Hottest October on record … was really a September

posted at 9:42 am on November 16, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

The main statistical facility for global-warming activists compounded error with folly and have undermined their credibility entirely.  NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies announced that last month was the warmest October on record, surprising meteorologists who had seen colder temperatures and unseasonal snowstorms and wondered where all the heat originated:

GISS’s computerised temperature maps seemed to show readings across a large part of Russia had been up to 10 degrees higher than normal. But when expert readers of the two leading warming-sceptic blogs, Watts Up With That and Climate Audit, began detailed analysis of the GISS data they made an astonishing discovery. The reason for the freak figures was that scores of temperature records from Russia and elsewhere were not based on October readings at all. Figures from the previous month had simply been carried over and repeated two months running.

The error was so glaring that when it was reported on the two blogs – run by the US meteorologist Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre, the Canadian computer analyst who won fame for his expert debunking of the notorious “hockey stick” graph – GISS began hastily revising its figures. This only made the confusion worse because, to compensate for the lowered temperatures in Russia, GISS claimed to have discovered a new “hotspot” in the Arctic – in a month when satellite images were showing Arctic sea-ice recovering so fast from its summer melt that three weeks ago it was 30 per cent more extensive than at the same time last year.

When outside analysts showed that GISS used September temperatures in Russia for its conclusions about October, GISS admitted that it has no quality control over the numbers is uses for its analysis:

A GISS spokesman lamely explained that the reason for the error in the Russian figures was that they were obtained from another body, and that GISS did not have resources to exercise proper quality control over the data it was supplied with. This is an astonishing admission: the figures published by Dr Hansen’s institute are not only one of the four data sets that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) relies on to promote its case for global warming, but they are the most widely quoted, since they consistently show higher temperatures than the others.

And Dr. James Hansen, one of Al Gore’s chief allies on his global-warming crusade, has cooked the books before, as have his associates:

Yet last week’s latest episode is far from the first time Dr Hansen’s methodology has been called in question. In 2007 he was forced by Mr Watts and Mr McIntyre to revise his published figures for US surface temperatures, to show that the hottest decade of the 20th century was not the 1990s, as he had claimed, but the 1930s.

Another of his close allies is Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, who recently startled a university audience in Australia by claiming that global temperatures have recently been rising “very much faster” than ever, in front of a graph showing them rising sharply in the past decade. In fact, as many of his audience were aware, they have not been rising in recent years and since 2007 have dropped.

NASA must investigate this episode at GISS and insist on reliable production of accurate statistics.  If they have scientists who can’t tell September from October and can’t recognize a cooling cycle in the Arctic, then they need new leadership at GISS, starting with Hansen.  The admission from GISS that they can’t verify their source data when reaching to conclusions should embarrass scientists throughout the profession, as verification of data is absolutely necessary before reaching any conclusions.  Without that, GISS may as well be studying the entrails of goats to make predictions about the future climate.

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