The right-o-sphere is buzzing about Willis Eschenbach's guest post on Watts Up With That? looking at Australian climate records. The piece purports to compare temperature data as reported by the IPCC with the unadjusted records first in northern Australia (defined by the IPCC (SM.9-9) as land measurements between 110E to 155E, 30S to 11S) then, second, at a particular station in that region, Darwin airport.
Ed Morrissey and others see it as Climategate's "smoking gun", establishing that warming stems from shadowy "manipulation" of the underlying temperature data. This is a point I've made before -- that the climate models are all wrong, if not phony -- particularly about measurements from the U.S. and New Zealand. But on initial inspection, I don't think Eschenbach makes an air-tight (ha!) case.
The first part of the analysis, covering the northern Australia region, is the most troublesome. Eschenbach accurately reproduces the IPCC's "global mean temperature changes (°C) from 1906 to 2005" in Northern Australia, from its 2007 Fourth Assessment Report:
source: IPCC Fourth Report, WG1 at 695
Next, Eschenbach plots the raw data from the Global Historical Climate Network (GHCN), i.e., the average temperature anomaly actually recorded at all 222 stations in the same geographic region:
source: Eschenbach Figure 4
Eschenbach indignantly concludes that the latter chart "looks nothing like the UN IPCC data, which came from the CRU, which was based on the GHCN data." But in truth, the broad "Northern Australia" anomaly reported by IPCC and Eschenbach's raw plot in figure 4 show about the same temperature anomaly -- a half of a degree C. Initially, this isn't much (unless it's per decade), which could be an argument in itself; but Eschenbach doesn't make that point. More importantly, much of the difference between the charts flows from the IPCC's decision to start its series in 1906, which is the lowest year of the raw data. Eschenbach starts his in 1880. Eyeballing Eschenbach's plot from 1906 on makes the two charts appear far more similar.
So Eschenbach's analysis mostly demonstrates the significance of where one starts plotting trend lines, a deception often practiced by warming alarmists. That itself is a bias -- cherry picking -- but Eschenbach doesn't address it. And it falls short of showing that the subsequent adjustments to the data are a smoking gun.
Eschenbach's analysis of the adjustments made to temperatures recorded at Darwin airport is, in some ways, more probative. His two plots compare the averaged raw and adjusted temperature anomaly numbers at that site:
source: Eschenbach Figure 7
source: Eschenbach Figure 8
I haven't double-checked Eschenbach's calculations, which I presume are correct. If so, the warming appears to derive solely from post-recordatation manipulation of the data. And, to the extent that typical "adjustments" are applied to historical records to lower them -- as apparently done in New Zealand -- or delete them -- as apparently done in Orland, California -- that's particularly suspicious (and potentially illegal under various freedom of information laws). Still, Darwin airport is just one station. Meaning, a logical response from warming zealots is that this, too, is cherry picking. Ken Hall suggests as much in comments on WUWT? (4:50am on December 8th).
Don't mistake my argument. I think it far from certain that warming is caused by man-generated greenhouse gas emissions, that the urban heat island effect accounts for much of the asserted increase, and, in any event, that warming has plateaued lately -- as even the IPCC chairman admits. And the media's behavior -- the New York Times, Washington Post (Ebell letter to editor) and even Google -- has been shameless.
Given the manipulation of the data and peer review by supposed scientists, the IPCC and other warming alarmist data must be fact checked before being the basis for treaties or EPA regulation. If they rush ahead regardless, that tends to confirm that enviros' real agenda is socialism, not science.
Yet, that doesn't prove a widespread conspiracy faking the data. As Tiger Hawk says:
The more partisan skeptics who have argued the conspiracy theory, or at least alluded to it, are setting themselves up for the obvious response, which is that true conspiracies involving thousands of people are virtually impossible to organize, sustain, and cover up. Megan McArdle describes the much more probable case, which is that the community of climate scientists are practicing a subtle sort of collegiality bias, in which nobody wants to find large errors in the reasoning of their colleagues.As Richard Fernandez concludes, the likely culprit is a form of confirmation bias, where supposed scientists -- like this one -- only seek answers conforming to their pre-conceived warming theory.
That's bad enough; indeed, it makes alarmism dubious. But, without more evidence, conspiracy assertions make warming skeptics vulnerable to accusations of the opposite confirmation bias. So turn down the hype and concentrate on getting a consensus to let the numbers speak for themselves. Put differently, insist everyone share the data--and eat it raw.
They're not taking my advice; indeed, the CRU may now be hiding data formerly available on the web. Prompting a "litigation hold" notice (prohibiting document destruction) to United States Department of Energy employees regarding CRU data.
(via reader OBloodyHell, Wolf Howling, twice, Berman Post)