Skeptic paper on Antarctica accepted – rebuts Steig et al

In a blow to the Real Climate “hockey team” one team member’s paper, Steig et al Nature, Jan 22, 2009 (seen at left) has been shown lacking. Once appropriate statistical procedures were applied, the real data spoke clearly, and it was done in a peer reviewed paper by skeptics. Jeff Condon of the Air Vent writes via email that he and co-authors, Ryan O’Donnell, Nicholas Lewis, and Steve McIntyre have succeeded in getting a paper accepted into the prestigious Journal of Climate and asked me to re-post the notice here.

The review process was difficult, with one reviewer getting difficult on submitted comments [and subsequent rebuttal comments from authors ] that became longer than the submitted paper, 88 pages, 10 times the length of the paper they submitted! I commend them for their patience in wading through such formidable bloviation. Anyone want to bet that reviewer was a “team” member?

As WUWT covered in the past, these authors have demonstrated clearly that the warming is mostly in the Antarctic Peninsula. Steig et al’s Mannian PCA math methods had smeared that warming over most of the entire continent, creating a false impression.

WUWT visitors may want to read this primer which explains how this happens. But most importantly, have a look at the side by side comparison maps below. Congratulations to Jeff, Ryan, Nick, and Steve! – Anthony

Jeff writes:

After ten months of reviews and rewrites we have successfully published an improved version of Steig et al. 2009.  While we cannot publish the paper here, we can discuss the detail.   Personally I’ve never seen so much work put into a single paper as Ryan did and it’s wonderful to see it come to a successful conclusion.  This is the initial post on the subject, in the coming weeks there will be more to follow.

Guest post by lead author Ryan O’Donnel.

——–

DOING IT OURSELVES. . . a tongue-in-cheek reference to the RC post here:

Improved methods for PCA-based reconstructions: case study using the Steig et al. (2009) Antarctic temperature reconstruction

(Accepted 11/30/10, Journal of Climate)

Ryan O’Donnell Nicholas Lewis Steve McIntyre Jeff Condon

Abstract 

A detailed analysis is presented of a recently published Antarctic temperature reconstruction that combines satellite and ground information using a regularized expectation-maximization algorithm. Though the general reconstruction concept has merit, it is susceptible to spurious results for both temperature trends and patterns. The deficiencies include: (a) improper calibration of satellite data; (b) improper determination of spatial structure during infilling; and (c) suboptimal determination of regularization parameters, particularly with respect to satellite principal component retention. We propose two methods to resolve these issues. One utilizes temporal relationships between the satellite and ground data; the other combines ground data with only the spatial component of the satellite data. Both improved methods yield similar results that disagree with the previous method in several aspects. Rather than finding warming concentrated in West Antarctica, we find warming over the period of 1957-2006 to be concentrated in the Peninsula (≈0.35oC decade-1). We also show average trends for the continent, East Antarctica, and West Antarctica that are half or less than that found using the unimproved method. Notably, though we find warming in West Antarctica to be smaller in magnitude, we find that statistically significant warming extends at least as far as Marie Byrd Land. We also find differences in the seasonal patterns of temperature change, with winter and fall showing the largest differences and spring and summer showing negligible differences outside of the Peninsula.

Region RLS  C/Dec E-W  C/Dec S09   C/Dec
Continent 0.06 ± 0.08 0.04 ± 0.06 0.12 ± 0.09
East Antarctica 0.03 ± 0.09 0.02 ± 0.07 0.10 ± 0.10
West Antarctica 0.10 ± 0.09 0.06 ± 0.07 0.20 ± 0.09
Peninsula 0.35 ± 0.11 0.32 ± 0.09 0.13 ± 0.05

Copyright © 2010 American Meteorological Association

(early online release to be available on or around Dec. 7th)

Temperature trend Deg C/Decade Click to enlarge. 

Some of you remember that we intended to submit the analysis of the Steig Antarctic reconstruction for publication.  That was quite some time ago . . . and then you heard nothing.  We did, indeed, submit a paper to Journal of Climate in February.  The review process unfortunately took longer than expected, primarily due to one reviewer in particular.  The total number of pages dedicated by that reviewer alone – and our subsequent responses – was 88 single-spaced pages, or more than 10 times the length of the paper.  Another contributor to the length of time from submission to acceptance was a hardware upgrade to the AMS servers that went horribly wrong, heaping a load of extra work on the Journal of Climate editorial staff.

With that being said, I am quite satisfied that the review process was fair and equitable, although I do believe excessive deference was paid to this one particular reviewer at the beginning of the process.  While the other two reviews were positive (and contained many good suggestions for improvement of the manuscript), the other review was quite negative.  As the situation progressed, however, the editor at Journal of Climate – Dr. Anthony Broccoli – added a fourth reviewer to obtain another opinion, which was also positive.  My feeling is that Dr. Broccoli did a commendable job of sorting through a series of lengthy reviews and replies in order to ensure that the decision made was the correct one.

The results in the paper are generally similar to the in-process analysis that was posted at CA and here prior to the submission.  Overall, we find that the Steig reconstruction overestimated the continental trends and underestimated the Peninsula – though our analysis found that the trend in West Antarctica was, indeed, statistically significant.  I would hope that our paper is not seen as a repudiation of Steig’s results, but rather as an improvement.

In my opinion, the Steig reconstruction was quite clever, and the general concept was sound.  A few of the choices made during implementation were incorrect; a few were suboptimal.  Importantly, if those are corrected, some of the results change.  Also importantly, some do not.  Hopefully some of the cautions outlined in our paper are incorporated into other, future work.  Time will tell!

Lastly, I’ll give a shout out to other folks whose comments helped shape the paper by their comments and analysis.  In particular, Roman, Hu, and Carrick . . . thanks!

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nature?……ok

Theo Goodwin

Congratulations! The sun is rising!

Ed Caryl

But do you know why the Antarctice Peninsula is warming?
http://notrickszone.com/2010/11/10/a-wind-in-antarctica/

HR

What does this do to the overall antarctic trend?

BillyBob

1957?
Wanna bet that is the coldest year in Antarctica in the 20th century.

HR

I guess I hadn’t really known of the existence of Stieg 2009 but I had come across the idea that antarctic warming was focussed on the penninsula. In fact I’ve always assumed this was the mainstream position. Has Stieg et al 2009 ever had any impact in antarctic research?

This is a fine example of how the scientific method is supposed to be applied. The process in general works. Sometimes it just takes an extraordinary mount of effort though. I will examine your paper carefully and completely. Work like this deserves nothing less.

John Blake

We assume this paper’s new-and-improved techniques will be consistently implemented with integrity by AGW catastrophists heretofore unaccustomed to heeding any conclusions but their own. Or will cold-is-warm, flat-is-round, up-is-down themes continue to clog Warmist arteries it always has?

Well done, now I just need a JOC link.
REPLY: That won’t come until Dec 7th. – Anthony

Athlete

My feeling is that Dr. Broccoli did a commendable job of sorting through a series of lengthy reviews and replies in order to ensure that the decision made was the correct one.
Watch your backside Dr. Broccoli. The team is sharpening their knives.

Mike

Very interesting. I have no idea who is right. But, both papers conclude Antarctica is warming.

Michael D Smith

Congratulations guys! I followed this closely at the Air Vent while you were doing the analysis, it was a totally impressive collaborative work back then, and a blast to watch. I have no idea how you managed to condense it to under 10 pages, but I look forward to reading it when its published. I was blown away by your amazing analysis. Steig’s was quite an impressive piece of work too if you ask me. I’m glad you were able to refine and improve it. Very nicely done!

Baa Humbug

Re the third reviewer, in any of the correspondence, were there any statements like…
“I’ll keep it out somehow.”? Love to be able to see some back n forth emails.

Rational Debate

Many kudo’s to all involved!
Anthony, summat trivial here, but what appears to be an inconsistency. In your write up it sounds as if the ‘sticky’ peer reviewer submitted 88 pages, where in the author comments following the abstract (did I miss where it said who actually wrote that bit?), it looks as if there were 88 pages total including both the peer reviewer comments AND the author replies….
Question for all… anyone know why that larger cooling area might be occurring? I mean, are there topographical features that would account for it, or ?? My first thought had been perhaps that area was generally significantly higher altitude… So I did a quick google for Antarctica topo, without much success – or does Antarctica really have no significant altitude differences across virtually the entire interior as the topo’s I found seemed to show?
Also, can these same methods be applied to the Arctic to obtain any better results than those currently used?
Needless to say it will be quite interesting to see just how much mainstream media the paper receives compared to all the coverage we’ve seen of how ‘Antarctica is warming faster than we thought….’
REPLY: yes, that was just clarified by Ryan O over at the air vent in comments, I’ll make an adjustment to the text to correct this mistake. – Anthony

PhilinCalifornia

I am assuming, or at least hoping that a Letter to the Editor of Nature is now either in progress or contemplated.
I wonder if a front cover has ever been retracted before ??
It’s nice to be diplomatic and all that, but my own personal view after reading Steig et al., when it first came out was that it was another example of the scientific fraud permeating the climate science industry.
….. and I have seven papers in Nature. Real ones.

James Sexton

Well done gentlemen! I can’t wait for the meat and potatoes. We can only hope as more and more skeptical papers get publish the acceptance of skeptical opinions will become more and more prevalent in the climate science community. Given the hoops you had to jump through, it must be very gratifying.

Frederick Michael

This is a signal event. The wall has been breached. Whereas papers like this could be suppressed before, the post-climategate environment is more open. The debate has, at last, been joined and the believers and the skeptics are moving onto a more level playing field.
I really feel sorry for the folks who had grown accustomed to having everything go their way. This will not be an easy adjustment for them. The responses to this paper may not be civil.

Michael in Sydney

First up – congratulations and thanks.
Mike says:
“Very interesting. I have no idea who is right. But, both papers conclude Antarctica is warming.”
I think that the information content of the new paper that could be applied to understanding the underlying causal factors looks very different to the Steig et al Paper. I think it is safe to say given the review process that COLMc paper is right.

Lulo

Peer review rarely includes more than three appraisals… a fourth reviewer (in addition to the associate editor) is really exceptional.

Mark T

Mike says:
December 1, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Very interesting. I have no idea who is right. But, both papers conclude Antarctica is warming.

As I recall – been a while since I read it – S09 never actually concluded “Antarctica is warming,” rather, it warmed 50-60 years ago, but hasn’t done much since. It seems if you start the “trend” in the late 60s or so it’s pretty flat…
Mark

theduke

I followed the original investigation of the Steig paper at ClimateAudit and it was an exciting process. Steig didn’t provide critical information to aid in the analysis of his paper, so it took time for people like Ryan, Jeff, Jeff, Roman Hu and Steve (apologies to those I’ve omitted) to figure out how Steig et al had reach their conclusions. I remember well the day that they “broke the code,” so to speak.
Congratulations, Ryan et al. Much can be accomplished when good, talented people work together in pursuit of scientific truth.

pat

The fraud about what has been happening in the Southern Hemisphere has been perpetrated for far too long. The record colds, some of which seem to predate Western style measurement , have been purposely ignored. Yet there is a fair chance that it is the water volume in the Southern Hemisphere that ‘controls’ the average temperatures, major temperature balancing, etc. around the globe. Rather than the largely regional effect of Arctic ice, etc.. This is a good start.

apl

In his post quoted above, Jeff Condon writes “I would hope that our paper is not seen as a repudiation of Steig’s results, but rather as an improvement.”
The headline of this article “…rebuts Steig et al” is surely an example of what he hopes will not happen, and will set a trend. Can it be changed?

88 pages of review dialog? I’d love to see it. Do all the reviewers get to see the others’ reviews? They, and especially the fourth, would be on notice to review things carefully.
Oh well, congratulations to the authors for seeing it through. I like the increased warming on the peninsula, it seems to fit what “everyone” has been saying!

Dave Springer

Looks like a little hiding of the decline going on at the South Pole.
On April 27, 2006 we have this temperature anomaly graphic
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=6502
And 18 months later we have this revised one “based on a pencil whippedrevised analysis that included better inter-calibration among all the satellite records that are part of the time series”:
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=8239
No shame. No shame at all.
There is no warming going on in the antarctic interior. It is cooling. The antarctic interior is ostensibly the best place on the planet to observe the isolated effect of CO2. It is isolated from intrusions of warm air by a barrier called the antarctic vortex, it’s the driest place (by far) on the planet with less than 2mm average annual precipitation.
One can easily examine the Vostok surface temperature record from 1958 to 2009 and see there has been no warming.
The only speculation I could find about how this is possible is a story about change in the ozone hole that increased the strength of the vortex and with the strength of the barrier to warmer air moving in from nearer the coast.

Roy Martin

Ed Caryl says:
“But do we know why the Arctic Peninsula is warming?”
A contributing factor could be that it is an active volcanic and thermal region. In case you have not seen it, some reference to this amongst many other factors at:
http://www.appinsys.com/GlobalWarming/RS_AntarcticPeninsula.htm
Variations in ocean temperatures also play a significant role around the antarctic. The Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) is a dominant feature of the region. The areas of warmer waters embedded within the ACC have to pass through the choke of the Drake Passage and can maintain higher temperatures surrounding the region of the Peninsula for years at a time.

Manfred

Hi Jeff,
if I remember the discussions, the most important point in my view with respect to AGW was a positive trend over the last 50 years, but a NEGATIVE trend over the last 40 years or so.
Did you include this in your paper ?

jorgekafkazar

Mark T says: “As I recall – been a while since I read it – S09 never actually concluded “Antarctica is warming,” rather, it warmed 50-60 years ago, but hasn’t done much since. It seems if you start the “trend” in the late 60s or so it’s pretty flat…”
IIRC, Steig himself said the warming trend he derived wasn’t enough to melt the Antarctic ice cap anytime in the next few centuries.
From the “primer”: “Kevin Trenberth, climate analysis chief at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said in an e-mail: ‘It is hard to make data where none exist.'”
I’m often amazed at how Trenberth can put his finger on the key point occasionally!

Dave Springer

Good reading related to my previous comment about hiding the antarctic decline:
Lawrence Solomon: Climate change’s Antarctic ruffle
January 31, 2009
How does a new Nature study conclude that Antarctica is warming when actual temperature readings show it is not?
By Lawrence Solomon
read more

It is official; BBC News have just told us that the record low temperatures are due to ….
You guessed it: “Warming”
(Posts comment to sound of drum banging in background)

sHx

Jeff says:
I would hope that our paper is not seen as a repudiation of Steig’s results, but rather as an improvement.
Whereas the title of the WUWT post says:
Skeptic paper on Antarctica accepted – rebuts Steig et al
Unless Anthony Watts is setting up the likes of Joe Romm and Gavin Schmidt for a ‘gotcha’ moment, a correction to the title of the post is warranted.
BTW, had the order of publications been the other way round, that is, had Steig been the most recent paper, then Joe Romm would burst out into the streets yelling “O’Donnell, et al, is the most debunked paper in Antarctic climate research.
See, Lucia’s “Most Debunked X in Y”.
http://rankexploits.com/musings/2010/most-debunked-x-in-y/

Congrats to the paper. I guess it makes more sense than Steig – even the blog posts on CA did make more sense.
Still, while “Journal of Climate” may be “prestigious” in some sense, it is surely less famous than Nature. So something is still surely wrong when in recent 2 years, the bad analyses of a topic are published in Nature while the more accurate ones “only” appear in Journal of Climate.
This is surely no reason for celebrations of the institutionalized science progress. There’s almost none.

Peter Miller

Another exposure of strangled, manipulated data being used to prove a fallacious climate hypothesis, brilliantly summed up by the expression ‘Mannian maths’.
Another inconvenient fact is the growth in extent of Antarctic sea ice over the past 30 years.
This from http://paroscientific.com/autoweatherstation.htm may also help explain something.
“As we have AWS units all over Antarctica at various elevations, the operational temperature range varies greatly, but the above temperature ranges illustrate the temperature extremes. Some of the AWS units in the Antarctic Peninsula region get slightly warmer temperatures. We measure the gauge temperature so that we can make the required temperature correction.”

Bill Jamison

I am really impressed by the tenacity of this team of authors. It’s a sad commentary on the state of peer-reviewed climate science that it took so much determination to get this article published but I applaud them for it.
Great work and thanks for your efforts and dogged determination!

Steeptown

I can’t wait for the Steig et al response at RC. Any bets on it being ignored at RC?

LabMunkey

Congrats.
i for one cannot wait to read this. Interesting how it seems you met significant hurdles getting the paper published/past review, one wonders if a non-skeptical paper would have recieved such opposition….

mondo

And Eric Steig’s response is?…………………………..

Murray Grainger says: “It is official; BBC News have just told us that the record low temperatures are due to …. You guessed it: “Warming”
BBC scientific argument: It’s obvious init? The low temperatures are bad, global warming is really bad, so they kinda the same init?

Michael

I just wanted to change the channel to something that would really shock and scare me. I had been watching CNBC World financial channel. I already knew about all that bad stuff and knew how devastating that would be. But I wanted something that would really scare me so I turned to the Weather Channel, having a feling.
It’s only the beginning of December.

Roy

It would be interesting if an expert on the sociology of science (such people do exist) were to investigate the peer review process for papers on climate change and compared sceptical papers with those upholding the “consensus” view to see if double standards applied.
I think we know what the results would be but it would be interesting to have firm evidence.

Alan the Brit

Excellent post! Well done to all concerned, just shows what good science & perseverance can do! BTW the global warming has finally reached Devon big time, further west than the Met Office’s prediction last night of only reaching Dorset. Why is nature so fickle in not following their predictions, shame on you Gaia! :-)) According to Vicky Pope this is just natural variation, so why is a warm year global warming, & a cold one natural?

John Marshall

Is this the acceptance of common sense or just a sop to keep the climate realists quiet? We will see as time unfolds.
The Antarctic peninsular is north of the antarctic circle and has water on three sides. So would be warmer than the rest of the continent. Since antactic sea ice is extending I would guess that things are getting cooler. There is coal to be found there so it was warmer there in the Jurassic/Cretaceous when these trees grew there. (Antarctica was also further north than today and joined to Africa/India before the Atlantic started to open).

Mooloo

Mike says:
December 1, 2010 at 8:29 pm
Very interesting. I have no idea who is right. But, both papers conclude Antarctica is warming.

One supports local warming. One supports global warming.
The nature of the “warming” is critical. Localised warming is perfectly acceptable without accepting CO2-AGW. However, CO2-AGW requires the Antarctic to be warming more or less evenly.
But you know this.

toto

In his post quoted above, Jeff Condon writes “I would hope that our paper is not seen as a repudiation of Steig’s results, but rather as an improvement.”
The headline of this article “…rebuts Steig et al” is surely an example of what he hopes will not happen, and will set a trend. Can it be changed?

Anthony being Anthony. “Why should I read the posts I publish?”.
I can’t wait for the Steig et al response at RC. Any bets on it being ignored at RC?
Well, the original discussion of the analysis wasn’t. Look at this RC post (the comment thread is short, but awesome).

wes george

Congratulations. Well done.

Red Etin

Scotland is freezin. Minus 22 in Altnaharra, but only minus 7 here on the east coast.
It might be warmer in between though!
Michty be Goad!

HR

To answer my own question earlier I just realised that the Steig warming pattern fitted really nicely with the estimates of Ice Mass Balance from the GRACE data.
Such as here.
http://media.wiley.com/wires/WCC/WCC36/nfig007.jpg
The Big blue blob on the west coast matching really well with Steig’s orange smudge.
You guys know how to spoil a really good story.

David C

Anthony
Thanks for letting us see this.
Ryan O’Donnel says:
“I would hope that our paper is not seen as a repudiation of Steig’s results, but rather as an improvement.”
But your headline is:
“Skeptic paper on Antarctica accepted – rebuts Steig et al”
From what I’ve read here, it seems to me that Ryan is correct in his description. I think you should find a new title, or face accusations from the warmists that you are misrepresenting his paper.

rxc

This is very similar to the problem of “numerical diffusion” that occurs in models of thermal-hydraulic conditions inside power plant piping. If you make a change to a component in one volume (even a small part of a pipe), the change diffuses throughout the system due to the numeric solution of the differential equations “smearing” the change across successive neighboring volumes, even if such a “diffusion” is not physically possible, or much faster than is physically possible. It is seen most often when a new chemical species in introduced into a fluid stream, like the injection of a boric acid solution into pure water. It is difficult to deal with, but is well known. I wonder how much numerical diffusion occurs in the GCMs.

R. de Haan

This is really great, thanks.
Just for the fun.
Disconnect between ice extent data and ice extent data.
Watch Joe Bastardi discuss the Arctic and Antarctic ice data and wonder if someone is cooking the books on the data. (video from last Monday)
http://www.accuweather.com/video/691895942001/monday-morning-sea-ice-global-temp-report.asp?channel=vbbastaj