Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Climate Audit: Climate Science Or Political Semiotics?

I've been writing about Steve McIntyre's Denialist website, Climate Audit, a lot recently, especially the discussions that have been raging over the surface station data being collected by Anthony Watts. But now the discussion has taken a detour into the bizarre, as it is has become possible to perceive shards of political ideology poking through the miasma of charts and graphs at the CA site. Specifically, McIntyre and his readers seem to be promulgating a faux scientific version of your standard "Red State/Blue State" political symbolism under the guise of arguing climatological theory.

The heart of the question is: how are weather stations located in Urban areas, which can often be subject to the heat island and other micro site problems associated with the artificial city environment, worked into the broader United States Historical Climatological Network (USHCN) so that the network might deliver accurate regional and national temperature figures? The answer is twofold. Firstly, the urban stations are "adjusted" via reference to the nearest rural station (ie a station presumably unaffected by these various problems). Secondly, the information from them is not used to determine the overall temperature numbers; only data from rural, "unlit"stations is used for this end.

But, McIntyre asks, is this really the case? He suspects that in at least one instance--the Grand Canyon (rural) vs. Tuscon (urban) station-- it is not just the former station that is being used to adjust the latter, but that the information from both is being "blended", so that the rural station is no longer quite as rural as it once was:

It appears to me that the total adjustment process (including USHCN adjustments incorporated by GISS) result in “adjusted” stations becoming a type of blend of urban and rural stations, so that it is not actually correct to say that the overall trend results only from rural stations.


It looks to me like the USHCN adjustment process feeds back trends from urban sites to adjust rural sites and this contradicts the claim that only rural sites are used in GISS trends.

In other words, his argument is that the purity of the data produced by the rural station is compromised by its proximity to/interaction with data from the urban site.

...the Grand Canyon values are being blended up and the Tucson values are being blended down.


The net impact of this is that, if Grand Canyon neighbors have urban trends, then the USHCN adjusted Grand Canyon version will also incorporate some amount of urban trend.

This theme, of the dirty urban stations introducing an "urban bias", and therefore corrupting the "pure" rural stations, is then taken up in Steve's comments sections. For example, Sam Urbinto comments:

I’d say that taking a rural station and adjusting it with urban adjustments rather turns it into an urban station.

My God, the stations have been "turned" by their proximity to urban data! I'm surprised they haven't gone gay. In fact, I'm surprised Steve doesn't refer to these urban stations as "too damn Liberal", insinuating that they are in some sense "black weather stations". The symbolism of rural=good, urban=bad, permeates the entire thread... it does in Anthony Watts analysis of station data, incidentally. In his world, uncompromised rural stations inevitably show a downward temperature trend, whereas the lying urban stations show evidence of global warming.

Yes, it sounds a bit loopy, but in fact McIntyre has explicitly employed Red State/Blue State terminology here and here to demonstrate that the Red States provide no evidence for AGW:

But the oddest pattern is surely the degree to which red and blue states on these maps match their political counterparts. There are a few exceptions - Arizona, Montana, Utah, but it looks to me like voting patterns would be a better proxy for the existence of a 20th century temperature trend (by state) than tree rings.

As to why you can see crude Conservative symbolism percolating up through what is supposed to by a discussion of pure science, well I think this has something to do with the audience McIntyre is trying to cultivate. His "argumentation" often resembles a random data dump of charts and graphs, and the only real movement in it is therefore less logical than symbolical. I think it is also significant that Anthony Watts has considered using his appearances on Hannity and the Rush Limbaugh show to scare of volunteers for the Surface Stations project.

In both cases, they're throwing raw meat to the Bubbas.


Anonymous said...

There IS a problem with global warming... it stopped in 1998

By Bob Carter
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 09/04/2006

For many years now, human-caused climate change has been viewed as a large and urgent problem. In truth, however, the biggest part of the problem is neither environmental nor scientific, but a self-created political fiasco. Consider the simple fact, drawn from the official temperature records of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, that for the years 1998-2005 global average temperature did not increase (there was actually a slight decrease, though not at a rate that differs significantly from zero).

Yes, you did read that right. And also, yes, this eight-year period of temperature stasis did coincide with society's continued power station and SUV-inspired pumping of yet more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

In response to these facts, a global warming devotee will chuckle and say "how silly to judge climate change over such a short period". Yet in the next breath, the same person will assure you that the 28-year-long period of warming which occurred between 1970 and 1998 constitutes a dangerous (and man-made) warming. Tosh. Our devotee will also pass by the curious additional facts that a period of similar warming occurred between 1918 and 1940, well prior to the greatest phase of world industrialisation, and that cooling occurred between 1940 and 1965, at precisely the time that human emissions were increasing at their greatest rate.
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Does something not strike you as odd here? That industrial carbon dioxide is not the primary cause of earth's recent decadal-scale temperature changes doesn't seem at all odd to many thousands of independent scientists. They have long appreciated - ever since the early 1990s, when the global warming bandwagon first started to roll behind the gravy train of the UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - that such short-term climate fluctuations are chiefly of natural origin. Yet the public appears to be largely convinced otherwise. How is this possible?

Since the early 1990s, the columns of many leading newspapers and magazines, worldwide, have carried an increasing stream of alarmist letters and articles on hypothetical, human-caused climate change. Each such alarmist article is larded with words such as "if", "might", "could", "probably", "perhaps", "expected", "projected" or "modelled" - and many involve such deep dreaming, or ignorance of scientific facts and principles, that they are akin to nonsense.

The problem here is not that of climate change per se, but rather that of the sophisticated scientific brainwashing that has been inflicted on the public, bureaucrats and politicians alike. Governments generally choose not to receive policy advice on climate from independent scientists. Rather, they seek guidance from their own self-interested science bureaucracies and senior advisers, or from the IPCC itself. No matter how accurate it may be, cautious and politically non-correct science advice is not welcomed in Westminster, and nor is it widely reported.

Marketed under the imprimatur of the IPCC, the bladder-trembling and now infamous hockey-stick diagram that shows accelerating warming during the 20th century - a statistical construct by scientist Michael Mann and co-workers from mostly tree ring records - has been a seminal image of the climate scaremongering campaign. Thanks to the work of a Canadian statistician, Stephen McIntyre, and others, this graph is now known to be deeply flawed.

There are other reasons, too, why the public hears so little in detail from those scientists who approach climate change issues rationally, the so-called climate sceptics. Most are to do with intimidation against speaking out, which operates intensely on several parallel fronts.

First, most government scientists are gagged from making public comment on contentious issues, their employing organisations instead making use of public relations experts to craft carefully tailored, frisbee-science press releases. Second, scientists are under intense pressure to conform with the prevailing paradigm of climate alarmism if they wish to receive funding for their research. Third, members of the Establishment have spoken declamatory words on the issue, and the kingdom's subjects are expected to listen.

On the alarmist campaign trail, the UK's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King, is thus reported as saying that global warming is so bad that Antarctica is likely to be the world's only habitable continent by the end of this century. Warming devotee and former Chairman of Shell, Lord [Ron] Oxburgh, reportedly agrees with another rash statement of King's, that climate change is a bigger threat than terrorism. And goodly Archbishop Rowan Williams, who self-evidently understands little about the science, has warned of "millions, billions" of deaths as a result of global warming and threatened Mr Blair with the wrath of the climate God unless he acts. By betraying the public's trust in their positions of influence, so do the great and good become the small and silly.

Two simple graphs provide needed context, and exemplify the dynamic, fluctuating nature of climate change. The first is a temperature curve for the last six million years, which shows a three-million year period when it was several degrees warmer than today, followed by a three-million year cooling trend which was accompanied by an increase in the magnitude of the pervasive, higher frequency, cold and warm climate cycles. During the last three such warm (interglacial) periods, temperatures at high latitudes were as much as 5 degrees warmer than today's. The second graph shows the average global temperature over the last eight years, which has proved to be a period of stasis.

The essence of the issue is this. Climate changes naturally all the time, partly in predictable cycles, and partly in unpredictable shorter rhythms and rapid episodic shifts, some of the causes of which remain unknown. We are fortunate that our modern societies have developed during the last 10,000 years of benignly warm, interglacial climate. But for more than 90 per cent of the last two million years, the climate has been colder, and generally much colder, than today. The reality of the climate record is that a sudden natural cooling is far more to be feared, and will do infinitely more social and economic damage, than the late 20th century phase of gentle warming.

The British Government urgently needs to recast the sources from which it draws its climate advice. The shrill alarmism of its public advisers, and the often eco-fundamentalist policy initiatives that bubble up from the depths of the Civil Service, have all long since been detached from science reality. Intern-ationally, the IPCC is a deeply flawed organisation, as acknowledged in a recent House of Lords report, and the Kyoto Protocol has proved a costly flop. Clearly, the wrong horses have been backed.

As mooted recently by Tony Blair, perhaps the time has come for Britain to join instead the new Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (AP6), whose six member countries are committed to the development of new technologies to improve environmental outcomes. There, at least, some real solutions are likely to emerge for improving energy efficiency and reducing pollution.

Informal discussions have already begun about a new AP6 audit body, designed to vet rigorously the science advice that the Partnership receives, including from the IPCC. Can Britain afford not to be there?

• Prof Bob Carter is a geologist at James Cook University, Queensland, engaged in paleoclimate research

Anonymous said...

Statistics is not your strong suit is it ??

As you Warmongers get fisked, you seem to be getting more paranoid.

July 31st, 2007
Raising Arizona
By Steve McIntyre

Eli (RTFR) Rabett, has a new defence of GISS adjustments, arguing that we should simply trust the clergy at GISS. Eli seems to be particularly prickly when it comes to anything that could be construed as criticism of GISS. (BTW Roger Pielke Jr and others have said that Eli is a pseudonym for Josh (RTFR) Halpern, who, among other things, administers summer fellowship applications for Goddard/GISS (

At least, in this case, Eli did not use the perverted persona that he assumed in his criticism of 15-year-old Kristen Byrnes (”Wanna see some pictures lil’ girl?” ). Kristen seems to be a modern girl and was rightfully unimpressed by Eli exposing his shortcomings (borrowing David Niven’s memorable phrase), but Eli’s choice of persona was very inappropriate and decidedly unfunny. Eli’s conclusion about GISS was that:

The bottom line is that the ONLY stations which contribute to the overall trend are the RURAL stations

To support this claim, Eli merely quoted several verses from one of Hansen’s epistles, but did not make any independent effort to ascertain how the GISS adjustments actually worked or to replicate GISS/USHCN adjustments or to verify whether it is true that the only rural stations contribute to the trend.

I’m not convinced that this claim is true. Today I’m going to compare adjustments from Tucson U of Arizona and Grand Canyon (an unlit site). It appears to me that the total adjustment process (including USHCN adjustments incorporated by GISS) result in “adjusted” stations becoming a type of blend of urban and rural stations, so that it is not actually correct to say that the overall trend results only from rural stations. At this point, to my knowledge, present methodological descriptions are insufficient to permit an operational replication of either USHCN or GISS adjustments and accordingly I do not have firm conclusions on the matter at the present time. However, as you will see, there is certainly strong evidence that urban trends are affecting USHCN-adjusted rural stations and thus GISS-adjusted values.
Read the rest of this entry »

bigcitylib said...

Anon 10:40,

You know I did link to the entire posting by McIntyre.

Ti-Guy said...

I believe that an additional 15.3 lengthy cut 'n pastes that no one reads from the regular anony-tards will convince me that AGW does not exist.

So keep going, 'tards. Success is in sight!

Anonymous said...

Despite your use of demeaning and derogatory terms, the fact is that the science is NOT settled, and never will be settled. So it means the understanding of the physical processes and the historical picture is not clear. So, is it prudent, or wise, or even remotely sensible to commit TRILLIONS of dollars fighting a problem which may or may not exist? The answer is at this point in time - No.

Study it more, but reducing carbon for the sake of reducing carbon is presently just stupid.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the perils of a modern liberal arts education. Someone has taken too many deconstructionist literary criticism classes...

Obviously, the scientific and statistical analysis of Watts and McIntyre is way over your head, so you are left only with the tools you learned in some undergraduate English course taught by a bitter PC professor who couldn't make it in the real world.

And for all the semiotics you spout off about, you don't even understand simple metaphors and basic humor.

Ti-Guy said...

Less gassing, more cutting 'n pasting, 'tards.

Ti-Guy said...

By the way, Ed...get your American rightard talking points straight...humanities grads are experts in fecal art, not semiotics.

Anonymous said...

Politics are involved in climate science? Oh! Perish the thought! And I forgot, James Hansen taking a $250,000 grant from a corporate foundation directly linked to John Kerry has no political connotations.

The "Red" and "Blue" in the McIntyre article refers to red=warming, blue=cooling, and nothing else that I can see.

bigcitylib, it is your political leanings that are plunging to the forefront, not others.

bigcitylib said...

Anon 4:44

His claim is that the political red states are cooling(blue) and the political blue states are warming (red).

Anonymous said...

Yabbut BCL your leanings are plunging, so wadda you know?

Ti-Guy said...

Plunging leanings...the ravages of age.

Anonymous said...

The absolute nanosecond politics got involved,this ceased to be a scientific matter.

True scientific work thrives on new,and especially,contrary findings.How can any free thinking individual trust scientists who claim a wildly complex topic such as MMGW is CLOSED,and then personally attack any other scientist who dare claim otherwise?

I find that just as with any topic drenched in partisanship,the participants no longer seek the truth....they simply seek a victory for their 'side'.

That is painfully obvious here.

bigcitylib said...


Very similar battles were fought over Copernican Astronomy, the effects of smoking, and the ozone hole. These issues are now CLOSED, are they not? Why is the existence of GW, and its causes (human CO2 emissions), any different?

Anonymous said...

Yes...but there is a BIG difference between proving conclusively something that is happening,or has happened,and proving conclusively something that is maybe going to happen(if computer models were around in the 80's,I'm sure the tobacco cos.would have used them to great advantage).

But...I don't think you understood the point of my post.
I believe it is absolutely pointless for people to debate in the blogworld the ins and outs of a topic that is so drenched in partisan rhetoric,ideology and misinformation as MMGW.
The only result I have ever witnessed from these exchanges is the right and left butting heads until they both become completely bunkered in their respective POV's.Hardly productive.

I am simply trying to get you to understand,for this dude anyways,that my instincts on human behavior have been pulsing at red alert since the first scientist was personally denigrated for DARING to offer contrary data(his scientific duty,BTW).
And I trust those instincts implicitly.

As I have tried to keep an open mind on this topic,it doesn't help that the 'pro-Kyoto' people treat my sincere(and I believe healthy)skepticism with spiteful scorn.

And yeah...I treat info from the 'anti-Kyoto' gang with similar suspicion.

You see....I think agenda has trumped science across the board on this one.

Anonymous said...

Your instincts are worthless. What you call "my sincere(and I believe healthy)skepticism" is really pigheaded ignorance. You see, it's not about human behaviour, it's about the science. You should be able to read the discussions at a place like RealClimate and see that they are scientists talking about science.

You claim it's all agenda-driven, but that is how you think, not how these scientitst are thinking. He that is giddy thinks the world is spinning around.

Anonymous said...

I get tired of pompous prats like yourself spouting self-satisfied bilge: "Oh I'm so open-minded that I see no difference between the two sides; aren't I just a wonderful sceptic?"

You're so open minded your brain fell out and quit working. Otherwise you would recognise which side is doing the honest science, and you would have to guts to say so, even though it doesn't suit your political agenda.

Anonymous said...

I don't know which side is doing the honest science. I do know that the emphasis on blogging, sophistry and the like is annoying. and I really have seen that from both sides.

Anonymous said...

canadian observer: you are right on. there are some warning signs of sophistry and just laziness from both sides.

Keep the faith, brotha.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of data dump, how is that little 'ole math problem in the grey matter going with the circumference versus perimeter thang? Finished yet?

Since uz can't du "crap" math, how can ya comment on climate science?

Please enlighten those with such small conservative minds how such a big liberal in a city or a liberal in a big city is: conserving gas, spending less time babbling on the Internet, using solar power, and saving the planet from global climate change.

WE all should learn from *icons* like you.

"Dude", you need to get some hobbies. :)

Anonymous said...

"RUSH" say's there is no such thing as global warming. I can't think on My own so I will have to take his word on it.

Anonymous said...

This is one crappy-ass obviously leftwing blog completely devoid of any scientific understanding. Could you be any more political? Quit wasting bandwidth.

Anonymous said...

"The absolute nanosecond politics got involved,this ceased to be a scientific matter.

True scientific work thrives on new,and especially,contrary findings"

That's why climate audit is a real public service - though contrary, they have corrected multiple errors in the climate science conventional wisdom and opened up the AGW science. Climate Audit is real science and this bloward political attack is just political BS.

Global warming is not a crisis, and the non-warming in the last 10 years is proof of that .. "hat for the years 1998-2005 global average temperature did not increase (there was actually a slight decrease, though not at a rate that differs significantly from zero)."

... when faced with bare facts, do liberals correct their thinking? It's a clear test of intellectual honesty - the intellectually honest ones reassess AGW and use climate audit as a tool, while the idiotarians go on the attack to suppress dissent. This blog has outed itself.

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