Rep. Lamar Smith has valid reasons for investigating NOAA

lamar smithRep. Lamar SmithReading the news lately, one might think that Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) is some sort of backwards character from the 19th century, a “member of the Flat Earth Society.” So great is the venom directed at him that the UK’s Guardian has referred to him as a “Witch Hunter.”

But what exactly is Smith’s crime?

Under his authority as chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, he’s chosen to investigate the research methods of the taxpayer-funded National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Last year, NOAA released a study that found there has been no “pause” in recent global warming. Because the findings contradict every other set of observed data on global temperatures, and were issued ahead of the Paris Climate summit, Smith wants to know if political bias factored into the report’s formulation.

Adding weight to Smith’s inquiry was the subsequent publication of a study in Nature Magazine that disagreed with the NOAA report, saying the observed “slowdown” in warming is real, and occurred at a time when carbon dioxide emissions have been rising steadily.

Because Smith has chosen to investigate the means by which NOAA reached its conclusions, however, he has been accused of holding “anti-science” views and trying to “intimidate” the scientific community.

Sometimes when there’s smoke, though, there’s fire. And it appears that the Texas congressman may indeed be on the right track.

The NOAA paper, ‘Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus’ (Karl et al, 2015), contends that there has been no halt to the rise of global temperatures over the past 15 years. This differs with much of recent climate science, including even the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) view that “the rate of warming over the past 15 years…is smaller than the rate calculated since 1951.”

In fact, satellite and weather balloon readings of global temperatures have steadily borne this out—that net temperatures have remained relatively stable since the start of the 21st century.

The NOAA study, though, used “significant improvements in the calculation of trends” to assemble “improved versions of both sea surface temperature and land surface air temperature datasets.”

So what exactly did NOAA do to improve its data collection—and thus arrive at a new graph of temperatures that improves on all other recent methods?

  1. They disregarded satellite data of global temperatures.
  2. They included readings from ocean buoys, but disregarded measurements from the nearly 4,000 Argo floats that have been amassing real-time ocean data since the early 2000s.
  3. They included seawater temperature measurements collected from the engine intake valves of ocean-going vessels.
  4. They estimated Arctic Ocean temperatures by extrapolating from nearby land areas.

The result? When compared to satellite, weather balloon, and Argo data, the new findings eliminate the net flatlining of global temperatures in the 21st century, and instead show a series of scraggly rising temperature lines.

A gut check is necessary here—since we’re being told that eliminating satellite and Argo data, while including readings from engine thermometers, will yield a more accurate temperature record.

First, the thermometers installed in ships weren’t intended for such precise measurements. There’s also the possibility of “heat contamination” from the ships themselves. And seawater intake valves vary in depth according to the size and shape of a vessel’s hull—presenting a problem for collecting samples of uniform depth.

Interestingly, NOAA gives priority to these ship readings. As one of the report’s authors explained, “[D]ata collected from buoys are cooler than ship-based data. In order to accurately compare ship measurements and buoy measurements over the long-term, they need to be compatible. Scientists have developed a method to correct the difference between ship and buoy measurements, and we are using this in our trend analysis.”

How exactly did NOAA adjust for this discrepancy? They added 0.12 degrees Celsius (0.25°F) to each buoy to bring their measurements in line with readings taken from ship gauges.

It’s somewhat amusing to look at NOAA’s website, though, and see their justification for using engine intake readings. Essentially, they portray engine readings as a step forward in scientific progress, thanks to the “change from ships throwing a bucket over the side, bringing some ocean water on deck, and putting a thermometer in it, to reading the thermometer in the engine coolant water intake.”

There’s also the issue of estimating Arctic sea temperatures based on neighboring land areas. Much of the Arctic Ocean can remain ice-covered throughout the summer, and imposing the warmer land surface data on areas of sea ice would skew temperature readings.

NOAA’s approach raises real questions. And those who support the view of catastrophic man-made warming would better serve the overall debate by agreeing to a review of the research methods involved.

If the case for man-made warming is indeed so strong, and so obvious, then there should be no need to resort to ship engine thermometers, for example. And the Argo floats alone have been collecting ocean data for more than ten years. Since their findings corroborate ongoing UAH and RSS satellite readings, as well as weather balloons, it’s hard to believe that the new NOAA study represents such a quantum leap in methodology.

If NOAA is confident in their study, however, they should proudly and readily cooperate with Rep. Smith’s inquiry.

Steven Capozzola has spent the past 15 years working on issues related to manufacturing, global trade, and energy policy.

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Comments (18)

  • Avatar

    GR82DRV

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    This is a government/bureaucratic fraud that is so broad and funded with so much taxpayer money that everyone is just supposed to nod and go along.

    Rep. Lamar Smith never got the memo, and for that he is a “witch hunter”. So much for civil debate in science and public accountability.

    Reply

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    GSARider

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    Madness and of course anything to bolster their case.

    Reply

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    Amber

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    I hope the Guardian keeps digging a hole
    and is the last print media to cling to global warming fear mongering .

    This past weekend Duckspeak article in the June 3 /16 Toronto Sun perfectly describes the unwinding language politicians are adopting to avoid looking like morons. They can’t even say CO2 anymore because it is helping to green the planet as NASA has recently shown .
    How much pension money has the Guardian invested in dog “renewable ” companies ?
    Of the three legs propping up the scary global warming scam the ‘ renewable ” business charities was the first to snap .
    Next will be politicians as the backlash from voters gathers momentum.The massive fraud the politicians have advocated , including unnecessary energy cost increases resulting in fuel poverty deaths , $$billions in grant money wasted and new taxes allegedly imposed to save the planet .

    The last group are the hedge fund crooks and other parasites who have been feeding off and promoting the scam .

    Duckspeak indeed .

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    GR82DRV

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    [b]Trillions[/b] of dollars of taxpayer’s money spent for what?

    What do we have to show for it?

    Where is the benefit to society?

    Even if we believe all the leftist lies and accept [u]all[/u] of their CO2 redistribution scheme prescriptions they themselves only tepidly predict tiny changes in climate.

    Imagine what the economy could have done without all the meddling and confiscatory theft… Or even if all that tax money was still taken but instead used toward infrastructure repairs or something real like cancer research… something honest, with tangible results… Just imagine!

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    David Lewis

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    Quote from the article, “They added 0.12 degrees Celsius (0.25°F) to each buoy to bring their measurements in line with readings taken from ship gauges.” This is something else for a gut reaction.

    The instrumentation measuring the intake to ship engines are industrial and have no need to be precise. Many are probably not calibrated. The buoys are scientific instruments and would be calibrated to higher standards. So why did NOAA use the less accurate ship sensors to correct the measurements of the buoys? Obviously because the results better supported the climate change agenda. This is the same reason NOAA will not use the most accurate measurements, that from satellites.

    Now consider that NOAA is the type of organization that the alarmist point to as proof man made climate change is a serious problem.

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    Amber

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    The Guardian is going down like other newspapers that want to preach and create the news . The owners find out their high brow self importance bleeds red ink .

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    Amber

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    Don’t you love companies like the Guardian that hang onto leaders who couldn’t organize a pee up at a brewery . The Editor -in Chief
    resigns after overseeing 20 years of off the mark global warming hysteria . Shocking .

    It’s simple Guardian… what your promoting people are no longer buying . Any fever the earth has is a good thing and nothing to wet your shorts about.

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    Amber

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    Unlike the Guardian which is well on its way to peeing away their cash faster than Leo moves from model to model Mr. Smith has a right and a duty to ask where ,why , who and anything else he wants about $$Billions of tax payer money being blown on a scam .
    The Guardian is a rapidly failing newspaper because they are spending money they never earned and have allowed their politically correct beliefs to distort what judgement they had .

    Keep saying and doing the same thing Guardian and expecting different results is as they say insanity .

    Take a look in the mirror and you will see who the real witch hunter is . Clown suit and all .

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    GoFigure

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    NOAA is DENYing that the MWP was a global event and likely warmer than now, despite the enormous amount of data which conflicts with that..

    NOAA is ignoring both of our weather satellites, balloon data, and thousands of ARGO buoy temperatures.

    NOAA introduces bogus shipboard temperature data in 2015 to hide the “hiatus”.

    Sounds like FRAUD to me. Can they actually point out government scientists who are willing to take responsibility for all this nonsense?

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    JayPee

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    Maybe it’s time to use RICO against NOAA including forfeiture of assets.

    Reply

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    tomwys

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    Here’s a direct link to my “Measuring the Measurements” talk. The link goes directly to my portion, but you can easily scroll back to see the rest, and I have a part in the Q&A that follows:

    https://youtu.be/gCj74F6m0lc?t=25m20s

    In the Q&A portion from 103:44 to 106:09, I address the Thomas Karl study that suggests the atmospheric temperature “pause” or “hiatus” should be questioned. No other previous data set agrees with this study!!! My reply to the question gives a brief explanation as to why this “study,” unsupported by other examples, has major faults.

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    Glenn Tamblyn

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    Steve

    Get a bit of understanding of what you are writing about!

    1. They disregarded satellite data of global temperatures.

    [b]Well of course they did. The dataset they are compiling is of surface temperatures. Satellites don’t measure surface temperatures (not the satellite measurements you are discussing) so how could they ‘regard’ data that doesn’t apply.
    [/b]

    2. They included readings from ocean buoys, but disregarded measurements from the nearly 4,000 Argo floats that have been amassing real-time ocean data since the early 2000s.

    [b]Again, the ARGO floats don’t measure surface temperatures so their data isn’t applicable.[/b]

    3. They included seawater temperature measurements collected from the engine intake valves of ocean-going vessels.

    [b]Yes, as they have always done. As every other dataset does. Because ocean intake data is the main data source for substantial periods of the record, from after the early era of buck measurements, and before the main era of using buoys.[/b]

    And where do you get the idea that the ARGO system supports a pause??? ARGO data is the primary source for measuring ocean heat content which has not even slightly pause. Just keeps going up and up. Look here – http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/ select pane 2 – and explain what part of a continuously rising curve looks like a pause to you?

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    Glenn Tamblyn

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    Here is the OHC graph I mention. Spot the pause!

    [img]http://www.skepticalscience.com//pics/1_NOAA2000OHC.png[/img]

    Reply

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    Steven Capozzola

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    Glenn:



    Thanks for the heartfelt response. Obviously we disagree on the overall issue, but your passion for the subject is clear, and it’s appreciated.

    Satellites can indeed assess radiances for both surface and tropospheric changes (depending on the subsets being measured.) And they provide a better overall picture of climate, since surface-based measurements are often incomplete (lack of measurements in the Arctic, for example) and compromised (urban heat island effect, proximity to buildings, structures, vehicles, etc.)

    Yes, it’s an interesting nuance for the Karl study to focus on “surface temperatures.” Since they disregarded the Argo floats, though, it’s meaningless to cite the increased oceanic heat content the Argo system has measured. Incidentally, NASA’s satellite and direct ocean data shows no growth in deep ocean heat content (https://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/october/nasa-study-finds-earth-s-ocean-abyss-has-not-warmed/#.V1q7nVe7lBw). Just kind of an interesting finding, since it negates one of the theories for the pause— that the deep oceans are storing the “missing” heat.

    But please note: I don’t disagree that the earth has warmed over the past century (as the oceans have, too.) I don’t dispute that—so we have some agreement on the larger issue.

    The real issue is culpability. I do not agree with the presumed climate sensitivity for CO2—that the overall increase in temperatures is due simply to anthropogenic forcing. I would argue that the tremendous increase in solar output over the past century or more (with concurrent changes in solar magnetic field, solar wind, cosmic ray impacts, cloud formation, etc.) has driven this rise in temperatures. (I think much of the overall solar forcing picture is swept aside by focusing simply on changes in irradiance.)

    The Karl study, if nothing else, takes strange liberties in projecting Arctic land temperature measurements onto neighboring seawater/ice. On that alone, once gets a sense of loose parameters, of trying to willfully find results to support a certain view. And while buckets and intake valves have certainly been used for years, they are rather low-tech now for data collection that often turns on differences of a tenth or a hundredth of a degree. Thus the questionable approach of imposing a 0.12 degree Celsius upward adjustment to ocean buoys, so as to match engine intake data that will naturally vary, based on the depth of different intake ports.

    Honestly, I have a feeling that one could cherry-pick surface data to demonstrate warming or cooling, depending on selected locales and inputs. That again makes me think that the “homogenized” tropospheric measurements assessed by satellites give a more complete trend/picture than surface-based readings.

    What we should be looking for is, as the current El Nino rapidly subsides, how fast will temperatures drop back down (as seems to already be happening.) Will we resume average temperatures at the net level of the pause? Or, are we moving into a new phase, since solar activity is declining, of even lower temperatures, and thus a wider cooling trend? (The latest El Nino released a staggering amount of heat that had been stored in the Western Pacific. It’s important to consider that this was “money in the bank”— stored heat that would have offset declining solar activity and lower temperatures.)

    These are important, and intriguing, questions. I realize that this won’t change your mind, and we won’t agree on the overall culprit for the warming. But I’m sure you find all of this quite compelling as well. So it’s good to engage in the kind of questioning that helps to form a more complete picture.

    Thanks again for writing. And if you’re as interested in climate history as I am, check out Doug Macdougall’s ‘Frozen Earth.’ It’s a really good read on glacial cycles (kind of “puts you there,” in a journalistic sort of way.) And as I recall, he closes the book with an acknowledgement of anthropogenic warming—which I mention so that you’ll know I’m not trying to covertly push a “critic” book on you.

    Best,
    steven

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    Glenn Tamblyn

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    Steve.

    One needs to be careful when looking at satellite data sets to know what you are looking at. The satellite data sets most commonly cited for tropospheric warming – UAH & RSS (although most people don’t know about the third, at STAR/Nesdis or the research team at U Washington) – measure microwave emissions from oxygen molecules in the atmosphere in the middle and upper troposphere.

    They don’t measure surface temperatures at all. In fact the surface is one of the complicating factors for extracting a satellite data set (one of many). The microwave emissions follow two paths, up to the satellite or down, reflected from the surface and then up to the satellite. This reflection depends on what the surface is made of and different ‘masks’ at=re needed to allow for different surface types. RSS for example don’t go any further south than 70S since they don’t believe they can mask the ice of Antarctica well enough to filter out ground effects.

    There are also satellite measurements of sea surface temperature and sea ice temperature, both based on emissions from water molecules. I am not aware of any satellite systems that directly measures land temperature – too complex since the land is a complex mix of different substances.

    The satellite datasets are around 5 time less accurate than the surface datasets. That is the conclusion of the people who build the satellite sets.

    As for the surface datasets being compromised etc. More recent sets such as Cowtan & Way have done a good job of allowing for poor coverage in the Arctic.

    UHI is a minor effect, as attested to by many studies, and all the datasets include compensations for it anyway. Most of the planet isn’t urban, and since all the datasets use area weighted averaging, urban areas would need to cover a substantial part of the land surface to have an impact. UHI in Alice Springs Australia for example would have more of an impact than UHI in Atlanta or Anaheim.

    Similarly the supposed other issues actually don’t have much impact, again as attested to by numerous studies.

    If you would like to explore more about why this is so, and Lamar Smith and your readers might do well to to read this as well, read this series of 4 articles I wrote several years ago. They don’t include recent developments such as BEST and C&W but cover much of the basics of why the surface temperature record really is quite robust.

    For example, biases in measurements, whether instrumentation problems or site issues don’t impact the temperature record. It needs CHANGES in a bias to do that. If at first this statement doesn’t make sense to you, please read the articles where I explain the difference between averaging temperatures, and averaging temperature anomalies- this changes everything.

    [url]http://www.skepticalscience.com/OfAveragesAndAnomalies_pt_1A.html[/url]

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/OfAveragesAndAnomalies_pt_1B.html

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/OfAveragesAndAnomalies_pt_2A.html

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/OfAveragesAndAnomalies_pt_2B.html

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    Glenn Tamblyn

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    Steve.

    Now to ARGO and it’s significance. ARGO isn’t relevant to Karl et al because they are dealing with surface temperatures. However ARGO and the OHC measurements are profoundly important in our overall understanding.

    The NOAA study you reference is describing the abyssal depths, below 2000 meters, where ARGO doesn’t reach (yet!) However this isn’t relevant to the ‘deep oceans are storing the heat’ point because that refers to more heat going into the 700-2000 levels and less in the upper 700 level.

    Most of the extra heat being added to the Earth’s systems is going into the oceans – around 93% of the extra heat. The atmosphere in contrast is only absorbing less than 2% of the extra. Look at the graph of OHC. Lets do some calculations. Using my Mark-1 eyeball, OHC has increased by around 12 *10^22 Joules in the last 10 years.

    So the rate of accumulation is around 380 trillion watts. In contrast, total human energy usage is around 18 trillion. And geologists have estimated total geothermal flows, from all sources at around 44-47 trillion. So over 20 times human energy usage and 8-9 times all geothermal – the largest terrestrial energy source.

    So the first unavoidable conclusion. This extra energy can’t be coming from here on Earth, the rate is far too high. The Earth must be getting extra energy from outside.

    Next conclusion. The system isn’t cooling, it is warming!

    And yet as you observe, the sun is cooling at present, in fact for the last few decades. Only very, very slightly, but still cooling. The Sun is cooling, yet the Earth is warming!

    Next, how significant is this warming. Lets convert that rate into a rate per M^2 of the Earth;s surface, that is the usual standard of comparison. 380 trillion watts is around 0.75 watts/M^2 of the Earth’s surface.

    Now how large is the solar changes. Over the Solar cycle the intensity of sunlight varies between around 1360.5 and 1361.5 watts/M^2 at the Earth’s distance from the Sun. However the Earth has a surface area 4 times the frontal area it presents to the Sun so the usual convention is to divide this figure by 4. So 340.25 +/- 0.125 watts/M^2. Then the Earth f]reflects 30% of the sunlight, so sunlight absorbed is 238.18 +/- 0.0875. So the fluctuation over the solar cycle is around 8 times smaller than the rate of accumulation in the oceans.

    But the solar cycle is just that, a cycle. Its long term average wouldn’t change. However, the satellite observations of Solar Irradiance are showing a downward trend, over several cycles. But smaller than the size of the cycle. So perhaps a decline of 1/3rd of the cycle. So a decline of around 0.03 watts/M^2 over several decades.

    The Earth is warming by at least 0.75 watts/M^2, yet the average amount of Sunlight we receive has fallen by 0.03 watts/M^2

    It ain’t anything to do with the Sun.

    In contrast, the change in ‘forcing’ due to increases in CO2 alone since the Pre-Industrial period, where CO2 has risen from 280 ppm to 400 ppm is 5.35 * ln(400/280) = +1.91 watts/M^2. Easily able to supply that 0.75. In fact if air surface temperatures hadn’t already risen since pre-industrial values, then the heat build-up in the oceans would be 2.5 times faster.

    And as an aside, if all the heat being added to the oceans were somehow ending up in the air instead, How much would air temperatures be rising?

    Mass of the atmosphere is 5.15 * 10^18 kg
    Specific heat of Air is around 1 KJoule/Kg K.

    So it takes around 5.15 * 10^18 KJ to warm the atmosphere by 1 degree C. So that 12 *10^22 joules over the last 10 years would have raised air temperatures by around 23 degrees C per decade.

    Thats what is happening in the oceans right now. The equivalent of warming the atmosphere, the numbers most people focus on, by 23 C per decade.

    I think the world is warming, don’t you? No sign of any cooling.

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    David Lewis

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    I can not do the research that I once did because I am now working. My new job isn’t in the energy sector but was created by lowering oil prices and my job would probably go away if the alarmists get their way and end fracking and drive the prices up again.

    The global warming theory states that the upper atmosphere will warm first and then warm the surface. For that reason that fact that satellites haven’t shown warming in the upper air is very significant. The satellite data is confirmed by data from the high weather balloons.

    Any time a graph is presented to make a point that has the zero on the Y axis set to a different point than true zero a big red flag a raised. It is common for the zero point and scale to be selected in such away that the data is distorted. I’m not saying this was done in the global heat content ocean graph because I don’t have the time to do the research. In order to remove suspicion a graph with the zero so that the total heat content would show would remove this suspicion. There is also an issue with the time scale. Some of the events that the alarmists are saying are the “first time ever” actually happened in the 1920’s. A convincing graph would go back to 1900.

    I have been closely following what started as the global warming issue from the beginning. First we were told that due to warming (of land and air) that we had to make big sacrifices to reduce emissions. Then when the warming wasn’t happening as predicted were told that we had to make sacrifices because climate change was causing more extreme more weather events. However, even the IPCC admits these are not increasing. Another justification was sea level raise, but with only minor variations that has remained constant. Then it was ocean acidification. Yet, in the past few years despite dramatic increases in the CO2 level the oceans have become more basic and are not that far from their historical value. Now the issue presented here is the heat content of the oceans. It appears that the only constant phenomenon is the desire to make drastic changes in our way of life by forcing reduction in emissions.

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