Saturday, March 17, 2007

Global Warming Deniers Deny Concept Of An Average Value

Interesting news in that a group of GW Deniers, including Canadian Ross McKitrick, have managed to place a paper, entitled Does a global temperature exist? in a real, peer-reviewed journal (the Journal of Non-Equilibrium Thermodynamics), although from what I can gather it is a relatively "low rent" journal where you send the papers other journals won't take.

From their news release at Science Daily:

It is generally assumed that the atmosphere and the oceans have grown warmer during the recent 50 years. The reason for this point of view is an upward trend in the curve of measurements of the so-called 'global temperature'. This is the temperature obtained by collecting measurements of air temperatures at a large number of measuring stations around the Globe, weighing them according to the area they represent, and then calculating the yearly average according to the usual method of adding all values and dividing by the number of points.

The authors claim that:

"It is impossible to talk about a single temperature for something as complicated as the climate of Earth", Bjarne Andresen says, an expert of thermodynamics. "A temperature can be defined only for a homogeneous system. Furthermore, the climate is not governed by a single temperature. Rather, differences of temperatures drive the processes and create the storms, sea currents, thunder, etc. which make up the climate".

He explains that while it is possible to treat temperature statistically locally, it is meaningless to talk about a a global temperature for Earth. The Globe consists of a huge number of components which one cannot just add up and average. That would correspond to calculating the average phone number in the phone book. That is meaningless. Or talking about economics, it does make sense to compare the currency exchange rate of two countries, whereas there is no point in talking about an average 'global exchange rate'

Well, maybe, but the real problem with this claim is that it proves too much, can in fact be employed to prove that the concept of an average anything is meaningless.

Consider housing values (which I will use because statistics are easy to get hold of). For example, in January 2007 the average price of a resale home in Canada came in at $282,844. But wait! You can argue that it is meaningless to talk of an average house price for Canada, because Canada "consists of a huge number of components which one cannot just add up and average". After all, people don't purchase a house in Canada, they purchase a house in some specific locale, a Metropolitan area like Calgary or Edmonton.

So lets consider Edmonton, where the January average was $321,307. But wait! That figure, one can argue, is also meaningless, because people don't really buy in Edmonton. Rather, they buy in one of the "huge number" of sub-markets that make up Edmonton. But wait! They don't really buy in a sub-market either, they buy on a particular street or in a particular building. And so and so forth!

So we have managed in a few words to rubbish the concept of an average house price.

Now, in their paper the authors attempt to short-circuit this line of criticism by suggesting that we only employ the concept of averaging where "it makes sense". But where averaging "makes sense" is highly context sensitive. An example mentioned in the paper is the "average height" of a population. Well, if you are dealing with the global tree population, which includes both maples and pines, and both adults and saplings, you run into the same problem. You also run into the same problem if there is a wide enough distribution of individual heights across adult trees of the same species. (Note that this is not an entirely hypothetical example. There are occasional arguments in paleontological circles about the utility of average size statistics: is the average size of a Tyrannosaur a useful conceptual tool?).

So once again, accept the paper's logic and the whole concept of an average value turns out to be mythical.

Way to go, fellas!

A pre-print of this paper can be found here. A much more intensive critique can be found here, including some nice comments on an earlier version of the argument I am making in this post.


Anonymous said...

Some man-made GW proponents starting to back away - just a little:

"Two leading UK climate researchers have criticised those among their peers who they say are "overplaying" the global warming message.

Professors Paul Hardaker and Chris Collier, both Royal Meteorological Society figures, are voicing their concern at a conference in Oxford.

They say some researchers make claims about possible future impacts that cannot be justified by the science.

The pair believe this damages the credibility of all climate scientists.

They think catastrophism and the "Hollywoodisation" of weather and climate only work to create confusion in the public mind.

They argue for a more sober and reasoned explanation of the uncertainties about possible future changes in the Earth's climate." -

Anonymous said...

they are correct actually.

The atmosphere is a very chaotic complex system that defies specific measures such as a statistical average. You can't run regression analysis on the data - it is too complex & chaotic.

The real estate analogy is not a safe comparison as that market is not chaotic.

Anonymous said...

For Big City LIb,

Very cute and astute post - gave me a smile this morning. Thanks!

For the denier reaction - not denile (valid points but urging caution on determining the outcome isn't denying). But for the above anonymous:

Um, yeah, right. I know the sun is pretty complex too but I'll bet the average temparature is a heck of a lot hotter than my coffee this morning. Did you write the original article?

Have fun saling that river mentioned in the first comment.

Walks With Coffee said...

The numbers - collected from measuring stations - are used to indicate whether the atmosphere has more or less energy in it over time.

higher temperature readings => more energy in the atmosphere ***

and visa versa

more energy in the atmosphere => higher temperature readings***

***Wind conditions, content of the atmosphere etc., and thermodynamic laws being part of the calculation.

The total energy (in flux as it is) still equates to an average temperature for the mass of the atmosphere.

A representative temperature consistently calculated over time for the total energy in the atmosphere is a valid summary number.

Anonymous said...

how much of the atmosphere do they actually measure ??

What is the average speed of a hurricane ?

Of an avalanche ??

Anonymous said...

read 'em & weep suckahs


Center for Science and Public Policy, 16 March 2007

Motion: Global warming is not a crisis

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Brian Lehrer is host of the highly-acclaimed "Brian Lehrer Show" heard weekday
mornings on WNYC® New York Public Radio®, 820 AM, 93.9 FM
and He is also an award-winning author and documentary producer.
Lehrer holds masters degrees in journalism and public health/environmental


* Michael Crichton is a writer and filmmaker, best known as the author of
JurassicPark and the creator of "ER." Crichton graduated summa cum laude from
Harvard College, received his MD from Harvard Medical School, and was a
postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. He has been a
visiting instructor at Cambridge University and MIT. Crichton's 2004 bestseller,
State of Fear, challenged extreme anthropogenic warming scenarios.

* Richard S. Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at
MIT since 1983, previously held professorships at Harvard, where he received his
A.B., S.M. and Ph.D., and the University of Chicago. He is a member of the
National Academy of Sciences and the recipient of various awards. He is the
author or co-author of three books and over 200 papers. His current research is
on climate sensitivity, atmospheric convection and the general circulation of
the atmosphere.

* Philip Stott is an Emeritus Professor and biogeographer from the University of
London, UK. Although a scientist, for the past ten years he has also
employed modern techniques of deconstruction to grand environmental narratives,
like "global warming." Stott was editor of the internationally important Journal
of Biogeography for 18 years. He broadcasts widely on TV and radio, and writes
regularly on environmental issues for The Times of London , among other


* Brenda Ekwurzel works on the national climate program at the Union of
Concerned Scientists (UCS). Prior to joining UCS, she was on the faculty of
the University of Arizona. Doctorate research was at Lamont-Doherty Earth
Observatory of Columbia University and post-doctoral research at Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory in California.

* Gavin Schmidt is a climate scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space
Studies in New York. His publications include studies of past, present and
potential future climates. Scientific American cited him as a top 50 Research
Leader in 2004, and he has worked on education and outreach with the
American Museum of Natural History, the College de France and the New York
Academy of Sciences, among others. He is a contributing editor at

* Richard C.J. Somerville is Distinguished Professor at Scripps Institution of
Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. He is a theoretical
meteorologist and an expert on computer simulations of the atmosphere. Among
many honors, Somerville is a Fellow of both the American Association for the
Advancement of Science and the American Meteorological Society. He has received
awards for both his research and his popular book, The Forgiving Air:
Understanding Environmental Change.


Poll results of a sold out audience before and after, and online poll after on

Global Warming is NOT a crisis.

Before After OnlinePoll

For: 29.88 46.22 54.76
Against: 57.32 42.22 41.94
Don't Know 12.8 11.56 3.30


bigcitylib said...

Anon 1:12,

An online poll? SUrely you jest.

Red Tory said...

Why are we supposed to weep over the IQ2 debate? I'm looking forward to hearing it when it comes out on NPR.

Anonymous said...

Goere won't do it . . . he's a coward as well as a liar.

Al Gore Challenged to International TV Debate on Global Warming

March 16, 2007

PERTH, SCOTLAND - In a formal invitation sent to former Vice-President Al Gore’s Tennessee address and released to the public, Lord Monckton has thrown down the gauntlet to challenge Gore to what he terms “the Second Great Debate,” an internationally televised, head-to-head, nation-unto-nation confrontation on the question, “That our effect on climate is not dangerous.” (

Monckton a former policy adviser to Margaret Thatcher during her years as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom said, “A careful study of the substantial corpus of peer-reviewed science reveals that Mr. Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, is a foofaraw of pseudo-science, exaggerations, and errors, now being peddled to innocent schoolchildren worldwide.”

Monckton and Gore have once before clashed head to head on the science, politics, and religion of global warming in the usually-decorous pages of the London Sunday Telegraph last November.

Monckton calls on the former Vice President to “step up to the plate and defend his advocacy of policies that could do grave harm to the welfare of the world’s poor. If Mr. Gore really believes global warming is the defining issue of our time, the greatest threat human civilization has ever faced, then he should welcome the opportunity to raise the profile of the issue before a worldwide audience of billions by defining and defending his claims against a serious, science-based challenge”.

File written by Adobe Photoshop® 4.0

The arena of the glittering “Second Great Debate” will be the elegant, Victorian-Gothic Library of the Oxford Museum of Natural History, which was the setting for the “Great Debate” between the natural scientist T. H. Huxley and Bishop “Soapy Sam” Wilberforce on the theory of evolution, following the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species. Lord Monckton says he chose this historic venue “not only because the magnificent, Gothic architecture will be a visually-stunning setting for the debate but also because I hope that in this lofty atmosphere the caution and scepticism of true science will once again prevail, this time over the shibboleths and nostrums of the false, new religion of climate alarmism.”

Lord Monckton’s resounding challenge to Al Gore reads as follows –

“The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley presents his compliments to Vice-President Albert Gore and by these presents challenges the said former Vice-President to a head-to-head, internationally-televised debate upon the question “That our effect on climate is not dangerous”, to be held in the Library of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History at a date of the Vice-President’s choosing.

“Forasmuch as it is His Lordship who now flings down the gauntlet to the Vice-President, it shall be the Vice-President’s prerogative and right to choose his weapons by specifying the form of the Great Debate. May the Truth win! Magna est veritas, et praevalet. God Bless America! God Save the Queen!”

Contact: Audrey Mullen 703-548-1160

Anonymous said...

More holes shot into Al Bore's mythology.

bigcitylib said...

Anon 3:46,

The Competitive Enterprise Institute? Surely you jest.

Anonymous said...

What does it matter where the truth comes from? Again, Liberals are projecting their own devious and deceitful ways onto the actions of others. Not everybody is a crook or a liar, which seem to be the only two possible motiviations understood in Liberal-world.

Just as Monckton is critiquing the Stern report as junk, other people are pointing out Gore's falsehoods, distortions, and outright lies for what they are. It doesn't take long to find out that polar bear populations are at an all-time high, compared to the 'endangered' label Al leads you to believe. AIT is a masterpiece of propaganda. But don't expect people to not expose it for what it is.

And stop calling me Shirley!

Anonymous said...

Interesting! :-)

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