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Tampering of data by NASA? Oh please, really...

Next up on Eschenbach's blog is this comment by A C Osborn:

"Don't - massive tampering of the data by NASA & NAOO – give you slight pause?"

I am unsure of whether Osborn is supporting or criticising this 'tampering of data' claim here, but it gives me an opportunity to squash the claim anyway.

NASA - the organisation that sent man to the moon...really? Brian Cox had said something to say about this:

So I covered this just now, but let's go over it again:

The series of blog posts, written by climate change denier Paul Homewood were highly publicised in the Daily Telegraph by Christopher Booker – who has regularly been criticised (for example by George Monbiot) – for his woeful knowledge and regular mistakes. Both Homewood and Booker focused on the adjustments made to temperature readings at particular monitoring stations around the world, claiming that these adjustments throw the entire science of global warming into question. However, this isn’t the case at all, because these adjustments, as I recently mentioned and explained, are a normal and important part of climate science.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. agency responsible for monitoring national and global temperature trends, has debunked these accusations of data manipulation on several occasions on its website. So, explaining again, over time, the thousands of weather stations around the world have undergone changes that often result in sudden or unrealistic discrepancies in observed temperatures requiring a correction, for example a building might be constructed nearby that affects the temperature readings collected by the measuring station, or the technology might be updated or changed etc. However, there is detailed station history available that helps to identify and correct the discrepancies. Some of the corrections required are relatively simple.

NOAA maintains about 1,500 monitoring stations, and gathers data from more than a thousand other stations in countries around the world. This data is shared freely by many national and international organisations. There are actually fewer monitoring stations today than there used to be; modern stations have better technology and are accessible in real time, unlike some older outposts no longer in use. The raw, unadjusted data from these stations is available from many sources, including the international collaboration known as the Global Historical Climatology Network and others.

As the years go by, all those stations undergo various types of changes: This can include shifts in how monitoring is done, improvements in technology, or even just the addition or subtraction of nearby buildings.

For example, a new building constructed next to a monitoring station could cast a shadow over a station, or change wind patterns, in such ways that could affect the readings. Also, the timing of temperature measurements has varied over time. And in the 1980s, most U.S. stations switched from liquid-in-glass to electronic resistance thermometers, which could both cool maximum temperature readings and warm minimum readings.

Monitoring organizations like NOAA use data from other stations nearby to try and adjust for these situations and the impacts they have on the accuracy of the data. This data from other stations is used to either raise or lower the temperature readings for a given station, a process known as homogenisation. The most significant adjustment around the world, according to NOAA, is actually for temperatures taken over the oceans, and that adjustment acts to lower rather than raise the global temperature trend.

These homogenisation methods have been validated and peer-reviewed. For example, a 2012 paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research confirmed the effectiveness of the homogenisation processes for NOAA’s network of stations, and even noted that “it is likely that maximum temperature trends have been underestimated.” In other words, there may have actually been more warming than NOAA has reported.

Another paper, from 2010, looked into the siting of U.S. monitoring stations in particular, and again found no problem with the homogenisation methods. “The adjusted [U.S. Historical Climatology Network] temperatures are extremely well aligned with recent measurements. … In summary, we find no evidence that the [conterminous United States] average temperature trends are inflated due to poor station siting.”

Berkeley Earth, a climate science nonprofit founded in early 2010 by scientists expressing skepticism at the time about global warming, has also found no undue manipulation of temperature data in its own analyses. Its page specifically on the Paraguayan Puerto Casado station that Homewood mentioned shows the adjusted readings do in fact show a rise in temperature over time.

An October 2011 paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research provides an overview of the entire Global Historical Climatology Network’s temperature data set, including detailed information about adjustments. In total, at least one “bias correction” was applied to 3,297 of the 7,279 stations in use at some point since 1801, though most of these occurred from the 1950s through the 1980s. There are approximately equal numbers of adjustments in the positive and negative directions.

So the claim of 'data tampering' is just ridiculous actually.


  1. Hello Robin.
    Seeing as you have named me directly and do not appear to be responding to questions at WUWT I thought I would come and talk to you on here.

    First of all I would like to commend you on the research that you have carried out to put together your answers to some of the questions at WUWT.
    I can see that you have researched the question of Data "Adjustments" carried out by NASA/NOAA and I am sure that you are aware of the this chart of the results of those adjustments.

    As you can see approximately 0.6 degrees F is theoretically added to actual US raw data up to the year 2000, I am not sure what they say about after 2000 though.

    So I have some questions for you, the first being

    1. Have you, yourself looked at any Actual Temperature data ie Raw, Corrected and Final values to see what effect the "Adjustments actually have?

    2. Have you, yourself looked at any Actual Temperature data ie Raw, Corrected to see how much data is either missing originally or not missing and replaced by "calculated values"?

    3. Do you know what an Anomaly is and how it is calculated?

    4. If so can you explain it to me please?

    Thanks in advance for any answers.

    A C

  2. Quite simply, no. For the simple reason that I am a journalist, not a scientist. I simply haven't got the time to look at 'raw data' etc, I merely report on what qualified climate scientists are saying. I admit this is a weakness, but not for the reasons you might think. In essence, it allows climate change deniers the opportunity to sow even more doubt and confusion by trying to get journalists to behave like scientists (e.g. by asking them to look at 'raw data', as you are doing). It's a standard denier tactic that I have encountered elsewhere, and no I am not playing that game. Since I am a journalist, not a scientist, and rely on climate scientists to do the actual science, this is why I insist on citing and defending the material presented by actual scientists. From that, taking notice of what most climate scientists are saying (i.e. consensus) I then make a judgement. By the way, I tried to identify you through a Google Search. A few references to A C Osborn in various places, but nothing else, unless you are secretly Professor Tim Osborn of UEA CRU, which I doubt.


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