Much Ado about Nothing

A couple of recent events have caused some stir in the climate denial blogosphere.

I’m underwhelmed.


Comic relief comes courtesy Anthony Watts, who announced a new “paper” which he claims “shows half of the global warming in the USA is artificial,” and which Pielke the elder calls “seminal” and a “game changer.” Some consider it hypocritical that Watts should make such a big fuss, including a “press release,” about a paper which isn’t yet even submitted for publication, let alone peer reviewed or accepted for publication, after he so scathingly criticized Richard Muller for doing pretty much the same thing some time ago with the initial results of the Berkeley study. Apparently, for Watts it’s OK to trumpet unpublished work which agrees with his ideology, but it’s a mortal sin when it disagrees with him.

What Watts has shown is that he can get a lower warming trend for the continental USA than others get. All you have to do is systematically eliminate the data you don’t like, while ignoring things like station moves, instrument changes, and recording data at different times of day. Don’t you dare correct for known biases (unless of course doing so would make the estimate of global warming smaller)! And if the satellite data should be in better agreement with others than with yourself, don’t breathe a word about that.

The irony is that Watts is doing exactly what he accuses others of: tilting every aspect of the data and analysis to suit his ideology. The joke is that he actually thinks this is “science.”

Since his original chest-beating, it seems that even some of his co-authors (one can’t help but wonder, did they all even know they were listed as co-authors?) take exception to his methods. Alas, it looks like important details are missing which are required for those who want to check his results. I certainly didn’t find any links to the data or computer programs used. Doesn’t Anthony want to be audited?

It’s the latest move in Watts’ grand plan to minimize the amount of global warming we’ve witnessed. He would never claim that the earth isn’t warming, any more than he would say the earth is flat — just that it’s only half as round as the so-called “experts” claim.

Boredom arrives from the Berkeley team itself, with a new (but again, as-yet unpublished) paper about the Berkeley global land-only temperature estimate. Temperature-wise, the numbers are updated through November 2011 and the overall picture is pretty much unchanged. What’s new is that they have subjected the results to some analysis, concluding that recent global temperature increase is due to human activity (greenhouse gases) and that volcanic eruptions also influence global temperature. Good job catching up with climate science — circa 1980.

Their attribution is based on simple regression of temperature against the logarithm of CO2 concentration (as a proxy for human influence) and volcanic sulfate emissions, and noting that including solar variation in the mix doesn’t improve the fit significantly. How original! There’s no attempt to account for the time lag in the climate system, certainly no accounting for multiple time scales (in particular the long time scale of the oceans which will affect land temperatures). The influence of the el Nino southern oscillation isn’t included either. Sulfate aerosols are only included if they’re volcanic — all those sulfate emissions from factories and power plants are ignored.

Does anybody else think that their regression analysis is no more sophisticated or informative than what a number of readers here have already done themselves?

They do, however, conclude that what’s left over after their regression bears some resemblance to the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO). I suspect this is Richard Muller’s attempt to justify his previous conclusions about AMO and land temperature. Or, maybe it reflects his fervent hope that the Berkeley project might actually find out something that we didn’t already know.

Tell ya what I think.

The impact of global warming is getting clearer, and will soon be obvious even to the hard-core deniers. Arctic sea ice continues its death spiral. Sea level continues to rise. The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets continue to lose mass at an alarming pace, and glaciers worldwide keep shrinking. Species continue to migrate to higher latitudes and altitudes. We’re also seeing more and more signs that the “man in the street” can’t ignore. Since the amazing heat wave in Europe in 2003, we’ve seen amazing heat waves in Australia, Russia, the USA (twice). We’ve seen enhanced drought and record-breaking floods. And to the statisticians at re-insurance giant Munich Re, the increase in weather-related disasters is both huge and certain. This is not normal — and it’s not natural.

In other words, we’re rapidly approaching the moment when denial is no longer possible for the sane. Those who want it not to be so are getting annoyed at nature’s recurrent reminders, so they’re getting more shrill and more desperate. Furthermore, the press is starting to realize that all those times that fake claims from fake skeptics were proved fake, is no accident. It’s a pattern, one they should have heeded all along.

I’ve said before that by the end of this decade global warming will be so f***ing obvious that deniers will be laughed at — at best. Perhaps I should revise the time scale for that prediction, because the obvious is knocking at the door. Who knows, depending on what happens weather-wise over the next few months, maybe Mitt Romney will decide to flip-flop on the issue — again.

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165 responses to “Much Ado about Nothing

  1. “Does anybody else think that their regression analysis is no more sophisticated or informative than what a number of readers here have already done themselves?”

    I’ve written something like this as a teaching exercise for the next edition of Statistics with Stata, due out this September. Inspired by (though less sophisticated than) Foster & Rahmstorf, it starts out with OLS modeling temperature as a function of AOD, TSI, MEI and CO2. That gives a surprisingly decent fit but with autocorrelated residuals. An ARMAX version with ARMA(1,1) residuals fits even better, yielding white-noise residuals. And indeed, anyone can do this.

  2. Jim Pettit ("Neapolitan")

    Excellent post, good sir. Excellent. I especially like–and wholeheartedly agree with–your last three paragraphs.

    As for Watts’ pseudo-article, I find it humorous that even climate change denialist extraordinaire Pielke, Sr., after initially praising it as a “game changer”, is now backing away from Watts with both hands up, begging everyone, “Hey, don’t try to pin that pile of horse droppings on me!”. From his website:

    “To make sure everyone clearly recognizes my involvement…I provided Anthony suggested text and references for his article [I am not a co-author of the Watts et al paper]…

    and:

    “There has been discussion as to whether the Time of Observation Bias (TOB) could affect the conclusions reached in Watts et al (2012). This is a valid concern. Thus the ‘Game Changing’ finding of whether the trends are actually different for well- and poorly-sited locations is tenative until it is shown whether or not TOB alters the conclusions.”

    IOW: “In my desperate zeal to find something–anything–to bolster my denailist preconceptions, I jumped the gun. Again. But, as about a million people have pointed out in the last three days, Watts’ paper has more logical holes in it than an M. Night Shyamalan movie, so I want nothing to do with it.”

  3. Since Watts hasn’t corrected the Surface Stations.org website pix after you demolished what they purport to represent 7 years ago, it’s unlikely he’ll jump right on the criticism of his “work/paper/whatever”.

    Is it time to say it’s only going to get worse yet?

    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/hell-and-high-water/

  4. Hi Tamino
    Yes, I’m guessing that this is a disastrous faux pas from Watts. To make such a fuss about an unsubmitted paper seesm pretty extraordinary to me and may well have backfired for him, given the underwhelming nature of his ‘results’.

    Criticisms of this are going to be pretty hard thing for him to dismiss.

  5. yehbut… You haven’t answered tfe question that is really, really taxing the blogcommentosphete;

    Who was the gazumper and who the gazumpee?

    Either Muller knew Wotts was going to release his results, decided to do a preemptive press release, forcing AW to abandon his holiday to release his paper early… or
    Muller decided to do a press release and AW had to rise from his sick-bed, lock down his web page and rush out a “look rabbit!” post…

    And, in both cases, why? Given both the nits of work are a bit feeble?

    Unlije realy science, the results aren’t nearly as interesting as the politics.

  6. Susan Anderson

    Glad to see the straight truth. But of course the unconvinceable cannot be convinced.

    Somebody kindly offered this gem which I am too lazy to shorten:

    http://www.hillheat.com/articles/2012/07/31/stephen-schneiders-criticism-of-roger-pielke-jr-a-self-aggrandizer-trickster-and-careerist

    Besides the title says it all. Time to make it clear to all and sundry that Pielke is not a good guy, and his style of “moderation” is no longer a legitimate stance.

  7. Pielke Senior, 17 September 2011:

    “First, I have worked with Anthony and he is devoted to the highest level of scientific robustness.”

    ROFL. Given how quick Pielke Senior was to publicly endorse Anthony’s error ridden “paper” and give it glowing reviews does not bode well for the robustness of Pielke Senior’s science either. It also shows, again, hat Pielke Senior has strong confirmation bias and is not a true skeptic at all.

  8. arch stanton

    “I say thou has belied mine innocent child: / Thy slander hath gone through and through her heart, / And she lies buried with her ancestors; / O! in a tomb where never scandal slept, / Save this of hers, fram’d by thy villainy!”

  9. Pillow fight over at WUWT!

    In response to Watts’ claim that TOBS be ignored because he doesn’t believe observers actually changed their observation times when requested to do so by NOAA, it’s been pointed out to Watts that observers write the time of observation and min-max thermometer reset on their daily data sheets.

    Watts is, in essence, claiming that observers lie about TOBS on their data sheets, and this metadata can’t be trusted.

    This will go far in professional scientific circles, I’m sure

  10. Here’s the Skeptical Science critique of Watts’ paper. Basically what tamino said but in greater detail.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/watts_new_paper_critique.html

  11. The only real question I’m interested in is whether Watts will choose to submit to an unknown, pay-for-publication journal in some unrelated discipline edited by someone sympathetic to his cause or whether he’ll submit to Nature or something and claim persecution when it’s not even sent for review. It’s a tough call.

    • I think he won’t submit. McIntyre won’t be on the paper as long as it ignores Tobs, and Christy really cannot show himself anywhere when he remains author on that paper when it still ignores Tobs. And I think some of Watts’ own denizens will leave him if he does submit it as is.

  12. KQED Radio Forum program today featuring Muller — Host: Scott Shafer

    http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201208010900

    If nothing else jump to the very end of that audio file.

    A caller asks why we should take Muller as a leader when he’s so late to this, since other scientists have known about it for so long.

    Muller’s answer: “surface stations issues” made it impossible to decide whether there was a problem until he looked into it.

  13. “In other words, we’re rapidly approaching the moment when denial is no longer possible for the sane.”

    It’s never been about sanity. It’s always been about economics.

  14. Given the title of this, Will Shakespeare was centuries prescient.

  15. I am so confused! Over at Climate Etc. they think the consensus is trembling. That you guys are so nervous about being wrong you cannot sleep at night. Witchizit?

    [Response: Hahahahaha!!! Good one.]

    • I think this, unfortunately, reinforces a thought I had at “…by the end of this decade global warming will be so f***ing obvious that deniers will be laughed at…”.

      I have some training in psychology, and the proclivity to deny bad news, in particular bad news in which you are in some way culpable, is very powerful. (I suspect there are many who deny that their smoking may have been responsible for their cancer right through to the end.) It is not as though the vast preponderance of the evidence of human-induced warming is not already against any rational skepticism. So, they will continue to exist. In some sets of people, they are already being laughed at. One can only hope that sets grows to become the majority, which is I suppose the real meaning.

      Thanks for the succinct shakedown.

  16. Rob Honeycutt

    Watts’ and Pielke’s hyperbole has set them up for a precipitous fall.
    Film at 11.

  17. Horatio Algeranon

    It’s a tale told by a weatherman. Full of thunder and lightning. Signifying rain [on his parade.]

  18. “And to the statisticians at re-insurance giant Munich Re, the increase in weather-related disasters is both huge and certain.”

    In my opinion this will be a major factor in convincing hardcore conservatives. These people believe in the market. When the market starts making large corrections and provisioning for the negative consequences of warming, they will be bound to accept it.

    Of course we’ll still have to deal with the “but how do you know it’s CO2/anthropogenic” meme….

    • Not so fast. The market and its players are moving on climate …because they’re in on the scam! Run to the hills!

  19. Could it be that this whole affair will turn out to be a game changer for the fake skeptic cause?

    I hope some historian is taking notes.

  20. ThroughSilverInBlood

    I’m just gonna leave this here: http://is.gd/KdmX9O

    • Did he really take seven years to not graduate from purdue? I know he didn’t graduate, but most people manage not graduating in less than four years …

      • Pete Dunkelberg

        But there’s no upper bound.

      • In a way it sort of brings to mind Zonker Harris from Doonesbury, who manages to prolong his undergrad experience for over a decade, but then graduates by accident.

        I also had a friend who went to college for 8 years and then looked at her credits and shopped around until she found a major she’d fulfilled the requirements of. Maybe the ’60s were good to Tony. It would explain a lot.

      • It also reminds me of the main character of Roger Zelazny’s “Doorways in the Sand” who deliberately avoids graduating for 13 years because he gets family money as long as he’s a full time student. He has to switch majors a lot. Eventually, iirc, his University awards him a PhD in Anthropology or Archaeology without any bachelors degree.

    • Brings to mind “Voltaire’s prayer.”

    • I really shouldn’t, because one shouldn’t gloat when someone is down on the ground and all but out for the count, but, heck, that is hilarious.

    • Susan Anderson

      wonderful!

  21. Excellent post tamino. I have spent far too much time reading the papers, and checking the assumptions and logic of the main actors in the Watts surface stations issue… and on every critical factor, Mr. Watts has been mistaken.

    But his grandstanding act may be wearing thin. This was likely his “McCarthy moment”…

    As for the important conclusion in the post, I agree wholeheartedly. A host of triggering events have become clearly apparent this year, that will shift the public views toward addressing climate change. And the unfortunate heartland of America will suffer through at least another month of this disastrous heat wave/drought.

    Eventually even the most recalcitrant politician will need to shift his/her position toward reality…

  22. Over at SKS, “Kevin C” posted a python script that reads in GHCN data and runs it through your standard temperature anomaly gridding/averaging procedure. It is all of 65 lines!!

    He used it to show how similar the raw vs. adjusted and rural vs. urban global-temperature results are.

    So… folks here who know any loudmouth deniers (especially engineer/programmer types) who have been going on and on about UHI, homogenization, etc. have a great opportunity to embarrass said deniers (especially deniers who like to tout their own scientific/technical prowess).

    Show ‘em the 65-line python script (linky here: http://skepticalscience.com/watts_new_paper_critique.html — scroll down a bit for the code) and ask them why they’ve been unwilling/unable to tackle such a straightforward project in all the time they’ve been yammering about UHI, data adjustments, etc.

    (You may want to verify that you can run it first ;) )

  23. So now it’s no longer game changing it’s tentatively game changing. What’s the name of the game, one might wonder? Clue[less]do?

    • What’s the name of the game, one might wonder?

      Well, christy did get it entered into the congressional record today, citing the Watts et al et Christy “paper” in his testimony to the Senate EPW.

      The name of the game they’re playing should be obvious …

      • Susan Anderson

        I shouldn’t be surprised, but using last year’s slang, OMG! What a mess, where merit has no standing.

    • What’s the name of the game, one might wonder? Clue[less]do?

      [Clue…] “doh!”

    • [With apologies to Lewis Carroll]

      The name of the game is called “Spreading Doubt”.

      ‘Oh, that’s the name of the game, is it?’ Alice said, trying to feel interested.

      ‘No, you don’t understand,’ the Knight said, looking a little vexed.
      ‘That’s what the name is called. The name really is “Ideology Replaces
      Analysis”.’

      ‘Then I ought to have said “That’s what the game is called”?’ Alice
      corrected herself.

      ‘No, you oughtn’t: that’s quite another thing! The game is called “Any
      Ways and Means to get the Predetermined Result”: but that’s only what it’s called, you know!’

      ‘Well, what is the game, then?’ said Alice, who was by this time
      completely bewildered.

      ‘I was coming to that,’ the Knight said. ‘The game really is “A-sitting On
      a ClimateGate”: and the “debate” is my own invention.’

  24. I dont Watts has to anything further with the paper. I looks to me like it was produced at speed in response to BEST publication. It’s always possible that BEST might have created doubts in more honest skeptics. As it is, Watts gives them a reason to keep the faith. His article has been given plenty of air time on the usual suspects sites. Anyone inclined to worry about BEST can read this, do a sigh of relief and go back to denial. They arent going to read any followups, care about whether it is published or not or whether rebutted. In my opinion, the paper has already served its purpose well enough. Shame on Christy for his involvement with something that contradicts his own UAH data – I thought him more honest than to be caught up in a scam paper like this.

  25. Alex the Seal

    “Good job catching up with climate science — circa 1980″
    I think you’re being unfair to the BEST team. They went in questioning the science and ended up confirming it. I think it matters little that they reiterated what we “already knew”.

    [Response: If they (specifically, Richard Muller) had doubts then it’s a fine idea to investigate in detail. But in my opinion his doubts were rooted in his own utter ignorance and could have been just as effectively cured by *reading* the existing literature. His touting the results as scientifically important seems self-serving. As for the papers to come from this project, the only thing I’ve seen which is even remotely publish-worthy is the “methods” paper.

    You want to confirm what we already knew? Have fun. Don’t brag about what an important contribution you’ve made.]

    • toto,
      What you are ignoring is that many of the hardcore denialists are not conservatives at all, but rather glibertarians. These guys are so nutty, even Ayn Rand and Hayek would disown them! They will reject the concept of physical reality itself before they admit the magic marketplace can have unintended effects that the invisible hand doesn’t magically correct.

    • Alex, if what you are saying is true, then every Junior physics student who solves the Schroedinger equation for the hydrogen atom for the first time deserves a paper out of it. Muller deserves credit for being a true skeptic. That doesn’t make him a true climate scientist. The bar is a little higher for that–you have to advance human understanding of the climate rather than just your own.

    • Horatio Algeranon

      “I don’t like to BEST, but…’
      — by Horatio Algeranon

      We’ve just made
      A Nobel find
      The sky is blue
      With black behind

      The grass is green
      The sun is hot —
      And so is fire
      (But ice is not.)

      And global warming
      Is actually real
      Berkeley Earth
      Has clinched the deal.

      Our climate science
      Is simply the BEST
      More roboast
      Than all the rest.

    • Undergraduate research instructions:

      Step 1: do a literature review.
      Step 2: don’t skip step 1.
      Step 3: unless you’re only writing a term paper that is supposed to summarize what the literature says, you need to do something more original than reinventing the wheel and acting as if you’ve discovered something new – especially if you could have read about it if you hadn’t skipped steps 1 and 2.

  26. Sceptical Wombat

    There were two things that struck me about the Berkeley paper.
    Firstly it acknowledges that many people have found a relationship between ENSO and inter annual temperature change, then it simply ignores ENSO and goes onto AMO. Why not compare the correlation with AMO with the correlation with ENSO?
    Secondly it found an uptick in diurnal variability. Has anyone else observed this? Is it related to Tamino’s observation that in the contiguous US summer temperatures are increasing faster than winter temperatures? Neither are what you would expect from a simple minded view of greenhouse warming.

    • K.a.r.S.t.e.N

      In fact, the strongly decreasing DTR between 1900-1980 goes way beyond what one would expect from a purely GHG-forced response. The additional decrease stems from the increased anthropogenic aerosol loading (namely sulfate emissions) which act to reduce the incoming SW radiation, which in turn leads to decreased maximum temperatures, without a concomitant decrease in minimum temperatures (due to indirect aerosol effects, minimum temperatures may even increase at the same time). If you follow the Sulfate emission trajectory, you can easily identify the two episodes of strongly increasing emissions (1900-1920 and 1945-1975) which coincide with the nose-dive of the DTR (with an eyeballed lag of 5 years). In the aerosol-brightening period post-1987, we witness the recovery of this aerosol-induced excess DTR-reduction.

      If you now follow the trend from 1900-today you’d get probably a bit closer to the expected GHG-induced DTR decrease. To replicate this in the model, a sophisticated aerosol scheme is required which most models currently simply doesn’t provide (HadGEM2-ES is one of those which would surely reproduce this pattern). Hence I am not aware of a paper which addresses this issue (if I missed it, references are always welcomed). As always, things are slightly more complicated as black carbon emissions have to be taken into account as well (or the sulfate-to-BC-ratio as a suitable derivate, respectively), but sulfates are sufficient to demonstrate the principal concept.

      • Thanks. Eli had looked up the aerosol and black carbon loading and found that both are decreasing but could not come up with an explanation for the Berkeley observation.

      • I’ve pointed out to Zeke Hausfather that the write-up on model-predicted DTR in the BEST paper is basically wrong – they suggest models produce a DTR decrease because GHGs enhance min temperatures over max, nothing about aerosols. Zeke responded and said they should be able to change that passage.

        You can get CMIP5 model Tmin and Tmax data from Climate Explorer. From my brief testing, HadGEM2-ES produces one of the largest DTR decreases and is roughly in line with BEST observations (and CRU’s Tmax-Tmin) from 1950. If you include the decrease from 1900 to 1950, HadGEM2-ES only produces about half the total amount. However, uncertainties in BEST are much larger prior to 1950 and the CRU data conversely shows no decrease during this earlier period.

      • Sceptical Wombat

        Thanks KarSteN

      • K.a.r.S.t.e.N

        Paul S:
        I absolutely agree with your comments (here and on Zeke’s Blog – which I hadn’t noticed since I’m not a regular reader over there). Thanks for chiming in and adding a few important points, most importantly the fact that it is about model results whether and to what margin the DTR changes. As far as I am aware, it couldn’t be predicted based purely on theoretical grounds. My thinking is to a large extent based on the work published by Stenchikov and Robock JGR 1995. It nicely explains the involved physical processes (again, as they arise in their particular model, which is a radiative-convective model), and makes mention of the direct aerosol effects. However, the WV-feedback on the DTR range due to the aerosol direct radiative forcing cancels out the otherwise strong DTR decrease in their case. Combine the two effects, with CO2 providing warmer background temperatures, the negative diurnal aerosol-WV-feedback gets reduced. Hence the initially large direct aerosol daytime cooling can now reduce the DTR stronger. Assume the WV-feedback to be a bit lower in another model simulation and add some indirect sulfate forcing (namely cloud albedo effect), then I’m sure there is wiggle-room for even stronger aerosol effects.

        Thanks also for having quickly looked into the HadGEM2-CMIP5 data.

        Eli, do you mean they decreased in lockstep after 1970? Or what do you mean? Current forcing wisdom tends to be that BC emissions kept rising (see Skeie et al. ACP 2011) while sulfates took a “break” before going up again after 2000.

      • K.a.r.S.t.e.N

        Or should I better have said Lucia’s Blog. Guess so … my bad.

  27. The draft copy of Watt’s paper contains significant chunks of his 2011 paper with Fall copied word for word. Section 2.1 is word for word identical and the beginning of Section 2.2 is word for word identical until he mentions Fall itself and then Muller. This is what passes for a publication to be submitted?

    • Mike B: you should post that over on the climate audit thread. People here just get a big case of the grins over such info. Over there, increasingly, people are getting a big case of the groans.

    • Hmm, that’s just the Materials and Methods section describing USHCN itself though, so it’s necessarily talking about the same thing. In these circumstances there are three possibilities. (1) repeat it for clarity; (2) summarise briefly and refer back to the earlier paper; (3) reword it arbitrarily without changing the meaning. Usually (2) is appropriate, so in the final draft it would make sense to just yoink out those sections and say “Methodology was as in Fall et al 2011, updating station classification according to Leroy et al 2010″. For a pre-submission discussion draft, leaving in the more expanded text makes sense.

  28. Tamino, you said “..we’re rapidly approaching the moment when denial is no longer possible for the sane.” I suggest you are overly optimistic.

    For the ignorant and misinformed, denial remains a very viable long term option. The promotion of misinformation and ignorance has plenty of high level backers, for example recently elected Premier Newman of the Australian state of Queensland (“We’re in the coal business”) presides over a political party that recently voted unanimously to remove climate science that supports the existence of AGW from Queensland schools. (It may not actually go from party policy to schools policy).

    I’d have thought there was plenty of real world evidence already but no evidence can dent the views of the wilfully ignorant, especially those with a multi-billions in revenue and the unthinking votes of the misinformed at stake. A heat wave that kills the crops, livestock – and human occupants – of whole regions … maybe, (except maybe it’s the sun to blame) but an unceasing trend of warming, of loss of summer ice in the Arctic, glacial retreats worldwide, acceleration of loss of ice sheet mass… these aren’t going to change the minds of people who are ” in the coal business” and those in the coal business have plenty of profits to throw at efforts to keep politicians on side and the wider public misinformed and ignorant.

  29. has anyone tried using phenology (timing of green up or blooming) or Snow Cover to correct for time of observation and other problems? is it correct to think this could add to the surface record? thanks Jacob l

  30. I think much more of the ‘ignorance’ displayed by contrarians is subconscious rather than wilful. They’re not dummies by any stretch, but more than a few experience actual psychological denial. For some, the money or attention played a role initially, but once you start to preach it’s almost impossible to stop. Our minds are pretty good at protecting us from acknowledging certain things, and ‘I’ve contributed to delaying action on the most important social and economic endeavour of this century’ is something people definitely want protection from.

  31. I agree with your overall sentiment, Tamino. I think most of us realize that all this tempest has been about as predictable as paint drying on a wall. Nevertheless, it has been popcorn worthy.

  32. I’m taken aback. I thought that maybe his attempt to do real research, and his subsequent discovery that you actually do have to adjust the data, might turn him into a defender of the temperature trends found by others. But now I read Tamino and the commenters here, and I’m led to believe that Watts won’t change his spots, and his forays into “science” are just an excuse to spread disinformation.

    Why am I so gullible?

    • Something I’ve noticed is that almost everyone models the behavior of other people on their own behavior. E.g. dishonest people expect others to be dishonest; people who try to make rational cost-benefit decisions think other people make rational cost-benefit decisions, etc. So John, you’re probably a fairly reasonable and honest person who’s default model of other people is … that they ought to be fairly reasonable and honest.

      • arch stanton

        Projection (Freud)

      • arch stanton

        Gwn1943 – Yes, good point.

        I had always assumed that projection could be either of positive or negative traits (as illustrated by GFW), but upon rereading my own link I stand corrected. Is there a term for the tendency to expect others to be like ourselves? I have heard some use “self-referencing” but I don’t believe that is an accurate use of the term.

  33. Meanwhile … a long way from those urban heat islands, Arctic sea ice area has just dropped below that *annual minimum* recorded for any satellite year before 2007:

    • Did you link to the wrong pic or do I not just understand the graph? DO you have more info on this?

      • You’re right, I posted the wrong link. Here’s what it should have been:

        And for more ado, here’s a daily comparison of 2012 with the previous area record holder, 2011:

        A comparison of the most recent (7/31) area with same date in all previous satellite-era years:

      • Thanks!

  34. A simplistic question from a semi-informed but educated observer: Watts’ breathless claim all along has been that siting issues for the ground-based instruments make the data faulty. It’s clear that some of the stations are likely biased. How exactly is this bias corrected? or is he wrong?

    • Michael, this post contains some information on homogenization and links to some other articles/papers that discuss it.

      This blog post specifically deals with the problem of changes in time of observation (“TOBS”).

      That should get you started.

      Professionals have been aware of siting problems for many, many years. Issues related to hanges in TOBS have been discussed professionally as far back as 1848 (at least, that’s the oldest paper I’ve seen referenced thus far, Watts’ denial of the important of this issue has caused people to dig deeply into past literature and surprisingly discussion really does go back more than 150 years).

    • This has been thoroughly evaluated by a number of reviewers, including of course NOAA: http://www.skepticalscience.com/on-the-reliability-of-the-us-surface-temperature-record.html
      Menne, Williams, & Palecki, 2009, in Journal of Geophysical Research, http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cmb-faq/temperature-monitoring.html, http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/about/response-v2.pdf.

      Tamino did a demolishing evaluation of Watt’s Surface Station.org site in 2007 which I believe is archived over at Skeptical Science. The short answer is, yes, he’s wrong. The scientists working on this have no interest in using inaccurate data and when inaccuracies are discovered, they are typically evaluated and accounted for. There are of course innumerable other indicators of a warming climate beyond the temperature records.

    • Michael makes a good point – as well.

      This is Watt’s “make or break” moment. The poor analysis of weather stations in the USA is, clearly, his killer argument as to why AGW is wrong/not-so-bad etc. If he’s right, he’s 100% vindicated, if he’s wrong, he’s out of business. Simple. That he skipped his vacation for this demonstrates clearly that he appreciates the magnitude of the situation.

      Given which, I’m surprised he rushed out his ‘press release’ with an analysis that has flaws in it which the blogosphere picked up so quickly.

      You really would have thought, with the stakes for his personal reputation – and probably income – so very high, he’d have been more careful.
      I feel for the guy, really I do.

      • I can’t see this as being a ‘make or break’ moment for Watts. He just moves on to another denialist post.

        Watts now has the gall to promote Christy’s appalling Senate Committee appearance as ‘stellar’ because Christy denies the greenhouse effect (as per the WUWT headline).

        I’m surprised when people give Watts the benefit of the doubt. His behaviour doesn’t warrant it.

      • Christy is actually telling policymakers what to do (ie nothing). I thought this was a no-go for scientists.

      • Horatio Algeranon

        Representing only about 2% of the total earth surface, the US makes almost no difference in the global warming trend.

        That would be true even if the US had not warmed at all.

        The key word is “global” and Watts’ (now “disappeared”) claim “New study shows half of the global warming in the USA is artificial” is more than a little nonsensical.

        The Watts saga may be good theater (of the absurd), but that’s about the full extent of it.

        “How did we get to the point where a person with absolutely no clue is has had — and is still having — such an impact on public opinion and policy?” is a question any thinking person should really be asking at this point.

    • Spencer-san,

      A station which reads hotter than other stations will still show the same _increase_ or _decrease_ in temperature every year. Watts confused “warmer stations” with “warming stations.” I.e., he’s mistaking the value for the first time derivative of the value.

    • Pete Dunkelberg

      Michael, I’m going to pour it on over and above what dhogaza did (something I’d rarely even imagine I could do ;)
      First, let’s check to see if there even is a problem, or at least any problem that meteorologists don’t take care of in the normal course of their work. Even though there were reasons why reasonable people didn’t think so, one could just check the numbers along Wattsonian lines as Menne et al. 2010 did, discussed here. No problem found. One might also note that the satellite measurements did not show Watts’ supposed problem. Why not?

      Interlude: things happen over a day and over years. A sunny spot may be shaded when the morning temperature is taken. Trees in the area grow, trees are trimmed.

      Michael, I think you may be missing a big part of the picture that hasn’t been mentioned for a while: anomalies. Whats that? First, pick a base period, say 1951 through 1980. For each station, find the average temperature over that period. Then, for each station and for each year either within the base period or before or after, subtract the base temperature from that year’s temperature. That’s the anomaly for that station for that year. It’s the anomalies (averaged together in a complex way) that are graphed. What you look for is a trend in the final graph.

      Michael, you wrote (based I take it on pictures you have seen)
      “It’s clear that some of the stations are likely biased.”

      No it is not clear. It cannot be. You cannot tell from a snapshot whether that station has a bias in its anomaly trend, and if so, which way.

      Watts has pulled the wool over your eyes.

  35. One day, “In fernem land” we’ll see postings “ad-factum” vs “ad-hominem.”

    Advice we all should follow, and I hope to live that long!

    As an aside, I heartily applaud the process of “pre-release” or pre-publication PRIOR to Peer Review! It is a breath of fresh air, and Hansen, Muller, and Watts all should be congratulated for their use of it!!!

    • I don’t see the breath of fresh air in promoting heavily flawed papers (as has happened with Watts’ paper – it was used in Christy’s written testimony and mentioned by Fox (who else)), nor in the promotion/pre-release of papers that don’t contribute one yota to the science (Muller’s paper).

    • @tomwys Actually not much of response to the content of Tamino’s comments.

  36. Horatio Algeranon

    Leonato said it best in “Much Ado About Nothing”

    “A defeat is twice itself when the achiever brings home irrational numbers”

    (or, at least that’s Horatio’s interpretation of Leonato)

  37. “I feel for the guy, really I do.”

    You’re joking, right? Watts dug himself into this hole. That the sides would collapse in on him was always the outcome, it was only a matter of when.


  38. “I feel for the guy, really I do.”

    Well, being that Watts accused me of being a gnarly goth with tattoos, body piercings and dark fantasies of hot goth vampire sex, I am less inclined to feel any sympathy for him.

    Actually, I made up the bit about the hot goth vampire sex — but Watts did accuse me of being a goth. See my twitter profile for the amusing details.

    • I appreciate that being accused of being a goth may be really tough; but look at the situation Watts is in. He want’s to be respected, he’s told people that explicitly. Moreover, without denialism, he’s nothing. A no body. And clearly he’s become very used to being The Man (in some peoples eyes, anyway).
      Now, to get respect he’s got to rise – from time-to-time – above the usual regurgitation of the deniosphere… He Needs This Paper. Desperately.

      I see him a little like Dr. Frankenstein. He’s created a monster that’s lurching around the internet – it’s stitches not finished, unable to talk properly, in its head a broken brain… and he can’t stop it… and he knows it’ll come back to destroy him eventually…

      (gothic enough for you?)

  39. Richard Simons

    tomwys:

    I heartily applaud the process of “pre-release” or pre-publication PRIOR to Peer Review!

    I disagree. By all means, show your potential papers to non-involved colleagues for their feed-back, but there is already more than enough to read without the addition of large quantities of poorly thought-out ramblings.

    • That’s not backpedalling, Louise, it is another “Look! Squirrels!”

      He’s pushing one of his new papers that he suggests contains yet another potential source of error in the temperature record (haven’t read the paper, but there supposedly is something with height). In other words, even if Watts et al fails, Pielke Sr and Watts can continue to cast doubt on the accuracy of the surface station network.

    • The major problem with RP, Sr.’s paper is the total lack of actual observational/empirical temperature/wind speed profile data.

      One would want to compare, at a given location, the time series as a function of at least two heights versus wind speed.

      But what I really liked about this “paper” was the following sentence;

      “Thus, double precision on a 32-bit processor was required.”

      There you go, they actually tried running their numerical model in 32-bit floating point arithemitic. A turbulence model in 32-bit code!

      This paper makse so many assumptions and is essentially a purely numerical model intercomparison, that I’m not so exactly sure where RP, Sr. could even remotely call it a “game changer” unless of course he would happen to be one of the coauthors.

      How is it that Rp, Sr. can be connected to both of those two papers he mentions, and then declare “game changer” status to begin with in the first place? I mean these things usually need to stand the test of time and be judged and widely accepted by others. Right?

      Talk about having a premature e…

  40. Horatio Algeranon

    “The Wreck of the Blog with Burn-barrels”

    — Horatio Algeranon’s parody of “The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald” (Gordon Lightfoot)

    The legend lives on from the listserv on down
    Of the big net they called ‘intertubey’
    The web, it is famed, never forgets the names
    When the apples of bloggers turn wormy
    With a load of denier lore twenty-six thousand Gigs more
    Than the Burn-barrel server had empty.
    The “Best Science Blog” was about to get flogged
    When the claims of “no warming” came early.

    The blog was the pride of the denialist side
    Coming back with some photos from stations
    As denialist blogs go, it was louder than most
    With its posters and weatherman unreasoned
    Concluding some terms with a couple of firms
    When they left fully loaded for Heartland
    And later that night when the Mac phone rang
    Could it be TOB they’d been missin’?

    The cache on the web made a tattle-tale sound
    As a comment-wave broke over the railing
    And every man knew, as the weatherman did too,
    T’was the wrath of the science they’re feelin.
    The stats came late and the vacation had to wait
    When the tales of Rich Muller came slashin’.
    When afternoon came it was freezin’ rain
    In the face of a hurricane BEST wind.

    When suppertime came, the Big Mac came on web sayin’.
    “Tony, I didn’t even read ya.”
    At seven P.M. the main argument caved in, he said
    “Tony, it’s been good t’know ya”
    The weatherman blogged in he had science comin’ in
    And the blog and its crew were in peril
    And later that night when his lights went outta sight
    Came the wreck of the Blog with Burn-barrels.

    Does anyone know where the love of blog goes
    When denial turns the public to sour?
    The searchers all say they’d have made the blog pay
    If they’d put climate science behind her.
    They might have split up or they might have capsized;
    May have broke deep and took water.
    And all that remains is the feces and the names
    Of the weatherman and posters and commenters.

    Global warming rolls, sea-ice melts
    In the rooms of Earth’s ice-water mansions.
    Fossil fuel steams like a young man’s dreams;
    With SUV’s and jetskies for sportsmen.
    And futher above, the earth’s troposphere
    Takes in what humanity can send her,
    And the denier blogs go as the public all know
    With the tales of the scientists remembered.

    On a dusty old blog on the internet they prayed,
    In the Global Warming deniers Cathedral.
    The Church bell chimed till it rang 1 million times
    For each post on the Blog with Burn-barrels
    The legend lives on from the listserv on down
    Of the big net they called ‘intertubey’
    The web, it is famed, never forgets the names
    When the apples of bloggers turn wormy

  41. Lawrence beatty

    How can you say the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are rapidly losing mass when sea level rise shows no discernible acceleration? You wanna know what I think? Not one ice cream van or Whelk stall has been forced to relocate in the last 100 odd years in any sea side town in Great Britain. You are clearly talking fantasy from the ‘oh I hate nasty capitalism’ recesses of your mind. But it’s really all about the science isn’t it, the science of wishful thinking

    [Response: It’s not about the science for you. It’s about fear of anti-capitalism. That’s why you (not me) raised that issue. As for the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, I suspect you know even less about them than you do about my views on capitalism.]

    • “How can you say the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are rapidly losing mass when sea level rise shows no discernible acceleration?”

      with “logic” like that you must read WUWT

  42. Lawrence beatty

    Whelk stalls and Ice cream vans dear boy, same route as ever.

    [Response: Wow. Such an impressive command of climate science.]

    • hinschelwood

      Would you please provide documentary evidence of the ice cream vans and whelk stalls that have been in their present position in the last 100 years? In other words, please show us some whelk stalls and ice cream vans that have not moved.

      By their nature, stalls move. They are not permanent structures. I suspect you know this, but you do not realise the implications of what you are writing.

    • this is a joke, right? no-one is *actually* that stupid, surely?

      we’re british: we don’t need it to be sunny to eat ice-cream. case in point, the ice-cream van has turned up at the block of offices where i work on a very regular basis this “summer”, despite the fact we’ve barely seen blue sky in months.

  43. Hardly surprising that US citizens are all having a global warming conversion, while the UK sceptics are coming out of the woodwork. People do confuse the local weather with global climate.

    And Lawrence Beatty – we have experienced roughly 200mm of sea level rise this century. Despite the acceleration, that’s not exactly enough to be measured without sophisticated instruments. But all the same, the ice mass loss is enough to change local gravity by a measurable amount. Don’t you find that noteworthy?

    • Didactylos, one question, after checking on Wikipedia about sea level rise: I guess you have meant probably 200 mm in last 100 years (this century can be misleading since it may mean since 2000) ?

  44. What I find amusing is that Watts clearly couldn’t find anyone in a hurry to back his work. From his own “backstory” he says: (pt 7) “Went on crash self taught stats diet…not my thing, but capable of learning.”

    McIntyre himself notes: “So I did some analysis very quickly, which Anthony incorporated in the paper and made me a coauthor though my contribution was very last minute and limited. I haven’t parsed the rest of the paper.”

    Clearly concerned about the rush, he launches major caveat:
    “Whenever I’m working on my own material, I avoid arbitrary deadlines and like to mull things over for a few days. Unfortunately that didn’t happen in this case.”

  45. Muller was on a couple of NPR shows today. It is very clear that he is playing a deliberate role – to shift the debate away from whether there is global warming to dramatically increasing use of natural gas and marketing both LNG and efficiency to China. This appears to be an elaborate scheme on behalf of the natural gas industry, currently (along with shale) where the new money is rolling in for petroleum barons.

  46. When the Hockey team is massaging the Temperature data, do they take the interaction of Glacial Isostatic Rebound and the appropriate local lapse rate into account? What about tectonic uplift/subsidence?

    I thought not.

    (Before y’all get your knickers in a twist – &;>)

    • Philippe Chantreau

      Err,
      Bwahahahah…

      • “…do they take the interaction of Glacial Isostatic Rebound and the appropriate local lapse rate into account? What about tectonic uplift/subsidence?”

        Wouldn’t that be a *cooling* bias? ;-)

      • According to Wikipedia the range of values is from -6 to 18 mm/year, which would result in temperature changes from ~ -0.006 to 0.019 degrees.

        If I were Anthony Watts, I might say “well of course the Hockey Team left out cooling – it’s all part of the conspiracy” – without realizing that doing so means the actual warming would be more, not less.

        If I were a scientist like Pat Michaels, I would point out(to Congress, perhaps) that this gives one a tremendous amount of “wiggle room”, and that therefore one could “wiggle” isostatic forcing to account for all the warming since 1850, thus disproving the CAGW theory “theory”.

        If I were a member of the “Hockey Team”, I might point out that the earth isn’t gaining or losing enough mass* to account for any changes in altitude, and that therefore positive rebound where Ice Sheets have disappeared must be balanced by negative motions in other areas. This has been observed – the rise in formerly glaciated areas in North America is accompanied by a fall in other places, notably along the eastern seaboard, contributing to the problems with sea level rise from global warming, but that’s a more complicated topic for discussion.

        The net effect on global average T from isostatic adjustments is zero, (*with some small errors due to the occasional asteroid strike.)

      • woops, should be “-0.006 to 0.018 degrees since 1850

  47. And now Anthony Watts does it again and promised that the revised manuscript is finished “in the next day or two”. It would be better if he first finished the analysis, you never know which problems turn up during this. When the analysis is solid, you have read and described all relevant literature and you only want to work on the clarity of the text a bit more, that it the moment you may announce to put a manuscript on the web in a few days. Even in that case, I would wait at least a week, to be able to reread and edit my own manuscript with a fresh mind. He does not seem to be able to learn from past experience.

    [Response: Analyze first, announce later? Take your time and be careful? Devote lots of thought to your results? How radical of you.

    Perhaps your process is different because your goal is different.]

  48. Possibly another application of the post’s title, but IIRC, I had said I’d update when my “Hockey Stick & The Climate Wars” piece became available once again. That would be now:

    http://doc-snow.hubpages.com/hub/Michael-Manns-The-Hockey-Stick-And-The-Climate-Wars-A-Summary-Review

    Apologies to any who may have clicked on the link when the paper was down!

    • I haven’t even clicked the link, and I’d already nominate the headline writer. “global warming in us?” Sheesh.

    • “Study” swallowed and spit up again whole. Well, as whole as it ever was.

    • Does anyone know where the “World Meteorological Organization-approved reanalysis” claim comes from?

      • I think the claim was a misinterpreation of the statement in the “report” that the method was approved by and it somehow got turned into that the report was approved by. Really sloppy reporting and editing. There are at least two people who need to have their knuckles wapped.

      • arch stanton

        From a garbled reading of Watt’s “press release”:

        “Watts et al 2012 has employed a new methodology for station siting, pioneered by Michel Leroy of METEOFrance in 2010, in the paper Leroy 2010, and endorsed by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Commission for Instruments and Methods of Observation (CIMO-XV, 2010) Fifteenth session, in September 2010 as a WMO-ISO standard, making it suitable for reevaluating previous studies on the issue of station siting.”

    • Rattus Norvegicus

      The blogger’s imagination, I would suppose…

  49. From http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/08/03/an-uncorrected-assumption-in-bests-station-quality-paper/#comment-1050944


    It might be interesting to take pre and post homogenized data and see how that displays and analyzes.

    Does anybody here know of anyone who might have thought of trying something like that??? ;) ;) ;)

  50. So I was wondering, sans Watts station ID list, sans Watts classification, is there ANY station in the USHCNv2 data sets (the unadjusted versus the adjusted (or homogenized)) that are identical?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Null_set

    Just, you know, askin’

    • Well, I thought I’d answer my own question.

      Don’t have the answer yet (but I do have the “as is” datasets in Excel though).

      But if you all look over here;

      ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/ushcn/v2/monthly/

      You all will notice that USHCNv2 has been updated this morning at 8:55AM (8/5/2012).

      Appropriate *.gz files are *raw.*.gz, *tobs.*.gz and *F52.*.gz

      I’m new to the USHCNv2 datasets, so I don’t know what were the next most recent versions of these files.

      YMMV