Tag Archives: satellite data sets

Climate Change Studies?

Much money has been spent in recent years studying climate change.   We are oft bombarded with gloom and doom courtesy of these studies.   Most studies I’ve read blame rapidly changing temperatures  caused by man.  Carbon dioxide is responsible for whatever disaster they happen to be promoting.

Suppose, just suppose, that the climate hasn’t been changing as rapidly as advertised.

Let’s look at some temperature data.   I’d like to state up front that I think all land based temperature data is wild ass guess data.  The Earth’s temperature is simply too difficult to calculate.   Most thermometers are located in the developed world.  Much of Africa is sparsely covered and coverage in Antarctica is spectacularly sparse,  only a single location for then entire continent. World temperature wild ass guessing is a virtual certainty.   That said, lets begin with some NASA data that relies on weather stations and ocean buoys:

Fig C

Yep, this chart shows a shift in world temperatures in the 1990’s.  But if  the chart had been started a year later in 1997 instead of 1996, then there would be no real change.   Yep, no net change in climate since 1997.   The last 17 years have been surprisingly stable.   More stable than at any time in the last 170 years as this East Anglia University data shows:

Natural variation; here, there, everywhere.   I particularly like the changes in the 1870’s and 1880’s.   Ocean temperature data stunk back then (it’s not that great today) so we know the data used to prepare this graph is jam packed full of guesses.

Climate change before 1950 is presumed to be natural climate variation by the same experts that are trying to scare us now. My personal favorite,  the stretch from 1907 to 1943.  It seems eerily similar to the data from 1976 to 1998.

Don’t like the NASA or East Anglia Data?   Let’s look at some Satellite Data.  Here’s the University of Alabama at Hunstsville (UAH) Satellite global data for the lower atmosphere:


Fairly stable weather until Mt. Pinatubo erupted, then rapid cooling followed by rapid warming.   And still no net change since the second half of1997.

One key premise of man caused global climate change states that the climate will change more at the poles than in the tropics.   It certainly has been true in the Arctic.   I’d argue that soot and pollution from Asia (mostly) are partly to blame.  Recent studies support this notion as does Satellite data from Antarctica.   If the Arctic is changing due to additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, then Antarctica should change too…. and in a similar way.

Take a look at the Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) Satellite data for Antarcita.


Almost flat line.  Now look at the Arctic Data also courtesy of RSS.


No change in Antarctica, wild change in the Arctic.  Ice core data supports the notion that the Antarctic has not been warming for hundreds of years.   Hmmm.

Most studies I’ve seen, including most IPCC handiwork, start with observed changes in the world around them.  This change is then attributed to man produced greenhouse gases which is supported by computer models that assumed carbon was important.  Round and round we go.  Make an assumption and build a model based upon that assumption and then use that model as proof of the assumption….just a tad circular.

If carbon dioxide is the primary driver of climate change, the data at both poles should be similar.  The data has been diverging for the entire 36 year history of Satellite Data.

Maybe, just maybe, something else is going on.




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.

Temperature S.W.A.G.

I have lived most of my life in Hawaii and Alaska.  Talk about  extremes in temperature variation.  People in Hawaii watch the weather to get the surf report…and to get information on the occasional tropical storm.   Day to day, nobody cares.

When I lived there I once saw local TV newscaster Joe Moore fake the weather.  He searched his desk for the paperwork, admitted to not knowing where he had put it and then made up something like high of 87, low of 74 with light trade winds (an average day in summer).  Good call.

Right now, without even bothering to check for local conditions, I can get the high and the low for Honolulu to within 3 degrees F.  High of 80, low of 67.  And I’m 2600 miles away.  That forecast is good for today…and tomorrow…and the day after that.  The weather in the tropics changes very slowly.

Anchorage is another story.   Yesterday I drove from South Anchorage (at sea level) along Turnagain Arm toward Girdwood.  At about McHugh Creek State Park the temperature changed.  In about a minute it went from 23 degrees to 36 degrees.

In Fairbanks, temperatures within the city area regularly vary by 30 degrees F or more.   The hills around Fairbanks are warmer than the city.   Go up in altitude and warm up.  Fairbanks gets horrible temperature inversions every winter.   A drive from downtown up Farmers Loop Road (about 5 miles) nets the aforementioned 30 degree shift on just about any cold winter night.

Climate experts tell us the climate will change more in Polar regions than in more temperate zones.   The UN gives very specific predictions for climate.  They make predictions for 10 years from now, for 90 years from now and for 200 years from now.   How do they know?

As we venture from the equator toward the poles, two important statistical problems develop for temperature predictors.  1) The temperature variability increases and 2) the number of weather stations decreases.   Hmmm.

fluctuating data + few data points = wild ass guesses

 The University of Alaska recently conducted a climate study of Alaska showing cooling in the 2000 to 2010 period.  They used 20 reliable test sites for the whole state.   They need hundreds if they have any hope of being accurate.

Siberia and Northern Canada suffer similar problems….and the Arctic and Antarctic….well forget about it.   The Arctic Ocean averages about 10 working sites and those locations are not fixed, they drift with the ice.  Any ground based temperature data for either the Arctic or Antarctic must include more than a little wild ass guessing.

Perhaps a little perspective, here’s a graphic of the Arctic

Ten sites, all that space.  WOW.

That is why I like Satellite data.   That data includes guessing too, but it’s a different kind of guessing, making adjustments for Satellite drift and other indirect conversion problems.   The big problem with Satellite data, it is a very small data set.  Who knows what the data would have looked like 50 or 500 or 5000 years ago.    Let’s take a peek at the most recent Satellite data courtesy of the University of Alabama at Huntsville

Yep, the world’s a bit warmer than it was 34 years ago.  But it’s worth remembering that in 1974 Time Magazine ran a cover article predicting the next ice age based primarily on 30 years of cooling that began around 1940.  Sure it looks like the world has warmed about .3 degree C since 1979, but I wonder what the Satellite data would have shown had it existed in 1940.

Arctic Ice Data Set — Too Small to be Useful

I’ve been complaining about the small Arctic Ice data set in recent posts.   Satellites have only been around to measure this stuff since 1979 so a small data set is virtually unavoidable with the knowledge we have today.  I suppose I’m not complaining about the data set…but about the way it is used.

We as a society ( the IPCC and their friends) have been making all sorts of judgements about all sorts of things (Polar Bear habitat is my personal favorite) for years now…by relying on small data base sets and extrapolation.

I have never been a fan of extrapolation.   When a 32 year data base is extrapolated for hundreds of years….I get nervous.

Allow me to explain.  Let’s begin by looking at the University of East Anglia UK global temperature history going back to 1850.  Still a small data set, but a bit better than 32 years.   I prefer East Anglia data to NASA data as a previous post discusses.

The period of most rapid change in this graph is the period from about 1977 to 1998.   Since 1998 it has stabilized at a new higher temperature and has been cooling slightly in recent years.   Any data set that uses the period from 1979 to 2000 as a baseline is ignoring recent data.  That very small data set is going to generate odd predictions.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what the University of Colorado does every day at their web site on Arctic Sea Ice.  Here is a map showing changes in sea ice in 2010 and 2012….and also showing an average (median)  amount for the period 1979 to 2000.

I wonder what the ice sheet looked line in ….say 1942 or perhaps 1912.  1942 was at the end of a 30 year warming cycle and 1912 was at the end of a cooling cycle that appears to have begun in about 1879 according to East Anglia University data.  Can we really predict anything with certainty about ice melting patterns in a climate system with this much natural temperature variation….particularly by extrapolating small data sets?

Global Temperature Data Varies Wildly — We need lots of Data

Who’d have thought something as simple sounding as temperature could become controversial.  Measuring the Earth temperature is actually a fairly difficult task.  The Earth is a big place, with a limited number of measuring points, particularly in the oceans.  Any answer has more than a little SWAG.

I’ve got to say, I like Satellite data better than land based global temperature data.  It covers the whole world and is less likely to be manipulated by adjusting for local conditions.  But what I really like is lots of data.

I am constantly amazed by the amount of variation within data sets.  It is not unusual for data to vary by .2 or .3 degree C in a given month and changes of .4 degree C in a single year is fairly common.  Natural background noise can be a degree or two C per century.  That’s a lot of variation.  Here is the current UAH Satellite chart:

Lots of month to month and year to year changes.  Now lets take a peek at a Land Ocean Index Chart (although Ocean data before 1995 is pretty spotty).  Here the current NASA chart going back to 1880 that I pulled off the NASA website:

NASA data used to go back to 1866, and the period between 1866 and 1880 had two very warm years, 1877 and 1878 and rapid annual cooling (.43 degree C)  between 1878 and 1879.  Imagine  1877 and 1878 being about the same as 1973 on this chart.  And 1964 and 1976 were almost as low as 1890 back then too.  The whole chart looked a bit flatter, particularly before 1980, and a lot less ominous.   The trend was still up, it does make you wonder….what new information about the 19th century emerged since 2009 when I downloaded the old data?

Now lets look at a chart that compares satellite and a group of land based data.

The data matches pretty well.  UAH and RSS are the two principal US sites that  do Satellite data. They compensate for Satellite errors in different ways.  RSS is regularly a bit higher than UAH, but they match well.  I am not sure which direct measurements were used in this comparison I pulled off Wikipedia.  Probably the East Anglia, UK data or perhaps NOAA, or perhaps an average of many sites.  It’s not NASA.  NASA insists 2005 was warmer than 1998.

Land based data is subject to wild manipulation…and stories of NASA manipulation seem to be everywhere. My favorite NASA manipulation story – NASA changed the way they calculate temperature in 2005, and some people think their approach might be less than rigorous. Here is a link to the story:


I found the site while reading articles about how 2011 was either the 9th warmest in history, the 3 coldest in the 21st century or just a bit above the average of the last 34 years, depending on the article, or the data source and how the data is presented.

I am reconciled to the notion that I will likely die without knowing whether anthropogenic global warming is a serious problem or a political construct.  That is because the data sets vary wildly and the background has the potential to vary wildly too.   We either need to come up with a much more effective way to measure and understand the past, or we need lots more data.

The data is so scattered,  patterns are not going to be immediately identifiable.  Lots of data will be required for confirmation.  Someone looking at Satellite data in  1998 could easily draw a draconian conclusion (sound familiar), but the next 14 years worth of data failed to show continued warming.  March of 2012 in the Eastern USA  was very warm, but it got colder in April,  And so it goes.

April 1998 — Warmest month in history?

A few years ago I did a bunch of research on global temperatures.  I have this vague memory that April 6th 1998 was the warmest day in the UAH (University of Alabama Huntsville) satellite troposphere data base.  I was going to use that day as the basis of a post on climate data.

Well I couldn’t find the data I was looking for, but I did find multiple discussion items written in  February of 2010 using the UAH website data to tout January of 2010 as the warmest month ever and proof that global warming theory was correct.  People talked about all sorts of things, but the UAH January 2010 data was the source of celebration.

When I first started looking at global temperature data I was surprised by the nature of the data.  Each month can vary quite a bit from the month before.  Annual changes can be very large too.   NASA has global surface temperature records that go back to 1866.  In 1879, the temperature dropped .43 degree C in a single year.

UAH data shows a slower rate of warming than the other three websites that measure world temperatures via satellite.  The difference is small but there is a difference..and the scientists at UAH have been among the more skeptical of scientists that work in the field.  So if they show warming ……

Here is the UAH data that was being used, updated to include February 2012 data.

C’mon guys….a single data point doesn’t prove anything one way or the other….and it looks to me like April of 1998 was warmer than January of 2010 anyway.  But there it was, one opinion piece after another, trying to use a single data point to prove a position.

Climate data has wild fluctuations and the data sets are small.  Too many people are trying to use individual data points in wildly fluctuating small data sets to prove whatever point they want to make.  Always a bad idea.  And just about everybody talking global warming science does it all the time.   Al Gore loves to do it, so does Bill Mahr and Sean Hannity …and they all are making the same mistakes.

Satellite data is only 33 years old, the Ice Age we currently live in is 2.5 million years old.   20,000 years ago it was much colder than it is today (probably 10 degrees C colder) and 130,000 years ago it was much warmer (probably 6 degree C warmer).  And sudden rapid warming and cooling is present all throughout the cycle.

The IPCC (the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) loves to use short term data to predict climate years into the future.   In their 2007 Climate Synopses Report, the IPCC states that the warming of the late 20th century gave them greater confidence that global warming theory was correct.  Do they have less confidence now…just 5 years later…when their short term predictions for 2010 turned out to be wrong.

Cold in Alaska, warm in Chicago

I’ll bet you right now that the record warmth in the eastern USA this past winter will be used as justification to claim global warming in accelerating.   After all the twin centers of the universe, DC and NYC both have been warm…so the world must be warming!  I don’t think so.

I live in Anchorage, in South-central Alaska.  The region is bounded by the Pacific Ocean on the south and the Alaska Range (which includes Denali, the tallest mountain in North America) on the north.  We have a maritime climate that is warm for the region because of our proximity to the water.

We  have had a really cold winter this year with near record snowfall.  February was a very cold month in the Arctic too with rapid expansion of the Arctic Ice Pack.  All the while Chicago had 80 degree F weather in March.  Record warmth all over the north-eastern USA and near record cold in Alaska.

One might be tempted to draw climate conclusions from regional weather variations…and that would be a mistake.   Regional variations are common and very difficult to predict .   When the data is looked at worldwide the highs and lows tend to cancel each other out.

That is exactly what is happening this year.

Routinely Alaska has warm winter weather when Chicago is cold and vise versa.   When South-central Alaska has mild winter weather it is because the jet stream develops a long north south loop and warm air gets pulled up from the Pacific.  This same loop pulls cold air from western Canada into the mid western USA.

This year the tropical jet is sending warm air to Chicago from the Gulf of Mexico and we Alaskans have been left out in the cold.

An easy way to demonstrate the assertion that regional climate is not important climatically is to look at global temperature sets.  My favorite sites use low troposphere satellite data.   The data provides a global temperature that does not rely on surface temperature data and I like that.   Global warming theory predicts warming of the low troposphere before the surface, so it should be an indicator of future warming.

Four different agencies calculate the global  temperature using satellite data.  There are slight variations in how the data is interpreted, but they all paint a similar picture.    UAH, the University of Alabama at Huntsville is one of the four sites.   One of the principal scientists at UAH is Dr. Roy Spencer.  Each month he provides an update to their data set on his website  Here is the link to that website.


And here is the chart updated in early March, complete with February 2012 data.

As you can see, the world has been cooling slightly for about 6 months, and was just a bit below the average of  the last 33 years in February.  In fact this data supports the notion that, if anything, we have been in a slight cooling cycle since 1998.