Why Watts's new paper is doomed to fail review

I’ve started reading it (I was going to read BEST, but the little b*gg*rs have it behind a permission-wall at the moment. So much for openness. Update: because their site is screwed; its really here), and got to:

As documented in surveys presented in Watts, (2009)

OK, well, obviously, its “Watts (2009)” not “Watts, (2009)” but he’ll fix that eventually. Perhaps Christy can help, assuming he is on the author list for doing something and not just to add respectability. But Watts (2009)? I didn’t realise he had any pubs. And indeed he doesn’t, because this turns out to be:

Watts, A., 2009: Is the U.S. surface temperature record reliable? The Heartland Institute, Chicago, IL. 28 pp.

Srsly? He’s trying to cite Heartland trash in a real journal?

Anyway, I haven’t got to the science yet.

[Update: Eli arises from the monitor to cry: the Sun! (you get points if you can identify that). McI isn’t keen, either -W]

[Update: Still haven’t read it. But I was very struck by a comment from McK’s review of BEST: With regard to their own empirical work, a basic problem is that they are relating a change term (temperature trend) to a level variable (in this case MODIS classification) rather than to a corresponding change variable (such as the change in surface conditions). I will give a simple example of why this is a flawed method, then I will demonstrate it empirically. At least to first sight, that appears to apply to Watts’s stuff, as I was thinking to myself before reading McK.]

Cage fight!

Woo, this is great. Watts is now reporting that McI says that the BEST papers got turned down by a reviewer (ahem, well, McK, not even McI) at JGR. Since its McK, that doesn’t necessarily say anything about the paper’s quality. But it does directly contradict what BEST themselves are saying, specifically Elizabeth Muller:

All of the articles have been submitted to journals, and we have received substantial journal peer reviews. None of the reviews have indicated any mistakes in the papers; they have instead been primarily suggestions for additions, further citations of the literature.

How is that compatible with

the journal turned the paper down and asked for major revisions?

or indeed, direct from McK, “I submitted my review just before the end of September 2011, outlining what I saw were serious shortcomings in their methods and arguing that their analysis does not establish valid grounds for the conclusions they assert. I suggested the authors be asked to undertake a major revision… I recommended the paper not be published”.

Someone is telling porkies. But who? At this point, I’m inclined to suspect Elizabeth Muller. I presume she was relying on the confidentiality of the review process in order to get away with misleading us all. As a great philospher once said, Naughty naughty, very naughty. By which I mean telling porkies. Breaking review confidentiality is a comparatively minor sin.

Top comment of the day:

Well, well, Richard Muller seems to be taking flack from all sides today. Note to Dr. Muller – tacking flack does not always mean you are over the target. Mooning an “88” crew can also achieve a similar response.


* Some newspaper that isn’t keen on publication pre review.
* McK’s review of an earlier version of something. Which answers one question: why make McK a reviewer? Answer, because they cite him.

Watts disappoints

So, a few days ago, WUWT said “WUWT publishing suspended – major announcement coming”. And not just any old event, oh no:

To give you an idea as to the magnitude of this event, I’m suspending my vacation plans. I weighed the issue, and decided (much to my dismay) this was more important. I can go on vacation trips another time, but this announcement is not something I can miss now and do later.

So whatever it was had to be major, and it had to be timely. How thrilling! But, sigh, we are doomed to be disappointed: its just a paper preprint. All over the world scientists produce draft papers and send them off for peer review. Only dramah queens pimp them up like this. And what exactly was the urgency? Watts could easily have stuck the thing in an envelope to whatever journal, gone quietly off on holiday, and done the PR schitck when he came back. So all this tripe about “not something I can miss now and do later” is just tripe.

Notice, BTW, that they haven’t even said where its going to be submitted. Which means that either they don’t know – which is crap – or they do know, but are embarrassed to say, because of the smallness of the journal. I suspect the latter.

DA says much the same, and also slates Watts for rank hypocrisy: previously, talking about BEST, Watts has complained about “PR before peer review”, but apparently its OK for Watts to do it.

[Update: I haven’t read the paper yet. VV has.]


* Watts tale

Muller is still rubbish

When BEST first came out I said it was boring, because it just said what everyone knew already “Summary: the global temperature record is just what we thought it was”. There was some soap opera thrown in for fun, but that didn’t affect the science.

But now (New Global Temperature Data Reanalysis Confirms Warming, Blames CO2, Ronald Bailey at reason.com, h/t JB at RR) it seems that Muller is announcing his “new” findings via op-ed in the NYT [Important note: reason.com isn’t exactly a brilliant source, but I can’t see a good reason why they’d make this up. Update: the real thing is now available, and the early version was correct]. Although I’m not really sure what the new findings are. They appear to be:

* the temperature record is, still, just as we thought it was, and
* it appears likely that essentially all of this increase is due to the human emission of greenhouse gases.

The first bit is, still, boring. The second bit is true, but isn’t a consequence of the study. Their work is (as far as I can tell) purely a matter of pulling together a temperature record. They’ve done none of the attribution work you’d expect, in order to talk about attribution. And what they say (How definite is the attribution to humans? The carbon dioxide curve gives a better match than anything else we’ve tried. Its magnitude is consistent with the calculated greenhouse effect – extra warming from trapped heat radiation) appears absurdly naive. [Update: it appears there is an as-yet-unrevealed paper that covers this. Based on the thin info currently available, I’m dubious. DA puts it nicely. More: At dotearth Elizabeth Muller gives a non-answer to the “attribution” question; naive still looks to be the order of the day.]

So I think my original contention – that Muller is rubbish – holds up remarkably well.

Muller also says These findings are stronger than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group that defines the scientific and diplomatic consensus on global warming. To which the answer is: no, your actual findings are simply the same as IPCC 2007: all the UHI stuff, and the data selection issues: its been done before. You’ve added a bit of extra data, which makes no difference post 1850, and you may have done better with the early record, though I imagine people will suspend belief until they actually see the proper results. [Update: on reflection, I’m being a bit unfair here. They have made some incremental improvements. But its nothing earth-shattering, and indeed arguably nothing terribly important; it certainly doesn’t justify the attention the op-ed says that Muller thinks he deserves. Also, via La Curry I find this figure and the accompanying “For the period from 1700-1800 Berkeley uses 27 percent more station months”. So I think its hard to see them having much more data for the early period.]

But the bit that really annoys is:

CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified scientific issues that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Now, after organizing an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I’ve concluded that global warming is real, that the prior estimates of the rate were correct…

All of that is bollocks. What Muller is saying is that he read a few septic blogs, didn’t bother read any of the scientific literature, and so decided to run his own project. So is that his model for converting septics? Everyone who has doubts gets to run their own re-analysis of the temperature reccord? Its going to be a pretty slow process at that rate. Wouldn’t it be quicker if people just read the existing literature? Of course, Muller is a prima donna and must invent his own wheel: as far as he is concerned, now that he believes, everyone else should, too. Idiot.

[Update: Romm quotes Caldeira as saying I am glad that Muller et al have taken a look at the data and have come to essentially the same conclusion that nearly everyone else had come to more than a decade ago. The basic scientific results have been established for a long time now, so I do not see the results of Muller et al as being scientifically important. However, their result may be politically important. Which is what I’m saying, only he is more polite, as you’d expect.

Another item: WUWT has been off-air for a day or two, promising something weally exciting. Could that be a leak of BEST results? I hope so, because if that’s it, he’s going to look like the twat he is. Though that doesn’t obviously fit “something to do with one of my many projects”, so maybe not. Oh well, reading chicken entrails was never my favourite sport. Actually my favourite sport is rowing; I don’t know if you’ve noticed (and if you follow that link, please ignore 4’s blade height, he’s a good lad really but does tend to dive at the catch).]

[Update: Update: the real thing is now available (webcite), and the early version was correct. Jolly good. So, yes its still rubbish, and in fact goes on to even more rubbish lower down. It also says “The careful analysis by our team is laid out in five scientific papers now online at BerkeleyEarth.org… Four of our papers have undergone extensive scrutiny by the scientific community, and the newest, a paper with the analysis of the human component, is now posted, along with the data and computer programs used…” I don’t see any changes, though, from when I looked earlier. There are still only 4 papers listed, there isn’t one on attribution, and the 4 that are there are marked “submitted” (see-also Eli for some parsing of the review status).]


* QS on the rumour; and TP seems to believe it, too
* webcite of the reason.com article (I have learnt something over the years…)
* according to the BEST site their publication output is 4 papers, all still under review by JGR. If those, too, talk the same nonsense about attribution its no wonder they are coming out slowly.
* The Incidence of Solipsism Among Physicists by Eli.
* Michael Mann is unimpressed: Muller’s announcement last year that the Earth is indeed warming brought him up to date w/ where the scientific community was in the the 1980s. His announcement this week that the warming can only be explained by human influences, brings him up to date with where the science was in the mid 1990s. At this rate, Muller should be caught up to the current state of climate science within a matter of a few years!
* The Grauniad, shamefully falls for the hype.
* Gold award for most garbled take goes to topdailybreakingnews for “Muller, who has total P.T. Barnum climax and scholarship via his three-year project” and more.
* Andy Revkin “quotes” me but the paraphrase is badly wrong; see my comment.
* Muller talks bollocks to the Graun
* Berkeley Earth, part 1: Divergences and discrepancies – Deep Climate. It looks like BEST isn’t doing a great job admitting errors.
* Want more shite from Muller? its here.

Misc misc

Scott Mandia accuses Chronicle of Higher Ed to Its Bloggers: Feel Free to Disparage Climate Science but not Black Studies. This is in reference to Mann suing the National Review for libel (see, e.g. DA or BA). The Chron piece seems piss-poor, as does their lying evasion about no-editorial-control, but then again I don’t know who they are: perhaps they have no reputation to lose?

In a much lighter vein is the pic. I’ve seen others elsewhere; its a fashion; perhaps because you can get code to draw out the lines for you. But its still fun.

Can you guess what it is? Lovely, no. Click to find out:

Weirder, John is worrying about the singularity. Can you help him? Then add your comments.

Arguably even weirder, John Fleck is starting a competition for the worst-looking old photo of a blogger. My entry is… well, I have any number of appalling pictures of me, but this will do.

Greenland is looking very melty this year, which isn’t good. So how’s the sea ice? Not great, but not record-breakingly bad at least yet.


And lastly, now that summer has finally arrived, the poppies are out.



* Archive of the Chronjob.
* Archive of the NR post. CJR notes that the CEI post on which it was based has now been redacted somewhat; this is a webcite from the 21st, which isn’t early enough.

Investigation of methods for hydroclimatic data homogenization?

dp-2012-m1-d4_crop Well, bumps is over for another year, so some kind of normal service can resume.

WUWT was pushing “Investigation of methods for hydroclimatic data homogenization” by Steirou and Koutsoyiannis. Why? Because it appeared to show problems with station data homogenisation. There was some comedy before AW realised it wasn’t a peer-reviewed paper, just a conference presentation, although he’s still misleadingly calling it a “paper”. Open Mind has largely done this, but what I wanted to point to was a trail of (sane) blog conversations.

Marcel Crok has a largely uncritical post (uncritical meaning that he is mostly just reporting their results, and repeating their errors like Their analysis shows that 2/3 of the stations are adjusted upwards, where the expected proportion would be 1/2, not actually thinking about their results). Crok has another post about the history of the original work, and also he gets a bit sniffy about AW or SM not giving him (Crok) credit for discovering the paper. Expecting good behaviour from either of those two seems rather optimistic to me, but its nice to see not everyone has lost hope.

But a far more interesting analysis is presented by Victor Venema who points out the obvious – that the entire basis for the presentation,

In 2/3 of the stations examined the homogenization procedure increased positive temperature trends, decreased negative trends or changed negative trends to positive [but] The expected proportion would be 1/2.

is junk. Or in his words, “plainly wrong”. You can read the obvious reasons why at his posting, or you can think them up for yourself. Then you can spend some time wondering why S+K didn’t do the same.

Now K has written a follow-up posting at Croc’s which starts off saying “isn’t blog science wonderful? We can all learn so much” and then follows up by learning nothing and simply repeating his errors:

when [VV] says that our (prior) estimates of the expected proportions of data corrected upward and corrected downward should be 1/2 is “plainly wrong”, he would be more convincing if he gave his own estimate, rather than telling there are biases. Also, I am surprised to see that he criticizes our statement that homogenization practices often lead to false results. Is he so sure that they always give correct results?

K simply isn’t thinking. For the first, it is easy to see that the assertion that 50% is the right answer is wrong, without having to propose a different right answer. For the second, the opposite of “homogenization practices often lead to false results” is not “they always give correct results”.

K claims to be writing this stuff up for peer-reviewed submission. Wouldn’t it be nice if he submitted it to one of the open-review EGU journals? After all, he presented it at an EGU session, so it would be entirely appropriate.


* The original presentation.

Where's the skepticism?

Is a question Open Mind asks re yet more Wattism. And so I looked and found the absurd Another paper refutes the Mann made hockey stick – MWP was ≈1°C warmer than current temperatures. To support his headline, AW highlights:

the conclusion that the early MCA was warmer than the late 20th century by ~ 1 °C

but this is an old trick, and his commenters (well, the ones that are awake and not entranced) quickly see through it:

No, that’s not what this paper says. What they’ve done is to obtain a seasonal analysis of temperatures. They say that *if* you looked at shell evidence for MWP temperatures *without* doing the seasonal analysis you might get the *incorrect* impression that MWP temperatures were on average around 1C higher than the 1960-1990 period. (If you just took a sample of shells of the right age and analyzed their 18O signal, you’d be getting a biased estimate, because more shell is made by these animals in the summer than in the winter).

Their seasonal analysis shows that summers were around 2C warmer, and winters around 2C cooler. In other words, although the seasonal range was greater, on average, the MWP was *no warmer* than the 1960-1990 baseline.

And of course the 2000-2012 period has been substantially above the 1960-1990 baseline.

So I’m afraid this paper says exactly the opposite of what you were hoping it said.

Which makes me quite cheerful. AW has always been posting pap for quite a while now (I think once upon a time when he started the surfacestations stuff there may have been some substance), but this level of drivel shows desperation.

And yes, I am too busy to write any real posts right now.


* Webcite of AW’s original when I wrote this (I’m learning, you know).

What would Hobbes do?

569px-Thomas_Hobbes_(portrait) Continuing with your alas-all-too-regular diet of not-science here. But there is so little real going on. Anyway, Eli is pushing Machiavelli, and a while ago PK asked “How would Hobbes organize society to avert climate change?”. I had no answer, so I ignored the question, but now return to it.

Hobbes has little to say directly about policy: his focus is on the justification and structure of government. Read Leviathan. He is a great believer in a strong central authority, and the meaningless of contracts made without a power to enforce them. So stuff like Kyoto would be out. Hobbes view is that the primary responsibility of government is Peace; or in other words the security of the population; the sovereign can and should do anything necessary to achieve that (see part II for details). Implicit in this is a long-term view; combining that with prevention of disorder, you could plausibly argue for a Hobbesian sovereign to take preventative action on climate change.

Given that, I can see no reason why said sovereign wouldn’t like a carbon tax. All the usual arguments against it – basically, the PR-campaign junk that its hard to get past the legislature or voters – collapse in the face of strong long-term centralised government. Hobbes is also keen to stress that it is in our reasoning that we agree, and it is thus conducive to peace; whereas in our passions we disagree, and it is therefore conducive to discord. He would not be impressed by the level of debate at many a blog [*]. Hobbes is strongly opposed to corruption, and argues for monarchy against democracy on the grounds that there are fewer people at the top to corrupt (not that they, individually, would be any better). And carbon-trading stuff is full of opportunities for corruption, so I shall claim Hobbes for my side.

As far as I can tell, nothing else but this is required, for an individual country. He can’t help you get an international agreement, though1.

I should also add that the Hobbesian sovereign has a duty to “judge what opinions and doctrines are averse, who shall be allowed to speak to multitudes, and who shall examine the doctrines of all books before they are published”. If the said sovereign decided that denialists were deliberately spreading falsehoods conducive to discord, he would make short work of them. [Note to the obtuse: this post attempts to say what Hobbes would say. It does not necessarily reflect my own views.]

[*] “that they that exhort and dehort, where they are required to give counsel, are corrupt counsellors, and as it were bribed by their own interest” (L 25, “Of Counsel”) is a nice quote, found via this.


1. A quasi-interesting point arises here. Jasay’s “The State” says Nation states are in a state of nature and show no inclination to pool sovereignty in a superstate. Yet contrary to what Hobbes is usually taken to have implied, most of them manage to avoid war a good deal of the time. Which is true. But the crux – ignoring the non-historicity of the State-of-Nature – is that while for individuals even the strongest must fear the weakest while they sleep, for states it is somewhat the other way round: that even the strong can’t defeat the weak without a fair degree of effort. And so while the argument – that without an overall Sword there is no real Law and agreements are not binding – remains true, the consequences change: states relate to each other differently to how individuals relate.

Summer in the garden


Its been very wet this summer, over here, in contrast to over there. A normal Cambridge summer features cracks in the ground and the grass fading; this summer all is a riot of green. I cut back the overenthusiastic hedge halfway down the lawn a week or two back, which has lead to the emergence of some kind of red berry plant looking luscious – better backlit, I think.

I also wanted to show you a gorgeous beech leaf but the delicate copper-red colour of the new leaf doesn’t really come through in the image; nor can you see the slanting light.

DSC_1343-bottom-of-garden The bees are living in a sea of tiny pink-purple flowers which is folksy. Indeed the whole bottom of the garden is turning into an interesting and possibly successful ecological experiment in disturbance. It was heavily shaded; I cut down the elder and bramble in order to get the bees some sunlight; this exposed some near-plantless ground. All I’ve done is pull up the nettles and thistles and see what else grows.

This makes it look a bit like a wasteland, and it is a bit. Peer closely and you can see the potatoes – ah yes, I admit, I also planted some potatoes. But the poppies came of themselves.


Last are the houseleeks, which are Sempervivum if you speak properly. They got even better later but the weather didn’t. We first met them on the Tour du Mont Blanc, many years ago, and they were a complete surprise.

Oh yes, and we were visited by a little deer. Very cute, but it has been nibbling my broad beans.


* Watts stupidity is skewered by Tamino at 13.
* I went rowing – alas, not too successfully.


The question, which is the better man, is determinable only in the estate of government and policy, though it be mistaken for a question of nature, not only by ignorant men, that think one man’s blood better than another’s by nature; but also by him, whose opinions are at this day, and in these parts of greater authority than any other human writings (Aristotle). For he putteth so much difference between the powers of men by nature, that he doubteth not to set down, as the ground of all his politics, that some men are by nature worthy to govern, and others by nature ought to serve. Which foundation hath not only weakened the whole frame of his politics, but hath also given men colour and pretences, whereby to disturb and hinder the peace of one another. For though there were such a difference of nature, that master and servant were not by consent of men, but by inherent virtue; yet who hath that eminency of virtue, above others, and who is so stupid as not to govern himself, shall never be agreed upon amongst men; who do every one naturally think himself as able, at the least, to govern another, as another to govern him. And when there was any contention between the finer and the coarser wits, (as there hath been often in times of sedition and civil war) for the most part these latter carried away the victory and as long as men arrogate to themselves more honour than they give to others, it cannot be imagined how they can possibly live in peace: and consequently we are to suppose, that for peace sake, nature hath ordained this law, That every man acknowledge other for his equal. And the breach of this law, is that we call PRIDE.

Hobbes, The Elements of Law Natural and Politic, Chapter XVII.

With a somewhat different modern approach, Timmy wants us to Stop taxing the poor so much.

[Update: in the comments, there are complaints about Hobbes’s use of “man” to encompass both genders. My answer is that Hobbes merely used the commonplace words of his time as did (for example) the US Declaration of Independence. But elsewhere he does treat explicitly of the equality of the sexes, for example in Elements, Chapter XXIII “And therefore the man, to whom for the most part the woman yieldeth the government, hath for the most part also the sole right and dominion over the children. And the man is called the HUSBAND, and the woman the WIFE; but because sometimes the government may belong to the wife only, sometimes also the dominion over the children shall be in her only; as in the case of a sovereign queen, there is no reason that her marriage should take from her the dominion over her children”. So it is clear: in his theory, the genders are equal; but he does note how things work in the societies he has observed.]