Re: [asa] Climate Progress

From: Iain Strachan <igd.strachan@gmail.com>
Date: Mon Dec 14 2009 - 16:45:06 EST

John,

I have read all your email, but there are just a couple of points here which
seriously need responding to, and to respond to all of it would make it
overly long. I also have absolutely no desire to enter into a discussion
about Janice - I put her emails on auto-delete long before she was banned
(only to be hit by the wretched woman's sock puppet, which Rich, if you
recall did some admirable detective work in uncovering). I'll deal with
the other points in reverse order:

(1) You wrote:

My rejection of the reasonableness assertion when applied to me is that I
can't possibly live up to other people's criteria for objectivity so as a
rule I don't let myself fall into that trap nor do I try to impose it on
others. I am sure Mann's defense of the emails would be interesting but I
have just not seen it anywhere. I am not avoiding it or opposed to reading
it but I reject the conclusion that because I haven't read it, I still can't
deduce a pattern of deception and coverup clearly shown in the emails.

I respond:

A .. hem. Excuse me. The entire text of Mann's defence of the emails was
contained in the original email that Burgy posted to start this thread!!!

How on earth did you miss it???

Actually I think I know how you missed it. You got so wound up about his
use of the word "denialist" that you chose to write a snotty email about
that instead of engaging in the material John had brought to the list's
attention. Now, I don't think it's reasonable to expect you to go to the
same lengths as I went to, to analyse the data, but I do think it's
reasonable to expect you to have actually read the email you were responding
to. Don't you?

If you don't trust Mann, you might also find it helpful to read the
beautifully clear and well written article at the New Scientist website I
mentioned earlier. The relevant article is at:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18238-why-theres-no-sign-of-a-climate-conspiracy-in-hacked-emails.html?page=1

Just so you don't have to follow the link if you don't want to, here is
their very clear and simple explanation of the infamous "trick to hide the
decline" email. I think it's even clearer than Mann's explanation as it
uses fewer jargon words:

----
The problem is that some sets of tree-ring data suggest temperatures start
falling towards the end of the 20th century, which direct temperature
measurements show was not the case. So the researchers instead replaced the
reconstructed temperature data for this period with the directly measured
temperature data.
Is this an unjustified "fix"? No, because some sets of tree-ring data can be
compared with the direct records of local temperature for the past century.
Up until the 1960s, there is a very close correlation between the density of
growth rings in trees in northern latitudes and summer temperatures, but
after this it starts to break down <http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/35596>.
We don't know why. It might be that the correlation breaks down whenever it
gets too hot, in which case reconstructions of past temperature that rely
heavily on tree-ring data will give a misleading picture. Or it might be due
to some factor unique to the 20th century, such as changes in the timing of
the snow melt, in which case it will not affect reconstructions.
The issue has not yet been resolved but there has been no attempt to conceal
this or any of the many other problems with temperature reconstructions. On
the contrary, the head of the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia, Phil
Jones, and others have published papers discussing it in prominent journals
such as *Nature*.
---
So there is nothing suspicious here at all.  The tree ring data breaks down
post 1960's (for reasons as yet unknown, but doubtless time will tell) but
the truth (the actual temperatures as opposed to those reconstructed from a
mathematical model of the tree rings) were placed on the graph.  The "hidden
decline" was one that arose from the faulty tree-ring model.
Other emails are discussed with equal lucidity, along with the very
reasonable reasons for "fixing" the data.  From years of analysing data
myself I concur that you have to perform pre-processing on it (which may
well involve removing false offsets that arose for various reasons) to get
any sensible model to work.
I commend the article for your attention.
(2)  This one is more serious.
You wrote:
I was also awaiting feedback on that from Rich and since we haven't heard
back from him after he initially stated that the smoking gun was
Eschenbach's, I agree with you that that is a tacit admission that he was
wrong and Eschenbach was right.
I respond:
I'm utterly appalled that you should suggest that I think Rich's lack of
response so far is a tacit admission that he was wrong and Eschenbach was
right.  I never wrote ANYTHING OF THE SORT.  Sorry for shouting, but this
really is one of the most blatant twistings of what I have written I have
ever seen and I wish to make it clear in the strongest possible terms that I
was making no such assertion about Rich.  You are reading way too much into
my words; perhaps you dislike what Rich posts so much that it has marred
your judgment.
I'll concede only this.  When I said that an explanation had not been
forthcoming, that was definitely a poor choice of words, because it implies
a form of concealment that I did not intend.
Here's what I meant:
It was an admission that *I* was wrong in making the assumption that just
because I could not reproduce Eschenbach's graphs initially that he must
have fabricated it.  When I was shown the dataset that was used, and
independently reproduced precisely the same graphs, I felt it was necessary
to correct the erroneous impression I had given.
Nor did I say Eschenbach was "right".  All I affirmed was that I had found I
could reproduce the graphs in Eschenbach's article.  I also said that I
didn't necessarily think Eschenbach was right in his accusations of the data
being deliberately manipulated.  I proposed my own simpler explanation
(that the two datasets, raw and adjusted for Stations 0,1 and 2 had been
accidentally swapped over.
Since then, I can report that Rich and I have corresponded off-list about
this matter.  In fact Rich disagrees with my alternative explanation - with
some good reasons.  If he had wanted to conceal anything he'd have just
agreed readily with my post to shut the critics up.  But he didn't because
he's honest and wants to find the truth just as much as I do.  I've given
Rich the links to the download site where I got the data together with the
necessary information to extract the records for Darwin airport.  Since then
no further progress has been made and we don't have an explanation of why
the data is as it is, and why there is a stepped trend of adjustments in the
diagram in:
http://picasaweb.google.com/IGD.Strachan/NOAADarwin#5414394774309127298
(my graph, which corresponds to Eschenbach's Figure 8)
I will continue to work on this when I have the time.  I may even try to see
if there are any other stations that show this type of pattern.  Further
data may lead to an innocent explanation, or expose a massive conspiracy.
Now this prompts me to say something about "conspiracy theory" explanations,
because it has to do with my whole objection to Intelligent Design
inferences.  Effectively that is what Eschenbach is doing - he's making an
inference of "Intelligent Design" in order to fiddle the data.
Here's the problem: such an inference can explain just about anything.  But
that is not the only conspiracy theory that could explain the graph above.
Here's my alternative "conspiracy theory" that I'd like to propose.
We've just had a lot of scandal and controversy on the Internet over the
hacked CRU emails, and much discussion of this particular violation of the
Eighth Commandment (John I really wish you would acknowledge this - you are
fond of quoting Scripture to make your point, but seem curiously to ignore
it when someone else uses scripture that doesn't help your case - there can
be no argument; it was wrong to steal the emails, however valuable the
information in them might have been.  Do you agree?  Or do  you think it's
OK to break the Eighth Commandment in this case.  I await your reply with
interest.  I also don't buy your argment about "selective sanctimony" and
the Wedge document - I never made any assertions about that affair and it
doesn't apply to me.  If the document was also stolen, then in my books that
is also wrong.)
Now, hot on the heels of the controversy where someone stole the emails from
the CRU, we get this concrete example of apparently fiddled data, that is
difficult to explain.
One very simple explanation of the peculiar graph could be that the data
file from the NOAA website was also hacked, altered, and Eschenbach was then
tipped off.
Don't you think it strange that so soon after the Climategate scandal, the
Eschenbach knew *exactly where to look* to find a "smoking gun" ? If I were
thinking like a tabloid journalist, rather than a scientist, I would think
it very suspicious.  If this had been the outcome of a prolonged piece of
research, revealing a conspiracy, then Eschenbach should have been able to
report that the same effect had been seen in hundreds of stations.  But the
whole article focuses on one station without mention of any others.
The beauty of this explanation is that Eschenbach could be entirely innocent
in all this.  A hacker could have written to him, as a known skeptic, and
said "I've found somethng strange at Darwin Zero - have a look", which he
would have done in all good faith, and found what he did.
Now, before you think I am in any way suggesting that this was what
happened, let me say right now that I don't think this happened.  It is just
that my conspiracy theory fits all the observations just as well as
Eschenbach's.  Arguably mine is a simpler explanation - it just involves one
individual making an alteration to the data, and not a supposed conspiracy
of hundreds of climate scientists in different areas over the globe.
But... like I say, I most definitely do NOT favour my conspiracy theory, or
Eschenbach's because both of them are infinitely flexible and can explain
just about anything.  I think my proposed conspiracy theory is absolutely
preposterous, and casts unwarranted moral aspersions on the characters of
those involved.  I think exactly the same about Eschenbach's conspiracy
theory.  It's a very nasty piece of insinuation.
So what I shall continue to do is to attempt to examine the data, hopefully
with some input from Rich, to see if we can come up with a scientific
explanation (or evidence of an innocent error in the data - many of which
I've found in my own career)  before jumping to any conclusion about
conspiracy theories.
To close, I'll add that one of the points I made in my post before, about
thinking that the step changes of 2/3 of a degree and 4/3 was "suspicious".
I now realise why this peculiar faction arose, and it's just a coincidence.
It has to do with the fact that the temperature data are discretized in
units of 0.1 degrees C.  There is a slightly different correction applied in
each of the twelve months (presumably due to seasonal differences), and the
total correction came to exactly 8.0 degrees in this year, which resulted in
an average adjustment of 8/12 degrees, or 2/3.  Likewise the 1962 total
correction came to 16.0 degrees.
Iain
On Mon, Dec 14, 2009 at 7:46 PM, John Walley <john_walley@yahoo.com> wrote:
> Iain,
>
> I applaud you for your honesty in undertaking the attempt to replicate and
> reporting your feedback on Eschenbach's article. I was also awaiting
> feedback on that from Rich and since we haven't heard back from him after he
> initially stated that the smoking gun was Eschenbach's, I agree with you
> that that is a tacit admission that he was wrong and Eschenbach was right.
>
> My rejection of the reasonableness assertion when applied to me is that I
> can't possibly live up to other people's criteria for  objectivity so as a
> rule I don't let myself fall into that trap nor do I try to impose it on
> others. I am sure Mann's defense of the emails would be interesting but I
> have just not seen it anywhere. I am not avoiding it or opposed to reading
> it but I reject the conclusion that because I haven't read it, I still can't
> deduce a pattern of deception and coverup clearly shown in the emails.
>
> Keep in mind we have had a long series of data points for any objective
> observer to arrive at this conclusion like Al Gore's CO2/Temp relation in
> AIT, the various hockey stick corrections, the station siting issues, and
> now finally the CRU emails. Yes Mann may have some response on this but
> there is much more for me to base my conclusions on than just Mann. And from
> the attempts I have heard from the others on this, sorry but I don't buy
> that "trick" and "hiding the decline" and "fudging the data" do not mean
> what they say. I don't trust them and those explanations. I think it is
> inconsistent with the rest of the evidence and entirely predictable from
> someone in that situation.
>
> Finally, maybe you saw the email that Janice sent using your objection to
> the American faith preacher on TV jumping around doing the bunny hop as a
> vallid exercise in using our spiritual discernment and dismissing the guy
> out of hand. I could have appealed to you to go to his web site and read
> some explanation he has on why he does the bunny hop, and with enough
> empathy then you too would agree with him and maybe even start doing the
> bunny hop yourself.  But apparently you had seen enough already and you were
> convinced that by your definition of "reasonableness", the guy had already
> crossed that line and nothing more needed to be said. Although we may draw
> the line at different places and have different levels of thresholds, that
> is how I feel about all of the examples above including the leaked emails.
>
> Thanks
>
> John
>
>
>  ------------------------------
> *From:* Iain Strachan <igd.strachan@gmail.com>
> *To:* John Walley <john_walley@yahoo.com>
> *Cc:* John Burgeson (ASA member) <hossradbourne@gmail.com>; asa <
> asa@calvin.edu>
> *Sent:* Mon, December 14, 2009 2:49:56 AM
>
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] Climate Progress
>
>
>
> On Mon, Dec 14, 2009 at 1:30 AM, John Walley <john_walley@yahoo.com>wrote:
>
>>  That's fine Iain. But this is the same ploy as "engaging the data" when
>> someone else gets to decide what the data is. I have to submit to your
>> criteria of objectivity to prove my "reasonableness" to you.
>>
>
>
> I'll just say that I spend my life analysing data, and I NEVER take it at
> face value.  One should always question what one finds in datasets - examine
> for outliers, or just plain errors in the recording of it.  That clearly
> isn't accepting what someone else has decided what the data is.
> Occasionally, as properly skeptical investigation proceeds, this involves
> changing your mind.
>
> This happened in the case of the Eschenbach article.  I examined the data
> initially and found no evidence for Eschenbach's assertions.  Then someone
> pointed me at the dataset that had been used to generate Eschenbach's
> graphs, and I was able to regenerate them as well, and reported this to the
> list.  I could have chosen to remain silent about it, but in the spirit of
> reasonableness and openness I presented what I had found.  Eschenbach's
> graphs are not a complete fabrication.  I presented what I thought might be
> a reasonable alternative explanation for those data, but I did still allow
> that it could also be interpreted as someone cooking the books, and that I
> was hoping that someone could explain what was going on.  No other
> explanation has been forthcoming so far, so as far as I'm concerned this is
> something that so far has not received a sensible explanation.
>
>  And you seem to think that I am being unreasonable in this, just because I
> think you should pay more attention to an article which was the subject of
> this thread, instead of ranting and getting puffed up and making huffy
> statements like "continuous and gratuitous use of ...." etc?
>
> One thing is certain: we definitely do have very different ideas of what
> constitutes "reasonableness".
>
> Iain
>
> --
> -----------
> Non timeo sed caveo
>
>
>
-- 
-----------
Non timeo sed caveo
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Received on Mon Dec 14 16:45:35 2009

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