Articgate: Now THAT’s cherrypicking

This graph by Peter Gleick reveals the cherry pick used by Harrison Schmitt to claim that “Artic [sic] sea ice has returned to 1989 levels of coverage” and Heartland’s Joseph Bast to claim

“In fact, National Snow and Ice Data Center records show conclusively that in April 2009, Arctic sea ice extent had indeed returned to and surpassed 1989 levels.”


See more on this from John Cook at Skeptical Science.


  1. #1 Wow
    February 8, 2011

    Just like a sieve, it’s what you leave out that makes it work.

    They just left out “but since then has been below 1989 levels”.

    Maybe they’d been better suited to phrasing it as “there has been no statistically significant recovery of ice since April 2009!”.

  2. #2 Jeff
    February 8, 2011

    Indeed! As scientists, we need to emphasize the importance of proper interpretation of data. In this example, the lack of any information of standard error and reproducibility of measurements makes it difficult.

  3. #3 Richard D
    February 8, 2011

    Oh dear.

    That really would be hilarious if it weren’t actually such a serious problem.

  4. #4 frank -- Decoding SwiftHack
    February 8, 2011

    All you ever need to know about the Heartland ‘Institute’:

  5. #5 TrueSceptic
    February 8, 2011

    I thought that “Scmitt ” looked wrong. I thought it should be “Schmidt” but when I checked it’s actually “Schmitt”.

    But anyway, what could have happened to him? Did those cosmic rays cause some sort of brain damage? This is poor even by denier standards: even if were true of that one month, to present that as “evidence” that ice extent is growing is just lying, really, and no other word really suffices.

  6. #6 TrueSceptic
    February 8, 2011

    Oh, and perhaps you could have called it
    Arctigate [sic] ? 🙂

  7. #7 The Science Pundit
    February 8, 2011

    Peter Sinclair made a nice video about this that also has a chart.

  8. #8 chek
    February 8, 2011

    In order to torture that claim out of that data, Heartland must surely have a basement better equipped than Abu Ghraib.

  9. #9 Lars Karlsson
    February 8, 2011

    “List of Lunar white papers being prepared as input for the Planetary Science Division Decadal Survery process.” – Can you spot the odd paper out?

  10. #10 TrueSceptic
    February 8, 2011

    Please ignore what I said @6.

  11. #11 Alan
    February 8, 2011

    Would someone please point me to a debunking of the fiction that recent weather anomalies are caused by [volcanoes in Kamchatka and Iceland](

    Note that this particular crank is not saying its the carbon dioxide emitted by the volcanoes.

  12. #12 M
    February 8, 2011

    Schmitt also cites the 5-10 year CO2 lifetime fallacy, and completely confuses the point of the (weak) Douglass et al. paper when he states:

    “A team led by physicist David Douglass of the University of Rochester has shown that the troposphere has remained unchanged or cooled slightly since 1979 when satellite and balloon-borne measurements of atmospheric temperature began”

    (I wonder if he’s harkening back to the “satellites show cooling” meme that was killed by the first CCSP synthesis product)


  13. #13 Donald Oats
    February 8, 2011

    Another fine example of “hiding the decline”! See, those sceptics have learnt something after all!

    Meanwhile, attempt to scoop brains up off floor, along with morning coffee spilt whilst reading this articgate [sic [sic]]…

  14. #14 Another Kiwi
    February 8, 2011

    Schmitt is a Republican and has to toe the line. He has said that at the fall of the Communist countries all of the freedom haters went into the environment movement.
    Ya gotta wonder what sort of an astronaut he would have been with a lack of flexibility like that

  15. #15 WebHubTel
    February 8, 2011

    Tim, One of the characteristics of the CC debate that makes it most frustrating is that the signals don’t have a huge amount of dynamic range. Either the signal is buried in noise or that it fluctuates less than an order-of-magnitude. This makes it hard to forcefully reason about without hedging. I have been looking at the peak oil debate over the last several years and have put together a treatise called The Oil ConunDrum. The strong part of this analysis is that I look specifically at data that ranges over orders of magnitude and largely stays out of the noise. One can then concentrate on the model and the physical understanding and not get buried by lots of statistical nit-picking. Not that it will help the climate debate (even though I have a section on CO2 rise), but it will give you a perspective from the peak oil side.

    Also check out John Baez’s Azimuth Project http://AzimuthProject,org where we are working the two pronged CC+PO angle.

    Cheers, and keep up the good work!

  16. #16 Chris O'Neill
    February 9, 2011

    Check the apologist for the Heartland institute at the comments on Peter Gleick. He tries to claim it wasn’t a cherrypick because Schmitt just happened to write his paper in May 2009 and lo and behold, the latest monthly data showed greater ice extent than 1989.

    Absolutely shameless.

  17. #17 Chris W
    February 9, 2011

    Hmmm, that Heartland fellow, Lakely, tells us Schmitt submitted his paper in April 2009 but in the introduction to ‘Observations Necessary for Useful Global Climate Models’, Schmitt references “Idso and Singer (2009)” … which wasn’t published until June 2009. Passing strange for mine.

    But then again maybe I’m reading too much into it and they just had good knowledge of each other’s work and publishing timelines.

  18. #18 Bart Verheggen
    February 9, 2011

    This is indeed the most blatant and visually compelling example of cherrypicking I’ve ever seen. I think I’ll use it in future presentations as an example of the tactic; it’s too good to be left to collect dust.

    Chimed in on it as well, based on this same graph:

  19. #19 Tom Gray
    February 9, 2011

    Important to note that Heartland’s comment (and Schmitt’s) focuses on EXTENT and not Arctic ice volume, else the cherry would not have been there to be picked. I’d say that is actually the greater distortion. The graph above should always be shown along with the volume graph over time.–Tom Gray, consultant to American Wind Energy Association (but my own opinion here)

  20. #20 Wow
    February 9, 2011

    That, however, would be devastating to their case.

  21. #21 Tom Gray
    February 9, 2011

    I wasn’t saying Heartland and Schmitt should use it–not that naive. I’m saying anyone who criticizes them for cherry-picking should use both graphs. The month-by-month of extent gives a misleading impression of the seriousness of the problem. We can’t afford to fall short of maximum effectiveness in communication.–Tom

  22. #22 Wow
    February 9, 2011

    I was just being silly, Tom.

    If you don’t try to laugh, it’s easy to get depressed about such willful and proud ignorance of the deniers.

  23. #23 Lionel A Smith
    February 9, 2011

    Andrew Smith in Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth provides a portrait of Harrison Schmitt which includes this, on page 277 of my 2006 (PB) edition:

    …and Schmitt’s unsettling doubt about the theory that gloabal warming is human induced.’

    Evidently, judging by Andrew Smith’s narrative, fellow astronauts found Schmitt a rather difficult character to mix with.

  24. #24 Lionel A Smith
    February 9, 2011


    Yes it is all too easy to become dismayed as politics in the US unfold. The system over there is, as readers at Romm’s excellent blog realise only too well, all Koched up, in fact KUBARed. For the moment anyway until the pushback really gets going.

  25. #25 bill
    February 9, 2011

    Yes, if only there was some short, catchy name we could ascribe to those credulous types who are so easily sucked in by the Kochs… 😉

  26. #26 Juice
    February 9, 2011

    I clicked on this thinking it was about Eric Steig. O well.

  27. #27 Connor
    February 9, 2011

    Yes, if only there was some short, catchy name we could ascribe to those credulous types who are so easily sucked in by the Kochs… ;-)”


  28. #28 Vic Anderson
    February 9, 2011

    April FOOLS!

  29. #29 Vince whirlwind
    February 10, 2011

    Vic, it’s now February, so what kind of fools is it?

  30. #32 Wow
    February 11, 2011

    > Vic, it’s now February, so what kind of fools is it?

    That’s what makes it an April Fool!

  31. #33 Jay B.
    February 15, 2011

    As you consider that the Holocene Period is probably ending and that is located between two Ice Periods, it can be actually true. We should take into account that the impact of human’s activity on the environment is huge. I believe that this nobody can deny. We should start to switch gradually on different type of life habits.

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