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Advice for a young climate blogger

Filed under: — group @ 9 March 2009 - (Italian) (Español)

Congratulations! You have taken the first step towards attempting to communicate your expertise and thoughts to the wider world, which remains poorly served by its traditional sources of information when it comes to complex societally relevant issues like climate change. Your aim to clarify the science (or policy options or ethical considerations or simply to explain your views) is a noble endeavor and we wish you luck and wide readership. But do be aware that you are dipping your blog into sometimes treacherous waters. Bad things can happen to good bloggers. So in a spirit of blog-camaraderie, and in light of our own experiences and observations, we offer some advice that may be of some help in navigating the political climate relatively unscathed.

Be honest to yourself and your readers. If your aim is to educate, say so. If your aim is to push for more funding for your pet projects, or advocate for a specific policy, be upfront about it. Don’t however be surprised if people spend their time trying to find hidden motives in what you do. There is a school of thought had has decreed that any public speech must be directed towards public action and that there is no such thing as a pure information supply. In the widest sense this is probably true – everyone blogs, writes or speaks out for a reason. However, this is often interpreted as implying that all public speech must be either pro-or-con some very specific proposal. This is nonsense. One can criticize George Will’s or Alexander Cockburn’s misuse of climate science without agreeing or disagreeing or even having looked at their public policy proposals. Of course, the corollary of this position, that any such criticism of your statements must itself be directed at supporting the opposite political action is very rarely appreciated. On the other hand, assuming that criticism of your statements must be politically motivated is usually a mistake. Sometimes that is true, but there are enough exceptions that it should not be assumed.

Know that there are people who will misrepresent you. Climate science is perceived to have political, economic and ethical implications. Most of the what gets discussed really doesn’t have any such implication, but the ‘scientization‘ of political discourse on this issue means that micro-parsing of published work and blog postings is a common practice. Advocates of all stripes (though predominantly those outside the mainstream) will examine whether a new result or comment appears to project onto their particular agenda, and trumpet it widely if it does. The motives can range from specifically political to a desire for publicity or position, though the exact reasons are often obscure and mostly not worth debating. Thus 15th Century tree rings become an argument against the Kyoto Protocol, just as bacterial flagella are whipped into service when discussing the role of religion in public life.

In the specific world of climate-related blogs there are a number of conduits by which misrepresentations gain wider currency. Matt Drudge for instance, spends an inordinate amount of time finding crackpot climate science stories in fringe media and highlighting them on the widely-read Drudge Report. Marc Morano (who we hear is leaving his post as a staffer for Senator Inhofe) is a very diligent reader of the climate blogs (Pielke2, WUWT, RC etc.) and any misrepresentation found there, or criticism that could be misrepresented, will quickly find its way into many email in-boxes. From there, if you are lucky, further misrepresentations might find their way onto the Rush Limbaugh’s show (via Roy Spencer), or Glenn Beck as throwaway lines confirming (to them) the perfidy of mainstream climate science.

Be aware that the impact that you have might be very different from the impact that you think you should have. Over time, if you find yourself constantly misquoted or used to support positions or ideas you don’t agree with, think about why that might be. You will likely find yourself accused of ‘stealth advocacy’ i.e. of secretly agreeing with the misquoters. If that isn’t actually the case, remember that the abandonment of responsibility for your words (i.e. “how was I to know I would be misquoted so often?”) is not an option that leaves you with much integrity. Being misquoted once might be a misfortune, being misquoted more often smacks of carelessness.

Don’t expect the world to be fair. Read Mamet’s “Bambi v. Godzilla“, and in particular the section containing this line:

“In these fibbing competitions, the party actually wronged, the party with an actual practicable program, or possessing an actually beneficial product, is at a severe disadvantage; he is stuck with a position he cannot abandon, and, thus, cannot engage his talents for elaboration, distraction, drama and subterfuge.”

Since you are presumably stuck with a coherent set of ideas, you won’t be able to adopt ten mutually contradictory inconsistent arguments in the same paragraph, or engage in the cherry-picking, distortion or deliberate misquotation. Though it is occasionally instructive to show what you could have claimed if you didn’t have such ethical principles.

Don’t let completely unfounded critiques bother you. If you speak out in the public sphere, as sure as night follows day, you will be criticized. Some criticisms are constructive and will help you find your voice. Many are not. If you are successful, you will start to come across an online simulacrum of you that bears your name and place of work but who holds none of your views, has no redeeming character traits and would be a complete stranger to anyone who has actually met you. Ignore him or her. There are some people who will always be happier demonising opponents than honestly interacting with real people.

Don’t defame people. This should go without saying, but trivially accusing scientists of dishonesty, theft, academic malpractice and fraud pretty much rules you out of serious conversation. Instead it will serve mainly to marginalize you – though you may gain a devoted following among a specific subset. Don’t be surprised if as a consequence other people start to react negatively to your comments.

Correct mistakes. Again, it should go without saying that maintaining integrity requires that errors of fact be corrected as soon as possible.

Realize that although you speak for yourself, if you take mainstream positions, you will be perceived as speaking for the whole climate science community. Don’t therefore criticize unnamed ‘scientists’ in general when you mean to be specific, and don’t assume that the context in which you are speaking is immediately obvious to casual readers.

Avoid using language that can easily be misquoted. This is hard.

Don’t use any WWII metaphors. Ever. This just makes it too easy for people to ratchet up the rhetoric and faux outrage. However strongly you hold your views, the appropriateness of these images is always a hard sell, and you will not be given any time in which to make your pitch. This is therefore almost always counter-productive. This can be extended to any kind of Manichean language.

If you get noticed by the propagandists, wear that attention like a badge of honor. You will be in very good company.

If you get caught in a blogstorm, know that this too will pass. Being targeted like this is not very much fun (ask Heidi Cullen). But the lifecycle for a blog-related kerfuffle is a few days in general, and the blogosphere as a whole has an extreme attention deficit disorder. After finding that your post and followups were all anyone can talk about on Monday, it likely won’t get mentioned again after Thursday.

Recognize that humor is far more effective than outrage. But try and rise above the level of the schoolyard. Think Jon Stewart rather than Rodney Dangerfield.

If all of the above doesn’t put you off the idea completely, welcome to the blogosphere! Your voice is sorely needed.

434 Responses to “Advice for a young climate blogger”

  1. 201
    Alan of Oz says:

    Hank, a good example is Take a look at thier moderation scheme and their threading/threshold options. It also means registered users but you can post as “anaonomous coward”.

    I am a commercial developer, but not your developer. ;)

    Slashdot is where I post most and I’ve been posting there for ~8yrs. They are a knowlageable if somewhat opinionated crowd. I pay a (per/1000 page view) subscription because I want to and they don’t hassle me if I stop and start paying. It’s the only thing I pay to subscibe to on the net after 20yrs of working with it.

    If RC were to start a similar donation scheme for some programmers, admin, whatever to improve and maintain the readability/indexing of site then I would happily subscribe to such a scheme.

  2. 202
    Alan of Oz says:

    Oh and most people who work/study at an institution would probably be aware of blackboard or similar programs, I haven’t used them but they sound similar.

  3. 203
    Mark says:

    John A Davidson: “I will not be deterred by “do the math.” Thank you very much.”

    Well, do the maths.

    It’s a basic tool of scientists to do the maths in a back-of-the-envelope calculation to see if your hypothesis has anything going for it.

    I would also point to this article:

    and say that if you TRY to do something, even if you fail, when you do find the answer, it stays remembered longer.

    And stop feeling entitled.

  4. 204
    Mark says:

    Joe Says: “What I was getting at was that maybe someplace there might be a thorough analysis of the whole warming issue w/o politics, personal issues etc etc, and with the arguments of alarmists and denialists carefully taken into account. This is probably naive thinking, the discussion seems to be completely political.”

    There is. IPCC reports and the published papers in reputable journals.

    There is a LOT of money to be lost by even minor mitigation of AGW and so, since the facts aren’t on the side of “do nothing, it’s not a problem”, they must polarise opinion, make it all “us” and “them” and demonise, muddy waters and muckrake. Or, in other words, use politics. In order to get their way.

  5. 205
    Alan of Oz says:

    One last suggestion on the site: If it were me (and it’s not) I would start by adding free user accounts (that don’t do much except wrap the existing mailing feature) to gauge interest. 200-300 comments on each story is a sizable following, active accounts would also give you a better metric of public interest….that I’m sure you could use somehow…

  6. 206
    Ray Ladbury says:

    John Davison, try this:

    Whew! That was tough. I had to type 5 words or so into Google and then go all the way down to, oh, the first or second entry. Now, ya wanna do the math, or do you want me to provide the heat of fusion. Oh, ok. It’s 333.55 Joules per gram. How about now, or should I draw you a map?

  7. 207
    wmanny says:

    #191 Joe,

    “Anyone aware of a blog where alarmists and denialists are conversing in polite manner, using facts and scientific arguments only and not getting to personal attacks?”

    I have not found one — disinterested exchanges occur occasionally here, but generally speaking I would say dissent is not welcomed. I would say the same is true on rival blogs such as CA and Watts Up, where so-called alarmist dissenters are also routinely sneered at by the resident majority. A useful analogy, perhaps, would be to try to inch towards “the truth” by reading the NYT and WSJ editorials side by side, or [back in the day] the National Review and New Republic. In any event, it is only human to overstate the case when attempting to convince those who do not share your views and to be impatient with those who do not come along — blogs and their moderators are only human.

  8. 208
    John Mashey says:

    re: #194, #201
    I don’t think this is a standalone tool, but rather something that one would want integrated into the various blogging systems. Of course, perhaps some may be structured so that it would be an easy independent addon.

    re: anonymous coward & similar such things
    Actually, I don’t think that (or the default use of “Anonymous” in some blogs) is a good feature. I hate threads that have a bunch of people all posting as the same name. People posting with given-names alone are marginally better, but not much, especially if they are common ones. I have no problem with someone wanting to not reveal the :, but if the is commonly used by numerous people, it is makes it makes it very hard to build a reputation attached to that handle.

    Anyway, if I were a blogger, I’d encourage:
    real names
    consistent, differentiable pseudonyms (like tamino or eli rabett)

    and discourage
    simple given names (like Bill or Joe) in favor of
    Bill xxxx or Joe abc

    and really discourage
    “anonymous” default shared by anyone

  9. 209

    #199 Joe

    Try this one:

    I put together this resource so that people can have a one stop shop to see and share the links on the basic science and myths/arguments. I think a lot of discussions are about the science but I don’t think politics can be avoided on this issue since doing something about it requires government involvement.

    Also, its not a blog, it’s just a resource. RealClimate, in my opinion is the best place for discourse of the science and is, generally more polite than others I’ve seen Plus, it’s run by scientists that work in the field daily, so it’s not an armchair review or side seat driving.

    We don’t have an alarmist section on the OSS site but that sort of intertwines with the denialist side. However it raises an interesting point. What are ‘alarmist points’? Maybe I can reasonably address that.

  10. 210
    dhogaza says:

    A useful analogy, perhaps, would be to try to inch towards “the truth” by reading the NYT and WSJ editorials side by side, or [back in the day] the National Review and New Republic

    Yeah, science vs. pseudo-science represents two equally valid opinions …

  11. 211

    Re: Mashey’s suggestion of two threads — strongly moderated and shadow moderated

    As I see it, one problem with the shadow moderated is that if someone is trying to monitor both threads with an eye as to how one relates to the other, not only will links between the two threads be required (both ways, since whatever gets posted rather than sent to the bit-bucket will be in one or the other but not both), but to follow the full conversation (including the tangents) will require jumping back and forth between the two threads. A different approach would be to have strongly moderated vs. lightly moderated, where anything that doesn’t get sent to the bit-bucket appears in the lightly moderated, but only some of the lightly moderated shows up in the strongly moderated.

    No cross-links would be required. But rather than having two check boxes for inclusion (on the moderator’s side) and bit bucket (as I presume things currently are) you would have three check boxes: both threads (strongly moderated and lightly moderated), lightly moderated and bit bucket.

  12. 212

    PS to my comment above which was a response to John Mashey’s 192

    The jumping back and forth between strongly moderated and shadow moderated (as opposed to strongly moderated and lightly moderated) would be a problem for me at least inasmuch as I would reload the entire web page of whichever one I was jumping to every time I jumped. This could also be a problem on the server end as it could easily involve many more web page requests. But strongly moderated vs. weakly moderated would suffer no such problem.

  13. 213
    Hank Roberts says:

    If someone would just give me the killfile tools of a mature newsreader like ‘nn’ (ability to kill posts in various ways and kill followups to them) — it’d suffice.

    That’s moderation by the reader, not by the host.

    Host moderation — the host having the ability to dink any comment out of the main thread into the shadow thread — is nice in theory but easy to overwhelm. Even assuming the host preemptively dinked all posts about Hobbyhorse by Rider into the shadow thread, Foo’s friends would come along.

    Look at Pharyngula’s method: some listed are fans of regulars.
    The effort involved must be astonishing to keep this working. He gets most of the regulars. If he shared his list it’d likely help others.

    “Pharyngula : Killfile Dungeon What gets people put into the Pharyngula killfile dungeon? This is a list of annoyances; it usually takes more than one incident …

    Keeping a killfile working also took a lot of work when I was using ‘rn’ or ‘nn’ daily and would take weeks to bring up to full usefulness if I started reading news again — something like that with a shared blocklist field to let people collaborate, like Spamcop does, might be useful.

  14. 214
    sidd says:

    Mr. John Davidson:
    Re: ice melting

    I recommend: Hansen et al., “Earths Energy Imbalance: Confirmations and Implications,” Science, v308, pp1431-1435
    available at

    The figure for imbalance is 0.85+/-.15 W/sq. m.

    In the supporting material, Table S1 reveals that the heavyweight heat storage is all in the ocean. The next largest player is the heat of fusion of ice sheets.

    Mass loss from Greenland and Antarctica is estimated to produce 1mm/yr of sea level rise. From that table, we see that this would be equivalent to 0.09 W/sq. m. , about a tenth of the total.

    Where is the rest going ? I venture that it is going into the deep ocean, which seems really the only place one can dump fluxes of this magnitude.

    Melting all the sea ice in the world in one year is equivalent to one and a half times the current imbalance.

  15. 215

    Mark, #

    It is Davison, not Davidson.

    Ray Ladbury, #206

    I have used the heat of fusion. You insist on the mechanical equivelent of heat. What is the difference? There isn’t any.

    The only problem I was addressing is why global temperatures have not increased more than they have. I submit that the ONLY reason they haven’t is the reason I proposed. Now if my explanation is already widely accepted by the Climate Science community, why have I not encountered it in the literature? More important, how can there be any one in the scientific world anywhere who is so out of touch with reality as to question that we are headed for certain disaster and possibly species extinction?

    Global warming is not a subject for conjecture or even much discussion. It is a certainty and the greatest crisis ever faced by humankind, a crisis we created in a little over than 200 years. Now you folks go right back to arguing about a phenomenon I regard as settled science, go right back to denigrating anyone who offers a strong opinion, go right back to wasting your time. I am through wasting mine here.

    As I say on my global warming thread on my weblog –

    “Mankind fiddled while earth burned.”

    You are welcome to discuss these matters on my weblog. Alan of Oz, using another alias, showed up loaded with insult which prevented his being heard.

  16. 216
    Hank Roberts says:

    Useful knowledge for new climate bloggers (free registration required)

    It’s about teaching students how to review science papers.

    Brief excerpt follows; see the whole article, link above.


    The majority of our collective publications, and hence scientific progress, comes from incremental insights in which the context is provided by the ongoing struggle to resolve a number of outstanding questions in a field. A series of papers, often from different labs over a span of several years, will add up to the solution to one or several questions. Each publication was timely when published, but may be wrong in some of the details of interpretation – the focus in the discussion may have dealt primarily with the most popular model, missing the chance to ‘redesign’ that model to better fit all of the data. None of these papers is a complete answer: the new insights will eventually be summarized in a short review article weaving the incremental threads of data into one story that becomes the new paradigm, at least for a while.

    Taking a phrase from the current US political scene, these experimentally solid papers are “timely, targeted, and temporary”. That is, they address unanswered issues that are on the minds of those in the field, they target specific issues amenable to experimental or theoretical resolution, and in some ways their impact is temporary, because subsequent papers using the emerging insights and new methodologies will supersede these solid papers. Yet these solid papers are the foundation for progress most of the time.

    Students are trained to be pit bulls in finding even the tiniest faults in great papers. Nearly all the truly remarkable papers we teach contain a few ‘typographical’ errors such as reference to the incorrect panel of a figure or a small mistake in a large table or the wrong initials for an author in the reference list. These errors do not detract from the impact of the work, but instruct students to be vigilant in that even the deservedly famous can make mistakes. This insight may even inspire some students to use spell-checker and other automated tools to eliminate such errors. Similarly, the papers with fatal flaws, particularly those in which a critical control is simply missing, are highly instructive. These papers highlight the dangerous ‘snow globe world’ of belief in a particular theory – a world circumscribed to consider only those things within view – and even then only when obscured by snow. It’s instructive to point out that the meaning of ‘belief’ is to accept as true in the absence of facts. The papers with fatal flaws help students appreciate that maintaining skepticism about current interpretations is essential for progress….
    —-end excerpt—–

  17. 217

    #215 John A. Davison

    In case you look in here again. I am not knowledgeable in the specifics of what you are discussing. I think one point may be that there are many components in climate inertia and you seem to be focusing on only one, generally speaking? Or am I wrong?

    The oceanic thermal inertia, the additional CO2 forcing and CO2 atmospheric lifetime and absorption rates in the ocean probably have a lot to do with framing the argument in a way it makes sense and models well.

    I doubt that the current rate of warming is limited only to ice melt into the oceans, and I think that may be what some are trying to point out. I think the fact that we are in a solar minimum period at least explains -0.2W/m2 of the speed, but certainly there are other factors in natural variability, which are not tracked as well in the longer term climate assessments.

    Anyone care to make sense out of what I’m trying to say :)

    John P. Reisman

  18. 218
    Mark says:

    JAD “The only problem I was addressing is why global temperatures have not increased more than they have. I submit that the ONLY reason they haven’t is the reason I proposed.”

    A problem maybe stemming from a monotheistic society. There Can Be Only One.

    That was great for the beginnings of science. After all, if there’s Only One God, it must be possible to see how They work. If there are a couple of hundred, that’s a lot less amenable to investigation.

    However, you have fallen maybe into the huge pit of wrong-thinking that this singular reasoning has sitting right under your nose.

    And given that you are not willing to do the maths (the language of science), maybe you’re wrong but don’t know it and THAT is why it doesn’t appear in papers.

    I mean, if you’re wrong, only one person is wrong. If you’re right, then hundreds are wrong.

    Which is more likely?

    And without having done the maths (and appearing to be completely immune to the necessities of the maths isn’t helping your case of correctness, BTW) you don’t actually have anything more than a theory. No meat. Just bones of the idea.

  19. 219
    David B. Benson says:

    John A. Davison (215) — From


    K.K. Tung and C.D. Camp; 2008: “Solar Cycle Warming at the Earth’s Surface in NCEP and ERA-40 data: A linear Discriminant Analysis” Journal of Geophysical Research, 113, D05114, doi:10.1029/2007JD009164.

    C.D. Camp and K.K. Tung; 2007: “Surface Warming by the Solar Cycle as Revealed the Composite Mean Difference Projection” Geophysical Research Letters, 34, L14703, doi:10.1029/2007GL030207.

    These two papers show that the temperature variation between solar minimum and maximum of a solar cycle is about 0.2K. We are currently in a prolonged solar minimum. Maybe right now we also have La Nina going?

  20. 220
    sidd says:

    Mr. Davison,

    I apologize for misspelling your name earlier.

  21. 221
    Ray Ladbury says:

    John Davison, OK, let’s step through it. Two trillion tonnes of ice melted in 5 years, with every gram taking 333.55 J to melt @0 degrees. I make that at:

    6.66E20 J

    Insolation at Earth’s surface is about 1000 W/square-meter. Earth’s radius is about 6365 km, so Earth intercepts ~1.27E17 J/s. In 5 years, that’s ~2E25 J. So the amoung of energy that went into melting the ice is .0033%. That is the math.

  22. 222
    Brian Brademeyer says:

    Re #221.

    Insolation too small by factor of 4, so melting energy ratio is around .000833%

    >> Surface Area of Sphere = *Four* pi*R^2

  23. 223
    Brian Brademeyer says:

    Re #222,

    My Bad; cross-sectional area should be used. No factor of 4. Nevermind.

  24. 224
    James says:

    Ray Ladbury Says (15 March 2009 at 6:36 PM)

    “Insolation at Earth’s surface is about 1000 W/square-meter.”

    Err… I’m not claiming to be an expert, but isn’t total insolation energy the wrong number to use? Absent AGW, the Earth should be in thermal equilibrium, with all the incoming energy re-radiated to space, no? So the figure you want to use for the energy hypothertically going to melt ice is some fraction of the imbalance caused by adding extra CO2 to the atmosphere.

    I’m sure one of the real climate scientists can give us a number for the imbalance, but I’m pretty sure it’d have to be some small fraction of total insolation, so maybe comparable to ice melt energy?

  25. 225
    John Mashey says:

    Re: multiple threads and such

    I don’t much care about the mechanism, but if a blog is moderated, it must gave an Accept function, so it ought to be able to have a variant that puts OT posts somewhere else, with zero additional effort. It’s already a lot of work to do all this, and the last thing I’d want I’d to add more work.

    As for killfiles, my problem is that even dome of my favorite posters just can’t seem to resist, sometimes, following some OT tangent.

  26. 226
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Brian Brademeyer, you aren’t taking into account the Cosine dependence of the radiation. If you do, you’ll see the factor of 4 goes away. Put another way, Earth only intercepts sunlight according to the solid angle it subtends–and that is the same solid angle as a disk with the same radius.

    James, My goal was not to do an exhaustive calculation, merely to show that the ice melting is negligible. Given the 5 zeros in front of the first significant figure, I think this shows that. If you want to do it as a proportion of CO2 forcing, fine. Lop off 3 zeros (order of magnitude) and now we’re of order a few percent. It doesn’t alter the result: Ice ain’t gonna cut it. Variations in ocean circulation, cloud cover and a variety of other factors are more than adequate to do so. It’s called natural variability.

  27. 227

    Hank Roberts Says:
    14 March 2009 at 12:15 PM
    John, re energy independence/nuclear, you might compare that to this;

    Thanks, Hank. I will check that out.

    Will Denayer Says:
    14 March 2009 at 1:48 PM
    To no. 186. Dear Mr. Burgeson, I did not read Shuster’s book, but I took a look at your text. IMO it is a good text, but not very detailed.

    Yes, I agree. I am space-limited in the Bugle. A lot got cut from my earliest draft.

    Will continues:

    I am opposed to all talk concerning energy independence, as I think it is a dangerous illusion. An interesting book is Robert Bruce, 2008, The Dangerous Illusions of ‘Energy Indepedence’, NY, Public Affairs. I have big problems with this text, esp. with his recommendations, but his part on EI is on the mark. One book that I find really excellent is David Strahan, 2007, The Last Oil Shock, London, Murray. For a discussion on nuclear energy, go to the rocky mountains website, as there is some very useful information to be found there. There is also a discussing going on about nuclear energy on the website of Mark Lynas (author of Six Degrees). He is very much pro nuclear – IMO he is dead wrong.

    “All talk?” I’m unclear on what you mean here. Perhaps you mean that the US cannot solve the problems unilaterally – with that I will agree. I’ll have a go at the sources you mention. Thanks.


  28. 228
    Hank Roberts says:

    Aside for new bloggers: often you can learn much about how the politics works by watching other issues in play, this is a good example:

  29. 229
    SecularAnimist says:

    John Burgeson wrote: “I am opposed to all talk concerning energy independence, as I think it is a dangerous illusion.”

    According to a November 2008 study by the Institute For Local Self-Reliance, “at least half of the fifty states could meet all their internal energy needs from renewable energy generated inside their borders, and the vast majority could meet a significant percentage. And these estimates may well be conservative.”

  30. 230
    Mark says:

    Ray, #266. A simpler way to say it is that the sun sees the earth as a disk. And so the light power intercepted is the size of that disk.

    But there’s more ground to spread it over because the ground is round, so the ground gets 1/4 the light per unit area of itself that the sun sees itself radiating to it.

    Surface area of a circle: pi r squared

    Surface area of a sphere: 4 pi r squared

    Remember, the dark side doesn’t get any light but the ground that is in there now is moving into the light.

  31. 231
    Brian Brademeyer says:

    John (#215), per Ray(#221):

    6.66E20 J over 5 years (158 million seconds) is an average sink of 4.22 trillion watts.

    Over the 509 trillion square meters of the earth’s surface (6365 km radius), this is an average negative forcing of:

    0.0083 W/m2

  32. 232
    Hank Roberts says:


    “… It’s hard to say when scientists realised that policy makers were not always going to make the best decisions regarding science funding, but a safe bet would be somewhere before 3000 BC. In the intervening 5000 years, not a lot has changed in how well scientists, politicians and the public really understand each other…. If you’re going to communicate science effectively, there are a few pitfalls you should avoid ….”

    Hank Campbell. The Pitfalls and Perils of Communicating Science
    Communicating Astronomy To The Public (CAPJournal)
    V1 Number 2 , 22-23 (2008)
    He’s at Nature’s, his home page is here:

  33. 233

    I just want to say how much I appreciate it when you folks show the math in context. I am not knowledgeable in this area and to see it laid out and discussed helps.

  34. 234

    In 229, Secularanimist attributes to me a quotation from someone else. I did not write that, I was questioning it.

    But back to the main story.

    My geophysicist friend, Glenn Morton, has written a not too long post on his blog which indicates to him that the temperature data being collected is suspect. His article on this can be seen at
    and it was this data, shown to me three weeks ago at a private meeting, that caught my interest. As an AGW / IPCC advocate, I had no reasonable response to his thesis.

    I am hardly going to abandon my current position on AGW (which in large measure is that of the IPCC and the keepers of RealClimate). But I have to admit that I have no explanation for what Glenn has found except the one which says the temperature data is fatally flawed.

    Glenn chose to post on his own blog because there he can easily show graphics; he has asked me to link to it here, and I have done so. I simply do not have the technical expertise in weather patterns and such to evaluate Glenn’s claims fairly.

    Thanks for looking at this.


  35. 235
    James says:

    John Burgeson Says (16 March 2009 at 4:01 PM):

    “My geophysicist friend, Glenn Morton, has written a not too long post on his blog which indicates to him that the temperature data being collected is suspect.”

    What he (like a lot of others in the “it ain’t happening” camp) apparently fails to appreciate is that the temperature data has next to nothing to do with AGW theory. That’s simply a prediction based on the physics of CO2 plus the continuing record of its increase in the atmosphere. It’s like jumping off a cliff: physics lets you predict the outcome before you hit the bottom. Examining temperature data is akin to doing an autopsy on the remains.

  36. 236
    Jim Bouldin says:

    John Burgeson:

    Your “geophysicist” friend I’m afraid, has no idea what he’s talking about. There’ve been tons of this kind of argument, thoroughly demolished long ago. As a first cut critique, just look at the terms he uses: “The raw truth” (as if he’s nailed the essential problem–nobody noticed or worked on these issues before him); “AGW hysteriacs” (pretty unbiased term there, don’t you think); “the raw data is crap”, etc.

    Ask your friend one simple question: Are global temperature trends over the last century determined from the spatial variance between unadjusted values from close pairs of weather stations, or the TEMPORAL TREND OF A GLOBAL SET OF WEATHER STATIONS OVER THAT TIME? (Take a wild guess).

    If your friend truly thinks that “when the climatologists ‘fix’ this [highly deviant temperature readings], they are merely guessing at what the temperature of one or the other town is” he only proves that he has not read anything on the extensive quality control issues performed on the instrumental temperature record in the United States. Period. Google and read anything on the topic by Tom Karl at the NCDC.

    Migrant mind or vacant mind?

  37. 237

    You folks don’t even agree with one another so why should I take your various “maths” seriously? I stand by my intuitive conviction that it is the thermal buffering of melting ice that delays runaway global warming. The only unknown is exactly when residual melting ice is no longer sufficient to counter the global warming created by atmospheric CO2, CH4 and te oher man made products of an industrial society. I am delighted that Ray Ladbury has dismissed my ideas out of hand. It is not my first experience with such matters. I have yet to propose an hypothesis that did not prove to have substantial merit

    As usual,

    I am content with my position.

  38. 238
    dhogaza says:

    I had no reasonable response to his thesis

    You could ask him why the satellite trend data shows pretty much the same trend as the “fatally flawed” GISS product.

    You could also step back, think a moment, and ask yourself “if climate science was really as bad as he claims, wouldn’t working scientists have noticed at some point over the last 20 years?”. You might consider that just possibly the scientists working with this admittedly imperfect temperature record are 1) aware of its imperfection 2) aren’t merely “guessing” when they correct for problems and 3) aren’t idiots.

  39. 239
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Burgie, I can only conclude that your friend Glenn is kind of a dim bulb. First, we are not talking about absolute temperatures, but rather temperature anomalies. Good lord, just look at the weather report–you’ll have a range of temperatures even in a single metro area. That is why you have to look at time series of data–comparing the same location to the same location so that you can correct for microclimate. Ever go for a walk on a hot day and then walk into the woods. Notice that the temperature can drop up to 10 degrees C. That’s microclimate.

    What is more, there is plenty of evidence for climate change beyond mean global temperature rise–melting ice caps, melting glaciers, shorter winters, a cooling stratosphere. Glenn has an idee fixe’ and is looking for “evidence” to support–the opposite of science.

    Should you talk to your good buddy, tell him to learn what “climate” means. Right now, he’s nothing but a weather-watcher.

  40. 240
    Jim Eager says:

    John Davison,
    Your intuitive conviction that it is the thermal buffering of melting ice that delays runaway global warming is similar to the intuitive conviction of others that it is undersea volcanoes melting the ice in that they won’t do the maths either.

  41. 241

    #234 John Burgeson

    From what I can tell, it’s still a cherry pick, no matter how he wants to characterize it. It simply does not make sense to take temps from ‘some’ stations in America and say that means something, when the subject is ‘global’ warming.

    This type of data presentation goes to the earth is flat argument. If one limits the scope of ones view sufficiently, one can prove based on that view that the earth is flat.

    He is talking about the weather, not climate.

    The idea that variability is abnormal even in close proximity is, imo, bizarre.

    Example 1: I live in Big Bear Lake, when I’m not elsewhere. The temperature at my place is always colder than the station that reports to the world which is only a couple miles away. The difference, usually around 10C.

    That is a big difference! I have always assumed it’s at least in part because I have a cheap thermometer and it’s wrong (but I don’t know because I’m to cheap to go buy another one to compare).

    In Big Bear we have 4 distinct micro-climates (according to our local weather guy). I almost always get more snow where I live, than the rest of the valley. So I am assuming that it really is, at least a bit colder where I live. Sometimes it snows where I am and not in town. So while I’m pretty sure I have a lousy thermometer, I’m also pretty sure it’s colder where I live than it is just 2 to 3 miles away whether toward Bear Lake, or Bear City.

    Example 2: One year we had 7 inches of rain in an hour (microburst) at the airport. We called a group of pilots and told them to come take care of their planes and they laughed from their cell phones because it was sunny and blue skies from their point of view (only 3.5 miles from the airfield). $9,400 damage to my Honda from going underwater.

    My point is micro-climate variations can have consistency over time on a regional bases and also have dramatic variation… but that is local weather, not global climate.

    I think his site is a great example of why GCM’s are so critically important.

  42. 242

    #237 John A. Davison

    I’m not a math guy, but let’s take a look at two of your points:

    “I stand by my intuitive conviction”

    ‘Intuitive conviction’ is not the most reliable indicator on the planet.

    “The only unknown is exactly when residual melting ice is no longer sufficient to counter the global warming created by atmospheric CO2, CH4 and te oher man made products of an industrial society.”

    There are a lot more unknowns than that; and while ice melt is at least a factor, it really does seem logical, dare I say reasonable to see that it is a small negative forcing going against a much larger positive forcing. The confounding factor is experiential, i.e. ‘intuitive conviction’.

    I have heard a lot of people claim that we have a colder winter, so global warming is over. That is their ‘intuitive conviction’. Should we believe them?

  43. 243
    Richard Ordway says:

    Joe says: “Your blog is not bad information-wise but it is really biased on the alarmist side.”

    I think it is rather restrained myself. Do you find commentaries on RC of ideas of the US West possibly having to evacuate its population due to drought, of a possible “mass dying” in Africa, of potential evacuations of US seaboard cities, of a mass extinction event (non-human species), of possible social chaos, of a world economic melt down, of possibilities of mass terrorism born of desperation and revenge, of mass climate refugee evacuations, of possibliities of famines, etc.?


    I don’t endorse any of the above…It’s just some examples.

    RC commentators have, in my experience, literally urged restraint when posters or others push the edge of the science toward alarmism.

    There is lots of alarmist material that they could use…but they don’t.

    I hardly think RC is alarmist…compared to what is out there…in the errrr… world.

  44. 244
    sidd says:

    Mr Davison writes, at 6:02 pm on the 16th of March:

    “I stand by my intuitive conviction…”

    I have had intuitive convictions, they were often completely in error, and sometimes, to quote Pauli, they were not even wrong. I do urge you to read the reference that I posted and carefully work out the numbers for yourself.

    “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge of it is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced it to the stage of science.”
    Lord Kelvin.

    He was sometimes wrong too, but never for lack of calculation.


  45. 245
    Rod B says:

    James (235), your statement, “…temperature data has next to nothing to do with AGW theory.”, is incredibly astounding.

  46. 246
    Mark says:

    “You folks don’t even agree with one another so why should I take your various “maths” seriously?”

    Is that why you won’t “do” maths? Because you can then say that you aren’t wrong?

    And do you think that maybe the people who model this may, unlike bloggers on a log, may have worked it out correctly?

    I suppose since people can’t agree whether Barak Obama is going to be a good president or not means you don’t believe in the presidency…

  47. 247
    Mark says:

    “…temperature data has next to nothing to do with AGW theory.”

    is correct.

    The AGW theory is based on TWO facts:

    1) CO2 is a greenhouse gas
    2) We humans are releasing a lot of CO2

    That’s it.

    The *consequence* of these two facts are that global temperatures will generally increase and much of this recent change is anthropogenic (caused by humans).

    It’s a ***RESULT*** of AGW, not the cause.

  48. 248

    dhogaza Says:
    16 March 2009 at 6:10 PM

    “You could ask him why the satellite trend data shows pretty much the same trend as the “fatally flawed” GISS product.
    You could also step back, think a moment, and ask yourself “if climate science was really as bad as he claims, wouldn’t working scientists have noticed at some point over the last 20 years?”. You might consider that just possibly the scientists working with this admittedly imperfect temperature record are 1) aware of its imperfection 2) aren’t merely “guessing” when they correct for problems and 3) aren’t idiots.”

    It is on the basis of those past two arguments that I continue to be personally supportive of the IPCC conclusions.

    None the less, the data charts Glenn presents seem to be counter-intuitive. Are they to you? Or are such variations simply part of the mess we call weather? My guess is that they are.
    John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) Says:
    16 March 2009 at 8:34 PM

    “From what I can tell, it’s still a cherry pick, no matter how he wants to characterize it. It simply does not make sense to take temps from ’some’ stations in America and say that means something, when the subject is ‘global’ warming.”

    His thesis is that the data he has looked at has too much variability to be correct. I think he is wrong, but the degree of variability does seem (to me) to be more substantial than I’d expect.

    Knowing Glenn as I do, I do not believe he has “cherry-picked.”

    Thanks for the responses.


  49. 249
    Mark says:

    “Knowing Glenn as I do, I do not believe he has “cherry-picked.””

    But you could be wrong.

    Forget who he is. Look at the data. Look at what the data CAN tell you, not what you’ve been told it tells you.

    If I wanted to find the weather of the UK in July, would I take the readings off the top of the BBC building? No? Then how? And why not?

    And why is it “fixing” in “scare quotes” when you decide not to take an anomolous source and use it as your baseline for what is happening ***in general***?

    Try this:

    Take an ordinary dice. Six sides.

    Now roll the dice 10 times and note the numbers in order.

    Roll the dice 10 times again.

    Now take the difference in order between the two lists of numbers.

    Will that difference tell you ANYTHING?


    So why does taking temperature differences between two towns tell you anything?

    This individual has taken some figures and tried to make out they are important.

    They aren’t.

    Any more than the length of noses in the Mid-West US has something to do with the hours of sunshine they receive.

  50. 250

    His thesis is that the data he has looked at has too much variability to be correct.

    Data isn’t ever ‘correct’.

    You need to entirely rethink your fundamentals.