A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the by Paul N. Edwards

By Paul N. Edwards

The technology in the back of international warming, and its historical past: how scientists discovered to appreciate the ambience, to degree it, to track its prior, and to version its destiny.

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Additional info for A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming

Example text

International data networks remained a secondary priority. IMO standards acted as guidelines, routinely violated but nevertheless producing considerable convergence. As predicted by the LTS model, this phase of technology transfer and growth resulted in numerous different systems, some linked and others not, all governed by a loose patchwork of conflicting national, regional, and international standards. By the 1920s, the klugey pre-World War II network made worldwide data available to forecasters almost in real time.

Between 1914 and 1960 (Hewson’s second phase), the pace of infrastructural linking diminished, and some delinking occurred. Yet simultaneously, world organizations such as the League of Nations and the International Monetary Fund “established the legitimacy of producing globalist information”—that is, information about the whole world—in such areas as health, armaments, and public finance (although they did not yet achieve that goal). Hewson’s third phase brought generalized attainment of the two previous eras’ aspirations, beginning with worldwide civil communication networks (from the 1967 inauguration of the Intelsat 24 Chapter 1 system) and global environmental monitoring (from the UN Conference on the Human Environment, 1972).

Among other things, this means that no 1890–1900 time series will have any data at all from high above the ground, whereas a 1990–2000 series might have much more data from the upper air than from the surface. As we will see, climate scientists have found numerous ingenious ways to confirm, correct, combine, and reject data. Yet these methods, too, have evolved. With each iteration in the cycle of reexamination, correction, and analysis, the climate data record changes. As a result, we have not one data image of the planetary climate, but many—very many.

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