Leakegate + The Australian's War on Science 46

A story on climate change by Jonathan Leake that is reprinted in the Australian is pretty well guaranteed to misrepresent the science. And it does -- you only have to compare the headline for Leake's story "Cyclone climate link rejected" with Nature Geosciences headline "Tropical cyclone projection: Fewer but stronger" for the new paper and with what the IPCC report says:

Based on a range of models, it is likely that future tropical cyclones (typhoons and hurricanes) will become more intense, with larger peak wind speeds and more heavy precipitation associated with ongoing increases of tropical sea-surface temperatures. There is less confidence in projections of a global decrease in numbers of tropical cyclones.

Of course "New paper confirms IPCC report" isn't the story that Leake wants to tell, so what does he do? Makes stuff up, as usual. Leake claims:

Research by hurricane scientists may force the UN's climate panel to reconsider its claims that greenhouse gas emissions have caused an increase in the number of tropical storms.

The AR4 WG1 SPM says

There is no clear trend in the annual numbers of tropical cyclones. {3.8}

Leake continues:

The benchmark report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that a worldwide increase in hurricane-force storms since 1970 was probably linked to global warming.

Actually the AR4 WG1 SPM actually says that it is "more likely than not" (more than 50% probability) that intense tropical cyclone activity increased in the North Atlantic. Notice that Leake exaggerated what the IPCC stated in three different ways. The new study conlcudes:

Thus, considering available observational studies, and after accounting for potential errors arising from past changes in observing capabilities, it remains uncertain whether past changes in tropical cyclone frequency have exceeded the variability expected through natural causes.

There doesn't seem to be much difference here.

Finally, in order to shoehorn the new paper into his "IPCC wrong" narrative, Leake completely omits this (from the abstract of the new paper):

Balanced against this, higher resolution modelling studies typically project substantial increases in the frequency of the most intense cyclones, and increases of the order of 20% in the precipitation rate within 100 km of the storm centre.

More like this

Following the back-and-forth on this subject yesterday, there's much more to say today now that the IPCC Summary for Policymakers (PDF) is actually out. (My apologies, incidentally, for not posting earlier--I've had a cold and tried sleeping in to deal with it; then when I woke up the Internet was…
Writing about the new IPCC report, Andrew Bolt said The scientists of even the fiercely pro-warming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predict seas will rise (as they have for centuries) not by Gore's 600cm by 2100, but by between 14 and 43cm. While Ron Bailey wrote: By 2100 sea level is…
It's a sore spot for some climate change pseudoskeptics. Any time anyone makes any kind of claim about the effects of a warming planet on tropical storm activity, you can count on a deluge of rejoinders about how shaky the science on the subject really is. Much is made of Al Gore's use of an image…
Today marks the official start of North Atlantic hurricane season. So... One of the key differences between genuine climatology and anti-scientific denialism of anthropogenic climate change is the flexibility of the former and the stubbornness of the latter when it comes to our ever-evolving…

Leake and The Australian. What a perfect match.

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 01 Mar 2010 #permalink

AR4 WGI Chapter 10 provides more detail:
"Results from embedded high-resolution models and global models, ranging in grid spacing from 100 km to 9 km, project a likely increase of peak wind intensities and notably, where analysed, increased near-storm precipitation in future tropical cyclones. Most recent published modelling studies investigating tropical storm frequency simulate a decrease in the overall number of storms, though there is less confidence in these projections and in the projected decrease of relatively weak storms in most basins, with an increase in the numbers of the most intense tropical cyclones."

http://www.ipcc-wg1.unibe.ch/publications/wg1-ar4/ar4-wg1-chapter10.pdf contains the full text.

It restates this in FAQ 10.1 "Are Extreme Events, Like Heat Waves, Droughts or Floods, Expected to Change as the Earth's Climate Changes?"

The true outrage is Chris Landsea, who surely knows better. He says, "We have come to substantially different conclusions from the IPCC." By "substantially different" he apparently means "the same."

Actually, Landsea has come to a "substantially different conclusion" than his previous estimates. From a few years ago...

"global warming might be enhancing hurricane winds, but only by 1 percent or 2 percent".

He now acknowledges it might enhance hurricane winds by up to 11%, which translates into an increase of 60% in damage costs. While frequency of weaker hurricanes will decrease, the strongest hurricanes in the Atlantic basin are expected to increase in frequency by 80%. Keep in mind also that this is a conservative lowest-common-denominator consensus estimate - one that Landsea had to agree on.

In other words, Al Gore was right.

I was amused to also read the article in the "Sunday Times", ostensibly about Dawkins and the pitfalls of blogging, but obviously aimed at climate change bloggers.

What it means for Tim is that his relentless exposure of Leake as a "creative writer" has drawn some blood.

Keep it up!


> ...the Times have tried to do a hatchet job of you. http://anarchist606.blogspot.com/2010/03/murdoch-press-shills-denial-sh…

Excellent! Tim's work has obviously rattled them. Now the idiots just need to work through their five stages of grief. They've done the denial, now they're angry - just bargaining, depression and acceptance to go.

It really is like waking up in Crazy World. The Times of London is knowingly misinforming its readers and some blogger in Australia is setting the record straight in his spare time. What. The. Feck?!

And we can't even rely on the 'reliables', such as the Guardian, any more. Monbiot and Fred Pearce are little better. They've more or less capitulated and succumbed to the Deniers' propaganda. :(

Keep at 'em, Tim - their collective bottom lip is starting to tremble!

Wow Tim! Keep this up and you might be upgraded from a minnow to a... striped bass? Tuna? We'll have to check with the authority on such important matters, Junior American Idol Pielke on that score.

Murdoch rags are nothing if not unsubtle. Here in NY, the Post's relatively low national profile (notwithstanding reliable Drudge hits) enables the worst rabid attack dog abuses. No compunction about reporting gossip, invented stories, etc. (e.g. when the Post 'reporting' sans sources/evidence/etc. that Keith Olberman was angling for the Meet the Press job before the late Tim Russert's body got cold) They'll also stash 'reporters' in garbage bins to catch any incident they can spin a sensational lie around.

Then, of course, you have the guys on the soap box in Fox News, to whom no target is too small or weak. Both will throw their considerable weight around to defame any enemies real or imagined. And their reader/viewership is never the wiser.

Yellow journalism is nothing if not yellow.

By Majorajam (not verified) on 02 Mar 2010 #permalink

Would it do any good if Tim wrote the Times and said calling him a non-academic (and Pielke, Jr. an academic) makes even less sense than usual?

I mean, an academic is precisely what Dr. Lambert is! You could argue, in fact, that political science degreed Pielke, Jr. moonlights as a fake climate scientist for industry fronts like the Breakthrough Institute, or has more of a career as an author than an academic. But honestly, they're both academics. For that matter, they both blog.

Even for the Times the stupid burns.

By Marion Delgado (not verified) on 02 Mar 2010 #permalink

Aw, man. Imagine all those people who'll come here seeking "tirades", and get served facts :)

Envy - Ove gets Andrew Bolt lashing him and you get Rupert Murdoch and John Cook gets hatemail and I get ... nothin'. What do I have to do to rile these guys? Anyway I guess if you are now the striped bass Tim I take over as minnow. Congratulations!

I can't buy what the IPCC says on this, because the data says the opposite. The number of storms does depend on SSTs. Further, the correlation between SST and ACE is not as good.

> the IPCC says
Which of the four reports? where?

> the data says
Where published and when? what data?

> can't buy
Nobody's asking you to _buy_. Just tell us what you're looking at.

I'm of course referring to the IPCC references from the post. As to data, I'm referring to HadSST2 (NH) and Atlantic Basin storm counts from the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA.

It's easy to come up with a graph like this one. Is the association deniable? Do set me straight if you think so.

BTW, I don't think it's necessary to talk to me as if I were some sort of denier, simply because I dispute a couple of IPCC claims.

Joseph, if you want someone to comment on something, _point_to_it_, so we can look at it. Otherwise it's just somebody's opinion, and we're knee deep in opinions, why bother?

Which IPCC claims? Let's try Google for that first

Well, sh*t, that looks bad. Let's leave that and come back.

You say your data source is from NOAA. But where? I put your source into Google, and -- well, are you surprised where it's being talked about? Just paste your own description in and search:


Are you relying on one of those discussions? Which one?
See anything odd about the places found by that search?

So, I'm skeptical--I wonder where you got the information.
I look for it, show you what I find, and I'm--still skeptical.

See, this is what we have to do to look up what you're talking about, unless you point to your source.

You can do this yourself -- take whatever you read and go look _yourself_ for the original and cite to that -- you're credible; I can find the original; and we can both learn something from it.

If you state opinions and ask people if they are right, all most of us can say is "yep, that's an opinion, sure enough."

Without a cite, we can't even assume it's _your_ opinion.

It might be something you read at one of those web pages where it's been talked about. If you're copypasting -- I don't say you are, but we see it a lot -- why bother replying?

And--funny thing-- I don't care whose opinions they are or whether they come from websites denying or preaching. If there's no cite to a source, they're just some guy on a website with an opinion, until you get the source and can look at it.

Tell us your source and why you're relying on it.

As to the picture -- well, if you use Google Image Search for the same search, it's even curiouser. Nothing found.

So what to try? Well, look at the picture. What jumps out at you? It ends -- a decade ago. That is very old information.

Hmmmmm. I'm more skeptical than before. How'd you get old info?

So let's search for the _URL_ and find out if that picture's from a source. Let's try with the filename:


More opinion sites! And not from only "one side" of "teh debate" -- from several different opinion-points-of-view.

So, ya got an opinion, and something discussed all over what climate blogger Stoat a while back called the "bogusphere"

And ya know what?

You might have an interesting question there.

How about _you_ do the work of looking up the original information? I'd be delighted to talk about it.

If you're really new to this, imagine me as a crusty old fart growling at you damn kids to get off my lawn, then apologizing and saying, sorry, my arthritis is bothering me today, and if your Frisbee is on my roof -- heck, let's find a way you can get it.

How about YOU take my ladder and climb up and get your Frisbee off my roof, though? I'll lend you my ladder, if you'll do the work involved.

ladder=google scholar

Search out the original information.

Like the graph, Joseph. Welcome to the Denialati.

@el gordo: No, thanks.

@Hank: I should've provided a link to the NOAA data set. I assumed it was googable. Here it is. HadSST2 Northern Hemisphere is easy to find. Getting a 15-year central moving average of both data sets is trivial.

Hank is not the first to be skeptical of the graph, BTW. It's hard to believe it would be so simple I guess.

Joseph, _don't_ rely on what I suggest below, do your own work and see if you can find better sources. Here are two possibilities, found by skimming through the above searches and following up keywords, then limiting to recent years:

posted: 6/30/2008


http://www.leshatton.org/index_AA.html (which indexes a hurricane paper described as "unpublishable"--whatever he means by that; you could ask him!)

"The datasets I used to analyse the worldwide Hurricane frequency and intensity. It is from publicly quoted and impeccable sources, (see the attached paper)."

Joseph, wtf have you done to the storm number data? Off the top of my head, it shows vastly more interannual variability than that.

Is that graph just a fake to make some sort of point? Sorry if I've misunderstood you.

wtf have you done to the storm number data?

Like I said, it's a 15-year central moving average.

Sorry if I've misunderstood you.

Again, I get that a lot with that graph.


It's easy to come up with a graph like this one. Is the association deniable? Do set me straight if you think so.

Hank's already given you a lesson on the matter, but I thought that I'd and two more cents worth.

Yeah, it is an interesting graph, isn't it? In fact, I think that I used it recently to try to lure a Denialist to a hook...

The thing is, without some very fancy explanation to accompany it, one should conclude that it's constructed from bogus data.

Look at the "number of named storms" points - the blue dots. Look at how many different y-values there are, for these blue dots, which happen to be spaced at yearly (x) intervals, between each of the horizontal lines of the graph.

Look at what the numerical spacing is between each of the horizontal lines... I'll give you a clue - it's 5.

Now explain how the blue trajectory does not increase in integer amounts describing five steps between each of the horizontal lines...

What does this tell you?

Let me give you a hint - if you followed (even at the most basic level) Hank's advice you'd easily find a much better depiction of [the number of named storms](http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pastprofile.shtml#ncy).

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 02 Mar 2010 #permalink

Ah I missed that. Is that the reason it hasn't got the data past 1998?

Ah I missed that. Is that the reason it hasn't got the data past 1998?

Yes, exactly.

I think Bernard also finds it odd that my series is smooth whereas a regular named storm series is noisy.

Again, I get that a lot with that graph.

No, what you're doing is deceiving folk who might not know better. It obviously didn't fly here, as my comment and Stu's and Hank's indicate, but it's exactly your sort of misrepresentation of data that causes the whole debate to be obfuscated.

Presenting graphs without sufficient explanation, so that un-knowing people are misled, is lying - even when the graph shows legitimate data. As I indicated above, you did not provide any such explanation, and thus any intelligent person, on analysis of the graph, should conclude that you are in fact being mendacious.

Which, [by your own admission](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2010/03/leakegate_the_australians_war.p…), you are.

If you're going to make a scientific point, and expect to be treated seriously, you should be serious in how you state your case. Otherwise you will be regarded only as a troll - and from where I stand I see no reason to regard you as anything else.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 02 Mar 2010 #permalink

I found the spreadsheet (the graph is from a year and a half ago) and I've uploaded it here.

You can check it row by row if you want. The CMA calculations are there. The graphs are there.

After thinking about it, I appreciate the skepticism, though. Things would be very different in another kind of site, wouldn't they?

I think Bernard also finds it odd that my series is smooth whereas a regular named storm series is noisy.


I had the benefit of having seen your original post before, and indeed I bookmarked it, but nevertheless I still contend that your [link to the isolated jpg](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2010/03/leakegate_the_australians_war.p…) is deceptive.

As I said, I tried to elicit comment from a denialist using the graph on the original page (I myself like to lure a Denialatus as much as anyone), but there it appears in the context I alluded to above.

I remain disturbed that you would separate it from its context here, because there are more than a few of the Denialist pursuasion here who would propagate the misinterpreation of such a graph without attending to the careful consideration required. As you say yourself, things would be very different in another kind of site...

I am drawn to the last paragraph in my previous post, and can only reiterate it. Of course, you may have had a serious point to make - I'm sure that you did - but I still am troubled by your lack of explanation accompanying the jpg.

It's difficult enough to get fact into a denialist head as it is. Perhaps I'm being overly-sensitive in my response, but these days it is so easy to set off the denialist alarums about the climatology 'consensus' manufacturing results that I cannot help but see that your posting of the graph without context as a reckless move. A subsequent explanation, such as you gave, helps mitigate to some degree, but Teh Stupid needs to be herded very tightly indeed if misinterpretations are not to escape climatology's version of Pandora's box. I would like to think that you would have quickly given such an explanation even if I and the others hadn't jumped upon you as we did.

I do owe you an apology on one matter though. I thought that you said "[a]gain, I get a lot with that graph" where you did in fact say "[a]gain, I get that a lot with that graph". I see now that you weren't deliberately attempting to "get" people in a deceptive manner, and for my accusation of mendacity on your part I am sorry.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 02 Mar 2010 #permalink

@Bernard: Thanks for the apology. I do miss words on occasion when I type. I did not intend to make it appear deceitful or as a "test" of some sort. I'm still not sure what I did wrong, your explanation notwithstanding. It's probably a communication issue.

BTW, even if I wanted to deceive, I don't think I could do a good job of it, but I'm not going to get into why that is.

Otherwise you will be regarded only as a troll - and from where I stand I see no reason to regard you as anything else.

Man are you being a jerk ... hasn't the reaction to those "climategate" emails been any sort of lesson to you?

By Marcel Kincaid (not verified) on 02 Mar 2010 #permalink

Joseph, if you want to do science (even blog science, if you want respect from people who know some science) -- cite your sources.

Let me just beat on this horseburger a little longer, for the benefit of the next high school kid coming along who's looking to write a school paper.

Here's the key:

Cite each source each time you rely on it for a claim.

Don't assume you can toss off a few words and it will be "googable" by others wondering what you're referring to.

Notice (test this!) how many hits come up pasting your words into the Google (or Scholar) search box. Who's going to know for sure what particular reference you're looking at?

(You are. So save people the trouble. Cite your source.)

HTML makes this easy--keep a list on your blog and point to items on it specifically if you rely on them when writing elsewhere.

The original post is clear enough.

Opinions differ, there's uncertainty.

So far you don't have anything to add to it except another opinion. You've picked one correlation between two factors. Try using other sources of information. Look up 'teleconnection' for example.

Remember, your task if you want to do science (even blog science, if you want it respected) is to refer to all the information available that may be pertinent to the question, not just pick one set of data that you like and polish up a picture from it.

"... There is less confidence in projections of a global decrease in numbers of tropical cyclones."

I absolutely always cite my sources, Hank. I might not cite them in blog comments very well sometimes, sure. I didn't think it was a big deal, or that I'd be accused of fraud because of it.

For example, you could cite this one as evidence that rather than relying on a smoothed picture, doing a statistical analysis is useful (wry grin).


Thermodynamic control on the climate of intense tropical cyclones


How thermodynamic factors control the climate of intense tropical cyclones (TCs) is investigated by examining the relationship between the seasonally averaged maximum potential intensity (MPI, used as a representative index of the thermodynamic forcing) over an ocean basin where TCs form and the seasonal frequency of occurrence of intense TCs. It is found that only in the Atlantic does the MPI have a statistically significant relationship with the number of intense TCs, explaining about 40 per cent of the variance. In other ocean basins, there is either no correlation or the correlation is not statistically significant. In other words, only in the Atlantic are thermodynamic factors responsible, but still only to a certain extent, for the climate variations of intense TCs. In other ocean basins, it appears that the dynamic factors are much more dominant. Such a conclusion has important implications in considering whether global warming may influence the future climate of intense TCs for the following reason. Although it has been generally accepted that the thermodynamic energy available in the atmosphere is likely to increase under global warming, the results from this study suggest that such an increase does not necessarily imply a concomitant increase in the number of intense TCs, because how the dynamic factors will vary are still not clear. Until we can demonstrate that the dynamic factors will also become more favourable for TC intensification, it remains uncertain whether the frequency of occurrence of intense TCs will increase under a global warming scenario.

You should also cite some of the studies on pattern recognition in primates, and acknowledge that we are _very_ good at seeing patterns, whether they exist in reality or not. Thank your remote ancestors who, every time they thought they saw a tiger lurking in the bushes, immediately fled shrieking to the treetops. (Their relatives who walked over to the bushes, pushed the branches aside, and peered into the shadows to decide whether they really were seeing a tiger didn't leave as many grandchildren, if any.)

Your new digital camera may have some ability to recognize faces. Now imagine smart digital eyeglasses that have the ability to warn you of muggers lurking in the shadows -- would you rather they warn you too often, or not often enough?
Our visual processing has had this ability for a very long time. We see patterns, exquisitely well. We do statistics to correct for this bias.

> tiger
(Maybe it was a leopard, I ran shrieking to the trees rather than looking more closely) (grin)

Behavioural Processes
Volume 68, Issue 2, 28 February 2005, Pages 145-163

Recognition of partially concealed leopards by wild bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata): The role of the spotted coat


Wild bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata) have been shown to recognize models of leopards (Panthera pardus), based on their configuration and spotted yellow coat. This study examined whether bonnet macaques could recognize the spotted and dark melanic morph when partially concealed by vegetation....

One last tidbit:

"sea-surface temperatures in the MDR during Aug-Oct. were tied for the seventh warmest on record dating back to 1950. The reduced hurricane activity, in spite of this anomalous warmth, is consistent with previous findings indicating that local atmospheric circulation anomalies, rather than local SST anomalies, are the dominant contributor to seasonal fluctuations in Atlantic hurricane activity (Shapiro and Goldenberg 1998, Bell and Chelliah 2006).
The analysis provides no indication that the current high activity era for Atlantic hurricanes has ended...."

See their Fig.3a. Caption:
Fig. 3. (a) Sea surface temperature (SST) departures (°C) during Aug-Oct 2009. (b) Consecutive Aug-Oct area- averaged SST anomalies in the Main Development Region [MDR, denoted by green box in (a)]. Red line in (b) shows the corresponding 5-yr running mean. Departures are with respect to the 1971-2000 period monthly means.

Joesph (or anyone else),

Can you either direct me to, or cite the statements of the IPCC that are claimed to be contradicted by the data discussed? Is it this:

>*There is observational evidence for an increase in intense tropical cyclone activity in the North Atlantic since about 1970, correlated with increases of tropical sea surface temperatures. There are also suggestions of increased intense tropical cyclone activity in some other regions where concerns over data quality are greater. Multi-decadal variability and the quality of the tropical cyclone records prior to routine satellite observations in about 1970 complicate the detection of long-term trends in tropical cyclone activity. There is no clear trend in the annual numbers of tropical cyclones. {3.8}*

If so, is Joseph's data counting the wrong thing.

Eye balling the [counts of tropical hurricanes (cyclones) here](http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pastprofile.shtml), I wonder if there would be a statistically significant increase in the number of tropical hurricanes? If the IPCC made such a claim without statistical significance, when know what would happen.

Hank, any chance you would repost that link, but contined in angle brackets<>?


Bernard, I think Marcel means give Joseph a break.
While it seems like he's oversimplified something in a confusing way and fallen into the notion that you can eyeball a picture and know more than you can learn doing statistics, that's not evidence he knows better and is _trying_ to fool anyone. He's coming across like all of us the first week of Statistics 101, I suggest, when we trusted our lying eyes more.

[Hank at #40](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2010/03/leakegate_the_australians_war.p…).

I see your point. If Marcel thought I was being too hard on Joseph, I can understand why, and especially so for my particularly snipish comment about mendacity. That last though was based on my misreading of what Joseph said, and for that I apologised.

Marecel (and Joseph too) might be interested to know that my issue with the underlying presentation of [the graph that started all this](http://2.bp.blogspot.com/__6PO0G1BcJM/SKWxUhyI2vI/AAAAAAAAAFk/3FWOa9eaG…) relates in fact to denialist responses to matters such as the misrepresentation of the stolen CRU emails. Take, for example, the "trick to hide the decline", where a valid process was misrepresented as being an attempt to fabricate data.

Joseph's graph, whilst based on a straightforward processing of the data, did not indicate to an uninformed observer what he had done, and nor did the text in his post. The CRU debacle (and countless other examples) show how denialists can twist anything to indicate inpropriety on the part of climate science, and how they might put words into the mouths of climatologists.

Without an explanation of his analysis, and a justification for its choice, he leaves his result open to misrepresentation by those with a denialist agenda. He also leaves himself open to accusations of inappropriate presentation of data by scientists themselves. The discussion on his thread, of the legitimacy of his graph, shows the debate that can occur when parties are appraised of the facts - without the accompanying qualifications, his stand-alone posting of an unexplained graph at [#16](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2010/03/leakegate_the_australians_war.p…) opens the door for the sort of response that Al Gore and Robyn Williams receive about their sea level rise claims.

Joseph, don't get me wrong: on this thread I'm not specifically criticising your graph per se. All I'm saying is that you need to be very clear about explaining it, else you risk its message being obscured by 1) deliberate or unintentional misrepresentation, and/or by 2) unintentional misunderstanding. As an example of the former, it appears that you caught [El Gordo](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2010/03/leakegate_the_australians_war.p…), and as an example of the latter my own confusion about your apparent admission of some manner of entrapment serves embarrassingly well.

Perhaps I am being too harsh in my response. It wasn't really intended, but reading over my previous posts I can see that my intent might have been obscured by the manner in which I expressed myself - the typical trap of disembodied text. Usually I would take more care to ensure that my sarcastic serves to denialists are clearly separated from my well-meaning responses to genuine folk such as yourself; all I can say in defence is that the serious illness of a relative has distracted me more than I might like.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 04 Mar 2010 #permalink