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Thursday, September 24, 2015

WM Briggs thinks the dinosaurs read thermometers

Sou | 3:14 AM Go to the first of 9 comments. Add a comment

William M Briggs sez he is "statistician to the stars" and claims to "know good physics from bad".  He's wrong. Today he's got an article on some god (US-style) blog, that looks as if it's a libertarian (US-style) god blog. Long on faith and free speech and short on fact. I guess William thought he needed to get it in front of climate conspiracy theorists too, because he had Anthony Watts post a short bit of it at WUWT. (Or maybe it's just that Anthony is stuck for articles to fill up his daily quota.)

William faces a conundrum

William can't reconcile the so-called "pause" with the hottest years on record. He wrote:
Which is it? Either it’s hotter than ever or it isn’t. If it is, then (it is implied) man-caused global warming has not “paused.” If it isn’t, if man-caused global warming has “paused,” then it is not growing hotter.

Now William might want to go and have a chat with his favourite co-author, the potty peer Christopher Monckton. He'd soon set him crooked. Thing is, global warming hasn't paused. Sixteen of the twenty hottest years on record have occurred from 2000 onward, including this year, 2015. According to NASA, the hottest years on record are, so far, and in order:



Anomaly over 1951-1980 mean
1 2015 YTD 0.81
2 2014 0.75
3 2010 0.72
4 2005 0.69
5 2007 0.66
6 2013 0.66
7 2009 0.65
8 2006 0.64
9 2012 0.64
10 1998 0.63
11 2002 0.63
12 2003 0.62
13 2011 0.61
14 2001 0.55
15 2004 0.55
16 2008 0.54
17 1997 0.48
18 1999 0.42
19 2000 0.42
20 1996 0.35

Did dinosaurs have thermometers?

Early in William's nonsense, he had a link to an article in the Guardian, about how this year is probably going to be another hottest year on record. Then he spent some time saying how wrong that was because it was hotter in the Jurassic.

Now anyone who's read about climate knows that "on record" refers to the instrumental era - back to around 1850, or 1880 in the case of GISTemp. Which raises a question. Does William think that thermometers were invented 4.5 billion years ago and the instrumental record stretches back that far? Or does he think that Earth is only 6,000 years old and was created with weather stations dotted all over the surface, and with Argo floats in every ocean?

According to the stargazer, the future isn't going to happen

Later on he goes on a rant about how observations have been below the modeled mean, the implication being that it's not ever going to get any hotter. Which is pretty dumb of him. He wrote:
Based on this understanding, they said that “disruptive,” “dangerous” global warming would soon be upon us. It didn’t happen. What went wrong? El Niño, they say.
So the temperatures of the 2030s and 2050s and 2100s haven't happened yet therefore they aren't ever going to? What sort of twisted logic is that? It's no wonder William has so much spare time to devote to climate science denial. What star would want to hire him to do their statistics?

Crazy or stooge?

William doesn't much like a paper by Professor Lewandowsky and co. Or Professor Lewandowsky's work in general. He wrote:
The point of this new paper is the same as all of Lewandowsky’s works. He wants to paint detractors of The Consensus as crazy or oil-industry stooges. 
I don't believe that Stephan Lewandowsky has psychoanalysed William M. Briggs and I doubt he ever would. I'll do a freeby for William. Based on his latest bit of nonsense, I'd say he's not an oil-industry stooge. It's the other cap that fits :D

From the HotWhopper archives


  1. Later on he goes on a rant about how observations have been below the modeled mean, the implication being that it's not ever going to get any hotter.

    The difference is rather modest. But if these people were scientifically interested, they would not that next to "the models are running hot", the other two options are "the observations are running cold" and "the comparison is not fair".

    After that quote I just had to promote my last blog post on this exact question:

    Are climate models running hot or observations running cold?

    1. Great article, thanks Victor. I made that same observation about models and observations going hand in hand in another article today, but not as clearly as you did. Deniers really don't understand the value of models (or observations), and how without them we'd know so much less about climate. I'd go so far as to say that we'd know practically nothing compared to what is understood today.

      (Of course, what little deniers do know about climate, they got from climate scientists - they never admit that, and can't accept that. The very thought of it would blow their tiny minds.)

    2. Thank you.

      On the other hand, the mitigation sceptics call the post: "nuts".

      I know I am too much of a scientist, but I had appreciated some arguments.

      Had not expected this post to be so divisive, thought it was just common sense.

  2. The statement "X of the last Y years are the hottest on record" is not necessarily inconsistent with the idea of a "pause."

    Consider the following sequence of "temperatures":

    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 10, 11, 10, 11, 10, 12, 11, 10, 11, 10, 11, ....

    Clearly, the last 10 numbers of the sequence are among the highest in the sequence, but there is no significant upward trend in that last part of the sequence, either.

    1. For a numbers guy, WM Briggs is very inept with numbers.

    2. That's true, Anonymous, though your numerical example exhibits little noise, and a clear deceleration is thus plainly discernible in the underlying signal. The global surface temperature record is quite dissimilar since it is much noisier, and the ENSO/PDO noise alone accounts easily for the recent deceleration (until 2014) and thus provides no indication at all for a deceleration in the underlying signal. The 'X of the last Y years' test picks up a clearer warming signal since it follows immediately a warming jump (the fast warming period leading up to 1997/98) and is just long enough to filter out the ENSO and volcanic noise, at least.

  3. Briggs is a market analyst guy. Markets can go down, but he doesn't understand that the forcings that are currently driving Earth's climate can only allow the temperature to go inexorably in one direction.

    Same problem as McIntyre. You cannot approach the Earth's climate as a pure statistical problem without considering the underlying physical mechanisms at play.

    1. As Barton Paul Levenson so succinctly puts it (quoting from memory now):

      100 years ago there was a column of 4kg of CO2 above every square meter of the Earth's surface. Now there is 6kg.

      And I just found out that BPL is a sci-fi writer too, because I found his Wiki entry when I was searching for that quote. Must read some of his stuff :-)

  4. Is it valid to have "libertarian" and "god" in the same sentence?

    Libertarian defined as "individual liberty and a lack of governmental regulation", except of course when the big bloke and his angels upstairs deem otherwise?


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