Seeing what one expects

By Kevin Kilty

This morning I awoke to a mid-April morning temperature of -11F. The 1981 to 2010 climate normals indicate our average daily minimum temperature per this date as about 23F, and the standard deviation as 8F. Thus, our morning low temperature is a 4-sigma event. Surely something to evoke comment. Yet, it did not so far as I know.

This caused me to ponder something I observed  two months ago. Ten minutes from my home, in the mountains to my east, is great nordic skiing. It was at one time home to what we call, the Norwegian olympics. There was unusually good snow this winter, and people came from near and far to enjoy it. What I heard often in conversation in the parking lot in February was that we were having an “unusually warm” winter. I thought not. I have lived in this area, off and on, for 40 years, and I thought this winter was pretty typical, even possibly slightly cool.

What the observations show

Combining data from Mesowest and from the NCEI office of NOAA, I produced Figure 1 for our inspection.

This figure is very revealing not only about what the present winter is like, but what typical winters around here are like. There is the “normal” winter, the smooth curves of weather averaged over 30 years time; and there is the current winter daily averages shown in bold orange variations.

In the current winter, which I view as typical, average temperature rises up to near the maximum daily climate normal temperature for a time. This occurs principally in the southerly flow of warm air a few days in advance of a cold front. After passage of the front there are days of cold air to contend with. Rarely is the daily average temperature at or near the climate normal. There is typical winter, and there is climate normal; rarely do they meet.[1]

This year the first two weeks of December showed days of variable temperature but the average remained between the climate normal average, and the climate normal maximum. One might call it warm. Suddenly the weather became more extreme with daily averages rising well above the maximum climate normal to well below. Out of the ordinary? No, typical; as the extremes still never exceeded one standard deviation above or below. Once averaged it seems like a couple of weeks of typical winter storminess; but possibly someone predisposed to “global warming” would have noticed and remembered the warmer days, but not so much the others.

In January the weather varied within a smaller range, but stayed largely within the band between the average climate normal and the average maximum normal. One would have been absolutely correct in stating this to have been a milder than normal January. February starts warm then becomes cold to the extent of 2-sigma below the average climate minimum, then proceeds with temperature extremes, again with the passage of successive storms, but generally seems to be a few degrees below the average climate normal. It hardly seems correct to label it a warm winter as the skiers were doing — especially while sweaty at the end of their circuit. February, from the data, looks to have been the coldest month of our winter season.

And even if viewing the graph of temperature gave them some doubt about their original thoughts, some could now argue with me that the climate normals from 1981 to 2010 are themselves warm because of climate change, thus providing hope of validating their original claim.

Data should settle arguments

Many people rightly say that data should settle arguments, but real data, filled as it is with noise, doesn’t often serve this purpose. Real data often contains enough variation that people operating with confirmation bias can find in it what they need to maintain a preconception. Unless the signal is very obvious, real data can actually fuel disputes.

Most of the skiers around here are university educated people who are more exposed to the current climate wisdom and probably more prone to a warm bias as a result. I observe this in their conversations about every wintertime observation they make — from how little snow they recall having moved from their driveway, to how often we have dropped below -20F this season, or to how warm they felt after their skiing jaunt. Thus, they can see a warmer than normal winter in those select warm days during February, but seem to neglect the numerous very cold days.

Irving Langmuir noted that there is a pathological side to science where bias can recruit even objective measurements to its side. It works especially well when the data are noisy and the signal  barely resolvable.[2] The ESP experiments done by Joseph Rhine were terribly biased, but so influential was he and his enormous collection of observations, that paranormal science became respectable during the 1950s. It is no longer. Many were once convinced about the Palmdale bulge; but it too vanished. Presently we can see the same workings of bias in our debates over climate change, imagined droughts, or COVID19.[3] Topics change, reason seems as frail as ever.

Notes: [1]-Thus, Earl Butz, one time Secretary of Agriculture, said that in 50 years of Minnesota farming, he had seen two normal winters.

[2]-Irving Langmuir and pathological science. Lectures presented at the General Electric company in 1953. There are many copies and synopses of this lecture series on the internet, check Columbia and Princeton Universities, but its ramifications are so universal that it has even invaded management. See for example, Pathological Science, Research Technology Management, Vol. 32, No. 5 (September-October 1989), pp. 11-17

[3]-Neil Ferguson, the Imperial College epidemiologist, who produced the scare projections now cited as evidence for tight, and tightening, social isolation, also made the following observation

 “Stopping mass gatherings is predicted to have relatively little impact (results not shown) because the contact-time at such events is relatively small compared to the time spent at home, in schools or workplaces and in other community locations such as bars and restaurants….”

Our officials are happy to cite selected evidence for their responses, but fail to notice advice arguing against some of them.

125 thoughts on “Seeing what one expects

  1. Whenever I hear tv weathermen making claims about variations from the average, I tend to wonder if they understand the difference between mean median and mode.

    • I wonder whether continuing to argue the ins and outs of such minor climate issues has any sense now we have REAL problems to worry about.

      Continuing this stupid non-debate merely allows climate alarmists to continue arguing about it.

      STOP FEEDING the issue.

      We have now understood what I’ve been saying for years. We will have many major problems to face before 2100 AD. Any models based on “if all else remains equal” until 2100 are not fit for purpose, irrespective of what they say.

      Whether our current society even exists by then is highly unlikely. Planning now for this fictitious future is stupid beyond belief. But that is NOT what they are doing. They are trying force their agenda now with BS scare stories from on non existent future.

      Personally, I now have zero interest in discussing the minutae of a regional climate record and what it means to climatolgists’ agenda. That whole fantasy is over.

      Now lets’ deal with how we avoid trashing our entire economy and social structure in THE NEXT SIX MONTHS.

      • With due regard to your division of problems into the “real” and the “fake”, a number of us have argued that the present crisis has evoked exaggerated fears, and completely inappropriate responses. This ties the COVID-19 panic directly to “climate change” — looked at per response they are very similar issues.

        • The inverted priorities demonstrated by our hypervigilant overreaction to COVID19 on one hand, and our criminally-negligent underreaction to climate change on the other, are telling.

          It seems that for all the progress we like to think we’ve made as a society, we still live in a world where 145,000 white, wealthy, Northern-hemisphere lives trump 300,000 imaginary ones any day.

          • >> our criminally-negligent underreaction to climate change<>145,000 white, wealthy… lives trump 300,000 imaginary ones<< what is this gibberish supposed to mean?

          • It was Standard Australian English, not High Middle Gibberish, but I’ll admit the joke was missing some important set-up information. My bad.

            I forgot most people don’t remember that 300,000 people supposedly die of AGW every year. It’s true. The Global Humanitarian Forum reported that statistic in 2009, and it’s even worse today with population inflation. Sure, you wouldn’t know it from reading blogs. Fortunately some of us get our epidemiology from expert international committees, not pyjama-clad opinionists.

            Yet who weeps for the climate fallen? Who places flowers on their graves? Who even gives them a second thought? Who believes it could happen to them, or that it happens to MORE people than coronadeath so far?

            Hmm?? I’m asking you a question, Internet.

          • Imaginary numbers from faulty numerical models have shown, once again, that they can exaggerate volatile fears among people who should know better. The number of predicted deaths from the Wuhan virus dropped dramatically day by day after a first, inflammatory estimate of 2 million deaths in the US. The expansive “lockdown” of industries and the public was effected while the forecasts were dropping daily. It is still dropping and is quite likely the actual result will be between 20,000 and 80,000. Those are numbers that are not uncommon from the “common” flu.

            So the real disaster here is the panic reaction to an unproven threat. “The madness of crowds” strikes once again. Real scientists will not exaggerate their numbers to get the actions they want. They will say something like “two million +/_ 1.9 million.

    • I discount ALL mentions of average not specifying also standard deviation, or at least variation.

    • Bloke NLDTP

      Imagine my surprise when I wrote to the University of Waterloo weather station manager suggesting that instead of their monthly panting after “abnormal” readings, they could add Sigma 1 bars above and below the long term average, and he did!!

      It was implemented immediately and now we hear that being half a degree warmer or cooler is no longer “above average, global warming is upon us”. It is “within the normal historical range (years given).

      Sometimes we have to compliment the odd alarmist for following protocol. Having a “bent” doesn’t mean successfully corrupting data analyses in pursuit of a marketing goal.

      The historical data seems longer to be available but before it became “hard to find” I checked the 100 year average annual temperatures and Waterloo Ontario hasn’t warmed significantly in a century. I find that worrying because as we descend into the extended solar quietude it will get colder.

      My impression of this winter is that it was “warm” and spring is wet.

    • Really?

      The Daily Mail?

      That’s the peer-reviewed publication you think can overturn all of modern science (plus large chunks of radiative physics)?

      Then I’m sure you won’t mind listing your last 20 publications in the relevant sciences (co-authored or authored—I’m not picky), your h index, credit rating, letters patent confirming unbroken legitimacy even unto the fourth generation and preferably back to Charlemagne, any convictions for beef disparagement or greyhound substitution, total time served and age at which stopped beating wife.

      Otherwise don’t be surprised when serious people like me don’t take you seriously.


      Guardian Community Editor
      “You’re entitled to your own opinion, not to the wrong opinion” (M K Gandhi)

      • This was published in numerous sources, mate.


        Your bias is showing. The Medieval Warm Period is a well documented period of history from about 950AD to 1250AD. The Viking age of conquest coincided with this time period. Thanks to the relatively ice free waters in the Arctic circle, the Vikings were able to easily get to Greenland and even North America, using nothing but row boats. They later had to abandon Greenland, because the climate shifted colder as we settled into the Little Ice Age (which lasted until the 1800s). This is backed up by ice cores, tree rings, and other data which you find in academic publications going back decades.

        • Chris,

          Hi, mate! (Sorry, I don’t remember you personally, but that’s not surprising—I educate up to several people per day in the systems and related sciences so probability alone suggests we must be good friends by now.)

          However, I get my climate science from Nobel-winning climate scientists like Dr Rajendra Pachauri, Winthrop Prof. Stephan Lewandowsky and Dist. Prof. Michael E Mann.

          You get yours from Ragnar Lothbrok or Loðbrók, meaning “Ragnar hairy-breeches,” and his sons Bjoern Ironside, Ivar the Boneless and Hvitserk the One-Named.

          If your child had stomach ulcers would you go to a paediatrician or a qualified gastrointestinal surgeon?

          Exactly. So why get your climate science from someone who can’t even write referrals to a dietitian and a child psychologist?

          • You’d have to go to the pediatrician first to get the referral to the gastroenterologist.

          • And the first correct answer is from Kevin kilty. You go to a paediatrician, who refers you to a gastroenterologist, who THEN says it’s ulcers and based on the most recent medical consensus polling, your kid should lay off the vindaloo and have some stress-management counselling.

            It’s all about protocol. Respecting rank. And science is a bit like medicine in this way, though the similarities probably end there.

          • Gastroenterologists used to think that stomach ulcers were caused by stress. Were they ‘qualified’ to look after your child then?

          • Rbacock

            A paediatrician treats all manner of childhood ills, from severe diarrhoea to a sore oesophagus, which you probably don’t get in the US. A pediatrician is like a paediatrician, only she doesn’t have an overt diphthong (exploded or atomic ash) so she can’t practice in the UK or Australia, for example.

      • So you are claiming that the Daily Mail has faked a dozen photographs and the whole thing?
        Don’t be surprised when serious people like me don’t take you seriously.

        • Posts by Brad Keyes have been known to cause malfunctioning of, i.e. break, both irony- and sarcasm-detectors. Even the ones that go up to 11.

          I’m working on a falsifiable hypothesis, based on the fact that Mr. Keyes and Loydo have never been seen in the same room together. Watch this space.

          • I am wondering if being accused of being Lloydo, may possibly fry every circuit in even the industrial-quality ironometer toted hither and yon by Brad Keyes hisself*?

            *Iffen some of these words are not in your dictionary, go buy a new ironometer.

          • Nicholas, many good Wineries have a second label. Why not Irenies? Based on violation of the Law of Stopped Clocks and the fabulous post on Dunning-Kruger alone, it is not possible that Loydo can be a real human being. Temperature varying linearly with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels sealed the deal for me. Big Oil will stop at nothing, including false flags.

        • Leo,

          > Don’t be surprised when serious people like me don’t take you seriously.

          What’s kinda surprising is how many people DO take me seriously. Anyway, as I’ve said, thanks for the replies.

      • totally agree with your view of the objectivity and scientific accuracy of the daily mail – so often referred to as the “daily fail”.
        It is papers like this that brought us to the brink of disaster wrt leaving the EU without any understanding of the complexities of modern life. JIT manufacture, Fruit pickers, Nursing Staff, Doctors, Customs at ports like Dover (2.5million Road Haulage Vehicles pass through yearly (285 per hour 24/7 – all should be customs checked after Brexit!).

        data does suggest that this article is based on real fact however

      • Rather than comment on the facts presented, you attack the person (ad hominem). Your tag line quote shows what an acolyte you are. The notion that “You’re entitled to your own opinion, not to the wrong opinion” is elitist, bombastic, smarmy and useless. How do you decide that an opinion is wrong, other than that it disagrees with your own opinion, presumably? Yet, you proudly display this despicable notion because you attribute it to M. Ghandi. Even M. Ghandi could be wrong. Discuss the facts.

          • > There’s really no point in responding to Keyes at all.

            Not if you don’t understand my comment, no.

            But to all the non-Jeffs in the room, thank you for your responses. Though ironic, my comments elicited some great comebacks (dead-serious and dead-funny alike).

            Psst, David: the standard ending to that quote is “but not your own facts.” Sorry it wasn’t universally recognizable. Daniel Moynahan, who was usually more nuanced, said it. He can’t have known how it would be abused by climate believalists.

            And it wasn’t an ad hominem so much as a genetic fallacy that I perpetrated.

    • Interesting article. Shows that there was a warm period in Medieval times, then sufficient cold for centuries to cover a lot of local history with ice, and now we are re-warming. The same effect is showing at some Alaskan glaciers.

      • Actually the article and others say that the pass was used when covered with snow and
        only then since you could safely traverse the rocks etc. From the Science article for example

        “It may seem counterintuitive, but high mountains sometimes did serve as major communications routes, instead of major barriers,” says study co-author James Barrett, an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge. “It’s easy to travel at high elevations, once you get up there and there’s snow on the ground.”

        So in other words it was colder in the past and surprisingly enough that made it easier to traverse
        mountain passes. Now that the world is warming the ice is melting and we can find the remains of these ancient trade routes.

  2. Interesting subject, Kevin, this Irving Langmuir, about whom I knew nothing, but just looked it up, was 72 and/or 73 when he gave his most notable lectures about Pathological Science. He obviously spent time thinking about how science was not correctly recorded in the thoughts and comments of some others, and he talked about this. Yes, this is timely due to both CAGW and Covid-19, wherein persons have difficulty removing bias and thinking objectively. Great comment, thanks! Good luck with a “normal” Spring. Stay sane and safe.

      • Brad, you’re kind of on a tear today. You won’t find a bigger advocate for clear thinking, guided by the scientific principle, than me. Stay sane and safe (focus on the sane part a little more?).

        • ”Sound mind, sound body, Take your pick.”

          Insightful cogitation to be sure.
          I, however, prefer more current versions of such folksy wisdom.
          And in these troubled times, who could be more relevant than Gyro Man, the lanky unsung hero from the second Mad Max film, The Road Warrior?

          “l’ve got a recipe for snake. Delicious.
          Fricassee of reptile.
          Better than your dog food!
          Pure protein
          minerals, vitamins.
          A man’s gotta look after (hisself).
          Healthy mind, healthy body, dog.”

          “Lingerie…remember lingerie?”

    • Thanks, Ron. I replied this morning with a little more about Langmuir and a contemporary, Robert Wood, but the comment was lost in moderation apparently, and I hate to type things twice as I am a poor typist.

  3. Not to worry, climate science has an in-built mechanism for amplifying the human bias for seeing what we expect. It’s a kind of selective skepticism. It goes like this.

    Clisci practitioners and their paid advocates have told me, with straight face and tongue out of cheek, that in [what they call] science, you have to be extra-suspicious of surprising results.

    (You read that right. Not comforting results, but anomalous, cognitively-dissonant ones. They’re the ones you have to be suspicious of. Not for these 2,500 Top Leading World Scientists the passé advice of Galileo Galilei.)

    If your experiment clashes with all your expectations, you’d probably better do it again, just to make sure your instrumentation was working properly, no confounding influences were at work, and so forth. Before you even dream of writing it up, you have to make sure that any apparent falsification of hypotheses wasn’t simply an artifact of what Oreskes calls a tacit ‘subsidiary hypothesis,’ that is, a previously-unexamined assumption whose failure makes it seem as if your quote-unquote ‘real’ or ‘headline’ hypothesis is wrong. (Which of course is hardly likely—don’t be ridiculous.)

    If your experiment goes the way you planned, of course, there’s no need for all this obsessive-compulsive second-guessing. You just go ahead and publish.

    This, they call the Scientific Method.

    And you thought it was called confirmation bias.

    • In the case of Toxic Oil Syndrome from about four decades ago, epidemiologists and doctors were absolutely convinced the causative agent to be a bacterium which produced an unusual sort of pneumonia. It was a single instance of a highly discrepant case — a baby with the syndrome — which led one physician to look for a common factor in a household. Lo and behold. The problem was a cooking oil in which someone had tried, unsuccessfully, to refine out a denaturant. Sometimes an outlier is the signal. More often I suspect outliers are just blunders, and anyone who doesn’t at least consider trimming them out of the data will likely not do good work.

      There is no scientific method. There are many scientific methods. The success of those who employ no scientific method at all is called blind luck. Quoting Oreskes? And you mock others over the Daily Mail?

      This brings up an interesting question.

      • > Quoting Oreskes?

        Who else has single-handedly changed the scientific method as much in a whole lifetime as she has already, at 39? Here’s my paean to her iconoclastic career:

        > And you mock others over the Daily Mail?

        Facetiously. It was a parody of believalist argumentation.

        > There is no scientific method. There are many scientific methods.

        The logic common to them all is what I mean when I say method, singular.

        To put it another way, what method do you use to decide whether or not a given method is a scientific one? Answer: you use the thing I call “the scientific method.”

        And there has to be one, otherwise nobody could agree as to whether a particular method was scientific or just delusory.

        Different people interpret the singularity of the noun ‘method’ differently, so it’s probably not the best term for it. “Methodology” might be better.

        > The success of those who employ no scientific method at all is called blind luck.

        But they can’t succeed in science unless they follow the right method[ology], because that’s the only path to evidence.

        Guessing the right answer would be fine if science were the search for the truth, but it’s the search for knowledge, and truth without evidence isn’t knowledge, it’s just faith.

        • ‘Truth without evidence isn’t knowledge, it’s just faith.’

          Now that my super-secret decoder ring has arrived in the mail, I have belatedly cottoned on to interpreting the patter. You could be right of course, but surely for three dimensional beings in a four dimensional world, everything above our pay grade is eventually about faith. Even belief that the ‘evidence’ is ‘evidence’ is based on faith. If so then there is no truth, only faith.

          • Moray

            are you being careful to distinguish belief from faith? If you have evidence that the ‘evidence’ is evidence, then believing the ‘evidence’ is evidence is to that extent justified, and if you’re right to believe it, it’s knowledge (= justified, true belief). So getting all son-of-Descartes-meets-Kierkegaard isn’t really necessary. If you want to get radically agnostic, go ahead—there’s probably still some profit left in that mine, so you could discover something great. But it’s depressing, and you’d have every right to take the easy road instead, which is to stop apologizing for having evidence-based beliefs and celebrate them as perfectly rational things to have.

          • Brad,

            I put my money on tendencies. And uncertainty means a universe or two of possibilities. Hardly depressing.

          • Moray, thou slippery eel, thou! You’ve glided and elided soundlessly from ‘faith’ to ‘uncertainty.’ But I see thee. 🙂

            Uncertainty permeates everything, ever. It’s pandemic, and evidence is not a cure—it just makes the symptoms manageable.

            But if the best we could ever hope to achieve by the exercise of our wits was *faith,* which is belief in the absence of evidence, it would be our lot to flounder like flounder out of water, my fine feathered friend. Faith has a no-better-than-chance chance of being adaptive. It’s just a guess. That’s what I described as “depressing.”

            Can it really be that the founders of skepticism built the Pyrrhonian ark to founder on a sea of faith? Cruel shipwrights were they then.

          • Dear Brad Keys

            “Uncertainty permeates everything, ever”

            Are you certain about that?

            An honest person, having made that claim, would admit that certainty is possible.

          • windlord-sun

            You almost got me.

            But having stipulated that uncertainty was all-pervasive, I thought it unnecessary to point out that that probably (but not necessarily) wasn’t necessarily the case.

            Thanks for being vigilant, but you’ll have to get up preeeeettty early in the morning to catch me asleep at the wheel, because it’s GMT+1000 where I live. 🙂

          • Rejected. I caught you, and then you doubled down with even more odious obfuscation with which you declare victory.

            You think it is funny. You think it is a general mock that makes you look clever. It isn’t. It is boring and stupid.

            Stop issuing gratuitous claims of nihilism. Or go back to sleep so we don’t have to hear them.

          • Eels don’t have feathers.


            If everything was certain, there would be no existence for three dimensional beings in the fourth dimension of time, because there would be no possibilities including the possibility of change.

            That is not to say that there is not the possibility of an existence where everything is certain, it is just to say that we can never experience it. Verily we would never be able to recognize such an existence, regardless of any evidence that might otherwise be right in front of us. Trust me.

          • Moray,

            > Eels don’t have feathers.

            I bow to your expert ichthyology, my fine…. I can’t even finish the cliché now.

            > If everything was certain, there would be no existence for three dimensional beings in the fourth dimension of time, because there would be no possibilities including the possibility of change.

            OK, but did anyone in this thread say everything was certain? I’m (provisionally) certain I didn’t, though I (seem to) recall asserting something almost diametrically opposite.

            Anyway, how come I’m the one copping abuse for being some kind of degenerate relativist from the likes of windlord-sun? Surely the outright fideism you espoused upthread ought to be acting as a lightning-rod to shelter me from the angry objections of Mr Logicopositive there.

          • Brad,

            We have no hatchets to bury. My super-secret decoder ring came with an open mind. Others may still be gathering box-tops to mail in with their pre-addressed envelope .


          • I did not call you anything, let alone a “degenerate relativist.” I have no idea who or what you are, and I therefore don’t call you (or anyone) names.

            I accused you of issuing gratuitous nihilism and odious obfuscation. You can stop that anytime you wish, and reveal your true self.

            You called me something, however. “Mr. Logicopositive.” That is limp. You don’t know who or what I am, but I can assure you that shoe does not fit.

          • You think it is funny.

            I don’t mean to interject, but I do . . .

            Slight quibble here wl-s, “we” think it’s funny, and by “we” I don’t mean merely, “he and I,” but also “all of us,” except maybe Jeff Alberts and “you.” (all quotations h/t Jeff)

            Last night I had a dream. And in the dream I saw the junior of the senior of W.F. Buckley reclining at a table in the cool of the day. And he was taking instruction from the Wind, the LORD, and the Son. And when they (and by that I mean the One of them) were finished, Buckley looked down upon this thread at WUWT.

            Then I saw that mischievous smile with which Buckley always smiled when he was having fun. And he turned to me, and of Brad he said: “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. Laugh ye with him!”

            So, just a friendly observation. Lighten up dood. Seems like you’ve got a big ‘ole bat upside yer backside all of a sudden. Take care it don’t get stuck too long in there, hear?


          • Going from “slight quibble” to an execrable metaphor?


            Smarmy satire from poor writers is the refuge – and refuse – of the vacuous mind.

          • Add: I owe a general apology to this thread. I should not have said “so we don’t have to hear them.”

            Apparently, the “we” was an unwarranted assumption. Some do enjoy hearing it.

            The rest of what I wrote stands.

          • Going from “slight quibble” to an execrable metaphor?

            Going from being just “generally Scroogeish” to foul language? I told you you were mad.

            Since you brought it up, I try to keep my capacious intracranial space at least partially swept in case any other refugees might drop by for an extended visit. You might consider the courtesy of the same. I’m finding it a bit musty in here.

            Take care!

          • Moray and Sycomputing,

            thanks for your intelligent and irenic (if overly generous, Sycomputing!) additions to a sub-thread I’d assumed sub-dead.

            Minor quibble, as the kids say these days: the Sun Lord of Wind merely opined that something or other merited execration—not excretion—which saying was ill said, but not foully spoke. Yet even as I type this clarification I suspect I’ve stumbled inside the event horizon of a black hole of humorlessness formed, in times of old, from the collapsed Sun of Windlordosis. D’oh!

            I beg mercy of the Son of Wind Lord Returns (as the Aztecs called Lord Sunwind), for I knew not what I did when I misremembered his Lordship’s misguided accusation of nihilism for a misguided accusation of relativism.


          • I’m over and out on this subthread, with this sign-off …

            What I care about, and what got me going, was a long-standing opposition to any variant of the formulation …

            “I am certain that nothing is certain.”
            “There are no absolutes.”
            “All I know is, we can’t know anything for sure.”

            The legacy of Plato/Kant/Hegel/Hume/Popper is a fundamental skepticism of reason to know reality. It doesn’t matter how much credit they give to science and human cognition to discover facts and act on reason, they won’t rest until they inject poison at the root. Kant said “I had to deny reason, to make room for faith.”

            When I hear things like those formulations, I sometimes pause my delightful, humorous, life-affirming outlook and throw a dart. When I hear it in a science forum, I sometimes shoot a bazooka.

            Reason is finite. That is no reason to think there is another way of knowing.

          • . . . but not foully spoke.

            Thanks Brad. I just it thought it language most foul that the man should etymologically wish a curse agin’ me:


            After all, I was only trying to help in the most proverbial (27:6) way this poor practitioner of his faith could given the harshness of his lordship’s wind.

          • Windlord-sun,

            the weird thing is, I share your anaphylactic aversion to the self-refuting misosophy you thought I was espousing. Of course, reason—logic—is the touchstone we lose contact with to our peril and the peril of everyone within reach. And analytic truths can indeed be known to a certainty. And we should know them jealously, so to speak, and vigilantly, like a combat pilot amped to the gills on modafinil, lest the nap of reason produce monsters.

            I can only plead in my defense that I took it as read, rightly or wrongly, that we were speaking more narrowly, of the empirical, “synthetic” fruits of the scientific enterprise, which unless I’m mistaken are provisional in perpetuity. Even the precious few ideas man carries next to his cardiac sac in the Bag of Theory are hostage to data, and to pretend otherwise would be silly.

            Almost as silly as pretending that nothing, not even the impossibility of logical certainties, could ever be logically certain.

          • I would just add that the Master who teaches that “only the Sith speak in absolutes” is, by his own reckoning, no Jedi. Strike him down with impunity, Paduans and Mantuans! Let the streets run dark-red with his deoxygenated midichlorians.

            For he is in no wise better than the garden-variety Mooney the premise of whose book, the Republican Brain, was summarized thus by one wag: there are two kinds of people in the world—those who can deal with non-binary nuances, and Republicans.


            PS: there is no way anyone, anywhere, can ever prove a universal negative. Just don’t ask me to prove it.

          • @ Brad Keyes

            I decline debate. It would be far off topic, it would be a counter attack on both posts you just made, it would require drill-down on personal motivations (you have now raised that element) and I am a guest here. And I have no appetite for slogging through the references you chose to deploy.

          • windlord-sun:
            > I decline debate.
            That’s an odd response, seeing as I didn’t *invite* you to debate. I was agreeing with you. I do agree with you. We are in agreement. Tranquilízate y tequilízate, hermano.

          • Alternate formulation: I decline to continue this subthread discussion with you, for the reasons given.

            We are not in agreement. If I were to continue, you would find that out, with thunder.

          • windlord-sun,
            If you have a moment to fulminate at me, please email me—I, too, would rather not impose (further) on this thread. Let my long-overdue education happen elsewhere.

          • @ Brad Keyes

            I’ll stand on my post that contains the Plato to Popper statement.
            That objection I made responds to the very common occurrence everywhere in Western culture which I call “casual absolute skepticism.” So, not about you.

        • A most interesting read, but as you undoubtedly know sarcasm, especially biting sarcasm, can fail in these threads. It takes an extended essay to make it clear.

  4. Ho hum.
    The combined sea ice extent fell by about 8 sigma four or five years ago and nobody twitched an eyelid .
    It has since recovered about 5 sigma and nobody cares .
    I know what you mean by 4 sigma.
    Pretty mind boggling.
    8 sigma was black swan territory.
    Makes me think we have not got the right sigmas for the @mazing amount of climate variability possible

    • pick and choose your year and location and you can prove anything about sea ice.
      The arctic ice is maximum constrained (surrounded by land) the Antarctic is minimum constrained (surrounds a land mass). Plus the minimums and maximums are not in phase.

      They need analysing separately.
      Arctic is on its usual noisy slope of decline
      Antarctic is just a bit below normal on average

      Taking one year is unacceptable science

      • “pick and choose your year and location and you can prove anything about sea ice.”

        Can you prove that we should worry about every little deviation?

    • The problem may be that people calculate expectations from the normal probability distribution, when the underlying process is something different. If the underlying physics suggests something with “fat tails” we will see expectations calculated from the slim tailed Gaussian often exceeded, and then to compound the error, we may even surmise that the mean value of the process is changing.

      Petr Beckmann referred to this as the “Gaussian disease.”


    Seriously good people – no rational person could be this stupid for this long – the radical greens have a covert agenda. The US Democratic Party, with their Green New Deal lunacy, have now exposed that agenda – it is the destruction of our Western economic model and its replacement with the Marxist model that failed so abjectly in the 20th Century.

    ‘Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.’
    George Santayana, Winston Churchill

  6. There is a reason why we dont look at daily data
    even monthly data
    even yearly data.

    you can find what you like there because there are over 20K locations to suit any story

    Thats why we look at long term changes

    yes yes some idiot warmists talk about daily records and monthly and annual records.

    ignore them

  7. Data should settle arguments

    Not sure what the ‘argument’ is here. Daily temperature averages at one specific location over one season hardly leads to firm conclusions about possible long-term, widespread temperature changes. If the people you overheard think it is (even if they are mistaken about the signal) then you are right to challenge them.

    Regarding ‘data’, if you take all Dec-Feb periods for the lower 48 US states and use UAH satellite lower troposphere data (USA48), you see a clear warming trend since 1979 (currently +0.18 deg. C per decade). This winter was inside the top 10 warmest in USA48, as were the individual months of December and January.
    UAH_TLT data here:

    If the ‘argument’ is that people shouldn’t allow confirmation bias to influence their belief about local temperatures over short periods, then I agree. A good way to overcome such bias, in my view, is to look at regional trends over extended periods. As you say, data should settle arguments.

    • Not sure what the ‘argument’ is here. Daily temperature averages at one specific location over one season hardly leads to firm conclusions about possible long-term, widespread temperature changes.

      Tell that to Michael Mann and his one bristlecone pine.
      Or all the geostationary weather stations.
      That comprise the ‘global temperature record’.

    • Sorry, Final Nail, your claim is nullified by a wider one: the trend (not average) for surface air temperature since 1979 is this: up, then down. It has been descending this century, and 2019 was nearly the coldest year in the history of temp.

      That is nature’s way. TMAX rocks up and down 4 degrees fahrenheit over a 70-year cycle.

      I do agree that you should look at “trends over extended periods.” However, 120 years is better than 40 years. This graph contradicts yours.

      Perhaps you have a confirmation bias that you can claim general warming with satellites and ignore direct measurement of 800 stations on the ground. Does the NOAA data in my graph “settle the argument?”

      • windlord-sun

        Your chart perports to show “US daily maximum temperatures” 1900 – 2019. It looks remarkably smooth to be a plot of daily data over a 120 year period. Have you just picked the warmest day from each year? I ask because your representation differs radically from that on NOAA’s own website.

        Here is a link to NOAA’s own ‘Climate at a glance’ website, which charts their current published temperature data, including annual (Jan-Dec) US maximum temperatures. It looks similar to the data on your chart with the exception that it has a noticeable warming trend that yours lacks (+0.13 F per decade). Also, the NOAA data show that US annual max temperatures only ever passed 66 F once before 1999 (in 1934), whereas it has done so 6 times since 1999, including the record warmest max year to date, 2012.

        How do we account for the differences between your version of the NOAA data and the data that organisation presents on its own website?

        • Your comment reflects that you didn’t read the text at the page. I didn’t pick the warmest day. I plotted all 50 million data points as downloaded from NOAA, given the dataset cited at my page.

          My curving sine wave is smooth, yes – it is the same thing as a running mean of about 5-10 years. Any rigid line showing inclination of a dataflow is deceptive.

          The portal you linked shows results from a protocol, U.S. Climate Divisional Dataset. I don’t call it a dataset. It starts with certain data, but then what is termed “quality control” is asserted in the form of gridding, hoginization, extrapolation, and estimating. You can read NOAA’s justification here:

          As such, this is actually a “climate model,” not a presentation of collected data.

          Note: they do not way which of those protocols is engaged when you plot. I might or might not include the Alaska sequence. You’ll have to ask them.

          As for 2012, that is a know outlier. On my graph of the raw, it shows. But also evident is the 1993 coldest-ever outlier. Let’s call that a draw.

          So, what do you believe? The raw data or a massaged model?

    • I have to wonder if it is intentional irony, to first recommend that 1979 be used as the starting point is a long term trend analysis, and then admonish against being fooled by confirmation bias?
      Ordinarily I could likely discern if it was indeed intentional irony, but my ironometer seems to have suddenly exploded.

      • Maybe it’s because that’s when the UAH_TLT record begins?

        Use the surface data if you prefer (most folks here seem to prefer UAH, but there you go). NOAA surface data goes back to 1895. According to their website, the warming trend in average US winter temperatures 1895 – 2020 is +0.23 F/dec; since 1979 (to compare to UAH) the average US winter trend is +0.63 F dec.

        • My point was that 1979 is recognized as an inflection point year, roughly marking the end of a multidecadal cooling trend and the beginning of a multidecadal warming trend.
          Probably related to a reversal of the AMO around that time.
          As for getting into the weeds of individual data sets, unless we are also going to discuss the problematic and contentious issues with any of them, simply making comparisons between them is, IMO, pointless.
          Using data sets adjusted by warmistas in an attempt to validate the conclusions of warmistas, is yet another exercise in confirmation bias, whatever else it is.

    • “Regarding ‘data’, if you take all Dec-Feb periods for the lower 48 US states and use UAH satellite lower troposphere data (USA48), you see a clear warming trend since 1979”

      Averaging temps from different locations is a no-no. Physically meaningless. Intensive properties.

    • Good question. A few years ago I graphed the local hourly temperatures (as supplied by the met office) during the winter months. I used them as the basis for some heat loss calculations. If I hadn’t bothered and just averaged the daily highs and lows, my results would have been quite different.

    • One might ponder using a different distribution, but you must understand the power of the central limit theorem. The normal distribution is widely useful for a very good reason — it is not universal, however. So, let’s suppose I abandon the normal distribution because climate might behave more like a hyperbolic process for which the central limit theorem does not apply. Now where am I?

  8. Another observation: since I moved into my house in 1988 (32 years ago), before this year the latest frost-date had been April 7. This morning I woke up to frost for the fourth frost later than that date: the 11th, 17th, 18th and 19th. Does that qualify as a 4-sigma event?


  9. I googled the Palmdale bulge and came up with the following piece of wisdom.

    This is why it is important to not get worked up if you see stories about inflation, deflation or bulges at places like active volcanic regions. We don’t have good baselines of data for many regions, so we don’t know how much the naturally rise and fall over years to decades. Jumping at every observed change could lead to misinterpretation, panic and distrust. So, even if the land surface might change a little, it could mean very little has actually changed. We are just finding out a lot more about how the Earth works with our new methods and technology. link

    That totally applies to climate science.

    • The Palmdale bulge turned out to be an artifact of measurement and data processing. One of the more amusing observations was that not only was there a broad bulge, but every mountain and range attained a mini-bulge of its own. A discrepant observation if ever there were one.

      In a twist of irony, though, interferometry using microwaves from satellites shows the Earth does deform in response to stress accumulation over the short term; it does not deform in the manner the bulge measurements suggested. A lot of money and effort went into studying the non-existent bulge; and lots of scare stories in the press.

      • ” In a twist of irony, though, interferometry using microwaves from satellites shows the Earth does deform in response to stress accumulation over the short term ”

        Like when the moon passes over it ?


    • commieBob, thanks for linking that. Everyone making claims for climate crisis and/or using the word “catastrophic” ought to be required to read that six times, then write a book report.

    • The Palmdale bulge. Sounds like an unusual expansion of middle-aged Palmdale men’s waistlines.

  10. Along with confirmation bias is the tendency to want to look at the world in overly simplified terms. I’m always dealing with clients who have trouble with multi-variate views, they want one number. Along with that goes the inability to reconcile differences among measures from different data sets.

    I guess my point is that many of the “educated” among us are really crappy at math, quantitative reasoning, and abstraction, period… so they resort to narrative, and with narrative things need to fit into a nice neat storyline

    • Even those among us who are good at math are very bad at handling uncertainty and identifying bias.

    • People long for some theory that causes everything to make sense. Isaiah Berlin wrote an essay, The Hedgehog and the Fox in which he describes Leo Tolstoy’s struggle with being unable to find the grand narrative.

      The hedgehog has one trick, at which he is a master, which he applies to all problems. The fox, on the other hand, has lots of tricks available to her but it means that while he hedgehog can react instantly, the fox has to mull things over.

      Tolstoy was a fox by nature but he desperately longed to be a hedgehog.

      When it comes to expert predictions, the worst predictors are hedgehogs. Foxes are better predictors of the outcome of complex events. They are also much better at realizing that they may be wrong and are more willing to change their opinion to account for new data. link

      Rather than trying to come up with simple definitive answers, it’s probably much wiser to arrange your affairs in such a manner that you can benefit, rather than be crushed, by unforeseen events. Talib calls such an approach antifragile.

  11. “Topics change, reason seems as frail as ever.”

    Yep stop the windmills we need a giant vacuum cleaner to sort this lot out-

    “Our climate models are constantly being updated as we learn more about our planet, and this is just one aspect that seems to need a makeover. With the new information available, we’ll be better equipped to determine Earth’s future.”

    Well apart from the tree rings that need a makeover with new information because of the divergence of course. If this keeps up we’ll all be one big happy family of climate change negationists and what heretic ever said the science was settled as that doesn’t beget more juicy grants.

    • I reckon the definition of the phrase “settled science” is needing a makeover as well, eh?

  12. Morning Kevin.
    Just wanted to say hey from Centennial.
    It’s been a pretty normal Winter out here too.
    We got 18” of snow the other day and Laramie got a few inches.
    Have you ever graphed actual snow measurements in Laramie??
    It seems like Laramie used to get more snow in town but thats just my opinion……
    Glad you are getting out and having good ski conditions at Happy Jack.
    Our snow is great as well. Town is full of sledders and skiers enjoying the nice weather.
    They can’t stop as restaurants and bars are closed of course but I see them drive thru town….
    Thanks for your post. Joe

    • I replied earlier today, but many of my responses to folks went into the bit bucket. Howdy back, good to hear from you.

  13. I am both a skier and a golfer, here in Eastern Canada. What I have observed over the last 40 years is:

    — Ski season has gradually shortened, not because of significant warming, but because ski areas have deliberately decided to shorten the season, for financial reasons. Start of snowmaking operations and opening date has been delayed about 2 weeks, as it’s not lucrative to open earlier just for season pass holders. In the same 40 years period, the season’s end has been brought back 1 or 2 weeks, depending on the date Easter falls on, for the same reason: ski areas don’t want to say open just for pass holders. They are after additional daily ticket sales, as the pass holders are taken for granted.

    — Conversely, golf season has also shortened, and because of the same financial dynamics. Golf courses are no longer rushing to open up as soon as possible, but are waiting for better weather and course conditions, in order to attract the daily green-fee golfer. The member who has paid in advance for the full season has to wait on average 10 more days for his course to open. Along the same lines, the end of the season is now pre-determined according to a fixed date, instead of being dependent on weather and temperature. At least one week of operation has thus been removed at season’s end.

    When I meet skiers on the lift, they often complain about the impact of global warming on ski season length and ski conditions. I then ask them if they play golf, and if so, if their golf season has lengthened. Sadly, this argument never makes them change their beliefs about man-made global warming.

  14. The question that I want answered but for which no answer will ever be forthcoming is, are climate catastrophists sincere or are they faking? I’m all but certain that Greta Thunberg is sincere, but she’s a kid and has not yet developed an adult capacity to weigh evidence. But is Michael Mann sincere? Or how about David Foster-Wells? These are intelligent, learned men, and surely they must understand how flimsy and specious most climate catastrophe scenarios really are.

    I take a malicious pleasure in the alarm vulnerable people feel about imminent climate catastrophe. It’s fun to mock the fear of people who are afraid of something you don’t fear. But really, who of normal mental health would actually worry about the state of the climate in 2100? Do such people have no real troubles to worry about in the here and now?

Comments are closed.