Tag Archives: Judith Curry

Initial thoughts on the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature release

Image courtesy of Flickr user "crowderb", used under Creative Commons.

[First, congratulations to Robert Rohde, and the rest of the team that actually worked on the science end of the project. There are some outstanding issues that need to be resolved prior to calling the work a finished product, and I hope the BEST team addresses them.]

Was anyone outside of the “skeptic” blogosphere surprised by the findings that UHI, station quality, station drop out, etc. weren’t really affecting the surface record? I don’t think so. But there is a great deal of revisionist history going on, which I’ll get to in a moment. Speaking of revisionist history, though-

That Anthony Watts has done a complete 180 from his earlier pledge to accept the BEST results should surprise no one. His whining that the results have been released prior to review- given his entire “surface stations” project and his years of insinuating if not outright claiming that much of the instrumental warming was spurious- is the height of chutzpah. BEST is being transparent with their data and methodology, something that people (even WUWT regulars and “skeptic” true believers) fought tooth and nail to get Watts to do.

Roger Pielke Sr. was quick to attempt to downplay the BEST results by implying they were not independent of previous analyses. Perhaps Roger should have actually bothered to read the papers he was attacking. I guess it all depends what his goal was- to offer legitimate criticism, or provide Marc Morano with soundbites attacking BEST.

I agree with WMC that this changes basically nothing about my opinion of Muller himself. The charges that Muller grossly distorted the truth about the so-called “hockey stick” controversy, he doesn’t appear to really even understand basic aspects of climate science, etc. stand. My negative opinion of Muller stems not just from his current attempts to portray himself as single-highhandedly saving climate science from the “skeptics”, but go back to earlier encounters with him in paleo/geology literature. Let’s just say the dynamic of Muller trying to claim the mainstream has failed to account for something significant and Muller positioning himself as the tough truth-teller is nothing new. At least in this case Muller has the fortune of actually coming down on the correct side, something that can’t be said for his previous efforts.

Lastly, let’s talk for a moment about the furious backpedaling that’s happening in response to BEST. “Skeptics” over at Curry’s, WUWT, on social media sites like Reddit, etc. are falling all over themselves trying to claim that No True Skeptic actually denies that the Earth is warming. They’re claiming the BEST results are meaningless because they don’t actually address attribution.

To which I reply, “Bullshit.” A staggeringly large number of climate “skeptics” do in fact deny that the Earth is warming. A survey less than a month ago found that less than half (49%) of self-identified Republicans and even fewer (41%) self-identified Tea Partiers agreed that the Earth is actually warming.

No, the BEST papers do not directly address attribution, but neither did the myths that they (along with all the other analyses and data sets) exploded. Are we supposed to believe that “skeptics” weren’t claiming that all or much of the warming in the instrumental record was due to UHI, station siting, station drop out, etc.? Please.

If the “skeptics” want to pretend that they never claimed we weren’t warming as NASA GISS, Hadley-CRU, NOAA, et al. showed, and instead want to focus on the attribution of warming to human causes, so be it. I hope they don’t expect the rest of us to join them in their revisionism.

When the initial furor dies down, I’d like to discuss some of BEST’s interesting (as opposed to merely confirmatory) results.

My apologies to Judith Curry

Image courtesy of Flickr user messtiza, used under Creative Commons

Boy, is there ever egg on my face for suggesting that Judy Curry’s blogging efforts would support ridiculous doubt-mongering (as opposed to serious criticisms). I couldn’t have been more wrong.

For instance, Curry wants you to know that Murry Salby thinks [new window, MP3] we aren’t driving the increase in atmospheric CO2, and he doesn’t believe the ice core record.

IPCC AR4 Figure TS.1. Variations of deuterium (δD) in antarctic ice, which is a proxy for local temperature, and the atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) in air trapped within the ice cores and from recent atmospheric measurements. Data cover 650,000 years and the shaded bands indicate current and previous interglacial warm periods. {Adapted from Figure 6.3}

Salby ostensibly gave this presentation at IUGG. But the topic of his talk was actually on antarctic ozone. Where are his data and analysis? He can’t show them to us. Why not? Because he’s “operating in the traditional mode of waiting until the paper is published”. Didn’t he say he was actually going to sell a book about this before he got the paper published? Uh, that was a different half of the data. Or something.

This isn’t silly, it’s serious.  How serious? “Wow” serious! It’s important. How important? “[S]ufficiently important that we should start talking about [it].” Why? Because it “could revolutionize AGW science”. In what way? Curry will get back to us on that, I’m sure.

No needless doubt-mongering here! Just digging into the areas of the issue that are really uncertain, based on hard evidence and with complete transparency.

I also note that Curry has taken to citing such bastions of accuracy and credibility on climate issues as Andrew Bolt and Joanne Nova. And to think anyone had ever warned Curry against becoming a purveyor of doubt.

[UPDATE: Fred Moolten has a worthwhile defense of what he believes Curry’s blog is doing.

I responded: I would be more sympathetic to that narrative if it actually had the productive qualities that Judith probably does at the end of the day intend. However, I’ve seen no evidence of such. If you have, that’s wonderful and I’d love to know about it.

The threads I’ve read at length seem to be largely “skeptic” echo chambering and backslapping, with admirable contributions of sanity by you, Pekka, and a few others. The “technical ‘skeptics’” that Judith so relentlessly pursued for an audience fall largely in with the former, and only rarely in with you in the latter.

While it may be true that Judith intended this blog to be a place where climate science was strengthened in trials by fire, its impact so far has been to bury the field under garbage (I believe that Judith has a T-shirt with a related theme). I see this blog cited approvingly by “skeptics” online, and it has without exception been in the context of dismissing, ridiculing, or otherwise attacking the mainstream. Whenever I myself have tried to cite it or Judith’s writing at say Climate Audit in a reinforcing or supporting role (to say nothing of her actual publications), these efforts are dismissed. No matter how hard Judith tries to earn her “skeptic” bona fides and proclaim herself an outsider, when she has the temerity to acknowledge the reality of anthropogenic warming and the threat it poses, she’s written off behind her back as a “warmer”.

She may believe she’s building bridges between “skeptics” and the mainstream, but so far these bridges have been decidedly one way.]

[LATER UPDATE: Curry is getting a little defensive over repeatedly getting called out for supporting nonsense like Salby by the relatively sane among her commentors. She has a new post on her “editorial policy”, wherein she- shockingly- paints herself as some sort of rebel at the bleeding edges of science discourse for having the courage to suck up to the denialosphere and bash the IPCC.

I responded:

JC writes: The frustration that the “warm” bloggers (e.g. RC et al.) seem to have with Climate Etc. is that I stray from the party line of the consensus.

This is crap.

People get upset because you promote, credulously repeat, or make on your own behalf, claims that sound at best far-fetched. When pressed for specifics, you frequently backpedal or move goalposts. When you get called on it, you play the victim, seeking (but never quite succeeding) to further promote your self-styled image as a rebel.

This Salby thread is a great example. On some level, I suspect you know that it’s ridiculous, but it’s “Not IPCC”, so what the heck- you put up a thread. You get pressed on specifics of why you support it, and you cannot name a single concrete thing mentioned in the presentation you are promoting.

JC: I am striving for something different, sort of an e-salon where we discuss interesting topics at the knowledge frontier.

That humans are increasing atmospheric CO2 levels was at “the knowledge frontier” decades ago.

This “knowledge frontier” “e-salon” you describe sounds incredibly fascinating. Let me know when you trade in this dumping ground for “Not IPCC” for something remotely like it.]

[LATER UPDATE: Curry predictably ducks.

My response:

JC writes: I am not ‘promoting’ anything

So what word that is non-synonymous with “promote” would you use to describe the act of someone writing a blog post about something, exclaiming “wow” about it, saying it’s “sufficiently important that we should start talking about [it]“, saying it “could revolutionize X science”, etc.?

JC: open discussion and integrity and science

In the interest of ‘open discussion and integrity and science’, what scientifically (not “he used to be a coworker”) about the presentation do you think was deserving of all the ‘totally not-promotion’ you were throwing around in the last thread?]

Welcome to the blogosphere, Dr. Curry!

My comment at her introductory blog post:

Thank you Dr. Curry!

I know that some might try to hector you with petty complaints, like “she uncritically repeats nonsense from Wegman, Pat Michaels, CEI, and books she doesn’t seem to have actually read.” But I can’t thank you enough for really opening up the “debate” about climate change. If it wasn’t for your boosterism, I would never have seen Steve McIntyre’s published 2kyr NH temp reconstruction, Anthony Watts’ plot of “reliable” surface station temp trends and how they compare to the total average, Tom Fuller’s quotes from polar bear and ice sheet dynamics leading researchers, and so on. I know that some might say that you’re legitimizing anti-science voices for no good reason but they simply haven’t seen the incredible published results you have. Perhaps those (epic results) can be your first postings? I’d also be interested to hear about your latest Antarctic sea ice paper in light of previous work, but I understand that the relevant conversation is happening at WMC’s blog. Cheers!

UPDATE: I followed up with this post:

Judith Curry writes: I refuse to label as “anti-science” anyone that is questioning scientific evidence.

As well you should. Such a label would imply that they only attack science, rather than build it up with their own positive contributions. But as I mentioned, thanks to your tireless promotion of people like Steve McIntyre, I became aware of his own, self-proclaimed “expert” published reconstruction of Northern Hemisphere temperatures for the past 2000 years. Far be it for anyone to accuse him of tribalism and bias! He is truly a productive addition to the field of paleoclimatology. Similarly, through your attempts to legitimize Anthony Watts’s blog, I have learned that we’re actually experiencing cooling, that we’re warming because of the sun, that we’re warming because of CFCs, that we’re warming because of cosmic rays, that we’re cooling, that we’re warming because of ENSO, that we’re warming because of PDO, that we’re cooling, and that we have no idea whether or not we’re warming or cooling because the surface temperature record is worthless. On that last point, I also found Anthony’s published temperature record from sites that have his expert approval to be quite revealing, especially as compared to the so-called “real” surface instrumental record. Through Anthony’s very informative and not at all mendacious blog, I also found some of Tom Fuller’s journalism. Tom has made it quite clear that he contacts experts in the field in order to accurately convey the state of science to his audience, so I found his recent interviews with polar bear biologists and glaciologists to be the very opposite of dishonest and misleading. To label such upright, hard-working members of the blogscience community “anti-science” just doesn’t do them justice, does it? When might we look forward to your discussions of their productive, published work? That certainly would still the wagging tongues who bizarrely think that their actions to date constitute little more than an attempt to delegitimize the field of climate science.


UPDATE: And another reply:

Judith Curry writes: I think the auditors and citizen scientists in the blogosphere have made a remarkable contribution in stimulating public interest in climate science and actually raising and addressing issues that the public is interested in and cares about.

Quite so! They certainly have done much to prolong the public debate about things that have long since been agreed upon in the field itself. I’m sure that I’m not alone in marveling at your useful role in adding a veneer of respectability to their efforts.

On a completely unrelated note, I believe that you have referenced Conway and Oreskes’s latest book, Merchants of Doubt, and have attempted to draw a sharp distinction between the actors and activities laid out in that book and the “not anti-science” crowd that you are tirelessly promoting. I recently read the book as well, and I have to say that I’m in agreement with you!

One of the key tactics in MoD was not a direct denial of the main aspects of a problem (like tobacco-cancer or acid rain), but rather the continual stressing of uncertainties and disagreement at the expense of what was not really in question. This had the effect of manufacturing doubt in the public discourse that simply didn’t exist in the relevant scientific fields. Thankfully, this is nothing at all like the dynamic that you’ve been fostering. How crazy would that be, right? If someone on the one hand could recognize this tactic for what it is when applied to other fields and groups, but not himself see that he was doing exactly the same thing…

But listen to me prattling on about hypotheticals that would never actually happen in the real world, completely off topic in a thread devoted to your creation of a climate blog that promotes positive contributors to science like McIntyre, Watts, and Fuller. I can’t for the life me imagine how I got on such a tangent…

Modoki El Niño increasing frequency and North Atlantic tropical cyclones

Place holder: “Impact of Shifting Patterns of Pacific Ocean Warming on North Atlantic Tropical Cyclones”. Abstract here. Paper here.

[Judy isn’t being blasted on CA as much as I’d have guessed (with some notable exceptions).]