Brignell vs Wikipedia

Last year I wrote how John Brignell repeatedly tried to add untrue claims to the Sourcewatch article on Brignell because it was critical of him. Now he is complaining about his Wikipedia article:

Anyway, reading hostile critiques of one’s efforts is very much like being in that hall of mirrors. All the bits are there, but grossly distorted. We could dismiss overt politically motivated character-assassination sites such as Sourcewatch and the Australian Adhominator, except that they are then quoted by less obviously biased sources.

As usual, Brignell calls me names instead of addressing my arguments. He continues:

They see everything through their red-green spectacles. It is inconceivable to them that anyone else can write a critique of a scientific claim from a detached point of view. If he is not one of us he must be one of them. This is demonstrated by the selectivity of their targets. They will ignore a thousand items of dissent and only home in on the ones that they regard as politically sensitive:

In particular, he has disputed the reality of anthropogenic global warming, the relationship between second-hand smoke and lung cancer and the existence of a hole in the ozone layer caused by emissions of chlorofluorocarbons.

The red-green transformation is something that is still not widely understood. It is exemplified by Danny Cohn-Bendit, scourge of the old establishment and leading light of the new. The collapse of the Soviet empire left the old fashioned Marxists without a spiritual home, so they found a new one in the environmental movement. The Marxist critics, who were once well established in most universities, could only look at anything (arts, literature, science etc.) through their red spectacles, and could not conceive of anyone taking an apolitical view. They are still there, but with slightly different spectacles.

Apparently Brignell cannot conceive that he might be criticised because he gets the science on those issues badly wrong. Instead, he concludes that his critics must be commies and their arguments can be ignored.

His outburst has prompted a Brignell supporter, Jim Smith, to try to rewrite Brignell’s wikipedia entry, adding some odd defences of Brignell.

i-fd8bf9a512d81f842779dcbf8804189f-depletion1.gifFor example, Brignell claimed that the hole in the ozone layer “was probably always there”. The graph on the left shows ozone levels in October at Halley Station in Antarctica (from this page). Clearly the hole was not present in the 50s and 60s, but despite seeing this, Brignell would not admit that he was wrong. Smith wants to add this defence of Brignell to the wikipedia page:

It’s hard to understand how Lambert can be so sure that the hole in the ozone layer did not exist prior to 1955, given that there is no data available on ozone levels from that time. Simple examination of this graph which shows ozone levels in October at Halley Station in Antarctica, would suggest that the data is sinusoidal with a period of about 105 years. Lambert fails to explain why the level of ozone in Antarctica prior to 1960 was rising despite the fact that the use of CFCs had been increasing since their introduction in 1934. In fact we simply do not know whether the hole in the ozone layer is a recent creation or the latest incarnation of a cyclic phenomena.

Did you notice how he replaces the claim Brignell made with a different one? And you have to have a fairly active imagination to spot a cyclic pattern in the curve above.


  1. #1 z
    February 21, 2006

    “Simple examination of this graph which shows ozone levels in October at Halley Station in Antarctica, would suggest that the data is sinusoidal with a period of about 105 years.”

    In accord with the 105 year Outofmyass cycle so well known to ozone holologists, no doubt.

  2. #2 z
    February 21, 2006

    “spot a cyclic pattern”

    All my admittedly half-assed curve-fitting efforts show a continuing rise off the left end of the chart, rather than the turn-down shown. If I insist on a sine-fit, however, I can impose one with about a 4-5 year cycle, though. I believe Dante reserved a specific circle of Hell for those who extrapolated a sine curve on the basis of 1/2 cycle, didn’t he?

  3. #3 Steve Bloom
    February 21, 2006

    Wouldn’t that have been a half-circle of Hell?

  4. #4 John Quiggin
    February 21, 2006

    His complaints about selectivity are rather odd, too, coming in the middle of page which has three separate posts on global warming.

  5. #5 James
    February 22, 2006

    Actually, your comments and graph refer to ozone depletion, not the “ozone hole” as such.

    The ozone hole is defined in Wikipedia as follows:

    “The term ozone hole refers to the annual, temporary reductions in the polar regions, where large losses in ozone occur each spring (up to 70% over 25 million km2 of Antarctica and 30% over the Arctic) followed by recovery in the summer.”

    Then further down the same page:

    “An ozone hole was first observed in 1956
    G.M.B. Dobson (Exploring the Atmosphere, 2nd Edition, Oxford, 1968) mentioned that when springtime ozone levels over Halley Bay were first measured, he was surprised to find that they were ~320 DU, about 150 DU below spring levels, ~450 DU, in the Arctic. These, however, were the pre-ozone hole normal climatological values. What Dobson describes is essentially the baseline from which the ozone hole is measured: actual ozone hole values are in the 150-100 DU range. The discrepancy between the arctic and antarctic noted by Dobson was primarily a matter of timing: during the antarctic spring ozone levels rose smoothly, peaking in April, whereas in the antarctic they stayed apprximately constant during early spring, rising abruptly in November when the polar vortex broke down. The behavior seen in the antarctic ozone hole is completely different: instead of staying constant, early springtime ozone levels suddenly drop from their already low winter values, by as much as 50%, and normal values are not reached again until December.”

    So if Bringnall wrote that the ozone hole “was probably always there” then (at least according to the wiki definition) he’s most likely correct.

  6. #6 John Cross
    February 22, 2006

    James: I don’t follow what you are saying. I read that paragraph as saying that in 1956 the levels in the spring time (the time of the current holes) were about 320 DU. However currently they are generally between 100 and 150 DU at the same time.

    Another paragraph from the same page states that The Antarctic ozone hole is an area of the antarctic stratosphere in which the recent ozone levels have dropped to as low as 33% of their pre-1975 values.

    If we accept that the pre-1975 value was about 400 DUs then 33% of that is about 130 DU. Only recently have we seen DU levels this low. So Brignell was not correct.

    A more common definition of the hole is the area where the level drops below 220DUs. Even using this definition Brignell was not correct.

    There is an annual reduction of ozone that has existed since the atmosphere did, but it does not meet the criteria of hole.


  7. #7 Robert P.
    February 22, 2006

    James, read that paragraph more carefully. The “ozone hole” refers to “annual, temporary REDUCTIONS” of up to 50 percent during the antarctic spring and early summer. No such “reductions” were seen in 1956-58. They were first noted in the early 1980’s.

    Notice also that the heading of the second paragraph, “An ozone hole was first observed in 1956”, refers to one of several MYTHS about the ozone layer.

  8. #8 James
    February 23, 2006

    Good call on the “myths”, Robert P. It’s sometimes difficult to catch that kind of thing reading off a browser.

    John Cross, I suggest that the wiki entry is poorly written. Both the definition I quote and the one you quote are ambiguous. It’s not clear in either whether the technical clauses qualify or merely elaborate the definition. That’s why I so readily accepted the “myth” as truth.

    Otherwise, no argument.

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