NASA'S Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) is one of the world's primary sources for climate data. GISS issues regular updates on world temperatures based on their analysis of temperature readings from thousands of monitoring stations over the globe.
GISS’ most recent data release originally reported last October as being extraordinarily warm-- a full 0.78C above normal. This would have made it the warmest October on record; a huge increase over the previous month's data.
Those results set off alarm bells with Steve McIntyre and his gang of Baker Street irregulars at Climateaudit.org. They noted that NASA's data didn't agree at all with the satellite temperature record, which showed October to be very mild, continuing the same trend of slight cooling that has persisted since 1998. So they dug a little deeper.
McIntyre, the same man who found errors last year in GISS's US temperature record, quickly noted that most of the temperature increase was coming from Russia. A chart of world temperatures showed that in October, most of Russia, the largest nation on Earth, was not only registering hot, but literally off the scale. Yet anecdotal reports were suggesting that worldwide, October was actually slightly colder than normal. Could there be another error in GISS's data?
An alert reader on McIntyre's blog revealed that there was a very large problem. Looking at the actual readings from individual stations in Russia showed a curious anomaly. The locations had all been assigned the exact temperatures from a month earlier-- the much warmer month of September. Russia cools very rapidly in the fall months, so recycling the data from the earlier month had led to a massive temperature increase.
A few locations in Ireland were also found to be using September data.
Steve McIntyre informed GISS of the error by email. According to McIntyre, there was no response, but within "about an hour", GISS pulled down the erroneous data, citing a "mishap" and pointing the finger of blame upstream to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration (NOAA).
NOAA's Deputy Director of Communications, Scott Smullens, tells DailyTech that NOAA is responsible only for temperature readings in the US, not those in other nations.
The error not only affected October data, but due to the complex algorithm GISS uses to convert actual temperature readings into their output results, altered the previously published values for several other months as well. The values for August 2008, for instance, changed by 0.11C and the global anomaly as far back as 2005 increased by a hundredth of a degree.
GISS is run by Dr. James Hansen, a strident global warming advocate who has accused oil companies of "crimes against humanity". Hansen recently made headlines when he travelled to London to testify on behalf of a group of environmentalists who had damaged a coal plant in protest against global warming. Hansen also serves as science advisor to Al Gore.
Dr. Hansen could not be reached for comment.
quote: “Now suppose that, based on my model, I'm demanding that your new convention center be only 100,000 square feet, that it be completely underground, and that it be lighted only with bio-luminescent fungus because my model clearly shows that convention centers are destroying the Earth. Remember that my model, while accurately modeling earlier times, has been a miserable failure in predicting energy usage in the twenty years I've been using it.”
quote: “I think most reasonable people would say I'm not going to radically change my proposed convention center until your model can do a better job at predicting new buildings. In other words, I'm not convinced there IS a problem to fix vis-a-vis climate (although I agree that reductions in CO2 would be good for many things, from acid rain to ocean acidification, and that research in that direction should be solid.)”
quote: by Catalyst on November 16, 2008 at 2:35 AMSNIPquote:“I think most reasonable people would say I'm not going to radically change my proposed convention center until your model can do a better job at predicting new buildings. In other words, I'm not convinced there IS a problem to fix vis-a-vis climate (although I agree that reductions in CO2 would be good for many things, from acid rain to ocean acidification, and that research in that direction should be solid.)”This statement reflects the heart of what I am interested in. Built into the first part of the argument (and most like it) is the false assumption that the status quo unquestionably represents best practices, and paradoxically that the burden of proof of no harm falls upon those who want to avert pollution. If you are undertaking an action that you know is damaging (polluting), clearly the burden of proof falls on you to demonstrate that doing so would not have deleterious effects. If there is evidence that there is significant impact, the burden is again on you to remediate or eliminate that impact. This is the logical position, but not the one taken by most climate skeptics when arguing the conclusions they draw from the matter. It seems to indicate that the issue for them is ideological or dogmatic and not with the science portion of the equation. The tone also seems to indicate that even if the science were irrefutable, they would take issue with having to change their stance. This seeming inflexibility is what I find odd in the normally future forward tech community. I wonder does this come from the business side or are there specific influential leaders in the tech crowd that shape the community view?