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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Incompetent or deceitful? Anthony Watts is lost for words so substitutes pictures...

Sou | 4:34 PM Go to the first of 19 comments. Add a comment

Update - see below. Judith Curry has decided to join forces with the loony camp. [Sou: 5:30 pm 2 July 14 AESDT]

This is a follow-up to Anthony Watts idiocy with regard to the US temperature record. You can read about his lead up tantrums here and here.

After all his mistakes of the past few days, topped off by this latest gaffe, Anthony Watts' reputation as far as the US temperature records go should be in tatters. Except he has no reputation with anyone who counts for anything. He's just another denialist blogger.

Lost for words

Today Anthony Watts is lost for words. So lost that when he found out that NCDC/NOAA had responded to a query from Politifact, he just posted the response "without comment" (archived here). The response from NCDC was, unsurprisingly, that their algorithms are working as intended.  You can read it in full in the archived WUWT article. It is just as Nick Stokes and others wrote.

Anthony peevishly wrote "The NCDC has not responded to me personally, I only got this by asking around." Yeah, you'd think that after Anthony's lunatic rantings at all and sundry and misrepresenting the NCDC they'd at least have paid him the courtesy of writing to him, the "bigger than Ben Hur" denier blogger, "personally"!

He stomped about for at least three hours trying to figure out how to get back at the NCDC/NOAA for ignoring him and his anti-science blog. "How could they do that?" He fumed. "I just put in a huge amount of effort telling my readers how bad and unscrupulous and wrong and positively evil the NOAA is and they ignore me."

The fact that it was Anthony who was so dreadfully wrong in almost everything he wrote about the US temperature record would have been beside the point. He wanted to stir up a hornets' nest, but the hornets flew off over his head. He wasn't worth even a little sting.

Anthony Watts takes a swipe at his engineering buddies

After three hours Anthony was still lost for words, but he came up with a sneaky way around this. He decided to say it with pictures. So he put up lots of big photos (archived here). Most of them were of engineering disasters. Given a huge (dis)proportion of Anthony's denier fans are engineers this may not go over well.

Anthony took particular aim at his fellow deniers, the Gang of 49 who are retired space engineers and astronauts. This motley lot pride themselves on rejecting climate science, though they can't do simple arithmetic and know nothing about climate. Anthony doesn't care if he shoots them down. He's prepared to drop a few allies in his quest to prove that all climate science is wrong. Here's a list of his pictures that PROVE the US temperature record is wrong.
  • some early NASA rockets - would these have been NASA rockets designed by some of the Gang of 49 who Anthony promotes from time to time?
  • the Mariner - that surely would have involved some of the Gang of 49 deniers
  • the Mars Climate Orbiter - again, were any of those dismissed engineers close to the Gang of 49?
  • the Tacoma Narrows bridge collapse - which wouldn't endear him to his engineering buddies, 
  • the de Havilland Comet, that's a bit risky. Some of Anthony's engineering fans would be old enough to have played a part in that one.
  • the Titanic - that's probably safe enough. The people who designed the Titanic wouldn't be around any more. And I don't know that he has any admirers from the ship-building industry.

Anthony Watts - incompetent or deceitful?

Having listed a few engineering disasters that were not remotely connected to NOAA or NCDC, Anthony finally gets down to brass tacks. He's dug up the fact that on the "Climate at a Glance" website, the record displayed for the month of May for Dallas Texas, between 1970 and 2000, doesn't show a difference between the maximum and minimum temperature and average monthly temperature. Anthony reckons that's a travesty!  Anthony wrote:
While being told that “all is well” and and that “our algorithm is working as designed”, it is easy to discover that if one tries to plot the temperature data for any city in the United States like Dallas Texas for example you get plots for high temperature, low temperature, and average temperature that are identical:

Max/Min data to come at NCDC

So let's look into that, shall we? This is what NCDC had to say about version 1 of the US Climate Division Dataset (my emphasis):
Weaknesses of the U.S. Climate Division Dataset: The U.S. Climate Division Dataset does not contain monthly maximum or minimum temperature or any variables/indices derivable from daily data. Temperature data is adjusted for time of observation bias, however no other adjustments are made for inhomogeneities. These inhomogeneities include changes in instrumentation, observer, and observation practices, station and instrumentation moves, and changes in station composition resulting from stations closing and opening over time within a division.

Does the above apply to what Anthony found? I don't know, perhaps not directly anyway, because Version 1 has been superseded. However it does provide a clue.  A much bigger clue can be found right up the top of the webpage that Anthony himself linked to, where the NCDC has written (my emphasis):
NCDC transitioned to the nClimDiv dataset on Thursday, March 13, 2014. This was coincident with the release of the February 2014 monthly monitoring report. For details on this transition, please visit our public FTP site and our U.S. Climate Divisional Database site.

If you click on the "our public FTP site" link you'll find this, in black and white (my emphasis):
May 13, 2014
NCDC is planning to provide access to nClimDiv maximum and minimum temperature data coincident with the release of the May 2014 climate summary in mid-June.  
These data will be accessible from several of NCDC's products, including Climate at a Glance, and will also reside on our CIRS ftp site:

This isn't clear if it refers to monthly data or annual. On the NCDC charting web page annual data definitely has monthly max and min as well as average. So it may be that monthly data still is not available - or it's two weeks late. In any case, is it worth all the aggro that Anthony dished out? Does Anthony even know that it's ClimDiv data that he's looking at? What's he planning to do with monthly max and min data for Dallas between 1970 and 2000 - which is the chart he got all hot and bothered over? I'd say he could probably use USHCN data if he wanted to. [Para amended slightly a few minutes after posting.]

Shall we put Anthony's flap down to incompetence or is he deliberately leading his readers astray?

I'd say if you want any specialist advice on the US temperature record, avoid WUWT and Anthony Watts!

From the WUWT comments

Rhoda R doesn't know anything about US surface temperature but wants to join in the chorus and says:
July 1, 2014 at 8:19 pm
Did anyone ask what the design goal was that these algorithms were designed to meet?
editstet has nothing to add but adds it anyway and says:
July 1, 2014 at 8:19 pm
Ah, well, that certainly simplifies things.
editstet follows it up with another meaningless one-liner says:
July 1, 2014 at 8:23 pm
Or maybe NOAA scientists took the song Night and Day too literally.
pokerguy has nothing to say but says it anyway:
July 1, 2014 at 8:28 pm
“…working as designed.”
Well that’s a relief.

Rud Istvan is a fake sceptic who says:
July 1, 2014 at 9:08 pm
Anthony, call them on the max min avg mistake. They might respond since obviously and embarassingly wrong.
You just called them on much bigger climate temp issues, and were ‘blown off’. Time to escalate. And not just here. “algorithm does what we intended” is going to be one of those salient moments all round. What a lovely intent statement in any court of law able to convict.

davidmhoffer mistakenly thinks the NCDC has something to do with the Hubble telescope. Either that or he wants Anthony to stick the boot into the Gang of 49 some more, and says:
July 1, 2014 at 9:30 pm
Aw, you left out the Hubble Telescope. I think it a most appropriate example for no other reason that every single component and sub-assembly worked exactly as designed. It was only the fully assembled device that failed to work properly.
i sense the same mind numbing denial of the obvious in this case. The algorithm no doubt did work exactly as designed. That by no means proves that the design achieved an output commensurate with actual results, and, as the trends above show, it is quite possible to have an algorithm that works as designed yet, as part of a larger system, like the Hubble Telescope, produces incorrect information that is wildly and completely obviously wrong. Sadly, a quick look at the original photo from Hubble was enough to convince a rank layman that something was wrong. I don’t think a quick look by the MSM will have the same effect.

Update: Curried potatoes anyone?

Judith Curry has decided to pitch her tent alongside the unsavoury "Steve Goddard" and ignorant Anthony Watts (archived here). As every year passes (and as she herself admits), she shifts further and further into loony land. She's trying to portray absolutely nothing as a "political hot potato", based solely on the ignorant ravings of petulant, thwarted deniers.


  1. I haven't really read it, but it seems to be the standard "someone's been wrong before, therefore they must be wrong now." I guess we should be impressed that Anthony is not afraid of logical fallacies.

    1. ATTP, One problem is he's talking about different "someone's". NCDC has nothing to do with the space race.

      The other problem he has is that he doesn't seem to know anything about NClimDiv of NCDC.

      For all his posturing about US surface temperature records, Anthony knows less than nothing about them. He just doesn't have a clue about the data itself, the different data sets, what homogenisation is, what temperature anomalies are.

      He's a fraud who gets other people to do his work. His own incompetence and ignorance becomes very clear when he himself writes anything about the subject.

    2. Yes, I realised after posting that I made it sound like the same someone's. I'd intended to refer to different someone's, but got it wrong :-) Indeed, it's even worse than I implied.

    3. ATTP, when I looked into it (and it didn't take much) it became apparent that Anthony was hoping that someone would tell him how to proceed, because he was out of his depth on this one. (Which isn't at all unusual.)

      His solution hasn't worked. He relied on people who were as ignorant as he is about the US temperature record.

      As for putting up engineering failures from the space race, navigation and aircraft design implying that it had anything at all to do with NCDC/NOAA or the surface temperature record - that was just further evidence that he is feeling helpless and adrift.

      I wonder if the denier implosion over the Rocket Scientist from Luna Park has anything to do with it?

    4. I think you mean "Top Rocket Scientist" :-)

  2. Anthony is not that good at getting any facts straight.

    Where he gets his "26 hull-loss accidents" pertaining to the de Havilland Comet 1 from is anybody's guess for the destination of that link says nothing about it (a Plimer perhaps).

    Metal fatigue and stress concentrations were not well understood at that time with the design choice of rather sharp radius curved corners to the windows (not sharp right angles as many suppose) was less than optimum but the major factor was the lack of attention to detail with respect to burrs and 'nicks' at the edges which added to the stress concentration.

    The amount that a pressurised aircraft would inflate and deflate by with changes in altitude were not well characterised and the limits on weight due to the low engine power available from the de Havilland Ghost centrifugal compressor turbojet engines necessitated thinner metal gauges for the structure, particularly the skin.

    The impact of flight cycles on fatigue stress due to pressurisation cycles was still not well grasped when an Aloha Airways 737 suffered an explosive decompression when a large upper section of the forward fuselage blew away. The fact that Aloha aircraft, with many short inter-island hops, could experience as much as two compression cycles per day, about seven times the normally expected rate.

    Being a Brit' and one with extensive knowledge of, aerodynamics and structures, and experience with aviation having designed, manufactured and fitted components to aircraft this Watt's article jars.

    It should be considered that 'Galloping Gertie ' was an aerodynamic and harmonic induced design failure.

    Titanic was unfortunate, and did not sink in the manner suggested by that illustration, and much recent exploration and investigation, another topic expanding my book collection, has demonstrated that the nature of the damage was unanticipated. Also the presence that year of more than the normal number of ice bergs, and growlers, has been demonstrated as due to climate change induced glacial acceleration and berg calving increase.

    What all those examples highlight is that engineering decisions can have unexpected consequences when expanding the envelope of knowledge and should sound warning bells about geo-engineering schemes aimed at mitigating and adapting to climate change.

    1. And. of course, it would be beyond the pale to mention that modern engineering uses computer models to perform stress analysis with notable success.

    2. Indeed.

      The tool I once had to use was a slide-rule (and of course 7 or 9 figure log tables), remember those? I still have my slide rule one circa 1962 in the loft bud sadly whilst I was away from home one time it became divorced from its cursor.

    3. They were still being used by the 'top rocket scientists' I joined when I left uni.

  3. Anthony peevishly wrote "The NCDC has not responded to me personally, I only got this by asking around."

    NCDC did not pick up the red telephone and call the leader of the free world himself? Unforgivable!

    1. Yet another example of the contrarians' sense of entitlement and self-importance. They really do expect that scientists have nothing to do other than to respond to their (probably ill-posed and/or confrontational) queries, and to monitor their obscure blogs.

    2. I know how it goes when it comes to government bureaucracies. If I were the chief bureaucrat in one of those government agencies and somebody wrote me a note claiming my data base was goofy, I would have a clerk write a note back exp'laining the issue was under study, and we would get back to the sender in due course. And i would have it investigated by summer interns. They are really good at this type of work. I do wonder, what happens if they find those algorithms are a bit off? Even if the temperature record isn´t exact, we still have the sea level change and the lack of Arctic ice. Or maybe we just need to wait to see what the satellite record says in a few years.

    3. Fernando Leanme, if these people are bureaucrats, then bureaucrats publish an amazing amount of scientific papers and made enormous contributions to the scientific literature. If you look at the organigram of NCDC you will find a lot of names of all the scientific papers you have read if you are interested in climate data.

      One wonders why you felt the need to make such a comment without knowing what you are talking about.

  4. From a purely technical standpoint, does anybody have a reference for the system they use to grid the data? I was wondering if they grid the USA and then place the stations within the grid, or whether they use kriging? I find those NOAA pages to be so full of baloney I can´t locate the method they use.

    1. It depends on which data you mean. If you're talking about ClimDiv, there's an indication on the website. For a detailed paper on the subject, this looks to be the latest, sub req'd and I can't find an pdf version. You could ask the authors.

      Vose, Russell S., Scott Applequist, Mike Squires, Imke Durre, Matthew J. Menne, Claude N. Williams Jr, Chris Fenimore, Karin Gleason, and Derek Arndt. "Improved historical temperature and precipitation time series for US climate divisions." Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology 53, no. 5 (2014): 1232-1251. doi:

  5. Re: the title of this post.

    You can't discount an answer of both.

  6. Give it up, Sou, "we have you surrounded" ... come out with your min/max thermo in the air ..


    1. Stay off the booze, _Jim. You're likely to end up in the HotWhoppery.

  7. Heh, "Give it up..."

    One wonders, in light of the colossal humiliations Jim's hero has endured in connection with the US surface temperature record, why Anthony can't give up tilting at a windmill that has unhorsed him so often in the past. Yet here he is, flat on his back again.


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