on the NASA "Y2K" Error

Here’s an interesting article on the NASA “Y2K” error from Michael Fumento of that steers between the over-reaction of some commentators that this error somehow disproves global warming and the claims of NASA spokesmen, James Hansen and Gavin Schmidt, that the error “doesn’t matter”. NASA spokesman Schmidt uses the website to advance the view that the error “doesn’t matter” without explicitly identifying himself in the article as a NASA spokesman.


  1. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Aug 16, 2007 at 8:12 AM | Permalink

    I’ve always been impressed with Fumento’s careful writing. He was smeared a year or two ago because he was given an advance on a book or something like that years ago by an industry source and his syndicator promptly dropped him without even trying to get his side of the story. But you’re not going to find him writing about things he hasn’t made sure are correct and he’ll always cross his ‘t’s and dot his ‘i’s when it comes to giving the proper caveats.

  2. Posted Aug 16, 2007 at 1:57 PM | Permalink

    Congrats, Steve, to all these things. I guess that Schmidt being a NASA spokesman is one of the jokes I haven’t quite understood. I suppose David Mould is now the NASA spokesperson and the Hansen folks haven’t yet overrun space shuttles and similar gadgets – that would be more scary for the US astronauts than their jealous colleagues.

  3. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Aug 16, 2007 at 2:00 PM | Permalink

    #2. Much of the interest in this issue derives from the NASA angle. I was on a radio show in Calgary today and the lead-ion was talking about the space shuttle and all the people trying to figure out if the foam will work on re-entry; the host then said that he hoped that it was being done by different folks than were doing the temperature calculations. A hope doubtless shared by all of us.

  4. Fred
    Posted Aug 16, 2007 at 2:12 PM | Permalink

    still seems to me the most significant part of the whole story is the exposure that NASA is not using raw data, but rather adjusted data to produce their graphs and predictions. Because they refuse to share with the rest of the world how the adjusting algorithms (Al Gore-ithms ?) work, they are effectively saying they reject Scientific Method 101 and embrace Faith Based Science.

    People should be very worried when the High Priests of the Temple start operating on a “Trust Me” basis

  5. Posted Aug 16, 2007 at 2:28 PM | Permalink

    This incident lends support that Steve’s strategy here and in the HS is effective because it comes in two parts. First is the ‘bunker busting’ effect of identification of errors. Then comes the skeptical science. Without the first, the science would be totally ignored, dismissed, scoffed at, etc. It’s a really interesting lesson in how to break down strongholds.

  6. Allan Ames
    Posted Aug 16, 2007 at 2:47 PM | Permalink

    Steve, Congratulations. Since every event that supports AGW seems to get press, press is certainly appropriate for the situations that are exposed as errors. And while the press gets much wrong, it knows a David vs. Goliath story when it sees one.

  7. Posted Aug 16, 2007 at 2:52 PM | Permalink

    So, what is the chance that the greater increase in temperatures globally over the US temperature is due to unadequately corrected UHI effects outside the US? Has anybody addressed this?

  8. Hans
    Posted Aug 16, 2007 at 3:01 PM | Permalink

    “Nasa climate change error spotted by blogger” [Steve, feel free to remove this or move it Unthreaded, if you want – Hans]

    The TELEGRAPH paper in the UK names Steve McIntyre as:
    “A US blogger” who “has caused a stir in the climate debate by forcing Nasa scientists to admit errors in some of their data showing increases in global warming.”

    If you want to read this, it is at:

    The article says that “Amateur meteorologist Steve McIntyre, who has in the past challenged ‘the hockey stick’ model of climate change data used by green campaigners, emailed Nasa suggesting there were anomalies in their data.”

    I will let you read the rest yourself but this bit (aside from the US blogger bit) makes me laugh:
    “Dr Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeller at GISS and author of the website, described the changes as “very minor re-arrangements”.”

  9. Follow the Money
    Posted Aug 16, 2007 at 3:22 PM | Permalink

    “described the changes as “very minor re-arrangements””

    I don’t see how that is not true for itself,

    But in the political context that misinformation like this has been used in the narrative push for cap and trade and other financial chicanery, it’s a very big deal indeed.

  10. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted Aug 16, 2007 at 3:47 PM | Permalink

    Re: #4

    still seems to me the most significant part of the whole story is the exposure that NASA is not using raw data, but rather adjusted data to produce their graphs and predictions.

    I doubt that that exposure will mean much to the general public, but to those of us with a closer interest there are several revelations about US and global temperature measurements (in their final and adjusted forms), that I have learned by participation at CA and remain a bit puzzling to me:

    That adjustments are relegated to the US.

    That the amount of the adjustment in the US is comparable to the warming anomaly.

    That the details of the means to make adjustments are not known outside those doing it.

    That the assumptions of station quality control, or a lack thereof, are not revealed or apparent.

    Why, if adjustments are required and carried out for US measurements and are a significant portion of the warming trend, they are not considered necessary for other nations?

    That GISS evidently has determined it must provide its own adjustments to USHCN data sets that are adjusted by their own methods.

  11. Francois Ouellette
    Posted Aug 16, 2007 at 4:00 PM | Permalink

    #3 But both shuttle accidents could be traced back to the NASA engineer’s overconfidence in their technology. Not to mention the Mars probe disaster, which was caused by a confusion between metric and imperial units! Or the Hubble telescope that was similarly screwed up because of another stupid mistake (can’t remember what it was). Are all NASA’s engineers incompetent? Of course not! It just goes to show that any complex technical endeavour is prone to mistakes, sometimes catastrophic ones. Let’s just wait and see what turns up in Minneapolis… We had a similar event here in Quebec last year (overpass collapsed, killed five people), and the enquiry that followed revealed the same pattern: poor conception, poor execution, poor quality control, poor inspections. Why is it so hard to admit that the same can happen in climate studies?…

  12. Posted Aug 16, 2007 at 9:51 PM | Permalink

    #11 Francois,

    Bridges are built with a lot of safety margin because it is hard to calculate all the stresses or problems caused by shoddy construction.

    Since every one knows this, there is the tendency to ‘shave’ – missed a quality inspection? Do the paperwork, the safety margin will take care of it…

    For a flying machine there is less margin of error or safety factor.

  13. sergei
    Posted Aug 16, 2007 at 11:32 PM | Permalink

    Steve great work! I have been a skeptic since 1975 when the original movement of global cooling started and fueled by the infamous Newsweek publication. I was in Meteorology school at the time and as well as a serious observer of weather and climate since 1966. I changed majors to computer science in ’78. I only switched because I did not want to make a life long career in academia where you publish or perish – you need the funding. If you follow the money, the money is clearly in the funding for GW and the AGW variant.

    To be a skeptic in good standing I try to read both sides. And speaking of the other side, is challenging. It defies my understanding of the scientific process. I have tried posting there a couple of times and neither of posts even get through. Does anyone else have similar experience? Regardless… I see Timothy Chase has invited you to a tea in Seattle to settle your differences. Just curious.. will that ever happen?

  14. B. Stroeher
    Posted Aug 17, 2007 at 12:02 AM | Permalink

    There is an extensive article in the “DER SPIEGEL” in German language.

    Date 16. 8. 2007

    It is more in favour of Steve, especially also on the “Hockey-Stick”.

    Try to translate it.,1518,500274,00.html

  15. Dodo
    Posted Aug 17, 2007 at 12:46 AM | Permalink

    This may be insignificant, but Real Climate seems to have taken notice of remarks concerning the GISS global temperature history graph. It has been taken out of their Aug. 10th blog entry, apparently for repairs.

    Gavin Schmidt seems to allow a quite open debate about the temperature history. And judging from his many remarks to skeptical comments, it seems to be a full-time occupation for him, just like CA is for Steve. As a European, one must thank the American taxpayers for providing us with such a service. Let’s hope the Canadian government starts paying Steve.

  16. Dodo
    Posted Aug 17, 2007 at 1:03 AM | Permalink

    Much ado about “nothing” continues at Real Climate: they seem to have taken notice of remarks concerning the GISS global temperature history graph. It has been removed from the Aug. 10th blog entry, apparently for repairs.

    Gavin Schmidt seems to allow a quite open debate about the temperature history. And judging from his many remarks to skeptical comments, it seems to be a full-time occupation for him, just like CA is for Steve. As a European, one must thank the American taxpayers for providing us with such a service. Let’s hope the Canadian government starts paying Steve.

  17. Pierre Gosselin
    Posted Aug 17, 2007 at 4:48 AM | Permalink

    I can’t believe the spokesmen for NASA happen to be 2 obstinate climate activists. Hansen and Schmidt both have a history of exaggerating and sensationalising “doomsday” climate trends. Wouldn’t it be better to have spokesmen at NASA who the public could actually trust? These are two guys who took Michael Mann’s hockey stick graph as golden truth, and who still stubbornly support’s the graph’s conclusion – even though the graph has been proven to be completely flawed. NASA has to be based on science and not on political agendas.

  18. Adrian G
    Posted Aug 17, 2007 at 5:16 AM | Permalink

    Good job spotting the Errors Steve, and I’m also glad the site is up and running again.

    The response to Steve’s findings are most interesting. Perhaps the changes are
    only ‘minor re-arrangements’, but this is not the point in my view. The point is the quality
    of the data and its analysis. Starting with the MBH Hockey stick, we have seen that the data and methods
    are not checked or audited. I know that this is the norm in most academic cases, but when the
    results (eg. MBH 98) become the cornerstone of the IPCC and cause billions of dollars of expediture, then
    the data and methods must be carefully checked.

    Now the NASA errors appear, and it makes me wonder which research is reliable. What we need
    is complete transparancy with the research.

    I seem to remember, then when I studied science in the University, all my methods and data
    were rigourously checked and analysed. It was virtually impossible for me to fudge or
    get any consistencies past my teachers. We were also taught that a viable theory must be reproducable..

  19. Sarah
    Posted Aug 17, 2007 at 6:58 AM | Permalink

    Is it just me that finds it amazing how something is a major building block in the global warming armory and as soon as it is proven to be wrong then it is just a “minor re-adjustment” and has no effect on thier arguments about the severity of climate change so we should keep panicing regardless.

    Basically we have seen:-

    pro) Look at this hockeystick graph and panic.

    anti) Thats wrong it shouldnt look like that.

    pro) Oh well thats a minor issue, an incovenient truth if you will, so keep up the panic

    pro) Nine of the ten warmest years in history have occurred since 1995 so all panic

    anti) No they havent Steve found out that was wrong

    pro) Well erm, thats just a minor re-adjustment so keep up the panic anyway until the next error is spotted.

    What will we see next?

    pro) we have proved man will destroy the planet by global warming within 7 years
    anti) (8 years later) so what happened to your destruction of the earth a year ago?
    pro) Well all the panic stopped that now can I sell you the one about us about to have an ice age instead?

  20. Filippo Turturici
    Posted Aug 17, 2007 at 7:18 AM | Permalink

    Would it be possible that Steve make a similar research for Europe?

    E.g. Udine-Campoformido, North-East Italy, used by GISS, has totally wrong data since 2004, using data just from 8AM to 5PM for making averages, so overestimating mean monthly temperatures (overall during summer months, when overestimate is 2-3°C).
    Other stations data seem more correct; but, e.g. Verona-Villafranca airport, used by NOAA, in the last years is often warmer than the corresponding rural station, and it is often among the warmest (both for values and for anomalies) of all North Italy.
    There is also a problem of average value: as for USA, here rural stations show nowadays mean temperatures not above ’30-’40ies mean values, with a temperature drop between about 1955-1960 to 1990-1995 (laso, a strange case, plain stations show the chillest decades in ’70-’80ies, while mountain ones show them between ’50ies and ’70ies, with the ’80ies warm almost as ’90-’00ies); and, NOAA use a 1968-2006 average, while many Italian and European graphs and maps based on NOAA archive data start just from 1948 (just at the beginning of cooling).

  21. Jeff Wood
    Posted Aug 17, 2007 at 7:40 AM | Permalink

    Pierre, #17: It is politics, scientific and departmental. Recently the Head of NASA tried to cool the panic, and was shouted down by Hansen and his cheerleaders. If the NASA head decided that all he could do was let Hansen and Schmidt have enough rope, they might hang themselves, it begins to look like a good decision.

    It won’t be easy though: Sarah, #19, catches the mood very well; and many journalists will have real emotional dificulty in getting off the AGW bandwagon, and continue to swallow shoddy and shallow science.

  22. Posted Aug 17, 2007 at 11:11 AM | Permalink


    Newspapers (and by extension reporters) are always claiming to have been duped by politicians especially (I will name no names). How much easier to take the voice of authority in science.

    Expect to see a lot of hand wringing about the inadequate training of science reporters about 6 months to a year after the public consensus on global warming breaks.

    Reporters no longer have the “Your mother says she loves you? Check it out” attitude. That is the real problem.

    Al Gore gets an Oscar for a “documentary” whose facts are not holding up well. Isn’t that a big deal? You know the crickets are lovely this time of year. You can hear them so clearly.

    There is seepage. And the ‘net. There will come a break.

  23. Posted Aug 17, 2007 at 11:16 AM | Permalink

    #19 Sarah,

    That reminds me.

    If the science is settled perhaps the scientists could tell us what causes ice ages so we can prevent the next one. It would be unfortunate to have so much American cropland under ice.

  24. Sam Urbinto
    Posted Aug 17, 2007 at 12:17 PM | Permalink

    Hmmm. That 1934 thing is rather confusing so let me try and summarize the bit about the adjustment code. The point of view of Gavin over there seems to be twofold, overall, after clarifying his early views a few times.

    One is that all their code (“badly written fortran”) for doing this is undocumented and a mess, and that many of the calculations are done by hand or seperately or something (“by one person”), so there is no 1 piece of software to get, and it would take too much time (that they don’t have) to turn it into something useful. And that no need to verify them more than they have been already. It has to be demonstrated they don’t do what they’re supposed to, because it already has, before they would put together a ready to run software package for this purpose.

    The other is that the papers explaining what they do to the data (web site, 2 Hansen et al papers). So it’s trivial to recreate the methods and in doing so, it would verify everything to just implement theirs in a different way and see if everything matches. That everything described in English can be understood better than obtuse software. Replicate it! You’ll get more out of it, that’s the message.

    As far as things already being validated, speaking about something that was done by Eli (in “There’s a hot time in Marysville or how not to RTFR”) as revealing that

    a) the GISS adjustment is a simple two-piece linear trend and b) the urban trends after adjustment are the same as the rural trends. That’s prima facie evidence that the code does what it claims to do.

    I’m unsure of where exactly the reverse engineering is on that blog post there, but maybe I don’t know what to look for…

    My comments to this all is if the code is in the state it is said to be, how do they even know what it does or if it’s accurate? I’m not saying they don’t know, or that it isn’t accurate, but that sounds strange to me. If it’s so easy to recreate the methods they use, why aren’t they at least detailed out as pseudo code in one location? Then that’s the other strange thing, if it’s so easy to implment, why don’t they just have one program themselves? If it’s a simple two-piece linear trend, why do they have working codes that are “a mixture of scripts, programs, utilities, dead ends, previous methodologies and unused options”

    Additional strange things are why do they seem to be so adverse to just giving everything out as is, whatever the condition, and why should there be some requirement to ‘demonstrate’ it hasn’t been validated ‘enough already’, or as he says “there is no reason to think there are problems in the GISTEMP analysis”. Then he says it’s “strong testimony that the calls for greater access are simply rhetorical tricks” and that it’s a fact that “on-one has attempted to replicate the analysis from the published descriptions.” (Rather than re-do or reverse engineer, I take it.)

    For some strange reason, I get the idea this issue isn’t that straightforward to implement after all.

  25. John F. Pittman
    Posted Aug 17, 2007 at 6:44 PM | Permalink

    #25 One step at a time.

    Let’s start with

    a) the GISS adjustment is a simple two-piece linear trend and b) the urban trends after adjustment are the same as the rural trends. That’s prima facie evidence that the code does what it claims to do.

    Assume we have two trends, or more properly two data sets, urban and rural. We average them. They are now equal as in “the urban trends are the same as the rural trends”. Obviuosly if you take 2 and only two trends, average them and post them, they will have the same trend if you use anomoly for the same “calibration” period. It is not really “prima facie evidence”; it is a mathematical definition. (0.5 (rural anaomly)+1.0 (urban anomoly))/2=.75 (urban and rural, urban=rural) anomoly.

    Second step, you have 4 data sets, you average the anaomiles and make each set as an average equal the average of the set. This is called, per the rendered explanation, homogenization.

    From what Steve McI and Anthony, and now an article about aspirator problems, have found: homogenization = averaging but only for the sites that were chosen as representative. Why were they chosen? Of course this may only be the start of the questions that need to be asked. As in the aspirator problems, if I was the auditor, I would be asking Hansen, Gavin, et al, what did you know and when did you know of it with respect to the aspirator problem. It is not beyond the realm of possibility, and as auditor, I can profess that it is likely, the GISS problem, the record temperature changes (1934 replaces 1998), the aspirator problem, lights=urban, the claimed record temperature days in a row correlating with the hockey stick, the Briffa divergence, not being able to detect a documented peer reveiwed phenomena (UHI), all are related. It may only be bad science, it may only be bad data or procedures. It may even turn out to be correct and good. It needs to be audited and verified.

    Steve McI and others are showing that claims of any accuracy are suspect. Not necessarily because they are inaccurate, as much as, that if one cannot verify, the actual accuracy is unknown. Precision and claims of precision are addressed on another thread.

  26. steven mosher
    Posted Aug 17, 2007 at 7:53 PM | Permalink

    RE 25 & 26

    Ya think I’m getting under gavins skin yet?

    I still have 1/4 streamers of ugly ass NASA code stuffed away in boxes in my garage.
    Ugly Fortran doesnt scare me. I survived untangling that junk. It put you in a Zen
    state. It’s like knitting, only backward, with your brain…

    You should see the stuff he snipped… Pittman You need to get on an FOIA request.
    Nasa has some interesting policies on Software and the Cheif engineer and CIO have
    some interesting responsibilities…

    I’ll see If I can find the links again.. but google nasa software policy and follow
    your nose…

  27. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Aug 17, 2007 at 8:00 PM | Permalink

    I wouldn’t have figured out what Mann was doing in MBH without the fact that he had “inadvertently ” left some ugly Fortran code on the FTP site that was made public in Nov 2003.

    Steve Mosher, the term “NASA software policy” turns up many interesting points. For example,

    If someone would like to make a post on NASA software policy, I’d appreciate it and will start a thread.

  28. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Aug 17, 2007 at 8:02 PM | Permalink

    Given that Schmidt is acting as a NASA spokesman on this issue and that NASA has obviously acqueisced in Schmidt’s defending NASA as a “private citizen” at realclimate, how appropriate is it for a NASA spokesman to be censoring criticism of NASA?

  29. TCO
    Posted Aug 17, 2007 at 8:08 PM | Permalink

    Gavin is a tendentious trivializing sophist who needs to have a Bessel function shoved up his bustle. The thing where he pointed people to the reference list as “where the algorithm was” was rich. What a second rater.

    But don’t you use that as an excuse for your own Clintonian tendancies, Steve.

  30. Posted Aug 17, 2007 at 11:17 PM | Permalink

    #26 John, I posted this in another thread – too many of them now – but the aspirated sensor problems were clearly known about in 1993 when this was published. Kessler on HO-83 in Albany NY…74..215K

  31. Posted Aug 17, 2007 at 11:21 PM | Permalink

    Try this…74..215K

  32. steven mosher
    Posted Aug 17, 2007 at 11:51 PM | Permalink

    RE 28.

    YUP. That is the doc I found the other day. there are other related documents as
    well. I believe I mentioned this in one of my comments back to gavin and I think he snipped it.

    Gavin says the code is an undocumented mess. I’m wondering if the code has been through IV&V?

    My sense is Dan Hughes should be all over this.

    Also this.

    And this.

    Let me see what Else I can come up with this weekend and work from there.

  33. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Aug 18, 2007 at 6:28 AM | Permalink

    Re #30 TCO

    Can you expect us to understand your writing when you cannot express yourself correctly?

    You often use the words “hoi polloi”. Here is an explanation of them:

    Quote: Hoi polloi is a borrowing of the Greek phrase hoi polloi, consisting of hoi, meaning “the” and used before a plural, and polloi, the plural of polus, “many.” In Greek hoi polloi had a special sense, “the greater number, the people, the commonalty, the masses.” Hoi polloi is sometimes incorrectly used to mean “the elite,” possibly because it is reminiscent of high and mighty or because it sounds like hoity-toity. End quote.

    Can you please explain your precise intention in the use of these words? A casual reader might well interpret the incorrect meaning.

  34. John F. Pittman
    Posted Aug 18, 2007 at 11:21 AM | Permalink

    #28 Steve.

    Sorry, but we don’t need a thread because of the following

    NASA Policy Directive 2820.1C NASA Software Policy
    Responsible Office: Office of the Chief Engineer, Michael Ryschkewitsch

    Also, this office (office of chief engineer)(4) Release software in accordance with NPR 2210.1, External Release of NASA Software, consistent with law and applicable agreements, for commercial, industrial, educational, and governmental purposes.

    From NPR 2210.1

    h. In general, Software, as defined in Section 2.1, is not considered a record under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and, therefore, is not subject to the mandatory release requirements of the FOIA. Requests for software under the FOIA should be coordinated between the Center FOIA Office and the Center Software Release Authority.

  35. Larry
    Posted Aug 18, 2007 at 11:51 AM | Permalink


    ugly Fortran code

    Like there’s any other kind of Fortran code?

  36. John F. Pittman
    Posted Aug 18, 2007 at 11:55 AM | Permalink

    This has promise. However, it does not have the legal track record of the FOIA. I think that it would be appropriate to ask the Office of Chief Engineer how his department plans on meeting this OMB requirement, and quote k below if information is not made available. Especially something like Hansen or Mann code where the public is being asked to spend billions, and definetly has a stakeholder issue in making sure that the information not only meets NASA and OMB’s requirements, but that it is available for the public.
    From this OMB:

    Government information is a valuable national resource. It provides the public with knowledge of the government, society, and economy — past, present, and future. It is a means to ensure the accountability of government, to manage the government’s operations, to maintain the healthy performance of the economy, and is itself a commodity in the marketplace.

    The free flow of information between the government and the public is essential to a democratic society. It is also essential that the government minimize the Federal paperwork burden on the public, minimize the cost of its information activities, and maximize the usefulness of government information.

    4. Applicability and Scope:
    a. The policies in this Circular apply to the information activities of all agencies of the executive branch of the Federal government.
    b. Information classified for national security purposes should also be handled in accordance with the appropriate national security directives. National security emergency preparedness activities should be conducted in accordance with Executive Order No. 12472.
    2. How must agencies implement Records Management?
    Agencies will:

    (a) Ensure that records management programs provide adequate and proper documentation of agency activities;

    (b) Ensure the ability to access records regardless of form or medium;

    (c) In a timely fashion, establish, and obtain the approval of the Archivist of the United States for retention schedules for Federal records; and

    (d) Provide training and guidance as appropriate to all agency officials and employees and contractors regarding their Federal records management responsibilities.
    3. How must an agency provide information to the public?

    Agencies have a responsibility to provide information to the public consistent with their missions. Agencies will discharge this responsibility by:

    (a) Providing information, as required by law, describing agency organization, activities, programs, meetings, systems of records, and other information holdings, and how the public may gain access to agency information resources;

    (b) Providing access to agency records under provisions of the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act, subject to the protections and limitations provided for in these Acts;

    (c) Providing such other information as is necessary or appropriate for the proper performance of agency functions; and

    (d) In determining whether and how to disseminate information to the public, agencies will:
    (i) Disseminate information in a manner that achieves the best balance between the goals of maximizing the usefulness of the information and minimizing the cost to the government and the public;
    (ii) Disseminate information dissemination products on equitable and timely terms;
    (iii) Take advantage of all dissemination channels, Federal and nonfederal, including State and local governments, libraries and private sector entities, in discharging agency information dissemination responsibilities;
    (iv) Help the public locate government information maintained by or for the agency.
    (i) Establish and maintain communications with members of the public and with State and local governments so that the agency creates information dissemination products that meet their respective needs;

    (j) Provide adequate notice when initiating, substantially modifying, or terminating significant information dissemination products; and

    (k) Ensure that, to the extent existing information dissemination policies or practices are inconsistent with the requirements of this Circular, a prompt and orderly transition to compliance with the requirements of this Circular is made.

  37. Chris Chittleborough
    Posted Aug 19, 2007 at 1:20 AM | Permalink has another article about Steve: NASA Blocked Climate Change Blogger from Data, by Amanda Carpenter. She actually interviewed Steve, as well as writing about the GISS correction. Good stuff.

  38. fFreddy
    Posted Aug 19, 2007 at 4:09 AM | Permalink

    There is a typo in Chris’s link above; this one works.

    Chris is right, it’s a good article. I particularly hope that Townhall readers read through to the end of the transcript where Steve describes the farcical lack of disclosure from climatologists.
    (I refuse to call them climate scientists.)

  39. cytochrome sea
    Posted Aug 19, 2007 at 6:16 AM | Permalink

    re: #1,

    Dave, I just read the article and take issue with the crossing t’s, etc… I read, “Instead it observes (correctly) since the U.S. accounts for merely two percent of global land surface”

    Granted, a tiny nitpick, but still not accurate by a factor of ~3. I hope he didn’t get it from one of Steve’s posts. (where he ~>99.9% usually does cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s)

  40. bernie
    Posted Aug 19, 2007 at 7:03 AM | Permalink

    You mean climatologists are like phrenologists!

  41. Larry
    Posted Aug 19, 2007 at 10:24 AM | Permalink

    41, I suppose the rocket scientists at NASA should be called “rocketologists”?

    /Yes I realize that there’s no such thing as a “rocket scientist”.

  42. fFreddy
    Posted Aug 19, 2007 at 12:28 PM | Permalink

    bernie, exactly so, though I was thinking of numerologists …

  43. mccall
    Posted Aug 19, 2007 at 1:25 PM | Permalink

    From the article: “This U.S. temperature revision could cause problems for former Vice President Al Gore. Assisted by Hansen, Gore asserted in his global warming film “An Inconvenient Truth” that nine of the ten hottest years in U.S. history occurred since 1995. (my emphasis)

    Are the “U.S.” and “since 1995” qualifiers accurate? They aren’t true even in the “before” list. Ms Carpenter should checked in AIT and correct, if wrong. VP Gore screwed up all over the place in that crockumentary — no need to mis-state what is easy to verify.

  44. Jack
    Posted Aug 20, 2007 at 11:41 AM | Permalink

    Fumento writes in the article:

    If you follow the global warming debate, you “know” that nine of the ten warmest years recorded in the U.S. lower 48 since 1880 have occurred since 1995, with the very hottest being 1998.

    But whaddya know! Those figures are wrong. Data from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) now show the hottest year since 1880 was 1934. Nineteen-ninety-eight dropped to second, while the third hottest year was way back in 1921. Indeed, four of the 10 hottest years were in the 1930s, while only three were in the past decade.

    Reading the discussion comments here, it seems that everyone is still congratulating Steve on his discovery of the NASA glitch. But doesn’t Fumento still get the difference between the U.S. data and the global data wrong in what he writes above? Even before Steve’s discovery, in the GISS analysis of the U.S. lower 48, nine of the top 10 warmest years did not occur after 1995. That was true globally but not in the U.S. mainland. Is Fumento engaged in some clever writing here?

    Even though the data needed correcting, I can see why Hansen’s ire is piqued given the continued recurrence of this conflation.

  45. Jack
    Posted Aug 20, 2007 at 11:46 AM | Permalink

    I just checked Steve’s now-famous “leaderboard” article. On the old leaderboard, only four of the top 10 warmest years occurred after 1995, not nine like Fumento wrote. So Fumento should be probably be notified of the error in his article. If someone did notify him, it would be interesting to see if he made any acknowledgment of the need for a correction.

  46. Douglas Hoyt
    Posted Aug 20, 2007 at 12:33 PM | Permalink

    I thought Gore was claiming that 9 of the top warmest years occurred after 1995.

  47. Jack
    Posted Aug 20, 2007 at 12:41 PM | Permalink


    Where? Did Gore say U.S. rather than global in the movie? I haven’t seen the movie. If Wikipedia is to be believed on this, then Gore cited global temperatures.

  48. JS
    Posted Aug 20, 2007 at 12:52 PM | Permalink

    Jack # 45,

    The error in the NASA data Steve M found is nothing compared to the errors in the data from microsite effects and adjustments. That’s why Hansen, CRU, NOAA etc are trying to hide their computer codes and algorithyms. But this is the free part of the world, it won’t be long.

  49. Jack
    Posted Aug 20, 2007 at 1:04 PM | Permalink

    JS: That may be. But if there is a concern about journalistic standards of reporting, especially on an issue of this import, Fumento should still be notified, and Steve should do it, because I’m a peon and he’s famous. Plus he’s the subject of Fumento’s article and Fumento might listen to him.

  50. bernie
    Posted Aug 20, 2007 at 1:46 PM | Permalink

    I agree. Precison and accuracy are what I am looking for regardless of the commentator’s overarching position re AGW. Ultimately, I for one will tip my hat to Hansen et al IF their conclusions are supported by the data. Fumenta is wrong on a number of points in his article and should issue a correction/clarification. Besides it would be excellent PR for those seeking to audit the data.

  51. steven mosher
    Posted Aug 20, 2007 at 2:01 PM | Permalink

    The first sentence from the Goracles trailer

  52. Sarah
    Posted Aug 20, 2007 at 2:10 PM | Permalink

    It appears that word of the correction has not got out yet.

    In a story today The independant is still scare mongering about how all the hottest years have occured in the past 20 years.

  53. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Aug 20, 2007 at 2:21 PM | Permalink

    I will notify Fumento of this. Does anyone have an exact reference for what Gore said?

  54. Jack
    Posted Aug 20, 2007 at 2:29 PM | Permalink


    Somebody must have seen the movie! (Chuckle).

    Amanda Carpenter made a similar mistake. Among others. One boggles at the lack of comprehension of this rather simple distinction (probably due to the urge to “make a point” before checking one’s facts… we’ve seen that demonstrated frequently).

    You, on the other hand, have been quite circumspect about what was corrected. One could wish that the pundits, from Limbaugh on down, had been as careful.

    Thanks for taking note of this.

  55. DeWitt Payne
    Posted Aug 20, 2007 at 2:38 PM | Permalink

    (Hope this isn’t too far off-topic)

    Francois, The Hubble mirror problem was actually the fault of the mirror contractor, not directly NASA, although someone at NASA probably had to sign off on it at some point. It’s an interesting story, and of course hubris plays a part. A telescope mirror has to be ground to a specific curvature so it will focus at the correct point. This is called the mirror’s figure. The contractor had developed an instrument for the project that could measure the figure to a much better precision than the classical method. This instrument was used to control the grinding process. After the grinding and polishing was done, but before coating, the mirror was measured by both methods. They didn’t agree. In fact, the difference was outside the bounds of the classical method’s precision. If the classical method was correct, the mirror would have to be reground. Due to time and budget constraints, the contractor decided to rely on their new and improved measurement rather than investigate why the readings did not agree. As it turned out, the classical method was correct. An investigation discovered that the new instrument had been assembled incorrectly. Specifically, a rod in the instrument had been inserted upside down during assembly. Knowing the exact error did help, I think, in designing the corrective optics.

  56. Michael Jankowski
    Posted Aug 20, 2007 at 2:44 PM | Permalink

    The cynical ones out there (like me) would think GISS and Gore would sing a different tune if it were the US record which had all the warmth. We’d hear about how the US record is the best in the world, how large a land mass the US is, etc.

    Anyhow, here’s Gore before the US Senate saying 2006 was the warmest year on record in the US (apparently based on NCDC as opposed to GISS?).

  57. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Aug 20, 2007 at 2:45 PM | Permalink

    Hansen’s been very quick to lash out at journalists who’ve misunderstood the precise nature of the error. However, in a way, he has to take much of the blame since he failed to put a clear statement of the matter on his website describing exactly what the error was – fully disclosing the impact on individual stations, on the U.S. temperature history and then observing the limited impact on global temperatures. Had they done this, they might have been able to spin it a bit better. It’s as though he thumbed his nose at every lesson that’s ever been learned in business about how to disseminate adverse results.

    He can’t blame climateaudit as my statements have been precise and cannot be cited as sources for any misconceptions. However, he probably wasn’t helped by the fact that climateaudit was down during the period in question although I did cross-post at Anthony Watts’ blog.

  58. Sam Urbinto
    Posted Aug 20, 2007 at 2:53 PM | Permalink

    Oooops, sorry steven, wrong person I see, no W.

    Regarding my #25, #26,27, well of course that’s just something Gavin Schmidt said, which to me is not about the methods of doing so that he’s actually talking about. (And my post was just mainly a summary of what he said as things went along. If you read the entire thing at RC, you’ll see he spends what seemed to me to be a lot of time changing the reason for not giving up the code, consistent with my belief nothing anyone said or did would make a difference, which I why I never bothered with it) One person even says over there “Why do something original, when you can throw darts at the work of someone else?”!!! (Excuse me, an audit of the code IS something original. Just because Gavin wants Steve to replicate it instead and won’t provide it isn’t Steve’s fault.)

    That quote you talked about, I got this as the point, that ‘a) and b) prove the code works, story over.’ Couple that with the idea “there is no reason to think there are problems in the GISTEMP analysis”, and you get those two means that ‘there is no reason to look at the code and so I’m not giving to you. Seems a rather poor excuse, even if a)&b) do prove the code works and regardless if there is no reason to think the analysis has any issues or not. So I’m just ignoring the ifs because I don’t need them to be true or false to think that’s a poor excuse anyway, even if “code works” means “code validated” and vice versa.

    Regardless, from what you’re saying, a)&b) don’t prove the code works. My contention is that they aren’t equal anyway (output versus how), so showing the code works (or not) is meaningless. What “the output is” isn’t equal to “how is it written and what does it do exactly”.

    It seems obvious to me that the end result is what the start goal was: ‘I am going to do anything and make any excuse I need to as long as I can justify not giving the code out. If I get backed into a corner I will either leave, ignore, edit or repeat an earlier point.’ Or at least it seemed to me as I read along the explanations and excuses. (It didn’t just start out ‘build your own method and compare’ it developed into it.)

    For example, this took 350 comments (plus any deleted ones!) to develop into, and it’s still just poor excuses gathered over the course of the “discussion”!

    We publish hundreds of papers a year from GISS alone. We have more data, code and model output online than any comparable institution, we have a number of public scientists who comment on the science and the problems to most people and institutions who care to ask. And yet, the demand is always for more transparency. This is not a demand that will ever be satisfied since there will always be more done by the scientists than ever makes it into papers or products. My comments above stand – independent replication from published descriptions – the algorithms in English, rather than code – are more valuable to everyone concerned than dumps of impenetrable and undocumented code.

    What kind of silly excuses are these? We give out a lot of other stuff, so we’re not giving McIntytre the code. People always want more so we’re not giving McIntyre the code. The papers describing what we do are enough, so we’re not giving McIntytre the code. The dumps are impenetrable and undocumented, so we’re not giving McIntytre the code. Algorithms not in code or pseudocode but described are more valuable, so we’re not giving McIntytre the code.

    And the inherent message “Redo it yourself and if you get the same results the code works, we’re going to ignore that you want to audit the code and algorithms not see if you can get the same output we do. We don’t want to give you the code, so we’re not going to.”

    I will give Gavin Schmidt a nod for answering all the posts he left up there, but unfortunately the excuses just don’t hold up.

  59. wildlifer
    Posted Aug 20, 2007 at 2:57 PM | Permalink

    It appears that word of the correction has not got out yet.

    In a story today The independant is still scare mongering about how all the hottest years have occured in the past 20 years.

    The “fix” only changed the temps in US rankings (from a tie, to a tie). It did not effect global rankings. The article is speaking about the world, of which the US is only a part. Again, the US is not THE world.

    But I do not believe that statement is true, unless 2006 knocked 1944 out of the Top 20 global rankings. But then that leaves 1983 still in the mix, which is more than 20 years ago. Each year from 1987-2007 are not one of “the hottest” years.

  60. Jack
    Posted Aug 20, 2007 at 4:00 PM | Permalink

    Thanks, Steve Mosher. Clearly a reference to the global record. I had to do quick checks; it was easy to find NOAA’s U.S. ranking for 2005, which was 13th. Certainly not 1st or 2nd (GISS and NOAA, respectively, for global temperatures).

  61. mccall
    Posted Aug 20, 2007 at 9:12 PM | Permalink

    re: 54 (after 44-48, 50-52 errors),
    According to the DVD promo link (52) from Mr Mosher, VP Gore said:
    If you look at the 10 hottest years ever measured, they’ve all occurred in the last 14 years. And the hottest of all, 2005!

    ERROR VP Gore, but also Mr Fumento and Ms Carpenter. Sloppy claims I expect from the VP, not from the latter.

  62. BarryW
    Posted Aug 21, 2007 at 9:01 AM | Permalink

    I’m beginning to think that the problem with the code is not that the won’t give it to you, it’s that they can’t give it to you because it doesn’t “exist”. I worked in the air traffic control R&D world for many years, and often when we analyzed problems (and I’m not proud of this) we would write quick and dirty routines or scripts to do the data processing. Sometimes those throwaway programs would wind up being used for years to process data by other users (“hey Frank can I borrow that script you had for processing arrivals?” ). My guess is that you would find a Unix shell script here, a Perl script there, some Fortran, and g*d knows what else, probably some obscure readme files or knowledge handed down verbally. Even if it worked perfectly well they would be embarrassed to show it to anyone outside of their shop.

  63. Jack
    Posted Aug 21, 2007 at 9:25 AM | Permalink

    Using Google News, which may miss some blog articles, it appears that the original error mixing up the global and U.S. temperature record was made by economist and business owner Noel Sheppard on Newsbusters, August 9.

    A few responders chided Noel for being erroneous or misleading; he responded by calling them silly. “Update: This appears to be necessary given some very silly e-mail messages that I’ve received. Gore’s claim concerning warmest years in history pertains to data for the entire planet. The changes at GISS are only for American data.”

    I, for one, do not think factual correctness is silly.

    Then Marc Sheppard (relation?) at American Thinker makes it even more confusing. He does lead off with this:

    “1998 was not the hottest US year ever. Nor was 2006 the runner up.”

    Then later on he puts the incorrect quote from Noel about global temperatures in a blockquote, then says this:

    “A study forecasts that global warming will set in with a vengeance after 2009, with at least half of the five following years expected to be hotter than 1998, which was the warmest year on record.” … As so deftly observed by El Rushbo, who wonders how long NASA has been aware of the errors, many greenies have spread their nonsense using 1998’s bogus distinction to generate angst amongst the weak-minded.

    Bogus? A deft switch of emphasis here. 1998 does not have a bogus distinction as the warmest year recorded, globally — it is the warmest year recorded globally. Given the size of the El Nino that year, it’ll be hard to knock it off the top rung of the medal platform.

    Then (Marc) Sheppard follows with:
    “1934 is now the hottest, and 3 others from the 1930’s are in the top 10. Furthermore, only 3 (not 9) took place since 1995 (1998, 1999, and 2006). The years 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004 are now below the year 1900 and no longer even in the top 20.”

    So the helpless reader now must sift through all of this mess to figure out if he’s still talking about the U.S. or global temperatures! He tries to compensate at the end with:

    “Of course, eco-maniacs will argue that it’s the global readings that count, not those of the USA alone. Nuts to that. It’s nearly impossible to believe that when put to similar close scrutiny, global mechanisms will stand the heat any better than ours.”

    Which I don’t even understand. Mechanisms?

    Investor’s Business Daily has this stunning lead paragraph:

    “Climate Change: 1998 was a year to remember for the global warming alarmists. The hottest on record, they’d say, proof that man-made emissions were helping scorch the planet. So how do they explain 1934?”

    Neatly and succinctly confusing the two temperature records in three quick sentences. They win the efficiency prize.

    And of course, there’s Amanda Carpenter’s gem:

    “This U.S. temperature revision could cause problems for former Vice President Al Gore. Assisted by Hansen, Gore asserted in his global warming film “An Inconvenient Truth” that nine of the ten hottest years in U.S. history occurred since 1995.”

    Which is basically just plain wrong.

    Sure, Hansen could have handled it better. But I also see many of these quotes have a distinct yellow tinge.

    From Wikipedia:
    “Yellow journalism is a pejorative reference to journalism that features scandal-mongering, sensationalism, jingoism or other unethical or unprofessional practices by news media organizations or journalists. It has been loosely defined as “not quite libel”.

    In other words, Steve, I’m sorry to see that your estimable contributions have been so badly misused by the media.

  64. fFreddy
    Posted Aug 21, 2007 at 9:59 AM | Permalink

    Re #64, Jack

    Which I don’t even understand. Mechanisms?

    Presumably, mechanisms of “adjusting” raw temperature measurements to produce the reported temperature history.

  65. mccall
    Posted Aug 21, 2007 at 10:52 PM | Permalink

    It’s unfortunate that the mistake(s) happened. Such confusion is what the AGW folks have benefitted (& counted on) on many times in the past — announcements of local/regional anomalies get a perceptual translation to global.

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