Taking a bite out of climate data

The Dog Ate Global Warming

Interpreting climate data can be hard enough. What if some key data have been fiddled?

By Patrick J. Michaels, National Review Online

http://enviralment.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/dog-ate-my-homework.jpg

Imagine if there were no reliable records of global surface temperature. Raucous policy debates such as cap-and-trade would have no scientific basis, Al Gore would at this point be little more than a historical footnote, and President Obama would not be spending this U.N. session talking up a (likely unattainable) international climate deal in Copenhagen in December.

Steel yourself for the new reality, because the data needed to verify the gloom-and-doom warming forecasts have disappeared.

Or so it seems. Apparently, they were either lost or purged from some discarded computer. Only a very few people know what really happened, and they aren’t talking much. And what little they are saying makes no sense.

In the early 1980s, with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, scientists at the United Kingdom’s University of East Anglia established the Climate Research Unit (CRU) to produce the world’s first comprehensive history of surface temperature. It’s known in the trade as the “Jones and Wigley” record for its authors, Phil Jones and Tom Wigley, and it served as the primary reference standard for the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) until 2007. It was this record that prompted the IPCC to claim a “discernible human influence on global climate.”

Putting together such a record isn’t at all easy. Weather stations weren’t really designed to monitor global climate. Long-standing ones were usually established at points of commerce, which tend to grow into cities that induce spurious warming trends in their records. Trees grow up around thermometers and lower the afternoon temperature. Further, as documented by the University of Colorado’s Roger Pielke Sr., many of the stations themselves are placed in locations, such as in parking lots or near heat vents, where artificially high temperatures are bound to be recorded.

So the weather data that go into the historical climate records that are required to verify models of global warming aren’t the original records at all. Jones and Wigley, however, weren’t specific about what was done to which station in order to produce their record, which, according to the IPCC, showed a warming of 0.6° +/– 0.2°C in the 20th century.

Now begins the fun. Warwick Hughes, an Australian scientist, wondered where that “+/–” came from, so he politely wrote Phil Jones in early 2005, asking for the original data. Jones’s response to a fellow scientist attempting to replicate his work was, “We have 25 years or so invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?”

Reread that statement, for it is breathtaking in its anti-scientific thrust. In fact, the entire purpose of replication is to “try and find something wrong.” The ultimate objective of science is to do things so well that, indeed, nothing is wrong.

Then the story changed. In June 2009, Georgia Tech’s Peter Webster told Canadian researcher Stephen McIntyre that he had requested raw data, and Jones freely gave it to him. So McIntyre promptly filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the same data. Despite having been invited by the National Academy of Sciences to present his analyses of millennial temperatures, McIntyre was told that he couldn’t have the data because he wasn’t an “academic.” So his colleague Ross McKitrick, an economist at the University of Guelph, asked for the data. He was turned down, too.

Faced with a growing number of such requests, Jones refused them all, saying that there were “confidentiality” agreements regarding the data between CRU and nations that supplied the data. McIntyre’s blog readers then requested those agreements, country by country, but only a handful turned out to exist, mainly from Third World countries and written in very vague language.

It’s worth noting that McKitrick and I had published papers demonstrating that the quality of land-based records is so poor that the warming trend estimated since 1979 (the first year for which we could compare those records to independent data from satellites) may have been overestimated by 50 percent. Webster, who received the CRU data, published studies linking changes in hurricane patterns to warming (while others have found otherwise).

Enter the dog that ate global warming.

Roger Pielke Jr., an esteemed professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, then requested the raw data from Jones. Jones responded:

Since the 1980s, we have merged the data we have received into existing series or begun new ones, so it is impossible to say if all stations within a particular country or if all of an individual record should be freely available. Data storage availability in the 1980s meant that we were not able to keep the multiple sources for some sites, only the station series after adjustment for homogeneity issues. We, therefore, do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (i.e., quality controlled and homogenized) data.

The statement about “data storage” is balderdash. They got the records from somewhere. The files went onto a computer. All of the original data could easily fit on the 9-inch tape drives common in the mid-1980s. I had all of the world’s surface barometric pressure data on one such tape in 1979.

If we are to believe Jones’s note to the younger Pielke, CRU adjusted the original data and then lost or destroyed them over twenty years ago. The letter to Warwick Hughes may have been an outright lie. After all, Peter Webster received some of the data this year. So the question remains: What was destroyed or lost, when was it destroyed or lost, and why?

All of this is much more than an academic spat. It now appears likely that the U.S. Senate will drop cap-and-trade climate legislation from its docket this fall — whereupon the Obama Environmental Protection Agency is going to step in and issue regulations on carbon-dioxide emissions. Unlike a law, which can’t be challenged on a scientific basis, a regulation can. If there are no data, there’s no science. U.S. taxpayers deserve to know the answer to the question posed above.

— Patrick J. Michaels is a senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute and author of Climate of Extremes: Global Warming Science They Don’t Want You to Know.

h/t to WUWT reader Bill Kurdziel

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James Allison

This story just gets better every time I read it. I’m not familiar with NRO is it widely read?

Jonathan

My own FOI attempt to obtain a copy of the Webster data is still ongoing. More details at http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=6825#comment-356831

“Facts? We don’t need no stinkin’ facts. We know we are right. We “are” science. Therefore, the science is settled.”

jack mosevich

Quote from the article:
“Further, as documented by the University of Colorado’s Roger Pielke Sr., many of the stations themselves are placed in locations, such as in parking lots or near heat vents, where artificially high temperatures are bound to be recorded”.
Should this not refer to Anthony Watts ? Or did Roger Pielke also perform such an audit?

mike sander

What happened here? Anybody know about this “spike”.
http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/meant80n.uk.php

Jeff Wood

As a Brit, I have alternately cringed with embarrassment and erupted with anger as this shoddy tale has unfolded.

Henry chance

All I want for Christmas is peer review.
This chap is afraid of peer review. he knows very well why he is afraid of sharing details. When lawsuits start flying against the EPA, they of course can obtain a court order for the data. I am sure the legal eagles at the EPA will want to have raw data and more before they sieze control of emissions.

Thomas J. Arnold.

The plot thickens!
I do not pupport to be an expert but I certainly can smell the whiff of ‘dodgy scientific’ process, damned lies maybe.
Mr. McIntyre is an exhaustive and perceptive investigator, a mathematician and a good one at that. If he was on my case I would worry, because he senses concoction (BS), I’ve mentioned the perception (not unfounded) of lack of scientific rigour at East Anglia. These revelations do not surprise me. The manic drive to secure funding at seemingly any cost, means the defenestration of real science.
Is any politician listening? Answer – there came none.

Incredible. There is so little science to back up the theory, now there is even less. The scale moves even further in support of the skeptics.

“We have 25 years or so invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?”
Some people call this “junk science”, surely it is more accurate to remove the word science and simply call it “junk”?

Greg Cantrell

It is a sad day to be sure. Everybody put your tin hats on. I think the conspiracy theories maybe true.

Benier duster

[snip – if you wish to make those accusations against Mr. Michaels, put your name to your words so that they can be properly attributed to you]

Peter Dunford

In the UK our government has systematically attacked civil liberties over the last 12 years. Every new intrusion or requirement is justified on the basis that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.
EM Smith has recently speculated about “group think” in the people re-constructing the temperature record, and that probably 10 people in 4 groups are responsible:
http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/09/14/gistemp-pas-dun-coup/
Jones’ behavior is at best unprofessional. At worst – well, surely he doesn’t have anything to hide?

None of this is new to regular readers of CA and WUWT, but when assembled into a narrative like this it is breath-taking nonetheless. I predict that the responses to this will be to talk about the worthiness of the National Review and the Cato institute rather than address the not-so-thinly veiled charges Michaels is making.

Greg, San Diego, CA

Somewhat OT – speaking of temperature date, what is with the spike in the Arctic temperature according to the DMI site? Gremlins, gauge failure, or is Jones messing with those records also?

Thomas J. Arnold.

Doh-purport! spell checker gone awol, s’whatyougetwhenyourush.

Peter Dunford

Henry chance said (14:29:00) :
“All I want for Christmas is peer review.”
No good, the peer review would probably be done by people working on GISSTemp.

mike sander (14:15:34) :
Mike, the spike looks shocking when compared to the averaged curve, but clicking on the years to the left of the graph shows that dramatic ups and downs are quite common. I’ll get worried if it spikes above the melt line.

Michael Jankowski

jack mosevich (14:14:43) : Work done by Pielke based on some station visits in Colorado was the first I’d ever seen done on the subject of site-specific issues. I think this was it (from 2004) http://ams.allenpress.com/archive/1520-0477/86/4/pdf/i1520-0477-86-4-497.pdf

Michael Jankowski

…or maybe 2005 🙂

Ray

I can only wonder what the scientists in 100-200 years will say when looking back at the temperature data… “We have this huge hole in the data, what did they think? But luckily, we now have a computer model that can produce data where there were erased data.”

Joseph Murphy

[quote] Henry chance (14:29:00) :[/quote]
The EPA is a government agency. They are more concerned with expanding their reach than whether or not they are justified to do so.

Thanks Patrick for telling the tale so succinctly. For those who are unfamiliar with Patrick, he has for a long time been posting in climate issues at:
http://www.worldclimatereport.com/

Al Gore's Holy Hologram

All businesses and individuals who are asked to pay for carbon allowances, credits or are told they will need to operate on a ration, need to band together to take government to court and challenge the science right there. Make the case big, so big that the media can’t even try to ignore it without looking far more Orwellian than they already are.

Tenuc

Another good example of the shoddy scientific method which lies behind much of the ‘consensus’ AGW Climatology. The time is long over-due for one of our senior icons of science to take this on, for example Freeman Dyson, so the ineptitude (or worse) can be exposed publicly.
The whole AGW house of cards is starting to totter. Removal of this foundation card will bring the whole lot down.

Adam from Kansas

The spike on the DMI graph has leveled out now with today’s update, usually on that graph what goes up must go down, a down-spike shouldn’t be too far away.

Supercritical

As I understand it, the Admiralty has recently released hundreds of years of global temperature records, contained in the RN ship’s daily logs. Why not use those records instead; they will not need ‘adjusting’.
And then it will be possible to see how ‘accurate’ the CRU claim of ‘global warming’ actually is….
Shouldn’t take too long.

crosspatch

Well, according to the front page of FoxNews.com right this minute, both Greenland and Antarctica are experiencing “runaway” melting.
This despite the fact that there is more Antarctic and Arctic ice today than there was a year ago on this date. Go figure.

timetochooseagain

jack mosevich (14:14:43) : Roger was the first person to note that many stations were poorly sited in the literature-back in 2005:
http://www.climatesci.org/publications/pdf/R-274.pdf
Anthony is waiting to finish his analysis I believe before trying to get published anywhere, but truth be told, you ALL deserve credit. And by you all, I mean all the surveyors.

Dr A Burns

Just staggering. When you throw in this stuff; pro nuclear Thatcher hatching Hadley; Hansen; hockey sticks; The Maldives; and other AGW scams, I can see the makings of a best seller.

George E. Smith

Well am I the only one who is sensing some “go straight to jail” skullduggery starting to come to light here.
And all this time I have only worried that they were ignoring the Nyquist theorem.
Now it appears they aren’t even that smart; and just making up data as they go along; well new stories anyway.
Maybe comparing “climate science” to “ancient astrology” is an insult to ancient astrology.
Gee if it ain’t Dr Roy Spencer pointing outr the varmints, it is Dr Patrick Michaels to the rescue.

It sure would be nice if there was some organization doing real climate science; taking mesurements, accumulating data, saving the data, making it available to everyone, letting others argue about what it means… Science-y stuff. If one was set up now then in a few decades we would have a few decades of data that everyone could use. Too bad it won’t happen.

PaulH

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
It looks like that evidence never actually existed, extraordinary or otherwise.

rickM

I view these revelations as breathtaking admissions and analogous to a house of cards lacking the carsd that make up the foundation.
The question that must follow is: “Now what?”

Ubique of Perth

Global warming caused the data to spontaneously combust.

Robinson

I prefer the cock-up theory to the conspiracy theory here. I think the management of the data has been slapdash and nobody bothered to keep proper records. Oh dear!

Dave Wendt

Greg, San Diego, CA (14:42:48) :
Somewhat OT – speaking of temperature date, what is with the spike in the Arctic temperature according to the DMI site? Gremlins, gauge failure, or is Jones messing with those records also?
Robert E. Phelan (14:45:21) :
mike sander (14:15:34) :
Mike, the spike looks shocking when compared to the averaged curve, but clicking on the years to the left of the graph shows that dramatic ups and downs are quite common. I’ll get worried if it spikes above the melt line.
In browsing thru the DMI temp archive a while back there seemed to me to be a recurring pattern of upspikes in temp coinciding with both of the equinoxes. The upticks show up frequently, if not consistently, and in the case of the vernal equinox they would seem to make some sense, as the Sun is at that point emerging from its Winter slumber. Conversely, at the autumnal equinox the Sun disappears, as it just has, which makes those rises in temp rather counterintuitive, at least in my estimation. Has anyone ever seen a reasonable explanation of these seemingly common jumps in temp at this point in the calendar?

MartinGAtkins

Mr. McIntyre is an exhaustive and perceptive investigator, a mathematician and a good one at that. If he was on my case I would worry,

If people like McIntyre are on your case there is be no need to worry.

Back2Bat

“Why not use those records instead; they will not need ‘adjusting’. ”
Excellent idea.

Evan Jones

For the US, the raw USHCN data shows an average of +0.14C warming per station. With TOBS adjustments, the average is +0.31. With FILNET it is +0.59.
I figure the Global data would show much the same. Arguably, some sort of TOBS adjustment is necessary. But as for the rest . . .

chillybean

Henry chance (14:29:00) :
All I want for Christmas is peer review.
Be careful what you wish for. If enough people search the term there will soon be a gay stripper called ‘Peer review’ that gives the girls/boys what they want.

Philip_B

The Global Warming, Climate Change, AGW, call it what you will, story in a nutshell is,
Data of questionable accuracy influenced by many effects was processed and adjusted by Jones et al’s secret algorithm, fed in climate models of unknown validity to produce the projections/predictions that the greenleft promoted as a vehicle for the transnational policies they wanted through the UN’s IPCC.
What is remarkable is the world’s politicians allowed themselves to be stampeded into this psuedo-scientific charade. But then arguably the most serious problem in all democracies is that public policy invariably gets captured by special interest groups.

Back2Bat

Don’t you guys understand? What is the point of being rich if your country club is crowded or the grass is damaged?
It’s as simple as this. The bankers have created a lot of destruction with their government backed cartel and now fear they may have damaged the planet too much.
But don’t worry. They are willing that the poor should suffer to make up for it.

D. King

“…issues. We, therefore, do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (i.e., quality controlled and homogenized) data. …”
Yep, they kept the cooked data and the dog got raw data.

Mark

I can’t believe these believers, thinking that they are going to significantly alter our way of life over science of which part of it has been closed off to independent reviewers.
Yeah right. Bring it on…

Robert Wood

Robert E. Phelan @14:42:14
I agree with you. The novelty here is that Michaels is pointing out that any EPA regulation of CO2 will be at risk, vulnerable to law suite, if the supporting data aren’t available.

I’ve made it clear time and again that the Jones data will not contain any big surprises, but it will almost certainly be subject to some very interesting statistical treatments that might not be straight out of the stats textbook.

Robert Wood

Supercritical @15:18:29
Hansen and Jones are already plotting the corrections required to make the Admiralty data “trustworthy”.

The nonsense of the 1850 (Hadley) and 1880 (GISS) temperatures are something I have often written of here. (Although global temperatures have nothing on the highly embroidered ‘tidal gauges to 1700’ information the IPCC use in their assessments)
Sometime ago I bought the archives of GS Callendar who -as well as his seminal work on co2- was also a noted amateur meterologist. He complained about the very small number of reliable weather stations on which to base his work, and the fact that stations were often closed, moved, new uncalibrated equipment installed, and generally the data was highly inconsistent.
In 1850 in the whole of the NH there were 60 weather stations and in the SH there were 10. G S Callendar wrote his co2 thesis in 1938 and used only a total of 200 stations worldwide, many of which he was not impressed with.
By about 1900 we theoretically had 50% coverage in the NH (if you accept very large gridded squares as ample coverage) and it took until 1940 for the same in the SH.
The SST has been hotly contested due to the nature of the ships data being used-you might have followed the long debate on CA about Buckets and water intakes. (As an aside, quite by chance I met someone who served on a ship and took these water temperatures and the word haphazard is far too kind a word)
This is the very good-but somewhat dated -paper from Hansen that is one of the pillars of IPCC thinking. A year after writing his paper was when he testified in front of Congress and his aides chose the warmest day and turned off the Aircon
http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/docs/1987/1987_Hansen_Lebedeff.pdf
If you look at figure 4 (after first reading how many times the word ‘estimates’ is used to excuse the interpolation of data to compensate for the lack of numerical or spatial coverage) you will see that it shows the number of stations used in the 1850 and 1880 reconstruction.
This rebuittal from Vincent Gray
http://www.fcpp.org/pdf/The_Cause_of_Global_Warming_Policy_Series_7.pdf
This from CA
http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=2015
This refers to the fuss about McKitricks paper.
http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Talk:Ross_McKitrick
To use data from 1850 is meaningless due to their incompleteness, tiny numbers and lack of reliability. Since then there has been a whole series of changes in the stations, number, and locations, and measurements at UHI hot spots are not fairly adjusted for. In addition there is a severe problem with general siting of many stations-that is the prime focus of surfacestations.org
Of course the value and meaning of a ‘global’ temperature in the first place could easily fill its own thread.
tonyb

KBK

crosspatch (15:25:46) :
Well, according to the front page of FoxNews.com right this minute, both Greenland and Antarctica are experiencing “runaway” melting.
This despite the fact that there is more Antarctic and Arctic ice today than there was a year ago on this date. Go figure.

The article is based on a recent paper in Nature reporting on laser measurements of elevation, i.e. glacier thickness, in Greenland and the Antarctic. That’s different from sea ice extent.
It would be interesting to see an objective critique of the paper posted here at WUWT.
Greenland, Antarctic Ice ‘in Runaway Melt Mode’