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Scientists Have Been Underestimating the Pace of Climate Change

A book entitled Discerning Experts explains why—and what can be done about it

Recently, the U.K. Met Office announced a revision to the Hadley Center historical analysis of sea surface temperatures (SST), suggesting that the oceans have warmed about 0.1 degree Celsius more than previously thought. The need for revision arises from the long-recognized problem that in the past sea surface temperatures were measured using a variety of error-prone methods such as using open buckets, lamb’s wool–wrapped thermometers, and canvas bags. It was not until the 1990s that oceanographers developed a network of consistent and reliable measurement buoys.

Then, to develop a consistent picture of long-term trends, techniques had to be developed to compensate for the errors in the older measurements and reconcile them with the newer ones. The Hadley Centre has led this effort, and the new data set—dubbed HadSST4—is a welcome advance in our understanding of global climate change.

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