Thursday, July 20, 2017

Matthew England wins the 2017 Tinker-Muse Prize. Charles Rotter spruiks mistruths @wattsupwiththat

Sou | 1:00 PM Go to the first of 29 comments. Add a comment
Congratulations to Professor Matthew England of the Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC) at the University of New South Wales. He is this year's winner of the Tinker-Muse Prize for Science and Policy in Antarctica. It's a prestigious award and comes with a prize of $US100,000. The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) administers the award process independently of the Tinker Foundation.

A pioneer scientist with a rare ability

Professor England does a huge amount of research covering multiple topics. One subject on which he has made an important contribution is increasing our understanding of the Southern Ocean and the Southern Annular Mode (SAM). As stated on his website, "Quantifying the natural variability of Southern Ocean water masses, including their properties and overturning rates, is vital for detecting anthropogenic climate change."

Figure 1 | Schematic depth-latitude diagram showing the major circulation and water masses of the Southern Ocean. The following water masses are highlighted: (1) Antarctic Bottom Water flowing along the abyssal ocean, (2) Circumpolar Deep Water upwelling into the Antarctic Divergence Zone, (3) Antarctic Intermediate Water in the temperature range 4-6°C, and (4) Subantarctic Mode Water in the upper ocean north of the Subantarctic Front (SAF). Source: Matthew England's website

The news release from the Tinker Foundation Muse Prize stated:
Scientia Professor England, of the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre, was honoured for his “sustained and seminal contribution to Antarctic science through profound insights into the influence of the Southern Ocean on the continent and its role in the global climate system”.

He was also recognised for his significant leadership roles in international programs such as the Climate and Ocean – Variability, Predictability, and Change (CLIVAR) project and the Climate and Cryosphere (CliC) project of the World Climate Research Program, where he has demonstrated a strong commitment to collegiality, capacity building and the global impact of Antarctic science.

“Importantly, Professor England has consistently shown a rare ability to translate global issues to local impacts, and in an engaging and accessible way to the general public,” the prize citation reads.

“He has led the world in championing the importance of Southern Ocean water masses and circulation in global climate, pioneering our understanding of the Southern Annular Mode and its influence on the coupled ocean-ice-atmosphere system, quantifying rates and pathways of the Southern Ocean overturning circulation, and discovering new insights into the physics of tropical high-latitude teleconnections.”
Past winners include other noteworthy young scientists who many of you will recognise:

Stunned by mistruths spruiked by the deniers

I've written before about various research of Matthew England. He is a prolific author of scientific papers and is recognised as a leading climate scientist in Australia and internationally. Prof England is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union. His achievements have also been recognised with numerous scientific awards - too many to list here.

He's also a target for the denialati. When I contacted Professor England he said:
"I'm stunned by some of the mistruths spruiked by the deniers.  They muddle up facts, falsely describe scientist's results, misrepresent the science and fail to fact-check their claims".

Let's look at how deniers falsely describe results, misrepresent the science and fail to fact-check.

Mistruths spruiked by Charles Rotter aka Charles the Moderator, and WUWT

Over at WUWT, Charles the Moderator thinks Professor England's worthy achievement is a load of hooey (archived here, latest here).  On the contrary, it's anything written by Charles the Moderator that's a load of hooey. Charles wrote:
…..blah blah blah…We’ve discussed Professor England in the past.  And since no publicity is bad publicity, here are some of those articles.  He appears in dozens on WUWT.  I’ve limited the list to those with his name in the title.~ctm 

How about I look at the WUWT articles Charles has pulled up.

Failed television weather announcer vs top climate scientists: Is rain caused by pixie dust?

The first was a list of silliness put together by Anthony Watts, the failed weather announcer turned conspiracy theorist blogger. As an example, he thought a short term slowing in the rise in surface temperature meant that climate change must have stopped for a bit. Seriously. He decided that if the incessant rise in surface temperature wasn't always at the same horrific pace, then the intensification of the water cycle should have stopped and gone back to pre-industrial levels.

Anthony Watts and Charles Rotter don't "believe" that when the sea surface was the hottest ever then more water evaporated and fell as rain, and caused massive flooding. I don't know what they think leads to rain, but they don't seem to think it's related to evaporation from the surface. Maybe pixie dust?

Charles Rotter thinks 11 years ago models projected the slowdown in warming

The second one was another article by Anthony Watts, which showed (again) how he doesn't understand science. Charles linked to this article, writing: "Seven years ago, we were told the opposite of what the new Matthew England paper says: slower (not faster) trade winds caused ‘the pause’". That is, Charles thinks a 2006 paper based on observations and a suite of climate models projected the short term slowdown in global surface warming earlier this century. That's a turn up for the books, isn't it. Usually deniers are complaining this didn't show up in the models, and usually they complain about models, not tout them as being the ants pants of science.

In any case, and needless to say, the article to which Charles linked said no such thing. (Deniers can't even get their own articles right.)

What happened was that Anthony fell into one of his usual logical fallacies. He was told about a press release about a paper from 2006 (Vecchi06) which reported a long term slowing of the Walker circulation. (This is what's responsible for the trade winds in the equatorial Pacific, and is tied in with ENSO.) The authors were looking at the period from 1861-2000.  Anthony decided that this contradicted a paper published eight years later by Shayne McGregor et al. (The et al included Matthew England, who was the only one of the seven authors singled out by Anthony Watts).

While the first paper found a small slowdown over 150 years (~3.5%), in this second paper Shayne McGregor and his colleagues reported an anomalous intensification of the atmospheric Walker circulation over a recent period period 1992–2011.

Notice two things. One is the word anomalous, meaning the intensification of the circulation observed was unusual or strange or unexpected. The other is that this was observed over a very short period, including only the last eight years of the period looked at by the Vecchi team. If you look at the charts in Vecchi06 you can see that this change was picked up by them. It was a short term fluctuation and didn't affect the long term trend they reported.

Figure 2 | Observed and modelled equatorial Pacific zonal-mean zonal wind-stress anomaly and equatorial thermocline depth anomaly. Five-year running mean (thick lines) and annual-mean (thin lines) observational estimates. Source: Figure 4 from Vecchi06

Remember, Charles wrongly claimed that this 2006 paper attributed "the pause" (that wasn't) to a long term slowing of the Walker Circulation (over the period 1861 to 2000).  It had nothing to do with a short term slowing of global surface temperature.  Below is a chart of average global surface temperature since 1970.
Figure 3 | Global average surface temperature 1970 to 2016. Data source: GISS NASA

From the surface temperature chart above can you tell me what period Charles is referring to when he talks about a "pause"? Is it 2005 to 2013? It can't be that because that's after Vecchi06. It must be a period prior to 2006 when the Vecchi paper was published, maybe 1981 to 1987. But that can't be right, because the McGregor paper he thinks contradicts it is about the period 1992–2011. Charles Rotter can't think clearly.

WUWT ignores reality

The third link from Charles was another false claim. Charles claimed "Climate modeler Matthew England still ignoring reality – claims IPCC models will eventually win". It's Charles Rotter and Anthony Watts who are ignoring reality. This time the WUWT article was about a paper from 2015, in which the authors analysed climate models that did show a slowdown in surface warming, and compared them with all models. The models where a slowdown coincided with observed temperatures still projected the same long term warming trend as all models combined. (The best Anthony Watts could come up with were a couple of shonky denier charts and argument by fake assertion and innuendo.)

More mistruths from The Australian

It's not just climate conspiracy blogs who spruik mistruths. The work of Professor England and his colleagues has been misrepresented in the Australian newspaper, too. As you probably know, The Australian has been waging a war on climate science for years. In one instance, Nick Cater (columnist and executive director of a conservative "think tank") mixed up sea ice and land ice, and didn't know the difference between Southern Ocean storms and East Coast Lows. That is, he didn't know the difference between the Pacific and the Southern Ocean. As Matthew England noted in a letter to The Australian (scroll down):
Nick Cater’s article (“The IPCC is to science what FIFA is to soccer”, page 12, 9/6) is yet another unwarranted attack on me and my fellow scientists, full of inaccuracies. For example he muddles Antarctic land ice — which is melting alarmingly rapidly and contributing to global sea level rise — with the floating sea-ice which makes no contribution to sea-level rise at all. It’s scandalous that Cater’s article alludes to corruption within the IPCC while full of inaccuracies like this.

Interestingly, Nick Cater may have got one thing right. In his June 2015 article, he wrote about the past Prime Minister Tony Abbott: "Abbott may lack the purity of soul the environmentalists would wish of a prime minister but his mastery of the politics of global warming got him where he is today." Tony Abbott's "mastery" got him ousted just 3 months after Nick Carter's article!

A WUWT conspiracy theorist vs a leading climate scientist

I didn't know anything about this "anonymous coward" who calls himself Charles the Moderator. He's been handed the reins at WUWT while Anthony Watts is taking his charity-paid vacation. (Anthony disparages people he calls "anonymous cowards" but only those who accept science.) Who is this person who thinks that just because a know-nothing like Anthony Watts (who still can't even understand temperature anomalies) wrote something wrong about science, Matthew England's significant contribution to climate science is "blah blah blah".

So I looked him up. 

It turns out that Charles the Moderator is Charles Rotter - and has in the past promoted his cooking chocolate at WUWT. He is not a climate scientist. (It looks as if his day job is at a cab company - it fits). He's a science disinformer and wattophile from way back. Charles was one of the nasties who helped promote the emails stolen from the University of East Anglia, and therefore spreading disinformation about their contents.  He actively disdains science and apparently hasn't even got to the lukewarmer-ism stage like his (perhaps past) roommate (who, unlike Charles, eventually investigated temperature trends). Charles the Moderator is a true blue scientific illiterati.

An easy question for you

The question for all of you reading this is: whose scientific work would you rate more highly? A sometime cab company worker from San Francisco who moonlights for a wacky "climate hoax" conspiracy blog? Or a renowned and respected climate scientist who has won numerous awards for his scientific achievements?

From the WUWT comments

Curious George regards the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research as a "swamp". 
July 16, 2017 at 7:33 am
The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) is an inter-disciplinary committee of the International Council for Science (ICSU). The International Council for Science (ICSU) is a non-governmental organisation with a global membership of national scientific bodies (122 Members, representing 142 countries) and International Scientific Unions (31 Members). The main ICSU Secretariat (17 staff in 2016) is based in Paris.
Swamp, indeed.

Latitude talks wants some "other side" to start awarding prizes.
July 15, 2017 at 4:22 pm
When is the other side going to wise up and start awarding prizes

Apart from the question about SCAR, this comment from Rick C PE was one of only three other comments that referred to Antarctica (out of 94). The others were a comment from John Rutherford who mistook Matthew England for Chris Turney, and one from jaakkokateenkorva who seems to think Antarctica should be destroyed.
July 15, 2017 at 5:14 pm
Given that Antarctica is already frozen solid at something like -40 (F or C, take your pick), I’d say it’s already pretty well preserved without any need for help from Prof. England.

I Came I Saw I Left has a silly thought, and I'd be surprised if he or she has ever read a scientific paper or know how to find one:
July 16, 2017 at 3:47 am
The statements made by climate scientists have become so off the wall and ridiculous that I expected to read that one actually did warn people to breathe through their mouths.

Chuck seems to think that scientists should not explain the implications of their research.
July 15, 2017 at 7:53 pm
Another scientist/advocate…. wonderful. Whatever happened to just doing science? 

I don't think markl means to refer to Charles Rotter or Anthony Watts or the witless self-gratification of WUWT conspiracy theorists.
July 15, 2017 at 7:58 pm
Another nobody has told the King he is naked story. These self gratifications will continue until they either run out of money or respect from the people. Sometimes you wonder how long either can last.

Like how Santa Baby might not intentionally be talking about the politicisation of climate science denial by the Republicans in the USA.
July 15, 2017 at 10:30 pm
The models are based on the political established UNFCCC. The problem is that climate science has been politicized.

References and further reading

Matthew England awarded 2017 Tinker-Muse Prize - news release from the Muse Prize website

England, M. H., J. B. Kajtar, N. Maher, 2015: Robust warming projections despite the recent hiatus, Nature Climate Change, 5, 394-396, doi:10.1038/nclimate2575. ∗NCC linkReprint including S.I.

McGregor, S., A. Timmermann, M. F. Stuecker, M. H. England, M. Merrifield, F.-F. Jin and Y. Chikamoto, 2014: Recent Walker circulation strengthening and Pacific cooling amplified by Atlantic warming, Nature Climate Change, 4, 888-892, doi: 10.1038/nclimate2330. ∗Nature paper linkpdf reprint (excl. Suppl. Material)Suppl. Material

Abram, N. J., R. Mulvaney, F. Vimeux, S. J. Phipps, J. Turner and M. H. England, 2014: Evolution of the Southern Annular Mode during the past millennium, Nature Climate Change, 4, 564-569, doi:10.1038/nclimate2235. ∗Nature paper linkpdf reprint (excl. Suppl. Material)Suppl. Material

Peters, Glen P., Robbie M. Andrew, Tom Boden, Josep G. Canadell, Philippe Ciais, Corinne Le Quéré, Gregg Marland, Michael R. Raupach, and Charlie Wilson. "The challenge to keep global warming below 2 °C." Nature Climate Change 3, no. 1 (2013): 4. doi:10.1038/nclimate1783 (pdf here)

Vecchi, Gabriel A., Brian J. Soden, Andrew T. Wittenberg, Isaac M. Held, Ants Leetmaa, and Matthew J. Harrison. "Weakening of tropical Pacific atmospheric circulation due to anthropogenic forcing." Nature 441, no. 7089 (2006): 73-76. doi:10.1038/nature04744 (pdf here)


  1. With regard to Latitude's question, the "other side" already awards prizes. It's just that no sensible person considers them to have any credibility. And where web-based prizes have been gameable, deniers have awarded themselves prizes: but again all that happens is that those prizes then lose any credibility they might have had.

    1. My favorite is the "Petr Beckmann Award for courage and achievement in defense of scientific truth and freedom", presented by Doctors for Disaster Preparedness (closely associated with the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and the Oregon Institute). Beckmann was a well-known relativity crank, relentlessly wrong and completely incapable of understanding (much less admitting) his mistakes.

  2. England's work deserves it- the circulation that feeds the Calcite Belt is as least as interesting as the calvings and goings of the big tabular bergs that get all the headlines.

  3. "One is the word anomalous, meaning the intensification of the circulation observed was unusual or strange or unexpected."

    The deniers often assume the word "anomaly" is meant in this sense when discussing temperature anomalies. This is something of a problem.

    1. In the definitional sense they are the same. An anomaly is a departure from a norm or standard or what is expected. Anomalous readings are not expected without a good explanation.

      The only reason we expect (rational people, that is) temperature anomalies will increase, is that scientists know we are altering the climate. Otherwise, we'd be madly commissioning lots of research to investigate the cause of what would be regarded as an unexpected rapid and large and growing departure from what is the norm. And we'd be trying to figure out how we can stop it.

      Thinking of the definition of a departure from a standard or norm, in the case of global average surface temperatures, the standard is usually the average of a prior decades-long period of time. If there was no global warming, we'd not have any expectation that global average temperatures would be anything like 1.2 C and more above pre-industrial. Nor anything like 1.01C above the average for the entire 20th century, like it was last year.

      If we weren't changing the climate, then the average global temperature would have much lower anomalies, and most would not be considered anomalous, except for a couple of years after a big volcanic eruption :)

  4. Replies
    1. Yes. Science shows that burning too much oil, coal and gas causes weather extremes. I guess the Trump Ministry of Truth will have to ban the phrase "weather extremes" if we say that too often.

    2. Millicent, it will be interesting to see how the GoPNJs response to this:


    3. I'm looking forward to the next reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Extreme Weather, IPEW.

  5. Sou, Off topic, but I came across the following extraordinary article at the dear old GWPF website recently:
    A shortened version of this essay was published in the Australian in June,but you can read it without handing over your money to that particular organ.
    This “essay” filled me with great sadness as to how far Mr. James, a National tTreasure in his adopted UK, as well as, I believe, in his native Oz, had sunk. A man who had over his life devoured huge chunks of the Western canon of literature and philosophical thought has clearly been subsisting for the last seven years on regurgitated cherries picked, eaten and then spat out by Watts, Nova et al. That particular metaphor is modelled on one of James’ own, that I still remember to this day from his brilliant column from the ‘70s and ‘80s in the UK Observer, a left-leaning newspaper: James as now tacked hard to the Right.
    The whole thing is an ad hom – packed attack on the AGW consensus, brimful of regulation denialosphere tropes . What struck me is that he clearly thinks that the consensus is now collapsing, on the grounds that climate scientists can't explain away the lack of a climate "crisis". Is this pure fantasy/wish-fulfilment on james' part, or is the famously contrarian govt cracking down so much that people as gullible as James can interpret this as a "collapse"?

    1. Clive James appears to have thrown his lot in with the IPA. Hard to say exactly, I was so unhappy I could not read any further.

    2. Clive James has been at this for years, as Bill notes. To be frank I don't find it exactly surprising - James has always had a propensity for a bit of self-preening over his reputation (whether real or simply perceived) as a thinker and an intellectual, and I suspect that he considers himself an avante garde trail-blazer of perception ahead of time with his denial of climatological science.

      The actual truth of the matter is that James has no functional understanding of the science and his legacy will be despised, as one who gave succour to the people and interests who were willing to sacrifice a future for the planet in the pursuit of immediate personal wealth and agrandisement. James, who's rather taken with how others regard him and his work, would do well to shut up and pull in his head.

      Contrast James' ill-informed blatherings with the reluctant but forced-by-circumstance observations of someone like John Church, who is an expert in the science and has felt duty-bound to tell people the stark truth of our situation:


      The frustrating thing is that Church's words will be largely ignored whilst we somnambulate toward destruction, just as James's nonsense will gain approval and serve as a lullaby to dull the required urgency... until the masses eventually wake from their dreams, to find that they're inhabiting a nightmare.

    3. I hadn't realized he has been a climate change denier for some time. Shame on him, he should know better.

    4. Millicent, re C. James in 2009. I remember the kerfuffle after James' radio broadcast in praise of skepticism. I felt he was harshly treated then, since as far as I could see he was somewhat naively assuming that deniers were using the term Skepticism in the traditional sense of "suspending judgement in the absence of sufficient evidence. He himself openly admitted that he knew nothing about climate science and had no particular opinion on it. Maybe it left him embittered, and easy prey for the "skeptics" in the contemporary meaning of the word.

  6. Harry, IPA? Qu'est-ce que c'est?

    1. Do you mean what is the IPA? The Institute of Public Affairs, you know your average rich person, pro fossil fuel, pro smoking lobby group. They have just release a new handbook of propaganda, and Clive James' essay is in it.

    2. Oh, yes, I had seen something about that: "edited" by Marohasy, contributions from Heller, Nova,et al. Sounds grisly.

  7. I agree, the whole thing is terribly sad, but why is he so confident that the "alarmists" are on the brink of "collapse", or is this just the ravings of a very sick man: he's been battling cancer for quite a few years now?

    1. When haven't "the alarmists been on the brink of collapse" according to extreme weather deniers?

    2. Why he is so confident? Because that's needed to maintain one's sanity in a deluge of information that goes in the opposite direction. Call it a way of dealing with cognitive dissonance, if you'd like.

      It's very similar to the "Cooling! Any day now!" predictions. It allows you to think that the warming that is yet again announced to continue, will surely soon stop.

  8. Hmm..."Echo chamber induced insanity" to add to advanced cancer

    1. To be charitable, perhaps we should remember that Richard Muller was a sceptic until he did the maths himself.

  9. Sou, you might be interested in perusing the Hansard for this evening, when it is released in the next few days, to read Craig Kelly's speech in the House of Representatives as they debated the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act Ammendment Bill 2017.

    I've not had time yet to search around to find out what is the actual intent of the bill itself, but Kelly's speech was a breath-taking litany of denial and misrepresentation of science. Unfortunately I only caught the tail-end of his spiel, but I did hear him claim that bleaching is not a sign that the reef is in trouble, and that it is in fact (according to him...) a sign that the reef is adapted to warming and that bleaching is an evolved protection mechanism. This is such an unmitigated distortion of what happens to coral when it bleaches that I wonder how it can be allowed to go unchallenged in the official parliamentary record of Australia.

    Bleaching occurs when the symbiotic zooxanthellæ that live within coral begin to overheat and degrade, leading to the release of oxygen radicals harmful to the coral. As a protective mechanism coral do indeed expel the stressed zooxanthellæ - but this is a sign of serious symbiotic disorganisation and in an evolutionary context it is a drastic measure intended to carry the coral through more extreme fluctuations of an otherwise relatively stable ecosystem climatic envelope. Bleaching/expulsion of zooxanthellæ in the context of human-caused global warming is not a sign of coral "adapting" to heating of their environment; it's an indication that they are in severe stress and doing the most extreme thing they can in an attempt to weather the situation until baseline conditions return and they can repopulate their obligate zooxanthellæ symbionts.

    Coral only get a few months of grace under extreme warm conditions if they expel their zooxanthellæ. If it continues beyond that they die, pure and simple. And with human emissions of carbon continuously increasing the atmospheric CO₂ concentration, and therefore inexorably warming the planet and its oceans, the corals' extreme response to what should be a temporary and infrequent situation becomes a one-way ticket that will see them die and eventually not be replaced as humans warm the plent more and more.

    Kelly finished by saying that it is the people warning of harm to the coral who are harming things, because there is an impact on the tourism industry. How ironic that the consequence of his denial - and indeed his apparently deliberate misrepresentation of the science - is the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef.

    1. Breathtaking!

      How does one get through a spiel like that with a straight face? I couldn't do it no matter what the money.

    2. Interesting. So, if I take a deep breath and hold it just before being exposed to air containing 500ppm of sulfur dioxide, I'm performing an "evolutionary adaptation" to the SO2. If I can pass my genes onwards before taking that first fatal breath, my descendants may evolve away from the need to breathe.

  10. Sou

    Are you actually ok? Your last post here was nearly three weeks ago . Perhaps you are just on hols?


    1. Thank you for asking, Tony.

      I'm reluctant to talk about personal stuff, but I've been away for a while and you all deserve the explanation. My mother has not been well and I've taken time out to look after her. (She is on the road to recovery but will need care for a while.)

      I'll be making time to get back to blogging again soon. There is a lot going on in climate (and politics) that I'm itching to write about :)

    2. Glad to hear you are ok. Your family must come first of course.



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