Tumblr Icon RSS Icon

Wattergate: Tamino debunks “just plain wrong” Anthony Watts

By Joe Romm  

"Wattergate: Tamino debunks “just plain wrong” Anthony Watts"

Share:

google plus icon

The leading anti-science blogger in the country, Anthony Watts, owes NOAA scientists an apology.  So far, he’s passing the buck.

The former TV weatherman coauthored a “report” with Joe D’Aleo, “Surface Temperature Record:  Policy Driven Deception?” accusing top U.S. scientists of various kinds of misfeasance and malfeasance in the global temperature record.  I’m not linking to it because most of the report’s claims had already been long debunked (see Must-read NOAA paper smacks down Anthony Watts — Q: “Is there any question that surface temperatures in the United States have been rising rapidly during the last 50 years?” A: “None at all.”)

The blogger Tamino of “Open Mind,” has been dismantling one of Watts’ few new claims and wrote last week:

Anthony:

It has now been independently confirmed, by multiple persons, that my results regarding the impact of station dropout on global temperature are correct. Your claims, in your document with Joe D’Aleo for the SPPI, are just plain wrong.

You can read about station dropout here.  It refers to “the reduction in reporting stations included in the GHCN (global historical climate network) data on which some global temperature estimates are partly based,” starting around 1990.  NOAA explains the GHCN here.  The links to the independent confirmations are here and here.

You’ve avoided answering this criticism, claiming that you can’t replicate my results without my code. Yet several others managed to do just that. It’s not that difficult, and you were irresponsible not to investigate this issue before publishing your claims….

Furthermore, your use of false claims to accuse NOAA scientists of deliberate deception was not just mistaken, it was unethical.

If you have any honor at all, you’ll set the record straight. You owe it to everyone, and especially to NOAA, to admit that you were wrong. And you certainly owe it to NOAA to apologize. You need to make a highly visible, highly public admission of error, and apology, for using falsehoods to accuse others of fraud.

Anthony Watts is one of the hard-core disinformers (see FoxNews, WattsUpWithThat push falsehood-filled Daily Mail article on global cooling that utterly misquotes, misrepresents work of Mojib Latif and NSIDC).  He reprints utter bunk (see “here“).

Not content to simply dispute the science with disinformation, he attacks climate scientists.  Watts said last year that NASA’s James Hansen is “no longer a scientist.”  Watts routinely smears all climate scientists, approvingly reprinting anti-science manifestos that claim global warming “is the biggest whopper ever sold to the public in the history of humankind” “” see here.  He also smeared NSIDC director Mark Serreze.

He rejects the opportunity to do actual science even when it is offered to him — and once real peer-reviewed science is done that utterly debunks his primary argument (that U.S. temperature stations have a bias toward recent warming), he simply continues to ignore it (see “Watts not to love: New study finds the poor weather stations tend to have a slight COOL bias, not a warm one“).

And when Tamino and others thoroughly debunk a core accusation he makes in a new report, what does he do?  He claims that the key analysis in the report that he signed his name to as coauthor was in fact the work of someone else.  Seriously.

Sorry, Mr. Watts.  Maybe you think it’s okay for you to repost other people’s disinformation on your blog and then not defend it when it is thoroughly debunked.  But when you publish your own analysis under your own name in a big report — and that is debunked by multiple analysts — you either explain in detail yourself why they are wrong or retract it.

Related Posts:

‹ Energy and Global Warming News for March 11: Rural utility loan bill designed to spur efficiency; Poverty and tyranny central to immoral practice of mountaintop destruction, water and air poisoning — RFK, Jr.

The Gap Between Climate Science And Economics Is A Chasm ›

43 Responses to Wattergate: Tamino debunks “just plain wrong” Anthony Watts

  1. Dana says:

    The Open Mind blog is another of my favorites, and the debunking of the slanderous Watts/D’Aleo/Smith paper (which was of course published by a right-wing think tank and never peer-reviewed) has been fun to follow. The data analysis was relatively simple and has been replicated by several others, including some ‘skeptics’.

    That Watts continues to refuse to admit any fault simply demonstrates his complete lack of honesty and integrity, which he can add to his lack of understanding of basic climate science. Watts and his blog are completely irrelevant to any serious discussion of climate science.

  2. mike roddy says:

    This looks like a good opportunity for the press to step and do what used to be normal: distinguish truth from lies, for the edification of their readers.

    It’s a little scary when actual facts have become one of many sources of amusement. For some reason I have faith that we can right this ship, though. Maybe more reporters and newscasters can make the decision to choose the telling-the-truth option. We have to persuade them that this would be a good career choice, since appeals to things like journalistic responsibility and concern for the future are made to sound quaint these days.

  3. PeterW says:

    mike roddy says: “This looks like a good opportunity for the press to step and do what used to be normal: distinguish truth from lies, for the edification of their readers.”

    Unfortunately Mike the press are presented with examples like this daily and only a very small minority ever report on it.

    Monbiot in a recent article suggested some of this may be do to the fact that most reporters are scientific illiterates, the vast majority are Arts grads and have very little scientific background.

    In my experience, many in the media will look at you in disgust if your grammar is not quite right or if you use a word incorrectly. But they wear not being able to understand simple mathematics like a badge of honor.

  4. climateprogressive says:

    That is the trouble with blogs like WUWT – any purveyor of pork-pies can set one up and crack on – and the faithful will come flocking like so many starlings!

    Peter (#3) – it seems these days that gross ignorance is indeed the badge!

  5. Doug Bostrom says:

    For followers of Watts it’s all about “You gotta believe, friends!”

    Faith-basted turkeys.

  6. Mike,
    Your comment presumes that the press is practicing an ancient and obsolete art called “journalism”. In fact it is involved in a business called “entertainment”. See Dave Ross’s CBS commentary today:
    Where is the Press?”

  7. LucAstro says:

    Maybe we should keep count of the medias´s publishing score on the subject of AGW reporting. From that score, we could denounce the most offending ones, that is, those that are the most fequently (1) misrepresenting the science or (2) taking pure ideological stance that ignores facts. Such a list could be published in major newspapers and denounced by scientists, collectively and individually.

  8. MapleLeaf says:

    You should read Tamino’s take-down on the ‘random walk’ fallacy being perpetuated by those in denial.

    Wow!

  9. hisnamewas says:

    anyone ever notice that they never seem to have their y-axis labeled? i read Joe D’Aleo’s papers from I think 2008 and couldn’t understand what he was talking about because he kept switching units (i.e.ºC ºF..and watts does it to!) and they weren’t labeled. once i had deciphered what he was attempting to say i got a good laugh from his theory that CO2 isn’t linked to temp by trying to linearly fit one to the other. no wonder they don’t submit papers to journals…they would get slaughtered for sloppiness and inconsistencies!

  10. Mark Shapiro says:

    OT, but 2,000 + scientists and economists signed a letter to congress calling for cuts in CO2 emissions:

    http://www.ucsusa.org/news/press_release/nobel-prize-winning-0360.html

    Also, Stefan R at realclimate has a post about IPCC’s “conservative” projections of sea level rise:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/03/ippc-sealevel-gate/

  11. MapleLeaf says:

    Oh, and yes, of course Watts does owe NOAA (amongst others) an apology.

    Watts is not the only one in denial who needs to make some apologies to scientists. Read this astonishing expose by DeepClimate with regards to slanderous statements made by McKitrick and McIntyre:

    http://deepclimate.org/2010/03/10/mcclimategate-continues-yet-another-false-accusation-from-mcintyre-and-mckitrick/

    These stories needs to get legs and quickly. Is the media finally going to wake up from being asleep behind the wheel and do what is right for once? Someone needs to, finally, start holding those in denial accountable for their transgressions. Any takers?

  12. Rob Mac says:

    I’ve been looking for some discussion of this issue for a while because my brother (a staunch denialist) keeps bringing it up.

    The Open Mind piece does debunk many of Watt’s (and my brother’s) concerns, it does not address one key question that I know my brother will ask when I bring this to his attention: ok, but why all the station dropouts? Why have the number of stations in GHCN been dropping? Does anyone have an explanation.

    Believe me, people like my brother look at something like this and insist that someone is hiding something, even if they don’t know what.

    I’d really appreciate it if someone could point me to an explanation.

  13. Mark Shapiro says:

    Time for a new blog:

    “WhatsDownWithThat” — debunking every watts post.

    But it wouldn’t be any fun at all, just work.

  14. Doug Bostrom says:

    Rob Mac says: March 11, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    May as well go straight to the top:

    Peterson, Thomas C. and Russell S. Vose, 1997: An overview of the Global Historical Climatology Network temperature data base, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 78, 2837-2849.

    Peterson, T.C., T.R. Karl, P.F. Jamason, R. Knight, and D.R. Easterling, 1998: The first difference method: maximizing station density for the calculation of long-term global temperature change. Journal of Geophysical Research, Atmospheres, 103 (D20), 25967-25974.

  15. dhogaza says:

    The Open Mind piece does debunk many of Watt’s (and my brother’s) concerns, it does not address one key question that I know my brother will ask when I bring this to his attention: ok, but why all the station dropouts? Why have the number of stations in GHCN been dropping? Does anyone have an explanation.

    Only a subset report electronically, these are the most recent reports. Individual countries pay to do this, they choose how many stations to hook up to the network.

    Then there are other that national met services gather data from and summarize “periodically” (or randomly or whatever they want). Individual nations pay for this and choose when and how often to do so.

    Then there was a big effort back in the 1990s to generate GHCN version 2, which was released in 1997.

    Here’s a paper describing the effort.

    The people involved beat the bushes, so to speak, in order to find and get as much station data as they could given the budget they had.

    So if you think about it, there’s not a “station dropout” issue here, what you’re seeing is the result of a huge effort to gather data that resulted in the 1997 release of GHCN version 2. An effort that was funded as a one-off event. After the closing of the time period for gathering that data, what you see is the more recent data from the two paths I mentioned above.

    Presumably there will be another round-up of data done in the future.

    Somehow, in some people’s minds, this history tale is “proof” of a “conspiracy” to remove “stations that prove there’s no warming” or some such.

    Some people also believe many other weird things.

  16. dhogaza says:

    Oh, and I’m not an expert, that’s just my understanding from reading and googling.

  17. We are so tolerant of whack jobs who deny the moon landing, or still believe in flat earth. Why do we even accept climate denialism?

    It is dangerous and harmful to coddle idiocy that can directly harm us.

    Pulling a false fire alarm is illegal, and damaging or crippling them is too. This is more than Toyota gas pedal function denialism, this will affect the world. This is criminal treason.

  18. caerbannog says:


    The Open Mind piece does debunk many of Watt’s (and my brother’s) concerns, it does not address one key question that I know my brother will ask when I bring this to his attention: ok, but why all the station dropouts? Why have the number of stations in GHCN been dropping? Does anyone have an explanation.

    They should be called “add-ins”, not “dropouts”. Temperature data can (and have been) added to the GHCN database years after they were actually collected at the temperature stations. Real-time updates from far-flung temperature stations is not something to be taken for granted. From http://www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org/2010/01/kusi-noaa-nasa/:

    It’s common to think of temperature stations as modern Internet-linked operations that instantly report temperature readings to readily accessible databases, but that is not particularly accurate for stations outside of the United States and Western Europe. For many of the world’s stations, observations are still taken and recorded by hand, and assembling and digitizing records from thousands of stations worldwide is burdensome.

    During that spike in station counts in the 1970s, those stations were not actively reporting to some central repository. Rather, those records were collected years and decades later through painstaking work by researchers. It is quite likely that, a decade or two from now, the number of stations available for the 1990s and 2000s will exceed the 6,000-station peak reached in the 1970s.

  19. wag says:

    Can we sue Watts for libel before British libel laws get reformed? Clearly, accusing someone of scientific fraud is libel, and Watts has to prove that what he said was true in British court.

  20. wag says:

    Correction: FALSELY accusing someone of scientific fraud is libel.

  21. Mike#22 says:

    Anyway to just pay Watts to NOT run his internet business?

    Maybe a wealthy philanthropist could endow an Honorary Chair of Meteorologicism with a nice tidy stipend at some nice little college somewhere and give it to Watts. On the condition he only publishes in real journals.

  22. caerbannog says:

    Regarding the “dropout” issue, it looks like dhogaza “beat me to the punch” by a few minutes. But I like his explanation better than mine, anyway.

    So, Rob… all I will say at this point is, “what dhogaza said”.

  23. caerbannog says:

    Could this be some old footage of Mrs. Anthony Watts? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32YKaPxAxwA

  24. G says:

    I’m just wondering, do you think that the people who complain in blog comments write their congresspeople? Or, perhaps, more importantly, the editors at their local newspapers and news stations? I really don’t know how involved people are with civics anymore because we’re so distracted, but my suspicion is that many (not all) people get a certain catharsis from posting in blog comments and can’t understand why nothing changes. I think the message that we should be putting in comments sections is not to refute the deniers, but to take the refutation to the mass media. Unless we do that, it doesn’t matter how strong the evidence is, as current events demonstrate.

  25. J Bowers says:

    13. Mark Shapiro: “Time for a new blog:
    “WhatsDownWithThat” — debunking every watts post.
    But it wouldn’t be any fun at all, just work.”

    It’s been happening for a while now, called Wott’s Up With That?: http://wotsupwiththat.wordpress.com/

  26. J Bowers says:

    24. G: “I really don’t know how involved people are with civics anymore because we’re so distracted, but my suspicion is that many (not all) people get a certain catharsis from posting in blog comments and can’t understand why nothing changes.”

    The problem in the UK is trying to get your comment posted in the likes of the Telegraph, which is haphazard if you disagree with the article to say the least (I gave up in the end). There are a number of us in the Guardian comments, though, as that paper mods afterwards and does try to strike a balance. I agree that there should be more of it, as that’s where the general public goes, as well as a number of regular septics who love poisoning the well. They can be fairly epic bloodbaths (George Monbiot’s latest article generated over 1200 comments in a couple of days), especially when the libertarians turn up after the sun has set over Europe, which is when things can get quite surreal ;)

  27. David B. Benson says:

    Doesn’t Inhofe owe apologies as well?

  28. Rob Mac says:

    Thanks everyone for the excellent responses on the station “dropout” issue.

  29. MarkB says:

    Watts looks to be trying to disassociate himself from the former slanderous assertions, perhaps because some contrarian-lites have replicated Tamino’s finding, but of course Watts is not admitting error or apologizing. He’s just passing the buck…

    Bluegrue in the Tamino comments pointed this out.

    Anthony Watts: “Most of the station dropout issue covered in that report is based on the hard work of E. M. Smith, aka “chiefio“, who has been aggressively working through the data bias issues that develop when thermometers have been dropped from the Global Historical Climate Network. My contribution to the study of the dropout issue was essentially zero, as I focused on contributing what I’ve been studying for the past three years, the USHCN.”

    wattsupwiththat.com/2010/03/08/on-the-march-of-the-thermometers/

    In other words, Watts claims he put his name on some garbage he had no clue about or a hand in creating. I can actually believe that, given his profound lack of basic understanding of anything related to science.

  30. Ross Hunter says:

    24. G: “…do you think that the people who complain in blog comments write their congresspeople? Or, perhaps, more importantly, the editors at their local newspapers and news stations?”

    I have been wondering for some time how best to help with this crisis, and somehow starting another blog isn’t the way, for me at least. I’ll take G’s thought and run with it by seeing if I can take this post of Joe’s and the various cites in these comments and lash them together crudely, and then send the result out as a press release, a free-submission article, a facebook page, letters to editors, my elected reps from city through federal – and so forth.

    I like the theme I hear discussed here lately of how best and most practically to fight back against all the poisoned information. Keep it up everyone.

  31. Dennis says:

    A better name for “Wott’s Up With That?” would be “What’s Wrong With Watts.”

  32. robert says:

    Who is Tamino? I can’t find any credentials, and it appears his / her results aren’t being published in the scientific literature. Why is Climate Progress quoting unpublished results?

  33. caerbannog says:


    Who is Tamino? I can’t find any credentials, and it appears his / her results aren’t being published in the scientific literature. Why is Climate Progress quoting unpublished results?

    A little double-standard here? Do you think that Watts and his cronies published their smears in the scientific literature?

    Why in the hell do you think that Tamino should publish a refutation of a Watts smear in the scientific literature when Watts hasn’t published anything in the scientific literature to begin with?

    Are you really that much of a hypocrite, or do you just play one on-line?

  34. jyyh says:

    Debunking Watts appears to be so easy it might not be possible to get a highly regarded article out of that, but were I an editor in chief in a respected journal of science, this might be a great opportunity for broadening the readership… Tamino could share the authorship with the contrarian debunkers?

  35. dhogaza says:

    Who is Tamino? I can’t find any credentials, and it appears his / her results aren’t being published in the scientific literature. Why is Climate Progress quoting unpublished results?

    If you can’t find out in about five minutes of focused googling, then you’re *never* going to be able to overturn climate science.

    Because Google is dead simple.

    I know his name. You can, too.

    You just have to prove that you’re smarter than a 2-month old to do it.

  36. dhogaza says:

    Oh, and the same goes for me …

    You can find my name, home address, and phone number, if you’re smarter than a 2-month old.

  37. Ivan Carter says:

    Here was one attempt to hold the media accountable in a public way, but it required support from more notable sources. http://newsaffair.org/?p=232 Talking about holding the media accountable is not nearly as valuable as actually doing it in a concrete and meaningful way.

    The article (as are most on this subject — here’s a recent example cited on here as well, and how it was used to then prompt even further confusion and misinformation) it referred to was misleading as the basic idea of what the consensus is, and quoted phantom scientists and alluded to implied experts who seemed to believe that climate was monotonic. Which only furthered misinformation on the subject. I inquired twice of the reporters who the scientists and “others” alluded to were, and asked the managing editors. They were all able to ignore this request, and then remain unaccountable, because there was no back up/support on this.

    With that, the questions would have needed to have been answered — which leads to a variety of different directions, depending on how answered — all of which increase public accountability for future reporting.

    It’s kind of the crux of the issue here, at heart.

  38. J Bowers says:

    37. Ivan Carter: “Talking about holding the media accountable is not nearly as valuable as actually doing it in a concrete and meaningful way. “

    The science doesn’t have a Marc Morano, the pseudo-science does. If the MSM were a walled city, the facts and science seem like a scattering of foreign voices outside the city walls carried in on the wind from different directions, or passed on like poorly translated hearsay, whereas the anti-AGW message has an emissary who can walk right in and speaks their tongue.

  39. J Bowers says:

    I hope you get my meaning anyway, not to detract from CP and elsewhere.

  40. Phil Clarke says:

    Time for a new blog:

    “WhatsDownWithThat” — debunking every watts post.

    I was beaten to it but worth repeating: this guy is giving it a shot – http://wotsupwiththat.wordpress.com/about

    And deserves your support. Remember that your average WUWT post contains a kernel of fact – e.g. parts of Antarctica ARE cooling and Antarctic sea ice IS increasing, stripped out of context, spun 180 degrees and served up for the faithful. The usual journalistic values of balance, fact checking and honesty can go hang. But I would guess that doing the research to debunk or simply place this stuff in proper context typically takes longer than composing it in the first place. By which time Mr Watts has Gish-Galloped to the next topic, volume rather than quality being his thing.

    This soundbite anti-science appeals to a minority, but it is a sizable one – those who are have some political, personal or even psychological reason not to be convinced by the actual science – and there is no chance that Watts will ever recant, apologise, explain or do anything else that might affect his traffic stats. Any more than he will post a record warmth or drought story to balance all that snow….

    Best strategy is to ignore. Second best is to chip away at his tattered credibility by highlighting the steady stream of howlers and pointing out that his ‘big theme’ of surface station unreliability has shown to be baseless.

    PS 1. Tamino is a professional statistician and his identity is indeed something of an open secret, but given Watts’ habit of intruding into the family life of those who cross him (e.g. publishing details of the son of the guy who makes the ‘crock’ videos ) one can understand why he prefers not to broadcast his real name.

    2. Tamino is preparing his analysis for review and publication. Something he has done with previous statistical corrections to Schwartz and the egregious McLean et al, and something the a certain Climate Auditor conspicuously does not. But thats a different thread.

  41. Sou says:

    Watts wouldn’t know one end of a thermometer from another. He’s happy to claim authorship of a brochure that is full of junk ‘science’, then says he isn’t responsible for what’s in his own article, passing the buck. That sort of slipperiness is typical of him as far as I can see.

    Watts is not as low wattage as he makes out – he can’t analyse temperature records but is happy to publish someone else’s ‘analysis’ under his own name, until it’s thoroughly debunked. Then he runs for cover. He has few watts when it comes to science and even fewer scruples.

  42. J Bowers says:

    Well, there’s a big opportunity for everyone to correct the misinformation.

    Physicsworld.com (a website of the Institute of Physics) has an article on the IoP submission. First in the comment list is Bishop Hill banging on about deleting proxy data, etc. All the usual stuff is being posted, even by those who say they’re physicists.

    ‘Concerns raised over Institute of Physics climate submission’ March 11.
    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/41965

    It takes a minute to sign up. I’m quite gobsmacked by some comments already made there.

  43. Jim Eager says:

    Re Robert @32: “Who is Tamino? I can’t find any credentials, and it appears his / her results aren’t being published in the scientific literature. Why is Climate Progress quoting unpublished results?”

    Tamino’s work has been published in the scientific literature. Many times.

    And the specific work referred to by this post will be submitted for publication.