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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Bob Tisdale trots over to Berkeley Earth to fetch a red herring from China

Sou | 11:00 PM Go to the first of 17 comments. Add a comment

Bob Tisdale has trotted over to Berkeley Earth to have a look at what is happening to surface temperature in China (archived here). It's odd that he's allowed to do that, because Anthony Watts disowned Berkeley Earth because it failed to show that we are heading for an ice age, or something like that. (Anthony has to pander to the bulk of his readers who deny that global warming is happening.)

Anyway, Anthony gave Bob Tisdale a free pass. He probably thinks that no-one ever reads Bob's articles anyway, and they fill the gaps in his daily quota of blog nonsense.

Bob Tisdale gets enthused about surface temperature in China

Bob set out to prove that China isn't warming any faster (or slower) than the land surface of earth as a whole.  He reckons the media should have fact-checked something that the head of China's Meteorological Administration, Dr Zheng Guoguang, reportedly said to the Study Times, as reported by Reuters. That "the country's rate of warming was higher than the global average".

Bob's Excel spreadsheet told him that China is warming faster than the global land and sea average, but, as Bob points out, land surfaces warm faster than the sea surface in general. Or as Bob put it: "It is well known that land surface temperatures mimic and exaggerate the warming of the ocean surfaces, leading to higher warming rates on land surfaces than those of the oceans." Echoes of Bob's "it got hotter because it got hotter" claims.

In fact, land warms faster than the oceans because water has a very large heat capacity compared to the land surface. Large bodies of water absorb a huge amount of energy to raise the temperature only a small amount. Oceans are absorbing about 93% of the extra energy in the system, from greenhouse warming.

Too easy ... or not!

Anyway, what really got me was how Bob said that the temperature trends over China were easy to check. He wrote:
That claim is very easy to verify…or falsify....It only takes a few minutes to spot check claims about global and regional warming rates. 

I took a few minutes myself, and did my own spot checking. Bob ought to tell the scientists just how "easy" it is to verify the surface temperature trends across China. Here's a link to a paper by Qiaohong et al (2014) looking at the different estimates of surface temperature over time, in China. Here's another result from my spot check, a paper by Wang et al (2014), which reported a new estimate of the China temperature anomaly series. These papers report the difficulties of constructing a surface temperature record for China. Not just the sparse records from the first half of last century, but the difficulties of homogenising data, given the different instruments and the varying terrain. It seems that the recent records are okay - in more densely populated areas at any rate, but the earlier ones are tricky.

Anyway, I'd argue that these scientists who, unlike Bob Tisdale, would know a lot about the data that is available, haven't found it "easy". Nor would it have taken them only "a few minutes to spot check".

(It also reminds me of when Anthony Watts claimed that in very sparsely populated regions of China, UHI was to blame for the observed rise in surface temperature there.)

The Denier 101 Distraction - The Red Herring

Bob's article is another one from the Denier 101 playbook. He's rolled out a red herring. Bob admitted it when he wrote:
Now, there’s no reason to cross check anything else. The credibility of the entire article is gone.

So the whole point of Bob's piece was to avoid the important content. What was the "anything else" that Bob didn't want WUWT-ers to read about? Well, it was probably one or all of the points that Dr Zheng Guoguang was making - as reported by the South China Morning Post, suggesting binding targets for CO2, and referring to major risks of climate change:

  • ...well-off provinces in the east should set mandatory targets for carbon emissions as soon as possible, while western regions should avoid high emissions in pursuing growth
  • The comments ...shed light on official thinking about how China will meet its pledge to ensure emissions peak in 2030, as part of a climate pact with the United States signed in November last year.
  • It is also the first time China has said it might set binding targets for some parts of the country.
  • global climate change was posing safety and stability risks to the mainland's mega projects, including Three Gorges Dam, the South-North Water Diversion Project and changes to the national power grid, especially as the rate of warming China was experiencing was higher than the global average.

The real irony - fact-checking!

Of course the real irony is not that Bob doesn't have the first clue about surface temperature records, or about China. It's that there he is, at WUWT, lecturing the media about fact checking! Cast your eye over some of the idiocy published at WUWT. Just in the last few hours, Anthony Watts posted an article claiming we're heading for an ice age! WUWT-ers wouldn't know fact from fiction, and prefer fiction.

References and further reading

Sun, Qiaohong, Chiyuan Miao, Qingyun Duan, Dongxian Kong, Aizhong Ye, Zhenhua Di, and Wei Gong. "Would the ‘real’observed dataset stand up? A critical examination of eight observed gridded climate datasets for China." Environmental Research Letters 9, no. 1 (2014): 015001. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/9/1/015001 (open access)

Wang, Jinfeng, Chengdong Xu, Maogui Hu, Qinxiang Li, Zhongwei Yan, Ping Zhao, and Phil Jones. "A new estimate of the China temperature anomaly series and uncertainty assessment in 1900–2006." Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 119, no. 1 (2014): 1-9. DOI: 10.1002/2013JD020542

Wen, H. Q., X. Zhang, Y. Xu, and B. Wang (2013), Detecting human influence on extreme temperatures in China, Geophys. Res. Letters, 40, doi:10.1002/grl.50285. (open access)

From HotWhopper:


  1. I find the whole "it's easy to show" irritating, especially when it comes from a non-expert claiming to have shown that a group of actual experts are wrong. If it were that easy, the experts would have shown it themselves. That they haven't, probably indicates that it's not. What is easy, is to demonstrate the existence of "hubris".

    1. I couldn't agree more, ATTP. Bob Tisdale doesn't understand a lot more than he understands. About all he's good for is drawing his endless charts. Anything other than that, like interpreting them, is well beyond him. He's never understood what climate models are. He's never understood ENSO or ocean currents or the atmosphere/ocean linkages.

      Hubris is one word - although even that suggests Bob knows more than he actually does. He's an example of the Fake Expert that's discussed in the Denier 101 MOOC.

    2. Without contacting Zheng [might take more than a few minutes] and asking for the sources for the claims, Tisdale's snot-nosed dismissal is unusually shallow...the guy is a punk. He's definitely growing up slower than the global average.

      And as you note, the idea that you can dismiss claims about global and regional warming effects because you think a rate of change comparison is 'wrong' is just an laughable nonsense.

      But that's WUWT: laughable nonsense lives there

  2. Good choice to look at the temperature trend computed by the Chinese themselves, that is a much better estimate than the global temperature dataset can provide. The local climatologists have much more information on what happened to their observational network. And they have more data.

    Data problems and non-climatic changes are identified and corrected by comparing a candidate station to its neighbours. If there is something changing at the candidate, but not in its neighbours, it is something local, most likely a non-climatic change rather than a climatic change. The national weather services have much more stations and thus more close by neighbours to compare with. They can also determine the data of the change more accurate by comparing the dates of the change with the history of that station, which may give the date that the instruments were, for example, changed or relocated.

    Large bodies of water absorb a huge amount of energy to raise the temperature only a small amount. Oceans are absorbing about 93% of the extra energy in the system, from greenhouse warming.

    This is important while the temperature is rising. There is a second effect. Even when the increase of the Earth's comes to a stop, the land temperature will have increased more than the ocean temperatures. Due to the stronger greenhouse effect there is more heat available at the surface. Over the ocean a large part of that goes into evaporation of the water, rather than to the heating of the air. Currently both effects are equally important, if I understand the it correctly.

  3. "It is well known that land surface temperatures mimic and exaggerate the warming of the ocean surfaces, leading to higher warming rates on land surfaces than those of the oceans."

    In one fell swoop Tisdale acknowledges the heat capacity of water, as Sou points out, and also points at the mechanism of variation in rate of surface warming, and then repudiates these actual, physical facts with the emotive words "mimic" and "exaggerate".

    Just a rabid propagandist.

  4. Off Topic
    Screaming Lord Such of Wapping is still alive and presently passing himself off as James Rowlatt Clerk to Lord Such. He's attracting desperately concurring and concerned comments from luminaries such as Paul Homewood and Roy Spencer.

    1. Sorry can't link because it's at WUWT.

    2. An excellent example of Right Wing Authoritarianism in action.

      Christopher is the "dirt-bag, scum-bucket" that Robert Altemeyer describes as "The Authoritarian". His followers do not question what he writes, do not ask for any evidence of his claims, do not question his assertions. They don't even question whether it was he who is sock-puppetting as "James Rowlatt".

      The followers assume that guvmint and intelleckshalls are not to be trusted (unless they are climate science deniers like Willie Soon), and blindly follow their preferred, chosen "Authority" - the potty peer.

      See the immediate cries from the WUWT conspiracy theorists like Paul Homewood, whose knee-jerk reaction is "Pure fraud."

      Nick Stokes is a lone voice of reason in the conspiracy theorising wilderness of WUWT.

    3. Monckton checks in to remind us he's insane, and in an uncanny coincidence, his 'clerk' suffers from the same accusation compulsion and prolixity as his master.

    4. Let's hope that Harvard's experience helps the UWA decide to do the right thing in the Lomborg case.

      As for the response to his Lordships's flunky: I'd suggest the response given in the case of Arkell versus Pressdram to be sufficient.

    5. Millicent, you took the words right out of my mouth.

      Monckton loves to fight other people's fights, usually with a word salad and a threat of legal action that never happens. If I were his solicitor, I'd see the number that was calling and let it go to voice mail.

  5. OT: the tar sands province of Alberta has just voted in a "socialist" government -- the Tories have lost for the first time in over 40 years, to be replaced by the NDP. Last election it was a fight between the Tories and a party to their right.

    The NDP are economic left; environment is not a core plank, but they have campaigned on increasing oil royalties. The provincial Tories on the other hand are deniers, for professional reasons.

    Alberta is also the stronghold of the federal Tories. The federal election is due this year. This might be interesting...

    1. NYT's take on it: "Leftist Party’s Win in Alberta May Affect Future of Oil Sands"

  6. Using the tool at which was recently mentioned at skeptical science I compared global land stations with Chinese stations using the GHCN adjusted dataset.
    The comparison showed that China has warmed on average 0.112C per decade since 1900 while the global land average was 0.105.
    It only took a few minutes to show that Dr Zheng Guoguang was probably correct ;>)

  7. Mighty Drunken

    Did the same thing. The difference in trend between China and global since 1979 is even more pronounced. For the globe, the adjusted GHCN trend (C/dec) is 0.227; for China, it's 0.300.

    Using the unadjusted GHCN data, the global trend since 1979 is 0.216, versus 0.245 in China.

    When it comes to China, Bob Tisdale seems to prefer using adjusted data from BEST, rather than raw data from GHCN. Now we see why.


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