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Posts Tagged ‘Anthony Watts’

Climate Skeptic Article Inflation: Wattsupwiththat?

Tue ,04/09/2012


Whenever a newspaper reports on an article that confirms man’s role in global warming, a number of outraged citizens usually proclaim on the newspaper’s blog site that the article is wrong. When asked for their source, they often list Wattsupwiththat, Anthony Watt’s blog site.

One recent newspaper article reported on the BEST study, done by a team of climate skeptics funded by Koch industries and led by Dr. Richard Muller, a noted climate skeptic. Dr. Muller’s team analyzed 1.6 billion temperature records in an effort to prove climate scientists wrong. But they didn’t, and Dr. Muller acknowledged it. He reported that global temperatures were probably higher and man’s role was likely greater even than that reported by climate scientists. He also found that the temperature station data, often criticized by skeptics, was accurate – and that the only credible explanation for global warming is the increasing atmospheric CO2 from man’s activities. The  summary of the paper describing the work is now available.

It would seem rather hard to refute Dr. Muller’s work, but one citizen claimed that there was a peer-reviewed journal article that showed that Dr. Muller was wrong. His source was Wattsupwiththat, which did not exactly claim it was peer-reviewed, but certainly left that impression. Here is what it said: “From the told ya so department, comes this recently presented paper at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) meeting. Authors Steirou and Koutsoyiannis, after taking homogenization errors into account find global warming over the past century was only about one-half [0.42°C] of that claimed by the IPCC [0.7-0.8°C].”

However, that isn’t the whole story. The paper was a conference contribution based on a graduation thesis which was submitted to the EGU session, “Climate, Hydrology and Water Infrastructure”. The abstracts are not peer-reviewed and most of Watts’ data was taken from the slides which are also not peer-reviewed. The paper was presented in the wrong session where it was not likely to be heard by experts in the field. There actually was a session on “Homogenization of Data”. An EGU member in attendance noted the paper had errors, and commented, :” It would have been better if this abstract was sent to the Homogenisation Session at EGU. This would have fit much better to the topic and would have allowed for a more objective appraisal of this work. Had I been EGU convener of the Homogenization Session, I would probably have accepted the abstract, but given it a poster because the errors signal inexperience with the topic and I would have talked to them at the poster.” That hardly refutes Dr. Muller’s work.

Another newspaper aticle reported that a link had been shown between extreme temperatures and global warming.  In the past, climate scientists could only say that climate change was increasing the probability of severe weather, heat waves, and droughts. However, a recent paper by James Hansen et. al. established that the probability of extremely hot temperatures, worldwide, is now 10 times as likely as in 1980. Not only did the paper establish a definite link between climate change and extreme temperatures, but the paper was a straightforward statistical analysis that did not rely on theory or climate models. It would seem that that would be difficult to assail.

However, when it was published in the newspaper, a blogger claimed that there was a research paper that disproved the findings, and the trail led to an article  on Wattsupwiththat, panning Hansen’s paper . It referred to an article, Climate Distortion, by Cliff Mass which states, “Their conclusions are demonstrably false and their characterization of the science and statistics are deceptive at best.”  In his article, Mr. Mass  argued: “Now as the earth warms up the temperature variations shown remain like the bell curve…or Gaussian, but the mean should shift to warmer temperatures (see the figure below). The result is that you get more warm extremes and less cold extremes (less cold extremes are not mentioned very often for some reason).”

That would seem reasonable, as an increase in the mean would shift the distribution to the right, meaning more extremely hot temperatures. However, he somehow used this to claim Hansen was wrong. His argument is not clear, and it is certainly wrong, as he ignores the possibility that the variance could change, which would broaden and flatten the distribution. From Hansen’s paper, here is the distribution based on the actual data:


As you can see, the two graphs are quite different. Dr. Mass*, who is  a Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington , does not accept the conclusions of most other climate scientists, and prefers to assign most of global warming to natural variability, a view that Hansen disproved in his paper. Dr. Mass is known for making controversial statements, and though he volunteered his time at for several years as a TV weatherman, he was released for making controversial statements. Mr. Mass apparently rejected Hansen’s paper, as he does not comment on the correct distribution – or that the paper mentions extremely cold temperatures. Climate Skeptics often argue that an extremely cold weather event disproves global warming. However, a similar distribution for the winter months (see paper) shows a significant probability of extremely cold weather events, even though global warming is occurring – meaning the skeptics argument is baseless.

So, Mr. Watts claims a student paper with errors, presented in the wrong session, and is in no way peer reviewed, invalidates two years of work done by a team of climate scientists. You would think that one could not inflate a paper more than that, but actually it can be done. And, Mr. Watts achieved that by promoting Dr. Mass’ article.

* Note on 09/05/2012. The original version of this article did not  give the full credentials of Dr. Mass and the article has been updated with the correct information. Please see the comments for a discussion of this issue.

(c) 2012 J.C. Moore






Anthony Watts: Dooming the Planet?

Wed ,21/07/2010

The interview: It’s a powerful story. In an interview with Tom Minchin titled ” Doomed Planet” , Anthony Watts tells how he went from a simple student questioning the reliability of Purdue’s  weather station to a science skeptic saving the world  from “Noble Cause Corruption”.  (1) Watts, editor of the anti-science website Wattsupwiththat, is now on a tour of Australia where he is spreading his message to the faithful for $25 a ticket. As one of Anthony Watts’ followers commented on the interview:

“Anyone who is an engineer or scientist can understand what turned Anthony from a believer in anthropogenic global warming to a skeptic.”

That’s apparently money, influence, fun, and perhaps a little revenge.

Watt’s Career: Watts began his career at Purdue University where he studied Meteorology and Engineering. He has not been forthcoming about how long he attended, whether he graduated, or whether he is “AMS Certified”, as sometimes claimed. After he left college, he worked as a radio and TV weather presenter until he founded Wattsupwiththat, a website that posts anti-science literature and commentary. (2) Wattsupwiththat is rife with misquotes, cherry-picking, unsubstantiated claims, title inflation, attacks on scientists, and distorted research. (3) Still, Watts has a number of faithful followers who apparently are made up of disgruntled ex-scientists, those excluded from science by the required rigor, those who profit from the status quo, and members of institutes or think tanks funded by fossil fuel companies.

The Surfacestations Project: Watts has limited credentials in the field of climatology and, though amateurs sometimes make great discoveries, that is not true in his case. While at Purdue, Watts worked part time at their weather  temperature collection site. Building on that experience, Watts has established the Surfacestations Project, a study of weather stations aimed at discrediting NOAA’s temperature data. To counter his repeated attacks on the scientific data, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) did a thorough study of the temperature stations and found that their results were reliable (4). Watts lost any credibility he might have gained as a scientist when the AGU asked him to participate in the research – and he declined. And, though the Surfacestations Project is now completely discredited, Watts is still collecting donations to fund it.

The AGW Conspiracy: To justify his attacks on science, Watts claims there is a worldwide conspiracy of scientists which distorts his True Science,  the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) conspiracy. There are advantages to inventing a worldwide conspiracy to explain  things such as:

Skeptics can’t get their ideas published? It’s not the lack of credible research, it’s “censorship” by the AGW who controls the peer review process.

Skeptics can’t get funding? It’s not  a lack of reasonable and competitive research proposals, it’s because the AGW controls the government and its funding processes.

Skeptics can’t make unfounded Climategate charges stick? It’s because of the AGW whitewash.

Skeptics can’t get their claims to agree with scientific evidence and reason? It’s because the AGW controls Reason. ??? Wattsupwiththat?

Watt’s goes on in the interview:

“I think that if you want skeptics to have an even keel in the debate, skeptics need to push their position more often and that means writing more letters to the editor, to newspapers, to magazines and trade journals and to scientific journals.”

The skeptics would, of course  have a more even keel in the debate if they did the research necessary to back up their claims. Instead, they repeat disproven hypotheses, dispute peer-reviewed research without evidence, personally attack scientists, and refuse to follow the methodology or the ethics of science.

Noble Cause Corruption: Watts has even found a psychological disorder to explain the AGW’s motives… Noble Cause Corruption, a malady once reserved for law enforcement vigilantes. According to Watts:

“A less obvious but perhaps even more threatening type of misconduct in law enforcement is Noble Cause Corruption… Noble Cause Corruption is a mindset or sub-culture which fosters a belief that the ends justify the means…. The officers who adopt this philosophy lose their moral compass. Noble Cause Corruption is a belief that what you’re doing is so much more important than what anyone else is doing because your cause is noble, you’re saving the planet, and because you’re saving the planet, you are doing it for the good of mankind…. And so all of those things combine to put a blinder on you as to what you’re really doing.”

That’s a nice bit of sophistry. Scientists who wish to be good stewards of the Earth are actually, according to Watts, guilty of Noble Cause Corruption. If that is true then his followers, who would let the Earth be destroyed through ignorance and greed, are guilty of a much worse malady called Ignoble Cause Corruption.  Indeed, if  Watts and his followers have their way, we may  end up being the “Doomed Planet”.

(1) http://www.quadrant.org.au/blogs/doomed-planet/2010/06/anthony-watts-interviewed

(2) wattsupwiththat.com

(3) Some examples, but not nearly an exhaustive list , are

(4) Menne, Matthew J.; Claude N. Williams, Jr., and Michael A. Palecki. Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres (American Geophysical Union) http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/ushcn/v2/monthly/menne-etal2010.pdf.