The White House gets a case of Mann-Tijander syndrome

WUWT readers may recall: Upside-Side Down Mann and the “peerreviewedliterature” at Climate Audit. Steve McIntyre wrote then:

“…there isn’t a shred of doubt that Mann et al 2008 used these proxies upside down from the Tiljander interpretation. “

It seems the use of “upside down data interpretation” has leaked into a White House official report. WUWT reader “Jimmy” says in Tips and Notes: Check out the interesting temperature graph on this economic post from the White House today, “Deviation from Normal Temperature”.

Excerpt:

3. The first quarter of 2014 was marked by unusually severe winter weather, including record cold temperatures and snowstorms, which explains part of the difference in GDP growth relative to previous quarters. The left chart shows the quarterly deviation in heating degree days from its average for the same quarter over the previous five years. By this measure, the first quarter of 2014 was the third most unusually cold quarter over the last sixty years, behind only the first quarter of 1978 and the fourth quarter of 1976. In addition, there were four storms in the first quarter that rated on the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS). The right chart shows that no quarter going back to 1956 had more than three such storms.

Yes, while technically correct, showing heating degree days, it is upside down to the normal human interpretation of temperature, especially when the title says “Deviation from Normal Temperatures” while presenting degree days rather than a temperature plot. The other two largest positive spikes are the brutal winters of 1977 and 1978.

Source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/05/29/second-estimate-gdp-first-quarter-2014

UPDATE:  here is how I would have presented this graph. Simply changing the title removes the inverted thinking about “Deviation from Normal Temperatures” and leaves it technically correct without unnecessarily confusing the reader.

WH_HeatingDegreeDays

Most people looking at that graph don’t have a clue what a heating or cooling degree day is. In case you don’t, here is a definition from NOAA/NWS

Q: What are degree days?

Heating engineers who wanted a way to relate each day’s temperatures to the demand for fuel to heat buildings developed the concept of heating degree days.

To calculate the heating degree days for a particular day, find the day’s average temperature by adding the day’s high and low temperatures and dividing by two. If the number is above 65, there are no heating degree days that day. If the number is less than 65, subtract it from 65 to find the number of heating degree days.

For example, if the day’s high temperature is 60 and the low is 40, the average temperature is 50 degrees. 65 minus 50 is 15 heating degree days.

Cooling degree days are also based on the day’s average minus 65. They relate the day’s temperature to the energy demands of air conditioning. For example, if the day’s high is 90 and the day’s low is 70, the day’s average is 80. 80 minus 65 is 15 cooling degree days.

Heating and cooling degree days can be used to relate how much more or less you might spend on heating or air conditioning if you move from one part of the country to another. Of course you’d have to take into account how well insulated your new home will be in comparison to your old one and the different costs of electricity, gas or heating oil. You could also use records of past heating degree days to see if the money you’ve spent on insulation, or a newer furnace or air conditioner is paying off. To do this, you’d also need records of past energy use.

The heating degree season begins July 1st and the cooling degree day season begins January 1st.

Source: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/cle/climate/info/degreedays.html

But also of interest in the same report is this graph and summary, which does make sense. It seems the winter of 2013/2014 set a new record for snowstorms.

4. Within the first quarter, several key indicators were lower in January and/or February before rebounding strongly in March, suggesting that the severe weather had a disruptive effect that only began to abate at the end of the quarter. Light vehicle sales, average weekly hours, core retail and food service sales, and core capital goods shipments dipped starting in December and/or January before bouncing back in March, and so were left little changed for the quarter as a whole. One outside group has estimated that the elevated snowfall in the first quarter slowed the annual rate of GDP growth by 1.4 percentage points, with all of that lost activity to be made up in the second quarter.

With this severe winter behind us, I have to wonder if any similar WH economic report (or any U.S. government report) exists that shows anything close to “slowed the annual rate of GDP growth by 1.4 percentage points” for a warmer than normal period. The summer of 2010 would be a good candidate for such a report.

If readers know of one, leave a note in comments.

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mountainape5

Why is it upside down?

“Yes, while technically correct, showing heating and cooling degree days,”
Chart is showing the heating degree day anomalies, does not have cooling degree days. The large negative spike in 2012? just shows that the temperature was less cold then in previous quarters. The title of the chart is wrong and using anomalies instead of just plotting the heating degree days directly makes it more complex then it needs to be.
REPLY: Yes, noted and updated thanks. The title is also at issue. – Anthony

Just re-read the caption, it is not a straight anomaly bashed on a constant base period, or the whole period shown, but based on the previous 5 quarters, so some sort of rolling anomaly, hard to compare more then just a couple of winters against each other, long term treads are nonsense they way it is plotted.

j ferguson

Anthony, I think this was done in innocence. I didn’t have any problem with it and did not think it inverted. After all it was showing heating and cooling degree days. If I’d been asked to prepare such a chart without any coaching I would have done the same thing, as I suspect would have most engineers who deal with these things.
I do see that it could be confusing and for the reasons you suggest, but I see no agenda in the form. None.

Charles Nelson

That is the most shameful and simultaneously shameless bit of data presentation that I have ever seen. Altering the graph to spike high on the coldest quarter in 50 years!
Wow….just…wow.

mem

I watched the US Science committee hearing at 1am Australian time today then later again on the archive here at http://science.house.gov/hearing/full-committee-hearing-examining-un-intergovernmental-panel-climate-change-process
But, so far today, no one else seems to think it worthy of reporting except Judith Curry. What’s up doc? My take-away was that the science is far from settled and that there is a bunch of crooked American politicians and scientists out there that want to claim climate science as their own and use it to fleece Joe and Jill public to feather their own nests/power base. This accords with the Labor Party and Greens push in Australia; that is, until the public finally voted the Labor Party and The Greens out of government. We now have the Abbot led conservative government trying to clean up the budget devastation and also the psychological and social damage to the country of the leftist doomsayers. As our upper house which is the legislating body,doesn’t change at the same time as the House of Reps (people’s house) PM Abbott’s ability to clear the deck of all the unnecessary green legislation and funding commitments is limited. What are your views on the implications for the Whitehouse? And by the way congratulations on the article posted in the Washington post . It was mentioned in the committee hearing.

Strange, because according to the heavily adjusted NCDC figures, Jan -March this year was only the 41st coldest!
http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cag/

Keith Willshaw

This looks like a classic own goal.
Not only does it appear duplicitous since there are darned few people in the US (or elsewhere) who do not realise that the past winter was brutally cold but it does not make any case for an alarming warming trend. Over the last 50 years the averaged value seems pretty stable with short term warming and cooling cycles. It also shows that extreme cold events are more disruptive than heat waves.

gaelansclark

Okay, so they determined that 65 degrees is the “Normal Temperature”?

Wallace Vaughn (@Wally6262) says:
May 30, 2014 at 4:27 am
> Just re-read the caption, it is not a straight anomaly bashed on a constant base period, or the whole period shown, but based on the previous 5 quarters,
Very important point! So the graph seems to show that quarter showed the greatest Q1 cooling of the last five years.
Including each quarter seems to me to muddy the graph – the “summer” (JAS) quarter has very different characteristics than winter.

This chart should have been labeled “Some crappy graph we made to try and confuse the issue”.
In this day of instant graphmaking ability with any data a person chooses, people tend to forget that unless the graph maker puts a lot of thought and effort into making his parameters and presentation understandable to the average viewer, the resulting graph is pretty much total garbage. The numbers will be right, but if they’re not presented in a useful format they are little more than gibberish. Sure, you can decipher it. You can decipher esperanto if you want, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to put that in your presentation.

gaelansclark says:
May 30, 2014 at 5:04 am
> Okay, so they determined that 65 degrees is the “Normal Temperature”?
Not normal, it’s just the chosen average daily temperature when people typically heat their house.
See http://www.erh.noaa.gov/cle/climate/info/degreedays.html . I don’t know if the threshholds are codified in some document from a standards body. Any HVAC people here?

dipchip

Perhaps we should push the fact that GDP collapse due to unusually cold weather, is an excuse to justify a faltering economy. Does that mean that global warming will improve the economy?
Store this for future use as a sceptics talking point!

Pamela Gray

Governmental wrangling with data when they don’t know how to wrangle. I’ve seen it many times. Like trying to convince me that a linear trend line can justifiably be derived from subtracting the first data point from the last data point in the series and then dividing by the number of time units. With noisy data. Filled with multiple variables. That is used to make important decisions. FUBAR.

Brian

I tend to agree with a lot of what is published here but there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding among commentors regarding this report. It’s an economic report. Cold winters cause spikes in energy comsumption and energy cost. It’s not misleading in any way, shape, or form. BTW I’m a Mechanical Engineer working primarily in HVAC and energy engineering for over 30 years. This particular post is much ado about nothing.

hunter

Team Obama is grasping at straws to explain away his economic failures,
Why not blame CO2 for that, and why not use phonied up Mann-style stats to do it?

starzmom

Someplace I just saw a headline that 2014 is shaping up to be the warmest year ever. Does this graph, confusing as it is, throw a monkey wrench into that projection?

Greg

Seems like an unfounded gripe to me. It’s clearly labelled “HEATING degree days”, not “degree days and also carries annotations indicating “colder than normal” / “warmer than normal” in appropriate blue and red.
The sense of comparison is not affected w.r.t. 1950s.
The confusing is in this article which asks : “Q: What are degree days?” when that is not the quantity in discussion. This is almost wilful mislabelling to create a problem to moan about.
I see nothing misleading in the White House document.
In fact it’s informative: look at the trend since 1998 Heating requirements have been steadily rising !! I’d say this will be a useful graph to refer to next time someone pretends “global warming is happening now” etc.
I’m saving a copy.

hunter says:
May 30, 2014 at 5:45 am

Team Obama is grasping at straws to explain away his economic failures,
Why not blame CO2 for that, and why not use phonied up Mann-style stats to do it?
starzmom says:

May 30, 2014 at 5:53 am

Someplace I just saw a headline that 2014 is shaping up to be the warmest year ever. Does this graph, confusing as it is, throw a monkey wrench into that projection?

Which IS EXACTLY the point of the “upside down” (COLDER WEATHER across the US for the winter means a “SPIKE” in the plot!) by the White House.
Economic LOSS for the entire nation for the entire quarter-year means a SPIKE in the plot!
MORE ENERGY “lost” (used by the people for survival in COLD WEATHER) means a SPIKE in the plot!
It is exactly the same as when they showed plots a SPIKE in food stamps and welfare as a “growth” in the economy, and claimed that MORE welfare means a healthier economy. When they claimed that LESS government spending means the economy will fail.
And their captive ABCNNBCBS TV news media wll repeat this. Have repeated this in the past, Will continue to repeat it in the future to protect their liberal politicians. This is a politically-driven plot to excuse the first quarter loss, and will be used as long as it is convenient to use. Then it will be changed, and “economic growth” will be plotted to show “economic growth between the first quarter and the second quarter” just in time for the election in November. NOT to prove that economic growth is better in warm weather.

Brian

Ric Werme –
65*F is an arbitrary baseline number that represents the outdoor ambient temperature below which we expect people to use heating and above which we expect people to use cooling. 65*F hasn’t been a useful number for heating since the 70’s reaction to the oil crisis and it hasn’t been useful for cooling since the advent of the personal computer. It’s just a standard for comparison.
HDD are normally used only for estimating monthly/annual heating energy costs by lazy engineers. Some energy codes, including ASHRAE 90.1 use it for determining required U-values for facility features.

JJ

Sooooo …. This week the White House uses one of the three Coldest Winters EVAH ™ to excuse the administration’s continued mismanagement of the nation’s economy.
Then Obama will turn right around on Monday and use “Global Warming” to justify his cap and trade tax plan.
It’s surreal. Orwell has nothing on these clowns.

Rick

We now plot the weather in quarters like GDP? IMO the unpredictable nature of weather nullifies the effectiveness of the endeavor.

jimmi_the_dalek

Surely it is this article that has it upside down, not the diagram being complained about?
See comment by Brian at 5:31.
A “heating degree day” = ” a day you have to turn the heating on” i.e a cold day – the graph is correctly labelled and the right way round

Roy Martin

@ Brian, May 30, 2014 at 5:31 am
“… there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding among commenters regarding this report.”
Precisely! You, as an engineer with over 30 years experience in the field, understand it. How many politicians, unelected decision makers, reporters, talking heads or infotainment consumers will get it? Very few!
So yes, there is a lot of misunderstanding, but not from the commenters. I, for one, understand it very well.

Tom J

The elite Wasingtonians might be advised to insulate their tony homes for a possible chill late this fall.

j ferguson

Guys, there is nothing arcane about that chart. Charts just like this one but covering only the previous month used to come with my gas bill in Chicago forty years ago. They were (are) always done this way, never as you say other way up. No-one familiar with concept of degree days would ever do it any other way.
So what we have here is a reaction to something not understood or unfamiliar and the immediate assumption that it is liberal, (well it would be from this administration), propaganda. Think about the Chicken-Little story as an example – same thing.
Frankly, I’m astonished that our host wasn’t familiar with these charts given his profession.
Lest anyone think that what I’ve written is a general attack on this site, I would say that much of what gets posted here is interesting, often useful, and even substantial. But there is the occasional silliness and this is a good example.
REPLY: I take exception to your statement “Frankly, I’m astonished that our host wasn’t familiar with these charts given his profession.” That’s the sort of rubbish that attack loonies like “Sou” aka Miriam O’Brien would say. If I wasn’t familiar with it, why did I go to the trouble of trying to educate readers about the definition of it? My point is that they could have 1) labeled it correctly or 2) Presented the data so that the label of 3rd coldest was a downgoing spike rather than an uptick, like the way a thermometer reads.
The fact that so many people, including yourself are confused about it illustrates my point. – Anthony

Mohatdebos

A number of posters have noted that the objective behind this exercise was to show that extreme cold in the first quarter resulted in negative economic growth. My guess is that this analysis was performed by the Energy Information Administration, which keeps track of energy consumption in the U.S. What is interesting is that the NCDC, which is responsible for hyping global warming (aka climate change) by adjusting temperature data upwards, insists that the first quarter was slightly warmer than normal. Someone should ask the White House about this discrepancy.

Brian

Roy –
If it had been shown in the technically incorrect format, how many here would be complaining about it on that basis? Are we to pick our arguments based on a politically driven point of view or a technically driven one? There has been a lot of discussion here in the past lambasting the politicizing of technical information and I, for one, seek consistency in my approach.

ossqss

I am shocked the White House did not find out about the GDP problem on the news like everything else they claim not to know about. This is just another opportunity to avoid responsibility again! It is ironic how this happened in the first full quarter after the ACA was implemented.
On a side note and kinda on topic, I missed this yesterday.
http://judithcurry.com/2014/05/29/u-s-house-hearing-on-the-ipcc-process/#more-15644

ffohnad

It seems a important factor is missing in the equation. Personal heating and cooling settings vary by quite a bit…..for instance I set my cooling threshold at 80 and my heating at 65. My neighbor claims to set his at 72/70. I suspect this factor would change much of the data, and it seems to be unaccounted for.

DayHay

J. Ferguson, to think that anything coming out of this administration or any administration is innocent it tremendously naive. Any graph “up and to the right” communicates the party line that we need the cap and trade that is coming through the EPA. We have to consider the sources because over the last 15 years the BS consensus has been 100%. The simple fact that one of the worst winters in 20 years has barely been mentioned in “science” or the MSM, and when it is it is it is blamed on man made global warming should tell you something.

j ferguson

What Brian said. + 1

Brian

Mohatdebos @ 7:21 –
They are not inconsistent. This is a US economic report. The NCDC reported the National winter temperatures as colder than normal, while reporting the Global land surface temperatures as still warmer than normal.

j ferguson

DayHay, “Tremendously Naive”?? I didn’t say they might not misuse it, but I think to pick on this poor innocent, and likely correct chart is to express a blind pessimism which is largely politically biased. I share your general view, but this isn’t a good example.

Greg

I think 65 must be the average of the data shown. These cumulative integrals veer off quickly one way or the other if they aren’t referenced to the long term mean.

j ferguson

Anthony, I read your reaction to my suggestion that you might not be familiar with a degree day chart. I still cannot understand how you would think it reasonable that this one single degree-day chart among the thousands published over the years that look just like this one with identical orientations should be inverted.
My guess is that I’m not the only one reading this who thinks this, either.

REPLY:
See my update, you’ve missed the point. Simply changing the title removes the inverted thinking about “Deviation from Normal Temperatures”. The title is wrong, and sets up the uninformed reader with something that is inverted to any temperature anomaly graph they have ever seen.
BTW, I used to give HDD and CDD’s on a half hour farm report I used to do long ago in the Midwest, (farmers who have livestock buildings had to pay a lot of attention to fuel oil and natural gas/bottled gas use) so please don’t tell me that I’m unfamiliar with the terms and their method of derivation. – Anthony

Alan Robertson

“It seems the winter of 2013/2014 set a new record for snowstorms.”
________________________
Of course there were more snowstorms and it’s all your fault. Didn’t we all get the memo from the Climate Fearosphere? “Warmer air holds more moisture, so therefore Global Warming causes more snow storms”.
Colder winters? Those are your fault too; Climate Disruption.
You will pay for your sins.

Greg

“Simply changing the title removes the inverted thinking”
That is true. The title does not reflect the variable that is being plotted.

Brian

Greg @ 8:06 – Please see my explanation of the 65*F @ 6:11

Greg

try flipping the graph
http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=t540t2&s=8#.U4ijKaKBwrQ
general downward trend since 1998.

j ferguson

Thanks Anthony. Now it makes sense, even to this meanest understanding.

Steve McIntyre

It’s unfair to Mia Tiljander to include her as part of the upside-down syndrome. She didn’t use her data upside down. It was Mann (followed later by Huybers and Tingley and IPCC).
REPLY: I never suggested she did, only that Mann’s interpretation of her data was inverted, much like the WH interpretation of temperature anomaly in the graph, but to be precise, I added the word interpretation so that this reads: “upside down data interpretation” – Anthony

Greg

Brian says:
Greg @ 8:06 – Please see my explanation of the 65*F @ 6:11
Well if that really a figure that was fixed decades ago and does not get adjusted, it must be damned close to true mean of the data.
Imagine the figure had been set at 64.99F that would introduce a drift of 3 degree.days per year or 180 degree.days in the 60y year record. Even one HUNDREDTH of a a degree would cause it to ramp off one way or the other.
Now I just don’t buy that 65F is _exactly_ the mean of that data to within 0.01 degrees, by pure accident , and happens to match what someone chose decades ago (when we all know it was MUCH colder than today).
Whatever NOAA, NCDC or the WH say, I’m telling you it’s mean of that data.

J

The big shocker to me is that the graph of heating days shows no trend decreasing with time.
If the climate is growing warmer, we should be heating less, right?
The graph looks about level, so no warming trend !

D.J. Hawkins

ffohnad says:
May 30, 2014 at 7:42 am
It seems a important factor is missing in the equation. Personal heating and cooling settings vary by quite a bit…..for instance I set my cooling threshold at 80 and my heating at 65. My neighbor claims to set his at 72/70. I suspect this factor would change much of the data, and it seems to be unaccounted for.

These standards are used, along with local extremes, by HVAC engineers to determine the proper size for your furnace and chiller. They have to pick something, and 65F is the consensus standard. Remember that this is the outside temperature, not the temperature in your home. With an outside temperature of 65F homes are more or less in thermal balance. Normal human activites produce enough heat that there is little or no demand on the heating system and in fact interior temperatures may be closer to 70F or so. FWIW, this is pretty much my own experience, and as usual YMMV.

Greg

Compare the last snap of cold years like that to the tornado records for EF3 and greater:
http://climategrog.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=257
We’re moving into a cooling period expect tornadoes.

Greg

This is the kind of extreme weather we can expect as world COOLS , it the new normal.

D.J. Hawkins

Greg says:
May 30, 2014 at 8:38 am
Brian says:
Greg @ 8:06 – Please see my explanation of the 65*F @ 6:11
Well if that really a figure that was fixed decades ago and does not get adjusted, it must be damned close to true mean of the data.
Imagine the figure had been set at 64.99F that would introduce a drift of 3 degree.days per year or 180 degree.days in the 60y year record. Even one HUNDREDTH of a a degree would cause it to ramp off one way or the other.
Now I just don’t buy that 65F is _exactly_ the mean of that data to within 0.01 degrees, by pure accident , and happens to match what someone chose decades ago (when we all know it was MUCH colder than today).
Whatever NOAA, NCDC or the WH say, I’m telling you it’s mean of that data.

Sixty year record? You didn’t actually read the explanatory material, did you? First, the 65F temperature isn’t some calculated item; it’s an arbitrarily selected standard. Second, the anomolies aren’t calculated against the entire record, they are calculated against 5-year bins. For Q1 for 1980, it’s calculated against the average for Q1 for 1976-1980.

Greg

J says:
May 30, 2014 at 8:39 am
The big shocker to me is that the graph of heating days shows no trend decreasing with time.
If the climate is growing warmer, we should be heating less, right?
The graph looks about level, so no warming trend !
====
You would have been writing that as I posted the explanation just above you comment. That plot has to be relative to the mean of the data. Thus no trend.