Anthony Watts: Pants on Fire

In my last post I made two predictions. The second one was this:

Second: Either Anthony Watts won’t answer my question about why he’s so fond of less than 6 years’ data when we have over 30 (and that’s just from satellites) — or he’ll attack me personally, calling me a coward for blogging under a pseudonym. After all, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

The question was this:

We have over 30 years of satellite data for arctic sea ice. Why do you consistently display the only data source I know of that covers less than 6 years?

Anthony has replied. But just as I predicted, he didn’t answer my question. Instead he told a lie.

He pretended that he doesn’t consistently display the only data source that covers less than 6 years. He points to his Sea Ice Page, which shows numerous graphs from numerous sources of sea ice data. Then he asks:

Why do you think I “consistently display the only data source I know of that covers less than 6 years” when I in fact consistently display them all?

That’s a lie.

Anthony, you do have a sea ice page that shows a lot of graphs and has a lot of links. But what do you show in your posts? Let’s survey your last 5 posts on arctic sea ice:

  • This one (the most recent) shows DMI (less than 6 years) and JAXA (less than 8 years). You left out everything before 2002.
  • This one shows JAXA (less than 9 years) and DMI (less than 6 years), and throws in a plot from NSIDC showing less that 2 years data just for good measure. Nothing before 2002.
  • This one finally gets around to graphing the September average since 1979 — but only because it reproduces the sea ice news from NSIDC and they included it. When you get to your part of the post, all we’re offered is DMI (less than 6 years) and JAXA (less than 9 years).
  • This one is the bulk of your contribution to that one, where you show DMI (less than 6 years) only.
  • This one shows a graph from the NSIDC news release which gives less than 2 years data, you then add JAXA (less than 9 years) and NORSEX (less than 4 years).

    In your last 5 posts with graphs of arctic sea ice extent/area, only one of them shows anything prior to 2002 — and that’s only because you quoted an entire NSIDC news release and they included it. Then you have the gall to claim that you “consistently display them all.”

    You’ve been caught in a lie. Your sea ice page has a lot of links, but your posts consistently emphasize only recent data while you omit years prior to 2002. You consistently talk about how a single day has exceeded preceding years for the same date, but you only get away with it because you omit anything prior to the third millenium, and your readers are eager to lap up your misdirection. And you sure do love that DMI stuff — ’cause that’s less than 6 years. Anthony, you won’t even admit the truth when it’s bleeding obvious. And the truth is this: you love DMI because

  • First: they’re daily data so there’s more opportunity to focus on momentary statistical noise, in order to divert attention away from the trend in the physical signal.
  • Second: DMI data don’t start until 2005 — they cover less than 6 years.
  • Let’s be crystal clear: the subject is global warming. For that subject, the relevant fact about arctic sea ice is the trend — especially the trend in the summer minimum. But Anthony Watts consistently avoids the trend, puts the focus on a single day’s statistical noise, and yes, he omits data prior to 2002 — sometimes omits anything prior to 2005, because those data put the lie to his claims of “recovery” which is generally based on no other reason than fall is colder than summer, and winter is colder than fall.

    Consistently. And when he’s called out, he lies about it.

    Watts has been trying so hard to convince us that arctic sea ice isn’t in a death spiral. The fact that he has a sea ice page with links to longer data sets, doesn’t alter tha fact that his focus is obvious: emphasize short-term noise to distract attention away from the long-term trend. And the reason he’s so intent on distracting people from the trend, is that the trend looks like this:

    Perhaps the strongest proof of Watts’ real blindness comes from his own pen; he makes the astounding blunder of asking:

    Why would you not want to cheer (he objects to this post Go Ice Go!) the refreezing of Arctic Sea Ice?

    I’ll do my readers the courtesy which you refuse to do yours: I’ll actually answer the question.

    Sea ice refreezes every fall. It’s because of something called “seasons.” Only a fool would “cheer” fall being colder than winter; perhaps that explains why you chose to do so.

    Anthony, you didn’t answer the question at all. Just as we expected.

    92 responses to “Anthony Watts: Pants on Fire

    1. Nice post, Tamino.

      Minor nit: Isn’t fall colder than summer (as opposed to colder than winter)?

      Meanwhile, here in Australia, we’re having a bit of a mid-spring cold snap. It’s only a matter of time before lunatics start raving…

    2. Tamino needs to look up the definition of a lie. Watts clearly answered and even directed him where to look for the data he seeks. The info has been posted over and over and anyone with half a brain can see the data for themselves on his site.
      Tamino’s inability to browse a site correctly not withstanding his lack of factual data is amazing in and of itself.

      [Response: Your inability to see what Watts does consistently, and has made his modus operandi, doesn’t surprise us at all.]

      • anyone with half a brain

        Nailed it!

        Seeing the decline really isn’t difficult. It doesn’t require amazing skills of any kind. Just honesty.

        Now, if Watts had a reputation for truthfulness, I might be inclined to look deeper when he’s caught out in a lie. But this just merits a roll of the eyes and a “*sigh*, Watts is lying his face off again”.

    3. Oh, you’ve really gotten under microWatts’ skin this time, Tamino.
      Time to make some popcorn….

    4. You really approve comments that include name calling like “microWatts” for publication?

      [Response: Read comments on Anthony’s blog. Then drop the holier-than-thou garbage.]

    5. No, attitude sir. Just surprised. That’s why I asked what I thought was a respectful question. Apologies.

    6. Tamino, I agree and disagree. Yes, AW likes to show positive trends in his posts, but he does also point to his sea ice page quite consistently. And please, most of his readers, like your readers, do have half a brain and can think for themselves. This can be readily seen by the strong arguments between regulars on certain subjects. Just like here, not everyone at AW’s is a zombie.

      • DeNihilist says, “Just like here, not everyone at AW’s is a zombie.”

        Yes, there are also those who come there to laugh at him and Steve Goddard.

      • Just what would you assert to be the percentage of “zombies” at WUWT? And here?

    7. Ernst Mitchell

      Why does your original post displaying the 30 year data sets not include data on Antarctic ice? Aren’t you guilty of the same sin of omission? Clearly Antarctic ice is not taking a nose-dive, but is this just an inconvenient truth?

      • EM: Why does your original post displaying the 30 year data sets not include data on Antarctic ice? Aren’t you guilty of the same sin of omission? Clearly Antarctic ice is not taking a nose-dive, but is this just an inconvenient truth?

        BPL: The Arctic polar cap is a few meters of ice over open water. The Antarctic polar cap is two miles of ice over the continent of Antarctica. It was predicted by the very first paper on anthropogenic global warming (Arrhenius 1896) that the Arctic would warm faster than the Antarctic. You need to study some climatology.

    8. Dawg doth protest too much, “micro” gives Watts more credit than he deserves.

    9. I guess it all depends on your frame of reference. If you start 10,000 years back, you’ll find that most of the Holocene has had less arctic ice in summer than in present times.
      So much for trends

      [Response: Apparently you didn’t read the paper you link to, or you’d know it says no such thing. You probably just got that idea from Watts’ post on the subject, which makes the same mistake.]

    10. Here’s a quote from the paper Ockham linked above.

      The Holocene record from site HLY0501-05 illustrates
      the sensitivity of hydrographical conditions in the western
      Arctic Ocean. The data show a long-term warming that is
      opposite to what is reconstructed for the eastern Arctic and
      point to a bipolar behavior of the Arctic Ocean at the timescale
      of the Holocene. The millennial-scale variability in the
      eastern Chukchi Sea is characterized by quasi-cyclic periods
      of high SSS, high SST, and reduced sea-ice cover, which
      most probably reflects variations in the stratification of the
      upper water column. Such changes maybe related to tidal
      forcing and (or) large-scale mechanisms, such as AO/NAOlike
      oscillations. It is important to note that the amplitude of
      these millennial-scale changes in sea-surface conditions far
      exceed those observed at the end of the 20th century.”

      Hard to misinterpret that.

      • Hard to misinterpret that.

        Yet you and Watts managed to do so.

        This paper is discussing part of the Arctic Basic, and points out explicitly that their reconstruction showing this warming for the western Arctic is
        opposite to what is reconstructed for the eastern Arctic

        The opposite of warm is … ?

        The western Arctic is not the entire Arctic Basin in the same sense that the United States is not the world, regardless of how frequently denialists confuse basic geographical reality.

    11. And the truth is this: you [Watts] love DMI because
      # First: they’re daily data so there’s more opportunity to focus on momentary statistical noise, in order to divert attention away from the trend in the physical signal.

      Forgive me if I am wrong, but couldn’t “momentary statistical noise” show a downward trend as much as an upward trend?

      • Oh yes, Watts always posts about the downticks.

        It’s only thanks to Goddard that Watts didn’t get to take home the “cherry-picker of the year” award.

    12. Wow, just wow. Did we all skip the fact that the Arctic was virtually ice free about 60 years ago?


      [Response: No. It wasn’t. You just think so because of cherry-picked anecdotes … but don’t worry, I’ll be posting soon about sea ice before the satellite era.]

      • That’s quite amazing. I mean, working out ice concentration pre-satellite is really challenging. But ice extent is easier. A lot easier. And we even have detailed reconstructions going back surprisingly far.

        Did suyts mean 60 million years ago? Or 125 thousand years ago? Which, according to Leonid Polyak, is the most recent time the Arctic may have been ice-free.

    13. [Response: No. It wasn’t. You just think so because of cherry-picked anecdotes … but don’t worry, I’ll be posting soon about sea ice before the satellite era.]

      No, I think so because of clear memories and clear pictures. I’ll look forward to your post. Thanks.

      • You genius! You know what “anecdote” means. Oh – my mistake.

        But maybe you are genuinely confused. Do you know how far you can see in the Arctic? Not very far*. It’s all flat, you see, so the horizon is always close. No mountains and panoramic views in the Arctic. This means that if you have a photograph of open water that extends all the way to the horizon, it really doesn’t mean anything. It’s usually a lead in the ice that is just a few tens of kilometers long. That’s not remotely unusual. It says nothing about ice extent or concentration.

        I have seen this sort of misdirection on denier sites before. Get wise to it, fast.

        * Try a basic exercise in trig and work out how far the average person can see.

      • What anecdotes, whose memories, and which photos?

    14. See also Gareth Renowden’s post projecting decadal trends in September arctic sea ice extent and volume, with startling results.

    15. @Suyts,

      Wow, just wow. Did we all skip the fact that the Arctic was virtually ice free about 60 years ago?

      Are you aware that you are regurgitating a lie with the same credulity of a four year old child?

    16. “Wow, just wow. Did we all skip the fact that the Arctic was virtually ice free about 60 years ago?”

      Which is how the Allies could send convoys to Russia straight over the pole during WWII, staying out of range of German ships and planes based in Norway. Oh wait, that’s not what happened.

      Seriously, WTF? Just because Henry Larsen was tough enough and lucky enough to squeeze the St. Roch through enough leads to make it through the NWP in one season in 1944 does not mean the passage was what we would call “open”.

      I’m looking forward to Tamino’s post on sea ice before the satellite era. With enough ship-based reports, airplane observations, and even shore observations (e.g. what date each year the sea ice pulled back from various fixed points around the arctic) it would seem likely one could get a reasonable estimate of seasonal ice extent over the years.

    17. Tamino – {but don’t worry, I’ll be posting soon about sea ice before the satellite era.]}

      Excellent, love to gain more and different knowledge!

    18. Read and learn:

      Climate Change in Eurasian Arctic Shelf Seas
      Centennial Ice Cover Observations
      Frolov, I.E., Gudkovich, Z.M., Karklin, V.P., Kovalev, E.G., Smolyanitsky, V.M. (2009)

    19. Ernst Mitchell Oct 16 2:35am asks, “Why does your original post displaying the 30 year data sets not include data on Antarctic ice?”

      Similarly, in

      Todd (October 16, 2010 at 12:41 am) said, “it’d be nice if you would include some discussion about Antarctic Ice along with Arctic Ice.”

      And Tamino replied, “I will.”

      So, let me just predict what Tamino will NOT do. Tamino will NOT just take this data:

      which shows Antarctic sea ice extent from just 2003 to 2008 (plus average 1978-2003) . Tamino will NOT show this data just up to mid-September 2010 when Antarctic sea ice extent was LOWER than the 1978-2003 average and LOWER than any year shown other than 2008.

      Tamino will NOT point to this information and say “While not hugely significant by itself, it is interesting to note that the Antarctic sea ice extent reached its lowest extent for mid- September in 2010, exceeded only by 2008. The melt has been very fast.” *

      Anyone who made that sort of statement would identify themselves as a charlatan who was trying to mislead his readers.

      Tamino, I have no doubt, will provide an unbiased and valid assessment of all the available data that will inform rather than mislead, and identify trends in Antarctic sea ice extent rather than short-term noise..

      * If that sounds familiar see the opening paragraph of:

    20. Rctic virtually ice-free 60 years ago? I don’t think so:

    21. Well, AW has his views, and we all know about them. So when he chooses to focus on a certain dataset, it is because it supports his view. And this is something both sides of the debate is guilty of. I wouldn’t place much weight on it. As he says – he displays a number of datasets on his Icepage.
      It is also quite natural to focus on the shorter datasets when discussing current changes in trends. If the question is: are we seeing a turning point? Then this can best be answered by studying the last few years.

      [Response: Wrong. Focus on shorter data sets — only the last few years — is utterly foolish, it gives the *wrong* impression about trends. Which is Watts’ purpose.]

      • If the question is: are we seeing a turning point? Then this can best be answered by studying the last few years.

        I’d tend to agree however look at the plot of September extent since 1980 and imagine the conclusions of an individual in each year who’s looking for a turning point relative to the previous few years.

        You can see that over short periods from one year to the next you can basically make any conclusion you want. There are periods of sudden dips followed by years of “recovery” yet the overall trend is down.

        If you run through a 5 year window of always comparing a given year to the previous 4 then you’ll never see anything remarkable in terms of a downward trend. Even unusual events like 2007 are easily dismissed in the short term.

        Focusing on a short term trend is only acceptable if you’re prepared to make tentative conclusions and then present them relative to the long term trend so you can say something like “2008 and 2009 show more ice extent than 2007 however we need more data to ascertain if this will continue into a recovery relative to the 30 year decline”. However this is exactly the kind of language that gets regularly lambasted at WUWT.

    22. @sHx

      “Forgive me if I am wrong, but couldn’t “momentary statistical noise” show a downward trend as much as an upward trend?”

      The thing with “noise” is it doesn’t really show anything and thus it can be presented as showing many things depending on how you choose to analyse it.

      Take an example: June had the fastest Arctic ice melt on satellite record so let’s see how that was presented in “Sea Ice News”

      June 6: Focuses mostly on an attempt to to predict the September extent with the conclusions of

      “Conclusion : Based on current ice thickness, we should expect September extent/area to come in near the top of the JAXA rankings (near 2003 and 2006.) However, unusual weather conditions like those from the summer of 2007 could dramatically change this. There is no guarantee, because weather is very variable.”

      Also a mention of

      “There is no indication of melt in the ice off Barrow, with ongoing cold temperatures and the deepest snow of the winter.”

      June 14: All about visual comparisons of extent maps with the conclusions of

      “That sounds bad! Let’s see how 2010 compares with ten, twenty and thirty years ago : ”
      Ice looks healthier than 10 years ago
      Ice looks healthier than 20 years ago
      Ice looks healthier than 30 years ago

      Another mention of Barrow

      “Moving on, Barrow Sea Ice is starting to show first signs of thinning. By June 16, 2007 the ice had already broken up.”

      i.e. in comparison to 2007 it’s not so bad an overall conclusion of:

      “Conclusion : 2010 minimum extent is on track to come in just below 2006. With the cold temperatures the Arctic is experiencing, the likelihood of a big melt is diminishing.”

      June 23

      “During the last 10 days, PIPS shows that Arctic Basin ice volume has dropped close to 2007 and 2009 levels. Volume has increased by about 40% since 2008.”

      ” Average ice thickness is now the highest for the date during the last five years. This is due to the compression of the ice towards the interior of the Arctic Basin.”

      “Ice offshore of Barrow, Alaska is showing little signs of melt so far.”

      “There are still no signs of melt at the North Pole, with temperatures running right at the freezing point – and below normal. Normally there has been surface melting for several weeks already.”

      “I’m forecasting a summer minimum of 5.5 million km², based on JAXA. i.e. higher than 2009, lower than 2006.” (well we know how this turned out)

      June 28

      “We have been hearing a lot about how the decline in Arctic ice is following the “steepest slope ever.” The point is largely meaningless, but we can have some fun with it.”

      He then goes on to discuss the antarctic for a while and then

      “Over the last week, almost all of the ice loss in the Arctic has been in the Hudson Bay, as seen in the modified NSIDC image below in red. The Hudson Bay is normally almost ice free in September, so the recent losses are are almost meaningless with respect to the summer minimum.”

      Oh sure ice has been lost but where it’s usually lost anyway don’t worry about it

      July 4

      Mostly discusses 2007 and then

      “Since July 1, there has been almost no ice loss in the Arctic Basin, as seen in the modified NSIDC image below.”

      “SIDC still shows 2007 ahead of 2010, but the differences are mainly in the Hudson Bay and other areas that normally have little or no ice in September. In the Arctic interior 2010 has more ice (green.)”

      “Temperatures in Barrow have also been running below normal. It appears quite possible that the landfast ice breakup date at Point Barrow will beat the record for the latest ever (July 10.)”

      So you see the problem here, if you look at noise and then filter out the part you don’t want to hear you almost always have something left to listen to and even if you don’t then you can just discuss a different year or a different hemisphere instead.

      The point of “noise could just be down as well as up” only works if you’re analysing it in a consistent manner each time. What you can see above is that each week a different metric, a different location, a different focus is used each week and the conclusion of the analysis is always the same: The ice is doing great! Those folks over at the NSIDC don’t know what they’re talking about!

      You can also see the fervent build up in February and March as the 15% ice indicator approached normal and then the complete absence of any mention when all of that ice melted very quickly in June.

      • Maxwell’s demon of ice statistics.

      • What was even more hilarious was that a lot of what he said about Pt. Barrow was based on an instrument that had stopped updating after a polar bear took a swipe at it. Indeed AW was reporting on the great health of Pt. Barrow ice *after* it was all gone (it was foggy on the webcam until the next day).

    23. Find a 30 year graph that’s updated daily and submit it to Anthony to be added to the Sea Ice page. Or, setup a daily run of your 30 year cryosphere graph and ask Anthony to add that. For visualization purposes, it would be nice to have some representation of the year for the older data, maybe something mapping a color gradient to year?

      [Response: The sea ice page is not a problem. It’s Anthony’s continued, consistent emphasis in his posts on data sets that are WAY too brief to draw any conclusion about trend at all — be it “recovery” or “death spiral” — together with his insistence that we’re in full recovery.

      And he uses, and emphasizes, those data sets precisely because they enable him to mislead in such fashion.]

    24. OK I have to think that Suyts had tongue in cheek when saying arctic was ice free 60 years ago. Even after reading a post at climate progress about 50 percent of Americans flunk climate 101. That is the only way sites like WUWT can survive. But I sure don’t mind discussions about the holocene. A period of forced migration with mega droughts and sand dunes in the midwest.

    25. I don’t like it so much when Tamino just out-and-out calls Watts a liar, as in this post. It makes the bad blood between them abundantly clear.

      However, I can’t disagree on the substance too much. Reading WUWT on sea ice is a trip through the looking glass to a world bearing very little resemblance to reality. Yes, there are links to actual data (albeit the integrity of the people producing that data is constantly impugned.) But the content has been exactly as sharperoo describes: counterfactual conclusions and cheap shots based largely on outrageous cherry-picking.

      Which is what Tamino is talking about.

      • I have to say that I don’t think of Watts as a liar so much as a deluded ideologue who filters out any data inconsistent with his preconceptions. I will leave it to him to decide which he considers the lesser charge. However, I would point out that a liar may decide to become honest. One who refuses to consider evidence will always be a fool.

        As to the ill feeling between Tamino and microWatts, when someone bastardizes the field to which one has devoted ones life and from which one has teased many beautiful insights, when one drags the very name of statistics through the mud, it is hard not to take it personally.

        • Well put Ray.

          OTOH, even though Machiavelli had his own justification for duplicity; it was still a lie.

        • He can’t be both?

          I always use “liar” as a simple description: “one who lies”. Other people (particularly in the US) get all hung up on the insult aspect of the term.

        • Ray, I suspect “narcissit” is probably a better term. The wikipedia entry on “narcissistic personality disorder” seems to fit Anthony Watts to a T. I suspect he has the intellectual capacity to understand the science and know what he is posting is wrong, but that capacity is dominated by his preoccupation “…with issues of personal adequacy, power, and prestige…” (per Wiki). This isn’t the first time a pundit has distorted the facts to gain prestige and it certainly won’t be the last.

    26. suyts wrote: “Did we all skip the fact that the Arctic was virtually ice free about 60 years ago?”

      No, because there is no evidence that it was. Teh Arctic is a big place, remember.

      But you skipped the fact that Larsen and the St. Roch never sailed north of 75 degrees and was unable to pass through the McClure Strait north of Banks Island, much less through the northern Canadian Archipelago, into the open Arctic Ocean. The McClure has opened completely at least twice in the past few years.

    27. Borre: “If the question is: are we seeing a turning point? Then this can best be answered by studying the last few years.”

      Absolutely NOT! If you want to look for a turning point, you look at the first and second derivatives of a long-term data series. Look at the curve. It ain’t turnin’ up.

    28. > turning point … last few years
      Yep. That’s certainly reliable. For example, inflation has stopped, you can prove it by focusing on the last few years:

      Convincing, right?
      Pay no attention to that little trend behind the momentary peak.

    29. Brian Rookard

      Can we also post the Antarctic sea ice extent anomaly results as well please and see the trend lines for that over the same period.

      [Response: I’ll get to that soon.]

    30. Regarding the title of this post.

      “A lie (also called prevarication, falsehood) is a known untruth expressed as truth. A lie is a type of deception in the form of an untruthful statement, especially with the intention to deceive others” [Wikipedia]

      1. A false statement deliberately presented as being true ; a falsehood.
      2. Something meant to deceive or give a wrong impression.”
      [The Free dictionary]

      a : an assertion of something known or believed by the speaker to be untrue with intent to deceive b : an untrue or inaccurate statement that may or may not be believed true by the speaker

      Now please try and argue that Watts does not routinely and intentionally make statements, and/or show graphics, and/or cherry pick, and/or distort/misrepresent the science to deceive people. And all under the guise of a “science” blog. It is shameful that we have let Watts get away with his misinformation campaign and assault on science and scientists for so long. It is also shameful that our schooling systems do not provide people with a sufficiently robust scientific background, thereby allowing Watts et al. to take advantage of them.

      Thanks Tamino for exposing Watts and his lies.

    31. Ben Lawson does an excellent job of exposing the misinformation at WUWT…daily.

      Yes, WUWT seems to be a daily source of: scientific misinformation, propaganda, juvenile berating and chastising of scientists, spin and many more disingenuous acts.

      Yes, a stand up guy is our Anthony Watts. Not.

    32. Watts is a liar, plain and simple.

      • Watts is a liar, plain and simple.

        Indeed. That his lies proceed from delusion does not excuse him. He does harm with his lies, as do the deluded anti-vaxers at Age of Autism and the Intelligent Design frauds at the Discovery Institute. Like them, he is an enemy of science and reason, and deserves to be called exactly what he is.

    33. I’m tweaking Anthony over his “an important moment in science history” nonsense over Lewis’ resignation from the APS. I’ve had one comment not make it through moderation, we’ll see about another.

      Ol’ Tony can dish it out when his acolytes adore him, but he sure can’t take it. Why he has any cred in any science-related field is a total mystery.

    34. Let’s not disqualify the WUWTFBOH too hard or there Tamino risks to get another “person not to be named again on this blog”… a celebratory day me thinketh. But then, WordPress would have to remove the WUWT blog entirely :P

    35. Watts uses the same tactics used by papers like the Daily Mail in the UK, as outlined in a Bad Science article in The Guardian yesterday (16 Oct 10).

      You plan your big headline to draw the reader’s attention (in the Daily Mail’s case : “Strict diet two days a week ‘cuts risk of breast cancer by 40%’ “), add a few pictures and don’t worry too much about the text-body, because most people don’t read all of it anyway – in this particular case from Watts, he didn’t even bother with the text-body bit !

      How can the Mail/Watts get away with it ?

      In the Mail’s case, you show the reality right at the bottom, even if it’s completely in opposition to what you are trying to get across (“But Dr Julie Sharp, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘This study is not about breast cancer, it’s a study showing how different diet patterns affect weight loss and it’s misleading to draw any conclusions about breast cancer from this research.’ “) – keeps the lawyers happy.
      In Watts’s case, you state that you give all the relevant long-term information elsewhere, if people can be bothered to look.

      Article read – supporters convinced – excuses ready if necessary – job done.

      • J Murphy,

        Thanks for pointing that article out, it left me thinking along similar lines.

        As for how Watts can get away with it. He has a flock of gullible sheeple.

    36. Aaaaand it’s manipulate-that-poll time again
      Watts is calling on his followers to tilt a poll in favor of CA.

    37. Looked at that poll and comments. Ugh. In similar news, someone is trying to nominate McIntyre for the Order of Canada, our honours system. However it’s a multipart process (nomination, letters of support from qualified reviewers, and vetting by the advisory council), and the winnowing at the higher levels should end that hope.
      As always, past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour – I predict I’ll continue to see a lot of data here, with appropriate analyses, and look at events over longer times and in context. Just a thought, echoing something that’s been suggested before. It would be nice if you did an annual update on your post from 2007(?), updating the evidence for stasis vs warming since then, in combination with the longer-term trend. It will be interesting, in part because the comments from the denial believers will be worth recording.

    38. The thing about Watts is that he is so thin skinned. He behaves like a petulant sulky child. For someone who loves to dish it, he sure cant take it.

      • @dorlomin

        In terms of the wider politics it’s a perfect strategy especially if you’re dealing with scientists.

        Scientists love to debate (well argue) and if the debate really was about “What’s up with the arctic?” then many would love nothing more than to weigh in what they think is going on up there.

        The problem is that they have a strong aversion to the kind of debate that plays out in the blogosphere. This is based almost entirely on politics and rhetoric rather than competing theories each trying to better explain arctic phenomenon. Facts and data are replaced with accusations of fraud with a desire to better explain being replaced with a desire to better dismiss unpleasant conclusions.

        This leads to a severe problem since scientists want to communicate within the framework they’re used to(i.e. robust debate focused on the topic at hand supported by data) and quickly become frustrated and angered by the kind of response received (well you would say that wouldn’t you you commie loving alarmist).

        Since part of the “skeptic” platform is that scientists are closed-minded and “have something to hide” it then becomes trivial to present this attitude as being simply a reaction to contrary and equally valid views rather than a reaction to views which are invalid and unsupported by any evidence.

        You see this play out in the infamous exchange between Judith Curry and Gavin Schmidt in “The Montford Delusion” post on realclimate. Gavin wanted Judith to support what she was saying with specifics while Judith wanted to remain in the general (and indeed still does). Gavin’s pursuit of an actual point to what was being said was interpreted as “mean” by Judith and others while her attitude of “Well everyone is a bit wrong” seems high-minded and fair.

        So is Mr Watts actually thin-skinned or is he just a better player of the game? I don’t know enough to say but regardless it gives him an edge with those who are undecided.

      • On Anthony’ policy page the only concrete example of trolling is -use of “denialist,” “denier”-

        Using the definition of Denialism provided by Hoofnagle’s denialism blog it is easy to see why Mr Watts doesn’t want people to discuss or use this term. It also appears that his stated reason for disliking the term (it compares us to Holocaust deniers) is only a thin skin façade:

        >>> “Denialism is the employment of rhetorical tactics to give the appearance of argument or legitimate debate, when in actuality there is none. These false arguments are used when one has few or no facts to support one’s viewpoint against a scientific consensus or against overwhelming evidence to the contrary. They are effective in distracting from actual useful debate using emotionally appealing, but ultimately empty and illogical assertions.
        Examples of common topics in which denialists employ their tactics include: Creationism/Intelligent Design, Global Warming denialism, Holocaust denial, HIV/AIDS denialism, 9/11 conspiracies, Tobacco Carcinogenecity denialism (the first organized corporate campaign), anti-vaccination/mercury autism denialism and anti-animal testing/animal rights extremist denialism. Denialism spans the ideological spectrum, and is about tactics rather than politics or partisanship. Chris will be covering denialism of industry groups, such as astroturfing, and the use of a standard and almost sequential set of denialist arguments that he discusses in his Denialist Deck of Cards.
        5 general tactics are used by denialists to sow confusion. They are conspiracy, selectivity (cherry-picking), fake experts, impossible expectations (also known as moving goalposts), and general fallacies of logic.”

        H/T Radge Havers @ RC:

        • Gavin's Pussycat

          This whole rejection of what is proper psychiatric terminology is silly. And especially those that feel threatened by Holocaust denial have every reason to be shit scared of any kind of denialism. It kills.

    39. I don’t understand this whole business about Anthony Watt’s “Lying.”
      Watt’s has a theory that 2007 was dismal because strong winds blew the ice around in the arctic, and thinks there will be a recovery (as I’ve gathered). So why bother having anything else than a comparison to 2006/2007 when trying to support that theory?

      Insofar as 30 year and different ice pages, they are all on the Sea Ice Page he created. It’s pretty clear arctic sea ice cover (displayed most prominently) is below norm, whereas antarctic sea cover is above normal (displayed further down).

      So if isn’t as if he’s trying to hide the decline.

      [Response: You couldn’t be more mistaken. To “hide the decline” is exactly his purpose.

      He’s not just supporting the theory that the 2007 extreme was due to wind patterns. It’s not even his theory. Scientists studying the arctic (the ones warning us about global warming) told us at the time that shifts in wind patterns were the cause of the extreme fluctuation, and that the reason the large fluctuation was so noticeable is that it was on top of an extreme trend.

      Of course there’s been a “recovery” from the 2007 extreme fluctuation. Everybody expected it all along. But Anthony Watts is using the recovery from a random fluctuation to imply a recovery from the trend. And he can’t plead ignorance, he’s been shown and he’s been told.]

    40. Ed Barbar,
      OK, imagine that you are a statistician who has dedicated your life to using statistics to tease out insight into physical phenomena. And all your life, you’ve heard smart asses who could not take a simple average say “lies, damnable lies and statistics…”. Now when you run across someone who cherry picks statistics to try to support a preconceived notion (and one that flies in the face of scientific consensus), do you maybe think you might be a bit bothered? It takes tremendous care to use statistics to yield insight. MicroWatts is at the very least careless and clueless, and his actions in the past certainly support a hypothesis of mendacity.

    41. This is my first post, though I am a long-time reader and fan, being a physicist my statistical skills are limited so this blog is an education in many respects.

      (I just this tidbit may be quite amusing)

      For general information, I think Orkneygirl really has some vested interest in AGW denial (I’m sure she won’t welcome sea level rise if she lives on Sanday or North Ronaldsay, for example). Check out this post at the horrendous telegraph for the perfect demonstration of how she could misinterpret the above scientific paper; here, she has demonstrated total inability to read the article; its almost robotic in its ineptitude.

      I’ll eat my metaphorical hat if its not the same person.

    42. Err, that should have read “I just thought this tidbit may be quite amusing”.

      Hmm, humble pie, at least it tastes better than hat.

    43. We already know what the 30yr trend looks like. It doesnt need to be repeated on every god damn friking post.

      What Anthony is interested at, is how the ice cover is developing AT THE MOMENT and compared to the most recent years. And as a statistician you should know that even if we got a record high ice extent the TREND you are so much obsessed with would still show a decline (ofc that isnt the case but still, we have more ice than in 2007 for example even when having “the hottest year ever”). The important question is: if the ice is there or if it isnt. TREND is just a statistical artefact which never continues ad infinitum.

      [Response: Apparently you do need to be reminded about the god damn trend on every friking post, because you refuse to accept or even acknowledge the obvious conclusion. In fact, you actively seek any excuse to avoid it. You’re no skeptic, you’re in denial.]

      • “TREND is just a statistical artefact”


        • Be nice to those like J. Those who own casinos would go broke with them …

          Hearing the bells and whistles going off in a slot machine gallery, J says, “the trend is just a statistical artifact, what matters is that someone in here just hit a jackpot!”

        • Rattus Norvegicus


          I think you meant without them. I learned how to win at poker by looking at the stats. Over the long term, you don’t win by betting against the statistics.

        • Priceless”

          There are some things people can’t learn. For everything else, you can use StupidCard.

      • Oh dear. Just, oh dear. Paging Dr.s Dunning and Kruger! Stat

      • Timothy Chase

        Regarding the trend as only a “statistical artefact…”

        J, we know that ice thickness has been in serious decline — and when the ice is thinner it is easier for the extent to just melt away.

        I mean, once the average thickness for a given region goes to zero you just don’t have any more extent or area. And once it melts? It is going to take a while for it to built back up to the same thickness and quality as multi-year ice.

        First year ice tends to have a high salt content, a lot of brine. That has a lower freezing point — so the saltier stuff melts away more easily and whats left is weak. Thin ice is also weak.

        If the ice is weak a few good waves can break it up, exposing a great deal more surface area relative to the volume. That means increases the rate at which it will melt if the surrounding water is warm enough.

        If you have large areas of dark open ocean that will absorb a great deal more sunlight. That will tend to melt the surrounding ice. Heck, even with briny ice the stuff on top will melt more easily, reducing the albedo, making it that much easier for sunlight to melt the ice.

        Sea ice area? Doesn’t take into account the thickness or quality of the ice. Se ice extent? Same thing — only worse since in a given cell all you need is 15 or 30% of the area to consist of ice to be counted — depending up who you are talking to.

        The have a lot of physics behind them. You will see some natural variation. Do you have a strong Arctic Dipole this year? How long did it last?

        But the Arctic Dipole is itself a sign that things have really changed — as its original name “Arctic Rapid change Pattern” would suggest. The tripolar spatial pattern of Arctic atmospheric circulation in the 20th Century instrumental record only began to break down after the turn of the century.

        Then bring in the bit about each successive decade having been warmer than the previous decades since the 1970s. Somehow we quite easily managed to do this over the past ten years even though we just came out of a long solar minimum only in 2010.

        Meanwhile there is an energy imbalance. We have net downwelling radiation such that even if we quit emitting greenhouse gases above the natural rate we would continue to warm appreciably for several decades.

        I can see very little reason to think that this decade won’t be considerably warmer than last. And when things get warm ice melts. There’s physics behind the trends. The noise is noise — little more than a question of which way the wind blows.

        Sea ice area and extent are superficial — which quite literally means “of or pertaining to the surface.” The volume below the satellite-visible surface, the quality of that ice and the warming world in which it exists is whats driving the trend.

        • I’m still suffering lingering shock from this paper (which I heard about over on Neven’s blog), combined with some “BOTBOTE” calculations Gareth did:

          Basically, according to this paper, once the summer ice goes, the winter ice is doomed, too–a seasonally-free Arctic isn’t stable, according to their results.

          Hoping like hell this is wrong.

        • Re: Kevin McKinney | October 26, 2010 at 10:41 pm

          You and I were at Neven’s blog all summer melt season. We both watched it unfold. In light of that and Gareth’s calculations, do the pnas article conclusions really surprise you?

          If 2012 coincides an El Nino with an awakening sun perhaps more people will waken to what is really happening up there. And maybe the demise of the Northern Hemisphere’s air conditioning system unfolding before our eyes will be that wake-up call for lasting action to take place.

          I hope so, but humanity is so unfailing in its failings. Hope’s wings tire…

          The Yooper

        • Daniel, yes, the perenially ice-free bit did surprise me, and doubly so the dates implied by Gareth’s calculations. And perhaps “dismay” would be a better word than “surprise.”

          I think that the summer-ice-free Arctic would–will–be a great wake-up call.

          Unfortunately, the implication of the PNAS paper is that it may have a good deal less utility than I’d been hoping for, as if it’s right we’ll be committed to a perenially ice-free Arctic, which in turn means committed to really big warming and instability. And in fact, I suspect we already are committed to that–again, if the paper is right–since I don’t think that anything we can do at this point will save the summer ice.

          Hope’s wings do tire.

        • Kevin, thank you for the pointer to the PNAS article. I remember Hansen saying a while back that we might be able to keep most of Greenland’s glaciers if the Arctic is ice free only for one season out of the year, but two seasons and in the long run at least Greenland’s glaciers are basically a foregone conclusion.

          One thing I am curious about though with regard to Gareth’s calculations: he is taking into account the warming in the pipeline due to greenhouse gas emissions so far — and I assume basing his calculations on the assumption that the melting in the Arctic is principally due to the warming that has already taken place as the result of our past greenhouse gas emissions.

          Has he considered black and organic carbon? Doesn’t make much of a difference where we live I’ll grant you but it may be responsible for a significant amount of the warming/melting in the Arctic. Perhaps as much as carbon dioxide itself — so far.

          There have been papers on it, although there has been a fairly wide spread of opinion. If I remember correctly, the last NASA GISS model figures I saw seemed to suggest that carbon dioxide was only now beginning to play a dominant role in Arctic melting.

          Black and organic carbon aerosols are something that we could clean up rather quickly, at least in principle. And if we were to stop emitting such aerosols their effects would decline quite quickly.

          Then again, there is the warming that we have masked so far — with the reflective aerosols, particularly in Asia. That will have to be cleaned up at some point if only due to health problems in the countries responsible for the emissions. At that point we will get the 1/3 or so warming that they’ve been masking.

          And don’t get me started about a geo-engineering “let’s blot out the Sun”-type solution. As far as I am concerned that is merely putting off the inevitable . Furthermore it is sacrificing some countries for the sake of others since the effects of such intervention will be uneven. It will reduce agricultural production by reducing the amount of sunlight that makes it to our crops — in a world where drought already threatens our crops and ocean acidification is eating away at the foundation of our ocean-based food supply.

          Still, it doesn’t seem set in stone. At this point I’d say its more like quick-drying cement. But while we should be doing everything we can to draw down carbon aerosol emissions reaching the Arctic it looks more likely that we will be doing the opposite:

          JJ Corbett, et al. (2010) Arctic shipping emissions inventories and future scenario, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 10, 9689-9704, 2010

          But that at least is something that we could control — assuming there were the political will to do so.

        • Timothy, Gareth’s calculations were very simple–IIRC, just using ice loss as proxy for total heat transport to the Arctic, and assuming that that wouldn’t radically change as a seasonally ice-free state was reached. (Probably wrong, of course, but probably also too conservative as it ignores the albedo feedback.)

          Continued out, that gives an accumulated “heat surplus” sufficient to eliminate ice at maximum as soon as 2043! Understand, he’s not claiming too much for this calculation–clearly, it is much too simple to be relied upon for prediction. (He called it “Back Of The Back Of The Envelope,” which was just about the only amusing aspect of this.) And certainly, there’s way more to an ice-free Arctic than annual heat transport values.

          Yet it is provocative, and–also as Gareth says–the logic doesn’t seem obviously wrong, unless the over-simplification is seriously consequential: the heat transport should be fairly robust, just from thermodynamic considerations. And there’s been at least one GCM run that found a perenially ice-free Arctic–albeit that result occurred well into the 22nd century, IIRC. Of course, the models have been consistently failing to capture the actual rate of ice decline, too, so that’s not much comfort!

          I think I don’t quite believe the early dates for this, as my guesstimate is that you’d need to see warming rates of around 4C per decade for that, which I think we’d all agree would be pretty eye-popping. But the whole thing has definitely gotten under my skin, as you can probably tell.

          I’ve said repeatedly that “despair is not adaptive,” and I certainly won’t quit fighting this “mental fight.” But it’s got me thinking that things are worse than I was prepared to credit previously.

          Let me see if I can find the link to Gareth’s calculations, since I’ve spent this much time writing about them off the top of my head. Yes, here:

      • “TREND is just a statistical artefact”

        So is temperature, if you really want to go for the jugular.

    44. > which never continues ad infinitum.

      Priceless. Spherical planet, can’t do more than cover it with ice.

      Now, about the other direction?

    45. Ah, but AW used data that went back as long as 8 and 9 yrs – more than 6yrs – so everything Tamino says must be wrong so therefore the trend of Arctic sea ice decrease is over and the new ice age is about to begin. Better pump out more CO2 to compensate… oh, CO2, being innocent of anything but making plants grow won’t help. Sigh.

      People who actually know what they are talking about need to provide a check on the nonsense but it looks to be an endless and thankless job. Unpaid as well. Well this is a note of sincere thanks to Tamino and others who continue to do so and do it so well.

      Maybe the real problem is that the real problem remains unaddressed in any significant way while this kind of debate continues without conclusion. In part because this kind of debate, with one side immune to logic and unable to concede their own inadequate grasp of the arguments involved, continues without conclusion.

    46. @Ken Fabos: I think the way to deal with the deniers is not to get dragged in a discussion on climate science. You would be repeating the work that is already at and the list of 125+ denier arguments.

      What the deniers need to be reminded of is that their denial is artificial. It has been manufactured by Big Oil and other special interests.

      The whole debate by the deniers is manufactured. Read the books Doubt is their Product at
      Climate Cover-Up at
      Naomi Oreskes wrote “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscure the Truth about Climate Change”. The book is available from

      Just released is the documentary (Astro) Turf Wars,

      What is happening now with the deniers has happened before with the tobacco industry, with the companies that produced CFC, and all sort of other pollutants.

      I think this should be the message we should repeat.

    47. Philippe Chantreau

      Ken: “Maybe the real problem is that the real problem remains unaddressed in any significant way while this kind of debate continues without conclusion.”

      Very true, and an astute observation. The truth is, the tactics of the delayers/impeders of change are met with total success. Here we are, almost 30 years after the 1988 Hansen works, and absolutely nothing of consequence has been done, despite these works proving to have been largely correct, even with crude caculation means.

      Granted, being able to burn fossil fuels is a more important part of everyone’s life than lighting up a cigarette, so that gives an edge to the actors of this campaign. Yet, the tobacco guys could only dream of achieving such results.

      Part of it is due to the constant degradation of the general population’s science litteracy. WUWT was elected science blog of the year, and will shower you with discussions of carbonic snow in Antarctica, or methods to average percentages so that you can show whatever numbers you want. That, combined with the internet’s capacity to blow any little thing up in proportions unrelated to its actual importance and you have a non debate totally impervious to reason. The information overload nicely numbs the populace minds, as a cherry on top of the cake.

    48. I have been wondering if all the comments at Watts’ are for real.

      Watt’s has an M.O. of posts that are heavy on implications but usually stop short of blatent lies. He relies upon his minions to jump to the unspoken conclusions (repeatedly) in the first comments. Admitedly; I think he is very good at playing to his crowd, but I can’t help but wondering if some of the “one more nail on the coffin” or “Al Gore is fat” quality comments that usually make up the first 50 or so on any given thread might not include a few salts.

    49. Arch Stanton: “Watt’s has an M.O. of posts that are heavy on implications but usually stop short of blatent lies. ”

      In other words: He bullshits. And as Harry Frankfurt has told us, bullshitting is in some cases worse than lying. It falls into the category Pauli railed against as “so bad it’s not even wrong!”

    50. You say “Let’s be crystal clear: the subject is global warming. For that subject, the relevant fact about arctic sea ice is the trend”. Isn’t the antartic sea ice growth trend also relevant? Or is this region not part of the globe?

      [Response: This post is about Anthony Watts’ misrepresentation of the ARCTIC.

      As for the Antarctic, you’ll find some information here, and you should also note that the growth of Antarctic sea ice was predicted by Manabe et al. in the 1990s, to be one of the results of global warming.]

    51. Hi Bob,

      Mr Watts likes to prechew studies and articles for his readers so that they are bite-size. (He also likes to chew them into shapes that he likes.)

      In case you find it uncomfortable to take in such a big piece as the one Tamino has linked too, I will prechew a bite-size piece for you:

      “…Just as sea ice extent during the satellite era has increased in the south, it has decreased most rapidly in the north, with the northern decrease far outpacing the southern increase…”

      As shown here:

      There is lots more detailed explanation that I have skipped over in the link, but I wanted to make sure you got at least understood that we all consider the globe as a whole.