11 July 2011

Making Stuff Up at Real Climate

Real Climate has an interesting post up today in which Gavin Schmidt reports that, according to a new analysis, errors in climate data (ocean temperatures) may lead to a reduction in the 1950-2006 global temperature trend of 17%, perhaps more.  This is a big deal scientifically and speaks to the certainty – in this case excessive -- with which climate science is often reported, especially by the IPCC.

As far as Real Climate is concerned it is interesting that they seem to think that the story here is not the revisiting of the science of global temperatures, but how they can score some points against fellow bloggers (Maybe trying to change the subject?).

Unfortunately, in my case (and according to Steve McIntyre, in his as well) they engage in some fabrication to try to score those points, incorrectly claiming that I had offered a “prediction” of how the science on this issue would evolve. When called on this, Gavin first admitted that he could be confused (he was), but when I pointed out to him exactly how he was confused, he decided to dig in his heels.

Actually, on Prometheus I and a number of commenters did what people normally do when they hear about interesting science -- we discussed, probed, questioned, hypothesized, explored. Schmidt seems upset that people engaged the subject at all. For my part, I discussed the issue of temperature adjustments in some depth (e.g., here) and offered up a few conditionals that spanned the scope of possibilities (and event had an exchange with Gavin et al. on the subject). But I offered no predictions of how the science would turn out.  As readers here know, I predict football but not science.

Taking a look back at my discussion of the temperature trend issue at Prometheus from 2008 for the first time since it was written, it actually stands up pretty well:  I asked, “Does the IPCC’s Main Conclusion Need to be Revisited?”  The answer would seem obviously to be “yes” if it is indeed the case that 17% of the global surface temperature trend that the IPCC thought it had fully accounted for was actually measurement error.  Oops.  But that sort of thing -- learning something new about something we thought we had settled -- happens in science, and it should not be a surprise or a scandal.

But that is just science.  On the apparently much more important issue of the blog wars, Gavin Schmidt has decided to let his fabrication stand and has encouraged and published the usual cheerleaders piling on, adding to the misinformation in the comments, unfortunately making this post necessary.  Richly ironic.  I do not miss sparring with those guys.