Category Archives: Climate Change

Data Fudging ?

In a galaxy far far away and long long ago in a remote place called Planet Houston I was teaching a general course on navigation. I was covering data adjustment, signal processing and navigation system calibration when one member of the class suggested that what I was teaching was “fudging the data”.

I asked a few questions and realized to my horror that several others in the class had clearly misunderstood the subject matter and agreed that data processing and standard data adjustment techniques were little more than sophisticated cheating techniques to get a desired result. Friedrich Carl Gauss  would turn in his grave.

The entire field of seismic exploration in the service of the search for oil rests on advanced data processing algorithms to extract meaningful information from vast amounts of extremely complex data. The view of some elements of my class was tantamount to believing the entire oil exploration business was built on a foundation of lies. By extension; they effectively believed that virtually all of scientific measurement and mathematics as applied to scientific data was little more than a farrago of chicanery and falsehoods. I was gob smacked.

Shit! What to do?

I decided right then and right there to add a little remedial math(s) to the navigation course because it seemed to me that my entire syllabus was a waste of time if its foundations were so badly undermined by misunderstandings and frightening mathematical ignorance.

I have seen many posts and articles recently that deny climate change and use seemingly legitimate arguments to do so. One of the most common is to show that supposedly conniving, cheating scientists have falsified temperature data in the interests of their hysterical and dishonest claims about climate change. This is the same mathematical and scientific ignorance exhibited by a few of my students several decades ago except that this time the future of the planet is at stake.

There isn’t space here to do a remedial maths or science course but perhaps a simple example might serve to illustrate the scientific necessity for measurement adjustments and data processing before using raw data to more closely determine scientific truths.

Imagine, if you will, a world wide project to determine the average height of five year old children around the world. All measurements are to be made with metal measurement tapes and the results sent to a central point for collation. Simple! What could possibly go wrong?

So all results are collected and the average height of 5 year old kids is calculated by adding all the heights and dividing by the number of kids. So far so good.

Then some curious social worker wonders if the average height of a 5 year old varies from one place to another. The results are recomputed for each geographical area and it turns out that there are variations. Why?

Some smart-arse scientist recognizes that since the measurements were made with metal tapes and all metal expands with increasing temperature, the kids measured in hot climates such as northern Australia would seem to be shorter than kids measured in the Arctic conditions of northern Canada.

Fortunately all height measurements were submitted with location and temperature data thus allowing the entire data set to be corrected for temperature variations.

Then some super nit picky awkward bugger asks “are all the steel tapes identical ?” The tapes are recalled and it transpires that one batch of measuring tapes were 2 mm short due to a manufacturing error. All measurements made with these tapes can be corrected by adding 2 mm to all heights.

Get the picture? All measurements and all data sets contain errors of one sort or another; offsets, biases, scaling errors, random noise and even mistakes. The art of measurement and the scientific use of measurements is to detect and eliminate those errors. Better results from older data can be obtained over time by applying better techniques and corrections for errors that might not have been known at the time of the original measurements.

So it is with measuring the heights of children and so it is with measuring global temperatures. Refining temperature data in the light of new knowledge is not fudging, it is good science.

Dragon Theory of Global Warming

Climate Dragon

I can not take full credit for this innovative line of inquiry into the causes of Global Warming. The idea was proposed by a colleague during the course of a vigorous debate concerning orbital variations of the earth and their linkage to cyclical ice ages and current global warming observations.

The sugestion that global warming is caused primarily by dragons is an interesting one and ought not to be dismissed out of hand.

There are those who do not believe that dragons even exist but that opinion is based solely on the flawed evidence that they have never seen a dragon. This is clearly the kind of narrow minded, short sighted, unimaginative thinking so typical of those smug bubble dwelling liberals. Many natural phenomena are known to exist in spite of their lack of a signature in the visible portion of the electro magnetic spectrum. See Lancelot et al.

All animals, including us and presumably dragons too, exhale CO2 and collectively the amounts are staggering. Human beings alone exhale around 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually. But here’s the thing; the carbon exhaled by all animals, including dragons, is the same carbon that was “inhaled” from the atmosphere by the plants they consumed.

This is just as true of carnivores; when we eat meat, we’re still eating the same carbon processed by plants, except that it reaches us after detouring through livestock or edible prey.

The only way to add to the carbon in the atmosphere is to take it from a sequestered source like fossil fuels, and burn it. Now animals are not known to eat coal and neither do they drink oil so they can not be the source of additional CO2 in the atmosphere. Or can they?

Might there be an exception to the lack of observations of carbon consuming fauna? Animals do not normally breath out fire but dragons do. What is the source of that fiery exhalation? Perhaps dragons do eat coal, perhaps they quench their thirst on vast hidden lakes of oil. This could be the key to our future survival. Funds must be allocated immediately to dragon research, we need to locate the dragons and study their metabolisms. Finding their feeding grounds may be the answer to vast new sources of energy without resorting to problematic seismic exploration and drilling.

A good place to start intensive dragon research might be near the sea bounding that misty island of Honnah Lee.

 

What Happened to the Ice Age

Earth Orbit Vs Climate

When I was a kid (in the 50s and 60s), people talked about Earth cooling rather than warming so much so that when I first heard about Global Warming causing Climate change I was confused as I wondered what had happened to those predictions of a looming Ice Age.

The climate changes in response to some external change or forcing. These forcings include changes in the intensity of the sun’s radiation, volcanic eruptions, rapid releases of greenhouse gases, and changes in Earth’s orbit.

The biggest climate changes in the past 800,000 years have been the ice-age cycles. These ice-age cycles are the result of slow changes in Earth’s orbit which alter the way the Sun’s energy is distributed on the Earth’s surface as a function of latitude and season.

Interestingly; in the absence of human-caused global warming, Earth’s current orbital changes would actually be cooling the planet. A 2009 study in the journal Science, “Recent Warming Reverses Long-Term Arctic Cooling,” found that prior to approximately 1900, the Arctic had been slowly cooling for some 2000 years, which was replaced by rapid warming only in the last century or so, driven by carbon pollution.

In the last 35 years of global warming, the sun and the climate have been going in opposite directions with the sun actually showing a slight cooling trend.

Carbon dioxide levels in the air have now passed 400 parts per million (ppm). The last time the Earth’s atmosphere was at 400 ppm of CO 2 was a few million years ago, long before Homo sapiens roamed the Earth. Back then, the climate was 2°C (3.6°F) to 3°C (5.4°F) above preindustrial temperatures, and sea level was some 15–25 meters (50–80 feet) above modern levels.

The world’s top scientists are confident that humans are responsible for so much of the warming because most of the naturally occurring forcings that affect global temperature would tend to be cooling the Earth rather than warming it.

To be perfectly clear: in the absence of human activity, the planet would likely have cooled in recent decades.

The sun’s level of activity tends to have a modest, cyclical impact on global temperatures but we have seen “the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century.

Volcanic activity in recent decades has released particles that partially block the sun and also serve to cool the planet slightly.

Finally, the underlying long-term temperature trend for the Earth as a function of changes in our orbit has been a very slow cooling.

Human activity has overwhelmed all of these trends and completely ended any speculations about a possible future ice age any time soon.

If facts don’t work, you can always try humor: click for the Dragon Theory of Climate Change

Biblical Climatology

WrathOfGod

Republican congressman John Shimkus denied that climate change was happening because it says so in the bible, he said that “we shouldn’t [be] concerned about the planet being destroyed because God promised Noah it wouldn’t happen again after the great flood”.

Televangelists David Barton and Kenneth Copeland disagree because God told them that climate change is happening and it is God’s punishment for our sins. “…the nation immediately falls under the judgment of God as He removes his protection and “whap, here comes storms like we’ve never seen before and here comes floods and here comes climate stuff that we can’t explain; all of the hot times and all the cold times and not enough rain and too much rain and we’re flooding over here and we’ve got droughts over here …”

American’s do not have a lock on thinking that sin influences weather and climate. Senior Church of England bishops have claimed that floods that have devastated swathes of the country [England] are God’s judgment on the immorality and greed of modern society . [Click here for report]

One diocesan bishop has even claimed that laws that have undermined marriage, including the introduction of pro-gay legislation, have provoked God to act by sending the storms that have left thousands of people homeless.

Nor is this linkage exclusively Christian. Seyyed Youssef Tabatabi-nejad, a senior Islamic cleric in Isfahan, Iran, has claimed that women dressing inappropriately is causing climate change. [Click here for report]

Fortunately most religious organizations  agree with the science and promote the view that climate change is real and we are the cause. A more rational view is taken by Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist and evangelical Christian.  Here: she explains what’s wrong about religious right. Muslims too are mostly on the side of science as far as climate change is concerned. [Click here for report]

[Click here] for an overview of the Climate change /Global warming controversy including references to the views of all sides.

[Click here] for an overview of Climate change denial

[Click here] and [Click here] for answers to arguments against the reality of Climate change and its causes.

Warning many of the references in these sites contain actual scientific data.

NOAA Data Falsification?

Did NOAA Falsify Temperature Data ?

The anti-science brigade and their Climate-change denying cohorts are at it again.

Specifically they claim that: “NOAA scientists upwardly adjusted temperature readings taken from the engine intakes of ships to eliminate the “hiatus” in global warming from the temperature record.”

They further claim that “This is a blatant attempt to politicize science by the administration and should be exposed for the dishonest research it is”.

Look at the accompanying graphic.

TemperatureDataAdjustments

The top graph (A) shows NOAA global surface temperature changes over the last 130 years. The data are shown with new corrections Vs old corrections and as you can see the differences are tiny.

The lower graph (B) shows the same data with raw (uncorrected) data Vs Corrected data. The temperature data are shifted upwards prior to 1940 but from then on the raw and corrected data are strikingly similar.

According to the raw, unadjusted data, global surface temperatures warmed about 0.9°C from 1880 to 2014. According to the new NOAA analysis, they warmed about 0.8°C during that time. That’s a bit more than in the previous version of NOAA’s data set (0.75°C), but the net effect of these adjustments is to reduce the overall estimated warming as compared to the raw data!

I’ll say that again: the net effect of these adjustments is to REDUCE the overall estimated warming as compared to the raw data!

If you wanted to exaggerate global warming you would simply show the uncorrected data set, because it says that the world has warmed up about 2.071 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880. The corrected data set lowers this estimate to about 1.65 degrees Fahrenheit.”

But why adjust/correct the data? Isn’t this just fudging the numbers? Isn’t the pure raw data more accurate?

Contrary to the conspiracy theories, climate scientists process the raw temperature data for an important reason – to remove biases that don’t represent real temperature changes. The big ones in the new NOAA analysis deals with changes in the ways ocean temperatures have been measured. They’ve been measured from water samples in insulated buckets, uninsulated buckets, from valves in ships’ hulls (I happen to be a world authority on valves in ship’s hulls), and from instruments on buoys. As is the case for all measurements, these disparate temperature observations have differing inherent measurement errors and biases.

Adjustment of raw observations is necessary to more closely approach the truth. This is not conspiracy it is Science.

Climate Change Denial

Climate Change

Have you noticed that when the potties attack climate change they never engage with the actual science. I don’t know whether it is because they know that the scientific evidence supporting climate change is virtually unassailable and that they are deliberately misrepresenting the evidence or that they actually don’t understand the science.

Take a typical attack by James Delingpole published on the breitbart web site in response to the recent Obama speech on climate change.

The President correctly stated that: “the overwhelming majority of scientists who work on climate change, including some who once disputed the data, have put that debate [the fact of anthropological climate change] to rest.”

Delingpole responded with: “scientific knowledge is not a numbers game. If it were, we would still be going with the majority view that tectonic plates are a myth, that stomach ulcers are caused by stress, that combustion is caused by phlogiston, that leeches can relieve fever, that malaria comes from the bad air in swamps, etc.”

Delingpole’s response completely misunderstands (or misrepresents); the scientific process, the evolutionary nature of science and the meaning of scientific consensus. A consensus in science is different from a political one. There is no vote. Scientists just give up arguing because the sheer weight of consistent evidence is too compelling, the tide too strong to swim against any longer.

Scientists change their minds on the basis of the evidence, and a consensus emerges over time. Not only do scientists stop arguing, they also start relying on each other’s work. All science depends on that which precedes it, and when one scientist builds on the work of another, he acknowledges the work of others through citations. The work underlying climate change science is cited with great frequency by many other scientists, demonstrating that the theory is widely accepted and relied upon.

Since 1991, around 14,000 papers have supported the theory that human causes are behind global warming (chiefly from burning fossil fuels over the past century), and just 24 papers rejected human causes. No scientific papers have taken the position that climate change is not happening.

Phlogiston was hypothesized in the 17th century as a fire-like element contained within combustible bodies that was released during combustion. Subsequent quantitative experiments revealed problems with the phlogiston hypothesis because some metals gained mass when they burned, even though they were supposed to have lost phlogiston. Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier showed in the 18th century that combustion requires a gas that has mass (oxygen) and could be measured by means of weighing closed vessels. The use of closed vessels also negated the buoyancy that had disguised the mass of the gases of combustion. These observations solved the mass paradox and set the stage for the new caloric theory of combustion. Other scientists repeated Lavoisier’s work and built on it until a consensus was reached and the phlogiston hypothesis was abandoned.

The German meteorologist Alfred Wegener suggested that the relative positions of the continents are not rigidly fixed but are slowly moving. His ideas of “continental drift” were not accepted by the scientific community because there was no hard evidence for a mechanism to support the hypothesis. It wasn’t until 1968 that Geophysicist Jack Oliver published seismological evidence supporting the modern theory of plate tectonics which encompassed and superseded Wegener’s continental drift theory. The tectonic plate theory has been extensively tested and has now achieved a scientific consensus on the basis of overwhelming evidence.

The supposed beneficial effects of leeches based on the humors hypothesis was the first victims of evidence based medicine. In 1809, just a decade after Washington had undergone bloodletting on his deathbed, a Scottish military surgeon called Alexander Hamilton set out to determine whether or not it was advisable to bleed patients. Hamilton succeeded in conducting the first randomized clinical trial on the effects of bloodletting. French doctor Pierre Louis, conduct his own trials and confirm Hamilton’s conclusions. These results repeatedly showed that bloodletting was not a lifesaver, but rather it was a potential killer.

That is essentially the story of all scientific theories, they are first postulated as an explanation of one or more observations. The hypothesis is tested against further experimental observations and as evidence supporting the hypothesis accumulates the hypothesis becomes widely accepted and eventually gets promoted to the status of a theory and achieves a scientific consensus. On the other hand if the accumulating evidence weighs against the hypothesis, the hypothesis falls by the wayside and is eventually abandoned in favor of a better idea. The scientific method is self correcting, bad ideas may persist for a while but sooner or later they will be destroyed by the self correcting process called the scientific method.

All Delingpole’s examples were failed hypotheses, unsupported by any scientific observation or analysis. The exact opposite of the current state of climate change science.

Some comments after I posted this on Facebook:

Mick Stormonth Nicely argued Eric

After all, when it comes to bullsh*t, your a recognised master.

Many organisms have changed the earth’s climate over time, why should we be any different?

James L Acker http://www.weeklystandard.com/…/climate-cultists_794401…

Eric Pickstone I have read the “”Climate Cultists” Link Jim. Just so that I understand the conservative position as stated by Steven F. Hayward. “Global warming by up to as much as 2 degrees would be no big deal, and possibly a net benefit”. Do I have it right ? Is that a fair statement of the Conservative position on Global Warming?

James L Acker Much more than that in the article. You’re a cultist, however

Eric Pickstone The article itself is quite emphatic in stating that ” If you strip away all of the noise from smaller scientific controversies that clutter the debate—arctic ice, extreme weather events, droughts, and so forth—the central issue is climate sensitivity: How much will average global temperature increase from adding a given level of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere?” and that ” Global warming by up to as much as 2 degrees would be no big deal, and possibly a net benefit”.

Eric Pickstone I am not sure what a cultist is beyond being a member of a small religious group following some sort of charismatic leader.

James L Acker Climate Cultists

Fake News?

It seems that Paramount pictures appended a disclaimer to both the film “Noah” and its promotional materials at the request of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB).

NRB board member Phil Cooke was quoted in part as saying that the disclaimer was necessary because the film is “historically inaccurate.”

I don’t think anyone would be surprised to hear that Hollywood movies are historically inaccurate but in the interests of fairness shouldn’t the same disclaimer be appended to any publication containing unsupported accounts such as the story of Noah ?

My world view may be wrong of course, perhaps there is a God and my sarcasm is dangerously misplaced. That being the case; no one could accuse this God of not having a sense of humor.   In a case of ‘epic’ irony,  a screening of the film Noah was cancelled due to flooding in a cinema.

The story of Noah is also used as support to counter Climate Science. Republican congressman John Shimkus denied that climate change was happening because it says so in the bible, he said that “we shouldn’t [be] concerned about the planet being destroyed because God promised Noah it wouldn’t happen again after the great flood”.

Fortunately most religious organizations  agree with the science and promote the view that climate change is real and we are the cause.

Republican Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz speaks at the Third Annual Champions of Jewish Values International Awards Gala after receiving a Defender of Israel award Thursday, May 28, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

A more rational view is taken by Katharine Hayhoe, a Texas based climate scientist and evangelical Christian to boot.  Here: she explains what’s wrong about religious right. Muslims too are mostly on the side of science as far as climate change is concerned. [Click here for report]

[Click here] for an overview of the Climate change /Global warming controversy including references to the views of all sides.

[Click here] for an overview of Climate change denial

[Click here] and [Click here] for answers to arguments against the reality of Climate change and its causes.

Warning many of the references in these sites contain actual scientific data.