UPDATE: 8/22/12 9AM The problem has been solved, GISS responded to my complaint -Anthony
Like the erroneous graph at California Governor Jerry Brown’s climate denier slam site, here’s another one of those things that I’ve been sitting on for about a week, waiting for somebody to fix it. Since they haven’t, and I’ve given adequate time, I suppose it is time to bring this latest GISS miss to the global attention of everyone.
Last week during my email group exchanges, somebody (I forget who) pointed out this graph from NASA GISS:
Source: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs_v3/Fig.D.gif (click to see yourself)
That is part of the GISTEMP graphs page here: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs_v3/
I chuckled then, because obviously it is some sort of data error, and not worth reporting since I figured surely those RealClimateScientists would notice in a day or two and fix it. Nope. But still there a week later? Now it is newsworthy.
That “off the charts” Figure D image has been around on this highly cited NASA GISS page, apparently unnoticed, since August 13th, 2012, here’s the proof in the image info:
I decided I’d have a look at the tabular data they offer, to my surprise, what I discovered was an “unprecedented” value in the dataset, larger than the hottest years of 1934, 1998, and 2006:
Year Annual_Mean 5-year Mean 1930 0.1060 0.1156 1931 0.9860 0.2346 1932 -0.0360 0.5856 1933 0.6520 0.5716 1934 1.2200 0.4072 1935 0.0360 0.3868 1936 0.1640 0.4110 ... 1997 0.1330 0.5700 1998 1.3020 0.6248 1999 1.0630 0.8214 2000 0.6920 0.9284 2001 0.9170 0.8046 2002 0.6680 0.7124 2003 0.6830 0.7560 2004 0.6020 0.8304 2005 0.9100 0.8824 2006 1.2890 0.7766 2007 0.9280 0.6926 2008 0.1540 0.6276 2009 0.1820 0.5006 2010 0.5850 0.8220 2011 0.6540 * 2012 2.5350 *
Wow. 2.53°C ? I thought maybe the very warm, and warmest to date this year, July 2012 was the issue causing this. But, we know that can’t be right, because NOAA tells us in their July State of the Climate analysis:
The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during July was 3.3°F (1.8°C) above the 20th century average, marking the warmest July and all-time warmest month since national records began in 1895.
So, I’m not sure where they come up with 2.53°C since NASA uses NOAA’s data, and one month shouldn’t skew half a year so much, but that is what seems to be happening. Plus they have the 2.53C in the annual mean column, which as we know isn’t complete yet, since 2012 is not complete.
GISS makes no direct caveat about presenting monthly data in the section on Figure D, though by inference, they possibly suggest it in the “five year running mean”, but aren’t clear if that is a monthly or annual calculated running mean.
Even so, if that running 5 year mean is using monthly data rather than annual data, updating one part of an annual graph with monthly data (for the annual mean as seen in the tabular data) can be very misleading to the public, and as we know, that page at GISS is used worldwide by media, scientists, and advocates. Therefore, it is very important to present it accurately and not mix monthly data and yearly data types without explanations of any kind.
I wanted to look in the Wayback machine to see what the Figure D graph said earlier this year, like maybe up to June, but to my surprise, GISS apparently prevents that public page from being indexed by the Wayback machine. In fact, they seem to have prevented a lot of content from being indexed and stored since 2005, see the dates:
In fact if you look at this graph of plots
…and then try to go to the GISTEMPS graphs page, you get a lot of this:
I find it troubling that the publicly funded NASA agency GISS would block archiving of such an important global resource. This is not cool, guys.
Fortunately, Steve Goddard archived the GISS figure D image on January 29th, 2012, right after the year 2011 was updated with annual data:
So clearly, the effect is in 2012 data to date, but why would they plot monthly data to date on a graph depicting annual values?
This brings up some points.
1. The current US data Figure D graph compiled by GISS for 2012 is clearly erroneous the way it is presented.
2. The Figure D graph at GISS is clearly being updated with incomplete annual data, since this update showed up on the GISS website on August 13th, 2012. The graph portrays annual data. No mention is given of monthly data. This is wrong and misleading.
3. As before, as I pointed out to Governor Browns office, (now corrected) if I made a dumb mistake like this in a time-series, plotting incomplete months and presenting it as annual data, Tamino and his followers would “rip me a new one” (his words).
4. Why do I have to be the one to keep pointing these things out? Doesn’t the Governors Office and NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies have any quality control procedures for the climate data they present to the public? Apparently not.
5. Why does GISS block the archiving of such important resources like the global temperature data they produce by such public domain services like the Wayback machine? Could it be they don’t want inconvenient comparisons like this one below to be made with their graphs?
Inquiring minds want to know.
h/t to Art Horn for the reminder today.
UPDATE: Shortly after this piece published, I emailed Dr. Gavin Schmidt of NASA GISS:
Date: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 12:44 PM
Subject: courtesy note
Dear Dr. Schmidt,
I doubt you’ll credit me when you fix this, or even acknowledge receipt of this message, but I’m informing you of the error anyway.
UPDATE2: Commenter Jim P. points out 2012/08/21 at 1:50 pm
Anthony, there’s no error. It’s just the chart doesn’t extend high enough for this year.That’s the data for the year to date, not July.
As you can see from this NOAA chart: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/temp-and-precip/time-series/index.php?parameter=tmp&month=7&year=2012&filter=ytd&state=110&div=0. The mean temperature for the year-to-date is 56.4F, or 13.6C. The normal is 52.2F, or 11.2C. The departure is 2.4C or close to what GISS is reporting.
REPLY: Yes, I see, thank you. But, presenting monthly year to date data, in a graph labeled annual mean data, with no caveat at all, is most certainly wrong and misleading. I’d be excoriated by the climate community at large for presenting an annual mean graph with incomplete data for a year like that, so why should they get a pass for being sloppy like the California Governor? – Anthony