Much ado about nothing in the last few days, with the release of materials related to climate change and warming on both the international and local scales.
First the international event – “Climategate” (sigh) – the now well known theft and publication of data from the University of East Anglia’s world renowned Climate Research Unit. “Climate change deniers” have of course whipped themselves up in to a frenzy of excitement on a the basis of a few quotes that can be read (out of context) as dodgy. The “star exhibit”, referring to data from tree ring growth patterns:
“I’ve just completed [some] trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie, from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.”
The Climatic Research Unit has now published its official response. On for example the quote above they say:
The use of the term â€˜hiding the decline’ was in an email written in haste. CRU has not sought to hide the decline. Indeed, CRU has published a number of articles that both illustrate, and discuss the implications of, this recent tree-ring decline…
Overall this incident is embarrassing for the scientists involved – like having your diary read out in public – but it has about zero impact on the mass of scientific evidence and opinion on the severity and risk of anthropogenic climate change. (One of the best comments I saw on this issue was a “proof” that calculus is “wrong” based on the same kind of “analysis” of the letters of Newton – it’s brilliant).
Then the local event, in some ways a minor echo of the above. This started with a “news alert” from the poorly named “The Climate Science Coalition of NZ”, with of course the usual idiots quickly piling on board. The claim is that this data from NIWA showing a steady rise in NZ temperatures…
…is pure fabrication – the apparent temperature rise occurs only because the data has been “adjusted”. The “raw data” looks like this, showing no significant rise at all…
Unfortunately NIWA were far too slow out of the gate with their reply, but they have now issued one. Yes the raw temperature data has been adjusted. But for perfectly good reasons, such as to account for changes in the location of measurement sites (and other factors in accordance with “internationally accepted techniques”):
For example, in Wellington, early temperature measurements were made near sea level, but in 1928 the measurement site was moved from Thorndon (3 metres above sea level) to Kelburn (125 m above sea level). The Kelburn site is on average 0.8°C cooler than Thorndon, because of the extra height above sea level.
This page shows how data from different measuring sites is adjusted to remove the variation arising from site location (left graph) and get the true trend over time (right graph):
This is the kind of adjustment that has been used to get the correct and meaningful data, data showing a steady temperature increase (the first graph above). As NIWA state: “Warming over New Zealand through the past century is unequivocal” and:
“NIWA climate scientists have previously explained to members of the Coalition why such corrections must be made. NIWA’s Chief Climate Scientist, Dr David Wratt, says he’s very disappointed that the Coalition continue to ignore such advice and therefore to present misleading analyses”.
In short, this whole episode* is a beat up by climate change deniers who probably, as usual, knew very well that they were lying. What motivates people to deliberately spread such lies, and feed the confusion that delays action on a crisis that endangers humanity? The insanity of it is completely beyond me.
I don’t care if you don’t like scientists and don’t want to believe them – believe your own eyes – look around you. Arctic ice is disappearing (more). Glaciers are melting – (if you have 20 minutes watch this excellent video). Australia is wracked by drought. Here in NZ, icebergs that used to be the Antarctic are sailing past, and the glaciers continue to shrink. It’s real. It’s happening. Now.
[* Unfortunately this piece of nonsense has already gone international.]