Thursday, July 16, 2015

Michael Brakey: Picking Oopsie-Daisies

A writer for a climate denial blog named "NoTricksZone", Michael Brakey, published a blog post a little under two weeks ago mocking several mistakes NOAA allegedly made in an update to their US surface temperature dataset, namely impacts that happened in Maine.  Deniers seem to be grabbing ahold of Maine and wringing it dry because the impacts to past temperatures are greatest in that state.

Ironically, for wanting to point out these mistakes, Brakey hasn't quite done his homework and picked his own bouquet of oopsie-daisies.

I won't waste too much time in addressing some of the silliness in his post, such as him for some reason pointing out the 2015 monthly temperatures to date are very cold, as if one or two points will reverse the trend in the data that he's allegedly complaining against (there, finished with that part); but I will address his "shocker!" find, that the Southern Interior climate division in Maine is colder than the Northern climate division, even though it is further south, i.e. closer to the equator and more coastal.

Double checking this allegation is rather easy to do: we can go to NOAA's US climate data pages and graph out (or simply download as I did) the average annual temperature for the Southern Interior climate division, and the Northern climate division.  The Southern Interior is warmer.

So clearly Brakey made a mistake somewhere.  He points out that the average "heating degree day" (HDD) count for the Southern Interior is greater than for the state as a whole.  A "heating degree day" is a number given to a temperature that is below 65˚F (standard threshold), and is the number of degrees below that threshold that it is.  A day which does not go below 65˚F for an average temperature is not a heating degree day, and its HDD count is zero.  If the average temperature for a day is, say, 59˚F, then the value it is assigned is 65 – 59 = 6, units ˚Df.  It is used as an energy consumption metric, as a measure of how much work a heater would have to do to keep a building warm (as heaters are controlled by thermostats).  Since it is by convention a measure from an agreed-upon temperature, it is also a measure of how hot or cold some time span is: more heating degree days means it is colder outside.

Brakey is correct that the Southern Interior climate division has a average higher HDD count than the state as a whole, according to NOAA.  That would make it seem like southern portion is colder on average than the rest of the state.  Since the Northern climate division is pretty large, Brakey extrapolates this to conclude that the Southern Interior is colder than the Northern climate division.

But the average (from 1895-2015) HDD for the Northern climate division is 9845 ˚Df, and the average for the Southern Interior is 8381 ˚Df.
So the north is clearly colder than the south.  However, why is the statewide average then 8276 ˚Df, which would indicate the south is colder?  Well that's because there are three climate divisions in the whole state (see the big Maine above), the third being Coastal with an average of 7868 ˚Df.

The statewide average includes the HDD count from the warm Coastal climate division as well—but it's such a small division, how could that have such a strong impact?  Well that's because most of the people in Maine live on the coast or just inland from it, and NOAA weighs the regions by population density to better represent energy usage:
2. State, Regional, and National Data 
Degree days are estimated for State climate divisions and then population weighted to more accurately reflect temperature-related energy consumption at the State, regional, and national levels.
That is, after all, the purpose heating degree days are intended to serve anyway, not actually telling you the temperature.  There's real temperature data for that—I graphed it above, apparently something Brakey did not do.  Could have saved some trouble that way.  Plain and simple, NOAA did not make any mistakes here; Brakey did.  But I think that's ultimately OK, he tried his best.


  1. You might want to look in the mirror, my friend, if you are trying to pick a bouquet of Oopsie-Dasies. The article never contested southern Maine being colder than northern Maine. Brakey’s article, pointing out that Northern Maine temperature data had been corrupted, used “statewide” data (meaning all Maine) vs. local southern interior climate data (going back to 1893). It is all-Maine that is warmer than southern Maine interior under NOAA by almost a third of a degree, F. An official of NOAA actually admitted to the changing of the data.
    Brakey’s article presented NOAA’s website printouts confirming the error and stressed “statewide” throughout the article. So if you have an agenda to push, I can understand your misrepresentation of the article. Other than that, quoting your own About Us page for this Student Aliance, “the only group for atheist, agnostic and free thinking students on the University of Michigan campus”. Clearly these students aren’t as free thinking as they claim if they are unwilling to hear evidence to the contrary of the general public opinion.

  2. Hi Stephen—it seems you have somehow managed to comment on this blog post without actually reading any of it. I am well aware that Brakey thinks that Northern Maine is colder than Southern Interior Maine. In fact I showed temperature data from NOAA that confirms this, contrary to the impression that Brakey gave when he said in his own article (which you may not have read either):

    "Shock! NOAA makes southern Maine colder than northern Maine!"

    Now you say:

    "It is all-Maine that is warmer than southern Maine interior under NOAA by almost a third of a degree, F."

    But this is false. I can explain why it is false in two statements:

    (1) Brakey did not use temperature but instead used Heating Degree Days, which is a population-weighted figure. I wrote this in this blog post in fact, but you did not read it.

    (2) You're flat out wrong. SI Maine is warmer than Statewide Maine by about 2˚F, according to NOAA.

    SI Maine, average 1901-2000 of 42.3˚F:

    Statewide Maine, average 1901-2000 of 40.1˚F:

    Now that I have finished repeating myself, since you didn't read my article, to get to the last comment you made worth responding to:

    "Clearly these students aren’t as free thinking as they claim if they are unwilling to hear evidence to the contrary of the general public opinion."

    The "evidence" Brakey gave is wrong. It was hilariously wrong. And apparently the best you have is to not read my article, then insult the members of my group based on your ignorance of my article. That may be even more hilarious.

  3. The whole point of Brakey's article is that the government supplied climate data is corrupt. If you keep accepting government data as gospel, Brakey will be wrong and the Government will be right. Imagine that.

    Read Brakey's article with an open mind and think about how much you can trust the Government agencies to put forth data sans agenda.

    1. The whole point behind Wisnewski's book "One Small Step?" was to prove that the government faked the Moon landings. That doesn't make the book accurate.

      I have very clearly laid out how Brakey incorrectly used "Heating Degree Days" to make a point about Maine's temperature series. His main issue was not knowing that HDD is population-weighted. His other issue was not double checking his work with the actual temperature data that NOAA provides.

      Let us not have minds so open that our brains fall out.