Gather ye climate data while ye may

President-elect Donald Trump has appointed a host of the worst imaginable climate deniers to positions of authority in his administration. He seems determined to put them in control, and they seem determined to stop all U.S. action to help with the climate crisis. They may also work actively, not just to deny climate truth, but to cripple the world’s ability even to know what’s going on.


That’s because for years the U.S. has been the world’s leader in gathering climate data. It’s something we could rightly be proud of. But with climate deniers in control of NASA, of NOAA, and a host of other agencies, and with them already seeking to make “lists” of the people who have been doing climate-related science, they seem hell-bent on a a witch-hunt against those people, and to destroy the data-gathering supremacy which the U.S. worked so long, so hard, and so well to establish.

For instance: two of the three best-known and most-trusted global surface temperature records are U.S. government efforts: from NASA and from NOAA. I fully expect that they will either be halted altogether, or worse yet, will be deliberately altered to hide the truth. The U.S. satellite programs provide a wealth of information, and that too may be abandoned or tampered with in order to change the truth into a lie. For years, climate deniers have accused honest scientists of altering data for political purposes — it’s one of the hallmarks of the dishonest that they are not only eager to accuse others falsely, but to do exactly the sin that they falsely accuse others of.

The greatest tragedy may be that just when the world needs quality climate data most, the Trump administration will either put a stop to it, or change it to paint a rosy picture which is as far from reality as possible.

I expect it will be just like putting tobacco companies in charge of the data on the health effects of tobacco.

I hope the Europeans will step up, fill in as many gaps as possible, and assume the mantle of leadership in gathering and disseminating honest climate data. Because the U.S., under the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled congress, won’t.

We’ll be watching.


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60 responses to “Gather ye climate data while ye may

  1. Ruthless evaluation. Yikes!

  2. @EricHolthaus is looking for any and all assistance in an effort to identify and back up climate data assets on .gov computers.

  3. Now that we’ll have the Manchurian President Camacho, Chauncey Gardiner and Nehemiah Scudder all in one package,it’s so awful that I can no longer even read the news. I had always thought that we lived in the real world, but today it’s clear that we actually inhabit the alternate universe, the one in which humanity turned its back on all the problems we face instead of working together to solve them.

    • It might be hard to see from way up there, but from where I’m standing I have concerns that this whole debacle will be remembered as a stain on the integrity of the scientific community and on NASA.

      James Hansen overstated the confidence of his models when communicating to the public. Bold claims were made in a field where the public requires a greater level of unbiased professionalism. Phrases like -tipping point-, and -it’s worse than we thought- have been tossed around inappropriately and recklessly.

      The failure was collective and systemic. Expect more fallout. What’s happening now is the reaction to that failure.

      • Harry Twinotter

        “What’s happening now is the reaction to that failure.”

        I disagree. What’s happening now is a well-funded antiscience campaign. Certain groups have collaborated to hoax the US public.

      • I vehemently disagree with your perspective Will.

        Hansen has not overstated the implications of his science. The problem is that the short-term year-to-year variability inherent in the Earth’s climate system is such that the signal takes decades to emerge, and the nature of “tipping points” is such that they only become apparent decades, centuries, or even millenia after they occur.

        Where you stand…? Well, you’re standing in a ‘plane whose engines have stopped, and you’ve thus far decended from 30,000 feet to 25,00 feet… and on the basis of the fact that nothing perceptible has yet occurred you’re disparaging the pilot’s warning that you’re in for a rough landing.

        What’s happening now is that the passengers on that plane have just rioted and installed a 10 year old Nintendo gamer at the controls on the basis that he’ll do a better job flying from New York to London than that bloody alarmist pilot, when in fact the aircraft is about to come to rest over the mid-Atlantic ocean ridge…

      • Yet more evidence free assertions from the denialati. Do you people really think everyone is as stupid and gullible as you are?

      • Tipping points do exist : ice melts at 0°, water boils at 100°… That is about so far as it goes if one wants to stick to physical realities. Though some reptiles are well known for sex differenciation according to the average temperature before hatching (1° plus or minus, and you get 100% of males or females, 1/2°, and you get a 50/50%) I am not certain that there are many instances of such “points” in Nature.

      • Will has provided an oft-used pseudoskeptic talking point ….. but Hansen’s 1988 model!!!

        Give it up, will ya …. it’s been addressed numerous times. Nick Stokes at Moyhu has the latest rebuttal of this stupid meme. Hansen’s 1988 scenarios and outcome

      • “Its worse than we thought” has been tossed around recklessly? Really? Every year or two I see something climate related that is worse than I thought. This year its the global temperature, and the weird behaviour of sea ice at both poles.

        Will, you are a “concern troll”.

      • François:

        I am not certain that there are many instances of such “points” in Nature.

        In fact there are many such tipping points, from the scale of individual spieces whose physiological tolerances collapse outside of their bioclimatic envelopes, through to whole ecosystems that are impacted by the actions of environmental changes affecting keystone species.

        There’s a very clear example of the latter off the east coast of Australia, where the warming of the ocean water by several degrees celcius has led to the spread and establishment of the long spined sea urchin from the mainland south to Tasmania. This urchin species is currently well on the way to grazing previously dense and incredibly biodiverse kelp forest so that all that remains are urchin barrens – effectively bare rock and sea beds devoid of the multitude of species that were previously present.

        The tipping point was a simple increase in mean water temperature of several degrees. The result is the undersea desertification of a previously astonishing ecosystem. And this is just the beginning of many more tipping points to come.

      • Other tipping points are again illustrated in the ocean waters of eastern Australia. The bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, caused again by a mere few degrees of warming, presages what is now an almost inevitable near-future loss of much of the coral, and just around the corner in the Gulf of Carpentaria hundreds of kilometers of tropical mangrove forest has died back from the warming waters there.

        “Nature” is all about tipping points…

  4. How the (insert a swearword) they’re going to prevent people taking tourist flights over North Pole? Will they ban civilian thermometers? Morons.

  5. Sheldon Walker

    Why do we need 2 temperature series (NASA and NOAA) for you to not find the recent slowdown in. Surely not finding the recent slowdown in one temperature series is enough. And it will save 50%
    P.S. my new website (mta-graphs.com) fully documents the slowdown in UAH and GISTEMP in glorious colour

    • Harry Twinotter

      Sheldon Walker.

      I will answer your rhetorical question. The two different data sets use different approaches to estimating the Global Mean Temperature from the weather station data.

      It sounds like you are using this post to promote your interest in your “slowdown”. Well OK, why is the slowdown so important to you?

    • Spoken like a man who has never (correctly) analyzed any complex data. Please give us your website info so I’ll know which to avoid.

    • Sheldon:

      1. Can you provide any evidence whatever that NOAA/NASA will save 50% by producing one series? I suggest this is unlikely in the extreme.

      2. If you were in charge of quality control somewhere–which thankfully it appears you are not–would you suggest producing something with no independent checks?

      • I admit that my figure of a 50% saving was an exaggeration.
        But consider this, would you own 2 cars to use for your personal transport needs? The running costs wouldn’t be much more than a single car, because you can only drive one at a time. But the fixed costs (registration, taxes, opportunity cost of money invested in asset, etc) would be about twice that of one car.
        And in the case of NASA and NOAA, you have running costs for both at the same time.
        You will be happy to know that I am in charge of quality control. I am a software developer/tester. The purpose of testing is to find problems, and make sure that the product is of high quality.
        I would suggest doing independent testing against Hadcrut, Berkeley/BEST, JMO, UAH, RSS, Conway et al, etc. I am sure that there are others as well.

      • Stephen Mosher knows the small number of man hours required to produce the GISS temperature series. It what’s called completely immaterial. What is 50% of immaterial?

    • Walker plots “UAH”, but doesn’t tell us which series he is using. It’s probably the new TLT v6beta5, which has not been published in a peer reviewed journal, so it’s PRELIMINARY. Not to mention that there’s a bias during the early years of their series, relative to the other two such data series, which reduces the trends. Not that Walker cares. Here’s a link to my new paper, which documents that bias:

      http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/JTECH-D-16-0121.1

      Perhaps Walker should try his plotting tricks using the new corrected TMT from Santer, et al. 2016.

      • I use http://vortex.nsstc.uah.edu/data/msu/v6.0beta/tlt/uahncdc_lt_6.0beta5.txt
        because I believe that this is the most commonly used version.

        I am happy to create graphs for you in any temperature series that you want. Just tell me the name of the temperature series, where I can get the data, and the date range that you want.
        It takes me 10 minutes to create a global warming contour map, once I have the data. I will even put it on my website for you.

      • @E. Swanson
        If you wanted to highlight the differences in warming rates between 2 temperature series, then a global warming contour map of each series would make the differences very obvious. The human brain and eye have evolved to be sensitive to colour and shape. A global warming contour map turns warming rates into colours and shapes.

        [Response: I’ve told you before, I’ll tell you again. One of the most important lessons of statistics is that “looks like” is all too often misleading.]

        I don’t know what method you used to show the bias in your paper, but if you would you like to try using contour maps on these temperature series, to see if it makes the differences obvious, I would be happy to help you.

      • Sheldon Walker.
        “I am a software developer/tester.”
        “I use http://vortex.nsstc.uah.edu/data/msu/v6.0beta/tlt/uahncdc_lt_6.0beta5.txt because I believe that this is the most commonly used version.”
        Sheldon, do you have problems with the English language? Or is there another reason why you style yourself a “software developer/tester” while seeing no problem in using “beta” versions? Is there another reason why you respond to the comment “Perhaps Walker should try his plotting tricks using the new corrected TMT from Santer, et al. 2016.” (although were it me I would have mentioned the RSS TTT series) with the comment that all we have to do is to “tell me the name of the temperature series”? I see no colourful representation of RSS TMTv4.0 on your site. Further, I see no documentation on your site which for a real “software developer/tester” would be grounds for instant dismissal.

      • I believe that this is the most commonly used version.

        Also known as the “most commonly used wrong makes a right” argument.

      • I have added RSS TMT V04_0 and RSS TTT V04_0 to my website (mta-graphs.com).
        I got the data from “ftp://ftp.remss.com/msu/monthly_time_series/”
        I don’t know if this is the data from Santer et al.2016. I couldn’t find data with a web search for “Santer et al.2016”. His paper is behind a paywall.
        If you can give me a web address for Santer’s data, then I will add contour maps for his data to my website.

      • Sheldon, the most recent STAR v4 dataset is here:
        ftp://ftp.star.nesdis.noaa.gov/pub/smcd/emb/mscat/data/MSU_AMSU_v4.0/Monthly_Atmospheric_Layer_Mean_Temperature/
        The TMT-trend is slightly larger than that of RSS v4.
        Don’t hesitate to make a STAR TTT v4 -index, it’s just to apply the formula TTT= 1.1*TMT – 0.1*TLS.

        However, all satellite datasets suffer more or less from “pausiness” during the AMSU-era. (from 2000 ca)
        Radiosondes give a different picture, the Ratpac A 850-300 mbar global index has a trend of 0.31 C/decade since year 2000.
        It has only seasonal resolution, but I think it will work in your graphs..
        https://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/ratpac/ratpac-a/RATPAC-A-seasonal-layers.txt.zip

        ps, I like your graphs, they are quite informative when one have learned to interprete them..

      • Sheldon Walker.
        It is good that you have added the full index of the values within your headline GISTEMP chart. But what is this chart of yours? What relevance does it have for man or beast? You describe it as “Global warming contour map – what the warming rate actually did – Gistemp – global – land and ocean – from 1970 to 2016” This is as clear as mud. Did you not spot my criticism up-thread?
        I see no documentation on your site which for a real “software developer/tester” would be grounds for instant dismissal.

      • > I see no documentation on your site which for a real “software developer/tester” would be grounds for instant dismissal.

        You haven’t worked in SW, have you ;-?

      • @Olof R

        Thanks for the web addresses. I have already plotted graphs for the 3 RATPAC-A pressure ranges (850-300 mb, 300-100 mb, and 100-50 mb). You were correct that the seasonal data works well with my graph.
        The 100-50 mb graph is a different colour to any other global warming contour map that I have seen. I am guessing that this is the stratosphere.
        I will put these contour maps onto my website within the next few days.

    • to not find the recent slowdown in

      Once the term “statistical significance” is no longer needed denialists forget all about the meaning of the term.

      Much like the opposite behaviour when they are completely unaware of the concept of El Nino until it helps produces a new record hot year. Suddenly they know every last thing about how the world is warmer with an El Nino.

      Mental gymnasts extraordinaire.

    • Nice plots. It an interesting way to view both the period over which the noise equalises out, and long-term changes. I’d like to see more datasets given the treatment, like Cowtan and Way, and BEST.

    • I recall that the subject of these graphs was raised several years ago, and at the time I pointed out that you neither invented these graphs (they were used in literature that predates your examples) and that you were misinterpreting some of the results.

      I do hope that you aren’t going around that block again…

  6. And so Lysenkosism comes knocking at the door of the U.S. government in 2017, more than a half century after it was utterly discredited in the Soviet Union following its ruinous effects on science.

    Can and will a small but critical number of Republican Senators and Representatives find their ethics, brains, and backbones and stand up against this with the Democrats? Or is this one more way in which Trump and his supporters will undermine America from within?

  7. ” I hope the Europeans will step up, fill in as many gaps as possible, and assume the mantle of leadership in gathering and disseminating honest climate data. ”

    Unfortunately with the kind of individuals behind BREXIT in the ascendancy ,throughout the continent, it’s unlikely that Europe will fulfill that role. Remember the Russisan ‘climategate’ hack and then look at some of the key individuals behind anti european campigning in the UK. We have Farage Lawson, Delingpole, Patterson, Ridley…they’re all there. Geert Wilders and his deniers are leading the polls in Holland, Le Pen doesn’t know where she stands but looking at her pedigree, she’s set off from a position of denial.

    The fossil fuel lobby is busy wreaking havoc on either side of the Atlantic.

    • The Tory right-wing was throwing its weight about a soon as they emerged from coallition govenment in May 2015. They were meting out revenge from the off against renewable energy and must have taken great delight striking out at both the BBC & the Met Office in one single blow. BREXIT has opened more doors for these right-wing revolutionaries but I don’t believe the change in policy is so far very great. Rather the big change is that BREXIT has enboldened them so they operate more publicly. And as the wheels fall off their happy BREXIT, their influence will be much reduced.

    • Italy’s referendum decision last week may well see it’s economy tank, and in doong so take the Eurozone with it. Europe may soon be too caught up with a GFC v2.0 to be worrying about covering the absence of the USA from the world stage…

    • China could step up. Their space program may be about 30-40 years behind NASA’s, but that’s about when NASA put up its weather sats. China certainly has all the expertise required. It also doesn’t have much in the way of economic dependence on fossil fuel extraction.

  8. unlike before.

  9. Harry Twinotter

    “I fully expect that they will either be halted altogether, or worse yet, will be deliberately altered to hide the truth.”

    Do you really mean this? It seems a extreme point of view.

    Anyway we will still have HadCRUT and JMA. CLIMAT data will still be collected for weather forecasting I assume. So the US data sets can be resumed after four years when Trump loses the election.

    • Harry,
      With NASA’s earth science further gutted by Drumpf, just as it was starting to recover from Bush II, we may not have the eyes in the sky to supply the data. We are already dangerously close to the point where the paucity of Earth Observing Satellites is threatening the ability of weather forecasters to make long term (>3 day) forecasts. What is more, the Rethugs have been aching to privatize (or kill outright) services like the National Weather Service–and perhaps even entire agencies. What is more, with the massive tax cuts for the wealthy, increased spending, general cutbacks in R&D leading to economic stagnation and the probable wars he will get us into, the US may not be in a position to recover. And don’t forget that even if we survive Drumpf, we will still have the >62 million imbeciles who voted for him. Hope may not be warranted at this point.

      • Harry Twinotter

        snarkrates.

        I was referring to surface measurement data sets. Tamino was talking about surface data sets as well.

  10. “two of the three best-known and most-trusted global surface temperature records are U.S. government efforts: from NASA and from NOAA. I fully expect that they will either be halted altogether, or worse yet, will be deliberately altered to hide the truth.”
    Either impossible, scientists will keep collecting data that ignores politics [as they did under the Obama administration],
    Or scientists will change data at the orders of political masters
    [as they did under the Obama administration].
    If one side can do it then the other side did, if one side could not do it, as you claim, then the other side cannot either.
    Wanting one side to be pure and honest because it is your side is wishful thinking.
    Anyway it is only a four year change if he survives that long which is too short to have any effect on the climate.

  11. After Canada’s and Australia’s conservative government efforts, I expect to see NASA “refocused”, GISS dismantled and NOAA scientists under gag order to not speak to journalists, unless approved and controlled by a communications manager (fat chance of that). Expect data to become no longer publicly available or pay-walled. If you are interested in data, now is the time to get it, as setting robots.txt on the .gov websites to bar robots will be enough to wipe the content on archive.web, as well.

  12. The US political system has been no less than hijacked against the will of the vast majority of the public. Some now are becoming collaborators and dupes, but remember that Trump only had a bit less than 25% of the electorate on election day, and 60% of them in exit polls admitted to being dissatisfied with their choice. So roughly 10% of his supporters might be the only die hard people in his corner. There may be room to work against him there. But there needs to be an awakening in the GOP that a political 9/11 has just happened, and that we are now facing a full on assault of science, reason, facts, and ultimately, our liberty, health, wealth, and freedom.
    Previously, I would not have used such strong language, and considered it hyperbole, but not any more, as each day as the cards are being dealt by the new administration, the dealing from the bottom of the deck becomes more obvious and alarming. We are about to lose ‘big league’ if we can’t expose the cheating, and soon!

  13. We have known about the problem and our collective response has been feeble. This most recent election marks a moment when we double down on fossil fuel extraction for short term profits. So we have given up on feeble efforts to balance short term economics interests with long term climate stability. That is a bit more stupid than an “all of the above” energy policy. Gonna fall on our faces eventually and a lot of folks will be saying, how did that happen? nobody saw that coming.

  14. Sorry, but there is a typo. Your first sentence should read “President elect Vladimir Putin”

  15. Very well put, and thank you for bringing up the subject of exit polls, because I have looking for an opportunity to seek Tamino’s master-statistician’s perspective on a related question (though I will understand if it is outside his comfort zone).

    The basic table of numbers for the 28 states in which exit polls were conducted during the 2016 election is here: http://tdmsresearch.com/2016/11/10/2016-presidential-election-table/

    I guess my question boils down to: What are the chances that the distribution in the MARGIN DISCREPANCY IN FAVOR OF TRUMP column could have occurred solely by random chance?

  16. This is a 1-minute action item. Go to the website of Representative Lamar Smith, There is an option for a survey. Select it. In the list of options select “Other” and enter something like “Climate change mitigation” or “Continue full funding for all NASA, NOAA climate research” or similar: There’s not a lot of space, so be succinct.

    You’ll need to fill in some personal contact info. Even if you’re not a USA citizen, it might be helpful to let Rep. Smith know the importance of USA’s climate research for the world.

    http://lamarsmith.house.gov/

  17. Mind your own business.

    A bit off topic but I couldn’t find a way to contact the blog owner directly.

    David Rose is at it again – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4021200/Hot-air-Bombshell-report-shows-green-levies-backed-government-cost-economy-319bn-2030.html

  18. We have enough data to know the problem. Mother Nature does not forget or send reminders. If we do better, we live. If we do worse, we die. That includes any idiots at NASA or NOAA or their stupid boss.

    Billions of people have been making this problem for more than a century. We are not going to solve it in 2 or 3 years even with very smart leaders.

    Trump is an old man, but I expect him live to see hundreds of millions of dollars worth of his property value wiped away by sea level rise. Moreover, I expect that loss to cause the value of other properties to fall. The Trump family is likely to lose many billions to sea level rise. And, I doubt if insurance will cover the loses.

  19. Maybe we’re getting a George Bailey lesson on how bad it would be if we voted for Trump, and we’ll wake up back on the day before the election? I am so glad I don’t have any kids.

    • Ever notice that it’s often the folks who don’t have kids who actually care what happens in the future. Ironic, that.

      • Yes, I have noticed that too, but it might just be confirmation bias.
        In any case, I could imagine that they might just be too caught up in the day to day problems of child rearing and other worries) to stop and divert enough of their leftover attention to problems that lay decades (if we are that lucky) in the future.
        They simply don’t know what they don’t know, and probably don’t want to hear it either. After all, they probably are also in debt up to their necks, and fall short of having saved for their retirement too. These are not forward looking people. They are the average American sadly. :(

      • Skepticmac,
        Reminds me of the scene from Blazing Saddles:

      • Thanks snark…I needed a good laugh!

  20. I fully expect that they will either be halted altogether, or worse yet, will be deliberately altered to hide the truth

    or at the very least, erased: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-12-14/scientists-backing-up-climate-data-over-trump-fears/8119234