Lents: Caius and Christ's

Alas, I missed Caius retaking the Men’s headship on Thursday, mostly because I didn’t think it would happen (they were nowhere on Wednesday) but partly because I was bag-carrying for King’s, who rewarded me with an exciting bump on (LoL)Catz and ensuing chaos; and on Christ’s on Friday. But I did see Christ’s take the Women’s headship from Emma, somewhat to my surprise, though Kate says they listen to her. Anyway, here it is:

(it doesn’t happen till 4:40, do feel free to skip ahead).

My colleagues and I cannot perform our duties if research or testimony provided to us is influenced by undisclosed financial relationships

Or so says Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat in the colonies. In which case, he’s an idiot1. He’s a politicain. He should be used to, he should expect, daily to be talked to, to be lobbied, by people with strong political motivations, some or many of which will be hidden from him. He should not be relying on the motives of those presenting information to him to be pure-as-the-driven-snow, he should be relying on his own ability to evaluate what’s said. Or if he’s too stupid to do that himself, get some staffers to do it for him. Or in the case of climate science, just read the IPCC report you bozo, its what its here for. Just how dumb are the congress critters?

So as well as chilling to academic freedom, and having distinct echoes of Republican dark deeds that all right-thinking people condemned, his quest is also deeply stupid. Presumably, its nothing but bandwagon-jumping: “hey look, Soon had “undisclosed funding”, I bet I could get some cheap PR by asking questions”. But in fact, whilst Soon indeed didn’t disclose his funding on the Monkers trash paper, his funding was by that point well know anyway.

Andrew Dessler, a mainstream climate researcher and a professor of atmospheric science at Texas A&M University, said that he had concerns about “fishing expeditions” by Congress into researchers’ work, especially drafts of testimony requested in the letters from Representative Grijalva.

I like to apply the ‘what if it happened to me test,’ ” he said. And while asking hard questions about funding is worthwhile, “when you start asking for these other documents, it’s more difficult.”

[Update] From Democratic Congressman Draws Backlash Over Climate Funding Probe (h/t M Mann) in the National Journal On Twitter, University of Washington earth sciences professor Eric Steig said that he has Pielke’s back. “Welcome to the new McCarthyism. Congress should not be able to investigate on a whim. You have my *unequivocal* support,” Steig said. Mann, a prominent Penn State climate scientist who has has been subject of Republican-led probes of his work in past years, had a mixed verdict on the letters. “It does come across as sort of heavy handed and overly aggressive,” Mann told National Journal, adding that he is “a little uncomfortable” with the demands for the professors’ correspondence. But he said there’s nothing wrong with seeking information on funding sources. “That is something that no scientists should have any qualms” about providing, Mann said.


1. Stronger language suppressed because some of my readership are apparently sensitive about words.


* I am Under “Investigation” – RP Jr. The McCarthy stuff is well OTT though.
* Double standards at WUWT. When is a witch hunt a witch hunt?
* Stop all harassment of all scientists now
* Retraction Watch
* The AMS writes to Dear Representative Grijalva
* Some walk back, but not far

Exit Pachi, pursued by no-one

viking We interrupt your regular diet of Willie Soon for a brief break (the S+B controversy, 2003 is seeing active work).

IPCC agrees on Acting Chair after R.K. Pachauri steps down said the IPCC press on the 25th. That PR is not merely coy but completely silent as to the reasons why he stepped down; coy but uninformative is the letter he sent to Bankymoon on the 24th which shyly refers to “the current circumstances” without specifying them, and announces that he has “taken the decision to step down”, which is what you say when you’re forced to resign but don’t have the courage to say “resign” (note also the somewhat wacky religion-and-dharma stuff, which has no place there, confirming that he was right to go, were confirmation needed; note also that the letter says that he had intended to “resign” in November 2014, but I don’t know whether to believe that or not). If you want to know what they’re being so coy about you can read IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri resigns: High profile head of the UN’s climate science panel steps down and denies charges of sexually harassing a 29-year-old female researcher from the Graun, or doubtless many more salacious versions elsewhere.

Before I launch into my major theme, I’d like to note how little RKP there is at http://www.ipcc.ch. Google “site:www.ipcc.ch Rajendra Pachauri” and you come up with almost nothing. There’s a bio of him at the IPCC site; a few speeches, but really very little. If you go to organisation or structure he’s not there, except that it notes, with no name, the existence of the role “Chair”. And that’s right, because the Chair doesn’t actually do very much that’s visible.

RKP wasn’t a successful head of the IPCC. Its not that he did anything particularly wrong (as head of the IPCC; I make no comment on the sexual allegations, against which his defence appears to be that someone hacked his email account and faked the messages; not especially plausible); and remember that the silly stuff about Himalayan glaciers was regrettable but trivia, as well as being misremembered by those who try to dredge it up. The problem was that he failed to address any of my concerns about the direction that the IPCC should take. Those were written waay back in 2010, so he has no excuse:

* The IPCC: dissolve it or not?
* What to do with the IPCC

And I was by no means alone in these opinions. But I think he had no taste for any such reform, and perhaps not even any interest in it. Ter be ‘onest wiv yer guv, I didn’t bother try to find out what he was like. And so the rather regrettable tendency of the IPCC (like any organisation that survives) to turn into a lumbering bureaucracy didn’t receive any useful attention from RKP.

But he was clearly a creation of Bush1; which needs to be remembered, lest anyone feel themselves trapped or pressured into defending RKP. He was deliberately appointed by Bush to be an unsuccessful Chair (replacing the respected Robert Watson who, unlike RKP, had essentially organically grown into the role) and that particular piece of idiot cunning succeeded as it inevitably had to: the US wanted him, the Commies get the vice-chair, the Chinks were a bit out of the loop then, the Third World and India were ineviably in favour of this tit-bit being unexpectedly thrown their way, and presumably the Europeans just negotiated and were ignored as usual. So, a shoe-in. Bush won two ways: the IPCC was weakened, and the US respected it less, even though RKP was their creation.

Did I miss anything?

[Update] Who’s next?

As IPCC chair exits, focus moves to who comes next – ScienceInsider: Among the already declared candidates for the job are Swiss climate scientist Thomas Stocker of the University of Bern and Belgian researcher Jean-Pascal van Ypersele of the Catholic University of Louvain. As you’d expect, RKP’s departure is rather skated over in favour of who will be next. Any new chair will take over IPCC as it considers whether to change its traditional operating style, which involves churning out massive reports written by hundreds of scientists every few years. Some have called for moving to a more nimble, less onerous process. Umm, yes, good point. I wonder if the candidates have expressed any opinions on this subject?


1. Dr Pachauri was the favoured candidate of the US Bush administration, which reportedly disliked Dr Watson’s willingness to tell governments what he believed to be the unvarnished truth – Aunty.

2. Google trends: the Big Fight: Soon vs RKP.


* Newsmaker of the year: Rajendra Pachauri – Published online 19 December 2007 | Nature 450, 1150-1155 (2007) | doi:10.1038/4501150a. Its fairly gushing, but when read correctly you can see all the faults.
* Junk Science Week 2015: Time for post-Pachauri reform at IPCC – Curry in Canada

rigorously eschewing the unfortunate ad hominem arguments that too often characterize public “debate” about human-caused climate change

My title comes from a lying “letter of recommendation” for Soon, which says in part:

…Willie is scrupulous in attending to the basic scientific veracity of everything that he presents in public about scientific matters. He is careful not only in that regard, but also in the attention he pays to drawing reasonable and balanced conclusions, and in rigorously eschewing the unfortunate ad hominem arguments that too often characterize public “debate” about human-caused climate change.

The entire thing is a tissue of lies, but that one is particularly galling. My picture demonstrates that its a lie. The rest is lies too: “Willie is scrupulous in attending to the basic scientific veracity of everything that he presents in public about scientific matters” is a lie, as demonstrated by There is no land on an aqua-planet.

Enough of that bit; there’s more in the Breitbart Kimosabe that’s worth mocking. Its printing stuff from Two of Soon’s peers, an ill-defined concept, but yes I suppose they are his peers. One is Carter, one is Monkers. Try to play guess-who-wrote-each letter without reading the names; I was astonished by how well Carter manages to emulate Monkers usual tone.

From the outside it is very clear that… is a suspect start. The intent is clear: this is some neutral, outside observer rendering an impartial judgement. Which is, obviously, risible. As becomes clear when we continue …the attack on Willie is… Yes, that’s right, he’s on first-name terms with Soon. So much for “from the outside”. Just to make it even clearer, he continues with “a recent reference that I wrote for him”. Yes, that’s right: he’s on such good terms with “Willie” that he writes references for him. This is just such… low-grade drivel for children. Its insulting; are there really people dumb enough to read Breitbart and not realise that its junk? And these are only the internal contradictions. If you add in the many clashes with reality, it gets worse.


* The Soon fallacy – Gavin at RC.
* A comment on “The crucifixion of Dr. Willie Soon” at Breitbart
* A Climate Crusader Melts, Exposing a Profitable Link to Harvard’s Name – Paul Basken, Chronicle of Higher Education
* Willie Soon saga
* Willie Soon Attacks Funders of Climate Denial for ‘Lack of Courage’ – BRENDAN MONTAGUE, DeSmog
* Retraction Watch June 2015.

I'm a terrorist

god Or at least, that follows clearly from the latest nonsense from Wattie-land. Greenpeace enlists Justin Gillis &John Schwartz of the NY Times in Journalistic Terrorist Attack on Willie Soon – Miss Target, Hit Smithsonian Instead. If the NYT is “terrorist” then so am I. Of course, the Smithsonian is investigating Soon, so perhaps they’re terrorists too?

Worse for Soon, I found this in my facebook feed, from God. I’m not suggesting that God (who is currently a black lesbian regretting that she created periods) is likely to smite Soon, but this kind of publicity in the general-o-sphere, as opposed to the usual knockabout in the blogosphere, is the kind of thing that gets you thrown under a bus.

The WUWT piece is full of the usual attempts at disdain: I cannot bring myself to quote from this unconscionable piece of journalistic malfeasance… Author’s Comment Policy: I am so sickened by this that I really don’t care to discuss it, but others may choose to do so – feel free. I’m not sure what they expected: everyone to maintain a respectful silence after the author flounced out? But of course that’s not how it works; and so after everyone did indeed discuss it, the author joins in, entirely forgetting his own “policy”. These people have the attention span of a goldfish.

There is no land on an aqua-planet

Something of a classic, from Richard Telford. He’s discussing Soon’s Heartland presentation. Here’s a screenshot:


Soon is trying to point out the importance of the value of the solar insolation, which he believes needs to be heavily fiddled to make the GCMs come out right. To prove this, he’s chosen a paper about an aquaplanet experiment. Aquaplanets themselves are a perfectly respectable thing to do: they offer you a heavily simplified “planet” with no irritating land-sea constrast, or orography, to get in the way of your dynamics (it also simplifies the variability, so you get regular results over much shorter time periods). Soon wants to emphasise how unrealistic the temperature is, so he pulls out the highest global average value – 35 oC – and then adds a made-up 3 oC on top of that to get an entirely fictitious 38 oC.

Its not really clear if Soon is deliberately lying, or just clueless, but denialist drivel doesn’t get much worse.

[Update: so, the WAPO says the Smithsonian says Soon is “a part-time researcher at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory,” and the institution is “greatly concerned about the allegations surrounding Dr. Willie Soon’s failure to disclose funding sources for his climate change research.” The acting secretary of the Smithsonian, Albert Horvath, “has asked the Smithsonian Inspector General to review the matter.” There’s a twit-pic of this but oddly the Smithsonian press page doesn’t have it (archive). But their FB page does (h/t Eli).]


* Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Hi-Jinks1 – Eli.
* Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Hi-Jinks 4– Eli again.

The funding entities, regardless of their affiliation, have no influence on the research

Or so says Christine Pulliam, a spokeswoman for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. And yet we discover that Soon’s research was (partially) funded by Southern Company Services, with whom Soon had and agreement, signed by Smithsonian’s William J. Ford, contract and grant specialist; and Bryan Baldwin, Southern’s manager of environmental assessment.:

As further consideration to SCS [Southern Company Services], Smithsonian shall provide SCS an advance written copy of proposed publications regarding the deliverables for comment and input, if any, from SCS

The assertion of no influence doesn’t make sense, if there’s a special agreement in place for SCS to read proposals and comment in advance. Some part of the text isn’t true.

Incidentally, none of his actual funding is news. Greenpeace had that story in early 2013 at least. But, it wasn’t interesting then.


* I would never be motivated by money for anything
* Documents spur investigation of climate sceptic, Questions raised about conflict-of-interest disclosures by Willie Soon, Nature, Jeff Tollefson, 21 February 2015.

I would never be motivated by money for anything

hot This astonishing claim is apparently made by Willie Soon, according to the NYT. The claim is implausible, to say the least. As is much of his GW related research.

I’m not alone in that opinion, oddly enough. Gavin A. Schmidt, head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan, a NASA division that studies climate change, said The science that Willie Soon does is almost pointless. Mmmmm, the science yes (it may be a null-set joke; Gavin is subtle) but the papers clearly aren’t pointless, these “deliverables” act to advance certain rather obvious agendas.

And now I come to look, Soon was a name-for-hire on the recent Monckton drivel.

Its made wiki.


* Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for Soon – Greg Laden. Well, maybe.
* Gavin at RX on Soon, 2011.
* Many Arctic temperature trends – me, from 2007.
* Soon and Baliunas controversy from wiki.
* Did Willie Soon Lie to Congress? – DA
*Analysis: Soon’s disclosure of non-controversial funding supports the conclusion that he deliberately omitted fossil fuel disclosures – Brian at Eli’s.

Stories from the history of science: the discovery of the stratosphere

strat There are many others, of course. RMG has one just now on the Chandler wobble; there’s Alfred Russel Wallace and the flat-earthers and the history of the word Scientist itself.

All of these have “mottoes”, if you like; but I distrust them. There’s a sci-fi novel from ages back, the only bit of which I remember is the protagonist taking the standardised psychometric proverb test: what does “a rolling stone gathers no moss” mean? He, free-wheeling, said “frequent change frees one from care” whereas his staid society wished him to say “frequent change prevents the accumulation of valuable possessions and disrupts the social fabric”.

So I’ll present the following story of “Stratosphere Denial” without any motto at all :-). This post is just to take the text out of PDF and into a form that it can be found; my namesake pointed out to me “the stratosphere denialists at the beginning of the last century”, but it was news to me, and unless you know exactly where to look you won’t find it on the wub (for example, GISS’s article is thin at best. Anyone know of better?). Indeed, until I added it now, wiki didn’t even have anything about the discovery of the Stratosphere at all (what’s there is a bit rubbish, sorry, I couldn’t be bothered to add much, but I did link to the major source I found).

By far the best, and practically the only source with any kind of detail I could find, was Hoinka, K. P. 1997. The tropopause: discovery, definition and demarcation. Meteor.Z., 6, 281-303 (via Geoff Vallis, Dept. of Mathematics, University of Exeter). So, what’s it all about?

Skipping lightly over the heroic early stuff, such as depicted in the figure, people started sending up instrumented balloons, becoming serious around the start of the 1890’s. Initially these were of laquered paper, or the charmingly named goldbeater’s skin; lets throw in the name Léon Teisserenc de Bort at this point; remember, more details in the paper. These were constant-volume, and so ascended to a certain height then stopped, which was annoying as they’d then drift for ages before falling down and being recovered, or often not. Around 1900 the also charmingly named Richard Assmann (which, surprisingly, is safe to type into Google) worked in a characteristically thorough German way with Continental in Hannover to pioneer rubber sounding balloons, which expanded as they rose until they popped, and don’t suffer from reduced ventilation.

If you’ve read any of the many accounts of making accurate near-surface temperature observations via Stevenson screens and the like you’ll know about the importance of ventilation and exclusion of the influence of radiation; these is even more of a problem in the upper air, obvs.

There’s a certain amount of Franco-German rivalry, or simply personal rivalry, but also international co-operation with simultaneous ascents. And, measurements start to show that whilst the air gets colder as you go up, as everyone expected, up to about 10 km; above this there’s an “isothermal layer”. This wasn’t expected. But, hey; it was quite hard to get a balloon up there, there was a dead good explanation for why you expected temperatures that were too high (lots of solar radiation, and reduced ventialation as the air got thinner and the balloon got to its max height and slowed). So people just “corrected” the anomalous temperatures back to the expected lapse rate. Naturally, you can solve the solar radiation problem by doing the ascents at night, but likely the extra logistics of doing this put people off a bit1, though it was done.

But over the next few years the measurements kept coming out the same, and eventually people came round to the view that there really was an isothermal layer, with 1902 being the year in which both LTdB and RA published announcements. Reading somewhat between the lines of the paper, it looks like LTdB got far more results than RA (236 flights above 11 km, 74 above 14 km) versus 6 for RA above 11 km, despite the nominally superior tech of the Kraut. Perhaps a case of lovingly and painstakingly hand-crafted stuff that’s been found to work OK being quite hard to beat by innovation2, though it tends to lose in the long run. There’s another motto which I won’t draw out :-).


1. Launching the things at night would be a bit of a pain, obviously. Just organising people for night time is harder, and so on. Also it makes tracking and retrieving the balloons harder (depending on how long a flight was, I suppose).

2. Re-reading the paper more carefully, it really isn’t clear whether LTdB used paper and RA rubber; or both used rubber; or LTdB slowly switched. Section 2.5 says that after rubber was introduced, their use rapidly spread, and LTdB “started to use them during the first years [of the 1900’s]”. However, the announcements were in 1902, so I suspect LTdB was mostly still on paper.


* Discussing What are universities for? with Mike P-J.
* Use of the proverbs test for differentiating schizophrenics from normals, D R Gorham, J Consult Psychol. 1956 Dec;20(6):435-40.

Boron isotope evidence for oceanic carbon dioxide leakage during the last deglaciation. And…

Boron isotope evidence for oceanic carbon dioxide leakage during the last deglaciation by M. A. Martínez-Botí, G. Marino, G. L. Foster, P. Ziveri, M. J. Henehan, J. W. B. Rae, P. G. Mortyn & D. Vance. Nature 518, 219–222 (12 February 2015) doi:10.1038/nature14155. As far as I can tell, no-one has covered this yet (well, all right, ScienceDaily did).

Its not that wildly exciting (so much so that I’m a touch surprised it made over-excitable Nature); but it is interesting. Another step on the Mystery of Deglaciations; the kind of stuff SoD has been banging on about a bit. Here’s the abstract:

Atmospheric CO2 fluctuations over glacial–interglacial cycles remain a major challenge… to explain glacial–interglacial atmospheric CO2 variations invoke changes in deep-ocean carbon storage, probably modulated by processes in the Southern Ocean, where much of the deep ocean is ventilated. A central aspect of such models is that, during deglaciations, an isolated glacial deep-ocean carbon reservoir is reconnected with the atmosphere, driving the atmospheric CO2 rise observed in ice-core records. However… Radiocarbon activity tracks changes in ocean ventilation, but not in ocean carbon content, whereas proxies that record increased deglacial upwelling do not constrain the proportion of upwelled carbon that is degassed relative to that which is taken up by the biological pump. Here we apply the boron isotope pH proxy in planktic foraminifera to two sediment cores… as a more direct tracer of oceanic CO2 outgassing. We show that surface waters at both locations, which partly derive from deep water upwelled in the Southern Ocean, became a significant source of carbon to the atmosphere during the last deglaciation, when the concentration of atmospheric CO2 was increasing…

So in broad terms, this is the same story as before: to explain the level and speed of CO2 changes at deglaciations, you probably need CO2 to ventilate from deep-ocean reservoirs (this also comes into the T/CO2 lead/lags stuff). Exactly what might cause that to occur is no clearer; there’s just a little bit more evidence that this actually occurred, rather than the somewhat more process-of-elimination there was before.

Attribution of Arctic temperature change to greenhouse-gas and aerosol influences, Najafi et al.

This one has been reported elsewhere, e.g. Aerosols dampen pace of Arctic warming for now, say scientists by CarbonBrief, so I don’t think I need bother say much. Aerosols offset warming. Who’da guessed?

Unprecedented 21st century drought risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains, Cook et al.

I sometimes wonder if I should take Unprecedented 21st century drought risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains type stuff more seriously. But there are so many Americans who are already doing so, I hardly need to.


* UAB – Carbon release from ocean helped end the Ice Age.
* Meanwhile, back in the real world, Rotating Eyeballs with Eli.