A large new climate study in the journal Nature gets media coverage around the world to find that the oceans are dramatically faster than previously thought – but now researchers have drawn that conclusion after a man in England wrote about the flaws he found in the paper .
Just two weeks after publication, the study authors have revised their paper, and now conclude that the ocean is heating up rapidly – but at the same level as other measurements that have been found.
A research co-author is responsible for this error. "I accept responsibility for this negligence because it is my role to ensure that the details of the measurement are correctly understood and taken by co-authors," study co-author Ralph Keeling wrote in an explanation of the revision.
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This error was first discovered by Nic Lewis, a retired British man who holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Cambridge and who reads science papers for fun. He has also written several self-published papers on climate science.
"I always like to understand the world and check whether people's research makes sense to me. After I found something that seemed wrong to me, I wanted to know the basics, "Lewis told Fox News.
Lewis said the incident should function as a warning story.
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"I think this shows that the fact that a study is reviewed by colleagues and published by a premier journal provides little assurance that the findings are valid," Lewis said.
"I'm a little surprised that both peer reviewers and editors have seen what seems to me a clear red flag on page 1 of paper," he added.
Lewis said that reviewers who approved the paper might have looked closer to the error because the conclusion agreed with the general belief that global warming was an extreme crisis.
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But all involved, including Lewis, agree that man-made greenhouse gas emissions warm the oceans.
"One should not be left with the impression that mistakes in this paper are questioning whether the ocean interior is heating up. This is clearly entirely or largely due to human greenhouse gas emissions, "Lewis said.
The co-author of the study responsible for the error also stated this.
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"Evidence for ocean warming continues to be supported by millions of temperature readings across the oceans made by Argo's international sensor network," Keeling told Fox News.
The Argo sensor network consists of nearly 4,000 floats throughout the world that observe the ocean. Research conducted by Keeling and its co-authors tried to estimate ocean temperatures in a completely different way – "by measuring atmospheric oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) … which increases when the ocean warms up and releases gas."
Keeling said that such studies still have value.
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"Our study still provides independent evidence that the oceans are heating up. "We accept that our method does not determine the amount of heating exactly as we thought before," Keeling added.
Keeling also acknowledged Lewis for showing that mistake.
"The scientific process corrects itself when an error is made or new evidence is found. Hats off to Nic Lewis for his role here, "Keeling said.
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While the Earth has warmed up – government data shows that the planet is almost 2 ° F warmer than in the 1970s – researchers like Lewis make the case that climate models are not very good and may over-heating.
"Climate science suffers from being politicized," Lewis told Fox News. "It's too infected by consensus ideas and models … warming is likely to be worse than what the global climate model says."
The author, Maxim Lott, is a Stossel TV Executive Producer and creator of ElectionBettingOdds.com. He can be contacted on Twitter at @MaximLott