1998 no longer the hottest year on record in USA

Here’s a story of scientific investigation and discovery I’m proud to have

had a small part in.Regular readers may remember that I posted about a

climate station in Detroit Lakes MN last week, surveyed by volunteer Don

Kostuch, and cross posted it to the website

http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=1828#comments that had two air

conditioner units right next to it. It looked like an obvious cause and

effect because in 1999 on May 5th, it was determined that the a/c units were

moved off the roof of the radio station where this station resides and moved

them to the ground where the temperature sensor is close by.


Detroit Lakes, MN surveyed by Don Kostuch – Don has

single handedly done almost the entire state of Minnesota!However, some folks on the blogosphere just went, well, a little

ballistic over that assertion. It was a good thing too, because their very

loud and somewhat uncivil complaints led to an examination of this idea: if

its not the a/c units, what then did cause the temperature jump at that



Steve McIntyre, of Toronto operates

www.climateaudit.org and began to

investigate the data and the methods used to arrive at the results that were

graphed by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS).

What he discovered was truly amazing. Since NASA does not fully publish

the computer source code and formulae used to calculate the trends in the

graph, nor the correction used to arrive at the “corrected” data. He had to

reverse engineer the process by comparing the raw data and the processed


Here is one of his

first posts

where he begins to understand what is happening. “This imparts an upward

discontinuity of a deg C in wintertime and 0.8 deg C annually. I checked the

monthly data and determined that the discontinuity occurred on January 2000

– and, to that extent, appears to be a Y2K problem. I presume that this is a

programming error.”

He further refines his argument showing the

distribution of the error,

and the problems with the

USHCN temperature data. He also sends an email to NASA GISS advising of the problem.

He finally publishes it

here, stating that NASA made a correction not only on their own web

page, attributing the discovery to McIntyre, but NASA also issued a

corrected set of temperature anomaly data which you can see here:


Steve McIntyre posted this data from NASA’s newly published data set from

Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) These numbers represent deviation

from the mean temperature calculated from temperature measurement stations

throughout the USA.

According to the new data published by NASA, 1998 is no longer the

hottest year ever. 1934 is.

Four of the top 10 years of US CONUS high temperature deviations are now

from the 1930s: 1934, 1931, 1938 and 1939, while only 3 of the top 10 are

from the last 10 years (1998, 2006, 1999). Several years (2000, 2002, 2003,

2004) fell well down the leaderboard, behind even 1900. (World rankings of

temperature are calculated separately.)

Top 10 GISS U.S. Temperature deviation (deg C) in New Order


Year Old New
1934 1.23 1.25
1998 1.24 1.23
1921 1.12 1.15
2006 1.23 1.13
1931 1.08 1.08
1999 0.94 0.93
1953 0.91 0.90
1990 0.88 0.87
1938 0.85 0.86
1939 0.84 0.85

Here’s the old order of top 10 yearly temperatures.

Year Old New
1998 1.24 1.23
1934 1.23 1.25
2006 1.23 1.13
1921 1.12 1.15
1931 1.08 1.08
1999 0.94 0.93
1953 0.91 0.90
2001 0.90 0.76
1990 0.88 0.87
1938 0.85 0.86

I salute the work of Steven McIntyre, he has now made two major contributions to climate science.

1) Proving how the Mann “hockey stick” used in all Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, was based on unsupportable data and methods.

2) Proving how yearly temperature anomalies for the USA are based on data that had been processed incorrectly.

Dr. Roger Pielke of the University of Colorado also deserves credit becuase he was the one who encouraged me to pursue the www.surfacestations.org project due to his broad work on land use change and it’s affect on regional and local climate.


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Congratulations to both you and Steve, Anthony. Of course the propagandists will poo-poo this as illegitimate research because they didn’t do it. And of course no clear trend in 20th century surface temperature emerges as a result.
Where’s the global warming??

David Walton

Correct me if I am wrong. From this information it appears that the last twenty years of global warming — which has been argued as not congruent with sunspot cycles — is, indeed, completely anthropogenic. That is, the warming trend formerly reported was either false or overstated and was produced entirely by humans fidgeting and fudging numbers while playing statistical games with computer programs.
I do not wish to be unfair but it seems to me that global warming science as it is currently known is largely practiced by the seat of the pants in air conditioned rooms at computer terminals.
There are two basic branches of all science — theoretical and empirical. Theoretical science is valuable and exciting but worthless without reliable, real world empirical data.
Since it appears that no one has ever tried to do any reasonable quality control or quality evaluation of surface stations, and considering the hostile tone of the detractors of your station survey, and considering the unpublished massaging methods used on USHCN temperature data, it appears that there are some real and significant problems in the global warming science community.
Not the least of which is credibility.

John Goetz

Anthony…congrats! Keep pushing the (thermal) envelope!

John Goetz

By the way, Don Kostuch is a surveying animal. Kudos to him as well for finding a site that pushed the debate over the edge.

Frank Ch. Eigler

Just wondering – how come NASA gets away with not posting their software & correction data? If their work is not reproducible or checkable, how is it called science?

Anthony Watts

That my freind, is the 64,000 dollar question.
Yet, it is the reality of the situation.


Steve McIntyre and Anthony Watts vs. 95% of the scientific community.
I wish I would have put a $20 spot on that fight.
Are you planning on redrawing this nasty bit of propaganda?

Russell Steele

Anthony, congratulations! Successes like these are super motivators for doing more surveys later this month. We will be reporting from the road in Nevada, Idaho and Utah. I am recruiting some folks to do surveys in Montana and Wyoming. I will keep you posted on my success.

Matt Schaefer

You guys should be commended for a job well done so far…I completely agree that good science should be reproducible and subject to strong peer review…
However, I think that some of the comments being made (by others) are making way too much of this news …Remember that this data is USA only, not global temps…A significant upward temperature trend is still present over the past twenty years, which was clearly stated on CA…
Let’s take a look at all data (especially global) and ensure its reliability…But be careful of making too much of this..
Thank you


Let me be the 8th to congratualte you (and St, Mac and the Drs. P.)!
Now for all those nasty foreign sites! (Are you maybe going to ‘rassle up some international volunteers?)


“Yet, it is the reality of the situation.”
The reality of the situation is that anyone who refuses to divulge methods or data has lost the argument forthwith–by automatic forfeit.
That’s even true in my own field (history). Cough up or get out. Period.
It goes without saying. So how in heck does one find oneself having to say it?
Not only that, but isn’t that stuff paid for by taxpayer? Don’t they have a legal obligation to cough up, quite apart from all the other (more pressing) scientific reasons?

David Walton

Re: “Steve McIntyre and Anthony Watts vs. 95% of the scientific community.”
Now isn’t this statement interesting, where does this dubious 95% figure come from and why does the anonymous author couch it in adversarial terms?
Didn’t NASA just change their data and credit Mr. McIntyre?


It comes from a recent quote by California’s Attorney General, Jerry Brown. (I believe he was referencing the recent Newsweek cover story but who can say?)
NASA admitting to a mistake to a private individual isn’t exactly exculpicating them from their part in the greater crime of inventing a false crisis, which is currently being used to pummel the business community in my home state.
I’ll be looking forward to the press release issued to the world at large by NASA regarding these new developments, then I will judge whether or not they are honorable seekers of truth.

By the way, isn’t NASA GISS a government funded agency and therefore subject to FOIA? Wouldn’t the formulae, corrections and source codes be recoverable under a proper FOIA request? If not, forgive my ignorance on this matter, me being foreign and so on. 🙂

Congratulations! I have been reporting some of your surveys on my EM News Blog and so I am delighted that errors and misrepresentation of climate data are being brought under closer scrutiny.
Global warming is a misnomer, instead our planet and all the other planets in our solar system are undergoing evolutionary change driven by solar, cosmic and galactic energy.
What we are seeing can be explained in terms of electromagnetic effects driving change NOT temperatures.


“Steve McIntyre and Anthony Watts vs. 95% of the scientific community.”
There’s an old anecdote about Einstein. A hundred (or a thousand or ten thousand) Nazi scientists got together and signed a paper denouncing Relativity.
Einstein is said to have remarked, “if they had been right, they would have needed only one scientist!”
“Now isn’t this statement interesting, where does this dubious 95% figure come from”
The “consensus”?
“and why does the anonymous author couch it in adversarial terms?”
Well . . . it IS a controversy!
“Didn’t NASA just change their data and credit Mr. McIntyre?”
Yes they did and so they should have.
They should do more (such as cough up data and methods). They credit St.Mac.; now they should enlighten him.
The NOAA stats are still show a 0.06C increase per decade, for the US same as before, with 1998 and 2005 leaving i934 in the dust(bowl).


What’s up with the CA site? It’s been down for a while now. Not a hit as with your site, I hope.

Good stuff. Let me make my prediction that there are more surprises to come.

Anthony thanks for your efforts and great research into the GW myth. It is amazing when the facts start coming together, the global warming myth is evaporating. The leftie greenies will still be blowing smoke and hot air, but the truth will prevail. Even though the UN is pushing the GW myth, just like the food for oil scandal, the politicos want to extract money out of the U.S. and other nations for something that really does not exist (or can be proved is cause by man or Co2). The scientist pushing GW are using dooms day scare tactics to get grant money.
I do not deny climate changes. We think we know it all and can out guess the good Lord, but the world and climate belongs to the God of this Universe.
God bless and keep up the great research. Check out my new blog: Green Chemicals are not always Green.

John O

This proves the point that global warming since 1990 is totally man made! Man made because of errors.


Perhaps this explains the delay with the USHCN Version 2 dataset that was suppose to come out in July?

william knight

Great research. I am from England,has this data been released to the papers in America. I guess they won’t be interested anyway eventually all this info will filter through.


Rush Limbaugh quoted you right off the bat in todays show.
But that is easy, Rush has been calling BS on AGW since forever.
I wonder where the global warming media juggernaught will crack first?


Those offsets are still pretty small.
Considering the number of detected microsite violations so far (plus the possible minimzation of UHIE), I’d be surprised if much greater offsets will not soon be due.

Frank K.

Let me also join in with a hearty congratulations! I’ve been following the proceedings at Climate Audit and I must say that it’s been an eye-opener.
As Matt said above, though, the adjustments are for the US only. Of course, that didn’t stop the media and others earlier this year from trumpeting the fact that 2006 (!)was the warmest year in the US:
Then, of course, 2006 fell when revised data were rolled out in May:
Are the media outlets now going to correct themselves again? I’m not holding my breath…
As for the rest of the world, I have always wondered about the state of the temperature data from remote areas of the earth – e.g. India, China, Africa, open oceans. I can only imagine how poor many of these sites are compared with the USHCN. How are the global temperatures corrected, especially for the previous century? There certainly must be severe UHI effects in places with large populations like China and India. Questions, questions…
Frank K.

I’ve been told that climateaudit.org has been disabled by a DDOS attack. It may be a week before it’s back up.


McIntyre’s Grenadier Guards and Watts’ Light Horse have had rather a spectacular victory. Carry on, gentlemen.

Douglas Hoyt

In California, the warming rate is much increased by UHIs and land use measurements. In fact, it may be doubled according to a study by Patzert and LaDochy.
“The scientists found great variations in temperature patterns throughout the state. Average temperatures increased significantly in nearly 54 percent of the stations studied, with human-produced changes in land use seen as the most likely cause. The largest temperature increases were seen in the state’s urban areas, led by Southern California and the San Francisco Bay area, particularly for minimum temperatures. Minimum temperatures at some agricultural sites showed increases comparable to some urban areas. Rural, non-agricultural regions warmed the least. The Central Valley warmed slowest, while coastal areas warmed faster, and the southeast desert warmed fastest.
The only area to cool was a narrow band of the state’s mainly rural northeast interior. While few stations overall showed decreases in average and minimum temperatures, 13 percent of the stations for which sufficient maximum temperature data were available showed a significant drop in average maximum temperatures, including some urban sites.”
From http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070330221144.htm
Until GISS corrects for these non-climatic effects in California and other states, the temperature increase in the US will continue to be overestimated.

Bob Pohlhausen

The record temperatures of 1931 vs. 1998 don’t tell the whole story. Please go to the Goddard Institute’s numbers, copy and paste them into an Excel sheet and plot. I see a higher 5-year average-temperature in the last 20 years than in the timeframe before and around WW II. This may be due to the lower number of low-temperature-years. And the decline has not happened yet.
There is lots of room for statistical games but no room for jubilations on any side. Just continue your investigations – they are very valuable.

john brown

OK. I’ll keep the green light bulbs, but I’m turning the air conditioner back on.


It appears that CA is down because of traffic overload. Mr. Limbaugh apparently mentioned the site and kaboom. I guess I will have to gettalife!


Steve’s comment on the cause of CA being down was just posted. I should have been more paranoid. Troubling.


how is the mean taken ?
can this data be made into a us temp graph that shows the actual average
us temp for each year ?
fascinating stuff


The record temperatures of 1931 vs. 1998 don’t tell the whole story. Please go to the Goddard Institute’s numbers, copy and paste them into an Excel sheet and plot. I see a higher 5-year average-temperature in the last 20 years than in the timeframe before and around WW II.
Compare to 10-year averages. I can’t evaluate which is more meaningful, but changing the length of the float makes the curves a lot different.
The 1930s were (minutely) more consistently warm than the 1990s as a set or 2000s as a set.
Obviously this is playing around a bit, and to be discouraged without disclosure…but it’s interesting.


Of course none of this means a damn thing unless you can tell us how this revision impacts the measurement of global temperatures, rather than just US temperature.

The US data is considered the best temp record in the world with the best stations.
It will be interesting to see if the rest of the world gets audited.

Actually, I suspect Australia has the best maintained climate network in the world:
The Australian Reference Climate Station network:
They have already documented their sites online – this documentation could be improved with additional direction views etc., but it is a step in the right direction.
It is a pity, but it seems to me that either GISS includes various stations not in this well documented network in their analysis, or they apply some of their weird ‘adjustments’, as they always seem to produce warmer anomoly maps than the BoM does.

Retired Spook

A caller to Limbaugh’s program yesterday made an interesting point. He said that, when the Soviet Union imploded, a couple hundred temperature recording sites were abandoned due to lack of money and resources to run them. I hadn’t ever heard such a claim before, but that many stations closing in a short period of time could have had significant consequences on global surface temperature data, depending on where the stations were located. There’s an awful lot of the former Societ Union that’s extremely cold most of the time. Anyone know any more about this interesting claim?

Frank K.

To answer JoeBloe, I think the real significance here is two-fold:
(1) There must be complete transparency in the methods used to derive the temperature histories used for climatological analysis. That is, raw data, algorithms, source code, etc. Why did Steve M. have to “reverse engineer” the corrections to discover the anomaly? GISS should have provided him with the source code – if or course they were truly interested in understanding the problem. The fact that they still are holding out on the source code speaks volumes…
(2) When the media (via NOAA or GISS press releases) say something like “…this year’s average temperature was the highest ever recorded…”, we know now that this is not entirely true! The raw data undergoes extensive “corrections” for various effects such as time of observation, urbanization effects (to the exent that’s known), data outliers (recorded temperatures are clearly in error), and missing data. Much of this is necessary, but even with the corrections, there will always be some level of uncertainty in the results, which typically is not mentioned in these press releases. And “highest recorded” certainly does not logically mean “highest ever” – tree ring and other proxies notwithstanding…
It is my own personal belief that a significant fraction of the “warming” detected in the last century can be attributed to progressive alteration of the microclimates surrounding the stations used to collect the climate data. Imagine for moment you have a camera at a typical US station which recorded a photo of the site (like those on sufacestations.org) every year since, say 1900. What would you see? In many cases, these sites were likely in the middle of nowhere for decades. Then development crept in and the sites became surrounded by roads, buildings, and people. Of course, the impact of urbanization is supposed to be accounted for in the temperature adjustments, but these effects can only be modeled imperfectly given the lack of information about the development histories of the individual sites.
Frank K.


Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is only applicable to the United States…the US accounting for somewhere around 8% of the Earth’s total mass. Last I checked the issue was “global warming,” not “United States warming.”
In other words, you have a massive variable that will no doubt have a significant impact on your numbers once they’re factored in.
Simply put, your Popperian attempt at providing a counterexample that calls into question prevailing the climatological paradigm falls on its face by simple logically fallacy: you cannot generalize or challenge an entire set by simply addressing very small, singular outlier; nor can you provide a factual counterexample via inductive logic.
As an aside, wasn’t this around the time of the Dust Bowl?


“With all that Exxon money, would think Climate Audit could buy a better server.”
It’s not like they are getting the BILLIONS of funding from the US government. Exxon is only shelling out a few millions.

steven mosher

My good friend. Suppose this: I kick you in the groin and you whine. After you catch your breath you protest that I have fought unfairly.
And I respond: you should have bought a better Groin protector
BLAMING THE VICTIM for any attack is a diversion that only sociopaths engage in.
Please TCO, you have other issues with steveMc. Valid or not, they are LOGICALLY disconnected from the issue of DDOS.
At times we agreeably disagree. But at times I want to put your comments here


Remember that AGW crowd blames the US as the prime contributor to CO2. And they correlated global warming with the increase in CO2. If 40% of the top 10 years are now huddled in the 30’s that certainly decouples that relationship. But don’t worry… the AGW crowd will change the topic from AGW to Climate Change. That way all bases are covered – cooling and warming. Regardless we (the US) are responsible and need to be reigned in by the UN and Gore.

John Perris

Grow up, the earth is flat too.


The media has always referred to 1998 as the “warmest year on record” for the globe, not for the US. (at least, until 2005 when 2005 became statistically tied with 1998 for warmest year). This result (a change by 0.02 degrees for a small portion of the globe) will not impact the global conclusions in the slightest.
Sergei: Since CO2 is well-mixed globally, it doesn’t matter where it is emitted, the warming effects are global not local. Nor is the science of global warming a science of correlating one trend with another: it is a science derived from basic physics and radiative forcing, which is why Arrhenius predicted possible global warming from increases in CO2 in 1898, long before CO2 started increasing…


Just one thing to keep in mind. This is just *one* data point and doesn’t actually ‘debunk’ global warming. Part of the thing to keep in mind is that global temperatures are what is important – not US only temperatures. This correction is actually relatively minor only causing a change of around 1% to 2% in the data. As such, this doesn’t, in and of itself, actually provide any falsifying evidence.


One last thing,
People have to make a decision. While climate change may or may not be real we still have to make a choice about what we are going to do. If we do nothing there are two outcomes: If climate change is real (regardless of the cause) then we’re screwed. If its not real, then we save a lot of money and life is good. If we do something then there are two outcomes: Climate change isn’t real and we slow down the world economy to some degree possibly resulting in a depression. Climate change is real and we mitigate the worst effects of climate change at the price of slowing down the world economy.
What you need to do is evaluate the various risks, the costs associated with mitigating those risks, and the costs associated with doing nothing. Personally, I look at it like I do my home owners insurance. My house is 120 years old and hasn’t burned up, fallen down, or been flooded out yet. It doesn’t mean it won’t be but to be honest the risk is pretty low. However, if something does happen and I don’t have insurance I’m completely screwed paying off 180k+ on a house I no longer can live in. While I’d rather do something else with the $1k or so I pay in insurance and even though I know the risk is small I still pay it – because the risk is still there.
If the insurance cost $20k a year I’d, without a doubt, risk the fire because I couldn’t afford $20k a year for an admittedly low risk.
So you have to ask yourself, are you 100% sure completely and totally convinced without the slightest shadow of a doubt that there is no risk from climate change? If you believe that there is a chance you are wrong you have to ask yourself how much you are willing to spend to buy yourself some insurance – just in case you are wrong.
Since the only people I know who are right about everything are Jesus and my wife I’m willing to entertain the idea that I might be wrong about climate change. As such, I think it might actually be a good idea to take out a reasonably priced insurance policy.

rick jones

i’m a triffle confused – what I’ve read (and perhaps misunderstood) thusfar suggests that this “y2k” problem affected data from 2000 and on. that being the case, how does that change 1998 vs 1934 or any other pre-2000 year?

kristina gray

After reading daily diary entries of a Norwegian-American who chronicled for 45 years from 1910 to 1954, his golf scores, money spent, temperature, inches of rain and velocity of wind, I would come to the same conclusion. According to S.A. Olsness, 1934 was by far the hottest year that drove many North Dakota farmers off the land. Thanks for this blog to confirm what I already knew!!! He didn’t call it global warming back then, he called it an “eternal inferno.”

L Nettles

Re: One last thing, one more one last thing. Where in your analytical frame work do you consider that warming might have have positive consequences?