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Notebook Science

Climate faux pas



Climate faux pas

Researchers messed up the math

A recent global warming study shows there’s still a place for skeptics in the world of science.

After a team of climate scientists announced its newly published research showing that the oceans were warming much faster than previously thought, mainstream news outlets ran with the story.

But there was a problem: The study’s math was wrong.

The researchers had asserted that between 1991 and 2016, Earth’s oceans absorbed 60 percent more heat per year than current estimates. They concluded countries would need to slash global fossil-fuel emissions by an additional 25 percent above current proposals.

Soon after Nature published the study on Oct. 31, Nicholas Lewis, an independent climate scientist, discovered an error in the authors’ calculations. When the math was corrected, the results did not show an increase in ocean heat, Lewis wrote on the blog Climate Etc.

Some mainstream climate scientists defended the error as an example of science working the way it should. “Science is a human endeavor and it’s therefore imperfect. What’s important is that results are scrutinized and replicated by others so that we can assess what is robust and what isn’t,” Gavin Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Sciences at NASA, told the AFP news service.

But the fact that the study passed peer review and was published in the first place suggests scientists may too quickly accept anything supporting the mainstream global warming narrative. The error wasn’t difficult to find, according to Lewis: “A quick review of the first page of the paper was sufficient to raise doubts as to the accuracy of its results.”



Stellar sprint

Dutch astronomers were amazed recently to discover 20 rogue, fast-moving stars—the fastest in our galaxy—racing through the Milky Way. Seven are moving so fast they may eventually escape the Milky Way’s gravity altogether, and the other 13 are actually hurtling into the galaxy.

Scientists aren’t sure where these stars originated, but they may have been part of a binary star system in a neighboring galaxy. A binary star system is a pair of stars that revolve around each other or a common focal point. If one star in a pair were sucked into a supermassive black hole, or exploded in a supernova, the disruption could kick the partner star out of orbit, the researchers said.

Another proposed explanation is that the stars are native to our galaxy’s halo and were accelerated and pushed inward through interactions with one of the dwarf galaxies that orbit ours.

The researchers reported their discovery Sept. 20 in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. —J.B.



Old-school face time

Much research shows that social contact can help protect against psychiatric disorders such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But can social media do the same? No, according to a recent study. In an online survey of 587 veterans who all used Facebook, researchers identified participants showing signs of major depression, PTSD, alcohol use disorder, and suicidal behaviors. Their results showed that those who engaged in face-to-face contact at least a few times per week had a 50 percent lower risk for major depression and PTSD compared with participants for whom Facebook was the main social outlet. (Neither in-person contact nor social media contact appeared to affect the risk of alcohol abuse or suicidal behavior.) The study appears in the Jan. 15 edition of the Journal of Affective Disorders. —J.B.


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  • Steve Shive
    Posted: Tue, 01/01/2019 05:56 am

    Again, thanks Julie. I clicked on your link and noticed this editor's note: 

    19 November 2018

    Editor’s Note: 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.

    One would think that in 6 weeks this could be resolved. Maybe it has and I can't see it not being a subscriber to "nature.". But retractions are not the norm for those who have an anthropogenic global warming agenda. 

  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Tue, 01/01/2019 10:26 pm

    Politics corrupts everything it touches, including science.  If billions in grant money are available only to those who reach a particular conclusion, then that is the conclusion that will be reached.  Math errors can be caught, but in the soft sciences, there are few if any ways to verify the assertions.