The Climatic Blog War of 2007

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There is a war of words going on between two scientific blogs over my project at www.surfacestations.org. The RealClimate blog, operated by pro AGW global warming scientists Penn State’s Dr. Michael Mann and NASA’s Dr. Gavin Schmidt, and others, has posted a six point rebuttal to the effort saying that it is only marginally useful. It’s called “No Man is an (Urban Heat) Island”.

Dr. Roger Pielke, of the University of Colorado, runs a blog called Climate Science which looks at a wide variety of topics on climate change outside of the AGW mainstream, has posted his response to RealClimate’s rebuttal in defense of the project saying its good science. The debate is intense, and some normally reserved scientists are letting the fur fly over the issue. There’s sensible debate, science at high levels, diatribe, rhetoric, and even a “Tasker” like character who is a scientist for a major university that uses a doppelganger persona to attack ideas rather than risk his own credentials.

All because I want to take some pictures of weather stations and put them online in a publicly open database for the purpose of evaluating the weather station network and it’s data integrity. Go figure.

I guess I should be flattered that people are fighting over my idea, but I’d really rather just get on with the project and see what comes out of it. I figure that the established science should be able to withstand the scrutiny of a former TV weatherman and some volunteers taking pictures. If not, there’s something really wrong. I’m not getting involved in the bickering, I’m just keeping to the work I and the volunteers have started. We are almost up to 100 stations surveyed now.

But I did find a nugget of wisdom in this entry on Climate Science which clears the air rather nicely:

If a [weather station] site is initially chosen because it meets all the qualifications for observing temperature, there is little about the site that could change to develop a cool bias. Almost all the changes will result in a warming trend from the original, ideal setting.

Natural changes such as the growth of trees and shrubs, reduce the clear sky radiation, resulting in a warming trend. Man made changes, such as increased building and paving in and around the site, also results in a warming trend that is unrelated to any potential climate change. Finally, deterioration of the shelter housing the instruments also leads to an artificial warming.

Any correction of these potential warming factors simply returns the site to its initial, ideal state. The only way to get an artificial cooling is to start with a less than ideal setting for recording air temperature and improve it. While this may have happened in a few locations, it is obvious that the gradual degradation of recording sites is the norm.

The calculations of the temperature increase due to increasing CO2 are theory, which can only be verified with actual, accurate data. Those who claim that the accuracy of the data is not relevant are, in effect, defending a theory against reality, which is faith, not science.

I know that supporters of the AGW theory get very upset when they are accused of behaving in a religious fashion, instead of behaving like scientists. To avoid this, I suggest they start behaving like scientists and support the effort to obtain the best data possible.

Comment by Jim Clarke — July 4, 2007 @ 6:23 pm

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9 thoughts on “The Climatic Blog War of 2007

  1. Those who claim that the accuracy of the data is not relevant are, in effect, defending a theory against reality, which is faith, not science. **
    I know that supporters of the AGW theory get very upset when they are accused of behaving in a religious fashion, instead of behaving like scientists. To avoid this, I suggest they start behaving like scientists and support the effort to obtain the best data possible.

    Isn’t it amazing how simple statements cancut through the BS…it’s soothing to the ears and the mind!

    Good for you for simply following your passion.It doesn’t surprise me a bit that you captured the attention of others…you weren’t looking to do that. Good going!

  2. Well-said, Jim.

    Unfortinately I doubt anything will change. Too many egos are involved, and apparently they are afraid to admit there might be a problem with the data they rely upon so much.

  3. Have a read of the USHCN methods and you’ll see the point of attack is “The difference series are calculated between each target station series and a number (up to 40) of highly correlated series from nearby stations.” as this is where the trend from a warm station will be discounted. If all (or many) of the correlated stations have poor siting causing a warming trend, well, there you go.

  4. I have absolutely no idea whay a scientist would not want to periodically check the instruments which he is obtaining data from for accuracy (calibrate). As a physician, this seems that it would be necessary before making conclusions about the Data. Gary

  5. In the 70’s and 80’s I worked on several high energy physics projects as an electronic/computer systems technician in charge of data acquisition and diagnostic systems. Everything from the detectors, through the data path, to the recording instruments were checked for error and accuracy on a regular basis.

    Now, imagine a physicist arguing that this equipment need not be checked and conform to certain standards.

    He would not have only been be laughed at, he would have been fired.

    It seems to that more than a few climate “scientists” ought to be terminated.

  6. I bristle at their denigration of the “volunteers,” as if Larry, Joe and Curly are out there mucking it all up. And pissing off the private COOP station observers to boot.

    Here’s a bet: greater than 80 percent of the surfacestation.org volunteers have a background in science or engineering and understand perfectly well the issues involved. (I will win because I recognize many thru their intelligent postings elsewhere.)

    Maybe a poll would be in order.

  7. I encourage Joel McDade to continue to defend and champion surface temperature measuring installations that do not conform to established standards. His efforts will speak for themselves.

  8. I’m an intense skeptic, but I’m not a ‘denier’. I would genuinely like to know whether the warming trend claimed is true.

    So I’m interested in the reference in ‘USHCN methods’ to testing sites to data from ‘correlated sites’ — does anyone know: ‘highly correlated’ to what…?

  9. Sorry, pardon my slow thought processes…

    Obviously, the sites are correlated with each other, not an independent data source.

    So, presuming they are correlated to each other, how does that eliminate bad data? Since no two sites will be an exact match, couldn’t a lot of bad data slip through, as long as they were within a threshhold – ie. not complete outliers.

    Conversely, if in many areas, a sufficient number of sites or clusters of sites are contaminated (a strong possiblility I would assume), couldn’t that lead to good sites being omitted, as they wouldn’t correlate with their neighbours?

    (By the way, I just read through the whole comments section of that RealClimate post, as I have done several times before. Those guys really do themselves a disservice with their haughty attitude and many obfuscations.)

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