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ClimateGate: California Edition

John on December 3, 2009 at 10:23 am

From the Sacramento Bee:

In 2100, Fisherman’s Wharf would become Fisherman’s Bay, the baseball diamond at AT&T Park would flood and two major Bay Area airports would better serve seaplanes under a climate change model unveiled Wednesday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Google.


The California Energy Commission spent $150,000 in partnership with Google to develop a new Google Earth application that shows sea level changes in the Bay Area, as well as increased wildfire risks and snowpack reductions throughout the state. The energy commission also maintains a climate change research unit on which it spent $2.4 million in 2007…

Here’s the Google Earth sea level visualizer. All of this is apparently based on a study by Stefan Rahmstorf  published by Science in 2007. Rahmstorf came in for two critical comments on that study and published a correction in 2008.

One author did his own analysis of Rahmstorf’s correction and found that, to put it bluntly, he tweaked the results just so:

I have duplicated the .35 figure reported in the technical correction. To do this you have to use exactly 1882-1941. You also have to reduce the window to 10 years from 15, this is unreported in the technical correction. The result is non-robust to changes in either the exact year range or the window. If you move the window one year back this lowers the first period coefficient to .26. If you move it one year forward it raises the coefficient to .41. Combining the fact that the first and second periods don’t match, to the fact that trivial changes in date ranges and window selections make large changes in the results shows that this model is not well specified.

In other words, the projected sea level rise would have been half what he claimed had he simply started the data set one year earlier. The same author also notes:

As a closing note on this analysis I want to say that it may not have been intentional, but R07, RR07, and the technical note were not nearly transparent enough. Instead it seems that they were written to make a point. It also points out, once again, the need for complete code disclosure.

There is some additional criticism of Rahmstorf’s paper here including a nice graph which shows what happened to his projections once data for 2008 was added. (It bends the curve downward significantly). This is not what one would call a “robust” projection. Climate Audit was not impressed with Rahmstorf’s technical prowess either. Here’s one more with another graph which seems to suggest Rahmstorf’s original work is bogus.

Crafty use of statistics, lack-of-transparency, wild projections about future calamity requiring government intervention now…Hmmmm.

If all of this is sounding familiar there’s a reason. Stefan Rahmstorf is one of the CRU e-mail clatch and a contributor to Real Climate. For instance, here is an e-mail in which he is desperately seeking help writing a reply to a critic.

Based on this alarmist study, Schwarzenegger and the State of California have put together this video which includes the Rahmstorf’s prediction of a 4 foot sea level rise by 2100 and images of San Francisco inundated by rising seas:

YouTube Preview Image

By the way, the California Energy Commission which is pushing this is the same group that outlawed future sales of my TV a few weeks ago. Maybe I shouldn’t worry about it since TVs don’t work well underwater anyway.

Addendum: I’ve written a follow-up here. It turns out the Army Corps of Engineers has issued clear recommendations for projecting the effects of sea-level rise. California does not seem to be following them.

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Category: Climate Change & Environment, Politics |

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