Thursday, August 8, 2013

Bombshell: Anthony Watts embraces Professor Phil Jones of UEA - but fails Anomaly 101

Sou | 7:57 PM Go to the first of 13 comments. Add a comment

Total about face by Anthony Watts

Anthony Watts is finally heeding what one of the world's leading climate scientists, Professor Phil Jones from the University of East Anglia, says.  After years of libellous taunts and multiple ad homs, Anthony Watts finally concedes that Professor Jones and, presumably, other climate scientists were right all along.

Professor Jones' work documenting weather records from all over the world plus other research over the past few decades has contributed enormously to our understanding of just how much we are messing with the climate.  That is why he was maliciously targeted by disinformers like Anthony Watts and other propagandists.  They weren't able to find fault with his painstaking work so they formed a right wing lynch mob and attacked him personally instead.  It didn't work.  He and other climate scientists are still doing quality research.

While Anthony might want to kiss and make up, if I were Professor Jones I wouldn't give him the time of day.

Increased temperature variability in some NH high population areas but not at the global level

Today on his anti-scientist ad hom blog, WUWT, Watts posts about a study in Nature: No increase in global temperature variability despite changing regional patterns authored by Chris Huntingford, Philip D. Jones, Valerie N. Livina, Timothy M. Lenton & Peter M. Cox.

I can't read the study (budget doesn't stretch that far at the moment), but can copy the press release about it (my bold italics):

In recent decades there has been increased variability in yearly temperature records for large parts of Europe and North America, according to a study published online today (24th July 2013) in Nature.
The study was carried out by scientists from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the University of East Anglia and the University of Exeter.
Lead author Dr Chris Huntingford from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology said, “Fluctuations in annual average temperatures have shown very substantial geographical alteration in recent decades. However, to our surprise, when considered across the globe, total variability has been relatively stable.”
Co-author Professor Phil Jones, from the University of East Anglia said, “We used globally-complete surface temperature data that has been constructed by merging observations and weather forecasts, and verified our findings against station temperature records
The study concluded that regions of high variability have moved markedly over the last five decades, including to areas of high population in Europe and North America. Dr Huntingford added, “The movement of raised temperature variability to regions of high population may have contributed to the general perception that climate is becoming more volatile.”
The study also examined future projections by 17 climate model simulations.  Almost all predict that overall temperature fluctuations will actually decrease towards the end of this century, as greenhouse gas concentrations increase.
Co-author Professor Peter Cox, from the University of Exeter said, “We provide evidence that decreasing global temperature variability will be a consequence of major sea-ice loss in a warmer world.”  
Dr Huntingford added, “Our findings contradict the sometimes stated view that a warming world will automatically be one of more overall climatic variation.”
Technical note – The analysis looked at year-to-year variability in temperature at different geographical locations. This variability is occurring around general global warming trends. These trends were subtracted from the actual temperature measurements, and the remaining “anomalies” analyzed for changes over time and space.

What an about face.  Anthony Watts has effectively made the following declarations to his readers:
  • he now accepts climate science from Professor Jones and his colleagues, 
  • he has complete faith in surface station temperature records
  • he agrees that many centres of high population in Europe and North America have experience greatly increased variability in temperature of late.

Next Anthony Watts will be writing that the hockey stick was never broken after all.

Watt's an anomaly?

Anthony fails Anomaly and Variability 101

More seriously though, Anthony can't tell the difference between an anomaly from a baseline temperature and temperature variability over all the world.  He stupidly writes:
Another blow to the “heat waves and extreme weather are on the increase” alarm meme:
No, Anthony.  While I applaud you for finally giving credence to Professor Jones and his colleagues, you are just being silly trying to say that this research means heat waves and extreme weather  aren't on the increase.  Heat waves are getting hotter, downpours are getting heavier - that is, they are both getting more extreme than they used to be.


  1. "The study concluded that regions of high variability have moved markedly over the last five decades, including to areas of high population in Europe and North America"

    Actually that makes a lot of sense: over the late Holocene populations have settled, and successfully practiced agriculture, in areas where there is a sufficiently moist climate with precipitation supporting agriculture. Now those areas are getting drier, with more temperature variability.

    Elsewhere undoubtedly areas are becoming more fertile -- but nobody's living there and infrastructure is lacking. It's an illustration of the general unwisdom of changing a winning formula.

    1. Martin, that's a good point.

      The way I read it, particularly what they said about the impact of the loss of sea ice, means that as time goes by it'll get hotter in many places but there won't be as many cold snaps.

      I'd like to see the paper itself. Maybe someone will put it online - I'll keep an eye out.

    2. "I'd like to see the paper itself. Maybe someone will put it online - I'll keep an eye out."

      Why not email the lead author & ask for a copy?

    3. I had a quick look through it and, in a quick summary, it looks at the global variability in temperature anomalies in 4 different time intervals (58-70,71-80,81-90,91-01) and then shifts the mean of each distribution so that it is at zero. So, really, it's just comparing the distributions around the mean and so, as Sou says, it doesn't mean that what we'd call a heat wave today is the same as what we'd call one in the past. It just means that, globally, the variability - about the current mean - is similar today to what it was 50 years ago. There's more to the paper than just that, but that is what I read with regards to global variability.

      Anthony did something similar recently with another paper about variability. The paper made a similar claim to this one but, again, had considered variability about the mean and so had subtracted a 1 degree average temperature increase for the region considered (North America I think). Given this, even if temperatures rise by 5 degrees, Anthony would regard global warming as not happening if the variability about the mean remained the same.

      Do you think he actually reads these papers?

    4. @ Anonymous - I may do eventually if one doesn't appear online. I don't like to bother people when I'm just a curious bystander. Especially just after publication, when I expect he's getting so many emails already.

      @Wotts - thanks for that summary. That's pretty well what I figured from the press release. Good to have it confirmed.

      And re your last question - no. I don't think Anthony Watts reads scientific papers and I very much doubt he would understand them if he tried. Notice he writes very little himself on his blog and almost nothing scientific. He relies on guest articles, press releases and other blogs. On the rare occasions he does try his hand at something he usually gets into real strife and gets it all horribly wrong.

    5. I ask for copies all the time. Also universities do not have all journals.

      Scientists typically love it when people are interested. There is really no need to be shy.

    6. Victor that's what I'd have thought in the past, but it's not my recent experience. The few times I've approached people I've never got a reply, so I wouldn't bother anymore unless it was quite important to me.

    7. A good samaritan has sent me a copy of the paper. It's been sitting in my inbox for two whole days and I just found it.

      Thank you very much. It's greatly appreciated.

  2. Austria just posted a 40.5° C reading. It was high time. The Austrian national record was 39.9° C and this reading was already five (5) days (120 hours) old.

    1. Oh my! That's rather warm for Austria. It's rather warm for anywhere. How are people coping?

    2. Dunno, some are still coping with the (already forgotten) Flood of the Century (eleven years after last 'Flood of the Century' btw).

      Example of the way heat records get smashed, again and again within a week:

      "Slovenia also surpassed its national heat record on August 8, with a 40.8°C (105.4°F) reading at Cerklje ob Krki (former record: 40.6°C (105.1°F) at Crnomelj on July 5, 1950.) Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, has broken its all-time heat record five of the past six days, with each day hotter than the previous record. The newest record is the 40.2°C (104.4°) recorded on August 8th. Records go back 150 years at this station."

      From http://dutch.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=2483.
      Note China, too.

      The forgotten inferno is the wide area around the Jenisey River outlets in northern Siberia. Forgotten, too, are the giant wildfires raging there for a month already.
      http://www.climatecentral.org/blogs/sunburn-in-siberia-heat-wave-leads-to-wildfires-16313 .

    3. Brings to mind Australia's Angry Summer from last January. On the mainland here, more and more people have air conditioning available. Tasmanians have started installing it in recent years, too, as the summers have got much hotter.

      I don't know about Europe though. It must be really tough on a lot of people. Especially the elderly and families with young children and people who are stuck at home. (One of the few benefits to working in an big office is that most of them are air conditioned).

  3. Great catch on Watts' ridiculousness. And he may read papers here and there, but he clearly doesn't have the background to comprehend the work (see his goofy comments on the IPCC draft report he leaked, for example).


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