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« Renewables just aren't worth it - Josh 281 | Main | The BBC's climate problem »

NOAAgate - Josh 280


The temperature adjustments story has been brewing for weeks principally due to the many posts at 'RealScience' but taken up by others, for example, Paul Homewood, see here and here. Judith Curry has a great post about it here, as does Anthony here.

H/t to Real Science/StevenGoddard for suggesting including Toto.

Cartoons by Josh

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Reader Comments (38)

Amidst the gloom of climate doom
Being given so much heed
Through devious ploys and junky toys
And plain old-fashioned greed,
There comes a flash of brilliant light -
A Josh cartoon dispels the night.

With sparse and sometimes rotten data
NOAA wants to make it greater
By making up some big addition
To win the grants of bigger fishes
While fostering much new sedition
Amongst the sceptic sprats.

Jun 29, 2014 at 4:33 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Josh, my man that's your greatest cartoon evah, evah. ROF.

Jun 29, 2014 at 4:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Incidently Bish, ALL the credit must go to Steven G. He exposed this "error" and was villified for doing so by Watts et al and then, after their errors had been pointed out to them they all started claiming they saw it first.

Jun 29, 2014 at 4:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

I saved some data two years ago of TOBS adjusted temperatures in Alabama.

Checking them against the current version, we find that temperatures in 2011 have been increased by 0.3F, while those for 1934 have been reduced by a similar amount.

In other words, 0.6F has been added to the warming trend.

Jun 29, 2014 at 4:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Homewood


Brilliant, just an idea for the next one.... small child, named Willis, thrashing around beating the heels of his fists on the floor screaming I want it nowwww, I want it nowwww! Just to show that ironic humour crosses all boundaries.

Jun 29, 2014 at 5:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

In the context of the "Hockey Stick" Mann et al were vilified ( correctly ) for adding temperature records to a graph constructed from proxies - clearly if the temperature records have been tampered with in such a way as to enhance the record of recent warming this would have exacerbated the " deception".

I understand that with atmospheric CO2 concentrations the standard practice seems to be to tack the Mauna Loa CO2 record on to determinations of CO2 from ice cores - which seems to me to be the same thing.

Apparently the splicing of the Mauna Loa record on to the ice core data is " supported" by the so called Siple curve - which cherry picked only the lowest CO2 concentrations from the historical record of chemically determined atmospheric CO2 concentration to " establish" a pre industrial CO2 level of 290 ppm which happened to be about the same as CO2 concentrations in the mid 1950s - although well below the levels measured in the 1940s and 1820s/30s.

I have also read that the figures for CO2 published as the Mauna Loa record of CO2 involve a lot of " selection" from a daily record which is quite variable and indeed that contemporary atmospheric CO2 concentrations in the Antarctic are systematically lower than those of the Mauna Loa.

So it seems there is a possibility that in parallel with a temperature record that has been " adjusted" in such a way as to increase the amount of warming over what the actual data would show there may also be a similar exercise in "adjusting" and or "manipulating " the CO2 data in a way that appears to exaggerate the increase in its concentration.

Is this a field where some auditing is called for?

Jun 29, 2014 at 5:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterGlebekinvara

The temperature adjustments story has been brewing despite the best efforts of Watts et alia to suppress it.

Jun 29, 2014 at 5:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterEl Sabio

Perhaps I have not been following closely enough, but I don't get it. Why the sudden fuss?

I thought it was common knowledge that the temperature records were routinely 'homogenised' (or whatever euphemism you care to use) so that the distant past became cooler and the recent past became warmer.

Jun 29, 2014 at 6:02 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

El Sabio
The suggestion that Watts has been "trying to suppress" anything is insulting.
Follow the link and see what Watts himself is saying. He thought Goodard was wrong for reasons which he has openly confessed to and he admits he got it wrong.
I'm waiting (but not holding my breath) for anyone at realclimate or skepticalscience or any other AGW-supporting blog to make a similar confession.

Jun 29, 2014 at 6:15 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

The late Michael Crichton, in one of his masterful speeches, reminds us of the legal axiom "falsus in unum, falsus in omnibus". Given that the alarmists have been revealed, repeatedly, to be less than honorable, why does anyone regard anything they do as quality work? Government scientists have been shown to be no more honest, no more competent, and no more reliable than the US' IRS, VA, EPA or Justice Dept.

Throw all the climate "science" out and start over. Until work has been replicated independently from fully available data and code, it's just somebody's unsubstantiated theory. It is well past time for some attention to quality.

Jun 29, 2014 at 6:22 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan


Throw all the climate "science" out and start over.

For a slightly different perspective, when I looked back at WUWT in the last hour or so, because of Josh's link, I noticed this from Roger Pielke Jr, retweeted by Anthony Watts:

I work w/ lots of climate scientists who are decent, hard working & brilliant. But there's a few who are completely obsessed and malicious.

And Anthony himself writes:

I will be among the first, if not the first to know what they are doing to fix the issues, and as soon as I know, so will all of you. Patience and restraint is what we need at the moment. I believe they are making a good faith effort, but as you all know the government moves slowly, they have to get policy wonks to review documents and all that. So, we’ll likely hear something early next week.

What are we going to do about the few who are completely obsessed and malicious is another way to frame this. What are they - the other scientists - going to do about it, more to the point. I accept the leadership of guys like Watts at moments like this. I am supremely grateful we have them.

Jun 29, 2014 at 6:42 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

"Perhaps I have not been following closely enough, but I don't get it. Why the sudden fuss?"

I think because Warmers detected Something That Could Make Them Look Bad was getting too much exposure.

Their dilemma is Ignore vs. Address: Which will make them look better?

It's all PR.


Jun 29, 2014 at 6:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

Martin A
It'smore than just homogenisation. Basically dead stations ahve been included but more importantly active stations reporting real values have had estimated data substituted. No one noticed except Steven Goddard. who first posted on January 19th 2014. At the time it seemed to me to be something important so I've been keeping an eye open ever since. In the last couple of weeks things have taken off. Paul Homewood has confirmed the issues at Not A Lot Of People Know That in several postings. There are dozens at Real Science and Anthony Watts' mea culpa The scientific method is at work on the USHCN temperature data set

Then there are continual updates to history creating an artificial warmig, Paul Homewood again for some information.

Jun 29, 2014 at 6:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

The practice is widespread, I am afraid. New Zealand's Niwa was sued about data accuracy a few years ago. In Europe temperature in the Alps is routinely homogenized, while access to raw data is almost impossible. Homogenization is at very high risk of confirmation bias, especially when the process is not transparent and raw data are unavailable. The cooling of the past is obvious in this example from Zugspitze, the highest peak in Germany, on the Austrian border.

Jun 29, 2014 at 7:44 PM | Registered CommenterPatagon

What are we going to do about the few who are completely obsessed and malicious is another way to frame this. (...)
Jun 29, 2014 at 6:42 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

RD - I would not have myself used words such as obsessed and malicious (except perhaps for a very few).

However I would characterise many - perhaps the great majority of - climate scientists as hopelessly enmeshed in groupthink, many having spent their entire working lives (and having been educated and trained) in an environment where things are commonplace that would not be countenanced in other branches of science.*

As stan (6:22 PM) commented, climate science needs to be done again from scratch.

I'd add, by physicists, chemists, statisticians, and engineers having a track record of dealing rigorously with difficult problems from fundamentals. And having had no previous involvement with 'climate science'.


* Undocumented ad hoc doctoring of data, regarding the output of unvalidated models as being experimental observations, regarding concepts incapable of physical observation or measurent (eg radiative forcing) or lacking physical meaning (eg averages of temperatures) as providing sound foundations of the subject. And so on.

Jun 29, 2014 at 8:01 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Martin A: Point taken about groupthink. I was quoting Pielke Jr (in a tweet) about a 'few who are completely obsessed and malicious' contrasted with 'lots of climate scientists who are decent, hard working & brilliant'. It is a strong statement but I think it must be recognised as the other part of the problem. Groupthink and a few, in key positions, who are worse. A bad combination. I don't know the steps needed to put it right.

Jun 29, 2014 at 8:29 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Good on Anthony admitting he got it wrong. Although a little more discretion on his behalf wouldn't have gone amiss to start with eh?


Jun 29, 2014 at 8:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

I have also read that the figures for CO2 published as the Mauna Loa record of CO2 involve a lot of " selection" from a daily record which is quite variable and indeed that contemporary atmospheric CO2 concentrations in the Antarctic are systematically lower than those of the Mauna Loa.

So it seems there is a possibility that in parallel with a temperature record that has been " adjusted" in such a way as to increase the amount of warming over what the actual data would show there may also be a similar exercise in "adjusting" and or "manipulating " the CO2 data in a way that appears to exaggerate the increase in its concentration.

Is this a field where some auditing is called for?

Jun 29, 2014 at 5:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterGlebekinvara

Interesting point.

I've been nervous about the reliability of Mauna Loa CO2 records, ever since I learned that Pieter Tans, the scientist in charge of the NOAA project to record them, was an extreme political activist and a member of the "911 Truth" movement.

Since scientists often need to make subtle, objective judgements on the data they present, it worries me greatly if they are involved in extreme political movements - indicating that their judgement may be seriously flawed.

Jun 29, 2014 at 9:11 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

Glebekinvara, Foxgoose,

There are more observatories than Mauna Loa, and they seem to agree: (select data visualisation for all the observatories).
Soon there will be a new satellite, too. But I am not familiar with calibration processes and the room for bias in those data.

Jun 29, 2014 at 9:32 PM | Registered CommenterPatagon

Auditing Climate Science?

Reminds me of a story an accountant related from his early days when he was dispatched from the office to carry out on site audits.

One day a colleague asked where he was bound, on mentioning the name of the company the colleague wished him "good luck with that one"!

Arriving at the business he met the owner, a particularly sharp "fancy goods trader". The meeting went well until the young accountant asked the owner how he valued his stock. The question was met with a blank stare.

The accountant asked "is it LIFO?" - Last In First out. "Or FIFO" - First In First Out?

The reply - "Neither its FOFO, you're the accountant F*** Off and Find Out!"

Jun 29, 2014 at 9:47 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Things seem to be warming up in Truro even without data manipulation.

Jun 29, 2014 at 9:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Before everyone starts leaping about, claiming credit for finding there errors, has anyone thought to ask Lewendowsky ?
He usually finds these things ten minutes before everyone else but forgets to mention it for a few weeks

Jun 29, 2014 at 10:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

Best Josh cartoon ever for layers of irony.

What we are seeing, for example here: (, is live real-time alteration of raw data, cooling the past, warming the present, to create Man-Made Global Warming.

As we move through time, present-time always has an upward temperature trend; but as we get to the actual future, the heating vanishes. But with the sometimes decades-past alteration, we have a perpetual upwards trend. Clever. Without a credible explanation for the manipulation of raw data, it looks a lot like the work of clever charlatans and con-artists, not scientists and guardians of the data.

Jun 29, 2014 at 10:56 PM | Unregistered Commentergregole

This is Anthony Watts home turf. I have total trust in his adjudication and judgement.

Jun 29, 2014 at 11:17 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

What remains unanswered but is at least now being hashed out is whether Goddard's strong claim of an adjustments hockey stick really exists due to this zombie stations issue or if the network is just a sloppy legacy one that merits no fair downgrade in trend after all despite competent debugging. Any skeptic should delight if he's right but otherwise it will just turn into another excuse for activists to scoff at skeptics as being sensationalistic, there having already been a news cycle about this issue not in favor of skeptics. It's fantastic that Goddard is now getting technical feedback in real time despite his often off putting tone. I guess any correction at all is merit badge but a real trend downgrade would be a massive PR boost especially since Goddard is so polarizing.

Jun 29, 2014 at 11:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterNikFromNYC

Ditto Bureau of Meteorology in Australia:

Jun 29, 2014 at 11:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterFairDink

Brilliantly funny cartoon. Very clever satire. Congrats.

This is in reference to the comment above where Paul Homewood (Jun 29, 2014 at 4:58 PM) mentions:
"...In other words, 0.6F has been added to the warming trend. ..."

I read a comment on a discussion forum( where this cartoon was referred to, and one commenter had written (relevant parts quoted below):
START of quoted comment: seems that arguably, he [POTUS Obama] could probably claim that what he said about the climate was true as far as he was aware, insofar as he could have been making his statements about "global climate change" (or whatever) on the basis of the rigged NOAA data, without realising that it was rigged. I say this because of one of the comments on that cartoon's source page: [quoting Paul Homewood's comment]...

...Maybe he [POTUS Obama] is just being treated as a useful tool/mouthpiece by the people who are driving the show? This methodical NOAA data fiddling has apparently been going on for quite a while, as though it's part of an ongoing long game, possibly predating this president's term of office. I mean, he surely wouldn't have wanted to be regarded as an idiot clown, which arguably seems to be the way things look to be headed at present. Maybe he is in a very difficult place indeed and is only now discovering that...
END of quoted comment.

The suppositions suggested above could have some merit and be of real interest if we were able to audit the standard system change log(s) for the time series database(s) involved, so that we knew exactly when the NOAA data adjustments had started, who made each change and with what authority, and on what dates/times - during the entire period from when the adjustments started up to the latest adjustments.
These logs WILL have been created automatically by the security and data access control system, and automatically backed up periodically. You could request the logs under FOI, but some people more cynical than I might say that, given the experiences from the Climategate cover-up and the current IRS debacle, it would be safer to hack the NOAA logs/backups, rather than risk a repeat of the sort of spoliation/suppression of the evidence as seems to have happened in the case of Climategate and the IRS; however, I couldn't possibly comment.

Jun 30, 2014 at 12:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterNJ Dawood

If Josh could pull the curtain back just a bit to show the Wizard actually "seizing the levers of power"?

Jun 30, 2014 at 12:29 AM | Unregistered Commenterbetapug

Totally agree with comments by Stephen Richards @ 4.46pm and also Lord Beaverbrook @ 5.04pm ( WillisE is making absolute fool of himself)

[Troll comments & follow ups removed]

Jun 30, 2014 at 12:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoss


or for Australia try where he is dissecting the ACORN series of "high quality" data as fed into NASA, HadCrut etc.

Jun 30, 2014 at 1:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterGraeme No.3

This is a great situation because finally some sense may prevail

It comes down to:

Do you believe temperature anomalies are based on real data? ( adjustments aside)

1) if yes then you have fallen into the trap of believing a model rather than reality. Of more simply put we can't measure temperature to the resolution stated in anomalies. They are theoretical constructs but they aren't presented as such. Their sole use is provide a basis for model predictions. Theory times theory doesn't equal the real world.

Or 2) you do realise the resolution limitations and hence are actually in disagreement with the IPCC, meteorology organisations, many people on here including Anthony. Yet you would be on the side of science, engineering and of course metrology.

I'm with number 2.

Can we please stop using temperature anomalies as if they were truth?

Jun 30, 2014 at 7:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterMicky H Corbett

AW: "I believe they are making a good faith effort, .."

I don't. Too much has been too wrong for too long.
+1 Patagon @7.44pm

Jun 30, 2014 at 7:36 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

The land based thermometer record is fundamentally flawed, and compromised through endless adjustments, station drop outs and encroachment of urbanisation etc, and it is time that it was ditched.

The land based thermometer record should be re-stated to raw data (warts and all), and should end in 1979. A realistic error bar should be set taking into account 'the warts and all'. Adjustments should not be made to get rid of or smooth the warts and all.

As from 1979, only the satellite data should be used, which has better spatial coverage and is less polluted by UHI etc. Again a realistic error bandwidth should be set (taking into account its limitations and issues such as orbital decay and sensor degradation etc)..

The two should not be spliced together but it may be appropriate to look at the trends of each, one up to 1979 and the other post 1979, but bearing in mind that they represent a different approach to measuring temperature, and they are measuring a different region.

The only land nased thermometer record worthy of being kept is CET, and this is because it is the longest instrument record, and therefore can inform on matters pre dating the 1850s. Again a proper error bandwidth needs to be set.

On top of the is we will have ARGO, again warts and all, and once again a proper error bandwidth needs to be set. Since measuring ocean temperature is measuring the right metric (ie, energy content) and given that the oceans contain many more magnitudes of energy compared to the atmosphere, and given that it is the oceans that drive climate, it is only ocean temperature which is of any real note. the problem with ARGO is the short duration of the record.

Mann was concerned about the divergence problem post 1960s. His trees were telling him that there was no post 1960s warming and possibly even cooling, whereas the 'adjusted' land based temperature record was suggesting that there was 'significant' warming.

Perhaps his trees were not as he thought. The satellite data confrims that between 1979 and up to and around the Super El Nino of 1998 there was no warming, and the land based thermometer record suggests that there was cooling in the 1960s and early 1970s. See which is based upon Hadcrut 4 global mean.

Perhaps what Mann had found, through his trees and the divergence problem, was that the 'adjusted' land based instrument record had been artifically warmed due to the numerous homogenisation, adjustments, pollution through UHI and station drop outs etc. Who would have guessed it, Good Old Mann. His error was failing to set out his findings on the reliability of the land based instrument record post the late 1970s. That is what his paper should have been on!

Jun 30, 2014 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

The land based thermometer record should be re-stated to raw data (warts and all), and should end in 1979.

Shouldn't it continue after 1979, if only so that the satellite and thermometer records can be reconciled?

Jun 30, 2014 at 9:02 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Can someone please opine on whether it Is it kosher to splice atmospheric CO2 data on to ice core CO2 records?

Jul 1, 2014 at 12:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterGlebekinvara

Jun 30, 2014 at 9:02 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A
The land based thermometer record has too many problems and issues associated with, and integral to, it, to be a worthwhile scientific tool. This should have been acknowledged long ago. It has a place prior to 1979, simply on the basis that it is all we have. But after 1979, there is no point in seeking to maintain that record.

That is not say that there should be no continued audit of the satellite data. Of course, that data stream needs to be audited. But that is best achieved not by a comparison with the land based thermometer record, which with every day that passes becomes more and more corrupted, but rather with weather balloons and a few pristine stations, far away from any urbanisation that are maintained in pristine condition, and with ARGO measurements of SST.

Jul 1, 2014 at 1:30 AM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

Maybe we should have a new category for climate awards. The Rolf Harris Award for Fiddling?

Jul 2, 2014 at 3:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

I wonder if all these adjustments are also smoothing-out the extremes of variablity of the past (say before 1980) and so making the current period look unusually variable.
This would add credence to the ‘team’ claim of weather getting more extreme.

Jul 5, 2014 at 8:31 AM | Unregistered Commentertom0mason

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