Andrew Bolt: clueless and dishonest

Andrew Bolt, angered because I observed that he doesn’t understand basic statistics, proceeds to prove my point, by referring to my bog standard Least Squares trend line as

a graph of temperatures over just the past nine months, with a line drawn kind-of through them:

So Bolt’s been pontificating about temperature trends for years now, and posted lots of graphs with linear trends without a clue as to what they are.

Now that’s just clueless, but the next thing that Bolt does is spectacularly dishonest.

In my post I was responding to Duffy’s claim that:

For the past year, there’s been a sharp cooling.

I graphed the temperatures for this year so far and observed:

Far from being a “sharp cooling”, the trend is a warming rate of 3.5 degrees C per decade. Of course, this doesn’t mean anything, because changes in temperature on monthly or annual scales are weather and not climate.

Bolt didn’t quote the claim that I was responding to and didn’t quote the the sentence where I stated that trends on Duffy’s time scale don’t mean anything. He just quoted this much:

Far from being a “sharp cooling”, the trend is a warming rate of 3.5 degrees C per decade.

And calls it my “prediction” and my “projected rise” and titles his post “Dead within Lambert’s decade”. And just to extinguish the faint possibility that Bolt had stopped reading in the middle of my paragraph and hadn’t noticed the second sentence, in his comments several people pointed out what I had written and Bolt even responded to one of them. After this had happened, Bolt added an update where he referred to the trend I had described as meaningless as my “prediction” and my “projected rise”, references that he knew to be false. Spectacularly dishonest.

Comments

  1. #1 sod
    November 11, 2008

    his claim is simply stupid.

    it is impossible to take a person seriously, who is talking about 1 or 7 year “trends” in climate.

  2. #2 _Arthur
    November 11, 2008

    Just like the trend when your favorite team loses 2 games in a row.

  3. #3 William Morris
    November 11, 2008

    Hi Tim,

    A lot of the criticism centered on your typo citing the rise as 19 degrees C per decade. I know this was an honest error, but wouldn’t it be better to acknowledge this in the post? That way it doesn’t look like you are trying to cover anything up.

    William

  4. #4 Lank
    November 11, 2008

    Al Gore’s scientific advisor, James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), publishes monthly mean global surface temperature data. The recently published GISS global temperature anomaly for October 2008 is one of the largest monthly rises ever recorded. Some ‘sceptics’ are claiming that the spike is a mistake and that it’s all to do with wrong temperature recordings in eastern Europe and Russia.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2008/11/10/giss-releases-october-2008-data/

    If they are correct, could this be a deliberate attempt by Hansen/GISS to mislead the public into believing their AGW hysterics or is it just an honest mistake like yours Tim?

    In any event, if the October 2008 average is found to be misleading and false what other errors are hidden in the Hansen/GISS database and can the previous published data (or anything Hansen publishes) be trusted?

  5. #5 John P
    November 11, 2008

    GISS data is GHCN v2 data. The mistake is trivial – some September numbers were simply repeated in October for a few locations (mostly in Russia, I believe). Realclimate has weighed in.

    This has the trolls and denialists frothing at the mouth about how the science is suspect. GISS merely corrects this trivial error and moves on. “Scientists propagate trivial error and then correct it.” Quite a headline – maybe the Onion will do an article about it?

  6. #6 Boris
    November 11, 2008

    If they are correct, could this be a deliberate attempt by Hansen/GISS to mislead the public into believing their AGW hysterics or is it just an honest mistake like yours Tim?

    Since the error appears to originate with NOAA, no.

    I think it’s insulting to suggest that preeminent scientists are falsifying data.

    As for the trustability of GISS data, hundreds of self appointed auditors have devoted the parts of their lives previously reserved for socializing to find errors in GISS. Either they are inept or there is nothing wrong with the data.

    Or both.

  7. #7 ChrisC
    November 11, 2008

    “…could this be a deliberate attempt by Hansen/GISS to mislead the public into believing their AGW hysterics”

    In a word, no. When making these kinds of allegations, it’s important to keep in mind three things:

    1. The mistake was noticed and corrected by scientists with 24 hours. With a data set as large as the GHCN, it’s pretty much inevitable that errors will creep in from time to time, which is where scrutiny comes in. The mistake was noticed, tracked down and fixed;

    2. It’s importamt to remember what the GISS data set is. The GISS data set is not based upon observations taken by GISS. GISS instead relies on other meteorological agencies, like NOAA, to report data to them. This mistake originated with NOAA (and it seems to have been an honest one). Pointing the finger straight at Hansen is wrong and rather petty;

    3. There are several other global data sets (Hadley CRU and NCDC for surface obs… RSS and UAH for satellite obs) that perform similar (but not identical) analysis to GISS. While you would never expect things to be the same, any major change in one data set _should_ be mirrored in another. To date, the three major surface data centres have shown very similar numbers in terms of temperature trends ect…

  8. #8 Ian Gould
    November 11, 2008

    Given the level of ignorance and incompetent on display here, is it possible Bolt simply didn’t read (or didn’t understand) your caveats?

    He is clearly both ignorant and foolish but is he also clearly dishonest?

  9. #9 albi
    November 11, 2008

    Hi Tim,

    A lot of the criticism centered on your typo citing the rise as 19 degrees C per decade. I know this was an honest error, but wouldn’t it be better to acknowledge this in the post? That way it doesn’t look like you are trying to cover anything up.

    William

    He did

  10. #10 Lank
    November 11, 2008

    Chris C (#7) – GISS have published a news update on their GISTEMP website:
    “2008-11-11: Most data posted yesterday were replaced by the data posted last month since it looks like some mishap might have occurred when NOAA updated their GHCN data. We will postpone updating this web site until we get confirmation from NOAA that their updating programs worked properly. Because today is a Federal Holiday, some pages are still showing yesterday’s data.” … hardly “tracked down and fixed”. Can you link me to the new ‘fixed’ data/graph please?

    This doesn’t excuse GISS/NASA’s quality control for not checking the source data.

  11. #11 Boris
    November 11, 2008

    This doesn’t excuse GISS/NASA’s quality control for not checking the source data.

    Oh, please. First it must be fraud and now everyone but Anthony Watts is an incompetent? If you want to create your own global surface temperature dataset, then by all means do so. Otherwise, try not to make yourself look petty by putting down the people who know what they are doing and who sometimes–holy shit!–make mistakes.

  12. #12 Hank Roberts
    November 11, 2008

    What do they want, all scientific data held in some archive and not made available until approved and guaranteed perfect?

    That would speed up the rate of denial for sure.

    Many eyes find bugs faster.

    Basic principle. Freedom is good. It reveals errors. This too is good.

  13. #13 z
    November 11, 2008

    “…could this be a deliberate attempt by Hansen/GISS to mislead the public into believing their AGW hysterics”

    given that the public in general has never heard of giss…

  14. #14 z
    November 11, 2008

    can we go back to the meme where there can’t be any global warming because there’s no such thing as average temperature? i always got a good laugh out of that one.

  15. #15 Harry Snape
    November 12, 2008

    “I graphed the temperatures for this year so far and observed”

    Several issues with this statement.
    1) You didn’t graph the temperatures, you graphed the anomalies.
    2) The anomalies are relative to the same month average in previous years, so you graph is meaningless without a comparison to previous years.
    3) This was a response to Duffy commenting about the past year. The “past year” is usually interpreted as the last 12 months, not the elapsed months of this year. Your take on it would have looked very silly in January, for example.

    A quick comparison of this years anomalies compared to last years using your source shows:

    Yr   Jan  Feb  Mar  Apr  May  Jun  Jul  Aug  Sep  Oct  Nov  Dec  Avg Yr
    2007 .622 .509 .436 .467 .371 .372 .392 .362 .401 .361 .262 .222 .398
    2008 .069 .194 .443 .273 .279 .311 .395 .394 .371 .303
    -.553-.315+.007-.194+.008-.061+.003+.032-.030 -.095

    This support’s Duffy’s contention for whatever that is worth, since the avergae anomaly is smaller in 2008 and the latter 2007.
    It is exactly your type of response that is the cause of much of the energy behind the skeptic point of view. Instead of just attacking the relevance of Duffy’s use of 1 years worth of data, you introduce a totally specious argument that just serves to indicate a willingness to bend the truth to benefit your point of view. What is so difficult about pointing out the errors in a decent manner and leaving it at that.
    Instead we have a nasty, defensive culture within Climate Science that seems to have no problem with defending gross incompetence (such as the GISS debacle) and leading scientists who deny access to their data and methods. The lack of criticism for this stand by the climate science community is enough to confirm that there is something very wrong with the culture, if not the science, and that it is in a very unhealthy state for such an important area of endeavour.

    As for GISS, attempting to sweep this under the table as a simple data error is just more of the same obstinate attitude that fails to recognise major flaws in the way science is being conducted. The errors were of a gross nature, a simple reality check would have picked it up. Any suitably funded competent organisation would have invested time into sanity checks on data and alerting prior to publication. GISS certainly has the funding, but it appears it lacks the competence.

  16. #16 Tim Lambert
    November 12, 2008

    Careful, Harry your double standard is showing. You have no problem with Bolt’s blatant dishonesty, instead you complain about the climate science community.

    You are confused about temperature anomalies. The anomaly is already a comparison with previous years, so you can compare with one month with the next one. [Andrew Bolt snip here] Though this does not tell you anything meaningful about long term climate trends, just about weather.

    I suppose you could interpret Duffy as talking about the last twelve months, but this does not help him. The trend for the last twelve months from HADCRU is not “sharp cooling” but warming of 1.6K per decade, which seems more like sharp warming to me. [Andrew Bolt snip here] Of course, this doesn’t mean anything, because changes in temperature on monthly or annual scales are weather and not climate.

  17. #17 Harry Snape
    November 12, 2008

    “Careful Harry your double standard is showing”.

    Once again you prefer to misinterpret what I said rather than acknowledge any degree of clumsiness in your tactics.
    1) I don’t believe I mention ed Bolt at all, I’m pretty sure my comments were to do with your responses and how they can be made more effective.
    2) I have no idea what your multiple [Andrew Bolt snip here] reference mean, is this some secret code? Is this some latent paranoia? Why do you care about Bolt? I certainly don’t. Answer his criticisms with facts, simple. Answer his bad science with good science. Simple.
    3) Yes I did criticise the behavior of some Climate Scientists, I think that the attitude of not allowing independent reviewers access to methods and data and assumptions to be reprehensible and to have absolutely no place in science. I find it rather sad that you prefer to side-step this very important matter by an attempt to mischaracterise my criticisms as a defense of Bolt.

    Bolt is a journalist, I don’t expect him to have any rigor to his work, so I don’t see much point in criticising him beyond pointing out errors in his arguments.

    So Tim, exactly what do you feel about Climate Scientists refusing to allow independent verification of their work? Do you think that a thorough peer review process can be achieved without access to methods, data and assumptions? Do you think this behavior enhances the quality of science?
    Why don’t you think it is an important enough problem to comment about?

  18. #18 sod
    November 12, 2008

    The “past year” is usually interpreted as the last 12 months, not the elapsed months of this year. Your take on it would have looked very silly in January, for example.

    your numbers don t seem to show a sharp decline over the last 12 months. (and the last year is obviously a different thing)

    i fear your claim was simply false…

  19. #19 Barton Paul Levenson
    November 12, 2008

    Harry Snape writes:

    1) You didn’t graph the temperatures, you graphed the anomalies. 2) The anomalies are relative to the same month average in previous years,

    The anomalies are NOT relative to “the same month average in previous years.” They are relative to a mean taken for an earlier 30-year period. To accuse NASA GISS of “lack[ing] the competence” when you yourself clearly don’t know what you are talking about is amusing but less than convincing.

  20. #20 Barton Paul Levenson
    November 12, 2008

    Harry Snape’s reign of error continues:

    I think that the attitude of not allowing independent reviewers access to methods and data and assumptions to be reprehensible and to have absolutely no place in science

    It’s also fictional. Methods and data have to be made available to peer reviewers. You don’t have to publish, e.g., the code you used, because if another individual or team is going to reproduce your results they are supposed to write their own code — that way errors in your code can be found, whereas if you use the original it will make the same errors.

    The idea that climate science data, in particular, is being hidden, is laughable. The web and the literature are loaded with climate science data, so much that you usually need computer programs to analyze it.

  21. #21 Boris
    November 12, 2008

    So Tim, exactly what do you feel about Climate Scientists refusing to allow independent verification of their work?

    Who is supposedly refusing independent verification this week?

  22. #22 Tim Lambert
    November 12, 2008

    Please do not respond to Harry’s attempt to hijack this thread with his loaded questions. Harry, no more off topic comments, please.

  23. #23 Harry Snape
    November 12, 2008

    Thank you all for you warm welcome, it’s always nice to hang around in a group that is so committed to maintaining signal over noise, rather than childish attacks.

    It seems I made a mistake in pointing out the lower anomaly figures for 2008 over 2007, attempting to indicate what Duffy was talking about. Tim’s effort is clearly superior, changing Duffy’s contention of a cooling in the last 12 months (which would be against the previous figures) to a graph of consecutive months of 2008.

    I can see the complete scientific merit in this line of rebuttal. Reducing an already absurd single year average anomaly to a an even more absurd month by month comparison and then calculating an incorrect and totally meaningless decadal trend from those 9 monthly figures. Absolutely brilliant. No way this fantastic and mature response would be seen as silly.

    By the way, thanks Barton for pointing out the tremendous silliness of my claim that methods, data and code are required for verification. Of course it will be a trivial exercise to convert raw data to comparable results starting from scratch to review the results of work that took years of funding and effort so that a detailed peer review can be performed. I’m sure it goes on all the time.

    Yup there really is no problem. My mistake. And thanks for your answer Tim. Honestly, no answer is a sufficient confirmation of your attitudes. Me, I prefer science.

  24. #24 James Haughton
    November 12, 2008

    I think someone hasn’t been taking their irony supplements.

  25. #25 ChrisC
    November 12, 2008

    “By the way, thanks Barton for pointing out the tremendous silliness of my claim that methods, data and code are required for verification. Of course it will be a trivial exercise to convert raw data to comparable results starting from scratch to review the results of work that took years of funding and effort so that a detailed peer review can be performed. I’m sure it goes on all the time.”

    Wow… did you think of that incitefull comment all by yourself… or did you and a couple of the denizens of Climate Audit spend hours thinking up that little charge.

    Here’s a suggestion…crack a atmospheric science paper and actually read the thing. You may find a section called “methodology” or “methods” or . Now tryto keep up with me here… these sections usually exlpain the method!

    As to code… it’s acutally a little more complicated. Back when I wrote my thesis, my supervisor told me never to include more than simple code snippets in order to illustrate the implementation of algorithms I had developed. The reason being that quite often in science and engineering, coding errors can propegate through the use of second hand code. Now that I’m in the private sector, the distribution of the code we use is company property and not to be distributed. The same applies in many academic institutions, where research who have slaved over a program are understandably unwilling to throw their intellectual property to the mass before they’ve had a chance to use it. However, we do publish our methodology in journals so that others with a similar level of knowledge can reproduce our work. If the method is clear, writing the code should be relatively easy.

    There are many reasons not to publish code, although for larger programs (such as community weather/climate models) the code is freely available.

  26. #26 Dr Dave
    November 13, 2008

    The Harry Snape that said:

    “Instead we have a nasty, defensive culture within Climate Science that seems to have no problem with defending gross incompetence”

    can’t be the same Harry Snape who said:

    “it’s always nice to hang around in a group that is so committed to maintaining signal over noise, rather than childish attacks”

    surely?

  27. #27 Harry Snape
    November 13, 2008

    [*Comment deleted because you ignored my request. TDL*]

  28. #28 ChrisC
    November 13, 2008

    Apparently any criticism – even constructive – must be hatched by some evil coven of philistines from Climate Audit.

    Well given that your… ahem… “constructive” criticism is pretty much identical to that spouted on Climate Audit, CO2 science or one of the numerous “skeptic” blogs for the last several years, I feel I could be forgiven for jumping to that conclusion. However, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, you really must have come up with such pertinent and insightful criticism all but your self! Good for you! Who’s a clever boy now?

    So, since my spelling was obviously so terrible that you were unable to penetrate my ramblings, allow me to once again spell out my response to you again:

    1. Almost every paper published in climate science (or meteorology, atmospheric science, computational physics, etc…) has a section that will be titled “methodology” (or something similar). Any paper that does not s unlikely to pass peer review. Don’t take my word for it! Look up some for your self;

    2. Code is not, and has never been, a requirement of publishing, for many reasons. Code can be considered IP. Code and be unreadable. Code can have errors independent of method. Some authors will include it, some won’t. What matters is that results can be replicated based on the methodology;

    If you were making a point that including a detailed methodology is important in science and that results can’t be accepted until independently verified, then I agree. But if I’ve read your words correctly, you weren’t making that point. Instead you post snarky comments like:

    “So Tim, exactly what do you feel about Climate Scientists [sic] refusing to allow independent verification of their work? Do you think that a thorough peer review process can be achieved without access to methods, data and assumptions?”

    This is not constructive. It’s boring, stupid and we’ve heard it all before. But most importantly, climate science is one of the most closely scrutinised scientific disciplines (not without reason) and also one of the most interdisciplinary. Without some specific examples (and I beg you not to start another hockey stick go round), your claims have not been justified with any evidence.

    So please, actually read some climate science papers before you start brandishing the “protected from scrutiny” card.

  29. #29 Barton Paul Levenson
    November 13, 2008

    Harry Snape writes:

    By the way, thanks Barton for pointing out the tremendous silliness of my claim that methods, data and code are required for verification.

    A scientific paper describes the method and says where you can find the data. Making the code public is NOT, and never has been, required. Nonetheless, the code is available if a peer reviewer asks for it.

    You may “prefer science,” but you don’t appear to know much about how it’s actually done.

  30. #30 ChrisC
    November 13, 2008

    thanks Barton for pointing out the tremendous silliness of my claim that methods, data and code are required for verification
    < \blockquote>
    and …

    “your editorial wizardry”
    < \blockquote>
    etc…

    I wish I could reach such levels of sarcasm. A man can dream…