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Today, as yet another nail is driven into the ‘global warming’ coffin, The Guardian claims an exclusive with its front-page blockbuster report: ‘Leaked climate change emails scientist “hid” data flaws. Exclusive: Key study by East Anglia professor Phil Jones was based on suspect figures’: “Phil Jones, the beleaguered British climate scientist at the centre of the leaked emails controversy, is facing fresh claims that he sought to hide problems in key temperature data on which some of his work was based.

A Guardian investigation of thousands of emails and documents apparently hacked from the University of East Anglia’s climatic research unit has found evidence that a series of measurements from Chinese weather stations were seriously flawed and that documents relating to them could not be produced.

Jones and a collaborator have been accused by a climate change sceptic and researcher of scientific fraud for attempting to suppress data that could cast doubt on a key 1990 study on the effect of cities on warming – a hotly contested issue.

Today The Guardian reveals how Jones withheld the information requested under freedom of information laws. Subsequently a senior colleague told him he feared that Jones’s collaborator, Wei-­Chyung Wang of the University at Albany, had ‘screwed up’.”

What The Guardian does not stress, however, is that this news item is not ‘new’ at all. Indeed, “exclusive” is hardly the case, for the serious allegation of fraud was first investigated in the academic journal, Energy & Environment, as early as 2007 [see: ‘The fraud allegation against some climatic research of Wei-Chyung Wang’ by Douglas J. Keenan, Energy & Environment 18: 985–995 (2007): doi: 10.1260/095830507782616913]. Here is a .pdf version of the original paper, and here is what the Abstract states:

“Wei-Chyung Wang has been a respected researcher in global warming studies for decades. I have formally alleged that he committed fraud in some of his research including research cited by the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC (2007) on ‘urban heat islands’ (a critical issue). Herein, the allegation is reviewed, and some of its implications are explicated.”

We should further note that this allegation was also taken up at the web site, Climate Audit, on June 18, 2007.

Deconstructing A Sorry Tale

Intriguingly, this little history tells us everything that has happened since 2007 to the Grand Narrative of Global Warming.

In 2007, I do not believe that a single mainstream media outlet picked up on this potentially-devastating allegation. After all, it relates to work published in the prestigious journal Nature, and it involves crucial research employed by the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC (2007) to try to downplay the effects of the ‘urban heat island’ effect on recent temperature rises. Somewhat with hindsight, and in the light of the hacked/leaked e-mails from the University of Anglia, The Guardian rightly observes:

“The apparent attempts to cover up problems with temperature data from the Chinese weather stations provide the first link between the email scandal and the UN’s embattled climate science body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as a paper based on the measurements was used to bolster IPCC statements about rapid global warming in recent decades.”

Yet, surely you ask, this allegation should have been jumped on by our ever-alert media when originally published in 2007 at the very same time as the appearance of the crucial Fourth Assessment?

Of course not! Don’t be silly. In 2007, we were at the height of ‘global warming’ hysteria, when journalists were hanging on every word that proceeded from the mouth of the IPCC. There was no way that the powerful Grand Narrative was going to allow some pesky little academic paper to rain on its increasingly-apocalyptic parade. This was the last thing the media wanted to hear at that time, and the ‘plebs’ wouldn’t understand it in any case.

Moreover, and more worryingly, we must note that this allegation was published in Energy & Environment, the very journal that we now know was being traduced in the revealing UEA e-mail exchanges. Here is just one example, dated 14.00 04/12/2007:

“I don’t read E&E, gives me indigestion – I don’t even consider it peer-reviewed science, and in my view we should treat it that way. i.e., don’t cite, and if journalists ask us about a paper, simply explain its not peer-reviewed science, and Sonja B-C [Dr. Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen, University of Hull], the editor, has even admitted to an anti-Kyoto agenda!”

Now this is dreadful. Here we are witnessing the dangerous downside of peer reviewing, in which a cabal try to enforce its own view of ‘the science’ by trashing a critical journal and/or by attacking its editor ad hominem.

Luckily for science, the atmosphere has now altered dramatically. Since December, 2009, since the UEA e-mail revelations, and since the Copenhagen fiasco, the wall has cracked. The Grand Narrative is increasingly losing its hold on the media, and the dam is breaking.

Thus today, even in The Guardian, bastion of ‘global warming’ ecochondria, we have an exclusive (sic) seeming to try to expose possible flaws in the ‘science’ of ‘global warming’. The move from the tabloids and the red tops to the ‘heavyweights’ is complete. As I said in an earlier posting, the media, as ever, hunt in a pack, and they tend to fall like nine pins.

Theoretically, this is precisely what happens when a Grand Narrative collapses. Suddenly, there is the release of a critical legitimacy that was firmly suppressed when it was in full sway.

Purely academically speaking, this is fascinating to observe. As a scientist, it is perhaps also encouraging because, in the end, despite media failures, there will always be some irritating Clown, like Launcelot Gobbo, to remind us that “…at the length truth will out”.

Urban Heat Islands

We must thus expect more revelations in the coming months, and I suspect that there will be a great deal more hot air specifically about the ‘urban heat island’ effect [main picture: thermal image of Atlanta, Georgia, USA (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio)]. In many ways, I am delighted about this because some of the earliest work on the ‘urban heat island’ was carried out by one of my finest teachers, Professor Tony Chandler [right], when I was but a spotty student at University College London (UCL), so many eons ago. Tony had such a clear scientific mind, and he was an inspiring lecturer. As his Obituary (he died on July 17, 2008) in The Times noted:

“His book The Climate of London remains without peer as a comprehensive account of a city’s climate, and contains original research and interpretations that helped to steer the thinking involved in the process-orientated work which followed…

…The survey [in his doctoral thesis] attracted the attention of geographers, meteorologists, town planners and architects in the UK and abroad. Its methods and findings, especially the ‘urban heat island’ and London’s pattern of air pollution, were discussed widely…”

And so they continue to be today. I also continue to conjecture how much of any twentieth-century warming is really a mere proxy for rapid urbanisation? And, where are all those temperature stations sited?

I further wonder what Tony would have made of our present shenanigans?

The Clamour of The Times, 2 February 2010