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« Relevant skills | Main | Irony alive and well at the BBC »
Wednesday
Sep122007

Climate cuttings 9

It's been ten days or so since the last edition of Climate Cuttings, but what a ten days it's been!

The action has all been taking place over at Climate Audit, where Steve McIntyre has relented not a jot on the pummelling he has been dishing out to NASA's warmer-in-chief, James Hansen. Having had his faulty work exposed (as outlined in Climate Cuttings 8), Hansen responded with a snarky email to his colleagues saying that it was a storm in a teacup and that perhaps the "lights were not on upstairs" with his critics. He followed up with another, dismissing his critics as "court jesters".

While the (allegedly) real scientists were engaging in ad-hominems, the amateurs at Climate Audit followed up with further revelations of faulty work from Hansen. The latest batch of errors were found when the site started to raise questions about the way that Hansen combines different versions of the temperature record for a particular station. This appeared peculiar because Hansen was combining records and ending up with an average lower than any of the individual temperatures in the series. Because Hansen has not adhered to the basic scientific standards and released his code, it was necessary to derive what he had done by trial and error - guessing the procedure from the limited explanation in his publications. Eventually it was suggested by a commenter that the solution lay in understanding what Hansen did where the temperature for a particular date was missing from one of the versions. If you and I had this problem we would take the temperature from the other version. It was thought, however, that Hansen was "estimating" it somehow. This obviously represents a corruption of the temperature record, but this is climate science where pretty much anything goes.

All this speculation clearly made NASA rather nervous, coming so soon after Hansen's earlier error was made public. Out of the blue, Hansen released the code associated with the temperature record, along with the now-customary snark at his critics. The code was quickly found to be something of a shambles (amongst other things it's written in now-obsolete Fortran). A full scale wiki project is planned to get it working and fully understood.

With the code in place a full summary of the way Hansen's methodology works (at least as far as it is currently understood) was posted by John Goetz, the CA commenter who discovered the importance of the missing records. This makes it clear that, while the effect on the trend for the station could be up or down, it appears that more often than not the effect is to lower earlier temperatures - ie to make the warming trend look artificially high.

The latest headline about the integrity (or lack of it) of Hansen's work is the revelation today that, unannounced, he has made large changes to the temperature records for the US. This has happened in the last few weeks - since the Y2K errors were revealed last month. From the outside this might be mistaken for an attempt to get the temperature of recent decades up again.

Either way, it's pretty clear that Hansen's credibility is shot. Can NASA really tolerate this sort of junk science from one of its leading officials any longer? 

And the rest?

Well, Anthony Watts has now surveyed 33% of the US surface stations and has released preliminary results. Only 13% (yes, you read that correctly) of the network is of a standard suitable for climate monitoring according to the standards set out by CRN - the new high standard network currently being developed. 

A new paper in the Journal of Remote Sensing claims that there is an order of magnitude uncertainty in forecasts of temperature due to our lack of knowledge of clouds

The BBC cancelled a proposed global warming day, claiming, apparently in all seriousness, that it didn't have a "line" on the issue. Nature Climate Feedback reported that the BBC had commented that the alleged consensus on global warming is "increasingly strong (but not overwhelming)" - a massive downgrading of their previous position of "We're all going to fry!!".

Also on the consensus front, there was a complete lack of consensus over whether there is, in fact a consensus or not. That is to say that the bickering over Oreskes and Shulte's papers continues apace. This is probably all rather futile.

There was much talk of record lows in the extent of Arctic sea ice. Nature Climate Feedback, never knowingly understated on the subject of global warming, reported that polar bears are all going to die. AGW enthusiast William Connelly said the report was a load of bunk. Nature Climate Feedback admitted that actually, it probably was.

Meanwhile all those reporting the disappearance of the Arctic ice and the opening of the North East passage managed somehow to overlook that Antarctic sea ice has reached record latitudes, a fact which was reported here, here and here.

A British sailor, perhaps putting too much faith in these stories of disappearing sea ice got trapped by, erm, sea ice.

According to AGW enthusiasts pretty much everything bad, and pretty much nothing good, can be ascribed to a warming globe. Nice then to see Nature Newsblog reporting that Neanderthals were not in fact killed off by climate change. 

Bjorn Lomborg (of Skeptical Environmentalist fame) has a new book about global warming out. Many commenters say that he should be ignored because he's a bad man (or words to that effect).

And that's it folks. Suggestions for inclusion in the next edition are always welcome. Hope you've found it useful.

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    JOHN BLUNDELL writing in the Scotsman:Sir Karl Popper argued scientists were not the omniscient mad professors of popular imagination but rivals in a highly competitive market where kudos was often more important than cash. Falsifiability was the test of your...

Reader Comments (1)

I suppose those folk who went searching for a 'North West Passage' might have been following up sailor-lore from the Early Mediaeval times when there may indeed have been an open passage. Of course the written record on where the Arctic ice boundary actually was then is scanty (See the book 'The Little Ice Age') - so how can grand statements about "what is happening now is unprecedented", etc, etc, be taken at face value?
Sep 14, 2007 at 2:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Giess

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