Facts are twisted to deceive the general public about the actual science of climate change, educated scientist charges
“There is an intriguing twist in the climate change controversy,” according to Fox News, in a recent report, Federal scientist cooked climate change books ahead of Obama presentation, whistle blower charges. It appears that NOAA scientists intentionally manipulated data to hide a pause in global warming. Resulting conclusions were then given to world leaders ahead of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. This had a major influence on their decisions and resulted in a commitment to reduce fossil fuel use.
The main takeaway from this report? Scientists are intentionally modifying data to make it look like climate change is real, when it is not. If I were not an atmospheric scientist, this is how I would interpret this story. This is how most people will interpret this story.
Below is one of the main figures from the research paper under attack. The entire news story is about the period during 1998 – 2014, which is indicated by the blue box. The focus is on the difference between the so-called “cooked” data (black line) and the original data (red line). That’s it. That’s the whole story. Hardly evidence of intentional data manipulation in an attempt to prove the existence climate change.
In case you are wondering how scientists “cooked” the data, and why they might do this, here is a brief overview: First, climate scientists must figure out ways to account for different data gathering techniques. Before the mid-1970s, ocean temperatures were primarily monitored by ships. Since then, more and more buoys have been added which are considered to be more accurate. Side-by-side comparisons have identified temperature biases in the ship data, and when such data are blended into buoy data over time, artificial trends can appear. This must be accounted for, and the data are therefore “corrected” to eliminate such artifacts. Second, scientists use more observations when they are available. In this case, more observations were made available, which slightly changed the global average temperatures. For example, more data for Arctic regions were taken into consideration, and the Arctic has been warming faster than the rest of the world. After accounting for these important factors, we get the black line instead of the red line.
The only conclusion here is that our planet is warming. This is the case if you focus on the red line or if you focus on the black line. Decisions to reduce fossil fuel use are based on concrete scientific theory, modeling studies, and yes, observations. Such decisions are not based on the minuscule difference between datasets during 1998 – 2014. They are based on the long-term warming of our planet over the entire 20th century, and they are based on the record-warm years in 2014, 2015, and again in 2016.
Interestingly, the Fox News story makes no mention of the time-dependent corrections presented in the bottom half of the figure shown above. Because of these data corrections, the long-term trend is actually significantly smaller than if the data were not corrected. The correction prior to 1950 is substantially larger than the one discussed in this news story. This particular data correction is not included because it would completely contradict the intended takeaway, that scientists are exaggerating the global warming signal, when they have actually suppressed it.
It is worth noting that I am not connected to the NOAA study in any way. I am simply a user of the data who happens to be familiar with some of the underlying methods. More importantly, I am familiar with the multiple strands of evidence for human-caused global warming. Why would this particular NOAA scientist decide to speak to the media about a tiny segment of just one dataset? I have no idea. But I do know that NOAA employs more than 6,700 scientists and engineers who have not done this. I also know that there are thousands of scientists around the world who conduct research related to human-caused climate change. This story does nothing to debunk their research findings, but it might appear this way to many people. The Fox News report itself, is the true deception here.