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Well, here's a hell of a surprise. Fox News has presented a misleading story bout climate science! Yes, you may want to sit down before reading any further!


Media Matters does the heavy lifting on this one, tracing how one seriously misleading op-ed column by Christopher Booker in the right-leaning London Telegraph on Jan. 7 has spread throughout the Right-o-sphere. And Booker makes it sound like one hell of a scandal all right: Climate scientists have been systematically adjusting temperature readings from weather stations all over the world! Booker called it a "wholesale manipulation of the official temperature record" and "one of the greatest scientific scandals of all time." And by golly, he sure did prove that a blogger looked at many temperature readings and found the original records were indeed adjusted in later publications, which is all the proof you need to know that the scientists are just making things up to scare people. In particular, daily temperature readings from stations in Paraguay had been adjusted to show higher temperatures than the original readings. Fraud! Fraud!

Except for the part where what actually was going on was just routine, peer-reviewed science. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (don't trust them, they're the government) issued a statement to Media Matters explaining that those adjustments were pretty routine, and necessary to correct for a number of factors that have nothing to do with climate, but everything to do with correcting for problems of local measurements:

[N]umerous peer-reviewed studies continue to find that NOAA's temperature record is reliable. To ensure accuracy of the record, scientists use peer-reviewed methods called homogenization, to adjust temperature readings to account for a variety of non-climate related affects such as changes in station location, changes in observation methods, changes in instrumentation such as thermometers, and the growth of urban heat islands that occur through time. Such changes in observing systems cause false shifts in temperature readings. Paraguay is one example of where these false shifts artificially lower the true station temperature trend. However, around the world, the opposite is true a little less than half of the time (see Lawrimore, et al, 2011). Homogenization methods take out these false shifts.

The NOAA email explained that some other temperature readings, particularly over the oceans, had been revised downward "to account for the transition in sea surface temperature observing methods," which actually "lowers global temperature trends." But those are a lot of science words -- don't they really mean that NOAA admits it's just making everything up?

Media Matters lists a number of different reasons, adapted from a NOAA website, for adjusting the local temperature readings to make them more accurate over time:

  • Quality control "to identify suspects... and outliers."
  • Time-of-observation changes.
  • Adjustments "for the bias introduced when the liquid-in-glass thermometers were replaced with the [Maximum/Minimum Temperature System]."
  • Homogeneity adjustment "to account for time series discontinuities due to random station moves and other station changes."
  • Estimates for missing data when needed "based on a 'network' of the best correlated nearby stations."
  • Urban warming bias.

On that last point, Yr Dok Zoom remembers what big news it was when Tucson got a new weather station at the airport. It was away from the gravel parking lot where the previous instruments were located, and the official temperature readings got a degree or two lower immediately, although strangely the summers felt exactly as hellish. Nobody thought Tucson was proof of global cooling.

And as you read on, you find other scientists explaining why, yes, Virginia, the initial temperature reading at some locations was probably off to begin with and was changed to be more accurate. Ars Technica also did a detailed takedown of Booker's op-ed, noting that Booker is really good at cherry-picking data, and explaining once again why just dumping raw temperature date from weather stations into climate studies results in bad science:

Why do [temperature data] have to be processed at all? Because almost none of the records are continuous. Weather stations have moved, they've changed the time of day where the temperature-of-record is taken, and they've replaced old thermometers with more modern equipment. All of these events create discontinuities in the record of each location, and the processing is used to get things into alignment, creating a single, unified record.

You know, faked!!!!!

We have to give Ars Technica a big thumbs-up for their sub-head: "Do we have to go through this every year?" Apparently, we do. They point out that even after a similar Fox News story was debunked in 2013, Booker published two other columns proclaiming a huge scandal involving scientists fudging data right and left to mislead the public. They also note that Mr. Booker thinks asbestos and secondhand smoke are harmless, so at least he has a diverse background in science denial.

Not that it really matters. Booker wrote his thing, and now the rightwing Deny-o-sphere is full of articles proclaiming that the final nail has been driven into the climate change hoax by Booker's brilliant exposé of how scientists have been making it all up, probably to get rich.

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Besides, it's really snowy in Boston right now. What more proof do you need that there's no global warming?

[Media Matters / Ars Technica]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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