Category Archives: Climate change denial

Rapidly warming satellite data sends “skeptics” scurrying to models

Most people remotely familiar with climate “skeptics” know that if you can count on them for anything, it’s the following:

  1. “Skeptics” love satellite temperature data.
  2. “Skeptics” hate computer models. 

“Skeptics” claim to reject the surface instrumental temperature record because of alleged biases in the data, supposedly fraudulent “adjustments”, etc. These objections are not based in reality, as multiple analyses of the surface data have shown. In reality, “skeptics” reject the surface instrumental record for the same reason they reject so much of modern science: it doesn’t show what they want it to.

“Skeptics” claim that satellite temperature data, derived from microwave brightness soundings of the lower troposphere, are superior. The reality is that the satellite data cover a shorter record (and thus capture less of the warming), use a more recent baseline (and thus have cooler “anomalies” relative to the surface record), and are more sensitive to natural climatic variability like ENSO (and thus make the human signal harder to pick out visually). In other words, they like the satellite data because they show them more of what they want to see, and less of what they don’t. That one of the groups producing a satellite record is comprised of Roy Spencer and John Christy is icing on the cake.

And if there’s one thing “skeptics” disdain more than the surface instrumental record, it’s computer models. The ostensible justifications are legion, but the underlying cause is simple: they show things that “skeptics” don’t want to see.

So it was with great amusement that I took note of the “skeptic” reaction to the UAH satellite record’s rapid January warming, which reached temperatures exceeded only during the strong El Niño years of 1998 and 2010:

Rather than accept their beloved satellite data at face value, “skeptics” cast about for any alternative data set that didn’t show the inconvenient warming. Over at the wretched hive of scum and villainy known as WUWT, the innumerate and oft-beclowned Anthony Watts seized upon NCEP data showing much less January warming:

Of course NCEP isn’t actually an observational data set. It’s a reanalysis product created by those evil and untrustworthy models. You know, the ones “skeptics” demonize regularly in outlets like WUWT:

When the satellites don’t show what they want to see, “skeptics” waste no time in fleeing to the models they otherwise disdain.

Because climate “skeptics” are anything but skeptical.

And just for the record, the RSS satellite record showed a similarly large (+0.341°C) increase in January 2013.

Matt Ridley and the Wall Street Journal misrepresent paper cited in Ridley column

Equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) evaluated from paleoclimatic data (PALAEOSENS group, Rohling et al., 2012).

There’s more to say about the latest attempt to deny the mainstream estimate of equilibrium climate sensitivity (e.g. NRC, 1979; Annan and Hargreaves, 2006; Knutti and Hegerl, 2008; Rohling et al., 2012) by Matt Ridley (remember him?) at the Wall Street Journal later. But I just wanted to point out something rather troubling about one of Ridley’s and Nic Lewis’s (the source of Ridley’s claims) citations.

Ridley claimed:

Some of the best recent observationally based research also points to climate sensitivity being about 1.6°C for a doubling of CO2. An impressive study published this year by Magne Aldrin of the Norwegian Computing Center and colleagues gives a most-likely estimate of 1.6°C.

I recalled the Aldrin et al. paper from the last time it made the rounds in the “skeptic” blogosphere, when Chip Knappenberger cited it as finding a “low” climate sensitivity.

The funny thing about the Aldrin et al. paper is that it really doesn’t find a “low” ECS at all. Their main result is an ECS of 2.0°C, which is completely consistent with the IPCC AR4 range. Moreover, they caution that their main result is incomplete, because it explicitly does not account for the effect of clouds:

When cloud behavior is included as another term, the ECS increases significantly, from ~2.5°C to 3.3°C depending on the values used:

Surely this wasn’t the Aldrin et al. paper Riddley and Lewis were citing as finding an ECS of 1.6°C.

The 1.6°C value literally never appears in the text of the paper.

Of course, it was entirely possible that Aldrin had published another paper on ECS this year finding 1.6°C that I was simply unable to find. I reached out to Bishop Hill and Matt Ridley for some clarification:

  1. thingsbreak
    @aDissentient Which Aldrin 2012 paper was Lewis citing on your blog?
  2. thingsbreak
    @mattwridley Can you provide either the title or the DOI for the Aldrin paper you cited in your WSJ piece? Thanks!
  3. aDissentient
    @thingsbreak Environmetrics 2012; 23: 253–271 Panel A of Fig 6.
  4. thingsbreak
    @aDissentient The one that finds an ECS of 2.5-3.3K when it bothers to account for clouds (4.8)? LOL.
  5. mattwridley
    @thingsbreak wattsupwiththat.com/2012/12… Aldrin, M., et al., 2012. Bayesian estimation of climate sensitiv… Environmetrics, doi:10.1002/env.2140.
  6. thingsbreak
    @mattwridley Did you personally read the paper? Where does the 1.6 number come from? Did you read section 4.8?
  7. aDissentient
    @thingsbreak Most likely values still only 2 ish. If we are to include cloud lifetime effect shld we include other highly uncertain effects?
  8. thingsbreak
    @aDissentient If you’re making a comparison to IPCC values, should use most apples-to-apples comparison, which Aldrin et al. discuss in 4.8.
  9. thingsbreak
    @aDissentient Where does the 1.6 value come from anyway? Literally doesn’t exist in paper.
  10. aDissentient
    @thingsbreak He got it by measuring the graph (It’s actually slightly lower I believe).
  11. mattwridley
    @thingsbreak lewis calculated it from aldrin’s paper’s data/charts and aldrin agreed it is correct
  12. thingsbreak
    @mattwridley Aldrin agreed that apples to apples comparison with IPCC ECS estimates is 1.6K? Doubtful. Directly contradicts paper itself.

I posted the following to Nic Lewis at Bishop Hill’s blog:

I think that some readers, and probably the authors of a paper themselves, might find it at least slightly misleading for you to claim findings on their behalf that the paper itself does not actually state.

The main result from Aldrin et al., as reported by Aldrin et al., is an ECS of 2.0°C. The authors caution that this result probably isn’t an apples to apples comparison to other ECS estimates due to the unaccounted for cloud term, and find that the value increases to ~2.5-3.3°C with clouds.

Rather than report either of these values, you simply claim Aldrin et al. “an impressively thorough study, gives a most likely estimate for ECS of 1.6°C…”.

Ridley likewse claims, “An impressive study published this year by Magne Aldrin of the Norwegian Computing Center and colleagues gives a most-likely estimate of 1.6°C.”

It would be easy for me to lob accusations of bad faith, as we don’t know each other and this is just the internet. Instead, I would encourage you, if your goal is to reach as wide an audience as possible, and try to make an impact beyond the “skeptic” and conservative blogospheres, to be more upfront about the scientific literature about ECS.

Ignoring the two main findings of a paper for values that you’re either estimating from a curve or are creating yourself based on data not used by the paper will be seen by at least some people to be misleading. Claiming that ECS cannot be estimated by paleo data is absurd, especially when so many are aware of efforts like the PALAEOSENS project and various paleoclimatic intercomparison groups.

I won’t attempt to read minds or divine motivations. I will simply suggest that what you have been doing thus far will cause some people to dismiss what you’re trying to say due to perceived dishonesty.

I hope you take this criticism in the constructive context in which it is being offered. There will be plenty of time for name-calling and insults later.

References:

  • Aldrin, M., M. Holden, P. Guttorp, R. B. Skeie, G. Myhre, and T. K. Berntsen (2012), Bayesian estimation of climate sensitivity based on a simple climate model fitted to observations of hemispheric temperatures and global ocean heat content, Environmetrics, 23(3), 253–271, doi:10.1002/env.2140.
  • Annan, J. D., and J. C. Hargreaves (2006), Using multiple observationally-based constraints to estimate climate sensitivity, Geophys. Res. Lett., 33, 4 PP., doi:200610.1029/2005GL025259.
  • Knutti, R., and G. C. Hegerl (2008), The equilibrium sensitivity of the Earth’s temperature to radiation changes, Nature Geoscience, 1(11), 735–743, doi:10.1038/ngeo337.
  • National Research Council (1979),  Carbon Dioxide and Climate: A Scientific Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
  • Rohling, E.J., et al. (2012), Making sense of palaeoclimate sensitivity, Nature, 491(7426), 683–691, doi:10.1038/nature11574.

Reality’s “Liberal” Bias – Presidential Polling Edition

I’ve been trying to avoid discussing the 2012 Presidential Election in the US for a number of reasons. I don’t think the Romney-Ryan ticket has been as terrible as the addition of Palin to the McCain ticket was in terms of climate (and science generally). I also sympathize greatly with the reluctance of non-”movement conservative” libertarians to vote for either front-runner given Obama’s foreign policy and civil liberties record and Romney’s rhetoric regarding the same.

That’s not to say I don’t have my own preferences or believe that there is no real difference between candidates. Rather this election seems to me, far more than the 2008 election, to be about issues that likely have much more to do with differing visions of the kind of America one wishes to see, rather than based on issues of objective fact.

But the above tweet, from conservative journalist Robert Stacy McCain (no relation to the 2008 Republican nominee), seemed worth commenting on. This idea that polling itself has somehow become part of the evil liberal-science nexus conspiring against conservatives is echoed by other conservative pundits and outlets, such as Townhall, Rick Wilson of Intrepid Media, the Weekly Standard, radio host Hugh Hewitt, the National Review, Fox (about 27 seconds in):

and even by the Romney campaign itself!

It has gotten to the point where conservatives have constructed an alternate reality in which the “liberal bias” has been removed from polling, showing Romney with an enormous lead:

If that sounds familiar, you might be aware of Conservapedia- the alternative to Wikipedia cleansed of filthy liberal lies about evolution, relativity, global warming, homosexuality, and the Bible.

In reality, what has changed recently isn’t so much the polling itself. Rather, it’s that the media has finally begun picking up on what the polling has been saying for quite some time. Media members will openly confess that their institutional biases (towards “balance” even where none might exist, towards conflict, towards drama, etc.) are in favor of making the race seem closer than it is. And for the most part, the media has until very recently been portraying the 2012 election as very much up in the air.

Meanwhile, polling-based election forecast models with good track records such as 538 and the Princeton Election Consortium have been projecting a likely Obama victory for months.

From 538:

And from (my preferred source for election polling) Sam Wang’s PEC:

I know that there are people who think partisanship is a zero sum game. If “your team” isn’t winning, it’s losing. The “other guys” are the enemy. And on and on. My vision of an ideal politics is similar to my vision of scientific skepticism. There is a loyal (to the advancement of knowledge or well-being) opposition between dissenting viewpoints. One that seeks to converge on solutions to problems based on an accumulation of evidence, rather than ideology. It’s probably a silly hope. But it’s what I wish for nonetheless.

So while some may cheer on the embrace of epistemic closure among many conservatives, knowing that will ultimately prove poisonous, I am saddened by it for the same reason.

Votes should be earned because of the merits of policies, not because one party loses its mind while the other (barely) does not. I don’t enjoy living in a world where scientists are pushed into the hands of a political party because the other is alienating them with this kind of idiocy.

When a party can depend on a demographic’s vote merely because it’s not the “other guys”, it becomes less sensitive to constituent needs, and democracy as a whole suffers.

Just a thought for those who might believe the conservative turning away from reality is a good thing for their team.

Common sense gets Rogered

Roger Pielke Sr. has spent the past few days casting about for anything to which he can latch onto in hopes of promoting an upcoming paper that supposedly shows how terrible the surface instrumental record is.

On Tuesday, he wrote about an image from NOAA using the GHCN surface data (which shows May as quite a warm month) and then shows an image using UAH to claim that the differences between the two show that the GHCN surface data are biased warm:

The above figure shows a picture of warmer than average land surface temperatures almost everywhere. This image is from the NOAA report…

While the lower tropospheric data shows a very warm May, it is not as anomalous as at the surface as diagnosed by the Global Historical Climatology Network. The spatial map of lower tropospheric temperatures for May 2012 is shown below

In this data, May 2012 has a global composite lower tropospheric temperature anomaly of +0.29 C (about 0.52 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for May. The NOAA plot above has a global composite of “more than 1°F above the 20th century average” according to the NOAA article.

3. This divergence between the surface temperature analysis and the lower tropospheric temperature analyses is further demonstration of the divergence between these two data sets as we reported on in [lengthy onanistic bout of self-citation follows].

Today, Roger does much the same by comparing the NOAA/GHCN May 2012 image to an image generated using NASA MODIS land data:

It does not take a quantitative analysis to see regions of large differences, such as the cool anomalies in the NASA data in Africa, Scandinavia, and elsewhere. While they are not measuring the same temperatures, the anomalies should be quite similar {For the GHCN, NOAA NCDC uses air temperature measurements which are supposed to be 2m above the ground; they also use the mean temperature anomalies which are computed using maximum and minimum temperatures}.

The areal coverage of the temperature anomalies, however, are not the same. The NOAA analysis shows much larger areas of warmer than average surface temperatures than seen in the NASA NEO analysis.

Presumably some of you have seen where Roger’s gone wrong immediately. Congratulations, because Roger obviously still hasn’t. Note what he compares in the first set of images:

In this data, May 2012 has a global composite lower tropospheric temperature anomaly of +0.29 C (about 0.52 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average [i.e. 1981-2010] for May. The NOAA plot above has a global composite of “more than 1°F above the 20th century average” according to the NOAA article.

And in the second:

Today, I present at the top of this post the May 2012 surface temperature anomaly analysis from NASA’s Earth Observations program.

As written on the NASA’s Earth Observations program website

Land surface temperature is how hot or cold the ground feels to the touch. An anomaly is when something is different from average. These maps show where Earth’s surface was warmer or cooler in the daytime than the average temperatures for the same week or month from 2001-2010. So, a land surface temperature anomaly map for May 2002 shows how that month’s average temperature was different from the average temperature for all Mays between 2001 and 2010.

Roger’s entire premise is that there is a significant difference between the GHCN surface data used by NOAA, GISTEMP, HadCRUT, and others versus satellite data, and that this demonstrates that the surface data are biased warm. But Roger has completely failed to do the most cursory step of making such a comparison- looking at those data in reference to a common baseline.

Obviously, temperature anomalies relative to the 1901-2000 average are going to appear warmer than anomalies relative to a 1981-2010 baseline.

Obviously, temperature anomalies relative to a 2001-2010 baseline (a timescale in which short-term fluctuations like ENSO are much more significant than over 30 or 100 years) are going to be different in both magnitude and spatial structure.

For something a little more apples-to-apples, how do the size of the UAH satellite and GHCN-based surface anomalies compare?

It turns out that for Roger’s month of interest (May 2012), the UAH temperature is actually warmer than NOAA (and basically identical to GISTEMP):

Is the spatial pattern of the GHCN data really so different than that viewed by MODIS?

Northeastern Atlantic cooling (which becomes even more pronounced using a smaller interpolation length), cooling over much of Africa, cooling over the Pacific Northwest, cooling over Central America, much of Australia, much of Antarctica, etc. are all apparent in the GHCN-based GISTEMP land data when you bother to use the same baseline:

http://i.imgur.com/ZvCiJ.png

Identical? No, but even Roger admits they’re not measuring the same things exactly. But simply using the same baseline shows that the spatial structure of the temp anomalies is in much closer agreement than Roger would like you to believe.

Is the surface instrumental record biased warm? It’s possible- though many independent evaluations have failed to bear this out. When you hear someone say “It does not take a quantitative analysis to see…” particularly someone with such a lengthy history of cherry picking and apples to oranges comparisons as Roger*, it’s a good time to get… well, skeptical.

*Some examples can be seen herehere, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, etc.

UPDATE: Thanks to Marco in comments, forgot about some gems at Tamino’s here, here, here, etc.

Christopher Monckton, birther – Part III

This is not a spoof or comedy bit. This is Monckton appearing for BirtherReport.com. Wearing a US flag shirt. And a cowboy hat. And a (prop?) gun.

He also titillated Heartland‘s annual climate denialapolooza with similar birther antics.

Back in March, Monckton went full-fledged birther on the Dennis Miller show, claiming the President’s birth certificate is a forgery

Previously, Monckton hinted (at a Koch-funded Tea Party rally) that he believed that President Obama was born in Kenya. While he later claimed to be joking, Monckton rejected the idea that the President was definitely born in the US.

Prior to that, Monckton conflated Obama with the mass-murdering terrorist Osama bin Laden, and claimed Obama and others seeking to mitigate climate change would “kill tens of millions” in a keynote speech hosted by the Heartland Institute.

Note:  Monckton’s birtherism- along with his claims of inventing a cure for HIV, of winning a Nobel prize, of being a member of the House of Lords, etc.- is simply crank magnetism in action. Those who are cranks in one area are very seldom cranks in that area alone, be it because they’re shilling for special interests, indoctrinated in an unscientific ideology, or they’re just a bit touched. We see this time and again with Dick Lindzen’s and Fred Seitz’s smoking-cancer denial, Baliunas’s, Michaels’s, Singer’s,  Happer’s, and Seitz’s CFCs-ozone depletion denial, Roy Spencer’s creationism and “DDT = a holocaust” claims, and on and on and on. Those that deny the reality of anthropogenic warming rarely limit themselves to that delusion alone.

The point here is not source degradation. Their arguments, such as they are, should be and are refuted on their merits elsewhere. But for those who like to keep track of such things, crank magnetism just gained another data point.

Short Answers to Stupid Questions – Watts Up With That Edition

At the execrable WUWT:

From the paper in question:

The world’s most-viewed “skeptic” blog, ladies and gentleman.

Reference:

  • Liu, Y., J. R. Key, Z. Liu, X. Wang, and S. J. Vavrus (2012), A cloudier Arctic expected with diminishing sea ice, Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L05705, doi:10.1029/2012GL051251.

Christopher Monckton, birther – Part II

For those outside the US, “birtherism” is the conspiracy among the paranoid conservative base that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is fake. Some believe that this is because Obama wasn’t born in the US, others believe it’s because it conceals his “real” father, others believe it has something to do with the race his parents claimed for him, etc. The point is, all that is required to be a “birther” is to believe that Obama’s birth certificate isn’t real.

Previously, Monckton hinted (at a Koch-funded Tea Party rally) that he believed that President Obama was born in Kenya. While he later claimed to be joking, Monckton rejected the idea that the President was definitely born in the US. Prior to that, Monckton conflated Obama with the mass-murdering terrorist Osama bin Laden, and claimed Obama and others seeking to mitigate climate change would “kill tens of millions” in a keynote speech hosted by the right wing, anti-regulation, climate denialism front group Heartland Institute.

Yesterday, Monckton went full-fledged birther on the Dennis Miller show, claiming the President’s birth certificate is a forgery:

I mean, hey you got a president who has a false birth certificate on the Internet, on the White House website…

I don’t know whether he is Kenyan or not… The point is that if I were you, I would want to make absolutely sure that he was born here before allowing him to be elected. And the birth certificate that he put up on that website, I don’t know where he was born. But I do know that birth certificate isn’t genuine…

It appears in layers on the screen in such a way you can remove quite separately each of the individual dates. You use Adobe Illustrator and each of the individual dates is in its own separate layer. This thing has been fabricated. Sheriff [Joe] Arpaio of Arizona has had a team on this for six months. And he has now gone public and said there’s something very desperately wrong with this and of course nobody is saying anything because the entire electorate has been fooled…

I’m no birther [sic], don’t get me wrong… I haven’t a clue where Obama was born and I wouldn’t want to entreat into the private grief behind investigating. But the point is, is what he has done on the White House website is he has put up a document which he is plainly a forgery and I would regard that as a very serious matter.

Par for the course, Monckton doesn’t appear to understand the basic definition of a word he’s using. What he is engaged in is the definition of birtherism.

Monckton’s birtherism- along with his claims of inventing a cure for HIV, of winning a Nobel prize, of being a member of the House of Lords, etc.- is simply crank magnetism in action. Those who are cranks in one area are very seldom cranks in that area alone, be it because they’re shilling for special interests, indoctrinated in an unscientific ideology, or they’re just a bit touched. We see this time and again with Dick Lindzen’s and Fred Seitz’s smoking-cancer denial, Baliunas’s, Michaels’s, Singer’s,  Happer’s, and Seitz’s CFCs-ozone depletion denial, Roy Spencer’s creationism and “DDT = a holocaust” claims, and on and on and on. Those that deny the reality of anthropogenic warming rarely limit themselves to that delusion alone.

The point here is not source degradation. Their arguments, such as they are, should be and are refuted on their merits elsewhere. But for those who like to keep track of such things, crank magnetism just gained another data point.

UPDATE:

Whether or not you like his policies, at least you have to give the guy credit for keeping his sense of humor throughout this nonsense: