Monthly Archives: February 2014

Which would you choose?

One of the main accusations leveled in a recently discussed video was that the data set was chosen, deliberately for the purpose of making the warming look bigger.

Suppose you needed to plot mid-troposphere temperature, but your real goal was to make the warming look as big as possible. Which data set would you choose?

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Q: How do you Outdo Anthony Watts?

A: Add Glenn Beck.

Watts has posted about a video from two of Glenn Beck’s minions, in which (it is claimed) “two guys with a ruler blow up the white house global warming video claims.” You can watch their video, or you can read Anthony Watts’ take on it.

I know, I know, why am I bothering with such tripe? Because this is just too good to pass up.

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A reader recently asked about a news item regarding recent results from the CryoSat-2 satellite mission. One of its purposes is to measure sea ice thickness throughout the Arctic. By combining that with data for sea ice concentration, one can estimate the total volume of Arctic sea ice.

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Cowtan & Way

You probably recall that not too long ago, Kevin Cowtan and Robert Way re-processed the data used in forming the HadCRUT4 global temperature data set. Their goal was to interpolate across unobserved areas in the best way available, by Kriging. They also used satellite data to supplement the interpolation.

As I’ve said before, since the Berkeley team released their “methods” paper I’ve believed that Kriging is the best way to approach the interpolation issue. It was one of those “Doh! — Why didn’t I think of that!” moments. Therefore, despite its relative newness, I think we should consider treating this data set as one of the “main” global temperature data sets. Only time will tell whether that comes to pass.

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Concern Trolls

I’m on a roll. I’ve been hitting the fake “skeptics” where they live by showing just how stupid is the stupid shit they’ve been saying.

How can I tell that the fake skeptics are feeling the heat? Simple: the concern trolls are coming out of the woodwork.

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Tiny Graphs

In the discussion of climate change, a lot of people show a lot of graphs. I’m probably one of the more prolific blog graphers myself. There’s one fault with graphs which I think sabotages their very purpose: creating a plot in which the y-axis is so small that all the variation is squeezed into a tiny space. This makes variation a lot harder to see, which is rather nonsensical since the real purpose of graphs is usually to make the changes which are present visible.

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Antarctic Sea Ice Increase

There’s no doubt that the amount of sea ice in the Arctic has decreased, by a lot. I would even describe the decrease as “staggering.” Meanwhile, the amount of sea ice in the Antarctic has trended in the opposite direction, i.e. it has grown. Has its increase also been “staggering?” Let’s look at the data.

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Pity the Fool

Well, we got a response from “fiq”. It didn’t make much sense.

First things first: What part of “The presence of a trend invalidates the “within statistically normal boundaries” argument” did you not understand? I didn’t just assert it, I proved it.

Did you even read what I wrote?

You don’t like the answer so now you’re gonna make out like I avoided the question. My opinion: that doesn’t make you a coward, it makes you a liar.

Here’s how “fiq” opens his response:

Now this is just curious. I feel perfectly fine where I sit, but when I read the comments I realize that falling fast; “weapons grade stupid” yesterday and now a leveler of cherry-picking accusations (really Michael?): “I checked it and Tamino has not cherry picked the data as you accuse.” Time to hide the kittens, there is no telling where my depravity will take me today.

You don’t like being insulted? Neither do my readers. If you wanted a genial discussion then you shouldn’t have accused climate modelers of institutionalized incompetence and referred to my regular readers as “fawning uncritical thinkers,” the kind who “believes you without demanding evidence”.

You went out of your way to invite scorn. Then you whine about it. We are not surprised.

Now, from Tamino . . .

“…Here’s the deal: I’ll answer your question. Then you answer mine.]
“I’ll do a big post about sea ice. After you read it, I expect you to answer the question: is Arctic sea ice decline “staggering” or not?”

The old, “let’s trap the rube into my domain expertise so that I can school him, thus garnering praise of damsels and vanquishing my enemies trick?” How many Dave Burtons do you need?

Exactly what “domain expertise” did I trap you into? Statistics? Statistics as applied to Arctic sea ice?

You trapped yourself. I do agree, however, that you’re a “rube.”

I have asked a very simple question. I have repeated it. I welcome an answer to it. I don’t welcome a treatise on the question that you wished that I asked.

Again . . .

“The chart depicts a current extent about ~1.5 sigma under the median. As a static data point, isn’t that quite normal?”

[This is a yes/no question, one to establish agreement on the 1/30/14 data — the question would transfer to other data sets, it’s a question about statistical inference, it’s not a question about ice.]

“If so, how do we have a staggering decline if we seem to have a perfectly acceptable value in a normal distribution?”

[In other words, why are you using twenty dollar words to describe a data point that is 1.5 sigma from the mean (in a data set that describes two sigma as the range of moves that might be due to natural variability?)]

I answered it. Right off the bat. In no uncertain terms.

Let’s use small words so you might be able to get it. It’s not a “static” data point.

What part of “The presence of a trend invalidates the “within statistically normal boundaries” argument” did you not understand? I didn’t just assert it, I proved it.

Suppose the 2nd graph (artificial data in correct time order) was your success rate in persuading people that you have a clue (seems plausible to me). Keep telling yourself that everything is fine because that final data point is well “within statistically normal boundaries.”

My hoped for response was, “Okay, you raise a good point. It is fair to characterize that data point as statistically normal and it does not constitute a staggering outlier on it’s own. However . . . .” Then I think we would have had an instructive exchange about recent ice volatility in the arctic and how to deal with statistical uncertainty in that data set (the latter part being my biggest curiosity). And my tacit question of whether or not your current language matches current conditions would have been up for fair debate. I honestly didn’t think it would be so hard to get to the starting point, an agreement that the data point in question does appear to be rather normal.

You didn’t raise a good point. It is not fair to characterize that data point as statistically normal.

So you didn’t get your hoped-for response. Poor, poor you, all you got was pwned.

My opinion: your in-laws should be afraid. Very afraid. And not just of the threat from man-made climate change.

Arctic Sea Ice Decline

Reader “fiq” recently asked some questions about sea ice, in particular, whether or not Arctic sea ice decline can rightly be called “staggering.” That’s fine, they were good questions. But when he didn’t find the answers to his liking, he spent “a few minutes looking at the data” and decided to accuse climate modelers of institutionalized incompetence, liken me to a monkey who “sees a short stack of bananas on the next tree and reports to the other monkeys that all the bananas are going extinct,” and refer to my regular readers as “fawning uncritical thinkers,” the kind who “believes you without demanding evidence“.

Regular readers might well take offense at that. Regular readers also know my regular approach.

Let’s look at the data.

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Louder than Words

WARNING: My own personal political opinions ahead.

I’ll take a break from my usual science-based posts, to comment on something I rarely even mention: what are we, as a society, going to do about man-made climate change?

In his State of the Union address, president Obama talked about climate change and about how we can no longer let deniers paralyze us. That’s great. I’m glad he said that, I think it was even necessary. Secretary of State John Kerry has also made it clear that climate change is an important issue. So far, so good.

Then, the state department releases it’s supposed “environmental impact” statement about the Keystone XL pipeline proposal. Result: KXL is now one big step closer to reality.

James Hansen has already mentioned the likely climate impact of exploiting the tar sands oil. I believe he used the expression “game over.”

Mr. President and Mr. Secretary, thanks for the lip service.