Nicks in the myths of timeRichard Treadgold | August 22, 2010
I want to revisit some false arguments fabricated ages ago by our critics: time-worn errors which need re-rebutting, because they are still surfacing. These smooth myths, one might say, are nicked all over with imperfections. And mists cover everything.
The main spurious argument holds that the Climate Science Coalition says there’s no reason to adjust the raw temperature readings. That is false: we think there are good reasons for adjustments. What we actually say is that NIWA has made changes but refuses to reveal what they are.
A related myth is that NIWA has given us everything we asked for — simply by releasing the net arithmetical adjustments to each station. The reality is that, first, a net change isn’t enough because there could be multiple changes at a station. Second, the number by itself is useless; any reviewer needs the reason for each change. This is what NIWA has refused to tell us, yet both bits of data are required for any independent assessment of the accuracy of the temperature record.
To be fair, NIWA eventually agreed to “recreate” the list of reasons, but after many months they haven’t delivered it.
We can’t disagree with the changes — we don’t know what they are
Our critics hector us to create our own version of the NZ temperature record, arriving at whatever adjustments we think best, and publish it. That’s not a bad idea, but it is a myth that this might answer the questions we’ve put to NIWA. How could it? Only they can describe the changes they made. Isn’t that self-evident? The call for us to create our own Schedule of Adjustments deliberately mistakes what we have said.
We don’t disagree with NIWA’s changes because we don’t know what they are, so there’s no reason to provide another version. When their changes are revealed, we may or may not disagree with them, but we will, of necessity, stop asking for them.
These myths arise from a misinterpretation of the paper we published last November, Are we feeling warmer yet?, which questions the official national temperature graph produced by NIWA (available on their web site).
NIWA’s undocumented changes are the sole source of warming
Our paper shows simply how the adjustments made by NIWA to the raw temperature readings are not documented and yet those changes alone are responsible for the warming trend seen in the graph, because there is little trend in the raw readings. So we asked NIWA for the adjustments and why they made them. They eventually admitted that they couldn’t tell us what they are because they no longer had them.
In an email to me dated February 4th this year, James Renwick said:
Yes, the “original worksheets” used by Jim Salinger for his PhD study in the late 1970s have indeed been misplaced, or possibly destroyed. However, the original data upon which his calculations are based are still in existence. We are in the process of re-creating Jim Salinger’s work, and of documenting the adjustments necessary to the various stations – as we indicated in a media release in December. We can check our overall result against the Salinger NZ time series, to see if we get the same answer.
You’ll notice the message is ambiguous about exactly what was lost or not lost. Four days later he clarified his meaning with this message to me:
I think you misunderstood my mail last week – the original SOA [Schedule of Adjustments] isn’t gone, it was published in Jim Salinger’s PhD thesis, and has been used in NIWA for many years. What’s “gone” are “the original worksheets”, i.e. Jim Salinger’s working notes from this PhD study. But the results (the SOA, etc) are in his thesis.
Which provides no real clarification. Because, despite the fact Dr Renwick claims the “results (the SOA, etc)” are “in” Salinger’s thesis, NIWA has never provided a separate description of those results. More significantly, scientists in the Coalition, who finally obtained a copy of the thesis to study, cannot extract from it a proper SOA. They cannot understand what Salinger did!
The simple truth
Gareth Renowden, at Hot Topic, does not understand that important aspect of the Coalition’s research nor the deficiencies we found in the thesis. He said this to me the other day:
You attempt to defend the indefensible, and sophistry will get you nowhere. It’s quite clear what you meant. Had you examined the station histories, you would have found ample justification for the corrections that were made — but that didn’t play to the narrative you wanted to establish, which was that warming was an artefact of the adjustments rather than a physical reality.
No, it is not sophistry but the simple truth. Gareth seems determined to believe what he likes, whatever I say now. For notice that we did examine the station histories and found them unremarkable:
Have the readings in the official NIWA graph been adjusted? It is relatively easy to find out. We compared raw data for each station (from NIWA’s web site) with the adjusted official data, which we obtained from one of Dr Salinger’s colleagues. Requests for this information from Dr Salinger himself over the years, by different scientists, have long gone unanswered, but now we might discover the truth. What did we find? First, the station histories are unremarkable. There are no reasons for any large corrections. But we were astonished to find that strong adjustments have indeed been made.
Anyone can do the same: go to the Climate Database web site, download the station histories, examine them — then disagree with us if you like, but first examine the histories!
Publish the methodology — we dare you!
Anyone can similarly obtain a copy of Salinger’s thesis: go to Wellington, apply at the VUW library for the single copy they hold, don’t expect to take it home, because they won’t let you, and have a look at it. Then publish the description of the methodology you will no doubt find therein! We dare you!
To repeat it yet again, NIWA have never described the methodology required to replicate the seven-station series. None of the citations they have given in press releases, on their web site or in answers to questions in the Parliament describe precisely what Salinger did and why.
It is a myth that the Coalition “knows” everything required to replicate Salinger’s work.
For those who disagree
Here is a challenge: using only the references on this NIWA web page, but starting with the “raw” data downloaded from the Climate Database, produce and publish the official version of the NZ temperature series.
Bet you can’t do it.
Oh — and Salinger’s so-called “methodology” has never been published in a peer-reviewed journal. There has to be a reason for that.