...Why scientific programming does not compute

Michael Milan
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I agree that the politicising

I agree that the politicising of climate science is getting too over the top. It's very hard to have a rational debate about global warming without getting emotional.
But I would say that what science says about climate, and what society should do about climate should remain as separate as church and state. :-P

tullio
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This Nature article is worth

This Nature article is worth reading:
Climate science
Tullio

Mike Hewson
Mike Hewson
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RE: How would you calibrate

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How would you calibrate an instrument if you can't assume that the older instrument you're calibrating it to still works?


Of course you calibrate, and 'assumptions ok to make within reason?' but if you don't understand the divergence then where is the 'reason' for the calibration choice? The 'reason' now lies outside of one's data set, which is no longer understood - as that's why one was forced to make a choice. Appealing to the milieu? Because it is 'cohesive, elegant, overarching'? Thus it now becomes 'right' because it aligns with other researchers' results, or how science should work, or slots nicely into the current paradigm, or suits a pre-conception about how the world works, or because it's not right to say you don't know, or .... and each little intellectual step, each quite 'reasonable', ever so gradually tip-toes you away from the data. Seeking comfort in certainty, but by eliminating uncomfortable uncertainty ( toss the tree rings only for certain chosen periods of history due to a problem with fit ). It's an insidious retreat back into one's own skull. Then after a while new stuff that comes down the pipe gets filtered by your stance, possibly unconsciously now, and as the mis-fits pile up the tendency to reject upon presumption worsens. So when data comes from China, but we lost the the measurement locations, it gets included anyway because it seems right - and this when deciding the urban heat island question, where location is utterly crucial to the analysis. Only now one has emotionally invested in it and has proprietary thoughts - my idea, his data, them, us etc. [ reading the CRU researchers' own disclosures is like watching a slow-motion prat fall. ] Thus when temperatures actually fall, contrary to the model and expectation, you then say "oh, maybe we'd better see what the Sun is up to" or whatever? Thus one can implicate the Sun in the fall, but : oh no, not in the rise? How many nudges from reality does it take to teach one how to be impartial in data handling from the get go ..... or that impartiality ought matter at all?

So if, since ~ 1960 you prefer direct measurements to the proxy, what does one do when you don't have direct measurements but only the proxy? Say 1821? Or 1750? That is the contradiction that awaits mis-understanding : does one say the proxies are good for distant data ( what else have you got? ) but crap only recently? Or do we go on and on about data modes, deciding our preference by relation to de-referenced issues?

That's really my thrust - CRU is just a case in point to focus on, and best of luck to the climate researchers generally - that true intellectual rigour is incredibly hard, and quite distinct ( even diametric ) from everyday methods of decision making. But it is incredibly valuable if done right.

[ I'm 'meta-thinking' here. Thinking about thinking. ]

Cheers, Mike.

( edit ) I'm probably sounding like a bit of hard-head, but in my line of work ( acute clinical medicine ) one always proceeds by the positive affirmation of direct observation. Half the job is managing my uncertainty when time-lines are critical, so my approach to my own state of ignorance and how that translates into action is all too frequently really what decides the life/health/death of those unfortunates that come to see me [ Hmmm .... did I say that right? :-) :-) ] I teach students to always return to the bedside and (re-) assess the patient when confusion rears it's ugly head. To the extent of the limits of our capacity to assist at all, this has been a foolproof stratagem. Particularly with processes that are 'fast movers'. This is what I can't fathom as the apparent arbitrary tossing out of data when there is plenty of time for sensible reflection. They are behaving like doctors that refuse to enter a hospital, but still retain distant comment while professing 'knowledge'. Awaiting contradiction by contrary hypotheses would work in diagnosis, as the post mortem table does indeed reveal all.

I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter. Blaise Pascal

Michael Milan
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Well, it's like I said

Well, it's like I said before, if the history of modern science is anything to go by then the "truth" (whatever that may be) will eventually out, and science will self-correct from any errors of shoddy assumptions or methodology, whether in 10, 50, or 100 years.

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but if you don't understand the divergence then where is the 'reason' for the calibration choice? The 'reason' now lies outside of one's data set, which is no longer understood - as that's why one was forced to make a choice. Appealing to the milieu? Because it is 'cohesive, elegant, overarching'? Thus it now becomes 'right' because it aligns with other researchers' results, or how science should work, or suits a pre-conception about how the world works, or because it's not right to say you don't know, or .... and each little intellectual step, each quite 'reasonable', ever so gradually tip-toes you away from the data.

Well, I think alignment with other researchers' results seems like a pretty decent reason for supporting a scientific theory. Anyway, rather than say that global warming theory is "right", I should perhaps say it is "the most convincing theory I've heard of so far that fits most of the observations".

I think science eventually still makes progress despite wrong assumptions and pre-conceptions. Even Morley assumed the results of the Michelson-Morley experiment were wrong the first time around, which is why he carried out further experiments. Also, aether theory still refused to die until the more elegant special theory of relativity came about that could explain the results better. Penzias and Wilson first assumed that the noise they heard came from bird poo, and not some new unknown phenomena, otherwise they wouldn't have tried to clean it out in the first place! I don't believe these scientists can be faulted for their wrong assumptions, it's just typical scientist behaviour. First they encountered an anomalous result, then they tried to account for all confounding factors that fit in with the current accepted theoretical framework in order to fix it, and when the problem still remained, then they started to question their original assumptions. In my opinion, this hasn't yet happened in regards to the tree-ring divergence problem, so the questioning of direct surface temperature data is, if not wrong, then at the very least premature.

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So if, since ~ 1960 you prefer direct measurements to the proxy, what does one do when you don't have direct measurements but only the proxy? Say 1821? Or 1750? That is the contradiction that awaits mis-understanding : does one say the proxies are good for distant data ( what else have you got? ) but crap only recently? Or do we go on and on about data modes, deciding our preference by relation to de-referenced issues?

That's a very good point, but rather than immediately question direct measurements, I think a more usual stance would be to question the reliability of tree-ring proxies as a whole for pre-instrument temperature data. That seems like a reasonable criticism to me: dendroclimatology is still a young science with plenty of experimental uncertainty and plenty of room for improvement. Direct measurements on the other hand, have been continuing on, with continually improving equipment and methods, for over a hundred years. Besides, there are still plenty of other proxies to check: boreholes, ice-cores, coral, etc.

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So when data comes from China, but we lost the the measurement locations, it gets included anyway because it seems right

I didn't know about that. I does seem like sloppy work to me.

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and this when deciding the urban heat island question, where location is utterly crucial to the analysis.

I think the urban heat island effect is not a problem. Climate scientists know about it and have accounted for it in their analysis. It appears that the separate urban and rural measurements both show a similar trend, which indicates that the trend is real.

Mike Hewson
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RE: Anyway, rather than say

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Anyway, rather than say that global warming theory is "right", I should perhaps say it is "the most convincing theory I've heard of so far that fits most of the observations".


I too feel that this sort of honesty is the better road. That would make the present 'impasse' ( for want of a better phrase ) more tractable. What initially worried me about the issue ( pre - 2000 ) was the utter dogmatism that rode the topic then. Still does. I thought that when some ( even only apparent ) contradiction turns up, then because some had nailed themselves so heavily to some view ( and subsequently wouldn't shift despite evidence ) that would weaken credibility all around. So then your concern would come to life : the baby would be thrown out too. So now all manner of environmental concerns suffer from the 'mad global warming greenie' label ( however deserved, or not, in common parlance ). Including all the stuff that was never at issue. Like plastic bags, heavy metal foundries poisoning ecosystems, mining interrupting subterranean water flows, agricultural nitrates converting watercourses to wastelands ( where did the frogs go? ), transport links upsetting mating and migration habits, land use patterns on hillsides causing erosion ..... history has already well shown that humans don't need an excuse to crap in their own nest. See the deforestation of North America simply to build a railroad from one ocean to the other. Well and truly before the AGW matter arose.

I went to Queensland two summers ago ( will again in a fortnight ) and got to chatting with a marine biologist while on a trip to our beautiful Barrier Reef. I asked about global warming. He rolled his eyes and poked his tongue out, but with a smile**. So I probed further and he revealed more or less the following:

- 'everything' is now GW. So his usual research funding grants nearly all have a GW rider. It opens wallets. So they go with the flow and mention it in the title, but do whatever they were doing before anyway. I understand that. :-)

- so it may well cause a rise in sea levels, or a change in rainfall patterns, or severity of storms etc in 20, 50 or whatever years time. But he still has to deliver an intact ecosystem to that future date in the presence of very local and very pressing needs now and in the short term. Development, tourism, sewerage outfalls, illegal fishing and trophy hunting, nuffies who plow through the reef in high powered boats, petrochemical spills, sunscreen lotion and fabric dyes altering the fertility of the coral creatures, even the drugs we take in and then piddle into the ocean when swimming later on ...... thus for him the slogan "think global, act local" is best left on the T-shirt, bumper sticker, or some trendy urban coffee table book.

- the problem really isn't carbon. It's the elephant in the room that we all seem to be blind to, and like "Voldemort" don't dare mention or think of it, on account of political correctness. It's population control. So if you think climate is emotive, try to launch a rational discussion of our sexual nature ( yep, that's where the babies come from ). Me? I'm just going to duck and run ..... :-)

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Even Morley assumed the results of the Michelson-Morley experiment were wrong the first time around, which is why he carried out further experiments.


Basically right. They did it first in a German city ( I forget which one ) which was way too noisy for any comment to be made ( not wrong, but that no hypotheses were distinguished ). So they had to find a more suitable location.

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Penzias and Wilson first ....


Well they worked on the problem as a technical proposition, without regard to implication, and it was only a later chance meeting on an aeroplane that caused the dots to be joined.

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In my opinion, this hasn't yet happened in regards to the tree-ring divergence problem, so the questioning of direct surface temperature data is, if not wrong, then at the very least premature.


As the Irish say, don't throw good money after bad! It really is OK to say we need to rethink. That's way better that the post-facto commentaries that the CRU participants are busy with - like a discussion with the traffic cop after being pulled over - it looks desperate, and appears to be merely a lie about a previous lie.

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That's a very good point, but rather than immediately question direct measurements, I think a more usual stance would be to question the reliability of tree-ring proxies as a whole for pre-instrument temperature data. That seems like a reasonable criticism to me: dendroclimatology is still a young science with plenty of experimental uncertainty. Direct measurements on the other hand, have been continuing on, with continually improving equipment and methods, for over a hundred years. Besides, there are still plenty of other proxies to check: boreholes, ice-cores, coral, etc.


Absolutely. But I wish ( again it's what you do/don't hear according to happenstance ) that such qualifications upon data quality are emitted intact and un-edited with the data.

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I didn't know about that. I does seem like sloppy work to me.


It's another CRU thing, a Chinese colleague sent him the data but then 'lost' the provenance of it. It's this sort of thing makes me yearn for some variety of 'legalistic' approach I alluded to earlier. You can't pretend or gloss over this sort of stuff and then whinge when one isn't being taken seriously on another matter that may not have such troubles. However genuine.

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I think the urban heat island effect is not a problem. Climate scientists know about it and have accounted for it in their analysis. It appears that the separate urban and rural measurements both show a similar trend, which indicates that the trend is real.


From what I sense ( and please believe me, I do try very hard not to prejudge ) many are worried about to what extent the CRU habits are widespread. As I mentioned earlier in comments about the CSIRO, slamming the door on questions was precisely the wrong stance to adopt. Literally the worst bar none of all possible responses. Especially for those who purport to advise public policy with potentially great social impact. They have to do way better than that to retain any input to decision making, or whatever good advice or conclusions they may have to offer will be relegated to irrelevancy by the attitude they have induced in others ( when their expertise is queried ). Perhaps they ought have a chat with the fellow Tullio has just mentioned. He seems a brave and switched on guy*....

Cheers, Mike.

( edit ) * very smooth move getting one media shark to munch the other! :-)

( edit ) ** I don't recall in which order! :-)

I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter. Blaise Pascal

mikey
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RE: Well, I think alignment

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Well, I think alignment with other researchers' results seems like a pretty decent reason for supporting a scientific theory. Anyway, rather than say that global warming theory is "right", I should perhaps say it is "the most convincing theory I've heard of so far that fits most of the observations".

This made me think of 'way back when' when the Sun revolved around the Earth and the Earth was flat because EVERYONE knew it to be true! Even the Church at the time put people in 'towers' for speaking differently! Sometimes the 'alignment with other researchers' is the very reason to branch out and find another solution. Heck before Darwin evolution was unthinkable, it is STILL debated today by some, again the Church! Theories change over time to reflect the facts as we learn them, figuring out how to fit the facts into the existing theories is just not always possible though and new theories MUST be postulated!

Even Einstein and Hawking did not and have not come up with the 'theory of everything' yet! Although Hawking did recently come up with the 'theory of God'!

Matt Giwer
Matt Giwer
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RE: RE: But aren't we

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But aren't we then back to deciding what is right and what is wrong instead of letting the evidence/research tell us which is the right one? In your accelerator example the old one could have been wrong all along and the new one is FINALLY showing us the right way.

You're absolutely right, and I agree completely.

However, you need to remember that old saying: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence".

Going back to the two accelerators analogy; the reason why we choose to accept the results of the older accelerator is because of the huge body of knowledge we have concerning the behaviour of protons, built up over many years of consistent results, consistent theories, independent corroborating experiments, etc.
To put all of that vast body of knowledge into question, or even throw it all out of the window, because of a contradictory result from an experimental, not very well-tested accelerator requires a very very good reason why. Until a reason can be found, it should be the new accelerator result that should be put under further investigation alone, not the old accelerator. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

That mantra has been getting on my nerves since I first heard it. When I was a lad -- and now I am old enough to say that -- it was axiomatic that a single contrary (impossible) data point disqualified the theory. Of course that implied the data point was established as unexplainable but it did not imply many data points or a significant body of contrary evidence, it only required a single datum such as radium producing its own heat. It did not require refining and cataloging all the elements before agreeing that radium was in fact doing the unexplainable.

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Now, with the tree ring data, they indicate that the Earth had stopped warming since the 1950s. Why should we choose surface temp data in preference to this?

But if we go by the extraordinariness of the claim warming is the new and therefore extraordinary one and the "extraordinary" requirements for evidence are far beyond the a statistically anomalous fraction of a degree or millimeter here and there.

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Because if we don't, then we have to explain why, if the Earth hasn't been warming since the 1950s, thermometers in locations all over the globe are still showing a consistent increasing trend in mean surface temperature for 60 years.

I am reminded of the beginnings of weather forecasting being reports from telegraph stations. One of the reports was the thermometer out in back of the telegraph office and beyond the thermometer was farmland. Today that location would be downtown Kansas City if it were still in the same place. But today it is at the local airport.

Pardon but what rational person would expect any consistent data over decades for surface temperatures when nothing about where the temperature is recorded has remained the same over those decades?

Lets do something from daily life. Listen to the local weather. Weather report says wind out of the north a 4 kts. Go outside. What wind? Go to the airport. Oh! That wind!

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We have to explain, if the Earth hasn't been warming since the 1950s, why sea levels are rising.

They are? Visibly or statistically? Here in Florida with maybe only 10% old-timers there is a lot of pseudo-nostalgia. If a beachfront structure has an old picture of itself it will be displayed prominently. 60 years later and the ocean is still as far from the building as it was in the 50s. Why has the building not flooded out?

Also in Florida beachfront property is as highly prized as in California. And the cities and towns and whatever along the shore have built their paved roads along the shore and under them the sewers and utility services and all the rest. How is it the same parcels of beachfront properties that were there fifty years ago are still there? Why are the same streets still there? Why are they not all underwater?

So tell me again about this rising sea level. Where is it rising and when will there be visible evidence of it? Not just here in Florida but all over the world? If it is rising why is not there a global concern of beachfront land owners and developers about their assets sinking beneath the waves? It should be all over the news all around the world. Why is it not?

I know the answer -- because it is all still ten years in the future.

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We have to explain, if the Earth hasn't been warming since the 1950s, why glaciers are disappearing.

First off they are not ALL disappearing. And of course this claim cannot be related to everyday life as easily as the absence of local boardwalks sinking beneath the waves. However the growth or retreat of a glacier is determined by the ratio of snowfall in winter v melting in summer. Nothing else. I have yet to read of a single bit of data relating the change to increased melting instead of decreased snowfall. BTW: Colder air can hold less moisture so cooling results in less snowfall and thus retreat.

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We have to explain, if the Earth hasn't been warming since the 1950s, why the permafrost is melting.

Good sir, if the growing season is moving north consistently rather than cyclically that is a good thing as it opens farmland. And of course we are reading of the great boom in farming in Siberia and Canada and Northern Scotland ... but we are not. Why not?

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We have to explain, if the Earth hasn't been warming since the 1950s, how the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, can increase from 280 ppm in pre-industrial times to its current level of 370 ppm without having any effect on temperature whatsoever.

In fact the world was cooling as established by a decrease in the growing season from around 1940 to 1975 when it turned around and today we are back to the length of the growing season in 1940.

As to the magic ppm being the cause there is no evidence relating the two. They are merely coincident facts, factoids even.

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That's a lot of stuff to explain! Not only that, but all these observations are consistent with what we would expect if global warming is real. If, IF, we can find a way to explain all these observations in an alternative theory that also fits with the tree ring data, THEN we can be confident in questioning the direct surface temperature data, and giving the tree ring data an equal footing.

The majority of these "observations" are not supported by experience where it matters such as in submerged coastlines and expanded farmland in the north. Where it can be observed it is mainly anecdotal and local as in the glaciers and in the glacier case the alternate explanation is cooling instead of warming.

The surface temperature data is clearly the worst of all as we know for a fact the measuring stations have moved. We know the airports they moved to are being constantly expanded with more black tarmac every few years.

But even if the melters are correct, the disaster is still ten years in the future as it has been every year for the last 30 years. Do nothing for ten years and in 2020 the disaster will still be ten years in future.

Matt Giwer
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RE: RE: I think you're

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I think you're missing the point, and your wording indicates that you have some emotion which is over-riding critical analysis. Your annoyed aren't you? You want something to be true but there's a problem sooooo .... maybe if you say it three times it'll become true? But I'm discussing science not advocacy .... ;-)

I guess I am being pretty emotional. :-P

Ok, I freely admit to being biased towards the global warming theory because I can't stand conspiracy theories. The stuff that some of the skeptics say sound eerily similar to how creationists say that secular scientists are taking part in a global, concerted effort to distort evidence in fossil records, radiometric dating, etc, in order to push evolution and a global atheistic agenda.

Sounds like how climate scientists are supposedly taking part in a global, concerted effort to distort evidence about global warming in order to secure more funding from government or push a global green/communist agenda.

Yes, just because you're paranoid, does not mean they're not out to get you, but I just have no patience for conspiracy theories.

So when climate scientists say that direct surface temperature measurements are sound and accurate and show an increasing trend, I put my trust in them in the same way I put my trust in planetary scientists that say the Earth is 4.5 billion years old.

It is posts like this that make me lose patience. Nothing personal but I read posts with words like these all the time from people who have essentially no grasp of science at all and could not recite anything credible in favor of evolution if their lives depended on it but who are ready to proclaim "similarities" to things they do not understand simply because it is a popular rhetorical denunciation.

The other is to claim a "conspiracy" when in fact simple stupidity explains everything.

Not the scientists per se but the journalism majors who have no idea of science whatsoever but who do know how real journalists talk about climate change and who have in fact agreed to an advocacy position in the matter even though they have no understanding of any science at all. Agreeing to an advocacy position is in fact a conspiracy even though it is out in the open. It is an agreement separate from the facts to a position regardless of the facts. It is covered under the rubric of responsible journalism among others but it is in fact what we call a conspiracy because of it exists separate from the science.

Journalism majors are stupid. That is why that is the best degree they could get. The joke to me is so many of them today say they got into the business because of Woodward and Bernstein of Watergate fame and not of one of them has even pretended to expose the dirt they did. We would never have gone into Iraq had they expressed even the slightest skepticism or done the least fact checking of their supposed inspirational pair.

mikey
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RE: We would never have

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We would never have gone into Iraq had they expressed even the slightest skepticism or done the least fact checking of their supposed inspirational pair.

You are making an assumption that the facts would have prevented a war, I do not believe that to be the case in this case! The US went to war in Iraq for MANY reasons, some stated publicly some not, some based on fact some not. But the fact is in the end the Iraq War was probably inevitable and the US was going in regardless of some journalism fact checking.

It is kind of like Climate change...it IS going to happen, in fact it IS happening right now!! The only thing in question is what is the Earth getting, warmer or cooler. That of course leads to all the other questions...ie what caused it, how long will it last, etc, etc, etc!

It is also like my friend 'needing' a new pc, he wants one, has the money for one, and IS going to get one. But does he 'need' one, no he does not, but darnit he IS going to get one! That facts say and PROVE he does not utilize 1/4 of the the current pc's potential, but darnit it is 3 years old and he WANTS a new pc!! He has convinced himself that his email will travel thru the network faster on a new pc then his current pc, but he is mistaken, that is not his problem! His problem is that the program he uses is not fast, it is free and he sees ads instead of mail transfers! His other problem is he cannot brag about his pc anymore, he is not the guy with the latest and greatest pc anymore, so he 'needs' a new one!! Facts be darned, he WILL be getting a new pc shortly and CostCo, or Dell, will be a little richer for it.

Matt Giwer
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RE: RE: We would never

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We would never have gone into Iraq had they expressed even the slightest skepticism or done the least fact checking of their supposed inspirational pair.

You are making an assumption that the facts would have prevented a war, I do not believe that to be the case in this case! The US went to war in Iraq for MANY reasons, some stated publicly some not, some based on fact some not. But the fact is in the end the Iraq War was probably inevitable and the US was going in regardless of some journalism fact checking.

It is kind of like Climate change...it IS going to happen, in fact it IS happening right now!! The only thing in question is what is the Earth getting, warmer or cooler. That of course leads to all the other questions...ie what caused it, how long will it last, etc, etc, etc!]/quote]

If you wish to try to argue by analogy, something that is impossible in science -- a thing is what it is not an analogy, then at least lets keep it straight. There is going to be a political response to the media advocacy of this magic global warming. That says nothing about the warming itself.

As for the exclamatory "is happening" I rebutted several things supposedly happening right now that are not in fact happening that anyone can tell by real world experience. As long as the "rising" sea level is never noticeable but always ten years in the future there is reason to work up a sweat about it.

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It is also like my friend 'needing' a new pc, he wants one, has the money for one, and IS going to get one. But does he 'need' one, no he does not, but darnit he IS going to get one! That facts say and PROVE he does not utilize 1/4 of the the current pc's potential, but darnit it is 3 years old and he WANTS a new pc!! He has convinced himself that his email will travel thru the network faster on a new pc then his current pc, but he is mistaken, that is not his problem! His problem is that the program he uses is not fast, it is free and he sees ads instead of mail transfers! His other problem is he cannot brag about his pc anymore, he is not the guy with the latest and greatest pc anymore, so he 'needs' a new one!! Facts be darned, he WILL be getting a new pc shortly and CostCo, or Dell, will be a little richer for it.

Do your friend a favor and tell him about tigerdirect.com. I have no connection but as a satisfied customer. And with a little luck there might be a refurbished quad core AMD available for the price of a new dual core AMD. I have bought two like that in the last year. If he is on a tight budget tell him to look for a refurbed dual core for the price of a new single core.

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