Global Warming and James Hansen’s Hacks

Posted: Aug 16, 2007 12:02 AM
Global Warming and James Hansen’s Hacks

In retrospect, you knew there would be trouble when you put the people responsible for the Space Shuttle program in charge of tracking U.S. temperatures. So perhaps it shouldn’t have come as a big surprise when it was revealed that NASA committed a bit of an oopsie regarding data constantly used by the mainstream media and other global warming proponents.

If you follow the global warming debate, you “know” that nine of the ten warmest years recorded in the U.S. lower 48 since 1880 have occurred since 1995, with the very hottest being 1998.

But whaddya know! Those figures are wrong. Data from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) now show the hottest year since 1880 was 1934. Nineteen-ninety-eight dropped to second, while the third hottest year was way back in 1921. Indeed, four of the 10 hottest years were in the 1930s, while only three were in the past decade.

The real 15 hottest years are spread over seven decades. Eight occurred before the chief “greenhouse gas,” atmospheric carbon dioxide, began its sharp rise; seven occurred afterwards.

Rush Limbaugh was incorrect in saying the new figures are “just more evidence” that “this whole global warming thing is a scientific hoax.” Conversely, global warming hotheads are also wrong in insisting the revelation belongs in a game of Trivial Pursuit.

The GISS, which is directed by global warming guru James Hansen, is saying likewise. They’re wrong, in part because of the importance of the data and in part because of what might be labeled a cover-up.

In pooh-poohing the revision, the GISS ignores the tremendous emotional impact it’s had in practically claiming each year is hotter than the one before. Instead it observes (correctly) since the U.S. accounts for merely two percent of global land surface, a relatively small adjustment in its figures doesn’t meaningfully impact the global picture.

But, notes Canadian mathematician Stephen McIntyre, who exposed the false figures, “The Hansen error . . . has a significant impact on the GISS estimate of U.S. temperature history . . .” (Emphasis added.) Is this important because we’re a major world power or that we produce the best fried chicken? No, it’s important because we have a far more sophisticated system of temperature monitoring than countries with far larger land masses. Hence, data from each of these nations affect the global model more than the American data.

“Many of the stations in China, Indonesia, Brazil and elsewhere are in urban areas,” observes McIntyre. This can produce hotter temperatures, yet some of the major trackers of the data from these countries, including the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, make no attempt to adjust for monitor placement errors. In any event, for some reason “the U.S. history has a rather minimal (warming) trend if any since the 1930s, while the ROW [rest of the world] has a very pronounced trend since the 1930s.”

Thus if the U.S. model, by far the most accurate one, became the model, it would be a gut punch to those claiming we must take drastic, horrifically expense measures right now to ameliorate warming.

Therefore, for the GISS to say this “only” affects the U.S. data is rather like a used car salesman insisting, “This automobile defect is trivial; it only affects steering and braking.”

Then there’s the issue of how the revised data came about and came to light.

McIntyre discovered an error in GISS records for the years 2000 through 2006. In simplest terms, they hadn’t been adjusted to compensate for the location or time of day where the data was gathered. Nobody at GISS ever correlated those newer figures with the older ones until McIntyre did, even though later Hansen admitted it was “easy to fix.” McIntyre published the data on his own website and got the agency to admit it was wrong and post new figures.

Yet the GISS did absolutely nothing to alert scientists or the public to the new figures. This though it has published five global warming press releases so far this year, each one alarming. It took the blogosphere and radio talk show hosts to publicize the new figures even as the mainstream media initially ignored it.

Ultimately the greatest importance of all of this is that it strongly appears to substantiate the intuitive belief that, with scientist-politician Hansen at the helm the GISS, whose data are far more important to modeling global temperatures – and hence global warming policy – than it lets on, is not a neutral collector and disseminator of statistics but rather a politicized mouthpiece.