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Climategate: The Travails of a Global Warming Hobbyist

Spending Saturday afternoons with a laptop and scouring the internet for data to prove or disprove the global warming theory. (See full PJM/PJTV coverage of Climategate here.)

by
Terry Hughes

Bio

November 28, 2009 - 12:00 am
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In 2006, when we were being absolutely inundated by the shrill voices of global warming both pro and con, I, like a great many Americans, didn’t know exactly what to believe. I wasn’t ready to don my aluminum foil hat and go sit at the table where the voices cried out “global one world government conspiracy.” Neither was I ready for hemp clothing, joining the folks over at Al’s table to denigrate the “flat earth global warming deniers.”

So what’s the average guy to do? Geek that I am, I started downloading a hundred years worth of temperature data from the government web site, and built my own dataset, for my hometown of Phoenix.

Now bear in mind I’m not a climate researcher. I have no credentials that would lend any credence whatsoever to anything I might discover one way or the other. I simply figured I can look at numbers as well as the next guy, and go from there. And voila! I got a hockey stick!

Well, sort of. The numbers went kind of flat around 1998, but then I was only looking at one city, and not the world. I had neither the climate expertise nor the statistical background to fully understand what it was I was seeing, but I figured it should pretty much parallel the famous graph. Shouldn’t it?

As a sanity check, I pulled the data for a town fifty miles west of Phoenix for a hundred years, and no hockey stick. I must have hosed something up somewhere. I double-checked both datasets, double-checked my graphing technique, and couldn’t find any errors. So I pulled the data for a town fifty miles east. It looked just like the western set. Then north and south, which looked like the east and west sets. Not a hockey stick in sight. Just meanderings, a slight climb to 1998, where again, it leveled off. I did notice that 1939 seemed to be the high point, but that wasn’t what the NASA guy was saying; he said it was 1998.

Again, I’m only looking at one little spot, so let’s look at Dallas and surrounding areas. Same results as Phoenix. More research revealed the urban heat island phenomenon, first explored and explained by Luke Howard in 1810. A ton of work has piggybacked onto that over the years, with algorithms that correlate square miles of asphalt to the corresponding temperature rise. I didn’t know about that before. Well, as I said, I’m not a climate researcher, just a regular guy wondering what the real story is. The urban heat island data sort of gets you the hockey stick, particularly in the Sunbelt cities.

Now it’s 2007. Up to this point, I hadn’t even looked at CO2, but I figured I should since that was what seemed to be getting the lion’s share of press. Again, off to the government site, where I grabbed a bunch of numbers and started graphing. A pattern emerged, and I got all excited thinking I’d found the answer, when 1998 again raised its ugly head. For about 22 years, the rise in CO2 and the rise in temperature paralleled each other, starting in roughly 1976. But in 1998, the temperature turned right, while CO2 kept right on climbing.

I’m not doing something right, I told myself. I started searching the internet for the model data that these guys at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and NASA were using, and came up empty.

Since the CRU was British, maybe they would have something posted somewhere. What I discovered was the “Maxwell Smart cone of silence” had been lowered around any information concerning how the calculations had been prepared. I was, and still am, astounded at how this is being handled to this very day. A number of these institutions are funded completely with public money, and yet they refuse to provide any data whatsoever. How is this possible?

My patient wife has given herself migraines from the extreme eye rolling she engages in while I’m fooling with this. “Why can’t you go bowling or duck hunting like the other guys?” she’ll lament.

Nobody ever said it was going to be easy for a wanna-be researcher.

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