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#Science

Year 2014 said to be hottest so far, but what about margin of error?

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We reported earlier of 2014 being the hottest year since recorded history with NASA’s report being the prime source of data, but it seems that the report itself missed out on two key data points – major one being the margin of error and the second being the alleged ‘record’ based on increase over 2010.

NASA’s conclusion was based on readings from over 6,300 temperature stations across the globe, ship- and buoy-based observations of sea surface temperatures, and temperature measurements from Antarctic research stations. NASA revealed that the data is analysed by employing an algorithm that takes into account the varied spacing of temperature stations around the globe and urban heating effects that could skew the calculation.

But one key aspect that NASA failed to reveal in its press release was the margin of error. Now, NASA GISS’s director Gavin Schmidt has admitted that the space agency thinks the likelihood that 2014 was the warmest year since 1880 is just 38 per cent. Further, the ‘record’ word in the statement was amounted to an increase over 2010 was also missed out by NASA.

If we look at the margin of error – it was a staggering 0.1C. If we look at this ‘record’ (based on 2010) of just two-hundredths of a degree – or 0.02C, the margin of error cuts 2014 temperatures to levels below those of 2014 – hence just a 38 per cent certainity that 2014 was the warmest.

If we look at another study by “The Average Temperature of 2014” [PDF] from Berkeley Earth, it makes it clear that 2014 wasn’t the warmest after all.

Below are the conclusions from the research carried out by Berkeley based on readings from 30,000 temperature stations:

  1. The global surface temperature average (land and sea) for 2014 was nominally the warmest since the global instrumental record began in 1850; however, within the margin of error, it is tied with 2005 and 2010 and so we can’t be certain it set a new record.
  2. For the land, 2014 was nominally the 4th warmest year since 1753 (when the land surface temperature record began)
  3. For the sea, 2014 was the warmest year on record since 1850
  4. For the contiguous United States, 2014 ranked nominally as the 38th warmest year on record since 1850.