How to Hide the Decline (from yourself)

After exposing Christopher Monckton’s mendacity regarding global sea ice, a certain blogger called “Albertosaurus” decided to disagree. He’s entitled to his own opinion. But he’s not entitled to his own facts.

He begins by showing this graph (which is from the Cryosphere Today website of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign):

and saying:

This isn’t some data set I made up its from

Perhaps he’s trying to imply that I “made up” the data I used. You can download it from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and check for yourself. You can also download the data plotted by Cryosphere Today (which I’ll refer to as “UIUC” for “University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign”) right here.

Albertosaurus then states:

Yes the ice is a little below average but at at least one point in 1980 there was this much ice on the oceans plus within the last year we have been above the mean. Hardly a catastrophic trend the chicken little’s are calling for.

It would appear that he didn’t do any analysis of the data at all, he just looked at the graph and drew the conclusion he wanted to draw. With no analysis, and apparently without even acquiring the actual numerical data, it’s certainly not appropriate for him to comment on the trend.

Then he reproduces my graph:

and says:

I would say the graphs are not even close, maybe it’s another nature trick…

but if you go there its a series of folders does he use all of them some of them? Who knows they are not very exact. It sure looks like the graphs for the exact same information are not the same. Maybe its the smoothing algorithm used, but really do they look the same?

It’s not the exact same information. The graph from Crysophere Today is of daily data for global sea ice area anomaly, while my analysis was of monthly averages of global sea ice extent anomaly. As we’ll soon see, in spite of this the two different data sets tell the same story. As for the “smoothing algorithm,” no smoothing was done. Neither of those factors is related to the reason the graphs look so different.

They look so different because, in the graph from Cryosphere Today, the y-axis is squashed so that the total range of variation appears tiny. That’s because the good folks at UIUC wanted to plot both the raw data and the anomalies on the same graph. Here’s the anomaly data from UIUC, plotted on approximately the same scale as in the Cryosphere Today graph:

Compare that to the Crysophere Today graph; clearly they’re the same. Now here’s the exact same data, plotted with a zoomed-in y-axis:

They don’t look quite the same, do they? But they’re exactly the same data (feel free to download it and check for yourself). Incidentally, I’ve added a trend line as determined by least-squares regression. The estimated rate of decline for the area anomaly data from UIUC is 36 thousand km^2/yr — which is the same as the decline estimated using the extent anomaly data from NSIDC.

Apparently it never occurred to Albertosaurus that the scale of the y-axis could affect the appearance of the graph. Apparently it never crossed his mind to plot the data himself and check it out. Clearly he never performed any actual analysis of the data. He just assumed what he wanted to assume.

We can plot the two data sets (area anomaly from UIUC and extent anomaly from NSIDC) on the same graph. If we do so using the squashed y-axis as in the Cryosphere Today graph we get this:

They sure do look similar. In fact they’re so similar that it’s a little hard to tell that there are two data sets plotted! Click on the graph for a larger, clearer view and you should be able plainly to see, that the two data sets tell essentially the same story. Of course, we can see this in even more detail by plotting them on the same graph, using a better scale for the y-axis:

What’s the bottom line here? First, the data I used show essentially the same changes over time (and the same trend) as the data referred to by Albertosaurus. Second, Albertosaurus seems to lack the analytical or the graphing skills to know this. Third, in both data sets the decline in global sea ice is overwhelmingly statistically significant, showing how wrong Christopher Monckton’s claim is.

So here’s a challenge to Albertosaurus: prove to us what a good, fair-minded, honest guy you are by admitting that you were wrong. No apology is necessary, just a simple statement that you were completely wrong and I was right.

I don’t expect that to happen. After all, Albertosaurus closes with a thinly veiled threat:

Commenters who threaten anyone while here because they are not smart enough to come up with a better answer will have some due diligence done on them. Foul mouthed lefty posters beware.

I can only assume that foul-mouthed “righty” posters will be welcomed.


Albertosaurus decided that rather than admit his error, he’d embarrass himself.

He responded to one of the comments on his blog post with a lengthy tirade. It consists mostly of idiotic denialist memes, which is an embarrassment all by itself. But perhaps most embarrassing is what he doesn’t say. Namely: anything at all to justify his original idiotic post. In fact, his response is clearly an attempt to deflect attention from his error by changing the subject, as often and as quickly as he can — throwing as much garbage as he can muster at the wall, hoping something will stick. He sure has plenty of garbage.

He rambles (rather incoherently) about the wind chill factor in Winnipeg, the MWP, the Holocene climate optimum, sea level, Al Gore, hurricanes, the USA temperature record, UHI, trees growing in Antarctica, and polar bears. But he doesn’t seem to want to talk about the subject, which is global sea ice. The only refutation he can offer to my demolition of his idiocy is that my analysis is just a “an axis stretching nature trick.”


32 responses to “How to Hide the Decline (from yourself)

  1. As an alum I’m obligated to point out that it’s Champaign.

    [Response: My mistake, I’ve fixed it.]

  2. I think Albertosaurus just experienced his very own K-T event.

  3. Why bother with a know-nothing like this? He’s beneath your attention. (And doesn’t know that “chicken littles” is not a possessive.)

    [Response: Perhaps he will actually admit his mistake and learn something. Not likely but not impossible.]

  4. You just need to scale the graphs shown on Albertosaurus site with an image editing program to the same scale to see that:

  5. I found both Albertosaurus’s comment that “…at least one point in 1980 there was this much ice on the oceans plus within the last year we have been above the mean”, puzzling. The first is straightforwardly false (from the graph), and the later true of only a very few days, which barely cimb above the mean (again, from the graph). They make more sense when you realize that as displayed on his blog, the graph is truncated at the end of 2003. He appears to have made his analysis treating 2003 as the present.

  6. As someone from Alberta and a big fan of the Tyrrell Museum … I’m embarassed.

  7. Actually it is worth dealing with these distortions. Christopher Monckton used the same graphs as Albertosaurus in his presentation “Apocalypse No” in 2009, and claimed they showed no decline.
    He also came up with the myth about 3 identical warming periods (based on the HADCRUT record) 1860 -1880, 1910-1940 and 1975-1998 (when global warming ended!) When I checked, with a ruler, I discovered that his ‘trend’ lines were geometrically parallel – he’d just drawn them in. They bore no relationship to the real linear regression lines for those periods.

    Yes, I’m the same person you burned last time I posted. I’ll forgive you one day.

    • Rattus Norvegicus

      I just ran into this one in an LTE in my local paper. I ran the numbers using HADCRU and came up with ~.09C/decade for 1860-1880 (which is probably not long enough for a valid trend given the thinness of the data that far back). When I changed it to 1860-1889 (a 30 year period) I came up with ~.03C/decade. The numbers for 1910-1940 were a little closer, ~.15C/decade.

      Nice to know that this is the source of the myth.

  8. Thanks, makes perfect sense.

  9. Mitch has it right. Why waste time? If you are going to start correcting spectacularly ignorant bloggers, you will never be done.

  10. “Due diligence,” indeed! Albertosaurus is an embarrassment to my “home and native land,” with marginal literacy in the verbal realm and utter ignorance in the numerical realm–one of the better illustrations of D-K we’ve seen lately.

  11. Reminds me of when Tim Lambert pointed out the same thing in Jennifer Marohasy’s case.

    The difference is, she has a PhD in science…

    • As the holder of an earned doctorate (in music), my long-held opinion is that the only absolutely indispensable quality for a would-be “doc” is persistence. There are some doctorates awarded to fools, some to slackers, and some to others with any number of varied character defects.

      I’ve yet to see one awarded to a quitter, though, and doubt it’s possible.

  12. There is nothing healthier than saying “I was wrong” every once in a while. Come on, Albertosaurus, you can do it. You’ll be surprised how easily the scorn that is currently heaped upon you will turn into respect.

    I’m wrong every day about something. So what? Life’s not about being right (even though we are conditioned to think it is), it’s about living and learning.

  13. Horatio Algeranon

    It’s easy to pick out the deniers in the room cuz they’re the ones looking at graphs through a telescope (either forwards or backwards)

    …which also explains why they always see the trends reversed.

  14. Was this added after Tamino served this person up? “Welcome Tamino bloggers will get to your comments as I can, but I have a lot of global warming to shovel out back.” More like he has a lot of denialist propaganda to shovel out back in the cow pasture. He should leave the statistics and the science to those that can. I don’t mind leaving the shoveling to him, and believe that’s what he’ll be doing a lot of after being served. Don’t get me wrong, I think that it’s good to question and look at data. Also would be wise to ask someone that knows how to look at the data what is going on before posting an attack on a blog when it obvious you (Albertosaurus) have no clue.

  15. Q: So how do you know when the denialists have been meeting in a graveyard?

    A: The zombies have all starved to death.

  16. Yes Kevin. LOL. Looks like our number meant nothing. We got the old bait and switch. He can’t apologize for being completely wrong. I guess you have to blame it on those evil x and y axes when you have no idea how to read a graph or data (Yes talking to you Albertosaurus).

  17. Philippe Chantreau

    Sad thing is, this is farily typical of the nurmerical literacy level of many who’d buy into denialists’ memes. Quantitative facts can’t sway these people.

  18. Nice post, Tamino.

    They must be getting desperate if they can’t even get this elementary stuff right!

    Cheers – John

  19. Note the UPDATE at the end of the post.

    • Being a denialist means never having to say you’re sorry.

      However, speaking as someone who has been in love with the same woman for nearly 20 years, being in love means ALWAYS having to say you’re sorry.

  20. Blame Canada, blame Canada!

    Bad enough we have given the world Stephen McIntyre, McKitrick and Harper….and now we have this Dinosaur to add to the list. Sigh.

  21. I only dip into the so called debate from time to time so I appreciate having the bums exposed for what they are. The verification of the trend in sea ice using an egomaniac as a foil to prove the point is a valid exercise in disseminating correct information. I found it rather entertaining and insightful. Thanks!

  22. Why do people have such a hard time reading graphs? >_<
    Here are some more aspect-ratio follies: