Was 2014 Really “The Warmest Year in Modern Record”

I don’t usually get involved in debates about “the global warming pause”, but as you will eventually see there is an Arctic connection, so please bear with me. Personally I reckon “global heat” is more relevant than “global surface temperature”, but nevertheless NASA and NOAA issued a “news release” a couple of days ago stating that:

The year 2014 ranks as Earth’s warmest since 1880, according to two separate analyses by NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists.

The 10 warmest years in the instrumental record, with the exception of 1998, have now occurred since 2000. This trend continues a long-term warming of the planet, according to an analysis of surface temperature measurements by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) in New York.

In an independent analysis of the raw data, also released Friday, NOAA scientists also found 2014 to be the warmest on record.

The announcement was accompanied by this video:

I figured our old friend David Rose would have something to say about all that in the Mail on Sunday, and I was not disappointed. Yesterday David reported, in bold headlines:

Nasa climate scientists: We said 2014 was the warmest year on record… but we’re only 38% sure we were right

  • Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies claimed its analysis of world temperatures showed ‘2014 was the warmest year on record’

  • But it emerged that GISS’s analysis is subject to a margin of error

  •  Nasa admits this means it is far from certain that 2014 set a record at all

David Rose includes this NASA video in the online version of his article:

which finishes up showing the Arctic blanketed in red for the period 2010-14. In the body of the article David suggests that:

GISS’s director Gavin Schmidt has now admitted Nasa thinks the likelihood that 2014 was the warmest year since 1880 is just 38 per cent.

but for some strange reason David neglects to mention this NASA/NOAA “press briefing“, which includes the following figure:


or this January 16th “Tweet” from Gavin Schmidt:

all of which was discussed on the NASA/NOAA conference call last Friday, a recording of which is available from the NOAA website:


As you can see and hear, Gavin Schmidt’s “admission” was pretty public, and available for anyone doing their due diligence on this thorny topic to see well before the Mail on Sunday published David Rose’s article.  For still more from Gavin see also the second half of yet another video from NASA, which we’ve hastily made embeddable from YouTube since NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center don’t  seem to have done so themselves as yet:

[Edit – 23/01/2015]

By way of further elucidation of the NASA/NOAA table of probabilities above, here’s a new graphic courtesy of Skeptical Science:


The probability of 2014 being the warmest year (due to margin of uncertainty and the small differences between years) is almost ten times that of 1998. And the contrarians were very certain that year was warm!

Does that help make things clearer, for those who evidently have difficulty understanding statistics?


I also figured that the likes of “Steve Goddard” and Anthony Watts would be jumping on the same bandwagon, so you can imagine my disappointment when I discovered that they have both, unlike Gavin, blocked me from their Twitter feeds! Venturing over to the so called “Real Science” blog instead I discovered that Steve/Tony does at least read Gavin’s Twitter feed, although apparently not NASA/NOAA press briefings:



Implausible Deniability

Gavin is playing his usual game, trying to cover his ass with “uncertainty” that wasn’t mentioned in the NASA press release.

They get the propaganda out there for the White House and major news outlets, then try to generate implausible deniability through back channels like twitter. None of this was mentioned in the NASA press release.


I take it you weren’t on the call either Tony? Have you by any chance seen this press briefing?




I’m amazed you have the gall to show up around here, after saying I should be jailed for accurately reporting and predicting Arctic ice.

Pathetic and quite psychotic Jim. And the NASA press release said nothing about uncertainty or satellites.


World class wanker



I’ll take that as a no then.

Since you mention it, how did your 2014 Arctic sea ice predictions work out in the end?



Almost spot on.




“The NASA press release said nothing about uncertainty”

I didn’t say it did. I did however answer Daffy Duck’s question for him. What precisely is “pathetic and quite psychotic” about that?

No answer to that question as yet, so……

That’ll teach me to get involved in debates about “the global warming pause”. I can feel another blog post or two coming on!

What do you make of this recent Arctic sea ice extent chart from your beloved DMI?


Sensor error. Happens quite often. maybe you should go blog about and call for people to be jailed.



For once I agree with you, about the “sensor error” in the most recent 2015 data at least.

Actually I was wondering how that data justifies your “almost spot on” claim for 2014 above. See for example:


“The minimum this summer will likely be close to the 2006 minimum, which was the highest minimum of the past decade.”

That’s not really how things turned out, is it?



See “Implausible Deniability of 2014 Arctic Sea Ice Predictions” for further “debate” about Arctic sea ice. Meanwhile back to temperature…..





What do you make of this bullish channel?



Further to previous correspondence on similar matters, on January 27th 2015 I received the following email from the Personal Assistant to John Wellington, David Rose’s managing editor at the Mail on Sunday:

Dear Jim,

Thank you for your email.

I am afraid the best person to deal with your question is John Wellington who will reply on his return at the beginning of March.

Thank you for your patience.

Kind regards

Poppy Hall



CC: IPSO.co.uk

Dear Poppy,

Thanks for that information, but I am afraid my almost infinite patience in this matter is exhausted.

In John’s absence perhaps I might reiterate a question posed by Bob Ward of The Grantham Institute on Twitter yesterday:

Please would you ask whoever owns the desk on which the buck currently stops for the article entitled “Nasa climate scientists: We said 2014 was the warmest year on record… but we’re only 38% sure we were right” by David Rose to communicate with me as soon as possible. FYI – Here it is:


As I’m sure you must realise by now, unfortunately it includes some inaccurate and/or misleading statements which as far as I can ascertain have still not been publicly corrected.

Best wishes,

Jim Hunt


Post Script:

Bob Ward lodged a formal complaint with the Independent Press Standards Organisation about the Mail on Sunday article. Their conclusion?

The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required – N/A

Date complaint received: 13/02/2015
Date decision issued: 22/06/2015

Their “reasoning”?

The Committee noted that information about the margin of error had been made available by GISS, but that it was not in dispute that these details had been omitted from the press release. The article had made clear that this specifically was the basis for its criticism of Nasa, and the newspaper was entitled to present its view that this omission represented a failure on the part of the organisation. While the information had been released by Nasa, it had been released to a limited selection of people, in comparison to those who would have had access to the press release, and had not been publicised to the same level as the information in the release. The press briefing images referred to by the complainant were available on Nasa’s website, but were not signposted by the press release. In this context, it was not misleading to report that the information relating to the margin of error had emerged in circumstances where the position was not made clear in the press release. While these details of the margin of error may have been noted in a press briefing two days previously, rather than “yesterday”, as reported, this discrepancy did not represent a significant inaccuracy requiring correction under the terms of the Code.

3 thoughts on “Was 2014 Really “The Warmest Year in Modern Record”

  1. Japan’s Meteorological Agency has also made a statement about a week + ago about 2014 being the warmest on record.

    The results of NASA, NOAA and Japan’s Meteorological Agency in relation to temperature assessment for 2014 are remarkably close to one another.
    But then, the environment is showing that temperatures are up; especially in the Arctic. For example, lakes forming on the Greenland ice sheet being a source for rivers taking melt water away during the appropriate time of year.

    1. The UK Met Office says much the same sort of thing also. They haven’t officially announced global figures yet, but the raw data for 2014 (including confidence intervals!) seems to be available at:


      and also reveal a new record. The 2014 anomaly is +0.557 (deg C relative to 1961-1990). The 95% confidence limits are 0.47/0.647! For the UK only see also:


      Provisional full year figures for 2014 show it is the UK’s warmest and fourth wettest year in records dating back to 1910.

      It is also the warmest year on record in the Central England Temperature series, which dates back to 1659 and is the world’s longest running instrumental temperature series.

      The UK’s mean temperature for the year is 9.9 °C, which is 1.1 °C above the long-term (1981-2010) average and beats the previous record of 9.7 °C set in 2006.

      This year’s record means that eight of the UK’s top ten warmest years have happened since 2002.

      The Eastern United States occupies only a small proportion of the surface of the planet!

  2. Gavin Schmidt has now posted his own thoughts on the probabilities and the associated brouhaha over at RealClimate:


    His ultimate conclusions?

    The excitement (and backlash) over these annual numbers provides a window into some of problems in the public discourse on climate. A lot of energy and attention is focused on issues with little relevance to actual decision-making and with no particular implications for deeper understanding of the climate system.

    In my opinion, the long-term trends or the expected sequence of records are far more important than whether any single year is a record or not. Nonetheless, the records were topped this year, and the interest this generated is something worth writing about.

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