Watt about Bob and William

Although I’ve somewhat changed the focus of this blog, there is a post over at Watts Up With That (WUWT) that has made me decide to have another Watt about … post. It’s a post by Bob Tisdale and is essentially a complaint about Real Climate co-founder, William Connolley. It appears to relate to Bob Tisdale’s announcement that he was retiring from climate change blogging. Roger Pielke Sr responded to this news with a comment that ended with

Your work really should be funded by the NSF or other such grant awarding organizations. I suggest giving that some thought!

If you’ve read some of my earlier posts, you’ll know that I’ve been rather critical of Bob Tisdale’s ideas with regards to global warming, so I read Roger Snr’s comment with some amazement. I, however, really did laugh-out-loud at William Connolley’s response

ROTFL. That made my day.

Bob, however, was clearly not impressed – hence the recent WUWT post. The post itself is not that bad (in terms of Ad hominens at least), but the comments are amazingly vitriolic and probably illustrate why I decided to change the focus of this blog. I’m somewhat impressed that William Connolley decided to engage there. I don’t think I would have been able to do so, and even if I did have the gumption to engage there, I would probably regard it as pointless – although I suspect William feels the same, despite his attempts to engage.

I don’t really want this post to be about the vitriolic attacks on William Connolley (as objectionable as they are), so thought I would try to illustrate why suggesting that Bob’s work should be funded by the NSF is laughable. Bob’s basic idea is that global warming can be largely explained by ENSO cycles (El Niño and La Niña events). To be fair, Bob’s recent explanation of El Niño and La Niña events was pretty good. However, as pointed out by Sou, it would be nice if he gave some credit to others, as it seems clear that he did not develop our understanding of ENSO cycles alone (or contributed at all, for that matter).

The issue with Bob’s basic idea is probably best illustrated in his post discussing his disagreement with Skeptical Science. Bob says

And how and why the RSS lower troposphere temperature anomalies for the latitudes of 20N-90N do not cool proportionally during the La Niña event of 1998-01, Figure 2, but they did warm significantly in response to the 1997/98 El Niño, which caused another major portion of the long-term trend.

and then shows the following figure.

credit : Bob Tisdale, WUWT

credit : Bob Tisdale, WUWT


So, Bob is essentially arguing that because there is a surface temperature rise associated with the El Niño event in 1997/1998, but no corresponding reduction in surface temperature associated with the following La Niña, that global warming is because El Niño events cause warming, while La Niña events do not cause a corresponding amount of cooling.

The problem is that Bob is probably right about his data, but completely wrong in his interpretation. If anything, what he presents is essentially what one would expect in the presence of anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Let me see if I can explain why. I may not get this quite right, but I think the general picture is correct. As usual, happy to be corrected by those who know more than me.

As Bob himself explains, an El Niño event is when the trade winds are such that warm water is spread across the surface of the Pacific. This results in more energy being released into the atmosphere, producing some warming – potentially an increase (globally) of 0.1 – 0.2oC. The heat content of the land and atmosphere is, however, quite low. This means that if the planet were in temperature equilibrium prior to the El Niño event, this excess energy should be lost in a matter of months. So, why – after the 1997/1998 El Niño event – did the surface temperature not drop back to the previous value? It’s because anthropogenic forcings meant that there was a net energy imbalance and the El Niño event simply acted to drive surface temperatures closer to equilibrium. The temperature didn’t drop back to pre-event values because the El Niño event did not act to drive the temperature above the equilibrium value – which is what one would have typically expected in the absence of AGW.

Why wasn’t there a corresponding cooling during the following La Niña event? During a La Niña, the surface of the Pacific is anomalously cold (or the warm water is forced to the West). One might expect this to somewhat reduce the global surface temperature (since there is more cold water on the surface of the Pacific) but I don’t think one would expect a La Niña to suck heat out of the land and atmosphere. Given the reduced surface temperature, it will emit less energy and, hence, effectively absorb more of the incident solar flux (presumably replacing some of the energy lost during the previous El Niño event).

So, in the absence of AGW one would – I think – expect El Niño events to be associated with an increase in global surface temperatures that decay quite quickly (months) back to the pre-event value, while La Niña events would be associated with small reductions in surface temperatures and the recovery of the ocean energy lost during the El Niño event. On average, one would expect the global surface temperatures to be roughly constant (i.e., ENSO cycles should not, by themselves, produce a long-term surface warming trend). That El Niño events are associated with step increases in surface temperatures indicates that the pre-event surface temperature is below equilibrium (due to anthropogenic forcings) and the El Niño event is simply a mechanism for rapidly driving surface temperatures towards equilibrium.

So, I have no doubt that this post is not going to, in any way, make Bob Tisdale consider that he may be mis-interpreting the influence ENSO cycles. I’m not the first – nor the most knowledgeable – to try and explain why he’s wrong. I also may not have explained this as well as I might have, so clarifications are welcome. However, given that Bob Tisdale appears to not understand the basics of energy conservation, laughing at Roger Pielke Sr’s suggestion that his research should be funded by the NSF does appear to be the only sensible response. I have no idea whether or not William Connolley can grasp a complex subject (as suggested by Bob Tisdale – I suspect that he is more than capable of doing so), but it does seem clear that Bob Tisdale is incapable of understanding something quite simple.

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90 Responses to Watt about Bob and William

  1. Nick says:

    Tisdale is having a lend of himself.

    How can he draw any broad conclusions about what ENSO phases deliver from a ‘comparison’ of NINO 3.4 SST anoms with lower trop atmosphere temperature for the northern hemisphere north of 20N? What is so magical about 97/98 that makes him ignore the other El Ninos and La Ninas in that period he graphic covers. What’s this ‘cool proportionally’ rubbish he obviously thinks should be ‘observable’? What evidence is there in that graph of ‘proportional’ warming or cooling during any other ENSO phase in that 33 years?

    He’s put two wiggly lines on a grid, highlighted ‘what happened’ where one superficially intersects the other, and that’s as far as it goes. It’s in the ‘not even wrong’ category.

  2. [Mod : I decided to remove this comment. You made a claim against WMC that he has asked you – on your blog – to justify. I notice that you’ve decided not to do so, so I can see no reason why this unsubstantiated comment should remain visible here.]

  3. AnOilMan says:

    Scottish Sceptic… LOL! funny..

    There are no ‘greens’ here. What is this ‘green’ you speak of? There’s no badge or anything. No initiation. Heck… my wife calls me environmentally vicious, and she’s pretty much an expert on me.

    This is the real world. No one gets along. Get over it and move on.

  4. Victor Venema says:

    I agree with Nick, the just looking at one El Nino and one La Nina, is not very good statistics. If you look at more you can actually see a clear influence.

    ScSc, let’s be generous and assume you are not just making you encounter with William Connolley up to set the dogs on him. In that case it is still somewhat impolite to call me and most scientists unreasonable, especially without any arguments. Reading an introductory textbook on climatology could reduce your personal costs, if I am allowed to become equally impolite.

  5. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    Paraphrasing with made-up quotes (WUWT approved method):

    andthentheresphysics: “Physics tells us AGW is real.”
    scottishsceptic: “William Connolley is not a nice person therefore you are wrong.”

  6. Eli Rabett says:

    Victor, that figure shows essentially parallel line fits if you look at the three conditions, Neutral, El and La, separately. Pretty much what Rahmstorf pointed out.

  7. Victor Venema says:

    Reich Eschhaus, ScSc did suggest that in his attempt to set the dogs on William Connolley, but he was very careful and did not write it.

    Eli, the figure suggests that the relationship between the temperature deviation and the ENSO index is nonlinear (not fully sure because you only see three categories). Foster and Rahmstorf (2011) used linear regression to remove ENSO from the temperature signal. In that respect the new graph may show the effect even better. And I like it that you do not have to change the data to show the effect. That may not be scientifically important, but in the current hostile environment that is also a plus.

  8. Thanks for the post. WUWT is indeed not a pleasant place.

    A brief bit of science before I go back into attack-dog mode: BT’s ENSO knowledge is very shallow: he begins with: “El Niño and La Niña events are … the dominant mode of natural climate variability on annual, multiyear and decadal timeframes”. But no way is ENSO bigger than the annual cycle of temperature.

    I see that Scottish is still making vague unverifiable statements about wikipedia, and how his fine edits were reverted. Interestingly, AW also whinges about wiki but turned out to be totally deluded (http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2012/05/02/so-long-and-thanks-for-all-the-1/).

    Its odd that Scottish brings up wiki here, because I attempted to find out exactly what problem he had, but he directly refused to discuss the issue on his blog. Which I took to mean that while he was happy to whinge about the problem, he really didn’t want to get close enough to the details to allow anyone to judge it – or even to correct it, if there really is a problem.

  9. William,

    WUWT is indeed not a pleasant place. I’ve said this a number of times, I think, but my initial motivation for starting this blog was because it was clear that I didn’t have the character necessary to comment there.

    When I said Bob had explained ENSO events quite well, that was because I actually learned something from how he described them and it seemed plausible and consistent with what was described elsewhere. His views on the role that ENSO events play in driving climate variability, however, do seem rather nonsensical.

    The whole wiki thing seems rather odd. It also seems clear to me that the less said about ScotScep’s views, the better.

  10. Bobby says:

    Bob doesn’t understand that energy is conserved. It’s that simple.

  11. verytallguy says:

    It strikes me that this is much more about a desire to be taken seriously than anything particular about WC.

    Wiki doesn’t take sceptics seriously because they can’t provide bona fide references for their pet theories. WC is just a convenient lightning rod to distract from the root cause – that they can’t provide serious references to back up their claims.

    IPCC doesn’t take sceptics seriously because they can’t get actual scientific papers published.

    Reputable journals don’t take sceptics seriously because… well, because their pet theories tend to be nonsense.

    Judith Curry presents sceptics as serious and is adored by them for it.

    Politicians, unfortunately, do take sceptics seriously, because there’s money and votes in the status quo energy landscape.

    Scottish here is a great example. No-one could possibly take his submission to parliament as a scientifically serious document. References are to Salby and Monkton, and the intro talks about Star Trek. A document so mad it doesn’t just bark, more demands to be shown at Crufts. The politicians, meanwhile, call up Donna LaFramboise as a witness [bangs head slowly but deliberately on table, despairs of humanity].

  12. Bobby,

    Yup, that’s indeed all that needs to be said with regards to Bob Tisdale’s ideas about global warming.

    VTG,

    That’s probably a fair summary. Donna LaFramboise being invited as a witness is quite remarkable. Makes you wonder who was deciding who should be invited.

  13. BBD says:

    Huh. BT can’t even get the NH spatial coverage of RSS right.

  14. BBD says:

    ATTP says:

    That El Niño events are associated with step increases in surface temperatures indicates that the pre-event surface temperature is below equilibrium (due to anthropogenic forcings) and the El Niño event is simply a mechanism for rapidly driving surface temperatures towards equilibrium.

    This seems plausible to me, but does anyone differ with/wish to modify this? Before I plagiarise it?

    😉

  15. BBD says:

    Makes you wonder who was deciding who should be invited.

    There are various candidates, but my money’s on Graham Stringer.

  16. verytallguy says:

    Makes you wonder who was deciding who should be invited.

    My money’s on Lawson via Lilley.

  17. andrew adams says:

    Presumably the science and technology committee decided who to invite. Looking at the membership, my money’s on Graham Stringer – he took part in a debate on climate change which I attended and was obviously both a “skeptic” and an [Mod: ad hom snipped].

  18. Barry Woods says:

    My bets are on Stringer:

    The Register:
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/09/10/oxburgh_science_select_committee?page=2
    extract:

    “Stringer says the practices exposed at CRU undermine the scientific value of paleoclimatology, in which CRU is a world leader.

    “When I asked Oxburgh if [Keith] Briffa [CRU academic] could reproduce his own results, he said in lots of cases he couldn’t.

    “That just isn’t science. It’s literature. If somebody can’t reproduce their own results, and nobody else can, then what is that work doing in the scientific journals?”

  19. Barry,
    So, do you think Donna L. is a suitable person to appear before the committee and do you think she will provide valuable evidence for the committee to consider?

  20. Joshua says:

    At the risk of being called a tone troll or a scold, just sayin’ that the civility seems to be getting stretched a bit thin in this thread. Reminds me a bit of WUWT.

  21. Barry Woods says:

    We live in a world that is, not as people would like it to be..

    Who gets to ‘define’ suitable.. the committee have invited a cross section and it should be interesting, public won’t know or care though, just us in the ‘climate bubble’
    Judge what she says on its merits.
    I have met Donna once, and she is just as a nice a person as I imagine Rachel to be. but nice people can be ‘wrong’, and nasty people can be ‘right’, on any given topic.

  22. BBD says:

    Eh, there’s no pleasing some folk.

  23. Barry Woods says:

    hi Joshua.. if you mean my comment.. I was quoting the Register and Graham Stringer, (ie not my words)

  24. BBD says:

    Barry Woods

    El Reg? Please. Unsubstantiated claims about Briffa and more baseless defamation of CRU? Please. You only bring Stringer into further disrepute with your muck-raking.

  25. BBD says:

    How about answering ATTP’s question Barry? I reiterate it on my own behalf.

  26. Barry Woods says:

    I was quoting the Register, reporting on what Graham Stringer – SAID…
    ie indicating he was sceptical, and a possible candidate for inviting Donna !!

    so please don’t misrepresent me.

  27. Barry Woods says:

    I did answer it.. lots of people have opinions, lots of people may or may not think those opinions ‘suitable.. we live in the real world, they invited her..

    Donna has written 2 books criticizing the IPCC processes, so she would appear to be a ‘relevant’ candidate..
    I personally would say ‘suitable’, I guess others might think not.. (who decides?)
    Shall we wait to see what she says first? and the questions they ask?

  28. BBD says:

    I’m not misrepresenting you, Barry. I’m commenting on your commentary. There is an obvious difference.

  29. Rachel says:

    Folks,
    Let’s all take a breath and relax.

    Joshua, can you be specific and tell me which comments you are referring to? Was it some of the earlier ones?

    BBD,
    I think it’s ok for Barry to quote Graham Stringer. He has not made any claims himself. Perhaps we can set things right by pointing out that Stringer’s words are Stringer’s opinion only.

  30. BBD says:

    Most people do not agree that DL is either competent or sufficiently unbiased to be a useful source of information about the IPCC. Her books are solid evidence of this.

  31. BBD says:

    Let’s ask Barry if he endorses that opinion, Rachel. That will be a simple test.

  32. Joshua says:

    Barry –
    No, I was not referring to your comments. I actually thought that your quotes were provided as evidence – although it wouldn’t have killed you to make a disclaimer that you find such quotes to be tribalistic and emblematic of what is wrong in the climate wars.

    Rachel –
    Ian’s, Mr. Ball’s, WC’s to some extent (e.g., that Watts is deluded or that Tisdale’s knowledge is shallow), Now BBD’s back at Barry.

    But more than specific comments, it seems to me to be more the overall tenor. Being civil is more than just a lack of incivility. I could say that SS started it….but finding a true starting point to explain the lack of civility in climate wars is a bit like chasing your tail, IMO.

  33. Rachel says:

    Joshua,
    Thanks. I did feel the same about those comments this morning and thought they felt a bit WUWT too.

  34. Watt about Bob and William?

  35. Barry Woods says:

    Thanks Joshua…

    ref Stringer saying this:

    “That just isn’t science. It’s literature. If somebody can’t reproduce their own results, and nobody else can, then what is that work doing in the scientific journals?”

    well it does sounds harsh, he is a fairly blunt northern Labour MP.. but he has a point about reproduction in science? and he is on the Sci/Tech committee.

    (in any business I’ve worked in, people are much blunter)

  36. I actually thought Barry’s quotes of Stringer’s were providing some useful context. I believe there is only one UK MP with any formal science training and it’s not Graham Stringer, so being on the Sci/Tech would committee would not, by itself, seem sufficient to suggest that he is qualified to judge science. He may have a point, but then again, maybe not.

    I realise that DL has written two books criticising the IPCC process. It, however, seems to me that it’s fairly to write books criticising aspects of climate science and quite easy to get people to think these books have some credibility. What I’ve yet to see is any evidence that any of these books actually have any credibility.

    My personal view with respect to DL actually appearing? You typically get 4 to 8 people appearing in front of a parliamentary committee. If you really wanted to interview someone about the IPCC and whether or not the evidence it is presenting is scientifically sound and whether or not the processes they follow are suitable, then DL would not – in my opinion – be someone you would interview. There are many others who are much more suitably qualified to discuss the IPCC than DL. If, however, you want someone who will tell you that there are all sorts of problem with the IPCC and with the processes that they follow, DL may be the ideal candidate.

    As a final note, as Joshua indicates, maybe we can try as hard as possible to not let this thread degenerate into anything WUWT-like 🙂

  37. verytallguy says:

    ATTP

    If, however, you want someone who will tell you that there are all sorts of problem with the IPCC and with the processes that they follow, DL may be the ideal candidate.

    Sorry, can’t agree. Perhaps you meant

    If, however, you want someone to raise entertaining and memorable polemic with a view to avoiding a substantive discussion whilst moving the Overton window, then DL may be the ideal candidate.

    This is all about making it acceptable in the mainstream to deny the facts of climate science. Trashing the IPPC is part and parcel of that. It’s very, very obvious and being expertly and consistently done.

  38. Barry Woods says:

    Hardly any MP has any science training (PPE seems to be the entry ticket these days)

    But Graham Stringer was an Analytical Chemist..!! before he was an MP…
    it is very easy to check this….

  39. > please don’t misrepresent me.

    If only:

    My bets are on Stringer: [followed by quote Q]

    In that specific case, to imply that “I was only quoting” might only be a peddling trick.

  40. Barry Woods says:

    Willard.. I was giving an example if why, Stringer was most likely to have invited Donna..

    stop your sillyness please..

  41. You peddled the quote, Barry, you own it.

    This is your ball.

    BTW, speaking of replication, I’d like a full-blown reproduction of the dinosaurs extinction, pretty please with sugar on it.

  42. Barry Woods says:

    I’m not peddling anything,. i was responding to a reasonable question, reasonably.
    Do you always have to do this?

  43. Willard, in this case, I’ll go with Barry. I thought he was simply pointing out why it was likely that Stringer had invited DL.

  44. Dear Barry,

    You oftentimes peddle stuff. You oftentimes whine about imaginary flames. As long as you will do this and distract threads over threads, I will warn commenters about your peddling tricks.

    Why not a replication of the continental drifts?

  45. Barry Woods says:

    what are you going on about, with these ‘replications’ – how do you think you come across?

  46. > I thought he was simply pointing out why it was likely that Stringer had invited DL.

    I agree with that, A. But I also agree with BBD’s impression of Barry’s underhanded endorsement of Stringer’s judgement, if that’s where it comes from.

    I only object to the whining. As long as people own their shtick, I can return to my spectator chair.

  47. > what are you going on about, with these ‘replications’

    I’m showing that Stringer’s point about “replication in science” should be taken with a grain of salt.

    Try to replicate a Monte Carlo simulation, if you please.

  48. I’m showing that Stringer’s point about “replication in science” should be taken with a grain of salt.

    Yes, I agree. Hence my comment about there only being one UK MP with any formal science training.

  49. Barry Woods says:

    Stringer has formal training, he was an analytical chemist (more so than most MP’s , even on the sci-tech committee)

  50. > he was an analytical chemist

    Formal, Barry. Like this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formal_methods

    Replication is a formal concept.

  51. Joshua says:

    Barry –

    well it does sounds harsh, he is a fairly blunt northern Labour MP.. but he has a point about reproduction in science? and he is on the Sci/Tech committee.

    (in any business I’ve worked in, people are much blunter)

    The reason why I suggested a disclaimer is because it is my impression that you don’t apply standards evenly. I doubt that you missed my point.

    The quotes you provided are representative of tribalism. It matter not where the MP is from. As an explanation, the traits of people from his region is a lame excuse, IMO.

    Is there a point to be made about reproduction in science? As a broader discussion, sure. But I doubt that our MP is focused on the broader issue. Maybe you could provide evidence that he is?

    More likely, he is exploiting a rhetorical device to score points in the climate wars.

    Such exploitation of valid questions for the purpose of point-scoring is emblematic of the climate wars more generally.

    “This isn’t science” falls into the same category as WC saying that Tisdale’s understanding of ENSO is “very shallow,” or Tisdale’s recent “RealClimate Co-Founder Exposes His Inability to Grasp Complex Subjects” None of this passes a smell test. It doesn’t stand up to due skeptical scrutiny. Is WC incapable of grasping complex subjects? Is Tisdale’s understanding very shallow? Does Briffa not conduct science? Even a smidgeon of due skeptical scrutiny would show that these statements are vacuous.

    Same ol’ same ol.’ Hyperbole. Animus. Ad infinitum. We could just substitute Jell-O for the rhetoric and move everyone to a junior high school lunchroom so they can enjoy their food fight in a more suitable environment.

  52. Barry,

    Stringer has formal training, he was an analytical chemist (more so than most MP’s , even on the sci-tech committee)

    Fair enough, then I was wrong about there only being one MP with any formal scientific training. That’s why I said I believe. It doesn’t make Stringer right though.

  53. Marco says:

    Barry, what I find most interesting about Stringer’s comment is that it is fourth-hand: a journalist quoting Stringer supposedly quoting Oxburgh who in turn supposedly relayed what Briffa had said. I very much doubt that Briffa could not reproduce his findings when using the same approach, but we do know that different processing procedures give different answers. To what extent those different answers amount to “not reproducible” is a matter for the experts, and actually depends on the requirements you set. If you want +/- 0.1 degrees, +/- 0.2 degrees is insufficiently reproducible for the requirements you set. The interesting question is then why, and quite often there are plenty of explanations. The question is whether people are interested in the answer, and I know that some are not since doubt can be raised by not having an answer to that question. Or when an answer is given, it is handwaved away as “just an excuse”.

    Note also that Stringer obtained a BSc, so I doubt his work as an “analytical chemist” amounted to much more than typical lab technician work, which doesn’t quite qualify him as someone doing actual science. Rather, he most likely just did what his boss told him to do: check whether the concentrations are right, that the polymer has the right length, etc, using the standard procedures. With some luck they may have had the occasional challenge with setting up a new method or a polymer that behaved ‘strange’. Stringer is rather silent about what he actually did as an “analytical chemist” in the industry, so I have to rely on what others with a similar education are doing in the industry.

  54. Joshua says:

    Barry –

    Perhaps your reference to him being a northern MP was not by way of explaining his bluntness. If so, just move past that point to the rest of my comment.

  55. > As an explanation, the traits of people from his region is a lame excuse.

    But Northern MPs should know how to wear big boys pants, even though they sometimes wear skirts.

  56. Willard, I think you may be confusing what people from London think is the North with the region where people sometimes wear skirts (which – I think – according to those from London is the far North) 🙂

  57. BBD says:

    Joshua

    The “northern” is to do with bluntness. It is a venerable UK regional stereotype (I am a “northerner”, so I know). It is not, however, necessarily pejorative in the same way as calling someone a “southern jessie” etc. We can pass over this onto more substantive matters with a clear conscience.

    🙂

  58. Joshua says:

    As as a Northeast Coaster, and even more significantly, as an East Coast Jew, I could acquire license for just about any degree of rudeness by virtue of my heritage and place of residence. 🙂

  59. Barry Woods says:

    blunt and northern, is a positive description in my eyes..

  60. AnOilMan says:

    Back on topic… I think William Connolley’s response to Roger Pielke really demonstrates how misguided Roger and his camp really is.

    Blogging isn’t science. It never was, and it never will be.

  61. BBD says:

    OilMan

    Yes. Nor is it unkind to BT to point this out – but it most certainly shows up the very peculiar positioning adopted by RPJSnr.

  62. AnOilMan,
    I’m glad we’re back on this topic. Yes, it seems clear that anyone with a basic understanding of physics should recognise that Bob Tisdale’s ENSO global warming theory violates energy conservation. Therefore, that Pielke Sr could seriously suggest that his work should be funded by the NSF is remarkable and ROTFL is – I would argue – an entirely appropriate response.

  63. BBD says:

    @ Willard

    Then so, presumably, is south?

  64. BBD,
    Yes, I saw it as suggesting that what Pielke Sr had said was laughable than specifically mocking Tisdale. I have no way of knowing if Tisdale should know better. Pielke Sr on the other hand, should be more than capable of determining if it makes sense to suggest that global warming is purely a consequence of El Niño events.

  65. Joshua says:

    One more off-topic comment and then I’ll stop:

    “blunt and northern, is a positive description in my eyes..”

    That misses my point, again.

  66. AnOilMan says:

    “Rejecting conservation of energy would undermine all science and technology.”

    Perhaps Tisdale is planning to take up a lead role at Steorn?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steorn

  67. I vaguely remember a story about some perpetual motion machine that involved water going from a high tank into some lower tank and then back into the higher tank. This was apparently being demonstrated somewhere and one of those being shown the machine asked “what’s the little black box at the back?”. The answer was apparently – without any sense of irony – along the lines of “it’s just a small electrical pump because if we don’t have that, the upper tank eventually runs out of water”.

  68. John Mashey says:

    Catching up:
    1) Dr. Who has said that many planets have a North, so it can’t all be bad. 🙂

    2) Stringer sponsored Salby to speak @ Westminster, and IF Stringer presented Salby as
    “Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado, 1997-present”, as found in the tour brochure, THEN he made a fraudulent claim, as Salby resigned from CU in Jan 2008, before the in-progress NSF investigation got completed that led to his debarment.
    Here is video of Stringer introducing Salby, sort of. If anyone knows of a better video, let us know.

    3) Weighing credibility of Lord Oxburgh vs {Gordon Stringer, as told to Andrew Orlwoski, in the register }.. well, I’ve had enough personal contact with the former to have a clear opinion beyond the obvious.
    If MP Stringer is happy to sponsor someone debarred by the NSF for financial gimmickry,
    who has yet to publish a peer-reviewed paper on his carbon-cycle silliness that he talked about, and
    thinks that an atmospheric circulation specialist (and Salby *was* a good one, although his impact on the field waned after ~1996) is automagically credible on carbon-cycle & climate change …
    Stringer is not credible on this topic.
    Although anyone taking BT seriously must have a skepticism deficit, one would hope that RP Sr would know better … but fortunately, I doubt he has much influence over NSF funding.

    4) I think I noted this before but worth repeating. Richard Cameron Wilson expressed the common problem well:
    ‘‘In a sceptical age, even those disseminating wholly bogus ideas – from corporate pseudo-science to 9/11 conspiracy theories – will often seek to appropriate the language of rational inquiry. But there is a meaningful difference between being a “sceptic” and being in denial. The genuine sceptic forms his beliefs through a balanced evaluation of the evidence. The sceptic of the bogus variety cherry-picks evidence on the basis of a pre-existing belief, seizing on data, however tenuous, that supports his position, and yet declaring himself “sceptical” of any evidence, however compelling, that undermines it.’

    Again, Morton’s Demon:
    ‘‘stands at the gateway of a person’s senses and lets in facts that agree with that person’s beliefs while deflecting those that do not. This demon is used to explain the phenomenon of confirmation bias.’
    I don’t know of a standard term for the more energetic Morton’s Demons that not only accept tenuous data, but roam far and wide looking for it.

    Even if Morton’s Demon was coined a few years later, it’s a good fit with Carl Sagan’s fine book, The Demon-Haunted World.

  69. AnOilMan says:

    AndThenTheresPhysics: There’s no need for the motor.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heron%27s_fountain

    I made one of these when I was in Form 5 in South Africa. The Head Master was so taken in that he thought we should build it as a statue. Then I told him how it actually worked… He was not amused with me.

  70. From the wiki page

    As soon as the water level in the upper container has dropped so low that the water bearing tube no longer touches the water surface, the fountain stops. In order to make the fountain play again, the air supply container is emptied of water, and the fountain supply container and the basin are refilled. Lifting the water provides the energy required.

    So, that would seem to suggest that you do need the electrical pump 🙂

  71. I will point at this:

    > well it does sounds harsh, he is a fairly blunt northern Labour MP

    And this:

    > blunt and northern is a positive description in my eyes.

    That is all.

  72. > Joshua says: WC saying that Tisdale’s understanding of ENSO is “very shallow,”

    Since I provided a specific example of exactly how shallow his understanding was, which you’ve snipped, I think you’re being dishonest.

  73. Joshua says:

    WC –

    It seems to me that the specific example is more a question of semantics than evidence of the depth of his knowledge.

    It’s not like the example wasn’t abundantly evident – why would I lie about something that could so easily be proven to be a lie?

    Clearly, he interprets evidence differently that you, and I think that it is entirely plausible that his interpretation is deeply flawed. But one can have a wrong opinion on something w/o his opinion on the subject being “shallow.”

    And I think that it is implausible that his knowledge is “very shallow.” It seems that he has studied it quite a bit.

    In such technical matters it is hard for me to assess these things, so I have to go on what seems plausible to me.

    As I said above, I think your statement about his knowledge being “very shallow,” is essentially the same as his conclusion that you are “unable” to grasp a complex topic. Such statements don’t pass due skeptical scrutiny.

  74. Joshua and William,
    I need to have an early night, so can I ask that if you do decide to take it further that you do so politely. FWIW, I largely agree with William (Bob is able to explain the different stages of the ENSO cycle quite well, but otherwise his understanding is shallow) and I do think that what William added after that claim was a reasonable illustration of that shallowness. In a sense, my whole post could be paraphrased as “Bob’s understanding of the role of ENSO cycles in global warming is rather shallow”.

    Having said that, maybe the point you (Joshua) are trying to make is that it doesn’t matter if the statement (made by William/Scot Scep/Bob/…..) is justified, it’s that it could be argued that it is unnecessary and that in general the debate would improve if people illustrated the issues with other people’s ideas without prefacing that with statements like “Joe/Jane Blog’s understanding/knowledge is ….”. That may be true, but in this case I doubt that there’s anything that would improve a discussion with Bob Tisdale about the role of ENSO cycles in global warming.

  75. John Mashey says:

    WMC didn’t say his knowledge was shallow, but rather his *understanding* and there is a serious difference, often seen on blogs. The more active pseudoskeptics can study topics in excruciating detail and wallow around in facts they like, while also expressing ideas that that are totally wrecked by even modest knowledge of things like physics conservation laws.

    Of course, in calibrating knowledge, real knowledge isn’t too bad to do, but it is difficult to coherently show negative knowledge, especially when mixed together. This bears back on the original topic:, in that there should be a difference between two people who express the same wrong idea, but one of them demonstrably should know better, and the other might not.

  76. Victor Venema says:

    William Connolley says: “I think you’re being dishonest.”

    There, you did it again. 🙂

    Seriously. I just came across the rules for cooperative communications
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooperative_principle
    It describes quite well how I experience communication inside the scientific community. On the other hand the communication in the climate “debate” feels more like disruptive communication.

    Had BT been a scientist, I would never have stated that his understanding is shallow. However, as long as BT refuses to read, refer and contribute to the scientific literature, I would to say: anything goes.

    By abiding to the rules for communication within science, you give outsiders the impression that the the climate “debate” is a scientific debate, whereas the contributions of the climate ostriches is better described as tribal reality.

    On the other hand, it doesn’t hurt if the scientific side gives the impression of having better manners.

  77. Joshua says:

    I should add that I think determining when someone’s knowledge is shallow is necessarily relative, and in that sense subjective….my main point being that it’s probably better to just stick to critiquing his argument rather than editorializing on the depth of his knowledge. Even if you are right, it seems to me to be basically irrelevant

  78. Joshua says:

    I started my last comment in response to WC, got interrupted, and then finished after the comments were posted in between, without having read them.

    I think that the point regarding knowledge vs. understanding is kind of valid, and it was sloppy for me to conflate the two. However, I still think that the editorializing is just unnecessary, and that it bogs down the scientific discussion – to everyone’s detriment.

    So, now reading the first part of the 2nd paragraph of The Physicist Formerly Known as Wotts’ comment, yes – that is what I was going for even if I got their in a sloppy fashion.

    As for that last part – while I agree that in the end it doesn’t matter in the sense that the divisions in these debates will not be bridged by blog comments being written in slightly different syntax – I do know that “for me”, for what it’s worth, when I see that kind of what I consider to be juvenile banter, I just shake my head and my confidence in the validity of the person making the argument takes a hit.

    I don’t make the distinction that Victor makes above. I look at whether one is communicating in what seems to me to be a scientific manner – regardless of whether their interlocutor meets the criterion of being a scientist himself or herself. I can’t evaluate the technical issues, so I have to go based on evaluating factors such a logical consistency (as I can evaluate them), conflation of fact with opinion, or approach to science (such as use of caveats to identify and acknowledge uncertainty).

  79. andrew adams says:

    The extent of someone’s understanding of the subject on which they are pontificating may be relative, there are after all different levels of expertise, but that doesn’t make it subjective. If someone is making authoritative sounding statements on a subject which can easily be shown to be wrong then it’s pretty fair to say that they lack understanding, and I certainly don’t think it’s “playing the man” to point it out.

  80. Joshua says:

    Victor –

    “By abiding to the rules for communication within science, you give outsiders the impression that the the climate “debate” is a scientific debate, …

    I disagree with this. As a (much too obsessively so) observer of these debates, I have seen that argument or a similar one often made, but I have not seen evidence that convinces me of its validity.

    I’d say that there are very few “outsiders” in the climate blogosphere. People are not just here on some random meander. But to the extent that there are outsiders, I think that I could be considered one as I am not technically knowledgeable about the issues.

    And for me, I find that a lack of scientific consistency in approach undermines my confidence in the person expressing opinions. No doubt, if you’ve read Climate Etc. to much of any degree at all over the past couple of years, you have read me make that point to Judith Curry many times – specifically with respect to her unscientific treatment of “uncertainty,” the meaning of “consensus,” the existence of tribalism, the impact of Climategate, the role of motivated reasoning and confirmation bias, etc.

    So first, I fail to see evidence where abiding by the rule of education raises the validity of invalid analysis in the eyes of “outsiders.” If you have some, I’d appreciate seeing it.

    And second…

    “whereas the contributions of the climate ostriches is better described as tribal reality.”

    I don’t see where your second clause follows from the first, as you imply. Yes, I think that invalid analysis is, often, described as tribal reality. But I don’t see how that follows from the notion that abiding by the rules of science is somehow counterproductive. Seems to me that the argument that invalid science is the product of tribal reality is in fact a scientific argument and it should be made in a scientific manner (as does Dan Kahan, IMO).

  81. Joshua says:

    AA –

    “The extent of someone’s understanding of the subject on which they are pontificating may be relative, there are after all different levels of expertise, but that doesn’t make it subjective.”

    Yeah. I questioned that as I typed it, but didn’t stop myself. The relationship between relative-ness and subjectivity is something I need to think about more.

    ” If someone is making authoritative sounding statements on a subject which can easily be shown to be wrong then it’s pretty fair to say that they lack understanding, and I certainly don’t think it’s “playing the man” to point it out.”

    So here is part of what is difficult for me. I see people who seem very smart and knowledgeable making mutually exclusive statements about who is wrong and who is right, and even further, how completely obvious it is w/r/t who is wrong and who’s right. I can’t evaluate the technical merits of arguments – so what can I do? How am I supposed to know which of those seemingly smart and knowledgeable people has a valid claim? Should I just follow my tribal instincts and assume that the “experts” that align with me ideologically are the ones who are right? That doesn’t seem to me like a particularly good approach.

    Well, when I read Bob Tisdale’s overt tribalism or juvenility (as I often have – primarily when he discusses the non-technical aspects of the debate), I use that as evidence of his thinking process. It doesn’t prove to me that his technical analysis is wrong, but it gives me some evidence about inconsistency in his approach to science. And so I find myself cringing when I read someone from my “tribe” engaging in the same manner of discourse.

    And I disagree as to whether it is playing the man. Anything beyond critiquing his argument is by definition, IMO, playing the man. What difference does it make whether his understanding is shallow? Someone could have a very deep understanding of something and yet still be wrong. Someone can have a shallow understanding and be right. If Bob’s argument is clearly wrong and based on easily disproven reasoning, then, then demonstrate that and leave it at that. Those technically versed can make their own evaluation based on the presentation of evidence.

    If you tell me that that someone’s understanding is shallow it does nothing for me unless I’m inclined to have some inherent trust of your opinion (keep in mind that I can’t judge the science), but: (1) should I just take your word for it that your opinion is right? and, (2) what do I do when I instinctively react that tribalism and juvenility suggest a tendency towards a diminished approach to science?

  82. Joshua says:

    Sorry – typing too much and too fast.

    I’ll make one correction (of the many that should be made) and then take a break and let y’all get back to the science…

    I should have said…. “I fail to see evidence where abiding by the rules of education of cooperative communication raises the validity of invalid analysis in the eyes of outsiders.”

  83. Ian Forrester says:

    Joshua asks:

    I see people who seem very smart and knowledgeable making mutually exclusive statements about who is wrong and who is right, and even further, how completely obvious it is w/r/t who is wrong and who’s right. I can’t evaluate the technical merits of arguments – so what can I do?

    Quite often there is a very simple answer to this question. The person who is reporting the actual science as opposed to the one who is just throwing out his biased opinion of the science can be separated by looking for cites to the information. The true scientist will usually refer to a paper or papers in the peer reviewed scientific literature whereas the other will either give no reference to where he got his information or will refer to a site well known for its misuse of science. Anyone who has followed this area will know exactly the sites I am referring to.

    Don’t go necessarily by some one’s background, two of the best known Scottish based “skeptics” have a degree in science but you would never know that from their misuse of, and attacks on, science and scientists. They get all huffy when their fallacies are pointed out an equate showing some one wrong with personal attacks.

  84. Jp says:

    “What difference does it make whether his understanding is shallow?”

    It makes a hell of a difference in terms of how much credibility that person should be given and how much he/she can contribute to any debate.

    “Someone could have a very deep understanding of something and yet still be wrong. Someone can have a shallow understanding and be right.”

    True. Anything is possible _ but not probable. A high school student might have been able to debate Einstein and proven him wrong on a point of physics. It’s possible. Probable? No.

  85. AnOilMan says:

    “John Mashey says:

    The more active pseudoskeptics can study topics in excruciating detail and wallow around in facts they like, while also expressing ideas that that are totally wrecked by even modest knowledge of things like physics conservation laws.”

    I have noticed another flavor of this.

    Pseudoskeptics will argue something excruciating detail which may quite possibly be ‘scientifically correct’ yet is for all intents and purposes ‘technically insignificant’. Its as though talking about it makes it somehow more significant and lends it some sort of credence.

    Has anyone else seen one those arguments which claim spelling mistakes obviate the results? They misplaced 2%? Confidence intervals were reduced from 80% to 60%?

    (On the internet no one can see you roll your eyes…)

  86. Victor Venema says:

    I see people who seem very smart and knowledgeable making mutually exclusive statements about who is wrong and who is right, and even further, how completely obvious it is w/r/t who is wrong and who’s right. I can’t evaluate the technical merits of arguments – so what can I do?

    Go to the cases which you can judge. Is this a clear misquotation? Is this blatant misinformation? Both cases need no scientific training and no knowledge of climatology. That is the reason I made blog posts out of them. They may be small points, but the do clearly illustrate how unreliable WUWT is. The claims on WUWT on stuff you cannot judge is likely not better.

    I fail to see evidence where abiding by the rules of education of cooperative communication raises the validity of invalid analysis in the eyes of outsiders.”

    It does not raise the validity of the analysis and would not influence an objective observer disinterested in the outcome of the discussion. However, if you respond friendly and completely neutrally with some references to the scientific literature to a claim that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas, that gives the impression that there is still a discussion about such a point. Like you suggest yourself, most people cannot judge the analysis and cannot follow the references mentioned. They just get the impression, that two reasonable persons can disagree about the fact whether CO2 is a greenhouse gas.

    That does not mean that you have to become impolite and certainly not that you start misinforming like WUWT and Co. do, but I do understand that not everyone is able to stay polite. If HotWhopper is a bit snarky in the face of WUWT claims about criminal Mafia behaviour, a conspiracy against the poor, fraud, locking scientists in jail, I can understand that not everyone stays completely calm and polite. Even I was accused of mass murdering poor babies for explaining the scientific understanding of how the climate works.

    Instead of becoming impolite, my personal favourite is to add some meta-communication and not only explain why something is wrong, but also why WUWT and Co. could have known for a long time that their claims are bogus. That is the way I prefer to make clear that this is not a scientific debate.

    I have no idea whether my personal strategy is optimal. I still fear that onlookers will see one group highly convinced of their zombie arguments and another one quietly making scientific footnotes and giving the impression they are not sure about anything. Someone who is not too much into scientific argumentation and not too interested in the topic may judge the situation by how convinced people are of what they are claiming and come to the wrong conclusions, if only to keep good relations with the most aggressive and dangerous people, a sensible survival strategy.

    In the end, those are the people you can hope to reach. At least I have not much hope of being able to convince people that regularly make comments or write blog posts against climate science. That BBD was convinced by arguments gives me some hope, but I expect that BBD is an exception. Does anyone expect to be able to convince Anthony Watts, Richard Tol, Judith Curry, the Pielke’s, “Scottish” “Sceptic”, Von Storch, Tisdale, etc.? The important people to reach are the people that are just readers and maybe occasionally write a comment. For normal people, tone does matter, I would expect.

  87. jsam says:

    Paraphrasing Planck on Tisdale’s departure, “Science advances one retirement party at a time”.

  88. BBD says:

    That BBD was convinced by arguments gives me some hope, but I expect that BBD is an exception.

    So do I, these days. It’s one reason why I get so irritated with certain fake sceptics. There is just no excuse.

  89. Pingback: Another Week in the Ecological Crisis, January 19, 2014 – A Few Things Ill Considered

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