Monday, February 8, 2016

WUWT failed predictions: Nicola Scafetta and his astrological prediction from 2012

Sou | 6:16 AM Go to the first of 20 comments. Add a comment
Having written about one failed prediction, I was prompted to investigate another. This time it's from Nicola Scafetta from 2012. He wrote an article at WUWT (archived here), which was based on a paper he had published in the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics. As with Girma Orssenga, Nicola's model has failed. It's failed even more spectacularly than Girma's did.

Nicola likes to look for patterns. He sees shapes he likes and turns them into waves. He calls his updated prediction a widget, though I don't believe it is. At least I can't find it anywhere. It's just a chart. Nicola wrote:
The proposed astronomically-based empirical model represents an alternative methodology to reconstruct and forecast climate changes (on a global scale, at the moment) which is alternative to the analytical methodology implemented in the IPCC general circulation models. All IPCC models are proven in my paper to fail to reconstruct all decadal and multidecadal cycles observed in the temperature since 1850. 
He doesn't seem to have provided any evidence that the IPCC models have failed, either at WUWT or in his paper. He doesn't seem to know much about general circulation models, because underneath his "widget" he wrote:
As the figure shows, the temperature for Jan/2012 was 0.218 oC, which is a cooling respect to the Dec/2011 temperature, and which is about 0.5 oC below the average IPCC projection value (the central thin curve in the middle of the green area). Note that this is a very significant discrepancy between the data and the IPCC projection.
 I say he doesn't understand climate models because he seems to have expected the monthly mean global surface temperature to keep going up. He clearly doesn't understand that climate scientists know that from month to month the surface temperature will fluctuate. The climate models he talks about are for long term projections. They aren't to be used to monitor month to month variability, or year to year variability.

As I said, Nicola's climate model isn't based in physics. It's based on astrology or something. He referred to a previous article at WUWT (archived here) where he explains:
we have argued that the global instrumental surface temperature records, which are available since 1850 with some confidence, suggest that the climate system is resonating and/or synchronized to numerous astronomical oscillations found in the solar activity, in the heliospheric oscillations due to planetary movements and in the lunar cycles.

The most prominent cycles that can be detected in the global surface temperature records have periods of about 9.1 year, 10-11 years, about 20 year and about 60 years. The 9.1 year cycle appears to be linked to a Soli/Lunar tidal cycles, as I also show in the paper, while the other three cycles appear to be solar/planetary cycles ultimately related to the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn. Other cycles, at all time scales, are present but ignored in the present paper.
So our climate is controlled by the sun, the moon and far flung planets of Jupiter and Saturn. Let's see how his predictions have shaped up.

Nicola did add in his earlier article:
Perhaps, the model I proposed in just another illusion, we do not know yet for sure. What can be done is to continue and improve our research and possibly add month after month new temperature dots to the graph to see how the proposed forecast performs...

So let's do that. But first, here is Nicola's updated "widget", as at March 2012:

Nicola's prediction is that the global mean surface temperature will follow the black wavy line and stay within the blue line more or less. At least that's how I understand it. His green envelope is where he sees the IPCC modeled projections lying. I don't know where he got that, and apparently Dana Nuccitelli thinks it wrong. The red curve is HadCRUT3. I haven't checked if it's accurate or not.

As I did with Girma's drawings, I've overlayed HadCRUT4 over Nicola's chart (remember Nicola was working with HadCRUT3). You can see the result below. (Yes, I did align everything properly. You can check the data for yourself.)

Do I need to say more?

I don't but I will. Some time ago Anthony Watts decided to do a bit of spring clean and he threw Nicola to the wolves. I've never figured out why. Nicola is a polite science denier, unlike many of Anthony's fans. And his ideas aren't really any wackier than the least nutty of Anthony's guests, or Anthony himself.

From the WUWT comments

Again about the only differences between 2012 and now were that there were more people commenting back in those days, plus there were more people pushing back against the rampant denial and conspiracy theorising. Those two things are probably related. Any pro-science comments generate scores of flames from the dim deniers.

Leif Svalgaard, being a solar physicist, was bound to show up, the more so because Nicola mentioned him in his article. Leif quoted Nicola, and wrote:
March 11, 2012 at 8:36 pm
Of course, in addition to twist numerous facts, Leif has also never acknowledged in his comments the huge discrepancy between the data and the IPCC projection which is evident in the widget.
True to form, let me note that IPCC being wrong does not mean that you are right. As far as I can see, your ‘prediction’ has already failed. Of course, as you point out, you do not predict the actual detailed changes. In effect you are saying that you predict no changes at all for a long time to come. Any deviation from that ‘prediction’ is just irrelevant detail.

steven mosher piped up, too:
March 11, 2012 at 9:24 pm
Scafetta’s calculation of the model means is wrong. 

Edim decides that Nicola's projections are running hot, and figured it would cool, a lot, way back to the 1961 to 1990 mean:
March 11, 2012 at 10:05 pm
Nicola, I will say it again: your yellow curve (lower average limit) is to high. Solar cycles 23 and 24 are too long (weak) for the anomaly to stay that warm. HadCRUT3 will be at zero anomaly until 2020. 

Doug Proctor made a prediction for last year, 2015. His bluster is impossible to misinterpret:
March 11, 2012 at 10:54 pm
In 2015 the disconnect between a “moderate” IPCC projection and Scarfetta prediction will be 0.25 to 0.30 C. The global temperature will not have risen for 15 years. For a “settled” science and “certain” outcome, these facts should be terminal: CAGW is moving forward only because it is “fact”, not theory. We need to act, not understand.
If Hansen and Gore have to admit that nature, not man, has dominated the since 2000, without dropping their meme of C02, then their rhetoric must become more shrill. Like the Harold Camping of 2011, they must rise to a bluster that is impossible to misinterpret. We need to encourage them to tear their hair and clutch their chests as the days pass.
Scarfetta suggests that after 2015 the global temperatures will drop. All hail the fall! Not because I wish the temperatures to drop, because dropping temperatures are generally not good, but because there is a size limit to what even the noble gullible can swallow.
And, by the way, a moderate temp drop will only bring us back to 1965. I don’t think that 1965 was a bad time climate-wise. Of course, GISS records might tell me that we had a mini-ice-age in 1965, and I forget because I am stupid. 

Monckton of Brenchley added his two bob's worth. The potty peer is pompously backing Nicola Scafetta against the IPCC:
March 12, 2012 at 8:24 am 
Nicola Scafetta, whom I had the pleasure of meeting when we both made presentations at the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s climate science conference in Santa Fe late last year, has been very patient in answering the baseless, impolitely-expressed, and to a large extent fabricated criticisms of those who have inexpertly and inappropriately attempted to dismantle his careful work.

He began running his forecast in the year 2000. Twelve years later, it is surely blindingly obvious that his projection has proven very considerably closer to observed reality than those of the IPCC, which – as almost always – is demonstrated to have erred monstrously in the direction of exaggerating the imagined effect of CO2 on global temperature.

I have long suspected – but have lacked the knowhow to demonstrate – that deducting the 60-year ocean-oscillation cycles would allow some estimate of the true warming component from CO2 to be derived. Dr. Scafetta puts this anthropogenic warming component at 0.9 C/century, or perhaps less, compared with the 2.8 C/century imagined by the IPCC.

On this ground alone, his work is valuable. It implies a climate sensitivity about one-third of the IPCC’s 3.3 C per CO2 doubling. If he continues to be correct for another decade, even the intolerant IPCC, which seems at present hell-bent on persisting with its extremist projections notwithstanding the mounting evidence that they are prodigiously overblown, will have to rethink its position fundamentally, if it has not been swept away by then. Congratulations and many thanks to Dr. Scafetta for so patiently, politely, and thoroughly exposing the grievous defects in his ill-intentioned critics’ arguments.

If you were punting on how much the planet would warm over the next decade, would you bet the farm on Dr. Scafetta’s forecast, or on that of the IPCC? 
Well would you?

Or perhaps you'd back day traders' projections, like Alan
March 12, 2012 at 9:14 am
To all interested in cyclical phenomena… As a chartist, here’s what may seem a silly question but has been burning me for quite some time now: has anyone tried using well-established technical indicators and oscillators that we use in *finance*, such as momentum, relative strength indicator (RSI), moving average convergence/divergence (MACD), etc., with different triggers and time frames, in order to test-model the temperatures? Don’t laugh, those oscillators reflect human behaviour in the financial markets, which is also natural and also cyclical.
Now that might not be as silly as it sounds. Human behaviour is indeed what has caused global warming, and there'll probably come a time when human behaviour will stop it :)

Wayne2 is one of many people who quibbled with Nicola over his use of statistics:
March 12, 2012 at 10:00 am
@Nicola Scafetta: You said in your article: “By the way, contrary to the claim of sckepticalscience, in statistics it is 1-sigma envelope width that is used; not 2-sigma or 3-sigma.” This is incorrect and is very basic, so it calls into question everything you say.
In your reply to my pointing this out (along with others), you say, “To be validated a proposed model needs to have an error bar smaller than the amplitude of the detectable data patterns.” Which seems to be correct.
Why not eliminate the incorrect sentence in your article? It’s incorrect as stated, and it does not state what your actual (correct) point is. It’s lose-lose: those with any amount of statistical experience will immediately assume you don’t even know the basics, and it isn’t what you really meant to say anyhow. 

NZ Willy fakes being a "scientist" and writes:
March 12, 2012 at 10:57 am
As a scientist, I just want to say that Leif Svalgaard’s summary is spot on, provided the null hypothesis is that of unchanging temperature. But the likes of Trenberth and Hansen would have it that warming should be the new null hypothesis, so Scafetta’s prediction is an effective rejoinder to that. 
Dikran Marsupial and Dana Nuccitelli made several contributions. Those were the days, before Anthony Watts banned everyone who was anyone.  Dikran Marsupial wrote how Nicola was mixing up monthly and annual means and error bars:
March 12, 2012 at 1:47 pm (excerpt)
@Snowlover123 “However, Dr. Scafetta CLEARLY demonstrates that the mean has fallen OUT of the IPCC forecast range.
No, Dr Scafetta have shown that the MONTHLY observations, not “the mean” have fallen out of the 1 sigma error bars for ANNUAL data. Monthly averaged data have a higher variance than annually averaged data, so the true 1-sigma error bars for monthly data would be wider than those shown. ...
KR added some too. My oh my. I can see why people used to read WUWT. There used to be some quality people making quality comments. KR was spot on back in 2012. The trend since 1970 is 0.17C/decade.
March 12, 2012 at 3:24 pm
Nicola Scafetta – “The(y) fail the long term changes as well, do not worry.”
Actually, they do not: http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch9s9-4-1-2.html

In any case, people are not interested in what will happen next century, they want to know what will happen in the next 10-30 years. If the models fail this time span they are useless.

10 years? There will likely be ~0.17 C anthropogenic warming per decade, with short term variability due to ENSO, solar cycles, and volcanic aerosols being larger in scale than the anthropogenic contribution. 30 year? The same, with ~0.17 C/decade warming clearly discernible against the other climate variations that have no long term trend.

If you want short term predictions of ENSO, go to the ENSO models (initial value predictions, akin to weather forecasts) – although they’re quite frankly not very good yet. Solar is more predictable, but for volcanic activity you’re better off flipping coins.

That’s the whole idea of discussing climate, as opposed to weather or variations – the long term outlook, the trends.

Which arrogant list of points!” – I’ve seen far worse in peer review comments. And you have not actually addressed any of the points that I made. 

Sorry about that. I got a bit carried away. I didn't realise that there used to be science contributors at WUWT. The comments from scientists and science lovers above aren't typical of the thread, needless to say - but there are a lot more like them. These days you'll be lucky to see a WUWT thread that has any contribution of value. There are a few people who still make the effort, a small number who Anthony Watts has yet to ban, but nothing like what you'll see in that 2012 discussion.

There are way too many comments for me to bother with - 401 would you believe. Does Anthony yearn for this glorious past? Perhaps he is happy enough now that all that is left at WUWT is the detritus of the detritus, with the occasional ray of sunshine in a rational comment from Nick Stokes.

From the HotWhopper archives


  1. Sou, you could have won a farm. Getting Monckton to pay up might have been difficult.

  2. Having written about one failed prediction, I was prompted to investigate another.

    The Wattites are right: you are mean. You'd never catch them stooping so low as to go back four or five years to dig up old predictions, especially in context, quoting the predictors' own words and with links.

    That's just cruel. Can't we let bygones by bygones and focus on the important things, like Algore's claim that the Arctic Ocean would have boiled dry by August 26, 2023?

    1. A prediction that has clearly failed because I saw the Arctic Ocean in 2011 and it was not boiled yet.

    2. That's because you were looking at it. A watched ocean never boils. Or some such.

  3. I would be careful about scoffing at models that look at cyclic behavior. For certain phenomena, such as ocean tides, its all about composing models via well known luni-solar periods. As it turns out, atmospheric tides also occur and there is evidence that the moon forces the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) of stratospheric winds. Its a little more complicated than just looking up the lunar periods, but correlation is striking. So there is still room to improve on existing models.

    The problem I think with Scafetta is that he is looking for something that matches his agenda as opposed to taking an unbiased approach and finding what shakes out.

    So I do agree that the deniers are poisoning the discussion with their rather capricious matching of anything that relates to measured oscillations, yet the underlying math is solid.

    For wave equations, the forced response is often similar in response to the forcing, completely overriding the natural response. That math model is solid.

    Please look at what Robert Grumbine is looking at over at his moregrumbinescience blog.

    1. Solar and Lunar induced cycles are obvious as we know the mechanisms. Cycles induced by planets far away can only interact by their gravitational effects. These are insignificant compared to the influence gravitationally of the Sun and Moon.

      The Sun of course has a bit of heat to add to the driving forces.

      I have seen stable systems oscillate due to so called chaos theory. This happens when the imaginary numbers rear their ugly head such as in electronic amplifiers that oscillate. This sort of stuff has been known for a long time.

      They think they invented it with all their other crap!

      They are no better than carnival con artists using the usual methods to fool an incredulous public.

      We have these same sort of charletans rife in our politics and finance industries. Captains of 'industry' are another dubious lot.

      I won't even mention the various religious mobs that do the same thing.


    2. When someone is as spectacularly wrong as Nicola was (as shown above) I've no qualms about mocking them. When they argue that it's not CO2, it's Jupiter and Saturn - doubly and triply so.

      Patterns like the PDO and similar that aren't founded on utter nuttery but on observations - I don't mock, I follow where the science leads.

    3. The AGW denier Richard Lindzen thought that the atmospheric QBO was not due to the tidal cycles of the moon but there is now contrary evidence supporting gravitational pull. Who would have thought it!

      This is being vetted at John Carlos Baez's Azimuth Project site, who doesn't tolerate crank theories as you may have noticed from the previous post comments.

      Like I said people such as Girma and Scafetta have kind of poisoned the environment for outsider research. If it wasn't for them we could probably have more healthy discussions that actually advance our scientific understanding, instead of advancing a political agenda.

    4. Bert said:
      "They are no better than carnival con artists using the usual methods to fool an incredulous public."

      The real con artists are people like Curry, Lindzen, Salby, and Pielke, as they write textbooks on atmospheric sciences geared toward educating students, yet can't get on board with the facts about GHG.

      This is a list of textbooks available on Amazon from this group:

      Judith Curry :
      Thermodynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans $117.98
      Encyclopedia of Atmospheric Sciences $2,800.00
      Thermodynamics, Kinetics, and Microphysics of Clouds $115
      Interactions Between Arctic Sea Ice and Atmospheric Boundary Layer in the Presence of Leads $100

      Murry Salby :
      Physics of the Atmosphere and Climate $96
      Fundamentals of Atmospheric Physics (edited by Roger Pielke, Sr) $101
      Stratospheric Constituent Response to Vertically Propagating Equatorial Waves $100

      Richard Lindzen :
      Dynamics in Atmospheric Physics $180
      Atmospheric Tides: Thermal and Gravitational $99
      Semidiurnal Hough Mode Extensions in the Thermosphere and Their Application. $114.70

      Roger Pielke Sr :
      Mesoscale Meteorological Modeling $416.90
      Climate Vulnerability: Understanding and Addressing Threats to Essential Resources $1596

      Those are actual listed prices!

  4. Note that climastrologer Scafetta has departed from his longtime job at Duke U:

    SCAFETTA, Nicola, Ph.D, Professor of Oceanography and Atmospheric Science, University of Naples Federico II, Italy, Former research scientist of Physics at Duke University. 87 Publications in complex systems and climate change (ITALY)

    (for the recent "300 scientists" petition.

    1. Hmmm. How did I miss that, John. So he's retired to become a full-time anti-science/anti-scientist activist. Shame, really. I figured he was probably a nice if nutty fellow. I was wrong.

    2. I will put this link in here as it has no relevance to the thread.

      It is just an image of a bit of Carina which is above the Southern Cross.

      I used well known scientific methods to tease the signal out of the noise.

      Maybe I should give the game away as we now have the Hubble Telescope. This is nonsense as my system shows a far wider picture than Hubble. It is not in competition but it is complementary.

      All of science works this way! 16MB



  5. 1. I don't think 'retired' is the operant word, Sou. Scafetta is 40.
    2. Beautiful astrophotograph, Bert.

  6. Yes, I used to comment on WUWT from time to time, in an effort to discuss _actual science_ rather than nonsense attempting to be 'scientifical'. I finally gave it up as a Sisyphean task in the face of absolute noise and abuse from the echo chamber, and because I started getting moderated more and more aggressively by Smokey/dbs and Anthony - I think I was getting under their skin a wee bit.

    Scafetta never did answer my questions, incidentally - just ranted on and on about "read my papers" without references. The sole discussion relevant reference he did give was clearly in error regarding solar changes over the last 50 years (wrong sign, in fact, insolation is decreasing), so perhaps that's not surprising...

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Just a note of the global sea ice minimum record by cryosphere todays' measurements that happened over the weekend. I think there should be something over at wuwt shortly. Or maybe not.

    1. They will just blame it on the El Nino.

      I have not heard much from the ice people for the last 12 months or so. Apparently nature did not get their memo about increasing sea ice extent.

      We will just have to wait until the next 12 month "recovery" I guess.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. I'm glad Mosher quickly noted the model means calculated by Scafetta were wrong. It's immediately obvious to anyone who has been following the sneaky baseline manipulations of such clowns.

    Everything about Scafetta's nonsense is offensive, from the misdirecting chutzpah that his 'model' was a genuine alternative to GCMs, to the boneheaded climastrology.

    He's a natural pairing with the verbose oaf Monckton.

    Both useless.

  11. I don't know whether this has been mentioned elsewhere, but David Evans is back with his solar/notch stuff. And in the comments, he makes some predictions:

    "Looking ahead a bit: cooler, possibly starting as early as 2017.

    Regardless of which of the TSI datasets or reconstructions most bandied about that you believe, there was a fall off in underlying TSI around 2004. The length of the current solar cycle is around 13 to 14 years, so sometime around 2017 (or maybe a couple of years after) this should result in global cooling.

    Prediction: There will be a sustained and significant fall in global temperature from about 2017 – 2022, of about 0.3 deg C. The 2020s will be cooler than the 1980s."


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