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NASA weather error sparks global warming debate

1998 no longer hottest year in US

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Conservative blogs were alight last week when they turned up an error in NASA's methods for recording US temperatures. As a result, it has been concluded that 1934, not 1998, was America's hottest year on record.

The problem was caught when blogger, Stephen McIntyre of Climate Audit, crunched the numbers from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies for himself. McIntyre found that apparently an error was affecting the data for the years 2000 through 2006.

Or more accurately, after 1999, the data wasn't being fractionally adjusted to compensate for the time of day or location from where the data was being gathered. McIntyre emailed his discovery to NASA's Goddard Institute, which prompted the data review.

The data correction reduced the mean US temperature by about 0.15 ºC for the years 2000 through 2006, for an average of 0.66 ºC. The news was a delight to global warming naysayers — such as the conservative blogger Noel Sheppard at NewsBusters —who claimed it refutes a key tenet of the global warming "myth" advanced by Al Gore that nine of the ten warmest years in history have occurred since 1995. They also claim the lack of coverage on the mistake indicates a liberal media cover-up.

The new top 10 hottest years in the US are: 1934, 1998, 1921, 2006, 1931, 1999, 1953, 1990, 1938 and 1939.

Global warming skeptics point out that now four of the country's 10 warmest years were in the 1930s.

NASA officials, however, have called the changes trivial to spotting a global warming trend. The US covers only a small fraction of the globe, and the resulting change to the world's mean temperature is on the order of one-thousandth of a degree. NASA climate modeler Gavin Schmidt points out that longer term US averages have not changed rank. The years 2002-2006 were still warmer than 1924-1930. In the global mean, 2005 remains the warmest.

Never-the-less, we welcome back the returning champion of hot, 1934. This little firecracker was the height of the American dust bowl. Boy was it hot.

How hot was it?

It was so hot, swimming pools caught fire. It was so hot, people poured coffee on their laps to cool down. It was so hot, musicians were snorting ice cubes. It was so hot, catastrophic dust storms caused major ecological and agricultural damage that left over 500,000 Americans homeless. It was so...*ahem* oh. Yeah, that last one was kind of a bummer... ®

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