The malign Nature effect, again refers.

In the hotly contested competition to see who are the biggest tossers in the british newspaper industry there has been an early entry this year by the Daily Mail: The mini ice age starts here based mainly on the fact that, oh, it has snowed a bit. And not helped by the UKMO pratting around with seasonal forecasts they know full well are worthless to the general public. Whether or not this makes the Mail more stupid that the Torygraph I leave for you to judge (incidentally, for you Johnny Foreigners lucky enough not to know what the Mail is, its a tabloid rag somewhat above the Sun but well below the Broadsheets, but with pretensions to respectability).

But what makes this little episode especially amusing is that the Grauniad (unlike the Mail) actually bothered to talk to Latif and he pretty well told them the Mail were a bunch of wazzocks. After that, he said something quite thoughtful which is nice: “There are numerous newspapers, radio stations and television channels all trying to get our attention. Some overstate and some want to downplay the problem as a way to get that attention,” he said. “We are trying to discuss in the media a highly complex issue. Nobody would discuss the problem of [Einstein’s theory of] relativity in the media. But because we all experience the weather, we all believe that we can assess the global warming problem”. Ah yes.

Comments

  1. #1 carrot eater
    2010/01/11

    If there were a prize for “Scientist most victimised by games of Whisper-down-the-Alley”, it would easily be Latif.

    It seems like nobody understood what that Keenlyside paper was trying to do, and then each successive journalist/blogger just amplifies the confusion.

    WC, what are your thoughts on the skill of decadal-scale prediction? Is moving towards the initial value problem a method that will get us very far? Can ENSO be predicted more than a year out?

  2. #2 James Annan
    2010/01/11

    Re: the Keenlyside paper, I saw two presentations from Keenlyside shortly after that paper was published, and there is no question that he was milking it for rather more than it was worth (blogged here). He also presented some extremely dodgy stuff based on correlations to claim that a large part of the C20th warming had been natural. I don’t think it is fair to blame the mainstream media for the entire kerfuffle, though of course some of them have gone too far.

  3. #3 carrot eater
    2010/01/11

    Did Keenlyside ever take up the RC bet?

    As for what it was worth, to me it looked most interesting as demonstrating a start to a new methodology. The somewhat underwhelming results don’t seem to justify taking much more out of it.

  4. #4 James Annan
    2010/01/11

    No, AFAIK he ducked it. He’s got his moment of fame, it hardly matters whether it is correct or not. Actually quite by chance I see a relevant paper about to appear, time to get blogging…but it looked to me (and indeed to RC) that there was sufficient evidence even in the original paper that the method failed anyway.

  5. #5 Deep Climate
    2010/01/12

    James,

    Fred Pearce of New Scientist booted the WCC Latif presentation pretty badly. Then Morano, Gunter, Will etc. got a hold of it and really bent it out of shape. Ancient history I know …

    http://deepclimate.org/2009/10/02/anatomy-of-a-lie-how-morano-and-gunter-spun-latif-out-of-contro/

    The Daily Mail really takes the cake, though. I have looked not only at the latest distortion of Latif, but also at David Rose’s earlier work. Rose’s first article on climate (a month ago) echoed McIntyre’s ClimateGate “context” blather wherein he claimed that Briffa bowed to pressure from Michael Mann to change his contribution to a key IPCC chart. So The Mail has truly gone beyond any other print outlet in sheer idiocy.

    http://deepclimate.org/2010/01/11/mojib-latif-slams-daily-mail/

    Sure, the Keenlyside-Latif decadal projections appear quite far under actual observations. And no doubt they have exaggerated the importance of their work. But that doesn’t excuse the questionable reporting and terrible distortions that have ensued in the MSM.

    Look forward to your next post …

  6. #6 thomas hine
    2010/01/12

    I think I know what started this – it’s just like the movies and should be a warning for geo-engineering:

    anyone remember this?: http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/posted/archive/2009/12/09/moscow-declares-war-on-snow-plans-to-seed-clouds.aspx

    russians – could be the same ones involved in the hack?

  7. #7 bigcitylib
    2010/01/12

    Whats a wazzock? (we Canucks have a rather poor stock of colorful epithets).

    [Wazzock
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Wikipedia does not have an encyclopedia article for Wazzock (search results).
    You may want to read Wiktionary’s entry on “wazzock” instead.

    Aha:

    Etymology

    Possibly from wiseacre.
    [edit] Noun

    Singular
    wazzock

    Plural
    wazzocks

    wazzock (plural wazzocks)

    1. (British, mildly pejorative) (slang) a stupid or annoying person.

    Yes, that is right -W]

  8. #8 Harold Brooks
    2010/01/12

    Whats a wazzock? (we Canucks have a rather poor stock of colorful epithets).

    That’s because you have to make them bilingual.

    BTW, a wazzock is an idiot.

  9. #9 Deep Climate
    2010/01/12

    WC,

    David Rose of the Mail did talk to Latif:


    Last night he told The Mail on Sunday: ‘A significant share of the warming we saw from 1980 to 2000 and at earlier periods in the 20th Century was due to these cycles – perhaps as much as 50 per cent.

    ‘They have now gone into reverse, so winters like this one will become much more likely. Summers will also probably be cooler, and all this may well last two decades or longer.

    ‘The extreme retreats that we have seen in glaciers and sea ice will come to a halt. For the time being, global warming has paused, and there may well be some cooling.’

    Even if we take the quote as faithful and totally “in context” (which quite frankly is open to question without a transcript), the phrase “may well” would seem to indicate only a part of Latif’s modeled probability distributions for the duration and extent of the “reduced warming” engendered by ocean oscillations. That can’t be squared with Rose’s more definitive statement that we are at “start of a global trend towards cooler weather that is likely to last for 20 or 30 years”.

    But I guess Rose just heard what he wanted to hear.

  10. #10 TrueSceptic
    2010/01/12

    8 Harold,

    Actually, it’s a much ruder word, but sometimes used as you say.

  11. #11 TrueSceptic
    2010/01/12

    And how come no one asked about William’s use of “tosser”? That would be “jerk-off”. ;)

  12. #12 John Mashey
    2010/01/12

    My British wife attended Cambridge years ago, but she was unable to define this term for me. I am pleased to have my vocabulary expanded.

    I am always reminded that while {UK, US, CA, AU, NZ, among others} share a language, more-or-less, interesting variations exist, and sometimes local words deserve wider usage.

    I’ve often wished that the Australian verb spruik and it’s associated noun spruiker were more widely understood, as they tersely capture useful concepts applicable in many domains.

    This probably comes from German, but it seemed to skip to Oz.

  13. #13 Eli Rabett
    2010/01/12

    the urban dictionary rules.

  14. #14 Paul Kelly
    2010/01/13

    How interchangeable are wazzock and prat?

    Also, is Latif predicting an upwards of thirty years of global temperature stability followed by a more aggressive warming? Smith et al predicts that internal variability will partially offset the anthropogenic global warming signal for the next few years yet still warming with at least half of the years after 2009 exceeding the warmest year currently on record. Which is more likely?

    How much of the current (post 1950) warming is due to decadal ocean oscillations and internal variability?

  15. #15 Rattus Norvegicus
    2010/01/13

    I may be just an American, but my understanding is that “tosser” is just an idiot. A “wanker” is a jerk off.

    [I remember great amusement in wikiland when a user decided on the nickname “cybertosser”, having in mind the image of a giant cyborb tossing enemies over his head. It was gently explained to him that in the UK, “Tosser” is ~wanker or as you colonials say,a jerk-off :-) -W]

  16. #16 Adam
    2010/01/13

    Tosser’s fine, but no one mention “vinegar stokes”. :)

  17. #17 guthrie
    2010/01/13

    A lot of UK words of derision started as local/ regional words, perhaps verging on dialect, although I am no linguist. Wazzock I believe comes from either Yorkshire way or down in the west country. I have run across the word ‘numpty’ from Dundonians and Weegies, but not generally Edinburghers.

  18. #18 crf
    2010/01/13

    At the rate newspapers keep pushing the boundaries of what nonsense they will publish, then Einstein’s theories will be up for grabs in a few years.

    And there is worse than the reporting done on climate science: try nutrition, or cancer.

  19. #19 P. Lewis
    2010/01/13

    Balderdash & Piffle (I think Victoria Coren is delectable; she has some of the wit of her old man and plays a mean game of Texas Hold ‘em) in concert with the OED have been trying to source word origins, wazzock and tosser amongst them.

  20. #20 Marco
    2010/01/14

    @crf:
    May I assume you take a regular look at “badscience.net” ? Ben Goldacre, we could use someone like him in climate science…

  21. #21 Luke Silburn
    2010/01/14

    “How interchangeable are wazzock and prat?” Pretty much completely, same/same wrt berk – which is *very* rude if you follow the derivation to its ultimate source.

    “…my understanding is that “tosser” is just an idiot. A “wanker” is a jerk off.” Nope, tosser and wanker are synonyms for both usages; for some reason British slang has many different ways to say ‘masturbator’ and pretty much all of them semantically drift to ‘foolish person’ as well.

    Regards
    Luke

  22. #22 ligne
    2010/01/14

    Marco: did you see Goldacre’s piece on copenhagen? the one that finished with a complaint about the zombie arguments that get dug out every time…

    …immediately followed by dozens of comments full of the usual wank (since this thread has already taken a turn for the onanistic): “no, YOU bad science!”, believers in the One True Religion Of Climate Science”, fraudulent tree rings, broken hockey sticks, no warming since 2001, where are the datas???, you can’t predict the future, environMENTALists want us all to live in caves, and a billion links to WUTWAT.

    i briefly considered playing some kind of drinking game, but decided i’d rather not end up in A&E.

  23. #23 Marco
    2010/01/15

    @ligne,

    I indeed saw that one, but a bit late. To be honest, when I read his book, I actually thought that several in his audience might actually be climate ‘skeptics’. Those people ‘love’ him, because he points at distortion of the facts by the media, propaganda, creation of hoaxes, manipulation by scientists, etc. etc., all to make money and fool the people. Everything that many ‘skeptics’ believe about AGW.

    These ‘skeptics’ do not fall for the many issues in the medical and nutritional field that Ben brings up, but not because they recognise bad science…

  24. #24 Hank Roberts
    2010/01/18

    Did any response to this newspaper guy appear in public where his readers might notice it?

  25. #25 Marco
    2010/01/18

    @Hank Roberts:
    Several people put it in the comments to the article. Those are, however, a quite revealing read: loads of nutcases supporting anything David Rose says (likely because it fits their desired result), and a few people trying to be logical (in all fairness, some of them arguing against AGW).

  26. #26 ligne
    2010/01/19

    Hank Roberts: very doubtful. AFAIK, UK newspapers have no obligation to print corrections, except in the most extreme cases (you know, those where lawyers were involved). they can essentially print whatever toss they want, safe in the knowledge they’ll probably never have to make a public apology if they get called on it.

    Latif could file a complaint with the press complaint commission, but they’re an industry self-regulatory body with a long and illustrious history of doing nothing, even when they find their code was breached.

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