Tuesday, January 12, 2016

From C.R. Dickson: A retired chemist's view of global warming

Sou | 10:39 PM Go to the first of 54 comments. Add a comment
There's a retired chemist and physicist called C.R. Dickson who has a Ph.D. from Columbia University and who has graced WUWT with an article (archived here, cached here). He wants to put global warming into perspective. What he did was post some charts using the Fahrenheit scale. (Has he ever used SI units when he did science, I wonder? Maybe he knows that most of Anthony Watts' audience is from the USA.)

He expanded the axis so that his charts were merely a flat line. This is a trick sometimes used by the dumber deniers at WUWT, like Smokey aka DBStealey aka dbs aka D Boehm. They do this when they want to seem very uneducated. Or maybe they think they are being clever, who knows.

Anyway, since deniers prefer flat line charts to ones that show just how much it's warmed in the last few decades I figured I'd show some more. It's about time I wrote an article that science deniers could relate to, don't you think?

First of all, here is a chart of the type you'll usually see here at HotWhopper:

Data source: GISS NASA

Next, below are some charts that should please deniers and conspiracy theorists at WUWT. Given HotWhopper readers are more familiar with science than the readers at WUWT, this can also serve as a lesson. Instead of Fahrenheit, I've plotted this in Kelvin. Zero degrees Celsius and 32 degrees Fahrenheit is 273.15 Kelvin. I've also plotted the instrumental record since 1880 from GISTemp, and the temperature changes over the entire Holocene and a bit beyond, using the data from Marcott13.

This first chart is just using the data described (GISTemp to November 2015 and Marcott13 going back more than 11,300 years. Nothing to worry about, right?

How about adding in some ice ages - with two lines showing the temperature if the ice age was only five degrees lower than the average temperature from 1951 to 1980, and a line if it got really, really cold - ten degrees lower.

Who's afraid of a big ice age now? You can hardly see the difference.

Now let's see what happens if we keep adding CO2 and heat up the planet another seven degrees on average over what the global mean surface temperature is now:

 Well, who's afraid of an itty bitty bit of warming? Not deniers at WUWT, that's for sure. And who can blame them when a retired chemist and physicist with a Ph.D. from Columbia University tells them not to worry.

Do you want to see the chart above on a different scale. (Deniers may excuse themselves from HotWhopper at this point. I don't want any hysterics.)

For the finale, this is the same data as the second chart above. No ice ages and no future warming. Just what's happened so far in the Holocene. The green bit on the left is the instrumental record. It's already well above the rest of the chart.

C R Dickson waffled on about blood cells and microbes and how people aren't the least bit worried by them because they are so tiny.  At least it looks as if that was the point he was making. (Who's afraid of a little bug like Clostridium botulinum? Who cares if you lose a few red blood cells? They are too small to worry about, surely.) He then wrote:
Fortunately, people normally do not use a magnified version of the world to proceed with their daily lives. That’s why no one drives down a highway guided by a microscope magnifying the road’s surface. 
You know that logical fallacies are one of the telltale signs of a science denier, don't you. One doesn't need a magnifying glass to be concerned about the warming world. Dr Dickson goes on to make all the warming seem miniscule, although it's clear from the first and last chart above that it's far from miniscule.

As a bonus, here is a chart showing how miniscule is the world's tallest building. You've got to wonder why anyone even bothers to remark on it, let alone mention it in Wikipedia. Or you would if you read WUWT. I bet WUWT-ers poo-poo it.


Catmando said...

I cannot credit Dickson with the possibility that he has honestly made a mistake. Even he must know that tiny impurities in a chemical reaction can have unintended and catastrophic consequences, therefore tiny quantities are not to be ignored.

MightyDrunken said...

You forget to reference the definitive example by Inferno the greatest blog scientist in the World, http://denialdepot.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/ice-age-alert-unprecedented-arctic-sea.html

Personally I am unafraid of the atom bomb, what could be smaller and more harmless? Fission of course, the atoms get even smaller and even more harmless!

RobH said...

I did a piece on SkS in response to DBStealey a while back that took a very similar approach, called The Y-Axis of Evil.
It's such a blatantly silly approach, I'm always surprised that anyone actually thinks this is serious.

metzomagic said...

That article by Dickson is so many kinds of stupid, you can only respond with parody. In that case, I prefer this one:


John Russell (@JohnRussell40) said...

Given that graphs are scaled to convey information clearly, one can only assume that Dr Dickson is trying to obscure it.

MightyDrunken said...

I was actually thinking of that one but was too hasty in my search and posting. Thanks for finding it.

metasynctactic11 said...

Given the scale is now absolute should the graphs still be saying relative to the 1951-1980 mean?

Ceist said...

You mean he is 'hiding the incline!'

plg said...

Perhaps a better counterexample is using body temperature measure over a week of illness: a healthy individual will be at 37°C, and a life threatening fever of 40°C for a a few hours is an increase of 8%. But in Fahrenheit that is 104/98.6, which is only 5.4%. Even better in Kelvin that is 313.15/310.5, now only 0.85%, almost unnoticeable. So the temperature is nearly flat lining, so it must be harmless.


Thomas Peterson said...

Alas, their use of this example would not be the person's temperature over a week but from the person's birth to death, in Kelvin. I wonder if any denier would go to a doctor who presented their health information in that way?

Millicent said...

The article is another example of why Professor Inferno had to give up trying to parody these people. It seems a few Wutters saw through it and that attracted the ire of dbs(etc.) who seems to be acting as cheerleader for the more than usually stupid end of denial.

dbstealey January 11, 2016 at 7:56 pm
Excellent article. I wonder who down-voted it? (Anthony knows these things.)

Are down voters to be outed next? Or this another example of the behaviour that - if we are being generous to Watts - may have lost dbs(etc.) his moderator privileges.

numerobis said...

The temperature of their molecules before they were born was 15 degrees cooler before their mother ingested them. How could they even *measure* a mere 3 degrees?

cRR Kampen said...

I sometimes use: how to hide any economical crisis by scaling the Dow Jones index appropriately.

I like the way the ice age disappeared out of that Marcott et al graph (actually, Jos Hagelaars' 'Wheelchair').

Anonymous said...

According to the titles of your diagrams, you are supposedly showing "anomalies". However, how can the anomaly be something like 280 K? It should still be close to zero. So the titles should read something like absolute global temperatures in Kelvins.
Or did you convert the Celsius differences to Kelvins? That would really be a beginner's mistake. I don't hope you did. -Michael

Kit Carruthers said...

I give every article I click on on WUWT a 1 star rating. It's a bit childish, but I enjoy it :)

Sou said...

Sharp eyes, Michael. I changed the scale but forgot to change the title. A minor detail :)

Fixed now.

Tony Banton said...

Wasn't it Brandon that first posted the Flat Kelvin scale graph on WU?
As a tongue-in-cheek wind-up.
I've seen them ply a few times now - Never under estimate the pack of attack dogs.
I pointed out the failings of the denier concept of the GHE with an analogy yesterday and Stealey came back with a diversionary attack.
PS: Has anybody come across a nasty piece of work called mpainter?
He's on Spencer's site at the mo.

Sou said...

BTW the temperature is based on the assumption that the global mean surface temperature from 1961 to 1990 was 14 C or 281.15 K, which anyone is free to quibble with.


Sou said...

They say any click is (a) good click :)

Layzej said...

Uh oh. Traffic to WUWT is indistinguishable from 0. Google processes 3.5 billion searches per day. Someone needs to update this graph with a Y axis ranging from 0-3.5 billion or so:


Layzej said...

Whoops, that's 3.5 billion per DAY, so the scale on a monthly chart should go up to around one hundred billion or so.

The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse said...

When graphing the height of the world's tallest buildings, one should not use the diameter of the Earth, but the radius of the Earth's orbit for comparison. Sheesh.

Brandon R. Gates said...

I believe I did originate the Kelvin scale plot in response to the first time I saw the "alcohol thermometer" Fahrenheit-scaled instrumental time series. I can't remember if one of the denizens suggested it and I did it, or if I just did it.

These days I prefer comparing CMIP5 to GISTemp on the F scale used in the "original" flat graph:


And yeah, I know mpainter. Let me guess, he staunchly refuses to acknowledge the fatal flaw in his argument, and has taken to quoting you out of context to make it look like you're the dummy.

Layzej said...

Here it is: Hits/month on WUWT: http://fooplot.com/#W3sidHlwZSI6MywiZXEiOltbIjAiLCI3OS4yIl0sWyIxIiwiMTcwLjgiXSxbIjIiLCIzOC4wIl0sWyIzIiwiNjguNSJdLFsiNCIsIjEyMC45Il0sWyI1IiwiMzQuNCJdLFsiNiIsIjI4LjkiXSxbIjciLCIxOC44Il0sWyI4IiwiMTA1LjAiXSxbIjkiLCI3My4yIl0sWyIxMCIsIjYyLjQiXV0sImNvbG9yIjoiIzAwMDAwMCJ9LHsidHlwZSI6MTAwMCwid2luZG93IjpbIjAiLCIxMCIsIi0xMDk5NTExNjI3Nzc2IiwiMTA5OTUxMTYyNzc3NiJdLCJzaG93dGlja3MiOjB9XQ--

guthrie said...

I agree, although still wonder; having met all sorts of chemists in the (relatively) short period since I graduated with a chemistry degree, it wouldn't surprise me that there are some with PhD's and yet no real understanding of how things work at the level of atoms and molecules.
Remember for inntance that Josephson is a homeopathic lunatic, although it seems he's always been a bit bonkers.
As for this fellow, his very short resume at the bottom of the post sounds like he might have been exposed to some real chemistry at some time:

"C. R. Dickson is a retired chemist and physicist with a Ph.D. from Columbia University. He has worked for Polaroid, Allied Chemical, RCA, and the Solarex Thin Film Division, a solar cell company formed as an RCA technology spinoff. He also served as a scientific advisor to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization in Vienna, Austria."

but who can tell? Also never underestimate the effects of age. He might just be going clinically gaga.

Brandon R. Gates said...

PS, According to my notes ...


... it was one of the denizens whut requested the Kelvin scale plot.

Brandon R. Gates said...

That's a nice piece, Rob. It's funny, my own writeup was also in response to Smokey. If there's any laughably wrong argument in that sphere, DB is likely one of its champions.

Anonymous said...

Further to the links to Denial Depot provided by metzomagic and Mightydrunken above ... I had given up checking for fresh content at that world-class blog science site because nothing had been posted since November 2012. I feared that perhaps Dr Inferno had met his demise at the hands of the evil global warming cabal. However I checked back today, and noticed that there is a new post (10 January 2016) in which Dr Inferno uncovers nefarious goings-on at Mauna Loa.

Phil L

Sou said...

Tony - mpainter is one of the Dunning-Kruger regulars at WUWT. He's not atypical of the sort of commenters Anthony likes. A bit like Smokey, calling anyone who accepts science a troll.


Marco said...

Sou, considerably off-topic, but considering your skills in making informative graphs...could you take the reconstruction in the paper linked below and plot it on top of MBH99?

(the interesting one:

As John Fleck says: "That looks suspiciously like - I'm trying to remember the name - some sort of winter sports equipment?"

Tadaaa said...

I quite like the deniers who posts the "CO2 trace gas" hence inconsequential, meme in the same post as the "CO2 is Plant food" thus of massive consequence meme

you wonder who is tying their shoe laces every morning

actually scrap that thought - they prob use velcro

Tony Banton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tony Banton said...

Thanks Brandon, Sue:

I actually insulted painter by posting a post from Watts (himself) that told painter to "rethink his posting style" (must have been bad eh?) - I can't find him on WUWT after that.

Yes, the usual bollocks - a raging DK syndrome ... but nasty with it.
Today I was just defending "ehak" re tide-gauges.
Painter seems to have something against ehak ... accuses him of being "Kyle A Hilburn" ?

I tell him I'm taking the advice of M twain, and don't wish to enter the rabbit-hole - but I'll see him on the next thread to counter his bollocks.
Nothing riles me more than when someone tries to tell me they know more about meteorology than me by referring me to wiki.
I could've written the bloody thing!

Tony Banton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brandon R. Gates said...

Tony B,

I actually insulted painter by posting a post from Watts (himself) that told painter to "rethink his posting style" (must have been bad eh?) - I can't find him on WUWT after that.

I had been wondering why I haven't seen him at WUWT but still active at Spencer's and possibly his main hero, Steve McIntyre's. My schadenfreude is clamouring for a linky link if it is convenient for you to provide one.

Painter seems to have something against ehak ... accuses him of being "Kyle A Hilburn"?

Yes, according to him, Kyle A Hilburn is an ex-RSS employee, and "ehak" is a sort of anagram of his initials. Whether true or not, I don't know, and certainly have no clue why it's relevant to ehak's posts -- which are clear, logical, often devastating and appear to me to be well-informed -- IOW, a problem which must be swiftly dealt with in any manner available.

My first impressions of him were actually positive. He asked me what I still think is a good, reasonable and properly sceptical question: why are daytime temperatures in the Sahara so much hotter than in the Amazon when the latter is closer to the equator? His answer: evaporative cooling at the surface. His failure: not considering the vastly greater diurnal temperature range of the Sahara and the daytime albedo of clouds in the Amazon. After asking him several times, politely, to consider what happens at night in both places, he bizarrely claimed that I didn't understand the concept of latent heat, D-Klared victory, and said that I and my pseudo-scientific ilk "disgusted" him.

Nasty is spot on.

Tony Banton said...


Yes, he got me on that .... one influence is the hydrological cycle that is entirely absent in the Sahara - but also anticyclonic subsidence from the overlying sub-tropical JS, with no advection of surface air into the region. Obviously largely cloudless skies and the insulation provided by the sandy soils.
Actually he first came to the attack when I pointed out to someone that the higher SST's over the Great Lakes were contributing to the higher LE snowfall. It was then that I got the "you need to get informed - wiki is a good place to start" bollocks. Well I live on the E coast of England and have been on duty at Lincolnshire RAF bases as a forecaster in such set-ups, as well as in the public sphere forcasting for the county. An (in effect) LE snow set-up occasionally occurs here with deep NE'ly cold from Russia. It is also a particular interest of mine.


Anthony Watts March 11, 2015 at 10:28 am....

current thread with "ehak"...

Harry Twinotter said...

Where do they find these retired "scientists"? He ends his article like this - very scientific I must say. He has written the article with an agenda in mind. Probably just another pundit for hire.

"That is why catastrophic man-made global warming, like all consensus “science,” will eventually go the way of phlogiston, spontaneous generation, and luminiferous ether."

Brandon R. Gates said...

Tony B,

Thanks for the links, interesting reading all. It was personally gratifying to see Jan Perlwitz make many of the same arguments I did but with even deeper understanding and STILL have the result be mpainter recycling the same assertions laced with even more insult and conspiracy ideation. Anthony's comments to painter, and his parting shot closing the thread to comments more than satisfied my more petty delights.

Other than that, it was the usual mix of depressing intellectual dishonesty and nitwitted bullshit it always is.

I will have to read up more on atmospheric circulation patterns in various regions ... in my case, Wikipedia might actually be a good start ... :)

Magma said...

Being born in 1947 makes Charles Robert Dickson something of a young pup among WUWTers.

But that's enough about him.

metasyntactic11 said...

I guess that's a yes. :)

Raoul said...

Or climatically gaga?

cRR Kampen said...

Which is why we click here :)

Sou said...

Sorry, I missed this. No - you are correct. I fixed the chart titles a while ago.

metasyntactic11 said...

Ha, no worries, saw the comment further down as well. Just discovered this site, nice to find it. Good to have places that update more often than RealClimate so I can get a daily fix.

cRR Kampen said...

Same way they find coal. They dig 'm up from the dirt.

metzomagic said...

"That is why catastrophic man-made global warming, like all consensus 'science,' will eventually go the way of phlogiston..."

As DB Stealey's entire world view is based on the existence of phlogiston, it's going to be a big come-down for him when he eventually comes to the realisation that it doesn't exist ;-)

Millicent said...

I don't think Smokey/dbs/dboehm/dbstealey possesses anything that could be dignified by terms like 'world view'.

Sometimes he believes it isn't warming cus the scientists fiddled the data, sometimes he thinks it is warming cus we are coming out of an ice age. Today he thinks its silly to argue whether it is warming or not because by choosing a silly graph scale the issue goes away.

Or is this another symptom of multiple personality disorder to go with his use of multiple socks?

chrisd said...

Well, that's just an instance of the well known Scientific Law of Small Numbers:

If a number is small, whatever it represents isn't important.

Sir Francis Bacon, I believe.

chrisd said...

Apples, oranges. The Quantcast chart appears to show the number of unique site visitors for WUWT only, but your scale is Google searches.

I'm pretty sure there are a lot more than 3.5 billion person-visits (1 person visiting 1 site) daily. Hell, each search typically leads to multiple site visits. So, I think your 100 billion scale is too small. By a lot.

@whut said...

Out of the three physicists that shared the Nobel Prize in 1973 for quantum tunneling research, Brian Josephson, Ivar Giaever, and Leo Esaki, only Esaki is still sane. Giaever is an AGW denier.

Esaki visited my lab several years ago, and the only negative thing I remember is that he had really strong body odor. Leo should call Brian for a homeopathic remedy. What do you know, this odor problem is well known among older Japanese men: http://articles.latimes.com/1999/jul/14/news/mn-55812

Bert from Eltham said...

I wonder if this would work for blood alcohol offences. You commit an offence once the amount of alcohol in your blood is over 5 mg per 100 ml of blood expressed as a percentage is only 1/100 of the concentration in the average beer and 1/1000 that of an average spirit.

Nah those magistrates 'don't know nuffin'. Bert

Bernard J. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bernard J. said...

The frustrating thing is that many of us have posted for years about fallacious manipulation of the dependent variable's scaling range, and still the message is unable to skirt the Morton's demons of the Denialati.

Nevertheless it might be worth indicating again how the human body's internal temperature responds to temperature change - it's tolerances to hypothermia and hyperthermia are fairly similar to the tolerance of human society and of global biodiversity to changes in mean global temperature.

And on the matter of graph construction, lesson 1 in Graphing 101 covers the selection of graph aspect ratios (generally considered to be appropriate between roughly square and somewhere near the golden mean) and axis minima and maxima covering the respective high and low variations in ranges of both the independent and dependent variables, but not much more beyond that required for rounding.

Anyone who plots a parameter whose range is less than half of the axis range, or especially less than ~10% of the axis range, is shouting to the world "hey I am totally incompetent in graphing", or "I'm a big fat liar/mendacious propagandist and I think that I can sucker you to Hell and back".

Bernard J. said...

Ah, I see others have already mentioned human body temperature below...

Late to the party.