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The most popular deceptive climate graph

The “World Climate Widget” from Tony Watts’ blog is probably the most popular deceptive image among climate “skeptics”.  We’ll take it under the microscope and show what it would look like when done properly.

So called “climate skeptics” deploy an arsenal of misleading graphics, with which the human influence on the climate can be down played (here are two other  examples deconstructed at Realclimate).  The image below is especially widespread.  It is displayed on many “climate skeptic” websites and is regularly updated.


The “World Climate Widget” of US “climate skeptic” Anthony Watts with our explanations added.  The original can be found on Watts’ blog

What would a more honest display of temperature, CO2 and sunspots look like?

  1.  It is better to plot the surface air temperature.  That is what is relevant for us humans: we do not live up in the troposphere, nor do natural ecosystems, nor do we grow our food up there. By the way, the satellite-based tropospheric temperatures shown by Watts show almost the same climatic warming trend as those measured by weather stations near ground level (in both cases 0.16 C per decade over the last 30 years).  However, variability in the tropospheric data is considerably larger, especially because of higher sensitivity to El Niño (as happened in 1998) and the solar cycle (we showed that in Foster and Rahmstorf ERL 2011 – when corrected for those factors the surface and troposphere data agree closely).  Because of increased noise, the trend is less obvious to the eye, especially if one shows monthly values which adds yet more noise.  Let us thus use the GISTEMP global annual temperature record from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Science (all surface data sets agree to better than 0.1 °C, see comparison graph).
  1.  One needs to scale the CO2 data correctly for an honest comparison with temperature, so that it can actually be used to evaluate climate scientists’ predictions of the CO2 effect.  You can calculate this with a complicated climate model, but one can also use a back-of-envelope estimate.  A CO2 increase from 280 to 400 ppm (equivalent to 2 Watts/meter2 radiative forcing) produces about 1 °C of global warming (at the time when 400 ppm is reached – some further warming will follow with delay). Thus, an increase of 100 ppm CO2 on the right hand side of the graph corresponds to a temperature increase of 0.8°C on the left hand side. That matches the IPCC’s estimate of the “transient climate response (TCR)” of ~2°C at the time of CO2 doubling (see Technical Summary of the IPCC WG1 report, p. 84). The TCR is smaller than the equilibrium climate sensitivity (about 3°C for doubled CO2) because it takes time to warm the oceans. The full equilibrium warming is thus only reached after a time delay. We are going to use the annual values from the famous CO2 measurements which began in 1958 on Mauna Loa in Hawaii.
  1.  And last but not least one should show honest sunspot data (annual time series), not just a snapshot of the number of spots on the sun today (which is completely uninformative for climate purposes – it’s apparently been added to the widget simply to insinuate an important role of the sun). Here also there is a question of the proper scaling (which is actually not that important because solar activity is cyclical and shows no significant trend over the period of the graph).  We will chose the scaling from the correlation analysis of Lean and Rind (2008) from which one can find a measurable effect on global temperature with an amplitude of 0.05°C.

When done this way the graph looks like this:


One of the readers of our German sister blog KlimaLounge, Bernd Herd, has programmed a widget for this graph so it can be added to any website at a size you like, automatically updated annually.

The trends in the CO2 and temperature anomaly curves agree very well with each other.  This is surprising at first because CO2 is of course not the only factor that influences global temperature. There are two reasons for this agreement:

(1)  Of the other anthropogenic factors, some have a warming effect (other greenhouse gases such as methane) while others have a cooling effect (air pollution). These roughly balance in global average. The IPCC AR4 report found a radiative forcing of 1.7 W/m2 from the CO2 increase alone, while the total from all anthropogenic factors amounted to 1.6 W/m2.

(2)  Natural factors (volcanoes, solar cycle) influencing the trend are very small in comparison to anthropogenic CO2 (as e.g. standard correlation analyses show, see for example Lean and Rind 2008Foster and Rahmstorf 2011). The IPCC AR5 found their contribution to global temperature change since 1951 to be in the range of −0.1°C to 0.1°C.

It requires quite some skill to produce a misleading graph like Watts’ global climate widget, which hides the actual connections between global temperature, CO2 and the sunspot cycle. Watts’ widget is quite a useful indicator though: whenever you see it on a website, you know they are trying to fool rather than inform you there.


A quick ‘n dirty guide to falsifying AGW

Dot Earth: Warming Trend and Variations on a Greenhouse-Heated Planet

217 Responses to “The most popular deceptive climate graph”

  1. 101
    Ragnaar says:

    Maybe it’s like this: Focused debates amongst the scientists versus wider debates that often can be seen on youtube. Whatever the results of the focused debate if that is preferred, now has to be brought to the public for any implementation of the scientific results. Politicians will invite people like Curry, Spencer and Lomborg to speak. It’s up to the politicians to decide who gets invited as they are elected by the people. so in the end, interpretation and implementation of scientific results comes from the people. So the people decide the rules of the debate, they define it. Ultimately they are the ones consuming the science just as they consume breakfast cereal. We could look at it as, what is the most advantageous circle to draw around where the debate is to be had? Gavin Schmidt made some interesting remarks at the AGU Chapman Conference:

  2. 102
    wheelsoc says:

    Grant, most climate scientists aren’t in the business of “forecasting” the climate. What you see being drawn out to the year 2100 in the IPCC reports, for example, are PROJECTIONS. This is a different beast from a “forecast.”

    A forecast would be something along the lines of a weather forecast but for decades instead of days. “We expect it to warm up slightly faster in the 2020s with some extra rain, followed by slower warming in the first half of the 2030s and spottier precipication. So don’t forget your umbrella!” That’s not how it really works.
    Climate projections are not meant to tell you specific information about any given point in time along the projected future. They are examinations of the long-term trend under an assumed set of conditions (the “scenario”). Since nobody knows what those conditions will actually be, the scenario is not expected to mimic the particulars of the real future world particularly well. Indeed, the IPCC includes 4 Representative Concentration Pathways, each of which are distinguished by end-point we want to examine and each of which is compatible with multiple specific scenarios. The RCPs are only meant as exercises in visualizing what the general trends will be like if we see future climate forcings equal to 8.5, 60, 4.5, or 2.0 extra watts per square meter over the Earth. This is so that we can grapple with our expectations for different kinds of policies and actions related to climate change.
    If we institute strenuous and long-lived measures to reduce our Greenhouse Gas emissions immediately, we can expect the overall trend of the next century to look like RCP 2.6. It would require not only a strong reining in of carbon pollution but an actual draw-down of atmospheric carbon by the late 21st century. In the particulars, however, you can get this effect through several means. A forecast would tell us when to expect slow, stabilized warming without any regard to what we plant to do about it. The same is true for RCP 8.5, except that all the pathways compatible with us reaching +8.5W/m^2 forcings by 2100 discount the choice of reducing our GHG pollution much at all and they must assume energy and pollution trends roughly analogous with today’s continuing into the future unabated.

    But it’s important to remember that none of this can be called a “forecast.” We are not saying we expect any one of these RCPs to be the outcome going forward. They are meant to illustrate the consequences of our actions, not to tell us we should pack our umbrellas. We can’t do that because what winds up happening is so equistely tied to our actions, today AND tomorrow. And obviously we can’t say what we’re going to do tomorrow today. That’s why they’re not forecasts, they’re projections.

    These issues are one of the reasons it can be difficult to compare past climate projections with the real-world data and come away with a meaningful conclusion. It must be assessed to what degree the conditions assumed by the projection were matched by the real world (or not) before we even get into what the temperature did in each case and compare those.

  3. 103
    Brandon Gates says:


    In the off chance you or others here have not seen Bob Tisdale’s response over at WUWT, I offer a summation of the rebuttal: you’re dishonest for using a snapshot of the widget from 2008 instead of a more up to date one from Aug 2014:

    Not because the later version of the widget is materially different, mind, but because the 2008 version you used hides 5 years of hiatus. He didn’t spell that out in the body text of his article, he left it with, “I’ll let you speculate about that.” Classy.

    Zero attempt by Bob to rebut your #3 point about improper scaling of CO2 relative to the temperature curve. Two or maybe three comments address it head on and … they don’t make much sense.

    Not only did your #3 point all but escape discussion, Tisdale doubles down on questionable scaling tactics in the comment thread with this graph he’s been tossing around lately:

    2000m OHC 10^22 J plotted against vertically averaged temperature anomaly for the same layer in K on the same axis. I asked him why not 10^21 J for the OHC scale instead — exponent divisible by three, really stomps the temperature curve flat. What’s not to love? His response, some muttering about temperature being familiar units, etc., but the final answer: “And why would I use 10^21 Joules when the intent was to show the data as presented by the NODC?”

    I really wish I were kidding. Not the most popular deceptive graph, but a candidate for one of the most disinformative and inanely useless grapics I’ve ever seen published anywhere on any topic.

  4. 104
    tamino says:

    Re: #97, 98 (Grant)

    You definitely should read this.

  5. 105

    #97, 98, Grant–#97–Seriously? A two-year old poll that shows basically a flat line implies ‘rising skepticism?’

    Here’s the latest:

    The bottom line finding is surely that opinion has become more politically polarized.

    #98–Hence the emphasis on modeling. Faux skeptics like to denigrate numerical experiments, but while necessarily imperfect/incomplete, they are a highly useful tool, and show skill in multiple respects. A somewhat dated but useful summary:

    As to model-observation comparisons, RC usually does a yearly update on that:

    (I don’t think there was one for 2013, at least, not something so titled.)

    And the recently released AR5 has a whole chapter devoted to the successes and shortcomings of state-of-the-art modeling. You’ll find that there is straight-forward acknowledgment of what remains to be done.

  6. 106
    Radge Havers says:


    Yeah, it’s worth repeating the link to BPL’s page:

    Also ‘denialism’ is not just an epithet. It’s a term derived from years of observation with a reasonably strong defininition:

    Advocates clamoring for ‘debate’ on this subject are generally not seeking to inform the public but are promoting false balance in order to “teach the controversy” and spread FUD. This has been examined and dissected in great detail, ad nauseam in fact, outside the ridiculously parochial Fox/Limbaugh/Watts/FF ideologic bubble. One wonders at those who are unaware of this.

    The reasons for scientists to avoid getting sucked into a politically motivated mud wrestling match, are the same as those for avoiding debates with creationists and the like. Yet despite what you may pretend, reliable information on climate does leak out to the public, and that in spite of the robust propaganda machine working to keep it bottled up.

  7. 107
    dhogaza says:

    Steve Harris:

    “I see that if your consensus was that CO2 isn’t a problem, your funding would dry up immediately.”

    What an odd statement, given that John Christy, Roy Spencer, Judith Curry and others in the contrarian camp continue to be funded … why hasn’t their funding “dried up immediately” if your self-serving claim were true?

  8. 108
    Russell says:


    It would have a salubrious effect on such audiences as are herded in to hear Roy evangelize ( he is after all, Outstanding Evangelical Climate Scientist of the Year ) if Gavin and others were to be seen in the front row laughing their heads off at all the predictable– and tendentious nonsense that gets said at such venues.

    PR Revival meetings depend on sustaining an aura of infallibility in order to prosper, and surrendering the field to their organizers by refusing to confront and ventilate the travesty of science presented there just serves to impoverish the intellectual and political life of the nation.

  9. 109
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Steve Harris,
    Are you really contending that there would be no need to study Earth’s climate if not for the threat of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change? Seriously? Dude, do you maybe want to amend that before I point out just how stupid that contention is?

    Climate science studies a plethora of issues other than climate change. In fact, most climate scientists are not directly involved in studying climate change. They are looking at hurricanes, at ocean-atmosphere interactions, monsoon patterns, Glacial-Interglacial cycles and on and on. Do you think that maybe understanding some of this stuff–given that our global civilization depends climate–might be useful in its own right? Jebus.

  10. 110
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Grant: “So I agree with Steve Harris.”

    Uh, dude, given the astounding ignorance Steve has demonstrated here, you might want to be a bit more circumspect.

  11. 111
    Steve Harris says:

    Gavin, thank you for the reply, yes there is some truth in your words. My last comment was an exaggeration, based on what I believe is a nugget of truth, that’s what happens when things are so polarized. I would prefer to find some middle ground. I readily acknowledge that Fox distorts things to the conservative side, so perhaps John Stossell was not a good forum for an honest discussion. But that discussion needs to be had, somewhere. Please, help me understand why a discussion between you and Roy S. would inevitably end up in a shouting match. You are both professionals. I am honestly trying to understand what is going on here. Thanks

  12. 112
    Steve Harris says:

    C’mon Ray, let’s tone it down. Please. I generally despise Limbaugh, and Fox is very biased to the Republican side. I believe the evidence for evolution is strong, and that there is no solid evidence to support the beliefs of any of the major religions of the world that I have investigated. The evidence I see indicates that I am simply a collection of a large number of small independent cellular organisms, similar to a dog, or chicken, or grasshopper. I see no evidence that my life has any more significance than that of the chicken I ate yesterday. Where does all this lead? For me it means the planet earth could explode tomorrow and it doesn’t matter, the remains will continue floating around through the universe just fine. And so, no, I see no value at all in trying to understand what will happen long after I am dead. The stuff you mention – hurricanes, glaciers, monsoons – I see little value for me in studying them. Help me understand – what is the value?

  13. 113
    Steve Harris says:

    106 Radge – you mention the propaganda machine. Honestly, what I see, and largely the reason I am here, is because of the propaganda that I see. Here is an example. Recently there was a news clip of Bill Nye blaming the intense snow storm in Buffalo on climate change. He said warmer lake puts more water in the atmosphere resulting in more snow. However, data indicates the lake is colder than usual this year. Does anyone recall seeing this clip? Here is a link.

    This would seem to be a LARGE error on Bill’s part. Do any of you agree with him? And if not, then why are you not standing up and saying “hey, that’s not right”. I bring this up because this is not an isolated incident. It’s everywhere. To me, a relative outsider, the lack of integrity in making these claims is extremely disturbing. My propaganda detector has been going off the scale for a while. Why are you not proactively snuffing out these types of claims?

  14. 114
    Jeffronicus says:

    One of the issues with a call for a stand-up “debate” over climate change is that it stems from the mindset that we need to determine which side is more “right” rather than get to what the truth is.

    It’s an approach to the issue that is procedural — in the sense of a Law and Order episode — rather than scientific.

  15. 115
    DP says:

    Surprised the sun was flat for the graph. I thought the solar output increased for about 3 decades after 1940, and had it not been for sulphate aerosol pollution the warming trend of the inter war years would have continued until the 1970’s rather than partly reversed.

  16. 116
    john says:

    Lots of posts off topic for this article. One question – why did Stefan not contact this Watts fellow and ask him to explain why he created the chart/graph the way he did. A civil discourse usually yields better results when you at least try to appreciate another’s perspective.

    As an engineer, I do fact finding when we must re-engineer something. I have been bitten before by speculating instead of going to the source to find out why something was designed the way it was.

  17. 117
    Mal Adapted says:

    Steve Harris and Grant are blaming climate scientists for failing to overcome AGW-denial. One presumes neither of them have any interest in learning where the blame actually lies. I can’t pass up the opportunity, though, to link to Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations by Robert Brulle, published last year in the refereed journal Climatic Change. Brulle exposed in damning detail the money being spent by fossil-fuel billionaires to maintain public doubt about AGW. The high quality of the research, and publication in a respected peer-reviewed venue, attracted lots of attention. Scientific American, for instance, reported Brulle’s findings under the title “Dark Money” Funds Climate Change Denial Effort.

    As you’d expect, professional AGW-deniers dismiss any attempt to draw attention to the well-funded disinformation campaign as mere conspiracy theory (and lash back with risible tu quoque obfuscation), but all the raw data (tax filings, for example) are in the public record. There’s little need for secrecy, either, because after all, short of actionable libel, lying to the public is largely legal in the US.

    Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, fellas.

  18. 118
    Steven Sullivan says:

    I get the impression that the twin engineers Harris and Grant have no idea what potion of climate research funding goes to scientist’s salaries, and what portion goes to things like *satellites*.

  19. 119
    tamino says:

    Re: #113 (Steve Harris)

    I’ll take you at your word that you sincerely want to find out.

    First: I don’t know whether or not there’s any support for Bill Nye’s claim, and I don’t take it as correct just because he said so. Bill Nye is not a climate scientist, so I suspect he’s just repeating someone else’s speculation, but again, I don’t know. If I am convinced he’s wrong, I’ll won’t be shy about accusing him of being wrong, not of lack of integrity.

    But I suggest you’re making a LARGE mistake dismissing it simply on the basis of “the lake is colder than usual this year.” Is the atmosphere over the lake hotter, and that’s what really counts? Have you really investigated the science in sufficient depth to know? To accuse him of lack of integrity? If you want to know why I’m not “shouting from the rooftops” about this, it’s because I genuinely don’t know.

    Second: I think you need to face the fact that when it comes to climate science, you’ve got a lot to learn before you start making such judgements.

    Third: If you want to know why there are many, many on the “fake skeptic” side (in my opinion that’s the appropriate term) who, if included in your desired discussion, wouldn’t contribute to understanding but only to confusion, read this.

  20. 120
    Russell says:

    116: ” why did Stefan not contact this Watts fellow and ask him to explain why he created the chart/graph the way he did. A civil discourse usually yields better results when you at least try to appreciate another’s perspective.”

    The relevant word is ‘usually’- Watts website speaks for itself.

  21. 121
    Hank Roberts says:

    For Steve — it’s the temperature difference between water and air that can create lake snow.

    Steve Harris says:

    data indicates the lake is colder than usual this year.

    – See more at:

    That’s a hint at half the information you need. What was the temperature of this water that was colder than usual?

    the air blowing over the lake was the coldest this early in November since 1986.

    They don’t say the temperature of the air, you haven’t got the temperature of the water, and what matters is the difference.

    Major cities such as Erie, Syracuse, Cleveland, and Buffalo experience it. … If the air mass is at least 13 ° C colder than the lake, heavy lake-effect snow can occur. …. producing bands of heavy snow down wind from the lakes Erie and Ontario.</blockquote

    So? You can look the numbers up, would you let us know what you find?

  22. 122
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Steve Harris: “The stuff you mention – hurricanes, glaciers, monsoons – I see little value for me in studying them. Help me understand – what is the value?”

    Ah, I think I see your problem. Tropical storms kill thousands. Tropical agriculture depends critically on the monsoons–and climate change or not, we will have over 10 billion people to feed by 2050. Whether the issue is desertification or flooding, climate matters, especially as we reach the limits of carrying capacity of the planet. I think that your lack of curiosity has resulted in an astounding ignorance of any subject not directly within your métier. That can be remedied, but you might want to look into things before pronouncing an entire field of study as nothing but hype. You might also want to look into the history of climate change to understand better the level of rancor between the two sides. If you do so honestly, you will find that one side has had a consistent message throughout, while the other has one message when talking to experts and a very different and much more hostile one when addressing laymen. Such scientific misconduct cannot be forgiven.

  23. 123

    #116–John, here’s some background on Mr. Watts:

  24. 124
    Jim Eager says:

    Hank, in my experience people who have never lived in the Great Lakes region simply don’t grasp what “lake effect” means.

    For them, here’s a rule of thumb: when it’s warm enough that the lake doesn’t freeze over, the prevailing wind can pick up a good deal of moisture and dump it as lake effect snow on the leeward shore, such as at Buffalo. But when it is cold enough that the lakes freeze over there can be no lake effect snow.

    So, while it is true that one can not say that climate change definitely caused the recent record dump in Buffalo, a warming climate will inevitably make such events more frequent.

    [Response: “Inevtiable” seems a little strong. It’s a function of the timing of lake ice onset vs Arctic cold fronts and hence is linked to dynamics as well as temperature. Such a situation has many complicating factors. – gavin]

  25. 125
    Radge Havers says:

    Steve Harris @~ 113

    I’m not surprised that the Daily Caller, couldn’t properly parse Nye’s statement. It is very odd however for an engineer to be unable to work out the statistical implications of what he was saying, even in the way it was reported. Seriously, all you need is some exposure to basic statistics to understand the gist of it, and maybe not even that. Surely you can work it out and come up with a more thoughtful question?

  26. 126
    Hank Roberts says:

    For Steve Harris — form more on lake effect see followups in the open thread, where Victor is promoting the same question you are here.

    I have the numbers you need to make up your own mind about what happened.

  27. 127
    Radge Havers says:

    Steve Harris @~113

    Ok, I see that I responded to your comment too hastily. I wasn’t fully awake when I posted that, so my apologies. Let’s try again.

    Are you seriously comparing Bill Nye to Fox, Exxon, Limbaugh, et al.? Let’s say he was mistaken on the mechanics. That’s not an indication of anything other than being mistaken. It’s certainly not proof of propaganda any more than being skeptical of AGW is necessarily proof of being a denialist.

    Bottom line, if you want to get the deal on the science, go to the scientists. I think that if you pour through the archives here at RC you’ll eventually discern who’s top flight and who’s just tap dancing (i.e., Curry and the like).

  28. 128
    Grant says:

    #102, wheelsoc:
    I believe I understand what you are saying. However, I don’t see why predictions cannot be made with qualifiers. e.g., “In 2030 I believe model X will best predict the 5-year mean temperature from dataset Y, once we enter historic data for CO2, aerosols, volcanic eruptions, etc.”

    Again I’m reminded of economics. An economist might say (to the horror of many people), that all other things being equal, a rise in the minimum wage will increase unemployment. They’d then have a very hard time showing this in the data regardless of whether or not they were right, because all those other things never stay still for very long.

    #104 tamino:
    Yikes. There is a lot of polarization there. I constantly wonder why all this isn’t open source on github. The datasets, the models, their results, everything. It would vastly decrease the work required to replicate, modify and understand the computation behind all the graphs everyone likes to argue about. It also might shift some argument from hand-waving to grittier details? Its not uncommon for disagreements (sometimes very heated ones) in software to take the form of a pull request or fork, which of course is positive-sum.

    I suppose the non-computer sciences do not work like this? Maybe they should consider it?

    #105, Kevin:
    I saw those newer polls, but didn’t like their wording. I am more interested in how serious people think AGW is, not whether or not CO2 emissions contribute to it (which I think is as settled as can be). After all, believing in GW is not the same as believing in AGW, which is not the same as believing in CAGW. The newer link you posted does say “barely a third [of Americans] expect global warming to pose a serious threat in their own lifetime”. Still not the greatest of poll questions for something expected to worsen as the decades go by.

    The list of successes of the GCMs is impressive, but not very meaningful without a similar list of their failures.

    Thanks for the link to model-observation comparisons. That was exactly what I was looking for (though it seems to me antarctic ice should be included along with arctic ice, no?). Does anyone know of a post for 2013?

  29. 129
    Grant says:

    #117 Mal Adapted,

    I’m not blaming climate scientists for being ineffective marketeers. They’re scientists after all, and we certainly don’t need any more people going into journalism or marketing!

    I am accusing proponents of CAGW of showing signs of bias and groupthink which lowers their credibility to the general public. Its definitely not just scientists, and its not really surprising – in-group biases (and others) run rampant in politics. In rationalist circles its well known that discussion must be kept far from politics for it to stay sane. AGW is more closely tied with politics than other hard sciences, so we should expect more bias.

    Of course no one trusts oil companies to fund research which shows AGW to be a big problem. Similarly, many people don’t trust politicians to fund research which doesn’t produce a crisis for them to use to their advantage. There’s not necessarily causality here though – the research may have already looked like it was going to help the funder’s cause before it was funded.

  30. 130

    Question to experts:

    On the website I could not find the file GLB.Ts+dSST.txt updated for November, but only the updated file When I use this file to calculate the global temperature I get 0.37 °C for November 2014. Is this correct?

  31. 131
    Radge Havers says:

    “The stuff you mention – hurricanes, glaciers, monsoons – I see little value for me in studying them. Help me understand – what is the value?”


  32. 132
    Jim Eager says:

    Fair enough, Gavin, at least for dumps of the magnitude that Buffalo just saw, but recently whether or not the lower lakes even freeze over at all has been been iffy. If they don’t then any strong, long-lived incursion of polar air has the potential to spawn large lake effect dumps.

  33. 133
    Matthew R Marler says:

    100, gavin in response: “it’s all too uncertain, we need to do more research!” – See more at:

    In fact, many grant proposals every year do exactly that: outline the gaps in the knowledge and request money for study.

    100 Steve Harris: Watching Gavin so rudely shun discussion with Roy Spencer did bias me – a lot. Bottom line – I’m not saying I can interpret climate science better than climate scientists, I have no where near that expertise. BUT – and this is important – I can see tremendous incentive for bias in this industry – See more at:

    Your best strategy, in my opinion, is to read the leading post, think of particular points or questions, and see what you can learn from them. I learned a lot from comments by, for example, Chris Colose (who recommended books). You are basically accusing the hosts and responders of being “of bad faith”, when most of them are knowledgeable about at least a few topics, and public spirited.

  34. 134
    tamino says:

    Re: #128 (Grant)

    I constantly wonder why all this isn’t open source on github. The datasets, the models, their results, everything. It would vastly decrease the work required to replicate, modify and understand the computation behind all the graphs everyone likes to argue about.

    The datasets, the models, their results, everything, is freely available on the web. Where do you think I got ’em?

    What’s not freely available on the web is the expertise and experience to analyze data correctly. And no, training in computer science and/or engineering doesn’t prepare one properly, any more than my expertise in statistics properly prepares me to do computer programming or engineering.

  35. 135
    Mal Adapted says:


    I am accusing proponents of CAGW of showing signs of bias and groupthink which lowers their credibility to the general public. Its definitely not just scientists, and its not really surprising – in-group biases (and others) run rampant in politics.

    Grant, that ‘C’ is only used by pseudo-skeptics, so “proponents of CAGW” have no credibility with me either. And from my own experience, I can tell you that scientists are not an in-group in the sense you’re implying, and that no professional scientist can afford to show signs of bias and groupthink in his professional communications, because his professional peers won’t let him get away with it. “That’s how science works. It’s not a hippie love-in; it’s rugby.” If you had any experience publishing or presenting scientific research in peer-reviewed venues, you’d know that.

    That’s not to say a scientist might not speak from political bias in a personal capacity, and we all know that mass media often distorts what scientists say. But if you apply scientific meta-literacy to information you come across about AGW, you’ll come to know what’s trustworthy and what isn’t. And if somebody tells you that a joint publication of the US National Academy of Sciences and the British Royal Society shows signs of bias and groupthink, you should wonder about that person’s own biases.

  36. 136
    vukcevic says:

    Response: “Inevtiable” seems a little strong. It’s a function of the timing of lake ice onset vs Arctic cold fronts and hence is linked to dynamics as well as temperature. Such a situation has many complicating factors. – gavin]

    Amount of snow formed and deposited is highly dependant on the wind direction. If the wind is from a direction that traverses more of the lake area, the air will absorb more moisture, and consequently deposit more snow.

  37. 137
    Curious George says:

    Chris (#50),

    from your reference: “Endangerment Finding: The Administrator finds that the current and projected concentrations of the six key well-mixed greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) — in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.
    Cause or Contribute Finding: The Administrator finds that the combined emissions of these well-mixed greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles and new motor vehicle engines contribute to the greenhouse gas pollution which threatens public health and welfare.”
    and later “EPA denied ten Petitions for Reconsideration of the Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings on July 29, 2010.”

    I find it strange that the Finding does not even mention the worst of all key well-mixed greenhouse gases, H2O. Does it constitute a debatable issue?

    [Response: Water vapour – feedback or forcing?. So, no. – gavin]

  38. 138
    Pehr says:

    I propose that this kind of graph with GHG forcings correlated to temperature anomalies would be even better for a widget, especially if forcings instead would be given as equivalent carbon dioxide ppm:

  39. 139
    Chris O'Neill says:

    #44 Steve Harris:

    If their arguments are truly lies, they will not prevail.

    Rather a naive view. For example, the lie “there is no warming in X years”, where X is a favorite number, helps various governments opposed to emission reductions prevail. This lie continues to prevail where it matters.

  40. 140
    Chris Dudley says:


    “I find it strange that the Finding does not even mention the worst of all key well-mixed greenhouse gases, H2O.”

    Well-mixed does not really describe water vapor.

  41. 141
    Ragnaar says:

    Chris O’Neill says:
    ““there is no warming in X years”, where X is a favorite number, helps various governments opposed to emission reductions prevail. This lie continues to prevail where it matters.”
    The problem then would be with the governments I think. If certain people in government seem to have been captured by certain segments of society and this is thought to be less than optimal, do we target certain people in government through elections or somehow diminish certain segments of society’s influence? Probably both.

  42. 142
    Jim Eager says:

    “Amount of snow formed and deposited is highly dependant on the wind direction.”

    Look at a map, vukcevic. Buffalo is at the eastern end of Lake Erie. The prevailing winds are westerly. Result: Buffalo regularly receives large dumps of lake effect snow. Always has. What’s unusual is the amount of snow this early in the season. It wasn’t the wind direction that was unusual, it was the incursion of cold arctic air mass over an ice-free lake.

  43. 143
    Jim Eager says:

    For Curious George: Water vapor is not a well-mixed greenhouse gas in earth’s atmosphere. On the contrary, H2O is highly stratified in the atmosphere because temperature decreases as elevation increases, causing H2O to condense out as elevation increases. This is not the case with the non-condensing greenhouse gasses listed in the finding.

  44. 144
    Bob says:

    It seems to me that the proper response to Steve and other with similar concerns is patience, not condescension. His comment is an invitation to Real Climate to consider how to communicate better.

    I’m a reasonably well-educated person—although a layman at modeling atmospheric processes. But, I find the debate around global warming disconcerting and off-putting.

    There are several layers to my discomfort.
    First, there seems to be little dispute about the resonances of the CO2 molecule. But, that’s where agreement ends. There seem to be those in the kook-wing of the denier camp who believe that one does not stay warmer under a blanket than in the open air.

    Second, there is appears to be significant dispute about the correctness of the current generation of models. I don’t know enough to judge this dispute. I do find representing research results by showing the results of an ensemble of models rather than picking a best model or best 3 models somewhat confusing.

    Third, there is forecasting of impacts. This area seems to be full of weak claims. Extinctions, famine, wars, pestilence, etc. There are multiple forecasts of the expansion of malaria due to global warming. Malaria used to be a problem in New York City. Malaria was only eliminated in the southern United States in the late 1940s-early 1950s. A lot more than temperature effects the range of malaria. Claims in this area that appear weak but that are accepted tarnish the enterprise.

    Fourth, there are a host of peripheral activities—activities not directly related to climate modeling—that distract, confuse, and, in my opinion, make the whole enterprise look questionable. Professor Mann’s litigation might be exhibit #1 here. The IPCC reaction to assertions about the claim of 2035 glacier melting is another. The IPCC should have said either, “Interesting, we will look into that.” or “Oops. We seem to have a mistake—let me check and get back to you.” Ultimately the IPCC got that position—but with some missteps along the way that damaged credibility.

    Finally, there’s the issue of tone and style. Above, one person states, “Uh, dude, given the astounding ignorance Steve has demonstrated here, you might want to be a bit more circumspect.” No doubt it is fun to type “astounding ignorance”; but, doing so, probably does not help make Steve understand any better or reach out to a person who seems to respect Steve. It’s one think to attack positions; it’s another to attack people. More class and less clash would make for more effective advocacy.

    Also, humor helps—especially self-deprecating humor.


  45. 145
    Jim Eager says:

    pinroot wrote: “Maybe you could write about this suspect widget next:

    And what is it, exactly, that you think is suspect about that widget?

    I’ll concede that the metric is pretty incendiary, but is it wrong?

    Let’s do the math, shall we?

    Earth’s current radiative imbalance is around (~) 1/2 watt per square meter of earth’s surface area, maybe a bit more, but let’s keep it simple.

    Earth’s surface area is ~510,000,000 square kilometers (we’ll round down a bit, again, to keep it simple).
    Multiply that by 1000 x 1000 to get 510,000,000,000,000 square meters, or ~5.1×10^14 m^2

    A Watt is defined as 1 Joule per sec, so 5.1×10^14 x 1/2 puts earth’s current energy imbalance in Joules at ~255,000,000,000,000 Joules/sec, or ~2.55×10^14 J/sec.

    The yield of the Hiroshima explosion in Joules was ~6,000,000,000,000 Joules, or 6×10^13 J.

    So, 2.55×10^14 / 6×10^13 = 4.25 hiroshima bombs worth of energy per second. Every second.

    Seems you may be on to something as the widget is a bit low at only 4 hiroshima bombs per second.

    You were saying?

  46. 146
    Tom Scharf says:

    If this is all about the science, it is unclear why there is so much emotion tied to it. It is very clear both sides are heavily emotionally invested in the outcome at this point. The question is which side needs to overcome this to achieve its goals? There is much momentum to business as usual and continued fossil fuel extraction. In other words, a tie goes to the skeptics. It’s an uphill battle for change.

    I am very perplexed at the strategy (if one could call it that) of the name calling and the demonization of the Republican party. This may be emotionally satisfying somehow, but it is counter-productive in every measurable way. Has this strategy produced a desirable outcome? AGW is the lowest voter priority in almost every poll and the right has made huge gains over the last 6 years. Why keep doing this? Are you expecting a different outcome?

    Why should you debate more publicly? I guess you shouldn’t if you don’t care about public (i.e. the voters) opinion. But I think you do. I would hope that at this point many would come to the conclusion that the appeal to scientific authority is not going to get you over the finish line.

    1. People who you require votes from should not be the enemy.
    2. The economy matters to the voters way more than AGW.
    3. People stop listening once the name calling starts. It polarizes.
    4. People on the other side are not scientifically illiterate.
    5. Police the overtly alarmist side as much as the overtly wrong skeptic claims.
    6. Detach from the more extreme left wing social policy groups. Some groups that co-opt AGW for their pet cause are doing you no favors. e.g. Naomi Klein.
    7. Find some likable leaders that aren’t political operatives.
    8. Symbolic and ineffective policy such as Keystone and divestment makes the movement look unserious.
    9. The fear card has been overplayed. It has become common to quote worst case outcomes without calling them worst case or documenting probabilities. Seems deceptive.
    10. Cheap clean energy is a good thing. Everyone wins. Pound the table and demand more energy research. I’d trade half the climate science budget for energy research in a heartbeat. Sorry.
    11. Sacrifice the sacred cow of opposition to nuclear energy. Convince environmental NGO’s to drop opposition. Opposition to nuclear, hydro, fracking with a belief in CAGW is round hole, square peg.
    12. Ideological rigidity leads to zero progress. It’s a policy marathon, not a sprint. Take any progress that you can find. Fracking.

    Keep or toss. Listening to the opposition may be more useful than another dose of designer propaganda.

  47. 147
    Jim Eager says:

    “If this is all about the science, it is unclear why there is so much emotion tied to it.”

    Gee, the concern trolls seem to be coming out of the woodwork in this thread. Thanks for all the heart-felt advice for us warmists and our cause. Not.

    Tom, is it really so hard to understand that when millions of lives are at stake (never mind livelihoods and wealth) it is bound to get emotional?

  48. 148
    Ragnaar says:

    “Multi-model Ensemble – a set of simulations from multiple models. Surprisingly, an average over these simulations gives a better match to climatological observations than any single model.” –
    Also this chart by Ghil I believe:
    This is also good:
    And this image there: where about ½ the forecasts show significant orange. The results are sort of binary.

  49. 149
  50. 150
    Ragnaar says:

    Regarding the ‘plateau’ that Rabett recently discussed, at Roberts above link, this shows something from Schmidt:
    It may be read as confirming the pause I think. The brown peaks advance to the right. Those are the warming regime ones. The red peaks hardly advance to the right. They are focused. So looking at what’s different between the two sets we have a healthy advance and then a lackadaisical one. It’s a good plot. Some of us take in visual information better than other types. There are others ways of interpreting things for instance approaching an upper boundary and not making much progress crossing that.