Open thread: state of the blog

Not much has caught my interest in terms of climate happenings this week (perhaps this is a symptom associated with the head spinning).

There have been some interesting discussions on framing and narratives, including here, and at collide-a-scape,collide-a-scapedotearth.   The zeitgeist of the week seems to be “so what do we do now, surely we should be doing something about energy policy and reducing our vulnerability to weather disasters.”  A welcome change, something more meaningful to be talking about (rather than climategate, plagiarism, etc).

Later this weekend I will post some comments on the “control knob” paper from the GISS group and Anastassia Makarieva’s new paper.

If nothing else “catches” this weekend, perhaps we can discuss the the state of the blog.  Climate Etc. was launched a little over a month ago.  Climate Etc. has attracted a very interesting community of commenters, and I am learning a lot (which is an important hook for me in doing this).

Since I’m a data driven person, here are some blog stats.  While I refuse to get caught up in blog muscle wars, some of the stats provided by are quite interesting in terms of understanding blog dynamics.  Blog traffic has been pretty much optimal:  sufficient to be rewarding (passed the 100,000 hit mark and approaching 5,000 comments) but not overwhelming.   Moderation has not been an issue after the first weekend.

The list of referring web sites is interesting.  WUWT and Climateaudit top the list, with BishopHill and Air Vent also with a substantial number of referrals.  Other sites with more than 100 referrals  are Deltoid, Pielke Sr., Only In It For the Gold, Blackboard, Climate Depot, Collide-a-Scape, Tom Nelson, Deep Climate, Stoat, and then others with more than 50 referrals are Thingsbreak, Rabbett Run, Moyhu, Junkscience.  Some of the referrals come from the blogrolls, others come from a link in a post or a comment.  Clicks from Climate Etc. to other blogs (in order of frequency with > 100 clicks) are BishopHill, WUWT, ClimateAudit, Air Vent, Roy Spencer, Pielke Jr., RealClimate, NoFrakkingConsensus, Tamino, Blackboard, Collide-a-Scape, Pielke Sr., Climate Abyss, Klimazwiebel, Bart Verheggen, ClimateProgress.

Climate Etc. posts with the largest number of hits are Welcome, Doubt, No Consensus, What can we learn from climate models, Recent challenges to the credibility of climate science, Open threads 10/7, 10/14.   Most of the threads have “staying power” in terms of continuing to get hits; the posts with the least staying power were hurricanes and Pakistan.  Seems like people are interested in the big picture issues, prefer the posts that aren’t too technical, and have an insatiable appetite for dishing about climategate and the hockey wars.

Well what does all that mean?  Not much, really.  The important issues are whether people are learning something, checking out new sources of information, changing their mind or at least becoming less certain about previous held positions, and of course having fun.

From my perspective, there are MAJOR advantages to having my own blog, versus doing Q&A’s or drive by’s at other blogs.  Since the inception of Climate Etc., I have not been mentioned at either Climate Progress or Climate Depot, which is a victory in itself.  Some of my posts have engendered discussions at other blogs.  The “mainstream” climate blogs are mostly ignoring me, although I guess Eli Rabett didn’t get the memo since he persists in the “Curry is an idiot” meme.  All that blogospheric silliness that I managed to get caught up in is bypassed by making the arguments I want to make on my own blog.

What has really exceeded my expectations is the quality of the comments.  Climate Etc. has attracted some really interesting and knowledgeable people from diverse fields and and with diverse backgrounds and interests.  The comments have been surprisingly well written, especially for the blogosphere.  I really expected more of a “sparring” atmosphere; many of the people that I have jousted with elsewhere in the blogosphere haven’t showed up here (which is on balance a good thing).  Climate Etc.  has definitely attracted the “thinking” part of the climate blogosphere.

From my personal perspective, creating the posts takes A LOT of time, it remains to be seen whether I can keep up this pace.  I find that it takes 2000 words to make an argument and provide the relevant background.  I know my posts tend to be long by blogospheric standards,  I am trying to carve them up into smaller pieces.  I expected to spend more time interacting with other commenters.  Mostly I respond to whatever recent posts show up on my dashboard at the time, so my apologies if you ask me a specific question and it doesn’t get answered.  There is a trade off in terms of time I spend preparing posts vs time spent on the comments.

I’ve proffered about a half dozen invites to other scientists to lead threads or be interviewed, I need to follow up and get some of these nailed down.  My original idea was to have frequent posts from other people, but that hasn’t materialized yet.

Michael Larkin states at Collide-a-Scape:  “There is only one place I can think of that is consciously trying to provide an environment for dialogue to occur, and that’s Judith Curry’s new blog. I’m not yet sure whether it will achieve what it sets out to, or in the end, turn out to be a naïve hope. The jury’s still out, I guess.”

Yes, the jury is still out.  I would appreciate any feedback or suggestions that you have on the blog, related to format, posts, blogroll, future topics etc.

And finally let me take this opportunity to thank each of you for your contributions to the blog.

242 responses to “Open thread: state of the blog

  1. Hi Judith

    Personally i like the long articles as it gives you time to express your views on subjects that interest you. I’m sure many of us appreciate your individual replies to our comments and would not like to see the current level of respose reduced any further. Yes, the standard of comment has been uniformly good with very little sparring and a lack of sarcasm.

    It would be interesting to see some articles by other scientists as we can then discover your views on subjects you haven’t chosen yourself.

    As the weeks go by you are certainly coming over as increasingly sceptical-spelt the british way and with a lower case ‘s’ so you know that its relative. :)


    • Paul in Sweden


      Your posts here at Climate, etc. are very informative(I’m learning). I can also be included in the group that appreciates your long format and attention to blog comments.

      A week or two ago I was on ordering Roger Pielke Jr’s “The Climate Fix” and I thought that I might be able to pickup one of your books also. It took just moments to realize that the two Judith Curry choices were “likely” with a high level of “certainty” not written with the lay reader in mind.

      Should a Judith Curry book announcement occur at some point in the future I would certainly pre-order it. :)

  2. I like the length, and depth of your posts. Please continue.

  3. It all appears to be going swimmingly! Some of my minor criticisms of the format persist, though as ever they chiefly revolve around the issue of comment numbering and referencing others’. Indented comments are working very well on the blog but, because I tend to keep up with most blogs via comment RSS feed subscriptions, it’s there that I meet issues – the comment stream in the RSS feed doesn’t preserve the context of the indent on the blog. There’s no realistic way to resolve this issue except to order me (perfectly reasonably) to visit the blog rather than read the RSS comment stream. I’m reading your blog, the least you should expect in return is a page impression! :)

    If someone thinks Curry is an idiot, Simon thinks that Judith must be doing something right. Talking in the third person smacks of narcissism. Accordingly, I expect Eli to blame you, at some point, for making Eli look like an idiot.

  4. Agreed that the relative lack of silly ad-homs is a pleasant and welcome surprise. The quality of your posts and subsequent comments keeps me reading and learning

    Also agree that contributions of learned posts has been somewhat disappointingly a little sparse to date. Perhaps you have hit the “we do not debate in public” wall … I hope not :)

    I suspect one of the reasons for the relative lack of comments on the Pakistan floods is that this disaster was constantly billed in the MSM as the worst flooding since the country was formed – without noting that this actually occurred only in 1947 when it was partitioned from India in a hopeless attempt to quell the vicious Hindu-Moslem in-fighting. “The worst floods in 60 years” doesn’t quite have the same resonance to it. I could be wrong here of course, and I’m certainly not down-playing the horrible scale of the recent floods.

  5. “The “mainstream” climate blogs are mostly ignoring me, although I guess Eli Rabett didn’t get the memo since he persists in the “Curry is an idiot” meme. ”

    You listed the mainstream climate blogs.

  6. ” I really expected more of a “sparring” atmosphere; many of the people that I have jousted with elsewhere in the blogosphere haven’t showed up here (which is on balance a good thing). Climate Etc. has definitely attracted the “thinking” part of the climate blogosphere.”

    That is what I was trying to explain with my first comment here. Moderation is not required on a thinking blog in almost all cases. There is plenty of garbage but most is thoughtful. To the point where you can post a thread on the most contentious issues and end up discussing the nuance of an equation.

    Welcome, but be prepared to be wrong once in a while on real issues.

    That is what makes science blogging worthwhile.

  7. Congratulations on an interesting and necessary blog!

  8. I’m hooked and keep learning lots. Thanks. I think you have a unique niche here.

  9. Michael Larkin

    Dr. Curry,

    I was surprised you’d noticed my post at Collide-a-scape!

    I stand by what I said, except that of late, WUWT also seems to have been entertaining more debate – which is not to say that it hasn’t always been the case there that those with orthodox views who post in reasoned tones (an important caveat) usually get treated with respect. One regrettable lapse on this point I can recall is how you were treated there earlier in the year.

    It’s looking good at Climate etc. so far. I too have noticed that a number of threads here seem to have stamina and keep on attracting comments for a fair amount of time. This is probably because your posts are well-structured and information-dense. Frankly, I doubt that you need to do more than one substantive post a week, and could probably get by with less if you have to.

    It’s the old maxim of quality vs. quantity. This is your “signature offering” as it were, and I don’t think you need to split up posts just to fit in with the form at other blogs. You have your own particular niche, so I would do what comes naturally if I were you. The fact you have been notably successful so far tends to confirm your “product” is finding an appreciative audience.

    I’m wondering who it is that you have been inviting that has not yet done guest posts. I can imagine that some might be loath to do that because, with today’s insane logic, anyone who takes you up might be regarded as having gone over to the “dark side”. I notice you seem to have had most visitors coming from sceptical/lukewarmist sites; warmists may well regard you as worse than a denier: a heretic or traitor. It could be, you never know, that things have been relatively civilised here because the majority of your visitors are not ardent warmists. If they were coming in droves, I think the sparks might begin to fly.

    Which does tend to raise the point that “genuine debate” may be a term that is in the lexicon principally of the lukewarmists and sceptics. If so, that is regrettable. It would just point to the limited scope of influence any sane blog such as yours could have. My guess is that the most attention you might get from warmists would be attacks on you at their own sites.

    Not being technically qualified in climate science or even a particularly numerate discipline, I can’t make very informed comments in the technical threads, but I do read them and absorb what I can. I think the open threads are important, and again, I think you could get by with one a week or so.

    As regards your blog roll, I personally would find it beneficial if your cited blogs were grouped by category (as at WUWT). Not because I don’t already know what stance most of them take, but purely for convenience.

    A final point is that I personally would prefer it if responses weren’t nested. It would be easier, imo, if that feature were disabled – it’s easy enough to refer to a prior posting at the end of the thread. I know that sometimes I have visited here and wanted to see new posts in a thread, but been put off because I have to go back and forth between recent comments and the thread. In any case, if a thread is busy, presumably some of the recent comments will have dropped off the end, maybe to be read by very few.

  10. In my opinion, indenting comments is not a very good idea.

    As for a general impression, here is what the Yi-King reveals:

    Your question was:
    How is Judith’s blog?

    The sage answers:
    11. T’ai / Peace

    — —
    — — above K’un The Receptive, Earth
    — —
    ——- below Ch’ien The Creative, Heaven

    The Judgement

    Peace. The small departs,
    The great approaches.
    Good fortune. Success.

    The Image

    Heaven and earth unite: the image of Peace.
    Thus the ruler
    Divides and completes the course of heaven and earth;
    He furthers and regulates the gifts of heaven and earth,
    And so aids the people.

    The Lines

    Nine in the third place means:
    No plain not followed by a slope.
    No going not followed by a return.
    He who remains persevering in danger
    Is without blame.
    Do not complain about this truth;
    Enjoy the good fortune you still possess.

    19. Lin / Approach

    — —
    — — above K’un The Receptive, Earth
    — —
    — —
    ——- below Tui The Joyous, Lake

    The Judgement

    Approach has supreme success.
    Perseverance furthers.
    When the eighth month comes,
    There will be misfortune.

    The Image

    The earth above the lake:
    The image of Approach.
    Thus the superior man is inexhaustible
    In his will to teach,
    And without limits
    In his tolerance and protection of the people.

  11. I’d go for non-nested comments too. Leave it to commenters to quote or link to what they are responding to.

  12. I’d give this place a clean bill of health. Healthy discussion, and I’ve learned a fair bit myself. I say feel free to put the long posts up, especially regarding more technical matters – certain topics just don’t break down easily. The debate here doesn’t cover all ends of all spectrums equally, but it is a diverse and fairly educated crowd, and a shifting one (we’ll see what the future brings).
    I’ve thought about topics I would recommend for this place, but so far I’ve preferred to watch the threads unfold and see what ground is being covered. I would second that there’s no need to post so many big issues in a given week – people seem to be spending a lot of time on the preceding ones.
    And I think I like the nesting, I think.

  13. Dr. Curry,

    There is a sizable portion of the alarmist blogosphere for whom “the science is settled” is a crucial part of the catechism. Any statement (or even the raising of a question) which strays from adherence to that catechism is heresy. You’ve been discussing uncertainty and raising questions. Completely unacceptable. I think some now see you as a non-person.

    However, I suspect that you find it a bit liberating. The beauty of having your blog is that you get to be yourself and set your own rules. You write what you find interesting and you can easily avoid being boxed in or pigeon-holed by those who want to criticize.

    There are so many disciplines which converge on this scientific/economic/political issue and so many bright people from so many different fields who have interesting perspectives to bring to the discussion. I would imagine that viewing the discussion from such a vantage point is vastly different for you than viewing it from the context of the peer-review publication perspective of an academic.

    I’m eager to see what guests you bring in and what topics they choose. I’m hopeful that you will succeed in bringing some more diversity to the academic discussion. Some scientists have claimed that there is career pressure to adhere to the IPCC view. If that’s true, perhaps you will be able to coax some folks out of the closet to guest here.

  14. Very much appreciate your efforts Dr. Curry, as well as the general civility here.

  15. Judith, you seem to be doing plenty of things right. It’s only an impression, and perhaps an instance of confirmatory bias, but I do get the impression that the tone of discourse at other sites has risen slightly since you started blogging. Now and again in a heated exchange one sees your name bruited as an instance of a truly sceptical scientist, and although the cheer-review squad treat you as a traitor to your class, the thread mysteriously thereafter gets more adult and less first-year common room. You find the abuse irksome, but behind it lies respect, and not a little fear. At times I find you too tolerant of folly, but I have to admit that rationing your censure increases the value of the currency.

  16. Long and/or technical posts are always going to scare some people away. Maybe I should try to do a pop-sci version of some of them for those people who lack the time or inclination.

    • Bishop. With your demonstrated capacity to present accurate summaries of complex issues relating to climate, would you consider developing a concluding summary of each significant thread.

      Judith generally puts up very interesting posts on important climate issues, attracting comments that range across the spectrum. By the time the thread runs out of steam, it is usually pretty clear where the truth of the matter lies, and it deserves to be captured and presented to a wider audience.

  17. You ask about topics to discuss.
    Around a year ago I posted a new study by Qing Bin Lui on the possible reasons as to why the ozone hole hadn’t reduced substantially in line with modelled predictions.

    Qing Bin Lui believed there was a relationship to cosmic rays (and man made Cfc’s).

    I’m not sure I saw his recent study from June 2010 referenced above given much publicity but it provides a very plausible explanation as to how CFC’s-rather than Co2-was the cause of warming from 1950 to 2000.

    Personally I remain doubtful that we fully know the cause. When asking the Max Planck institute and Cambridge University whether the ozone hole could always have existed and just couldn’t be measured prior to the 1950′s I was told this was ‘possible.’

    Our knowledge of the atmosphere, sun and climate in general is at a far lower level than we believe.

    Does anyone have any comments on the finger being pointed at cfc’s instead of Co2? Could someone provide an update of the state of the ozone ‘hole’ and comment as to whether it might have always been there?


  18. Comments off late seem to be mainly coming from the “skeptical” PoV. That makes the discussion a bit more one-sided (and sometimes, though not always, removed from reality).

    I think collide-a-scape also offers such a genuine dialogue where people with different PoV’s meet and discuss. It’s incredibly difficult though to have all sides represented; it seems that there are always strong forces pulling it in one or the other direction.

    I also prefer comments to not be nested.

    • I gues that comes down to perceptions..

      Whose reality… Is more real?

      Ultimately, it all comes down to sensitivity/feedbacks?
      Where is the work (non computer models) being performed to identify the reality of feedbacks.

      Will anyone believe them, because the computer modelors are so attached to their models..

      In very many situations outside climate science, computer modellers have questioned real data that does not fit their models?!

      • Yes, in other sciences it also happens that when models and measurements are in disagreement, that the fault is sometimes found with the observations and sometimes with the models.

        E.g. a particle physicist told me that the former has ‘recently’ happened more than the latter.

      • So the 2 – 4 x time error of overestimated tempertaure bythe various IPCC projections for now.. Just means the data (or planet is wrong)?

        Or is sensitivty low, or other natural factors underestimated or not discovered?

      • I don’t find that surprising when it comes to particle physics. It takes a tremendous amount of time and resources to do get those observations. Before you get to do the experiments, you really need solid models. Even though particle physics is weird, untouchable and defies common sense, it’s still testable. You can break the theory down to smaller and testable experiments and can (and have to) prove a hypothesis right or wrong.

        Proving a model right or wrong in climate science is a lot more difficult.

    • IMO, comments are onesided because Dr Curry has positioned her blog as a sceptical blog. That may not have been her intention, but her comments are uniformly critical of the IPCC and those whose opinions are close to it. Reading her blog, for example, there are major problems with the way the IPCC characterizes uncertainty, but (apparently) no problems with the way that sceptics (or Dr Curry) do so.

      Given the very onesided nature of Dr Curry’s criticisms, there is no particular reason for scientifically literate “warmists” to pretend that a discussion here will in anyway be constructive, or advance science.

      • FYI, I have positioned my blog as a science blog, not as an information blog; there is a distinction. The other blogrolls that have classified Climate Etc. have classified it as “lukewarmer” or “neutral.” Science is a process that questions and examines.

      • I hink it’s fair to say that the blog posts themselves are scientific, comments OTOH, are an entirely different barrel of monkeys.

      • Given the very onesided nature of Dr Curry’s criticisms, there is no particular reason for scientifically literate “warmists” to pretend that a discussion here will in anyway be constructive, or advance science.

        Tom Curtis: From what I can tell, Dr. Curry basically accepts the climate change position but has reservations about the degree of certainty and the degree of climate sensitivity claimed by the majority of climate scientists as set forth in IPCC reports. She does defend conventional climate science against the more skeptical here. That’s not one-sided.

        What I hear in your criticism, perhaps mistakenly, is that Curry is not one-sided enough, i.e. she doesn’t follow and defend the IPCC with the sort of bunker mentality that climate change advocates seem to require these days.

        Furthermore, she believes that there needs to be more places for open debate on climate change. She graciously allows skeptics to speak and is willing to learn from them sometimes. And we learn from her. I’d say that’s constructive.

        But I get the distinct impression from many climate change people that no discussion about climate can be considered constructive unless it validates the IPCC party line. Dissent is met with censoring, deleting, ridicule, deceit, and shunning.

        That’s not science and it makes me and others suspicious. If the science so overwhelmingly favors the climate change side, why do climate change advocates have such a tough time making their points in open debate? Why do they so often feel the need to control and rig debate?

        Like it or not, climate change advocates have lost public trust. If they consider climate change such a huge crisis, they need to regain that trust. An important way to do so is to discuss climate change in an open forum such as Dr. Curry’s (as opposed to say, RealClimate). It may not advance science, but it is constructive.

      • Like it or not, climate change advocates have lost public trust. If they consider climate change such a huge crisis, they need to regain that trust.

        Speaking of climate change as “huge crisis” … IMHO, it is within the realm of possibility that “climate change” is in competition with (and might even be subsumed by) “unprecedented biodiversity loss” as “huge crisis” de jour:

        Move over IPCC … here comes IPBES

        Of COPs, MOPs and a global battle of duelling doomsayers

        On the “to nest or not to nest” debate, I count myself among the “pro-nesters” … It’s easy to find more recent comments by plugging the date I want to review/catchup-on in my browser’s Search feature (Ctrl+F in MSIE and Firefox).

        And while I’m here, I’d like to add my voice to those of other non-scientists who very much appreciate Dr. Curry’s efforts to make even the science accessible/comprehensible to all :-)

      • Dr Curry’s criticisms are onesided in that while she applies them liberaly, and often without obvious warrant to the IPCC; she refuses to apply similar criticisms to what she calls the “climate auditors”, even when (as is often the case) they are more deserved in that direction.

      • As to the issue of public trust, while the IPCC and climate scientists have lost that trust, that has not been because of their behaviour or methods; but because of a determined and often dishonest campaign to “swiftboat” them. The solution, then is not for the climate scientists to change their methods. Rather it is to expose the inconsistencies, and where appropriate the dishonesties of the “swiftboaters”.

      • while the IPCC and climate scientists have lost that trust, that has not been because of their behaviour or methods

        So hiding data, trying to keep opposing viewpoints out of journals etc etc, is really kosher science ?

    • Alex Heyworth

      Bart, science progresses by the prevailing wisdom being subjected to critical scrutiny. Uncritical cheering on of the status quo achieves nothing.

      Even if criticism is wrong, it is still worthwhile. If a criticism can be convincingly refuted, it strengthens the case for the prevailing view.

  19. As with some of the other posters above, i prefer the longer, well-thought out (and written) posts.

    Most people here seem to be quite intelligent (myself excluded!) so i would caution against going down the ‘pop science’ route.

    The problem with climate science is that it is hidden behind a miasma of generalities, ill-defined probabilities and distraction. Having a techincal, to the point and direct blog helps to cute through this in my view.

    Re- the number of your pieces, quality is far more important that quantity. As you’ve seen, get the right subjects and the discussions will carry on for quite a while after you’ve posted your next piece.

    Re- the site mechanics:
    -I actually like the indenting and the conversation ‘lines’ it helps keep discussions confined (especially OT ones).
    – the latest post tab on the main page is brilliant and allows you to track multiple discussions at once.
    – please put numbers on the posts for easier referencing!

    Most importantly, keep it up and enjoy it.

    • Cut through as opposed to cute through- whatever that is.

      – and now i’ve thought about it, an EDIT button would be GREAT :-)

      • The devil IS in the detail with climate science…

        97% of scientists would agree with AGW…
        does that mean 1.0C of sensitivity or 3, 5 7 or 9.0C?!

        As would agree with AGW theory at a low sensitivity.
        (even though it may yet prove negative feedback, andwhere will we all be then)
        ie, Low sensitivity as all IPCC previous models/projections have overshot actual temperature (reality) in the last 10 years

        So the long detailed technical posts is where we should be…

        as an aside:
        I’ve spent 10 years on a forum that has adn edit function, thus it has become ingrained that I can go back an edit typos, grammar etc..

        Get it, down edit later..

        Unfortuanetly, I forget that most blogs don’t have thus function…!

  20. Ian Blanchard

    Professor Curry

    Thank you for providing this highly informative site, and particularly for your clear expositions of the limits and uncertainties of our understanding of climate and particularly of how to model the same.

    As you have already noted, there is definitely a skewed distribution in the commenters to the blog – I would guestimate about 2/3rds appproach from the skeptical side of the spectrum (i.e. luke-warmers and those unconvinced of CO2’s power to significantly change the heat-trapping properties of the climate). I suspect this will always tend to be the case, because those of us who doubt the big story often spend quite a lot of time examining (and in many cases re-inforcing) those doubts – as an analogy, it is often said that aetheists spend more time thinking about God than do believers.

    As for the topics that interest me, these are undoutedly the ‘big picture’ topics – mechanisms within the Earth system (ocean and atmospheric circulation, bio-geochemistry) and the discussions that flow into political and economic decision making and into the psychology of belief or denial.

    The story with hurricaine / tropical storm frequency and severity is interesting, but I think one conclusion from the moderate to low activity NA storm seasons over the last 5 years is that we seem less certain of our understanding now than we were (or at least than the media gave the perception we were) in 2005 (i.e. that some of the things the specialist science community thought were known knowns seem to have slipped back to being known unknowns).

    With regard to stories such as the flooding in Pakistan – to me these currently are ‘weather, not climate’ stories, and while obviously such events are catastrophic there is little that can be done in the short term regardless of whether climate change is a contributory factor – the best way to protect against such catastrophic events is to improve the infrastructure standards, but even that is not necessarily going to prevent occasional disasters.

  21. ‘Climate Etc. has definitely attracted the “thinking” part of the climate blogosphere.’
    That’s because your blog shows evidence of so much thought. Keep it up!

  22. This has been a tremendously interesting blog. This is due in no small part to your imprint upon it. Your basic civility and fairness sets a high standard.
    Nesting or not, the dialogues are fascinating. The long articles mean that insights and opinions are developed enough to be seen in their context.
    The lack of guest writing so far by others in the climate science community is most certainly not a reflection on you. One way to think of a blog is to consider it a sort of virtual cocktail party, where the atmosphere, quality of refreshments and snacks and the host and guests interact in a complex way for either a great time or one gone sour. Climate Etc. is a great time.

  23. Judy

    as I have mentioned before, I think your efforts here are truly commendable. I am not a scientist, but I am able to follow most of what is psoted both by you and commenters. As a non-scientist, something that I would find really useful from someone such as you (I regard you as what I would call a ‘proper scientist’) is a brief overview of where we are with the scientific understanding of climate. I read over and over again comments from warmists to the effect that there is ‘overwhelming evidence’ that man is responsible for climate change. (When challenged they say something like read IPCC) You have already demonstrated that there is uncertainty on many fronts. Can you show what if anything is settled about this science?

    And a preview facility would be useful

    Kind regards


    • Gary, One of the problems with what you suggest is that there is no proper physics to support the IPCC claims. What the IPCC has done is just plain wrong. It does not follow the “scientific method”. However, no-one knows what is right. This makes it difficult to do what you ask. What you need to understand is all the physics can tell is about CAGW, at the moment, is that we just dont know.

      If I may make a suggestion. The only thing we can trust in physics is observed data. I know it is like watching paint dry, but keep tabs on the monthly data on what is actually happening to world temperatures. No pro-CAGW model has predictied that global temperatures will fall. Should this happen on a long term basis, we will have the data we need to indicate that CAGW really is wrong.

      • Jim

        Thanks for your words.

        I was under the impression that there was no real controvery over the basic physics of the so-called greenhouse effect. I have read the radiative transfer equations over at Science of Doom (on the recommendation of JC) and I have to say there is a certain elegance to the way the atmophere is transparent to short wave radiation from the sun but absorbs in the longer waves. It speaks to me of the uniqueness of the earth’s place in the universe (another story I know).

        Perhaps it is naivety on my part but I thought that the basic physics of radiative transfer (if that is the right expression) was not in dispute and it was generally accepted on both sides of the debate that in the absence of feedbacks a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere would lead to an increase of 1C in global temperatures. Where disagreement arises (and where uncertainty raises its monster’s head) is in the arena of feedbacks.

        I gues the other thing that I am trying to get a handle on is use of language. Even I know that an expression like ‘the science is settled’ is a political statement. I think I am coming to the view that use of words like ‘the overwheming evidence’ when used to support the AGW view is also a political statement? Unless of course someone out there can point me (and presumably Jim) to that overwhelming evidence.

        Regards Gary

      • Gary, you write “Perhaps it is naivety on my part but I thought that the basic physics of radiative transfer (if that is the right expression) was not in dispute and it was generally accepted on both sides of the debate that in the absence of feedbacks a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere would lead to an increase of 1C in global temperatures”

        I know of scientists who do, indeed, dispute this completely. I agree they are in a minortiy. I also agree that AGW is real. The question is how big is the climate sensitivity. I am just a basic physicist, and I dont understand the complexities of the calculations which lead to the 1 C. I am uncomfortable in that my impression is that this number tends to neglect the other ways energy is transferred through the atmosphere, and too much emphasis on radiation. I am not convinced that the step going from change in radiative forcing to temperature change has been done correctly. I gather Judith is in general agreement with this last point.

        My main objection to the 1 C is that it ought to be absolutely abhorrent to all true physicists. This number can NEVER be measured. Any attempt to do so would be confounded by the feedbacks. It is, therefore, a completely hypothetical number, which ought never to be emphasised. It has a place in the estimation of climate sensitivity, but that is all. However, that is not the way the IPCC and the proponents of CAGW treat it.

        So we have a series of non-validated models which estimate a number of 1 C that can never be measured. Does this explain why I am highly skeptical that this number has any meaning.

        Then when you realise that what little observed data we have, tends to indicate that the feedbacks are NEGATIVE and not positive at all. So yes, I deny that anyone has shown, using the “scientific method”, that CAGW is real

      • Jim

        Thanks for your further input. Very much appreciated.

        Regards Gary

      • “My main objection to the 1 C is that it ought to be absolutely abhorrent to all true physicists. This number can NEVER be measured. Any attempt to do so would be confounded by the feedbacks.”

        Yes, that’s exactly where I am at this stage. Anything we attempt to measure must already have been subject to varying (perhaps multitudinous) feedbacks, so how to sort this out convincingly ?

        A simpler but analagous problem in geology is reconstructing a current-day strata slice by measuring and removing by modelling any tectonic effects since lithification to arrive at a palaeo-model. This ain’t easy, and the current rock pile is static :)

      • “If I may make a suggestion. The only thing we can trust in physics is observed data. I know it is like watching paint dry, but keep tabs on the monthly data on what is actually happening to world temperatures. No pro-CAGW model has predictied that global temperatures will fall. Should this happen on a long term basis, we will have the data we need to indicate that CAGW really is wrong.”

        But the models tell us what we should be seeing…namely, amplified tropospheric warming, stratospheric cooling, and a big ole hotspot in the tropical troposphere. When observation shows us that there is no hotspot, that the surface trend is actually inexplicably higher than the tropos trend, and there’s been no stratospheric cooling for the last 15-25 years (not to mention that what cooling there was prior occurred in 2 step changes related to volcanic activity), then why must we wait for a long term cooling event to say they are probably wrong? Why not trust the observed data we have already?

  24. Judith,

    Thanks to the super team at WUWT keeping us informed on science!
    I would NOT have made the connection without some of the very insightful and useful information. Also if I was not studying rotation as well, this connection would not have happened as well.

    CO2 is NOT causing temperature changes. It is causing weather changes by displacing the gases at stay close to the planet surface that rotate with the planet speed at 1669.8km/hr. This causes windspeeds to die down at the planets surface displace our normal gases higher where the wind speeds are faster due to not being connect or close to the planet. I believe it was Willis that had done a piece on the layering heights of CO2 on WUWT. Compression of cloud cover is possible due to the water vapour in clouds is being more compressed in the upper layer of our atmosphere. Causing more precipitation over certain areas in storms.
    Tornados, hurricanes and cyclones, start in the clouds and head for the planet surface. The upper wind speeds are pulled down generating super tornadoes.
    The illusion of temperature increases on the planet surface is less wind to carry away the reflected heat from the sun.

  25. Judy’s moderation policy appears to be working well.

    It would be nice to see more participation by those scientifically-literate pro-AGW Consensus commenters who are inclined to focus on technical issues. (Gavin set a great example at the Air Vent, on the first of two threads discussing the Makarieva et al. paper mentioned in the body of the post.) I don’t know what the hostess can do to bring about that state of affairs, though.

    • I’d second this actually.

      It is quite difficult to get into a decent discussion with a pro cAGW individual without them either resorting to ad hom or appealing to authority.

      The few times i’ve managed i decent discussion with one it was an incredibly rewarding experience for both sides and i personally learnt a hell of a lot.

      The difficulty lies i’d imagine in getting someone who is willing to have their positions challenged yet is knowledgeble enough to defend themselves without the afforementioned ad hom.

      I’d encourage anything done to ‘balance’ out the discussion, providing the reasons were to advance everyones knowledge- not bang a drum.

  26. In last week’s open thread, Judith included a link to an article on how many peer-reviewed medicine studies have later been shown to be incorrect. This article made me think about how many conclusions made by the IPCC are likely to be incorrect.

    Most medical journals require a p value of less than 0.05 for a conclusion to be featured in its abstract. From a purely statistical perspective, 1 in 20 studies with a p value of 0.05 will reach an incorrect conclusion simply by chance arrangement of the data. In addition, systematic errors and bias (conscious and unconscious investigator bias, cherry-picking, “pal review” rather than peer-review, etc.) increases the overall error rate to the point where the number of incorrect studies is disturbing.

    The IPCC draws hundreds, possibly thousands, of conclusions with modifiers (such as “likely) that include an estimate of statistical certainty. If the IPCC has 250 conclusions judged likely with an average p value of 0.2, we would anticipate that 50 of these conclusions would be wrong simply by chance. How many would you estimate would be wrong after one includes the systematic error and bias?

    Are conclusions that are merely “likely” really suitable for a scientific document?

  27. “The list of referring web sites is interesting.”
    Yes it is.

    “Most of the threads have “staying power” in terms of continuing to get hits; the posts with the least staying power were hurricanes and Pakistan.”
    Understandable. Not important.

    “Seems like people are interested in the big picture issues, prefer the posts that aren’t too technical, and have an insatiable appetite for dishing about climategate and the hockey wars.”
    Don’t be too quick to judge by appearence. There’s more to your Blog AND your readers/commentors than a glance at some stats can tell.

    “The important issues are whether people are learning something, checking out new sources of information, changing their mind or at least becoming less certain about previous held positions, and of course having fun.”
    Well said! (Well, everything but the ‘fun’ -unless you mean ‘satisfaction’.)

    “Some of my posts have engendered discussions at other blogs. The “mainstream” climate blogs are mostly ignoring me,..”
    Well it’s only been a month, give yourself time. Your general impact has been fast and profound, YOU have been able to change the tone at many blogs –directly/indirectly– and that was/is no small effect.

    “What has really exceeded my expectations is the quality of the comments…. Climate Etc. has definitely attracted the “thinking” part of the climate blogosphere.”
    It’s all because of you. When you think, we think. Emotions ought to play no part, and here they’ve been very absent for the most part.

    “From my personal perspective, creating the posts takes A LOT of time, it remains to be seen whether I can keep up this pace.”
    No one is an island, complete unto themself; or some such dribble. I have a feeling there’s more than one ‘wreck’ at GT (and among your fans) more than willing to lend a hand. Think about it.

    “I know my posts tend to be long by blogospheric standards, I am trying to carve them up into smaller pieces.”
    Not to worry! No complaints.

    “I expected to spend more time interacting with other commenters.”
    For a one-armed paperhanger you’re doing wonders!

    “There is a trade off in terms of time I spend preparing posts vs time spent on the comments.”
    No complaints.

    “My original idea was to have frequent posts from other people, but that hasn’t materialized yet.”
    Sounds like a great idea.

    “Michael Larkin states at Collide-a-Scape: ”There is only one place I can think of that is consciously trying to provide an environment for dialogue to occur, and that’s Judith Curry’s new blog… ”
    Very, VERY true!

    “ or suggestions… related to format, posts, blogroll, future topics etc.”
    — Format fine!Keep the ‘Nesting’ –great at seperating the wheat from the rest. Is there a way to have/see both, at the click of a link?
    — Posts fine!
    — Blogroll fine!
    — Future topics: If the past is prologue to the future you’re on the right track.

  28. Judith,

    Some thoughts. I do find it interesting that neither Climate Progress or Real Climate have found cause to mention you, much less (in the case of RC) even put Climate Etc on their blogroll. Of course, that’s not really important in a practical sense, since everybody in the climate blogosophere knows that you started a blog, but symbolically it says something.

    Secondly, I’d be wary of using the stats for a true measure of your blog traffic. There’s no way I can rely on Firestats which is over at my site, so I go with google analytics, which cuts out a lot of the spam traffic and is a pretty reliable indicator of unique visitors and page views.

    Lastly, I’m enjoying the posts immensely. Getting your own blog was the right to do. Look forward to seeing where it goes. I definitely would like to see guest posts from your colleagues, if you can manage that.

  29. Dr. Curry,

    I tend to post less on your blog than on others primarily because of the tone of the site. There are few silly comments and more hard content. In fact, the long subjects and post make me think and acquire new perceptions. I guess I also have to thank the other bloggers; few if any personnal attacks, very intelligent discussion and a calm attitude towards discourse.


  30. Judith, I’ve been thinking about your pop science idea. Like others I’m uncomfortable with the idea. As a non-scientist, much of the deeper science you and your respondents post eludes me, but I can grasp enough of it to know that I am witnessing the operation of the scientific method. I’m as sure as I ever can be that you won’t abuse your moderation, and that I can read, and if I choose try to understand, all responses to your post. So the only reason I can see for abbreviating your posts is that it would take less of your time.


    Some Grand Old Man of science once said something to the effect that a good scientific argument should be able to be rendered in a way comprehensible to the man in the street. That’s probably drawing a long bow, but when I take the trouble to read and understand scientific papers I find that many are written so poorly that their meaning is far harder to decipher than it need be. I think what the GOM had in mind was that writing clearly, concisely and economically on complex subjects is undoubtedly difficult, but the effort of doing so is bound to sharpen the writer’s focus on his topic, thus benefitting his work, as well as those trying to understand his account of it.

    So I would most definitely like to see “deep” guest science posts headed by a really good attempt to distil the topic into a few tight paragraphs, but – and this is a beauty of this medium – with the whole boots-and-all post behind it, so no dumbing down. Some topics may resist concise summary, in which case I wouldn’t force the issue. But a scientific argument that has been subjected to the attempt is likely to be all the better for it.

    And I’d love to see a guest post on The Scientific Method. It’s very clear to me that in climate science, key principles I learnt as a teenager are now honoured more in the breach than the observance, and I’d like to see these discussed by career, end ex-career, scientists.

    • Tom

      like you I am not a scientist. My background is in law which is a field where the practitioners are taught (or should be taught) to be very precise in the use of language. Like you I find some science writing to be so bad that I simply give up, which means that that particular scientist has failed in getting his/her message to the widest possible audience.

      On the question of the scientific method there is an online debate going on here – – where the initial skirmishes are all about the scientific method. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

      Regards Gary

    • I noticed a lot of the early comments here referred to the scientific method. I started writing a longish post on it early on since it seemed to be quite a stumbling block, but I’ve since stopped as the arguments have gotten more sophisticated than, “X isn’t science because it doesn’t follow the scientific method”.
      Still, this does seem an important topic to eventually get to since A) “the scientific method” is often thrown around without being defined, B) it is defined differently by different parties, or the definition is left rather open-ended, or C) the definition is so specific that it contradicts the vast majority of examples of how science is done in practice.
      Modeling is clearly where criticisms based on some version of the scientific method have the most resonance, but it’s been good to see discussions about model validation etc. that have moved beyond this foundation. However, it’s probably worth going back to.

    • Tom, “writing clearly, concisely and economically on complex subjects” –

      The best place for this approach I’ve found is on Skeptical Science. It’s organised by “Skeptical arguments”, everything from No1 ‘It’s the sun’ to No126 ‘Royal Society embraces skepticism’. Many are now framed at three levels of complexity, Basic, Intermediate and Advanced. Check the one you think suits your interest, then see if the information is presented in a way that suits you. If you can’t see what you want, think back to a sceptic/ doubter / denier remark you’ve seen somewhere and track it that way. (Or just go to the Search block at the top left.)

      If you’re lucky, one of the volunteer writers will have covered the whole range. There are now also a lot of other threads on recently published papers and reports. (Sometimes the comments veer off on strange tangents, but it’s usually pretty good.)

    • Tom, your point about the writing is spot on. Most scientific writing is just dreadful; often incomprehensible even to other experts. I have personally been trying to work on my writing; my target audience here is people who have undergraduate science, engineering, or professional degrees (includes lawyers, journalists). From your message I sense my writing is missing the 1-2 paragraph distillation? the approach i have been taking is to have the intro page (before continue reading) be sufficiently provocative that people want to keep reading; then include a concluding paragraph with a take home message. But I am sensing the need also for a summary paragaph?

      I will think about what I might do re the scientific method as it applies to natural systems (which is somewhat different from a controlled laboratory environment).

      • Alex Heyworth

        Good insight there Judith, a summary paragraph or two is very helpful. Scienceofdoom has some great examples.

      • Judith, I was aware that you “preview” your posts, before diving into the science. From a purely presentational point of view, however, a preview with a “read more” button allows you to display far more of your “wares” on one page. Just making an overview of the last 3/4 topics under discussion would “lubricate” casual visits and turn more into regulars, attract the eye of passers-by who have expertise in the topics, and so on.

        The great danger, of course, is that threads debating your summary will distract from discussion of the post proper. For that reason I would see your summaries as areas of “blogotorial privilege” – this is what JC (or guest writer – see below) reckons, now, and if you take issue and want to see why she does, go to the body of the post and debate it there – that’s where you’ll find the democracy, not here in the summary. The same “blogotorial privileges” (BP) would allow you to amend your summaries as you see fit, in the light of emerging evidence/argument. You would have to announce these amendments, of course, to preempt criticism.

        I think the way to make this work is to bear in mind the GOM I referred to earlier. I think he was saying that the effort of finding lapidary words to describe ideas that are complex and/or far from the direct experiences of human beings is, of itself, a boon to the thought processes needed to provoke new insights. So the summaries I have in mind could perhaps be written, not just by you but, where the topic is not in your own field, by anyone you select/invite (again I would invoke BPs), who is actively practising in the field in question, and who relishes the stimulus to his critical thinking that the task will bring.

        With something like this I think you could end up with a very valuable, organically growing collection of summaries, each with its attendant “train” of profound argument, and each able to be honed as the debate proceeds. You would also be contributing to the improvement in scientific writing you agree is sorely needed. As a showcase/workshop for excellence in scientific writing style, you would then tick another box.

      • Tom, i am going to try adding a summary para on the preview page, i think this is a good suggestion.

      • Great – but let’s try and make them jewels, even if that takes a bit of time and “workshopping”. I think we can all help, perhaps particularly those of us in the laity, but since ANY summary in the field of climate science is guaranteed to attract dispute, you have to exercise a bit of benign tyranny, and make your rules clear at the outset.

        Funny medium, this – so many ways of doing things…

      • ok, hope to have my next post ready later today, it has a summary paragraph on the lead page that will evolve as a result of the discussion.

  31. David L. Hagen

    Compliments on thoughtful and thought provoking posts.
    Look forward to your consideration of climate sensitivity evaluations, especially of clouds.

  32. Speaking of Rabbet – he has a nice presentation by Andy Dessler on climate sensitivity. I haven’t watched the whole thing, but so far it is very interesting to me, one who isn’t a climate scientist. It fills in some gaps on why the pro-AWG crowd believes sensitivity is high for me. I would be interested in any informed opinions on the presentation.

    • Jim, you could start by reading Judith’s previous post which discusses this issue and shows the circular arguments used by Dessler and the IPCC.

      • Dr. Dessler discussed a specific equation and filled in the unknowns in the equation with data from observations. He was not clear on the cloud portion of f, the climate feedbacks. He rattled off what the cloud portion was composed of, but didn’t elaborate. I don’t recall Dr. Curry covering this specific.

      • Dr. Curry and her blog was mentioned near the end of the presentation as a pro-AWG scientist who believed a cross-examination approach might enhance the credibility of the IPCC report. I guess he didn’t read the blog lately.

    • One of the unfortunate consequences of the use of buzwords such as coherence is that it is ubiquitous, say in the case of Mann


      it all fits together, its this coherence of data, and even if any one of these data set is wrong, it really would not affect your confidence because we have so much other data which suggests it’s warming and because of this the IPCC calls this unequivocal, which means essentially beyond doubt. . . . The key thing to look at is look for coherence, look for lots of evidence supporting a point and you will clearly see why scientists are convinced that the mainstream view of climate science is right

      Burger 2010

      By avoiding the (calibrating) instrumental period, and by using a fairly robust spectral measure for low-frequency performance, the above coherence analysis has uncovered several inconsistencies among the group of millennial reconstructions that figured prominently in the latest IPCC report and elsewhere. An immediate lesson from this is that simple visual inspection of smoothed time series, grouped and overlaid into a
      single graph, can be very misleading. For example, the two reconstructions Ma99 and Ma08L, which have previously been described to be in “striking agreement” (cf. Mann et al., 2008), turned out to be the most incoherent of all in our analysis.

      • This is the “consilience of evidence” argument (increasingly being used), one of the things i am taking on in my Part III essay.

    • I found it interesting that Dressle presented his equation, deltaTsubf = (deltaTsubi)/(1-f) as NOT a model. Almost any equation in science is a model. Newton’s modes was supplanted by Einstein’s. Also, Dressler apparently didn’t combine his feedbacks properly, per this site:

      Although the equation at this site is different from Dressler’s.

      Does anyone know what the differences are and what went into Dressler’s cloud feedback?

      Here is the same presentation at Youtube if you want to avoid Rabbet’s blog.

  33. Alexander Harvey


    I expect you are benefitting from your own editorial decisions. I think that you have chosen ground that has not been well trodden and hence there are few entrenched lines of thought that can be easily summoned up and regurgitated. Also I feel that much of the content’s moment is strategic rather than tactical.

    There are aspects of the process that do still interest me, that you might wish to consider. One is the psychology of the response to threat, another is the moral burden on science and scientists, journalists, politicians, and leaders both secular and religious, when dealing with existential hazard. Another psychological aspect is the way we discount the future and how that changes as we age.

    With regard to climatic change, some of those topics currently seem to be the intellectual niche of ecopsychology, and its input into strategic campaign strategy for the likes of the WWF. It seems they wrestle with such conundrums as how not to flip disregard/disbelief into apathy/despair. Sadly they seem to concentrate on why some people reject “good” advice, and pay little attention to why some people do.

    Copenhagen has come and gone and perhaps ecopsychologists have some shell-shock victims on there hands. I seriously doubt that any of the outcome, or lack thereof, had anythng to do with the science, or any xxx-gate, nor was it due to tactical errors in campaign strategies, it was something quite other. Perhaps, when dealt with at that level, climate is just another bargaining chip in the great game of things. Something to be raised and then traded off against a whole host of other considerations.

    On a different tack, I have read elsewhere that the media may be tiring of climate as an issue. If so, I doubt that the journalists will turn out in their hordes for future get togethers, I must wait and see.

    It is 18+ years since Rio, and only a little more than twice that to 2050. So was the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a mechanism for progress, or for kicking the issue into touch. Is AR5 anything more than the prelude to AR6? Should someone cry “Shame”.


    • I think people are starting to realize that ‘relief’ is the best response to the way things are going.

  34. This blog has made an excellent start. It is essential reading for me, at the top of my bloglist (up with CA and BH). The last post, taking apart the most important IPCC claim (most of the late 20th century rise very likely AGW) was quite devastating and very important I think. Sorry I didnt get round to commenting on it.

    Personally, I would like to see more hard serious detailed science posts – I hope you won’t veer off into politics and philosophy as the KlimaZwiebel blog has disappointingly done. I would also vote for slightly tighter moderation on the science posts – for example the last thread got rather derailed by a discussion of SST.

    It’s quite revealing that blogs run by activists masquerading as scientists (Realclimate, Tamino, Rabett) don’t link to you in their blogrolls. It shows who is interested in open debate and who isn’t. That is why, Bart, the comments here are mostly from the skeptical end of the spectrum. And yes, it is nice to see that most of the comments here are sensible.

    Keep up the good work!

    • PAULM

      Coincidentally yesterday someone forwarded me a copy of your ‘warming questions’ that is available on google and which I think started life as a CA thread. Its a good piece of work. Have you updated or extended it recently as I’d like to ensure I have the latest copy?

      If you see this message you can reply by clicking on my name and sending me an email, or of course reply within this forum. Thanks.


    • The blogs characterized by you as being “by activists” are by people who are very interested in scientific debate; and practise it daily in their careers. They are, however, not so foolish as to think various ramblings in the bloggosphere can constitute scientific debate. On the contrary, the blog not to debate but to educate – and like all good educators they do not direct people to sites more likely to misinform than to inform. And that includes, in my estimation, Climate etc.

      • Tom, I would appreciate any specific examples of “misinformation” that you feel Climate Etc. is promoting. Note, science is not a list of “information”; rather it is a process. A process of developing and testing understanding, and debate is an important part of the process.

      • “Science”, from “scientia”meaning “knowledge”.

        Definition of science as a “process” is necessarilly inadequate, for a process without a purpose is simply irrelevant. Science, if a process, is a process which is trying to achieve something – something you concede by weakening your logical point by redefining science as “… a process of developing and testing understanding“.

        Of course, understanding is not what science is primarilly about either. Understanding, in science, means effectively the theories by which we make emperical predictions. It is characteristic of emperical predictions (and observations), however, that no finite set of them can uniquely characterize a theory. Consequently, no matter how refined our theory, not matter how detailed and extensive its observational support, it is still possible that any theory can be completely over thrown – as for example the supplanting of Newtonian Mechanics with Relativistic Mechanics.

        What is preserved through such “scientific revolutions”, however, is the set of confirmed observations which will continue to act as a tight constraint on any supplanting theory. In fact, for any well established theory in normal science, any supplanting theory must closely approximate it in observational predictions or by falsified ab initio.

        In fact, theories in science can be fruitfully viewed as as data compression algorithms for reality. Like any good good data compression algorithm, the simpler the algorithm (and hence the more compact) the better it is; and the more data it compress (ie, the better the ratio of initial conditions to observational consequences) the better it is.

        So in the end, what science is about is information. And no site which is not scrupulous in handling information can be a usefull site for science education, no matter how active the debate it promotes. In fact, active debate is mere fluff in that regard. Debate in which a large number of participants do not scrupulously constrain themselves and their theories on available information does science a disservice rather than the opposite, as the example of young earth creationists clearly demonstrates.

      • Science as a catalogue of information, interesting. Here is what Feynmann has to say: “The principle of science, the definition, almost, is the following: The test of all knowledge is experiment. Experiment is the sole judge of scientific ‘truth’. But what is the source of knowledge? Where do the laws that are to be tested come from? Experiment, itself, helps to produce these laws, in the sense that it gives us hints. But also needed is imagination to create from these hints the great generalizations — to guess at the wonderful, simple, but very strange patterns beneath them all, and then to experiment to check again whether we have made the right guess.”

      • Michael Larkin


        Wow. Science as information, as data compression algorithms. Sounds more like computerised bookkeeping than anything else.

        Sorry; I think Science at its very best has an element of artistry. It takes that “reality” of which you speak and deconstructs it to reveal it as a misunderstanding. It then reconstructs it as a new “reality”, which in its turn some consummate artist will eventually deconstruct and reconstruct.

        Of course, if it’s artistry, it still has to be constrained by, and consistent with, information impartially collected from the external world. If it doesn’t fit in with that; if it can’t explain or predict; if it can’t be deconstructed; if it’s not so much a figurative painting as impressionism; then it ain’t science.

        My university training was in zoology. There were some great examples – work by Darwin, Jacob and Monod and Crick and Watson, for example. Focussing on Darwin, he was a fantastic collector of data, but he didn’t just compress it into an algorithm. No; he played imaginatively with it and came up with brilliant insights for the time, as did Russell Wallace.

        As time is wearing on, the holes in Neodarwinism are becoming more and more apparent. True, Darwin’s data is still there and has been supplemented over the generations, and any better evolutionary theory is going to have to explain it and come to a better understanding of it.

        But IMO, clinging to a visibly straining theory is what gives people like the YECs so much ammunition for their religious agenda. However, one shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that even though YECs are headbangers, Neodarwinism is far from rock solid as an explanation for the incontrovertible evidence that evolution has actually occurred. I find the prospect of one day being presented with explanations as insightful for our times as Darwin’s were for his rather exciting.

      • Science as artistry that deconstructs the universe – very post modern of you.

        As to Darwin, what do you think the theory of Natural Selection is but a theory that allows you to predict a whole host of facts from a smaller array of facts. Put simply, a complete description of the universe could be made much smaller by including the theory of evolution, and of natural selection than by simply listing the life forms on this (or other) planet(s).

        Finally, you have missed the boat about a new theory – it has already happened. The insights of Wallace Arthur and others have already been incorporated into mainstream evolutionary theory, which is still neo-darwinist for all that.

  35. Please keep the long, technically-oriented posts coming. We can get dumbed-down opinion pieces anywhere – we need honest attempts to explain the science to those of us interested enough to slog through the details.

    Regarding any perceived shift towards energy policy – I’d be more sanguine if I didn’t know that the late unlamented cap and trade bill became an ‘energy and jobs’ bill when it became obvious that it would never pass. If the movement in energy policy is brought to us by the same people who brought us that cap and trade monstrosity, I’d just as soon do without. A rational shift in energy policy – that recognizes the necessity of carbon-based energy in the near and mid-scale basis – would be welcome.

    By the way – luke-warmer here.

  36. Frank,

    in the first instance, the IPCC reports are not science documents, but policy documents. They are intended to inform the World’s policy makers about the state of scientific knowledge on the subject of global warming. When that knowledge is uncertain, it is entirely appropriate that they say so – and they do. In fact, if polls of climate scientists are to believed, they they tend to slightly understate certainty, and to slightly understate the potential temperature increases and impacts of global warming.

    It is ironic that Dr Curry castigates them for their insufficient characterization of doubt. The IPCC reports are forthright about uncertainties, expressing it clearly by the system of judgements (unlikely, likely, etc) and by error bars. What Dr Curry is characterizing as insufficient acknowledgement of doubt is really just a substantial difference of opinion between Dr Curry and the IPCC (and the vast majority of climate scientists). Because Dr Curry’s opinions are such outliers, rather than defend them in scientific forums, she libels her opponents, and the IPCC.

    Secondly, even evidence of low statistical significance can still be usefull evidence. The reason for this lies in probability theory. If the probability of A given B (p(A|B)) is 0.5 (likely in IPCC parlance), and the probability of A given C (p(A|C) is 0.5, and B and C are statistically independant; then the probability of A given B and C is 0.75 (=1- (p(~A|B)*p(~A|C)). So, if we have five lines of independant evidence, each of which suggests the hypothesis is likely to be true, then the hypothesis is very likely to be true (ie, the overal evidence provides statistically significant evidence in favour of the hypothesis). This fact is the basis of various meta-studies in medicine and sociology; and why the consillience of inductions is so important in science.

    • Sorry, the previous post was a responce to Frank’s post about medical studies and statistical significance.

    • Tom, when you make a statement that something is “very likely” (>90% confidence) that doesn’t leave much room for uncertainty. In spite of may “uncertain” statements in the main text, the bottom line is a collection of statements in the summary for policy makers with “unequivocal”, “very likely”, and “likely” confidence levels. My wrap up Part III on Overconfidence in IPCC’s detection and attribution (should be posted Tues eve) should make this very clear.

    • Tom, as your references to outlier and polls makes clear, these are merely subjective probabilities. That is, they merely express the weight of belief of the writer, unlike physical statistical probabilities, with which they are being confused. The IPCC reports should always say “we believe that it is very likely, etc.” not “it is very likely” as though this were a statistical fact.

  37. Science is built on the suposition that humans do not have privileged access to absolute knowledge. That includes privileged acces to “absolute probabilities” (if such a concept can be given an effective meaning). Consequently, any statement about probabilites by a scientist, including statements by the IPCC, must be understood as a statement given the currently available evidence, and all else being equal.

    Those clauses cover a host of uncertainties which, due to our limited epistemic access, cannot be quantified. Taking an example from orbital mechanics, the position of Mars relative to the Earth can be predicted with very great certainty many thousands of years into the future using Newtonian Mechanics with a very great degree of certainty (>>99%), ceterus paribus. Of course, a hundred years from now a faint brown dwarf may pass through our solar system disrupting Earth’s orbit, or Mars’. That does not mean the certainty assigned to the predictions of Orbital Mechanics should be considered overstated. That just means they should not (bizzarely) be interpreted as statements of metaphysical certainty rather than statements of scientific certainty.

    In physics, basic physical constants are routinely measured to accuracies of 9 or more significant figures. In contrast, in climate science, measurements and predictions are normaly restricted to about two significant figures, with large indicated error bars. That is a clear indication of scientific uncertainty. However, if we are to insist that metaphysical uncertainty (uncertainty without the epistemic and ceterus paribus caveats) be included in climate science as you are doing, then we should expect the same standard in all of science. However, doing so would mean that no probabilities larger than about 5% could be confidently quoted.

    Now you may reject the idea that you are demanding metaphysical rather than scientific certainty from the IPCC. But then your comment that “… a statement that something is “very likely” (>90% confidence) that doesn’t leave much room for uncertainty” appears a little silly. A greater than 90% confidence is very low compared to that found in most of physics, chemistry and biology. And, for the claims about which that probability is claimed by the IPCC, there is substantial supporting evidence.

    Using a racing analogy, you are backing an outsider (>20 to 1 odds against). The bookies (IPCC) are, of course, backing the favourite. That does not mean that you are wrong and they are right. Outsiders sometimes win. But it certainly also doesn’t mean that the bookies have mischaracterized the odds. It does not speak well of you to suggest that they have.

    • Well, stay tuned for my Part III post. I am not backing any horse because the uncertainty is too large; that is the point of my entire position. But even so, that does not mean that we should not take some kind of action (I will post on this topic in two weeks).

      If you think you know all the answers, thats fine, but its not science and such confidence is unjustified in any rational or scientific sense.

      The argument about “currently available evidence” is debunked in my doubt essay; it ignores the “white” region of the Italian flag.

    • Tom, it appears the best response to policy makers is “We don’t know!!!”

      • Except that we do know – it’s just that some of us don’t want to listen.

      • We are all ears and eyes : )

      • Michael Larkin


        So very postnormal. So very sure, so very disdainful.

        Loosen up, man. Other people, even ones with differing opinions, are sometimes surprisingly smart.

        The “us” in “some of us” is in fact a “them”. As in, we are the saved, and they are the damned. Our scriptures are right, and they’re naught but heathens. They just don’t want to accept The Word.

        One learns nothing new or interesting if one can’t climb down from the pulpit.

      • Michael, the ironic gesture of uncertainty is a feature of postmodernism, not modernism. Being very much a modernist, I am like all the great heros of science (Galileo, Newton, etc; and this is the only respect in which I am comparing myself to those giants) very happy to assert certainty based on evidence.

        Nor do I doubt the intelligence of the various sceptics, anymore than I do that of Young Earth Creationists. What I do doubt are their arguments and methods (again so very like the Young Earth Creationists). I even more question their evident reluctance to criticise the most egregious nonsense spouted on their side of the “cause” or to clearly dissassociate themselves from the purveyors of that nonsence.

        Finally, I do not see any need for me to “lighten up”. It is not the scientists who have convinced me with their evidence who are suggesting that scientists are guilty of wide spread fraud; or that they are conspiring together in a conspiracy for financial gain; or conspiring together to impose world government.

        On the contrary, it is the sceptics who so slander their opponents. But should their opponents criticize the sceptics analsyse of the data, we are told to “lighten up”.

        Perhaps, Michael, rather than me lightening up, it is you who need to get some perspective.

    • Tomas Milanovic

      Taking an example from orbital mechanics, the position of Mars relative to the Earth can be predicted with very great certainty many thousands of years into the future using Newtonian Mechanics with a very great degree of certainty (>>99%), ceterus paribus. Of course, a hundred years from now a faint brown dwarf may pass through our solar system disrupting Earth’s orbit, or Mars’. That does not mean the certainty assigned to the predictions of Orbital Mechanics should be considered overstated. That just means they should not (bizzarely) be interpreted as statements of metaphysical certainty rather than statements of scientific certainty.

      A really extremely bad example!
      One couldn’t choose worse.
      The uncertainty about the relative positions Earth-Mars increases exponentially with time and very fast.
      After severall millions of years, the initial uncertainty of a only a few meters transforms in an uncertainty which has the size of the whole orbit.
      No need for brown dwarfs or anything exotic, it’s just the result of the n body system dynamics which is chaotic for any gravitationally bound system of more than 2 bodies.
      This has been known for more than 100 years already…
      One can wonder if your ideas about the (un)certainties of the climate science are as uninformed as what you think about the Solar system’s dynamics.

      • Tomas, I’m no expert on orbital mechanics but I can notice when an example concerning thousands of years is rubbished with a point reliant on millions of years. Did you mean to use thousands in place of millions or is Tom’s statement that planetary orbits can be predicted with a great deal of (scientific) certainty thousands of years into the future accurate?

      • Tomas Milanovic

        The point is that the uncertainty increases exponentially in a gravitational N body system.
        So it is somewhat ridiculous (and ignorant) to use as an example of high confidence and high certainty a system where uncertainty increases exponentially with time :)
        So no, you can’t accurately predict whether it is 10 000 , 100 000 or 1 000 000 years.
        Of course the initial uncertainty counts too – if your initial momentum + position measure is poor, then the exponential uncertainty growth will kill the prediction very fast.
        Btw you can’t retrodict either so people who are making “theories” using orbital parameters 100 millions of years ago don’t know what they are talking about.

      • “The point is that the uncertainty increases exponentially in a gravitational N body system.”

        I believe Tom’s point was however that even where the “uncertainty” is low it’s still relative only to “given the currently available evidence” and “all else being equal” (i.e. it doesn’t account for unknown unknowns) .

        What you are talking about is known uncertainty such that over a long period of time we know we don’t know what the orbits of the planets will be.

        This is a problem of terminology and communication, I see the same one occur with statistics re “significance” and quantum physics re “observation”. Words in highly technical fields can take on non-intuitive and non-obvious meanings which lead the casual observer to misunderstanding what’s being said.

      • I am quite aware that over millions of years the uncertaintly becomes so great that it is not even possible to be certain that all the current planets will even remain in the system. However, my understanding is that over a few thousand years predictions remain relatively accurate. Sufficiently so that Astronomers can retrodict the astronomical sightings over the history of civilization (<10,000 years). In fact, Wikipaedia indicates that "… that the whole Solar System possesses a Lyapunov time in the range of 2–230 million years."

        David Shiga reports in New Scientist that
        "Predicting what will happen is extremely challenging because so many bodies are involved. Even small errors in the observed positions of the planets today can translate into huge uncertainties in projections of the future. Because of this, astronomers can only say for sure that the solar system will remain stable for the next 40 million years."

        Given, as you say, that uncertainty increases exponentially, and that it only becomes significant after 2 million years, than uncertainty over the course of 10s of thousands of years must closely approximate a linear increase.

        Regardless of this, my logical point would remain if I had used centuries or even decades as my time frame.

  38. I like these weekly open threads.

    It helps remind me of the missing Tropical Tropospheric Hot Spot.

    Did anyone find it this week?

    • I don’t understand why the tropospheric hotspot is so interesting. It’s got nothing to do with greenhouse gases, it’s about the lapse rate. There is a short-term hotspot, but the longer term data is confusing. More and better data is the eternal answer for these things. (And unfortunately it can’t be solved by researchers paying their own fares to go and retrieve recording equipment as sometimes happens elsewhere.)

      • adelady-

        It’s figure 9.1.f that is important of AR$. In the linked commentary, the site owner ignores that inconvenient truth.

        The owner of the ClimateSkeptic web site tends to change his commentary when the facts prove him wrong.

        Here’s what he said about the Hot Spot back in 2008, before his comments of the time were refuted by the data.

        From 2008

        “What the science says……Climate models predict the troposphere should show greater warming than the surface.”

        Link from a web archive, where his past missives are on file.

        Since the Hot Spot is missing. The IPCC models cannot be correct.

        I hope this response has helped clarify in you mind why the missing Tropical Tropospheric Hot Spot is so important.


      • @Orkneygal

        “The owner of the ClimateSkeptic web site tends to change his commentary when the facts prove him wrong.”

        I would think a propensity to change one’s opinions as new information becomes available was a compliment but you appear to imply it as a negative.

        “Here’s what he said about the Hot Spot back in 2008, before his comments of the time were refuted by the data.”

        From 2008

        “What the science says……Climate models predict the troposphere should show greater warming than the surface.”

        Well firstly your link was to the archive for their page about hurricanes but in any event the current page says this:

        “The source of the confusion is box c, showing the modelled temperature change from greenhouse gases. Note the strong hot spot. Does this mean the greenhouse effect causes the hot spot? Not directly. Greenhouse gases cause surface warming which changes the lapse rate leading to the hot spot. The reason the hot spot in box c is so strong is because greenhouse warming is so strong compared to the other forcings.”

        The hot spot is not a unique greenhouse signature and finding the hot spot doesn’t prove that humans are causing global warming. Observing the hot spot would tell us we have a good understanding of how the lapse rate changes. As the hot spot is well observed over short timescales (Trenberth 2006, Santer 2005), this increases our confidence that we’re on track. That leaves the question of the long-term trend.

        This is more thorough and doesn’t contradict your previous quote at all. What’s the problem with the change?

        “Since the Hot Spot is missing. The IPCC models cannot be correct.”

        If you want to argue that the models aren’t good enough at predicting lapse rates I guess you can but I strongly suspect you want to say “Here’s something the models predict which can’t be demonstrated to have happened with absolute certainty, therefore we can’t rely on them at all”.

      • shaperoo-

        Thank you for your comment. Your comment about the faulty IPCC models is obviously more diplomatic than mine is concerned.

        Perhaps you would find it useful to go back and look at the IPCC AR4 figure 9.1 closely and then compare it to the discussion by that site owner that I commented upon earlier.

        As I suggested, the site owner discusses figure 9.1.c quite extensively, but totally ignores figure 9.1.f. That is the figure that properly describes the net result of all IPCC considered factors and clearly shows the Tropical Tropospheric Hot Spot.

        That is the Hot Spot that cannot be found, not the subcomponent shown in figure 9.1.c. The owner himself has either misinterpreted the entire figure or is trying to deflect attention away from the failure of the IPCC models.

      • “As I suggested, the site owner discusses figure 9.1.c quite extensively, but totally ignores figure 9.1.f. That is the figure that properly describes the net result of all IPCC considered factors and clearly shows the Tropical Tropospheric Hot Spot.”

        Figure 9.1.f is as you say the sum of all factors i.e. it is inclusive of figures a through e. The “hot spot” component of figure 9.1.f comes from figure 9.1.c and this is why the author of the skepticalscience article discussed it.

        “That is the Hot Spot that cannot be found, not the subcomponent shown in figure 9.1.c. The owner himself has either misinterpreted the entire figure or is trying to deflect attention away from the failure of the IPCC models.”

        I don’t understand your objection at all. The article focuses on the sub component which leads to the appearance of the hot spot in the final figure.

        It’s also not valid to say “it can’t be found” when what’s actually true is “it can’t be definitively demonstrated to exist”. Three different datasets disagree over the exact tropospheric warming rate so it would be necessary to know what the actual trend its before we can say whether it agrees with the models or not.

        You’re also missing the wider point of the article which is that the tropospheric hot spot isn’t a signature unique to greenhouse gases thus its existence or not says nothing about whether warming is caused by GHGs or solar forcing. All it says is that potentially the understanding of either how to measure temperature in the troposphere is deficient or understanding of how heat lapse occurs is deficient.

        Another note is that this all concerns the area over the tropics only, everywhere else the measured warming matches the model prediction. If you want to say more work is needed practically everyone will agree with you. If you want to say this is some sort of silver bullet that kills the “IPCC models” then it’s a a hard one to sell.

      • sharper00-

        Thank you for your additional comments. Again, you show yourself to be much more diplomatic than I. I say “it can’t be found”. You suggest “it can’t be definitively demonstrated to exist” is more appropriate. I agree that what you have typed is also accurate. In either case, no data set of empirical observations exists that conclusively demonstrates that it is there, does it?

        The issue of the missing “Hot Spot” is more important than what some web site owner writes about it.

        The “Hot Spot” goes right to the heart of the Scientific Method, the accuracy of the IPCC’s models and therefore to the falsifiability of the theory of AGW.

        Without falsifiability, AGW is more like a religious belief than a cogent, coherent scientific theory.

        The “Hot Spot” is one of the few empirical, observable and measurable things that would help verify the Theory of AGW, within the time scale of a single human life.

        With the “Hot Spot” missing, the IPCC models have not demonstrated any skill in predicting the behavior of the atmospheric temperature profile. Although as you note, the models have, perhaps through mere chance, gotten some bits of it reasonably right.

        One can reasonably ask then, what skill does the Theory of AGW have in predicting anything that is observable and measureable in the real world, if it can’t lead to an accurate model of the entire atmospheric tempertature profile? The fact that the earth seems to be undergoing a slight, gentle and most hospitable warming since the end of the LIA says nothing as to the cause of it. IPCC’s theory of AGW leads logically to a set of forcings, which leads to models which are not yet proven skillful, and perhaps never will be.

        So, with the Hot Spot missing, the theory of AGW remains unproven, in my opinion, and in the opinion of a growing number of other people as it absence becomes more widely known.

        Again, thank you for your comments.

      • Orkneygal.
        Are you sure that it’s the models that are inadequate? Could it be that the observations are inadequate for the measurement required?

        For me, half a loaf is better than none. A short term hotspot has been identified – there’s a good, well-done half loaf. The other half? I’m prepared to wait for further observation and analysis before pulling up stumps and walking off. Even if that happens, there’ll have to be some more work explaining how, why, when a short term hotspot can appear without its big brother in the background somewhere.

        As for slight, gentle and hospitable warming, that might have been so for the last few millennia, but I can assure you that in my longish lifetime in this already hot and dry place, ‘gentle’ and ‘hospitable’ just don’t cut the mustard. Now it’s fierce and life-threatening. The local Red Cross now has phone services to keep contact with vulnerable people during heatwaves since our horrible experience a couple of years ago.

      • Adelady-

        Where do you live? Is it the Northern Hemisphere?

        We’ve had a cold spring here in New Zealand, including snow when and where it usually doesn’t.

        What with the ENSO (El Nino/La Nina) it is likely to be an early cold winter for the Northern Hemisphere.

        About the instrumentation, radiosonde profiles have been around for several decades and one would expect them to at least reveal changes over the decades, wouldn’t one?

        Then there’s the satellite data. No one can seem to tease the hot spot out of the data no matter how hard they try. A recent attempt to claim that it was “hidden”, with some additional hocus, pocus about wind shear, has been falsified, quite conclusively.

      • Nuh. Adelaide is strictly Southern Hemisphere. As for the La Nina, I would dearly love it to last long enough to get at least another year of “average” rainfall. What shows in the records as ‘average’ is a joke. It seems that we’ve not had anything like this mythical figure for a long time. Though the personal effect is probably a combination of reduced rainfall and higher evaporation.
        is a bit of an eye-opener for all those people suggesting that this year’s floods cancel out the last decade’s drought.

      • allen mcmahon

        The red Cross set up the telecross service more than twenty years ago and its principle purpose has nothing to do with AGW it is to provide daily contact to check on and ensure the safety of elderly persons living independently.

      • No Allen. This ring-3-times-a-day plan was developed and initiated during 2009. Check here.

  39. David L. Hagen

    Some interesting “secret” developments:
    The Medieval Warm Period Redux – Where and when was it warm?

    September 22nd–24th, 2010 in Lisbon, Portugal.
    The symposium seeks to achieve a better understanding of regional and global climatic and environmental dynamics of the ‘Medieval Warm Period’ (MWP) – also referred to as Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) – through comparison of reconstructions and model simulations. It is expected to contribute towards homogeneous assimilation and evaluation of climate reconstructions, a better understanding of past modes of climate variability and their teleconnections with special focus on the MCA/MWP.

    Mike Mann’s “secret” meeting on the Medieval Warm Period

    I am reminded that my ancestors colonized and named “Greenland”.
    Vikings during the Medieval Warm Period

  40. It would be fantastic if some of the people debating climate science at Climate Etc, could attend this presentation……..
    (might be a bit far for Judith…..

    A lead author of a number of reports, the deputy head of techical group 1, AR3 (hockey srick) and co-editor of the synthesis report, other colleagues at the Walker institue also involved in the IPCC reports….

    One of the above is a good friend. It is also my old university (where I did my MSc, so i’m going 400 places, just turn up) I spoke to them and they seemed VERY interested that some sceptical voices turned up.

    My complaint is the media (greenpeace, 10:10 , wwf, Gore, etc) catastrophy hype, and the fact that scientists don’t speak out about the alarmism that is just media hype)

    Reading University: Climate change – the science explained
    Wednesday 10 November 2010, 8pm
    Palmer Building, Whiteknights
    Professor Nigel Arnell, Walker Institute Director

    With all the MEDIA attention on climate change, it can be hard to separate MEDIA HYPE from scientific fact. So what is the science behind climate change? How are people warming the climate and to what extent does it vary naturally? This talk will describe the risks posed by climate change for water, food, and biodiversity focusing on what we know and, importantly, what we don’t know. There will also be a chance to put your questions to a panel of experts.”

    Professor Arnell:
    A lead author in the second, third and fourth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments, he has also contributed to the recent Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change.

    • Richard S Courtney

      Barry Woods:

      You say;
      “In my opinion the larger issue is managing the changeover from fossil fuels as they run out. The world needs more energy not less. But what is to replace fossil fuels at the required levels of scale and consistency?”

      That is a non-issue which is a distraction from climate science. So, in hope of avoiding deflection of the discussions onthis blog, I here explain why there is no foreseeable possibility that fossil fuels will “run out”.

      And I do not underestimate the present importance of fossil fuels for industrial civilisation. The use of fossil fuels has done more to benefit human kind than anything else since the invention of agriculture. But I strongly reject suggestions that fossil fuels will “run out”.

      Firstly, the reserves of oil were ~40 years supply throughout the last century and will be ~40 years supply throughout this century. This is because oil companies need a planning horizon of ~40 years. So, if an oil company has less than ~40 years of reserves it pays people to look for more, but if it has ~40 years reserves then it does not pay anybody to look for more.

      Secondly, in the extremely unlikely event that insufficient new oil resources were discovered then synthetic crude oil (i.e. syncrude) would be made from coal. Indeed, when Germany was blockaded in WW2 and South Africa was emabagoed because of apartheid (so were prevented from obtaining sufficient oil) then they each made their oil from coal. But they used old technology.

      The UK government owns the novel Liquid Solvent Extraction (LSE) process, and since 1994 the LSE process has been capable of making syncrude from coal at economically competitive cost to obtaining natural crude oil. If and when the great economic benefits of Brent crude cease then the UK could obtain subsequent income from licensing the LSE process. (I was one of those who worked to develop LSE, we proved the technology at large scale with a demonstration plant at Point-Of-Ayr in North Wales, and UNESCO commissioned a paper on it from me ).

      The surprising economics of LSE derive from two factors:

      LSE removes the need for expensive blending of crude oils so refined products match market demand. Oil refineries need to output e.g. an amount of petroleum and an amount of benzene that each match market demand otherwise there is disposal cost for an excess product. So, for example, this provides Brent Crude with high value because the result of blending it with cheap Saudi crude provides an appropriate blend. But LSE can be tuned so the syncrude can be a mix of petrocarbons that match market demand (and can be adjusted to match varying market demand) when LSE syncrude is refined.

      2. Disposal of sulphur-rich refinery ‘bottoms’ has disposal cost. LSE consumes ‘bottoms’ so turns them into profitable product.

      There is sufficient coal to power the world for at least 300 years. So, if there were to be a shortage of oil then adoption of LSE would resolve that problem. But there is no shortage of natural crude oil (and there is very likely not going to be one). A switch to LSE would incur infrastructure costs so there is no incentive to do it now. And, at present, the UK benefits from the high value of Brent crude so UK government has good reason to keep the LSE technology to itself.

      At present, the existence of the LSE technology limits the maximum price of crude oil. It prevents oil producers from long-term or medium-term restrictions on production of crude oil that would increase prices and maximise their profits. A policy of constraining production in that manner would initiate a switch to LSE production of syncrude.

      And, in the extremely unlikely event that natural crude oil ran short then a switch to syncrude would certainly occur (as it did in Germany and South Africa) and it would have little costs (because of LSE technology).

      Nobody can know what fuel(s) will be needed in 300 years time. 300 years ago the major transport fuel was hay for horses. It would then have been easy to show that we needed to protect against using too much hay and, thus, to argue that transport and other technological developments should have been hindered. But hay is not used as a major fuel today.

      If the arguments to protect against using too much hay had been accepted 300 years ago then that would have prevented developments which have provided many benefits including reduction (and in some cases erradication) of pollutions and diseases.

      So, (to use popular vernacular) for the sake of our children and grandchildren, we must oppose those who today say we should inhibit uses of today’s fuels. And there is no reason to worry that fosil fuels will “run out”.

      All scientific research – including climate science – is important in its own right and does not require unfounded fears (such as running out of fossil fuels) to justify it.


      • Richard S Courtney

        Barry Woods and David Palmer:

        My above comment should have been addressed to David Palmer.

        I hope you will both acceptmy sincere apology for this error.


      • ?

        I’m not sure who you are thinking about, but I did not say that….

        Just pointed out an interesting lecture…
        Not even that I agreed with it…

      • ?

        You are quoting someone else. not me

      • Richard S Courtney

        Barry Woods and David Palmer:

        My above comment should have been addressed to David Palmer.

        I hope you will both accept my sincere apology for this error.


      • David L. Hagen

        Richard S. Courtney
        The LSE sound interesting. Please post links to public references.

        The fuel issue is not “running out”, but the slow RATE of producing and CONVERTING alternative hydrocarbons (bitumen, coal) to usable liquid transport fuels (or converting to natural gas). Consequently demand in oil importing countries will not able to keep up with the “Demand” (need) for fuel. See Robert Hirsch et al. The Impending World Energy Mess

        Impacts: Japan went to war over fuel. Germany lost WWII for lack of fuel!
        Lloyds of London (2010) is already warning:

        “A supply crunch appears likely around 2013… a spike in excess of $200 per barrel is not infeasible.”

        Froggatt, Anthony & Lahn, Glada, Sustainable Energy Security, Lloyds/Chatham House, 2010

        The US Joint Forces Command (2010) warns

        “by 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 MBD.”

        Joint Operating Environment 2010, JOE Feb. 18, 2010,

        Oil EXPORTS rapidly decline after countries reach peak production.
        A Quantitative Assessment of Future Net Oil Exports by the Top Five Net Oil Exporters by Jeffrey J. Brown and “Khebab”. The GDP of Oil Importing countries like the US, Germany & Japan will decline in proportion to fuel shortages until mitigating supplies can be provided – which could take decades!

        As a minor consequence, this fuel availability constraint throws out all IPCC fuel and anthropogenic fossil CO2 projections.

      • Richard S Courtney

        David Lhagen:

        I hope I am replying both the correct post and person this time.

        I stress that I answered the point because I think this ‘peak oil’ issue is a distraction. So, in hope of removing the distraction I point out that Germany’s shortage of oil in WW2 was because the RAF was bombing the Rhure coal and syncrude production facilities by night while the USAF was bombing them by day, and the South African SASOL plants which produced syncrude from coal defeated an oil embargo.

        A good start in study of LSE is this paper

        However, there is little more publicly available information on LSE than in the link because much of the process is confidential.


  41. Thank you Dr Curry for your posts which I first read a year or so ago. I’m trying to write something sensible for a Christian audience on climate change and have found your honesty and willingness to to own up to uncertainty on the science without resiling from your mainstrean views on the science refreshing.

    I like what Keith Kloor and Roger Piekle Jr do as well.

    In my opinion the larger issue is managing the changeover from fossil fuels as they run out. The world needs more energy not less. But what is to replace fossil fuels at the required levels of scale and consistency?

    • Richard S Courtney

      David Palmer:

      lease note that I wrongly attributed a comment from you as being from Barry Woods and and erroneously answered it (at October 23, 2010 at 11:59 am ) as being from him.

      I hope you will both accept my sincere apology for this error.


  42. Judith,
    Why have scientists assumed hurricanes and cyclone have to be energized by the ocean?
    A tornado forms from the clouds and pulls massive energy with it that is already circulating at that height. Yet what winds do an ocean produce?None. Evaporating water for the cause yes. So the assuption by scientist MUST be incorrect. A hurricane and cyclone must be a relative to a tornado. Many tornados have spawned from the collapsing of hurricanes and cyclones.
    Science has yet to look at the rotating speeds of the different levels of our atmosphere.

  43. Preference cascades or information cascades:
    While this may not apply to climate scientists (or maybe to some?), it certainly could apply to non-scientists who believe in global warming because it is a liberal meme. Here is an article on it.

    From the article:
    “There’s a slightly different term, information cascade, which is used to describe the propagation of beliefs and attitudes through crowd psychology. Information cascades occur because humans are social animals and tend to follow the behavior of those around them. When the social incentives are right, humans will substitute the judgment of others for their own.

    A useful, related concept is preference falsification, the act of misrepresenting one’s desires or beliefs under perceived social pressures. Preference falsification amplifies informational cascades — humans don’t just substitute the judgment of others for their own, they talk themselves into beliefs most around them don’t actually hold but have become socially convinced they should claim to hold!”

    • Even in that ‘Climate Heretic’ article, sensitivity/feedbacks gets only a small mention.
      No mention of the fact that even the sign (-or +) is unknown, let alone the magnitude.

      Are there any scientists actually trying to establish the actual values.
      By that, I do not mean modelling it in computer ‘runs’….
      (shamefully thought of as experiments, producing data)

      Steve Mcintyre said (in London) on th IPCC, one or 2 pages in the previous report, why not several hundred pages, saying why Lindzen is wrong…

      My thoughts, All the reast of the reports is just vanity, based on all the ‘scenarios’ based on modelling..

      Who is doing anywork on actual sensitivity.
      Then Judith can go back to having a quiet life.

    • David L. Hagen

      Congratulations – you have achieved the honor of being a true scientist, willing to examine both data and the models even of the established orthodoxy. As the article concludes:

      it is crucial to focus on the science itself and not the noise.

  44. Judith,

    I have followed the climate debate with amazement, because although I have no expertise in climatology (I am a chemist turned software developer) there do seem to be a lot of unanswered technical questions, and it would be interesting to hear your take on all of these issues:

    1) Is the methodology that produced the hockey stick graph fundamentally flawed from a statistical point of view? I rather suspect it is.

    2) Is it true that (as WUWT report) global temperatures were averaged from (approx) 6000 weather stations in 1990, but that now only about 1000 are used, and the remaining 5000 values are generated by extrapolation and then used to compute the global averages! This would seem to be a very unreliable way to determine average global temperature – paricularly since the data seems to be quite noisy.

    3) Is it true (again WUWT) that the raw temperature data is subject to corrections that seem to increase with time – even though measuring stations might be expected to be subject to an increasing urban heat island effect over time and thus require a negative adjustment.

    4) Is it a clear fact that the temperature response to a rise in CO2 would be logarithmic – which would seem to make the problem less serious!

    5) WUWT produced an interesting analysis of Venus’ atmosphere in which it was claimed that if you measure the temperature in Venus’ atmosphere at the height were the pressure is 1 earth atmosphere, the result is only modestly higher than earth – suggesting that the huge temperatures at the surface are caused by the sheer density of the atmosphere, and not by a greenhouse effect. Can you comment?

    As a chemist, I find the concept of ‘carbon capture’ deeply implausible and possibly highly dangerous in that underground stores of CO2 could leak and suffocate people – analogous to what happened at Lake Nyos.

    • David, the answer to #4 is simple: yes (regarding serious, well that is a value judgment). Re #5 scienceofdoom has an extensive discussion on Venus. Regarding #1, I will state yes (without elaboration). Regarding #2, people are investigating these issues, I have no particular insight into this situation, but I am finding it increasingly difficult to trust the existing analyzed surface temperature data sets.

      • Thank you for such a fast and useful response!

      • Judith,

        In view of your responses to my questions, I wonder what good evidence you would cite on the pro-AGW side of the debate?

        As a software developer, I am fairly suspicious of computer modelling because complex models will require debugging – just like any other program – and I suspect people debug/fiddle with them until they get the results they suspect. I also suspect that models are far too convenient, in that they conceal a mass of assumptions that go into the model, and generate an output that looks uncannily like real data – such as weather maps for 2150! Do you have a comment?

      • David, I am deep into preparing the next few threads, at most i can manage short responses and yes no answers. With regards to your second paragraph, I have to agree, this has been discussed on the previous climate modeling threads.

    • 1) The answer is no. It does contain some statistical limitations, one of which is that if applied to a set containing only red noise, it will produce a hockey stick shaped graph. That is because, by chance, some of the red data will have a hockey stick shape, and the methods will pick them out. However, unless the data sets used by Mann, Bradley and Hughs are only red noise, that property is irrelevant. That can be fairly easilly tested. A hockey stick produced from red noise will not be robust – it will not be reproducible by most subsets of the data. In contrast, the results of MBH98 are robust, being reproducible from subsets of the data; and having been confirmed by a wide variety of studies using different data and different statistical techniques.

      The same point can be made about Anthony Watts criticisms of the surface temperature data. He has raised some legitimate questions, but we do not know, for example, just from the fact that the GISS data set contains corrections for the UHI that it is therefor wrong. The way to check it is to compare it with other data. Of course, the other data, be it satelite temperature measurements, sea surface temperatures measurements, rural station only temperature measurements, or records of natural phenomena like glacier lengths all show the same pattern, and for the temperature measurements, much the same trend. The logical conclusion is that whatever errors exist in the temperature data set, and processing (and there are certainly some, if only because the people doing it are human) are minor, and have no substantive effect on the end result.

      • And the New Zealand temp dataset ‘Adjusted’ (no real explanation of why/how) showing a rise of 0.9C per century…

        Vs unadjusted dataset, showing 0.06C ‘rise’ (flat) per century..

        A big chunk of the extrapolated southern hemisphere?

      • I have not gone deeply into the NZ dataset, but the issue is discussed by Gareth Renowden here:

        Essentially the issue is this: for seven temperature data series produced by New Zealands National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) no single station provides a temperature record for the entire period. In order to get that temperature record, they have therefore adjusted the record on earlier stations for consistency. Where possible, they have made this adjustment based on overlapping records. Where that was not possible, they made the adjustment based on comparable stations. An example of the latter sort is Wellington, discussed in detail at the above link.

        Without having gone through all the data, the information available strongly suggests that the adjustments were well motivated, and based on sound principles. That, of course, does not preclude the accidental introduction of error. To check to see if any accidentally introduced errors are significant, we should compare the adjusted stations to stations that have not required adjustment:

        Alternatively we can look at temperatures proxies:

        Unfortunately both of those records are shorter than the seven station series, so they cannot count as absolute confirmation. Never-the-less, they are consistent with the adjusted data over the period of overlap, suggesting that NIWA’s adjustments are cosher.

        What is not cosher is portraying two different stations temperature records as being one continuos record without annotation, and without noting the 122 meter difference in altitude between the two stations. It was, of course, not NIWA who did that, but their sceptical critics. It is a practise that smacks of deliberate deception. It is also a practise passed over in silence by the so called “climate auditors”, who thereby show that they are not interested in the quality of data used in the debate; but only in impuning data whose consequences they find uncomfortable.

      • Tom,

        I would have thought a statistical method that pulls a signal out of pure noise, has to be unsuitable! As I understand it (and I might be wrong) the analysis of subsets of the data was not part of the original paper – just an afterthought to try to justify the result. A technical paper is invalid if the results don’t follow from the data or the data is invalid – you can’t justify a paper by claiming that other evidence points the same way (or at least you couldn’t when I did science).

        Regarding adjustments for the UHI effect, I can’t see why these would not increase with time almost invariably – how many weather stations have become less urbanised over time!

      • The statistical method does not pull a signal out of “pure”, ie white, noise. It pulled it out of sufficiently large sets of red noise which was tailored to have the same statistical properties as the data sets used in the study. There is a difference.

        Further, as shown by Weggman, if the method is used on a set of data, some of which is pure (white) noise, and some of which contains a genuine signal, it will recover the signal. This, I might point out was shown by Wegman in a report set up to assasinate Mann’s reputation, and which was clearly biased against Mann. Therefore, the question is, was there an actual temperature signal in the proxies, or was it just red noise? The robustness of MBH’s results strongly suggests the latter.

        However, if you do not like MBH’s result, simply ignore it. Instead look at the many proxy studies since then which do not use the potentially dubious techniques in MBH and which still produce the simillar results. This includes a study using McIntyre and McKittrik’s techniques but avoiding the use of principle components which reproduces MBH98’s result.

        Or did the way you did science mean that one flawed study producing a result mean that no unflawed studies producing the same result no matter how repeatably could ever justify accepting that result?

        Regarding temperature adjustments, the temperature adjustments that have involved increases have for the most part been introduced to compensate for the use of different stations to create a continuos record. Further, for some locations, the effect of urbanisation may well be to reduce temperatures. I have in mind my home town of Mt Isa located in semi-desert hills in NW Queensland, where urbanisation meant the introduction of watered lawns and fruit trees over previously arid rocky terain. I can well imagine a similar cooling effect in Los Vegas or Reno. My understanding is that GISS adjusts tempertures for UHI by comparing urban stations to rural stations and adjusting accordingly. Most of those adjustments are in the direction you would expect, decreasing later temperatures relative to earlier temperatures.

      • Surely “Red” noise is simply white noise that has been low-pass filtered! Most noisy phenomena have a frequency cut-off – ‘pure’ white noise is an abstraction. The point is, I think, that by creating a linear combination of of noise data, you can construct almost any signal – roughly as one can create a signal by combining sinusoids.

        Regarding the temperature measurements, it is beginning to sound as though the temperature record has been badly corrupted – as Judith Curry implied in her reply to me. There really is only so much adjusting that you can do to data before it becomes meaningless!

        The truly staggering thing from my perspective is that the original set of 6000 stations were not valued more – after all they represented the data stream by which global warming was to be measured – it almost suggests that a computer generated data set (corrections plus interpolation for lost sites) was seen as more convenient! The other point is that since these corrections are comparable in magnitude with the AGW effect (at least at some locations) it is absurd not to publish the methodology for such corrections in excruciating detail – which I don’t think was done.

      • The GISS temp adjustment program is public, I believe. See for a dissection of the GISS program. This was done by E.M. Smith.

      • Having checked out the site, I notice that Smith claims that the GHCN has fallen to only slightly over 100 thermometers (graph), but checking the GHCN inventory of surface stations, it is easy to establish that that is not the case.

        Checking further I noticed that Smith claimed the warming trend in NZ is based on just one thermometer record. Having recently looked at the NZ data (see post above) I can confidently state that the warming in NZ is a persistent feature found in a large number of thermometer records.

      • I can confidently say you are incorrect eg Carvalho. Et al 2007

        Anti-persistence in the global temperature anomaly field

        Abstract. In this study, low-frequency variations in temperature anomaly are investigated by mapping temperature anomaly records onto random walks. We show evidence that global overturns in trends of temperature anomalies occur on decadal time-scales as part of the natural variability of the climate
        system. Paleoclimatic summer records in Europe and
        New-Zealand provide further support for these findings as they indicate that anti-persistence of temperature anomalies on decadal time-scale have occurred in the last 226 yrs. Atmospheric processes in the subtropics and mid-latitudes of the SH and interactions with the Southern Oceans seem to play an important role to moderate global variations of temperature
        on decadal time-scales

      • You can assert that I am incorrect as confidently as you like, but your quoted abstract is irrelevant to the point made in the post to which I am responding – that the intrumental is a reliable though imperfect index of mean global temperature.

      • I believe that was for the US. From Smith’s site:
        “One final note: There has been A Great Dying lately for thermometers. Since about 1990, there has been a reduction in thermometer counts globally. In the USA, the number has dropped from 1850 at peak (in the year 1968) to 136 now (in the year 2009). As you might guess, this has presented some “issues” for our thermal quilt. But do not fear, GIStemp will fill in what it needs, guessing as needed, stretching and fabricating until it has a result. ”

      • Tom, this red noise discussion has got me thinking and I have a question for you. If trees are really good thermometers, shouldn’t each tree, under some set of conditions perhaps, show the instrumental signal? If we run the ring record from each tree individually through the hockey stick code, shouldn’t most, say 90%, pass the test? This in fact might be a good test if trees make good thermometers or not. What do you think?

      • And by “some set of conditions,” I mean perhaps some species in some particular environment.

      • The growth of trees under less than ideal conditions can be restricted, resulting in narrower tree rings. If the trees are near the limit of the treeline, temperature becomes a major factor in limiting growth, meaning the tree rings provide temperature information. However lack of precipitation, reduced sunshine, and attacks by insects and disease can also reduce growth so that there are confounding factors, some of which are regional (precipitation) and some of which will effect individual trees.

        The consequence is that no individual tree is a good thermometer – there are two many confounding factors. The average data from a group of trees in an area will be better in that it filters out individual confounding effects. That can be improved by carefully selecting the trees involved to exclude those that have obviosly been attacked by insects or disease (have growth deformities). However, regional confounding factors like rainfall will not be filtered out.

        So trees are not good thermometers, but they do provide a temperature signal if they come from near the tree line. As a result I would not trust a temperature reconstruction based solely on tree rings unless there was independant data on precipitation over the period of the reconstruction to remove the confounding effects. But neither to I think treerings should automatically be excluded from reconstructions, because they do provide a temperature signal.

        Even a tree ring only reconstruction would give us a better idea of paleoclimate than no reconstruction at all.

      • Thanks, Tom.

      • “In contrast, the results of MBH98 are robust, being reproducible from subsets of the data; and having been confirmed by a wide variety of studies using different data and different statistical techniques.”

        Doesn’t this this just mean the data and subsets thereof are more red-noise-like than white-noise-like?

      • Tom –
        Re your assertions about red noise, please see:

        which is McIntyre & McKitrick 2005
        “Hockey sticks, principal components, and spurious significance”

        Argue with the paper.

      • Nullius in Verba

        “That can be fairly easilly tested. A hockey stick produced from red noise will not be robust – it will not be reproducible by most subsets of the data. In contrast, the results of MBH98 are robust, being reproducible from subsets of the data”

        That’s a very good test, actually. It turns out that of the 112 post-PC series that go into MBH98, almost all the weight is on just 13 of them. These are mostly Gaspe and the bristlecone PCs – particularly NOAMER PC1 which in turn depended on only 16 out of hundreds, 15 of which were Greybill’s bristlecones. Take them out, and the shape vanishes. Mann himself did the experiment for MBH99 where he left out 20 series, and found that the Hockeystick shape completely disappeared. (Found on his ftp site in a directory called BACKTO_1400-CENSORED.)

        But the critical point made by the red noise test is that the algorithm is not pulling out what can safely be assumed to be a temperature series, it is pulling out a particular shape. It will pull out anything with that shape in the data, whether it is temperature or not. It happened to pull out the bristlecones, which do have the shape, but which were already known not to be temperature related. Thus, the final output is not temperature related either. It is a reconstruction of growth surges caused by strip-barking or fertilisation or something else.

        Being able to recover a Hockeystick by making clever arguments for putting contaminated data back in to the mix does not prove that the result is measuring temperature. Even if it was robust to taking subsets, it still wouldn’t be proved that the result is the global (or NH) temperature. There seems to be a common tendency to assume that any output that looks like temperature must be the temperature (and must always have been the temperature). But that’s arguing causation from correlation – and not even a very robust correlation either.

      • Nullius in verba –
        Good summary. Nicely put.

      • Mann himself did indeed do the experiment, but suggesting that leaving out this data results in “…the Hockeystick shape completely disappear[ing]” is misleading. If you do remove that data, post 1600, the reconstruction retains much the same shape, including the hockey stick blade. Short term variability is increased but trends are not significantly altered. (see figure 5)
        Prior to 1600 there is a completely different story. Removing that data results in a much warmer reconstruction over the interval 1400 to 1600. Of course, in that period removing that data results in removing 70% of available data for that period – hardly a fair test for robustness. It is true that the MBH98 reconstruction from 1400 to 1600 relies on a very small data set. Correspondingly it has very large error bars. However, the reconstruction with those data sets is likely to be more accurate than the reconstruction without them, in that excluding them results in a very warm 16th century compared to what we would expect from other data. The MWP is generally considered to lie between 1100 and 1400.

        Finally, I have seen sceptics spin all sorts of conspiracy theories from the discovery of a data file labeled “BACKTO_1400-CENSORED”. If you follow the link read the text, you will clearly see the reason for the naming convention. The censoring reffered to in the file name is that imputed to McIntyre and McKittrik, not censoring by MBH. (And to clarrify, MBH do not accuse M&M of censoring the data per se, but rather excluding it by innapropriate statistical techniques.)

      • Nullius in Verba

        The blade was never the controversial bit of the Hockeystick. We all know about the LIA. The controversy was about the flatness of the handle, and in particular the disappearance of the MWP.

        And in the data found in the censored directory, the blade did indeed disappear. (You can see it in McKittrick’s summary figure 6.) The charts on the page you link to are for another analysis.

        The claim that NOAMER PC1 represents 70% of the data is misleading. The problem for reconstruction is that most of the available data is from the United States, and if included in a simple average would vastly over-represent this small part of the world. This is why the result was condensed down using PCA and only the first couple of PCs used – and because of the short-centering error this gave only 16 series any significant weight, 15 of which were Greybill’s bristlecones and already known not to be temperature proxies.

        I offered no theories as to the reason for Mann’s naming of the directory, and do not intend to speculate. But it is reasonably safe to conclude that the discussion in the linked page of McIntyre’s and and McKittrick’s ‘censored’ network is referring to something different, because the timing is out of sequence. At the time of MM03, when the ‘censored’ directory was discovered, McIntyre and McKittrick did not yet know that leaving out a couple of series led to the restoration of the MWP. It was as a result of investigating this that they prepared the MM04 submission to Nature, which your linked blog post is a response to. And the series that Mann criticised McIntyre for leaving out in MM03 were not those that he himself had left out in the ‘censored’ experiment.
        (With ‘Twisted Tree, Heartrot Hill’ McIntyre replaced Mann’s obsolete series (at the time of Mann’s paper) with the latest ‘clean’ version from ITRDB, and with the Gaspe series 53, it was omitted because it’s inclusion in the 1400 step broke Mann’s own stated rules on series selection. McIntyre had not yet realised the full significance of this.)

      • 1) It seems strange that you should claim the blade was unimportant when, had it not been for the blade, M&M would have been entirely uninterested in the reconsruction to begin with. In fact, they continue to condemn reconstruction showing the blade that do not use the controversial techniques of MBH98, and even though they show greater variability than MBH98. In fact, the only time they find a blade acceptable is when (say, by truncating it in 1930) it is kept shorter than the reconstructed MWP. What is more, where they not focussed on the blade, their entire argument regarding red noise would have been seen by them as irrelevant. The question would be not whether the MHH98 technique produces blades from carefully selected red noise; but whether it reproduces the variation in temperatures in the non-intrumental period (which as the Wegmann Report shows, it does).

        2) I do not know whether the “censored” data produces the blade or not, and M&M05 does not show whether it does or not. Rather, it only shows the first Principle Component. The first PC may lack a blade, while the complete data has it very easilly as you well know, having read Mann’s criticisms of MM03.

        3) MM03 contains no mention of any files being labeled as “censored”, while MM05 does. Presumably the “censored”files were discovered after the release of data used in MM03, and presumably therefore, were prepared for the intervening MBH corringdum in 2004 (or possibly the RealClimate discussion, also in 2004).

        Whether the “censored” file deleted just the “bristle cone pines” or the entire ITRDB for north America plus the Queen Anne series is irrelevant. It is irrelevant because MBH used all of the data in their reconstructions, ie, they did not censor any data despite the accusations that have been made against them. It is also irrelevant because only by censoring the entire ITRDB for North America (plus the Queen Anne series) can the MM03 result be reconstructed. The actual file obtained by M&M may have been created in a process of trial and error to determine which data needed to be deleted to emulate M&M. However, the provenance of the name seems quite clear – it is a refference by MBH to the claimed de facto censoring of the data by M&M.

        While the weight given to different data sets by the MBH data sets may be argued, the “de facto” censorship is equivalent to excluding North America entirely from the reconstruction. That M&M achieved this by statistical means, or by introducing “CO2 fertilizer effects” doesn’t make it more palatable.

        4) M&M05’s corrected reconstruction (figure 8 from your link) is clearly nonsense. It makes (about) 1910 colder than any year in the preceding 600 – colder than the Dalton, Sporer, and Maunder Minimums, and significantly colder than “the year without a summer”. In their determination to discover a MWP by fair means or foul, they have eliminated the Little Ice Age. In fact, they have even eliminated cold periods well within the instrumental record.

        Despite this, they still produce a MWP not much warmer than the 50’s and 60’s, and still about 0.2 degrees cooler than the end of the 20th century. Whatever the flaws of MBH98 (and it certainly has some), they are nowhere near as great as M&M’s corrections to it.

        5) I have been thinking of a way to get around the issues of proxy based reconstructions by using CO2 content in the atmosphere as a measure of global temperature. Because the primary determinant of CO2 content is the differential ability of CO2 to dissolve in the oceans in the absent of large scale anthropogenic emmissions; in that absence CO2 content in the atmosphere is a good proxy for SST. Because CO2 is well mixed, it is also (unlike various isotopes) a proxy for global SST, not just regional temperatures.

        Obviously this technique cannot be used after the beginning of large scale anthropogenic emmissions (say 1800), but before that it should provide a reasonably uncontroversial indicator of global temperatures which is, in fact, global in scope. The technique, applied formally, would not be without difficulty. Correction would need to be made, for example for CO2 emmissions due to deforestation (either natural or anthropogenic). But for the blogosphere, and over short intervals we can ignore that.

        Taking this information from Law Dome, we can see that CO2 levels (and hence tempratures) started the millenia low – around 277 ppm. Afer a few centuries they climbed to 280 ppm, before falling agian in the Dark Ages to around 276 ppm. Durring the MWP they climbed as high as 284 ppm, before falling away to 272 ppm by the early 17th century. They then rose gradually to 278 ppm by the end of the 18th century.

        Given the ratio of 12.5 ppm CO2/ degree centigrade derives from CO2 fluctuations durring the Ice Age, we can see that the peak temperatures of the MWP were approximately 1 degree C greater than the coldest temperatures of the LIA, but only 0.66 degrees warmer than the colder periods of the Dark Ages. The MWP was also about 0.3 degrees warmer than the Roman Warm Period.

        Based on this technique (and I expect the estimates to be significantly refined if properly applied), the best reconstruction temperature over the last 1000 years is that by Moberg et al (2005), which shows a 0.8 degree temperature differential between peak MWP and early seventieth century, but a 1.2 degree temperature differntial between the early seventeenth century and the end of the twentieth century. That seems about right, though I would not quibble about claims the MWP was as warm as the end of the 20th century. (Claims that it was warmer are absurd on this and other grounds.) However, using the CO2 analysis, we see that no warming over the thousand years has been as rapid as the modern warming; and the modern warming looks certain to continue, with temperatures 6 or more degrees warmer by the end of the century being more likely than not.

        As noted elsewhere, for time reasons I am going to withdraw from discussion on this thread. However, I may respond to any critiques of my point 5 above :)

      • Nullius in Verba


        I note your time limitations. And I’d agree that reprising the entire Hockeystick saga here is probably not useful, so I’ll keep remaining comments brief. No need to reply if you don’t want to.

        1. I think you may be misunderstanding what MM were interested in, what they agree or disagree with, and how they define the term ‘hockystick shape’. I’d sugest reading Montford’s book if you want to understand the history of the sceptic view of events. You’re not required to believe it, obviously, but I think you would find it useful to understand the position you’re arguing against. Mann’s version of what MM say is somewhat distorted.

        2. It’s more complicated than this. I don’t have time to go into all the details, even if you had time to read them. Again, I’d recommend Montford.

        3. That’s correct. The sequence of events was that McIntyre asked Mann for the data, Mann got Scott Rutherford to send it, McIntyre found huge problems with the data – undocumented splices, infilling, mislabelling, transpositions, obsolete versions, duplications, etc. – and asked Mann if he had the right data, Mann fobbed him off without really answering, MM published MM03, Mann immediately hit back saying they had processed the wrong data and it was all on his ftp site (which was the first time MM had heard of the site), and it was in searching for the right data on the site (the data there didn’t match the analysis) that they found the ‘censored’ directory. This, in combination with some of Mann’s other comments, led them to the discovery that the result was dependent on only a handful of series. If you left them out, the MWP came back. It was this that the blog post you referred to called MM’s “censored” network.

        4. MM05 is not a ‘corrected reconstruction’. MM make absolutely no representations that it reconstructs temperature. This has been a persistent mischaracterisation of what they were trying to do that McIntyre has repeatedly tried to correct to little avail. The distinction is important.

        5. Try examining the ice age correlation between CO2 and temperature and estimating the residual measurement error of your linear regression. Can you really get point accuracies of better than 0.1 C? What do you think of the reported lag between temperature rise and CO2 rise of 800 years or more during ice ages? How fast are you proposing that CO2 can adjust to temperature? How quickly does atmospheric CO2 reach equilibrium with the oceans?

        And do you have the resolution to be able to determine the rate of rise over such short intervals? (Like 20 years.) They usually smooth ice core data, and there is some dating spread due to the way it is trapped.

        It’s an interesting idea, but I think it might be more controversial than you think. :-)

      • 5 a: No, I don’t think I can get accuracies better than 0.1 C simply by eyeballing the data. If you look at the figures I quoted, you will see that they are all rough roundings of fractions. Quoting figures of two thirds (rounded to 0.66) is a much smaller implicit claim to accuracy than 0.1; and One third (rounded down to 0.3 because it is just less than one third) makes less claim to accuracy than reporting in tenths.

        Even if the reconstruction is fully worked out, I would not be surprised if temperatures could only be cited to plus or minus 0.1 degrees or even plus or minus 0.2 degrees. However, the technique would have the advantage that the error bars would not increase significantly as you go further into the past.

        As it stands, using the same data, and different but justifiable statistical techniques, you can still get a full 1 degree C difference in the means of a reconstruction (and still more once error bars are included). A technique that could lower the range of plausible reconstructions to half a degree or even a quarter of a degree variaton would be an improvement, though I doubt it would be the last word.

        Further, even if we could only only know past temperatures within half a degree, I think that that would be sufficient for policy debate on CO2. Does it really matter if the MWP was only 0.2 degrees colder than the present, or 0.2 degrees warmer? We certainly have good reason to believe temperatures were much warmer than either in the distant past, so as long as you are not prone to “because event x was caused by y in the past, all similar events x’ in the future must be cause by similar events y’ in the future” fallacies, the precise temperature difference between the MWP and the 20thCWP is largely inconsequential.

        b) The responsiveness of CO2 to SST is slightly vexed. Surface waters take up, or emit CO2 very rapidly in responce to changes in temperature. So much so that the modern temperature increase can be derived from modern CO2 increases in the atmosphere. See for example Ferdinand Engelbeen’s CO2 mass balance chart (5.1 at link below). The short term annual) variability almost exactly reproduces the shor term variability in global temperatures. In contrast, the trend is completely dominated by cumulative CO2 emmissions. I have no doubt that, if the trend were corrected for cumulative emmissions based on the solubility changes due to changes in partial pressure on CO2, you could reproduce 20th century temperatures far more accurately from that data than you could (for example) from tree rings.

        This is complicated by the thermo-haline conveyor, which takes returns water to the surface after centuries away from it. However, if there have been no very large (>5ppm) changes in CO2 concentration, and no very large changes in global temperatures (>2degrees) the error introduced by this should be very small.

        Of more concern is changes in land use with time, which would be difficult to quantify, and can have a significant effect on CO2 concentrations. For example the large increase in CO2 durring the MWP exists in part (at least) because of the large increase in deforestation durring that period. It is only if a reasonable correction for deforestation can be developed that this technique can be developed much beyond what I have. On the other hand, even a linear deforestation trend over time woud make the technique sufficiently informative as to be usefull. Further, deforestation changes isotope ratios of Carbon, meaning a better measure of deforestation than just a linear trend should be possible.

        Finally, although CO2 uptake or emmission from the ocean is sufficiently fast to be resolved annually, CO2 capture in the firn is not. Therefore this technique can only yeild multidecadal averages (2 to 3 decades). However, while I am worried about annual extremes because of the high human impact they can have; in so much as I am interested in climate change, it is decadal trends that concern me because it is climate change that we are discussing. Therefore I do not see this as a significant limitation.

        Finally, while the technique may well be controversial, I suspect the controversy would resolve more around people not liking the results than the actual techniques used. Consequently, if properly worked out, I believe the climate science community would embrace the technique quite happily. I am not so sanguine about the sceptical community doing the same unless it produces the icon they desire, a MWP clearly warmer than the current.

      • Nullius.
        I’m always mystified why some people want to see a strong, global MWP signal. To me that would indicate a high sensitivity to forcing – not what I want to hear.

      • High sensitivity to which forcing, though, adelady? The existence of the MWP would suggest that natural variability alone could account for, if not all, then the overwhelming majority of temperature variation in the 20th century, including late 20th century temperature anomaly. “Disappearing” the MWP is key to diminishing the potentially significant contribution of natural variability in climate warming, boosting confidence in AGW and reducing the impact of significant uncertainties in the assertion that AGW is the predominant cause of the late 20th century’s higher temperatures.

  45. Tom, if you do a linear regression on GISS and either of the Sat temp series over the sat era, the sat trend is up but not up as far. And it is true from what I have seen that as time goes on, the GISS trend gets steeper.

    • A major reason for the differences are, firstly, that GISS analyzes temperatures for the whole polar region, while the satelite and SST data is restricted to lower altitudes. Given that the arctic is warming faster than any other area on Earth, that results in a steeper trend for GISS. Note that when the GISS arctic data is compared to DMI arctic data, they are comparable. See figure 3 here: Further, GISS arctic temperatures correlate well with summer ice melts, suggesting that their method of interpolating Arctic temperatures does not introduce major errors. Another reason for the difference is that SST are rising slower than land temperatures, as is expect by AGW theory.

      These factors make such comparisons inexact, but still informative. What is more, more exact comparisons, ie, comparisons between GISTEMP and satelite data over specific land masses, for example, can give more exact comparisons.

      Having said that, the difference in trends between RSS and UAH using different analysis of the same data is far more concerning than the differences between the various land temperature records and those of satelitse, radiosondes or SST.

      • The GISS estimate of Arctic temps is a lot more dodgey than the satellite data. The GISS estimate is based on a very limited number of stations, one I believe. Also, doesn’t the Antarctic offset the higher temps in the Arctic?

        Also, isn’t the radiosonde data a lot spottier than satellite?

      • First, the data extropolations for the Arctic is based on any station within 1200 km, or slightly over 10 degrees of latitude. Counting all stations withing 10 degrees of the 82.5 degree north cut of on the satelite data I found around 20 stations (72.4 degrees North or higher) that may have contributed to the extrapolation.

        We certainly know that the extrapolation is not based on just one station, for if it was it would be monochrome.

        Second, the GISS estimate cannot be more dodgy than the satelite data north of 82.5% north, for the satelite data is simply non-existant in that region.

        Third, I reiterate, although we know that the GISS extrapolation must be in error because it is an extrapolation, we know that the error is not large because (1) the GISS arctic temperature anomaly correlates well with arctic summer ice melts; and (2) the GISS arctic temperature anomaly trends are very close to those from DMI (GISS 0.349/ decade north of 64 degrees since 1960; DMI 0.368/decade north of 80 degrees north over the same period), which are based on a much larger data set. The error is certainly less than assuming the arctic trend is the same as the global trend (approx 0.15/decade), which is the effect of simply not including polar regions in the analysis (as for example, in the Satelite data and the various producst from Hadley).

        Now though we might like GISS to use the DMI data set as being more accurate than their simple extrapolation, doing so would also exclude meaningfull comparisons with times earlier than 1958 (the earliest period for which DMI has data).

        Finally, although Antarctica is cooling as is predicted by AGW theory, it is not cooling in all areas, and it is not cooling very much so while including Antarctica does offset some of the Arctic warming, it by no means offsets all of it.

      • I would have to dig up the reference, but as I recall only one station is used for the extropolation, in spite of the existence of the others. Also, I’m not claiming no warming, just that GISS is dodgy.

      • That may have been for the US, but there where far more than 136 stations listed for just the US in the link I provided. In fact, the GHCN the 1221 stations from the USHCN as being sources, in addition to other US networks which may, or may not overlap.

        While on the topic of E.M.Smith, consider his claim that:

        ” August has an average of 21.5C and as we scan the August range, we find a fairly gentle rise from the 18-19C at the start to 20.something in the mid 1870s to a hot 23C in the 1936-37 years. Then sliding back to the 21C and even 20.x in some years of the 1960x and ’70s. Ending with 21.4C, 22.1C, 21.6C in these last few suspect years. So in August, we see no global warming. We do have cyclical ripple, but no big “jump” at the end.”

        First noting that this refers to his table of simple averages of station data, which does not, of course account for station distribution. I then note that his description of the August data is misleading. While it does rise to 23 degrees in 1936 and 23.1 in 1937, it rises still further by the end of the century, reaching 23.3 in 1998, and 23.2 (2000), 23.4 (2001), 23.7 (2003) and 23.2 (2005). In other words, though there are fluctiations, there is clearly a warming trend with the end of the twentieth century being warmer than the 30’s (and by about the amount predicted by AGW). This suggests to me that he is being very selective in the data he quotes, particularly when I wonder why he chose to comment on August rather than July.

        Two further things to note, although his estimate of the sharp drop in thermometer numbers is in 2007, there is a fall in temperature from that year, not a rise as would be required by his thesis. Further, on his simple mean, the warmest annual mean temperature for the US in the 1930’s and 40’s is 12 degrees (1931, ’34, and ’38). Also on his figures, since 1989 only four years have had an annual mean less than 12 degrees, with only 1 (2009) in the last decade. The hottest years over that period, again based his data have been 1998 and 2007, both on 13 degrees, and hence a full degree warmer than the warmest years of the 1930’s and ’40’s. In stark contrast, the GISS data for the USA has the warmest year of the 30’s and 40’s as being 1934 (1.2 degree anomaly) with only two years since being warmer (1998 with 1.32 and 2006 with 1.3). The contrast between the simple mean and the data as processed by GISS shows that the techniques used by GISS clearly downplay late twentieth warmth relative to that in the 30’s and 40’s, and by to the tune of nearly a full degree. That simple fact alone should end any claims that GISS is biasing its data to show more warmth than actually exists. That is not a guarantee that GISS has got it right, but it certainly shows they are trying to.

        PS, I will not be further responding on this thread due to time constraints (other than a reply to Nulius).

      • Since the temp results are presented as anomalies, the “movement” of thermometers south will not necessarily bias the temperature higher. This will happen only if the southern anomaly trend is higher than the northern one. This has been pointed out by others earlier. I don’t know if Smith acknowledged that later or not.

  46. The SciAm article that Dr. Curry mentioned earlier, which labels her a “climate heretic,” is well worth reading:

    I found this early passage hit the mark:

    Although many of the skeptics recycle critiques that have long since been disproved, others, [Curry] believes, bring up valid points—and by lumping the good with the bad, climate researchers not only miss out on a chance to improve their science, they come across to the public as haughty. “Yes, there’s a lot of crankology out there,” Curry says. “But not all of it is. If only 1 percent of it or 10 percent of what the skeptics say is right, that is time well spent because we have just been too encumbered by groupthink.”

  47. Judith, whatever people might call you, your good and just and right to me. I’ve just read the interview with Scientific America and I feel I lost my heart in Sanfranisco, again. Know that good people support your attempt to ask questions.

  48. I just spotted a really interesting new blog

    Two scientists take on opposite sides of the AGW debate, and debate, legal style

  49. Your blog is welcome and there have been several very good contributions. How you run it is up to you – its your blog and your time! If you listen to too many people you may end up like the three economists with four opinions!
    If you comments to Scientific American are accurate then I do have one difference with you. I believe that you must engage with sceptics not because possibly 1% or maybe 10% of what they say is correct, [how could it be measured?] Quality is surely the relevant issue. If no other sceptical claims were correct, you would have to accept the importance of Steve McIntyre’s virtually solo, demolition of the “Hockey Stick” graph. “Warmists” continue [even on this blog] to defend the H.S. and its successors, yet in the statistical community it is recognised as fatally flawed both in data and methodology.
    What the climatology world needs is several “McIntyres” [i.e scientists who do not engage in group think] who will research the nature of the feedbacks on which the whole AGW hypothesis depends. Of that happening I remain a sceptic!

  50. I am not a trained scientist, however I have Attempted to be a well read amateur. From what I have read and the data from the NOAA that I can decipher I believe the c02 and permafrost effects in alaska, Russia and the meltdown in the massive ice in Greenland and the arctic are well founded. I also am an amateur astronomer and the 11 year cycles of the sun are fairly well documented to around 1500. In 1645 until 1715 the Maunder Minimum caused by a lack of solar activity caused a minny ice age. The current cycle has been similar so far and today the first storm since 2006 turned out to be a very small one and according to bulletins shows no danger to earth or continued activity is expected. This a true wild card in the climate debate that has been ignored. You should be free to express your ideas without the non-sense aimed at you. This response field is terrible t0 type in

    good luck tp

  51. Here is a bit that stood out for me from ‘Climate Heretic’, imagine if every scientist, admits to themselves their area is a bit unceratin, but sure the other areas make up for it…!

    ” So it’s not so much as finding things that were wrong, but rather ignorance that was unrecognized and confidence that was overstated.” In retrospect, she laughs, “if people expert in other areas were in the same boat, then that makes me wonder.”

    Maybe it is all a delusion afterall. aGW and tenths of a degree per century, impossible to isolate a human signature, from all the climate noise.. and more powerful drivers of climtate, solar, oceans, etc. Or even some global cooling according to some astrophyscists.

    Given the unceratainty, perhaps that is as likely as any other scenario, more likely than a 12C tipping point, and Thermogeddon…

    When The Earth Gets Too Hot For Humans
    frontpage of Newscientist (UK, Oct 23 2010)

  52. Judith,

    IMO, the topic and tone of the blogger’s thread frames the narrative of the commenters. Having 1) positioned your blog as a science blog rather than an information blog and 2) posted a number very thoughtful threads from the gitgo, most of the commenters have responded very thoughtfully.

    I suspect the lack of participation by your peers is because they 1) may be surprised to see the response that your blog has received, 2) may be waiting to see if others in your peer group elect to participate and/or 3) are hesitant to reveal their doubts about “the science being settled”.

    It is apparent that you have put a considerable amount of thought and effort into getting this blog off to a great start. I might suggest that you 1) reduce the frequency of new threads and 2) devote a bit more time to responding to comments. Whatever you decide, keep your focus on chanllenging science topics.

  53. Political Junkie

    Dr. Currie,
    Re your site – so far, so good! Much appreciated polite discussion here.
    Let me second your recommendation re
    This looks like a very promising informative and positive discussion on climate issues by two well qualified people with differing opinions who also happen to like and respect each other.
    They’re off to a good start!

  54. Judith – this is probably a naive question, and even more likely doesn’t belong here, but it has been nagging me for a while, so perhaps you or someone from among your scientific cognescenti can set me right.
    Given that the atmosphere appears to be, to varying and perhaps disputed degrees, thermally stratified, (but leaving aside, pace orkneygal, the existence or otherwise of the Tropospherical Hot Spot) I would expect it to exhibit mirage-like optical properties, such that certain components of solar radiation striking it at any particular angle would reflect and be “lost” to the earth’s system. This would presumably apply in the tropics on;y at certain times of the day, but in the higher latitudes at all times during daylight. If the THS did indeed tend to form in response to greenhouse warming, the effect would perhaps be intensified, tending to abate the warming.

    Perhaps I just haven’t read widely enough, but I have never seen any account of such properties, nor have I any real idea what the implications of such a lost component would be, if indeed it exists. If it does exist, it ought surely to appear in GCMs?

    • “mirage-like optical properties”? I am definitely _not_ among the scientific cognoscenti, but I think any effect like this would be very small to vanishing. The first port of call is that atmospheric gases are transparent to solar radiation – they only cause warming because they absorb, and emit, long wave radiation emitted from the earth’s surface. The notion that they could reflect rather than absorb seems a bit iffy – even then, for molecules further down in the atmosphere, if they reflected upwards the radiation could easily strike another molecule and redirect downwards in any event. So any such effect would be restricted to the radiation reflected from those molecules which manage to reflect radiation directly without any interception before reaching the TOA again.

      My only reservation here is that water vapour could be a special case – but as soon as you’re looking at increased water vapour you bring clouds along with you when the vapour starts to condense. And they have their own albedo and radiation effects depending on altitude and composition.

    • Nullius in Verba

      Atmospheric refraction does occur, but it is a very small effect that is only noticeable for rays travelling nearly horizontally.

      Refraction is actually caused by density changes in the air, and while temperature does change the density, by far the bigger effect is the change due to decreasing pressure with altitude. This effect tends to curve the rays downwards, so the sun’s light at dawn and dusk is actually carried around the Earth’s curvature to illuminate part of the ‘dark’ side. Sunrise and sunset times are shifted slightly from what the astronomers would calculate. Radar engineers use the 4/3rds Earth formula, in which the horizon effects are calculated using an Earth radius 33% bigger to compensate for the refraction of their almost horizontal beams. It has even been calculated that on Venus the pressure gradient is so steep that light can be carried all the way round the world, and that it never gets totally dark there.
      (I haven’t checked that, but it doesn’t sound totally crazy to me.)

      Mirages occur for temperature gradients of 5-10 C per metre, and given that the normal temperature gradient with altitude is more like 0.006 C per metre, it’s going to be a lot smaller effect.

      For rays that are not close to horizontal, the bending is small, and even for the horizontal rays it usually requires light to travel through tens of kilometres of air to shift it even a fraction of a degree out of line. Given the gross approximations in GCMs (like, that they model the atmosphere at a grid of points ~100 km apart) this sort of effect is negligible.

      • NiV – thanks – excellent synopsis. I was aware that the mirage effect is the result of a discontinuous density gradient, but your figures reveal why the effect is likely to be negligible. I take it this would hold true across the spectrum of incident solar radiation? Not for the first time, I wish I remembered my high school physics.

      • Nullius in Verba

        You are welcome. Happy to help.

        Yes, you do get more refraction at longer wavelengths (like in rainbows) but across the solar spectrum and even longwave infrared I don’t think it’s going to make a big difference.

        Out beyond microwave wavelengths, it does start to get a little bit more significant (as those radar engineers would testify) but I still wouldn’t worry about it for climate calculations.

  55. Love you Judith! :)
    Not because you are listening to the skeptics but because you have shown to be a true truth seeker without any preconceived notions on a direction nor another. Your posts are excellent and very educative, and in my opinion your blog also brings the two distintct, arbitary groups (“a’s and d’s”) closer together.

    Thank you!

  56. Judith,

    I have to say that your blog is now required reading for me, and has become the basis for keeping in touch with what is going on, along with Watts, Steve M. and various scientists with whom I correspond. I hope you can find the time to keep it up.

    Like many others, I have learned a lot, and I am grateful for the prevailing good manners of almost all who post.

    Could I ask, once again, for a thread in due course on measurement. Almost the first sceptical piece I read, a few years ago, was Anthony Watts at the beginning of his on-site inspections of temperature measuring stations. Since my own research work was founded on data and good measurement, I was almost astonished at how anyone could take seriously temperature readings from some of the photographed sites. Since then, as others have pointed out, the number of measuring stations has changed radically, and more and more evidence is coming that there have been ‘adjustments’ that seem always to show an increase in temperature over time, where one might expect technical adjustments to be evenhanded over time.

    Since so much depends on the data that underpin the global temperature anomaly, it would seem to me that we need a comprehensive examination of the issues here — which also include extrapolation over seas and at the Poles.

    Having said that, let me conclude with thanks. You’ve done us all a great service.

    For what these self-applied labels are worth, I think of myself as an agnostic on the AGW hypothesis in its strong form:that AGW is real, unprecedented, and dangerous to humanity.

  57. Relating to both of these… Judith for recognizing that there was some value in what was being argued by the skeptical side, and just agreeing with Lewis that, yes, we so support your attempt to get at the crux of all this – no matter if some people don’t like you changing sides a bit.
    Lewis – “Know that good people support your attempt to ask questions.”

    Judith: “I just spotted a really interesting new blog

    At Richard Lindzen and Michael Crichton participated in an IQ2 US debate at MIT in 2007. A poll was taken before the debate started, and a second one was taken afterward. As to which side “carried the day,” the vote was 46% to 42% for the Lindzen-Crichton anti-global warming side. The vote before it was only about 30% for that side, so they seemed to have won over some people. Though the debate did not cover the issue in great depth, still there was enough there added to the audience’s prior understanding to accept at least some of the skeptic’s arguments.

    I’ve heard it soberly stated that other debates have had the same effect: When information from both sides is heard the skeptic’s side has consistently won people away from the pro-AGW side. LOL – It might even be said that a little (more) knowledge can be a dangerous thing, at least from the pro side’s perspective.

    Similarly, SOMETHING in what the skeptics have been saying was able to persuade Judith to begin questioning. She wrote about how some of what she knew didn’t jibe with how it was put forth in the IPCC summary. I would ask (rhetorically at least) if it might have been a case of a negative push combining with a positive pull: would she have stepped into the aisle if there was no blogosphere camp out there.

    Briefly: I blithely accepted the pro-side originally. Why wouldn’t I? All we heard in the 1990s was about how they knew it was happening. Then I went looking out of curiosity for some of the background on it. From the beginning of that search I could see that the stated case was filled with uncertainties. I ended up with the position that they simply did not make their case well enough for my scientific tastes. That was crossing over for me, too, because I am a social Liberal (capital “L”) and many skeptics are anything but. But facts are facts. It is not political with me. If they had convinced me with facts, I would not be here.

  58. Judith

    Do you agree with the following interpretation of the global mean temperature anomaly trend for the last century?

  59. Climatism:

    Will Holdrens rebranding, as ‘Global Climate disruption’ take hold in the media… Or George Monbiot’s new meme, ‘future climate breakdown’

    This article mentions David Viners (CRU) 10 year old prediction of no snow in the Uk/Europe, it would be a thing of the past. One scientist’s thoughts, the ‘warmist now say, do you not know about extreme weather events… caused by ‘global warming’. Which draws the question, why did the IPCC mention this in the 2001 and 2007 reports. Both of which state that europe would have to adapt to no snow, ski resorts, etc would have to develop new tourist pursuits, no mention of estrem weather events then. Should I believe them when they say we knew this all along, or should consider them as delusional.

    Am I a ‘climate heretic’ for pointing out the previous predictions of these scientist is wrong, or am I a ‘climate deniar’ for doing so…

  60. Judith – I’ve been thinking about the use of the term “experiment” to describe GCMs. You have defended this, I believe, provided it is understood that they are a qualified form of experiment. I suggest it might be time to simply decide that “experiment” should no longer be used in this way.


    The qualification you say allows them to be called models is almost certain to be lost on the general public, and honoured more in the breach than the observance by climate scientists. “Simulations” carries no such freight.
    There is a second, perhaps more potent reason. In a true experiment, ALL results MUST be recorded. Reading more about modelling practice, it seems commonplace to encounter a large number of “bad” runs, which “require”, or at least inspire, tweaking of the model, to produce a “good” run. But at what point do “bad runs” stop being failures of the experimental apparatus, and become results of the putative experiment itself?

    All in all, is anything lost, and isn’t some clarity gained, by simply dropping the term “experiment” in favour of “simulation”, when speaking of climate models?

    • Personally i use the word simulation for the most part. But a numerical experiment would consist of a series of simulations that are configured to test our hypothesis.

      See this post at climate clash that summarizes feynman’s sense of the role of models and experiments in the overall context of the scientific method

      • Professor Kelly’s Notes from one of the ‘enquiries’.

        from Climate Audit:

        “Kelly previously made a complaint that would not be opposed by the severest IPCC critic:

        [Kelly](i) I take real exception to having simulation runs described as experiments (without at least the qualification of ‘computer’ experiments). It does a disservice to centuries of real experimentation and allows simulations output to be considered as real data. This last is a very serious matter, as it can lead to the idea that real ‘real data’ might be wrong simply because it disagrees with the models! That is turning centuries of science on its head.

        (ii) I think it is easy to see how peer review within tight networks can allow new orthodoxies to appear and get established that would not happen if papers were wrtten for and peer reviewed by a wider audience. I have seen it happen elsewhere. This finding may indeed be an important outcome of the present review.”

  61. @Girma –

    I would suggest this one would show more of the up-down cycles:

    It has an 1855-1880 linear trend added.

    I confess to cherry picking a little on that 1855 date. 1850 didn’t give as steep an incline as the two later inclines, and I thought I’d see how shortening the beginning of the period changed the slope.

    I took the liberty to do that knowing that – like the ENSO phase duration – the PDO’s phase was originally seen as being 1, 2 or 3 decades long, and early data showed some of them at about 24 years long. So a 25 year phase seemed within acceptable parameters.

  62. Accusing skeptics of being cranks in Scientific American reveals that you care more about your standing in the warmist community than any genuine attempt to engage with those who dissent over CAGW.

    This blog is just your attempt to prove skeptics wrong.

    I think people will keep their distance now.

    • Mac, you are wrong. There is a whole spectrum of skeptics on the climate change subject. Some of them are cranks. And some of them may be close to brilliant. There is a real challenge to separating the wheat from the chaff; in many cases it is obvious and in other cases it is not.

      Also, that statement occurred in a magazine article based on an interview done last May. Are you going to judge me based on what someody else wrote about me, or what I say here, in my own words with the context provided by me.

    • Richard S Courtney


      Sorry, but I am certain you are wrong.

      I am an AGW sceptic and I welcome this blog by Dr Curry.

      Far from “keeping my distance” I have become an avid reader of this blog and have made posts to it. Perhaps that makes me a “crank”, but I learn from honest discourse and I learn most when I am shown to be wrong. This blog gives me a chance to learn.

      A significant problem with climate science is that it is seen as being conducted by an arrogant clique that refuses to listen to any criticism which is being assailed by detractors who are trying to attack them and their work. Neither caricature is correct, but both contain sufficient truth for them to seem correct.

      This blog is providing a forum for polite interaction of all views on climate science. It is an oasis in the midst of a burning desert, and I intend to visit here often (and to try to participate when I can).


  63. Judith…. I enjoyed your Scientific American profile immensely. It left me day-dreaming about soma, poison kool-aid, insidious brainwashing.

    At your mention of the piece, I re-read (with joy and amusement) Richard Feynman’s Cargo Cult Science ( a bit ago. It’s so damn simple, isn’t it?

    When my husband was diagnosed with cancer, I searched everywhere for help: high end, out-of-the- box mainstream, alternatives, mind/body and spiritual help. Without training, I worried I couldn’t tell a viable alternative from a bottle of snake oil. As I studied, I calmed down and detected a pattern, well outside mainstream medicine. There were many viable alternatives, and each of us is every bit as unique as a snowflake.

    As cures and possibilities narrowed, I took a bunch of research papers to his doctor, one of the smartest and best. The doc told me, later, “I asked my assistant to read the papers; then, I read them myself. They are good, very good. But, if this makes sense I don’t understand why I am not using intravenous vitamin C therapy already….”

    “Big pharma, Gordon,” I told him, smiling sadly.

    The circled wagons mentality in mainstream climate science is similar. Beyond scientific integrity – pure and holy: is it right? – honest research has deteriorated to counting votes and numbers of published papers for vs. against. The political hysteria surrounding “save the world, the polar bears, the ice caps, the third world countries…” has nothing to do with any reasonable cost-benefit analysis, prudent forward-moving actions. It is another flavor of kool-aid, left-side political group-think: “do you care about saving the world, or making oil companies rich…. ? do you, do you?”

    Say what?

    More important that engaging the skeptics, convincing them of the need for immediate worldwide environmental mitigation, it will be a life well spent if — one person at a time — you can convince a few locked away in ivy covered buildings that honest, open, replicatable science trumps consensus. Period. Always, and forever.

    Many — even the smartest of them — have drunk the kool-aid, have swum in the fish bowl of group-think so long that they no longer can imagine a world outside. Some have puffed egos that transcend smarts. The rest, I suspect, are heads-down scared.

    Maybe the place to start is with the as-yet untrained, untainted.

    Best. ….Lady in Red

  64. There are many forms of skepticism because the scientific arguments for dangerous AGW are complex and different people question different arguments. This confuses people who think skepticism is an alternative view or theory. But confirmation of dangerous AGW requires that most of these separate arguments hold so every skeptic counts, as it were. I collect and study these arguments and I have not seen too many cranks, but then maybe I do not read the right blogs for cranks. Nor should we start naming them here.

    • Yes there are many different threads of skepticism, attacking different aspects of the argument. There are definitely cranks out there, I get a large number of emails that verifies this, and yes there are crank blogs out there. On this blog, I am taking the approach of not declaring any idea or topic as off limits because i view it to be crankology; some has appeared here, but it gets no response.

      • “some has appeared here, but it gets no response.”

        The problem with this is that nobody knows what you think is ‘crankology’. You can be quite sure that there many people, all with conflicting views, who think you share their viewpoint on climatology and science in general. I’ve observed a number of comments on various posts which I considered pretty outlandish but they went without comment so I don’t know if you agree with them or not.

        I’m sure that from your participation on various blogs you’re aware there’s a range of opinion from “It’s all a hoax and the greenhouse effect is impossible!” to “More research is needed”. Individuals such as Thomas Fuller and Stephen Mosher have attempted to move the debate past the usual accusations of hoaxes and adjusted temperatures but from what I can see they’ve had little success.

      • I prefer not to comment on something unless I’ve had the chance to dig into it and can have significant confidence in my judgment. I can only take on so much at a time.

      • What I’m talking about is what you term “crankology” and the comments posted which you yourself think deserve that label. You stated that you give them no response but that leaves everyone else in the dark concerning which positions you think are reasonable and which are not.

        There are likely people in the crank spectrum who are under the impression you share their views and also people in the reasonable spectrum who are concerned that you share crank views.

      • There are at least a hundred significant scientific arguments for and against dangerous AGW. All are easy to find in the more scientific climate blogs.

      • Why is it a problem that “nobody knows what [JC] think/s is ‘crankology’”? Plausible, but unsound ideas get a courteous riposte – from her or another visitor – ostensibly absurd posts tend to just sit there. You can get a pretty good answer to your question by watching what she responds to and what she lets be – what else do you want in a (truly) sceptical blog?

        In any case, one of those disregarded cranks may one day turn out to have had a novel and valuable insight, in which case she may one day claim the credit, if not for having lavished praise on it at the time, at least for having hosted the salon where it was first aired without rebuttal.

      • “Why is it a problem that “nobody knows what [JC] think/s is ‘crankology’”?”

        It’s a problem because she’s making statements concerning it in media interviews and here but nobody knows what she means.

        “You can get a pretty good answer to your question by watching what she responds to and what she lets be “

        I have been observing this and I don’t like the conclusions I’ve been drawing on that basis. The problem with “no response” is that there are many reasons Dr Curry might not respond including being too busy/tired to do it right then and forgetting about it. I’d much rather an explicit declaration of what’s an “absurd” post rather than try and guess.

        ” what else do you want in a (truly) sceptical blog?”

        I expect a “(truly) sceptical” blog to be as sceptical of the ideas of those opposing scientific consensus as the consensus itself.

        “In any case, one of those disregarded cranks may one day turn out to have had a novel and valuable insight, in which case she may one day claim the credit, if not for having lavished praise on it at the time, at least for having hosted the salon where it was first aired without rebuttal.”

        So you think this blog being a breeding ground for cranks might be a good idea on the offchance one of them might in the future come up with a sane idea?

        Cranks don’t lack for sites to peddle nonsense free of criticism. What makes a blog run by someone such as Dr Curry valuable is the ability to provide detailed and well supported criticism. So far this has been aimed at the IPCC and realclimate et all with abandon but we’re all left to guess about which of the sceptic arguments are too silly for even Dr Curry.

      • Sharper I think the real problem may be that you and I, and perhaps Judith, have different ideas about what constitutes crankery. I see a bit of it from both warmists and deniars, but not much, and because nobody rises to it, it doesn’t clutter the blog. It is not, therefore, the breeding ground for cranks that you suggest, unless your definition of a crank extends to anyone who doesn’t share your own views.

        And yes, I do think this blog is capable of incubating a climatological Barry Marshall, but only if it keeps its present course. Nuff said.

      • “Sharper I think the real problem may be that you and I, and perhaps Judith, have different ideas about what constitutes crankery.”

        I’m sure that’s true but it’s also true that many many different people have different ideas about crankery and you really have no idea until they express an opinion on it.

        “It is not, therefore, the breeding ground for cranks that you suggest”

        I didn’t say it is a breeding ground, I was referring to your idea that maybe cranks might come along eventually with something valuable and that Dr Curry might be praised “for having hosted the salon where it was first aired without rebuttal.”

      • Hark, the good Doctor speaks! That was what you wanted, wasn’t it, sharper?

      • “Hark, the good Doctor speaks! That was what you wanted, wasn’t it, sharper?”

        Alas there’s a difference between speaking and saying something.

      • well put :)

  65. Excellent blog Judith (my first visit). Very informative.

    On a general note: I think that the only way scientists are going to maintain the public trust they are rapidly losing is by communicating their work and ideas honestly. There’s too much science by press release these days. I intensely dislike appeals for funding, alongside appeals for `action’, dressed up as `peer reviewed’ research.

    I’m also intensely sceptical of the phrase “peer reviewed” as it’s generally argumentum ad verecundiam. I’m unable to suggest a superior alternative for the scientific establishment to use that is free from the whiff of group-think, but I do believe blogs to be good projectiles to throw at the thick concrete walls scientists tend to build around their work.

    Given that funding is now almost solely the preserve of Governments, it seems to me that public interest is crucial to the interests of scientific institutions and the careers of their employees, in a way that it never was before. There is a danger therefore that scientists have an incentive to deceive. This is why I have learnt to automatically raise my eyebrow at almost any scientific assertion I see, hear or read. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that this is exactly the kind of behaviour that should define the scientist, not the layman.

    • Thanks Robinson, and welcome to Climate Etc., I hope that you will visit often. I’m also wondering about the use of conventional peer review. I’ve elected to “publish” my essays in the blogosphere, each of which is probably publishable in some journal. I think what might be the best option is the online discussion journal, an example is APCD, which is the journal considering Makarieva’s paper on the water vapor mischief thread.

  66. Tomas Milanovic


    To add something to your Blog evaluation thread I say : “Bravo!”
    I came here without prejudice but also with mixed expectations.
    You found a style that I find definitely appealing.

    If I may add one more thing, you don’t fit well in the orthodox climate science community – the IPCC/RC crowd to be short.
    I didn’t know you 2 years ago so I don’t know if you have always been like that or if you have recently undergone some enlightening mental process that enabled you to see things that people like Hansen , Schmidt , Mann & Co will never see.

    In any case judging on the results, you are able to establish very successfully meaningful (and non agressive !) communication both on the scientific and on the human level.
    I am impressed.
    I wish your Blog success.

  67. There has been some discussion on WUWT about your new found status as a heretic. I made the following comment:

    Having been a follower of Judith Curry’s site since it opened a few weeks ago I was delighted to see a genuine and open discussion of the many issues that impact upon the global climate. In addition there has been a very good debate at many levels on the methodology of science and the problem of uncertainty.

    The problem is that many contributors and commentators on both sides of this debate do not know how to behave. The blogosphere is a wonderful means of enabling discussion and debate. In permitting anonymity its downside is that it allows those with little to give but their invective to vent their spleens and poison the atmosphere. Judith Curry represents the best of science: she focuses on the issue and not the person. She does not impute evil intention or motive to those who challenge her or disagree with her position. She is a high class and very genuine scientist and for those who think she has moved to the dark side remember this: science has no sides, it stands or it falls by how well it advances human knowledge and the human condition. If there is a force, I hope it is with her.

    Although my expertise is not great enough in climate science to be able to make any original contribution, your site has been an extremely useful learning experience for me. Furthermore, following leads from here into the literature on climate modelling has been of considerable use to me in ensemble testing so maybe some students of financial economics will also benefit.

  68. This is just amazing. Scientific American is now taking an online survey as to whether I am a dupe or a peacemaker.

    • A dupe, a peacemaker, or both, or “who is Judith Curry.” Since “none of the above” was not an option, I stopped taking the survey right there.

      To be fair, it’s not Scientific American doing the survey, but someone named “Michael Lemonick,” who is a science journalist who’s written a few blog posts on their site. The survey looks like linkbait more than anything else.

      Did he contact you at all for his profile?

      • Lemonick interviewed me last May, that is the last I heard from him. Until the photographer showed up a few weeks ago, I had totally forgotten about the interview and the story.

      • At least when taking the photograph, it appears there was no negative intent and the original article seemed reasonable too. Not trying to imply anything by association, but when Time Magazine did a cover of Anne Coulter, they used a fish-eye lens with intent to create some distortions.

      • no complaints about the photograph! the photog was instructed to shoot me on the rooftop of the building with atlanta skyline in the background and my hair blowing.

  69. Dr. Curry,
    You probably already saw this, but I’ve posted this survey thaat Scientific American is doing on you. To me, the questions appear to be very biased.

  70. In the spirit of people who’d answer Yes to a poll on “Is President Obama a Werewolf?”, I’ve contributed the least-sensible responses that I could think of.

    If there had been a item that asked, “Do you think the pollster has framed these questions with care?”, then I could have given a straight answer.

  71. Dear Dr. Curry,

    Thank you for open threads.

    Do you believe that the ‘Hockey Stick Controversy’ has been satisfactorily resolved? If not, do you believe that further public discussion of the matter, in particular with Steve McIntyre, could potentially lead to its resolution? Are you aware of issues that Steve has raised that have never been satisfactorily answered, and likewise, are you aware of responses to his criticisms that he has never satisfactorily answered?

    I realise there is probably no right answer to this question, and sorry if I am asking you to stick your neck out even further than you already have on this matter!

    It has for a long time seemed to me that a reconciliation between Steve McIntyre & the RealClimate team could be a huge step in the direction of depolarising the climate change debate, and getting many more people to agree on the science, but I could of course be wrong.

    Best, Alex

  72. a reconciliation between Steve McIntyre & the RealClimate team

    Phew…what a concept…

  73. Hi Judith – I’ve just been scudding around the site looking for a couple of things from a few days ago. I still think you could improve the Home Page by cutting down what you display before the “Continue Reading…” button, thus getting more topics on show.

    • hmmm i’m trying strike a balance between doing exactly what you say and convincing people to read more. I agree, I think i need to shorten the first part.

      • I’m no web designer, so any suggestions I make I’m aware could be impractical or simply misguided. Cetc has become a “thing” in its short life, and ideally its Home page should embody as vividly as possible whatever that “thing” is. One feature (among many) of the “thing” is that it seems to have round about 3 and a bit threads running “productively” at any time. I would like to see these summarised on the Home Page, and the entire body lying behind a Read more… That way people can see at a glance what’s being discussed, rather than, if they are not particularly interested in the latest post (or have just read it), having to navigate to the other threads. Which brings me on to your remark about persuading people to read more. I really would be surprised if this were a problem. It could be just me, but when I visit, eg, the GWPF site I find the format excellent, and am no less likely to “read on” than if a large body of text on a single topic confronts me.

        Another thing – one shortcoming of this medium as a means of exploring complex topics is the tendency to both expect and give instantaneous riposte. Keeping a topic-roll going allows more considered responses to be seen, even if they relate to an aging topic. I realise the Recent Comments sidebar provides this to some extent, but I hope you see the point.

        I’m also still taken with the idea we discussed earlier of using a “living” summary as the lead to the thread, providing the “living summary” protocol is clearly visible on the Home page.

        Hope this helps.

  74. Judy:

    This is to submit the following ideas for essays on Climate, Etc. If you’d like, I’ll write some of them.

    1) What is Popperian falsificationism? How does it relate to the IPCC’s pretensions to being a scientific institution?
    2) What is the “problem of induction?” How does this problem relate to the problem of how to extract a climate model from empirical data?
    3) What is “statistical validation”? Are the IPCC models statistically validated?
    4) What is “abstraction”? Do the IPCC models need to be made more abstract in order for them to be statistically validated?
    5) Reductionism vs holism in the contruction of a model. What are they? How do they relate to climatology?
    6) What is the level of statistical confidence of the IPCC’s conclusions regarding AGW?
    7) Does IPCC climatology need a quality assurance organization?
    8) Can the goal be achieved of predicting spatially and temporally averaged global surface temperatures, conditional upon concentrations of CO2, in light of the length of the global temperature record? If not, what should be the goal of IPCC climatology?

    Cordially, Terry Oldberg

    • Terry, a guest post from you on any of these would be most welcome, send me an email and lets discuss. Note, the first guest post will by up on Tues, on the scientific message.

  75. Dr. Curry,

    Thank you for what you are doing with this site. It is excellent.

    There has been an implication in all of the discussion about the quality of the science that somehow the research grants from national governments is warping the science and the process. Any research program gets funded if it is related to ‘climate change’ and no one would get a research grant if the purpose of the project is to challenge some of the current ‘dogma’ of climate change. So it occurred to me that it might be interesting to test this issue by looking at the people in the climate research field who live on ‘soft money’ vs those that do not and how each group aligns to the ‘dogma’ of climate change.

  76. arthurxburgess

    I am the first time here at this site and thus to begin with i select to would say how are you ? to each person

  77. Greetings! Quick question that’s totally off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My site looks weird when browsing from my iphone4. I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that might be able to fix this issue. If you have any suggestions, please share. With thanks!