Crank of the Week - November 17, 2008 - James Hansen, NASA

On Monday, NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) announced that last month was the hottest October on record. GISS, which is run by high profile global warming alarmist, Dr James Hansen, is one of four bodies responsible for monitoring global temperatures. This report struck many observers as odd—there had been no reports of autumn heat waves in the international press. Any unusually warm weather always gets widespread coverage, since it fits the pervasive media bias that global warming catastrophe lies just ahead. The problem? The report was obviously wrong.

From around the world there have been reports of unseasonal snow falls and plummeting temperatures last month. China's official news agency reported that Tibet had suffered its “worst snowstorm ever.” In the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration registered 63 local snowfall records and 115 lowest-ever temperatures for the month, and ranked it as only the 70th-warmest October in 114 years. From the American Great Plains to China, and from the Alps to New Zealand contradictory data made it clear that NASA had made what the London Telegraph called a “surreal scientific blunder” that “raised a huge question mark about the temperature records that underpin the worldwide alarm over global warming.”


London's first October snowfall in 70 years.

GISS's computerized temperature maps seemed to show readings across a large part of Russia had been up to 10 degrees higher than normal. But when expert readers of two leading warming-skeptic blogs, Watts Up With That and Climate Audit, began detailed analysis of the GISS data they made an astonishing discovery. They learned that the Russian data in the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's GHCN v2.mean temperature database was corrupted (data from NOAA is used by GISS to calculate the global temperature). The reason for the abnormal figures was that the temperature records from Russia and elsewhere were not based on October readings at all—the readings from September had been erroneously carried over and repeated for two months running.

How had this official organization of supposedly world class climate scientists gotten it so wrong? A GISS spokesman lamely explained that the reason for the error in the Russian data was that they were obtained from another body (i.e. NOAA), and that GISS did not have resources to exercise proper quality control over the data it was supplied with. Didn't the NASA scientists even suspect something was wrong given the magnitude of the calculated increase? What an astonishing admission; they don't have the “resources” to check if the figures they report are correct, figures that are used by governments world wide to help set policy and gauge the advance of global warming.


Note the October heatwave in Russia.

Maybe the parties involved wanted the figures to be correct? No one scientist is more responsible than Dr Hansen for the alarm over global warming. It was his 1988 testimony to a US Senate committee, chaired by Al Gore, that kicked off the current round of climate hysteria. Again and again, Dr Hansen has made extreme claims regarding the dangers of climate change. The figures published by Dr Hansen's institute are not only one of the four data sets that the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) relies on to promote its case for global warming, but they are the most widely quoted, since they consistently show higher temperatures than the others.

Last week's episode is not the first time Dr Hansen's methodology has been called in to question. In 2007 he was forced by a couple of global warming skeptics, Watts and McIntyre, to revise his published figures for US surface temperatures. Those figures erroneously showed that the hottest decade of the 20th century was in the 1990s—after “corrections” the hottest decade was found to be the 1930s. Hansen's fanatical leanings were revealed by his recent call for putting the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature.

What I suspect is that Hansen, et al, didn't check the data because they wanted their result to be true. They are guilty of that common affliction of bad scientists everywhere, prematurely and improperly reporting a result that fits their own preconceived idea of what the result should be. So thank you James Hansen for proving yet again that you are a poor scientist who's opinions are not to be trusted. You truely deserve the Crank of the Week.

The Moderating of James Hansen

For those who have followed the career of Dr Hansen, eco-opportunist par excellence, here is an ironic twist: In a 2003 article in Natural Science, he himself exposed the faulty reasoning behind the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. He wrote that “we predict additional warming in the next 50 years of 3/4°C +/- 1/4°C, a warming rate of 0.15°C +/- 0.05°C per decade.” This falls at the absolute low end of projections made by the IPCC and is more in line with the moderate predictions made by global warming skeptics. Hansen essentially argued that the extreme IPCC scenarios are exaggerations without firm grounding in reality, and that that the most likely emissions pathway that lies near the low end of the IPCC projections. A change in heart? Not really, just a late developing concern for his own credibility—something not helped by this latest faux pas.

Has Hansen broken with his radical, eco-activist past? Not hardly. It appears Dr. Hansen violated the code of ethics posted on the NASA Office of General Council webpage when he testified in the defense of some Greenpeace activists earlier this year. The activists vandalized a UK coal plant, scaling a 350 ft smokestack and then painting the Prime Minister's name 'Gordon' on the stack in big white letters. This caused an estimated £30,000 of damae to Kingsnorth power station last year. According to Hansen, vandalism in the name of ecological causes is “OK.” While I don't support the building of any new coal plants either, I don't think vandalism is a contribution to rational discourse—evidently Dr. Hansen does.