GOP’s only scientists at ‘Scopes’ climate hearing are Richard Muller and John Christy. Go figure!

Skeptical Science debunks more Muller disinformation

UPDATE:  GOP Chair Hall referred to the emails of “East Angeles“!

Muller says of surface temperature dataset, Some of the most worrisome biases are less serious than I had thought.”  That’s because he doesn’t read the scientific literature!

Onion Scopes small

There is a climate science hearing trial today at 10 am of the full House Science Committee, “Climate Change: Examining the Processes Used to Create Science and Policy” (webcast here).

The Charter (here) makes clear this is a Scopes-like trial of Climategate, since it has an extended discussion of the stolen e-mails (which it claims were “leaked” — as if) along with innuendo-laden treatments of “Data Quality” and the “IPCC process.”  The Charter never mentions the multiple vindications of the scientists whose emails were stolen and of the IPCC itself — and it omits any discussion of the massive amount of data and independent analyses that underpin our understanding of climate science.  And those phony attacks  are then used to question EPA’s rather obvious finding that unrestricted emissions of greenhouse gases are a danger to the health and well-being of Americans.

The fossil fuel funded Tea Party and climate zombies of the GOP have turned it into the party of no science — see Tim Pawlenty: “Every one of us” running for president has flip-flopped on climate change and National Journal: “The GOP is stampeding toward an absolutist rejection of climate science that appears unmatched among major political parties around the globe, even conservative ones.” So rather than calling this the Scopes trial, let’s just call it the Nopes trial.

The Democrats were allowed one witness and invited a serious climate scientist, MIT’s Kerry Emanuel.  The GOP had five witnesses and invited 3 non-scientists to spread disinformation on greenhouse gas regulations and costs.  Of the two actual scientists they invited, Richard Muller and John Christy, only one is actually a climate scientist.  Christy, though, is also a serial disinformer.  Skeptical Science debunked point by point his last testimony (see “Should you believe anything John Christy says?“).  For more, see House GOP line up the usual disinformers for climate science hearing.

Muller likes to claim he is an independent, apolitical physicist trying to restore “credibility” to the temperature record.  But in fact, like Christy, the Koch-funded Muller has also launched phony attacks on climate science for years (see here).  Like Christy, Muller is a serial disinformer, as we’ve seen (see “Koch-funded scientist Richard Muller makes up story about Al Gore, Ralph Cicerone, and polar bears“).  Indeed, Skeptical Science has begun a multipart debunking of Muller, which I repost below:

[Note:  SkS accuses Mueller of “misinformation” — but the charge below has been debunked so many times in the past two years, including by the independent commissions reviewing the emails — that it must now qualify as disinformation.  Willful ignorance of the facts — like ignorance of the law — is no defense.]

The most cited ‘Climategate‘ email is one from Phil Jones discussing a graph he produced for a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report, where he discusses “Mike’s trick” and “hide the decline”. A number of misconceptions have arisen concerning this email. Unfortunately a prominent source of ‘hide the decline’ misinformation Professor Richard Muller from Berkeley. One of Muller’s errors is confusing several separate techniques, blurring them into a single “hide the decline”. Muller commits this error in a public lecture (emphasis added):

A quote came out of the emails, these leaked emails, that said “let’s use Mike’s trick to hide the decline”. That’s the words, “let’s use Mike’s trick to hide the decline”. Mike is Michael Mann, said “hey, trick just means mathematical trick. That’s all.” My response is I’m not worried about the word trick. I’m worried about the decline.

Muller uses the phrase “Mike’s nature trick to hide the decline” as if it’s Phil Jones’s actual words. In a lecture recorded last weekend at Berkeley, Muller continues to expound on how Michael Mann’s trick was used to hide the decline (emphasis added):

What they said is “how can we hide the decline?” And the suggestion came back from Phil Jones at the UK, “Let’s use Mike’s trick to hide the decline”. Mike’s trick consisted of erasing that data, calling it unreliable, and then substituting the temperature data from thereon.

However, the original text from Phil Jone’s email indicates otherwise:

I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.

It’s clear that “Mike’s Nature trick” is quite separate to Keith Briffa’s “hide the decline”. Muller has taken different sections of Phil Jone’s emails and morphed them into a single phrase. To understand how this is a misleading characterisation, it’s helpful to examine exactly what “Mike’s Nature trick” and “hide the decline” refer to.

What does “hide the decline” refer to?

Phil Jones’ email is often cited as evidence of an attempt  to “hide the decline in global temperatures”. This is incorrect. The decline actually refers to a decline in tree-ring density at certain high-latitude locations since 1960. However, Muller doesn’t make this error – he clearly understands that global temperatures have been rising in recent decades as indicated by the instrumental record.

Tree-ring growth has been found to match well with temperature, and hence tree-ring width and density is used to plot temperature going back hundreds of years. However, tree-rings in some high-latitude locations diverge from modern instrumental temperature records after 1960. This is known as the “divergence problem“. Consequently, tree-ring data in these high-latitude locations are not considered reliable after 1960 and should not be used to represent temperature in recent decades.

In Phil Jones’ original email, he refers to a graph produced for the cover of a 2000 WMO report.

WMO graph by Phil Jones

Figure 1: Northern Hemisphere temperatures were reconstructed for the past 1000 years (up to 1999) using palaeoclimatic records (tree rings, corals, ice cores, lake sediments, etc.), along with historical and long instrumental records (WMO 2000).

To construct the green line, Jones took tree-ring density data from Annual climate variability in the Holocene: interpreting the message of ancient trees (Briffa 2000). Note – the reason the paper was eventually published in 2000, not 1999, was due to a publication delay. We can see the original tree-ring density data in the figure below, taken from Briffa 2000. The green line represents Low Frequency Density (LFD) and diverges from the instrumental temperature record (the thick black line), as noted by Briffa in the caption.

Briffa tree-ring density

Figure 2: An indication of growing season temperature changes across the whole of the northern boreal forest. The LFD curve indicates low-frequency density changes. Note the recent disparity in density and measured temperatures.

In creating the WMO graph, Jones cut off the tree-ring density curve around 1960 when it diverged from instrumental temperature and grafted the instrumental temperature onto the green line. This technique has been rightly criticised for failing to distinguish between reconstructed temperature and the instrumental temperature in a graph. However, the decline in tree-ring density is not a hidden phenomena – it’s been openly discussed in the peer-reviewed literature since 1995 (Jacoby 1995) and was also discussed in the IPCC Third Assessment Report (TAR) and Fourth Assessment Report (AR4).

Lastly, it bears remembering that other research finds tree-ring density is reliable before 1960. Briffa 1998 finds that tree-ring width and density show close agreement with temperature back to 1880. The high-latitude tree-rings that show divergence after 1960 also match closely with other non-diverging proxies going back to the Medieval Warm Period (Cook 2004). This indicates the divergence problem is restricted to modern times.

What is “Mike’s Nature trick”?

This refers to a technique (in other words, “trick of the trade”) used in a paper published in the journal Nature by lead author Michael Mann (Mann et al 1998). The “trick” is the technique of plotting recent instrumental data along with the reconstructed data. This places recent global warming trends in the context of temperature changes over longer time scales. This graph is commonly known as the hockey stick.

Mann’s 1998 paper in Nature plotted temperature back to 1400 AD. The temperature reconstruction was extended back to 1000 AD and published in Mann et al 1999 which was reproduced in the IPCC Third Assessment Report (TAR). The IPCC TAR version of Mann’s hockey stick is shown below:

Hockey Stick

Figure 3: Northern Hemisphere mean temperature anomaly in °C (IPCC TAR).

There is nothing secret about “Mike’s trick”. Both the instrumental (red) and reconstructed temperature (blue) are clearly labelled in Mann’s 1998 Nature article, the follow-up Mann et al 1999 and the IPCC Third Assessment Report.

A common and broadly held misconception is that Mann’s hockey stick hides the decline. There is no “decline” in Mann’s reconstructions. As we shall examine shortly, the source of “the decline” come from temperature reconstructions calculated from tree-ring density at high northern latitudes (Briffa 1998). There are very few of these in Mann’s proxy data and hence his reconstructions never required removal of any declining tree-ring density.

Thus it’s clear that “Mike’s Nature trick” has nothing to do with Briffa’s “decline”. There is no “decline” in Mann et al 1998 and Mann et al 1999. To conflate two separate techniques via the phrase “Mike’s Nature trick to hide the decline” is adding to the glut of ‘Climategate‘ misinformation.

57 Responses to GOP’s only scientists at ‘Scopes’ climate hearing are Richard Muller and John Christy. Go figure!

  1. Colorado Bob says:

    Several papers published in the journal Nature demonstrate that such extreme precipitation events in specific localities is the result of climate change and not an overactive imagination. The scientists studied the actual, observable precipitation patterns in the 20th century and then compared them to climate model simulations and a splash of probability to discover a close, predictive match up.

    They claim that their results provide “first formal identification of a human contribution to the observed intensification of extreme precipitation.” The scientists, led by Seung-Ki Min at the Climate Research Division from Environment Canada in Toronto, say that the global climate models may, in fact, be underestimating the amount of extreme weather events, “which implies that extreme precipitation events may strengthen more quickly in the future than projected and that they may have more severe impacts than estimated.”

  2. Prokaryotes says:

    Thoughts about Science …

    A quintessence of dust

    An idle comment caught my eye: “After all, no one saw the Big Bang.” Somewhere else I read, “The universe has no opinion.” Then I read that the next Hubble telescope will be able to peer six times as far into space and time as the one now in orbit.

    An issue of Discover magazine arrived with a cover story about astronomers struggling with the problem of information overload. The new telescopes have moved far beyond visual images, and monitor a flood of information picked up on many wave lengths. Not even super computers can adequately organize and assess their vast findings. Amazing discoveries may be buried within the data.

    The universe is too large for me to comprehend how large that really might be. I’ve seen those animations where Earth shrinks to a pin point, and then the sun shrinks to a pin point, and then the Milky Way shrinks to a pin point. The whole map might as well shrink to a pin point, along with the horse it rode on.

    None of this immensity is affected by what I think about it. It doesn’t depend on being thought about. If it is true that our galaxy alone might contain 30 to 80 million earth-like planets, and if every one of them were occupied by sentient beings, it doesn’t depend on what they’re thinking, either. It all simply exists.

    That is why the process of evolution is so compelling to me. On this planet, and probably countless more, inanimate atoms became molecules which formed cells and over billions of years those cells evolved into complex organisms which finally became viruses, plants, animals, salamanders, banyan trees and human beings. Without giving it any thought, with no way to think it, the universe brought into existence a way of making itself seen.

    There is more than one way to see. A leaf turns to the light. A chimpanzee selects a piece of fruit. A fish sees a smaller fish. An eagle sees a rabbit. A dolphin rescues a sailor. A dog welcomes us home. While all of these actions are guided by a process falling under the general heading of Intelligence, humans seem to be fairly unique in our ability for conscious thought. We see, we know, and we know we know.

    This is a blessing and it carries a price. To know you live is to know you die. Having studied several cats at close range over a period of years, I’ve concluded they don’t give it a moment’s notice. They know they want to live, which is why they get out of trouble as fast as they can. Then they take a nap.

  3. darth says:

    Thanks again for explaining the ‘hide the decline’ non-issue. The problem is that to understand what Joe is writing requires a reading level that it seems many of our politico’s do not possess.

    This article should be emailed and faxed to every representative and senator, and dropped as leaflets on the Capitol building.

  4. Mike Roddy says:

    This hearing is effectively an infomercial for the fossil fuel companies. This kind of thing has happened before, as commercial interests managed to obtain a Congressional majority in the Gilded Age, and enough Senators to dictate policy in the 1850’s. Change only happened when the whole country blew a gasket, but we can’t wait that long.

    The dark side won’t be easy to defeat, but it has to be done. Since we’re now a huge country, few know their government representatives. That means that people still get their information from television and newspapers, or internet magazines affiliated with them such as AOL “News”. They have utterly failed, from fear and stupidity, shaming the entire profession of journalism.

    Either a new, responsible media empire needs to be established or widely broadcast fact checks need to be enabled. Reporters and editors need to be able to say when Congressmen and witnesses are lying like hell, as in this case. Otherwise, we may not be able to beat them.

    There are still a few beacons- Margot Roosevelt’s coverage in the LA Times is good today- but the whole center of the country has little idea what is actually going on. It’s not because they’re stupid, as people like to prove in surveys, it’s because their thinking has been manipulated. Harry Truman, who looks like Churchill compared to recent presidents, used to say “Trust the people”. Let’s start there.

  5. Horatio Algeranon says:

    Engineers help us; We’re in the hands of God physicists.

    Unknown Knowns
    — by Horatio Algeranon

    It’s widely known
    (To them alone)
    That physicists own
    A Rosetta Stone,
    To unlock the zone
    Of the Great Unknown.

    (…and Horatio should know)

  6. Lee says:

    Today’s “Non Sequitur” comic seems appropriate.

  7. eadler says:

    Muller may be wrong on the Hockey Stick and Climategate, but he has published testimony that says that Anthony Watts claim that the bad Temperature measurement stations are manufacturing global warming.

    Let me now address the problem of Poor Temperature Station Quality
    Many temperature stations in the U.S. are located near buildings, in parking lots, or close to heat sources. Anthony Watts and his team has shown that most of the current stations in the US Historical Climatology Network would be ranked “poor” by NOAA’s own standards, with error uncertainties up to 5 degrees C.

    Did such poor station quality exaggerate the estimates of global warming? We’ve studied this issue, and our preliminary answer is no.
    The Berkeley Earth analysis shows that over the past 50 years the poor stations in the U.S. network do not show greater warming than do the good stations. Thus, although poor station quality might affect absolute temperature, it does not appear to affect trends, and for global warming estimates, the trend is what is important.

    Our key caveat is that our results are preliminary and have not yet been published in a peer reviewed journal. We have begun that process of submitting a paper to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, and we are preparing several additional papers for publication elsewhere.

    NOAA has already published a similar conclusion – that station quality bias did not affect estimates of global warming – — based on a smaller set of stations, and Anthony Anthony Watts and his team have a paper submitted, which is in late stage peer review, using over 1000 stations, but it has not yet been accepted for publication and I am not at liberty to discuss their conclusions and how they might differ. We have looked only at average temperature changes, and additional data needs to be studied, to look at (forexample) changes in maximum and minimum temperatures.
    In fact, in our preliminary analysis the good stations report more warming in the U.S. than the poor stations by 0.009 ± 0.009 degrees per decade, opposite to what might be expected, but also consistent with zero. We are currently checking these results and performing the calculation in several different ways. But we are consistently finding that there is no enhancement of global warming trends due to the inclusion of the poorly ranked US stations.

  8. FS says:

    is it just my computer or does the link to the webcast not work?

  9. eadler says:

    I should have written “Muller may be wrong on the Hockey Stick and Climategate, but he has published testimony that says that Anthony Watts claim that the bad Temperature measurement stations are manufacturing global warming, is wrong.
    Sorry for the typo.

  10. What Mike Roddy said. I’ll go further and say that the we ourselves should try to start constructing a more responsible information environment right now, instead of merely waiting for other people to do it.

    “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”  — Mahatma Gandhi

    * * *

    And out of curiosity…

    Joe, do you happen to be sitting on any confidential information pertinent to the original cyber-attack itself, or do you know anyone who does? (Besides David Adam, and of course the UK police and their contractors.) If there are other reporters who happen to be privy to such information, it might be a good idea to start comparing notes…


  11. Sou says:

    Muller said that scientists should butt out and keep quiet and stay in their labs, implying they should not inform the public of the dangers of global warming. Yet he makes such a song and dance about climate, including public talks, press releases, appearing before legislators etc – all when it’s not even his field. Another case of do as I say and not as I do.

    Christy reckons climate data should be ‘transparent’ and ‘available’, except when for the data he himself gathers and processes. He insists on slandering other climate scientists. Is that legal in the USA?

    The economist and the lawyer reckon the markets and courts are wrong.
    The GOP is still trying to keep the discussion mired in a heap of stolen emails.

    Republicans must get tired of having to keep up their phony folksy accents just to fool the people into thinking they are dumb and ignorant instead of sly and deceptive.

  12. James says:

    Watching the hearing, I am saddened, disappointed, dismayed and alarmed. Truly, the state of our public discourse on this is being set at a new low. Dr. Emanuel is one of my new heroes. His testimony amidst these deniers and know-nothings is a shining example.

  13. MapleLeaf says:

    James @12,

    I share your sentiments. I am appalled that this is what such an important issue has degenerated into. The ignorance, myopia and disinformation from the GOP crowd is truly mind boggling. I actually had several face palm moments during the hearing. the same myths and lies just get being repated as fact– truly disturbing that they can go unchallenged and that Christy (who knows better) failed to correct the politicians.

    There are a few glimmers of hope amongst the politicians but they are overshadowed by the ignorant, misguided and myopia of almost all the GOP senators. I am not at all hopeful; in fact, quite the opposite.

    Yes, Emanuel was great– a diamond in a big lump of coal.

  14. Dana says:

    I caught about an hour of the hearing. It made my blood absolutely boil. Armstrong flat-out lied about climate economics the whole time (I’m going to have to do a Skeptical Science post refuting his testimony, since there were no real economists there). Christy was really nothing more than a Republican denialist tool. At least twice he had the opportunity to refute the ’70s ice age myth, and failed to do so both times. We’ll probably have to do another blog post specifically about his testimony too.

    Emanuel was terrific. Muller was soemtimes okay, but when he talked about the hockey stick, totally wrong. The other 4 GOP witnesses were just rubbish. The whole thing was a travesty, except when Emanuel had the opportunity to speak.

  15. Dennis says:

    If the GOP was allowed five witnesses and the Democrats only one, then the Democrats should have packed the public seating with additional scientists who could (but are not permitted to) speak in rebuttal to the other GOP witnesses. Then when it’s the opportunity to speak, Kerry Emanuel could point to the qualified individual in the audience who, if the GOP were to permit it, could provide a rebuttal to the denier claims by speaking to actual scientific research he or she had conducted, and has been accepted by the scientific community at large, as opposed to the opinion-based comments by the GOP witnesses.

  16. climate undergrad says:

    Anyone know if/where this will be available to watch after the fact? (ie when I get home tonight)

    Not that the house committee was especially fun (read: torturous) to watch at points.

  17. Dana says:

    Once we can get a hold of a recording or transcript, we’ll be adding all the myths regurgitated by Republicans at today’s hearing to Skeptical Science’s new Climate Myths from Politicians Database, as well.

    Anybody know where we can get a hold of a transcript or recording of today’s hearing?

  18. dhogaza says:

    Remember that the Democrat’s invitee, Kerry Emanuel, is a lifelong Republican, one of the few honest Republicans left standing. He’ll be ignored by the denialist crowd that dominates the Republican Party at the moment …

    Also, don’t let Muller off the hook too quickly, as he also said this:

    “The Berkeley Earth agreement with the prior analysis surprised us, since our preliminary results don’t yet address many of the known biases. When they do, it is possible that the corrections could bring our current agreement into disagreement.

    Why such close agreement between our uncorrected data and their [NOAA and others] adjusted data? One possibility is that the systematic corrections applied by the other groups are small. We don’t yet know.”

    Muller doesn’t know because he’s not read the friggin’ literature, he’s not looked at what others have done (including a variety of non-professional skeptics who have done their own reconstructions with both adjusted and unadjusted data, as well as professionals), and is in essence ignorant of work done in the field.

    Epic fail.

  19. dhogaza says:

    Watching Muller try to reinvent climate science is like watching Fleischman and Pons try to reinvent physics…

  20. Prokaryotes says:

    Last week, Nature published another strong statement addressing the political/economic attack on climate science in an editorial titled “Into Ignorance“. It specifically criticized the right wing element of the U.S. Congress that is attempting to initiate legislation that would strip the US EPA of its powers to regulate greenhouse gases as pollutants. In so doing, it cited as an example the charade of a hearing conducted recently, including the Republicans’ disrespectful and ignorant attitude toward the science and scientists. Among many low points, this may have reached its nadir when a House member from Nebraska asked, smirkingly and out of the blue, whether nitrogen should be banned–presumably to make the point that atmospheric gases are all either harmless or outright beneficial, and hence, should not be regulated. Aside from the obvious difference that humans are not altering the nitrogen concentration of the atmosphere, as they are with (several) greenhouse gases, such a question boggles the mind in terms of the mindset that must exist to ask it in a public congressional hearing in the first place. But rarely are the ignorant and ideological bashful about showing it, regardless of who might be listening. In fact an increasing number seem to take it as a badge of honor.

  21. Neal J. King says:

    dhogaza @19:

    It’s very reasonable for Muller to say he doesn’t know, when the final results are not in.

    He’s still lined up to support the conventional wisdom on GW. I recommend keeping your gunpowder dry for the moment that he overturns conventional wisdom (and I think that will not happen).

    In the meantime, he lays on plenty of praise for Watts & McIntyre: that gives them an investment in the results.

    We might be fairly close to putting the “question” of global warming to bed. This is not the time to over-turn the chess board.

  22. Marc A says:

    “In Oceania at the present day, Science, in the old sense, has almost ceased to exist. In Newspeak there is no word for “Science.” The empirical method of thought, on which all the scientific achievements of the past were founded, is opposed to the most fundamental principles of Ingsoc.” — George Orwell, from “1984.”

  23. Neal J. King says:

    Dana @14:
    “Muller was soemtimes okay, but when he talked about the hockey stick, totally wrong.”

    In his testimony, the only mention I see of the hockey stick is:
    “I was a cited referee on the report of the NRC on the hockey
    stick controversy.” (And that part was not even supposed to be read aloud.)

    What in the testimony are you objecting to? Or did Muller stray from the testimonial draft?

  24. toby says:

    Neal J. King,

    I too hope that Muller’s long career in science leads him to end up “inside the tent pissing out” to use LBJ’s colourful phrase. To listen to him attack a decent and distinguished scientist like James Hansen, as he did on a video I watched, filled me with disgust and foreboding. My whole instinct is “A highly intelligent individual intent on carving out a place for himself in the public perception of climate science” – the men he wants to emulate are Hansen, Gore and Lomborg, two of whom are respected by scientists, and one (Lomborg) only by the media.

    Nothing wrong with that it itself, but let him use fair means, not foul.

    I have concerns about his connection with the Watts & McIntyre nexus. Nothing in the record of these gentlemen suggests they would willingly admit any error on their part. Putting the “question” of global warming to bed would mean the two sinking into an anonymous consensus where their prominence would vanish. There is no way they will stand for that, Muller or no Mulller. The same goes for the Kochs.

  25. Joan Savage says:

    One point made by Dr. Emanuel is that scientists tend to make conservative estimates. I’d like to see some fuller comment by risk analysts (maybe military strategists) who can reinforce what is an acceptable level of information for making decisions. The EPA has already worked through many guidelines for what is an acceptable level of information for setting a standard, but it could benefit from more public familiarity, and open comparison to other kinds of decisions. People need to know when there is sufficient evidence to move on.

    In the hearing this morning, the industry attorney Glaser inserted his view that “the science … does not provide a basis to regulate.” He is not a scientist or a risk analyst, so provisionally I’ll take it as his legal view. No one called him on his assertion. He was using a standard legal contention, like suggesting either “insufficient evidence,” or creating a “reasonable doubt” in a court case.

    There is a lot to be said about how law deals with scientific inference, but that is worth a separate piece.

  26. John McManus says:

    Watts certainly has his knoickers in a knot over BEST. Not that long ago he was full of praise and vowed to accept their findings.

    Now he is outraged by Muller. His findings are wrong, alarmist, warmist, paid for ( by the Kotches?) and on and on. Tony, all tiggerish faux outrage’ can’t understand why Muller has dismissed the Surface Station stuff as irrelavent.

    Whatis surprising is the impression of Anthony having his feelings hurt because his Surface Station project is rejected even though it is unfinished , unpublished, unhelpful and inaccurate. I guess WUWT is just another vanity press. I wonder who is financing itÉ

  27. dhogaza says:

    Neil King:

    It’s very reasonable for Muller to say he doesn’t know, when the final results are not in.

    No, it’s not, it’s been known for years that the adjustments made by NOAA have negligible effect on the surface temperature reconstructions. There’s plenty of literature on it. He would know this if he’d spent even a single afternoon studying the literature or talking to people knowledgeable in the field.

    Instead he’s been talking to the likes of Anthony Watts, who apparently convinced him that there *would* be a significant difference, this being the basis for his surprise.

    Quit apologizing for willful ignorance.

  28. Turboblocke says:

    Muller said “The magnitude of this temperature rise is a key scientific and public policy concern. A
    0.2 degree uncertainty puts the human component between 0.4 and 0.8 degrees – a factor
    of two uncertainty. Policy depends on this number. It needs to be improved.

    (Note that this is over a 50 year period)

    Where did this 0.2°C uncertainty spring from? Later on he talks about “0.009 ± 0.009 degrees per decade” for his own calculations. Surely similar precision should apply to mainstream scince’s calculations too. And aren’t the satellite observations accurate to better than 0.2°C equivalent over 50 years?

  29. dhogaza says:

    Neil King:

    We might be fairly close to putting the “question” of global warming to bed. This is not the time to over-turn the chess board.

    It’s been put to bed, died of old age, and buried.

    Those who refuse to believe will continue to believe. Watts is already stating that the paper that he and RPSr have been working on the last couple of years concludes that:

    “According to the best-sited stations, the diurnal temperature range in the lower 48 states has no century-scale trend.”

    In other words, he and RPSr are going to claim no warming over the last century, BEST and the rest be damned. This is what the denialsphere will hang their hat on, not BEST (since it doesn’t give them the answer they want) ….

  30. dhogaza says:

    sorry – “Those who refuse to believe will continue to DISbelieve.”

  31. Joy Hughes says:

    Why do the tree rings diverge after 1960? Does that have something to do with CO2?

  32. another joe says:

    Willis E. has his knickers in a twist over Muller’s testimony. Go see the latest denialist shuffle over at Tony’s place!

    The biggest problem over there is their complete and utter lack of objectivity. Willis had “hoped for the best from BEST”, but the scientific process is not about hope, its about facts and observations. They’re already distancing themselves from the BEST results, despite Tony’s claim that he was “prepared to accept whatever result they produce”.

  33. Neal J. King says:


    I think it is conceivable that Watts & McIntyre will take the hook: They may eventually acquiesce in the upward slope in return for the pat on the back.

    That would be a good thing, whether or not you have any respect for them. Because right now they’re out there, beating the drum – like Fox News.

  34. Rob Honeycutt says:

    dgogaza… Remember, Watts and RP Sr still have to get published. It remains to be seen whether they can.

  35. Dana says:

    Neal @ 23 – I was referring to Muller’s verbal testimony. His written testimony was fine, but he delved into his usual hockey stick misinformation during the hearing itself.

  36. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    This scarcely credible outbreak of mass insanity does have echoes back to Reagan’s day, and his disdain for redwoods and blaming air pollution on trees. Oh, how we laughed at his idiocy! Well nobody’s laughing much now, but the Dunning Krugerites who have inherited the earth. Contrary to promises, they’re not a ‘meek’ lot, either. They are simply overflowing with self-satisfaction, convinced that they have, as the Right always does, ‘won’, by fair means or, preferably, foul. I’ve lost count of the smarmy gits who preface an outpouring of idiocy, ignorance and arrogant presumption with the triumphalist boast that ‘Now that the warmist, alarmist, heatist, scam has been exposed and is dead and buried etc’. The problem is that the Right have no interest in ‘truth’ unless it is defined as ‘what they think’. Thus they are innately and inescapably unable to practise or comprehend science, with its search for the truth, or a close approximation to it. No, they live in a world of ‘faith’, either religious, ideological or psychopathological, where everything was predetermined at the dawn of time, and every problem is not a conundrum to be investigated and solved but a contest, a battle to be won. The very idea of compromise, of seeing the other side’s point of view, or even taking account of the demonstrable facts, is anathema, a heresy against their religious convictions, themselves simply projections of the Rightwing authoritarian’s psyche and worldview.
    So, even if somehow we escape the ecological debacle, which seems a long-shot bet at present, we are left with the problem of what to do with the authoritarian, paranoid, ignorant, violent, avaricious and endlessly self-seeking fraction of humanity, ie the Right in political euphemism. That a few infinitely greedy business parasites can so pervert the politics of the greatest power on earth that it has set a course hell-bent for self-destruction is not a good advertisement for our species’ claims to sapience.

  37. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    Watching this hearing was like reading George Orwell, or watching “Dr. Strangelove”, but I wasn’t laughing.

  38. dhogaza says:

    Neal King:

    I think it is conceivable that Watts & McIntyre will take the hook: They may eventually acquiesce in the upward slope in return for the pat on the back.

    Watts has *already* blogged on this, that’s where I grabbed the quote from the paper’s abstract.

    He’s already attacked Muller and the BEST team, both on his blog and in a letter submitted to the committee (which Republicans apparently tried to get into the record but were unable too, I think).

    Quit making stuff up, please.

  39. dhogaza says:

    Rob Honeycutt:

    dgogaza… Remember, Watts and RP Sr still have to get published. It remains to be seen whether they can.

    True. The people the paper is written for don’t care if it’s published in E&E though (presumably it will show up there if they can’t get a real journal to accept it).

  40. Neven says:

    True. The people the paper is written for don’t care if it’s published in E&E though (presumably it will show up there if they can’t get a real journal to accept it).

    I was told they have submitted to a journal and that the review process is almost finished (4th review, probably Menne pulling a Steig on them!). So it should published soon. In theory.

  41. I watched that hearing and I had the greatest difficulty getting my jaw up off the floor until Dr. Emanuel (he’s definitely been added to the pantheon of climate heroes after today) spoke.

    Armstrong was so bad, that I can only feel the greatest sympathy for his unfortunate students at Wharton. The guy is a known shill for the Heartland people. He professes not to have studied climate science, yet thinks he can apply simply marketing statistics to climate data.

    Christy slandered honest scientists (again), and should be held to account.

    The so-called economist went a long way toward maintaining the bad name that economists have held so far in discussions of the future under a rapidly changing climate.

    Muller — what can one say? We already have 3 good sources of temperature records. The sources already use sound statistical methods. Did he think that a random sample of 2% of 39,000 records would change that in any way, shape, or form? Does he actually have any understanding of even basic statistics or was that just wishful thinking on his part?

    And then Anthony Watts ruined Muller’s big day in the limelight by embarrassing him by sending a letter to the committee “correcting” his mistakes! Oh brother! On live TV — whoa! What a spectacle! Too bad we couldn’t see the expression on Muller’s face while that was going on.

    It was like watching a kangaroo court run by the Three Stooges.

  42. riverat says:

    What a train wreck the Republican Party is. Unfortunately they’re taking all of us along for the ride.

  43. Mike Roddy #4

    Yes. Margot Roosevelt’ LA Times article:,0,2472031.story

    correctly painted Muller in a bad light if these quotes are accurate:

    Physicist Richard Muller says that “global warming is a serious problem. But people simply don’t believe the story anymore because the story was exaggerated.”

    Temperature data from tens of thousands of weather stations across the globe, many of which have incomplete records, are “very contentious,” Muller said in an interview. “The skeptics are raising legitimate concerns.”


    Muller said Koch and other contributors will have no influence over the results. “We have no prejudice, no preconception of what we are going to get,” he said, adding that the Koch donation was less than the $188,587 contributed by the federal Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where Muller is a senior scientist.

    Yeah right! So why the need for those first two statements Muller?

  44. Wit's End says:

    Joy #29: excerpt from this post:

    Imagine, not one scientist has ever replied to my many letters and comments about the “hide the decline” scandal. The reason researchers had to discard the anomalous data in tree rings of the last few decades when constructing temperature records, is because the accelerated growth from warming was diminished from rising levels of background tropospheric ozone, even in remote areas. Briffa himself conjectured in one of his early publications that “anthropogenic” causes could explain the decline, without specifying what those causes might be. Considering how damaging that episode was to efforts to cap carbon emissions – and still is, the deniers continue to repeat it – it’s amazing that neither Briffa nor Mann is willing to consider the evidence that ozone is the cause of the decline they had to “hide.”

    …maybe, scientists frightened by positive amplifying feedbacks leading to a runaway Venus syndrome prefer to be oblivious to ozone, because the last-ditch hope they secretly cling to is that catastrophic warming might be slowed with geo-engineering technology…and geo-egineering won’t do a d*** thing to stop trees from going extinct, taking most other life-forms with them. Now, that’s a seriously disheartening notion.

  45. Joy, Wit’s End:

    With all due respect, Wit’s End, you’re getting the totally wrong idea.

    To begin: we call a physical measurement a ‘proxy’ for temperature if it is known to agree (closely enough) with temperature. Let’s say the measurement increases with temperature: then if the temperature rises, then the physical measurement should rise; if the temperature drops, then the physical measurement should drop. (If, however, the measurement decreases with temperature, then a rise in temperature should result in a drop in the measurement.)

    By saying “tree-ring densities are a good proxy for temperature”, we’re saying that increases and decreases tree-ring densities correlate with increases and decreases in temperature in some way, and we can thus infer changes in climate stretching back hundreds or even thousands of years by studying spaces between tree rings.

    So we’re talking about two totally separate questions:

    (1) whether temperatures have warmed or cooled, and
    (2) why tree-ring measurements no longer correspond with temperature.

    Repeat, these are two totally separate questions. Your ‘reasoning’ is that

    Tree-ring measurements are diverging from actual temperature because actual temperatures have fallen.

    which is illogical and not even an explanation in the first place! You’re trying to answer a question about (2) by referring to (1).

    It’s like saying

    My watch is becoming less and less accurate. I think it’s because I’m taking less time to prepare breakfast.

    when what you should be looking for is an explanation like

    My watch is becoming less and less accurate. I think it’s because its battery is running out.

    (I see Sime’s Skeptical Science link does point to some proposed explanations for the tree-ring divergence phenomenon.)


  46. Wit's End says:

    Frank, you interpreted my comment as:

    “Tree-ring measurements are diverging from actual temperature because actual temperatures have fallen.”


    I think exactly this:

    Tree-ring measurements are diverging from actual temperature BECAUSE OZONE IS STUNTING GROWTH AND INCREMENTALLY KILLING TREES.

    Hope that clears things up for you.

  47. Wit’s End:

    My bad… I stand corrected.

    Nevertheless, what you should be looking for is not only a possible explanation of the reason behind the divergence phenomenon, but — as far as possible — the correct explanation that agrees with all the known existing clues, and agrees better than competing explanations.

    As Joe points out, the divergence problem crops up mainly in trees in the high latitudes. Does your proposed mechanism (ozone pollution) operate more strongly in the high latitudes?

    Furthermore, Does it operate more strongly than other proposed mechanisms, such as sulphur dioxide pollution, or the drop in stratospheric ozone, and so on?

    That’s an awful lot of analysis that needs to be done before you can begin to accuse climate scientists of loving ground level ozone.


  48. Wit's End says:

    Frank, the sheer staggering wealth of published, peer-reviewed scientific research detailing the tree growth-stunting, and crop-yield impairing effects of ozone – and the dearth of research on any other conceivable source – represents an awful lot of analysis indicating ozone is the primary cause.

    There are two lists with links to such research at the top of my blog.

    Here’s a nice one:, college course notes which state:

    “Plants are generally more sensitive to O3 than are humans, with damage to some sensitive species occurring at concentrations as low as 0.04 ppm.

    Ozone injury can take several forms:

    1. Alterations in physiology, particularly decreased rates of photosynthesis in some species and altered carbohydrate allocation patterns. A common alteration is decreased allocation to roots and increased allocation to shoots, which makes the plant more vulnerable to drought.

    2. Injury to membranes. Once inside the plant, ozone causes the production of secondary products, such as OH- radicals, organic free radicals, H2O2, and singlet O. All of these are oxidizing agents which appear to be responsible for its toxic effects.

    Secondary consequences of ozone exposure then result somehow from #1 or 2, above. These secondary consequences include:

    reduced growth and yield of fruits, vegetables, trees
    increased vulnerability to insects and pathogens”

    And I never said climate scientists love ground level ozone. I said they ignore it, because most of them do.

  49. Wit’s End:

    You still don’t get the picture. Ground level ozone may cause a lot of bad things, but there’s no indication that it caused the tree ring divergence problem specifically.

    Again, two questions:

    1. Does ozone injury operate more strongly in the high latitudes? (Again, as Joe pointed out, the divergence problem is more prominent at high latitudes.)

    2. Does it operate more strongly than other proposed mechanisms, such as sulphur dioxide pollution, or the drop in stratospheric ozone, and so on?

    Make an effort to look at these questions, otherwise you’re not doing science, you’re just pushing a pet theory.


  50. Wit's End says:

    Frank, I never said I was “doing science.” I’m not a scientist, and I don’t pretend to be. Having said that, the divergence problem is probably more prominent in the high latitudes not because ozone “operates more strongly there”, but because it is warming faster there than elsewhere, hence a greater divergence.

    As to the relative destructive capabilities of ozone, sulphur dioxide, and a drop in stratospheric ozone, I don’t know of any studies comparing them. What I DO know is that air pollution damages vegetation, causing stunted growth – and that is not a theory, pet or otherwise. It’s a well-established fact.

    Make an effort to consider that fact, otherwise you’re not contributing to understanding the threat to trees and crops, you’re just pushing a pet non-theory.

  51. Wit’s End:

    Ozone pollution is not itself a climate change problem, any more than tobacco smoke or oil spills are climate change problems. Both are environmental problems. Neither ground level ozone nor tobacco smoke nor oil in the sea directly affects rain, or clouds, or winds, or sea level, or the intensity or frequency of hurricanes, etc. — the stuff that climate is made of.

    Frank, I never said I was “doing science.” I’m not a scientist, and I don’t pretend to be.

    You see, that’s the problem. You don’t “do science”, yet you demand that scientists do the things you want them to do, without making much effort to understand what they are currently doing. Climate scientists study things that actually have some direct impact on the climate, and they’re interested in ground level ozone only insofar as it relates to climate.

    So, how about this: Talk to scientists other than climatologists who do study ozone and/or tree rings. (Dendrochronology is a pretty wide field.) And instead of prefacing each message withh a long rambling commentary about the ills of ozone pollution, ask clear, concise questions so that people know what you’re asking about, e.g. “How do you think the presence of ozone pollution might affect the use of tree rings for paleoecology? Is there any research on this?” Someone might be able to give you a clear, concise answer on the state of the art.


  52. Wit's End says:

    Frank, I started out over two years ago doing exactly what you suggest: asking questions. At first I thought that trees were dying from decreased precipitation due to climate change. That is how I got interested in the topic of climate change: dying trees.

    It was quite a while before I realized that the reason there has been a recent escalation in tree mortality isn’t climate change induced drought, it’s the composition of the atmosphere.

    Ozone is pertinent to climate change in two ways. One, it is the 3rd most important greenhouse gas. See this paper by Shindell, et al (including Hansen):

    Furthermore, if (when) the trees all die, one of the most important sinks for CO2 will disappear.

    Climate science and the study of ozone are inextricably linked, and furthermore, the processes that create CO2 are the identical processes that result in the creation of ozone.

    “…without making much effort to understand what they are currently doing.”

    How on earth would you know how much effort I expend trying to understand what climate scientists are doing? And why do you make personal insults? I thought that was a tactic reserved for deniers who can’t argue the facts.

    The reason I write to climate scientists is they are the ones who understand how atmospheric physics works, how precursors are transported, etc. and they are the ones with the funding to operate satellites, for example. And in many cases, that funding comes from my taxes.

  53. mark says:

    Wit, why would the amazon be dying so much more than many other forests (check the two recent stories in I mean, wouldn’t you expect there to be a much worse tree death problem in, say, eastern europe where there is, presumably more ground level ozone than in the Amazon?

    Meanwhile, how do you explain the bark beetle explosion in the American and Canadian west? Again, there’s recent stories at sciencedaily. I suppose you could try to argue that beetles population lags tree death, in the same way some say CO2 lags temp. But most folks seem to think the winters are not cold enough to kill off breeding adults, who then are able to get a jump start on the next years population of the bugs. Combined with drought stress, its party time for the bugs. And why would that species be hurting so badly in the borderline arid west and northwestern canada, with its much clearer skies and lower pollution, than, for example, the mixed forest of Michigan being downwind from major pollution sources almost any direction the wind blows?

    I’m all for studying ground level ozone, but I think you’re dead wrong blaming these forest issues on pollution instead of shifting habitat parameters as a result of climate change.

  54. Wit's End says:


    Trees are dying everywhere, not just the Amazon or the American west. They ARE dying in Eastern Europe and have been for decades. The Germans call it waldsterben – forest death. It’s a global pattern. And trees that are being watered in nurseries have the identical symptoms of foliar damage as trees growing in the wild.

    Trees that are exposed to ozone allocate more energy to shoots and less to roots, making them more vulnerable to drought. Trees that are exposed to ozone are more susceptible to insects, disease and fungus. This has been proven in open air tests – one scientist called the insects, disease and fungus the “sharks circling in the water.”

    Here’s a snippet from the National Park Service:

    “Ozone enters plants through leaf openings called stomata and oxidizes plant tissue, causing changes in biochemical and physiological processes. Both visible foliar injury (e.g., stipple and chlorosis) and growth effects (e.g., premature leaf loss, reduced photosynthesis, and reduced leaf, root, and total dry weights) can occur in sensitive plant species In a natural ecosystem, many other factors can ameliorate or magnify the extent of ozone injury at various times and places such as soil moisture, presence of other air pollutants, insects or diseases, and other environmental stresses. Ozone effects on natural vegetation have been documented throughout the country, particularly in many areas of the eastern U.S. and in California.”

    NASA: “An increasing number of reports have appeared during the past 25 years regarding ozone-induced injury to plant leaves in many countries.”

    Links and more excerpts here:

    In 2010, the United Nations Environment Programme published a book, “Air Pollution, promoting Regional Cooperation” which stated:

    “The impact of air pollution on agricultural crops and quality of produce and ensuing food security has hitherto been largely ignored by policy makers. The ubiquitously rising ambient ozone levels are a matter of serious concern in a world with growing food shortages and increasing food prices. Some 75% of the world’s cereal is grown in areas which are exposed to damaging ozone concentrations.

    Studies in Europe, Africa and Asia suggest that agricultural output may be dramatically reduced by air pollution, above all ozone (formed by chemical reactions with nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight).

    The Sida funded programme on Regional Air Pollution in Developing Countries (RAPIDC) includes studies in e.g. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as in southern Africa, which indicate that the crop yield of wheat may be reduced by some 30% due to air pollution (based on European dose response functions). Investigations in these countries and in Sri Lanka suggest a potential yield loss of 50-80% for mung beans, spinach and potatoes. It has been indicated that rice yield in Japan has been reduced due to the influence of long- range transport of air pollution.

    Some years ago air pollution was treated as a local problem, particularly in urban areas. While urban problems tend to be continuously exacerbated in most big cities of the world, air pollution is today recognized as a global issue with transboundary consequences.”

    Please keep in mind that long-lived species such as trees get exposed season after season, and so the damage, unlike that to annual crops (unless you’re counting the damage to soil and microbes which is another component), is cumulative.

    And while I’m at it, I would like to add to Frank, who said:

    “Ozone pollution is not itself a climate change problem, any more than tobacco smoke or oil spills are climate change problems. Both are environmental problems. Neither ground level ozone nor tobacco smoke nor oil in the sea directly affects rain, or clouds, or winds, or sea level, or the intensity or frequency of hurricanes, etc. — the stuff that climate is made of.”

    This climate blog and many others frequently include posts about the Gulf oil spill, other oil spills, the Fukushima nuclear accident, the bark beetle epidemic, and a range of other tangential issues. Ozone is at least as pertinent to climate if not more than those topics – since it IS a greenhouse gas – I would aver that they are all connected and relevant to the science climate change.

  55. Wit’s End:

    Frank, I started out over two years ago doing exactly what you suggest: asking questions.

    You’re not asking enough questions, and of those questions you do ask, you’re not asking them clearly enough, and you decide too quickly on an answer you like, instead of trying to find the correct answer.

    Jeez, look, I’m not trying to stop you, I’m not trying to belittle you, I’m trying to help you by showing you a way forward. In the time you spent writing your diatribe about how those darn ignorant scientists are living on your tax money, you could’ve sought out for some experts in dendrochronological techniques and asked them some clear concise questions! Why aren’t you doing this? You’re not helping yourself!

    That’s it. None of us are obliged to answer your points about why your theory on everything is so obviously correct that you can’t be half-bothered to seek out a practising dendrochronologist and actually ask him what he thinks. You can either take a way forward, or you can continue your campaign of yelling at a cul-de-sac.


  56. Wit's End says:

    None of “us”?

    That’s cute, Frank.

    Diatribe? Hardly!

    And I’m getting rather tired of conjectures about what questions I’m asking of whom and whether they are sufficiently clear. You can’t possibly know of all the letters I have sent to all sorts of scientists asking them questions.

    Why don’t you address the facts I bring up instead of making slurs against me? Why did you abandon your question about the divergence? When you said ozone has no place on a climate blog and lumped it in with oil spills, why did you ignore my response, which is that CP and many other climate blogs report on oil spills and other environmental issues like Fukushima?

    Instead you resort to mischaracterizations such as this:

    “…darn ignorant scientists are living on your tax money.”

    which is one of several distortions of what I have said. Specifically, I referred to “funding to operate satellites” and not funding the salaries salaries of scientists, nor did I refer to scientists in any derogatory manner, let alone characterize them as ignorant.

    You owe me an apology for that one.