Sunday, December 13, 2009

Darwin Zero

I found this post via Megan McArdle concerning the data surrounding climate change in the wake of "climategate." It's an interesting post but it's long. It's a case study on a temperature record station, Darwin Zero, and how climatologists adjust the raw data to something that is consistent across the past century. There's good reason to have adjustments (changes in station location, instruments, time of temperature recording, etc) but the adjustments to Darwin Zero are very...strange.

From the author:
Yikes again, double yikes! What on earth justifies that adjustment? How can they do that? We have five different records covering Darwin from 1941 on. They all agree almost exactly. Why adjust them at all? They’ve just added a huge artificial totally imaginary trend to the last half of the raw data! Now it looks like the IPCC diagram in Figure 1, all right … but a six degree per century trend? And in the shape of a regular stepped pyramid climbing to heaven? What’s up with that?

This doesn't mean that all adjustments are suspect or that climatologists are lying or even that these are falsifications (though you can bet I'd like to know the reasoning behind those adjustments). And over the years, I've become more sympathetic of climatologists' claims (decentralized researchers all saying about the same thing is a good litmus test for truth). But it does highlight the need for publicly available raw data and comprehensive explanations for all the adjustments. If the scientists really want to convince people, transparency is key.


Jason said...

Transparency isn't going to work. Scientists have been transparent about things like evolution and the Big Bang and people STILL don't believe it. The problem isn't with science, it's with a society that generally hates science. We love the technology but once science starts challenging our pre-conceived notions and beliefs then science becomes The Enemy.

For example a few years ago when 7+ births were starting to hit the news due to hormonal and fertility treatments, everyone was thanking God that the mother and children were OK. They forgot about the doctors and the science which made that multiple pregnancy possible and safe and how that knowledge came from researching human evolution. The same people saying how great it was for a woman to give birth to 7+ children at once and live tend to be the same people who want to ban Darwin from the classrooms.

Transparency also creates a problem with quote miners and taking phrases out of context. That's what the whole hacked email scandal was about. The "proof" that climate change is a hoax was based on willfully misinterpreted phrases. AP examined all the stolen emails and concluded the few sentences out of thousands were twisted around to mean something else.

That brings us to the third problem of climate change acceptance is that the opposition is well funded and well organized. If you give them all the raw data you can be sure they will selectively edit it to suit their needs. We saw it happen when tobacco companies filed lawsuits against people claiming cigarette smoke caused cancer. The denialists will come the data and pounce on every undotted "i" and uncrossed "t" like sharks on chum and proclaim the whole thing a hoax.

The reason is simple, accepting artificial climate change means taking responsibility and that doesn't sit will with corporations who think they only have to answer to the stock holders.


David said...

I disagree. The best way to get people to think you have alternative motives is to rely on data while keeping its origins a mystery. Yeah, there will always be people who don't believe you but I'm certain that if evolutionists kept fossils secret, a lot more people wouldn't believe it. And I wouldn't blame them.

Anonymous said...

The fun thing to watch in science is all the changes they make to their theories, e.g. global warming to climate change. Back when I was in school climate was taught as something that changes regularly, usually in cycles. We are way overdue for an ice age, but before that can happen the environment must warm significantly. So this whole climate change thing is a tempest in a teapot and will happen no matter what scientists think or what the evil rich do with their industries that provide our current well being. UB

David said...

One last thing:

"I believe that a full disclosure of their codes and data would really boost the confidence in their work, if they were sound. So if they believe so strongly that their work is solid, why not more transparency?"