You’re unlikely to find any “mainstream science blogger” admitting it, but the backlash against NASA’s hyped-up “arsenic life” press-conference-cum-discovery is not similar, rather pretty much identical (apart from a “tiny” detail I’ll talk about in a moment) to what many AGW skeptics have been saying about that other NASA’s hyped-up field, (catastrophic) climate change.
Take these words by Chris Rowan and tell me why they couldn’t be written as critique to the Hockey Stick or any other Climategate-related bodging or fudging:
[…] That’s what I consider to be real peer review. The pre-publication stuff is just a quality filter, a check that the paper is not obviously wrong – and an imperfect filter at that. The real test is what happens in the months and years after publication. Sometimes, after further research, the ideas in the paper do stand the test of time, and form a firm foundation for further research in that area. Sometimes it turns out to be wrong, but in interesting ways that increase our understanding of how that little bit of the world works. Sometimes it turns out to be simply wrong.
[…] the discussion is taking place in a much more public manner than is usually the case – something that NASA and the authors of the paper don’t seem to like very much. Well, tough cookies. You wanted the publicity. If you’re presenting your research at a NASA press conference in the wake of a firestorm of excitable media speculation, you definitely wanted the publicity. It’s a bit late to claim that you want discussion of your research limited to the peer-reviewed literature.
[…] I’ve actually written before about the real issue here: in this new media world of blogs and twitter streams, it’s much harder to control a story, because other scientists now have the tools to make their criticism just as public as your press releases.
[…] burying one’s head in the sand is counterproductive; you should robustly engage the criticisms, just as you would if it were a comment-and-reply in a journal, or a challenging question at a conference. The new reality is this: if you announce the research in a public venue, the debate should – and increasingly will – take place in that same public venue. The real challenge is how to have these debates – and report them – effectively.
So what is different? Why can’t Rowan make the link between the above and the obtuse behavior by so-called “leading climatologists” that to this day refuse to make their raw data public? Here’s why: because “climate change” is not a scientific debate, and so it is impervious to scientific skepticism. As von Storch (no climate skeptic, him) wrote more than five years ago:
The concern for the “good” and “just” case of avoiding further dangerous human interference with the climate system has created a peculiar self-censorship among many climate scientists. Judgments of solid scientific findings are often not made with respect to their immanent quality but on the basis of their alleged or real potential as a weapon by “sceptics” in a struggle for dominance in public and policy discourse.
The educational troubles at NOAA are well known. Now I have stumbled by accident into one set of misleading NASA-hosted pages allegedly set up in order to help teachers and students understand the greenhouse effect.
The starting page of the set “Measuring the Temperature of the Sky and Clouds” by a Forrest M. Mims III and part of teacher-focused “My NASA Data” website, claims to describe a project where “you will learn about the greenhouse effect by measuring the temperature of the sky and clouds far overhead with an infrared thermometer“.
The project is described across four pages and it might be easily misinterpreted as showing that clouds are warmer than the cloudless atmosphere because of the greenhouse properties of water vapor (one needs to read the text very carefully). But that’s not the real problem.
The real problem is that it is claimed that:
The temperature in outer space approaches absolute zero, which is -273 degrees Celsius. But you will measure a much warmer temperature if you point an infrared thermometer at the sky directly overhead (the zenith). Depending on the season and your location, the temperature will likely be near or below zero degrees Celsius. While this is very chilly, it’s far from being as cold as absolute zero. The difference is caused mainly by water vapor in the sky that has become warm by absorbing infrared radiation emitted by the Earth below. The warmed water vapor returns some of the infrared back to the Earth, and this helps keep the Earth warmer than space.
The statement above is wrong. Says who? Says mainstream scientific consensus on the behavior of atmospheres. Here’s an excerpt from a University of Texas page explaining it all:
Of course, we know that the atmosphere is not isothermal. In fact, air temperature falls quite noticeably with increasing altitude. In ski resorts, you are told to expect the temperature to drop by about 1 degree per 100 meters you go upwards. Many people cannot understand why the atmosphere gets colder the higher up you go. They reason that as higher altitudes are closer to the Sun they ought to be hotter. In fact, the explanation is quite simple. It depends on three important properties of air. The first important property is that air is transparent to most, but by no means all, of the electromagnetic spectrum. In particular, most infrared radiation, which carries heat energy, passes straight through the lower atmosphere and heats the ground. In other words, the lower atmosphere is heated from below, not from above. The second important property of air is that it is constantly in motion. In fact, the lower 20 kilometers of the atmosphere (the so called troposphere) are fairly thoroughly mixed. You might think that this would imply that the atmosphere is isothermal. However, this is not the case because of the final important properly of air: i.e., it is a very poor conductor of heat.
Note that there is not a single mention of any greenhouse property of anything. Later on the UTexas text contains a reference to water vapor but for different reasons than the greenhouse effect:
As air rises, expands, and cools, water vapour condenses out releasing latent heat which prevents the temperature from falling as rapidly with height as the adiabatic lapse rate would indicate
So if the ground is at whatsoever temperature and you point a thermometer to the sky, you’ll read “the temperature through a cone-shaped column of the troposphere“, as determined by the properties of air and water vapor. The value you will read will be far above absolute zero independently from the greenhouse effect.
It is rather worrying to see such a poorly-designed experiment getting NASA approval (well, that might explain a few things…) and who knows how many pupils have now got it all wrong. Hopefully, there’s two or twenty science teachers out there capable to use critical reasoning.
A few hours have passed since my first comment in Plait’s n-th tired “you’re all deniers!” blog, and not a single word on how would Phil or any AGW believer handle any debate with Harrison Schmitt, geologist, Astronaut, Moonwalker, and a skeptic of AGW.
I think we can safely assume that Schmitt, like Phil, has examined the claims, the science, and the techniques. However, Schmitt has come to the conclusion that
“[t]he CO2 scare is a red herring”, the “global warming scare is being used as a political tool to increase government control over American lives, incomes and decision-making,” and scientists who might otherwise challenge prevailing views on climate change dare not do so for fear of losing funding.
I find the very existence of somebody like Schmitt incompatible with Phil’s simplistic climate change view where everybody that disagrees on anything, is a rabid anti-science ignorant denier or worse.
(Don’t miss out on the bonus atmospheric reference at the bottom of this blog)
Should computer modeling be banned from NASA premises? Recent grandiose public statements may suggest as much.
March 1, 2010: NASA.gov: “Chilean Quake May Have Shortened Earth Days”
The Feb. 27 magnitude 8.8 earthquake in Chile may have shortened the length of each Earth day.
JPL research scientist Richard Gross computed how Earth’s rotation should have changed as a result of the Feb. 27 quake. Using a complex model, he and fellow scientists came up with a preliminary calculation that the quake should have shortened the length of an Earth day by about 1.26 microseconds (a microsecond is one millionth of a second).
Perhaps more impressive is how much the quake shifted Earth’s axis. Gross calculates the quake should have moved Earth’s figure axis (the axis about which Earth’s mass is balanced) by 2.7 milliarcseconds (about 8 centimeters, or 3 inches). Earth’s figure axis is not the same as its north-south axis; they are offset by about 10 meters (about 33 feet).
March 4, 2010: ASI (Italian Space Agency)’s Space Geodesy Centre in Matera, Italy – since 2004, the Official Primary Combination Centre for the International Laser Ranging Service (ILRS): “The earthquake in Chile and the polar axis: analysis from our centre in Matera”
Using data from the International Laser Ranging Service, the global system which uses lasers to measure, with millimetre resolution, the distance between a network of stations on Earth and reflectors on satellites, the ASI Space Geodesy Centre in Matera[…] calculated the residual motion of the pole in comparison with values from immediately before the earthquake. Preliminary results do not show significant disparities, i.e. greater than one millisecond of arc, equivalent to about three centimetres.
March 11, 2010: NASA.gov: “Did the Chilean Quake Shift Earth’s Axis?”
On Feb. 27, 2010, the Chilean quake may have moved the figure axis as much in a matter of minutes as it normally moves in a whole year. It was a truly seismic shift—no pun intended. So far, however, it’s all calculation and speculation. “We haven’t actually measured the shift,” says Gross. “But I intend to give it a try.” The key is GPS.
[…] The stage is set for discovery. “Computing power is at an all-time high. Our models of tides, winds and ocean currents have never been better. And the orientation of the Chilean fault favors a stronger signal.” In a few months Gross hopes to have the answer. Stay tuned.
A dime to the first person that will make Dr Gross acquainted with ILRS!
ps Check out how doubt-free NASA’s outreach has been on the topic
Why did the earthquake in Chile shorten the day? As I explained previously in the chat, the earthquake in Chile caused the mass of the Earth to shift, which caused the figure axis (the axis about which the mass of the Earth is balanced) to change. This change in the mass of the Earth caused a changed in the rotation rate of the Earth, making it speed up slightly, thus shortening the day.
pps Finally, an atmospheric bonus…here’s how ASI explained their results being different from NASA’s
This evaluation differs from those obtained using theoretical models of the planet (such as the one produced by the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California) which can estimate the extent of a shift on the basis of geophysical and seismological data. This is the type of calculation used in meteorological forecasts, which are based on data observed before a particular date and on theoretical models of how atmospheric phenomena develop.
And of course they are.
NASA Finds Shrimp Beneath Antarctica Ice – 600 Feet Below Antarctic Ice Where Nothing Complex Should Live, NASA Catches A Curious Shrimp
Of course this will soon to be shown to mean scientists have grossly overestimated the amount of CO2 in the past, that it’s worse than we thought, and that climate change is pushing curious shrimps and foot-long jellyfish on the edge of extinction.
Good news for climate science in Obama’s NASA budget out yesterday: We plan to rebuild & refly the Orbiting Carbon Observatory.
Will that compensate for the indefinite postponement of any flight beyond Earth orbit? I guess not, especially after reading some wonderful details about the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) (the first attempt failed to reach orbit on Feb 24, 2009):
- flown in a near polar orbit [observing] most of the Earth’s surface at least once every sixteen days
- OCO measurements would record changes in CO2 abundance over annual seasonal cycles
- fly in Sun synchronous orbit so that all observations took place at about 1:18 PM
- planned operational life of 2 years
Let’s forget for a minute that 2 years are nothing at all in terms of climate (a problem affecting most Earth observation platforms dedicated to climate science, it seems)….still, a quick computation reveals the grand total amount of observations from OCO for any particular spot on the planet is expected to be 45. That is, around 11 per “seasonal cycle”. And all of them, at 1:18PM local time.
No further comment is necessary.
With the most classical of globalwarmist sleight-of-hand, a Nov 6 press release by NASA titled “A Tale of Planetary Woe” surreptitiously changed the focus of MAVEN, a whole new mission to Mars scheduled to reach the planet in 2014.
Look at the following words:
Why did Mars dry up and freeze over? […] One way or another, scientists believe, Mars must have lost its most precious asset: its thick atmosphere of carbon dioxide. CO2 in Mars’s atmosphere is a greenhouse gas, just as it is in our own atmosphere. A thick blanket of CO2 and other greenhouse gases would have provided the warmer temperatures and greater atmospheric pressure required to keep liquid water from freezing solid or boiling away.
Alas, the feeling didn’t survive a quick investigation about MAVEN…
For example, from the MAVEN Fact Sheet, “Science Objectives”:
Determine the role that loss of volatiles from the Mars atmosphere ot space has played through time, allowing us to understand the histories of Mars’ atmosphere and climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability
No mention of CO2 or of blankets. And no mention of them in the MAVEN mission page either:
Mars once had a denser atmosphere that supported the presence of liquid water on the surface. As part of a dramatic climate change, most of the Martian atmosphere was lost. MAVEN will make definitive scientific measurements of present-day atmospheric loss that will offer clues about the planet’s history.
The Principal Investigator for MAVEN is renowned Mars expert Dr Bruce M Jakosky of the University of Colorado (can be seen in a video at this page). I haven’t been able to find anything abour Dr Jakosky showing any specific interest in an ancient “thick atmosphere of carbon dioxide” with or without greenhouse warming characteristics.
Given also the amount of time needed to put together a space mission, and the various review stages any proposal has to go through, we can safely consider any newly-found CO2 focus for MAVEN as an artifact introduced by whomever decided the gist of the Nov 6 NASA press release.
And luckily so: there is very little we know about the Martian atmosphere, hence any undue assumption such as obsessing with CO2 as a greenhouse gas would risk making us miss out important observations.