Guest Post by Bob Tisdale
We discussed the 2014 global surface temperature announcements by NASA GISS and NOAA NCDC in the posts On the Biases Caused by Omissions in the 2014 NOAA State of the Climate Report and Does the Uptick in Global Surface Temperatures in 2014 Help the Growing Difference between Climate Models and Reality?
GISS expresses no doubt that global surface temperatures in 2014 were the highest on record in their news release dated January 16, 2015…same thing with their YouTube video NASA | 2014 Warmest Year On Record. And as we noted in the “Biases of Omissions” post, a reader must scroll down well beyond the Global Highlights to find the uncertainties in the NOAA 2014 State of the Climate report…and click on a link to find out what those uncertainties mean. The mainstream media had a field day, summing up the GISS and NCDC announcements with alarmist sound-bites.
Yet, around the blogosphere and social media, more and more people are realizing that NASA GISS and NOAA NCDC weren’t very open with the public when making their very-certain statements that 2014 was the warmest year on record. A couple of examples follow. That lack of openness can only hurt the credibility of NASA and NOAA.
Luboš Motl addresses two questions in his post NOAA, NASA: 2014 was probably not the warmest year on our record:
- how much do the error margins of the NOAA, NASA temperature records matter?
- And if they change the answer to the question whether 2014 was the warmest one, did they know about this fact when they loudly announced that “2014 was the warmest year” or did they overlook that detail?
The title of David Rose’s article at the DailyMail is Nasa climate scientists: We said 2014 was the warmest year on record… but we’re only 38% sure we were right. It begins with 3 bullet points:
- Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies claimed its analysis of world temperatures showed ‘2014 was the warmest year on record’
- But it emerged that GISS’s analysis is subject to a margin of error
- Nasa admits this means it is far from certain that 2014 set a record at all
The article by David Rose appears to be based on his Twitter exchange with Gavin Schmidt of GISS.
What’s all the hubbub about? Page 5 of the NOAA/NASA Annual Global Analysis for 2014 briefing.
On the thread of the WattsUpWithThat cross post of the “Biases of Omission” post, blogger “Jimbo” linked a tweet from GISS Director Gavin Schmidt that included it. See Jimbo’s comment here. Page 5 of the briefing is reproduced below.
Page 5 of the NOAA/NASA Annual Global Analysis for 2014 briefing
It clearly shows the probability that 2014 was the warmest on record was slightly less than 50% with the NCDC global surface temperature data and well less than 50% for the GISS data. That was one of the points I made in the “Biases of Omission” post. See the discussion under the heading of BIAS OF OMISSION 1.
The other thing hurting the NOAA and GISS proclamations comes from the newsletter The Average Temperature of 2014 Results from Berkeley Earth. Berkeley Earth is another supplier of global surface temperature data, and they rely on most of the same source data as the NOAA and GISS products.
The first key finding of the Berkeley Earth newsletter was:
The global surface temperature average (land and sea) for 2014 was nominally the warmest since the global instrumental record began in 1850; however, within the margin of error, it is tied with 2005 and 2010 and so we can’t be certain it set a new record.
Right from the get-go, Berkeley Earth is open about the uncertainties in the data.
NASA and NOAA need to be more realistic, more open, in their presentations to the media. It could be argued that NOAA and GISS were trying to be open by presenting the probabilities on page 5 of their combined briefing. But you don’t find those uncertainties in the news stories. The media could be partly to blame. Some reporters may have seen the probabilities and ignored them; others may have found sources elsewhere in which the uncertainties weren’t mentioned or were hard to find. To that end, as discussed, GISS expresses no doubt that 2014 was the warmest year on record in their press release and in their YouTube videos…so why should the mainstream media report differently? With NCDC, you have to search for the uncertainties and click on links to see what they mean…and, apparently, few reporters searched for them or bothered to click on links.
Right now, without the up-front qualifiers in every document and presentation by GISS and NCDC about the uncertainties inherent in data—and in climate models—the public is being misled about human-induced global warming and climate change.
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UPDATE: Jo Nova has also posted on this topic. See Jo’s Gavin Schmidt now admits NASA are only 38% sure 2014 was the hottest year.