Saturday, March 9, 2013

Watts is Whopping Mad (Crazy) after Marcott et al - Must be the Heat!

NOTE: The Marcott et al (2013) paper and supplementary material is available at Science and an FAQ is now available on RealClimate.

Comment: 1 April 2013Marcott for Dummies is out.  However, Anthony Watts (in his seventeenth protest article) and the Auditor demonstrate that even after all this time and all their protests they still haven't even read the paper, claiming that Marcott et al "finally concede" something that was stated at the outset in the paper itself (page 1198).

The Auditor and his brigade are not at all grateful for the extra effort made by the researchers to explain their work to the layperson, and appear to be still trying to claim we are in the middle of the Little Ice Age and focusing on core tops instead of the core!

They obviously do not understand the connect between the modern record and the paleo record, even after years of nit-picking climate research.  And I wonder will the 8% Dismissives heed this part of the FAQ:
Just as it would not be reasonable to use the recent instrumental temperature history from Greenland (for example) as being representative of the planet as a whole...
The Auditor's cronies continue to make wild unfounded accusations. Conspiracy ideation most definitely (no wonder they don't like Lewandowsky and others showing them up in their true colours).

Click here for an expanded version of this comment.

Update 2+  So far there are now three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven twelve thirteen fourteen fifteen sixteen seventeen eighteen nineteen twenty twenty-one twenty-two twenty-three twenty-four twenty-five twenty-six twenty-seven twenty-eight WUWT protest articles not counting the sleazeball's (approaching this might even beat the number of protests against the Lewandowsky et al paper).  The first few are touched on in this article.

(Comment 20 March 2013: I have looked through the WUWT articles and a lot of the comments.  Anthony Watts, his guest posters and commenters provide an excellent illustration of warped mental models, ignorance, illogical thinking, dogmatism, conspiracy ideation, a preference for coloured pictures and avoidance of text, and the Dunning Kruger effect as well as the lynch mob mentality.  It is also apparent that he has successfully rid his blog of all but maybe one person who is willing to consider scientific research.  Watts' blog is aimed squarely at the bottom 8%.)

Of the rest, as with all the early protests, none of the protesters has indicated they understand the paper.  Neither are the protesters interested in the overall reconstruction.  It's the early part of the reconstruction that has filled in the gaps.  There are already several reconstructions of the last several centuries, some even going back 1500 to 2000 years.  In fact the protesters seem to be focusing not on the main substance of the paper but on the past 100 years or so.  Odd, don't you think?

Now they are focusing entirely on this century rather than the entirety of the Holocene.  If I understand Watts/McIntyre correctly, they are saying that there is an "error" in Marcott et al, which means earth hasn't been warming after all and we are actually still in the Little Ice Age.

  • Protest 6 is almost identical to Protest Number 4. 
  • In Protest Number 7, Willis Eschenbach wants the raw data in the published paper, not satisfied with it being provided as a supplement.  Steve McIntyre is, as usual, "baffled".  
  • In Protest Number 8, Fred Singer misquotes Marcott so he can shoot him down.  Singer 'suspects what they did was' without appearing to be in the least interested in looking at the paper to see if what he 'suspects' was fact. 
  • Watts returns with Protest Number 9. Watts cannot figure out how anyone could know that the world has got a lot hotter over the past few decades, forgetting about the thermometers that were giving him so much grief only a few weeks ago, the melting arctic and all the other signals of our warming world.  Neither can he understand how a paper jointly authored by four people and published in 2013 could differ in the slightest degree (sic) from the lead author's PhD thesis published two years earlier.
  • Watts' Protest Number 10 is based on The Auditor's obsessive 'speculation' despite his being 'unable to replicate some of the recent features of the Marcott zonal reconstructions', though he admits it 'may be a difference in methodology'.
  • In Watts' Protest Number 11, Anthony shows that The Auditor has been fiddling with numbers (ignoring the substance of the paper) and posits he has found a 'statistical processing error (selection bias)'.  Makes me think of the saying: "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread'!
  • In Watts' Protest Number 12, Anthony proclaims that The Auditor has found an 'error'.  In fact he seems to be saying we have not yet emerged from the Little Ice Age!!!  (Fools rush in!)  Prof Peter Clark, co-author of the Marcott et al paper, has said they will prepare and provide an FAQ (a Marcott et al for dummies) which may (or may not) help McIntyre's 'bafflement'.

Near enough is good enough if it fools enough! (see below)

A paper published in the current issue of Science is getting some publicity.  According to this recent research, in just a few decades we have managed to extricate ourselves from one of the coldest periods since civilisation began to begin the hottest period.  And who knows when it will stop getting hotter.

The authors, Shaun A. Marcott, Jeremy D. Shakun, Peter U. Clark and Alan C. Mix have done a reconstruction of Holocene temperatures in a paper titled "A Reconstruction of Regional and Global Temperature for the Past 11,300 Years".  You can get the paper and supplementary data here (subs required).

Here are two diagrams from the paper, showing one of their analyses.  A shows the past 2,000 years compared with Mann et al (2008). B shows the same but going back 11,500 years before present (1950). (Click on any of the images in this article to see a larger version.)

Globally stacked temperature anomalies for the 5° × 5° area-weighted mean calculation (purple line) with its 1σ uncertainty (blue band) and Mann et al.'s global CRU-EIV composite mean temperature (dark gray line) with their uncertainty (light gray band).

The findings are not earth-shattering in that the research accords with what is already known.  It is a very valuable contribution because it adds to and greatly refines existing knowledge.  The beauty of the research is that it uses proxies from 73 sites around the globe, whereas previously much of what was known about temperatures in the early Holocene was based on ice cores or other more limited data.

What the Papers Say

Justin Gillis of the New York Times has a written short article on their findings.  Other articles can be found Dot Earth (NY Times), Mother Jones, New Scientist, CNN and the LA Times, among other places.

What Science says

From the Editor's Summary in Science:

Exceptional Now
The climate has been warming since the industrial revolution, but how warm is climate now compared with the rest of the Holocene? Marcott et al. (p. 1198) constructed a record of global mean surface temperature for more than the last 11,000 years, using a variety of land- and marine-based proxy data from all around the world. The pattern of temperatures shows a rise as the world emerged from the last deglaciation, warm conditions until the middle of the Holocene, and a cooling trend over the next 5000 years that culminated around 200 years ago in the Little Ice Age. Temperatures have risen steadily since then, leaving us now with a global temperature higher than those during 90% of the entire Holocene.

The paper's abstract:
Surface temperature reconstructions of the past 1500 years suggest that recent warming is unprecedented in that time. Here we provide a broader perspective by reconstructing regional and global temperature anomalies for the past 11,300 years from 73 globally distributed records. Early Holocene (10,000 to 5000 years ago) warmth is followed by ~0.7°C cooling through the middle to late Holocene (<5000 years ago), culminating in the coolest temperatures of the Holocene during the Little Ice Age, about 200 years ago. This cooling is largely associated with ~2°C change in the North Atlantic. Current global temperatures of the past decade have not yet exceeded peak interglacial values but are warmer than during ~75% of the Holocene temperature history. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change model projections for 2100 exceed the full distribution of Holocene temperature under all plausible greenhouse gas emission scenarios.

What Deniers Say

Deniers really don't like the Marcott et al paper.  Already Anthony Watts has posted five six seven eight nine ten eleven twelve thirteen fourteen fifteen sixteen seventeen eighteen nineteen twenty twenty-one twenty-two twenty-three twenty-four twenty-five twenty-six twenty-seven twenty-eight articles in protest. (See update below).

Article 1: Watts is Wrong, Wrong and Wrong again!

Watts Wrong !

In Anthony's first article he scoffed at the Mother Jones headline then demonstrated he hadn't read either Mother Jones or the paper itself, writing:
Yes, be afraid, very afraid, of that “unprecedented” (there’s that word again in the abstract) 0.7C temperature rise is the message I suppose.
No Anthony, you suppose wrong.  The take away message of most people is two-fold.

  1. The bigger message (for the general public) is the current rate of change is unprecedented in the Holocene (and probably in millions of years).  
  2. The second message is that if it isn't already, the world will soon be hotter than at any time since the beginning of civilisation.

Watts Wrong 2

Then Anthony adds to his errors, writing:

...One potential problem is that the pollen data median sampling of 120 years, which is 4x the 30 year climate normals periods used today. That’s pretty low resolution for a study that is focusing on 2000 years and leaves lots of opportunity to miss data.
Wrong again, Anthony.  The study does not just focus on 2000 years, it looks at the entire Holocene.  It looks at 11,500 years.  (And what is he on about 'missing data'?  The data is what the data is and is discussed at length in the paper and supplementary materials.)

Watts Wrong 3

Anthony compounds his errors by getting it wrong once again (all these quotes are from a single paragraph, incidentally.)
Further, when they say the last 100 years was the warmest (with higher resolution data) they really aren’t comparing similar data sets when the other data has a 120 year median sampling.
No Anthony.  "they" didn't say the last 100 years was the warmest.  Marcott et al's research suggests that we may only now be approaching the highest temperatures, which according to their research occurred during the Holocene Optimum (between about 9,000 and 5,000 years ago).

Article 2: JustNotTheFactsWUWT

In his second article, guest poster (?) "justthefactswuwt" complains about something in the CNN report of the paper.  I was not able to work out the passage that justthefactswuwt was complaining about.  He said that CNN attributed warming pre-1950 to human causes, but didn't post any passage that actually said that. (In any case, there was undoubtedly some human influence on the temperature rise before 1950, given that CO2 rose from 280 prior to industrialisation to 316 in 1959.)

Article 3: Watts third strike - and he's out (with the fairies)!

Watts reverts to form in his third article.  Do you recall the comment he made in his first article?
...they really aren’t comparing similar data sets...
Not heeding his own "advice", Watts proceeds to tack Marcott's chart onto a denialist's clumsy (and faulty) drawing of past temperatures on Central Greenland's ice sheet:

Too wrong for words

  • Is Watts really that ignorant, even after blogging on climate for several years? Does he really think that global temperatures fluctuated by more than 3 degrees Celsius in the past 9,000 years?  Does he really not know that he was trying to compare temperature trends on Central Greenland's ice sheet with a global reconstruction?
  • How does he justify chopping off 9,500 years of the Marcott et al reconstruction of global surface temperature and superimposing what's left of it onto some denier's drawing of temperatures in Central Greenland?
Not only that, but he claims his drawing is from Alley (2000), which it most certainly is not.  The chart may be derived from GISP2 data, but is incorrectly labelled (before present = before 1950 not before 2000).  The data used is based on this - the temperature in Central Greenland - not global temperature.  

Here is a chart of the Central Greenland (GISP2) temperature for the full period covered by Watts' denialist drawing, based on this data accessed from this site, with the rectangle showing Watt's cutout period above:

For comparison, here is a chart of the full data set of Central Greenland temperatures from the same source as referred to by Alley (2000), with a rectangle showing the above time period:

Neither of the above can be used to indicate global temperatures.  They represent temperatures on the ice sheet in Central Greenland.

It must be the heat

Anthony Watts seems to be getting more and more erratic and silly as time goes by.  Must be the heat.

Update: Two more protest articles on WUWT

You could hear fake skeptic screeches zooming around cyberspace when Marcott et al compared their global reconstruction to the Mann et al global reconstruction.  So what do the fake skeptics do in "protest"?  At WUWT they turn around and say "we'll show you!" and proceed to:

  • tack a single site arctic temperature series onto a global reconstruction and
  • tack a single site modern land based record onto sea surface temperatures of a 15,000+ year paleo proxy series (single site).
Here are the gory details:
1. Don Easterbrook has effectively repeated Watts' third post, comparing a global reconstruction with a single location in the Arctic (using the same flawed drawing of the latter). (Update) Don is persisting with this silliness in yet another post, apparently arguing the average global surface temperature of earth is around minus 30 degrees Celsius /s.
2. David Middleton has selected a single proxy set, Marcott No.2 from Barron et al. 2003 N. Coastal California High Res. Holocene/Pleistocene Oceanographic Data - 41.682 N, 124.930 W, 980 m water depth.
David plots the published sea surface temperature (SST) for Marcott No. 2 (which starts about 210 years ago and goes back 15,000 years or so) and tacks on a temperature series from a land-based location, Grants Pass (42.4 N,123.3 W) which goes back to around 1890 (approx 120 years).  
Then David reduces the nearby land surface temperature record to a single data point for some reason (how/why he selected that temperature data point he didn't say - maybe he took the mid-point of the fast rising series). 

Near enough is good enough if it fools enough! 

David Middleton hasn't clarified why he did what he did, tacking on a single modern land-based surface temperature series to a single paleo series of sea surface temperatures. It could be the same reason that Don Easterbrook and Anthony Watts tacked the Marcott et al global reconstruction onto a reconstruction of temperatures in Central Greenland. A "near enough is good enough if it fools enough" philosophy not uncommon with fake skeptics.

The commenters seem to be concluding that Don and David have discovered 'flaws', but no-one has identified just what those supposed 'flaws' are. (Going by past WUWT performance, the mere fact of having an article on WUWT is enough for the throng to decide the author has proved "all the models are wrong"! Said article doesn't have to make any sense.)

Quick - We've Got to Hide the Incline

The WUWT folk are bending over backward trying to find a flaw in Marcott et al.  Why this study?  They don't like the fact that it's warming rapidly and are looking for ways to hide the incline.


  1. Top work Sou, very well rebutted,
    Watts knows that he is rubbish, he also knows that the deniers will swallow any line that he feeds them,

    You only have to read that eric worrall at wtd to see one of his useful idiots at work

  2. The "Alley" graphic finishes at 1905...which Watts ignores,though it's clearly labelled. If he'd had the honesty to include the last centuries surface data from the GISP area,he'd realise we are at Minoan WP equivalence now. He's determined to be an idiot. Who can stop him if that's what he wants?

    1. I'm pretty sure it's worse than that. It's 95 years before present, with "present" being 1950 by convention. That makes the last year of the "Alley" graphic 1855.

      Robert Murphy

    2. Yes,Robert, the convention for BP is 1950, but that graphic is labelled 'years before present [2000AD]'

    3. You're right. The GISP2 readings start at 1855 (95 years before 1950) and the denier's drawing is mislabelled.

      But the main point is that it's pointless to try to equate global records with those of a single location anywhere, let alone in the arctic where temperature fluctuates more widely (polar amplification). Watts uses a silly disinformer's 'trick' to appease the crowd.

    4. Ah...and yes,that is the main point. The GISP recon is probably the most misused bit of fluff in the disinformer's toy box,but kids are easily satisfied. Real kids of course eventually grow out of their toys,but Tony...sigh

  3. Cracking post Sou. Many thanks and Jolly Hockey Sticks!

  4. Since the contrarians want to play silly buggers with regional proxies, let's show them how this sort of thing should be done ;-)

    Let's consider the strange goings on at the Schnidejoch pass, high in the Western Swiss Alps.

    The Schnidejoch ice-field began to melt in the hot summer of 2003, revealing wood, leather and other perishable artefacts dating back ~5ka to the late Neolithic. These artefacts could not have survived unless continuously frozen since deposition. From Grosjean et al. (2007):

    The critical point in the context of this paper is that leather requires permanent embedding in ice in order to stay preserved and, as it is observed today, deteriorates very quickly if exposed at the surface. In consequence, the finds at Schnidejoch suggest permanent ice cover at that site for the last 5000 years, more specifically from ca. 3000 BC until AD 2003.

    G07 provides detail about what a truly unusual archive Schnidejoch actually is, essentially by virtue of its altitude:

    Schnidejoch is a binary and non-continuous archive (‘open or closed’). It operates at a precisely defined and constant threshold (Equilibrium Line Altitude (ELA) at 2750 m) and responds immediately and most sensitively to small perturbations if climatology fluctuates around that threshold value.

    The authors go on to point out that the ice at Schnidejoch preserving the late Neolithic artefacts formed as precessional forcing waned and the Holocene Climatic Optimum faded.

    Interestingly, there are *several* distinct assemblages of finds at Schnidejoch. Working forwards chronologically from the late Neolithic, these are dated to early Bronze Age (4100–3650 cal. yr BP), Roman Age (1st–3rd century CE), and Medieval times (8–9th century CE and 14–15th century CE).

    Each group of artefacts was deposited during a warm period when glacial retreat opened the Schnidejoch pass. But none of these warm periods was warm enough to melt the 5ka ice. None was as warm as the late C20th.

    So if Marcott et al. is flawed, why is 5ky-old ice melting now? Grosjean is specific:

    Our findings suggest that at the archaeological site this glacier was smaller in 2003 than at any time during the past 5000 years.

    On the other hand, if the Marcott reconstruction is essentially correct, then what happened at Schnidejoch in 2003 makes perfect sense.

    It's hotter now that it has been for at least 5ka, and we all know why *that* is, don't we, children?

  5. BBD - loved your post. You bring the story to life.

    I could see a half dozen books (including fact and fiction) and an adventure film coming out of that. There must be so many different fields of science fighting over the treasures unearthed. Such a shame we had to damage the world so badly to defrost them.

  6. Good going Sou! Phil Plait's got this covered over on his Bad Astronomy blog at Slate already, too.

  7. I started studying AGW in '89 and was sincere and vocal about my support for reduced CO2 emissions and concern for runaway warming. This was a natural for me as an old school environmentalist influenced by a bear, an owl and a native american on tv when I was a child - maybe you remember those commercials. I was fortunate to attend a boarding school on the TN side of the Blue Ridge where I was required to read On Walden Pond which only strengthened my commitment to the environment. It's easy to assume that we are damaging our climate - we've been pretty good about trashing the planet in so many other ways. I guess my science is sort of old school as well. I expect observations to support a hypothesis otherwise I reject it. There are problems with this study just as there have been with many other studies and models. For at least a decade skeptics like Watts, McIntyre and many others have offered discussion and observation that would create at least some doubt for any reasonable person. Less fortunate people the world over rely on low cost fossil fuels to meet their energy needs. Habitat destruction has always been the greatest threat to our environment and you don't need a computer model to visualize the damage over the next 100 years. Just consider that virtually all the development you have ever seen in your life, from the window of your car, the plane or on tv, occured in just the last 150 years - a period when we added 5 to 6 billion people to the planet. No one denies the impact this development has had on our environment. No one denies that we will add several billion more people to our ranks. For me it is more important to create an awareness of this very basic environmental challenge rather than the increasingly shrill and to date largely unfounded assertions of climate scientists.

    1. William, there were only about 2.5 billion people on earth when I was born, so I've seen quite a few changes in my life. Not as many as my mother has though.

      I was introduced to climate studies in the 1970s and learnt about the greenhouse effect then. As you may know, that part of the science is older than genetics, modern medicine and atomic physics and is well established. (Fourier predates Pasteur and Tyndall was a contemporary).

      Climate science is, like most sciences, conservative. The fact you find it 'shrill' is likely more a reflection of your instinctive reaction against knowing we are causing harm than to anything in the science itself.

      If you want to see science debated, try which is run by climate scientists and where there are thought-provoking articles by scientists, as well as some good comments threads on which scientists and non-scientists alike contribute.

      Much more insightful than the "brilliant post"-type comments to some hyperbolic nonsense by Willis E, cartoons by Josh or pseudo-science idiocy by Tisdale, Middleton and Don Easterbrook (usually conflicting pseudo-science) as on WUWT.

      WUWT and CA are not about science. Their intent is, as you've observed, solely to cast doubt in the minds of their readers. (I'm sorry for you that they've succeeded in your case.) They do this by distraction, pseudoscience and attempts at mocking science, science communicators and individual scientists. They rely on the fact that at least some of their readers (and most commenters they haven't banned) will not check what they write and don't understand science. That is, they appeal to fake sceptics and other deniers not real sceptics.

      The examples in the above post and elsewhere on my blog illustrate the sort of nonsense that passes for 'science' on WUWT. (If you don't recognise the nonsense for what it is then you have not learnt anything of science.)

    2. Yes William, Eli too is a life long Republican but. . .

  8. It's the general public, too busy making a living and raising a family that rely on headlines and sensationalist stories. Largely homebound since '95 I have spent more time than most exploring this topic. I can't think of any other generally accepted hypothesis or theory that is required to defend it's conclusions against so many qualified scientists and intellectuals. Even Revelle had his doubts in the end and there hasn't been anything particularly affirming in the science since his death - mainly just an increased awareness of small changes in the environment consistent with living in a warmer period.
    We lose many acres of forrested land and many smaller species every year. Many beautiful large animals have become extinct in this modern and warmer period, not because of 1C of warming but because of habitat destruction, encroachment and hunting.
    This focus on our CO2 emissions distracts from the very real, immediate and ongoing problems posed by a world that adds 90 million more people every year.
    The iconic symbol of warming, the polar bear is safer because his habitat is less hospitable for us. Unlike the recent spill in the gulf, crude is a natural product that is broken down by the action of the waves, wind and sun and as a result one can find very little evidence of the "greatest natural disaster" ever to befall us here - the spill of human development never goes away and gets larger every day. Few would have noticed Sandy 300 years ago.
    Why this concern over CO2 when a young child has to scavenge a mountain of trash for something to eat or sell on the side of the road. Why this concern over CO2 when we have already trashed most of the more easily habitable terrain on our planet.
    What is the greater concern - managing 12 billion people in a way that reduces any further habitat destruction and attempting to find some balance with what's left of our natural environment or 1C more warming over the next 100 years which appears at this time to be the most likely scenario - an amount of warming that is indistinguishable from natural variation.
    If the last 15 years are any indication, the climate will take care of itself. Alternatively, the warmth is being buried by the oceans, emissions from China or emissions from volcanoes - it doesn't matter but there has been a huge amount of development and habitat destruction over the last 15 years. I blame this focus on CO2, I blame the climate scientists and this community for diverting attention, funds, and intellect from very real and ongoing environmental concerns. It has been primarily an easy way for a lazy and apathetic people to avoid the immediate problems and suffering that exists all around us. What's easier than going to home depot and picking up a cfl bulb and giving lip service to reducing our CO2 emissions while living in a multi thousand sqft property and driving a newly manufactured hybrid car (at what cost the resources for this) - this whole CO2 thing justifies more spending and you can feel good about it too. We don't need countless acres of windmills and panels over our landscape and in our seas. How is this environmentally friendly. Given the passage of time and advances in science and technology we may develop more efficient and low cost ways to power a needy world - but this should be low on the list of our concerns going forward. If we are to make a real sacrifice than let us get down to the hard work of stabilizing the population and finding a better balance with the planet and a better life for all its people.

  9. "is required to defend it's conclusions" - always lots of people wanting to shoot the messenger when they don't like the message.

    "so many qualified scientists and intellectuals" - I expect Anthony Watts and other anti-science bloggers will be flattered! (Watts and McIntyre are neither qualified nor intellectual.)

    Still, I applaud William caring for the natural world in this era when too many people don't realise we are part of it. (Tragic that one feels the need to 'applaud' someone for bemoaning human destruction of nature, isn't it.)

    Maybe sometime over the next 18 years, William will find the time to move beyond propaganda from fake skeptics and explore the field of climate science.

    1. This is a good place to start:

  10. William Holder: "I expect observations to support a hypothesis otherwise I reject it. There are problems with this study just as there have been with many other studies and models. For at least a decade skeptics like Watts, McIntyre and many others have offered discussion and observation that would create at least some doubt for any reasonable person. "

    I get the impression that climate science denialists have established an unwritten meme
    that if a study isn't 100% perfect it can be ridiculed and misrepresented to no end (something Watts and McIntyre have been documented doing many times).

    But WH, can you think of any Earth Science study that is perfect and complete? And aren't our mistakes what we learn from the most ?

    I suggest the art and process of science is to cull the grain from the chaff. Both Mann et al. and Marcott et al. have clearly acknowledged and discussed weakness and flaws of their various studies - both are focused on continuing to refine our knowledge. Why do "climate science skeptics" never acknowledge that ?

    You try to portray Watts and McIntyre as attempting to be constructive and "helping" scientists - yet reading their blogs...
    Watts and McIntyre wording is extremist in their paranoia and 'suggestions' that every flaw is the result of 'willful deceit' ? And why do they consistently omit huge chunks of important information that would modify their claims ?
    ~ ~ ~

    Uncertainty does NOT equal Not Knowing !


Instead of commenting as "Anonymous", please comment using "Name/URL" and your name, initials or pseudonym or whatever. You can leave the "URL" box blank. This isn't mandatory. You can also sign in using your Google ID, Wordpress ID etc as indicated. NOTE: Some Wordpress users are having trouble signing in. If that's you, try signing in using Name/URL. Details here.

Click here to read the HotWhopper comment policy.