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The missing piece at the Wegman hearing

Filed under: — group @ 19 July 2006

It’s not often that blogs come up in congressional hearings, but RealClimate was mentioned yesterday in the Energy and Commerce hearings on the ‘Hockey Stick’ affair. Of course, it was only to accuse us of being part of tight-knit social network of climate scientists, but still, the public recognition is nice.

There is much that could be said about the hearings (and no doubt will be) and many of the participants (Tom Karl, Tom Crowley, Hans von Storch, Gerry North) did a good job in articulating the big picture on climate change independently of the ‘hockey stick’ study as we’ve highlighted before. But it seems to us that there was a missing element in the discussions. That element was the direct implication of the critique that was the principal focus of Wegman’s testimony and that was mentioned periodically throughout the day.

Wegman had been tasked solely to evaluate whether the McIntyre and McKitrick (2005) (MM05) criticism of Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998) (MBH) had statistical merit. That is, was their narrow point on the impacts of centering on the first principal component (PC) correct? He was pointedly not asked whether it made any difference to the final MBH reconstruction and so he did not attempt to evaluate that. Since no one has ever disputed MM05’s arithmetic (only their inferences), he along with the everyone else found that, yes, centering conventions make a difference to the first PC. This was acknowledged way back when and so should not come as a surprise. From this, Wegman concluded that more statisticians should be consulted in paleo-climate work. Actually, on this point most people would agree – both fields benefit from examining the different kinds of problems that arise in climate data than in standard statistical problems and coming up with novel solutions, and like most good ideas it has already been thought of. For instance, NCAR has run a program on statistical climatology for years and the head of that program (Doug Nychka) was directly consulted for the Wahl and Ammann (2006) paper for instance.

But, and this is where the missing piece comes in, no-one (with sole and impressive exception of Hans von Storch during the Q&A) went on to mention what the effect of the PC centering changes would have had on the final reconstruction – that is, after all the N. American PCs had been put in with the other data and used to make the hemispheric mean temperature estimate. Beacuse, let’s face it, it was the final reconstruction that got everyone’s attention.Von Storch got it absolutely right – it would make no practical difference at all.

This is what MBH would have looked like using centered PC analysis:


Red is the original MBH emulation and green is the calculation using centered PC analysis (and additionally removing one of the less well replicated tree ring series). (Calculations are from Wahl and Amman (2006), after their fig. 5d). Pretty much the same variability and the same ‘hockey stick’. We’d be very surprised if anyone thought that this would have made any difference to either the conclusions or the subsequent use of the MBH results.

In fact, it’s even more simple, Throw out that PC analysis step completely, what do you get?


Again, red is the original MBH98 multiproxy+PC analysis, green is if the raw data are used directly (with no PC analysis at all). (This comes from Rutherford et al (2005) and uses a different methodology – RegEM – to calibrate paleoclimate proxy data against the modern instrumental record, but that doesn’t make any difference for this point).

Why doesn’t it make any difference? It’s because the PC analysis was used to encapsulate all of the statistically relevant information in the N. American tree ring network and so whatever patterns are in there they will always influence the final reconstruction.

So what would have happened to the MBH results if Wegman and his colleagues had been consulted on PC centering conventions at the time? Absolutely nothing.

Can we all get on with something more interesting now?


185 Responses to “The missing piece at the Wegman hearing”

  1. 151
    John Donohue says:

    Withdrawing the word ‘irrefutable”, and still searching for the fair and proper level-of-certainty language, let me recast my statement accordingly:

    Does the consensus hold that from analysis of climate, oceans and atmosphere, and regarding the human loading of greenhouse gases over the last century and on the case that it continues or increases, that it is considered proven that the glaciation/interglacial cycle is terminated, the current ~ 30 million-year ice house has ended and all the ice is about to melt over roughly 500-2500 years?

    Note to all, although I will not retort in kind, the trend of smear labels treated as common rhetoric by some in this forum is rather curious. Although this is unsolicited, I’ll offer the point of view from the outside that, in addition to it piling one fallacy on top of another, it makes the person using the smear look scared.

  2. 152
    Hank Roberts says:

    Thomas, see James Annan’s good writing about these words. News reporting and PR sites share the same problems explaining what science is offering. And even the sciences aren’t clear on this, statistics is a very new discipline with much disagreement yet about what’s best practice and how to describe what’s learned. http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/

    We don’t want to fall for the rhetorical trap of insisting that if we can’t find ‘irrefutable proof’ then science isn’t ‘proving anything’ and can’t be trusted — that’s just PR stuff. It fools people all too well, they come in “certain” about what they know and post it here!

    That’s why I keep asking those who come in with it where they are getting their information and why they trust what they’ve been told elsewhere — ask them to come in questioning, and they’re halfway to understanding how science is done.

  3. 153
    Hank Roberts says:

    > 146, Michaels (of the Cato Institute)
    Wow. He’s already on record as receiving $75,000 from Exxon alone last year, and now has received $100,000 this year from a coal-burning utility.

    Interesting to see mainstream media documenting these payments.

  4. 154
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    #109, re the dire warnings of Mr. Gore, I’ll have to disagree with you. I was a bit disappointed in the film because it didn’t go far enough, but remained pretty much squarely in conservative, “we need 95% certainty catastrophe is upon us to make claims,” science (at least 90%, or how about 60% certainty).

    So, it didn’t even mention the possibility of hysteresis — limited runaway warming that caused more than 90% of earth’s life to die in the end-Permian extinction. Such warming could happen again, and you are absolutely right about GW having more than one cause — the initial warming (this time caused by humans) could cause massive releases of carbon (e.g. melting permafrost and ocean hydrate methane), which causes further warming, which causes further releases, spiralling out of human control to reverse.

    How likely is this — my guess is it’s getting more & more likely all the time, while science keeps having to recalibrate upward the direness of its messages on GW as the years go by. Compare the IPCC reports of the 90s with 2001, & with the one coming out.

    Now these increases in the dangers & harms from AGW are not because a whole lot has changed re GHG emissions over the 90s and since, but because the science is getting better & better.

    One day we may wake up in 2030 to a scientific study that informs us we reached the point of no return (we triggered irreversible warming – hysteresis) by April 5th, 2016, and we are in for a really bad time, with enormous human/life death toll over the next several thousand years. And though we can reduce the harm a bit through our GHG reductions & storage, we’ve pretty much committed a large chunk of life to harm & destruction.

    Why would any sane, good person want to risk that (and–if you are a believer–a much hotter place for eternity), when we can save $$ through energy/resource efficiency/conservation? Beats me.

  5. 155
    Ron Taylor says:

    Re 146

    There is nothing off-thread about this! How can Patrick Michaels retain any credibility whatever? He was not given a grant for a particular piece of scientific research. He was paid $100,000 to say what his patrons want him to say. Whether he actually believes what he says is beside the point. His voice has been purchased.

  6. 156
    John Donohue says:

    re 147 Lynn,

    Does your prediction include the global mean temperature exceeding the normal 22C during and after the ice melt? In other words, will we simply terminate the current Ice House and return to normal earth temperature, or are you predicting worse than that? Other than during the first Eon, do you know of proof that global mean temperature ever exceeded 22-24 degrees C for extended periods?

    Certainly if temperatures shoots past the normal 22 C, …

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleoclimate (see section on Phanerozoic Climate, the ceiling of ice-free earth is considered to be 10 degrees warmer than the current 14, so, say 24 degrees C, although I have read other studies that say the normal mean is 22C.)

    …then earth could become completely hostile to life (runaway Venus?).

    On a more likely scenario, temperature would level at 22C, no? Certainly if all the ice melts there will be gigantic upheaval. But if it stops there, we would be back to the world-tropical climate during which the Cambrian Explosion and evolution of dinosaurs took place.

    Additionally, some science indicates that life form diversity varies directly with CO2 concentration, and thus relief from the current near-zero CO2, compared with that of the early Phanerozoic, would not predict extinctions, as you do, but rather species explosion.
    http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=122979

  7. 157
    Armand MacMurray says:

    Re:#128
    Lynn, thanks for the clarification. You originally stated that MSG “…has no benefits. It does not give flavor…”, and thus “…if the gov is involved in allowing this additive drug & poison on the market, no wonder they don’t care about harms from AGW.”
    You can see why I didn’t understand that your point was that MSG is “…harmful to some people, and extremely harmful to a tiny number.” I completely agree with this last statement. I’ll just note that the same is true for peanuts and some other substances and, while proper labeling is necessary, the scientific consensus is certainly against considering MSG an “additive drug & poison.”

  8. 158
    Brian Gordon says:

    Here’s an example of Steven Milloy’s reasoning:

    http://www.exxonsecrets.org/html/orgfactsheet.php?id=95
    20 April, 2006
    “The relationship between CO2 and temperature is logarithmic in nature; that is, as CO2 increases in the atmosphere, it absorbs less and less additional energy to produce correspondingly less and less additional warming. At some point, adding more CO2 to the atmosphere doesn’t significantly change atmospheric temperature.”
    Source: “The Greenhouse Myth” by Steven Milloy

    Why would additional CO2 molecules in the atmosphere absorb *less* energy? I can understand that at some point the atmosphere becomes saturated with CO2, though I suspect that’s a long way off, but that’s not what he’s saying here.

    Lynn (147): I agree with everything in your post except this: [After passing the point-of-no-return] “…we are in for a really bad time, with enormous human/life death toll over the next several thousand years.”

    I doubt we’ll have more than a few decades of civilization once people realize we’ve passed the PONR. Social consequences will destroy most of us long before the effects of climate change do.

  9. 159
    Hank Roberts says:

    Dr. Lubchenco, quoted in that article, has taught academic scientists how to effectively communicate with the public.
    http://lucile.science.oregonstate.edu/lubchenco/Pages/AboutJane/Biography.cfm

    She’d be a wonderful person to invite here I think, and able to talk about the research needed to decide what’s going on with the climatologists.
    ———————
    Excerpts from the link in 194:

    “Something about the system that’s very fundamental has changed,” said Jane Lubchenco, an Oregon State University marine ecologist who has studied the phenomenon.

    It’s too early to know whether the oxygen-starved ecosystem can be linked to global warming, scientists say, partly because what’s causing the hypoxia is linked to cyclical ocean conditions.

    In May and June, strong winds over the ocean pulled cold, oxygen-poor and nutrient-rich water from deeper areas and brought it closer to shore, a process known as “upwelling.” Normally, upwelling is good news….

    “Then the winds quieted down. We had no upwelling winds, a couple of weeks of very calm seas and all those microscopic plants that had been growing like gangbusters started to die and sink,” Lubchenco said. “And the bacteria that began to decay used up all the rest of the oxygen in the water.”
    ….
    The lack of correlation with any El Niño or La Niña events combined with the dramatic swings of recent years could suggest a human link, OSU oceanographer Jack Barth said.

    “What I do know is the climate change models for this part of the world say if you heat up the land more, you get a change in upwelling winds,” Barth said. “They’ll be delayed in the spring and stronger late in the year. That’s exactly what we saw last year. What I’m comfortable saying is it’s consistent with climate change.”
    ———————
    Precursors to this story were noted a month ago, as here:

    http://www.shns.com/shns/g_index2.cfm?action=detail&pk=SEALIFE-06-29-06

    …. This is the time of the year when the ocean off the California coast should be at its most lush, teeming with vast schools of krill to feed whales and salmon as well as plenty of baby rockfish for seabirds, seals and fishermen’s nets.

    But based on new counts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, federal researchers are reporting an odd summer and a scarcity of some sea life from San Diego to Newport, Ore., for the second year in a row. And some scientists wonder if the warming of the world’s oceans and atmosphere is playing a part.

    “The upwelling that we normally expect in the springtime hasn’t kicked in,” said Frank Schwing, a NOAA oceanographer.
    ….
    … The average catch rate of 100-day-old shortbelly rockfish was 24 per trawl over the past quarter century. In May and June 2005, the average rate was 0.15 fish per trawl, the lowest on record. This year is comparable to 2005, he said.

    “We’re getting El Nino-like conditions in non-El Nino years,” Ralston said.

    In El Nino years, the California Current is influenced by the powerful short-term fluxes of warm water that are precipitated by a failure of trade winds at the equator. But such an oceanwide effect hasn’t been seen.
    —————–

  10. 160

    that it is considered proven

    There you go again. I’m not even going to bother, except to point you to the best available evidence :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleocene-Eocene_Thermal_Maximum

    You need to ask yourself what a 3000 ppm carbon dioxide Earth will look like.

  11. 161
    Dan says:

    AP story from 7/27/06. Nice to see realclimate.org mentioned!

    D.

    Utilities giving big bucks to Virginia global warming skeptic

    By SETH BORENSTEIN
    AP Science Writer

    Jul 27, 2006

    WASHINGTON – Coal-burning utilities are passing the hat for one of the few remaining scientists skeptical of the global warming harm caused by industries that burn fossil fuels.

    Pat Michaels _ Virginia’s state climatologist, a University of Virginia professor and senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute _ told Western business leaders last year that he was running out of money for his analyses of other scientists’ global warming research. So last week, a utility organized a collection campaign to help him out, raising at least $150,000 in donations and pledges.

    The Intermountain Rural Electric Association of Sedalia, Colo., gave Michaels $100,000 and started the fundraising drive, said Stanley Lewandowski, IREA’s general manager. He said one company planned to give $50,000 and a third plans to give Michaels money next year.

    “We cannot allow the discussion to be monopolized by the alarmists,” Lewandowski wrote in a July 17 letter to 50 other utilities. He also called on other electric cooperatives to launch a counterattack on “alarmist” scientists and specifically Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth.”

    Michaels and Lewandowski are open about the money and see no problem with it. Some top scientists and environmental advocates call it a clear conflict of interest. Others view it as the type of lobbying that goes along with many divisive issues.

    “These people are just spitting into the wind,” said John Holdren, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “The fact is that the drumbeat of science and people’s perspectives are in line that the climate is changing.”

    Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, a Washington advocacy group, said: “This is a classic case of industry buying science to back up its anti-environmental agenda.”

    Donald Kennedy, an environmental scientist who is former president of Stanford University and current editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed journal Science, said skeptics such as Michaels are lobbyists more than researchers.

    “I don’t think it’s unethical any more than most lobbying is unethical,” he said. He said donations to skeptics amounts to “trying to get a political message across.”

    Michaels is best known for his newspaper opinion columns and books, including “Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians and the Media.” However, he also writes research articles published in scientific journals.

    In 1998, Michaels blasted NASA scientist James Hansen, accusing the godfather of global warming science of being way off on his key 1988 prediction of warming over the next 10 years. But Hansen and other scientists said Michaels misrepresented the facts by cherry-picking the worst (and least likely) of three possible outcomes Hansen presented to Congress. The temperature rise that Hansen said was most likely to happen back then was actually slightly lower than what has occurred.

    Michaels has been quoted by major newspapers more than 150 times in the past two years, according to a Lexis-Nexis database search. He and Lewandowski told The Associated Press that their side of global warming isn’t getting out and that the donations resulted from a speech Michaels gave to the Western Business Roundtable last fall. Michaels said the money will help pay his staff.

    Holdren, a Harvard environmental science and technology professor, said skeptics such as Michaels “have had attention all out of proportion to the merits of their arguments.”

    “Last I heard, anybody can ask a scientific question,” said Michaels, who holds a Ph.D. in ecological climatology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. “It is a very spirited discussion that requires technical response and expertise.”

    Other scientific fields, such as medicine, are more careful about potential conflicts of interests than the energy, environmental and chemical fields, where it doesn’t raise much of an eyebrow, said Penn State University bioethicist Arthur Caplan.

    Earlier this month, the Journal of the American Medical Association announced a crackdown on researchers who do not disclose drug company ties related to their research. Yet days later, the journal’s editor said she had been misled because the authors of a new study had not revealed industry money they got that posed a conflict.

    Three top climate scientists said they don’t accept money from private groups. The same goes for the Web site realclimate.org, which has long criticized Michaels. “We don’t get any money; we do this in our free time,” said Realclimate.org contributor Stefan Rahmstorf, an ocean physics scientist at Potsdam University in Germany.

    Lewandowski, who said he believes global warming is real just not as big a problem as scientists claim, acknowledged this is a special interest issue. He said the bigger concern is his 130,000 customers, who want to keep rates low, so coal-dependent utilities need to prevent any taxes or programs that penalize fossil fuel use. He said his effort is more aimed at stopping carbon dioxide emission taxes and limits from Congress, something he believes won’t happen during the Bush administration.

    ___

  12. 162
    Karl Sanchez says:

    It would seem that Gore’s film and the hearings caused a reaction: The “Vampire Memo.” This and some commentary can be found at, http://www.desmogblog.com/vampire-memo-reveals-coal-industry-plan-for-massive-propaganda-blitz

    The memo can be downloaded for sharing and is quite a read.

  13. 163
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    #155, you’re right. We have to consider the market crashes (remember how a simple computer glitch sent it tumbling in the 80s), wars, atrocities, and social chaos that would result from even relatively minor GW harms — well before major harms kick in. However, even though human societies might be so in shambles as to have our GHG emissions reduced greatly before major harms kick in, I think there’s enough carbon in nature to continue GW hysteresis and its harm to many many species for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

    Feel free to jump in, scientists, on “what if we get into a severe hysteresis (say at the level of the end-Permian extinction era), how long might it last, & how much harm might there be to life species, in general, & to humans in particular.”

    I’m not being hysterical, but we need to consider this, just like the Pentagon considers outlandish political/war possibilities–especially since the powers-that-be are not considering it, since they don’t even admit regular GW is happening. We may be in the Titanic without a captain, or Apollo 13 without Tom Hanks.

  14. 164
    James Hamilton says:

    An interesting post, it may well be that the statistical theatrics that have surrounded the critique of the ‘stick’ have run their course. The literature is simply too supportive of the general results presented in MBH to carry on with this nonsense. The comments by von Storch reflect that position and for the wider community it is obviously time to move on. However, as a previous poster has pointed out the critique will go on indefinitely. The new target, peer review itself. Should anyone care? I think not, the contrarians have few options remaining, the mainstream public has now left them behind.

  15. 165
    Ron Taylor says:

    Re 157 John Donohue quote:

    “On a more likely scenario, temperature would level at 22C, no? Certainly if all the ice melts there will be gigantic upheaval. But if it stops there, we would be back to the world-tropical climate during which the Cambrian Explosion and evolution of dinosaurs took place.

    “Additionally, some science indicates that life form diversity varies directly with CO2 concentration, and thus relief from the current near-zero CO2, compared with that of the early Phanerozoic, would not predict extinctions, as you do, but rather species explosion.”

    John are you seriously suggesting that a return to Cambrian conditions might not be so bad? Are you the same guy who is so upset over climate scientists suggesting we change how we use fossil fuels, because it would be so disruptive of our economy and society?

  16. 166
    Mark A. York says:

    I’m watching the Barton hearing right now. Dr. Mann is on deck but Barton has called for other disciplines to be included: physics, econ, and, stats and so on. It looks like public hanging to me.

  17. 167
    John Donohue says:

    re: 166 ron taylor….
    my post numbered 157 was in response to lynn in 155, which raised fairly apocalyptic possibility of “hysteresis — limited runaway warming that caused more than 90% of earth’s life to die in the end-Permian extinction.” She felt Mr. Gore should have painted a picture of that. Further down in the post she warned we might later find out “we are in for a really bad time, with enormous human/life death toll over the next several thousand years”. I was asking for clarity, if she thought this result would happen as and when the temperature reaches and levels off at 22 C, or was she thinking worse.

    1) no i am not suggesting a return to the conditions of the Early Phanerozoic, with CO2 at 5000 PPM and spiking to 7000,would be good or desired. [by the way, can anyone point me to an explanation of how there could have been a deep Ice House for millions of years in the Early Phanerozoic, with CO2 at 4000-5000?] I made that comment because the post seemed to not have any sense of the temperature leveling off at the normal mean of 22-24 C.

    2) “Are you the same guy who is so upset over climate scientists suggesting we change how we use fossil fuels, because it would be so disruptive of our economy and society?”
    i made no comment anything like what you are asking about. If I am mistaken, please cite the post number. If anything, and if the consensus on AGW is correct, we are in a far more emergency situation than “disruptive”. I’d say we’d have to have the UN ban burning coal world wide, order gas internal combustion engines totally out in 10 years (how about all electric?) and build nuclear power plants to make the electricity to run the cars and heat homes. The UN would have to force all arable land to be planted with trees (or any other plant that sucks up CO2). But…what to do about the methane? One thing to watch out for…if we stop burning fossil fuels, we could reduce soot pollution to the point that clouds become less reflective (smaller water droplets) of in-bound solar, thus increase radiant load and contributing to heat gain (I saw it on Discovery, it was called ‘global dimming.’)

  18. 168
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re #157 John Donohue wrote, “some science indicates that life form diversity varies directly with CO2 concentration, and thus relief from the current near-zero CO2, compared with that of the early Phanerozoic, would not predict extinctions, as you do, but rather species explosion.” and referenced the PNAS article by Cornette et al. (2002).

    The Cornette et al. study may not indicate quite what Mr. Donohue thinks it does. First, Cornette et al.’s Fig. 1 shows “spikes” in atmospheric CO2 level and marine diversification occuring over tens (if not hundreds) of millions of years – such slow changes in CO2 likely prevented significant changes in ocean pH due to geochemical buffering and permitted marine organisms to adapt to the rise in CO2. A major concern about current rising atmospheric and ocean CO2 and temperature is the rapid rate of increase, on a a scale of centuries (if not decades), which may preclude many species from adapting to those changes. For a discussion of this, refer to the reports on ocean acidification due to rising CO2 from the Royal Society (June 2005): http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/document.asp?id=3249, and NOAA-NSF-USGS (June 2006): http://www.isse.ucar.edu/florida.
    Second, in their concluding paragraph, Cornette et al.stated: “Finally, the correspondence between geochemical and biological history documented here and the two instances documented by Rothman (8)strongly suggest that the overall controls on most of the macroevolutionary record are environmental variables controlling CO2 levels.” This suggests (to me, at least) that a relationship between CO2 level and marine diversification is likely a correlation rather than cause-and-effect. For example, earlier in the Discussion Cornette et al. suggested, “Yet another hypothesis is that enhanced CO2 levels may be associated with increased sea-floor spreading rates that could encourage biological diversification by isolating faunas.”
    Third, the Cornette et al. article dealt only with marine diversification. The effect of rising atmospheric CO2 may not be such a great thing for many terrestrial plant communities, unless you think more kudzu, Japanese honeysuckle, and poison ivy are a good thing (http://tinyurl.com/redtq).

    Finally, I can’t resist commenting on another of Mr. Donohue’s statements: “Certainly if all the ice melts there will be gigantic upheaval. But if it stops there, we would be back to the world-tropical climate during which the Cambrian Explosion and evolution of dinosaurs took place.”
    I suspect a rise in sea level of 80 meters (http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs2-00) would not be such a great thing for most countries with a seacoast. And I would point out that the “Cambrian Explosion” and the rise of dinosaurs occured over many tens of millions of years – somehow, I doubt the opportunity to witness the beginning of another round of spectacular evolutionary diversification (if it were to occur) would compensate for the undesirable effects such global warming would have on society.

  19. 169
    Hank Roberts says:

    Did anyone type anything into a blog along with this hearing, or manage to convert the stream to a downloadable file?

  20. 170

    Re #168.
    John, a factor you may not have considered is that the solar flux has slowly increased over the last few hundred million years. In the periods you mention, the Solar flux was significantly lower than it is today.

    Note however, do not jump to the conclusion that solar flux is the cause of the current warming. That is just a straw the skeptics cling to. If anything, I believe the current solar flux is at a slightly lower level compared to 40-50 years ago.

  21. 171

    Re #140 — For a good look at what’s wrong with John Daly’s website, try this link:

    http://people.aapt.net.au/~johunter/greenhou/home.html

  22. 172
    Leonard Evens says:

    Some of the discussion here, particularly the comments of John Donohue, remind me of the pitfalls I’ve encountered when trying to diagnose my own medical problems. As a smart person with hypochondriac tendencies I’ve learned quite a lot about medicine, and in some cases I may actually know more about some restricted topics than my doctors. What I don’t have is the training and experience that medical school, residency, and years of practice affords. As a result I have no sense of what is relevant and what isn’t, which makes self diagnosis difficult. Similarly, if one hasn’t taken the time to master climatology, a minimum of two to three years, even starting from s strong scientific background, it is going to be be difficult to say sensible things. This applies both to those inclined to believe in global warming and those who really don’t want it to be the case. In addition, amateurs have little to lose when arguing the science, but professionals, who likely have made a few mistakes along the way, are much more aware of their fallibility and are going to be careful about what they say. That is why we rely on professionals for advice rather than trying to work it out for ourselves.

  23. 173

    Re #97 — has anyone looked at my optical thickness page? Please let me know of any mistakes.

    -BPL

  24. 174
    Jeff Weffer says:

    “… by the way, can anyone point me to an explanation of how there could have been a deep Ice House for millions of years in the Early Phanerozoic, with CO2 at 4000-5000? ”

    Generally, the position of the continents and the land masses makes the greatest contribution to the average temperature of the earth.

    The more land masses are concentrated toward the poles, the colder earth becomes. At various periods in earth history, the majority of the continents were locked up over the south pole. Think Antarctica times 10. As the glaciers build up at and near the poles, they spread out covering more land, reflecting more sunlight into space and the colder it gets, etc.

    At various times in earth’s history, the continental alignments have lead to a complete freezing over of the planet.

    Today, we have Antarctica and Greenland close to the poles which has contributed to the last 3.0 million year period of ice ages. North America and the EurAsian plate also moved slightly north over the past several million years.

  25. 175
    Ron Taylor says:

    Re 168

    John, you are correct about not having said anything like what I attributed to you. My apologies – I clearly confused your name with the post of someone else. I should have been more careful.

    I do think your description of the potential consequences of the AGW consensus is much too extreme. I urge you to read “The Race Against Climate Change” in the December 12, 2005 edition of Business Week, to see how industry is already moving to adapt. Better yet, take an online subscription to BW, then do a search on “global warming.” You will get way too much to check, so then click on “advanced search” and put in a date range for the past couple of years. I think you will be surprised.

    Yes, there will be some disadvantages for coal and oil, but there is no way we are not going to use those resources. We will just have to pay the cost as a society for reducing the carbon output.

    I was an early participant in the incredible effort to put a man on the moon within ten years. American science and industry are orders of magnitude more capable now than they were at that time. Given the proper incentives for R&D, I am confident that the AGW problem can be successfully addressed over the next 20-30 years. That will not, however, change the impact of the continuing positive feedbacks resulting from GHGs already released into the atmosphere. So there will still be some tough times ahead. How tough and how long could depend significantly on how quickly we get to work on the solutions.

  26. 176
    Hank Roberts says:

    I’m finally watching the 7/27 House Energy hearings.
    These are worth watching. It is at least possible to scroll forward and skip the half hour breaks for votes.

    One thought — purely on image, and fairly early in the hearing stream — same thought I have when the climatologists write here, in fact.

    Clarity and simplicity: start using paragraphs (in spoken work, taking breaks at significant points to allow slow thinkers time to absorb the point made).

    It’s getting better as I watch the hearing go on, for all the witnesses.

    Ball in other court, Waxman’s telling Christie he has a letter from him refusing to share code, describing “the spaghetti we wrote” — earlier, Christie did a nice and I think practiced statement acknowledging having been corrected on his satellite papers. But Waxman’s being sharp. He just ran out of time, and ends saying the scientists do seem to do more backbiting than the politicians. Waxman’s asking to put a letter from Wentz into the record; one of the Republicans is objecting to putting the letter in. Chairman ‘we’re about truth … will almost certainly put that in the record’.

    Now he’s questioning Dr. Mann again …. back to watching

  27. 177
    Hank Roberts says:

    Ack! around
    03:44:40-59

    Stearns: “anything else you want to comment on?”

    Wegman: “… carbon dioxide distribution. That was prefaced by a comment by me that I din’t know anything about carbon dioxide but I supposed for example that carbon dioxide settles. That was purely a hypothetical conjecture that I did not mean it to be taken as testimony.

    “Dr. North talked about a barrier of carbon dioxide at high levels in the atmosphere so he gave in his diagram the illustration that carbon dioxide was not mixed. So I you know that certainly is something that should be clarified. I did not mean to testify that carbon dioxide settles at ground level….”

    –> this is just strange. What’s he thinking?<—

    Later:

    around 4:05-07

    Blackburn (Tenn.): “environmental extremisn” …. “when I was growing up in the 60s there was going to be an ice age” (she said earlier she was taught that in high school)

    to Mann: “you’ve said that other studies have confirmed your results but it does not appear that their statistical analysis has been thoroughly examined and I want to know if you would be open to an independent review …. of climate change papers before those papers were published. …. so if we’re going to put government money into your papers should they be reviewd by others other than your social network before they are published… .with government money.”

    Mann: “there are some confusions…. two of the studies were reviewed … centering convention …. four different studies …. the peer review process is actualy working”

    Blackburn: “do you think they should be submitted for independent review before they get published?”

    4:05:53

    Mann: “…. that’s how scientific progress works.”

    Blackburn: Dr. Wegman?

    Wegman: “Dr. Mann did not answer your question ‘if you submitted to a statistical review panel would you be willing’ …. one of the troubles with this paleontological climate work is they don’t have interaction with statistical … it’s almost nonexistent, they are not interacting with our group although they are using methods that are based … a path to a better way of doing the science, … it behooves the meterological community to be interacting with us.”

    Blackburn: “I have Michael Crichton’s testimony … in ’05 … he was talking about that government grants should require a replication package … there is no reason to exclude anyone from reviewing the data. … Is that the type of thing ….”

    Wegman: “… this stuff ought to be subject to exceptionally … talking about the FDA and how the FDA requires some statistical … just to vet the drugs … seems to me in this climate arena this has incredibly important decisions …. ought to be carefully reviewed. The fact is that Dr. Mann continues to appeal to peer review but the fact is that peer review failed….”

    Blackburn: Dr. Christie, refers to Soon “Ten Myths of Global Warming”…..

  28. 178
    Joseph O'Sullivan says:

    #136 (John Donahue)
    â��Amazingly, rather than refute my point, you gave a textbook example of ‘poisioning the well’ and then offered it as a good thing! It’s a fallacy.â��

    I think we might disagree on what poisoning the well means.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poisoning_the_well
    I was not using this tactic. I was noting that the industries and the groups that work for them and with them routinely make misleading comments.

    Using a few misleading statements to falsely paint the industries and their allies as unreliable is �poisoning the well�. Noting that nearly everything they have said in the past about climate science is misleading is not �poisoning the well�.

    �If someone who works for Exxon whose job it is to find holes in the arguments that claim gobal warming is caused by burning their oil actually DOES find a data, logic or methods problem with that argument, it should be discarded because they work for Exxon?�

    No, but considering that Exxon and their allies have consistently lied about climate science it is very likely that their work is misleading.

  29. 179
    Hank Roberts says:

    There are a lot of statisticians’ organizations! Is anyone going to this annual gathering?

    Joint Statistical Meetings

    Aug 6, 2006 thru Aug 9, 2006

    Seattle, WA
    Duration: 4 days

    JSM (the Joint Statistical Meetings) is the largest gathering of statisticians held in North America. It is held jointly with the American Statistical Association, the International Biometric Society (ENAR and WNAR), the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, and the Statistical Society of Canada. Attended by over 5000 people, activities of the meeting include oral presentations, panel sessions, poster presentations, continuing education courses, exhibit hall (with state-of-the-art statistical products and opportunities), career placement service, society and section business meetings, committee meetings, social activities, and networking opportunities…..

    I hope at least one of the 5000 attendees is weblogging it.

  30. 180
    James Annan says:

    Re #132,

    Of course my comment was a bit of a pointless nitpick in that context, especially since I don’t disagree with you at all on the main thrust of your comments. It’s just there is a bit of a culture clash in the way estimation is performed in climate science (at least in the climate sensitivity part) so I’m particularly looking out for these issues.

    Sorry!

  31. 181
    Yong says:

    Hank Roberts,

    Could you please tell where you watched the congress hearing? Did you record it? If you did, could you please share with us? I watched last congress hearing. I am very interested in this one. Thank you very much.

  32. 182
  33. 183
    Chuck Booth says:

    From the August 4 issue of Science (p. 603):

    Climate Squall Peters Out

    Congressional hearings on what’s wrong with the science of global warming have quietly segued into less threatening channels. Last year, global-warming skeptic Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) launched an investigation of the so-called hockey-stick climate record, which portrays dramatic warming starting in the late 19th century. Scientists feared that Barton was going to politicize the science, but the matter culminated innocuously enough in two hearings late last month. He has asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office to examine data-sharing policies, “especially as they related to climate change research.” He also plans to ask the National Research Council to examine questions including whether climate science peer review may be too inbred.

  34. 184
    Stephen Berg says:

    The following “hot off the presses” short communication seems to support MBH98, but it also seems to suggest that MBH98 may have overestimated temperatures during the LIA:

    Smith, C.L., Baker, A., Fairchild, I.J., Frisia, S., and Borsato, A. (2006) Reconstructing Hemispheric-Scale Climates from Multiple Stalagmite Records. International Journal of Climatology. 26: 1417-1424.

    Interesting reading, though.

  35. 185

    Re #184 and “Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) launched an investigation of the so-called hockey-stick climate record… He also plans to ask the National Research Council to examine questions including whether climate science peer review may be too inbred. ”

    Perhaps they should investigate whether representative Barton may be too inbred.

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

    -BPL


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