Since 2014, climate-change deniers have squeezed millions of views, Facebook shares, and Twitter retweets by retelling a story alleging the discovery of “faked” NASA data designed to “fit a climate change narrative.” Though copied almost wholesale from a blog post, the version of the story that has had the most online traction was published on the one-stop conspiracy theory/supplement shop that goes by the name Natural News. The article suggested:

In what might be the largest scientific fraud ever uncovered, NASA and the NOAA have been caught red-handed altering historical temperature data to produce a “climate change narrative” that defies reality. […] We now know that historical temperature data for the continental United States were deliberately altered by NASA and NOAA scientists in a politically-motivated attempt to rewrite history and claim global warming is causing U.S. temperatures to trend upward.

There is a lot to unpack here, but the first thing you need to know is records of global surface temperatures are constantly refined based on the addition of new data, fresh statistical analyses, or new historical insight into the history of a specific source of data. Reporting on such a shift as something to “uncover” betrays a potentially willful ignorance of how climate science operates. These changes are publicly reported, based on stated scientific criteria, and subjected to rigorous internal and external peer review.

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