NASA Flacks for Global Warming and Skirts Scientific Ethics
As pointed out in these pages, NASA has yet to own up fully to its historic error in misinterpreting US surface temperatures to conform to the Global Warming hypothesis, as discovered by Stephen McIntyre at ClimateAudit.org. This is not the first major error discovered by McIntyre and his coworker, Canadian economist Ross McKintrick, who previously uncovered the fatally flawed "hockey stick" climate curve, used to justify Global Warming alarmism by the 2001 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
"It should be recognized that honest error is an integral part of the scientific enterprise. It is not unethical to be wrong, provided that errors are promptly acknowledged and corrected when they are detected." [emphasis added](Ethics & Values - 02.2 APS GUIDELINES FOR PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT)
In pooh-poohing the revision, the GISS ignores the tremendous emotional impact it's had in practically claiming each year is hotter than the one before.
So even though the US only covers 2 percent of earth surface, it's a crucial 2 percent in terms of the quality of the record.
In addition, raw data errors are very serious matters, even if there are excuses. In fact, the idea that NASA indulges in excuses is itself inculpatory. Good scientists just don't screw around with that. They just get out the correction, pronto, in a peer-reviewed, prominent journal, as soon as possible. That is because their entire reputation is at stake. There are numerous examples of scientists blowing their reputations if they were believed to have falsified their data. See the David Baltimore case.
It is not even for the original erroneous author to decide on the significance of the error. That is up to the scientific community.
If NASA, a US government agency, will not own up fully to its own errors (which have now been corrected, quietly, on its GISS website), the American Physical Society must institute its own ethics inquiry to correct the record. The credibility of NASA and the entire scientific community are at stake.
Retraction of Baldini et al., Science 296 (5576) 2203-2206.
Science 10 August 2007:
Vol. 317. no. 5839, p. 748
Retraction of an Interpretation
In the Report "Structure of the 8200-year cold event revealed by a speleothem trace element record" (1), we presented a 7762-?m-long ion probe trace element traverse chosen to include the 8200-year event as detected in a previously published laser ablation oxygen isotope study from the same stalagmite (2). The oxygen isotope anomaly was distinct and dropped 8‰ below baseline values to a low value for the entire Holocene of -12‰ and was reproducible on a reverse track. However, recent reanalysis of the calcite believed to contain the oxygen isotope anomaly suggests that the anomaly was probably an analytical artifact possibly caused by laser ablation-induced fracturing during the original analysis (3). Consequently, without the original 18O "marker," the precise location in the stalagmite of calcite deposited during the 8200-year event is uncertain.
The trace element data in this Report, previously believed to correspond precisely with the entire 8200-year event, are now believed to represent the hydrological and bioproductivity response in western Ireland to a cold/dry event of uncertain provenance and intensity. The U-Th-derived dates of the event correspond approximately with the 8200-year event in Greenland ice cores, but without the additional guidance of the 18O anomaly, the precise timing in relation to the 8200-year event is now somewhat ambiguous. Unfortunately, it is now unlikely that the approximately 114-year duration ion probe track coincides with the entire 8200-year event (if at all); thus, the ~37-year estimate derived for its duration is probably no longer accurate. However, the trace element data remain robust and are interpreted as reflecting colder and drier conditions in western Ireland, followed by the return to more maritime conditions at the end of the first-order trace element anomaly. Additionally, the novel application of annual trace element cycles to build a high-resolution chronology and reconstruct paleoseasonality remains unchanged.
James U. L. Baldini
Department of Earth Sciences
Durham DH1 3LE, UK
Department of Geology
University College Dublin
Dublin 4, Ireland
Ian J. Fairchild
School of Geography
Earth and Environmental Science
University of Birmingham
Birmingham B15 2TT, UK
1. J. U. L. Baldini, F. McDermott, I. J. Fairchild, Science 296, 2203 (2002).
2. F. McDermott, D. P. Mattey, C. Hawkesworth, Science 294, 1328 (2001).
3. I. J. Fairchild et al., Earth Sci. Rev. 75, 105 (2006).