Friday, October 29, 2010

Data Massage

Not to be confused with massage parlors in China and Thailand...

IEEE Spectrum
New Zealander Kevin E. Trenberth has been a lead author in the last three climate assessments produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and he shared in the 2007 Nobel Prize awarded to the IPCC. He is head of the climate analysis section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. IEEE Spectrum Contributing Editor William Sweet interviewed Trenberth about the impact of the theft last year of climate scientists’ e-mails from the University of East Anglia and proposals for reforming the IPCC.

IEEE Spectrum: You were a lead coauthor with Phil Jones of East Anglia of a key chapter in the latest IPCC assessment, and messages of yours were among the hacked e-mails that aroused such consternation.

Kevin E. Trenberth: One cherry-picked message saying we can’t account for current global warming and that this is a travesty went viral and got more than 100 000 hits online. But it was quite clear from the context that I was not questioning the link between anthropogenic greenhouse-gas emissions and warming, or even suggesting that recent temperatures are unusual in terms of short-term variability.

Spectrum: It seems to me the most damaging thing about the disclosed e-mails was not the issue of fraud or scientific misconduct but the perception of a bunker mentality among climate scientists. If they really know what they’re doing, why do they seem so defensive?

Trenberth: What looks like defensiveness to the uninitiated can just be part of the normal process of doing science and scientific interaction. Scientists almost always have to massage their data, exercising judgment about what might be defective and best disregarded. When they talk about error bars, referring to uncertainty limits, it sounds to the general public like they’re just talking about errors.

Wow, just wow! That was not what I was taught in school. I know I'm just a lowly ex-engineer but is that how science is done nowadays... or just in climate "science"? At work (the engineering groups), there are no massages. The product either works or you've just wasted a bunch of silicon wafers and $$$. Is this how AB32 was passed in California? Massaging data?!

Vote YES on Prop 23!


BTW, I was a student member of IEEE way back in undergrad. Never read IEEE Spectrum then either.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

great. you just canceled out my vote on prop23. at least your other reader is a hawaii resident. not that he would vote anyway.