What is the measure?

A report on the Antartica temperatures has warmed up the AGW media winds. Skenderberg brings up an important point about these climatological studies in Climate “Researchers” Discover That Antarctica Is Cold. The key issue is one that should bother anyone with firm conclusions about global climatology.

This is something I’ve continually tried to point out, since there’s something that gets lost in the shuffling of attempts to study “temperature” over large ranges of space (and time). “Temperature” can only exist as a definable quantity at a particular location in space at a particular point in time. That’s just basic physics – and once you go beyond that, you are entering a realm of murk that is much less enlightening and much less exact.

It’s always important to carefully evaluate what you actually can “know” and what you are not really able to “know.” The mere ability to compute numbers does not mean that those numbers have solid meaning.

The problem with any conclusion about global warming, much less anthropogenic based, is that of measuring what you are calling warming or cooling on a global scale. You could do this by trying to measure atmospheric energy content but the inherent difficulties in that measure are why temperature is often used instead. With temperature, though, you need to know its distribution throughout a medium and other properties of the medium such as its mass and volume in order to obtain a proper measure of its ‘coolness’ or ‘warmness’ at any point in time.

The discussion is clouded by the modeling and measures talking about fractions of a degree change in temperature over decades being used to explain massive ice melting or other traumatic events. There is a disconnect between the theories and the realities that is creating cynicism in some circles.

Basic science is always about the measure. What is the measure? How precise is it? How accurate is it? Does it really measure what we are interesting in learning about? Skanderberg highlights and describes the importance of these concerns.

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