Not that Certain

A new paper (A probabilistic analysis of human influence on recent record global mean temperature changes–Kokic, Crimp, Howden) states a 99.999% certainty humans are causing the warming on the planet, IF the model contains all factors with significant (ie measurable and large enough to affect the outcome) influence on climate.

The model only has four factors: CO2 (GHG as measured by Kyoto Protocol), ENSO, TSI, and volcanoes. It’s highly unlikely that there are not more factors–for example oceans storing heat, albedo of arctic and antarctic ice, back radiation, convection currents, etc, just to name a few I have read about on various sites. If any of these have a large effect, the model does not match reality and any outcome or prediction may be useful by chance but most probably useless other than to grab headlines.

Also, if the measurements of any of the factors is not accurate, the conclusion is void. That does not mean the conclusion is not true–it means the models and statistics used to create the model and certainty are invalid. In other words, the model is back to an unproven hypothesis. It is possible for an incomplete model might be useful in some ways, but the 99.999% certainty is most certainly exaggerated and should be scrapped. A four factor model of climate that shows this kind of “certainty” is very unlikely to be accurate or even useful.

The modeler’s use a bootstrap calculation, something that seems to be used more and more in the studies I have been reading. In theory, the bootstrap yields multiple data sets to increase the likelihood that the model cover all data. (Correct me if my explanation of this is poorly stated. I am sometimes not very good at explaining statistics so it makes sense to readers.) They ran the bootstrap 100,000 times both leaving in and leaving out GHG. From this, they reached the incredible (or perhaps not-so-credible) 99.999% number.

There is no information on whether or not the model was run eliminating other factors one at a time in the same fashion as GHG. This is vital to gauge whether something else may have just as strong an effect.

The model B also indicated only an approximate 25% of 304 months of continuous record breaking temperatures, but that was one of the original questions in the model–how likely are 304 months of record breaking temperatures without human influence? That would seem to indicate the model missed the mark. Model E also showed only about a 53% chance of this temperature streak happening. Why can’t the model reproduce the 304 months of record setting temperatures? With 99.999 % certainty, one would expect nothing less.

An interesting thing that did show up in the study was the prediction of periods of flat or colling temperatures and the number of periods of cooling was closer to observed in the runs with GHG left in than those without. The number was still not matching actual recoded data but was closer with GHG.

What does this tell us about humans, GHG and certainty? IF the models are sufficiently accurate, there could be a strong case for humans causing warming. However, the small number of variable in the model call into question whether all significant factors have been included. Without a 99.999% certainty that these are the only factors needed the conclusion is not valid. If any measurements of input variables are even slightly off, the conclusion does not hold.

All in all, the study, while it addressed some interesting points fell far short of being definitive proof of humans causing climate change. The certainty is far over stated when one compares reality to the model and its conclusions.

IPCC psychic predictions

The IPCC psychic predictions:

1. Risk of death, injury, ill-health, or disrupted livelihoods in low-lying coastal zones and small island developing states and other small islands, due to storm surges, coastal flooding, and sea-level rise.

Sea level is rising about 3 mm per year. In 100 years, you get 300mm of rise. The IPCC reportedly put a range of 28 to 98 cm by 2100. So 3 feet in 80 years. Don’t see people fleeing like refugees from that rate. Plus, there is a lot of uncertainty in the prediction.  Not to be a killjoy, but coastal zones are always hit with storms and flooding. Humans have lived near coasts and dealt with this for 100’s of years. With better technology and resources, it should be at least as doable as any other time in history.

2. Risk of severe ill-health and disrupted livelihoods for large urban populations due to inland flooding in some regions.

First, “in some areas” is just exactly what a psychic would use. Totally lacking in detail and will positively happen. With or without the AGW theory being correct. Note it does not say “increased risk”.

3. Systemic risks due to extreme weather events leading to breakdown of infrastructure networks and critical services such as electricity, water supply, and health and emergency services.

Again, not statement of an “increase”, just “risks”. Humans have to deal with extreme weather all the time. If there’s more extreme weather, humans have dealt with it. We have managed even though more people are affected. Critical services and infrastructure are lost frequently. People cope. Should we make improvements to our infrastructure and homes–sure. Warming or no, the storms will keep coming.

4. Risk of mortality and morbidity during periods of extreme heat, particularly for vulnerable urban populations and those working outdoors in urban or rural areas.

Interesting they say “working outdoors in urban or rural areas”. Climate change believers tend to be nitpickers on language and you would have thought they would have realized this actually reads that people in semi-rural or semi-urban areas are not included. How did that one get past the editor? Why not just say “outdoors”?
Extreme hot and extreme cold can kill, now and in the future. Cold kills fewer people in the US in part due to “snowbirds”–people who move from one climate to another, kind of like migratory birds, only the migration occurs in cars, rather than walking or flying. Perhaps people will improve on that system. Also, people who like hot gravitate to hot, same for people who like cold.
For centuries, people have worked outside in extreme heat and extreme cold.

5. Risk of food insecurity and the breakdown of food systems linked to warming, drought, flooding, and precipitation variability and extremes, particularly for poorer populations in urban and rural settings.

Again, nothing new. Drought and famine have existed for the entirety of human history. It has alway s been harder on the poor. They failed to mention cooling causes famine also–the Irish potato famine comes to mind. There is absolute certainty that some of these things will happen. No real predictions short of what has always happened will continue to happen.

6. Risk of loss of rural livelihoods and income due to insufficient access to drinking and irrigation water and reduced agricultural productivity, particularly for farmers and pastoralists with minimal capital in semi-arid regions.

I believe this describes the dust bowl–that pre-global warming disaster that changed the way we farm. Same old thing humans have always contended with. Only now we have more advanced technology and better ways to deal with this. Poorer nations will catch up as they always have.

7. Risk of loss of marine and coastal ecosystems, biodiversity, and the ecosystem goods, functions, and services they provide for coastal livelihoods, especially for fishing communities in the tropics and the Arctic.

The “risk” is that systems will change, not be lost. That is exactly what nature has always done–change, adapt. Is is fascinating that the same scientists who may heartily espouse evolution can be the same one shouting loudest that nothing should change or that the change can be “too fast”. As for livelihoods, buggy whip manufacturers were displaced by cars, furriers put out of much business by the PC animal rights crowds, machinery replaced humans in many areas. The world went on.

8. Risk of loss of terrestrial and inland water ecosystems, biodiversity, and the ecosystem goods, functions, and services they provide for livelihoods.
Loss and movement of water systems is nothing new. The ecosystems will change, not be lost (unless you argue that every time there is an evolutionary change, it’s bad because something is lost–that evolution is bad). Yes, some species will be lost, no matter if the planet warms or not. It’s call survival of the adequately fit. Nothing new.

The IPCC report reads like what a carnival psychic would say–vague predictions many of which are going to happen with or without AGW. It’s sad that pseudoscientific vague predictions have been called science when discussing the climate.

Several places I read on the report said:
“there is no new science in this report, which assesses recent science since the previous IPCC report in 2007”
No new science but an increase in likelihood that humans are causing climate change? How does that work? Same way a psychic does–by saying whatever you think someone wants to hear and hoping no one asks about the details.

Another interesting statement in the report:
“Attribution of observed impacts in the WGII AR5 generally links responses of natural and human systems to observed climate change, regardless of its cause.”
Translation: Nature or human caused, it matters not so far as what we try to scare you with. If we separated them, you might see that nature really is a lot more dominate than we admit. No need for those pesky details.

There is talk of adaptation in the document, but not in many of the press releases. It’s fascinating how science gets trampled all to death in the name of saving the planet, which we have little evidence needs saving. Perhaps they changed to the psychic method because actual predictions of melting glaciers, hotspots and Arctic ice were so problematic in the past. It appears there’s much, much more to learn about natural climate change, CO2 and modeling before we can move past the psychic predictions.

 

Scientific badger

Scientific badger

 

 

 

 

Beware the Superlative

WtD is on a rant that Hurricane Hayian is “proof” of climate change.  It’s the storm of the century, complete and utter devastation and irrefutably caused by climate change.  First, let’s note that NBC World News has reported a death toll closer to 2000 or 2500, not 10,000 as was the original report.   Yes, any loss of life is sad and we feel for those who lose their homes and loved ones.  The scientist responds with new ways to build homes that are more resistant to hurricane damage.  The compassionate send relief supplies.  The politically motivated, use anyone and anything to promote our cause persons hold up the dead as proof of their beliefs.  Using the dead to push and agenda.  WtD seems to see nothing wrong with this.   Using people is nothing new to the climate change agenda–I’m sure we’ll see using and abusing of victims of any natural event far into the future in an attempt to gather more believers.

The title “beware the superlative” refers to the media and climate change people saying “super storm”, strongest winds, worst ever devastation.   Somewhere along the line, they are hoping your are not bright enough to realize that the previous record holder for winds was “the worst, the strongest”.  From stormfacts.net:

Hurricane Allen (July/August of 1980) was one of the strongest hurricanes to ever form in the Atlantic Basin. Allen reached Category 5 status three different times and is one of only two hurricanes to ever have winds reach in excess of 190 mph (the other being Hurricane Camille of 1969). Allen was the earliest Category 5 hurricane on record (reached Category 5 status on August 5th) until 2005’s Hurricane Emily (reached Category 5 status on July 16th). Allen made landfall north of Brownsville, Texas on August 9th as a Category 3 storm…  (my emphasis)

Every single record broken after the original record was set is “the worst, the strongest, the baddest”.  Superlatives do not indicate causality, and record-breaking does not prove anything.  Records are set every day and broken the following one.  Superlatives fool people into believing things are getting worse or better when in reality, it may be the exact opposite.

Beware the Superlative–it’s there to fool you into not thinking.  Think.

Scientific badger

Scientific badger

Climate change claims

  1. Worst year ever for ____________ (insert fires, flood, locust plague, whatever)I keep wondering how long the little boy can cry “wolf”.  Judging by the ZERO participants in a DC climate rally this summer, the cry is losing its effect. Sea levels rise centimeters, not meters, American heat waves declining—all problematic. Chants of “It will come” just make the speakers look foolish—like a psychic trying to overcome failed predictions.
  2. Climate change is a threat to national securityThis is one of the stupidest statements to date. The only threat to national security is the idiot making the statement. Next, gravity will be a threat to national security, then darkness, then sunshine. Incredibly stupid is the only term I can find for this.
  3. Climate change makes apples less crisp (colossal waste of money on that study), drives women into prostitution, makes politicians dumber (okay, I made that one up—and it could be true), increases crime, will necessitate mass migrations inland and vastly increases Facebook and Twitter traffic. It’s like God—omnipresent and responsible for everything.
  4. Anyone who questions AGW is a “denier” (yes, there are degrees of skepticism and one can disagree with parts of AGW, but the general usage is to apply it to anyone who even questions the science)The term is oft said to be attributed to likening skeptics to Holocaust deniers. Since the Holocaust is historical and climate change involves predicting the future, it seems misapplied. Currently, it is hurled about in the same fashion “communist” was in the McCarthy era. All it took was the word, the accusation—no evidence, no proof—to smear someone’s life. The term is currently hurled at congresspersons to try to ruin their reputations, with limited success. (This is PURE politics, no science whatsoever.) The “jokes” about tying people to tailpipes for an hour to demonstrate the toxic CO2 gas are no less threatening than in the McCarthy era threatening to turn in your neighbor as a “commie” if he did not agree with everything you wanted him to.
  5. The use of sacred texts (aka peer-reviewed journals)I am certain there will be outcries over the use of such terms. However, peer-reviewed journals are to climate science what holy books are to religion. They are the works of the god of science—nearly infallible, rarely questioned, and constantly quoted from. The journals contain the truth about the universe. All other journals and studies are without value and may constitute an affront to climate change science. It’s taken on faith that scientists who write in these journals are the only humans capable of understanding the great mysteries of the universe. Thou shalt trust no other texts in place of these.
  6. Climate change increases extreme weather.Extreme is a scary word which means the event lies far outside the normal. There was one study that looked at “extremes” and climate change done by NOAA in 2011 that was quite interesting. However, the media rarely seems interested in the distinctions between “extreme” and “just another naturally occurring storm” and blames every flood, drought, etc on climate change (see Watching the Deniers for examples). Al Gore made an entire presentation featuring disaster photos (plus said Cat 6 was being introduced for hurricanes—it is not). Scientists, if they were interested in accuracy, would have insisted this stop. At least the head of the IPCC stepped up and said no blaming tornadoes on climate change. More of this needs to be shouted out repeatedly if climate change science is to be considered to be science, not politics.
  7. It’s another record-breaking _________________. (Fill in the blank)Records fascinate people. They want to know the longest heat wave, the tallest building, the fastest car, who can eat the most hot dogs in 60 seconds. In all except the first case, there is little significance attributed to the record and people watch for the records to be broken.In climate change, however, records have huge significance—IF they go in the direction of warming (or maybe any directions, since warming can cause cooling). The longest heat wave is harbinger of doom. Hottest days in a summer of record-breaking temperatures predict a coming meltdown (or migration from the equator, minimum). There are millions, probably billions, of records in temperature, rainfall, drought. Records routinely get broken. If you limit these to the last 30 years, still, thousands are broken daily. Searching for patterns is said to allow us to predict weather. At one time, I thought this was true, too. Now I have learned that patterns can be pulled out of many sources, yet yield no useful predictions. Climate is supposed to vary—vary widely. We humans want it to have patterns—it seems nature did not. Looking for patterns can sometimes lead to predictable outcomes, but the more variables involved, the greater the chance of useless predictions. Records set in climate are just records—no magic, no crystal ball.

Watch for the marketing language—don’t let it steer your gaze from the actual data and methods. It’s not about flashy language—it’s about repeatable empirical (not model) data and results.

scientific badger

scientific badger

Arctic Ice

I have reached a point in my studies where I can present my conclusions on what a melting of arctic likely means. Is it a sign of the apocalypse, or a natural phenomena?

First, I note with interest that the National Snow and Ice data center will be updating the sea ice baseline from the currently used 1979 to 2000 to the 1981 to 2010 interval. This means 10 years of diminished ice cover will figure into the average used for comparisons. This should result in the ice extent anomaly becoming smaller—in other words, the melt will be closer to average. In July, the change will be implemented and I look forward to seeing the effects.

Where to start? Studying arctic ice proved enlightening. There are many hypotheses for what causes ice melt. Plus, forces acting on sea ice are not the same as that acting on land ice. Land ice melts in reaction to air temperature, wind, storms, snow cover. Sea ice melts mostly due to water temperature underneath the ice, wave motion and storms.

There are terms:
slp sea level pressure
AO Arctic Oscillation
NAO North Atlantic Oscillation
lfo low frequency oscillation
sst sea surface temperature
enso el Niño southern oscillation
smmr scanning microwave radiometer
ssmi special sensor/ microwave imager
first year ice
multiyear ice (important because the two types of ice have different melting rates)
Beaufort Gyre (a mean annual clockwise motion in the Western Atlantic)

Then the proxies:
Marine sediment records
sea floor sediments beneath the ice give the best information
resolution varies by location—central areas are low resolution with a long time scale
continental margins are high resolution with a shorter time scale
ice rafted sediments are the most direct proxies
skeletons of marine animals/organisms
coastal records, driftwood, whalebone
terrestrial vegetation, ice cores
historical records
the 18O/16O ratio
Use of multiple proxies is required to reduce the probability of errors.

According to Lora Koenig, (Goddard glaciologist) a melt similar to the current one occurs every 150 years and this one is right on time. For those of you on the advocate side, I give you: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/07/28/1114628/-NASA-Made-up-150-year-melt-cycles-NY-Times-Slammed-NASA-for-Unprecedented-Melt-Every-150-Years#
It is a political blog with unlabeled axes on the first graph, but it does provide an alternative point of view (she was pressured by politics—wait—that’s what the questioners say about advocates. Now advocates who rejected that explanation when it was used as an explanation of why climate scientists all stick together and don’t go against “consensus”, are using the argument themselves. Most interesting.) I did not find verification of her political motivation. I did find other articles that verified the 150 year cycles based on ice cores.

Another interesting item was an announcement from NSID that they would revise their algorithm for the Greenland Ice Sheet early. The adjustment resulted in fewer melt days. What is interesting is how measurements are not straightforward. It seems we have to mathematically adjust so many of the measurements. Since no direct measurement may exist, there’s really no way to verify the accuracy, nothing concrete to compare to. The best we can do is have independent calculation and verify the “close fit” or “way off” nature of each method. The change in the algorithm appears to have been
due to temperature records showing the temperature had not hit the melting point. This is as close to direct verification as we get, it seems. This also illustrates the lack of reliability in the science, especially if the melt gets a headline and the correction gets virtually no notice.

In Quaternary Science Reviews, there was an interesting study on the history of sea ice. It explains proxies and many aspects of researching ice. The conclusion was “unexplainable by any of the known natural variations.” The implication was that humans were the only possible cause, not nature. This is basically the exclusionary principle—nothing else explains the phenomena so it must be “x” (in this case, us). In the study, this is not stated but rather implied. The actual conclusion is the ice melt is anomalous. That conclusion is an actual scientific statement that refrains from over-reaching: the ice is melting at a rate outside our defined “normal”.

In researching arctic ice, I found an article with a study saying the record surface melting was caused by “unusual atmospheric circulation and jet stream GrIS. This event was the largest such event since the 70’s and maybe longer. The study involved using a computer model and satellite data. Based on the results, the melt’s main forcing was atmospheric—the NAO, GBI (Greenland Blocking Index—a high pressure system over Greenland) and the polar jet stream. Researchers note that in time we will know if the was anomalous or part of an emerging pattern. Patience before drawing conclusions is a very good practice. So is more data collection.

Sea ice decline is actually small: -2.24% per decade. Headlines such as “Why Arctic Sea Ice will vanish in 2013” are designed to lead people to thinking climate change is much faster and larger than the data would indicate (I’ll wait until September to see if the headline comes true. Also, this story states we have had a stable climate for the last 11,000 years. Any time I ask about a stable climate, I am told “the climate never was stable”. It’s headlines and stories like these that lead people to asking when was climate stable and doubting the accuracy of climate change science.) I also found a report that Peter Wadhams, review editor, IPCC Working Group I report says the arctic will melt by 2015, if not sooner. The exaggerations seem endless.

One of the proxies used for study is historical records. I’m including some here. While there will be an immediate “That’s not science” reaction from many, consider that internet marketing surveys are now being published in peer-reviewed journals. Old newspaper headlines are certainly as reliable a measure as internet marketing surveys.
From Climate Depot:
1922 Washington Post “Arctic Ocean Getting Warm, Seals Vanish and Iceberg Melt”
1923 “Radical Climate Change Melting Down the North Pole”
1935 “Russian Ship Sailed 500 miles from North Pole in Ice Free Water”
1947 “International Agency needed to Stop the Arctic Meltdown” (No word on how that would work)
1907 “Arctic Heat Record—Hottest Place in Europe
Some of these may have been “local” events but the belief in apocalyptic meltdown of the arctic is nothing new.
As you can see, there are many theories/hypothesis on arctic ice melt. What seems most apparent is we lack sufficient understanding at this point to draw accurate conclusions, especially long-range ones. In 2002, satellites from GRACE began detecting tiny variations in Earth’s gravity that indicate changes in mass distribution on earth, including the movement of ice into the ocean. These are detecting decreases, but with only a decade of data, its too soon to establish a pattern as climate change rather than short-term weather changes. Even if we do find a significant decline, we cannot simply jump to “human-caused”. We live on a dynamic planet that is always changing. Monitoring may help us prepare for the changes by alerting us sooner, much like radar for tornadoes and hurricanes. Just like the storm alerts, the knowledge can only warn, not prevent. We can study, learn and adapt, but in all probability, it’s not something we control nor something we can prevent.

References:

http://www.sierraclub.ca/en/AdultDiscussionPlease
http://www.livescience.com/28399-clouds-greenland-ice-melt.html
http://junkscience.com/2013/07/14/study-no-consensus-among-scientists-about-the-cause-of-recent-increase-in-ice-sheet-mass-loss-observed-by-satellites/
http://www.climatedepot.com/2012/08/27/dont-panic-arctic-ice-hits-record-low-climate-depot-explains-arctic-melting-hype/
Polyak, L., et al, History of sea ice in the Arctic, Quaternary Science Reviews (2010)
http://phys.org/news/2013-06-jet-stream-climatically-exceptional-greenland.html
http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1112875668/jet-stream-caused-greenland-ice-sheet-melt-2012-061713/

Click to access Liu_GRL31A.pdf


http://nsidc.org/greenland-today/2013/03/an-early-spring-calibration-for-melt-detection/
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/4084c8ee-fa36-11e2-98e0-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2apWLP7jt

Scientific Badger

Scientific Badger

No extremes found

Interesting reading:

UK Climate and Control Charts

Posted on July 3, 2013
From the Met Office 19 June 2013
The UK Met Office recently held an emergency meeting:
“Weather and climate experts from across the UK came together at the Met Office’s HQ in Exeter today for a workshop to discuss the recent run of unusual seasons in Europe.”

“Today’s included sessions which looked at the weather patterns and their potential causes in three recent seasons – the cold winter of 2010/11, the wet summer of 2012, and this year’s cold spring.”

From personal experience and a casual glance at the Met Office temperature figures it struck me that the variations seemed pretty much what we expect from our UK weather.

As a manufacturing engineer I was introduced to the wonderful world of control charts so I decided to construct these for the cold winter of 2010/11, the wet summer of 2012, and this year’s cold spring.

Read more here: http://oldgifford.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/uk-climate-and-control-chartsposted-on-july-3-2013from/

As the science spirals…..

Once upon a time, there was a group of scientists who discovered what they believed to be a warming of the planet, caused by humans burning fossil fuels.  This elite group of scientists spent years studying the subject, had very advanced degrees and numerous published papers.  They were the best of the best–the supreme and infallible authorities on climate change and how humans were destroying the only planet they had.

Then came the skeptics.  Those pesky people asking uncomfortable questions about the science. How dare they????  These were Authorities–one does not question authorities.  Yet skeptics did and the skeptics refused to back down and go away.

The climate scientists supporters started simply saying that NO ONE who did not have a degree in or has worked for years in climate science and published beaucoup papers was a valid authority. This would eliminate most of the skeptics and the others would not amount to a threat.  And for a while, that seemed to work.  People knew the difference between “real science” and those pesky wannabes out there questioning climate change.

All was not well in the kingdom, however.  The skeptics kept hitting on plateauing temperatures.  The climate scientists started using words like “stalling” and assuring everyone the warming would pick up again.  Some went so far as to say nature might temporarily be overwhelming what we humans were adding, though that would not continue indefinitely.

The biggest change, however, was the newly defined “authority” or perhaps “who is okay to listen to” would be a better term.  It began with a psychologist writing a paper about conspiracy theories and skeptics (which is totally irrelevant to the science and basically name-calling) which did apparently finally get published somewhere.  This allowed into the arena “social science” in place of the “hard science” of the past.  No longer did climate change scientists care if it was getting warmer, only how to make people believe it was.  Then there was the graduate student who created a new hockey stick–in his doctoral thesis.  He was hailed as vindication for Mann.  He had no “years of experience” .  His degree was not climate science.  After that, a blogger became the new hero.  This was for his “citizen” science–an internet survey to prove 97% consensus on authorities believing in climate change.  (Is it not interesting that the 97% number remains constant over years and years and whatever the approach to measuring consensus?  Almost unheard of in the world of surveys and polling, yet there it is, over and over and over.)  This blogger that clearly indicated he “was not a scientist” (thought he does have a degree in physics).  This blogger that now is associated with a university in Australia.  His qualifications seem to be “well-known” so people recognize his name and appears to agree with everything climate change tells him.  His “research” was an internet survey.

In the last couple of years, climate science has gone from “expert with advanced degree and years of experience and peer-reviewed journals” to “any guy who agrees with us and we can use to further our cause using internet surveys or whatever it takes”.  This is good news for skeptics.  No longer can the climate change advocates claim that skeptics are not “qualified”.  Many, many skeptics have degrees in science, some write blogs.  Of course they don’t agree with the climate change science, but that is the only qualification they lack.  Since it’s science we are talking about , that agreement is actually considered “unscientific”.  After all, Darwin and Einstein didn’t poll scientists to get consensus before presenting their theories. Nor did they take consensus polls after presenting the theory.  Scientists who disagreed with Einstein were not vilified (probably not so Darwin, but that, like climate change, had more to do with science eliminating God and replacing Him with science).  Only religion forbids disagreement.  So the “agreement” qualification is moot.  Virtually everything advocates objected to in skeptics has become part of the advocate side now.  No years of experience, writing on things outside climate science if they sell your cause, and blogging as a gateway to becoming a bona fide climate science researcher.

When climate change advocates start claiming lack of experience or lack of degree disqualifies skeptics, just say “Lewandowski”, “Marcott” and “Cook”.  When the discussion of the current “pause” in warming comes up, just say “nature overwhelming manmade”.  It seems climate science has become that which they criticized.  Desperate measures for desperate times, I think.

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.

Examining science, part 1

We will be starting with definitions and other such things so hopefully the discussion will progress more smoothly if we are all using the same terminology. Please feel free to comment and let me know if the definitions are not clear.

Climate change: The theory that humans are contributing to changes in the climate through CO2 and feedback mechanisms. The theory is generally associated with James Hansen and the IPCC

Natural climate change: The variations in the climate that have always existed, with or without human CO2 contributions

The following terms refer to changes due to human activity, mostly CO2. If I am referring to these phenomena as part of a natural cycle, I will use the modifier “natural”
Sea level rise
Glaciers melting
Extinctions
Temperatures rising
Coral reefs dying
Ocean acidification

Settled science: I have been told these two points are settled: 1. CO2 raises temperatures and 2. Humans are causing global temperatures to rise due to the CO2 put into the air.
I accept that CO2 raises temperatures and that humans contribute to this phenomena. I do not accept that this means a catastrophic rise in global temperatures will follow and do not consider this settled.

To be clear, I do believe the temperatures rise, glaciers melt, coral reefs die, but I do not find the evidence that human beings are the main cause of this, nor is there cause for alarm. This series covers the reasons why.

Logical Fallacies:
I am including a section on logical fallacies to pre-empt (hopefully) the use of these arguments. Such arguments, if presented, will be dismissed immediately.

A. Ad Hominem—name calling, personal insults and attacking the speaker
Example: You are so stupid. You know nothing. My dog is smarter than you (unless you can prove your dog is smarter than me.) Flat-earther. You know nothing about science.

B. Poisoning the well: using one belief a person has in an unrelated area to dismiss everything the speaker says
Example: You cannot believe John’s work on paleoclimatology because he believes there is a conspiracy surrounding 9/11. His beliefs on political conspiracies does not mean his work on climate is suspect. This is a common fallacy thrown at both climate change advocates and questioners.

C. Argument from authority. As a deductive argument, it is always a fallacy. There is currently an informal use that an appropriate authority is acceptable for common usage. My belief remains that “argument from authority” is a fallacy, even where the authority is an expert. One may use the authority as a guideline, but that is all. Authority is not the definitive proof of a scientific theory, the data and methodology are.

D. Straw Man: Using a larger, more outrageous belief or idea to impugn someone’s beliefs
Example: Skeptics question climate science. Therefore, skeptics refuse to believe science.
Using the broader statement is designed make the disagreement irrational.
These arguments are often used in conjunction with ad hominem attacks.

E. Argument from persecution: This fallacy most often shows up in religious arguments, but Michael Mann seems to have found it worth a try:

Attacks (i.e. persecution) do not prove you are right. In fact, if we follow that logic, skeptics are attacked too, so this proves two mutually exclusive ideas (AGW and lack of AGW).

screen-shot-2013-03-21-at-9-13-53-am

 

While not a fallacy (at least not as it generally stated) there is the “follow the money” argument. While it is always prudent to check out all sides of a debate, including who paid for it, it is NOT automatically proof that the speaker lacks a valid argument. This is very popular for dismissing anyone who questions climate science, and I have seen it applied by skeptics. (Advocates say oil money, questioners say government money. However, I have seen oil companies pay for research into wind energy storage, so the money is not always an indicator.)

Correlation:
Correlation does not prove causality, but causality does require correlation.

Proving a negative:
One cannot prove negatives such as “Prove ghosts do not exist” or “Prove there are no unicorns”. However, finding a ghost or unicorn proves the statement false.

One can indirectly prove a negative such as: I am housebound so I did not steal the car. In this case, one proves the premise (that I am housebound) and the conclusion follows (I did not steal the car).

I include this because I am often confronted with a misunderstanding of how scientific methodology works. A scientist presents an hypothesis, the data to support it and then awaits comments and questions. It is the responsibility of the scientist to answer these questions. It is not his responsibility to point out possible errors or alternative theories. Demands to prove that humans are not the cause of climate change are asking one to prove a negative. The only thing science can do is show one theory, humans or nature, has the higher probability. That is how science works. If sun activity shows higher correlation to temperature increases than does CO2, the CO2 is a less likely cause. Remember, causality requires correlation. The item with the lower correlation is less likely to be the cause.

Climate science presents some unique problems. Much, if not most, of climate science is based on mathematics. Actual readings of temperatures, sea level, etc are used, but subjected to a great deal of statistical manipulation before a conclusion is reached. This makes it much more difficult to understand than say, gravity. Gravity is a physical phenomena that is clearly demonstrable. Climate change is not. We have limited data, various models and a system so complex a super computer is required to run the data. All of which can introduce error and serial error. While climate science likes to say it is “certain”, it is anything but certain. The only result one can produce is a probability coefficient or a confidence interval. These may be as high as 95%. They may be much lower. Results can fall outside the interval and the theory still be true, but not over and over again. It’s so much more difficult than dropping a hammer.

I will cover these items in more detail in future postings.

(Comments and ideas are welcome if presented in a polite, respectful tone.  This is science.)