Home > Catastrophism, Climate Change, Data, Global Warming, Omniclimate, Science, Skepticism > Bad Astronomer, Worse Climatologist

Bad Astronomer, Worse Climatologist

There we go again…another Defender of The Science mixing up “weather” and “climate”. Will Phil be convinced by my “Space-Time has digested AGW” argument?

Maybe not. After all, who am I to pretend to be a climatologist. Well, then , perhaps the head of climate impacts at the Met Office Hadley Centre will make the Bad Astronomer change his mind.

people often make the same mistake but in the other direction, and link every heatwave, major flood, drought and famine to global warming.

Of course, we know that these things happen anyway, even without climate change – they may happen more often under a warmer climate, but it is wrong to blame climate change for every single event.

Climate scientists know this, but still there are people outside of climate science who will claim or imply such things if it helps make the news or generate support for their political or business agenda.

Bad Astronomer plus Official Minion

Bad Astronomer plus Official Minion

I have known the Bad Astronomer for many years (I have even met him once and he appreciated some “scientific” investigative job of mine) and he’s up there in my scientific Pantheon about Astronomy (and not just Astronomy).

Plait is also doing a great job in fighting the child-killing practices of the anti-vaxxers. And to prevent the silliness of creationists from spreading. He should then realize his own heavy responsibility in not placing himself at the forefront of misusing science.

  1. 2010/02/06 at 18:44

    Phil’s post was part of a much larger picture he’s been painting. It is clear what Phil’s trying to do. However, I’m not certain what YOU are trying to do by writing this post. You imply that you respect Phil for his work, but you “drag him through the slush” because he, IN YOUR OPINION, misused a word (a fact I do not agree with you on)?

    Is this really any better than ranting on because someone used too many commas in a sentence or an apostrophe to designate a pluralized word?

    • 2010/02/07 at 06:29

      That was the impression that I got from the post also – it seems almost as if Phil’s post was just used as a lever to oppose anyone describing ‘weather’ as climate and I really don’t think that Phil was doing that in his post. In the field that I work in (not science at all) we are often required to make decisions based on trend data in the knowledge that only a longer retrospective data set would provide a definitive identification of the genuine trend – however action in response to the identified mid or short term trends is called for when a non-response carries greater risks than any response at all. The purpose of both of the studies described by Phil seems to be to provide confirmation of whether there is additional data that supports a similar remedial approach.

  2. 2010/02/06 at 18:38


    “Or so we are told.”

    Told by whom?

    • 2010/02/07 at 00:21

      Told by whom? Funny you ask, Barber, as another commenter (Jim Galasyn) has recently provided this link where the choice of 20-30 years for climate trends is explained. Mind you, those are trends in temperatures but then what else are we talking about?

      Time for a coming out, I think…of course the actual trouble is in this absurd search of linear trends in climatic phenomena, leading to a spurious definition of climate that is contrary to the very possibility of climatic states and changes of state, and consequently forcing the rejection from climatology of every set observation that has not been carried out for six or seven decades at least (so that we have a few trend points to reason about).

      So the problem is not actually in Phil (Plait) using a few years of data…the problem is in the fact that if the Bad Astronomer wants to stay within the realm of contemporary climate orthodoxy, then his use of those few years of data makes no sense.

      Addendum – It is actually rather good to see non-climatologists try to tackle climate-related data and analyses. As per this blog, they might soon find out how absurdist certain parts of “contemporary climate orthodoxy” have become, in the paroxystic attempt to defend projections in the face of un-cooperative real-world data.

  3. 2010/02/06 at 10:40

    So observations of a phenomenon that takes place in a period of time less than 30 years are indicative only of weather? or might it be that it could be also indicative of a trend in climate? I would suggest that observations within a time period cannot be claimed as definitive evidence of climate change, but neither can they be dismissed as evidence. Part of the role of understanding the nature and causes of climate change is looking at the evidence. On re-reading Phil Plait’s article, his point was that some people are claiming that ice mass is not being lost in Antarctica – the NASA study suggests that ice is being lost. This, along with the Himalayan study were not claimed as definitive evidence of climate change but rather used to refute claims that ice was not being lost.

    By the definition of ‘less than 30 years or so’ many arguments put forward on your own blog as evidence against anthropogenic global warming are nullified so it that approach is one I would use with caution.

    In any case I think you misread entirely the intent (implicit and explicit) of Phil’s article.

    • 2010/02/07 at 00:31

      Grendel – you want an example of people claiming a few years of observations are no good, and “to determine if global warming is occurring, you have to look at time periods of decades, not years“? Here it is.

      There were many more like that, for a while, until the fashionable meme became “a decade of no warming can be expected” (amazingly, a truism discovered after a decade of no warming 😎 )

      • 2010/02/07 at 04:41

        No – I didn’t ask for such an example at all – I made some points about what Phil Plait said in his post – and your comments on it, and that is what I was hoping you would respond to.

  4. 2010/02/06 at 02:07

    I’ve just popped over to Bad Astronomer to see what he wrote on that topic – I am not sure why you think he is confusing weather with climate – his post linked to two articles – one by NASA and the other by Koji Matsuo and Kosuke Hekia published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. Neither Phil’s post, nor the two articles he linked to were about ‘weather’. Both were about lost ice mass over specific time periods (several years in both cases). I won’t draw any conclusions as to the cause of the ice loss, but both the time periods under consideration are longer than what would be considered in a ‘weather’ event.

    Perhaps you misread the post?

    • 2010/02/06 at 06:31

      “several years” is “weather” by definition if it’s less than 30 years or so. Or so we are told.

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