The science is settled

A highly circulated study claiming oceans are warming at a much higher rate due to global warming contains “key errors,” forcing researchers to issue a correction.

The study published by the journal Nature on Oct. 31 by researchers at Princeton University and UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography claimed the oceans were warming at a rate 60 percent higher than previously thought.

However, a mathematical error discovered by independent climate scientist Nic Lewis after he perused the study’s first page has led the journal to retract its key finding. The study has a much larger margin of error, making their findings of a 60 percent increase in ocean warming less precise, and actually between 10 percent and 70 percent.

The lead researcher now says its findings are practically meaningless, with a margin of error “too big now to really weigh in” on ocean temperatures.

When first published, the study led to “alarming” warnings in mainstream media outletsclaiming the “world has seriously underestimated the amount of heat soaked up by our oceans over the past 25 years.”

CNN initially reported the planet is “‘more sensitive’ than thought” based on the study and would lead to “more dire” predictions than the U.N.’s latest, which gave Earth only 12 more years.

CNN has since reported “errors were made” but is still defending the study claiming its scientific errors “do not invalidate the study’s methodology.”

The Washington Post is now reporting the scientists made “key errors.”

“A major study claimed the oceans were warming much faster than previously thought,” the paper reported. “But researchers now say they can’t necessarily make that claim.”

“Unfortunately, we made mistakes here,” said Ralph Keeling, a Scripps researcher and coauthor of the study, adding the mathematical error means a “much larger margin of error in the findings.”

Keeling told the San Diego Union Tribune he was grateful to Lewis for pointing out the mistake and said the new calculations change the probability of an increase in ocean temperatures to between 10 percent and 70 percent.

“Our error margins are too big now to really weigh in on the precise amount of warming that’s going on in the ocean,” Keeling said. “We really muffed the error margins.”

Following the study’s publication, Lewis wrote a blog post questioning its findings and reached out to lead author Laure Resplandy, a Princeton assistant professor, but never received a response.

“Just a few hours of analysis and calculations, based only on published information, was sufficient to uncover apparently serious (but surely inadvertent) errors in the underlying calculations,” Lewis said.

Lewis discovered an error in the equation used to estimate a trend in ocean temperature. A correction led to an “ocean heat uptake estimate … well below the estimate in the paper.”

“The findings of the Resplandy et al paper were peer reviewed and published in the world’s premier scientific journal and were given wide coverage in the English-speaking media,” Lewis said. “Despite this, a quick review of the first page of the paper was sufficient to raise doubts as to the accuracy of its results.”

“Of course, it is also very important that the media outlets that unquestioningly trumpeted the paper’s findings now correct the record too,” Lewis added. “But perhaps that is too much to hope for.”

Note that Nature is regarded as a top journal.

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19 Responses to The science is settled

  1. Bruce of Newcastle

    Nature is as green as grass, and has been for ~15 years. Pals peer reviewing pals and publishing putrid papers.

    Snow cover extent has not changed on average for nearly a quarter century. I do not know how the globe can be warming like a bug on a stove when snow isn’t actually melting. Maybe the melting point of water has been rising. /sarc

  2. braddles

    Anyone who has worked in science will know of the temptations and dangers of the result that is “too good to question”.

    When they got a result that overturned decades (and billions of dollars) of prior research, they should have given their methods the third degree. Instead the lure of the “worse than previously thought” headlines was irresistible. Unsceptical peer review compounded the problem.

  3. Faye

    This must be the umpteenth dumb error in the history of the settled 97% approved Climate Change Con (CCC) science. Add on the zillions of convenient adjustments and it becomes science fiction.

    Then combine that with the depressing state of affairs for conservatives at the moment: hard to know what will happen with the peoples’ Brexit; the Republicans are not to be trusted with MAGA; Australian politics are good one minute, stupid the next. When is it all going to end?

    Also whatever happened to Climategate Two?

  4. JohnA

    The findings of the Resplandy et al paper were peer-reviewed…

    Sigh. Yet again someone presents peer review as a scientific quality controi discipline, whereas it is no more than a publishing/editorial form of quality control, and even there it is failing miserably.

  5. cohenite

    It’s a bad paper but really in the history of alarmist bad papers it doesn’t rate:

  6. I’ll accept (begrudgingly) that the math was an honest mistake.
    What wasn’t an honest mistake is the authors suggestion that fossil fuel use had heated the oceans more than previously thought (everything about climate science is more than previously thought innit.?)
    The atmosphere can not heat the oceans……EVER.

  7. Anthony

    Nature is getting a bit of history with publishing stuff that is ‘too good to be true’ – for example the acid baths to make stem cells back in 2014.

    Hopefully, there is a process of natural selection here, the authors of this paper will have suffered reputational damage and find it harder to publish. Presumably, the guys who peer reviewed this work will be asked to review less frequently, possibly they might find it harder to publish their own work in Nature going forward.

  8. sabena

    This just shows that peer reviews are worthless-they are simply back scratching exercises.

  9. H B Bear

    Expect to see more of this as “the science” of global warming unravels before out eyes.

  10. Oh good, more accurate climate science to raise the scare factor.

  11. Even if one accepts that “the math was an honest mistake”, the peer review system was clearly corrupt. Did the bastards even read the paper? If they did, every one of them should resign and never be considered as peer reviewers again.

  12. “The lead researcher now says its findings are practically meaningless”
    If one understands the methods used to complile ‘data’ regarding the planet’s surface temperature, one instantly realises that ALL of the statements made about global means surface temperature are pure fiction, unless we are talking UAH, radiosondes, or argo floats.

  13. manalive

    Dr Roy Spencer’s view:
    “If the conclusions of the paper support a more alarmist narrative on the seriousness of anthropogenic global warming, the less thorough will be the peer review. I am now totally convinced of that. If the paper is skeptical in tone, it endures levels of criticism that alarmist papers do not experience. I have had at least one paper rejected based upon a single reviewer who obviously didn’t read the paper…he criticized claims not even made in the paper …”.

  14. Herodotus

    The Big Scam and International Monetary Shakedown involves scientists, some economoists, far too many in the media, politicians, entertainers and activists to numerous to keep count of.

  15. Herodotus

    Economoists! That might just qualify for addition to the list of Catwords.

  16. Fat Tony

    It’s always “worse than we thought”.
    On the balance of probability, around half the time it should be “better than we thought”.
    But it’s never been about the science………..

  17. Paul Farmer

    One of the authors , Resplandy was from Princeton. Wow we have gone from a University that was the home to Albert Einstein in the later part of his life last century to producing scientists that now turf out this sort of junk.

    Baa Humburg , whether or not the maths is an honest mistake is missing the point. If it was honest its definitely a case of confirmation bias and good scientists should have mechanisms to prevent such bias effecting their work. If you get the result you want to see, critical thinking and skepticism should not automatically go out the window. That is sort of the entire premise of the scientific method, so no I don’t forgive them for an honest mistake. They should be held to a higher standard particularly if society is going to continue to put climate scientists on a pedestal.

    Before you go to publish particularly with a ground breaking result you double and triple check these things. If you’re a scientist that has trouble adding up and doing statistics which seems to be a common thread with these climate scientists you call in someone from the maths faculty. Now I think about it, Princeton was also the home of the great mathematician John Nash ( of Nash equilibrium fame) and Alan Turing (pioneer of computers) also spent some time there after World War 2 and if one does a google search of the most prestigious maths faculties in the world, surprise surprise, who should come up first but Princeton University. So I reckon there would be many very smart people in the maths faculty at Princeton this Resplandy could have called in to help review the maths if they wanted to honestly ensure their mathematical conclusions were valid , to make sure these errors didn’t happen.

  18. Baa Humbug:

    I’ll accept (begrudgingly) that the math was an honest mistake.
    What wasn’t an honest mistake is the authors suggestion that fossil fuel use had heated the oceans more than previously thought (everything about climate science is more than previously thought innit.?)
    The atmosphere can not heat the oceans……EVER.

    If I add 27 and 32, and get 17,gazillion +++, it is not an honest mistake to not check sums again.

  19. Mundi

    The paper was blantently rushed purely because once the first mistake was made over not compounding the error margins, the author’s and reviews just wanted it out for a big splash.

    This is evidenced by absurd mistakes like different values for the same thing, as the author’s made little change and forgot to go back though the paper and change each instance of each value.

    The idea that it was peer reviewed at all is laughable. Unless the review was “I like the conclusion”.

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