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Scientists Cleared of Misusing Global Warming Data 541

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-that-skeptics-care dept.
Hugh Pickens writes writes "The NY Times reports that an inquiry by the Commerce Department's inspector general has found no evidence that NOAA scientists manipulated climate data (reg. may be required) to buttress evidence in support of global warming after climate change skeptics contended that e-mail messages between climate scientists that were stolen and circulated on the Internet in late 2009 showed that scientists were manipulating or withholding information to advance the theory that the earth is warming as a result of human activity. 'None of the investigations have found any evidence to question the ethics of our scientists or raise doubts about NOAA's understanding of climate change science,' says Mary Glackin, the agency's deputy undersecretary for operations. The inquiry, requested last May by Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, who has challenged the science underlying human-induced climate change, comes at a critical moment for NOAA, as some newly empowered Republican House members seek to rein in the EPA's plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, often contending that the science underpinning global warming is flawed. Inhofe says the report (PDF) was far from a clean bill of health for the agency, and that contrary to its executive summary, showed that the scientists 'engaged in data manipulation.'"
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Scientists Cleared of Misusing Global Warming Data

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  • Re:Middle East (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:18AM (#35311618)

    Once gas prices get above ten bucks a gallon or so (pre-tax), it will be cost-effective to synthesize gasoline out of coal via the Fischer–Tropsch process.

    Unfortunately, this will actually increase the amount of CO_2 released per gallon because some CO_2 is released during conversion.

    But hey, after the ice caps melt, sea level can't get any higher, so we've got nothing to worry about, right? Just sell any land you own in Florida or the UK over the course of the next hundred years and buy up some in a new seaside location, like Nevada.

    In a few hundred years we'll all look back on this and laugh, like we do now for the bubonic plague. Heh, those medieval Europeans and not knowing enough to keep diseased rats out of their cities.

  • Re:Help me out here (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Layzej (1976930) on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:33AM (#35311784)

    There really is no evidence of data 'fiddling'. NOAA makes the raw data available. They make the adjusted data available. The process they use to adjust the data (to account for relocation of weather stations/urban heat islands/etc) is also available and part of the peer reviewed literature.

    A retired meteorologist named Anthony Watts did a great job of validating the robustness of the data. He (and a small army of volunteers) rated the weather stations based on how well they met requirements. Weather stations outside of urban areas and away from pavement were rated a 5. Poorly placed weather stations were rated a 1. He had hoped to find that poorly placed weather stations were responsible for the warming trend. In the end it was found that well placed weather stations actually record a greater warming trend. The reason for this may be that the warming trend of poorly placed weather stations is masked by the artificial heat in the area.

    Most locations in the world are oversampled. We have high confidence in the results for those areas. Some locations such as Antarctica are under sampled. We have less confidence in the results for those areas.

    Luckily we also have satellite data since 1979. The satellite data confirms the weather station data.

    We have a very clear understanding of the global temperature. It's going up at a rate that is likely unprecedented over the last 1000 years.

  • Re:Help me out here (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:45AM (#35311906) Journal

    The presence of carbon dioxide is unbelievably important. "Huge amounts" is relative. Common sense isn't so common; a lot of common sense is fallacious.

    For example, shove all those factories in the middle of a wildlife reserve, pumping their particulate and toxic gasses into the air in the middle of dense forests, separated by swaths of trees. When it rains, the particulate runs to the ground and becomes fertilizer; and the gasses are absorbed by the trees to make sugar. Dense opaque smog would be a problem, as would be high sulfur content; hence we should desulfate the fuels used, or scrub the sulfates from the exhaust.

    See? The location suddenly matters. All that greenhouse gas emission means nothing in the midst of an ecology that thrives on it; but then we cite the specific needs of the ecology and find that a small subset of chemicals in the emissions cause wilting by chemical damage, or block out the sun and prevent photosynthesis.

    So, should we start building up forests around our coal processing plants and oil burning power plants? We could bubble the exhaust through a water-channel airlock shaped such that the fluid flow caused mass turbulence to wash the exhaust, dropping out the particulates, capturing most of the acidic compounds like sulfates... dissolve lime in the water to neutralize the acids, then exhaust it into irrigation nearby. Now the emissions are helpful.

  • So let me understand (Score:1, Interesting)

    by EmagGeek (574360) <gterich@aol.cTWAINom minus author> on Friday February 25, 2011 @11:36AM (#35312424) Journal

    The Commerce Department, which is part of the Obama Administration, which is admittedly all-in for Global Warming, has found no fault in the scientists' manipulation of data to fit the hypothesis.

    File this under "Duh."

  • Re:Help me out here (Score:3, Interesting)

    by danbert8 (1024253) on Friday February 25, 2011 @12:00PM (#35312694)

    The real question is, in 1000 years, who was right? I see the global warming situation to be the same as the recession. It is a complex system with many variables. Politicians and some scientists (economists) see a potential cause, and suggest a course of action. If they buy in to enact a change, they win either way. Outcome 1: The climate continues to warm (the economy gets worse), their excuse is, we didn't do enough. Outcome 2: Things didn't change or got better, and they claim success. There is no outcome where we can prove they just wasted everybody's time and money, which has far reaching repercussions.

    I want some real evidence that the steps we are taking will do something about the problem if there is one. Maybe the earth is warming, maybe we caused it, but there are still some unanswered questions in my book:

    1) Can we do anything about it?
    2) If we can do something about it, SHOULD WE?
    3) Is the cost of doing something about it less than the cost of mitigating the effects?

    Does anyone have good answers for these questions? From my perspective, the world looks like it can support more life at the warm end of the spectrum... In the long term, we are better off with a warmer climate. In the short term, it may hurt, but isn't that the same situation with rapidly trying to change how we move and use energy?

    Also, I think 95% confidence is rather low for climate change. I can give you a 100% confidence that climate is changing, because it always has, and it always will. The variables that go into climate are not constant, so there is no justification for believing that climate can be constant. That being said, which way would we rather it goes?

  • Re:Help me out here (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rgbatduke (1231380) <rgb@@@phy...duke...edu> on Friday February 25, 2011 @12:43PM (#35313150) Homepage
    I disagree. They ignore that there is an extremely strong and longstanding correlation between the state of the sun and the earth's temperature. When the sun is magnetically active, the solar wind and solar magnetic field significantly alter the Earth's magnetosphere, modulating a number of quantities, e.g. the incident flux rate of galactic cosmic rays. The correlations here are statistically supported at an extremely high level, and of course the physical mechanism is well understood. The interesting thing is that -- if you throw out Mann, Bradley and Hughes (as nearly everybody has by now, even though the AGW folks never talk about it) it turns out that the temperature fluctuations over the last thousand years from the Medieval Warm Period through the present are very strongly correlated with solar state. Periods of high solar activity tend to be warm; periods of low solar activity tend to be cool. Periods with no solar activity, such as the stretch from roughly 1640 to 1720 (the Maunder Minimum) are cold -- this is the "little ice age" erased in the MBH hockety stick fit.

    Correlation is not causality, of course, but the fact of the matter is that while CO_2 has more or less monotonically increased for as long as the Mauna Loa record exists, temperature has not, and the fluctuations in temperature nearly perfectly correspond to solar activity variations.

    A recent paper by Svensmark (2007) has studied historical correlations between cloud formation and GCRs. There is apparently a strong correlation between low solar activity, high GCR levels, and higher than normal rates of low altitude, low latitude cloud formation over the last three solar cycles (for which satellites give us good measures of global cloud levels). This is further correlated with relative local cooling, as the high albedo of clouds is well known to be an important modulator of insolation. Svensmark has at least limited direct laboratory evidence that GCR cascades can create nucleation points for cloud formation, effectly "seeding" saturated air to where feedback accelerates overall cloud formation rates, although the hypothesis that this is what is happening is far from proven.

    However, this all by itself is clear evidence that scientists have not been successful in ruling out solar variability as being the primary driver of climate change with CO_2 variation being a relatively unimportant secondary modulator. They absolutely haven't ruled out the causal chain -- experiments are just now underway to test the GCR-nucleation mechanism further.

    It is worth noting in conclusion that we are just now coming off of a century of some of the highest levels of solar activity in the last thousand years, as either directly observed or extrapolated by means of proxies such as C14 or Be10. Those proxies, in turn, are strongly correlated with arctic sea ice levels across the entire Holocene (See Bond et. al, in Science (2001)). Again, mere correlation, but the correlation is compelling. To quote: "Our correlations are evidence, therefore, that over the last 12,000 years virtually every centennial time scale increase in drift ice documented in our North Atlantic records was tied to a distinct interval of variable and, overall, reduced solar output."

    Similar correlations are clearly visible in the direct temperature records since the invention of thermometers (see e.g. Lassen and Friis-Christensen: http:www.tmgnow.com/repository/solar/lassen1.html [tmgnow.com] and more recent work as well).

    The current solar cycle (as some of you may know as I think it was linked here quite recently) has been delayed almost two years and the level of solar activity has been so low that current estimates for the solar peak expected this time are perhaps half of what they have been for the last three cycles, if that. The trend is worth a peek: http://s [nasa.gov]
  • Re:Help me out here (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Layzej (1976930) on Friday February 25, 2011 @01:16PM (#35313530)

    Regarding station data errors, I have an interesting story. People used to judge the brightness of stars by eyeballing and comparing to other stars. A rating of 10 was given to the brightest stars and 1 to the dimmest. Thousands of stars were surveyed by thousands of people. The instruments used for measuring brightness (eyeballs) were very poor compared to what we use today. It was found however that the average of the eyeball results were correct to two decimal places for any given star. By oversampling you can get good results from imperfect instruments. It's also important to note that with temperatures we are only interested in the anomaly - how much did the temperature change vs the same day last year. Any station that has a systemic error of two degrees will keep the same error from one day to the next. It won't record +2 degrees one day and then -2 the next. Since we're only interested in the anomaly it doesn't really matter that it's not recording the correct temperature - only that it is consistent.

It is contrary to reasoning to say that there is a vacuum or space in which there is absolutely nothing. -- Descartes

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