segments of the Internet are abuzz with the claim by climate change
skeptic Steven Goddard (Tony Heller) over at his Real Science blog
NASA/NOAA have been jiggering the numbers so that they can
claim that warmest years in the continental United States occurred
recently, not back in the 1930s. Folks, please watch out for
Via email, I asked Anthony Watts, proprietor of WattsUpWithThat, what he thinks
of Goddard's claims. He responded...
...while it is true that NOAA does a tremendous amount of
adjustment to the surface temperature record, the word
“fabrication” implies that numbers are being plucked out of thin
air in a nefarious way when it isn’t exactly the case.
“Goddard” is wrong is his assertions of fabrication, but the
fact is that NCDC isn’t paying attention to small details, and the
entire process from B91’s to CONUS creates an inflated warming
signal. We published a preliminary paper two years ago on this
which you can read here: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/07/29/press-release-2/
About half the warming in the USA is due to adjustments. We'
received a lot of criticism for that paper, and we’ve spent two
years reworking it and dealing with those criticisms. Our results
are unchanged and will be published soon.
In his email, Watts also cites the strong criticisms of
Goddard's earlier claims over at the
Goddard made two major errors in his analysis, which produced
results showing a large bias due to infilling that doesn’t really
exist. First, he is simply averaging absolute temperatures rather
than using anomalies. Absolute temperatures work fine if
and only if the composition of the station network remains
unchanged over time. If the composition does change, you will often
find that stations dropping out will result in climatological
biases in the network due to differences in elevation and average
temperatures that don’t necessarily reflect any real information on
month-to-month or year-to-year variability. Lucia covered this well
a few years back with a toy model, so I’d suggest people who are
still confused about the subject to consult her
His second error is to not use any form of spatial weighting
(e.g. gridding) when combining station records. While the USHCN
network is fairly well distributed across the U.S., its not
perfectly so, and some areas of the country have considerably more
stations than others. Not gridding also can exacerbate the effect
of station drop-out when the stations that drop out are not
I note that
Watts commented on the, hmmm, accuracy of Goddard's work over
at the Blackboard as well:
June 6th, 2014 at 8:00 am
I took Goddard to task over this as well in a private email,
saying he was very wrong and needed to do better. I also pointed
out to him that his initial claim was wronger than wrong, as he was
claiming that 40% of USCHN STATIONS were missing.
Predictably, he swept that under the rug, and then proceeded to
tell me in email that I don’t know what I’m talking about.
Fortunately I saved screen caps from his original post and the edit
he made afterwards.
Note the change in wording in the highlighted last sentence.
In case you didn’t know, “Steve Goddard” is a made up name.
Supposedly at Heartland ICCC9 he’s going to “out” himself and start
using his real name. That should be interesting to watch, I won’t
be anywhere near that moment of his.
This, combined with his inability to openly admit to and correct
mistakes, is why I booted him from WUWT some years ago, after he
refused to admit that his claim about CO2 freezing on the surface
of Antarctica couldn’t be possible due to partial pressure of
And then when we had an experiment done, he still wouldn’t admit
And when I pointed out his recent stubborness over the USHCN
issues was just like that…he posts this:
He’s hopelessly stubborn, worse than Mann at being able to admit
In his email to me, Watts details the sort of bureaucratic
bungling that produces what he thinks is a significant artificial
warming signal in the lower 48 temperature records from which he
It is my view that while NOAA/NCDC is not purposely
“fabricating” data, their lack of attention to detail in the
process has contributed to a false warming signal in the USA, and
they don’t much care about it because it is in line with their
expectations of warming. The surface temperature record thus
becomes a product of bureaucracy and not of hard science...Never
ascribe malice to what can be explained by simple incompetence.
See my earlier reporting on Watts et al.'s U.S. temperature data
paper in my article, "Everyone
Freaks Out About Two New Climate Change Studies." In response
to criticism of that paper Watt and his colleagues have, as noted
above, recrunched the data and will release a new paper soon.