Friday, April 16, 2010


The Power of Faith in Science

Here is a quote from a story in the Guardian about Warmie true believers. Can you spot the key word in the quote?

Kevin Trenberth and John Fasullo, climate scientists at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, say that only about half of the heat believed to have built up in the Earth in recent years can be accounted for. New instruments are needed to locate and monitor this missing heat, they say, which could be storing up trouble for the future.

'The heat will come back to haunt us sooner or later,' Trenberth said. 'The reprieve we've had from warming temperatures in the last few years will not continue. It is critical to track the build-up of energy in our climate system so we can understand what is happening and predict our future climate.'

The key word is 'believe.' Why do scientists believe there is heat, when the instruments they use to measure temperature (on satellites no less) say it isn't there? Isn't that anti-science?

When the scientific types develop a theory (or thesis) and the observations don't support it, the obvious thing to do is doubt the thesis. These guys doubt the measurements. Good science? You make the call.

I take issue with the statement that ocean surface temperatures have risen in the past few decades. They used to measure sea surface temperature with a bucket over the side of a boat and a thermometer. Any warming bias in that method? Now (since 2003) we have three thousand plus floating, reporting buoys which can take the temperature of the oceans, from the surface to 6,500 meters down. What has that system of buoys shown?

Well, it depends on whom you ask. Josh Willis, who is the go to guy regarding the analysis of the buoys data used to say that the system showed ocean cooling, but he has developed since a computer program which has corrected that result and shows warming now. See the results here. Other guys have analyzed the data and come to a different conclusion. See here. This coverage of the same story seems to show that the latest Argo readings are not helpful to the Warmies.

UPDATE: Roger Pielke, Sr. asks, here, the logical question to the Warmie assertion that the lost heat must be deep in the ocean. If the lost joules necessarily have to come from the surface (where the sun's rays hit and warm the water), and we have been actively monitoring the top 6,500 feet of the ocean for years, how did they sneak past us undetected? Trenberth doesn't seem to have much of an answer or rather he says the new instruments are needed to detect the heat sneaking to the depths of the ocean. Cue Michael McDonald.


I've run into this "The data needs to fit the model" attitude before in my work as a data analysts at a certain National Lab here in Colorado. "Scientists" don't understand things like uncertainty in measurements and signal-to-noise ratio. Universities aren't educating scientists any more, they're creating environmental advocates. And I'm not the only one noticing this.
Thanks, a very interesting comment.
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