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Rock star-scientist Brian Cox confused on more than global temperatures

By Jennifer Marohasy - posted Thursday, 18 August 2016


NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) based in New York also applies a jump-up to the Amberley series in 1980, and makes other changes, so that the annual average temperature for Amberley increases from 1941 to 2012 by about 2°C.

The new Director of GISS, Gavin Schmidt, explained to me on Twitter back in 2014 that: "@jennmarohasy There is an inhomogenity detected (~1980) and based on continuity w/nearby stations it is corrected. #notrocketscience".

When I sought clarification regarding what was meant by "nearby" stations I was provided with a link to a list of 310 localities used by climate scientists at Berkeley when homogenizing the Amberley data.

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The inclusion of Berkeley scientists was perhaps to make the point that all the key institutions working on temperature series (the Australian Bureau, NASA, and also scientists at Berkeley) appreciated the need to adjust-up the temperatures at Amberley. So, rock star scientists can claim an absolute consensus?

But these 310 "nearby" stations, they stretch to a radius of 974 kilometres and include Frederick Reef in the Coral Sea, Quilpie post office and even Bourke post office. Considering the un-adjusted data for the six nearest stations with long and continuous records (old Brisbane aero, Cape Moreton Lighthouse, Gayndah post office, Bundaberg post office, Miles post office and Yamba pilot station) the Bureau's jump-up for Amberley creates an increase for the official temperature trend of 0.75°C per century.

Temperatures at old Brisbane aero, the closest of these station, also shows a long-term cooling trend. Indeed perhaps the cooling at Amberley is real. Why not consider this, particularly in the absence of real physical evidence to the contrary? In the Twitter conversation with Schmidt I suggested it was nonsense to use temperature data from radically different climatic zones to homogenize Amberley, and repeated my original question asking why it was necessary to change the original temperature record in the first place. Schmidt replied, "@jennmarohasy Your question is ill-posed. No-one changed the trend directly. Instead procedures correct for a detected jump around ~1980."

If Twitter was around at the time George Orwell was writing the dystopian fiction Nineteen Eighty-Four, I wonder whether he might have borrowed some text from Schmidt's tweets, particularly when words like, "procedures correct" refer to mathematical algorithms reaching out to "nearby" locations that are across the Coral Sea and beyond the Great Dividing Range to change what was a mild cooling-trend, into dramatic warming, for an otherwise perfectly politically-incorrect temperature series.

Horton, the somewhat disillusioned editor of The Lancet, also stated recently that science is, "Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness." I would not go that far! I am not sure it has taken a turn for darkness – perhaps just a turn towards the make-believe. Much of climate science, in particular, is now underpinned with a postmodernist epistemology – it is simply suspicious of reason and has an acute sensitivity to the role of ideology in asserting and maintaining particular power-structures including through the homogenisation of historical temperature data.

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About the Author

Jennifer Marohasy is a senior fellow with the Institute for Public Affairs.

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