Falsification of the Climate Record
JOHN BLUNDELL writing in the Scotsman:Sir Karl Popper argued scientists were not the omniscient mad professors of popular imagination but rivals in a highly competitive market where kudos was often more important than cash. Falsifiability was the test of your colleague competitors - not price as it is in business. There is a crude view often entertained by politicians that mere expenditure equates with virtue.
- Bishop Hill blog - - Climate cuttings 9
The action has all been taking place over at Climate Audit, where Steve McIntyre has relented not a jot on the pummelling he has been dishing out to NASA's warmer-in-chief, James Hansen. Having had his faulty work exposed (as outlined in Climate Cuttings 8), Hansen responded with a snarky email to his colleagues saying that it was a storm in a teacup and that perhaps the "lights were not on upstairs" with his critics. He followed up with another, dismissing his critics as "court jesters".
While the (allegedly) real scientists were engaging in ad-hominems, the amateurs at Climate Audit followed up with further revelations of faulty work from Hansen. The latest batch of errors were found when the site started to raise questions about the way that Hansen combines different versions of the temperature record for a particular station. This appeared peculiar because Hansen was combining records and ending up with an average lower than any of the individual temperatures in the series. Because Hansen has not adhered to the basic scientific standards and released his code, it was necessary to derive what he had done by trial and error - guessing the procedure from the limited explanation in his publications. Eventually it was suggested by a commenter that the solution lay in understanding what Hansen did where the temperature for a particular date was missing from one of the versions. If you and I had this problem we would take the temperature from the other version. It was thought, however, that Hansen was "estimating" it somehow. This obviously represents a corruption of the temperature record, but this is climate science where pretty much anything goes.
All this speculation clearly made NASA rather nervous, coming so soon after Hansen's earlier error was made public. Out of the blue, Hansen released the code associated with the temperature record, along with the now-customary snark at his critics. The code was quickly found to be something of a shambles (amongst other things it's written in now-obsolete Fortran). A full scale wiki project is planned to get it working and fully understood.
With the code in place a full summary of the way Hansen's methodology works (at least as far as it is currently understood) was posted by John Goetz, the CA commenter who discovered the importance of the missing records. This makes it clear that, while the effect on the trend for the station could be up or down, it appears that more often than not the effect is to lower earlier temperatures - ie to make the warming trend look artificially high.
The latest headline about the integrity (or lack of it) of Hansen's work is the revelation today that, unannounced, he has made large changes to the temperature records for the US. This has happened in the last few weeks - since the Y2K errors were revealed last month. From the outside this might be mistaken for an attempt to get the temperature of recent decades up again.
Either way, it's pretty clear that Hansen's credibility is shot. Can NASA really tolerate this sort of junk science from one of its leading officials any longer?
If you haven't been following this story, skipping over the technical calculations as I do, then you are missing a fascinating and important story. Hansen's claims about global warming have multi-billion pound effects on the global economy because of the way Governments, and opposition parties, have seized on them to promote particular policies. That they not based on sound science, in the Popper sense, is a scandal. And it is a handful of bloggers who are exposing this.