Yesterday our official weather and climate bureaucrats, NCDC, came out with a big press release: NCDC Announces Warmest Year on Record for Contiguous U.S.!!!!!!! OK, the exclamation points are mine, but you can sense the excitement in their words. Finally, the definitive proof of global warming! (By the way, for those who don't know, NCDC is the National Climatic Data Center, a part of NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is in turn part of the Commerce Department.)
The story was immediately picked up by the press and given full play. In the print edition of today's New York Times, it's three of the six columns in the middle of the front page at the top, complete with a big color map. Headline: Not Even Close: 2012 Was Hottest Ever in U.S. Note that the word "contiguous" got disappeared from that headline. Not good, New York Times. (They did get the word "contiguous" back into the text of the story.) In the print Wall Street Journal, there's a squib on page 1 followed by a full article on page A4.
It certainly sounds like something significant on its face. Why am I just a suspicious guy? That word "contiguous," so conveniently omitted in the New York Times headline, just catches my eye. Could they really have left out Alaska and Hawaii? Now Hawaii is kind of small, only 10,000 or so square miles, or well less than 1% of U.S. land area. But Alaska is 663,300 square miles -- that's about 17.5% of the total U.S. land area, plenty to swing the result. These people are climate campaigners. They would not have omitted Alaska if including Alaska would lead to the same result. The Manhattan Contrarian smells a rat.
So what went on temperature-wise in Alaska in 2012? A little Google search promptly turns up this article from the January 3, 2013 Alaska Dispatch: Brrrrrrrr! Last year coldest in three decades for Anchorage. And you probably thought it was going to be warm but just not a record. Nope, coldest in thirty years.
But that's just Anchorage. How about the rest of Alaska? Well, in the Alaska Dispatch of December 23, 2012 we have this article: Forget global warming, Alaska is headed for an ice age. Excerpt:
In the first decade since 2000, the 49th state cooled 2.4 degrees Fahrenheit
That's a "large value for a decade," the Alaska Climate Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks said in "The First Decade of the New Century: A Cooling Trend for Most of Alaska."
The cooling is widespread -- holding true for 19 of the 20 National Weather Service stations sprinkled from one corner of Alaska to the other, the paper notes. It's most significant in Western Alaska, where King Salmon on the Alaska Peninsula saw temperatures drop most sharply, a significant 4.5 degrees for the decade, the report says.
Sure enough, it's the whole state. And would this swing the result for the United States? Of course it would. Now getting an average temperature for something like the United States is not a straightforward exercise (do you weight different stations differently depending on how far apart they are?) but I think we can be absolutely certain that if NCDC got the same result including Alaska then it would have included Alaska.
And what that means is that you can't trust a single word that NCDC or NOAA say on the subject of climate. They are selectively cherry-picking data to convince you that they have a dramatic result when in fact they have nothing and are just propagandizing for more Federal dollars for themselves.
And how about the New York Times? I'm sorry, but I can't forgive leaving out the word "contiguous" in the headline, and I can't forgive not mentioning the Alaska result in the story. Was the omission of Alaska a mistake based on ignorance, or was it intentional? If the first, it would show that the New York Times reporter knows nothing about his subject and is unable to ask the most obvious questions. No, this is Justin Gillis, lead guy on the climate beat at the Times and a committed climate campaigner. Thus, we are left with the conclusion that the article is just a deliberate attempt to propagandize and deceive the readership.
And by the way, the highly accurate satellite temperature data for the entire world are also available. These data only exist for the 33 years from 1979 to 2012, but at least we can get an indication whether 2012 is somehow out of line. Here are the data from UAH. OK, 2012 is in about the top third, but well down from the peak in 1998. No dramatic story there.