 1990, 1938, 1939
Three of the top 10 are in the last decade. Four of the top ten are in the 1930’s, before either the IPCC or the GISS really think man had any discernible impact on temperatures. Here is the chart for all the years in the data base:
There are a number of things we need to remember:
This is not the end but the beginning of the total reexamination that needs to occur of the USHCN and GISS data bases. The poor correction for site location and urbanization are still huge issues that bias recent numbers upwards. The GISS also has issues with how it aggregates multiple stations, apparently averaging known good stations with bad stations a process that by no means eliminates biases. As a first step, we must demand that NOAA and GISS release their methodology and computer algorithms to the general public for detailed scrutiny by other scientists.
The GISS today makes it clear that these adjustments only affect US data and do not change any of their conclusions about worldwide data. But consider this: For all of its faults, the US has the most robust historical climate network in the world. If we have these problems, what would we find in the data from, say, China? And the US and parts of Europe are the only major parts of the world that actually have 100 years of data at rural locations. No one was measuring temperature reliably in rural China or Paraguay or the Congo in 1900. That means much of the world is relying on urban temperature measurement points that have substantial biases from urban heat.
All of these necessary revisions to surface temperatures will likely not make warming trends go away completely. What it may do is bring the warming down to match the much lower satellite measured warming numbers we have, and will make current warming look more like past natural warming trends (e.g. early in this century) rather than a catastrophe created by man. In my global warming book, I argue that future man-made warming probably will exist, but will be more like a half to one degree over the coming decades than the media-hyped numbers that are ten times higher.
So how is this possible? How can the global warming numbers used in critical policy decisions and scientific models be so wrong with so basic of an error? And how can this error have gone undetected for the better part of a decade? The answer to the latter question is because the global warming and climate community resist scrutiny. This weeks Newsweek article and statements by Al Gore are basically aimed at suppressing any scientific criticism or challenge to global warming research. That is why NASA can keep its temperature algorithms secret, with no outside complaint, something that would cause howls of protest in any other area of scientific inquiry.
As to the first question, I will leave the explanation to Mr. McIntyre:
While acolytes may call these guys professionals, the process of data adjustment is really a matter of statistics and even accounting. In these fields, Hansen and Mann are not professionals - Mann admitted this to the NAS panel explaining that he was not a statistician. As someone who has read their works closely, I do not regard any of these people as professional. Much of their reluctance to provide source code for their methodology arises, in my opinion, because the methods are essentially trivial and they derive a certain satisfaction out of making things appear more complicated than they are, a little like the Wizard of Oz. And like the Wizard of Oz, they are not necessarily bad men, just not very good wizards.
For more, please see my Guide to Anthropogenic Global Warming or, if you have less time, my 60-second argument for why one should be skeptical of catastrophic man-made global warming theory.
Update: Nothing new, just thinking about this more, I cannot get over the irony that in the same week Newsweek makes the case that climate science is settled and there is no room for skepticism, skeptics discover a gaping hole and error in the global warming numbers.
Update #2: I know people get upset when we criticize scientists. I get a lot of “they are not biased, they just made a mistake.” Fine. But I have zero sympathy for a group of scientists who refuse to let other scientists review their methodology, and then find that they have been making a dumb methodology mistake for years that has corrupted the data of nearly every climate study in the last decade.
Update #3: I labeled this “breaking news,” but don’t expect to see it in the NY Times anytime soon. We all know this is one of those asymmetric story lines, where if the opposite had occurred (ie things found to be even worse/warmer than thought) it would be on the front page immediately, but a lowered threat will never make the news.
Susie, you are so right! All the global warming con men have to do is to issue falsehood after falsehood, let it be reported by the media, and then sit back, confident that corrections will not be forthcoming. Global warming (aka Abrupt Climate Change) is, so far, the best con of the new millenium. It has appealed to all of those with no intellectual life whatsoever and given them a cause with which they can ‘define’ themselves and feel important and relevent.
2) the details of how this was discovered are even more interesting...being a side effect of discovering that the US Historical Climate Network stations have been horribly corrupted by being all-too-often located in recent years adjacent to buildings, parking lots, air conditioning vents, and in wastewater treatment facilities...which isn't so bad for telling you if you'll need to go to the pool or turn up the AC today...but is awful to represent a control series to adjust other data by. In a counter-strike, some of the Anthropogenic Global Warming crowd attempted to show that setting the site adjacent to these heat sources didn't matter because Hansen and GISS (Goddard Institute of Space Science?) - NASA - were able to make adjustments to erase the effect. Upon examination, McIntyre - part of the pair that demonstrated the immense flaws in Mann's Hockeystick - began digging into the example, attempting to figure out what adjustments were made to the data series. What he discovered was that in Jan 2000, the series jumped from one set of adjusted data to another without being normalized, which had the effect of causing a spurious temperature rise for every year since 1999 for that site in MN. After McIntyre sent a note to the guys who do the GISS adjustments, they found the error was systemic. Worse yet, it appears that the data for the years since 1999 was used to adjust previous years data, and so a whole host of years are receiving adjustments.
3. The real issue is that there is little to no actual independent peer-review in the upper levels of the Climate Sciences field. GISS does not say exactly how they make their adjustments, and so they can't be reviewed. This is essentially what happened with the MBH98/99 hockeystick reports which while supposedly thousands of scientists did peer-review on them, it took 8 years before someone actually checked the math, and it was found the methods were useless. With this GISS data, the errors appear to be simple ones which likely were caused by true accident...but because they were not open and independently verified, we have years and years of work, with hundreds of citations, that are based upon a simply wrong set of adjusted data.
One of the basic steps to science is testing replicability. If the one putting out the report isn't releasing where he got his data, what the data is, what he did to adjust it, what his steps in analysis were, etc., then we have absolutely no business treating it as meaning anything. ...and btw, many of the guys doing this are chapter authors for the IPCC reports...which is how Mann got his graphs posted all over the TAR.
As I understand, GISS is not done with their adjustments, so it would be easy to cover this too much too soon...but there should have been something by now, and thus the author of this article is still correct.
the sad thing is that the average scientist doesn't really understand the science, much less the statistics...and much of this is a statistical exercise by people who are not statisticians.
How can these numbers be jumping around? I would expect that when each new year goes into the list, it would bump the other years up or down one. But how can the relative rankings keep jumping all over the place?
Whose blog is that link to...
And I note how closely it tracks to what I said. I’ve been watching this all unfold on the internet.
Well, IMHO they've brought it on themselves. We've had a parade of junk science in the post-WWII era from Ehrlich and Carson right up to this fiasco. And much as I would like to think this was an innocent mistake, the penchant for some leaders of the climate change movement to hide their data and avoid peer review makes me very, very skeptical.
Whose blog is that link to?
...And I note how closely it tracks to what I was typing while you were posting. I’ve been watching this all unfold on the internet.
Also a cool summer in Seattle - there were 7-10 rainy, cool days in July, then some warm weather, now it’s cooled off again.
Because the numbers prior to 2000 were adjusted, and the numbers from 2006 pulled their data from one stage of the adjustment process and weren't normalized, giving the whole range after Jan 2000 a jump of at least .15C...and then that data was used to normalize some of the data from the past, so it carried the error back in time.