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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Gymnastics at WUWT - about faces and backflips over warmer warm anomalies

Sou | 6:19 PM Go to the first of 7 comments. Add a comment

Are you into gymnastics? You might remember a while back how Anthony Watts and WUWT did an about face and embraced a paper co-authored by Dr Phil Jones. Well, today he's done a backflip and decided that a new paper, which looks to be on a similar but not identical topic to the previous research (which Anthony loved) is no good.

This recent research is about how warm anomalies are getting warmer faster than cold anomalies, if I've got that right, so there's a wider variation in surface temperatures. Here's the abstract of the new paper: by Professors Scott M. Robeson, Cort J. Willmott and Phil D. Jones (my paras):

Using a spatial percentile approach, we explore the magnitude of temperature anomalies across the northern and southern hemispheres. Linear trends in spatial percentile series are estimated for 1881-2013, the most recent 30-year period (1984-2013), and 1998-2013. All spatial percentiles in both hemispheres show increases from 1881-2013, but warming occurred unevenly via modification of cold anomalies, producing a reduction in spatial dispersion.
In the most recent 30-year period, trends also were consistently positive, with warm anomalies having much larger warming rates than those of cold anomalies in both hemispheres. This recent trend has largely reversed the decrease in spatial dispersion that occurred during the 20th century.
While the period associated with the recent slowdown of global warming, 1998-2013, is too brief to estimate trends reliably, cooling was evident in NH warm and cold anomalies during January and February while other months in the NH continued to warm.

Compare that with last year's paper in Nature (my emphasis):
Here we show that although fluctuations in annual temperature have indeed shown substantial geographical variation over the past few decades2, the time-evolving standard deviation of globally averaged temperature anomalies has been stable. A feature of the changes has been a tendency for many regions of low variability to experience increases, which might contribute to the perception of increased climate volatility.

One appears to be contradicting the other. The 2013 paper is arguing that volatility hasn't increased. The recent paper is arguing that warm anomalies have much larger warming rates than cold anomalies are having, although I'm not sure if I've got that right either.

This is from the press release.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- It’s widely known that the Earth’s average temperature has been rising. But research by an Indiana University geographer and colleagues finds that spatial patterns of extreme temperature anomalies -- readings well above or below the mean -- are warming even faster than the overall average.
And trends in extreme heat and cold are important, said Scott M. Robeson, professor of geography in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington. They have an outsized impact on water supplies, agricultural productivity and other factors related to human health and well-being.  ...
...The researchers analyzed temperature records for the years 1881 to 2013 from HadCRUT4, a widely used data set for land and sea locations compiled by the University of East Anglia and the U.K. Met Office. Using monthly average temperatures at points across the globe, they sorted them into “spatial percentiles,” which represent how unusual they are by their geographic size.
Their findings include:
  • Temperatures at the cold and warm “tails” of the spatial distribution -- the 5th and 95th percentiles -- increased more than the overall average Earth temperature.
  • Over the 130-year record, cold anomalies increased more than warm anomalies, resulting in an overall narrowing of the range of Earth’s temperatures.
  • In the past 30 years, however, that pattern reversed, with warm anomalies increasing at a faster rate than cold anomalies. “Earth’s temperature was becoming more homogenous with time,” Robeson said, “but now it’s not.”
The study records separate results for the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Temperatures are considerably more volatile in the Northern Hemisphere, an expected result because there’s considerably less land mass in the South to add complexity to weather systems.
The study also examined anomalies during the “pause” in global warming that scientists have observed since 1998. While a 16-year-period is too short a time to draw conclusions about trends, the researchers found that warming continued at most locations on the planet and during much of the year, but that warming was offset by strong cooling during winter months in the Northern Hemisphere.
“There really hasn’t been a pause in global warming,” Robeson said. “There’s been a pause in Northern Hemisphere winter warming.” 

You can read the full press release here at Indiana University Bloomington.

So what it looks like to me is that variability narrowed until 30 years ago and is now changing, with warm anomalies increasing at a faster rate than cold anomalies. The statement "Earth's temperature was becoming more homogenous with time...but now it's not" suggests that this paper contradicts the earlier paper. But I'm not certain because I haven't read the newest paper.

From the WUWT comments

Anthony Watts used the Serengeti Strategy again. Phil Jones wasn't the lead author, that was Scott Robeson. It didn't stop Anthony writing the headline:
Claim from Phil Jones and company: ‘extreme temperature anomalies are warming faster than Earth’s average’

I haven't seen such a vehement knee-jerk rush to denial at WUWT in - oh, it must be a few days now. Hours at least. Here's a sample:

norah4you thinks she knows more about surface temperature than Phil Jones, who's been monitoring global temperatures at least since 1976. I consider him the father of the instrumental global temperature record.
December 9, 2014 at 6:58 am
When will they ever learn? Have Phil Jones studied Theories of Science? Might have, but definititly not understood what he studied. Have Phil Jones studied Mathematic Statistics? I doubt it.
What have he studied before he became what he is?

I wonder what roachstaugustine  thinks the mean surface temperature has been? Maybe she or he's been looking at temperature charts upside down.
December 9, 2014 at 7:31 am
Could the last 30 years of the 130 years simply be demonstrating a reversion to the mean ?

JustAnotherPoster doesn't believe it.
December 9, 2014 at 7:02 am
the Jumps though the hoops on that one…..
“There really hasn’t been a pause in global warming,” Robeson said. “There’s been a pause in Northern Hemisphere winter warming.”

Paul Homewood doesn't believe it's warming overall, either. At least he's not denying Arctic warming. And it's true, the Arctic is warming faster than most other places.
December 9, 2014 at 7:59 am
It seems to me that the Arctic has warmed in the last decade or so, which implies that the rest of the world has cooled.

Tom Trevor hasn't been to Australia lately.
December 9, 2014 at 11:40 am
I was under the impression that the Southern Hemisphere really hasn’t warmed at all, so there wasn’t anything to pause.

wickedwenchfan finds all science counterintuitive and mistakenly thinks he or she is in the majority. That's what comes of only reading pseudo-science denier blogs.
December 9, 2014 at 7:03 am
“Counter intuative”. Yes the whole science is counter intuative. The occasional thing here or there might be credible, but when everything is, there is a 97% of all rational thinking people going “bullshit!” 

jbenton2013 doesn't realise the huge contribution Dr Jones has made to climate science. That is the whole reason why he has been attacked so relentlessly by science deniers. If he wasn't a giant in the field, no-one would have known his name. jbenton nastily writes:
December 9, 2014 at 7:12 am
has Robeson and Willmott not realised Jones is toxic. The mere mention of his name on any paper is going to get it scrutinised. Fortunately 5 minutes scrutiny of this laughable effort is enough to see the appallingly poor science.

Mohatdebos tries some dubious arithmetic.
December 9, 2014 at 7:23 am
There has been no pause in global warming, but there has been a pause in Northern Hemisphere winter warming. Hallelujah! We have saved winter/sarc. Someone should teach them simple addition. If global warming has not paused, it must mean that Northern Hemisphere winters are getting colder.

Mike Bromley the Kurd  becomes hysterical and writes:
December 9, 2014 at 7:29 am
Shrill. Oh, we can’t scare them when there’s no warming, so let’s say that it’s the EXTREEEEEEEEEEEMMMMMZZZZZZZ 

I can't be bothered reading any more. The comments are all much the same from the ragtag mob of weirdos that inhabit conspiracy theory blogs like WUWT. If you're keen to research denier weirdness you can peruse the archive here.

Robeson, Scott M., Cort J. Willmott, and Phil D. Jones. "Trends in hemispheric warm and cold anomalies." Geophysical Research Letters (2014). DOI: 10.1002/2014GL062323

Huntingford, Chris, Philip D. Jones, Valerie N. Livina, Timothy M. Lenton, and Peter M. Cox. "No increase in global temperature variability despite changing regional patterns." Nature (2013). doi:10.1038/nature12310 (available here)


  1. ...Jones is toxic. The mere mention of his name on any paper is going to get it scrutinised.

    Nicely encapsulating the objective of the "Serengeti strategy;" make an individual into a poisonous brand, an untouchable.

    What these dimwits (sorry but let's not use euphemisms) still don't understand is that this isn't about personalities, it's about improved description of things and processes. It doesn't matter if the person doing the description wears their underwear on the outside as long as the description is deemed an improvement by other practitioners in the field of study. The history of science is paved with people plodding on feet of clay that are supporting eagle eyes and in the end nobody cares about those cloddish feet, as long as the eyes are sharp. Let alone that Phil Jones' feet are not particularly grubbier than average, his powers of discernment and description are found virtuous and useful and that's all that matters.

    As usual I'm left wondering how much of the anger found in WUWT comments is about the topic at hand as opposed to the sheer frustration of straining to excrete a coherent sentence. Most people are aware of when their writing makes them sound as though they didn't make it through 2nd grade even if they can't do anything to help themselves. It's embarrassing to read some of these comments; watching Basil Fawlty behaving like a buffoon produces the same squeamish feelings.

  2. As for the gymnastics, I reckon it's more like diving.

    Even if you manage to convince your biased, carefully selected judging panel that your double reverse somersault with one a half twists was "perfectly" executed with nary a splash on entry, it doesn't alter the fact that you're diving into a scummy swamp rather than a pristine, sparkling, hygienic pool.

  3. Have Norah4you studied grammar? Might have, but definititly not understood what she studied...

  4. ...Jones is toxic. The mere mention of his name on any paper is going to get it scrutinised.

    Half-right: Jones is a top researcher, so the paper will be scrutinized, which is every researcher's dream. I wish my papers would warrant scrutiny!

  5. Sou,

    For giggles, I did some cherry picks with UAH data:

    Bearing in mind that 16 year trends mean butkus, it is interesting to note that the NH, SH and globe are all going at the same clip ... but *relative* to their rates over the whole UAH record, the NH has slowed the most, the SH the least with the globe in between.

    Not sure this means anything but it was fun doing a Tisdale-esque trend chart. Well, except for my trendlines have a noticeable slope. (I tried to get a flat line somewhere, I swear, but it wasn't happening.)

    1. Brandon, I see you even used a five year average for the baseline, just like John Christie :)

      Take a tip from WUWT - the way to get a level line is to use a ruler. If you leave it up to a charting package it'll let you down - or up in this case. Eyeballing is an option, too. That way you can get a downsloping line if you squint a lot.

    2. That'll teach me to put my baseline period on the y-axis. It really does make the divergence stand out though, no? At least I didn't go the Roy Spencer route (speaking of UAH) and take 5 year running means and then zero them all at a single point. I just, how ... oh hell, never mind.

      10 to 1 Bob has an R script that scans datafiles looking for the longest recent flat trends. Why hire day labor to pick cherries when you can just automate it?


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