Commentary Magazine


Topic: East Anglia Climate Research Unit

Climate in Wonderland

“[T]he different branches of arithmetic — Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.”
— The Mock Turtle, Lewis Carroll’s
Alice in Wonderland

The global climate debate bears an increasing resemblance to Alice’s interview with the White Queen. The world’s hardworking climate agencies can’t seem to issue a single proclamation without contrary evidence popping up, as if on cue, somewhere else. That doesn’t, of course, stop the agencies from issuing proclamations, however much they may deviate from the reality certified to a weary public by actual data.

After yesterday’s leak of the “Danish text,” a backroom proposal for a Copenhagen agreement that has the G-77 developing nations in an uproar, it looked like we had identified this climate summit’s Most Ridiculous Moment — and it was a wholly political one. But today the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has gone the authors of the Danish text one better and announced that the current decade, 2000-2009, is on track to be the “warmest since records began in 1850.”

One wonders whom the WMO imagines to be its audience for such a counterfactual pronouncement. More than one online news outlet has responded promptly with links to the celebrated reports from climate scientists in the past two years that global average temperatures have actually been falling since 1998.

But if that’s not enough to tone down the WMO, perhaps this is: a remarkable study performed by Australian Willis Eschenbach of temperature data from Darwin, on Australia’s north coast, in its raw versus “homogenized” state (h/t: Hot Air). The latter state reflects manipulation of the data by climate scientists at East Anglia University — Climategate U. — to homogenize it for the representation of long-term trends. Such homogenization is, in principle, a perfectly legitimate practice; but in my experience (largely dealing with wave propagation for maritime applications), the manipulation doesn’t, if performed properly, change the direction of the trend line of a data set.

Eschenbach’s eye-opening analysis shows that for the Darwin observation area, the homogenization of temperature data by the East Anglia Climate Research Unit produced a trend line that moves upward, whereas the raw temperature observations show a downward trend over the same 120-year period. Eschenbach’s summary is short, readable, and well worth the time. The graphics alone are head shakers. Not since McIntyre and McKittrick debunked the “Hockey Stick” graph have I seen such compelling evidence of the improper manipulation of climate data.

There just isn’t a “scientific” excuse for data homogenization to turn a long-term downward trend into an upward one. The “Climate in Wonderland” debate is taking Benjamin Disraeli’s famous aphorism about “lies, damned lies, and statistics” to a whole new level. There may be some comfort in the knowledge that this pattern in human discourse has been with us for some time. But Disraeli spoke from an era that had not yet seen Nazi Germany, the USSR, or Communist China. The cost of ignoring the statistical manipulation done to advance political causes has gone up exponentially since Disraeli’s century.

“[T]he different branches of arithmetic — Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.”
— The Mock Turtle, Lewis Carroll’s
Alice in Wonderland

The global climate debate bears an increasing resemblance to Alice’s interview with the White Queen. The world’s hardworking climate agencies can’t seem to issue a single proclamation without contrary evidence popping up, as if on cue, somewhere else. That doesn’t, of course, stop the agencies from issuing proclamations, however much they may deviate from the reality certified to a weary public by actual data.

After yesterday’s leak of the “Danish text,” a backroom proposal for a Copenhagen agreement that has the G-77 developing nations in an uproar, it looked like we had identified this climate summit’s Most Ridiculous Moment — and it was a wholly political one. But today the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has gone the authors of the Danish text one better and announced that the current decade, 2000-2009, is on track to be the “warmest since records began in 1850.”

One wonders whom the WMO imagines to be its audience for such a counterfactual pronouncement. More than one online news outlet has responded promptly with links to the celebrated reports from climate scientists in the past two years that global average temperatures have actually been falling since 1998.

But if that’s not enough to tone down the WMO, perhaps this is: a remarkable study performed by Australian Willis Eschenbach of temperature data from Darwin, on Australia’s north coast, in its raw versus “homogenized” state (h/t: Hot Air). The latter state reflects manipulation of the data by climate scientists at East Anglia University — Climategate U. — to homogenize it for the representation of long-term trends. Such homogenization is, in principle, a perfectly legitimate practice; but in my experience (largely dealing with wave propagation for maritime applications), the manipulation doesn’t, if performed properly, change the direction of the trend line of a data set.

Eschenbach’s eye-opening analysis shows that for the Darwin observation area, the homogenization of temperature data by the East Anglia Climate Research Unit produced a trend line that moves upward, whereas the raw temperature observations show a downward trend over the same 120-year period. Eschenbach’s summary is short, readable, and well worth the time. The graphics alone are head shakers. Not since McIntyre and McKittrick debunked the “Hockey Stick” graph have I seen such compelling evidence of the improper manipulation of climate data.

There just isn’t a “scientific” excuse for data homogenization to turn a long-term downward trend into an upward one. The “Climate in Wonderland” debate is taking Benjamin Disraeli’s famous aphorism about “lies, damned lies, and statistics” to a whole new level. There may be some comfort in the knowledge that this pattern in human discourse has been with us for some time. But Disraeli spoke from an era that had not yet seen Nazi Germany, the USSR, or Communist China. The cost of ignoring the statistical manipulation done to advance political causes has gone up exponentially since Disraeli’s century.

Read Less

Tivoli Gardens, Anyone?

That whooshing sound you hear in the distance is the air coming out of the balloon called Anthropogenic Global Warming.

It began with the hacking of a computer network at the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit, one of the premier climate-research centers in the world, on November 17. The hacking (or perhaps it was a whistleblower leak — as far as I know, it is not yet clear which) resulted in the posting of more than a 1,000 e-mail messages among scientists at the very center of the AGW alarm. They were, to put it mildly, embarrassing, revealing narrow-mindedness, the deliberate attempt to suppress the publication in the peer-reviewed literature of articles that did not fit the AGW agenda, and attempts to keep dissenting scientists from seeing the basis of their conclusions. A good summary of events up to now can be found here.

But these e-mails , however damaging, were not a smoking gun, just evidence of bad behavior. Scientists, of course, can be careless with word choice, nasty, vindictive, and driven to win the argument at all costs, just like the rest of us.

But today the Times of London has published a revelation that, if not a smoking gun, is pretty close. The University of East Anglia scientists had refused numerous attempts by other scientists they regarded as unfriendly to see the raw data. But when confronted with a freedom-of-information-act request (Britain now has a FOIA, too), they were forced to admit that they had thrown away much of the raw data upon which their conclusions regarding global warming over the past 150 years had been based.

In order to make such data consistent, it needs to be adjusted in various ways, and there is nothing nefarious about that. (The adjustment might be as simple as converting Fahrenheit to Celsius. Or say a weather station that had been located out in a potato field when it was installed in 1927 now finds itself behind a strip mall in a densely populated suburb. The data over the past 82 years would obviously need to be adjusted to take into account the fact that a suburban strip mall is inherently more heat-producing than a potato field.)

But without the raw data, it is impossible to check the work, and checking each other’s work lies at the very heart of the scientific method. Without the raw data, the adjusted data is useless. So if the destruction of the raw data was accidental, it was inexcusable. If it was deliberate, it was a scientific felony. If the data is now irretrievably lost, it is a tragedy.

Roger Simon suggests calling off the meeting  in Copenhagen scheduled for December 7, as the delegates really have nothing to discuss. That would be a blow to Copenhagen, to be sure, as the delegations from 192 countries will be spending a lot of money. But, as Roger points out, Copenhagen is a city with many charms, and Tivoli Gardens is well worth a visit on its own. Better they enjoy those charms at our expense than cost the world trillions in foregone economic growth for no good reason.

That whooshing sound you hear in the distance is the air coming out of the balloon called Anthropogenic Global Warming.

It began with the hacking of a computer network at the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit, one of the premier climate-research centers in the world, on November 17. The hacking (or perhaps it was a whistleblower leak — as far as I know, it is not yet clear which) resulted in the posting of more than a 1,000 e-mail messages among scientists at the very center of the AGW alarm. They were, to put it mildly, embarrassing, revealing narrow-mindedness, the deliberate attempt to suppress the publication in the peer-reviewed literature of articles that did not fit the AGW agenda, and attempts to keep dissenting scientists from seeing the basis of their conclusions. A good summary of events up to now can be found here.

But these e-mails , however damaging, were not a smoking gun, just evidence of bad behavior. Scientists, of course, can be careless with word choice, nasty, vindictive, and driven to win the argument at all costs, just like the rest of us.

But today the Times of London has published a revelation that, if not a smoking gun, is pretty close. The University of East Anglia scientists had refused numerous attempts by other scientists they regarded as unfriendly to see the raw data. But when confronted with a freedom-of-information-act request (Britain now has a FOIA, too), they were forced to admit that they had thrown away much of the raw data upon which their conclusions regarding global warming over the past 150 years had been based.

In order to make such data consistent, it needs to be adjusted in various ways, and there is nothing nefarious about that. (The adjustment might be as simple as converting Fahrenheit to Celsius. Or say a weather station that had been located out in a potato field when it was installed in 1927 now finds itself behind a strip mall in a densely populated suburb. The data over the past 82 years would obviously need to be adjusted to take into account the fact that a suburban strip mall is inherently more heat-producing than a potato field.)

But without the raw data, it is impossible to check the work, and checking each other’s work lies at the very heart of the scientific method. Without the raw data, the adjusted data is useless. So if the destruction of the raw data was accidental, it was inexcusable. If it was deliberate, it was a scientific felony. If the data is now irretrievably lost, it is a tragedy.

Roger Simon suggests calling off the meeting  in Copenhagen scheduled for December 7, as the delegates really have nothing to discuss. That would be a blow to Copenhagen, to be sure, as the delegations from 192 countries will be spending a lot of money. But, as Roger points out, Copenhagen is a city with many charms, and Tivoli Gardens is well worth a visit on its own. Better they enjoy those charms at our expense than cost the world trillions in foregone economic growth for no good reason.

Read Less