Much Ado about a NOAA Thing

February 5, 2017

Deny-o-sphere about to erupt with news of another “Climate scandal”.
Fortunately, science.

The ever-reliable science denial vector – Daily Mail has come out with another set of accusations about NOAA temperatures.
I guess they didn’t realize that those findings have already been confirmed in a well vetted Journal.

Above, study author Zeke Hausfather.

Scientific American:

Various studies have debunked the idea of a pause, or hiatus, in global warming—the contention that global surface temperatures stopped rising during the first decade of this century. The arguments for and against “the pause” were somewhat muted until June 2015, when scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published a paper in Science saying that it had slightly revised the sea surface temperatures it had been citing for the 1900s. The measurement methods, based on sensors in the engine intake ports of ships, had been flawed, NOAA said. The revised methodology also meant that sea surface temperatures during the 2000s had been slightly higher than reported. NOAA adjusted both records, which led to a conclusion that global surface temperatures during the 2000s were indeed higher than they had been in previous decades. No hiatus.

Critics attacked NOAA, claiming it had cooked the books to dismiss claims of a pause. Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas opened a congressional investigation of NOAA scientists, including demands that they turn over their emails, which they have not.

Now independent scientists have weighed in. A study published Wednesday in Science Advances shows that the adjustments NOAA made were justified. A team led by Zeke Hausfather at the University of California at Berkeley and Kevin Cowtan at the University of York analyzed raw data from buoys, satellites and robotic sensors around the world’s oceans. They concluded that the old methods had indeed overestimated sea surface temperatures in the past—but that the newer calculations had underestimated temperatures for the 2000s.

This kerfuffle is part of a larger effort by the now-greatly-empowered fossil fuel industry to crush science in favor of “alternative facts”.   The attack on this specific NOAA temperature data has been going on for a while, and was the topic of my video of last year:

Below, Hausfather has taken apart the newest nonsense.

Zeke Hausfather in Carbon Brief:

In an article in today’s Mail on Sunday, David Rose makes the extraordinary claim that “world leaders were duped into investing billions over manipulated global warming data”, accusing the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of manipulating the data to show more warming in a 2015 study by Tom Karl and coauthors.

What he fails to mention is that the new NOAA results have been validated by independent data from satellites, buoys and Argo floats and that many other independent groups, including Berkeley Earth and the UK’s Met Office Hadley Centre, get effectively the same results.

NOAA’s results are independently verified

The new NOAA record published in Karl et al primarily updated their ocean temperature record. While they also released a revised land record based on data from the International Surface Temperature Initiative (and the related Global Historical Climatology Network version 4 beta product – GHCNv4), the land record was largely similar to their prior record and was responsible for relatively little of the increase in warming they showed.


Figure 1 from Karl et al 2015. Almost all of the difference between the trends in the new and old temperature records were due to updates to ocean temperatures

I recently led a team of researchers that evaluated NOAA’s updates to their ocean temperature record. In a paper published last month in the journal Science Advances, we compared the old NOAA record and the new NOAA record to independent instrumentally homogenous records created from buoys, satellite radiometers, and Argo floats. Our results, as you can see in the chart below, show that the new NOAA record agrees quite well with all of these, while the old NOAA record shows much less warming.

This was due to two factors: the old NOAA record spliced together warmer ship data with colder buoy data without accounting for the offset between the two; and the new NOAA record puts more weight on higher-quality buoy records and less weight on ship records (versus the old NOAA record which treated ships and buoys equally). You can read more about the study in Carbon Brief’s article.


Global sea surface temperatures from the old NOAA record (ERSSTv3b), the new NOAA record (ERSSTv4), and instrumentally homogenous records from buoys and satellites. See Hausfather et al 2017 for details, as well as comparisons with shorter Argo-based records.

The fact that the new NOAA record is effectively identical with records constructed only from higher quality instruments (buoys, satellite radiometers, and Argo floats) strongly suggests that NOAA got it right and that we have been underestimating ocean warming in recent years.

John Kennedy, a researcher at the UK’s Met Office in charge of their ocean temperature product, agrees that NOAA’s new record is probably the most accurate in the last two decades, remarking: “At a global scale, those adjustments really do seem to work and the ERSSTv4 adjustments [NOAA’s new record] work best of all.”

Rose’s claim that NOAA’s results “can never be verified” is patently incorrect, as we just published a paper independently verifying the most important part of NOAA’s results.

NOAA’s land data similar to other records

The land record that NOAA used in the Karl et al paper was a sneak peak at their new GHCNv4, which increases the number of global land stations from the 4,400 currently used to around 25,000.

This is quite similar to the Berkeley Earth land temperature record, which uses a similar number of stations. There is little reason to think that the inclusion of more station data will give us less accurate results.

The Karl et al land record ends up quite similar to the old one, though it shows about 5% more warming since 1970, mostly attributable to the inclusion of additional stations in the Arctic. As the chart below demonstrates, their results are quite similar to those of Berkeley Earth as well as the current operational NOAA land record (based on GHCN version 3), and also agree quite well with the latest version of GHCNv4.


Global land temperature records including the current official NOAA land temperature record (based on GHCNv3), the Karl et al land record, a land record based on the latest GHCNv4 data, and the Berkeley Earth land record.

The new NOAA temperature record is also by no means an outlier when compared to other groups producing global (land and ocean) surface temperature records. It shows less warming in recent years than records from Berkeley Earth, NASA, and Cowtan and Way, and a bit more warming than found in the Hadley Centre/CRU record. The old NOAA record, on the other hand, was on the bottom of the pack, with less warming than found by the other groups.

If folks don’t like the NOAA data, they will get the exact same story using surface temperature data from any other group, with no detectable sign of a “hiatus” or “pause” through to the present.


Global land/ocean temperature records from NOAA, NASA, Berkeley Earth, Hadley/UAE, and Cowtan and Way. Note that the old (pre-Karl et al) NOAA temperature record is only available through the end of 2014.

NOAA did make their data available

In his article, David Rose relies on reports from a researcher at NOAA who was unhappy about the data archiving associated with the Karl et al paper. While I cannot speak to how well the authors followed internal protocols, they did release their temperature anomalies, spatially gridded data land and ocean data, and the land station data associated with their analysis. They put all of this up on NOAA’s FTP site in early June 2015, at the time that the Karl et al paper was published.

As someone who works on and develops surface temperature records, the data they provided would be sufficient for me to examine their analysis in detail and see how it compared to other groups. In fact, I used the data they provided shortly after the paper was published to do just that. While it would have been nice for them to publish their full analysis code online as well as the data, I’m sure they would have provided it to any researchers who asked.

Rose also makes a big deal about the fact that NOAA’s new ocean temperature product adjusts buoys up to match ship data versus adjusting ship data down to match buoys. This turns out to be a bit of a red herring; since scientists are interested in the change in temperatures over time, you end up with the same increase in temperatures (e.g, the temperature trend) if you apply the offset to one or the other.

Because climate scientists work with temperature anomalies (rather than absolutes), the direct of the offset doesn’t have any effect on the resulting temperature series. On the other hand, not correcting for the offset between ships and buoys results in a spurious cooling bias, and a record that differs a lot from the buoys themselves as we found in our paper.

Rose’s article presents a deeply misleading graph where he shows an arbitrary offset between NOAA’s data and the Hadley land/ocean dataset. This is an artefact of the use of different baselines; Hadley’s “0C” value is relative to the average temperature from 1961-1990, while NOAA’s is relative to the average temperature from 1900-2000 (a period which includes the colder early 20th century).


Comparison of published HadCRUT4 and NOAA global land/ocean monthly temperature anomalies.

This comparison ends up being spurious, because each record uses a different baseline period to define their temperature anomaly. As the chart below shows, when you correctly put the two datasets on the same baseline (eg, with respect to the 1961-1990 period), you find no offset in recent years between the two, though there is slightly more warming in the NOAA dataset due to the higher weight they give more reliable buoy data in their analysis.


Comparison of HadCRUT4 and NOAA global land/ocean monthly temperature anomalies put on a common 1961-1990 baseline

Similarly, if you simply download the NOAA and Hadley ocean temperature datasets you would find that the published Hadley values are actually higher than the published NOAA ocean values in recent years. This is because Hadley uses a 1961-1990 baseline for their ocean temperature product while NOAA uses a 1971-2000 baseline. Putting both datasets on a common baseline is essential to performing accurate comparisons.

Further updates to come from NOAA

NOAA is planning on further updates to their sea surface temperature record this year to incorporate Argo data and to make some adjustments to their spatial interpolation technique. Based on the preliminary results that their team presented at the American Geophysical Union meeting late last year, their new record (ERSSTv5) will have about 10% less warming than their current record (ERSSTv4) over the 2000-2015 period, largely due to changes in the way that they account for areas with limited data. Their upcoming record will still show 50% more warming than the old NOAA record (ERSSTv3b).

While NOAA’s data management procedures may well need improvement, their results have been independently validated and agree with separate global temperature records created by other groups.

The “astonishing evidence” that David Rose purports to reveal in no way changes our understanding of modern warming or our best estimates of recent rates of warming. It does not in any way change the evidence that policymakers have at their disposal when deciding how to address the threats posed by climate change.

If anything, there is strong independent evidence that NOAA’s new record may be the most accurate one over the last two decades, at least for the two-thirds of the world covered in ocean.

80 Responses to “Much Ado about a NOAA Thing”

  1. vierotchka Says:

    Meanwhile, the deniers are fighting hard. Did you see this?

    ‘Global warming the greatest scam in history’ claims founder of Weather Channel

    THE debate about climate change is finished – because it has been categorically proved NOT to exist, one of the world’s best known climate change sceptic has claimed.


    I am constantly reminding the ignorant that global warming and climate change are absolutely not the same thing as weather.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      VERA the whore for Putin and the Russians is again making the first comment on a post in an attempt to divert and distract us. She “makes nice” with her introductory “seen this?” opening and “I am constantly reminding…” closing. VERA is such a hero for the planet! All hail, VERA!

      Unfortunately, she shows her true colors in the rest of this comment. She cites a TWENTY-month-old piece from one of the biggest scum bags among the deniers as evidence that deniers are “fighting hard”? DUH! What she really IS doing is using it to slip in subliminal messages to the unwary that climate change is “a scam”, “does NOT exist”, “is a lie”, and “not real”.

      How transparent! VERA needs to talk to her Russian handlers and ask for a new bag of tricks—-this one won’t work on anybody over 10 years old.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Typical non-response from VERA. She was again caught with her baggy Russian knickers down around her ankles and can come up with nothing but BS. (I like how she gives herself “thumbs up” also—LOL)

          • dumboldguy Says:


          • Dave Jewett Says:

            No offense, but I wish I could simply block the both of you. I love ClimateCrocks, and I visit often, but some folks tend to seriously detract from the site’s mission.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            No offense taken, because I understand completely. Martin Gisser made a similar comment on another thread. What you both seem to miss is that VERA is a troll of the highest order, and an analysis of the Crock posts she comments on and what she says supports the idea that she is a working for Putin, the Russians, and Trump against the best interests of the USA and the mitigation of climate change.

            I have wondered why Peter hasn’t banned her because of that and the fact that she seldom makes any comments that are climate change related. Maybe he thinks she is a good “bad example” for us? Like Russell Cook, Bates, and Voisin?

            As for me, once a sheep dog, always a sheep dog, and I for one am NOT going to sit here and let her spout BS that may be taken as truth by lurkers and the less well-informed among those that visit Crock. Look to her very first comment on this thread and my reply if you don’t understand. Y

            ou and Martin should join in the effort to deal with VERA rather than bitch. Answer her crap and I won’t. I’m sure you like to listen to yourselves. Or ask Peter to ban her filth.

            I agree that “some folks tend to seriously detract from the site’s mission”, and I include among them those that “visit often” and “take” without giving back any effort to support and help police the site, yet still feel entitled to point fingers at others who do.

          • vierotchka Says:

            That is complete and absolute bullshit, and you know it. It is you who is trolling everything I say, insulting me, then you whine when I hit back. You’re just a shvantz of a coward hiding behind your anonymity and your screen.

          • vierotchka Says:

            When dumboldguy decides to leave me alone, to stop insulting me, peace will return here.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            No, VERA dearest, I simply speak truth to your bullshit, and since you post a lot of bullshit, I often comment on it (as good sheepdogs do). You have a lot of nerve talking to us about “insulting”, when that’s nearly all you do here with your “shits, fucks, farts”, lies, and failure to say anything of substance.

            YOU are the whiner here, and as for “hitting back”, anyone with a brain that has bothered to keep score knows that I am ahead by a score of maybe 95 to no more than 3. Peace between you and I will return only when you get serious about discussing climate change here, stop whoring for Putin and spouting anti-American propaganda, and knock off your vulgar and downright stupid “eat shits”, middle fingers, and “farts”.

            I was a professional sheepdog in the schools, VERA, and I engaged in “fights” like this with people like you that sometimes lasted for years until I had enough to fire them. Looking at your behavior on Crock, I would have fired you long ago if I could.

            PS to Dave Jewett and the eight folks who gave his comment thumbs up. It’s SO sad that your Crock experience has been diminished by exposure to “The VERA Show”. Maybe it’s time for you to choose sides and help end this.

          • vierotchka Says:

            You are a liar.

    • Betty Harris Says:

      Let us all tweet the truth and post of FB… push the truth in their faces.. constantly.

    • toby52 Says:

      It is indeed finished Vera, all we are left with is empty wittering like yours.

      What are The Weather Channel saying now?

      They are telling misinformers like you and Brightfart News to stop abusing their name.

  2. A good piece on the fake scandal by an Irish professor who worked at NOAA with more information on the internal regulations.

    My post on the gutter press piece focusses on the absurdity of the mitigation sceptical movement pretending the “pause” is highly (politically) important.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Lord love a duck and JFC! Is this WSJ piece satire? Has The Onion somehow managed to take over the WSJ website?

      It does have “opinion” flash on the screen occasionally in big letters, but the RWNJ’s don’t pay much attention to that as they soak up the brainwashing. And it gives a “shout out” to Bjorn Lomborg? That 52-year-old moron with the haircut (and also bleached on top) of an attention-seeking 15-year-old? JFC again!

    • skeptictmac57 Says:

      Well, the jerk in that WSJ video had one thing right in that apparently ‘liberals’ are the only people who really care about global warming. The fact that they are right never occurred to him though.
      And OMG the self satisfied smirk on that woman’s face and dismissive cynical attitude…what an ass!

      • Lionel Smith Says:

        And OMG the self satisfied smirk on that woman’s face…

        Ah! Yes, That was my first reaction to Kissel too:

        ‘Yeah, bad that’s an understatement I mean essentially they should know better they are effectively lying…’,

        which makes her ‘OPINION’ worthless. Maybe we should invite her to a dance, silly little, dangerous, minx:

  3. AGU posted on John Bates who posted his ‘letter’ on Curry’s anti-science blog.

  4. dumboldguy Says:

    A terrific post with great graphs and lots of explanations. Only the deniers will remain unconvinced of the truth of the NOAA data, but they have a different agenda than seeking truth, so that’s no surprise. Alternative facts rule in the reality TV show that now governs the country.

    What I’m dying to see is where the spikes on the various graphs go over the next few years—-if they continue on the exponential rise they have shown over the past 2 or 3 years, we will be in deep doo-doo.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Knock off the thumbs down on my comments, VERA. We all know it’s you and one or two of your fellow minions. Anyone with a brain and some real objections to what I say would take the time to use WORDS. You are as transparent as a window with no glass in it.

      • Hello, Peter, I really enjoy crocks, but I really, really wish that you would see fit to ban the damn Russian troll.

        I am well aware that comment control isn’t up to your readers, nor should it be, but I hope that you’ll consider it.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Don’t know if Peter is paying attention, but Her Sickness certainly is. Thinking about it, and looking at her latest little video clips, I think I’m most offended by how she takes some beautiful women and makes them ugly, and takes movie clips out of context and uses them in ways that disrespect the movie and the movie stars.

          Her efforts certainly don’t upset me personally beyond that, and it’s a sign of her mental illness that she perhaps thinks they do. Perhaps her therapist told her to come on Crock and engage in this kind of behavior as a form of therapy (considering how tolerant Crock is to sickos and trolls), but I agree with you that it’s time she was banned and moved on—-let the folks on some other blog assist with her therapy—–we’ve done our share.

  5. Tom Bates Says:

    NOAS lowered all the temperatures for the 1900’s when nobody has a time machine to check that the revisions are correct than uses the same method to up the temperature in the 2000’s when they have some means to check but never bother to check, Than to top it off we run the whole thing through the math mill and viola the pause is no more. A peer review of a method which is uncheckable is not a peer review at all, it is pseudo science.

    While your satellite data is a glorious piece of misdirection I noticed you left out the STAR data which has the place cooling at about -.6K a decade.

    The RSS data is showing decline since last june.

    • Tom Bates, you were looking at stratospheric temperature trends from STAR. Those temperatures are expected to cool due to more CO2 (and less stratospheric ozone).

    • Folks, check out, which gives you a nice explanation for the “temperature lowering” of the 1900’s.

      It’s largely due to the movement of urban stations to outlying airport locations.

      If you “drill down” into the GHCN data, you will find *hundreds* of “airport” temperature stations (i.e. stations located at airports when they last reported data) that have data records going back prior to the existence of airplanes (and hence, airports).

      Eliminate those stations from the processing, and the early 1900’s “warm bias” is greatly reduced.

      Now, mind you, many urban stations were also relocated to outlying non-airport locations, so simply eliminating the stations designated as “airport” stations in the GHCN monthly metadata doesn’t capture those. So there is still a little bit of a warm bias after the airport stations are eliminated from the processing.

      A deeper “drill-down” can be found here:

      The bottom line: Corrections for station moves account for most, if not nearly all, of the early 20th-Century raw data “warm bias”.

      Now, Tommy Poo may need a time machine to figure out how many airports there were in, say, 1900, reasonably smart folks don’t.

      Here’s a question that will keep Tommy Poo busy for a long time: When the Wright Brothers first successfully flew an airplane in 1903, what airport did they take off from?

    • grindupbaker Says:

      “decline since last june” I think I recall a >average El Nino 2015/16 but check it out yourself in case I’m misremembering. Same comment to anybody wondering whether the +GMST rate increased dramatically the last couple of years. Plots indicate that it’s:
      NASA, Cowtan/Way, NOAA, Berkeley, Hadley 1970-2017
      +0.30 degrees / decade land
      +0.13 degrees / decade ocean
      +0.18 degrees / decade global
      +/-0.008 degrees / decade variation
      That’s what it is. It changes (it’ll be increasing) slowly because topmost 2.5% of oceans mix quite rapidly and have thermal inertia.

    • Torsten Says:

      Tom sez: “The RSS data is showing decline since last june.

      Actually, Tom, it peaked in February 2016, so it’s been in decline for even longer than you state!

      It’s doing just as it did after reaching peaks in 1981, 1983, 1987, 1990, 1995, 1998, 2007, 2010, and may be some other years too but I don’t feel like looking that hard.

      Interesting how the annual averages after 1998 just keep rising at about the same rate as before 1998, even for this crappy and much adjusted dataset.

    • Tom Bates, the land temperature were cooler than the raw data indicates. The sea surface temperature was warmer than the raw data indicates. All over, the adjustments make the estimated global warming smaller, not larger.

  6. grindupbaker Says:

    The measurement of GMST changes over the last 20 years and whatever efforts in improving these are only a little about the measurement of +GMST caused by the +GHGS and any sustained long-term feedbacks (many decades into centuries). The measurement of GMST changes over the last 20 years and whatever efforts in improving these are mostly about getting some quantification of changes in ocean currents at shallower depths, notably ENSO and what this Pacific tropical easterly wind speed increase of 1.0 m/s since 1990 is doing in the ultra short term of a few decades.

  7. redskylite Says:

    Many thanks Peter for getting off the starting blocks in debunking this denier tripe from the Daily Mail, against my better instincts I’ve just read the Daily Mail “Science” article, it is very strong and convincing to vulnerable minds. And will cause a lot of damage. To my disgust Judy Curry is quoted in the article again which is launched as Climate Gate 2 – and seems to suggest that it is affirmation for Trump pullout out pf the COP-21 agreement.

    Unfortunately , people read the Daily Mail and it holds clout, someone I considered a lifelong friend used “Facts” from the Daily Mail in a discussion I recently had. I checked further and the facts were very flimsy and tentative easily debunked, but of course you do not have time to do this over in a live discussion. I’m not sure I still have that “lifelong” friend. The paper is a menace, not only did it collect funds for the Nazi party in the 1930s, it stirred up heaps of trouble prior to the Iraq war, and started the hiatus myth..

    Science must hit back in the more reasonable media outlets – all organizations that hold respect. I hope Climate Feedback (one of the recent giants) respond soon.

    Sadly, science is loosing the battle, populist movements are gaining ground. Science and scientists you must be strong now and act with a LOUD voice.

    This cannot go on.

  8. Jim Hunt Says:

    The Daily Mail have now made a minor change to the caption under Mr. Rose’s by now infamous “adjusted baseline” graph. Ex Prof Judy seems to think that’s perfectly acceptable. We disagree!

    My name isn’t IPSO, but the “teensy weensy little upward adjustment” seems to me to be an “egregious” violation of para 1 of their “Editors’ Code of Practice“.

    I concur with your assessment of the political motivation:

    The latest installment of the David & Judy Show has proved to be part of a coordinated attack on NOAA by the House Science Committee.

  9. Betty Harris Says:

    VERA is a bully… so top participating in the rants and nasties… One never makes progress with bullies because they have no moral compass…and they get off on pissing you off… so stop already, you are not making any progress.

    • vierotchka Says:

      The bully here is dumboldguy, which you would know had you been following his systematic attacks on me. The other bullies are his sycophants, of which you seem to be one.

      • Betty Harris Says:

        Unfortunately you missed the point.. I was attempting to shut this all down. So perhaps you might take the high road and stop responding?

        • vierotchka Says:

          By calling me a bully when it is dumboldguy and his sycophats who are the bullies? Seriously? Get real, girl. When I am attacked and bullied I always hit back – I grew up surrounded by boys older than me who bullied me, so I learned to defend myself and hit back until they stopped. It worked. As soon as this present bunch of cowardly bullies stop attacking and insulting me, there will no more be my counterattacks. Simple.

        • vierotchka Says:

          Furthermore, my handle is Vierotchka, not Vera. It would be the least of courtesies on your part to address me as Vierotchka or refer to me as Vierotchka, if you happen to have even the slightest modicum of courtesy and good manners. Thanks.

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