Last week, statistician and amateur meteorologist Steve McIntyre notified NASA of an error in its climate data. The results of the hasty correction mean that as far as the US is concerned, 1998 is no longer the hottest year on record. 1934 is. Headline-grabbing statements that nine out of ten of the hottest years on record were …
Could you say that a little more slowly please?
"discontinuities like this do tend to get picked up pretty quickly"
I guess that's why its only taken nine years to discover the error then.
All very well and good but when they are getting their data from monitoring station like some of these: http://www.surfacestations.org/odd_sites.htm you know that it is only a matter of time until more adjustments are necessary.
Also I love the comment about lots of scientists out there working very carefully on this - especially in light of all the attacks people who don't believe in AGW. The point of having differing opinions is that it means that people need to prove one way or another - it is how science works!
Finally can you imagine the press reports and quotes from AGW believers if the results had been the other way around? A few hundredths of a degree suddenly meaning that 8 of the 10 warmest years were in the last decade with 1998 being the hottest? Now think about whether there is any press and governmental bias in this debate!
Bad science shouldn't be used to make good policy
I'm glad to see the Register's stance on this. We should all try really hard to be as dispassionate about these matters as possible, in order to make as good a decision as possible on these studies. This shouldn't be a religious type matter where people are firmly entrenched in their beliefs. Although I believe this is an honest mistake in reading the data, it should never be permissible to fudge the facts in an ends-justify-the-means type way. I'm referring to stopping the use of fossil fuels of course.
@ Ryan Nix
We'll stop the use of fossil fuels, certainly. The only question is, will we stop because we've burned all the fossil fuels, because we've gotten some sense and started using renewable resources, or because we've become extinct?
Personally, I prefer the second option, because fossil "fuels" are also wonderful raw materials for lots of other things, like aspirin, and plastics. More than a half-century of experience with humans and politicians, however, leads me to believe that the third option is most likely, with the first option a close second.
Dr Snowsil, I Presume...
Just a comment about skeptics in the debate over climate change. I think the day has passed in which some large mass of people contend that mean global temperature isn't changing. I think the debate has moved on to focus on the cause(s) of climate change - human v natural. Thank you, however, for not injecting the polemic "climate change denier" in your comment.
I'll just translate the following passage to English from the current tongue it's written in, commonly known as CRAPSPEAK.
"McIntyre is unhappy with the way Goddard handled the situation. He says that the failure to put out an official announcement of the update left GISS open to accusations that it being less than frank."
Translating to English, we get:
"WAHH WAH WAH I FOUND SMTHNG OUT PLEASE MAEK ME BE TEH HERO TO TEH ITS COOL TO FIGHT THE TRUTH CROWDD!!!!11111111"
Seriously, sounds like the guy just wants a whole lot more attention than he perhaps deserves when you look at the negligible difference the change actually makes to the climate debate.
The very reason that I use AGW as the relevant TLA. I realise now though that I should have actually spelt out what it meant (I thought that I did but may have edited out that section!).
AGW = anthropogenic global warming.
Therefore AGW believer = eco-loony
AGW denier/non-believer = oil company funded scum. :-)
It is very obvious that our climate is changing, has always changed, and, hopefully, will always change. What we need to do as AGW believers and non-believers is to debate why and how it is changing at the moment and try and come to a consensus view by persuading people one way or another (a proper one - not one that has been made up by the press and enviromental lobby groups).
The main way of doing this is by sharing data, opening up the models and being open and honest about your assumptions and calculations of forcings. Until that happens the scientific process can't work its magic.
"The old and new temperatures differ by a hundredth of a degree."
I feel much cooler now, thanks. :-)
Just a note about "bad science" and "public policy"...
Ryan Nix's comment seems fine as far as it goes, but let's not lose site of the fact that the "public policy" in question here is actually "there should be no restrictions on polluting the atmosphere". The onus really should be on those who wish to dump hundreds of thousands of tonnes of stuff to show that there will be no adverse consequences, rather than the opposite (that people who don't want the dumping having to show that the dumped by-products are harmful).
That doesn't change the fact that bad science shouldn't drive public policy. But the "bad science" here lies the notion that the existing and historical levels of pollution are not harmful, rather than the consensus that, to some degree or other, it is...
Just for fun;
It's not just the US that has been putting together these numbers. Oddly the overall trend remains clear.
The good Stephen McIntyre is a retired minerals industry fellow, holds no advanced degrees, and has never been published in a peer reviewed journal. Not exactly a statistican, though the claim to status of amateur meteorologist is certainly fair. Mr McIntyre and his degreed colleage Prof Ross McKitrick have been in the game of 'climate change skepticism' for a while now. Prof McKitrick is a fellow at the Frazier Institute. Stephen McIntyre seems to be pretty well thought of by the George C. Marshall Institute as well as a few others.
To his credit, he's worked very hard at debunking the 'hockey stick', and though his career is wholly founded in natural resource extraction, he has managed to put his point in person in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee in '06. Not bad or a fellow with no graduate degree! Well done.
All that said, a bit of googling and following the money (ExxonMobil's funding of CGMI, and all that) should tell a broader story.
And to the wholly fair rebuttal someone will offer of ' argumentum ad hominem' all I can say in my defense is "Well, the shoe certainly
fits, doesn't it?"
Brits just love this stuff
Global warming debate is great - it gives Brits another excuse to talk about the weather. Conversation turns to politics? What's the current policy about AGW.
Is the term "climate change denier" defined as "how thick a person's skin must be to not care whether the planet is getting warmer or not"?
In the recent discussion about the UK floods there was lots of debate about GW. It would have been helpful if someone (from either side of the debate) could have said, just once, "yes, the planet is getting warmer and we may get more frequent odd weather causing floods. We don't know why and frankly I don't care. Whatever the cause we need to be better prepared for it. As a parallel task we can look to finding out the cause and then banning Humvees / killing all cows".
1/100 Degree, 3rd Degree
It's now safe to resume flooring my Hummer with the windows down and AC up, right? Conservation has been tough... Walking to the end of the driveway to pick up the mail is killing me!
Somebody needs to review their basc calculus concepts...
"The old and new temperatures differ by a hundredth of a degree."
Those would be the temperature differentials. Cumulatively, they add up to a whole lot more than that! The word choice makes it sound like the actual temperatures in question differ by 0.01C. The temperatures differ by much much more.
Also, the corrections are a LOT bigger than 0.01C from 2000 onwards.
Reminds me of press releases where they say things like "the rate of change of the growth rate is declining..." hoping to convince people that the statistic in question is actually decreasing. These are things that bad press folk do.
Getting it quite wrong
If you want to understand about the Hockey Stick, read the Wegman report. Wegman is an authority on statistics. What he said was, MacIntyre was right. If you want a crude brief account, Mann's error with the Hockey Stick was something like calculating something which needed the mean of a series, but taking one of the bigger numbers in that series, not the mean. It was that bad.
As to this episode, it shows the US data was corrupt. Now the interesting part is this. If the US can make this sort of mistake in calculating its series, and if its stations have the kind of impenetrable adjustments that McIntyre has shown it has, what makes you think a Chines series starting in 1930 and going through the Sino-Japanese War, the Revolution, and the Cultural Revolution, will be pristine?
Now that the climate scientists have been forced by the FOI to reveal the names of those stations, and what we have discovered is that, contrary to what we were assured, there are no station records on half of them, and the other half have had homogeneity affecting changes.
Its not on subject, but the other thing you need to worry about is the models. They have only positive feedback. Look for yourself. Real climate, not the models, has mostly negative feedbacks.. Find Spencer's recent posting on Pielke.
This thing is unravelling at a rate of knots. I do not think AGW will survive more than a year or so. Its just a Lysenkoism of our times.
Re: An Inconvenient Update
As a resident of the "lower 48", and a skeptic on AGW (I remember too many other doomsday prophecies from the 70s and 80s that were total flops to just believe anything anyone says, especially if that "anyone" is Al Gore), I find the correction of the hottest years to be very damaging to the AGW crowd. After all, half of the top 10 hottest years now have occurred before World War II (and, since you Brits are taking Winston Churchill out of your school curriculum, you may not know about World War II). The question naturally becomes "What was going on during the 1930s that made it so hot, since the current global warming trend is being blamed on post-WWII technology?" Obviously, there are other causes behind global warming besides the man-made technological ones. Doesn't anyone else think this puts the AGW crowd on the defensive, even a little bit?
Just think what would have happened if we had all jumped on the Global Cooling trend from the 70s: we would now have trillions of dollars of heat-generating equipment going to seed in warehouses around the world.
The article tries to downplay the correction. The article states that "the old and new temperatures differ by a hundredth of a degree". My review of the data indicates a change of one hundredth of a degree to three tenths of a degree depending upon the year. Besides, if this was an insignificant correction then how did the majority of the hottest years change from the 90's to the 30's? There is no doubt that the Earth is changing. This planet is always constantly changing. Over the eons, there have been many ice ages, many warming periods, the build-up of land masses from volcanoes and the disappearance of land masses from earthquakes.
Beating the bush
Reading some of the comments above leave me a little confused as to the writer's orientation as regards global warming. Personally from the evidence in general it appears to me that humanity is at least partially responsible for a general warm up of the planet. The main point is however, not that Mr Bush and us Hummer owners are responsible or not for global warming but that it is happening whatever the cause. So anything we as a `civilisation´do to reduce our contributions towards the warm up is a good thing. As far as the initial part of my comment goes could everyone stop beating about the bush and just say if they think it's bollocks or not.
If the problem was post-2000 data, why did 1934's temp get changed?
The really interesting question is this: if the data problem only affected post-2000 temps, why did the 1934 temp get revised *higher* in the process of fixing the problem? (See for example http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=1880) Since apparently GISS is unwilling to release the code they use for the calculations, the details of their temperature processing and analysis remain unverifiably murky.
In passing, I note that Chip Mefford's skills at ad hominem attacks are lacking. If GRL isn't a peer-reviewed journal, it's hard to know what would qualify! As for McIntyre's skills, he's an amateur (for the love of it) statistician who's been able to find flaws in the statistical tools (and results) used by a number of climate scientists, as verified by the NAS's Dr. Wegman, among others. If you don't believe Wegman, just work through the statistics yourself.
AGW-deniers made up the majority of atmospheric scientists for 100 years after it was first proposed. They lost the argument and now resort to science by PR.
Lets be cautious
Strikes me that it makes sense to be slightly more frugal and careful with Earth's natural resources. The post 9/11 grounding of Jets resulted in significant changes in the Atmosphere. The oil will run out eventually regardless of who we invade.
However I'm dubious our lords and masters can be trusted, all that seems to have happened is that they have put tax up for individuals. That suggests to me the current solutions to GW are a con.
Tax on running old cars - Surely rather than encouraging people to scrap old cars and having to dispose of them, then make new ones which will wipe out any carbon or fuel savings, we should be developing better exhausts for retrofitting? Instead of taxing users to run them why not add significant tax to the price of inefficient new ones?
Rather than having a disposable society why not insist manufacturers provide a 5 - 10 year warranty on significant items - TV / Video / washing machines etc which would push the price & quality up encouraging longer use and fewer old goods to dispose of.
Tax on rubbish - Instead of taxing householders on rubbish, why not use more sensible disposal methods (converting into fuel etc) and tax companies who provide excessive non bio degradeable wrappers?
Rather than taxing per person flying why not tax per flight based on the efficiency of the airplane, that would encourage Airlines to fly fewer planes and make sure they are efficient & full?
Why put up fares on public transport? If it is that much more efficient we need more people to use it so make it cheap.
Why if we need to cut travelling don't we make homeworking easier and more tax efficient?
Why if we need to cut pollution why not charge carbon miles on foreign food & goods? Long term with population growth in distant countries we will need to become self sufficient.
May be a wise idea to rein in population growth, fewer consumers will mean a slower growth in pollution.
Why not stipulate maximum emissions of overseas suppliers and encourage suppliers such as China to stop building coal fuelled power stations. While we are at it we can stipulate minimum standards of employment stopping child labour and exploitation.
The efficiency of manufacturing & fitting Wind Turbines etc to individual houses is doubtful, we need big solutions with efficiencies of scale.
Basically the government haven't got the guts to do the right thing & upset the party donors, so its unlikely we will have a significant effect.
Half of the hottest years..
were before WWII? So would that mean that the other half of the hottest years were after WWII?
The World is Flat....
... and all you stupid bastards are going to fall off the edge.
50's = "The Rompin' Stompin' Red Menace"..... We all gonna die from nukes. ('nuff said, could of happened but didn't - we got lucky)
60's = "Silent Spring".... We all gonna die from poisoning our food supplies ...DDT banned.... skeeters win over humans. Nice death toll there. (and still happening)
70's = "Global Cooling".... We all gonna freeze then die. (shiite! that didn't work - let's try global warming.)
80's = "Nuclear Power".... We all a gonna die from radioactivity - shut 'em down and burn coal, oil, etc. (Gives us an excuse to work on our global warming pr campaign)
90's = "Clinton Years".... We all gonna die... End of the world predictions.... Personally I loaded up on weapons before Hillary was sworn in.. or was that Bill? (Doesn't the US have term limits? after all we got two for one, remember?)
00's = "Global Warming".... We all gonna die from blizzardstyphoonsmonsoonsfloodinghaildustlightningbadbreathnodeoderantlocustsfrogs firessandsnowmudangrygodmuslimschristiansparishiltonapplecloudsrainiphonemicrosoft milkcoffeeteacowstreehuggershippyshillarybushmoresnowmorerainsunblockearthquakese tcetcetc. (Damn... forgot AIDS)
Just face it, we're all gonna die from something - I'm going to get laid and enjoy my weekend. Ya'll can do what you want to.
Save the Cows
I worry about this "kill all the cows" talk. What effect will that have? If the cows don't eat the grass, won't the grass still rot, and give off all those nasty gaseous byproducts without the ruminant processing? Will the grass stop growing? Will the grass turn into coal? Won't the dead cows rot, too? Should we eat nothing but beef until cows are extinct? Will that help? Biological carbon cycling ain't all that easy to put the kibosh on.
Actual data & comments by Hansen and McIntyre
Here's the actual NASA data you can look at yourself:
and a common story on Hansen's error in Science:
Doesn't say much for the "esteemed" climatologist thats such errors go
undetected in the scientific literature for years.
You can find MacIntyre's comments on Hansen's "correction" here:
which used to be here:
Just the US?
"Because the error in the US data is so specific to the way the US manages its figures, it seems unlikely that the data from the rest of the world will be afflicted by the same problem."
This is true as far as it goes. They will not be affected by THE SAME problem since they do not use the same series, or have the same problem with changing from one particular series to another.
However the implication that the rest of the world has good data is just idiotic. The UK may or may not have. The UK series and its manipulations are under the control of Hadley. Heaven help us. And the rest of the world data, if we were to do the kind of detailed audit that is being done in the US, is going to turn out to be corrupted with much worse than the US.
Fact is, the US surface station record is the best we have in historical surface temps, and it shows a bit of not very alarming warming, most of which is probably due to Urban Heat Island effects. There is no reason to think the US is any cooler than the rest of the world. The rest of the world has been just as cool as the US, but it has far worse data. What is going on is the merging of one set of halfway decent records with a set of garbage, to produce alarmism.
Also, do read Spencer's post on Pielke.
There is every reason to think cloud formation is a negative loop not a positive one. The AGW models are wrong. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, but the effects of increasing CO2 on temperature are far lower than the models show. This is because the models assume that as temperature warms, warming clouds form in a postive feedback loop. They don't. Cooling clouds form in a negative feedback loop, thus diminishing, not increasing, the already small effect of CO2.
The earth's climate is in fact a fairly stable and well damped system. It does fluctuate, but it does not have positive feedback loops which will take it to extremes, and the effects of the relatively small rises in CO2 that we are now seeing simply cannot do that.
The world is littered with statistics, and the average person is bombarded with five statistics a day1. Statistics can be misleading and sometimes deliberately distorting. There are three kinds of commonly recognised untruths:
Lies, damn lies and statistics.
- Mark Twain
This quote from Mark Twain is accurate; statistics are often used to lie to the public because most people do not understand how statistics work. The aim of this entry is to acquaint the reader with the basics of statistical analysis and to help them determine when someone is trying to pull a fast one.
Think about how stupid the average person is; now realise half of them are dumber than that.
- George Carlin
Things to Look Out For
47.3% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
- Steven Wright
Where did the data come from? Who ran the survey? Do they have an ulterior motive for having the result go one way?
How was the data collected? What questions were asked? How did they ask them? Who was asked?
Be wary of comparisons. Two things happening at the same time are not necessarily related, though statistics can be used to show that they are. This trick is used a lot by politicians wanting to show that a new policy is working.
Be aware of numbers taken out of context. This is called 'cherry-picking', an instance in which the analysis only concentrates on such data that supports a foregone conclusion and ignores everything else.
A survey on the effects of passive smoking, sponsored by a major tobacco manufacturer, is hardly likely to be impartial, but on the other hand neither is one carried out by a medical firm with a vested interest in promoting health products.
If a survey on road accidents claims that cars with brand X tyres were less likely to have an accident, check who took part. The brand X tyres may be new, and only fitted to new cars, which are less likely to be in accidents anyway.
Check the area covered by a survey linking nuclear power plants to cancer. The survey may have excluded sufferers who fall outside a certain area, or have excluded perfectly healthy people living inside the area.
Do not be fooled by graphs. The scale can be manipulated to make a perfectly harmless bar chart look worrying. Be wary of the use of colours. A certain chewing gum company wanted to show that chewing gum increases saliva. The chart showed the increase in danger to the gums after eating in red and safe time after chewing in blue. However the chart showed that the act of chewing would have to go on for 30 minutes to take the line out of the danger zone. The curve was just coloured in a clever way to make it look like the effect was faster.
Perhaps the most important thing to check for is sample size 3 and margin of error. It is often the case that with small samples, a change in one sample or one data item can completely change the results.
Small samples can sometimes be the only way to get the analysis done, but generally the bigger the sample size, the more accurate the results are and the less likely a single error in sampling will affect the analysis.
For example, people will go on about how 95% of children passed their exams at such a school and 92% of children passed their exams at a different one, but the sample sizes are not actually big enough for the difference to be statistically significant: in a year group of 100, a 3% difference is a difference of three students, which makes the difference insignificant.
Global Warming Aside
Why do so many people seem to be against the idea of reusing materials and cutting down on the amount of waste we generate? The Earth is a closed system, with finite resources. The faster we use them up, the faster they run out and once they are gone thats it. You can't magically make usable resources appear. If we get better at recycling and reusing the materials they will still be available for many generations to come.
Re: Let's be cautious
Because, Alex, the money is in manufacturing more and more and more, consuming more and more and more, and basically the world is entrenched in the current way of doing things.
Whether America has warmed up and bit, or a lot, or cooled down a bit, or is the same temperature is actually irrelevant. It doesn't matter to anyone other than Americans what temperature America is and most Americans aren't that bothered either except maybe Californians and they're more worried about rainfall than whether it's hot rain or cold rain.
No, the only place you need to worry about temperatures is at the poles and on the ice sheets (both polar and in mountainous areas). The reason ice sheets are important is that, being made of ice, they reflect the sun. Take away ice sheets and the sun light is absorbed by the sea, warming the sea up which takes away more ice sheets. This releases lots of water trapped as ice into the sea, causing a dilution which affects ocean currents. Now it may reduce the thermo-haline currents so less warm water is transferred pole-wards which would balance out the dilution effect but we just don't know. But if you have a retreat of ice-sheets you also get a retreat of permafrost. Trapped in the permafrost is vast amounts of methane from all the things that died and got broken down in the permafrost, effectively trapped as gas hydrates. Thaw the permafrost and lost of methane enters the atmosphere, trapping heat far more effectively than CO2 could hope to do. So the problem isn't really one of emissions so much as one of unregulated warming. If we are just in a cycle where this warming happens then that's not so much of a problem since presumably checks within the system with then swing it back to cooling to maintain equilibrium. If however we are deviating from the norm by injecting previously trapped carbon back in to the environmental system then presumably we can expect a warming that isn't necessarily tempered by some future cooling effect.
In any event, your idea of being cautious is exactly what's required, would have little real impact in peoples' daily lives and would be the most effective thing to do - so that the cycles as they are continue broadly the way they are going to anyway, with as little human impact as possible. Perversely such sensible courses of action are unlikely to be followed thanks in part to an unregulated marketplace which is placing higher priority on short and medium term profits than on longer term environmental uncertainties.
Re: Re Let's be cautious
And to throw another couple of logs onto the fire also think of it like this:
The earth and seas warm up a little bit; there is therefore more evaporation off the seas. This falls as snow over the north pole and the biggest desert in the world (Antarctica).
This fresh snow therefore reflects more of the sun's rays and results in cooling.
Don't you love negative feedback effects - the natural world is full of them. Can't really think of all that many natural positive feedback effects though.
The precautionary principle seems to me to be designed to keep Africa and poor third world countries in poverty by not allowing them access to cheap energy. Sure, we in the West should be trying to save our resources and cutting back on energy and resource use but we should also be building cheap elecrticity generators to provide the resources for the third world to stand on its own two feet.
"Don't you love negative feedback effects?"
Yes, they're great. Trouble is that your proposed negative feedback mechanism won't work. More snow ain't going to make the Arctic/Antarctic whiter, when it's white already. And will it fall as snow? The big problem is that as things warm up, all the tundra rises above zero, and what was snow-covered for a lot of the year will have a lot less snow on it, so it absorbs *more* sunlight, and you get *positive* feedback. Plus the tundra is currently storing stacks of carbon, and loads of water of its own, which adds to the positive feedback as it thaws. There have been suggestions that more clouds would reflect more heat (being white), but that runs into the problem that clouds are good insulators and hang onto what heat does come through.
The "precautionary principle" has had FA effect on anyone so far though. The Third World *can't* afford anything better, and the First World *won't* spend money to get anything better.
Don't forget all the other evidence
As Chapt1 pointed out on another site,
"changes in US temperatures are only a small part of the reason we believe the world is getting warmer. The US only covers ~3% of the globe, so the other 97% is kind of important, too. Also, there is a tremendous amount of other evidence-- direct satellite measurements, isotope studies from frozen bubbles of ancient air, evidence from fossilized vegetation, tree-ring studies, coral-growth studies, evidence from former location of coastlines, etc. etc."
Denialists are experts with the Straw Man argument
Take the Dyson article a few days back.
Apparently Dyson is a "climate heretic".
Here are his "heresies":
1. Climate is complex, data is partial, prediction is uncertain.
That's not a "heresy", that's plain common-sense.
Maybe Dyson gets his "climate" information from TV and newspapers and thinks the rest of us do the same?
2. Climate change might bring positive changes.
Hardly heresy, let's just turn the old greek saying "Every Rose has its Thorn" around, and we get "Every cloud has a silver lining".
However, this probably won't help 100,000,000 bangladeshis whose land is going under water, nor the numerous pacific island populations whose islands are disappearing.
In short, Dyson has nothing to add to Global Warming and climate change research, but the denialists leap onto his rhetoric as some kind of justification for their non-factual assertions about gthe Earth's climate.
Lets be cautious, not cruel!
Sorry I didn't mean to appear heartless, I'm not for starving the third world, I just believe its better for all of us if we encourage them to use clean energy and develop their own internal markets rather than make cheap goods in sweatshops for western markets.
I know its all about money, most things are, maybe I hoped we could rise above that. pity really.
"Take the Dyson article a few days back.
Apparently Dyson is a "climate heretic"
So the fact that 100,000,000 bangladeshis have built their society in a river delta on low lying land is nothing to do with it? If they were a more prosperous society, they would have built flood defences (like the Dutch). The sea has risen in level by ~130m since the last ice age, predictions for the increase from "global warming" have been reduced down to 1m and will be reduced further as the science these predictions are based on is as good as useless. I seem to remember major flooding incidents in that part of the world in the 1980's. Presumably that was caused by the magic gas CO2 as well?
With respect to Dyson, typically the Ad Hominem attack from the AGW alarmists fails to spot the real point he is making.
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