Claims that the temperature records for Iceland have been manipulated by a top US climate agency to support global warming have caused a flurry of comments on international climate web sites.
The Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York is one of three academic centres which collates temperature data gathered from thousands of sites around the world, and publishes its conclusions on global temperatures.
Its data is used by the US government, as well as by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and many other bodies, to validate the computer models of climate change which are used to predict temperatures up to 100 years forward.
Concerns about the GISS have been around since its chief scientist, Dr James Hansen, started making alarming predictions about climate change in the late 1980s.
Since then, those concerns have been exacerbated by Dr Hansen’s participation in a number of highly political campaigns, including appearing as a defence witness for six Greenpeace members who had been accused of causing criminal damage to the Kingsnorth coal-fired power station in the UK in 2008.
According to Britain’s left-wing daily, The Guardian: “The court had heard from Professor Jim Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, that the 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted daily by Kingsnorth could be responsible for the extinction of up to 400 species.
“Hansen, a NASA director who advises Al Gore, the former US presidential candidate turned climate change campaigner, told the court that humanity was in ‘grave peril’.” (The Guardian, September 11, 2008).
By majority decision, a jury found the Greenpeace members not guilty.
In 2009 and 2010, Hansen was arrested for protesting outside the White House against the opening of new coal-mines in the US.
The latest controversy involves data from Iceland, used to buttress GISS claims that the temperature of the Arctic region is rising alarmingly, that the Arctic ice cap will disappear along with the glaciers of Greenland.
Because there are relatively few sources of reliable data near and above the Arctic Circle, the Iceland data, which goes back over 100 years, is very important.
According to the GISS, the measured temperature in Iceland has been going up throughout the past century.
However, data from the Iceland Met Office in Reykjavik shows no such trend.
Eyjafjallajökull glacier, southern Iceland
GISS has “adjusted” the Iceland Met Office data by reducing the temperatures measured at Reykjavik early in the 20th century by over 1°C, thus creating the impression that temperatures are rising.
In contrast, the Iceland Met Office says that the warmest years of the 20th century were in 1939 and 1941, and this level was not reached again until 2003.
The Iceland Met Office has also published a paper showing that, between 1950 and 2000, there was no net temperature rise measured at different locations around the island. Over the same period, CO2 levels had risen significantly, and GISS claimed to show rising temperatures in Reykjavik.
The Iceland Met Office said it was unaware that its temperature data had been “adjusted”, and that it was seeking urgent clarification.
They also said they had no intention of accepting the “corrections”, and would not amend their own temperature records.
Meanwhile, 16 prominent scientists have written to the Wall Street Journal saying there is no compelling evidence to support “global warming” and calling on US Presidential candidates to heed their message.
Led by Claude Allègre, former director of the Institute for the Study of the Earth at the University of Paris, and J. Scott Armstrong, co-founder of the Journal of Forecasting and the International Journal of Forecasting, they said: “Candidates should understand that the oft-repeated claim that nearly all scientists demand that something be done to stop global warming is not true. In fact, a large and growing number of distinguished scientists and engineers do not agree that drastic actions on global warming are needed.”
They pointed out that, in spite of the international campaign in support of the message that increasing amounts of CO2 will destroy civilisation, many scientists share the opinions of the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Ivar Giaever, who last September resigned from the American Physical Society over its claim that the evidence for global warming is “incontrovertible”.
According to the scientists who wrote to the Wall Street Journal, “the number of scientific ‘heretics’ is growing with each passing year. The reason is a collection of stubborn scientific facts. Perhaps the most inconvenient fact is the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now”, and the relatively small warming over the past 20 years, during which the IPCC had been warning of dangerous climate change due to rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.
They concluded: “There is no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to ‘decarbonise’ the world’s economy. Even if one accepts the inflated climate forecasts of the IPCC, aggressive greenhouse-gas control policies are not justified economically.”
Peter Westmore is national president of the National Civic Council.