When discussing evidence about man-made climate change, it’s important to give an honest portrayal of the facts. Just about any set of data can be twisted to give the impression one prefers, right or wrong. One of the main ways this is done is “cherry-picking,” in which one presents only part (sometimes a very tiny part) of the evidence but either ingores or hides the evidence contrary to one’s preference. This is fundamentally dishonest. But it happens a lot these days. When those who deny reality about global warming discuss the facts, honest portrayal be damned.

Suppose, for instance, that when discussing the state of sea ice while testifying at a Congressional hearing about global warming, the only thing I said about it was this:

Global sea ice (both poles) area is currently above normal.

That is not an honest portrayal.

The statement is literally true if by “currently” you mean some particular day in May of 2013, and if by “normal” you mean the 1979-2000 average behavior. But the statement is also an undeniable example of cherry-picking: presenting only the part (a very tiny part) of the evidence which supports one’s preference.

Here’s all the global sea ice area anomaly (amount above or below “normal” for a given time of year) data from the good people at Cryosphere Today:


Notice the trend?

Even if the focus is on very recent data, it’s dishonest not to account for the fact that there is a strong seasonal pattern in how sea ice has changed. Probably the simplest way to counter that “seasonal pattern” thing is by looking at whole years. Here’s the last 365 days for which data are available:


It’s been below “normal” a lot more than it’s been above normal; only 98 of the last 365 days were above while 267 were below. The average for this 365-day time span is -735,000 km^2. Yeah, negative, by more than the size of the state of Texas. For you ferriners who don’t know much about U.S. geography, that’s a big state, 2nd-largest in the USA. Texans like to brag about how big it is.

The highest “above” value was 631,000 km^2 (a bit less than Texas) but the lowest “below” was -2,554,000 km^2 — and that’s more than the area of the states of Texas and Alaska combined. For you ferriners who don’t know U.S. geography, Alaska is a really big state — the old joke says that what annoys Texans most is that if they cut Alaska in half, then Texas would be the 3rd-largest state. Note also that the lowest “below” from last year was the lowest “below” on record.

Because I’m aware of the seasonal pattern in sea ice changes, and I’m also aware of the constant fluctuations that happen all the time, I could have predicted, not only that it might well fluctuate both above and below “normal” but when it might be above (something which is getting pretty rare these days). That’s because not only do I know about that seasonal pattern in sea ice changes, I don’t try to hide it from people.

If you want to give a false impression of what sea ice changes imply about global warming, pick the time of year when global sea ice is above normal so you can say “above normal.” Don’t mention that it’s below normal most of the year, or that when it’s below it’s a lot more so than when it’s above, or that last year’s lowest “below” was the lowest on record. Above all don’t mention the trend, one of undeniable rapid decline. Honest portrayal be damned.

Suppose I also mentioned the state of northern-hemisphere snow cover, but all I said about it was this:

Despite claims of snow being a thing of the past, cold season snowfall has been rising to record levels in recent years.

And on my blog elaborated that claim thus:

Northern Hemisphere Snow Extent Up Sharply Since CO2 Hit 350 PPM – ‘Rutgers University Climate Lab :: Global Snow Lab November to April snow extent was the highest on record this year, and has increased sharply since CO2 hit Hansen’s global warming tipping point of 350 PPM. There is no long term trend, and no indication that snowfall correlates with CO2 in any way’

If you were paying attention to what was said about sea ice, then perhaps you’d be wondering what was not mentioned.

It’s true that there’s no long-term trend for Nov through Apr:


Although the trend line is downward, it’s not statistically significant. But perhaps you’re asking yourself, “Why pick November through April?”

Answer: because that’s the time of year which shows no trend. For an honest portrayal, one must also show what has happened to May-through-October snow cover. Here’s the May-through-October data:


Notice anything?

Yes there’s a trend. Yes it’s statistically significant. Quite.

Who would do such a thing? Marc Morano, that’s who. In testimony at a Congressional hearing, no less.

Perhaps the strangest thing about Morano’s statements is that he began with this proclamation:

I am not a scientist, although I do occasionally play one on TV :) . My background is in political science, which happens to be an ideal background for examining man-made global warming claims.


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65 responses to “Honesty

  1. Morano, para 4. “Strong F3 or larger tornadoes are in decline since the 1950s.” Surely that’s a little intemperate. Actually that paragraph looks largely fact free. Certainly free or pertinence.
    Politics and bedfellows? Mayhap The Bard is onto it.

    Oh, and I’ve been missing Open Mind. Nice to see this in my mail box. Thanks,

  2. Mike Brown

    What happens if you look at whole year data? Does the trend remain? Or do the differences in the range (Nov-Apr being roughly three times higher) make the analysis harder?

    [Response: It's not the difference in range, but in variaiton which makes the trend less precise. But the trend is still downward, and still statistically significant.]

  3. Also, sea ice area and global ice volume (Arctic & Antarctic) are different, and volume is clearly on a downward trend at both poles; that data is much more difficult to cherry pick I suspect.

    I haven’t dug around much, but I also suspect that much of the heat that is resulting in “no warming since ___” is a result of the heat it takes to melt ice as well as absorption by the oceans.

  4. Bern (the other one)

    So, basically Morano has explained to Congress that it snows in winter, and the Arctic Ocean freezes over too?

    Doesn’t seem all that helpful, really…

    Did anyone pull him up on it? Or is that particular committee stacked with deniers?

  5. Congress is ‘bricked’.
    If testimony counts for anything in the highest council of the land, he should be thrown in jail for perjury, or has that been corrupted too?

  6. stevengoddard

    Global sea ice area is averaging 165,000 km2 above normal in 2013.

    [Response: Ladies and gentlemen, here's another example of cherry-picking. I already mentioned the seasonal pattern in sea ice changes -- Steven Goddard exploits it, hoping that the gullible won't notice. It's like taking the voting results from only the state of Texas, ignoring the rest of the country, and declairing Mitt Romney winner of the 2012 election. Not an honest portrayal.

    I wonder whether or not he would put his money where his big mouth is? How much would Steven Goddard be willing to bet that the average will still be positive when the year 2013 is complete?]

  7. Joseph Bastardi

    THE MAKE YOUR FORECAST. I have the temps continuing to drop through 2030 as they have started the last 4 years since the PDO flip,


    [Response: Spare us the rant. Any literate ten-year-old can tell that this post isn't about the future of earth's temperature, it's about the lack of honesty in the portrayal of global warming science from those who deny its dangers. Marc Morano failed to give an honest portrayal, instead he gave a misleading one, and it's undeniably so, he's been caught with his pants down (and on fire).

    So I quite understand why you want to change the subject.

    And as I recall, you've also made a few forecasts about the annual minimum for Arctic sea ice. How's that workin' out for ya?]

    • I wrote about Joe’s 2011 prediction here, as I was lucid enough to download one of his videos. Wish I had downloaded all of them though, because I can’t find them anywhere, and there were some other gems in there (like the NSIDC-trend-line-fiasco).

      I understand that he predicts Arctic sea ice will return to its original state (the state it has more or less had since the Holocene Climatic Optimum), because as a meteorologist he probably understands that Arctic sea ice loss will probably not have a beneficial effect on the stable weather we need to feed 7 billion people.

      To paraphrase Joe: Enjoy the Arctic sea ice, it’s the only Arctic sea ice you’ve got.

      • Don’t forget last year’s folly where he claimed that Arctic sea ice was “rapidly recovering” in late August/early September 2012. This was based on what he said was a map of sea ice extent, when in fact it was clearly labeled sea surface temperature on the DMI website. In reality, sea ice extent was still going down until the middle of the month (as the actual DMI map of sea ice showed) when the minimum was reached. He’s never acknowledged his error (I use the term “error” though I can’t see how it could have been done accidentally). He kept tweeting his claims every day too, accusing the “warmists” of deliberately ignoring this non-story. Then there was the time he said that CO2 can’t cause warming because it’s heavier than air and not well mixed… uh huh. He’s a buffoon.

    • So Joe, are you going to show us the scientific basis by which you make that forecast? So confident that you will publish it? Now, what consequence would you be prepared to accept for misleading the public should you be wrong? If somehow climatology is wrong, but we took meaningful action anyway, then we might have people inadvertently paying more for energy than they might. If no action was taken because of misinformation from you and others, and climatology was right, then consequences for a lot of people are going to be very bad. What would say to them? What of the right wings principles of taking responsibility?

  8. Joseph Bastardi

    Apology: My spell check changes words on me to what it thinks I mean. Hence The opening this should be then and here should be here. etc. By I think I got my point across. MAKE YOUR FORECAST

    • I predict that in 10,000 years the Earth will be a lush jungle Paleocene type planet, with no ice caps, and lots of small scurrying and scampering mice feasting on insects and looking to fill numerous empty ecological niches.

      Welcome back Tamino.

  9. It’s not just cherry-picking within datasets but also cherry-picking between datasets… such as highlighting a tiny increase in Antarctic sea ice, thereby implying cooling, and ignoring 20,000 other physical and biological metrics which all indicate warming.

    • There is also the dishonesty in merely suggesting that things are cooling when highlighting the small increase in Antarctic sea ice when the ice itself, placed within a wider context, is actually evidence for the increase in temperature.

      Greater fresh water from Antarctica’s loss of ice raising the freezing point of the layer of water in contact with the air, Fresh water increases ocean stratification since it is less dense than the saltier, warmer water below, Higher water temperatures leading to moister air, greater snowfall over the ocean, and thus the formation of more surface sea ice.

      People like Morano keep up with the literature, at least at a certain level, just so that they have something to cherry pick from. They know better. But they have an agenda that they routinely and systematically give precedence.to over the facts.

  10. Last night a documentary I watched made the interesting suggestion that as the last ice age melted it caused a great deal more snow in some places (such as on the Siberian steppes) – due to the precipitation of all that melting ice.

    Snow is a little more complex than “cold = snow”, of course. You need water in the air for it to snow, and the warmer the air, the more water vapour. So you’ll get more snow as water vapour increases as the temperature increases, and then less as the temperature isn’t cold enough to freeze water any more.

    • Jay Dee Are

      I lived in Potsdam, NY, for two years. The average noon-time temperature in winter was 0 F. It was often too cold to snow there. Potsdam had less snow than the snow-belt region between Watertown and Syracuse, off the east end of Lake Ontario, between 70 and 140 miles south of Potsdam..

    • In the Great Lakes area people are familiar with something called the “lake effect.” Heavy snow tends to be produced when the wind is cold but the lakes are warm enough that they don’t freeze over, and the wind is able to pick up the moisture from the lake’s open waters.

  11. I occasionally pray for Marc Morano’s soul…

    • Might I suggest petitioning St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes?

    • Gavin's Pussycat

      Yes I hope he takes regular back-ups

    • Jay Dee Are

      To hell with him. This is the guy who has posted email addresses of climatologists on his web site to facilitate harassment by fellow denialists. He’s more of a thug than a political scientist.

  12. Glad to see you’re back Tamino. Tom Toles editorial cartoon for today fits right in: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/toles?hpid=z3

  13. Good to see Mutt and Jeff (Goddard and Bastardi) continue their comic capers.

    My favourite is here:
    “One Confusedi Bastardi”

  14. Lol@JoeBastardi asking anyone about forecasts.

  15. My forecast is that whatever Joe Bastardi forecasts will be wrong. I base this on years of experience watching Joe be wrong time after time after time.

    • Rob Honeycutt

      You might call Joe a “Wrongologist.” A specialist in wrongology. Having a deep understanding of how to be clearly and concisely wrong.

  16. The ice extent plots are anomalies against average area for that particular day. What seasonal patterns are you referring to?

    [Response: Although all 12 months show a downward trend, it's least for May and greatest for September. In fact the trends for March, April, and May aren't statistically significant (March just barely misses), but for the other 9 months it is, and for September very strongly so.

    Someone who claims to have "an ideal background for examining man-made global warming claims" and pontificates about sea ice -- especially at a Congressional hearing -- ought to know this, and shouldn't fail to mention it.]

  17. cleanwater2

    Every bite of examination of Sea ice, global temperature, you name it is “circumstantial evidence”.


    [Response: You too seem either to evade, or to have missed, the point -- that this post isn't about sea ice, it's about Marc Morano's failure to give an honest portrayal of it at a Congressional hearing. Again, I'm not surprised you want to change the subject.]

  18. Great to have you back in action, tamino! The AGW deniers seem to be doubling down on the crazy lately. They can see the changes to climate we are causing happening right before their beady little eyes, and they are running scared.

  19. Doug Proctor

    Why can it be said that the open water of the Arctic causes the cold European winters and snows when the winter coverage hasn’t been changing? And when I look at where the changes actually are for the fall times, they are in the eastern seas only: what does this say about the global vs regional nature of ice loss?

  20. Welcome back, tamino! It would seem the AGW deniers are doubling down on the crazy lately. They can see the changes happening to our climate right before their very eyes, and are obviously running scared… or not. Depends how strong the DK is, I guess.

  21. What i see is a continuing pattern of picking up language from some obscure technical publication, and making up some meaning for it. The point is wall papering. As for Mr. Bastardi, how many wrong forecasts do you get to make before you aren’t allowed to enter the pool anymore.

  22. Indeed, Tamino–welcome back!

  23. Philippe Chantreau

    I briefly studied political sciences. If it gives an ideal background for anything, that’s for being full of it and fooling an audience, if one chooses to do so. I used to be amazed that anyone could take seriously individuals so obviously full of it as Morano, Goddard or Bastardi.

    It’s ironic (or perhaps moronic is a better adjective?) that Goddard last year predicted that the big Arctic storm was going to stop ice loss dead in its track. Later the entire denialosphere blamed the ice loss on the storm. Funny and pathetic at the same time.

    By the same token, Watts and Goddard, along with Bastardi, made the worst sea-ice minimum forecast, whereas Tamino made one of the best. It is rather interesting that all those buffoons now come here to pipe up on predictions when they have so miserably failed at it. You can’t make this stuff up. I wonder if they represent themselves to the peanut gallery on their blogs as having made any successful forecast. I don’t have that kind of time so I’m not going to check.
    SkS had post on 2012 Arctic sea ice forecasts: Goddard/Watts and Bastardi had almost the same number, wrong by 900000 sq. kilometers (!). http://www.skepticalscience.com/2013-arctic-sea-ice-prediction.html

    These clowns simply can’t stop trying to be funny, no matter the gravity of the situation. By all means, Joe, make your forecast…

  24. David B. Benson

    We all missed you Tamino.

    • I might say he is honest about his bias, except that he probably doesn’t even recognize it.

      “Will the Arctic ice expand or contract in future? I’ll keep you posted periodically should it continue to expand relative to recent years. If it contracts, I won’t need to let you know – you’ll hear about it in the nightly news and all the morning papers.”

    • Thanks, I took a screen shot of that. It’s sure to be a classic.

  25. Why is this Marc Morano before a Congressional hearing? What is wrong with Congress that it listens to testimony on serious matters by utter clowns like this?

  26. It’s informative to see Bastardi and Goddard pop up here so instantly in defense of Morano.

    What type of medal is earned for flying wingman and playing the role of a flaming fool, for a traitor? “Goldish?”

    Glad to see you’re back.

  27. John Mashey

    cRR Kampen:
    Some Congressional hearings are an odd form of Kubuki theatre.
    1) The majority party generally gets to decide what hearings wil lbe held.
    2) They also get to pick a majority of the witnesses to be called.

    Hence, we have had, as just a few examples:
    1) 09/28/05 Inhofe and Crichton: Together at Last!

    2)The Wegman Report hearings in July 2006. (House – Barton (R-TX), to present a report of which much was written by an alcoholism modleing postdoc and some grad students, first announced via the Wall Street Journal.

    3) 12/06/06 – David Deming testifies for Inhofe (R-OK), do read the text or even better, watch the 5-minute video to get a feel for the proceedings.

  28. Here’s another misleading cherry-pick, if I’m understanding it correctly:


    It certainly looks at first glance as though the climate scientists have been proven wrong – global atmospheric water vapour is going down when it should be going up along with global temperature, according to theory… but then you realise that this is just a small slice of the atmosphere, from about 3km to 12km in height, it doesn’t show water vapour in the lowest part of the atmosphere which is the most important in terms of precipitation, and it shows relative humidity rather than specific humidity, so to make the claim that there is a decline in the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere based on this data is a non sequitur. In reality, looking at specific humidity for nearer the surface shows a marked rise over the last few decades:


    Does this qualify as another cherry for Bastardi?

    • Gavin's Pussycat

      Icarus, a small warning: you latest linked graph shows a reanalysis, i.e., a GCM run assimilating observational data. It is not wrong, but I suspect it doesn’t contain direct observations of water vapour content.

  29. Talking of honesty. On the subject of In the 70′s climate scientists warned about a coming ice age”, this links to a nice piece exposing some fakery.

    • Thanks for the plug, jiminy.
      I should take this opportunity to say “thanks” to Tamino because I totally “stole” his term: “fake-skeptics” and because his stats are flawless.

  30. In our system, we have an offence called “contempt of Parliment” which can be invoked for deliberately misleading the legislature or its committees. Any such provisions in US law?

  31. Kevin, John, jiminy: I set a bucket next to desk and studied the material, thanks :)

  32. There is “contempt of Congress,” but that refers to refusal to comply, rather than lying. Perjury laws apply, but:

    …history suggests neither [IRS official Lois Lerner] nor any other IRS official is likely to face criminal charges related to congressional testimony.

    Such charges are rarely filed, and convictions are even rarer. The most high-profile recent case in point is the prosecution of Major League Baseball pitching great Roger Clemens, who was acquitted by a jury in 2012 on charges he lied to Congress when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs.

    “Almost no one is prosecuted for lying to Congress,” lawyer P.J. Meitl asserted in a 2007 Quinnipiac Law Review article. Meitl, who wrote the article while in private practice, is now an assistant U.S. attorney in Dallas. He found only six people who had been convicted of perjury or related charges in relation to Congress, going back to the 1940s.

    Two of those cases arose from Watergate, one against President Richard Nixon’s attorney general, John Mitchell, and the other against H.R. Haldeman, Nixon’s chief of staff. Both men were found guilty of perjury before a Senate committee.

    Unlike in a typical criminal probe, lawyers say that in a politically charged congressional setting – often involving many exchanges among officials, their staff and witnesses – it can be difficult to prove a key element in any perjury prosecution: that the person knowingly and willfully deceived.

    Besides, Congress (or most of it) was in the Morano case willingly deceived, and will scarcely take action.

  33. Tony Duncan


    I was on Goddard last year from march or April when he began goading “warmists” to bet him there would be a new minimum. he was crowing about how dishonest they all were because they SHOULD all be willing to bet money on a sure thing. I remember him saying the storm would stop the melting and that it might set a record for the earliest SIE minimum. I kept throwing his words back at him and he banned me a week or two before the record by proclaiming that I “lied” and he would not tolerate people lying about him ( apparently lying about him is the only type of lying not allowed on his blog). This because I said he refused to make predictions about Arctic ice. he pointed out he had made some silly predictions that meant nothing ,but he and everyone else knew I meant about minimum SIE, which he categorically refused to make because he had been so embarrassed in the past. That was the third time he had banned me, so I haven’t bothered trying again.

  34. It’s an obvious case of cherry-picking for sure. However, we’re guilty of it on this side too, guys. Tamino (and others) are focused like a laser on sea ice, which is fertile ground for us now. Why so much focus on sea ice? I’d like to think otherwise, but in the end I come back to the fact that global temperatures just haven’t been cooperative in telling the true story over the last decade or so. We have a lot of very valid reasons why they don’t, but let’s face it: if the global average temperature was increasing like it was from 1970-2000, sea ice graphs would just be a side show – albeit an important one – and we’d be trumpeting it from the rooftops trying to convince people and governments that they need to change.

    We’re on the right side of history, but as much as I try to warn my peers about increasing sea levels, it’s a lot harder to convince people to change when we’re mostly affecting an area where nobody goes. Hot summers? No snowpack in winter in the mountains? It’s a lot easier for people to relate to that.

    So, we’re left to sea ice graphs to show we’re destroying the planet. Their side is dead wrong, but they’ve got (very recent and very temporary) global temperature data that appears, on the surface, to bolster their position. They’re doing all the cherry-picking they can to make their case, which ultimately may doom our world. Though the science is right and the cause noble, we brush aside the global temperature data and focus on sea ice over the last decade, again and again, because it shows the trend we expect in a warming world. I don’t know what else to do; it’s the most effective data I’ve found to argue against them. But it’s still cherry-picking.

    [Response: You are just about as mistaken as it's possible to be.

    I myself post about the temperature data often, and have been doing so since this blog began. There's also land ice, and sea level, and heat waves, and floods, and droughts, and climate variability, and risk analysis, and climate sensitivity, and CO2 emissions as well as atmospheric concentration, and methane release from ocean clathrates and permafrost, and ocean acidification, and paleoclimate reconstructions, and Milankovitch cycles, and the elephant in the room, ocean heat content.

    The last time I posted about sea ice, it was to rebut Lawrence Solomon's misinformation in the Financial Post.]

    • Forgetting about polar amplification? Like it or not, what happens at the poles *is* more important than at other latitudes.

    • David C.,
      Perhaps if you were to actually research the issue, the importance of sea ice would become more apparent. Loss of arctic sea ice provides a significant positive feedback.. Loss of sea ice exposes methane clathrates, which could significantly contribute to atmospheric carbon (both CH4 and CO2) in the future. Loss of sea ice leads to serious disruption of the Jet Stream, significantly altering Northern Hemisphere weather. Loss of sea ice exposes further troves of petroleum and natural gas, making it virtually impossible for us to decarbonize our economy.

      What is more, if one looks at total heat content of the climate system, it is clear that energy increase continues unabated.

      So in addition to being a Tu Quoque fallacy, your post is also simply flat-assed wrong.