Climate Science: The Devil's In the Details (Which Apparently No Longer Exist)

So there’s this Canadian fellow named Steve McIntyre, who works with an organization called Climate Audit. Climate Audit’s interest is not in debunking Global Warming. Rather, they audit the data in an effort to make sure the conclusions derived are unassailable. To that end, Steve contacted the Climactic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, the repository of the data that underlie the “overwhelming scientific consensus” in the Climate Science community. He requested the original raw data behind their temperature trend conclusions, to wit:

CRU 'Value Added' Temperature History

You’d expect scientists who are so sure of their conslusions to welcome this type of scrutiny. Instead, Steve got the Heisman Treatment – the big stiffarm – because he’s “not an academic”.

No problem. Enter Roger Pielke, Jr., a like-minded inquisitive scientist, a professor of environmental studies at UC-Boulder, true Climate Change believer, and academic. After considerable hemming and hawing from the CRU, Roger finally got this answer:

We are not in a position to supply data for a particular country not covered by the example agreements referred to earlier, as we have never had sufficient resources to keep track of the exact source of each individual monthly value. Since the 1980s, we have merged the data we have received into existing series or begun new ones, so it is impossible to say if all stations within a particular country or if all of an individual record should be freely available. Data storage availability in the 1980s meant that we were not able to keep the multiple sources for some sites, only the station series after adjustment for homogeneity issues. We, therefore, do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (i.e. quality controlled and homogenized) data. [emphasis in Dr. Pielke’s quote]

OK, so granted, the data may not have fit on a 5-1/4″ floppy disk, but you did have a filing cabinet, I assume?

Here’s Dr. Pielke’s reaction:

Say what?! CRU has lost track of the original data that it uses to create its global temperature record!? Can this be serious? So not only is it now impossible to replicate or reevaluate homogeneity adjustments made in the past — which might be important to do as new information is learned about the spatial representativeness of siting, land use effects, and so on — but it is now also impossible to create a new temperature index from scratch. CRU is basically saying, “trust us.” So much for settling questions and resolving debates with empirical information (i.e., science).

To be absolutely clear, none of what I write here should be taken as implying that actions to decarbonize the global economy or improve adaptation do not make sense — they do. However, just because climate change is important and because there are opponents to action that will seize upon whatever they can to make their arguments, does not justify overlooking or defending this degree of scientific sloppiness and ineptitude. Implementing successful climate policy will have to overcome the missteps of the climate science community, and this is a big one.

This is all a Climate Change Skeptic needs to justify his skepticism. Science is all about the data, and a true scientific practitioner rigorously keeps raw data just so it can be subjected to skeptical review. This is Scientific Method 101.

In this case, the CRU has the audacity to refer to their temperature record as “value-added”. In other words, normalized, fudged, mixmastered, sandblasted, then run thru the Cuisinart. And when other scientists ask to verify their methodology, they’re given the ivory-tower equivalent of “the dog ate my homework”. Sheesh.

H/T MasterResource.org, via Cooler Heads Digest, the Competitive Enterprise Institute