It was the quarter-degree F recalculation shot heard around the world.
And it was enough to tumble 1998 from its status as the U.S.’s hottest year and elevate in its place …
That was enough also to raise doubts, for those inclined to have such doubts easily raised, about the expertise of NASA lead climate scientist Jim Hansen.
“All of this would most likely have passed unremarkably,” New York Times science writer Andrew C. Revkin reported in late August, had not Stephen McIntyre, a blogger and retiree living in Toronto, blown the cyberspace whistle. Revkin reported that radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh told his audience of proof, at last, of man-made global warming: “The man-made global warming is inside NASA.”
Revkin characterized the change as statistically meaningless, and he reported that both McIntyre and Hansen agree the NASA glitch “had no effect on the global temperature trend.”
Across town, not surprisingly, The Wall Street Journal editorial page was taking a different tack. Its “Not So Hot” August 29 editorial said the new data “undermine another frightful talking point from environmentalists, which is that six of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 1990. Wrong.”
The Journal editorial also was loath to judge “how much, if any significance to read into” the newly revised temperature records. But it said “the snafu calls into question how much faith to put in climate change models.” And it argued that if a similar error had been made by climatologists “who dare to challenge climate-change-orthodoxy, the media and environmentalists would accuse them of manipulating data to distort scientific truth.”