Did global warming drive US temperatures to their highest levels ever last year? Was 2013 the hottest ever?
Sure, a whole boatload of mainstream scientists and the government agency that maintains the records says 2012 was the hottest ever (for the contiguous US). But that’s not good enough for the Rupurt Murdoch and his gang at Fox News. They had to go out and find a couple of people to present “The other side” – because as we all know, science always has two sides.
Now, for most of us, those two sides would consist of “correct” and “not so much”, but even that wasn’t good enough for Fox. So they had to go and find “correct” and “batshit crazy”.
First, a quick note on the “controversy”. We’re dealing with more than 100 years of record-keeping here. In order to create a meaningful continuum so we can make comparisons, some adjustments have to be made – for instance, where weather stations have moved.
These events create a break in the record. To generate its historical analysis, NOAA has to identify the breaks and perform an analysis that matches up the two end-points, creating a single, continuous record.
Apparently it does a good job. When the Berkeley Earth project examined temperature records, they used a statistical method that didn’t repair the breaks. Instead, they treated the two sides of the break as independent temperature records. Yet that team came up with a temperature reconstruction that was nearly identical to ones made using NOAA’s data.
So the correct answer is: “Reasonable people operating scientifically have worked tirelessly for years to assure the accuracy of this data.”
And Fox goes out and finds a blogger, Steve Goddard, who with his bachelor of science and engineering and no actual study of the question is happy to provide the batshit crazy answer: ”The adjusted data is meaningless garbage. It bears no resemblance to the thermometer data it starts out as.”
Goddard is a blogger who attacks climate scientists based on… well, based on stuff he is able to think up in his head. So he does stuff like counting pixels in arctic sea ice maps and concluding that he knows more about arctic sea ice than scientists with years of specialized training who actually spend their lives studying arctic sea ice (and then apologizes when they demonstrate that he had no idea what he was talking about).
And then there’s Roy Spencer, who Fox helpfully describes as a climatologist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville
“2012 [wasn't] necessarily warmer than it was back in the 1930s,” says Spencer. “… NOAA has made so many adjustments to the data it’s ridiculous.”
(That’s always a fun one the deniers love to do: Take one extreme year, like 1934 or 1998, and based on that claim that temperatures now are actually lower. Which is kind of like cherrypicking the year you got an inheritance from Aunt Florence, and saying “compared to that year your income has declined”, which may be technically true but ignores the fact that your average yearly income has been rising steadily throughout your career. It’s true, but utterly meaningless – except to make cheap debate points.)
So what’s the deal with Spencer? As Ars Technica notes,
Spencer has been known to let his personal views cloud his scientific judgement, as evidenced by his wholehearted support of intelligent design and disbelief of evolution. In the case of environmental issues, he’s made his personal views very clear, stating, “I would wager that my job has helped save our economy from the economic ravages of out-of-control environmental extremism.” A lot of his climate research isn’t well respected by the community, either.
And, as Ars Technica also notes, people have studied his ideas – about urban heat islands pushing the overall average hotter – and found them to be hogwash.
And then there’s Anthony Watts, for the trifecta of climate trolls. ”Is history malleable?” says the skeptic. “Can temperature data of the past be molded to fit a purpose? It certainly seems to be the case here.”
Based on… what? Nada. The comment is entirely rectally extracted, with no basis given – not even a debunked one. And Watts is given the last word, meaning the reader is left with his assertion that ”In the business and trading world, people go to jail for such manipulations of data.” (Really? In the business and trading world, data is “manipulated” all the time. It’s the only way you can draw meaningful statistical comparisons. But I guess Watts knows even less about business than he does about climate science.)
In the world of climate denial – and Fox News – all you need to present the “fair and balanced” other side of the argument is to say it is so. Fox reports… you despair.
(Image via NewsCorps.)