DSCN1494-snow-foot Exciting news just in – its cold in Cambridgeshire. All over the UK I expect, but I haven’t checked. indeed I haven’t checked out all of Cambridgeshire, let alone Cambridge, but never mind I’ll trust the reports. I tried putting my foot onto the snow and I can confirm: yes, it is cold. Not much snow mind: maybe 1 cm when fresh.

DSCN1495-boating Cycling is fun too. I haven’t come off, but then again it is dry-cold mostly in the evening coming back, and in the morning the streets at least are ice-free. Rowing this evening was distinctly chilly. Don’t click on the photo to the left – its rubbish. See the Fort St George glowing cheerfully at us across the dark cold Cam.

DSCN1499 We did three reaches with a piece of about 1 km back on each, enough to warm us up. The away-from-the-city end was dark (oddly enough) and spooky because for some reason the swans were nervous and kept moving around and hugely flapping their wings. Apart from hands cold to the point of numbness it was an excellent outing. This picture is supposed to show the all-important ice-forming-on-the-hull to prove how cold it was. Look closely; I’m sure you’ll see it.

I even had time for a brief walk around at noon:



On of the key parts of science is prediction. Or so we’re told. So it is fun to watch various people rip Steve Goddard’s predictions of sea ice to shreds. WUWT is the one boosting Goddard’s worthless noise.

* RMG seems to be the most complete, prompted I think by:
* Tamino and
* Neven.

There’s a video, too, if you’re in the habit of watching moving pictures.


An update, but worth its own header. While we’re on forecasting, I am reminded of something altogether more real: the Keenlyside fiasco. RC has a recent post pointing out how wrong K et al. were (but in a caring, consensual sort of way, because RC are obliged to be nice. I’m glad I’m not like that). Even more damaging to their credibility, K et al. are now in full stealth mode and refusing to discuss the “forecast”.


* Sea ice: and the winner is… no-one!
* Latif / Keenlyside / Cooling, revisited
* The climate bet is decided – or not – more weaselling by K et al.
* Losing time, not buying time – RC post relevant to the digression the comments ended up making

Citizen science

DSCN5987-no The normally sensible Bart went slightly gooey over Citizen Science recently, although to be fair he linked to his earlier article wherein he was distinctly more dubious about the benefits, and indeed about the good intentions about some of the wannabe scientists. And in the comments he is more equivocal.

Then by coincidence I ran across Astronomers thankful for return of Jupiter’s belt where Phil Plait again lauds the amateur:

Astronomy is an awesome science: it’s one of the few where dedicated “hobbyists” can contribute, and do so in a critical and timely way. It’s a big sky, with a lot to observe. And if I may say so, I’m thankful there are so many keeping an eye on it.

But notice that whilst the amateurs are contributing – by making observations – they aren’t actually doing the science. Just making observations is stamp collecting. Working out what is actually going on is the science. Contributing meteorological observations isn’t doing science, even if it is helpful (though it doesn’t seem to be any more; as I recall the Met Office mostly gave up on encouraging amateur obs as the quality control was poor in some cases). In fact if I was taking a hard line I’d say that even ClearClimateCode isn’t science – its coding.

Incidentally I’m not claiming that amateurs or “citroyens” can’t do science – of course they can. In principle. But doing worthwhile science is hard (there are enough people formally called scientists who aren’t really doing anything worthwhile, after all) and doing it as a citizen is harder. Most of those who think they are “citizen scientists” are just fooling themselves and contributing noise to the blogosphere. Much of this encouragement of the CS looks rather like the kind of patronising “oh haven’t the little darlings done well” sort of stuff that people get to coo over their infants pre-school work.

Incidentally I’m not a scientist any more. Though I may occasionally do the odd very minor bit of science. But nowadays I find stuff like this exciting (go on, have a look) and think “oooooh, I can’t wait until monday to try it out”.

Update: SE has a great post on Why GCMs don’t need IV&V.

Wegman plagiarised, but there is worse

Well yes, as is slowly becoming obvious. Deltoid reports USA today (or you can also look at the full Mashey). In the curious world of academe (which I presume Wegman aspires to) plagiarism is a no-no far more serious that just getting the wrong answer; and has the virtue of being fairly easy to spot.

But whilst plagiarism is bad (possibly even fatal) for your academic reputation, it doesn’t directly say anything about science, or the validity of conclusions. It is evidence that the author has been sloppy and – in this case – bolsters the argument that the author didn’t really understand what he was doing, or was deliberately misleading.

And that is the important bit: that the Wegman report’s slavish copying of M&M lead them to incorrectly evaluate MBH. For that you need to plough through the detail at Deep Climate (as briefly ref’d by me).

To quote DC directly:

Wegman et al took the M&M critique of MBH at face value, and deliberately excluded all substantive discussion of scientific literature answering M&M (especially Wahl and Ammann).

Wegman et al completely misunderstood the M&M simulation methodology, and claimed that M&M had demonstrated that the MBH short-centered PCA would mine for “hockey sticks”, even from low-order, low-correlation AR1(.2) red noise. But in fact the displayed figure (4.4) was taken from the top 1% of simulated PC1s generated from high-correlation, high-persistence ARFIMA-based noise, as archived by M&M. (And I also show that simulations based on AR1(.2) noise would have shown much less evidence of bias from “short-centered” PCA, even if one focuses only on PC1).

The point about what you can get done for is interesting, though, and worth a little musing. It is (obviously) unacceptable to zap researchers for just getting the wrong answer; that would be too big a constraint on academic freedom (sliding gracefully over the question of whether that applies to reports to Congress). But in the normal course of things, Wegman’s report would be a paper, and it would have been subject to peer review. And quite likely it would have failed, for the plagiarism. It might well have failed for the science, too, for the problems that DC found. But if had it passed, it would then have been open to a reply in the literature, which it isn’t really now. Having decided that you can’t zap them for the wrong answer, you’re then left not being able to zap them for deliberately getting the wrong answer, and tenaciously clinging to the wrong answer despite the evidence; this seems regrettable.


* Eli (and Eli scents blood)
* In Salon – but note how slow this story is. The MSM is clearly very nervous of it.

Can the party of Reagan accept the science of climate change?

I was going to blog about what bunch of ponces the Police were in the video for Wrapped around your finger (great music though; speaking of which Nice legs, Shame about the face applies today. King of Pain is better, but they don’t look so stupid).

Anyway, what I decided to talk about today is Sherwood Boehlert’s op-ed in the WaPo (as I believe the hip dudes call it). Which I’ll quote in near-entirety (truncated a little for brevity and for bits I find not wrong but detracting from the otherwise excellent message):

Watching the raft of newly elected GOP lawmakers converge on Washington, I couldn’t help thinking about an issue I hope our party will better address. I call on my fellow Republicans to open their minds to rethinking what has largely become our party’s line: denying that climate change and global warming are occurring and that they are largely due to human activities.

National Journal reported last month that 19 of the 20 serious GOP Senate challengers declared that the science of climate change is either inconclusive or flat-out wrong. Many newly elected Republican House members take that position. It is a stance that defies the findings of our country’s National Academy of Sciences, national scientific academies from around the world and 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists.

Why do so many Republican senators and representatives think they are right and the world’s top scientific academies and scientists are wrong? I would like to be able to chalk it up to lack of information or misinformation.

I can understand arguments over proposed policy approaches to climate change. I served in Congress for 24 years. I know these are legitimate areas for debate. What I find incomprehensible is the dogged determination by some to discredit distinguished scientists and their findings.

In a trio of reports released in May, the prestigious and nonpartisan National Academy concluded that “a strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems.” Our nation’s most authoritative and respected scientific body couldn’t make it any clearer or more conclusive…

There is a natural aversion to more government regulation. But that should be included in the debate about how to respond to climate change, not as an excuse to deny the problem’s existence…

The new Congress should have a policy debate to address facts rather than a debate featuring unsubstantiated attacks on science. We shouldn’t stand by while the reputations of scientists are dragged through the mud in order to win a political argument. And no member of any party should look the other way when the basic operating parameters of scientific inquiry – the need to question, express doubt, replicate research and encourage curiosity – are exploited for the sake of political expediency. My fellow Republicans should understand that wholesale, ideologically based or special-interest-driven rejection of science is bad policy. And that in the long run, it’s also bad politics.

What is happening to the party of Ronald Reagan? He embraced scientific understanding of the environment and pollution and was proud of his role in helping to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals [*]. That was smart policy and smart politics. Most important, unlike many who profess to be his followers, Reagan didn’t deny the existence of global environmental problems but instead found ways to address them.

The National Academy reports concluded that “scientific evidence that the Earth is warming is now overwhelming.” Party affiliation does not change that fact.

This is what I (and many others, perhaps most notably mt), have been saying for ages.

[* Update: the description of Reagan is far too simplistic, and probably wrong – see the comments. I’d say it is allowable as political rhetoric as an effort to convince Republican-type folks that they don’t have to be the enemies of the environment; but maybe it would be better omitted, or re-phrased to refer only to ozone.]

[Update: Russel Seitz points out that he said pretty well the same thing back in 2008. And more: RP in the comments points out that “the original Senate vote for the
Montreal Protocol was 83-0” – can you imagine that, nowadays?]

Time to Opine

I haven’t ranted about climate for a bit, so I think I will. Misc stuff follows, mostly commentary.

APS has a nice post on “The nothing that was Climategate” (though he really needs to upgrade his colour scheme; links are hard to see). [Update: or ClimateSight perhaps; or Bart]. APS has some nice referee’s quotes of his own, and links to Joe Romm. I’ll get on to JR in a moment, but first I need to comment on JR’s link to…

[We interrupt this link to bring a minor update; Nature has a completely rubbish editorial on the subject.

But RC has the correct answer. Now to return…]
Continue reading “Time to Opine”

Gongos and Bongos

People have been trying to make me read Merchants of Doot for some time, but I still haven’t (go on, someone, send me a copy for Christmas, me c/o CSR St Johns House will reach me :-). But WTD (in the midst of “turning serious”) has a post on a particular tobacco-industry document apparently inspired by the GCC. Anyway, what *I* wanted to pick out(in some sort of law of conservation of silliness effect) was not the substance (off you go to WTD for that) but the wonderful terminology: see the doc, its page 17 for some wonderful acronyms, like Gongo and Bongo (Business-Orientated NGO, if you were wondering).

As far as I can see, they didn’t actually take up the offer to construct such an NGO, presumably for the obvious reason: it would too obviously be a transparent creature of the tobacco folks. And indeed the rather bland tone of the document itself supports that: they obviously don’t dare write what they really think down about how it would have to be funded and controlled, for fear of exposure.

Cogito ergo Stoat

I was reading Butterfield (not the palaeontologist) on Antient Science and he refered to Descartes, and so it occurred to me that perhaps I should just read it for myself. Discourse on the method of rightly conducting the reason, and seeking truth in the sciences I mean, by “Doubty” Descartes.

Like so many famous things (or at least, like the ones I’ve ever looked at) it contains a small core of interest, wrapped up in elegantly expressed ravings that would get you (correctly) dismissed as a wild-eyed wacko were you to post them to usenet nowadays. But he is Well Famous, so you can’t say that.

It is also short enough that you can read it for yourself. But why bother, since I have provided this handy pocket guide. Note that the text was, apparently, a sort of introduction to “Dioptrics” and “Meteorics”, which I haven’t read. Also there is apparently an appendix on Cartesian geometry, which I also haven’t seen. It was originally in French because, as he says And if I write in French, which is the language of my country, in preference to Latin, which is that of my preceptors, it is because I expect that those who make use of their unprejudiced natural reason will be better judges of my opinions than those who give heed to the writings of the ancients only. Or in other words he was going over the heads of the Wise.


Apart from some historical interest, folksy homilies, and elegant language, there is nothing of present value to the text beyond “I think, therefore I am”.
Continue reading “Cogito ergo Stoat”


DSC_4358 Well, just one politician really. And an American one, and Republican at that, so I suppose we can hope his stupidity isn’t truely representative. David Appell provides a wonderful quote from Chris Christie and Global Warming, from which I excerpt:

…that’s probably one of the reason’s why I became a lawyer, and not a doctor, or an engineer, or a scientist, because I can’t figure this stuff out.

Yes, that’s right all you lawyers out there: the Law is for people too dumb to figure stuff out :-). And politics, presumably, is for those too dumb even for the Law.

[I apologise for the lack of actual substance here. It is cold and wet outside right now, if that helps. The picture is totally irrelevant; it is Stanage, Black Hawk area: ah, memories of Spring]

Andrew Marr is a Tosser

See the Grauniad for the proof. But ZOMG now I’ve proved him right so I must be wrong. <pfft!> – that is me disappearing in a pile of logical smoke.

More seriously: yes, vast numbers of blogs are full of junk, and probably rude aggressive junk (though I don’t know this from personal experience, since I don’t bother read those). Most (measured by volume) of journalism is junk too – it is just that in general it is fairly polite, well-written junk. At least in the UK the most obviously trash stuff gets conveniently dumped in the Sun, Mirror, Mail and so on. But there is plenty of rubbish left over for the Grauniad and Beeb.

Meanwhile, Marr’s successor as political editor, Nick Robinson, has previously criticised the tone and and quality of online debate, saying he had stopped reading most of the comments on his own BBC blog. “It’s a waste of my time,” he said in March this year, adding that the blog’s comments section was frequented by people who had “already made their minds up, to abuse me, to abuse each other, or abuse a politician”.

Yes, I’ve noticed that at the Beeb blogs whenever I’ve bothered look (which is infrequently, because they are, as he points out, full of trash). This occurs for the obvious reason: they are high-profile but unmanaged. Blogs are not supposed to be a substitute for leader columns (Dead White Man writes from on high to the Unwashed Massed). They are supposed to be part of a conversation between blogger, readers, and other blogs. Unless AM or NR can be bothered to get their hands dirty and (a) weed out trash in their comments and (b) take the time to respond t the better ones then his blog is, indeed, a waste of time.