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    ClimateGate Scientists Cleared Of Scientific Misconduct...Again
    By Hank Campbell | February 26th 2011 01:09 PM | 5 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0®.

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone ever had. Others may prefer Newton or Archimedes...

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    One of the subtleties of the human condition is that if you like or support someone or something, you can understand the nuances of what words mean differently than if you do not.   If you are a fan of WikiLeaks, for example, the ends justify the means and how they obtain information is unimportant whereas if you are a fan of the climate researchers behind the so-called ClimateGate, the fact that the emails about them were stolen is most important.    And if those researchers are cleared of scientific misconduct you say they are cleared.

    Well, yes and no on being cleared.  While they made every effort to Frankenstein together data (tree rings when it showed temperatures rising and then ignoring them when it did not and instead using temperature readings to make that hockey stick look more hockey-ish) that was not unethical or even unreasonable - unless journalists misrepresent it and you don't correct them, which happened for 9 years and no one except skeptics talked about it.     So there was misconduct, namely that they refused to answer any question that might give skeptics ammunition and set out to suppress papers disputing man-made global warming, but they didn't invent data so it was not scientific misconduct.

    If a skeptic group were cleared of scientific misconduct in this way, climate scientists would be up in arms about the distinction between misconduct and scientific misconduct.   And New York Times columnist discusses the last fact-finding mission in Scientists Are Cleared of Misuse of Data (registration required) and keeps it pretty middle-of-the-road, noting that cleared actually means...
    “We did not find any evidence that NOAA inappropriately manipulated data.”
    Inappropriately manipulated data is telling.  They shouldn't be manipulating data at all if they want to be the trusted guides for the public other scientists are.   Heck, even other scientists don't trust climate scientists so how will the public if they don't do clean representations of their work?   You can't use 'grey literature' in physics but the IPCC had no problem at all publishing non-expert speculation to a journalist about melting Himalayas as fact.

    So what does it all mean?   Obviously the review, requested by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), no stranger to global warming zealotry, except on the other side, was not delving into the physics of climate change but rather the nature of humans.  The physics is easier than you might think.   While many numerical models projecting specific events in the future are so flawed they would not be publishable in other disciplines (well, maybe sociology) the physics are easy to understand - we are getting warmer and if we keep polluting we will continue to get warmer and that is bad.   Arguing about whether it takes 50 years or 100 years is a little silly, we should be tackling solutions using basic research now instead of, on one side, endorsing, mandating and subsidizing idiotic ideas like CFL bulbs or Prius cars or ethanol, or flat out denial on the other and assuming something magical in science to fix it will happen in the future.

    The nature of humans is the subject of the review and this review says the scientists acted unethically, they just didn't act unethically with regard to the data.    Here's hoping that the ClimateGate experience encourages all climate researchers to renew their interest in data and not the use of aggressive framing to get their point across.

    Comments

    Taxpayer: " There is a fly in my soup."
    Climate Scientist: "Strange, considering you eat up just about anything else we dish out to you."

    Climate Scientist: "How sir, would you like your steak done?"
    Taxpayer: "Just cook things up the way you usually do."

    Taxpayer: "The roast is really hot but the parsnips are cold."
    Climate Scientist: "And thus, clear and obvious consensus evidence, that YES it IS warming."

    Taxpayer: "This lunch special was great. Will you be serving it again next week?"
    Climate Scientist: "We don't have a menu for next week, but we DO have a menu for the year 2153."

    Why did the climate change believer cross the road?
    He left his purse on the other side.

    Taxpayer: “I’ll have a bowl of climate change please but can you heat it up this time?

    Climate Scientists are to Science as: what abusive priests and suicide bombers are to organized religion.

    How many climate scientists does it take to change a light bulb?
    None, but they DO have consensus that it WILL change!

    What do you call someone who condemns their very own children to a “death by CO2” and then bows obediently to a fat American politician promising to lower the seas and make the weather colder with taxes?
    A Climate Change believer.

    What do you call sitting in the dark for an hour once a year with the lights turned out, texting friends, smoking pot and warming up a frozen pizza in the oven?
    Radical.

    What did the climate scientist find under some melting ice?
    Tropical fossils.

    Scientist: Lab Coat Consultant.
    Sustainability: Poverty
    SAVE THE PLANET: THE END IS NEAR.
    GREEN: GREENTEA PARTY
    Cold: Warm
    Warm: Cold
    Ancient Weather: “What’s that?”
    IPCC: GREENZI
    Climate Change: Left-wing bible thumping.
    Kyoto: Y2Kyoto
    More at: http://environmentalmentalism.blogspot.com/

    Much, if not most, of the whole "climategate" farce revolved around accusations of supposed manipulation of global temperature data. And what's really amazing about this farce is that it is not very difficult for someone with basic programming skills (C++/Java/Python/Whatever) to perform his/her own independent "sanity checks" on NASA/NOAA/CRU global temperature reconstructions that verify that there's been no such manipulation of the data.

    All of the temperature data needed to do this (raw as well as "adjusted") are available for free on-line. Furthermore, all of the "adjustments" made to generate the "adjusted" data are fully documented, and all the adjustment techniques have been fully vetted in the peer-reviewed literature. And besides that, the "adjustments" turn out not to have much of an impact on the global-average temperature results anyway! (as I found out in my independent analysis of the temperature data).

    In just a few days of "spare-time" programming, I was able to write a routine that reads in *raw* temperature data and computes global average temperature results. Here is a graph of my results compared with NASA's official "Meteorological Stations" results: http://img641.imageshack.us/img641/9994/landstationindexnosmoot.jpg (Note: the NASA results were copied and pasted directly from the NASA/GISS web-site.)

    Notes: I used *raw* data to compute my results. And the results shown in the plot above are what popped out on my first "full-up" data processing run. I didn't have to fiddle with any "fudge factors" or anything like that. The above plot is the output of a very straightforward gridding/averaging algorithm that a college freshman could put together. No fancy stuff, no data "manipulation" -- it all boiled down to a very straightforward averaging technique. And I was still able to replicate NASA's official results surprisingly closely. If NASA were really "cooking the temperature books", I wouldn't have been able to replicate their results with such a simple, straightforward program (Oh, and did I mention that I used *raw* temperature data?).

    In addition, I was able to add features to my program to allow me to compare "raw" vs. "adjusted" and "urban" vs. "rural" data results -- and I found that there is not much difference between the results produced by raw vs adjusted or urban vs rural data.

    A competent programmer/analyst could do what I did in a week's worth of time, tops.

    Now the question is, in all the years that deniers have been attacking the surface temperature record, why didn't they spend a few days to write up their own simple analysis software and test their claims by crunching the data for themselves before they started going out and accusing NASA/NOAA/CRU/etc of temperature data fraud?

    (That's a rhetorical question, of course).

    Hank
    I completely agree that skeptics need to learn a little physics to understand the planet is warming and why.   Of course, the opposite question is also true; since the data is so clear, why the need to massage results or frame them for the public?   It isn't like we had people denying acid rain in the 1980s - because they were given straight answers.

    Obviously these climate people at East Anglia and those who helped had other issues - former employees who worked there and left likened that group to a cult - but that does not invalidate the many fine climate researchers who are ethical.  However, they all circle the wagons around even their kookier brethren, something the hard sciences do not do, because they are paranoid that demanding accountability from their own gives ammunition to opponents without understanding there would be no opponents if people knew it was a science issue and not a political one.
    Having the Dept. of Commerce clear the NOAA is like having ENRON execs clear their accounting department. NOAA is a bureau of the Dept. of Commerce. Yep, I'm convinced now!

    Hank
    I don't think officials at the NOAA or the Dept of Commerce are any more unethical than anyone else so I don't think it was a sham investigation.  Given what they were searching for, I think clearing them was right.  Obviously most people at Enron were ethical too and, at the time, the  actions of Enron were even legal (GlobalCrossing and others had done even worse without being a national cultural litany a la 'Benedict Arnold').    Obviously if there ever turns out to be an Enron of climate change people would go to jail regardless of legality.