As I’ve mentioned before (link), Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has said some seriously absurd and misinformed things about global warming.
Here’s another brief example from a Senate hearing in which Cruz questions David Titley, a retired rear admiral whose duties included serving as Chief Oceanographer of the United States Navy and later Chief Operating Officer of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). He’s now a professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University and founding director of its Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk. Dr. Titley had been a climate change skeptic but changed his mind in the face of the overwhelming evidence. This clip runs under four minutes:
If you’re not familiar with the subject matter, some of this may seem a bit cryptic, but in brief, Cruz is fond of recycling some cherry-picked interpretations of satellite data that allegedly show no warming in the last 18 years.
Unlike thermometers, satellites can’t measure temperature data directly but instead detect microwave and infrared light. From that, given the right assumptions and analysis, temperatures can be inferred. Scientists John Christy and Roy Spencer, two of the few working scientists who dispute the existence of global warming, have published interpretations of the satellite readings they originally contended showed cooling of the lower atmosphere in recent years. However, (as they themselves later admitted), they made a whole series of mistakes in their analysis.
Moreover, their results were contradicted by direct measurements of atmospheric and oceanic temperatures using actual thermometers at ground level and in weather balloons, and also by numerous other sources such as annual melting and freezing data for everything from ponds to polar sea ice, changing ranges and behavior of plants and animals, earlier blooming of flowers in the spring, sea level rise from thermal expansion of the oceans, and many other independent indicators, almost all of which also cover a much longer history than Christy and Spencer’s temperature series derived from their faulty interpretation of the satellite data. Finally, other scientists analyzing the same raw satellite data get results that closely match the other temperature series.
I rather suspect that Cruz et al embrace the no-warming interpretation of Christy and Spencer to the exclusion of pretty much everything else simply because it seems to give the results they want.
Admiral Titley does an excellent job of correcting Cruz’s misconceptions, even though Cruz persists in refusing to acknowledge the facts.
For more on their encounter, see the short Associated Press fact-check article here.
(Revised 2016 February 16 and 25 to correct my bad typing and to clarify a few points.)