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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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  • Help me out here (Score:3, Insightful)

    by metrix007 (200091) on Friday February 25, 2011 @09:51AM (#35311376)
    Is there enough statistically significant clear, objective data that is available to be verified that indicates anything with any amount of confidence?
    • Re:Help me out here (Score:4, Informative)

      by Charliemopps (1157495) on Friday February 25, 2011 @09:58AM (#35311420)
      No.

      But common sense can tell us dumping huge amounts of a gas into the atmosphere that's poisonous to humans is a bad thing.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by khallow (566160)
        I guess we better stop watering lawns then. Dihydrogen monoxide happens to be both toxic to humans and a greenhouse gas!
        • Re:Help me out here (Score:4, Informative)

          by jo_ham (604554) <joham999@@@gmail...com> on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:09AM (#35311500)

          Oxygen is also toxic to humans at high partial pressures.

          • Oxygen is one of the most highly reactive substances we run into in any quantity on a day to day basis.

            Also (somewhat off topic) ask the Apollo 1 astronauts how awesome oxygen is!

          • by gilleain (1310105)

            Oxygen is also toxic to humans at high partial pressures.

            True, but I once thought that oxygen was the world's first pollutant (I even wrote a node to that effect). However, I went to a talk this week by Nick Lane about the origin of life - and he says that it is not oxygen as such, but oxygen radicals. The context was that he was talking about why mitochondria evolved, and that it probably wasn't to protect organisms from the increase in oxygen concentrations caused by the invention of photosynthesis. Indeed, it is the mitochondria that make most of the oxygen ra

            • by jo_ham (604554)

              Gold is not non-reactive - you can dissolve it in aqua regia to form chloroauric acid.

              This is how gold was hidden from the Nazis during the war in certain chemistry labs. It was dissolved to form a yellow/straw solution and then precipitated out once the war was over and recast into its original form.

        • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:30AM (#35311762)

          All I know is that we won't be safe until we can eliminate all the carbon dioxide from our atmosphere.

        • First: I'd agree with stop watering laws. I don't water mine and it looks fine.
          Second: There's a huge difference between spreading water around, that's already out in the environment, and releasing a gas that's been trapped in the earths crust for hundreds of millions of years.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ballpoint (192660)

        Last time I checked the atmosphere is not poisonous to humans :)

        And even if we were to burn all obtainable carbon at once, the CO2 concentration would still be several times below poisonous levels.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Draek (916851)

          Pity the same doesn't apply to all the *other* chemicals oil burning puts in the air, though.

          Global Warming has almost been a Godsend to the oil-abusing crowd, as its focused the media's attention on the least harmful side-effect of using their beloved product. Who cares if the world's vegetation is dying in a rain of sulfur? there's not enough data to ascertain the world is getting warmer (and as long as they continue pushing government investigations on anyone that has some, there'll never be), so continu

          • by geekoid (135745)

            Yes there is, it's a fact that the world is getting warmer. I'm not sure why you think otherwise.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bluefoxlucid (723572)

        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 p

        • All that greenhouse gas emission means nothing in the midst of an ecology that thrives on it

          All the greenhouse gas emissions? rotfl, unless by ecology, you mean planet earth.

          Yes, indeed, earth is a very small ecology.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tgibbs (83782)

        Common sense is a poor guide to systems of any complexity. This includes the effects of CO2 on living organisms as well as on climate. CO2 is not poisonous at concentrations projected under any remotely plausible scenario, and CO2 in the atmosphere is essential to life on earth.

        On the other hand, there is a wealth of significant, clear, objective data that indicates that increasing CO2 in the atmosphere will result in global warming (and indeed, has already done so), and there is strong reason to believe th

    • by Sockatume (732728) on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:15AM (#35311580)

      That depends on whether you're willing to invoke the True Scotsman fallacy. For sufficiently narrow confidence intervals, there is no valid data for anything.

    • by RogerWilco (99615) on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:23AM (#35311676) Homepage Journal

      I'm no climate scientist, but as I understand it, there is a lot of data that is showing the climate changing. As I understand well above the 95% confidence level.

      The real issue is how much of that is man made. There it's more of an indirect relation, in the sense that the climate has been heating up at a rate that seems to be higher then ever before, since we started putting greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere in large quantities. There are also clues that there is a cause and effect relationship between the two, but as I understand that's less clear.

      The actual climate change can be measured. The increase in greenhouse gasses can be measured. The link between them is a theory dependant on our imperfect understanding and ability to model the climate of the entire world. But there are many other influences as well, like solar cycles, volcanism besides the man made greenhouse emission.

      In the end it boils down to if you want to find out if the theory is correct by waiting to see it happen, or if you dislike the future the theory predicts so much that you want to act now in the hope that if the theory is correct, the worst case scenarios can be avoided.

      A pure experimental scientist would do nothing and see if his theory is right. But some of those guys also use themselves as a guinea pig to test how much G-forces the human body can withstand (John Stapp).
      Sometimes it's not pleasant to see your predictions come true and you might want to try and avoid being able to prove your theory.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by postbigbang (761081)

        The man-made part has been well established, and indeed your "95% confidence level" makes you clearly no kind of gambler.

        We'll agree that correlation != causation. And we can also agree that if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, craps like a duck, it's likely to be a duck.

        So while you're enwrapped in the conjecture of your own tribulations, others of us are trying to warn people, change habits, and save a planet for our great grandchildren. Yeah, it's real, and it's man-made, not the cause of members

        • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:46AM (#35311912) Homepage

          We'll agree that correlation != causation. And we can also agree that if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, craps like a duck, it's likely to be a duck.

          Or you learn the lesson from dynamically typed computer languages: If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, craps like a duck, etc, it's close enough to treat exactly like a duck for all practical purposes.

        • There is a difference in meaning between the common usage of the word "confidence" and its statistical usage, which is often confusing to the layman, and this is one of the critiques of confidence intervals, namely that in application by non-statisticians, the term "confidence" is misleading.

          In common usage, a claim to 95% confidence in something is normally taken as indicating virtual certainty. In statistics, a claim to 95% confidence simply means that the researcher has seen something occur that only hap

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

          by radtea (464814) on Friday February 25, 2011 @01:07PM (#35313378)

          The man-made part has been well established

          My problem as a mere computational physicist who has looked at some climate modelling codes, which are nothing but computational physics (being done, for some reason, by climatologists) is that every one I've looked at has significant issues. My very favourite was one that did not conserve energy natively, but had energy conservation imposed upon it by adjusting cell temperatures after every time-step. Why they chose to adjust temperature rather than wettness was not clear, although I guess probably becasuse it was computationally easier as the latter would require an additional adjustment to transport terms lest non-conservation of mass creep in.

          Again, as a computational physicist who has modelled a considerable range of systems from the apparently simple to the obviously complex, GCMs look to me like a collection of ad hoc kludges and hopeful parameterizations. They are perfectly good science, but not even close to what is required for policy setting.

          And the real problem is that there is no argument for anthropogenic climate change that does not pass through climate models as a critical step.

          Ergo, the claim that the human role in climate change is anything like certain is to me just a statement of ignorance about the complex and delicate realities of computational physics, which as I said, is in this case for some reason not being done by computational physicists but by climatologists.

      • by h4rm0ny (722443)
        Do not neglect the factor of what risks and costs taking action might entail. You phrase your scenario as "wait and see if you're wrong, or take action in case you're not." But in reality that last part might be "take action at great costs and potentially unexpected side-effects, in case you're wrong". Living your life as if everything that might go wrong will go wrong, will rapidly begin to negatively impact your life. Just commenting on the logic of your statement.
        • Re:Help me out here (Score:4, Informative)

          by clonan (64380) on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:56AM (#35312014)

          We really don't have a choice regardless. Oil IS running out. Wikileaks had some documents from Saudi Arabia showing that thier reserves are actually 40% smaller than publicly advertised. But even if they weren't, even if the oil reserves were infinite, Saudi Arabia is expected to become a net oil IMPORTER around 2040 or so.

          There are only so many place you can drill for oil there and so they have a hard time increasing production while at the same time they are consuming more and more as they grow.

          I read an article two days ago saying that if Algeria goes like Libya then oil will probably hit $220 a barrel by the end of the summer. Oil is no longer a stable energy source.

          Now as the price goes up it will become economical to harvest more difficult sources like oil shale. However with the easy reserves we have right bnow it takes 1 barrell of oil to produce 4-5 barrells of final products. Easy oil shale sources are something like 1:1.5. This may improve a little with development but not by much.

          We can recognize that climate change/global warming is a bad thing and that CO2 is a primary cause and gradually move to other sources OR we can not and be forced to move much more quickly causing much greater economic damage having had a extra 15-20 years of increasing prices.

          What do you think is better?

      • by dachshund (300733) on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:55AM (#35311998)

        The actual climate change can be measured. The increase in greenhouse gasses can be measured. The link between them is a theory dependant on our imperfect understanding and ability to model the climate of the entire world. But there are many other influences as well, like solar cycles, volcanism besides the man made greenhouse emission.

        While nobody's proven that the current extraordinary warming trend is man-made, scientists have been very successful in ruling out the other causes you mention (even in combination). The current warming is not caused by volcanism, changes in solar radiation levels, etc. Which means that it's either (a) man-made (a theory for which there is good evidence) or (b) it's due to some completely different force that we don't know about (aliens, the earth's core going out of alignment, mutating neutrinos, ok, I kid).

        Either (a) or (b) should be a subject of concern for us. In fact, I think that if you're inclined to rule out (a) then you'd better be working damn hard on figuring out what (b) is.

        But more importantly, while the theory begins with experimental science, it's now mostly an exercise in risk management. We know that there's a phenomenon occurring, we know that it may prove very --- if not catastrophically --- costly to our society, and we know that industrial waste emissions are probably (meaning, with some very reasonable probability) the cause of it.

        So the question is: from a cost-benefit perspective, what's the best thing to do about emission levels today? Obviously the answer to that question depends on your evaluation of all the factors. However, given that the costs seem quite high (especially when you factor in the low-probability outcomes), you don't need anything approaching absolute proof to justify reducing GHG emissions --- even if there's only a moderate probability that it helps, you can justify it against the potential costs. I think that that the science is firm enough to justify pre-emptive GHG reduction.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by danbert8 (1024253)

          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 n

          • Re:Help me out here (Score:5, Informative)

            by jfengel (409917) on Friday February 25, 2011 @01:14PM (#35313500) Homepage Journal

            I see the global warming situation to be the same as the recession.

            There is one key difference: the recession is a datum observed and then explained after the fact. Global warming was predicted before there was the ability to measure it, as far back as the 19th century.

            It was based on a very simple, reasonably obvious model: CO2 absorbs infrared. Burning fossil fuels increases CO2. That the climate would warm up is a single step in reasoning.

            The details of it are governed by many, many more variables, and as such can be compared to the economy, but it's very important not to be misled by the comparison. This is not a model constructed after the fact, explaining only the data in the past. It is a model which was constructed over a century ago and for which a century of experiment corresponds well with the prediction.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Rising Ape (1620461)

              Global warming was predicted before there was the ability to measure it, as far back as the 19th century.

              There was even a short film made about it in 1958 [youtube.com].

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

        by Layzej (1976930) on Friday February 25, 2011 @11:32AM (#35312388)

        There are certain fingerprints we can look for to determine whether the current warming is caused by increased carbon. For instance in 1896 Svante Arrhenius predicted that nights should warm faster than days if there is an increase in greenhouse gasses. If the warming was due to increased solar activity we should expect days to warm faster than nights.

        There are other indicators as well. With an increase in greenhouse gases we would expect the poles to warm faster than the equator, and winter to warm faster than summer. These are all fingerprints that we are able to detect. This gives us confidence that we are attributing the warming to the correct cause.

        • And another one: if it's caused by greenhouse gases, we expect the lower atmosphere to get warmer and the upper atmosphere to get cooler. (Greenhouse gases act like insulation by holding heat in. If you add insulation to your house, you expect the inside to get warmer, but the exterior walls to get cooler since less heat is escaping.) If it's caused by increased solar radiation, we expect both upper and lower atmosphere to get warmer (since both are receiving more solar radiation). Guess what? The uppe
      • > The real issue is how much of that is man made.
        Looking forward, I'd say the real issue is what mankind can do to avoid/mitigate any catastrophic changes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mbone (558574)

      Yes, of course. To be blunt, the deniers at this stage are either tools or fools.

    • 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.

      • by bradley13 (1118935) on Friday February 25, 2011 @11:02AM (#35312078) Homepage

        Wow, that's quite a misrepresentation of Anthony Watts website [wattsupwiththat.com]. Pretty much the opposite of his conclusions, in fact.

        Articles on his blog (which sometimes reads more like a scientific journal) show that rural stations often show no warming at all - at least, until they have been appropriately "adjusted" (using methods that are generally not released). Meanwhile, the increasing temperatures of urban stations are not adjusted to eliminate the Urban Heat Island effect. Large parts of the arctic and antarctic are presumed to be warming, even though there are no weather stations within hundreds or thousands of miles.

        Is the climate warming? He would agree with you that the climate warmed through (plus or minus) the year 2000 so, but possibly has now entered a cooling phase. Articles on his blog also show that (a) over decades, there is a warming/cooling cycle that very closely follows solar cycles, (b) that the overall warming trend of the past 200 years predates any significant human contribution to CO2 in the atmosphere, (c) the planet has in the past been warmer than today - in that sense, the recent warming is not "unprecedented", and finally (d) millions of years ago CO2 levels were much, much higher than today, so a higher CO2 level is also not unprecedented.

        In short: the earth warms and cools. We do not understand all of the factors that influence these climate cycles, but CO2 is almost certainly not a precursor of increased temperatures. In any case, a warmer earth is in many ways preferable to a cooling earth. The entire panic about CO2 is politically driven, and many scientists have hooked their wagons to it, in order to get research funding.

        My take is that Anthony Watts wants to present the objective truth - whatever that may be - and to discredit bad science and politically driven science.

        • by bunratty (545641)
          We don't need weather stations in the Arctic [nsidc.org] and Antarctic [nasa.gov] to know that it's warming there. We can just observe that the ice is continuing to melt. What else could be causing that? Polar bears and penguins dancing the mamba?
        • by DeadCatX2 (950953) on Friday February 25, 2011 @11:35AM (#35312410) Journal

          I looked at his web site. He looks like a kinder, gentler climate denier, but still full of propaganda.

          http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/02/24/inspector-general-finds-noaa-climategate-emails-warrant-further-investigation/#comment-607154 [wattsupwiththat.com]

          He made a big post quoting Senator Inhofe that there are still some emails that "warranted further investigation". That line was taken out of context, and one of his commenters added the next sentence to the quote, which totally changed the nature and tone.

          “In our own review of all 1,073 CRU emails, we found eight emails which, in our judgment, warranted further examination to clarify any possible issues involving the scientific integrity of particular NOAA scientists or NOAA’s data. As a result, we conducted interviews with the relevant NOAA scientists regarding these eight emails, and have summarized their responses and explanations in the enclosure.”

          That's taken so badly out of context that this guy should look into getting a job at Fox News. The very next sentence of the quote disproves the entire allegation made by the headline.

        • by Kludge (13653) on Friday February 25, 2011 @11:50AM (#35312588)

          The entire panic about CO2 is politically driven, and many scientists have hooked their wagons to it, in order to get research funding.

          Yeah, I'm sure you're an atmospheric physicist. No? Well, I have news for you. As a scientist who has worked in multiple fields I can tell you that scientists do not take positions just to get research funding. Yes, there may be an occasional bad apple who does, but they are very few. The large number of scientists who have looked at the data and run computer simulations (not you), and have reached a common conclusion is insurmountable.
          Your statement is deluded and insulting.

      • by phlinn (819946)
        I have yet to find an explanation for why the adjustments made to the USHCN show a warming trend for the last century that is larger than the warming trend in the raw data, or why the GHCN adjustment shows a very consistent warming trend for the same period, although it's less than the warming trend in the Raw data at least. That is deeply suspicious. I found this out after the adjustments made to particular station (Darwin Airport in australia IIRC) and RealClimate accused him of cherry picking and plott
    • by jovius (974690)
      Well, if you lived for example 200 years you would notice the changes. The measurements would support your perceptions.

      The confidence would arise naturally.
    • by InsertCleverUsername (950130) <slashdot@rruss o n . f a stmail.fm> on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:49AM (#35311950) Homepage Journal

      Is there enough statistically significant clear, objective data that is available to be verified that indicates anything with any amount of confidence?

      Yes. Anyone honestly interested in understanding this or any other scientific finding can start their education here:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confidence_interval [wikipedia.org]

      And once you understand the principles of statistical confidence, you can get some data and run the numbers:
      http://rainbow.ldeo.columbia.edu/datasources.html [columbia.edu]

      Or you could just trust in the scientific community that does this kind of research for a living to not be part some some enormous, X-files worthy conspiracy.

      Sorry if this all sounds patronizing, but it really pains me when I see people trusting politicians more than scientists.

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      My take on this :

      We have never been at this level of CO2 in the past 100 000 years.

      We observe a raise of temperature that may be linked to it but other factors come into play and the influence of these is still debated.

      There has probably been temperatures similar as the one registered today in the past.

      We can't be sure of how the biosphere reacts to such a CO2 level as we never have observed it.

      Most computer models anticipate a warming effect of a higher CO2 concentration. And by most, I mean "all that

    • by skids (119237)

      Yes.

      But it doesn't seem to matter. As long as there is someone out there to smear the research, there's a population of people just looking for an excuse to believe what is convenient for themselves.

      Used to be that if you requested a report and it didn't say what you wanted it to, you had to settle for playing down the results, e.g. the Schaffer Commission. Inhofe is using the new model: request a report, then when it is completed, say that it says whatever you wanted to say, regardless of what is actuall

  • by olsmeister (1488789) on Friday February 25, 2011 @09:52AM (#35311382)
    Regardless of the validity of the data or their conclusions, I think the price of oil is going to reign in those pesky greenhouse gas emissions for us.
    • Re:Middle East (Score:4, Informative)

      by CheeseTroll (696413) on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:11AM (#35311528)

      Don't forget coal. Unless the citizens of Wyoming, Illinois, West Va, etc. rise up against their regimes, there's no shortage of that pollutant in the US for many years.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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

      • by bberens (965711)
        Oil is generally not used for electricity production in the United States. Coal is +/- 50%. I know there's supposed to be some decent ways to make coal fuel, but it generally doesn't translate well and I'm not particularly confident we could ramp up coal production enough to quench our thirst. The only real solution imho is to migrate most commuter traffic to full electric. Then it doesn't matter where that electricity comes from: nuclear, coal, oil, wind, hydro, solar, etc. No matter how it goes, it's
  • by Sockatume (732728) on Friday February 25, 2011 @09:55AM (#35311396)

    I'm pretty sure you'd die of asphyxia if you tried to read that opening sentence aloud. Holy run-on sentence, copyeditman.

  • From the article (Score:4, Informative)

    by Crashmarik (635988) on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:13AM (#35311556)
    “It also appears that one senior NOAA employee possibly thwarted the release of important federal scientific information for the public to assess and analyze,” he said, referring to an employee’s failure to provide material related to work for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a different body that compiles research, in response to a Freedom of Information request. " Mann's manipulation of data and failure to provide information about his research have been a long standing joke. http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/13830/ [technologyreview.com] It was really no surprise that he wouldn't want to provide the information. What is a giant surprise is that he is still in a position of any responsibility. Well maybe not so much if you want trillions of dollars to be spent on changing the country's energy economy.
    • by BVis (267028)

      if you want trillions of dollars to be spent on changing the country's energy economy.

      It'll need to happen sooner or later. Even if you don't believe in AGW at all (and you're an idiot IMHO if you don't) we're going to run out of fossil fuels eventually. We can spend trillions now or face total disaster. I say spend the damn money.

    • It riles me that the press still refers to the Emails, that CRU was legally obligated to release under FOI requests as stolen. The folder they were in was listed as FOI, and was located in a publicly accessible FTP server yet they are consistently called stolen by the MSM.

  • ...should be taken out and shot. Seriously:

    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.

    ?

  • If this had failed, think of all the people who bought solar panels and had done the ROI math based on state and federal credits, rebates, incentives.
    Without the CO2 issue, this could have looked bad. With the expected rush over carbon reduction schemes, wow :)
  • by redemtionboy (890616) on Friday February 25, 2011 @11:21AM (#35312266)
    But who were they cleared by? Scientists! I think I smell some collaboration!
  • by rgbatduke (1231380) <rgb AT phy DOT duke DOT edu> on Friday February 25, 2011 @11:46AM (#35312536) Homepage
    If you have actually followed the debate that arose over the infamous "hockey stick" graph that erased the medieval warm period and little ice age (McIntyre and McKittrick) and sundry additional papers since, you know that while they may or may not have done anything to the data per se, they've abused the hell out of statistical analysis, for example experimenting with untested and unstudied methodologies until they get one that shows warming, then publishing results obtained using it without giving any hint of the fact that what they are doing is most sketchy. I've been following this with great interest for just under a decade now, and IMO there is absolutely no question that this has been repeatedly done in the past (by MBH and nearly all the papers on which any of them have collaborated) and continues to be done today. And I won't even go into the bristlecone pine problem and the general problem of using tree-ring proxies for temperature when tree ring thickness is not a monotonic function of temperature only.

    For example, a recent paper was published in Science (Steig) that claimed that the Antarctic is warming at an alarming rate. I've read over the paper and the counterchallenge to the statistical methodology used (which basically coarse grained thermal sensors on the thin peninsula that sticks out into the ocean from continental Antarctica until their generally warming trend overwhelmed the generally and clearly trend of the mainland). This all involved infilling data on continental thermal sensors on the basis of temperatures basically on the other side of the continent, an effect clearly visible if one computes the (infilled) sensor-sensor correlation as a function of sensor separation. The actual real (not infilled) sensor-sensor correlation falls off with distance fairly rapidly, as one might expect (Chicago weather isn't like LA's weather). The infilled correlation function shows substantial station correlation out at two or three thousand kilometers. If one simply includes one more principle component in the PCA, this effect disappears, and so does most of the warming; cooling for the last 30 years appears instead.

    Is this lying with or manipulating data or simple lack of competence with statistics? You decide.

    A reliable statistical estimate of warming of the sort that somebody with no horse in the race might do (and the sort that is done in computing the actual global average temperature from satellite data) shows moderate warming from 1957 to 1980, and cooling from 1980 to 2010. The latter, of course, confounds the predictions that as CO_2 goes steadily up, everything gets warmer; the fact that the fifty year warming is completely negligible is anathema to the scientists who make a living from the AGW hysteria.

    Of course, anyone in the world who wants to can go read the climategate emails (or the comments in the actual hockey stick code), where it is made perfectly clear that the "hockey team" set out to erase the MWP and LIA and does anything and anything necessary to defend the AGW conclusion, right up to having journal editors fired if they dare to print a paper that concludes otherwise. Perhaps science is broad enough that they did all of this in good faith, although if they pulled these sorts of shenanigans in medical research e.g. verifying drug safety there would be immediate, permanent, negative sequellae. But it doesn't make it good science.

    Anybody who actually understands statistics and things like R^2 and principle component analysis can read over things and judge for themselves, of course. If I point out that R^2 for the infamous hockey stick graph in the extrapolated region was basically 0, you will understand exactly what that means...

    AGW may or may not be true, but so far it has been a poster child for confirmation bias, incredibly poor statistical analysis, cherrypicking of data (of course it has happened and continues
    • by Layzej (1976930) on Friday February 25, 2011 @03:12PM (#35315396)

      It is not true that satellites show cooling from 1980 to 2011. In fact, quite the opposite. They agree with land based measurements: http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/uah/from:1980/to:2011/plot/rss/from:1980/to:2011/trend/plot/rss/from:1980/to:2011 [woodfortrees.org]

      It is also not true that O'Donnel found cooling in Antarctica in his critique of Steig 2009. He found warming. It is also not clear that O'Donnel's methods are better. Perhaps they are, but if so, this doesn't make the authors of Steig 2009 liars or incompetent. There will surely be a response to O'Donnel 2010 that further improves the results. This does not make the authors of O'Donnel 2010 liars or incompetent.

    • by jwhitener (198343)

      The one thing I don't get about people who are skeptical of the consensus, is that you can throw out Mann's work if you want, and there is still mountains of evidence left supporting AGW. I don't know much about Steig's Antartic paper, but I would be willing to bet that you could throw his out also, and find other papers by other research teams that come to similar conclusions.

      Here are 3 completely separate 2000 year climate graphs shown together, from 3 different teams using 3 different methods.
      http://www

  • by rubycodez (864176) on Friday February 25, 2011 @11:46AM (#35312542)
    This is another meaningless assertion made by a political organ absolutely unqualified to make any statement on the matter. Note the sentence "The report was not a review of the climate data itself." The Commerce Department can't clear someone of misusing scientific data, this is as stupid a congress declaring there was no data manipulation a day after the "climategate" leaks hit the news.
  • by jafac (1449) on Friday February 25, 2011 @04:34PM (#35316330) Homepage

    EVERYONE learns this in Freshman - I'm talking HIGH SCHOOL FRESHMAN - Science class. The Scientific method is a process. You write your hypothesis. You design your experiment. You collect your data. You eliminate outliers and match the data to a model that helps predict - according to your hypothesis and formula(e). Will the predicted FUTURE data have outliers that don't come out of your formula(e)? Of course. But if the gathered data fit the curve, that's a pretty good indicator that your hypothesis was a good guess. This is like, the most basic concept in Science that there is. It's not fraud in any sense of the word.

    Everyone learns this. Everyone is required to take at least this minimal level of Science education; at least to get the High School diploma.

    Compare this . . . to the blatant skullduggery that goes on in the pseudoscience of Economics. . . the counterargument that limiting Carbon via Economic Policy - is going to "harm our economic growth". (as if deregulation and tax cuts from 2000-2008 have not CLEARLY and demonstrably done so!). Go on, Doctor Economics. Take your payoff from the Heritage Foundation for your "consultation" - and don't bother to cite your affiliation on your "scientific paper". We believe you. And your Invisible Hand.

    Hell. Let's call this a basic reasoning FAIL - on the part of an entire nation. An entire civilization. An entire species. WTF?

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