Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Much Ado About Something


Thank God.

It's all been just a silly mistake, a horrible misunderstanding. Apparently, this whole thing about the earth warming and the need for us to quit polluting our air and everything else, was just a mistake, or perhaps even worse, the left wing conspiracy that that brave senator from Oklahoma said it was.

Yes, you may have seen this story or at least heard of it from some of your friends who still believe that climate change is a left wing hoax.

And I must admit, it is rather remarkable that NASA could make this kind of error. Unquestionably, their reputation will be damaged on the whole issue of climate change, and the right wing spin machine will now have the daylight they need to continue to make the hoax case.
Here's the story from Bloomberg:

NASA Fixes Data; 1934 Ousts 1998 as Hottest U.S. Year
By Demian McLean

Aug. 14 (Bloomberg) -- NASA has revised climate data to show 1934 as the hottest year on record in the U.S., ousting 1998 and challenging the argument that national temperatures are reaching new highs amid global warming.

According to the figures released last week, four of America's 10 warmest years are now in the 1930s, during the Dust Bowl era. Just three years from the past decade remain among the top 10, with 2001 having fallen out entirely.

A flaw in the data, brought to light by a Canadian researcher, led the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to cut mean ``temperature anomalies,'' or deviations from the 30- year average, by 0.15 degree Celsius (0.27 degree Fahrenheit) from 2000 to 2006.

The researcher's Web site wasn't working today because of heavy traffic or an "attack,'' according to a note on the home page. The site is run by Stephen McIntyre, a former president of Dumont Nickel Inc. and policy analyst with the Canadian government.

While the U.S. revision has only a small effect on worldwide mean temperature readings, skeptics of global warming have seized on it. Rush Limbaugh, the most listened-to radio host in the country, last week called global warming a "hoax'' supported by shoddy science. The transcript is one the most popular stories on his show's Web site.

NASA climatologist James Hansen, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, dismissed his critics.

"These are some desperate characters trying to make a mountain out of a molehill,'' he said in an e-mail. "If one instead looks at the temperature averaged over several years, it is apparent that the U.S. as well as the world has been quite warm in the past decade.''

NASA's Goddard Center lists 2005 as the world's warmest year, followed by 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2006.

Global-warming proponents have sought to link pollution from factories and cars with higher world temperatures, calling for government-imposed caps on so-called greenhouse gases.
The U.S produces about a quarter of the globe's carbon- dioxide emissions, though China will overtake the U.S. as the world's biggest emitter in two years, according to the International Energy Agency.

Two months ago, the U.S. blocked a Group of Eight attempt ago at creating a pledge to halve emissions by 2050, even as the European Union and Japan vowed to go ahead with their own cuts. "

And here is Real Climate on the issue:

Another week, another ado over nothing.

Last Saturday, Steve McIntyre wrote an email to NASA GISS pointing out that for some North American stations in the GISTEMP analysis, there was an odd jump in going from 1999 to 2000. On Monday, the people who work on the temperature analysis (not me), looked into it and found that this coincided with the switch between two sources of US temperature data.

There had been a faulty assumption that these two sources matched, but that turned out not to be the case. There were in fact a number of small offsets (of both sign) between the same stations in the two different data sets. The obvious fix was to make an adjustment based on a period of overlap so that these offsets disappear.

This was duly done by Tuesday, an email thanking McIntyre was sent and the data analysis (which had been due in any case for the processing of the July numbers) was updated accordingly along with an acknowledgment to McIntyre and update of the methodology.

The net effect of the change was to reduce mean US anomalies by about 0.15 ºC for the years 2000-2006.

There were however some very minor re-arrangements in the various rankings (see data). Specifically, where 1998 (1.24 ºC anomaly compared to 1951-1980) had previously just beaten out 1934 (1.23 ºC) for the top US year, it now just misses: 1934 1.25ºC vs. 1998 1.23ºC.

None of these differences are statistically significant.

Sum total of this change? A couple of hundredths of degrees in the US rankings and no change in anything that could be considered climatically important (specifically long term trends).

However, there is clearly a latent and deeply felt wish in some sectors for the whole problem of global warming to be reduced to a statistical quirk or a mistake. This led to some truly death-defying leaping to conclusions when this issue hit the blogosphere.

One of the worst examples (but there are others) was the 'Opinionator' at the New York Times (oh dear). He managed to confuse the global means with the continental US numbers, he made up a story about McIntyre having 'always puzzled about some gaps' (what?) , declared the the error had 'played havoc' with the numbers, and quoted another blogger saying that the 'astounding' numbers had been 'silently released'.

None of these statements are true.

But hey, maybe the Arctic will get the memo."
.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous H. David Tattershall said...

Dear Oz:

I have two suggestions for your readers to consider:

1. Who do you believe? The ex memorabillia manager of the Kansas City Royals, or James Hansen et al, scientists who have devoted their lives to the subject of the climate?
2. Is it time to start a registration process? Make your mind up now and you have but one chance - either you believe or you don't - you can have a period of grace for 3 months - after that you stand by your beliefs and don't alter when it all goes wrong.

With great respect for your work, and for the rest of humanity please keep it up.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Charlie Loving said...

This weeks "Newsweek" has five pages on Global Warming. Is it a hoax or is it real? It all seems to be very real. The neocons and Exxon; the big business interests don't want warming to be real so they ramped up their propaganda machines to debunk the idea bribed scientists and pseudo-scientists and television weather girls to blather about it being a big Gore led lie. But guess what? The warming goes on. The greenland ice melts, and the weather gets stranger and stranger. it isn't just "El Nino. So now the Exxon guys have changed their position if ever so slightly. And I believe that we have tipped the scale and there is no reversal of the trend. No matter what we do now weather as we knew it is done, kaput.

3:21 PM  

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