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Mountains and molehills

Filed under: — gavin @ 11 November 2008 - (Español)

As many people will have read there was a glitch in the surface temperature record reporting for October. For many Russian stations (and some others), September temperatures were apparently copied over into October, giving an erroneous positive anomaly. The error appears to have been made somewhere between the reporting by the National Weather Services and NOAA’s collation of the GHCN database. GISS, which produces one of the more visible analyses of this raw data, processed the input data as normal and ended up with an October anomaly that was too high. That analysis has now been pulled (in under 24 hours) while they await a correction of input data from NOAA (Update: now (partially) completed).

There were 90 stations for which October numbers equalled September numbers in the corrupted GHCN file for 2008 (out of 908). This compares with an average of about 16 stations each year in the last decade (some earlier years have bigger counts, but none as big as this month, and are much less as a percentage of stations). These other cases seem to be mostly legitimate tropical stations where there isn’t much of a seasonal cycle. That makes it a little tricky to automatically scan for this problem, but putting in a check for the total number or percentage is probably sensible going forward.

It’s clearly true that the more eyes there are looking, the faster errors get noticed and fixed. The cottage industry that has sprung up to examine the daily sea ice numbers or the monthly analyses of surface and satellite temperatures, has certainly increased the number of eyes and that is generally for the good. Whether it’s a discovery of an odd shift in the annual cycle in the UAH MSU-LT data, or this flub in the GHCN data, or the USHCN/GHCN merge issue last year, the extra attention has led to improvements in many products. Nothing of any consequence has changed in terms of our understanding of climate change, but a few more i’s have been dotted and t’s crossed.

But unlike in other fields of citizen-science (astronomy or phenology spring to mind), the motivation for the temperature observers is heavily weighted towards wanting to find something wrong. As we discussed last year, there is a strong yearning among some to want to wake up tomorrow and find that the globe hasn’t been warming, that the sea ice hasn’t melted, that the glaciers have not receded and that indeed, CO2 is not a greenhouse gas. Thus when mistakes occur (and with science being a human endeavour, they always will) the exuberance of the response can be breathtaking – and quite telling.

A few examples from the comments at Watt’s blog will suffice to give you a flavour of the conspiratorial thinking: “I believe they had two sets of data: One would be released if Republicans won, and another if Democrats won.”, “could this be a sneaky way to set up the BO presidency with an urgent need to regulate CO2?”, “There are a great many of us who will under no circumstance allow the oppression of government rule to pervade over our freedom—-PERIOD!!!!!!” (exclamation marks reduced enormously), “these people are blinded by their own bias”, “this sort of scientific fraud”, “Climate science on the warmer side has degenerated to competitive lying”, etc… (To be fair, there were people who made sensible comments as well).

The amount of simply made up stuff is also impressive – the GISS press release declaring the October the ‘warmest ever’? Imaginary (GISS only puts out press releases on the temperature analysis at the end of the year). The headlines trumpeting this result? Non-existent. One clearly sees the relief that finally the grand conspiracy has been rumbled, that the mainstream media will get it’s comeuppance, and that surely now, the powers that be will listen to those voices that had been crying in the wilderness.

Alas! none of this will come to pass. In this case, someone’s programming error will be fixed and nothing will change except for the reporting of a single month’s anomaly. No heads will roll, no congressional investigations will be launched, no politicians (with one possible exception) will take note. This will undoubtedly be disappointing to many, but they should comfort themselves with the thought that the chances of this error happening again has now been diminished. Which is good, right?

In contrast to this molehill, there is an excellent story about how the scientific community really deals with serious mismatches between theory, models and data. That piece concerns the ‘ocean cooling’ story that was all the rage a year or two ago. An initial analysis of a new data source (the Argo float network) had revealed a dramatic short term cooling of the oceans over only 3 years. The problem was that this didn’t match the sea level data, nor theoretical expectations. Nonetheless, the paper was published (somewhat undermining claims that the peer-review system is irretrievably biased) to great acclaim in sections of the blogosphere, and to more muted puzzlement elsewhere. With the community’s attention focused on this issue, it wasn’t however long before problems turned up in the Argo floats themselves, but also in some of the other measurement devices – particularly XBTs. It took a couple of years for these things to fully work themselves out, but the most recent analyses show far fewer of the artifacts that had plagued the ocean heat content analyses in the past. A classic example in fact, of science moving forward on the back of apparent mismatches. Unfortunately, the resolution ended up favoring the models over the initial data reports, and so the whole story is horribly disappointing to some.

Which brings me to my last point, the role of models. It is clear that many of the temperature watchers are doing so in order to show that the IPCC-class models are wrong in their projections. However, the direct approach of downloading those models, running them and looking for flaws is clearly either too onerous or too boring. Even downloading the output (from here or here) is eschewed in favour of firing off Freedom of Information Act requests for data already publicly available – very odd. For another example, despite a few comments about the lack of sufficient comments in the GISS ModelE code (a complaint I also often make), I am unaware of anyone actually independently finding any errors in the publicly available Feb 2004 version (and I know there are a few). Instead, the anti-model crowd focuses on the minor issues that crop up every now and again in real-time data processing hoping that, by proxy, they’ll find a problem with the models.

I say good luck to them. They’ll need it.

815 Responses to “Mountains and molehills”

  1. 251
    Sekerob says:

    @Ray, whatever the WUWT/CA/Blackboard skewing you hear, if you take the temperature trends of UAH/RSS or GISS/NCDC/HadCRU, they all show the same profile which is UP. But who knows do the “illuminated” in control of the MSU have an auto-align build into the chips too to let it look warmer. Maybe latter have their heads up into brown clouds (UN report on China aerosols).

    My take:

    Could not care less what James Hansen et al smooths the heck out in voodoo algorithms. It matches up pretty well… who cares about 0.001C “unresolved discrepancy” as read at Watts’.

    but anyone could have picked up over there a…

    reCaptcha: fooled pe-

  2. 252

    Mark (#175, 176): now you have me puzzled. I didn’t say anything was slow.

    Hank Roberts #171:

    Why is aerosol cooling “another major source of error in the warming figures”? This is a well-known effect and accounts for the slowdown in CO2-induced warming around the middle of the 20th century. I wonder though to what extent this current batch of pollution is taken into account in the common models.

    I wouldn’t be too excited about it as a cause of slowing down warming though: as soon as far east industries clean up their act, the local cooling effect will go away and the CO2 will still be there.

    jcbmack: for someone who sternly advocates never referencing wikipedia, you have single-handedly upped its hit rank on every major search engine.

  3. 253
    Rich Creager says:

    jcbmack- Yes, you do digress. Enough about wikipedia. Please stick to what you know about climate science. Thanks.

  4. 254
    Ray Ladbury says:

    JCBMack, Do you have anything to back up your assertions about Wikipedia? The last research I saw said that on technical matters it was pretty much equivalent to Brittanica. In those areas where I do have expertise, the articles are not bad–and in terms of one-stop shopping for simple facts (e.g. what are the mean and standard deviation of a Weibull distribution…), it is quite convenient. I do not view the problem so much as Wikipedia per se, as a problem of excessive reliance on a single source.

  5. 255
    Mark says:

    Philip, #252.

    May have been a misreading of your post #163.

  6. 256
    Hank Roberts says:

    Philip, re aerosol cooling, I wonder the same as you
    > I wonder though to what extent this current batch of pollution
    > is taken into account in the common models.

    Yes. It was described first only recently:

    The global effects of Asian haze [air pollution]
    Lelieveld, J.; Ramanathan, V.; Crutzen, P.J.
    Spectrum, IEEE
    Volume 36, Issue 12, Dec 1999 Page(s):50 – 54
    Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/6.809124

    Summary: The authors describe how a thick layer of aerosols just discovered above the Indian Ocean by an international team may be a far-reaching influence on climate systems. The layer of haze was the discovery of the Indian Ocean Experiment (Indoex), an international field experiment that has been collecting surface and atmospheric data over the tropical Indian Ocean since 1996 ….
    PDF here:

    They’ve been busy since. Scholar finds a whole lot of work, e.g.

    “… Model sensitivity studies of dry deposition velocity and wet
    scavenging efficiency show that model improvements are needed in the treatment of carbonaceous aerosol dry and wet removal processes. Modeled SO2 conversion rate constrained with sulfate observations at Hanimaadhoo suggests the need to increase model sulfate production rate during the dry season to account for probable sulfate production via heterogeneous pathways.”
    Adhikary, B., G. R. Carmichael, Y. Tang, L. R. Leung, Y. Qian, J. J. Schauer, E. A. Stone, V. Ramanathan, and M. V.
    Ramana (2007), Characterization of the seasonal cycle of south Asian aerosols: A regional-scale modeling analysis, J. Geophys. Res.,
    112, D22S22, doi:10.1029/2006JD008143.

    I gather the reaction products of current coal smoke being emitted from recent industrialization behave differently over time (more sunlight causes different chemistry; higher stack velocity on big power plants puts the stuff much higher than in the 1800s).

  7. 257
    Hank Roberts says:

    Ray, this is a good analysis, including the study you recalled:

    Reference librarians speak to this; see citing articles too:

  8. 258
    Hank Roberts says:

    Pointers to current discussion elsewhere, for those who like this sort of thing, there is much to be said, better said elsewhere though.

    — a good current article from MLA: The Good Web: Workshop in Teaching Your Students How to Evaluate Web Resources

    — a reference therefrom: the Web Credibility Project … part of the Persuasive Technology Lab

  9. 259
    DMac says:

    Everyone scews up once in awhile, so I’m not surprised NASA Goddard got caught using poorly QA’d data. The good news is they were alerted to it and are revising their data sets to accommodate the corrections. I am a little surprised at your characterization of the “motivation” of those who found the error and brought it to light. You say “But unlike in other fields of citizen-science (astronomy or phenology spring to mind), the motivation for the temperature observers is heavily weighted towards wanting to find something wrong.” If AGW (as opposed to these changes simply being natural, cyclic climate change) is a scientific theory, it should receive constant questioning from those “wanting to find something wrong”. I thought that was the essence of the scientific method. Objective science should welcome persistent challenges to proposed theoretical explanations for observed phenomena, particularly ones whose implications have been so thoroughly advertised as cataclysmic. So be happy! At least someone is taking you seriously enough to actively investigate your issue. If you’re right, the AGW theory will withstand the scrutiny it will increasingly receive. If you’re wrong, then climate scientists will still have a lot of work to do trying to explain what variables are really behind the changes we see. [edit]

  10. 260
    Tony says:

    It does appear that the data sets from Hadley and the two derived from satellite measurements, after adjustments for the baselines, are deviating more and more from the GISS data set. Why?

    [Response: What is your reference for that claim? – gavin]

  11. 261
    Rod B says:

    Former S., some of us just haven’t seen the coming of the Lord, I guess. But that doesn’t make us stupid or liars about our background, just irreligious.

  12. 262
    Ray Ladbury says:

    DMac, By all means, any discipline in science needs to be subjected to constant critical analysis and checking. However, this is most effective when it is done by people who actually understand the science–and have an idea of when an error is significant and when it is trivial and would have been quickly discovered anyway. The current chest-thumping in the denialosphere is an excellent example of why neither climate science nor any other science needs to be “audited”

  13. 263

    229 Deep Climate… Tamino’s analysis of “LT” AMSU resembles closely what I am gathering by other means. There is nothing surprising to me about stronger trends than with surface temperature readings. Proving this would be made easy by studying Density Weighted Temperatures from Radiosonde profiles… Examples abound, surface temperature readings vary a lot more than a DWT computations, for instance Upton NY Radiosonde profiles, Nov 11 12z DWT of troposphere: 250.58 K. From the surface temperature reading -0.7 C warmed up for the next radiosonde release to + 6C. However the DWT merely warmed up by less than 4 degrees C to 254.33 K. Now this is less of a variance, a smaller variation ultimately means a better temperature trend can be calculated. The atmosphere as a whole, changes a lot less in temperature than at the surface. More certitude is achieved by using data which varies less. Finally the Upper troposphere cooling also found on Tamino’s site gives no contradiction, there is a greater cooling of the Upper atmosphere because
    the adiabatic lapse rate of a warmer troposphere is inherently bigger. Using this example:
    4000 meters -25 C at 6 C per Kilometer at 6000 meters gives -37 C… At 8 C per kilometer
    the temperature is -41 C. Not so much a mystery, the earth’s atmosphere is warming, along with larger adiabatic lapse rates.

  14. 264
    Rod B says:

    Mark (249), you say in NO case, when someone has come up with an idea that “explains” GW by something other than Anthro CO2, do I doubt the professed truth.

    I have so disagreed with and explained stuff to other skeptics or questioners, but that is not the pertinent point. Do you somehow believe that a valid skeptic must be skeptical toward everything? Or somehow I should join the mob and lambaste fellow skeptics that may have a twist different from mine? Three points: 1) That ain’t my yob; it’s your’n (and you’re doing quite well IMO) 2) The burden of proof is on the plaintiff — the one who professes something is true, like AGWers. The onus is NOT on the skeptics to prove the negative. Though you (generic you) do a good-sounding effort by pointing out we have not written our own jillion lines of code to run our own models on the massively parallel supercomputer that we don’t have. Followed by Nya! Nya! and often some reference to our heritage, our nasty acquaintances, and total lack of cognitive skills. 3) The burden is not on any one defendant to keep other defendants in line — even though I, for one, may do a little of that anyway.

    And, just for kicks, how do you prove it is not cooling, from say 2000 to the present???

    (250) You say “where” have I taken some to task??? In a post that you read, I said, “.. grasping at straws for an AHA! moment by some of my fellow skeptics is unbecoming and unscientific.” This followed my post, which you also read, that Gavin just ignore (more than not) the skeptic naysayers over this mountain/molehill anamoly. Lastly, just for the record, it was Gavin’s comments that caused me to retract my #33 post, not your attack (which I specifically criticized).

  15. 265
    Chris says:

    #262 Ray: “…this is most effective when it is done by people who actually understand the science–and have an idea of when an error is significant and when it is trivial and would have been quickly discovered anyway…”

    Speaking as the first person to post anything on WUWT about the errors, I understand at least the basics of “the science”, I spotted the errors because it was obvious there were discrepancies (not because it’s my mission in life to look for them), and I am not chest-thumping.

    My motivation in checking the latest temperature trends each month is that I want to understand the current global weather/climate as well as possible (my real interest has always been meteorology, to be clear), and so I want to have the most up-to-date figures to work with. It shouldn’t be necessary for members of the public like myself to have to spot errors in such important data in the first place.

    In my opinion, sensible “consensus” readers ought to accept that such errors are not something to be dismissed lightly, and sensible “skeptic” readers ought to accept that the significance of the errors should not be exaggerated.

    I object to the expression “denialosphere” – may I suggest the more neutral “in parts of the blogosphere”?

    (#263 Wayne: dry adiabatic or saturated adiabatic, or what combination?
    For dry: “…temperature decreases at a rate of 9.8 degrees Celsius per 1,000m”
    For saturated: “…It varies strongly with the moisture content,[4] which depends on temperature, and lightly with pressure from +3 °C/km (high temperature near surface) to +9.78 °C/km (very low temperature)…”
    I take it there’s no problem with wiki for uncontroversial definitions like these :) )

    ReCAPTCHA suggests “Wasserman less” – maybe it’s trying to tell us something about the magnitude of positive feedbacks, in Wayne’s example?

  16. 266
    BSNEATH says:

    The “Credibility Crunch” goes global!

    [Response: …further enhancing the telegraph’s reputation for (in)accurate reporting. – gavin]

  17. 267
    Hank Roberts says:

    > telegraph

    140 years of UFO sightings – Part I
    The world has never seen such freezing heat
    140 years of UFO sightings – Part II

  18. 268
    jcbmack says:

    Ray Ladury # 254 the research that Nature did on Britannica was flawed on several levels, also, I agree with you on the dangers of using a single source, also most academic writing requires one not use or limit use of references from encylopedias of any sort, and primary journals and peer reviewed magazine articles are preferred. However, in areas such as atmospheric fluid dynamics, general chemistry overviews, and as a one stop resource on global warming, Britannica is superior. I do not doubt some of the excellent references in wikipedia, when they cite directly studies from Oxford, Cornell etc…, however, many citations exist in Britannica if one looks for them and the tradition of actual experts in the fields being written about are far mosre assured than in wikipedia. I have a subscription to Nature and enjy their publication, but thier analysis was vague and did not use lateral comparisons; there is also the issue of lack of references and incomplete entries and people making false claims in wikipedia. Britannica does have a few typos, editorial errors and occasional inaccuracies, but not to the extent that wikipedia does, nor is wikipedia more thorough or detailed than Britannica. Besides all of this, I do not see either encyclopedia cited in primary literature anyways, nor are they meant to, but a newcomer to this information or a college student who needs a general background will not find a better general encylopedia than Britannica. Also you can Google Britannica’s response to Nature and Nature’s reply. The biology on wikipedia is also, in genera horrendous, and the explanations of advanced chemisty is abysmal.

    In my early years befor college it was Britannica that gave me a general background and I do look at wikipedia’s entries and sometimes find reasonable information, but they require I look at the primary citations just to get a whole, general idea, Britannica gives the general idea with plenty of details right off, then other sources may be used to expand and of course as always, verify.

  19. 269
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Chris #265, First, congratulations on your catch. I do not diminish the importance of catching errors. (I’ve worked as an editor before and value a good pair of eyes to look at my work after mine have become too bleary to see anything.) The fact that you at least acknowledge the reality of scientific consensus suggests to me that you don’t belong in the denialosphere in any case. Rather, I reserve my contempt for idiots like the editorial staff of the Telegraph and other irresponsible elements that trumpet every error as “the end of consensus,” every cool spell as “the end of global warming” and so on.
    In my opinion there is certainly room for some skepticism about how climate change will manifest (although if the consensus is wrong, the evidence favors a worse outcome more than a better one). There is room for debate about how best to handle the threat. There really isn’t room for debating whether CO2 will warm things or not–unless you have a constructive idea for how the physics would change so drastically between 280 ppmv and 380 ppmv.

    As to feedbacks–you need to understand that they apply to all forcings, not just CO2. It’s really difficult to come up with a working climate model without significant feedback.

  20. 270
    jcbmack says:

    On one more note, I like your posts and repsect you views Ray, because I do not doubt you do have expertise, and yes, one stop facts may be ok for some people, but in these times, I like a thorough background in anything before I comment as the quality of life and type of life will be increasingly determined by science regardless of the current political process. I would never allow a student to use one or two references alone, but when a high school student or freshmann in college sees these posts they should know where to go for the best information that they have hope of understanding; most people do not understand quantum mechanics whether they use wikiepedia, britannica or primary journals; these things take time, study training and hard work:) Again I respect your posts.

  21. 271

    265 Chris, Moisture mixing ratios at very cold temperatures are very low, at higher than lets say 500 mb, lapse rates are more often than not dry. NY on the 12th between 500 and 400 mb had 7 C
    per Kilometer. Same day in the Yucatan between 500 and 400 mb the lapse rate was 8.4 c per kilometer.

  22. 272
    jcbmack says:

    Hank keep in mind we do not use the MLA guidelines in science wriitng. At any rate, I would also like to get off this dicsussion and remind people that the NOAA overall has done a great jon and NASA has done a superb one… this is not an hindinburg disaster or another tragedy reported on in destroyed in second.

  23. 273
    DMac says:

    Your #262 response seems to reflect a desire to limit the legitimate questioning of AGW to a selected group of folks who are somehow qualified to comment (“denialists” obviously need not apply). One wonders who would be doing the selection for this elite group. When I was at Berkeley in the 60’s we actually made free speech a cornerstone of academic freedom. Your sentiments seem contrary to this concept. A little humility in the face of complex natural processes might be in order.

  24. 274
    jcbmack says:

    dt/dz= -Id… the equation representing the dry adibatic lapse rate,the magnitude of the vertical temperature gradient is approximately 0.0098 Cm-1,or 9.8 C km -1 however, saturation always gets involved… so the the moisture in the low troposphere about 1 KM above the local surface, begins to saturate the air.

    Tired today, briefer than usual, need to spend more time with wife; the details are here:

    Fundamentals of Weather and Climate By Robin McIlveen Google books has this alot of this book featured.

  25. 275
    Ike Solem says:

    The individual scientific concepts involved in understanding why carbon dioxide warms the atmosphere are fairly simple to understand and to explain. They’re basic high-school level concepts: the absorption and reflection of light, the motion of gases and liquids, the freezing, thawing, evaporation and condensation of water, the chemistry of fossil fuel combustion, and the biochemistry of photosynthesis.

    What’s complicated is the interaction between simple forces in a wide variety of situations – and to get numerical forecasts you need computers to run the models. To compare the model output to the real world, you need comprehensive data on ocean temperature, atmospheric temperature, moisture, etc. – the more the better. This is the basic model – observation approach.

    Weather models don’t rely on CO2 data at all, but they do rely on ocean surface temperature data, which is an output of climate models, which do rely on CO2 data. Thus, if you take the Keeling CO2 curve and plug it into a model that has been running at pre-industrial CO2, do you expect a warming response, and if so, how much?

    The answer is yes, based on simple physical arguments. The hard part, and the part that matters practically, is the how much. The only way to predict that is to use very complicated numerical models of climate, based on weather models. To test those predictions, you need good data about how the climate is evolving over time.

    The main point here is this: No one has managed to recreate 20th century climate observations with models that don’t include fossil fuel CO2 emissions. Neither has anyone constructed plausible models of glacial cycles that don’t include CO2 (and CH4) amplification of orbital forcing. The basic scientific conclusion is that increasing IR-absorbing gases in the atmosphere warms the planet to a new equilibrium temperature.

    The models do not provide a perfect picture. For example, what does it mean that the models missed the large reduction in sea ice in the Arctic by a decade or more? There appear to be some synergistic effects that the models don’t handle well – thin sea ice + high winds, for example. This is the process of doing science – mismatch between models and data leads to refinement of theories (or to recognition of flawed data :) ).

    So, the sphere of denialism knows this, but doesn’t like to talk about it. They are not going to be constructing any realistic new models that can match 20th century warming without including fossil fuel CO2, by all appearances.

    That leaves the only option: attack the very basis of the science itself, which is the notion of using observations and models to understand the world around us.

    Nevertheless, in the world of modeling, climate models have been great successes. Compare them, for example, to econometric models, which have been equally stunning predictive failures in all kinds of areas, from electricity demand to the results of trade agreements – not that it has led to much change in economic theories.

  26. 276
    Mark says:

    DMac, #273. What if the questions you consider “legitimate” are not?

    “Have you included the fact we’re going through a dust patch?”

    You may consider it legitimate because you don’t know the size of change this would require. You can’t see it and you don’t want to take the *effort* of working it out yourself.

    So ask: are the questions REALLY legitimate, or is it just a load of “Could it be NOT me?” queries?

  27. 277
    Mark says:

    RodB, 246. I’m asking about you, Rod. You’re the one who is trying to play the “I’m just skeptical” card.

    I want to see if you can justify that statement.

    Or can’t I be skeptical?

  28. 278
    Mark says:

    (that should have been “#264”). While I’m there, I can prove you cant prove cooling since 2000.

    THAT is the skeptical viewpoint, not “have you forgotten something?”.

  29. 279
    dhogaza says:

    Your #262 response seems to reflect a desire to limit the legitimate questioning of AGW to a selected group of folks who are somehow qualified to comment (”denialists” obviously need not apply). One wonders who would be doing the selection for this elite group

    I think most would agree that one can demonstrate reasonable knowledge of the science fairly easily. Go read the denialsphere for awhile, and ask yourself, are those who deny basic physics, show a total lack of knowledge of even basic statistics (the very fact that trends can be noisy, and that noise can obscure trends short term), etc etc are truly qualified to comment on the science in any meaningful way?

    The major problem in the denialsphere, IMO, is not that people often lack knowledge. It’s that they EMBRACE their ignorance and repeatedly insist that black is white regarding climate science basics, and of course the fact that many then go on to accuse climate science as being in inherently fradulant field. Using their ignorance as proof.

  30. 280
    Barton Paul Levenson says:

    Apologies if this gets posted twice. I had CAPTCHA problems.

    Wayne Davidson writes:

    Not so much a mystery, the earth’s atmosphere is warming, along with larger adiabatic lapse rates.

    Note, though, that in most of the troposphere the lapse rate is sub-adiabatic due to the presence of water vapor.

  31. 281
    Ray Ladbury says:

    DMac, Gee, is it too much to ask that people know what the hell they are talking about? Is it too much to ask that their opinions are consistent with the evidence, or even that the commenter be familiar with the evidence? In science, we have the process of peer review–where prospective papers are sent out to experts in the field to ensure that it is likely correct and interesting.
    See, DMac, physical reality doesn’t leave much room for spin (other than as a property of subatomic particles). If you consider this “censorship” take it up with physical reality, not with me. I can introduce you to physical reality if you are unfamiliar.

  32. 282
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Mark, In Rod B’s favor, he has at least made an effort to understand the physics at some level. This elevates him above the denialosphere in my opinion. At his best, he is a true skeptic. At his worst, contrarian. I do not mean to put words into his mouth, but I think his reluctance to accept the consensus science stems in part from a certain discomfort with the inductive nature of the evidence trail. Indeed, unless you’ve followed that trail in a lot of detail (much of it somewhat subtle), it might be easy to see just how cogent the evidence is. Rod is not the worst we have to contend with.

  33. 283
  34. 284

    280, Barton, Yes it is, but studying lapse rates at or near the tropopause may reveal trends. In my case where moisture is even more rare, steeper lapse rates near the tropopause go hand in hand with a warmer troposphere. The atmosphere further South is more complex in a thundercloud at tropopause heights, but in dry air the same steeper lapse rate trend should be observed. The key to understanding is the lapse rate equation which depends on gravity and the specific heat capacity of air at various levels. I would like to find a table showing Cp vs altitude, but its hard to find on the internet.

  35. 285

    That should have read, “So what if the new regulations mean some more kids in Africa die?”

  36. 286
    AdamT says:

    Thanks for another great post. If you haven’t seen it already, there has been a response to it here ( which you will hopefully address ASAP.

  37. 287
    Hank Roberts says:

    > so what if
    Compared to the current projection without a change?
    You have to compare, not simply say taking action must be bad.

    Ray Ladbury Says: … “Mark, In Rod B’s favor …”
    Well said.

    Mark, I recommend studying Gavin’s inline responses over the past few years; he’s been a patient teacher addressing all points of view effectively, praising good questions where they’re asked, blunt when rhetoric surfaces. He’s effective; credibility grows over time. He makes questions useful by how he answsers them.

  38. 288
    Rod B says:

    Ike (275), I think your post is an excellent overview of the situation. It does give me an opportunity to state, for the record (meaning I don’t know if anybody else cares ;-) ), one area (out of 3 or 4) of the science that I do question (am skeptical about), and am trying to better understand. While I understand and agree with the basic science as you described, I’m troubled with what you refer to as the “hard part” which is simply the accuracy of the marginal increase in temperature for the marginal increase in greenhouse gases, with or without positive or negative feedbacks. I can’t refute it because I don’t know enough. But I none-the-less have scientific doubts over it; the science seems very loose. The simple example of how it is handled is indicative: in essence, stick it in a numerical computer with some approximate assumptions and see what comes out. (I know I’m over simplifying — just for clarity and to save space.)

    Thanks for the opening to clarify at least one of my concerns. Again, while I don’t agree with it 100%, IMO it is a super summary.

  39. 289
    Rod B says:

    dhogaza (279), I agree that the folks who say black is white probably have little credibility. But some say, “I doubt, and you have not demonstrated conclusively, that black is as black as you claim.” These folks are also excluded for the club that DMac refers to. Not because the question has no merit, but usually because we don’t have the correct pedigree or occasionally stick-up for (or at least don’t join the lynch mob) “evil” people.

  40. 290
    Rod B says:

    Shoot! Ray, your #282 means I now can’t jam your #281. :-P

  41. 291
    Mary says:

    Solem #275 The statement “No one has managed to recreate 20th century climate observations with models that don’t include fossil fuel CO2 emissions.” does not make the conclusions of the models a statement of fact. There has been a lot of science where there has been concensus for hundreds of years only to be overturned in quick order by a new a better understanding. I think it is premature to conclude that the current GCM’s are god’s gift to knowledge regarding what overall climate trends will be over the next 100 years.

    [Response: No one is claiming that models are perfect – but they do encapsulate an enormous amount of that information gathered over hundreds of years of physics and meteorology. While their inability to reproduce 20th century trends without anthropogenic forcings is not absolute proof of the attribution, it is certainly not proof of the opposite. – gavin]

  42. 292
    Pat Neuman says:

    Re 155,

    A cry for head to roll.

    Heads should roll at NOAA/NWS for failing to address climate change data needs.

  43. 293
    Mark says:

    Ray, #282 and Hank, #287 I have not called him a denialist. Yet.

    However he isn’t a skeptic because he’s directing his skepticism. I’ll give an example.

    I don’t believe in God.

    I am skeptical about the proof that god exists, but that is because I don’t believe such a creature exists.

    There are two outcomes either of which I would accept:

    1) Rod says that he doesn’t believe in AGW and so he’s only skeptical about that. That isn’t the same as “denial” but with the amount of data for it, it *is* “in denial”. Different.

    2) Rod says “OK, I see that I’m not really as skeptical as I believe. I’ll think on it”.

    Also, please read a message on another thread. I’d pointed out to RodB that his seeming aprobation of some dimwit’s half-baked theory didn’t seem his style. I think I used the phrase: you don’t normally try half-baked ideas but come out with at least something sensible.

    Now, I ask you (all four of you, if you like, Gavin and RodB), does that sound like I’ve a hate-on for RodB?

    But I DO doubt either his sincerity or his application of “skepticism” since it is so very biased to one ideal: “AGW doesn’t exist, so prove it does” but doesn’t allow within it “Do the ‘proofs’ of AGW not existing stand up to investigation?”.

  44. 294
    Harold Brooks says:

    Re: 155 & 292

    Why should there be any heads rolling at NWS? So far, no one has even mentioned anything involving NWS in this. The National Climatic Data Center is a part of NESDIS. As far as I can tell, this looks like a simple case of trying to get preliminary information out very quickly. If they would have waited longer, the problem would have almost certainly been caught and corrected before it went out.

  45. 295
    FredB says:

    No reply from Jonathan (219) I see – I guess all the real scientists round here scared him off!

  46. 296
    tom says:

    Re: 275.

    This is the process of doing science – mismatch between models and data leads to refinement of theories”

    If only that were the case!
    What happens in the real world of academia is that theories make scientists’ reputations and contradictory data are ignored or rationalized away. This is human nature and also the the prevalent modus operandi of the leading AGW proponents.

    [Response: Nonsense – it is the prevalent fantasy of people who would rather not pay attention to the full field of knowledge. -gavin]

  47. 297
    Jo Calder says:


    This is the process of doing science – mismatch between models and data leads to refinement of theories”

    If only that were the case!
    What happens in the real world of academia is that theories make scientists’ reputations and contradictory data are ignored or rationalized away. This is human nature and also the the prevalent modus operandi of the leading AGW proponents.

    [Response: Nonsense – it is the prevalent fantasy of people who would rather not pay attention to the full field of knowledge. -gavin]

    To which Kuhn, I guess, says “nonsense” back.

    [Response: I’ll see your Kuhn, and raise you a Feyerabend – gavin]

  48. 298

    Re 296:

    “contradictory data are ignored or rationalized away”–this is the perfect description of those who are telling me online that:
    –the satellite record is “the only true way to measure” global temps (can’t trust those thermometers, you know), or that temperatures are now comparable to the 70s (despite all datasets to the contrary);
    –that Arctic melting is not significant because the Antarctic is gaining mass (they haven’t/won’t read the GRACE studies showing loss there, too, and don’t care that the GCMs predicted slow response in the Antarctic);
    –that *one* study showing a “statistically insignificant but visually striking” correlation between optical brightness of Neptune “proves” that terrestrial temps are driven by changes in solar irradiance;
    –that an absence of evidence for specified alternate causes for observed GW doesn’t imply a lack of evidence for *unspecified* causes (I guess if they specified the causes, they wouldn’t be “unspecified” anymore, and the evidence would magically evaporate?)

    I could go on, but you probably get the idea. These examples are all taken from recent online experience. These folk are the denialists, and their delusion is dangerous in that it delays necessary corrective action.

  49. 299
    Jo Calder says:


    To which Kuhn, I guess, says “nonsense” back.

    [Response: I’ll see your Kuhn, and raise you a Feyerabend – gavin]

    Err, why?

    [Response: Because you are throwing out names as if they had some relevance to the discussion here, and in fact Feyerabend had what I consider a better appreciation of how science actually works and the difficulty of trying to assign a methodology to what it is that scientists actually do. Look it up. – gavin]

  50. 300
    Magnus says:

    Regarding Gavin’s comment on #291 “While their inability to reproduce 20th century trends without anthropogenic forcings is not absolute proof of the attribution, it is certainly not proof of the opposite. – gavin]”

    True. But is a 100% proof of the bias of the modeller.

    [Response: That makes no sense at all. – gavin]