Is NOAA Wrong?

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

On another post here on Watts Up With That, a commenter pointed out that NOAA says that September 2014 was the warmest September ever on record. The commenter asked, “Is NOAA  wrong?”

Sadly, as near as I can tell the answer is “Quite possibly”.

Here is the NOAA graphic in question, showing their idea of the current year to date in black, and the five warmest years in color.

noaa year to date global temperatureFigure 1. NOAA’s graphic showing the progress of the year to date. SOURCE

Man, they are squeezing it to claim this year’s average up to September was the warmest average up to September, looks like a three-way tie to me … but I digress.

Now, I have read in a lot of places that we currently have good agreement between the satellite temperature data and the ground temperature data. Each time I read that, I just laugh. While the two measurements are closer than they have been in the past, there are still great differences. As one of many examples of the differences, consider the corresponding graph of the UAH satellite temperatures for the globe. I’ve used the same colors for the years as in Figure 1 for easy comparison:

UAH MSU year to date avg global temperature

Figure 2. My UPDATED graphic showing the UAH MSU T2LT lower temperature data. Sadly, lack of sleep took its toll, and I showed the individual monthly values in my previous graphic, rather than the year-to-date average. My error has no effect on the conclusions of the post. Note that the MSU anomalies have been re-baselined to match the NOAA anomalies. Data Source

Now, we expect the lower troposphere temperature to vary more than the surface temperature, so the larger variation of the satellite data is no surprise. But far from showing this September as the warmest in the record, the MSU dataset has this September as being tied for eighth warmest September, and that’s only since 1979.

What is the reason for this huge difference in the surface and tropospheric records? I think it is a result of two things—the endless upwards adjustment of the surface data, along with the always-growing urban heat island effect.

But whatever the reason, it is clear that the satellite record tells a very different answer than the one given by the practitioners of the dark art of post-hoc historical temperature adjustment. Given my choice, I’d say that the satellite record is the better of the two … and while YMMV on that question, at a minimum we can say that the development of climate science is in such an early stage that we still don’t have general agreement on even the recent temperature history of the planet, much less the earlier temperature record. “Settled science” at its finest, I suppose.

Finally, acknowledgement is due to the originators of the method of satellite temperature measurements, Drs. Roy Spencer and John Christie. It is thanks to them that we have a satellite-based atmospheric temperature record to act as a reality check for the oft-adjusted surface temperature record. Very well done, gentlemen.

Best regards to everyone on this Friday night, and what could a working fool enjoy more than Friday night? There’s rain forecast for tomorrow, said to be the first real storm of this year of drought. The sky has been sending signals and signs all day. Now the wind has backed to the southwest, the dry earth lies quiet, the air smells of rain …


The Usual—if you disagree with someone, please quote the exact words you disagree with. This allows everyone to understand what you think is incorrect.


140 thoughts on “Is NOAA Wrong?

  1. [snip “ren” – I’m tired of your thread bombing with pointless off-topic content from “nullschool”. Stop it or be banned – Anthony]

  2. After seeing the figures, it is clear that they are more in association with the local/regional general circulation impact and precipitation impact. The variation is large in January to April and the variation is small in August to December. This is a natural variation.
    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

  3. Too right about the value of the Satellite record. Without it, it seems very likely indeed that the surface guys would have ‘adjusted’ the record to fit alarmist predictions.

  4. Had someone among scientist bothered taking a good look at last year’s vulcano eruptions in water or close to water in region Berings Straight via Aleutian Islands over to Kodiak Islands, they would have a better understanding of why winds, streams and much more are effected by underwater vulcanos CO2-produce. Also why it’s impossible to use reradiation temperature instead of meassuring temperatures 1 resp 3 meter over actual waterlevel AND also under not only in a few places but at least each 100 square kilometer. The reradiation figure is in itself a fake reading. So many factors are involved in which reradiation can be “found” that this is more How to lie with statistics than not.

  5. Thanks w, I hope the rains come for you and California but please I hope not all at once and have a great weekend!

  6. Willis, looking at the 1st graph, I see that September is the only month of 2014 that even has a chance of being called the warmest ever. How is that earlier months of 2014 have also been called the warmest (xxx) ever when that graph clearly shows other years were much warmer.

  7. Unless there was a separate typo already corrected, I think Kurt is referring to the first paragraph rather than the title. As I understand it, it should read ” …NOAA says that September 2014 was the warmest September ever on record.”
    Wllis, thanks for a terrific job.
    You’ve made the issues clear enough to explain and actually get through to those who do not wish to listen.
    Apropos of ‘the dark art of post-hoc historical temperature adjustment’, you and others whose integrity I respect, have referred to it often enough that I accept it happened. But that’s faith on my behalf, not science. I’d like to know all about these changes.* Presumably, I can’t go to NOAA because they will only provide the revised figures.
    I’ve read Steve Goddard’s claims, and the critiques. I’ve used Google but not found what I’m looking for. Do you, or any reader, know a site or article that might help?
    What I fear is that the same thing is happening with Climate Scientists and temperature measurements as, according to Feynman**, previously happened with physicists and the charge on the electron. That is, when they got a result that differed from what they expected, they looked for reasons why it might be wrong, and find reasons why it might be wrong. But if it fits with what they expect, they don’t look so hard. And, that this has lead NOAA to be wrong for the same reasons it lead early physicists to be wrong in their field.
    *Ideally, I’d like to know from personal knowledge how many adjustments have been made, what data have been adjusted, when it was done, what justification was given, and what the effect of the adjustment individually and in total was, how many exaggerate warming, and how many decrease it.

    • Apropos of ‘the dark art of post-hoc historical temperature adjustment’, you and others whose integrity I respect, have referred to it often enough that I accept it happened. But that’s faith on my behalf, not science. I’d like to know all about these changes.

      No one will ever “know all about these changes”, because they happened gradually, done by multiple individuals for different, sometimes undisclosed reasons. The motivation behind these adjustments is easier to identify though, it is to bring observations closer to theoretical expectations.
      You can see a particularly well documented case of tampering in a comment at Judith Curry’s site, but it does not even touch the whys and hows, only the what.

      • An exercise everyone might want to try is to download the BEST data in its various forms. The non quality controlled data is quite fascinating. The first time I went to plot automagically, the chart was wacky. 1996 C… Wow. That was a hot day.
        When i pulled the data, I was hoping to find daily data to plot. No such luck. Even the rawest form of the data on BEST has the form of Monthly AVE. There are datasets for TAVE, TMIN, and TMAX. You will be fooled reading the processing documents for the data. The data is stored in such a way as to allow data to be stored in multiple forms: hourly, daily, monthly. I suspect that someone ran into problems and it ended as just monthly averages.
        Averages are your friend. Averages will also bite you in the ass and make you believe things that aren’t really there.
        The HadCRUT4 Temperature anomaly above is cute, but it is also an example of people getting really carried away with averages and letting them bite them in the ass. The averages were all done ignoring enthalpy. The experts know better (they are experts aren’t they, they better know what enthalpy is and why it is that engineers get it beaten into their heads). The error bars on the data above associated with not using enthalpy to do the calculations are bigger than the range of the data.
        This is the white elephant in the room. The second white elephant is not having the complete set of data shown next to this.
        Plot all the data points. Plot the full range of data. The range of data is -80C to +40 C. When you start looking at the full range of the data you say “WTF!”

    • Go to Judith Curry’s “Climate Etc” blog.
      Type “adjustments” into the “search” panel on the RH side.
      Top of the list will be the recent post “Understanding adjustments to temperature data” where Zeke Hausfather and Steve Mosher attempt, to great skeptiscm and a very high level of wide eyed disbelief from most of the denizens, to explain the temperature adjustments to the data, both historical and current..
      That post on Climate Etc has well over two thousand comments to it but the first thousand about round up the adjustments, the infilling, krieging, homogenisation, daily adjustments of historical temperatures and etc ??? and the results re the global temperature adjustments by NCDC, NOAA,.
      Along with all the other in-between “and etc’s” the original recorded field data right through to the publication of the presumed and claimed current temperatures, the so called and passed off as “science” ain’t pretty at all.
      In fact ANY claims on land based temperature records by any climate science based data processing organisation on temperatures here and now, past and present are downright dis-believable after going through that lot.

      • E.M. Smith,
        Thank you. I frequently follow relevant links to your site. This is a good description and I only copy the link for clarity (any additional comments prior to this comment may cloud my comment).
        For any newcomers to the issues discussed here at WUWT and CAGW there is a long learning curve with a lot of time, reading, following links, etc. to fully grasp the 20+ years of deception surrounding the CAGW scam focused on CO2 and temps. I have spent 5 years immersed in it and it has been a most enlightening experience, though quite sad as I wanted to believe the “scientists”. If you have a basic understanding of physics, thermodynamics, math, statistics (god forbid LOL), and basic common sense then hang in there. This issue is the greatest hurdle developed society has encountered in recent history. The stake are high and you need to know.
        An essay suitable for the layman on the manipulations of the surface data and complete lack of coverage in large areas that have been infilled with fantasy results needs to be presented to those new to the adjustment scam. Steve Goddard has been presenting some good graphics recently. WUWT has the most and best sources of knowledge from extremely intelligent commenters that I follow closely.
        Again, if you are new to the discussion (5 years for me) hang in there. The more you begin to know the more you will appreciate the contributions here. Inquiring minds need to know and this important issue we are facing has immense consequences to our civilized way of life. What’s not to like about an inquiring mind?

    • I’m very much with you on this but I expect it is such a mammoth task to check all the changes that have been made and to discover the reasons, real and those claimed by the adjusters, for these changes. It seems passing strange that adjustments to earlier records, say prior to 1970, are largely downward while those after 1970 are predominantly upward. If earlier thermometer readings over estimated temperature what was the change in siting/type of thermometer/reading process around 1970 that lead to underestimates of temperature?

      • Perhaps the solution is to only believe temperature measurements made with thermometers made and deployed in 1970? It seems they are the only ones our Government believes.

    • “Apropos of ‘the dark art of post-hoc historical temperature adjustment’, you and others whose integrity I respect, have referred to it often enough that I accept it happened. ”
      jesus was raised from the dead. I heard that a lot too.
      1. The historical temperatures are not measured, they are estimated.
      2. Over time every group that estimates the past has improved their methodology.
      3. Changes, even month to month changes, in the estimates of the past are due to
      thes things
      A) the addition of more data.
      B) the removal of spurious records ( duplicates etc)
      C) improved QC
      D) changes in estimation algorithms.
      Strange as it sounds adding data in 2014 will change our estimate of past temperatures.
      This is especially true for GISS.

      • jesus was raised from the dead. I heard that a lot too.
        Good zinger. That would apply in spades to cAGW, no?
        In fact, it applies to the entire carbon scare. We’ve heard it so much, that it must be true!

      • Sorry Mosher, it does not explain away so easily.
        “Strange as it sounds adding data in 2014 will change our estimate of past temperatures”
        Positive feedback?
        Apparently Judith Curry decided it was not for her.

      • Strange as it sounds adding data in 2014 will change our estimate of past temperatures.
        This is especially true for GISS.

        Steven, I’m sure it’s not your intention, but when the vast majority of normal people encounter a situation where present events changes past facts, they consider it a lie. People don’t realize that when Climatologist say a temperature is X, that the temperature is a totally synthetic number, an average of spacialy and temporaly sparse data that is normalized and homogenized and adjusted in arcane manners. So when people start calling you and your comrades liars, now you’ll know why.

      • Mosh, always good to hear from you. A few questions.
        You say “The historical temperatures are not measured, they are estimated.” I fear this is unclear. If the historical temperature at the San Francisco ground station on a given day in 1916 was measured at 11.6°C, how is this an “estimation”? It seems you may be using some unusual definition for “historical temperatures”.
        You say “Over time every group that estimates the past has improved their methodology.”. This is very optimistic. A more accurate statement would be that “Over time every group that estimates the past has changed their methodology.” Whether the change has improved things is case-dependent and subject to question.
        Finally, you say that the addition of data in 2014 will change our estimates of past temperatures. I fear I don’t understand that statement. If the temperature at the San Francisco ground station on a given day in 2014 is measured at 12.7°C, how can this possible change the measurement of the temperature at the San Francisco ground station on a given day in 1916?
        What am I missing here? It seems that you are not distinguishing sufficiently between temperature measurements and temperature estimates, but I could easily be wrong. Some definitions and examples would be useful here.
        In closing let me note that in a previous post I explored the problems with the “scalpel” method used by Berkeley Earth, a project with which you are involved. In that post I asked the following question:

        • In any kind of sawtooth-shaped wave of a temperature record subject to periodic or episodic maintenance or change, e.g. painting a Stephenson screen, the most accurate measurements are those immediately following the change. Following that, there is a gradual drift in the temperature until the following maintenance.
        • Since the Berkeley Earth “scalpel” method would slice these into separate records at the time of the discontinuities caused by the maintenance, it throws away the trend correction information obtained at the time when the episodic maintenance removes the instrumental drift from the record.
        • As a result, the scalpel method “bakes in” the gradual drift that occurs in between the corrections.
        Now this makes perfect sense to me. You can see what would happen with a thought experiment. If we have a bunch of trendless sawtooth waves of varying frequencies, and we chop them at their respective discontinuities, average their first differences, and cumulatively sum the averages, we will get a strong positive trend despite the fact that there is absolutely no trend in the sawtooth waves themselves.
        So I’d like to know if and how the “scalpel” method avoids this problem … because I sure can’t think of a way to avoid it.
        In your reply, please consider that I have long thought and written that the scalpel method was the best of a bad lot of methods, all methods have problems but I thought the scalpel method avoided most of them … so don’t thump me on the head, I’m only the messenger here.

        At the time you never answered my question … do you have any answers now that some time has elapsed?
        My best regards to you as always,

      • Gosh, what a fantasy world some inhabit.
        Past temperatures were measured; they are not estimates, but measurements taken by the equipment used with the results of the measurements being logged and recorded. .
        We know, as FACT, the temperature measured, ie., that which was actually recorded.
        The only issue that needs to be addressed is what is the margin of error of the measurement made?
        This will depend upon a variety of factors, such as equipment used and its calibration, the siting of stations and their condition and maintenance, practice adopted when taking measurments (which will include TOB issues), encroachment of UHI etc.
        There is no need to make any adjustment to raw data. The raw data can be presented around which an envelope of the error margins can be drawn. May be in the past the error margins are greater than today, but that is really the only enquiry that should be carried out.
        The data should be presented for what it is, ie., with ‘warts and all’, with the scientists realistically estimating the magnitude of the ‘warts and all’ Then one can read the data for what it is, and what it really shows.
        Presently all we are doing today is evaluating the efficacy of all the numerous adjustments that have been made and which have so bastardised the temperature record such as to have rendered it useless.

      • When you have the likes of a Gavin Schmidt doing all of the adjusting, infilling, homogenization, etc., what is the result? The hottest ever. In this important post, Willis has exposed the workings of Schmidt’s temperature workshop.

      • Paul Jackson nailed it IMO of the central problem with rationalizing by those who “change our estimate of past temperatures” when “adding data in 2014”, by calling past measurements merely “estimates.”

        “…majority of normal people encounter a situation where present events changes past facts, they consider it a lie.

        By calling past measurements simply “estimates” the scientists at GISS (and elsewhere) can avoid the professional ethical dilemma when hard data is changed to suit a preconceived bias of what the result must look like. Those who do realize what is happening can simply chalk it up as the “ends justifying the means”(aka, Noble Cause Corruption).

      • Practitioners of both the land-based measurements and the satellites measurements have to reconcile their temperature data and explain why they are given different results. According to the land-based instruments 2014 is one of the hottest years ever, while according to the satellites it’s nothing special. This is important because public policy decisions worth hundreds of billions of dollars will be based on these measurements.
        Quite frankly in my opinion it is unconscionable that climate scientists have made no attempt to explain the discrepancy to see which is right, if either.
        Bob Clark

      • w – Great post.
        Great comment (October 25, 2014 at 12:39 pm)
        Great clarity.
        Great question (If the temperature at a given place on a given day was measured as a particular value, how is this an estimate?”.

      • Willis Eschenbach October 25, 2014 at 12:39 pm

        [ … ] you say that the addition of data in 2014 will change our estimates of past temperatures. I fear I don’t understand that statement.

        If I may be so bold, Willis … the past has to be cooled to maintain the warming trend through the “Pause” and beyond. Current temperatures are warmed to not easily draw attention to the cooling of the past. ‘Steve Goddard’ is on to this. 😉

      • Strange as it sounds adding data in 2014 will change our estimate of past temperatures.
        This is especially true for GISS.

        I would guess that based on the above statement, you are changing either model parameters or the models themselves, based on their failure to predict from some past time to the present. Or some other thing; really, it’s hard to tell from outside the box.
        Historical temperatures are not measured? Even when we had the means to measure them directly?
        Some explication is wanted, here. Please.
        I’d add here that Mosher is NOT saying that data measured now is changing past measurements; just that it’s changing past estimates. That doesn’t sound out of bounds to me, on its face.

    • Yes, it is amazing how an entire post and over 100 comments will be based on misinterpretation of graph. Let’s see if the error is acknowledged.

  8. Suppose last month was indeed “the hottest September evah!” — at least, since reliable records began. When one considers the age of the planet and the length of the period for which no accurate record exists … what useful conclusions may be derived from this hottest of Septembers?
    In any case, has the anthropogenic signal been plausibly distinguished from the natural one? If so, can it be definitively asserted that, in the absence of the anthropogenic signal, the Earth would not be warming? Is there any point pursuing this exercise any further?

  9. I like this quote from Willis:
    “practitioners of the dark art of post-hoc historical temperature adjustment”.
    Harry Potter versus Lord Voldemort =
    WUWT / Real Science / Roy Spencer / GWPF / Jo Nova et al., versus Real Climate / BEST / BOM / Hadcrut MET
    Opportunity for Josh

    • So we can take it from Willis’s quote above that he thinks that GISS etc are indeed publishing/promoting fraudulent temp data?

  10. As Bill 2 says, Fig 1 is the average to date, not the monthly temperature. The NOAA average for Sept, anomaly baseline 1971-2000, was 0.501°C. That is the warmest in their record. next was 2005 at 0.457°C.
    The reason it is so high is, as Bob Tisdale has been saying, SST is very warm. Troposphere readings taker some time to respond to that.

  11. I agree however that the SSTs have been very high, which is simply exemplary of how the oceans drive the GAT.

  12. Nick, the overwhelming fact is that satellites show that every month of the year was cooler than 1998, with the 1998 anomalies double the 2014 anomalies.

      • It is probably correct to say that the GISS reported temperatures have been warm. It is less obvious what the actual temperatures were. And the actual heat retention in the atmosphere is totally obscured as air temperature is the incorrect metric.

      • @Ian: GISS do not report temperatures. They take in GHCN USHCN temperatures and some Hadley SST data and fabricate fictional gridcells via homogenizing and smearing averages. Averages of temperatures are not temperatures. It is an intrinsic property, after all…

      • The surface has been warm; the troposphere cool.

        That is, average global lapse rate was higher than average, implies less than average atmospheric moisture in the upper troposphere. Which contradicts to a positive water vapor / cloud feedback, cAGW theory devastated. I did not know you were a climate denier in disguise.

    • Maybe the “Co2 Rules Gang” started a new data base in August 2014 making September 2014 the warmest on record. LOL

  13. Right or wrong, it’s a Warm herring. Warmunists just love to point out the warmest this or the warmest that evah. They know the lofo Believers will take it to mean that it is further proof that the earth is heating up and it’s our fault. Warm herrings are their go-to responses when you try to point out that warming has stopped for some 18 years now. Another favorite is to ask “so how come the poles are melting?”

  14. Well I’ll ask Willis directly. Do you think that GISS is publishing fraudulent temperature data? And do you think that the GISS record has persistently altered the past temp record to show more warming since the late 1970s? Yes or no?

    • @Neville: You are asking W. an impossible question. GISS fabricates fictional grid cells from temperature averages. Temps are input from GHCN and USHCN but then huge manipulations are done. It is a “never the same way twice” automated data blender making a data food product that is not a temperature record. Details at my site under GIStemp topics. A few hundred postings…
      So yes, GISS has persistently cooled the past and warmed the present (as has GHCN NOAA) but their work product is not a temperature series. It is a mathematical fantasy.

    • It is no accident and Gavin Schmidt has his cue: it is the run up to the election and the strategy is alarmist hype.
      Here are the stakes: the dems will lose the senate and the GOP controls Congress and that puts Obama in trammels for the last two years of his term.
      Remember the NYC parade and Poohtus’ flop at the UN last month? All part of the strategy to mobilize the vote of the gullible types.
      So Schmidt’s task was to generate the hottest month evah. And he came through.
      But guess what.
      It backfired. Five Dem senators who are vulnerable have told Poohtus to can it because it is turning people off and they are running scared.
      But the point is this: Gavin Schmidt is playing politics at GISS and purposefully fabricating data for propaganda (election) effect.
      It is no accident and Schmidt has some things to answer for. He is not the only one.

  15. The North Pacific and the North Atlantic were so warm in August and September that …
    … Well nobody noticed and nothing unusual happened.
    It’s more that all the previous Augusts and Septembers were adjusted colder.
    Is the climatology of 1961 to 1990, or 1981 to 2000 the same as it used to be? No, they have lowered it and changed it. Every month they change it.
    And the changes have impacted the summer months more than the winter months.
    The ocean surface is still 15.8C in the August and September in the North Pacific and the North Atlantic just like it is has always been. But now, they pretend it used to be 14.9C in the summer and the anomaly is the warmest ever.
    They have a profession and a belief system to protect.

  16. 2014 Year-to-Date Average Global Temperature from the Figure 1. NOAA graphic
    2014 low – Feb +0.55 C
    2014 high – Sept +0.68 C
    2014 YTD Avg temp – +0.615 C
    If my calculation is correct, 2014 is sucking hind teat on that list of “five warmest years ever” and will surely end up at the bottom as #6.

  17. Willis, perhaps you can write an article analyzing and explaining the adjustments made by NOAA/NASA? Chiefio and you have a knack of making complex topics understandable to non-technical folks. Thanks.

  18. A person can be wrong because they are mistaken. That can happen to any of us, we are, after all, only human. Mistakes can be corrected and forgiven.
    A person can be wrong because they are deceitful, i.e. lying, representing something to be true when they know it is not or have strong reasons for doubt. That is unforgivable.

    • Thanks, that says a lot. I do not think this divergence has ever happened before. If it had Nick Stokes would be posting it all over.

      • There was considerable divergence between UAH MSU and surface temperatures when it was first produced due to errors etc., when the necessary corrections and adjustments were made by Spencer and Christy the agreement was much better. RSS was produced in response to that as I recall.

  19. It is strange that NOAA focuses on potential 2014 global temperature records , while completely ignoring the fact that YEAR TO DATE to SEPTEMBER trend for CONTIGUOUS US average temperature is -0.42F/decade since 1998 and is at the lowest in 17 YEARS in 2014 with an anomaly of -1.23F .The globe may be warm but Contiguous US has been cooling for17 years now You will rarely hear about the cooling trends from NOAA, only the warming

  20. If they calculated confidence limits on each of those lines in figure 1, they would have to admit “too close to call” like margin of error in political polls conducted by different parties. The bias is evident.

    • Yes and if there is any leeway to be exploited, you can be sure it would be. The NOAA measurements definitely represent the highest number that can be decently reported. Probably the competing measurements are the lowest that can be decently reported. Remember, Hansen started them all looking for new world records in 1998 with the super El Nino and it took a drastic adjustment by GISS to push the late 1930s-early 40s down several tenths. He realized that 1998 may be the only chance in several years to find such a record. Now it’s standard climate science to jigger the temps (all of them) every year – old ones down, new ones up.

  21. Re UHI and the temp record – an experiment. It would be most instructive to take a highly accurate thermometer to each of the urban, close to urban, airports…used in the long term USHCN sites and syncronize the readings. Then march it off to an ideal suburban site of the same latitude and elevation and take readings at the correct times. Compare these with the corresponding adjusted temperatures used for the USHCN and see what we get. Why is this not being done anyway. It seems that fieldwork is something to be avoided by modern scientists.

    • this appeared so obvious to me i thought i had missed an even more obvious reason it was not the correct way to compare. i think i spent too much time reading on nick stokes site trying to understand the apparent faith he has in the fantasy temperature generation game.
      as you say,why has this simple exercise not taken place .could be a good wuwt crowd sourced project.

    • You’ve essentially described the pairwise homogenization process, the results of which can already be quantified simply by downloading both the raw and adjusted data from USHCN (or GHCN) and comparing them. The experiment you’re actually proposing is verifying the raw data by taking independent measurements. To get any meaningful result, you’d need long-term emplacement of your highly accurate thermometers. And you’d need quite a few of them.

  22. I thought the errors on these values were actually large enough such that you cannot differentiate between values such as 0.64, 0.65C, thus NOAA should not be stating one September is warmer than another when they are so close.
    Also why would NOAA not provide a value for Sep 2014 on the first chart, that’s a really strange approach.

  23. Scaning comments, I didn’t see anyone point this out, but Willis, you read the graph wrong. It shows the year to date average, not the average for individual months.

  24. What is happening is that the homogenization process is regressing the land (surface air) temps that are around 15˚ C to the Sea Surface average temperature that is around 22˚C.
    They have 7˚ C in the pipeline to work with, and it is a semi plausible adjustment.

  25. The primary error NOAA makes, and just about everyone else, is presenting a single temperature for the entire globe. Physically irrelevant.

  26. My thanks to all of those sharp commenters who pointed out that I was showing the monthly anomalies, not the YTD averages as NOAA had shown. It is one of the joys of writing for the web that my mistakes don’t last long without being spotted, which typically saves me weeks of work chasing blind alleys.
    However, doing it the way NOAA did it just makes the difference between the two datasets even larger, viz:

    This getting up at 5:30 and doing demolition work up in the rafters of a ten foot ceiling is affecting my sleep, and not in a beneficial direction. However, the good news is that Monday is my last day on the job, and I can go back to being a self-employed builder.

  27. In addition to Willis’ assessment: “But far from showing this September as the warmest in the record, the MSU dataset has this September as being tied for eighth warmest September, and that’s only since 1979,”
    there are a couple of other good reasons to question NOAH’s records:
    (1) ‘Unhomogenized” temperatures (i.e., without NOAH’s ‘adjustments’) ‘Unhomogenized’ records (Shen, 2011) show 5 years of substantially higher temps than the 1998 temp and two years about the same as 1998. NOAH doesn’t consider these because they not only adjust recent temps upward, they subtract from earlier temp records, especially in the 1930s when it was warmer than recently. So from these data, we can say that 2014 will be 8 + 7 = 15th warmest on record.
    (2) the Tmax (maximum temp) records (which can’t be tampered with) clearly show that 2014 will only rank as the seventh ranking warmest year of the past century. At present, it looks like 2014 will set about 1500 maximum temp records, whereas in the 1930s, Tmax records reached about 3800, 3200, 2300, and three years above 1500.
    NOAH’s claim that 2014 will be the warmest year ever is not credible.

  28. Well, heaven bless the satellite data. My guess is the satellite record doesn’t
    go far enough back to “colden” the past and warm the recent without exposing a
    blatent bias. I’d like to think there’s maybe a enough integrity left that
    someone would let the data lead to a conclusion rather than the reverse. A child
    of the 60’s I grew up loving NASA and stories of data fiddling toward an agenda
    make me cry a little inside. I wish they (NOAA/NASA) understood that integrity
    is a bit like virginity, that it (virginity) is hard to keep, easy to lose and
    really, really hard to get back.
    NASA loving disclaimer: My opinion is we did indeed go to the moon but the money
    shots were done in a studio. So I also believe: Never A Straight Answer . Maybe NOAA could be N O Accuracy Alowed

    • The special effects technology of that period was not up to the task of faking video to make it look like it was shot on the moon. SciFi films from that period really look fake, even laughable, by today’s standards. In fact, they looked fake compared to the video beamed live from the moon at that time. Video remained in a very primitive state until the mid-70’s. Digital manipulation was not possible until much later, obviously. I was a young adult at the time in a position to know those pictures and telemetry came from a signal originating from the moon. Let go of urban myths.
      Mythbusters did a program dedicated to the urban myths surrounding the moon program which pretty much debunked all the claims of faked shots. Its worth watching, but I don’t remember the episode date.

  29. You were too polite to call NOAA’s shameless manipulation of station data what it is, but good on you for exposing it.

  30. Sadly, as near as I can tell the answer is “Quite possibly”.

    Willis, your problem is you resist admitting that since they play by their own definitions, they can make anything mean anything without regard for reality. They don’t even tell us what the definitions are so they can change them on a whim.

  31. Chuck L makes a good point We need an authoritative summary of all the “adjustments”, “homogenizations , etc. to help explain this to others, including Congressmen and Senators..

  32. At risk of being tedious and repetitive, nobody has ever even come close to measuring the global surface temperature of the earth at any time since 1850.
    Therefore, nobody knows by how the average global surface temperature of the earth during the thirty Septembers between 1901 and 2000 differs (+/-) from the average global surface temperature of the earth during September 2013, and ALL of NOAA’s global surface temperature anomalies are no better than stabs in the dark, such that nobody knows by how much they deviate (+/-) from the reality, that they are supposed to represent, precisely because nobody has ever even come close to measuring the overall surface temperature of the earth.
    If you’ve never counted the number stars in the universe, how do you know how far your estimate of the number of stars in the universe differs (+/-) from the actual number of stars in the universe ? if there is even such a thing as the number of stars in the universe at any given moment. By the time you’ve finished counting them, there could be more or less of them than when you started counting them. Everything, including the earth’s overall surface temperature, is in flux. I find myself thinking of the blind man in a dense forest on a moonless night searching for the black cat that isn’t there.

    • Except no one measures the temperature of the Earth — they’re measuring the temperature of their _model_ of the Earth. It’s the model temperatures that are setting records. Most non-scientists don’t know this, and it almost always gets lost when written about for the layman.

  33. NOAA has several award programs recognizing the efforts of weather observers.
    It would be interesting to find these station histories and see what the NOAA/GISS have done to the records of their most diligent station observers. I suspect that even the most meticulous have had their temperature records re-written

  34. Some, even today, have had their data skipped over in the homogenization process. There is no way that even the most modern data can have the accuracy that NOAA and NASA claims. You can show all the mathematical precision you want in your answers, but that doesn’t make your data that accurate. Also, Tony Heller has already demonstrated that you can play with various scenarios involving TOBS stations, but the average temps will come out about the same for the last 100 plus years. The only way to cool the past and warm the present is to change the data in inventive ways. I can guarantee that this September was not the warmest on record in the desert southwest by a long shot. I’m betting there are plenty of others who track daily temperatures in their area who can say the same thing with certainty.
    I refuse to take any statement put out by NASA or NOAA regarding climate and weather at face value. There are too many lies between them and the truth. In fact, I don’t take the word of any Warmist at face value. I automatically assume they are lying. What you said in the past does matter.

  35. Adjustments of station data. So that is the reason for a possible record in 2014?
    Why not check the station data then. September land: 6th warmest. January-September land: 6th warmest. UAH January-September 5th warmest. According to Willis’s graph.
    Does Willis know the existence of the oceans? UHI in the oceans?

  36. “””…..On another post here on Watts Up With That, a commenter pointed out that NOAA says that September 2014 was the warmest September ever on record. …..”””
    Well when somebody writes “on record”, in relation to climate, it is tempting to go back to 1852 or whenever it was that the CRU data is supposed to have started.
    I prefer to go back to circa 1980, or whenever those floating oceanic buoys, that simultaneously record ocean water and ocean air temperatures, were launched. In about Jan 2001, Dr John Christy reported on 20 years of that buoy data, and observed that water and air temperatures aren’t correlated on the ocean. (why on earth would they be?)
    So I discount any water temperature data in that CRU set, prior to 1980, and by inference, that entire record.
    But I never would have guessed that the entire record, only goes back to 1998.
    In any case, the maximum peak to peak discrepancy of the entire recorded history, is no more than 0.2 deg C
    And I’m supposed to believe that data. Pretty hokey, if you ask me.

  37. Steven Mosher’s rationalizations notwithstanding, there is a very simple explanation for NASA saying 2014 will be the warmest year ever. NASA is part of the Administrative Branch of the U.S. Federal government. The head of the Administrative Branch, POTUS, has decreed that there is global warming. Did you expect NASA to say anything different? The text book for this kind of activity was published back in 1949: “Nineteen Eighty-Four” by George Orwell.

    • Obama’s political appointees will continue to run NASA and NOAA for the next 27 months. If the guy at the Top is dishonest and demands that the records support his continued dishonesty, then It Will Be So, by his minions in agencies. That is all one need to know why this is happening.

  38. I’m definitely not up to the climate science intelligence levels of most of the folks who post here, but doesn’t the phrase “hottest year or coldest year” only mean since 1880 or so when thermometers came into use? If true, then even if it’s ‘the hottest month”-so what? The hottest, or coldest, out of 135 years when there’s no comparable data for the other 4 billion hardly makes a trend. And isn’t it true that even if it is “the hottest September”, that proves absolutely nothing as to the cause of the hottest September? Which is the whole ballgame, correct?

  39. Barry October 25, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    Yes, it is amazing how an entire post and over 100 comments will be based on misinterpretation of graph. Let’s see if the error is acknowledged.

    Barry, it was not only acknowledged, I acknowledged it some six hours before your comment, and at that time I updated the head post to correct the error.
    I also noted that it makes absolutely no difference to my objections and my comments about the situation.
    Next time do your homework first …

    • Well, I am doing my homework, what homework I have time for, anyway, and there remain many comments in this article that are based on you mis-interpretation of NOAA’s graphic. This is the one with whick you should start:
      “Man, they are squeezing it to claim this September was the warmest, looks like a three-way tie to me … but I digress.”
      Again, the graphic is cumulative temperature, not monthly temperature anomaly. It is not inconsistent with (nor does it in itself actually show) the claim that September is the warmest on record.
      [Thanks, fixed. -w]

  40. I wish dbstealey had listed a source for his graph in the comment at 10:07 am. The link might have answered some questions I have.

  41. On your Figure 2, January 2014 is virtually at the same place as January 1998. I know you changed the baseline, but the source you quote has January 2014 at 0.30 and January 1998 at 0.47.

  42. Government is lies,
    Lies government.
    That is all ye know on earth,
    And all ye need to know.
    With apologies to John Keats.

  43. I can’t help but wonder if NOAA is under pressure from the Obama administration to make 2014 the hottest year on record. It wouldn’t matter that the other global temperature data sets did not agree. When the news media reported the September global temperature they only said it was the hottest September ever recorded. They did not say “according to NOAA” or that other data sets disagreed.

  44. When discussing climate change, and when you are trying to find their causes, many participants are looking for solutions in some models you set in your PC and expect the PC to teach them and tell them all a lot more than they know about uzriocima climate change.
    All that is tossed around so far in the millions of pages of paper is not even close to what the true causes of climate change.
    All this evidence, theories, sketches, monitoring of various phenomena in the sun and our planet, only minor effects were the main causes of these changes, which to date no one on the planet is not detected properly, in accordance with the laws of nature.
    I see we have some interest in this crowd, too much and yet not proven anything properly. What it means. ? It is a simple proof that no one is on the right track. This path is the knowledge of natural law and respect for their power.
    Here, here, and this is not the first time that many ask that they show me the way to go to present the true causes of these climate changes. But there is an underlying cause, I do not want to publish a solution without a contractual obligation with a powerful institution that can accomplish this very important task.
    That’s how you only have on this site VUVT that you have no interest and do not be afraid of something, which forbids you to work without interest and pressure from some unknown factors, this enigma could be quickly resolved. I claim to possess the basic information of the true causes of climate change. None of you have to believe, or is it not enough to nowadays about it is not exactly proven anything and why no one looked back to listen to those who have not yet had the opportunity to give their opinion. I see from all the discussion about what it does and how you can see the same from what I would put forward, but you do not want to hear.
    Explain why? I am available and I expect at least two words that either of you uttered about this my proposal.

  45. Willis Eschenbach October 25, 2014 at 12:39 pm
    Finally, you say that the addition of data in 2014 will change our estimates of past temperatures. I fear I don’t understand that statement. If the temperature at the San Francisco ground station on a given day in 2014 is measured at 12.7°C, how can this possible change the measurement of the temperature at the San Francisco ground station on a given day in 1916?

    When Mosher said:
    “A) the addition of more data.
    B) the removal of spurious records ( duplicates etc)
    C) improved QC
    D) changes in estimation algorithms.”
    I interpreted him to mean the addition of newly discovered data from the past not the addition of 2014 data, I might be wrong.

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