Roanoke Times Exposes NOAA’s ‘New Normals’ Temperature Misdirection

A National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), issued a release, titled “NOAA Delivers New U.S. Climate Normals.” That document and NOAA’s “U.S. Climate Normals,” the report NCEI is touting, misleadingly claim temperatures have risen dramatically over the past decade when compared to 30 year averages. The data in the documents lacks context. NOAA ignores the impact the urban heat island effect has played in producing higher nighttime low average temperatures in growing urban areas. Higher nighttime lows in urban areas, as opposed to higher daytime highs, are almost entirely responsible for the increase in temperatures recorded by NOAA.

As a Google News search for the “New Climate Normals” shows, NOAA’s document is having its intended effect. Citing NOAA’s report, dozens of local media outlets nationwide are stoking alarm that supposed human caused climate change is producing dangerously rising temperatures. At least one media outlet, the Roanoke Times, looked at the numbers and exposed NOAA’s misleading claims about rising temperatures being due to human caused climate change.

Kevin Myatt, the author of the Roanoke Times story, titled “Weather Journal: New 30-year climate normals trend warmer, wetter for Roanoke,” begins by sagely observing:

“New normal” is a problematic phrase. By definition, something that is new is not yet normal, and something that is normal is no longer new.

Nevertheless, we hear this phrase uttered fairly often these days, with regard to some ways of life that have developed during the pandemic, or rhetoric in national political polarization, or particular weather patterns amid global warming perhaps becoming more the way things will continue moving forward.

Sometimes, the phrase proves premature.”

Myatt notes recently climate alarmist have prematurely declared the busy, deadly 2011 tornado season the “new normal,” when it wasn’t, being followed by a 20 years of below average hurricane numbers and intensities. Then Myatt points out alarmists were quick to proclaim the busy Atlantic hurricane seasons in 2004 and 2005 the new climate change induced normal, only to be followed by more than a decade of below average hurricane numbers.

Which brings us to NOAA’s claims about Roanoke. NOAA reports,

“…average daily high temperatures for Roanoke in the 1991-2020 period range from 0.3 to 1.5 degrees warmer than the average from 1912-2020. But normal average daily low temperatures are 1.0 to 2.3 degrees warmer between the most recent 30 years and the entire period of record going back to 1912.”

Roanoke’s, along with much of the world’s, average temperature had declined appreciably from the late 1940s through the late 1970s. As a result, Climate Central reports Roanoke’s average temperature as risen by approximately 3 degrees since 1970.

Here’s the rub though, as Myatt points out, Lynchburg, Virginia, just 56 miles away from Roanoke, experienced just a 1 degree temperature rise over the same time period.

“There is no reason linked to global or hemispheric climate why Roanoke should warm that much more than Lynchburg,” writes Myatt. “That difference likely comes down to thermometer placement, land-use changes around the weather station sites, and other geographic factors.”

Myatt reports the sensor at Roanoke’s airport was surrounded by pastures 30 years ago, but is now surrounded by massive amounts of development—Myatt’s called it “a concrete jungle.” By contrast, Lynchburg’s weather station was relocated in the mid-1990s to the less developed outskirts of the city, resulting in temperature readings falling for a time.

What’s true of Roanoke’s temperature data set is true of data sets from cities nationwide, as concrete, dark buildings, and artificial sources of heat have been developed around formerly isolated temperature recording locations. The urban heat island effect, not climate change, is almost entirely responsibly for NOAA’s “new normal,” temperature data sets.

NOAA’s own U.S. Climate Reference Network, an extremely accurate state-of-the-art network of temperature stations throughout the United States requiring no corrective adjustments, shows no significant warming has occurred in the United States since it was established in 2005.

As far back as 2009, meteorologist Anthony Watts worked with The Heartland Institute and scholars at various universities and research centers to focus attention on the temperature bias produced by improperly sited temperature sensors. For example, in 2009, Watts and Heartland, published the report, Is The U.S. Surface Temperature Record Reliable?

In that report, Watts demonstrated that approximately 90 percent of the weather stations in the U.S. are compromised by urban influences affecting their measurements. In December 2015, Watts gave an updated presentation the American Geophysical Union convention showing the long term temperature trends from these compromised stations were significantly higher than stations that were properly maintained and this was backed up by a NOAA experiment and study published in 2019 that showed poor weather station siting leads to artificial long-term warming.

The Roanoke Times can be proud of the fact that, unlike reporters at most mainstream media outlets reporting on government climate change claims, Kevin Myatt looked beneath the surface on NOAA’s “New Normals,” reports which links rising temperatures to human caused climate change.

In doing so, Myatt uncovered and reported the truth that most of the reported rise in temperatures in Roanoke, is due to urban growth. This is true for temperatures in other municipalities as well.


H. Sterling Burnett
H. Sterling Burnett
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., is the Director of the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News. In addition to directing The Heartland Institute's Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy, Burett puts Environment & Climate News together, is the editor of Heartland's Climate Change Weekly email, and the host of the Environment & Climate News Podcast.

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