Pielke Jr: How low can he go?

I have made it pretty clear before that I am no fan of Roger Pielke Jr. Everytime I stick my nose in there the smell seems to get a little worse.

His latest effort at sabotaging productive discourse on climate science and policy is a really low blow, putting to rest any lingering hopes one might have had that he still had some integrity stashed away in there somewhere. Now I know these are strong words, but I have to confess this really gets my blood pressure up, it is just the slimiest of tactics. (I will happily retract this post and apologize if Roger makes ammends for his ethical vacuity, or shows me how I have terribly misunderstood things)

Alright already, what am I talking about anyway....?

Back in April, 2006, Roger published a post about Jim Hansen predicting a "super El Nino" for 2007. This month, he is revisiting that prediction and noting that it did not happen. Tsk, tsk. Silly, bad scientist. Chalk up another entry on the "Hansen gets it all wrong list." Even if that were the whole story, this is not the whole story. What Hansen said was:

"We suggest that an El Nino is likely to originate in 2006 and that there is a good chance it will be a "super El Nino""

and there was an El Nino though not a strong one. If you forecast 60% chance of rain and there is no rain, were you just plain wrong? Besides, what precisely does "a good chance" mean in terms of the likelyhood of a rare event?

But what's the real problem? Well, Jim Hansen never actually came out with that "prediction". Roger had publicized a draft paper on an FTP server that had been mistakenly announced on a mailing list. Did Roger know that was a mistake at the time? No reason to think so then, as he noted exactly that fact in a follow-up post a couple of days later:

"In fairness to Jim Hansen, I have an obligation to post this follow up email to his list serve related to his super El Nino prediction that I discussed earlier this week"

In that email Hansen stated:

"Apologies for another e-mail, but I inadvertently sent the first draft of "Temperature" paper to my full e-mail list, so need to also send out the revised version."

and specific to his El Nino "prediction":

"Present version should make clear that what we are saying is: Global warming has increased the east-west equatorial temperature gradient and that should increase the probability of a super El Nino. It is still a crap shoot, so it requires many rolls of the dice for empirical verification."

So what happend to all that fairness he owed Hansen then? Swept away with the makeover? He can not now say he did not know that the material he was quoting was not for public release, so it can only be a very intentional misuse of an inadvertently sent email.

The net result? For one thing, the septic community gets to again hail Roger as a light in the dark (despite his consistent, though very quiet, insistence that he thinks they are wrong and the consensus is right. They can't even get that right!). They also get another false talking point to hit everyone over the head with.

But most importantly, Roger gets to once again self-fulfill his continual prophesizing about how climate scientists leave themselves vulnerable to political attacks. "See, I told you that email would come back and bite you in the ass!"

Nothing safer than predicting your own behaviour.

[update: John Fleck remembers this as well]

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yes, but what happened to the prediction of the super mario or el nino. Did it turn out?

Colby, i think you're making Everest out of a mole hill.

Playing the odds game is more than a little dishonest.

Roger gets an email suggesting that there is going to be a BIG climatic event in 06. Not a small one but a big huge one. It didn't pan out and so he reports on it. So what's the big deal?

Are you suggesting that Hansen would have changed his mind between the final showing and the director's cut? How neat.

[coby: I think you should try actually reading the post]

Hansen has suggested people get jailed for not agreeing to his views. When someone's like that they deserve no quarter.

[coby: um...not exactly]

"Are you suggesting that Hansen would have changed his mind between the final showing and the director's cut?"

Reading comprehension, for the loss.

Ah mini me, the usual denialist mix of ignorance and shrill hysteria. Don't you people ever get tired of parading your intellectual shortcomings?

Even if Hansen had not modified his position (done after consultation with other experts-very normal, peer review and all that) he would be wrong on this "prediciton". The larger body of his work would still be legitimate.

Any scientist that is actively working in a given field will make errors. What is important is whether the scientist revises his predicitions when errors are pointed out. Note that Hansen did this.

Pielke took a prediction from a draft that was mistakenly released, and then discussed the mistake as if a revision in the final report had never been made. This is intellectually dishonest (as Pielke knows) and thoroughly scummy.

By Lazlo's Other (not verified) on 03 Feb 2009 #permalink


Stop being an abusive [profanity deleted]. I'm not a "denialist" you [profanity deleted].

At Jeff Beck's site Roger P is saying that Mr Integrity had his predictions published in various media sites.

So do you muffin heads actually think a scientist shouldn't make predictions unless peer reviewed. [profanity deleted].

[coby: Please, keep it clean, mini you. Re what Roger is saying: yes, but repeated experience confirmed by this instance shows that just because Roger says it, does not mean it is true.]

At Jeff Beck's site Roger P is saying that Mr Integrity had his predictions published in various media sites.

Yes, and he's wrong about that too. Do try to keep up.

mini me, you belittle yourself. Take a deep breath ,go back and re-read. The question is not prediction/peer-reviewed?, it's can you concentrate?

By Polyaulax (not verified) on 03 Feb 2009 #permalink

Yeah, Lazio, seriously. We have all noted your abusive tone and your unwillingness to discuss scientific issues with any sort of professionalism.

You might want to take a page out of mini me's book. I've always found said commentator to be pretty much the picture of academic erudition coupled with scrupulous politeness.

By Marion Delgado (not verified) on 03 Feb 2009 #permalink

Roger Pielke Jr has a checkered history to say the least.

I personally have run afoul of him multiple times. He took a comment I made on RealClimate praising the Q&A section of the Environmental Defense Fund's climate change site and Roger attributed it to Dr Judith Curry. He was trying show that Dr Curry approved of EDF's politics.

I submitted multiple comments trying to clear up the mistake, and all but one was rejected. He never tried to correct the misquote. He denied any of it even happened.

Another time he asked if any readers had access to lexis-nexis. He wanted to see if the term denier in the climate change debate was started to compare climate contrarians to holocaust deniers.

I had access and found that the term in the climate change was not started to compare holocaust deniers to climate deniers. I commented on Prometheus but Roger Pielke Jr then proceed to say that the term was used to equate climate deniers and holocaust deniers.

By Joseph O'Sullivan (not verified) on 05 Feb 2009 #permalink

RE: Boris

You state that Dr. Hansen didn't prognosticate a "Super El Nino" in various media sites? On what basis do you make that statement?

I don't have access to factiva or lexis-nexis, but just using Google News I found at least one article on a news media site quoting Dr. Hansen saying just that in April of 2006. Kind of prominently placed in the number 4 position:

"One Scientist Forecasts an El Niño Respite from the Southwestâs DroughtâFor Now

By Ken Wright, 4-20-06

The vision of a respite from the Southwestâs drought came from an unlikely source lately. Outspoken global warming alarmist James Hansen, head of the NASAâs Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in New York City, is projecting that warming water in the Pacific Ocean will yield a wet winter in the Southwest," according to the Associated Press.

In fact, Hanson is calling it âa super El Niño.â He argues that warming off the coast of Peru and other conditions are like those leading up to the strong El Niño winter of 1997-98."


Reads like a direct quote, but perhaps I'm wrong. But perhaps he got it from Dr. Pielke?

I didn't even bother to scroll down the page or check the following pages. Is there some reason this cursory search alone doesn't invalidate your assertion?

I'm not really familiar with New West News, but it seems to be a legitimate regional news service. I assume the same of the reporter. Or am I wrong on that?

Just curious why you're offering a blanket denial.

Hansen made a trivial mistake, then corrected it. His "prediction" of the super el niño, couched in probabilistic terms such as "rolls of the dice," is nothing to get excited about. Pielke's misuse of the email from Hanson is disgusting. Maybe when the arctic is ice-free in summer some will recant, but I doubt it. They'll keep fiddling while Rome burns.

@Kerry: Hansen's final word on the matter is up above. You seem willfully ignorant of what he said.

John P:

Despite my willful ignorance, I thought I found a point that needed to be made. Was he qouted in the press talking about "super el-nino"? I think he might have been.

I don't want to get involved in the hateful blood-letting you seem fond of, but yeah, it looks like he did.

Despite Hansen's final word (whatever you're referring to), he seems to have been qouted by the press talking about a "super-el nino" event for 2006. Boris said he hadn't. That was my only point. A point of order.

There's no reason to be a irrational hater. Too many of those out there already.

Specific year to year predictions are consistently acknowledged by climate scientists, including Hansen (rolls of the dice), as uncertain given current state of the science, whilst longer term climate trends are much more reliable. The possibility and probability of a super el-nino remains real, that it hasn't come this year is not evidence the scientific basis for climate's longer term warming trend is uncertain. It's nitpicking - "fiddling while rome burns" and worse than nitpicking, it's "cherry picking" to continue referring to the draft version when the final version of a document is available especially since the the only point of doing so is to try and undermine the credibility of a large body of science.

By Ken Fabos (not verified) on 07 Feb 2009 #permalink

Hi Kerry,

There was one article on AP echoed in a handful of other site (like the one you found). These have their origin in Pielke's posting at that time, that article written by John Fleck (who regretted it when he found out the "prediction" was made a draft not meant for distribution).

I don't think the issue is as much about whether or not Hansen's initial version of his paper made a prediction or not but about the unfairness of publically declaring a failure of a private, immediately withdrawn statement.

Hi Cody,

Thank you for the cordial response. And for not calling me ignorant. Such decorum seems rare when it comes to this issue.

As I stated, I was really just making a point of order to a prior poster's claim that Dr. Hansen's claim hadn't made it into the media.

That it didn't survive a peer review process I'll leave others to declaim upon' though it sounds like the process served it's purpose. But that it had made it into the media seemed pretty obvious, so I commented.

Hope I didn't offend anyone.



Anyone lurking/contributing here read Pielke's latest book, *The Climate Fix*?

I'm tempted.

Hi Kerry, I found a similar article from a few days before.


Some quotes, "One of the country's leading climate scientists says there is "a good chance" for a "super El Nino" next winter, a powerful warming in the Pacific Ocean linked to wet winters in the Southwest. In a draft paper circulated to colleagues, NASA climate researcher James Hansen blames global warming for increasing the chance of extreme El Ninos."


"Hansen, head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, sent a March 29 e-mail to a list of colleagues describing "a draft paper that I intend to submit for publication within a few days" and including a link to the paper on a public Web site. University of Colorado science policy researcher Roger Pielke Jr. made it public late Thursday afternoon on his blog."

The quotes in your article are most likely from the draft, probably from Mr Pielke's blog. Not Hansen talking directly to another source.

By mightyDrunken (not verified) on 09 May 2011 #permalink

So Hansen can't predict El Nino's but he can predict climate a hundred years out? I am a true sleptic, willing to believe but I am simply not impressed with the science. I understand black holes, the uncertainty principle and evolution but it appears that climate alarmists are just that, alarmists.

I love the climate argument and will continue to digest all the info I can but I sure wish people would lower the temperature of the discussion and understand that for an objective, critical thinker, the issue is far from settled.

Wow Fred - you understand black holes, the uncertainty principle and evolution do you?

How about you explain them all to us then you frigging genius?

I bet you can't - because anyone who claims to understand quantum physics is a liar. Not even the best physicists in the world would make that claim. But then, we already knew you were a liar before you started in about quantum physics - when you send you were a true 'sleptic' (sic). You are not a sceptic at all. You are what we like to call a denier.

Fuck off back under the rock from which you crawled.

"So Hansen can’t predict El Nino’s but he can predict climate a hundred years out?"

I can't predict whether someone wil come along and spoil the game by interrupting, but I CAN predict that the average dice roll will be between 3 and 4.