back to article NASA weather error sparks global warming debate

Conservative blogs were alight last week when they turned up an error in NASA's methods for recording US temperatures. As a result, it has been concluded that 1934, not 1998, was America's hottest year on record. The problem was caught when blogger, Stephen McIntyre of Climate Audit, crunched the numbers from NASA's Goddard …


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  1. Greg Nelson

    nice day if it doesn't rain

    Naysayers aside this debate and the ensuing policies aren't going away. If for no other reason that it's the weather we're talking about here folks. Talking about the weather and bitching about it is the most basic universal right of any member of our species. The idea that your neighbours are responsible for the day it rained on your picnic is just too much to let pass. Global Warming has the where with it all to be the first issue inviting universal debate. It's the weather. Who hasn't something to say about that? Good science, bad science, it's in the wild and science can just try its best to get it right rather than take up a position with much hand waving and recrimination

  2. Shannon Jacobs

    Still a manmade disaster to refuse to learn from?

    Stating the obvious, but it seems very likely that the high temperature of that year was again related to human activity. At that time it was relatively regional compared to our current problems. The dust bowl was the result of greedy destruction of the prairie, which had actually been going on for a long time. The near extinction of the buffalo was actually closer to the leading edge of that disaster.

    The great plains were stable and remarkably productive, even though the rainfall was quite limited--until we slaughtered the buffalo, wiped out all those nasty little prairie dogs, and plowed the whole thing over for a couple of years of wheat. Individual farmers made 'sensible' decisions to abandon the worn out farms and keep moving on, but the overall result was a major ecological and social disaster, including some years of very high temperatures.

    People don't have to live like stupid and mindless animals. Smile when you say that, especially to Dubya (who won't be listening to you, anyway).

  3. Bill

    trustworthy indicators unchanged

    So what if the jittery atmospheric record is rearranged? I think the more geophysically robust measurements still indicate widespread, decades-long warming: sea-ice is thinning, glaciers are retreating, boreholes are warming, permafrost is thawing.

    Are those data suspect too?

  4. Dave

    The happy denier!

    It's certainly good news that NASA has refined some numbers dealing with the frequency of warm years! Now, at last, the glaciers can stop retreating, the Arctic ice can come back, the pine beetle can stop its advance, the wildfires can stop, the heat waves can all just cool it, and Canada no longer has to lay out the cash for any Arctic naval bases. Terrific news indeed!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Man-made Disaster?

    Gorebull Walarming is indeed man-made. Made in Hollywood.

  6. Webster Phreaky

    Bwah ha ha I TOLD YOU SO, MORONS!

    I posted this info over a week ago much to the harangue of the Lefty's and lots of name calling ... well you Limousine Liberals, turn out YOU ARE THE MORONS and your Church of Global Warming has been Unmasked!

    Go pick on smokers again, do something worthwhile losers.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Great! A Y2K issue in 2007!!!

  8. Ken Lord

    Hurricane link missed.

    Interestingly, the corrected temperature data highlights even more strongly the relation between increasing temperatures and hurricane numbers and strength.

    The last period of high hurricane activity and strength was in the 1930's.

    Anywho, idiots will believe what they want to believe about the corrected numbers instead of looking at it all properly. All those missing glaciers and iceshelfs are meaningless now that a small error has been exposed huh?

  9. Arthur E Lemay

    Global Warming is not caused by man

    The current theory is that we can figure out what climate change is natural and which is caused by man seems on very shaky ground. It is not clear to me that the theory that man is causing global warming has any proof, or even a statistical chance of being proven. There are just too many variables: the Sun, Volcanoes, clouds, and aerosols (particles in the atmosphere which dim the sun’s rays).

    It would seem that the variations in global climate we have seen in the last 20 years are not unusual, and, in fact, the NASA measurements show that there has been no warming since 1998. But, there was an increase in CO2 concentration during this period of stability. This is not a surprise because the oceans absorb CO2 and makes the ocean more acidic (ocean acidification). Conversely when temperatures rise, CO2 is released into the atmosphere. The oceans act like giant buffers which prevent rapid changes to the climate, and they lag by hundreds of years.

    Man's contribution of CO2 into the pool of greenhouse gases is very small as a percentage of the total. Water vapor composes 95% of all such gases, and CO2 concentration variations measured as fractions of 1% cannot possibly control the whole. The climate models used by the anthropogenic global warming crowd ignore water vapor and all the models assume temperature follows CO2 concentrations. They do not. When asked why water vapor and clouds are not included in the models, the modelers admit they do not know how to do this. The models have been jiggered with factors to make the results look believable, but when run with historical data of the 20th century they overestimate today’s temperatures significantly. And, after this bit of information, are we are expected to believe the models? The answer is yes.

    Conclusion: If you believe reducing CO2 emissions will have any effect on the climate, you are either a moron or an intellectual. Or, more realistically, you are an environmentalist who wants to stop growth in its tracks, have the Governments control everything, and see a dramatic reduction in the quality of life for their own quasi-religious reasons. .

    The skeptics are gaining ground, but the world’s Governments are hell bent on taking over control of everything, and the global warming swindle is their bogeyman.

  10. Bob Burk

    Socialist Church of Global Warming

    Apparently the Arctic was warming and glaciers were melting back in 1922 as evidence by a Washington Post article.


  11. JFraser

    Look who's talking!

    Check it out fool -- this second-rate pseudo-journalism is yesterday's news, already discredited --

  12. James Thomas


    That really brought out the wackos. If you had mentioned evolution too we could have had ourselves a ho-down!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The cure to the CO2 'problem'

    Read yesterdays article on Freeman Dyson,

    take all polititians and bury them thus reducing

    CO2 output

    moisture output

    hot air output

    methane output

    and increasing the biomass consideraby locking up tons of CO2 in the soil.

    problem solved

    repeat until no new polititians emerge.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Man made or not...

    Who cares if it's caused by human activity or not? We never had so much co2 in the atmosphere in the last 20k years. This results in the warming what we see now. Personally I don't care who made it, the question is what can we do to stop it? If it's a natural process, do we just have to accept it and die out?

    Btw. I would really like to know where all this co2 was in the past year thousands and how can we put it back there? As far as we know it was locked away in the fossil fuels. Now who or what got that out and back into the atmosphere? If co2 doesn't control the climate what does? Why do we have more engery in the Earth's atmosphere than in the past? (atmospheric energy can be seen in the form of stroms, like hurricanes) If it's not warming, then who or what put more energy there and from what source?

    If we want growth, we need energy and a livable environment. To convert co2 back into coal and oxigen we either need vegetation and lots of time, or atmosphere processors. (nasa has a few plans about this) The only problem is that a co2 converter needs an energy source that doesn't generate co2, be it renewable or nuclear. (nuclear is the cheapest, even cheaper than oil) If we ignore the environment and let it die then how can we survive without oxigen in the Earth's atmosphere? Currently the common answer is that only our children will die becaue of this and nobody cares about them anyway...

  15. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    We should still try to conserve energy

    Arthur E. Lemay has some valid points on the science being shaky at points, though the the fact that water vapour makes up 95% of greenhouse gas by mass does not mean that it is responsible for 95% of the effect, as he seems to suggest. Remember that methane is even rarer in the atmosphere but has a much stronger effect per kg than does CO2. Indeed water vapour in the form of clouds may also reflect enough sunlight, producing a cooling effect. Since reading the letter in Science by two Danish astronomers, I have also always considered that the sun-spot cycle to be a major contributing factor. Recently the sun has gone particularly quiet (sunspot-wise, I have NEVER before seen it this quiet) so this might mask further CO2 induced rises.

    What is clear is that CO2 is a greenhouse gas (fancy a trip to Venus anyone) which also keeps earth habitable (otherwise it might get uncomfortably cold). Adding more could certainly add to warming (for good of for bad, see Dyson's heresy). How much is difficult to say.

    The real reason to act sensibly and reduce CO2 emission in my view is that it conserves oil supplies, which could then be used for manufacture of all sorts of useful things, such as plastics or farmaceuticals. What is the sense in buying cars (SUVs) which use four (FACT!!) times more fuel to get me from A to B than a more modest (but spacious) stationwagon. Why not invest in energy we can get for free, or in insulating my home (more comfort for less money).

    Only a moron would waste resources when they can get a better deal (one of Murphy's laws: it is immoral to let suckers keep their money).

  16. Dave

    2 points:

    1. I didn't understand this bit of the original artcile: "The data correction reduced the mean US temperature by about 0.15 ºC for the years 2000 through 2006, for an average of 0.66 ºC." - precisely, 'for an average' <what>?

    2. Re: Arthur E Lemay (son / grandson of the US equivalent of UK's 'Bomber' Harris - Curtis LeMay? no matter)

    "... If you believe reducing CO2 emissions will have any effect on the climate, you are either ..." seems slightly inaccurate to me (trolling?). Fact is changing carbon dioxide emissions WILL have an effect on climate - we just do not have the means to predict what such change would be and we may not have the means to measure accurately enough said change.

    Nevertheless, I agree with the general scepticism of your contribution; the models being used are nowhere-near elaborate or comprehensive enough.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    instruments and sampling

    How can data that has been derived from different instruments with different sampling periods be used to decide with any certainty when the hottest years were.

    Today we have very accurate instruments that sample almost continually. Now compare this to what was used in the 1930s.

    I don't finding it surprising that weather records are being broken when you have better monitoring than before. However when comparing sets of data how do you “correct” for the different techniques in the data gathering?

  18. Nick Collingridge

    Global warming - case for human cause

    In response to Arthur Lemay's post:

    Your post is full of supposition and inaccuracies, and does not in any way prove that global warming is not caused by man, as you claim. You seem driven by some neo-con agenda relating to a totally libertarian (or anarchistic) view of how society should work rather than a rational appreciation of the available evidence.

    For example - the NASA measurements apply only to the USA, as is clearly mentioned in the article, yet you claim that they show there has been no warming since 1998. This is not true on a global basis, as is very clearly stated in the article.

    You also state that CO2 variations of fractions of 1% cannot possibly control the whole. If you had looked into the science behind anthropogenic global warming theory you would know that this is not claimed in any way. CO2 concentration is just one factor, but it IS a significant one (along with the other human-emitted greenhouse gases which you appear to ignore) and furthermore as concentrations grow its influence is growing. In addition in this current cycle it is the one which is changing quickly and it is the one which we know that we are affecting.

    Water vapour does have a significant effect but it is short-term in its duration (it is always cycling between ground and air) and is a feedback factor rather than a primary forcing agent. Its concentration in the atmosphere can therefore be affected by the presence of primary agents such as greenhouse gases.

    You are very disdainful of the vast amount of highly detailed science which is behind global warming theory. This has been derived from a number of different directions, including the basic physics of the materials involved and observations of prior behaviour. Take a look at for the detailed science. Also try looking at the VAST amount of activity on the web in debating and analysing global warming. This addresses repeatedly the claims made by sceptics which are very well covered by the science behind the theory. And yet again and again people trot out these pet objections which have long been consigned to history through debate.

    One highly significant point that sceptics always ignore is that the current speed of change of global temperatures is unprecedented and therefore impossible to explain through purely natural causes. Corresponding to this rate of change, the only factor that is changing at a similar fast pace is greenhouse gas concentrations, which we know as a fact are being caused by humans. We are already "off the graph" and entering uncharted territory which should concern every responsible person who isn't totally brainwashed by the neo-con theories of personal liberty at all costs.

    Ironically, although you claim that Governments are hell bent on taking control over everything and that they are therefore the root of current global warming theory, in practice most governments, and certainly our own here in the UK, have done practically nothing to control or even influence our behaviour in this respect. So it is very hard to see any connection unless you really are an incredibly paranoid conspiracy theorist. Or, in your own words, a moron.

  19. Chris

    instruments and sampling

    I think casting doubt on accuracy of weather records from the 1930's is a disservice to scientists and climatologists of the time. We didn't only start to get fine-grained accuracy from the beginning of the digital age - analaogue and digital instruments approach problems from the same direction usually, they just process and display them differently. Scientists have been obsessed with accuracy for as long as science has been a discipline.

  20. Anigel


    Scientists have been obsessed with accuracy for as long as science has been a discipline.


    Shame they havent been even slightly bothered about it in these models that they base their whole climate change assumptions on.

    Not one of the models can predict todays climate starting from 50 years ago so if they are that inaccurate then they need to shut up and actually make them work before preaching fear and destruction

  21. Chris

    Universal Assumptions

    Smarter men then me can debate the value/truth of global warming, I personally think it is an issue, but hey..

    My issue with the people posting here are things like:

    "Not one of the models can predict todays climate starting from 50 years ago so if they are that inaccurate then they need to shut up and actually make them work before preaching fear and destruction"

    I don't know about you, but I was taught that universal assumptions (hard line statements), you know.. things that use the words "always", "never", "all" and what not, are generally, and nearly always false. In that vein, many of the scientific journals I read seem to have no problems predicting the general climate of today. Not saying they can take all the weather data and say that there will be 4mm of rain at W40.23' E30.19'42" at between 4-5am on the 22nd of may next year, or what not, but they are getting more accurate all the time.

    Also, what irks me on both sides of any debate (climate, evolution, etc), is that people usually sit there and quote websites that are off the wall ( for evolution.. www.climatechangesucks/ I want to see quotes from pages that are scientific by nature.. and well respected by the academic community. Science, Nature, etc..

  22. Dillon Pyron

    Hurricanes and warm weather

    Actually, hurricane patterns can be accurately forecast by the fluctuations in three weather systems. I don't have the material handy right now (of course I take every copy of Ocean Navigator to work with me), but I'll mail Austin the information tonight. I think the three are ENSO, NAO and one in the northern tropical Atlantic, who's name I have forgotten.

  23. A. Merkin

    Global Warming is 4Real!

    It's the Wrath of Jesus unleashed against humans debating Evolution!

    C02 also causes AIDS, but only in the wicked.

  24. Dr Coles

    The 100 year old con - Global Climate Change

    The 100 year old con on climate change.

    In order to be an intelligent reader you must have a basic knowledge. Please do your own homework, a starting point

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Surely I can't be the only person to wonder how can any errors in the data for the years 2000 onwards possibly affect the relative ordering of the data for 1998 and 1938?

    Well, it obviously can't, but according to the original article:

    " There were some very minor knock on effects in earlier years due to the GISTEMP adjustments for rural vs. urban trends. "

    Ah, ok. What kind of adjustments?

    " Specifically, where 1998 (1.24 ºC anomaly compared to 1951-1980) had previously just beaten out 1934 (1.23 ºC) for the top US year, it now just misses: 1934 1.25ºC vs. 1998 1.23ºC. "

    That's IT?!?!?! Two figures that were separated by one one-hundredth of a degree are now separated by one one-hundredth of a degree in the opposite direction and that's somehow supposed to discredit the entire subject of global warming? Ludicrous! Are the figures even that accurately measured to be meaningful down to one one-hundredth of a degree?

    " None of these differences are statistically significant. "

    Aha. So sanity rules after all. The figures have been revised, two figures that were virtually identical are still virtually identical, nothing's actually changed in any substantial way, but the deniers leap on this as if it had been shown that two and two actually made five instead of four. Yay wish-fulfillment! They all jumped to the conclusion they wished to believe without making the slightest effort to apply critical thought.

    A more clear example of self-delusion would be harder to find.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    instruments and sampling

    Chris, I'm sure the scientist of the 1930 used the best instruments and practices they had at the time, so the question was not that they didn't do that but how can you compare two sets of data derived from different equipment and different practices with any certainty? It was left as a question, but you decided to read something different into it. For shame :).

    I give you your dues that you did at least answer the question asked with a good point but not fully. How do you compare two sets of data with different sampling periods? After all, that's the point. Measuring something 1000s times a day is a lot different from taking readings a few times a day. You are going to see records broken these days because these things will not be missed, but can you say the same with a good degree of certainty for all weather data, I suspect not, therefore how do you adjust the data to reflect this, and has it been done? The problem is that there is too much smoke and mirrors with data these days, it's just unfortunate that todays scientist have to think about funding, which *may* have an effect on how data is presented, hence the need for very careful peer review. I hope that wasn't the case in the 1930s.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    sorry chris

    "Scientists have been obsessed with accuracy for as long as science has been a discipline."

    and yet here we are with the story. It kind of ruins your well made point doesn't it?

  28. adam

    Re: sorry chris

    ""Scientists have been obsessed with accuracy for as long as science has been a discipline."

    and yet here we are with the story. It kind of ruins your well made point doesn't it?"

    Actually, it proves his point. People who are obsessed with accuracy make corrections when they find mistakes, which is why we have this article.

  29. Parm

    RE: I Love Global Warming Deniers

    I really appreciate global warming deniers, as they make me feel good. It is nice to know that there are so many morons out there, that make the rest of us sensible people look really smart. To deny global warming is to deny logic, common sense, and reality. The evidence is there. It is hot....and getting hotter. This CANNOT be denied. It is a FACT. For those of you who are a little shaky on the definition of means your opinion is irrelevant. Grow up, go back to school, get an education, learn about climate change and global warming....then come back to this site and post. Until the planet a favor and keep your comments to yourself.



  30. adam

    Re: Nick Collingridge


    While global CO2 and global temperature have both been higher than they are now, the rate-of-CHANGE for both CO2 and global temperature are entirely unprecedented. (For the conservatives out there, Unprecedented = It has never happened before.) Additionally, as you pointed out, the article only refers to US temperatures, not global temperatures. Remember, the problem we are dealing with is Global Warming, not US Warming. For global temperature, 19 of the 20 warmest years on record have occurred since 1980.

    I thought that I would deal with the other big point the naysayers use; "The models aren't accurate." The Global Warming models are entirely irrelevant to proving the impact of CO2 on global temperature. We don't need models to determine what will happen when CO2 levels increase. There is more than enough data available in ice cores and fossilized plankton layers to determine what happens when CO2 goes up; The temperature goes up too.

    It doesn't take a model to determine that the last time the CO2 level was as high as the current level, the temperature was warmer. The last time CO2 was as high as is being projected by 2050, the global temperature was much warmer, as much as 5C warmer.

    How much of a difference can 5C make? The global temperature during the last ice age was about 5C colder than it is now. The last time temperatures were 5C warmer (130,000 years ago),

    "global sea levels were 13 to 20 feet (4 to 6 meters) higher than they are today."

    Obviously, it might take a while for enough ice to melt to cause that kind of rise in the sea level. Then again, maybe it won't:

    PS - You talked about, "neo-con theories of personal liberty at all costs."

    Apparently, you haven't noticed the way that the conservatives have been trashing our constitution lately. Preserving personal liberty is clearly not part of their agenda.

  31. Dave

    really good models

    Loved Arthur LeMay’s note about “Global Warming is not caused by man”. In the note he decries the climatologists’ models – too many variables he figures to get meaningful results. He then (oddly enough) produces a model of his own – “Man's contribution of very small”, “The oceans act like giant buffers”, etc. – so, sounds like his home built model (with no actual numbers) proves for him that climate change is not happening and is not anthropogenic. A super-duper model apparently. Let's hear more, and get something we can work with from it!

  32. Charles Manning

    Accuracy is not just about instruments

    It is also about measuring the same variables under the same conditions.

    No matter how white your lab-coat or how thick your specs, or how fast your super computer, accurate measurements under the same conditions are required to perform any meaningful science.

    Where were the historic measurements taken? Under what conditions? Are these even documented? Are the modern measurements done under the same conditions?

    For example: Weather records for the 1900s on often come from measurements taken at airfileds/airports where such info is important (temperature has an impacty of fuel density, take-off weight etc etc) and well recorded. In the early years the airports were more correctly airfields. Grass and clay etc with grass between the runways. Transpiration from the plants would cool the air during summer. Now most airports are wall-to-wall concrete and asphalt with large buildings dumping airconditioner heat etc. I've even seen airport weather sensors mounted right on airconditioners! Hardy an apples to apples comparison.

  33. Gordon Duncan

    Yeah but, No but, Yeah but, No but

    ENOUGH. Stop, desist forthwith. Anyone with a serious interest in global warming might do a lot worse than read "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism" by Christopher Horner, ISBN 978-1-59698-501-8. Be warned, it is not 'easy reading' at around 300 pages plus over 30 pages of cross-referable notes. If you cannot approach this book with an open mind then I suggest you don't read it and forever remain ignorant about the subject.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Christopher Horner? I don't think so....

    Christopher Horner is not a scientist.

    Christopher Horner is an Exxon-funded political lobbyist.

    Reading anything he writes could be interesting if you want to study politics in the USA, but it won't be any use to you if you are in fact interested in dispassionate scientific fact.

    As demonstrated by "sceptical" comment on the issue, the Global Warming denialists are distinguished by their scientific ignorance and rhetorical dishonesty.

  35. Oz

    Re: Blimey

    "That really brought out the wackos. If you had mentioned evolution too we could have had ourselves a ho-down!"

    Shouldn't that be a hoedown?

    Having a ho-down would be something completely different, but most likely far exciting than an square dancing session.

    I would offer to join you with your ho but my girlfriend would probably object!

  36. Ole Juul

    Politcs and science

    I note a fair amount of confusion here. There is a difference between being a skeptic or downright denying something. So too, there is a difference between politics and science.

    Politicians deny or affirm, scientists are skeptics.

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