Blog Memo to James Hansen Regarding GISS Southern Hemisphere Land Surface Temperature Data

Date: August 16, 2012

Subject: Southern Hemisphere GISS LOTI Land Surface Temperature Anomaly Data

From: Bob Tisdale

To: James Hansen – GISS

Dear James:

I discovered what appear to be an atypical upward step and a recent abnormal increase in variability in the land portion of the GISS Land-Ocean Temperature Index (LOTI) dataset for the Southern Hemisphere. I found this yesterday while preparing one of the final chapters of my book Who Turned on the Heat? The Unsuspected Global Warming Culprit, El Niño-Southern Oscillation.

I used the ocean mask feature of the KNMI Climate Explorer to isolate the Land Surface Temperature portion of the LOTI data for the Southern Hemisphere, then smoothed it with a 13-month running-average filter. Since I’m using the satellite-based Reynolds OI.v2 sea surface temperature dataset as the primary source of data for my book, the graph starts in November 1981, and the GISS LOTI data through the KNMI Climate Explorer was only available through March 2012, and that explains the end month. I used the base years of 1982 to 2011 for anomalies to try to minimize any seasonal components. As shown in Figure 1, there appears to be an upward shift in the data during the 1998/99/00/01 La Niña, around the year 2000. The timing of the shift does not agree with what would be an expected response to a major ENSO event.

Figure 1

Comparing the Southern Hemisphere LOTI data without the ocean data to scaled NINO3.4 sea surface temperature anomalies as a reference for the timing of ENSO events, and shifting the NINO data upwards by 0.3 deg C after January 2000, helps to highlight the upward step I was seeing. See Figure 2.

Figure 2

I found this odd, to say the least, so I started looking for explanations. I checked to see if there was a problem with the land-mask feature of the KNMI Climate Explorer. I had never encountered one before, but I checked anyway. Figure 3 compares the GISS land-only surface temperature anomaly data (with 250km smoothing) to the LOTI data with the ocean data masked. Both datasets show the unusual rise.

Figure 3

I checked NOAA’s GHCN and the UK Met Office’s CRUTEM3 land surface temperature anomalies for the Southern Hemisphere, and they did not display the shift, as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4

When I compared the four versions of the Southern Hemisphere land surface temperature anomalies, Figure 5, a few other things stood out. It appears the two GISS datasets pick up an additional warming trend after 2000 that does not exist in the GHCN and CRUTEM3 data, and the two GISS datasets appear to have much greater year-to-year variations in recent years.

Figure 5

Regarding the trends, Figure 6 shows the GISS LOTI data for the Southern Hemisphere, with the ocean data masked, for two periods: November 1981 to December 1999 and January 2000 to March 2012. The trend for the GISS data starting in January 2000 is 3 times greater than the earlier period. But if we look at the average of the GHCN and CRUTEM3 data, Figure 7, the trend from January 2000 to present is considerably less than the earlier period.

Figure 6


Figure 7

The GHCN and CRUTEM3 datasets include less data in Antarctica, and of course, they don’t have the 1200km smoothing employed by GISS to infill areas with missing data. So for the next two graphs, Figures 8 and 9, to try to isolate the cause, I excluded all land surface temperature data south of 60S, to remove the Antarctic data. The GISS data still has a higher linear trend during the latter period, while the average of the GHCN and CRUTEM3 data continues to warm at a lesser rate after 2000.

Figure 8


Figure 9

Could the 1200km smoothing be the cause? I wouldn’t think so, but I checked. Figure 10 shows the linear trends for the two periods using the GISS land-only temperature data (250km smoothing) for the Southern Hemisphere, and, as you’ll note, I’ve excluded the Antarctic data. The period starting in January 2000 has a much higher trend than the earlier period. That’s really odd since the GHCN and CRUTEM3 data in Figure 9 should be using data similar to, if not the same as, GISS, but their trend is less during the later period. And as you’ll note, the GISS trend for the period starting in 2000 is about 2.8 times higher than the average of the other two datasets.

Figure 10

That made me wonder if the coverage of the GISS land-only temperature data (250km smoothing) was in fact similar to the GHCN and CRUTEM3 datasets, so I used the map-making feature of the KNMI Climate Explorer to run a quick comparison of spatial coverage. I set the map type so that it would display grids and areas where data existed, and I set the contours so that the grids and areas wouldn’t offer any distractions by changing colors. I plotted the Southern Hemisphere for each January starting in 1982, and animated the sequence of maps. This was just a cursory look. It appears that GISS excludes grids or stations in the Southern Hemisphere sooner than the other two and GISS seems to have less coverage than GHCN and CRUTEM3 as time progresses. You may need to click on the animation to view it.

Animation 1

James, you should look into this matter. I don’t have the time or the inclination to carry this investigation any further.

Some persons might think GISS has been manipulating data to acquire a higher land surface temperature anomaly trend in recent years.  They also might assume GISS has been reducing coverage in recent years to create a little more variability, thereby increasing the chances for new record temperatures with each El Niño. And the way that all suppliers of temperature data appear to use data for a grid one year but not the next, and then have data for that grid reappear a year or two later,  may lead some persons to think data is being cherry picked for use. We wouldn’t want people to think those things.

Final note: As you know, GISS, in effect, deletes sea surface temperature data in areas of seasonal sea ice and replaces it with much-more-variable land surface temperature data. This, of course, creates a warming bias at the poles in the GISS data. Refer to the zonal-mean graph in Figure 11 that compares the linear trends of the Reynolds OI.v2 data and the version of it with the GISS modifications, for the period of January 1982 to October 2011. It’s from my most recent post that discusses this subject: The Impact of GISS Replacing Sea Surface Temperature Data With Land Surface Temperature Data.

Figure 11

Because of that monumental bias, when I present GISS Land-Ocean Temperature Index data, I usually limit the latitudes to exclude polar data. Now, with this find in your land surface temperature data, I’ve had to switch to an average of the GHCN and CRUTEM3 data for that chapter of Who Turned on the Heat? The Unsuspected Global Warming Culprit, El Niño-Southern Oscillation.Sorry to say, but with all of the biases toward warming, your GISS LOTI data, in my eyes, is becoming more and more unsuitable for research.


Bob Tisdale


The data and the maps used in this post are available through the KNMI Climate Explorer.

About Bob Tisdale

Research interest: the long-term aftereffects of El Niño and La Nina events on global sea surface temperature and ocean heat content. Author of the ebook Who Turned on the Heat? and regular contributor at WattsUpWithThat.
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27 Responses to Blog Memo to James Hansen Regarding GISS Southern Hemisphere Land Surface Temperature Data

  1. Pascvaks says:

    Careful Bob, GISS has friends from Chicago with Hav’erd Law degrees and short tempers who like making things with Portland Cement and other people’s bodies; best to address Hansen as “Your Infalliblegiss”, grovel for at least 20 minutes at his feet, ask permission to speak in the humblest tone you can muster, and react to his every word as if it were coming from a burning bush on top of a mountain in the Sinai. Remember, too, when your audience is over to take a long, long shower using plenty of lye soap.

    PS: Oh well, what’s done is done! I see a big budget cut coming for GISS. Drastic! In sync with the times.

  2. Joseph Bastardi says:

    So now the multi trillion dollar question given these people are ruining the economy. What happens when Ninos are shorter and weaker with the cold PDO cycle.

    we know the answer, Bob has already shown in a way what has to happen.

    What a scam Bill Gray was (is) right as many or you have been for this entire fight

  3. uknowispeaksense says:

    Very interesting stuff Bob. Care to mention why you are doing a blog memo that Hansen is unlikely to see and not contacting him directly? Don’t answer that. I think I just did. A better question might be, why not put your “findings” in a manuscript and subject it to peer review instead of a book? Actually, don’t bother answering that either. We both know that answer too.

  4. Bob Tisdale says:

    uknowispeaksense says: “Very interesting stuff Bob. Care to mention why you are doing a blog memo that Hansen is unlikely to see and not contacting him directly? Don’t answer that. I think I just did.”

    Did your answer include that if I sent a letter directly to Hansen only one person reads it, if he bothers to read it at all? Or that if I write it as a blog memo, then it’s very possible that Anthony from WattsUpWithThat will cross post it and then tens of thousands of people will read it?

    uknowispeaksense says: “A better question might be, why not put your ‘findings’ in a manuscript and subject it to peer review instead of a book? Actually, don’t bother answering that either. We both know that answer too.”

    I don’t think you do. Your reliance on the ever-so-boring not-peer-reviewed argument simply indicates that you, personally, are incapable of discussing the subject at hand.

  5. uknowispeaksense says:

    Actually Bob, you do it knowing not only that Anthony will repost and all the little sycophants will think you clever, but also knowing that Hansen won’t give you the time of day because while you seem to be a bit of an Excel Expert, that’s about as far as it goes. This gives the brainless followers you people seem to gather about you the chance to claim that Hansen couldn’t address your assertions. We both know though that for you to be taken seriously by the real scientists, you actually need to be a real scientist and an expert in the field.
    The biggest critics of peer review, Bob, are those who haven’t got a hope in hell of getting published due to poor science, but overestimate their own abilites. You, Watts, McIntyre (E&E doesn’t count) come to mind. As for me, I make no claims about my ability in examining surface temperatures. It’s not my field, but as a working scientist, I take the conventions of science very seriously and peer review is one of those important conventions. Can you imagine if every hack wannabe scientist could just publish any garbage they wanted and not have it questioned by experts?
    This is the point where you bring up that old chestnut “pal review” which ironically is what Anthony Watts was trying to do by having his lemmings correct his grammar. They all consider themselves expert reviewers now.

  6. Bob Tisdale says:

    uknowispeaksense: My oh my. You sure are opinionated. The problem for you, uknowispeaksense, no one who visits here is interested in your opinions.

    The topic of this post is not peer review. The topic is the difference between the GISS land surface temperature data for the Southern Hemisphere and those of the other suppliers. You’ve offered nothing of value in that discussion. My upcoming book, which is referenced in this post and which you’ve mentioned in an earler comment, is about ENSO and its blatantly obvious long-term effects. You have offered nothing of value in that discussion either.

    Once again, YOU, uknowispeaksense, have confirmed that YOU are incapable of discussing the topic at hand. For the visitors here, that’s a very clear indication that YOU, uknowispeaksense, have no grasp, not the slightest understanding, of the subject matter, and that YOU, uknowispeaksense, are simply—how should I phrase this?—blowing smoke out your butt.

    Adios, uknowispeaksense. Go blow smoke out your butt somewhere else.

  7. John Costigane says:


    Keep up the good work. I intend to buy your book as soon as finances allow.

    This is off-topic, but is based on your graphics plus the recent appearance of summer in Scotland, the latter from mid-July. The question is:

    Does the warm North Atlantic water from an El Nino event push the jetstream poleward, giving a belated summer here, and possibly a milder winter ahead?


  8. Garhighway says:

    So if your science is so good, why ot submit it for publication?

  9. Bob Tisdale says:

    John Costigane: I have not studied the impact of ENSO on European weather, unfortunately, but one of the references I found for my discussion of ENSO weather effects was a Max Planck Institute webpage here:
    I hope that helps.

  10. John Costigane says:


    Thanks for the link. There has been increase rainfall this spring/summer throughout the UK which echoes some of the ideas aired. After several severe winters, what differences shall we see under an El Nino regime, however mild?

    As for the nameless posters who frequent this, and all other sites, trying to silence debate. They have no place in science, which is the pursuit of knowledge, for itself.

  11. Pascvaks says:

    Funny thing about people, the good and smart ones tell you how much they like and respect you directly, the bad ones say it ass backwards; either way, you’re being told (directly and indirectly) “Right On, Galdiator! Right On!”

    PS: When can see and hear “The Strange Ones”, you know you’re getting out and about;-)

  12. Pascvaks says:

    “Gladiator” A gladiator (Latin: gladiator, “swordsman”, from gladius, “sword”) was an armed
    combatant who entertained audiences… (Wikipedia)
    “Galdiator” A galdiator (Latin: galdiator, “@#$@@%”, from @#%#, “@#%$%”) a typeo by an old man who meant to say ‘gladiator’ who doesn’t proof read his weblog entry before hitting ‘Enter’

  13. Bob Tisdale says:

    Pascvaks: I liked “Galdiator”.
    “Gald – A person that does not answer or respond to numerous questions or statements…”

  14. Pascvaks says:

    Hay, thank you kind Sir!;-)

  15. Christian-John says:

    Its unlike in one Way, Bob what see they Temperatures for the Northern Hemisphere? So i know, that Inter/Extrapolating making some month warmer and also colder.

    July 2012 ist a good example:
    250km: 0.49
    1200km: 0.47

    One of many other month… bye the way, to proof it with sat. data isnt really confortale. Its well knowing, that the ENSO make bigger claim here.

    But the main Question is, how much its over or under interpret the warming..

    It dont really look so that have it on longturn a big problem with it. I see well, the extra warming since the the late 90s, but it logical to the smoothing. The higher Latitudes warming in this time strong and the extrapolating of it in the arctic gives a none realistic warming for it.
    But yet, no Problem. In the Future it can be a Problem, but its the same problem like by the Sat-Data. The dont messure directly the surface and the go the same like GISS. 2m Temperature is a sick thing, over the arctic (directly over ice) its gone never large about the 0 Grad C. I think, everybody knows why. But above the Ice, the Air goes warmer and you will see it when (i hope not) all artic ice is gone in summer.

    For example look here:

    So wait for the Day Max. Temps and you will see over Water, nearly bye the Ice, its going to be a much warmer…


  16. amosbatto says:

    Bob, I don’t have enough knowledge about this topic to know whether you have really pointed out a significant flaw in the GISS conclusions or not, but I frankly am not going to trust your arguments if you aren’t willing to submit your work to a peer-reviewed journal. You might have pointed out a significant flaw, but you will never convince the world if you don’t submit this to peer review. If it is a problem of credentials, I am sure that you can find a credentialed scientist to be your coauthor if there is really something here.

    Valid criticism, like pointing out that the temperatures in the paleoclimate rose before the CO2 levels, can only make the science better. That criticism forced the scientists to evaluate all the data sets and not just the Antarctic data. After evaluating 80 different data sets, a recent dissertation thesis concluded that the CO2 levels did rise before the temperature in most regions, but not in the Antarctic, which had a lag. This forces scientists to ask why. My point is that the science has advanced because there was valid criticism. Hopefully you will reconsider and try to contribute peer-reviewed criticism which forces the climate scientists to improve their work.

    Otherwise, most serious people will conclude that the current scientific consensus is correct and you are simply a hack with a political ax to grind.

  17. Bob Tisdale says:

    amos: First, would you like me to alter your screen name? Using your email address is likely to cause you to get a lot of spam.

    Second, I’ll be writing a follow-up post to illustrate another aspect, which may change everyone’s perception.

    Third, I have no interest in peer review. In climate science, it no longer offers any additional credibility.

    Fourth, I’m not a political person. I don’t care what party’s in power. The government has the unlimited capacity to do nothing, regardless.

    Basically, I plot data, and if I find something noteworthy, I write a post about it. Everyone get’s all excited when I present GISS, thinking I have some motive. That’s all nonsense. I also write posts about bad arguments presented by climate skeptics.

  18. uknowispeaksense says:

    “I also write posts about bad arguments presented by climate skeptics.”

    Bob, picking on Joe Bastardi doesn’t count. Everyone knows his Atlantic temperature flip flop hypothesis is stupid. I’d like your take on his conscious decision not to make short term predictions about Arctic sea ice anymore (see but instead long term predictions that, by the time they don’t come to fruition, everyone will have forgotten about?

  19. Bob Tisdale says:

    uknowispeaksense says: “Bob, picking on Joe Bastardi doesn’t count.”

    Scroll back further. You’ll find numerous discussions of flawed skeptical arguments. Look for posts about the PDO, AMO+PDO, and bogus graphs that splice TLT data onto surface temperature data after the 1997/98 El Nino to exaggerate the appearance of cooling, etc.

    uknowispeaksense says: “I’d like your take on his conscious decision not to make short term predictions about Arctic sea ice anymore…”

    I don’t pay attention to Arctic sea ice, other than to see if I can kayak and waterski at the North Pole. So far, there’s still too much ice. A couple more years of the natural warming we’ve seen since 1975 should do the trick.

  20. uknowispeaksense says:

    Well done on dodging that question Bob but i didn’t ask for your opinion on Arctic ice but on Joe’s conscious decision to not make woefully inaccurate short term predictions on arctic ice but rather opt for safer predictions that we will all have forgotten about due to the long timeframes?

  21. Pingback: Denier comment of the day August 21, 2012 | uknowispeaksense

  22. Bob Tisdale says:

    uknowispeaksense says: “Well done on dodging that question Bob but i didn’t ask for your opinion on Arctic ice…”

    I didn’t dodge a question. I provided you with my opinion about Arctic sea ice and why I don’t pay attention to it. If I don’t pay attention to it, I don’t know if Joe Bastardi has made a conscious decision “to not make woefully inaccurate short term predictions on arctic ice but rather opt for safer predictions that we will all have forgotten about due to the long timeframes.” I have to take your word for it, because I don’t if he’s made short-term or long-term predictions of sea ice. And to tell you the truth, I don’t care.

    As I’ve advised you before, take your nonsense elsewhere

  23. Pascvaks says:

    “You’re a better man than I am Gunga Din!”
    Have a great day!;-)

  24. Pingback: There’s A New Sherriff in Town and He’s Gunnin’ for Me. I’m Ascared!!! | Bob Tisdale – Climate Observations

  25. amosbatto says:

    HI Bob, Yes, please change my screen name from my email address to “amosbatto”. Given the policy questions surrounding global warming, I really would like to see how climate scientists would respond to your findings. Hopefully someone else will take you findings and submit them for peer review. I’m frankly convinced that we need to act quickly to reduce emissions after reading a number of Hansen’s articles, but I try to keep an open mind.

    Your screen name has been changed.

  26. PeterB in Indianapolis says:


    The problem with a lot of Hansen’s articles is that they are merely opinion pieces, and not science, but the peer review process in climate science is so utterly bizarre now that Hansen’s opinion pieces get “peer reviewed” while many other worthy scientific papers do not get the “peer review stamp of approval”. I am not saying that Hansen is necessarily 100% wrong, but he certainly does not provide the direct scientific evidence needed to support his position.

    Please do keep an open mind, and do as much reading on the subject as you can, from every “side” of the issue. There is no substitute for a good education, and those who supposedly have “good educations” aren’t always being truthful (unfortunately), so please do your best to educate yourself and come to your own conclusions, and encourage those you know to do likewise.

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