The good news: there’s new and exciting opportunities opening themselves to us.The bad news; some people are hilariously unquestioning.
It has been an even more entertaining than usual couple of days in the alarmosphere. I’d been traveling the last week, doing TV station work and station surveys. While on the road I discovered through an email that I was the subject of a YouTube Video called “Climate Crock of the Week”.
The video was about my surfacestations.org project and was titled “What’s up with Watts?”. It was sad and funny at the same time, and as is typically the case with our old friends it was directed at me personally, far more than it tried substance. Equally typically, and sadly, what substance it tried turned out to be wrong. I continued on my travels, my friend Dr. Roger Pielke Sr. posted an opinion on it last week to address some of the issues.
Little did I know bizarro land awaited upon my return home.
Sitting down Saturday night, to watch the video again, detecting through its exquisite subtleties and nuance, I couldn’t help but laugh, because once again I noticed that everything reported in it was just wrong.
In fact, it probably was the worst job of fact-finding I had ever seen, which as WUWT readers know, is a bold assessment. I’ve been involved in broadcast TV news for 25 years, and have seen some really bad work from greenhorns fresh out of reporters school. This video reminded me of those. It was as if whoever put it together had never researched it, but just strung together a bunch of graphics, video, photos, and a monotone voice-over track with ad hominems liberally sprinkled for seasoning. I figured it was probably just an overzealous college student out to save the world and this was some college project. It had that air of radical burningman quality about it.
Curiosity piqued, I inquired into just who is this climate Solon? To my surprise, he turned out to be an “independent film producer” working out of his house in Midland, MI under the name “Greenman Studio”, one Peter Sinclair, a proud graduate of Al Gore’s Climate Camp. I still figured him to be a kid and imagined his mom was yelling down into the basement “Peter that’s too loud, turn it down!”.
I also wondered if it was the same “Green Man” that had once prompted surfacestations volunteer Gary Boden to create this nifty patch:
This came about because my now defunct local “Alternate Weekly” had a ghost writer named “green man” who penned an unintentionally (I think) hilarious editorial about me and the www.surfacestations.org project back in 2007 in which he wrote the famous line:
“The Reverend Anthony WTF Watts and his screeching mercury monkeys…”
…in response to our daring to survey the weather stations nationwide. The “mercury” is reference to thermometers.
What was funny is that in my original story, one of my commenters posted a silly comment about well, “green stuff” and the editor of the local “Alternate Weekly” went ballistic and demanded I remove it and gave me a stern lecture on libel. I was happy to comply not out of legal obligation but courtesy and deleted the comment.
Is this Green Man the same guy? Inquiring minds want to know.
OK back to the present. I checked my email for some correspondence from Mr. Sinclair for the past week and found none, and looked back even further to see if he had contacted me about the surfacestations project weeks before in email or in my letters pile. I found nothing and was surprised that he had made a video using my work without at least a basic request or notice. Normally when somebody wants to publish something in another media type (that is not a blog or webpage) from the surfacestations project or my blog, they contact me and ask permission to use the items. The word normal, however, upon scrutiny really doesn’t apply here.
I’ve gotten dozens of such requests from magazines, newsletters, book publishers, and TV stations. So far, I’ve never said no to any request for such materials or copyright waivers. I’ve filled out lots of forms granting my copyright waiver for the legally skittish that need more than an email or “sure, go ahead” over the phone.
But, in the video Mr. Sinclair produced and posted on YouTube, I noticed that he did in fact use photographs and graphics from my published book “Is The U.S. Surface Temperature Record Reliable?”. I hold the copyright on this book. The notice for copyright is in the inside front cover. © 2009 Surfacestations.org All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this report or portions thereof in any form. ISBN 13: 978-1-934791-29-5 and ISBN 10: 1-934791-26-6.
There was also a Warner Brothers video clip from the movie “Anchorman” with a segment about the incompetent TV weatherman which I assume was added to portray me in my chosen career, and amazingly (and most amusingly) there was another video clip from the movie “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai” which is a campy sendup of “War of the Worlds”. Interestingly in the credits, and I know this because I happened to watch the movie about two weeks before on Showtime, there is a “John Van Vliet” listed in the credits. It made me wonder if it is the same John Van Vliet that created the “opentemp” program launched just a couple of months after I first started the surfacestations project in an attempt to derail it early on. He made the mistake of using incomplete data. More on incomplete data later.
I noted that neither clip was from the trailers you could find on YouTube and were of high quality, so maybe they were cribbed from a DVD or perhaps an Apple video download, since I recognized from the editing effects that Mr. Sinclair owns a Macintosh. WB has some pretty stringent clip licensing requirements, which I know from doing TV news and a reporter wanting once to use part of a film from WB in a special news report. WB wanted our TV station to pay, but the cost was sky high for our small TV station. They finally whittled it down to something we could afford.
Doing a little more research, I found that Mr. Sinclair does a series of animated online greeting cards, which you can see here: http://www.care2.com/ecards/bio/1023
I thought this one was funny: http://www.care2.com/send/card/0840
The description portrayed him as a pretty nice guy with an alternate minded view of the world like a lot of college students have. He is not a college student, though he has a son who is of college age, a nice Ron Paul supporter, I am told from someone who has met him. His rather conservative son, contrasts the rather left-wing eco-activist ad hominem and rhetorically unrestrained father(see here). It is almost humorous greeting card-worthy, this role reversal.
But since he had used that © symbol, Mr. Sinclair demonstrated awareness of copyright protections, having availed himself of them, e.g., here, right below his own artwork.
With knowledge of this and ad hominem attacks made on me personally, I reasonably presumed his copyright violation on my part was likely intentional. I also figured that this might be a teachable moment, as I was still thinking this is a kid just out of college since there seems to be no business website for Greenman studio in operation yet, it is still “under construction”.
And, I mused, by bringing the copyright issue to his attention, I’d probably be doing him a favor, since I surmised he’d be at risk for using the film clips. I figured anybody working a business out of a house without an operating web page probably can’t afford licensing fees. No deep pockets there. I certainly have no personal beef with Mr. Sinclair, it is just the copyright issue.
But my copyright had been ignored, with evidence that Mr. Sinclair as a publisher himself using the © symbol understands copyrights, and WB’s copyright also looked like it also had been ignored. And well, lets face it, he got the facts wrong about the project and never contacted or interviewed me to get any facts from my side (more on that later). So it could hardly be defined as “journalism” and the protections that such enterprise affords for “fair use”. So I filled out the form for copyright issues on YouTube, and pressed enter.
What I expected to happen is that I’d get an angry email or blog comment from the guy, I’d suggest to him (privately) to make a couple of modifications, grant him a copyright for the factual graphics from the surfacestations project, and tell him to put his video back up on the web. End of story, lesson learned.
What I didn’t expect was the alarmosphere going into berserk overdrive.
After all, this was not yet a “weekday” which it increasingly seems to be what we call those periods when our friends lapse into said mode. It turns out that YouTube put my name and the surfacestations.org URL up on the video pane for the former video, made me a target for hatred by the “scream first, ask questions later” types.
The first hint of this started on Sunday when I got a comment on my blog. The commenter, who obviously didn’t know the difference between copyright law and constitutional law wanted to know why I had “denied free speech” to Mr. Sinclair. Of course, “free speech” protections involve state infringement and,as powerful as our friends do apparently believe I have become, neither am I the state nor was the state involved here, so the angst was yet again rather misplaced. Regardless, I also thought this a pretty odd comment. Since Mr. Sinclair still hadn’t contacted me, I paid no attention to it.
Then I began receiving more odd comments, and I’m thinking; “why are these people making a private copyright dispute their personal business?”
Here’s sampling of a few comments I got that never made WUWT:
“Watts you are a coward chickesh** no good dumba** weatherman hiding behind a law that you’ve irrationally applied”
“You can’t handle the TRUTH, if I were Jack Nicholson I’d kick your a**”
“Wattsup, you and your stupid picture book project are toast!”
I even got comments from “Omar” in Finland:
“Looks like your attempt to smother and censor information has fired back badly on you Mr Watts: Do you have – how you say – the cahones to explain yourself? I think not. You appear to be a child coward man.”
Censoring huh? And around the alarmosphere all sorts of curious accusations of censorship — again, with the long arm of the state nowhere to be found, this seemed to be a variant of the Tim Robbins (see also “paranoid” and “uncomprehending”) School of Crying “Censorship”. Even more bizarre, were the demands. On the “DeSmog Blog”, Kevin Grandia lambasted me for not knowing anything about law, and then demanded I email him and explain myself and my reasons for filing a copyright complaint. I’m no lawyer, but clearly giving details of a dispute to an angry third party not involved isn’t right up there with sound legal advice.
Still apparently confused that his dispute lay not with me but with YouTube or the concepts of intellectual property, when that didn’t get the required response, Mr. Grandia posted another angry column over on the Huffington Post, and made the same demand. He’s wondering why I haven’t responded directly to him.
But being that guardian of smoggy freedom, Mr. Grandia took it a step further, and, in a rather ironic follow-up to his seizing of the mantle of all that conforms to the laws, somehow located the original YouTube video and reposted it to YouTube under the “DeSmog Blog” label:
You can watch it here:
So much for my “censorship”, feel free to view it. You see, I’ve had lots of angry criticism in the last two years, this is nothing new, so I’m not really concerned about the criticisms.
When viewing, note the graph from NCDC in the video which “proves” my surfacestations project is (choose your own derogatory word). More on that momentarily.
The alarmosphere was reaching a tipping point. I knew it was only a matter of time before somebody would blog the coup de grace, and yet; I still haven’t heard from Mr. Sinclair so I could tell him about what I’d like changed.
OK. But if Mr. Sinclair had contacted me (like a journalist would) before he made his video, instead of simply reading the NCDC Talking points memo (revised version seen here, PDF) he could have found out a few things, such as:
- NCDC used an old outdated version of my data set (April 2008) they found on my website and assumed it was “current”. Big mistake on their part. Big admission of not overly concerning himself with first-hand knowledge, or even substance, on his part.
- NCDC did not contact me about use of the data. The data, BTW is not yet public domain, though I plan to make it so after I’ve published my paper. So like Mr. Sinclair, technically they are also in violation of copyright. Surfacestations is a private project, I emphasize, what with the public-private concept being one of the major precipitors of the alarmosphere’s angst.
- That data NCDC found had not been quality controlled, many of the ratings changed after quality control was applied, thus changing the outcome.
- When notified of this, they did nothing to deal with the issue, such as notifying readers.
- NCDC published no methodology, data or formula used, or show work of any kind that would normally be required in a scientific paper.
- The author is missing from the document thus it was published anonymously. Apparently nobody at NCDC would put his or her name on it.
- When notified of the fact that the author’s name Thomas C. Peterson (of NCDC) was embedded in the properties of the PDF document (which happens on registration of the Adobe Acrobat program, causing insertion in all output), NCDC’s only response was to remove the author’s name from the document and place it back online. It is odd behavior for a scientist to publish work but not put your name on it.
- NCDC got the number of USHCN stations wrong in their original document document graph, citing 1228 when it is actually 1218 I notified them of this and they eventually fixed it.
- That NCDC original document did not even cite my published work, or even use my name to credit me. I have the original which you can view here Note also the name in the document properties and the number of USHCN2 stations above the graph.
I’m regularly lambasted for publishing things here that are not “peer reviewed”. But, when NCDC does it, and does it unbelievably badly, not only is the “talking points memo” embraced by the alarmosphere as “truth” and “falsification”, but NOT ONE of those embracing it show the remotest interest in questioning why it fails to meet even the basic standards for a letter to the editor of a local newspaper.
My own local paper wouldn’t publish a letter or memo where the author is not identified. Yet an anonymous NCDC memo the author won’t even own up to is considered “climate truth”.
Students of the alarmists may have noticed some time ago, how the burden of proof and quality of publication shifts when the other side of the aisle is doing the talking. In fact, nobody who has jumped into the fray has asked me any questions, yet take as accurate our gift-card designer cum climate scientist Mr. Sinclair at his word, without asking me a single question.
I guess it doesn’t matter now, The Good Ship Teachable Moment has sailed, now that “Big Smog” has stepped in as the defender of freedom. I think Mr. Grandia is hoping that I’ll file a copyright complaint against him.
But here is the kicker. Once you sort through all the ad homs in the video, you find the nugget. It involves that graph that Mr. Sinclair cites from the NCDC Talking Points Memo. If he had asked, he would have found out that it has some pretty embarrassing flaws.
Figure 1. From the NCDC Talking Points Memo.
As referenced in the text of the NCDC Talking Points Memo, the Figure1 graph compares two homogenized data sets, and demonstrates an uncanny correlation. Here is what they say:
Two national time series were made using the same homogeneity adjusted data set and the same gridding and area averaging technique used by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center for its annual climate monitoring.
Seems reasonable, until you understand what “homgenization” really is.
What’s “homogenization” you say? Some kind of dairy product treatment?
Well no, not quite. It is data that has been put through a series of processes that render it so the end result is like comparing the temperature between several bowls of water that have been mixed together, then poured back into the original bowls and the temperature measured of each. What you get is an end temperature for each bowl that is a mixture of the other nearby bowl temperatures.
Here’s another way that is more visual. Think of it like measuring water pollution. Here’s a simple visual table of CRN station quality ratings (as used in my book) and what they might look like as water pollution turbidity levels, rated as 1 to 5 from best to worst turbidity:
In homgenization the data is weighted against the nearby neighbors within a radius. And so a station the might start out as a “1” data wise, might end up getting polluted with the data of nearby stations and end up as as new value, say weighted at “2.5”. Our contributing author John Goetz explains how even single stations can affect many many other stations in the GISS and NOAA data homogenization methods carried out on US surface temperature data here and here.
In the map above, applying a homogenization smoothing, weighting stations by distance nearby the stations with question marks, what would you imagine the values (of turbidity) of them would be? And, how close would these two values be for the east coast station in question and the west coast station in question? Each would be closer to a smoothed center average value based on the neighboring stations. Of course this isn’t the actual method, just a visual analogy.
So, essentially, NCDC’s graph is comparing homogenized data to homogenized data, and thus there would not likely be any large difference between “good” and “bad” stations. All the differences have been smoothed out by homogenization pollution from neighboring stations!
The best way to compare the effect of siting between groups of stations is to use the “raw” data, before it has passed through the multitude of adjustments that NCDC does. Admittedly, raw data can have its own problems, but there are ways my friends and I at the Pielke research team can make valid station trend comparisons without making numerical adjustments to the actual data raw data.
And finally for those who say “Watts doesn’t want you to see this video” or “he fears the science”, I direct you to this WUWT entry, dated June 26th, 2009:
I was the first one to report on the NCDC Talking Points Memo. Fearing science, video and all that, I chose to publicly blog on a subject critical and even damaging to my own research, knowing full well others would pick it up, including those who would not treat this even-handedness kindly.
The document is an internal memo for NOAA. It didn’t get wide attention after it was first published on June 9th, in fact I don’t think it got any attention at all.
Without my pulling it out of internal memo obscurity and discussing it on WUWT, Dr. Pielke likely wouldn’t have commented on it, McIntyre wouldn’t have written about it, twice, and thus from all the pickups from those articles, Mr. Sinclair probably wouldn’t have ever seen it. Surely there would not be this delightfully entertaining, rather revealing, and grade school caliber commentary had I not sought to publish it to a wide audience.
But that’s OK. The result is not something I fear, even if my final analysis shows the USA trends are unaffected. There are other things we know and will learn that are of significance.
In fact I’ve had some very positive things come out of this, both on the media and scientific side. Some offers and ideas have been floated.
But that’s a story that will have to wait. Maybe Mr. Grandia will place an online demand for it. Stay tuned. They rarely disappoint.
Oh, and I got to “meet” Mr. Sinclair, the father of a college-age kid though not quite the young college kid I expected: