Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Forbes' James Taylor: 'Initiation' means 'completion'

Maybe it's beneath my new digs here to go after as easy a target as a Forbes opinion page (and Heartland Institute) writer, but it's not beneath me. I saw the headline in Morano's page "Schneider claimed W. Antarctic ice sheet could melt before year 2000", ignored it for a while and finally clicked through to Forbes "Polar Ice Rapture Misses Its Deadline". Taylor announces:

[Schneider] claimed the west Antarctic ice sheet could melt before the year 2000 and inundate American coastlines with up to 25 feet of sea level rise. Obviously, the west Antarctic ice sheet was not raptured away last century, and New Yorkers can still drive rather than swim to work.

Clicking the provided link, which most denialists probably can't be bothered with, gets one to one Steven Goddard and a recopied old 1979 newspaper article about Steve Schneider predicting warming and ice melt in the next century.

The next hurdle involves actually reading the article. It says that Schneider said regarding the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet that "its initiation cannot be ruled out as a possibility before the end of this century". To be fair to Taylor, though, the word "initiation" wasn't highlighted at Goddard's link. And of course the WAIS hasn't done so well since the end of that century. A 4+ meter rise by 2100 seems pretty unlikely now, but I doubt it was unreasonable for Schneider in 1979 to think it possible.

I can't give Mr. Taylor a very good grade on his effort - the best denialist nonsense takes far more effort to debunk than it does to construct, but I think it was the reverse in this case. He'll have to step up his game to attract a better class of debunker than myself.

Monday, May 30, 2011

How the rights of women were written into the Japanese constitution

An absolutely amazing story about how the Japanese constitution came to guarantee the rights of women. An example of why despair is not useful.

Tom Tomorrow from Daily Kos and This Modern World

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fats Desserting a Stinking Ship

First Newt Gingrich, but Newt walked it back

Now Chris Christie (Governor of New Jersey)

says that humans are changing the climate and not for the best. Marc Morano, in the words of David Appell, is not a happy camper having to ride herd on all the little doggies.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

TIGR2 TIGR3 Dripping Wet

TIGR stands for Thermodynamic Initial Guess Retrieval, and is a dataset selected from a whole bunch of radiosonde measurements lately supplemented by space based measurements. Among other things each of the atmospheric profiles in the dataset has composition information including temperature, water vapor and ozone. Among the uses for TIGR is the ability to reconstruct atmospheric transmission and absorption.

The various flavors of TIGR are

  • TIGR : 398 atmospheres (1985)
  • TIGR1 : 1207 atmospheric profiles
  • TIGR2 : 1761 atmospheric profiles
  • TIGR3 : 2311 atmospheric profiles
    • new tropical atmospheric profiles
    • mid-lat and polar atmospheric profiles unchanged
  • TIGR2000 : 2311 atmospheres
    • TIGR3 +
    • The ozone profile is deduced from the Ugamp climatology (Li and Shine, 1995)
    • change in the longitude convention : -180:+180
  • TIGR2000_6CORPS : 2311 atmospheres
    • ATMOS measurements have been used to improve the extrapolation of the water vapour towards the upper pressure levels.
Now some bunny out there in the audience, maybe the only one not texting to his friends or wondering why the Brits didn't side with the confederates ( it was the Quakers ), noticed the emphasis on new tropical atmospheric profiles in TIGR3.

Well, if you had been visiting Eli's recommended sites you would know that SoD has been re-exploring Miskolczi in great detail, you know, the guy who thinks the optical depth of the atmosphere is fixed by the equation fairy. After lord knows how many hours, SoD came to the sensible conclusion that

In summary – this paper does not contain a theory. Just because someone writes lots of equations down in attempt to back up some experimental work, it is not theory.
If the author has some experimental work and no theory, that is what he should present – look what I have found, I have a few ideas but can someone help develop a theory to explain these results.
Obviously the author believes he does have a theory. But it’s just equation soufflé.
Which is pretty much what Nick Stokes and Eli could have told him from our first encounter with the Hungarian Meteorological Service which published the original recipe in 2007 (btw, the Service appears to have come to the same conclusion lately.)

I think Miskolczi's paper could have been written in two sentences:
"The greenhouse gas theory that has been used for the last century is TOTALLY WRONG! The proof is left as an exercise for the reader."
Seriously, if you are making a claim like this, you need a good argument, put with some clarity. You would usually write down a model with some unknowns, state some physical principles with their resulting equations, and derive relations which characterise the unknowns. M does this, but at least three of his basic equations appear to be totally wrong. They actually look like elementary errors. Or if they are right, it seems no-one can explain them.

So this is Black Knight stuff. OK the use of Kirchhoff may be wrong, not sure about virial or that pesky Eq 7, but can anyone prove this is wrong, or that? People just lose patience.
But, to tell the truth Eli is an old bunny, with little time, and certainly not willing to collapse the equation souffle that is thrust at him. OTOH, Eli does place a great deal of weight on the data, and what little data Mis presents comes from TIGR2. TIGR2 you say? Doesn't that have a much drier tropical atmosphere than even TIGR3, which was certainly available to Mis, and doesn't using a drier tropical atmosphere really really make the optical depth of what you calculate like way lower than it really is.

Glad you asked. That was a question that the folks from the keepers of the TIGR database at the Laboratoire de Meteorologie Dynamique de CNRS confronted in 1998 in the Journal of Applied Meteorology 37, 1385, M. Chevallier, Cheruy, Scott an dChedin. Know what they pointed out

The optical depth that Miskolczi calculates from TIGR2 is much too low. It's all sausage

The US:Arab Spring as Britain:The US Civil War

The analogy for American and British actions 150 years apart is that in both cases, the great power refrained from doing evil actions that would significantly harm the good side in each cause, and that in both cases the great power got little credit for its restraint.

While Republican leaders are now claiming to support the Arab Spring, it wasn't so clear a few months back, and Obama had other pressures to back Mubarak that he ignored. The tepid level of approval or even interest in the Arab world to the US response suggests the Arab people are unimpressed, however.

Wiki has a good article on Britain and the US Civil War - Obama actually comes off a little better than my analogy suggests, because Britain did do some negative things (but could've done much worse), while the US has done some positive things in Egypt and Libya while doing darn little in Bahrain.

I'm guessing the lack of credit in both cases is because "do no evil" is assumed in most people's moral analysis. Given how international relations are traditionally conducted, it may deserve more applause than it gets.

The other obvious problem for the US in the Arab world is our support for Israel, especially in relation to the West Bank/Gaza/Jerusalem issue. I think foreigners fail to understand how little room for maneuver exists in US national politics on this issue. Obama is getting blowback in Democratic circles for being slightly more explicit on 1967 borders as an initial basis for negotiations. Netanyahu is playing a double game of indefinite postponement/opposition to a Palestinian state, or using Israeli occupation as the intial basis and make the Palestinians trade away West Bank land and East Jerusalem in return for getting back some of their land. In American politics from the far right Republicans to many Democrats, that's just fine. Unfortunately, Obama is pushing about as hard as he can.

UPDATE: forgot to add it's a lucky thing we don't have the Commies with us anymore, or the US reaction to Arab Spring could've been a lot worse.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Hero or crank?

In today's news, a wife who had never flown an airplane, took over the plane when the pilot, her husband, became ill. The story had a happy ending.

The same unlikely event was part of the plot of the 1956 movie Julie, starring Doris Day as the flight attendant. Once again, the story had a happy ending.

Nearly two decades later, in the movie Airport 1975 , a classic disaster movie with a star-studded cast, Karen Black played the flight attendant who saved the airplane. Same plot, and (are you ready for this?) the same happy ending.

A half dozen years later, Julie Hagarty played the flight attendant in the 1980 parody movie Airplane! Believe it or not!! Yet another happy ending. This is Hollywood, after all.

By now, readers of Rabett Run realize that this plotline is tremendously popular with audiences. Faced with an emergency, a novice with no training rises to the occasion and saves the lives of dozens or hundreds of passengers. These movies have all been financial successes, sometimes very big successes. The 1980 movie Airplane! grossed $83M in North America alone, and cost only $3.5M.

That's Hollywood, that's entertainment. But in scientific affairs, how likely is it?

Here's a plot: a novice to the field of global warming/climate change reads about future disasters arising from the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The novice has no scientific background and doesn't understand much. Still the novice points out some flaws that experts in the field have somehow overlooked for decades. And the world's climate, previously thought to be in danger, coasts gently to a safe landing, with humanity's understanding strengthened by the brilliant insights of the novice.

How likely is this plotline?

In real life, a novice with no science background is more likely to be a crank than a hero. In some fields, it's routine for amateurs to believe sincerely that they have outsmarted the experts. Harvard physics professor Michael Tinkham told me three decades ago that he saved the tracts from amateurs - routine disproofs of Einstein's theory of Relativity, for example - and stored them in a cardboard box in the corner of his office, and he termed the cardboard box "the crank case".

A crank often knows a little bit about the subject, but not enough. A crank is often completely unwilling to entertain the notion that he might be wrong. A crank does not know anything about critical thinking. And a crank can be completely sincere, and totally deluded.

My approach to dealing with cranks (and noncranks) has been to explain soberly why climate scientists believe what they believe, in a 2008 piece outlining why the scientific case for modern anthropogenic global warming is an overwhelmingly convincing case, and in a 2010 followup piece. .

There's more to be said on the subject. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cut and Paste Makes Waste

Nature in a new editorial entitled Copy and Paste (ok, ok cut and paste is real old fashioned, but Eli still has a tub of library paste in the basement) gives credit where credit it is due in the controversy about Edward Wegman, his euphonious report and serial copy and paste.
That doubts about the 2006 report have resulted in concrete action is mainly down to the sterling work of an anonymous climate blogger called Deep Climate.
and points out that

The fact that 14 months have passed since Bradley's complaint without it being resolved is disheartening but not unusual. An examination of George Mason University's misconduct policies suggests that investigations should be resolved within a year of the initial complaint, including time for an appeal by the faculty member in question.
and send several well known bloggers blood pressure through the roof

Long misconduct investigations do not serve anyone, except perhaps university public-relations departments that might hope everyone will have forgotten about a case by the time it wraps up. But in cases such as Wegman's, in which the work in question has been cited in policy debates, there is good reason for haste. Policy informed by rotten research is likely to have its own soft spots. Those who have been wronged deserve resolution of the matter. And one can hardly suppose that those who have been wrongfully accused enjoy living under a cloud for months.
Popcorn please

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's not just your plagiarism, it's your reaction to your plagiarism

(Hello folks! I'm Brian Schmidt, newest blogger in the Eli Rabett bunny mill. My old blog's at Backseat Driving and I'll be hanging out here from now on. I can't touch the science as per Eli and John, but as a lawyer I have a nodding acquaintance with plagiarism, and will blog on non-climate stuff as well.)

At WattsUp, a "Professor Bob Ryan" commented on May 19th on one of the Wegman plagiarism posts:

Many students, no matter their origin, paste sections of text into their work files picked up from on-line sources. They then, because they are relatively inexperienced, get these copied tracts mixed up with their own commentaries and two years later when they start drafting their thesis inadvertently plagiarize. Unwittingly, when drafting a paper from one of the chapters for publication, some of this copied text is again inadvertently introduced. I and a co-supervisor working up the paper making corrections as we revise their work may spot the problems but then we may not.

That turned out to be similar to Wegman's defense, if you call it that, as reported by John Mashey and summarized by Andrew Gelman.

Professor Bob continues:

So to any who find Wegman guilty as charged remember this: one day when you are a senior academic and when the fire of self-righteous indignation does not burn quite so bright, it might just happen to you.

Or maybe we might feel differently, and I can speak as someone who came close to standing where Wegman stands some years ago. A large, student-authored project I was involved in stumbled partway into the problem of Professors Wegman and (described by) Bob, where shoddily-cited work transformed into un-cited work that was interspersed with all the properly-done work.

Two differences between our student project and Wegman's, tho. First, we caught our own problem before it was published instead of having someone else do it. We actually checked our own cites, and a praised-be student editor turned in the problem to me. Second, we reacted to the problem immediately. I lost a week of my summer tracking down errant paragraphs, digging them out of their rabbit holes, deleting them and replacing them with properly-cited summaries.

By contrast, Wegman knew of his problem since March 2010 (Mashey at 9), and did nothing about it even though it had by then been published in a supposedly-peer reviewed journal. When someone else finally tracks it down, Wegman then offers a minimal errata with citations, not even a removal and redo of the plagiarized material.

So no, I think this story's not over, and as someone who lost a week of California summer reacting differently to a similar situation, I think it doesn't deserve to be over.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Circle Jerks

Remember Donald Rapp, the guy who, well, let's be nice, had a lot of stuff in a book he published, that, just by coincidence was exactly the same as other stuff that appeared in the Wegman Report (if you don't know what this is about is go over and take a look at Deep Climate on Rapp, Wegman and everything else) and, in the words of the limerick the question was who had copied and pasted what from whom. Well, as time passed it turns out that Rapp, who was an adjunct at USC (he had earlier retired from JPL where he held a senior position, these guys are the real emeriti) was invited not to reapply at USC without explaining himself, so he left some spittle on the video monitor and huffed off.

Ah, you say young bunnies, that explains the Jerk in the title of the post, but what about the circles. Well, it further turns out that the editor guy who accepted the Said and Wegman paper that has now been thrown out (withdrawn is, shall we say a minced version of reality) for plagiarism, Stanley Azen, is also Assistant Dean of Research Integrity. At USC.

Eli closes with Deep Climate's question

Is your head spinning in this hall of mirrors yet?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Eli Got a Brand New Combine Harvester and He's Gonna Pull Some Carrots

UPDATES: See below

Let us continue our exploration of Fall, et al. the al. being played by Watts, Nielsen Gammon, Jones, Niyogi, Christy and Pielke Sr. Credit where credit is due of course, but Eli thinks that after he drives his combine harvester through their carrot patch they may not be so happy.

To his credit John N-G has been posting a lot on this, describing what he thinks is worthwhile about the paper. Here is how he differentiates between Fall, et al. and Menne, et al.

This is probably a good time to roll out a comparison of the Menne et al. abstract and our corresponding results. Menne et al. is in italics, including agreements and disagreements. Some agreements, some disagreements. Not shown are additional results from our paper.

There is a mean bias associated with poor exposure sites relative to good exposure sites.


This bias is consistent with previously documented changes associated with the widespread conversion to electronic sensors in the USHCN during the last 25 years.

The evolution of the bias shows a major contribution at the time of sensor conversion roughly consistent with but not entirely attributable to the sensor change, plus other bias changes over time.

Associated instrument changes have led to an artificial negative bias in maximum temperatures.

Siting differences and associated instrument changes have led to an artificial negative bias in maximum temperature trends (same finding, different interpretation).

Associated instrument changes have led to only a slight positive bias in minimum temperatures.

Siting differences and associated instrument changes have led to an artificial positive bias in maximum temperature trends, similar in magnitude to the negative bias in maximum temperature trends.

Adjustments applied to USHCN Version 2 data largely account for the impact of instrument and siting changes.

The adjustments for instrument and siting changes tend to reduce the impact by about half but do not eliminate it.

A small residual negative bias appears to remain in the adjusted maximum temperature series.

A substantial residual negative bias remains in the adjusted maximum temperature trend, and a substantial residual positive bias remains in the adjusted minimum temperature trend.

We find no evidence that the CONUS average temperature trends are inflated due to poor station siting.

Neither do we, but important questions remain regarding the effect of the adjustments and the different effects of siting and instruments that may bear on the CONUS average temperature trends.

So Eli being a RTFR kinda bunny asked where the data was, and John pointed. Many thanks, and Eli went and got and extracted the Excel file with the results. Now to be honest, Eli was not looking for what he found, but what he found has implications both for Fall et al, and elsewhere (tho not so much for GISSTEMP). When Eli unzipped the Final List.xls he sorted it by Watts Rank (1-5, with 5 being the worst stations) and by location: Rural, Suburban and Urban.

Then, thanks to Gatesian logic, the Rabett compared the number of stations in each Watts Rank by location and count,

rank 1 2 3 4 5
rural 0.43 0.52 0.68 0.68 0.53
suburban 0.21 0.24 0.21 0.25 0.24
urban 0.29 0.21 0.10 0.07 0.16
Total 14 67 222 662 68

It was an ah choo moment, because clearly rural stations are relatively under-represented in categories 1 and 2, but relatively over represented in the worst three rankings.

The implication of this is that Fall and Co. (and Menne) can and should not simply compare results from categories with each other, but should first look and see how the rural, suburban and urban distributions vary within categories, and indeed they do. Let the bunnies look at this for a couple of categories (gets very Tamino like) starting with Category 2

and Rabett Labs sees pretty much the same thing for the trends in Tmin and Tman, with what looks like two classes of rural stations. This is equally clear in WR3. How about Watts Rank 4?

UPDATE: This was originally switched with Tmax for WR 3. John N-G pointed this out. The asymmetry between the urban and rural remains, but the suburban is more like the rural

It's a little harder but there is a bump on the right hand side of the rural distribution which you can see more clearly in the trend for Tmin for WR4 between the urban and the rural

UPDATE: Same as for above for WR4

Tmean for WR3

Tmax for WR3

So, where does this leave us.

1. Fall, et al. fell off the carrot truck into the harvester because they did not correct for location bias which is a hoot and a half given how Watts and Pielke have gone on for centuries about the UHI, urban heat island effect, but this appears to be the RRE, the rural refrigerator effect.

2. If Eli compares the list of stations GISS uses with those used by Fall, et al., Fall appear to omit some urban and some airport stations although he was too foul to look at what was in the USHCN and what not

3. Without the RRE stations, trends in Tmean, Tmax and Tmin appear to match pretty well within Watts Ranks and across them and for rural, suburban and urban stations (Eyeball Stats).

4. The RRE stations appear to have pretty damn close to zero trends in Tmean, Tmax and Tmin.

5. What differentiates the RRE stations is not clear to Eli. Probably requires digging deep into the metadata.

6. There is at least one paper in there. Please acknowledge Rabett Labs, E. Rabett Prop.

7. If you want a copy of the Excel spreadsheet, put a note in the comments

UPDATE: John N-G points out that for determining a US wide trend proper area weighting has to be used. True enough, but to average something, it helps to average apples, not apples and pears.