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Josh 32


Judy C meets the SciGuy

Judith Curry is interviewed by Eric Berger, the SciGuy, covering her recent Antarctic paper and Climategate amongst other things.

Why have you been so conversant with some of the so-called skeptical sites, sites that are certainly outside mainstream climate science?

One of the other positives that I think has come out of Climategate is a realization of what other bloggers like (Steve) McIntyre (of Climate Audit) are actually up to. This isn't a Merchants of Doubt, oil-company-funded effort. It's a grassroots effort. These are people who are interested, they want to see accountability. They have a certain amount of expertise and they want to play around with climate data. There's no particularly evil motives behind all this.

We really don't understand the potential or impact the blogosphere is having. I think it's big and growing. The sites that are growing in popularity are Watts Up With That, which really have huge traffic. I think there's a real interest in the subject. I think there's a hunger for information. I think there's a huge potential here for public education. People say it's polarizing, and sure, you have Climate Progress and Climate Depot on the two extremes, but in the middle you've got all these lukewarmer blogs springing up. So I can also see a depolarizing effect. There seems to be a lot more stuff building up in the middle right now. With the IPCC, and the expectation that scientists hew to the party line, it was getting pretty evangelical. When I speak up about maybe there's more uncertainty, some people regard that as heresy. That's not a good thing for either science or policy. We've got to lose that.

Indeed. Read the whole thing.


Interacademies report coming

The Interacademies Council report into IPCC procedures will be published on 30 August.

H/T Marcel Crok.



Some changes have been made to Bob Ward's article.

More news soon, I hope.


Zorita on McShane and Wyner

Eduardo Zorita has an interesting review of McShane & Wyner's paper on the statistics of paleoclimate reconstructions. He takes them to task for not understanding the actual methods used by paleo people and in particular those used by Mann et al in the Hockey Stick papers. Although one can point to the foggy writing in MBH98 in defence of M and W, Eduardo's point that they should have worked more closely with paleo people is fair enough. That said, Eduardo does spend quite a lot of his review criticising the preamble to the paper rather than the guts of the thing.

When he does get onto the paper, he is less critical, but not convinced. He describes M&W's comparison of reconstructions based on proxies to those from various forms of noise as "interesting and probably correct" but doubts its usefulness because they have used a method that is not used by paleo people. I'm not sure about this - surely if there is a real temperature signal in the proxies, they should outperform noise regardless of the method?

There is a modicum of agreement on the last part of the paper though, with Zorita agreeing with M&W's conclusion that the uncertainties in paleo reconstructions have been underestimated. However, he says that this observation is...

...hardly revolutionary. Already the NRC assessment on millennial reconstructions and other later papers indicate that the uncertainties are much larger than those included in the hockey stick and that the underestimation of past variability is ubiquitous.

I guess the IPCC missed that memo.


Useless fact

Number of uses of the words "conspiracy", "conspirator", etc in The Hockey Stick Illusion: 2

Number of uses of the words "conspiracy", "conspirator", etc in Bob Ward's article: 3


Glaring inaccuracies and misrepresentations

...but not mine.

Firstly, one should always accentuate the positive first, so I am going to praise Bob Ward for eschewing the words "denier" and "denialist". This is a good thing and will help elevate the tone of the debate. I assume this was his idea rather than something that was forced upon him by the Guardian.

Click to read more ...


Me and Bob

Bob Ward has written an article in Comment is


Standing on the shoulders of pygmies

An extraordinary article at Nature's Great Beyond blog, reporting on a new paper by Judy Allen et al from the University of Durham.

Human hunters off the hook? Climate change caused wooly mammoths' extinction, say scientists.

Uh huh. So how do they know this?

Climate change, rather than human hunters, drove the wooly mammoth to extinction. That’s the claim from scientists who say that the hairy beasts lost their grazing grounds as forests rapidly replaced grasslands after the last ice age, roughly 20,000 years ago. The researchers used palaeoclimate and vegetation models to simulate the plant cover across the mammoths’ habitat around that time.

Yes folks, it's a modelling study. Another one. From the paper's abstract, the researchers took output from the Hadley Centre's Unified Climate Model and pumped it into another model which purports to simulate how a variety of plants react to temperature changes. So even if the vegetation model works it still relies on the Hadley Centre model being something one can rely on. Is it just me that finds this all rather unconvincing. I mean is the Hadley Centre Unified Model something you'd want to bet the house on?

Well, according to this article, the Unified Model is:

"the same model that is used to produce every weather forecast you see on British terrestrial television."

Oh dear.


The climate Cassandra

Climatologist Hans Joachim Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute is interviewed in Spiegel. The interviewer even tries a few challenging questions:

SPIEGEL: As climate adviser to the chancellor, you have a particularly high profile. Because of your frequently ominous predictions, critics have dubbed you the "Cassandra of Potsdam," after the figure in Greek mythology whose predictions always went unheard. Why do you always have to scare people?

Schellnhuber: Let me answer your provocative question in an objective way. As an expert, it's possible that I tend to point to dangers and risks more than to opportunities and possibilities -- similarly to an engineer who builds a bridge and has to make people aware of everything that could cause it to collapse. Warning against a possible accident is in fact intended to reduce the likelihood of an accident. And a sudden shift in the climate could have truly catastrophic consequences. Besides, in Greek mythology Cassandra was always right -- unfortunately.

SPIEGEL: Does that justify constantly predicting the end of the world?

Schellnhuber: Naturally, we have to be careful not to dramatize things. After all, scientific credibility is our unique selling point. But I do confess that when you have the feeling that people just aren't listening, it becomes very tempting to turn up the volume. Naturally, we have to resist this temptation. 


Did he read it?

My publisher wonders if I am going to write to the Scottish Review of Books and ask to respond to Alastair McIntosh's review. School is back tomorrow and there is something of a backlog of real work to complete. But I thought I would set down a few thoughts and see if I can bring myself to write anything.

Click to read more ...


Josh 31

More cartoons by Josh here.


I've (finally) set up a custom domain for this site - - which should become active over the next few hours. Update your bookmarks accordingly.


Surface temperatures blog

The Met Office's Peter Thorne is running a blog to go alongside the initiative. This project intends to design a new surface temperature dataset. Public views are being sought on the project although time is somewhat short now so if you are interested you need to be quick.

(H/T Oliver Morton)



Plant food

The argument that carbon dioxide is plant food and that we should welcome increased concentrations of the stuff as leading to bumper crop yields is one that is not given much credence by the other side of the global warming debate. Perhaps they should think again, as this article, recently published in the Royal Society's Phil Trans B, suggests that there is much truth in it.

CO2 enrichment is likely to increase yields of most crops by approximately 13 per cent but leave yields of C4 crops unchanged. It will tend to reduce water consumption by all crops, but this effect will be approximately cancelled out by the effect of the increased temperature on evaporation rates. In many places increased temperature will provide opportunities to manipulate agronomy to improve crop performance. Ozone concentration increases will decrease yields by 5 per cent or more.

Plant breeders will probably be able to increase yields considerably in the CO2-enriched environment of the future, and most weeds and airborne pests and diseases should remain controllable, so long as policy changes do not remove too many types of crop-protection chemicals. However, soil-borne pathogens are likely to be an increasing problem when warmer weather will increase their multiplication rates; control is likely to need a transgenic approach to breeding for resistance. There is a large gap between achievable yields and those delivered by farmers, even in the most efficient agricultural systems. A gap is inevitable, but there are large differences between farmers, even between those who have used the same resources. If this gap is closed and accompanied by improvements in potential yields then there is a good prospect that crop production will increase by approximately 50 per cent or more by 2050 without extra land. However, the demands for land to produce bio-energy have not been factored into these calculations.

You could almost get the impression that the biggest threat to the food supply is coming from government.


(H/T Roddy Campbell)