Circle Jerk

You’ve heard of mathturbation. It has now been taken to the extreme.

Who else but WUWT to make it a group effort? Ick.

52 responses to “Circle Jerk

  1. arch stanton

    From the comments:
    “I agree. This is real science. But I have no idea what it means.”

    Unfortunately only one of the reasons why the site is voted (and revoted) “best science blog” by its fans.

  2. From the WUWT article:

    “The argument has always been that the climate of the first 40-50 years of the 20th century was unaffected by human-produced GHGs. After 1960 or so, certainly after 1975, the GHG effect kicked in, and the thermal trend of the global air temperatures began to show a human influence. So the story goes.”


    “If we accept the IPCC/AGW paradigm and grant the climatological purity of the early 20th century, then the natural recovery rate from the LIA averages about 0.05 C/decade. To proceed, we have to assume that the natural rate of 0.05 C/decade was fated to remain unchanged for the entire 130 years, through to 2010.”

    WTF? To paraphrase:

    Observation: Global mean temperature has been rising steadily since 1880 and appears to be accelerating.

    Conclusion: Nothing to worry about.

  3. Also from the comments:

    “”And not a fudge factor in sight”

    Yep first thing I look at.. how many fudge factors..”

    I guess that not showing the phase terms and intercept terms helps keep those annoying fudge factors out of sight and out of mind.

  4. Joel Shore

    “Figure 1 shows what happened when I fit these data with a combined cosine function plus a linear trend. Both data sets were well-fit.

    The unfit residuals are shown below the main plots. A linear fit to the residuals tracked exactly along the zero line, to 1 part in ~10^5. This shows that both sets of anomaly data are very well represented by a cosine-like oscillation plus a rising linear trend. ”

    Wow…I linear fit to the residuals after fitting a line to the data gives zero slope. Who would have expected that?

    [Response: Yeah, that’s a real bonehead statement.]

  5. Ugh even aside from the mathturbation that was painful to read.

    “It seems certain that surface air temperatures are so contaminated with systematic error – at least (+/-)0.5 C — that the global air temperature anomaly trends have no climatological meaning.”

    “The argument has always been that the climate of the first 40-50 years of the 20th century was unaffected by human-produced GHGs….Isn’t that claim refuted if the late 20th century warmed at the same rate as the early 20th century?”

    “…the natural recovery rate from the LIA …”

    “To proceed, we have to assume that the natural rate of 0.05 C/decade was fated to remain unchanged for the entire 130 years, through to 2010.”

    “Spread the word: the Earth climate sensitivity is 0.090 C/W-m^-2….Our empirical sensitivity….”

    After all that stupidity: “…in my own scientific practice…”

    “the sensitivity of climate to GHG forcing has been decreasing”

    Reading WUWT makes me want to gouge my eyes out. In short, let’s make a bunch of ignorant statements, stupid assumptions, derive a grossly wrong climate sensitivity estimate based on those prior errors, call it “empirical”, and pretend we’ve disproven every single peer-reviewed climate sensitivity study. And the WUWT crowd eats it up with a spoon.

  6. Another shiny object dangled in front of the monkey cage.

  7. Thanks Dana for saying exactly what was on my mind. After reading the article on wuwt I almost decidee to quit my phd. If people are this gullible (this is the kindest word that came to mind) then what is the point? Who is john galt? I literally, almost got sick after reading the comment,

    “I agree. This is real science. But I have no idea what it means.”

    It makes my stomach turn to knots.

  8. Philippe Chantreau

    Science blog of the year. That tells something, doesn’t it?

  9. Dana: “And the WUWT crowd eats it up with a spoon.”

    Perfect summation of the WUWT phenomenon.

    The info-cocooning that we’re seeing regarding energy and climate issues has now reached breathtaking proportions. The deniers have spun themselves together so tightly that it’s virtually impossible for sensible discussion to reach them. They have created their own alternate universe, and frankly I wouldn’t care one bit if they wanted to lead lives of utter detachment from reality, as long as it didn’t affect everyone else. But the consequences of their motivated reasoning (to use a phrase we all learned recently from Chris Mooney) are almost too horrible to comprehend.

  10. Michael Hillinger

    Sorry, its been quite a few years since my stat classes. While I get the basic issue from looking at the WUWT post as well as the comments here, could someone post a paragraph or two about the specific flaws in the WUWT presentation.


    • @Michael

      Even before we get to the stats, (hopefully someone more capable can respond to this part).

      As Dana said, there is a long list of peer reviewed literature out there which provides estimates of climate sensitivity. See these two links:


      In the article on WUWT, the author makes no attempt to describe why all of the peer review literature is wrong, yet is conceited enough to believe that his derivation of climate sensitivity is the must probable. In science any idea requires momentum to be built up to support an idea before it is accepted by the scientific community at large. First one article, then a second supporting it, then a third and so on.

      The fact that the author thinks that his few hours of work is enough to undue all of this other research is absolutely ridiculous and makes me sooooo frustrated.

      A good scientist should always be the most critical of their own work.

    • Hi Michael,

      I’ll be happy if anyone wants to step in and pick apart the stats, but there is no need for that to find some serious flaws in that post.

      “The argument has always been that the climate of the first 40-50 years of the 20th century was unaffected by human-produced GHG”

      This is a key step in the argument, and it is utterly wrong. The argument has always been that climate change occurs as a result of net changes in the radiative forcing. Since temperature records began there have always been changes in the CO2 component, other anthropogenic GHG’s, solar component, aerosols etc.

      Later: “then the natural recovery rate from the LIA averages about 0.05 C/decade. To proceed, we have to assume that the natural rate of 0.05 C/decade was fated to remain unchanged for the entire 130 years, through to 2010”

      Except that there is no reason to assume that. The earth is going to settle into an equilibrium where the incoming and outgoing energy balance, not simply keep changing because that’s what it was doing before.

      Finally, the posters approach is fundamentally flawed. Simply finding a formula that matches known data tells you very little. You need to have some plausible physical process behind the formula.

      • This is a key step in the argument, and it is utterly wrong.

        Indeed, the folks at WUWT can’t read or are not able to lookup key claims. But ofcouse the claims are sweet to their ears so there’s no need to be overly skeptical, afterall things could fall apart rather quickly if you do…

        A significant fraction of the reconstructed Northern Hemisphere inter-decadal temperature variability over those centuries is very likely attributable to volcanic eruptions and changes in solar irradiance, and it is likely that anthropogenic forcing contributed to the early 20th-century warming evident in these records. {2.7, 2.8, 6.6, 9.3}

        Yep, that’s right. Things fall apart rather quickly if you do…

      • Sorry, the blockquotes don’t show the cite source (cite=””)

        Anyway, the first blockquote is from Blueshift and the second comes from the IPCC AR4 Summary for Policymakers, page 12.

    • There’s just so much wrong with it, it’s hard to even know where to begin. Every italicized quote in my comment above is utterly absurd.

      To begin with, you can’t just fit a cosine function to the data and say “oh that’s probably oceanic cycles”. I believe that’s tamino’s definition of “mathturbation” – doing random bizarre statistics that has no physical basis.

      The result is patently absurd. If climate sensitivity were so incredibly low, the planet would never transition between glacial and interglacial periods. That’s about a 5°C change, so if your sensitivity is 0.09°C/W/m2, you need a 56 W/m2 radiative forcing to cause that 5°C change. That’s absolutely gargantuan. The radiative forcing from all the CO2 we’ve pumped into the atmosphere over the past 150 years is only 1.7 W/m2. The actual radiative forcing between glacial and interglacial periods is only about 6.5 W/m2. So the WUWT article completely fails the ‘common sense test’ or the ‘sniff test’ or whatever you want to call it.

      I could probably spend all day talking about all the other errors in that ridiculous article, but you get the point. It’s just dumb.

    • arch stanton


      Don’t miss Tamino’s response to your question:

  11. Steve Metzler

    ROTFLMAO. Earlier today (me being at least 5 hrs ahead of you USA lot here in jolly ol’ Ireland) I was going to alert tamino to the WUWT ‘article’, and ‘mathturbation’ was going to be the subject of the e-mail.

    But in the end, I got caught up in some trials and tribulations in work, and tamino found the WUWT POS anyway. Best part of the whole thing: no analysis needed by tamino to refute this load of codswallop. It is self-refuting. Priceless.

    As an aside, the World Atheist Conference starts here in Dublin tomorrow. Now that’s what I call progress.

  12. Michael Hauber

    Michael, one of the most important error is the assumption that the 0.05 increase/decade from around 1900 was a purely natural increase, and that this natural increase would continue unchanged right up to 2010.

    In actual fact Co2 was increasing even in 1900, and key factors in the early century warming such as increasing solar activity and reduction in volcanic activity have not continued. Most of the rest of the math with cosines and other stuff is kind of nonsense which is liable to send a sensible statistician frothing at the mouth, is like magician showmanship. It doesn’t actually do anything, is not the source of the error, and serves more as a distraction so that the serious clanger of ‘0.05/decade was all natural and continues through the 20th century’.

    If all their fancy mathematical flourishing was discarded and the argument reduced to bare bones it essentially becomes:

    Temps have increased by 0.75 degrees in the last century. The trend from 18800 to 1940 was 0.05/decade, and was entirely natural. This entirely natural trend has of course continued up to 2010. Therefore natural warming from 1900 to 2010 has caused 0.65 degree of warming, and Co2 only 0.15 degree. Therefore Co2 has very little warming effect.

    And for irony, consider the two statements:

    ‘To proceed, we have to assume that the natural rate of 0.05 C/decade was fated to remain unchanged for the entire 130 years, through to 2010.’

    ‘The climate, in other words, is showing stability in the face of a perturbation. As the perturbation is increasing, the negative compensation by the climate is increasing as well.’

    If something natural causes the climate to warm that warming will continue on for the next century unchanged. But if Co2 causes warming nature will increase its negative feedback and slow that warming down….

    • Ray Ladbury

      Just curious. I refuse to patronize (or even name) Anthony “Micro”Watts’ site. I don’t want to give him the hits/royalties (frankly, I wouldn’t piss on him if he were on fire). Can one go to the Webcitation page without benefiting this charlatan?

      • As far as I know it in no way benefits him. And it makes his website look really bad, even if he were to disappear the original. If I remember correctly, he actually has done something along those lines before.

  13. Incredible… you often think “well that’s got to be it, they cannot dig themselves in any deeper”… and next thing they’ve gone and done exactly that by another order of magnitude!

    “I agree. This is real science. But I have no idea what it means.”

    One for the collection, methinks!

    Cheers – John

  14. richard telford

    Is it not curious that the “recovery from the little ice age”, so beloved as a faux explanation for recent global temperature changes, is expected to have a long equilibration time, whereas anthropogenic forcing are supposed achieve equilibration almost instantly?

  15. Horatio Algeranon

    The really nice thing about WUWT is that it never changes, so something written about it/them several years ago stays fresh and relevant

    And the circle is indeed the proper metaphor

    The Circle Game
    –by Horatio Algeranon

    Their argument goes ’round in circles,
    Like the moon around the earth,
    Passing through various phases,
    Waning and waxing, death and rebirth.

    When you nail them on one issue,
    They scurry out the door,
    Then sneak in through the window,
    And repeat it all once more.

    “The Sun’s the cause,
    No! Cosmic rays,
    Nay! Barbecuing
    On summer days.”

    “The glaciers are growing,
    Greenland is thickening.
    The thought of Kyoto
    Is really quite sickening.”

    “The warming stopped
    In ‘98.
    2006, I meant to say,
    …I mean 2008.”

    “The Hockey Stick’s broken,
    Al Gore is fat,
    and CO2 lags temp.
    What say you to that?”

    “Sensitivity is not,
    What it’s claimed to be,
    It’s just 1 degree,
    Instead of 3.”

    “The Knights went through
    This all before,
    Perspired like pigs.
    According to lore.”

    “Consensus is
    A lot of bunk.
    The models are,
    Just so much junk.”

    ‘Round and ’round,
    The argument goes,
    And where it will stop,
    Nobody knows.

  16. Tony O'Brien

    Thank you all for looking at that site, now I don’t have to.

  17. Rattus Norvegicus

    On a note related to “I agree. This is real science. But I have no idea what it means.” I now present this:

    In which a simple, elegant even, experiment is trashed because they don’t like the results. Anthony then goes on to trash Royal Society Biology Letters which has a respectable 3.51 impact factor as a “paper mill”. But hey, the stuff Frank (or for that matter Goddard) puts up there is considered to be “real science”. Yeah…

    • “they didn’t test decreasing CO2, so their experiment is worse than a high-school one”
      Yes, I’m not a biologist. Yes, this is my first time I read a Watts article.

      And they hope to convince me of the non-seriousness of CO2 augmentation with this kind of … things ? Even though I won’t be able to recognise a clownfish from a tuna, my head just exploded by reading such a drivel.

      Today I definitively lost my hope in humanity. Our specy will disappear, with a unique mechanism in the whole life history : we will die because of our sheer stupidity.

    • I think the paper was trashed because there was no control conducted as part of the experiment.

      The science I am taught says there needs to be a control.

      What science did you learn Rattus Norvegicus? Did you learn that failing to conduct a control was really science? Or, not?

      • Orkneygal has just proven that climate science isn’t science because we don’t have a second copy of the earth to use as a control …

        (yeah, right)

      • Rattus Norvegicus

        Of course, there was a control, those were the fish kept in current water conditions. What Watts was suggesting was that they perform a different experiment because he didn’t like the results of the one which was performed.

  18. arch stanton

    Dr Inferno could cut and paste it whole for De Poe.

  19. Thanks for the links Rattus. Or rather, not!

    Still, I found some sad amusment in one poster describing ocean acidification as ‘decaustification’. Clearly CO2 really is life!

      • arch stanton

        The irony of Watts publishing an article critical of someone who “does not include all the evidence” seems to be lost on the folks over there, as is Watts’ tired defense of – Hey I didn’t say it (but I will defend it), I just republished what someone else said (and then it was used to accuse someone else of lying).

        My folks are from Great Falls. Both my grandmothers could make a mean lefse.

        “Are you an Arab?”
        Don’t waste your time bro.

      • arch stanton

        I just went to the NYT article.

        Greenwire is a part of E&E…

      • Rattus Norvegicus

        That’s Environment & Energy Publishing, not our favorite (NOT!) journal. E&E publishing is a perfectly respectable news service.

        The article Watts quotes from is considerably more damning of fracking than the lede would have you believe.

      • arch stanton

        Thanks for the clarification.

        As usual Watts (and his proxies) cherry pick evidence.

  20. Rob Honeycutt

    Wouldn’t climate sensitivity so low produce, essentially, a perfectly stable climate throughout the paleoclimate record? And if that’s true how do these jokers get around that very basic concept?

    In one breath they claim that climate changes all the time and often radically so there is nothing unprecedented about today. Then in the next breath we have this, where there is no mechanism for climate to swing much at all because climate sensitivity is fantastically low.

    • And if that’s true how do these jokers get around that very basic concept?

      You just don’t get it … CAGWCO2 just doesn’t follow the physics of natural CO2 … :)

      • arch stanton

        Physics! We don’t need no damn physics!
        And to hell with statistics too!

        Let’s hear it for bedroom science!

    • Rob Honeycutt

      Are they making the mistake to think that climate sensitivity ONLY applies to CO2?

    • “How do these jokers get around that very basic concept?”

      Ooze, I suspect.

  21. As usual, you have it wrong, WUWT is not a Circle Jerk, it is a Circle of Jerks.

    • Rattus Norvegicus

      No, Eli, they could only get worked up into such a frenzy if it was a circle jerk. That doesn’t mean that jerks aren’t, well we won’t describe the rest…

    • Horatio Algeranon

      3.1415926… of one, Pi of the other.

  22. Horatio Algeranon

    Higher dimentions (deminetia ?) work too

    The Möbius Trip
    –by Horatio Algeranon

    While scientists build,
    From data distilled,
    An edifice worthy
    Of a craftsman’s guild,

    The “skeptics” skip
    Down the Möbius Strip
    And go nowhere,
    On an endless trip.

    The Bottle of Klein
    Suits the latter just fine
    To model nature
    And hold their whine

    Horatio even made a little illustration
    Appologies to anyone who was left off

    • Horatio Algeranon

      make that “dimensions” and “dimentia”

      Horatio is suffering from the latter (in case you hadn’t noticed)

  23. Steve Metzler

    You absolutely cannot beat this latest J Storrs Hall gem for being the poster boy of mathturbation:

    The Climate swoosh []

    Heading for the shops to get in a week’s supply of popcorn… now!

  24. Steve Metzler

    Sorry, think the angle brackets broke that link:

    The Climate Swoosh

  25. Igor Samoylenko

    There is a good quote by a German general Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord:

    “I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent — their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy — they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent — he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief.”

    Most lead posters at Watt’s blog are squarely in the last group. And as for most of the commenters – there is little diligence in evidence…

    [Response: Very insightful.]