In the Classroom

The Committee for the Advancment of Scientific Skepticism (CASS) has issued a report on a course supposed to be about climate change, taught by Tom Harris at Carleton University in Canada. Harris is associated with the International Climate Science Coalition, and is a confirmed speaker for the upcoming climate conference to be hosted by the so-called “Heartland Institute“.

CASS reviewed video of Harris’s lectures, and found a bounty of errors as well as a consistently false portrayal of climate science. Let’s take a look at an example in which Harris indulges in one of the many ways that fake skeptics make fake arguments about global warming.

On pp. 19-20 of the CASS report, they quote Harris (from his lecture 1, “Course Introduction”) thus:

[Land surface records go back to 1880 and global data from NASA show] “fairly substantial rises, we’re talking about perhaps almost a degree from the zero line up here. Now, if these measurements were real — and that’s a big if, we’ll talk about it later — you would expect this kind of warming to be visible, in let’s say, the United States…. it has by far the best temperature record of anywhere in the world…. You would expect to see that if there was global warming, that there should be some indication of warming in the United States. Well what you see is… there is a very slight overall warming in the United States, but in the 1920s and 30s we were just about as warm as we are today.”

Yes, Tom Harris is employing one of the tactics warned about here. Over a small region (and the conterminous USA is only 1.6% of the globe) the pattern may be different from that of the whole planet. Furthermore, the level of noise is sure to be larger — much larger in this case — allowing the fluctuations to dominate, obscuring the real trend. When you focus on the real issue, the globe, the long-term trend dominates and global warming is clear.

But what’s most interesting about the “USA doesn’t show the warming” argument is that it’s so wrong. Because, contrary to Harris’s claims, we do see warming in the United States, the overall warming is more than “slight,” and the 1920s and 30s were not “just about as warm as we are today.”

To find this out we have to do more than take Tom Harris’s word about U.S. temperature. Alas, most of the students in Harris’s class probably didn’t study the data themselves and probably don’t know much about statistical data analysis. Let’s follow another piece of advice given here, and study the data ourselves.

Here are annual average temperature anomalies for the USA (the lower 48 states) according to data from the National Climate Data Center (I’ve converted from Fahrenheit to Celsius):

Right off the bat, it’s obvious that the USA has gotten warmer. In fact it’s so obvious that even Tom Harris admitted it, although he called the warming “slight” while referring to the global change as “fairly substantial.” He also said that the 1920s and 30s were “just about as warm as we are today.” But that just ain’t so. There were some hot years back then, but the longer-term averages — hell, even the medium-term averages — don’t match what we’ve seen lately. This is clear if we smooth the data, so we get a better look at the signal and less at the noise:

Lest you object that I’ve applied some fancy smoothing method designed to get what I wanted, let’s apply the simplest “smoothing” method of all. Let’s compute 5-year averages rather than 1-year averages. We get this:

It’s amazing what you can see when you reduce the noise so the signal can emerge clearly. It’s also amazing what you can make people believe, if you don’t reduce the noise, deliberately choose a small region so there’s as much noise as possible, and avoid doing any analysis which might reveal what the real trend is.

Speaking of trends, since about 1975 the USA has shown rapid warming, at a rate of about 0.3 deg.C/decade.

That’s bigger than the global rate of about 0.17 deg.C/decade. But for some reason, Tom Harris told students that the global warming was “fairly substantial” while the USA warming was “slight.” Why do you think he did that?

Lest you object that he was talking about a data record over a century long rather than a 37-year trend, consider this: the total change in the smoothed global temperature record (from NASA) over the time span 1895 to the present, is about 0.89 deg.C. The total change in the smoothed USA temperature record over the same time span is about 1.15 deg.C.

Yet for some reason, Tom Harris referred to the global warming as “fairly substantial” but called the USA warming “slight.” Why do you think he did that?

We keep seeing the same old tactics used over and over again. It’s like a recipe — focus on an area that’s too small and/or a time span that’s too brief, show some graph and say it shows one thing when it actually shows another, avoid any analysis which might reveal what the true behavior is. It’s how fake skeptics convince themselves, and sometimes others, of fake ideas about the science. I’ve gotten used to it. But I find it deeply troubling that it has now invaded the classroom.

75 responses to “In the Classroom

  1. jasonpettitt

    I’m not sure where academic freedom stops and good old fashioned incompetence starts, but Harris seems to have very curious take on what an “earth sciences’ perspective” looks like.

    Harris isn’t just speaking at the HI conference. He’s one of HI’s ‘go-to house experts’ on global warming:

    Don’t know if he’s the actual guy that advised them that most people who believe in global warming are murderers and fanatics though.

  2. thankyou- that was an educational post for the likes of me, that is someone still struggling with the methodologies of statistical analysis.

  3. What we must realise is that when those lacking statistical skills read a graph like the first one above, what catches their eye is the peaks and troughs, rather than the average. Thus, when Harris refers to warming in the thirties as being, “…just about as warm as we are today…” he’s just looking at that peak around the mid 30s.

    Many years ago I used to do this too but then I started to graph my freelance earnings (turnover) which, because of how I billed my time (usually at the end of a project) created volatile plots just like that in the first graph. It quickly came home to me how meaningless the peaks were when I compared them with my (substantially lower) overall earnings for the year. In fact, I discovered for myself how to create rolling averages, which magically revealed my actual workload. It was only afterwards that I found out that that’s what the professionals did.

  4. Remind me of a magic tricks … “watch the hand, nothing to see here just, watch the hand”

  5. really educational article,

  6. Horatio Algeranon

    “Mean Spirited”
    — by Horatio Algeranon

    The basic tenet:
    (It certainly seems)
    “The end justifies
    Ignoring the means”

  7. John Mashey

    And do not forget another Heartland Expert at Carleton, Tim Patterson, who has spoken at 3 Heartland ICCC’s.

    • At least Carleton kicked Harris off this particular course.

    • In several interviews / comments, Harris has basically denied responsibility for the course content, putting the blame squarely on Tim Patterson who originally constructed the course. Harris was ‘filling in’ while Patterson was on sabbatical.

  8. Jay Dee Are

    Academic freedoom allows Harris to say any damn-fool thing he wants, but there is also the issue of integrity. He’s deliberately misrepresenting climate data and lying to his students, a clear violation of academic trust. His students should petition to get their money back for his course.

    • Was ‘academic freedoom’ an intentional mis-spelling? :)

      In any case, academic freedom doesn’t cover hiding the facts. Academic freedom is the freedom to follow any line of inquiry in the pursuit of knowledge, which is the opposite of what Harris is doing.

    • Is there theoretically any legal recourse to having their monies refunded? With compensation for actual and/or potential damage to professional opportunities, arising from having received from Harris a substandard education?

      I’m keen as mustard to see these guys and their pseudoscience tested in court…

      • It was a sort of survey course for non-majors, so I suspect that it would be tough to show substantial harm. And student evaluations were said to be pretty decent; it seems that Harris was a good presenter.

  9. How did Carleton U come up with this guy? How did he get lined up to teach climate science. Was he insinuated into the curriculum by a powerful denialista backer and/or administrator?

  10. t_p_hamilton

    What can be done? Spread the word far and wide to prospective students about the lack of standards in courses taught at Carleton. THAT will get a university president’s attention.

    • I believe that has pretty much been done. Harris’ course made the national news–and not in a good way. An official complaint was filed by other academics at Carleton, and Harris no longer does the course. (And in fact, old syllabi appear to have mysteriously vanished from the server–or at least the bits Google looks at.)

      I’m not sure where the complaint is in the adjudication process right now.

  11. Oh, come on Tamino. You know full well that the only reason we see warming is that the data has been tampered with. Now that it’s obvious – given CCC and other efforts – that it’s not the algorithm, it must have happened in the digitizing step, the “quality control” (I hope I use the scare quotes properly) or even the old handwritten records themselves. Maybe it’s fluctuations of spacetime at the quantum level, after all, looking it up in our gut (TM, Colbert) we know that it hasn’t warmed.

  12. John Mashey

    If I recall correctly, Harris is an adjunct.
    If some Canadian puts together a factual package of:
    a) The billboard.
    b) Patterson+Harris connections with Heartland
    c) References to the specific problems with the course

    Then, send that to the administration of Carleton so that they are informed.
    If Harrs is an adjunct they need not employ him, and indeed, maybe a few students might ask for their money back. One cannot blame an administration for everything, but if they employ him again…

  13. WUWT frequently presents regional and local temperature graphs as exceptions to global warming. Yet underneath the too-long trend lines, a little eyeball smoothing will reveal AGW’s late seventies upturn, and continued increase.
    Usually the graph also provides what might be considered an eyeball measure of significance, when it repeats other peaks and valleys from the global temperature curve.

  14. The critique on the course was conducted in an unethical fashion by people who are untrained in the field and so had many errors and naive assertion. Some were completely false factually.

    Listen here to the course originator dismiss their findings:

    Tom Harris

    [Response: What a curious response, since this post isn’t really about their critique.

    So I wonder — why do you say nothing at all about the fact that we do see warming in the U.S. temperature data, the overall warming is more than “slight” (in fact it’s more than in the global data, which you yourself referred to as “fairly substantial”), and the 1920s and 30s were not “just about as warm as we are today”? Is this your tacit admission that in this regard, you were wrong on all points?

    Were you simply unaware that the claims you made were false? Did you not analyze the data? Teaching is a sacred responsibility — I think one should bother to learn the truth of the matter before lecturing about it.]

    • Ian Forrester

      Tom Harris said:

      The information in the course was put together in an unethical fashion by people who are untrained in the field and so had many errors and naive assertion. Most of the information was completely false factually.

      There, I corrected it for you.

    • Alex the Seal

      I’m guessing he didn’t read the article. Why bother reading it when you already know everything.

    • There was nothing unethical about the report. You were quoted in full and rebuttals used the peer reviewed scientific literature as much as possible. That was fair and appropriate.

      Just as academic freedom affords you the privilege of expressing your opinion in the classroom, others have the freedom to publicly critique what was taught. No argument was made to restrict your, or Tim Patterson’s, academic freedom.

      The main findings of the report were that the course you taught was riddled with errors of fact, including the one that Tamino details here.

      If anything was unethical, it was your teaching nonsense to students.

    • The defence of the course Harris links to is no more than “chatty men meets nice interviewer.” So there remains 142 statements from the lectures still unsubstantiated.
      Given the assertion by the “chatty men” that 95% of the course is non-controversial, Harris is obviously able to pack a lot of stuff into his lectures. So it should take him little time to address all 142 accusations, starting with where he gets – climatologists “…”If you talk to them behind closed doors, and you say to them: ‘what’s the climate going to be like in 10 years?’ the typical answer is ‘ask me in 10 years.’“?.

      Myself, I’d like to add a few more to the 142, like ‘If you are not pedalling climate denial, what is the purpose of screening the denialist film The Great Global Warming Swindle at the end of the first lecture?’
      And ‘Are you heartened by the student comment on your lectures that “…certainly he’s not always lying, but its not a fullyhonest course.“?

  15. Why would Harris, a Canadian, be so concerned with US temperatures?

    Here is the latest Climate Bulletin for annual temperatures over Canada, the annual temperature has increased by 1.5 C in the last 64 years, or a mean rate of warming of about 0.23 C per decade. That rate of warming, like the USA, is higher than the global rate of warming of ~0.11 C (GISTEMP) for the same time frame (1948-present). In fact, it is about double the global rate ;)

    Harris loses again. I bet that we can expect the “skeptics” to call Harris on his misinformation any second now. McIntyre hello? Calling Mr. McIntyre to audit Tom’s work…earth to Mr. McIntyre. Oh, well, he is probably busy slandering some poor climate scientist or engaged in some other mendacious act against a climate scientist. Feeding fodder to the ‘skeptics’ and those in denial is a full-time job it seems.

  16. Tamino,

    Not to get off topic, but the claim by Harris that “The critique on the course was conducted in an unethical fashion” is not unly unsubstantiated, but false. The CASS team were open when they obtained the material. But even if Tom’s claim was correct, it does not nullify their informed arguments.

    Nor does it make Tom’s completely false claim about US temperatures go away ;)

    Harris is probably projecting when he accuses others of being unethical. I would argue that Harris and Patterson misleading students by cherry picking, providing them with misinformation and even making fallacious stements about the science is unethical. Sadly, that critical point is lost on Harris and Patterson. IMO, their behaviour is the very antithesis of ethical, professional and informed behaviour.

  17. I’m halway through the broadcast that Harris referred us to above and until now they have only argued the ‘denier’ strawman and ridiculed Dr. Suzuki. Still waiting for them to “dismiss” the findings made by CASS. Then again, maybe Tom is using another meaning of dismiss, as is dismiss them without actually addressing their critique and without making a scienetifically robust/valid counter argument.

    We’ll see what the second half yields…

  18. Patterson tried to defend his claim that “It could be starting now” or that we should “prepare for global cooling” by saying that we will be heading into another glacial cycle in a few thousand years. That is not a refutation at all and is a huge red herring and to make that claim is incredibly misleading in the context of what is happening now and the warming that will transpire in the next couple of centuries as we go on to double and perhaps even quadruple CO2 levels.

    Next Harris takes issue with them being challenged claiming that “The only constant about climate is change”. This is of course both a strawman and a red herring. No climate scientist denies that climate changes. They also know that those changes are in repsonse to one or more forcings.

    In the interview Harris mocks the authors for calling him on his red herring. What he does not tell listeners is why they called him on it, they say:

    “The fact that climate has changed dramatically in the past only goes to demonstrate the sensitivity that the climate system exhibits. This makes it more reasonable to assume that humans are capable of perturbing that system.

    That is a very valid and factually correct argument to counter the strawman and red herring.

    Harris also told the students that “The only constant about climate is change” which is mostly true, but that is not the whole story, because the forcings do change and we are now actively and significantly changing the forcings and have placed the climate system in a positive energy imbalance. Moreover, in the past the forcings have changed extremely slowly compared to the rate we are increasing the radiative forcings by emitting GHGs into the atmosphere. It is truly disingenuous for Harris and Patterson to not place the current changes in that context.
    Those were the only two critiques that they tried to dimsiss and both were epic fails….so much for Harris claiming above that we should listen to the “course originator dismiss their findings.”

    • “we will be heading into another glacial cycle in a few thousand years”

      Along with MapleLeaf I call “Cr*p!” This meme has been looked at before by climate scientists. Per Tzedakis et al 2012, “glacial inception would require CO2 concentrations below preindustrial levels of 280 ppmv” (for reference, we are at about 396 right now…and climbing).

      Earlier, Tyrrell et al 2007 examined this, concluding that we have already skipped the next glacial epoch. Furthermore, Tyrrell concludes that if we continue our present fossil fuel consumption, we will skip the next 5 glacial epochs. So no glacial epochs the next million years…(hmm, seems like I’m having to repeat myself a lot).

      Harris needs to up his game (his material was debunked years ago). This is like shooting ducks on the (now non-frozen) pond.

      • And even if it had a chance of being true, why on Earth should we care? Our problem is to get through the next century without ‘crashing the system.’

      • Pete Dunkelberg

        Harris needs to up his game (his material was debunked years ago).

        No, all the deniers need is a moderately long list of stuff to recycle. :(

  19. Brandon Shollenberger

    Tamino, I was wondering if you could explain what kind of smoothing you used for your figures. Your smoothed line extends as far as the data does, implying none is excluded, yet it goes up while at the end, your data goes down. The last four points are equal to or lower than the ten points before them, so I can’t figure out why the smoothed line shows a steady increase.

    Incidentally, it’s kind of funny you mention the possibility of someone objecting “that [you]’ve applied some fancy smoothing method designed to get what [you] wanted” as I’m sure some would get the impression you did just that as your smoothed line goes up while the data goes down. The same is true for your five year average graph which has a different visual impact because of the periods you used.

    Mind you,none of this has any real relevance to the point you make in your blog post. I’m just curious about how that smoothed line was made.

    [Response: It should be obvious how the 5-year averages were computed. It has a different visual impact not because of the periods I used, but because it reduces the noise much more than it affects the signal. That’s what we want for an honest appraisal of which changes are meaningful.

    As for “smoothed line goes up while the data goes down,” the lower data values are due to noise, not signal. Again, the smooth reduces the noise much more than it alters the signal, so it enables us to see which fluctuations have little or no statistical significance. If I had graphed the residuals (difference between the data and the smooth), it would be evident that those fluctuations show no sign of being anything but random.

    The smoothing method was a modified lowess smooth (I use a different weighting function than the usual tricube) applied to the monthly data (rather than annual averages). Therefore it includes the most recent 4 months, which is astoundingly warmer than any preceding third-of-a-year (4.1 standard deviations above the long-term mean). If you run the R version of “lowess” on the monthly data you’ll get much the same thing.

    I omitted the final annual average (for 2012) from the graph of annual averages because it’s based on only 4 months. If I had included it, or made the averages May-through-April rather than January-through-December, you’d get a different visual impression from the plot of 1-year averages.

    When the noise opposes the trend, it’s easy for fake skeptics to persuade people the trend is wrong. This graph should be required reading.]

  20. The CASS report on the class is an interesting read. Not sure where Mr. Harris sees the ethics violations he alluded to in his hit-and-run above, other than the fact that his fee-fees get hurt when he’s called a denialist. And to link to a right-wing-blowhard talk radio segment as the rebuttal is just so…..perfect.

    • Gunner, yes, it was funny listening to them lament about how the “debate`has become politicized on a right-wing talk show, not to mention that it is fake skeptics like Harris who are politicizing the `debate`. Apparently the irony was totally lost on them ;)

  21. Brandon Shollenberger

    Tamino, thanks for your response. I have to ask though, why did you say, “It has a different visual impact not because of the periods I used, but because it reduces the noise much more than it affects the signal.” Different decisions produce different images. That’s to be expected. I was just pointing out the obvious fact that using different periods would produce a different visual impact. Despite disagreeing, what you said had nothing to do with that. Or are you saying shifting the period used ahead one year would have made the end of the line flatter?

    [Response: The 5-year averages have a different visual impact *from the one-year averages* (which is what I thought you were referring to) because of noise reduction.]

    In the same way, when you say “the lower data values are due to noise, not signal,” you don’t actually respond to anything I said. All I asked is what caused a seemingly unintuitive result. I saw values go down while the smoothed line representing them went up and asked what caused that. There was no reason to say those points were noise, even if they are. Your comments about noise had nothing to do with what I said.

    [Response: My response was *exactly* about your question, and it is *essential* to mention noise, that’s the crucial issue (and by the way, the final data points aren’t noise, it’s their deviations from the trend that are).

    The smooth contradicts intuition simply because it’s right and the “intuitive result” is wrong. And that’s because intuition often interprets *noise* as being significant. Intuition is often a great way to find a meaningful pattern, but it’s also the best way ever to mistake noise for signal. That’s why fake skeptics so often disdain proper analysis — they rely on people drawing the wrong conclusion based on intuitive interpretation of graphs. And that’s why fake skeptics so often choose short time spans and small areas — because the noise level is a lot bigger so they have much more chance of fooling people who only rely on their intuitive interpretation.]

    Anyway, while the first two paragraphs of your response to me seem to have no relation to what I actually said, the third paragraph of your response was exactly what I was looking for. Thanks for it!

    P.S. It was obvious how you calculated the 5-year averages. That’s why I didn’t ask you how you did it.

  22. Brandon Shollenberger

    Tamino, I thought I had been clearer than I was on what I meant about the visual impact. Having reread my comment, I definitely understand why you didn’t get what I meant. Sorry about that.

    That said, I’m at a loss as to how you think your discussion of noise was *exactly* about my question. I asked you to explain what kind of smoothing you used, which you answered when you said it “was a modified lowess smooth.” The only reason you’d need to discuss noise is to justify what you did, and I never asked you to do that. I wasn’t worried about why you did what you did. I just wanted to know what you did.

    Also, I have to disagree with you saying the “intuitive result” was wrong. The reason I was thrown off is I didn’t know different amounts of data were being used in the two lines. Had I known you were including more (and higher) data in one, the curve wouldn’t have seemed unintuitive.

    The only way intuition was wrong was it said two lines representing the same data would represent the same data. I don’t think that warrants an entire paragraph, especially one including a random diversion into criticisms of a group which has nothing to do with anything that had been said.

    [Response: You didn’t simply ask what smoothing method I used. You went to some length to emphasize how counterintuitive that was, and how it seemed to contradict your interpretation of the data. So I answered that, as well as what smoothing method I used.

    Computing the smooth without the first four months of 2012 would not have sensibly changed its result. It contradicts the intuitive result because the intuitive result is wrong, not because data from 2012 contradict it. The fact that you fail to understand this, confirms how important it is to emphasize that noisy data can fool people into drawing the wrong conclusion.

    And in case you hadn’t noticed, the use of noisy data without analysis so that the noise will fool people into drawing the wrong conclusion based on intuition, is one of the central themes of this post. Forgive me for staying on topic.]

  23. Brandon Shollenberger

    Tamino, I find your last response to me nearly impossible to believe. You say the “extra” data, which is significantly higher than the preceding data, is not to blame for the smoothed results steadily going up despite lower values. You apparently expect me to believe that “extra” data is just a coincidence. Instead of it explaining the discrepancy I saw, you are claiming the smoothing method you use is to blame.

    Personally, I don’t believe that, but if it is true, how do you justify using that smoothing method? You’re saying four years of low values in no way pulls down the smoothed line. I remember you suggested people might accuse you of using “some fancy smoothing method designed to get what [you] wanted.” As it turns out, that’s exactly what you’re requiring I believe you did.

    [Response: My compliments on your choice of phrases like “to blame for the smoothed results steadily going up despite lower values.” Very effective propaganda technique! Those of us who aren’t afflicted with Dunning-Kruger know that it only reveals your ignorance. The only thing “to blame” is your staunch refusal to face reality: that “the discrepancy [you] saw” is just misinterpreting noise as signal. Yet in spite of repeated explanations you refuse to believe it, the only argument you can offer is your personal incredulity, and you cast aspersions on the results of a mathematical technique which is, frankly, an unimpeachable industry standard. You are what we sometimes call a “denier.” I don’t mean Holocaust.

    Perhaps you’re simply exploiting the same tactic Harris employed — expecting the ignorant to believe intuition over analysis.

    Stating “You’re saying four years of low values in no way pulls down the smoothed line” is the kind of dishonesty I expect from fake skeptics. Of course it pulls down the smoothed line — which otherwise would have been even higher.

    Fortunately, I anticipated that a fake skeptic like you might come along to muddy the waters, which is why I also showed the 5-year averages. Notice how closely they follow the smoothed curve? Even to the final value? Maybe you just lack sufficient intellectual honesty to admit what that means.

    Your final sortie, implying that I really had “applied some fancy smoothing method designed to get what I wanted,” is nothing but a thinly veiled accusation of falsification. Perhaps that kind of despicable tactic is a habit with you]

    • Brandon conducted much the same campaign of disinformation at Skeptical Science (an example of one of his comments needing moderation is here).

      A subsequent comment of his needed to be moderated out in its entirety due to the tone-trolling and complaints about having to adhere to the SkS Comments Policy.

      Is it me or does Brandon sound a lot like Chip Knappenburger?

    • To add to Daniel Bailey’s evidence, we have this.

    • OK, so I tried it for myself, in a spreadsheet, ‘cos I’m still an R noob.
      First I pasted the NCDC table (just the national rows, starting 101), generated averages across the rows, and then 5 year averages in every 5th row. I dropped 2012 because the data is incomplete. Same result as Tamino bar an offset *except the last point*, which is significantly cooler. Puzzling. Tamino doesn’t make mistakes like that.

      Ah-ha! Lets include the first 4 months of 2012. For that we have to do a proper anomaly calc. That’s easy, because the data is in columns – average down the columns, and make a new table with the differences. Now I get exactly the same result as Tamino.

      I can see why Brandon was confused though, because the 2012 data doesn’t appear in the yearly plots (it’s way off the top of the graph).

  24. Folks, don’t waste too much time with Shollenberger — he’s the author of this particularly lame “review” of Dr. Michael Mann’s book
    “The Hockey Stick…” over at

    Every minute you spend with him is a minute of your lives that you’ll never get back.

  25. If Shollenberger weren’t so lazy and incompetent, he would have gone on over to and grabbed the monthly-mean USA temperature data.

    Then he would have gone on over to, downloaded the free R statistical software and documentation, and then computed his own damned smoothed temperature estimates.

    That’s what a *competent* skeptic would have done if he/she thought that tamino had implemented the freely-available, industry-boilerplate lowess smoothing algorithm incorrectly.

    All of the data, software, and documentation needed to perform an independent verification of tamino’s results are just a few mouse-clicks away. But taking advantage of all those free resources requires a measure of competence and motivation far beyond anything that deniers like Shollenberger possess.

  26. Brandon Shollenberger

    Tamino, you’re welcome to believe whatever nasty, mean things you want to believe about me. I find your behavior pathetic, and I find what you’ve said about me offensive, but I don’t care to argue the point. I will simply say you are horribly wrong about me. Believe that or not, it’s your choice. However, I think you should know I’m currently writing up a comment for over on the Blackboard (where I initially asked about what I saw here), and it begins thus:

    Well folks, confession time. I was wrong, and Tamino was right. The inclusion of the extra four months really does make no meaningful difference. As it turns out, what I observed is due entirely to the smoothing function he used.

    [Response: In spite of considerable effort to explain things to you politely and clearly, you get ever more obstinate. Then you so much as call me a liar. When I call you out on that (and other things like 1st-degree concern trolling) you say my behavior is nasty, mean, and pathetic.

    You are such a nice guy.]

    • What’s the betting that the rest of Mr Shollenberger’s comment is not quite so ‘mea culpa’ as those opening sentences?

    • If it helps, here is my spreadsheet, which reproduces Tamino’s 5-year averages exactly. Column AC is the relevant one.
      (Scroll down for the ‘Download this file’ button.)

    • Brandon, you might have come to that conclusion a lot earlier, if you had not ‘opened your mouth’ before actually checking.

      If you were uncertain what inclusion/exclusion would do, you could have said “doesn’t that affect the result? I would be grateful if you could do the analysis with/without!”, but that was not what you did. You came in and made a false claim, maintained that claim for several posts, before you admit you were wrong.

      Hmmm…is Brandon Shollenberger in reality Rogert Pielke Sr (or vice versa)?

  27. Pierre-Normand

    The following analogy might be of some help to Shollenberger.

    Consider the way some tide gauges record hourly sea level signal while removing much of the noise from waves. The gauge consist in a water container punctured with two small holes that allow water level inside to slowly equilibrate with the average water level around (averaged over several minutes, say). So, when the tide rises, the average height of the waves becomes higher than the average height of the water within the reservoir and more water flows in than flows out. This mechanically produces a smoothed average.

    Now, the main point to notice is that during the high phase of any individual wave, water flows slowly onto the gauge as long as the wave is higher than the water level within the gauge — even when the wave is past its apex and currently receding. This is the effect that was puzzling you. It is, as Tamino explained, one somewhat counter-intuitive result from removing noise (the receding waves, say) from the signal (the rising tide).

  28. Brandon did try and derail the thread. But aren’t the sinister exploits of Harris and Patterson more interesting? Maybe the admin. at Carleton should be directed to this thread and this one at SkepticalScience.

    Harris posted the exact same post he made here in a drive-by at SkepticalScience, including the same false claim about his critics being unethical.

    • Amazing, isn’t it, that someone can call out critics for being ‘unethical’ when they themselves have demonstrably been teaching falsehoods?

  29. I was just going to make the same comment as MapleLeaf – Harris posted almost the exact same drive-by comment on my SkS post as he did here. The unethical and unqualified lecturer accusses CASS of being unethical and unqualified. Just a tad bit of irony there.

  30. Here is my letter to the editor that was published yesterday concerning attacks on the Earth Sciences course by another insect biologist:


    [Response: No, I will not allow you to use my blog to spread further misinformation.

    If you had actually said ANYTHING about the topic of this post, I would allow it. But no … my guess is, you’re too scared to do that because you already know you are wrong on all points, and that I would expose your falsehoods for what they are. Again.]

    • My guess is that Harris hasn’t responded to the topic of the post because he hasn’t actually bothered to read it.

    • Even without being edited off the thread, Harris’s response (to David Suzuki) that he hoped to link to says nothing of substance.
      Well almost nothing. Harris complains of being branded a ‘denier’ simply for breaking with the “political correctness on climate change.” Yet Harris’s boss Patterson, in the chatty interview linked further up the thread says the branding is because they hold “non-mainstream views” on climate change and again objects to the branding ‘denier’.

      This is all rather strange on two counts.

      Firstly the course these two have been teaching promulgates a belief to an audience of non-science students (who thus academically take such pronouncements on trust) that there is no consensus in climatology, no such ‘mainstream.’ “There is no scientific consensus about climate change causes.” they say. If this were true, how can anyone hold “non-mainstream views”?

      Secondly, both of them object to the label “denier”, equating it to an accusation of ‘holocaust denial.’ If this is such a dreadful term, why the dickens do they use it themselves in their lectures? They even kick off their first lecture by saying “…the vast majority of scientists, as you’ll see as we go through the course, are somewhere in the middle – somewhere between climate change deniers and climate change alarmists.” And where are the two of them? “We’re really in the middle,” they say, so they are actually at ease to call others deniers! It’s only when it’s aimed at them that they go all iffy about the term.

    • TrueSceptic

      Tom Harris,

      “Another insect biologist”? What are you trying to say?

      You do realise that your attempts to promote pseudoscience have not gone unnoticed? Are you prepared to discuss the topic of the US temperature record and your “interpretation” of it?

  31. Well, there you go – refuse the right of reply to the person being attacked. The letter addressed several of the points being brought up on this blog.

    [Response: Your comment said nothing at all about the topic of this post. Which is: the falsehood of your claims about the USA temperature record. It’s not about the CASS report or some criticism from someone else that prompted you to write a letter to the editor somewhere.

    As I said, if you want to comment here about that I’ll allow it. Be sure to stay on topic, which is: the falsehood of your claims about the USA temperature record. I think you’re dodging the issue.]

    • TrueSceptic

      Tom Harris,

      Why did you come here if you were not prepared to discuss the topic? Do you understand what the topic even is?

  32. But no … my guess is, you’re too scared to do that because you already know you are wrong on all points, and that I would expose your falsehoods for what they are.

    As with the previous comment by Harris, the exact same comment can be found at Skeptical Science.

    So apparently Harris is just meandering around the web pasting identical posts into threads without bothering to read and/or respond to specific points being made.

    I seriously doubt if he even read what you said earlier, and shows no evidence of having taken note of various questions asked over at SkS …

  33. It’s not been a good week for false skeptics and science deniers and dissemblers like Tom Harris, what with the report shredding the false assertions he made in his Carleton U course, the self immolation of the Heartland Institute house of cards, with which Harris is affiliated, and the wholesale fleeing of its donors and staff, and the admission that the UAH temperature product has a low bias due to faulty processing.

    Nope, not a good week at all.

  34. Oops, make that RSS, not UAH.

    • Rattus Norvegicus

      You had it right the first time…

    • Well, Dr. Christy thinks there may be a problem with RSS’s handling of a particular satellite which is causing a cooling bias in recent years (and it is true, according to eyeball metrics, that RSS has been bidding to become the denialist’s favorite lately.) Spencer vigorously disputes the critical paper–though not in the literature, it’s too much trouble!–but apparently he & Christy have a revised product coming soon anyhow. So stay tuned for the ‘satellite wars’ to continue.