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Sunday, April 20, 2014

HotWhopper Competition: Best Name for a Denier Lobby Group (in 25 words or less)

Sou | 7:59 PM 11 Comments - leave a comment

Today Anthony Watts is asking his readers if there should be a fake sceptic/denier organisation formed (archived here).  An "official" one.  Yes, another "official" one.

I don't know why he doesn't just piggy back on one of the existing ones, except that maybe he's looking to get paid to head it up.  Or maybe he's not satisfied with the current disreputable anti-science lobby groups and envisages himself as America's version of Lord Lawson. (He does cite the GWPF as an example of what he has in mind).

Not sure that he'll get that far.  This is the response from one of his readers.  It's not a Poe, unless someone has co-opted the internet nic.

Col Mosby says:
April 19, 2014 at 10:19 am
I’m not sure, but if there is one, Christopher Monckton should be its head.

If anyone wants to give Anthony a helping hand and suggest a name for the Watts/Monckton outfit, have at it.  While you're there you could suggest some funding sources :D

More from the WUWT comments

I can't resist (archived here)

Jimbo says he wants the world to know how dangerous they are /sarc (excerpt):
April 19, 2014 at 10:51 am
...We should be careful about the name. I suggest a ‘Dangerous Global Warming Skeptics Organisation’. 

Shub Niggurath advocates a stealth approach and says:
April 19, 2014 at 10:48 am
If there is an organization, it shouldn’t have the words ‘climate’ or ‘skeptic’ in its name.

David in Cal asks what's the point - he has a point:
April 19, 2014 at 10:48 am
It won’t do any good IMHO. The Heartland Institute plays this role, but the media ignore it. Another commenter pointed to the NIPCC. The media ignore them, too. Skeptics need to find a way to get fair media coverage, but that’s easier said than done.

pokerguy sums up the obstacles and says:
April 19, 2014 at 10:48 am
A firm “no” vote here. First it feels antithetical to the free thinking ethos embraced by most skeptics. When you talk about an starting an organization, you’re implying the need for some some sort of platform on which to base it. What are its goals? What are its core beliefs? Inevitably, we’d be trying to reach some sort of a consensus of our own. I don’t see it working. 

Read more here if you've got some time to waste - there are over 300 comments.  Deniers have finally found something safe they can all disagree on.

Anthony Watts got the Quadrella with an outdated clichéd caricature of a climate science denier

Sou | 7:27 PM Feel free to comment!

Deniers must be in an out and out panic for some reason.  I don't know why that is.  Yesterday I wrote about how Anthony got the trifecta, putting up articles in quick succession on the much caricatured denier memes of:
  1. Climategate
  2. Greenland and
  3. Al Gore is fat.

Now he's added another one to make the quadrella! (Archived here.) Anthony's posted the most stereotypical clichéd conspiracy theorising slimy article from the grubby Tim Ball. Replete with resurrecting ancient attacks on some of the world's leading scientists - which are sick and twisted and false and would be laughable if they weren't such ugly smear attacks:
  • "they turned off the air-conditioning in 1988 in Congress"
  • falsely accusing Dr James Hansen, one of the world's living treasures and a modern day hero, of not declaring income
  • Ben Santer, who is one of the most respected and trustworthy of climate scientists, "altered" the IPCC report when it was Ben Santer who ensured that the IPCC report included appropriate wording about uncertainty and ensured the report was an accurate reflection of the science of the day
  • claiming 24 years ago Ben Santer was too "green" to write for the IPCC (he was 35 years old at the time and had received his doctorate three years earlier) - He was admired by his peers back then and look at how he is revered worldwide today
  • Dredging up a dumb claim about the Medieval Warm Period, from arch denier David Deming of all people
  • Implying there was something shonky about Michael Mann writing for the IPCC and, laughably, that there was something shonky about this triple graduate degree holder getting his doctorate

I've not seen such a gish gallop of old, disgusting ad hominem attacks on scientists since 2010.  Which in turn were in part a resurrection of the failed Fred Seitz attack from way back in 1996.  Here is the open letter of support for Ben Santer from the American Meteorological Society - from way back in 1996. And here is a more recent article by Ben Santer himself, covering these and other issues. 

Is something about to happen that I'm missing?  Why this resurrection of worn out clichéd denier disinformation?  Is Tim Ball wanting to provide more material for the court to consider at the various law suits he's got to defend? Is he trying to rope Anthony Watts into one or more of them?

And why is Anthony stuck for guest authors that he has to rely on people like the slime Tim Ball, the clown Christopher Monckton and Eric "eugenics" Worrall (can you get more obsure than Eric Worrall?).

Not only that but yesterday he dragged out a chap called Tim Harris who is the "Executive Director" of the two-bit operation that grandly calls itself the "International Climate Science Coalition".  Tim visited here and twice denied writing exact quotes I took from his article at WUWT.  One of which he'd repeated in slightly different words in a press release published on his own website - talking about "the most expensive hoax in the history of science".

Not only that, but earlier today, Anthony proclaimed to the world that the "biggest threat" to humankind is an asteroid strike.  He's made similar claims before.  He's nuts.  Even his most rabid deniers dispute him on that score.

It's as if there's something big in the wind to send Anthony Watts around the twist like this.  Utterly more Utter Nuttery than usual.

Denier weirdness: The biggest threat to humanity? Lord save us!

Sou | 12:38 PM 19 Comments - leave a comment

Oh my! Anthony Watts has picked up a press release and decided he's found the biggest threat to humanity.

Is it global warming - not on your life!

Is it a supervolcanic eruption? Not a chance!

A global pandemic? Nope, not at all!

A nuclear war? Nope, not that either.

What he says (archived here) is:
The biggest threat to humanity, far bigger than global warming/climate change, is about to get bigger, much bigger.
A press release from some former NASA astronauts on the current asteroid impact threat to earth, based on data on in-atmosphere detonations since 2001, gleaned from a nuclear weapon detonation detection system has yielded some startling numbers.
The threat is 3 to 10 times higher than previously predicted. The data will be presented at the Seattle Flight Museum, Tuesday April 22, at 6:00pm PDT.

Oh. We're about to get clobbered by an asteroid? Really? That's a much, much bigger threat than the virtual certainty that by 2100 Earth will have a surface temperature 3 or 4 degrees higher than a century ago? With seas anything from one to two metres higher? Let's take Anthony's alarmism point by point.

Anthony has based his alarmism on a press release from the B612 Foundation. Here is what he copied:
This Earth Day, Tuesday, April 22, three former NASA astronauts will present new evidence that our planet has experienced many more large-scale asteroid impacts over the past decade than previously thought… three to ten times more, in fact. A new visualization of data from a nuclear weapons warning network, to be unveiled by B612 Foundation CEO Ed Lu during the evening event at Seattle’s Museum of Flight, shows that “the only thing preventing a catastrophe from a ‘city-killer’ sized asteroid is blind luck.” 

So first of all, they are not talking about a "threat to humanity" at all. They are talking about a "city-sized" threat. Like an earthquake or massive tidal wave (precipitated by an earthquake) or intense cyclone.

Secondly although the press release doesn't say so, I doubt the risk has got "any bigger", it's just that the risk has been reassessed. The actual risk is the same, it's just that in the past it was underestimated by "three to ten" times.  (How does that "three to ten times" rate in comparison with the range of estimates for TCR? Anyone?)  Here are the close encounters picked up by JPL/NASA - and here is the impact risk, looking ahead. The B612 Foundation doesn't seem to have it's own list - or if they do they aren't sharing it.

The hazards - NASA has a near earth object hazard website, and recently removed the previously nearest object from the list, writing:
Recent observations have removed from NASA's asteroid impact hazard list the near-Earth object (NEO) known to pose the most significant risk of Earth impact over the next 100 years.
2007 VK184, an asteroid estimated to be roughly 130 meters in size, has been on NASA's Impact Risk Page maintained by the NEO Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for several years, with an estimated 1-in-1800 chance of impacting Earth in June 2048. This predicted risk translates to a rating of 1 on the 10-point Torino Impact Hazard Scale. In recent months, 2007 VK184 has been the only known NEO with a non-zero Torino Scale rating
Okay, so that's bigger than the incoming stuff that the B612 Foundation is talking about, but for an object of 130 m in size, if it hit Earth it would make a nice dent.  And the predicted risk, given a 1-1800 chance of impacting Earth, was a rating 1 on the Torino Impact Hazard Scale.

So let's compare what else is on the Torino Impact Hazard Scale, where 10 is the highest risk.  A rating of 10 means:
A collision is certain, capable of causing global climatic catastrophe that may threaten the future of civilization as we know it, whether impacting land or ocean. Such events occur on average once per 100,000 years, or less often.  

According to Wikipedia, the "2013 Chelyabinsk meteor had a total kinetic energy prior to impact of about 0.4 megatons, corresponding to Torino Scale 0."  Not even a 1. (10 is highest risk)  You've got to earn a rating of 3 to get to "a collision capable of localised destruction":
A close encounter, meriting attention by astronomers. Current calculations give a 1% or greater chance of collision capable of localized destruction. Most likely, new telescopic observations will lead to re-assignment to Level 0. Attention by public and by public officials is merited if the encounter is less than a decade away.

What about a supervolcano? How often do they erupt?  The biggest volcanoes recorded on Wikipedia (yes, I know - but it's handy) happened  26,500 74,000 254,000 640,000 2,100,000  2,500,000 4,000,000  4,500,000  6,000,000 and 27,800,000  years ago.  I expect the further you go back, the more you'll miss.  So they don't happen all that often.  Then again, neither do asteroids of the size that could wipe out civilisation. Some of these supervolanos could destroy life as we know it.  To illustrate, Mt Tambora, which is not one of the previous earth-changing magnitude, is thought to be the cause of "the year without a summer".

Anyway, the point I want to make is that if these events are now viewed as three to ten times more common than previously thought - and no-one noticed them - then the risk is hardly "biggest threat to humanity, far bigger than global warming/climate change" let alone "about to get bigger, much bigger".

From the WUWT comments

To Anthony's chagrin, nobody at WUWT is rushing out to build underground shelters and stock up on ten years supply of rice and lentils.   In fact most of the WUWT-ers aren't buying Anthony's alarmism. (I checked, there was no "satire" or "humour" tag. Anthony really meant what he wrote.  He's done it before, too.)

charles nelson is sensible (for a change, and in part) and says:
April 19, 2014 at 3:30 pm
No seriously though…these little fellas have been doing this since for ever. We mustn’t confuse the ubiquity of camera phones etc etc with increasing frequency, we’ll be seeing lots more of this type of thing.
As for tracking big ones then doing something about them before they hit…I think this is what you might call a ‘Hollywood’ type solution to the problem. i.e. fantasy.
When a commercial jet the size of several houses can disappear radar controlled, satellite monitored air-space. I don’t hold out much hope for our technology being able to track smaller faster objects approaching our spherical planet from the corners of the cosmos!
Good to know that we’re thickening up the atmosphere with added CO2 though, most of those bad boys will burst and burn up long before they ever hit the ground!
And what about the weather in Murmansk…?

Eric Worrall seems to have bought it and says:
April 19, 2014 at 3:44 pm
How much Asteroid deflection capability would the annual global warming mitigation budget buy?
Time to stop that fantasy, and spend money where it is really needed.

Paul Penrose is talking about something completely different and says:
April 19, 2014 at 3:50 pm
I’m sorry Charles Nelson, but you don’t know what you are talking about. Comparing an aircraft that can change course to evade detection and an unguided rock that must follow the rules of orbital mechanics is just silly. Plus the rocks we are really concerned about are a bit bigger than even a 777. We can find and track these objects with the technology that we have now. And if we work at it, we could have the resources in place to deflect one within a few decades. And since a large meteor is a REAL civilization ending event, we must do it.

YouSoWould asks for a reality check and says:
April 19, 2014 at 4:04 pm
“actually 3-10 times more common than we previously thought. The fact that none of these asteroid impacts shown in the video was detected in advance is proof that the only thing preventing a catastrophe from a ‘city-killer’ sized asteroid is blind luck”
Given that the last extinction level event from one was 65 million years ago, I’m not going to lose much sleep over the infinitesimally small probability of one occurring within my comparative eye-blink of a lifespan.
And really – does anyone think we’d stand a chance of deflecting several hundred thousand tons of metal hurtling towards us, as this stage of our technological advancement? “Armageddon” it ain’t.

Even Ric Werme sees the flaw in Anthony's article and says:
April 19, 2014 at 4:12 pm
> The biggest threat to humanity, far bigger than global warming/climate change, is about to get bigger, much bigger
No, no – the threat remains the same (per capita), It’s merely the perception of the risk that has narrowed and gone up.
It does make me wish that we had spent a little more time getting some of us off this basket. A planet is a great place to evolve, but it’s a lousy place to preserve a species.

Rud Istvan doesn't like the direction Anthony is taking (too much like prisonplanet?) and says:
April 19, 2014 at 5:40 pm
See Judith Curry yesterday, or the add on wrap she says she will post soon.
Some things are so improbable they are not worth insuring against. The 2014 March Madness perfect bracket is a great example where Warren Buffet made money at ‘asteroid’ expense.
Please do not take this bog in that direction.

mjmsprt40 talks about the long odds of it happening and, with a wistful analogy, says:
April 19, 2014 at 4:43 pm
A city killer might strike, but since Sodom and Gomorrah we haven’t seen one. As far as “End of the world as we know it” sized asteroids– I’m more likely to get a date tonight with this month’s Playmate of the Month than we are to get hit with one of those things. 65 million years, and Jupiter helping to clean up the place… don’t lose sleep over a “planet killer”.

Judith Curry and George Brandis on Free Speech

Sou | 10:39 AM 3 Comments - leave a comment

I don't have much to say about the fact that Judith Curry seems to have embraced Mark Steyn (archived here), who is being sued for defamation. Judith says with her usual carefully ambiguous wording that: Mark Steyn has written a remarkable defense of free speech.

All I will say is that I do not want to live in a society that allows people to tell lies about others to such an extent that it ruins their professional or personal reputation.  That's why most societies have laws protecting people from this.

Freedom of speech came at a big cost to past generations and there are some societies where it still doesn't exist.  Those people who gave their lives for it would be turning in their graves to know how it's being abused by some people today.  The right to free speech also carries responsibility.  (I'm all for freedom and I do think it's important to distinguish between giving offence and causing unwarranted and undeserved harm.  That distinction seems to be blurred in the mind of some of the most vocal people who complain they aren't permitted to freely libel and slander others, but take offence when other people exercise their right to free speech and criticise them in turn).

I'll also refer to the attitude to free speech that I encountered on Hot Copper, which describes this situation.  In my view it's probably not that different to that of some of the loudest yobbos yelling for the freedom to say whatever they want whenever they want and where ever they want, regardless of the veracity or consequences.  But when someone else rightly corrects what they say, they shriek that their free speech is being hampered and political debate is being "shut down".

Excuse me?  Didn't I just read you speaking freely (though illogically, certainly politically), Senator Brandis?

Here's the list of items George Brandis wants discussed at Question Time in Parliament (nearly forgot the /sarc tag):

  • Debate the pros and cons of gravity.
  • Is earth really flat?
  • When did life on earth begin - 4,000 years ago, 6,000 years ago or 11,000 years ago?
  • Are germs really that important for human health?
  • Tobacco smoking and health benefits.

The Pseudo-Science Coalition, Bible Science and Conspiracy Theories

Sou | 1:18 AM 22 Comments - leave a comment

Is it because of the Christian holiday - Easter time, that's brought out all the religious beliefs at WUWT?

Today there's an article (archived here) about how all the science according to the IPCC is wrong, but science according to the Old Testament is right.  The article is by a Tom Harris who is from the International Climate Science Coalition.  That's an organisation related to the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition.  It's chief science adviser is Bob Carter.  Bob's a retired scientist who has taken up climate science denial to supplement his superannuation.  He's paid by the Heartland Institute and is also prominent at the Institute of Public Affairs, an Australian right wing lobby group.

The International Climate Science Coalition is a misnomer. It should be called the Climate Anti-Science Coalition. Or maybe the Climate Pseudo-Science Coalition.  I'll run with the latter.

Tom's the Executive Director and manages the show, according to DeSmogBlog. He's an engineer by training, not a climate scientist. He studied thermofluids.  That's outside my area of expertise, just like climate science is clearly outside Tom's area of expertise.

Tom and his pseudo-science organisation is pretty cosy with the Heartland Institute, which is probably why he's trying to promote their latest "not the IPCC" report.  After reading the executive summary of the last one I'm not sure that it's worth anyone's time reading the latest one.  I notice that while they tried to match the first two IPCC reports they didn't bother with matching WGIII.  That's probably because they don't want to mitigate global warming. The Heartland Institute advocate adaptation as the sole strategy.  Fortunately for them no-one's paying them any attention.  Their last big launch attracted the following people, according to

  • 5 Heartland participants
  • 5 grumpy-looking old white guys 
  • 1 supporter from the American Enterprise Institute
  • 2 bored looking middle-aged guys playing with electronic devices
  • 1 journalist from CNS news ("The right news. Right now")
  • 1 guy running the Fox TV camera 
  • 2 women who came in late
  • An SkS author and co-conspirator.

Bible science not climate science

Tom from his pseudo-science coalition gets his predictions from the bible but disdains projections from scientists. His article thrice refers to Moses.  (Is that becoming the fashion?) At one point he wrote:
While historical evidence increasingly suggests that cataclysm really did follow Moses’ prophesies, modern-day forecasts of climate Armageddon are not coming true. 
Charlton Heston as Moses

I don't know what he's referring to by "climate Armageddon" or what he thinks should have happened by now.  Maybe he's impatient.  Perhaps he's also got his years wrong and thinks it's 2100 already. That's a common error made by science deniers.  They reckon that because it's not yet two degrees hotter it's never going to be two degrees hotter.  And because seas haven't risen by two metres they are never going to rise by two metres.  I call that dumb. Others might call it stupid or ignorant. Still others might call it deceitful. It depends who is making the claim. When it's the Heartland Institute or the International Pseudo-Science Coalition then it's fair enough to call it deceitful. They know better.

What mistakes, Tom?

Tom's article is littered with claims like "mistakes in the science" and is high on insinuation and low on evidence.  Actually it's not simply low on evidence it has no evidence.  It's all rhetoric.  He includes some twisted quotations from leading figures implying that they don't accept the science.  That's incorrect but it probably goes down well with WUWT readers.  He does bring up the "CO2 is Plant Food" meme, which has dropped to number 42 on the SkepticalScience list of denier arguments.

Need to develop alternative sources of energy

Tom is of the view that we face a long-term energy crisis and writes:
Irrespective of the validity of climate change theories, there are good reasons to develop alternative sources of energy, but climate concerns is certainly not one of them.
The sentence is a bit mixed up.  He should have topped or tailed it.  It also provokes some discussion in the comments.

Just another WUWT conspiracy theorist

Toward the end Tom wrote:
In the long run, the climate scare will be revealed as the most expensive hoax in the history of science. 
So it turns out Tom's just another conspiracy theorist.  Conspiracy theorists are common at WUWT.  (Given the large number of conspiracy theories Anthony Watts promotes, you'd think he'd support papers like the moon-landing paper. But for some strange reason that and it's successor, Recursive Fury, didn't go down to well at WUWT.)

What wolves?

Tom's final paragraph is curious.  He wrote:
Scientists and others who knew this but promoted the deception for what they considered good reasons will be disgraced. Then no one will believe them when wolves really are at our doors.
What are the wolves?

From the WUWT comments

Given the religious nature of the holiday weekend, there were quite a few religious comments:

Martin 457 knows it was hotter 6,500 years ago because of the garden of eden. And then it got cooler when it rained for 40 days and 40 nights.  He says:

April 19, 2014 at 5:27 am
The bible, in it’s old testament, 6500 years ago, there was a garden of eden. We can look back to that time and see that the climate was warmer then. Then, there was a drastic cooling period. Doesn’t surprise me at all it rained for 40 day’s and nights. The atmosphere cooling like that can’t hold that amount of moisture any longer. DUH! Why that happened, un-explained.
The “not-see’s” are driving their cult away by sheer ignorance. Let them.

Louis says:
April 18, 2014 at 7:24 pm
There’s a big difference between “evidence” and “proof.” Both the Bible and the Koran document the Ten Plagues. Such ancient documents don’t “prove” an event happened, but they do provide historical evidence for it. (The fact that the Passover is still being commemorated after more than 3000 years is also evidence.) People can be open to such evidence, or they can close their minds to it. But they ought to have honest reasons for doing so, not just naked bias against the Bible or against religion in general. 

David L. Hagen reckons Moses did alright with his prophecies and points to a book to prove it and says:
April 18, 2014 at 6:32 pm
Moses had an amazing sequence of prophecies that were fulfilled.
See God’s Track Record of Fulfilled Prophecy By Don W. Olson 2005 pp 9-12
If you follow his link you'll see strong evidence, like how the prophecy that the Israelites would leave Egypt with wealth was fulfilled by them getting backpay.  And how the prophecy that the Nile would turn to blood was fulfilled by the Nile and all the rivers in Egypt turning to blood. Heavy, man!

David M says:
April 18, 2014 at 7:54 pm
While I don’t doubt the serious amount of alarmist nonsense spouted about AGW, i’m sorry, but you lost me as soon as you suggested that Moses made predictions that were more accurate. There are so many things wrong with that I don’t even know where to begin, and only serves to diminish your credibility.. 

Felix is like David M and says:
April 18, 2014 at 6:56 pm
“While historical evidence increasingly suggests that cataclysm really did follow Moses’ prophesies, modern-day forecasts of climate Armageddon are not coming true.”
I’m always a little skeptical of people who accept biblical literalism and reject modern science. But, you all believe as you like. 

SAMURAI goes for (mixed up) ancient greek philosophy, invoking Plato's disciple Socrates (sic) and says (excerpt):

April 18, 2014 at 11:41 pm
An excellent post, Tom. Thank you!
Even as Plato’s disciple Socrates sipped his hemlock, he realized that Plato’s “Philosopher King” Utopia was a failed Utopian dream, and that democracies are ultimately and inextricably ruled by kleptocrats who form kleptocratic regimes designed to enslave and rob its citizens.

MarkW reckons there's a lot more fossil fuel in the ground waiting to be discovered and says:

April 18, 2014 at 9:55 pm
While it is true that we will some day begin to run out of fossil fuels, that day is at least several hundred years in the future.
Planning for it now is a complete waste of time as the technology and societal needs of that far distant future are completely unknowable, and any plans made now stand as much chance of making things worse than of making things better.

Pat Frank worships money, not the bible or moses or greek philosophers and says:
April 18, 2014 at 7:23 pm
I’d like to know how much the COP conferences cost. There have been, what, 19 of them so far? Who’s paying for those? How much has been spent on the salaries and expenses of the participants? Who’s paying for them?
How much has already been spent on mitigation of a non-problem? How much for pointless “carbon-capture” projects? How much has been squandered on the IPCC? How much paid for climate scientists to meet several times a year?
How much money has gone to subsidies for solar and wind farms that merely parasitize the productive economy? How much in tax money has gone to subsidize the Teslas that are just toys for rich people?
Someone should total up how much money has been squandered on the idiocy of anthropogenic global warming. 

While Janice Moore (unpredictably) has more faith in human ingenuity, even more than god this time, and says:
April 18, 2014 at 4:01 pm
The comparison with Moses while not exactly on point (ahem)… is an apt one: just as the Egyptians wanted to retain the economic benefits of the slave labor of the Jews,
so, too,
the Enviroprofiteers (and their henchpersons, the Envirostalinists) want to gain (or retain) the economic benefits (for the elite) of any socialist system that has ever blossomed into full flower — the bulk of the citizens become serfs.
“Equality for the world” and “save civilization as we know it” are mere euphemisms for a harsh, bitter, existence for the many to benefit the few.
(to quote with an edit Winston Churchill — from memory, only)
“Capitalism: the unequal sharing of blessings.
Socialism: the equal {except for the elite} sharing of misery.”
You make many good points, Mr. Harris, this, however is not one of them:
“… we do indeed face a long-term energy crisis… .”
Unless you are a prophet (like Moses really was), you do not know this. Moreover, historical evidence tells us that such doomsaying conjecture is highly likely to be wrong. You are forgetting, dear sir, that human ingenuity lives! Malthus predicted famine…. there was going to be a big copper wire shortage…. and robots were going to take away all the jobs……and on and on.
I will not believe, Mr. Harris! No, I will not believe your prophecy, for I have far too much FAITH IN OUR WONDERFUL ENGINEERS AND CHEMISTS (have you even looked at what nanotechnology is doing, esp. re: synthetic petroleum products?) to believe for one second that our fuel needs will not be met …. or redefined. 
And not one government regulation is necessary. Free markets will do it all.
So, take heart!
On Good Friday, things looked pretty bleak for a bunch of Jewish followers of a certain Jewish rabbi 2,000 years ago… GOOD THINGS LIE AHEAD!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Are US winters cooling or warming? It is all so very confusing at WUWT....

Sou | 5:17 PM Feel free to comment!

It wasn't that long ago that WUWT-ers were being warned that the world is heading for an ice age.  The "ice age cometh-ers" to varying degrees include:

The one thing you can say about those WUWT contributors is that they are prepared to make a prediction, even though their predictions are laughable.  Most of the people at WUWT just scoff at science but aren't prepared to stick their neck out.  I've yet to see Anthony Watts make any prediction.  Wondering Willis once made a guess that the world is about to get cooler.  Perennially Puzzled Bob Tisdale, when pinned down, doesn't want to make any predictions.  He's too busy keeping track of bits of the ocean in the hope that some bits haven't warmed as much lately (so that he can put up a chart of a patch of sea and say that global warming isn't happening, or it's not happening in that bit of the globe).

It was freezing cold in the USA this winter, but it's not unusual?

Over the past few months, there have been a myriad of WUWT articles about just how cold it was this winter in the USA.  If there was a WUWT article about the record hot Californian winter, I must have missed it. Which is odd, since that's where Anthony Watts, the blog owner, hails from. Here are just some of the articles about how cold it was in the USA this past winter:

However in an apparent about-face, today the headlines at WUWT are (archived here):

Holdren Is Wrong – Cold Winters Are Not Getting More Common

Paul Homewood, who wrote the article even put up a chart to prove that US winters aren't getting any colder.  In fact looking at the chart, since the 1980s winters in the USA have become a whole lot warmer:

Source: NOAA via WUWT

Paul injects a bit of reality at WUWT and writes:
Clearly, on a national basis, recent winters have not been unusually cold. In the last 10 years, only three winters have been colder than the 1901-2000 mean. Moreover, no winters in recent years have come anywhere near to being as cold as some of the winters in the 1970’s, for instance, or earlier.

Paul goes on to look to see how much of the USA had extreme winters.  Using his method, he confirmed that the 1970s was the last decade notable for cold extremes across the largest portion of contiguous USA.  He wrote that it's clear that much less of the country was affected by cold compared to the twentieth century:
It is abundantly clear that much less of the country has been affected by extreme cold this winter, and indeed other recent ones, when compared with the 20thC. There is also no trend towards cold winters becoming more common.

Then Paul remembers who he's writing for.  So he figures he'd better cover himself for the global warming deniers and say that mild winters aren't "taking over" either, writing:
What is also interesting is that there does not seem to be much of a trend towards milder winters taking over. Only the winter of 2011/12 stands out in this respect, and there have been plenty of similar years previously.

Yet if you look at the first chart he posted (above), it's pretty obvious even to the naked eye that in the last few decades, the average winter time temperature is much warmer than it was in the past. Even looking at his own charts of extremes, he should have recognised that there is a lot more red area than blue area in recent decades.  Here are the two charts Paul put up, showing extremes in minimum and extremes in maximum temperatures for winter, with my animations (click to enlarge):

Adapted from source: WUWT

So is it warming, cooling or doing neither? Anthony's readers must sometimes be scratching their head wondering whether to believe what they read at WUWT or whether to believe what they read at WUWT.

John Holdren and Jennifer Francis' Polar Vortex

John Holdren's statement, which Paul Homewood was countering, was from a video in which he discusses the polar vortex.

Paul quotes the following bits of text.  He doesn't link directly to where he got the quotes.  The first bit of text is from the above video (at 0:32), which Paul doesn't repost, and the second paragraph is taken from a White House web page :
“A growing body of evidence suggests that the kind of extreme cold being experienced by much of the United States as we speak is a pattern that we can expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues….
We also know that this week’s cold spell is of a type there’s reason to believe may become more frequent in a world that’s getting warmer, on average, because of greenhouse-gas pollution.”
 The video is short, so I'll copy the text here so you can read John Holdren's quote in context:
If you've been hearing that extreme cold spells like the one that we're having in the United States now disprove global warming, don't believe it. The fact is that no single weather episode can either prove or disprove global climate change.
Climate is the pattern of weather that we observe geographically and over the seasons, and it's described in terms of averages, variations, and probabilities. But a growing body of evidence suggests that the kind of extreme cold being experienced by much of the United States as we speak is a pattern that we can expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues. And the reason is this: in the warming world that we're experiencing, the far north, the Arctic, is warming roughly twice as rapidly as the mid-latitudes, such as the United States. That means that the temperature difference between the Arctic and the mid-latitudes is shrinking, and that temperature difference is what drives what is called the circumpolar vortex, which is the great counterclockwise-swirling mass of cold air that hovers over the Arctic. As the temperature difference between the Arctic and the mid-latitudes declines, the polar vortex weakens, and it becomes wavier. The waviness means that there can be increased, larger excursions of cold air southward -- that is, into the mid-latitudes -- and, in the other phase of the wave, increased excursions of relatively warmer mid-latitude air into the far north. 
Computer models tell us that there are many different factors influencing these patterns. And, as in all science, there will be continuing debate about exactly what is happening. But I believe the odds are that we can expect, as a result of global warming, to see more of this pattern of extreme cold in the mid-latitudes and some extreme warm in the far north.

Essentially, what John Holdren is describing is the hypothesis put forward by Jennifer Francis and Stephen Vavrus in a paper in GRL in 2012.  As John Holdren says, "there will be continuing debate about exactly what is happening".  Indeed the Francis hypothesis is the subject of ongoing debate.  Some scientists, such as Kevin Trenberth, disagree quite strongly. Others are more circumspect and are entertaining the idea that the hypothesis has merit.

Coincidentally, there is an article in the current issue of Science about this very topic, titled "Into the Maelstrom" and written by Eli Kintisch.  If you can get hold of a copy it's worth a read (at least I found it very interesting and informative).  Eli Kintisch says that Jennifer Francis has modified part of her hypothesis in the light of a paper by Elizabeth Barnes, backing off from the notion that "a curvier jet stream is leading to more atmospheric "blocking"". Here's an excerpt of the Science article:
The most vociferous critiques, however, have come from researchers who study atmospheric dynamics, or the many mechanisms that jostle and shape air masses. Given the Arctic's relatively puny influence over the planet's atmospheric energy flows, the notion that it can alter the jet stream "is just plain wrong," says dynamicist Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. The more likely culprit, he says, is natural variability driven by the tropics, where Earth gets its largest input of solar energy.
Such variability, Trenberth says, could explain the jet stream's giant curvy shape this past January, which brought record chill to the southeastern United States, warm temperatures to Alaska, and made "polar vortex" a household term. At the time, a massive amount of so-called latent heat was accumulating in the tropical Pacific, Trenberth notes, in an incipient El Niño event. Parcels of warm air from the tropics may have forced the jet stream northward in one place, causing it to meander southward farther east. "It may not be that Arctic amplification is causing a wavier jet stream, it may be that a wavier jet stream is causing Arctic amplification," he says.
"I understand that people would be skeptical," Francis says. "It's a new paradigm." But she counsels patience. She notes that evidence of Arctic amplification itself has emerged from the statistical noise only in the last 15 or so years, so it may take time for the changes to the jet stream to become statistically significant. And she believes the modeling experiments that fail to simulate a more meandering jet stream are biased, because they don't include sufficiently robust Arctic amplification.
Such arguments have persuaded some colleagues to at least wait and see. Oceanographer James Overland of NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, Washington, for example, says, "I find the tropical explanation for the recent behavior of the jet stream no less implausible than the Arctic one." And he suspects that, as data accumulate, the dynamicists will come to gain a greater appreciation for the Arctic's role.

Paul Homewood's Strawman

I think it's worth pointing out that Paul Homewood's article is one big strawman.  He is trying to refute something that John Holdren didn't say.

Paul is arguing that because the winters on average or over much of the USA aren't the coldest compared to the entire record of winters then John Holdren is wrong.  But John Holdren was talking about cold spells not average winter temperatures.  He was talking about periods when parts of the USA may experience extremely cold weather.  Also, in my view the winter extremes need to be considered in comparison with a rising global surface temperature.  What this would mean is that cold extremes would be getting warmer over time, as global surface temperatures rise.  Yet there can still be extreme cold across parts of the USA, just not as extreme as the coldest in the instrumental record.  Perhaps in several decades from now, an extreme cold spell will be as warm as a current mild winter in the USA, yet it may still be caused by a "wavy" polar vortex.  (A mild winter may well be as warm as a mild spring or even a mild summer in the future.)

From the WUWT comments

Let's see how the WUWT-ers reacted to Paul arguing that US winters aren't getting colder and writing that "There has been nothing unusual or unprecedented about this winter."  They are all over the place.  Some of them are saying winters are warmer. Others are arguing winters are colder. Many of them seem to think the USA is the whole globe. For example: more soylent green! says:
April 18, 2014 at 12:50 pm
“As global warming continues?” Do you think Holdren means “when (or if) global warming continues” because it ain’t warmed in nearly 2 decades.
A technical question — If global warming causes colder winters, at what point does global warming become global cooling? Or does it all just average out? If it all just averages out, does that mean the earth doesn’t have a fever anymore?

phlogiston is trying to work it all out and says:
April 18, 2014 at 1:38 pm
So let me get this straight:
The scientific adviser to the POTUS
is saying that
global warming
is causing colder winters

TonyG isn't giving up easily and says:
April 18, 2014 at 10:53 am
Over a year ago, I saw a program on NGC that suggested AGW could cause another ice age. I guess cold winters would be much more common with glaciation.

pokerguy is deeply depressed and says:
April 18, 2014 at 11:23 am
There was a time when I believed that people in highly positions….at least in a democracy….could not just make things up without paying a price. Now the scales have fallen from my eyes. You can say anything you want for the most part and get away with it. Holdren has been making ridiculous claims without being exposed as a serial liar in the MSM for a long time. Ditto Obama. I don’t think it was more than a year ago when the President of the U.S. simply made up his own facts about global warming by asserting that the globe was heating up even faster than the experts had predicted….which of course is utterly false. In fact there’s arguably been no warming at all for over 17 years.
Deeply, deeply depressing. 

Magma picks up an inconsistency and says:
April 18, 2014 at 11:39 am
Holdren says “cold spells”. Homewood shows Dec-Feb averages.
There is a difference. 

Richard Day likes question marks and says:
April 18, 2014 at 11:48 am
So extreme cold is the result of global warming?
Is there ANYTHING global warming can’t do?????? 

herkimer isn't the only one who says it's been cooling since 1998 (now that year rings a bell) (excerpt):
April 18, 2014 at 11:58 am
Winters in Contiguous US have been getting cooler for 17 winters or since 1998 , but certainly not for the reasons that Holdren states. This recent decline in US winter temperatures is similar to the cooler US winter cycles of 1895-1920 and again 1954-1979 and is due to ocean cycles. 

Rud Istvan gets everything topsy turvey and says:
April 18, 2014 at 12:20 pm
Holden even recently lied to Congress about previous testimony on US drought by Roger Pielke Jr. When Pielke asked for a retraction and apology, he got a six page White House memo citing one paper. Apparently they cannot read either, because that paper (by Trenberth) also supported the Pielke testimony. Which was simply thatnitmisnot possible to make a connection between drought and climate change, per the IPCC SREX and other papers. It is possible to make regional US connections with PDO and AMO.
Why did Holdren try to trash Pielke’s testimony? Because Obama is using the California problem to pump for his climate agenda. Just when you think they cannot stoop lower, they do.
No, Rud, that's not why John Holdren had a go at Roger Pielke Jr's testimony.  This is.

Rob is seeing warmer winters and says:
April 18, 2014 at 2:48 pm
Winters have gotten much less severe
here along the Gulf Coast since the terrible cold decades of the 1980′s and 1960′s.
Holdren’s “speculation” is NOT Science. Not even close.

HenryP says, I'm not sure what:
April 18, 2014 at 3:19 pm
As we are cooling from the top, the higher latitudes get drier and the lower latitudes get wetter.
That is physics.
Locally, at some places, due to the drier conditions, it can get hotter,

Bart says:
April 18, 2014 at 6:52 pm
Seems I recall that last year’s warmer-than-usual winter was supposed to be the harbinger of things to come.

bushbunny is firmly in the global cooling camp and disagrees with Paul Homewood (but doesn't come right out and say so):
April 18, 2014 at 8:08 pm
Of course the government would announce this nonsense to uphold their beliefs, and not face the fact Northern America and Canada would suffer most from extra cold winters. I hope that you don’t experience any more extra cold winters for your health mainly and productivity. Your government should take measures now not to rely on the global warming scare but global cooling that will prove a lot more expensive in the long run to adapt to. 

Eli Kintisch, "Into the Maelstrom", Science 18 April 2014: Vol. 344 no. 6181 pp. 250-253 DOI: 10.1126/science.344.6181.250

Francis, Jennifer A., and Stephen J. Vavrus. "Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid‐latitudes." Geophysical Research Letters 39.6 (2012). doi:10.1029/2012GL051000,

Barnes, Elizabeth A. "Revisiting the evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in midlatitudes." Geophysical Research Letters 40.17 (2013): 4734-4739. doi:10.1002/grl.50880

It's a trifecta with "Al Gore is Fat"! And is Anthony Watts owning up to science fakery?

Sou | 2:15 AM 6 Comments - leave a comment
Talk about old times, Anthony Watts is going for the trifecta at his denier blog, wattsupwiththat. He might even make the quadrella.  Here's what he'd done in the past day or so:
  1. Climategate resurrection: I've already mentioned his resurrection of a stolen email from "climategate" - dated January 2005, more than nine years ago.
  2. Greenland greening? I've just written about that one too. It got a mostly hostile response because, of course, one of the denier memes is that Greenland used to be so much greener.
  3. Al Gore is fat: not quite but almost.

All that's needed to win the quadrella would be an "ice age cometh" article by someone like David "funny sunny" Archibald.

Might as well tell you about how wrong Al Gore is, according to Anthony Watts.  Apparently Mr Gore went to Hawaii where he "dupes 9000 people" and "insults the rest" - or at least that's what Anthony Watts says. (Archived here.)

How Al Gore is a Hypocrite!

First up, Mr Gore was hypocritical because he didn't insist on turning off the stage lights and microphone when he spoke to 9,000 people in  Honolulu’s Stan Sheriff Center. Not only that, but he allowed the use of a image of himself speaking to be projected onto a large screen, which would have used up more electricity. 
Anthony said he even let the organisers turn on air-conditioning!  There's a photo of the stadium below, set up for sports. 

Source: Wikipedia Credit: ElChibo808

Anthony would say Mr Gore was a hypocrite for not swimming to Hawaii and talking to a crowd from a mountain top or at the beach.  In the daytime. Eating salad (to avoid using fuel) and cupping his hands and drinking water from a stream, so as to avoid using any utensils that might have been manufactured using energy.  Oh and he probably should have been starkers, too. It takes energy to make clothes.

Who's duping who?

Now that we've got that out of the way, let's see how Al Gore duped 9,000 people.  Anthony copied bits from an article at Honolulu Civil Beat.  I'll copy some of it here:
The “barriers” to doing something about climate change are business and political interests that profit off of fossil fuels — “dirty energy that causes dirty weather.” 
Then Anthony wrote:
What. A. Liar.
Both the IPCC and Nature say there is no link between climate change aka global warming and severe weather, and so it follows about Gore’s “dirty energy” claim.

Anthony's second statement is wrong. In the IPCC AR5 WG1 Summary for Policy Makers, for example, it states that "it is likely that human influence has more than doubled the probability of occurrence of some observed heat waves in some locations" and has a similar finding for heavy precipitation.

Maybe Anthony has decided to reject the greenhouse effect after all, and this is a tentative step he's taking before "coming out" and rejecting the link between global warming and fossil fuel burning.

So as it turns out, Al Gore isn't lying.  He's using strong imagery for emphasis with his "dirty energy causes dirty weather".  But he's spot on.  Heat waves are the pits.  So are floods. So is drought. All of these will be exacerbated by global warming - in some areas more than others.

Anthony takes offence on behalf of polluters who promote fake science

Now for the bit where Al Gore supposedly insults the rest.  This part of the write-up that Anthony copied might be what he's referring to:
He compared fake science from polluters stating that humans are not to blame for the climate to tobacco companies that used to hire actors to play doctors who denied cigarettes were dangerous. 
“That’s immoral, unethical and despicable,” he said of both.

Now it's not that likely that Anthony Watts approves of tobacco companies hiring actors to play doctors to deny that cigarettes are dangerous.  He has often indicated that he's very sensitive to discussion of tobacco for personal reasons. So that leaves him deciding to take offence at any suggestion that there's something wrong with fake science coming from polluters.  Maybe in Anthony's book that's a noble undertaking.

The only other bit that might have got Anthony upset was this quote, about "game-changers":
The first is the growing realization from even climate-change deniers that something seems to be strange with the weather. 
Perhaps Anthony is insulted because he can't find anything strange about the weather and as a diligent denier he should. Or shouldn't. Or something.

Whatever it was that upset Anthony, I reckon he must be either owning up to the fact that he's a climate science denier or else he's owning up to fake science and claiming to be a polluter.

There is one more clue, right at the bottom of the article.  Anthony wrote:
So while Mr. Gore calls climate skeptics (which seems to be the majority of the population these days) ‘Immoral, Unethical and Despicable’ ... 

But look again at what Al Gore said was ‘Immoral, Unethical and Despicable’.  It wasn't sceptics. It wasn't fake sceptics. It was "fake science from polluters" and actors playing doctors and denying cigarettes are dangerous.

So that brings us back to my first supposition.  Anthony must be owning up to producing fake science and being a polluter.  I bet you're glad to have that settled.

From the WUWT comments

There wasn't much usual stuff about mansions and oil in the comments. In the main, WUWT-ers came across as being disinterested, bored even. Just making comments for the sake of it. No passion. I get the sense their hearts aren't in it. "Al Gore is fat" has run its course with the denialati.  It was also the lowest common denominator of WUWT-ers.  (Yes, there's a definite hierarchy of commenter at WUWT. Different people comment on different types of articles.)

Latimer Alder was a smarty pants like me and says:
April 18, 2014 at 12:11 am
No doubt Al just walked across the Pacific to get there form his seaside home on the mainland.
He’d have been a hypocrite if he resorted to fossil-fuel powered aeroplane or boat.

David L says:
April 18, 2014 at 1:24 am
Why does anyone at all listen to this idiot anymore????

Christopher Hanley says:
April 18, 2014 at 1:28 am
“The first is the growing realization from even climate-change deniers that something seems to be strange with the weather …”
Has it been raining frogs and toads in Hawaii recently?

DirkH, one of the resident conspiracy theorists, says:
April 18, 2014 at 2:27 am
They didn’t pay to listen to his drivel; they paid to stay or move up in the crony hierarchy of the Obama regime. 

Another WUWT conspiracy theorist, Santa Baby, says:
April 18, 2014 at 1:40 am
Al Gore, Gro and several others helped set up the UNEP/UNFCCC/IPCC scheme. The real Agenda is international Marxism trough a climate treaty and UNEP Global Government.
Maybee he is hoping to become the first undemocratic elected President of Earth?