Thursday, 11 May 2017

Trump's I-am-not-a-witch moment

Dear Director Comey,
While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.
Donald J. Trump
Donald, even if Comey were prime evil himself, you can not fire someone who is investigating you. (Even if Democrats did or do not like him.)

Donald, it would have been better not to talk about the FBI investigating you. (It only puts more focus on these investigations.)

Donald, you can not talk to Comey about ongoing investigations, especially investigations about yourself. (And there is no evidence that Comey informed you.)

Donald, do not write about your FBI investigations when your official reason for firing Comey was that he was not fair to Clinton. (And a many months old incident is not a good excuse for firing someone in a panic.)

Donald, you cannot write that refraining from investigating you would be a reason not to fire Comey. (The rule of law makes America a free country.)

Related reading

Vox: Experts on authoritarianism are absolutely terrified by the Comey firing

NBC News: Trump Interview With Lester Holt: President Asked Comey If He Was Under Investigation. And admits that his Clinton story about Comey’s firing was an excuse at best.

Mother Jones: What the Hell Is Going on With Trump's Delay on the All-Important Paris Decision? Ivanka saves the world? Hah.

Secular Talk: Congressman Is Now Officially A Justice Democrat

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Red Cheeks Team

The idea has been simmering a few years, but now that their president is in office, the mitigation sceptical movement is increasingly pushing the idea of a "Red Team". In the last "hearing" of Lamar Smith in US House of Representatives, John Christy and Judith Curry repeated the claim that climate science needs a "Red Team". Roger Pielke Sr. contributes some tweets. In Murdoch's Wall Street Journal also Steven Koonin made this call on the opinion pages (pay-walled). This is the part of the newspaper the journalists of the news section are embarrassed by.

The [[Red Team]] should aim to destroy the results of climate science. This idea comes from the military and corporations. Monolithic strongly hierarchical organisations where dissent is normally not appreciated and there is thus a need to break this culture by explicitly ordering a group to show that plans may not work out. Many mitigation sceptics work in such organisations and this seems to guide their erroneous thinking of how science works.

Red Teams galore

Science is organised in thousands of Red Teams already. Every national weather service is independent. Some countries even have multiple ones. That makes about 200 Red Teams. I do not know of any weather service that does not find it is warming.

If you are a conspiracy theorist, thinking they are making up the warming, these 200 Red Teams would have to coordinate intensively to make sure that the weather variability is smoothly correlated from one country to its neighbours, that the climate modes (El Nino, North Atlantic Oscillation, etc.) look similar in a region, including [[teleconnections]] to other continents, including modes and teleconnections not known at the time, and make sure that the spatial pattern of the long-term warming fits to the physics and all the other observed variables.

Proof of how devious climatologists are is that no communications were intercepted showing this biggest coordination project in human history. Scientists may be too stupid to fool WUWT, but they are at least smarter than the NSA and HCSQ.

In Germany alone there are easily over a hundred university groups and research institutes (partially) working on climate and climate change. There are close collaborations with related fields, from statistics and physics to geography and economics. Also counting these there could be hundreds of Red Teams in a medium-sized country like Germany already.

Scientific progress

Every single of these groups would love to be the one to show there is a problem that needs attention. That is why scientists become scientist. No one has ever gotten funding saying: my field has solved all problems, but I would like to keep on doing what I have always done.

Many of these groups only partially work on climate change. Meteorology is a much larger field than climatology; Meteorology is directly needed to save lives and avoid economic damages, while climatology "only" produces politically inconvenient results about the future.

Thus for many of these groups it would be no problem whatsoever if they showed evidence for the most extreme case that the world is not warming or humans are not responsible. On the contrary, that would be an enormous boost to their reputations and they can use that social capital to work on related problems.

Explicit Red Teams are for organisation working like planning economies. Science is a free market system.

Climate “sceptics” sometimes give the impression that they think that a single study will vindicate their political battle and settle it once and for all. Reality is that there are many different lines of evidence that it should be warming, that it is warming (see graph below), and that we are creating the increase in atmospheric CO2 (see also additional arguments by Richard Alley) and the warming.

A challenge to one of these lines of evidence will have to refute a lot of evidence and this will normally take years. It would not be enough to disproof one line of evidence, but all of them should fall. Not only the instrumental temperature record would need to be wrong, but the melting of glaciers, the sea level rise, the start of spring, the decrease in Arctic sea ice and so on.

If I had the winning idea that something is fundamentally flawed, it would take decades of research until we again have a consensus on how the climate is (not) changing, just like our current understanding of climate change took decades to centuries to develop.

Science or PR?

John Christy:
One way to aid congress in understanding more of the climate issue than what is produced by biased “official” panels of the climate establishment is to organize and fund credible “Red Teams” that look at issues such as natural variability, the failure of climate models and the huge benefits to society from affordable energy, carbon-based and otherwise. I would expect such a team would offer to congress some very different conclusions regarding the human impacts on climate.
The benefits from affordable energy do not change the human impacts on climate. That kind of sloppy thinking hints at the Red Team being intended as a PR shop.

As an aside, the benefits of energy are naturally large and the energy sector used to be substantial, but it is nowadays just a few percent of the economy. Even if another energy source would be a lot more expensive that would nowadays hardly change the economy.

The idea that climatology does not study natural variability is ludicrous. I used to think I was not a climatologist because I had never computed an empirical orthogonal function ([[EOF]]) to study the North Atlantic Oscillation. The biggest group in the World Climate Research Program is CliVar, studying, hold it: Climate variability. What the mitigation sceptical movement knows about natural variability, from El Nino to the QBO, they know from the scientific community.

The "failure of climate models" presupposes models failed. If we assume they failed and cannot be used to assess the quagmire we are in, the uncertainties would be even larger. We would still have a lot of physics and observations of the (deep) past to make clear that climate change is real. Uncertainties can go both ways and mean higher risks. This should thus be a topic the Red Team should avoid.

The suggestion to only study the "failure of climate models" is a strange way of doing science. Normal science would be to study what the main discrepancies between models and observations are, try to understand what the causes are and then try to fix this. Sounds like Christy is more interested in the first step than in understanding and fixing.

This fits to his approach to his UAH tropospheric temperature dataset. Already in the 1990s when the UAH dataset still showed cooling and contained major errors (did not take the change of the orbit of the satellites into account, had a minus wrong in the software, etc.) he blamed models for the differences without first trying to understand the reasons.

Chinese calligraphy with water on a stone floor. Do not dig in, but let your position flow with the evidence.
The main reason for the discrepancy is that there is an amplification of temperature changes in the tropical upper troposphere. The stronger long-term warming this causes in models is called the "tropical hotspot". Christy's UAH temperature trends do not show it. It is seen in the stronger response to El Nino in the tropospheric temperatures, both in models and in observations. The hotspot is observed in the radiosonde winds and in a recent carefully homogenized radiosonde temperature dataset.

Christy seems to be happy with claiming that the models failed. I would not ignore the possibility that there are remaining errors in the UAH estimates, especially after all the errors that have already been found. Had I been Christy I would have tried to make my claim that the models are the problem stronger by trying to understand the reasons. Which processes are wrong in the models that produce this hotspot, but should not? That would then need to be something that does produce the hotspot signs in the winds and also shows the amplification for El Nino on shorter time scales. That sounds hard to me, but Christy had a few decades to study it.

A similar audit Red Team gave us the Berkeley Earth initiative, funded by the Heartland Institute funded by the Koch Brothers. Judith Curry was part of that, but got out before the politically inconvenient result was published. Anthony Watts, the host of the mitigation sceptical blog WUWT, claimed he would accept the results no matter what. That vow lasted until Berkeley Earth found the same result as any other global temperature dataset. Call me sceptical that this Red Team hullabaloo will have any impact on the US climate "debate".

I am sure it is a coincidence that the terms Red Team and Blue Team fit to the political configuration of country were the climate "debate" takes place, the United States of America. A country were the elite stays in power by pitting the Red Team and the Blue Team against each other. The main reason to support the Red Team is to at least not be the Blue Team. In Georgia the Republicans courted voters with the slogan: Make a liberal cry. Just the thing the coal and oil oligarchs would love to promote in the US climate "debate". Just the thing science should not want to replicate.

Scientists are humans, one of the main biases a scientists needs to fight against is not dig in and defend your own old studies, claims, methods or datasets. I respect scientists that developed good homogenisation methods and talk about their downsides and the strengths of other methods. I respect that because it is hard and promotes scientific progress. To force a scientist to take the Red or Blue position strengthens defensiveness and thus hurts progress. It is political thinking. In science the evidence determines your position. It is the end, not the start.

At least John Christy seems to mostly think of doing research, Judith Curry and Steven Koonin want to make jet another audit or report. This would an alternative IPCC report, following the example of the NIPCC report, the Nonsense IPCC, an embarrassing regurgitation of zombie WUWT myths authored by tobacco stooge Fred Singer. The NIPCC report is clearly PR. If the Red Team advocates think they have a scientific case, one would expect them to seek funding for science that would convince scientists, rather than bypassing the scientific literature and going straight to the public.

Red and Blue Team framing not only contributes to the politicization of science, it also promotes the false-balance media narrative of two equal groups. Judith Curry, John Christy and Steven Koonin should be debating Peter Wadhams, Guy McPherson and Reddit Collapse.

An important political strategy of the mitigation sceptical movement is to pretend that the science is not in yet. That is why they keep on claiming there is no scientific consensus, provoking consensus studies that find that nearly all scientists and articles agree on the basics. (And then complain that consensus exists.)

Once people understand that scientists agree there is a problem, they want solutions. Some extremists in the mitigation sceptical movement may claim that solar and wind energy spell the end of civilization, but that is a hard sell. Sun and wind have enormous and bipartisan support in the USA.

The 97% of climate scientists who agree on the basics include many conservative scientists. That there is a problem is not a partisan issue. How to solve it, that is politics. The Paris climate agreement was signed by nearly 200 countries and thus many conservative governments. They accept that climate change is a real problem. European conservative parties may be less active, but do not deny there is a problem.

In Europe only Trumpian racist parties deny there is a problem. That the climate "debate" is mostly an American problem shows that the problem is not conservative versus liberal, that it is not a lack of scientific evidence, it is not a problem of the communication of science. The problem is the corrupting influence of money in US politics and media. A Red Team will not solve this.

There is PLENTY of ROOM within the climate science to hold extreme views, both about the science and policy. However, there is no room for the lunacies of unicorns, for sun nuts, for folks who don't get chaos, for radiative physics deniers
Steve Mosher

Details please

ATTP asks very good questions on how this exercise should be organised. "Who would make up the team/teams?" Who are the organisers, the arbiters? Who selects them? What are the criteria? How do they want to prevent normal scientists from joining the Red Team? Scientists normally determine themselves what they work on. Should they be forced to waste their time on this? "How would this work be funded?" Is special funding needed because Red Team ideas do not have sufficient merit to be funded normally? "How would the programme be assessed?"

With all those Red Teams in science, I am curious how the Red Team advocates want to make sure their Red Team will be on their political side and stay there. Writing explicitly into the funding conditions that the applicant has to have a history of deceiving the public in the media and producing bullshit blog posts would probably be too much honesty.

Who would be in the Red Teams? Will they fund conspiracy theorists like Tim Ball and Christopher Monckton and corporate smoking shills like Fred Singer and Steven Milloy? That honesty would be a great sight.


The tension is clear when John Christy writes:
Decisions regarding funding for “Red Teams” should not be placed in the hands of the current “establishment” but in panels populated by credentialed scientists who have experience in examining these issues.
The people with experience and credentials are the "establishment" in science.

The mitigation sceptical movement could maybe organise a Red Team Blue Team exercise themselves and in that way figure out what their position is beyond the only thing they agree on: that climate science is wrong. That way they can demonstrate how enormously valuable this new scientific method is and it would have the added benefit that they waste their own time. I am curious whether they can come to an agreement about whether the Earth is warming or cooling and whether the greenhouse exists and CO2 can produce warming.

I look forward to a detailed proposal for Red Team research and would expect that it will demonstrate how ludicrous the idea is.

There is no real need for government funding of Red Teams whatsoever. Every large oil and coal corporation has a huge incentive to show climate science wrong. If they thought that there was a chance of one in a million that climate science was wrong, they would pour millions into studying that rather than in PR misinformation campaigns by networks of thoughtless tanks.

If John Christy was making the case that science funding should not only be based on scientific merit, but that part of the funding should also be based on what is politically important he may have a case. Already a considerable part of the funding goes to studies that inform (local) governments and companies on how to adapt to climate change. This is mostly a service to society and scientifically less inspiring. If it weren’t so hard to do, this would be a task for engineering firms.

Similarly, it would be politically important to study the tropospheric temperature trend in more detail for its importance in the American climate “debate”. It has nearly no scientific value because the tropospheric temperature series is so short and buggy. Each update there are huge changes in the trend estimates and the two available series show large differences, although they both try to take into account the currently known problems of the raw data. There is also no societal need for this dataset; no one lives in the tropical troposphere. Consequently only a few people at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and at Remote Sensing system work on these datasets once in a while. Occasionally there is some help in finding the problems with this data from external scientists.

More independent research in this field, leading to the development of new high quality tropospheric temperature datasets would be politically valuable. Maybe that should also be a funding consideration.

Related reading

And Then There's Physics: Red Team vs Blue Team

Stoat on Red teams: The East is Red

The killer Rabbet: The Squeegee Kid Returns or Steve Koonin on Team B

The Blue Team at Daily Kos: Deniers Calling for a Red Team to Create Debate on Climate Science

Why doesn't Big Oil fund alternative climate research?

* Top photo with birds, shame by Tiago Almeida used with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license.

* Black and white photo of boy, shame, by Lee Carson used with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license.

* Photo of "Taoist monk" by Antoine Taveneaux - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

* Photo of ashamed woman by Naika Lieva used with a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license.

Monday, 24 April 2017

"Hiatus": Signal and Variability

Stefan Rahmstorf, Grant Foster and Niamh Cahill just summarized the statistical evidence for the mirage people call the "pause" of global warming in their new article: "Global temperature evolution: recent trends and some pitfalls."

The Open Access paper is clearly written; any natural scientist should be able to follow the arguments. The most important part may be a clear explanation of the statistical fallacies that lead some people to falsely claim there was such a thing as a "hiatus" or "slowdown".

Suppose that Einstein had stood up and said: I have worked very hard and I have discovered that Newton got everything right and I have nothing to add. Would anyone ever know who Einstein was? ... The idea that we would not want to be Einstein, if we could overturn global warming ... how exiting would that be? Of the tenth of thousands of scientists there is not one who has the ego to do that? It's absurd, it is absolutely unequivocally absurd! We are people.

I have studied the "hiatus" problem hard (1, 2, 3, 4), read this new paper and I have nothing to add. Unfortunately.

Well, okay, maybe one thing. Just because a trend change is not statistically significant, does not mean you cannot study why it changed. It only means that you are likely looking at noise and thus likely will not find a reason. But if you think there may be a great reward in the result that can make high-risk research worthwhile. Looking at how small the trend differences are and knowing how uncertain short-term trends are, I am not going to do it, but anyone else is welcome.

That there was no decline in the long-term trends also does not mean that it is not interesting to study the noise around this trend. The biggest group in the World Climate Research Program studies Climate variability. That by itself shows how important it is.

This blog is called Variable Variability. I love variability. It is an intrinsic property of complex systems and its behaviour over temporal and spatial averaging scales can tell us a lot about the climate system. It also has large impacts. Droughts and floods fuelled by El Nino are just one example. It is a pity most people just want to average this away.

One man's noise may be another man's music

Now that we take the climate system into unknown territories predictions of the seasonal, annual and decadal variability have become even more important to plan ahead and protect communities. Historian Sam White suggests that the problem of the little ice age in Europe was not the cold winters, but the unpredictability of the weather. Better predictions will help a lot in coping with climate change and already produce useful results for the tropics.

Variability lovers of the world, let's stand up for the importance of our work and not try to faithlessly justify it with middle of the road research on overstudied averages.

Related reading

Science Media Centre asked three scientists for a reaction to the study: expert reaction to climate hiatus statistics

Cranberry picking short-term temperature trends

Statistically significant trends - Short-term temperature trend are more uncertain than you probably think

How can the pause be both ‘false’ and caused by something?

Atmospheric warming hiatus: The peculiar debate about the 2% of the 2%


Rahmstorf, Stefan, Grant Foster and Niamh Cahill, 2017: Global temperature evolution: recent trends and some pitfalls. Environmental Research Letters, 12, No. 5,

Monday, 10 April 2017

Upcoming meetings for homogenisation scientists

There are several new meetings coming up that may be interesting for people working on homogenisation. If you know of more, please write a comment. Please note that the abstract submission deadline for EMS is already in 11 days.

Urban climate summer school
21-26 August 2017 | Bucharest, Romania. Registration deadline: 15 May 2017
Climate monitoring; data rescue, management, quality and homogenization
4–8 September 2017 | Dublin, Ireland. Abstract deadline: 21 April 2017.
11th EUMETNET Data Management Workshop
18–20 October 2017 | Zagreb, Croatia. Abstracts deadline: 31 May 2017
C3S Data Rescue Service Capacity Building and 10th ACRE Workshops
4-8 December 2017 | Auckland, New Zealand.
Workshop - Data Management for Climate Services
April 2018 | Lima, Peru.

Climate monitoring; data rescue, management, quality and homogenization

EMS Annual Meeting: European Conference for Applied Meteorology and Climatology 2017 | 4–8 September 2017 | Dublin, Ireland
The abstract submission deadline: 21st April 2017.

OSA3.1. Climate monitoring; data rescue, management, quality and homogenization
Convener: Manola Brunet-India
Co-Conveners: Ingeborg Auer, Dan Hollis, Victor Venema

Robust and reliable climatic studies, particularly those assessments dealing with climate variability and change, greatly depend on availability and accessibility to high-quality/high-resolution and long-term instrumental climate data. At present, a restricted availability and accessibility to long-term and high-quality climate records and datasets is still limiting our ability to better understand, detect, predict and respond to climate variability and change at lower spatial scales than global. In addition, the need for providing reliable, opportune and timely climate services deeply relies on the availability and accessibility to high-quality and high-resolution climate data, which also requires further research and innovative applications in the areas of data rescue techniques and procedures, data management systems, climate monitoring, climate time-series quality control and homogenisation.

In this session, we welcome contributions (oral and poster) in the following major topics:
  • Climate monitoring , including early warning systems and improvements in the quality of the observational meteorological networks
  • More efficient transfer of the data rescued into the digital format by means of improving the current state-of-the-art on image enhancement, image segmentation and post-correction techniques, innovating on adaptive Optical Character Recognition and Speech Recognition technologies and their application to transfer data, defining best practices about the operational context for digitisation, improving techniques for inventorying, organising, identifying and validating the data rescued, exploring crowd-sourcing approaches or engaging citizen scientist volunteers, conserving, imaging, inventorying and archiving historical documents containing weather records
  • Climate data and metadata processing, including climate data flow management systems, from improved database models to better data extraction, development of relational metadata databases and data exchange platforms and networks interoperability
  • Innovative, improved and extended climate data quality controls (QC), including both near real-time and time-series QCs: from gross-errors and tolerance checks to temporal and spatial coherence tests, statistical derivation and machine learning of QC rules, and extending tailored QC application to monthly, daily and sub-daily data and to all essential climate variables
  • Improvements to the current state-of-the-art of climate data homogeneity and homogenisation methods, including methods intercomparison and evaluation, along with other topics such as climate time-series inhomogeneities detection and correction techniques/algorithms, using parallel measurements to study inhomogeneities and extending approaches to detect/adjust monthly and, especially, daily and sub-daily time-series and to homogenise all essential climate variables
  • Fostering evaluation of the uncertainty budget in reconstructed time-series, including the influence of the various data processes steps, and analytical work and numerical estimates using realistic benchmarking datasets

Related are the sessions: Metrology for meteorology and climate and Climate change detection, assessment of trends, variability and extremes.

Urban climate summer school

University of Bucharest, Bucharest, Romania
August 21-26, 2017
Registration deadline: 15 May 2017

Organizers : Research Institute of University of Bucharest (ICUB), Urban Climate Research Center at Arizona State University (ASU), Urban Water Innovation Network (ASU-CSU), Society for Urban Ecology (SURE), Interdisciplinary Center of Advanced Research on Territorial Dynamics (CICADIT)

Rationale and goals : Urban areas impart significant local to regional scale environmental perturbation. Urban-induced effects, simultaneously with impacts owing to long-lived emissions of greenhouse gases, may trigger additional physical and socioeconomic consequences that affect the livelihoods of urban dwellers. While urban areas amass more than 50% of the world population, and three of four Europeans live in a city, the systematic monitoring and assessment of urban climates, mitigation of and adaptation to adverse effects, and the strategic prioritization of potential solutions may enable enhanced preparedness of populations and local authorities. Such challenges call for enduring scientific advancements, improved training and increased awareness of topical issues.

This summer school aims to provide structured information and skill-building capabilities related to climate change challenges in urban areas, with a primary focus of creating an active pool of young scientists that tackle the major sustainability challenges facing future generations. The critical areas to be covered refer to
(1) modern monitoring of urban environments
(2) modelling tools used in urban meteorology and climatology
(3) adaptation and mitigation strategies and their prioritization
(4) exploring critical linkages among environmental factors and emerging and chronic health threats and health disparities. Those attending can expect to gain an understanding of the state-of-the-art and be capable to use the most appropriate tools to address specific problems in their respective fields of interest.
The summer school is intended for doctoral and post-doctoral students who already have basic knowledge and interest for urban climate issues.

More information ...

11th EUMETNET Data Management Workshop

Zagreb, Croatia, 18 – 20 October 2017
More information will appear later on the homepage:

Main Topics

  • Data rescue: investigation, cataloguing, digitization, imaging
  • Climate observations: standards and best practices, definition of climatological day, mean values
  • Metadata: WMO Information System (WIS), INSPIRE, climate networks rating guides
  • Quality control: automatic/manual of climate time-series, on-line data, real-time observations
  • Homogenisation of climate time-series from sub-daily to monthly scale, homogenisation methods, assessment of inhomogeneity
  • Archiving: retention periods, depository, climate service centres and data collections for scientific and public use, databases, data access, user interface, data distribution

Call for Abstracts

Presentations will be oral or posters. Abstracts should be written in English, short, clear, concise. Figures, tables, mathematical symbols and equations should not be included. Abstracts should be sent before May 31st 2017 and send to Authors will be informed about the acceptance of their papers by the scientific committee early in September.

Conference Venue and Programme

The workshop will be held in the building of Croatian State Archives: Marulićev trg 21, Zagreb, Croatia.

Wednesday, October 18th 2017

08:30-09:30 registration
09:30-16:00 sessions
17:00 - guided tour, ice breaker

Thursday, October 19th 2017
09:00-17:00 sessions
19:00 workshop dinner

Friday, October 20th 2017
09:00-15:30 sessions

Further Information

Conference registration fee is 80 €. Details on registration procedures and the workshop in general will be available
on the website: (later)

Scientific Organization

Ingeborg Auer (ZAMG)
Peer Hechler (WMO)
Dan Hollis (UKMO)
Yolanda Luna (AEMET)
Dubravka Rasol (DHMZ)
Ole Einar Tveito (MET Norway)

C3S Data Rescue Service Capacity Building and 10th ACRE Workshops

The C3S Data Rescue Service Capacity Building and 10th ACRE Workshops will be held at NIWA in Auckland, New Zealand during the week of the 4th-8th of December this year. There is no homepage on this meeting yet, but more information will follow later on: This homepage also gives information on the previous annual ACRE workshops.

Workshop - Data Management for Climate Services

Taller – Gestión de Datos para los Servicios Climáticos

Location: Lima, Peru
Time: April 2018 (date to be defined)
Organized by: CLIMANDES - Climate services to support decision making in the Andes Supported by: Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
Region: Ibero-American Countries
Duration: 3 days (9:00 a.m. - 5 p.m.)
Number of participants: 80 - 100


The implementation of the WMO-led Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) strengthens the capabilities of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) through its five pillars (Observations and Monitoring; Capacity Development; User Interface Platform; Research, Modeling and Prediction; Climate Services Information System). In this context, SENAMHI and MeteoSwiss are developing the first workshop on "Data Management for Climate Services" focusing mainly on the first three of the mentioned pillars. The workshop will be carried out in Peru by members of the CLIMANDES project with the support of SDC and WMO.

The workshop "Data Management for Climate Services" is addressed towards both the technical and the academic community involved in the implementation of national climate services. The workshop focuses on sharing knowledge and experiences from the provision of high-quality climate services targeted at WMO's priority areas and their citizens. The methodologies will cover topics such as quality control, homogenization, gridded data, climate products, use of open source software, and will include practical examples of climate services implemented in the Ibero-American region. The workshop will contribute to the continuous improvement of technical and academic capacities by creating a regional and global network of professionals active in the generation of climate products and services.


  • Strengthen data management systems for the provision of climate services.
  • Share advances in the implementation of climate services in the Ibero-American region.
  • Interchange with other NMHSs on best practices in climate methodologies and products.
  • Improve the regional and global collaborations of the NMHSs of the Ibero-American region.
  • Show the use of open-source software.

Outcome The following outcomes of the workshop are envisaged:
  • A final report providing a synthesis of the main results and recommendations resulting from the event.
  • The workshop builds the first platform to exchange technical and scientific knowhow in Ibero-America (WMO RA-III and IV), and among participants from all other regions.
  • Hence, the workshop contributes to the creation of a regional and global network in which knowhow, methodologies, and data are continuously shared.


The workshop will consist of four sessions consisting of presentations, posters and open discussions on:

● Session 1:
  • Data rescue methods: methods for data rescue and cataloguing; data rescue projects
  • Metadata: methods of metadata rescue for the past and the present; systems for metadata storage; applications and use of metadata
  • Quality control methods: methods for quality control of different meteorological observations of different specifications; processes to establish operational quality control

● Session 2:
  • Homogenization: methods for the homogenization of monthly climate data; projects and results from homogenization projects; investigations on parallel climate observations; use of metadata for homogenization

● Session 3:
  • Gridded data: verification of gridded data based on observations; products based on gridded data; methods to produce gridded data; adjustments of gridded data in complex topographies such as the Andes

● Session 4:
  • Products and climate information: methods and tools of climate data analysis; presentation of climate products and information; products on extreme events
  • Climate services in Ibero-America: projects on climate services in Ibero-America
  • Interface with climate information users: approaches to building the interface with climate information users; experiences from exchanges with users; user requirements on climate services

Furthermore, hands-on sessions on capacity building, e-learning, the use of open-source software, and on ancestral knowledge in Ibero-America will take place during the workshop. The workshop is complemented by an additional training day on climate data homogenization and a field visit at the end of the workshop.


The Meteorological and Hydrological Service of Peru SENAMHI will organize the workshop on “Data Management for Climate Services” in close collaboration with the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology MeteoSwiss. The workshop is part of the project CLIMANDES 2 (Climate services to support decision making in the Andes) which is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC and by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

For more information and to get notified when the date is known please contact: Climandes.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Did the lack of an election threshold save The Netherlands?

The Netherlands. Also known as flat Switzerland and as the inventors of the stock market crash. A country you think of so little that we were surprised by the international attention for the Dutch election last week. Although The Netherlands is the 17th economy in the world we are used to being ignored,* typically not making any trouble.

But this time the three part question was whether after Brexit and Trump also The Netherlands, France and Germany would destroy their societies in response to radical fundamentalist grandpas campaigning against radical fundamentalist Muslims. The answer for the Dutch part is: no.

To be honest, this was clear before the election. The Netherlands has a representative democracy. The government is elected by the parliament. The seats in parliament depend closely on the percentage of votes a party gets. This is a very stable system and even when Trump was inaugurated, the anti-Muslim party PVV polled at 20%, no way near enough to govern. The PVV survey results plotted below are in seats, 20% is 30 seats. Every line is one poling organization.

Due to the Syrian refugee crisis the PVV jumped up in September 2015. They went down during the primaries as the Dutch people got to know Trump and the refugees turned out to be humans in need of our help. After getting elected, Trump favorability went up; Americans gave Trump the benefit of the doubt. The same happened to the PVV; if America elects Trump, he cannot be that bad? Right? Right? While Trump was trampling America as president and filled his cabinet with shady corrupt characters, the PVV dropped from 20% to 13% (20 seats).

There is no guarantee the drop of the PVV was due to Trump, but the temporal pattern fits and the leader of the PVV, Geert Wilders, is a declared fan of Trump. People campaigning against the PVV made sure to tie Wilders to Trump. For example in this AVAAZ advertisement below. I hope AVAAZ will also make such videos for France and Germany.

I would certainly not have minded the election being a few months later to give Trump the possibility to demonstrate his governing skills more clearly. This will also help France and Germany. In addition Germans know their history very well and know that German fascism ended with holocaust it did not start with it. It started with hatred and discrimination. The most dangerous case is France with its winner-takes-all presidential system.

Fascism: I sometimes fear... (by Michael Rosen)

I sometimes fear that
people think that fascism arrives in fancy dress
worn by grotesques and monsters
as played out in endless re-runs of the Nazis.

Fascism arrives as your friend.
It will restore your honour,
make you feel proud,
protect your house,
give you a job,
clean up the neighbourhood,
remind you of how great you once were,
clear out the venal and the corrupt,
remove anything you feel is unlike you...

It doesn't walk in saying,
"Our programme means militias, mass imprisonments, transportations, war and persecution."

I expect that it also hurted the PVV that Wilders did not show up for most of the debates. Without the solution-free animosity of Wilder it was possible to have an adult debate about solutions to the problems in The Netherlands. Refreshing and interesting. The last days he did show up, the level immediately dropped, making clear what the main Dutch political problem is. Wilders.

As the graph below shows the Dutch parliament will have 13 parties. This has triggered a debate whether we need an election threshold. 

A poll made around the election shows that a majority of 68% would be in favor of an election threshold of at least 2 seats (1.3%) and 28% even favor a threshold of 5 seats (3.3%). As the map below shows such a threshold would fortunately still be on the low side internationally.

   ≥1%, <2%
   ≥2%, <3%
   ≥3%, <4%
   ≥4%, <5%
   ≥5%, <6%
   ≥6%, <7%
   Each chamber has a different threshold.

I think a threshold, even a low one, is a bad idea. The short-term gains are small, the short-term problems are big and we risk a long-term decline of the Dutch political culture, which is already at a low due to Wilders. The arguments are not specific for The Netherlands. I hope these thresholds go down everywhere they exist.

The main argument in favor is that small parties make it harder to form a coalition government. This is true, small parties need visible influence to make governing worthwhile and survive the next election, which means they get an over-proportional piece of the pie. This makes other coalition partners worse of, which makes negotiations harder.

However, next to the small parties, which are hard to include in a government, we also have the PVV, which is hard to include because of their ideology and lack of workable ideas. The small parties in this election (PvdD, 50+, SGP, DENK, FvD) have 17 seats combined, while PVV has 20 seats. Getting rid of the small parties would thus reduce the problem by less than half. Not having large toxic parties in parliament would be at least as important.

Also without small parties we now need four parties to build a government. The election threshold would need to be very high to reduce that to three parties. So the benefits are small.

If the threshold were that high, an immediate problems would be that people voting for small parties are not represented in parliament and also less in the media. This is unfair.

This can have severe consequences. In Turkey the election threshold is 10% and in 2002 they had a case where 7 sitting parties were below this threshold and a whooping 46% of all votes were without representation in the parliament. That is a big price to pay for making it somewhat easier to build a government.

An election threshold also stimulates strategic voting, where people do not vote the party they agree with, but a party that will get into parliament or government. In the last Dutch election election a quarter of the voters voted strategically. The right wing VVD and the social democrat PvdA were competing for the number one spot. In the end they made a coalition government, which was thus not supported by the population, was highly unpopular and lost heavily this election. That is not a dynamic you want to enforce.

Strategic voting can also mean that a new party that does have sufficient support to pass the threshold does not get votes because many do not trust they will make it and many keep on voting for an existing party they like less.

Last week's Dutch election had a turnout of 80%. Having more parties means that people can find a better match to their ideas. A faithful ideologue may just need two parties, his own and the one of the enemy. If you just think of the left-right axis, you may be tempted to think you only need two or maybe four parties to cover all ideas. Whatever "left" and "right" means. It feels real, but has those funny names because it is so hard to define.

Political scientists often add a second axis: conservative to progressive. The graph below puts the Dutch parties on both axis. Left to right on the horizontal axis and progressive at the top and conservative at the bottom. The parties that care most about the environment and poor people (GroenLinks, SP, Christen Unie, D66) are still all over the map. The vertical axis also shows how materialistic the parties are, with parties that care about the distribution of money and power in the middle and parties that find immaterial values important at the top and the bottom. In other words: we need multiple parties to span the range of political thought and have parties that fit well enough to get out and vote.

Having a choice also means that it pays to pay attention to what happens in politics. American pundits like to complain that Americans are badly informed about politics and the world, but why would the voter pay attention? The US set up an electoral system where the voter has nearly no choice. The US has two parties that are way-out-there for most people.

Because of the districts a vote nearly never matters, especially after [[Gerrymandering]]. There are just a few swing districts and swing states where a vote matters. That is really bad for democracy. Changing the system is more helpful than blaming the voters.

Let me translate the party names for the foreigners. GroenLinks is a left-wing green party. D66 an individual freedom loving (liberal) party with a focus on democratic renewal. PvdA is traditionally a social democratic party, but has lost its moorings. SP is a social democratic party like the PvdA was two decades ago. GroenLinks and SP typically vote with each other, but GroenLinks are the educated people and SP the working class. (It is sad that does not mix.)

VVD used to be a pro-business individual liberty party, but has become more conservative and brown. CDA a center-right Christian democratic party. Christen Unie is an actually Christian party that tries to follow the teachings of Christ and cares about the environment and the (global) poor. SGP is a quite fundamentalist Christian party that likes the Old Testament more. PVV is the anti-Muslim authoritarian party. For the Americans: Most of the policies of Bernie Sanders are Christian democratic (although they would use different words to justify them).

That politics is much more than one axis can also be seen in a transition matrix. The one below shows how voters (or non-voters) in 2003 voted in 2006. A reading example is that people who voted CDA in 2003, voted CDA in 2006 in 71% of the cases and voted PvdA in 3% of the cases. There are many transition that do not follow the left-right axis or the conservative-progressive axis. People are complicated and have a range of interests.

2003 CDA PvdA VVD SP GroenLinks D66 Christen Unie PVV Other Non voters
CDA 71 3 6 6 0 0 4 2 1 6
PvdA 3 59 2 20 3 1 1 1 1 9
VVD 23 3 55 3 0 1 1 5 2 7
SP 4 11 0 70 6 0 2 4 2 2
GroenLinks 3 7 1 25 46 1 4 0 2 9
D66 8 17 17 15 12 23 2 0 5 0
Christen Unie 2 2 0 2 0 0 91 2 0 0
LPF 7 4 18 14 0 1 0 36 5 15
Other 10 2 2 10 2 0 7 2 57 7
Non voters 6 6 3 9 0 0 0 5 1 70

The main problem is on the long-term. An election threshold limits competition between parties. A threshold makes it harder to split up a party or to start a new one. That is nice for the people in power, but not good for the democracy within the party and for the voters. Parties become more vehicles of power and less places to discus problems and ideas.

With a high threshold the party establishment can kick people or small groups out without having to fear much consequences. A wing of a party can take over power; neutralize others with near impunity. When a party does not function well, becomes corrupt, starts to hold strange positions or sticks to outdated ideas, voters cannot easily go to an alternative. In the map with thresholds above you can see that high thresholds are typical for unpleasant not too democratic countries.

You see it in the USA where the corporate Democrats thought they could completely ignore the progressives because they would be forced to vote for them lacking a real alternative and in the face of grave danger to the Republic. Politics in Germany is much more about power (with a 5% threshold) than in The Netherlands, where politicians make compromises and try to get many people on board. There is no way to prove this but I think the election threshold is important for this.

That is why countries with low thresholds have parties with new ideas such as environmentalism or the hatred of Muslims or old fashioned niche ideas like general racism. In the latter cases you may like that these ideas are not represented in parliament, but the danger is that it suddenly blows up and Trump becomes president. Then it is much better to have Wilders in parliament making a fool of himself, making public that many of his politicians have lurid and criminal pasts, and demonstrating that he cannot convert his hatred into working policies and legislation. It also gives the decent parties the possibility to respond in time to the real problems the voters of such parties have, which they project on minorities.

The lack of competition also promotes corruption. It makes corruption less dangerous. In the extreme American case of two parties a lobbyist only has to convince party D that he can also bribe party R and both party can vote for a bill that transfers power to corporations on a Friday evening without any possibility of voters to intervene. In the extreme case the corruption becomes legalized and the politicians mostly respond to the wishes of the donor class and ignore everyday citizens. The disillusionment with democracy this creates makes it possible for anti-democratic politicians like Trump or Wilders to go beyond their small racist niche.

So my clear advice is: Netherlands, do not introduce an election threshold. America, get rid of your district system or at least introduce more competition with a [[ranked voting system]].

Related reading

In Dutch: Which effects would an election threshold have had on the 2012 election? Welke effecten zou een kiesdrempel hebben?

To my surprise The Netherlands already has a small election threshold, you need votes for at least one seat and otherwise there is no rounding up. See Wikipedia in Dutch on election thresholds: Kiesdrempel

In Dutch: How good were the polls? Hoe dicht zaten de peilingen bij de uitslag?

* Also Angela Merkel has visited The Netherlands only 6 times in her 12 years of rule.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Global warming in the original Celsius scale

A short post with a question of counterfactual history.

The Celsius temperature scale developed by Anders Celsius (1701–1744) himself had 0 °C at the boiling point of water and freezing was 100 °C.

It had the advantage that negative numbers would not occur in normal use. Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686–1736) achieved this for his temperature scale by choosing the lowest temperature in his village or a brine mixture as zero. Negative numbers may well have been controversial at the time. Only in the 17th century the idea of negative numbers was accepted by western mathematicians.

The forward scale we are used to was independently developed by several of Celsius' contemporaries. What would have happened if we had kept to original Celsius scale?

In forward degrees Celsius global warming produces an upward curve. In our current culture that is associated with progress and growth.

In the original Celsius scale the same plots would look more depressing like this.

If the temperature graphs had looked like the graphs of Arctic sea ice would that have changed the course of history? Would we have taken the problem seriously in the 1990s?

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Politics is not rational

Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election because people are not rational. Except for racists and millionaires it would have been in the best interest of everyone to have voted for Clinton. But we are not rational, we do not always look at our best interests. Real humans are not homo economii.

That includes me. As a scientist it is my job to keep a cool head. I hope you will excuse me for thinking I do my job reasonably well. I like to see myself as rational, but naturally I am not, especially learning about the ultimatum game shocked my self-perception.

It is a very simple and pure economic game. Reducing a problem to its essence like this has the elegance my inner physicist loves. In the ultimatum game, two players must divide a sum of money. The first player has to propose a certain division. The second player can accept this division or reject it. If the offer is rejected both players do not receive any money. In its purest form, the experiment is played only once and anonymously with players that do not know each other.

Time for a short thinking pause: What would you do? How much would you offer as player one? Below which percentage would you reject the offer?

Initially, I wondered why economists would play this game. Surely player one would would offer 50/50 and player two would accept. But that was my irrational side and my missing economic eduction. A good economist would expect that player two would accept any non-zero offer: it is better to get something than nothing, and that thus player one will make the smallest possible offer. Reality is in between. Many people offer 50%, but many also do not. These offers below 50% are, however, also regularly rejected. Player two is apparently willing to hurt himself to punish unfair behavior. This game and many variations and similar games lead to the conclusion: humans are not purely selfish, but have a sense of fairness.

As a student of variability, for me the key aspect of the ultimatum game is its non-linearity. You either get something or nothing. In case of nonlinear processes, such as radiation flowing through clouds, variability is important. A smooth cloud field reflects more solar radiation than a bumpy cloud field with the same amount of water. The variability of the cloud water is important because the flow of radiation through clouds is a non-linear process.

By sometimes rejecting low offers, player two gets better offers from player one. This is especially clear when the game is played multiple times with the same players. In the beginning quite large offers are rejected to entice larger offers later in the game. How humans evolved a sense of fairness to be able to also benefit from this in one-off games is not yet understood. Fairness is surprising because a cartoon version of evolutionary theory would predict that altruism is only possible among kin. But the empirical evidence clearly shows that fairness belongs to being human. (Just like competition.)

Knowledge will come only if economics can be reoriented to the study of man as he is and the economic system as it actually exists.
Ronald Coase

Fairness is but one emotion that it not rational, not "productive". It offers some protection against unfairness, such as wages going lower and lower. Offering and accepting jobs are yes-no decisions under uncertainty for both parties. If there is one term that is often used in labor conflicts it is "unfair wages" or "unfair labor conditions". All the while economists wonder why unemployment is higher than the friction unemployment of rational actors and blame anything but their faulty assumptions.

Anger is also not productive, but fear of anger forces the haves to make better offers to the have-nots. Amok runs are not productive, mass shootings are not productive, suicide attacks are not productive. I would venture that independent of the proclaimed rationalizations, they signal a lack of justice and fairness.

The American election was also seen as unfair by many. The two parties had both selected historically unpopular candidates. Had the historically unpopular Trump not run, Clinton would have been the least popular candidate since polling started on this question. The main reason to vote was not to get other candidate.

With both candidates and parties so unpopular, with the historical unpopularity ratings of Congress and Washington the enormous partisan tribalism in America is surprising. The main pride of both tribes seems to be that they are at least not members of the other tribe. The lizard people have managed to pit the population against each other, while they loot the country and drag the world down. Do help me in the comments how "they" did this.

Many felt the election was a trap. In such a case one can expect irrational behavior. Or as Michael Moore elegantly said: Trump is the human Molotov cocktail they could throw through the window of the establishment. I am afraid the voters will find it was the window of their own house.

One mistake the Democratic establishment made in their support for Clinton was to expect rational behavior. They learned about economics and its political counterpart [[public choice theory]]. Both theories assume rational behavior. The Democrat establishment assumed that the working class had no other options than to vote for them because the Republicans would make their lives even worse.

Nic Smith, a self-described "white trash hillbilly from the holler" from coal country, on Trump voters: They are desperate to believe in something.

In a rational world the establishment would be right and player two would take the non-zero Clinton offer, in the real world people are fed up with begin treated unfairly and seeing inequality and corruption jointly grow for decades. In the real world having to choose the lesser evil, election after election, over and over again, makes it ever more likely the voters will sulk. That the Democrat establishment had just put up their middle finger to half of their party during the primaries likely also did not help putting people in a more rational mood.

Last year's presidential election was an extreme example, but a two-party system invariably mean that many people do not feel represented and are dissatisfied. [[A transferable vote]] would do a lot to fix this and gives the voters the possibility to vote for their candidate of choice without losing their vote.

A two-party system is also much more prone to corruption. A large part of the politicians will be in save districts and do not have to fear the wrath of their voters. Where the voters do have some choice, the corporations only have to convince politician D that they will also bribe politician R and both can do so with impunity.

A corrupt two-party system is not much better than a one-party system. In a representative democracy with more than two parties there would be real competition and the voters could vote for another politician.

What can we do to break this ultimatum game? The rhetoric and tribalism in America is unique. Humans are social animals and our group is important to us, but the US tribalism in beyond normal. For example, 34% of Trump voters being willing to say Trump's inauguration was the biggest ever is not normal.

Tribalism and emotions are not good for clear thinking and needs to be fought. The only thing we can change is how we act ourselves, we should try to reduce unnecessarily antagonizing people. When you have to say something bad about the corrupt Republican politicians in Washington make clear you mean them and do not use the term Republicans, which also means every single member of the group, most of whom also reject corruption.

I am only talking about who you address. Please stand your ground, there is no need to keep on moving our position in the direction of corrupt unreasonable politics. That only signals you do not believe in your ideas. If there is one thing frustrating about US politics it is weak corporate Democrats continually moving in the direction of ever more corrupt Republican politicians in the name of appeasement and in reality because they have the same donors.

Given the lack of a real choice one can also not blame the voters for every character error of their candidate and for all policies. For fashion icon Ken Bone the election was a choice between his personal benefit as coal worker and the greater good. Many Trump voters voted for Obama before. Some people say they voted Trump expecting him not to be able to execute his racist plans because they are unconstitutional. That may be a rationalization and for me Trump's overt racism would be a deal breaker, but not all of his voters are automatically bigots, even if many clearly are.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Martin Luther King, Jr

Most people simply voted the party they always voted. There are people who have their health insurance via the Affordable Care Act who voted Republican and are likely to lose coverage. They thought the Republicans would not do something as barbaric as repealing the ACA without replacement. Thousand of people will die every year when that happens, but the repeal means that billionaires will have to pay less for healthcare and they own the Republican politicians, so I am less optimistic they will not do it.

Do not go around calling every Trump voter a personalized Donald Trump, make them an offer they cannot refuse. Especially the Democratic establishment should stop blaming everyone but themselves for not voting for their inevitable candidate. Rather than scolding their voters, they should make the left an offer they cannot refuse.

That offer would be a non-corrupt candidate. That would be an offer Democrat and Republican voters alike would find it hard to refuse. It is, unfortunately, the one compromise the Democratic establishment is least willing to make. The people in power are in power because they are good at selling out to corporations.

This video gives a good overview of the corruption in America and how it impacts normal people via politics and the media. Since corruption became worse the workers no longer shared in the increases in productivity and the politicians respond to the wishes of the donor class and not the working class. Readers from the USA may think political corruption is normal because it slowly and imperceptibly grew, but in its enormity it is not normal. It was much better before the 1970s it is much better in other advanced nations.

Fortunately several initiatives have sprung up after the Trump election debacle and after Sanders showing it is possible to campaign for the presidency without taking donor money. As an offspring of the Sanders campaign Our Revolution will run a large number of candidates under one political and organizational platform. Similar, but very clear in their wish to primary and get rid of corporate Democrats, are the Justice Democrats.

The non-partisan group Brand New Congress also wants to help (Tea Party) Republicans that do not accept money into Congress. I would love to see more of this on the Republican side. In Europe conservative parties are conservative, but not corrupt and not bat shit crazy. They are people you can have an adult conversation with and negotiate. They may prioritize the environment less, but do not childishly claim climate change does not exist. Getting non-corrupt Republicans into office may even be worth the time of US liberals.

The group 314 Action (inspired by π) work to get more Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) people into politics. If you love money and power, science is the weirdest career choice you can make. Thus I would expect the scientists that run for office to be mostly clean. The climate "debate" shows that nearly all climatologists are not touched by corporate corruption, while there are strong incentives for coal and oil companies to bribe them.

Let's work to end corporate rule, get the corporation out of politics and send them back to take care of the economy.

Following The Ninth: In The Footsteps of Beethoven's Final Symphony.

Related reading

The big lesson of Trump's first 2 weeks: resistance works

The magazine Correspondent: This is how we can fight Donald Trump’s attack on democracy. Focuses on how to change the media, which has become more pressing in the Age of Trump

Chris Hedges: We Are All Deplorables. "My relatives in Maine are deplorables. I cannot write on their behalf. I can write in their defense. ... I see the Christian right as a serious threat to an open society. But I do not hate those who desperately cling to this emotional life raft"

Thomas Frank in The Guardian: How the Democrats could win again, if they wanted

CNN Money: U.S. inequality keeps getting uglier

David Roberts of Vox: Everything mattered: lessons from 2016's bizarre presidential election - WTF just happened?

Political Polarization in the American Public - How Increasing Ideological Uniformity and Partisan Antipathy Affect Politics, Compromise and Everyday Life

North Carolina is no longer classified as a democracy by Andrew Reynolds, Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

A law professor's warning: we are closer to oligopoly than at any point in 100 years. Economically. The political power of the corporations is also increasing

The first days inside Trump’s White House: Fury, tumult and a reboot. "Trump has been resentful, even furious, at what he views as the media’s failure to reflect the magnitude of his achievements, and he feels demoralized that the public’s perception of his presidency so far does not necessarily align with his own sense of accomplishment."

An important piece for poll nerds by Nate Silver: Why Polls Differ On Trump’s Popularity?

Variable Variability: The ultimatum game, a key experiment showing intrinsic fairness and altruism among strangers

* Photo at the top, Be Human, is by ModernDope and has a creative commons CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

David Rose's alternative reality in the Daily Mail

Peek-a-boo! Joanna Krupa shows off her stunning figure in see-through mesh dress over black underwear
Bottoms up! Perrie Edwards sizzles in plunging leotard as Little Mix flaunt their enviable figures in skimpy one-pieces
Bum's the word! Lottie Moss flaunts her pert derriere in a skimpy thong as she strips off for steamy selfie

Sorry about those titles. They provide the fitting context right next to a similarly racy Daily Mail on Sunday piece of David Rose: "Exposed: How world leaders were duped into investing billions over manipulated global warming data". Another article on that "pause" thingy that mitigation skeptics do their best to pretend not to understand. For people in the fortunate circumstances not to know what the Daily Mail is, this video provides some context about this Murdoch "newspaper".

[UPDATE: David Rose' source says in an interview with E&E News on Tuesday: “The issue here is not an issue of tampering with data”. So I guess you can skip this post, except if you get pleasure out of seeing the English language being maltreated. But do watch the Daily Mail video below.

See also this article on the void left by the Daily Mail after fact checking. I am sure all integrityTM-waving climate "skeptics" will condemn David Rose and never listen to him again.]

You can see this "pause" in the graph below of the global mean temperature. Can you find it? Well you have to think those last two years away and then start the period exactly in that large temperature peak you see in 1998. It is not actually a thing, it is a consequence of cherry picking a period to get a politically convenient answer (for David Rose's pay masters).

In 2013 Boyin Huang of NOAA and his colleagues created an improved sea surface dataset called ERSST.v4. No one cared about this new analysis. Normal good science. One of the "scandals" Rose uncovered was that NOAA is drafting an article on ERSST.v5.

But this post is unfortunately about nearly nothing, about the minimal changes in the top panel of the graph below. I feel the important panel is the lower one. It shows that in the raw data the globe seems to warm more. This is because before WWII many measurements were performed with buckets and the water in the bucket would cool a little due to evaporation before reading the thermometer. Scientists naturally make corrections for such problems (homogenization) and that helps make a more accurate assessment of how much the world actually warmed.

But Rose is obsessed with the top panel. I made the graph extra large, so that you can see the differences. The thick black line shows the new assessment (ERSST.v4) and the thin red line the previously estimated global temperature signal (ERSST.v3). Differences are mostly less than 0.05°C, both warmer and cooler. The "problem" is the minute change at the right end of the curves.

The mitigation skeptical movement was not happy when a paper in Science in 2015, Karl and colleagues (2015), pointed out that due to this update the "pause" is gone, even if you use the bad statistics the mitigation skeptics like. As I have said for many years now about political activists claiming this "pause" is highly important: if your political case depends on such minute changes, your political case is fragile.

In the mean time a recent article in Science Advances by Zeke Hausfather and colleagues (2016) now shows evidence that the updated dataset (ERSSTv4) is indeed better than the previous version (ERSSTv3b). They do so by comparing the ERSST dataset, which comes from a large number of data sources, with data that comes only from only one source (buoys, satellites (CCl) or ARGO). These single-source datasets are shorter, but without trend uncertainties due to the combination of sources. The plot below shows that the ERSSTv4 update improves the fit with the other datasets.

The trend change over the cherry-picked "pause" period were mostly due to the changes in the sea surface temperature of ERSST. Rose makes a lot of noise about the land data, where the update was inconsequential. As indicated in Karl and colleagues (2015) this was a beta-version dataset. The raw data was published; that is the data of the International Surface Temperature Initiative (ISTI) and the homogenization method was published. The homogenization method works well; I checked myself.

The dataset itself is not published yet. Just applying a known method to a known dataset is not a scientific paper. Too boring.

So for the paper NOAA put a lot of work into estimating the uncertainty due to the homogenization method. When developing a homogenization method you have to make many choices. For example, inhomogeneities are found by comparing one candidate station with multiple nearby reference stations. There are setting for now many stations and for how nearby the reference stations need to be. NOAA studied which of these settings are most important with a nifty new statistical method. These settings were varied to study how much influence that has. I look forward to reading the final paper. I guess Rose will not read it and stick to his role as suggestive interpreter of interpreters.

The update of NOAA's land data will probably remove a precious conspiracy of the mitigation skeptical movement. While, as shown above, the adjustments reduce our estimate for the warming of the entire world, the adjustments make the estimate for the warming over land larger. Mitigation skeptics like to show the adjustments for land data only to suggest that evil scientists are making global warming bigger.

This is no longer the case. A recommendable overview paper by Philip Jones, The Reliability of Global and Hemispheric Surface Temperature Records, analyzed the new NOAA dataset. The results for land are shown below. The new ISTI raw data dataset shows more warming than the previous NOAA raw data dataset. As a consequence the homogenization now does not change the global mean appreciably any more to arrive at about the same answer after homogenization; compare NOAA uncorrected (yellow line) with NOAA (red; homogenized).

The main reason for the smaller warming in the old NOAA raw data was that this smaller dataset contained a higher percentage of airport stations. That is because airports report their data very reliably in near real time. Many of these airport stations were in cities before and cities are warmer than airports due to the urban heat island effect. Such relocations thus typically cause cooling jumps that are not related to global warming and are removed by homogenization.

So we have quite some irony here.
Still Rose sees a scandal in these minute updates and dubs it Climategate 2; I thought we were already at 3 or 4. In this typical racy style he calls data "wrong", "rogue", "biased". Knowing that data is never perfect is why scientists do their best to assess the quality of the data, remove problems and make sure that the quality is good enough to make a certain statement. In return people like David Rose simultaneously pontificate about uncertainty monsters and assumes data is perfect and then get the vapors when updates are needed.

Rose gets some suggestive quotes from an apparently disgruntled retired NOAA employee. The quotes themselves seem to be likely inconsequential procedural complaints, the corresponding insinuations seem to come from Rose.

I thought journalism had a rule that claims by a source need to be confirmed by at least a second source. I am missing any confirmation.

While Rose presents the employee as an expert on the topic, I have never heard of him. Peter Thorne, who worked at NOAA, confirms that the employee did not work with surface station data himself. He has a decent publication record, mainly on satellite climate datasets of clouds, humidity and radiation. Ironically, I keep using that word, he also has papers about the homogenization of his datasets, while homogenization is treated by the mitigation skeptical movement as the work of the devil. I am sure they are willing to forgive him his past transgressions this time.

It sounds as if he made a set of procedures for his climate satellite data, which he really liked, and wanted other groups in NOAA to use it as well. Was frustrated when others did not prioritize enough updating their existing procedures to his.

For David Rose this is naturally mostly about politics and in his fantasies the Paris climate treaty would not have existed with the Karl and colleagues (2015) paper. I know that "pause" thingy is important for the Anglo-American mitigation skeptical movement, but let me assure Rose that the rest of the world considers all the evidence and does not make politics based on single papers.

[UPDATE: Some days you gotta love journalism: a journalist asked several of the diplomats who worked for years on the Paris climate treaty, they gave the answer you would expect: Contested NOAA paper had no influence on Paris climate deal. The answers still give an interesting insight into the sausage making. What is actually politically important.]

David Rose thus ends:
Has there been an unexpected pause in global warming? If so, is the world less sensitive to carbon dioxide than climate computer models suggest?
No, there never was an "unexpected pause." Even if there were, such a minute change is not important for the climate sensitivity. Most methods do not use the historical warming for that and those that do consider the full warming of about 1°C since the 19th century and not only short periods with unreliable, noisy short-term trends.

David Rose:
And does this mean that truly dangerous global warming is less imminent, and that politicians’ repeated calls for immediate ‘urgent action’ to curb emissions are exaggerated?
No, but thanks for asking.

Post Scriptum. Sorry that I cannot talk about all errors in the article of David Rose, if only because in most cases he does not present clear evidence and because this post would be unbearably long. The articles of Peter Thorne and Zeke Hausfather are mostly complementary on the history and regulations at NOAA and on the validation of NOAA's results, respectively.

Related information

2 weeks later. The nailing New York Times interviewed several former colleagues of NOAA retire Bates: How an Interoffice Spat Erupted Into a Climate-Change Furor. "He’s retaliating. It’s like grade school ... At that meeting, Dr. Bates shouted that Ms. McGuirk was not trustworthy and belonged in jail, according to an internal log ..." Lock her up, lock her up, ...

Wednesday. The NOAA retiree now says: "The Science paper would have been fine had it simply had a disclaimer at the bottom saying that it was citing research, not operational, data for its land-surface temperatures." To me it was always clear it was research data, otherwise they would have cited a data paper and named the dataset. How a culture clash at NOAA led to a flap over a high-profile warming pause study

Tuesday. is a balanced article from the New York Times: Was Data Manipulated in a Widely Cited 2015 Climate Study? Steve Bloom: "How "Climategate" should have been covered." Even better if mass media would not have to cover office politics on archival standards fabricated into a fake scandal.

Also on Tuesday, an interview of E&E News: 'Whistleblower' says protocol was breached but no data fraud: The disgruntled NOAA retiree: "The issue here is not an issue of tampering with data".

Associated Press: Major global warming study again questioned, again defended. "The study has been reproduced independently of Karl et al — that's the ultimate platinum test of whether a study is to be believed or not," McNutt said. "And this study has passed." Marcia McNutt, who was editor of Science at the time the paper was published and is now president of the National Academy of Sciences.

Daily Mail’s Misleading Claims on Climate Change. If I were David Rose I would give back my journalism diploma after this, but I guess he will not.

Monday. I hope I am not starting to bore people by saying that Ars Technica has the best science reporting on the world wide web. This time again. Plus inside scoop suggesting all of this is mainly petty office politics. Sad.

Sunday. Factcheck: Mail on Sunday’s ‘astonishing evidence’ about global temperature rise. Zeke Hausfather wrote a very complementary response, pointing out many problems of the Daily Mail piece that I had to skip. Zeke works at the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which produces one of the main global temperature datasets.

Sunday. Peter Thorne, climatology professor in Ireland, former NOAA employee and leader of the International Surface Temperature Initiative: On the Mail on Sunday article on Karl et al., 2015.

Phil Plait (Bad Astronomy) — "Together these show that Rose is, as usual, grossly exaggerating the death of global warming" — on the science and the politics of the Daily Mail piece: Sorry, climate change deniers, but the global warming 'pause' still never happened

You can download the future NOAA land dataset (GHCNv4-beta) and the land dataset used by Karl and colleagues (2015), h/t Zeke Hausfather.

The most accessible article on the topic rightly emphasizes the industrial production of doubt for political reasons: Mail on Sunday launches the first salvo in the latest war against climate scientists.

A well-readable older article on the study that showed that ERSST.v4 was an improvement: NOAA challenged the global warming ‘pause.’ Now new research says the agency was right.

One should not even have to answer the question, but: No, U.S. climate scientists didn't trick the world into adopting the Paris deal. A good complete overview at medium level.

Even fact checker Snopes sadly wasted its precious time: Did NOAA Scientists Manipulate Climate Change Data?
A tabloid used testimony from a single scientist to paint an excruciatingly technical matter as a worldwide conspiracy.

Carbon Brief Guest post by Peter Thorne on the upcoming ERSSTv5 dataset, currently under peer review: Why NOAA updates its sea surface temperature record.