Worth More than a Thousand Words


This is what Lawrence Solomon, writing in the Financial Post, considers “analysis.”

Perhaps everyone who reads this should inform the Financial Post what they think of his “analysis.”

74 responses to “Worth More than a Thousand Words

  1. Lars Karlsson

    I can only say: dumb as a bag of hammers!

  2. Lars, that’s an insult to hammers everywhere. And bags, too.

  3. Disagree: He probably relies on the notion/hope that his readers fit that description. He’s probably quite smart in terms of manipulation.

  4. The noise level has to be maintained if people are to be kept from the truth.

  5. Perhaps everyone who reads this should inform the Financial Post what they think of his “analysis.”

    I already did. Look at which comment has the most thumbs up. ;-)

    Lawrence Solomon is a liar and I hope one day I will have the money to sue him.

  6. I didn’t know stupid could be that stupid. He’s so stupid he’s not even wrong.

  7. Is that the financial post or denial depot?

  8. Using the “wisdom” of Solomon we can forget about that pesky deficit problem here in the US.

    The US Daily Cash Surplus for 4/12/2013 was a not so shabby $7.7B. Still no major divergences from 2012…if it’s gonna happen we should see it this week. (15-19th). Using last year as a guide, we could see a weekly surplus in the $70B range, completely wiping out the current April deficit of $65B through 12 days.

  9. You should plot the total extent, and not the anomaly. The y-axis label is rather tiny, and it is puzzling at first sight to find a minimum in april. Although it is not so bad to leave a little thinking to your readers.

    • Jacques.
      There is a difficulty doing as you suggest and plotting absolute SIE rather than the anomaly. The events involved here on the SIE graph are far less than “rather tiny.” They are positively miniscule.
      However it is not above the wit of man. So here is a rendition of what you ask for. Graph of SIE year-on-year (km sq) 1989 to date. It may not be as informative than Tamino’s graph but it is more colourful.

  10. Elsewhere:


    I answered a similar assertion with:

    Two points:

    1) Weather

    2) It’s the volume, not the extent, that really matters.

    AIUI, a large chunk of the Arctic Ocean freezes over in winter. Variation from year to year mostly happens in the bits that stick out round the sides of Greenland, through the Bearing Strait, and so on. These are highly affected by weather. Hence the maximum extent is not, I think, all that indicative of anything much. Melting in the autumn is essentially unlimited (until there’s no ice left, of course). Hence the wider variability of that.

  11. This one deserves a cherry pick award of some kind. Has anyone come up with something like that yet?

  12. That’s why monkey win against traders.

  13. Unfortunately, Joe Oliver, Canada’s minister of natural resources, apparently considers Lawrence Solomon an authority on Climate Change:

    ““I did not say that there is no problem, and I do not say that others [scientists] have said that there is no problem. Instead, they say there is a big problem. But now they say that the problem is not so urgent that they previously thought. Maybe it will take more time,” Oliver said, according to his spokesman.

    But … I do not deny the problem, which is a fundamental problem.”

    Oliver was not able to cite any scientists at the time, but the minister’s staff pointed to an article by climate-change skeptic Lawrence Solomon as well as quotes in The Economist and other publications from academics questioning whether the pace of global warming was slowing.”


    His financial post page also calls him, “Lawrence Solomon is one of Canada’s leading environmentalists”.

  14. Meanwhile, over at Jo Nova, they are claiming that land ice in antarctica is increasing. http://joannenova.com.au/2013/04/antarctica-gaining-ice-mass-and-is-not-extraordinary-compared-to-800-years-of-data/

    Does anyone know anything about this?

    • The best thing is to read the papers themselves, and not read Nova’s spin on them, which is aimed at her fanbase.
      Antarctica is one place where different things are happening in different areas, and charry-picking is made easy.

    • A quick look at the post and the abstract–which they link to–seems to suggest that it’s really “some parts of Antarctic’s land ice is increasing.” That’s not out of keeping with previous work, IIRC–though I don’t claim to be highly knowledgable on this.

      It’s fairly clear from the abstract that the research question was to see whether an increase in ‘surface mass balance,’ AKA ‘SMB’, which had been predicted by climate modeling, and which would (perhaps) provide something of a negative feedback, was really taking place or not. I can’t tell for sure from what I read what the answer to that is–it wasn’t really in the abstract. But the Nova says “but there’s no evidence in this data that the current accumulation is different to natural cycles.” Perhaps that reflects something in the actual body of the paper, but you certainly can’t take that for granted, considering the source. Academicians, what does the paper actually say?

      Short impression: the paper’s probably perfectly legit, and Nova is spinning and puffing, as per usual.

    • After a quick peek, looks to me as if the paper is legit, and Nova & Co are just doing some spin and some puffery. BAU.

      And, of course, FWIW.

    • Frezzotti et al. 2013 claim that Antarctica is gaining land ice mass at a rate of +2100 Gt/year? Wow.

      I’ve discussed Antarctic land ice mass changes as measured by GRACE, laser altimetry, and the input-output method. Note that GRACE and the input-output method show Antarctica as a whole losing land ice mass. (All methods show West Antarctica losing land ice mass.) Laser altimetry yields a total Antarctic land ice mass change of approximately [-50,+100] Gt/year, which may indicate mass loss. So the Frezzotti et al. 2013 estimate is ~20 times higher than the upper error bar of the next highest estimate.

      More importantly, four estimates of global mean sea level (GMSL, on the left hand side) show it rising at ~3 mm/year.

      William Llovel explains that sea level rise is the sum of (roughly) ~1.5 mm/year due to thermal expansion, and ~1.5 mm/year ocean mass increase due to land ice loss. Fig. 3 in Chambers et al. 2010 shows that estimates of ocean mass from GRACE agree with those from altimetry, corrected for thermal expansion using Argo data.

      If Antarctica gains land ice mass, that would cause sealevel to drop unless land ice mass loss elsewhere (like in Greenland) compensates. Fig. 5.19 here shows that Greenland’s mass loss is accelerating, and my GRACE inversion shows widespread land ice mass loss, but not nearly enough to compensate for the proposed +2100 Gt/year Antarctic ice mass gain.

      Fig. 5.19 here shows that a land ice mass loss of ~350 Gt/year = 1.0 mm/year equivalent sea level rise. So Frezzotti et al. 2013 seem to be saying that Antarctica is causing a ~6 mm/year drop in ocean mass. But we know that ocean mass is increasing at ~1.5 mm/year, so other ice sheets must be adding ~7.5 mm/year of mass to the oceans. That’s equal to land ice mass loss of ~2600 Gt/year, which is ~10 times faster than GRACE’s Greenland estimate. That seems unlikely, as does the possibility that other smaller ice sheets or runoff, etc. make up the difference.

      Perhaps their statement that “The SMB of the grounded AIS is approximately 2100 Gt/yr” was just a typo, and they actually meant something like 21 Gt/year…

    • I was wrong. Frezzotti et al. 2013 estimates the surface mass balance, which isn’t the same as the total mass estimates from laser altimetry (ICESat) or GRACE. The surface mass balance only concerns precipitation, evaporation and snowdrift physics. It doesn’t include the glacier discharge or runoff which subtract from the surface mass balance.

      Essentially, Frezzotti et al. 2013 only measures the positive parts of the total mass balance, while ICESat and GRACE also measure the negative parts, which allows them to estimate the total mass balance.

      800 years of ice cores spread across Antarctica shows the Surface Mass Balance (SMB) is more likely to have been increasing over the last century. (Which fits with what Zwally et al found in 2012 with ICESAT satellite data). … The Surface Mass Balance appears to be growing at 2100Gt/year (though this is much higher than the ICESAT satellite estimates of Zwally which estimate a net gain of 49Gt/year.) [Joanne Nova]

      Frezotti’s estimate is so much higher than ICESat’s estimate because they’re estimating different quantities. Frezotti’s estimate of the surface mass balance should be compared to climate models that also ignore losses due to glacier discharge and runoff: the same models used in the input-output method.

      Sorry for the confusion.

      • Incidentally, Frezzotti et al. 2013 doesn’t support Nova’s claim that “the Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS) is growing” because it doesn’t address glacier discharge or runoff. The distinction between surface mass balance and total mass balance is subtle but important.

    • After a first look, it’s my impression that this paper exclusively analyses ice-cores for precipitation minus melting. Thus the ice-core data was fed
      into accumulation models to estimate the mass balance. Receeding ice shelfs and other topographic changes were not taken into consideration.
      A concise overview of different approaches to the mass balance can be found here :http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2012/11/weighing-change-in-antarctica/.

  15. Tamino, this prompts me to ask something which has long interested me: Why is the annual nature so strongly visible from about 2006 on, but much more masked prior to that in these anomaly plots? 1997 – 2005 looks very different in this respect vs 2006 – 2012.

    [Response: Because the annual cycle itself has changed. Anomalies subtract the *average* annual cycle, but if the annual cycle changes then the difference between today’s cycle and the average will remain. The minimum has declined so much faster than the maximum (although that has declined too) that the annual cycle is considerably larger today than in the past.

    One can compute an “adaptive” anomaly which accounts for this (e.g. the folks at Mauna Loa do that to define their de-seasonalized values of CO2).]

  16. Thanks for the response. I generally do prefer the actual annual cycle plots rather than the anomalies partly for this reason. The 2007 deep anomaly was actually largely affected by a phase issue of the minimum, i.e. although the minimum ice was indeed very low, the anomaly amplified that because it occurred late in the season when the average annual cycle was starting to rise significantly. The anomaly plots make it look like there was a significant recover in the years following 2007, only now getting back down there, but the annual cycles plots show there was not nearly as much “recovery” after 2007.

    [Response: I’m skeptical. If you plot the actual minimum value (not anomaly), the pattern is much the same as the minimum of the anomaly values.]

    • The issue there is that the annual cycle (~10 million km^2) is about three times as high as the largest decrease in extent (~3 million km^2), so plotting the absolute annual cycle figures acts to obscure the scale of the trend to some degree.

      The best ways around this are either to only plot the data from one month/day for all years, or to plot the data for anomalies.

      I prefer the former, because it is simpler, tamino prefers the latter, because it gives him more data to use with his statistics.

      • The effect I’m referring to is very obvious. Go to Cryosphere Today and click on the this link first:

        Look carefully (or casually will do as well) at 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011. They are VERY similar. Next click on this link:

        Again, look at 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011. What is going on?
        The answer is as I stated originally, there was a “phase” issue in 2007, in that there was a long flat bottom in 2007, with recovery starting late, when the “annual” cycle being compared against had already strongly recovered. This resulted in an anomaly value nearly 1m less than the other years reference, yet the minimum extent was close for all of them. The anomaly plot for 2007 is thus very confusing, and as far as I can tell, many people who should understand this problem, seem oblivious.

    • At one point a few years ago, I calculated (via Excel spreadsheet) mean semi-annual extent anomalies over the (then) period of the IJIS-JAXA data. It was interesting–IIRC, it shifted around my perceptions of how certain years (like 2006, for instance) appeared WRT the ‘lean years’ like 2005 or 2007–but it really didn’t change any fundamental conclusions.

  17. Wow — and the column heading on that Solomon piece is: “Trending”
    In other news war is peace, black is white, and we have always been at war with statistics.

  18. One has to wonder the level of disconnects in his brain as he claims to have checked this from the jaxa-iarc record. Possibly it happened, he typed the first digits in the last value in a search window and taken the first occurrence of these. That’ would be an omission of about 1-2/12418 = 99.98% of data, so regarding sea ice, i’d assume he tells the truth 0,02% (actually it’s a bit lower, but there’s a rounding error) of the time. This leads to the conclusion that the story, which has 1193 letters (including spaces) has about a quarter of a letter true and right (actually a bit less but I’m being generous).

  19. Interesting that Solomon’s loudest defender on Financial Post website seems to be Dave Burton of NC-20.

  20. We need four Sandy’s at 900 hPa each every year, to hit all US coasts EXCEPT New York’s/New Jersey’s. That is de world’s only chance. Sorry mates. No degree of cynicism in this respect is enough.

  21. If he tried that trick in a business profitability analysis, he’d be sued.

  22. > Dave Burton of NC-20
    I wonder if North Carolina realtors are using that sort of graph-trickery to sell coastal property.

    • arch stanton

      “But who pays is a more divisive matter. More than half, or 60%, said the people and businesses in high-risk areas that are affected by sea level rise and storms should cover the cost, while 38% said the government should pay.” Link

      If this question were somehow decided now (as the majority would have it) it would take a lot of wind out of Burton’s sails imo.

  23. Two questions:

    1. Why is a magazine on economics and finance getting involved in climate science at all to begin with?

    [Response: Because the science is clear that we need to phase out fossil fuels, but the fossil-fuel industry is one of the most profitable in the entire world.]

    2. Why are those in finance, economics and business so keen on “denying” AGW that they would publish such laughably inane “analysis”?

    [Response: Because the science is clear that we need to phase out fossil fuels, but the fossil-fuel industry is one of the most profitable in the entire world.]

    3. Doesnt this call into question the ability of the Financial Post to offer unbiased financial analysis – or worse, the ligitimacy of financial analysis, as a science at all?

    I leave it to the readers to answer these questions.

    • Gavin's Pussycat

      Paul D., you’re getting there ;-)

      Not widely appreciated: this isn’t “only” about the climate, or pollution, or our energy systems, or economic growth. It’s about taking back our freedom from the enemies within. That’s where addressing those other things starts.

    • Philippe Chantreau

      That’s funny. Watts is making it “official” that he will cater only to that portion of the peanut gallery that uses all the right words in defense of the cherished ideology. Wasn’t there something on that blog once about being free to express your opinion? Obviously that applies only to compliant opinions. This blog of his becomes more of a caricature every day. I bet he will make an exception to the rule whenever one uses the banned words to say the desired message.

    • Doesn’t really matter, because over on WUWT most of the commenters say ‘anomoly’.

  24. THAT red line is the single scariest red line Eli has seen. It is telling us that the sea ice maximum the year was LOWER than the minimum in the first decade of operation of the satellite measurements. Since the Arctic Basin pretty much fills in the winter, that is a hell of a lot of warming of the periphery.

    • It is anomalies, not absolute numbers, right? So scary, yes, but not THAT scary.

      • Also, to the degree that the anomaly data show an annual cycle in the recent years, it is due to some shift in the cycle away from the baseline that’s used to compute the anomalies*. On the one hand, this means that comparing the more recent minima and maxima to past anomaly fluctuations is not necessarily a useful exercise because of the increased variability. But on the other hand, if one were to find a way to correct for the changes in the annual cycle over time, the variability of recent data would decrease, so the contrast between past and present anomalies would be even more stark. So it’s worse than it looks, basically.

        *I think that Tamino (or was it someone else?) addressed this in a post a while back, concluding that it was no so much a change in phase but a change in shape of the cycle that caused recent anomalies to show exaggerated variability.

    • Lars Karlsson

      From the article: “Yesterday, April 14th, the Arctic had more sea ice than it had on April 14,1989 – 14.511 million square kilometres vs 14.510 million square kilometres, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center of the United States, an official source.”
      So the red line compares the March (i.e. maximum) extent for two different years.

  25. Eli, that’s exactly what I thought when I saw that. The “maximum” is now about at the previous “minimum”. Something to crow about, eh?

    (Note the scare quotes because I know this dates aren’t really the maximums and minimums, but the idiot was comparing a low spike against a rising spike.)

  26. Eli…Indeed, in fact at first sight the line appeared so extraordinary to me that I started to write a comment to point out that Tamino had clearly set the first point in totally the wrong place.

    Then [luckily] a voice in my head got me to reflect on what the chances of that happening actually were … and quickly deleted it.

    [Response: Don’t underestimate my ability to make mistakes.]

  27. “[Response: Don’t underestimate my ability to make mistakes.]”

    A sentence which, I predict, Anthony Watts will never write (unless, of course, he chooses to hype Tamino’s ‘damning admission.’) Poptech, Goddard, and at least some of the other usual suspects are the same way: they seem to see any admission of error as ‘weakness.’

    • Horatio Algeranon

      But can you really blame them?

      If they admitted they were wrong every time they were, every other post would be an admission.

      Horatio almost said “every post” but then realized that would get us into the “Wrongers Paradox”.

  28. Horatio Algeranon

    “Methodically Mad or Madly Methodical?”
    — by Horatio Algeranon

    “Madness in the method”?
    or “Method in the madness”?
    “Max v. Min” is stupid?
    Or “Max v. Min” is badness?

  29. I am as dumb as a bag of hair, and without the ability to convince my friends and family that we are all in danger, my words are useless. I have been following climate change for decades but I don’t have a degree in any of the hard sciences. Ridicule has followed my Cassandra bleatings, and only in the past few years have I been vindicated (mostly to myself). Keep up you guys, you are our only hope.
    +1 for no paywalls

  30. Horatio Algeranon

    “Limbo Crock”
    — Horatio’s version of the Chubby Checker song (Jan Sheldon and Billy Strange)

    Every limbo boy and girl
    All around the limbo world
    Gonna do the limbo crock
    All around the limbo clock

    Hack be limbo, Hack be quick
    Hack go unda limbo stick
    All around the limbo clock
    Hey, let’s do the limbo crock

    Limbo lower now
    Limbo lower now
    How low can you go?

    First you spread your limbo lies
    Then you move the limbo ice
    Limbo icerecovery
    Bend trend like a limbo tree

    Hack be limbo, Hack be quick
    Hack go unda limbo stick
    All around the limbo clock
    Hey, let’s do the limbo crock

    La, la, la
    La, la, la
    La, la, la

    Get yourself a limbo trend
    Give that trend a limbo bend
    There’s a limbo Soon above
    You will fall in limbo love

    Hack be limbo, Hack be quick
    Hack go unda limbo stick
    All around the limbo clock
    Hey, let’s do the limbo crock

    Don’t move that limbo bar
    You’ll be a limbo star
    How low can you go?

  31. @Paul D.

    “2. Why are those in finance, economics and business so keen on “denying” AGW that they would publish such laughably inane “analysis”?”

    Because they have nothing better.

    Once again, the McIntyre super powers of auditing miss this howler. Any denier site seems to have some deadly kryptonite powers that kill of all abilities to do any rudimentary statistical analysis.

  32. Tamino, can you point me to the data for the Antarctic sea ice summer minima? I’m afraid I find the NSIDC site to be rather opaque in terms of finding what I want.

  33. Horatio Algeranon

    “Two points make a line (of nonsense)”
    — by Horatio Algeranon

    Just one event is not a trend,
    On which we can depend.
    In fact, we take the skeptic view:
    A trend requires two.