Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Anthony Watts gets more than the sun wrong at WUWT

Sou | 6:48 AM Go to the first of 6 comments. Add a comment

Anthony Watts of WUWT mocks another scientific study, this time one that shows something that won't surprise too many people. (Archived here.)

The Schurer, Tett and Hegerl paper, published in Nature Geoscience, finds that changes in solar radiation resulted in only small changes in climate over the past 1,000 years.  Volcanic eruptions had a bigger impact on climate than changes in incoming solar radiation.  From the abstract:
We find that neither a high magnitude of solar forcing nor a strong climate effect of that forcing agree with the temperature reconstructions. We instead conclude that solar forcing probably had a minor effect on Northern Hemisphere climate over the past 1,000 years, while, volcanic eruptions and changes in greenhouse gas concentrations seem to be the most important influence over this period.

This seems to be consistent with a 2006 paper by Ammann et al - from the abstract:
Smaller, rather than larger, long-term trends in solar irradiance appear more plausible and produced modeled climates in better agreement with the range of Northern Hemisphere temperature proxy records both with respect to phase and magnitude. Despite the direct response of the model to solar forcing, even large solar irradiance change combined with realistic volcanic forcing over past centuries could not explain the late 20th century warming without inclusion of greenhouse gas forcing. Although solar and volcanic effects appear to dominate most of the slow climate variations within the past thousand years, the impacts of greenhouse gases have dominated since the second half of the last century.

Anthony Watts confused NERC with NRDC

You want to know one reason for Anthony bagging the paper?  It's because he confused UK's Natural Environment Research Council, which funded the study, with the USA's Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).  Anthony wrote:
Note the “…was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council.” at the end. That alone makes me suspicious of the science presented because it looks a lot like “science for hire” when a blatantly political group like NRDC funds the study. 
Only the NRDC didn't fund the study, did it.  The UK, like Australia, has a number of R&D Councils some of which are funded wholly by government and some of which would be jointly funded by government and industry (such as on a government dollar for industry dollar basis).

Update: Ha ha - it looks as if someone corrected Anthony because he's made a few changes to his article now (original archived here and updated version archived here). BUT although Anthony deleted the section abovein one spot he only made a minor correction which now looks plain silly:
...another one-paper syndrome in the making funded by an NGO with a political mission to grab a headline. 

An R&D Council's mission is to support R&D.  They don't have a "political mission to make a headline".  What a plonker!

Anthony Watts confuses weather and climate

Then poor old Anthony goes and confuses weather with climate, writing:
Then there is: “…climatic fingerprints of high and low solar forcing derived from model simulations…”. IPCC Models haven’t been able to reproduce the last ten years; what makes them think they are worth anything 100-200 years ago?
Climate models are designed for climate, for multi-decadal timescales not ten years or less.  In any case, observations are still in the realm of model simulations.  It's not that hard to compare models with observations going back 160 years so they'd be able to figure out how close the models are to observations.  And there are proxy temperature reconstructions to see how models fare against global surface temperatures going back 1,000 years.

Anthony Watts wouldn't know an expert if he tripped over one

Finally, Anthony has a go at the lead author, Andrew P Schurer, writing:
I’m not so sure this fellow is fully versed on climatology. His papers up to 2011 were all about cosmology, then all of the sudden he starts publishing on climatology issues. One wonders if his previous funding dried up to make such a dramatic shift in study. 
Actually, Andrew Schurer has been publishing climate papers since 2011.  Five of his eight listed publications are directly related to climate and this one makes six out of nine.  The first was published in 2011.  He's only published three papers on galaxies, the last one in 2011. And is it such a dramatic shift?  I don't know but what I would remark on is that for a presumably young researcher he is doing very well, with publications not just in Nature Geoscience but GRL and JGR.  He has to be a whole lot more qualified than the so-called "experts" that Anthony promotes, like the potty peer Christopher Monckton, David "funny sunny" Archibald, Perennially Puzzled Bob Tisdale and Wondering Willis Eschenbach and Anthony "UHI disease" Watts himself.

As for Andrew Schurer's co-authors, Professors Simon Tett and Gabriele Hegerl, they would be known to many HotWhopper readers by reputation at least.

From the WUWT comments

Steven Mosher says:
December 23, 2013 at 9:46 am
one paper wonder?
what was it Einstein said?
Anthony Watts reply shows he doesn't know anything at all about the work of Albert Einstein:
REPLY: I’ll remind you of what you said to me at AGU discussing Robert Rhode’s poster. “models aren’t proof of anything, they are simply best guesses”. So here we have modeled (not observed) solar activity being curve fit to observed surface temperatures. I’m pretty sure Einstein would not be impressed. – Anthony

Eyal Porat "wanders" but doesn't wander as far as here or here and says:
December 23, 2013 at 9:51 am
I wander what volcanoes caused the LIA.
That was a 150 years stretch of mighty volcano activity…

Rob wants to see scientists find a correlation between sun activity and housing?
December 23, 2013 at 9:56 am
I’m Rob M too and I was just about to say that.
They are “fitting” sun activity to models rather than finding correlation between sun activity and realty.

Richard M seems to think oceans can force climate all by their little selves.  I guess he doesn't accept there was a medieval climate anomaly or a little ice age and says:
December 23, 2013 at 10:20 am
Sadly they ignore the single most important factor in climate changes … the oceans. From what I can tell solar changes tend to be of shorter duration which is also true of volcanoes. They won’t find great correlations with either one..

Andrew P. Schurer, Simon F. B. Tett & Gabriele C. Hegerl, Small influence of solar variability on climate over the past millennium, Nature Geoscience, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ngeo2040

Ammann, Caspar M., Fortunat Joos, David S. Schimel, Bette L. Otto-Bliesner, and Robert A. Tomas. "Solar influence on climate during the past millennium: Results from transient simulations with the NCAR Climate System Model." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104, no. 10 (2007): 3713-3718. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0605064103


  1. So Tony confused the NERC with the NRDC. Well, I suppose they both have the letters N, R and C in them! LOL!

    Tony is such an amateur, how embarrassing!

  2. Einstein understood that science = models, but it's amusing that Anthony Watts is "pretty sure Einstein would not be impressed."

    Believing that his ‘General Theory of Relativity’ was too beautiful to be wrong, Einstein offered one of his most frequently quoted opinions to a reported who had asked him what he would have done had the eclipse experiment not agreed with relativity, “Then I would feel sorry for the good Lord. The theory is correct!”.

    1. That's classic!

      Being a theoretical physicist, virtually all of Einstein's work was "models". Even I'm surprised that Anthony doesn't know anything about Einstein.

  3. I'll make sure and mention this to Andrew over coffee in the New Year. He'll literally have no idea who this science behemoth Anthony Watts is :-)

    1. Oh, do let him enjoy his success without it being spoilt by the illiterati. And give him my congrats - though he's even less likely to have heard of HW :D

    2. I was genuinely surprised to find out that a colleague (not Andrew) uses WUWT for research i.e. he's a social scientist and mines denier/skeptic sites for bonkers views on climate change.

      Anyway, I'll pass on your regards :-)


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