The Propaganda methods of ….and Then There’s Physics on Temperature Homogenisation

There has been a rash of blog articles about temperature homogenisations that is challenging the credibility of the NASS GISS temperature data. This has lead to attempts by anonymous blogger andthentheresphysics (ATTP) to crudely deflect from the issues identified. It is propagandist’s trick of turning people’s perspectives. Instead of a dispute about some scientific data, ATTP turns the affair into a dispute between those with authority and expertise in scientific analysis, against a few crackpot conspiracy theorists.

The issues on temperature homogenisation are to do with the raw surface temperature data and the adjustments made to remove anomalies or biases within the data. “Homogenisation” is a term used for process of adjusting the anomalous data into line with that from the surrounding data.

The blog articles can be split into three categories. The primary articles are those that make direct reference to the raw data set and the surrounding adjustments. The secondary articles refer to the primary articles, and comment upon them. The tertiary articles are directed at the secondary articles, making little or no reference to the primary articles. I perceive the two ATTP articles as fitting into the scheme below.

Primary Articles

The source of complaints about temperature homogenisations is Paul Homewood at his blog notalotofpeopleknowthat. The source of the articles is NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) database. For any weather station GISS provide nice graphs of the temperature data. The current after GISS homogeneity adjustment data is available here and the raw GHCN data + UHSHCN corrections is available here up until 2011 only. For any weather station GISS provide nice graphs of the temperature data. Homewood’s primary analysis was to show the “raw data” side by side.

20/01/15 Massive Tampering With Temperatures In South America

This looked at all three available rural stations in Paraguay. The data from all three at Puerto Casado, Mariscal and San Jan Buatista/Misiones had the same pattern of homogenization adjustments. That is, cooling of the past, so that instead of the raw data showing the 1960s being warmer than today, it was cooler. What could they have been homogenized to?

26/01/15 All Of Paraguay’s Temperature Record Has Been Tampered With

This checked the six available urban sites in Paraguay. Homewood’s conclusion was that

warming adjustments have taken place at every single, currently operational site in Paraguay.

How can homogenization adjustments all go so same way? There is no valid reason for making such adjustments, as there is no reference point for the adjustments.

29/01/15Temperature Adjustments Around The World

Homewood details other examples from Southern Greenland, Iceland, Northern Russia, California, Central Australia and South-West Ireland. Instead of comparing the raw with the adjusted data, he compared the old adjusted data with the recent data. Adjustment decisions are changing over time, making the adjusted data sets give even more pronounced warming trends.

30/01/15 Cooling The Past In Bolivia

Then he looked at all 14 available stations in neighbouring Bolivia. His conclusion

At every station, bar one, we find the ….. past is cooled and the present warmed.”

(The exception was La Paz, where the cooling trend in the raw data had been reduced.)

Why choose Paraguay in the first place? In the first post, Homewood explains that within a NOAA temperature map for the period 1981-2010 there appeared to be a warming hotspot around Paraguay. Being a former accountant he checked the underlying data to see if it existed in the data. Finding an anomaly in one area, he checked more widely.

The other primary articles are

26/01/15 Kevin Cowton NOAA Paraguay Data

This Youtube video was made in response to Christopher Booker’s article in the Telegraph, a secondary source of data. Cowton assumes Booker is the primary source, and is criticizing NOAA data. A screen shot of the first paragraph shows these are untrue.

Further, if you read down the article, Cowton’s highlighting of the data from one weather station is also misleading. Booker points to three, but just illustrates one.

Despite this, it still ranks as a primary source, as there are direct references to the temperature data and the adjustments. They are not GISS adjustments, but might be the same.

29/01/15 Shub Niggurath – The Puerto Casado Story

Shub looked at the station moves. He found that the metadata for the station data is a mess, so there is no actual evidence of the location changing. But, Shub reasons the fact that there was a step change in the data meant that it moved, and the fact that it moved meant there was a change. Shub is a primary source as he looks at the adjustment reason.

 

Secondary Articles

The three secondary articles by Christopher Booker, James Delingpole and BishopHill are just the connectors in this story.

 

Tertiary articles of “…and Then There’s Physics”

25/01/15 Puerto Cascado

This looked solely at Booker’s article. It starts

Christopher Booker has a new article in the The Telegraph called Climategate, the sequel: How we are STILL being tricked with flawed data on global warming. The title alone should be enough to convince anyone sensible that it isn’t really worth reading. I, however, not being sensible, read it and then called Booker an idiot on Twitter. It was suggested that rather than insulting him, I should show where he was wrong. Okay, this isn’t really right, as there’s only so much time and effort available, and it isn’t really worth spending it rebutting Booker’s nonsense.

However, thanks to a tweet from Ed Hawkins, it turns out that it is really easy to do. Booker shows data from a site in Paraguay (Puerto Casado) in which the data was adjusted from a trend of -1.37o C per century to +1.36o C per century. Shock, horror, a conspiracy?

 

ATTP is highlighting an article, but is strongly discouraging anybody from reading it. That is why the referral is a red line in the graphic above. He then says he is not going to provide a rebuttal. ATTP is good to his word and does not provide a rebuttal. Basically it is saying “Don’t look at that rubbish, look at the real authority“. But he is wrong for a number of reasons.

  1. ATTP provides misdirection to an alternative data source. Booker quite clearly states that the source of the data is the NASA GISS temperature set. ATTP cites Berkeley Earth.
  2. Booker clearly states that there are thee rural temperature stations spatially spread that show similar results. ATTP’s argument that a single site was homogenized with the others in the vicinity falls over.
  3. This was further undermined by Paul Homewood’s posting on the same day on the other 6 available sites in Paraguay, all giving similar adjustments.
  4. It was further undermined by Paul Homewood’s posting on 30th January on all 14 sites in Bolivia.

The story is not of a wizened old hack making some extremist claims without any foundation, but of a retired accountant seeing an anomaly, and exploring it. In audit, if there is an issue then you keep exploring it until you can bottom it out. Paul Homewood has found an issue, found it is extensive, but is still far from finding the full extent or depth. ATTP, when confronted by my summary of the 23 stations that corroborate each other chose to delete it. He has now issued an update.

Update 4/2/2015 : It’s come to my attention that some are claiming that this post is misleading my readers. I’m not quite sure why, but it appears to be related to me not having given proper credit for the information that Christopher Booker used in his article. I had thought that linking to his article would allow people to establish that for themselves, but – just to be clear – the idiotic, conspiracy-laden, nonsense originates from someone called Paul Homewood, and not from Chistopher Booker himself. Okay, everyone happy now? J

ATTP cannot accept that he is wrong. He has totally misrepresented the arguments. When confronted with alternative evidence ATTP resorts to vitriolic claims. If someone is on the side of truth and science, they will encourage people to compare and contrast the evidence. He seems to have forgotten the advice about when in a whole…..

01/02/15
Temperature homogenisation

ATTP’s article on Temperature Homogenisation starts

Amazing as it may seem, the whole tampering with temperature data conspiracy has managed to rear its ugly head once again. James Delingpole has a rather silly article that even Bishop Hill calls interesting (although, to be fair, I have a suspicion that in “skeptic” land, interesting sometimes means “I know this is complete bollocks, but I can’t bring myself to actually say so”). All of Delingpole’s evidence seems to come from “skeptic” bloggers, whose lack of understand of climate science seems – in my experience – to be only surpassed by their lack of understanding of the concept of censorship J.

ATPP starts with a presumption of being on the side of truth, with no fault possible on his side. Any objections are due to a conscious effort to deceive. The theory of cock-up or of people not checking their data does not seem to have occurred to him. Then there is a link to Delingpole’s secondary article, but calling it “silly” again deters readers from looking for themselves. If they did, the readers would be presented with flashing images of all the “before” and “after” GISS graphs from Paraguay, along with links to the 6 global sites and Shub’s claims that there is a lack of evidence for the Puerto Casado site being moved. Delingpole was not able the more recent evidence from Bolivia, that further corroborates the story.

He then makes a tangential reference to his deleting my previous comments, though I never once used the term “censorship”, nor did I tag the article “climate censorship”, as I have done to some others. Like on basic physics, ATTP claims to have a superior understanding of censorship.

There are then some misdirects.

  • The long explanation of temperature homogenisation makes some good points. But what it does not do is explain that the size and direction of any adjustment is an opinion, and as such be wrong. It a misdirection to say that the secondary sources are against any adjustments. They are against adjustments that create biases within the data.
  • Quoting Richard Betts’s comment on Booker’s article about negative adjustments in sea temperature data is a misdirection, as Booker (a secondary source) was talking about Paraguay, a land-locked country.
  • Referring to Cowton’s alternative analysis is another misdirect, as pointed out above. Upon reflection, ATTP may find it a tad embarrassing to have this as his major source of authority.

Conclusions

When I studied economics, many lecturers said that if you want to properly understand an argument or debate you need to look at the primary sources, and then compare and contrast the arguments. Although the secondary sources were useful background, particularly in a contentious issue, it is the primary sources on all sides that enable a rounded understanding. Personally, by being challenged by viewpoints that I disagreed with enhanced my overall understanding of the subject.

ATTP has managed to turn this on its head. He uses methods akin to crudest propagandists of last century. They started from deeply prejudiced positions; attacked an opponent’s integrity and intelligence; and then deflected away to what they wanted to say. There never gave the slightest hint that one side might be at fault, or any acknowledgement that the other may have a valid point. For ATTP, and similar modern propagandists, rather than have a debate about the quality of evidence and science, it becomes a war of words between “deniers“, “idiots” and “conspiracy theorists” against the basic physics and the overwhelming evidence that supports that science.

If there is any substance to these allegations concerning temperature adjustments, for any dogmatists like ATTP, it becomes a severe challenge to their view of the world. If temperature records have systematic adjustment biases then climate science loses its’ grip on reality. The climate models cease to be about understanding the real world, but conforming to people’s flawed opinions about the world.

The only way to properly understand the allegations is to examine the evidence. That is to look at the data behind the graphs Homewood presents. I have now done that for the nine Paraguayan weather stations. The story behind that will have to await another day. However, although I find Paul Homewood’s claims of systematic biases in the homogenisation process to be substantiated, I do not believe that it points to a conspiracy (in terms of a conscious and co-ordinated attempt to deceive) on the part of climate researchers.

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7 Comments

  1. Brian H

     /  09/02/2015

    You don’t? Here’s a de facto description of homogenization: Find a blank or inconveniently cool area; declare it in need of correction; find the nearest warmer area; adjust former to match latter. Done.

    Reply
  2. not being an expert on weather stations or what the accepted standards are for reasonable adjustments of weather data, it is hard to know what is a valid critique of these records.
    I do know that the sources you are citing – Delingpole, Bishop hill are sites dedicated to undermining any acceptance of ACC, and are hardly uninterested observers. the Telegraph is also a source of anti- climate change disinformation.
    My understanding is that the reference to BEST is that it shows no significant difference with unhomogenized data. But again I am unsure of that
    Could you point me to established scientists who are experts in this area that can confirm Bookers analysis? If the temps data in more than a small number of places has been significantly tampered with in illegitimate ways it would undermine the research of probably hundreds of legitimate scientists, and I find it hard to believe that almost all of them would be unconcerned about such an egregious screw up of their life’s work. In the past, I have often seen claims that there is some huge glaring problem with some aspect of climate theory and they have always evaporate. I have even encouraged republican legislators to start investigations int the claims of fraud about the temp record, but none have done more than hem and haw. Something I find quite odd considering their expressed positions.
    As a sceptic, I have seen no credible evidence of the type of conspiracy that would be necessary to support the level of fraud necessary to sustain many of the arguments attacking ACC theory. I follow a number of climate scientists and have yet to find them promote any information that was inaccurate.
    your attack on ATTP seems as silly to me as what you ascribe to him.
    If there is valid reason to question the temp record honest mainstream scientists need to confirm these assertions. But I have seen too many cries of “the house of cards is about to crumble” since 2009, and so far none have caused a vibration in that house.

    Reply
    • manicbeancounter

       /  13/02/2015

      Have a look at ways of evaluating claims in other fields.
      In accountancy, should we judge the validity of a company’s accounts on the respectability of the accountants, or on the basis of independent checking according to a defined set of standards?
      Similarly for new pharmaceutical drugs, should we judge a new product on the reputations of the scientists working for the business, or the ability of the new drug to conform to a whole barrage of tests?
      In law, should criminal cases be judged on the respectability of the police officers pursuing the case and the criminal track record of the criminals? Or should the law aim to look solely at the evidence? In Britain I believe that the worst miscarriages of justice have occurred when these prejudices have been allowed to get in the way of looking at the facts.
      I do not see evidence of any conspiracy either. I looked at it undermines the notion that global average temperatures are warmer than say 130 years ago. Nor to I expect any corrections will affect that picture. But having looked in detail at the Paraguayan Temperature data, the data shows a large fall in temperatures in the late 1960s that was adjusted out of the data. I believe it was treated as a fault in the data, thus adjusted out. But nine temperature stations in the area all showed similar patterns. It seems to be a natural phenomena that does not accord with set ways of interpreting climate.
      There should be a huge gulf in the ability of the world’s leading scientists in their field and a retired accountant. The should be able to squash it flat. But ATTP does not do so – he misdirects. Go to the evidence Kevin Cowtan – a climate scientist – who misdirects away. Now there is Real Climate responding, who also misdirect. It is the same as the cases in accountancy, pharmaceuticals and law.

      Reply
  3. In case you did not know ATTP has been outed as Ken Rice, a Reader of Astronomy and Public Relations Director at the Institute for Astronomy, within the School of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh (UK).

    http://www.populartechnology.net/2015/01/who-is-and-then-theres-physics.html

    Reply
    • manicbeancounter

       /  10/04/2015

      I did know. What is more, ATTP keeps mentioning in the comments about his circumstances – that he is from South Africa and is an astronmer.

      Reply
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