Tag Archives: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Climate scientists criticize government paper that erases ‘pause’ in warming



File photo. (REUTERS/Peter Andrews/Files)

Until last week, government data on climate change indicated that the Earth has warmed over the last century, but that the warming slowed dramatically and even stopped at points over the last 17 years.

But a paper released May 28 by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has readjusted the data in a way that makes the reduction in warming disappear, indicating a steady increase in temperature instead. But the study’s readjusted data conflict with many other climate measurements, including data taken by satellites, and some climate scientists aren’t buying the new claim.

“While I’m sure this latest analysis from NOAA will be regarded as politically useful for the Obama administration, I don’t regard it as a particularly useful contribution to our scientific understanding of what is going on,” Judith Curry, a climate science professor at Georgia Tech, wrote in a response to the study.

And in an interview, Curry told FoxNews.com that that the adjusted data doesn’t match other independent measures of temperature.

“The new NOAA dataset disagrees with a UK dataset, which is generally regarded as the gold standard for global sea surface temperature datasets,” she said. “The new dataset also disagrees with ARGO buoys and satellite analyses.”

The NOAA paper, produced by a team of researchers led by Tom Karl, director of the agency’s National Climatic Data Center, found most of its new warming trend by adjusting past measurements of sea temperatures.

 Global ocean temperatures are estimated both by thousands of commercial ships, which record the temperature of the water entering their engines, and by thousands of buoys – floatation devices that sit in the water for years.

The buoys tend to get cooler temperature readings than the ships, likely because ships’ engines warm the water. Meanwhile, in recent years, buoys have become increasingly common. The result, Karl says, is that even if the world’s oceans are warming, the unadjusted data may show it not to be warming because more and more buoys are being used instead of ships. So Karl’s team adjusted the buoy data to make them line up with the ship data. They also double-checked their work by making sure that the readjusted buoy readings matched ships’ recordings of nighttime air temperatures.

The paper came out last week, and there has not been time for skeptical scientists to independently check the adjustments, but some are questioning it because of how much the adjusted data vary from other independent measurements.

First, it disagrees with the readings of more than 3,000 “ARGO buoys,” which are specifically designed to float around the ocean and measure temperature. Some scientists view their data as the most reliable.

The ARGO buoy data do not show much warming in surface temperature since they were introduced in 2003. But Karl’s team left them out of their analysis, saying that they have multiple issues, including lack of measurements near the Arctic.

In an email, Karl told FoxNews.com that the ARGO buoy readings may be added to his data “if scientific methods can be found to line up these two types of temperatures together … (of course after correcting the systematic offsets) … This is part of the cumulative and progressive scientific process.”

Karl’s study also clashes with satellite measurements. Since 1979, NOAA satellites have estimated the temperature of Earth’s atmosphere. They show almost no warming in recent years and closely match the surface data before Karl’s adjustments.

The satellite data is compiled by two separate sets of researchers, whose results match each other closely. One team that compiles the data includes Climate Professors John Christy and Roy Spencer at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, both of whom question Karl’s adjusted data.

“The study is one more example that you can get any answer you want when the thermometer data errors are larger than the global warming signal you are looking for,” Spencer told FoxNews.com.

“We believe the satellite measurements since 1979 provide a more robust measure of global temperatures, and both satellite research groups see virtually the same pause in global temperatures for the last 18 years,” he said.

Karl said satellite data also have issues, including “orbital decay, diurnal sampling, instrument calibration target temperatures and more.”

Spencer said he agreed that those are issues, but they are less problematic than using data from thousands of ships and buoys. He added that there are a couple of satellites monitoring temperature at any given time, and that they are used to check each other.

Skeptics say there are yet more measurements, including those coming from balloon data, that line up with existing data more than with Karl’s newly adjusted data. They also note that even with Karl’s adjustments, the warming trend he finds over the last 17 years is below what U.N. models had predicted.

Some climate scientists applaud Karl’s adjustments and say they debunk the idea that the Earth has stopped warming.

“[This] points out just how small and fragile a notion that was,” Peter Frumhoff, director of science & policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told FoxNews.com

Asked about the contradiction with satellite data, he said he trusted the new paper.

“I trust the process of legitimate scientific peer review that this paper has undergone, as well as the care that its authors bring to their respected work,” he said, adding that, “the faux debate over a so-called ‘hiatus’ has been an unfortunate diversion from meaningful dialogue about how best to address the broadly recognized serious problem of climate change.”

But skeptics say Karl’s adjusted data is the outlier that conflicts with everything else. “Color me ‘unconvinced’,” Curry wrote.

Maxim Lott can be reached at www.maximlott.comor at maxim.lott@foxnews.com

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Japan’s ‘toxic’ monster creeping towards US

Japan’s ‘toxic’ monster creeping towards US

By Maxim Lott

Published November 01, 2013

  • tsunami debris field graphic.jpg

    A NOAA model from Sept. 23 shows that a vast though disperse field of debris from a tsunami that struck Japan in 2011 is likely still dispersed north of the Main Hawaiian Islands and east of Midway Atoll. (NOAA)

  • Fukushima Tsunami Debris 5.jpg

    The 5 Gyres Institute, which monitors plastic pollution out at sea, said it found an abandoned boat, a tire, and a traditional Japanese tatami matt floating in the Pacific — all part of the massive debris field from the tsunami. (5GYRES.ORG)

  • Fukushima Tsunami Debris 1.jpg

    The 5 Gyres Institute, which monitors plastic pollution out at sea, said it found an abandoned boat, a tire, and a traditional Japanese tatami matt floating in the Pacific — all part of the massive debris field from the tsunami. (5GYRES.ORG)

  • Fukushima Tsunami Debris 2.jpg

    A giant dock from Japan that recently washed ashore in Oregon — carried across the Pacific after being torn loose by the tsunami.(NOAA)

  • Fukushima Tsunami Debris 4.jpg

    An aerial view of debris from the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck northern Japan. (U.S. NAVY)

An enormous debris field is creeping toward the U.S. in the wake of the massive earthquake and tsunami that shook Japan in 2011, killing nearly 16,000 people and launching 1.5 million tons of floating objects into the sea.

That most concentrated part of the junk field is easily broader than Texas and centered approximately 1,700 miles off the Pacific coast, between California and Hawaii, although the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) hasn’t published more precise estimates. The agency estimates that the trash overall is scattered across an area in the ocean about three times the size of the continental United States.

The debris ranges from pulverized particles to entire docks that washed over from Japan, to intact boats, motorcycles, soccer balls, traditional Japanese flooring, and even some Japanese sea creatures never seen on the U.S. West Coast. “High windage” items reached the Pacific Northwest as early as winter 2011. Smaller debris is “sailing” here on the tides — NOAA estimates that the widely scattered detritus may show up intermittently along shorelines for a long period of time, over the next year or more.

In addition to physical junk, a wave of slightly radioactive water released from the broken Japanese Fukushima nuclear reactor is predicted to reach shore in 2014 — but scientists point out that it is so diluted that it is harmless.

‘We’re finding that all kinds of Japanese organisms are growing on the debris.’

– John Chapman of the Marine Science Center at Oregon State University 

In one of the more dramatic photos of debris, two rooftops and an upside-down boat can be seen floating in the ocean. In another, a giant dock from Japan washed ashore in Oregon.

Even more interesting may be what’s living on the dock.

“At first we were only thinking about objects like the floating docks, but now we’re finding that all kinds of Japanese organisms are growing on the debris,” John Chapman of the Marine Science Center at Oregon State University told FoxNews.com.

“We’ve found over 165 non-native species so far,” he added. “One type of insect, and almost all the others are marine organisms … we found the European blue mussel, which was introduced to Asia long ago, and then it grew on a lot of these things that are coming across the Pacific … we’d never seen it here, and we don’t particularly want it here,” he said, arguing that it could be “invasive” and displace current marine life.

Many other creatures have been found, too.

“In the debris we found the Northeastern sea star … as well as a type of brown algae that’s used to make miso soup. We’d never seen it here before.”

Chapman added that the migrant creatures took scientists completely by surprise.

“We thought, ‘the Pacific can’t be crossed by living organisms from Japan’ … and we were wrong, very wrong,” he said, adding that while a journey across the Pacific typically kills whatever clings to it, there were just so many pieces of debris launched by the tsunami that some were bound to take paths favorable to whatever organisms were on it.

“It wasn’t just the humans that were thrown around, it was these other things on the shore as well,” he said.

And he expects to see more creatures, because lot of debris is still out floating in the Pacific, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and to people who have been out to look for it.

“We found an abandoned boat, a tire, and a tatami matt — that’s traditional Japanese flooring made of woven reeds,” Stiv Wilson of the 5 Gyres Institute, which monitors plastic pollution out at sea, told FoxNews.com. Gyres was on an expedition to the “North Pacific Garbage Patch,” an area with few ocean currents where tons of plastic garbage accumulates, and that’s where he found the Japanese debris.

“We found a fishing vessel that was barely above water. It had Japanese characters on it and was made of fiberglass. On the front of the boat we found a rope that was ripped, so the tsunami wave probably hit it and tore it from dock. Then the wave must have hit it against something else, because the stern and the motor were missing.”

Gyres said he and his team also brought a Geiger counter with them to measure radiation.

“We didn’t find anything irradiated, we were getting inconsequential readings. I think there’s a little fearmongering about it.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration agrees, and reports on its site: “Radiation experts agree that it is highly unlikely that any tsunami-generated marine debris will hold harmful levels of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear emergency.

Some debris in West Coast has been tested by the states, including items known to be from the tsunami, and no radioactive contamination above normal was found.”

That’s fortunate, as fisherman report seeing more debris lately.

“We have been seeing more and more,” Glen Spain, Northwest regional director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, told FoxNews.com.

“The major hazards of this stuff is that it can carry invasive species, like the pier that washed up. And the bigger stuff can be a navigational hazard.”

The next wave of debris will likely hit shores soon, Chapman noted.

“With winter and spring winds — that’s when it generally shows up. We’re going into that season again soon,” he said.

The author of the piece can be reached at maxim.lott@foxnews.com or on twitter at @maximlott.


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