On ClimateGate

I’ve been talking with some friends about the recent leak of private emails between certain climatologists. It’s a mess, both literally and conceptually. However, who can really be surprised that out of context emails are embarrassing/suspicious and can be sensationalized to negate actual scientific research results? We know that could happen to us too if someone hacked our email accounts.

Climategate underscores the importance of projects like Clear Climate Code. They’re software engineers who are rewriting a key model (GISTEMP, which models Global Historical Climate Network data from the Goddard at NASA) so that the model is clear and understandable and verifiable. I tried to write a multiprocessing extension for a school project, but couldn’t verify the results due to equipment problems.

Science models & data are massaged all the time. A dirty fact, but common across many disciplines. The bottom line is, if the models in question have predicative power, anthropogenic climate change is real. If not, then climate change may still be real, but we must wait for better data and/or better models. Academic models of complex, schocastic systems are always ugly code in my experience. That doesn’t negate their validity.

That being said, scientists writing models aren’t often software engineers, and the data collection and collation is incredibly complex and messy with many possibilities for errors. Code and data should always open-sourced for verification, and keeping such things to yourself is inexcusable and a violation of how science should be done.

However, I highly doubt there’s a climate conspiracy cabal hiding a secret data db. All the data I’ve seen is open and freely available (and really messy!). Seeing those emails as suspicious appears as confirmation bias to me, no matter how much of a persecution complex the individuals in question appear to harbor.

November 26th, 2009 | Blogosphere, Current, Flat, Media, Science, Software, Transparency

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