One of the favorite claims of ‘skeptics’ — and I’m growing more and more hesitant about using that term without scary quotes because there just doesn’t seem to be any real ones around, at least as far as I can see — is that NASA or NOAA or CRU or other climate researchers selectively alter the temperature record in order to create an artificial warming trend in the data — to confirm their bias, get more $$ and research grants, implement the global socialist government, invoke Satan — whatever.
Now, I admit that for a while there, when the CRU emails were first unleashed unto the world, I was seriously considering a skeptical turn. However, I’ve tried to spend the last couple of months peering into the claims and research as best I can as a layperson in order to judge if this skeptical bent is warranted. I’ve not been a nice girl about it. I’ve tended to be quite skeptical of the s0-called skeptics, and I’m sure I’d never be invited to one of Mosher’s dinner parties, but I do feel far better acquainted with the whole debate than I was previously. And as I have indicated lately, I’m feeling better and better about my skeptics skepticism. I’ve seen far too much bad science, junk science, innuendo and smear, deliberate misrepresentation of facts for me to feel comfortable in that camp.
The latest bit of skeptical science of which to be skeptical happens to be a paper I’ve come across before — the Watts and D’Aleo paper “Surface Temperature Records: Policy Driven Deception?“. A while back, Ron Cram pointed me to this paper.
Here’s the exchange:
Your second unexamined and unnamed pillar I described as:
2. Surface temperature records accurately reflect warming without any unwarranted or unjustified adjustments to the raw data.
Again, if you reject this pillar, just let me know.
This pillar is having more trouble again yesterday. Have you seen this? http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/01/26/new-paper-on-surface-temperature-records/
Perhaps you will need to turn your attention to criticizing Anthony Watts, Joseph D’Aleo and E.M. Smith.
D’Aleo and Watts wrote a nice Summary for Policymakers on page 4. You might want to start with that to see if any of your pillars might be shaken.
Ron, I perused Watt and D’Aleo paper — it does not meet the standard I would expect for a scientific paper — it’s a lot of opinion without much fact backing it up and it was published by a clearly global warming skeptic organization on which D’Aleo is a member.
In the first section on the temperature record, there is referenced Pilke Sr. paper and “Klotzbach et al” which is a paper co-authored by — wait for it — Pilkes Sr. and Jr. and Christy. Which was pretty much trashed by Gavin Schmidt.
It cites blog posts, editorials in clearly skeptic / denialist media. It quotes non-peer reviewed papers published by skeptical orgs.
It’s not science, unless a parody of it. It’s opinion masquerading as science that will fool only the ignorant and gullible.
It’s embarrassing that you’re using this as evidence of anything.
This paper got some legs in denialist and other circles, including a number of television and blog stories indicting NOAA in fraud. Here is D’Aleo in a paper published at IceCap:
NOAA is seriously complicit in data manipulation and fraud. After the Climategate emails were leaked, the East Anglia Hadley Centre has been the focus for data obstruction, destruction and manipulation issues and Phil Jones has temporarily stepped aside during a three year investigation as director of the Hadley Climatic Research Unit (CRU) until the completion of an independent Review resulting from allegations of inappropriate scientific conduct.
John Coleman at KUSI News has a one hour broadcast on global warming in which these allegations were repeated, prompting this statement and response from NASA’s James Hansen:
NASA has issued the following statement in response to the KUSI Special Report. This statement is from Dr. James Hansen, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City:
“NASA has not been involved in any manipulation of climate data used in the annual GISS global temperature analysis. The analysis utilizes three independent data sources provided by other agencies. Quality control checks are regularly performed on that data. The analysis methodology as well as updates to the analysis are publicly available on our website. The agency is confident of the quality of this data and stands by previous scientifically based conclusions regarding global temperatures.” (GISS temperature analysis website: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/)
Not being a scientist, I was unable to do an adequate refutation of the paper based on its science — or lack thereof. But now, Tamino over at Open Mind has done it for us non-competents titled “Dropouts“, and I am pleased to see that Zeke Hausfather has also done one at the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media.
Tamino’s post covers many issues raised in the W&D paper, but here’s the one I want to focus on. It’s based on the claim in the paper that there was a wholesale attempt to deceive the public on the part of NOAA and GHCN by removing a number of stations post 1990 — stations that were rural and thus, “colder” or so they claim. Note: this is not just “perhaps they did” – it’s a blatant accusation of fraud.
Here’s Watts and D’Aleo:
Around 1990, NOAA began weeding out more than three-quarters of the climate measuring stations around the world. They may have been working under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). It can be shown that they systematically and purposefully, country by country, removed higher-latitude, higher-altitude and rural locations, all of which had a tendency to be cooler.
The thermometers were marched towards the tropics, the sea, and airports near bigger cities. These data were then used to determine the global average temperature and to initialize climate models. Interestingly, the very same stations that have been deleted from the world climate network were retained for computing the average-temperature base periods, further increasing the bias towards overstatement of warming by NOAA.
What does Tamino find in his analysis of the data?
…it’s the cold stations which show more global warming over the last century+, while the hotter stations show less.
This belies the claim that favoring hot stations over cold ones will inflate the global average temperature anomaly to create false warming. There’s absolutely no reason that using cold or hot stations would bias the trend, unless one or the other tends to have a greater or lesser trend. And the available evidence is that it’s the cold stations which will show more warming — so biasing the sample in favor of hot rather than cold stations will, if anything, tend to underestimate the global warming trend.
D’Aleo and Watts are dead wrong about NOAA undertaking any effort to control which stations are included in the GHCN and which are not. They’re dead wrong about NOAA even being able to do so. They’re dead wrong about “The number of stations that dropped out tended to be disproportionally rural.” And they are dead wrong about the idea that favoring hot rather than cold stations will introduce a warm bias into the global temperature anomaly record.
So I have to wonder, once again: are they counting on the fact that readers are too lazy or stupid to find out the truth? Or do they really not get it themselves?
Here’s Zeke over at the Yale Forum:
There is no significant difference between the temperature from discontinuous and continuous stations, suggesting that there was no purposeful or selective “dropping” of stations to bias the data. If anything, discontinuous stations have a slightly higher trend over the century than continuous stations. This result strongly suggests that the discontinuity in station data results from having inadequate resources to gather those records, rather than from some pernicious plot to exaggerate warming trends.
After examining the evidence, there seems little indication that either the discontinuities in recent records from many GHCN stations or the adjustments made to the raw data have any substantive effects on global temperature trends. The accusations by D’Aleo and Smith aired as part of the KUSI “The Other Side” broadcast seem to be mostly unfounded, and certainly do not justify the seriousness of their allegations.
Creating global temperature records is no simple task, and the process might not always be pretty. But there is no evidence of major methodological problems that would compromise the validity of the records, and certainly no evidence of deliberate manipulation.
If so-called skeptic papers can be so full of dreck as Tamino and Zeke have shown, who can believe anything either of them write any longer? They either don’t know what they’re doing or don’t care or both.
I can’t believe they can get away with making such claims about NOAA and the scientists who work there. The only reason their dreck gets any traction is that laypeople are just not able to see through their deception / stupidity or whatever it is – or they don’t care to try because the message sits right with their personal biases.
Shameful. I’d be embarrased to align myself with such people and I’d be damn angry that they give the term “skepticism” such a bad name.