The Guardian’s ridiculous claim of 75% Arctic sea ice loss in 30 years – patently false?

Well, with a headline like that you know I’m talking about denialist nonsense, and yes its WUWT again. What they are foaming at the mouth about is Jarvis Cocker: the iceman cometh but not the article, rather a factoid at the end:

Of the Arctic sea ice, 75% has been lost over the past 30 years. Last year saw sea-ice levels plummet to the second-lowest since records began. It is estimated that the North Pole could be ice-free in the summer within the next 10-20 years

Understanding this fairly simple piece of text proves to be beyond the Minds over there. 75% is a lot, and ice area or extent hasn’t declined by that much, so the obvious variable to look at is volume, which has declined more steeply. And indeed, if you look at the PIOMAS-based Arctic Sea Ice Volume Anomaly, version 2 you’ll discover that the September minimum has indeed declined by the reported amount.

So: how is it possible to be so stupid as to not guess this yourself? If you start from the bad-faith position that the Grauniad as lying, then you probably won’t even look. And if you’re so used to denying the ice change, then you’ll then further mislead yourself and your readers by deliberately looking at the change in annual extent rather than the September minimum, which is the one that people are far more interested in.

The very second commentator manages to guess right: I think the argument is about sea ice volume rather than area/extent but even with this clue AW still fails, replying The original article… does not contain any discussion of ice volume. I double checked. But by this point I think he has realised he is lying, because of course the original article doesn’t specify extent, or area either. Indeed the original article is unclear; but when there are several interpretations, one of which agrees exactly with the numbers, it doesn’t take much sense to realise which was the right one. Commentator number three finds the second flaw in AW’s stuff: that he has deliberately used annual rather than minimum. But neither 2 nor 3 has the wit or industry to find the actual numbers from PIOMAS.

Sadly, the usually sensible Nick Stokes manages to find the correct source for the numbers but then (mislead by the contrived lead-in of AW’s post?) fails to read them properly.

A little while later (after a pile of content-free Grauniad-bashing) JohnB finds the right answer and supports it with number from thinkprogress. AW doesn’t like this and in reply says some spurious nonsense and one plausible thing, viz quoting Julia Slingo: She also said that suggestions the volume of sea ice had already declined by 75% already were not credible. “We know there is something [happening on the thinning of sea ice] but it’s not as dramatic as those numbers suggest.” We need to pause here for a moment to contemplate the irony of AW taking as gospel the words of the UK Met Office’s chief scientist. This oddity can be explained in this way: she is saying something he wants to hear. However, AW still isn’t thinking straight: the Grauniad can only be reporting what the numbers say, not the One True Reality that inhabits JS’s mind. So when AW says “Slingo said the 75% loss for volume isn’t supported” he is, if he pauses for a moment to think, already in possession of the correct answer.

So, by that point in the comment thread it has clear to anyone who is reading that, yes, the Grauniad was correct – or, if you prefer the worst interpretation, that they were correctly reporting, in broad-brush terms, the numbers that are generally bandied about. That doesn’t stop the commentators still pushing “Someone needs to sue the paper for misrepresentation” and so on. Just a little later Steve from Rockwood asks “In discussing ice volume, how do they reliably estimate volume from the satellite data?” No-one there has any answer (which is odd, considering that they like to think they have a clue), but anyway, if SfR was actually interested he would have followed one of the links already provided.

And eventually, all doubt is removed: Phil Clarke finds the actual source from Greenpeace which the Grauniad has used, and yes indeed it is talking about volume, and the source is PIOMASS. AW gets really snotty in reply to that; pointing out the actual referenced source of the numbers in question has become, in AW’s words, “wasting my and everyone else’s valuable time with your diversions”.

The Slingo question

As noted, AW is heavily reliant on Slingo as his authority that ice volume has not declined by 75% (incidentally, I too wouldn’t assert that it has declined by X, and nor would the PIOMASS people, with certainty, I’d guess). But as a best-guess estimate its not implausible. The source for the JS quote is The Grauniad but the original is UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE ENVIRONMENTAL AUDIT COMMITTEE PROTECTING THE ARCTIC WEDNESDAY 14 MARCH 2012 who are clearly very shouty people. The Graun’s quote from her is odd. They have her say:

* “We know there is something [happening on the thinning of sea ice] but it’s not as dramatic as those numbers suggest.”

instead of what she actually said:

* We know there is some thinning but it is not as dramatic as those numbers would suggest.

I can’t see why they prefer their longer and less clear and non-direct-quote version. But on: what question was JS actually answering with those words?

Q118 Chair: One lot of evidence that we had suggested that the volume of ice had already declined by 75%, and that further decreases may cause an immediate collapse of ice cover. Would you recognise that? Would you give credence to that?

Professor Slingo: No, I wouldn’t. We don’t know what the thickness of ice is across the whole Arctic with any confidence. We know that the sea ice extent has declined annually by 4% per decade, and in summer, yes that the sea ice is declining at a faster rate of 12% per decade. You also have to understand that it recovers pretty well as we go back into winter, so the 4% per decade annually is still there. We know there is some thinning but it is not as dramatic as those numbers would suggest.

So, this is ambiguous. She may just be reacting to the “further decreases may cause an immediate collapse of ice cover”. Although in answer to Q117 she has just said “We run quite a sophisticated sea ice model that includes the volume of ice, and it is fair to say, yes, there is a decline in the volume of ice” which I find surprising. If she is on top of a UKMO programme that parallels PIOMASS, why isn’t she quoting any numbers from it? That would be the natural thing to do. I’m not aware of UKMO/ Hadley “observational modelling” of sea ice like PIOMASS; they have HadISST, but that is area/extent type stuff. My suspicion is that JS has confused the climate-type GCM sea ice model with what PIOMASS are doing. Though if anyone has any better ideas, I’ll be interested to hear them.

JS isn’t a sea-ice modeller; I wouldn’t give any particular credence to what she says, at least insofar as it could be considered an interpretation of the PIOMAS 75% figure.


Finally, Scott notices the other anomaly, that “If they were talking about volume, then last year was the LOWEST, not second lowest. Thus, if they’re talking about modeled volume (at the summer minimum), then the second sentence is wrong”. This is (at last) a fair point (and one that AW is happy to sieze upon, since his existing “rebuttal” of its-not-volume is so unconvincing). The answer I can think of is that by the standards of newspaper journalism, swapping from volume in one sentence to extent in the next is hardly a big leap, indeed such a tiny one that they wouldn’t even notice it.

It is estimated that the North Pole could be ice-free in the summer within the next 10-20 years

I suppose we’re left with that. What does it mean? Hard to know. If you meant, literally, just the North Pole then maybe its plausible. If “North Pole” is a proxy for the whole sea ice cover, then I’m dubious. But you know that already.


In this case, if you strip out the mood-music from the peanut gallery and look only at the comments where people have made at least a small attempt to think, the crowd doesn’t do too badly, considering that they have all been put off the true scent by the trail AW has tried to lead. Dave, a True believer, even gently criticises WUWT for not writing a very good response to the Grauniad. Mat L argues

C’mon Anthony, you lose credibility when you start comparing sea ice extent with a volume metric and saying they don’t match. Fair enough if you missed this when writing the article, but now it has been pointed out to you, it’s disingenuous not to update your post/ graph.

[Update: I’m banned at WUWT. I’ve had some fun tweaking AW’s source for this nonsense, though -see the comments there. Back at WUWT, PaulB is doing a good bulldog on AW. I am curious to see how long before he gets stomped on – W]


* Nick Stokes has a nice set of plots of the PIOMAS data by year, etc., and with his nice “anomaly with trend removed”.

So long, and thanks for all the fish

Or, A child’s garden of wikipedia, part 2.

I’ve been banned from WUWT, after exposing too many of his errors. Although naturally AW doesn’t phrase it quite like that. Also, he didn’t much like me not showing the adoration that he gets from his fanbois either. Indeed, presumably in an effort to pretend that there is no censorship, AW can’t even bring himself to say “banned”: instead preferring the Orwellian you have been dis-invited from further commentary here. Even that may disappear if it becomes too inconvenient, so you can see a webcited version here.

The cause of all this (dismissing as a smokescreen his nominal reasons “you have summarily and regularly violated WUWT policy. While on one hand you have made some valid points, on the other, your behavior here (with follow up taunting on your blog) is serially mendacious, disruptive, dismissive, insulting, and condescending, and as I’ve pointed out the threads Mr. Connolley visits get hijacked by his interaction, making them about him and his taunts. In essence, as you’ve demonstrated on Wikipedia, your participation here is not in good faith either”) looks to be his embarrassment over his errors at wikipedia.

I told AW and his people that they were all whingers-on-the-sidelines who, whilst using wiki whenever it suited them, preferred complaining about it to ever contributing. This struck a nerve with AW, who clearly had a long-built-up resentment to get off his chest:

I submitted the original page on the Climate Reference Network to Wikipedia in April 2008 after my invited visit to NCDC. I actually did it from my hotel room in Asheville because no page existed on it and I thought there should be one after meeting with NCDC staff (who I was impressed with BTW for that project division). So I took the description from NCDC and posted it along with the appropriate title and cites. It was then promptly deleted by one of the pseudonym named climate bullies you cavort with. My crime was using my own name….because well, we just can’t have that awful Watts person submitting to Wikipedia. Only the anointed get to touch the holy Wiki climate reference book it seems, mere unclean mortals like myself get their contributions deleted wholesale. So I don’t bother anymore. I know others that have been turned off by the bullying as well.

[Italics in the original]. The problem is that all of this, apart from his submitting the page, is pure fantasy, as I told him (unpublished comment, oddly enough). To clear away some confusion, he doesn’t mean Climate Reference Network he means US Climate Reference Network. The initial version of that was submitted by User:Wattsupwiththat as that user’s only contribution ever. As you can see from the page history (or perhaps more clearly in a diff from then to just-recently) it wasn’t deleted, nor indeed was it substantially changed (technically you or I as humble users can’t see any deleted revisions of the page, but I’ve asked an admin who has confirmed that there are none).

What probably confused AW was the tagging for speedy deletion as a copyvio. Since it was just a cut-paste job, this isn’t unreasonable. But that tag only survived for an hour and a half before it was removed – its a copy of some US govt work, so is permissible, just about. And AW got a note on his talk page explaining this.

So we can now look at AW’s claims in detail:

* It was then promptly deleted – this is false
* by one of the pseudonym named climate bullies – since it wasn’t deleted, this is automatically false. But the person who added the tag, Bradv, has nothing to do with climate as far as I know. Notice, incidentally, how the nominally-polite AW throws around false accusations of being a “climate bully” so readily.
* you cavort with – false. I’ve had no interactions with him at all, as far as I know.
* My crime was using my own name….because well, we just can’t have that awful Watts person submitting to Wikipedia – false. There is not the least hint of this; the tagging was just an automatic reaction to cut-n-paste, with no hint that Bradv even knew who AW was.
* Only the anointed get to touch the holy Wiki climate reference book it seems, mere unclean mortals like myself get their contributions deleted wholesale – false. For all the reasons given above, or even from just looking at the article history, which has contributions by a number of people, none of whom have anything to do with GW (well, until I merged the two articles just a while ago).
* I don’t bother anymore – this certainly is true.
* I know others that have been turned off by the bullying as well – there is certainly a whole group of septics out there who use similar fantasies as their excuse for not editing.


* Now Anthony Watts Is Calling Me!

Supreme irony: wind farms can cause atmospheric warming, finds a new study?

What is it about GW that brings out such levels of stupidity in so many people?

Lets start with the easy bit. There’s a paper Impacts of wind farms on land surface temperature by Zhou et al.. It isn’t very exciting, but it made into Nature Climate Change, probably because of the inevitable stupidity it would arouse. What it says is Our results show a significant warming trend of up to 0.72 °C per decade, particularly at night-time, over wind farms relative to nearby non-wind-farm regions. This isn’t ironic or even particularly surprising: the effect is due to mixing down of warmer air on nights with an inversion. At least, that’s what I expect, not having read the paper, and its what Black of the Beeb wrote, having talked to Zhou: At night, air above ground level tends to be warmer than the ground. Dr Zhou and his colleagues believe the turbine blades are simply stirring up the air, mixing warm and cold, and bringing some of the warmth down to ground level.

But if you’re silly, like the Torygraph, you find yourself obliged to headline your story Wind farms can cause climate change, finds new study. The actual article itself isn’t too bad – it correctly notes this is a local effect, largely night-time only, and it permits itself a little speculation that if done on a large enough scale this might just be noticeable regionally. And, being generous, you could call this “climate change” – though to most people, “climate change” will mean global climate change, which this isn’t.

However, you then get people who really should know better repeating Windmills cause climate change! Timmy manages the oh-how-I-wish-it-was unusual feat of having nothing useful to say, whilst quoting the worst bits of the article and suppressing the useful bits. This is global cooling come again – people just can’t resist the “counter intuitive” stuff. He has another go at Forbes but gets it even wronger there – now its explicitly become Wind Farms Cause Global Warming!

But the funny thing is to look at the comments. Like:

I had a good laugh about that, it’s fairly obvious really you convert kinetic energy into electricity and get heat as a bi product. Silly eco mentalists


Think it through & you’ll realise there’s no climate warming effect whatsoever. The energy is in the wind. The bird shredders remove some of the energy as electricity but the process of doing so isn’t 100% efficient so it also creates heat

These are wrong – they are fairly typical of the “I know nothing about climatology, but rather than trying to find something out I’ll just speculate and call it truth” sort of commentator. But they have absolutely no excuse for being wrong, because even the Torygraph got it right, in the first few paragraphs of its article: “Usually at night the air closer to the ground becomes colder when the sun goes down and the earth cools. But on huge wind farms the motion of the turbines mixes the air higher in the atmosphere that is warmer, pushing up the overall temperature.”

Since its Timmy’s blog, and he is often rude to people, I get to call him and his commentators idiots. Which he (in this instance) and they (oh so often) richly deserve. Which brings me neatly on to…

WUWT, which is where I stole my headline from. That too reports the same study, and in the same sensationalist terms. What is, again, funny is that the commentators there completely miss the point and run off down the same inefficient-conversion-leads-to-heat rabbit-hole (and they even find some new ones), even though Watts has half-said it in the very top paragraph. I tell them the truth, but they aren’t grateful. In fact Watts is very ungrateful indeed – but that is after the inevitable degeneration of the dicussion into a pointless demonstration of their lack of knowledge of wikipedia.


* Potential Climatic Impacts and Reliability of Very Large Scale Wind Farms – Chien Wang and Ronald Prinn

Aiiee, the stupid, it burns!

There is an absolutely classic WUWT piece of stupidity up from Joe Bastardi (h/t QS, who has been annoying me with ZOD nonsense recently). Sometimes, it is nice to find a small simple easily understood issue which demonstrates how clueless the septics are.

And the quote is:

Nor am I going to question them as to why they believe a trace gas like CO2 (needed for life on the planet) with a specific gravity of 1.5 as compared to the atmospheres 1.0, was going to mix with air in a way to affect the earth’s temperatures

(bear in mind that isn’t all that is wrong with the article, only the stupidest).

Some of the commenters notice the problem: “Brian Macker says: January 19, 2012 at 5:24 am Joe, Are you claiming that if we measure CO2 levels at altitude that we will find lower percentages than at sea level? That’s what it sounds like.

Bastardi’s point is stupid on a number of levels. Most obviously, if CO2 was going to separate, so would O2 and N2, and argon, and… well, lots of stuff. That doesn’t happen, and the answer is turbulent mixing. Its not a difficult answer, and you can find stuff in the AMS glossary. Or, you can just look up CO2 variation with height (e.g. Concentration variations of atmospheric CO 2 over Syowa Station …. There is a similar septic talking point as to “how can CFC’s cause the ozone hole when they are heavier than air” and the answer is the same: (a) mixing and (b) measurement.

One of the commenters even finds some data: “Alistair Ahs says: January 19, 2012 at 6:00 am Further, on your point about the mass of a CO2 molecule, when compared to N2, a quick google search shows up a research paper by Waleter Bischoff (1961), who made a number of measurements of CO2 at different heights above Scandinavia. He *did* find that on average the concentration of CO2 declined with height, but the rate of this decline is really quite modest – from the highest value of 318ppm below 200m to the lowest value of 312ppm at near to 3km. I haven’t read that, but I’d guess this is more to do with CO2 sources at ground level not being immeadiately mixed. There definitely is slight variation in CO2 around the world – but the variation isn’t important for talking about the greenhouse effect.

And then lots of other people point out to Bastardi that he has got it wrong – all of them polite and respectful, indeed one gets the impression that they find it hard to believe that “their man” has got it so hopelessly wrong.

So Joe Bastardi replies at January 19, 2012 at 9:28 am

You folks that are coming at me about co2 sg, apparently dont understand that simply put, it does not mix well with air. There was just an article about that here on WUWT.

Yes, that’s right: even when it has been carefully explained to him by his own side, he is still not capable of thinking.


* A Word to the Resourceful
* Another Bastardi Failed Prediction
* Chatting with the climate scientist Newt dissed (h/t KK)

Tweaking the wackos, part II

Tweaking the wackos refers. “James Pagett” wrote The Wonderful World of Wikipedia at WUWT complaining about the [[Soon-Baliunas controversy]] page. But despite the author knowing enough about wikipedia to have gotten himself topic-banned by arbcomm (which the post, oddly, doesn’t have room to mention) the article does a very poor job of explaining how wikipedia works. Which isn’t too surprising, as no-one outside does.

But because the post is at WUWT, and is about climate, and wikipedia, it doesn’t take look for the wackos to start ranting about me, even though I don’t feature in this story at all. Since I’d been invoked, I felt obliged to turn up (there, and in following comments). However, there is a disappointing lack of desire to learn about wikipedia, or indeed to make any attempt to back up assertions.

As far as can be told, the post didn’t lead to an invasion of septics; about the biggest consequence (apart from the correction at S+B) was someone insisting that “climate” must go in as an example of chaos [1]. But the impression, from the comment thread, is that the Watties don’t understand wiki, and they fear it, and they aren’t even going to try touching it. Which is by and large all for the good.


* Comparison of Wikipedia and other encyclopedias for accuracy, breadth, and depth in historical articles (no, I haven’t read it, the thing is behind a paywall, how ironic.

Plus ca change

Via Tamino (Tisdale Fumbles, Pielke Cheers) I find Tisdale at WUWT talking nonsense – nothing new there. Tamino points out the obvious flaw in the argument (if you can call it an argument; to be fair, it is hard to tell what Tisdale wants to say, other than “its all wrong”), and then Nick Stokes is kind enough to tell the Watties (I did wonder if any of them might be good enough to think of it for themselves, but no such luck). But! The knowledge does not fit their worldview, so even when presented with the obvious they are still unable to understand it.

Well, that wasn’t very exciting, was it? Sorry. Maybe you’d like to read about the Winter Head instead; or hear that I managed 43:47 in my 10k today.

Tweaking the wackos

Via Eli I saw that there was some odd stuff at WUWT (nothing new there you might say). The weirdness is the ATI vs Mann case, or whatever it is called, and the ATI are complaining that Mann is allowed to be a party to a case about his own emails. Or something; the legalese is dull, obviously. The ATI counsel appear to have been doing some very dodgy things, like running the case whilst working for the EPA.

Anyway, I thought it would be entertaining to tweak them a bit, and did so for a while. What is funny (apart from their inability to count to 4) is the way they are happy to leap upon complete misrepresentations by their opponents of what people have said, and then attack those words. And the weird assertion that IPCC AR4 didn’t use MBH. And their apparent belief in complete openness for all emails… except their own. And their friends.

It was fun for a bit, but got rather repetitive after a while.

This is more fun!