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« Can we trust anything the BBC says? | Main | Bowland Dairy Reminder »
Monday
Mar122007

What's going on here then?

One of the most important scientific documents in the global warming debate is Jones et al 1990 on the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect. This was long claimed by sceptics to be a major factor in the apparent rise in global temperatures - essentially they were saying that as urbanisation took place, many formerly rural weather stations ended up surrounded by buildings. These gave off heat and raised the local temperature. In other words it looked like global warming, but wasn't.

Jones' letter to Nature in 1990 was widely claimed to have killed this argument off by presenting three temperature time series from rural weather stations.  By comparing these to another wider set of data, it was possible to show that the wider series had no significant UHI effect.

The story has suddenly come to the fore again because the UHI effect has attracted the interest of Steve McIntyre, a  prominent sceptic and something of a thorn in the side of the mainstream. He has been asking the author, Phil Jones for his raw data - specifically he wants to identify which weather stations were used his work - presumably he means to test if they were genuinely rural or not.

And thus far, Jones has refused to release the information, despite a formal request under the Environmental Information Regulations.

Now to anyone who knows anything about science, this is pretty exciting stuff. It's pretty much a given that you release your data on request so that others can test it. Nature, which published the orginal letter, makes prompt availability of data a condition of publication. So the refusal is likely to be viewed in a pretty dim light by the scientific community, or at least I hope it is.

There are other lines of enquiry for McIntyre to pursue in order to get the data, but in the meantime let's just notice the startling fact of a "real" scientist refusing to release his data to someone who is alleged to be a fake and the equivalent of a creationist.  

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