More “Complicated” Data on Global Warming

Journalists last week were eager to amplify a new study in Nature to report conclusively that the anomaly of Antarctica’s not warming has now been disproven. See “All Antarctica Seems to be Warming, Report Says,” by San Francisco Chronicle Science Editor David Perlman, and “Study: Antarctica Joins Rest of Globe in Warming,” by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer.

As the AP article notes, the methodology used for the study is questionable:

The researchers used satellite data and mathematical formulas to fill in missing information. That made outside scientists queasy about making large conclusions with such sparse information.

“This looks like a pretty good analysis, but I have to say I remain somewhat skeptical,” Kevin Trenberth, climate analysis chief at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said in an e-mail. “It is hard to make data where none exist.” [Emphasis added]

It’s worth noting that one of the study’s co-authors is Michael Mann—perhaps best known as the man behind the notorious “Hockey Stick,” an earlier attempt to use such “proxy data” in support of the hypothesis of anthropomorphic global warming.

In fact, despite the “science is in” declarations of both headlines, as the AP story allows there remains much dissent over the matter, as well as unexplained internal data discrepancies:

East Antarctica, which scientists had long thought to be cooling, is warming slightly when yearly averages are looked at over the past 50 years, said [study co-author Eric] Steig.

However, autumn temperatures in east Antarctica are cooling over the long term. And east Antarctica from the late 1970s through the 1990s, cooled slightly, Steig said.

Some researchers skeptical about the magnitude of global warming overall said that the new study didn’t match their measurements from satellites and that there appears to be no warming in Antarctica since 1980.

“It overstates what they have obtained from their analysis,” said Roger Pielke, Sr., a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Colorado.

Interestingly, no such dissenting views are included in the Chronicle account of the study, which uses such non-scientific wording as “the issue has apparently been resolved.” Indeed, the article quotes only one scientist other than the study’s authors, who expresses his “opinion that anthropogenic impacts . . . are having a discernible impact on Antarctic climate variability and will continue to do so.” [Emphasis added]

The Chronicle article offers a simplified overview of the study’s methodology, and says:

The result, Steig said, was a combined record clearly showing that East Antarctica, too has been warming over the past 50 years—although warming on the continent’s western side has been twice as rapid.

The article’s author then concludes, “While the numbers are complicated, the team’s evidence indicates that over the entire Antarctic continent . . . the average temperature increase for the past 50 years has been half a degree Celsius . . .”—eerily echoing that Godfather of all obfuscation of science, Al Gore, in his Academy Award-winning “An Inconvenient Truth.” Displaying his famous Temperature vs. CO2-levels graph, Gore said: “Their relationship is actually very complicated, but there is one relationship that is far more powerful than all the others, and it is this: When there is more carbon dioxide, the temperature gets warmer.” What the scale he chose to use and his explanation both left out was the actual causal relationship: temperature rises precede rises in carbon dioxide by, on average, 800 years. He thus ought more accurately have said, “When the temperature gets warmer, there is more carbon dioxide.”

I guess it’s lucky for we mere mortals that there are Science editors who can take all these “complicated” (conflicting?) data and simplify them into nice black-and-white “consensus.”

Unfortunately, such editors have more work to do, as the number of scientists skeptical of a so-called Global Warming “consensus” continues to grow: “More Than 650 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims

However, luckily for the Global Warming lobby, Obama’s proposed “stimulus” package reportedly includes $400 million for NASA scientists to conduct climate change research. Not exactly a disinterested entity, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies is a proponent of a federal carbon tax to redistribute massive amounts of wealth. The $400 million for increased research will presumably provide more “data” to further such politicized agendas.

Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute. Having received her A.B. in economics from Stanford University, she is Managing Director of Lightning Ventures, L.P., a San Francisco Bay Area investment firm, former Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Salvation Army of both San Francisco and Alameda County, and Vice President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California.
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