In the great climate debate, some scientists say that Earth’s temps have remained flat for two decades, while others claim that we are setting records each year. Who’s right?
Is 2016 the hottest year on record? It’s a hard question to answer, especially with the latest nail in the Climategate coffin. Retired National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) climate scientist-turned-whistleblower Dr. John Bates dropped a bombshell on February 5, revealing to the U.K.’s Mail on Sunday that a groundbreaking NOAA study grossly exaggerated global warming and erroneously influenced the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. The Mail quoted Bates accusing the agency of having timed publication of its flawed report in order to make “the maximum possible impact on world leaders including Barack Obama and David Cameron.” NOAA’s research supposedly contradicted claims of a pause in global warming since 1998, hence the name “Pausebuster Paper.” But Bates’ evidence shows that the agency knowingly overstated the speed of warming and falsely reported inaccurate high temperatures. Bates says his NOAA superiors ignored his vehement objections to publication of the faulty data.
Bates, a 40-year career meteorologist and climate scientist, explained that NOAA had replaced the readings gleaned from highly accurate Argo ocean buoys with temperature measurements from ships. The latter are notoriously inaccurate and undependable due to variability in measurement depth and because of heat from ships’ propulsion systems. “They had good data from buoys. And they threw it out and ‘corrected it’ with bad data from ships,” complained Bates. “You never change good data to agree with bad, but that’s what they did — so as to make it look as if the sea was warmer.”
A second manipulated dataset was based on NOAA’s land records (the Global Historical Climatology Network, or GHCN), with records from about 4,000 weather stations. Bates told the Mail on Sunday that NOAA reported past temperatures as cooler than previously thought, and recent ones higher, so the warming trend looked steeper.
Additionally, the agency violated its own rules when it failed to archive its data for independent review and verification by other researchers and scientific bodies. Instead, NOAA’s climate boss, Thomas Karl, thrust the unverified “Pausebuster Paper” upon an unsuspecting public. Karl had a pipeline to the Obama White House through his association with fellow alarmist John Holdren, Obama’s chief science advisor. Touted as the death of global-warming skepticism, “Pausebuster” was greeted with glee by the Paris delegates who wanted the warming hiatus to disappear. The U.S. House Science Committee, however, was suspicious of the paper and issued subpoenas for internal e-mails related to it. Then suddenly, the computer used to store “Pausebuster” suffered a “complete failure,” meaning, says Bates, that no one will ever be able to replicate or verify the data.
Global-warming alarmism was central to Obama’s administration, packed as it was with advisors dedicated to the party line. We may be so fortunate under the Trump presidency to see the victory of science over government propaganda. But how does real science answer the question: What on Earth is happening to our temperature?
Where Do You Stick the Thermometer?
For years, many climate scientists have assured us that there has been a “pause” in global warming — Earth has not heated up since 1998. At the same time, mainstream media have touted a “scientific consensus” that the pause is total fiction, global warming is repeatedly causing record high temperatures, and mankind is scorching Mother Earth with its insatiable consumption of fossil fuels.
Why the contradiction, and whom do you believe? Are the so-called climate-change deniers merely lunatics, blind to reality, or worse — are they liars in the pocket of Big Oil? On the other hand, are climate alarmists using global warming as an excuse to curb access to energy and promote a long-term environmentalist goal of population control? How can one camp claim a warming pause so conclusively, while the other side decisively asserts exactly the opposite?
The answer lies in Bates’ revelation — simply, it depends on where you stick the thermometer. NOAA has been poking it haphazardly into the oceans and into the air at the surface of the Earth and, according to Bates, cherry-picking the results. Its prejudiced outcomes fuel the climate-alarmist cartel. (NOAA maintains one of three major datasets of global surface temperature. The other two belong to the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA] and the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit [CRU] in Great Britain. The three agencies agree that man-made climate change is a dangerous reality.)
Climate realists set their sights slightly higher — namely, on the troposphere, which is the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere and varies in depth from 12 miles over the tropics to four miles over polar regions. The troposphere is where weather happens. Researchers measure air temperature in it by means of satellites that circle the planet over its poles, sensing by means of microwave instruments how much heat is given off from oxygen molecules. There are two organizations dedicated to collecting and analyzing satellite data: the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) and Remote Sensing Systems (RSS), a private company based in California. Interestingly, competition has arisen, not between the organizations themselves, but between climate-change skeptics who trumpet the merits of the UAH dataset and the alarmist clique that looks to RSS since it works in close collaboration with NASA. Despite the perceived rivalry, both UAH and RSS predict a decrease in global temperature over the next 100 years, based on current trends. We will investigate this point further, but first, let’s look a little deeper into the surface and ocean temperature data.
Manipulating the Data
A January 2017 joint announcement made by NASA, NOAA, and CRU claimed that the Earth experienced “record breaking temperatures for three years in a row” — 2014, 2015, and 2016. Mainstream media shrieked doomsday headlines such as “2016 Blows Away Temp Records” and “Climate Trends Continue to Break Records.” These “official” temperature readings came from some 3,000 weather stations and also include measurements of sea-surface temperatures. But have you noticed that they don’t bother troubling you with actual numbers?
Here they are: 2015 was 0.02ºC warmer than 2014. Then 2016 was 0.01ºC warmer than 2015. It stretches mental limits to imagine how these agencies actually determine the average global temperature to the nearest 0.01ºC, particularly when an amazing 0.10ºC margin of error accompanies these “record breaking temperatures”! As Federalist writer Robert Tracinski aptly put it: “That’s like saying the ball is on the 10 yard line — give or take a hundred yards.” But even if accurate, do these very slight differences truly show a warming trend? If mainstream outlets had any scientific honor, their article titles would have sounded something more like: “Even in the Face of an Unusually Strong El Niño, the Global Temperature Has Not Statistically Changed in the Last Three Years.”
Moreover, there are problems that severely limit temperature-recording accuracy. One is a shift in weather-recording stations from colder to warmer climates, another relates to how NASA, NOAA, and CRU treat “missing” data, and a third stems from improperly sited stations. Quoting a 2010 Science and Public Policy Institute report, Surface Temperature Records: Policy Driven Deception? by Joseph D’Aleo and Anthony Watts, William F. Jasper reported for The New American last year:
Globally, the number of surface temperature stations dropped from 6,000 to just over 1,000. “The Russian station count dropped from 476 to 121 so over 40% of Russian territory was not included in global temperature calculations,” note D’Aleo and Watts. “In Canada, the number of stations dropped from 600 to less than 50.” Less than 50 for all of Canada! At the same time, more mid-latitude and lower-elevation stations were added, along with more populated centers, adding more urban heat island (UHI) effect. D’Aleo and Watts point out: “Forty percent of GHCN v2 stations have at least one missing month. This is concentrated in the winter months.” No problem; the NOAA/NASA/GHCN folks simply “infill” with “adjusted” data, always biasing in the warming direction, of course.
Meanwhile, southern climes have seen the addition of temperature recording sites, such as the 2008 creation of NOAA’s technically advanced 114-station U.S. Climate Reference Network. A mere five years later, NOAA announced closure of nearly 600 weather stations in its U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) after research by retired meteorologist Anthony Watts revealed that nearly 90 percent of U.S. stations “fail to meet the National Weather Service’s own siting requirements that stations must be 30 meters or more away from an artificial heating or radiating/reflecting heat source.” Watts scoffed at the closure announcement, calling it “too little, too late” and asking Fox News, “The question remains as to why they continue to use a polluted mix of well-sited and poorly-sited stations.”
The situation has hardly improved since. A recent provocative article in the Deplorable Climate Science Blog entitled “100% of US Warming is Due to NOAA Data Tampering” contends that NOAA has been further manipulating USHCN records. Figure 1 compares raw data in blue to what is publicly reported in red.
NOAA and CRU often adjust their temperature records for such changes as moving a weather-reporting station. Interestingly, the adjustments of historical temperatures tend to be down, while the more recent move up. Such manipulation results in a trend that suggests a significant temperature rise over the period. Note in Figure 2 that in 1900 the adjustment downward is greater than minus 1ºF, while the most recent one is a little less than plus 0.5ºF. Together this is a change very nearly the 1.5ºF rise that NOAA gives for the period.
Interestingly, the slope of the temperature adjustment happens to be the same as that of the increase in CO2 over the same time period. The graph in Figure 3 suggests that NOAA cherry-picked precisely for this purpose: to give the impression of a direct correlation between increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide and temperature. If the impression given reflects reality, the phenomenon is unprecedented in Earth’s history. Paleoclimatologists, scientists who study Earth’s climate history by evidence found in ice cores, have consistently found precisely the opposite correlation: Changes in CO2 follow changes in temperature, rather than preceding them. For example, most of the increase in temperature over the last century occurred before most of the increase in CO2. (The journal Nature first reported this in 1999, and science writer Joanne Nova continues to post Vostok Ice Core data updates on her blog at joannenova.com.au.)
All Washed Up
Like its fudged surface temperature data, NOAA’s ocean records are also doctored, and Bates’ whistleblowing is actually old news. In 2015, when the agency published its “Pausebuster Paper,” NOAA research team leader Thomas Karl admitted adjusting ocean buoy data to agree with warmer temperature readings gleaned from ships. Fox News reported at the time:
Karl says … that even if the world’s oceans are warming, the unadjusted data may show it not to be warming because more and more buoys are being used instead of ships. So Karl’s team adjusted the buoy data to make them line up with the ship data. They also double-checked their work by making sure that the readjusted buoy readings matched ships’ recordings of nighttime air temperatures.
Red flags shot up throughout the scientific community as discrepancies immediately emerged. Judith Curry, since-retired Georgia Tech climate-science professor, told Fox News that NOAA’s results disagreed not only with the raw data from ocean buoys — which did not show significant warming — but also “with a UK dataset, which is generally regarded as the gold standard for global sea surface temperature datasets … and satellite analyses.”
The “satellite analyses” Curry noted are the same analyses mentioned earlier, performed by UAH and RSS. Doctors Roy Spencer and John Christy have directed the UAH program since its 1978 inception. Speaking of the “Pausebuster Paper,” Spencer told Fox News, “We believe the satellite measurements since 1979 provide a more robust measure of global temperatures, and both satellite research groups see virtually the same pause in global temperatures for the last 18 years.” Spencer criticized NOAA, calling its 2015 study “one more example that you can get any answer you want when the thermometer data errors are larger than the global warming signal you are looking for.” On the other hand, UAH boasts a track record of preserving its findings from political bias.
Figure 4 is the January 2017 update of global temperatures from Spencer’s popular website, www.drroyspencer.com. Two peaks stand out on the record: one in 1998 and the waning 2015 El Niño Pacific disturbances. The January 2017 plot of +0.30ºC means the global temperature average exceeds the baseline average for 1980 to 2005 by about a third of a degree Celsius, or about one-half degree Fahrenheit.
Despite its close relationship with NASA, the RSS agrees closely with UAH. Consider Figure 5, which plots both organizations’ datasets.
Both UAH and RSS show a trend line for a decrease in temperature since 1995 — UAH at -0.024ºC per decade, and RSS at -0.032ºC per decade. If we extend these to 100 years, UAH predicts a decrease in temperature of 1.2ºC, while RSS projects a 1.6ºC decrease. Not quite in keeping with the climate models that predict a four- or five-degree rise in temperature.
Who Needs Data?
Yet this talk of data is superfluous. Not until 1880 had most major cities begun to monitor and record daily temperature using thermometers. Luckily, we don’t need them. To determine whether current weather patterns evince dangerous trends toward frying or freezing, we can simply look at historical records.
Is weather now so unusual in comparison? Consider 1816, otherwise known as the “Year Without a Summer,” a product of the 1815 eruption of Mt. Tambora in Indonesia. The Irish potato crop failed, lack of European grain led to bread shortages, and starvation ensued. On October 6, 1816, New York’s Albany Advertiser reported the previous summer’s weather conditions:
The weather during the past summer has been generally considered as very uncommon, not only in this country, but … in Europe also. Here it has been dry, and cold. We do not recollect the time when the drought has been so extensive, and general, not when there has been so cold a summer. There have been hard frosts in every summer month, a fact that we have never known before. It has also been cold and dry in some parts of Europe, and very wet in other places.
History gives further clues about earlier times. In 1780, New York Harbor froze over, allowing people to walk from Manhattan Island to Staten Island. Military reports from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars record rivers freezing over, ones that never freeze over today.
The Little Ice Age years (1300-1850 A.D.) of unrelenting cold temperatures forced Norsemen to flee their homes in Greenland after 450 years of the Medieval Warm Period (950-1250 A.D.). In 1814, an elephant paraded across the ice in one of many “Frost Fairs” on London’s Thames River. No one could have repeated that act in the past 200 years.
Yet before the Little Ice Age, the archaeological record also proves, the average global temperatures were much warmer. Remains of forgotten forests and human artifacts are peeking out from under receding glaciers. “Ancient trees emerge from frozen forest ‘tomb,’” reported the Juneau Empire in September 2013. The University of Alaska Southeast dated these tree stumps under the Mendenhall Glacier between 1,400 and 2,350 years old, corresponding to both the Medieval and Roman Warm Periods. Swiss archaeologists have discovered clothes, weapons, and animal remains in the Alps. According to the German newspaper Tages Spiegel, the relics hail from a time when the glacial zone began roughly 700 meters higher than it does today, the “timber line had climbed substantially,” and “temperatures in the Swiss Alps were up to two degrees over today’s.”
Manipulating the Public Mind
Why is such historical evidence of Earth’s natural, cyclical weather patterns ignored? It is inconvenient truth for the alarmist political Left. They allege that carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels is causing catastrophic global warming. Their irrational mantra to avoid debate of the subject is: “The Science Is Settled.”
Leftists intend to parlay their created fear of global warming into legislation to limit consumption of life-giving energy. They typically call for a reduction of fossil fuels by 80 percent of the 2000 usage by 2030. For perspective, imagine having one-fifth of the gasoline, one-fifth of heating and air conditioning, one-fifth of energy to run schools, hospitals, and factories. Yet leftists expect these major deprivations to lower the temperature only a fraction of a degree by 2100.
NASA, NOAA, and CRU have a marked history of masking their political agenda under the guise of climate science. NASA’s former administrator James Hansen, professional alarmist since the early 1970s when he was trumpeting an approaching ice age, has been arrested numerous times since his retirement in 2013 for trespassing and other misdemeanors while inciting rioters at global-warming protests. Should we believe his 2015 warning that sea-level rise in the next 50 years will bring the “economic and social cost of losing functionally all coastal cities”? (In case you are concerned, remember that melting of the North Polar ice cap would cause no sea level rise, as it floats in the Arctic Ocean, just as melting of ice cubes in a glass of water does not cause the water to overflow the glass. The South Pole has an average temperature of -57ºF and is not expected to melt anytime soon no matter how much hot air Hansen produces.)
Another climate alarmist holding great political sway is CRU Administrator Phil Jones. He was one of many infamous climatologists involved in the 2009 Climategate scandal. When hackers broadcast hundreds of incriminating e-mails, they revealed that these scientists deliberately deleted evidence of data fraud prior to an expected Freedom of Information request from the U.K. government.
Yet these are the people convincing us of a supposed apocalyptic danger from CO2 emissions. Government is quick to cooperate, with huge amounts of money for grants and awards to academics who faithfully report the global-warming party line. Base your proposed study on that, and you’ve got the grant.
It didn’t take long for colleges to jump on the wagon. Fifty years ago, universities had no Environmental Science department, or even a degree at the bachelor level. The word “ecology” was unknown to most people. Today gradschool.com shows 130 U.S. colleges and universities with masters and/or Ph.D. programs in environmental, ecological, or sustainability studies.
Richard Lindzen, former Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT and a National Academy of Sciences member, has seen the whole scam unfold. “Remember this was a tiny field, a backwater, and then suddenly you increased the funding to billions and everyone got into it,” Lindzen told James Varney of RealClearInvestigations.com. “Even in 1990 no one at MIT called themselves a ‘climate scientist,’ and then all of a sudden everyone was. They only entered it because of the bucks; they realized it was a gravy train. You have to get back to the people who only care about the science.”
So, was 2016 the hottest year on record? Highly unlikely. Even if the temperature record were entirely accurate, with the “differences” being less than the margin of error, the trend is flat. But actual proof has been destroyed by criminal conspirators with a monetary and career bias toward convincing us that our activities are bringing on a climate apocalypse that can only be avoided by impoverishing ourselves and giving power to a wise and benevolent government. Moreover, proof isn’t attainable because the weather-monitoring stations have been closed, moved, or flawed. The rising amount of CO2 in the atmosphere does not appear to have any significant effect on the climate according to the most accurate measurements: Argo buoys and satellite data. Unfortunately, the keepers of official climate data are partisans with a financial interest in showing a trend toward catastrophic global warming. Their duplicity is propagandized as gospel truth by leftists in academia and the mainstream media. We suggest keeping a cool head, and worrying less about Mother Nature and more about those interested in expanding government control over our businesses, our culture, and our lives.
This article is an example of the exclusive content that's available by subscribing to our print magazine. Twice a month get in-depth features covering the political gamut: education, candidate profiles, immigration, healthcare, foreign policy, guns, etc. Digital as well as print options are available!