Scientists behind the main study who claimed that the oceans of the Earth warmed faster than previously thought said their work contained random errors that made their conclusions look safer than they actually were.
Two weeks after a high-profile study was published in the journal Nature, its authors submitted a correction to the publication. The Scripps Oceanography Institute, which included several researchers, also noted problems in scientists' work and corrected the publication of news on its website, which previously claimed that the study described in detail how the oceans "absorb 60 percent more heat than they had previously thought. "
"Unfortunately, we made mistakes here," said Ralph Keeling, a climate scientist at Scripps, who co-authored the study. "I think the main lesson is to work as soon as you can fix the mistakes when you find them."
The main problem, according to Keeling, came as the researchers dealt with uncertainty in their measurements. As a result, the finding suffers from too much suspicion that it definitely supports the conclusion of this document as to how much heat the ocean absorbed over time.
The central conclusion of the study – that the oceans retain more and more energy as more heat is jammed within the Earth's climate system every year – is in line with other studies that have brought similar conclusions. And it did not change much in spite of errors. However, Keeling said that the wrong calculation of the author means that the findings have much greater margin of error, which means that researchers can take less security than they thought.
"I accept responsibility for what happened, because my role is to make sure that these details are transferred," Keeling said.
The main author of the study was Laure Resplandi from Princeton University. Other researchers were with institutions in China, Paris, Germany and the National Center for Atmospheric Research and Geophysical Laboratory for Fluid Dynamics.
"Maintaining the accuracy of a scientific record is essential for us as publishers and we recognize our responsibility to correct mistakes in the newspapers we have published," Nature said in a statement The Post. "The issues related to this work have been brought to the attention of Nature and we are carefully observing them. We take all the concerns about the work that we have published very seriously and will issue updates when additional information is available."
The original study, which appeared on October 31, received a new method for measuring the amount of heat absorbed by the oceans. In essence, the authors measured the volume of gases, especially oxygen and carbon dioxide, which escaped from the oceans of the last decades and set off into the atmosphere as it warms up. They found that heating was "at the high end of the previous estimates" and suggested that as a result only global warming could accelerate.
The results, written by the authors, can suggest that less time than previously thought to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions. The study caused significant media attention, including The Post.
However, shortly after publication, an independent British researcher called Nicholas Levis published a long blog post saying that he found "a big problem" with the research.
"As far as I can see, their method largely underestimates the uncertainty," Luis said in an interview on Tuesday, "as well as a significant calibration, nearly 30 percent, of central assessments."
Levis added that he strives to "read a large number of newspapers, and having math and physical background, I look at them fairly carefully and see if they make sense. And where there is no point – with this, it's pretty obvious that it did not make sense – deeper I'm watching them. "
In previous studies and comments, Levis argued that climatic scientists predict too much warming because of reliance on computer simulations and that current data from the planet itself indicate that global warming will be less severe than frightening.
It is not clear whether the authors agree with all Luis's criticisms, but Keeling said: "We agree that there are problems in line with the lines he identified."
Paul Durack, a research scientist at National Laboratory Lavrence Livermore, California, immediately acknowledged the errors in the study "is the right approach in the interests of transparency."
However, he added in an e-mail: "This study, although there are additional issues now arising, confirms the long-known outcome that the oceans warm up in the observed record, and the rate of heating increases," he said.
Gavin Schmidt, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Research, has followed an increasing debate on the study on Twitter and said that measurements of ocean warming have already been burdened with data problems several times – and this is a debriefing of new research in this area difficult.
"You obviously rely on your co-authors and reviewers to catch most of the problems, but things that are still occurring sometimes," Schmidt wrote in an e-mail.
Schmidt and Keeling agreed that other studies also support higher levels of ocean heat than the International Climate Change Commission, or IPCC, saw in the 2013 report.
All in all, Schmidt said, the episode can be considered positive.
"The key is not whether the mistakes were made, but how they deal with it – and the response of Laure and Ralph is delighted." Without panic, but careful reassessment of their work – despite a somewhat hostile environment – he wrote.
"So, plus one for a review after publication, plus one for authors to review the entire calculation in a constructive way. We'll all end up wiser."