A major new climate study in the journal Nature received worldwide media coverage to find that the oceans warmed dramatically faster than previously thought – but now scientists have withdrawn the conclusion after a man in Britain blogged about the shortcomings he discovered in the paper.
Just two weeks after the publication, the authors have revised their paper, and now the conclusion is that the oceans warm up quickly – but at the same rate as other measurements have found.
A co-authors took responsibility for the error. "I accept the responsibility for these beliefs because it was my role to ensure that the details of the measurements were properly understood and recorded by co-authors," wrote co-author Ralph Keeling in an explanation of the audit.
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The error was first discovered by Nic Lewis, a senior British man who holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Cambridge and who reads scientific papers for fun. He has also written a couple of own publications on climate science.
"I've always wanted to understand the world and to check if people's research is meaningful to me. When I find something that seems wrong to me, I like to get to the bottom of it," said Lewis Fox News.
Lewis said that the event should act as a precautionary story.
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"I think it shows that the fact that a study is peer-reviewed and published by a premiere journal gives very little certainty that its results are valid," Lewis said.
"I was a little surprised that neither peer reviewers nor the editor had discovered what seemed to me a clear red flag on page 1 of the paper," he added.
Lewis said the reviewers who approved that paper might have looked less for errors because the conclusion was in line with the typical belief that global warming is an extreme crisis.
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But all involved, including Lewis, agree that man-made greenhouse gas emissions heat the oceans.
"People should not be left with the impression that the flaws in this document doubt whether the marine interior is heated. It is wholly or partly due to human greenhouse gas emissions," said Lewis.
The study co-author who took responsibility for the error also made that point.
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"The Sea Warming Evidence continues to be supported by millions of temperature readings throughout the ocean made by the International Argo Network of Sensors," Keeling Fox News told.
The Argo network of sensors consists of almost 4000 fleets around the world observing the ocean. The study made by Keeling and his co-authors tried to estimate sea temperatures in a completely different way – "using atmospheric oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) measurements … that increases as the sea heat and releases gases."
Keeling said that such a study still had some value.
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"Our study still provides independent evidence that the ocean is warming. We accept that our method does not determine heat warming as exactly as we previously believed," Keeling added.
Keeling also acknowledged Lewis to point out the error.
"The scientific process is self-correcting when mistakes are made or new evidence is detected. Hats off to Nic Lewis for his role here, Keeling said.
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While the earth has warmed – the government's data show that the planet is almost 2 ° C warmer than in the 1970s – scientists like Lewis make it so that climate models are not so big and can overheat heating.
"Climate science suffers from being politicized," told Lewis Fox News. "It's too infected with the idea of consensus and models … heating is likely to be less serious than global climate models say."
Author Maxim Lott is Executive Producer of Stossel TV and creator of ElectionBettingOdds.com. He can be reached on Twitter @MaximLott