Mann vs Muller

Michael Mann has an article in the HuffPo, Something Is Rotten at the New York Times. He’s complaining about the ill-informed views of Koch Brothers-funded climate change contrarian Richard Muller which is language that would normally put me off. But in this case I looked, and Muller’s A Pause, Not an End, to Warming does seem rather objectionable.

Some of it is just a mixed bag:

My analysis is different. Berkeley Earth, a team of scientists I helped establish, found that the average land temperature had risen 1.5 degrees Celsius over the past 250 years. Solar variability didn’t match the pattern; greenhouse gases did.

That’s him blowing his trouser trumpet. As everyone knows, the major feature of BEST was that it was boring. In the sense that it produced the same answers as everyone else. Muller’s implication that “Solar variability didn’t match the pattern; greenhouse gases did” is a result from his stuff is just drivel. But, at least he does acknowledge it as a result.

But it gets worse:

As for the recent plateau, I predicted it, back in 2004. Well, not exactly.

No, not at all. What Muller “predicted” was Suppose… future measurements in the years 2005-2015 show a clear and distinct global cooling trend. (It could happen.) He didn’t predict anything, he merely made a supposition; and the thing he supposed hasn’t happened. Apparently, to him, “that’s close enough” (if a clear cooling trend is close enough to a pause, then a clear warming trend must be close enough to a pause, so by Muller’s own logic he has nothing to write about).

But the bit where it really gets silly is:

If we mistakenly took the hockey stick seriously — that is, if we believed that natural fluctuations in climate are small…

which makes no sense at all. Muller was suckered by the septics waay back, and in 2004 wrote Global Warming Bombshell: A prime piece of evidence linking human activity to climate change turns out to be an artifact of poor mathematics. That was wrong then, and wrong now, but Muller is clinging to it. Not only is the fundamental point of his 2004 piece wrong, but the conclusion he pulls from nowhere – that the Hockey Stick implies natural fluctuations are small – is drivel too.

[Update: just to make that last point more clearly: what Muller is burbling about is the “the [MBH] Hockey Stick shows less variability than other reconstructions” idea. See for example And there is truth to that. But there is no truth to the idea that the Hockey Stick in any way contradicts decadal-scale fluctuations; indeed its obvious from the graph that Muller displays in his 2004 piece that these exists. So I really don’t understand what he’s been smoking.]

9 thoughts on “Mann vs Muller”

  1. I’m always interested in what you have to say. On the whole, it seems to me the main problem with Dr. Muller is ego. The New York Times should not pander to it. These kinds of considerations bias what needs to be an honest conversation, but I don’t see any way out of it.


  2. I thought Berkeley Earth was working on ocean temperature data. What’s become of Robert Rohde? Looking at, I see Muller on tornados, Muller on hockey, Muller on and on and on.


  3. My initial reaction to Muller’s editorial was positive, even if he makes a fool of himself. In the USA you are already happy if someone acknowledges that the temperature is increasing and that the main cause is greenhouse gases.

    Now that I read Mann’s article, I must admit he is right. I had also not taken Muller’s argument about the hockey stick seriously and had seen it as another part where he makes a fool of himself, not of climate science or Michael Mann. On the scale of that plot you can hardly see decadal fluctuations, but that might not be obvious to the average New York Times reader.

    [I’m going to update the post to make that last point more obvious -W]


  4. re NYTimes, you also have Nocera flacking for fracking, and DotEarth’s Revkin moving to the right (embraced MacIntyre on the temperature record (Shakun, Marcott); Heartland, Heritage, the Pielkesphere, and any other “moderates” that can be found), ignoring renewables, and hosting Marc Morano’s twin and his phony oily colleagues in the comment section.

    This “can’t we all get along together” stuff is just doubt and delay by another name.


  5. Less variations: as I keep saying, spaghetti graphs are usually (unintentionally) misleading, especially when the lines purport to cover different geographies. I would expect to see more variability in reconstructions whose proxies:
    a) Are land-oriented, not ocean
    b) Are N. Hemisphere, rather than the Earth
    c) Are less of the N.H … i.e., some claim to cover:
    0-90degN, 100% of NH OR
    23.5-90degN, 60% of NH OR
    30-90degN, 50% of NH
    Regardless of the quality of data selection, one would expect less variability in the former than in the latter, especially given the stronger influence of the North Atlantic region.


  6. It would be interesting to ask Muller what statistical evidence he has to support his assertion that there *has* been a pause (ISTR Tamino made a similar request of Prof. Curry). It is true that there has not been statistically significant warming since [insert cherry picked date here], but that doesn’t mean that there has been a change in the rate of warming, especially of the test has low statistical power. However if you perform a test for the existence of a change in the rate of warming you find that the evidence for that is not statistically significent either. That the tests for the two opposing hypotheses both give insignificant results that is an indication that there isn’t enough data to be sure either way, just by looking at the observations. So we cannot say there HAS been a pause, purely on the basis of looking at the data.

    However, we don’t just have the data, we have some physics, which suggests that there is good reason to suppose that the warming is continuing and the apparent pause is merely the result of internal variability (e.g. ENSO). The physics explaining why there has been a pause in the rate of warming is somewhat conspicuous by its absence.

    If someone wants to assert as a fact that there is a pause then they either need to provide statistically significant evidence that there has been a pause (and it can’t be reasonably explained as an artefact of the noise) or some physics that can explain (post hoc) both the correlation and the strength of the effect.


  7. Well, Judy says she would hire Muller.

    And, of course, just like Michaels over Santer, she says Muller won Mann versus Muller.

    [Hasn’t she rather got their respective status’s mixed up? It would be more a question of whether Muller wanted to hire her. And dislike of Mann seems to be a requirement for such as her -W]


  8. Mann’s discreditability and the “pause” are proven by assertion. No thought or work necessary. Just howls about discrimination and no smoke without fire, and the job’s done for those who benefit (though why they think it will be a useful and lasting benefit is anybody’s guess; the smarter lies demonstrate their authors know they are lies).


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