Tom Peterson Of NCDC And Climate Science Baloney

I have started to go through the new set of e-mails that have been made available.  I have comments on one of them, which has a science issue focus. It also shows how  Tom Peterson handles dissent from his views, which is a serious issue as Tom is in a leadership role at NCDC. The e-mail discussed here is from [and a h/t to this website Climategate 2 |FOIA 2011 Searchable Database for making the new e-mail set searchable.

The e-mails I am discussing are given below with my comments inserted after items in the text that I am referring to. These e-mails are with respect to our paper

Pielke Sr., R.A., C. Davey, D. Niyogi, S. Fall, J. Steinweg-Woods, K. Hubbard, X. Lin, M. Cai, Y.-K. Lim, H. Li, J. Nielsen-Gammon, K. Gallo, R. Hale, R. Mahmood, S. Foster, R.T. McNider, and P. Blanken, 2007: Unresolved issues with the assessment of multi-decadal global land surface temperature trends. J. Geophys. Res., 112, D24S08, doi:10.1029/2006JD008229.

which they were preparing a Comment on that ended up with

Parker, D. E., P. Jones, T. C. Peterson, and J. Kennedy, 2009: Comment on Unresolved issues with the assessment of multidecadal global land surface temperature trends. by Roger A. Pielke Sr. et al.,J. Geophys. Res., 114, D05104, doi:10.1029/2008JD010450.

Our Reply [which appeared after completion of their Comment] was

Pielke Sr., R.A., C. Davey, D. Niyogi, S. Fall, J. Steinweg-Woods, K. Hubbard, X. Lin, M. Cai, Y.-K. Lim, H. Li, J. Nielsen-Gammon, K. Gallo, R. Hale, R. Mahmood, S. Foster, R.T. McNider, and P. Blanken, 2009: Reply to comment by David E. Parker, Phil Jones, Thomas C. Peterson, and John Kennedy on “Unresolved issues with the assessment of multi-decadal global land surface temperature trends. J. Geophys. Res., 114, D05105, doi:10.1029/2008JD010938.

I also published the reviews in the weblog post

Reply By Pielke Et Al To The Comment By Parker Et Al. On Our 2007 JGR paper “Unresolved Issues With The Assessment Of Multi-Decadal Global Land Surface Temperature Trends”

where one of the referees wrote in the text from the review [highlight added]

Parker et al. [2008] has raised two issues with the analysis of Pielke et al. [2008] on the surface temperature trends utilizing climate data records. In response to that criticism, the authors has dwelled on the details on how Pielke et al. [2008] conducted their analysis and arrived at their conclusions on two major aspects of their analysis. Also, the authors argue how and why Parker et al. comments are biased and present examples from the literature in support of their arguments.

Based on the arguments presented by the authors, I do believe Parker et al. [2008] was incorrect in raising the issue of the degree of dependence in the analyses presented by Pielke et al. [2008].

In regards to SST trends that was presented by Parker et al. [2008], the authors provide very convincing arguments and cite several reported trends that were documented in the literature. As stated by the authors, I personally agree that it is difficult to extend the findings of temperature trends over land to that of ocean or vice versa. At the outset, on the second issue about LULC effects on the surface temperature trends, I stand by the authors’ statement that the near-by land-use changes impact the surface temperature trends.

The newly released e-mail follow [highlight added].

At 18:12 13/03/2008, Thomas C Peterson wrote:

Hi, David,

My first thought is well, we’ll just have to cut it way back. Then I pulled out Pielke’s paper and saw that mountain of baloney and thought where do we draw the line?

There is so much there that should be refuted.

To be pithy, we could just hit the central points with little elaboration:

1. Definition of global temperature (a) Roger gives a definition related heat content and climate feedback. We give this definition: the average temperature of the earth.

My Comment: This debate on this issue continues.  I do not, however, see how this is “baloney”.

(B) Roger says we shouldn’t use minimum temperatures because they can be impacted by wind. We say temperatures in the nocturnal boundary layer are temperatures that the world, including plants, animals and us, experience and are therefore can not be left out of global average surface temperature or it is no longer global average surface temperature.

My Comment:  The use of the minimum temperature trends as part of the diagnostic to monitor global warming as been shown to a poor choice, as trends are a strong function of height near the surface. See, for example,

Steeneveld, G.J., A.A.M. Holtslag, R.T. McNider, and R.A Pielke Sr, 2011: Screen level temperature increase due to higher atmospheric carbon dioxide in calm and windy nights revisited. J. Geophys. Res., 116, D02122, doi:10.1029/2010JD014612

where we write

“Our more complete model does support the PM05 result that the response to a change in surface forcing is a strong function of height. Thus, PM05 made a good point when they raise the question whether screen level observations are a good measure for assessing long‐term temperature increase.”

REDACTEDLack of photographic metadata. Roger says this is a major omission because, if we had them over time, they might document local changes unrelated to larger-scale climate signals. We say they would be nice but they don’t exist world wide and particularly back through time, therefore we’ve developed statistical tests that identify undocumented changes in the local environment and adjusts the data to account for them.

My Comment:  Unless they can show that statistical data analyses can document changes in local siting over time in blind tests (which has not been done to my knowledge), they are just cavalierly dismissing this issue.  Since Tom wrote the e-mail, however, NCDC  has come around to recognizing this is an important issue; e.g. see 

 Menne, M. J., C. N. Williams, and M. A. Palecki (2010): On the reliability of the U.S. Surface Temperature Record, J. Geophys. Res., doi:10.1029/2009JD013094.


Fall, S., A. Watts, J. Nielsen-Gammon, E. Jones, D. Niyogi, J. Christy, and R.A. Pielke Sr., 2011: Analysis of the impacts of station exposure on the U.S. Historical Climatology Network temperatures and temperature trends. J. Geophys. Res., 116, D14120, doi:10.1029/2010JD015146.Copyright (2011) American Geophysical Union

we found that

Temperature trend estimates vary according to site classification, with poor siting leading to an overestimate of minimum temperature trends and an underestimate of maximum temperature trends, resulting in particular in a substantial difference in estimates of the diurnal temperature range trends.

Statistical adjustment processes have not be able to adequately correct  for poor siting.

REDACTED Surface water vapor. Roger says “ignoring concurrent trends in surface air absolute humidity therefore introduces a bias in the analysis of surface air temperature trends”. We say baloney. Paying attention to them would introduce a bias. Like clouds and solar energy, water vapor can impact the temperature. But the temperature is the temperature no matter what the cause so do anything other than ignoring water vapor would bias the record.

My Comment:  Paying attention to concurrent trends in surface air specific humidity does not introduce a bias, but more accurately measures the heat content of the surface air. Tom has apparently corrected his view on this since 2008 since he co-authored the paper

Peterson, T. C., K. M. Willett, and P. W. Thorne (2011), Observed changes in surface atmospheric energy over land, Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L16707, doi:10.1029/2011GL048442

in which he wrote

“….surface temperature…… is only one component of the energy content of the surface atmosphere

Tom did cite our papers on this subject, which documents that we were the source for recognizing this issue. This papers are

Pielke, R. A. Sr., C. Davey, and J. Morgan (2004), Assessing “global warming” with surface heat content, Eos Trans. AGU, 85(21), doi:10.1029/2004EO210004

Davey, C. A., R. A. Pielke Sr., and K. P. Gallo (2006), Differences between near-surface equivalent temperature and temperature trends for the eastern United States: Equivalent temperature as an alternative measure of heat content, Global Planet. Change, 54, 19–32, doi:10.1016/j.gloplacha.2005.11.002

REDACTED Uncertainties in homogeneity adjustments. Roger says there are uncertainties and potential improvements that could be made in homogeneity adjustments. We agree, which is why homogeneity research continues (reference, e.g., the Hungarian series of conferences). But we should also note that the same is true with magnetic resonance imaging in doctors’ offices but we still rely on those data because the current processing is the best that is currently available and gives reliable results.

My Comment:  The analogy between magnetic resonance imaging and the diagnosis of global warming using land surface temperatures is a poor one.  I hope they do not use “homogeneity adjustments” in adjusting data from an MRI. :-)

5. Degree of interdependence. Roger quotes an off the top of his head answer to the question rather than conducting any real assessment of the interdependence of climate data to point out that of course they give the same answer. We should note that (a) studies of subsets of the data have revealed essentially the same signal and (b) MSU data are 100% the same but different groups come up with different results. So processing can make big differences. Therefore, the fact that different sfc temp analyses show the same thing supports the view that the signal is robust.

My Comment: The “top of his head answer” on the degree of interdependence of the surface temperature data is not my answer, but is that of Phil Jones who communicated as reported in Pielke et al (2007) that

“The raw surface temperature data from which all of the different global surface temperature trend analyses are derived are essentially the same. The best estimate that has been reported is that 90–95% of the raw data in each of the analyses is the same (P. Jones, personal communication, 2003).

In the report “Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences Final Report, Synthesis and Assessment Product 1.1” on page 32 it is written

“The global surface air temperature data sets used in this report are to a large extent based on data readily exchanged internationally, e.g., through CLIMAT reports and the WMO publication Monthly Climatic Data for the World. Commercial and other considerations prevent a fuller exchange, though the United States may be better represented than many other areas. In this report, we present three global surface climate records, created from available data by NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies [GISS], NOAA National Climatic Data Center [NCDC], and the cooperative project of the U.K. Hadley Centre and the Climate Research Unit [CRU]of the University of East Anglia (HadCRUT2v).”

These three analyses are led by Tom Karl (NCDC), Jim Hansen (GISS) and Phil Jones (CRU).

The differences between the three global surface temperatures  that occur are a result of the analysis methodology as used by each of the three groups. They are not “completely independent”. This is further explained on page  48 of the CCSP report where it is written with respect to the surface temperature data (as well as the other temperature data sets) that

“The data sets are distinguished from one another by differences in the details of their construction.”

On page 50 it is written

“Currently, there are three main groups creating global analyses of surface temperature (see Table 3.1), differing in the choice of available data that are utilized as well as the manner in which these data are synthesized.”


“Since the three chosen data sets utilize many of the same raw observations, there is a degree of interdependence.”

The chapter then states on page 51 that

“While there are fundamental differences in the methodology used to create the surface data sets, the differing techniques with the same data produce almost the same results (Vose et al., 2005a). The small differences in deductions about climate change derived from the surface data sets are likely to be due mostly to differences in construction methodology and global averaging procedures.”

6. Relationship between obs and reanalysis. Roger says obs are wrong because they don’t agree with reanalysis for trends. However, a body of experts (ccsp 1.1) says it doesn’t trust reanalysis trends for many valid reasons.

My Comment:  In the paper

Compo GP,Whitaker JS, Sardeshmukh PD, Matsui N, Allan RJ, Yin X, Gleason Jr BE, Vose RS, Rutledge G, Bessemoulin P, Br¨onnimann S, Brunet M, Crouthamel RI, Grant AN, Groisman PY, Jones PD, Kruk MC, Kruger AC, Marshall GJ, Maugeri M, Mok HY, Nordli Ø, Ross TF, Trigo RM, Wang XL, Woodruff SD,Worley SJ. 2011. The Twentieth Century Reanalysis Project. Q. J. R. Meteorol. Soc. 137: 1–28. DOI:10.1002/qj.776

it is written

“Some surprising results are already evident. For instance, the long-term trends of indices representing the North Atlantic Oscillation, the tropical Pacific Walker Circulation, and the Pacific–North American pattern are weak or non-existent over the full period of record. The long-term trends of zonally averaged precipitation minus evaporation also differ in character from those in climate model simulations of the twentieth century.”

7. Influence of land cover change. Roger says land cover changes can impact temperature. We agree. If they are major regional changes, land cover produced changes in temperature would be part of [the] signal we want to capture. If they are local, then the latest homogeneity adjustment methodology has been shown to remove them (Menne & Williams I believe).

My Comment:  Local land use change is often gradual and their ‘latest homogeneity adjustment methodology” will not be able to assess the role of land use change on the surface temperature trends. He is presumably referring to this paper

Matthew J. Menne, Claude N. Williams Jr, 2009: Homogenization of Temperature Series via Pairwise Comparisons . Journal of Climate Volume 22, Issue 7 (April 2009) pp. 1700-1717

but it does not fit with his claim. Indeed, such a study could only be accomplished if concurrent local land use changes were correlated with the observed surface temperature trends.  An example of the limited research that has been completed on this subject is given,  in

Brooks, Ashley Victoria. M.S., Purdue University, May, 2007. Assessment of the Spatiotemporal Impacts of Land Use Land Cover Change on the Historical Climate Network Temperature Trends in Indiana. Major Professors: Dev Niyogi and Michael Baldwin.

Conclusion: Roger is full of baloney.
There you go, David. Add in a few references and we have a paper!

My Comment:  Tom Peterson has clearly failed to engage in constructive scientific exploration. Indeed, he has trivialized scientific issues associated with the monitoring o multi-decadal temperature trends.   He has even reversed himself on several of the issues that we have raised.

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