Dec 06

The Wall Street Journal’s L. Gordon Crovitz equates expert skeptic bloggers with “peer review”:

Unlike Watergate, Climategate didn’t come to light because investigative journalists ferreted out the truth. Instead, this story so far has played itself out largely on blogs, often run by the same scientists who had a hard time getting printed in the scientific journals. Climategate has provided a voice to the scientists who had been frozen out of the debate.

This may be how information-based scandals play out in the future: A leak from a whistleblower directly onto the Web. Expert bloggers then assess what the disclosures mean—a Web version of peer review.

Much of the analysis is on the site of Stephen McIntyre, a Canadian who edits ClimateAudit.org. He has long tried to get access to raw data on temperatures. He filed numerous freedom-of-information requests of the East Anglia scientists, leading them to ask one another to delete records. He also showed that the familiar hockey-stick graph showing global warming was based on incomplete sampling.

Blogging scientists have been busy reviewing the 15,000 lines of code by programmers that were included in the “Documents” folder of the leaked materials. The latest twist is hidden notations in the data from programmers that indicate where they had manipulated results. The programmers expressed frustration when the numbers didn’t fit the case for global warming.

Comments in the code include “These will be artificially adjusted to look closer to the real temperatures,” referring to an effort to suppress data showing that the Middle Ages were warmer than today. Comments inside the code also described an “adjustment” as follows: “Apply a VERY ARTIFICIAL correction for decline!!” Another notation indicated when a “fudge factor” had been added.

There are three other data sets on historic temperatures, but blogging scientists have pointed out that they aren’t completely independent of the now-dubious East Anglia assertions. Atmospheric data from satellites, for example, rely on the East Anglia surface data to calibrate their measurements.

In addition to blogs, skeptics of global warming have used “crowdsourcing” to improve on the science supposedly done by professionals. Anthony Watts is a meteorologist who was surprised by how local conditions affect the reliability of the 1,200 U.S. weather stations. Along with more than 600 volunteers, he found that almost all the stations violate the government’s standards by being too close to heating vents or surrounded by asphalt.

Read it all at The Wall Street Journal.

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