Christopher Hyatt: Cherry-picking data to make climate change denial claims

Published: 4/14/2019 6:30:17 PM

This letter is in response to a March 27 letter, “Science helps dupe people about climate change.”

For brevity, I will only comment on the 0.56 degree Celsius temperature drop from February 2016 to February 2018. A strong El Nino event from 2015 to 2016 is the likely cause of an increase in the mean global surface temperature, from a value of +0.87 degrees Celsius in February 2015 to an all time record high of +1.34 degrees Celsius in February 2016. (Note: temperatures are referenced relative to the mean “base period” (1951-1980) temperature, defined as 0.0 degrees Celsius).

Once the El Nino event ended, the MGS temperature returned to pre-El Nino event levels, +0.78 degrees Celsius above the 1951-1980 mean baseline, for a difference of 0.56 degrees Celsius.

Last month, the MGS temperature was back up again, to +0.92 degrees Celsius, and that temperature is located on the long-term fitted trend line (the plot that really matters), which continues upward.

If you look at the data, monthly values of MGS temperatures fluctuate a lot, particularly during such weather events as La Nina and El Nino in the Pacific Ocean. Looking at the MGS temperature from that abnormally high value in February 2016, to the more normal value in February 2018, is a textbook case of cherry-picking the data. NASA data reveals how much monthly fluctuation there is when it comes to temperature, and how picking just two points can give a completely misleading read on how global temperatures are changing over the long term.

Neither NASA nor the media made note of this 0.56 degree Celsius drop because it was caused by the large MGS temperature increase in February 2016, due to El Nino, followed by a cooling back to baseline, and was not at all an indication that the planet is not warming.

The trend line shows that the planet is indeed warming.

Christopher Hyatt

South Hadley

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