Sunday, July 31, 2011

OK, climate sceptics: here's the raw data you wanted

Climate station file data format for the full HadCRUT3 record of global temperatures.

I predict that not a single peer-reviewed scientific paper will come out of this from the deniers’ side. This will used by them as further evidence of the climate-scientist/Al-Gore/World-Socialist conspiracy.

By Andy Coghlan
28 July 2011

Anyone can now view for themselves the raw data that was at the centre of last year's "climategate" scandal.

Temperature records going back 150 years from 5113 weather stations around the world were yesterday released to the public by the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK. The only records missing are from 19 stations in Poland, which refused to allow them to be made public.

"We released [the dataset] to dispel the myths that the data have been inappropriately manipulated, and that we are being secretive," says Trevor Davies, the university's pro-vice-chancellor for research. "Some sceptics argue we must have something to hide, and we've released the data to pull the rug out from those who say there isn't evidence that the global temperature is increasing."

The university were ordered to release data by the UK Information Commissioner's Office, following a freedom-of-information request for the raw data from researchers Jonathan Jones of the University of Oxford and Don Keiller of Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, UK.

Davies says that the university initially refused on the grounds that the data is not owned by the CRU but by the national meteorological organisations that collect the data and share it with the CRU.

When the CRU's refusal was overruled by the information commissioner, the UK Met Office was recruited to act as a go-between and obtain permission to release all the data.

Poland refused, and the information commissioner overruled Trinidad and Tobago's wish for the data it supplied on latitudes between 30 degrees north and 40 degrees south to be withheld, as it had been specifically requested by Jones and Keiller in their FOI request and previously shared with other academics. […]

Other mainstream researchers and defenders of the consensus are not so confident that the release will silence the sceptics. "One can hope this might put an end to the interminable discussion of the CRU temperatures, but the experience of GISTEMP – another database that's been available for years – is that the criticisms will continue because there are some people who are never going to be satisfied," says Gavin Schmidt of Columbia University in New York.

"Sadly, I think this will just lead to a new round of attacks on CRU and the Met Office," says Bob Ward, communications director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics. "Sceptics will pore through the data looking for ways to criticise the processing methodology in an attempt to persuade the public that there's doubt the world has warmed significantly." […]

OK, climate sceptics: here's the raw data you wanted

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Naomi Oreskes: Fierce defender of climate change science – and scientists

Naomi Oreskes, a historian who studies scientific findings and funding, was drawn into the emotional debate around global warming after she publicly stated that climate change is a settled scientific fact. Will Parson / Special to the Christian Science Monitor

By Randy Dotinga
18 July 2011

San Diego – Postcard after postcard came addressed to Naomi Oreskes after she wrote her first book on how scientists study the movement of continents.

A groundswell of attention, perhaps? Not exactly. Her mother wrote them all, dashing off each postcard after finishing a chapter. Outside the worlds of science and academia, the book didn't attract much attention.

But 12 years later, the Manhattan-raised historian is traveling a much more public path, drawing both praise and condemnation. She's a fierce defender of scientists and a leader in the vanguard of those who strongly advocate that the world must acknowledge and deal with global warming.

"Professor Oreskes has turned vilified scientists into the heroes they deserve to be," says John Abraham, an associate professor at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. She's performing a service regarding global warming by showing "how a few organized and influential people were able to confuse the country long after the science was settled," he says.

Oreskes, a professor of history and science studies at the University of California, San Diego, acknowledges that she's trying to save the world. Earlier, though, her goal was simpler. She wanted to understand scientists by studying their past, in terms of both their findings and their funding.

"What difference does it make who pays for scientific research?" she says. "I'm interested in how scientists decide they have enough evidence to say they know something, and what difference it makes who pays for the work. We want science to be objective and neutral, but someone has to pay for it, and there's that old cliché about whoever pays the piper chooses the tune."

After writing about continental drift and plate tectonics, Oreskes began focusing on the efforts of oceanographers.

They were working to better understand the relation between the ocean and the atmosphere. In the process, they uncovered signs of global warming.

"I thought, 'Wow, this is unbelievable, there's this whole history that no one talks about,' " she says. "People have no idea how old the science [of global warming] is."

In 2004, Oreskes wrote a brief paper in the influential journal Science debunking claims that scientists disagreed about global warming. Instantly, she found herself at the center of an emotional dispute. News media cited her work, as did the Al Gore movie, An Inconvenient Truth.

Then, as now, Oreskes offers a simple message backed by extensive documentation: There is no scientific debate over climate change. None, zero, zip.

"The science is stable, the science is real, and there's no reason to doubt climate change," she says. […]

Naomi Oreskes: fierce defender of climate change science – and scientists

Sunday, July 17, 2011

No stranger to spaceships, New Mexico builds a spaceport

The San Andres Mountains and pieces of construction equipment are reflected in the glass windows of Spaceport America near Upham, N.M., in May. Despite construction delays and difficult working conditions in a remote area of the desert, state officials say New Mexico is committed to seeing the project succeed. Susan Montoya Bryan / AP

By Audie Cornish
17 July 2011

NASA's shuttle program ends when Atlantis comes back to Earth this week. It's not the end of American space exploration, however; it's the beginning of a new phase in commercial space travel.

For now, American astronauts will be hitching rides to the International Space Station on Russian Soyuz capsules. NASA and President Obama hope that won't be for long; they're counting on America's private sector to come up with a new way to get people, equipment and supplies into space.

That means there's a lot of money to be made in shuttling back and forth to the space station, and several companies are competing in a new race to space. Defense contractors like Boeing are in the game, as is Virgin Galactic — the private space tourism company owned by British business tycoon Richard Branson.

Whatever the new space vehicle is, it'll need a place to park. Enter Spaceport America, a company building a kind of airport for spaceships.

According to the people behind Spaceport America, the future of commercial space travel begins near the tiny New Mexican town of Truth or Consequences, where America's first commercial spaceport is under construction. Just outside of town, highway signs bear little yellow stickers in the shape of a rocket.

"It's kind of a mystery. We don't know who's putting those there," says David Wilson, spokesman for the state of New Mexico's Spaceport Authority. Really, he insists, it's not the spaceport.

On a 45-minute drive deep into the desert, miles of spiky grasses outline the horizon — interrupted by the occasional bison. The sky above is powder blue and clear of clouds. For decades, it's been the perfect place for pioneering rocket scientists.

"Robert Goddard brought his experiments and rockets to the New Mexican desert in the 30's for the same reasons," Wilson says. "There's this incredible weather window; there's no population out here, and then you're a mile up from sea level. We have a saying around there, 'The first mile of space is free.' It takes less energy to get to space from a place out here like this." […]

No Stranger To Spaceships, N.M. Builds A Spaceport