Fair-ish and Balanced-ish
Wednesday, October 08, 2003
Britain Blows Hot And Cold
John Hunter has an interesting tale of poor fact checking on the part of Australian science skeptic John Daly.
Daly apparently had a article on urban heat islands, which listed the temperature of Heathrow Airport, and also much cooler temperatures from locations further away from Heathrow. The hotter temperatures at Heathrow were put down to the urban heat effect.
Unfortunately, like most arguments put forward by global warming skeptics, with one good push, Daly's facts fall apart.
The source of Daly's temperature data, was a yahoo discussion group. Daly simply copied them (and accidentally mixed up a couple) without basic fact checking. As it turned out, the climate skeptic from which Daly took the numbers from, got them out of a newspaper (The Times).
In a fashion similar to Chinese whispers, the original data was also wrong. In a number of cities, the temperatures were misquoted, for example, Hastings was listed as being 23 degrees ("brrrr" added Daly). Actually it was 33 degrees.
Now, none of these errors are particular significant in themselves. Some little league climate skeptic copies down numbers incorrectly. No big deal. A slightly bigger fish uses them to illustrate a point. Amusing story, and a bit of egg on Daly's face. But no big deal.
However, Daly wasn't the biggest name to use these numbers. Writing in the Guardian, was Chris de Freitas (who is incidentally one of the more well known climate skeptics, the editor responsible for the Climate Research scandal and the Associate Director of the School of Geography and Environmental Science at the University of Auckland) who used the numbers without bothering to check their accuracy. He really should have known better.