Saturday, January 23, 2016

Desperate Deniers Part 5 - Anthony "surface station" Watts flunks NOAA temperature chart 101

Sou | 6:59 PM Go to the first of 26 comments. Add a comment
Just when you think that Anthony Watts couldn't make a bigger fool of himself, you find out that he can. This is more properly an update to the previous article, but given the crazy reaction to the hottest year on record, it's worth a separate article. In that article I groaned at Anthony saying it couldn't be the hottest year ever globally because in the USA it was "only" the third hottest year ever.

I should know by now that with Anthony Watts you have to check every little thing. Thanks to Mark in the comments, I've discovered that Anthony "surface station" Watts can't even read a temperature anomaly chart.  Harbouring all sorts of paranoid conspiracy theories, he wrote:
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:
Let's not dwell on Anthony not wanting sea surface temperatures to contaminate the US land surface data (come again? Are there ships and buoys on land now?).  Let's look at his evidence...

This is the chart he showed to prove it was the third hottest year on record. If you click on it to make it bigger you can see he even put a dab of yellow on that last data point on the right:

Look more closely at his chart. You can click to enlarge it - or go to the full size version archived from WUWT. You'll notice the following:
  • Yes, it was, as he said, the Climate Reference Network.
  • Yes, the dot on the far right is the third highest dot.
  • Hang on....
Wait a minute. What the heck! The chart says that it's the "previous 12 months" and, hey, there sure are a lot of readings for an annual record that began only ten years ago. 

Look down the bottom.  Go to the page itself and scroll down to the table underneath.

Not year - month!

Woops, its a monthly chart. It's not that last year was the third hottest year on record, it was the last month was the third hottest MONTH on record. It wasn't the third hottest December either, it was the third hottest month of any month since the record began - a whole ten years ago! (It wasn't the third hottest month since 1895.)

Here's the chart again, with some annotations:

It was the second hottest year on record, Anthony you goose

You can check for yourself. On both the annual records that go to 2015, last year was the second hottest year on record:

It was a very hot December - the hottest since records began in the USA

Now if Anthony hadn't been in such a flap, itching to get his article on line to prove he was cleverer than all those scientists at NOAA, then maybe he would have read the chart properly. Or maybe he would have plotted an annual chart. And if he'd kept up with the weather news and learnt about the hot December, then maybe he'd have twigged that what he thought was a rather warm 2015 was in fact just a very hot December. The hottest in the record for the USA. The very hottest December. Here's the chart for the month of December only, going all the way back to 1895. In all that time there's never been a hotter December in the USA:

(If I'd looked at his chart and done some simple checking .... Well, thanks to Mark I have now.)

You can check the records on this NOAA page. Here are some tips (I had links but they don't "stick"):
  • For any data, pick the data set(s) you want from the choices on the left, and the time period you want from the drop down lists, and the type of data (eg temperature anomaly). 
  • For a single month e.g. December only, from the choices up top, select the time scale of 1 month and pick the month
  • For annual data, choose "annual"
  • For monthly data for a full year, choose "previous 12 months"
  • Play around with the choices, there are more than I've listed above.
You can download the data in your format of choice (eg csv) from just below the chart, or copy and paste the data as it appears in the table below the chart.

More gems - why would you trust Anthony Watts?

There are more gems in Anthony's section about how the US temperature record proves that 2015 wasn't the hottest year globally. Read this:
While that USCRN data only spans a little more than a decade, it is instructive for comparison to claims made. NOAA doesn’t seem to like referencing this state of the art USCRN system in their public reports, preferring instead to rely on their old, messy, error prone, and highly adjusted COOP/USHCN network which has been shown to have significant biases. They claim in their SOTC report from Jan 2016 that it was the 2nd hottest year on record for the CONUS:
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.Source: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/national/201513
As I’ve said before, NOAA can’t seem to keep historical temperatures static, and thus the claims made referencing them, accurate. They change from month to month, and when there is no firmament to the history they present, why trust them?
No firmament? That's the second time this week I've seen him misuse that word. Does he think that NOAA is up in the heavens, or has he just been spending too much time at bible class? (Anthony does misuse words a lot. It's as if he hears a word and decides to use it, without understanding the meaning. That's an endearing trait in a three year old. Not so much for a middle-aged denier blogger.)

Anthony Watts is playing the clown. Just imagine if NOAA took him at his word and started saying that this year or this month was the hottest in the record, using the ten years of USCRN as the record. You can hear the howls of protest from WUWT already. It's not a long enough time - they'd shriek. And they'd be right. In any case, where they overlap, the long term record is virtually indistinguishable from the pristine USCRN, which speaks to its reliability. 

And Anthony's three years out of date. NOAA no longer uses USHCN as a current record, or at least it stopped reporting it on the website back in 2012. It just uses ClimDiv and USCRN now. It's like it states on the page that Anthony used to plot his monthly temperature data:
National USHCN monthly temperature updates have been discontinued. The official CONUS temperature record is now based upon nClimDiv. USHCN data for January 1895 to August 2014 will remain available for historical comparison.

Bad hair day!
Sheesh. You would think a surface station expert could read a temperature chart. You'd think a weather announcer (meteorologist ret'd) would know that last year was the second hottest year ever in his own country. You'd think that Anthony would take a moment to read whatever it says on the web pages he cites as "evidence" of evil intent. You'd think he'd keep up to date with the data used in his home country - the very same data that he has supposedly spent the last nine years complaining about, analysing, trying to "prove it wrong" with his surface station project. (He can blame it on the people he's got doing his work for him. He's an "organiser", not a doer.)

Maybe it's just that Anthony Watts has been having a bad hair day, or a bad hair week, or a bad hair year, or ....

From the HotWhopper archives


  1. I posted that two days ago on the WUWT site but nobody paid any attention ::

    You'd think that as "skeptics" they'd be a little more, er, skeptical....

    1. Good for you David. I didn't make it through most of the comments.

      Apart from the occasional injection of reality from people like you, all that remains at WUWT now are the dregs. There used to be a few half decent comments scattered about. Now most people commenting don't take much notice of the article or of other comments. They just flock there to see their jaded half-baked conspiracy theories in cyberprint, as if it makes them "true".

      In days gone by, there'd have been a few people (among the deniers) who felt enough sympathy for Anthony to tell him to take that article down, it was so bad and should have been embarrassing to him, if he could feel embarrassment. No more. Or not often. They seem to have deserted Anthony.

      Maybe some of the old guard have started to realise that the world really is getting rather warm. Who knows?

    2. Re all that is left are the dregs I note that Roy Spencer still comments there.

  2. It's mind boggling the lack of skeptism on the septic wuwt website. It hasn't warmed since 2015!

    1. Well, I don't know about 2015 but it definitely has not warmed where I live since 2016.

      BTW a great quote I stole from another blog.

      snarkrates re Anthony Watts
      Put another way, poor Tony’s learning curve does not have a positive slope.

    2. Has his learning curve had a zero slope for the last 18 years and 4 months?

    3. poor Tony’s learning curve does not have a positive slope

      Ouch. That's harsh... even cruel.

      But wrong? Well, no.

  3. The US Climate Reference Network (USCRN) has a high-quality and is very good for trend estimates once the series is long enough. It is not automatically the best choice for records.

    However, it is a relatively small network, which means that the estimate of the average temperature over the USA is more noisy than the estimate using all the stations.

    For the annual means a lot of small-scale variability from the weather averages away. The USCRN and the normal US historical climate network (USHCN) match very well, which is a sign that the average is quite accurate.

    On a daily scale, the weather would dominate. Then the USHCN or ever the full COOP network is needed to get an accurate temperature estimate for the USA.

    One would have to compute it, but I would not be surprised if for the monthly averages, the USCRN estimates are still quite noisy due to lack of sampling and the USHCN estimates more accurate. That would be an additional reason to use USHCN (or nowadays nClimDiv) for records communicated to the public.

  4. Well, I spoke too soon when I drew attenti on to Watts' initial silence on the NOAA/Nasa announcement. I thought even he would have had the sense not to challenge the 2015 record. Monckton's post on why only satellite based measurements can be trusted seemed to be laying out the future strategy, which also had the advantage of being in line with the claims of Ted Cruz. There again, why try to be clever when stupidity wins you so many fans?

  5. Glad I could inspire another excellent episode of Desperate Deniers.

    I had no idea where he was getting "2015 comes in third" from. It didn't occur to me that the man simply has no clue what he's looking at when he views a simple graph. More strike-outs and protests that NOAA didn't "make it clear in the language used"?

    1. It surprised me that he was that dumb. However he was stupid enough to not realize, or evil enough to deliberately ignore, the fact that NOAA had changed baselines as mentioned *at the top of the page he based his whinge on*.

    2. Mark , I couldn't find your comment in the 332 (!) Comments at wuwt. Could you have been censored?

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Off Topic
    For those who are waiting for Dr Curry's reaction the 2015 surface temps (so they can get on with the rest of their lives) today's dispatch may bring them hope.

    re warmest year, i am waiting for the results from the ECMWF reanalyses before doing a post on this

    Is the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts doing a re-analysis and what is a re-analysis anyway?

    Even if the ECMWF is doing an analysis why would that be a excuse for a well visited climate blog to give the record shattering 2015 surface temps a complete swerve?

    1. I suspect it's hard to write a dismissive noncommittal blog post that doesn't sound completely idiotic considering 2015 broke the 2014 record by ~4 standard deviations.

      But no worries. Curry will try... she's painted herself into a corner and has no choice.

    2. Well, since we know the models aren't perfect, they must have *something* wrong. Through reanalysis we should be able to find at least one climate measure that does not fit with the picture of a warming world or is not consistent with other climate measures. Curry can then isolate and focus on this one measure.

      OTOH, perhaps model output will be accompanied by an asterisked note: "This is all due to natural variation."

    3. @Kevin O'Neill: that's a testable prediction you've made there, but it's not one I'd bet against you on.

    4. PG.

      I think a reanalysis is where they go back an rerun climate models using the observation record. It's a bit of mystery to me, but I think they use it as a cross-check on the observational record. I guess you can compute a probability of how significant the record breaking global mean temperatures are.

      If my suspicions about Dr Curry are correct, she will attempt to find some sort of diversion to create an impression of uncertainty.

      To that I say "good luck". Uncertainty cuts both ways, the current observation record can just as easily be an underestimate.

    5. "And finally, regarding the MWP, who would prefer Mannian tree ring analysis to solid historical analyses, regionally and globally?"

      Good grief she is still taking personal pot-shots at Dr Michael Mann.

      She is disturbed.

    6. Harry, it's not a cross-check on the observational data, it provides more detail than observations alone can provide. From Reanalyses.org

      "Reanalysis is a scientific method for developing a comprehensive record of how weather and climate are changing over time. In it, observations and a numerical model that simulates one or more aspects of the Earth system are combined objectively to generate a synthesized estimate of the state of the system. A reanalysis typically extends over several decades or longer, and covers the entire globe from the Earth’s surface to well above the stratosphere. Reanalysis products are used extensively in climate research and services, including for monitoring and comparing current climate conditions with those of the past, identifying the causes of climate variations and change, and preparing climate predictions. Information derived from reanalyses is also being used increasingly in commercial and business applications in sectors such as energy, agriculture, water resources, and insurance."

      So, with reanalysis we get snapshots of the state of the entire system constrained by observations, but the reanalysis is not limited spatially or temporally as are direct observations.

    7. Reanalyses are dismissed by deniers as "Ugh...models". Purist deniers don't allow them.

    8. Sou - back before JC went completely off the rails she quoted reanalysis.org and chimed in with:

      "Those of you who don’t like models probably won’t like reanalysis products. But this is the best alternative in the face of incomplete and inconsistent data sets. Such state estimation using inverse modeling and data assimilation is far preferable to statistical “homogenization” and use of EOFs to fill in for missing data."

      Given her position now, I believe she's just hoping for 'ammunition' from the reanalyses to back up some new/old insane theory.

      Or just stalling for time until she latches onto a new 'rebuttal' meme that shows some staying power in the denial-o-sphere :)

    9. If you want to know the state of the atmosphere at a specific time and would like to have an easy gridded complete field to do your analysis, then reanalysis data is great.

      For long-term trends they are not that well suited. When instruments come in and out of the dataset, that can often produce jumps. Especially when in comes to satellites. Models often have biases themselves, the more data you ingest the smaller these biases become, but that also introduces an artificial trend, even if all the different sources of observations were all unbiased.

      To call reanalyses an alternative to homogenization is involuntarily funny. Although the newest reanalysis (20RC at least) also do some homogenization of the data they ingest.

  7. It's simply the old "God of gaps" argument retro fitted to the AGW/climate debate

    The bring nothing new, they have nothing new


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