Archive for the ‘Data’ Category

A Sea-Surface Miracle!

2012/03/16 1 comment

Overlong “On the adjustments to the HadSST3 data set” blog post just out (after a few technical glitches) at Judith Curry’s comes to a conclusion that aounds like yet another climate-related miracle

HadSST3 selectively removes the majority of the long term variations from the pre-1960 part of the record. ie. it removes the majority of the climate variation…

…that cannot be attributed to anthropogenic global warming!

How unexpected!


Missing Heat 3 – Implications For Policymaking

2012/02/09 1 comment

Trenberth’s “missing heat” should be a problem of physics, only it’s handled by amateur homeo-climate-paths.

Actually, it’s much more than a problem of physics. It has vast policy implications.

If models are not useful in a decadal timescale, such as they can predict a strong warming for a period of minimal or even no warning, then what use is there for models? What government (apart from North Korea…) would make it difficult for people to heat up their homes in the next decade with the explanation that is going to be warm in 2070 anyway?

People do not average-out their lives across decades or centuries: each and every one of us have to go through each and every day first.

If I freeze to death today at -10C, I will not enjoy the warmth of July at +30C even if the average is +10C, perfectly compatible with human life. The same can be said of plants and animals. If I plant an olive tree in my London garden, it will die of cold in February even if the yearly average is in theory just enough to make olive trees survive in the open. If a nasty mosquito species migrates from warmer places during an August heatwave, still if that species cannot survive the following winter it will not be around until next migration opportunity during a future heatwave.

A purely statistical, multi-year approach to modelling the climate is in theory useless for policymaking (similar considerations could be made for non-regional projections, but that is too long a story here – read “How Space-Time Digested AGW” if interested). And if we end up with 15 years of incorrect projections without even a volcano for an excuse, then whatever physical explanation there is, policymakers would be much wiser in keeping climate scientists at arm’s length.

Missing Heat 2 – The Climate Coincidence Revisited

2012/02/08 4 comments

The Missing Heat of homeo-climate-path Kevin Trenberth is not just a matter of increasing the number of measurement points. Something else is…amiss.

As noticed by David Whitehouse of the GWPF for quite some time (my emphasis):

In the past decade the atmospheric CO2 levels have increased from 370 ppm to 390 ppm and using those figure the IPCC once estimated that the world should have warmed by at least 0.2 deg C. The fact that the world has not warmed at all  means that all the other climatic factors have had a net effect of producing 0.2 deg C of cooling.

But there is more. The counterbalancing climatic factors have not only compensated for the postulated AGW at the end of the decade they have kept the global annual average temperature constant throughout the past 10-15 years when the AGW effect wants to increase it. The key point that makes this constancy fascinating is that for every value of CO2 there is an equilibrium temperature that is higher the greater the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. In other words, the higher CO2 concentration at the end of the decade exerts a stronger climate forcing than at the beginning of the decade.

This makes what has happened in the past decade all the more remarkable. Because the greenhouse effect wants to force the temperature up which in the absence of a cooling influence is what would have happened, the fact that the temperature has remained constant indicates that whatever has been cooling the planet has had to increase in strength at precisely the same rate as the CO2 warming in order to keep the temperature a constant straight line.

This means that for 10-15 years the combined effect of all the Earth’s climate variability factors have increased in such a way as to exactly compensate for the rise in temperature that the increased CO2 would have given us. It is not a question of the earth’s decadal climate cycles adding up to produce a constant cooling effect, they must produce an increasing cooling effect that increases in strength at exactly the same rate as the enhanced greenhouse effect so as to keep the earth’s temperature constant.

Can it really be the case that over the past 15 years the sum total of all the earth’s natural climatic variables such as changes in solar irradiance, volcanoes, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation, and the Arctic Oscillation, all of which can change from cooling to warming over decadal timescales, have behaved in such as way as to produce a cooling effect that is the mirror image of the warming postulated by the anthropogenic climate forcings from CO2 and other greenhouse gasses, from the changing water vapour, from tropospheric ozone, and from a clearing aerosol burden?

This can be visualized as following. Imagine there is a quantity ExpT that can be computed beforehand (x(t)=x(t-1)+0.1) (blue in the graph). Consider also the actual measured MeasT values (y(t)=0.5*rand()) (red). Fix x(0)=y(0)=1 and plot their evolution (and divergence).

Now, of course DiffT=y(t)-x(t) (yellow) becomes increasingly larger as x(t) increases whilst y(t) hovers around 0.5. A centered running 5-point average AvgDiff5Cent (green) will mimic ExpT, entering progressively more negative territories. In fact the correlation between AvgDiff5Cent and ExpT is for all intents and purposes, one.

So if ExpT is going up because of CO2 emissions, what kind of magic is intervening to generate the AvgDiff5Cent counterforcing so that the total is zero on a decadal timescale? (And yes, the small small small amount of warming actually reported should obviously be taken as close to undetectable, ie zero).

Even if we had perfect 100% coverage of the whole planet, this question would remain open.

I’m sure Kevin “saying it is natural variability is not an explanation” Trenberth understands this point. It’s a case of missing physics, more than heat.

(Just noticed Judith Curry has hit on the same nail – great minds really think alike 🙂 )

Killing FOI

2012/01/26 4 comments

(I have left this comment at Andy Revkin’s “A Legal Defense Fund for Climate Scientists”)

Andy – I’m very surprised by the phrasing of your FOI question. So what if there is “fishing” involved?

The important bit about FOI is that it applies no matter what the intentions of the requester are.

Otherwise every Government agency will always argue FOI exemption by claiming the requester is “fishing” for information. And especially so if the requester is a journalist (who is presumed to be looking for something to publish, therefore pretty much single-mindedly interested in “fishing”).

Intention-dependent FOI is not freedom, rather a gracious (and always temporary) concession on the part of the State. It’s like trying to define as democratic a Parliament you can vote for only if invited to the electoral polls.

Are you sure decades of struggle to get FOI in place should be considered as wasted just to defend publicly-funded scientists who can’t understand their rights and duties, and pretend FOI is a waste of time when in reality it’s a clerical activity?

ps I’ve been subject to FOI In the past and anything I write at work can potentially be used in a court of law

Peter Gleick, Astroturfer?

2012/01/17 2 comments

UPDATE: For those interested in abrupt climate changes of the past

I recently surmised Peter Gleick be an astroturfer trained to make greens look less than…bright. This article would be compatible with that hypothesis, as the author shows no grasp of the history of climate, including what are known as Younger Dryas and the PETM.

It should also be obvious to all that the longer we look in the past, the lower our ability will be to discern one decade from another, and then one century from another. The climate might as well have changed dramatically every year a million years ago, still the paleo traces will only show some kind of long-term average of it.

We cannot seriously compare contemporary records with those of the past without considering that. It would be like saying more things happen now than in the Middle Ages just because more people write now than in the Middle Ages.

The continuous mentioning of the fabulously flawed 97% figure (it’s 97% of 77 out of 1,372) is just the cherry on the cake. Is Exxon funding the Pacific Institute?

On The Slow, Painful (and Deadly) Demise Of The IPCC

2011/12/16 10 comments

Climategate 2.0 is helping filling some knowledge gaps, for example in the way the IPCC has been slowing killing itself, and several thousands humans to. The following concerns Regional Projections, and it’s a tragedy of communication.

Willingly or not, the IPCC has become a source of deadly confusion exactly because it has provided the information its audience wanted, even if it was scientifically unprepared to prepare that information.

Read more…

The Beginning Of The End

2011/12/13 19 comments

I have a confession to make…it ain’t much fun to talk climate change at a time where AGW and especially Catastrophic AGW are taking blows left, right and center. So in order to keep this blog lukewarm, here’s a heartful “thanks!” to New Scientist for providing the context for planetary temperatures so far:

Around 500 million years of Earth temperature

Around 500 million years of Earth temperature

And yes, our current climate WARMING catastrophe is at the bottom right.

A Truly Climategate Pathetic Paper

2011/11/22 8 comments

<3373> Bradley:

I’m sure you agree–the Mann/Jones GRL paper was truly pathetic and should never have been published. I don’t want to be associated with that 2000 year “reconstruction”.

And here it is: “Global surface temperatures over the past two millennia” aka “Mann, M. E., and P. D. Jones, Global surface temperatures over the past two millennia, Geophys. Res. Lett., 30(15), 1820, doi:10.1029/2003GL017814, 2003.”

We present reconstructions of Northern and Southern Hemisphere mean surface temperature over the past two millennia based on high-resolution ‘proxy’ temperature data which retain millennial-scale variability. These reconstructions indicate that late 20th century warmth is unprecedented for at least roughly the past two millennia for the Northern Hemisphere. Conclusions for the Southern Hemisphere and global mean temperature are limited by the sparseness of available proxy data in the Southern Hemisphere at present.


Reconstructions of hemispheric mean temperatures over roughly the past two millennia employing proxy surface temperature data networks with sufficient spatial and seasonal sampling, temporal resolution, and retention of millennial-scale variance, support previous conclusions with regard to the anomalous nature of late 20th century temperature at least about two millennia back in time for the Northern Hemisphere. To the extent that a ‘Medieval’ interval of moderately warmer conditions can be defined from about AD 800– 1400, any hemispheric warmth during that interval is dwarfed in magnitude by late 20th century warmth. The sparseness of the available proxy data in the Southern Hemisphere lead to less definitive conclusions for the SH or global mean temperature at present.


Pielke Jr is wrong

2011/11/02 2 comments

One can slice and dice trends at will about the latest RC silliness…it doesn’t matter. Radiative effects are negligible in the troposphere, and heat waves are a matter of weather, not statistics.

 Take for example the recent mild UK weather. OF COURSE CO2 has nothing to do with it. Temperatures are higher than normal because southerlies bring warm air over from France. A proper analysis of October/November trends (and we did have quite a few very cold days already) would have to include a research on wind patterns.

Anything that doesn’t, it’s pseudoscience.

Socrates, Or Pointing The Way For The Future Of Climate Science

2011/10/27 1 comment

Roger Pielke Jr laments the withering of climatology:

Climate science — or at least some parts of it — seems to have devolved into an effort to generate media coverage and talking points for blogs, at the expense of actually adding to our scientific knowledge of the climate system

Actually, it was December 2009 when I wrote in the pages of the Spectator (UK):

This might be the most important lesson of the 1974 report on global cooling: that we need to grow up, separate climatology from fear, and recognise — much as it pains politicians and scientists — that our understanding of how climate changes remains in its infancy.

Here we are, almost two years later. For example, what do we understand about the past? Willis Eschenbach at WUWT shows it in the non-smoothed BEST reconstruction graph:

"BEST global surface temperature estimates. Gray bars show what BEST says are the 95% confidence intervals (95%CI) for each datapoint"

And what do we understand about the future? Patrick Frank in’s Reading Room:

"The Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES-SPM-5) A2 projection from Figure 1 showing the physical uncertainty of the projected temperature trend when including ±10.1% cloud error (light shading), or the uncertainty in greenhouse gas forcing (dark shading). Inset: A close-up view of the first 20 years of the A2 projection and the uncertainty limits."

In other words: for the past, all we know for sure it’s that the error bars cover from -5C to +3C if we go back to 200 years ago. For the past, all we can estimate for sure it’s that error bars cover an enormous span if we move forward 100 years (even removing cloud uncertainty, still the 2100 error goes from -10C to +16C).

For all we know, Romans were conquering a world that was 50C colder than today, and oceans will boil before the XXII century. Or vice-versa.


Please do not start speculating about uncertainty as a reason for doing nothing – it isn’t.

Think of science instead: what’s the way out of this cul-de-sac made up of giant error bars? How can our understanding finally leave its infancy? The way out has actually being indicated already, by a guy born in 469BC:

Socrates was wise in that he knew the he knew nothing, whereas others were unaware of their own ignorance.

If and when such a realization will become widespread, only then climate science will be able to mature away from silly manipulations, towards the approach so nicely described by Professor Sir Bernard Lovell to David Whitehouse:

One evening we unrolled the pen recorder data in a long ribbon down the corridor outside the main observing room. “Now,” he said, “look at the data. Get to know it.” His point was that before us was what the universe was saying, and that it was more important than any theory.” Data is never inconvenient. It beats theory every time.

An unexamined climate is not worth studying…

B.E.S.T. Not Yet

2011/10/21 1 comment

Plenty of brouhaha everywhere about the pre-pre-pre B.E.S.T. papers. Ignorant reactions undoubtedly already abound.

I surmise that the four pre-pre-pre-papers will get torn to pieces in the next few days (here’s my biting off the UHI article, followed by Steven Mosher’s). The quality of the BEST work will be measurable in the way they will react to that ( (a) making the necessary adjustments, (b) ignoring the lot, or (c) circling the wagons).

The jury is still much out. In the case of Anthony Watts, so far it’s been a strong (b). Assuming B.E.S.T. is not a collection of unprofessionals, such a reaction makes little sense.

OTOH we do not even know if B.E.S.T. is really about science, or something else. As I commented at Judith Curry’s blog:

Read what you write Judith! A PR strategy! Did Bohr have a PR strategy, or Maxwell, or Dirac.

The BEST PR strategy is not the best PR strategy because it became so important as to become visible. It’s THE news, as you can read at WUWT. And a total failure: science takes once again the back seat, and who cares if BEST does it for visibility rather than politics?

Your results and your work have just been buried by your team. Congratulations! /sarc

No placebo pill will ever work if it’s got “PLACEBO” written on it: likewise, no PR strategy will work if it’s so much in-your-face to its potential audience.

General Circulation Models – Another Failure (by a factor of 10, possibly 100)

2011/09/30 1 comment

UPDATE: I guess it’s GENERAL CIRCULATION Models (not “Global Climate Models”) and never again will I trust a journalist (when did I say that already… 😉 ) –

From MarsDaily (links added by me):

New analysis of data sent back by the SPICAM spectrometer on board ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft has revealed for the first time that the planet’s atmosphere is supersaturated with water vapour.

[…] descriptions of the vertical distribution of water vapour – a key factor in the study of Mars’ hydrological cycle – has generally been based upon global climate models. This gap in the data has now been addressed by the SPICAM (Spectroscopy for Investigation of Characteristics of the Atmosphere of Mars) imaging spectrometer on Mars Express.

[…] Surprising new results [published in this week’s Science], based on SPICAM data obtained during the northern spring and summer, indicate that the vertical distribution of water vapour in the Martian atmosphere is very different from previous assumptions.

[…] Until now, it was generally assumed that such supersaturation cannot exist in the cold Martian atmosphere: any water vapour in excess of saturation was expected to be converted immediately into ice. However, the SPICAM data have revealed that supersaturation occurs frequently in the middle atmosphere – at altitudes of up to 50 km above the surface – during the aphelion season, the period when Mars is near its farthest point from the Sun.

Extremely high levels of supersaturation were found on Mars, up to 10 times greater than those found on Earth. Clearly, there is much more water vapour in the upper Martian atmosphere than anyone ever imagined. It seems that previous models have greatly underestimated the quantities of water vapour at heights of 20-50 km, with as much as 10 to 100 times more water than expected at this altitude. […]

Times Atlas: Suicide By Wikipedia? – UPDATED

2011/09/20 22 comments

UPDATED: Sort of a confirmation for the below as Hanlon at the Daily Mail has posted an article where HarperCollins, the publishers of the Times Atlas Greenland fiasco, try to argue that they only depicted white the areas with ice>500m thick.

Strange things are always afoot, in matters of climate.

Incredibly, and despite having been shown the wrongness of their ways from multiple and even warmist sources, a spokesperson from the £150-a-piece Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World still maintains their debunked “AtlasGate” Greenland map is correct:

“But a spokeswoman for Times Atlas defended the 15% figure and the new map. “We are the best there is. We are confident of the data we have used and of the cartography. We use data supplied by the US Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado.

As the story unfolds, I would like to point to something about the new map that is strange indeed: the level of detail. See for example this comparison from Real Science:

There are two possible interpretations for that: either some people at the Times Atlas have decided to reinvent the world adding fantasy features to a previously fully white map; or, much more likely, they have used some other, existing map of Greenland, embellishing to conform to the Times Atlas style.

In fact, and intriguingly, and twice embarrassingly, there exists one map that strongly resembles the Times Atlas’ “15%” Greenland (see also the Greenland Physical Map from And the embarrassing bits are: it’s one map used on Wikipedia. Worse, it’s supposed to be only showing ice sheet thickness, not “cover” as claimed (it doesn’t highlight the areas where the ice is less than 10m/30ft thick).

Look for example at the outline of Eastern sides of Kong Christian IX Land and Kong Christian X Land, the nearest to Iceland (brown on the Times Atlas to the left, green on Wikipedia to the right).

Look now at the Times Atlas’ Greenland map of 1999 (below, to the left) and the fact that their 2011 map (center) is so much alike the Wikipedia Greenland ice-sheet thickness (right) becomes even more evident.

So the following series of events is consistent with the observations:

  1. Times Atlas personnel read or listen from somewhere that the Greenland ice sheet is melting
  2. They open the Wikipedia page on the Greenland ice sheet
  3. As if by magic…that page contains a map of Greenland
  4. Times Atlas personnel convert that map to the Times Atlas high-quality standard

Now where’s the evidence for it? Where is it indeed, as Michael Corleone would have asked.


This doesn’t look like a good way to enhance the reputation of a publication like the Times Atlas. As usual, it’s the stubborness of their response the real problem, perhaps even more than the original error. One is left wondering how many more mistakes have been made (perhaps them too, miraculously similar to maps posted on Wikipedia), mistakes simply too small to immediately notice. And the publishers and editor will never admit one anyway.

Global Warming Statistics 101

2011/06/18 4 comments

Averages can only tell you so much, and that’s quite little. As “global warming” is based on worldwide averages, it should be then always looked at judiciously and with a good deal of curiosity to figure out what is happening above and beyond the simple figure that is an average temperature.

Say, one lives in Placeville, a town where it’s -20C in January, +20C in July. Average is zero C (32F).

Imagine now, winters warm by 10C, summers cool by 5C. So it’s -10C in January, +15C in July. Average is 2.5C (36.5F).

Headline news: “Placeville heavily hit by global warming, average temperatures up by 2.5C“. When the real-life news is, it’s much cooler than before: still very cold in January, and now not even warm in July.

This is such a simple concept, I am always amazed how many people don’t get it. But then few grasp the most elemental aspects of statistics. And I wish three people in the world understood what “global warming” might be about.

“Glory” a loss to Climate Modelling, not Science

2011/03/05 4 comments

Seems like global warming is such a primary point of concern, satellites vital for its study always get booked on dodgy rockets, with predictable results.

Bye bye Glory? In truth, it’s not “climate science” that will suffer from the loss. It’s climate modelling. Because, as in previous circumstances, with an operational lifetime of 3 years instead of 30, Glory was not meant to study the “climate”, rather to provide supplemental information to climate models.

And that’s no “Earth observation”.

The Real Climate Deniers (Plus A Prediction On Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature’s Results)

2011/02/28 9 comments

For as long as predictions will be difficult, especially about the future, “denialism” will as a matter of course remain appropriate only in the context of past facts, i.e. in the “denial” that they actually occurred.

So let’s set aside the widespread, idiotic name-calling against anybody having any question regarding impending climate catastrophes: because the real Climate Deniers are very easy to spot.

And it’s the people that to this day still live in the fantasy world where Climategate was a non-event and had no consequence (esp. on the science of climate change). You know, the people that haven’t read Andrew Montford‘s GWPF report, or the findings of the Muir Russell review, or Lord Oxburgh’s comments about reconstructing temperature trends for the past 1,000 years (Q36 in the link) (or, erm…my preface to the Italian translation of Montford’s report).

Or they have read the lot, but due to their denialist attitude they can’t fathom the meaning of what’s written in there.

Everybody else might have instead noticed by now that a major. widely-funded, “independent, replicable, inclusive, transparent…approach [to] estimate…global temperature change” (and “the uncertainties in the record“) is expected to come to fruition sometimes next year. And yes, Climategate had an important role in getting Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) up-and-running.

QED…all those labelling of non-believers as “deniers” has simply been a kind of preventative attack. And finally, it has backfired.

ps my predictions on the BEST results:

  • According to the Berkeley group, the Earth’s surface temperature will have risen (on average) slightly less than what indicated by NASA, NOAA and the Met Office
  • Differences will be on the edge of statistical significance, leaving a lot open to subjective interpretation
  • Several attempts will be made by climate change conformists and True Believers to smear the work of BEST, and to prevent them from publishing their data
  • After publication, organised  groups of people will try to cloud the issue to the point of leaving the public unsure about what exactly was found by BEST
  • New questions will be raised regarding UHI, however the next IPCC assessment’s first draft will be singularly forgetful of any peer-reviewed paper on the topic
  • We will all be left with a slightly-warming world, the only other certitude being that all mitigation efforts will be among the stupidest ideas that ever spung to human mind.

Have Things Changed Much From 1969?

Expert Says Arctic Ocean Will Soon Be an Open Sea; Catastrophic Shifts in Climate Feared if Change Occurs“. Yes, it’s 1969.

What else has changed?

Well, one thing is that at the time, Walter Sullivan of the New York Times could still afford to write “Other Specialists See No Thinning of Polar Ice Cap” in mid-size letters near the title. As for the rest:

  • Arctic sea ice cover is “vulnerable
  • An ice-free Arctic Ocean is presented as harbinger of European “deserts” with “great ice sheets…farther north
  • Focal point” in the research is “the use of giant computers to simulate the world’s weather patterns
  • Climatologists keep following the latest trends, wildly extrapolating them in the future. For example, there is a Soviet-American consensus among specialists around prediction of “continued cooling in step with an expected decline in sunspot activity through the nineteen-eighties“, after a “climate cooling during the last decade or two“. Likewise, “until recently there was a suspicion that the warming trend of the century preceding 1940 was a by-product of the industrial revolution” (yes, CO2 emissions)

However, there are other interesting details:

  • Sullivan presents as common knowledge ideas such as “progressive shrinkage of the Arctic pack ice over the last century
  • About one quarter of the Arctic pack melts each summer“…that would be very peculiar, since according to Cryosphere Today even in 1979 it was more like two thirds
  • Nortber Untersteiner is interviewed about a report of his in Naval Research Reviews showing that “the climatic trend in the Arctic has turned toward cooling
  • There is a mention of a 1893 Fridtjof Nansen report of “43 feet thick” Arctic pack, followed by others “indicating a steady thinning of the pack that, the data suggest, could vanish by 1970 or sooner“. These conclusions are not supported by “under-ice journeys of American nuclear submarines” (why don’t they use submarines nowadays, instead of clowning around for Catlin?)

Here’s What Gives Science A Bad Name

TerraDaily reports today of Jeffrey Kiehl’s “Lessons from Earth’s Past“, actually published by Science magazine a month ago. A cursory reading is what is needed to understand how flawed Kiehl’s whole idea is, of focusing on a question like:

when was the last time Earth’s atmosphere contained as much carbon dioxide as it may by the end of this century?

(Kiehl’s answer: 35 Million years ago)

How flawed is that question? Very, very flawed. For the geologically-challenged readers of this blog, here’s an in-depth commentary of Kieh’s rag(*) by Doug L. Hoffmann at Resilient Earth, summarized by this quote:

All of the factors outlined above clearly point to the fact that geological forces, operating over tens of millions of years, caused Earth’s climate to cool dramatically during the past 35 million years. Claims that the cooling was caused by a reduction in atmospheric CO2 have been refuted by many. Studies of the Late Ordovician glaciation found that, without orbital forcing, ice sheets can grow with CO2 levels as high as 10 times preindustrial atmospheric level. Yet Kiehl maintains this fiction to the end, even to the point of reintroducing claims based on computer models.

People that don’t believe in geology and are obsessed with temperatures can limit themselves to Wikipedia’s helpful graph “65 Million Years of Climate Change“, showing high temperatures around 35 million years ago indeed. But when seen in context, the 35Myr point is part of a whole different story than “CO2 concentrations driving the planet’s temperatures“: it was the end of the Eocene and of a steady decrease in temperatures, the time of the Antarctic glaciation and a brisk decrease in temperatures, the start of relatively cool 10 million years (still, warmer than today) etc etc.

And so Kiehl’s context-free “it’s all CO2” work ends up looking like a tirade against people driving on a motorway at 70mph, written by somebody obsessed with analyzing what happens when people drive at 70mph, yes, but in a crowded market.

Science, it ain’t: it’s just ever-the-misnomer “Science” magazine.

(*) poetic license taken

Greenland Ice Cap Receding And Disappearing!

2011/02/11 6 comments

In 1930 of course.


This is getting boring. Seemingly all one has to do in order to find instances of past climate change, totally invalidating the “unprecedented” claim attached to today’s, is to guess the right combination of words for this or that search engine.

AGWers should have tried earlier, in the age before the Internet, when fantasies such as labeling any unusual weather pattern as “anthropogenic” would have been easier to maintain.

For Green “Science” (and The Guardian and The New York Times), Any Rubbish Will Do

2011/02/07 2 comments

As I get labeled “most controversial” (thank you, whoever), let me mention a perfect yet extraordinary example showing how any claim, however far-fetched and based on little or no science at all, can be dressed as the latest scientific warning about impending doom caused by humanity’s excesses, without of course anybody involved showing any sign of critical thinking.

I am talking about the “Guardian news” (from Sep 12, 2007) that “man-made chemicals [should be] blamed as many more girls than boys are born in Arctic” (that is, twice as many girls as boys). This is specific to the Guardian as every other link I have found about it, can be traced back to a Paul Brown reporting from Nuuk, Greenland, that

Twice as many girls as boys are being born in some Arctic villages because of high levels of man-made chemicals in the blood of pregnant women, according to scientists from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (Amap)

[…] The scientists measured the man-made chemicals in women’s blood that mimic human hormones and concluded that they were capable of triggering changes in the sex of unborn children in the first three weeks of gestation. The chemicals are carried in the mother’s bloodstream through the placenta to the foetus, switching hormones to create girl children.

This would have been an incredible finding, shattering a lot of established ideas on the roles of chromosomes in humans. And it was picked up as such by (no comment) and a scienceblogs site called (the irony!) “Island of Doubt. Its author James Hrynyshyn wrote on Sep 13, 2007, that the news was “not good“, proceeding then to equivocate when pointed out how outerwordly it all sounded.

What makes this all exemplary is that it would have taken just a few minutes to figure out the holes in the story. First of all, the “findings” were:

disclosed at a symposium of religious, scientific and environmental leaders in Greenland’s capital, Nuuk,…organised by the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church, Bartholomew I, which is looking at the effects of environmental pollution on the Arctic.

More importantly, there was very little about the “findings” in the AMAP communications at the time (and even less, today). The 2006 State of the Arctic Environment Report (SOAER) says nothing at all about skewed sex ratios. An AMAP report from 2001 titled “Human Health” mentions two works by Mocarelli and others showing a change in the boys/girls ratio due to exposure to dioxin by the fathers (and so it would have nothing to do with the Guardian’s claim)

Mocarelli P, Brambilla P et al. Change in sex ratio with exposure to dioxin. Lancet 1996; 348: 409.

Mocarelli, P., P.M. Gerthoux, E. Ferrari, D.G. Petterson, S.M. Kieszak, P. Brambilla, N. Vincoli, S. Signorini, P. Tramacere, V. Carreri, E.J. Sampson, W.E. Turner and L.L. Needham, 2000. Paternal con- centrations of dioxin and sex ratio of offspring. The Lancet 355:1858-1863

There is also an AMAP report from 2000 (mentioning the excess girls as per the Mocarelli’s studies, but also the absence of such an excess in a similar situation in Taiwan). An AMAP poster from 2002 mentioning a decrease in the number of male newborns in whales (from 56% to 44%, far far less than what claimed about humans).

What would explain the enthusiasm leading to the…unorthodox announcement at the Orthodox Church symposium rather than through the usual scientific channels (or even, an official press release), is the AMAP report from 2006 saying that “Two new special projects have been initiated: one investigating contaminants in relation to sex ratio (based on the results from the PTS report)“. Hoever, in the Conclusions and Recommendations of the PTS report one reads something extremely vague:

Statistically significant associations have been found between blood concentrations of total PCBs (Arochlor 1260), lead and a number of non-specific reproductive and developmental health effects such as the prevalence of low birth weight, premature births, stillbirths and major structural malformations. Serum concentrations of total PCBs in maternal blood also appear to be associated with impacts on newborn sex ratios.

Anybody with a half-curious mind would have also read the literature mentioned by AMAP, for example this article from 2006, “Pathways of endocrine disruption during male sexual differentiation and masculinization“, where the abstract ends:

There is currently no definitive evidence that exposure of humans to environmental chemicals can induce testicular dysgenesis and/or impair masculinization, though pathways via which this could potentially occur are established.

It should have gone without saying that even if AMAP had found that “definitive evidence“, of course they wouldn’t just have seen two girls for every boy, but an enormous number of boys with various degrees of “endocrine disruption“.


There’s more, thanks to our hindsight of 2011. Of course the Guardian article has never been followed by any update (you know there’s something particularly fishy when all mainstream media but one refuse to report a story). How about AMAP? Here’s from their 2009 report, with some added emphasis:

POPs exposures have been suggested as the reason for observed alterations in birth sex ratios in animal populations and occasionally in human studies. New research results with pigs, which have a similar reproductive system to humans, indicate that exposure of sperm to environmentally pertinent organochlorine mixtures in vitro adversely affects oocyte development, polyspermy, sperm fertility and embryonic development. However, a comparison of existing population studies, one including Arctic countries, did not reveal any definitive or consistent relationship between POPs, sperm X:Y ratios or male:female birth ratios. Emerging data from a larger cohort in the Russian Arctic indicate that increasing maternal PCB concentrations may be associated with an initial effect of increasing the male:female newborn ratio; however, causality has not been determined and the increase in the ratio appears to disappear in the highest concentration group. The possible effects of other contaminants have not been determined. Systematic epidemiological studies, including all possible confounders and other relevant contaminants, must be performed before any conclusive statements can be made about contaminants and sex ratios in Arctic populations

[…] Results from the INUENDO study…This study indicates that POP exposure might be involved in changing the proportion of ejaculated Y-bearing spermatozoa in human populations. Inter- country differences, with different exposure situations and doses, may contribute to varying Y:X chromosome ratios. However, the higher proportion of Y sperm did not support the observed increase in the female:male ratio reported previously

[…] In general, no definitive conclusion could be drawn from these studies. Emerging data from a larger cohort in the Russian Arctic indicate that increasing maternal PCB concentrations may be associated with an initial effect of increasing the ratio of male:female newborns. The Russian results appear to confirm the trend reported in the previous AMAP Human Health assessment (AMAP, 2003); however, causality has not been determined and the increase in the ratio appears to disappear in the highest concentration group

Good luck with finding any of that in the Guardian. In the meanwhile, the initial rubbish gets repeated verbatim, for example in a highly-praised book by Sara Wheeler, titled “The Magnetic North” and reviewed with the brains fully shut by Holly Morris for the New York Times:

One boggling case in point: “Endocrine-­disrupting chemicals handed up the food chain have triggered changes in the sex of unborn children in the first three weeks of gestations, resulting in the birth of twice as many girls as boys in some villages in Greenland and among the Inuit nations of eastern ­Russia.”

No prize if you notice the full certainty of Wheeler (and Morris): HAVE TRIGGERED CHANGES. I am sure AMAP has written to the New York Times protesting already.

%d bloggers like this: