03 August 2008

Unreliability at Icecap.us

[Update 10 August 2008: It turns out that D'Aleo was not willing to leave bad enough alone. You can see my responses at More from Icecap If you haven't already, please do read this post to know what I actually said.]

Since I'm an ice guy, I'm saddened that a place with ice in its name turned out to be unreliable. Still, I wandered over there and took a look at the first article on their main page (as of Aug 3rd, 8 AM) in the 'new and cool' section. The article was http://icecap.us/images/uploads/Examiner_Story.pdf by Joseph D'Aleo (Seems to have been published first on 31 July in the Examiner). In very short order, I found a major error, a cherry pick, and an error or at least misleading graphic. I stopped there.

The first is straightforward error, and the initial red flag is one which needs no special knowledge:
NASA’s JPL reported their 3000 global ARGO diving buoys deployed in 2003 have shown the world’s oceans have too cooled.
The thing is, science is done by scientists, not institutions. If he's reading the science, the author would be giving us scientist names (and institutions, perhaps). The scientists involved are at several institutions, as is typical. And, as adults know, scientists do not speak for their employers.

So let's look at the science on ARGO and ocean heat content, and see what's out there. In short order, I found http://oceans.pmel.noaa.gov/pubs.html , which shows two papers with interesting titles:
2006 Lyman, J. M., J. K. Willis, and G. C. Johnson, 2006. Recent cooling of the upper ocean. Geophysical Research Letters, 33, L18604, doi:10.1029/2006GL027033.

2007 Willis, J. K., J. M. Lyman, G. C. Johnson, and J. Gilson. 2007. Correction to "Recent cooling of the upper ocean". Geophysical Research Letters, 34, L16601, doi:10.1029/2007GL030323.

If you go to the web site and select the link for either paper, you'll get both. The comment by D'Aleo, written in 2008, is in accord with 2006's paper. But it ignores the 2007 correction. Since D'Aleo is a fellow of the AMS, it is not plausible that he couldn't know about the correction a year later, particularly as it appeared in the same source as the original.


Immediately following is an eye-catching graph of temperatures (as observed by the MSU, but he doesn't tell us whose MSU data, and there are significant differences between sources). It also plots carbon dioxide levels. The illustration could have come straight from Darrell Huff's excellent How To Lie With Statistics. We're invited to think that the CO2 curve is an estimate of how much atmospheric temperatures are expected to have risen at the time the temperatures were 'dropping'.

0.6 degrees (are those C or F? again, he doesn't tell us something important) seems like an awful lot to expect from a rise of 12.5 ppm (my eyeball estimate from the curve). How much might we expect? Well, suppose that the temperature increase were 1 C over the last century and all of it was due to CO2 (which we don't expect in the science; there are other things going on too). CO2 is up about 100 ppm in that time. Our simplest plausible figure then is that we expect about (12.5/100)*1 degrees warming, or 0.125. The slope of that CO2 curve is about 5 times too large! View the graph again, but for the CO2 line, put your pencil so that it runs from the 0.2 degree tick mark to the 380 ppm tick. That's about the warming we'd expect if you made a lot of assumptions in favor of making this comparison in the first place.

With this carefully selected span the trend line on CO2 and temperature seem to go in different directions. But, now that we've put the two on more comparable footing, we see that the temperature record is highly variable, with 0.6 degrees in 6 months happening at least a couple of times. While you can always draw a straight line through data points, you have to ask whether your line is statistically significant. More to the point here, he should have asked whether that noisy temperature line was significantly different from the smooth CO2 line.

Even better, and more honest, would be to ask just what we expect climate to do in 6 years with only 3.5% increase in CO2. The answer is, hard to say. Solar variability is part of the answer, and the sun has been quiet. That means a contribution to cooling. We also expect that weather happens, and the figure shows this to be continuing in the year to year changes. That is part of why we want long series to consider climate with. 6 years is not long.

A little more subtle, but not specialized, is that we don't expect all the energy that would be captured by CO2 to show up as warming in the atmosphere. Though it's the easiest part of the climate system to measure, the atmosphere is not the only part energy can go to. Energy can go in to heating the ocean, land, and melting ice, for example. We've all hear in the last few years of record melts in the sea ice and ice sheets.

So our unreliable source is:
http://icecap.us/ Joseph D'Aleo

Uncritically or enthusiastically endorsed by:

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2055607/posts
http://www.silobreaker.com/DocumentReader.aspx?Item=5_886993410
http://co2sceptics.com/news.php?id=1634
http://tomnelson.blogspot.com/2008/08/climate-change-isnt-happening-tenerife.html

16 comments:

tamino said...

Good luck with your efforts to make climate science more accessible to the general public, especially students. The post about "Icecap" is very comprehensible, and very much to the point.

Penguindreams said...

Thanks for the kind words here and at your blog. I'd like to be doing more math, as you are, but decided that if I started down that road, I'd wind up with seriously scary math in short order.

jonathan sawyer said...

So what if he said that data shows no warming of the ocean since 2002? He would be right and still have a point. As for whether the 6 year temperature trend is significant, I think you need to defer to Lucia on her web site. Or is she another unreliable denier? It is ironic that you complain about the misleading graph on icecap at the same time icecap is complaining about a misleading graph in the US CCSP report that was just released.

I suggest you critique that report (or even Al Gore's movie) in the same vein as you do to icecap. Otherwise you are just another partisan blog masquerading as science.

Penguindreams said...

I don't follow how someone can be right while being wrong. D'Aleo said that ARGO buoys showed no warming, when, in fact, the instruments had been found to be biased and unreliable for the purpose. I gave the link to the papers which made the initial report, and the correction. You can read them yourself, and I hope you do.

If you know a web site that answers conclusively my '
What is Climate?
' question and post, by all means share it with us all. I'll certainly be interested. Given that the typical definitions of climate involve 30 year averaging, not 6, the site does have some work cut out. 'lucia' is not a sufficient reference.

Icecap complaining about something, now that I've seen them simply lie about some science (the ARGO business), doesn't carry any weight with me. If you have some other reason for thinking that the graph (whichever one you mean; again, please provide links to the original sources) is misleading, let's see that one too.

In my first critical review of a source
the petition project
I mentioned that if you have a candidate source you'd like me to have a look at, by all means email the address of the unreliable bit (as you see it) to me at plutarchspam at aim dot com. I'll have a look, sooner or later. But do send a full link, not just an acronym.

jonathan sawyer said...

He is wrong in the details, but right in his central point. That point is that there has not been any warming of the oceans since 2002 no matter what data set is used. You are using the debate tactic of focusing on how he is wrong in his detail but ignoring the overiding point of the lack of warming. As for Lucia the pertinent article is at:
http://rankexploits.com/musings/2008/ninety-month-trends-ipcc-ar4-2ccentury-still-outside-%c2%b195-uncertainty-bands/
She is an accomplished statistician and you should comment on her work.

Anonymous said...

I apreciate your polite tone but lying to people with a polite tone is still lying.

The ARGO bouys initially showed a downward bias in their early years but the problems have been corrected. Joe D'Aleo was correct in his assertion, you should have followed his links, instead you confused the issue. The initial cooling showed over 3 tenths in a few years until the corrections were made to the ARGO data, the corrected data shows about half that. But let's not argue over spilled milk, every ocean data set shows nearly the same amount of cooling since 2003.
Hadley Center: http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/hadsst2gl.txt
NOAA: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/anomalies/anomalies.html
(link to data at bottom of page)

All use different technology and all show about the same amount of cooling. This point was also noted in IPCC 2007 Working Group 1, Chapter 5, Executive Summary, where after discussing a long term warming trend they state,“…there has been some cooling since 2003.”
This cooling is entirely in line with the step changes of about every 31 years noted by Quayle et al 2001.

Penguindreams said...

A word about doing science or discussing it.

One thing is that word 'discuss'. In a debate, maybe it's considered useful to simply repeat yourself (Jonathan). But in a science discussion, your response needs to contain more information than what you're arguing against. I gave the links for both D'Aleo's claim, and what the authors had to say, both originally and after their correction. If you or anon wish to discuss the point, you need to come back with a scientific source which shows that ARGO data are now sufficient for understanding what is going on under the surface at global scale. The 2007 citation I gave would have to be rebutted by another citation which addressed the ARGO data subsurface.

A different aspect is relevance. Since what ARGO data are about is examining the subsurface processes in the ocean, it's quite irrelevant what is seen in the atmosphere or surface layer of the ocean. Again, in debates it might be useful to throw out irrelevancies. But if you (anon) wish to say I'm lying, your references had better be to relevant sources. Otherwise, one could think you're not concerned with discussing the sciences. For what ARGO measures and how it is being used, see http://www.argo.ucsd.edu/AcUses_of_Argo_data.html. You'll note that it mentions subsurface temperatures. Satellites, ships, most drifting buoys, observe surface temperatures.

Same problem, Jonathan, with your lucia reference. I asked for a source which showed that one could define climate with only 6 years of data. Your link does not address that. Indeed the author is dismissive of it being a meaningful question.

Anon, I went back to the document from icecap (an interesting process, it turned out). It has no citations, so your comment about following them is misdirected at best. There's a link from the word 'argo' to another blog post of D'Aleo's, which also has no scientific source. There's his comment that in personal conversation one of the ARGO scientists told him something. But, at best, that isn't a science reference. Now I do hope that the problem can be resolved. But until it is -- which includes that it gets published in the scientific literature, as the original was and the claim, and other scientists have a chance to beat on the correction scheme -- we're left with what is in the literature.

Another required thing to do is to give sufficient reference to sources for other people to be able to check things out. Your Quayle reference fails that. I can check it out at work, but only because I'm in the field. Google scholar turns up nothing readily for me, so I figure my readers also won't all be able to pull it up. Conversely, I gave the directions to the icecap article I was criticizing. If I'd misread it, everyone would have known and could have told me so.


I'll add that posts which violate these principles -- relevance, arguments supported by findable scientific sources, not simply repeating oneself -- will in general be bounced. The exception only being when I think it worthwhile to discuss them as above. You can say an awful lot and have quite vigorous discussions inside those limits. Scientists do so all the time, in press and in person.

It's also a consideration to readers. If you're on topic and supported, then we all can save reading time. We can also all check things out for ourselves. In that vein, I'm not asking anybody to assume that I'm right about everything -- that's why I give the links myself. Don't take my word -- read the sources yourself.

brewer said...

ARGOS deployment was only completed in 2007, and doesn't have great coverage of the Arctic Ocean, so it's one heck of a reach to use ARGOS as evidence of ocean cooling in recent years.

Jules said...

And another person linking tot Icecap is Marcel Severijnen, today's guestwriter on Pielke's site...

tortise said...

Grumbine/Penguindreams: I very, very strongly support you in the approach to moderation that you describe. It is very frustrating participating in threads where people are incessantly repeating claims without support, even when asked for citations or other supporting evidence. I get pulled in, despite knowing that someone who feels no need to establish the validity of their claims is unlikely to ever concede the argument. If you follow through with requiring commenters to support their assertions and not insinuate through irrelevancies, this could become one of the very best climate blogs.

Penguindreams said...

Jules, please do include the links. Not all my (hoped for at least) readers will immediately think of http://climatesci.org/ when you mention 'Pielke'. (I had to pause to think whether you meant Sr. or Jr.) On going there, I didn't see any mention of icecap, nor on the main page of Severijnen's site.

Everyone: Please provide these sorts of links. Makes it easier to follow up, and more open to people who haven't been reading this part of the blogosphere.

Having read that article, I find it amusing that it closes
"For now, the debate should remain open."
and when one looks to add a comment, you discover "Comments Off". Well, not amusing. It's one of my warning flags that if someone asks for open debate, and disables comments, they're really looking for something else.

Jules said...

hello, as you asked for links, here they are :

the piece on climatesci :
http://climatesci.org/2008/08/06/guest-weblog-by-marcel-severijnen/

Severijnens personal weblog is http://klimaat.web-log.nl/
(mind it's in Dutch only)

the post in which he links to d'Aleo is : http://klimaat.web-log.nl/klimaat/2008/07/over-temperatuu.html

at the very bottom of the post he writes :
bron (onder anderen) : invloed van Oceanen
(in english : source(amongst others) : influence of oceans

i'm aware he's not linking to the text you commented about, but Severijnen should've be aware d'Aleo isn't the most reliable source.

He's also linking to Ernst-Georg Beck in the post CO² de discussie blijft (co², the discussion isn't finished) http://klimaat.web-log.nl/klimaat/2008/07/de-toenemende-c.html, which is another source i have my doubts upon and about whom Eli Rabett writes this : http://rabett.blogspot.com/2008/03/beckies-as-tonstant-weader-knows-eli.html

Hank Roberts said...

> references had better be
> to relevant sources

Wonderful, important lesson for youngsters in how real science works -- and how to recognize those trying to learn it by their citations.

You will get a lot of attention from people trying to break your rule down, if only by trying to get you to argue about it instead or enforce it, I expect. Hold on.

Pops said...

Why are you preventing icecap (http://www.icecap.us/) from posting a response to your original post? Are you afraid of open debate?

Fashioning itself after Real Climate, Grumbine Science blog posted a blog on the recent Washington Examiner story I authored complaining about the lack of a label for the MSU, mention of the Willis paper on Argo buoys showing a slight cooling like the other data bases since 2003 which he and commenters claimed was later found to be in error, questioning how the graph of temperature looked and the significance of the cooling. I attempted to respond several times on the blog to the blogger and commenters questions or complaints but the moderator refused to post my responses so here they are.

Penguindreams said...

Pops: I'm not. I've received no comments from D'Aleo, nor email at the address I've given before -- plutarchnet at aim dot com -- nor at the one that is in my profile. (The latter misses a fair amount of mail because it receives so much junk.)

See also my more recent post.

Either he sent mail to one or more of the above and none got through, or he never sent the mail in the first place. Either way, I never saw it.

He's quite welcome to send his comments to any or all of those three addresses. I'll post them on the same basis as any other posts -- must be on topic, clean language, substantive and supported. As I said in the 'more from icecap', I'm inclined to be more lenient with people I disagree with.

On the other hand, he won't publish anything I write. No comments allowed.

enough said...

From climate science:
http://climatesci.org/2008/06/
The point of the argument

A major finding from the Willis et al 2008 paper is

“Despite the short period of the present analysis, these results have important implications for climate. First, from 2004 to the present, steric contributions to sea level rise appear to have been negligible. This is consistent with observations of ocean surface temperature, which show relatively little change in the global average between 2003 and 2006 [Smith and Reynolds, 2005, see NCDC global surface temperature anomalies]. It is in sharp contrast, however, to historical analyses of thermal expansion over the past decade [Willis et al., 2004] and the past half-century [Antonov et al., 2005; Lombard et al., 2005; Ishii et al., 2006]. Although the historical record suggests that multiyear periods of little warming (or even cooling) are not unusual, the present analysis confirms this result with unprecedented accuracy.”

Now that this paper has appeared, the global modellng community is challenged to accurately simulate and explain the absence of significant upper ocean heat changes during this time period. The new (June 19 2008) Nature paper by Domingues et al “Improved estimates of upper-ocean warming and multi-decadal sea-level rise“, unfortunately, chose to end its analysis period five years ago (2003). The Editors should have required that they update their study. The Willis et al paper supercedes their time period of analysis.