Explaining the previous post

Excellent responses to the previous post guys.

I put up that post for a reason, and  just because I was bored.  It was to demonstrate how anyone can pick out some data and present it in a way that makes the point they wish.  But you already know this, so apart from being mischievous what am I really going on about?  Some of you smelled a rat as the emails that landed testify.

The point of the post was to be a lead in to a criticism of  Dr Kevin Trenberth, who is the most visible example of a scientist who guilty of making data look like something it probably isn’t.  Consider this assessment by Luboš Motl of the way Trenberth is using data in a document circulated to the American Meteorological Society (AMS):

So Hansen’s prediction for the 12-year interval is wrong by 0.60 °C. Now, Trenberth tries to downplay this error as a consequence of “short-term natural variability” that should be ignored and that has earned the label “travesty” just because of a typo. The error is obviously too tiny, he says in between the lines – and sometimes explicitly.

But note that this 0.60 °C discrepancy per the 12-year period is as high as the whole 20th century “global warming” that remains the main empirical argument in favor of the “climate disruption”. How is it possible that the change by 0.60 °C per century is a “sign of a looming catastrophe” while the same unexpected change by 0.60 °C – but now per 12 years (a much faster change) – is a tiny error or an effect that may be ignored?

It is on the strength of such selective use of data by Trenberth to to arrive at predictions – that are often used as a baseline by other scientists for their research – that hundreds of billions of pounds are being spent to ‘tackle’ something that is unlikely to be caused by humans, but equally might not be the problem it is framed to be.

If the temperature stalls or declines by a certain figure, it’s short term natural variability.  If it rises by the same amount, it is climate disruption.  Trenberth can’t have it both ways.  It is logical fallacy such as Trenberth’s that call into question the whole AGW narrative.

7 Responses to “Explaining the previous post”

  1. 1 Mike Spilligan 14/01/2011 at 7:25 am

    Many thanks for this succinct posting. I think even Monbiot and the cultural warmists should understand it. However, the technical warmists will look through their “Yes, but …..” list.

  2. 2 Labmunkey 14/01/2011 at 8:05 am

    Just found your blog. Some interesting stuff.

    Glad you cleared the issue from the last post up too.

  3. 3 Scooper 14/01/2011 at 10:44 am

    No wonder so many scientists want to work in Climate change. Grants are generous and easy to get as long as you are working on proving the next catastrophe and ultimately the results don’t matter. Whatever the outcome, the answer is Climate change. Whether temperature go up or go down. Whether sea levels rise or fall. Whether there’s more arctic ice than last year or less. Whether the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is higher or lower than anticipated. Whether rainfall around the world is higher at the same time as everywhere being under threat of drought. Whether we have cold or mild winters. Whether we have a ‘barbecue summer’ or a complete washout. Whether glaciers are retreating or growing. The answer is climate change caused by us evil humans.

    Thank god we have the internet to expose these charlatans. Their day of reckoning will surely come.

  4. 4 Steve 14/01/2011 at 2:05 pm

    Motl gives an “error” of 0.6C. This is wrong.

    In 1988 Hansen offered 3 projections based on different “scenarios” of greenhouse gases: A, B and C for high, medium and low. A gave the most warming. Motl pretends that greenhouse gases have gone up according to Scenario A. Unfortunately, most people, including Steve McIntyre, believe that Scenario B is more likely:


    Obviously, that still leaves a discrepancy. However, Hansen’s model was an early model. The next generation of models developed in the early 1990s showed a lower response to warming due to a correction in the estimate of the warming effect of CO2. This will account for the some of the rest of the discrepancy.

    A gap still exists, and temperatures are tracking at the bottom end of the projections (though not outside the range). So the gap is not nearly so significant as Motl is making it to be.

    I am only a follower of the science, and I can understand Trenberth’s comment. If we had better observations we could nail the sensitivity of the atmosphere and ocean much sooner. Argument such as those that Roy Spencer and Andrew Dessler have about whether warming is the result of internal variability or not would be resolved.

  5. 5 peter geany 14/01/2011 at 3:01 pm

    AM you are to be congratulated on getting people to think. If only we were still able to do this with our politicians. “Global Warming” Climate Change” Climate Disruption” call it what you like, has been the perfect vehicle for this almost evangelical crusade to rid the world of Carbon. It has had people arguing about temperature records, about sea ice, about Polar Bears, about rain forest and about deserts. In fact about everything except exactly how CO2 is supposed to warm the planet.

    You see for 99.9999% of the population we have no means of studying, or even reviewing data, of those who do study this subject and therefore are not able to comment with any authority. And by my reckoning 99.9999% of scientists do not study this subject so getting an authoritative comment is extremely difficult. Amongst those that do study the atmosphere to the extent that they are able to comment on the radiative forcing of CO2 there is little in the way unanimity.

    This is partly because it is impossible to physically measure the effect of CO2 as a “greenhouse gas” in our atmosphere. So we have Meteorologists and others, who are mostly not atmospheric physicists, producing computer models based on the theoretical behaviour of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere. And the first thing we learn is that on its own a CO2 concentration increase from 300 ppm to 600 ppm would have little effect on the temperature. Without labouring through all the reasons for this it’s sufficient to say all parties mostly agree this point. So with our CO2 Concentration only at 400 ppm what is all the fuss about?

    The warmists have developed the theory that the small amount of warming that CO2 causes, will in turn cause more water to evaporate into water vapour. And water vapour is the main greenhouse gas and most important gas for keeping the earth’s atmosphere warm when the Sun goes down. Have these scientists been able to measure this effect and quantify it? Of course not! Have they come close to any convincing argument? No.

    So how did we get to where we are? Because those who wish to pursue their apocalyptic agenda knew they would get nowhere arguing the physics and turned to the temperature record that the public would understand and started to work the numbers. What they didn’t count on was that nearly everyone on the planet with an education and a reasonable understanding of mathematics would suddenly become capable of informed comment. And when those with more advanced knowledge of statistics looked at some of the methods questions started to be asked.

    And then engineers like myself, who often retain their interest in science in general start to think about how all this works and ask some very awkward questions like, why is CO2 a pollutant when it is essential to life and so on. We start to think about how everything interacts, we were taught back in school that the atmosphere was a chaotic system so how does this gel with the radiative forcing theory. And we find that the warmists continue to push out rubbish about a “global Average temperature” Do me a favour, they can no more measure that accurately than fly to Mars and live there. They almost never mention water vapour because if it became common knowledge that water vapour could make up almost 95% of the greenhouse effect then they may lose the argument. Also always ignored is the size of the natural CO2 budget and how small the manmade part is.

    So it is back to temperature records, and polar bears and sea ice and sea level rises. As individuals we don’t have the means of independently verifying all the official data, although Antony Watts has done a great job in the US to demonstrate that most US weather stations are not fit for purpose, so our only course of action is to challenge the integrity of authority, an extremely difficult path to tackle and one where authority usually wins. We are in luck though as Nature is not playing ball, and a day of reckoning is approaching. And if the Sun continues its slumber we are in for a real game changer. And just as the political class continue to lay blame for the financial meltdown on the Banks; diverting attention from their own complicit behaviour, nature and natural variability is getting the blame for the current cold snaps. Ultimately it has been the absence of a of an enquiring press, the lowering of education standards and opportunism by the political class that has allowed this cock and bull story to become accepted science and develop into one of the greatest scams in history..

  6. 6 Steve 16/01/2011 at 2:28 am


    Engineers like yourself ought to know that there is lots of evidence that air holds more water vapour when the weather is warmer.

    Perhaps if you are an engineer are you concerned that some elements and compounds are sometimes “essential” in small quantities yet damaging or less useful in higher concentrations. At which point does the carbon content of steel become less useful for example?

  7. 7 peter geany 16/01/2011 at 4:27 pm

    Steve, I’m not sure what point you are making here. Carbon dioxide is not a trace element in the same way the carbon content of steel is used to change its properties. Carbon dioxide is a primary constituent of life, and whilst we in the animal world don’t use it in respiration, it’s a by-product just as in the burning of a hydrocarbon fuel is; we could not survive in a CO2 free atmosphere. Too much CO2 is of course dangerous long term, but we are not likely to get anywhere close to those concentrations, even if we burnt all the worlds hydrocarbon fuel reserves in one year. However CO2 is plant food and any increase in concentration is reflected in greater crop output. Just think, how did the dinosaurs grow so large?

    Several points you should research here. Check out the size of the Natural Carbon budget as compared to the man made one. And check all the authors, for there is little agreement other than the man-made contribution is puny in comparison to the Natural budget. Next ask yourself why only the CO2 from man-made sources supposedly stays in the atmosphere and only the Natural CO2 is absorbed by the oceans? For tied up in this little conundrum is a whole can of worms about carbon dating and ice cores, but again very little agreement.

    A word on CO2 Concentrations; any notion that CO2 is distributed evenly throughout the atmosphere is ludicrous as the largest emitters are the tropical oceans and rainforests. Yet we have only the measurements taken from a remote volcano in Hawaii to rely on. And even here these are not direct chemical measurement but a convoluted set of analysis done on air that first has to be dried and then passed through an infrared spectrometer. No chemical backups are taken to ensure accuracy.

    Now to water: Water is one of the most remarkable compounds in the universe. It makes possible our form of life. Water vapour is the greenhouse gas, as I mentioned above, but water vapour suspended in our atmosphere can at the blink of an eye condense back into a liquid as cloud. Clouds reflect radiation and stop it reaching earth. Another remarkable property of water is that it expands when a solid. If it did not do this our oceans would be frozen solid and there would be no life on earth.

    It is also worth clearing up the confusion of terms surrounding Carbon. Carbon is life, and it probably has something to do with the fact that it has 4 bonds. Anyway in nature Carbon occurs in 3 forms, carbon black, graphite, and diamond. 3 very distinctly different materials made just of the same element, none of which exist in the atmosphere. Most Carbon however exists as part of a compound. CO2 is a compound, as is limestone, as is coal or methane, in fact there are tens of thousands of carbon compounds including you Steve, and again any notion that we can “de-carbonise” our economy demonstrates the most grotesque form of arrogance I have ever witnessed and is proof, if it were ever needed that our education system has not just gone off the rails but has hit the buffers at full speed.

    So Steve there is far more to our world than the one dimension that AGW preaches. I am more than well aware of many of these, and absolutely sure that I and the rest of mankind have barely scratched the surface of total understanding. What we can be sure of is that currently the scaremongering about CO2 is just that, scaremongering.

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