The empricist’s telescope

Galileo’s precise observations of the moons of Jupiter were scientifically disruptive because he employed a new technology literally to open new horizons for astronomy. But his public dissent from a geocentric view of the universe—a dissent that appears only once in his writings, in terms that suggest he did not expect this fact especially to surprise his readers—made a still greater contribution toour intellectual heritage, in retrospect, because it led to the triumph of empirical enquiry over dogma in the advancement of knowledge.

We’re immensely lucky to have a kind of empiricists’ telescope of our own in the Internet. A lot of raw data on the climate and a wealth of analysis is available to anyone with a web browser. Anthony Watts maintains an invaluable list of web-accessible data sets. Among them, the HADCRUT temperature series from the UK Meteorological Office, NASA’s GISS series derived from ground sensing stations, and the satellite data series from NASA. Anyone can grab these temperature tables, toss them in a spreadsheet or import them into the magnificent (and free!) statistical programing environment of R to create their own record of observations. As Galileo’s tiny asterisks and scratchy circles show, empiricism is not a method reserved for the ‘learned academies‘; it is the foundation of science and yet often well within the reach of an intelligent amateur.

But if the data is not your passion, it’s easy, too, to find high quality analysis and vigorous discussion. David Stockwell at Niche Modeling has a nice round-up, today, of several recent pieces of analysis including

  • A statistically robust analysis of the NASA global temperature time-series (by Lucia Liljegren, who shows the trend is flat since 2001 and provides a helpful spreadsheet for downloading so you can roll-your-own)
  • Some recent articles on the recovery of Arctic sea ice
  • News that global warming may reduce the number of Atlantic hurricanes

Beyond, there are constellations of balanced, intelligent analyses demonstrating the extent and the seriousness of ‘dissent’ that gives climate science its claim to be science. Some starting points:

  • The miniscule (glacial?) rate of sea-level rise
  • The real reason for the retreating snows of Kilimanjaro
  • The absence of any trend in the incidence of tropical cyclones due to global warming (according to Australian Bureau of Met scientists)
  • Reasonable doubts about the ‘CO2 story’ including a longish paper that summarizes recent literature critical of the IPCC views (by scientists with an agricultural—i.e. CO2 ‘friendly’—background), and a much briefer but balanced critique of the alarmism associated with actual increases in CO2 over the past century by the Prof. of Atmospheric Science at MIT.
  • A summary of the case against climate alarm by Dr Bob Carter, an environmental scientist at James Cook and Adelaide Universities and a critical review (from a science perspective) of the recommendations of the UK’s Stern Review by Bob Carter and other atmospheric and environmental scientists

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email is never shared.Required fields are marked *