A Good First Step: Hansen & GISS Release the Code

One of the bedrock principles of scientific inquiry is that when publishing results, one should also publish enough information about the experimental process so that others can attempt to replicate the results.  Bedrock principle everywhere, that is, except in climate science of course.  Climate researchers routinely refuse to release key aspects of their research that would allow others to replicate their findings — Mann’s refusal to release information about his famous "hockey stick" analysis even in the face of FOIA’s is just the most famous example.

A few weeks ago, after Steven McIntyre and a group of more-or-less amateurs discovered apparent issues in the NASA GISS temperature data, James Hansen and the GISS were forced to admit a programming error and restate some recent US temperatures (downwards).  As I wrote at Coyote Blog, the key outcome of this incident was not the magnitude of the restatement, but the presure it might put on Hansen to release the software code NASA uses to aggregate and adjust historical temperature measurements:

For years, Hansen’s group at GISS, as well as other leading climate scientists such as Mann and Briffa (creators of historical temperature reconstructions) have flaunted the rules of science by holding the details of their methodologies and algorithm’s secret, making full scrutiny impossible.  The best possible outcome of this incident will be if new pressure is brought to bear on these scientists to stop saying "trust me" and open their work to their peers for review.  This is particularly important for activities such as Hansen’s temperature data base at GISS.  While measurement of temperature would seem straight forward, in actual fact the signal to noise ration is really low.  Upward "adjustments" and fudge factors added by Hansen to the actual readings dwarf measured temperature increases, such that, for example, most reported warming in the US is actually from these adjustments, not measured increases.

I concluded:

NOAA and GISS both need to release their detailed algorithms and computer software code for adjusting and aggregating USHCN and global temperature data.  Period.  There can be no argument.  Folks at RealClimate.org who believe that all is well should be begging for this to happen to shut up the skeptics.  The only possible reason for not releasing this scientific information that was created by government employees with taxpayer money is if there is something to hide.

The good news is that Hansen has released what he claims to be the complete source code.  Hansen, with extraordinarily bad grace, has always claimed that he has told everyone all they need to know, and that it is other people’s fault if they can’t figure out what he is doing from his clear instructions.  But just read this post at Steve McIntyre’s site, and see the detective work that folks were having to go through trying to replicate NASA’s temperature adjustments without the code.

The great attention that Hansen has garnered for himself among the politically correct glitterati, far beyond what a government scientist might otherwise expect, seems to have blown his mind.  Of late, has has begun to act the little Caeser, calling his critic’s "court jesters," with the obvioius implication that he is the king.  Even in releasing the code he can’t resist a petulent swipe at his critics (emphasis added):

Reto Ruedy has organized into a single document, as well as practical on a short time scale, the programs that produce our global temperature analysis from publicly available data streams of temperature measurements. These are a combination of subroutines written over the past few decades by Sergej Lebedeff, Jay Glascoe, and Reto. Because the programs include a variety of
languages and computer unique functions, Reto would have preferred to have a week or two to combine these into a simpler more transparent structure, but because of a recent flood of demands for the programs, they are being made available as is. People interested in science may want to wait a week or two for a simplified version.

LOL.  The world is divided into two groups:  His critics, and those who are interested in science.

This should be a very interesting week.

One thought on “A Good First Step: Hansen & GISS Release the Code”

  1. Take a look at this article published by the American Meteorological Society, it appears to validate the issues you and others are raising regarding the raw data.

    Documentation of Uncertainties and Biases Associated with Surface Temperature Measurement Sites for Climate Change Assessment. by: Roger Pielke Sr. et.al.

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