A Few Things Ill Considered

October 2008, yet another phony record

This is just one of dozens of responses to common climate change denial arguments, which can all be found at How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic.


Objection:

In October, 2008, Al Gore’s science advisor, James Hansen announced yet another "hottest" month on record. After all the alarmist banner headlines sank in, yet another "correction" quietly contradicted this, and October was not particularily warm after all. This is yet another example of why the temperature record can not be trusted.

Answer:

Wow. Where to begin with this one? There are many versions of this myth around already at the time of writing (November 2008) and there will undoubtably be many more as time goes by. They will not all say the same things so I will try to answer all of the more common memes that come up in this one place.

Firstly, James Hansen is one of the most respected and senior climate scientists working in the field today. His resume [PDF] is long and solid and his position for the last 27 years is Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Describing him as "Al Gore’s science advisor" can only be an intentionally implied disparagement. It both minimizes his expertise and attempts to undermine his credibility by association (because we all know Al Gore is out to lunch, right?). Both of these tactics are common logical fallacies. When an argument is lead by such shallow efforts, it does not leave one very hopeful for what will follow!

Secondly, and perhaps most damningly for this talking point, the alledged "announcement" is complete, 100% fabrication. Neither Hansen, nor GISS, ever made any such announcement. Period. The claim they did is is either an outright lie, or the willing repetition of an outright lie. You think I am wrong about that? Well, let’s have the link, then!

Thirdly, the alarmist headlines are also non-existent. Not too surprising given the absence of any announcement.

Okay, so the mountains are an illusion, what about the molehill?

There was indeed an error in the calculated anomaly for October 2008, placing it very high and at a new record. Through a programming glitch of some sort, Real Climate reports:

For many Russian stations (and some others), September temperatures were apparently copied over into October, giving an erroneous positive anomaly. The error appears to have been made somewhere between the reporting by the National Weather Services and NOAA’s collation of the GHCN database. GISS, which produces one of the more visible analyses of this raw data, processed the input data as normal and ended up with an October anomaly that was too high.

Nobody’s perfect, I think mistakes are bound to happen, especially in such intense data processing projects. The proof of the pudding is what happens next, and in this case the offending data was pulled in under 24 hours (with no premature announcement, remember?) and the error was investigated and corrected. (If only it would end there….**) So after the correction, how does October, 2008 fit into the scheme of things? October 2008 was well above the 1951-1980 baseline average, the fifth warmest October in at least the last 128 years, very likely much longer.

Does this event really give us reason to distrust the temperature analysis? Well, I think it reminds us that this is a human endeavour and mistakes are always possible, so it is a good idea to double check both the specific process and to compare the result to the many other independent global temperature indicators, they all point to the same conclusion.

"Trust, but verify" as the saying goes. After verification, one must still conclude that the long term warming trend is undeniable.

**While I am a firm believer in not judging a blog by its commenters, it is still revealing to see the kind of thinking that lies behind the denialists. Check out these highlights extracted from Watt’s Up With That by Real Climate:

“I believe they had two sets of data: One would be released if Republicans won, and another if Democrats won.”, “could this be a sneaky way to set up the BO presidency with an urgent need to regulate CO2?”, “There are a great many of us who will under no circumstance allow the oppression of government rule to pervade over our freedom—-PERIOD!!!!!!” (exclamation marks reduced enormously), “these people are blinded by their own bias”, “this sort of scientific fraud”, “Climate science on the warmer side has degenerated to competitive lying”, etc. (To be fair, there were people who made sensible comments as well).


This is just one of dozens of responses to common climate change denial arguments, which can all be found at How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic.


“October 2008, yet another phony record” is also posted on the Grist website, where additional comments can be found, though the author, Coby Beck, does not monitor or respond there.

Comments

  1. #1 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    November 18, 2008

    Coby, Matt at “Framing Science” objects to the term “denialist” when referring to Global Warming Skeptics. I object to the word “sceptic/skeptic” because of the responses that you place here. I have even laid out the case on my own blog, at Global Warming and Skeptics.

    I am just wondering if there is a better way to refer to them than either denialists or skeptics?

  2. #2 coby
    November 18, 2008

    I do find it a sticky issue, which word to use. I guess I try to chose according to context. What was Matt’s argument, and alternative? For some of the people and most of the arguments, skeptic is far too forgiving. I personally do not buy into the alledged denialist-holocaust denier connection. I never intend it that way and do not think it is a remotely reasonable assumption.

  3. #3 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    November 19, 2008

    From reading this post at Framing Science I can’t really tell. I think he wants people to listen to the show to learn his alternative term.

    Of these synonymns at Thesaurus.com,

    agnostic, apostate, atheist, cynic, disbeliever, dissenter, doubter, doubting Thomas*, freethinker, heathen, heretic, infidel, materialist, misanthrope, misbeliever, nihilist, pagan, pessimist, profaner, questioner, rationalist, scoffer, unbeliever

    the word that I find most appropriate is “scoffer.”

  4. #4 outeast
    November 19, 2008

    William@Stoat uses ‘septic’, which I find curiously aposite.

  5. #5 Maria M
    November 19, 2008

    It seems that in today’s world, there are too many people willing to undermine other people’s credibility by making false claims. It’s a breath of fresh air to witness one of these injustices being corrected, or at least somewhat cleared up. Thanks!

  6. #6 llewelly
    November 19, 2008

    The biggest problem with ‘skeptic’ is that most of those who insist AGW is not real, or not caused by humans offer all sorts of weird alternatives, like ‘the data is faked by millions of dishonest scientists all over the world’ , ‘It was warmer in 1940′, ‘It’s really geothermal’, ‘It’s really cosmic rays’, and so on. These alternatives are much more complicated, very tenuous, and rejected by all or nearly available evidence. They require one to be credulous – the opposite of skeptical.

  7. #7 llewelly
    November 19, 2008

    Mike Haubrich:

    Of these synonymns at Thesaurus.com,

    agnostic, apostate, atheist, cynic, disbeliever, dissenter, doubter, doubting Thomas*, freethinker, heathen, heretic, infidel, materialist, misanthrope, misbeliever, nihilist, pagan, pessimist, profaner, questioner, rationalist, scoffer, unbeliever

    OT: Gotta love how they throw ‘atheist’ and ‘misanthrope’ into the same category.

  8. #8 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    November 19, 2008

    Oh, llewelly, I’m kind of used to it.

  9. #9 stewart
    November 20, 2008

    Given the high degree of credulity needed to be a ‘skeptic’, and the ability to argue 7 mutually contradictory hypotheses, I think CRANK is now the most accurate term. Skeptic may have been tenable 10-15 years ago, not now.

  10. #10 James Hrynyshyn
    November 20, 2008

    I use the term “pseudoskeptic” because it seems to capture the essence of the attitudes exhibited by those who refuse to accept the science of climate change.

    Such people consider themselves skeptics, in that they aren’t convinced by the evidence. But of course of true skeptic is willing to be convinced. For whatever reason — ideology, stupidity, stubbornness — these folks are not only unwilling to accept solid science, but are unwilling to subject their own positions to skeptical or critical analysis. They are false skeptics. Hence: Pseudoskeptics.

    I first came across the term at Orac’s blog, Respectful Insolencebut I have no idea whether he invented it.

  11. #11 paul
    November 20, 2008

    Mike Haubrich, FCD
    James Hrynyshyn
    stewart
    outeast
    Maria M

    Your comments are noted – FYI, as an AGW septic, I would prefer “Pagan”, but I’ll let you decide.

    I can’t say I remember Bohr, Heisenberg and Fermi having conversations about how to label their opponents though, I think they just got on with the work. Maybe you could do the same – I’ve written plenty of words on this site, feel free to point out where I’ve been ideological, a crank, stupid, unwilling to accept solid science etc.

  12. #12 Anna Haynes
    November 20, 2008

    > if there is a better way to refer to them than either denialists or skeptics?

    “Inactivist”, as frankbi uses. I got into a radio call-in tangle with Robert C. Balling Jr. night before last, after calling him a denier (he denied it; said he just has a different view of the likely consequences) – which I would have done better to avoid.
    (report, q, and plea for assistance on my blog, BTW)

  13. #13 gzuckier
    November 20, 2008

    it’s a cliche by now, but as usual with the rightwingnuts, the paranoid fantasies they spin about their opponents tells us a lot more about their actics and actions.

  14. #14 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    November 20, 2008

    Paul, while I can’t say that you have been any of those things because, frankly I haven’t been paying close enough attention to your ocmmnents, I would bet that Bohr, Heisenberg and Fermi’s opponets were not so concerned with making a concentrated political effort in the popular press to attack their character.

    I would bet their opponents were not so enamored of belching carbon.

  15. #15 G Goodknight
    November 22, 2008

    Scoffer works for me; it’s what I use when someone refers to me as a skeptic.

    The bandwagon approach to AGW has its limitations, and there is more and more good physics being done that points away from CO2 as the major cause of climate change.

    For me, the smoking gun was “Celestial Drivers of the Phanerozioc Climate”, Shaviv & Veizer (2003). When independent geochemistry (ocean temperature) and astrophysics (radiocarbon levels and galactic position) are found to be correlated, there is a there there. The most recent paper I’ve found to be useful to catalog the current cosmic ray/climate connection science is by Jasper Kirkby, the British physicist in charge of the CERN CLOUD experiment. “Cosmic Rays and Climate” from the journal Surveys in Geophyics, http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0804/0804.1938v1.pdf

    You might not know that Kirkby had CLOUD funding at CERN a decade ago but IPCC partisans killed his funding after he let fly with his opinion that cosmic rays (or more to the point, lack of cosmic rays) could be the cause of all of the 20th century warming. More bad politics killing good science.

  16. #16 coby
    November 22, 2008

    G,

    “You might not know that Kirkby had CLOUD funding at CERN a decade ago but IPCC partisans killed his funding after he let fly with his opinion that cosmic rays (or more to the point, lack of cosmic rays) could be the cause of all of the 20th century warming. ”

    Do you have some reference for that?

  17. #17 G Goodknight
    November 23, 2008

    Here’s an article that said it well, from the google cache, sorry for the clumsy url:

    http://209.85.173.132/search?q=cache:hCH0ztlCE2oJ:www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html%3Fid%3D975f250d-ca5d-4f40-b687-a1672ed1f684+Jasper+kirkby+cloud+funding&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=2&gl=us&lr=lang_en&client=firefox-a

    Clouded research
    LAWRENCE SOLOMON, Financial Post Published: Friday, February 23, 2007

    With the success of Svensmark’s low budget version, SKY, funding for the full up CLOUD experiment was finally found. Let’s be clear; it isn’t to prove there is a cosmic ray connection, that’s established. CLOUD is to better characterize the mechanisms.

  18. #18 Alan D. McIntire
    November 23, 2008

    Hansen undermined his own credibility when he stated that climate change liars “should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.”

    http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5798

    Something that would be uttered by someone in a religious war rather than by a rational scientist-

  19. #19 G Goodknight
    November 23, 2008

    Not to pollute a website seemingly dedicated to stamping out skeptics and scoffers, but the Kirkby “Cosmic Rays and Climate” paper has a very lengthy list of references that are worth investigating, if what you are interested in is evaluating the science.

    Perhaps someone here can help me with the status on the hunt for a real CO2 runaway positive feedback warming event. I’ve heard some claim that the Permian-Triassic event/extinction (~251 million years ago) was thought to be a candidate, but that’s coincident with a cosmic ray minimum of the past 550 million years and probably belongs to the cosmics side of the fence.

  20. #20 G Goodknight
    November 23, 2008

    Sorry for the earlier link to the Sullivan article on Kirkby; the google crawler needs an update. It is available directly at:

    http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=975f250d-ca5d-4f40-b687-a1672ed1f684

  21. #21 coby
    November 23, 2008

    Alan, look for an answer to your comment in a new post on Monday morning.

    G, you should review some of the GCR discussion (and cited references) on Real Climate. They do some very indepth and technical discussion of that hypothesis and the alledged correlations.

    As for “a real CO2 runaway positive feedback warming event”, I suggest the PETM event if you don’t like the Great Dying. FWIW though, we are at an unprecedented time in geological history so don’t assume that no precendent would tells us that much!

    Thanks for the links and the comments.

  22. #22 G Goodknight
    November 23, 2008

    Real Climate is a poor source for scientific debate. Biased towards the current modelers (since they are primarily *from* the modeling side), they understand the issues as understood by climate modelers, but are reactionary when it comes to the advances in physics since the early ’90′s.

    The basic RC argument is much like the arguments from Creationists against Evolution. Pick a link in the chain, point out something about it that is not yet proven, or some incorrect claim about what is proven, and proclaim none of it is. Superficial analysis, and the correlations are far more than alleged. It has been known for years that radiocarbon levels seemed correlated with temperatures in the fossil record. Shaviv and Veizer just put meat on those bones, and they came to their basic conclusions independently.

    Shaviv (a physics prof) has a website in English targeted at general undergraduate audiences. Here’s one good page
    http://sciencebits.com/ice-ages

    To the points of RealClimate who have made stabs at Shaviv’s research, he has
    http://sciencebits.com/RealClimateSlurs

  23. #23 miles
    December 9, 2008

    Indeed, Real Climate is an extremely disappointing site. I’ve seen poor saps come there trying to legitimately understand the science behind AGW and they are treated rudely and shouted down the deities on the site. I tried to post a comment, just to say “lay off the guy”, and it was never posted. I was very disappointed, especially after I saw they continued to pile on the poor guy until he said “This is my last post”. I haven’t visited the site yet. Personally, I’m just trying to get information on this complex subject and am looking for a truly neutral site, not some place where high IQ scientists reveal why most people don’t take them seriously.

  24. #24 coby
    December 9, 2008

    Hi miles,

    If you want to give yourself a basic education on the science then you can do no better than reading the IPCC reports. I also recommend Spencer Weart’s History of Global warming (google should get you there asap).

    As for Real Climate, as with all blogs, don’t judge them by the comment threads, which though i haven’t followed for quite some time, never used to strike me as you describe it. Just read and learn from the posts.

  25. #25 dave
    February 9, 2009

    “Coby, Matt at “Framing Science” objects to the term “denialist” when referring to Global Warming Skeptics. I object to the word “sceptic/skeptic” because of the responses that you place here. I have even laid out the case on my own blog, at Global Warming and Skeptics.

    I am just wondering if there is a better way to refer to them than either denialists or skeptics?”

    Wow, you guys act like those kids in highschool trying too hard to be cool. Pathetic way of being able to vent your frustrations over recent developments by diverting discussion to what seriously is the MOST TRIVIAL BULLCRIP you could ever come up with. Denialist or Skeptic. ARE YOU KIDDING ME. So transparent. SO very transparent.

  26. #26 dave
    February 9, 2009

    “They require one to be credulous – the opposite of skeptical.”

    OMG I just HAD to comment again after I read this. LOL Talk about trying to sound intelligent when you really aren’t. “the opposite of skeptical” ORLY? LUL sEriously hilarious. I love this site because I get a really great laugh everytime I browse. I thought emo kids were pathetic!

    P.s. credulous means a person is willing to believe anything they hear LOL Just like you. It’s not a good thing. You might wanna double check on google or something next time before you make big booboo

  27. #27 Luna_the_cat
    February 10, 2009

    dave, what are you, 12?

    Seriously, you sound it.

  28. #28 mikatollah
    February 11, 2009

    Being a skeptic is healthy, rational way to approach life. That’s why I’ve never considered it a good way to describe those who deny AGW theory based on little more than their right wing political ideology. And that is what we are really talking about here… a political agenda.

    “GW Denier” is a bit condescending, but an accurate description of those among us who dedicate countless hours to try and delay a national response to an environmental problem.

    Deniers used the same tactics to attack governmental responses to other environmental and public health issues. Anyone remember leaded gas, acid rain, asbestos abatement, second hand tobacco smoke? I could go on, but you get the picture. In the end they will lose, as they always lose. But in the mean time we will see the occasional outburst of frustration with lots of LOLs and OMGs.

    That said, what is “LUL”? I tried to look it up on the google, but I don’t think any of these fit the discussion:

    Acronym Definition
    LUL London Underground Limited (UK)
    LUL Left Upper Lobe (lung)
    LUL Love You Lots
    LUL Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc
    LUL Limited Usage License
    LUL Local Unicast Label

  29. #29 MattInOz
    February 23, 2009

    Dave,

    Credulous is EXACTLY what you are. If you have bought into the AGW denial pseudoscience that has been bandied about by the political crowd (NB you won’t find climatologists on that list) then it doesn’t say much about your ability to accurately assess merit in information. There is a reason these things are decided by peer review and that is to rule out ill-informed OPINION, which is all you spout. A suppose you think evolution’s “just a theory” too, you twit.

  30. #30 Reuben
    April 23, 2009

    Released within a month of your last post, Goodknight:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081217075138.htm

    The CLOUD research itself shows that cosmic rays are not an important factor. I wish it were otherwise as much as anyone else, but it looks like anthropogenic climate change is bullet-proof.

  31. #31 crakar14
    July 15, 2009

    Looks like Hansen/GISS is up to their old tricks;

    Here are the June global temperature anomaly comparisons:

    GISS .63C

    RSS .075

    UAH .001

    GISS is way above the other two, but it does not end there apparently 2007 has now replaced 1998 as the second hottest year on record this was achieved not by rigorous scientific study and evaluation but by sleight of hand an the part of GISS.

    This has been achieved by lowering the 1998 J-D average temperature anomaly to 0.56 , and raising the 2007 J-D average temperature anomaly to 0.57. Last month they were viceversa.

    This of course would give the impression that global temps are ever increasing keeping Hansen et al in a job. One day people like Hansen will be called to account for their actions, i hope i live long enough to see that day.

  32. #32 Adam
    July 15, 2009

    Crakar -

    …this was achieved not by rigorous scientific study and evaluation but by sleight of hand an the part of GISS.

    Offer proof that it was intentional misdirection, or kindly refrain from libel.

  33. #33 coby
    July 15, 2009

    crakar, looking at the tabular data here http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.A2.txt I see 2007 and 1998 equal. Regardless, statistically speaking .56 and .57 are indistinguishable.

    Please give references for your copied talking points.

  34. #34 dhogaza
    July 15, 2009

    Please give references for your copied talking points.

    Here’s a post by someone named “Nylo”, at Lucia’s, copied by Watts at WUWT:

    Regarding updates in past temperatures, this is not the most important change. Very noticeable is the fact that now 2007 is the second hottest year, having replaced 1998 in the statistics. This has been achieved by lowering the 1998 J-D average temperature anomaly to 0.56 , and raising the 2007 J-D average temperature anomaly to 0.57. Last month they were viceversa.

  35. #35 dhogaza
    July 15, 2009

    Crakar, if you’re going to cut-and-paste, can you at least take the time to correct things like “viceversa” (which should be “vice versa”)?

    Try to do *something* useful, at least.

  36. #36 crakar14
    July 15, 2009

    Blanket post to all see Richards post #69, he gives a good response no need to double up.

    http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2009/07/open_thread_on_plimer.php#c1776873

    Special mention to Coby, your link (dated 2008)proves my point it provides the average and 5 year mean averages;

    From your link 1998 .57 .38
    2007 .57 *

    So from your link we can see that 1998 which was once the hottest is now equal with 2007.

    However from the link below updated June 2009 we can see that 2007 is now hotter than 1998 here is an excerpt.

    1998 56, 57 figures for J-D, D-N
    2007 57, 59
    In fact 1998 not only is not the hottest year anymore it has somehow now tied with 2002, once again from the same source.

    2002 56, 57

    So how could this be? How could 1998 suddenly get cooler 11 years later? Adam could you please explain how these figures can be manipulated post facto? Or is it simply misdirection on the part of GISS?

    You are right Coby they are statistically indistinguishable now, the question is were they before they were changed?

    dhogaza, you obviously feel left out, i will try and correct minor grammatical errors when i cut and paste in future just for you OK.

  37. #37 crakar14
    July 15, 2009
  38. #38 coby
    July 15, 2009

    crakar,

    Copy/paste without attribution will get you deleted, scolded and eventually unwelcome here. This is another dead giveaway of the pure denialist. You are not discussing you are attempting to score points, and rather lazily at that.

    If you were a skeptic in any meaningful sense, you would know if this borrowed claim were true or not, and you would have a primary source hady to share.

  39. #39 crakar14
    July 15, 2009

    I have the primary source listed in post #37, granted i forgot to insert it in post #36 which may have lead to your confusion.

    I do not accept what you say in #38, indeed i am hoping for a discussion as always i do not get one.

    So lets look at the facts, you supplied a GISS txt file from 2008 and i supplied a GISS txt file from 2009. The data for the year 1998 has been altered.

    Adam and dhogaza respond with off topic posts. Adam calls me a liar and dhogaza corrects my grammer and yet you say nothing?

    So my questions (as always) remain unanswered, but i will ask just one more time, how can GISS change the temp of a year, 11 years after the fact. Also how can GISS have June anomoly at 0.63 a whole 0.55 above RSS and .629 above UAH? Surely GISS must be in error.

  40. #40 dhogaza
    July 15, 2009

    dhogaza corrects my grammer and yet you say nothing?

    I would guess that Coby understood my point – if you’re going to cut and paste without attribution, at least *try* to mask it by correcting totally stupid language errors.

    We know you can’t correct the totally stupid *science* errors, but can’t you at least try to make it harder for us to use google to show you’re plagiarizing by correcting language/spelling errors?

    If you’d prefer to be caught out as a cut-and-paste mindless denialist, well, then, please ignore my advice.

  41. #41 crakar14
    July 16, 2009

    You see this is a classic dhogaza post, let me walk you through it.

    Post #31 broaches the subject of changes in data

    Post #32 Adam claims i am a liar, which would infer that he had evidence at hand to make such a claim, obviously he did not as the link i provided supports my post #31

    Post#33 Coby responds to my post and asks for a reference (valid response)

    Post#34/35 dhogaza asks for a reference (valid response)and corrects a spelling mistake in an attempt to highlight my “cut and paste” (as if i am the first person here who has done that).

    Post#36/37 i supply a reference, i suspect Coby posted #38 without seeing #37, #39 is my response.

    So it is fair to say that there was a little bit of confusion, primarily because i did not include a reference at the start, i accept responsability for causing this confusion.

    Now the important one, post #40, rather than dhogaza focussing on the question of data being changed post facto as both Coby’s and my text files show has happened, dhogaza continues persuing the trivial matter of grammatical correction.

    Is this because he is attempting to redirect the debate in an effort to avoid the GISS data changes? Or is it simply that he likes to argue with people he has and will never meet? I think i know the answer to that question.

  42. #42 coby
    July 16, 2009