Friday, November 13, 2015

A rare and exciting event at WUWT

Sou | 6:46 PM Go to the first of 5 comments. Add a comment
A rare and exciting event has occurred at Anthony Watts' blog WUWT. He can't find one of what he calls his failed climate predictions. The rarity isn't that he couldn't find it, it's that he actually looked for the source! As you know, in deniersville, a climate prediction can fail as long as it hasn't happened yet. It doesn't have to be a near time prediction, it could be a prediction for the years well into the future. In fact, it doesn't even have to be a prediction to be a failed prediction. In deniersville, if a newspaper reporter (or occasionally a scientist) says anything about the future, and even if they don't, it can be added to one of those silly denier lists that float around cyberspace.

I don't know why Anthony Watts is so upset. He doesn't usually bother linking to original sources when he posts a list of so-called "failed predictions" that he filches from some denier website or other. In deniers' minds it doesn't matter if there never was a prediction in the first place. or if there was it doesn't matter who made it.

I once tried to source some of the supposed "predictions" he posted back in 2014, but mostly all I found was a copy of his denier list, not an original source for the quote. In other words, most of the so-called predictions are probably just made up out of thin air. At best, some might be quote-mined from newspaper articles. Very few are scientific predictions. Only eight of the 107 so-called "predictions" had a live link to any source, none of which was a "failed prediction"!

In this instance, what upset Anthony and his team of conspiracy theorists was that he couldn't find the an article about snow in the UK, published at The Independent more than fifteen years ago.

The article included paragraphs such as this:
David Parker, at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in Berkshire, says ultimately, British children could have only virtual experience of snow. Via the internet, they might wonder at polar scenes - or eventually "feel" virtual cold.
And this - about fen skating:
Fen skating, once a popular sport on the fields of East Anglia, now takes place on indoor artificial rinks. Malcolm Robinson, of the Fenland Indoor Speed Skating Club in Peterborough, says they have not skated outside since 1997. "As a boy, I can remember being on ice most winters. Now it's few and far between," he said.

And this:
Global warming, the heating of the atmosphere by increased amounts of industrial gases, is now accepted as a reality by the international community. Average temperatures in Britain were nearly 0.6 °C higher in the Nineties than in 1960-90, and it is estimated that they will increase by 0.2C every decade over the coming century. Eight of the 10 hottest years on record occurred in the Nineties. 
That last is now out of date, of course. Now fourteen of the fifteen hottest years have occurred from 2000 to 2015! And the estimate of 0.2 °C "every decade" was probably meant to be an average trend, not necessarily each decade. It's a serious underestimate in any case, if we stay on the current emissions pathway. By 2100 global mean surface temperature could be 3 °C higher than it is now if we don't cut emissions enough.

Anthony Watts' PDF for posterity

But deniers weren't the least bit interested in the fact that much of what was written in the article is right on track. All they were interested in was the wrong headline: "Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past" - which didn't match anything in the article itself.

If Anthony had any internet skillz, he'd not have had to write"Fortunately, I have preserved the entire article as a PDF for posterity". He's not the only one who has "preserved" the article. It's on the Wayback Machine, and there are multiple copies "preserved" at archive.is, and one at WebCitation.org.

If Anthony had been more of a sceptic and less of a denier showman, he'd not have gone overboard with "chutzpah" and "sheer hubris" and alleging so many "certains". Read the article carefully, and look for actual quotes. See if you can find the context for a quote. If you can't, ask yourself if you can tell if the reporter was reporting honestly or if he was just adding a snippet of a quote to something with a different slant. How do you know?

In other words, don't read the following passage as Anthony Watts wants you to read it. Use your critical thinking skills. Here is what Anthony Watts wants his readers to think:
One of the longest running climate prediction blunders has disappeared from the Internet
Anthony Watts / 5 hours ago November 12, 2015
Readers of WUWT and millions of climate skeptics have read this article before, and in fact it is likely one of the most cited articles ever that illustrates the chutzpah and sheer hubris on display from a climate scientist who was so certain he could predict the future with certainty. Dr. David Viner of the Climatic Research Unit who famously said:
From the Independent’s most cited article: Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past by Charles Onians:
“However, the warming is so far manifesting itself more in winters which are less cold than in much hotter summers. According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”.
Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said. 

You'll notice that Anthony, while full of his "certains" and "certainty's, is now canny enough to not directly attribute the "snowfalls are now jut a thing of the past" headline to David Viner. That probably wasn't even written by the reporter, Charles Onians. It is more likely that it was added by a sub-editor. Anthony's "longest running" adjectives implies that he's claiming there have been a lot more articles in the UK media saying that snow has stopped falling. However he doesn't cite any, which isn't a surprise, given the original headline was wrong. Maybe he thinks that it's global warming that's a "blunder", which would be more understandable, since Anthony Watts is a science denier from way back.

But it doesn't stop Anthony from alleging chutzpah and sheer hubris and certainty, where there is none to be had.

Anthony Watts is also canny enough to not post some other parts of the article. For example, the March 2000 article included the following indication that David Viner was talking about a future 20 years or so away - from 2020 and beyond, which hasn't happened yet:
Heavy snow will return occasionally, says Dr Viner, but when it does we will be unprepared. "We're really going to get caught out. Snow will probably cause chaos in 20 years time," he said.

Snow trends in the UK

In 2006, six years after than newspaper article was published, a report from the UK Met Office showed that snow cover has been declining since the 1960s. Below is a chart from that report:
Fig 1 | Kernel-smoothed annual days of snow cover by district, 1961/62 – 2004/05 Source: Fig. 13 from Climate Memorandum No 21, UK Met Office - Matthew Perry

It didn't take 20 years for heavy snow to cause chaos in the UK.  In 2010 there was heavy snow more reminiscent of earlier last century than the 21st century. And it caused chaos. This unusual event prompted a scientific paper, in which the author, Jonathan D. C. Webb, stated:
The 12-hour accumulations of 40cm at around 200m altitude and 30cm below 150m in this event do not appear to have been significantly surpassed across the southern Midlands since the phenomenal spring snowstorm of 25 April 1908 described by Pike (2008). Indeed, individual 20cm falls within 24 hours have only been twice recorded at the Radcliffe Observatory, Oxford, since 1908: on 4 March 1970 (20cm) and 5–6 January 2010 (27cm). 

Two years later, in January 2013, a mere two inches of snow caused flight cancellations at Heathrow. So it's likely that if snowfall does decline in England over time, in the future even light snowfalls could cause "chaos".

Deniers are dishonest and conspiracy theorists

Now none of the patent dishonesty of deniers will surprise anyone. If there is one characteristic that stands out even above their denial of science, it's the lengths to which they will go to deny it. Printing made up stuff is one thing Anthony Watts is known for. The other is conspiratorial thinking. An example of that is in the WUWT article. Anthony Watts wrote:
One wonders about the timing, whether it is related to the upcoming COP21 climate confab in Paris, or if it was simply some blunder, oversight, or archive purge on the part of The Independent. 

And perhaps it was in case someone accused him of being a conspiracy theorist, Anthony later added an update, a confirmation that he is (my emphasis):
Published in the year 2000, I thought maybe the story was just too old, and the Independent simply removed the story to save archive space, or maybe this had to do with some site redesign and the URL simply got broken. Yet when I remove the quote marks to search for the phrase in general, and not exactly, other stories back as far as 1994 about global warming and snow appear:
It seems clear now that the removal was deliberate. 

The headline is not what the story itself said

In that update, Anthony also included another link, writing:
It gets curiouser, searching on The Independent website using their search engine for the phrase “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past” yields only one result for that exact string – a story lambasting the original article that contained the phrase.

He didn't include any quotes from that article that he found, but I will:
...The headline in this case is not what the story itself said, as Dr Viner made clear. The story was about the frequency of snowfalls, and how "snow is starting to disappear from our lives", which the it stated clearly.

A more accurate headline would be something like: "Snowfalls are becoming less frequent in our little corner of the world but that doesn't necessarily mean that snow will disappear from our lives completely and forever." Unfortunately, any sub-editor who would suggest such a tediously long headline is unlikely to last very long....

...So a headline saying that "snowfalls are now just a thing of the past" is not a scientific prediction or statement. It is a newspaper headline, and should be treated as an invitation to read the entire story, which in this case clearly pointed out that snowfalls are becoming less frequent in Britain. This is still the case even with the experience of having two snowy winters on the run.

From the WUWT comments

Who'd have thought that a newspaper article from more than 15 years ago could cause such consternation in denier ranks? Are they really that hard up? If you needed any more evidence that deniers are crackpots, read Anthony's article and the torrent of thoughts it provoked.

tomo linked to an irrelevant article in the Telegraph (about a urinating MP), when he claimed that it was Tom Bawden who "was involved" in removing the article in The Independent:
November 12, 2015 at 3:58 pm
No doubt Tom Bawden is involved … the berk just pushed this garbage out about ££££ billions ££££ in “subsidies for fossil fuels”.
The sooner Boris Berezofsky tires of his increasingly stupid and unhinged dead tree Chihuahua and has it put down the better.

BLACK PEARL suggests a few hundred emails might get their precious article back on line. Sheesh, just how desperate can deniers be, making such a fuss about a newspaper article from more than fifteen years ago!
November 12, 2015 at 4:41 pm
Maybe they need to be reminded with a few hundred emails of that pdf of what they’ve lost / miss placed :)

November 12, 2015 at 5:06 pm
Perhaps an email titled “Have you lost this”, please call xxxxxx

Janice Moore has made a comeback to post a few denier videos, this time without the usual bashing of the bible. She or he thought that lee's comment was particularly funny.
November 12, 2015 at 6:20 pm

November 12, 2015 at 5:07 pm
Well done holding the crapweasels to account! 

Dermot O'Logical did something highly unusual for a WUWT reader. He investigated. What he found was that there were a lot of articles missing from the Independent website for March of 2000. He speculated:
November 12, 2015 at 5:12 pm
Mods – sorry if this is a repost – original appears to have gone awry.
I have found on Google cache a collection of sitemap.xml files, broken down by year and month e.g. for March 2003:
It appears to list urls of all the articles, including the Snowfall article in question. Every link I have tried from that list is coming up “Not found”.
Furthermore, more sitemaps can be found with this query:
site:www.independent.co.uk sitemap 1999
Now, trying August 1999 – file 199908 – all these come up, but all datestamps on the pages themselves are October 23 2011, so I reckon there’s some archiving/republication happened there.
Anyways, it’s all of March 2000 that’s missing at the moment, and January 2003, and November 2005.
So, more a bulk purge, perhaps reformatting old articles? 

Well, well well - another WUWT reader figures it might not be a conspiracy after all. TonyL wrote:
November 12, 2015 at 5:21 pm
Really, everybody. It seems hardly likely they are attempting to cover up a blunder after 15 years.
Some routine IT housekeeping seems more likely. 

This snow job brought Janice Moore out of his or her extended leave from WUWT, to write 16 "thoughts", one of which was to disagree with TonyL - it's all a dastardly plot, a conspiracy!
November 12, 2015 at 5:59 pm (excerpt)
Oh, I don’t think so, Miss Mellie (although your generous spirit is admirable).
I think the Enviroprofiteers (wind and solar industry, mostly) are just desperate to rehabilitate their “expert” witness’ credibility, here. 

richard verney calls for a full-scale investigation of the disappearance of a fifteen year old newspaper article from the internet:
November 12, 2015 at 7:29 pm
Perhaps someone should write to The Independent and ask them about their IT housekeeping policy.
Have all stories older than 15 years been deleted.? Or is the deletion of articles selective, and if so what forms the selection process?

davidmhoffer thinks a distorted newspaper article from fifteen years ago needs to be preserved for denier posterity.
November 12, 2015 at 6:37 pm
I don’t know if there is any deliberate action being taken here, but that’s not, IMHO, what we should be discussing. What we should be discussing is how to preserve the original article for easy reference now that the original is gone. I know A_thony linked to his copy in this article, but at some future point, I’ll forget where that was. Future being about 48 hours for me…..
Perhaps a special link in the WUWT sidebar? 

References and further reading

Steve Connor: Don't believe the hype over climate headlines - article by Steve Connor at The Independent, 2011

Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past - article by Charles Onians at the Independent, March 2000

Webb, Jonathan DC. "The heavy snowfall of 18 December 2010 across the English south Midlands." Weather 66, no. 12 (2011): 321-324. DOI: 10.1002/wea.879 (open access)

Totally Bat-Shit Crazy: Anthony Watts and his "failed" climate predictions - article at HotWhopper April 2014

Denier weirdness: a collection of alarmist predictions from WUWT and elsewhere - article at HotWhopper listing some spectacular failures of predictions made by deniers at WUWT and elsewhere July 2013


  1. >> Are they really that hard up?

    Yes they are. This comes up over and over again on another forum I read. It's a woeful piece of filler from the opinion pages, this was Onians' first and as far as I know last foray into science journalism, his usual beat is business. If you read what Viner actually said, that is the actual quotes its clear it does not support the spin placed on it by the sub head and the numerous re-publishers. It certainly is at odds with what the science was saying, which Viner would have known.

    My usual response is to ask for a primary source (the literature, or an IPCC report or similar) saying the same thing. .... Silence ensues.

  2. That news paper article is a favourite of deniers, though when we had heavy snowfall in the UK in 2009 and 2010 they always missed the line about being caught out by future snow fall. The Independent are currently revamping their website to look more "modern" so they probably have removed a lot of old stories.

  3. "I don't know why Anthony Watts is so upset. He doesn't usually bother..."

    And he didn't in this case. Looking through the archived comments it appears he has forgotten to credit the conspiracy theorist who originated this garbage.

    Cole Pritchard
    November 12, 2015 at 5:20 pm
    Hi Anthony,
    It was I who sent you the message via facebook. Could you credit it to our page, “Climate Change Lies?”

  4. With a population hanging on to every jewel that falls from Trump's hideous lips, it's hard to hope that people will grow a brain. Meanwhile, I get the Boston blizzards thrown at me on a regular basis. Reason I bring this is is that we do have a problem with those unable to hold the simple idea of a long-term trend in their distracted minds while following local weather. With the polar incursions from the more frequent breakups of Arctic circulation that used to keep the Arctic largely *in* the Arctic, cold in political centers (and central/northern Europe) will continue to distract from overall heat increase.

    It is odd that these people can ignore that actual, you know, weather which is showing obvious signs of increasing climate disruption, but it appears the statistical addiction of your average sports fan doesn't extend to weather over time.

    Finally, my point: the threat, seemingly now under way, of the breakdown in the thermohaline circulation (ignoring for the sake of making my point slight differences between AMO/THC/Gulf Stream) and loss of Gulf Stream warmth in the UK, northern Europe, and US north Atlantic abutters will increase in local cold.

    What is really needed is the ability to "walk and chew gum" at the same time, and our "trending" civilization is increasingly uninterested in our vital three dimensional world.

  5. http://ftp.dragtimes.com/video-viewer.php?v=77An6OduHvc

    Googling: Potholer54 "14 - BP oil spills and an end to snow"

    gets you his 2011 audio-visual (at 2:54 minutes) on the subject.

    I was looking for something older. I remember an audio-visual from long ago that I thought was the how-to to the tracking-backwards-to-its-source of the "end of snow" prediction.


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