Climate Science – A data plucking epidemic

Cherry picked data and wild ass guessing  are everywhere in climate science discussions.   I just spent three posts discussing a new gloom and doom article by James Hansen and 17 other scientists.   The whole article is chock full of cherry picked data and wild guesses.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the starting assumption, namely that the world temperature has risen 1 degree C in the 20th century.   Well that’s not strictly true.  Here is the East Anglia University Climate Research Unit(CRU) Chart from 2009:

The NOAA  data looks similair but a bit different.  The NOAA data is best viewed by looking at their web site.  The NOAA data is interactive.  One can place a curser on any year and get a specific reading for that year.   The year 1900 was -0.1 degree C and 2000 was +0.4.  The years around 1910 were -0.4 which would have been provided a +0.8 net total for the time period.   The only way you get a 1 degree C reading is to stop in 1998 (a strong El Nino year).

And the data keeps changing all the time.   Here is the 2012 East Anglia data.

Notice how 1998 is now cooler and 2010 is the new hottest ever!

Suppose I wanted to support the argument that the climate hasn’t changed much in the last 130 years.  I could start with 1879, a +0.1 degree C year according to NOAA…and end my data in ….well lets look at some Satellite data and cherry pick our best number:

Let’s pick 2008.

The satellite is using a slightly higher temperature as their zero point which means there is some warming, but probably less than +0.2 degree C. in that specific period from 1879 to 2008.     So how much warming did we have?   And how much is natural climate variation and how much is man caused?  I don’t know and neither does Dr. Hansen.

World temperature is a guess that does not stay constant.   In 2006, a skeptic noticed that the NASA climate data was flawed.   They had used raw rather than corrected data for most of North America in their models and they had been doing it since the year 2000.  NASA corrected their mistake and suddenly 1939 got lots warmer relative to 1998 and 2005.   1939 no longer makes even the top ten.  Between 2006 and 2013…1939 got colder!?  And so did 1998.

World temperature is a SWAG number.  There are two mains reasons I am comfortable saying that.  Oceans and test site irregularities.

70% of the world is ocean.  Before 1979 we had almost no data.  Ships at sea provided temperatures.  These temperatures have been accumulating for a long time, but standards have existed only since the 1950’s.  When should a temperature be taken, how often should it be taken, and at what point on the hull?

Ocean temperature outside shipping lanes began with satellite data in 1979.   And Satellite data measures the air near the surface, not the sea temperature.  Buoys began being used in the 1980’s which provided better data.  But buoys drift and most are near land.  So what was the temperature of the Pacific Ocean near Antarctica in 1879?   What is it right now?  AND how much has it changed between 1879 and 1979?

Test sites are impacted by their environment.   As the environment becomes more urban, the temperature at the site rises.   There are literally thousands of sites that must be adjusted.  A paved road and/or new mechanical equipment nearby have the ability to impact calculations.   Cities are warmer than the countryside nearby.  When a site does not provide data, and that does happen, the data must be surmised is some way.   SWAG is rampant.

Here is a piece of information provided by a skeptic demonstrating the difference between raw and corrected data for New Zealand. .  First the unadjusted data:

And now the adjusted data:

I have absolutely no idea as to whether the adjustments are right or wrong.  I do know this though….they tell a different story.

When I am told storms are becoming more frequent and more extreme, I tend to question the source.  The world is a spectacularly changeable place.  Here are a few simple examples that come to mind.

  • Settlements in Greenland a thousand years ago.
  • Villages high in the Alps that have shown up after recent melting.
  • A Sahara that has gone from sand to lush vegetation and back again to sand in the last 5000 years.
  • Starvation of the Mayans due to severe and prolonged drought less than 1500 year ago.
  • The dust bowl of the 1930’s (at the end of another prolonged warm spell).
  • Krakatoa volcano eruption of 1883. And throw in the 1815 Mt. Tambora eruption.  Krakatoa is assumed to have lowered the world’s temperature for 5 years.  The year following the Mt. Tambora eruption is know around the world as the year without a summer.
  • Parts of New York State were under 5000 feet of ice just 20,000 years ago.

Whenever I hear a climate hawk talk about gloom and doom and a climate tipping point, I think about Super Volcanoes.    Ahhh.   More on that next time.


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