Climate change and global warming deniers darkly insinuate that the world’s climate researchers, in cahoots with radical pinko anti-capitalist environmentalists, are dishonest. Publishing pre-ordained conclusions backed by tendentiously selected data mis-interpreted, the scientists hope to justify increasing their, supposedly, lucrative grants. The deniers often accuse the scientists of manipulating their data, but if the scientists did not, for example, adjust their raw data for artifacts within the data, the deniers would, and do, accuse the scientists of ignoring important effects.
To come up with such an important piece of information as the global mean surface temperature is complicated, difficult, and involves an immense amount of work. For example, mid-ocean surface temperatures do not arise from continuously reporting weather stations but from ships’ logs. Someone must go through thousands of ship journeys, recording each day’s ocean temperature readings and the ship’s position at the time of the reading. Some ships measure ocean temperature with a thermometer fixed in the engine cooling water intake pipe. Others drop a canvas bucket over the side and report the temperature of the water in the bucket pulled back onto the deck. Do those give the same value? What is the relation between those two readings and the temperature of the air above the sea? These questions and others require answers, and the researchers must adjust their data before they begin averaging. What about the possible effects of changes to urbanization around airport weather stations, the heat island effect? What if the thermometer is changed from a mercury instrument, read each day or each hour by eye, to an electronic, automatically recorded one? All these and many more matters must be considered and adjusted. Complicated statistical methods applied to vast data sets require powerful computers, and the algorithms and programs must be checked and re-checked. Hand-testing is nearly impossible.
Interesting and powerful data that does not require such expert, detailed analysis is available, however. Indeed, no one type of evidence or result proves that global warming is real or that humans are causing it. What convinces the researchers is the range of data and evidence arriving at a consistent picture of nature, arriving from distinct lines of evidence.
Here’s one I like that, in my opinion, shows global warming is not the result of nefarious collusion among modern climate scientists. I found this from Jason Kottke’s blog, but his source is here, the Economist.
Here we have the date of the peak of cherry blossom season in Kyoto Japan recorded for 1200 years. Kyoto is Japan’s ancient capital, and this record extends nearly to the formation of that natural beauty loving nation. You can see the variation caused by the weather, but looking at the solid line, an average, I’d say that for a thousand years the peak was about April 15. Beginning in the early or mid-1800s you can see a dramatic change in the location of the scattered cherry blossom data points and in the average. To my eyes, peak cherry blossoms have shifted 10 or 12 days earlier. A day a decade? This tells us that temperatures in Kyoto, roughly the latitude of Atlanta, have been warmer in February and March than they had been during the 1000 years from 800 AD to 1800 AD.
Just this one charming graph doesn’t prove that Earth’s climate is warming or that humans’ burning fossil fuels have done it. There are, however, many similar lines of evidence. In biology, geography, geology, oceanography, and other areas of knowledge. Birds return to their northern summer homes earlier. Average last frost occurs earlier and first frost later. Ocean acidity is increasing. Droughts are becoming more likely. Shorelines are submerging as land ice melts and ocean waters warm. The Northwest passage now opens across northern Canada in summers, and ships sail from East Asia to Europe across Siberia’s northern coast. The EPA has an informative periodic publication about a few dozen climate indicators. It’s worth looking at. Lots of pictures and clear explanations.
While scientists are human and subject to corruption, the same as anyone else, it is incredible that some politicians and others casually smear men and women working hard and skillfully to increase human knowledge and to benefit all of us. These scurrilous slanderers ignorantly suppose that there is a conspiracy among thousands of scientists that, evidently involves Japanese nature lovers.