Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Anthony Watts is foxed yet again by temperature anomalies

Sou | 3:42 AM Go to the first of 40 comments. Add a comment
I read the latest article from Anthony Watts at WUWT. It reminded me that he really is dumb as an ox and blind as a bat.

Now you and I know that temperatures have been going only one way - up. And it's been getting really hot these past few years. Last year was the third year in a row that was the hottest on record. This year is shaping up as possibly the second hottest.

So what does Anthony Watts do? He plunges deep into idiocy with a most ridiculous article today (archived here).

What got him worked up was that El Nino temperatures are no longer having an effect, now that the Pacific is ENSO neutral. He falsely claimed this in his headline: "2017 Global temperatures are leveling off – near 1980 temperatures"

Near 1980? Really? No, not really. Temperatures today are nowhere near 1980 temperatures.

Despite lots of people trying to help him over the years, Anthony, who mistakenly fancies himself as a temperature expert and was once a weather announcer, still can't tell his anomalies from his baselines.

What caught his attention and sent him down the rabbit hole, was a tweet from Ryan Maue, where he said: "Global temperatures have generally settled to +0.26°C compared to 1981-2010 climatology continuing downward glide thru 2017 (black line)", and posted this NCEP global temperature chart. (Click the chart to enlarge it, as usual):

Figure 1 | Monthly global surface temperatures for 2017 only. Source: NCEP via Ryan Maue

Anthony then trotted off to NASA GISTemp and wrote his headline, and put up this chart. Notice how he added a little box showing the 1980 temperature. Notice too what the temperature has been the last few years. Notice particularly with what temperatures the zero on the left axis lines up:

Figure 2 | Monthly global surface temperatures from 1880 to 2016. Source: NASA via Anthony Watts

You all see what he did there, don't you. Okay, some of you might not be familiar with the different temperature datasets.
  • The one that Ryan used measured the differences in temperature from a very recent period, 1981 to 2010.
  • The one that Anthony jumped to, measures differences in temperatures (anomalies) from an period thirty years earlier, 1951 to 1980.
  • The average of 81-2010 temperature is 0.43 C higher than the average of the 51-80 temperatures.
  • Last year, the temperature was 0.78 C higher than it was in 1980, 0.55 C higher than the 1981-2010 average, 0.99 C higher than the 1951-1980 average, and 1.24 C higher than the 1881 to 1910 average.

Thirty years makes a huge difference

That 30 year difference for the two average baselines makes a huge difference. An awful lot has happened to temperature over the past 37 years. Below is a comparison of the years from 1980, with the last four years as well. This is the year to date average, so each month is the average of all the months of the year to that point. The temperature for December each year is the average for the whole year. The main thing is to look at the huge difference between 1980 and recent years.

Figure 3 | Global mean surface temperature, progressive average to date for selected years. Data source: GISS NASA

Here's some information for Anthony Watts:
  • The difference between the average temperature over 1980, and the average temperature last year is 0.78 C. 2016 was the hot one.
  • The difference between May this year and May in 1980 is still 0.63 C.
  • There hasn't been a year as cold as 1980 in 24 years - not since 1993! And barring a cataclysm like a supervolcanic eruption, there's not likely to be another for thousands of years.

Is Anthony Watts plain stupid, deceitful or going senile?

How Anthony, who presents himself as an expert on temperature, could possibly make this beginner mistake is anyone's guess. Here are some options, not mutually exclusive:
  • Anthony Watts still can't tell his anomalies from his baselines, despite years of schooling from his betters.
  • Anthony does know that he compared apples and pears, but is getting desperate to find ways to hang onto his "ice age cometh" fans.
  • Anthony really does need his holiday. The stress is showing.
  • Anthony is going senile.
Take your pick or add your own.

Put down your tea or coffee before you read this next bit

Don't risk drowning your keyboard. Put your coffee or tea aside before you read on. It gets worse if you can imagine. I've just read the comments and Leif Svalgaard pointed out that Anthony was falsely comparing two different base averages. Here is the exchange. Prepare to be gob-smacked. Get out your head vice. Whatever keeps you sane.

lsvalgaard  pointed out the anomalies were calculated from wildly periods:
June 27, 2017 at 7:38 am
How can you say that 2017 is like 1980. The base periods on your Figures are different: 1951-1980 for GISS and 1981-2010 for the first Figure.

Anthony Watts says he knew that, but he presented the false conclusion he made anyway.
June 27, 2017 at 7:53 am
Yes I realize that, and expected complaints, in fact I counted on them…but here’s the deal: which one is the RIGHT temperature? hmm? Anomalies are all products of their baselines, and baselines are a choice of the publisher.
If NASA GISS is to be believed as the world’s most cited source for global temperature, then 0.27C is correct for 1980.
Unfortunately, they have been living in the past, and refuse to update their baseline. UAH did it, RSS did it, NOAA/NCEP did it….why not GISS? The answer: Gavin Schmidt.
Not sure about BEST: They don’t list their baseline period in their graph: http://berkeleyearth.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/land-and-ocean-summary-large.png
This is why absolute temperatures don’t suffer from the choices made by the researchers for the anomaly baseline.There’s no musical chairs with anomaly baselines.
Cue the anomaly defenders, Stokes and Hausfather in 3…2…1

What can I say? This comment suggests senility or stupidity of the highest order. I doubt Anthony coped with first grade arithmetic, and his numeric skills went downhill from there.

"which one is the RIGHT temperature? hmm?" - that in itself, and especially in the context of his comment, shows that Anthony just cannot figure out what is meant by an average, and what the difference from an average tells him. He doesn't get it that whether he uses NCEP data or GISTemp data or BEST data or UAH data - 1980 will continue to be around 0.8 C colder than last year, and probably around 0.7 C colder than this year.

If he prefers to use an actual temperature rather than work with differences in temperature, then why doesn't he do that? What he'd find is exactly the same result. 1980 was cold compared to the 2010s - and about 0.8 C colder than last year.

1980 was the hottest year on record - until the end of 1981

To put this in context, 1980 wasn't at all cold compared to the 1910s. It wasn't cold compared to any temperature recorded before it. 1980 was the hottest year on record at the time! See for yourself from the chart below (hover over it to show up the temperature of each year.)

Figure 4 | Annual average global mean surface temperature. Data source: GISS NASA

Anthony Watts is blind as well as ...

Not satisfied with showing off his lack of numeracy skills, Anthony wanted to show off his colour blindness, too. He put up a chart of sea surface temperatures, showing large areas of ocean are much warmer than average, and said:
Just look at the sea surface temperatures, there’s not a lot of warm water:
Now remember that in reality, the areas of surface shrink as you go to the top and bottom of the map below. That means that by far the biggest area of oceans are quite a lot warmer than the baseline temperature, though not as hot as when there's an El Nino.

As the chart (from NOAA), which Anthony posted shows, in many parts they are approach 2 C above the base. What the base is, is the "long-term mean SST (for that location in that time of year)" according to NOAA - I could find no more information than that . I don't know the start or end of the period over which the mean is calculated.

Figure 5 | Sea surface temperature anomalies. Source: NOAA via WUWT

So it turns out that Anthony Watts really is as blind as a blind bat as well as being as dumb as the proverbial ox. If anyone tries to persuade you that Anthony Watts knows anything about global temperature, you can tell them about this display of stupid.

References and further reading - from HotWhopper archives

This is not the first time, by a long shot, that Anthony Watts has shown he just can't wrap his little brain around the notion of anomalies, averages, differences and baselines.


  1. Anthony at least realised his article was not being well received, though he still cannot figure out where he is going wrong. He's added some stuff to his article (mainly reposted his comment from above). He's also changed the headline - which shows up even more how he doesn't understand anomalies. You can see the different versions here and here.

    Anyone else would have pulled down the article, having realised they made a big blunder. Anthony isn't sharp enough to know that he doesn't understand this stuff. (Dunning Kruger strikes again.)

    He tried to argue that people want to know how much hotter it is today than it was in the past. Well, the people who read WUWT don't want to know. They'd rather bury their heads in the sand.

    For everyone else, last year was 1.2 C hotter than the 1810-1990 average. 1980 was 0.53 hotter than the 1810 to 1990 average.

  2. *Anomalies*
    OMG. Anthony Watts of the most read mitigation skeptical blog. For the first time in my life I banged my head on my desk. I feel it helped.

    1. The desk now has a place to hold your coffee cup?

    2. It can help if you don't allow yourself to imagine Anthony and his followers are serious. Instead, read it as if its a Abs Fab script with Anthony replaced with Edwina Monsoon and his fanboys all replaced by Patsy Stone. Don't forget to add "darling" to the end of every line.

      "...but here’s the deal: which one is the RIGHT temperature darling?"

      You may be able to avoid concussion that way.

    3. I suppose that Nick Stokes could take the role of Saffron (endlessly and thanklessly attempting to care for Anthony), but who should have the honor of playing Bubble? There are so many deserving candidates.

  3. Dumb and dumber.

    Anomalies were one of the first concepts to trip up Mr Watts back in 2008. I won't link but the article is titled 'A look at temperature anomalies for all 4 global metrics'

    In part 1 of a proposed 3-part series (Part 3 never appeared, after he was shown the error of his ways). Maybe he still feels that pain and is trying to prove he's been right all along. Smart people know when they're in a hole.

    Apparently Watts wants GISS to standardise their baseline to be 'in line' with the other series, apparently unable to apply a simple offset. Can you imagine the work required? All existing and historical GISTEMP publications updated, you'd no longer be able to do the 'blink comparators' beloved of deniers every where …

    … and of course GISTEMP would 'drop' overnight. Doubtless there would be a Watts headline along the lines 'Ice Age on the way according to NASA'.

    Dumb? Yes! But no more so than this drivel.

    1. "… and of course GISTEMP would 'drop' overnight."

      Stand by for fireworks and much rejoicing at WUWT in Jan 2021 (if it's still going by then, which seems unlikely) when the official WMO base period stops being Jan 1961-Dec 1990 and becomes Jan 1991-Dec 2020.

      It will appear to the Wutters that HadCRUT4 has suddenly adjusted its temperatures to reflect a much cooler world than was previously thought. It will be impossible to explain to many of them why that isn't so; they will never understand. They simply don't have the capacity to do so, as many of their comments show.

      Also, AW's comments in his initial post and early replies suggest that even he *really* doesn't understand the difference between temperatures and temperature anomalies.

      It's incredible that someone who has been engaged in this subject for so long could have so little knowledge of such a basic point. Then again, AW isn't exactly renowned for his self awareness. This probably won't even fizz on him.

    2. The system has changed.

      The baseline for climate studies is now updated every decade because the climate is changing and 30 years is a long wait.

      The baseline for climate change studies will remain the old one for easier comparison with the older literature.

  4. I agree that it would be seriously and unnecessarily disruptive to keep changing the baseline. It wouldn't just be the work involved, it would mess up and overly complicate the all the past, current and future research that uses the data.

    I like the 1951-1980 period. It was relatively flat in terms of temperature, and there were enough data points for it to be reasonably accurate. From then on the average is more or less the mid point in the ongoing rapid rise.

    If there were to be a change, it would be better to come up with an agree pre-industrial baseline. That's what all the 1.5Cs and 2C targets are to be measured against.

  5. No warming since January. Who would have thought long term temperature trends can be determined from just a few months of data. I wonder when the word "hiatus" will be applied.

  6. '
    I like the 1951-1980 period. It was relatively flat in terms of temperature, and there were enough data points for it to be reasonably accurate.'

    Don't have the refs to hand, but I'm pretty sure those were some of the reasons NASA chose it.

    1. Yes, I think I stole that idea from Dr Hansen. Was it maybe J. Hansen,R. Ruedy,M. Sato,K. Lo 2010?


      I don't have time to check.

  7. Just look at the sea surface temperatures, there’s not a lot of warm water:

    So Watts finally outs himself as a flat-earther !

  8. Nice new look Sou. The text down the right hand side in red is very faint on my browser and the actual comments in the main body in black are also quite faint, but readable.

    The Txt in the article itself is very sharp.

    1. Thanks Tony. Is it any easier to read now?

      I'll probably put up a post in a week or so, after I've messed with the design a bit more, inviting more comments and suggestions.

    2. Hi Sou

      I originally commented from my ipad when I had the problems described

      following your change the comments are now sharper but the red wording down the right hand side is completely faded and unreadable.

      However, I am now reading this on my laptop and it looks entirely different. its all perfectly legible although personally I don't like text on a black background which is how I now see the right hand section.

      Don't know if anyone else is reading this on a tablet. suspect the different experiences are due to the browser

    3. Hi Tony, can you clarify what you mean by "red" text? I've changed the colour of the unvisited links to a yellowish color. (When you hover over a link it turns bright pink, and the visited links are blue, but I don't expect you mean those.)

      The headings are in what I'd call orange.

      So I'm wondering if by "red" you mean the unvisited links (now yellowish) or the headings (orange). Perhaps you wouldn't mind checking again, when you get back to your tablet.

      (Might be moot in a few days. I'm still tinkering with the site.)

    4. Hi Sou

      Ok, I have now checked on all three of my machines.

      On my 17 inch laptop the entre site is perfectly visible and clear. I personally do not like to read coloured text on a black background as now happens in the right hand section of the site, but that is purely personal preference.

      On my 10 inch ipad which could fairly be described as 'classic' the entire right hand side of the site is in effect invisible. I can vaguely see some headings in red but the links under them are so washed out as to be unreadable.

      On my rather newer 7inch android the site presents itself in a different way. The articles and the comments are perfectly clear. However, all the stuff in the right hand side is completely invisible-that is to say it is simply not there, not just merely unreadable.

      The new site looks more modern and you must optimise it of course according to your own requirements and that of your readers but you will not be making it easy for those who do not have the screen size and specific browser the site has apparently been developed for. (was it created on a Mac?)

      With your old site it was perfectly visible on all three of my machines.
      Hope this helps.

    5. Thanks for checking Tony.

      Re the missing sidebar, can you see the menu up top? If it's collapsed, click on the black bar below the masthead and the menu will open.

      If you find it, click on whatever you're looking for in the sidebar and you should find it. Alternatively, scroll down to the bottom of the page, which is where it probably moved to. Let me know if you still can't find the sidebar. (Added this to my todo list.)

      I'm still working on the website. Because it's on blogger, I was only able to do very limited testing before going live. I'm currently working on changing the colour of the sidebar, but it may take a while yet.

      I've put up an article for discussing the website, so if you don't mind continuing any discussion there.

  9. The new baseline will be 2016 and look now over there 2017 and 2018 is lower therefore all the other unreliable information is cast out because well it was cold this morning this is how these morons think.
    Yes i know not helpful to the conversation however i bet that will happen in 3 years time.

  10. Oxen aren't that dumb and no species of bat is blind.

    I think you should apologize to all herds oxen and all clouds of bats.

  11. The baseline for SST anomalies at OSPO is 1985-1993 excluding 1991 & 1992 (Pinatubo yars inside) : https://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/satellite/methodology/methodology.php
    (Extremely) Short period indeed but it is not intended for climatology studies, it is more of an operationnal product with whatever data from satellites are available.

    1. Thanks for that info, Olivier. Good to know.

  12. OK, since the Wattsupster doesn't like changing the baseline, how's about he sticks with the earlier one. He doesn't see that weakens his argument. But facts, who needs them?

  13. Why do you warmists? alarmists? Marxists? (Choose your affiliation) think that an annual average global temperatures means anything?

    Average temperatures are not actually temperatures. Even relegating them to anomalies means nothing.

    The methods of calculating the average temperature at most sites is an arithmetical average of a max/min temperatures. (T1+T2)/2. FFS!
    You are attempting to show that the average telephone number in a directory has increased is proof of man-made communications change. It may not even be a telephone number.

    1. Is this DK Anonymous from last week? The level of ignorance and logical fallacy displayed in three short paragraphs is astonishing...

    2. Anonymous has a lot to learn. I can't make head or tail of that comment. Is Anon arguing that temperature isn't temperature, or that it is?

      If anyone wants to find out how scientists put together a surface global temperature series there are several very good sources. (Obviously they don't just add up the temperature at each site and divide by the number of sites, which I'm guessing is what Anon thinks they do, if he/she has got that far in working through the issue.)

      Hansen, James, Reto Ruedy, Mki Sato, and Ken Lo. "Global surface temperature change." Reviews of Geophysics 48, no. 4 (2010).

      UK - the HadCRUT record.

      Berkeley Earth team, USA

      Think of it this way, Anon. If you were wanting to compare changes over time in people, say the the average IQ, or height, or weight, or net worth of the Australian male, how would you go about it? Would you work out the average each year and then see how the trend changed over time? That might be a sensible approach. You could even look at sub-populations and see if there are differences between them - e.g. comparing trends for people in one region with those in another.

      Monitoring change can be quite illuminating. It can lead to change in behaviour and other things. If your weight is increasing with no slowdown or hiatus, then you might decide to do something about it rather than deal with all sorts of health and social consequences.

      If the temperature in Tasmania is on the rise, someone will probably see an opportunity to sell air-conditioners. Because the temperature in Victoria is on the rise, winegrowers are setting up operations in Tasmania.

      Burying your head in the sand rather than face cold (or warm) hard facts is for mugs.

    3. The odd thing here is that it is not just us warmists who fixate about global average temperatures: climate change deniers do so too. So I guess using short term trends to ignore the long term trend just isn't working for this guy any longer.

      Oh, and as a right winger I am dismayed to discover that any sane person must be a marxist.

    4. "(Choose your affiliation) "

      I choose scientist. Why did you leave that off your list, DK? (It is DK, isn't it? I think it is).

      So, you have gone even more batshit crazy and are spraying around a Gish Gallop of silly ideas all over the shop?

      What is your "affiliation"? DK exemplar extraordinaire?

      Read up about how global temperature is calculated. There are many articles and papers that discuss the difficulties and the meaning of the result. If you actually did this you would realise it is not particularly about measuring temperature but discerning a trend. You know, that trend you spend your time disbelieving.

      Here is something for you to rant about. You will not like this:

      Satellites - best thing since sliced bread

    5. Forgot to sign.

      Anonymous PhD photoneurology

    6. Good catch, Anonymous. I was wondering when RSS would update the lower troposphere data. I look forward to reading their paper.

    7. "Even relegating them to anomalies means nothing."

      Relegating? Yet another fake sceptic who does not understand anomalies. He must have learnt about them at the knee of WUWT.

      Or is it just a dog whistle to the uninformed?

    8. Beside this, in the end, I can agree that the concept of a global average temperature is nonetheless difficult to understand. It is not as intuitive as averaging the age of a population and saying that this guys are X years old in the mean. By the way, global average temperature is more exactly an index (as emphasized by NASA -LOTI for Land and Ocean Temperature INDEX- and the Berkeley Earth Center). This is a first source of confusion. But even after acknowledging this subtility, it is difficult to make sense of an average temperature over the globe. It is of course linked to an energy equilibrium. But energy and temperature are not really intuitive.

      Even outside the battlefield of climate change, and even for many guys knowledgeable in physics -at least in my experience-, energy is not an easy to grasp concept. Conservation of energy, its two kind of manifestation trough work and heat, etc.. Are far away from everyday experience, at least in aparence. For example, for many, there is still in the corner of the brain the theory of inertia by Aristote (main idea is that a movement needs a cause and when a force ceased to be applied to an object, this object will go to rest). Of course, Newton demonstrated this theory to be false. But still, energy is a challenge for human brain. How to make sense of 1 Joule, of 1 Kelvin? How to make sense of a global average temperature? All this questions are linked and being unable to grasp the concept of newtonian physics, the concept of energy, etc.. Is not specific to hard core deniers of climate change and conservative peoples. Just saying this as an afterthought, because the nonsense of an average temperature is a meme, even for some scientists.

    9. Olivier Del Rio none of these concepts are difficult to anyone who has studied a real hard science especially Physics at a degree level.

      If I wanted to get pedantic and semantic there is no such thing as reality.

      Everything we experience is an illusion. There are no particles or waves or anything in between this includes forces. Even time as we experience it, is an illusion.

      The Universe consists purely of quantum fields and it is only when they interact that particles or waves and forces seem to appear out of nowhere and nowhen.

      This is what produces all the paradoxes of the double slit experiment and particles being in two places at once and far more. Quantum tunnelling and quantum entanglement are two others.

      Does that mean I can ignore the tiger that is about to eat me? Definitely not! The very large number of quantum fields that make up the tiger interacting with my delicious equally large number of quantum fields means my quantum fields cease to interact correctly to produce me.

      The same simplistic thinking goes for global temperature rising is not real because my tiny mind cannot comprehend it, so I can just ignore it. Like the tiger we ignore it at our peril. Bert

    10. "it is difficult to make sense of an average temperature over the globe." That is, quite accidentally for you I suspect, absolutely true. What exactly a global average temperature even means is very difficult or requires a large number of assumptions in order to define.

      Your problem is you don't realize that scientists are sampling trends, NOT temperatures, at each site. Trends can be combined much more on an apples-to-apples basis though some adjusting is still necessary for various reasons. NO one (in the warming area) is trying to measure warming using any notion of global average temperature. Well, except you, apparently.

    11. Bert: Next time you deal with high school level epistemologists who think they deal only with "reality" ask them to find the color purple on the spectrum. It isn't there, of course, as has been known since at least Newton. Purple is a pure illusion based upon the brain combining blue and red into a single apparent color. It simply isn't "real" in any pure physical monochromatic sense.

    12. jgnfld.
      Colour does not exist! We humans happen to have three receptors in our eyes that are sensitive to three different wavelengths of EM radiation.
      They happen to be centred on what we humans call red, green and blue. Our brains interpret the ratio of these three stimuli to produce a colour response.

      Do a google on 'Land Effect' yes the Land of Polaroid fame.

      There is no intrinsic colour property to any wavelength of EM radiation.

      Our early mammalian ancestors developed 'red' sensitive receptors because ripe fruit was generally red. This is a case of plants driving animal evolution.

      Kodak did a lot of scientific work into human colour perception and I was taught all this stuff back in the late sixties when I worked for them.
      Why women can perceive more colour shades than us mere males is because the genes for colour vision are on the X chromosome.

      This is how easy it is to make stuff up to confuse the uninitiated if there is some truth in the lie.

      I have just proved there is no such thing as colour! So little green men do not exist either! Bert


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