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Climate Skeptic

Manual Adjustments in the Temperature Record
Manual Adjustments in the Temperature Record
Publish: Mon 09 Feb 2015 - 5:37 PM
Website: Climate Skeptic
Source: View Original

I have been getting inquiries from folks asking me what I think about stories like this one, where Paul Homewood has been looking at the manual adjustments to raw temperature data and finding that the adjustments actually reverse the trends from cooling to warming. Here is an example of the comparisons he did:

Raw, before adjustments;



After manual adjustments



I actually wrote about this topic a few months back, and rather than rewrite the post I will excerpt it below:

I believe that there is both wheat and chaff in this claim [that manual temperature adjustments are exaggerating past warming], and I would like to try to separate the two as best I can. I don’t have time to write a well-organized article, so here is just a list of thoughts

  1. At some level it is surprising that this is suddenly news. Skeptics have criticized the adjustments in the surface temperature database for years.
  2. There is certainly a signal to noise ratio issue here that mainstream climate scientists have always seemed insufficiently concerned about. For example, the raw data for US temperatures is mostly flat, such that the manual adjustments to the temperature data set are about equal in magnitude to the total warming signal. When the entire signal one is trying to measure is equal to the manual adjustments one is making to measurements, it probably makes sense to put a LOT of scrutiny on the adjustments. (This is a post from 7 years ago discussing these adjustments. Note that these adjustments are less than current ones in the data base as they have been increased, though I cannot find a similar chart any more from the NOAA discussing the adjustments)
  3. The NOAA HAS made adjustments to US temperature data over the last few years that has increased the apparent warming trend. These changes in adjustments have not been well-explained. In fact, they have not really be explained at all, and have only been detected by skeptics who happened to archive old NOAA charts and created comparisons like the one below. Here is the before and after animation (pre-2000 NOAA US temperature history vs. post-2000). History has been cooled and modern temperatures have been warmed from where they were being shown previously by the NOAA. This does not mean the current version is wrong, but since the entire US warming signal was effectively created by these changes, it is not unreasonable to act for a detailed reconciliation (particularly when those folks preparing the chart all believe that temperatures are going up, so would be predisposed to treating a flat temperature chart like the earlier version as wrong and in need of correction. 1998changesannotated
  4. However, manual adjustments are not, as some skeptics seem to argue, wrong or biased in all cases. There are real reasons for manual adjustments to data — for example, if GPS signal data was not adjusted for relativistic effects, the position data would quickly get out of whack. In the case of temperature data:
    • Data is adjusted for shifts in the start/end time for a day of measurement away from local midnight (ie if you average 24 hours starting and stopping at noon). This is called Time of Observation or TOBS. When I first encountered this, I was just sure it had to be BS. For a month of data, you are only shifting the data set by 12 hours or about 1/60 of the month. Fortunately for my self-respect, before I embarrassed myself I created a spreadsheet to monte carlo some temperature data and play around with this issue. I convinced myself the Time of Observation adjustment is valid in theory, though I have no way to validate its magnitude (one of the problems with all of these adjustments is that NOAA and other data authorities do not release the source code or raw data to show how they come up with these adjustments). I do think it is valid in science to question a finding, even without proof that it is wrong, when the authors of the finding refuse to share replication data. Steven Goddard, by the way, believes time of observation adjustments are exaggerated and do not follow NOAA’s own specification.
    • Stations move over time. A simple example is if it is on the roof of a building and that building is demolished, it has to move somewhere else. In an extreme example the station might move to a new altitude or a slightly different micro-climate. There are adjustments in the data base for these sort of changes. Skeptics have occasionally challenged these, but I have no reason to believe that the authors are not using best efforts to correct for these effects (though again the authors of these adjustments bring criticism on themselves for not sharing replication data).
    • The technology the station uses for measurement changes (e.g. thermometers to electronic devices, one type of electronic device to another, etc.) These measurement technologies sometimes have known biases. Correcting for such biases is perfectly reasonable (though a frustrated skeptic could argue that the government is diligent in correcting for new cooling biases but seldom corrects for warming biases, such as in the switch from bucket to water intake measurement of sea surface temperatures).
    • Even if the temperature station does not move, the location can degrade. The clearest example is a measurement point that once was in the country but has been engulfed by development (here is one example — this at one time was the USHCN measurement point with the most warming since 1900, but it was located in an open field in 1900 and ended up in an asphalt parking lot in the middle of Tucson.) Since urban heat islands can add as much as 10 degrees F to nighttime temperatures, this can create a warming signal over time that is related to a particular location, and not the climate as a whole. The effect is undeniable — my son easily measured it in a science fair project. The effect it has on temperature measurement is hotly debated between warmists and skeptics. Al Gore originally argued that there was no bias because all measurement points were in parks, which led Anthony Watts to pursue the surface station project where every USHCN station was photographed and documented. The net result was that most of the sites were pretty poor. Whatever the case, there is almost no correction in the official measurement numbers for urban heat island effects, and in fact last time I looked at it the adjustment went the other way, implying urban heat islands have become less of an issue since 1930. The folks who put together the indexes argue that they have smoothing algorithms that find and remove these biases. Skeptics argue that they just smear the bias around over multiple stations. The debate continues.
  5. Overall, many mainstream skeptics believe that actual surface warming in the US and the world has been about half what is shown in traditional indices, an amount that is then exaggerated by poorly crafted adjustments and uncorrected heat island effects. But note that almost no skeptic I know believes that the Earth has not actually warmed over the last 100 years. Further, warming since about 1980 is hard to deny because we have a second, independent way to measure global temperatures in satellites. These devices may have their own issues, but they are not subject to urban heat biases or location biases and further actually measure most of the Earth’s surface, rather than just individual points that are sometimes scores or hundreds of miles apart. This independent method of measurement has shown undoubted warming since 1979, though not since the late 1990’s.
  6. As is usual in such debates, I find words like “fabrication”, “lies”, and “myth” to be less than helpful. People can be totally wrong, and refuse to confront their biases, without being evil or nefarious.

To these I will add a #7: The notion that satellite results are somehow pure and unadjusted is just plain wrong. The satellite data set takes a lot of mathematical effort to get right, something that Roy Spencer who does this work (and is considered in the skeptic camp) will be the first to tell you. Satellites have to be adjusted for different things. They have advantages over ground measurement because they cover most all the Earth, they are not subject to urban heat biases, and bring some technological consistency to the measurement. However, the satellites used are constantly dieing off and being replaced, orbits decay and change, and thus times of observation of different parts of the globe change [to their credit, the satellite folks release all their source code for correcting these things]. I have become convinced the satellites, net of all the issues with both technologies, provide a better estimate but neither are perfect.

Mistaking Cyclical Variations for the Trend
Mistaking Cyclical Variations for the Trend
Publish: Wed 31 Dec 2014 - 3:45 PM
Website: Climate Skeptic
Source: View Original

I titled my very first climate video “What is Normal,” alluding to the fact that climate doomsayers argue that we have shifted aspects of the climate (temperature, hurricanes, etc.) from “normal” without us even having enough historical perspective to say what “normal” is.

A more sophisticated way to restate this same point would be to say that natural phenomenon tend to show various periodicities, and without observing nature through the whole of these cycles, it is easy to mistake short term cyclical variations for long-term trends.

A paper in the journal Water Resources Research makes just this point using over 200 years of precipitation data:

We analyze long-term fluctuations of rainfall extremes in 268 years of daily observations (Padova, Italy, 1725-2006), to our knowledge the longest existing instrumental time series of its kind. We identify multidecadal oscillations in extremes estimated by fitting the GEV distribution, with approximate periodicities of about 17-21 years, 30-38 years, 49-68 years, 85-94 years, and 145-172 years. The amplitudes of these oscillations far exceed the changes associated with the observed trend in intensity. This finding implies that, even if climatic trends are absent or negligible, rainfall and its extremes exhibit an apparent non-stationarity if analyzed over time intervals shorter than the longest periodicity in the data (about 170 years for the case analyzed here). These results suggest that, because long-term periodicities may likely be present elsewhere, in the absence of observational time series with length comparable to such periodicities (possibly exceeding one century), past observations cannot be considered to be representative of future extremes. We also find that observed fluctuations in extreme events in Padova are linked to the North Atlantic Oscillation: increases in the NAO Index are on average associated with an intensification of daily extreme rainfall events. This link with the NAO global pattern is highly suggestive of implications of general relevance: long-term fluctuations in rainfall extremes connected with large-scale oscillating atmospheric patterns are likely to be widely present, and undermine the very basic idea of using a single stationary distribution to infer future extremes from past observations.

Trying to work with data series that are too short is simply a fact of life — everyone in climate would love a 1000-year detailed data set, but we don’t have it. We use what we have, but it is important to understand the limitations. There is less excuse for the media that likes to use single data points, e.g. one storm, to “prove” long term climate trends.

A good example of why this is relevant is the global temperature trend. This chart is a year or so old and has not been updated in that time, but it shows the global temperature trend using the most popular surface temperature data set. The global warming movement really got fired up around 1998, at the end of the twenty year temperature trend circled in red.

click to enlarge


They then took the trends from these 20 years and extrapolated them into the future:

click to enlarge

But what if that 20 years was merely the upward leg of a 40-60 year cyclic variation? Ignoring the cyclic functions would cause one to overestimate the long term trend. This is exactly what climate models do, ignoring important cyclic functions like the AMO and PDO.

In fact, you can get a very good fit with actual temperature by modeling them as three functions: A 63-year sine wave, a 0.4C per century long-term linear trend (e.g. recovery from the little ice age) and a new trend starting in 1945 of an additional 0.35C, possibly from manmade CO2.Slide52

In this case, a long-term trend still appears to exist but it is exaggerated by only trying to measure it in the upward part of the cycle (e.g. from 1978-1998).


Typhoons and Hurricanes
Typhoons and Hurricanes
Publish: Wed 10 Dec 2014 - 4:03 PM
Website: Climate Skeptic
Source: View Original

(Cross-posted from Coyoteblog)

The science that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and causes some warming is hard to dispute. The science that Earth is dominated by net positive feedbacks that increase modest greenhouse gas warming to catastrophic levels is very debatable. The science that man’s CO2 is already causing an increase in violent and severe weather is virtually non-existent.

Seriously, of all the different pieces of the climate debate, the one that is almost always based on pure crap are the frequent media statements linking manmade CO2 to some severe weather event.

For example, Coral Davenport in the New York Times wrote the other day:

As the torrential rains of Typhoon Hagupit flood thePhilippines, driving millions of people from their homes, the Philippine government arrived at a United Nationsclimate change summit meeting on Monday to push hard for a new international deal requiring all nations, including developing countries, to cut their use of fossil fuels.

It is a conscious pivot for the Philippines, one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies. But scientists say the nation is also among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and the Philippine government says it is suffering too many human and economic losses from the burning of fossil fuels….

A series of scientific reports have linked the burning of fossil fuels with rising sea levels and more powerful typhoons, like those that have battered the island nation.

It is telling that Ms. Davenport did not bother to link or name any of these scientific reports. Even the IPCC, which many skeptics believe to be exaggerating manmade climate change dangers, refused in its last report to link any current severe weather events with manmade CO2.

Roger Pielke responded today with charts from two different recent studies on typhoon activity in the Phillipines. Spot the supposed upward manmade trend. Or not:




I am not a huge fan of landfalling cyclonic storm counts because whether they make landfall or not can be totally random and potentially disguise trends. A better metric is the total energy of cyclonic storms, land-falling or not, where again there is no trend.

Via the Weather Underground, here is Accumulated Cyclonic Energy for the Western Pacific (lower numbers represent fewer cyclonic storms with less total strength):



And here, by the way, is the ACE for the whole globe:


Remember this when you see the next storm inevitably blamed on manmade global warming. If anything, we are actually in a fairly unprecedented (in the last century and a half) hurricane drought.

Those Who Follow Climate Will Definitely Recognize This
Those Who Follow Climate Will Definitely Recognize This
Publish: Thu 04 Dec 2014 - 5:38 PM
Website: Climate Skeptic
Source: View Original

This issue will be familiar to anyone who has spent time with temperature graphs. We can ask ourselves if 1 degree of global warming is a lot, when it is small compared to seasonal variations, or even intra-day variation, you would find in most locations. That is not a trick question. It might be important, but certainly how important an audience considers it may be related to how one chooses to graph it. Take this example form an entirely unrelated field:

Last spring, Adnan sent me a letter about … something, I can’t even remember exactly what. But it included these two graphs that he’d drawn out in pencil. With no explanation. There was just a Post-it attached to the back of one of the papers that said: “Could you please hold these 2 pages until we next speak? Thank you.”

Here’s what he sent:

Price of tea at 7-11 

Price of tea at C-Mart 

This was curious. It crossed my mind that Adnan might be … off his rocker in some way. Or, more excitingly, that these graphs were code for some top-secret information too dangerous for him to send in a letter.

But no. These graphs were a riddle that I would fail to solve when we next spoke, a couple of days later.

Adnan: Now, so would you prefer, as a consumer, would you rather purchase at a store where prices are consistent or items from a store where the prices fluctuate?

Sarah: I would prefer consistency.

Adnan: That makes sense. Especially in today’s economy. So if you had to choose, which store would you say has more consistent prices?

Sarah: 7-11 is definitely more consistent.

Adnan: As compared to…?

Sarah: As compared to C-Mart, which is going way up and down.

Look again, Adnan said. Right. Their prices are exactly the same. It’s just that the graph of C-Mart prices is zoomed way in — the y-axis is in much smaller cost increments — so it looks like dramatic fluctuations are happening. And he made the pencil lines much darker and more striking in the C-Mart graph, so it looks more…sinister or something.

Layman’s Primer on the Climate Skeptic Position
Layman’s Primer on the Climate Skeptic Position
Publish: Thu 13 Nov 2014 - 5:30 AM
Website: Climate Skeptic
Source: View Original

I am a “lukewarmer”, which means a skeptic that agrees that man-made CO2 is incrementally warming the Earth but believes that the amount of that warming is being greatly exaggerated. In addition, I believe that the science behind evidence of current “climate change” is really poor, with folks in the media using observations of tail-of-the-distribution weather effects to “prove” climate change rather than relying on actual trend data (which tend to show no such thing).

I have written two articles at summarizing this position and the debate.

Understanding the Global Warming Debate

Denying the Catastrophe: The Science of the Climate Skeptic’s Position