Zorita goes for the jugular

foto stefan rahmstorf-1 Perhaps sensing blood, Zorita explains Why I think that Michael Mann, Phil Jones and Stefan Rahmstorf should be barred from the IPCC process.

I know little of Zorita; he appears to be a protege of von S (many of his pubs are with von S; but some with Tett, Moberg, etc., so don’t imagine I’m dismissing him as a nobody). I blogged him, weakly, a while ago. Zorita’s dislike of Mann et al. is nothing new, see his blogging The decay of the hockey stick (notice how, in that blog, he and von S have the pleasant *opportunity* to respond to comments on their papers, whereas the unfortunate Mann *had* to respond to comments. So much for neutrality).

But while Z’s dislike of Mann and Jones has a history, why exactly does he hate Rahmstorf so much? What has poor Stefan done so much to offend, apart from being distinctly more handsome? I may not have been paying close enough attention, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but I haven’t seen R’s name coming up in connection with the email hacking. Z is rather coy in his posting. He has read the emails – I think it is not unethical to read them is his rather weaselly way of putting it, as though a double negative can save him – but he doesn’t quote from them. Perhaps he imagines that we all have read every nuance and have attended to his every grudge, and so can know exactly what Rahmstorf’s sins are.

The answer is likely to lie in a 2004 paper by Z/vS, which contained serious errors as detailed in A Mistake with Repercussions. Eduardo “Holier than Thou” Zorita doesn’t come out of this episode too well; it would appear that he has been waiting for a chance to stick the knife in. Perhaps it would be interesting were he to publish his correspondence on the subject? That might be “not uninteresting”, and for someone as interested in transparency as he is, it would be a natural step.

[Update: 1141169545 may enlighten, as may http://www.ipcc.ch/graphics/ar4-wg1/jpg/fig-6-13.jpg; I’m assuming GSZ2003 bears a strong resembale to vSZ2004]

Talking to the layfolk

This from off in the comments at Slashdot, brought to my attention by planet3.0 (thanks VM). Yes, I know I’m a layperson now myself, but some shreds of the old knowledge still cling. Related thought: just about everyone knows they aren’t able to understand, or make a meaningful contribution to, general relativity or quantum mechanics or number theory (except Cantors diagonal proof, of course, which every wacko knows is wrong). Somehow, however, people imagine that they understand climate science :-(.

Being a scientist but not of the climate variety, I’ve got to say ‘No’. In a lot of cases, if not most, dialogue on the merits of your scientific work is simply impossible with a layperson.

I work with this stuff. Every day. 40 (well more like 50-60) hours a week. It took years of study for me (and everyone else) just to get to the level where you can properly understand what it is, exactly, that I do. That’s what being an expert at something entails. Now when I get into a dispute with someone, they typically have the same level of expertise. They know more or less everything I do. I know what they’re saying, and they usually know what I’m saying.

Now you bring into that situation some layperson with their religious reasons or ideological reasons or crank personality, who wants to dispute the results of my work. So they pore over it, and they simply don’t understand it. (And ignorance breeds arrogance more often than humility, as Lincoln said) But they think they do. And then they formulate their criticism. Even if that criticism makes sense (often not), it’s typically wrong at the most basic level. And that will practically always be the case – because there’s virtually *nothing* in the way of criticism that a beginner would be able to think of that an expert hadn’t thought about already. You’re just not going to find a professor of physics having made a mistake of forgetting the first law of thermodynamics.

Now I’m happy to defend my science against legitimate, good, criticism. But a scientific debate is *NOT* where anybody should be TEACHING anybody science. What kind of ‘debate’ is it if every answer amounts to “That’s not what that word means, read a damn textbook.” It’s not the scientists who are being arrogant then. Hell, since when didn’t scientists bend over backwards to educate the public? We write textbooks, and popular-scientific accounts [And blog posts! -WMC]. Research gets published in journals for everyone to see, etc. It’s not like we’re keeping it a big secret – The problem is that some people are simply unwilling to learn, yet arrogant enough to believe they should be entitled to ‘debate’ with me, and that I should be personally burdened with educating them in the name of ‘open debate’!

(Just to pick one out of the climate bag. How often haven’t you seen someone say “Yeah but climate change is cyclical!” – What? As if _climate scientists_ didn’t know that?! Refuting someone’s research with arguments from an introductory textbook)

The fact that these climate-skeptics were prepared to take these e-mails, pore over them for some choice quotes (which didn’t even look incriminating to me out of context), blatantly misinterpret them without making any kind of good-faith effort to understand the context or the science behind it, and trumpet it all out as some kind of ‘disproval’ of global warming (which wouldn’t have been the case even if they were right), just goes to show that they’re simply not interested in either learning the science, or engaging in a real debate. And it’s in itself pseudo-scientific behavior in action: Decide there’s a big conspiracy of fraud behind climate change, and go look for evidence to support your theory, and ignore all other explanations.

That East Antarctic mass loss, in full

Ah, a fertile theme for post names. Excellent.

So, much excitement over a new GRACE study in Nurture (Accelerated Antarctic ice loss from satellite gravity measurements, J. L. Chen et al.) indicating that Antarctica as a whole was losing mass: In agreement with an independent earlier assessment, we estimate a total loss of 190plusminus77 Gt yr-1, with 132plusminus26 Gt yr-1 coming from West Antarctica. However, in contrast with previous GRACE estimates, our data suggest that East Antarctica is losing mass, mostly in coastal regions, at a rate of -57plusminus52 Gt yr-1, apparently caused by increased ice loss since the year 2006.

But as you’re aware, I’m obliged to be bitter and cynical about all this kind of stuff, so you must be wondering “how is he going to get out of that“. Well maybe I won’t, but I’ll try. First off though, can we please all ignore the septic dribble about Ant Mass Gain Disproves GW. We all know that is tosh, so leave it aside.

Let’s begin by quibbling their use of “long-term”: according to fig 3, 2006-9 is “long term” (and 2009 isn’t even over!). Clearly this is an abuse of the term. we may be looking at no more than a few years fluctuation. Only time will tell on that one.

Continuing, I find papers that talk only in terms oh Gigatonnes (ooh scary) annoying; I’d expect a conversion into mm of SLR at some point. I don’t see them providing that, so I’ll have to: 190 Gt/yr ~ 0.6 mm/yr. Also known as 6 cm/century. So without further acceleration this is not going to be exciting (that is why they need “acceleration” in the title).

Looking back, I see I talked about GRACE in 2006 when they only had 3 years data. That paper said “152 ± 80 km3/year of ice, equivalent to 0.4 ± 0.2 mm/year of global sea level rise”; as far as I can see the new results are within the error bounds of the old (and vice versa) so the main result of this new paper is the change, in ~2006, of the slope, rather than any vast new mass loss. As before, the PGR term is a problem: PGR model errors are probably the dominant limitation to Antarctic mass rate estimates as the paper wisely says; they can vary their answer substantially by choosing different PGR models.

That will have to do I think.

Those CRU emails in full

Anyone who cares has found them by now so I won’t trouble you with all the details. James “Gonad Watcher” Annan is fulfilling, with commendable neutrality, the role of arbitrator to which I appointed him, and I don’t think there is much more I need to say. That won’t stop me from saying it, of course. Other people who have said sensible things include Denial Depot, Newtongate, CM and of course RC (apologies if you’re not on the list; oh all right Eli too since he says he needs the traffic). Indeed pretty well everyone with any sense seems to have got the right answer by now.

So I’ll deal with the interesting bit, which is obviously me. I appear in 5 emails; one only incidentally, the rest about an interesting search for the origins of the first IPCC report fig 7.1.c. This is a fun topic; there is even a wiki page about it [[MWP and LIA in IPCC reports]] (yes, of course, I wrote most of it). If you’re not familiar with that issue, go off and read the wiki page. So: at the time of the first report, there wasn’t a good reconstruction of the last 1kyr, and they wanted one, so they found one from somewhere. Unlike just about everything else in that report, the figure is unsourced. If, nowadays, IPCC were to try to include a completely unsourced 1kyr reconstruction they’d get ripped to shreds. However, since that old graph shows a warm MWP plenty of septics nowadays are very keen to throw away all the peer-reviewed stuff we have and go back to this sourceless pic (e.g. [1]). It would be funny if it wasn’t so stupid. Oddly enough, although the text of that email is really jolly exciting – we still don’t have an adequat explanation as to how Jack “cooked up” that figure – I do not believe it was purely out of thin air – no-one seems interested in putting it about. As for Ah, you mean A9(d) (I thought you meant A9(a) for a bit). Yes, that looks pretty similar to IPCC 1990. Though not identical – the scaling is different, but the timing is similar. – well, it is strong stuff.

I was going to write up the wiki-wars on this topic; but its past 10 now so I won’t. Write an encouraging comment and I might. In the meantime, have a look at (and maybe contribute to) [[Climatic Research Unit e-mail hacking incident]].

Also, I recommned looking up “McLean”.

Late news: you thought this couldn’t get any stupider? It has. Reminds me of the good old days in BAS, where the acid test of any rumoured management decision was always “is this really stupid enough to be true?”. Usually it was 😦

[Update: apart from the gonads, which I’ve corrected, I feel obliged to point you towards the comment policy. I was a little late to the party with this post, deliberately so, and while *I*’m allowed to say things that have already been said before I reserve the right to delete silly comments that merely repeat what has been said already. Oh, and did I forget Smoking guns in the CRU stolen e-mails: A real tale of real ethics in science

Update: example of abuse of 7.1.c added

Update: Melanie Phillips is a dull bozo. But you knew that already. “Thanks” Tom

Update: Science historian [Spencer Weart] reacts to hacked climate e-mails is very good -W]

Oops #2

Spot the problem:


So, my Top Tip is, Don’t drop your camera onto a hard stone courtyard. Apparently http://www.fixationuk.com/ may be able to help (thanks Andrew). Another Top Tip might be learn from your mistakes but that is just too hard.

wd-winter-head-IMG_0257 In unrelated news, I finally got one of the coveted orange tee-shirts by running in the Cambrdige Fun Run round the Science Park. 7:04 which is quite passable, though it brought back the Old War Wound (those who kindly commented in rowing and running that I was probably fit enough to break myself were correct :-). In this pic, however (thanks William), we’re standing around waiting for the start of our division of the notoriously never-on-time Winter Head. It is such jolly fun watching the London crews trying to spin on a river no wider than their boat is long and in a wind. It was even more fun watching the one following us round Grassy misjudge the corner and hit the side. It was a bit less fun when they recovered and caught us up and our cox decided to play “clashing blades”. Still we came second with 10.15; 10.05 without the clash maybe.

Floods not linked to climate change shocker

In shocking news just in, record heavy rain in the Lakes and extensive flooding has not been linked to global warming. Dr Bogus, spokesman for the Made-Up Institute of Twaddle, said “This is completely unprecedented. Normally, any unusual – or even merely somewhat uncommon – weather event is immeadiately linked to global warming. All of the usual Pinko suspects have failed us in this case. The best we have so far is “David Balmforth, a flooding expert at the Institution of Civil Engineers, said deluges on a similar scale will become more frequent as a result of climate change.” and that is very weak. But in breaking news, the Torygraph has supplied the void with “The flooding in Cumbria is part of a pattern of weather which shows that global warming is occurring faster than anyone expected, says Geoffrey Lean.”

Oh lordy, that last one is pretty awful. I was hoping not to have to see it, but now I have. It sez Three factors cause heavier storms as the climate heats up. As it gets hotter, more energy is injected into the climate. There is a sharper contrast between land and the sea (which warms more slowly), causing stronger winds and greater instability. And as the seas do heat, more water evaporates from them – and comes down as heavier rain. Can you see the obvious problem? Yes that’s right: if it was correct, there would be an enormous seasonal cycle in rainfall, with far more in the summer than winter. As it happens, there are places where this is true – Cairns, for example, according to [[Wet Seaason]]. But the UK isn’t like that – there is more rain in winter, as we all knew. Which immeadiately tells you that the primary driver of rainfall in the UK is not temperature. Global warming might produce more rainfall in the UK – but it might not. If you were relying on the interseasonal T-PPN regression as a proxy for the long-term T-PPN relation, you’d predict *less* rainfall as the climate warms.

Incidentally, whilst writing this I ran across:

Isn’t that nice. It’s from the http://www.skepticalscience.com/ site, originally from An observationally based energy balance for the Earth since 1950 by D. M. Murphy et al..

Oh yes: I’ll get on to the emails some time.

Volcano from space


I like this one. It is from NASA though I’ve heavily hacked it around (I saw it today in a copy of Wired at Mr Polito’s; oh yes, it is online too: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/08/gallery_volcanoes/3/, but I don’t recommend visiting, the site is mindbogglingly slow, lord knows how much Javash*t they load up). Anyway, it’s the Sarychev volcano (Russia’s Kuril Islands, northeast of Japan) in an early stage of eruption on June 12, 2009. I’m not entirely sure what I’m seeing here – real Met Men should comment – or how tall the plume is. Is it hitting the stratosphere?

[Sorry folks -forgot the title :-(]

Whom should I attack?

I’m not a mass-media-audience type of blog, so I excuse myself from having to be kind to “my side”; I don’t think I need to avoid worrying Joe Public about dissent in the “we believe in GW” side of the blogosphere, because I don’t think JP reads me. And it is far more fun trying to pick holes in the relatively minor errors of “my side” than it is to point out the gross stupidity of The Dark Side.

Which brings me on to Terms of Engagement by Keith Kloor who points to Shellenberger and Nordhaus explaining why they don’t take on the other side: The work of holding Republican obstructionists, anti-government extremists, and right-wing conspiracy mongers to task is work for principled conservatives, not liberals… And now I think of it, this makes sense (Kloor thinks this is too restrictive, and I agree, taken as an absolute restriction it is bad). It is rather like the Tories being the ones to cut the Army. Your own side knows you better and knows (or at least ought to know) that you are “on their side” and ought to be able to take the criticism in that light. The Dark Side, however, will just react to criticism from an enemy.

[Aside: you may like: http://www.badscience.net/2009/11/wtf/%5D