The latest skirmish in the global warming war -- barely reported in America -- occurred after two bloggers found that the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies data wrongly cast this October as the warmest in recorded history. It turns out that the mistake was due to an error that wrongly tapped September temperature records from Russia. Christopher Booker of The Sunday Telegraph of London found the mistake "startling" in light of other contrary climate statistics, including National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration findings of 63 local snowfall records and 115 lowest-ever temperatures for the month.
In an e-mail, Goddard researcher Gavin Schmidt explained, "The incorrect analysis was online for less than 24 hours." (Thank bloggers Anthony Watts, an American meteorologist, and Canadian computer analyst Steve McIntyre for catching the mistake.) The error occurred because a report "had the wrong month label attached. There is quality control at NOAA and GISS but this particular problem had not been noticed before and the existing QC procedures didn't catch it. These have now been amended."
As for the snowfall records and low temperatures cited by Booker, Schmidt chalked them up to "cherry picking" data. He added, "Far more important are the long-term trends."
Now, honest mistakes happen -- even in high-powered, well-funded research facilities. Just last year -- again thanks to the vigilance of Watts and McIntyre -- Goddard had to reconfigure its findings and recognize 1934 -- not 1998, as it had figured -- as the hottest year on record in American history.
Alas, it is hard to see Goddard as objective when its director, James Hansen, testified in a London court in September in support of six eco-vandals. A jury then acquitted the six Greenpeace activists on charges of vandalizing a British coal-fired power plant based on the "lawful excuse" defense that their use of force would prevent greater damage to the environment after Hansen predicted the one Kingsnorth plant could push "400 species" into extinction.
Of course, he could be wrong.