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« Matt massacres Malthusians | Main | Atlas mounting »
Tuesday
Sep202011

Cooking the books

Skeptical Science and its host, John Cook, have been much commented upon recently, the site's grubby treatment of Roger Pielke Snr having caused considerable disquiet. I'm grateful to reader PaulM for pointing me to another example of the way things are done on John Cook's watch.

Take a look at this page on the site. It's an older article, dating back to 2008, and it covers the vexed question of whether Antarctica is gaining or losing ice.

Skeptic arguments that Antarctica is gaining ice frequently hinge on an error of omission, namely ignoring the difference between land ice and sea ice.

This is not a straightforward area of science. As the article goes on to explain,

One must also be careful how you interpret trends in Antarctic sea ice. Currently this ice is increasing and has been for years but is this the smoking gun against climate change? Not quite.

and then expands on this by pointing out that in Antarctica,

sea ice is not the most important thing to measure. In Antarctica, the most important ice mass is the land ice sitting on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and the East Antarctic Ice Sheet.

...which of course is shrinking, we are told.

So there you go, simple enough even for a sceptic to follow. Or perhaps not simple enough - take a look at comment #3 from AnthonySG1:

OK smarties. If Antarctica is overall losing ice, then how do you explain the data?
http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/current.area.south.jpg

The Arctic doesn't seem to be doing so bad anymore, also:
http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/current.area.jpg

This particular scurvy sceptic is sent packing with a rapier-like thrust:

Response: It's somewhat discouraging that the first point I make is that people often fail to distinguish between sea ice and land ice. They are two separate phenomena. And yet you repeat the error. To clarify, Antarctica is losing land ice at an accelerating rate. Sea ice around Antarctica is increasing. The reasons for sea ice increasing in a warming Southern Ocean are complex and described in detail above.

And then there's comment #5 from PaulM himself:

The misinformation on this site is astonishing. Antarctic ice is increasing.
In addition to the cryosphere link provided Anthony,
This is confirmed by NSIDC,
http://nsidc.org/data/smmr_ssmi_ancillary/regions/total_antarctic.html
by NCDC,
http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/2008/apr/global.html#seaice
and by numerous scientific papers, including
Cavalieri and Parkinson, J. Geophys. Res. 113, C07004 (2008),
Comiso and Nishio, J. Geophys. Res. 113, CO2S07 (2008).

You have managed to find one paper that finds a decrease - but that only covers a 3 year period! Obviously you cannot get a significant trend from 3 years data.

These sceptics! How do you get through to them? Send 'em packing again:

Response: Please, people, pay attention! Sea ice is increasing. Land ice is decreasing. Read and reread the post above  until you realise they are two separate phenomena.

The exchange is, apparently at least, a damning indictment of the behaviour of what are sometimes referred to as "so-called sceptics".

Well, damning of the sceptics, that is, until you examine the same page on the Wayback Machine. The archive version is dated 3 February 2009, nearly six months after the comments were posted.

And its completely different!

While East Antartica is gaining ice due to increased precipitation, Antartica is overall losing ice. This is mostly due to melting in West Antarctica which recently featured the largest melting observed by satellites in the last 30 years. As well as melting, Antartic glaciers are accelerating further adding to sea level rise.

Astonishingly, more than six months after having their errors pointed out to them, the denizens of Skeptical Science rewrote the article and then inserted comments suggesting that their commenters hadn't read the article properly.

I'm simply flabbergasted.

And it's even more amazing when one recalls that Skeptical Science was recently the recipient of an award from the Australian Museum for services to climate science.

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Reader Comments (253)

Good point, Frank. I agree that Jon C has given a reasonable explanation and I am always inclined to give the benefit of the doubt - seems the fair and grown up thing to do, doesn't it.

But to not realise the mistake when it involves deleting/updating your own comment in the process? Now I am inclined to say it does not sound so reasonable.

Wouldn't you agree?

Sep 21, 2011 at 5:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

Sorry John C, not Jon C.

Sep 21, 2011 at 5:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

that post by "Frank" should have been signed: "John's Mom"

Sep 21, 2011 at 5:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterHu Bris

Maurizio

Gore is no skeptic of course so SS will happily allow him and even support Gore in distributing any kind of pseudoscientific propaganda, and the physics learned at schools, universities and the real world be damned.

In the original comments as SkS, PaulM linked to NSIDC Antarctic sea ice data. The important graph is bottom left: NASA Team algorithm: Extent anomalies. Note the clear upward trend.

Why does NSIDC prefer sea ice extent as an indicator over sea ice area?

Scientists at NSIDC prefer to report extent because they are cautious about summertime values of ice concentration and area taken from satellite sensors. To the sensor, surface melt appears to be open water rather than water on top of sea ice. So, while reliable for measuring area most of the year, the microwave sensor is prone to underestimating the actual ice concentration and area when the surface is melting. To account for that potential inaccuracy, NSIDC scientists rely primarily on extent when analyzing melt-season conditions and reporting them to the public.

So is Antarctica as a whole gaining or losing ice mass? The short answer is - losing. And the rate of loss is increasing.

See Rignot et al. (2011), emphasis added:

Ice sheet mass balance estimates have improved substantially in recent years using a variety of techniques, over different time periods, and at various levels of spatial detail. Considerable disparity remains between these estimates due to the inherent uncertainties of each method, the lack of detailed comparison between independent estimates, and the effect of temporal modulations in ice sheet surface mass balance. Here, we present a consistent record of mass balance for the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets over the past two decades, validated by the comparison of two independent techniques over the last 8 years: one differencing perimeter loss from net accumulation, and one using a dense time series of time-variable gravity. We find excellent agreement between the two techniques for absolute mass loss and acceleration of mass loss. In 2006, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets experienced a combined mass loss of 475 ± 158 Gt/yr, equivalent to 1.3 ± 0.4 mm/yr sea level rise. Notably, the acceleration in ice sheet loss over the last 18 years was 21.9 ± 1 Gt/yr 2 for Greenland and 14.5 ± 2 Gt/yr 2 for Antarctica, for a combined total of 36.3 ± 2 Gt/yr 2. This acceleration is 3 times larger than for mountain glaciers and ice caps (12 ± 6 Gt/yr 2). If this trend continues, ice sheets will be the dominant contributor to sea level rise in the 21st century.

So if you are concerned (as you should be) with sticking to the science and the known facts, then there is no argument with the substance of of the SkS article.

Or perhaps I am wrong. If so, can you link to published work showing that Antarctic sea ice extent has not increased over the last couple of decades and that Antarctica is not exhibiting a net loss of ice mass?

NB: Satellite images of Antarctica showing lots of sea ice are not admissible. They are misleading in this context, as we have seen.

I make no comment about the rest of the argument here other than to say that Cook's apology was prompt and apparently sincere.

Sep 21, 2011 at 5:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Well I'm certainly reminded why I stopped reading and commenting on this site. Here's what I said:

"Bishop, I'd like to request that you update the original post with John's explanation of the events.
I'm then repeatedly accused of "demanding" this change, and telling Bishop Hill how to run his site, and then personally attacked. Lovely behavior. By the way, it's rather common practice to update a post with the comments of the individual who's its subject. Anthony Watts does it all the time, including with his recent 'massive negative cloud feedback' fiasco. If Bishop doesn't want to follow suit, that's his choice. I merely voiced a request.

For those complaining of my "treatment" of Dr. Pielke, you should ask him how he feels about it. As a matter of fact, he's quite pleased with the constructive dialogue we've had (though admittedly he was initially a bit grumpy that it took us a while to respond to his questions). Let's see what Dr. Pielke thinks of SkS:

"It is also commendable that the Heartland Institute was willing to provide a forum for alternative viewpoints (much as Skeptical Science is doing with my comments although I do not fit in the label of "climate skeptic"). We need more reaching out between the different groups. The Heartland Institute and Skeptical Science have this reaching out in common.

Should I apologize to you for my "treatment" of Dr. Pielke when the man himself does not desire any such apology and indeed has praised our site? I think not.

By the way, I believe the readers of this blog should pay heed to Dr. Pielke's comments in our discussion, particularly this one (emphasis added):

"The emission of CO2 into the atmosphere, and its continued accumulation in the atmosphere is changing the climate. We do not need to agree on the magnitude of its global average radiative forcing to see a need to limit this accumulation. The biogeochemical effect of added CO2 by itself is a concern as we do not know its consequences. At the very least, ecosystem function will change resulting in biodiversity changes as different species react differently to higher CO2. The prudent path, therefore, is to limit how much we change our atmosphere."
Very wise words from Dr. Pielke.

Anyway like neal, I'm done commenting here. The atmosphere is far too caustic for rational discourse to survive. I will simply repeat my request (sorry, I mean my demand) that Bishop include John's explanations of the events in question in an update to the post.

Sep 21, 2011 at 5:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterdana1981

Mr Cook only admitted the mistake after being caught - the evidence of his actions was so clear that he could hardly have denied what he did. Even a gullible child could clearly see what he did - but only a gullible child would accept that he somehow managed to miss the significance of not one, not two, but THREE date-stamps in order to have 'mistakenly' attempted to portray the commentators as clueless idiots, in the manner which he did.

Sep 21, 2011 at 5:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterHu Bris

...But no one has the maturity to accept a perfectly reasonable explanation. What we have left is a long muddled collective diatribe of accusations, innuendo and slurs. It's not what I would expect from a room of mature adults, that's for sure.

Quite honestly, John Cook has been the most mature atult to post on this thread of comments.
Sep 21, 2011 at 5:07 PM | Frank

That's because it's not a reasonable explanation.

The page in question was created on Date A. People commented, pointing out issues. The page was updated on Date B. The comments from the previous version were then commented on, when? The same day? We dont know because there is no date. Cook seems to be saying he replied to those comments very soon thereafter, but if that's the case how did the original reply to one of the comments not raise alarms in his mind that he was replying to an old comment? So the author of this page who had just updated that page thought he had 5-7 new comments very soon after he updated it? If your intentions are honorable and you intend to improve your site content, why wouldn't you read the previous comments from the previous version to get an idea what commenters thought? Sounds highly unlikely that the author *DID NOT* read the comments before updating the page, even if the intentions are good you would do this.

Also, If the author had the intent of updating a page that drastically, why not simply start a new page with no comments? The content changed sufficiently to simply archive the old version of the page, and start a new one with no comments. That wasn't what happened. Instead we are to believe the author looked at the page content then changed the page content drastically while reading but leaving the old comments while thinking they are not new comments and then providing new replies to those comments that has specific bolds in the content making the commenters look silly.

That simply doesn't hold water. Webmasters are responsible for their content, and that means looking at pages before altering them regardless of what your intentions are. Cook is lying but you somehow bought it.

Sep 21, 2011 at 5:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy

BBD can you comment on bernie's post above? ie the actual loss.

Ta.

Sep 21, 2011 at 5:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

sHx: I commented on a Amazongate thread at http://www.skepticalscience.com/The-grumble-in-the-jungle.html. A lot of the threads are written by people who simply have no understanding of the issues.

Sep 21, 2011 at 5:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

BBD, definitely not referring to you! I respect your posts here and have to admit that when you get a bit contentious here it is normally stuff I do not understand!

I seem to recall that when John Cook and Dana 1981 came over here for a charm offensive a few months ago, it was you who locked horns with them.

Sep 21, 2011 at 5:33 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

John Cook has posted here a perfectly reasonable explanation? Wow! Where is it? Where is it?

Hey Bishop - have you been deleting comments by John Cook, by any chance? ARE YOU REWRITING HISTORY???

But the Truth will out!!

Sep 21, 2011 at 5:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

Maurizio

My comment was about the science. Please respond to it directly.

Your endless evasiveness is becoming tiresome. It's also corrosive to your credibility.

Sep 21, 2011 at 5:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

BBD, me too... antarctic ice loss? Go on have a go, I am interested.

Sep 21, 2011 at 5:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

Shameless dana1981 laments the causticity 'round here. Not enough CO2 dissolved in the ocean, I'm afraid.

Sep 21, 2011 at 5:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

Maurizio

My comment was about the science. Please respond to it directly.

Your endless evasiveness is becoming tiresome. It's also corrosive to your credibility.

Response:

[Hu Bris] BBF, this thread is about Cook's post-rewrite revision of official pre-rewrite SS-responses to pre-rewrite criticisms of an SS-article, which had the effect of making such reasonable and quite correct criticism look as though they were made in response to the rewritten article and NOT the original article, subsequently the very valid criticisms appear unreasonable and incorrect, as if they came from bumbling fools.

Now please begin to address those. Sir.

Off-topic struck out.

;-)

Sep 21, 2011 at 5:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterHu Bris

BBD - I have not responded to you and I have no intention to do so. Please do move on.

Sep 21, 2011 at 5:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

Josh

BBD can you comment on bernie's post above? ie the actual loss.

I thought I had - see the Rignot et al. (2011) link. The increasing rate of net ice mass loss is the key issue. It's important not to get confused or... distracted.

Sep 21, 2011 at 5:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Maurizio

BBD - I have not responded to you and I have no intention to do so. Please do move on.

Another failure to respond by MM. Oh dear.

Sep 21, 2011 at 5:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Hu Bris

I take your point, but surely the fundamental question is over whether Antarctica is exhibiting an accelerating rate of (net) ice mass loss?

Sep 21, 2011 at 5:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Hu Bris

I take your point, but surely the fundamental question is over whether Antarctica is exhibiting an accelerating rate of (net) ice mass loss?

And just for clarity's sake, why is that a fundamental question here? What does the 2nd derivative of Antarctic ice mass tell us about a webmaster unable to bring integrity to his website?

Sep 21, 2011 at 5:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy

BBD, thanks. No, that is not a great response. If someone points out that the rate of loss is tiny, really really tiny and you say " No, the important thing is the rate of loss" then you do sound exactly like SkS.

That is the whole problem.

CO2 is a greenhouse gas - trust me this is not OT - and it helps keep the planet warm, more CO2 more warming. The trouble is the effect seems to be insignificant.

The trouble with SkS is not that they do science but that they spin science - um, just like you did.

Is that a bit harsh? Apologies if it is, I may have misunderstood.

;-)

Sep 21, 2011 at 5:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

Jeremy - you're right - a second derivative might provide some hint about integrality, not integrity.

Sep 21, 2011 at 5:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

BBD see the second paper in my link at Sep 21, 2011 at 2:01 PM, page 4
http://igitur-archive.library.uu.nl/phys/2010-0507-200212/UUindex.html

Sep 21, 2011 at 6:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterPatagon

@ DocBud 2:11 PM

I'm also a little suspicious of scientists who have such a religiously fervent faith in peer review. In my field I do not care where a paper appears, I am confident that I am qualified to make my own assessment of its worth. I can understand a layperson's belief that peer review is a guarantee of truth, but having been involved in peer review myself, I know that it is simply an assertion that a paper is worthy of publication so that its contents may be debated in the public arena.

It should be obvious:

to protect the faith and morals of the faithful by preventing the reading of immoral books or works containing theological errors.

Sep 21, 2011 at 6:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterPatagon

Patagon, nice link. Thanks.

Sep 21, 2011 at 6:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

This SS site is only the beginning. They also have a browser plugin for their army of denizens to have an instant reference to counterarguments to make on blogs, with bibliography and all. They really feel that it is lack of communication is why they are losing, but then don't talk about the real skeptic arguments. Look at their climategate page. They have the full context of Hide the Decline, and the missing heat e-mails, but then they didn't post Phil Jones e-mail about can you delete all e-mails re AR4?

Sep 21, 2011 at 6:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeN

Hu Bris said... "Mr Cook only admitted the mistake after being caught..."

Again, these responses are incredibly juvenile. Skeptical Science has a large catalog of rebuttals. John stated that he made a mistake. You don't make a mistake on purpose, so by basic logic, that means someone else is going to catch the mistake. An adult can accept the best intentions of others. It would be those that are immature who would insist on finding malice where none likely exists.

Sep 21, 2011 at 6:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrank

BBD, indeed it is important not to get confused or distracted.
This thread is about the dishonest actions of the Skeptical Science blog, not about the science of Antarctic ice.

I am glad to see that Cook acknowledges he was "unfair", but as many have pointed out (eg Hu Bris, Jeremy), his attempt to pass it off as an 'honest mistake' has zero credibility.
As Jeremy Harvey, says, post-hoc edits to the original post are a no-no. Deleting one response to a comment and inserting a new one is even worse. His claim that he "mistakenly thought they were comments to the updated post" is not credible, as it is perfectly obvious that AnthonySG1's and my link to increasing sea ice data cannot possibly be in response to the re-written post that says sea ice is increasing!


Basically his website/blog is a total mess because it is confused over which it is. Either it's a blog in which case you take comments and dont change the page, or its a collection of web pages in which case you can freely update your pages but it makes no sense to take comments. As it is, it's a shambles with many comments now apparently not making sense, see for example the 'hide the decline' page mentioned by Jean S. And it remains a source of misinformation as I said 3 years ago.

I am sure that more examples of similar behaviour by this disreputable bunch of activists will appear over the next few days.

Sep 21, 2011 at 6:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaulM

BBD - given that you seem convinced that Antarctica is losing ice (I am not not, at least not in any significant rate), what do you think is causing this alleged loss of ice? Ice mass is just a proxy anyway. Are you sure the alleged loss of ice is due to rising temperatures as a result of increased CO2?

The data is only until 2000 but apart from just one station on the South Orkney Isles, it seems to me that there is no discernible warming at any of the following 9 stations (and if there is any trend in the 1990-2000 period it is for cooling):

http://www.john-daly.com/stations/stations.htm#The%20Antarctic%20Scientific%20Bases

Sep 21, 2011 at 6:29 PM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

Maurizio Morabito said... "John Cook has posted here a perfectly reasonable explanation? Wow! Where is it? Where is it?"

And once again, this represents a complete inability to communicate as a mature adult. John posted here and explained that he had made a mistake and how that mistake occurred. Why would that be such a difficult thing to accept?

Sep 21, 2011 at 6:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrank

Again, these responses are incredibly juvenile...
Sep 21, 2011 at 6:26 PM | Frank

If they are so juvenile, why let them bother you? Is it possible that Cook's explanation stretches plausibility enough that you want them to seem juvenile? Generally when people state things that I know to be untrue, and expressed immaturely, it is easier to ignore them not harder.

If the responses on this site to Cook's explanation are so immature and impossible to believe, it should be easy to stop responding to them. I notice, however, that you didn't respond to my reply to your previous post.

Sep 21, 2011 at 6:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy

PaulM said... "His claim that he "mistakenly thought they were comments to the updated post" is not credible..."

So, in your mind mistakes are not possible? Mistakes are intentional? John admitted to making a mistake and said that his response was unfair. So, why is that not okay?

Sep 21, 2011 at 6:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrank

Jeremy, Frank is ignoring me too. Oh well.

Sep 21, 2011 at 6:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

Jeremy... Not at all. John's explanation seemed perfectly genuine and reasonable. But the crowd posting here seems, quite honestly, like a bunch of junior high school thugs who just want to get in a punch.

A mature adult would accept a mea culpa and have the emotional capacity to let it go.

Sep 21, 2011 at 6:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrank

Jeremy... Not at all. John's explanation seemed perfectly genuine and reasonable.

Sep 21, 2011 at 6:42 PM | Frank

Have you ever run a website? His explanation *is not* reasonable.

Sep 21, 2011 at 6:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy

PaulM:
Your point is well-taken. While John Cook's willingness to comment here is noteworthy, his actual explanation is lacking. My working hypothesis is that those who are emotionally committed to a perspective are not likely to be particularly objective nor particularly aware how their own preconceived notions can lead to distortions and misrepresentations.

Sep 21, 2011 at 6:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterbernie

@ John's Mom

"Again, these responses are incredibly juvenile. Skeptical Science has a large catalog of rebuttals. John stated that he made a mistake. You don't make a mistake on purpose, so by basic logic, that means someone else is going to catch the mistake. An adult can accept the best intentions of others. It would be those that are immature who would insist on finding malice where none likely exists."

Dear John's Mom - John has been a bad boy - John told a fib, John stated that in the heat of the moment he did something by accident. Examination of his statement leads me to conclude that he is fibbing BIG-TIME because in order for events to have unfolded as he claims they did he would have had to somehow miss/ignore 3 rather important date-stamps -
1) The date of the comment itself,
2) The date of the original (i.e: unrevised by Mr Cook) SS-response
3) The date of the last revision/re-write of the article concerned.

It is conceivable that John might have missed/ignored ONE date-stamp, but to miss/ignore Three?

to paraphrase Wilde:

"To miss one Date-Stamp, John's Mom, may be regarded as a misfortune; to miss Two looks like carelessness. But to miss Three? That looks like deliberate dishonesty"

Now you may consider my reply to be juvenile, but it ain't nearly as juvenile as say, a strike-through html-tag applied to all every comment made by John Cook, in a thread about John Cook, similar to what Mr Cook and his buddies did to Dr Pielke Snr recently.

Sep 21, 2011 at 6:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterHu Bris

Frank Cook - it's unreasonable for you to claim your son's excuses were reasonable without providing a reasonable explanation why they would be so. Naked assertions seldom travel far on any blog.

Sep 21, 2011 at 6:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

Jeremy said... "The page in question was created on Date A. People commented, pointing out issues. The page was updated on Date B. The comments from the previous version were then commented on, when? The same day? We dont know because there is no date. Cook seems to be saying he replied to those comments very soon thereafter, but if that's the case how did the original reply to one of the comments not raise alarms in his mind that he was replying to an old comment?...."

Tell me honestly, do you really think John spends a bunch of time rummaging around in two year old posts to adjust the original post and then finding commenters to attack? He has kids, a family, a job... I just don't think he's wasting his time trying to do things like that any more than I would believe Anthony Watts would. I accept that John made a mistake as he said he did.

Honestly, this whole thread smacks of a bunch of idle teenagers trying to dig up trouble where none exists.

Sep 21, 2011 at 6:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrank

Maurizio Morabito said... "Frank Cook - it's unreasonable..."

I can see you think you're very clever but your style is really very immature.

Sep 21, 2011 at 6:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrank

Okay... I'll leave you kids to your playground.

Sep 21, 2011 at 6:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrank

PaulM said... "His claim that he "mistakenly thought they were comments to the updated post" is not credible..."

So, in your mind mistakes are not possible? Mistakes are intentional? John admitted to making a mistake and said that his response was unfair. So, why is that not okay?
Sep 21, 2011 at 6:38 PM | Frank

The mistake he's claiming is not plausible. Do you have experience modifying your own website? Do you have experience being accountable to an audience of readers? Cook is basically saying, "Those comments were there when I reviewed the page prior to updating, but I didn't see them until after. And then I thought they were new comments without reading the dates and totally missing the fact that one of them had already been commented on. Oh, and I also bolded sections of the new content w.r.t. the comments there because I thought those comments were new."

It makes no sense.

Sep 21, 2011 at 6:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy

@ Frank -

Tell me honestly, do you really think John spends a bunch of time rummaging around in two year old posts to adjust the original post and then finding commenters to attack?

Given that, in a recent thread about Dr Pileke, John and/or the other SS-mods found the time to go back and put html 'strike' tags through ALL of Dr Pielke's comments, my answer to your question is 'Yes, I do actually think that'

Sep 21, 2011 at 6:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterHu Bris

Tell me honestly, do you really think John spends a bunch of time rummaging around in two year old posts to adjust the original post and then finding commenters to attack? He has kids, a family, a job... I just don't think he's wasting his time trying to do things like that any more than I would believe Anthony Watts would. I accept that John made a mistake as he said he did.

Oh he made a mistake alright, his mistake was not being internet saavy enough to know about the wayback machine.

Tell me honestly, would you ever change a static page of content on your website without thoroughly re-reading it? That page was supposed to be encyclopedic, so re-reading it would have been a required activity. How do you miss comments when re-reading it?

Sep 21, 2011 at 7:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy

As to the 'honest mistake' defense - how come various other people e.g. Jean S. above in this thread have fallen foul of the SkS rewrite history policy?

However, my recommendation to SkS is continue apace. The more that you irritate commenters the more clearly you reveal the basic dishonesty which climatology is based on.

Any chance you'll be explaining to the unwashed masses how to defend the use of correlation coefficients indistinguishable statistically from zero to prove correlations? This would be of immense help in disseminating knowledge of the sad shambles of the climatological charlatans and their ethics to a wider audience.

(SkS would probably win several awards from BP, who have their own problems discerning cause and effect).

Sep 21, 2011 at 7:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Somebody -- please tell me. Have we decided to leave the toilet seat up or down?

Sep 21, 2011 at 7:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Okay, one more comment, because this is incredibly absurd.

"Mr Cook only admitted the mistake after being caught - the evidence of his actions was so clear that he could hardly have denied what he did."
How do you expect him to admit a mistake he's unaware of?

I know this is difficult for you, but try looking at the situation from a rational point of view. John updated the rebuttal, and later responded to comments which he didn't realize were made prior to the update. As John admits, this was very careless. A few years later, somebody notices the discrepancy and Bishop writes a post about it. Somebody makes John aware of the post - he examines the issue and realizes the mistake, then corrects it, then explains the series of events in the blog post's comments.

The blog post commenters then launch into a series of controrted explanations about how what happened couldn't possibly be what happened, and insult anybody who doesn't buy into their conspiracy theories. Those of us residing in the real world react in utter disbelief. Frank repeatedly correctly points out the utter juvenileness of the commenters' behavior.

As for "he could hardly have denied what he did", he could have just ignored this blog post. Frankly very few SkS readers visit this site. If John were the nefariously evil person you seem to think he is, he would have just let the whole issue pass unnoticed by most people, and soon forgotten. But he's a very honest person, kicked himself as soon as he was made aware of the careless error, and immediately looked for the best way to correct it.

Unfortunately, what he perceived as the best way to correct the error involved dealing with the people on this blog, who apparently project their own dishonest behavior onto others. Bishop, honestly, I would suggest you take some steps to get your house in order. If this sort of behavior is the norm for your blog, I don't see how you can possibly expect anybody to take it seriously.

Sep 21, 2011 at 7:07 PM | Unregistered Commenterdana1981

@ Frank

just don't think he's wasting his time trying to do things like that any more than I would believe Anthony Watts would. I accept that John made a mistake as he said he did.

Well you're right about Mr Watts - he usually leaves evidence that he made a mistake and corrected it - he usually acknowledges that he was wrong and inserts an acknowledgement naming whom ever it was that corrected him -

John Cook did none of the above.

John Cook erased all evidence of his mistakes almost immediately

Sep 21, 2011 at 7:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterHu Bris

Paul M: “Either it's a blog in which case you take comments and dont change the page, or its a collection of web pages in which case you can freely update your pages but it makes no sense to take comments.”

I think this is the crux of the matter. If a post is to be regarded as a “resource” it should be free of comments, which should be limited to topical issues.

A resource can legitimately be updated to take account of new information without necessarily referring to earlier versions, which could become very cumbersome, although it would be a good idea to archive earlier versions off site.

But once you include comments, you have introduced an element of topicality, which makes updates that are not clearly signaled awkward and confusing.

In fairness to John Cook, this confusion, or more charitably, amalgam of communication styles is a feature of the blog format, which is a mix of news, feature, opinion and resource, so it can sometimes be difficult to keep the categories separate.

That said, the comments on blogs are a valuable record. A solution, already mentioned I think, would be to separate resource material from topical material. Whether this is feasible and practical for Skeptical Science I can’t say, but it would avoid the confusion already created.

This kerfuffle has highlighted the issue of the identity of blogs. A further point is that, since blogs are a type of property, blog owners inevitably become focused on defending their interests in their blogs, and of course attacking rivals.

Sep 21, 2011 at 7:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrendan H

Josh and Patagon

BBD, thanks. No, that is not a great response. If someone points out that the rate of loss is tiny, really really tiny and you say " No, the important thing is the rate of loss" then you do sound exactly like SkS.

No. This is not straight at all.

The rate of ice mass loss is significant and accelerating. The fact that it is small relative to the size of the whole Antarctic ice sheet is barely relevant. And in this context, a blatant red herring.

I expect better from you Josh. Come on.

Wrt the Bevis et al. (2009) study that Patagon references: this is another red herring.

This paper deals with a potential long-term bias in the way Antarctic ice mass balance changes are interpreted from GRACE data. The argument is that if post-glacial rebound (PGR) is under-estimated, ice mass loss will be over-estimated.

The point is that if there is an error in the PGR modelling, it will be constant over the short time scales examined in papers attempting to estimate recent changes in Antarctic ice mass loss. It will not significantly influence estimates of changes in the rate of ice mass loss.

Also note that the paper I mention, Rignot et al. (2011) uses another, independent method of validating its estimate of IMB change (emphasis added):

Here, we present a consistent record of mass balance for the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets over the past two decades, validated by the comparison of two independent techniques over the last 8 years: one differencing perimeter loss from net accumulation, and one using a dense time series of time-variable gravity [from GRACE data]. We find excellent agreement between the two techniques for absolute mass loss and acceleration of mass loss.

Josh says:

The trouble with SkS is not that they do science but that they spin science - um, just like you did.

Umm, I'm not the one doing the spinning here.

Sep 21, 2011 at 7:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

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