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Posts Tagged Climate cranks

National Business Review: last bastion of climate denial in NZ pushes de Freitas tosh Gareth Renowden Nov 18

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The National Business Review — New Zealand’s biggest-selling business weekly — provides a happy media home for climate deniers of all stripes. Columnists like former ACT Party leader Rodney Hide and right wing spin doctor Matthew Hooton1 are given free rein to rant and rave about climate issues, but occasionally editor Nevil Gibson offers its august platform to others so that they can spout fatuous piffle. Last week’s issue featured an opinion column by Chris de Freitas, in which he waxes lyrical about his recent paper on the NZ temperature record — the shonky one that claims to find warming to be only one third of what real experts calculate.

The NBR hides most of its material behind a paywall, so I can’t link directly to the text — but the less scrupulous chaps at the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition2 are happy to host a pdf lifted from the NBR site.

As you might expect, de Freitas doesn’t restrict himself to narrow concepts of truth and factual accuracy. He mentions the cranks’ court case…

The High Court ruled against the trust and ordered it to repay court costs.

… but neglects to point out that the trust has since failed to pay those costs. It has of course been put into receivership, thus allowing the trustees to escape the $90,000-worth of financial consequences of losing their crackpot case.

de Freitas also misrepresents the membership of the trust.

The trust was suspected of hosting global warming sceptics, which was clearly not the case, as the group was not asserting climate warming does not exist. Rather it represented the view of those who are sceptical of alarmist claims that dangerous human-caused global warming is taking place.

The trustees were Bryan Leyland, Terry Dunleavy and Doug Edmeades, with Barry Brill acting as their lawyer. Leyland, Dunleavy and Brill are men with long track records as “global warming sceptics” — not least Leyland, who is on record predicting imminent global cooling.

The rest of de Freitas’s op-ed repeats the misdirections that can be found in the text of his paper, mostly dealt with in my first post on the matter a couple of weeks ago, but there are two I can’t let pass:

The newly published work aimed to apply the method set out by Rhoades and Salinger exactly as they describe, without adjusting it in any way.

dFDB 2014 chooses to interpret the methods suggested by Rhoades and Salinger in a very particular way — one that has the effect of reducing the apparent warming trend. If those methods are properly applied, as in Mullan 2012, the warming reappears3.

de Freitas also attempts to justify the whole farrago:

National temperature trends are widely used for a large number of societal design and planning purposes and it is important that they should be as reliable as modern methods allow.

This is transparent nonsense. Historical temperature trends are interesting, but they play no useful part in future planning. To plan in the face of rapid climate change, we need good regional projections for temperature changes, sea level rise and increases in weather extremes. Those will come from climate models, not temperature records.

de Freitas’s paper is nothing more than a political exercise — a part of the climate cranks long running campaign against NIWA. It’s dressed up as an academic paper — but like the Emperor’s new clothes, the finery is only visible to the cranks themselves.

The NBR, meanwhile, confirms its position as the last bastion of climate denial opinion. As I’ve said before, it could be argued that the business community gets the journalism it deserves. It would appear New Zealand’s business community continues to be in deep, deep trouble.

  1. Hooton’s last column on climate matters appeared two weeks ago, and managed to be a spectacular home goal. But then he’s no stranger to those.
  2. Let’s not forget that they are quite happy to register a charitable trust to bring a court case against NIWA, and then fold it so that the trustees can escape the financial consequences of their actions, so the fact that they are happy to disrespect the NBR’s paywall should come as no surprise.
  3. There will be more on this in future posts at HT on the dFDB 2014 paper and the desperate attempts by the authors to justify their conclusions.

Danger Dedekind! Heartbreak Ahead (still wrong, still digging, NZ still warming fast) Gareth Renowden Nov 05

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Over last weekend, my post criticising the new paper by Chris de Freitas, Manfred “Bob” Dedekind and Barry Brill that claims warming in New Zealand’s temperature records is only one third of that calculated by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) attracted a flurry of attempted ripostes at Richard Treadgold’s Climate Conversation blog. One — by Bob Dedekind — sets out to be a rebuttal of my original post. Sadly for Bob and his co-authors, he has only managed to dig himself into an even deeper hole.

For the sake of the record, therefore, I have taken the time and trouble to deal with each of his points in detail. The results of my researches do not make pretty reading for De Freitas, Dedekind, Brill, or the editorial team, reviewers and publishers of Environmental Modelling and Assessment.

Pal review

Dedekind kicks off his attempt to deal with my criticisms by repeating the silly claim — made on the basis of a very selective parsing of some emails stolen from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in 2009 — that climate scientists had colluded to get an innocent Chris de Freitas fired from his position as an editor at Climate Research in 2003.

Unfortunately for Dedekind, the truth of the matter — extensively documented by John Mashey in his 2011 Pal Review document — is that de Freitas spent years abusing his position at the journal by ushering poor papers by his climate sceptic mates, notably Patrick Michaels, through to publication by subjecting them to weak or inadequate peer review. CdF’s behaviour eventually led to a mass resignation by other editors, and ultimately his own resignation. Here are the main points uncovered by Mashey’s diligent research:

  • From 1990 to 1996, Climate Research published no papers by any of the following sceptic “pals”:

    Sallie Baliunas, Robert Balling, John Christy, Robert Davis, David Douglass, Vincent Gray, Sherwood Idso, PJ Knappenberger, Ross McKitrick, Pat Michaels, Eric Posmentier, Arthur Robinson, Willie Soon, and Gerd-Rainer Weber.

  • de Freitas became an editor at CR in 1997 and then accepted 14 papers in the period up to 2003 from authors with whom he had close ties via US far right lobby groups and climate denial organisations.
  • Papers from the “pals” accounted for half of his editorial workload.
  • de Freitas acted as editor on seven papers by Patrick Michaels, half of Michaels’ publication record over the period. Mashey describes Michaels as “king of the pals”.
  • After de Freitas resigned his editorial role in 2003, publications from the pals stopped appearing in Climate Research.

Given de Freitas’ track record, it is unsurprising that I queried the peer review process at Environmental Modelling and Assessment. Dedekind may choose to live in a parallel universe where white is in fact black, but the rest of us will accept the colours we see at face value.

Source of 7SS

One of the straightforward falsehoods in dFDB 2014 that I pointed out in my original post is this, from the abstract:

Current New Zealand century-long climatology based on 1981 methods produces a trend of 0.91 °C per century. Our analysis, which uses updated measurement techniques and corrects for shelter-contaminated data, produces a trend of 0.28 °C per century.

Dedekind fulminates:

Suffice it to say that there is zero evidence to show that the pre-2010 7SS was ever based on a correct application of RS93, apart from the assertions of some at NIWA.

Let me pose a question. What does Dedekind think Rhoades and Salinger were doing in their 1993 paper? Indulging in a purely theoretical exercise? In fact, they developed their techniques by working on what became the Seven Station Series (7SS), and from 1992 onwards the 7SS was compiled using RS93 methods properly applied.

At least one of the authors of dFDB 2014 should be aware of that simple fact. During the discovery process before the High Court proceedings, Barry Brill and Vincent Gray examined a set of storage boxes at NIWA — dubbed the “Salinger recall storage boxes” — that contained (amongst other things) all of Jim Salinger’s original calculations for the 1992 reworking of the 7SS.

Perhaps Brill and Gray didn’t look at Salinger’s calculations, or if they did, didn’t realise what they showed.

Two other critical references that prove that between 1992 and 2009 the 7SS was based on RS93 properly applied, are given below in the section on “Periods for comparison”.

Ignoring NIWA’s work

Here Dedekind goes completely off the rails:

Difficult to untangle the confusion apparent on this one. Firstly, the current 7SS uses the old technique, based on Salinger’s 1981 thesis. We applied a new technique (RS93) to it for the first time.

As I’ve just shown, that simply isn’t true, and Dedekind and his co-authors should be aware of that fact because they were given access to the “Salinger recall storage boxes” and should have read and understood the papers referring to the RS93 method’s application to the 7SS post 1992.

Further proof that dFDB 2014’s authors should have known that the latest 7SS does not use “old” techniques comes from the “Technical Notes” behind each station report prepared by NIWA’s scientists. These are not secret, but they are very technical and NIWA has judged them not suitable for putting on its website — but they were all supplied to Barry Brill in July 20111. The Technical Notes are basically just tables of intermediate calculations with very little contextual explanation, but they show without any doubt that:

  • Shifts to maximum and minimum temperatures were calculated by NIWA for the 2010 Review;
  • The statistical significance of all shifts was calculated too. The significance tests were done relative to each comparison (reference) site, rather than evaluating an overall significance level after combining sites as RS93 did.

The Technical Notes were also supplied to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology climate team in 2010 as part of the peer review process and BOM’s scientists would have had no trouble understanding them. The same may not be true for the authors of dFDB 2014.

Dedekind should, therefore, be well aware that NIWA did not use “old” techniques for the new 7SS, and that they calculated adjustments for maximum and minimum temperatures as well as mean temperatures. If Dedekind has not seen these Technical Notes, then he should ask his co-author Barry Brill why these inconvenient truths were withheld from him.

Workings or SI

I shall bow to the views of Steve McIntyre (yes, that Steve) at Bishop Hill2 on dFDB 2014’s lacklustre support for anyone wishing to reproduce their results:

I strongly recommend that the authors provide turnkey code showing their results.

[…]

Some readers, if not most readers, are only semi-interested in the controversy, but insufficiently interested to try to code the results and figure out how to access the data from NIWA. The authors should place the NIWA versions as used in their own FTP location and provide the code by which they obtained their results. The advantage of placing the code online is that interested readers can see exactly what was done without having to parse and interpret the methodology in the article – though clear methodology is equally important in seeing what was done.

Nor is it a sufficient reply for the authors to complain about their own prior mistreatment by NIWA. Most of the climate community will be sympathetic to NIWA and unsympathetic to the authors. So they need to go the extra mile.

Quite so. Extraordinary claims — and lets be clear, dFDB 2014’s assertion that warming in NZ is one third of that previously calculated by experts is an extraordinary claim — require extraordinary proof.

Periods for comparison

Dedekind makes the following statements:

Any assertion that makes the claim that RS93 does not use one or two year periods is false. Any assertion that RS93 uses four year periods is false.

Of course, it’s more than likely that Gareth’s vision is somewhat blurry on this point. Perhaps he is confused whether it’s two years before and after a change or four years in total? Who knows? But if he wants to wriggle out via that tunnel, then he should be aware that he would be confirming the two-year approach.

As for the claim that no professional working in the field would use a shorter period, then is Gareth now claiming that Dr Jim Salinger (the co-author of RS93) is not a professional, since he clearly uses it in section 2.4 of RS93? What about Dr David Rhoades? Should we write and tell them that?

Just to be clear, when I said in the original post that the use of one or two year periods is not adequate, I was using the RS93 terminology of k=1 and k=2; that is, k=2 means 2 years before and after a site change (so 4 years in total, but a 2-year difference series which is tested for significance against another 2-year difference series).

Dedekind claims that NIWA never considered k=4. He is wrong, and should know he is wrong, because he has certainly had sight of the following documents:

  • Page 3 in the 1992 NZ Met Service Salinger et al report (single page scan here). The final paragraph clearly states k=2 and k=4 were used. The full paper (pdf here) was available to the NZCSET, but was not amongst the “exhibits” supplied to support their evidence to the High Court. One wonders why not…?
  • Top of page 1508 in Peterson et al 1998: “Homogeneity adjustments of in situ atmospheric climate data: a review”, International J. Climatology, 18: 1493-1517 (pdf here). Clearly states k=1, 2 and 4 were considered. The paper is cited in dFDB 2014. Perhaps the authors didn’t read it.

Direct evidence that calculations based on k=4 were made is also in the “Salinger recall storage boxes” inspected by Brill and Gray.

Minimum and maximum temperatures

As I pointed out in my original post, dFDB 2014’s failure to consider maximum and minimum temperature adjustments is the paper’s most critical flaw. Dedekind — as is becoming all too clear — is simply wrong when he states:

If this is the most critical flaw in our analysis, then why, in NIWA’s Review of the 7SS, did they not do this? Why did they use the mean, as we did? We followed their lead, after all.

By the way, nothing in anything we’ve done precludes NIWA doing their own RS93 analysis. Why have they not done this yet?

As I’ve already shown above Dedekind should be aware that NIWA did consider max and min temperatures — which is essential if you are only going to apply adjustments if they achieve statistical significance. The evidence is there in the Technical Notes supplied to his co-author Barry Brill two years before dFDB 2014 was submitted to EMA. It’s even in the 7SS Review document NIWA produced explaining the process they used to create the latest 7SS. The Review may emphasise the mean temperature shifts but NIWA obviously had to have calculated the max and min shifts for the Review to mention them at all. Mullan (2012) also considers max and min temperatures when applying RS93, and shows why it is important to do so.

Missing data

Dedekind takes issue with my comments on his infilling of missing temperature data for May 1920 in Masterton:

We use the average anomaly from surrounding reference sites to calculate our missing anomaly. So if Gareth wants to criticise our paper’s technique, he criticises NIWA at the same time.

Estimating anomalies is certainly the correct approach in place of using climatology. But it doesn’t appear Dedekind has done this for Masterton in dFDB 2014. Table 3 in the paper shows no adjustment made for the 1920 site move, but if you apply RS93 k=2 — their preferred method — this would change to -0.3ºC and have to be applied because it meets their statistical significance test. Unfortunately this would lead to a doubling of the current NZCSC trend for Masterton and therefore might not be ideologically acceptable.

The 11SS

Dedekind tries hand wave away the 11SS as having been “thoroughly debunked elsewhere”, but doesn’t link to any debunking. The fact is that the raw station data from rural sites with long records that require no adjustments show strong warming. In other words, the warming seen in the 7SS is not an artefact of site changes or urban warming. That is an important matter, and should have been addressed in dFDB 2014.

Mullan 2012

In my original post, I noted that Brett Mullan’s 2012 paper Applying the Rhoades and Salinger Method to New Zealand’s “Seven Stations” Temperature series (Weather & Climate, 32(1), 24-38) deals with the correct application of the methodology described in Rhoades and Salinger’s 1993 paper. It is not cited in dFDB 2014 — itself a sign of shoddy scholarship in a paper claiming to make the first use of that methodology with respect to the 7SS. In his attempted rebuttal to my post Dedekind makes this odd statement:

“Mullan (2012) is far from a refutation of RS93.”

Well, no, since it is entirely about the proper application of Rhoades and Salinger’s methodology — but it is a direct problem for what dFDB 2014 calls RS93 — a misapplication of that methodology.

At the very least, dFDB 2014 should have addressed the existence of Mullan’s paper, and explained why the application of RS93 in that paper is not preferable to their interpretation of it. Making no reference to the paper is a sign of either not knowing the basic literature of the field in which you are attempting to publish (one of academe’s greatest sins), or it’s a sign of trying to avoid uncomfortable issues. In either case, it is a clear example of how the peer review process at EMA failed. Knowledgeable reviewers would have insisted that the authors address the issues raised in Mullan 2012.

Sea surface temperatures (SST)

Dedekind makes much of the fact that the paper does refer to one paper on SSTs around New Zealand — but skips over the essential point: that the SST evidence confirms that warming is occurring faster than they calculate. A hand wave from the authors to “there is low confidence in the data in the crucial pre-1949 period” is hardly a serious argument — especially given the strong warming shown in the raw station data, and corroborating warming seen on offshore islands and in the loss of ice in the Southern Alps.

Parting shot

Dedekind closes with a little snipe at me for pointing out that he had no publication record. Perhaps I should have added “relevant” or “in the field” to the sentence in my original post, but in making an appraisal of his expertise I was greatly assisted by Justice Venning’s judgement on the matter in NIWA v Cranks:

Mr Dedekind’s general expertise in basic statistical techniques does not extend to any particular specialised experience or qualifications in the specific field of applying statistical techniques in the field of climate science. To that extent, where Mr Dedekind purports to comment or give opinions as to NIWA’s application of statistical techniques in those fields, his evidence is of little assistance to the Court.

Dedekind and Treadgold’s reaction to my criticism of dFDB 2014 — and their whole approach to NIWA and the NZ temperature record — demonstrates just how divorced from reality the climate crank position has become over the five years of their attack on NIWA. Their whole campaign only makes sense in a strange world where New Zealand’s climate scientists have been conspiring to create the impression of warming where none exists. Remember Treadgold’s impassioned bleat when he launched their effort in November 2009?

We have discovered that the warming in New Zealand over the past 156 years was indeed man-made, but it had nothing to do with emissions of CO2—it was created by man-made adjustments of the temperature. It’s a disgrace.

Now that dFDB 2014 has been published, and the NZCSC’s partial and political misapplication of climate statistics has been revealed, the enormous mismatch between the little fantasy world they’ve lived in for the last five years and the harsh reality of a world that’s warming fast has become all too obvious. Such is the nature of cognitive dissonance, however, that we cannot expect reason to prevail in their camp. The deluded will continue in their delusion, and continue to try to twist the world to match their own expectations. And they will continue to fail, miserably.

[The Marvelettes, Danger! Heartbreak Dead Ahead.]

  1. Hint: If anyone wants copies of these Technical Notes, all they have to do is ask. If you want them quickly, ask a NIWA climate scientist, and don’t mention the Official Information Act. I asked, and as an example you can download the Notes for the Dunedin adjustments here [File updated 9-30am, 6/11 with improved formatting.]. If you don’t mind waiting, then ask for them under the OIA — the request will go straight to the lawyers (it’s the legal requirement for Crown Research Institutes).
  2. Comment on Nov 2, 2014 at 12:58 PM.

TVNZ pushes Leyland’s climate lies Gareth Renowden Nov 04

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In an appalling lapse of editorial judgement, TVNZ has given notorious Climate “Science” Coalition propagandist Bryan Leyland four minutes of airtime this morning [TVNZ page removed: but available here.] to rubbish the work of the IPCC. Yes, that’s right, the nation’s public broadcaster presented a man way out on the crank fringe who has made a late-life career out climate denial, against one of the largest scientific undertakings of all time — the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report. The IPCC, lest we forget, warned yesterday that world faces “severe, pervasive and irreversible” damage from climate change unless we cut emissions steeply.

Leyland was allowed to lie about about computer models and modellers, present a shonky graph, claim that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was a “huge benefit” to agriculture, and completely misrepresent the scientific consensus on the reality of warming. The presenter, Rawdon Christie, did try a little scripted pushback early in the piece, but was woefully underprepared to deal with a Leyland obviously gleeful at his opportunity to spout nonsense to the nation.

Here a list of Leyland’s lies, roughly transcribed from the video:

“Everything’s based on computer models – they’re programmed to show warming”

No they’re not. One of the oldest climate lies on the block, and Leyland uses it shamelessly. Worse, he’s allowed to get away with it by a woefully underprepared presenter.

Models predicted warming and it hasn’t happened [with graphic1]

Warming continues: ice melts, sea levels rise and oceans warm

No indications of rate increase in sea level rise

Sea level rise has accelerated, and is expected to accelerate further as warming continues and ice sheets disintegrate.

Computer modellers are a small group — everyone else just goes along with them.

Absolute nonsense. This is a childish and overtly conspiracist misrepresentation of reality.

We’re entering a cooling period.

Another piece of wild nonsense from Leyland, betraying his parlous relationship with reality, and allowed to pass unchallenged by the presenter.

Increasing CO2 has been a huge benefit to plant growth — “not doing us any harm”

More completely made-up nonsense, allowed to pass unchallenged by Christie.

None of this is unexpected from Leyland. He has a long track record of persuading the more gullible NZ media to give him a platform to mislead, misrepresent and play fast and loose with the facts. TVNZ must have been aware of his notoriety, which makes their decision to present him on screen as “a renewable energy expert” grossly misleading and very likely a breach of broadcasting standards2.

But the biggest editorial lapse of all was the decision to put him on the show at all. Leyland is a lonely man out on the crank fringes of climate denial. To suggest that he has any sort of valid view on the reality of climate change — to set him up against the work of thousands of scientists around the world and the entire NZ scientific community — was outrageous. Climate change is far too serious an issue for the planet for a responsible broadcaster to play silly false balance games. They must broadcast an immediate correction and apology, and in future treat the issue with the seriousness it deserves.

[Update 5pm: It appears TVNZ have pulled the video of Leyland’s interview and the accompanying news story from their site in response to the many formal and informal complaints they have received. However the full interview can be seen (for the time being, at least) on Youtube. And the TVNZ News Facebook post about Leyland’s interview is still there.]

  1. Leyland’s shonky graph:

    TVNZLeyland

    It appears to be a thinly-disguised and uncredited reworking of a graph that first appeared in the Wall Street Journal in February of this year, accompanying an op-ed piece by John Christy — itself a tidying up of a long-debunked graph created by Roy Spencer.

  2. Should you wish to make a complaint against the programme, you may do so here.

NZ cranks finally publish an NZ temperature series – but their paper’s stuffed with errors Gareth Renowden Oct 31

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You can’t teach old dogs new tricks, it seems — certainly not if they’re gnawing a much loved old bone at the time. The lads from the NZ Climate Science Coalition — yes, the same boys who tried to sue NIWA over the New Zealand temperature record and lost, and who then folded a trust to avoid paying court-ordered costs — have finally found a learned journal gullible enough to accept and publish their shonky reworking of NZ’s temperature record. Earlier this month Environmental Modelling and Assessment published A Reanalysis of Long-Term Surface Air Temperature Trends in New Zealand by CR de Freitas & MO Dedekind & BE Brill (DOI 10.1007/s10666-014-9429-z).

My attention was drawn to dFDB 2014 by an NZCSC press release, and yesterday Richard Treadgold, the man who kicked off the whole sad affair five years ago, posted a disingenuous and misleading article about the paper at his blog. As you might expect given the authors, the paper does not call for an upward revision in the amount of warming NZ has experienced over the last century. The abstract concludes with the following:

Current New Zealand century-long climatology based on 1981 methods produces a trend of 0.91 °C per century. Our analysis, which uses updated measurement techniques and corrects for shelter-contaminated data, produces a trend of 0.28 °C per century.

As you might also expect, given the authors and their respective track records, the paper is riddled with schoolboy howlers and outright misrepresentations. It would probably never have seen the light of day without the assistance of Chris “Pal Reviewde Freitas and his undoubted ability to steer tosh to publication.

Here’s a partial list of the errors, misdirections, misrepresentations and shoddy scholarship in the paper, and in the approach taken by de Freitas, Dedekind and Brill (dFDB 2014).

dFDB 2014 repeats the old canard that NIWA’s Seven Station Series (7SS) before the 2010 review was based on the adjustments made in Jim Salinger’s 1981 thesis. This was a key claim in the NZ Climate Science Education Trust‘s evidence to the High Court and so transparently at odds with written reports and papers from 1992 onwards that it was easy for NIWA to refute. As one close observer of the case told me:

Judges may not understand maths, but they are pretty good at English, and take a dim view of litigants who wilfully and perversely misrepresent simple English sentences.

dFDB 2014 derives a warming rate of +0.28ºC per century, by claiming to apply a method published by Rhoades and Salinger in 1993 (RS93). It claims to create a new benchmark record by reapplying an old technique — essentially ignoring all the work done by NIWA in deriving the current 7SS. Unfortunately, the paper is based on a misapplication of the very method it claims to rely on, and includes numerous errors.

The paper as published contains no workings or supplemental material that would allow reproduction of their results, but it appears to be essentially identical to an “audit’ of NIWA’s Seven Station Series conducted by the NZCSC, and which was offered as evidence in their trust’s attempt to sue NIWA.

As such it contains mistakes that were pointed out in NIWA’s evidence to the High Court — evidence which was extensive, thorough and damning, but is not (yet) available in the public domain.

dFDB 2014 claims that RS93 mandates the use of one year and two year periods of comparison data when making adjustments for a station change, but RS93 makes no such claim. RS93 uses four year periods for comparison, in order to ensure statistical significance for changes — and no professional working in the field would use a shorter period.

The choice to limit themselves to one and two year comparisons seems to have been deliberately made in order to limit the number of adjustments made in the reconstructed series. Limiting the comparison periods makes it harder for adjustments to reach statistical significance, leading dFDB 2014 to reject adjustments even in cases where the station records show site moves or changes!

The effect of that is to reduce the warming trend because, as Treadgold’s first venture into this field showed, a naive reconstruction of the raw data shows not much warming.

But perhaps the most critical flaw in dFDB 2014 — one that should have been sufficient to prevent publication in any self-respecting journal operating a credible peer review process — is that their method ignores any assessment of maximum and minimum temperatures in the adjustment process. This was pointed out to the authors in NIWA’s evidence in the High Court. One of these adjustments will almost always be larger than that for the mean, and if that change is significant, then the temperature record will need to be adjusted at that point – it doesn’t matter if the mean temperature adjustment is statistically significant or not.

Silly mistakes in the application of their version of RS93 appeared in the “audit”, were pointed out in NIWA’s evidence to the High Court, but appear to be uncorrected in dFDB 2014. For example, in the “audit”, they infill a month of missing data (May 1920 in the Masterton series) by choosing an unrealistically warm temperature based on an average of years around the adjustment date. This ignores the fact that May 1920 was one of the coldest Mays on record, at all sites involved in the adjustment calculation.

The dFDB 2014 infill has the effect of reducing the statistical significance enough to reject an adjustment — despite the station record clearly showing that an adjustment is required! Any other approach — skipping the month, making a reasonable estimate based on surrounding stations, or even leaving the unrealistically warm guess at the start of the new series but looking at three years instead of limiting it (wrongly) to two years would make an adjustment necessary.

Throughout dFDB 2014, the analytical choices made by the NZCSC team have the effect of reducing the warming trend, and thus minimising the appearance of the very real warming NZ has experienced over the last century. Very convenient choices given their ideological stance on climate change, a cynic might note.

Quite apart from the methodological issues — which are undoubtedly huge — dFDB 2014 makes no reference to the Eleven Station Series (11SS) derived by NIWA from temperature sites that need no adjustments, presumably because it tracks warming at the expected level1 — that is, three times faster than dFDB 2014 finds.

One might speculate that if they had chosen to “audit” the 11SS — which has a strong warming trend in the raw station data2 — they would have been desperate to find adjustments to reduce that trend.

dFDB 2014 fails to acknowledge the existence of or address the issues raised by NIWA scientist Brett Mullan’s 2012 paper in Weather & Climate (the journal of the Meteorological Society of NZ), Applying the Rhoades and Salinger Method to New Zealand’s “Seven Stations” Temperature series (Weather & Climate, 32(1), 24-38), despite it dealing in detail with the method they claim to apply. Perhaps this is because it points out most of the egregious mistakes they made in their “audit”.

dFDB 2014 also fails to make any reference to sea surface temperature records around the country and station records from offshore islands which also support warming at the expected level — as does the well-documented reduction in ice volume in the Southern Alps.

Beyond any doubt, dFDB 2014 is a model of shoddy scholarship. How on earth did it get accepted for publication by Environmental Modelling and Assessment? An earlier version of dFDB 2014 was submitted to a much more relevant journal, Theoretical and Applied Climatology, but was sent back to the authors for substantial revision at least twice before being rejected. One can surmise that in that case peer review was an uncomfortable process for de Freitas, Dedekind and Brill because the peers being consulted were professional climatologists who understand the nitty-gritty of station adjustments.

At EMA, de Freitas seems to have found a more compliant editor and friendlier reviewers — so friendly that they were happy to allow an obviously and critically flawed paper through to publication. A few simple checks by the editors and reviewers should have raised warning flags.

They should have noted that de Freitas presents himself as lead and corresponding author, yet has no publishing track record in climate records and their homogenisation. He acts as front man for Dedekind and Brill — two men with no relevant academic affiliations or any publication track record — effectively prostituting his position at Auckland University to usher yet another rubbish paper through to publication3. If that wasn’t enough, then competent reviewers should have noted the obvious critical flaws and demanded changes.

As an example of ideologically-driven data torture, A Reanalysis of Long-Term Surface Air Temperature Trends in New Zealand is hardly unusual in the world of climate denial. What makes it stand apart is that such a poorly put together and politically-inspired effort has made its way into the peer-reviewed literature. That is a sign of a gross editorial failure by Environmental Modelling and Assessment, and it should be immediately withdrawn. Meanwhile, the NZ temperature record will continue to show what it always has – substantial and highly significant warming over the last 100 years.

  1. The level demonstrated by NIWA’s re-working of the benchmark Seven Station Series, 0.91ºC per century since 1909
  2. A powerful argument why there should also be one in any homogenised 7SS.
  3. See “Pal Review“, and the Maclean, De Freitas & Carter saga for other examples of de Freitas playing fast and loose with the accepted conventions of scientific peer review.

Carter in Dunedin: Otago Uni provides platform for climate crank plagiarist Gareth Renowden Sep 11

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For reasons best known to themselves, Otago University’s senior management this week provided climate denier and serial plagiarist Bob Carter with no fewer than two opportunities to spread his misinformation and misrepresentation of the state of climate science. The first, a public lecture on Tuesday evening (poster on left), gave Carter the chance to spruik his Heartland-funded and partially plagiarised “NIPCC” report. The second — given to the geology department of which he was a member from 1964 to 80 — was titled Has environmentalism become anti-scientific? Four Australian case studies. Given that Carter now represents himself as an “emeritus fellow” of the Institute of Public Affairs, Australia’s home-grown version of the far-right US lobby group the Heartland Institute, his conclusions in either presentation are not difficult to guess.

At Tuesday’s public lecture he was not given an easy ride, as an on-the-spot reporter confirmed to Hot Topic. Carter was welcomed by the local branch of the Flat Earth Society. Every five or ten minutes there were cries of “We love you Bob Carter” (in a West Indian accent, my source confides) from outside the lecture theatre.

Proceedings started politely, with Carter presenting the usual careful selection of data:

There was the usual slide comparing the ensemble of GCM models with “actual data”, the latter from Spencer (radiosonde and satellite). At question time, a student asked if this data was truly global or just for the tropics, and Carter lied by insisting it was global.

Being a geologist, Carter loves the “it’s happened before, so it can’t be us” misdirection, and offered one new to our correspondent:

He showed CO2 levels over the last 500 Myr, which makes clear the uptake of CO2 from about 10-15 times current levels from the formation of coal deposits during the Cretaceous. He then argued that all we are doing is digging it up and putting the carbon back where it came from. What can be the harm in that? Probably not much if you are dumb enough to think that humans could survive in a Carboniferous climate.

Question time was a little bumpier for Carter.

Alan Mark in particular was quite scathing of Carter’s views. One questioner gave a thorough description of his involvement as a lead reviewer for IPCC and challenged Carter’s allegation that the IPCC was political. Carter did not explain the difference between the WG reports themselves and the Summary for Policy Makers (for which the bureaucrats do have input). By contrast, NIPCC was completely independent and not conflicted in any way, he alleged. That drew a few sneers from the audience, and a question about where the NIPCC funding came from. Some family trusts, he said. Which family trusts? Not going to tell you, he said.

For the record, let us note that Carter is paid by Heartland for his role in the NIPCC, which is a “panel” put together by Fred Singer and the Heartland Institute purely as a propaganda publication. Any relationship between the NIPCC and real science is entirely accidental, and Carter is up to his neck in the fossil-fuel funded extreme right wing campaign to delay action on climate change.

Quite why Otago University chose to give Carter a platform remains a mystery. The University obviously has an extremely broad definition of what constitutes an academic contribution to public debate. No doubt we can look forward to further university-sponsored lectures from anti-flouride activists and chemtrails enthusiasts — both delusions with as much credibility as Carter’s Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change.

Carter — a proven plagiarist who never saw an argument against action on climate change that he wasn’t willing to promote if paid enough — has lived up to expectations. Otago University has failed to meet them.

TDB Today: Bought and paid for – the dirty politics of climate denial Gareth Renowden Aug 27

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It was always going to be difficult to avoid writing more about the impact of Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics and what it tells us about the way the present government and its supporters have behaved, so in my post at The Daily Blog this week — Bought and paid for – the dirty politics of climate denial — I take a look at the latest revelations from the hacked correspondence. It ain’t pretty…

Friday melts, weird weather and whales (it’s been a long time…) Gareth Renowden Aug 22

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It’s been a long time since my last post: apologies for that. You may blame a bad cold, an urgent need for root canal work, the peak of the truffle season (and truffle tours for culinary heroes1 ), the start of pruning and political distractions for the drop off in activity here. Normal service should resume in the near future, but meanwhile here are a few of the things that have caught my eye over the last week or two. You may therefore consider this an open thread – and given what follows, somewhat more open than usual…

The political distraction, of course, has been the response to Nicky Hager’s book, Dirty Politics. I haven’t yet read the book — it’s queued up on the iPad — but as everyone now knows, it concerns the sordid activities of right-wing attack blogger Cameron Slater, and in particular his close ties with senior government politicians. Slater has a long record of climate denial — often lifting material from µWatts or the Daily Mail to support his ignorant bluster — but the revelation that he published paid material for PR companies masquerading as his own opinion begs a question: was there a similar motivation for his climate denial posts?

As far as I can tell, Hager’s book only mentions climate once, in a discussion of Slater’s pet hates, but it will be interesting to see if the “raw data” now being drip fed into the public domain by the hacker2 who obtained Slater’s emails and Facebook chat messages contains any hints of another motivation — if it indeed it does go beyond the knee-jerk denial so common on the far right of NZ politics. For the record, I should note that Slater once used the words “twat” and “fraud” in close conjunction with my name. It would appear that both are likely to apply rather more aptly to him.

The real world, of course, obeys the laws of physics rather than the wishful thinking of political smear merchants, and out here the signs of continued warming are unmistakable. Europe’s Cryosat has detected a big increase in ice sheet melt at both poles, for example:

A new assessment from Europe’s CryoSat spacecraft shows Greenland to be losing about 375 cu km of ice each year.

Added to the discharges coming from Antarctica, it means Earth’s two big ice sheets are now dumping roughly 500 cu km of ice in the oceans annually.

“The contribution of both ice sheets together to sea level rise has doubled since 2009,” said Angelika Humbert from Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute.

The atmosphere is also responding to energy accumulation by delivering an astonishing sequence of heavy rainfall events and flash floods. The BBC reports that 160 people have died in floods in Nepal and northern India, while in Hiroshima 36 people have died in landslides triggered by rain falling at rates of 100mm per hour (Japan Times). In Sweden, heavy rain is causing “catastrophic” flooding, while last month northern Italy bore the brunt of torrential downpours. Flash floods also hit parts of Arizona earlier this week. Nor should we forget the heavy rains that brought damaging floods to Northland in July. For a roundup of July’s weather, check out Chris Burt’s blog at Weather Underground.

Some of these rainfall extremes may be explained by the poleward expansion of the tropics, bringing warmer wetter air into the mid latitudes, as this new paper explains. Some of that tropical air may have been tickling Britain, which apart from experiencing some flash flooding has also just recorded its warmest January to July period since records began. And as a WMO conference found this week: “rising temperatures will have a “multiplying effect on weather events as we know them”.

Finally, and in brief: Earth Overshoot Day shot past this week – earlier than ever; warming may be hiding in the Atlantic; Choiseul in the Solomon Islands becomes the first town to relocate because of sea level rise; and The Wireless is running lots of good climate material this week.

  1. See also: why.
  2. @whaledump on Twitter, see here for why whale dumps are important for climate.

People talking’ #17 Gareth Renowden Aug 01

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It being the weekend that truffle growers from all over New Zealand meet to discuss their trade and to eat the fruits of their endeavours, I will be absent from the Hot Topic helm for the next few days. Please use the occasion to discuss anything and everything climate-related, from the state of the climate to bizarre holes in Siberian tundra that may be caused by dragon breath… Keep it polite, please.

Hot Air: the sorry tale of climate policy in New Zealand Gareth Renowden Jul 23

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This guest post is by Alister Barry, producer and co-director of the new documentary Hot Air, which will be premiered in Wellington next week. Hot Air is screening in the New Zealand International Film Festival around the country over the next month.

Hot Air is a story of compromise, broken promises and corporate pressure, of misinformation and pseudo-scientific propaganda. It’s also a story of good intentions. The 1989 Labour government under Geoffrey Palmer began to map out the first emissions policy. In the 1990s Simon Upton, the National government’s minister responsible for climate change policy tried to put a carbon tax in place as did his successor Labour’s Pete Hodgson. After 2005 David Parker struggled to pass an emissions trading scheme.

I began work on Hot Air in 2009 thinking it might take a couple of years. I recall one of my partners saying, “You better get it done quickly, because within a few years the film will be out of date. Climate change will have been confronted and dealt with.” No such luck.

I soon found that while there have been some books written about the history of the politics of climate change in the UK, the US and elsewhere, there was no comprehensive account telling the New Zealand story. I spent a lot of time in the National Library doing the basic slog of getting the history down on paper. Then I had to condense it into a documentary script before beginning actually making the film.

One benefit of the long gestation period was the unexpected number of key figures that agreed to be interviewed for the film. Experts from both the environmental and economic fields, newspaper editors, businessmen, and a wide range of political figures including National’s Simon Upton, and Labour’s Pete Hodgson & David Parker, all one-time Ministers of Environment, contributed. Many of the major players (particularly Labour’s ruffled former Minister of Environment, Pete Hodgson) clearly welcomed the opportunity to tell their stories, as well as vent some frustrations!

Editing has taken a couple of years finding and fitting together archive footage with the original interview material and condensing that into an informative, and we hope entertaining film. Co-director and editor Abi King-Jones has done a masterful job creating a film that is a pleasure to watch.

On one level the film attempts to provide an understanding of the political landscape on which those of us who want to see some effective action on climate change will have to fight, on another level it is a case study of the extent to which power in our society has shifted to the corporate elite and away from the rest of us.

Hot Air is screening in the New Zealand International Film Festival around the country beginning on July 31st in Wellington.

Here are all the current screening times.

Auckland

Friday, 1 August — 1:00 p.m, Sky City Cinema

Saturday 2 August — 3:30 p.m, Sky City Cinema

Wellington

Thursday 31 July — 6:15 p.m, Paramount Cinema (World Premiere)

Wednesday 6 August — 11.00 a.m, Paramount Cinema

Dunedin

Friday 8 August — 1:00 pm, Rialto

Sunday 10 August — 1:15pm, Rialto

Christchurch

Mon 11 Aug — 6.00pm, Hoyts Northlands 3

Tues 12 Aug — 11.00am, Hoyts Northlands 3

Bookings and tickets are available at the New Zealand International Film Festival website.

Barry Brill and Anonymous: U R A Fraud Gareth Renowden Jul 22

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People send me things. Brightening my email inbox last week was a pithy little email, headed U r a fraud. It didn’t have much to say. Here it is, in its entirety, exactly as it appeared:

Please take down your posts about barry brill or Anonymous may have to

Make some “unauthorized” changes to your shitty website.

I had to laugh. Barry Brill — the man who formed a charitable trust in order to avoid the financial consequences of a failed legal action against the New Zealand temperature record — must have some very strange friends1. The idea that hacktivists like Anonymous would side with Brill and his climate crank pals against climate reality strikes me as drawing a very long bow — but there are certainly hackers for hire in Russia and China who might be prepared to repeat their efforts against the Climatic Research Unit’s email servers2 in order to take down this little web site. But who would fund that? Not Brill, I’m sure. He’s too busy taking the Heartland shilling, campaigning hard for a worse future for the world, and avoiding payment of court-ordered costs.

Meanwhile, I shall watch my server logs with interest (but I won’t be holding my breath, and certainly won’t be removing any posts about Brill).

[Sheer Heart Attack]

  1. Indeed, he does – as shown by his attendance at the recent Heartland-funded climate crank networking event in Las Vegas, where he rubbed shoulders with all the luminaries of the crank pantheon, from Monckton to Don Easterbrook.
  2. aka the so-called Climategate hack.

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