Beck falsely claimed "the globe was the hottest" in 1934 -- it was actually 2005

››› ››› KATHLEEN HENEHAN

Glenn Beck declared that "the globe was the hottest" in 1934; in fact, according to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the hottest year on Earth was actually 2005, and 1934 -- now designated the hottest year on record in the U.S. after a revision in climate data -- does not even rank among the globe's five warmest years. Beck also suggested that the statistic "was, I believe, intentionally distorted by the guy the left holds up as the scientist on global warming," an apparent reference to GISS director James Hansen. In August, the GISS revised historical climate data because "the monthly more-or-less-automatic updates of our global temperature analysis had a flaw in the U.S. data."

Discussing global warming during the October 24 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Glenn Beck declared that "the globe was the hottest" in 1934, and claimed that this "stat ... was, I believe, intentionally distorted by the guy the left holds up as the scientist on global warming." Beck was apparently referring to James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which in August revised its climate data and stated that 1934 was the hottest year on record in the United States, as Beck noted moments later. The hottest year on Earth, however, was actually 2005, according to a temperature analysis by the GISS. In fact, the GISS does not even rank 1934 among the globe's five warmest years.

Beck also suggested that global warming is "[a] one-degree temperature change that happened at the first part of the century, not in the last part, at least most of it." In fact, the GISS reported in January 2006 that most of the 0.8° C [1.44° F] temperature rise over the past century occurred after 1940, with "rapid warming of almost 0.2° C per decade" after 1975, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented.

During his October 24 radio program, Beck stated:

BECK: We'll tell you the truth. We'll tell you the things that are politically incorrect. I'll go on and I'll tell you the fires have very little to do with global warming, if anything. The globe was the hottest in 19 -- was it 1934, Stu [executive producer Steve "Stu" Burguiere], or '37? -- '34, 1934 was the hottest year. A stat, by the way, that was, I believe, intentionally distorted by the guy the left holds up as the scientist on global warming. America's temperature peaked in 1934. Since 1934, the hottest year on record was 1998. It has not gotten warmer since 1998. That's a fact.

Now, why are these fires burning out of control? Al Gore and everybody else will have you believe that it is all about global warming. Well, really? A one-degree temperature change that happened at the first part of the century, not in the last part of the century, at least most of it, and a temperature change that hasn't changed since 1998 is causing superfires in California and only California? Only America? It's in the American borders. How is that possible?

In August 2007, GISS revised its historical temperature records after learning that improvements the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) made to its climate analysis method in 2001 were not picked up in subsequent years' Global Historical Climatology Network data stream. The GISS thus needed to correct temperature data collected between the years 2001 and 2007. The error, according to the GISS, "did have a noticeable effect on mean U.S. temperature anomalies, as much as 0.15°C." But the GISS also stated that the error's effect on the global temperature data was "of order one-thousandth of a degree, so the corrected and uncorrected curves are indistinguishable," as Media Matters documented.

According to Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeler at GISS and a contributor to the RealClimate blog (posting as "gavin"), the August 2007 revision resulted in a re-ranking of NASA's list of the warmest years in the United States. For example, whereas 1998 was previously ranked as the warmest year for the United States, it is now ranked second, behind 1934. Moreover, the GISS stated that even after correcting the U.S. climate data, the difference in temperature between 1934 and 1998 in the U.S. is "much smaller than the uncertainty."

While Beck said he believed that the temperature data was "intentionally distorted," GISS explained:

Recently it was realized that the monthly more-or-less-automatic updates of our global temperature analysis had a flaw in the U.S. data. We wish to thank Stephen McIntyre for bringing to our attention that this flaw might be present.

In the 2001 update (described in Hansen et al. [2001]) of the analysis method (originally published in Hansen et al. [1981]), we included improvements that NOAA had made in station records in the U.S., their corrections being based mainly on station-by-station information about station movement, change of time-of-day at which max-min are recorded, etc.

Unfortunately, we didn't realize that these corrections would not continue to be readily available in the near-real-time data streams. The same stations are in the GHCN (Global Historical Climatology Network) data stream, however, and thus what our analysis picked up in subsequent years was station data without the NOAA correction. Obviously, combining the uncorrected GHCN with the NOAA-corrected records for earlier years caused jumps in 2000 in the records at those stations, some up, some down (over U.S. only). This problem is easy to fix, by matching the 1990s decadal-mean temperatures for the NOAA-corrected and GHCN records, and we have made that correction.

The flaw did have a noticeable effect on mean U.S. temperature anomalies, as much as 0.15°C, as shown in Figure 1 at top right (for years 2001 and later, and 5 year mean for 1999 and later).

The effect on global temperature (Figure 2 at bottom right) was of order one-thousandth of a degree, so the corrected and uncorrected curves are indistinguishable.

Although Beck went on to claim that "most" of the "one-degree temperature change [] happened at the first part of the century," the 2005 Annual Summation by GISS (updated January 12, 2006) of global temperature trends by GISS stated: "Global warming is now 0.6° C [1.08° F] in the past three decades and 0.8° C [1.44° F] in the past century. It is no longer correct to say that 'most global warming occurred before 1940'. More specifically, there was slow global warming, with large fluctuations, over the century up to 1975 and subsequent rapid warming of almost 0.2° C per decade."

From the October 24 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program:

BECK: We've entered an age in a time where you just can't have certain opinions. You just can't say certain things. If you do, the special interest groups take you down. Well, so be it. We'll tell you the truth. We'll tell you the things that are politically incorrect. I'll go on and I'll tell you the fires have very little to do with global warming, if anything. The globe was the hottest in 19 -- was it 1934, Stu, or '37? -- '34, 1934 was the hottest year. A stat, by the way, that was, I believe, intentionally distorted by the guy the left holds up as the scientist on global warming. America's temperature peaked in 1934. Since 1934, the hottest year on record was 1998. It has not gotten warmer since 1998. That's a fact.

Now, why are these fires burning out of control? Al Gore and everybody else will have you believe that it is all about global warming. Well, really? A one-degree temperature change that happened at the first part of the century, not in the last part of the century, at least most of it, and a temperature change that hasn't changed since 1998 is causing superfires in California and only California? Only America? It's in the American borders. How is that possible? You'd think that there would be fires everywhere; you'd think that people would be bursting into flames on the equator.

Fires so hot they're making trees explode, from a one-degree temperature change? "Well, it's, you know, coupled with water changes and the drought and the whole globe is changing." Really, and it's just kicked in? Hottest year on record was 1998, but now it's just kicking in? It has nothing to do with the environmental policies of this country? It has nothing to do with that? Really? It has nothing to do with the hippie California environmentalists that won't let you touch the landscape, wont let you clear the brush on the side of the hills where your house is because that's natural -- we don't touch nature.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.