Climate scientists retract the results of a major ocean warming study due to false measurements

Scientists with San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Princeton University have withdrawn their findings published in the academic journal Nature that showed oceans have been heating up dramatically faster than previously thought as a result of climate change. According to the paper by Laure Resplandy et al, published October 31, the researchers claimed ocean temperatures had warmed 60 percent more than outlined by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

However, the conclusion came under scrutiny after mathematician Nic Lewis, who has authored several peer-reviewed papers on the question of climate sensitivity and has worked with some of the world’s leading climate scientists, found that the warming trend in the Resplandy paper differs from that calculated from the underlying data included with the paper. “If you calculate the trend correctly, the warming rate is not worse than we thought – it’s very much in line with previous estimates,” says Lewis. He added, “Their claims about the effect of faster ocean warming on estimates of climate sensitivity (and hence future global warming) and carbon budgets are just incorrect anyway, but that’s a moot point now we know that about their calculation error”.

As the Global Warming Policy Forum reported, “Independent climate scientist Nicholas Lewis has uncovered a major error in a recent scientific paper that was given blanket coverage in the English-speaking media. The paper, written by a team led by Princeton oceanographer Laure Resplandy, claimed that the oceans have been warming faster than previously thought. It was announced, in news outlets including the BBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post and Scientific American that this meant that the Earth may warm even faster than currently estimated.

Co-author and climate scientist Ralph Keeling took full blame and thanked Mr. Lewis for alerting him to the mistake, 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.”

Mr. Keeling said they have redone the calculations and submitted the correction to Nature, finding the ocean is still likely warmer than the estimate used by the IPCC. However, that increase in heat has a larger range of probability than initially thought, between 10 percent and 70 percent, as other studies have already found. “We really muffed the error margins … Our error margins are too big now to really weigh in on the precise amount of warming that’s going on in the ocean,” Mr. Keeling said. The central problem, according to Mr. Keeling, was in how the researchers dealt with the uncertainty in their measurements. As a result, the findings suffer from too much doubt to definitively support the paper’s conclusion about just how much heat the oceans have absorbed over time.

Increasingly, the peer-review system for scientific papers has become an arrangement whereby colleagues approve each other’s work for publication, increasing their chances for ongoing funding, in a climate where the more doomsday the result the more likely it is to get published and reported on by the mainstream media reliant on fear-driven news stories to gain revenue.