November 29, 2009
'Botch after botch after botch'
Leaked 'climategate' documents show huge flaws in the backbone of climate change science
I've been poring over one of many leaked computer files from the "climategate" scandal.
It's worse than those e-mails revealing leading climate scientists did a "trick" to "hide the decline" in global temperatures and privately called it a "travesty" they couldn't explain recent cooling.
This document has the innocuous header "HARRY_READ_Me.txt."
I'm indebted to Kate McMillan, the remarkable Canadian blogger who runs smalldeadanimals.com, for calling it to my attention.
You can easily find it online. I used www.anenglishmanscastle.com/HARRY_READ_Me.txt.
The file -- 274 pages long -- describes the efforts of a climatologist/programmer at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia to update a huge statistical database (11,000 files) of important climate data between 2006 and 2009.
The computer coding, along with the programmer's apparently unsuccessful efforts to complete the project, involve data that are the foundation of the study of climate change -- recordings from hundreds of weather stations around the world of temperature and precipitation measurements from 1901 to 2006, sun/cloud computer simulations, and the like.
These presumably precise data are the backbone of climate science.
Reading "HARRY_READ_ME.txt" it's clear the CRU's files were a mess. The programmer laments huge gaps in data, bug-filled programs and worries about all the guesswork he's doing. His comments suggest the problems go back years.
The CRU at East Anglia University is considered by many as the world's leading climate research agency. Here's how CBSNews.com's Declan McCullagh describes its enormous impact on policymakers:
"In global warming circles, the CRU wields outsize influence: It claims the world's largest temperature data set, and its work and mathematical models were incorporated into the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2007 report. The report ... is what the Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged it 'relies on most heavily' when concluding carbon dioxide emissions endanger public health and should be regulated."
As you read the programmer's comments below, remember, this is only a fraction of what he says.
- "But what are all those monthly files? DON'T KNOW, UNDOCUMENTED. Wherever I look, there are data files, no info about what they are other than their names. And that's useless ..." (Page 17)
- "It's botch after botch after botch." (18)
- "The biggest immediate problem was the loss of an hour's edits to the program, when the network died ... no explanation from anyone, I hope it's not a return to last year's troubles ... This surely is the worst project I've ever attempted. Eeeek." (31)
- "Oh, GOD, if I could start this project again and actually argue the case for junking the inherited program suite." (37)
- "... this should all have been rewritten from scratch a year ago!" (45)
- "Am I the first person to attempt to get the CRU databases in working order?!!" (47)
- "As far as I can see, this renders the (weather) station counts totally meaningless." (57)
- "COBAR AIRPORT AWS (data from an Australian weather station) cannot start in 1962, it didn't open until 1993!" (71)
- "What the hell is supposed to happen here? Oh yeah -- there is no 'supposed,' I can make it up. So I have : - )" (98)
- "You can't imagine what this has cost me -- to actually allow the operator to assign false WMO (World Meteorological Organization) codes!! But what else is there in such situations? Especially when dealing with a 'Master' database of dubious provenance ..." (98)
- "So with a somewhat cynical shrug, I added the nuclear option -- to match every WMO possible, and turn the rest into new stations ... In other words what CRU usually do. It will allow bad databases to pass unnoticed, and good databases to become bad ..." (98-9)
- "OH F--- THIS. It's Sunday evening, I've worked all weekend, and just when I thought it was done, I'm hitting yet another problem that's based on the hopeless state of our databases." (241).
- "This whole project is SUCH A MESS ..." (266)
And based on stuff like this, politicians are going to blow up our economy and lower our standard of living to "fix" the climate?
Are they insane?