Friday, August 21, 2009

Roger Pielke Jr. Does Jesus

Roger Pielke Jr. has assumed his familiar martyr's pose, and accuses me (as well as others) of issuing threats against him. The occasion is his An alternative explanation for differential temperature trends at the surface and in the lower Troposphere, co-authored with Pielke Sr. and several others, which purports to explain differences in long-term temperature trends as reported by satellite vs. surface readings. Now, a number of issues have already come up with respect to the paper (see, for example, here and here). At a more basic level, though, Pielke Jr. seems more than a little bit unclear of what the paper is supposed to be about. For example, Pielke Sr. has written a blog-post entitled New Paper Documents A Warm Bias In The Calculation Of A Multi-Decadal Global Average Surface Temperature Trend, and yet here Pielke Jr. appears to be contradicting his co-author:

No. The title of the post is "Evidence that Global Temperature Trends Have Been Overstated". It might have been more accurate to write "global atmospheric temperature trends" but it clearly does not say "surface temperature trend"...

What this starts to remind me of is the recent De Freitas and Co. paper, in which the co-authors began recanting their own result before other climate scientists while at the same time pushing that result to folks like Watts, Morano, and others of the same ilk.
In other words, is the purpose of the paper the paper, or is the paper merely a trigger for a dustup in the blog world, leading (hopefully?) to another "Global Warming is Enviro/Nazi Garbage" piece on the Glenn Beck show and in other friendly media outlets?
Which brings us to the so called "threats". I would not speak for Michael Tobis (whose a bit ticked at me this morning), but his point, that there should exist
...a mechanism to prevent authors from promoting public misinterpretations of their publications. That sort of behavior should have consequences.
...is well taken, although the odds of creating a rule that would prevent an author from publishing junk and selling it through the blogosphere as diamonds is vanishingly small. America has no law against bullshit, and will not for the foreseeable future.
My point, though, is that such behavior already does have consequences. If Pielke Jr. insists on treating the real actors in the scientific debate as mere walk-on players in a drama in which he is the star and the audience includes the Limbaughs and Beck's of the world, then he will find, if he has not already, that this stage will soon be the only one upon which he can play. His work will be ignored by the scientific community while simultaneously embraced by birthers, truthers, Ron Paul supporters, young earth creationists, people that think Jesus is coming in a UFO, and the like--America's right-wing fringe, in other words. Barring a catastrophe during next year's mid-term elections, this will be a impoverished and lonely place for scientists for a long, long time to come. Mr. Pielke risks consigning himself to the dust-bin of history.
And that's my advice to Mr. Pielke. If he thinks its a threat, then he is incorrect.
Oh, and Mark Bahner asks me in the comments: What do you see as scientifically incorrect about their paper?
Well, for one thing, even if the analysis proposed is 100% accurate, the use of the term "bias" is hugely misleading, and assumes that satellite readings are the gold standard to which surface readings must conform (or else be dismissed). But if you reverse that assumption without changing a single other thing in the paper, you could just as easily argue that that the satellite readings show a cool bias. In fact, neither line of reasoning is valid. If the paper explains anything--and it may not--it shows why the two sets of readings are different. No more or less than that.

13 comments:

Steve Bloom said...

Just to point out that you said on Pielke's blog that there should be consequences just for *publishing* bullshit, which is not at all what mt said. He said that regardless of the quality of what someone publishes, there should be consequences if they then go out into the public sphere and promote the paper as having (implied political) implications that it does not have.

Ti-Guy said...

Oh, the drama! Will it be protractors at dawn?

gravityloss said...

I'm afraid you play into the opponent's pouch when you go to frame this as a left vs right issue when in reality it's a truth vs lies issue.

Ti-Guy said...

you go to frame this as a left vs right issue when in reality it's a truth vs lies issue.

In the US, that appears to be the difference between Right and Left. In Canada as well, to some extent, although the Right here doesn't have the same support structures to promote the really, really big lies, like they do in 'Murka.

Jerome Bastien said...

Well, for one thing, even if the analysis proposed is 100% accurate, the use of the term "bias" is hugely misleading, and assumes that satellite readings are the gold standard to which surface readings must conform (or else be dismissed). But if you reverse that assumption without changing a single other thing in the paper, you could just as easily argue that that the satellite readings show a cool bias. In fact, neither line of reasoning is valid. If the paper explains anything--and it may not--it shows why the two sets of readings are different. No more or less than that.

Hi BCL,

I just read the paper. Pielke Jr. is not suggesting that satellite data is a gold standard. Rather, he analyzes the data to see whether it conforms with the possibility that there is a warm bias in the surface temperature data.

In the intro, lines 51-62, he cites Santer et al and his explanations for the discrepancy between the two data sets:

Santer et al. [2005] presented three possible explanations for this divergence: i) an artifact resulting from the data quality of the surface, satellite and/or radiosonde observations; ii) a real difference due to natural internal variability and/or external forcings; or iii) a portion of the difference is due to the spatial coverage differences between the satellite and surface temperature data. Santer et al. [2005] focused on the second and third explanations, finding them insufficient to fully explain the divergence. They suggest in conclusion that, among other possible explanations, “A nonsignificant trend differential would also occur if the surface warming had been overestimated by 0.05°C per decade in the IPCC data.”

So Pielke Jr. goes on to see if the data includes evidence of a warm bias. He also cites a number of reasons why such a warm bias might exist.

The way he goes to see for evidence of a warm bias is by testing the following hypotheses:

1. If there is no warm bias in the surface temperature trends, then there should not be an increasing divergence with time between the tropospheric and surface temperature anomalies [Karl et al., 2006]. The difference between lower troposphere and surface anomalies should not be greater over land areas.

2. If there is no warm bias in the surface temperature trends, then the divergence should not be larger for both maximum and minimum temperatures at high latitude land locations in the winter.


So in other words, based on the possible nature of the warm biases, as described in the paper, such a warm bias would be increased for land areas and for minimum temperatures.

Your suggestion that even if he is 100% correct you could as easily conclude that there is a cool bias in the satellite data is false, because there is no reason why a cooling bias would be increased for land areas and minimum temperatures. (Well, that is not strictly correct, there may very well be reasons why that is the case and such reasons would constitute a valid criticism of this paper, but as far as I know, there aren't any.)
In any event, that is not what is being tested in this paper. This paper is testing the suggestion that the surface data suffers from a warming bias by testing these hypotheses, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If a subsequent paper comes along to show that the data also suggests a cool bias from the satellite data, it would be very interesting.

Jerome Bastien said...

Anyways, as per Pielke's conclusions, the data does show an increased discrepancy for minimum temperatures and for land temperatures compared to maximums and oceans. This is consistent with a warm bias. Operative word here is consistent. It doesnt prove that there is a warm bias, but its consistent with a warm bias.

Anyways, there might very well be valid criticism of this paper, but yours is not it. If someone would be able to show that having an increased discrepancy over land and at minimums is also consistent with a cooling bias on the satellite data, that would certainly be valid criticism.

But hey, your approach of screaming "bullshit" at his website is certainly more entertaining. Oh, and broadly speaking, I agree with you, that there are consequences to publishing bullshit.

Steve Bloom said...

JB, that last link just goes to prove your own dedication to bullshit, although I suppose we already knew that.

Steve Bloom said...

In the latest chapter, James Annan leaves the Pielkes twisting in the wind.

Also of interest, Michael Tobis does a thorough exposition of why the final link of JB's is utter crap. If JB was actually on a search for scientific understanding rather than just a collection of plausible-seeming talking points, he would have known what the basis of the confusion was without having to look into the details. Or perhaps he did and linked it anyway.

Jerome Bastien said...

Steve Bloom:

Please inform me, oh you wise one, what is bullshit about actual video footage of a greenpeace rep admitting that his claims of an ice-free artic were wildly exaggerated, and that they were exaggerated deliberately to "emotionalize" the issue.

Was this video doctored and the words of this greenpeace rep not his? Please Im curious.

This is not the only case of wild exaggerations and bullshit spread by alarmists. I just chose this one cause it was recent but I could have simply gone after the most obvious one. There are tons of examples of exaggerations from the alarmist, just as Im sure you can find tons of exaggerations and misstatements and errors on the skeptic side. The point is, there should be lost credibility when you're caught in your own lies, whether its greenpeace or al gore.

And besides, the real test has always been the science. On that pont, AGW still fails.

Anyways, Steve Bloom, are you trying to imitate BCL? See something you dont like and scream bullshit? That didnt actually work out that well for BCL. How about this, next time, try to think for yourself and come up with an actual explanation of why you disagree with someone and try to express this explanation in words someone can understand. You'll see, you'll come off as less of a douchebag.

bigcitylib said...

The Greenpeace clip is a setup. The Greenpeace news release is pretty clearly discussing summer conditions in the arctic ocean; the BBC reporter accuses Greenpeace of claiming that the Greenland ice-sheet will melt by 2030. Since the guy from Greenpeace probably assumed the BBC reporter was literate and knew how to read a presser, he was confused, and justifiably so.

Steve Bloom said...

It's more than pretty clear, it's entirely clear that the reference is to sea ice. Re Greenpeace "emotionalizing" the issue, that's entirely appropriate. Dry scientific language tends to be a poor political motivator.

OK, JB, so you're ready to prove to us that you know all about that AIT court ruling? If so you can easily inform us what the defense's entire case was based on, how that affected the ruling and in particular why the judge placed "errors" in quotes.

So far you're all talking points and no substance.

Ti-Guy said...

I just wish the sophisticate Jérôme Bastien would stop using the word "anyways."

It's very colon.

Steve Bloom said...

James Annan pwns RP Sr.'s latest attempt to defend the paper. I think this is headed toward a short paper with a long list of distinguished authors in a very prominent journal. The opportunity to have a hand in nailing both Pielkes and Christy at one time should serve to attract a lot of interest.