All Three Networks Fall for ‘Meaningless’ ‘Hottest Year’ Claims

Scientists accuse NASA/NOAA of misleading public, show temperature differences within margin of error.

The broadcast networks hustled to report NASA and NOAA data that claimed 2014 was a record hot year. But now both agencies are being criticized by scientists accusing them of “deception” over the statistics.

Investor’s Business Daily noted in a recent editorial that debate is over minute details. If 2014 was the hottest, it was “by no more than four-hundredths of a degree” and is based on surface temperatures. Some scientists have said that difference is so tiny it is “scientifically meaningless.” Satellite data showed 2014 as only the third-warmest year in the past 36 years, IBD said.

Yet, ABC, CBS and NBC all fell for the latest alarmist claims from NASA and NOAA. The three aired stories or news briefs citing the “hottest year” on record figure on “Nightly News,” “World News Tonight with David Muir” and “This Morning Saturday.”

“Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams ominously announced, “A striking new report out tonight about our planet and it does not bode well for our future. While this may be difficult to reconcile in the dead of winter, the data are showing 2014 was the hottest year for the Earth in recorded history.”

None of those stories included any disagreement or clarification regarding the data. Instead, NBC interviewed someone from NASA and the left-wing National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to reinforced climate alarmism and the view that humans are responsible for global warming. The report even cited a series of extreme weather events as proof.

CBS “This Morning” merged the hottest year claims with a report on sea levels on Jan. 10. Co-anchor Anthony Mason teased the segment saying, “After the hottest year ever recorded around the globe, new reports warn of a looming disaster for sea life.”

Co-host Vinita Nair also made sure to blame humans saying, “Scientists have been tracking temperatures for 135 years now and they report that 2014 was the hottest on record. What’s to blame? The experts are nearly unanimous. We are.”

It wasn’t just the networks falling for the claims.

As if to pre-empt critics of the “hottest year” claims, The Associated Press slammed “non-scientists” who claim there has been a pause in warming, or “non-scientists” who point to satellite data in its report about the hottest year. But, in fact, there are a number of scientists, including climate scientists, who have complained about the NASA and NOAA claims regarding 2014 being the “hottest year.”

IBD quoted Roger Pielke, professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University, who told The Washington Post that "there remain significant uncertainties in the accuracy of the land portion of the surface temperature data, where we have found a significant warm bias."

Another scientist, Dr. Judith Curry, a climatologist and former chair of the school of earth and atmospheric sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology, told the Post that the 2014 temperatures were “essentially tied with 2005 and 2010 for hottest year.”

“[T]his implies that there has been essentially no trend in warming over the past decade,” Curry concluded.

It wasn’t until people dug deeper into the NOAA and NASA data, something the networks obviously failed to do, that it became obvious there was missing information and a whole lot of spin.

A guest post at meteorologist Anthony Watts’ blog, Watts up With That, noted that in NOAA’s report, the “the new record high” was within the range of “uncertainty of the dataset” and admitted that there was only a 48 percent chance 2014 was actually the warmest on record.

Physicist Dr. Lubos Motl also blogged about the data, criticizing the fact that NOAA and NASA’s claims about how much warmer 2014 was than prior years was so “tiny that it is easily beaten by the error margin.” Motl then found a tweet from NASA’s own Gavin Schmidt showing the probability that 2014 was the warmest year. NASA’s probability was just 38 percent, even less than NOAA’s.

According to Motl, that “reveals that they provided the media with fraudulent claims,” because both agencies were well aware of the error margins.

All of this prompted Dr. Roy Spencer, a climatologist with the University of Alabama Huntsville, to say, “I am embarrassed by the scientific community’s behavior on the subject,” according to Climate Depot. 

— Julia A. Seymour is Assistant Managing Editor for MRC Business at the Media Research Center. Follow Julia A. Seymour on Twitter.