A Few Things Ill Considered

Reflecting on crakar and snowman

(why am I thinking about cocaine now?)

So recently two very prolific climate contrarian commenters picked up their toys and went home. Skip did a nice piece on that surprise event.

crakar was one of my most prolific commenters, contributing about 100 comments per month since last December. He always struck me as a congenial fellow but he was definately antagonistic to the science of global warming and contributed mainly misinformation and misunderstanding. Nevertheless, I am actually a bit sorry to see him go on a personal level even though his presence was on balance a negative contribution.


I think that crakar approached this issue somewhat like a game, where he had his chosen side and used whatever he could to defend it and whatever he could to attack the other side. The problem with this is that this is not a game, this is a globally unfolding event with serious and potentially tragic consequences for millions upon millions, if not all of humanity. It is that serious, which is why tolerance of his brand of wilful ignorance is not really an option despite his likely (and clearly thoughtless) sincerity.

I got flack from otherwise friendly followers of AFTIC for not banning him and perhaps I should have. I am still internally debating this question. As it happened, things worked out even better in the sense that his continuous regurgitation of fully debunked arguments have ceased and I did not have to use the nuclear option on him.

My feelings about Snowman are very different. In my opinion, it is very likely he was here on assignment. He openly acknowledged that his idea of the debate was political and not scientfic even while he tried to argue about the science. He wrote very eloquently, with a stylish flourish that was matched only but its complete detachment from reality. His first couple of days here, he tried being his own sockpuppet but when called on it silently ceased and did not try again. While I found crakar to be totally wrong but generally sincere, Snowman I would describe as sociopathic in his disregard for intellectual honesty.

To me, crakar represents a demographic that should be talked to. His “type”, if I may, can possibly be reached and if not at least he can be effectively and publically refuted. Time consuming, I know! Snowman on the other hand is just here to kick sand in everyone’s face all the while with a disingenuous smile. Him, I will not miss!

Comments

  1. #1 skip
    October 31, 2009

    Interesting theories about Crakar and Snow, Coby.

    Obviously you knew their posted material better than I.

    Not sure Snowman was a sociopath. I still would advance my pet “narrative about narratives”. If he was just a hatchet man devoid of any morality or concern for the truth (as I suspect Lord Monckton might be) he would never have *admitted* that he saw the whole dispute in purely political terms. That he could just celebrate this feature of himself without shame suggests he did not fully grasp how utterly absurd it made him look. No self-respecting sociopath would have been so transparent.

    Another thing I notice about these deniers is how nice they try to at least act. I’m starting to get a handle on why. I base some of this not just on my observations of Snowcrack but on my exchanges with “D. Nyer”, a denier friend who wants to remain anonymous but who has given me permission to use his written debates with me for publication. He’s kind of an archetypal Everycrank, leaning heavily on the the standard blogs and blather, typically repeating it for me or just linking it hoping to score points. But although he’s caustic at times he’s never mean.

    He once rhetorically asked me:

    Question: who loses more sleep of this issue? the so called deniers or the …”enlightened?”

    Question: who is happier with his fellow man? the so called deniers or the “enlightened?”

    Question: who is enjoying a better quality of daily life.. the ‘denier’ or the sleep-deprived misanthrope? ;-)

    (By the way, the little “;)” winky-smiley-face thing recurs in D. Nyer’s statements *constantly*.)

    D. actually thought this was a coherent argument: “My position makes me happy and friendly. Yours does not. I must be correct and you must be wrong.”

    These guys think we’re misanthropes who want to reduce greenhouse emissions because its a pretext to make people miserable. They get this from somewhere; I’m not sure where. It might be the high overlap between Ayn Rand acolytes and denial. The Randies are keen to believe that those of us who don’t see it their way suffer from congenital loathing of self and others. Our socialist escapades are somehow part of a project of psychic and moral genocide. Maybe all this friendliness is their way of showing us the love of a Skeptical Jesus–or something.

    Crakar, I think, articulate as he was, just had a cog missing. I’ll be the first to admit that I am an intellectual coward because I cannot stand to be wrong about anything. My acceptance of AGW as a credible threat is born as much from a chickenshit hesitancy to challenge a majority of scientific opinion as a socially responsible posture. I try to hold as few opinions as possible so as to minimize my chance of error.

    But not Crakar. He had it in his head that AGW was false and he was going to take take this evangel to the heathen. He just somehow couldn’t see it when he would get ripped. We all have to tell ourselves something, I guess. Somehow being shown to be utterly wrong just bounced off him.

    You’re going to see some of the same phenomena as I go through and dissect some of the comments from D. Nyer (aka “D. Nye The Non-Science Guy”). But more on that later.

    Skip

  2. #2 barry
    October 31, 2009

    The climate debate has become heavily enclaved. Bitchiness is dominant and the idea of *changing minds* is often a sop to an obvious relish for smiting, despite the occasional hand-on-heart avowals of higher purpose. I’ve seen this happen all over the climate blogosphere and it saddens me. Take a big step back and look at the latest crakar threads. WTF? This site is meant to be about the science, isn’t it? One poster’s arguments and approach is ‘deconstructed’ in probably the longest set of serial posts on one subject ever on this blog.

    I haven’t burrowed into the comments here much lately. The decadence of pinning down the ilk of crakar and snowman for hours on end, weeks, months on end, while claiming to be trying to shift the balance of understanding towards a better world…. it’s too specious to stomach.

    Climate activists (like myself) are no longer doing good works on the net but whittling the enemy with knives sharpened on google. Surely no one here actually believes they will persuade anyone of anything by being antagonistic, no matter how well-corroborated or reasoned their attempt? The departure of crakar and snowman tells us all we need to know about the value of psychoanalysing the skpetics, however accurate the analysis. We need the patience of Job and a sense of inclusiveness, even with the most pitiful denialism if there’s any chance of making headway. Otherwise it’s all blowhard wankery: self-indulgence, not effective activism.

    If I have misjudged the purpose of this blog, I apologise for my comments, but not for my concern.

  3. #3 greg
    November 1, 2009

    Barry: I see what you’re saying and take your point BUT it’s not only about influencing the denier him/herself. There is also the other lurkers who are perhaps still undecideds. They need to see the arguments laid out before them and if we just ignore the denialists they get a free go. I know there are disadvantages to arguing with them, but on balance I think it’s helps the cause. Most of the “converted” are irretrievable; sea-level will be at their doorstep and the temperature 8 degrees hotter and the world starving and they’ll still be questioning “the science”. For them it’s about politics, not truth or science. But they’re out there proselytising all the time and we need to counter that.

    Best
    Greg

  4. #4 greg
    November 1, 2009

    Btw, anyone know what’s going on with the Argo ocean temp readings? I see deniers saying something about that? What’s going on?

  5. #5 skikp
    November 1, 2009

    Barry: I see what you’re saying and take your point BUT it’s not only about influencing the denier him/herself. There is also the other lurkers who are perhaps still undecideds. They need to see the arguments laid out before them and if we just ignore the denialists they get a free go.

    Exactly. It was never about converting Crakar.

    Skip

  6. #6 carrot eater
    November 1, 2009

    Can we continue with the task of answering crakar’s assertions? So far, that’s generated some useful tangents.

  7. #7 Dappledwater
    November 1, 2009

    Greg, see here: http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2009/10/how_to_talk_to_crakar_3.php

    If you go to Ari Jokimaki’s blog there’s links to more recent studies.

  8. #8 Michael
    November 1, 2009

    Hi all,
    Well, I must say I’m sorry to see Craker and Snowman go.
    I believe Craker is right when he says you will all just be able to pat yourselves on the back without he and Snowman.
    As everybody’s best pal Mr Monbiot says:
    “Tell people something they know already and they will thank you for it.
    Tell them something new and they will hate you for it.”

    I am certainly not able to give rebuttals of anywhere near the calibre of those two.
    I will continue to “lurk” around here if that’s ok though.
    By the way, I have read this blog extensively, and I cannot for the life of me, work out WHY the two would tell lies.
    I sincerely cannot figure out any motive for disagreeing with AGW other than (like me) a desire for the facts, AND both sides of the argument.
    Could the more abusive posters please give me a reasoned argument as to WHY?
    I am not connected to “big oil”, “big business”, or “big anything”, and I don’t think Craker and Snowman are either.

    I have maintained since I began posting here that the entire, repeat entire AGW debate is political.
    I’d like to get some feedback from y’all on the up-coming “left-wing-love-in” in Copenhagen, and it’s true agenda, of establishing a World Government, and the prospect of all the Western countries OWING a Carbon/Emissions Debt to un-developed countries.
    I have included this link, which comes straight from the horses mouth.
    See if you can read it. (it’s not easy)
    As it’s a pdf document, it’s easy to do a “find next” search for the word DEBT.
    http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2009/awglca7/eng/inf02.pdf

    As AGW believers, is this what you are working towards? Is a World Government what you desire?
    Perhaps you genuinely believe that this is the best way for us to go.
    I most certainly do not.
    I look forward to reasoned replies. (I’d rather not be called names, or see any “ad hominem strawmen”.)

  9. #9 dhogaza
    November 1, 2009

    As AGW believers, is this what you are working towards? Is a World Government what you desire?

    Imagine for a moment that this was our goal.

    Would gravity stop working the moment you learn this? Would CO2 stop being a greenhouse gas?

    Now go reflect on how silly your question is.

  10. #10 dhogaza
    November 1, 2009

    I’d like to get some feedback from y’all on the up-coming “left-wing-love-in” in Copenhagen, and it’s true agenda, of establishing a World Government

    And improve your reading comprehension skills if you believe this is what’s up.

    Are you living in a world-wide dictatorship in which your government has ceded its sovereignty because of the existence of the World Bank or International Trade Commission?

  11. #11 Ian Forrester
    November 1, 2009

    Michael shows his true colours:

    I sincerely cannot figure out any motive for disagreeing with AGW other than (like me) a desire for the facts, AND both sides of the argument.

    Are you really that stupid that you cannot see that the opposite of facts are lies? There are not two sides, there are scientifically proven facts and the lies, distortions, cherry picks and misinformation of the deniers.

    You are an arrogant anti-science ignoramus. I haven’t a clue why you adopt your position and what’s more I don’t care. All I care about is that arrogant ignoramuses like you do not get your way and cause untold harm to future generations.

    There, I have been abusive but you people deserve it.

  12. #12 skip
    November 1, 2009

    I am certainly not able to give rebuttals of anywhere near the calibre of those two.

    Hey Michael: you probably meant this as a backhanded compliment to SnowCrack but it looks like an unintended self-criticism in disguise.

    So, given what you said, please enlighten us with an example of a Snowman or Crakar rebuttal that you thought to be particularly impressive—you know, the kind so impressive that you felt yourself unworthy of its substance. I am genuinely interested.

    I have read this blog extensively, and I cannot for the life of me, work out WHY the two would tell lies.

    If you believe it and say it, its not a lie—even if its false. This is what I’ve been saying the whole time. Crak and Snow, in my view were/are not “liars” as such; they just believed bullshit to begin with.

    I sincerely cannot figure out any motive for disagreeing with AGW other than (like me) a desire for the facts, AND both sides of the argument.

    Then you should be amenable to a lively debate on the subject! How joyful. Here’s a start: Which of the “common answers to deniers” points on this blog are wrong? Please tell! After all, Michael, you “have” (in your words), “a desire for the facts, AND both sides of the argument,” correct? This zeal should certainly animate your ready critique of Coby et al. Please proceed. (I’m waiting . . . . )

    Could the more abusive posters please give me a reasoned argument as to WHY?
    I am not connected to “big oil”, “big business”, or “big anything”, and I don’t think Craker and Snowman are either.

    One word, my friend: “Narratives”.

    I have maintained since I began posting here that the entire, repeat entire AGW debate is political.

    Your key failing.

    I’d like to get some feedback from y’all on the up-coming “left-wing-love-in” in Copenhagen, and it’s true agenda, of establishing a World Government, and the prospect of all the Western countries OWING a Carbon/Emissions Debt to un-developed countries.

    Your contention is so absurd I want to give you a chance to retract out of self respect. Do you stand by this statement above, Michael? If you gracefully duck out now I will not pursue the matter. What in fact do you think your cited blog proves?

    As AGW believers, is this what you are working towards? Is a World Government what you desire?
    Perhaps you genuinely believe that this is the best way for us to go.
    I most certainly do not..

    Yes. I see. And I appreciate your stalwart support for freedom . . . anyway, Michael: Have you and I had a good talk yet about the idea of “narratives”? (Yes, I know, I know . . . but shut up you assholes . . . )

    I look forward to reasoned replies.

    We will see how long that lasts.

    (I’d rather not be called names, or see any “ad hominem strawmen”.)

    I’m trying to think how this collision of fallacies is possible. You actually have me thinking . . . .

    Ah, Yes! How about this:

    “Dhogaza is a God-hating atheist and a servant of the DEVIL! Therefore we can dismiss anything he says as false because the devil is a liar! Since Dhogaza claims the AGW hypothesis is true, and since the devil is a liar, we can conclude that AGW is false.”

    Maybe it does not capture the straw man dynamic perfectly but its close.

    Skip

  13. #13 coby
    November 1, 2009

    Micheal:

    “Tell people something they know already and they will thank you for it. Tell them something new and they will hate you for it.”

    crakar and Snowman offered nothing new, so your take on this as most others things you comment on is wildly off base. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but really you are very wrong on such basic points and you never demonstrate that you have learned anything. As for your impression of the debate, if it is political for you that is entirely because that is how you chose to approach it. Since it is actually a scientific topic, this approach tends to rub people the wrong way.

    I sincerely cannot figure out any motive for disagreeing with AGW other than (like me) a desire for the facts

    come on, be honest. Two sentences after saying this you revealed your own motive, you think this is all a conspiracy to impose a World Goverment on you. Anyone capable of really believing that has no grasp of reality and therefore is clearly incapable of having a worthwhile opinon on a complex scientific topic.

    That is not to say that world wide conspiracies are impossible or that there are groups trying to influence/control world economics and governments, but it is not greenpeace and the NAS. That is actually quite amusing to think about…

  14. #14 Michael
    November 1, 2009

    Did you guys read the document?
    If you didn’t, why didn’t you? Have you got a good reason?
    (I expect this to be quoted, accompanied by some glib or abusive remark)

    How can you both so blindly trust the information that is produced by, or vetted by the IPCC?
    I have faithfully clicked on most of the links you both have provided since I found this blog, and virtually invariably, the info you jump to comes from the same sources as if it’s gospel truth!
    I find it mindboggling that you simply refuse to listen to ANY source that might disagree, and you are immediately abusive.
    You claim to be scientists, but you are not terribly scientific if someone disagrees with you.

    Ian Forrester, please explain to me and every other reader, exactly why you think I deserve your abuse.
    Dhogaza,what the hell has gravity got to do with it? (other than being another strawman)
    I’m sorry, but I thought I would not need to specifically state that I DO NOT BELIEVE CO2 IS CAUSING WARMING.
    I BELIEVE THE IPCC IS A POLITICAL ORGANISATION AND NOT A SCIENTIFIC ORGANISATION. (to clarify further, I DO NOT believe that the “scientific” information that comes from the IPCC is the scientific truth!)

    Is this clear??

    By the way, I DO believe the earth’s climate is changing! I DO believe the temperatures, sea levels, deserts, rainforests, glaciers etc, rise and fall, expand and recede continually.
    I DO NOT believe that a trace gas in the atmosphere is causing it!
    Is this clear??

    I realise that all I’ll get in response to this post is personal attacks and abuse.
    I’ll still visit this blog every now and then to see what’s happening, but otherwise, I’ll leave you to continue to swap agreeable fairytales.

    So, Auf Wiedersehen and abysinia!

  15. #15 skip
    November 1, 2009

    To any lurkers:

    I swear, as Whatever God There Might Be is my witness: As far as I know Michael is *not*–repeat–*not* an AGW plant to make our “side” looks smart and the denier “side” look dumb.

    Did you guys read the document?
    If you didn’t, why didn’t you? Have you got a good reason?

    I confess: not the whole thing, no. Now, Michael, I will ask you *exactly* the same question, and repeat *my earlier* question:

    (1) Did *you* read it?
    (2) What exactly, do you think this document proves? You’ve hinted earlier but I want to give you ample rope by which to hang yourself.

    Speak boldly, man.

    Skip

  16. #16 barry
    November 2, 2009

    Greg,

    There is also the other lurkers who are perhaps still undecideds. They need to see the arguments laid out before them and if we just ignore the denialists they get a free go.

    I’m talking about the way we go about it. It would appear we believe these lurking ‘undecideds’ will overlook or even enjoy the vitriol, smugness, sarcasm and abuse heaped on skeptics, while absorbing the bits of pertinent substance.

    Discussions peppered with clever (and not-so-artful) snark play well to the converted, but is a dubious methodology for the undecided lurkers we are trying to enlighten, IMO. There’s a fair chance that fence-sitters, of various degrees of enthusiasm and staying-power, may come away with the idea that we activists are cultish, given to irrational outbursts, and just plain rude – especially if they came via skeptical websites. For many, that will be the message, not the science, and they’ll leave fast. We can high-horse about how its just the science that matters and that the denialists are given to rhetoric, but if we indulge in the scrum, foregoing the principle, how does this garner confidence from visitors?

    I had an interesting experience at greenfyre’s a little while ago (where I explored this theme a little). I took a different view on the Monbiot/Plimer affair and the treatment I got was astonishing! I was unknown there, and they were pretty much convinced I was a meddlesome denialist, despite my protests otherwise – I was even told to go join my ‘friends’ at WUWT. I’d already noticed that things had become involuted on the various climate blogs; this was the clincher for me. The other posters will have their own, valid takes, but if the culture amongst them wasn’t so hard-bitten and suspicious to begin with, I would have been forgiven my oppositon, I’m sure, and we could have explored my concerns together. But how would a doubtful fence-sitter fare if they treated someone who was aligned with them like that? So went the narrative in my head. :-)

    I find the science highly interesting. I also find the psychological or ideological conceits of alleged skeptics interesting, and I want to unlace them – much as Skip has been doing quite persuasively. And this is part of the purpose of this site, I guess; to ‘expose’ the denialist mind or some such. But if the higher purpose is to persuade, by force of reason, that the mainstream view of climate change is robust, then I would put my trust in the science, leery of emphasising personalities too much.

    I’ve noticed that a social culture can come to dominate an intellecual one at science blogs, after some time. Reckon that’s happening here? I’m rather fond of Coby’s blog, having been a lurker and occasional poster since illconsideredblogspot, which I visited early on the endless road to understanding.

    Again, if I’m off-base, I apologise. Do others do as I do and come back to the question, “what do I hope to achieve here?” Or is that too prim or austere or something, and a barrel of snark and rowdy in the comments section is actually a good thing?

    Oh, sometimes I want to reach through the screen and shake sense into, or honesty out of, the ideologically bound and the intellectually dishonest. I know how frustrating things can be. That’s when I know not to post immediately. I suffer lapses, crowding the substance with bile and superciliousness. When I review later, I do so as if I’m a neutral reader, and usually realize I’ve beggared my purpose.

  17. #17 skip
    November 2, 2009

    Good morning, fellas. (Had to get up early to turn of the slow cooker . . . making veggie chili.)

    Hey Barry your points are well taken. Just remember that some of the more vicious abusers on this site have had to deal with stunningly frustrating tactics from the likes of SnowCrack and so forth over the past couple of years and eventually people just snap.

    Right before his departure Crakar pulled one of his more remarkable diversionary tactics and I have to admit it pissed me off. I didn’t give him quite a Dhogazian tongue lashing but I can see how I could be driven to it if he had pulled that type of thing on me again and again and again.

    And remember: At some point there really is no nice way to disagree. Observe the posts by Michael above. Pure repetition of secondhand narratives and blatant “dogma propping” with the link to the UN document.

    I mean, maybe he really did read it, and maybe the report of the Framework Convention on Climate Change really is a confession by the UN to a plan for One World Government; I guess I have to remain technically open to anything since I did not read all 181 pages . . . but come on. Even if the UN really was trying to create the New World Order do you think they’d announce it so stupidly?

    So far it looks just like everything else I’ve seen from deniers. They cite and blog things they don’t read/understand to give their arguments a patina of credibility, and when they’re called on it, they fade away into the nether regions of the blogosphere. I seriously doubt, for example, that Michael is going to stick around long to defend his crazy claims about the FCCC report. He will most likely ignore my questions and then resurface in a few months having erased any memory of his silly postings here. Or maybe not–I should try to remain open to anything. Who knows: maybe Michael will point out a sinister passage in the report that makes me want to stock up on my shotgun shells–and veggie chili.

    So in the end, Barry, while I appreciate your concern for and advocacy of polite debate, at some point someone needs to call bullshit by its name. There is no nice way to do that in the end.

    Skip

  18. #18 carrot eater
    November 2, 2009

    “I find it mindboggling that you simply refuse to listen to ANY source that might disagree, and you are immediately abusive.”

    On the contrary, I think a huge amount of time is spent on sources that disagree, such as they are. That’s much of the reason this website even exists. I do think some here are needlessly abusive, and they should try to temper that, but that can be hard to suppress after debunking the same baseless idea for the millionth time.

    “I DO NOT believe that a trace gas in the atmosphere is causing it!”

    That’s an emotional and wholly unscientific statement, if there ever was one. Let me try my own version: “I DO NOT believe that a trace cell in our body – a few bacterial cells – can cause disease!”

  19. #19 skip
    November 2, 2009

    LOL.

    “D. Nyer” has tried the same argument with me:

    . . . co2 is the smallest component (or among the smallest) of our atmosphere.

    There are so many stunning things about arguments like this. Deniers eagerly absorb and regurgitate them as silver bullet arguments like AGW, never asking themselves the most obvious question: “Did no one ever think of this?”

    Its apparent that D. Nyer and Michael rely on the same blogs for cherry picked arguments such as this.

    For the record, my response was:

    “AND ARSENIC WAS THE SMALLEST COMPONENT OF RASPUTIN’S SABATOGED WINE. WHAT DOES THIS PROVE?” [I was using all caps at that time for responding because of a snafu with the email.]

    Basic same analogy as you, carrot. Thought you’d appreciate the show of solidarity.

    Skip

  20. #20 skip
    November 2, 2009

    . . . silver bullet arguments like AGW . . .

    sorry. should read, “silver bullet arguments *against* AGW”

    skip

  21. #21 Brian Schmidt
    November 2, 2009

    Coby, if you’re certain about Snowman you might consider updating your post with his I.P. address, so it’ll be easier to identify him elsewhere.

  22. #22 barry
    November 2, 2009

    while I appreciate your concern for and advocacy of polite debate

    Polite is a mode. I’m talking about being effective.

    I have lived through the frustrations you describe and then some: the zombie canon rising from the denialist murk again and again in various attire, the ideological underpinnings unconvincingly masked with garish reasoning. Eventually you get off on the pain of butting your head against the wall and the satisfaction of always being right. The descent into obsession is veiled by the now-shallow narrative of the noble cause.

    Some cli-sci blog luminary (can’t remember who) made a post on effective discussion, and he likewise advised that posting one’s frustration is counterproductive. He put this much better than I and was rightly heralded for his common sense. (Perhaps someone remembers who it was?)

    “I DO NOT believe that a trace gas in the atmosphere is causing it!”

    That’s an emotional and wholly unscientific statement, if there ever was one. Let me try my own version: “I DO NOT believe that a trace cell in our body – a few bacterial cells – can cause disease!”

    Heh. How many times I have retorted thus! Let me add that an increase measured in parts per billion of ozone depleting gases in the atmosphere made a dent in the ozone layer the size of Australia. This is orders of magnitude less than the increase of atmospheric CO2. From little things big things can come.

  23. #23 carrot eater
    November 2, 2009

    skip: Glad to see we honed in on the same analogy.

    barry: Forget the CFCs, as the deniers probably reject that chemistry, as well. But ozone itself is probably the best one: there’s less ozone than CO2 up there, and yet its absorption properties are also important.

  24. #24 barry
    November 2, 2009

    Forget the CFCs, as the deniers probably reject that chemistry, as well. But ozone itself is probably the best one: there’s less ozone than CO2 up there, and yet its absorption properties are also important.

    You think deniers will jive to the IR/absorptive properties of ozone more readily than the consequences of its depletion?

    Some deniers focus on ozone depletion, all right. Because they think that answers the problem of the atmospheric signature of greenhouse warming – a cooling stratosphere.

    ‘Course, we’d love Michael to have a chat with these deniers. Their positions are contradictory. But they never will, because the impetus for them is not curiosity, but the rationalization of a pre-ordered conclusion. Thus, Michael may take this (erroneous) tidbit I’ve mentioned and incorporate it into his canon, utterly mindless of the contradiction now in his general argument. Deniers prioritise opportunism over coherence.

    A series of never-ending battles await. Patience is key if the war is to be won.

  25. #25 carrot eater
    November 2, 2009

    “Because they think that answers the problem of the atmospheric signature of greenhouse warming – a cooling stratosphere.”

    That is very true. The few sceptics sophisticated enough to have an answer to stratospheric cooling do invoke the ozone hole (and in truth, that is certainly part of the story in the stratosphere). Though do these guys dispute there has been ozone depletion, or just that it was CFCs that did it?

    My experience is that climate scepticism correlates well with CFC-ozone scepticism.

  26. #26 Dano
    November 2, 2009

    I obviously don’t hang out here and when I stopped in, I was mildly surprised to see all the energy expended on crakar.

    I thought we all knew the debate is long over and we are going to vote on a carbon bill in this country. The ship has left the dock, and the small percentage of people left behind aren’t enough reason to turn the ship around.

    We should be expending energy on discussing and acting on how to adapt and mitigate, rather than banging our heads against a wall trying to educate the few % who refuse to be educated.

    Suspected paid or unpaid shills like snowman are a different story, however, and should be exposed. Exposing something we all know – that denial is a part of the human condition – is like saying the sky is blue.

    My 2¢

    Best,

    D

  27. #27 Michael hauber
    November 3, 2009

    I would love some quality debating from quality skeptics to challenge currently held conventions.

    Having seen many attempts at challenging the idea of Co2 causes temperature increase, I am now very confident in my beliefs that Co2 will cause a significant temperature increase.

    However I haven’t seen much attempt at challenging the idea that the consequences of this temperature rise will be really really bad. Well the occasional attempt to show that hurricane frequency isn’t increasing (which I think is quite possible), and the occasional ‘Co2 is fertiliser’ or ‘High Co2 warm periods in the past were tropical paradises’.

    But what arguments are we missing out on because we can never get past the million and first iteration of ‘its cooled in the last 8 years’ or ‘UHI makes it impossible to measure temperatures’ or ‘It snowed in X last week’.

    For instance maybe in a warming world our clever intentors will come up with unexpected ways of increasing our crop yields and increasing productivity with new crops that can take advantage of higher co2, higher temps and less frequent but heavier rainfall. But how will we know unless the idea is debated? Maybe its just not an idea that can be meaningfully debated and we’ll never know until someone figures out how to actually do it.

    I do sometimes wonder whether climate change will no be the major disaster it is sometimes painted as, and whether we might be better off with a cautious response such as the compromise we seem likely to get targetting say 550. But we’ll never know because the arguments against climate change are so idiotic that the only position with any credibility is ‘we’d better get to 350 because otherwise all the polar bears will die and a mass extinction will surely mean us humans as well’ (maybe a bit of a strawman but I hope you know what I’m getting at).

    And we either over-react and do more damage to our economy than is warranted, or decide the whole things is hopeless and there is no point acting on climate and we under-react to the true threat.

    I would dearly love to see some quality skpeticims as quality skepticism makes us wiser. However rubbish skepticism just wastes everyone’s time and makes it very difficult to hear or recognise any quality skepticism.

  28. #28 carrot eater
    November 3, 2009

    Michael hauber: I do agree that most of the noise has been regarding the physics, and relatively less of it on the impacts of climate change – which is what actually matters. Beyond the vague topics you mention, I’ve heard disputes over whether warming would affect certain diseases, like malaria.

    I don’t have a background in medicine, biology or agronomy, and I’ve been too lazy to read WGII or other literature, so I also wonder about these topics from a position of ignorance. But we won’t learn about them via debate on blogs with cranks and sceptics; we’ll learn about it by reading literature published by the wide array of people in those fields.

    I wonder how optimistic biologists are regarding the potential to improve crop yields in changing environments via genetic modification. I suppose I should stop being lazy and actually read the literature.

  29. #29 Marco
    November 3, 2009

    carrot eater and Michael Hauber:
    Getting plants to take the extra CO2 isn’t really a problem, although there are some upper limits there (but probably not 450 ppmv). The big problem is that plants, like any living being, are build up from more than just C, H, and O atoms. They also need N, S, P, and a whole range of trace metals, etc. etc. In many places N, S, P, etc. are the limiting factors (and you can’t create those by genetic engineering). Not necessarily for plant growth, but for its suitability as a food source. There’s no gain in getting bigger plants with a lower nutritional value per weight. We, and animals, would have to eat more of those plants.

  30. #30 Chris S.
    November 4, 2009

    Michael & carrot eater (#27 & 28): For agriculture I’d suggest this issue of the Journal of Experimental Botany would be a good place to start: http://jxb.oxfordjournals.org/content/vol60/issue10/ (unfortunately the full texts are paywalled but the abstracts are readable). There are some good review papers there & also an indication of what research is currently underway in that area.

  31. #31 carrot eater
    November 4, 2009

    Chris S: Thank you. Review articles are the best place to start reading on an unfamiliar field. Paywall not a problem here.

  32. #32 skip
    November 4, 2009

    I know what you mean, Michael and Carrot. Just how bad will AGW really be? Could we work through/with it?

    There was a really neat Nova special on PBS (a repeat, I think but I’d never seen it). It was part I in a trilogy about how humans evolved. One main insight was that the conventional wisdom–that we evolved into bipeds with big brains to transition out of trees into the complex world of the savanna–is really being challenged. Now some scholars are saying the big brain was the response to a *dynamic* environment with big temperature and precipitation swings over the courses of a thousand years or less. The smart ones could respond to change, and passed on their genes for creativity and flexibility. Could we (or really our kids and their kids) manage the same trick in the face of AGW?

    No doubt some will. But the other side of the this evolutionary coin is that some did *not* make it. For me, the whole point of taking long term precaution against AGW is to *avoid* the cruel efficiency of Darwinism.

    Besides, we have numerous *other* reasons–strategic, economic, ethical–to reduce our greenhouse emissions. There are short term “costs” of reduction but its a long run win for everyone except fossil fuel vendors if we act.

    Skip

  33. #33 carrot eater
    November 4, 2009

    skip: On the time scales we’re looking at, and the climate shifts we’re talking about, it isn’t human evolution I’m thinking about. Man himself will physically be fine; it’s the other life forms I’m worried about – the things we eat, the things they eat, the insects that attack our crops, and so on. We can hopefully genetically engineer some drought- or flood-resistant crops where they’re needed (something we need to do even without climate change), but the impacts on other life forms and the resulting impacts on us, if any, seem difficult to predict.

    Chris S: thanks again for the link. Nice review articles.

  34. #34 pough
    November 4, 2009

    I figured I’d weigh in on the crakar/Snowman issue since I spent some time trying to talk to them. I’m glad you didn’t ban them. I’m not a huge fan of banning. I don’t mind in-line removal of dross, though, and I think it should be applied evenly.

    Anyways, dealing with crakar was like playing whack-a-mole with no prize at the end. He had a few issues that couldn’t be dealt with by way of actual science. They were always going to come back. Forever. I personally don’t think there was any way to ever sway him, because I think he was just a contrarian and nothing but.

    Snowman was pure poison; a politician. He should have been banned before crakar. His comments were content-free, unless you count pure rhetoric and insinuation. I stopped talking to him when I realized that any valid point I made would be danced around with claims that my style of communication was strange and incomprehensible.

  35. #35 anon
    November 5, 2009

    Australia’s National News website, Climate Change Special Coverage Feature.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/11/04/2732928.htm

    It’s late, I’ve had a number of red wines….
    I thought this article was an “interesting case in point”, especially for this thread.

  36. #36 skip
    November 5, 2009

    Oh, God . . . just what we need.

    It might result in positive behavioral changes but I can *feel* the denialsphere’s spin on this.

    Skip

  37. #37 James
    November 13, 2009

    Some of my favorite denier arguments simplified to their core with a few retorts:

    Small things can’t possibly harm big things – obviously these people have never gotten sick from a virus or bacteria, nor known anyone else to have gotten sick (or even die) from a virus or bacteria.

    If some is good, more is better – since this is the case, I recommend all deniers start taking IVs of iron. Humans need iron to live, ergo we should inject as much as possible into our bodies.

    If something happened one way once, it can’t happen another way now – Henceforth all forest fires can rightly be attributed to natural causes, as it is impossible that a man with a match and tinder could have started it. Only nature can do that. Also, all murderers shall be set free, as humans have previously died of natural causes.

  38. #38 Dappledwater
    November 13, 2009

    James, yup, I’ve used the bacteria and murder analogies quite a few times. But the information either, goes in the deniers brain and falls out again, or doesn’t get absorbed in the first place. Strange that.

  39. #39 skip
    November 13, 2009

    But they are still excellent analogies.

    Skip

  40. #40 Ламинация
    January 2, 2010

    [spambot comment left in as it has initiated a dialogue…its URL is gone at least…. – coby]

    For instance maybe in a warming world our clever intentors will come up with unexpected ways of increasing our crop yields and increasing productivity with new crops that can take advantage of higher co2, higher temps and less frequent but heavier rainfall. But how will we know unless the idea is debated? Maybe its just not an idea that can be meaningfully debated and we’ll never know until someone figures out how to actually do it.

  41. #41 GFW
    January 2, 2010

    Ламинация: So maybe we shouldn’t put ourselves in the position of needing miraculous technological advance in a short time frame to avoid the starvation of millions.

    Would you set a large brush fire next to your house thinking “Maybe someone will come along with a force-field to keep the heat and flame from my walls.” I think not.

  42. #42 PaulinMI
    January 2, 2010

    key difference here GFW, is that we don’t know starvation will, in fact, happen.

  43. #43 GFW
    January 2, 2010

    One doesn’t know if the wind will push the brushfire onto the house or not, but it’s too great a risk to take.

    We *know* how much of the world’s agricultural land lies within a meter or two of sea level and we can determine soil suitability for various crops quite well, so we can estimate the effects of shifting climate zones north onto soils not previously used for those crops. In some cases it could turn out well, and in others not, but the point is it’s not a complete unknown (and sea level rise is a pure negative). The biggest variable is rainfall, but there too, the indications aren’t very promising.

    So we can stick with the climate that supported the development of human civilization, or we can roll the dice in a game where our limited predictive ability suggests a decrease in agricultural yields is more likely than an increase. (Assume various caveats like we don’t miraculously develop hydrogen fusion to power more artificial agricultural methods like hydroponics on a massive scale. That would be great, but don’t bet on it.)

  44. #44 Dappledwater
    January 2, 2010

    GFW, your initial response was to a spambot thingy, which copied a paragraph from earlier in this thread. Been a few of them popping up here recently.

  45. #45 PaulinMI
    January 2, 2010

    “So we can stick with the climate that supported the development of human civilization, or we can roll the dice in a game where our limited predictive ability suggests a decrease in agricultural yields is more likely than an increase.”

    At cost to whom, for what benefit?”

    “we can determine soil suitability for various crops quite well, so we can estimate the effects of shifting climate zones north onto soils not previously used for those crops

    And as free men have engineered what they needed in the past, can we expect that in the future? [to be completed with profit motive]

  46. #46 dhogaza
    January 2, 2010

    GFW, your initial response was to a spambot thingy, which copied a paragraph from earlier in this thread. Been a few of them popping up here recently.

    And the cyrillic handle links to a site in russia (which I did not visit).

    These bots are becoming a pest …

  47. #47 GFW
    January 2, 2010

    Cost/benefit is the point Paul. We are getting to the point where we can estimate the costs of sea level rise and shifting crop zones, and those costs are really high. Much higher than the costs of a strong, but not panicked, effort to increase efficiency and shift to lower/non carbon energy sources.

    The trouble is that the costs of high carbon emissions are not being borne by those who profit from high carbon emissions. Wikipedia “externality”.

    As for engineering crops … a lot of the necessary modifications are ones that would be useful/profitable right now, and yet they haven’t been achieved. They’re like Freeman Dyson’s “carbon eating trees”. Great idea, but I’d like to actually *have* the technology before initiating conditions where the technology is necessary for survival.

    (another of my stupid metaphors) “I know, I’ll jump off this cliff with a bolt of fabric and some thread, because the necessity of turning them into a parachute will somehow enable me to do so quickly enough.”

  48. #48 skip
    January 3, 2010

    re the turkish spambot:

    what does this accomplish for the perpetrator?

  49. #49 Dappledwater
    January 3, 2010

    Skip, I imagine sooner or later someone clicks on one their links and is directed to some shady website, which is their intent.

  50. #50 PaulinMI
    January 3, 2010

    GFW,
    “The trouble is that the costs of high carbon emissions are not being borne by those who profit from high carbon emissions”

    I’d be interested in your view of world progress.

  51. #51 dhogaza
    January 3, 2010

    Skip, I imagine sooner or later someone…

    Or some search engine spider …

  52. #52 skip
    January 3, 2010

    Kind of a broad question, Paul, and in what sense is it related to Gs point about the perverse subsidization of fossil fuel companies?

  53. #53 PaulinMI
    January 3, 2010

    Skip,
    What do you mean by perverse subsidization?

  54. #54 skip
    January 3, 2010

    Perverse subsidy is an economic term. Basically its the idea that we make doing something destructive profitable to some group; we collectively make it in their interest to something that, while fine for them (at least in the short run) is bad for the rest of us.

    For example, American drug policy (aggressive arrest and interdiction) is arguably a form of perverse subsidy. We are paying money allegedly to stop drugs but in reality we make the drug trade profitable to those who would violate the law, murder, etc.

    Fiscal conservatives argue that reactive public health care through medicaid treatments is arguably a form of perverse subsidy. It in essence “pays” people to be poor, irresponsible, and unhealthy.

    In terms of American energy policy, the oil industry is one of the most spoiled. Besides a number of tax codes that favor expansion of drilling, etc (I am not keen on those details at the moment), it gains from the use of public expenditures to pay for roads and the vast US military which secures our access to mideast oil fields. AS consumers we don’t see these costs because we don’t pay them at the pump (GFWs point as I perceived it) but in essence we are perversely subsidizing the oil industry.

    Its perverse because its in the industry’s interest to keep us gorging on “cheap” oil despite its associated military and logistical costs and its effects on atmospheric CO2 and the potential environmental calamities that could result.

    The solution is for the price of oil to represent its true “cost”, which is not currently the case.

    More clear?

  55. #55 PaulinMI
    January 3, 2010

    Oil was here before concrete roads. Trails have been improved for centurys, whether that is a subsidy for the mode of transport may be debateable. In the end cars and roads won out.
    The tax on gas, pays for roads. To the extent other payments contribute, I don’t know.

    Drugs, agreed.
    Medicare, medicaid, agreed.

    We’ll need to disagree on true cost.
    Military cost is another poor policy choice, and I’m sure we’ll disagree as to why.

    Basically sounds like we agree that subsidy can not exist without government butting in where it doesn’t belong.

    What kind of subsidy is ethanol? Wind Power? Solar thermal or electric?

    ===============================
    My comment to G has to do with how wealth in one area betters others in other areas.
    For example, our efficiency in the economy with the use of oil frees up time for people to improve medical knowledge, which helps all globally.

    If one does not view it that way, then one may point to a single part of a society (burning carbon for example) and call it bad, selfish, etc. without regard for the total impact.

  56. #56 skip
    January 3, 2010

    In the end cars and roads won out.

    Do you know how?

    The tax on gas, pays for roads.

    Not entirely.

    To the extent other payments contribute, I don’t know.

    Neither do I with precision but I do know that we subsidize the the commuter culture.

    We’ll need to disagree on true cost.

    How do you know if by your own admission you don’t even know what they are? (And neither do I but that’s my point: let us consider the relative “costs” of current policy. Let’s explore that issue together. Its a subject that every single denier I have *ever* encountered dodges. Always. Without exception.)

    Military cost is another poor policy choice,

    Please rephrase. This could mean anything.

    and I’m sure we’ll disagree as to why.

    Lacking your certainty I need clarification.

    Basically sounds like we agree that subsidy can not exist without government butting in where it doesn’t belong.

    What kind of subsidy is ethanol? Wind Power? Solar thermal or electric?

    What are you implying with these questions? That you do not know? And if so, why, if it all, do you oppose them?

    our efficiency in the economy with the use of oil . . .

    *Exactly* the thing in dispute, Paul. It only looks “efficient” because it is *subsidized*. My key point.

    . . . frees up time for people to improve medical knowledge, which helps all globally.

    I am tempted to swear at this statement. There is nothing efficient about it. Our patterns in oil use are an *indulgence*. We can advance medically, scientifically, socially and however else *without* driving cars that average less than 20 mpg.

    If one does not view it that way, then one may point to a single part of a society (burning carbon for example) and call it bad, selfish, etc. without regard for the total impact.

    I fear I have tried and simply cannot decipher this. Forgive my denseness, Paul.

  57. #57 PaulinMI
    January 3, 2010

    “let us consider the relative “costs” of current policy”

    oil? commuting?

  58. #58 skip
    January 4, 2010

    By default doing nothing about reducing CO2. This is what I mean about “current policy”.

  59. #59 Murf
    January 4, 2010

    Skip,

    Are you the one that posted on Amazon inviting discussion and debate?

    I’d like to have some discussion with you (or anyone knowledgable about climate data) on using the GISS data. Where should I go to do that? (I’m not real in tune yet with the workings of these blog sites.)

  60. #60 skip
    January 4, 2010

    Hey Murf:

    Yeah hey, hozit going? Welcome to Coby’s humble but quite enlightening little blog. I have only a vague familiarity with the GISS “controversy” but it has been extensively discussed in this blog in other links.

    I’ll do some fishing around. I have not committed these discussions to memory but among the better authorities on this are frequent posters Dhogaza, Dappled Water, and GFW if memory serves.

    Anyway I hope this is fun for you; if Dhogaza bites, don’t worry; he doesn’t have rabies.

    Skip

  61. #61 mandas
    January 4, 2010

    Skip
    I’m insulted you didn’t include me among the luminaries in your list – oh well, have to study harder then.
    Murf
    By GISS, I assume you mean the Goddard Institute of Space Studies. And I also assume you want to talk about the ‘controversy’ regarding the corrections to their datasets?
    If so – go for it. But I’m not sure why you would bother. The issue was put to bed years ago.

  62. #62 skip
    January 4, 2010

    Ah. Sorry.

    You are right, Mandas. You deserved mention. Please note this, Murf.

    Skip

  63. #63 Murf
    January 4, 2010

    Thanks for the responses. I hope you’ll bear with me–I’m pretty new to this whole climate issue and these blogs. I can see this is old hat to you guys.

    Actually, Mandas, I’m not interested at all in the corrections to the GISS data at the moment.

    Rather, I’m trying to do a little analysis for myself to see what the GISS data actually show, ignoring any and all issues of data quality–I just want to see what the basic data, as given and without any further adjustments, show in terms of a single global annual series.

    Here’s where I am: I’m presently using, if I understand it correctly, the global set of GISS temperature data [raw GHCN + USHCN corrections]. Looking at the dataset as a matrix of year-months x country-stations, how should one go about getting the data into a single global average annual series, given that there’s so many missing values?

    So far, I’ve considered two ways one might produce a single global series:
    (1) average all the available data over all stations by year-month, disregarding any missing values, then average the monthly series by year to get average annual;
    (2) average each country by year, omitting any years for a country where there are one or more months missing in the station’s data, then average over all the countries by year.

    What do you think of either of these methods? What are other (better?) ways to do it? Or, is there some reason it doesn’t make sense to do this at all?

    Thanks

  64. #64 mandas
    January 4, 2010

    Murf,
    I can see what you are suggesting/attempting, but I would advise caution in drawing any conclusions based on – what appears to me at least – to be a fairly cursory re-analysis of the data. And I apologise if I am underestimating your capabilities.
    Firstly though, a detailed response to your question is a little beyond my field of expertise. I could offer you some considerations based on statistics and how to account for gaps and weightings in data etc, but that may not be sufficient for your use.
    However, specific to your request, I can say that you cannot simply average all the data points to determine a global average temperature, nor can you simply ommit data points and average the remainder. I would also suggest that you cannot ignore the issue of data quality nor adjustments. Not all points should receive equal weighting, as they may cover smaller or larger areas of interest, or they may be inherently more ‘reliable’ or accurate (and should therefore include smaller error margins). You would also need to know the position etc of all the data points and their positions relative to each other etc, plus the temporal issues for both the available and missing data.

    Here is a link you may follow to get some more information(but it appears you already have if you are discussing grids and matrices). If not, it may help. There are also some references on the site to papers outlining calculation methods which may assist you:
    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/ghcn/ghcngrid.html

    Sorry I can’t be more help.

  65. #65 skip
    January 4, 2010

    First let me confess rank unfamiliarity with how these data are averaged and weighted to calculate changes in mean temperatures.

    However, out of curiosity, Murf: What is your training and source of your interest here?

    Skip

  66. #66 PaulinMI
    January 4, 2010

    Skip,
    I’m gonna be out of the loop for a week.
    Thanks for your patience. I’ll continue later.

  67. #67 Murf
    January 5, 2010

    Mandas wrote: “I could offer you some considerations based on statistics and how to account for gaps and weightings in data etc…I can say that you cannot simply average all the data points to determine a global average temperature, nor can you simply ommit data points and average the remainder.”

    Mandas, I’d like to hear your considerations (in first part) and the reasons (in second part).

    Mandas wrote: “I would also suggest that you cannot ignore the issue of data quality nor adjustments.”

    Mandas, No doubt you’re ultimately right–it’s more complicated than my simplistic approach allows, but I want to start simple and just see what I get at that level. If nothing else, it should help me understand the data issues better. From what I’ve seen in these climate blogs, it looks like just about everything is ultimately and endlessly arguable, especially with regard to data quality and adjustments; I don’t want to deal with all that at the moment.

    Skip, I’m just a curious old geezer with a bit of available time who likes to ‘play’ with data.

  68. #68 mandas
    January 5, 2010

    Murf
    Before I would begin to offer you any advice on how to apply statistics, I would need to know exactly how much you already know.
    It would be pointless me attempting to explain complicated statistical methods if you only have a high school education – you just wouldn’t understand the maths (I’m not a statistician either and no expert in mathematics – just someone who did statistics as part of my science degrees). It would also be pointless – and I suspect rather patronising – if I explained basic statistical concepts if you are a mathematician or similar.
    I know this because I have attempted to explain some very basic statistical concepts (such as the difference between causality and correlation) elsewhere on this blog to a well-known frequent poster – and it felt a little like beating my head against a brick wall.
    I suspect from your request for me to give reasons why you cannot simply average all the available data, that you have only a very basic statistical understanding. Let me give you a VERY simple lay example. If there are five measuring stations in a relatively small area (such as city), but only one measuring station in a relatively large area (such as a rural area), then you cannot simply add up all the numbers, divide by 6, and get the mean temperature for the region. Any calculation applied this way would be heavily biased towards the city readings. You would have to apply a weighting to increase the value of the rural station, or decrease the value of the city stations, because of their effective areas of coverage.
    Similarly, if you are missing some data points (it may be because a reading wasn’t recorded for some reason), you cannot simply add up all the rest and divide by the number of readings to get the mean – the calculated mean would only be valid if the missing data was exactly equal to the mean, and that would be highly unlikely. Consequently, you would need some mechanism to extrapolate for the missing data, or you would have to apply appropriate error bands to demonstrate your confidence (or lack of it) in the results.
    But I have gone on long enough. If you really want to understand some of these concepts better, this is not the place for me to teach my limited knowledge of statistics – you should read a text book. But even that would not be adequate to understand the concepts involved in the calculations used in this science, which are very complex indeed.

  69. #69 dhogaza
    January 5, 2010

    I know this because I have attempted to explain some very basic statistical concepts (such as the difference between causality and correlation) elsewhere on this blog to a well-known frequent poster – and it felt a little like beating my head against a brick wall.

    If you’re referring to our lengthy discussion regarding the usefulness of tree chronologies as temperature proxies, please give your head a rest, because I am *well* aware of the difference between causality and correlation.

    Our differing view of the usefulness of the work by Briffa and others lies elsewhere.

  70. #70 mandas
    January 5, 2010

    Not referring to you dhogaza – I am referring to the namesake of this thread.
    And yes – we can differ on the issues about tree rings etc, but I think we are in broad agreement on most other issues here.

  71. #71 Murf
    January 5, 2010

    Mandas, I think my question is, actually, why do you think there’s likely to be bias in this set of over 6,000 stations? In other words, what leads you to believe the missing values are not randomly distributed around the true population means?

    Assuming decent reason to suspect non-randomness, how would you ‘extrapolate’ for the missing data or develop appropriate error bands?

    Finally, where do I go to find out precisely how the well-known publishers of these temperature graphs handle the missing data problem? I looked on the GISS site, but I didn’t uncover it, if it’s there.

    There’s a reasonable chance I can pick up on your data analysis expertise, so give me a shot.

  72. #72 Murf
    January 5, 2010

    I just located an interesting-sounding article:

    Filling missing temperature values in weather data banks
    By Kotsiantis, S.; Kostoulas, A.; Lykoudis, S.; Argiriou, A.; Menagias, K.
    Intelligent Environments, 2006. IE 06. 2nd IET International Conference on
    Page(s): 327 – 334
    5-6 July 2006
    Volume: 1 Issue:

    I”m a little tied up at the moment, but I hopefully can read through this in the next couple of days.

  73. #73 mandas
    January 5, 2010

    Murf,
    Seems you are answering your own questions – but to respond briefly to your post to me:
    Without analysing the data, there is no way of knowing whether the missing data is random or otherwise. In general terms, the more data that was missing from more locations over a great period, the more likely it is to be random.
    If some sort of clustering were observed (spacially or temporally), then the more likely it is to be non-random.
    Extrapolation is a difficult concept and I can only speak from datasets I use myself in my own work. An example may be (and this is a VERY simple example only) if there was an observed correlation between two data sets (eg at adjacent measuring stations), you MAY be able to use the data from one to extrapolate missing data from the other. Another (more robust) method is called ‘regression analysis’ to predict missing data based on known information. Here is a link to an explanation of how it works:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regression_analysis
    Hope this helps.

  74. #74 Murf
    January 6, 2010

    Does anyone have any specific reasons, either a priori or from analyzing the data — specific, that is, to the GISS temperature yr-mo x station dataset, not just general analytical considerations — why missing values are likely to be non-random with respect to the global annual means. (Actually, relative-to-means may be an overly stringent specification since it’s basically the years relative to one another, i.e., the trend rather than the actual mean values, that’s of primary interest to me, but I’ll ignore that.)

  75. #75 skip
    January 6, 2010

    why missing values are likely to be non-random with respect to the global annual means.

    To be perfectly honest, I didn’t realize they were (I have only followed this casually). Murf, I don’t suppose I could persuade you to explain again what you’re driving at.

    Is it that there is more/less missing data for “warmer” years, and thus this might call into question any observed “trends”. Help catch up the lowly social scientist here.

    Skip

  76. #76 Murf
    January 6, 2010

    Skip, Thanks for the response.

    What I’m driving at is that whether or not it’s necessary to do anything to the data to deal with missing values depends on whether they are randomly distributed about the global means (this is pehaps an unnecessarily strong condition, I think, as previously noted, but I’ll go with it).

    So what I’m looking for is any input where someone has reason to think they are biased (nonrandom), either a priori suspicion specific to the dataset or conclusions from actually examining the data.

    I’m at a little of a loss to know how to explain it any more. I’m also a little confused by your question, as I’m not saying the values are biased, I’m just asking if anybody has good (specific) reason to think they are, such that you would need to attempt the kind of things (roughly speaking) to the data that Mandas alludes to.

    If I’m missing what you’re saying or asking, try me again.

    I’m also a little surprised that nobody seems curious as to what the data show without further adjustment, even if there are missing value bias problems or other problems. I think I’d nearly always want to look at that, just as a matter of course, at least unless I had decent reason to think bias really does exist in the dataset under examination. It’s just one step in data analysis.

    Maybe that article I mentioned but have not yet read will shed some light.

    Maybe, also, I’m in the wrong forum here. If there’s better places that you can recommend, where people might have actually worked with the data, I’d be happy to go there.

  77. #77 skip
    January 6, 2010

    I’m at a little of a loss to know how to explain it any more.

    No I think I get it now. But yeah, you’re right I really don’t know.

    As a layman I have to assume that the obvious possibility of confounding effects of data bias were accounted for in the temperature range calculations. Exactly how this was done I could not say.

    My point was simply that I seriously doubt there is a blind spot here that climate scientists measuring trends in mean temps have bungled and missed.

    Wish I could be more helpful. However, if you *do* dig up something that shows, for example, that the missing/distorted data are *not* randomly distributed around the means, that this has *not* been taken into account by climate researchers, and that this has implications one way or another for our understanding of AGW, then that is the kind of finding/contention that is quite pertinent to this forum.

  78. #78 Murf
    January 6, 2010

    Skip, Just to try to make sure it’s clear: I’m not even remotely suggesting the preparers of the data for the published graphs have not properly accounted for any such bias. I have no reason to suggest anything one way or the other–I’m not in that battle.

    I’m just trying to find out how they do it(and possibly why they think it’s necessary) to see what I can make of the data doing my own analysis with it.

  79. #79 skip
    January 6, 2010

    Hmm.

    Well I wish I knew where to begin. My guess is Goddard, among others, explains how they make these adjustments but again I confess I don’t really know.

    I don’t suppose if/when you dig something up you’d post the relevant links here. We can all afford to learn more.

  80. #80 Murf
    January 6, 2010

    Skip, I’ll post if I find anything that looks like it might be worthwhile. I’m always encouraged when someone is interested in learning more–learning stuff is the fun of analysis for me.

  81. #81 mandas
    January 6, 2010

    Murf
    With regard to your on-going query regarding the randomness or otherwise of the missing data, I’m not sure if I made my earlier point clear.
    There is no way of determining whether the missing data is random or otherwise without examining it. That way you can determine if it is random (ie no observed clustering), or if it is biased (ie an observed clustering about a specific point or set of points).
    Because I haven’t seen the data, I can’t say either way how it should be interpolated, and I can’t say if I have any reasons either way if it is biased.
    Alternatively, if you want an expert opinion, you could ask the experts at the NOAA National Climate Data Centre. Here is their email address:
    ncdc.info@noaa.gov

  82. #82 Murf
    January 7, 2010

    Mandas, after giving it a little thought, it seems to me fairly easy in principle to get a pretty good idea from the data of whether there’s serious missing value bias in the (‘unadjusted’) global annual means or not. Either there’s location bias (a priori, very possible I’d think) or month bias(not very likely I’d think) .

    Location bias appears a bit more challenging to handle, but I have an idea or two for an approach that might be sufficiently satisfactory for my purposes (I’m not publishing).

    I’m going to check it out in the next day or two, hopefully. I’ll let you know the results.

  83. #83 skip
    January 7, 2010

    an approach that might be sufficiently satisfactory for my purposes (I’m not publishing).

    Ah, the luxuries of retirement, eh? I saw that and had to let loose with a good-natured laugh. Let us know what you find, Murf.

    Thanks for your contribution,

  84. #84 Murf
    January 12, 2010

    I (and a cohort) have spent several days now looking at and working with the GISS data (makes us experts, of course).

    I was a bit surprised when I first realized how extremely lumpy the global geographic distribution of weather stations actually is.

    We attempted to grid the globe and come up with station samples that would be reasonable approximations to geographic homogeneity. We’ve not been able to get anything that appears satisfactory enough to have confidence that we’re ‘global’ and that lat-lon drift biases over time are accounted for sufficiently.

    Also, I have serious doubts about anyone being able to do anything legit with missing values for this data–maybe, but I’d have to see the proof and the procedural details.

    I think I’ll try emailing the NOAA folks. It’s looking like I’m going to have to be skeptical about ANYONE’S derivation of global mean temperatures from this data until someone can detail to me the steps they’ve taken to derive statistically acceptable global means.

    It does appear one can get reasonable means for the U.S., so maybe I’ll take a look at that.

    I may yet change my mind on the global means as I play with the data more or get more info. But, with my current experience with the data, that’s where I am now.

  85. #85 skip
    January 12, 2010

    Interesting, Murf.

    Thanks for your investigative approach and keeping us updated.

    Who knows, maybe you’ll bring down the whole AGW paradigm.

    I for one would be relieved.

  86. #86 PaulinMI
    January 12, 2010

    psst, what about the satellites?

  87. #87 Murf
    January 14, 2010

    Aha. I have found some materials detailing the interpolation techniques used for this type of data (or so it appears). It will take me a bit of time to gain some familiarity with them and, assuming they are are demonstrated to be sound, see if I can apply them myself.

  88. #88 skip
    January 14, 2010

    Murf,

    Thanks for this. I for one will be curious as to what you find. Glad you’re enjoying this process.

  89. #89 Dappledwater
    January 15, 2010

    #87 – tee hee.

  90. #90 Murf
    January 16, 2010

    I will have to say, after spending a bit of time in this, trying to calculate an unbiased global annual temp means time-series with a reasonable degree of confidence from GISS weather stations monthly data is different from anything I’ve encountered before.

    Keeping in mind I’m an absolute beginner at dealing with climate data, I’ve been thinking about trying to understand what’s involved by considering what would constitute an ideal data set for the purpose of deriving an unbiased global mean time-series from station readings at some sufficiently small grid interval around the globe (how ‘sufficiently small’ would be established, I’m not sure).

    Here’s what seems to me would be the ideal specs for such a dataset (which constitutes a sample, of course, of a larger ‘population’ of readings):

    (1) the data’s geographic distribution, mapped to a grid
    (a) the grid must be tight enough to allow a high degree of confidence in the sample global time-series means (I don’t know how such a thing (i.e., grid size) can be determined–can anyone help me here?)
    (b) must be weighted to account for the disparities in land areas among evenly-spaced lat-lon grids (this, I think, can be readily done for any grid size)

    (2) the data values
    (a) there would be at least one reading with no missing month values for all years under consideration for each grid tract
    (b) the values would be fixed or fully random across the station grid-year matrix with respect to certain other potential temperature-affecting factors, such as population concentration or altitude above sea level.

    Does this make sense? Are there other significant factors to consider?

    The actual data, as I’ve learned, falls far short of this ideal, which is where, I suppose, the story gets interesting. The big deal appears to be the large number of missing values with respect to a mapping to a grid that would be tightly enough defined (assuming that can be determined) to confidently yield suffciently accurate unbiased global means.

    I’m finding lots of papers related to the missing values problem, but I’ve not run across one that empirically verifies, for this type of data and objective, any of the methods offered. A principal components type method seems to be the technique of choice for climate researchers, judging by what I’ve seen so far.

    I’m no doubt old-school, but I don’t think I or any of the people I’ve worked with over the years were ever very comfortable with data imputation, at least in any situation remotely resembling this one. But I would certainly yield if someone can point me to any empirical verifications.

  91. #91 skip
    January 17, 2010

    I must say this is a really impressive hobby you’ve picked up on Murf. If was you I’d be watching the playoffs (like I am right now as the Cowboys go down in flames–haha.)

    Although I cannot keep up with your technical explanation, and I fully appreciate your “old school” skepticism of data imputation and other “tricks” (oh dear did I use that word; i must be an academic fraud) for accounting for it, a general question I might ask is:

    How badly does the missing data problem compromise the robustness of the generally accepted conclusions regarding warming? On a much smaller scale have the same problem in a data set I used for a recent article submission (nothing nearly as advanced as what goes into estimating temperature changes) but my argument to the anonymous reviewers is essentially, “Yeah my data are incomplete, even lousy on some factors, but all the data we *do* have point toward the same general conclusion, I have in several of my estimations biased them *against* those conclusions, and the apparent selection bias for missing data would be that the more we knew the more it almost certainly would support what I’ve found.”

    My perception is that the evidence of warming is pretty sound whatever the limits of temp data. But keep having fun and reporting back. Go Vikings.

  92. #92 Murf
    January 18, 2010

    Skip,

    Point well taken.

    I’m still hoping to locate a paper or two with some empirical testing of the EOF (PCA) imputation technique as applied to this type of spatial-temporal data.

    I have run out of free time to explore this much further for now–interesting as it’s been–as I’ve picked up some economic data contract work that I have to get busy on. I’ll check back off and on, though, to see if there’s anything new.

    Thanks for your responses.

    Murf

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