Anatomy of a Scientific Distortion

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Before we start with how a new study shows all climate data is “based on faulty science”, let’s take a look at the origional scientific research, which you can find here.

The Science

Little is known about the ocean temperature’s long-term response to climate perturbations owing to limited observations and a lack of robust reconstructions. Although most of the anthropogenic heat added to the climate system has been taken up by the ocean up until now, its role in a century and beyond is uncertain. Here, using noble gases trapped in ice cores, we show that the mean global ocean temperature increased by 2.57 ± 0.24 degrees Celsius over the last glacial transition (20,000 to 10,000 years ago). Our reconstruction provides unprecedented precision and temporal resolution for the integrated global ocean, in contrast to the depth-, region-, organism- and season-specific estimates provided by other methods. We find that the mean global ocean temperature is closely correlated with Antarctic temperature and has no lead or lag with atmospheric CO2, thereby confirming the important role of Southern Hemisphere climate in global climate trends. We also reveal an enigmatic 700-year warming during the early Younger Dryas period (about 12,000 years ago) that surpasses estimates of modern ocean heat uptake.

The research’s stated goal is to look at the change in mean ocean temperatures (MOT) from the ice ages to the present day. 20,000 years ago, New York was under a mile of ice. In fact, the America of 20,000 years ago would have been almost completely unrecognizable to anyone living today.

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Not only was their plenty of ice, but as you can see the coastlines were expanded. Florida and Cuba were much larger. This is because sea level was about 120 meters (393 feet) below its current level. The massive ice sheets that swept across North America and Eurasia effectively locked water from the ocean, driving its total level down. Today’s coasts would have been far away from the sea back then.

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But what were the reduced oceans like compared to today? Bernard Bereiter and his colleauges at Scripps Institute for Oceanography took a new approach to looking at the ancient smaller, and colder oceans; noble gasses. Noble gasses, as the name implies, are elements which don’t mix with others. But, crucially, some gasses are heavier than others. Xenon (Xe), for example, has an atomic mass of 131.29 u, while Krypton has an atomic mass of 83.80 u. All things being equal, they should stay in the same proportions in rocks and water because they do not react with other elements. The problem (and opportunity) is that all thigns don’t remain equal — as temperatures grow, you are more likely to dissovle more gasses into the water. If you can measure the ratios of these noble gasses, you can estimate what past ocean temperatures are like.

Dr. Bereiter and his colleagues took these measurements and managed to create a rough reconstruction of the ocean’s temperatures since the Last Ice Age:

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Regardless of which noble gas proxy measurement you use, ocean temperatures were somewhere around 3 to 6 degrees colder than today. This is perhaps not surprising — no one doubted that oceans were colder during the ice ages. But understanding how colder they were helps identify how climate was different back then for areas not covered in giant blocks of ice. It is also worth remembering that heat is really just a different word for a type of energy — so a colder ocean means much, much less energy was available in the bisophere.

So, how do we go from this to “alarmist climate science is based on faulty data”?

The Politics

The number of meat suits advertised is inversly proportional to the scientific context of the article. source

Chris White of the Daily Caller did a decent write-up of the original article’s methodology. He more or less correctly describes the methods of the scientific paper, though if you read carefully, the actual topic of the paper — measuring the mean ocean temperatures of the ice age — never comes up.

“Our precision is about 0.2 ºC (0.4 ºF) now, and the warming of the past 50 years is only about 0.1 ºC,” he said, adding that advanced equipment can provide more precise measurements, allowing scientists to make better calculations going forward. His fellow researcher made similar remarks.
“The reason this study is so exciting is that previous methods of reconstructing ocean heat content have very large age uncertainties, [which] smooths out the more subtle features of the record,” said co-author Sarah Shackleton, a graduate student at Severinghaus’ lab.

The paper is cast not as a way of measuring mean ocean temperatures of the ice ages, but instead of measuring ocean temperature today. If you look back to the figure of the ocean sea surface temperatures from the original paper, you’ll see that most of their measurements of today range from -0.5 to -3.5 degrees lower than today. Seriously — look again.

Mean Ocean Temperatures. Blue highights by the present author.
The ratio of these gases allows for a much more effective and exact calculation of average global ocean temperature, according to Severinghaus and his team of researchers at Scripps.

If it is so accurate, why do they get 4 different values? And all are lower than 0? Where does 0 even come from?

This is the fundamental misperception of the article in the Daily Caller — the authors of the scientific paper aren’t talking about accuretly measuring ocean temperatures today — we have satellites for that.

Sattelites > Noble Gasses for measuring ocean temperatures. source

However, measuring ocean temperatures today wasn’t the focus of Bereiter et al. 2018, they wanted a proxy record that could be used to estimate the past — as you can probably guess, we didn’t have satellites in the ice age. A proxy record is what we use to indirectly measure past climate. It isn’t perfect — as you can see in the origional paper. But it doesn’t have to be perfect to be insightful.

The Daily Caller, while not innacurate per se, noentheless misconsrues the purpose of the research right out of the gate. And the political motivations for doing so become clear.

Severinghaus’ findings are potentially very significant and “remarkably interesting,” Cato Institute scientist Patrick Michaels told The Daily Caller News Foundation. It tells academics that “we are living in a world that won’t warm at the same rate as those seen in the U.N. climate models”

The Cato Institute is a conservative think tank, not a scientific institution. And that isn’t what the paper says at all. But it doesn’t stop there.

Scientists at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom predicted at the time that a cooling of the Atlantic Ocean could cool global temperatures a half a degree Celsius and may offer a “brief respite from the persistent rise of global temperatures.”
This cooling phase in the Atlantic will influence “temperature, rainfall, drought and even the frequency of hurricanes in many regions of the world,” says Dr. Gerard McCarthy. The study’s authors based their results on ocean sensor arrays and 100 years of sea-level data.

By the end of the article, the Daily Caller is predicing a cooling phase for the Earth’s climate, dismissing the almost universal consensus of global warming. The entire point of this article is to misconstrue the original research. Which is a shame, because White had to read enough of it to understand its methodology.

This, unfortunately, the high-water mark of this particular episode of scientific distortion.

The Clickbait

RedState, a conservative blog, jumps even farther than the Daily Caller from the original research. Now, the study on ice age ocean temperatures has become “another nail in the coffin of faulty science use by many climate alarmists to push agendas”, and is apparently now upsetting to TV personality Bill Nye. Importantly, the sole source for Brandon Morse’s article is the Daily Caller article. So we are now 1 degree of separation from the original research.

“Let me point out that science is not like passing a law,” Happer the scientist told Nye the not scientist. “You don’t have a vote to say how many are for the law of gravity and how many are against — it’s based on observations. And if you observe what’s happening to, for example, the temperature, the temperature is not rising nearly as fast as the alarmist computer models predicted. It’s much, much less — factors of two or three less. So the whole basis for the alarmism is not true, it’s based on flawed computer modeling.”

“Happer the scientist’ is a real physisist from Princeton University who is not a skeptic of our current warming trend, but is a skeptic of how humans have contributed to it. Not too long ago, Happer fell for a sting operation where a liberal group offered to pay him to write a paper pushing back against the current concensus on climate change.

“I could submit the article to a peer-reviewed journal, but that might greatly delay publication and might require such major changes in response to referees and to the journal editor that the article would no longer make the case that CO2 is a benefit, not a pollutant, as strongly as I would like, and presumably as strongly as your client would also like,” he wrote.
He suggested an alternative process whereby the article could be passed around handpicked reviewers. “Purists might object that the process did not qualify as a peer review,” he said. “I think it would be fine to call it a peer review.”

Now, Happer’s offer to produce science for money from a company does not discredit his ideas, but it does call into question his motives. In any case, Happer is a needle in a haystack of 97% scientists who almost universally agree that CO2, a heat storing gas, is causing temperatures to rise.

In any case, while the Daily Caller misconstruied the scientific study, RedSate basically reinvented it into something else altogether. It is the bad-faith two step movement that examplifies how scientific research is presented in a distorted way to millions of people. A reasonably interesting story of ice age sea surface temperatures is transformed into a statement of a cooling climate, which is then presented as proof that the scientific consensus is wrong. Sadly, the latter will be heard more loudly by more people.