NASA GISS & NOAA NCDC Need to Be More Open with the Public when Making Proclamations about Global Warming Records

We discussed the 2014 global surface temperature announcements by NASA GISS and NOAA NCDC in the posts On the Biases Caused by Omissions in the 2014 NOAA State of the Climate Report and Does the Uptick in Global Surface Temperatures in 2014 Help the Growing Difference between Climate Models and Reality?

GISS expresses no doubt that global surface temperatures in 2014 were the highest on record in their news release dated January 16, 2015…same thing with their YouTube video NASA | 2014 Warmest Year On Record.  And as we noted in the “Biases of Omissions” post, a reader must scroll down well beyond the Global Highlights to find the uncertainties in the NOAA 2014 State of the Climate report…and click on a link to find out what those uncertainties mean.  The mainstream media had a field day, summing up the GISS and NCDC announcements with alarmist sound-bites. 

Yet, around the blogosphere and social media, more and more people are realizing that NASA GISS and NOAA NCDC weren’t very open with the public when making their very-certain statements that 2014 was the warmest year on record. A couple of examples follow. That lack of openness can only hurt the credibility of NASA and NOAA.

Luboš Motl addresses two questions in his post NOAA, NASA: 2014 was probably not the warmest year on our record:

  1. how much do the error margins of the NOAA, NASA temperature records matter?
  2. And if they change the answer to the question whether 2014 was the warmest one, did they know about this fact when they loudly announced that “2014 was the warmest year” or did they overlook that detail?

The title of David Rose’s article at the DailyMail is Nasa climate scientists: We said 2014 was the warmest year on record… but we’re only 38% sure we were right. It begins with 3 bullet points:

  • Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies claimed its analysis of world temperatures showed ‘2014 was the warmest year on record’
  • But it emerged that GISS’s analysis is subject to a margin of error
  • Nasa admits this means it is far from certain that 2014 set a record at all

The article by David Rose appears to be based on his Twitter exchange with Gavin Schmidt of GISS.

What’s all the hubbub about?  Page 5 of the NOAA/NASA Annual Global Analysis for 2014 briefing.

On the thread of the WattsUpWithThat cross post of the “Biases of Omission” post, blogger “Jimbo” linked a tweet from GISS Director Gavin Schmidt that included it. See Jimbo’s comment here.  Page 5 of the briefing is reproduced below.

Page 5 of NOAA-NASA Briefing

Page 5 of the NOAA/NASA Annual Global Analysis for 2014 briefing

It clearly shows the probability that 2014 was the warmest on record was slightly less than 50% with the NCDC global surface temperature data and well less than 50% for the GISS data.  That was one of the points I made in the “Biases of Omission” post. See the discussion under the heading of BIAS OF OMISSION 1.

The other thing hurting the NOAA and GISS proclamations comes from the newsletter The Average Temperature of 2014 Results from Berkeley Earth. Berkeley Earth is another supplier of global surface temperature data, and they rely on most of the same source data as the NOAA and GISS products.

The first key finding of the Berkeley Earth newsletter was:

The global surface temperature average (land and sea) for 2014 was nominally the warmest since the global instrumental record began in 1850; however, within the margin of error, it is tied with 2005 and 2010 and so we can’t be certain it set a new record.

Right from the get-go, Berkeley Earth is open about the uncertainties in the data.

NASA and NOAA need to be more realistic, more open, in their presentations to the media. It could be argued that NOAA and GISS were trying to be open by presenting the probabilities on page 5 of their combined briefing. But you don’t find those uncertainties in the news stories.  The media could be partly to blame. Some reporters may have seen the probabilities and ignored them; others may have found sources elsewhere in which the uncertainties weren’t mentioned or were hard to find.  To that end, as discussed, GISS expresses no doubt that 2014 was the warmest year on record in their press release and in their YouTube videos…so why should the mainstream media report differently? With NCDC, you have to search for the uncertainties and click on links to see what they mean…and, apparently, few reporters searched for them or bothered to click on links.

Right now, without the up-front qualifiers in every document and presentation by GISS and NCDC about the uncertainties inherent in data—and in climate models—the public is being misled about human-induced global warming and climate change.

# # #

UPDATE:  Jo Nova has also posted on this topic. See Jo’s  Gavin Schmidt now admits NASA are only 38% sure 2014 was the hottest year.

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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17 Responses to NASA GISS & NOAA NCDC Need to Be More Open with the Public when Making Proclamations about Global Warming Records

  1. Pingback: NASA GISS & NOAA NCDC Need to Be More Open with the Public when Making Proclamations about Global Warming Records | Perot Report

  2. Thomas Mee says:

    Bob, I think you’re being too soft on these guys. NOAA/NCDC and GISS are taxpayer-funded scientific organization. It was absolutely unscientific for NCDC to make the claim in the title of their Annual Analysis that 2014 was the hottest year on record. They clearly knew that the data didn’t support that claim. It is our right as taxpayers to demand that our government scientific organizations be scientific in their proclamations. The NOAA/NCDC statement is propaganda not science. The fact that they hid the truth under a link called “Supplemental Information” makes their conduct even more unacceptable—supplemental data is presumed to supplement your major claim, not disprove it. Dispassionate scientists do not make a sky-is-falling claim based on data that do not support the claim. This is reprehensible conduct and Congress should use their considerable powers to put a stop to it now.

  3. Bob Tisdale says:

    Thomas Mee, I’m already working on an open letter to the two senators who will be taking over the committees that oversee NASA and NOAA.


  4. Thanks, Bob.
    Yes, NASA GISS & NOAA NCDC Need to Be More Open with the Public when Making Proclamations about Global Warming Records. They loose credibility by not being straightforward. They also get a reputation as politically biased institutions.

  5. Ole Jensen says:

    Hi Bob
    Over at : There´s a chart showing adjustments to GHCN from 1998-2014
    Link here :
    Maybe you can use it for a post…
    And as always… keep up your fine work
    Regard Ole

  6. Bob Tisdale says:

    Thanks for the links, Ole.

  7. nutso fasst says:

    Has anyone else noticed that the NCDC’s 2014 global land/ocean temperature anomalies are different than those in the 2013 data set? Of the 135 entries, only 12 are unchanged, and some have changed as much as .09°C.

    And yet, the 20th century average remains the same.

  8. Bob Tisdale says:

    nutso fasst, the NCDC data change on a monthly basis. It’s remarkable to watch.

  9. nutso fasst says:

    Bob T.: “…NCDC data change on a monthly basis.”

    Oh, my. I keep running into things I find very strange, but when I comment on them it turns out I’m not telling anyone anything they don’t know. I first downloaded the data in December, so I had no idea the changes were a monthly thing.

    Edification much appreciated. I’ll download monthly for a regular dose of astonishment.

  10. scute1133 says:


    I was wondering if you’d seen this Facebook post from Michael Mann on the 16th January concerning the 2014 global temps?

    The second sentence is a veritable spaghetti dish of spin:

    “Both JMA and NOAA conclude that 2014 was substantially higher, i.e. outside the margin of error, of previous contenders (1998, 2005, and 2010) while NASA finds 2014 to be warmest, but within the margin of error of 2005 and 2010 (i.e. a “statistical tie”).”

    In the second part of the sentence re NASA he is invoking the terms “margin of error” and “statistical” which does apply to the GISS temps because all three years are within the +/- 0.05 C error bars. However, that is also the case for NOAA. Their figure was 0.04 C over the old record which is within their error bars (+\- 0.045?- Anthony currently has a graph up with +\- 0.09). However, because Mann refers to NOAA as, “substantially higher, i.e. outside the margin of error, of previous contenders” he is seeding the thought that it is way outside the error bars and is therefore undisputed. As you know (I read your WUWT posts) NOAA were just referring to the 48% likelihood as opposed to the “substantially” lower likelihood for the other earlier years.

    Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy has taken this on trust and now the whole world thinks that according to NOAA, the 2014 temperature anomaly of 0.69 degrees is “statistically significant”. Anyone who hears that term in climate circles and on Phil Plait’s blog is going to think that the hike is greater than NOAA’s error bars.

  11. Bob Tisdale says:

    scute1133, I’m surprised you’re expecting honesty from alarmists.

  12. ETM says:

    Two things bother me about this link.
    I’d like to know when it was posted, especially relative to the 1/16 NASA News Release.
    Also, I’d like to know how someone would access this report, other than being given the link. I went to , but I was unable to find a link to the briefings page. Was it an afterthought, haphazardly added to the State Of The Climate homepage?

  13. Bob Tisdale says:

    ETM, the briefing was supposed to be released 1/2 hour before the NOAA/GISS press briefing:

    I didn’t check, however.

  14. mwhite says:

    Hi Bob,

    If you’ve not seen it,Gavin Schmidt seems to have made a definite prediction

    “However, the warming effect of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide will grow sufficiently to overcome the combined impact of various natural climate cooling factors, journalists on a telephone news conference were told last week by Gavin Schmidt,”

  15. Bob Tisdale says:

    Thanks for the links, mwhite and Andrew.

    mwhite, if the AMO is a contributor to the pause, and if the AMO has a frequency of 60 years, then the pause should last to the mid-2030s.

    Andrew, it’s about time the NODC updated the y-axis on their graphs. The data had outgrown the y-axis more than a year ago, making everyone wonder about the credibility of the department creating the graph.

  16. Andrew says:

    Richard Betts (met office scientist) has attacked the article in the comments, they cannot delete it, so are harassing him instead.

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