Hogan's Alley

Friday, August 10, 2007

1998 The Warmest Year? - Not So Fast

Some of us just get a visceral feeling of aversion in the presence of orthodoxy. So, when all debate about the question of human causation of global warming is declared over, I, for one, wonder how long it will be until one should expect the Spanish Inquisition of the Green Era.

For us, today's short note on the NY Times' website contains some heartening news. It reports that NASA, after questions were raised by a blogger about their data, has quietly corrected the data set which purportedly proved that 1998 was the hottest year on record. It turns out that 1934 is now the warmest year.

For those unable to crack the Times' TimesSelect firewall before it soon comes a'tumblin' down, here is the "Opinionator" piece in its entirety.

You just thought you were sweating? Among global warming Cassandras, the fact that 1998 was the “hottest year on record” has always been an article of faith. Stephen McIntyre, who runs the Climateaudit blog was always puzzled by some gaps he saw in the raw data provided by NASA that supported the claim (data compiled in part by James Hansen, the climate scientist who has long accused the Bush administration of trying to “silence” him). McIntyre says he has “reverse engineered” the data to find NASA’s algorithm, discovered that a Y2K bug played havoc with some of the numbers, and notified the space agency.

Michael Asher at DailyTech explains the fallout:

NASA has now silently released corrected figures, and the changes are truly astounding. The warmest year on record is now 1934. 1998 (long trumpeted by the media as recordbreaking) moves to second place. 1921 takes third. In fact, 5 of the 10 warmest years on record now all occur before World War II. Anthony Watts has put the new data in chart form, along with a more detailed summary of the events.

The effect of the correction on global temperatures is minor (some 1-2% less warming than originally thought), but the effect on the U.S. global warming propaganda machine could be huge.

One piece of bad, er...corrected, data does not disprove the entire global warming catechism, but it does surely indicate that the proponents of this concept have arrived first at their conclusion on faith and then sought, unquestioningly, to compile every piece of data that supported their position. Environmentalism is not a corpus of understandings that emerged from a thorough study of all the available information, finally coming to a painful understanding of the scope and etiology of the problem. Rather it is a political instinct that finds humans to be the inferior animals that have befouled paradise, led by corporate greedmeisters.

That, at least, is my belief about the theology at present. I prefer to keep the debate open and to oppose Torquemada, in his current reincarnation as Al Gore, when he uses his full politician's kit of persuasions to convince us otherwise. Hopefully, reports such as this will provide the fuel to sustain some level of environmental agnosticism.

Update: There may have been less than meets the eye in this rearrangement of data. Further analysis here and here would seem to indicate that the reversals in the position of 1934 and 1998 were quite small and were only in the US. Worldwide the more recent years are in fact still the warmest. Given the constant circulation of the atmosphere, worldwide figures would seem to be the only relevant ones. In general, skepticism still seems the healthiest attitude to adopt, especially regarding the dire consequences predicted and the current almost total absence of actual applicable solutions.

Labels: , ,