Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Another climate wars battle

Nature features flawed paper
The battlefield is Antarctica.  Temperature and the peer review process are the key issues.  The weapons are statistics and logic and there are reputations to be won and lost.

Stubbornly, Antarctica has not followed the warming trend of world temperature figures.  But this grit in the global warming oyster has produced a pearl which encapsulates so much of what is wrong with climate science.

Eric Steig, in a paper along with Michael Mann, (of failed Hockey Stick reputation), produced a paper in 2009 in Nature which showed that a small part of Antarctica, known as the West Antarctic Peninsula is warming.  Using statistical analysis Steig et al purported to show that from this it could be deduced that the whole of Antarctica was rather warmer than hitherto thought. This was all afforded a cover feature in Nature which published the peer reviewed Steig et al 2009.

Ryan O'Donnell, backed by Steven McIntyre, (who had broken Mann's Hockey Stick claims), entered the debate with a short paper which claimed to show that, as with the Hockey Stick, the statistical method used  in Steig 09 was significantly flawed.  This was submitted to Journal of Climate who appointed three reviewers.

One of these was Steig, considered to be in a good position to critique O'Donnell's paper, though clearly with something of a conflict of interest.  O'Donnell's paper was 8 pages long but the reviewers and their responses generated a discussion back and forward which amounted to 88 pages.

O'Donnell avers that not only were most of the objections from Steig (Reviewer A - these things being done in secret) but they were all pushing the O'Donnell paper to accept a move towards results which would show Antarctica was warmer.

Eventually, after a lengthy delay, O'Donnell was published.   Steig then attacked it in the Real Climate blog for adopting a particular statistical procedure - which he, himself had encouraged as the secret Reviewer A.  O'Donnell et al had adopted this procedure in preference to their originally preferred statistical procedure in order to get their paper published through the peer review system.

O'Donnell, now aware that Steig was Reviewer A, cried foul and launched a post on Climate Audit which, albeit incorporating one or more minor inaccuracies, excoriated Steig for duplicity.

Then followed a heated series of blog exchanges mainly at Climate Audit and Real Climate.

This dispute may is not yet finished and there may be more information disclosed which calls into question these preliminary conclusions.

First, the temperature of Antarctica remains pretty cold and out of sync with the warming projections by the climate science establishment.

Second, we have just seen witnessed an attempt by a member of the climate science establishment to skew the peer review system in order to bias the science to show warmer temperatures than the evidence justifies.  This repeats the establishment response to counter evidence on the Hockey Stick.  It is also consistent with evidence from the Climategate emails indicating an intention to keep opponents out of peer review process.

Reputations have been won and lost.  And observers like me trust so called 'climate science' even less.

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