A discussion of the “Influence of the Southern Oscillation and tropospheric temperature on climate change Deniers and their delusions, bad science and general unethical behaviour”.
Sigh. Yet another “New Study” that doesn’t say what the climate change Deniers claim it does. Or more curiously, the study “says” it, it just doesn’t have any evidence for it.
I am referring to the study “Influence of the Southern Oscillation on tropospheric temperature“, (abstract only, the journal itself is for subscribers) discussed at Climate Despot as “Peer-Reviewed Study Rocks Climate Debate! ‘Nature not man responsible for recent global warming…little or none of late 20th century warming and cooling can be attributed to humans’” (for God’s sake, someone please stop that man before he writes another title).
Michael does a more detailed look at some of the particulars of the paper and how claims made in the Climate Despot report simply don’t follow. I invite everyone to read his post for that, particularly as I want to zero in on the major and most glaring ethical lapses and leaps of illogic.
Aside: The authors use the Christy and Spencer satellite data notorious for having screwed up on orbit decay (here and here) and initially I wondered if somehow they got to their novel conclusions by using the uncorrected data set, but the paper states that it uses “(see Christy et al.  and updates)”, so that would seem to be in order.
Update: Tamino has had a go at it and goes over the methodology of the analysis. Turns out the abomination is worse than I realized (Hail Tamino, that man/woman/thing is a God!):
“The fact is that their methodology, the process of estimating derivatives by taking 1-year differences, transforms any trend into a constant and thereby eliminates its impact on all variation and correlation.” Old News
Tobis has apparently retitled as “If She Weighs the Same as a Duck, She’s Made of Wood“, also very descriptive of McLean et al, albeit in a different way. The reader’s comments at both are well worth checking.
Ethical Lapse I
“Climate modelers acknowledge that their models do not adequately hindcast average global temperatures from 1950 to 1990 and apply a human influence factor to make up the deficit.” (McLean, de Freitas, and Carter 2009)
The authors are saying, in effect, that scientists (NOT just “climate modelers” btw … a Straw Man Fallacy that they tried to slip in here) could not account for rising global temperatures, so ex nihilo (‘out of nothing’) they arbitrarily decided to blame it on anthropogenic CO2. That is not simply disingenuous, it is outrageous bullshit.
That CO2 is a greenhouse gas has been known for over 150 years:
Knowing that i) CO2 trapped heat, and ii) humans were pouring vast amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, scientists concluded that there should be a consequent warming effect, and started looking for it long before they had the tools to be able to show it.
The progression of scientific enquiry was NOT ‘oh, it’s getting warmer, how do we explain that away?’, but rather ‘all of that CO2 really ought to be affecting climate, let’s check if it is.’
Further, the evidence that anthropogenic CO2 is driving the warming is substantial and diverse.
- Attribution of 20th Century climate change to CO2
- What is the evidence that CO2 is causing global warming?
- Does CO2 correlate with temperature?
- The CO2 problem in 6 easy steps
- Yet More CO2
- Discussion: A role for atmospheric CO2 in preindustrial climate forcing
- Of upward slopes and isotopes
- Of Upward Slopes and Isotopes (2)
- Calculating the greenhouse effect
The only people pulling conclusions out of nowhere (or possibly from their collective rectal orifices) are McLean, de Freitas, and Carter. Given that the authors work in climate science (sort of) this cannot be seen as an error, it’s quite obviously an outright and deliberate lie.
Ethical Lapse II
A very brief and simple introduction to the structure of scientific literature for those not familiar with it (nice and easy, I promise). The format of a scientific paper will follow this structure, more or less. It is simply meant to keep things logical and rational.
- Abstract: A brief summary of the entire work, sort of a scientific “trailer”
- Introduction: The set up, what the work hopes to show/talk about and why it matters.
- Data: how the actual results were collected and/or where you got the raw information.
- Analysis and Results: step by step walk through of how you analysed the data, coupled with interpretation and/or discussion of what you think it means and why.
- Conclusion: summary and clear statement of logical conclusion(s) that follow from the analysis of the data.
Now in practice everything that you say in the conclusion is supposed to be based on, and follow logically from the analysis and results (which in turn are supposed to be based on the data). That is how it is all supposed to work.
This paper concludes:
“Finally, this study has shown that natural climate forcing associated with ENSO is a major contributor to variability, and perhaps recent trends in global temperature, a relationship that is not included in current global climate models.”
No problem up to “variability”, that is indeed what it has shown. Here ends the actual science in the paper, which Tobis sums up quite nicely:
“It shows that global mean temperature variance is dominated by the El Nino/Southern Oscillation index (which most climatologists would have said was obvious) and that the lag is about 7 months, with ENSO leading the temperature (a modestly useful result).”
The science being done the authors should have finished as well, but unfortunately they went on “…and perhaps recent trends in global temperature, a relationship that is not included in current global climate models.”
I confess that I had to read the paper through several times to make sure I wasn’t misreading it. “natural climate forcing … (causing) recent trends in global temperature.” I simply could not believe the authors were making that statement based on the paper I had read, but they were.
Two problems here:
1) There is nothing in the analysis that could justify this conclusion. How could there be? there is nothing that could be done with the data that could lead to such a conclusion. This “conclusion” is delusion, and completely ex nihilo.
They seem to be trying to pull off an incredibly juvenile False Dilemma Fallacy along the lines of ‘if the heat is coming from the SOI then it can’t be coming from being trapped by CO2 QED’; but of course a) there is no such dilemma, and b) they have demonstrated absolutely nothing of the sort because;
2) To call something “natural” without further explanation is on a par with calling it “magic”. Nothing has been explained or understood, you’ve just slapped a different name on it. What the hell is “natural” supposed to mean? It means absolutely nothing in this case, for two reasons:
a) Water is not a primary source of heat, it is merely a transport and possibly a storage mechanism. If the SOI is transferring more heat to the Troposphere, where is that heat coming from? was it in the ocean which would be cooling as a result? somewhere else? where are the numbers? how does this explain the increase in the Earth’s temperature? or are the authors suggesting a violation of the Laws of thermodynamics?
b) The authors are trying to suggest that the SOI transfering heat to the Troposphere somehow excludes anthropogenic climate change. As Tobis notes “…can easily be read as if they were a coherent counter-theory of global warming, and in retrospect were obviously intended to be so read.”, which is more nonsense (the paper, not Tobis).
The perfectly obvious explanation is global warming is also warming the ocean (it being part of the globe … a little fyi for the authors who apparently did not know that), which stores and transports it. Of course Carter has a history of being pretty clueless about heat and the oceans; What Bob Carter and Andrew Bolt fail to grasp.
Are they trying to pass this nonsense off with the ‘plausible deniability’ of a “perhaps? Lame, and disingenuous. On the other hand it certainly is true that the nonexistent mechanism which the authors only just made up is “a relationship that is not included in current global climate models”; that part is absolute fact.
How could three scientists produce such an appalling polemic disguised as science? Well, Carter is a well known Denier who plainly does not understand even simple climate science: Robert Carter.
de Freitas is also well known
More to the point, how the hell did this get past the editor and the reviewers at the Journal Of Geophysical Research? It’s not bad science, it’s not science at all. It’s a Just So Story slapped on to the end of a mundane paper. This would be appalling if submitted as a draft from an MSc candidate. From alleged scientists it is absolutely inexcusable.
I fear this will do for the American Geophysical Union what Monckton’s Climate Sensitivity Reconsidered did for the American Physical Society, ie much shame and disgrace.
Be that as it may, the paper does show:
- “that global mean temperature variance is dominated by the El Nino/Southern Oscillation index and that the lag is about 7 months, with ENSO leading the temperature” (Tobis, as above);
- an appalling lack of competence and/or integrity on the part of the authors;
- a serious lapse of the peer review process at the Journal Of Geophysical Research.
It does not show
- anything else whatsoever, and most particularly anything at all about the cause(s) of climate change.
Tamino: It’s certainly not true that their analysis shows “natural climate forcing associated with ENSO is a major contributor to variability and perhaps recent trends in global temperature.” It shows no such thing; their analysis removes all the effect of trends.”
Tobis: “We are going to be stuck with this stinker for a while. This is different; it seems the authors were aiming to score propaganda points as much as to publish a modest result. If I read that right it’s very unfortunate.”
UPDATE: 25 July
Hot Topic had this to say:
“If Carter knows this to be the case, then this is academic fraud on a breathtaking scale, and if he doesn’t then he shouldn’t be an author on the paper.”
“For the three authors, the fallout will be interesting. Carter long ago burned his bridges to academic respectability. He is on record as claiming that modern temperatures are the same as those 60 years ago (see Bob’s big lie). De Freitas has a history of denying the basic science of climate change, and McLean is just another in a long line of amateurs playing with data, trying to bolster a predetermined position. They may be stars within the crank pantheon, but they have set themselves up for academic ridicule.”
No argument here.
Only In It For The Gold has broadened his commentary to compare the “science” of this paper and compared it to some other Denier refutations of climate science. This paper summarized as follows:
1) El Nino dominates interannual variability.
2) Frantic armwaving, accompanied by sciencey-looking charts and graphs.
3) Therefore, warming is predominantly due to El Nino.
4) Therefore, very not the IPCC.
July 27: Meanwhile, at The Blackboard
“As you can see, the best estimate for the change in temperature at d_SOI=0 is positive (m=3.4 C/century). This means the best estimate for the trend based on this analysis says that the SOI does not explain away the warming trend. This is true even if, as MdF&C argue, part of some recent uptick in temperatures is due to an trend in the SOI over the same period.
In any case, my current assessment of the paper is this: The authors have not shown that warming over the past 30 to 50 years can be explained as a result natural variations in the SOI. Certainly, they haven’t shown this for warming during the satelitte record. ”
That SOI paper: Climate change worse than we thought?
Tamino, to his credit, did high light an important flaw. Oddly, I thought he didn’t take it far enough. In reality, if we go through the correlation, and stick in numbers for the value of the rate of change in SOI, the numbers support the argument “Climate change: Worse than we thought” (Comment#16700)
“…this suppresses long term variation, and enhances short term variation. They assert that this removes noise, while, in fact, it amplifies noise (high frequency/short period components of the record). Alternately, they are defining ‘noise’ to be the long period part of the records — the climate portion of the record.”
UPDATE Aug 2nd
In Is ENSO “responsible for recent global warming?” No. Deep Climate reports that:
A barrage of criticism has forced the authors and their champions to backpedal furiously. Along the way, a PDF of the paper has been removed from the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition (NZCSC) website, presumably to rectify an egregious copyright breach. Even worse, the NZCSC parent affiliate, the above-mentioned International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC), was caught substituting its preferred title for the actual one in its link to the paper.
The Deep Climate coverage is very thorough and well worth your time.
Another critique of the work may be found at Global warming view under attack:
“They have used their favourite versions of the radiosonde data and don’t discuss the possible issues with some of the radiosonde and satellite data,” Renwick said.
“They try and confuse the year-to-year variation and they have deliberately taken out the trend in their analysis.
`It’s the conclusion section in the last part, the things they say they don’t support them with anything they have in the paper.
“They strike me as being questionable at best not based on anything that’s been shown.
“It is a real surprise it got through the peer review.”
The McLean et al story is also discussed at:
- Karoly questions ENSO link to long-term climate change – National Rural News – Grains and Cropping – General – Stock & Land
- Did a recent peer-review study really debunk climate change? » Mind of Dan
- Factcheck: Contrarians Promote Study That Masks Warming Trend | Union of Concerned Scientists
- Ahh McLean, you’ve done it again : Deltoid
Thanks to Dan’s Wild Wild Science Journal for Confused About El Nino- Taichiro Sakagami can fix that which led me to El Niño (ENSO) Animation V1.25, a chance to get a better understanding of the climate mechanisms underlying all of this fuss. That is the source of the video below, but see the originals for higher quality animations.
Those wishing to understand more about the whole tropospheric debate may want to start with these: CAUTION, they caused a severe case of ‘Mr Gumby‘ for me, at least after trying to make sense of McLean, de Freitas, and Carter ;)
- Tropical tropospheric trends
- Tropical tropospheric trends again
- Tropical tropospheric trends again (again)
- Global trends and ENSO
And be you blithe and bonny
*If you don’t get the reference, pick up the video at the 4:10 (4 min) mark and follow from there:
When carbon dioxide (CO2) enters the ocean, it bonds with water to create carbonic acid, releasing an extra proton in the process. The extra proton bonds to a carbonate molecule in the water, creating more carbonic acid and leaving fewer carbonate molecules for coral to use to build skeletons.. Earth Gauge
We give our consent every moment that we do not resist.
Denier “Challenge” aka Deathwatch Update: Day 269 … still no evidence.
McLean, J. D., C. R. de Freitas, and R. M. Carter 2009. Influence of the Southern Oscillation on tropospheric temperature. Journal Of Geophysical Research, Vol. 114 pg 1-8
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