The absolute uncertainty of climate science


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Even as the United States is being plunged right now into an epic cold spell (something that has been happening repeatedly for almost all the winters of the past decade), and politicians continue to rant about the coming doom due to global warming, none of the data allows anyone the right to make any claims about the future global climate, in any direction.

Why do I feel so certain I can make this claim of uncertainty? Because the data simply isn’t there. And where we do have it, it has been tampered with so badly it is no longer very trustworthy. This very well documented post by Tony Heller proves this reality, quite thoroughly.

First, until the late 20th century, we simply do not have good reliable climate data for the southern hemisphere. Any statement by anyone claiming to know with certainty what the global temperature was prior to 1978 (when the first Nimbus climate satellite was launched) should be treated with some skepticism. Take a look at all the graphs Heller posts, all from reputable science sources, all confirming my own essay on this subject from 2015. The only regions where temperatures were thoroughly measured prior to satellite data was in the United States, Europe, and Japan. There are scattered data points elsewhere, but not many, with none in the southern oceans. And while we do have a great deal of proxy data that provides some guidance as to the global temperature prior to the space age, strongly suggesting there was a global warm period around the year 1000 AD, and a global cold period around 1600 AD, this data also has a lot of uncertainty, so it is entirely reasonable to express some skepticism about it.

Second, the data in those well-covered regions have been tampered with extensively, and always in a manner that reinforces the theory of global warming. Actual temperature readings have been adjusted everywhere, always to cool the past and warm the present. As Heller notes,

No legitimate scientist would alter data like this. If they have theories about possible issues with the data, the correct way to handle it is to put error bars on the graph – not alter the data and present it as if it is the actual thermometer data. That is fraud, not science. Between 1999 and 2016, NASA completely altered the shape of the US temperature graph to turn seventy years of cooling into warming.

NOAA has done the same, as have most other databases.

Because of observational uncertainties, it is not unreasonable to accept some adjustments to these temperature databases. What is totally unreasonable however is for all the adjustments to always go in one direction. That is impossible, unless these scientists are committed conscious fraud, or are amazingly unaware of their confirmation biases. That the scientists doing these adjustments have never adequately explained their criteria for doing so further makes their actions suspect.

Worse, there is evidence, from their own words, that they intended to tamper with the data. When it was decided in the 1990s, for political reasons, that global warming was the doom for the future, climate scientists then decided that they needed to hide the cooling in the 1940s to 1970s, cooling that was so well accepted at that time that many scientists then considered it solid evidence that we were about to enter an ice age. (Heller’s post documents this historical record, which is extensive and pronounced. I also remember this ice age fear-mongering from the 1960s and 1970s.)

And we know scientists in the 1990s decided to do this data tampering because they said so, repeatedly, in the climategate emails, which Heller also quotes. (I have read those climategate emails extensively myself, so I know that Heller is not cherry-picking his quotes. All he is doing is giving one good example, from a plethora of examples.) To make their global warming models work, they somehow had to make the post 1940s cooling go away. Their unjustified adjustments have accomplished this.

Finally, the ice age fear-mongering from the 1960s, based on the weak data available then, compares well with the global warming fear-mongering since the 1990s. In both cases, the fear-mongering shows the untrustworthiness of the predictions of the climate science community. It isn’t so much that they get their predictions wrong, but that they are prone to making predictions that they simply can’t back up with data. They didn’t have the data in the 1970s to determine what was going to happen, and they don’t now. And they have clearly demonstrated a willingness to fake data to back up these weak claims.

So, the next time someone tries to slander you by calling you a “climate denier” because you are simply being a reasonable skeptic, show them this post, and tell them it is time they got their head out of the sand and started learning something, with the most important lesson being: Science is skepticism. Civilization is skepticism.

And true knowledge only comes from skepticism. When you are absolutely certain, without facts, you are only certain of one thing, and that is of being wrong.

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13 comments

  • Edward

    Worst of all, the tampered data — fudged data, because the change was neither explained nor announced, it just appeared — is now useless for understanding the climate or how to predict it. It cannot be used for performing a sanity test on any future models that take into account anything new that we legitimately learn about climate.

    Indeed, since the current models were based upon the pre-tampered data, the current models no longer conform to the changed “reality.” If they were not invalid before, they are invalid now. Tampering with the data, especially if it was done for legitimate and explainable reasons, has killed — not justified — the models that are currently used, because either they were created using faulty data or they failed to correctly predict current climate. If the former, then their predictions of current temperatures is coincidence, because the theories underlying their algorithms are based upon faulty information. If the latter, they were created using correct information, but the climate did not change as the models predicted.

    Not only are the current models unusable, but future models cannot be created until we have enough reliable data (decades at the very least) to model the climate.

    That the current climate scientists are willing to fudge data, it could be decades before we can trust the data enough to find a new start point for observation of nature’s processes in order to restart climate science. We have to wait until we are assured that new data (or current data) are legitimate and unfudged. Meanwhile, climate science is dead, except few people realize it yet.

    Tampering with historical data has set back climate science by the century and a half over which we have temperature data — oops — had temperature data. The historic data cannot be used in order to test future proxies for compatibility or usefulness in order to deduce information about pre-thermometer temperature histories.

    This is part of the problem with fudging data. It can set back the scientific field and invalidate other research. Everything that has depended upon temperature data sets has been compromised. If it was research performed in the past then the new data sets call it into question until those who tampered with the data explain themselves. If the tampering was necessary, then a century and a half of research is invalid. If the tampering is bogus, then all the recent research performed using the bogus temperature data sets is invalid.

    And we will not know until the tampering is justified or refuted. Until then, we cannot be certain of anything done previously or anything being done now.

    An absolute uncertainty of climate science.

  • Andi

    Hi Robert,

    The first Nimbus satellite (successor to the TIROS series) was launched in the mid-1960s. My father was the Director of Meteorological Satellite Programs at NASA at that time, and I vividly remember the satellite details and launches. He took me to the launch of TIROS 1 – really thrilling for a kid.

    Perhaps you meant to refer to the TIROS-N series, which I believe was launched beginning in the late 1970s?

  • m d mill

    The good news in fact:
    The nearly linear increase in CO2 since the 1960’s is in fact a global climate experiment in progress.
    This increase will continue for the next 30 to 50 years at least…there is no reasonable expectation it will end soon (it would in fact be a grievous if it did).
    But with the new temperature data gathered in the next 30 to 50 years we (with the climate scientists, alarmists and skeptics) will be able to discern if the “alarmist” trends and models are reasonably vindicated or reasonably disproved.
    With the advent of the UAH and RSS precise satellite measurements of lower troposphere temperatures globally , the temp data can no longer be fudged or misinterpreted significantly, IMO. And the long history of tidal gauge results will continue to be quite reliable, and will determine if sea level rise is, or is not accelerating over the next 30 to 50 years of CO2 increase.
    These results will be less and less disputable as these data become available over an additional 30 to 50 years of the experiment. Particularity the observationally based Energy Budget methods of Otto et al, and Lewis and Curry will be greatly enhanced as more time passes, and will probably become reasonably definitive. Let the sophisticated data analysis and modelling continue, even if biased and debatable…the science of climatology will advance. Let the skeptical questioning continue, regardless of the threats of the political fanatics.
    No extraordinary or irreversible damage will be done in that time that is not clearly evident well before “the time of the apocalypse”, even in the worst case (remember the earth has thrived at CO2 levels 5 times the current level).
    The truth will out and within the foreseeable future, if we remain open minded.

    Moreover,
    the nice thing is that UAH and RSS are respectfully skeptical of each other, and check each other…which is a situation rarely found in the field. That is why I think (hope) the temp data will no longer be fudged or misinterpreted SIGNIFICANTLY. UAH use observation based corrections and are skeptical of models ,RSS use more model based corrections and trust the models. [Incidentally, I doubt there was any confirmation bias in the original UAH findings, which were in error. A mistake was made in a string of VERY difficult corrections among many varied satellite types that no one had even attempted up to that point, and which took many years for anyone to find. There is no need to assume significant bias, and the error was corrected.]

    Of course there is no absolute objectivity, but I feel very comfortable relying on the UAH, RSS temp data histories which are very similar (and tide gauge histories). Although, when Christy and Spencer leave the field then the situation could degrade. I hope they will have the power to see to their succession, so that this friendly competition may continue.

    Further,
    most Models are tested against diurnal and seasonal variations which have been averaged for many decades and are quite accurate. The models work amazingly well over this period for temperature, wind, humidity , etc variations (but are not as accurate for cloud and rainfall modeling, which may be critically important for long term predictions). So we cannot say these models are operating in a data vacuum…the modelers are generally doing there best,IMO, and have done remarkable work. But the variation of temperature over the oceans (and land) are greatly attenuated by the ocean mix layer thermal capacitance over these short time periods, so the feedback effects of ocean warming and evaporation are not easily verified observationally over multi-decadal periods.
    As more time passes the experiment described above will probably answer this question observationally .

  • Andi: My mistake. I was really referring to Nimbus 7, which most climate scientists consider the first to provide reliable global data. As I wrote in my Chronological Encyclopedia:

    One of the most successful earth research satellite ever launched, Nimbus 7 was the last of the Nimbus experimental environmental/meteorological research satellites. ,,, The spacecraft operated for more than a decade, with several sensors functioning into the early 1990s. Nimbus 7’s instruments were the first to provide data on the earth’s climate on a global basis, using many carefully refined spectral bands.

    All previous climate/weather satellites were experimental. Nimbus 7 established the baseline that all later climate satellites continued.

  • TommyK

    A good read. So, where is the armadillo these days?

  • wodun

    m d mill
    January 28, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    The good news in fact:
    The nearly linear increase in CO2 since the 1960’s is in fact a global climate experiment in progress.
    This increase will continue for the next 30 to 50 years at least…there is no reasonable expectation it will end soon (it would in fact be a grievous if it did).
    But with the new temperature data gathered in the next 30 to 50 years we (with the climate scientists, alarmists and skeptics) will be able to discern if the “alarmist” trends and models are reasonably vindicated or reasonably disproved.

    Doesn’t matter. We know the climate will change to some degree and no matter which way it goes, it will be framed to help the AGW alarmist’s political agenda.

  • m d mill

    Well,
    if in 50 years (~2070) the global average temp has risen only 30 % of average model predictions (since 1980–beginning of satellite temp data), ie a 90 year span, the general public will not take the climate alarmism seriously, IMO.

  • Chris

    So how does satellite data give us total temperature data?
    I would think it only can give surface information or at most to the thermocline in the ocean. The salinity would be a factor on the reading as well, correct?
    On land readings the reading is of the surface as well. For all these readings do we not also need a good understanding of the material being measured and the theremal gradient from the surface down to understand how much energy is in the material being measured?
    In addition don’t we also need to see a long progression of data sets to understand how energy is stored and transferred within the various materials of the earth?

    I ask this since even with this “new” global measurements I wonder if we have anything near a true complete data set? I think it will be some time until we can have this data to even start to get a single first data set.

    Thoughts?

  • Chris: All your questions fall under my oft-repeated phrase, the uncertainty of science. All are correct and must be considered.

    What changed with satellites was that for the first time we were getting some data for the entire globe, a significant improvement over the past.

  • Edward

    m d mill wrote: “With the advent of the UAH and RSS precise satellite measurements of lower troposphere temperatures globally , the temp data can no longer be fudged or misinterpreted significantly

    However, when the data do not fit the model, the satellite can be “recalibrated,” as m d mill noted, to make sure that the model is seen to be right.

    The love of the theory (actually it is a hypothesis) seems to be driving a lot of confirmation bias in the climate science community. The data is modified to fit the hypothesis, so the loved hypothesis is promoted to a loved theory.

    The truth will out and within the foreseeable future, if we remain open minded.

    The truth is that temperatures stopped climbing for a couple of decades in the late 1990s. That was observation, as time passed. At first, this truth was met with excuses (e.g. the heat was hiding at the bottom of the oceans), then the temperature data were changed to show a continued climb rather than a period of level temperatures. If the data is fudged, how does the truth out? The truth has been hidden (probably at the bottom of the oceans), because the climate scientists were not open minded.

    If the heat is hiding, such as in the oceans, it means that the models are incorrect, as they do not account for that factor, and perhaps other factors.

    Meanwhile, as we wait for the truth to out, say in 50 years or more, the politicians are using the current fudged scientific data to tell us how to live our lives and to tax us into poverty lifestyles. All while those same politicians continue to spew CO2 as though they were trying to save us from the coming Ice Age.

    The general public already does not take the climate alarmism seriously, because they continue to use powered transportation, to use power in their homes and workplaces, and to purchase products that were made and distributed using power — all of which contribute to the CO2, which supposedly is the reason for the Anthropogenic Global Warming/Climate Change, expected ocean rise, and other announced catastrophes. Didn’t someone recently tell us that we only have 12 years left? How many times have we heard similar claims, yet those deadlines have already passed?
    https://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/video-audio/12-years-left-to-address-climate-catastrophe

  • m d mill

    The early corrections done by Spencer and Christy were not done to validate any model, but to correct for an error related the science and engineering of satellite remote sensing. A mistake was made in a string of VERY difficult corrections among many varied satellite types that no one had even attempted up to that point, and which took many years for anyone to find. There is no need to assume significant bias, and the error was corrected.
    Of course there is no absolute objectivity or certainty, but I feel very comfortable relying on the UAH, RSS temp data histories which are very similar (and tide gauge histories and Argo ocean temp records). [Incidentally, see the excellent series of blogs by Spencer here concerning Argo sea heat data http://www.drroyspencer.com/2019/01/chuck-todd-devotes-an-hour-to-attacking-a-strawman/ and Judith Curries excellent blog on early 20th century warming https://judithcurry.com/2019/01/23/early-20th-century-global-warming/ ]

    The satellites give temp readings for the lower and upper troposphere. There is no need to know the ocean heats or other global data to simply determine if the model trend predictions for the lower atmosphere (and surface temperatures) are following the observed satellite readings.
    The skepticism and vigilance advocated by RZ and others is laudable and necessary and a cornerstone of good scientific method, but let us not go down the path of “you can never know nothin bout nothin” and “its ALL a conspiracy”.

    The good news…with the new temperature data gathered in the next 30 to 50 years (given increasing CO2 forcing) we (with the climate scientists, alarmists and skeptics) PROBABLY will be able to discern if the “alarmist” trends and models are reasonably vindicated or reasonably disproved.

    RELATED…the new Netflix/PBS documentary on ultra-safe nuclear reactors (The Nuclear Option) is fascinating.

  • m d mill: The reason your comment did not appear immediately is that you included two links, and any comment that includes more than one link must be moderated and approved by me manually. I have deleted your second attempt to post this. Please do not repost comments. Just be patient and give me some time. I’ll get to it.

  • Edward

    m d mill,
    Your explanation would carry more weight if NASA and NOAA had not been caught fudging other data. Add to that the NASA scientist who was discussing some subterfuge with the East Anglia guys, and the lack of consequences from the climate science community for all the mickey mouse that has been going on, and trust in climate scientists and climate science has gone out the window (defenestrated).

    The climate science community will have to re-earn that trust, and this will take time and effort, which they have yet to begin.

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