David Rose on Judith Curry’s stadium wave

I notice that David Rose has an article in the Daily Mail that is mainly about Government ministers and eco-zealots, but that also includes a discussion of Judith Curry’s recent Stadium Wave paper. I haven’t read the paper in great detail, but as far as I can tell it is really just an attempt to identify signals in various bits of climate data, and doesn’t really include any physical mechanisms for explaining these signals.

The David Rose article says

According to Curry and Wyatt, the theory may explain both the warming pause and why the computer models did not forecast it.

It also means that a large proportion of the warming that did occur in the years before the pause was due not to greenhouse gas emissions, but to the same cyclical wave.

The issue I have with this interpretation is that the stadium wave idea seems to provide no physical mechanism for why there are these signals in the climate data. It is simply an attempt to identify cycles. Nothing fundamentally wrong with that, but it does seem to be just a complicated curve fitting exercise. Also, Judith Curry herself says

The paper is about natural internal variability, it says absolutely nothing about AGW. The IPCC treats natural internal variability as ‘noise’; we argue that it is the fundamental climate signal on decadal to century time scales, with external forcing projecting onto these modes.

So, it seems to me that if these stadium wave oscillations are real (and, to be honest, I’m not convinced that they are) then they may well explain periods when the surface warming was slower than expected (as it is currently) and periods when it was faster. It might explain why the Arctic sea ice is declining faster than expected. What it cannot do is explain why the energy in the climate system, as a whole, continues to increase. Internal variability cannot do that. It can move energy around in the climate system, but it cannot increase the overall energy. That requires some kind of change in external forcing. This is a fairly basic concept that even David Rose should be able to understand.

One might think that David Rose has mis-interpreted what the authors have actually said about the stadium wave paper, but I’m not sure that would be a fair accusation. He quotes one of the authors (Marcia Wyatt) as saying

‘The stadium wave forecasts that sea ice will recover from its recent minimum.’ The record low seen in 2012, followed by the large increase in 2013, is consistent with the theory, she said

All I can really say to that is one data point does not make a trend. Given the low value in 2012, the 2013 value was almost certainly going to higher. Using that to claim that it is consistent with the theory is a little disingenuous. I would also argue that this isn’t technically a theory, it is simply a complicated curve fitting exercise. A theory would normally require some kind of physical basis, not just a time-dependent equation.

Wyatt apparently also said

‘The stadium wave signal predicts that the current pause in global warming could extend into the 2030s,’

That would be quite remarkable if true. Given the rate we’re adding CO2 to the atmosphere, the anthropogenic forcings will likely increase by 0.5Wm-2 by the mid-2030s. We currently have an energy imbalance of around 0.7Wm-2. For the “pause” to continue into the 2030s, would require that an ever increasing fraction of this excess energy be sequestered in the oceans. Possible, I guess, but not very likely.

It’s quite frustrating, but not surprising, that David Rose would overplay the significance of Judith Curry and Marcia Wyatt’s paper. It’s also a little frustrating that they will likely do nothing to correct this mis-interpretation. They will probably argue, if they say anything, that he hasn’t mis-represtented their work. This may, technically, be true but it would be nice if they could at least acknowledge that the stadium wave has virtually no significance with respect to long-term anthropogenic global warming. That continues as expected and will carry on doing so as we continue to increase atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

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88 Responses to David Rose on Judith Curry’s stadium wave

  1. Joshua says:

    I had the following to say over at Curry’s crib:


    Interesting – how to reconcile this:

    “it says absolutely nothing about AGW…”

    with this:

    This paper will change the way you think about natural internal variability.

    and this:

    ‘Stadium Waves’ Could Explain Lull In Global Warming

    Does understanding natural internal variability and understanding the “lull in global warming” “have nothing to do with AGW?”

    Oh, and regarding that last quote – why promote the misperception that land surface air temperatures equals “global warming.”

    Why do scientists that focus on precision and careful analysis make such sloppy statements?”


    Now I don’t expect a response from Judith (or from Marcia) to my comments, but it seems to me that Judith is not particularly concerned with clarifying whether her paper has anything significant to say w/r/t long-term anthropogenic warming – which would explain the apparently contradictory messaging.

    On a number of occasions, Judith has declined to discuss the veracity of Rose’s comments. The closest I’ve seen her come is a weak justification of his inaccuracies with an explanation of (paraphrasing) it is hard to combat misinformation from the other side in the climate wars.

  2. Joshua, I agree with you completely that some seem to quite happily use global warming when referring to surface warming without putting any effort into explaining that overall warming continues. I realise that there is some history here, but you might expect scientists to put some effort into making sure that what they say is at least a fair representation of what they’re trying to describe.

    Someone on Judith’s blog made a very lengthy comment about issues with how they’d actually carried out the analysis. I was searching for it while writing this post and couldn’t find it. I had thought it might have been you, but maybe not. Did you make, or notice, such a comment?

  3. Joshua says:

    If it was technical in nature, for sure it wasn’t from me. Searching among the comments on her post for “Bart R” might be a place to start.

  4. Stoat had a decent evisceration of the paper.

  5. Sometimes one has the impression that people want to be misrepresented. What do you think of this quote?

    William Happer, a physicist, said. “It just sort of settled down to a flat plateau which we are still in. … And by now it’s completely at odds with some of the models.”

    Some models are very likely not good at modelling natural variability. Especially models that do not model the deep ocean, but use the limited computational resources on other parts of the climate system.

    Thus technically he is right, his readers will take away the message that climate models are wrong. If you do not want your readers to have the wrong impression, you need to “put some effort into making sure that what [you] say is at least a fair representation”.

  6. Thanks, Joshua. That was precisely the one I was looking for.

    Victor, wasn’t it William Happer who wrote the article about how CO2 is plant food. I would be surprised if he was intending them to take anything else away from his comment.

    Rattus, thanks I’ll have a look for that.

  7. BBD, thanks, I’ve just read them. There are aspects of the W+C analysis that I don’t quite understand, but it does seem as though it is a rather unconvincing study. The comment on Judith’s post that I found particularly entertaining, although a little cynical, was this one.

  8. BBD says:

    Now that’s the spirit. Bart R appears to have had enough nonsense for one day.

  9. I’ve just noticed that Bart R’s comment was also highlighted in the comments on Stoat’s post.

  10. BBD says:

    And the contrarians say that “warmists” have no sense of humour…

  11. Rachel says:

    I love Bart R’s version! It’s so much easier to understand.

  12. “According to Curry and Wyatt,”

    Strange to refer to the paper that way, Marcia Wyatt is the first author.

    In the comments below the Bart, Marcia Wyatt comments that her previous articles were statistical, but that this one is about the physics (?) of the stadium wave.

    Personally, I do find such statistical papers interesting and thus disagree with Bart. Such studies give ideas for future studies on the physics, which as far as I can judge from what the blogs say, still have to be written. There is just no reason to make such a hype out of such a study as long as the physical follow-up papers are missing.

  13. Victor, yes a little odd. Although, in fairness, I was halfway through this post before I realised that Wyatt was the first author. That was either because of how David Rose had phrased it or because of it being promoted on Judith’s blog.

    As far as statistical work is concerned, I would tend to agree with you. It’s the hype and claims that are made with respect to such work that is really the issue. Calling it a theory would also seem a little odd. Study, maybe.

  14. Rachel says:

    In mathematics, the order of authors on a paper is always alphabetical. It doesn’t matter how much each person contributed to the paper, the authors are always placed alphabetically. I’m guessing this is a bit unusual?

  15. Rachel, that’s true in big physics collaborations (particle physics in particular), but in areas where the author numbers are modest, it’s either in order of how much they each did or the first few authors tell you who did most of the work and the rest is alphabetical.

  16. andrew adams says:

    I certainly think that Rose is guilty of overstating the likely importance of Wyatt and Curry’s paper but (for once) he can’t be accused of misrepresenting the authors’ views or the supposed findings of the paper. His piece seems to reflect the piece at Curry’s blog and the dubious claims in his article (about the sea ice “recovery”, and models not forecasting the “pause”) seem to come from the authors themselves.

  17. Doug Bostrom says:

    Victor made a remark above that struck me:

    Some models are very likely not good at modelling natural variability.

    This is probably a shockingly ignorant question, but what is the value of modeling internal natural variability, for a climate model that is exploring anthropogenic influences on climate?

    A simple-minded analogy might be a situation where we are exploring the effects of additional metabolites offered to a culture of organisms whose reproduction happens only during daytime hours. We know that more food will result in more reproduction. The effect on reproduction by the diurnal cycle isn’t the objective of the exercise. Why would carefully building the diurnal cycle into the model be worth the effort? And would failure to do so invalidate the results of the model?

    Looking again at climate models, are we able to model the progress of seasons in these models with high fidelity, let alone diurnal cycles? And if model output does not faithfully track the actual emerging record of the seasons of a given year, what does that have to do with the objectives of the model? After all, we’re confident of the radiative physics of the matter, as with the biology analogy above.

    I guess this is a recasting of Wott’s point: natural variability can’t nullify energy.

    I don’t know the answers to any of this, obviously. But it does seem intuitive that at some certain scale the fidelity of climate models to natural variability won’t matter and isn’t fundamentally relevant to what models are intended to explore. Perhaps Wyatt and Curry’s paper does have some physical basis, but why should we care? Seriously, does it matter, except inasmuch as it may be a fallibility offering leverage for purposes of discussing things not centrally germane to the science of climate change?

  18. Andrew, I agree that David Rose can’t really be accused of mis-representing what the authors have said – publicly – about this paper.

  19. Doug, I am not a modeller, but I will try to answer your question. The spatial and temporal resolution of a model need to fit together. At a spatial resolution of about 50 km, a typical resolution for a global atmospheric model at the time, the temporal resolution would be about 20 minutes. It is thus unavoidable to also model the diurnal cycle (and the seasonal cycle). A sufficiently high spatial resolution is necessary to model the movement of fronts, highs and lows, for example.

    It might be possible do develop coarser resolution models, but then you would have to add simplified submodels (parameterisation) for the processes you can no longer model (well). Which without a diurnal cycle would even include fronts, and highs and lows. Also in summer precipitation typically starts at the end of the afternoon, if the model would not resolve the diurnal cycle, you would have to parameterize this, which is likely difficult. And so on.

    It is already very difficult to develop parameterisations for showers for models that do include a diurnal cycle and in that case you can validate the results more easily based on measurements.

    Variability being my hobby topic, I had almost complained about the statement, “natural variability can’t nullify energy”. The outgoing long wave radiation is proportional to the fourth power of the temperature. Thus if you are missing the variability (mainly daily and season, but also somewhat the decadal variability, which is typically called natural variability), you would get another mean temperature. The mean(f(x)) is not equal to f(mean(x)) in case of nonlinear processes. Still that is likely a very small factor in this case. In other cases, for example, radiative transfer through structured clouds, variability is much more important.

    I hope that was clear. 🙂

  20. The main value of modelling natural variability, is that you want to understand the full climate system and also be able to compare the magnitude of natural and man-made variability. Nowadays it also becomes important as climatology starts to try to model the climate of the next decade, taking into account the current state of the climate system.

    The main reason climate models include natural variability is that we would like to include a model for the deep ocean. The ocean is simply an important part of the climate system. Without it you cannot study the transient response of the climate system well, for instance. As Wotts always writes, the main energy change is in the oceans.

  21. Doug Bostrom says:

    Thank you, Victor, that was very helpful. You confirmed my suspicion that diurnal effects are an inevitability of a model as it attempts to gain greater fidelity. Also, the ocean is so sluggish that its temporal signal is an important feature of a climate model that is trying to explore effects of a shock.

    I’m still under the impression that there is a gulf of understanding regarding the objectives of climate models as they pertain to AGW. Faithfully reproducing/predicting variability effects of the actual climate record isn’t the point of these models; to the extent that the net energy effects of variability are accounted for in simulation, the role of natural variability in a model of AGW is done. This is a point that seems frequently lost and as well is used as a rhetorical cudgel.

  22. Victor, very interesting. Thanks. I, like Doug, have also wondered about the significance of natural variability to AGW. I can see how it would be important if we want to understand likely changes to our climate over the next decade or so. On longer timescales, however, it would seem that natural variability should ultimately cancel and the longer-term trend would dominate. So, I can see why it’s important to understand natural variability (to understand the shorter term and to simply help to understand the climate in general) but can also see how, as Doug mentions, it’s ended up being used as a bit of a rhetorical cudgel.

  23. BBD says:

    “Sceptics” tend to overlook the fact that arguing for high levels of natural variability are arguing for sensitivity to radiative perturbation.

  24. BBD says:

    “is to argue for”

  25. Doug and Wotts, I think you are right. Getting the natural variability right has not been an important priority up to now.

    If you just look at all the different structures of a range of different global circulation models shown by Ed Hawkins. These are pre-industrial control runs, so no changes in forcing, just internal variability of the climate system, if I understand it right.

    There are so many differences in the variance, the temporal correlations and the dominating time scales at which the variability takes place.

  26. I like Bart R and would gladly put him on the third line of my fantasy draft. But his allusion to Chinese astrology may be mistaken. The cycles Marcia and Judy are studying have been studied by Hellenistic astrologers:


    As a rule of thumb, Jupiter transits every 12 years (24, 36, 48, 60, 72) and Saturn transits every 30 years (60, 90, …). If you take Uranus (84 years, discovered later) with its half cycle at 42, you have about every stadium wave you wish with the curve fitting tools from the old school.

  27. BBD says:

    I have only just learned this about Marcia Wyatt’s milieu:

    Additions to my committee included Roger Pielke, Sr, who directly helped guide me at CU. Then there were Sergey Kravtsov and Anastasios Tsonis of the University of Wisconsin, Madison and Judy Curry (GA Tech). That explains where the ideas (for me) started and how they kept going.

    Apparently RPSr was her PhD co-advisor (scroll up a few comments to see him confirm this at October 10, 2013 at 4:49pm).

    As I have said before, it’s a small world.

    (For those here who were there, sorry; I should read the comments at JC, I know).

  28. Doug Bostrom says:

    Further to Willard, how fragile are these crystalline spheres and when will they shatter under the increasing weight of disturbing observations? Presumably the hopeless tangle of epicycles will inevitably go “sproing?”

  29. I disagree about Rose not misrepresenting what Wyatt & Curry said. Wyatt has specifically noted that their paper only addresses natural variability and says nothing whatsoever about the causes of the long-term trend (because the first step they take in their analysis is to detrend all the data). I touched on that a bit here:

    His comment about the Arctic sea ice recovery is taken from Wyatt – and is a forehead-slapper. To suggest that one data point is evidence for a hypothesis is absolutely ridiculous, and IMO calls Wyatt’s competency into question.

    Ultimately the paper is just curve fitting, and in fact it’s detrended curve fitting. It says the ‘stadium wave’ (if it’s real, which it’s probably not) will be in its negative phase until circa 2030, but doesn’t take AGW into account. Apparently Curry has suggested she’d be willing to bet on no global surface warming over the next 20 years. I hope somebody takes her up on that (or better yet, a shorter time frame so that they can be young enough to enjoy her money).

  30. Dana, I think I was willing to give Rose the benefit of the doubt in the sense that W+C made it fairly easy to interpret their work in the way that he has. You could argue that they’ve mis-interpreted their own paper 🙂

  31. Dana, actually your last point is one I was thinking about last night. If their prediction of no warming for the next 20 years is ignoring AGW, it would be interesting to see what their model would predict if you added in the anthropogenic warming. Should be fairly straightforward to do.

  32. Jim Hunt says:

    Our latest thoughts on David Rose’s journalistic skills:


    and Judy Curry’s scientific expertise:


    More soon!

  33. @Victor:

    Personally, I do find such statistical papers interesting and thus disagree with Bart.

    I’m afraid I am with Richard Telford here: “The credibility of any article that arbitrarily sets aerosol forcing to exactly zero should be exactly zero.

    I’ve seen just too many of these meaningless papers which appear to be interesting. Tom wasn’t too excited about it either. Unfortunately, this paper doesn’t tell me anything about internal variability. Nothing! Zilch!

  34. Maybe I should have been clearer. I have nothing against such statistical papers in principle.

    I did not study this specific paper and cannot say whether it is interesting. Also the first comments (1, 2) by Stoat are pretty devastating: most of the wave curves hardly explain any variance.

  35. Jim Hunt, thanks for the links. Very interesting.

  36. Jim Hunt says:

    My pleasure. As previously promised here’s our next article, hot off the presses deep down in the dungeons here at Great White Con Ivory Towers:


    In brief, NO!!

  37. Rachel says:

    Victor, I just found your comment here and one in another thread in the spam folder. I’ve no idea why but consider yourself un-spammed.

  38. BBD says:


    If you include more than a single link, the comment gets auto-moderated. Victor’s last has two, so into the bin it went…

    Perhaps the link limit could be raised? I’ve always found just the one to be a bit restrictive.

  39. Rachel says:

    BBD, it doesn’t usually put the comment in the spam folder though. When there are two or more links the comment goes into pending rather than spam.

    I agree with the link limit being restrictive. That’s up to Wotts to decide though.

  40. I’ve upped it to 4. Could go higher if necessary, but 4 should be enough for now.

  41. BBD says:

    Thank you, Wotts!

    – Rachel, sorry, I didn’t realise that Victor’s comment had been treated atypically.

  42. @Victor,
    point taken. I agree. It just shouldn’t be published in the climate related literature as long as well established physics (i.e. strongly non-linear forcing in this particular case) are ignored. It simply makes it completely irrelevant from a climate dynamics point of view. There are certainly good stats journals which are more appropriate 😉

  43. David Young says:

    I think the issue Doug and Victor is whether the scales that are not well modeled have an effect on the modeled scales. Generally even the smallest scales such as turbulent scales do interact and effect the larger scales, that’s why turbulence models were invented. If GCM’s did indeed conserve energy, then one might argue that at least the global energy balance might be right. But that’s not quite true. Dynamics can effect the overall energy balance too through feedbacks. There is no sharp “boundary” between scales that allows us to ignore some scales, except in very special cases, and argue that they do not effect the long time behaviour of the system. The most rigorous theory for this is the multi-scale theory of Hughes and many collaborators. It at least allows you to estimate the effect of the unmodeled scales in ideal circumstances.

    An example of this is perhaps the origin of the ice ages, where changes in the distribution of forcings act through feedbacks. The total forcing remains mostly unchanged. So simple energy balance would miss this large effect. The same is true even in simple systems. The dynamics at all scales matters and must be somehow modeled.

  44. David Young, here’s the simple problem I have. I started this blog on the spur of the moment because I was tired of reading incorrect scientific claims on other blogs and because I realised that I couldn’t really engage constructively on those blog. So, I have written many posts and made a few mistakes but, overall, it’s fairly easy to show how many of the non-mainstream climate science ideas are scientifically incorrect. When it comes to mainstream science, however, there seem to be two standard themes that crop up. The models have failed (because of a mismatch between surface warming and model predictions) and there are problems with the behaviour of climate scientists (either consciously or unconsciously). However, there are numerous lines of evidence that are largely consistent. Paleo-climatologial evidence. Basic physics. I’ve done numerous little back of the envelope calculations in my blog posts to try and illustrate various aspects of climate science.

    So, the point I’m trying to make is that if there are real problems with climate science why can’t people actually show them? Why is it always a behaviour thing or a reference to Popper (which in some sense is also a behaviour thing – scientists unwilling to accept models have failed). Why is there not some nice simple calculation that can be done to show that there is a fundamental issue with climate science? Is it maybe because there isn’t?

  45. David Young,

    If GCM’s did indeed conserve energy, then one might argue that at least the global energy balance might be right. But that’s not quite true.

    How not quite true is this? My understanding is that they do conserve energy to within whatever precision of the numerical method. Is that not correct?

  46. David Young says:

    Wotts, I have tried to steer clear here from touching hot button issues and getting into the apologetics of climate science with your clientele, some of whom I know are on the same wavelength as St. Thomas. Apologetics is a pseudo science that once entered results in continuous unproductive arguments about minutae. Annan for example and a lot of others are starting to say that there are some problems, not with the greenhouse effect but with some of the more alarmist claims. That’s the normal course of science and is worth pursuing.

    I’ve gotten different claims about discrete conservation of GCM’s. Some say they do conserve energy, others such as Victor on the previous thread say they do not. What I think is true is that complex corrections are required to achieve near conservation. Finite element methods automatically conserve mass, momentum, and energy to machine precision. Finite volume methods especially when applied to the dramatically simplified equations of motion probably do not. It is well known in most fields where numerical PDE’s is applied that discrete conservation is a great aid to accuracy. Lacis claims discrete conservation, but I have seen other authorities say that’s not really correct.

  47. David Young,

    Annan for example and a lot of others are starting to say that there are some problems, not with the greenhouse effect but with some of the more alarmist claims. That’s the normal course of science and is worth pursuing.

    Indeed, I would not be surprised if this were partly true. Here’s a very basic question. Something I’ve stressed on this blog is that the fundamentals of global warming (overall, rather than surface) are robust and that multiple estimates of the ECS suggests that it is at least 2 degrees and probably closer to 3. So, we can be reasonably confident (ignoring climate models) that the world will continue to warm and that we will likely be at least 0.5 degrees warmer (on average) by mid-century. We can probably also say that there will be more heatwaves and more precipitation. Do you roughly agree with this?

    So, maybe there are issues with what GCMs are predicting and, in some sense, I’d be surprised if this wasn’t partly true. This, however, doesn’t indicate that, overall, we are unlikely to warm as expected.

  48. David Young says:

    I agree that the planet is going to continue to warm. The crucial question is how much. For that the IPCC seems to rely on GCM’s while admitting in AR5 that in fact many of them are too sensitive to greenhouse forcing. That’s a crucial question that transcends the political squabbling and the apologetics. We need to get this right and that should be the top priority. Debunking myths is OK and there are a lot of them and not just in the skeptical realm. There is more than enough bad science to go around.

  49. David Young says:

    My other concern is just that the lopsided resource allocation toward GCM’s will delay finding out the answer to this critical question. Better data for example is critical to this enterprise. We need better data on the structure of the tropical troposphere and according to Lacis our latest sattelite disintegrated on launch. That must be corrected ASAP.

  50. Jim Hunt says:

    @Wotts – I’m new here, but I’d like to thank you for what seems at first blush to be a most interesting venue.

    @David – I apologise if this has already been stated elsewhere previously, but we Arctic sea ice zealots figure that section of the GCM’s is sadly lacking at present:


    Better data is indeed critical. More instrumentation above, on and under the ice!

  51. Jim, thanks. I would agree, better data is indeed important.

  52. BBD says:

    David Young is being evasive again:

    Wotts asks DY if he agrees that ECS is going to be at least 2C and probably closer to 3C. DY responds:

    I agree that the planet is going to continue to warm. The crucial question is how much.

    Then he mounts his rather tired hobby horse once more and continues to insinuate that the alleged problems with models have resulted in some kind of gross over-estimate. This rhetorical device allows him to insinuate further that the actual value for S is sufficiently low for the negative impacts Wotts points to later this century to be ignored. All despite the fact that the estimates for S are derived from paleoclimate behaviour and not dependent on the models.

    DY then has the gall to lecture us on apologetics.

  53. > I have tried to steer clear here from touching hot button issues and getting into the apologetics of climate science with your clientele, some of whom I know are on the same wavelength as St. Thomas.

    Try harder. Nobody makes you do it, you know.


    Also, amwaving of indefinite formal stuff spiced up with insulting circumlocutions only looks like whining. You’re basically appealing to purity:


  54. Quote David Young: “For that the IPCC seems to rely on GCM’s […]
    Just another example of his willingness to understand. It’s ignorance turned into innuendo.

  55. Doug Bostrom says:

    David’s fairly obviously now talking about politics and ideology, not science, his topic of interest all along. Arrhenius and all the rest have grown bored and are down the street at the pub.

  56. I blame nevaudit for the ensuing xkcd infestation. Sceptics from other disciplines, notably engineering, sound like this, http://xkcd.com/793/.

  57. Engineers or physicists?

  58. I believe John meant this one, Wotts:


  59. Pingback: xkcd – physicists | Wotts Up With That Blog

  60. I know cartoon 793 talks of physicists but my *fellow* engineers are actually worse than physicists. 🙂

  61. John, I have no doubt that what you say is true 🙂

  62. David Young says:

    I know the climate order for the defense of the faith is monitoring every word here for possible heresy so they can attack (of course carefully crafted to fit just barely within the blog rules), but I do owe you, Wotts, who I think is contributing to the rational debate some explanation of what I think of the your comment giving a general summary of the basics of climate science. I don’t know a lot about some of these things, unlike fluid dynamics simulation where I know something anyway and probably more than most climate scientists.

    On ECS, I simply don’t know and I defended Annan when he refused to be very specific except to say the high disasterous numbers are almost certainly wrong. I don’t think anyone knows with any certainty and the number is not that meaningful in a complex system where changes in distributions of things through dynamics can have very large effects. If I had to guess, I’d say the AR5 range is to first order right but not very meaningful. It is telling of course that in 30 years of huge investment in models, the range has not decreased.

    On the basics of atmospheric physics, I don’t know enough to say much and I haven’t said much. Virtually all skeptics agree with these basics . There are some unanswered questions about the tropics and the effect of convection that could be quite important and what I have seen says we need vastly better data to answer them — a position that Lacis (who inquisitors will note is a card carrying adherent of the faith) agrees with. And there are some important new areas like rapid climate change that could be very important. The view that the climate was stable until man came along and invented evil fossil fuel interests is wrong. And maybe that’s a straw man, but sometimes that is the impression conveyed.

    So, I don’t have any big objections to the fundamentals. I am just very worried by the issues I’ve raised here earlier and the fact that this is so important that we can’t afford to accept the usual flawed (or incomplete if you prefer) science. We need publicly auditable science if effective action is to be taken. As everyone knows, if you believe there’s a huge problem, you must convince the 2nd and 3rd world to do something. That will require a new level of verifiable and audited science or an energy breakthrough. Bear in mind that the science concensus says that warming will have net positive effects for quite a while. Poor people who don’t know what science really is are not going to roll over for the new order without a true and airtight story and an offer of a viable alternative to getting wealthier.

    In general, I know why my comments here have excited the hall monitors, but really is there anything here that is that controversial? Ironic, humorous, or subtle turns of phrase are not welcomed in some circles. And of course saying the obvious about GCM’s is likewise a third rail to many. I do think Wotts, your comment policy makes your blog a lot more civil than many and a place where interesting discussions can take place.

  63. OPatrick says:

    David Young, speaking personally if you want me to treat your comments with anything other than contempt try writing them in the future without the following:

    “defense of the faith”, “possible heresy”, “inquisitors “, “adherent of the faith”, “evil fossil fuel interests”.

    Or are these just ‘ironic, humorous or subtle turns of phrase’?

    I strongly suspect you are exaggerating the issues you are ‘concerned’ about, but if you want me, at least, to take your concerns seriously then you need to present them in a reasonable way. I don’t believe you do want me to take them seriously, otherwise you wouldn’t be writing as you do. I suspect it suits you much better if I dismiss them, then you can claim that your ‘reasonable’ arguments are being dismissed. But I, at least, am not going to allow you to use this technique to shift the verbal overton window of the debate towards where you want it to be.

  64. David Young says:

    OK, O. This is one of the problems with this issue: people are very sensitive to the slightest irony and can’t see past it to substance, unless the irony is being wielded by their partisans. Wotts has a sense of humor. What about the substance? Secret fossil fuel interests funding of skeptics is a favored conspiracy theory which you surely have seen many times trotted out. N’est pas? Every substantive and deep writer I’ve ever read uses irony including Bertrand Russell, Walter Kaufman, and even Stan Ulam. Of course, that’s the problem with theology mostly, is the shocking lack of humor. Well, the Talmud might be an exception. At first I thought Mann and Lew regarding the “war on science” were using irony, but then I realized they were actually serious.

    In any case, you will have to judge the issues in science for yourself. Personally, I think the train has left the station and the halcyon days of scientists as revered authority figures are mostly over unless strong measures are taken. I think growing numbers are seeing that there is a problem and starting to figure out how to get better.

    Best wishes for achieving your climate goals 🙂

  65. OPatrick says:

    David, you may want to reconsider your understanding of irony.

  66. Rachel says:

    David Young says, “I know the climate order for the defense of the faith is monitoring every word here for possible heresy so they can attack”

    David, I don’t really like this part of your comment either. Telling people who don’t like it that we’re too sensitive is also not helpful.

    It’s hard to respond to much else in your two comments because they don’t really have much in them to respond to other than again alluding to problems within science. You make a reference to theology. Are you trying to suggest that climate science is a religion here because I don’t understand the reference to humour and theology? And you mention the new world order? Really? Is this irony too?

    David, I have a great sense of humour but I really don’t see anything to laugh at here.

  67. verytallguy says:


    you’ve done a bit of a gish gallop there.

    I’d like to call you out on one thing
    “Secret fossil fuel interests funding of skeptics is a favored conspiracy theory which you surely have seen many times trotted out. N’est pas?”
    Funding of sceptics by fossil fuel interests is neither a conspiracy nor is it secret – it’s quite public eg here’s a well know sceptic’s campaign funding.

    And I’d be interested in you expanding on
    “The view that the climate was stable until man came along and invented evil fossil fuel interests is wrong.”
    This might be interesting if you defined “stable” in some meaningful way eg over what time period and to what magnitude. Would you care to do that?

  68. BBD says:

    Secret fossil fuel interests funding of skeptics is a favored conspiracy theory which you surely have seen many times trotted out.

    More partisan denial from David Young.

    Do read this interview with Robert Brulle, David.

    You also need to acknowledge the existence of the anonymising front organisation called Donors Trust. See here and here.

    These are matters of fact, David, and you are entirely mistaken. Perhaps you would like to acknowledge your error?

    Let’s see if you can demonstrate good faith.

    Over to you.

  69. Rob Nicholls says:

    Thanks for a really interesting article and comments.

    I’m still not quite sure what to make of Wyatt & Curry’s paper. I don’t have the expertise to back up my initial impression (curve-fitting nonsense), so I’ve been trying very hard to keep an open mind.

    I found Stoat’s blog posts on this very helpful. I still have so many questions about this paper, none of which are meant to be derogatory to the authors e.g. How many centuries of data are used to construct the stadium wave? Some proxies were mentioned which go back several centuries but I’m not sure whether they were used or how sparse or reliable the data was pre-1900s. If the main analysis was really restricted to the 20th century as suggested in the graphs then we’re talking about 1 or 2 cycles of a wave, as pointed out at: http://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php?topic=604.msg15997#msg15997 . How many (if any) factors did W&C discard which didn’t fit their stadium wave? Did they adjust for discarded factors in the analysis? Does a p-value of <5% for the "hemispherically propagating signal" mean much if the characterization of the wave into different temporal groups is data-driven rather than decided beforehand? (Perhaps it does – I know nothing about MSSA.) Why would they not use data after year 2000? (or did they?) Are all of the indices used really meaningful? (I was surprised by inclusion of Length-of-day, does it really influence climate in the way that’s being suggested? Perhaps so.)

    I'm especially puzzled as to what factors are supposed to be driving what other factors in the stadium wave, or whether they're all supposed to be driving each other, or are supposed to be proxies for underlying factors which are driving each other. I don't get why linear detrending of Northern Hemisphere temperature (NHT) is used in the construction of the wave. Ostensibly it is to "remove the centennial trend to highlight multidecadal variability," but in the case of NHT that approach is inadequate due to recent AGW, and I’m not sure why the paper didn’t discuss this inadequacy.

    I initially thought W&C were trying to remove the effects of external forcing using linear de-trending, but stoat pointed out that if this were the case, how would the other components of the stadium wave know which parts of the trend to respond to (because they’re due to internal variability) and which parts are externally forced and should therefore be ignored.

  70. David Young says:

    The bottom line here is that the fossil fuel conspiracy like many myths is based on a kernal of truth. But it is not a war on science aimed at destroying Michael Mann and has little significant influence on the debate except in the minds of those searching for villians to blame for the manifest failure of climate policy, or those who still believe Russell’s dislike of religion and its conflict with science is the burning issue of the day. That was the 1920’s. There is much more power and money behind green NGO’s and governments and most of the rich with their foundations are left leaning, even though perhaps not green enough for some. Soros, Hienz-Kerry, etc. So this makes some people feel good, much like burning witches, but is not the cause of their difficulties which lie much deeper in the human condition. In other words, work on something that will make a difference, not irrelevancies.

  71. Bobby says:

    Can somebody explain to me what David just said? Seems like he called nearly $35MM/year (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/feb/14/funding-climate-change-denial-thinktanks-network) a “kernal of truth.” The rest of it seemed like a bit of – ‘leftists also have money and need to feel good.’

  72. David Young says:

    OK, but what is the significance of that to the debate? It’s also true that drug companies spend a lot of money on scientific activities, vastly more actually. You are far better off trying to clean up the medical literature so future Vioxx and vertebraeplasty fiascos don’t happen. Decrying evil drug company money is a recipe for feeling virtuous while ensuring failure. You will note that all the commotion about the medical literature has virtually nothing to do with drug company money. It’s fundamentally about other issues.

  73. OPatrick says:

    I can explain what David has just done: he’s dropped in an issue that no-one was talking about in such a way that he knew he would likely get a response, then exaggerated that response to imply far more than it justified. For someone ‘steering clear of hot button issues’ he seems to have a remarkable tendency to lean ever-so-accidentally on those buttons.

    I just had to scroll up to the top to remind myself of the subject of this thread.

  74. Yes, indeed, David has introduced something that wasn’t really relevant to the discussion. At least he admits there’s a kernel of truth 🙂

  75. verytallguy says:


    thanks for accepting the funding issue, it’s not easy to acknowledge these things sometimes.

    As Wotts suggests, back on topic, I’d be still be interested in you expanding on

    “The view that the climate was stable until man came along and invented evil fossil fuel interests is wrong.”

    As I said, to understand you on this you need to define “Stable” over what time period and to what magnitude.

    Are you willing to engage on this topic?

  76. BBD says:

    I would be very interested if DY were to engage on this topic:

    The view that the climate was stable until man came along and invented evil fossil fuel interests is wrong.

    See Mayewski et al. (2004) Holocene climate variability:

    Although the dramatic climate disruptions of the last glacial period have received considerable attention, relatively little has been directed toward climate variability in the Holocene (11,500 cal yr B.P. to the present). Examination of ∼50 globally distributed paleoclimate records reveals as many as six periods of significant rapid climate change during the time periods 9000–8000, 6000–5000, 4200–3800, 3500–2500, 1200–1000, and 600–150 cal yr B.P. Most of the climate change events in these globally distributed records are characterized by polar cooling, tropical aridity, and major atmospheric circulation changes, although in the most recent interval (600–150 cal yr B.P.), polar cooling was accompanied by increased moisture in some parts of the tropics. Several intervals coincide with major disruptions of civilization, illustrating the human significance of Holocene climate variability.

    Full pdf here.

  77. verytallguy says:


    Interesting, a subject of which I’m largely ignorant.

    I guess that there are two alternative conclusions that could be drawn

    “Why worry about AGW, the holocene climate has changed rapidly in the past and will do so again reagrdless of greenhouse emissions.”


    “We know that even the natural level of variability can change the climate in a way which massively affects civilisations. AGW will be a far bigger change and have much worse effects, we need to take urgent action to avoid this”

    Is this how you see it?

  78. I had thought that Marcott et al. (2013) were indicating that what we’re experiencing now is moving us into a climate regime that will be very different to anything that has happened during the Holocene.

  79. Rob Nicholls says:

    I’ve thought more about what I said above in relation to Northern Hemisphere temperature (NHT) in W&C’s paper: It’s a bit vague in the paper, but I’ll assume that components such as NHT are being treated as both causes and effects of the “stadium wave.” Where the effect of the other components of the “stadium wave” on NHT is being measured, I think a reasonable attempt should be made to remove the effects of external forcing on NHT, so that the effects of internal variability (and therefore the effects of the “stadium wave”) can be seen (I don’t think linear de-trending achieves this). Where the effect of NHT on other components of the stadium wave is being measured, I would think the NHT anomaly should be used as it is, without de-trending. (It’s not clear from the paper what the mechanism is for NHT to affect the other components, which is perhaps a bigger issue).

    It does not make any sense to me to use linear de-trended NHT in the way that the paper seems to be using it. Apologies for focussing on this one small area, perhaps it is minor in comparison to other issues with the paper, but I don’t know enough to tell the relative importance of these things.

    W&C have left elucidation of any physical mechanisms for the future; so I think the paper says ‘we found a whole bunch of things that correlate if you linearly de-trend them even if it doesn’t make sense to do so, and if you smooth them enough and if you choose exactly the right time lags.’ Is this unfair? I suppose the correlations themselves may be interesting, where they are newly discovered and are not an artefact of the de-trending / smoothing.

  80. Rob, it sounds like you know more about this than I do. It does seem that many have been critical of how W&C have detrended their data and whether it is appropriate to do so. What you say in your last paragraph is my main issue. There’s no physical mechanism and so it does appear to simply be a very complicated attempt to find a some correlation between some signal in the data and some climate events. What does this mean? It may mean something but can we really extrapolate it into the future? As Dana mentions above, removing the anthropogenic signal and then claiming that your analysis suggests the pause will continue for another 20 years, seems as though something important has been ignored. It would be interesting to know what they would predict were they, for example, to superimpose an anthropogenic signal on their stadium wave.

  81. BBD says:


    “We know that even the natural level of variability can change the climate in a way which massively affects civilisations. AGW will be a far bigger change and have much worse effects, we need to take urgent action to avoid this”

    Like this. Also note that this variability is a good indicator that the climate system is moderately sensitive to radiative perturbation – a point I have made to DY several times already, although he ignores it since it militates against the extremely low value for S he espouses.

    As Wotts says (per M13), continued increase in forcing will propel us right out of the range of Holocene variability in a geological instant. As I understand it, the view from ecosystem science is that the ecosystem will not be able to adapt to such an accelerated rate of global change and mass extinction will result.

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