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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Global Warming: Satellites vs. Thermometers

By Phil Plait

When I write about climate change, the posts tend to be long, because I want to make sure there is enough background information in them so people can read more, including links to other articles about it.

Sometimes, though, it pays to keep things on-topic, short, and sweet. That’s why I love the “This Is Not Cool” video series by Peter Sinclair and Yale Climate Connections. They’re short, tackle one issue, have expert interviews, and are easy to understand.

The most recent one is timely: It talks about the reliability of atmospheric temperature measurements from satellites versus thermometers on the surface. This is important because deniers like Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, love to claim satellite data are better, and they show that no warming has occurred in 18 years.

Is he right? HAHAHAHAHAHA! No. He’s way, way wrong. Here’s why.

I want to emphasize a couple of key takeaway points here.

The quote that resonates with me is this: “There have been many groups working at completely independent work groups, and they all come to essentially exactly same answer.”

It’s not like there are a few NASA or NOAA scientists working this data. These are teams composed of scientists from around the planet. Heck, the Berkeley Earth Project took on the data themselves because they thought scientists weren’t being open enough. Their results? Guess.

Another key point: Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, thinks scientists are huddled over the ground-based data, manipulating it to make it look like warming is happening. He has literally accused them of “altering” the data. Well, surprise: They aren’t altering them, they’re calibrating them to make them more accurate (typically, raw data right off a detector of some kind need to be calibrated to account for instrumental biases).

Not only that, satellites data are adjusted more than surface measurements, due to a host of other issues you get from satellites versus thermometers on the ground. Yet Cruz claims the satellite data are the best we have. Have he and Smith even talked to each other? If Smith is right he disproves Cruz!  

There are lots more good zingers in the video, so I suggest you watch the whole thing. It’s only a few minutes long. But it shows how utterly wrong Smith and Cruz, as well as so many of the other climate science deniers, are, and because of their actions, just how committed they are to their wrong beliefs. It is my opinion that for many of them, they are not interested in the truth; they only care about ideology. Nothing will convince them they are wrong. That’s opposed to actual, y’know, scientists, who are convinced by data.

And that’s why climate scientists are overwhelmingly convinced that global warming is real, dangerous, and caused by humans. Because that’s what the data tell us.

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