NOAA Deception Over Record Temperatures
By Paul Homewood
It seems that NOAA’s State of the Climate Report for 2012 is turning into a real campaign of disinformation. We have seen already their attempts to sell the year as the second “most extreme” on record, with blatantly misleading maps, a rigged “Climate Extremes Index” and deception over the number of days over 100F.
Not happy with that lot, they have also written a section regarding “all time temperature records” that have been broken, (i.e. not records for that particular day of the year, but the highest ever recorded at a particular station).
Many stations broke or tied all-time records during heat waves of 2012. The state of South Carolina also observed its warmest temperature on record, at any station, in late June. The following tables present the all-time records known to have been tied or broken during the year, for stations with at least a 30-year period of record.
The table contains 362 such records, leaving a clear message – the weather must be getting hotter. But just how meaningful are these records, and do they support the argument that summertime temperatures are higher, and heatwaves worse, than before?
First some background. Although the year as a whole was the warmest on record, the summer was not as hot as 2011. Moreover, only two states, Colorado and Wyoming had record breaking summers. It was largely a case of nearly all of the country being above average, that pushed the overall rating up so high.
It is also worth pointing out that NOAA, themselves, keep an official list of climate extreme records for each state (see here.) For all time maximum temperature records, out of 59 state records (incl ties), only 2 have been set since 2000, including one last year in South Carolina.
To assess just how meaningful NOAA’s “All Time Records Chart” is, I am going to take a closer look at Kansas, which is in the heart of the “Much Above Normal” area, and next door to record breaking Colorado. This should give a fairly representative picture. This logic is given further validity by the fact that, out of the 362 national records quoted above, 22 are in Kansas, or 6%, so it seems a reasonable sample, and above what the national average would be.
Perhaps the first thing to point out is that the highest temperature ever recorded in Kansas was 121F. This was recorded at two separate stations, Fredonia and Alton , on two different days in July 1936. (See here). Two years earlier, in 1934, a top temperature of 119F was recorded in Lincoln. By contrast, the highest temperature in 2012 was 118F at Norton Dam.
Although there were 22 new records set last year, these actually only represent 12 stations, as some tie or break their own record set a day or so earlier. I have analysed these 12 stations, using NOAA’s “Station Metadata” along with their “State Climatological Data Reports” , (available here and here.). The full list of stations is in Appendix A, and the analysis shows:-
- Only two stations have been recording temperatures since before 1940, Tribune and Oakley.
- Of these two, only one, Tribune sets a new record. Oakley ties with 1936.
- Only one station is an official USHCN station, Smith Center. This station only started keeping temperature records around 1960.
(Remember that USHCN is “a high quality data set of daily and monthly records of basic meteorological variables from 1218 observing stations across the 48 contiguous United States. “ There is no assurance that other stations keep to such a high quality.)
Suddenly, one new record and one tie don’t sound quite so impressive!
To get a proper perspective, we need to look at the full list of USHCN sites in Kansas, (listed in Appendix B). Altogether, there are 31 of these, of which 28 have records back to 1930.
Analysis of these shows:-
- Only one station has set a new record, Lakin with 112F.
- Two others, Ashland and Scott City, tie with 1934 and 1936.
- With most of the others, the highest temperatures set in 2012 are several degrees lower than their 1934 and 1936 counterparts.
- Both Lakin and Tribune are in the extreme west part of the State, close to Colorado, where the heatwave last year was most intense.
Out of 28 stations, 25 recorded higher temperatures in the 1930’s than 2012, with 2 others tying. Most of the state, except for the western fringe, at its peak was much cooler than both 1934 and 1936. NOAA’s list of “all time records” clearly does not reconcile with these facts. Indeed, it is positively misleading, so why was it presented in this way?
There is no doubt that NOAA have a clear agenda in mind, when they present these record temperatures. Hence, the reaction I got from one commenter, who said:
“If the 1930s were so damn hot, then why did so many places break records (in 2012)?”
If NOAA really wanted to present an objective and informative analysis of record temperatures, they would do what I have done with Kansas, on a national basis. Analyse all USHCN stations, with data back to at least 1930, and compare the proportion of records set in recent years, with those in earlier decades.
They won’t do this because the results won’t give the message they wish to promote.
APPENDIX A – NOAA All Time Records
|Station||First Year of Operation||USHCN|
|Wallace *||No Metadata|
|John Redmond Lake||1960|
*Wallace was not listed in either the 1934 or 1936 Reports. No metadata suggests it is not even an official station.
APPENDIX B – USHCN Stations – Kansas
|Highest Temperature Recorded||1934||1936||2012|