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Tom Harris: NOAA, NASA lied on ‘warmest’ records
Published: January 23, 2015 01:00 AM
An iceberg melts in Kulusuk Bay, in eastern Greenland.
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When public opinion polls show that the difference between the support for political candidates is less than the survey’s margin of error, most people understand that the candidates are effectively tied.
But when it comes to climate change, the public’s appreciation of “margin of error” seems to vanish. This is partly because of misinterpretations of the data by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
For example, last week NOAA headlined its home page, “It’s official: 2014 was Earth’s warmest year on record.” NASA proclaimed in its Jan. 16 news release video, “2014 was the hottest year on record.”
In repeating this claim in in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama demonstrated that NASA’s and NOAA’s announcements are accepted as true at the highest levels of government. The “warmest year ever” message will now be incorporated into talking points for government officials the world over.
But it is a deception. NOAA’s data shows that the record for the year was set by only four one-hundredths of a degree Celsius over the previous record warmest years, 2010 and 2005, while the uncertainty in the temperature statistic is nine one-hundredths of a degree, or more than twice the amount by which the supposed record was set (NASA showed a record being set in 2014 by only two one-hundredths of a degree).
In fact, NOAA temperature statistics for seven previous years — 2013, 2010, 2006, 2005, 2003, 2002, and 1998 — are all within nine one-hundredths of a degree of 2014’s level. So they all tie with 2014. No new record was set.
The same applies to NOAA’s announcement that, “December 2014 was warmest December on record for globe.” December 2014 was one one-hundredths of a degree hotter than December 2006, the previous warmest December, which was one one-hundredths of a degree warmer than 2003. The uncertainty is seven one-hundredths of a degree, so the December temperature statistic for all three years — 2014, 2006, and 2003 — are effectively equal. No new December record was set.