The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is the official U.S. government custodian of information on weather and climate. NOAA monitors both, and keeps records of both, and also tries to predict future changes. Climate is generally defined as a time average of weather, extending over at least a few weeks.
NOAA does a reasonable job on the weather, but has been subject to much criticism for its handling of climate and is often accused of “cooking the data” for ideological reasons, related to energy policy.
It is important for the public to gain some perspective on such changes before indulging in wild accusations. Equally important, NOAA must use more transparency and not only announce data adjustments, but explain them so that reasonable people of goodwill will understand.
Much of the current criticism is clearly unfair. NOAA must adjust climate data for many reasons.
When a weather station is moved, its prior values have to be adjusted and this extends at times to neighboring stations.
Another non-ideological reason for adjusting data is the poor location of some of the stations. Meteorologists Joseph D’Aleo and Anthony Watts have documented such examples; NOAA tries to keep track of them.
Some of the changes occur naturally. For example, trees grow up or are cut down, and the wind pattern changes at the weather station thermometer. Or, an airport opens up nearby and the traffic pattern changes in the vicinity.
On the other hand, some of the criticism is justified. I cite two instances:
First, there has been no change reported in surface temperatures since about the year 2000, indicating no current warming. This so-called “pause” (or hiatus) has generated much controversy. It suggests that CO2 has little influence on the planet’s climate change, and it affects energy policy in a profound way.
In June 2015, just weeks before the Paris Conference and before the U.S. presidential election, NOAA produced a “scientific paper” that suggested the so-called temperature “pause” was an illusion. The National Climate Data Center (NCDC), part of NOAA, published a paper in Science magazine that attempted to explain away the existence of the temperature “pause.”
Not many people really believed that NCDC’s work was correct. But, the editor of Science went to great lengths to promote the paper, issuing a press release and giving the NCDC paper special handling.
All this is history. The Paris Climate Accord negotiated in December 2015 and signed in April 2016 had no teeth and may be considered a failure. Now the United States under President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump goes after Cassidy after saying he wouldn't support him for president in 2024 Jan. 6 panel lays out criminal contempt case against Bannon Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Agencies sound alarm over ransomware targeting agriculture groups MORE has officially withdrawn from the Paris Accord.
Science magazine had “egg on its face.” Its editor went on to another prestigious position, as president of the National Academy of Sciences. While the NCDC paper could be considered “a tempest in the teapot,” it had no lasting effect. Any criticism of NOAA was automatically transferred to criticism of President Trump.
More serious, perhaps, is the continued failure of NOAA to recognize that its climate record is really quite wrong. This official record shows a warming at the beginning of the 20th century and also at the end. The first warming is genuine, the second warming is an artifact, based on an incomplete analysis of all of the available data.
Second, while the warming may exist in the surface record of weather stations, it does not exist in the atmospheric record. In fact, the gap between model results based on increasing CO2 and the atmospheric observations is continuing to grow. Scientists are at a loss in trying to explain the puzzling ineffectiveness of CO2 as a greenhouse gas.
Could it be that CO2 is not warming the climate at all? It is a topic that bears investigation. NOAA has not tackled this problem, likely because of ideological reasons. NOAA probably considers CO2 as a “pollutant.” It has been slow to change, in spite of scientific evidence to the contrary.
There is still a discrepancy and disagreement between NOAA’s surface record and all other records of temperature in the last decades of the 20th century.
NOAA’s own radiosonde network shows no warming. All other data — including proxy data, such as tree rings, ice cores, ocean and lake sediments — show no warming between 1977 and 1997. NOAA does analyze the atmospheric temperature data as obtained by NASA satellites, but has taken no action to explain the deficiencies of the surface record.
We conclude that the reported surface warming does not really exist but is an artifact of instrumentation changes. We can summarize this essay by stating that NOAA does a reasonable job on weather — although some would argue that point — but they can do a much better job on climate.
S. Fred Singer is professor emeritus of the University of Virginia and a senior fellow with The Heartland Institute. He was among the first prominent scientists speaking out against global warming alarmism. An atmospheric and space physicist, he headed the U.S. Weather Satellite Service [now part of NOAA], founded the Science and Environmental Policy Project and the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change.