Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hegerl link to more controversy

Last week this blog looked at an ongoing dispute stemming from a cover article in nature which, it seems, was defective and misleading concerning the temperature in Antarctica.  The issue was the statistical algorithm used to engineer a warming of Antarctica beyond what the data justified.  The peer reviewed paper challenging the Nature article called into question the original Nature paper and itself encountered resistance and apparent obstruction which which called into question the peer-review system.

The peer review issues raised are remarkably similar to those which surfaced in the Climategate emails giving evidence on the same issue.

One of the things that saps confidence in establishment climate science is the demonstrated inability to admit errors, hence fostering a suspicion of improbity.   This has been the case with the 'hockey stick' representation of proxy temperatures over almost 1000 years.  It was certainly the case with the journal EOS as described here in January. (That case, however, was partly redeemed by the belated apology of Edinburgh climate scientist Tom Crowley).  EOS, however has failed to remedy their manifest injustice.

Edinburgh climate scientist Gabi Hegerl features in another recent paper in Nature which is currently coming under sustained scrutiny.  If some critiques turn out to be accurate this may well prove to be the next test of the probity of Nature and, indeeed, Hegerl.

The paper concerns weather extremes (actually rainfall in the northern hemisphere).  There is a current meme in public thought which seeks to attribute human emissions as a cause of weather extremes.  That is both unfortunate and, if many reputable scientists are to be believed, misleading in the extreme.  As one character in the film Inception observed, "The most resilient parasite is an idea planted in the unconscious mind."

Perhaps Hegerl and her fellow authors have a bias to finding and interpreting that data to fit the meme. Certainly the paper is under considerable attack by some formidable scientists and some, perhaps not so formidable. Curry (here and here), Pielke Snr, Pielke JnrEschenbach, Whitehouse and  Motl,

Then there is the problem of falsifiability.   What would it take to prove the meme wrong?  Is it drought?  Is it floods.  Is it snow.   Of course it is conceivable these could be mutually consistent with (man made) global warming.  Unlikely that but conceivable.  Yet it seems there are establishment apologists who attribute opposing evidence to man made climate change be that evidence snow, or rain, warmth or cold, more ice or less ice.

The vague term 'climate change' turns out to be unfalsifiable.


  1. There are a few cases -- out of thousands -- where climate scientists have been resistant to criticism. Compare that to climate contrarians who manifestly refuse to admit even the most glaring of mistakes. Case in point the IPCC acknowledging an error in Himalayan Glacier melt (they picked up the error themselves) and Lord Monckton who misconstrues studies that the authors, themselves, say is deliberate malfeasance. Ever heard Monckton, Morano or Watts ever admit even one of their endless errors?

  2. Anonymous,

    Thanks for your comment.

    One of the reasons I write this blog is to encourage people (like you) to re-examine their assumptions.

    First, your characterisation of the Himalayan glaciers episode illustrates the issue well. Not only did the challenge to the erroneous statement come from outside the IPCC (from several sources), but the Chair of the IPCC Rajenda Pachauri ridiculed the correction as 'voodoo science'. That type of response is very far from isolated in climate science. The hockey stick saga is just one other illustration.

    I suggest you start with this article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8387737.stm but there are many other sources.

    I urge you to read The Hockey Stick Illusion by Andrew Montford to get one perspective of the context.

    I don't for a moment want to defend all that comes from Monckton, Morano or Watts. Much of what I have seen from them (actually I seldom read Morano) seems to me to be on the nail. Some seems otherwise and unwise.

    Those scientists whose research is driving public policy (a much smaller cohort than you might think) have made egregious errors and have circled the wagons rather than adopt corrective action. For a number of reasons, I don't think your first sentence is a fair summary of the situation.

  3. http://www.blog.sethroberts.net/2011/02/27/the-best-argument-against-man-made-global-warming/

  4. Thanks, Anonymous (immediately above). I read the Freeman Dyson interview and added him to my list of heavy duty scientists who do not accept the so called 'consensus' postion.

  5. Thanks for lunch Cameron

    Anonymous (same one as above ;-) )

  6. Pleasure. I appreciate your stimulating views.