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Ocean Warming Study Criticism Shows How the Scientific Method Works

Ocean Warming Study Criticism Shows How the Scientific Method Works

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Errors in a recent ocean warming study illustrate global warming’s complexity. They also show the depths to which climate science deniers will stoop to dismiss or downplay evidence for human-caused climate change.

The study by researchers from the U.S., China, France and Germany concluded, “ocean warming is at the high end of previous estimates” and global warming might be advancing faster than scientists thought. British researcher Nic Lewis, who has a math and physics background, found discrepancies, which he noted on a skeptic’s blog. The scientists acknowledged the errors and offered a correction to the study, published in Nature.

The controversy illustrates how the scientific method works. Studies are often amended or overturned as new information becomes available or as inconsistencies or errors are pointed out.

Study co-author Ralph Keeling, a geosciences professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, noted, “The overall conclusion that oceans are trapping more and more heat mirrors other studies and is not inaccurate, but the margin of error in the study is larger than originally thought.”

Some climate science deniers have seized on the error to imply it discredits the mountains of evidence for human-caused climate change amassed by scientists from around the world for close to 200 years — evidence accepted by every legitimate scientific academy and institution and every government except the current U.S. administration.

Those who understand science haven’t taken such a hard line. Even Lewis, who’s skeptical about climate models and warming rate predictions, said the study’s methodology is “novel, and certainly worthy of publication” and that the errors were “serious (but surely inadvertent).” He criticized Nature for not scrutinizing the study better, and mainstream media for extensive, “unquestioning” coverage.

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