I am not alone in my skepticism and despair regarding short-term agency funding cycles - many otherwise un-supported academic and government scientists - and their methods for creating myths of "crisis" and "dread factors" in their zeal to maintain their bleary roles in recent science history. I worry about the public's perceptions and perceived credibility of all Science as claims are made that may prove to be misleading, or worse, simply wrong!
The ongoing "Global Warming Crisis" is a recent example. It is not the first of its sort, where little that anyone can say within in the next several decades- given presently available measurements or basic knowledge - can be used to either confirm or destroy the rather poorly formulated basic hypothesis:
... That Global Warming occurring since the mid 1850s in the available temperature records is primarily due to Greenhouse Gases (CO2, methane, etc.,) generated principally by human industrialization...
Mar. 3, 1999 - 1998 Was Warmest Year of Millennium,
UMass Climate Researchers Report
But then, two well educated, patient, and dedicated skeptics - Scientists - John McIntyre, and Ross McKitrick tried to reproduce the Mann, Bradley, and Hughes results... and got different results -.pdf
McIntyre, Steven and Ross McKitrick, 2003. Corrections to the Mann et. al. (1998) Proxy Data Base and Northern Hemispheric Average Temperature Series. Energy & Environment Vol. 14, No 6, pp. 751-771, October 26, 2003
The data set of proxies of past climate used in Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998, "MBH98" hereafter) for the estimation of temperatures from 1400 to 1980 contains collation errors, unjustifiable truncation or extrapolation of source data, obsolete data, geographical location errors, incorrect calculation of principal components and other quality control defects. We detail these errors and defects. We then apply MBH98 methodology to the construction of a Northern Hemisphere average temperature index for the 1400-1980 period, using corrected and updated source data. The major finding is that the values in the early 15th century exceed any values in the 20th century. The particular "hockey stick" shape derived in the MBH98 proxy construction a temperature index that decreases slightly between the early 15th century and early 20th century and then increases dramatically up to 1980 - is primarily an artefact of poor data handling, obsolete data and incorrect calculation of principal components.
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In July 2006, the Mann, Bradley and Hughes "Hockey Stick" paper and it's bases was again reviewed and a report prepared and presented before a Congressional Committee by a team of academic statisticians - and found to be faulty on the same grounds described by the above review. This has had considerable consequences on the public and scientific opinion of the credibility nof all Climate Science, and the IPPC in general.
Climatologist Hubert Lamb, who pioneered the study of climate change, passed away in 1997. This is part of what Nature said in summarizing Lamb's life:
"During his later years, Lamb was skeptical of certain claims regarding the dangers posed by global warming. An empiricist at heart, and well aware of the complexities of the climate system, he felt that climate models were limited in their ability to provide accurate forecasts. As he observed in 1994, 'there has been too much theory and not enough fact in predicting the future.' He had found a new orthodoxy to challenge."
Our planet warms and cools on schedules that defy use of short trend data sets (less than several cycles of decadal scale patterns and trends) as either forecastive, or statistically significant data sources.This simple fact has been repeatedly confirmed by the weather and climate research community, particularly paleoclimate researchers such as Lloyd Keigwin, Roger Y. Anderson, and literally dozens of geology researchers whose data sets, although primarily proxy-based, are quite interpretable within the general sets of alternatives to the "One-Way" Greenhouse Warming threat that is being passed about by fear mongering funding chasers within the climate modeling community. To date, hundreds of millions of tax dollars have been squandered within this small community, to little avail.
There is nothing like a several thousand year long high resolution (annual- seasonal to decade-long blocks) climate proxy record to convince you that climate varies on all time scales, from decades to millenia, and that there is nothing unusual about the recent two centuries of climate variations. Another data fact is that the major differences that occur within the surface COADS weather observations are only apparent within the Northern Hemisphere Winter time series. Some of these data contradict Global Warming advocates, not because the earths temperatures have not been rising, but because the effects are not as predicted by would-be Dooms-Dayers.
Misunderstanding of what Climate Change is, and it's Many Sources has led to 'media-driven' chaos - a quick look at the 'System' helps.
A good place to start your queries is with examination of some example satellite observation data sets. A select few have been hauled around the hallowed halls of the US Congress by Federal Agency scientists, particularly NASA scientists. In their zeal these mostly irresponsible individuals have somehow "qualified" their "selected" data sets as being more representative than in situ observations taken over a broad range of phenomena and locations. Contrary to general news media reporting, and sensation tabloid stories, the short time that we have had satellite technology, and the relatively small numbers of truly comparable data series that exist, the available short-term satellite data sets are nearly useless as measures of climate trends in the context of natural climate variations. They will remain contestable for many decades to come, as they are simply very short. Statistically, such data sets are inutile, and lead to erroneous conclusions. That is basic science.
This is not to say that records from a well documented region cannot be used to understand Climate Change, and how it might relate to identifiable, or hypothetical 'System' variables - as shown in the link above the one just above... A good example is the work by USGS scientists in trying to understand the periodicity, and upstream links to atmospheric and oceanic processes of the Mississippi River and it's extensive watershed.
Climate change is defined by a change in seasonality, first, followed by a sequence of downstream energy transfer processes that take over, where surface heat, water or ground moisture are inter-converted with atmospheric moisture. This surface heat and moisture, and associated radiative energies, have been poorly accounted for, simply because the clouds that form, and atmospheric moisture content and its distributions are not readily or well measured using available tools. As each new tool is applied, there is a basic need for intercalibrations, time series, and replicate observations over broad geographic contexts, and many seasons. Such studies are just beginning.
This, along with most related satellite based sensing technology, remains in its infancy, requiring extensive ground-truthing, and adjustments. Satellite technology can only with great difficulty be used to measure even temperatures to any particularly useful accuracy, for the same reasons that there is controversy regarding Climate Change and Greenhouse warming. i.e., the sensors are confounded by the products and processes that occur between them and the objects that are being measured. They cannot measure more than a "skin" temperature, at best, and tend to generally underestimate ground or sea surface temperatures wherever atmospheric moisture varies.
The failure of the satellite or instrumental surface temperature readings to correspond with the atmospheric sounding data is of particular concern, as the two should show similar trends. They do not! Why? It is likely due to the fact that most of the surface measurements are affected by processes and conditions unrelated to the atmosphere, hence not related to the particular properties identified as Greenhouse Gases.
Also, it would be much more informative to measure the dynamics of upper ocean heat content and use that information rather than sea surface temperatures, as the upper few meters of the ocean's heat content is much greater than that of the entire atmosphere. Satellite sensor technology is limited in capabilities to measure temperature, as affected by atmospheric moisture and aerosols...
None of the interesting dynamic places on the earth are characterized by clear sky, optimal for satellite remote sensing environments. Those ocean regions with most dynamic heat content, and the most dynamic terrestrial domains are also indicated by voluminous advection (and/or transpiration) over those regions with the greatest effects on climate change. Consequently, these regions are often obscured by seasonal clouds as part of the global solar-driven, atmospherically mediated hydrologic cycle that redistributes the earth's dynamic energies on seasonal scales, as well as on longer time scales as the sun's output varies. This solar variation is quite poorly understood, and emanates from the changes in the sun's interior heat engine(s), and due to complex patterns of relative planetary motion, as well.
Are we doomed to great turmoil, drought, flooding, storms and disease simply because we in the developed world drive automobiles ? The greatest threat to human health and this planet's sustainability is our tendency to blame one behavior for our problems when it is another that we should be more attentive to. The issue is that we humans, as a species, are too many, too exploitive, and too short- sighted to resolve these real issues, until crisis drives our decision making. In the past it was either war, or pestilence that resolved the issues of overcrowding, often associated with climate regime shifts.
Denial is the root of human suffering.
There is still time to resolve many of the critical issues, through more efficient use of remaining resources, recycling, and minimizing creation of wastes, particularly toxics. This will, however, also require a tremendous reduction in birth rates, exploitation rates, and a new vigor applied to re-designing existing methods of agriculture, exploitation of the seas, and mining. We must become even more efficient, without losing the gains through increased demand.
It is not that we do not know what to do. It is cultural inertia, and greed that must be overcome.
Unfortunately, a general loss of credibility of all Science will likely be the most substantive issue to be faced, by the time these other important messages are learned. Help by playing a positive role in the delivery of the right messages, not just media-grabbing pleas for attention to the wrong things. There are lots of problems needing solved. Solve a Real One!