Friday, August 10, 2007

Close enough for government work

I've featured James Hansen's GISS temperature graphs on this site many times--mainly as proof the country isn't slowly sizzling away in a figurative frying pan--but I never had any notions the data might not be correct. Recall Hansen's world data goes into a formula that computes global temperatures, which tend to make headlines if they become record global temperatures.

Now another blogger, one who deals much more with the technicalities of such stuff, has snooped out a major flaw in Hansen's data. The net result has been a quiet recalibration resulting in a quiet reversal of some previous sensationalist headlines:
NASA has now silently released corrected figures, and the changes are truly astounding. The warmest year on record is now 1934. 1998 (long trumpeted by the media as record-breaking) moves to second place.
Perhaps Hansen will blame the 'oversight' on the administration.

As a tribute, here's the 60 GISS graph for Casper, Wyoming, boyhood home of Dick Cheney. Believe it or not.

MORE 8/10/07

Hey! Hanson got quoted in the paper! But not about his error (we're still waiting for the national media firestorm on that) rather, about the tornado in Brooklyn. After admitting that one extreme weather event doesn't say anything about long term climate he just couldn't resist continuing:
"However," he added, "it is fair to ask whether the human changes have altered the likelihood of such events. There the answer seems to be 'yes.'"
Since he included a "however" (the best weather word ever) the answer could also be 'no'. Perhaps it's time for another blogger to recheck the math.


The crushing of climatic dissent? Not only is the story being underreported, apparently someone is trying to make the original story unavailable. Who would hate the truth so much?

PS--although this adjustment evidently involved US temp data only one can argue the US data is the most important. Global warming stories from outside the states tend to get shoved to the mental back burner but when they occur in the backyard, alarm bells may ring.

The mistake was likely incidental, however, judging from Hansen's outspoken comments and claims on the subject one has to reserve the outside notion someone might have been tempted to fudge and nudge the 1998 data into the number one spot, thereby bringing much-needed media attention on the crisis at hand to educate an ignorant and at-fault public. After all, we're only talking a few tenths of a degree difference. And that outside notion is why science and politics cannot be married. They can't even date.

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