Trend of meaningless year-rankings continues

Both  NOAA and NASA have released their temperature data for the year 2013.

NOAA continue the trend of publishing a meaningless table with a ranking of warmest years:

Amazingly, there is no mention of the uncertainty or error associated with these numbers. The words ‘error’ or ‘uncertainty’ do not appear anywhere in the 10-page report. In one of the tables below, there are some numbers that suggest that the uncertainty is of the order of ±0.1C. This is consistent with the error bars given in the HADCRUT4 table here. The difference between the “warmest” and “coolest” year in the NOAA table is only 0.09C, less than the uncertainty, so the entire ranking of years is nonsense.

The NASA article has the vacuous headline “NASA Finds 2013 Sustained Long-Term Climate Warming Trend” – obviously, one year of data is not going to change the long-term trend. The claim in their report (that 2013 tied with 2009 and 2006) is not consistent with the numbers on their website, that show 2013 tying with 2003. The article has more daft or false comments such as “Earth continues to experience temperatures warmer than those measured several decades ago” and “2013 adds to the evidence for ongoing climate change”.

A more honest way to report the results would have been to say that the levelling off of warming over the last decade or so is continuing.

See this post from David Whitehouse making much the same point.

Update 24 Jan:

The HADCRUT4 number for 2013 has now been published. I am of course not going to quote the number, which is given to 3 figures (though their data file does include confidence intervals), or say where it come in the rankings, but here is a graph of GISS and HADCRUT4  since 1980:

The difference between the two is just because they use a different baseline. It will be interesting to see if the Met Office produce a press release with a list of ranked years!


7 thoughts on “Trend of meaningless year-rankings continues

  1. While I agree that these type of rankings are limited in their value, I might disagree that they are “meaningless”. Sureley there would have to be no correlation between their assigned rank and their “true” rank (if we could measure it) for that to be true? I’m pretty certain that they contain *some* information.

  2. Yes, that’s also what John Kennedy said. I do think that implying that 2013 was warmer than 2002 is meaningless. I wonder if some people are losing track of the meaning of these numbers. If you or I went out today, and it was 1 degree warmer than yesterday, we wouldn’t notice the difference. Now how about 1/10 of a degree? Now how much is 1/100th of a degree?

  3. This is climatology. How warm a single year is with respect to another does not have any meaning. Or, put another way, the significance of how warm or cold a given year is can only be realised retrospectively. Who would have guessed 1998 is going to be the best we are going to get? It’s been sixteen years and there are people who still haven’t realised it.

  4. I do believe you will get a better effect if you were to scale the Y axis from minus 40C to plus 50C (likely world atmospheric temperatures) and the X axis should be considerably longer perhaps landscape on a ‘legal’ size sheet. Then make the thickness of the line perhaps 0.5Ceither side of the value as that is the likely error. Now see if you can elicit panic.

  5. dougmcneal,

    ” I’m pretty certain that they contain *some* information.”

    No, they’re even more meaningless than anyone expected.

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