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: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:
Further, this story was carried as the lead story on Drudge for a day.
- Telegraph: The Scandal of Fiddled Global Warming Data
- Washington Times: Rigged ‘science’
- RealClearPolitics: Climate Change: Who are the real deniers?
First off the block to challenge Goddard came Ronald Bailey at reason.com 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.
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.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*:
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.
All the Climatologists in the world will look at this data. How much do the adjustments change the results?Remember "hide the decline"?
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.
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.