Apr 30, 2015
Apr 29, 2015
Apr 27, 2015
Apr 26, 2015
Last month, we are told, the world enjoyed “its hottest March since records began in 1880”. This year, according to “US government scientists”, already bids to outrank 2014 as “the hottest ever”. The figures from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were based, like all the other three official surface temperature records on which the world’s scientists and politicians rely, on data compiled from a network of weather stations by NOAA’s Global Historical Climate Network (GHCN).
But here there is a puzzle. These temperature records are not the only ones with official status. The other two, Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) and the University of Alabama (UAH), are based on a quite different method of measuring temperature data, by satellites. And these, as they have increasingly done in recent years, give a strikingly different picture. Neither shows last month as anything like the hottest March on record, any more than they showed 2014 as “the hottest year ever”.
An adjusted graph from the Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Back in January and February, two items in this column attracted more than 42,000 comments to the Telegraph website from all over the world. The provocative headings given to them were “Climategate the sequel: how we are still being tricked by flawed data on global warming” and “The fiddling with temperature data is the biggest scientific scandal”.
My cue for those pieces was the evidence multiplying from across the world that something very odd has been going on with those official surface temperature records, all of which ultimately rely on data compiled by NOAA’s GHCN. Careful analysts have come up with hundreds of examples of how the original data recorded by 3,000-odd weather stations has been “adjusted”, to exaggerate the degree to which the Earth has actually been warming. Figures from earlier decades have repeatedly been adjusted downwards and more recent data adjusted upwards, to show the Earth having warmed much more dramatically than the original data justified.
So strong is the evidence that all this calls for proper investigation that my articles have now brought a heavyweight response. The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) has enlisted an international team of five distinguished scientists to carry out a full inquiry into just how far these manipulations of the data may have distorted our picture of what is really happening to global temperatures.
The panel is chaired by Terence Kealey, until recently vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham. His team, all respected experts in their field with many peer-reviewed papers to their name, includes Dr Peter Chylek, a physicist from the National Los Alamos Laboratory; Richard McNider, an emeritus professor who founded the Atmospheric Sciences Programme at the University of Alabama; Professor Roman Mureika from Canada, an expert in identifying errors in statistical methodology; Professor Roger Pielke Sr, a noted climatologist from the University of Colorado, and Professor William van Wijngaarden, a physicist whose many papers on climatology have included studies in the use of “homogenisation” in data records.
Their inquiry’s central aim will be to establish a comprehensive view of just how far the original data has been “adjusted” by the three main surface records: those published by the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (Giss), the US National Climate Data Center and Hadcrut, that compiled by the East Anglia Climatic Research Unit (Cru), in conjunction with the UK Met Office’s Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction. All of them are run by committed believers in man-made global warming.
Below, the raw data in graph form
For this the GWPF panel is initially inviting input from all those analysts across the world who have already shown their expertise in comparing the originally recorded data with that finally published. In particular, they will be wanting to establish a full and accurate picture of just how much of the published record has been adjusted in a way which gives the impression that temperatures have been rising faster and further than was indicated by the raw measured data.
Already studies based on the US, Australia, New Zealand, the Arctic and South America have suggested that this is far too often the case.
But only when the full picture is in will it be possible to see just how far the scare over global warming has been driven by manipulation of figures accepted as reliable by the politicians who shape our energy policy, and much else besides. If the panel’s findings eventually confirm what we have seen so far, this really will be the “smoking gun”, in a scandal the scale and significance of which for all of us can scarcely be exaggerated.
More details of the Global Warming Policy Foundation's International Temperature Data Review Project are available on the inquiry panel's websitewww.tempdatareview.org
As the buses carrying European finance ministers left for a gala dinner in the Latvian capital on Friday night, one of the party hung back at the hotel and then wandered off alone into the dusk.
Greece's Yanis Varoufakis had other dinner plans, he said, after a bruising first day of meetings in Riga that underlined his isolation as he tries to avert national bankruptcy.
While other ministers were feted by their entourages with food and warm clothing during the meeting in Riga, Varoufakis was seen alone at almost every turn, eschewing aides or any security detail.
"He is completely isolated," a senior euro zone official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. "He didn't even come to the dinner to represent his country," the official said of the event where ministers, serenaded by a Latvian choir, ate salmon and sea bass.
At breakfast before the meeting, Varoufakis and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi avoided eye contact as they picked up food at the buffet, Reuters reporters observed.
The hardening of the mood against Varoufakis risks deepening the divide that Greece must bridge with its creditors if Athens is to avert default.
After three months of largely fruitless negotiations, euro zone ministers warned him on Friday that the radical leftist Greek government will get no more aid until it agrees a complete economic reform plan, before the end of June.
Some countries are so frustrated by what they see as Greece's failure to compromise that one minister said it may be time to prepare for a Greek default.
Varoufakis, the only male minister at the meeting without a tie, said he was unfazed by the tone of Friday's meeting -- which Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the chairman of the euro zone finance ministers, described as "very critical" of Athens.
In a sign of the coolness creeping in, Dijsselbloem referred to Varoufakis as "the Greek colleague" to reporters in Riga, although he addresses him by his first name in meetings.
"I'm not surprised," Varoufakis told reporters. "When you are approaching the end of negotiations, the stance hardens."He denied reports that he had been insulted by ministers in Riga. "All these are false."
While his economic demands have fallen on deaf ears, Varoufakis has become an improbable heartthrob in Germany. ZDF public television lampooned its own news anchor for enthusiastically comparing the minister with Hollywood tough guy Bruce Willis, while Stern magazine published a gushing article on Varoufakis's "classical masculinity".
But some ministers say they resent being lectured by an academic who has studied in Britain, taught in Australia and the United States and challenged the theoretical basis of European policymaking.
While Varoufakis criticizes the spending cuts demanded by international creditors, his euro zone peers insist only painful changes can lift Greece out of one of the deepest economic depressions in Europe since the 1950s.
According to people present in the room, several ministers rolled their eyes, closed their eyes or put their hands over their ears during Varoufakis' interventions at Friday's meeting.
"Eurogroup ministers don't like the fact that he is giving a small lecture when he is speaking to them," one euro zone official said. "And for that reason (chairman) Dijsselbloem stopped him yesterday, saying: 'Yanis, you don't tell us what we want to hear.'"
Apr 24, 2015
The prospect of automation has long sparked fears of jobs lost to robotic replacements, but typically such worries have focused on blue-collar and other low-level positions. Well, the Institute for the Future has a message for all those in the upper echelons feeling complacent about their job security: The iCEO is coming.
In an article published Thursday in the Harvard Business Review, IFTF research director Devin Fidler described the results of an experiment he and his team recently conducted. Specifically, aiming to investigate the possibility of automating upper-level management, they created prototype software dubbed "iCEO."
The software is essentially a virtual management system that automates complex work by dividing it into individual microtasks and then assigning those tasks to workers using tools such as oDesk, Uber and email or text messaging. "Basically, the system allows a user to drag-and-drop 'virtual assembly lines' into place and run them from a dashboard," the article explains.
Fidler's team then put the iCEO through its paces, including a project to oversee the preparation of a large research report on graphene production for a hypothetical prestigious client.
For information on how graphene is produced, iCEO asked workers on Amazon's Mechanical Turk to curate a list of articles on the topic. The resulting list of articles was passed on to technical analysts from oDesk; Elance writers then used them to produce a coherent text. That went on to a pool of experts for review, followed by a sequence of oDesk editors, proofreaders and fact checkers for finalization.
iCEO routed tasks across 23 people from around the world; it created, formatted and prepared 60 images and graphs.
"We stood back and watched iCEO execute this project," Fidler wrote. "We rarely needed to intervene. ... We were amazed by the quality of the end result -- and the speed with which it was produced."
As opposed to taking several weeks for the research portion alone of such a report, iCEO did that piece in just three days. Creating the full report took just weeks rather than months.
IFTF also ran pilot tests focusing on sales, quality assurance and hiring, and the results were surprisingly positive.
The bottom line: "It will not be possible to hide in the c-suite for much longer," Fidler wrote. "The same cost/benefit analyses performed by shareholders against line workers and office managers will soon be applied to executives and their generous salaries."
IFTF will need a year or two to make the technology ready for full-fledged enterprise adoption. How to prepare in the meantime? CIOs should begin by thinking more about dynamic resource routing, since that's at the heart of how technology like iCEO gets things done, Fidler said.
On a broader level, organizational management is on the verge of a major disruption, he added. "We'd love to see people beginning to think through the future of work on a deeper level."
Apr 23, 2015
Apr 21, 2015
A poll of more than 25,000 developers reveals the technology jobs that pay big bucks, that are fun and those that plain suck.
Finding a role that is both satisfying and well-paid can be challenging, especially in a field as fast moving as software development.
To keep pace, developers typically have to refine their skills and learn new technologies throughout their careers, so knowing where to focus their efforts is important.
The programming Q&A site StackOverflow polled more than 26,000 developers worldwide about which computing roles are financially and intellectually rewarding, and which are less so. The results seem to be weighted towards web technologies but the sample size is large enough to throw up some interesting results.
As might be expected in a market that relies on supply and demand, the languages most widely used by developers are not those that attract the highest pay and perks. Competency in Objective-C, the language used to code iPhone apps among other things, remains the most highly-rewarded skill among the popular languages, with an ability to work with the relatively new Node.js environment also generously compensated.
The truly big bucks are reserved for know-how relating to more niche technologies, generally used in the fields of big-data analytics and cloud computing.
Somewhat surprisingly, it seems executives are among the most satisfied with their roles, with CTOs, CIOs and the like rating their job the highest on a scale of one to five. Interestingly, being an iOS programmer is not only one of the best-paid jobs, it also scores highly for satisfaction. When it comes to thankless tasks, product managers top the list, with graphics programmers and data warehousing experts also less content than their peers.The programming languages and technologies that generate the most excitement among developers tend to be the more recent creations, such as Apple's Swift andMozilla's Rust, although the venerable C++ also scores highly. The cloud-based CRM platform Salesforce is the technology that developers most loathe working with, alongside Microsoft's Visual Basic programming language and the blogging platform WordPress.There's good news for those who want to work with computers but don't have formal training. Almost half the respondents don't have a degree in computer science. System administrators were the most likely to be self-taught, while machine-learning developers and data scientists are over 10 times more likely than other coders to have a PhD.
Apr 20, 2015
Apr 19, 2015
Is China's economy finally heading for the dreaded "hard landing" that some analysts have been predicting?
The People's Republic still has a financial growth rate that is the envy of many nations. But its reported first-quarter GDP growth of 7 percent, down from 7.3 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, marks China's slowest economic growth rate in six years.
And Beijing's official figure, which some analysts question, may understate how much China is slowing. Seasonally adjusted quarterly growth in the first three months of the year was only 5.3 percent, according to Haver Analytics, the weakest pace of expansion since early 2009.
For the global economy, meanwhile, a precipitous decline in China's growth could propel the fragile ongoing recovery in the U.S., Europe and other parts of the globe into a brick wall.
Top Chinese officials acknowledge the decades-long trend of historic growth appears to be running out of steam.
"The downward pressure on China's economy is intensifying," Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told the Financial Times this week in conceding that growth could slip below 7 percent for the year. "Deep-seated problems in the country's economic development are becoming more obvious. The difficulties we are facing this year could be bigger than last year."
With its economy in danger of losing too much speed, China started lowering interest rates in late 2014 and has bee boosting spending. China watchers expect the country's central bank to engage in more easing in the weeks ahead
China's slowdown is by design, it's worth noting. For years, the world's second-biggest economy has been trying to shrink its manufacturing sector and expand its consumer services, a transition aimed at putting it on a more sustainable, if slower, path to growth.
But obstacles abound. Perhaps the most troublesome has been China's long frothy property market, which is responsible for about 20 percent of the overall economy.
Mark Williams, chief Asia economist for London-based Capital Economics, notes that residential property sales in China fell nine percent year-over-year, while inventories of unsold property rose 24 percent. While a necessary step in deflating a potentially devastating real estate bubble, that has crimped consumer spending, which combined with many Chinese people's propensity to save has weighed on the economy
"A prolonged period of property weakness has long looked inevitable," he said in a recent research note, "given that property completions had accelerated ahead of likely growth of property demand based on factors such as demographics and urbanization."
China's economic challenges are magnified because they are unfolding as China undertakes a historic urbanization plan to move tens of millions of people to its cites in the next decade or so. The Economist, quoting the E-House property consultancy, projects that at the current sales rate it will take about a year-and-a-half to clear China's current inventory of new homes.
But slowing economic growth also means slowing housing sales, which could further drag down the overall economy.