Graph Wars

Scientific Badger

Scientific Badger


A reader alerted me to the current exchanges between WtD (Watching the Deniers) and WUWT (Watts Up With That). Since the exchanges continue, at least at WtD, I may have to update as things develop.

The exchange appears to have started in WtD with a headline “Anthony Watts: it is necessary to use correct sea-ice graphs to avoid misleading the public.” The “misleading” part was the graph does not include the SD (standard deviation) shading. I am uncertain how many people actually understand or even notice the SD shading, but it appears that WtD feels this is essential.

Later the same day, another entry on WtD discussed what the blogger had learned from the WUWT incident. It is interesting that he describes “friendly debate” and couches the remainder of the article in language befitting an army general leading troops to war (science is now war?) He proceeds to analyze what he has learned about leading troops into battle and the only thing to fear from skeptics is “our own fear”. My best guess at the meaning of this is: “if we have no fear, they can’t hurt us”. In the real world, that philosophy has proven to not be true in many cases (Custer come to mind). It does make a great war cry, but that’s about it. One would have hoped more would have been learned in the exchange.

Next, he “outs” the scoundrel who ratted out the blog posting to WUWT. What?!?!? What is it in this climate change discussion that people write a blog on an extremely controversial topic and then complain about the controversy. Better yet, the scoundrel who ratted out WtD would have been allowed to return to commenting, but not anymore. Punishment for “telling on” the blogger was swift and sure. Do these people really have egos that big that forbidding someone to comment on a blog is considered retaliation or punishment? Never mind—that may be self-evident.

Now today, WtD “discovered” an inflammatory comment at WUWT and is demanding an apology (actually more or less whining and hoping that works). The blogger actually said he “occupies the moral high ground”. The only people who write statements like that are people NOT occupying the moral high ground who are hoping their declarations will fool you. He is angry about a comment that implies he is gay. WtD quickly notes that “gay is okay”, yet writes an entire entry on how insulting the comment was meant to be and why it should be removed. Double think? In actuality, I probably would have moderated the comment (removed or modified it) because it is a personal attack and has nothing to with the subject at hand. However, if WUWT allows personal attacks, I see no problem. If “gay is okay”, then it really wasn’t an insult anyway, but a reflection on the commenter.

What was WUWT doing throughout this exchange? There was a post concerning the accusation by WtD and a statement that the graph was not fabricated. The commenter from WtD stated he lodged a formal complaint concerning the matter with the Australian Press Council. I’m not sure how much good that does–there seems to be a large number of such claims from both sides, but perhaps it will help. WUWT also clearly posted links to the graph used—this is one of the “official “ graphs from NSIDC. There is one graph with SD and one without. There was no deception in the first place.

A similar objection was lodged by a commenter on this blog concerning a graph I posted a link to: http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2013/06/global-warming-in-a-few-slides.php The graph does not match data from Rutger’s Climate lab. I have attempted to find the source of the graph, but to date have not been successful.

The objection, however, was to the graph using November to April, leaving out May, June, October and maybe more. Rutgers uses “spring”, “fall”, and “winter”, which I am guessing (and it’s just a guess) is that Rutgers means calendar periods, not the more generic use of the terms. The graph should have been labelled with actual dates for the data range in order to remove all doubt. Both sides truncate data to their advantage and use terms that work for them. We need to educate people to ask questions about the graphs and look at the data instead of fighting over what is and is not a “deliberate misrepresentation”. Another important problem with the graph was overlooked entirely: the Y axis has no label for the units used. The numbers are too large to be square miles or square kilometers based on the Rutgers graph. For now, I am labeling that graph as questionable on the blog entry.

One last note: WtD says “If the NSIDC has elected to present information in one format as their preferred means of communication, it is beholden to all of us to follow their model.” Science is not “Follow the Leader” or “Simon Says”. It is utterly unscientific to lock data into a specific format for graphing. It cripples the ability of scientists and readers to make comparisons in the graphing and to possibly discover new trends in the data . The statement is indicative of how very little science is found on WtD.

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2 comments on “Graph Wars

  1. Yes, I just missed including that. Thank you for adding it.

  2. Skeptikal says:

    The exchange appears to have started in WtD with a headline “Anthony Watts: it is necessary to use correct sea-ice graphs to avoid misleading the public.”

    No, that was the altered headline. The original headline called Anthony ‘dishonest’.

    Read the update, placed at the start of Anthony’s post… it starts with;

    UPDATE: Mr. Marriott, perhaps fearful of legal action due to his own stupidity on the matter, has dropped the claim of “doctoring” and has also changed the title to remove the “dishonest” claim.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/07/07/watching-the-deniers-makes-hilarious-goof-while-accusing-wuwt-of-doctoring-nsidc-images/

    If you scroll down that post to where it says ‘click here’ and hover your pointer over it, you’ll see the original headline in the url.

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