Interpreting climate data can be hard enough. What if some key data have
By Patrick J. Michaels
Imagine if there were no reliable records of global surface temperature.
Raucous policy debates such as cap-and-trade would have no scientific
basis, Al Gore would at this point be little more than a historical
footnote, and President Obama would not be spending this U.N. session
talking up a (likely unattainable) international climate deal in Copenhagen
Steel yourself for the new reality, because the data needed to verify the
gloom-and-doom warming forecasts have disappeared.
Or so it seems. Apparently, they were either lost or purged from some
discarded computer. Only a very few people know what really happened, and
they aren’t talking much. And what little they are saying makes no sense.
In the early 1980s, with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy,
scientists at the United Kingdom’s University of East Anglia established
the Climate Research Unit (CRU) to produce the world’s first comprehensive
history of surface temperature. It’s known in the trade as the “Jones and
Wigley” record for its authors, Phil Jones and Tom Wigley, and it served as
the primary reference standard for the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC) until 2007. It was this record that prompted the IPCC
to claim a “discernible human influence on global climate.”
Putting together such a record isn’t at all easy. Weather stations weren’t
really designed to monitor global climate. Long-standing ones were usually
established at points of commerce, which tend to grow into cities that
induce spurious warming trends in their records. Trees grow up around
thermometers and lower the afternoon temperature. Further, as documented by
the University of Colorado’s Roger Pielke Sr., many of the stations
themselves are placed in locations, such as in parking lots or near heat
vents, where artificially high temperatures are bound to be recorded.
So the weather data that go into the historical climate records that are
required to verify models of global warming aren’t the original records at
all. Jones and Wigley, however, weren’t specific about what was done to
which station in order to produce their record, which, according to the
IPCC, showed a warming of 0.6° +/– 0.2°C in the 20th century.
Now begins the fun. Warwick Hughes, an Australian scientist, wondered where
that “+/–” came from, so he politely wrote Phil Jones in early 2005, asking
for the original data. Jones’s response to a fellow scientist attempting to
replicate his work was, “We have 25 years or so invested in the work. Why
should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find
something wrong with it?”
Reread that statement, for it is breathtaking in its anti-scientific
thrust. In fact, the entire purpose of replication is to “try and find
something wrong.” The ultimate objective of science is to do things so well
that, indeed, nothing is wrong.
Then the story changed. In June 2009, Georgia Tech’s Peter Webster told
Canadian researcher Stephen McIntyre that he had requested raw data, and
Jones freely gave it to him. So McIntyre promptly filed a Freedom of
Information Act request for the same data. Despite having been invited by
the National Academy of Sciences to present his analyses of millennial
temperatures, McIntyre was told that he couldn’t have the data because he
wasn’t an “academic.” So his colleague Ross McKitrick, an economist at the
University of Guelph, asked for the data. He was turned down, too.
Faced with a growing number of such requests, Jones refused them all,
saying that there were “confidentiality” agreements regarding the data
between CRU and nations that supplied the data. McIntyre’s blog readers
then requested those agreements, country by country, but only a handful
turned out to exist, mainly from Third World countries and written in very
It’s worth noting that McKitrick and I had published papers demonstrating
that the quality of land-based records is so poor that the warming trend
estimated since 1979 (the first year for which we could compare those
records to independent data from satellites) may have been overestimated by
50 percent. Webster, who received the CRU data, published studies linking
changes in hurricane patterns to warming (while others have found otherwise).
Enter the dog that ate global warming.
Roger Pielke Jr., an esteemed professor of environmental studies at the
University of Colorado, then requested the raw data from Jones. Jones
*Since the 1980s, we have merged the data we have received into existing
series or begun new ones, so it is impossible to say if all stations within
a particular country or if all of an individual record should be freely
available. Data storage availability in the 1980s meant that we were not
able to keep the multiple sources for some sites, only the station series
after adjustment for homogeneity issues. We, therefore, do not hold the
original raw data but only the value-added (i.e., quality controlled and
The statement about “data storage” is balderdash. They got the records from
somewhere. The files went onto a computer. All of the original data could
easily fit on the 9-inch tape drives common in the mid-1980s. I had all of
the world’s surface barometric pressure data on one such tape in 1979.
If we are to believe Jones’s note to the younger Pielke, CRU adjusted the
original data and then lost or destroyed them over twenty years ago. The
letter to Warwick Hughes may have been an outright lie. After all, Peter
Webster received some of the data this year. So the question remains: What
was destroyed or lost, when was it destroyed or lost, and why?
All of this is much more than an academic spat. It now appears likely that
the U.S. Senate will drop cap-and-trade climate legislation from its docket
this fall — whereupon the Obama Environmental Protection Agency is going to
step in and issue regulations on carbon-dioxide emissions. Unlike a law,
which can’t be challenged on a scientific basis, a regulation can. If there
are no data, there’s no science. U.S. taxpayers deserve to know the answer
to the question posed above.
— Patrick J. Michaels is a senior fellow in environmental studies at the
Cato Institute and author of Climate of Extremes: Global Warming Science
They Don’t Want You to Know.
Patrick Swayze, who soared to stardom as a heartthrob dancer in "Dirty Dancing" and ascended to romantic icon status as a deceased lover in "Ghost," died Monday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 57.
"Patrick Swayze passed away peacefully today with family at his side after facing the challenges of his illness for the last 20 months," said a statement released Monday evening by his publicist Annett Wolf.
The actor had kept working despite the diagnosis, putting together a memoir with his wife and shooting "The Beast," an A&E drama series for which he had already made the pilot. It drew a respectable 1.3 million viewers when the 13 episodes ran last winter, but A&E said it had reluctantly decided not to renew it for a second season.
Swayze, whose work on "The Beast" was singled out as being particularly compelling, said he opted not to use painkilling drugs while making the show because they would have taken the edge off his performance. He acknowledged that time might be running out given the grim nature of the disease.
In fact, the actor was hospitalized with pneumonia in January while promoting "The Beast," which premiered Jan. 15. He had been scheduled to attend the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Los Angeles at the time to tubthump the show but was taken ill and couldn't attend.
It was first reported in March 2008 that the actor was being treated for inoperable Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. In an ABC interview in January, Swayze said it "seemed likely" he would live for two more years.
A trained dancer and gymnast, the athletic Swayze was a swooner as a romantic lead, garnering his first of three Golden Globe nominations for his electrifying performance in "Dirty Dancing."
The 1987 movie showcased Swayze's dual abilities as a dancer and actor. He also composed and performed a song for the movie, "She's Like the Wind," which became a hit. And his line, "Nobody puts Baby in a corner" -- which he directed at Jennifer Grey character's father, played by Jerry Orbach -- became a classic movie one-liner.
Swayze turned down an offer of $6 million to appear in a sequel but 17 years later popped up in a cameo role in "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights."
Swayze followed "Dirty Dancing" with two projects that capitalized on his sex appeal and athleticism: "Road House" and "Next of Kin," both released in 1989.
He soared further as a romantic lead the following year with Jerry Zucker's "Ghost." His robust and delicate performance as a dead man who didn't tell his girlfriend that he loved her while he was alive captivated audiences. Swayze and Demi Moore teamed for one of the most erotic scenes in mainstream movies when they sculpted clay to the Righteous Brothers' meltingly romantic 1965 love song "Unchained Melody."
Swayze earned his second Globe nomination for "Ghost" and became a poster boy, earning People's "Sexiest Man Alive" cover in 1991.
That same year, Swayze parlayed his buff stuff into a role as a bank robber/surfer guru in "Point Break."
While he was honored as ShoWest Male Star of the Year in 1992, Swayze's star aura dimmed by appearances in a number of lackluster films in the 1990s, including "City of Joy," "Father Hood," "Three Wishes" and Black Dog."
An intelligent and introspective performer, Swayze did on occasion play against his stud persona. He won acclaim, and his third Globe nom, as a drag queen in "To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar" (1995). Swayze also mixed things up by playing an antiseptic self-help guru in the subversive indie comedy "Donnie Darko" and as a golf instructor in the offbeat British comedy "Keeping Mum."
Before his breakout turn in "Dirty Dancing," Swayze built his career in a number of solid projects.
Among his earlier films, Swayze was part of the star-studded lineup of up-and-comers in Francis Ford Coppola's 1983 adaptation of S.E. Hinton's novel "The Outsiders," alongside Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Emilio Estevez and Diane Lane. Swayze played Darrel "Dary" Curtis, the oldest of three wayward brothers -- and essentially the father figure -- in a poor family in small-town Oklahoma.
Other '80s films included "Red Dawn," "Grandview U.S.A." (for which he also provided choreography) and "Youngblood," again with Lowe, as Canadian hockey teammates. He co-starred in the popular ABC miniseries "North and South" (1985).
With his dancing prowess, he also took to the stage, starring on Broadway in "Chicago" in 2003 and as Nathan Detroit in "Guys and Dolls" in London in 2006.
Swayze was born Aug. 18, 1952, in Houston. His father was a rodeo cowboy, and his mother was a dance instructor and choreographer. Combining his athletic and cultural heritage, Swayze studied dance, principally ballet, as a child.
It was at his mother's dance studio that he first met Lisa Niemi, a fellow dancer, whom he married in 1975.
Swayze, a Texas-raised boy, had to overcome the stigma of such pursuits, which he more than compensated for by his participation in sports. He excelled as a high school jock, winning letters in football, gymnastics and swimming. He won scholarship offers for both athletics and dance, choosing a gymnastics scholarship at San Jacinto College in Houston.
His skills were made to order for figure skating, and Swayze soon became a top-notch skater. In his first professional gig, he skated as Prince Charming in a Disney on Ice traveling company.
In 1972, Swayze headed to New York, intent on becoming a professional dancer. He studied at the Joffrey and Harkness Ballet companies and was hired to dance as the principal dancer at the Eliot Feld Ballet Company. However, an old football knee injury hampered him, and he veered from dancing to acting and musical comedy, soon landing Broadway roles in "Goodtime Charley," "West Side Story" and "Grease."
Buoyed by his successes on Broadway, Swayze moved to Los Angeles and studied acting at the Beverly Hills Playhouse. He soon garnered TV guest-star roles, including a noteworthy performance as a dying soldier on the hit series "M*A*S*H."
Swayze made his film debut in the 1979 rollerskating movie "Skatetown USA" in 1979.
Swayze his survived by his wife, Lisa Niemi, his mother, Patsy, and brother Don.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Patrick Swayze filmography:
"The Outsiders," 1983
"Red Dawn," 1984
"Grandview, U.S.A.," 1984
"Dirty Dancing," 1987
"Road House," 1989
"Next of Kin," 1989
"Point Break," 1991
"City of Joy," 1992
"Father Hood," 1993
"To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar," 1995
"Three Wishes," 1995
"Black Dog," 1998
"Donnie Darko," 2001
"Keeping Mum," 2005
"Powder Blue," 2008