Joe Bastardi can’t read a temperature anomaly map and so spins another conspiracy theory

Says pre-1978 temperatures use “magic readjustment”’s “expert long-range forecaster” Joe Bastardi has now firmly established himself as the least informed, most anti-scientific meteorologist in the world (see here).

In this impossible-to-believe video more suitable for April 1 or The Onion, he demonstrates he doesn’t even know the difference between temperature and temperature anomaly or what the Arctic Oscillation does!  And while he himself is constantly citing temperature data from before the satellite era, he labels all such temperature records as based on “magic.”

Please put your head in a vise before viewing this:

Click on image to view video

Bastardi tells his viewers, “The picture you see here is the Goddard Institute for Space Studies temperatures for the winter and you can see it was a torrid winter according to this.”  He then spins a long conspiracy theory suggesting that these numbers can’t be true and must be due to a “magical readjustment” because sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic aren’t at record lows.

But the picture is NOT of temperatures.  It is not warmer in the Arctic than in the United States, as Bastardi seems to imply.

The picture is of temperature anomaly — the local temperature compared to the 1951-1980 mean — as anybody looking at the original can tell:

NASA Winter 2010

[Note that Bastardi must have seen the original, since he mention the fact it refers to temperatures before 1978.]

It was still plenty cold in the Arctic to freeze water and make sea ice!  Yet Bastardi’s video has the caption:

If it is darn warm, how come there is so much sea ice?

But it isn’t “darn warm” in the Arctic.  It is “darn cold” in the Arctic winter, just not as cold as usual.  Bastardi is baffled that such darn warmth could be accompanied by levels of Arctic ice that are slightly higher than recently observed for this time of year (but still well below the 1979 to 2000 average).

Yet Bastardi himself constantly talks about the impact of the PDO [Pacific Decadal Oscillation] and AMO [Atlantic multidecadal oscillation] — and in February he wrote “we also have a warm Arctic, a product of the blocking.”  But he apparently knows so little about actual relevant meteorology that he has no idea that the source of the blocking — a strongly negative AO [Arctic oscillation] — works to increase sea ice levels.

Bastardi asserts, “If it’s warmer than normal, you should not have an increase in ice.”  But as the National Snow and Ice Data Center explained earlier this month in an article titled, “Double-dip Arctic Oscillation, and update on Antarctica”:

The strong negative AO has contributed to cold temperatures throughout much of the U.S. and northern Europe, and the notable snow events in the eastern U.S. However, the impact on the Arctic has been quite different. First, a negative AO tends to bring warmer than normal temperatures to the Arctic. This factor contributed to the low ice conditions in the Atlantic side of the Arctic, discussed above. Second, the AO has a strong effect on Arctic sea ice motion. The pattern of winds associated with a strongly negative AO tends to reduce export of ice out of the Arctic through the Fram Strait. This helps keep more of the older, thicker ice within the Arctic.

No conspiracy to magically manipulate data, Joe.  Just basic meteorology.

Did I mention that Bastardi is InAccuweather’s expert long-range forecaster?

And as for what’s going on in Antarctica, NSIDC also explains:

Sea ice extent in the Antarctic has been unusually high in recent years, both in summer and winter. Overall, the Antarctic is showing small positive trends in total extent. For example, the trend in February extent is now +3.1% per decade. However, the Amundsen and Bellingshausen Seas show a strong negative trend in extent. These overall positive trends may seem counterintuitive in light of what is happening in the Arctic. Our Frequently Asked Questions section briefly explains the general differences between the two polar environments. A recent report (Turner, et. al., 2009) suggests that the ozone hole has resulted in changes in atmospheric circulation leading to cooling and increasing sea ice extents over much of the Antarctic region.

I guess I’ll have to blog on Antarctic sea ice since it has become another standard anti-science talking point.  For now you can read the always excellent Skeptical Science, “Is Antarctica losing or gaining ice?” and “Watts Up With That’s continued ignorance regarding Antarctic sea ice.”

As an aside, former TV weatherman and leading anti-scientific blogger Anthony Watts of WattsUpWithThat has a laughable post, “Why Joe Bastardi sees red” that tries to defend Bastardi’s unmeteorological analysis that completely sidesteps his confusion between temperature and temperature anomaly.  This would be a case of the blind leading the blind — see “Diagnosing a victim of anti-science syndrome (ASS).”

Note that Bastardi questions how NASA comes up with this record of unusual warmth this winter.  But in fact, Bastardi has already admitted the satellite data itself show that “Earth continues warmest winter since satellite measurements started” and “Feb should be warmest on record!”

And as I’ve previously noted, while Bastardi apparently accuses all temperature records prior to 1978 of being unreliable and requiring “magic readjustment,” he himself repeatedly quotes pre-1978 data to make his own (anti-scientific) arguments (see Meteorological Malpractice: Accuweather’s Joe Bastardi pushes the “70s Ice Age Scare” myth again).

Either you accept the pre-satellite data or you don’t.  You can’t say, well, I believe the pre-satellite data when it fits my (nonsensical, long-debunked-in-the-scientific-literature) theory, but not when it fits the basic laws of physics, which say that if you put more heat trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere you will trap more heat and warm the planet.  Can you?

As long as Accuweather retains Bastardi as their “expert long-range forecaster,” they deserved to be called InAccuweather.

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39 Responses to Joe Bastardi can’t read a temperature anomaly map and so spins another conspiracy theory

  1. caerbannog says:

    One good “airhead tv meteorologist” video deserves another! —

  2. TomG says:

    This guy is supposed to be some sort of expert?
    Of what, being an idiot?
    And since he’s being paid for this would that make him a professional idiot?
    I’m just an ordinary guy trying to get by and I certainly don’t have any degrees that I can tack onto the end of my name, but I sure as hell know what the word “anomaly” means!
    The nice thing about that video is the fact that it will be around for a very long time to show as an example of somebody being dumb.
    The thing that really burns is his smug attitude as he’s crashing.

  3. Leif says:

    Oh Joe, give poor Bastardi a break, he has the Arctic and Antarctic location nailed. Of course if you turned the map over it might be another story!

  4. PSU Grad says:

    My word, this is totally embarrassing for Bastardi. But I have a solution….Bastardi asks someone from Goddard to explain it to him. There’s your invitation, guys!! Call him. Explain to him the difference between temperatures and anomalies (and if he demures and claims to understand, tell him the video conclusively indicates othewise).

    And yes, unfortunately for Bastardi, this video will be available for future review. Again, embarrassing.

  5. PSU Grad says:

    By the way, I don’t know how many know this, but my understanding is that Joel Myers always believed (in)AccuWeather would be a replacement for the National Weather Service. One year, my wife and I spent New Year’s Eve in State College, PA. The next day I found a copy of the Centre Daily Times, and on the Op-Ed page was a blurb from Bastardi himself totally trashing the National Weather Service. I no longer remember the details, but in retrospect it was clearly coordinated with former (I love that word) senator Rick Santorum’s campaign to hobble the National Weather Service’s ability to forecast weather. If I recall correctly, the bill would have prohibited the National Weather Service from performing any functions already performed by the private sector. NWS would have been reduced to a data gathering organization. Thanks to Senator Nelson from Florida for killing that monstrosity.

    Anyway, it seems Bastardi’s and/or AccuWeather’s M.O. is to trash all government weather/climate services to spread uncertainty and doubt and to build up AccuWeather’s business. It’s kind of like a person who trashes everyone else to lift up their own self-esteem. This video is part of that continuing saga. Once again, I suggest Goddard take the bull by the horns and explain the situation.

  6. climateprogressive says:

    Nice post! The Age of Stupid continues, I see!

    I wonder when they’ll finally throw in the towel?

  7. Peter Bellin says:

    I was wondering why the temperature anomalies use the baseline of 1951 – 1980 but the Arctic Ice extent is compared to the 1978 – 2000 average. Is this due to the use of satellites to measure sea ice, with no reliable measurements prior to 1978?

    With respect to Bastardi’s video comment, if he had a case, he would show a graphic using satellite data only, with no temperature anomaly for the current year, compared to 1978 – 2000. (Joe did allude to this inconsistency, citing an earlier CP post.)

  8. davey says:

    Although it is hard to tell from his rambling shipwreck of a writing style, it seems to me that Bastardi’s long-range forecasts are based on analogies (i.e. the spring pattern looks a lot like the pattern back in 19xx, thus we can expect the rest of this spring to look like 19xx).

    Bastardi’s forecasting by analogy has two problems. First, as you’ve pointed out, by his own statements, he is basing the forecasts on magical data. Second, forecasting by analogy was shown to be worthless by Ed Lorenz back in 1963 in what is arguably the most influential and well-known meteorology paper ever written. Every single undergraduate meteorology student for the past 40 years is aware of the implications of Lorenz’s paper, yet Bastardi feels free to ignore it.

  9. SecularAnimist says:

    TomG wrote: “And since he’s being paid for this would that make him a professional idiot?”

    Yes, that’s exactly what he is: a paid professional idiot.

    That’s what you get on corporate TV — highly paid professional idiots whose job is to keep their viewers ignorant and make them stupid.

  10. Jim Eager says:

    Oh, teh stupid, it burns!

    Make it stop! Oh PLEASE make it stop!

    Joe, I will never forgive you for tricking me into watching that fool.

  11. joe says:

    WUWT has also picked up on this video, where Anthony is complaining about the colors used to represent warm anomalies as being “misleading”, which conveniently ignores the fact that they are there at all, and that the Arctic may be experiencing its warmest winter ever recorded. Following the comments on that site is like watching a car crash, in slow speed. It’s horrifying, yet supremely hard to look away.

  12. Bill R says:

    Wow. I guess Accuweather does not feel a need to have an “expert long-range forcaster” who understands how to read weather graphics. Here I am, a hobbyist climatolgist in the most strict since of the word… I have been to NASA GISTEMP webpage to vew graphics like this maybe 2 dozen times and its been pretty obvious to me that a surface anamoly of -6 celcius in the winter in the artic probably means a surface temp WELL UNDER freezing, but still COMPARITIVELY WARM.

    At the end of the video Bastardi clearly says (sarcastically): ” maybe this means that water is freezing at 34 degrees “. You’re right… this moron has taken a type of graphic that he should be intimately familiar with, and should have to refer to on a regualar basis as a professional, and interpreted it completely wrong.

    This guy is a clown, and needs to make a retraction of this video as a mistake.

  13. LucAstro says:

    Climate scientists and the around-the-corner meteorologists are light years apart in terms of scientiific knowledge relevant to climate.

  14. nic says:

    Bastardi’s logic is as funky as his chompers.

  15. Todd F says:

    This is very embarrasing for Joe Bastardi and Anthony Watts. Complete nonesense. Don’t they realize that arctic winter temperatures that are several degrees above normal, is still below freezing? Yikes! There’s very little trend in Arctic ice area/extent in the winter, but there is legitimate reason to be more concerned about what happens in the late spring and summer. The sun doesn’t shine much in the winter, and hence not a whole lot of ice albedo feedback. But, in the summer, it’s almost always sunny.

    Anthony also posted a thread (I think by Steve Goddard) a little while ago about how the negative Arctic Oscillation is going to result in sea ice recovery in the summer (which may have some basis in reality, as a negative oscillator blocks the ice from moving southward). Of course, a negative oscillator is also responsible for much of the warm temperatures in the Arctic this year, but Anthony seems skeptical of that part of the weather pattern, for some bizarre reason. He should try to understand what others are publishing on his blog.

    I’m curious whether the warm temperatures, or the lack of ice movement is going to win out this summer. Arctic oscillations are usually much weaker in the summer (h/t to JR for linking to the NASA update late last week).

    Also bizarre is Watts’ meltdowns over anomaly base periods. He suggests a base period of 1979-2009 doesn’t have as high of an anomaly (only +0.35C), compared to 1951-1980. (I’ll forget about the fact that UAH has a 20 year base period ending in 1998, not a 31 year base period ending in 2009 as Anthony claims). Of course when your base period is centered around 1995, you wouldn’t expect as much warming compared to a base period centered around 1965. But, Anthony thinks this is some kind of breakthrough, and that a global +0.34C over a 15 year period (using 250km smoothing instead of 1200km) is nothing to worry about. Go figure.

  16. caerbannog says:

    Here’s a question that could keep Bastardi occupied for hours.

    A thermos bottle keeps hot things hot and cold things cold. How does it know the difference?

  17. MapleLeaf says:

    What is almost worse than Bastardi’s willful ignorance is that Watts is trying to defend him.

    Mr. Bastardi needs to stop, think very carefully and then try and post an eloquent apology and retraction. Same for goes for Mr. Watts.

    Don’t hold your breath, Tamino requests that Watts apologize to NOAA weeks ago, and Watts has said nothing.

    Why are the media not blasting the errors and ignorance of Watts and Bastardi over their front pages? A would love to see the headline “Climate contrarians make huge bungle of Arctic temperatures”. Any other ideas for a headline?

    Yet, we are demanded to entertain their ‘science’ as a ‘reasonable’ counter point to the mainstream science, while also being forced to delay taking action on AGW.

  18. George Ennis says:

    My god..,where did Bastardi get his credentials from? How the hell can he even be a weather man if he cannot understand weather patterns.

  19. Mark Shapiro says:

    1) Bastardi can claim that, of course, he knows that they are temperature anomalies, and that, of course, he meant that the poles were relatively warm, not absolutely warm; he can claim that he just didn’t want to confuse his viewers.

    2) Our Joe Romm pointed out exactly the NSIDC comments that explain why sea ice extent has increased recently. So the test is whether Bastardi will acknowledge these very clear NSIDC explanations. I’m not holding my breath.

    3) Our Joe Romm has also discussed recently that it is the ice volume that is declining — continuously and catastrophically — in the arctic and in the antarctic. Declining volume is the issue. Watch the volume.

  20. PSU Grad says:

    “Why are the media not blasting the errors and ignorance of Watts and Bastardi over their front pages? ”

    Because the concept of a temperature “anomaly” goes right over most people’s heads and doesn’t make for good media fodder. I can hear it now, “there go those pointy headed intellectuals again, arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.”

    As to where Bastardi got his credentials? I hate to admit it, but I think he’s a PSU Grad (not THIS one, though). He was, however, on the wrestling team and is an avid bodybuilder.

  21. GFW says:

    Re blogging on antarctic ice: It’s certainly good to point out that there’s a 1992 paper that predicted a temporary increase in antarctic ice from global warming (more snowfall on cold water = greater freshwater ice formation) and that the ozone hole increases the winds that help in ice formation. But drive home the fact that the ice extent trend in the arctic excludes zero slope at 95% confidence, while the trend in the antarctic does not. Also, this year is starting to track below normal, so what insignificant slope there is will be decreasing.

  22. MapleLeaf says:

    GFW @21,

    Do you have any more details on that 1992 paper? If so, could you please post them here? Thanks.

  23. caerbannog says:


    Is this the paper in question?

    (Check the end of the “Geographical response” section on page 113)

  24. GFW says:

    Yep, that’s it. Manabe et. al. 1992

  25. MapleLeaf says:

    GFW and caerbannog,

    Thanks very much. Just downloaded part I and II. Written by none other than Manabe.

    So far their simulations seem to be on track over both the Arctic and Antarctic. Nice to have this handy for dealing with those in denial.

    Maybe Joe Romm could show others how well the anticipated results agree with current developments? And May J. Bastardi could read them and learn something from one of the grandaddies of climate modelling (i.e., Manabe).

  26. Carter says:

    First he says the map show warm temperatures, then he says it shows differences from normal. Then he goes back to saying it shows temperatures.

    It looks to me like he is deliberately trying to mislead his viewers. He picked that image and showed it to his viewers with a bogus explanation. He lied about what it showed. That makes him a poor reporter and a poor weatherman. And a liar.

  27. If I recall correctly, the bill would have prohibited the National Weather Service from performing any functions already performed by the private sector. NWS would have been reduced to a data gathering organization. Thanks to Senator Nelson from Florida for killing that monstrosity.

  28. About the only logical, good-intentioned excuse left for Joe Bastardi is that he is losing his mind, but doesnt realize it.

  29. Here’s a link to my post on how Joe [Bastardi] got the Arctic sea ice extent trends completely wrong.

    [JR: For clarity’s sake.]

  30. sod says:

    plain out stupid

    things don t get much more wrong and misleading than:

    ” maybe this means that water is freezing at 34 degrees “

    but they constantly get away with it, for a simple reason:

    stupid people preaching to a choir of stupid people. no questions asked, makes no need for answers…

  31. Joe B was a grad student at Penn State Univ. back in the late 80s when I was there. He was a very talented weather forecaster but he really is horrible at “climate”.

    The AccuWeather Bastardi: Just keeps getting it wrong, and wrong, and wrong, and wrong…..

    I wish I could draw because this would be a great cartoon caricature.

  32. I think it’s worse than that. I think Watts and Joe [Bastardi] actually want to misinform intentionally.

    That’s right you read me correct. They want to make it up, on the spot if necessary so they can get more attention and go muddy the argument which they know down deep inside is ill refutable – they are wed to theirs and so it’s a form self public suicide.

    I also believe that this mental disorder is happening throughout the intersection of science and “political” conservatism on a whole host of scales. Stay tuned.

  33. KK says:

    Blast From The Past:
    Remember when Rick Santorum tried to pass a bill to muzzle the (socialist?) National Weather Service, so they wouldn’t be giving away free weather information? Coincidentally(?), AccuWeather is centered in PA, and was a major campaign contributor to Santorum.

    National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005
    “…Prohibits, as specified, disclosures by Federal employees of any weather data, information, guidance, forecast, or warning that might influence or affect the market value of a product, service, commodity, tradable, or business.”
    ( )

  34. IanY says:

    The Insider’s penultimate paragraph states “..the basic laws of physics, which say that if you put more heat trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere you will trap more heat and warm the planet” Right in the first part but wrong about the second – ‘and warm the planet’

    The planet is a dynamic system incorporating water vapour and other gases, water, particulates, ice and land. There are so many actions and counteractions within this mix, that the effect of changing one small part, say CO2 from 0.03% to 0.04%, will mostly get lost. We don’t yet understand fully the planetary mixing, just look at the predictions from computer modelling by IPCC scientists – hopeless.

    Until the science is complete, we should not emulate King Canute’s minders and advisers by trying to control the climate through one small part of the mix.

  35. IanY,

    Do you realize that the predictions from the models, when wrong, have tended to be not alarming enough?

    1) Emissions are rising faster than expected
    2) Sea levels are rising faster than expected
    3) Ice is melting faster than expected

    These are the biggies!

    Models have been very good at global forecasts but have a long ways to go at regional levels.

    Read this to learn about the accuracy of models.

  36. Regg says:

    To IanY :

    Just consider this. If a single volcano erupting can impact the climate for 2-3 years all over the world (sometime more – Penatubo). Tons of ashes being splashed in the air an circling the globe. What about last year eruption in South America.

    Now, if such relativaly tiny event (globally wise) can have such impact, don’t you think that when we put tons of GHG above what is already there, that it could also have an impact as well.

    I aggree the earth is a complex and dynamic environment. But when we change the dynamic by adding more GHG than the natural process, this could lead to unpredictable results. The science of climate is investigating that part. The current theory is that it has a definite impact – only future will tell if it was right or wrong. But you have to consider that it could be right.

  37. IanY says:

    To Scott Mandia

    Predictions from models wrong on the low side? Good heavens, the planet should be far warmer than now. I notice figure 6.14 shows a weak fit for models till the 18th century; then these models show ever increasing temperatures for the period 1980-2000, but the graph ends at year 2000! The 2000 IPCC report showed model predictions beyond 2000 – and the data for decade 2000-2010 demonstrates that they were hopeless.

    Your biggies:
    1 emissions – essentially irrelevant
    2 sea levels – the Maldives have lived off the scare of rising sea levels for over 20 years – no change there so far.
    3 Ice melting faster? – Arctic sea ice comes and goes over historical times, who knows what the speed was? Antarctic ice both at sea and on land is increasing.

    To Regg

    You miss the significance of the effects from volcanic eruptions – the cubic kilometres of dust spewed into the atmosphere and then around the planet increases considerably the reflectance of incoming radiation back into space; the planet cools dramatically; these are NOT tiny events! The impact of an increase of CO2 from 0.03% to 0.04%, now that is a tiny event.

  38. Leif says:

    IanY, #37: Small percentage of some stuff can have a big impact. You might consider an aspirin or two relative to a two hundred pound person. In your case I might recommend a few milligrams of LSD. I would not try 0.01% of your body weight however. On the other hand drink a quart of water? Minimal.

  39. TomG says:

    IanY is a prime example of James Cameron’s head up his ass denier.