RealClimate logo

Fall AGU 2017

It’s that time of year again. #AGU17 is from Dec 11 to Dec 16 in New Orleans (the traditional venue in San Francisco is undergoing renovations).

As in previous years, there will be extensive live streams from “AGU On Demand” (free, but an online registration is required) of interesting sessions and the keynote lectures from prize-winners and awardees.

Some potential highlights will be Dan Rather, Baba Brinkman, and Joanna Morgan. The E-lightning sessions are already filled with posters covering many aspects of AGU science. Clara Deser, Bjorn Stevens, David Neelin, Linda Mearns and Thomas Stocker are giving some the key climate-related named lectures. The Tyndall Lecture by Jim Fleming might also be of interest.

As usual there are plenty of sessions devoted to public affairs and science communication, including one focused on the use of humour in #scicomm (on Friday at 4pm to encourage people to stay to the end I imagine), and a workshop on Tuesday (joint with the ACLU and CSLDF) on legal issues for scientist activists and advocates.

AGU is also a great place to apply for jobs, get free legal advice, mingle, and network.

A couple of us will be there – and we might find time to post on anything interesting we see. If any readers spot us, say hi!

Data rescue projects

Filed under: — gavin @ 17 August 2017

It’s often been said that while we can only gather new data about the planet at the rate of one year per year, rescuing old data can add far more data more quickly. Data rescue is however extremely labor intensive. Nonetheless there are multiple data rescue projects and citizen science efforts ongoing, some of which we have highlighted here before. For those looking for an intro into the subject, this 2014 article is an great introduction.

Weather diary from the the Observatoire de Paris, written by Giovanni Cassini on 18th January 1789.

I was asked this week whether there was a list of these projects, and with a bit of help from Twitter, we came up with the following:

(If you know of any more, please add them in the comments, and I’ll try and keep this list up to date).

Observations, Reanalyses and the Elusive Absolute Global Mean Temperature

One of the most common questions that arises from analyses of the global surface temperature data sets is why they are almost always plotted as anomalies and not as absolute temperatures.

There are two very basic answers: First, looking at changes in data gets rid of biases at individual stations that don’t change in time (such as station location), and second, for surface temperatures at least, the correlation scale for anomalies is much larger (100’s km) than for absolute temperatures. The combination of these factors means it’s much easier to interpolate anomalies and estimate the global mean, than it would be if you were averaging absolute temperatures. This was explained many years ago (and again here).

Of course, the absolute temperature does matter in many situations (the freezing point of ice, emitted radiation, convection, health and ecosystem impacts, etc.) and so it’s worth calculating as well – even at the global scale. However, and this is important, because of the biases and the difficulty in interpolating, the estimates of the global mean absolute temperature are not as accurate as the year to year changes.

This means we need to very careful in combining these two analyses – and unfortunately, historically, we haven’t been and that is a continuing problem.

More »

What do you need to know about climate?

What do you need to know about climate in order to be in the best position to adapt to future change? This question was discussed in a European workshop on Copernicus climate services during a heatwave in Barcelona, Spain (June 12-14).

More »

Someone C.A.R.E.S.

Filed under: — gavin @ 25 February 2017

Do we need a new venue for post-publication comments and replications?

Social media is full of commentary (of varying degrees of seriousness) on the supposed replication crisis in science. Whether this is really a crisis, or just what is to be expected at the cutting edge is unclear (and may well depend on the topic and field). But one thing that is clear from all the discussion is that it’s much too hard to publish replications, or even non-replications, in the literature. Often these efforts have to be part of a new paper that has to make its own independent claim to novelty before it can get in the door and that means that most attempted replications don’t get published at all.

This is however just a subset of the difficulty that exists in getting any kind of comment on published articles accepted. Having been involved in many attempts – in the original journal or as a new paper – some successful, many not, it has become obvious to me that the effort to do so is wholly disproportionate to the benefits for the authors, and is thus very effectively discouraged.

The overall mismatch between the large costs/minimal benefit for the commenters, compared to the real benefits for the field, suggests that something really needs to change.

I have thought for a long time that an independent journal venue for comments would be a good idea, but a tweet by Katharine Hayhoe last weekend made me realize that the replication issue might be well served by a similar approach. So, here’s a proposal for a new journal.

Commentary And Replication in Earth Science (C.A.R.E.S.)

More »


  1. G. Foster, J.D. Annan, G.A. Schmidt, and M.E. Mann, "Comment on “Heat capacity, time constant, and sensitivity of Earth's climate system” by S. E. Schwartz", Journal of Geophysical Research, vol. 113, 2008.
  2. G.A. Schmidt, "Spurious correlations between recent warming and indices of local economic activity", International Journal of Climatology, vol. 29, pp. 2041-2048, 2009.