Where Science and Politics Meet
Most everyone has heard about Phil Plait and his blogsite (which started as a book) Bad Astronomy. It’s good stuff (at least, it is when he stays away from politics). What caught my eye at first was the wonderful audacity of Plait playfully calling himself a “bad” astronomer. He’s not, of course.
Which isn’t to say that bad science isn’t being committed daily. It is, nowhere more so than in the field of global warming.
The main statistical facility for global-warming activists compounded error with folly and have undermined their credibility entirely. NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies announced that last month was the warmest October on record, surprising meteorologists who had seen colder temperatures and unseasonal snowstorms and wondered where all the heat originated[.]
The main statistical facility of which Ed Morrissey speaks, is the GISS – the Goddard Institute of Space Studies, which is jointly run by Columbia University and GSFC and led by James Hansen, of whom I’ve written before. It is one of four bodies responsible for monitoring global temperatures throughout the world, and plays a tremendously large part in deciding how many tax dollars are going to be spent. The article referenced above goes on to quote The Telegraph, which details the error, and the folly.
GISS’s computerised temperature maps seemed to show readings across a large part of Russia had been up to 10 degrees higher than normal. But when expert readers of the two leading warming-sceptic blogs, Watts Up With That and Climate Audit, began detailed analysis of the GISS data they made an astonishing discovery. The reason for the freak figures was that scores of temperature records from Russia and elsewhere were not based on October readings at all. Figures from the previous month had simply been carried over and repeated two months running.
[A much more complete, and much more technical explanation of the error can be found at Watt’s Up With That.]
It gets worse.
GISS began hastily revising its figures. This only made the confusion worse because, to compensate for the lowered temperatures in Russia, GISS claimed to have discovered a new “hotspot” in the Arctic – in a month when satellite images were showing Arctic sea-ice recovering so fast from its summer melt that three weeks ago it was 30 per cent more extensive than at the same time last year.
And lest you think that this was an inconsequential error:
[T]he figures published by Dr Hansen’s institute are not only one of the four data sets that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) relies on to promote its case for global warming, but they are the most widely quoted, since they consistently show higher temperatures than the others.
“Never ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence.”, Napoleon said. I generally do that, the first time. But this isn’t the first time for Hansen. An apparent bug in the software he relied on incorrectly identified the ’90s as the hottest decade on record, when it wasn’t (the decade of the ’30s was). The error has already cost tax payers billions.