Monckton Skewers Truth

Christopher Monckton took such exception to an article in The Australian by Michael Steketee, that he has produced a response for the ultraconservative “think tank” SPPI. Monckton reports at WUWT, with his typical level of humility, that he has “skewered” Steketee.

Monckton only skewers two things: himself, and the truth.


Steketee offers a response in which he points out many of Monckton’s misrepresentations. But one that he doesn’t mention, a falsehood of the first magnitude, is Monckton’s point #9. He paraphrases Steketee as saying:


ARCTIC SEA ICE SHRANK TO ITS THIRD-LOWEST AREA IN THE SATELLITE RECORDS, OFFSET ONLY SLIGHTLY BY GROWTH IN ANTARCTIC SEA ICE.

Monckton offers this response:


In fact, the global sea-ice record shows virtually no change throughout the past 30 years, because the quite rapid loss of Arctic sea ice since the satellites were watching has been matched by a near-equally rapid gain of Antarctic sea ice. Indeed, when the summer extent of Arctic sea ice reached its lowest point in the 30-year record in mid-September 2007, just three weeks later the Antarctic sea extent reached a 30-year record high. The record low was widely reported; the corresponding record high was almost entirely unreported.

Is it really true? Let’s look at the data.

Here’s the global sea ice extent anomaly (monthly averages) based on data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC):

In addition to the data, I’ve plotted a linear-regression trend line. The slope gives us an estimate of the overall rate of global sea ice loss during the era of satellite observations. And that estimate (with 2-sigma error range) is: 36 +/- 14 thousand km^2/yr. The decline in global sea ice extent isn’t an artifact of statistical noise, it’s “statistically significant” at the 99.9999% confidence level. Monckton’s claim that “the global sea-ice record shows virtually no change throughout the past 30 years” is completely, utterly, demonstrably false.

Here’s the sea ice extent anomaly (monthly averages) for the northern hemisphere, according to NSIDC:

In addition to the data, I’ve plotted a linear-regression trend line. The slope gives us an estimate of the overall rate of northern hemisphere sea ice loss during the era of satellite observations. And that estimate (with 2-sigma error range) is: 51.5 +/- 8.5 thousand km^2/yr.

Here’s the sea ice extent anomaly (monthly averages) for the southern hemisphere, according to NSIDC:

In addition to the data, I’ve plotted a linear-regression trend line. The slope gives us an estimate of the overall rate of southern hemisphere sea ice gain during the era of satellite observations. And that estimate (with 2-sigma error range) is: 15.5 +/- 9.7 thousand km^2/yr.

Since satellite observations began, the rate of northern hemisphere sea ice loss is 3.3 times as fast as the rate of southern hemisphere sea ice gain. And that difference is statistically significant — way significant — it’s not just an artifact of the noise, it’s for real. Northern sea ice loss is vastly greater than southern sea ice gain. Monckton’s claim that “the quite rapid loss of Arctic sea ice since the satellites were watching has been matched by a near-equally rapid gain of Antarctic sea ice” is completely, utterly, demonstrably false.

The last time I skewered Monckton, he suggested in a comment at RealClimate that my result was only because I had used the Mauna Loa data for atmospheric CO2 rather than the NOAA data he used. It was trivially easy to show that he was wrong about that too. I wonder whether he’ll try that subterfuge again?

Perhaps Monckton shot off his mouth without even bothering to examine the data. Perhaps Monckton isn’t competent to analyze the data. Perhaps Monckton honestly believes that 36 +/- 14 thousand square kilometers per year, a net loss of over a million square kilometers of sea ice, is “virtually no change.” Perhaps he honestly believes that 15.5 is “near-equally” as large as 51.5. Or perhaps …

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33 responses to “Monckton Skewers Truth

  1. There’s no “perhaps” about it. Monckton is cuckoo. Kind people call it “eccentric”. Less charitable people call it narcissism.

  2. Or perhaps he’s a complete charlatan.
    Yep, I’ll go with that answer.

  3. Or perhaps …

    Having spent quite a lot of time tangling with his supporters in various dark corners corners of the internet, I have come to an alternative conclusion. He knows that he can make whatever claim he likes, however false, however ridiculous, however dishonest, and it will be believed by a large number of people.

    When the data are shown to these people to demonstrate that Monckton’s statement is false, they will not look at it, they will claim the data is made up by money-grabbing scientists, they will say something similar to that which was said to me earlier today when I linked to a Realclimate site: “Don’t put that filthy lying (un)realclimate crap on a reputable web site!” (they have a similar opinion about Tamino! )

    This is tribalism. Monckton has his tribe. He is their chief magician and he tells them what they want to hear in language strange and they believe him and he bathes in their plaudits. They are not interested in truth or evidence or reason and are thus unreachable by rational means. The best we can hope to do is to slow the spread of this poison, but many are already lost. I look at what has happened in recent years with respect to the global warming debate, and I recall Germany in the 1930s, and I shudder.

  4. @Slioch “…they believe him and he bathes in their plaudits. “

    …which are effusive in the comments below his post.

    People who are passionate about the subject yet can say “my mind is made up because I have never seen any rational data supporting the idea that CO2 has the power to raise global temperatures” will naturally be able to swallow Monckton’s crap and say it’s ice cream. It takes heroic ignorance to stay in the Potty Peer’s choir.

  5. Skeptical science is preparing to deal with much of monckton’s assertions in the coming days also. So keep watch for a series of articles.

  6. Monckton stands accused of lying like a rug.

    And in other news, a bear is accused of unsanitary practices in a wilderness area.

  7. Nice timing. As Robert noted, John Cook is about to publish the first in a series of rebuttals of Monckton’s assertions.

    Would you mind if we use your global sea ice graph (attributing it to you, of course) when we get to the sea ice rebuttal?

    [Response: Feel free. The graph is straightforward (just data and a trend line), no attribution necessary.]

  8. Dana, do the attribution to Tamino lest the deniasphere cry plagiarism ;)

    (Yes, I’m being serious)

  9. Nice work, but isn’t

    “By the way Chris, isn’t the antarctic ice anomaly negative at the moment”

    just as effective when it is true?

    Like it is now

  10. Sorry – I am probably a bit dim, but when I look at this chart on Antarctic Sea Ice, it doesn’t look like there has been any significant decline or growth in sea ice at all over the past 40 years (ignoring, of course, the beginnings of a substantial decline in 2011 – way short of significance).

    Anyone care to explain why this data seems different?

    [Response: Graphs like that one are a poor choice when looking for long-term trends, a time series plot is a better choice for that. Also, that graph doesn't include all the data -- it only starts in 2003. And of course, that graph still includes the (very large) annual cycle; trends will be much more evident when the annual cycle is removed first (which is one of the motives for translating actual extent or area into "anomaly" values).

    Mainly, when data have significant noise (as do sea ice data), a trend isn't always visually evident. It can also happen that a graph gives the visual appearance of a trend when none is present. Visual inspection of graphs is a key technique in data analysis, but firm conclusions about the presence or absence of a trend should be based on numerical analysis.]

  11. Perhaps he honestly believes that 15.5 is “near-equally” as large as 51.5. Or perhaps …

    Dyscalculia.

    Conclusion: some dastardly warmista must be firing EM pulses at his right parietal lobe.

    Remedy: he should take to wearing a tin foil cap, perhaps.

  12. Tamino,

    Nicely done. As for this claim by Christopher Monckton:

    “The record low was widely reported; the corresponding record high was almost entirely unreported.”

    Really? That too is a misleading assertion, false even. From the NSIDC report issued in early January 2011:

    “While sea ice is growing in the Arctic, it is early summer in the Antarctic and sea ice is melting. For the past four months, Antarctic sea ice extent has remained well above average. The high ice extent around Antarctica appears to relate to a persistently positive phase of the Southern Annular Mode—an Antarctic counterpart to the Arctic Oscillation—and to the mild La Niña conditions in the Pacific.”

    ScienceDaily posted a NCDC report which makes reference to the record high Antarctic sea ice extent in August 2010:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100919104002.htm

    (source: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global-snow/2010/11)

    The record high Antarctic sea-ice extent in November 2010 was reported by NOAA/NCDC here:

    And Jeff Masters reported on the Antarctic sea ice extent here:

    http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1589&tstamp=&page=14

    So contrary to what Monckton claims the record high Antarctic sea-ice extent in August and November 2010 was reported. Dana and John Cook, please also include this in your debunking of Monckton’s assertions.

    Monckton’s lies are beyond insulting, they are criminal.

  13. tamino,

    I just did linear and quadratic regressions on both CRU (N = 160) and GISS dT (N = 131) for their full annual data sets. In both cases, the quadratic terms are significant and worth adding, by both t-test and partial F-test. The trend is accelerating.

  14. Don’t the models predict an increase in Antarctic sea ice with GW anyway?
    The whole notion of looking at “global” sea ice levels is flawed in any case if ice in different areas is expected to behave differently.

  15. It would be interesting to see a similar analysis with respect to polar ice volume. Are there estimates of Antarctic sea ice volume similar to the PIOMAS product?

  16. Perhaps he honestly believes that 15.5 is “near-equally” as large as 51.5. Or perhaps …

    …He’s cyclicsic.

  17. I presume Monckton would prefer talking about sea ice growing near Antarctica to talking about the land ice there which is melting, and it is good to know that he is wrong even there.

    But there does seem to be quite a difference between the amounts and kinds of ice in the Arctic and the Antarctic, and it seems that the land ice in Antarctica is more significant than the sea ice there.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/antarctica-gaining-ice.htm

  18. Personally I think Monckton is a self centred nutbar.
    But I also think he makes a tidy little income by making personal appearances and presentations at climate change denier meetings.
    Leads me to the saying: There’s no greater fool than he who follows a fool.

  19. It’s not news that Monckton is wrong, but the obviousness of his errors seems to be increasing.

  20. Just one nit:

    1) SPPI =
    “The Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI) is a nonprofit institute of research and education dedicated to sound public policy based on sound science.”

    This could be rephrased as “does not science, exists to affect public policy by bypassing science … and publishing anything the Viscount wants.”

    2) To the best of my knowledge, this is essentially Rob Ferguson with a little clerical help, and the usual cast of “Advisors.” Crescendo to Climategate Cacophony. See p.74.
    It is unclear whether the Washington, DC office is a real or virtual office, as I think he lives in Haymarket, VA and there’s another address there.

    3) Funding is unknown, as Ferguson set up an earlier effort for ExxonMobil elsewhere, but there may be $$ from Monckton. I’ ve never been able to find any records.

    4) Ferguson was quite active in Monckton’s 2007 ,2007 attack on Oreskes.

    All-in all, calling him a thinktank is giving too much credit :-)

    3) It is certainly Monckton’s “home away from home” in USA.

  21. In what possible sense is a growth in antarctic ice extent a compensation for Arctic losses anyway?

    The contribution of Antarctic Ice to Albedo is tiny during the growth season as it’s winter in the Southern Hemisphere and the Polar Night renders the region bathed in near round-the-clock night time for 180 days – as opposed to the Arctic which is, of course, enjoying its Polar Day.

    The Growth is mostly in surface area only, the important measure – the Volume of ice at the Antarctic seems to be mostly decreasing.

    And then there’s local influences such as the hole in the Ozone layer which gives good reason to think that the local climate at the Antarctic is anomalous anyhow.

    I don’t think the basic realities of night and day and simple physics support Monckton’s ramblings, let a alone whether they stand up to statistical analysis.

    Unless I’m missing something crucial, Monckton’s ‘analysis’ is ‘not even wrong’. I really like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but Peter Sinclair’s (of Climate Crock of the Week Fame) portrayal of Lord Monckton third Viscount of Brenchley as nowt but a Snake Oil peddler seems pretty much on the money.

  22. It’s worth pointing out an interesting meta-skewer.
    Moctonites often accuse the climate science community of fixing the data / analysis. So the question arises; why haven’t “they” fixed the Antarctic data bettervso that it more clearly shows warming? Surely, given how cleverly all the other data has been “fixed”, this is bit of a slip-up and requires such cleaver re-fixing as we see here.

  23. I just posted this over at skeptical science

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/Monckton-Myth-2-Temperature-records-trends-El-Nino.html

    Its another commentary on some of Monckton’s work.

    Cheers.

  24. Monckton looks as if it hits him the expression ‘cherry picking’. He cherry-picks here and there, and comes up with his falsehoods.

    So, what does he do? He tries to ‘claim’ the term ‘cherry-pick’ in his latest document. Monckton, the cherry-picker!

  25. All right what else was Lord Monckton wrong about folks. It seems He made a whole bunch of rebuttal statements in that commentary.

    [Response: It would take quite a while to enumerate all of Monckton's mistakes and mendacity. But you can begin by reading Steketee's response.]

  26. This Monckton character claims all sorts of things that are complete lies. He is not nor has he ever been a “Lord” yet he has assumed the title. He has somehow ingratiated himself to the crazies who will foot his bills to spew nonsense that may fool Chambers of Commerce in Minnesota but are proven to be so much drivel. Why give this guy any time at all? I’m only writing this to take a break from doing some serious science.

    • In his defense, I think Monckton can perhaps be forgiven for claiming he is a “Lord”. After all, throughout his life, whenever he shows up, people cry out, “Oh, Good Lord!”

  27. Ray, I cried something not so polite when I read this (my bold)…

    “…And I’m going to show you the latest science, which now doesn’t leave the question unsettled anymore this is now settled science, it is now settled science that there is not a problem with our influence over Climate. The science is in, the truth is out and the scare is over.”

    — Christopher Monckton. 10/14/9 Minnesota Free Market Institute presentation

    Umm… ahhhh… science… settled?

  28. I suspect Monckton has a bumper sticker on his car that says, “Ask me about my narcissism!” He’ll say anything to stay the center of attention of his adoring ideologues.