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NASA/NOAA Report Ignores Best Climate Data

January 17, 2020

Climate Change Weekly #347

Because science is the pursuit of knowledge, and political actions almost necessarily restrict personal freedom, science, laws, and regulations should use the best available data. Using bad data undermines both the pursuit of truth and the justification of laws and regulations.

Everyone, from the far left to the far right on the political spectrum, should be able to agree about this.

Sadly, in the field of climate research and climate policy, good data, when not ignored entirely, is increasingly twisted to fit the narrative claiming humans are causing a climate crisis. In pursuit of political power and ever-increasing resources, climate action partisans force data to fit their delusion that humans must forego modern, industrial civilization to save humanity and the Earth from climate doom.

Nowhere is this problem more evident than in the recent report on global temperature trends from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Between them, the two agencies operate the most accurate, comprehensive system of temperature measuring instruments in the world. But instead of citing data from their best sources when NASA and NOAA reported global temperatures on January 15, they reported instead severely compromised results resulting from their and other organizations adjusting measured temperatures—in a process they call “homogenization”—recorded at biased monitoring stations.

NASA and NOAA accordingly announced 2019 was the second warmest year since modern recordkeeping began in 1880, and that the 2010s were the “warmest decade on record.”

These claims are based on the thoroughly unreliable adjusted temperature measurements recorded by surface temperature stations scattered across the globe. These measurements, at least the raw data from them, are usually sufficiently accurate to inform local inhabitants of temperature and weather conditions in their area on a particular day, but most are virtually worthless as measures of real trends telling us something important about whether humans are causing global warming.

As has been hammered home repeatedly over the years by meteorologist Anthony Watts, many of the monitoring stations across the United States do not meet the standards established by the agencies themselves for reliable data measurement. Watts identified hundreds of stations on pavement, at airports collecting jet exhaust, or located beside artificial sources of hot and cold, such as air conditioning systems or commercial grill heat exhausts. Many of these stations were once located in rural areas but are now surrounded by development, and others are rural stations where data is not recorded or monitored regularly.

After Watts’ 2014 revelations, the U.S. Office of the Inspector General issued a scathing report, almost entirely ignored by the media, that found lack of oversight, noncompliance, and a lax review process for the climate recording network meant program data “cannot be consistently relied upon by decision-makers.” In a panic, during the investigation process that resulted in the Inspector General’s report, NOAA closed approximately 600 of its most problematic weather stations.

Numerous reports have shown data manipulation is not limited to the United States but is common across the globe. Temperatures recorded at pristine rural monitoring stations in far-flung locations such as Australia, Paraguay, and Switzerland have been homogenized so past temperatures are now reported as cooler than was originally recorded and recent temperatures are reported as warmer than recorded, necessarily making the temperature increases at these locations over the past century appear steeper and larger than the unadjusted data show.

NOAA violated its own rules when it undertook a similar adjustment process for recording ocean temperatures beginning in 2015. As David Rose wrote for the Daily Mail, “[NOAA scientists] took reliable readings from [ocean] buoys but then ‘adjusted’ them upwards—using readings from seawater intakes on ships … even though readings from the ships have long been known to be too hot.” When you mix bad data with good, you no more produce reliable results than you do by adding muddy river water to purified bottle water to produce safe drinking water.

NASA and NOAA’s new report is another instance of “garbage in, garbage out,” in which their use of bad data produces flawed results, which, based on experience, will be used to push bad policies.

NASA and NOAA jointly or separately operate the U.S. Climate Reference Network, the gold standard of surface temperature data, global satellites, and weather balloons. The temperature data recorded by these three independent, unbiased temperature-measuring networks show minimal warming over the past 40 years, yet the agencies ignored these data sets in their recent report, clearly because it undermines their dogmatic belief in a human-caused climate catastrophe.

NASA and NOAA are like toddlers trying to fit square toys into round holes, and they are just as likely as toddlers to throw fits when their efforts are stymied by reality.

The Trump administration should steeply cut NASA and NOAA’s climate budgets until agency heads and career staff get the message they will not be rewarded for repeatedly telling “sky is falling” climate scare stories, when the truth about temperature and climate trends is alarming only in exposing the corruption of these government agencies.

—    H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: Washington Post; The Heartland Institute; Climate Change Weekly; Daily Mail


IN THIS ISSUE …

Arctic was warmer than now many times in recent pastYes, Virginia, there was a Little Ice Age


ARCTIC WAS WARMER THAN NOW MANY TIMES IN RECENT PAST

Two recent studies confirm what climate realists have long pointed out: the Earth has experienced significantly warmer periods than now since the end of the last ice age, despite carbon dioxide levels being lower then. That means the current period of modest warming is not unusual and may not be driven by increased carbon dioxide levels but rather by poorly understood natural factors.

A paper published in the December 3 edition of Geophysical Research Letters shows the Arctic has experienced relatively rapid increases and declines in temperatures since the beginning of the Holocene—the present interglacial period which began approximately 12,000 years before today (BP)—that exceed both presently recorded temperatures and those projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to occur even under its worst-case scenarios.

Paleo-temperature reconstructions of summer temperatures from materials from three lakes on the Svalbard archipelago jutting into the Arctic ocean indicate the Early Holocene, from 11,700 through 8,200 years BP, was often significantly warmer than today. According to the research, a peak warmth occurred approximately 10 years BP, with temperatures 7 degrees Celsius warmer than today. The reconstructions indicate multiple times in the Holocene, for hundreds of years at a time, summer temperatures in the Arctic were at times warmer than now, only to fall later to temperatures colder than those experienced in recent centuries.

Another recent paper, published in the journal Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, examines temperature changes over the past 1,000 years on Prince of Wales Island, Nunavut, in the Canadian Arctic, based on pollen samples from lake sediment cores. The study found the climate has been quite variable, with vegetation changing and shifting several times during the millennium.

In particular, although there has been a long-term cooling trend during the common era (CE), particularly over the past 1,000 years, vegetation changes indicate a great deal of climate variability, with especially significant changes during the warm Medieval Climate Anomaly from approximately 1090 to 1250 CE, when estimated vegetation expansion indicate temperatures were as high or higher than today, and a sustained cold period from 1800 through 1915 CE even as the Little Ice Age was waning, the study found.

These studies provide further evidence the climate in the Arctic has been far from stable during the Holocene, with temperatures rising and falling significantly over relatively short periods of time, all without any influence by humankind.

SOURCES: Geophysical Research Letters; Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research


YES, VIRGINIA, THERE WAS A LITTLE ICE AGE

The New England Historical Society (NEHS) assembled a short list of ways the Little Ice Age, from the fifteenth through the nineteenth centuries, when average winter temperatures in North America fell two degrees Celsius or more, altered the course of history. NEHS points out during the depths of the Little Ice Age, rivers and canals across northern Europe and the United States froze, cereal grain production in Iceland collapsed, and famine struck France, Norway, and Sweden. On the positive side, colder winters resulted in denser wood, contributing to the superior tone of the Stradivarius violin.

Among the effects in New England, the harsh winters and cool, short summers of the Little Ice Age contributed to at least two wars with native peoples in the region, delayed settlement in the region, and spurred migration out of the area.

“Extremely harsh winters during the Little Ice Age destroyed the first colony in what is now Maine and delayed colonization in New England for a good 10 years,” writes the NEHS.

A group of English investors called the Plymouth Company chartered the Popham Colony in what is now coastal Maine, early in the seventeenth century. Two ships carrying 120 settlers set sail in May 1607. The extremely harsh winter of 1607, described by the colonists as “extreme unseasonable and frostie,” forced the settlers to abandon the colony, and the English attempted no further settlement in New England for the next decade. NEHS quotes Sir Ferdinando Gorges, one of the investors in the Popham colony, saying of the incident, “All our former hopes were frozen to death.”

The Little Ice Age also resulted in the French abandoning attempts to colonize St. Croix at the mouth of the river bearing the same name on what is now the U.S.-Canada border. NEHS writes, “Seventy-nine men arrived in the summer of 1604 and thought they found a paradise, with warm weather, good soil and plenty of fish and game. Then it began to snow on October 6, beginning a long and sharply cold winter. Thirty-five men died of a hideous, mysterious disease, probably scurvy. When spring finally arrived, they moved to what is now Annapolis, Nova Scotia.”

Later in the LIA, in 1816—known variously as the “Year Without a Summer,” the “Year Eighteen Hundred Froze to Death,” and the “Poverty Year”—when six inches of snow fell in June, every month of the year had a hard frost, and temperatures dropped to as low as 40 degrees in July and August, thousands of people began abandoning their farms across New England, in a great migration south and west, settling in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and what became West Virginia.

NEHS notes between 1810 and 1820, when the U.S. population grew by 32 percent, Maine lost 15,000 people, 60 Vermont towns lost population, and the population of 60 more Vermont towns stayed the same. By contrast, 250,000 people settled in Ohio.

An extremely harsh winter in 1635 caused widespread crop failures, resulting in English colonists in Connecticut seizing corn grown by Pequot natives in 1636, sparking a counterattack that became the Pequot war.

Nearly forty years later, in 1671, the cold climate reduced crop yields so much that colonists demanded increasing amounts of land from the Wampanoag tribe then led by an American Indian known as King Philip. Philip surrendered the land but then began forging alliances with other tribes, building a series of forts from which they launched attacks on English colonists in 1675. This proved to be a bad year for King Philip to launch his offensive, as a particularly severe winter in 1675-76 resulted in many of his people, including warriors, starving. It also caused the swamps that usually protected a major Narragansett fort to freeze during the winter, allowing colonists led by Benjamin Church to cross the swamp on the ice and massacre the inhabitants. During the war, 5,000 natives were killed in battle or died of sickness or starvation, a thousand natives were captured and sold into slavery, and another 2,000 fled west or north.

The colonists did not escape the winter or war unscathed, either. Plymouth Colony lost 8 percent of its adult male population in the war, and per capita income among the colonists in New England didn’t recover for a century.

SOURCE: New England Historical Society

Author
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
hsburnett@heartland.org