Multiple U.S. government bureaucracies including NOAA, NASA, and the Department of Energy are again being accused of inappropriately manipulating temperature data — or “adjusting” it, as officials at the agencies implicated in the scandal put it — to show global warming. While the accusations are not new, the latest scandal, sparked by an in-depth analysis of the data by independent analyst Steven Goddard at Real Science, relies on official records to suggest that federal agencies have been fudging temperature measurements to make past decades seem colder and recent years appear warmer.
Numerous scientists and experts confirmed Goddard’s explosive findings, but in separate responses to The New American, both NOAA and NASA attempted to downplay the significance of the accusations. The major problems identified by Goddard in the temperature records of federal bureaucracies relate to the U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN), the official data-set covering the continental United States. While the agencies admit the records are adjusted, Goddard and multiple scientists suggested that biased methodology was used to adjust the data to show an unjustified and “spurious” warming trend.
“Bottom line is there is clearly a huge error in the USHCN adjustments which has added a non-existent one degree hockey stick warming to the official US temperature record, and I now know just where to look for it in their code,” Goddard wrote. “NOAA made a big deal about 2012 blowing away all temperature records, but the temperature they reported is the result of a huge error. This affects all NOAA and NASA U.S. temperature graphs, and is part of the cause of this famous shift.” Citing satellite data, Goddard also said that by 2008, U.S. temperatures had cooled down below 1980s and 90s levels.
The “adjustment” schemes in the official U.S. dataset are so drastic, according to Goddard’s analysis, that they managed to “turn a 90 year cooling trend into a warming trend,” he said, suggesting that there may be a “software bug” at work. “Bottom line is that the [NOAA National Climatic Data Center] U.S. temperature record is completely broken, and meaningless,” Goddard concluded. “Adjustments that used to go flat after 1990 now go up exponentially. Adjustments which are documented as positive are implemented as negative.”
Respected climatologist and NASA scientist Dr. Roy Spencer actually showed evidence of what Goddard described as early as April of 2012, saying that “virtually all of the USHCN warming since 1973 appears to be the result of adjustments NOAA has made to the data.” Commenting on the latest findings, Dr. Spencer said that his own examination of the data and corrections to account for urban heat island (UHI) effects “support Steve’s contention that there’s something funny going on in the USHCN data.” He also called the NOAA methodology for adjusting the data “opaque” and said he believes it is prone to serious errors.
“Clearly, adjustments to surface temperature data are at least as large as the global warming signal being sought” (emphasis in original), concluded Dr. Spencer, who served as senior scientist for climate studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center before leaving to work at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. “Until a transparent analysis of the USHCN methodology is carried out, and alternative methods and temperature datasets are tested, I can’t bring myself to believe any U.S. government pronouncements regarding record warm temperatures.”
In its latest newsletter, the Science and Environmental Policy Project highlighted Goddard’s findings on “spurious warming” in the official U.S. temperature record, noting that elements of the data manipulation have been reported previously by other experts. “All this makes announcements of a certain year being the X hottest in the historic record highly questionable,” the organization said, echoing remarks by other scientists. “Once a dataset is compromised, can its integrity be restored?”
Climatologists Patrick Michaels and Paul “Chip” Knappenberger at the Cato Institute's Center for the Study of Science, meanwhile, drew attention to the problems in an article arguing that 2013 was “another nail in the coffin” for catastrophic man-made global warming theories. “Please be advised that this history has been repeatedly ‘revised’ to either make temperatures colder in the earlier years or warmer at the end,” they wrote. “Not one ‘adjustment’ has the opposite effect, a clear contravention of logic and probability.”
“It’s a fact that if you just take all the thousands of fairly evenly-spaced ‘official’ weather stations around the country and average them up since 1895, that you won’t get much of a warming trend at all,” the respected climate scientists continued. “Consequently a major and ongoing federal effort has been to try and cram these numbers into the box imposed by the theory that gives the government the most power — i.e., strong global warming.”
The New American reached out to the agencies involved in the scandal for answers about the allegations. “There is no doubt that NOAA's temperature record is scientifically sound and reliable,” NOAA claimed in an official statement, despite the fact that there are many well-documented doubts. “To ensure accuracy of the record, scientists use peer-reviewed methods to account for all potential inaccuracies in the temperature readings such as changes in station location, instrumentation replacement and urban heat effects.”
When asked in a follow-up whether the findings suggesting that the data “adjustments” had turned a cooling trend into warming or whether there were any inaccuracies in Goddard’s analysis, the agency did not respond. “Scientists also have other ways of confirming warming using many other independent measurements such as declining lake and river ice and snow cover extent, and increasing temperatures as measured from satellites and weather balloons and others,” the NOAA statement added.
As The New American has reported extensively in recent months, despite NOAA’s claims, its own data show that Antarctic sea-ice coverage hit record levels again in 2013. Sea-ice coverage globally on Dec. 31, 2013, meanwhile, was the highest since records began. Finally, snow coverage for the Northern Hemisphere last year was the fourth highest on record, according to data from Rutgers University’s Global Snow Lab. NOAA did not respond to subsequent requests for comment on the issues.
Separately, Deputy Director Gavin Schmidt at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies told The New American that the agency is “committed to producing as accurate an analysis as possible and any errors or corrections in the source data are fixed as soon as practical as they are discovered.” Schmidt also said that the issues raised by Goddard were “not particularly convincing — just pointing out that something changes is not the same as demonstrating that it has changed because of an error.”
“Specific issues with this dataset are more productively addressed to the NOAA team that puts it together,” Schmidt said, adding that other datasets supported global warming as well. “More broadly, it is important to note that this claim is associated solely with the U.S. and globally these issues are of minor importance (even if verified).... As we stressed in our press briefing, exact rankings of specific years globally are sensitive to different analysis methods and source data, but long term trends are clear in multiple, independently verified and independently processed data sets.”
Even if the controversial “adjustments” of the U.S. temperature record criticized by numerous experts are accepted as legitimate, countless scientists said this month that the latest data from U.S. government bureaucracies confirmed again that “global warming” has been on so-called “pause” for some 17 years — and counting. All 73 United Nations climate models predicted significant warming over the same period. The record high Antarctic sea-ice coverage confirmed again this month by NASA and NOAA, surpassing the previous records set the year before, also defied alarmist forecasts of shrinking polar ice.
The findings highlighted by Goddard and other experts bring to mind the infamous “Climategate” scandal, too. In a series of explosive leaked e-mails, many of the leading “climate scientists” behind the UN-backed theories on alleged man-made global warming were exposed conspiring to “hide the decline” in temperatures to further what was referred to as the “cause.” The documents also showed, among other revelations, that the alarmists were plotting to silence scientists who dissented from their controversial theory.
In the end, Climategate led to what many analysts still suggest may have been the beginning of the end for the effort to impose global carbon taxes on humanity. Since then, the climate models behind the alarmism have become increasingly discredited as the predictions failed to materialize. Indeed, as The New American has been reporting in recent months, experts say 2013 was potentially the most devastating year so far for proponents of catastrophic man-made global-warming theories, with reality increasingly at odds with the models and predictions.
It remains to be seen whether the latest allegations by Goddard and others of improper U.S. government temperature-data manipulation will serve to hasten what analysts say is the ongoing implosion of global-warming alarmism. At this point, however, a growing number of climate experts and scientists around the world are forecasting a period of potentially dangerous global cooling in the years and decades ahead.
Alex Newman is a correspondent for The New American, covering economics, science, politics, and more. He can be reached at