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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Berkeley BEST [WORST] temperature team explains attack on its initial findings by WattsUpWithThat was pure fabrication

UPDATE:  Watts has posted a seemingly touching but ultimately disingenuous admission of error in the comments.

by Joseph Romm, Climate Progress, March 29, 2011

It was fairly obvious the discredited denier Anthony Watts made a false statement and egregious blunder last week when he attacked the initial findings of Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project.  Of course, that’s true of most posts on WattsUpWithThat, but this fabrication stands out because Watts usually attacks climate science, not the confusionists.

Here’s the hilarious story of Watts’ self-inflicted implosion, what Shakespeare called being hoisted on his own petard.

Last week, the deniers were unhappy that climatologist Ken Caldeira emailed me that BEST’s initial results “confirm the reality of global warming and support in all essential respects the historical temperature analyses of the NOAA, NASA, and HadCRU.”

As I hoped, my post led the discredited denier Anthony Watts to blurt out in a blog post his close involvement with BEST and his intentions to try to twist the results.  But what I didn’t expect was that Watts would go so far as to make stuff up in order to attack BEST.

Watts noted that “the Initial Findings statement from BEST, written by lead scientist Robert Rhode,” states:
The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project has not yet done the analysis of the full data set with the corrections to produce a global surface temperature trend. We are first analyzing a small subset of data (2%)… 
A preliminary analysis of 2% of the Berkeley Earth dataset shows a global temperature trend … broadly in sync with the temperature records from other groups such as NOAA, NASA, and Hadley CRU. 
… the preliminary analysis includes only a very small subset (2%) of randomlychosen data …
Then Watts immediately attacks:
That 2% subset they refer to is some weather stations in Japan. They chose Japan because it made for a compact insular test case for the code, combining rural, urban, and airport stations under one organization’s output to keep it simple. Like Ken Caldeira, I’ve seen that preliminary 2% output. I’ve also seen a lot of other things, some things Caldieira hasn’t seen that the BEST team has shared with me. So has Zeke and Mosher, but neither they nor I are screaming “exclusive” and jumping to conclusions like Romm is doing over Caldeira’s general statement on that 2% sample run to test the code. 
What’s even funnier is that whenever we mention USHCN trends for USA stations, AGW proponents are quick to point out that the USA has only about 6% of the land surface area of the Earth (USA: 9,629,091 km2, Earth: 148,940,000 km2 source), but they are now willing to go with the weather station data from 377,930 square kilometers of Japan’s land area which is 0.25% of the Earth’s surface area, as enough for “confirmation” of a global trend.
No.  Not even close.  The exact opposite of the truth, in fact.

It was pretty obvious then that BEST — no matter how screwed up it is thanks to Muller and Curry and the input of deniers like Watts and Steven Mosher — would never claim that a bunch of Japanese weather stations
  • could possibly show “a global temperature trend”
  • could possibly be called “randomly chosen data”
And now, in fact, Dr. Rohde himself has directly confirmed that the 2% sample refers to the whole globe:
“The 2% samples are a random selection of stations (i.e. from a list ofall stations). They have the same spatial characteristics as the 100% sample in that regions which are heavily oversampled (or undersampled) in the whole set would be expected to be similarly over sampled (or undersampled) in a 2% subnetwork.”
Only former TV weatherman Watts could imagine any group of scientists and statisticians would publicly claim that data taken from 0.25% of the Earth’s surface area could be random and determine a global trend.  But why he fabricated this attack on BEST’s initial findings — and, more bizarrely, why he called the Berkeley team “AGW proponents,” when it includes the likes of Richard Muller and Judith Curry (!) — is anyone’s guess.

Here’s my theory.  Watts is the person on the Internet most responsible for viciously smearing scientists and spreading disinformation on global warming, particularly disinformation on the surface temperature record (see Watts urges WattsUpWithThat readers to disrupt Forbes blog: “shout them down in the comments section”).

Watts infamously coauthored a “report” accusing top U.S. scientists of various kinds of misfeasance and malfeasance in the global temperature record.  It was utterly debunked last March (see Wattergate: Tamino debunks “just plain wrong” Anthony Watts).  As Tamino wrote, “your use of false claims to accuse NOAA scientists of deliberate deception was not just mistaken, it was unethical.”

Along comes the Berkeley group, which Watts starts working with.  But Caldeira then explains what the preliminary results are, which disagree with Watts’ disinformation.
Watts then claims he has seen things that Caldeira — a project funder and one of the country’s top climatologists — hasn’t seen.  He then reveals his true agenda in the post:
The issue hasn’t been the slight warming over the past century, we’ve always conceded that there is some. The issue has always been magnitude, uncertainties, and cause. With the BEST project, we’ll get closer to the ground truth of magnitude and uncertainties….
His goal is to try to reduce the magnitude and push up the uncertainties in the final report.  He repeats a claim he wrote earlier:
I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong.
But now Caldeira explains the analysis supports “in all essential respects the historical temperature analyses of the NOAA, NASA, and HadCRU.”  Even Mosher, another denier working with BEST, says, “I believe BEST will confirm … the answers given by CRU and GISS are largely correct.”

And finally project chair Muller himself has stated in a public talk what the main findings are:
  • “We are seeing substantial global warming”
  • “None of the effects raised by the [skeptics] is going to have anything more than a marginal effect on the amount of global warming.”
That directly contradicts Watts.  Indeed, it directly contradicts the core premise of WattsUpWithThat.

So the question is, will Anthony Watts keep his word and concede, finally, that there has been substantial warming in recent decades and that the results given by CRU and GISS are largely correct?

Or will he find a way to change the final results?

Or perhaps he’ll just make more stuff up and try to pass it off as the “insider” truth of what really happened.

To update the old saying, people who live in glass houses don’t actually like transparency.

Related posts:
Some comments:

  • Mike Roddy says:

    People who smear scientists and whose own data assumptions turn out to be wrong never seem to suffer consequences. Watts, McIntyre, and Singer, for example, are not subject to the rigor of academic publications, so they remain insulated from charges of fabricating evidence.
    Even their reputations survive somehow. Singer and Milloy, for example, shilled for the tobacco companies, claiming, without evidence, that studies showing tissue damage and cancer risk from smoking were incorrect.

    The public is rarely informed here, and people on the edges of traditional media like Romm and Cook have to do the dirty work that they should be performing. Climate Progress and Skeptical Science have performed important public services here, but it’s about time that the media owned up to their enormous failures, and worked to correct them.

  • The fact that millions go to this laughable web site daily and believe it hook line and sinker is a sad commentary on the state of science in America.

  • Barry says:

    Like the GOP, Watts is running out of solid ground to stand on.

    Like the coyote in the road runner cartoons…these folks have been running so hard without paying attention to where they are going that they are now finding themselves off the cliff with that sinking sensation in their stomachs as they tentatively look down.

    To paraphrase Homer: “Doh!”

  • Sou says:

    Thanks for pointing this out, Joe.

    So far Watts is still writing about snow, as usual. My guess is he’ll ignore this as he does with a lot of things he can’t refute or twist into denial. On the other hand, he might have a go and show just how far he will sink to deny what’s happening.

  • Yes, I made a mistake, I misheard what was being presented, which happens sometimes. As you may know I’m about 80% hearing impaired and the presentation made to me was verbal with some printed graphs. I did not get to come back with any of those graphs, notes, or data so I had to rely on what I heard. I simply misheard and thought the 2% were the Japan stations they showed me.

    I was in contact with Dr. Muller last night and planned an update to that post which I will do. You’d holler about it either way so the timing isn’t much important.

    Along the same lines of correction, Joe, will you be removing the comment from Mike Roddy that suggest I am involved in animal bestiality? 2010/ 12/ 21/ and-the-2010-citizen-kane-award-for-non-excellence-in-climate-journalism-goes-to-%e2%80%a6/ #comment-314061

    I hope you will and issue me a public apology for allowing such a libelous and ugly claim to appear on Climate Progress which is in violation of your stated site

    Thank you for your consideration.

    [JR: Your cry for sympathy would have more credibility if your post hadn't been full of cock-sure invective. That entire post was based on 100% certainty that you were right and I was wrong. Not only that, but when a commenter pointed out that you were obviously wrong many days ago, you dismissed him and left the egregious error up for several days!

    Indeed, what's really laughable about this comment is that your post begins by attacking me for a post where I actually made a correction, whereas you sat on your error for days and days, even after I and others pointed it out!

    If your plan is to point to your infirmity whenever someone points out an egregious error you make, then next time don't express your statements with such certainty, with such dismissiveness for every other human being.

    As for the months' old comment, we've been through this before: If I am responsible for every one of my comments then you are responsible for every one of your comments. Now you have dug up a months'-old comment, which at first glance appears to be a humorous dig. Note that he introduced the comment saying, "This is in spite of the humor breaks, including...." But it offended you and I have deleted it.

    But YOU have allowed the nastiest comments to be said about me on post after post -- including that very post! And what about the vicious anti-Semitic slurs about a Holocaust survivor that you just let go on and on. Seriously, your commenters are so far over the top that you have no business criticizing anybody's comments.

    So until you issue apologies to me and Hansen and countless other people that your commenters libel on a daily basis, don't come here whining about one comment you dug up written last December!]

  • Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Yikes! The Rabett says 2011/ 03/ coming-soon-to-courthouse-near-you.html

    Could this start happening in both directions?

  • MapleLeaf says:

    Beesman @3,

    I agree, but only to a point. Joe and others have been dealing with the nonsense and
    shenanigans from Watts for a very long time now. I sense that they a long time ago they grew tired of using a civil tone with the likes of Watts. Honestly, Watts deserves to be treated like a child. [snip]

  • J Bowers says:

    Have deniers been taking intensive courses in how to tone troll lately?

    @ 3 Beesaman, Watts has been caught out again. Get over it.

  • climate undergrad says:

    @3 What?

    “We are grown ups out here you know.”

    Really? We’re talking about someone who has over and over againd claimed the earth is not warming even in the face of multiple (hundreds?) of independent lines of data in a country where almost half the population and exactly one half of the political parties like to deny this fact.

    “Grown ups” are allowed to ask why and how this has happened. In this case, correcting a former TV weatherman (for the hundreth time) and questioning his motives and tactics is certainly not ’stalinist propaganda’.

    Do trolls use the word invective?

  • Richard Brenne says:

    Beesaman (#3) – I lived in Russia and saw the aftermath of Stalinist Russia, a time when estimates are that Stalin had 20 million or more of his own people killed, with many more imprisoned in ways tantamount to torture.

    So your “despair when posts like this read like some Stalinist propaganda outburst” and saying “stick to the facts and leave the invective for the children in the playground” and “we are grown-ups” is closer to invective than anything in Joe’s evidence-based post.

    Despite years of frustration with the great harm being done by Watts and those like him, Joe does not use any profanity or call Watts any names other than “discredited denier” and worst of all “former TV weatherman.”

    Most of effective human communication involves character and story. When Watts makes himself a central character in the biggest story ever told (the greatest danger to our species ever, including from nuclear weapons) by helping create the biggest story every sold (that there’s essentially no problem because he says so without evidence), Joe has every right to say what he’s saying.

  • dorlomin says:

    Said it before Ill say it again, Watts is the Eric Cartmen of the climate bloggers.

  • Jeffrey Davis says:

    Accusing someone on consorting with a goat is a time-honored intenet mock. Always prefaced with the libel-defeating boilerplate, “I’ve heard that …”

    I can’t believe that Watts is so thin-skinned, humorless, and self-important as to object — in print! — to the accusation of goat consorting. It’s like running to mommy.

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