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Unforced Variations: February 2012

Filed under: — group @ 1 February 2012

This month’s open thread. Current topics are focused on the laughingly bad Daily Mail article by David Rose, the fallout from the Wall Street Journal’s latest regurgitation of why no-one should ever do anything ever. And perhaps someone might want to audit some of David Whitehouse’s arithmetic and reading comprehension…

Or anything else. Within reason.

399 Responses to “Unforced Variations: February 2012”

  1. 51
    David B. Benson says:

    G. Chen, J. Laane, S>E> Wheeler, Z. Zhang
    Greenhouse Gas Molecules: A Mathematical Perspective
    Notices of the American MAthematical Society v58#10, 2011 Nov 1421–1434
    considers the physical chemistry of absorbtion to comparfe experimental and calculated infrared spectra. Impressive agreement.

  2. 52
    sidd says:

    My last comment was stil not completely clear. Let me try again.

    a data set with the monthly average precipitation for 2.5 degree grid for each month over the period 1979-2010 : P(x,y,t) x=1..144,y=1..72,t=1..31*12

    i compute

    Pbar(x,y)= average over all t of P(x,y,t)
    Pdev(x,y)=stad dev over all t of P(x,y,t)

    then the quantity


    then i plot the histograms of the last quantity for all x, y and for t in successive decades, and the whole period. The curves are scaled to equal area.

    i hope that was better.


  3. 53
    calyptorhynchus says:

    Interesting that almost as soon as the Daily Mail piece was published in the UK the usual denialists in the Australian media started trumpeting it. Coordinated is the word that springs to mind.

    Also in the news in Oz two mining magnates are seeking to buy up news organisations so that they can better present their ‘business-friendly’ views. Most of us thought that these views were already over-represented in the Australian media.

  4. 54
    KeithWoollard says:

    Pete @ 40, you will have to look at #646 in the borehole for a response as the moderators obviously think my comment is off-topic for an open thread

  5. 55
    MalcolmT says:

    Larry @8
    That high number of comments on the WSJ piece has ballooned considerably since you saw it. It reminded me of this blog post from a year ago about high-tech sockpuppets. Anyone out there care to create an equal and opposite reaction?

  6. 56
    Esop says:

    Massive Arctic outbreak over significant parts of Europe now, just like in February 09, January 10 and December 10. This after an extremely mild fall and early winter. Still extremely high temperatures at Svalbard (78 degs latitude), where record rains were recorded last week. 11C above the normal for Longyearbyen over the last 30 days. Absolutely nuts. The AO is strongly negative, but surprisingly, the NAO is still positive. In the Scandinavian countries, the previous cold winters have been explained by the NAO, but with rarely any mention of the AO. These are usually closely related, but this year, it seems that it is the negative AO that runs the show during this cold blast. Another thing of interest: the “solar guys” took credit for the past cold winters due to the quiet sun and its proposed effect on the AO/NAO. The negative AO so far in 2012 happens in a period with a much more active sun, putting a dent in the low solar-negative AO theory. This could be an indication that Judah Cohens hypothesis (Siberia snow cover) and the declining sea ice influence (Overland, etc.) as more likely explanations, I would think. The cold blast seems to be more short lived this time, though, as the blocking pattern is supposed to break up sometime early next week.

  7. 57
    Urban Leprechaun says:

    Can you help me?

    It’s seriously cold again in Europe, especially the eastern edges, and fairly cold in the UK. (And in a cute UK English phrase “It’s cold enough to freeze the balls of a brass monkey”).

    If it is seriously cold in Europe, then I gather it has to be seriously warm elsewhere (+/- a fraction of a degree). I recall last year when Europe was frozen over (and it was) the polar bears in Greenland were finding it so hot they were all at the poolside wearing sunglasses and sipping cool pina coladas.

    Joking apart…

    Is there a website that gives daily up-to-the-momnent global temperature anomalies? Like for yesterday or a few days earlier.

  8. 58

    Esop, I take exception about the claimed “Arctic” deep freeze experienced in some parts, cooling was rather continental sub-arctic in origin. The greatest readily visible reason why the AO was positive is the frequent incursions of low pressure cyclones from Northern Atlantic which indeed passed over Svalbard on their way further North. The Arctic ocean ice is made of mostly 1st or second year ice, thinner laced with multiple leads destroying the very consolidation of winter itself. The theory of low sun activity is laughable given that we living a night which lasts months have had warmest historical winters during the same said period of very low sun activity. Contrarian theories have no standing except in the imagination of coming ice age worlders.

  9. 59
    Andreas says:

    Re #29, eric (and Gavin’s inline response):

    The latest WMO climatological standard normal period is still 1961–1990 until 2021, when it will switch to 1991–2020. Here in Germany, it is common practice to refer to that period.

    NOAA uses WMO normals (without “climatological standard”), which change every 10 years. WMO members should compute the most recent normals for representative stations within their territory, but the primarily used reference values should be the more stable climatological standard normals. US TV weather will most likely follow NOAA.

  10. 60
    Rhiaden says:

    I actually read this article (The daily mail one) while half asleep, without my brain plugged in properly. Once I woke up, I checked around the interweb to see how else this “huge” story had been reported, I even checked here to see if it was mentioned. Finally caffiene kicked in and I went and read the original document (took some digging around on the site to find it, surprising since it was allegedly so ground breaking)…I have to say, I have seen some cherry picking and quote mining, but this was one of the best I have seen in a long time. Thanks for covering this, I thought it was getting missed by everyone.
    As an aside, this was also pointed out last week in regard to the Daily Mail

  11. 61
    DS says:

    Thanks Pete @ 41. Looks like I was wrong in thinking the medieval warm period and little ice age were northern hemisphere-only events.

  12. 62
    Septic Matthew says:

    Here is another small but non-negligible step forward in solar power:

    A journey of a thousand miles continues with a single step. That is a “perverb” from Septic Matthew

  13. 63
    Septic Matthew says:

    47, Rick Brown, thank you. I almost laughed out loud at the arrogance of the nom de plume. But then when I saw that it was in some university libraries, I thought that someone had respected it.

  14. 64
    Denys F. Leclerc says:

    Since this an open thread, I would like to hear a sound review from somebody on RC on the recent paper published in Science by Shindell et al. on reducing black carbon and methane NOW as a means of mitigating climate change and buying us time for dealing with carbon dioxide. I feel that their conclusions, while probably sound, may lure the public into a sense a false security by kicking the ball further down the years. Your take, gentlemen?

    [Response: There are two issues here. The first is whether there are useful policies with respect to BC and tropospheric ozone that reduce pollution, are cost effective, and reduce global radiative forcing. This paper and the underlying UNEP report show that there are. The second issue is how this should affect policies for CO2. There, as we have discussed before, the answer is that they shouldn’t. Global governments are totally capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time, and all of the BC/ozone measures are orthogonal to CO2 mitigation efforts. No-one should be arguing that we shouldn’t do obvious life-saving measures related to BC because there is a co-benefit to climate – that would be perverse. Likewise, no one should be arguing that CO2 can be ignored because some other problem is also being tackled. We should be doing all of the above. – gavin]

  15. 65
    WVhybrid says:

    @25 Brian Angliss, I don’t think there was ever much hope having a meaningful dialogue with Burt Rutan. I recall him being interview immediately after his sub-orbital spacecraft had landed, and he launched into a screed against NASA incompetency and the federal government in general.

    I couldn’t understand why, at a moment he should be celebrating his success, he seemed so bitter about his government who provided him with the economic stability, freedom and opportunity to achieve such a dream. But then I don’t understand why so many well educated people will put ideology ahead of science and their prodigy’s future.

  16. 66
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Questions on NASA temperature mapping tool

    Of course the extensions beyond the present are simulations.
    I’m mainly interested in comparing anomalies of recent years, say 2000-2011 to an early base period. Are the maps in this case simulation based or data based? If simulations, is there another mapping tool based on data?
    In the default configuration (map type Trends, Detrend) what does the map show?

  17. 67
    Chris Winter says:

    Rick Brown wrote (#47): “In another essay on Contrarians Schneider says “The Weather Conspiracy: The Coming of the New Ice Age, authored by a group called The Impact Team, which was made up of reporters, writers, researchers, and “back-up” people, as they called themselves…”

    Does that mean they “got their back up” at what they decided was all this nonsense from hi-falutin’ experts?

  18. 68
    sidd says:

    After thinking some more, it seems that the correct average and std dev to use is the monthly average and standard deviation as opposed to the 30 year average and standard dev. So I modified my calculation thus:

    a data set with the monthly average precipitation for 2.5 degree grid for each month over the period 1979-2010 : P(x,y,month) x=1..144,y=1..72,t=1..31*12

    i compute

    For each month of the year, month=1,12
    Pbar(x,y,month)= average the 31 numbers for each month of the year in the period 1979-2010

    Pdev(x,y,month)=std dev of the 31 numbers used above

    then the quantities


    then i plot the histograms of the last quantity for all in successive decades, and the whole period. The curves are scaled to equal area.

    the curves are now much more symmetric, but still show a drop in average precip and increase in frequence of low precip months


  19. 69
  20. 70

    #57 Urban Leprechaun

    For daily tracking of temp. anomalies as well as weekly monthly etc.

    For today it is anomalously warm above Europe in the North Atlantic as well as across North America and Canada. Of course the anomalies maps change constantly so if you look at it tomorrow or a week form now you will see a different picture.

    There are also pages for current conditions for ocean, solar, GHG’s and other aspects.

  21. 71
    Russell says:

    11 Most of the quote from Burt Rutan was lost in posting.

    Here it is in full:
    Burt Rutan’s views on climate history, notes Wired magazine, reflect his taste in architecture:

    ” The aerospace pioneer dwells ‘in a white pyramid on the edge of the [Mojave] desert…a floor-to-ceiling mural depicting three large white pyramids glowing against a lush tropical background; toward the front, a strange creature strides across a white veranda. The mural was painted a week ago, and everyone is ogling it.

    Giza plaza, 17,000 years ago,” he explains. ‘See, I think the pyramids were made by aliens before the last ice age, and the ice destroyed them and they were just put back together by the Egyptians.” Is he serious? ‘I’ve seen them and I’m an engineer, and you can’t tell me that the technology is ancient Egyptian. If you were a superior race and you knew your time on Earth was ending, wouldn’t you build something really big so people would know you’d been there?”…

    Rutan turns to the mural and says, “You know that face on Mars? NASA did the dumbest thing. They said it wasn’t a face, it was a pile of rocks. If they’d said it was a face, they’d have full funding!” ”

  22. 72
    tempterrain says:

    Our old friend Christopher Monckton shows no sign of retiring to the shires. He’s now come up with a cunning plan to put wrongs to right in the Australian media, and tells how he has similar plans for the UK too. All you need is, he says, for the super rich to buy an existing TV station or set up a new one, employ the likes of Joanna Nova and hey presto, you’ve got ” free, fair and balanced coverage” just like they do on Fox!

    What will he think of next?

  23. 73
    tempterrain says:

    Our old friend Christopher Monckton shows no sign of retiring to the shires. He’s now come up with a cunning plan to put wrongs to right in the Australian media, and tells how he has similar plans for the UK too. All you need is, he says, for the super rich to buy an existing TV station or set up a new one, employ the likes of Joanna Nova and hey presto, you’ve got ” free, fair and balanced coverage” just like they do in the US with Fox!

    What will he think of next?

  24. 74
    J Bowers says:

    Re. 72 tempterrain

    You may be more right than you think.

    Rolling Stone: Ailes, Nixon and the Plan for ‘Putting the GOP on TV News’.

  25. 75
    Susan Anderson says:

    Russell, thanks for exposing WUWT (around comment 11). We are always hearing that RC censors and they don’t, so this kind of documentation is useful.

    === (change subject)
    I’m fiddling around with global infrared and water vapor composites and these are a couple of good places. If you can stand the optics of the fast animations, they are fascinating as well. Some of our phony skeptic friends should compare their hated models with these slices of reality.

  26. 76
    Mark Conder says:

    Read about the Limbaugh/Gingrich-initiated assault on Katharine Hayhoe…

  27. 77
    Ron Manley says:

    It is easy to forget that the original ‘gate’, Watergate, was not about the crime but about the cover up. I sometimes feel that a few climate scientists are trying to do a ‘Nixon’ and present facts every which way to disguise that fact that warming is not continuing at its predicted rate. This has two consequences. Firstly the anti-AGW crowd can ‘prove’ that the temperature trend has been flat (I’ve shown how to cheat and ‘prove’ just that on my web site at . Secondly when climate scientists, as I’m sure they will, find the explanation for the stasis and include it in their models the doubters will say “How can you correct a problem which you said did not exist?”
    Recently Sir Brian Hoskins, Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change gave a talk to a wide group of students at Imperial College (mainly science, technology and medicine). You can hear (but unfortunately not see it) it here:
    In his talk he was refreshingly open about discrepancies between model projections and observed data and areas where climate science was not yet up to speed. Yet, he still gave a convincing talk. Thinking about this I realised that if a climate scientist gives a presentation with cherry-picked data to a group of lay people they won’t notice the omission and will believe the presenter. On the other hand if another scientist presents all the data, warts and all (as Sir Brian Hoskins did), but explains how this does not falsify the overall picture that scientist will also be believed. The difference is that anti-AGW bloggers will find it easy to attack the first presenter and less easy to attack the second one.

  28. 78
    gavin says:

    No one seems to have taken the hint about Whitehouse’s arithmetic…. I’ll give it another day. – gavin

  29. 79

    RM: I sometimes feel that a few climate scientists are trying to do a ‘Nixon’ and present facts every which way to disguise that fact that warming is not continuing at its predicted rate.

    BPL: Your feelings have very little to do with the reality of the situation. There is no reason whatsoever to think warming is not continuing.

    Hint: You need 30 years or more to establish a climate trend.

  30. 80

    #78 Gavin

    Well, at first glance, I love that the anomaly in 2002 – 2006 was a whopping 55.4 while 2007 – 2011 was a paltry 54.8 degrees. That’s quite an anomaly!

    [Response: Close, but no cigar. Go deeper… – gavin]

    Other than that the general numbers seem to be incorrect as well. Hadcrut3 from 81 to 90 is a drop, not an increase.

    In their mission statement they claim to be a think tank… makes me wonder what they spend their time thinking about…

    Where the next cherry picking session will be held?

  31. 81
    isotopious says:

    9 years isn’t a decade?

    lol :)

  32. 82
    MARodger says:

    Gavin @78
    Frankly I got bored of Whitehouse by the second (or was it the third) paragraph with the first error that I saw – the old “…no temp rise 1997 to 2009” rather than the rise lacking “significance.” As there were a fair number of odd assertions even prior to that, I stopped looking critically & simply followed his (very purile) argumentation. So the 1997 HadCRUT3 calendar year surface temp is higher than 2011 & the only “significant” rise in such temps was in the mid 1990s.

    Whitehuose is signed up to the GWPF. Numbers & words lose their meaning when the GWPF appear. It is so unbelieviably true, but that is how it is. The more I see of their stuff, the more craziness I find.

  33. 83

    Year / Annual / 5-yr / year to year variation
    2002 0.56 0.48 0.08
    2003 0.55 0.54 0.01
    2004 0.48 0.55 0.07
    2005 0.63 0.56 0.14
    2006 0.55 0.53 0.08
    2007 0.58 0.55 0.03
    2008 0.44 0.56 0.14
    2009 0.57 0.55 0.13
    2010 0.63 * 0.06
    2011 0.52 -0.11

    Did you mean the 5 year mean can not be calc’d to 2011?

    [Response: No. It is much simpler. – gavin]

  34. 84
    isotopious says:

    Oh Oh Gavin, is this it?

    “It seems that 1995 – 2009 is flat, but 1995 – 2010 has a slight positive trend, though not at any impressive significance. It should be noted that 1995 – 2011 is back to no significant increase.”

    Yes! what do I get?

    [Response: No. Try again. – gavin]

  35. 85
    Urban Leprechaun says:

    Can you help?

    I’m looking for a website that gives the latest/yesterday’s global temperature anomalies.

    It looks like we are heading for a third very cold winter in Europe (or rather a very cold winter in the bit of Europe where most people live). However, I note from the Norwegian weather service that the temperatures on the Norwegian high Arctic island of Svalbard have been a sweltering 12.5C above normal over the last 30 days. Indeed, Santa tells me the polar bears are at the poolside sipping cool pina coladas and wearing sunglasses.

    Is there a website that gives the global immediately past (=yesterday?) anomalies, as in the previous two years, while Europe was shivering, other parts of the world were exceptionally hot (as I would expect). Because betting a penny to a pound, the sceptics will be all screaming “Global Warming Halted!!”.

    Thanks in advance,

    Theo H (Devon, SW England)

  36. 86

    #84 Urban Leprechaun

    As I posted in #70

    For daily tracking of temp. anomalies as well as weekly monthly etc.

  37. 87
    Andreas says:

    Re David Whitehouse:

    The global warming rate (GISTEMP) is 0.0043 K/a in 2002–2006, but 0.0051 K/a in 2007–2011, so it has increased. (Of course, these figures are meaningless and misleading too.)

    Long-term trends in GISTEMP:

    with 60-month running mean
    smoothed with binomial filter (30 months within ±σ)
    smoothed with binomial filter (6 months within ±σ)

  38. 88
    isotopious says:

    Oh Oh Gavin, is this it?

    “World Average Temperature 1997 -2012”

    What do these guys have a time machine? What happens? Was “The Mayan Prophecy of 2012” right? Did the world end? Judgment?

    Another winner!

  39. 89
    isotopious says:

    “Statistically speaking it is accurate to say that according to HadCrut3 the world’s temperature has not increased for the 16 years between 1995 and 2011”

    Nope, that’s 17 years…

    [Response: You aren’t really on the right track. But please keep on… – gavin]

  40. 90
    isotopious says:

    “From 1997 this is exactly the Mail on Sunday’s graph.

    Fig 3. Click on image to enlarge. (Data is for 1980 -2011. Error bars are set at 0.1 deg C)”

    No, the “Mail” only showed the data from 1997, or 15 years, not 3 decades…

  41. 91
    ozajh says:

    The NasaGiss anomalies seem a little high to me, unless there’s a scale change (which I don’t see emphasised).

    [Response: Aha! Go deeper, grasshopper, there is much to learn… – gavin]

  42. 92
    isotopious says:

    “Statistically speaking it is accurate to say that according to HadCrut3 the world’s temperature has not increased for the 16 years between 1995 and 2011, though many prefer the more conservative ten years post-2001.”

    I agree, the trend from 1995 is nothing, but then if this is so why would ten years be ‘more conservative’? Going by this logic one year would be the most conservative!

    You better cough it up tommorow Gavin, or else :)

  43. 93
    isotopious says:

    “The second 5-year period of the 00s was cooler than the first (0.41 and 0.45).”

    Hate to be pedantic, but the 00s are specifically 2000 – 2009, not 2001 – 2010.

    There is no difference between the two periods of the “00s”

  44. 94

    “the 16 years between 1995 and 2011″

    Nope, that’s 17 years…”

    Maybe, maybe not. To me, “between 1995 and 2011” suggests the named years are excluded from the span, in which case it’d be 15 years. BT presumably went with the span from the beginning (or end) of 1995 to the beginning (or end) of 2011. And Isotopius seems a fan of the inclusive interpretation–“between the first day of 1995 and the last day of 2011.”

    English. Got to love it.

  45. 95
    isotopious says:

    “The thing the Met Office omitted to say in their “refutation” is that their graph and the one used in the Mail on Sunday are perfectly consistent with each other. Indeed they both come from the very same Met Office data!”

    No they don’t.

  46. 96

    The anomalies are

    5 year anomalies are 0.554 for 2002-2007

    and 0.548 for 2007-2011

    Are you just referring to the fact that he doesn’t know where to put the decimal?

    [Response: I thought a factor of 100 error in the anomalies was quite interesting. – gavin]

  47. 97

    Geez, you made me keep looking at his garbage. Speaking of anomalies, someone is having a bad hair day:

    I think factors of 100 in the realm of mistakes are pro forma with him. I’ve read enough junk on that web site now to know the mistake factors likely far supersedes the 100 factor.

  48. 98
    isotopious says:

    [Response: I thought a factor of 100 error in the anomalies was quite interesting. – gavin]

    No. If that is ‘it’ then ‘it’ is very very lame. Gavin, why don’t you cough up the gistemp data that gets you to 0.52 instead of 0.51 for 2011

  49. 99
    Chris Colose says:

    I’ve checked about half of David Whitehouse’s numbers in that article and they all seem fine for the most part (with a couple minor differences from what I got) and he never got the number of years in a decade wrong (e.g., 1981-1990 is ten years if you include both the ends). Most of it is not incredibly meaningful though and is largely sensitive to the choice of date range. He seemed to go through a lot of pain in making sure to explain how sensitive the choice of start/end dates in a short time period is for the final answer, but he never actually did a better job himself.

    Of course, the GISS anomalies need to be scaled by a factor of 1/100 to be correct, unless we accept that the world is now ~340 K or so globally. That would be some global warming!

    But that error doesn’t really play a part in the misleading nature of his article, it’s just showing that he was probably too lazy to actually look at the data, as opposed to mindlessly calculating an “Average” in Excel. In fact, it’s somewhat funny that each of his five year segments has an “average anomaly” somewhat greater than the previous segment (except for the last two segments whose order is switched). Note however that the newer HadCRUT4 dataset, which he should have used, has greater warming in the most recent decade (which was probably underestimated before) than in the previous dataset version, such that 1998 is third warmest now. Each decade is progressively warmer than the last and the top 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1997.

    His whole contention seems to be that there was one jump in temperature in the mid 90s that dominates the warming signal for the last 30+ years (of course this raises the question of the underlying physics that would permit the climate to bifurcate into a new regime after only one sudden jump). His interpretation of the data is clearly off-base though. Tamino has been doing a good job recently of rebutting related “step change” myths.

  50. 100
    Craig Nazor says:

    The obvious problem with the anomalies according to Whitehouse is the basic arbitrariness of short time scales when it comes to defining climate. Certainly, he must be aware of this! If you just change it by a year you get:

    2001-2005 .540
    2006-2010 .554

    And voilá! The warming reappears! If I keep that up, soon I will be able to bake a pie!

    If one insists on using time scales too short to weed out the noise from the signal, then the “apparent” appears “real.” What a waste of time.