Monday, July 30, 2012

Watts over the top

I have this strong suspicion that this is not going to end well for the chronically immature Anthony Watts.  (I mean, who else would speculate that his critics just aren't patriotic enough, or that a passing reference to his mother - dead as it turned out - was beyond the pale.)

His latest spat in his traumatic falling out with Richard Muller, whose temperature record re-appraisal  project Watts said he would trust, until, of course, it basically reaffirmed the existing temperature records, has been on display over the weekend.

Muller got a piece in the NYT on Sunday, confirming that his latest analysis still says the temperature record is OK; when the rumours about this column were floating around late last week, Watts went all "drama queen" by announcing a controversial something of international significance would be announced on Sunday.

The announcement turned out to be that he and a bunch of AGW skeptic mates had an un-reviewed paper that showed the US temperature record did suffer from siting problems after all.    Yay Anthony!  All those fans who spent their holidays taking photos of weather stations for you instead of doing something actually enjoyable with their family will feel vindicated after all.

But wait - even taking it at its best - doesn't it still show US warming at the pretty much the same rate as the satellite record shows globally?  

Not only that, David Appel writes that the satellite record for the US alone is in fact quite a bit higher than what Watts now thinks the surface temperature record indicates, yet weren't skeptics always putting their faith in the satellite record as being the one which was likely to be more reliable?  And John Christy (who works on the satellite record) is a co-author of this new (unreviewed) Watts work.   Explain yourself, Sir.*  AGW skepticism has always been a hydra-headed opportunistic thing against which science has been playing a 10 year game of Wack-a-Mole,  but it seems it's getting particularly schizophrenic (in the colloquial sense) lately.

Here's the Appel quote:
 First of all, it's exactly the kind of paper that most needs peer review: based on a lot of judgements and classifications and nitty gritty details that only siting wonks can evaluate. (So does a paper like BEST's -- but their conclusion is nothing surprising.)

And it just doesn't compete with the narrative -- record US heat, the US drought, BEST -- that is quickly sweeping by. It smells a little desperate. If it withstands peer review, then it's worth a good look. Until then it looks like PR, which is, of course, exactly how it's being delivered.

(Can I just say that delivering science as PR, or PR as science, is off-putting and worrisome, whether it comes from private groups or professional journals like Nature.)

Then there are the inconvenient facts that

(1) USA48 is 1.6% of the Earth's surface area, and

(2) the trend of the USA48 lower troposphere, as measured by satellites as calculated by UAH, is 0.23 ± 0.08 °C from 1979 to present (95% confidence limit, no correction for autocorrelation). Satellite measurements almost completely avoid the urban heat island problem.
Stoat is similarly unimpressed, and his take on the self aggrandising Muller is worth reading too.

The other fascinating thing about this is that it appears that Steve McIntyre, another co-author of the new paper, appears to have had no idea that Watts was putting out a press release about the unreviewed paper.  I wonder if he has a problem with that.

Update:     I like Ben's take on this:
 Anthony’s been hiding behind a fence, nursing his snowball-with-a-stone-in-it waiting for Muller to walk past. Hell hath no fury like a betrayed denialist.

Update 2:  I see that in the paper itself, it's claimed that the satellite temperatures can be expected to be higher than the surface temperature, and that's why the Watts claimed trend is right.  Yet, I have read at least one comment around the place that this only applied to the tropics.  So let's wait and see what comes of this.

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