Sunday, January 17, 2010

King Banaian is Exasperated and I Am Too

Regular readers (thanks, all five of you) will know that my priors include the notion that we humans are likely heating up the planet by spewing carbon dioxide (and methane, and nitrous oxide, and water vapor) into the atmosphere.
But the recent entertainment caused by the leakage of data and e-mails from the East Anglia CRU, and the completely shameless shameful behavior of the so-called scientists there, has now got me looking much more closely at what turns out to be the almost completely useless nature of any data we have about climate.
King Banaian reflects on measurements. It is a fine post.
For me, learning the details of what has gone into the various graphs meant to freak us all out has completely eroded my belief in any quality in the existing data. I do want to study the data more, and come to understand what lies behind all the strange manipulations (don't get me too wrong - changes in technology and simply moving a ssensor mean one has to recalibrate).
I think I am about to join the other silly people playing with what numbers we have. The data is clearly very low-quality, and so conclusions should hardly be taken too seriously.
To quote King, excellently:
So here's the problem in a nutshell: I have a measure that I know, think it measured temperature well, measured it directly. I understand the underlying statistical technique well, and because the data is right there, I can replicate it. My confidence is improved by this, different from PCA. But because there's a chance they might have changed the thermometer, or that you can't generalize Northern Hemispheric temperatures from a single point in central England, I could not use it definitively. It's a skepticism not unlike my skepticism of people's claims about job loss based on the household survey. It could be that PCA's issues are not as severe as these. And it may be that there are other studies that give different experiences than the PCA studies and studies that support PCA. At the end of the day your beliefs are updated by the studies; you learn. And what you think is true evolves, with questioning and kepticism all along the way.
Or at least, that's what Scholars do.


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