Wednesday, December 11, 2013

More AGU non-reporting from Anthony Watts: Judith Lean and err...William M Gray (not really!)

Sou | 3:10 PM Go to the first of 8 comments. Add a comment

I understand why Anthony Watts had to plead for handouts to drive up the road and go to the AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco.  His "reporting" isn't worth a cracker so no reputable media organisation would employ him as a reporter.  I reckon the deniers at WUWT should be asking for their money back. Is Anthony just getting a nice little holiday in San Francisco courtesy of his fans at WUWT?

Anthony could have easily attended 10 or more presentations on Day Two if he'd wanted to and looked at umpteen posters.  But he only posts about a single lecture and he doesn't even do any reporting on that.  He just posts a bunch of out of focus snapshots of slides.

By the way, click here for instructions on how to view the live streaming and on-demand videos from AGU.

Day One Recap: Anthony's Day One "reporting" (archived here) consisted mainly of an unkept promise (to write about it) and a few out of focus snapshots - not of poster sessions, not of people he interviewed in depth, but of signs, and his press pass and his packed up video camera.  Below is a typical example:

Source: WUWT

As an indication of his lack of professionalism as a member of the "press", some of the very few words Anthony wrote included an excuse as to why he hasn't reported any interviews.  He hasn't arranged any.  He wrote: "I ran into Kevin Trenberth in the hall, but he was too busy to talk, he ran off to the authors prep room to prep for his presentation. No chance for an interview."

Day Two Slide Snapshots plus a "guest essay" by a denier (attached to a comment about AGU)

31 snapshots of the Bjerknes Lecture by Judith Lean on Global Change in Earth's Atmosphere

Anthony thinks pictures speak louder than words, so his Day Two report consisted of two articles:
  1. 31 snapshots to prove he sat through an entire lecture
  2. One of those snapshots and a tweet as an intro to a silly and wrong "guest essay" from denier William M Gray

Anthony's first article was probably to provide some "proof" that he managed to sit all the way through a lecture.  It was the Bjerknes Lecture (though Anthony doesn't tell his readers that) given by Judith Lean, A22A‐01. Global Change in Earth’s Atmosphere: Natural and Anthropogenic Factors.  His article consisted almost solely of smudgy snapshots of slides:
Live blogging . Will add slides and commentary as it proceeds.
Well attended maybe 400 ppl here.
And that was the extent of his "commentary", apart from a senseless comment about a slide showing the difference between weather forecasts and climate projections, above which he wrote cryptically: "This is the crux of the problem with climatology forecasts." And a comment where he tried to bignote himself, above a slide of WUWT where he wrote: "Nice to see a familiar face used. Heard David Appell and Richard Somerville who were sitting near me both grunt when WUWT was displayed."

Update: It turns out that Anthony couldn't even tell the truth in that one irrelevant "commentary" about David Appell. David writes:
...an outright lie, concerning my reaction. Frankly, I couldn't care less -- and, let's note, the presenter, presented his site as an explicit example of bad science, as no Maunder Minimum-like changes in the Sun are going to cancel this century's global warming.
And if Watts can't tell the truth about the little things.... I'm more skeeved out that Watts is secretly monitoring my reactions to the talk, instead of paying attention to the speaker.
By the way, Lean's talk was really fantastic, showing the data for all the relevant climate factors, and stressing that surface temperature is a function of more than CO2.

The rest was a long series of 31 snapshots of various slides.  Anthony doesn't appear to have tried to clean up his snapshots for readability.  Nor does he provide his promised "commentary".  I know Anthony has a hearing problem so maybe he couldn't hear what the lecture was about.  Or maybe he didn't want to report how Judith Lean lambasted and disproved some of the denier myths like the ones that appear with such boring and predictable regularity on WUWT. Or just as likely he didn't understand the fairly straightforward and basic presentation, so he just posted the snaps he took.  This is what 30 of his 31 photos were like:

His final snapshot was a view of the room full of people attending the lecture.

William Gray Denier - at WUWT

Judith Lean in her lecture that Anthony attended, talked about the silliness that goes on in the anti-science blogosphere.  Anthony Watts illustrates that silliness rather well.  He puts up a slide that he knows will be misinterpreted by his illiterati mob.  The slide has the words:
There are no operational forecasts of Global Climate Change
  • forecasts of surface weather pertain to time scales < 2 weeks
  • after 2 weeks forecast error saturates ...to climatology (Hoskins, 2012)
I tried to find the Hoskins paper.  It might be this one: Hoskins, Brian. "The potential for skill across the range of the seamless weather‐climate prediction problem: a stimulus for our science." Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society (2012).  Although it doesn't contain the words written exactly as above, it is about weather-climate predictions on different time scales.

Anthony picks out the words "There are no operational forecasts of global climate change", knowing his readers will misinterpret them.  I wonder why he doesn't highlight the fact that "operational forecasts of surface weather are not good beyond two weeks" but climate projections on a multi-decadal time frame are excellent!

Anthony also posts a tweet from Gavin Schmidt, who is posting a comment from Smith
Which as I interpret it is a comment showing that at the global level, climate models are very good and won't be improved a whole lot more.  However there is still a way to go in efforts to get worthwhile projections at the regional and certainly at local scales.  Anthony Watts knows that his readers will interpret it to mean "climate models aren't any good"!
Underneath that, Anthony posts his guest essay.  Essentially William Gray is writing that what he calls "numerical" climate models aren't any good.  I think William may be referring to physical models because he rabbits on about the IPCC.  But he could be referring to statistical models.  It's not clear.

William Gray writes a lot of nonsense about governments in the fashion of someone who denies science on the grounds that it doesn't suit his political ideology, but doesn't go quite as far into fantasy land as conspiracy theorists like Tim Ball.

He does write silly stuff like "The water-vapor feedback loop, in reality, is weakly negative,.." showing he's lost the plot as far as any climatology he might have once known goes.  William does some magical twisting of physics and close to the end he writes:
Thus, with zero water-vapor feedback we should expect a doubling of CO2 to cause no more than about 0.5oC (not 1oC) of global warming and the rest of the compensation to come from enhanced surface evaporation, atmospheric condensation warming, and enhanced OLR to space. If there is a small negative water-vapor feedback of only -0.1 to -0.3oC (as I believe to be the case), then a doubling of CO2 should be expected to cause a global warming of no more than about 0.2-0.4oC. Such a small temperature change should be of little societal concern during the remainder of this century.
I wonder how William Gray explains the 0.8 degree rise in temperature over the past century, or the 0.5 degree rise in temperature since the middle of last century?  Elves? Pixies? Leprechauns?


I just saw a tweet by Anthony writing that he was told that, contrary to what was in Anthony's "guest essay" by William Gray, most of the rise in temperature of the past few decades is water vapour feedback.  Well, we know that's what happens when CO2 increases. The earth heats up, more water evaporates and water vapour is a potent greenhouse gas. Seems that's news to Anthony Watts.
(I wonder if the FSU grad knew she or he was being "interviewed" or if they thought they were helping out by giving some basic information about climate science to someone who knows zilch about climate).


  1. Watts' efforts at AGU13 is one of the saddest "the dog ate my homework" efforts that I've ever seen. It simply demonstrates that he is completely out of his depth scientifically (as if anyone who isn't an ignorant climate science denier ever actually needed that evidence) and that he's no science reporter either.

    I suspect that he's relying on the idiocy of his regulars to bark at the dog-whistle of Lean's words unaccompanied by contextual explanation.

    The sadder thing though is that I doubt that a single denialist will change their minds by way of consequence. Perhaps somewhere a fence sitter will be swayed, but the Well of Human Stupidity is bottomless so I hold little hope in that regard either...

    Bernard J.

  2. To clarify, I doubt that a single denialist will change their minds about the invalidity of Watts' pseudoscience by way of consequence (of his poor performance at AGU13).

    Bernard J.

  3. I couldn't agree more, Bernard. With everything you wrote.

    I see Dave McRae on another thread here noticed that Anthony is blaming everyone but himself for his incompetence.

  4. AGU (and EGU for that matter) are large conferences and it is hard to find your way if you are not knowledgeable. And the talks are mostly very short and thus do not provide much background. Not the best place for Watts. At least he can experience how many people would be in his conspiracy against libertarian values and the babies of the poor. And AGU is just a small part of it.

    I thought that Watts at least was a media professional. But @AGU is a poor guy from Buenos Aires. The Americal Geophysical Society is @TheAGU and the hashtags for the conference are #AGU2013 and #AGU13.

    1. Watts is reporting on his AGU experience.

      Sounds like he indeed had a tough time. Even just finding his way around. Prof tip: make your conference program in advance.

      His post contains little science. That also fits to the prediction. Let's see what he will still produce this week.

      Is SF really that expensive or did Watts book late into an expensive hotel? In my experience anything over a 1000 Euro is an expensive conference. AGU and EGU are indeed among the more expensive ones.

    2. I've just read and commented on that article, Victor. The conference itself is cheap as, only $US415 for five days for member rates, which Anthony said he was eligible for. The accommodation would add some, but I see there are housing options as well as discount hotel rates and discount travel. Anthony must have stayed somewhere quite nice if he spent $2,000.

      He's taking people out to dinner with the change from his donations. If he took ten people somewhere decent that could cost at least half that - just for an evening meal.

  5. I wondered if Anthony was hard of hearing when he made a throw-away comment after cancelling the upcoming debate with Potholer vs Monckton. He said in passing that Potholer's mumblings were difficult to understand. In reality, Potholer speaks very clearly and deliberately, and is quite easy to understand even if English is not your first language. I almost wrote to Anthony and respectfully asked him if he has had his hearing tested lately, and that if he hadn't, perhaps he would consider it because Potholer and mumble don't belong in the same sentence.

    I second Victor's comments above too. Anthony is way out of his depth here. If you don't have the background it is easy to get quite lost. Even when you do have the background it is still possible to get a bit lost. I suspect he didn't post anything because he doesn't understand it.

    Still, there is something a bit exhilarating about going in over your head because it is eye-opening when you realize comparatively how very very little you know, even in an area where you thought you had at least some background knowledge. It is up to Anthony to decide if he wants to use this as a springboard to learn more, or to take the easier route and double-down on his Dunning-Kruger persona.

  6. “Basically, we need an operational system for climate observations,” says Brian Hoskins, a climate modeller at the University of Reading, UK..."
    Nature, 2005



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