Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Value of Value-Added Data

The AGW theory is based on science, right? And settled science, right? The Times of London has learned something about the data at the East Anglia Climatic Research Unit (CRU):

SCIENTISTS at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based.

It means that other academics are not able to check basic calculations said to show a long-term rise in temperature over the past 150 years.
What a shame. We'll just have to take the CRU's word for it. So what did the scientists keep?

In a statement on its website, the CRU said: “We do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (quality controlled and homogenised) data.”

It would be a wonderful world indeed if we could all rely on "value-added (quality controlled and homogenised) data." You'll be happy to know that I've checked my "value-added data" and I am actually the King of Portugal. You might be a winner, too! So what does it all mean?

The CRU is the world’s leading centre for reconstructing past climate and temperatures. Climate change sceptics have long been keen to examine exactly how
its data were compiled. That is now impossible.

Roger Pielke, professor of environmental studies at Colorado University, discovered data had been lost when he asked for original records. “The CRU is basically saying, ‘Trust us’. So much for settling questions and resolving debates with science,” he said.

My son's 8th grade math teacher expects her students to show their work. You would think that the world's foremost repository of climate information, which is the backbone for just about everything we know about AGW, would be able to do the same. You would be wrong. The worthies at East Anglia might flunk out of my son's 8th grade math class, but we should have no compunctions about fundamentally altering the way the world works because of data they can't produce. Makes perfect sense. But that's okay -- we know it's true, because we do trust the East Anglia CRU, right? They wouldn't lie to us, right? There's no reason to question Al Gore and his pals, because they wouldn't steer us wrong. It's those nasty skeptics who are standing in the way of Progress again.

That little December 10 soiree in Copenhagen ought to be pretty interesting. I can forgive the president for getting his protocol screwed up and bowing to the Japanese emperor. But he'd better damned well not bow to the East Anglia CRU.


Anonymous said...

I am rather apolitical on the global warming issue. I don't think you can argue with the basic science here: human activities, particularly ones that involve burning fossil fuels, add a lot of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. These gases, especially carbon dioxide, accummulate in the atmosphere and trap heat that normally would exit into outer space. If this didn't happen at all, the Earth would be a big ice ball, so we owe our existence here on Earth to the greenhouse effect. Many greenhouse gases occur naturally, and there were enough here to create the greenhouse effect and keep the Earth warm enough to support life long before we started burning petrocarbons. In the last two centuries, human use of fossil fuels has grown prolifically and is now the main source of greenhouse gases. Given the fragile nature of the ecosystem, it doesn't seem to be too much of a stretch to imagine that continuing this practice, if left unchecked, could and very well may have a detrimental effect on the global environment. (If you disagree with anything I have said so far, please let me know).

Having said all that, for many other reasons political, practical, historical and scientific, I don't believe that anyone is going to do anything concrete about the current situation. There are too many variables at play to ever get a consensus, and too many ways to fudge data on both sides for anyone to ever get global agreement on how to address an issue that one side serially overplays, and the other side serially underplays. So to me, liberals are wasting a lot of political capital on an intractable issue that they are never going to get addressed to their liking, and it is politically stupid to waste so much capital on this issue.
So I believe that global warming is happening, but I will hope that it results aren't as catastrophic as many Cassandras on the left seem to imply, and trust that scientists will find other ways of addressing this when it becomes critical. (Which is how most things are addressed.)

Now, regarding your entry on value-added data, I googled Roger Pielke Jr. and found his blog.

He seems to be objecting to the way that the NYT used his months old quote, which you then re-quoted (and rather selectively, I might add;))

Pielke claims that this is old news that is being cited now to bolster the CRU story, which it really doesn't do. Pielke explains it all much better than I can. I suggest you read his blog, but here is the money quote:

"I suggest instead being open and simply saying that in the 1980s and even 1990s no one could have known that maintaining this data in its original form would have been necessary. Since it was not done, then efforts should be made to collect it and make it available (which I see CRU is doing). Ultimately, that will probably mean an open-source global temperature record will be created. If you believe -- and I see no reason to suspect otherwise -- that such an open-source analysis will confirm the work of Jones et al., then you should be welcoming it with open arms."

Pielke also goes on to say that "CRU should have taken these steps long before the present circumstances." I couldn't agree more.

BTW, this guy is pretty interesting. His book, "The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics", seems like it would be a great read.

Thought you might find this interesting.


W.B. Picklesworth said...

They threw data away. That doesn't strike me as sciencey.

Mr. D said...


Most of what you wrote is fine. I completely disagree with your saying that I selectively requoted Pielke. If you want to say that the Times of London (not the New York Times) was not being fair, fine. But don't pin that on me.

The way the missing data have been used is scandalous, Rich. There's no getting around that. And the way the True Believers in AGW have been behaving is equally scandalous. I don't want to ever listen to another lecture about "settled science" or how we're finally using "science" in the right way when what has happened here is about as blatant a misuse of the scientific method as I have ever seen. This is Piltdown Man-level fraud, except that the politicians and the well-situated people around them were bidding fair to fundamentally re-alter the way the planet behaves by demanding huge cuts in industrial production and (conveniently) taxing the snot of anyone who couldn't jump through the hoops. Literally trillions of dollars were at stake here, Rich. And it won't do for you to go all Solomonic or "one side overplays, the other side underplays" on this one. This is a huge, huge story.

my name is Amanda said...

The UK Times is a right-leaning conservative rag; I'm not disputing the verbosity of the story - only pointing that out.

Re: the topic, Rich has a great comment. (I differentiate on activism vs. pragmatism, but not necessarily his forecast.)

Fraud is fraud, but this isn't the only group of scientists to study the matter (nor would an instance of fraud - if proven - mean an entire history of fraud within the organization). Given that, comparing it to Piltdown Man is a bit hyperbolic, I think. (ie. Other early humans have been discovered; does that mean Piltdown Man proves that they don't exist?)

Anyway, I'm confused about how anyone who agrees global warming exists (as explained by Rich's comment, for example) would be not be a "True Believer" - and I'm not saying that to be argumentative, truly.

Anonymous said...

my bad on confusing the London and NY Times.

I have been reading everything I can on this, and it really is fascinating, but I am as skeptical about this being a smoking gun against climate change as I am about some of the really outrageous claims predicting catastrophic climate change.

Here is why. This site:
from the University under scrutiny makes the claim that "Over 95% of the CRU climate data set concerning land surface temperatures has been accessible to climate researchers, sceptics and the public for several years the University of East Anglia has confirmed." And that they have been blocked from doing so by non-publication agreements. I am all for openness, so we shall see. It is clear to me that this should have been done long ago.

Here is another very good site to check out:

Which claims that all original raw data still exists at the meteorological services where they originated, and that nothing was destroyed. Destroyed is a sinister sounding word, and it might be the correct word. But we don't know that yet, and we have a slew of folks claiming that isn't the case, so I will hold off on making a judgment. The discussion on this site is really helpful if you want to take a deep dive into this. It is pretty weighty, but for the most part, respectful, knowledgeable, and all sides are represented.

What I have learned in the course of my reading is that there appears to be 23 different climate models that have all been developed independently. Independence and data integrity are the two most essential criteria for statistical modeling, and all 23 seem to come to roughly the same conclusions regarding global warming. I know that you and I have both worked with financial models, and while this is not exactly the same thing, the fact that all 23 independent models reach similar conclusions is strong evidence indicating that unless the data is completely cooked (which is possible), there is a very high probability that the models are solid.
If each modeling team could access other teams’ code we would have to assume that the models were not independent. Then, your supposition about fraud could not be easily dismissed. But from my reading on this, that doesn't appear to be the case, and if CRU can produce the source data, then your claims of fraud might prove to be a bit hasty.

I am all for transparency, and am hoping that we will now get a lot more of that from the CRU and climatologists in general.


Mr. D said...


The Piltdown Man fraud didn't prove that there were no earlier versions of our species; it was a fraud because the version proferred didn't exist. The reason this is huge is that the data involved here have been used as a baseline for much of the subsequent research. And the keepers of the data (a) didn't keep it and (b) did much to conceal that the data are no longer available. That's pretty much the definition of fraud.

Rich, I agree: if the data can be replicated, then it would be fine. The scientists who are interested in this topic should start gathering the data now. But nothing should happen on a governmental level until such time as reliable data are available, with complete transparency. Today that is not the case. At a minimum, the Copenhagen confab ought to be cancelled.

Bike Bubba said...

Folks, I'm sorry, but we simply have to assume at this point that the data are falsified. If UEA cannot be bothered to buy a $30 hard drive or two and some DVD-ROMs to preserve the original data, but fights the release of the same data for years and ends up destroying it, you have got to assume that they're doing so for a reason.

At this point, we have to assume that every bit of work done there, and every bit of work based on their work, is tainted by this.

Don't bother saying "well we have this whole scientific consensus." The recently released emails tell us that some of that "consensus" knew about this, and did nothing to expose it.

W.B. Picklesworth said...

The onus is certainly on climate researchers to prove themselves and their material. Of course, that's just normal science. That it takes a revelation like this to get us to the point of demanding such basic scientific comportment is what's crazy.

I sense that there are many who will try to say soothing words and try to steer us back into the "settled science" frame of mind. That would be a mistake. The scientists have actively worked to taint the scientific process and so all of it is under a cloud. The fact that these different models come to similar conclusions might be explained by the fact that there is real science behind it. But it might also be explained by a culture of corruption in climate science that starts with desired results and then manipulates data to get there. Given the behavior in East Anglia this certainly isn't out of the question.

Anonymous said...

Al Gore Al Gore Al Gore Al Gore, and Al Gore....Did I mention Al Gore?

K-Rod said...

I take it you are not in a science/tech industry.

The earth has been generally warming for the last 10,000 years.
This is not exactly rocket science, trust me.

No one can actually argue with you until you actually quantify "add a lot of greenhouse gases"; but no one can agree with you either.


"especially carbon dioxide"

Not especially. Water and farts are better at the greenhouse effect. This is not exactly brain surgery, trust me.


"human use of fossil fuels has grown prolifically and is now the main source of greenhouse gases."

That is false. Shame on you Rich.
In God we trust; all others must show data.

Now Rich, put up or, respectfully,... ST..


"Given the fragile..."

Rich, why can't you show us the data behind your claim?


"(If you disagree with anything I have said so far, please let me know)."

Rich, you have given no reason to agree with you.


"I don't believe that anyone is going to do anything concrete about the current situation."

We have no reason to take action.


"So I believe that global warming is happening,"

Do you realize how much ice was upon MN 10,000 years ago?

The recent temperature data will show that we have been slightly cooling over the past few years, not warming as the models predicted.

I guess it's true, if Al Gore repeats the lie long enough...

K-Rod said...

Rich, how is that hockey stick graph working out for ya?

Anonymous said...

Mark and Picklesworth,
I believe we are all in agreement. The onus is definitely back on the AGW backing researchers, and they are going to have to finally share their data. And too, Mark, I agree that nothing should happen on a governmental level until transparency is achieved and models can be validated. I would also add that I doubt very much that anything of substance or serious economic consequence will happen any time soon, and that what happens in Denmark stays in Denmark. This is Kyoto all over again. A lot of posturing and nothing comes of it. Didn't the Kyoto accords lose a Senate vote 99 to 0?


K-Rod said...

There is no scientific evidence of Man Made Global Warming or Mcdonalds Made Global Warming for that matter.
Anyone who claims differently is a fool, sheeple, or useful idiot.

But what about that Hockey Stick graph? Hello?

Mr. D said...

K-Rod is asking a very useful question. The "hockey stick" graph that has been the basis for so much of this nonsense is now blown out of the water. It would be good if someone, somewhere would actually acknowledge that.

And by the way, I don't just want to see the East Anglia data. I also want to see the NASA data that James Hansen has used. Transparency all around.

CousinDan54915 said...

My science skills are hindered by my not matriculating at Beloit, but I do know this--in science, you do not seek a result, you eliminate other possibilities that could disprove your theory. When scientists decide that they know the answer, e.g. global warming or man made climate change, they really aren't looking for evidence that its no longer true.

I might visit Beloit (the underwater fart city as my then 6 year told me) to see a little MWC hoops this year.

Happy Thanksgiving and Christmas to the D's

Mr. D said...

My science skills are hindered by my not matriculating at Beloit

Less than you might imagine, I'm sure.

but I do know this--in science, you do not seek a result, you eliminate other possibilities that could disprove your theory. When scientists decide that they know the answer, e.g. global warming or man made climate change, they really aren't looking for evidence that its no longer true.

Yep. And that's the crux of the issue, Dan.

Anonymous said...

Cap and Trade justifications are based on theories and now apparently flawed approaches to the scientific method.

What isn't theory is the potentially devastating effect these proposals will have on the Midwest and Northern States where we have to heat our home in the winter just to live.

Everyone should read State of Fear by the late Michael Crighton. I really feel that that Global Warming/Cooling/Climate Chage is the Fear postulate for the left just as the threat of terrorism has been for the right.

In the end, Cap & Trade isn't about saving the earth. It's about a power grab by the Federal Government and a use of fear to shove inoridinate tax increases down the throat of everyone. If they use a few good hearted well intentioned Greens in the process, what of it?

Anonymous said...

Terrorism has been proven to be real and demonstrated to be deadly if not controlled.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.