Sunday, August 23, 2015

Hottest July On Record - Misleading

Subtitle:  Bad Data Yields Bad Results 

The US NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) made yet another alarming announcement this week, stating that July, 2015 was the hottest month ever measured, globally.   What they wrote is shown below, then my commentary follows.  Essentially, the keepers of the temperature files have adjusted data, changed data, created data where none exists, dropped temperature records out of the data, and included temperature records that should never be allowed into the data, and done this over and over and over again.  Therefore, it is utterly meaningless when such "warmest ever" statements are made.   Curiously, this past July had the Pacific Ocean in the midst of a very strong El Niño, and that has warmer-than-usual ocean surface temperatures.   Coincidence?  

The quote from NOAA:

"The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for July 2015 was the highest for July in the 136-year period of record, at 0.81°C (1.46°F) above the 20th century average of 15.8°C (60.4°F), surpassing the previous record set in 1998 by 0.08°C (0.14°F). As July is climatologically the warmest month of the year globally, this monthly global temperature of 16.61°C (61.86°F) was also the highest among all 1627 months in the record that began in January 1880."  (see link)   Citation is "NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: Global Analysis for July 2015, published online August 2015"


The NOAA global temperature records are touted as the best, yet one must wonder how good the data is, when it is adjusted not just once, but over and over and over again.  The adjustments are downward for older data, typically starting around 1970.  The downward adjustments make the past cooler, and the present warmer relative to the past.   Such adjustments also create the appearance of a warming trend over time, which can be used to sound the alarm that the climate is changing in a disastrous warming manner. 

When a scientific body, such as NOAA, makes an official pronouncement, many who read that pronouncement actually believe it.  They don't have the training nor education to determine if the conclusion is plausible, is accurate, or instead was the result of poor scientific practice.   

It is one thing to obtain data during research or experimentation, do one's best to verify the data is accurate and suitable for analysis, then perform valid statistical analyses and draw supportable conclusions.   It is quite another to periodically adjust the database and publish yet another conclusion.  The fable of the little boy who cried "Wolf!" comes readily to mind.   Are we to accept the official pronouncement each time, and forget that just a few years ago, these same officials had a different conclusion?  

A second troubling point in the NOAA announcement is the absolute absence of any reference to uncertainty in the data.  A search for the word "error" turns up zero instances.  Zero is the result for the word "uncertain."    However, the older data has more doubt, and in many cases data is completely missing for many areas of the globe.   

Now to the curious timing, the coincidental occurrence of a very strong El Niño.   An El Niño is, by definition, a periodic warming of certain portions of the eastern Pacific Ocean surface near the equator.  This particular El Niño has warmer surface water compared to previous events.   Is it any surprise, then, that the July global temperature computation is warmer than ever before?    NOAA had this to say about the ocean surface temperatures:

 "For the oceans, the July global sea surface temperature was 0.75°C (1.35°F) above the 20th century average of 16.4°C (61.5°F), the highest departure not only for July, but for any month on record. The 10 highest monthly departures from average for the oceans have all occurred in the past 16 months (since April 2014)."  (same source as above)

In their usual fashion, NOAA does not mention that "the 10 highest monthly departures from average for the oceans" all coincide with the strongest El Niño ever measured.   Of course the sea surface temperatures will be warmer.   

What would be far, far more interesting is for NOAA to take their huge database and perform the same analysis that Mr. James Goodridge performed in his eye-opening work on temperatures in California. (Goodridge, J.D. (1996) Comments on “Regional Simulations of Greenhouse Warming including Natural Variability” . Bull, Amer. Meteorological Society 77:1588-1599.)   See chart at right (Urban Heat Island Effect)  for the results:  Goodridge found that essentially zero warming occurred in California counties with low population, over an 85-year period from 1909 to 1994.  Yet, counties with high populations experienced warming of almost 2 degrees Celsius per century. 


It is no surprise that NOAA found this past July to be the warmest in their record.  After all the adjustments to make modern temperatures hotter than past temperatures, inclusion of heat islands to also pump up the warming, and using a record-breaking El Niño for ocean temperatures, the July temperatures should indeed appear warmer than usual.  

Yet, where are the studies that include only pristine, untouched non-urban temperatures?  Surely the vaunted and vast NOAA temperature data has such records.  Why aren't those records analyzed and published?  One could do as Mr. Goodridge did, simply sort the temperature records by county population (or the equivalent in each country) and show the long-term trend.   

The temperature record, as kept and massaged by NOAA, is not at all helpful.  What bears watching, though, are indicia of global cooling.  The northern hemisphere has excellent data records of lake ice, and sea ice in, e.g. Hudson's Bay.    It is significant, and perhaps ominous, that ice on the US Great Lakes is far above the historical average.    

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California 
Copyright (c) 2015 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved

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