Watts disappoints

So, a few days ago, WUWT said "WUWT publishing suspended – major announcement coming". And not just any old event, oh no:

To give you an idea as to the magnitude of this event, I’m suspending my vacation plans. I weighed the issue, and decided (much to my dismay) this was more important. I can go on vacation trips another time, but this announcement is not something I can miss now and do later.

So whatever it was had to be major, and it had to be timely. How thrilling! But, sigh, we are doomed to be disappointed: its just a paper preprint. All over the world scientists produce draft papers and send them off for peer review. Only dramah queens pimp them up like this. And what exactly was the urgency? Watts could easily have stuck the thing in an envelope to whatever journal, gone quietly off on holiday, and done the PR schitck when he came back. So all this tripe about "not something I can miss now and do later" is just tripe.

Notice, BTW, that they haven't even said where its going to be submitted. Which means that either they don't know - which is crap - or they do know, but are embarrassed to say, because of the smallness of the journal. I suspect the latter.

DA says much the same, and also slates Watts for rank hypocrisy: previously, talking about BEST, Watts has complained about "PR before peer review", but apparently its OK for Watts to do it.

[Update: I haven't read the paper yet. VV has.]


* Watts tale

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As far as I can see the main novelty is that the weather station classification scheme of Leroy (2010) is better than Leroy (1999). It would have been more elegant if Watts had stated in his press release that the differences between stations of various qualities he found in the temperature trends are only visible in the raw data and not in the homogenized (adjusted) data.

For a bit more detail, please visit my blog.
I hope I have been fair to the manuscript. I felt it was good to comment before the press started parroting the press release.

By Victor Venema (not verified) on 29 Jul 2012 #permalink

Watts, of course, is an odd character, still, Eli is nice enough to speculate that a paper fit for submission is, to him, still a big thing to be proud of. One notices this with students when they submit their first paper, have it accepted, etc. Of course, they take the reviews seriously. Sometimes too seriously.

Victor Venema gets Eli;s thanks for the review. At least at first glance Watts' paper is a serious piece of work and not more Michaels Knappenberger agit prop. Time will tell

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 29 Jul 2012 #permalink

I've skimmed the manuscript and am curious about some choices. Watts et al seem to use simple average over stations for their comparisons, instead of data gridded for each class seperately. This leaves a barn door open to station distribution effects. They report trends to 3 significant digits without even mentioning - much less discussing - error ranges. You'd have to dig into the details of the paper, but they seem to compare raw data trends for class 1&2 stations to adjusted NOAA data for classes 3/4/5 which include TOB etc. corrections, comparing apples to oranges. And that's what I noticed after just a cursory reading. I commented to that effect on WUWT, but have yet to receive a reply.

Um, what word of this is not entirely predictable? The septics aren't "slated for hypocrisy", they're nothing but hypocrisy.

Eli is over-generous.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 29 Jul 2012 #permalink

I have yet to be convinced photographs can yield useful quantitative information, let alone a time-series of useful quantitative information. Of course, I've only skimmed the paper so far...

By Chris Colose (not verified) on 29 Jul 2012 #permalink

Of course, they don't tell you anything about what the station was like in the past. Maybe Eli WAS too generous, esp given the full blast of stupid in the blogs and now some papers.

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 29 Jul 2012 #permalink

Someone has a weather station in a parking lot. Noticing their error, they move the station to a field, creating a great big cooling-bias inhomogeneity. Watts comes along, and seeing the station correctly set up says: this station is sited correctly, and therefore the raw data will provide a reliable trend estimate.

I have a perfect abstract for Watts et al paper:

"After five years of work we discovered that TOBS-adjusted trends are higher than unadjusted trends"

Who would have thought?

Anthony addresses the timing here: "About a week ago I learned Muller was going to release and do the media blitz, thought he’d be at EPW Senate hearing on August 1st too. (turns out he was passed over, John Christy will be there though.). IPCC deadline coming up too. Added anxiety."

With respect to critique of making an announcement instead of just sending out for review, this served a practical effect of notifying editors and a little pressure. Otherwise, we know that Mann, Santer, et al would kill it in review or threatening the editor, yes?

'Which" journal it is to be printed isn't an important concern right now. After Muller and with IPCC approaching, etc., just a good idea to give a heads up to the torturing of data from NOAA.

As usual, William goes for the ad hominems versus addressing the validity of the data after the input from McIntyre, Pielke, Christy.

[The IPCC deadline stuff is irrelevant - do try thinking, not just parrotting Watts. I even covered that in the post: it would have been perfectly possible to submit with no publicity. As to your paranoid fantasies of how review works: errm, well, they are paranoid fantasises. Just because "Dr" Roy Spencer shares them doesn't make them any more real. At some point, it would be a good idea if you actually read the paper - VV has; see his review -W]

By Larry Logan (not verified) on 30 Jul 2012 #permalink

Re Chris @ 2.44
Probably better than satellite photos of lights though I would have thought.

[I thought that was a rather good method -W]

Have a close look at the new Leroy standards. They allow for some pretty absurd results, e.g. an otherwise-Class 1 station could be demoted to Class 4 or even Class 5 by a single nearby shrub that would have zero impact on min/max temp readings. OTOH Leroy wrote the standards for scientists, not propagandists.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 30 Jul 2012 #permalink

These deniers, on the main, can not be trusted. Take David Archibald, one of Anthony Watts' buddies. There is a blatant lie published on a presumably quasi legitimate organisation - the Institute of World Politics where it is claimed David Archibald testified before the Australian Senate on a day they did not sitr and on a day when David Archibald was giving that "testimony" as one of his boring and annoying carboon rally-esque speeches to a few members of the Liberal Party all the way across the country in WA, pleading for them to support his political aspirations.

What a joke. The Institute and David Archibald have both had the untruth pointed out to them and they refuse to reply, explain or retract.

Shame on David Archibald, solar cycle expert, cancer guru and energy policy poobah.

Shame on the Institute of World Politics for printing untruths and refusing to explain or retract.


Re Steve Bloom @ 7.41 Yes a single tree or shrub can indeed make a big difference, especially w.r.t. Tmin which has one of the biggest contamination problems. If you havent been directly involved with measurement (I have ) you can see it qualitatively on frosty mornings accounting for a couple of deg C. Depending on the air movement and distance it can account for a degree or so of bias at the sensor

"Anthony addresses the timing here: “About a week ago I learned Muller was going to release and do the media blitz, thought he’d be at EPW Senate hearing on August 1st too. (turns out he was passed over, John Christy will be there though.). IPCC deadline coming up too. Added anxiety.”

And Christy's trailing author on Watts' paper, so we know what he'll be saying in his testimony ... US warming is 1/2 that reported by everyone else.

Doesn't this directly contradict Watts' earlier paper, which found no evidence whatsoever of a siting effect? It's almost as if he didn't get the answer he wanted, and kept fishing for a way to overturn it, or something.


Saying something does not make it so.

We need hard evidence. Independent peer review by subject matter experts trained in actual field measurements.

1) A list of stations used in the study. That needs to be up front right from the get go. Why the hold back?

2) We need ground truth. That means actual ground measurements. Actual distance measurements on the ground. Actual angle measurements on the ground. Just like a land surveyor would do to establish accurate site geometry. That also includes all surface properties in the quantative sense. Very accurate ground composition on a 3D virtual fly through map even.

3) The 2010 siting guidance needs explicit verification as to actual temperature biases. That means hard numbers with statistical methods applied to quantify those proported biases. With independent peer review in the well respected peer reviewed climate science literature..

4) The informal logical fallacy of appeal to authority can not apply. That means if C or M or P did not make actual ground measurements themselves (or by proxy from other technically qualified people (e. g. land surveyors) who did do the actual ground truth ground measurements necessary for classification validation purposes), then all their follow on statistical hand waving means absolutely nothing (the books have already been cooked a priori).

5) It is factually impossible to extract accurate 3D information using only 2D inputs, unless one does so using the methods available through photogrammetry. Something that real land surveyors have done for several decades now.

6) Using only visual characterizations alone does not provide any quantative estimates of siting classificaqtion.

7) The 2010 guidance suggests annual reviews, that means we need quantitave ground measurements on an annual basis, going back to the start of the period studied.

8) Given the basic requirements of (1) through (7) above, we are at best, left with a very subjective qualitative assessment of the actual siting properties.

9) Given the well known biases of the lead author (very well known and very explicit biases mind you), given the total lack of quantitative information on siting at this point in time (not a single station ID, not a single actual ground measurement as a function of time), given a 2010 siting standard with no statiistical quantifications embedded within said siting guidance, given the timing of this and the proverbial rush to quantitative judgement using only qualitative information as input, strongly suggests the major weakness of this study.

That being actual quantitative information (temporal and spatial) used to define the siting properties. Without such quantitative information we are left with only a slightly more formal version of the original surfacestations progect. Which pretty much means we are left with nothing but guess work. Exactly like your last comment above.

By EFS_Junior (not verified) on 30 Jul 2012 #permalink

Isn't this just showing that rural stations were more likely to need TOBS adjustments, so that a naive approach will show them looking like they've warmed less than urban stations?


[I think that is what VV is saying. Watts spin is "needs adjustments => faked data" but no journal will buy that -W]

One thing that really puzzles me about the Watts et. al. draft paper. Isn't it important in scientific papers to address any prior work that clearly contradicts the current findings? Menne et. al. (2010) did a comparison of the best quality CONUS temperature measurement stations (USCRN) with the USHCNv2 stations. ( Menne paper Figure 7). The USCRN stations have been engineered to provide much more robust and error-free temperature recording and monitoring (three duplicate temperature sensors, isolated sites, consistent designs at every station, additional monitor supervision). Menne et. al. found that the USCRN temperature anomalies correlated extremely well with the USHCNv2 anomalies (r2=0.998 for Tmax and r2=0.996 for Tmin).

Now Watts et. al. comes along, and claims that the USHCN is significantly in error against the station subset of only 48 Class 1 sites, and 112 Class 2 sites that he personally selected. The USCRN has 107 locations with 114 monitoring stations (seven stations are duplicated nearby). All of the USCRN stations would likely be considered Class 1 or better using the methodology in Watts et. al. And they were sited across the country to capture the CONUS anomalies accurately.

So why didn't Watts et. al. correlate their USHCN subset results (using the methodology applied in their paper) against the USCRN stations? Essentially the USCRN is the "gold standard" for siting, so the lack of the comparison in Watts et. al. sticks out like a sore thumb. If nothing else, this is an extremely important quality control exercise to ensure that obvious mistakes weren't made processing the data from the USHCN subset stations.

To say what I meant in the last comment, a bit more succinctly: Isn't Watts et. al. claiming (indirectly, given the Menne et. al. 2010 results that show excellent correlation between the USCRN and USHCNv2) that the US Climate Reference Networks stations are substantially in error?

If so, this is an extraordinary result. NOAA needs to find out what is wrong with their state-of-the-art networks ASAP.

[I haven't had time to read the paper yet, so I shall hold off comment. But yes, there is indeed plenty of prior art on this, which needs to be reconciled with any new findings. This is the point of much science, it builds on others work. Pretending that your own stuff is without predecessor isn't realistic -W]

I agree with Eli: Watts is exhibiting all the excitement of a trader on the exchange floor for the first time, or a boxer who's in the ring for his first real match. And for that, I say "kudos!" Good for him, putting his arguments out in the arena where they'll deal with real scrutiny.

But to read the comments over at WUWT, you'd think Watts had taken on the AGW monster with one hand behind his back, and won. To everyone who publishes, a new paper is no big deal, and papers have to stand the test of time before their conclusions can be accepted. The hullabaloo is overdone, exaggerated ("cute" might be the best word, really).

So this is a great step forward for Watts et al., but they're still so far behind in the debate, as there are thousands of papers supporting AGW from dozens of angles. I think this will be a good education for the folks at WUWT, an insight into how science is actually done. I fully expect pouty threads when Watts posts any critical analysis from reviewers, and then slow, grudging acceptance of the facts.

But who knows - maybe Watts has actually brought something new to the table, something that will stand the test of time.

By Windchaser (not verified) on 30 Jul 2012 #permalink

. I fully expect pouty threads when Watts posts any critical analysis from reviewers, and then slow, grudging acceptance of the facts.

You're deluded, regarding your second clause :) Half of the crowd over there still believes that it snows dry ice in Antarctica, I'm sure ...

Paul K2, isn't it the difference between the homogenised temperature record and the raw data that Watts attacks in his latest paper? Both Menne et al and Fall et al (on which Watts was a co-author) only looked at the homogenised record IIRC.

Marco: Actually, the USCRN hasn't required any homogenization AFAIK. These state-of-the-art climate monitoring stations were designed using the most advanced measurement technology, and installed between 2003 and 2008. Most of the stations now have over six years of data.

The data from these most advanced stations correlates extremely well with US Historical Climate Network temperature trends that Watts et. al. claim are substantially in error (Menne et. al. proved this strong correlation in their paper). Indirectly, Watts et. al. are claiming that NOAA's recent most modern network has substantial errors. And this has nothing to do with homogenization.

I don't think Watts and Christy thought this recent paper through very well. Not comparing their results to the USCRN results seems like an enormous gap in the paper's logic.

I mean, if you are concerned about station siting issues, you have to start with the USCRN stations, since they are the best we have. It seems like the authors set out to prove a "result", instead of finding the most accurate "truth".

Watts et al 2012 has employed a new methodology for station siting, pioneered by Michel Leroy of METEOFrance in 2010, in the paper Leroy 2010, and endorsed by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Commission for Instruments and Methods of Observation (CIMO-XV, 2010) Fifteenth session, in September 2010 as a WMO-ISO standard, making it suitable for reevaluating previous studies on the issue of station siting.

Previous papers all used a distance only rating system from Leroy 1999, to gauge the impact of heat sinks and sources near thermometers. Leroy 2010 shows that method to be effective for siting new stations, such as was done by NCDC adopting Leroy 1999 methods with their Climate Reference Network (CRN) in 2002 but ineffective at retroactive siting evaluation.

Leroy 2010 adds one simple but effective physical metric; surface area of the heat sinks/sources within the thermometer viewshed to quantify the total heat dissipation effect.

Not rocket science is it.

I agree with Eli: Watts is exhibiting all the excitement of a trader on the exchange floor for the first time, or a boxer who’s in the ring for his first real match.

And to extend the boxing metaphor, he is going to be carried away from this match out cold and with a broken nose.

From reading his Backstory post it seems as though McI and C were brought in *very* late in the process. The whole thing was mostly AW and EJ. Read this, the motivation they describe is *very* interesting...

By Rattus Norvegicus (not verified) on 30 Jul 2012 #permalink

"From reading his Backstory post it seems as though McI and C were brought in *very* late in the process."

Apparently McI was brought in at the end to help with stats.

What's going to be fun is to watch his reaction as his paper's subjected to just a fraction of the scrutiny MM's hockey stick papers have been given, and is shown to be crap.

He certainly is not one who practices the rigor he presumes to preach ...


So made announcement Friday. Figured on Sunday at noon so WUWT could provide peer review, and dumped my plane tickets in trash. Admittedly I was a bit overwrought when I wrote it. I’m truly sorry if anyone was mislead. Dialed it back. Went on crash self taught stats diet…not my thing, but capable of learning. and being a broadcaster, deadline pressure is a huge motivator. You learn to get it done. On-air waits for nobody. Careers die when you miss deadlines.

So he taught himself "stats" starting mid-day Friday and by noon Sunday, using his new skills, his paper was complete?

There's rigor for you ...

[I thought that "so WUWT could provide peer review" was the funny bit. "could provide fawning adulation", perhaps -W]

[I thought that "so WUWT could provide peer review" was the funny bit. "could provide fawning adulation", perhaps -W]

Yeah, reading that was one of those "my-laptop's-thankful-I'm-not-drinking-coffee" moments.

Why did it take a surface station expert so long to find the goldest of WMO gold station siting standards(published in 2010)? One would think he would have been all over it in 2010 already.

"“PR before peer review”, but apparently its OK for Watts to do it."

I think Anthony's proceeding on the basis that the precedent via Muller has been established, so if you have something to say, why not?

Also, he may take the view, based on their experience with getting others papers submitted, that you can spend 12/18months jumping thru hoops only to get a NO from anonymous reviewers and you have to start again.

Another Also, the "Respectability" of peer review as taken a bit of a knock of late. There are individuals around on the internet who are prepared to do a more "comprehensive" analysis of what's being claimed than could ever be done by an academic on a couple of read throughs over lunch. The recent Gergis paper is a good example - a few months of Peer review only to be bounced (Journal withdrew) by McIntyre within a couple of weeks of being published.

Ah, come on, my favorite line was this:

Evan and I have been working on this since June 2011, complete redo of all station ratings…huge amount of work. Evan deserves a huge a amount of credit. After Muller could not find strong signal that we knew must be there by physics of heat sinks…and neither could we in Fall et al 2011, we went looking, and discovered the new Leroy 2010 classification system and WMO ISO approval.

Shorter Watts: "There has to be a pony in there somewhere!"

By Rattus Norvegicus (not verified) on 30 Jul 2012 #permalink

GSW, please to bear in mind that most papers are wrong to some degree. And yeah, peer review is a warty process. What was your point again?

RN, thanks for pointing out "After Muller could not find strong signal that we knew must be there by physics of heat sinks…and neither could we in Fall et al 2011, we went looking, and discovered the new Leroy 2010 classification system and WMO ISO approval."

The problem with Leroy (2010) is that it provides no such "physics of heat sinks." Influences along the lines of my shrub example above are highly resistant to accurate measurement, and beyond that to measurement that is useful drawing conclusions about other stations. I don't know for a fact that Leroy didn't try to quantify everything precisely when coming up with his 2010 standards, but I highly doubt it. I doubt even more highly that Watts even bothered asking him.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 30 Jul 2012 #permalink

Paul K2, the CRN stations were all selected to be pristine Class 1, actually IIRC even better because they have a higher maintenance standard than Leroy asks for. Each of them was also sited close enough to an existing high-quality HCN station to make Menne et al. a simple exercise once enough data was in.

Back in the days when I was bothering to comment on WUWT, this was all discussed in detail there and on RP Sr.'s blog, and Watts was told about CRN (IIRC by me) and why his entire project was doomed to failure if he ignored it, At the time, while CRN was incomplete, there were enough stations with long enough records to be able to draw a pretty strong conclusion. But of course taking the approach that was both the easiest and the most scientifically defensible was of no interest to him, for reasons of which we are all well aware.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 30 Jul 2012 #permalink

Thanks Steve, the points are what they are; A precedent's been set (Muller), substantive Peer review is de facto carried out on the net now, a slanging match at times, and as you say Journal Peer review is a warty process - all you can really be sure about is it will take time and whether getting thru that is truly a "Seal of Approval" in the current circumstances is debatable (Gergis).

but the physics of heat sinks!

Everyone knows that once heat has sank it's hard to get back out and then all the data will end up too IPCC.

William, you label me with "As to your paranoid fantasies of how review works: errm, well, they are paranoid fantasizes."

I don't need paranoid fantasies. I merely need to read the Climategate emails to understand both "pal review" and also the attempt to censure papers and remove editors. There's a long, sordid history in this area, not through fantasies but through Santer, Mann, et al's own paw prints.

I also don't need paranoia to understand your role with putting a finger on the weight scales while at Wikipedia. That also was well documented, sans 'fantasies.'

By Larry Logan (not verified) on 30 Jul 2012 #permalink

I merely need to read the Climategate emails to understand both “pal review” and also the attempt to censure papers and remove editors.

Yawn. Everyone here is aware of the e-mails that you and so many others have so misrepresented for so long.

Here's an example of Larry Logan reading comprehension fail:

"Even Trenberth and Jones (Climategate emails) stated that the world is not heating since 1998."

I also don’t need paranoia to understand your role with putting a finger on the weight scales while at Wikipedia. That also was well documented, sans ‘fantasies.’

Some people, not you necessarily, want Wikipedia to be accurate.

So the 'disappointment' is that Watts has not submitted their work, or inicated whereto? OK well, that was a (un)surprising reaction, worthy a post telling us what else Watts could have done instead, and that Appell agrees.

[No, not at all. The disappointment is that its just a paper. That its only a pre-print makes it even less exciting. But The build-up Watts gave it made it sound like it would be something interesting; I'm sure you saw all the speculation. People produce papers all the time; only prima-donna's or noobs would think their own paper worthy of this fuss -W]

However, and albeit not even having read the paper contents yet, or even considering what the findings might be worth, the positioning for next line of dismissal (again avoiding the contents) has already began!?

Well, once more, color me (not) suprised ...

[Well I was surprised by how unexciting Watts excitement turned out to be. But perhaps once you read it you'll be more surprised, who knows -W]

Well WC, I can't really speak for your 'excitement' or lack thereof. But if Watt et al's criticism turns out to be valid, I'd say that would be quite sensational.

[Oh I fully agree- if Watts, or his fanboyz, overblown assessment of his own importance pans out, it would by defn be sensational. But it won't -W]

I don't think many question that there exist both a station quality issue,

[I'm afraid I have to disagree with you there; in that you're implying there is a problem with the temperature record. There are things worth doing to improve it, but the "issue" has already been investigated in depth by many people -W]

some contamination by a UHI-effect, possible confirmation bias, and adjustment/homogenisation issues with the record. And I for one, prefer to have those issues investigated and addressed properly, rather than relying on bureaucratic rubberstamping, out-of-hand dismissals, referals to (irrelevant) procedures or ad homs (which there are plenty of above).

[People are trying to refer you to actual, published, peer-reviewed papers. But you won't read them; you'd rather insult them. You prefer an unrefereed (indeed, unsubmitted) preprint to published research. And the reason is: it agrees with your biases -W]

But that's just me. I am fully aware that there are those who see this very differently. And feel that they have to inform others how uninterested they are ...

(But do admit, this seems just a trifle contradictory ;-)

[I didn't say I was uninterested. I was interested by Watts's initial announcement. I said I was disappointed by how boring it turned out to be. If you're unable to even parse a fairly simple post correctly, what hope have you of understanding the scientific literature, were you ever to attempt to read it? -W]

Well WC, I can’t really speak for your ‘excitement’ or lack thereof. But if Watt et al’s criticism turns out to be valid, I’d say that would be quite sensational.

Well, yes, if a university drop-out with proven deficiencies in his understanding of things like basic algebra, who just "taught himself statistics starting Friday afternoon" (his own claim), manages to overturn years of work done by professional scientists, then it would be sensational.

The fact that Watts is belittled by professionals remind me of the time when a university dropout with no training in physics invented a perpetual motion machine. Professional physicists belittled him, too.

Damned gatekeepers and professional elites ...

"...some contamination by a UHI-effect, possible confirmation bias, and adjustment/homogenisation issues with the record."

And they managed, starting in 1960, to neatly line up the slope to match what the satellites would find, starting in 1980. Who woulda thunk these three issues would be a Hat Trick for the Hockey Team, eh?

By Brian Dodge (not verified) on 04 Aug 2012 #permalink