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August 20, 2015The Latest Climate Kerfuffle*By* *Patrick Michaels*

Are political considerations superseding scientific ones at the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration?

When confronted with an obviously broken weather station that was reading
way too hot, they replaced the faulty sensor — but refused to adjust the
bad readings it had already taken. And when dealing with "the pause" in
global surface temperatures that is in its 19th year, the agency threw away
satellite-sensed sea-surface temperatures, substituting questionable data
that showed no pause.

The latest kerfuffle is local, not global, but happens to involve probably
the most politically important weather station in the nation, the one at
Washington's Reagan National Airport.

I'll take credit for this one. I casually noticed that the monthly average
temperatures at National were departing from their 1981-2010 averages a
couple of degrees relative to those at Dulles — in the warm direction.

Temperatures at National are almost always higher than those at Dulles, 19
miles away. That's because of the well-known urban warming effect, as well
as an elevation difference of 300 feet. But the weather systems that
determine monthly average temperature are, in general, far too large for
there to be any significant difference in the *departure from average* at
two stations as close together as Reagan and Dulles. Monthly data from
recent decades bear this out — until, all at once, in January 2014 and
every month thereafter, the departure from average at National was greater
than that at Dulles.

The average monthly difference for January 2014 through July 2015 is 2.1
degrees Fahrenheit, which is huge when talking about things like record
temperatures. For example, National's all-time record last May was only 0.2
degrees above the previous record.

Earlier this month, I sent my findings to Jason Samenow, a terrific
forecaster who runs the *Washington Post*'s weather blog, Capital Weather
Gang. He and his crew verified what I found and wrote up their version,
giving due credit and adding other evidence that something was very wrong
at National. And, in remarkably quick action for a government agency, the
National Weather Service swapped out the sensor within a week and found
that the old one was reading 1.7 degrees too high. Close enough to 2.1, the
observed difference.

But the National Weather Service told the Capital Weather Gang that there
will be no corrections, despite the fact that the disparity suddenly began
19 months ago and varied little once it began. It said correcting for the
error wouldn't be "scientifically defensible." Therefore, people can and
will cite the May record as evidence for dreaded global warming with
impunity. Only a few weather nerds will know the truth. Over a third of
this year's 37 90-degree-plus days, which gives us a remote chance of
breaking the all time record, should also be eliminated, putting this
summer rightly back into normal territory.

It is really politically unwise not to do a simple adjustment on these
obviously-too-hot data. With all of the claims that federal science is
being biased in service of the president's global-warming agenda, the
agency should bend over backwards to expunge erroneous record-high readings.

In July, by contrast, NOAA had no problem adjusting the global temperature
history. In that case, the method they used *guaranteed* that a growing
warming trend would substitute for "the pause." They reported in *Science *that
they had replaced the pause (which shows up in every analysis of satellite
and weather balloon data) with a significant warming trend.

Normative science says a trend is "statistically significant" if there's
less than a 5 percent probability that it would happen by chance. NOAA
claimed significance at the 10 percent level, something no graduate student
could ever get away with. There were several other major problems with the
paper. As Judy Curry, a noted climate scientist at Georgia Tech, wrote,
"color me 'unconvinced.'"

Unfortunately, following this with the kerfuffle over the Reagan
temperature records is only going to "convince" even more people that our
government is blowing hot air on global warming.

*Patrick Michaels is director of the Center for the Study of Science at the
Cato Institute.*

Charleston SC

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