Guest Post by Bob Tisdale
[Update: Corrected a few typos in the paragraph before Figure 4. My thanks to rogerknights.]
I hadn’t read the NOAA State of the Climate (SOTC) Report for 2014 when I prepared the post Does the Uptick in Global Surface Temperatures in 2014 Help the Growing Difference between Climate Models and Reality? (WattsUpWithThat cross post is here.) I simply presented data and climate model outputs in that post.
The following are a few observations about the annual NOAA report. NOAA biased their report by omitting key discussions. First an introduction.
THE 2014 GLOBAL HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOAA SOTC REPORT
With respect to surface temperatures, the Global Highlights of the NOAA State of the Climate report reads (my boldface):
- The year 2014 was the warmest year across global land and ocean surfaces since records began in 1880. The annually-averaged temperature was 0.69°C (1.24°F) above the 20th century average of 13.9°C (57.0°F), easily breaking the previous records of 2005 and 2010 by 0.04°C (0.07°F). This also marks the 38th consecutive year (since 1977) that the yearly global temperature was above average. Including 2014, 9 of the 10 warmest years in the 135-year period of record have occurred in the 21st 1998 currently ranks as the fourth warmest year on record
- The 2014 global average ocean temperature was also record high, at 0.57°C (1.03°F) above the 20th century average of 16.1°C (60.9°F), breaking the previous records of 1998 and 2003 by 0.05°C (0.09°F). Notably, ENSO-neutral conditions were present during all of 2014.
- The 2014 global average land surface temperature was 1.00°C (1.80°F) above the 20th century average of 8.5°C (47.3°F), the fourth highest annual value on record.
Of course, the global highlights are what the mainstream media and alarmist blogs parrot. Some may even report on the Global Temperatures and Regional Temperatures portions of the NOAA report. Few will venture beyond that.
BIAS OF OMISSION 1
It’s not until readers scroll down to the rankings table in the SOTC report that NOAA introduces uncertainties. See my Figure 1. So, according to NOAA, the “annually-averaged temperature was 0.69°C (1.24°F) above the 20th century average of 13.9°C (57.0°F), easily breaking the previous records of 2005 and 2010 by 0.04°C (0.07°F)”, but then NOAA clarifies their global surface temperature anomalies as “+0.69 ± 0.09” deg C. Alas, we discover that the new record high by 0.04 deg C is within the +/-0.09 deg C uncertainty of the dataset.
Still farther down on the webpage we come across the links to NOAA’s Supplemental Information.
The first link brings us to the Calculating the Probability of Rankings for 2014 webpage. There, after an initial discussion, they write (my boldface):
Using a Monte Carlo approach (Arguez et al, 2013), NCDC considered the known uncertainty of the global land and ocean annual temperature in the 2014 annual ranking. Taking into account the uncertainty and assuming all years (1880-2014) in the time series are independent, the chance of 2014 being
Warmest year on record: 48.0%
One of the five warmest years: 90.4%
One of the 10 warmest years: 99.2%
One of the 20 warmest years: 100.0%
Warmer than the 20th century average: 100.0%
Warmer than the 1981-2010 average: 100.0%
NCDC follows these conventions to categorize the confidence associated with assertions made with respect to ranks used in the report:
My Figure 2 is the “conventions to categorize” table that follows that discussion, with my highlight:
So, according to NOAA, the chance that 2014 was the warmest on record was 48.0% and based on their table, the global surface temperature anomalies in 2014 appear in the range of “more unlikely than likely”.
Curiously, the NOAA omitted that all-important “more unlikely than likely” language from its main 2014 State of the Climate report webpage. You have to click on the Supplemental Information links to discover that 2014 was “more unlikely than likely” the warmest on record.
Therefore, NOAA has biased the “Global Highlights” of their State of the Climate report by failing to note the likelihood, actually unlikelihood, that 2014 had the highest global surface temperatures on record.
BIAS OF OMISSION 2
The next topic is the El Niño event in 2014.
Under the heading of Global Temperatures on the main page of the NOAA SOTC report, they state:
This is the first time since 1990 the high temperature record was broken in the absence of El Niño conditions at any time during the year in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, as indicated by NOAA’s CPC Oceanic Niño Index. This phenomenon generally tends to increase global temperatures around the globe, yet conditions remained neutral in this region during the entire year and the globe reached record warmth despite this.
NOAA’s Oceanic NINO Index is based on the NINO3.4 region (5S-5N, 170W-120W) of the equatorial Pacific. See the NOAA map of the NINO regions here. And according to a Hovmoller diagram of the sea surface temperature anomalies from the NOAA GODAS website, Figure 3, El Niño conditions (sea surface temperature anomalies equal to or greater than +0.5 deg C) existed along the equatorial Pacific east and west of the NINO3.4 region for most of 2014.
In other words, the sea surface temperature data indicate El Niño conditions existed for most of the year, but not in the region that NOAA uses to define an El Niño. Further to this, as we discussed in the most recent ENSO update and in the post The Little El Niño That Didn’t or Might Have (Depends on the Agency and Index), the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) notes that El Niño conditions have existed since June.
In December 2014, the NINO.3 SST was above normal with a deviation of +0.9°C and five-month running mean of the NINO.3 SST deviation was +0.5°C or above for five consecutive months from June to November (Table and Fig.1). SSTs were above normal in most regions from the western to eastern equatorial Pacific (Fig.2 and Fig.4). Subsurface temperatures were above normal in the eastern equatorial Pacific (Fig.3 and Fig.5). These oceanic conditions indicate that El Niño conditions are present in the equatorial Pacific…
And the reason the JMA makes this claim is they use the NINO3 region (5S-5N, 150W-90W), which overlaps and runs east of the NINO3.4 region.
Therefore, NOAA has omitted the fact that data indicate El Niño conditions existed along the equatorial Pacific, outside of the region they use as an ENSO index, so they could claim ENSO “conditions remained neutral in this region during the entire year and the globe reached record warmth despite this.”
Of course, the intent of that NOAA statement was to give the impression that there was a general overall warming that could not be attributed to El Niño conditions, when, in fact, El Niño conditions did exist in 2014.
BIAS OF OMISSION 3
This is a discussion of the additional cause of the elevated sea surface temperatures.
NOAA notes in their “Global Highlights” (my boldface):
Much of the record warmth for the globe can be attributed to record warmth in the global oceans. The annually-averaged temperature for ocean surfaces around the world was 0.57°C (1.03°F) higher than the 20th century average, easily breaking the previous records of 1998 and 2003 by 0.05°C (0.09°F). The first four months (January–April) each ranked among their seven warmest for their respective months and the following seven consecutive months (May–November) were record warm. The year ended with December third warmest on record for the month.
In 2014, the warmth was due to large regions of record warm and much warmer-than-average temperatures in parts of every major ocean basin. Record warmth for the year was particularly notable in the northeastern Pacific Ocean in and around the Gulf of Alaska, much of the western equatorial Pacific, parts of the western North Atlantic and western South Atlantic, and much of the Norwegian and Barents Seas. Nearly the entire Indian Ocean was much warmer than average with a broad swath between Madagascar and Australia record warm. Part of the Atlantic Ocean south of Greenland and the Southern Ocean waters off the southern tip of South America were much cooler than average, with one localized area near Antarctica record cold.
NOAA mentioned the elevated sea surface temperatures in the eastern extratropical North Pacific in passing. An unusual weather event in the North Pacific (along with the El Niño conditions) was, in fact, the primary reason for the elevated sea surface temperatures in 2014. That is not so [to] say that there were [weren’t] elevated sea surface temperatures in specific parts of other ocean basins, but in general, those elevated temperatures in basins outside of the North Pacific had no impact on the record highs. As a result, if we plot the sea surface temperature anomalies since 1997 for the oceans outside of the North Pacific, 2014 was not an unusually warm year…nowhere close to a record high. See the top cell of Figure 4. The bottom cell is for the global oceans, including the North Pacific. Obviously, in 2014, the events in the North Pacific were the primary reasons for the elevated sea surface temperatures globally.
There were two “weather” events that impacted the surface temperatures of the North Pacific in 2014: (1) the El Niño conditions in the tropical Pacific, which directly impacted the surface temperatures of the tropical North Pacific, and (2) the unusual weather event in the eastern extratropical Pacific, which is so well known that climate scientists call the hotspot it created “the blob”. Because of the two weather events in the Pacific, not human-induced global warming, sea surface temperatures were elevated globally in 2014. In turn, because land surface temperatures were not at record highs, it is logical to say that those two weather events were responsible for the record high combined (land and ocean) surface temperatures that were “more unlikely than likely” to have existed in 2014.
We have discussed in numerous posts the reasons for the elevated sea surface temperatures in the eastern extratropical North Pacific this year. See:
- On The Recent Record-High Global Sea Surface Temperatures – The Wheres and Whys
- Axel Timmermann and Kevin Trenberth Highlight the Importance of Natural Variability in Global Warming…
- Alarmists Bizarrely Claim “Just what AGW predicts” about the Record High Global Sea Surface Temperatures in 2014
- Researchers Find Northeast Pacific Surface Warming (1900-2012) Caused By Changes in Atmospheric Circulation, NOT Manmade Forcings
- Did ENSO and the “Monster” Kelvin Wave Contribute to the Record High Global Sea Surface Temperatures in 2014?
As we noted and illustrated in the second post linked above, the unusual weather event in the eastern extratropical North Pacific lasted for 2 years. It also contributed to the California drought. And we illustrated the following in the first post linked above.
As an exercise, if we start our analysis in 2012 and work our way back in time, for how long of a time period did the sea surfaces of the North Pacific show no warming? The answer, using NOAA’s ERSST.v3b data, is 23 years, yet the climate models used by the IPCC indicate they should have warmed about 0.5 deg C in that time.
NOTE: If you were to click on the link to the first post, you’d note that using NOAA’s satellite-enhanced sea surface temperature dataset we can extend that period to 24 years. [End note.]
It’s unrealistic to assume the warming of the surfaces of the North Pacific in 2013 and 2014 were caused by manmade greenhouse gases, when they hadn’t warmed in at least 23 years before then.
According to NOAA definitions, global surface temperatures for 2014 were “More Unlikely Than Likely” the highest on record, but they failed to note that on the main page of their State of the Climate report. NOAA used a specific ENSO index to claim that El Niño conditions did not exist in 2014, when at least one other index says El Niño conditions existed. And NOAA failed to discuss the actual causes of the elevated global sea surface temperatures in 2014, while making it appear that there was a general warming of the surfaces of the global oceans.
NOAA never stated specifically that 2014’s record high surface temperatures were a result of human-induced global warming, but they implied it…thus all the hoopla. NOAA has omitted key discussions within that report, which biases it toward human-induced global warming. In other words, the NOAA State of the Climate report was misleading. NOAA has once again shown it is a political entity, not a scientific one. And that’s a damn shame. The public needs openness from NOAA about climate; we do not need to be misled by politically motivated misdirection and misinformation.
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[Oops, I forgot to thank BruceC for noting NOAA’s uncertainties in a comment at WUWT. That comment prompted this post.]