Right-wing media forward conspiracy theory that NASA, NOAA manipulate climate data
Investor's Business Daily and American Thinker are forwarding claims made by meteorologist Joseph D'Aleo and computer programmer Michael Smith that the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have “cherry-picked” the locations of weather observation stations in order to bias their temperature records in favor of warmer temperatures and thus produce data that supports the existence of global climate change. But climate experts have stated that Smith and D'Aleo's claims are flawed and based on an inaccurate understanding of how global temperature data is calculated and compiled.
Right-wing media forward new conspiracy theory to deem climate change a “fraud”
D'Aleo and Smith reportedly accuse NASA and NOAA of “cherry-pick[ing]” the locations of weather observation stations to “creat[e] a strong bias toward warmer temperatures.” On January 14, D'Aleo and Smith were featured in a KUSI News special report entitled “Global Warming: The Other Side.” According to the special's host, they accused NASA and the NOAA of “creating a strong bias toward warmer temperatures through a system that dramatically trimmed the number and cherry-picked the locations of weather observation stations they use to produce the data set on which temperature record reports are based.” In a previous report which drew on Smith's research and was posted to the website of the International Climate and Environmental Change Assessment Project, of which D'Aleo is executive director, D'Aleo wrote:
There has clearly been some cyclical warming in recent decades most notably 1979 to 1998. However the global surface station based data is seriously compromised by major station dropout. There has been a clear bias towards removing higher elevation, higher latitude and rural stations. The data suffers contamination by urbanization and other local factors such as land-use/land-cover changes, and improper siting. There is missing data and uncertainties in ocean temperatures. These factors all lead to overestimation of temperatures. Numerous peer-reviewed papers in the last several years have shown this overestimation is the order of 30 to 50% just from the contamination issues alone. The cherry picking of observing sites and the increase of interpolation to vacant data grids makes these estimates very conservative.
NOAA appears to play a key role as a data gatherer/gatekeeper for the global data centers at NASA and CRU. Programmer E.M. Smith's analysis of NOAA's GHCN found they systematically eliminated 75% of the world's stations with a clear bias towards removing higher latitude, high altitude and rural locations, all of which had a tendency to be cooler. The thermometers in a sense marched towards the tropics, the sea and to airport tarmacs.
SHOULD YOU BELIEVE NOAA/NASA RANKINGS FOR MONTH AND YEAR
Definitively NO! Climate change is real, there are cooling and warming periods that can be shown to correlate nicely with solar and ocean cycles. You can trust in the data that shows there has been warming from 1979 to 1998, just as there was warming the around 1920 to 1940. But there has been cooling from 1940 to the late 1970s and since 2001. It is the long term trend on which this cyclical pattern is superimposed that is exaggerated.
The NOAA, NASA and the Hadley Center press releases should be ignored. The reason which is expanded on with case studies in the full report is that the surface based data sets have become seriously flawed and can no longer be trusted for climate trend or model forecast assessment in decision making by congress or the EPA.
Investor's Business Daily: Due to new information on climate center data manipulation, “the crack-up of the global warming fraud is picking up speed.” In a January 25 editorial entitled “Climate Flimflam flaming out,” to support its claim that “the crack-up of the global warming fraud is picking up speed,” IBD stated that D'Aleo and Smith “say that the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies has 'reduced the total number of Canadian weather stations in the database' and has 'cherry-picked' the stations.”
American Thinker: "[N]ew study has uncovered compelling evidence that our government's principal climate centers" are “manipulating worldwide temperature data.” American Thinker cited D'Aleo and Smith's allegations in a January 22 post entitled “Climategate: CRU was but the tip of the iceberg”:
Last Thursday, Certified Consulting Meteorologist Joseph D'Aleo and computer expert E. Michael Smith appeared together on KUSI TV [Video] to discuss the Climategate -- American Style scandal they had discovered. This time out, the alleged perpetrators are the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS).
NOAA stands accused by the two researchers of strategically deleting cherry-picked, cooler-reporting weather observation stations from the temperature data it provides the world through its National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). D'Aleo explained to show host and Weather Channel founder John Coleman that while the Hadley Center in the U.K. has been the subject of recent scrutiny, "[w]e think NOAA is complicit, if not the real ground zero for the issue."
And their primary accomplices are the scientists at GISS, who put the altered data through an even more biased regimen of alterations, including intentionally replacing the dropped NOAA readings with those of stations located in much warmer locales.
But climate experts say “accusations” based on “misunderstanding or misrepresentation” of temperature calculation methods
NASA climate scientist Schmidt: D'Aleo and Smith have “lack of understanding of where” global temperature “data actually comes from,” has “absolutely nothing to do with NCDC or NASA.” In a January 1 RealClimate.org post, Gavin A. Schmidt, a climate modeler at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, wrote of D'Aleo and Smith:
Their claim is apparently that coastal station absolute temperatures are being used to estimate the current absolute temperatures in mountain regions and that the anomalies there are warm because the coast is warmer than the mountain. This is simply wrong. What is actually done is that temperature anomalies are calculated locally from local baselines, and these anomalies can be interpolated over quite large distances. This is perfectly fine and checkable by looking at the pairwise correlations at the monthly stations between different stations (London-Paris or New York-Cleveland or LA-San Francisco). The second thread in their 'accusation' is that the agencies are deleting records, but this just underscores their lack of understanding of where the GHCN data set actually comes from. This is thoroughly discussed in Peterson and Vose (1997) which indicates where the data came from and which data streams give real time updates. The principle one is the CLIMAT updates of monthly mean temperature via the WMO network of reports. These are distributed by the Nat. Met. Services who have decided which stations they choose to produce monthly mean data for (and how it is calculated) and [has] absolutely nothing to do with NCDC or NASA.
Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media: There is “certainly no evidence of deliberate manipulation.” The Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media, an online publication directed by the Yale Project on Climate Change, has stated that D'Aleo and Smith's accusations are either “a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of the nature of the Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN) and methods used in calculating global temperatures.”
- Yale Forum: Apparent station drop-off not “purposeful elimination,” historical data was collected years later, not in real time. From the January 21 Yale Forum article:
When glancing at the chart showing the number of temperature stations used over time, it does appear rather odd to see the number of stations used in the GHCN network drop dramatically between the 1970s and present. D'Aleo and Smith point to purposeful elimination of those stations.
However, as Thomas Peterson and Russell Vose, the researchers who assembled much of GHCN, have explained:
The reasons why the number of stations in GHCN drop off in recent years are because some of GHCN's source datasets are retroactive data compilations (e.g., World Weather Records) and other data sources were created or exchanged years ago. Only three data sources are available in near-real time.
It's common to think of temperature stations as modern Internet-linked operations that instantly report temperature readings to readily accessible databases, but that is not particularly accurate for stations outside of the United States and Western Europe. For many of the world's stations, observations are still taken and recorded by hand, and assembling and digitizing records from thousands of stations worldwide is burdensome.
During that spike in station counts in the 1970s, those stations were not actively reporting to some central repository. Rather, those records were collected years and decades later through painstaking work by researchers. It is quite likely that, a decade or two from now, the number of stations available for the 1990s and 2000s will exceed the 6,000-station peak reached in the 1970s.
- Yale Forum: "[N]o significant difference between the temperature from discontinuous and continuous stations." According to the Yale Forum article:
There is no significant difference between the temperature from discontinuous and continuous stations, suggesting that there was no purposeful or selective “dropping” of stations to bias the data. If anything, discontinuous stations have a slightly higher trend over the century than continuous stations. This result strongly suggests that the discontinuity in station data results from having inadequate resources to gather those records, rather than from some pernicious plot to exaggerate warming trends.