Errors in publicly presented data – Worth blogging about?

In the prior thread I raised a question of why there was a large downward jump in sea ice extent on the graph presented by NSIDC’s Artic Sea Ice News page. The image below was the reason, dozens of people called my attention to it in emails and comments overnight because in the space of a weekend, a million-plus square kilometers of Arctic sea ice went missing. Note the blue line.

nsidc_extent_timeseries_021509

Click for larger image


When I checked NSIDC’s web site this morning, about 8:30 AM PST  (9:30AM MST Mountain time in Boulder where NSIDC is located) the image was still up. A half hour later it remained. I checked all around the NSIDC web site for any notice, including the links they provide for the data issues.

Learn about update delays, which occasionally occur in near-real-time data. Read about the data.

Finding nothing, and knowing that it was now 10AM in Boulder, which should have been plenty of time to post some sort of notice, I decided to write a quick post about it, which was published at 9:10AM PST (10:10MST) and drove to work.

The corrected image (with the million square kilometers of sea ice restored) appeared on the NSIDC web site just shy of  3 hours later, about noon PST or 1 PM MST.

nsidc_corrected_021609

Click for larger image

About the same time this comment was posted on WUWT by NSIDC’s chief research scientist, Dr. Walt Meier:

Anthony,

We’re looking into it. For the moment, we’ve removed the data from the timeseries plot.

You need to remember that this is near real-time data and there can be data dropouts and bad data due to satellite issues. While the processing is automatic, the QC is partly manual. Thus errors do happen from time to time and one shouldn’t draw any dramatic conclusions from recent data.

I’m not sure why you think things like this are worth blogging about. Data is not perfect, especially near real-time data. That’s not news.

Walt Meier
Research Scientist
NSIDC

ps – FYI, the JAXA data is from a different sensor, so it is not consistent with our data, but it provides a good independent check. If the JAXA data does not show a dramatic change while the NSIDC data does (or vice versa), then it’s likely an issue of missing data or bad data.

First let me say that I have quite a bit of respect for Dr. Meier. He has previously been quite accessible and gracious in providing answers, and even a guest post here.  But I was a bit puzzled by his statementI’m not sure why you think things like this are worth blogging about…. That’s not news

First let us consider a recent event. The BBC ran really badly researched video report just a couple of days ago where the reporter obviously didn’t know the difference between positive and negative feedbacks in the climate. I wrote about it. The video is now gone. Now I ask this question; if nobody speaks up about these things, would the video still be there misinforming everyone? Probably.

The point I’m making here is that in my experience, most reporters know so little about science that they usually can’t tell the difference between real and erroneous science. Most reporters don’t have that background. I say this from experience, because having worked in TV news for 25 years, I was always the “go to guy” for questions about science and engineering that the reporters couldn’t figure out. And, it wasn’t just at my station that this happened, a meteorologist friend of mine reported the same thing happened to him at his station in the San Francisco bay area. I vividly remember one week he was on vacation and I saw a news report about a plane that crashed that had just minutes before been doing a low level run over the airfield as part of a show. The reporter had video taped the plane’s run, and then used that video to proudly demonstrate “as as you can see, just minutes before the crash, the propellers on the plane were turning very slowly”.

The reporter didn’t understand about how a video camera scanning at 30 frames per second can create a beat frequency that give the impression of slowly turning propellers that were actually running about 3000 RPM., and there was nobody there to tell her otherwise. She made an honest mistake, but her training didn’t even raise a question in her mind.

So when I see something obviously wrong, such as a dramatic drop in sea ice on a graph presented for public consumption, I think about a reporter (print, web, or video -take your pick) somewhere in the world who may be assigned to do a story about sea ice today and does an Internet search, landing on NSDIC’s web site and then concluding in the story “and as you can see in this graph, Arctic sea ice has gone through a dramatic drop just in the last few days, losing over a million square kilometers”.

Thinking about Walt’s statement, “ That’s not news” if the NSIDC graph had been picked up by a major media outlet today, would it be news then?

I understand about automation, about data dropouts, and about processing errors. I run 50 servers myself and produce all sorts of automated graphics output, some of which you can see in the right sidebar. These are used by TV stations, cable channels, and radio/newspaper outlets in the USA for web and on-air. While those graphics are there on WUWT for my readers, I also have an ulterior motive in quality control. Because I can keep an eye on the output when I’m blogging. When data is presented for public consumption, in a venue where 24 hour news is the norm, you can’t simply let computers post things for public consumption without regular quality control checking. The more eyes the better.

At the very least, a note next to NSIDC”s Learn about update delays, about how glitches in satellite data or processing might generate an erroneous result in might be in order. And also for consideration, adding a date/time stamp to the image so it can be properly referenced in the context of time.  This is standard operating procedure in many places, why not at NSIDC?

NSIDC and other organizations need to realize that the interest in what they produce has been huge as of late. In NSIDC’s case, they have been promoted from relative obscurity to front page news by the recent unfortunate statements of an NSIDC employee, Dr. Mark Serreze, to the media, that have received wide coverage.

As commenter “just want truth” wrote in the previous thread on NSIDC:

Last year Mark Serreze, of the NSIDC (you may know him), said North Pole ice could be gone in the summer of 2008. He said then “The set-up for this summer is disturbing”. This, of course, was broadcast in all news outlets around the world. Everyone on both sides of the global warming debate was watching Arctic ice totals last summer to see what would really happen. You may have noticed hits on the NSIDC web site were high last summer.

Now Mark Serreze is saying North Pole ice is in a “death spiral”.

You can be certain that Arctic ice data will be scrutinized because of Al Gore and Mark Serreze. A line has been drawn by both. Both have placed it clearly on the radar screen. This is why NSIDC data is worth blogging about–especially since Mark Serreze is employed at the NSIDC.

Mark Serreze 2008 North Pole ice free :

http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/Story?id=4728737&page=1

and

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6e3e4VzwJI

Mark Serreze North Pole ice in “death spiral” :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HW9lX8evwIw

and

http://www.nypost.com/seven/08282008/news/worldnews/arctic_ice_in_death_spiral_126443.htm

Given the sort of attention that has been heaped on NSIDC, I think blogging about errors that have gone unnoticed and uncorrected by 10AM on a Monday morning isn’t an unreasonable thing to do.

I also think that reining in loose cannons that can do some terrible damage in the media is a good way to maintain scientific credibility for an organization, especially when predictions like “ice free north pole” don’t come true.

I have no quarrel with Dr. Meier, as I’ve said he’s been the utmost professional in my dealings with him. But I do have quarrel with an organization that allows such claims to be broadcast, all the while producing a data source that is now regularly scrutinized by the public and the media for the slighest changes. It’s a slippery slope.


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225 Responses to Errors in publicly presented data – Worth blogging about?

  1. Sunny says:

    Anthony, all I can say is: You go boy! Someone must speak up to point out the errors before the reporters blow them out of all proportion!

  2. Roger Sowell says:

    Good for you, Anthony! Mega-kudos!

    In stark contrast to the 1960’s when most of us had no choice but to believe Walter Cronkite when he told us, “And that’s the way it is” in that deep, believable voice, these days there are not only eyes in the sky, but many millions of people with internet access and all that that implies for data questioning, checking, cross-referencing, and publishing.

    Ironic, just a bit, since Al Gore tells us he invented the internet. Thank you, Al!

  3. John H says:

    Having much experience with various government agencies I can say they do not like this kind of power in the hands of the citizenry.

    To be able to call them on the carpet at a moments notice is too much for their busy little bureaucrat selves to fathom.
    They are so seldom held accountable for anything they find it insulting when they are.
    They do not view themselves as public employees. More like public bosses.

  4. Beano says:

    Unfortunately the MSM get access to Joe Public – right or wrong or whatever the agenda of the day suits them . Retractions are never made public. Joe Public doesn’t check sites like WUWT. Joe Public is the 30 second gran specialist.

    However one overriding thing. Joe Public is very aware of the nightly news weather report. If more T.V. meteorologists were allowed to put in their two bob’s worth maybe a more balanced approach to “climate Change” could be perceived.

  5. Sven says:

    Walt Meyer: “ps – FYI, the JAXA data is from a different sensor, so it is not consistent with our data, but it provides a good independent check. If the JAXA data does not show a dramatic change while the NSIDC data does (or vice versa), then it’s likely an issue of missing data or bad data.”

    But JAXA data is constantly and significantly different. NSIDC is showing arctic sea ice to be the same as (or even lower than) 2007 for most of this year. JAXA has it much higher and similar rather to 2008 than 2007.

    http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm

  6. MC says:

    Anthony,

    It is worth reporting! “Blogging is the wrong term. I consider your work “Reporting”. Reporting is a better term for what you do because in my view there are very few in the media who report. The quality of their reporting would be better described as blogging.

    If the media would “report” then we would’nt have all this misinformation the public is exposed to by ignorant so called reporters. Rather, you are providing a service that fits true reporting.

    If the Dr. had his head in the game he would understand what you are doing and he would not respond with a chip on his shoulder. If he knows better, he should recognize the work you do for what it is.

    Maybe we we should refer to your efforts as “Ground and Pound”. Don’t let them off the ground Anthony and keep pounding.

  7. J.Peden says:

    Why can’t the NSIDC see the questionable data/graphs as quickly as everyone else can? If there are going to be “errors” made in favor of haste, forget haste. If the NSIDC is going to catch the errors quickly anyway, why put the questionable data up to begin with. If it is not going to catch the posted errors quickly, then why shouldn’t someone else do it so as to minimize any damage which might occur? And why should we accept the premise that the NSIDC is indeed even going to catch the errors itself, when it appears to operate under such a lax and strange procedural logic concerning its own data and its importance.

  8. anna v says:

    Thanks, Anthony, for holding this blog and the way you are guiding it.

    It becomes the voice of the hoi polloi, an amplifier gathering the concerns of individuals that cannot be/are not heard when clicking on the “communicate” link of all these data presenting web pages.

  9. James says:

    Anthony, I agree that errors like this are worth blogging about, but you’re previous posting on the ice data may have implied some questionable intent on the part of NSIDC. It would have been helpful if you would have pointed out that this was likely a data error, and not a human/bias error in your first posting. Real-time data source obviously are more susceptible to data errors.

    REPLY: I hadn’t realized that anyone read suggestions of “bias” coming from me into that post. OTOH, I was under the gun, being late for work for giving opportunity for the problem to be fixed on it’s own, in which case I would have published nothing. So perhaps in my own haste I didn’t do the best job on conveyance possible. It just seems to me that if you put your organization squarely in the public eye as NSIDC has done, your publicly presented data is your reputation. Why such things aren’t checked and corrected first thing in the morning, and remain 2 hours later, is the true puzzle. – Anthony

  10. Dennis P. Barlow says:

    In today’s environment where any crisis is to be used to further political power grabs, Dr. Meier seems to be extremely insensitive or naive in handling this data. A million plus square kilometers of missing ice is certainly a news worthy item for those who advocate global warming and your suggestion of a warning on real time data errors should be taken to heart and implemented quickly by NSIDC. This makes me wonder what data Mark Surreze uses to back his statements.

  11. Alec Rawls says:

    If Dr. Meier wanted to add a postscript, it should have been to thank you for pulling his fat out of the fire before any one of a hundred mainstream media global warming alarmists made front page news out of his data glitch. Does this guy really not realize that you saved his bacon?

    REPLY: I’ve never thought of it that way (saving bacon), and I expect no thanks. If the data is wrong it needs to be fixed before somebody uses it, simple as that. – Anthony

  12. Jeff Id says:

    The point I’m making here is that in my experience, most reporters know so little about science that they usually can’t tell the difference between real and erroneous science.

    That’s for sure.

    You’re used to being famous by now, so you know every word you say is scrutinized. Sometimes they are taken wrongly by the individuals being looked at. I have as much respect for the NSIDC right now as I I have for any government agency I’ve run into. That’s not to say they don’t need to be watched. Your post will do nothing but improve the QC for next time.

    One thing’s for sure the NSIDC reads WUWT, can’t blame ‘em.

  13. Ray says:

    Why is the noise for the trace from end of 2008 and now 2009 is worse than all the previous years? If “bad” data passed through their system this time, what about the other times in recent past? Like, what happen in December 2008?

  14. len says:

    Everything is worth blogging about, heck even the ranting of James Hansen is worth blogging about … whether its newsworthy or not is another question.

  15. Mike McMillan says:

    It’s always good when someone can spot goofs and alert the generator before things get out of hand.

    I’m sure govt types in charge of the technical end of things (including Dr H) don’t like having their mistakes picked up by MSM reporters totally ignorant unschooled in the subject, and reported as “Truth”. I’ve seen far too many military and aviation stories mangled by journalism majors, and I’ve often wished I’d had a phone number to call.

  16. anna v says:

    May be this is not out of topic. Back in december, while looking at links given by posters here I saw this intriguing plot in cryosphere:

    http://igloo.atmos.uiuc.edu/cgi-bin/test/print.sh?fm=12&fd=06&fy=2008&sm=02&sd=16&sy=2009

    Look at the left december 6 2008 plot.
    We had a discussion in the blog at that time.
    I sent an inquiry to the link provided then ( I think it was a person, this has changed in the current home page), politely framing my puzzlement and asking if the conclusion of the blog discussion that it is an artifact of the way the satellite data are combined, was true.
    I never got an answer. And the plot is still there. It was there in other views in their archives last time I checked.

    Is it reasonable that a necklace of beads appears on a scientific plot and there is no discussion of the effect?

  17. papertiger says:

    Vast iceberg breaks off Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctic

    Satellite images have revealed that about 160 square miles of the Wilkins Shelf have been lost since the end of February, suggesting that climate change could be causing it to disintegrate much more quickly than scientists had predicted. “The ice shelf is hanging by a thread,” said David Vaughan, of the British Antarctic Survey(BAS). “We’ll know in the next few days or weeks what its fate will be.” …
    … The Wilkins Shelf is now protected by only a thin thread of ice between two islands. It covers an area of 5,600 square miles (14,500 sq km).

    Somethings not right here. I read through that whole article by the Times, and not once did it quote Walt Meier on how the break up of 14k sq. km isn’t news worthy.

  18. Leon Brozyna says:

    A fine, deliberate, rational response to a problem noted on the NSIDC site.

    A quick look at the imagery of ice extent should have alerted the most novice operator or intern that something was wrong when large expanses of open water suddenly appeared in the Bering Sea or Hudson Bay (among others). They could have held off putting the data up; NSIDC has skipped days many times in the past.

    Even with their caveat about the quality of near real time data, a scientifically challenged reporter would miss that note and just see the first thing that would catch his eye — the sudden disappearance of large amounts of ice — and run with it.

  19. LilacWine says:

    Good onya Anthony. It behoves all organisations and reporters to check their facts before reporting anywhere. It’s the same in medicine. I’m an RN working in Intensive Care. Woe betide the pathology lab that gives us erroneous results we use to then treat patients. Perhaps all organisations and reporters could remember the builder’s maxim: “Measure twice. Cut once.” If all their facts were checked first before making a statement all this kerfuffle could have been avoided and no one would be wiping egg off their face. :-)

  20. Tim L says:

    why is it when we find an error we bad?
    but when they find error in our favor it is keep quite, and fixed fast?
    just saying.

  21. J.Peden says:

    Dr. Meier:

    I’m not sure why you think things like this are worth blogging about. Data is not perfect, especially near real-time data. That’s not news.

    Note the meme, “that’s not news”. Repeating it then makes it true that it’s ok to publish data with errors in it?

    What is real news is that Dr. Meier thinks it’s so important to get data out in public quickly, that he is ok with errors in that data. That view is self-contradictory, imo, valuing haste over the value of the product which the haste delivers, which was supposed to be the only reason for the haste.

    It’s worth blogging about for the excellent reasons Anthony gives, but also because Dr. Meier is not making any sense as concerns his responsibiliy in making NISDC data available, and he needs to know that in a public way.

    A question to Dr. Meier: who wants data with errors in it? Please name these people.

  22. AndyW says:

    You have to assume a basic level of competence for viewers of this sort of site, so it doesn’t worry me that a semi-automated chart sometimes has glitches. It’s not in the same ball park as repeating one months data points for the next and not spotting it for instance as we recently had with global temps :)

    I think even a reporter who doesn’t know what dilithium feedback is could spot that.

    Regards

    Andy

    REPLY: Ah but there’s the rub, the reporters often don’t have the advantage of knowing about these automation issues, nor do they usually care. Remember, most reporters mine for data and quote nuggets. In depth is not the norm.

    “At least 30 people died”…”more than a 50 thousand dollars in damages were reported”…”sources, speaking on condition of anonymity say” and “I did not have sex with that woman” are just as relevant as “over a million square kilometers of sea ice melted in the Arctic”. – Anthony

  23. matty says:

    Give to em Anthony!!

  24. Phillip Bratby says:

    These people in public bureaucracies (BBC, NSIDC, GISS, etc etc) just don’t get the idea of quality control. It’s a concept totally foreign to them.

    Well done Anthony; just keep on at them.

  25. Well, it’s a mistake and it’s been fixed (or will be) without anyone dying. Mistrakes happen. Dr. Meier is addressing the glitch and has responded in a polite and professional way, based on his complete understanding of the process; let’s not cast aspersions at him. I’m sure he’ll check everyones lunch boxes at NSIDC’s quitting time during the coming week to make sure no more cubic kilofurlongs, or whatever, of ice turn up missing. There are no villains here, only heroes. Well done, Anthony. Thank you, Dr. Meier.

  26. Brendan H says:

    Leon Broznya: “Even with their caveat about the quality of near real time data, a scientifically challenged reporter would miss that note and just see the first thing that would catch his eye — the sudden disappearance of large amounts of ice — and run with it.”

    Which is exactly what Anthony did. Which is not to say that Anthony is scientifically challenged, but does suggest that a desire to be first with a story overcame the requirement for a fact-check.

    As a matter of record, the NSIDC caveat was first mentioned by Phil at (20:05:05) on the NSIDC Makes a Big Sea Ice etc thread. So who gets the Pulitzer?

    REPLY: Better issue a retraction there Brendan, because if you’ll note who I hat-tipped in the original story thread, it was Joe D’Aleo, who runs the blog ICECAP. For the record Joe D’Aleo emailed me and two other people who run climate blogs at 6:14PM PST the night before with his query “any ideas on why NSIDC has this discrepancy” ? and included this PDF: http://icecap.us/images/uploads/Discrepancy_Between_NSIDC_and_Cryosphere_Appears_Again.pdf

    From: JDaleo@xxxxx.com
    Sent: Sunday, February 15, 2009 6:14 PM
    To: pielkesr@xxxx.edu ; awatts@xxxxxx.com ; stephen.mcintyre@xxxx.ca
    Subject: NSIDC vs Cryosphere discrepancy show up again

    Any ideas?

    Joe had already posted his writeup on it here. Note the date of his posting. But I waited until the next morning, the 16th, which by that time I had dozens of emails.

    So the “desire to be first with a story” that you ascribe to me is erroneous and written without benefit of any facts on your part. – Anthony

  27. CuckooToo says:

    I’ve been asking the same question, “what happens to all the erroneous reports, when they have been shown to be wrong” over at Richard Blacks blog at the Beeb:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/richardblack/2009/02/fin_words.html

  28. Mick says:

    “I did not have sex with that woman”
    Priceless quote Antony!! LOL

    That quote sums up AGW.

    Please, please do not stop educate me/us about science. What you do is not
    “only” reporting, it is science of the highest standard!!
    Your blog is “THE NEWS” . For me, and many others :)

    Thank You!!

  29. Sylvia says:

    Anthony, *yes* it is worth reporting startling data inconsistencies on your blog. And I think it is wonderful that Dr. Meier is open-minded enough to read WUWT and post to the comments. Thank you both for striving for clarity.

    I would like to think that the competitive pressure for the various climate monitoring organizations to have the most credible, accurate data will eventually become more important than “generating” numbers that will gain more grant money. The more we learn [from WUWT] about what comprises a high quality data set, the better able we are to evaluate the published data and help motivate these organizations (and our lawmakers) to strive for higher quality results.

  30. Frederick Davies says:

    Keep up the good work, Mr Watts: you have just earned yourself another donation. Have a drink on me tonight.

  31. Brendan H says:

    Anthony: “So the “desire to be first with a story” that you ascribe to me is erroneous and written without benefit of any facts on your part.”

    Fair enough. I retract. Even so, there are two important lessons here.

    1. In ICECAP, D’Aleo asks the question: “Any answers anyone?” It doesn’t seem to occur to him that the place to go to for answers is the source.

    2. The context for the NSIDC figures is the caveats as highlighted by a WUWT poster.

    The thrust of the current thread is the matter of topics worth blogging about. Spotting the story is one thing. Reporting about it is another. For anyone with pretensions to be a reporter, checking with the source is a fundamental requirement before the story is run.

    If you had held off the story until you received Meier’s explanation, the story would have lost its edge, thus defeating its purpose, which was to stick one up the enemy. I’ve got no problem with that. But don’t confuse advocacy with news.

    REPLY:

    1. Normally you’d be right. However I suppose we’ve all gotten a bit jaded as of late, since we’ve been exposed to the tactics of Mann, Santer, and Steig, who refuse to divulge source information when asked, and in Steig’s case pretend to have done so, then you discover that he’s only provided an incomplete box of parts. with no instructions, and no bolts or nuts. The climate science community has gotten a reputation for wagon circling due to these scientists. Ask Steve McIntyre.

    2. D’Aleo probably would have gotten an answer from Dr. Meier if asked. As would I. The point here is that the error went uncorrected for 18-24 hours or more. By the time I had posted it I figured that surely one of the thousands of people that view the page had dropped an email, as they almost always do. The lesson being taught here is that if you run an automated production system, the very first thing you do in the morning, especially a Monday morning, is to check the output. And check your email. At 10AM MST they still hadn’t done so. In business, an oversight like this would at the least earn a reprimand, possibly even heads would roll if the error cost the company money. In science we got the “this isn’t worthwhile” attitude.

    Scientists that produce publicly available data on a production basis should have a care about quality control. If I’m the “bad guy” in pointing out that the quality control is lacking, so be it. But I won’t apologize for doing so after giving them reasonable opportunity to discover and correct on their own. – Anthony

  32. Pierre Gosselin says:

    “not worth blogging about”?

    I think this was a a huge blooper and casts the integrity of the NSIDC into serious doubt.

    “Well yeah the data was off by a million or so sq. km – no big deal!”

    It is a big deal. It’s a huge screw up, and people wondering what kind of operation is being run over there.
    I strongly differ with Dr. Meier. And it’s a bit disconcerting that he doesn’t take it seriously.

  33. Bary Foster says:

    Of course it’s worth putting up on a blog. Why not? Go for it Anthony, every time.

  34. Mike D. says:

    How is news made?

    When Dr. Serreze was quoted by news agencies as saying Arctic sea ice is in a death spiral, was that an errant comment to journalist in a bar? Was it during a phone interview initiated by the journalist? Or initiated by Dr. Serreze? Or was it the result of a deliberate notice to wire services issued by NSIDC?

    I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I suspect the latter. Perhaps I am just cynical.

    In any case, Anthony, you are absolutely correct in your judgment that NSIDC should be media conscious and media savvy. Dr. Meier’s defensiveness is naive, and frankly not believable. He should know better, and I suspect he does.

    Kudos to you and Mr. D’Aleo. Keep on keeping them honest.

  35. crosspatch says:

    It is worth blogging about but on balance, I think there should be a “one working day” rule where one might bring an oddity to their attention but allow at least one regular working day for it to be looked into. This being a holiday weekend and a fairly popular winter sport weekend, I am actually surprised it was corrected as quickly as it was.

    People have, or should have, lives outside of work. It certainly is worth blogging about but in my opinion and in the interest if fairness, the data providers should have at least one working day to sort it out before any whistles are blown.

  36. Mary Hinge says:

    I think the problem here is that the media and bloggers want their information immediately and many scientific establishments have satisfied these wishes by offering websites that give the real-time data, usually from automated equipment. In the past this hasn’t been a problem as the vast majority of people accessing the data usually had some scientific training and understand and accept the limitations of this. As more people become interested in popular science then the ratio of people (including the media) that do not understand the limitations of data collection increases.
    On this blog the GISS errors were pointed out and these were subsequently corrected, this is how it should be. The next month, as GISS were putting into place the procedures to help ensure it didn’t happen again, there were complaints that the delay in the figures coming out!
    The way scientific institutions should do it is well illustrated by the NPEO. Here is a link to their automatically updated data from JAMSTEC http://psc.apl.washington.edu/northpole/POPS_ctd.html
    Note the proviso at the bottom “These data are automatically updated and subject to a variety of errors.”
    Maybe this should be obligatory on all automatic data sites.

    REPLY: Mary, nicely said. – Anthony

  37. The Science says:

    jorgekafkazar (23:39:55) :
    “Mistrakes happen.”

    Thankyou for that freudian slip, made my day. :)

  38. Brendan H (23:56:59) :

    “Which is exactly what Anthony did. Which is not to say that Anthony is scientifically challenged, but does suggest that a desire to be first with a story overcame the requirement for a fact-check.”
    —-
    Oopsie. Sir Brendan, you should note that the “fact-check” process, and your “first with a story” accusation are exactly opposite:

    That it was the NSIDC that was “pushing” the “story” out on the public without checking THEIR facts.
    That the NSIDC did not recall or change ANY of their graphics UNTIL the story was caught from the web (many hours after NSIDC released it) and the NSIDC proved wrong.
    They (the NSIDC and AGW extremists) are the ones who – in MANY recent press releases – have been “pushing” propaganda on the public by extremist (non-scientific) exaggerations and bad science – in an effort to get the next Nobel Prize, the next grant, the next TV interview.

  39. Chris H says:

    I thought Mark Surreze’s comment about a “death spiral” was pretty funny, just because of the absurdity of it. Hopefully that comes back to haunt him, although I now notice he’s moved predictions of an ice-free North Pole from 2008 to 2030…

  40. Ron de Haan says:

    Anthony,

    You are a polite and galant character, but you, anyone, should be very angry by such a remark by a scientist and a representative of a Government Organization.

    There web site is up presenting near eal time data.

    If something goes wrong there should be an note on the web stating that the current presented data is not correct due….

    Arctic Sea Ice is a “hot” topic as many Government world wide are introducing fierce climate legislation.

    We can not afford this kind of attitude.

    I have downloaded the RSS feed for from the NSIDC site last year and all the links I have received had the alarmist tune, no word about the fast freeze at the beginning of the winter season, no word of the extreme cold this winter, only “bad news”.
    Humanity is being screwed these days over a non existing AGW and NSIDC is one of the organizations who are in on the plot.
    Yes, I am angry.

  41. Mikey says:

    Speaking of weird disappearing ice, can somebody explain this one to me?

    http://tinyurl.com/cpymd3

    It’s the latest entry from the Cryosphere Today map compared to two days ago.

    I get how the ice around Nova Zembla could go. That’s just thin ice getting concentrated by wind, right? But what happened to the ice in the Sea of Okhotsk? It all just disappeared. Wind wouldn’t explain that, would it. That’s some massive 2 day melt for this time of year, if that’s what happened? And how does that entire sheet of ice in the Bering Sea just suddenly split in two? Can wind do that?

    If they’re errors it would be interesting to know how errors like that happen. In fact fact I’d like to know the mechanics of how errors in ice monitoring happen. That would be an interesting little climate news story, I think.

  42. PaulHClark says:

    I think it is an entirely appropriate issue to blog about if only to ensure that publicly funded bodies improve their quality control.

    As we saw with the GISS data errors this is not an issue that can be taken lightly in today’s world where the media is apt to seize on an issue and make a headline out of. Should the data later be proved to be in error it is rare to find retractions issued and therefore the story typically stands.

    Surely the folks at NSIDC should have been put on notice when 1 million sq Km disappears overnight, yet they still published the data. At the very least this is hugely sloppy.

    I think it is incumbent on us all to trust nothing in this field and check it out. There should be no question that issues should be blogged about until the folks who publish the data realise that quality control is really important.

  43. Flanagan says:

    OK,

    maybe we should sit back and relax – actually nobody in the mainstream press has been talking about that and I guess they would have asked the NSIDC if the melt was real – and their opinion – before publishing anything.

    Anyway, the graph which is now presented is not a “corrected” version, it’s simply the same one but cut at the beginning of Feb. So, we’re basically still waiting for the actual mid-Feb values…

  44. pete m says:

    Blogging the error is fine. Did you also email them about it?

  45. Paul Shanahan says:

    AndyW (23:23:36) :
    I think even a reporter who doesn’t know what dilithium feedback

    It’s logical isn’t it Captain? :)

  46. Anthony, I know Mark SErreze’s activities might seem SUrreal… could you correct your misspellings please? – remembering Steig’s “I before E except after C-Ice” brouhaha…

    I’ve been continuing to work on a whole page of Polar information with pictures – to help people get the Polar picture into perspective – since the Polar alarmism depends on people’s sheer ignorance of how Polar fluctuations and sea ice normally behave.

    Reply: I saw the misspellings when the post first went up earlier this evening and corrected them, and notified Anthony. Somehow the misspellings returned. Anthony, did you cut and paste a revision from a saved version? ~ charles the moderator.

    REPLY: Not deliberately, but if we were both working on the piece at the same time, whomever pressed the save button last, that one would be the one presented. That’s probably what happened. Thanks for pointing out the error. – Anthony

  47. Alan the Brit says:

    This is merely another example of the laxity of many modern practices. If this wasn’t picked up by WUWT & your good self, it may never have been. What concerns me more is that Dr Meier & his co-workers didn’t pick up the error immediately. If these people were on the ball, experienced, & with that good old sense of “feel” for something as right or wrong, then they would have spotted it without the potentially embarrassing situation of an outsider bringing it to their attention. The hand should have gone up straight away followed immediately by an apology.

    Well done Sir. Never ever stop!

    BTW:-) James,

    I read no suggestion, hint, indication, intimation or otherwise regarding bias in Mr Watts’ post!

  48. J.Hansford says:

    Anthony. Your justifications are well phrased, thought out and presented. I concur that with your assessment. NSIDC have set themselves up to be scrutinized, thus they must rise to that expectation of them.

    Specially as Billions of dollars and a whole paradigm of energy use and society is hanging in the balance….. For that is the reality of the situation.

    …. absolutely they can proof read data before 10 O’clock in the morning and make sure it is correct. It is minimum of what is expected of them.

  49. Allen63 says:

    An ongoing point of your “blog” seems to be “data errors”. Thus, to blog about a potential data error is “spot on” in your case. Moreover, your reasoning for doing so is sound.

  50. Rhys Jaggar says:

    ‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, then you win’

    Said by the standard-setter for non-violent confrontation and emancipation from ‘elitist’ rule, Mohindas Gandhi.

    It’s perhaps a quote you should have firmly popping up on your PC screen as you moderate this excellent website Mr/Dr (sorry I don’t know your official title!) Watts……..

  51. Indyana Bones says:

    What the good Dr. Meier and the NSIDC seem to overlook is the rather simple task of gating their software to flag abnormal data inputs. Any programmer will tell you that it is standard programming practice to build in Boolean logic to trap extremes (like Mkm2 ice loss) and either halt the process or substitute a trend line.

    What this episode brings into sharp relief is the arrogance of these institutional data centers receiving public funds. They seem to believe that certain agendas can infiltrate their operations as long as they have the MSM to defend it. And hopefully censor the few bulldogs who catch on. But that is clearly not the case today. What we have here is… a desire to communicate – the facts. Other government agencies should take notice. You are being scrutinized. By some highly qualified, intelligent people. These are not easily compartmentalized bureaucrats or politicians. They are representatives of the citizens and taxpayers that pay your salaries. And they are concerned about the fleecing of the public in the name of Global Warming.

  52. Tony Hansen says:

    And so if I happened to represent some government agency, and my agency presented data to the public in ‘real time’, or ‘near real time’, or ‘somewhat down the track’, or whatever…… then any blogger that found fault with my data is the person that really deserves the blame… definitely not me or mine.
    Ahhhhh, for a job where one is never held responsible, or accountable, for whatever output I might put out.

  53. Donal says:

    Excellent work, Anthony.

    Your generous comments about Dr Meier are rather more gracious than the words from him.

    His understated attempt to be-little this prestigious site was in poor form, and while I will accept your view of him, in its absence he would be marked as a small man.

    I do hope he is big enough to send you a ‘note’ !

  54. Ken Hall says:

    Well said Anthony. A responsible and considered post. I must admit that I was surprised that I haven’t seen a BBC or Independent or Guardian article screaming about a sudden loss of over a million square kilometres of ice overnight. I guess that it was just luck that they were not looking into ice extent whilst that erroneous graphic was up.

    Previous climate reports show that the lack of scientific understanding and the extent of political bias in this area by the BBC in particular is staggering.

  55. AndyW says:

    Well if NSIDC are reading this I hope they keep it as it is rather than decide that they’d just post an updated graph monthly to avoid errors and complaints.

    They could easily do this and then we all lose out.

    Regards

    Andy

  56. Bill Illis says:

    Obviously errors happen.

    The NSIDC seems to be susceptible to them since there have quite a few of these errors posted on this very same graph over time. I would imagine they would have developed some quality control over their public webpages by now.

    How long can these errors exist before they are found?

    Well, decades apparently since, in May 2007, they restated nearly 30 years worth of data since there were missing days in the database (it was eventually explained 18 months later – I still don’t see how the math works for missing days to affect the data this much).

    http://img401.imageshack.us/img401/2918/anomalykm3.gif

  57. RoyfOMR says:

    crosspatch
    ‘… and in the interest if fairness, the data providers should have at least one working day to sort it out before any whistles are blown.”

    I think that is a very reasonable statement but, sadly, not applicable in the current climate (no pun intended) of AGW hysteria.
    Once a story/fact/opinion from a National Agency is released onto the Internet it has entered the public domain and the public consciousness, for better or for worse!
    By reporting such errors, as quickly as possible, a great service is being done by people like Anthony and his team.
    Granted, this must be a source of embarassment to the producers of faulty data and in ‘normal circumstances’ such rapid whistle-blowing would been seen as bad form!

    Alas, the climate change stakes are too high for chivalrous sentiment. It is in the hands of those who embarass themselves to ensure that they ‘Get it Right First Time’

  58. Bill D says:

    I would expect that anyone publishing data would appreciate queries on apparently mistaken data points. On the other hand, if the agency received too much criticism for such mistakes, the obvious solution would be to delay posting the data until after the quality checking was completed.

    It is silly if either side in this debate puts any weight on the most recent weeks of data whether the data follow a trend or not.

  59. Chris says:

    You may have respect for this chap, Antony, but if he doesn’t see why you absolutely MUST keep blogging this type of thing then he is not, quite franklyu, worthy of ANYONE’S respect.

    Keep up the fantastic work, not just for anomolies in the US but right here in the UK too.

  60. RoyfOMR says:

    Ken Hall

    ‘ I must admit that I was surprised that I haven’t seen a BBC or Independent or Guardian article screaming about a sudden loss of over a million square kilometres of ice overnight. I guess that it was just luck that they were not looking into ice extent whilst that erroneous graphic was up. ‘

    I suspect that the reason for that, is less to do with luck than the prompt reporting of the WUWT squad!
    :)

  61. Will says:

    A quick OT question. In the chart, why is the current data being compared to 2006-2007 instead of 2007-2008? I would be more interested in seeing a comparison to a year ago instead of two years ago.

  62. barbee butts says:

    Once again we have an instance where so-called professional scientists are producing and reporting ‘data’ and ‘results’ that are simply garbage. When the ‘data’ is questioned-the questioners are dismissed, insulted and demeaned.
    I especially appreciate the remark: “I’m not sure why you think things like this are worth blogging about.”
    Well, Walt, let me put it this way: ” I’m not sure why you think data like this is worth reporting”

    Seems to me that Walt simply doesn’t think his job is very important or meaningful. I think maybe he’d be happier in a differient line of work.

  63. Onanym says:

    I don’t think you can expect much cooperation from Dr. Meyer in the future Mr. Watts. As someone here has pointed out, a good practice would be to get an answer from him before blogging about it. And now you have re-printed his response in a context that he does not deserve.

    And what about your own postings together with Basil C. Some of these were hugely criticized, and you even promised to come with updates. None have been presented. How do you think that communicates your intentions?

  64. I still wonder how this was not caught and corrected after such a slope developed. Watching areas of ice come and go (there is a slide show available at one of the sites), it still seems to me that a lot of ice has disappeared in short order, only to reappear, which seems to be a calibration issue with generating digital data from the analog satellite signal – certain parameters are not set correctly.

    I’m not at all sure that this data is correct, even if the slope now looks more normal. It would be an easy matter to 1) check for slope in any direction before posting results that improbable by x% confidence. It would also be fairly easy to grid the results and look for dropouts that are not where a previous edge was, or where large numbers of such small grid elements drop out together at an unusual rate, or if one drops out are there nearby dropouts (or whatever technique). Simple stuff.

    Again, I think the ability to discern ice from non-ice given that all of these areas are evidently constantly crossing the line in the algorithm puts the algorithm into question, and, frankly, the entire result. (or is it AlGorythm)

    If the calibration is set that close, what are the implications for picking up edges around the entire ice area, and is this calibration subject to public scrutiny? Knowing a fair amount about optical recognition, I realize it’s not easy, but I don’t dismiss the fact that there are a lot of knobs to be turned to get the correct answer, parameters which, in the wrong hands, could lead to misleading results… I realize these algorithms are probably shifting by the hour to pick up edges, but again, why if the edge has moved is the algorithm not changed to find the edge near where it was last seen, and if 300 miles off, raise a flag? I asked NSIDC about calibration procedures yesterday, so far have not seen a response.

  65. Grant Hodges says:

    Well done. Be ready for lib blog hive ad hominem. U B the enemy now whether U no it or not.

  66. Philip Marston says:

    Anthoy: since I had noted the discontinuity when it appeared as well and assumed it couldn’t be accurate, I found your post particularly interesting. I couldn’t find a good email address for you, so I post here the note that I sent to Dr. Meier (and tried to copy to you).

    Dear Dr. Meier

    I was intrigued (but not surprised) when I saw that Mr. Watts had posted an essay on discontinuity in the sea ice data that appeared the other day: it’s the sort of thing that appears to catch his eye. I was also intrigued (and quite surprised) to read that your response to the inquiry was that you were not sure why Mr. Watts would think “things like this are worth blogging about” and that imperfections in near real-time data are simply “not news.”

    I thought it might be helpful for you to know a bit more about your audience. I’m a regulatory and transactional attorney in the Washington DC area and have been following the sea ice data series on the NSIDC site for quite some time. I usually check it several times a week along with a host of other data sources. As my professional concerns include trying to evaluate the political and regulatory process in Washington and to some degree in the EU, I view the sea ice pictures as part of my informal “leading political indicator” on carbon regulation. I find it helpful to consider how the charts will look when committee votes begin to occur, perhaps late this spring. On more than one occasion I have pointed to your charts as likely to be used in the political debate by whomever thinks they may benefit from doing so. It is not for nothing that pictures are said to be so much more valuable than words in many contexts. . . .

    While I understand that you probably didn’t develop the data series as an adjunct to anyone’s “briefing book” or “talking points” in Washington, there is a not insignifcant likelihood that they will be used in that context (and if you cease publishing your data, they will turn to less credible or less well presented research and data). In sum, the future of billions upon billions of dollars of existing and potential assets may very well be affected to some degree by the Center’s research (much as the Energy Information Adminstration’s data series affect private investment and public debate on a host of energy-related issues).

    The very peculiar spike in the chart the other day certainly caught my eye. Like Mr. Watt (whom I don’t know from Adam, although I enjoy his essays), I automatically assumed that there was a glitch since a million acres or square miles or whatever of sea don’t normally just melt (or freeze) on a day-to-day basis. I assumed that some correction would probably be forthcoming and found it extremely worthwhile that the glitch should be flagged by others in the public just in case the actual site maintenance might be automated or the like.

    So while I fully understand that data are not perfect and the glitches arise and corrections need to be made, I would suggest to you that striking discontinuities in data series that can influence multi-billion dollar decisions are in fact INTENSELY worth discussing and the level of detailed (and mostly dispassionate!) attention that Mr. Watts focuses on such issues is a terrific enhancement of educated public discourse in this area. The contribution that Mr. Watts (and any other members of the public) can make by providing feedback and comment is invalauble in enhancing the quality and reliability of the ultimate product.

    Thank you for all the work that the NSIDC Center does. I thought it might be helpful for you to have feedback from different sectors of your (potentailly worldwide) audience.

    Regards,
    Philip Marston
    MARSTON LAW
    Alexandria, VA

  67. Philip Marston says:

    Sorry about the misspelling of your name, Mr. Watts. No spell checking in the comment box. . . :)

  68. Russ says:

    Anthony,

    You do a great job of this. You give the data publishers time to correct mistakes and credit them when they do what they should. In the past, this sort of thing might have taken years to correct.

    Thanks for the blog and forum!

  69. Pearland Aggie says:

    Anthony,
    Thanks for the great detective and reporting work (as well as Joe D’Aleo). At least this time this issue didn’t turn into another Steig et all MSM report.

  70. pyromancer76 says:

    Tell the truth and serve the public.

    Anthony, and others in the private sphere, have had to take over that responsibility for arrogant government agencies that believe that they can go off on a long holiday weekend without any oversight or red-flagging of real time data reporting. At the very least they should have a place on their site where errors are acknowledged and the correction/time is given.

    Furthermore, these arrogant tax-payer funded agencies also believe that they can provide propaganda whenever it pleases them. Ron de Haan (01:47:29) is aware that the links for the NSIDS site all last year sang “the alarmist tune”. IMHO Dr. Mark Sereeze should no longer be in their employ. (The Dr. in front of his name should imply some knowledge of his field.)

    Dr. Meier has more than egg on his face. Instead of the huffiness he should, with real gratitude, give a great big thank you to Anthony and promise that the organization for which he is responsible will put safeguards in place so that such a huge error will not happen again. Did he do that?

    Yes, I believe we should be very angry.

    Blogging has become what reporting used to be. There are no investigative reporters left who are well informed about their fields and the relevant politics AND who are supported by news organizations. Anthony and other bloggers are pioneers in a whole new world — with little organizational support. More power to you, Anthony, and I hope you get generous contributions from your faithful readers around the world.

  71. Ric Werme says:

    Worth blogging about? Certainly.

    Worth your readers getting upset and posting the first thoughts that come to mind without adding much of anything to the discussion? No, at least reading all that was a waste of my time.

    Like I suggested at http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/02/13/wasted-effort/ , I think this would have been a good story to disable comments on until NSIDC had a chance to reply. It would have served your readers better and the NSIDC would still have a good idea of how many people see their data as soon as it comes out.

    It would also be nice if the NSIDC would write up something about how they produce their products given that I think their input are strips of polar images that have to be spliced together and have clouded out and other data losses handled.

  72. Joseph says:

    The NSIDC is not the only organization that suffers from these problems that result from favoring haste over quality. NCDC, GISS and others make the same mistake. Data that is preliminary, unverified and subject to a variety of errors has no value and should NEVER be reported to the public (or anyone else).

    Don’t these organizations realize they are just embarrassing themselves? The general public won’t remember the disclaimer, only that the organization made ANOTHER mistake.

    I would much rather wait for as long as it took to receive data that had been scrutinized and quality-checked. I am only interested in the finished product, not the early draft versions. The immediacy of these reports simply does not exist.

  73. Jon H says:

    This is just one of those hammers Al Gore would use against logic. The data is not perfect, that is why we have multiple sources, but Al Gore would still use this data to force an agenda costing 20% of our GDP.

    Thank you WUWT!

  74. MC says:

    Mikey,

    I see your point. Looks like someone has Dr’d the data. Looks like they made sure there was some ice left in the graph where they removed large areas of it.

  75. Mike Q says:

    I used to work in the City of London on the display systems which showed the latest prices. We often built in code which threw out numbers which fell outside an expected range. This was seen as important because people could lose money – nothing more important than money, certainly not “saving the planet.”

  76. bluegrue says:

    I’m a bit confused, Anthony. You and your readers found lots of time to post the news (on your part) and discuss it (the readers). Had anyone bothered to send a short note to NSIDC (I haven’t scanned all the comments)? The e-mail link is in the menu to the right, would have taken 2 minutes tops. You may have sent a message, Anthony, but you don’t mention anything like that in your time line.

    REPLY: See my response to a previous poster above. – Anthony

  77. beng says:

    I wouldn’t trust Cryosphere today (or perhaps anybody else using their methods). They cronically miss low-latitude ice in the St . Lawrence seaway, around Newfoundland, eastern Siberia, etc. Tho I wouldn’t use it for calculations, a site:

    http://www.natice.noaa.gov/pub/ims_gif/DATA/cursnow_usa.gif

    always gives a more accurate (laymen’s) view.

  78. John Philip says:

    Lucy – you have this footnote on your site about the Antarctic study published as a Letter in Nature

    Looks like a paper, but its letter status means it has not been peer-reviewed. This URL, which originally went to the document pdf, now yields nothing. I downloaded the document, evidently just in time.

    Can I suggest you do a little homework about the journal’s publication process for Letters and Articles? (and ask yourself why there was nearly a year between submission and publication of the study)?

    If the pdf mentioned contains the full journal article then it was possibly withdrawn for breaching copyright, the article is clearly marked ‘© 2009 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved’ and is part of Nature’s subscriber-only content. However co-author Michael Mann has now made it available on his website:

    http://holocene.meteo.psu.edu/shared/articles/SteigetalNature09.pdf.

    I would advise you to direct your readers there.

    cheers.

  79. Frank K. says:

    Onanym (04:47:18) :

    “I don’t think you can expect much cooperation from Dr. Meyer [sic] in the future Mr. Watts. As someone here has pointed out, a good practice would be to get an answer from him before blogging about it. And now you have re-printed his response in a context that he does not deserve.”

    OK. So what will Dr. Meier do in the future – ignore that the real time data are erroneous just because WUWT or Joe D’Aleo point it out?

    Overall, I think Dr. Meier did the right thing and appeared to be appreciative of the notice. However, to think that this is just another data product that only ice geeks can appreciate, consider the following facts:

    (1) This plot appears on the “Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis” page! It not some obscure data file that someone pulled from an archive and decided to plot up in Excel. We should assume that whoever is responsible for the “News” page would be responsible for the content as well.

    (2) From the News page, I can see that the NSIDC is all geared up for press coverage! There’s a special phone number for the press only, press resource links, etc. So where do you think the press goes to get its sea ice stories? If I were a reporter and visited the web site two days ago, I could have written – “According to data provided by the NSIDC, there has been a shocking drop in the arctic sea ice extent. NSIDC scientists attribute arctic sea ice loss to global warming, and recently Dr. Mark Serreze of the NSIDC has stated that arctic ice is “a death spiral”.” I could then have splashed this on the front page of my newspaper. When the data were subsequently corrected, I would then have issued a correction to the story (on the back page of the newspaper, next to obituaries) – “The data used in the story “Arctic Sea Ice in Freefall” in yesterday’s edition has been corrected by the NSIDC and now show the ice reduction to be smaller than before.” Unfortunately, that’s how it works – stories get written with an agenda, and corrections get relegated to the back page.

    (3) One final comment – why wasn’t a correction notice displayed for the graph? For example – “Yesterday’s graph displayed an anomalous drop in sea ice extent. This has been corrected. The NSIDC wishes to thank Joe D’Aleo and Anthony Watts for bringing this to our attention.”

  80. MartinGAtkins says:

    Mikey (01:50:32)

    But what happened to the ice in the Sea of Okhotsk? It all just disappeared. Wind wouldn’t explain that,

    No it wouldn’t. The link below is the sea ice concentration and so would be slightly less than the extent.

    http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/cgi-bin/seaice-monitor.cgi

  81. Bill Junga says:

    Hello Anthony, you did the right thing pointing out these data errors, absolutely.
    In my opinion, these releases with data errors are inexcusable. And it is sloppiness,pure and simple.Where is the quality control? These guys have PhD’s. In manufacturing, guys with high school educations are expected to find errors and stop bad production so it doesn’t get into the market. Depending on the error, these guys might make it once and be excused, a repeat would be grounds for firing.For instance, what if the manufacturing error resulted in a failure in a laptop where it would fail like a cherry bomb going off on your lap.
    These data, analyses, and releases are used for policy and must have better quality control.How many errors do these guys get make and still get a free pass? I don’t trust any of the data from these agancies, anymore.

  82. Alec, a.k.a Daffy Duck says:

    “Mikey (01:50:32) :

    Speaking of weird disappearing ice, can somebody explain this one to me?

    http://tinyurl.com/cpymd3

    It’s the latest entry from the Cryosphere Today map compared to two days ago.”???

    They seem to be having trouble…look at the ice disapear by the Sea of Labrador betwenn Canada and Greenland Feb 9 v. Feb 10:
    http://igloo.atmos.uiuc.edu/cgi-bin/test/print.sh?fm=02&fd=09&fy=2009&sm=02&sd=10&sy=2009

  83. kim says:

    It’s just lovely listening to authorities set themselves up as deciders of what it is ‘fair’ to talk about. We are kissing the enlightenment good-bye.
    ==========================================

  84. It was just a “melting down” of curves, they just slipped down!

  85. Tom says:

    As a philosophical matter, I would think it would serve the interests of science to minimize the amount of drama surrounding innocent mistakes, as much as it serves the interests of science to correct the mistakes. Comments about this or that error proves that the source is “in the tank” for one side or another are not helpful. I think best practice would be to privately notify the data supplier of the error and give them a reasonable period of time to correct it. If they don’t, then feel free to bring it to public attention. At the same time, data providers need to realize that some of their colleagues have behaved shamefully regarding errors and corrections to their public data sets, and this impacts the reputation of every data provider.

  86. MartinGAtkins says:

    Of course Anthony was right to report the unexplainable dip in the graph. All to often we are fobbed off with stone wall silence or direct hostility when errors have been made by those who would seek to guide policy by corrupting science in the pursuit of their ideology or personal gain.

    This however was nothing more than an error. Dr. Walt Meier was a bit testy in his first response but we are all a bit like that when our faults are made public.

    He subsequently posted in a more collected and reasonable way. What on earth do the people who continue to criticise him hope to achieve? Do you think that scientists and researchers are going to be more open about errors knowing that they will nonetheless be vilified and have their abilities questioned?

    It was an error. Get over it.

  87. Fernando says:

    Anthony said: “As most readers know by now, the problematic GISTEMP global temperature anomaly plot for October is heavily weighted by temperatures from weather stations in Russia.”……lack of quality.
    Walt Meier…..yesterday a big mistake a lack of quality …
    Pieter Tans, a small error, lack of quality. (twice)…( CO2- Mauna Loa)

    Conclusion: Increase in concentration of CO2 >>>>>
    >>>>>cause increase in temperature >>>>>causes loss of ice in the Arctic.

    perfect

  88. Garacka says:

    On the spectrum of blog types, I’d say this blog is a “Level 1A”.

    Level 1A = Really, really good
    Level 1B = Really good
    Level 2A = Kinda bad
    Level 2B = Just bad
    Level 3A = Really ugly
    Level 3B = Really, really ugly

    If reporting that addresses science was a blog, it would be somewhere between level 2A and 3A.

  89. James says:

    It’s also worth pointing out that yesterday was Presidents Day, a federal holiday.

    REPLY: Now that’s an excellent point and one I had not considered, since I’ve never had Presidents Day off in my life. In TV and in business, it is just another workday. All the more reason to worry that somebody in media will make use of it. I never gave the holiday a thought. But when running an automated data output it is even more reason to check your output. My point is that if you let some automation speak for you, its like a puppy. You can’t leave it alone for very long because it’s likely to wet on the carpet or chew up the furniture. Business production lines that run 24/7 don’t get the 3 day weekend and don’t go unattended.

    In NSIDC’S case, maybe the smart thing to do is turn off the output if they can’t monitor it.

    – Anthony

  90. David Segesta says:

    Important decisions are being made by politicians based on the available evidence. When the data is bad the decisions are bad. We may well end up spending trillions on something which is absolutely unnecessary because of bad data or misunderstood data. If the folks who produce this data can’t assure its quality then perhaps they shouldn’t publish it at all. No data is better than bad data.

  91. Frederick Michael says:

    I check this data daily and revisions like the one noted here are NOT rare (though this is the largest I’ve seen). It looks like some kind of smoothing that causes each new day’s data to also affect the previous day or two. As a result the NSIDC plot is less “bumpy” than AMSR-E plot. They seem to differ by a constant (and the smoothing) but otherwise mirror each other rather closely.

    The AMSR-E plot is usually updated late in the evening (eastern time) to include today’s ice extent. The NSIDC plot is usually updated in the morning to include yesterday’s ice extent. This is VERY significant as it provides many golden opportunities to win beer bets with uninformed co-workers.

    MORE SIGNIFICANTLY the general agreement between these two plots (which had been consistent) has taken a hit. The AMSR-E plot shows the current sea ice extent is above the 2007 peak. The NSIDC plot shows this year at or below 2007 on this date and well below the peak.

  92. Kate says:

    I find it interesting that the title of the yesterday’s blog misspelled NSIDC as NISIDC. That mistake has not yet been corrected. Errors do occur, and they are not always noticed right away.

    REPLY: Excellent point Kate! And, congratulations on spotting the error. The human mind often fills in things that it “expects” to see, especially words. For example:

    “Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are. The olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.”

    Tens of thousands of people looked at it, including Dr. Meier, and you were the first to see it. This is why quality control procedures are important, because we humans often aren’t so good at catching our own mistakes, particularly ones where we are too close to the subject matter.

    Thank you for catching it and pointing it out. – Anthony

  93. dales says:

    All they needed to say was “thanks for catching the error, we appreciate it”. Instead his answer gives me a stronger feeling that they are deliberately trying to skew the data. I appreciate you and others giving the peer review to correct the incorrect information/data.

  94. bill p says:

    The appearance of a “precipitous plunge” in sea ice seems timed for an Obama announcement in Denver. You have to wonder what funding is headed their way.

    REPLY: Doubtful. Automation error it is, conspiracy it is not. Let’s not ascribe motive. – Anthony

  95. Walt Stone says:

    There’s a difference between a blogger posting an obvious error in the ice chart and a WUWT posting about an obvious error in the ice chart. Of the two cases, one might be ignored. There’s a blurry line between “just a blog” and an online location that everyone visits.

    And I’m sure I’m not the only one that visits ICECAP, sees something interesting, and wonders if there’ll be a blog post on the topic over here.

  96. Al Fin says:

    Well and appropriately done, Anthony.
    Unfortunately, these are the types of “errors” we are coming to expect from government funded agencies and researchers. Unless they are caught, they are too often never corrected.
    These agencies should understand that they have been put on notice for their sloppiness, for their arrogance, for their apparent belief that they can get away with virtually anything in terms of data manipulation.
    Now it is the agencies’ burden to attempt to regain the public trust.

  97. Jeff Alberts says:

    Tom (07:29:29) :

    As a philosophical matter, I would think it would serve the interests of science to minimize the amount of drama surrounding innocent mistakes, as much as it serves the interests of science to correct the mistakes. Comments about this or that error proves that the source is “in the tank” for one side or another are not helpful. I think best practice would be to privately notify the data supplier of the error and give them a reasonable period of time to correct it. If they don’t, then feel free to bring it to public attention. At the same time, data providers need to realize that some of their colleagues have behaved shamefully regarding errors and corrections to their public data sets, and this impacts the reputation of every data provider.

    Well-said, Tom.

  98. AnonyMoose says:

    As you said, Dr. Meier should have his explanation of the data process added to the information on the web site about the graph and data. Now that he knows it needed to be said, he should publish it so he won’t have to say it again.

    The data processing group should also be running a public change log (a blog) for each of their data products. For followers of their activities, it would be best if they’d run a single blog about their organization’s activities with data actions categorized for each product. A change log for each product can then be produced by showing all entries for a specific category. There is an assortment of software available for doing this, and as a federal climate agency there’s a pile of funding being signed today by an executive who likes transparency.

  99. DaveE says:

    You were right to flag the error Anthony. The way I saw what you were saying was that it seemed to be just that, an error.

    I feel that in posting that, you may have prevented someone from using the erroneous data as alarmist news.

    Sven (22:22:48) :

    “Further to my on post 22:20:18

    And so is Nansen sea ice extent:

    http://arctic-roos.org/observations/satellite-data/sea-ice/ice-area-and-extent-in-arctic

    I am curious as to why a similar dip appeared in the 2008 data.

    DaveE.

  100. othercoast says:

    Would it be an exaggeration to say that one big reason for publishing a doubt about published data (rather than privately contacting the source) is that it often turns out that public analysis/recalculation/investigation/pressure is needed to make a correction?

    What I’m talking about is the fact that when you see doomsaying data presented that, viewed at some level of detail, appears to contain errors, it is often difficult to get the publishers of the data interested in a correction, e.g.:
    -hard-to-see processing mangling data (e.g. the Steig paper – nobody cared to check for errors until McIntyre’s blogging)
    -hard-to-see processing overemphasizing some components of the data in a purpose (e.g. the Steig paper – even with published analysis, and now more evenhanded do-overs by Jeff whatshisname, Steig doesn’t give a rip)
    -the crappy surfacestation siting and resulting data
    -the dishonest UHI (etc.) adjustment of the data (adjusting older temps downward)

    With just a quiet email, none of the “errors” in the above list of published data items, or the loudly made claims based on them, would be addressed. In some cases, only the publishing of questions and the distributed mathematical analysis it causes leads to uncovering of the dodgy-math reasons for the unbelievable published end result.
    As experience has shown, if the published data supports the alarmist propaganda, no author will be bovvered to correct anything without some pressure.
    So if you’re a part (even a polite one) of the alarmist industry, you’re going to have to endure pointed public scrutiny of the stuff you publish, even when it looks like an obvious error.

  101. climatebeagle says:

    I think it was worth blogging about, it highlights for others some of the issues with presentation of real-time data. I hope that such organizations continue to produce accessible real-time data (including the raw data) complete with mistakes, but present it as unverified. Clear legends on the graph that indicate some of the data has not been verified, or having the line segment for unverified data a different colour. Living in CA I check the live earthquake reports after a shake and the initial data is clearly marked as not verified by a geologist.

    Additionally a verified version of the data can be presented that may lag the real-time version by days, weeks or months.

  102. hotrod says:

    FYI, the JAXA data is from a different sensor, so it is not consistent with our data, but it provides a good independent check. If the JAXA data does not show a dramatic change while the NSIDC data does (or vice versa), then it’s likely an issue of missing data or bad data.

    With that comment in mind, to my eye there is still a discrepancy of perhaps 200,000 km^2 between the NSIDC trend line with respect to their 2006-2007 dashed reference line, and the current year and comparable 2006-2007 traces in the JAXA data.

    This could be due to differences in how they compute their extent values, but the NSIDC data does not to seem to show the same “gain” in ice over the minimum ice cover years of 2006-2007, as shown in the JAXA graphic.

    Although the absolute values for the sea ice extent may be different due to calculation methods, it would be reasonable to expect that the difference between the current value and the average for those low ice years years would be similar.

    If you look at the 2/15/2009 images on NSIDC you can also still see apparently missing ice in the Hudson bay, north shore of the Canadian land mass, and a large wedge of missing ice that flanks the Siberian end of the Bering Strait near Cape Dezhneva. Given the comments in the other thread about low clouds in the Hudson bay area and the Canadians saying there is no such ice breakup/open water in the Hudson bay, it would be reasonable for the folks at NSIDC to take a look at how their sensors and algorithm handle low clouds or fog perhaps.

    As mentioned by many, it would be worthwhile for them to scrub their data to look for sudden large scale drop outs (or increases) of ice that are unlikely due to melting/freezing given the prevailing air temperatures and sea temperatures in the area. They could easily have it set up to flag sudden dropouts (or increases) for human review or set them to blinking on the graphics as subject to review or some other simple means to mark them as unverified raw data.

    Larry

  103. Antonio San says:

    Right on Anthony!

  104. bluegrue says:

    The solution to this could be of course to just hire someone to do the QA and delay posting for 3 months to ensure there is enough time for QA.

    It just begs two questions:
    a) Who’s gonna pay the QA person?
    b) Who’s gonna be happy to wait 3 months for “current” data?

    There was a lot of speculation, that this glitch would be picked up by “warmers” or the press as another jigsaw piece to prove AGW. Has that actually happened?

  105. John H. says:

    I believe this is becoming a lesson in no one dares goes first.

    Just imagine the horror amongst all the AGW “stakeholders” as they ponder the aftermath of their being the first to sway from the path of AGW righteousness.
    “We’re not leaving first and face the wrath of the consensus disciples”

    NISDC has been a front row participant in adopting the certainty of AGW and membership in the AGW concensus.
    The only way any of the primary AGW carnival members will ever go first is by way of being forced, against persistent resistence, with efforts such as WUWT demonstrated here.

    Only when humiliation reaches a crescendo of unavoidable self condemnation will any stakeholder such as the NISDC turn away from propagating the AGW exhortation.

    The only way that will happen is with the internet and blogging right here and few other places.

    Well done all.
    Keep it up.

  106. jack mosevich says:

    Tom: (07:29:29) :
    I was going to say the same thing as Tom but he said it better than I could. I think that contacing the data publishers would serve everyone’s purposes better and would create maybe better relationships (if the data providers acknowledge who discovered the errors). Actually premature publication of a supposed error could prove embarrising if indeed there was no error. I do temper my opinion, however, when it comes to RC people, who seem to be beligerent. I always try the cordial approach first; if that does not work then ….

  107. Yet Another Pundit says:

    Dr. Meier didn’t read the Atlantic article mentioned in the Wasted Effort item.
    This blog monitors the data collection process of various instruments and that is a noble and necessary role. It’s sad that it’s necessary. Others have made the points about why it is necessary.

    Why is it news? Because people care about it. Why is anything else news or not? For example, polls and election returns. Add in some doubt or suspicion about vote counting. Or sports results, especially if there is some doubt about the refs’ judgment. Or looking for WMD. If it turns out there really were no WMD will they undo the war? The climate change activists have made a big deal of ice melting, so now it’s news, like it or not.

    For the scientists (and everyone else) there needs to be complete and truthful information about the data used in climate change studies. What the collection process is, how the data processed, and public archives of the data itself. Various agencies are going to have to try a lot harder to achieve this. The goal would be to be above suspicion (but somebody somewhere will suspect anyway). Complete transparency is the best defense against suspicion.

  108. crosspatch says:

    “Alas, the climate change stakes are too high for chivalrous sentiment. It is in the hands of those who embarass themselves to ensure that they ‘Get it Right First Time’”

    In this case, no person got it wrong. The data are apparently updated in an automated fashion. It is on “auto-pilot”. There was some sort of a data drop-out, the graphs apparently got updated by automated means. Calling their attention to the error is absolutely the right thing to do but had it been me, I would have called their attention to it and given them a day to fix it.

    This doesn’t appear to be agenda-driven misinformation. It appears to be simply an error in the data collection of the sort that can be expected to happen from time to time.

  109. sammy k says:

    yes this is worth blogging about…it points to the sloppiness of an organization that has headlined dire consequences in the past…if you are going to cry wolf, it better be real…this error also begs the question of what else lies underneath that rock?… the way i read the comment from dr. meier is that its no big deal…sure everyone makes mistakes and this may seem trivial to him, but mr meier, if you want tax dollars, we will hold you accountable for your work and we expect it to be accurate the first time…especially, when the ocean is full of agw alarmist sharks that use instantaneous headlines to ponitificate anything that would further their agenda…good work mr watts…have a nice day

  110. Ric Werme says:

    John H. (09:17:34) :

    NISDC has been a front row participant in adopting the certainty of AGW and

    NSIDC! :-)

  111. hunter says:

    To answer your question- YES. Discrepancies should be noted, publicly. Blogging is one of the best ways to do it.

  112. Phil. says:

    hotrod (08:46:16) :
    FYI, the JAXA data is from a different sensor, so it is not consistent with our data, but it provides a good independent check. If the JAXA data does not show a dramatic change while the NSIDC data does (or vice versa), then it’s likely an issue of missing data or bad data.

    With that comment in mind, to my eye there is still a discrepancy of perhaps 200,000 km^2 between the NSIDC trend line with respect to their 2006-2007 dashed reference line, and the current year and comparable 2006-2007 traces in the JAXA data.

    This could be due to differences in how they compute their extent values, but the NSIDC data does not to seem to show the same “gain” in ice over the minimum ice cover years of 2006-2007, as shown in the JAXA graphic.

    Apart from different algorithms there is a significant difference in the resolution of the two imaging systems and the difference in size of the polar ‘hole’.

    Although the absolute values for the sea ice extent may be different due to calculation methods, it would be reasonable to expect that the difference between the current value and the average for those low ice years years would be similar.

    Not necessarily with the difference in resolution.

    If you look at the 2/15/2009 images on NSIDC you can also still see apparently missing ice in the Hudson bay, north shore of the Canadian land mass, and a large wedge of missing ice that flanks the Siberian end of the Bering Strait near Cape Dezhneva. Given the comments in the other thread about low clouds in the Hudson bay area and the Canadians saying there is no such ice breakup/open water in the Hudson bay, it would be reasonable for the folks at NSIDC to take a look at how their sensors and algorithm handle low clouds or fog perhaps.

    I don’t know why you think that the response of the sensors and algorithms to clouds etc. have not been investigated, more of the ‘scientists are idiots meme’, I suppose! More usually such wedges are due to missing swathes such as shown below, they often extend much further towards the pole:

    http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/seaice/data/200902/P1AME20090205IC0.png

    http://iup.physik.uni-bremen.de:8084/amsr/arctic_AMSRE_visual.png

  113. Mike Bryant says:

    Are errors in publicly presented data worth blogging about? Sure they are… Sometimes it is the only way to get something corrected. Anthony let Dr. Chapman know how inappropriate it was to have a reference to Al Gore on CT, and Dr. Chapman agreed and removed it.

    I sent Dr. Chapman an e-mail on Dec. 26, 2008, about another item I believe is inappropriate and he has NOT responded. Since Dr. Chapman uses the data from NSIDC, I also sent a note yesterday to Dr. Meier by way of this blog. Again no response. In fairness Dr. Meier may have missed it. I have a feeling, however, that if Anthony did blog on this small issue, things would be straightened out.

    “Dr. Meier,
    Were you aware that Cryosphere Today has a product that purportedly compares images from your data for any two days in the satellite era? This product is very misleading and I believe it should be corrected or removed. Please see this overlay along with Steve Keohane’s explanation:

    “Regarding another popular depiction of NH ice, I spent a little time on Cryosphere the other day and noticed something odd in comparing 12/20/80 to 12/22/08 NH ice extent. Hudson Bay and the outlet of Ob river in Russia, the boot-shaped inlet next to the arctic, appeared larger in the 1980 plat. I took the landmass/shoreline from 1980 and overlaid it on the 2008 plat, and got this: http://i44.tinypic.com/330u63t.jpg
    Please note that I retained the star background in all images, and used their pixels for image registration. At full size, I see no perturbation of those pixels from one image to the other, and therefore assume they are correctly registered.There was no rescaling of any image, no change was made to the pixels, with the exception of tinting Greenland and a few islands blue so they would have contrast when overlaid.”

    Here is the Comparison Product:

    http://igloo.atmos.uiuc.edu/cgi-bin/test/print.sh?fm=12&fd=20&fy=1980&sm=12&sd=22&sy=2008

    I am sure that you want your images to be used properly so that they convey a proper comparison. I have already E-mailed Dr. Chapman:

    Dr William Chapman,Can you please explain a couple of things on the Cryosphere Today “Compare side-by-side images of Northern Hemisphere sea ice extent” product, please? Why does the snow in the more recent dates cover areas that were previously sea inlets, fjords, coastal sea areas, islands and rivers? (Water areas, most easily discernible in the River Ob inlet. Why does the sea ice in the older images cover land areas? (Land areas, most easily discernible in River Ob inlet)See this overlay: http://i44.tinypic.com/330u63t.jpg Looking forward to your answer,
    Mike Bryant

    I have received no response.

    I am sure that you do not condone the use of your images and data in this way. I am looking forward to your response.

    Thank You,
    Mike Bryant”

  114. juan says:

    In my 21 years as a public school teacher I used state textbooks that were generally accurate, yet contained sporadic errors. (One Social Studies text, the only one state-approved at the time, informed us that the Rio Grande formed the boundary between California and Mexico. A current text wants us to tell the kids that the City of Monterey is at a higher elevation than Fresno.) While I would not recommend salting the texts with errors, I did find that these misstatements could provide teachable moments. (“OK, Guys, get out your maps and find the Rio Grande….”)

    To the extent that Andrew’s aim is to correct the data, then Dr. Meier is entirely correct-communicate directly with the source. But I think that the aim is also to educate the public, and an interesting error has provided a teachable moment. As a result of the blog post, I now know what the NSDC is, what kind of data it makes available, and how it is contributing to the public dialogue. As a result of Dr. Meier’s response, I know more about how the data is collected, and the hazards of real-time/near-real-time reporting. I knew none of these things before.

    I used to say that if I ever retired from teaching I was gonna go get me an education. I hope this is not a vice. If it is, then Andrew Watts is an enabler.

  115. mehmehmehmeh says:

    You should have given him more time to correct or revise. Near real-time data is a godsend. If you embarrass him too much, then say bye-bye to real-time data and hello to “massaged” data that shows up weeks later.

    Any comments on the Jan NASA GISS data?

  116. tarpon says:

    Isn’t the real question why do reports, charts and data series get published that always seem to favor the AGW hoax?

    Isn’t this little thing like the Data Quality Act as shown here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_Quality_Act
    supposed to be followed. I remember back when the Republicans passed this, the intent was to stop this AGW misinformation and a bunch more government junk science, from becoming public.

  117. terry46 says:

    Off topic sort of but when I looked at the reports you pu for Mark Sereze did about hoe north pole may be ice free in 2008 and the n to say it was the second lowest everwhy don’t they just tell us the truth????? Which is the second RECORDED lowest they have.These reports only go back to 1979 if memory serves me correctly.

  118. Something still stinks in the land of NSIDC. Assuming that the same data is used to generate the graph(http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_images/N_timeseries.png) as well as the map (http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_images/N_daily_extent_hires.png), then the graph is still showing far less ice extent than it should be. As can be seen (and has been already commented on), there are vast areas on the map that are coloured “ice free” blue that are in reality not (eg. Bering Sea, Hudson Bay, Laptev Sea). Obviously an error. If the above assumption is true, then the graph is also counting the blue areas as anomalously ice free and therefore 2008-2009 line should be well above the 2006-2007 line.

  119. Mikey says:

    I like to see major errors pointed out promptly for the same reason the agencies making them would prefer they weren’t. It shows errors exist. They’re not infallible. It advises caution in attaching too much importance to something like an Al Gore slide show.

  120. anna v says:

    Sylvia (00:28:05)

    I have not forgotten the chaos question.

  121. Climate scientists today seem bent and determined to base their predictions of eminent disaster by beginning with questionable data. When someone points out bad data, their reaction is to ‘shoot the messenger’ (Anthony, Steve, etc.) instead of acknowledgment that they are fallible, and so is their data.

    All this points out to me is that when you are entrenched in one of those great government/academia jobs, you needn’t worry much about quality, just go with the flow. This is what we have to look forward to when we let government do things that would be better left to private companies and individuals. Guess we’d better get used to it, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

  122. Indyana Bones says:

    James (07:58:16) :

    “It’s also worth pointing out that yesterday was Presidents Day, a federal holiday.”

    While Presidents Day is a Federal Holiday the NSIDC operates under the auspices of the University of Colorado’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. As such, State organizations do not necessarily give their employees the holiday and many not directly employed by Federal Government call it a work day. Further, had this been an issue would not Walt have mentioned that they were unstaffed due to holiday?

    The reaction here is more of an outpouring of real dismay at Dr. Meier’s dismissal of the error as un-“newsworthy.” Clearly there is antagonism raised by the steady refusal of institutional science to acknowledge the mountains of data questioning all aspects of global warming. Had skeptics not felt dismissed or belittled by these organizations – the reaction would probably not be so vehement.

  123. Jerker Andersson says:

    It seems loke those arctice ice research centers are on their watch if the data is used faulty, at least when it does contradict AGW.

    This is from cryosphere todays mainpage:

    February 15, 2009
    In an opinion piece by George Will published on February 15, 2009 in the Washington Post, George Will states “According to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.”

    We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data shows that on February 15, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million sq. km and on February 15, 2009, global sea ice area was 15.45 million sq. km. Therefore, global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979. This decrease in sea ice area is roughly equal to the area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined.

    It is disturbing that the Washington Post would publish such information without first checking the facts.

    My comment:
    Why isn’t it disturbing when there are predictions made of a icefree antarcits and northpole within 1-4 years when doing a linear interpolation over 2 years? Isnt that a faulty use of data also?

  124. Jerker Andersson says:

    I made a typo above, it should not be antarctic in the end but arctic…

  125. bill p says:

    bill p (08:25:51) :

    The appearance of a “precipitous plunge” in sea ice seems timed for an Obama announcement in Denver. You have to wonder what funding is headed their way.

    REPLY: Doubtful. Automation error it is, conspiracy it is not. Let’s not ascribe motive. – Anthony

    Sorry. I was over-stimulated this morning.

  126. James the Less says:

    And, at the other pole (so to speak):

    Here we have the Astronomy Picture of the Day for February 15…

    http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap090215.html

    I can’t stand it!

    As a SCADA engineer dealing with real time data, I became aware VERY EARLY in my careeer that you always put up a caveat when publishing anything based on the data. Real-time implies “dirty”.

  127. Neil Crafter says:

    “bluegrue (09:12:43) :
    The solution to this could be of course to just hire someone to do the QA and delay posting for 3 months to ensure there is enough time for QA.

    It just begs two questions:
    a) Who’s gonna pay the QA person?
    b) Who’s gonna be happy to wait 3 months for “current” data?

    There was a lot of speculation, that this glitch would be picked up by “warmers” or the press as another jigsaw piece to prove AGW. Has that actually happened?”

    Are you seriously suggesting it would take three months to check one day’s data? And then presumably another three months for the next day’s as well? I think you’d fall behind real time by quite a bit after a year. This glitch did not happen in one day but was the cumulative of a number of days, all with incorrect data. This shows that no-one at NSIDC is applying any QA to this data product, and surely one man hour per day would be enough to ensure the data is not in error. Three months?

  128. Paul Maynard says:

    Completely off the main thread but on the issues of reporting I suggest your readers look at

    http://www.cii.co.uk/app/news/default.aspx?endstem=1&id=911 – I’ve pasted the article below

    and today’s Daily Telegraph (UK) article on Geo Engineering on the “Science” page.

    Read and weep or maybe chortle.

    Regards

    Paul

    CII Thinkpiece says climate change biggest challenge for insurers in our time
    Press Release / News item
    17/02/2009

    Major changes to the world’s climate will mean significant challenges for insurers of all types of business for the coming years, argues Maureen Agnew, Senior Research Associate at the Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, in a CII Thinkpiece article published today.

    This Thinkpiece summarises a chapter in a major report entitled Coping with Climate Change: Risks and Opportunities for Insurers edited by Andrew Dlugolecki, to be published by the CII on 23 February. The third CII report on climate change presents an overview of the scientific evidence behind climate change, highlights some of the most serious issues that lie ahead, and emphasises the clear and pressing need for insurers to assess and effectively manage these risks. Dr Dlugolecki previously sat on the Intergovernmental Committee on Climate Change which won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

    The risk of summer drought is likely to increase in Europe, Dr Agnew concludes, with heat waves of the type witnessed in Australia this year becoming more frequent across most land areas. At the same time, heavy precipitation events are very likely to increase in frequency and will augment flood risk, creating serious consequences for the environment and human activities.

    Some of the most striking projections include:

    In London, the number of hot days (i.e. at least 25°C) could double by the 2020s, and could be three to five times greater by the 2050s.
    Very hot days, with temperatures greater than 30°C will also become more common, as will extreme temperatures such as those experienced during the heat wave of August 2003.
    By the end of the 21st century in Europe, it has been projected that every summer in many regions of Europe will be hotter than the 10% hottest summers during the period 1961 to 1990.
    In the UK, the greatest increase in rainfall is projected for southern England, where there could be 4.5 more days of heavy precipitation in the winter season.
    Rising sea levels and greater storm activity suggest that storm surge risk is likely to increase along many coasts. The largest increases in storm surge are along the coast of southeast England and amount to 1.2 m by the end of the 21st century.
    David Thomson, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at the CII said: “These projections on rising temperatures due to climate change make disturbing reading.” “This Thinkpiece – and indeed the third cycle of climate change research to be published by the CII next week – shows why this issue is a clear and present concern for the insurance sector. It provides evidence of both risks and opportunities for the sector, demonstrating the urgent need to use its expertise to lead in the development of solutions in mitigation and adaptation strategies. Above all, we need industry leadership to ensure we act now,” he added.

  129. hotrod says:

    I don’t know why you think that the response of the sensors and algorithms to clouds etc. have not been investigated, more of the ’scientists are idiots meme’, I suppose! More usually such wedges are due to missing swathes such as shown below, they often extend much further towards the pole:

    Perhaps it is because this sort of obvious missing ice has been commented on multiple times to date on this site, and so far I have not seen any one at NSIDC (otherwise in the loop person) comment on if they are looking for a cause or if they have identified a cause. (I could have missed it, but pointing me to it if it has occurred is the solution of choice, rather than a snarky comment that I am implying all scientists are idiots.)

    I say obvious, because in the case of the Hudson bay, local observers have verified that they do not have open water as implied by these images. Likewise the simple reasonableness check that it is unlikely vast areas of ice will suddenly disappear during sub zero weather, nor is it likely for a smooth edged wedge of ice to disappear. Posts here have already noted and made the obvious connection you pointed out that the wedge probably is due to data drop out, but I wonder why that data drop out is not either — highlighted by a note, indicated by a different color that signifies missing data, or handled by dropping back to the most recent good data for that zone.

    The original comment about JAXA being from a different sensor, explicitly suggetsts that it is good science to compare similar output from different sources to help identify errors or to understand the differences in the nature of the different data products. I was just following up on that observation and commenting on the differences that I see, and wonder about their cause.

    If differences in resolution are to blame I still would expect that in both cases the before and after values would vary by roughly the same percent unless we are talking about the summer breakup when there might be a large number of very small ice blocks that drop out at the course resolution and are still seen at the finer resolution. During the winter freeze season when we are largely talking about large blocks of ice, I would not think the issue for ice on the same day of the year would matter as far as sensor resolution is concerned, as typical ice block size for that date should be reasonably similar, so the errors would be uniform year to year.

    Larry

  130. Dave Andrews says:

    Mikey,

    You are absolutely right. The fact that Walt Meier, to his credit, responded but said “this isn’t news” shows that (as we all know) mistakes happen all the time. This one was BIG enough that it would probably have been picked up in house without Anthony’s admirable prompting.

    But how many other smaller, yet cumulative, errors have slipped through the net in the past and skewed the information presented?

  131. Dave Andrews says:

    Dang,

    should have read ‘even without Anthony’s admirable prompting’

  132. Mike Jonas says:

    Anthony – in cases like this in future, I suggest a small change in procedure : (a) notify the source (in this case NSIDC) that there might be an issue, at the same time as blogging it, (b) ask the source for a reply, (c) say in the blog that the source has been notified and asked for a reply.

    Could save a lot of kerfuffle.

  133. Paul Friesen says:

    You probably saved them and yourself about a thousand e mails since possibly millions are watching the ice extent since agw has made it a big test of global warming.

  134. Richard Sharpe says:

    Cryosphere seems to be doing some funky things as well, by comparison to last year … Has Canada come out of its deep freeze yet?

  135. Tom says:

    While it is important to call attention to errors, we should probably be guided by a sense of caution and proportionality. This error might have been corrected in week, not a day, without the blog–big deal. If we react with the same level of suspicion and outrage at a minor error like this as we do over something like bristlecone pines being a proxy for rainfall not temperature, we run the risk of not being taken seriously on either.

  136. timbrom says:

    Paul Maynard

    Beat you to it! I posted (OT) re the Telegraph article back up the page a way. I also wrote to the newspaper’s Editor, but with little hope of publication. Over ten years ago I wrote to the ‘paper to complain about their description of CO2 as the “main greenhouse gas” to no avail.

  137. Ray Reynolds says:

    I don’t think there is any question Anthony was correct in posting about NSIDC on the straying graph, its the type of exposure that may inspire them (NSIDC) to put in place means to prevent its happening in the future.

    Also inre to confusion over ice extent.

    Spotter airplanes fly the perimeter of a brush fire with a GPS marking waypoints to determine the number of acres burned,
    seems like they could do the same thing along the edge of an ice field to confirm extent.

  138. First 2 rules of public life:
    1.The Press (not you) decides what is news.
    2. Respect Rule #1.

  139. evanjones says:

    Tony the Terrible knocking ‘em dead and checking up on ‘em. Hats off to all blogs checking up. Hats off to WUWT!

    The Whole World is Watching!
    The Whole World is Watching!
    The Whole World is Watching!

  140. evanjones says:

    BBC, B-ware. We will be the guards guarding the Guardian. The Peers are no longer our Peerless Leaders. The Independent is getting a little good Old Independent Review.

    No more free rides. You can bet they have a nervous eye out–nowadays.

    Blogward, Ho, me hearties! Arrrr.

  141. John Philip
    Thanks for your help and correction, much appreciated.

    Re reporting standards… there seems to be a whole spate of MSM proclaiming “Global Warming has gotten worse!!!” at present.

  142. An Inquirer says:

    The name of Walter Cronkite was hailed in this thread. I remember watching a documentary in the 1970s that he hosted. In his conversations with scientists, the message was how the world was cooling and what disasters awaited the human race because of global cooling. It would be interesting to get a copy of that documentary.

  143. bluegrue says:

    @ Neil Crafter (12:27:10)
    Do I really need to include sarcasm tags? Still, what people ask for here on this blog is better quality assurance for near-real-time preliminary data. Better QA will give a more reliable product, but would eat up quite a few man hours and take time. So who is going to pay the money for it and is this really an efficient way to spend that money? Do you want it spent on better presentation of preliminary data, or good quality of final products and research. The daily NSIDC data is held to higher quality requirements, than it was intended for, IMHO. You have read Dr. Meier in the other thread? (emphasis added)

    Scientists are well-aware of issues using near real-time data and no final conclusions are drawn from such data.

    In general, it would be more productive for Anthony to email us directly rather than posting it on his blog without giving us a chance to respond. I apologize for my snide comment regarding this, but posting this to a widely-read blog only increases the number of people we have to respond to and takes away from what we primarily do here at NSIDC, which is science and data management.

    I don’t think, supplying near-realtime data to the general public is part of the NSIDC mission. The Arctic Sea Ice News is something they can generate in the current form, without using up too many resources. Improving it, is one option open to them. Turning the near-realtime data into a restricted access resource and replacing it in the news section with weekly, monthly or even just quarterly summaries is another. Does anyone here consider this scenario to be a desirable one?

  144. pft says:

    Science seems to take errors with a grain of salt these days. Errors which would cause huge issues in the commercial sector are met with a yawn or a grin and an oops. What quality standards do they adhere to that allows this sloppiness. Seems less stringent than ISO 17025 for commercial labs.

    Errors and mistakes happen. But they should never be tolerated, and when detected, root cause must be discovered and corrective action taken. Data made public should be made reviewed and be provided with a date time stamp. If it is not possible to review real time data immediately, which is understandable, a notice that data is preliminary and should not be used until X number of days after release should be given (which would be the time needed to review and confirm the data).

    Below is a comment that never got posed over at Real Climate over Steigs latest papers error on Antartactica due to AWS issues.

    “[Commenter] How do we know there were no errors in the measurements at the other stations ?

    [Response: One never knows there are no errors....]

    [My rejected comment] This is a rather causal response to an important question. In the business world working with a testing agency, if I gave a client the same answer, I would lose a client and my job. That such errors are not detected in the peer review process is bothersome although not unexpected, as are many of the issues on data integrity brought up on some of the skeptic sites. Errors happen of course, but never accepted w/o consequence or further investigation as to root cause.

    When we are asked to commit to major lifestyle changes and lower living standards on the basis of articles such as this using data from various sources, one expects the quality of the data to be high and those using it to validate it. Based on my experience, when there is one error in a set of data as a result of a casual or random review, it is likely there are others if a more rigorous investigation is done on the remaining data. Other web sites have shown visual issues with land surface temperature measurements in the US for example, so we know issues exist with some of the sites providing data, but the issue does not attract much attention, so it is difficult to know if corrective action is being taken.

    What quality control system is being used by the agencies who provide this temperature data?. Are they accredited by any 3rd party agencies and subject to inspection and audit, or are we expected to have faith in their integrity and competence w/o verification? You know the old saying, trust but verify.”

  145. Adam Soereg says:

    At the moment we have a heavy snowfall in Central Hungary, as far as I remember there wasn’t any snowstorm like this since about 2003. It must be AGW and man-made CO2, we are only experiencing one of its outrageous negative effects.

    I’m afraid we reached a tipping point. One million squre kms of ice has melted during one day. I am fully convinced that it is quite alarming, we should take it seriously.

  146. Normally, such items should not be news worthy. We should be seeking answers, not headlines. The issue is that “political scientists” (ie Dr. Stadler in Atlas Shrugged) have politicized the work hard working scientists. The Dr. Stadler’s make it about political science, funding and news. They corrupt science. Now it is absolutely critical that the political science sources be monitored for facts.
    One needs to feel sorry for the scientists working for these organizations and working under Dr. Stadler.

    One also needs to realize the politicians will quickly throw the scientists under the bus when the tide changes. As global warming crisis goes away, politicians like Al Gore will be quick to note they were “mislead” by scientists.

  147. bluegrue says:

    pft (15:27:46)

    Errors and mistakes happen. But they should never be tolerated, and when detected, root cause must be discovered and corrective action taken.

    In science as well as in the economy you need to take into account the cost of correcting an error in relation to its impact. It usually is not worth your time to hunt down an error, which if corrected will change your result in a non-significant digit only. Results don’t have to be perfect, they just need to be good enough to let you reliably test your hypothesis.

  148. John H. says:

    Now this site/link appears down completely

    http://nsidc.com/arcticseaicenews/

  149. George E. Smith says:

    Well it seems to me that the people who have “the data” think it is ok; how much checking is enough? So they go with it, and it turns out there is an error in the data. It is not unusual that those who are most familiar with the data, are the last to recognize the error.

    Somebody eventually spots the error; in this case Anthony did, and he alerted his visitors (here); some of whom may already have puzzled over the cause of the ice “anomaly”. Eventually Dr Meier found out about the error, and it got fixed.

    What’s wrong with this process? Not a damn thing that I can perceive; the system worked, and the error got corrected maybe sooner than it otherwise might have.

    And Dr Meier doesn’t have egg all over his face; the error got fixed; Wonderful !

    George

  150. Brett_McS says:

    I would have thought Dr. Meier’s response would be heartfelt thanks that you picked up an error before a news organisation did. The subsequent correction process would have been very messy and embarassing.

  151. yyzdnl says:

    Looks like:

    Haste + Haste = Waste

    Jumping on the published data was the correct answer and I didn’t read anything in your original post that was combative. Although, in haste you didn’t leave an easy out as already mentioned in prior posts.

    I am sure it is tough for both, you and the NSIDC to provide the real time information we crave. I do find it interesting that a quick look at the timeline indicates the NSIDC may be watching your blog with a keaner eye than thier own data output.

    Daniel

    Silly Quote:
    “Your keeping us alive now, you forget about that one, and you keep them coming in, your doing well.” – We Where Soldiers

  152. Richard Sharpe says:

    John H says:

    Now this site/link appears down completely

    http://nsidc.com/arcticseaicenews/

    Well, it is back up.

    What would be really interesting is side-by-side views of the NSIDC shot at that site and the Canadian version. After all, the stupid Canadians must be wrong. American technology is never wrong.

  153. Glenn says:

    George E. Smith (17:11:52) :

    Well it seems to me that the people who have “the data” think it is ok; how much checking is enough? So they go with it, and it turns out there is an error in the data. It is not unusual that those who are most familiar with the data, are the last to recognize the error.

    Somebody eventually spots the error; in this case Anthony did, and he alerted his visitors (here); some of whom may already have puzzled over the cause of the ice “anomaly”. Eventually Dr Meier found out about the error, and it got fixed.

    What’s wrong with this process? Not a damn thing that I can perceive; the system worked, and the error got corrected maybe sooner than it otherwise might have.

    And Dr Meier doesn’t have egg all over his face; the error got fixed; Wonderful !

    *******************************************

    One thing wrong with “this” process is that Anthony isn’t part of the process, unless he draws a NSIDC paycheck. Since I doubt he is, that is one thing wrong with the process.
    We have no idea really whether this was an error or what the error was, or whether it would have been corrected *at any time in the future* or whether it will get corrected if it were an error, and we don’t know that any error has been “fixed”. Unless I have missed some news, Walt Meier has not provided any real information to date as to what did happen or what might happen in the future as a result of this incident. He left more questions than answers, and said they would “look into it”, but as of this post their latest graph has not been updated and is several days short of being current, and their ice image is from 16 Feb.
    If it takes someone from outside the agency to bring attention to “errors”, I wonder if they would really ever get “fixed”. Seems to me the best time to verify and QC data is as soon as practicable after receiving data, not waiting a month or six to do some “rigorous” QC as the NSIDC website claims. But all Walt said was that they do “some manual QC”, but didn’t mention when this happens in the process of getting, processing and archiving data, or what QC even means.
    I think Walt and the NSIDC have egg all over their faces.

  154. Mike Bryant says:

    Funny thing about American technology. Near the time we had all the problems with hanging chads in Florida, the Canadians also had an election. They simply made an “X” in a box beside their candidate… no problems. KISS…

  155. sammy k says:

    as i think about this further, perhaps dr meier you can explain how you calculate 15% sea ice extent…what remote sensing techniques are being used and what are their margins of error? specifically, why is it 15%?

  156. Richard deSousa says:

    Let’s hope Mark Serreze is being reamed by Dr. Meier for being so sloppy if indeed the data used to produce the error was Serreze’s doing.

    REPLY: Given that there seems to be be no change from the famous “ice free north pole” Serreze zinger, doubtful. -Anthony

  157. Alaska Mike says:

    Anthony:
    Have you seen the comparison of Feb 16 and 17 at

    http://igloo.atmos.uiuc.edu/cgi-bin/test/print.sh?fm=02&fd=17&fy=1980&sm=02&sd=17&sy=2009

    In 24 hours Hudson Bay has become 1/2 to 3/4 ice free. Siberia also developed large ice free areas in the Arctic Ocean. The Siberian Pacific coast was Ice free on 2-16 and has major ice on building on 2-17.

    Something is terribly wrong…WAWT

  158. Lance says:

    Cryosphere Today has lots of missing data and duplicate sets, sometimes days. But that is expected and I can live with missing data. The changing data not so much.
    I noticed right after that weird missing slice triangle anomaly that appeared a month or so back that the red outer edge new ice references were disappearing from the new data as older purple ice took over. I thought that it was just adjustments of sensitivity. I’ve noticed how the older data new red ice sets have slowly became shaded into purple, I wish now I had taken snapshot of before and after, I would of never thought it necessary.
    I suspected some messaging is going on at both ends of the data and stopped going there, and as in the last few days, it’s like three card Monty with ice.

    Keep your eye on the lady and lay your money down … ; )

  159. Pramatic says:

    Anthony:

    You might be interested in a reply received today from NSIDC Science Communications with respect to a request that a follow up note detail the causes of error, and plan to mitigate future occurrences:

    “Dear Sir or Madam,

    First, thank you for your interest in the daily sea ice extent images. We are working to solve the problem, which appears to have been caused by a problem with the SSM/I sensor on the F15 satellite. Our scientists are also preparing a more detailed explanation of the error, which will be posted later today or early tomorrow.

    Regarding our funding, Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis is a public service that is only partially funded by NASA–much of the work that goes into the Web site is essentially a volunteer effort by NSIDC scientists and communications staff.

    Please let me know if you have any further questions.

    Regards,
    Katherine Leitzell
    NSIDC Science Communications”
    1:45 PM PST 2/17/2009

    Undoubtedly the reason for this prompt response was my e-mail copied to the supervisors of NSIDC sponsors. I will look into the question of volunteerism since it may be a factor in the politicization of data – intended or not.

  160. Richard M says:

    bluegrue (16:29:06) :

    “In science as well as in the economy you need to take into account the cost of correcting an error in relation to its impact. It usually is not worth your time to hunt down an error, which if corrected will change your result in a non-significant digit only. Results don’t have to be perfect, they just need to be good enough to let you reliably test your hypothesis.”

    Not a good approach. Problem identification is part of understanding whether a found error may be pointing to something far worse just under the covers. Ignoring an error just because you think it *might* not be important is often evidence of overconfidence (or maybe arrogance) as anyone who has worked in engineering fields can tell you. This may be the situation in the Steig et al paper. We’ll see if the original error ends up being unique or an indication of things to come.

    OTOH, the NSIDC error fits into another category of error. Let’s say you walked into a flower shop to have an arrangement made. As you walked in you noticed a couple of arrangements with wilted flowers. I don’t know about you but I would turn right around an leave. Clearly, the shop owner does not have an emphasis on quality products. That is the image being projected by NSIDC.

  161. Alaska Mike says:

    My previous post from 2-17@19:00 should have this corrected link for the two date images:

    http://igloo.atmos.uiuc.edu/cgi-bin/test/print.sh?fm=02&fd=16&fy=2009&sm=02&sd=17&sy=2009

    The volcano fumes must be getting to me.

    My apologies

  162. Frederick Michael says:

    OK folks , the evening update for the AMSR-E sea ice extent is in and it shows an increase for 2/17/09. The NSIDC plot should move up tomorrow — some retroactively.

    As Anthony has pointed out, any problems with the NSIDC plot are completely innocent. The overreaction by some folks somewhat justifies their concern over the publicity. The fascist style of Gore and his minions has kinda put everyone on edge.

  163. MikeF says:

    People and organizations make mistakes all the time. While this particular mistake was harmless enough (and that is only because Anthony and others had warned them before MSM run with it), the big question is if NSIDC has learned anything from it. Have they added slope checking to their QC procedure? Have they created a QC procedure if they didn’t have one? Have they done anything to make sure this error doesn’t happen again? If they did, they should mention it in some way. If they didn’t do anything then they should be vilified and badgered until they do. In commercial world, if I made mistake like that and just dismissed it like nothing happened I would have lost my job. Not for making a mistake, but for refusing to learn anything from it. In my many years of making various mistakes I got it beaten into me that every time I have to:
    1. Document what happened
    2. Document why it happened
    3. Document actions needed to prevent or minimize chances of this happening in the future
    4. Implement them.
    First 3 do not always required, at least not formally, but #4 is a must.
    Making stupid mistakes is mildly embarrassing. Making same ones many times in a row is (and should be) a career killer.

  164. Brendan H says:

    Frank: “If I were a reporter and visited the web site two days ago, I could have written- “According to data provided by the NSIDC, there has been a shocking drop in the arctic sea ice extent.…”

    No reporter worth their salt would have written such a sensationalist story without first checking with the source. Elementary stuff.

    Robert A Cook: “That it was the NSIDC that was “pushing” the “story” out on the public without checking THEIR facts.”

    I wasn’t aware that NSIDC provided an editorial comment to the graph. The thread headed “NSIDC makes a big sea ice extent jump – but why” doesn’t say anything about that.

    “That the NSIDC did not recall or change ANY of their graphics UNTIL the story was caught from the web…”

    As I understand it, the graph is automatically updated in real time. That’s a matter of quality control rather than propaganda.

    Anthony: “Scientists that produce publicly available data on a production basis should have a care about quality control.”

    Fair point. I guess I have reservations about the way these mistakes are handled. Some people use them to flog their favourite agendas, imply sinister intent and and generally beat up on the climate agencies and AGW in general. These distractions muddy the water and impede understanding of the issue.

  165. LarryOldtimer says:

    Having worked in small organizations as well as large ones as a professional civil engineer, in the large organizations I have run across gross errors . . . so gross as to make me blink my eyes, and say to myself, “Surely, this can’t possible be right.” Sure enough, they weren’t right.

    When I took it upon myself to run these “can’t possibly be right” things down, as I always did, the response was always the same.

    “I noticed that myself, but I thought since it seemed so obviously wrong, that surely someone had noticed along the line, and verified it.”

    Everyone “along the line” had the same response. “I assumed that someone else had checked this data.”

    Good on you, Anthony, for running down what almost everyone else thought had been verified by someone other than themselves.

  166. bluegrue says:

    @ Richard M
    My response that you quote was directed at pft (15:27:46). He was advocating most stringent error control for preliminary data irrespective of cost and effort, although a final, error corrected version would be produced at a later point of time. pft further posited, that any error whatsoever needs to be corrected.

    I was not advocating turning a blind eye to errors, of course you need investigate error soureces. However, once you have identified the error, you do need to evaluate, whether the error is worth the effort in future. In production, it can cost you less to leave a faulty production line unchanged and just identify and throw away faulty products.

  167. bluegrue says:

    Pramatic (19:12:13)

    Undoubtedly the reason for this prompt response was my e-mail copied to the supervisors of NSIDC sponsors. I will look into the question of volunteerism since it may be a factor in the politicization of data – intended or not.

    Never underestimate your own importance, never fail to ascribe mallice where an innocent explanation is most likely.

  168. bluegrue says:

    The more I read the more I see one thing that has gone wrong.

    The error was spotted by multiple people, who informed Anthony. All of them, Anthony included, seem to have been too busy blogging about the glitch rather than do the obvious thing first: inform NSIDC. I’d be happy to stand corrected on this, however I have yet to see a mention of an such e-mail being sent to NSDIC by any of the bloggers in question. Informing NSDIC was finally done by the readers of the blog, in a multitude of e-mails instead of a single one.

    Would it really have hurt, to send an e-mail to NSDIC, informing them of the error and of the fact that you are about to put a blog post up. It would then have been a good idea to include a sentence like “I have informed the NSDIC of the error, let’s see how they react. In the meantime, what is your take on the error and possible causes. I will collect interesting ideas and forward them.” Why?
    1) This would have been the swiftest way to deal with the error
    2) The blog post would still be there, with all the discussion
    3) NSDIC would not have had to deal with a multitude of e-mails of more or less the same content, answering each instead of working on fixing the error.
    4) If the near-realtime data posting is indeed an volunteer effort – I have no reason to doubt it, given the e-mail response cited by Pramatic (19:12:13) – the way Anthony seems to have done it, blog but no e-mail, is the best way to get this service culled.

  169. anna v says:

    Sylvia (00:28:05) :

    Here are references to books on chaos recommended by the person who organizes the academic seminars on chaos and comlexity in my old institute. I asked for Goldstein Mechanics level.

    - Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos
    By S. H. Strogatz

    – Chaotic Dynamics
    By T. Tel and M. Gruiz

    – Chaotic Dynamics: An Introduction
    By G. L. Baker and J. P. Gollub

    Also any book on Nonlinear Dynamics
    will have a large part devoted to Chaos.

  170. anna v says:

    P.S also I am told by somebody else that the third edition of Goldstein has a good introduction to Chaos

  171. bluegrue says:

    Anthony wrote:

    By the time I had posted it I figured that surely one of the thousands of people that view the page had dropped an email, as they almost always do.

    How many page views does your blog have per day? The entire NSIDC domain has about half as many page views as your blog does, according to ALEXA. Keep in mind, that page views is not the same as individual visitors. Your blog, Anthony, has about twice the reach of NSIDC!

  172. bluegrue says:

    Moderator, could you please correct the last line in my previous post to read “Your blog, Anthony” instead of “Your, Anthony”. Thank you and sorry.

  173. just me says:

    @Anthony

    watt do you think about this?: you notice an error, you wirte an email to the Web site, you wait for response, error will be corrected, you write a small blog post. Well, okay, it documents the change and your “controlling”. ;)

    But what are you doing actually? Writing stuff like this:

    Something odd is going on at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

    Something is rotten in Norway – 500,000 sq-km of sea ice disappears overnight

    the Mauna loa thing, the GISS thing etc. etc.

    GISS Releases (Suspect) October 2008 Data (you denoted it as “embarrassing error”)

    and so on and so on. That is arrogant and disgusting and does not matter at all. It sucks.

  174. thefordprefect says:

    just me (03:20:34) :
    I totally agree.
    CA and to some extent WUWT purport to be analytical of data with no agenda.
    The headlines and language tell it all.

    Why report the error here before getting it corrected. This in no way helps the suggestions made above of getting the data corrected to stop the media picking it up.

    There is one agenda – embarass the supposedly AGW supporting scientists/agencies as much as possible!

    It is very correct that errors should be pointed out to those that made them. I see no problem then reporting factually in a blog.

    The acolytes of WUWT and CA foaming at the mouth, jumping up and down shouting “gotcha!!” and laughing hysterically flashes before me on these sort of occasions.

  175. Mary Hinge says:

    Brendan H (22:44:55) :
    I guess I have reservations about the way these mistakes are handled. Some people use them to flog their favourite agendas, imply sinister intent and and generally beat up on the climate agencies and AGW in general. These distractions muddy the water and impede understanding of the issue.

    You hit the nail on the head here. That’s one of the ways the septic community works, instead of trying to disprove the mechanisms of AGW by scientific means, using the relevant peer reviewed publications, they prefer the ‘tabloid’ route of trying to discredit the data and pick holes in any little data issue. It has happened before, the evolution debate, plate tectonic debates, asteroid cratering on the moon/earth and now AGW. At least for these issues it was through the correct channels, that’s how we learn and adjust if necessary. With the explosion of Blogs we know have ‘fast food’ science where there is little care in the selection of data to support their alternative hypothesis. It is a self defeating approach as without the hard science behind it, it will eventually go the way of other conspiracy theories such as Roswell, grassy knolls etc.

    REPLY: Mary, you are out of line. I don’t care for this sort of commentary, especially your use of the word “septic”. which I consider emotional and childish. Do not post this sort of commentary again. – Anthony

  176. Phil. says:

    Frederick Michael (20:12:51) :
    OK folks , the evening update for the AMSR-E sea ice extent is in and it shows an increase for 2/17/09. The NSIDC plot should move up tomorrow — some retroactively.

    Possibly, however NSIDC uses a different sensor (SSM/I) which is having problems so until that is fixed it’s possible that they may not be able to update?

  177. John Galt says:

    Anybody remember when the NY Times ‘discovered’ the North Pole was ice free one summer? How many people still don’t know it’s ice free almost all summers, even during the coldest years?

  178. John Galt says:

    You hit the nail on the head here. That’s one of the ways the septic community works, instead of trying to disprove the mechanisms of AGW by scientific means, using the relevant peer reviewed publications, they prefer the ‘tabloid’ route of trying to discredit the data and pick holes in any little data issue. It has happened before, the evolution debate, plate tectonic debates, asteroid cratering on the moon/earth and now AGW. At least for these issues it was through the correct channels, that’s how we learn and adjust if necessary. With the explosion of Blogs we know have ‘fast food’ science where there is little care in the selection of data to support their alternative hypothesis. It is a self defeating approach as without the hard science behind it, it will eventually go the way of other conspiracy theories such as Roswell, grassy knolls etc.

    How this then:
    _ No positive correlation observed between rising levels of atmospheric CO2 and temperate

    _ No demonstrated cause and effect between rising levels of CO2 and temperature

    _ No greenhouse gas warming signature in the atmosphere

    _ Computer models unable to predict climate

    _ MWP was warmer than the 20th Century

    _ No observed warming for years

    _ Ice core data shows temperatures first go up, then CO2 goes up. CO2 continues to increase after the start of global cooling

    What did I miss?

  179. anna v says:

    just me (03:20:34) :
    thefordprefect (04:58:32) :
    Mary Hinge (05:40:02) :

    Please go and have a look on the following plots:
    anna v (22:59:00) :

    http://igloo.atmos.uiuc.edu/cgi-bin/test/print.sh?fm=12&fd=06&fy=2008&sm=02&sd=16&sy=2009

    Do you see the necklace of beads on the left december 6 2008 plot?

    Is this a reasonable data representation?

    I copy from a post above:

    We had a discussion in the blog at that time.
    I sent an inquiry to the link provided then ( I think it was a person, this has changed in the current home page), politely framing my puzzlement and asking if the conclusion of the blog discussion that it is an artifact of the way the satellite data are combined, was true.
    I never got an answer. And the plot is still there. It was there in other views in their archives last time I checked.

    So much for your “reasonable” suggestions of what to do when you see an error on a publicly funded web page.

  180. just me says:

    @anna v

    hm, it is not the same website. If somebody ignores you, you may write about the Website. I think that is reasonable. But you have to try it first. FIRST. And you have to give them some time. The daily, near-real time service is pretty voluntary. Furthermore, Anthony wrote, Dr Meier has been very cooperative in previous discussions. Anthony gave his “Thank you” in an interesting way.

    May be, the NSDIC and the others should stop the service. May be, you have to cool down a little bit. You should not read to much into it and care more about monthly values and see the daily values as a “toy” ;).

    Another example: think about the rotten Norway headline i gave: Anthony did not see an error then. The error had been there for weeks before Anthonys “discovery”. Anthony noticed only the correction of the error and screeched about it.

    Do you think that behavior is okay?

  181. thefordprefect says:

    The maps provided are not used to determine sea ice extents (these maps show 30% and above; extent is for 15% and above). They do not supply the prime source data. They may be publically funded but only as part of University of Illinois.

  182. Jerker Andersson says:

    Alaska Mike (19:00:04) :

    Anthony:
    Have you seen the comparison of Feb 16 and 17 at

    http://igloo.atmos.uiuc.edu/cgi-bin/test/print.sh?fm=02&fd=17&fy=1980&sm=02&sd=17&sy=2009

    In 24 hours Hudson Bay has become 1/2 to 3/4 ice free.

    I also noticed this weird sea ice data. Gigantic areas loosing ice while others are gaining huge amount of sea ice in 24h. Somthing is wrong with the satellite data or the processing of it at cryosphere today and possibly others atm.

    Also as mentioned above the snow cover covers sea area making the sea ice looking visually smaller in recent data.
    Can one assume that the sea area coverd with snow is actually counted as sea ice while the picture shows something else?

  183. Frederick Michael says:

    Phil. (06:08:16) :

    You nailed this one. The NSIDC picture is full of voids and the plot isn’t updated. I have even seen a whole week without an update, but usually without a new picture.

  184. Mary Hinge says:

    anna v (08:30:17) :

    A simple check shows it is an artifact, in any data collection from any instrument there will always be occasions when this happens. This comes to my point that if using data or graphs a bit of research and crosschecking goes along way. Just looking at the previous day and the day after shows this is obviously an artifact. If one was to publish a paper or a blog entry then the writer has a responsibility of checking data/graphs/maps etc. especially when from automated sources before publishing.

  185. Everyone should check the NSIDC site now. They have taken the images down and issued a discussion regarding a data outage.

  186. Definitely worth blogging about, no? :)

  187. John H says:

    I suspect the erratic plotting of ice since mid January has been a result of faulty data. Or someone spilled their coffee.

    Perhaps the corrected plotting will resemble the other sources making 08-09 ice much closer to the 79-06 average.

    Which spells trouble for the trend makers at the IPCC.

    After all, are they not depending upon the ice retreating?

    Answer me this.
    What, ultimately will be the initial nail that attaches the lid on the AGW coffin?
    Which will be the most easy to confirm?
    Lack of sea ice depletion, lack of warming, lack of sea rise, lack of CO2?

  188. Micajah says:

    As they examine their data I hope they take a close look at each of the times in Nov., Dec., and January when the data indicated sea ice growth had stopped. The stairstep pattern in their graph has puzzled me for a while. It could be the result of wind, current, temperature, etc., or just indications of the sensor problems they have now found:
    http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/2009/021809.html

  189. Mark Hugoson says:

    News flash – TV – Omaha NE, circa 1987.. a Sunday afternoon

    Newswoman standing upwind of the leaky industrial tank:

    “Authorities still have not been able to identify the material leaking from
    the tank which has sent an acrid, orange cloud downwind, forcing the evacuation of 50 homes…”

    Tank behind the “newsbabe” has lettering on it: HNO3

    No real internet at the time, but about 100 people calling the local station
    and telling them, “It’s concentrated nitric acid…!”

    So I too see one of the advantages of the Internet, even for the technically challenged.

    I come up with a dozen links labeled “NITRIC ACID”.

    Now, we just have to make sure the MEDIA folks can read….but if they can’t
    having the BLOG entry that addresses the “news item” (particularily technical) is very important. The people that CAN read. That ARE suspicious, CAN access beyond the “popular media” and find out more in depth info.

    THUS Anthony is QUITE correct, because once “dramatic ice loss” is put into the search engines after a couple days, then his (and other’s) blogs come up and give another answer than presuming the data is right, and as noted, using it for “propaganda” purposes.

    Hat Tip: J. Gobbels

  190. Svend Erik Hendriksen says:

    Here in Greenland we call it SISO = [snip]

    This is another example of automated publishing of climate data…No quallity control before publishing.

    All the climate bloggers are actually the best quallity control…

    Thanks Anthony

    Reply: Sorry, the blog is meant to be G-rated ~ charles the moderator

  191. pft says:

    “In science as well as in the economy you need to take into account the cost of correcting an error in relation to its impact. It usually is not worth your time to hunt down an error, which if corrected will change your result in a non-significant digit only. Results don’t have to be perfect, they just need to be good enough to let you reliably test your hypothesis.”

    Bluegrue- before you can correct an error, one must know it exists. If it’s existence is not known because it was not caught, it’s magnitude is not either, nor is it known if the result is “good enough”, and what it’s impact will be. Reliance on client-users to detect errors as a method of quality control is not acceptable.

    Test results and measurements must meet the tolerances for precision and accuracy established in advance. Thats good enough for me, if not perfect.

    The quality control of data used in climate science seems to be a concern. Not so much this case alone, but there have been many other cases which when taken together point to a problem.

  192. Glenn says:

    “Errors in publicly presented data – Worth blogging about?”

    Without doubt, hopefully to be shouted from the rooftops. Check out the difference in “AMSR-E Sea Ice Extent” from these two sources:

    http://nsidc.org/images/arcticseaicenews/20090217_Figure2.png
    http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/seaice/extent/AMSRE_Sea_Ice_Extent.png

    NSIDC shows AMSRE Feb 10 extent at about 14.75 km2
    JAXA shows AMSRE Feb 10 extent at about 14.0 km2.

  193. aurbo says:

    Re the NSIDC fiasco: They finally posted the real cause of the discrepancies between their data and Cryosphere Today or JAXA data. It totally justifies Anthony’s comments to the letter from Dr. Meier.

    The NSIDC post can be found here.

    Note how the problem with the SM1 data also polluted their southern hemisphere presentations. The reason not using the AMSR-E data is a bit forced. They say that they know the data is bad, but they want to continue using the same sensor so that the data can be comparable to their historical record produced by the same satellite (but not always the same particular sensor on that bird)! Can you believe an excuse like that for using a known faulty sensor, especially after acknowledging that the CT and JAXA data using the AMSR-E satellite data is more accurate? Perhaps WUWT posters can think of a host of ridculous metaphoric analogies to that kind of statement.

    BTW, in the NSIDC FAQ sheet, here is their answer to the Question:

    How do we know human activities cause climate change?

    Fossil fuel burning is responsible for climate change because of the way in which an increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere alters the planet’s energy budget and makes the surface warmer.”

    That’s quite a strong declarative statement for a topic embroiled in controversey.

    I would suggest that the principal man-made cause of Global Warming might just be man’s responsibility for the manipulation of data.

    Finally, I suspect this linked response from NSIDC fully justifies Anthony’s and other peoples’ inquiries into their obviously botched data charts.

  194. bluegrue says:

    John Galt (07:54:55) :

    How this then:
    _ No positive correlation observed between rising levels of atmospheric CO2 and temperate

    Why would you expect such a simple relationship at all? It is well known, that you need the changes in TSI, aerosols and CO2, all three of them, to recreate the 20th century in GCM’s. If you have three major players, any such simple correlation as you envision will fail. A simplified example is shown in this comment in the Schlesinger
    thread
    .

  195. Frederick Michael says:

    Fred Nieuwenhuis (11:01:16) :

    Wow. Their response is totally professional. The graph of the growing difference is solid self-criticism.

    Still (as you note) this kinda proves the value of blogging about it. They’ve had other problems and what happened is that later smoothing/revision just fixed it. Meanwhile, it did temporarily post read meat for the AGW preachers. However, if none of them bit on it then the danger has passed (this time).

    Still, I favor their method of posting raw data in real-time. If some nut chooses to use it inappropriately, that’s their fault. You can’t prevent lying by eliminating facts. Hiding the raw data is far too common and wrong.

  196. Frederick Michael says:

    Oops. “Their” means “NSIDC’s.”

  197. bluegrue says:

    @ pft (13:23:47)
    I have already addressed some of the points you reraise in a previous comment, you might have missed that one.

    Reliance on client-users to detect errors as a method of quality control is not acceptable.

    You are correct in this, however NSIDC is not guilty of this sin. What they make available is preliminary data, the final, research grade data does undergo more scrutiny. The current information they have put up is a good read.
    http://www.nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/
    I especially agree with their assessment:

    We caution users of the near-real-time products that any conclusions from such data must be preliminary. We believe that the potential problems are outweighed by the scientific value of providing timely assessments of current Arctic sea ice conditions, as long as they are presented with appropriate caveats, which we try to do.

    The quality control of data used in climate science seems to be a concern.
    I’m not sure, whether it is so much a problem of quality control, but exaggerated expectations at quality. Look at how each photo of a grade 5 weather station is greeted with cheers and ridicule. On the other hand, how much attention is given to the preliminary results of John V.’s opentemp, using rural grade 1 and 2 stations? The minute he had published his findings on ClimateAudit, someone commented, that we must not draw conclusions from the quality of US sites regarding the quality of non-US sites. We are now creeping towards the 75% threshold Anthony has set as a starting point for looking into an analysis. How long, do you think, will the quality control take to come up with a temperature reconstruction, once the 75% threshold is reached?

  198. Mike Bryant says:

    It appears that the problem with the sensor has been going on for at least two months. I believe that many have felt that something was not quite right with the sea ice growth considering the very cold temperatures this winter. The huge drop was more like the straw that broke the camel’s back. Was it worth blogging about? Ya, and this new developement is probably worth at least another blog and a big writeup in the MSM. Why didn’t the scientists at NSIDC have that same feeling that so many non-scientists did that something wasn’t right with the sea ice graph? Shouldn’t this have been caught much earlier considering the known divergence with other sensors? Was it known that these old sensors consistently gave slightly lower readings as they aged? Could this thirteen year old sensor also have given problems that weren’t caught over the last several years? Does the NSIDC approve of the way that CT has been using their data? Does Dr. Meier even realize that the Comparison Product at CT is not using the sea ice masks on the older images? Doesn’t Dr. Chapman realize that NSIDC has directed all users of the data to update their products with the newest Sea Ice masks? Do the problems at NSIDC still appear to be because it was a volunteer effort? Are they working on the daily updates during lunch breaks and on Saturdays? At least it does not appear that we are now getting some type of excuse and I hope we can see improvements soon.
    Mike Bryant

    PS What about the “string of pearls” at CT and the many, many odd things that have been reported and left to stand?

  199. aurbo says:

    Re: Frederick Michael (15:14:19) :

    “Their response is totally professional.”

    I mostly agree with you on that. It must have been embarrassing for them to publish their error and they should be commended for it.

    One of my favorite Richard Feyman quotes which I posted a day or two ago on another site (actually a paraphrase because after I heard it I couldn’t find it in his popular literature, and am reciting it from memory) was: “When a scientist discovers that he has made an error in his work, he should not admit it, he should proclaim it!”

    The question now is in how they will correct this data in their final analysis. I still believe their rational for continuing to use the flawed SSM1 data is a bit of a stretch.

  200. geo says:

    Criminy, given that the admission today of systematic and growing failure over a two month period, one hopes that NSIDC now has a better appreciation of the value of getting publicly prodded to look a situation over.

    And from their explanation, I’m a little unclear. Are they talking about an additional 500k square kilometers *in addition* to the correction they originally made?

  201. Glenn says:

    Frederick Michael (15:14:19) :

    “Still, I favor their method of posting raw data in real-time. If some nut chooses to use it inappropriately, that’s their fault. You can’t prevent lying by eliminating facts. Hiding the raw data is far too common and wrong.”

    They don’t publish “raw” data. This is an automated process by which raw data that you or I wouldn’t recognize from cottage cheese goes into a program algorithm, processed and uploaded to the website. And the processed data we see is what will be archived, it is only “preliminary” in the sense that NSDIC claims to do “rigorous QC” once or twice a year on the data, apparently to “catch” any errors that may have occured in addition to “adjusting” data due to several variables such as land changes. I doubt any changes made are minor, but IMO the catching of errors due to things such as sensor failure, if not able to be detected automatically, should be performed on a regular basis instead of waiting to “fix” error ridden data up to a year old. And indeed we see this as being the case now. Yet if it hadn’t been brought to their attention, would it have been left, and if it had, how could it possibly have been quality controlled six months or so from now? Like I said before, just a quick eyeball on the update of a couple days ago, with the line going straight down, should have been a huge big flag – *before* it was uploaded to the website.

  202. jeez says:

    Apparently some people don’t understand what automated means. If set up properly, the automated process would generate the graphic and upload it as well. If it is automated, no one looks at it then uploads it.

  203. Phil. says:

    aurbo (15:59:04) :
    Re: Frederick Michael (15:14:19) :

    “Their response is totally professional.”

    I mostly agree with you on that. It must have been embarrassing for them to publish their error and they should be commended for it.

    The question now is in how they will correct this data in their final analysis. I still believe their rational for continuing to use the flawed SSM1 data is a bit of a stretch.

    As I pointed out before CT also use the SSM/I data for their comparisons and archiving for exactly the same reason of continuity but the image they show on their front page of the arctic is the high res ASMR-E.
    They have also posted about the problems with the imager:

    “February 17, 2009 – The SSMI sensor seems to be acting up and dropping data swaths from time to time in recent days. Missing swaths will appear on these images as a missing data in the southern latitudes. If this persists for more than a few weeks, we will start to fill in these missing data swaths with the ice concentration from the previous day. Note – these missing swaths do not affect the timeseries or any other plots on the Cryosphere Today as they are comprised of moving averages of at least three days.”

  204. Phil. says:

    jeez (16:40:14) :
    Apparently some people don’t understand what automated means. If set up properly, the automated process would generate the graphic and upload it as well. If it is automated, no one looks at it then uploads it.

    Especially over the long holiday weekend!

  205. Glenn says:

    jeez (16:40:14) :

    “Apparently some people don’t understand what automated means. If set up properly, the automated process would generate the graphic and upload it as well. If it is automated, no one looks at it then uploads it.”

    If it is true that the process is completely automatic, then shame and embarrasment on them. They do apparently look at the data after it is uploaded (see below), and they are aware of potential problems such as “sensor drift” that can cause significant errors. Why not take a quick peek before upload? It’s only once (in the latest update) in three days.

    From NSIDC website yesterday:
    “Also of note is that from January 15 to 26, ice extent saw essentially no increase; an unusual wind pattern appears to have been the cause.”

  206. jeez says:

    Glenn, what part of near real time, preliminary, or subject to revision, don’t you understand?

    I agree that it’s ok to blog about this error, and at the same time I feel for Dr. Meier who has been nothing but forthcoming. but everyone keeps saying “someone should have noticed before they uploaded it” and I’m calling attention to the point that it is quite likely NO ONE LOOKS AT IT FIRST, that is why it is called “AUTOMATED”. If you don’t want real time, preliminary data, or subject to revision data, be prepared for:

    1. A lot more work/man hours/cost

    or

    2. Much less frequent updates.

  207. Mike Jonas says:

    I don’t agree with the suggestion made earlier that Anthony should have emailed NSIDC and waited for a response.

    The situation then would be this : a possible error has been detected, the group (NSIDC) responsible for the data has been notified, but no-one else knows that this is the situation until NSIDC replies to Anthony or posts new information.

    Anthony clearly needs to email NSIDC and blog the situation at the same time. Also, NSIDC should then immediately post the fact that there is a data query, not wait until they have completed investigations/fixes.

    These actions are not expensive, and keep everyone as fully informed as possible.

    I am perfectly happy to accept that NSIDC’s data is provisional when first posted, and I am perfectly happy to understand that sometimes an error may get posted. In order to remain perfectly happy, however, I need to be confident that if a possible error is detected, no matter by whom, all parties will dealt with it quickly and openly.

    —–

    I do agree that there has been more than a hint of paranoia and NSIDC-bashing here, which is regrettable.

    Message to everyone here : paranoia is unjustifiable if there’s no-one out to get you.

    Hmmm.

  208. Pamela Gray says:

    Maybe Anthony has something to do with this, maybe not. But cyrospheretoday posted a message on its site saying that something is wrong with the equipment. A sensor could be failing. Nice to see someone had their coffee this morning and was alert. Did Anthony cause that? Maybe.

  209. Glenn says:

    jeez (17:35:35) :

    “Glenn, what part of near real time, preliminary, or subject to revision, don’t you understand?

    I agree that it’s ok to blog about this error, and at the same time I feel for Dr. Meier who has been nothing but forthcoming. but everyone keeps saying “someone should have noticed before they uploaded it” and I’m calling attention to the point that it is quite likely NO ONE LOOKS AT IT FIRST, that is why it is called “AUTOMATED”. If you don’t want real time, preliminary data, or subject to revision data, be prepared for:
    1. A lot more work/man hours/cost
    or
    2. Much less frequent updates.”

    Jeez, what part of “You need to remember that this is near real-time data and there can be data dropouts and bad data due to satellite issues. While the processing is automatic, the QC is partly manual” do you not understand? That was a quote from Walt Meier in the other thread. Just because an overall process is labelled “automatic” doesn’t mean everything is completely automatic from start to finish.

    What I don’t want is unreliable data. All data is subject to revision, no data is “perfect”, but that doesn’t mean that all data be regarded as unreliable.
    If no one looks at it, they should, as I have already explained. And no, it wouldn’t take much time at all, or delay updates. Likely less time would be involved than the time it took for you to respond, and that could have been done most anywhere in the world on a laptop.
    Regardless of the obviousness of some regular oversight, I’m wondering why there isn’t some method of regular monitoring to determe the functional status of the sensor, and how it is that they determined that this error is the result of a faulty sensor now. We can read that it “worsened until it became noticeable in the sea ice product.” How was it determined that something was “noticeably” wrong? Someone manually looking at the graph and saying “Oh, that much ice couldn’t dissapear in three days”? If that is the case, why not have regular oversight? Got any real argument against, other than the lame one that it would cost too much and we wouldn’t get NRT data?

    A bit of insight into how NSIDC regards their NRT data:

    http://nsidc.org/data/news.html
    “NSIDC is working to correct the issue and provide reliable NRT sea ice data. In the meantime, F15 data since 1 January 2009 should not be used.”

    http://nsidc.org/data/g02135.html
    “The product is intended to help researchers illustrate sea ice conditions, and to inform users with general questions about recent ice concentration and extent.”

    http://nsidc.org/data/nsidc-0080.html
    The following example shows how to cite the use of this data set in a publication.

    http://nsidc.org/data/nsidc-0081.html
    “Use of near real-time data, particularly to extend older data, should be clearly stated in all publications, presentations, or other applications.”

    The daily and monthly images that we show in Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis are near-real-time data. Near-real-time data do not receive the rigorous quality control that final sea ice products enjoy, but it allows us to monitor ice conditions as they develop.

    http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/faq.html#quality_control
    “Several possible sources of error can affect near-real-time images. Areas near land may show some ice coverage where there isn’t any because a land filter has not yet been applied and the sensor has a coarse resolution. Sometimes, the data we receive have geolocation errors, which could affect where ice appears. We correct these problems in the final sea ice products, which replace the near-real-time data in about six months to a year.

    http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/faq.html#quality_control
    “Despite its areas of inaccuracy, near-real-time data are still useful for assessing changes in sea ice coverage, particularly when averaged over an entire month. The monthly average image is more accurate than the daily images because weather anomalies and other errors are less likely to affect it. Because of the limitations of near-real-time data, they should be used with caution when seeking to extend a sea ice time series, and should not be used for operational purposes such as navigation.”

    2008 data has been archived. Are we to wait till the end of 2009 for this automatic process to be QCed before it ceases to be “preliminary” data that no one in NSIDC looks at?

  210. Pragmatic says:

    “February 18, 2009
    Satellite sensor errors cause data outage”

    This is the headline at NSIDC along with a somewhat detailed explanation for the sensor drift affecting data reported from early January. The error has caused an under-reporting of sea ice extent of 500,000 sq km according to NSIDC.

    The outstanding question with regard to “automated” v manual operations is: can the data be readily filtered for large deltas? Typically software monitors significant changes and flags it for further study. In this case, as expressed by the public, people are interested in accurate data. Better to suspend publication until large anomalies are sorted out. As is the case right now at NSIDC. Data suspended.

    Sincere thanks to the NSIDC staff for a fast response to queries about causes and prevention of future errors. And to Anthony for his and others’ eagle eye at the outset.

  211. Glenn says:

    A faulty sensor not discovered for about a month. This just gnaws on me that NSIDC only discovered the error after Anthony’s post, when it “became noticeable in the sea ice product”, and now claimed to be traced to a malfunction starting early January. Seems there would be a way to keep an eye on this since they admit awareness of the possibility for this to happen. Would “calibration” be a test of sensor function, and if so certainly that would be known on the ground. In that event it could and should be relayed to users of the data, such as NSIDC.

    http://nsidc.org/data/docs/daac/ssmi_instrument.gd.html

    “All data, commands, timing and telemetry signals, and power pass through the BAPTA on slip ring connectors to the rotating assembly.”

    “The mirror reflects cold sky radiation into the feed, thus serving, along with the hot reference absorber, as calibration references for the SSM/I”

    “Frequency of Calibration
    Once every 1.9 seconds.”

  212. John H. says:

    So as I speculated here

    John H (11:29:19) :

    It may that the erratic plotting of ice since mid January has been a result of faulty data after all.

    Now when the corrected plotting will resemble the other sources making 08-09 ice much closer to the 79-06 average will the mainstream media report the return to normal sea ice?

  213. Brendan H says:

    Mary Hinge: “…they prefer the ‘tabloid’ route of trying to discredit the data and pick holes in any little data issue.”

    A tabloid tactic indeed, essentially a gleeful ‘gotcha’ followed quickly by an attempt to assuage conscience through faux concern about the integrity of the data and outrage about incompetent bureaucrats etc.

    “It is a self defeating approach as without the hard science behind it, it will eventually go the way of other conspiracy theories such as Roswell, grassy knolls etc.”

    The conspiracy (or hoax and fraud) mind-set creates a situation where errors or even artifacts of measurement are readily viewed as evidence of sinister motive, a perspective that is clearly the result of an ideological position.

  214. wattsupwiththat says:

    NSIDC has posted about the real problem – what I saw and blogged about was the result of a catastrophic sensor failure on the satellite platform. See the main WUWT page for details.

    Leave your comments on “tabloid” and “conspiracy theory” behind if commenting on that thread because they will be snipped.

  215. a jones says:

    Yes.

    You might care to note that NSIDC wants to continue using it’s existing measurement methods in order to provide a consistent record. That is to be applauded, changes in the methods used can lead to difficulties.

    You will also note that NSIDC suggests that this current technical failure to observe an increase in the Arctic ice in no way invalidates its view that the current Arctic Ice retreat is due to a warming of the earth as observed by satellite data from 1979.

    As I pointed out in a previous post we have excellent records of the extent of the southern ice in the Atlantic going back to the American war when HM packets had to sail out of Halifax by the northern route so that the Hydrographer’s Office received regular reports throughout the year until the 1840’s when with the rise of steam navigation the service ended: and was replaced by the Royal Navy’s Arctic patrol which continued and used the same measurement techniques until it ceased at the end of the nineteenth century.

    From then on the record is more difficult to decipher, far more observations were made but by different navy’s and private ships and aircraft which did not use the same measurement techniques.

    Nevertheless we can be sure from this record that, excluding the current event, the Arctic ice has retreated abruptly four times in the last two hundred and fifty years and that these periods of retreat last for about ten to fifteen years before the ice advances again.

    We do not why or how. Some people might try to use statistical analysis to show that this is a cycle. Perhaps it is, perhaps not. Others may speculate on winds, ocean currents or such like including no doubt CO2. Nothing wrong with such speculation it might even lead to a better understanding of what is going on.

    I welcome such explanations but beg leave to doubt their validity.

    Oh and when anything interesting happens in the Arctic do please wake me up and tell me about it: there really might be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow by the North Pole after all.

    Kindest Regards

  216. bluegrue says:

    One thing to consider. The “Arctic Sea Ice News” may be the most visible part of the work of Dr. Meier and his colleagues, but decidedly not the the most important part. They are not paid to produce daily nice looking images that stand up to highest quality standards. NSIDC allows you to have a look over their shoulder at preliminary data, courtesy of voluntary efforts – honor it as what it is. Their real work lies elsewhere.

    If you are interested in longterm trends it is a good idea, NOT to waste your time by looking at the newest image every day and thinking about it. Wait a month, look at the data in one go and you are more likely to observe the important patterns.

  217. bluegrue says:

    @ Glenn (20:03:53)
    Think of it as a slow puncture in a tire. You won’t notice it right away, but at some later time you will, as symptoms become recognizable.

    Thank you for linking to the description of the sensor. The drift in the sensor could be e.g. a drift in temperature of the “hot reference”, which is used for calibration. The experts will have to figure it out, as they have more information on how exactly everything is built and other data. Should I happen to be correct with my example, it would be just pure luck on my part.

  218. I was pleased in reading this article to see that there is not a noticeable contamination with planting doubt in readers’ minds, and that Anthony Watts was raising a sincerely-held concern over accuracy in presentation of information, although I also commend NSIDC for doing the daily work of gathering meaningful data to improve our modeling and projections.

    Mr. Watts raised a slightly subtle point about refining the presentation of data so as to raise the level of accuracy of all kinds of discussion, including in the news media. Trained in science myself, I do feel that the chart shown here should include a statement (or a link to a full statement) indicating that these were near-real-time data and that occasional equipment or data “noise” could lead to outliers (aberrant data points) in this publicly-visible data. In fact, a short article about why there is such noise would also be useful in raising public understanding.

    As I see it, anticipating and documenting surprising details that may not mislead other scientists but that could confuse reporters or the non-professional public, is an active way to improve one’s services, and is preferable to defending what is clearly a good service at gathering data in this important matter of climate change. The blogger, Watts, for his part hopefully showed restraint and respect while suggesting that NSIDC should pay more attention to the public perception of their data, and should be clear as reasonably possible.

  219. I looked at the NSIDC page, and they do currently have a generous amount of information about sensor drift and the nature of real-time data. I am not sure whether or how much of that was posted prior to the Watts blog entry. It does support the point of keeping discussion civil – it seems that Walt Meier and Anthony Watts have been having a cordial relationship. I would not call the NSIDC graph a true error, as they pointed out that this was raw data and the data goes through additional checks before being used in articles or being archived.

    In other words, this dialogue should not be sensationalized, and any animosity between the principals should be minimal. This civility is one aspect of discussion that seems to have been lost to a large extent, for reasons of commercial attention; that loss is truly harmful to informed, societally-beneficial discussion of important issues.

  220. Kristin says:

    That article is almost a year old. In the grand scheme of things, 160 sq. km. isn’t very big. Antarctica itself is 14,000,000 sq. km. (14 million sq. km) in area.

    Antarctica’s sea ice has increased and it’s gotten colder over the last 50 years. The ice extent is running ONE MILLION sq. km. above average. So losing a measly 160 sq. km. (60 sq. mi) isn’t a big deal at all.

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