This replaced the previous sticky, and I have this comment about the Economist. Bad form and unprofessional to use the word “denialists”. For WUWT readers who wish to complain: email@example.com or use their online form here. – Anthony
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST
On Dec 11th, the Economist published an unsigned article attacking both me and my work. This open letter is my reply.
TO: The Person Unwilling to Sign Their Economist Article
Dear Sir or Madam;
Recently, you wrote a scathing article about me in the Economist discussing my post called The Smoking Gun At Darwin Zero. Some of it was deserved, but most was undeserved and false. The URL for your unprinicpled attack is http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2009/12/trust_scientists … trust_scientists? Trust_scientists?? Have you read the CRU emails?
But I digress … you begin by quoting from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, viz:
A change in the type of thermometer shelter used at many Australian observation sites in the early 20th century resulted in a sudden drop in recorded temperatures which is entirely spurious. It is for this reason that these early data are currently not used for monitoring climate change. Other common changes at Australian sites over time include location moves, construction of buildings or growth of vegetation around the observation site and, more recently, the introduction of Automatic Weather Stations.
The impacts of these changes on the data are often comparable in size to real climate variations, so they need to be removed before long-term trends are investigated.
While this is true, it doesn’t apply. None of the GHCN adjustments are from any of those sources. This is because the GHCN does not adjust for location moves. Nor does it adjust for construction of buildings, nor for any of the other items listed. The GHCN uses none of those to make its adjustments. So all of that is totally meaningless.
Next, you say the “explanation for the dramatic change in 1941 is simple”:
As previously advised, the main temperature station moved to the radar station at the newly built Darwin airport in January 1941. The temperature station had previously been at the Darwin Post Office in the middle of the CBD, on the cliff above the port. Thus, there is a likely factor of removal of a slight urban heat island effect from 1941 onwards. However, the main factor appears to be a change in screening. The new station located at Darwin airport from January 1941 used a standard Stevenson screen. However, the previous station at Darwin PO did not have a Stevenson screen. Instead, the instrument was mounted on a horizontal enclosure without a back or sides. The postmaster had to move it during the day so that the direct tropical sun didn’t strike it! Obviously, if he forgot or was too busy, the temperature readings were a hell of a lot hotter than it really was.
This might make sense if there were any “dramatic change in 1941”. But as I clearly stated in my article, <b>there is no such dramatic change</b>. The drop in temperature was gradual and lasted from 1936 to 1940. The change from 1940 to 1941 was quite average. So that claim of yours is nonsense as well. In any case, the change in screening did not coincide with the 1941 move. In my article I cited a reference to a picture of a Stevenson Screen in use in Darwin at the turn of the century. Perhaps you didn’t bother to read that.
Next, you point out two actual mistakes I did make.
First, in my proofreading I did not catch that I that I had written “the 1941 adjustment” when I meant the 1930 adjustment. That should have been obvious to me, because there is no 1941 GHCN adjustment. My bad.
Second, I had said that the Darwin temperature data couldn’t have been adjusted by using the GHCN method. This method requires five neighboring stations to which Darwin can be compared. Why couldn’t the GHCN method be used? I said it was because in the earlier time periods like the 1930s, there were no such stations covering that time period within 500 km of Darwin. I was wrong, it fact there is one such station.
Neither of these errors of mine affect my point, which is that there are not enough neighboring stations to adjust Darwin using the main GHCN method. The GHCN folks mention this possibility, saying:
Also, not all stations could be adjusted.
Remote stations for which we could not produce an
adequate reference series (the correlation between
first-difference station time series and its reference
time series must be 0.80 or greater) were not adjusted.
The homogeneity-adjusted version of GHCN includes
only those stations that were deemed homogeneous
and those stations we could reliably adjust to make
Unfortunately, they adjusted Darwin anyway. Consider the GHCN adjustment in 1920. To find five stations around Darwin covering 1920, you have to go out 1,250 km. Nor is there any guarantee that those stations will be suitable. You need to have five stations with an 80% correlation with the Darwin record … I wish you the best of luck finding those five stations.
So while my statement about stations nearer than Daly Waters was wrong as you point out (there is one nearer station that covers the 1930 adjustment), my point was correct – there are not enough neighboring stations to adjust Darwin using the GHCN method. The first GHCN adjustment to Darwin was a single year adjustment in 1901. To get five “neighboring” stations for that adjustment, you have to go out 1728 km. You fail to deal with that issue at all. Instead, you say:
“So is it reasonable, if the GHCN is using complex statistical tools to adjust the temperature readings at Darwin based on surrounding stations, that they might come up with the figures they came up with? Sure. No. Yes. I have no idea. And neither does Mr Eschenbach. Because in order to judge that, you would have to have a graduate-level understanding of statistical modeling. … I don’t understand that formula. I don’t have the math for it.”
“Surrounding stations”? We’re talking about stations a thousand km away and more, not surrounding stations.
And while I am sorry to hear of the lacunae in your math education, please don’t make the foolish assumption that others are similarly limited. I have no problem with the GHCN math. If you truly have no idea on the question as you say … then why are you excoriating my ideas on the question?
Nor is it inherently a complex question. The question is, should temperatures more than a thousand km away from Darwin be used to arbitrarily adjust Darwin’s temperature by a huge amount? You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.
Next, as an aside you make the scurrilously false statement that I said that claims of damage due to sea level rise in Tuvalu “stemmed from attempts by locals to blame subsidence problems on the developed world, and cash in on it”. I said no such thing nor do I believe it. The claims stemmed from misguided environmentalists.
Next, you say “He makes it sound as if he’s just happened to stumble across this one site whilst perusing a debate over climate change in northern Australia. But as his link to that conversation from 2000 makes clear, Mr Eschenbach is already aware that climate change denialists have been trumpeting the apparent anomalies at Darwin for nine years.” BZZZZT, poor understanding of the implications of chronology. I looked up the conversation after I stumbled across Darwin. How dare you accuse me of lying? As I said, I went to AIS to see if what Professor Karlen had said was true. I called up a list of all of the stations in Australia that covered 1900-2000. Darwin was the first on the list, so that’s the one I looked at. Try it and see. You accusation is both wrong and totally unfounded.
“[Climate change denialists] do so because of that errant data at Darwin from before 1941, which makes it look as though there was a cooling trend there. The fact that climate-change researchers have to do a particularly strong correction on the data at Darwin, because they moved their dang instruments from the downtown post office to the airport, makes Darwin a perfect place to look for support if you want to claim that climate-change scientists are cooking the data.”
While a correction in Darwin is perhaps necessary, it is cannot be because they “moved their dang instruments” in January of 1941. LOOK AT THE DATA. There is no big change in January of 1941. It occurred gradually over the previous five years. So your theory falls apart upon the simplest examination of the facts.
Next you say: “Average guys with websites can do a lot of amazing things. One thing they cannot do is reveal statistical manipulation in climate-change studies that require a PhD in a related field to understand.”
Your understanding of statistics is as poor as your understanding of chronology. The statistics used by GHCN are average college level tools. You are dazzled by the fact that you don’t understand them, so you make the incredibly foolish assumption that no one without “a PhD in a related field” can understand them either. Some of us actually paid attention in class, you know.
Finally, you use your closing arguments to cheerlead for peer review. Curiously, I agree with you in theory … but the peer review system in climate science is badly broken. First, as the CRU emails clearly show, it has been subjected to enormous “old-boy” pressures to pass through bad studies without a second glance, and to deny opposing papers a fair hearing. How do you think we got the Hockeystick and its cousins? Here’s Phil Jones from the emails, talking about keeping peer-reviewed papers out of the IPCC report:
I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!
And you give your article the URL “trust_scientists”???
Second, the peer-review system is ripe for abuse. This is because the reviewers often know who the author is, while the reviewers (like you) hide in anonymity. This invites malfeasance. The system needs to be changed so that after the review, the [authors] sign their names to the paper as well as reviewers. At present, we have no way of knowing whether the paper was seriously reviewed by inquiring scientists, or simply passed through by the authors friends.
So I, like you, support peer review. I just want a peer review system that works. It must be double blind during the review period, with neither the reviewers nor the author knowing the others’ names. And the reviewers should reveal their names at the end, so that we know it wasn’t just the author’s best mates doing the author a favor.
Since we have an easily manipulated system instead of a real peer review system, I opt for public peer review by putting my work on the web. This lets anyone, even anonymous innumerates like yourself, register your objections.
Finally, the Economist did not contact me before publishing an article full of false accusations, incorrect assumptions and wrong statements … looks like peer review is not the only system in trouble here. I thought journalists were under an obligation to check their facts before making accusations …