Sunday, 6 December 2009

knowledge, faith and scepticism


Imagine, you sit in your car driving pretty fast up the autobahn; your cooling water temperature gauge moves closer and closer towards the red sector; you feel uneasy and after first ignoring it as casual as possible you are now tempted to stop and take a look; but then ‘what do I know’, so you consider to take the car into the next possible gas station to ask for advice, help... a solution.

This describes what an average reasonable intelligent person would go through watching that temperature gauge. But then there are those that travel with faith; they might make it! Same for the ones deciding this stupid gauge to be the problem; the practical ones wished they had two or three measuring systems, preferably independent and separated from each other. That can be helped:

To understand changes and variations in our climate it is essential to know how the surface temperature changes — from month to month, up to decade to decade. Global-average temperature records provide this vital information.

From these records we can see how warm specific months, years or decades are, and we can discern trends in our climate over longer periods of time. Global records go back about 160 years, giving a long period from which to draw conclusions about how our climate is changing.

There are three centres which calculate global-average temperature each month.

  • Met Office, in collaboration with the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UK)
  • Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which is part of NASA (USA)
  • National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (USA)

These work independently and use different methods in the way they collect and process data to calculate the global-average temperature.

So, they are lucky, those sceptics, here is what one gauge and two more indicate:

…, the results of each are similar from month to month and year to year, and there is definite agreement on temperature trends from decade to decade (Figure 1). Most importantly, they all agree global-average temperature has increased over the past century and this warming has been particularly rapid since the 1970s.

Well, no!

I don't want to discuss what makes it warmer; we have masses of highly trained and paid scientists to do that; should they take bribes, fail, err or cheat: fire them, head first! There are more waiting for a chance, a job...

The gauge still climbs; the problem remains unsolved; there is a possibility that the trip on the autobahn might end early.

Carpe diem!


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