Ha! Has! Getting it Wrong, Wrong, Wrong On Ocean Warming By James Reed

     I am pleased to have found, while reading Amerika.org a fantastic site, Retraction Watch.com, where we can follow big time boo-boos in scientific papers. I went hunting for dirt on climate change, something that makes the climate of my blood boil. Here, enjoy:

Nature is retracting a 2018 paper which found that the oceans are warming much faster than predicted by previous models of climate change. The article, “Quantification of ocean heat uptake from changes in atmospheric O2 and CO2 composition,” appeared at last October but quickly drew the attention of an influential critic who said the analysis was flawed. The authors agreed, and within three weeks the paper received the following update: We would like to alert readers that the authors have informed us of errors in the paper. An implication of the errors is that the uncertainties in ocean heat content are substantially underestimated. We are working with the authors to establish the quantitative impact of the errors on the published results, at which point in time we will provide a further update. At the time, Ralph Keeling, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif., and a co-author of the article, was gracious about the error. The San Diego Tribune quoted the researcher saying: When we were confronted with his insight it became immediately clear there was an issue there. We’re grateful to have it be pointed out quickly so that we could correct it quickly. Now, nearly more than 10 months later, Nature is pulling the plug on the article. As the retraction notice states, the journal came to feel that the uncertainties in the analysis were too significant to let the paper stand: 

Shortly after publication, arising from comments from Nicholas Lewis, we realized that our reported uncertainties were underestimated owing to our treatment of certain systematic errors as random errors. In addition, we became aware of several smaller issues in our analysis of uncertainty. Although correcting these issues did not substantially change the central estimate of ocean warming, it led to a roughly four-fold increase in uncertainties, significantly weakening implications for an upward revision of ocean warming and climate sensitivity. Because of these weaker implications, the Nature editors asked for a Retraction, which we accept. Despite the revised uncertainties, our method remains valid and provides an estimate of ocean warming that is independent of the ocean data underpinning other approaches. The revised paper, with corrected uncertainties, will be submitted to another journal. The Retraction will contain a link to the new publication, if and when it is published. Keeling did not respond to a request for comment by deadline. What about the 10-month lag? Lisa Boucher, the press manager for Nature Research, told us: In general, when concerns are raised about papers we have published, whether by the original authors or by other researchers and readers, we look into them carefully, following an established process, consulting the authors and, where appropriate, seeking advice from peer reviewers and other external experts. These issues are often complex and as a result, it can take time for editors and authors to fully unravel them.”

     My question is why didn’t Nature get it right in the original peer review process? I mean to say, retracting a paper means that there were fundamental errors in it, and the job of peer review is to detect this. So, something must be wrong, very wrong. As well, a lot of media attention is given to these sorts of climate claims, so it is important to get it right because there is no going back once things hit the popular press and the information is soaked up out there in people land.



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