Meanwhile, Back in *Real* Science Land….

By Chris Mooney | January 27, 2010 10:16 am

The decade of the 2000s was the warmest on record.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Global Warming
MORE ABOUT: climate change

Comments (28)

  1. Jon

    But but but… none of that matters, because ya see, George Will says 1998 was the hottest *year* on record, therefore we’re cooling.

    Oh yeah, and in the 1970′s, a Time magazine cover said blah blah blah.

  2. Other than the fact that the “real science” has been tampered with by zealots, you make a great point….

    Sadly for “your side” many of us don’t believe in Faith Based Science.

  3. Busiturtle

    Donated blood yesterday and my temperature was recorded as 97.6 degrees. The experts at wikipedia say this is OK since the average oral temperature is 98.2 +- 1.3 degrees.

    If average body temperature temperature can fluctuate 1.3 degrees, and I assume on a daily basis, why are we supposed to get excited when the “average” global temperature fluctuates a few degrees per century?

    Where can one purchase a thermometer that provides accuracy of +- 0.1 degrees? In other words, Joe Smith could diligently record the temperature at his home and never be able to claim his measurements were accurate to a half a degree, let alone a tenth of a degree.

    Most important, what is the scientific meaning of a global average temperature? It seems to be a statistic useful for telling lies just like so many other malformed mathematical distortions.

  4. Jon

    Oh man. Matthew, you mean the conspiracy includes people reading the temperature at meteorological weather stations? Those Orbital Mind Control Lasers that the Left uses are mighty powerful.

  5. CW

    “Where can one purchase a thermometer that provides accuracy of +- 0.1 degrees?”

    You really think that scientists don’t have thermometers that provide an accuracy of +-0.1 degrees? Seriously? We can measure a thousandths of a second, but we can’t measure temperature at any given point with 0.1 degree of accuracy?

  6. bilbo

    Skeptic rule #1: ask boneheaded questions as if you’re the first person to ever think of them.

  7. Busiturtle

    Did such a thermometer exist in 1920? Or 1870? Or even 1955?

    Was it deployed in all weather stations?

    Was it calibrated? If so how?

    Has anyone verified the accuracy of each an every thermometer used in climate models? For how many years? How reliable are temperature readings from 20 years ago? 50 years ago? 100 years ago? Is not an understanding of this uncertainty critical to making sense of long term temperature trends?

  8. I was attempted to respond to Busiturtle with “Has anyone verified the accuracy of anything that appeared on wattsup?”

    It is a waste of energy better spent fixing the insulation on my house.

    I’ve given up on grand architectural solutions and will be working for change at the local level. At least, those who are not deluded by fossil fuel ads will begin to get something done and we don’t have to worry about what Crazy Joe Lieberman will say or do.

  9. Busiturtle

    Wes, you are making better use of your time. I applaud your pragmatism. There is no defense for bad science, no matter how noble one believes the cause is. Good science is hard for many reasons, one of which is scientific measurement is hard. Consider this review of Millikan’s famous experiment: http://library.thinkquest.org/19662/low/eng/exp-millikan.html

    “Today we know that Millikan and his collaborates did a systematic error by calculating air viscosity”

    How many errors are in the “Global Warming” database? Do they even care?

  10. GM

    If average body temperature temperature can fluctuate 1.3 degrees, and I assume on a daily basis, why are we supposed to get excited when the “average” global temperature fluctuates a few degrees per century?

    You deserve some sort of award for that – worst new cranky argument against AGW

  11. Busiturtle

    Here is the MIT lab exercise related to Millikan’s experimental error:

    http://web.mit.edu/8.13/www/JLExperiments/JLExp_02.pdf

    “It turned out that his result was off by a systematic error of −0.6% due to an error in the viscosity of air which was corrected in 1930.” (Some 20+ years later)

  12. Busiturtle

    GM: It is not an argument against AGW theory. It is a logical response to the emotionalism that surrounds climate research. Things vary, move in cycles, nothing is constant. When a .4 degree increase in temperature is put in perspective of the past thousand years there is absolutely nothing all that interesting about today’s climate.

  13. PaulyG

    If Millikan was in error, then the current information on Global Warming is also in error.
    This is a Red Herring, introducing an unrelated subject to discredit the issue at hand.

  14. Jon

    It is a logical response to the emotionalism that surrounds climate research.

    Project much? How is the climate research itself emotional? If you want emotional, check out all the breathless “world government” and “government-takeover-of-your-life” hysteria from the denialists in these threads.

    It’s like Tourette’s Syndrome. They can’t get through two sentences discussing the science without lapsing into asides about “socialism,” “eco-liberalism,” etc.

  15. Busiturtle

    If the question is climate engineering then there is only one question to consider: What is the ideal climate and temperature and how do we maintain it?

    I have no idea.

    What do the experts say?

  16. CW

    Just be careful about falling into the fallacy of “moving the goalposts.” If there are studies that show incremental temperature changes that affect organisms, then how many do you need to see before you open your mind to the possibility that climate change as a whole – can have adverse effects?

    Off the top of my head, I’ve read instances where slight temperature chances affect behavior of fish and coral reefs. Fish become slower in warmer water, making them more vulnerable to predators. The higher PH is destroying coral, which is the habitat of many organisms at the bottom of the food chain.

    If you’re looking for one comprehensive study that shows climate change is bad, then you’re never going to find it. Just like one transitional fossil doesn’t prove evolution (it’s the thousands), you need multiple levels of evidence. When you get the evidence, you make inferences and predictions. Truthfully, I would be more comfortable if climate scientists could make predictions (that would seal the deal, in my book). But I’m willing to consider that there is sufficient evidence to be concerned – and to look aggressively at alternative energy (not a fan of cap and trade, however).

    Lastly, it’s easy to cherry-pick the evidence. I mean, proponents of Flat-Earth Society can cherry pick the evidence, and accuse NASA and other organizations of doctoring photos and videos that show a round Earth. At some point, you either have to decide whether its ideology that drives your beliefs, or your understanding of science. Because questioning data is valid, but questioning motives is conspiracy-mongering.

  17. V.O.R.

    “At some point, you either have to decide whether its ideology that drives your beliefs, or your understanding of science. Because questioning data is valid, but questioning motives is conspiracy-mongering.”

    Correct. This is why the Climate Skeptics need to make a lasting alliance with believers in Homeopathic Medicine. Only when they have fused into a movement of Homeopathic Science – where the idea with the least support is probably right – will Climate Skepticism be assured a thriving future.

  18. Nathan

    I think, personally, its incredibly arrogant to think that we can do anything of great significance to stop climate change. Its a fact that the climate is changing. I don’t doubt that. But I tend to agree with a lot of the naysayers here, the science is so new its bound to be full of errors, and what real value does a global average temperature provide? I mean, if north america started baking , but the equator went into the deep freeze, we could logically, and scientifically not have changed the Global Average Temp. It would however be a HUGE change for those in both areas. Climate change is real. Its been going on on this planet for the planet’s entire life-cycle. We are affecting it somewhat, but we will not be able to stop it, and more importantly, I don’t think we should. Stagnation leads to death. Should we reduce, reuse, recycle? Definitely! There’s a host of good reasons we shouldn’t wantonly waste resources, and pollute the water we need to drink, or the air we breathe. Should we do what we can to protect organisms on this planet from our excesses? Yes. But fanaticism does far more harm than it does good. I don’t question people’s motives, I think they are exactly where they should be. Mostly. But I do demand that they themselves think rationally, a little, about what they do. Something I hear far too little of on both sides of this argument far too often. And something all to likely to lead nowhere in the long run.

  19. TTT

    It is a logical response to the emotionalism that surrounds climate research. Things vary, move in cycles, nothing is constant

    Okay, great. So let’s enact cap-and-trade and a carbon tax too. THINGS CHANGE, right? If we can survive a global average temperature increase of 1 degree in a year, we can survive shrinking GDP by 1% in a year. Bring it on.

  20. GM

    GM: It is not an argument against AGW theory. It is a logical response to the emotionalism that surrounds climate research. Things vary, move in cycles, nothing is constant. When a .4 degree increase in temperature is put in perspective of the past thousand years there is absolutely nothing all that interesting about today’s climate.

    It’s not an argument against AGW in any meaningful sense, it is more of a manifestation of the sad fact that while we have physically gotten off the trees, a lot of us have their minds still there…

  21. Dougetit

    Chris,

    It depends on your definition of “warmest on record”

    If you cherry pick two satellite records, then yes, it was the warmest since the 1980‘s.

    If you cherry pick the record using James Hansen’s NASA thermometer record, who selects the “elimination of outliers”, (translation: cherry picks the stations) to which he applies a “homogeneity adjustment”, (translation: manipulation of the data to a pre-determined outcome), then yes, it was the warmest on record since the 1880’s.

    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/tabledata/GLB.Ts.txt

    If you cherry pick the record using Michael Mann’s “hockey stick” which fraudulently eliminated the “Medieval Warm Period”, then yes it was the warmest on record in the past 2,000 years.

    If you cherry pick the last 2 billion year Earth record, then, you would realy be scientifically wrong. There have been millions of decades warmer than the 2000’s. In fact the record shows that we have been in an exceptionally cool period for the past millions of years.

    http://www.scotese.com/climate.htm

    If you cherry pick two satellite records beginning in January 1998 to December 2009, we are in a 12 year cooling trend.

    If you cherry pick the record for this century, it could be the coldest or warmest on record.

    It’s just a matter of cherry picking. Right?

    It wouldn’t surprise me if Hansen at NASA’s next proclamation will be that January of 2010 to be the warmest month on record. At the current rate of his deceptions, he’ll one day be making his revelations from behind bars.

  22. If you cherry pick the last 2 billion year Earth record, then, you would realy be scientifically wrong. There have been millions of decades warmer than the 2000’s.

    Cherry pick the last 2 billion years? Why don’t you look up the concentration of Oxygen in the atmosphere over time and take a guess as to how much of that 2 billion year span would be suitable for human life?

  23. Dougetit

    Jinchi @ 22

    “Cherry pick the last 2 billion years? Why don’t you look up the concentration of Oxygen in the atmosphere over time and take a guess as to how much of that 2 billion year span would be suitable for human life?”

    About 1.5 to 3 Billions years ago.

    http://www.draget.net/hoe/index.php?p=p3

  24. About 1.5 to 3 Billions years ago.

    Nope: http://www.nature.com/nature/podcast/v461/n7261/nature-2009-09-10.html

    Robert Frei: The first one of these happened around 2.5 billion years ago and it’s generally referred to as the Great Oxidation Event and that’s the first time where we see from other situations that has been studied that there must have been an increase of oxygen compared to the entire history before. And then there was the second rise of oxygen around 700 to 500 million years ago and this is an even more dramatic event and some research even go on and say that the evolution of soft bodied multicellular life formed as actually been triggered by this massive event around that time.

    and Nope: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v451/n7176/full/nature06587.html

    Persistent anoxia of the oceans in the Proterozoic (from 1.8 to 0.5 billion years ago) is argued to require oxygen levels below 40% of PAL [present atmospheric level
    ]. Fire is sustained only above about 60% of PAL, so the more-or-less continuous geological record of charcoal over the past 450 million years sets this as a lower limit for atmospheric oxygen since the advent of forests on Earth. The interesting exception is the Middle to Late Devonian, approx 380 million years ago, which shows a charcoal gap coincident with widespread evidence for marine anoxia.

  25. Jinchi @ 24

    “And then there was the second rise of oxygen around 700 to 500 million years ago and this is an even more dramatic event and some research even go on and say that the evolution of soft bodied multicellular life formed as actually been triggered by this massive event around that time.”

    Let me get my breath… :)

    Thanks for straightening me out my friend.

  26. gillt

    Dougetit: “If you cherry pick the record using James Hansen’s NASA thermometer record, who selects the “elimination of outliers”, (translation: cherry picks the stations)”

    haha go back to school…and no failing stat 101 this time!

  27. saltywar

    Against 500 to 700 million years of oxygen-rich atmosphere, or 4.5 billion years of overall climate, or wherever the line should be drawn, whether the 90s or the 2000s was the warmest decade in the last 150 years seems to be a debate not worth having. The real interest here is climate change, not weather variation.

  28. Dougetit

    gilt@26

    “haha go back to school…and no failing stat 101 this time!”

    Sorry that you missed my meaning..

    Have you ever plotted the GISS/UAH/RSS monthly datasets? Didn’t think so… If you were to, you would find that Hansen’s anomaly’s change with each months data release. Usually, changes to earlier dates go down, while later months tend up. My reference to “cherry picks the stations” being a metaphor for Hansens’s CYA.

    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/surface_temp.pdf

    A “statistically correct” point though..

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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