Monday, June 29, 2015

David Burton @wattsupwiththat denies what's really warming the world

Sou | 8:12 PM Go to the first of 33 comments. Add a comment
If you've been around climate stuff these last few days you may well have come across a neat climate graphic at Bloomberg. Eric Roston and Blacki Migliozzi, with help from Kate Marvel and Gavin Schmidt, have charts of global surface temperatures and more. What their charts show are the various contributions to global surface temperature changes since 1880, modeled and observed. There are a number of different charts illustrating the observed annual mean global surface temperature against modeled, as affected by:

1. Natural factors:
  • orbital changes only
  • solar variation
  • volcanic eruptions
  • all three natural factors together.
2. Human activity:
  • land use changes
  • ozone changes
  • aerosols
  • greenhouse gas accumulation
  • all human activity together.
3. Natural factors and human activity combined.

The graphic is worth bookmarking for showing to (normal) people to illustrate how human activity has led to the large rise in global surface temperatures since 1880. There's not much point showing it to deniers, the sort of people who relish articles like the one by David Burton at WUWT the other day (archived here).

You might remember David. He's the chap who spent 547.5 days and nights fretting about Doran & Zimmerman (2009) before coming up with a number-fudging brainwave (It was not a brainwave, it was nothing but Dave's bad arithmetic.)

David Burton wanted a plot of something different

Here are some of David Burton's objections to the Bloomberg charts. The first thing he did was compare the part of the graphic that showed modeled surface temperature changes with just greenhouse gases, with the increase in CO2 at Mauna Loa and said
Here’s a close-up of the key part of the full-size version of their graph, showing the period for which we have Mauna Loa CO2 measurement data (March 1958 to present):...Compare that to a graph of actual measured CO2 levels since 1958:...Reality doesn’t look very much like the Bloomberg graph, does it?
What a dumb thing to write - particularly when David knows and states further down that he was showing something different. The Bloomberg graphic wasn't showing CO2 changes, it was showing surface temperature changes with only greenhouse gas forcings. David even admits he knows that it's different, writing:
...if you read the “methodology” section of the Bloomberg piece, you’ll discover why Roston & Migliozzi showed no separate scale for their GHG levels. It’s because, despite the “greenhouse gases” label on their graph, they did not actually graph greenhouse gas levels.
No, they didn't graph greenhouse gas levels. The chart was of surface temperature with only greenhouse forcing.  It says so in multiple places for people who can't read a chart. So what's the fuss about? Apparently David wanted the chart to show greenhouse gases over time, not surface temperature over time. He wrote:
That’s right. even though the graph’s caption says, “It Really Is Greenhouse Gases,” they really did not graph greenhouse gases.
Yep. The chart heading meant "it really is greenhouse gases", which are causing the rise in surface temperature". David didn't want the chart to show the effect on global surface temperature of greenhouse gases.  If he'd read the paragraph right underneath that heading he'd have seen:
Skeptics of manmade climate change offer various natural causes to explain why the Earth has warmed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880. But can these account for the planet's rising temperature? Scroll down to see how much different factors, both natural and industrial, contribute to global warming, based on findings from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

And if the headline, the opening paragraph and the charts themselves weren't enough, the explanation of the charts are further down the very same page as the charts. I guess David didn't scroll down far enough. Here is the explanation (my emphasis):
What the Lines Show

The black "observed" line is the GISS global land and ocean temperature record, which can be found here. It starts in 1880.

The colored temperature lines are the modeled estimates that each climate factor contributes to the overall temperature. Each factor was simulated five times, with different initial conditions; each slide here shows the average of five runs. GISS researchers laid out their historical simulations in detail last year in this article. The modeled years 1850-1879 from the Phase-5 "historical" experiment are not shown because the observed data begins in 1880.

Incidentally, David didn't complain that the temperature chart labelled "solar" was modeled surface temperature just with solar variation, rather than the number of sunspots or TSI. Nor did he complain that the line labelled "volcanic" was modeled surface temperature just with volcanoes, rather than the number or size of volcanoes. He didn't make the same complaint about the temperature plots with forcing just from aerosols, ozone or orbit, or land use either. Yet for some reason he didn't like it that the temperature chart labelled "greenhouse gases" was modeled surface temperature just with greenhouse forcing. 

David Burton admits he lives in an "alternate reality"

David wrote (my emphasis):
Instead, they graphed what GISS’s favorite computer model apparently calculated that temperatures ought to have been, in an alternate reality in which GHG levels increased as they really did, but all other possible causes for climate change remained constant. (That’s the sort of thing they call an “experiment” these days, at NASA GISS. The scientists who made NASA great must be spinning in their graves.)
As David says, he lives in an "alternate reality". His "reality" is very different to the reality of normal people. (I wonder how David would do the experiment? He doesn't say. I notice that in David's "reality" all the "great" NASA scientists are dead. NASA was only established in 1958.)

David's logical fallacy of personal incredulity

The rest of David's article suggests that he doesn't "believe" what the science shows. He doesn't discuss the forcings from solar, or aerosols, or volcanoes or anything except greenhouse gases. Still, it's fair to assume that he doesn't "believe" the impact of those climatic forcings either.

One thing that he has is a wrong understanding of climate science. He doesn't "believe" that science shows:
  • there is internal variability of surface temperature, affected by the oceans for example - like ENSO;
  • surface temperature changes do not mimic the changes in atmospheric greenhouse gases minute by minute, day by day and month by month.
  • Over the medium term (multiple years to multiple decades), surface temperature will go up, forced by the increase in greenhouse gases. Sometimes the surface will warm more quickly, sometimes the oceans will warm more quickly.

David clearly doesn't accept that all the factors listed up top can have an impact on temperature. Nor that the oceans can absorb heat or indeed that there is internal variability. He probably doesn't think that summer and winter happen either.

David's entire article is based on what is known as the logical fallacy of personal incredulity. He doesn't believe it, therefore he says it cannot be so.

Models reflect observations

David claims there is something very wrong with the models. Here is the model vs observations as shown in the Bloomberg article:

It would be hard to imagine anything that could be much closer. Remembering that the models are of climate, not weather. They are not expected to align with internal variability from year to year, but show the longer term trends. The models are very close to observations, particularly bearing in mind that observations in the early years cannot be nearly as accurate as those in more recent decades. (The pink stippling is the uncertainty bounds. According to the notes to the Bloomberg article, 95% of observations would be expected to lie within the shaded area, and they do.)

David doesn't understand what the uncertainty represents. Or if he does he's pretending he doesn't. It's the uncertainty of the modeled temperature. He thinks it is the uncertainty of observed greenhouse gases. He's wrong. He's wrong too, when he claims that GHG concentration from 1880 to the first half of the twentieth century are "very rough estimates". They aren't. At least not for CO2. It's well-established that atmospheric CO2 was around 280 ppm in 1750 and around 291 ppm in 1880 (from ice cores) and around 315 in 1958 (from direct measures). Contrary to what WUWT deniers will tell you, atmospheric CO2 doesn't jump about all over the place from year to year.

David Burton's "evidence"

David at one point complained about the fact that the model data only went to 2005. Thing is that isn't what he wrote:
For one thing, Roston & Migliozzi ended their graph with 2005, because GISS gave them old data. That’s convenient, considering the widening divergence between models and reality:

The data wasn't observational data, which went to 2014. It was model output that went to 2005. On the Bloomberg page, this is what was stated:
GISS produced the results shown here in 2012, as part of its contribution to an international climate-science research initiative called the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase Five. Let's just call it "Phase-5."...

...Phase-5 calls for a suite of "historical" experiments. Research groups were asked to see how well they could reproduce what's known about the climate from 1850-2005. They were also asked to estimate how the various climate factors—or "forcings"—contribute to those temperatures. That's why this graphic stops in 2005, even though the GISS observed temperature data is up-to-date. The years 2005-2012 were not a part of the Phase-5 "historical" experiment.

David offered a chart as "evidence" of his "widening divergence between models and reality. Not a chart of surface temperature though. What he proffered was a chart of mid-troposphere temperatures. As Dana Nuccitelli pointed out in The Guardian recently, the mid-troposphere is from about 7.6 km to nearly 16 km above the surface (25,000–50,000 feet). And David's chart wasn't even global mid-troposphere temperatures. It was a chart of tropical mid-troposphere temperatures. In other words, it was nowhere near the surface and most certainly not global. An area where there is much greater uncertainty than surface temperature observations.

It could be that David is trying to argue that if climate models aren't close to observations high up in the air above the tropics, then they can't be relied upon to model global surface temperature. The evidence shows otherwise, as you can see in the chart above. (I'm more inclined to treat it as another example of David Burton not having a clue.)

Denier "objections" to reality

To sum up, David doesn't like the chart because he wanted to see a chart of greenhouse gas changes instead of plots of surface temperature. He claims that the chart above is "very wrong", even though it shows that observations are very much in line with modeled surface temperature. Part of his "evidence" is a chart, not of surface temperature, nor of global temperature - but of some temperature of the air way above the surface in the tropics - where there is little agreement between the different measurements.

It's as if he was pointing to a cloudless sky and claiming that anyone who claims the sky is blue is "very wrong". Or pointing to a white fluffy cloud and saying that anyone claiming that clouds are white are "very wrong". Or pointing to a lush lawn and saying anyone who claims the grass is green is "very wrong".

From the WUWT comments

There are all sorts of "thoughts" as dumb as or dumber than the main article, including an obligatory reference to Nazis and to deniers' Agenda 21 conspiracy theory. There is the occasional rational comment from a stray who probably stumbled upon the conspiracy blog thinking the article was an aberration (instead of rational articles at WUWT being the aberration).

higley7 is one of the dumb ones, who thinks that atmospheric CO2 can rise and fall extraordinary amounts in the blink of an eye.
June 27, 2015 at 12:26 pm
I like the subheading in the top graph. They claim CO2 is 40$ higher than in 1750, but they neglect to add that it is currently 25% less than in the 1940s and was higher than now during tow other periods in the 1800s. (Ernst Beck’s paper on direct CO2 chemical bottle data over 200 years)

cnxtim has an indecipherable "thought":
June 27, 2015 at 1:23 pm
The CAGW disciples need their Constantine.
Sorry Bloomberg it ain’t gonna be you. , Poorly constructed plagiarism won’t cut the mustard.
And it isn’t you either little “o” – you cant even get close to those high notes. – At least C produced a convincing argument for his time and occupied (by force of arms) some nifty buildings.
Whoever, it will have to be someone who can offer up something akin to the ‘loaves and fishes’ gig, lot’s of luck.

Mark Johnson tries to counter the alternate reality of David Burton with some real reality:
June 27, 2015 at 12:29 pm
The green line shows the influence of greenhouse gas emissions, not the actual co2 level.
Remember, CO2 emission to temperature rise in not linear, so the two graphs should not look the same.

In the reality of bw apples are identical to oranges:
June 27, 2015 at 12:55 pm
The most important “greenhouse gas” is water. Water vapor over the tropical ocean surface reaches 40000 ppm. Adding the 400 ppm CO2 you get a total of 40400 ppm of greenhouse gas. Next year the amount will reach 40401 ppm.
That water vapor quickly rises, cools and condenses into thick clouds. Clouds then reflect large amounts of incoming solar, which causes the surface stop warming.
In the upper atmosphere where water vapor is under 100ppm, the effect of “greenhouse gas” causes the air to cool more efficiently. The stratosphere is cooler than 20 years ago. 

Jeff B. endorses the "climate science is a hoax" conspiracy:
June 27, 2015 at 11:14 pmWhen you are on the Left and mostly beholden to political dogma and narratives, lying comes as naturaly as breathing. 

Mr. Pettersen has a "thought". Not a great thought, not a particularly useful or informed thought, but probably quite an achievement just the same - for Mr. Pettersen.
June 27, 2015 at 11:43 pm
So why dont you send this to Bloomberg and tell them to print it?
They should be sued for giving people wrong information and if they deny printing this means that they wants to misslead people.
So much for a free press ! 

petermue asks a question:
June 27, 2015 at 1:19 pm
I’m still not convinced that pre-industrial CO2 values were at ~280 ppm.
Where does that number originate from?
Peter, the answer is various sources. The main source ice cores.

Reference and further reading

What's really warming the world? - charts at Bloomberg

Miller, Ron L., Gavin A. Schmidt, Larissa S. Nazarenko, Nick Tausnev, Susanne E. Bauer, Anthony D. DelGenio, Max Kelley et al. "CMIP5 historical simulations (1850–2012) with GISS ModelE2." Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems 6, no. 2 (2014): 441-477. DOI: 10.1002/2013MS000266 (open access)

Denier Weirdness: David Burton @wattsupwiththat finally has a 97% brain wave! - HotWhopper December 2013


  1. Burton is amusingly talking us through the animation while failing to acknowledge the animation...FFS his precious temperature v CO2 comparison is there!.. that's the state of contarianism nowadays. Coherence? Who cares?

    1. Not quite, Nick. David wanted this chart of CO2 ppm and surface temperature on the same chart. Instead he got a chart of modeled surface temperature with only greenhouse gas forcing, plotted with observed surface temperature.

    2. ah, I see....the comparison is not what he expects and he is upset...curiously, not all of the animation is working in my browser. the observed temperature plot is not displaying in every panel, though the black "observed" box is shown, fixed at the end of its trajectory.

      Burton also asserts that pre-Keeling CO2 numbers are only roughly derived...which ignores ice cores...he must have a soft spot for E. Beck

    3. Nick, every AGW denier worth their salt has a soft spot for Beck. Because then you can say that CO2 levels in the fairly immediate past were higher than they are now, which we all know (I mean, rational people know) is complete nonsense from studying multiple ice cores.

      It's just like that schematic of central England temps by Lamb that featured on the cover of the 1991 IPCC report. That diagramme will never die in the minds of deniers, because for them it 'proves' that temps during the medieval climate anomaly were warmer than today, even though they were only representative of temps in central England, not global, and the schematic stopped at 1950, which was considered 'today' in the context of paleoclimatology. Obviously, a lot has happened in the 65 years since then.

      That's one of the hallmarks of denial: cling to the past when the present gets too uncomfortable for you.

    4. Nick, I have the same issue with the black line when using Firefox, but it's fine in Chrome. Although in Chrome I don't see the "Observed" legend box.

      Go figure.


    5. Nick, every AGW denier worth their salt has a soft spot for Beck. Because then you can say that CO2 levels in the fairly immediate past were higher than they are now, which we all know (I mean, rational people know) is complete nonsense from studying multiple ice cores.

      To make things worse for deniers, there are no physical processes that could possibly remove that much CO2 from the atmosphere in such a short amount of time.

      I mean, if CO2 levels were much higher in the recent past and mysteriously declined until Charles Keeling started making precise atmospheric CO2 measurements, where did all that CO2 go? Did magical CO2 elves make it all disappear?

    6. Elves stopped playing with CO2 when Keeling started to track them.. it was too boring for them after that.. ;)

    7. Schrödinger's cat took over from the elves, IIRC ;-)

  2. Don't we all have the odd moment when enjoyment of a good cup of tea, or the latest blockbuster film, is ruined by sudden doubts about pre industrial CO2 levels?

  3. It must be the week for personal incredulity. Over at Deltoid Spangled Drongo's refutation of the satellite altimetry record is based on his belief that the error in measurement can't be less than "metres" because of "ships" and "waves".

    This level of Stupid is incurable. Sadly it may also be terminal for our species.

    1. Does SD even begin to understand the concept of a footprint, as in the altimetry data are NOT point measurements, and even if they were point measurements, a spatial average is taken.

      On another note, it would appear that Monkers needs to take a course (or three) in thermodynamics.

      Teh stupid, it BURNS!

  4. Replies
    1. That was so awesome in its stupidity that he was forced to change it!

    2. I forgive Anthony’s title mixup because I judge it might be closer to the truth than the press release about the paper.

      WUWT - the paradise of confirmation bias! As, I note, Svaalgard endeavours to point out, to little avail...

      Watts (mis)reads via his cognitive filter, the numpties mostly fail to notice it's the wrong way round because they also routinely and identically (mis)read - or simply never read beyond the Chum headline anyway - and, finally, what they'll actually remember is the inversion, which is more It's Trooooo™ than mere truth anyway.

      These people - the rusted on rump of denial - can only be overwhelmed, not persuaded; all the 'skeptics' reachable by reason abraded away years ago.

  5. "t's just like that schematic of central England temps by Lamb that featured on the cover of the 1991 IPCC report. "
    It wasn't on the cover of IPCC(1990), just Fig 7.1(c), and in any case, see MedievalDeception 2015: Inhofe Drags Senate Back To Dark Ages for the history and a map of the area covered by Lamb's sketch.

    1. Yeah JM, I should have spent a little more time to fact check. Accuracy does matter in these affairs...

    2. It could be worse :-)
      Many of those dedicated to Fig 7.1(c) claimed it was from IPCC(1995), for instance, as needed to make the unsupported Deming story work. See McIntyre, 2005 as one example, not alone.. Many people made claims about this, clearly never having studied IPCC 1990 or 1995. In academe, this is usually called false citation, or falsification.

  6. Replies
    1. There've been some tweets from hard core deniers - the usual knee-jerk reaction to denying science. It's not as if the Bloomberg charts are any different to the IPCC reports or science that's already well understood. They make the science clear and obvious, and are a neat way to illustrate it.

    2. I was referring to the typo, but I think I got away with it...

    3. Don't mention the Ho, Bernard! I do hope it's not a reference to the potential comeback of a certain pollie in the people's republic of Indi...

    4. Anon, yeah, I tweeted about that. Cathy must be cheering...


  7. Newsflash, Anthony posts stupidest headline ever, contradicted by FIRST SENTENCE of press release he cut and pasted. What a bozo.

    1. No, it cannot be the stupidest [item] ever, since WUWT is in fact a HTML representation of a 4D Klein-Möbius well of stupidity that turns back and continuously rejoins itself through time and space.

      There is no bottom.

    2. Well, it was the stupidest item of June 29th 2015. I think (didn't read the other ones, one by nutty nazi Tim Ball I believe). ;-)

      This Arctic sea ice article was preceded last week by some guy who made a huge effort to nit- and cherrypick different research papers to prove that models have overestimated Arctic sea ice lose, whereas it's the exact opposite, of course. I was quite astonished at the whole exercise.

    3. Magma. It is not topical but topology! I will nave mine in a glass thankyou. Shape unimportant as long it has a derivative as a well where some liquuid will be quasi stable. Bert

  8. In an argument, a denier is criticizing that the various Bloomberg charts are based on simulations rather than observed data. Can anyone explain to me in layman's terms why they use simulations here?

    1. I haven't seen that argument, Vaytw.

      The reason simulations are used is because the scientists are working out what contribution each factor makes to global surface temperature over time, without other factors operating. That is, what is the effect of solar variability on surface temperature alone, without any other forcing such as volcanic eruptions, or aerosols etc.

      In the real world, it is not possible to collect data on temperature where one forcing is isolated from all the others. In the real world, solar radiation varies at the same time as greenhouse gases vary and a volcano may erupt adding to the mix. It's just not possible to prevent any one of them from having an impact in the real world, let alone all but one of them.

      One of the beauties of climate models is that in a model, the scientists can hold all the other variables constant while changing just one of them to see what its impact is. You can also change several selected ones together (eg all natural) while keeping others constant (eg the ones from human activities) and see what the effect is. In the real world, you can't make the sun shine evenly and dictate that it won't change for a few decades. You can't stop volcanoes from erupting while taking temperature observations. You can't stop people burning fossil fuels for a few decades while measurements are being taken. Maybe one day - for fossil fuels - but not the sun or volcanoes.

    2. The observed SAT data ARE there.

      The AOGCM model data are there in a best effort to explain the observed SAT data.

      You can also do a very simple multiple regression analysis as BEST has done. Problem with that methodology is a lack of a physical basis and that it is very dangerous to extrapolate outside the bounds of such types of non-physically based analyses.

    3. Oh, yes. I should have realised that Vaytw might not know that the Bloomberg charts do show model results alongside observations. That the charts do show observed data (as well as model output).

  9. Thank you, Sou. To pat myself on the back a little, my two-cent version was basically right:

    "But in the meantime, I will give you my two-cent answer: the simulations are based on the observed data. The data itself can't tell you the actual contribution of each component to warming: they have to isolate the variables. They put the individual data into the physics of the atmosphere by themselves to see the effect each has on warming. They also model past data to see whether the simulation is accurate for that."

  10. More than 18 months on, I'd be interested to see Bloomberg update their graphics widget. Anyone know who to poke in the ribs to make it so?


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