Sunday, June 29, 2014

Something very interesting - and unprecedented - is going on with the climate databases

A few of you have emailed me about last week's reports that climate data has been "faked".  I've posted many times on how there are fishy things in the climate databases, so this didn't seem particularly new.  Also, there seemed to be a lot of skepticism in the skeptic part of the climate blogosphere.  Judy Curry has a post that sums the situation up nicely:
Last week, the mainstream media was abuzz with claims by skeptical blogger Steve Goddard that NOAA and NASA have dramatically altered the US temperature record.  For examples of MSM coverage, see:
Further, this story was carried as the lead story on Drudge for a day.

First off the block to challenge Goddard came Ronald Bailey at in an article Did NASA/NOAA Dramatically Alter U.S. Temperatures After 2000?  that cites communication with Anthony Watts, who is critical of Goddard’s analysis, as well as being critical of NASA/NOAA.

Politifact chimed in with an article that assessed Goddard’s claims, based on Watt’s statements and also an analysis by Zeke Hausfather. Politifact summarized with this statement:  We rate the claim Pants on Fire.

I didn’t pay much attention to this, until Politifact asked me for my opinion.  I said that I hadn’t looked at it myself, but referred them to Zeke and Watts.  I did tweet their Pants on Fire conclusion.

Skepticism in the technical climate blogosphere

Over at the Blackboard, Zeke Hausfather has a three-part series about Goddard’s analysis –  How not to calculate temperatures (Part I, Part II, Part III).  Without getting into the technical details here, the critiques relate to the topics of data dropout, data infilling/gridding, time of day adjustments, and the use of physical temperatures versus anomalies.  The comments thread on Part II is very good, well worth reading.

Anthony Watts has a two-part series On denying hockey sticks, USHCN data and all that (Part 1, Part 2).  The posts document Watts’ communications with Goddard, and make mostly the same technical points as Zeke.  There are some good technical comments in Part 2, and Watts makes a proposal regarding the use of US reference stations.

Nick Stokes has two technical posts that relate to Goddard’s analysis: USHCN adjustments, averages, getting it right  and TOBS nailed.

While I haven’t dug into all this myself, the above analyses seem robust, and it seems that Goddard has made some analysis errors.
Clearly, Goddard has made some substantial analytical errors.  The mainstream science community and most of the MSM have ignore this story.  But the plot thickens:
OK, acknowledging that Goddard made some analysis errors, I am still left with some uneasiness about the actual data, and why it keeps changing.  For example, Jennifer Marohasy has been writing about Corrupting Australian’s temperature record.

In the midst of preparing this blog post, I received an email from Anthony Watts, suggesting that I hold off on my post since there is some breaking news.  Watts pointed me to a post  by Paul Homewood entitled Massive Temperature Adjustments At Luling, Texas.  Excerpt:

So, I thought it might be worth looking in more detail at a few stations, to see what is going on. In Steve’s post, mentioned above, he links to the USHCN Final dataset for monthly temperatures, making the point that approx 40% of these monthly readings are “estimated”, as there is no raw data.

From this dataset, I picked the one at the top of the list, (which appears to be totally random), Station number 415429, which is Luling, Texas.

Yet, according to the USHCN dataset, all ten months from March to December are “Estimated”. Why, when there is full data available?

But it gets worse. The table below compares the actual station data with what USHCN describe as “the bias-adjusted temperature”. The results are shocking.

In other words, the adjustments have added an astonishing 1.35C to the annual temperature for 2013. Note also that I have included the same figures for 1934, which show that the adjustment has reduced temperatures that year by 0.91C. So, the net effect of the adjustments between 1934 and 2013 has been to add 2.26C of warming.
This idea has been bandied about the 'net for five years or so - that the climate databases are filled with unjustifiable adjustments to the data that may make up much - or possibly all - of the reported warming during the 20th Century.  One of my first posts on (in 2009) this is titled How To Create A Scientific Consensus On Global Warming*:
All the Climatologists in the world will look at this data. How much do the adjustments change the results?

We don't know, but people are starting to look. They're starting to find that adjustments change the data a lot. They change the data so much that they show that the earth is warming when the raw data may show that it's cooling.

Let me say that again: Thermometers may be showing that the Earth is cooling, but adjustments to this data show a rapid temperature rise.
Remember "hide the decline"? 

So what is unprecedented about this?  Well, it seems that NOAA is now starting to take this seriously.  Curry again:
I’ve been in email communications with Watts through much of Friday, and he’s been pursuing the issue along with Zeke and help from Neilsen-Gammon to NCDC directly, who is reportedly taking it seriously. Not only does Watts plan to issue a statement on how he missed Goddard’s original issue, he says that additional problems have been discovered and that NOAA/NCDC will be issuing some sort of statement, possibly also a correction, next week. (Watts has approved me making this statement).
This is big, big stuff.  We will need to see how this plays out, but this is a seismic shift.  Curry does an excellent job of introducing a complicated subject, the players, and the dynamic.  I strongly encourage you to click through and RTWT.

Oh, and read my 2009 post, too.  Happy to be four and a half years ahead of NOAA.  No need to thank me, it's all part of being a full service climate blog.

* I have quite a few of my climate posts gathered here.  Probably need to update that, since the post is four years old or something.


Richard Blaine said...

I'm pretty sure I understood almost 30% of that. Okay maybe a bit more. I never studied climate science, so I'm just sort of hanging on the edges of this thing waiting for the real science to slowly trickle out.

I'm particularly disturbed by one paragraph from Climate Etc.

"It is plain that these adjustments made are not justifiable in any way. It is also clear that the number of “Estimated” measurements made are not justified either, as the real data is there, present and correct."

It's a very good question - why estimate when you have actual data - are the estimates biased (in any direction) or do they reflect the actual data?

This is the kind of crap that makes me skeptical - if you can't even agree on the basics how the hell can you argue a conclusion?

My takeaway - there are some actual scientists doing some actual science - and they're in the minority - but maybe gaining some ground.

I'd really like to get to the "truth" of this whole thing but I'm starting to think that may not be possible. It's difficult to analyze data that doesn't exist. Even more difficult if the government is putting all that data on THE DRIVE and getting ready to send it to the recycler.

OMMAG said...

It's amazing to me how blatant the data collectors are that they take fiddling with measured data as a given SOP. The rationalizations and justifications offered are just BS.

I had a physics teacher in high school who would make students that submitted "too perfect" lab results repeat their work and then take 50% off if they could not demonstrate the results they had recorded the first time.

This leads me to believe that many self appointed experts need to be sent back to school.

Goober said...

I've talked about this before, about how a very large percentage of my skeptic leanings come from the fact that the proponents continue to be as shady and dishonest as one could possibly imagine with their studies, methods, and results. One is forced to ask - If the science is as sound as they claim, why all the secrecy?

It all started back in 1998 with Michael Mann's "hockey Stick" graph, which was, to put it bluntly, a bald-faced lie; one which I'm pretty sure that Mr. Mann knew damn well about, too, yet he published the graph, anyway.

"Hide the decline."

Adjustments to raw data coupled with refusals to release the methodology of developing the adjustments.

Just a general "cloak and dagger" type feeling to the way that they comport themselves. I'm not surprised at all that it was found that they were widely dishonest.

Anyone with a clear head and a room-temperature IQ could clearly see that these folks were hiding something.

Some emmeffers need to go to prison for this. Not jail. I mean federal, pound-you-in-the-ass prison.