When does an adjustment become a replacement?Richard Treadgold | March 25, 2011
UPDATE: March 27, 8:50 p.m.
A reader points out that a replacement requires the virtual death of the previous version. As the traditional British announcement on the death of the sovereign (“The King is dead; long live the King!”) makes clear, you cannot have two of them. He’s reminded of Barry Brill’s recent post here 7SS – R.I.P. about the Monty Python parrot, whose death proved in the end impossible to ignore. Thanks, Australis.
NIWA’s minister has made a bizarre assertion to the Parliament which signals NIWA’s inability to admit its mistakes.
Last December, NIWA published a report reviewing the NZ Temperature Record which was based on its 18-year-old Seven-station Series (7SS). The 169-page report included a new spreadsheet and graph (which NIWA called the NZT7) and stated, on page 3, that “the revised temperature series supersedes the previous version posted in February 2010.”
When it was published, the previous 7SS was taken off NIWA’s temperature web page and the NZT7 was posted in its place.
But there’s some deception going on, because here’s the thing: NIWA’s web site describes the new graph as a replacement, but a few days ago Parliament was officially told the very opposite — that the NZT7 is not a replacement. As Hansard shows:
PQ 303 (2011). Hilary Calvert to the Minister of Science and Innovation (16 Feb 2011): Can he confirm that the ‘seven-station series’ has been replaced by a series described on NIWA’s website in December 2010 as the “revised seven-station series”?
Dr Wayne Mapp (Minister of Science and Innovation) replied: No, the seven-station series on NIWA’s website is an update, and not a replacement.
Why say that? What purpose could it serve? It seems to suggest that NIWA want to smuggle their 7SS off the stage without anybody really noticing. They seem more interested in semantic tricks than in simply stating “we were wrong, but we have now corrected our mistakes”.
It is well established that NIWA produced the new series only because the Coalition so strongly and persistently criticised the old series. Last year, a major firm of spin doctors, Network PR, advertised that they had been retained to defend the Institute from this ‘sustained attack’. Can we see the hand of the spinners in the current attempt to deny that a series has been replaced, even when it has been superseded?
Superseded, but not replaced, replaced without being superseded — or neither, but only updated? Oh ho, what an inscrutable juxtaposition! What linguistic obfuscationist’s joy!
The old series had no scientific standing because NIWA could no longer explain the adjustments they had long ago made to the raw thermometer readings. But if the new series is only an “update” (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) then they sidestep the issue of why they went to the expense of reconstructing the damn thing in the first place. Remember that the review required a special funding allocation, involved five scientists and took nearly a year to complete. Some update!
The new series is quite certainly a replacement of the old one, but let’s play the semantic game for a moment — we’ll use their rules, but still arrive at our conclusion. We will define the two series as follows:
7SS1 = superseded, unrevised, old, original, replaced, substituted, pre-update, un-reviewed, obsolete, out-dated, archaic, previous version, 1992 version, Salinger version, unmodified, out-of-favour, demoted, incorrect and misleading.
NZT7 = revised, new, replacement, updated, substitute, modified, subsequent, state-of-the-art, 2010 version, BoM-reviewed version, re-considered, official, corrected, improved, modernised, re-modelled and fixed.
So, what does NIWA mean when it says that the 7SS1 has been “superseded” by the NZT7? The online dictionary defines “supersede” as “to replace one thing by another held to be more valuable or useful, or less antiquated” (notice the word “replace”).
“Replace” is defined as “to substitute for another which has ceased to fulfil its function.” That is just what NIWA did when it put the NZT7 on its website as “the current live version” and got rid of the 7SS1.
The current wording at www.niwa.co.nz/our-science/climate/news/all/nz-temp-record/review/changes is quite clear. It simply states that the 7SS1 spreadsheet “has been replaced with an updated version …”
A few minor changes
Note the next words, however: the website claims that the updated version has “a few minor changes as a result of the BoM review.”
This is an intriguing claim. As we read the review report, we got the impression that almost all the adjustments in the 7SS1 are abandoned in the new NZT7. We had to check this out, so we compared the two spreadsheets HERE. The result is spectacular.
The series covers 100 years. No less than 98% of those years now have different temperatures.
Surely it’s a galactic understatement to describe 98 changes out of 100 as “a few”?
We also painstakingly compiled a Schedule of Adjustments for the NZT7, and compared that with its counterpart for the 7SS1, published by NIWA in February 2010. The comparison is HERE.
The 7SS1 contained 52 adjustments. An amazing 51 of them have been changed in the new NZT7.
How can 51 out of 52 be fairly described as “a few minor changes”?
Drs Wratt, Renwick and Mullan need to face up to the facts. The new series uses a completely different methodology and comes up with an entirely new set of adjustments – so that only 2% of the annual temperatures have survived unchanged. The old one covered the period from 1853 to 2000, while the new one goes from 1909 to 2009. The report itself (page 3) admits to “structural changes”. But it’s a replacement — root and branch!
Would one of the good doctors, or anyone else, care to explain to the NZ public why NIWA misled Dr Mapp, who then misled Parliament, into believing the NZT7 is “not a replacement”? And, perhaps, er… why?