Why the NASA Temperture Adjustments Matter

NASA's GISS was recently forced to restate its historical temperature database for the US when Steve McIntyre (climate gadfly) found discontinuities in the data that seemed to imply a processing error.  Which indeed turned out to be the case (store here).

The importance of this is NOT the actual change to the measurements, though it was substantial.  The importance, which the media reporting on this has entirely missed, is it highlights why NASA and other government-funded climate scientists have got to release their detailed methodologies and software for scrutiny.  The adjustments they are making to historical temperatures are often larger(!) than the measured historical warming (here, here, here) so the adjustment methodology is critical. 

This post from Steve McIntyre really shows how hard government-funded climate scientists like James Hansen are working to avoid scientific scrutiny.  Note the contortions and detective work McIntyre and his readers must go through to try to back into what NASA and Hansen are actually doing.  Read in this context, you should be offended by this article.  Here is an excerpt (don't worry if you can't follow the particular discussion, just get a sense of how hard NASA is making it to replicate their adjustment process):

If I average the data so adjusted, I get the NASA-combined version
up to rounding of 0.05 deg C. Why these particular values are chosen is
a mystery to say the least. Version 1 runs on average a little warmer
than version 0 where they diverge ( and they are identical after 1980).
So why version 0 is adjusted down more than version 1 is hard to figure

Why is version 2 adjusted down prior to 1990 and not after? Again
it's hard to figure out. I'm wondering whether there isn't another
problem in splicing versions as with the USHCN data. One big version of
Hansen's data was put together for Hansen and Lebedeff 1987 and the
next publication was Hansen et al 1999 - maybe different versions got
involved. But that's just a guess. It could be almost anything....It would be interesting to check their source code and see how they get this adjustment, that's for sure.

A basic tenant of science is that you publish enough information such that others can replicate your work.  Hansen and NASA are not doing this, which is all the more insane given that we as taxpayers pay for their work.

Hansen cites the fact that Phil Jones gets somewhat similar results as
evidence of the validity of his calculations. In fairness to Hansen,
while they have not archived code, they have archived enough data
versions to at least get a foothold on what they are doing. In
contrast, Phil Jones at CRU maintains lockdown anti-terrorist security
on his data versions and has even refused FOI requests for his data.
None of these sorts of analyses are possible on CRU data, which may or
may not have problems of its own.

  • hanmeng

    You mean "a basic tenet of science".

    Anyway, don't worry. Everyone knows the Bush administration manipulates science. When Gore takes over, everything will be wonderful.

  • As stupid as everyone says Bush is, he has nothing on the US Democrats running for office in terms of stupidity.

    Bill Clinton's administration's ineptness is legendary among the informed, and there is no reason to expect better of his wife's.

  • Walter E. Wallis, P.E.

    I keep suggesting that Hansen plug in the effect on future weather if everything the warmies demand is given, If their own program does not show a significant improvement, why bother? If they refuse, as they have up to now, to do this validation then dump them.

  • TCO

    Steve has devolved into some form of Dalyesque amateur. He says he doesn't have time for papers but has time for 10 Waldo posts. What a joke.

  • TCO

    There's something sort of vaguely dishonest about the way Steve puts stuff out there. He MUST have read the Hansen papers where he describes his adjustment method. But the way, Steve presents it is as if it is a total mystery. Maybe Hansen's method has flaws. Maybe it's not perfectly documented or applied. But the thing is Steve doesn't even cite or acknowledge it. He doesn't treat his adversary fairly.

    In addition, he USED to say that he wasn't asserting a flawed surface record or dishonesty by the compilers of these records. Is he now doing so? The snark in his posts is so thick and repetetive, that it implies he has come to a different view (or made a different accusation) than in the past. That's just fine, of course, if he's learned more and developed his views. But if so, he should come out and say it.

    The whole thing is screwy. I wonder if he got in a big dander from Hansen's teapot comment. I worry that he sees fault-finding not as a method towards truth but as a personal battle, even with "retaliation". It reminds me of when he (wrongly) identified a student at Georgia Tech and threatened to "audit" her other papers because of her stated opinions on Climate Audit. (The point being that it shouldn't matter what she said on CA. He ought to go after her paper if it is wrong even if she supports him (unlike how he coddles the nitwit hoi polloi cheering section) or leave it alone if it's good even if she rips him new buttholes. It reminds me of the wild, off-topic accusations against Webster as a reviewer, when Webster commented on CA.

  • "he measured historical warming (here, here, here) so the adjustment methodology is critical."

    Did you mean to put links in the "here, here, here" part?