“Science Isn’t Broken” (Except when it is)

From Five Thirty Eight Science…

 

If you follow the headlines, your confidence in science may have taken a hit lately.

Peer review? More like self-review. An investigation in November uncovered a scam in which researchers were rubber-stamping their own work, circumventing peer review at five high-profile publishers.

Scientific journals? Not exactly a badge of legitimacy, given that the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology recently accepted for publication a paper titled “Get Me Off Your (Fracking) Mailing List,” whose text was nothing more than those seven words, repeated over and over for 10 pages. Two other journals allowed an engineer posing as Maggie Simpson and Edna Krabappel to publish a paper, “Fuzzy, Homogeneous Configurations.”

Revolutionary findings? Possibly fabricated. In May, a couple of University of California, Berkeley, grad students discovered irregularities in Michael LaCour’s influential paper suggesting that an in-person conversation with a gay person could change how people felt about same-sex marriage. The journal Science retracted the paper shortly after, when LaCour’s co-author could find no record of the data.

Taken together, headlines like these might suggest that science is a shady enterprise that spits out a bunch of dressed-up nonsense…

[…]

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/science-isnt-broken/

While there are a lot of problems with the peer-review process and a population explosion of journals which will readily publish abject bullschist, I think the bigger, more serious scientific breakdown is in journalism and press releases, as it pertains to the public. Most people never read the abstracts of the papers, much less the actual papers.

 

Here’s an example…

Green Business | Wed Aug 26, 2015 4:10pm EDT Related: ENVIRONMENT
Global sea levels climbed 3 inches since 1992, NASA research shows
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL. | BY IRENE KLOTZ

Sea levels worldwide rose an average of nearly 3 inches (8 cm) since 1992, the result of warming waters and melting ice, a panel of NASA scientists said on Wednesday.

In 2013, a United Nations panel predicted sea levels would rise from 1 to 3 feet (0.3 to 0.9 meters) by the end of the century. The new research shows that sea level rise most likely will be at the high end of that range, said University of Colorado geophysicist Steve Nerem.

Sea levels are rising faster than they did 50 years ago and “it’s very likely to get worse in the future,” Nerem said.

[…]

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/08/26/us-environment-sealevel-nasa-idUSKCN0QV2B020150826

 

First, the unbroken science…

Nerem, R. S., D. Chambers, C. Choe, and G. T. Mitchum. “Estimating Mean Sea Level Change from the TOPEX and Jason Altimeter Missions.” Marine Geodesy 33, no. 1 supp 1 (2010): 435.

Dr. Nerem’s science does support 3 inches of sea level rise since 1992.

Now for the broken science…

In 2013, a United Nations panel predicted sea levels would rise from 1 to 3 feet (0.3 to 0.9 meters) by the end of the century. The new research shows that sea level rise most likely will be at the high end of that range, said University of Colorado geophysicist Steve Nerem.

Sea levels are rising faster than they did 50 years ago and “it’s very likely to get worse in the future,” Nerem said.

Sea level has been rising at a rate of about 3 mm per year since the Jason/Topex missions started flying.

The IPCC says that sea level will rise by 300 to 900 mm by the end of this century. Dr. Nerem says that his work indicates that the sea level rise will be at the high end of that range. Since we are 15 years into this century with about 45 mm of sea level rise “in the bank,” sea level would have to rise by 855 mm over the next 85 years to hit the high end. That is 10 mm per year. This caused sea level to rise by ~10 mm/yr for about 10,000 years…

The animation above is of the end-Pleistocene deglaciation (AKA Holocene Transgression)…

All of the sea level rise since 1700 AD is circled at the right hand side of the graph.

The only way sea level rise could approach the high end of the IPCC range is if it exponentially accelerates…

The rate from 2081-2100 would have to average 20 mm per year, twice that of the Holocene Transgression. This is only possible in bad science fiction movies.

Broken science, part deux…

Sea levels are rising faster than they did 50 years ago…

They are rising faster than they were 50 years ago. However, they are rising at the same rate that they were 80, 70 and 60 years ago…

 

 

There is nothing abnormal about sea level rising by 3 inches over a 23-yr period.  Nor is a 3 mm/yr sea level rise over a multi-decade period unusual.  There is simply no anomaly requiring an explanation.  The claim that the 3 inches if sea level rise from 1992-2015 is inline with 3 feet of sea level rise in the 21st century is patently false and demonstrably disprovable.  The accurate statement that sea level is rising faster now than it was 50 years ago is cherry-picking of the highest order.  Warning that “it’s very likely to get worse in the future,” is the scientific equivalent of shouting “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater because you constructed a model which predicts that the projection system will burst into flames if it malfunctions at some point in the future.

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