Readers may recall that the main point of my January 7, 2013 FCPP blog OpEd, “Meteorologist discovers U.S. government announcing records before all data analyzed; ‘warmest ever’ July not true”, was that temperatures announced in the “State of the Climate” (SOTC) reports issued by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are only preliminary in nature. They do not include late arriving data that come in by U.S. Mail, usually from lower technology sites, often rural locations where conditions are generally cooler than at urban and airport stations. Observers at these sites record their data by completing paper forms by hand, a sample of which is provided by meteorologist Anthony Watts as follows:
When this data finally arrives, NCDC update their temperature database typically “cooling” the country when all the data is used. But, neither NCDC nor their parent organization NOAA tells the public and the press about the changes. The edits are quietly made to the NCDC temperature database long after the, potentially wrong, “warmest ever” type announcements have made headlines worldwide. So, the publicity given by media to NCDC’s premature conclusions are all that most people ever hear about.
I continue to discuss my findings in this posting.
For several years, NCDC included a cautionary in bold letters at the top of SOTC reports as follows:
“PLEASE NOTE: All temperature and precipitation ranks and values are based on preliminary data. The ranks [e.g., 8th warmest ever October, etc.] will change when the final data are processed, but will not be replaced on these pages.”
Here is a screen capture of one of the months in that period (click on image to view whole March 2007 SOTC report):
Until the October 2001 SOTC report, after which the phrase no longer appears on the documents, was the warning:
“THE CURRENT DATA SHOULD BE USED WITH CAUTION.” (caps in original)
Of course, no government agency has any business issuing “warmest ever”, “wettest ever”, “driest ever” type announcements before they have received the data from all of their stations (or at least enough of them such that possible updates would be insignificant). And, if they did make such announcements, only to find them inaccurate when all the data was analyzed, NCDC should be compelled by law to issued news releases announcing the corrections.
Headlines such as “Climate agency retracts claims—last month not the warmest October on record; now only 12th warmest” would eventually make NCDC look ridiculous. So, either they would stop issuing premature SOTC reports or they would loose all credibility with the public and the press.
The decision to release the early, usually warmer data could very well have been made to support the global warming scare. But, at least they were clearly warning readers that the data and the ranks were potentially incorrect, not that many activists and media would bother to tell anyone, of course.
But, starting in their June 2009 SOTC report, NCDC moved the warning about the data being preliminary and so subject to significant change to the very bottom of the document where almost no one would see it. And, as NCDC admits, they indeed do not correct the SOTC reports, or announce when previous reports are wrong when the final data are computed. So the public and the media generally do not know that SOTC report temperatures are unreliable.
Here is a screen capture of the 10th page of one of the months in the more recent time period (click on image to view whole July 2012 SOTC report; note the warning now in smaller letters hidden on the last page of the report):
This approach is simply deceiving the press and the public into thinking temperatures and monthly ranking in SOTC reports are meaningful, when, in many cases, they are not.
In my January 7 blog posting, I promised that I would update readers when I received a response to my queries from NCDC. In the past week Deke Arndt, Climate Monitoring Chief of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center sent me two e-mails addressing some of ICSC’s concerns. I will share excerpts from his e-mails, as well as my commentary concerning his remarks, in a posting to be uploaded shortly.
Update – see here for part 3.
Tom Harris is Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition and an advisor to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.