Reblog: On Hansen et al.

I haven’t really had a chance to properly read the new Hansen et al. paper (apart from the reviewers, who does?). However, it is clearly a paper that has already had impact and somewhat divided opinions, so I asked Peter Thorne if he would be interested in writing a guest post. Turns out, he’s already written a post and has kindly given me permission to reproduce it here. I think this whole issue is interesting from a number of different perspectives, and Peter’s post touches on most of them.

On Hansen et al. (by Peter Thorne)

As I am getting dribs and drabs of queries from several angles on the Hansen et al paper that appeared this week in final form I thought I’d write a post (possibly against my better judgement). I was an invited reviewer and my initial and second reviews are available online. I stand by those. The whole paper has been a highly unusual experience to be part of the review process of, and not because its in the EGU Open Access journals. I have reviewed many times for EGU journals articles that have proceeded by a more traditional route. In this blog post I shall try to reflect upon the process, the potential issues that remain, and its reception. Much more can be found in my reviews which will likely help if you have issues with falling to sleep at night.

Before getting into the nitty gritty let me be clear on several points:

  • There is value in exploring possibilities of future behaviour of the climate system. We have not observed it long enough or well enough, and we do not (yet) have powerful enough and complete enough models, to absolutely rule out ‘nasty surprises’.
  • We are undertaking an unintended geoengineering project that is pushing the climate system away from what has been a remarkably (in geological terms) stable climate that has allowed agricultural, then industrial revolutions and modern society to develop. Married to other ongoing large perturbations to aspects of the Earth System such as ecosystem disturbance on an unprecedented scale we truly are entering uncharted territory. From a purely scientific perspective, the precautionary principle of reducing our environmental footprint should be pursued strongly.
  • It is the absolute right of the journal and its editors to publish any piece using their best judgement upon completion of a proper peer review process. I would strongly support any editor and any journal in the right to publish what they view as fit so long as the paper has undergone rigorous peer-review.

Peer-review process observations

The whole process was as if we had fallen through Alice’s looking glass. The paper was trumpeted at a major news conference several days before the discussion paper was even published online and available for review. Many media outlets, completely incorrectly, reported this as a new paper. Discussion papers on EGU journal sites are not peer reviewed articles and do not therefore constitute scientific papers. Coincidentally, since then EGU now no longer typeset the discussion papers so that it is now more obvious whether the paper is a submitted manuscript or the final real deal. I have no idea whether these issues are linked.

This deliberate publicity surrounding a discussion paper (which to my knowledge is unique) led to unprecedented interest in the paper. By the time the comment period was closed there were over three times as many reviews as to the next most commented discussion paper in the journal’s history. This included many off-topic comments including a long thread on the existence of the greenhouse effect. Ironically, this was one of the better responded to comments by the authors (more later …).

Amongst the greenhouse effect deniers and other off-topic comments were unsolicited reviews from a large number of very well respected scientists expert in many fields pertinent to the paper including several colleagues who were (Coordinating) Lead Authors in the Fifth Assessment Report of IPCC or who have contributed to major works such as the annual state of the climate series. These reviews highlighted very many salient issues that the official reviewers failed to spot, and hence added substantial value.

In my view the responses from the paper author team to very many of the comments they received were inappropriate. Scientific peer review has a set of norms that you respond to the issues raised in a calm and measured manner including point-by-point responses that detail whether changes were made, what these were, and why. Instead, the authors chose to respond in many cases by writing discursive policy pieces that were too often non-responsive and often verged on playing the man and not the ball.

The reviewers (invited or otherwise) all donated the precious gifts of their time and their expertise to the peer review process. Their contributions both required and deserved scientifically substantive responses. Sadly, in many cases this is not what they received. The most egrerious example is the Drijfhout et al comment and its response. The reader should consider whether the response is polite and addresses the substantive points raised by the reviewers in a measured manner. In my judgement it does not. This is but the most obvious example of a systemic issue in how the reviews were dealt with by the authors during the public review segment of the process.

It is beholden upon senior members of the community to set an exemplar of expected behaviour. They are role models and they righy or wrongly set or modify expectations of cultural norms, be that in climate science or elsewhere. My view is that the authors treated many of the reviews as a nuisance and did not provide the response that was justified to them that allowed the reviewers to fully understand how each of their review comments was dealt with. This included the public version response to my own invited review. It was not the behviour I would expect from such senior colleagues.

Science and content

Peer-review is a necessary but grossly insufficient condition for eventual acceptance of a new hypothesis as a scientific theory. Its a very weak and imperfect filter. So, publication is the first step on a long road to eventual either acceptance or rejection of the hypothesis. I’ll briefly highlight here some of the open issues as I see it that lead me personally to put a very low prior on the work being correct. There are many more open issues detailed in mine and others’ reviews at http://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/16/3761/2016/acp-16-3761-2016-discussion.html

The sea-level rise is prescribed and not predicted

The authors prescribe an extreme freshwater hosing (pumping of fresh water) into the sub-polar oceans. Hence the extreme short-term sea-level rise is not a prediction arising from the model at all, and assertions to the contrary are patently false. The authors basically give up on ice-sheet processes in climate models or even ice sheet models and decide to play what-if with some, in my view, poorly physically justified assumptions.

It is important to stress that there is therefore no rigourosly physically justified mecanism or basis underlying the posited multi-metre sea-level rise. They basically assume you start off adding one olympic swimming pool today, two tomorrow, four the next day etc. then when they determine they have added enough swimming pools of water they switch it off.

This is meant to approximate large-scale ice-sheet disintegration of Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets that are posited to add a huge volume of water on a short multi-decadal period. Such pulses have occured in the past, but primarily to my knowledge when trasitioning from glacial to interglacial and presumably associated with the disintegration of the much more unstable Laurentide and Eurasian ice sheets. Antarctica and Greenland have remained ice caps whilst these other giant ice sheets have come and gone. There is therefore evidence the present ice sheets are much more stable. You’d have to look to colleagues who provided comments for further clarification though.

That said, West Antarctic is unstable, and we almost certainly have passed a tipping point that will see eventual c.8m rise but the scientific literature generally suggests this shall be a multi-century process. East Antarcic and Greenland have a few retrograde bedding outlet glaciers that with water intrusion could surge in the short term. But they are a bit like funnels draining huge areas and therefore the potential rate of addition will quickly become constricted as a result. A short term acceleration would not likely be a precursor to continued acceleration posited by the authors based upon current understanding of ice sheet dynamics. Reviewers more expert than I pointed these issues (and the lack of perceived realism) out but to my judgement were never adequately addressed.

I therefore see the claimed multi-metre sea-level rise as not a prediction and their characterisation as such is at best unfortunate. The fresh water injection is simply a prescribed forcing of the model system. The authors have no robust basis and ample comments on the record associated with the review calling into considerable doubt the verity of the underlying assumptions. So, the central headline of multi-metre sea-level is probably best considered an assumption instead of a prediction.

The hosing experiments also have an issue that the water is injected into the Oceans at -15C, which you can do in a model. I could inject water at absolute zero if I wished (although the model might, admittedly, crash). But in the real-world the water will be added at or close to -1.8C or higher. It is an open question whether this step is valid to approximate ice calving effect, and how it impacts the model predictions (more, again, on that later).

The Boulder deposit is at least as plausibly tsunami-mediated

One of the most eye-catching aspects of the paper was the apparently storm tossed relic boulders atop a current day cliff that was used to support an assertion of increased storminess in the Eemian. There is little doubting the boulder deposit was wave mediated and whilst there is some uncertainty inherent in dating it was at or around the late Eemian maximum. What is highly uncertain is that the waves were storm driven. These boulders were likely well in excess of 1,000 tonnes and i) dislodged from the sea-floor then ii) raised 20 metres. The amount of energy required to do this is tremendous. There are likely only a few places in the world where meteorologically driven waves get large enough to do this and in the modern climate the location is definitively not one of these. Wave power is a function of windspeed, fetch and duration. It is only really in mid-latitude locations, such as the west coast of Ireland, where such waves can plausibly occur. In the tropical locations although wind speed can be considerably higher fetch and duration are both limited. A local point tsunami which may have also led to local uplift (hence reducing the work required) as mentioned by expert reviewers is at least as likely.

The largest impacts go almost unmentioned

From an impacts perspective the biggest impact is not the sea-level rise at all. The model runs show very large perturbations to, in particular, northern hemisphere climate in the mid-21st Century. Basically many areas in Europe in particular enter a period at least as cold if not colder than the little ice age. The associated rainfall changes are equally as impressive. This would lead to large-scale challenges around provision of food, services etc. for global society and large-scale disruption of ecosystems. It is also entirely opposite to the direction of climate change that policy makers are currently planning for on this timescale. If (and in case you haven’t twigged this yet that is an extremely big if in my expert judgement) the paper hypothesis were to eventuate, we’d have made massively incorrect adaptation decisions and investments and it would have large-scale implications for society.

Change of title

The original title was:
“Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 ◦C global warming is highly dangerous”

and became:
“Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 ◦C global warming could be dangerous”

This change has been variously discussed e.g. here amongst many others. I see no way that the original title could remain given:

  • The speculative nature of the freshwater injection (amount, rate and method)
  • Open questions over interpretation of the supporting observational and in particular palaeo-evidence and its interpretation
  • The non-deterministic nature of the climate system
  • The fact that the findings contravene accepted science based upon many decades of research and publications by many respected and established groups and individuals

The title was (and has to be) a reflection upon the paper contents and not on whether 2C does or does not reflect dangerous interference with the climate system. Those who willingly or unwittingly conflate these two issues are falling into a very obvious and dangerous (no pun intended) logic trap. The title should reflect the paper and not be a position statement upon whether some nominal departure from pre-industrial is safe or not. The two are completely seperate issues. To answer the second requires a holistic assessment of the totality of evidence for impacts of various thresholds on subcomponents of the Earth System. For that you want to wade through IPCC WG2 (book a few days out to do so) and not a single paper! The editor was entirely correct in that context to follow reviewer advice and insist on the change. To not do so would have been to discount the points raised above and have been extremely foolhardy.

Reception

Here I shall just concentrate, briefly, upon the reception to the revised paper published this week. There is an interesting twitter thread here (see also here) on how two journalists came to polar opposite views. Obviously, I agree with Seth Borenstein’s position here. Indeed, possibly the worst piece of journalism on the paper that dispensed with even any pretence of scientific balance was the piece at Slate. If you have got this far firstly congratulations and secondly you should be well sensitized to the fact that peer review is an imperfect filter. Being published does not make it part of a scientific ‘canon’ and nor should science be conflated with religion in such a manner (actually, at all).

Elsewhere I’ve seen pieces in the Washington Post and several other places that provide a degree of balance. Climatehome ran a nice piece after a phone interview. The Guardian has also decided to dispense pretty much entirely with balance. Twitter has been somewhat ‘fun’.

Some of the articles, discussions and discourse have shown up a small number of the people supporting the paper to be no better in terms of behaviour, conspiracy theorising or reasoned logic than those on the opposite side of the aisle. Science works by a slow, deliberative methodical process. Single papers do not overturn received wisdom. Nor do blog articles (this one included) or comments below the line in various fora. A lot more light and a lot less heat is needed.

And people wonder why many of my colleagues are in general reticent to wade into the wider public debate …

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179 Responses to Reblog: On Hansen et al.

  1. I’ve checked with Peter if he’d like me to direct the comments to his original post and he seems quite happy for there to be comments here. However, there are already some comments on Peter’s original post, so maybe use some judgement. There are probably some discussions that would be better there, and others that would be more suited to being here.

  2. Hansen is out of control. Is there no one that he is prepared to listen to? Possibly someone bald and notoriously sexy. Because if not, people will stop listening to him. Would you want to be part of his “paper writing team”?

  3. WMC,
    This whole episode has seemed rather odd and, no, I don’t think I would like to be part of his paper writing team.

  4. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Neither bald nor sexy – the mysterious ATTP in his own words.

  5. Neither bald nor sexy – the mysterious ATTP in his own words.

    It may be true, but I don’t think I’ve ever said it 😉

  6. > Discussion papers on EGU journal sites are not peer reviewed articles and do not therefore constitute scientific papers.

    Sigh.

    Scientists should remove ontological arguments from their ClimateBall playbook.

  7. > Scientific peer review has a set of norms that you respond to the issues raised in a calm and measured manner including point-by-point responses that detail whether changes were made, what these were, and why.

    This begs to be shown false, e.g.:

  8. JCH says:

    Makiko Sato
    Paul Hearty
    Reto Ruedy
    Maxwell Kelley
    Valerie Masson-Delmotte
    Gary Russell
    George Tselioudis
    Junji Cao
    Eric Rignot
    Isabella Velicogna
    Evgeniya Kandiano
    Karina von Schuckmann
    Pushker Kharecha
    Allegra N. Legrande
    Michael Bauer
    Kwak-Wai Lo

    Have any of the above co-authors said anything publicly about the paper?

  9. JCH,
    Not that I’m aware of, which I had wondered about. Surprised they’ve all apparently been quite silent.

  10. > My view is that the authors treated many of the reviews as a nuisance and did not provide the response that was justified to them that allowed the reviewers to fully understand how each of their review comments was dealt with.

    I’ve read the word “nuisance” elsewhere, but where? Ah, yes, here:

    The publicity was successful in drawing attention to issues that the paper highlights, notably the threat of large sea level rise. Criticism that it got too much attention seems clearly wrong. Would it have been better to keep the process and issues hidden from the public while they were being worked out? The only argument presented for that conclusion is that the publicity resulted in some irrational (bad science) comments from climate change “deniers”. Is there harm in that? On the contrary, it shows a disinterested judge or observer that all opinions are given a hearing. Yes, a few may be of low scientific quality and thus a nuisance, but the public probably wants all to be heard. When an editor cuts off such discussion after it becomes an excessive nuisance, a judge can readily verify that fact and affirm that all parties had a fair opportunity.

    http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/15/C8226/2015/acpd-15-C8226-2015-supplement.pdf

  11. Willard,

    Scientists should remove ontological arguments from their ClimateBall playbook.

    Why only scientists?

  12. Anders,

    Interesting “insider’s” view of how peer-review typically works and why Thorne is … uncomfortable … with media portrayals of the paper and Hansen’s handling of its various critiques. To be clear, I have not and would not argue that scientists cannot or should not be advocates for/against policy on the basis of their own science. Part of the argument here seems to be that this particular paper inappropriately blurs the distinction. Thanks for this post, as I don’t normally follow Thorne (so much to follow!) I might not have otherwise read his thought-provoking and reasonable opinions.

  13. > Why only scientists?

    Good point. Perhaps not only scientists, but scientists in particular. Here are a few reasons why I find this kind of meta-commentary suboptimal.

    First, some are paid to study ontological arguments, e.g. Peter Simons.

    Second, we’re on the Internet and we now have things like ArXiV and even AT’s.

    Third, there are people who study peer-review:

    Research on bias in peer review examines scholarly communication and funding processes to assess the epistemic and social legitimacy of the mechanisms by which knowledge communities vet and self-regulate their work. Despite vocal concerns, a closer look at the empirical and methodological limitations of research on bias raises questions about the existence and extent of many hypothesized forms of bias. In addition, the notion of bias is predicated on an implicit ideal that, once articulated, raises questions about the normative implications of research on bias in peer review. This review provides a brief description of the function, history, and scope of peer review; articulates and critiques the conception of bias unifying research on bias in peer review; characterizes and examines the empirical, methodological, and normative claims of bias in peer review research; and assesses possible alternatives to the status quo. We close by identifying ways to expand conceptions and studies of bias to contend with the complexity of social interactions among actors involved directly and indirectly in peer review.

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260409966_Bias_in_peer_review

  14. Prof. Thorne writes:“The whole process was as if we had fallen through Alice’s looking glass. The paper was trumpeted at a major news conference several days before the discussion paper was even published online and available for review. ……This deliberate publicity surrounding a discussion paper (which to my knowledge is unique) led to unprecedented interest in the paper.”

    The impression left is that this is a bad thing and it’s not obvious to me why. Interest in science, unprecedented or otherwise, I should think would be welcomed.

  15. Willard,

    As usual, you and Anders both give me a lot to absorb in one sitting. Here is some stream of consciousness of points I’m trying to sort:

    1) Ontological arguments stated as immutable objective and universal qualities is a common tactic in ClimateBall.
    2) Harkening back to its inspiration, the rules of ClimateBall change unilaterally as needed to fit the argument of the moment.
    3) (2) violates the (commonly held) principle that ontologies should be internally consistent.
    4) Recursion is a bitch when it unwittingly leads to self-refutation.
    5) Ontologies are inherently self-defined. Professionally designed (or reviewed) ontologies might be due more weight, but human nature is to hold diverse normative opinions.

    What shakes out of that jumble is that Thorne justifiably wants published science to be as rigorously precise, and dispassionately objective and comprehensive as possible. From that it follows that peer-review of same should follow the same principles.

    Boiling down Thorne’s critiques and stating them perhaps more bluntly, I’m getting;

    1) Hansen et al. (2016) is emotionally overwrought.
    2) The paper presents nightmare scenarios as if they are not (perhaps unlikely) possibilities which prudence suggest are to be avoided, but all but inevitable consequences of not acting to mitigate CO2 emissions.
    3) Hansen’s rebuttals to such critiques have evaded specific critiques which Thorne thinks are substantive and should have been addressed specifically and dispassionately.

    TL;DR: it wasn’t a good paper as originally submitted and hasn’t much improved in response to constructively critical review. I don’t disagree with that, but then again, I wrote it — not Thorne. His main conclusion seems to be:

    A lot more light and a lot less heat is needed.

    Which violates physical principles, but I’m amenable to the message.

  16. Willard, PS;

    Perhaps not only scientists, but scientists in particular. Here are a few reasons why I find this kind of meta-commentary suboptimal.

    It took me two readings and some thinking for me to grok the nuance of “only scientists” vs. “particularly scientists”. That argument would settle better if we were more specific about scope, e.g., literature itself should only state what can be confidently asserted or reasonably supposed (within stated uncertainty) on the basis of the givens. Let editorializing on particular take place in a different context. Hence Hansen would be ok to write in a published paper, “This particular evidence/model suggests a possibility of greater sea-level rise than the majority of other literature.” Then in popular press, it’s fine for him to say, “To avoid even the possibility of the thin tail being fatter than most literature suggests, the prudent thing to do is not find out empirically.”

    My previous comment, much longer, stuck in moderation likely because I used a bad word. When it pops out, I hope it supports the reasoning behind the above paragraph.

  17. I released your last comment, Brandon.

    Peter entitled his post “On Hansen et al.” His post is not mainly on Hansen et al. It’s about how the authors mistreated his commentary.

    Instead of simply stating what points the authors failed to address, he used the oldest trick in the auditing sciences: the “you be the judge” card. Which means that his standpoint rests on an argument that is absent from his editorial. It’s the only argument that matters if we’re concerned about the trace of a scientific exchange.

    Opining on what is peer review, as you have noted, is another trick to hide an appeal to an ought. Thus, according to Peter, Jim failed what shoulda-woulda-coulda always been peer-review.

    There’s a worse appeal than that, actually: the “we give our time.” This appeal omits the fact that the reviewers are tenured. It’s part of their freaking job description. From greater tenure power comes greater responsibility to review.

    While I have every reason to be thankful for Peter’s concerns and even think there are merits to them, the whole academic backbiting is just a little too much for my own taste.

    “No wonder,” to borrow Peter’s phrasing, that people leave academia.

    ***

    As far as I’m concerned, science is mostly crap. Hansen’s paper is crap, Thorne’s comment is crap, and the whole charade of commentaries around them is crap.

    As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing wrong with that. On the contrary. The more crappy science will become, the better it will become. If you like the voice of someone who thinks he’s the next Feynman, you could speak of anti-fragility. If you prefer a rather mundane viewpoint on how technology changes our view of quality, think IKEA.

    We all want better science, and to have better science, we need faster, cheaper, and crappier science. All we have is crappier and crappier science, so we might as well embrace it.

    Let’s all embrace scientific crappiness.

    If you prefer something more professional, then there are people who do something called editing and whose living depends on not wasting 10 man hours on choosing a freaking title.

  18. MikeH says:

    Climatehome ran a nice piece after a phone interview.

    Hardly. It is primarily insider gossip masquerading as science reporting.

    I initially thought that this click bait tweet promoting it was for a new post at a climate crank blog
    >Hansen accused of unprofessional behaviour and alarmism in review of latest climate paper:

    Read the article. The only time the word “alarmism” is actually mentioned in the article itself is in this sentence.

    Valerie Masson-Delmotte, one of the co-authors, told Climate Home: “For me, the most interesting part is not this sort of alarmist presentation, what is interesting is this is addressing a key unknown. It is the part that is related to the interplay between the ice sheets and the oceans.”

    It is never actually made clear what Valerie is referring to.

    I have read quite a few good accounts of the paper that focus on the science and include lots of critical commentary from other climate scientists.

    That was not one of them.

  19. Ethan Allen says:

    Willard,

    PT’s take is spot on. The authors answered politely the very easy to address Denierville nonsense.

    However, when certain reviewers asked rather tough questions, IMHO the authors tone changed dramatically.

    (1) The hosing is NOT implicitly coupled to any temperature response whatsoever. That’s just a hard fact.

    (2) The Bahamas are a very unique coastal environment, specifically with regards to the bathymetry at Glass Window Bridge and the giant boulders (e. g. The Cow & Bull and Twin Sisters) that exist there (North Eleuthera). Two rather large shoals exist on either side of perhaps the sharpest depression to deep water in the Bahamas, the shoreface is concave (both in the horizontal and vertical). Long story short? No author on that paper displayed any knowledge whatsoever with respect to offshore to onshore behaviors of any type of water wave environment. Specifically with regards to moments and forces on layered sedimentary rock with recurved and hollowed out compartments.

    There is a rather wide ranging debate in the technical literature at this very moment (and the last decade or so) on tsunami versus storm surge water waves and I can only state that IMHO I currently favor tsunamis as the somewhat more likely candidate (p > 0.5)

  20. > PT’s take is spot on. The authors answered politely the very easy to address Denierville nonsense.

    That’s not even PT’s take:

    This included many off-topic comments including a long thread on the existence of the greenhouse effect. Ironically, this was one of the better responded to comments by the authors (more later …).

    The “more later” is more or less missing from what follows. From what follows, most would be flagged on MattOverflow as argumentative: the discussion of the title (which has been changed anyway and serves to vindicate his own commentary to that effect), the reception (which mostly contains +1s), and in fact most of the “peer-review process observations” (which I’ve already discussed). Even the scientific content contains opinions that are not backed up by Peter’s own authority.

    Speaking of scientific content, I fail to see how the original title rests on a deterministic assumption. Take a non-deterministic system NDS; posit you can provide evidence of the dangerosity of NDS. Why the hell can’t you say NDS is dangerous? Perhaps it’s a vocabulary thing.

    ***

    > However, when certain reviewers asked rather tough questions, IMHO the authors tone changed dramatically.

    It should be easy to show, then. That would not be a first. In the end, the editor decides, not reviewers. And certainly not scientific Monday quarterbacks who can’t even distinguish reviewing and editing.

    And then people wonder why the whole peer-reviewed system is broken…

    PS: In case anyone’s new here: yes, I will finish each one of my comments on this thread with one innuendo like that. I believe as much in vicariant learning as in tit for tat.

  21. Ethan Allen says:

    Willand,

    I read most of those reviews the same day Hansen posted them, specifically, in a flurry at the end. I know what I read and I know the different, rather dismissive tone of that final flurry of responses. Hansen even stated that he would provide a more substantive response to PT’s review, AFAIK that never happened.

    I have widely given my technical opinions before today and I gave them during the discussion phase, so that ball was in play at that time.

    I know you are trying very hard from a semantics/syntax POV, but PT has given us all both his personal and technical opinions. That much I do know.

    As to this quote …

    “And then people wonder why the whole peer-reviewed system is broken…”

    What am I to make of it? That’s supposed to be the SOP Deniersville refrain. 😦

  22. oarobin says:

    Since the post above seems to mostly based on Dr. Thorne
    december 6, 2015 review,
    i think the discussions would benefit from adding Dr. Hansen
    february 16, 2016 author’s response.

    as a teaser:

    Dr. Thorne

    The sea-level rise is prescribed and not predicted
    I therefore see the claimed multi-metre sea-level rise as not a prediction and their characterisation as such is at best unfortunate. The fresh water injection is simply a prescribed forcing of the model system. The authors have no robust basis and ample comments on the record associated with the review calling into considerable doubt the verity of the underlying assumptions. So, the central headline of multi-metre sea-level is probably best considered an assumption instead of a prediction.

    not in disagreemnt with the above but clarfied in the paper
    Dr. Hansen

    First, regarding use of 5, 10 and 20 year doubling time for freshwater input in our numerical experiments: we do not say that we believe ice melt growth at a 5-year doubling is likely to occur. We and others (including IPCC) are interested most in the 21st century, and freshwater injection with a 40-year doubling
    time would yield little response in the 21st century while increasing our computing requirements. Even though 5-year doubling may be unrealistic it is useful because it lets us bracket the empirical ~10 year doubling time and lets us show that much of the simulated response is not sensitive to this rate – instead it depends more on total freshwater amount (1 or 5 m of sea level) not on the 5, 10 or 20 year doubling rate.

    Background explanation of stratification, thermohaline circulation, −15°C (heat of fusion), etc.:
    Several questions raised by R3 are useful in revealing that we did not do a good job in explaining several aspects of our investigation. Now, in Section 2 (Background information and organization of paper) we added the paragraph to explain our strategy re hypothesizing nonlinear melt and then examining whether
    there are feedbacks that would support it. Immediately following that paragraph we add a paragraph discussing the basic effect that we are investigating, the stratification tendency in the polar oceans caused by adding freshwater, i.e., we explain what we mean by stratification and its effect on vertical mixing.
    We also improve our discussion of ocean circulation in connection with the ocean diagram (Fig. 22), as requested by R3. It helps us in explaining why we think ocean mixing is so important, why we suspect that ocean mixing is not well represented in many ocean models, and the possible implications of that,
    especially early shutdown of SMOC and AMOC with all the implications that would have.

    Dr. Thorne

    The hosing experiments also have an issue that the water is injected into the Oceans at -15C, which you can do in a model. I could inject water at absolute zero if I wished (although the model might, admittedly, crash). But in the real-world the water will be added at or close to -1.8C or higher. It is an open question whether this step is valid to approximate ice calving effect, and how it impacts the model predictions (more, again, on that later).

    Dr. Hansen

    Second, we may not have made it clear enough in the paper how and why we used meltwater at −15°C, which, as explained here, is a very conservative estimate of the immediate cooling effect of the meltwater. Of course there is never any water at −15°C in the model. The injected freshwater is mixed as a first step
    into the upper three ocean layers, so the −15°C water only slightly reduces the temperature of those layers. The reason for using a low temperature for the injected water is that, in the real world, part of the injection is in the form of icebergs. Prior to the simulations in the present paper, with a model that did not yet include the corrections to the ocean model described in section 3.1 of our paper, we did experiments with the injected water being much colder, so as to account for the heat of fusion of ice, i.e., the fact that melting 1 g of ice requires about 80 cal ~ 335 J of energy. However, we found that the larger effect of freshwater injection, even on ocean temperature, was caused by the density decrease of the ocean mixed layer due to the freshwater, i.e., the main effect of the freshwater was caused by its lower density not its lower temperature. Future detailed studies should include this direct cooling due to ice melt (heat of fusion) but proper modeling will require estimating the fraction of freshwater that enters the ocean as icebergs and either tracking the iceberg movement or estimating the area where iceberg melting occurs

    Dr. Thorne

    The Boulder deposit is at least as plausibly tsunami-mediated

    Dr. Hansen

    However, others have suggested that we might be better off by dropping the “boulder” part of the paper. It is surprising to many people that waves could throw a 1000-ton boulder onto a ridge more than 15 m above current sea level. Given that the boulder story is somewhat tangential to the main conclusions of our paper, would it be better to omit that part of the story, or say that we are not sure whether the boulders were thrown by a storm or by a tsunami, while emphasizing the other evidence for strong end-Eemian
    storm? No, in part for a special reason explained below, we think it is better to note that the simpler interpretation is that all the features – boulders, chevron ridges, runup deposits – are more concisely and logically explained as storm-produced., while also noting that it is possible that the combination of two phenomena (storms and an independent tsunami for the boulders) would also be consistent with the observed facts, even though this dual explanation is more tortuous and even though there is no evidence elsewhere in the Bahamas or on the U.S. East Coast supporting the occurrence of an end-Eemian tsunami.

  23. izen says:

    Shorter Thorne…
    The Hanson et al paper was made worse by seeking and getting unprecedented wide attention at the discussion stage. The paper was weakened by the unpolite and dismissive tone of the response to some informed reviewers. The paper was improved by the change in title we suggested.

    I would disagree with all three points. It would not have been better if it had engaged a much smaller audience. It was strengthened by the polite correction of wrong science, AND a robust response to reviewers who accepted the science but quibbled with the conclusions. Changing the title from an assertion to a question is a negative outcome of the review/discussion process.

    What PT observes as flaws are features. Those rejecting mainstream climate science often claim that the science threatens CATASTROPHIC AGW. The Hanson et al paper is the first that comes close to fitting that claim. It shows how CAGW is uncertain, and unlikely, but physically possible and scientifically credible.

    It is a Cassandra paper, putting down ITYS markers on future climate developments. It uses possible science to shift the framing away from True/False toward a more accurate question of Bad/Worse.

  24. oarobin says:

    sorry, incorrect link, that should be
    Dr. Hansen
    february 05, 2016 author’s response.

  25. I think there are a lot of issue here, none of which are obvious.

    1) Is there a code of conduct when undertaking, or responding to, peer review?

    In principle there is an expectation of reasonable behaviour, and certainly editors can intervene if necessary. Mostly people do conduct themselves reasonably, but I have – on occasion – had somewhat tetchy exchanges and on the few occasions that an author doesn’t respond to all the points, I’ve simply the re-review straight back asking them to respond in full. Of course, this is not in public, so this is probably harder if it’s all open.

    2) Is open peer review a way to go?

    I don’t know what I think of this. I almost never post my papers onto a pre-print server until they’re published. I work to the basis that until it’s undergone review it shouldn’t be available. Others disagree. They think openness could lead to more reviews and the potential for finding and correcting more issues. As happened here, though, this could mean publicity before it’s completed review and I don’t see how can avoid this if we go the open peer review route. Of course, this particular circumstance is probably unusual as most papers would simply not have this impact.

    3) Peer review isn’t really some kind of stamp of authority.

    As is clear here, a number of the reviewers still disagree with aspects of the paper. However, it’s been published. This is fine, the reviewers do not make the final decision and it’s the editor that gets to decide. It’s maybe good for people to see this and to realise that the peer-review process is simply a check and a way for an editor to get advice.

    4) Why don’t more of Peter’s colleagues wade into the public debate.

    This is a more interesting point. I guess Peter’s arguing that the various to and fros about this paper would discourage others from engaging publicly. My guess is that this isn’t really a very big reason and that a bigger reason is how they could be attacked by those who’d rather spread misinformation than by those who simply disagree about something mainstream, but I might be wrong.

  26. I meant to also add that Peter’s post makes it’s quite clear that there are a number of scientific issues with the paper that remain despite being highlighted by the reviewers. As I said, the reviewers are really advisors but, normally, there would be an attempt to resolve these issues and it does surprise me that this appears not to even have been tried.

  27. Peter Thorne says:

    Interesting set of thoughts. I don’t have time right now to respond to them all. But I would like to correct an apparent perception that I am doing this out of having some personal axe to grind based upon my review. I’m a big boy and can take the way my own review was handled. Having published almost 70 papers I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of peer review and had far more bruising encounters from both sides (although I’d never written 32 pp before for sure!). But never one quite so weird for sure.

    From a purely selfish viewpoint I was being increasingly requested for comment by folks and I rather wanted to be able to spend at least part of the long Easter weekend with my kids. So, posting something on the record made sense.

    I am far more upset on behalf of the numerous reviewers who were not requested to undertake a review and yet still stepped up to the plate. Their input should be the real celebrated input here. There were many apposite, insightful reviews amongst the dragonslayer dross that it was a magnet to.

    I am also concerned that the public framing does not reflect the paper and its caveats.

    I also should make clear that the final paper is far better than the original and as commenters have pointed out does acknowledge many of the issues raised. For example, at least during review the tsunami mediated possibility was added and discussed. However, more learned colleagues in this area who I communicated with still feel that the interpretation of the boulders given is over-egged. Overall, peer review clearly worked though in terms of better ordering, caveating, explaining etc., and I restate I support the Editor in making a decision to publish based upon their interpretation of the totality of communications they had to hand.

  28. Peter,
    Thanks for the comment. Enjoy the Easter weekend 🙂

  29. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    “The Dutch can migrate to Switzerland, after all.”

    😀

    Take that, you aptly-named reviewer Drijfhout!

    (does anyone know if someone from that reviewer group has done a blog somewhere on this topic?)

  30. dikranmarsupial says:

    “I work to the basis that until it’s undergone review it shouldn’t be available.”

    I agree with this. My main reservation about open peer review is that if my reviews are published then I would feel the need to work almost as hard on them as I do on my own papers to make sure that they are free from error, which would take time that I simply don’t have. With the increase in the number of journals, there just are already not enough competent reviewers to go round, and open review (which makes the job more time consuming) is likely to reduce the quality of all but the top tier. Peer review should be viewed as just a moderately reliable basic sanity check and nothing more. Of course it actually is more, but we shouldn’t rely on any more than that when we read a paper. Publication is the first step to acceptance, not the last, and making papers available prior to publication seems to be sidestepping even that basic sanity check.

    Really the authors should try and get the most out of peer review that they can. ISTR some paper on peer review saying that we are being given for free the time and energy of experts who’s time and energy we could not afford to buy, and glib responses to their criticisms is squandering a valuable resource. When we *write* a paper it is not a basic sanity check, it is help and advice from reviewers who are trying to help us (largely that is actually true, even when they are our competitors).

  31. I agree. I’ve never had a critical review that didn’t end up improving the paper, even if the reviewer was – IMO – wrong.

  32. semyorka says:

    At 5m sea level rise Peterborough and Cambridge become coastal towns. The costs of preparing for 5 metres in incredible. People entering the public debate with predictions of such rises and the press on reporting such predictions have a pretty serious duty to ensure the public are being made fully aware of the likelihoods involved.

  33. MartinM says:

    I think I’ll leave the scientific content of the paper to those more qualified to discuss it, but there are two points I will comment on. One, if the response to Drijfhout et al. really is the most egregious example, then this is a superstorm in a teapot. Yes, it was snarky. No, it’s not how I would have written it. But none of the snark was gratuitous; it made a point.

    Two, the title as initially written was entirely appropriate and correct. The objections would have had merit had the title been simply “2 degC warming is highly dangerous”. It was not. “Evidence…that 2 degC warming is highly dangerous” makes it perfectly clear that the proposition “2 degC warming is highly dangerous” is contingent on the evidence presented, not an absolute fact. Objections based on the notion that ‘dangerous’ or ‘highly dangerous’ are not rigorously defined are also without merit. Scientists are actually allowed to use plain language when appropriate. Go flag down some random passers-by, describe the worst-case scenario outlined in the paper, and ask them if that sounds ‘highly dangerous’ to them. How many do you think would say no?

  34. dikranmarsupial says:

    I have only had a brief look through the open review documents, but there looks to be a lot of it, so I think it is reasonable to make some allowances for attrition. While peer-review does have expectations, responding to criticism constructively requires effort and some suppression of human nature, which is likely to become more difficult as the process drags on.

  35. Willard says:

    > What am I to make of it? That’s supposed to be the SOP Deniersville refrain.

    Guilt by association much, Ethan?

    Contrarians are not alone in holding that peer-review is broken. They are not alone either in holding that claim for the wrong reasons. There are however good reasons to believe that the whole publishing system should be revised.

    Please don’t get me started on that. I too have Easter duties. Not that it’s unrelated to what appears to be the main issue of this ClimateBall episode which, in the end, is more about the editor than anything. The two main questions are: what are reviewers to do when the editor fails to enforce their comments, and what editorial latitude should be given to scientific authors in the conclusion of their papers.

    As for your “semantic” jab, please count the number of words that have been written about a single adjective in a title and report.

    ***

    > My main reservation about open peer review is that if my reviews are published then I would feel the need to work almost as hard on them as I do on my own papers to make sure that they are free from error, which would take time that I simply don’t have.

    This consideration could be used against against reviewing in general, or at least how it has been valued in the academic economy. Dropping the distinction between writing reviews and writing papers may solve that problem. It’s possible to publish reviews and to make them count as citations.

  36. dikranmarsupial says:

    Willard yes, reviews could be incentivised so that the time spent on them was more easily justified, but I suspect that will only end up deepening the division between top tier journals and the rest (as the incentives will probably be greater for reviews for top tier journals) and there will still be an even greater shortage of competent reviewers for the lesser journals. There is also the point that few of us enjoy writing reviews; I suspect most scientists would rather spend their time pursuing their own line of research and view reviewing as an important duty rather than something to enjoy. I suspect the effort required for peer-reviewing at the moment is probably a reasonable compromise for the benefits that it does give. I think open review mainly makes sure that peer-review is seen to be objective/fair rather than actually making it objective/fair, so its benefit for science itself is less obvious (at least to me).

    Having reviews published and counted as citations sounds a bit like comments papers ought to be, and I think scientific publishing would be improved if there were incentives for comments papers, which serve a really useful purpose in science. It generally isn’t feasible to reproduce the results of a paper as part of peer-review, so often problems with ideas are not really evidence until someone takes the time to investigate the issues a bit more thoroughly (as was the case in one of the three/four comments papers I have written, two of the papers should not have passed peer review as the errors were identifiable at the time of peer-review). I think this is an area where open review would be really useful, it would be great if there were a system where the comment paper could be written openly, with the discussion between the authors of the original paper and of the comment there for all to see. Something like overleaf.com but with a discussion board.

    Personally I don’t think there is that much wrong with peer-review, but with peoples expectations of what it is supposed to achieve. We shouldn’t assume that a paper is correct just because it has passed peer review. Once it has been published for a few years and other scientists have used the idea and cited it, then we can be a bit more confident. Once other scientists have replicated it and found it works for them as well, even more so. Peer review is a low hurdle, it is only a basic sanity check, but at least it is a hurdle. That is why a peer reviewed paper is more reliable than an unreviewed pre-print, or a blog article that hasn’t even managed to get over the low hurdle yet. But that is only more reliable, rather than just “reliable”.

  37. Ethan Allen says:

    Willard,

    “Guilt by association much, Ethan?” No.

    “Contrarians are not alone in holding that peer-review is broken. They are not alone either in holding that claim for the wrong reasons. There are however good reasons to believe that the whole publishing system should be revised.”

    Here’s half a strawman for you. The contrarians think peer review is broken at the Science and Nature and PNAS level. You think the whole publishing system should be revised or some such. I think peer review will always be flawed and I have held that thought for over three decades now.

    Not to be too obvious, but this was an open review, warts and what all, all actors knew this going in.

    Note, I left out the word peer, as there wasn’t a single tsunami or wind/wave/surge or sea level rise expert involved (most certainly not in that list of 19 authors as I’ve already chased that one down).

    The editor chose to publish, I very much welcomed that decision Not much more can be said given the journal location and the rather limited set of inputs from the various reviewers. IMHO the paper was meant to be thought provoking. It certainly was, is and will be, in my case at least. I actually would like to have seen the AP carry a story, so that it would reach the widest technical audience possible.

    This could even be a paradigm changing paper.

  38. Writing a review for one of the EGU open-review journals is normally easier than for other journals. This is because the manuscripts are typically of a much higher standard to start with.

    For other journals I sometimes have the feeling that the authors submitted a manuscript too early, maybe because they wanted to write in their final project report or in a research proposal that a paper was submitted. Such bad manuscripts do not go to an open-review journal where everyone could read them and the devastating reviews and the reputation damage would be higher.

    Professional language helps to think clearer. Emotional language makes is easier not to notice gaps in the argumentation or make it easier to hide that the essential points of the reviewers have not been answered.

    The real problem with the title is not whether the future climate is highly dangerous or could be dangerous, it is that dangerous is not a scientific description of the state of the climate system. It is a value judgement. It is fine when Hansen wants to use such terms in communicating with the public, but I would rather not have activist language in the scientific literature.

    It is nice when a scientific article can be read by the public, but they are not written for the general public. We have the mass media and blogs to communicate with the public.

  39. I am wondering if Hansen is more alarmed at being described as “out of control. Is there no one that he is prepared to listen to?” by William Connolley, or at Judith Curry’s characterization of him as a “fellow maverick” (as reported in NYT, link below).
    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/25/a-rocky-first-review-for-a-climate-paper-warning-of-a-stormy-coastal-crisis/?_r=0

    Most of the discussion of PT’s Post on ATTP, and social media generally, is about the process of publication and peer review as it has to do with the science per se (although at least 50% of PT’s post is on the content).

    Knowing that abrupt climate change is something that has happened in the past (and Weart documents the history of that realisation), and also appreciating limitations in the current understanding of the behaviour of the great ice sheets under projected warming, Hansen is simply suggesting we ought to explore some plausible albeit extreme scenarios.

    Even if this is regarded merely as a kind of thought experiment, it is a worthwhile exercise surely to explore these scenarios.

    If it is wrong, then fine, no sweat, someone else can pick up the baton and do a better job. That’s science, right?

    No one (here at least) is suggesting we should ignore these extreme scenarios or imply they are off limits because there are too many imponderables. After all, Peter Clark at al.’s paper “Consequences of twenty-first-century policy for multi-millennial climate and sea-level change” (Nature Climate Change 6, 360–369 (2016) laid out the very long-term risks of short-term inaction.

    Is it such a big jump to explore whether non-linearities in ice sheet behaviour may realise those risks on a more rapid timescale than anyone thought?

    Ruth Mottram and Richard Alley provided responses to Eric Holthaus – both being sceptical of, but not dismissive of, the results – were reported in his Slate article of 22nd March 2016 as follows:


    In an email to Slate, Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist who was skeptical of the initial draft, calls the final study “considerably improved.” Mottram, who specializes in studying the Greenland ice sheet, said “the scenario they sketch out is implausible, though perhaps not impossible … it’s frankly terrifying.”

    Richard Alley, a key figure in the polar research community, also gave the Hansen study cautious praise. “It usefully reminds us that large and rapid changes are possible,” Alley said in an email, and that “uncertainties are clearly loaded on the “bad” side.” Alley stressed, though, that the Hansen result was only a single study, and wasn’t detailed enough to be used as a firm prediction.

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/03/22/james_hansen_sea_level_rise_climate_warning_passes_peer_review.html

    This indicated that Hansen et al. had listened to at least some review comments – even reorganising the paper to better explain the line of reasoning – albeit not satisfying everyone and irritating others.

    It is somewhat ironic that most of the flak arises from the way that Hansen has handled the process of open (moderated) review of the paper, but the flak is not arriving via the (open, unmoderated) social media, rather than via a paper. I am sure this irony is not lost on Hansen.

  40. “the flak is arriving via …” grrr

  41. Scientists should remove ontological arguments from their ClimateBall playbook.

    haha somebody died and made willard ref of the world.

    I’d suggest willard should do something, but the suggestion would be self defeating.

    Better would be to demonstrate how thorne can achieve the same end without recourse to ontological arguments… if they exist

  42. Chris says:

    I’m OK with this whole episode much in the same way that I’m fine with the “arsenic can replace phosphorus in DNA” Science paper episode. Science can accommodate occasional less standard approaches to publishing and ultimately these episodes can be both instructive and advance their respective scientific fields.

    Hansen and his co-authors are attempting to project scenarios arising from global warming effects on ice sheet dynamics and its consequences. So it covers broad areas of climate science which is rather different from more normal scientific papers which tend to focus on interpretations arising from inspection of a narrower set of data (these particular gas measurements in this particular ice core; this particular set of paleotemperature proxies etc.). Where it’s likely to be useful is in refocussing some more “normal” scientific analysis on the sub-elements of the broad range of evidences and interpretations that underlie the Hansen scenarios. So this might stimulate better evidence about mega-storms vs tsunami’s in ripping massive boulders from the sea-floor and depositing these ashore; about the possible flaws in models concerning apparent over-efficient ocean mixing and so on.

    The thing about peer review is fascinating since up until a few years ago peer-review episodes weren’t publicised or played out in real time. Quite a few of my peer-review interactions have been angst-inducing and if I’d publicised these on a blog (for example) the process could easily be made to seem like a minor soap opera – after all, if one publicises one’s reviews and expresses some negative opinion about this or that review, it’s only to be expected that the reviewer might then publicise his/her thoughts in response and so on.

    Something like that is happening here – but the value (or not) of the Hansen paper is in its ability to stimulate productive research once the soap opera elements of its publishing have passed. One has to accept that the paper has a small-p political element to it, but the scenarios however scary, are based on plausible science.

    One should also accept that the work has been pursued and submitted in good faith, and that (most of) the reviews were also done in good faith – that’s always been a fundamental underpinning of science and peer review.

  43. The worst problem I see with Hansen’s imagination is this: the available energy for storms tends to manifest as wind. And wind tends to lift dust into the atmosphere. The glacial record is clear – ice ages are windier as evidenced by the dustiness. The Eemian, on the other hand, is similarly calm and clear as is the Holocene.

    To be sure, storms can be and are episodic. But the available evidence indicates just the opposite of the scenario: ice ages were much stormier and warm interglacials much calmer.

  44. I’ve never heard TE’s argument before. If anyone who understands this better than I do could comment, that would be appreciated.

  45. wehappyfew says:

    More dust is caused by the combination of cold, dryness, and low CO2 that occurs over large areas at Glacial Maximums. Plants can’t grow, don’t hold the soil, soil blows away.

    Also, continental glaciers wear down rock into flour, deposited at the terminal moraine. No plants growing there either, finer bits blow away. Loess deposited nearby downwind, finest dust makes it all the way to Greenland ice sheet to be trapped for later study.

    The evidence shows that ice ages were dustier. The evidence shows that sources of dust were enormously greater during ice ages. Evidence of greater storminess is not found in these data presented by TE.

  46. BBD says:

    Elevated dust levels in ice cores (and thickness of loess layers) indicates generally drier and windier climate and is associated with glacial conditions. Dust levels fall during warmer, wetter interglacial conditions. What dust can say about extreme storm events I don’t really know.

  47. BBD says:

    Sorry, wehappyfew, we crossed there.

  48. wehappyfew says:

    To expand BBD’s point, windy ice ages seem well supported. There is a huge mass of very cold air over the ice sheet. It will try to fall down onto the lower ice-free areas. I would not be at all surprised to find that models or proxy data indicate a very strong, very dry, very cold wind blowing south from the continental ice sheets, blowing glacial dust around like crazy (and preventing any plant growth nearby).

    But Hansen is postulating big storms in the South Atlantic during the Eemian Interglacial. Tropical storms need warm water. Interglacials have lots of warm water. Glacial Maximums do not.

    Dust in the Arctic is not a good proxy for storms in the tropics. TE seems to be implying that hurricanes don’t happen today, and that hurricanes were much more common at the Glacial Maximums, and that these hurricanes traveled all the way to Greenland to deposit dust they picked up from the warm waters of the North Atlantic. Each and every way you look at it, TE’s interpretation of these dust data makes no sense at all.

  49. wehappyfew and BBD pretty much nailed it. TE makes the mistake in believing that dustier automatically equals windier; as already explained, that’s not necessarily true. Besides, it’s TE – you should immediately suspect there’s a bait-and-switch being pulled.

  50. Ethan Allen says:

    Chris,

    “So this might stimulate better evidence about mega-storms vs tsunami’s in ripping massive boulders from the sea-floor and depositing these ashore”

    Are you sure about that?

    Google Earth Pro is your friend + some bathymetric charts, look at the shoreface as it exists today,, now add 6-9 meters to current GMSL. Find The Cow and the Bull then find Twin Sisters. The Cow and the Bull are very close to the shoreface that has a very suspicious looking divot or pocket from whence they appear to have originated. It is much more difficult to explain the size/position of The Twin Sisters as due to storm waves/surge given their distance from the current shoreline (but they are in a more or less direct line with the Cow & Bull shoreline divot).

    No one, at least not I, is even remotely suggesting that boulders were lifted ~20M from the nearshore floor bathymetry. Much more likely, wave overpressures fractured the rather weak layered sedimentary shoreface and flipped the fractured boulders (It does help to think in terms of overturning moments as opposed to straight lifting or pushing as that is the most energy efficient way. The boulder CG (center of gravity) is below the net forcing vector, that induces an overturning moment with attendant mechanical advantage). You can see the overpressure at work today, for example at Broken Window and several other locations behind the shoreface, if you know what you are looking for (deep shoreface pocket + lee boulders or partial sinkholes).

    Coastal types just don’t build coastal structures with sedimentary rocks, like concrete (without suitably sized aggregate and reinforcement) they are weak in tension with the layering being it’s weakest property. Most concrete armor units are unreinforced but these all rely on their shapes interlocking and suitable aggregate sizing.

    Long story short? Why invoke superstorms or megastorms when normal storms (present day hurricanes) would do the trick given an additional 6-9 meters in GMSL.

  51. > Better would be to demonstrate how thorne can achieve the same end without recourse to ontological arguments…

    The argument according to which EGU’s discussion papers cannot be considered scientific because they’re not peer reviewed is irrelevant for Peter’s main point, which is that the author team’s responses to the commentaries were inappropriate. I also believe it’s wrong for historical and epistemological reasons, but I don’t need to argue that point here. What’s quite clear is that the auditing sciences will change how we conceive peer review.

    I emphasize two adjectives, which I believe suffer the same problems as Victor underlined regarding the word “dangerous.” They carry value judgments.

    Peter’s editorial is an editorial, and ought to remain so.

  52. ” The two main questions are: what are reviewers to do when the editor fails to enforce their comments, and what editorial latitude should be given to scientific authors in the conclusion of their papers.

    It’s what 2016? havent we learned anything?

    Variorum. google that.

    Jesus. Try this

    basically, we have the option of reverting to other forms of textual organization other than
    the basic he said/ she said.

  53. I live in the SW US which is very much desert.

    Folks elsewhere are probably not as familiar with dust storms, the kind which obscure the sky and drop visibility. These events typically occur two or three times a year in the late winter or early spring. They are driven by strong surface winds ( 50 knots ) associated with strong cold fronts. The surface winds are proportional to strong jetstream level winds. Unfortunately, I know that the day following the dust storms here is likely to be followed by tornado outbreaks as the storm progresses further eastward.

    Yes, it is wind that drives the dust. It’s true that storms are episodic and multi-factoral, but it’s also true that the energy necessary for severe storms ( be they tornadoes or large cyclones ) derives from the forces which drive the winds.

  54. TE,
    Science by personal observation of where you live. Really?

  55. wehappyfew says:

    I think TE can safely extrapolate current SW US desert conditions to Eemian Bermuda tropical conditions with 100% accuracy, amirite?

    His new theory that jetstream energy is the driving force that determines tropical cyclone energy (thousands of km to the south)… this deserves some kind of recognition from the National Hurricane Center, yes?

  56. > Science by personal observation

    Seems gratuitously harsh. Still, if you want to put people off commenting al la WUWT, then go ahead. More dust during ice ages is a valid point.

  57. WMC,
    I specifically did not say “science by personal observation”. If you want to cherry-pick what I’ve said, then you’re no better than the commenters at Bishop Hill.

  58. WMC,
    Oh, and if you really think this is a reasonable inference from “more dust” feel free to say so. I genuinely don’t know if it is, or isn’t. Others, however, seem to think that “ice ages were much stormier and warm interglacials much calmer” isn’t quite correct.

  59. BBD says:

    WMC

    More dust during ice ages is a valid point.

    Is it? To be clear, I’m not arguing in support of Hansen16 I’m simply questioning TE’s view that reduced dust aerosol loading during interglacials can say much about the intensity of equatorial storms.

  60. > I specifically did not say “science by personal observation”.

    Yes you did. I know you did because I cut-n-pasted it. https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2016/03/25/reblog-on-hansen-et-al/#comment-75011

    > reasonable inference from “more dust”

    Well, it is half of it. As others have said, ice ages in ice cores are dustier because (as I understand it) there’s more dust around – it being drier – and more winds to loft it. So *lack* of dust in the Eemian compared to ice ages could be lack of either. It doesn’t *rule out* high winds, globally, much less locally – there could have been howling gales globally or locally but little dust to pick up – but it does make it less likely. Or put another way, it amounts to yet more Hansen picking evidence to support his view whilst ignoring evidence that doesn’t.

  61. WMC,
    Jeepers, now I really do feel like I’m having a discussion on Bishop Hill. I said

    Science by personal observation of where you live.

  62. Or put another way, it amounts to yet more Hansen picking evidence to support his view whilst ignoring evidence that doesn’t.

    This may be true, but would also be a fair descriptor of what TE often presents, which is why I sometimes end up responding somewhat snarkily. I’m also not quite seeing where you’re defending his claim that

    …. the available evidence indicates just the opposite of the scenario: ice ages were much stormier and warm interglacials much calmer.

    Seems a great deal stronger than your

    It doesn’t *rule out* high winds, globally, much less locally

  63. > As should Hansen’s …

    Holy tu quoque, Batman!

  64. BBD says:

    WMC

    Or put another way, it amounts to yet more Hansen picking evidence to support his view whilst ignoring evidence that doesn’t.

    I’m not arguing with this, but I don’t think it help’s TE’s position.

  65. BBD says:

    Gods. Help’s me.

    I will never live this down.

  66. Most of the atmospheric dust originates in the deserts of central China, The Sahara and Sahel, or the deserts of Arabia. It is sent aloft typically by spring storms. The Greenland ice cores show a spring peak in dust deposition and this coincides with the Chinese plateau’s dust season. Colder and drier not only translates into more dust in the source locations, but the weaker hydrological cycle also means the dust will be aloft longer. Higher dust deposition is also correlated with shorter transport times from the source locations.

    Trying to use this information to *disprove* an increase in Atlantic storm intensity would be problematic. It is unclear (and unproven to my knowledge) that increased dust from the source locations is in any way correlated to Atlantic storm intensity – positively or negatively. It should also be noted that neither atmospheric circulation nor climatic conditions around the globe today are the same as during MIS5e — so add a couple more confounding factor to TE’s analysis.

  67. JCH says:

    …. the available evidence indicates just the opposite of the scenario: ice ages were much stormier and warm interglacials much calmer.

    Does Hansen’s paper contemplate a ice age in the 21st century?

  68. JCH says:

    The keyboard on the12-inch Macbook is awful… an ice age.

  69. Willard
    “The argument according to which EGU’s discussion papers cannot be considered scientific because they’re not peer reviewed is irrelevant …”

    Except that is not his point. You need to read harder and more charitably.

    Start over

    Line by line, do a reading, rather than plucking out a single issue

    “Peer-review process observations

    The whole process was as if we had fallen through Alice’s looking glass. The paper was trumpeted at a major news conference several days before the discussion paper was even published online and available for review. Many media outlets, completely incorrectly, reported this as a new paper. Discussion papers on EGU journal sites are not peer reviewed articles and do not therefore constitute scientific papers. Coincidentally, since then EGU now no longer typeset the discussion papers so that it is now more obvious whether the paper is a submitted manuscript or the final real deal. I have no idea whether these issues are linked.

    This deliberate publicity surrounding a discussion paper (which to my knowledge is unique) led to unprecedented interest in the paper. By the time the comment period was closed there were over three times as many reviews as to the next most commented discussion paper in the journal’s history. This included many off-topic comments including a long thread on the existence of the greenhouse effect. Ironically, this was one of the better responded to comments by the authors (more later …).”

    The paragraph is titled observations.
    Peter is entitle to make them.
    The main point is the observation that this was a through the looking glass experience.
    It would be hard to deny this main point but you welcome to try. nit picking on rhetorical slip ups is really just changing the subject.
    1. The paper was trumpted in the press before it was even submitted. Do you want to deny
    that this seems upside down to someone like peter? Do you want to take issue with his
    observation. Fine. Then point to how this is “standard practice” Problem for you.. Hansen
    Agree with thorne
    2. The discussion paper was incorrectly described. Yes, there is an ontology:
    Submitted. Under Review. Accepted. Published. This is a just a convention. deal with it.
    The real issue, I think, is that some of the press DID note that the paper had not
    been reviewed. However, the pre announcing does change the playing field for reviewers.
    Yes, yes, they should be immune to pressure, but before the paper was even posted
    Mooney was passing around versions asking for “rate a paper” from Mann Trenberth
    Ramsdorf, Alley and Oppenheimer
    3, The publicity skews the playing field.
    4. The inclusion of stupid reviews allows the authors to divert attention from the real criticisms
    This is pretty standard in any argument, blog argument or science argument.

  70. Ethan Allen says:

    Does Hansen’s paper contemplate a ice age in the 21st century?

    No, that happens in the 22th century .. or … wait for it … forty thousand days after tomorrow.

    Willart, I left two out …
    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2015/20150727_SeaLevelDisaster.pdf
    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2015/20150727_SeaLevelPost.pdf

    “Why 200 years? For one thing, 100 years would require taking on the formidable IPCC4, which
    estimates that even the huge climate forcing for a hypothetical 936 ppm CO2 in 2100 would yield less than one meter sea level rise. For another thing, incentives for scientists strongly favor
    conservative statements and militate against any “alarmist” conclusion; this is the “reticence” phenomenon that infects the sea level rise issue.”

    … editorializing duck …

    “Yikes! It has been pointed out to me that the specificity of 200-900 years in my post about ice
    sheet time scales has the potential to be very unfair to specific individuals.”

    … you can say that one again …

    “The time scales that he obtains come out of the modeling, not from pressure to avoid the
    uncomfortable 100 year time scale that policymakers consider relevant.”

    … quack quack …

    “I should have stuck to discussion of the amplifying feedbacks that we identified and their potential to reduce the time scale for large sea level rise.”

    If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duck_test

  71. Willard says:

    > Line by line, do a reading, rather than plucking out a single issue.

    Reading works paragraph by paragraph, Mosh. Here’s the one where Peter gets to his point:

    In my view the responses from the paper author team to very many of the comments they received were inappropriate. Scientific peer review has a set of norms that you respond to the issues raised in a calm and measured manner including point-by-point responses that detail whether changes were made, what these were, and why. Instead, the authors chose to respond in many cases by writing discursive policy pieces that were too often non-responsive and often verged on playing the man and not the ball.

    This explains why we get the laundry list of recriminations that follows. This also explains the editorializing on what science is, or rather should be. This finally explains the parting innuendo.

    You can somehow test this by asking yourself: if Peter thought that the author’s team addressed the commentaries in a satisfying manner, would he have written this?

    ***

    > The real issue, I think […]

    Ze issue, again.

    ***

    > Yes, there is an ontology: […]

    Yes, you’re conflating ontological commitments with an ontological argument.

  72. Willard says:

    > … you can say that one again …

    Which one, that “It has been pointed out to me that the specificity of 200-900 years in my post about ice sheet time scales has the potential to be very unfair to specific individuals”? If that’s the case, finding a quote from the comments would be nice. It should also be easy for you, Ethan, as you read ’em all.

    ***

    Since you like editorial content, there’s plenty in Peter’s comment, e.g.:

    Clearly suitability for the journal is a determination that is in the end purely editorial in nature. However, I would note a couple of interlinked points that the editor may wish to note in making a determination on this aspect from my perspective as a reviewer.

    http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/15/C6089/2015/acpd-15-C6089-2015.pdf

    And then people wonder why we have so much review comments we could simply TL;DR.

  73. Ethan Allen says:

    Willard,

    I did post a cleaner version of the above at RR (I mispelled your name and the CR/LF issue).

    The … XYZ … snark refers to the sentence immediately above.

    I take no objective issue with either PT or JH engaging in op-ed discourse.

    Subjectively, you point to PT, so in due course, I pointed to JH. Subjectively, JH does way more op-ed discourse by one-to-two orders of magnitude more so than PT does.

    The usual refrain seems to hold true … JH has gone emeritus …
    http://www.divestproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Hansen-Amicus.pdf
    (dated 10/22/2015 includes part of Ice Melt discussion paper)
    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2015/20150812_FINAL_HANSEN_DEC_FOR_US_DISTRICT_OREGON_9pm.pdf
    (dated 8/12/2015 includes reference to Ice Melt discussion paper)

    And that’s not all of them.

  74. Willard says:

    > Subjectively, JH does way more op-ed discourse by one-to-two orders of magnitude more so than PT does.

    Holy tu quoque, Ethan!

    Here’s my favorite bit from Peter’s comment, a comment which follows for the most parts the main structure of his editorial:

    I therefore find myself conflicted over a recommendation as to whether to publish in the full ACP journal or not. Hence I make no explicit recommendation at this time. I may, based upon the multitude of comments received, come back with a firmer recommendation nearer the conclusion of the review period. I do, however, make a number of comments herein.

    http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/15/C6089/2015/acpd-15-C6089-2015.pdf

    And then people wonder if the main point of having reviewers is to recommend publication…

  75. I was surprised that there were people who thought that the main point of having peer review was to make a recommendation whether to publish or not. I recently came across someone who thought it was not necessary for a peer reviewer to substantiate its recommendation, because the review was just a recommendation to the editor.

    Not only does an unsubstantiated review open the floodgates to arbitrary decisions, but for me the main point of peer review is to make the article better. That also means that the reviewer has to detail what can be improved.

  76. Ethan Allen says:

    Willard,

    If its good enough for Hansen (appeals to authority, appeals to emotion, special pleading) then its good enough for me …

    “In my opinion, this lawsuit is made necessary by the at-best schizophrenic, if not suicidal,
    nature of U.S. climate and energy policy. ”
    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2015/20150812_FINAL_HANSEN_DEC_FOR_US_DISTRICT_OREGON_9pm.pdf

  77. Ethan – why are you referencing legal briefs instead of actual quotes from the paper? Do you not recognize a difference between briefs in a legal action versus a paper for publication?

  78. Willard says:

    Would you really put any real effort to improve an article you would reject, Victor?

  79. Chris says:

    Dr. Thorne ends his blog account with this:

    “Some of the articles, discussions and discourse have shown up a small number of the people supporting the paper to be no better in terms of behaviour, conspiracy theorising or reasoned logic than those on the opposite side of the aisle. Science works by a slow, deliberative methodical process. Single papers do not overturn received wisdom.”

    This is a very odd paragraph. The first sentence (“Some of the articles….”) is pretty astonishing. It would be helpful to know what Dr. Thorne means by this – he doesn’t give examples of the “some of the articles…” (it would be useful if he would do so). His reference to “opposite side of the aisle” is mysterious too – what is this “aisle” and where is it situated? Dr Thorne seems to be implying that the Hansen et al. paper is one in which one should align for or against according to some unspecified position (an “aisle”).

    But surely Hansen et al. is simply a justifiably publishable paper. It’s been submitted in good faith by a group of scientists with wide-ranging expertise in the topics of the paper (radiative effects of greenhouse enhancement; sea level measurements; ice sheet dynamics). Isn’t this paper part of the “slow, deliberative, methodical process” of science?

    Dr. Thorne’s final sentence is also very odd (“Single papers do not overturn received wisdom”)! Since “received wisdom” is normally taken to mean “knowledge or information that people generally believe is true, although in fact it is often false”…I wonder whether Dr. Thorne actually meant to say something else (e.g. something like ” single papers do not generally overturn the consensus position”). Of course single papers may very well overturn the consensus position (a couple of Einstein’s papers on the photoelectric effect and general relativity; Marshall and Warren on Helicobacter pylori and stomach ulcers; come easily to mind). But it’s silly to suggest that Hansen et al. is in the “consensus-overturning” league. It’s a paper that explores the consequences of enhanced radiative forcing on ice sheet dynamics and its consequences for sea level rise and ocean current overturning, and which seems to be largely within the mainstream of current understanding, even if it may focus on more extreme interpretations within arenas where uncertainty is large. At the very least it highlights areas where better understanding is crucial (ice sheet dynamics; ocean stratification and mixing).

    It’s now a published paper…let’s see whether it turns out to be useful or not.

  80. Willard, yes also improving a rejected manuscript makes sense. Also a rejected article in most cases gets published somewhere. And if it is not about improving the manuscript, I feel the reviewer should justify its recommendation and the authors may learn something.

  81. Chris says:

    Would you really put any real effort to improve an article you would reject, Victor?

    Yes… I’ve done this. I’ve made suggestions for improving an article that I felt was not suitable for the journal I was reviewing for.

    I would say that a reviewer has two roles. One is to consider whether the paper or an improved version is suitable for publication in the journal (that’s also the job of the editor). The second is to consider the scientific validity of the paper (e.g. whether the work is methodologically sound and whether the interpretations are justified in the context of the data presented); and to suggest improvements/clarifications. One should accept that different journals have different standards with respect to impact/relevance, and the reviewer should be aware of this.

  82. “Reading works paragraph by paragraph, Mosh. Here’s the one where Peter gets to his point:”

    You have yet to demonstrate that. Plus it would be quite odd for pieces where the paragraphing was not the authors choice.

    Proceed line by line. you had no trouble picking out individual lines. So start over

  83. “Yes, you’re conflating ontological commitments with an ontological argument.

    No, I am not conflating them. Please demonstrate.
    You are over reading Thorne so you can make a quick comment.

    pet willard trick

  84. “This explains why we get the laundry list of recriminations that follows. This also explains the editorializing on what science is, or rather should be. ”

    Again, Misreading. He was not arguing what SCIENCE should be, he was discussing the conventions of science PAPERS

    Thorne’s point was this.

    The experience was through the looking glass

    He then sites evidence of that.

    ONE piece of evidence was the way the press treated the “paper.”
    Another piece of evidence was how reviewers were treated.

    I think Thorne gets to argue in support of his observations without the rhetoric nanny getting her
    panties in a bunch.

  85. My my, this has been a lively thread. Shall I even bother looking at why TE is hauling Milankovich into this?

  86. Chris says:

    Steven Mosher, you’ve again spoken out in favour of Dr. Thorne’s description of his reviewing experience as “through the looking glass”:

    “Thorne’s point was this.

    The experience was through the looking glass

    He then sites evidence of that.

    (I think you meant “cites”)

    But what on earth does this mean (“through the looking glass”)?? According to on line urban dictionaries it means something like “Similar to the twilight zone, where nothing is quite what it seems”. Is that what Dr. Thorne means? Is that what you take it to mean?

    I don’t see anything particularly “through the looking glass” about this at all, but maybe you could clarify. Some guys submit a paper to a journal that has a “discussion paper” system for its editorial process. Such a paper can hardly be embargoed since it’s all out in the open once the discussion paper is posted on line..so whether or not one likes it a press release is justifiable… otherwise, the paper is submitted, various dudes submit reviews that are posted on line together with their responses (posted on line)..

    Can you please clarify what you consider “through the looking glass” about this rather prosaic process??

  87. Willard,

    I released your last comment, Brandon.

    Figgered you would, thanks.

    Instead of simply stating what points the authors failed to address, he used the oldest trick in the auditing sciences: the “you be the judge” card.

    Seepage, or my turn for a Batman quote … ?

    Couldn’t be helped, I’m feeling pugilistic today. Your points along these lines elsewhere very much taken.

    While I have every reason to be thankful for Peter’s concerns and even think there are merits to them, the whole academic backbiting is just a little too much for my own taste.

    I’ve been thinking along the lines of the common notion in politics that when one side is losing the argument, they start eating each other.

    Let’s all embrace scientific crappiness.

    Try as I might (and have), I cannot.

    More my POV is that all science is wrong, and the idea is to become incrementally less wrong.

  88. > And if it is not about improving the manuscript, I feel the reviewer should justify its recommendation and the authors may learn something.

    I agree, Victor, but it’s hard to justify a recommendation that is not made. In our actual case, I don’t think Peter came back with “a firmer recommendation nearer the conclusion of the review period.” If Peter stands by the comment, he also needs to stand by his lack of “explicit recommendation.”

    I also think it’s important to distinguish two kinds of “point.” Seeking to improve a paper is an intention, while recommending or rejecting is a speech act. The former don’t have the same ontological status as the former.

    To see why, wonder about a situation where a priest hesitates to marry someone, or a letter of recommendation starting with “I hesitate to recommend student S.”

  89. > the idea is to become incrementally less wrong.

    Take two iterative processes, P1 and P2; P1 gets many, many iterations done for every one P2 produces. P1 may well become less wrong faster even if it increments more crappily.

    Most scientific bugs are features.

  90. > Can you please clarify what you consider “through the looking glass” about this rather prosaic process?

    Peter has already expressed reservation in a preambule of his comment, Chris:

    PUBLICITY PRIOR TO PUBLICATION

    Before going on I will declare my personal discomfort at the paper being openly and actively publicized before the discussion period is complete. In my view this has caused issues over a fair and open review. […] I have undertaken the review outside this context but it would be remiss not to declare these concerns. These are concerns which I am on the record as expressing on social media anyway. I declare this here in the interests of full transparency.

    http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/15/C6089/2015/acpd-15-C6089-2015.pdf

    The two emphasized bits should suffice to indicate that Moshpit mistakes one of Peter’s concerns with what he portrays as ze issue.

  91. Willard,

    If I were feeling particularly evil, I’d accuse you of settling for mediocrity. But then I’d run the risk of further conflating normative with positive, eh?

  92. Not making a recommendation is also information for the editor, who also has the arguments and the other reviews. You cannot not communicate.

  93. Chris says:

    More my POV is that all science is wrong, and the idea is to become incrementally less wrong.

    I’m never very happy with this “POV” especially without some clarification of what one means by “science”. After all one can look at a paper in Nature (for example) describing the crystal structure of a hormone receptor (for example) and consider that this is an interesting and instructive bit of science. There’s a good chance that this bit of science isn’t “wrong” in any meaningful sense of the word (this is the atomic resolution spatial distribution of the non-hydrogen atoms in the hormone receptor structure under these particular conditions).

    Of course one might say quite reasonably that our understanding of the physiological responses involving this particular hormone and its cellular receptor is incomplete (and, perhaps, therefore, by definition “wrong”). But the bit of science presented in the Nature paper isn’t “wrong” except in a sort of pedantic,nit-picking sense that might relate (of course it might be totally wrong if the crystallographers have messed up catastrophically but that’s a rare occurrence!).

    So I would prefer to say something like “our understanding of any particular scientific field is incomplete and may well be seen in the future to be wrong.”

    The problem IMHO with asserting that “all science is wrong” is that it gives the impression that most of the stuff that is published in the scientific literature is wrong. That may possibly be the case in the psychological and social science literature! But I would say that most of the stuff that’s published in the natural sciences literature is “right” even if any particular observation/analysis/interpretation may well be prescribed within a defined set of conditions/parameters/circumstances.

  94. Raff says:

    Somewhere mid thread there was talk of increased dust during an ice age coming from uce sheets pulverizing rocks. Can someone explain how this dust, which is beneath a mile of ice, gets to the surface from where it can be blow about during the glaciation (as opposed to at the termination, where it obviously can). And as it might be mobilized at termination, why is there no corresponding dustiness recorded there?

  95. Ethan Allen says:

    oneillsinwisconsin,

    “Ethan – why are you referencing legal briefs instead of actual quotes from the paper? Do you not recognize a difference between briefs in a legal action versus a paper for publication?”

    There is Hansen15 (the discussion paper, published on 23 Jul 2015) and there is Hansen16 (the for-the-record final version, published on 22 Mar 2016).

    Dates matter, especially if the paper doesn’t get a passing grade (passes peer review and is published), Hansen did use the discussion version to support his legal arguments. Now Hansen get’s to use the the final version, in an after-the-fact manner. Good for him.

    But the paper is legal evidence and JH included it in the legal briefs. So in one sense, the court gets to adjudicate the robustness of said legal evidence. Quite similar to our adjudications here.

    The tu quoque comments by Willard are fine, I know what I’m doing or engaging in. If Willard wants to talk about the paper then I’ll talk about the paper with him.

    If Willard wants to talk about PT op-ed than I’ll talk about JH op-ed in similar tit-for-tat fashion.

    IMHO this detracts from a more proper discussion of HANSEN16.

    Or as JH is apt to say …

    “In my opinion, this lawsuit is made necessary by the at-best schizophrenic, if not suicidal, nature of U.S. climate and energy policy.”

  96. Chris says:

    OK yes Willard, I can see the problem that Dr. Thorne refers to, and I did refer to this in my post; here’s Dr. Thorne’s problem:

    “Before going on I will declare my personal discomfort at the paper being openly and actively publicized before the discussion period is complete. In my view this has caused issues over a fair and open review.”

    But how do we deal with this in an open review editorial process? Either the review process is open or it isn’t. If it isn’t then we’re right back to the “old-fashioned” review process (except that the reviewer’s aren’t necessarily anonymous).

    Dr Thorne’s reasons for railing against the process are first that a bunch of informal and off-topic reviews were acquired…Dr Thorne thinks this “will serve to distract the editor and authors in coming to a determination on the paper”. That’s silly really, since informal, off-topic reviews are simply discounted as they were in this case. The second complaint is that the final published version of the paper (“on record”) may be different from the publicised version.

    The second complaint is really a generalized complaint against the process of open review (it’s also a potential complaint against submitting a manuscript to a pre-submission server like arXiv). One therefore needs to weigh up the arguments in favour of and against this particular form of peer review. Again in this case the published paper is not so different in scope and interpretation from the original version and this is likely generally to be the case (I’ve never known of a paper that was entirely overturned in its scope and interpretations as a result of peer review). So this doesn’t seem a terrible problem, and if someone were to refer to the original version to make some dastardly point, the whole review process is on display to set them straight.

    Since Dr. Thorne was editorialising, his “issues over fair and open review” are un-defined. It seems to me that the Hansen et al. paper got a rather robust review (good contribution to this from Dr. Thorne) that was both fair and open. In fact it’s difficult to see how the review process could have been more open…

  97. By chance you don’t accuse me of settling for mediocrity, Brandon, for then you’d be caricaturing an idea that has changed industries that are way bigger than science.

    The editor received comments from reviewers and transmitted to the authors his conditions to publish it. The paper is now published. Suppose you have to choose between dedicating a website to carp Hansen & al online forever and ever, editorializing about the socialization of science on social media, writing a rebuttal in a peer-reviewed paper, or doing your own science which would perhaps only indirectly contradict Hansen & al’s results, which one would get us out of mediocrity faster?

    ***

    While you cannot not communicate, Victor, there may be a distinction between not recommending publication and refusing to marry someone. On the other hand, if Peter’s commentary was written as a legal opinion, he may not have the luxury to abstain himself from dissenting.

    And then people wonder what “big boys” might do under such circumstances…

  98. Chris,

    I’m never very happy with this “POV” especially without some clarification of what one means by “science”.

    I meant it very broadly. To wit …

    Of course one might say quite reasonably that our understanding of the physiological responses involving this particular hormone and its cellular receptor is incomplete (and, perhaps, therefore, by definition “wrong”).

    … yes, exactly. CO2 is an efficacious forcing agent is the settled bit. How it plays out in the future very much isn’t. I’m much happier with literature that says, “we don’t know if x will be bad with much certainty, but we can’t rule it out either”.

    So I would prefer to say something like “our understanding of any particular scientific field is incomplete and may well be seen in the future to be wrong.”

    Well stated.

    The problem IMHO with asserting that “all science is wrong” is that it gives the impression that most of the stuff that is published in the scientific literature is wrong. That may possibly be the case in the psychological and social science literature!

    In hard sciences, “it’s all wrong” is unrealistically extreme, but which I find to be a necessary personal reminder.

    In soft sciences, there’s no such thing as right or wrong. 🙂

  99. I am quite sure Peter Thorne is not against open review. He has published in EGU himself.

    I would prefer both scientists and journalists to exercise some constraint as long as a paper is not peer reviewed. I would guess that Peter was expressing a similar sentiment.

    Publicity cannot always be avoided and some results are not not controversial, but in general, I think it is a good idea to wait until at least some smoke has cleared. The traditional threshold is at publication. I would love to wait a bit longer and newspaper articles to be about recent findings backed up be several papers, but unfortunately most journalists feel they need something current as justification for an article. This current event is traditionally the publication.

    http://variable-variability.blogspot.de/2013/04/value-peer-review-science-press.html

    A good example of a very valuable article about recent findings rather than just one article, is the wonderful Ars Technica article on the temperature record.

    http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/01/thorough-not-thoroughly-fabricated-the-truth-about-global-temperature-data/

    I would love to see more of such journalism. As scientist and as reader. Such an article has value that remains.

  100. Willard,

    By chance you don’t accuse me of settling for mediocrity, Brandon, for then you’d be caricaturing an idea that has changed industries that are way bigger than science.

    In keeping with features being bugs having tenure, agile vs. waterfall software development models comes to mind.

    Speaking of teh modulz, I have not enough digits to count the number of times that I’ve said, “ayup, they’re wrong (they’re models, duh), but they’re the best we’ve got” only to be strung up by my toenails for not demanding excellence.

    Suppose you have to choose between dedicating a website to carp Hansen & al online forever and ever, editorializing about the socialization of science on social media, writing a rebuttal in a peer-reviewed paper, or doing your own science which would perhaps only indirectly contradict Hansen & al’s results, which one would get us out of mediocrity faster?

    The latter of course, which is why I’ve lately taken to asking mahdulls-bashers where theirs is, and how its skill compares to CMIP5. Much “that’s not the point” and other hem-hawing ensues.

    These parallels are not lost on me.

  101. > In fact it’s difficult to see how the review process could have been more open…

    I think this answers Peter’s innuendo [1], Chris, which could be interpreted as a rhetorical question: why would reviewers care to write substantive comments when they be ignored, dismissed, or met by crickets?

    The answer would then be: because your comment gets published somewhere, and readers can read it e.g. to “consider whether the response is polite and addresses the substantive points raised by the reviewers in a measured manner.”

    Reviewers get at least that in exchange of their precious time.

    [1] “And people wonder why many of my colleagues are in general reticent to wade into the wider public debate …”

  102. Victor,

    I am quite sure Peter Thorne is not against open review. He has published in EGU himself.

    I guess the problem is that once it is open, it’s open. We can’t – I think – expect journalists not to report on what might be an interesting paper. If journalists are likely to do this, then I think we also can’t expect the authors to not interact with the journalists.

  103. > These parallels are not lost on me.

    If you like parallels, Brandon, compare:

    [W]here the potential contention arises is in the assertion that we may lie close to or already have passed effectively a tipping point in the present-day cryospheric components of the climate system which presages a period of large scale and rapid changes in sea-levels, ocean and atmospheric circulation and storminess. To make this conclusion relies to an uncomfortable extent upon a causal chain of the nature given a then b and because b then c and c means that d shall occur etc. Each link in this chain is certainly plausible based upon the relatively scant evidence to hand, but is not by any stretch determinant. At each link there is a finite probability that that link will not actually be realized. Given the length of the causal chain and the reliance upon in particular: i) very sparse palaeo-records which may have multiple plausible interpretations and; ii) a single coarse resolution model with effectively hosing experiments which have been variously criticized elsewhere for lack of realism and which the authors at various points recognize as being potentially biased / oversimplified, it is far from certain that the results contended shall match what will happen in the real-world.

    http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/15/C6089/2015/acpd-15-C6089-2015.pdf

    and contrast with this synthetic argument:

    [W]here the potential contention arises is in the assertion that AGW is real. To make this conclusion relies to an uncomfortable extent upon a causal chain of the nature given a then b and because b then c and c means that d shall occur etc. Each link in this chain is certainly plausible based upon the relatively scant evidence to hand, but is not by any stretch determinant. At each link there is a finite probability that that link will not actually be realized. Given the length of the causal chain and the reliance upon in particular: i) tampered data; ii) bad stats; iii) wrong modulz, it is far from certain that AGW is real.

  104. Physics: “I guess the problem is that once it is open, it’s open.

    That is why I only asked for constraint. From journalists and scientists.

    I understand that is is impossible for a journalist not to report on an experiment that shows that the speed of light has been broken. And I understand that in such a situation a scientist better organizes a press conference or better writes a press release to make sure that the reporting is somewhat informed.

    But journalists do practise some judgement. The AP decided not to write about Hansen et al. (2016) even after peer review, because they saw too many caveats. While Slate called this fresh paper immediately a part of the scientific canon.

    Journalists do not report on what I write on my blog or on the slides of my presentations. They wait until this is published.

    Scientists normally do not send our press releases because they are about to submit an manuscript.

    There is a lot between an embargo for a Nature paper and putting Watts et al. (2012) manuscripts on the front page of the NYT.

  105. Willard, do finish your argument. I would be surprised if you wanted to argue that because a certain argumentative structure can be abused it should never be used, but it now kinda sounds like that.

    (My last comment got stuck in moderation.)

  106. “Would you really put any real effort to improve an article you would reject,”

    I would, and indeed do; my reviews tend to be substantially longer for the papers where I recommend rejection. Part of the reason is pragmatic (as others have pointed out above), the other reason is the “Golden Rule”. If (i.e. when ;o) a reviewer recommends one of my papers should be rejected, I would very much like to know what I need to do to make the paper acceptable, and when reviewers tell me, I generally do my best to implement it. It seems reasonable therefore that when I recommend a paper for rejection, I do my best to explain clearly my objection and (where possible) what can be done to fix it. I don’t think I am particularly unusual in this (judging from the other review comments I have seen for papers I have reviewed).

  107. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    Willard’s argument:

    “Climateball”

    And all else follows.

  108. > I would be surprised if you wanted to argue that because a certain argumentative structure can be abused it should never be used, but it now kinda sounds like that.

    Then prepare to be surprised, Victor: this kind of argument can indeed be constructed against any empirical claim whatsoever. It is used daily against AGW. It is also used daily to promote CAGW memes.

    And then people wonder why some lukewarmingly applaud Peter’s dissent…

    ***

    > Willard, do finish your argument.

    Jim can do it all by himself:

    Reviewer 2 asks whether the conclusions of the paper depend on causal chain of logic among the three components of the paper: modeling, modern data, and paleo data. I would rather argue that these three areas are mutually supportive and make interpretation of events clearer and more persuasive.

    http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/15/20059/2015/acpd-15-20059-2015-AR1.pdf

    I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening?

    Consilience.

  109. Willard,

    Yup, your synthetic argument is bread and butter in contrarian-ville, both form and content. Thorne’s next graf goes beyond the QED:

    At the same time, however, it would be foolish in extremis to discount this out of hand as a possibility of what shall occur. I fully concur that the 2 degrees limit should in no sense be seen as safe. We do not know enough about the earth system as a whole to make such a determination and I share many of the authors’ manifestly obvious concerns about its use as a target; and have done since it was agreed and adopted. The precautionary principal should sensibly be applied aggressively without 2 degrees seen as some safe handrail that we can walk up to. Human civilization has flourished during a brief climatic period that in the geologic context appears remarkably stable and we risk deliberately moving away from that state through our historical and current actions.

    To effin’ right. The crux of the present discussion seems to be this (which I pare down for brevity):

    In my view further analyses are required to reach such a point. I therefore find myself conflicted over a recommendation as to whether to publish in the full ACP journal or not. Hence I make no explicit recommendation at this time.

    We can endlessly wrangle when evidence is sufficient enough to warrant making extraordinary claims. This reviewer (Thorne) thinks it’s too close to call. I would have been fine with him calling the paper rubbish as written in terms of it having too strong of conclusions relative to the strength of its evidence — uncertainty is not our friend. And neither is being over confident.

  110. Willard, PS:

    Consilience.

    Good point, wish I’d seen that before posting my last.

  111. The argument of more melting than expected, to slowdown of AMOC, to more storms is a chain. If you see every step as plausible (I am no expert) let’s be generous and say as having 50% probability then the entire chain has a probability of 0.5*0.5*0.5 = 12.5%.

    That is the same argumentation structure, but numerically very different for AGW, where every step has a much higher probability. In fact I hesitate giving number because I do not see it as a matter of chance any more. Every step has been scrutinized in so many ways. If a mitigation sceptic wants to use that chain to claim a low likelihood of global warming being man made, he is only making an enormous fool out of himself.

    Yes, the consilience of evidence makes the argument stronger again. That would be the argument chain above and in parallel the boulders. Given how weak the experts seem to see the boulder evidence, that does not help that much, but it does a little.

    Tough luck when lukewarmers applaud “dissent”. I am not letting a bunch of political activists dictate my positions. If you are determined to hand out blame for the cheers, that can go just as well to Hansen as to Thorne.

    My blog is full of arguments mitigation sceptics could use, if they were willing to read something written by what they see as the enemy and if they had to skills to understand it. If they use that for their political battle at least they do not have to make up some complete nonsense out of nothing. Would lift the level of the conversation.

  112. > That is the same argumentation structure, but numerically very different for AGW, where every step has a much higher probability.

    Whatever the probabilities, as soon as an opponent is allowed to require something “determinant” in an ampliative inference, the proponent loses the argument. Unless Hansen & al argue for a determinist inference and prediction, this is a complete red herring.

  113. I have no idea what you are saying.

  114. I’m saying that the inference is not closed under deduction, Victor. Arguing that the conclusion doesn’t follow from the arguments is a trivial thing to do. Contrarians exploit that gap day in, day out. If your main point is that (some of) the premises of the argument look implausible to you, then you attack these premises, not the inference. Here’s how David Archer does it:

    The paper describes a link between southern ocean stratification and atmospheric CO2 which I think overstates our understanding. Actually, the paper seems clear enough that we don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle in some sentences, like on page 20100, line 15, “Much remains to be learned about glacial-interglacial carbon cycle mechanisms” […] I agree that the evidence is very strong that the Southern Ocean really calls the shots with atmospheric CO2, I just don’t believe that the explanation we have for that today holds water.

    http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/15/C5209/2015/acpd-15-C5209-2015.pdf

    Speaking of chains, here’s how Archer makes the reader follow the author’s argument while presenting his own comments:

    Analysis of sea level changes during Eemian time, the last interglacial, show changes of several meters in time scales of a century. If our ice sheets are going to change our sea level that much, from its current rate of melt, the melt rate would have to increase exponentially in the future. The way that could happen is if there is a positive feedback, such that melting begets faster melting, as opposed to a linear response where the melting rate is driven simply by temperature. The climate modeling results in this paper identify such a feedback. Release of freshwater around the margins of the ice sheets causes freshening at the ocean surface, stratification, and warming of subsurface waters. The melting water has a significant cooling impact on the planet, which I hadn’t expected, but I guess the difference here is the huge rate of freshwater addition; the authors argue that the responsiveness of the model is not much different from other climate models. The melting water actually results in an increase in heat uptake by the planet, with the increase going directly into the ocean, exacerbating the feedback. Antarctic cooling and increase in sea ice causes a warming-induced increase in precipitation in the Antarctic region to fall over the ocean rather than to Antarctica, another amplification of the freshwater forcing mechanism. This seems like a plausible interplay of mechanisms to me, given that it’s observed happening today, and that something like this is required to explain evidence from the past such as Heinrich events. The conclusions of this paper confirm what I had gloomily expected people would figure out, and they provide a mechanism by which the implications of the past can be explained and cast into a forecast for the future.

    In a nutshell, this is a battle of plausibility, not a non sequitur quarrel.

  115. oarobin says:

    Victor,

    if i may ask you question on this

    Given how weak the experts seem to see the boulder evidence, that does not help that much, but it does a little.

    which experts do you find deal’s the best with the boulder evidence? what alternatives are more plausible than the argument below (from the paper)

    Alternative interpretations of the geologic data have been
    made (Bain and Kindler, 1994; Kindler and Strasser, 2000,
    2002; Engel et al., 2015); specifically, (1) the boulders were
    thrown by a tsunami caused by flank margin collapse in
    North Eleuthera, (2) beach fenestrae in runup and chevron
    beds were caused by heavy rainfall, and (3) the chevron
    beach ridges are parabolic dunes. These views are challenged
    by Hearty et al. (2002) and again here for the following reasons.
    (1) extensive research in the Bahamas has revealed no
    geologic evidence of a point-source tsunami radiating from
    North Eleuthera. A slow speed margin failure is possible,
    without a tsunami, and indeed such a flank margin collapse
    could have been initiated by massive storm waves impacting
    an over-steepened margin. (2) If heavy rainfall was a significant
    process in the formation of fenestrae in dunes, they
    should commonly occur in all dunes of all ages, which is not
    the case. (3) Carbonate dunes, particularly oolitic ones, generally
    do not migrate unless exposed to extremely arid climates,
    which contradicts point 2, and chevrons lack the most
    diagnostic feature of migration – foreset bedding.
    It is too random and chronologically coincidental to argue
    that the trilogy of evidence – boulders, runup deposits, and
    chevron ridges – was caused by unconnected processes. If
    large, long-period waves lifted 1000 t boulders onto and over
    the coastal ridge, as is generally agreed, the same waves must
    have also impacted large areas of the eastern Bahamas, for
    which there is abundant documentation. A radiating pattern
    of landforms outward from a North Eleuthera point source,
    as from a tsunami generated from a local bank margin collapse,
    is not observed in the area or broader region. Absence
    of evidence for tsunamis on the United States East Coast refutes
    the possibility of a large remote tsunami source.
    Our interpretation of these features is the most parsimonious,
    and we have argued that it is most consistent with
    the data. A common, synchronous, and non-random set of
    super-storm-related processes best explains boulder transport
    by waves, emplacement of runup deposits on older built-up
    ridges, and the formation of complex chevron deposits over
    time across lower areas of the Bahamas. Indeed, given the geologic
    evidence of high seas and storminess from Bermuda
    and the Bahamas, Hearty and Neumann (2001) suggested
    “steeper pressure, temperature, and moisture gradients adjacent
    to warm tropical waters could presumably spawn larger
    and more frequent cyclonic storms in the North Atlantic than
    those seen today”.

  116. Ethan Allen says:

    ATTP,

    “I guess the problem is that once it is open, it’s open. We can’t – I think – expect journalists not to report on what might be an interesting paper. If journalists are likely to do this, then I think we also can’t expect the authors to not interact with the journalists.”

    I think, in this case, you have it bass ackwards.

    Handen instigated journalistic licence three days before there was an online discussion paper.

    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2015/20150704_IceMelt.pdf
    (1st draft (???) dated 04 July 2015)
    http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/07/20/sea_level_study_james_hansen_issues_dire_climate_warning.html
    (dated 20 July 2015)
    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2011/01/20/207376/hansen-sato-climate-tipping-point-multi-meter-sea-level-rise/
    (dated 20 July 2015)
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/07/20/climate-seer-james-hansen-issues-his-direst-forecast-yet.html
    (dated 20 July 2015)
    http://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/16/3761/2016/acp-16-3761-2016.pdf
    (1st ACPD discussion paper dated 23 July 2015)

    20 July 2015 was a Monday, the normal starting date of the weekly journalistic cycle.

    Most journals have a journalistic embargo, apparently ACP/ACPD does not, but in this lessons learned exercise, one would hope that ACP/EGU would institute such a journalistic embargo (and only release discussion papers at the end of the journalistic week) 🙂

  117. Ethan,
    Indeed, Hansen may have shown little restraint, but I don’t think you can have a journalistic embargo if the paper is undergoing open peer review.

  118. Peter Thorne says:

    Again, haven’t had time to read everything.

    To reiterate, I wrote my blogpost because I was getting queries and prefer my own words on the record. All I really care about is ensuring a fair representation of my views out of fairness to all concerned, including the authors. And they are views / insights / opinions.

    In the end the climate will follow its own pathway which will with almost certainty not be, at least exactly, upon a pathway predicted yet by anyone. The climate doesn’t care about my opinion on the matter, nor anyone else’s.

    My concerns are two-fold: process and science.

    I have never seen a scientist run a major press release upon a discussion paper release* (especially preceding its release) and this completely changed the nature of the review process. In my opinion not for the better. To then treat several substantive reviews in the manner they did on the public record I viewed as unhelpful and not showing the necessary degree of respect for those peers who had gone to considerable effort to comment. The lack of classical point-by-point responses also made a re-review that considered whether the substantive issues raised had been adequately addressed nigh-on-impossible. Its fine to agree to differ here but as a reviewer the authors made it incredibly hard to ensure they had considered the feedback received and that was extremely unhelpful. I am also of the opinion that a greater degree of respect for one’s peers is a reasonable cultural expectation. We can disagree without being disagreeable.

    There are also substantive science questions that remain. As a reviewer I deliberately decoupled the two issues throughout. I could, if I had chosen, have written reviews and this blogpost devoid of the commentary on process. But I strongly feel that would have been remiss. It is important that peer review not slip into a kind of blog review style. That would be, in my view, to the significant detriment of the process and decidedly unhelpful to journal editors. The system is tried and tested for Centuries. We rip it up at our considerable peril.

    In the end though, the process issue shall fade and its the numerous open science issues that shall require to be addressed if the study is to progress towards broader community acceptance. And there are a number of these open science issues – more than I covered. This is why I currently place a very low prior on this study. That judgement is solely upon the science.

    I am glad to see that through the review process thanks to a number of review comments the ‘what future research directions’ went from a few sentences scattered throughout to a substantive discussion section with specific suggestions. Of course, this is just the authors’ views and other ideas are valid and likely to be pursued. As a community, I hope, when the immediate sound and fury quietens down we start the long-haul aspect of groups doing the research that either confirms what is given in Hansen et al. or tears it down. That’s the science process and no matter how imperfectly it lurches and lumbers forwards it works in the end.

    *Well, when I say never, the Carbon team regularly does this on their annual updates by special arrangement with the EGU journal concerned, but this is a special case as it is a monitoring update and contains little to no new science per se.

  119. Peter,
    Again, thanks for commenting. What with it being Easter weekend, I haven’t entirely followed the discussion here myself.

  120. JCH says:

    When I first read the Archer review, the paper came together. The Archer review is perhaps as good as the paper itself.

  121. Pingback: And what rough beast, its hour come round at last / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? – Stoat

  122. Willard, if you are allowed to say consilience of evidence then I am allowed to say chain of evidence.

    They work like opposites. If you have a chain of evidence where all steps need to be right and with x steps with probability p, the chance that it is wrong is px. With p=0.5 and x=3 that would be 12.5%. With p=0.5 and x=5 that would be 3%.

    If you have consilience of evidence with x independent lines of evidence, the probability to be right is (1-p)x. With p only being 0.5 for the individual lines of evidence and 5 lines of evidence the chance of being wrong would only be 3%.

    Oarobin, I have no particular view on the boulders, but there are many options not just Hansen-storms or tsunamis. The most important alternative for this discussion would be storms for entirely different reasons than the Hansen mechanism. But I am trying to avoid getting into a discussion on the content of the paper; understanding it well would take weeks and it is not likely that I could contribute something with my background.

  123. Willard says:

    Your calculation fails in non-additive structures, Victor. The usual argument against those who say “but paleo” or “but teh modulz” or “but tree rings” or “but adjustments” or else is to recall that it’s not the specific lines of evidence that matter, but each of them independently raises the odds that AGW is the best explanation we got. “Raises the odds” is here a figure of speech because it’s more of a judgment call than anything. Just like (what should have portrayed) your calculation, incidentally.

    Besides, you are allowed to say whatever you please. You are not a senior member of the community yet. It is not beholden on you to set an exemplar of expected behaviour.

  124. Willard says:

    Also note that Paul J. Hearty, Blair Tormey, Bailey Donovan, and George Tselioudis prepared this response regarding the boulders, which may interest Oarobin:

    http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/15/C7633/2015/acpd-15-C7633-2015-supplement.pdf

    I don’t think anyone can claim that the authors were unresponsive to these issues, or that they did not discuss in a “calm and measured manner”. Besides the response to Drijfhout et al, I don’t see where the authors responses weren’t calm and measured, so the “most egregious” accusation looks incorrect to me.

    Incidentally, Ethan should note the timestamps of Drijfhout et al and Jim’s response.

    ***

    For good measures, Hearty & al make the same non sequitur mistake in a plausibility argument as I underlined above:

    Given that waves transported megaboulders on North Eleuthera during the late Eemian and that global sea level rose rapidly several meters at the same time, it simply does not follow that hundreds of kilometres of adjacent low-lying platform areas of the Bahamas would completely escape their fury and force, leaving no trace of these giant waves. Engel et al make the much less plausible proposition that the neighboring chevron ridges and runup (and the unique sedimentary structures within them) located only a few km from the wave-tossed boulders, were formed by the unrelated and fairly banal processes of wind and rainfall.

    If hypotheses followed from evidence we got, we’d never have to assess the plausibility of our explanations.

  125. dikranmarsupial says:

    I’m afraid I don’t really understand Willard’s point (it would help if he were to express himself in more everyday language rather than “fails on non additive structures” or “inference is not closed under deduction” – I suspect I have a reasonable idea what those mean, but the scope for misunderstanding is rather large at my end). Reviewing a paper is not like discussing climate on a blog. If a paper suggests several lines of evidence that all unequivocally supports the conclusion, but the argument that explains why is incorrect (or at least has shortcomings) then the reviewer ought to point that out (and potentially require that it be addressed). It is not enough for the conclusion to be correct, the method must also be valid (c.f. the first paleoclimate reconstructions).

  126. Willard says:

    Additivity refers to the third Kolmogorov axiom of probability, Dikran. Victor’s point follows from a trivial application of these axioms. In terms of coin tosses, it amounts to say that the more coin toss you add in the event you seek to evaluate, the odder it becomes. This is the kind of argument that would turn Popper on his grave: absolutely certain claims have the littlest explanatory value. In any case, I don’t think this kind of arguments (e.g. Victor’s) applies to consilience, which uses another kind of reasoning.

    And then people wonder why there’s so much reticence in the scientific world.

  127. dikranmarsupial says:

    I think Victor was just using that as an illustration of a more general point, which is that the chain of reasoning linking the premises to the conclusion must reasonably sound.

  128. Willard says:

    Soundness implies validity and truth: v. http://www.iep.utm.edu/val-snd/. Plausibility arguments target the truth part, while Victor’s argument targets the validity part. Consilience arguments are abductive: they should not be judged by their validity simply because their conclusions go beyond the information carried in their premises (i.e. they are ampliative). Even inductive arguments aren’t valid.

    Criticizing a causal chain for being too long is just an argument from incredulity. Criticizing it with a trivial argument can legitimately be considered patronizing.

    If you disagree with the premises, attack the premises, not the inference. If you think the authors go a bridge too far in their conclusions, show as far as you’d go. Then let the editor decide. Then stand aside for nature – it bats last.

  129. dikranmarsupial says:

    I suspect Victor’s comment had rather more to do with something like Ockam’s razor; if you have a complex chain of reasoning, where there is uncertainty in the validity of the links, the more likely it is that the chain will fail at some point. The more links, the greater the chance of the chain failing. Hence a if a paper draws strong conclusions, based on a long chain, then it needs to provide evidence that all of the links in the chain are robust (or alternatively discuss the weaknesses and be more circumspect in drawing conclusions). Consilience of evidence is a good thing that helps us to be confident that the conclusion is correct, but not why it is correct. We ideally want both consilience and a robust chain of reasoning (at least in the scientific literature)

  130. Willard says:

    > I suspect Victor’s comment had rather more to do with something like Ockam’s razor; if you have a complex chain of reasoning, where there is uncertainty in the validity of the links, the more likely it is that the chain will fail at some point.

    Since this argument follows from additivity, the “rather more” is incorrect.

    Anyone who expect scientists to concede anything haven’t met them online.

  131. I think Victor was just using that as an illustration

    Yep, but it is no use debating someone who prides himself with not being willing to understand other people or learning from interactions, but is only interested in winning the debate (climateballTM). That is as useful as debating mitigation sceptics.

  132. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Criticizing a causal chain for being too long is just an argument from incredulity. ”

    It is a reasonable expression of Ockam’s razor. The point was not that the chain was too long, a long chain of bullet-proof links is just fine, I think the point is that the more links the more likely that one or more are faulty, the more circumspect we should be in drawing conclusions. This isn’t about the formal logic of the argument, Ockam’s razor isn’t a law, but it has proven useful guidance for the scientist nevertheless.

  133. Willard says:

    Speaking of razors:

    Parsimony and Occam’s Razor. It is far too random and chronologically coincidental to argue that the trilogy of evidence is caused by unrelated processes. If giant, long-period waves lifted 1000-ton boulders onto and over the coastal ridge, then the same waves must have also impacted large areas of the eastern Bahamas, for which there is abundant documentation. A common, synchronous, and non-random set of superstorm-related processes best explains boulder transport by waves, emplacement of runup deposits on older built up ridges, and chevron formation across lower areas of the Bahamas.

    http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/15/C7633/2015/acpd-15-C7633-2015-supplement.pdf

    No probability has been harmed in the making of this argument.

  134. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Anyone who expect scientists to concede anything haven’t met them online.”

    Sorry, this is just trolling, and I am not going to rise to the bait.

  135. Willard says:

    Readers might also like:

    For Ockham, the principle of simplicity limits the multiplication of hypotheses not necessarily entities. Favoring the formulation “It is useless to do with more what can be done with less,” Ockham implies that theories are meant to do things, namely, explain and predict, and these things can be accomplished more effectively with fewer assumptions.

    At one level, this is just common sense. Suppose your car suddenly stops running and your fuel gauge indicates an empty gas tank. It would be silly to hypothesize both that you are out of gas and that you are out of oil. You need only one hypothesis to explain what has happened.

    Some would object that the principle of simplicity cannot guarantee truth. The gas gauge on your car may be broken or the empty gas tank may be just one of several things wrong with the car. In response to this objection, one might point out that the principle of simplicity does not tell us which theory is true but only which theory is more likely to be true. Moreover, if there is some other sign of damage, such as a blinking oil gage, then there is a further fact to explain, warranting an additional hypothesis.

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/ockham/#H2

    Showing how simplicity is involved in the causal chain identified by Peter (hint: it’s not) and paying due diligence to the simplicity of the all the concurrent explanations might be nice.

  136. dikranmarsupial says:

    Willard, showing that there are other ways in which Ockam’s razor can be applied does not mean the use of Ockam’s razor to question the reliability of arguments involving long causal chains is not also a reasonable usage.

  137. Willard says:

    > [I]t is no use debating someone who prides himself with not being willing to understand other people or learning from interactions, but is only interested in winning the debate (climateballTM).

    And then people wonder if scientists rely on ad homs to dodge points.

  138. Willard says:

    > showing that there are other ways in which Ockam’s razor can be applied does not mean the use of Ockam’s razor to question the reliability of arguments involving long causal chains is not also a reasonable usage.

    And then people wonder why it always devolve to semantics.

    Occam’s razor is an appeal to simplicity. Criticizing a causal chain as being too long begs the question: where are the shorter explanations?

    Peter used the argument to criticize the prediction discussed in conclusion, BTW. It’s also the object of the title’s fisking. Predictions are not exactly explanations. Not that it matters: we all know what everyone means, and everyone is here in good faith, etc. Except me, of course.

    How Hansen relies on determinism to speak of dangerosity has yet to be shown.

  139. Willard says:

    > Sorry, this is just trolling, and I am not going to rise to the bait.

    And then people wonder if scientists use apophases as a signalling device.

  140. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Occam’s razor is an appeal to simplicity.”

    No, it is an appeal for simplicity. As I said this isn’t about the formal logic of the argument, it is the application of common sense guidelines that have proven useful to generations of scientists. I prefer the version attributed to Einstein that everything should be made a simple as possible, but no simpler. Occam’s razor has it’s value and its limitations.

    Would you agree that all things being other wise equal (e.g. degree of consilience) a causal explanation based on a chain of two links is likely to be more reliable than a chain consisting of two thousand links?

  141. dikranmarsupial says:

    No Willard, I really do have no wish to discuss it, you will note I have tried to continue the discussion of the substantive issue instead (and yes, I did have to look up “apophasis”).

  142. oarobin says:

    Victor, i did not expect you to get into a detailed discussion on the content of the paper but was more interested in what these experts had to say that makes the boulder case weak. fair enough they(or you?) think storms unrelated to increase pole-tropic gradient may be a better explaination but can you flesh this argument out some more?

    Willard i had already seen the response of Hearty et al and that is part of what drove my question to victor because i wanted to find out if these were the same expert arguments that made the boulder case weak.

    in your discussions with victor and dikranmarsupial i think a argument map might be a helpful way to clarify the various positions( i sure know i would like to see one) and how best to refute Hansen et al arguments.

    i think the peer review discussions here continue to focus solely on what happen during the interactive discussion period of the paper, if one adds the Peer review completion discussion one might get a fuller picture of the entire process.

  143. dikranmarsupial says:

    oarobin I think conducting the discussion in everyday language would also help, we have differing backgrounds here and insisting on using the formal terminology of your own discipline doesn’t much help communication. Otherwise you just end up with an impedance mismatch*.

    * humour, based on ironic use of formal terminology of electrical engineering.

  144. Willard says:

    > Would you agree that all things being other wise equal (e.g. degree of consilience) a causal explanation based on a chain of two links is likely to be more reliable than a chain consisting of two thousand links?

    If you also add that all the links are as reliable as another, you bet I would. However, notice the difference between this argument and Peter’s: in this argument, there are two chains, one longer than another. In Peter’s, there’s only one: Jim’s. Arguing that a chain is too uncertain to say the other D word just ain’t the same as saying that a chain is longer than an alternative one. What chain would be good enough for Peter to say the other D word?

    The first occurence of “appealing for” I stumbled upon is the Court of Appeal For Ontario:

    http://www.ontariocourts.on.ca/coa/en/

    I would agree that using Occam’s razor as a slogan (say) is an appeal to simplicity and that using it is done for simplicity’s sake. Occam’s razor is all but simple.

    ***

    Since Ethan follows timestamps, let it be noted that the first submitted comment belongs to Andy Revkin, dated 26 July 2015:

    In assessing section 2.2 of the paper, I contacted geologists working on Atlantic and Caribbean formations possibly associated with large waves. Max Engel at the University of Koln pointed me to two papers that seem, at the very least, to deserve a mention in this section as alternative explanations for the chevrons and beached boulders attributed to extraordinary storm waves.

    http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/15/C5202/2015/acpd-15-C5202-2015.pdf

    Non-embargoing journalists seems to have the positive side-effect of bringing competing commentators in the discussion. Max chimed in later in the thread.

    Interestingly, here’s how starts Jim’s very first comment:

    We thank A. Revkin for pointing out alternative suggestions for the origin of the boulders and chevrons (V-shaped beach ridges) in the Bahamas. We were aware of those papers but included in our discussion only those mechanisms that could plausibly account for the relevant geological features. Our overall objective, improved insight about the threat of sea level rise and storminess posed by global warming, requires integrated analysis of information from paleoclimate and geologic studies, global modeling, and observations of modern climate change – together constituting a substantial undertaking. Thus we limited marginally pertinent material to avoid an unacceptably long paper. However, one merit of a “Discussion” journal such as ACPD is the opportunity for greater depth in response to specific comments and issues.

    Hearty (1997) offered three working hypotheses for mechanisms to account for transport of at least seven “mega-boulders” lying on top of and landward of a 20-m high eolian ridge crest in North Eleuthera. […]

    http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/15/C5615/2015/acpd-15-C5615-2015.pdf

    The boulder question thus appears to refer to an old debate. Occam’s razor tells us that requiring to settle that debate before “speculating on superstorms” (as Max puts it) may not be the simplest thing to do.

    In fairness, I should note that I agree with Andy’s suggestion to cite competing views, and would also suggest to refer the reader to an overview or a review of the issue. There’s always space for more handwaving. In fact, it often saves space.

  145. dikranmarsupial says:

    “If you also add that all the links are as reliable as another, you bet I would. ”

    Well that suggests we are in agreement then that Ockam’s razor does favour short chains over longer ones (all things being otherwise equal). As far as I can see, that makes it reasonable to express concerns about the length of a chain of reasoning in a review, where the expert reviewer has such a concern.

    “However, notice the difference between this argument and Peter’s: in this argument, there are two chains, one longer than another. In Peter’s, there’s only one”

    Asking the question did however narrow down the scope of the disagreement, which was the reason for asking, rather than because the answer would settle the issue directly.

    I suspect that Peter may have an intuitive idea of the sort of chains of reasoning that are considered reasonable in his field (relative to the strength of the conclusions drawn) and he is making an implicit comparison with that internal standard. The difference between 2 and 2000 is fairly easy to see, but sometimes the judgement is more rather more difficult, as appears to be the case here, and requires the benefit of experience. Reviews are not performed using the rules of formal logic; this sort of expert judgement is essentially inevitable in cutting edge scientific work. For example, in my field (machine learning) it is common to demonstrate the benefits of your new method by an experimental evaluation using a number of well known benchmark datasets and compare it against competing approaches. But what should that number be? Most of us know that it needs to be more than (say) three, but exactly how many and which datasets to use is not that straightforward. And which competing methods to chose for the results to be convincing? Sadly there is too much variation in circumstances for there to be a simple rule for everybody to follow and we rely on the expert judgement of the reviewers to spot where our evaluations fail to be convincing.

    “Arguing that a chain is too uncertain to say the D word just ain’t the same as saying that a chain is longer than an alternative one.”

    I don’t know what you mean here by the “D word”. However, I don’t think anybody is claiming anything just on the basis that the chain is too long, that is just one consideration.

  146. oarobin says:

    indeed dikranmarsupial that is the reason i think a argument map with specific references to the arguments made by Hansen et al might make everyone see clearer the points each is trying to illustrate. if i am following Willard point it is that the strategy of treating Hansen et al argument as a linear chain doesn’t deal with the complexity of the arguments. for example victor said:

    The argument of more melting than expected, to slowdown of AMOC, to more storms is a chain. If you see every step as plausible (I am no expert) let’s be generous and say as having 50% probability then the entire chain has a probability of 0.5*0.5*0.5 = 12.5%.

    which look like a linear chain: more melting than expected –> slowdown of AMOC –> more storms. but surely slowdown of AMOC also impacts melting through the freshwater induce ocean stratification in the paper. also more storminess should tend to reduce temperature gradient between the tropics and poles and this also should impact on AMOC. add to this several auxiliary arguments about the rapidity of the end-Eemian sealevel rise being dependent on ice sheet mass loss, the failure of existing ice sheet models to include non-linear response mechanisms, etc. will make the argument structure much more interwoven and interdependent.

    a better argument strategy might is to take the evidence, and give alternate interpretations so that we can evaluate among several alternatives.

  147. Willard says:

    The D word, in this case, is the word “dangerous” in the title, one that evokes what Peter calls an assertion:

    Hence, where the potential contention arises is in the assertion that we may lie close to or already have passed effectively a tipping point in the present-day cryospheric components of the climate system which presages a period of large scale and rapid changes in sea-levels, ocean and atmospheric circulation and storminess. To make this conclusion relies to an uncomfortable extent upon a causal chain of the nature given a then b and because b then c and c means that d shall occur etc.

    http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/15/C6089/2015/acpd-15-C6089-2015.pdf

    There’s no need to argue that Peter’s argument rests on that chain alone, only that it relies on it to an uncomfortable extent.

    Since Jim disputes that his argument rests on that kind of causal chain, identifying it may have been welcome:

    Contrary to the suggestion of the 2nd referee, the conclusions of the paper are not developed via a causal chain (a leads to b which leads to c, etc.), where a flaw in any one would insubstantiate all conclusions. On the contrary, we use three approaches based on paleoclimate data, modeling, and modern observations. These three independently point toward similar interpretation. Each by itself would require stronger caveats. However, the fact that they all point to a common interpretation makes the conclusions more certain and powerful.

    http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/15/C8227/2015/acpd-15-C8227-2015-supplement.pdf

    Determining if Jim’s conclusion rests on a causal chain also matters because (ceteris paribus) consilience improves when links (or lines) are added, while causality decreases.

    The conditions upon which Peter would use the D word or make an assertion like the one he disputes has yet to be stated. To say that argument A is not good enough is oftentimes not good enough: one has to say what would be.

    This looks like a set of pretty basic points to me, but then people wonder … the Internet … etc.

  148. Ethan Allen says:

    Willard,

    It helps us slow folk if you speak plainly and directly.

    I’m from the land of Howard Dean, Bernie Sanders (my hometown mayor at that time) and Bill Mckibben.

    “Incidentally, Ethan should note the timestamps of Drijfhout et al and Jim’s response.”

    Was that a cherry pick?
    (26 August 2015 to 06 October 2015)

    It’s not like I don’t have all the dates in a spreadsheet, oh wait, I do.

    I don’t consider Blair Tormey & Bailey Donovan peers, they are GSA conference paper types.

    Tselioudis is … wait for it … climate change
    https://scholar.google.com/citations?hl=en&user=xc-ynkwAAAAJ&view_op=list_works&sortby=pubdate

    Hearty is a coastal geomorphologist (stick paleo in there too), an interpretive field, I work in the field of hydrodynamics and, believe it or not, structures (LMCS, RIBS, moored ship motion (POLA/POLB), LOTS/JLOTS (military) most people might know the field as naval architecture, I am a misfit, so to speak, I even have two breakwaters in the POLB, but mostly coastal hydrodynamics and coastal structures).

    I am the poor man’s substitute, a very poor man’s substitute, for someone like Philip L-F. Liu. So as a very poor man’s substitute, I very poorly represent a field of study entirely missing from that ‘august’ list of 19 authors.

    So if you don’t mind, please speak plainly and directly to us very poor folk. TIA

  149. Ethan Allen says:

    Oh wait I forgot squat, as in a ship’s squat, entrance channels, navigation was at the Panama Canal during the 1997-8 ENSO, when the PCC had to reduce allowable drafts by ~four feet.

  150. BBD says:

    So if you don’t mind, please speak plainly and directly to us very poor folk. TIA

    Your bona fides are doubtless impressive, Ethan, but the core issue is centuries of unstoppable, rapid sea level rise if we keep cranking the forcing up. Pissing on Hansen is fun for all the family, but one should keep the serious stuff in mind too.

  151. Eli Rabett says:

    If a chain gets too long, no matter what the probability of each step, the overall probability goes to zero.

  152. Eli Rabett says:

    One must recognize that at this point Jim Hansen’s does not see his most important role as being a scientist however his advocacy grows out of his science. This pretty much explains the varied reception of the paper.

  153. Eli,

    The bunnies must also recognize that one charge against Hansen et al. (2016) is that it mixes advocacy with the science. An argument, with which I tend to agree, is that it’s entirely kosher to publish the primary paper and then in popular press go on record with an advocacy position based on it.

    OTOH, it’s possible to be overly pedantic on this point and too hastily disregard good science because some of it isn’t written the way we like, or contains dubious conclusions. I’ve been grinding through the paper trying to decide if its one of those cases which warrants not being overly picky. To my lay eyes, most of what I’ve read seems reasonable.

    Colour me confused and frustrated … not that this state is all that different from my usual.

  154. Eli, from the horse’s mouth:

    “My principal objective in “retiring”, i.e., in leaving government service, is to create more time that will allow me to try to contribute more effectively to this communications effort. I also had concluded that the future of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies and its people would be better served by a younger person who could be focused on leading GISS. My own heart is turning more and more toward trying to make the science and its implications for policy clearer ….

    But I must keep up with and contribute to climate science or I cannot be effective, so I hope to be doing more science rather than less.” — James Hansen, Making Things Clearer: Exaggeration, Jumping the Gun, and The Venus Syndrome. 15 April 2013

    The section on ‘Jumping the Gun” is relevant and insightful.

  155. dikranmarsupial says:

    oarobin, I am not making any particular argument about the Hanson paper, my interest here is in (open) reviewing.

  156. dikranmarsupial says:

    BTW Peter’s review contains some examples of very good review practice. While I am not sufficiently expert to know whether the scientific criticisms are valid, I can see (as someone with some limited editing experience) that he is providing both the authors and editors with the sort of information they need. The section about the boulder placement is particularly worth a look. He points out some technical issues in the interpretation of the data, but he is quite explicit about what is established with certainty:

    “The authors present strong evidence that both the chevrons and the boulders’ move-
    ment and deposition are marine mediated.”

    but points out that there are other possible causes:

    “It is entirely plausible that the rocks and chevrons could have been deposited by one or more tsunamis.”

    and provides justification why that cannot be easily dismissed:

    “It is well known that several Atlantic islands are prone to large landslides that may mediate
    tsunamis with a fetch from the north east at the location.”

    but is even handed in pointing out that some other potential alternatives are unlikely:

    “I disagree with reviewers who have pointed to an ice sheet calving mediated tsunami as the direction is likely wrong and also the Greenland ice-sheet at present day (and therefore presumably 5e) is unlikely to collapse directly into the ocean in sufficiently large chunks as it is largely land-bound with glacial outflow.”

    However he is willing to state the extent of his expertise:

    “It is not an area where I have the requisite in-depth knowledge of the available palaeo-evidence”

    But give useful guidance to the editors to help resolve the issue (actually he did that in the opposite order):

    “This is an area where recognized expert input would be beneficial to either rule-in or rule-out the possibility.”

    He then sets out and explanation of what the authors could reasonably do to convince him on this point:

    “Regardless, given the size of the boulders, the typical density of the material, and the
    possible nominal sea-level it should be possible to calculate the mechanical energy
    that would have been required to move the boulders from the local 5e sea-level stand
    to their current location and elevation. Furthermore it should then be possible to cal-
    culate the relevant significant wave height given the embayment characteristics that
    would have been required and from that the wind speed / fetch combination that would
    have been required. Clearly, if that windspeed is beyond a plausible windspeed of the
    strongest possible hurricane then it points to a tsunami-mediated deposition.”

    I wish the reviews I get of my papers were all as thoughtful and helpful as that!

  157. Jac. says:

    Although I realize this thread is more about the peer-review proces on Hansen et al rather than on Hansen et al, it raised some questions and I hope some knowledgeable people here might have some answers.

    Peter Thorne said:

    “That said, West Antarctic is unstable, and we almost certainly have passed a tipping point that will see eventual c.8m rise but the scientific literature generally suggests this shall be a multi-century process.”

    Is this (‘passed a tipping point’ and ‘c.8m rise’) correct?
    If so, is there (open acces, preferably) peer-reviewed literature on this that I can refer to, but also an explanation of it for laymen like myself?
    And about a multi-century process: two centuries, eight centuries, twenty-centuries? And will it be a linear process or an accelerating process?

    As for the Hansen et al paper:
    I saw a NASA graphic about temperature anomalies of Feb 2016. I noticed some ‘cold’ spots around Greenland in an overall warming (rather: heating) NH. I’d like to know more about that. Was that in the models? Are there any explanations, other than the one suggested by Hansen et al.?(Not suggesting that if there are no other explanations, Hansen et al must be correct).
    Also: are there any observational signs of a slowing down of the Gulf Stream? Same questions (models, alternative explanations)?d
    (I remembered and checked NRC ‘abrupt impacts of climate change, anticipating surprises’ , 2013, p.9 that loss of the WAIC would increase sea-level with 3-4 mrs, NOT 8 mrs, and also that a shut down of the AMOC was unlikely and earlier concerns were based upon poorer understanding).

    On this blog there have been discussions about the Energy Balance Model of N.Lewis.
    If I remember correctly, most here agreed that (due to cherrypicking of data) his findings / conclusions (?) were scientifically possible, but very unlikely.
    Am I to understand Hansen et al in the same manner: scientifically possible, but very unlikely?
    (I am not suggesting that they are on the same scientific level; I am just trying to get some sense of understanding for what our societies are heading for).

    Just trying to learn something. Any response is appreciated, although I realize that a fool can ask more questions than ten wise man bother to answer.

    Jac.

  158. Willard says:

    > If a chain gets too long, no matter what the probability of each step, the overall probability goes to zero.

    A chain starts with two links, and according to the only interpretation of that chain so far in the thread, Jim’s has three. Three is still a long way to infinity.

  159. Willard says:

    > The bunnies must also recognize that one charge against Hansen et al. (2016) is that it mixes advocacy with the science.

    Squirrels might also recognize that this is Judge Judy’s verdict for climate science in general, or rather “whoever the hat fits,” but not Jim even if he often wears a hat, because he’s a maverick, just like her.

    People may wonder if you can make this up.

  160. dikranmarsupial says:

    Peter’s review discusses the length of the chain in one paragraph, and four and a half pages on the problems with the evidence for links in the chain (premises?), which I think summarizes their relative importance reasonable well. The discussion of the length of the chain is also pretty moderate and IMHO reasonable.

    “Three is still a long way to infinity.”

    Scientists often start off with boundary cases like this (it makes the discussion easier if you can start on a position where both are likely to agree). Three is indeed a long way from infinity, but then again (1-p)^3 may be non-negligibly smaller than (1-p)^2 (or indeed (1-p)^1) depending on p (probability of a link being faulty) and the strength of the conclusion based on the chain. The latter part especially is likely a matter of expert judgement.

  161. Jac.,

    Is this (‘passed a tipping point’ and ‘c.8m rise’) correct?
    If so, is there (open acces, preferably) peer-reviewed literature on this that I can refer to, but also an explanation of it for laymen like myself?

    There are certainly some who think that the WAIS has passed a tipping point. There is this article and the paper is here.

    I noticed some ‘cold’ spots around Greenland in an overall warming (rather: heating) NH. I’d like to know more about that. Was that in the models? Are there any explanations, other than the one suggested by Hansen et al.?

    As I understand it, the explanation is to do with melting of NH ice sheets and sea ice, so I think it’s what Hansen has suggested.

    Also: are there any observational signs of a slowing down of the Gulf Stream? Same questions (models, alternative explanations)?d

    There certainly seems to be some evidence for a slowdown in the Atlantic Ocean overturning circulation.

    If I remember correctly, most here agreed that (due to cherrypicking of data) his findings / conclusions (?) were scientifically possible, but very unlikely.
    Am I to understand Hansen et al in the same manner: scientifically possible, but very unlikely?

    I think that’s probably fair. It’s possible, but I think many regard it as unlikely and think that some of the evidence that Hansen has presented is not as definitive as his paper might suggests (the boulders, for example, could be due to something other than enhanced storminess – tsunamis, for example).

  162. Willard says:

    > Peter’s review discusses the length of the chain in one paragraph and four and a half pages on the problems with the evidence for links in the chain (premises?),

    Since that chain has yet to be ascertained, it might be too early to say which links these four pages and a half (out of twelve, it needs not go without saying) cover exactly.

    The section SCIENTIFIC QUERIES / CONCERNS contains four items:

    – Sea-level and storminess indicators in the palaeo-record
    – Use of a single coarse resolution model and a single set of hosing experiments
    – The physical basis for ice sheet melt doubling rates
    – Modern instrumental evidence

    The first two items correspond to item “i)” and “ii)” included in the earlier claim that starts with “Given the length of the causal chain and the reliance upon in particular: […]”

    ***

    The first item ends with the unattributed slogan “absence of evidence is not the same thing as evidence of absence,” which echoes Sagan’s (this time attributed in the text) quote mentioned in one of the other seven pages and a half: “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Jim has responded to the latter thus:

    One topic on which we strongly disagree with reviewer 2 concerns the statement “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”, which seems to be used to assert that we should do more analyses before we conclude that 2°C is dangerous. This seems to us to turn things on their head. Given all the evidence that we have presented, it seems to us that a claim that 2°C is a safe guardrail is the extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence.

    http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/15/20059/2015/acpd-15-20059-2015-AR1.pdf

    This reply has been left without response.

    ***

    > indeed (1-p)^1

    An example of a causal chain of one link might be nice.

  163. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Since that chain has yet to be ascertained, it might be too early to say which links these four pages and a half (out of twelve, it needs not go without saying) cover exactly ”

    Human beings (including scientists) tend to communicate in an informal manner, assuming that the reader shares a similar background and can fill in the bits left unsaid. I don’t think either of us has that background, but it seems reasonable to suggest that Peter discussed the issues with the links in those four and a half pages. Setting things out in sufficient detail for an “outsider” to understand without ambiguity would a waste of the reviewers valuable time. I suspect this is a potential problem for open review.

    “An example of a causal chain of one link might be nice.”

    None is really required necessary, given that it was “maths humour” to point out that a chain of two links is less reliable than a direct derivation for exactly the same reason a chain of three links is less reliable than a chain of two links (obviously homeopathic principles do not apply to humour ;o).

  164. Jac. says:

    ATTP,

    Thank you.

    Jac.

  165. Jac: If I remember correctly, most here agreed that (due to cherrypicking of data) his findings / conclusions (?) were scientifically possible, but very unlikely. Am I to understand Hansen et al in the same manner: scientifically possible, but very unlikely?

    I would not compare Hansen and Lewis. We haven’t got a clue how the low climate sensitivity of Lewis is supposed to happen physically. Hansen gives a physical mechanism.

    I am reasonably confident that when we understand why Lewis got his low climate sensitivities, it will be because we understand how sensitive the simplified statistical climate model of Lewis are to cherry picking and how the method is biased. The recent Kate Marvel paper is a first example.

    In case of Hansen it can go both ways. We may find problems with his methods and evidence, but his physics could also be mostly right. As far as I can judge from the responses of the experts, there are no obvious flaws, but many caveats that need to be checked.

    Even if you are only interested in activism, I would warn against pretending that the Hansen paper is part of the scientific canon. When science will find that some caveat is fatal, we will hear from the mitigation skeptics that the scientific canon was wrong and that we can thus also not trust any other part of the canon. We will hear that people were confident that Hansen was right and that these same people may be wrongly confident that the world is warming due to greenhouse gas emissions. A new energy system will not be finished globally before 2050. This is a marathon.

  166. Willard says:

    Humour might best explain this excerpt:

    On one hand, [there’s no other] the evidence compiled by Hansen et al. to conclude that global warming is highly [?] dangerous is based on rational arguments. The analysis does not contain any process that is physically impossible (albeit sometimes unlikely), nor present principally flawed interpretations of the paleo data (albeit often biased to the upper end of uncertainty measures). As such we can support the conclusions that the scenarios sketched in this paper could be interpreted as an extreme high‐end scenario that describes the upper bound of what one might expect in the coming centuries to happen with our current climate if carbon emissions continue at present‐day rate.

    http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/15/C6867/2015/acpd-15-C6867-2015-supplement.pdf

    Assuming the commenters are right, we can at least agree that Hansen & al’s work in not physically impossible and that it’s based on rational arguments. We might even say that the probability of the whole causal chain is non-zero. I’m not sure what probability to give to an upper bound, let alone the upper bound.

    Perhaps there are platitudes about communication that escape me.

  167. dikranmarsupial says:

    I don’t really see any humour in the excerpt, perhaps the humour is even more homeopathic than mine? A lot of scientific papers are aimed at ruling things out or ruling them in (in the sense of showing that there is a non-negligible chance of it happening), rather than what is likely to happen. I suspect a lot of the difficulty with this paper is differing views on which kind of paper it actually is, which is especially important for topics of public interest such as this.

    “we can at least agree that Hansen & al’s work in not physically impossible and that it’s based on rational arguments. We might even say that the probability of the whole causal chain is non-zero.”

    Indeed I would certainly agree with that.

  168. Willard says:

    Jim doesn’t always seek feedback, but when he does, it’s to make sure what he says is rational and not physically impossible.

  169. Willard,

    Squirrels might also recognize that this is Judge Judy’s verdict for climate science in general, or rather “whoever the hat fits,” but not Jim even if he often wears a hat, because he’s a maverick, just like her.

    Some might say, certainly not me, that the hat doesn’t fit Curry because she’s more judge than scientist. If your comment was intended as an object lesson in how to not get quotemined by champions of the auditing arts, message received.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, I think there’s a difference between blogorrhea on the general state of the majority of climate science and its interface with policy and the invited peer review of a single paper by one such as Dr. Thorne who continues to do real work in the field.

    If we discourage an argument against a single paper on the basis that some half-baked has-been has turned it into a mantra, we may soon find ourselves unable to be self-critical at all.

    And then we will lose.

    People may wonder if you can make this up.

    Indeed I have been noting how surreal this thread has become over time.

  170. Willard says:

    > I think there’s a difference between blogorrhea on the general state of the majority of climate science and its interface with policy and the invited peer review of a single paper by one such as Dr. Thorne who continues to do real work in the field.

    First, I dispute that there’s so much difference between blogorrhea and the lichurchur. I think I’ve provided enough evidence to expect that most of the comments are quite suboptimal. I duly submit that blog comments have a higher quality than we presume.

    Second, Judge Judy usually handwaves toward an indefinite “cadre” of scientists, which ain’t a majority. She also targets the IPCC as a whole, but treats it as a disease humanity should get rid of. She’s on record elsewhere than on her blog, including some citations in the lichurchur, which she uses to curry herself all the way down.

    Third, Jim says something eerily similar to one of Judy’s trump cards here:

    My present concern about group-think is not a criticism of IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), even though I strongly disagree with a very tiny subset of IPCC participants who have controlled the message about the threat of sea level change. IPCC provides a crucial service via generous unpaid efforts of volunteers including many of the best relevant scientists in the world, who work for public well-being under intense scrutiny and often unfair criticism. Most of the IPCC scientists, at least those that I have had contact with, share my concern that the presentation of IPCC reports has led to under-appreciation of the threat of sea level rise. I believe that the perspective we bring to the problem is welcomed by almost all IPCC scientists, but we need to confront a small reticent subset. This task becomes feasible, in a more timely way, because of the open interactive public ACPD review process, including Comments, Reviews and Responses, all publicly available.

    http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/15/20059/2015/acpd-15-20059-2015-AR1.pdf

    Does it sound better because Jim plays the groupthink card? Not to me. The only thing I can grant is that Jim’s quite open about what he’s doing, which is something I have yet to see from many.

    Fourth, it’s quite clear that Peter’s review carries at least as much editorial content as scientific content, and that his own blog post is mainly political. Call it “process” if you will, it still is politics.

    Does it mean that Peter’s comment could be accused of being activist? You bet it can. Page-wise, there are more “practical implications” (to borrow the title of the relevant section in H16) than theorical considerations.

    Is there a problem with that? Not at all, as long as you own it and you don’t hammer the opposition with the “activist” card.

    ***

    Fifth, as far as I am concerned, here’s the “activist” content in Jim’s paper:

    There is a possibility, a real danger, that we will hand young people and future generations a climate system that is practically out of their control.

    We conclude that the message our climate science delivers to society, policymakers, and the public alike is this: we have a global emergency. Fossil fuel CO2 emissions should be reduced as rapidly as practical.

    http://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/16/3761/2016/acp-16-3761-2016.pdf

    Pussyfooting about these two sentences is simply not worth anyone’s time: once the editor accepts them, the deal’s done. Had the editor decided to remove them, I wouldn’t bat an eye either. In the end, the editor decides and his decision is final. This ClimateBall episode is more about the editor than anything.

    Policing is so much fun that we could continue forever and ever. We could for instance ask to see evidence of the egregious stuff. If there’s some stuff that is “most egregious,” there should be something that is just egregious, right?

    All ends well, in the end, except for audits. They never end.

  171. Ethan Allen says:

    “I think I’ve provided enough evidence to expect that most of the comments are quite suboptimal.”

    Suboptimal is in the eye of the beholder.

    You don’t happen to have an objective definition of suboptimal.

    The only one I can think of is word count.

    Hansen for the win
    Thorne for the place
    Willard for the show

  172. Willard,

    First, I dispute that there’s so much difference between blogorrhea and the lichurchur.

    Eh? I see a major difference in quality of head posts here vs. Curry’s. Used to be that there was a distinct difference between Anthony’s and Judy’s daily fare … once upon a time I could read ClimateEtc. and not want to swallow whole chunks of lit charcoal. Could be I’ve gotten more jaded and partisan tho’.

    I duly submit that blog comments have a higher quality than we presume.

    Careful now, my original comment was not that blog commentary is of universally poor quality.

    Second, Judge Judy usually handwaves toward an indefinite “cadre” of scientists, which ain’t a majority.

    I may have to defer to your assessment of that one — I don’t read her at all regularly.

    She also targets the IPCC as a whole, but treats it as a disease humanity should get rid of. She’s on record elsewhere than on her blog, including some citations in the lichurchur, which she uses to curry herself all the way down.

    Those both conform to my own impressions.

    Does it sound better because Jim plays the groupthink card?

    Looks to me like he was playing the blocking minority card.

    Fourth, it’s quite clear that Peter’s review carries at least as much editorial content as scientific content, and that his own blog post is mainly political.

    I’ve already stipulated I don’t have a problem with Hansen, Thorne, whomever, editorializing in popular press, on their own blogs, etc. I have not yet weighed in on politicking in the peer review process. In a perfect world, I would not want it to happen. Whether anonymous reviews contain less editorializing than airing out the dirty laundry in public I cannot say for sure because — annoyingly — I don’t have an insider’s perspective on the former method for comparison.

    Somehow, I doubt you’d wager against my guess that the temptation to grandstand isn’t as acute for the anonymous method. All bets really should be off when policy advocacy is part and parcel of the paper itself being publicly reviewed.

    Call it “process” if you will, it still is politics.

    No argument here.

    Is there a problem with that? Not at all, as long as you own it and you don’t hammer the opposition with the “activist” card.

    I’ve been looking for an exit point from playing Thorne’s apologist, and this is it. I agree with you in principle that double standards are odious.

    Fifth, as far as I am concerned, here’s the “activist” content in Jim’s paper:

    Yeah, no two ways about it: that’s policy advocacy. Where I may diverge from Thorne, or other climate scientists who have said things like, “our role is to provide policy makers with the information to make decisions, and not play an advocate role” is to resoundingly call BS. Who better to recommend policy than those among most learned about what’s at stake? Note that I’m not saying all scientists should be policy wonks.

    A major quibble here as I see it is about what medium is best suited for the scientist/activist to make their pitch. I care about that a lot less than I do about the strength of the science upon which the advocacy is based. So I literally could give two squats how much folks’ feathers are ruffled that Hansen shoved policy activism through peer review relative to how much I care about whether the science itself is crap or not.

    Whether Thorne derailed that conversation himself with his blog post or not, it would be nice to talk about whether his substantive critiques of the paper have merit — and if so, whether Hansen et al. have adequately addressed them.

    If there’s some stuff that is “most egregious,” there should be something that is just egregious, right?

    Yup. There could be good stuff too. I have trouble imagining that MOST of those 41 pages are complete bollocks as the usual suspects are likely already saying.

  173. Willard says:

    Brandon,

    I think we agree on the main points, so let me expand a bit on what has been said. This should address many things you said, but I don’t have time for a quote fest. If there’s something I missed, feel free to remind me.

    The “you’re such an activist!” card fails because there’s no fact/value dichotomy. Every single piece of science rests on values. That doesn’t imply that people can’t be objective, only that there are always judgment calls. The very idea of a fact presumes we care about it. Otherwise, we’d collect so much factoids that our heads would explode. There’s a condition in the DSM for that, but I can’t recall the name for now. There are of course more evolved arguments around that question, but I usually handwave to Putnam’s essays on that subject. Here’s a review:

    http://www.reasonpapers.com/pdf/28/rp_28_9.pdf

    This should give you an idea of what a review looks like from where I come. (Not a very good one, I must add – it’s a random pick that features libertarian crap.) This is a book review, and is therefore different than pre-publication reviews. However, open reviews being public , they may, sooner or later, become more polished products. The habitus of writing comments should adapt to the publication mode. Call it a prediction if you will.

    This is not to say that philosophers are less critical in their reviews. On the contrary, you have no idea how vigorous they can be. I’ll leave it to ethologists to explain why this is so.

    As you may already know, I was less present on the blog this winter because I was involved in the #astroSH tag. My presence is more in the background these days. To cut to the chase: open review is the best way to protect people.

    I could also rant about entryism, but that’ll have to wait.

    ***

    I don’t think we can call Hansen’s fall (i.e. the last sentences of his paper) a “pitch.” It’s too short. Here would be his pitch:

    Scientists should do that kind of thing more often, in my opinion. That way, there would less need for middlemen to formulate a message that does not frustrate their commercial sponsors too much. I’m referring to journalists, but that concept is also evolving. The only constant is that they’re informational middlemen, or middlewomen. Sooner or later we might even speak of middlebots:

    http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/mar/26/microsoft-deeply-sorry-for-offensive-tweets-by-ai-chatbot

    Hansen’s editorial comment looks quite minimal to me, and people protest way too much about them. Most of the concerns collapse along the fact/value dichotomy, and the rest falter on empirical ground. Take this study, which involve the publisher of the Hansen paper:

    Background

    Ratings in journal peer review can be affected by sources of bias. The bias variable investigated here was the information on whether authors had suggested a possible reviewer for their manuscript, and whether the editor had taken up that suggestion or had chosen a reviewer that had not been suggested by the authors. Studies have shown that author-suggested reviewers rate manuscripts more favorably than editor-suggested reviewers do.

    Methodology/Principal Findings

    Reviewers’ ratings on three evaluation criteria and the reviewers’ final publication recommendations were available for 552 manuscripts (in total 1145 reviews) that were submitted to Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, an interactive open access journal using public peer review (authors’ and reviewers’ comments are publicly exchanged). Public peer review is supposed to bring a new openness to the reviewing process that will enhance its objectivity. In the statistical analysis the quality of a manuscript was controlled for to prevent favorable reviewers’ ratings from being attributable to quality instead of to the bias variable.

    Conclusions/Significance

    Our results agree with those from other studies that editor-suggested reviewers rated manuscripts between 30% and 42% less favorably than author-suggested reviewers. Against this backdrop journal editors should consider either doing without the use of author-suggested reviewers or, if they are used, bringing in more than one editor-suggested reviewer for the review process (so that the review by author-suggested reviewers can be put in perspective).

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2954795/

    The last sentence is clearly a normative judgement that goes beyond the scope of the study. One might say that the study subtantiates the claim. So does Hansen’s work support his claim. Perhaps not in a deductive manner, but it may be good enough for the job required. One may argue that the support is more effective in the study I just quoted, but then why? There’s nothing in the 30%-42% statistics that compels anyone to do anything – the bias still doesn’t affect most of the studies. Moreover, the recommendation does not follow from the study at all – that’s mostly the author’s opinion. (This bias should be even worse in the social sciences, but I don’t have numbers yet.)

    This kind of construction occurs in just about any study with “practical implications,” as Jim says. I think the main problem that earth scientists have with that is a problem of habitus. They don’t seem used to recommend things.

    Considering the importance of AGW, they should get used to it more than they should raise concerns about when their proximate competition does. As for the very nature of scientific communication, it’ll evolve, just as it did when it finally implemented peer review. Peer review is just a norm, and norms change. Scientific ideas will emerge whatever means we choose to communicate them.

    And that’s the memo.

  174. Willard,

    With the caveat that I’m still trying to wrap my mind out of this entire discussion, I do think it’s fair to say we agree on some main points, especially on how the “pro-AGW” position is publicly argued could stand some improvements.

    We probably still see Hansen differently, with me still having a long-held and somewhat critical view. What’s been useful for me in this discussion is that it’s caused me to reevaluate my position and identify some questionable reasoning. I’ll give you a small taste: much of it comes down to my perception that many of his statements have been a liability in past rounds of ClimateBall. As I can make arguments for an against that being a … valid … concern, I’ve bumped the notion toward the top of the queue of things to ruminate.

    One of the themes I’ve gleaned from Eli, Victor and P. Thorne is that for science to be effective for policy, it needs to be credible. And that further, to be credible often means making conservative statements about future impacts is probably better than emphasizing worse- (or worst-) case scenarios. Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus is fallacious, but also powerful and therefore entrenched. Here I extend my ClimateBall liability but without the branding.

    One of the main benefits I see to open peer review is that it at least has the appearance of greater transparency. On the other hand, I think it a quite reasonable argument to suppose that researchers and academics do better when they’re able to make mistakes sans immediate public scrutiny. On the gripping hand, tenure was originally intended as another mechanism encouraging academic freedom to pursue unpopular or controversial topics whereas in practice it has been sometimes used to act in bad faith with (perceived) impunity. So a benefit to public peer might tend toward “actual” transparency, not just the pretend sort.

    Thing I keep in mind is that no amount of openness or transparency is going to make a lick of difference to those devoted to the idea that AGW is a crock promoted by conspirators. It might make a difference for those with more reasonable doubts, or who have a more undecided/agnostic view of things.

    I’ve enjoyed the chat and sparring practice as usual. Thanks and cheers.

  175. Science is normally conservative. To make a strong case, you have to investigate all effects that could null your results, while investigating effects that could make the effect bigger can also be done later. We have this tendency to be conservative when publishing and against when reviewing. There is quite some evidence that the IPCC reports are rather conservative after having been through this filter twice.

    I do not advocate this, however. The public needs information on the best possible estimate of what is going to happen (if we do X). To only inform the public about the minimal effect of X is a disservice. Especially in case of climate change a large part of the risk is due to changes that are not very likely, but when they happen would have a disproportional impact. Thus we need to get the full range of possible changes right, not just the mean and certainly not just an underestimate of the mean.

    http://variable-variability.blogspot.com/2015/12/judith-curry-uncertainty-monster-high-risk.html

    In the above debate I am mainly complaining about journalists pretending that the Hansen et al. is immediately part of any scientific consensus (“canon”). At the moment it is just one paper with a number of good scientists on the author list. (And can we stop calling every single scientist “world leading”?)

    And it is a fresh paper and those ideas are quire regularly overturned later. My preference would be for journalists to report on this study in a number of years. Hopefully we can then report on how likely the Hansen-scenario is and are reasonably sure this estimate is the best science can do, that if the estimate is still wrong, it is at least not trivially wrong. That is the moment to go to the public. There is really no lack of material given how mis- and under-informed the American public is. But I realise that this is a dream that does not fit in the current media landscape.

  176. I’d be interested to hear if Peter Thorne or Drijfhout et al have revised their views regarding rapid ice sheet collapse and potential rapid sea level rise. E.g., Day 4 at AGU – Productive Self-Doubt and Healthy Retraction in which Tobis says:

    “Then these guys [Pollard & Deconto] do the right thing and do a formal Bayesian tuning of model parameters to paleo-obs, and have a good claim to getting the problem first-order right for the first time. And things look pretty solid.

    Which in turn strongly indicates that Hansen’s much-maligned sense of it is in fact correct – large ice sheets can collapse quite quickly. (I went with the crowd in dismissing that idea. Oops.)”

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