Score Another One for Steve McIntyre

Steve McIntyre has found an error in the NASA temperature data used in some of the analysis for global warming. The error he has found has resulted in 1998 no longer being the hottest year on record. Now 1934 is the hottest year in the record and also the entire data set has been reviewed and data from 2000 through 2006 gas been adjusted downwards by 0.15 degrees Celsius.

In the United States, the calendar year 1998 ranked as the hottest of them all — until someone checked the math.

After a Toronto skeptic tipped NASA this month to one flaw in its climate calculations, the U.S. agency ordered a full data review.

Days later, it put out a revised list of all-time hottest years. The Dust Bowl year of 1934 now ranks as hottest ever in the U.S. — not 1998.

More significantly, the agency reduced the mean U.S. “temperature anomalies” for the years 2000 to 2006 by 0.15 degrees Celsius.

Now this isn’t the news that some (e.g. Rush Limbaugh) are making out to be. While such a change is somewhat noteworthy it does not mean that the global warming hypothesis is false. The global warming hypothesis, crudely put, that due to rising CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere global temperatures would also be rising, i.e. we should see a trend in temperatures. A change in when the max temperature occurs would not necessarily have a significant impact on the hypothesis. Still that the data is wrong does bring up the possibility that other data could be wrong, and in a way that could (note I didn’t say must) undermine the hypothesis. So checking and re-checking the data is not something that is a complete waste of time considering that some polices for dealing with global warming could cost several trillion dollars.

See McIntyre’s post for more discussion.

FILED UNDER: Environment, Science & Technology, US Politics, , , ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. markm says:

    It’s nice to see that there is a consensus that “facts” should be just that.
    I still don’t buy into the phooey “they” call global warming. It may be warming…but we are just passengers on the petry dish and there isn’t boo we can do about it. It’s cyclic. I just hope i’m not around for the fourth ice age.

  2. While such a change is somewhat noteworthy it does not mean that the global warming hypothesis is false.

    That’s true, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. The burden should not be on me to disprove someone’s extravagant claim, but rather on them to prove it. That way lies dogma.

  3. Bithead says:

    That’s true, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. The burden should not be on me to disprove someone’s extravagant claim, but rather on them to prove it.

    Particularly whenn extraordinary measures And severe economic and social impact are required to solve the claimed problem.

  4. M1EK says:

    People have already redone the graphs, and there’s essentially no change to the trend, even for US temperatures only (which is the source of the 1998 vs. 1934 “warmest year” contention – the global figures were different anyways). But the know-nothings continue to fiddle while Rome burns…

  5. yetanotherjohn says:

    This is heresy. There is scientific consensus, the facts are in and debate should cease. Revising data to in any way cast any doubt on the supreme truth of global warming can not be allowed. How can the environmentalists rule the world if we keep questioning the infallibility of the computer models (which by the way were changed to reflect the fact they didn’t predict the last couple of years correctly, are now totally accurate and have global warming starting in 2009).

  6. Steve Verdon says:

    M1EK,

    Actually, it looks pretty substantive for at least some of the individual station data. I know NASA and Hansen et. al. are keen to pass this off as trivial, and while it maybe for the entire globe, I’m not going to take Hansen’s word for it for the U.S. In fact, McIntyre disputes your claim for the U.S.

  7. Steve Plunk says:

    Bit by bit “deniers” are using science to refine the “consensus” surrounding climate change. The lesson to be learned is to slow down on the radical policy changes until we have a complete understanding of what’s going on. The haste in which environmentalists want us to act exposes their irresponsibility. Wiser men will act in a deliberate fashion taking their time with such important decisions.

    The fact is we are all essentially “know nothings”. More work needs to be done before we can determine if this is a real crisis or one invented to accomplish the societal changes the environmental movement wants us to make.

  8. Scott Swank says:

    The scientific community (liberals, moderates and conservatives alike) has been in broad agreement about global warming for decades, and the science goes back to the late 50s. Why are conservatives so consistently opposed to such a basic scientific result? Is it some sort of desire to oppose any result that supports the environmental agenda? Is it really just a matter of fighting “the other side” for the sake of fighting? I hope not, but I can’t think of any good reason why the right is opposed to global warming.

  9. Bithead says:

    The scientific community (liberals, moderates and conservatives alike) has been in broad agreement about global warming for decades,

    If that were true, we wouldn’t be having this pleasant little chat.

  10. Michael says:

    If that were true, we wouldn’t be having this pleasant little chat.

    We seem to have this pleasant little chat about things like Evolution and the Big Bang too, even though they are also overwhelmingly supported by evidence.

  11. M1EK says:

    Steve V,

    Here’s the images, for the US:

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2007/08/global_warming_totally_disprov.php

    No real change to the trend. 1998 went from being in a virtual tie for hottest (in the US) to being in a virtual tie for hottest (in the US). The trend is based on moving averages, and barely changed.

    1934 was apparently proportionally hotter in the US than it was globally, BTW, due to the local changes wrought by poor farming practices (“Dust Bowl”).

  12. Steve Verdon says:

    M1EK,

    That depends on what you mean by no “real change”. If you mean that there is still a trend, sure. But if you mean that there was a statistically significant change in the trend, then yes, there was a “real” change. Further, in looking at the second graph if I were to fit an equation to that graph I’d likely use a spline function as there appears to be a change in the slope from the 1880 to 1930 time span to the 1930 onwards. In fact, a spline function with three distinct parts to account for warming from 1880 to 1930, the cooling from 1930 to about 1970, to the warming from 1970 onwards. The last one would see a decrease in the slope of the trend. So your original contention, that there was essentially no change is just not true.

  13. Scott Swank says:

    A sample of 928 peer-reviewed scientific journal articles about global warming showed that all 928 of them support the broad premises of global warming.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/306/5702/1686

    Scientists are very, very clear about the fact that this is basic science, about which there is broad consensus.

  14. G.A.Phillips says:

    We seem to have this pleasant little chat about things like Evolution and the Big Bang too, even though they are also overwhelmingly supported by evidence.

    how do you figure?

  15. Steve Plunk says:

    Scott S.,

    This conservative isn’t opposed to basic scientific results but is wary of policy changes based upon the latest science that may not yet be sound. The track record of reactionary policy changes is such that skeptics are being very reasonable.

    DDT, overblown and cost millions of lives. Alar, overblown and cost millions of dollars. Global cooling on the 70’s, overblown but probably didn’t cost us much. There’s still much debate going on and basic science work to be done so we need to just slow down. I see AGW proponents acting like car salesmen. Act now! Don’t wait! Tomorrow’s too late! Whenever someone tells me that I know it’s time to take your time and make the right decision.

    Every day we are bombarded by reports of something being good for us (coffee, wine, etc) and then a new report debunking those previous reports. These are scientists yet trust can be misplaced.

    Part of the problem with warming data is it only goes back to around 1860. Cherry picking the time frame we show warming but go back a little further and we don’t show warming. So which is it? I don’t claim to know but I know others don’t know as well.

    This could all very well be the 21st century’s Piltdown Man. A hoax for attention and grant dollars.

    Your questions are valid and I hope to have answered some of them.

  16. Scott Swank says:

    Steve,

    And you are the only conservative I read regularly because you consistently put integrity ahead of partisanship.

    As for the dates associated with the science, much of the data comes from ice cores from glaciers and both polar ice caps. While I don’t have exact figures for that data, it does go back far further than 1860.

    Regards,
    Scott

  17. Steve Verdon says:

    Steve P. and Scott, you guys will want to read the up coming post I have on global warming policy (or head over to reason.com and read Ronald Baliey’s article).

  18. Grewgills says:

    But if you mean that there was a statistically significant change in the trend, then yes, there was a “real” change.

    There was no significant change in the global climate data. McIntyre readily acknowledged this in the link you provided. He claims a significant change in the US average after 2000 but does not provide support for this in the link provided. He does not say what tests he ran or give the results of those tests. The original data set and the new data set may be significantly different from each other and this could still, and likely does, have no impact on the AGW hypothesis (GISS has stated as much).

    The AGW hypothesis first gained real attention in the US in the 1980s. It received some attention then though it did not have anything approaching scientific consensus at the time. (I remember watching C-span shortly after I had learned of this hypothesis and seeing a congressman say that we did not know if the greenhouse effect was real.) Consensus among scientists on this topic has built over about 25 years. This is not just the latest thing that someone came up with. It has been challenged consistently over that time and has withstood those challenges. Wide and deep study over the course of over two decades is not reactionary, it is deliberate.

    The “global cooling” of the 70s is a canard as you should well know. The threat hyped by Newsweek was not supported by most or even many scientists. Comparing a few articles in popular magazines such as “Newsweek” to dozens of articles in “Science” and “Nature” is hardly honest.

    Re Alar, there were five studies and a 60 minutes piece again hardly the same.

    Re DDT there real and serious health and environmental impacts. There are some cases where its potential benefit when used judiciously outweighs these impacts. An example would be malaria control in developing countries where it is still used. In developed nations its use is not required and its negative impacts outweigh its potential benefits.

  19. Steve Verdon says:

    There was no significant change in the global climate data. McIntyre readily acknowledged this in the link you provided.

    There is no qualitative change, but there has been some significant changes–i.e. the changes are quantitative, but don’t invalidate the AGW hypothesis.

    The original data set and the new data set may be significantly different from each other and this could still, and likely does, have no impact on the AGW hypothesis (GISS has stated as much).

    Yes, I know which is why I just now used the word qualitative and noted that this doesn’t invalidate the AGW hypothesis. How many times must I write this before it sinks in? Really, don’t be so damned prissy.

    The “global cooling” of the 70s is a canard as you should well know. The threat hyped by Newsweek was not supported by most or even many scientists. Comparing a few articles in popular magazines such as “Newsweek” to dozens of articles in “Science” and “Nature” is hardly honest.

    Now you are just being stupid. I never claimed that there was global cooling. I did note that there was a period where there was a cooling trend in the U.S. The only other mention of global cooling echos your views that it was overblown.

  20. Andy says:

    Anyone who brings up global cooling and the DDT ban myth is basically just repeating right wing talking points that have been debunked so thoroughly and so often that you have to wonder who they think that they are kidding. It’s not really worth wasting brain power on a response.

  21. Grewgills says:

    There is no qualitative change, but there has been some significant changes–i.e. the changes are quantitative, but don’t invalidate the AGW hypothesis.

    There was no significant change in the global data set, which McIntyre admits in your link. He says that there are significant changes in individual stations and he claims, but does not offer proof here, that there were significant changes in the US data set.

    Yes, I know which is why I just now used the word qualitative and noted that this doesn’t invalidate the AGW hypothesis. How many times must I write this before it sinks in? Really, don’t be so damned prissy.

    How prissy of me, I should have noted that you used the word qualitative in your response to my comment. Your original statement was that it does “not necessarily have a significant impact on the hypothesis.” Your statement here is stronger than the original. Your claim that you have being saying this all along is disingenuous.
    This development was posted on this site only 5 days before you made this post. Why do you think it merits a second posting, seeing as it has no significant impact on the global data set or the AGW hypothesis?

    Now you are just being stupid. I never claimed that there was global cooling. I did note that there was a period where there was a cooling trend in the U.S. The only other mention of global cooling echos your views that it was overblown.

    Neither did you mention Alar or DDT. This comment was directed at Steve Plunk who mentioned all three of these in a weak attempt to tie them to AGW. His comment did not echo mine in any meaningful way. Now who’s being stupid?

    You appear to be at least as much a partisan on this issue as you accuse others of being. You dismiss the opinions of GISS scientists and take McIntyre’s word as gospel. You constantly attack and personally insult those who argue that the evidence of AGW is overwhelming, while ignoring the often inane arguments that the threat is overblown. What evidence would be required for you to think that AGW is a threat that merits action?

  22. Bithead says:

    Jeff Jacoby, this morning:

    INTRODUCING Newsweek’s Aug. 13 cover story on global warming “denial,” editor Jon Meacham brings up an embarrassing blast from his magazine’s past: an April 1975 story about global cooling, and the coming ice age that scientists then were predicting. Meacham concedes that “those who doubt that greenhouse gases are causing significant climate change have long pointed to the 1975 Newsweek piece as an example of how wrong journalists and researchers can be.” But rather than acknowledge that the skeptics may have a point, Meacham dismisses it.

    “On global cooling,” he writes, “there was never anything even remotely approaching the current scientific consensus that the world is growing warmer because of the emission of greenhouse gases.”

    Really? Newsweek took rather a different line in 1975. Then, the magazine reported that scientists were “almost unanimous” in believing that the looming Big Chill would mean a decline in food production, with some warning that “the resulting famines could be catastrophic.” Moreover, it said, “the evidence in support of these predictions” — everything from shrinking growing seasons to increased North American snow cover — had “begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it.”

    Yet Meacham, quoting none of this, simply brushes aside the 1975 report as “alarmist” and “discredited.” Today, he assures his readers, Newsweek’s climate-change anxieties rest “on the safest of scientific ground.”

    Indeed. And what were we told in this very post? Precisely the same thing. We have a consensus, it’s on the safest of scientific ground possible, etc. etc. etc. and you’ll forgive me but I’ve heard it all before. Meadow muffins. You have, I presume, heard the story about the chicken who figured the sky was falling ?

    You see, ladies and gentlemen, unlike about half of you, I actually lived through that experience back in 75. I attended the seminars, I attended the fundraisers, I bought into the idea, young as I was, that man actually could damage the earth, and that of course the whole thing was because of the automobile and the greed of corporate America. I walked miles at the rate of pennies per mile to raise funds for these organizations, funds that eventually ended up in someone’s pocket as opposed to actually “saving the world”.

    Then, of course, I grew up.

    So, you can understand me clearly when I tell you that being lied to by people who are trying to get me to change my culture and my lifestyle and what I do for recreation and what I do for a living, is not a new experience. Control, as someone else noted to me earlier this morning, is the most addictive drug known to man.

    “Global warming” is simply more of the same. Indeed, this time they don’t even have the imagination to dress it a little differently than they did back in ’75. Given the short memories of most people anymore, they must have figured it wasn’t necessary.

    Or… come to think of it, perhaps they can’t dress it differently. Scaring the crap out of people with end of the world scenarios proved rather effective back then. They manage to get the entire world to believe them… for a while. People who want to control your lives, after all, are nothing if not pragmatic.

  23. Grewgills says:

    Shorter Bit,
    Newsweek got a climate story wrong once and I believed it, so I will never again believe that man can effect climate.

  24. M1EK says:

    Bithead, you’re a liar: Global cooling never made it into the scientific journals, and was largely grist for science-fiction writers and speculators. Newsweek isn’t a scientific journal.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=94

    It’s the farthest thing from “more of the same”.