Tag Archives: sloppy science

Old Predictions Make Prejudiced Scientists

On Monday, the Alaska Dispatch News reprinted a Washington Post story by Chris Mooney titled Renowned climate scientist projects rapid rise in sea level, more intense storms The article discusses a research study Dr. James Hansen and 16 of his associates are about to release.  That study predicts gloom and doom even if the UN is successful in controlling climate change. The study has yet to be peer reviewed but is given priority by the Washington Post because as the article states:

It’s an alarming picture of where the planet could be headed — and hard to ignore, given Hansen’s reputation.

Why is it hard to ignore?  Why is gloom and doom by Dr. Hansen news?  Dr. Hansen has been predicting gloom and doom since the 1980’s.  He has been predicting rapid temperature rises and sea level mass destruction since 1982.  His 1988 projections in front of Congress were wrong.  This graph from a Skeptical Science article defending Hansen shows three Hansen predictions.  Scenario A predicted changes with carbon dioxide near current levels: https://i0.wp.com/www.skepticalscience.com/pics/Hansen_1988.gif According to Dr. Hansen, we should be quite a bit warmer.  And I would argue that the black line drawn by Skeptical Science is a bit too aggressive.  Most temperature models show a rapid rise from the 1992 cooling following the  Mt. Pinatubo eruption, to the great El Nino of 1998.  Worldwide temperatures since 1998 have been largely unchanged.  The  Skeptical Science graph makes it look like there is a persistent uptrend that really stopped in 1998.

Climate research sites  UAH, and East Anglia University both show this.   As Skeptical Science said in the article, Dr. Hansen’s models had a too high climate sensitivity. English translation…his predictions were wrong.

Dr. Hansen is not alone, most early models at the IPCC were wildly high  in their predictions.  Climate models have had to be modified to reflect the lack of warming since 1998.   IPCC reports have been toning down the immediate impacts of carbon dioxide (and methane too), using natural climate variation as the reason.

They still think they are right, but natural climate variation appears to be masking the predicted results and their predictions  might take a long time to materialize.  Virtually every temperature based prediction made by the IPCC in the 2007 Climate Change Report was wrong.  The IPCC has now modified their positions to reflect this reality.   Not Dr. Hansen. Back in June of 1988, Dr Hansen is quoted in a New York Times article as saying the following to Congress:

that it was 99% certain that  the warming trend was not a natural variation but was caused by a build up of carbon dioxide and other artificial gasses in the atmosphere.

And in 2007 he had not changed his view one iota as these quotes courtesy of the Steve Goreham website demonstrate:

“…99 percent confiden t that the world really was getting warmer and that there was a high degree of probability that it was due to human-made greenhouse gases.”     —Dr. James Hansen on his 1988 Senate testimony, PBS Frontline, Apr. 24, 2007

Two years later he said:

“The climate is nearing tipping points. Changes are beginning to appear and there is a potential for explosive changes, effects that would be irreversible, if we do not rapidly slow fossil-fuel emissions over the next few decades.”     —Dr. James Hansen, The Observer, Feb. 15, 2009

“The greatest danger hanging over our children and grandchildren is initiation of changes that will be irreversible on any time scale that humans can imagine.”     —Dr. James Hansen, The Observer, Feb. 15, 2009

“Burning all the fossil fuels will destroy the planet we know, Creation, the planet of stable climate in which civilization developed.”     —Dr. James Hansen, letter to Barack and Michelle Obama, Dec. 29, 2008

Back in 1988, we knew much less than we do now and Dr. Hansen was 99% sure he was right.  How could anyone be that sure then or now?   Even the UN is only 90% sure that most warming seen since 1950 is man caused.  Some could be natural climate variation.  This is one extraordinarily difficult science discussion.  A rational person should have more doubt.

Now, Dr. Hansen believes even a modest rise in temperature of less than a degree C will be catastrophic.  I have doubts.  Dr. Hansen is so prejudiced in his view, I doubt he can produce a document that does not display his almost religious zeal on the subject.

Interestingly, the Washington Post decided to use Michael Mann as their independent scientist to discuss this controversial paper presented by Dr. Hansen. Mann would not have been my first choice.

Back in 1998, Dr. Mann produced a paper predicting rapid climate change.  It was the rage of the Climate Community for years. Al Gore used the Hockey Stick Graph as it was called in his film.  In 2005 the study was successfully challenged by Canadian mathematicians.  Dr. Mann has been at the center of a climate fire storm for some 10 years now.

Hansen and Mann share a common problem.  Both made wild predictions in the distant past and must either defend them or admit mistakes.  Neither has been willing to admit errors, and errors were made. Some times I don’t understand journalistic choices.  I cannot think of any duo more shrouded in controversy in Climate Science than Dr. Hansen and Dr. Mann.

All this begs a question – Why did Mr. Mooney give Dr. Hansen such stature and why did he use Dr. Mann as a source confirming the story?

Chicken Little, Smoking and Al Gore

Sunday’s paper included an article on the acidification of the oceans, and another on the changed political world associated with smoking cigarettes.   I sat in my easy chair,  and I let my mind wander.   Almost immediately, Chicken Little and Al Gore popped into my head.  It makes sense, sort of, really, it does.

I have disliked Mr. Gore for a long time, and the article on smoking brought back old memories. Mr. Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, is probably where my smoking Al Gore memories began.    The film discussed skeptics and the smoking lobby in a way that tried to make one interchangeable with the other.   I took it personally.

According to Mr. Gore, I must be immoral, unethical or stupid since I don’t see the world his way.  I find his actions oddly suspicious and, dare I say it…unethical.  Why does Al Gore seem to feel a need to attack those that disagree with him?  He has equated skeptics to people who think the Apollo missions were faked.

Let’s review how Mr. Gore attacked climate skeptics in his film.

  • He began by showing how he was fooled by the evil smoking lobby.  How he grew tobacco on his farm until his sister died of lung cancer in 1984.  I thought Mr. Gore was about 20 years late for the anti smoking party.
  • He then used some statistical gymnastics to “prove” that there was a consensus in science. Everybody that was anybody in science agreed with him.  The science was conclusive.  Earlier in the film he made the point that conventional wisdom is frequently wrong in science.  Most scientists will admit there is no such thing as consensus in science.  Doubt is a part of science.
  • People that disagree with him could not possibly have any factual basis for their argument.  They must have an ulterior motive.
  • The only explanation was that these people were casting doubt and profiting by this effort.  And as Mr. Gore then noted, we have all seen this one before….
  • A slide from a 50’s magazine showing physicians recommending smoking immediately appears.
  • It is followed by a quote from a smoking lobbyist recommending doubt as a strategy.

Casting doubt is a part of the scientific process.  Mr. Gore demonstrated an ignorance of the way science works and personally insulted everyone that disagreed with him.   Why?  To convince the audience that skeptics have no credibility.   Come on Al, argue the science.

I found the character assassination unwarranted and uncalled for.  Why the smoking references?   The two (smoking and carbon dioxide) are very different subjects.

Smoking is an addictive habit with virtually no beneficial offsets. Carbon dioxide is a building block of life.  No carbon dixode, no plants.   As carbon dioxide increases it causes changes in our environment.  Some changes are good, and some are bad.  Some carbon dioxide is good, too much is bad, but how much is too much?

A difficult question…and there is no consensus, no single answer.

Al Gore was not the first and he will not be the last to try to win his argument by attacking the credibility of his opponent.  It is a normal political activity…that does not belong is science.  Ahhh, if only it were so.  The argument has been a recurring one for decades.  The skeptic/smoking talking point seems to be everywhere.  It’s like everybody in the global climate game has the same script.

Let’s talk Chicken Little.

The Oceans  suck up carbon dioxide.  As the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air increases, carbon dioxide increases in the sea.  This presumably causes rapidly accelerating changes in the surface ecosystem of the oceans.   I have read several articles on the subject.  It certainly sounds plausible,  the ecosystem might be in danger?  Unfortunately, I find myself distrusting the science because of one simple problem.  History.

Climate experts have been spouting gloom and doom since the 1980’s.   And at least so far, the sky is not falling.

UN IPCC predictions of doom have been around since the first Climate Assessment was published in 1992.  A strong El Nino in 1998 made these guys look positively brilliant.  And then as the 21st century began, the climate gloom parade developed growing pains.

  • The predictions of accelerating warming failed to show up.  The world stopped warming in 1998.
  • The Mathematics of the Hockey Stick were successfully challenged
  • Scientists got caught cooking temperature numbers in Climate-gate.  The e-mails also displayed an arrogance and disdain for those that disagreed.
  • The IPCC 2007 Synopses predicted erroneously that the Himalaya Glaciers would be gone 30 years.  Their current guess, 400 years.  As a part of the admission, the IPCC was forced to acknowledge some sloppy vetting practices.
  • In 2006 a skeptic found huge errors in NASA climate data, lowering temperatures for the first 6 years of the 21st century.
  • In 2009 Al Gore predicted incorrectly that the Arctic would be ice free by 2013, a year when the Arctic Ice actually grew.  2012 was a big year for ice loss, but a cool summer in 2013 caused at least a temporary change.

The sky could start falling today or tomorrow, and Chicken Little could be right.  But I cannot help but think:

Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

Sea Level Confusion — Part 2

I’ve been reading, trying to understand better why sea level varies so much from location to location. I conducted a google search and found a site affiliated with Yale University.

The site is called Environment 360.   An article titled The Secret of Sea Level Rise: It Will Vary Greatly By Region  provided a bit of insight and some climate propaganda.  The climate propaganda makes me a bit nervous. If the author is inclined to misrepresent in one area, perhaps the rest of the article is less than impartial.  The first paragraph included the following tidbit:

Recent projections suggest a global average warming of perhaps 3 to 4 degrees C, or 5.4 to 7 degrees F, by the end of this century.

A little later in the article:

Sea level, according to the best current projections, could rise by about a meter by 2100, in large part due to melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets.

The article was written in 2010.   Best current projections, give me a break.  In 2010 his best projections would have been IPCC AR4 report published in September of 2007.   That report made no predictions about Greenland and said that data on the Antarctic ice sheet was inconclusive.  AR4 predicted the following in a section titled Projections for Future Changes in Climate:

For the next two decades, a warming of about 0.2°C per decade is projected for a range of SRES emission scenarios

Almost immediately thereafter  sea level rise by 2100 makes an appearance in the form of a chart.  The sea level rise that matched 4 degrees C was …are you ready…between .26 and .59 meter.   The data in the chart (labeled SPM 1 in AR4) showed a range of best guess temperatures from 1.1 to 4.0 degrees C.   4.0 was the highest best guess on the chart.   The author took the highest number possible, and made it sound like the most likely event!

And so far temperature predictions made in the AR4 report have been wild high.

Since Y2K there has been no net change in the temperature of the Earth’s surface.  Temperatures peaked in 1998 and have been wandering in  a narrow range for some 15 years.   Carbon dioxide has been rising steadily, temperature has not.  I have no idea what kind of projections he was referring to.   IPCC projections will, in AR5, almost certainly be less specific.  Nobody likes to have their mistakes so easily documented.

That said the article offers some interesting tidbits about why sea level changes.  Most are short term lasting anywhere from a few days to up to 30 years.   Wind, atmospheric pressure, and changes in the ocean bottom are discussed.    None seemed to help explain the errant data I was seeing (see my last post).   And then I read about gravity!

Supposedly, changes in gravity at the poles can impact sea level.   When the Arctic ice cap shrinks (as it has been doing since the 1970’s) this changes the gravitational force in the area.  Sea level goes down.   And this article predicted significant changes.   The whole thing sounded a bit S.W.A.G.-ish to me.  And given the exaggeration in the beginning of the article I had suspicions.   Still it is an interesting notion.

Another article said that when ice in Greenland melts it can take up to 30 years for that change in sea level to work it’s way around the world.   Another article talked about how difficult is to measure sea level.   The subject seethes with SWAG potential.

NOAA keeps all sorts of data on sea level.   They monitor hundreds of sites (perhaps thousands).   But the sites are not uniformly distributed.   Most are in the USA and in Europe.  Africa has only one official site.  Antarctica has none.

Maybe Antarctica could help explain some of the strangeness of the data.  The ice sheet in Antarctica has been growing in recent years.  2013 has set one record after another.  The ice sheet is the largest it has been (surface area) since satellite data began in 1979,or so says the National Snow and Ice Data Center.  And they have pictures:

It looks like gravitational forces in Antarctica have been increasing in recent years.  Sea level should be higher near the coast of Antarctica and lower in the middle of the Pacific.  It would help explain why Hawaii’s sea level is increasing less than ….say San Francisco.   Perhaps the amount of ice over land in Antarctica might offset the melting in Greenland .

Antarctica and the Arctic might be offsetting each other.

It doesn’t explain why folks in Australia show a rise in sea level that does not persist in California.  Maybe it will even out some time in the next 30 years or so, one way or the other?

Antarctica’s mass is growing.  That’s my best guess for why some sea level data makes no sense.  That and time.   Much of the data in the NOAA data base is less than 30 years old.   There you have it,  my current best wild ass guess.   Absent field measurements of actual sea level activity near Antarctica…who’s to say I’m wrong.

At least I admit I’m guessing!

Temperature Data — Can it be trusted?

Climate Science is full of strange and special temperature related climate moments.  Everything from the Mann Hockey Stick Graph to ClimateGate to simple silly mistakes at NASA’s own National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NASA has a storied history of messing up temperature data.

  • In 2007, a skeptical blogger noticed a Y2K conversion error in NASA’s data set.  Many USA based weather stations were using raw rather than corrected data.  This mistake should have been easy to catch, but NASA missed it for years and years.  O000ps.
  • The gap in individual sites immediately after the Y2K conversion should have been a red flag for NASA as this station data point demonstrates:https://i1.wp.com/images.dailytech.com/nimage/5625_large_Detroit_lakes_GISSplot.jpg
  • When the error was found, 1934 was crowned the warmest year ever, replacing 1998.  In the years that followed,  1934 cooled down again…presto….it’s magic.
  • In 2008 NASA used September data in October for all of Siberia and incorrectly claimed that October of 2008 was the warmest on record.  A short while later it was corrected.
  • A satellite malfunction in 2009 caused NASA to miscalculate the summer Arctic Ice melt. Literally a California sized error.  They overstated the melt by a surface area the size of California.

For years I have been using East Anglia University in the UK as my source for temperature data.   Their data was more stable and matched Satellite data more consistently than did NOAA data.

Then last year I noticed something…

The East Anglia Data was changing too.   I’m not sure exactly when it changed…but it changed.   First lets look at some data published by East Anglia University in 2009:

and compare that to current data:

The charts look virtually identical until about 1940 and then things begin to get….well…odd.   The entire data set from 1940 to 1979 appears to have been shifted by perhaps 0.1 degree C.  Satellite data began in 1979.  All the data from 1979 to 2009 looks the same except for 1998 and 2005.   1998 suddenly got cooler and 2005 got warmer.  Why was the data changed in 2012?  What new information caused the change?

Most climate experts now claim that 2010 was the warmest year in history.   Maybe it wasn’t? And by history, they really mean the last 150 years.  Satellite data still shows a peak in 1998.

In 1977 the conventional wisdom was that a new ice age was coming.  Time Magazine ran a cover story discussing it


I wonder what the world will be saying 35 years from now?

Statistical Shenanigans — A global climate story

Today I thought I’d offer a primer on statistical manipulation.  I am going to take reputable data, cherry pick information and “prove” that global warming since WW II began has been less than advertised.   Here we go.

Let’s begin with the East Anglia University World Temperature Graph

Compare the warming between 1942 and 1991 (or 1878 if you prefer).  The change has been about .1 degree C increase in 50 years.  The climate change shown in this chart before 1950 is presumed by climate hawks to be natural warming (or cooling).

Now lets look at the latest UAH satellite climate data:

Now compare the data for the period beginning in 1991 and ending with the current data (March 2013) as shown on the UAH data set.   No net change.  So the world warmed about .1 degree C. in the 50 years from 1941 to 1991 and there has been no net change since then.  A world that is supposed to be warming isn’t.


I started at a high point.  The answer would have been quite different if I had chosen 1976 as my starting point.   Or 1910 or 1965.  But if I had chosen to begin in …..say…. 1878, I could have shown even slower warming.  Statistical misrepresentation is all about data selection.

The IPCC knows how to select data and present it to their advantage. My last post quotes the IPCC’s 2007 Climate Synopses.  I’ll repeat one of my favorite paragraphs here:

Since the IPCC first report in 1990, assessed projections have suggested  global temperature increases between 0.15 and 0.3  degree C per decade from 1990 to 2005.  This can now be compared with with observed values of about 0.2 degree C per decade, strengthening confidence in our near-term projections.

The statement appears not to match data.  Conveniently the IPCC doesn’t quote a source.  I wonder what data they used?  Not UAH or East Anglia.  Perhaps they didn’t start in 1990. The only way that I can get the arithmetic to match is to start in 1992.   1992 was a very cold year because of the eruption of Mt Pinatubo.  World temperatures dropped about .2 degree C in 1992 because of the volcano.  If there is any year that should not be used as a starting point when calculating climate data, it is 1992.

When I use 1990 or 1991 or 1993 the increase is much less than the .2 degree C stated.  The increase is between .1 degree C and  .15 degree C, depending on the temperature source used and start date selected.  If I had started in 1998 instead, the data would have shown very slight net cooling.  Clearly the IPCC cherry picked data.

The IPCC appears to have ignored temperature variability shown in the East Anglia data that they call natural climate variation in their 2007 AR4 report.  If natural climate variation can produce lower temperatures (and higher temperatures too) for long periods of time, how can you assume any specific set of values supports any specific position?

The IPCC cherry picked data…and then assumed that data proved they were right.  Sloppy science and arrogance displayed in a single paragraph at the most quoted climate document ever produced, the 2007 AR4 Climate Synopses Report, section 3.2.

A few years ago NASA direct temperature data started in 1860 and it showed rapid warming and rapid cooling in the 1870’s.  Today NASA data begins in 1880, while East Anglia still begins in 1850. Why did the NASA data change.

I suspect data manipulation….and SWAG.

IPCC Short Term Predictions are Wrong

Anyone wishing to understand why I don’t trust IPCC (the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) science need only look at the 2007 IPCC Climate Change Synopses Report.   Chapter 3 is one of my favorite chapters, it deals with predicted changes in Climate and is full of wild ass guesses.   Section 3.2 is titled Projections of Future Changes in Climate.   It begins with the following statement

For the next two decades a warming of 0.2 degree C is projected for a range of SRES emissions scenarios.  Even if the concentrations of all GHG’s and aerosols had been kept constant at year 2000 levels, a further warming of 0.1 degree C per decade would be expected.  Afterwards temperature projections are increasingly dependent on specific emissions scenarios.

The very next paragraph states

Since the IPCC first report in 1990, assessed projections have suggested  global temperature increases between 0.15 and 0.3  degree C per decade from 1990 to 2005.  This can now be compared with with observed values of about 0.2 degree C per decade, strengthening confidence in our near-term projections.

I wonder what the IPCC thinks now.   Just about everybody (except NASA) thinks we had a short term temperature peak in 1998.  Since then we have had 15 years of relatively stable climate.   8 years of warming followed by 15 years of stasis.

Last December, a temperature chart in a draft of the next IPCC report (AR5) started making the rounds at the various skeptical web sites including Watts Up With That?     Here is that chart.

The color bands in the chart represent the temperature projections the IPCC has done since it’s first study in 1990.  The black bars are measured temperatures.  Four projections have been issued, FAR in 1990, SAR in1995, TAR in 2002 , and the AR4  (orange) which is the 4th report issued in 2007.  The color bands represent a prediction that is supposed to include 90% of all possible outcomes with 5% percent being higher and 5% being lower than the color band.  The orange band was constructed in 2005 and published two years later.

Just 7 years later, the world temperature is below the range predicted.  We are in 5% land  according to the IPCC.  That’s quite a bit off, just 7 years after the study and only 5 after publication.  2008, the first year after publication was the first year to land completely outside the curve boundary.

The last data included in the graph is now over 2 years old. How have we been doing since 2010.  Let’s look at the UAH satellite data

The running 13 month average is the same as it was in 2000 and .2 degree C below the peak encountered in 1998.  I’d be the first to admit that any conclusion based upon short term data is stupid in a climate cycle that averages 100,000 years per cycle.  The recent past does not prove the science behind global climate change right or wrong, it merely points out that the IPCC practices sloppy science full of wild guessing.

They never should have made such specific projections. Natural climate variation makes any specific projection problematic.   Volcanic eruptions mess things up in the short run (Mt. Pinatubo in 1992 is an excellent example).  The IPCC has difficulty modeling periods before 1850.  They have trouble with the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warming Period.  Climate modeling has come a long way….but it still has a long way to go.  They should have been more circumspect.

Imagine trying to predict changes in your speed relative to the ground while walking on a moving train.  You know your walking speed, but if you don’t know what the train is doing, it is extremely difficult to accurately predict your ground speed.   The IPCC is trying to predict changes caused by man without knowing how to accurately model the natural system.

They were bound to be wrong.    Getting the right answer fifty or one hundred or one thousand years into the future is a very difficult science problem.  The cause is not well served by IPCC wild guesses.

James Hansen Study Revisited — Part 2

In my last post I began a detailed look at Dr. Hansen’s most recent attack on carbon dioxide.  I called his paper a statistical waste of time.   In this post I will explain why I said that.

Dr. Hansen has completed fairly complex statistical analysis of recent climate extremes using the period from 1951 to 1980 as a baseline.   He showed in his paper that the recent past has lots more extreme weather than his base case. He used statistical analysis to argue that the data was so extreme that it could not be natural.   He then concluded that man caused global warming was responsible.

I am reminded of a phrase attributed to Mark Twain:

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Dr. Hansen stated he used the baseline time period because it was a calm period before the storm that is recent global warming.

Dr. Hansen’s analysis could prove to be an interesting argument if his baseline period is representative of climate history.  If it is not, his entire mathematical exercise is pointless.

Here is the East Anglia University Global Air Temperature Graph for the last 150 years

The baseline period used by Dr. Hansen appears to be a calm in the middle of a two storms.  The period from 1911 to 1943 has a slope that is almost as steep as the slope from 1980 to 2000 and the period is 50% longer.    Nowhere in the 150 years of the chart is there less temperature variation than in the baseline period used by Dr. Hansen.    Conclusion: The baseline is almost certainly flawed.

Now look at the change from year to year.  Wild year to year changes are scattered all throughout the chart.  And since about 2002 the chart shows remarkably little change.

The East Anglia University chart seems to argue that Dr. Hansen is guilty of big time data cherry picking.

There are two additional problems with his analysis.

  1. Worldwide temperature data is difficult to accurately measure.  The best data is Satellite data and it has only been available since 1979.  Good ocean data has only been around since about 1990 and Oceans cover 70% of the Earth’s surface.  Even today there are only 9 temperature sites below 60 degree S latitude. He used detailed statistical analysis that relied on relatively small changes in temperature.  He cannot be sure his data is accurate.
  2. He has not proven that the variation he calculated is not normal climate variation.   He has shown a correlation between rising temperature and severe weather….from a calm and false baseline.  It is probable that his baseline is flawed and/or the temperature changes he attributes to carbon dioxide might have some other cause, natural or man made.

Yes it is warmer today than it was 150 years ago, about a degree C warmer.  Is that statistically significant?  Probably not?  Is it wise to extrapolate from the most recent 50 year period in a climate cycle that is 2.5 million years old?  I think not.

Dr. Hansen needs to demonstrate that this 50 year period is extraordinary and a new trend.  This is a particularly difficult task in a system with wild natural fluctuations.  His very small baseline is probably insignificant mathematically.

Is the recent past statistically unusual?  I think not.   You make the call.  We live in the Holocene, a 10,000 year period of unusually stable climate.   Here is a chart of the last 4000 years using a Greenland Ice Core prepared last year.

Wild variation here, there, and everywhere.  Carbon dioxide was fairly stable until about 200 years ago.  4000 years of wild variation, 200 years of presumed carbon dioxide influence, in an unusually stable climatic era.  Hmmm.

And Dr. Hansen  publicly stated just last week

We now know that the chances these extreme weather events would have happened naturally — without climate change — is negligible.

The quotation states something he cannot possibly know with any degree of certainty and it implies that climate change is not natural…something he has assumed without proof of any kind.  This all sounds more like religion than science to me.