Science Ain't Beanbag—Antarctic Warming Edition

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Last month Nature published an important paper claiming that researchers using a new statistical technique to process satellite and ground data had uncovered a 50 year warming trend over the southern continent. Earlier data had suggested that most of Antarctica was cooling rather than warming. This new finding was widely reported because it finally confirmed the predictions of computer climate models.

However, the climate blogosphere has erupted into a controversy over some of the data. It seems that one temperature trend was based on data from a ground station called "Harry ASW." To make a long story short, statistician Steve McIntyre who runs the skeptical website ClimateAudit apparently noticed an odd discontinuity in the Harry data–a very sudden jump in temperature. On further checking, it turns out that the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) had somehow combined data from another station called Gill with data from Harry which had been buried for years beneath the snow, producing an illusory jump in temperature. While McIntrye noted this problem on his blog, NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt who frequently blogs at RealClimate apparently reported the problem to the BAS. 

So far, so good. Everyone wants to use good data. But what's roiling the climate blogosphere is who should get credit for uncovering the mistake? I don't know who's right or wrong in this case, so I'll just direct readers to various blogs where this is being hashed out. 

First, University of Colorado environmental scientist Roger Pielke Jr.'s Prometheus blog has this take: 

Due to an inadvertent release of information, NASA's Gavin Schmidt (a "real scientist" of the Real Climate blog) admits to stealing a scientific idea from his arch-nemesis, Steve McIntyre (not a "real scientist" of the Climate Audit blog) and then representing it as his own idea, and getting credit for it. (Details here and here.)

Later, Prometheus reports that Gavin Schmidt as written to Pielke's bosses demanding that he remove his blog post and issue an apology. There is an interesting discussion among commenters there about attributing scientific credit.

Meanwhile the lead researcher in the Nature report concludes the correction makes no real difference in the overall warming trend his team discovered. Over at Realclimate, Schmidt has a longer disquisition on what the corrections to the data mean (though he decorously passes over the attribution controversy):

Although science proceeds by making use of the work that others have done before, it is not based on the assumption that everything that went before is correct. It is precisely because that there is always the possibility of errors that so much is based on 'balance of evidence' arguments' that are mutually reinforcing…

The differences in the mean trends for Antarctica, or WAIS are very small (around 0.01ºC/decade), and the resulting new reconstruction is actually in slightly better agreement with the satellite-based reconstruction than before (which is pleasing of course).

Finally, the folks over at the Fabius Maximus blog have a pretty useful timeline and set of links explaining the controversy. FM concludes:

Scientists eventually will sort all these questions out. True believers (on both sides), who accept only science that confirms their views, will remain unaffected no matter what the result. It's called confirmation bias. 

Yes indeed. Science ain't beanbag. With the internet, the sausage making of scientific discovery becomes ever more public. And that's a good thing. 

NEXT: The College Bubble

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  1. Right-wing baby-eating wackos like myself have known how awesome Steve McIntyre is for awhile:

    http://commentlog.org/bid/4409/The-Case-for-Global-Warming-Skepticism

  2. When something is only known to non-scientists it is unknown to science.There were always Coelacanths for sale in the fish market but as no scientist had identified them they were extinct.

  3. Ron,

    Quite a humorous post.

  4. Naga understands, as he takes credit for stuff that isn’t his all the time.

  5. Man, I love fried coelacanth.

  6. Episiarch,

    Half of looking prescient is taking credit for other people’s success. The other half is after taking credit making said person look partisan and stupid.

  7. Pro Lib,

    Details!

  8. Naga,

    You stole that idea from Tom Lehrer. Admit it!

    Plagiarize
    Let no one else’s work evade your eyes
    Remember why the good Lord made your eyes
    So don’t shade your eyes
    But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize
    Only be sure always to call it please “research”

  9. tarran,

    Lehrer is an alcoholic hack. Probably having some sorta episode in his mind where he wrote the complete works of Shakespeare.

  10. Catch one coelacanth.
    Brush lightly with olive oil.
    Season with salt , pepper, and fresh herbs.
    Place on the braai and cook until tender.

    Goes well with tequila.

  11. And yet, moron IDers and evolution deniers still think the coelacanth is some kind of refutation of evolution.

  12. zoltan,

    The power of Christ commands you to refute your belief in “evolution”!

    *smacks zoltan across the forehead*

  13. So what does this say of the oft repeated motivations of climate scientists towards group think?

    We have a climate scientist accused of stealing credit for identifying a problem with an analysis…and it turns out that the error actually BOLSTERS the case for warming in Antarctica (if I understand the point of the Schmidt excerpt).

    Does this confirm or refute the idea that climate scientists are motivated by grant funding to avoid rocking the boat?

  14. Naga, YOU’RE the preacher who comes to the West Mall every few months! And I knew that guy had a deep South (read: non-Texas) accent.

  15. zoltan,

    I have an accent? Well, I never . . .

  16. Almost forgot . . .

    *throws holy water on zoltan*

  17. The power of Christ commands you to refute your belief in “evolution”!

    Naga can’t even get stealing from The Exorcist right.

  18. No, you can’t be the preacher. Evangelicals believe in full-body submersion, not some Papist sprinkling of some Whore-of-Babylon priest.

  19. Episiarch,

    Actually I wrote the original Exorcist script. It was heavily edited for that alcoholic hack Friedkin to not mess up with his bizarre episodes.

    zoltan,

    Actually I was raised deep woods Baptist(Brownsville, TN). I’m still baffled by Catholic ceromonies. Baptists meet and greet before church, sit for an hour and a half sermon, then go to Denny’s after services. With Catholics there is all this standing, kneeling, standing again, a meet and greet during service and some guy walking around with some sort of smoking toy globe or something. Just weird.

  20. I wonder what the conversion rate of people with arthritis is from Catholic to another denomination.

  21. THE URKOBOLD IS TAKING A COURSE IN COMPARATIVE RELIGIOUS STUDIES. THIS RELIGION CALLED ROMAN CATHOLICISM INTRIGUES HIM. FOR INSTANCE, THE NUN IS A PLEASING FEATURE, AS IS THE CATHOLIC SCHOOL GIRL. HOWEVER, ONE POINT IS UNCLEAR TO THE URKOBOLD. ARE LESBIAN VAMPIRES PART OF CATHOLIC BELIEF?

  22. NM: And yet, do you wonder why the peer reviewers at Nature did not catch the data errors?

    And no comment from you on attribution?

    I am not steeped in the details of this controversy, but what Schmidt seems to be saying is that the corrections bolster the accuracy of the satellite data.

    In any case, Steig (the Nature researcher) has not archived his code so that other researchers can see how his team processed the temperature data in the first place.

  23. I got pissed the first time the dude threw water on me with the flingy spinkling thing. I wasn’t expecting it, and he hit me in the damn eye!

  24. Domo, what with all the sitting, standing, kneeling and flogging, I think suffering is an essential part of this particular denomination.

  25. They throw water at people too? *@#%ing Catholics!

  26. I can’t vouch for their motivations. I merely rub the blue mud in my navel when everyone else does to mollify the missus. They do seem a guilty bunch.

    Yes! stinging acid water that BURNS!!

  27. So when Dorothy threw water at the Wicked Witch of the East, that was some sort of Catholic ritual?

  28. “Harry ASW.”

    I bet someone tried to get authorized the “Harry Antarctic Science Station” but at the last minute someone renamed it the “Harry Antarctic Science Weatherstation”

  29. So when Dorothy threw water at the Wicked Witch of the East, that was some sort of Catholic ritual?

    No, ProL. Golden shower gone awry, unfortunately.

  30. Ron,

    And no comment from you on attribution?

    From RealClimate: (comments section)

    Gavin: “It would have been nice had SM actually notified the holders of the data that there was a problem (he didn’t, preferring to play games instead).”

    Comment: Actually, it’s not a game. It’s a story. A mystery. The ironical thing is that you contributing to the “mystery” and “game playing” by referencing “independent people” who reported the error to BAS. You could have just said.
    ‘ I read CA, SM hinted at a problem with Harry, a couple of posters found some interesting similarities between Gill and Harry. I looked at the problem, found the error and reported it.” the simple truth takes all the drama out of this thing.

    [Response: Independent people (including posters on CA and myself) all found the Gill/Harry thing independently once there was a hint that there was something wrong. I have no interest in the issue other than to see that the error is fixed. I didn’t claim credit because I don’t particularly care who reported it. It was curious that no-one else did. – gavin]

    Seems much ado about nothing.

    In any case, Steig (the Nature researcher) has not archived his code so that other researchers can see how his team processed the temperature data in the first place.

    This is incorrect.

    http://faculty.washington.edu/steig/nature09data/

  31. Kolohe,

    There’s a reason why Library and Information Science programs are not “College of Library and Information Technology.” Or “School of” for that matter.

  32. Really? I haven’t watched it a while, so maybe my memory isn’t clear. Seemed like a bucket was involved.

  33. So Bailey do you still believe in Gore horseshit of man made warming or the science that says the proof is in the sun and is a natural cycle?

    BTW: Do you still belong to that unamerican group the ACLU? A group which doesn’t believe in free speech for pro life people and says the second amendment doesn’t mean what it says it means.

  34. The ACLU does some good stuff. They also do some really shitty stuff.

    It’s also really shitty to disingenously ask questions you already know the answer to.

  35. Ron,

    NM: And yet, do you wonder why the peer reviewers at Nature did not catch the data errors?

    Depends upon what you mean by why, but data errors are commonly missed. The test of a good peer review process/journal with integrity is how they deal with them once they are exposed. I am sure Nature will publish a correction.

  36. Coincidentally, I just got some mail from the ACLU. I used to give them money, years ago, when they were less political than they are now. Anyway, in the mailing, they included a bookmark with the Bill of Rights printed on it. I was pleased to see the full text of the Second Amendment included. What’s funny is that I was actually surprised for a moment.

  37. Last month Nature published an important paper claiming that researchers using a new statistical technique to process satellite and ground data had uncovered a 50 year warming trend over the southern continent. Earlier data had suggested that most of Antarctica was cooling rather than warming. This new finding was widely reported because it finally confirmed the predictions of computer climate models.

    In other words, they invented some crap data out of thin air to justify their predetermined conclusions.

    Actual forecasting scientists are pretty adamant that the global warming models are worthless.

  38. I was pleased to see the full text of the Second Amendment included. What’s funny is that I was actually surprised for a moment.

    That is funny.

    Why would you be surprised?

    The ACLU position on the second may differ with yours, but they have never denied that it exists.

  39. The ACLU position on the second may differ with yours, but they have never denied that it exists.

    That would be a difficult position to support, even for the ACLU.

    Instead, they’ve merely asserted that it’s essentially meaningless.

  40. TallDave,

    I posted thoughts on this article when you brought it up in an earlier thread.

    https://www.reason.com/blog/show/131343.html#1198742

    Short version, you are over stating the importance of this work.

    A response to the article from Realclimate to get a different view.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/07/green-and-armstrongs-scientific-forecast/

    I’ll quote myself:

    He is advocating a methodology that he thinks will have wide applicability and trying to demonstrate its usefulness.

    Some of what he advocates makes good sense, but he doesn’t seem to appreciate that application of his methods requires a sophisticated understanding of the particular problems to which it is being applied.

    Validation of a model is a very complex and iterative process and his methods do not provide as easy a path towards validation as he seems to believe. I could see a collaboration between him and a team of knowledgeable climate scientists leading to improvements in climate forcasting by the IPCC. I don’t, however, see his independent work contributing much substance to the discussion.

  41. SIV | February 5, 2009, 1:25pm | #
    When something is only known to non-scientists it is unknown to science.There were always Coelacanths for sale in the fish market but as no scientist had identified them they were extinct.

    And the people who knew of the coelacanths didn’t know of their significance. Your point is pointless.

    Ron – peer review won’t typically catch errors in data. reviewers don’t have time to re-run all the analyses, even if they had all the raw data.


  42. And the people who knew of the coelacanths didn’t know of their significance.

    Their significance was their existence.The fisherman and fish buyers were never “Coelacanth Deniers” like those clever scientists.

    Fourteen years later, one specimen was found in the Comoros, but the fish was no stranger to the locals – in the port of Domoni on the Comorian island of Anjouan, the Comorians were puzzled to be so rewarded for a “gombessa” or “mame”, their names for the nearly inedible fish that their fishermen occasionally caught by mistake.

    Mmmmmmm nearly inedible.

  43. NM,

    I didn’t quite mean it that strongly. It just was a moment I had. They are occasionally guilty of acting like they only care about some rights, not all of them. Part of that is a resource issue, of course, but part of it is a pretty firm political bias as well. I’d prefer a more libertarian than liberal ACLU, naturally.

  44. Ron – peer review won’t typically catch errors in data. reviewers don’t have time to re-run all the analyses, even if they had all the raw data.

    So why is this vaunted peer review process used so often by global warming advocates to trash articles they disagree with. The fact that “peer review” does mean they actually “review” makes it seem more like a popularity contest. I presume that is not their aim, right?

  45. yikes – my editor called to yell at me. does = doesn’t

  46. So why is this vaunted peer review process used so often by global warming advocates to trash articles they disagree with. The fact that “peer review” does mean they actually “review” makes it seem more like a popularity contest. I presume that is not their aim, right?

    Mr. Roboto,

    Because peer review is such a low bar, you should be very skeptical of claims in peer reviewed articles. You should, however, be even more skeptical of articles that don’t even both to attempt to get over this very low bar…

    In science, limbo skills should not get you points.


  47. Ron – peer review won’t typically catch errors in data. reviewers don’t have time to re-run all the analyses, even if they had all the raw data.

    Steve McIntyre does, despite downright hostility from climate researchers. That’s why he catches so many errors.

    If we manage to avoid the multi-trillion dollar mistake that the greenies want us to make, we will owe Stevie a debt of gratitude.

  48. Right Wing Realist,

    It makes me wonder, because I have no idea of the answer, whether Steve McIntyre uses these skills to write and submit and publish peer-reviewed articles about these data errors and their impact on the results.

    Do you happen to know if he has?
    If he hasn’t, has he said why?

  49. Do you happen to know if he has?

    Steve McIntyre has been published several times and in fact has been a peer reviewer for climate articles in the past…i think he was on the last IPPC thing a ma bob.

    Basically he is a climate scientist now in all but name and US federal science grant.

  50. And the people who knew of the coelacanths didn’t know of their significance

    Yes, they did. They knew they were tasty.

  51. And by tasty, I apparently mean nearly inedible.

  52. You can ask him, I’m pretty sure he responds to emails:

    http://www.climateaudit.org/

  53. NM,

    If the standard is so low, what is the point of bothering to meet it? Certainly a standard that doesn’t say much about the quality of the product isn’t worth worrying about! You seem to assume your conclusion – by saying that any non-peer reviewed articles must not be so, because they can’t meet even that low bar.

    Is finding errors in data the type of thing that would pass peer review? or even be accepted for consideration? What editorial process is in place to determine which few of the whole are accepted? Are you saying that the peer review process that you admit is weak (for the 2-3% they accept) exhaustively probes the merits of the other 97% they reject?

    At any rate, there is plenty of peer reviewed and skeptical articles.

  54. Apparently my peers are not reviewing my grammer before I hit send. Apologies, English language…

  55. domo,

    The standard is not so low that it is not worth bothering to meet it. It is, however, not so high that people can feel assured that passing peer review means your article is error free, completely valid, and a complete representation of the truth.

    Nature, I believe, rejects about 93% of the submissions for not meeting its standards.

    As for whether pointing out a data error would merit an article…not typically. It would usually warrant a correction by the authors/journal.

    However, if you find a data error that substantially refutes one theory in favor of another, you should be able to get that published.

    As for the peer reviewed and “skeptical” articles, of course there are plenty. You should be as skeptical of those as you are “not-skeptical.”

    And, of course, it matters where they are published. Nature is one thing, a more focused climate journal another, and something like Energy and Environment yet another.

  56. domo,

    A good example of peer review and the need for skepticism is the article that TallDave links to above.

    That article was published by the journal’s founder and editor.

    That alone doesn’t make it incorrect, but…

  57. innominate: In re peer review: As I noted in a column on the future of scientific publishing:

    Of course, peer review is no absolute guarantor of scientific validity. Martin Blume, editor-in-chief of the American Physical Society and its nine physics journals, says that peer review overlooks honest errors as well as deliberate fraud. “Peer review doesn’t necessarily say that a paper is right,” he notes. “It says it’s worth publishing.”

    NM: On wondering why? So confirmation bias couldn’t perhaps play a role?

    On archived code: So pointing to a Matlab module means that other researchers can reproduce Steig’s results?

  58. NM: You write: However, if you find a data error that substantially refutes one theory in favor of another, you should be able to get that published.

    Indeed yes. And usually over a weekend too.

  59. NM,

    It does appear that Steve submits articles to journals, though I am not sure of their quality. Here is a post in which he describes an article he has sent to a journal:

    http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=4991

    He is hindered somewhat by the hostility of the “scientific” community in sharing data with him, but helped by the fact that many scientists work for agencies which must adhere to the Freedom of Information Act.

    Also, he is somewhat hindered by the fact that the big climate policy organizations don’t care if they use facts that are wrong.

  60. Law reviews aren’t peer reviewed. I laughed my head off when I was editing some articles–written by professors, mind you!

    I recall some sociology article getting published in one of Georgetown’s law reviews back in the mid-90s, which was actually so bad as to be unpublishable in a peer-reviewed sociology journal. Now, of course, we have the Internet.

  61. Zoltan wrote, “It’s also really shitty to disingenously ask questions you already know the answer to.”

    I don’t know if Bailey still believes in Gore shit about global warming nor whether he still belongs to that fraudulent group called ACLU.
    I hope he has smartened up, but according to the evidence he hasn’t.

  62. I feel pretty comfortable saying that the selection process involves a fair amount of editorial work. They don’t publish all articles that meet the standards of rigor. They select those that they think represent interesting information for the reader. Plenty of opportunity to be subject to groupthink and bias confirmation.

  63. Terry: By your standards, I confess that I have not yet “smartened up.”

  64. Ron: since you wrote this:

    Of course, peer review is no absolute guarantor of scientific validity. Martin Blume, editor-in-chief of the American Physical Society and its nine physics journals, says that peer review overlooks honest errors as well as deliberate fraud. “Peer review doesn’t necessarily say that a paper is right,” he notes. “It says it’s worth publishing.”

    Why would you also write this:

    Ron Bailey | February 5, 2009, 2:19pm | #
    NM: And yet, do you wonder why the peer reviewers at Nature did not catch the data errors?

    @SIV | February 5, 2009, 3:24pm | #

    And the people who knew of the coelacanths didn’t know of their significance.

    Their significance was their existence.

    The people who knew of the coelacanths didn’t know the significance of their existence.

  65. The people who knew of the coelacanths didn’t know the significance of their existence.

    The people who knew of the coelacanths didn’t know the existence of their significance.

  66. Who keeps talking about the coelacanths? Their existence helps the theory of evolution instead of hindering it. And the silly creationists thought it was some kind of proof for their funny ideas.

  67. You know, it’s the interpretations that survive the most scrutiny that are most likely to be true.

    Long live da scrutnee!

  68. Scientists denied our existence for decades and we were right there in third world fish markets.
    Fisherman even had unflattering names for us.
    Of course scientists don’t count the knowledge of “brown people” so they made a big to-do when they finally found us.

  69. And yet when evidence arises proving their existence, science concedes and brings that evidence into the fold. But show a nutty IDer different carbon dating methods and they’ll plug their ears and shout “Na, na, na!”

  70. Intelligent design proponents aren’t young earth creationists zoltan.Why do you keep bringing this up in an AGW thread and a coelacanth thread-jack?

  71. I feel pretty comfortable saying that the selection process involves a fair amount of editorial work. They don’t publish all articles that meet the standards of rigor. They select those that they think represent interesting information for the reader. Plenty of opportunity to be subject to groupthink and bias confirmation.

    Sure. although I think the type of weeding you are talking about is done more at the level of “interesting topic” not “interesting findings” in any serious journal. Nature, for instance, has certainly published articles with findings on both side of the AGW debate.

  72. domo,

    Further details from Nature on their peer review process…

    Nature receives approximately 10,000 papers every year and our editors reject about 60% of them without review. (Since the journal’s launch in 1869, Nature’s editors have been the only arbiters of what it publishes.) The papers that survive beyond that initial threshold of editorial interest are submitted to our traditional process of assessment, in which two or more referees chosen by the editors are asked to comment anonymously and confidentially. Editors then consider the comments and proceed with rejection, encouragement or acceptance. In the end we publish about 7% of our submissions.

    http://www.nature.com/nature/peerreview/debate/nature05535.html

  73. Ron,

    NM: On wondering why? So confirmation bias couldn’t perhaps play a role?

    It could, of course.

    In the specific case we are talking about, however, it is important to keep in mind that the data error weakens the results rather than strengthening them.

    Confirmation bias seems more likely to play a role when you are overlooking an error that works against your hypothesis rather than when you are overlooking an error that supports your hypothesis…no?

  74. Intelligent design proponents aren’t young earth creationists zoltan.Why do you keep bringing this up in an AGW thread and a coelacanth thread-jack?

    They are about as dumb and lack about as much evidence too. Obviously the correlation being there are those who willfully mistake evidence of global warming’s questionability and there are those who willfully mistake evidence of intelligent design’s questionability. And yet we still get weirdos trying to get this confused with science. Of course, the similarities between YECs and IDers is quite striking, considering the term came from a YEC textbook.

  75. Or as SIV would like to say: Thread-jack for me but not for thee.

  76. Right Wing Realist,

    He is hindered somewhat by the hostility of the “scientific” community in sharing data with him, but helped by the fact that many scientists work for agencies which must adhere to the Freedom of Information Act.

    I browsed around his website a bit.
    I am gonna guess that a biggest factor in that hostility is the combative tone with which he approaches them. He seems particularly dismissive of the amount of labor that is involved in producing, archiving, and sharing the data he asks for.

    Ron,

    On archived code: So pointing to a Matlab module means that other researchers can reproduce Steig’s results?

    I believe so, yes…you might query him directly on that, but there is no reason to believe he is being less than forthcoming with all that would be necessary to replicate his study.

    It is certain that Steig would be obligated by the University of Washington to follow all appropriate data sharing regulations.

  77. Ron Bailey,

    I took the time to look more carefully.

    Regarding: On archived code: So pointing to a Matlab module means that other researchers can reproduce Steig’s results?

    My answer now stands as “most certainly.”

  78. Neu if you run the script you certainly wont get the same result because the data changed. That’s why the best practice is to archive the data used as well as the code.

  79. Come on, Ron Bailey, you’ve been reporting on science for long enough that you should know that peer reviewers don’t go over papers with a fine-toothed comb to make sure there are no mistakes. Nobody in science makes that claim for the process, either.

  80. Reading down the thread, I see that you changed your tune. Interesting…

  81. johnl,

    Neu if you run the script you certainly wont get the same result because the data changed. That’s why the best practice is to archive the data used as well as the code.

    I am not sure I follow you here.
    The data are archived on the same page as the code. Along with updates that reflect the error that sparked the debate.

    Everything you would need.

  82. NM, old thread now, but if you don’t read this, im sure Ron will give me another chance. Do you think Nature’s editorial interest does not bias the types of articles that are chosen for review? I suspect that there is less interest in articles which run contrary to the consensus, to whatever extent these findings are viewed as non-serious. For an extreme example, If I submitted an article on a perpetual motion machine, I presume that they probably wouldn’t get past the title, because they know it’s not serious or even possible. To the extent that scepticism is viewed as if it’s as untenable as perpetual motion – they will not publish those articles.

    Nature, for instance, has certainly published articles with findings on both side of the AGW debate.

    Since you grant me this, you have stipulated my main point, which is that the difference between sceptical findings, and AGW supporting findings is not always non-peer review crackpot theorists vs. peer reviewed “serious science.

  83. domo,

    I am not sure what you where you are trying to go with this. No one who looks at this issue seriously talks about a black and white “scientists vs. crackpots” battle for prominence. There is, however, a concerted effort to distort the debate that comes from the political arena. In the scientific debate, the controversy is around things like the specific sensitivity of the climate to specific forcing factors. The debate is not about whether or not C02 is a forcing factor. What this means is that confirmation bias will work at a much more focused level than, I think, you are implying.

    IMHO, Nature is a very high profile journal, but it is not as important a forum as more narrowly focused journals. All the articles in my field that have appeared in Nature or Science have been of small to moderate importance theoretically, or have provided weak support for an interesting theoretical idea. They have not been critical articles in the development of the science.

  84. No one who looks at this issue seriously talks about a black and white “scientists vs. crackpots” battle for prominence.

    Certainly a lot of influential people have said pretty much exactly that – including Al Gore. Are they serious scientists? I don’t know. Are they seriously attempting to influence public opinion and policy? Absolutely.

    IMHO, Nature is a very high profile journal…

    I have no opinion on this, my critique of Nature was meant more as a general critique of publications that provide peer review.

    More broadly, where I’m going with it is to say that I’m not terribly impressed with peer review as a process for determining. It could be better – a sentiment you would probably agree with. Still, it constantly gets used as a bludgeon on this forum to suggest that AGW sceptics beliefs are not supported in any way by serious science. I’m not accusing you of this (since you have noted the contrary as I pointed out above), but there are plenty of posters here who fit the bill.

  85. domo,

    Still, it constantly gets used as a bludgeon on this forum to suggest that AGW sceptics beliefs are not supported in any way by serious science.

    This, of course, depends upon which specific belief the skeptic has/is using to conclude that AGW is an incorrect hypothesis.

    A lot of the regular canards put out as a reason to be skeptical are not supported in any way by serious science. Off the top of my head I would point to “it’s the sun,” “the climate has always varied,” “there is no optimal temperature,” “it’s been cooler for the last couple of years,” “forecasting scientists have shown the models to be invalid,” and on and on.

    Each of these may have a serious scientific issue that could be said to be thematically related to the canard, but the science typically doesn’t say what the “skeptic” thinks it says, and the argument doesn’t hold much water. A prime example of this kind of difficulty comes from the Wattsupwiththat blog. The guy who runs it is a weatherman, and has some basic science training. But he regularly presents arguments that demonstrate he doesn’t even understand what the basic methods he is critical of are, let alone what they mean.

  86. domo,

    More broadly, where I’m going with it is to say that I’m not terribly impressed with peer review as a process for determining. It could be better – a sentiment you would probably agree with.

    It certainly can be improved, but it is, to draw an analogy with democracy, a terrible system for doing things that is better than any other.

  87. A lot of the regular canards put out as a reason to be skeptical are not supported in any way by serious science. Off the top of my head I would point to “it’s the sun,”

    Are any of these articles/journals serious science? Not being snarky… I am not as familiar with peer review, and what journals are important as you clearly are.

  88. domo,

    Looking quickly, I only see one journal that I would be suspicious of, Energy & Environment, but there are several I have never heard of.

    Of course, the climate stuff is not my area, so I certainly don’t have as good a sense of good/bad as I would in my field.

    One way to check is to look for the journal’s “impact factor”/ check to see if it is listed with ISI, available in your local University Library. Things like that are a good guide to the level of respect the journal gets in its field.

  89. domo,

    Regarding the “it’s the sun” canard.

    The reason it is a canard is not because the sun doesn’t influence climate, but because its influence is careful integrated into the AGW theory and is a primary factor used in building the climate models that have, so far, supported that theory.

    It is a perfect example of non-experts inappropriately seeing a narrow controversy or detail that is still being worked out as something more fundamental/broad that threatens the basic theory.

  90. NM,

    Thanks very much for answering my questions on this thread. I have a great deal of interest in this topic, and I enjoy the discussions about it here quite a bit. While I’m still not convinced, I certainly see the need to dig further.

    The one thing that I do have a good feel for is statistical models of complex systems. My experience is that it is very, very easy to find evidence for any conclusion you like in real life data on complex, non-linear, chaotic systems. It’s so easy to screw up, and seductive too. The chaotic systems I have experience with are mostly time series of financial data, so obviously there are more differences than similarities with climate series – yet there are many important similarities. With financial data, you can start with any reasonable sounding investment thesis, and find a strategy that supports the idea that you have found a money machine. Fitting data is easy, predicting reality, and having the insight to examines ones own limitations is very hard. The markets prove you wrong every day. Experiments can be conducted, conclusions reached in very short order. No so with climate whose changes are on decade time scales at least. I guess we’ll see. Good debating with you.

  91. domo,

    Likewise. I agree with you on your point about chaotic systems. There is, I think, an important difference between climate models and economic models and that is that climate models are grounded much more directly to well understood phenomena.

    Realclimate, I think, does a nice job explaining methodology in the field.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/11/faq-on-climate-models/

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/01/faq-on-climate-models-part-ii/

    The discussion in the comments is often as informative as the initial post.

  92. Hey Domo,

    The word “model” is used at least two ways in the sciences. We have on the one hand “model” in the sense of “generalized linear model” and on the other hand “model” in the sense of “worm-like chain model”. The former sort is the “statistical models” you say you have a good feel for and the latter sort is largely what physicists people in related sciences such as climatology do.

    Of course, there’s overlap. I’m mainly an experimentalist myself but do some “hidden Markov” modeling wherein we fit what are models in the statistical sense but that are constructed using a lot of physics.

    But that aside, the climatologists are doing the latter sort of modeling, building up from the underlying physics using the appropriate simplifications and phenomenological parametrizations. When a lot of well-established laws of physics are constraining you, you can’t find evidence for just about anything in every time series.

    For what it’s worth, too, I have a lot of contact with mathematicians some of whom work on systems that are certainly non-linear and which could be called “complex” by at least a few of the many definitions of that term that circulate. It takes a bit of wizardry and some computing time, but these systems, chaotic or not, do often exhibit some sort of regular and predictable behavior. Regardless, the evidence I’ve seen points to climate not being inherently chaotic over the time scales we worry about when we speak of AGW.

  93. ic e is melting 50 times before 10 years

    this is a big problem becouse it can cover low lands

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