The hottest year: 1934?

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

It was never sup­posed to be a trick ques­tion. Which year is the hottest on record? De­pend­ing where one looks, there are three dif­fer­ent an­swers: 2006, 1998 or 1934. Un­til two weeks ago, the an­swer was sup­posed to be 2006, but it might have been 1998. Now, cit­ing cor­rec­tions of faulty data, NASA says it was ac­tu­ally 1934. The Na­tional Cli­mac­tic Data Cen­ter dis­agrees; it still says 1998.

The dif­fer­ences are a mat­ter of tenths of a de­gree Cel­sius, which might seem to di­min­ish the sig­nif­i­cance of the cor­rec­tions. Ex­cept that un­usu­ally warm years in the 1920s, 1930s and 1950s are them­selves only a few tenths of a de­gree Cel­sius away from the pur­port­edly dan­ger­ous hot tem­per­a­tures of the present. Only one thing is cer­tain: The po­lit­i­cal de­bate over global warm­ing has rushed far ahead of the science.

Here’s what we know: The Na­tional Cli­matic Data Cen­ter re­ported in mid-Jan­uary that 2006 was the hottest year on record. Then, in May, it re­vised the num­bers, con­clud­ing that 1998, in fact, was the hottest on record. NASA’s old num­bers echoed that last con­tention. But two weeks ago, it emerged that NASA had qui­etly re­stated its num­bers, with­out fan­fare or so much as a press re­lease, af­ter a blog­ger pointed out faulty method­ol­ogy. Now, per NASA: 1934 is hottest, fol­lowed by 1998, 1921, 2006 and 1931.

The me­dia cov­er­age amid this con­fu­sion has been ex­e­crable. Newsweek two weeks ago pur­ported to take read­ers inside the world of “Global-Warm­ing De­niers: A Well-Funded Ma­chine“ with­out men­tion­ing that the global-warm­ing alarmists are even bet­ter funded, in some cases with gov­ern­ment sup­port. Nat­u­rally, Newsweek is not very in­ter­ested in the re­cent data res­tate­ment.

Here’s an­other hys­teric, The Wash­ing­ton Post, in Jan­uary: “Last year was the warm­est in the con­ti­nen­tal United States in the past 112 years,” read its front-page story, “cap­ping a nine-year warm­ing streak ‘un­prece­dented in the his­tor­i­cal record’ that was driven in part by the burn­ing of fos­sil fu­els, the gov­ern­ment re­ported yes­ter­day.” Funny, but we thought “un­prece­dented” would re­quire an ab- sence of, well, prece­dents, such as the 1920s and 1930s. Th­ese years were sim­i­larly warm decades, like the present.

Alas, when the source of data that prompted this story, the Na­tional Cli­matic Data Cen­ter, ad­justed its num­bers in May, The Post did not cor­rect its shriek­ing Jan­uary story. Nor has The Post yet both­ered to re­port NASA’s latest data res­tate­ment. In­stead, on Fri­day, we get: “Did Global Warm­ing Cause NYC Tor­nado?”

If we can­not get through 2007 with­out a data res­tate­ment so fun­da­men­tal that it de­thrones the “hottest year on record,” we should not keep hear­ing an­gry in­to­na­tions that “The de­bate is over.” The de­bate is not over — not if such ba­sic cli­mate data is so dis­puted.

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