Climate scientists blow gaping hole in 'NASA data' paper
Cross-posted from ThinkProgress Green.
The climate denier blogosphere is going mad over a new paper that supposedly “should dramatically alter the global warming debate” by showing that “far less heat is being trapped than alarmist computer models have predicted.” The paper [PDF], written by conservative climate scientist Roy Spencer and his University of Alabama colleague William Braswell, finds that “satellite observations and climate models display markedly different behaviors,” and posits, with caveats, that there may be “lower climate sensitivity of the real climate system.” As LiveScience’s Stephanie Pappas writes, the paper then was promoted by a Heartland Institute blogger on the Forbes.com website:
The study, published July 26 in the open-access online journal Remote Sensing, got public attention when a writer for The Heartland Institute, a libertarian think-tank that promotes climate change skepticism, wrote for Forbes magazine that the study disproved the global warming worries of climate change “alarmists.” However, mainstream climate scientists say that the argument advanced in the paper is neither new nor correct.
Pappas interviewed climatologists Gavin Schmidt, Kevin Trenberth, and Andrew Dessler, who eviscerated Spencer’s shoddy science:
The study finds a mismatch between the month-to-month variations in temperature and cloud cover in models versus the real world over the past 10 years, said Gavin Schmidt, a NASA Goddard climatologist. “What this mismatch is due to — data processing, errors in the data, or real problems in the models — is completely unclear.”
“He’s taken an incorrect model, he’s tweaked it to match observations, but the conclusions you get from that are not correct,” Andrew Dessler, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University, said of Spencer’s new study.
“I cannot believe it got published,” said Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
In his paper, Spencer relies on a toy model of the climate system which geochemist Barry Bickmore (a Republican) had previously exposed as being one that could “give him essentially any answer he wanted, as long as he didn’t mind using parameters that don’t make any physical sense.”
This case is an excellent example of how the right-wing climate disinformation media machine works. Roy Spencer, one of the handful of publishing climate scientist ideologues, gets his work into an obscure journal. Then James Taylor, an operative for a fossil fuel front group, claims it is “very important” on Forbes.com, a media website owned by a Republican billionaire. The Forbes blog post was redistributed by Yahoo! News, giving the headline “New NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism” a further veneer of respectability, even though the full post is laughably hyperbolic, using “alarmist” or “alarmism” 15 times in nine paragraphs.