(One of) the Problem(s) with Judith Curry

Judith Curry was recently a witness testifying at a hearing before the Environment and Public Works Committee of the U.S. Senate. Her written testimony is available here.


The main theme of her testimony is that the IPCC 5th Assessment Report (AR5) claims to have greater confidence that climate change is real, man-made, and dangerous than the preceding IPCC report (AR4), but that details in the AR5 contradict that conclusion. One of the evidences she gives concerns Arctic and Antarctic sea ice. The Rabett has covered the southern part, I’d like to take a look at the northern. Curry says:


“The increase in Antarctic sea ice is not understood and is not simulated correctly by climate models. Further, Arctic surface temperature anomalies in the 1930’s were as large as the recent temperature anomalies. Notwithstanding the simulations by climate models that reproduce the decline in Arctic sea ice, more convincing arguments regarding causes of sea ice variations requires understanding and ability to simulate sea ice variations in both hemispheres.

A key issue in understanding the recent decline in Arctic sea ice extent is to understand to what extent the decline is caused by anthropogenic warming versus natural climate variability.”

She clearly wishes to imply that recent Arctic sea ice decline may be far less due to temperature change, in particular anthropogenic temperature change, than many claim (including the IPCC AR5 which states “Anthropogenic forcings are very likely to have contributed to Arctic sea ice loss since 1979.“). After all, if Arctic temperatures in the 1930s were as hot as recent temperatures, then why didn’t Arctic sea ice decline in the 1930s like it did in the 1990s and 2000s?

Here’s what I believe happened: Judith Curry combed through the IPCC AR5 looking for stuff she could use to contradict the stronger statement of confidence in dangerous global warming which the report makes explicit. I further believe that she paid little or no attention to stuff which would support the stronger statement in AR5. The seeming inconsistency between Arctic temperature (just as hot in the 1930s as now) and Arctic sea ice (nowhere near as low in the 1930s as now) is one of those things she was looking for.

The AR5 does indeed support Curry’s claim about Arctic temperature in the 1930s, in fact it says (as Curry quotes):


“Arctic temperature anomalies in the 1930s were apparently as large as those in the 1990s and 2000s. There is still considerable discussion of the ultimate causes of the warm temperature anomalies that occurred in the Arctic in the 1920s and 1930s.”

If I were on the senate committee and had the chance to question Curry, my first question might be this: “Why do you believe that Arctic temperatures in the 1930s were as hot as recent Arctic temperatures?”

I can envision three answers she might give to this question. The first boils down to “Because the IPCC AR5 says so.” In that case, my next question would be, “If you’ll take their word for it about Arctic temperature, why do you not take their word for it about the overall summary conclusion?”

The second possible answer is “Because the scientific research, as referenced in the IPCC report, supports that conclusion.” In that case my next question would be “Have you studied the papers which the IPCC report cites to support that claim?” I would ask that because I have looked at those papers and it seems to me that they don’t support the claim. The nearest I can find to a statement even close to that is from Bengtsson et al. (2004, J. Clim., 17, 4045-4057), who state “It is interesting to note that the ongoing present warming has just reached the peak value of the 1940s …” The statement seems to be based on a revised data set also used by Johanessen et al. (2004, Tellus, 56A, 328–341). The only graph of that data given by those papers is of 5-year running means:

ArcticSAT

Note that the 5-year running means only go up to about 1997.5, i.e. the data itself seem not to include anything after 2000. That’s a poor basis for concluding that “Arctic temperature anomalies in the 1930s were apparently as large as those in the 1990s and 2000s.

Note also that the most recent 5-year average (which appears to cover
the time span 1995-2000) is the highest on the graph, nearly 0.5 deg.C higher than any early-20th-century value. The Berkeley data set (chosen in honor of Judith Curry, although it appears she had nothing at all to do with creating the data set other than being on “the team”) for the Arctic (latitude 60N to the pole) shows the same thing, and also shows the excellent agreement with the data used by Johanessen et al. and by Bengtsson et al.:

Berk1

Still, one might accept that Arctic temperature had not, by then, exceeded earlier values on multi-year time scales with statistical significance, so the IPCC statement might be true for the 1990s. Here, for instance, is the annual average Arctic temperature anomaly based on the Berkeley data, for data in the 20th century:

Berk1b

Given the large year-to-year fluctuation, it’s entirely plausible that 1990s temperatures were comparable to those of the 1930s or 1940s. But with no data for the 2000s …

What did the 2000s bring? Here are 5-year running means for the Arctic, based on the Berkeley data, including data for the 2000s:

Berk2

I think the IPCC goofed on this one — big-time — and if so, then Curry’s essential argument about Arctic sea ice is out the window.

The third possible answer boils down to “Because I have studied the available data for the Arctic, compared the two time spans, and drawn the same conclusion.” In that case, I would ask her exactly what data she’s referring to.

I’ve looked at a pretty large number of data sets. I defined the “Arctic” as the region from latitude 60N to the pole (as did Bengtsson et al.). Were temperature anomalies in the 1930s actually as large as those in the 1990s and 2000s?

Using the GISS LOTI (land+ocean temperature index), the answer is “No.” Using the GISS met-station data, the answer is “No.” Using the HadCRUT4 (land+ocean) data, the answer is “No.” Using the CRUTEM4 (land only) data, the answer is “No.” Using the NCDC land+ocean data, the answer is “No.” Using the NCDC land-only data, the answer is “No.” Using the Berekely data, the answer is “No.”

All those “No” answers aren’t close calls. Here for instance is the data (annual averages, latitude 60N to the pole) from the Berkeley team:

Berk

The smooth (modified lowess) and the 5-year running means (shown in the previous graph) suggest that Arctic temperatures in the 1930s were nowhere near as hot as they have been recently. The annual averages themselves suggest that Arctic temperatures in the 1930s were nowhere near as hot as they have been recently. In fact, in terms of temperature anomalies the 6 hottest years on record for the Arctic have all been since 2000. The 9 hottest years on record for the Arctic have all been since 1990. The hottest year for the Arctic in the first half of the century was 1943, but it only ranks 11th on the list and the average Arctic temperature anomaly since 2000 (spanning more than a decade) is hotter than the hottest single year (1943) of the early 20th century. Think about that: the average Arctic temperature anomaly over the entire period since 2000 is hotter than the hottest single year in the first half of the 20th century.

I’ve studied the data. Not only does it fail to support the claim about 1930s Arctic temperatures, it actually contradicts that claim. By a wide margin. It ain’t even close.

There’s something even more important to think about. Judith Curry combed through the IPCC AR5 looking for stuff that would cast doubt. One of the things she found, which she even included in her written testimony to a U.S. Senate committe, turns out not to cast doubt. If I were being hyperbolic I would say “To find evidence against AGW in the IPCC report, it looks like you have to quote stuff that they got wrong — ’cause the stuff they got right is evidence for AGW.” But that would indeed be hyperbole.

What’s not hyperbole is how it looks to me: that Judith Curry cannot have studied the available data to draw that conclusion because the available data contradict it, that Judith Curry cannot have studied the supporting references because they don’t support it, and that if she believes it “because the IPCC report says so” then it’s obvious she’ll take the IPCC report’s word for what she wants to believe but not for what she doesn’t want to believe.

It also seems to me that if you comb through an 1100-page report, you can surely find pieces of evidence which weaken the overall conclusion. The problem is, if you only consider those, without giving due weight to all the other stuff which supports the overall conclusion, then you’re not being honest, all you’re doing is classic cherry-picking. You’re probably not being honest with yourself.

One more thing — if you comb through an 1100-page report you can surely find places where they goofed. If the set of things which cast doubt on dangerous global warming, and the set of things about which they goofed, happen to overlap significantly, what does that say about the balance of evidence here?

Curry gives yet more evidences which she believes undermine the greater confidence stated in the IPCC AR5. A closer look at those, must await another day.

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60 responses to “(One of) the Problem(s) with Judith Curry

  1. You’re saying that she should defer to the authority of the IPCC, yet at the same time you’re saying the IPCC screwed up. That doesn’t seem logical.

    [Response: I didn't say she should, or would, defer to the authority of the IPCC. I simply suggested that as one possible answer to the question, and if she gave that answer I would ask why her deference is selective.

    I don't believe anybody should defer to the authority of the IPCC. I certainly don't. But if you want to make a scientific claim (like that about 1930s Arctic temperatures), especially in testimonty before a U.S. Senate committee, you've should provide some evidence.

    From her testimonty it's clear that the only evidence she gives is the IPCC report. If she chooses not to defer to its authority, then she was seriously remiss in providing no other evidence.

    I also take exception to what I believe Curry did: scouring the IPCC report for things to weaken the case while not even mentioning the things which strengthen the case.]

    • In classic logic or rhetoric, this is exactly how you gore someone on the horns of a dilemma (or trilemma in this case).

      “How do you know what you know?” is always good question.

    • “You’re saying that she should defer to the authority of the IPCC, yet at the same time you’re saying the IPCC screwed up.”

      It’s hard to come up with an interpretation that wrong. The actual argument was clear and easy to follow.

      “That doesn’t seem logical.”

      Even given your bogus interpretation, it isn’t illogical — even the most reliable authorities screw up sometimes.

  2. The rate of warming in the Arctic since 2000 is pretty stunning, and is something that deserves to be highlighted more. It also shows why Cowtan and Way had such a large effect when adding a (relatively) small area of additional coverage.

  3. I look forward to conspiracy theories about the IPCC planting this incorrect conclusion to make denialists look dumb when they cite it.

    [Response: I look forward to Watts' post about "Tamino proves IPCC wrong!"]

    • I bet they’ll run both stories!

    • dikranmarsupial

      no, it’s more subtle than that, the error was included so that the IPCC could pre-bunk skeptic claims that that there was a consistent alarmist bias in the direction of their errors. ;o)

  4. Steven Mosher

    “She clearly wishes to imply that recent Arctic sea ice decline may be far less due to temperature change,”

    huh. I see no claim of “far less” on her part. I see

    “A key issue in understanding the recent decline in Arctic sea ice extent is to understand to what extent the decline is caused by anthropogenic warming versus natural climate variability.”

    just a nit that mars an otherwise good post.

    • erm, isn’t the word ‘imply’ rather important there? Given the paragraph preceding the one you quote it seems to be exactly what she is doing.

    • The bit coming after Mosh’s quote goes the same way.

      A recent paper seeks to interpret the multi-decadal natural variability component of the Arctic sea ice in context of a ‘stadium wave’. This paper suggests that a transition to recovery of the natural variability component of the sea ice extent has begun in the Eurasian Arctic sector, and that the recovery will reach its maximum extent circa 2040.

      The language is a bit garbled, but she seems to be saying that natural variability (stadium waves) could be the chief cause of sea ice fluctuation (at least in the Eurasian Arcic sector), and that we’re headed for increased ice cover to 2040; consistent with Tamino’s comment.

      The recent paper she cites is one she co-authored with MG Wyatt. Google scholar reveals that of the handful of papers purporting stadium waves could be a major contributor to Arctic sea ice variation, Wyatt was lead author for each.

  5. A preliminary analysis reveals that an asteroid is likely to hit the earth on September 21st.
    I am asked to take the best available observations and models and determine whether or not it will hit the earth.
    At the end of my investigation I release a statement: “The asteroid will certainly NOT hit the earth on September 21st”.
    What I omit to say is that on the basis of my analysis the asteroid will certainly hit the earth on September 20th. My statement is absolutely truthfully and yet totally misleading. Am I a liar?

    • Potential lying aside for the moment, one thing that you would be is more incomplete with your explanation than first appears!

      Without specifically comparing your calculated impact time with Greenwich Mean Time that impact could be occurring anywhere between 19 September and 21 September local time, depending on the locations of the impact and of the people to whom the impact is being reported.

      A bit like the question did Armstrong first step on to the moon on 20 July or on 21 July*?

      Just saying… ;-)

      [My BotE arithmetic says that this happened over India, give or take a time zone, but I'd be delighted if someone could detail precesely where the moon was with respect to the Earth at this moment in history.]

    • Yes you are a liar because your statement as presented (which may or may not be “absolutely truthfully … misleading”) is actually not absolutely truthful. There is a 50% chance your answer is entirely wrong and a 100% chance it is wrong semantically.
      Do you want to change your scenario to avoid this complication? Or is this the answer you are expecting?

  6. I take exception to what Curry did as well- it’s not scientific behavior. It is however perfectly characteristic of the Kabuki ritual know as testimony before the US Congress.

    “Testimony” is typically coached and vetted by the staff of the sponsoring congressperson. They don’t want any surprises. And these people are typically lawyers- and lawyers “lawyer” things. When you’re making a case to a judge or a jury you have no obligation to present “The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”, you’re the lawyer, not a witness. So cherrypicking and quote mining are just tools of the trade. Professor Curry’s testimony is consistent with this mode of operation. They found what they wanted in AR5- they make their case. It’s the opposing sides job to bring forward what else is in AR5.

  7. On this note there is an interesting paper (Suo et al, 2013) which relates to this subject. They use the NansenSAT temperature database which I believe is one of the datasets used to make the justification. Whether the early period is comparable to the late 1990s is debatable but we certainly know it is not comparable to the late 2000s. This is evident from the instrumental data and physical data such as ice cores and ice cap recession etc… The paper linked to below actually provides strong evidence for climate models being able to reproduce the Arctic warming of the early century.

    External forcing of the early 20th century Arctic warming.
    Tellus Series A Dynamic Meteorology and Oceanography
    Suo et al, 2013
    http://www.tellusa.net/index.php/tellusa/article/view/20578

    Also our long-kriged dataset (Cowtan and Way; 1850-present) is in agreement with the other datasets with respect to the degree of Arctic warming.
    http://www-users.york.ac.uk/~kdc3/papers/coverage2013/series.html

  8. Interesting. I suppose it’s just a coincidence this follows your previous post on “Malpractice”. Maybe not….

    [Response: It's just a coincidence.]

  9. I think Sallie Baliunas ate and drank better on the Heritage Victory Tour. Maybe this debasement is an indicator of entropy in the Professional Denialist camp?

    Best,

    D

  10. I’ve been saying for a while now that Curry is dishonest. Did you think I was making it up, or just being malicious?

  11. Curry posted the quote below on her “pay attention to me!” blog recently. How pathetic that she has no idea that it applies to her and her followers.

    “The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions” Leonardo da Vinci.

  12. Dave123–As a lawyer I agree with your description of how lawyers “lawyer” the evidence. The point here is that Curry is not a lawyer; she’s a scientist. If the lawyers (and she herself) want her to have credibility, “lawyering up” like this is not the way to increase it.

  13. Horatio Algeranon

    “The Currycycle”
    — by Horatio Algeranon

    The Currycycle goes like this:
    “The Pause is real and really bliss.
    Arctic warming isn’t new,
    In “Old Days” there was warming too;
    Humans mayn’t be the cause
    ‘Stadium wave’ is cause for pause;
    Italian flag has been unfurled,
    Uncertainty monsters rule the world;
    BEST was best
    Before it’s crest;
    Tribalism is plain to see,
    Corruption taints the IPCC;”

    Repetition is the game
    Cycle even has a name.

    For variations on the theme, read “Lookin’ for Pause”

  14. I would like to hear your take on this claim by Curry:

    Global sea level has been rising for the past several thousand years. The key issue is whether the rate of sea level rise is accelerating owing to anthropogenic global warming. It is seen that the rate of rise during 1930-1950 was comparable to, if not larger than, the value in recent years. Hence the data does not seem to support the IPCC’s conclusion of a substantial contribution from anthropogenic forcings to the global mean sea level rise since the 1970s.

    [Response: Wait for it ...]

    • Just a hunch here, but one of the skeptics at Climate Etc. often references papers by Simon Holgate.

      Can’t guarantee it.

      On the post I did not see him referenced.

    • ‘Global sea level has been rising for the past several thousand years…’ is not a good representation of evidence on this matter. Far more accurate would be to say something like ‘Global sea level was rising rapidly several thousand years ago but geological and archaeological evidence from various regions of the world (as displayed in Kemp et al. 2011) indicates that mid-20th Century sea level was not far different from where it was two thousand years ago, probably within about 30cm.’ AR5 says something along similar lines.

      ‘It is seen that the rate of rise during 1930-1950 was comparable to, if not larger than, the value in recent years.’

      She’s referring to Figure 3.14 in AR5, which shows running 18-year trend rates for three tide-gauge-based global sea level reconstruction records and a comparison to the rate seen in satellite altimeter data. Sure enough, all three indicate a period around the mid-20th Century with SLR trends comparable to the most recent stretch. One record (Jevrejeva et al. 2008) indicates some 18-year periods with larger trends.

      There is a big question mark over whether this is a like-for-like comparison. We’re looking at satellite altimeter data with true (well, nearly) global coverage and comparing to reconstructions attempting to infer global averages from sparsely-sited (particularly prior to 1950) coastal tide-gauges. Long term trends are probably reasonable but it seems unlikely that real global variability is accurately captured in these records due to the sparsity of data. I think you could reasonably say that rates comparable to present can’t be ruled out given the data available, but this isn’t the same thing as having positive evidence that SLR was similarly fast in a like-for-like comparison with altimeter data.

      • Surely given that there was a strong warming trend between 1910 and 1940 we would expect to see a corresponding rise in sea levels around that time, so the fact that this was actually observed would seem to strengthen rather than weaken the case for modern SLR being due to AGW.

      • I think there’s pretty good evidence that SLR was significantly faster around that period than the average rate for the 19th and 20th Centuries, less so that the rate was comparable or higher than that seen in the past couple of decades (though that depends on the definition of ‘comparable’, it probably wasn’t too far away).

        The trend maps for altimeter data and SST data over the past 20 years generally correlate quite well so, as you say, the strong SST warming around that time would imply faster SLR rates. Indeed, it appears to be entirely plausible, even probable, that the thermal component of SLR was about the same or greater than in the past couple of decades.

        My point about inaccurate variability mainly applies to Jevrejeva 2008, the only record to suggest faster earlier rates of SLR. Looking at their methods it appears they essentially use simple statistical interpolation to construct a global picture from tide gauge data. The peak SLR rate occurs over 1944-1961, a feature not at all apparent in the other two records. If you look at an SST trend map for this period you can see there is very little warming in the open oceans but there is substantial warming in some coastal areas, where tide gauges are sited. Assuming the SST/SLR correlation holds during this period those tide gauges would have registered a rapidly rising sea level and the Jevrejeva method would have erroneously extrapolated that rise to the wider ocean basins, which explains the large trend.

        I think Curry’s argument is that this ocean warming and accelerated SLR wasn’t caused by AGW (she’s got it into her head that the AGW period was 1975-2000), therefore the current acceleration can’t be attributed to AGW.

      • Paul S – I did see a statement in a paper that admitted there was an indication the rate in that period may have been close to the modern rate.

        The PDO trend went negative around 1940. Maybe the “energy in” switched to being stored in the oceans!

  15. Judith Curry just answered to me on twitter: “@VariabilityBlog I will deal with this nonsense on friday on my blog. I QUOTED the IPCC AR5″

    https://twitter.com/curryja/statuses/425736317209559041

    • It is worth pointing out that the most recent versiohn of the AR5 says “Do not cite, quote, or distribute”. The AR5 is still being checked for errors, and has not yet been released. It wouldn’t surprise me if the sea level comment discussed here is corrected.

  16. It seems we have something to look forward to. Judith says on twitter today: “I will deal with this nonsense on friday on my blog. I QUOTED the IPCC AR5″

    • Let’s see if she answers your query: “Perhaps you can explain why your expertise on the Arctic caused you to default to their expertise instead of your own.”

  17. As Eli pointed out, Curry’s challenge had more than a bit of lawyerly verbage, and it was quite obvious that she was going to retreat to saying that she quoted something even tho what she quoted had problems or was a cherry pick. The Rabett will be by to pick up his winnings.

    However, the truth is beginning to pinch Prof. Curry

    • And as I noted over at the the Rabbet’s burrow, Curry has left the evidence of her science/data fiddling on the Congressional record. They say that the Interweb never forgets, but the Congressional archive is just as adept at anamnesis.

      I’d like to think that I’d have a little more self-respect than to leave the evidence of my ideology and/or scientific short-comings for posterity to so clearly see…

  18. Aunt Judy’s product is confusion. As she is confused most of the time herself, she has plenty to export to anyone else who doesn’t want to understand.

  19. Toby- First thanks for the confirmation from a lawyer. Second, Congressional Hearings in my view are still theater…and the audience being played to is more than likely the core constituency of the sponsoring party.

    In fact, it can be reduced to something as simple as “our professor vs your professor”…so it’s in doubt and if doubt is your objective, then nibbles at the edges of credibility won’t count for much in how you stage the script.

    Whether Professor Curry is allowing herself to be used, or is a committed partisan I’ll refrain from guessing, but we all I think have our opinions on the matter.

  20. Great post. I learned some things that I didn’t know, which is always. As a side note, it also confirmed my negative view of Curry. She deserves no respect as a scientist anymore.

  21. Curry says, “The increase in Antarctic sea ice is not understood…” even though she published a paper in 2010 resolving the paradox of increasing Antarctic sea ice while the globe is warming. Has she disowned her own published research? This paper is trumpeted by Georgia Tech here

    “Resolving the Paradox of the Antarctic Sea Ice”
    http://www.news.gatech.edu/2010/08/16/resolving-paradox-antarctic-sea-ice

    and here is the paper itself

    http://www.pnas.org/content/107/34/14987

    with a quote from the abstract: “The observed sea surface temperature in the Southern Ocean shows a substantial warming trend for the second half of the 20th century. Associated with the warming, there has been an enhanced atmospheric hydrological cycle in the Southern Ocean that results in an increase of the Antarctic sea ice for the past three decades through the reduced upward ocean heat transport and increased snowfall.”

    Now the paradox is not resolved?

    This paper has a coauthor, Jiping Liu. I wonder what Liu thinks of this evident rejection of his paper by his coauthor Curry.

    Curry seems to be talking out of both sides of her mouth. It seems that out of one side she says one thing to get published, but out of the other side she says things that please her fellow religious conservatives who believe that the existence of God is incompatible with AGW. (Yes, they believe this. Read

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

    to see who endorses this idea – Roy Spencer and Richard Lindzen are two. This explains a lot of denial. As far as I can tell, Curry has not publicly endorsed it, but, to try to explain this evident talking out of both sides of the mouth, one wonders whether she believes it anyway. BTW, this is the basis of Rush Limbaugh’s recent comment that belief in God and AGW are not compatible.)

    • Perhaps Curry will retract “Resolving the Paradox of the Antarctic Sea Ice”…

    • Horatio Algeranon

      It seems like the paradox “resolution” may still be “up in the air”, quite literally.

      There was a paper that came out in 2013 (after Curry’s) by Zhang that suggests most of the increase in sea ice is due to changes in antarctic winds.

      It would seem that there are multiple things that might explain the paradox and it is possible that any (or perhaps all) are contributing to the increase in antarctic sea ice.

      This problem appears to be exceedingly complex, certainly well above my understanding.

      But there are different factors at play in the increase in antarctic sea ice and decrease in arctic sea ice and there is no reason to believe that just because scientists don’t have a good understanding of one (antarctic sea ice increase), they don’t have a good understanding of the other (arctic sea ice decrease)

  22. Here are a few additional problems with Dr Curry’s testimony:

    (1) In her section on sea level, Dr Curry gives the impression that the AR5 analysis is invalidated by “a recent paper [that] estimated that the human impacts, particularly unsustainable ground water use, have contributed a sea – level rise of about 0.77 mm/yr between 1961 and 2003, which is twice as large as the estimate used in the AR5″.

    The paper is Pokhrel et al 2012, which Dr Curry erroneously refers to as 2013. Pokhrel et al 2012 was in fact considered by AR5, and the figure of 0.77mm/year was thought by the IPCC authors to be too high.

    So, reading Dr Curry’s testimony you have the strong impression that the AR5 sea level figures are out of date and invalidated by recent results, whereas in reality AR5 carefully considered the “recent paper”, and a subsequent comment on that paper, and a reply by the original authors, to arrive at their conclusions.

    (2) Fig 5 is a plot of the number of daily record lows, and Dr Curry uses that to draw conclusions about whether about whether extreme cold air outbreaks are becoming more frequent in the U.S. This plot is inappropriate for that use, for a number of reasons. E.g., records will naturally become harder to set as the length of the time since the stations come on-line increases – it would require careful statistical analysis to disentangle this effect; the figure plots 981 stations that have records of at least 80 years, but the plot goes back 118 years, so there is a 38 year period where a number of new stations (my guess is over 200) are coming on line – throughout this period the new stations will result in increases in the daily records (simply speaking, the first year that a new station appears, it will always be a record low). These problems make it impossible to simply eye-ball Fig 5 and come up with reasonable conclusions. Figure 4 has similar issues.

    (3) Dr Curry claims that “Based upon climate model projections, the probability of the hiatus extending beyond 20 years is vanishing small”. Now I’m not sure what “vanishing small” actually is, and Dr Curry doesn’t say, but presumably we are talking 0.1% or less. Is her claim true?

  23. K&A- While it’s nice to know that Lindzen signed something from the Cornwall Alliance, what he signed was the crocodile tears concern trolling about cheap energy and the poor, while what Spencer signed was a piece saying that AGW can’t happen with a bad outcome because G*D.

    Details like this matter.

  24. Off-topic, but upthread, BernardJ posed the question of where the Moon was relative to Earth when humans stepped onto it.

    Armstrong stepped off the lander on 21 July 1969 at 2:56:15 UTC, at which time the moon was over the Pacific. According to http://www.fourmilab.ch/cgi-bin/Earth (plug in the UTC data yourself) it was passing over Kiribati (the nearest speck of land being unihabited Malden Island). The actual landing (1969-07-20 20:17:40) took place while the Moon was passing over Northern Brazil (near the town of Itaituba).,

    The initial TV pictures from the Moon were simultaneously received by Goldstone in Calfornia, and Honeysuckle Creek (ACT) and Parkes (NSW) in Australia. The feed was switched between stations depending on who was getting the best signal, but as the Moon was setting in California, they settled on the superior images from Parkes pretty quickly.

    • Thanks Frank. I have a new go-to site for my astronomical bookmarks!

      I wonder if the landing was deliberately planned to have the moon in that orientation with the Earth? Note, this is mere idle musing – I don’t wish to clog the thread with a side-track.

  25. Speaking of cherrypicking, if you cherrypick the 1999 -> 2013 annual data (J-D) for both UAH and GISS you will find there is significant warming over the past 15 years. RSS does not show this. Hadley is not out yet, and I don’t know where the NOAA annual means are.

    In any case, it’s time to call out those who say there has been no warming over the past 15 years and when they say you are cherrypicking–which you in fact are–you can turn that right back around.

    I have never understood why ignoring most of the data is such an enterprise that actually seems to impress some people.

    • JGarland, you’re doing your cherrypicking wrong. You have to start with a huge El Nino year, preferably 1998. Then you can say there’s been no warming for 16 years, and 16 is more than 15. Neener, neener.
      Of course, another way of looking at this is that an average year is now as warm as an extremely hot year 16 years ago, but if the denialists did that, they wouldn’t be idiots.

  26. JGarland- I don’t think it’s a question of ignoring most of the data. Instead it’s an exercise in personal pattern recognition. They think they “see” something in the data, and I think humans are wired to do this. Better a false alarm about that funny patch in the forest light than missing the one with the tiger in it. It takes the discipline of statistics to say- wait- the interval isn’t significant…you have a high probability of mistaking noise for signal.

    The business of picking only one indicator of dozens however is another matter- and that I think comes down to education and politics.

    • Oh perceptually I think you’re correct enough–I have taught perception on occasion though not for many years now.

      Your analogy fails somewhat though in that what Curry is doing is focusing on a small patch of green and ignoring all the vertical white, black, and orange bars around it and telling herself that nothing is wrong*. By doing so she is going “eyes wide shut” into danger, not avoiding a false tiger.

      —-
      *We all can be guilty of this: I was singlehanding across Trinity Bay in Newfoundland last summer heading for a small straits (48 12’N, 52 52’W) that acts like a funnel and is dangerous in certain wind/swell conditions. About 2 hours out from the entrance some 12 nautical miles out in the middle I noticed a large swell forming from the N as well as the prevailing, SW. I tried to convince myself for the longest time there wasn’t a northern swell and being essentially in the open ocean at this point could “see” it that way if I worked at it. Of course, 2 hrs later, the two combined to make a rather expectable “confused” 5 to 7 meter swell showing me I was wrong. Made it through as it was not breaking but scared me half to death. This, of course, is how any number of people get into trouble sailing, hiking, flying, etc. This is how Curry is wrong.

      • I think the tales of landlubbers make for better analogies. How about (one of) my own delusional episode:- having taken a wrong turn in the New Forest, UK, I navigate along the banks of a stream conscious (for perhaps rather too long) that, what a stupid stream, it was flowing in the wrong direction.
        From many other ‘lost souls’ I hear similar tales roughly of the form “All was apparently well. I could see where I was going on the map. OK the big pointy mountain to my left* was not shown on the map, but maps don’t show every minor feature, do they? So on I went.” [*or equivalent obvious feature]

  27. Apart from her mind boggling commentary on polar sea ice, I read that Curry repeated the “no warming since 1998 mantra.” I generally take that statement as a sign that someone has not even eyeballed the data and/or lacks any familiarity with statistics. I wonder at what point faculty in her own department will start to protest.

  28. I think Curry was tasked with finding a few points in AR5 that might lead to, well, confusion about the report. And I think she was given a few extra denial points to weave in for good measure.

    Voila! You have another Senate hearing to tack on your CV.

  29. OK I’m not a climate scientist, so I recognise that I’m on shaky ground criticizing someone like Dr Curry, who has presumably studied and worked in climate science for decades. However I’ve tried my best to familiarise myself with the main messages of IPCC AR4 and AR5, and some of the evidence behind those messages.

    I get angry when I read Curry’s testimonies / submissions to congress. Here is a climate scientist who seems to be seriously twisting the evidence in order to downplay the risks of global warming with the result that the necessary action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions becomes even more unlikely. I’m not saying that Curry is twisting things deliberately, she appears to believe in what she’s doing.

    In a previous submission to a congressional hearing (http://curryja.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/curry-testimony-2013-il.pdf ), Curry implied that “Delay in order to gather more information and in the hope of reducing uncertainties” is a sensible policy option when it comes to climate change. In the latest testimony, Curry makes very clever and in my view very misleading statements, such as “The stagnation in greenhouse warming observed over the past 15+ years demonstrates that CO2 is not a control knob on climate variability on decadal time scales,” and “attempts to modify the climate through reducing CO2 emissions may turn out to be futile.”

    At the end she reassures the audience that “Regions that find solutions to current problems of climate variability and extreme weather events and address challenges associated with an increasing population are likely to be well prepared to cope with any additional stresses from climate change.” How can Dr Curry be so certain of this? Once again the uncertainty monster has fallen asleep at a convenient moment.

  30. This is off-topic, so delete if you wish.

    http://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2014/01/an-insiders-guide-to-white-anting-climate-science/

    Some interesting goings on in New Zealand.

  31. An incidental observation. 1943 was the warmest Arctic year in the first half of the 20th century, yet from Nov 1942 to Mar 1943, the allies lost 92 ships to Atlantic weather. A warm year, but it started with terrible weather. Ref: “Subchaser, E.P.Stafford, Naval Institute Press 1988.
    German submarines sank 307, so the weather caused 23% of sinkings.

    • I live in St. John’s Newfoundland which still remembers convoy duty well. And sail here in the summer. People in the US forget that when a huge mass of polar air punches south, something has to fill that void. On this side of the world it usually means a huge mass of equatorial air moves north and interacts with the cold mass along its edges. This means TERRIBLE weather. Right now, for example, we are experiencing gusts to 130 kph at Cape Race as the cold front from the snowstorm that hit the US east coast is going by and we are going from the warm side of the air masses to the colder side. Over the past several hours the temps have gone from 8C to -2C. Think that generates any wind and weather???!

      Check out http://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/surface/level/orthographic=-56.59,29.21,425 .

  32. In the UK, Channel 4’s fake ‘Swindle’ documentary publicised a letter by fossil fuel advocate W.Soon which used Arctic temperatures as evidence against AGW. This did not attract much attention at the time. Here are some provisional comments:
    1. G in AGW stands for global. Soon’s is regional evidence
    2. It appears to be about correlations , e.g between variables with different dimensions.No discussion about magnitudes.
    3, It neglects aerosol cooling and also forcings which are neither solar nor CO2.
    4. AND NOW, Tamino is suggesting that the temperature data is out of date.
    I should be grateful for comments. I prefer not to provide links to dodgy papers.

  33. correction: it should have been:
    4. …the data needs to be up-dated to include the most recent years.

  34. It could be that the IPCC was right, but Curry was wrong. There is namely an important sentence missing from Curry’s quote h/t Steve Bloom:

    “A question as recently as six years ago was whether the recent Arctic warming and sea ice loss was unique in the instrumental record and whether the observed trend would continue (Serreze et al., 2007).”

    In other words, the IPCC was describing the way science saw the situation 6 years ago. As the figures on this blog show, 6 years makes quite a difference.

    Tamino, I hope you do not mind if I borrow one of your figures (naturally with link) to illustrate the importance of the last 6 years.