When More Is MoreDecember 5th, 2011 by Sarah Pryputniewicz
In science, less isn’t more; more is more.
That basic premise is supported by a recent report from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: Separating signal and noise in climate warming. Earth’s overall temperature is affected by natural processes, such as La Niña and El Niño, as well as by human factors.
From 1999 to 2008, Earth’s temperature was fairly steady, coming after the steady rise in temperature that occurred from the late 1980s. What happened in that 10 year period? Probably noise from natural phenomena, conclude scientists at LLNL.
“Looking at a single, noisy 10-year period is cherry picking, and does not provide reliable information about the presence or absence of human effects on climate,” said Benjamin Santer, a climate scientist and lead author on an article in the Nov. 17 online edition of the Journal of Geophysical Research (Atmospheres).
The solution? Look at longer time periods to see past the natural noisy fluctuations in Earth’s temperature data. After looking at all of the data, scientists concluded that temperature records must be at least 17 years long to see the human-caused warming amidst the natural fluctuations. More data leads to more accurate conclusions.
Explore the hows of climate change in the High-Adventure Science climate investigation.