"A Man's a Man for all that!" - Rabbie Burns

"Religion? No thanks. I prefer not to outsource my brainwashing." - Bunc
Trying to get your average Joe creationist to understand the phrase scientific theory is as hard as getting a fish to enjoy mountaineering. Its an unimagined world for them - it requires a complete reversal of their normal modes of thinking and being. The fact that humans could explain the complexities of this world without a creating God is a world view they cannot grasp. It's like asking a tuna if it appreciates the view from the top of Mount Everest. Bunc

Nov 29, 2009

Climategate? Where now?

The release of emails and some research code that was "hacked" from the CRU at East Anglia University is a severe blow to those who are looking to our politicians to make a rational response to climate change and concerns about the use of non-renewable resources.

For example some of the contents of the emails which have been uncovered appear to reveal a willingness on the part of the scientists involved to attempt to put pressure on scientific journals which attempted to publish scientific papers which were not supportive of AGW ( Anthropogenic Global Warming or Man made Global Warming). This is simply not acceptable and it is a betrayal of the scientific process.

There are legitimate areas of scientific debate around the exact balance of the causes of climate change and about such areas as the appropriate methods for constructing global temperature trends. It does science no credit if some of it's practitioners appear to be willing to countenance trying to stifle such debate. It makes no difference that they claim that such views were private expressions of "frustration" between like minded colleagues. It betrays a closed minded approach which is simply not acceptable on a matter which is potentially so weighty for all of us.

Other concerns are emerging from this episode.

Much is being made on some websites about how the raw data was cleansed and used to construct the historical global and northern temperature trend. I have been reading much of this stuff over recent days. Undoubtedly some on the "sceptics" side of the debate are making mountains of some issue that are in reality molehills. But there are also some issues of real concern that are emerging.

The one that concerns me the most has in fact received probably the least comment of all.

The CRU as I understand it is one of relatively few centres worldwide which has collated and stored data on temperature trends from a range of sources. Whatever your view of the current climate change debate it is clear that this type of raw data is immensely valuable for us all in the study of our earths climate. However what I have found utterly astonishing is that apparently the CRU lacked data storage capacity and appears to have been unable to store this historic raw data - it has in short been throwing it away.

This is truly astonishing. It is worth looking at this issue in the light of another concerning issue revealed by this episode.

The directly measured temperature data that is collected comes from a large number of stations all around the world. Some of these stations first began measuring temperature many decades ago but the understandng of the critical issues in the siting of such stations was much poorer then. In addition there has sometimes been urban development near to stations which risks interfering with the validity of the temperature measurements. Sometimes the concern about the validity of such stations measurements reached the point where the stations were moved to new locations.

An appropriate method for allowing continuity between the measurements from the original station and the new station was to calculate an offset in the measurements taken between the two. This would allow a valid adjustment to be made to the data. However in order to do this it would be important that the new station and the old station operated in parallel for a reasonable length of time so that the offset calculation was well informed. What is clear is that this often does not happen.

My overwhelming impression from my recent reading is that despite the level of Global concern about climate change issues ( from both sides) there is still no rigorous approach being taken around the world to collecting weather and climate data, storing the raw data and making it accessible to researchers. If this is true it is a truly scandalous state of affairs.

If our politicians do nothing else at Copenhagen they must agree to measures supported by all countries to institute a much more rigorous approach to measuring the key data about our climate, secure robust approaches to storing that raw data and open up the methods for making it accessible.

1 comment:

Looney said...

Having worked in R&D, I usually suspect such things being hidden away. I wasn't expecting to see a longer list of issues unearthed, but that seems to be what you are stating.

As with you, I agree that a rigorous approach needs to be done.

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