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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Desperate Deniers Part 4: Anthony Watts is shame-proof despite all his bloopers about NOAA

Sou | 11:07 AM Go to the first of 14 comments. Add a comment

I would have missed this example of sad desperation, except that Anthony Watts himself highlighted it in a dumb cartoon. One is almost tempted to pity him, except that the real wonder is that he seems to be unable to feel shame or embarrassment. Any normal person would have deleted the article (archived here) after discovering they'd made so many bloopers, hoping that no-one would notice. Not Anthony. Even after he discovered almost everything he wrote was wrong, he kept on lashing out at all and sundry, flinging empty accusations left right and centre. Yet all the while it was Anthony himself who kept making mistake after mistake after mistake. I think he still doesn't realise that his whole article is nothing but one giant bungled mess from beginning to end.

It started with a dumb tweet from a twit called Tom Nelson

What seems to have happened is that Anthony saw a silly and wrong tweet from a rather dim conspiracy freak who denies under the name "Tom Nelson",  I'm a bit surprised that Anthony fell for it. He ought to know that "Tom Nelson" is a raving ratbag when it comes to anything climate.

It looks to me that Anthony has probably permanently tipped over the edge, and will grab hold of anything, not matter how wrong and stupid, in his effort to stop anyone from taking action to slow the warming. His original headline was:
Failed math: In 1997, NOAA claimed that the Earth was 5.63 degrees warmer than today
After someone pointed out one of his errors in the comments, he changed it to:
Failed Math: In 1997, NOAA claimed that the Earth was 3.83 degrees warmer than today
Both his headlines are way wrong. For one thing, in 1997 NOAA said nothing about what the temperature was today in 2016 - or not on the pages Anthony linked to. NOAA most certainly didn't say in 1997 that 1997 was 5.63 degrees or 3.83 degrees hotter than it was or would be in 2016. I doubt there were too many people employed by NOAA back in 1997 who thought at the time that the planet would cool at all, let alone cool by 5.63 degrees or 3.83 degrees between 1997 and 2016. I strongly doubt that any scientists who collated, analysed and reported global temperature changes would have thought the Earth was about to cool down suddenly.

[At this point, if you are going to read on, I suggest getting yourself a mug of hot coffee or a glass of wine or whatever you usually sup on at this hour, and settle down. Careful with it, though. You don't want coffee (or wine) splurted all over your keyboard.]

I expect someone will pipe up and say "that's not what Anthony meant". I say if he didn't mean it why did he say it? And even if you re-interpret it to something you think he might have meant, the most likely thing that he meant would still be wrong.

Anthony gets stuck in the surface in 1997

Let's leave whether Anthony meant or didn't mean what he wrote as his headline. What happened was that he got all hot and bothered because in 2016, NOAA referred to the twentieth century global average as 13.9°C (57.0°F), whereas in 1998 they referred to the 1997 global average temperature being 62.45 degrees Fahrenheit (16.9 °C) (and was the warmest year on record at the time, until the end of that year).

Thing is, the page that NOAA stated on the web page of the 1997 Global Analysis that Anthony referred to, quite clearly, right underneath the heading so it would be hard to miss:
Please note: the estimate for the baseline global temperature used in this study differed, and was warmer than, the baseline estimate (Jones et al., 1999) used currently. This report has been superseded by subsequent analyses. However, as with all climate monitoring reports, it is left online as it was written at the time.
That note was added a few months ago, probably for the benefit of some denier or other. The baseline used currently is an average annual temperature for the twentieth century, The paper referred to above estimated the average global temperature for the 30 year period from 1961 to 1990 as 14.08 C:
The average global annual temperature is 14.08 °C, with the NH warmer than the SH (14.68 °C compared with 13.48 °C).
Using current HadCRUT4, that would make the global mean temperature for the twentieth century 14 °C (or if you want it to decimal place 13.98 C) or 57.164 F. That would be close to what NOAA uses for the average for last century now, which is 57.0 °F or 13.9 °C. You'll notice that Jones1999 was published in May 1999, 17 months after NOAA's 1997 Global Analysis report.

(I think NOAA is the only agency to attempt to quantify actual global average temperature. Does BEST? Other agencies around the world report temperature changes as anomalies from various baselines, not as an actual estimated temperature average.)

Click to enlarge
I'd say that Anthony made a similar mistake to the one the Rud Istvan made (see here). What he failed to take into account were three important things:
  1. Tom Nelson tweets idiocy dozens of times every day and is best ignored
  2. The average global temperature used as an estimate in 1997 is not the same number as that used by NOAA in 2016
  3. NOAA has improved and updated its datasets, probably several times in the last 19 years.
Regarding point 1, since he joined Twitter in December 2008 Tom Nelson has sent 98,800 or so tweets, meaning an average of 44 on every one of the past 2,243 days. Most of them make him look batshit crazy as some of my favourite HotWhopperites would say :)

KatyD keeps track of climate and climate denying tweeters. In the comments she linked to her chart from last September. Thanks, Katy. (Tom's is the huge column to the left of her chart.)

September 2015 v 1 – 2 years of tweeting - from KatyD

Regarding point 2, using Jones99 estimate of the average global temperature for the period 1961 to 1990, the NOAA estimate for 1997, made in 1997, would have been 0.42 °C plus 14.08 C making it 14.5 °C or 58.1 °F.

Regarding point 3 above, the current NOAA estimate of global temperature in 1997 is 0.51°C above the twentieth century average. Adding that to NOAA's 13.9 °C would mean the actual average temperature for 1997 would be estimated at 14.4 °C or 58 °F. There's almost no difference between the estimate made in 1997 and the estimate of 1997 made in 2016.

Confused by the month of November

Anthony's fourth major error was that he confused the global average temperature for the month of November for the twentieth century (12.9°C or 55.2°F as at November 2015) for the global annual average temperature for the twentieth century. Anthony said that this was not clear:
The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for November 2015 was the highest for November in the 136-year period of record, at 0.97°C (1.75°F) above the 20th century average of 12.9°C (55.2°F), breaking the previous record of 2013 by 0.15°C (0.27°F). This marks the seventh consecutive month that a monthly global temperature record has been broken. The temperature departure from average for November is also the second highest among all months in the 136-year period of record. The highest departure of 0.99°C (1.79°F) occurred last month.
Sheesh. If that paragraph wasn't enough for him, all he had to do was check what was written in any other month last year. For example, for the month of October, the NOAA report stated: "
The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for October 2015 was the highest for October in the 136-year period of record, at 0.98°C (1.76°F) above the 20th century average of 14.0°C (57.1°F)
The 20th century average for November was stated as 12.9°C. The 20th century average for October was stated as 14.0 °C. Does he really and truly think that NOAA changes the global average annual temperature each month? And by 1.1 °C?

Anthony was so excited to think that he'd discovered a "major blunder" that he couldn't wait to check his facts. That's one sure sign of conspiracy ideation - assuming that "something must be wrong".

The estimate of global temperature which was used back in 1997 was revised after Phil Jones and colleagues had their paper published in May 1999. All Anthony had to do was check some of the other reports. For example, in the 2001 Global Analysis, this statement was included:
The 1880-2000 average combined land and ocean annual temperature is 13.9°C (56.9°F), the annually averaged land temperature for the same period is 8.5°C (47.3°F), and the long-term annually averaged sea surface temperature is 16.1°C (60.9°F).
Undeterred by inconvenient facts, Anthony blundered on. He replaced one wrong calculation with some silliness, writing (his GAT is Global Average Temperature):
UPDATE: (using the 57°F 20th century GAT mentioned in comments)
GAT for 20th century = 57°F
GAT for 1997 = 62.45°F
GAT for 2015 is 1.62°F + 57°F = 58.62°F
In any universe, 58.62°F is lower than 62.45°F by  3.83 degrees Fahrenheit.
Now if he'd used the grey matter he'd been born with, Anthony would have twigged that the only difference was the estimate of actual global temperature. It had been changed to 13.9 C after Jones99 had been published. Nothing sinister, simply a change in the estimated global average temperature for the twentieth century. And it was clearly displayed on the NOAA webpage that Anthony first linked to, for people who couldn't be bothered checking elsewhere.

Alternatively, he could just have checked the anomaly for 1999, using the NOAA time series data for global temperature. If he'd done that his sums might have gone something like this:

Along the way he might have discovered that back in 1997 and 1998, NOAA estimated that the global mean surface temperature for the twentieth century at 2.42 °C (4.35 °F) higher than that estimated by Phil Jones and his colleagues some time later (1999). He might also have discovered along the way that by 2001 (or maybe earlier), NOAA had adopted the estimate of Jones99.

(There's one minor thing worth noting. The estimate for 1997 up top is as at 2016, whereas the estimate for global temperature is as at January 2015, before the latest version of NOAA's dataset. That might or might not make a difference - I don't know.)

If you find an error in my working I'll happily correct it, but I think it's right. However the real point isn't the number itself. It's the fact that Anthony can't get it through his thick skull that all that happened is that NOAA adopted the global temperature estimated in Jones99, shortly after it was published. And, needless to say, that was sometime after January 1998. (I say "needless to say", but there could be an Anthony Watts reading this, in which case it clearly isn't needless, it's very needful to say.)

The 1997 value isn't about the twentieth century comparison - er what was that?

Anthony kept blustering and blundering, writing:
Of course, apologists and NOAA itself will run to their statistical hidey-hole and say that the 1997 value isn’t about the 20th century temperature comparison, but only compared to the “30-year average (1961-1990) of the combined land and sea surface temperatures.”, and therefore the comparison is not a valid one. 
Um - I really don't know what he's trying to say here. You can compare the 1997 temperature with whatever you like. Of course back in 1997 it would have been a bit tricky trying to compare it to the average for the twentieth century :)

The other thing that is important is to make sure you are comparing like with like. For example, if you do as Anthony did, and take the actual temperature as estimated in 1997 and try to compare it with a temperature in 2015, while not adjusting for the fact that the estimated temperature of the planet had been revised downward, then you'd get yourself into all sorts of strife. You might even get HotWhoppered :)

Anthony's regurgitating anomalies

Anthony also ran into trouble with anomalies. He's always found them very confusing. He wrote:
(Meanwhile NASA GISS uses a 1951 to 1980 baseline for their historical temperature claims today, which is an arbitrary choice) But, I say it doesn’t matter what they say. NOAA is charged with presenting factual evidence in the context of climatic history, and when they make claims of absolute temperature, they need to be darn sure they get it right. Otherwise, the press, supporters of the cause like Seth Borenstein at AP, and the folks at the Washington Post just blindly regurgitate what NOAA says without questioning it.
If any NOAA people read this, they'll either be groaning or chuckling at Anthony and his fuming. I haven't seen him try to work out the global average temperature. In fact I don't know of any paper on the subject, other than Phil Jones et al 1999. Given how Anthony has on many occasions accused Dr Jones of all sorts of nefarious things (needless to say that pioneer of world temperature records is innocent of all denier charges). (I have no idea why Anthony brought GISS NASA into the picture. It is not relevant to the NOAA dataset that he's been moaning about.)

Anthony doesn't blindly regurgitate science without questioning it. Not on your life. Every bit of science is just a "claim" according to Anthony. And that's usually the sum total of his "questioning".

What he does blindly regurgitate is nonsense from tweeting idiots, without questioning it. And several times daily he blindly regurgitates nonsense on his blog without questioning it. It's "not his job" after all, is it?

Click here for an example of Anthony's fact checking. It's hilarious :)

He can't get off his jingoistic high horse

Even after all those strike-outs after so many "darn sures" and "charging" when all the errors were Anthony's own, not NOAA's or Seth Borenstein's, Anthony is stuck on top of his high horse. It's like he's been super-glued there. He kept on going:
The point to be made here is that NOAA professes to be an expert at telling the public what the temperature is, when so many contradictions and errors creep into what is presented to the public, we should all learn to take what NOAA says, and what the media says with a grain of salt.
When you look at temperature that isn’t biased by continuous adjustments, such as NOAA’s highly questionable fiddling with sea surface temperature data this year, you find that 2015 was not the hottest record at all according to the U.S> Climate Reference Network data, which is a state of the art system designed to need no “corrections” of any kind. 2015 comes in third for the USA:

Could it get any worse? Anthony says that globally it wasn't the hottest year because it was "only" the third hottest year in the USA?  How dumb is that? [NOTE: He's wrong about it being the third hottest - see this next article: Part 5 in the series.]

By the way, guess who keeps the US temperature record that he called upon? NOAA. Guess what is linked on that very same web page  - go on, click the "State of the Climate" link in the menu on the left. Here is one of the maps that are shown (with my arrows):

Anthony can no longer be embarrassed, that much is clear. He's fallen so low that he's no sense of shame (although I suspect he's never been capable of feeling shame).

Richard Lindzen's sign of dishonesty

Now that the world is clearly getting hotter, Richard Lindzen has proposed that we stop discussing temperature. Will that be the new denier meme? Yes it's getting warmer but "it is proof of dishonesty to argue about things like small fluctuations in temperature or the sign of a trend" - I kid you not!

From the WUWT comments

The comment thread seems mediocre after Anthony's fiasco. Oh, it's mostly the usual denierisms and conspiracy nuttery you see under every WUWT article. I really couldn't be bothered with it. It doesn't compare with Anthony's own series of bloopers and misplaced accusations, particularly given his bullying, aggressive tone. (Why is it with some people, that the more they are wrong, the more aggressive they become?)

References and further reading

Jones, P. D., M. New, D. E. Parker, S. Martin, and I. G. Rigor (1999), Surface air temperature and its changes over the past 150 years, Rev. Geophys., 37(2), 173–199, doi:10.1029/1999RG900002.

From the HotWhopper archives


  1. An entire blog post filled with pointless grade school arithmetic, conspiracy theories, corrections, and blaming others for Watts's own failure to understand a simple paragraph.

    WUWT appears to be running out of steam and hot air.

    With respect to the cartoon of Gavin Schmidt, is there a list of the climate scientists who've been smeared by the denial movement?

    Off the top of my head I can think of Mann, Schmidt, Trenberth, Santer, Hansen, Jones and Schneider. I would be interested in a more complete listing but don't want to reinvent the wheel.

    1. I think the list can be found in the targets of Josh's "cartoons".

  2. If only Anthony paid more attention to Hotwhopper he might have taken the advice to be found here: the less Anthony contributes to his blog the less stupid he seems.

  3. I see dbstealey is continuing with his latest ridiculous personal meme:

    "Wake me if you can find verifiable, testable, empirical measurements quantifying the fraction of AGW out of all global warming"

    It seems we must break out our AGW measuring devices.

    But it does reminds me of a line from Piers Plowman:

    "Pleading the law for pennies and pounds,
    And never for love of our Lord unloosing their lips.
    You might better measure the mist on the Malvern hills,
    Than get a sound out of their mouth unless money were showed."

    Langland was referring to lawyers, but these days it might be as well pointed at the Heartland Institute and their like.

  4. 2015 comes in third for the USA? Per NOAA's National Overview it comes in second: "In 2015, the contiguous United States (CONUS) average temperature was 54.4°F, 2.4°F above the 20th century average. This was the second warmest year in the 121-year period of record for the CONUS."

    Yet another blooper?

    1. CRN not USHCN, which is 2nd IIRC the concall correctly.

    2. CRN not USHCN, which is 2nd IIRC the concall correctly.

  5. "He has no shame"

    Reminds me in a way of Lance Armstrong

    Simple bare faced lies, aggression, and relentlessly attacking anyone who calls you out

    Combined with the sycophantic gullibility of his supporters and can be quite effective, for a time anyway

    1. That's the way it's always done. Tell a lie, use a straight face, support it with threats, insinuations, fake allegations, admit no doubt. Above all, admit no error. When can we expect to see Watts on Oprah admitting it was all one big lie.

  6. UAH is up to version 6, they've been adjusting their records quite a bit over the last few years. I know some industrious people did a graph comparing 5.6 and 6, but could it be done using UAH versions 1,2,3,4,5 as well? It would be interesting to see how much the change in calculation from it's original implementation.

  7. Looking through the WUWT comments I came across a post by Roger Pielke Sr., who misrepresents Carl Mears and the latter's long record of published research into the technical details and uncertainties of satellite microwave-emission derived atmospheric temperatures thusly:

    The final arbitrator of these issues will be the scientific community. however, John and Roy need to prepare a robust response to these criticisms of Mears (or publicly accept them). That Mears seems to denigrate his own analysis is remarkable. One wonders why he is even funded for that work?
    Roger A. Pielke Sr.

    Considering Pielke is one of the very, very few contrarians with a decent research record (you can count them on one hand, with fingers to spare), this cheap shot is disappointing. But thinking back, RP Sr. has occasionally resorted to similar tactics in the past.

  8. Tom Nelson (@tan123) tweets currently running at about 65 per day! (click image to enlarge)

    1. Thanks Katy. I started to look for your chart when I wrote this up, but misplaced the link. Hope you don't mind me putting it in the article now.


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