JetStream is an “online weather school” hosted by the Southern Region Headquarters of the U.S. National Weather Service (part of the NOAA). Great idea – except one page reads used to read like something from Marc Morano or Ian Plimer, as discovered by Philip Machanick over at RealClimate.
Not only has the page in question contained misinformation since 2003, but someone inserted highly misleading statements about the temperature record in 2007, echoing a common contrarian confusion between the U.S. and global temperature record.
[Update, Nov. 3: The dubious CO2 lesson has been removed from the overall lesson plan, although it remains unchanged and no longer exists. It used to be #10 in the Atmosphere section, right after “Canned Heat”.
Update Nov. 11: The carbon dioxide lesson has been reinstated, with the previous misinformation removed from the discussion section.]
The JetStream website features a series of short pages on various topics, along with illustrative home experiments. It was started in 2003 and “is designed to help educators, emergency managers, or anyone interested in learning about weather and weather safety”.
The page in question is a “learning lesson” on carbon dioxide with the cute title of “It’s a gas, man”. The lesson describes a simple of home experiment to demonstrate the warming properties of carbon dioxide.
But the discussion section soon veers off into a surprising discussion of global warming (as seen in this early version from October 15, 2003).
It has been thought that an increase in carbon dioxide will lead to global warming. While carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been increasing over the past 100 years, there is no evidence that it is causing an increase in global temperatures.
In 1997, NASA reported global temperature measurements of the Earth’s lower atmosphere obtained from satellites revealed no definitive warming trend over the past two decades. In fact, the trend appeared to be a decrease in actual temperature.
The largest differences in the satellite temperature data were not from any man-made activity, but from natural phenomena such as large volcanic eruptions from Mt. Pinatubo, and from El Niño.
The behavior of the atmosphere is extremely complex. Therefore, discovering the validity of global warming is complex as well. How much effect will the increase in carbon dioxide will have is unclear or even if we recognize the effects of any increase.
Obviously, this is totally at odds with the scientific information to be found elsewhere on the NOAA. And the reference to the outdated satellite data from 1997 is truly bizarre.
Things got even stranger in 2007, when someone added the following passage (emphasis added):
In 1997, NASA reported global temperature measurements of the Earth’s lower atmosphere obtained from satellites revealed no definitive warming trend over the past two decades. In fact, the trend appeared to be a decrease in actual temperature. In 2007, NASA data showed that one-half of the ten warmest years occurred in the 1930’s with 1934 (tied with 2006) as the warmest years on record. (NASA data October 23, 2007 from http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.D.txt)
The 1930s through the 1950s were clearly warmer than the 1960s and 1970s. If carbon dioxide had been the cause then the warmest years would have understandably been in the most recent years. But that is not the case.
And that’s how it remains to this day.
This second passage appears to have been added by a fan of Steve McIntyre’s Climate Audit. The NASA GisTemp data quoted is, of course, not even global data. It’s NASA’s U.S. surface data – the same data set in which McIntyre found a data collation error from 2000 on, necessitating an infinitesimal correction to NASA’s global temperature record. That incident also led Ian Plimer and Lorne Gunter to mistakenly declare that NASA had suddenly declared the 1934 to be the warmest year on record globally (one of many variations on the “global cooling since 1998” myth).
In a weird twist, whoever inserted this passage also created a copy of the data on the NOAA server.
A number of people have drawn the attention of the NWS to this problem. I’m betting that the misinformation will be gone this time tomorrow.
But explanations may take a while longer. I think a rogue employee may have been involved, but I suppose hackers can not be excluded (especially that last part).
Update Nov. 2: I wrote this morning to SRH Deputy Director Steven Cooper, advising him of the above situation:
… I would suggest immediately editing the page to remove all of the “discussion” passage (except the first paragraph). Of course, the removed material should be replaced with a simple statement summarizing the AGW scientific consensus. Shockingly, the misinformation has been in place since 2003, and maybe even from the start of JetStream. I thank you in advance for rectifying this problem immediately, so I can report it fixed at my blog. I would also appreciate a short explanation on how such a problem could have happened, and whether it was a rogue employee or a hacker (or some combmination).
Cooper is travelling this week but took the time to reply to me on his Blackberry. He has asked someone else to look into this, and promises to address the issue further upon his return to the office later this week.
Update Nov. 3: As noted above, the dubious lesson on carbon dioxide has been unlinked from the overall lesson plan but is still there. I presume it will be reinstated once it is fixed.
Update Nov 5: As noted in comments, there is a second version of the CO2 lesson. This version of JetStream was apparently copied from the original SRH version as part of NOAA Year of Science education project. I’ve written Bruce Moravchik, the NOAA contact for this education program, and he has already replied to the effect that the problem will be rectified as soon as possible.
Update Nov. 11: Steven Cooper has informed me that the carbon dioxide lesson has been reinstated, with the previous misinformation removed from the discussion section.