Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Nature’

Job Openings In IT Support At The CRU And Nature Publishing Group

2010/11/22 2 comments

Email management boffins, and more or less anybody that has ever fathomed the extremely-complex (or not) world of how to archive messages using MS Outlook or any other email package, are urgently sought at world-famous UEA’s CRU and at the Nature Publishing Group, following a plea for help by a computer-challenged climate modeler and a critical-thinking-challenged scientific journalist:

Climate researcher Tim Osborn is next door, struggling with a familiar problem. “My inbox is full and I need to delete some e-mails.” Then, with a thin smile: “But I’m not allowed to now, am I?

It’s really heartwarming (without even having to surround one’s internal organs with greenhouse gases!!) to find that people that want to save the world by running complex computational models on supercomputers, are so (un)familiar with using common features of simple apps; and that people assigned by major international scientific publications to keep us informed about a problem that might engulf the planet, are (in)capable of showing much intelligent reasoning and to probe a situation with thoughtful questions and unprecedented insight.

ps On a more serious note, it’s telling that:

Same old, same old?

(h/t Lazarus at Steven Goddard’s Real Science)

The Unextricable Incompleteness Of Nature

2010/05/31 66 comments

Unless and until the “Nature” editors will find the courage the publish correspondence such as the below, outside of the usual echo-chambers of close-minded, mantra-repeating, conformist half-thinkers, the most we can expect from the somewhat prestigious journal is incomplete columns: because in order to complete them, they need to involve the world they don’t want to listen to…

Dear Sir or Madam

I was somewhat surprised at the abrupt ending of Colin Macilwain’s latest Nature column (“World view: Disaster, unmitigated”, published online 19 May 2010 | Nature 465, 287 (2010) | doi:10.1038/465287a).

As a way for the environmental movement to re-engage the public, Mr. Macilwain suggests “those researchers who do feel comfortable with advocacy need to spend more time on the ground, talking to real people about why their work matters”. Scientists doubling up as street preachers? Unlikely. And yet, there could be a hint of a way out of the “disaster”.

How to talk “to real people”? Scientists that build for themselves a name as scientists, often misunderstand it as a free pass to provide the world with the “Given Truth”. But very few manage to be an Einstein or a Feynman: with no reputation in a social and/or political context, the most solid scientific ideas become only somebody’s opinion in an ocean of opinions. With a long history of misguided scientific claims in the media (as recently highlighted in The Guardian), emission trading and the plight of Mexican lizards achieve the same status of dieting fads and miracle cancer cures, just a notch above Nostradamus.

The result is the wholescale political hijacking of the climate debate (mainly in the USA), very little progress, noise all over the place: the “disaster” mentioned by Mr. Macilwain.

The obvious first step out of such a situation involves building social and political reputation, by reducing the cacophony: acquiring allies instead of enemies; making do without grandstanding claims about impending dooms; relying less on a change in human nature and the reinvention of civilisation; opening up to the society-wide consequences of each particular solution. And telling “climate change” like it is, a matter of risk management instead of hubris, projections not predictions, stewardship not dictatorship.

There are many out there like me, politically active, environmentally conscious, scientifically trained, ferociously on the side of Reason in the tradition of Carl Sagan and James Randi and on this basis aware of the potential dangers of climate change, unconvinced about the reality of upcoming catastrophes and worried about the future of society and of civil liberties. But as long as the prevailing attitude among climate scientists and especially activists-researchers will involve lèse majesté and ad-hominems against “deniers”, really, there will be nobody, least of all “real people”, for them to talk to.

Nature’s Weakness – Scientific Magazines’ Reputation Sadly Overrated

Horrified by Nature’s idiotic editorial trying to rally the troops for a street fight? Worry no more…the esteemed British scientific magazine is not new to egregious errors, such as showing no interest in the discovery of the Krebs Cycle (in 1937) and rejecting outright the evidence for pre Cambrian complex lifeforms (1946).

Perhaps the scientists of the XXII century will have learned that reputation means truly nothing, in the realms of proper science. Especially after the invention of marketing.

On The Brutality Of “Nature” – A Response To “Climate Of Fear”

2010/03/15 5 comments

(this has been sent to Nature via e-mail earlier today)

Dear Nature Editors

Thank you very much for showing your true, climate-integralist colours in the cringe-inducing “Climate of fear” editorial (Nature 464, 141 (11 March 2010) | doi :10.1038/464141a; Published online 10 March 2010).

We can’t but take notice that at the time when some scientists have apparently managed for years to keep non-orthodox climate science papers away from printed and online peer-reviewed journals, one of those very journals has remarkably decided to join the “street fight”, as if that represented any change for the better from the previous routine.

Go ahead then, pick up your worthy opponents. Will there be any good coming out of Nature becoming the home of motivational speeches for climate hooligans? What an undignified spectacle that would be. Luckily, the planet will not take much notice, and hopefully neither will the general public, and those scientists and people interested like us all in learning the world as it is, rather than through the distorting lenses of misdirected, alarmist activisms.

“Scientists must not be so naive as to assume that the data speak for themselves”. Indeed. Neither should they fall for the hubris of drowning and disregarding those very same data in a sea of pre-packaged ideologies. In Canto XXVI of Inferno in Dante’s Divine Comedy, the character of Ulysses is made to describe what the quest for knowledge should be about:

Ye were not form’d to live the life of brutes,

But virtue to pursue and knowledge high.

Too bad you have opted to “live the life of brutes” instead.

Teodoro Georgiadis – senior scientist – biometeorology
Luigi Mariani – professor – agrometeorology
Guido Guidi – meteorologist
Alessandra Nucci – journalist
Tore Cocco
Maurizio Morabito – blogger – Omniclimate

Sounds Familiar? Clique of Reviewers, Asinine Editors Stifle Scientific Research

2010/02/02 2 comments

And so we learn that the issue of having major scientific publications rely way too much on the biased opinion of a restricted number of self-appointed “experts” apparently working together to promote their own good selves rather than to advance knowledge, is not confined to climate research alone:

Journal stem cell work ‘blocked’ by Pallab Ghosh, Science correspondent, BBC News

Stem cell experts say they believe a small group of scientists is effectively vetoing high quality science from publication in journals.

[…] Professor Lovell-Badge [from the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR)] said: “It’s turning things into a clique where only papers that satisfy this select group of a few reviewers who think of themselves as very important people in the field is published.

You can get a lot of hype over a paper published on stem cell research that’s actually a minimal advance in knowledge whereas the poor person that is doing beautiful research that is not catching the eye of the editor, you don’t get to hear about that, even though it could be the world changing piece of research.

[…] These kinds of allegations are not new and not confined to stem cell research. But professors [Austin] Smith [of University of Cambridge] and Lovell-Badge believe that the problem has become particularly acute in their field of research recently for two reasons.

Firstly, research grants and career progression are now determined almost entirely by whether a scientist gets published in a major research journal. Secondly, in stem cell science, hundreds of millions of pounds are available for research – and so there is a greater temptation for those that want the money to behave unscrupulously.

[…] Even if research is not being deliberately stifled, high quality work is being overlooked as an “accidental consequence of journal editors relying too much on the word of a small number of individuals“, according to Professor Lovell-Badge.

[…] One of the main reasons for this, according to Professor Smith, is that journals are in competition. Editors have become dependent on favoured experts who both review other people’s stem cell research and submit their own papers to the journal. If the editor offends these experts, they may lose future papers to a rival. This is leading to the journals publishing mediocre science, according to Professor Lovell-Badge.[…]

Curiously, the above is getting plenty of air time on BBC’s Radio4’s flagship programme, “Today”. Of course there’s some attempt at mimimizing the issue…on my part, I strongly believe that one of the main issues is about Editors getting their personal biases in the way. They should become more “publishing executives” rather than “unquestionable super-reviewers”: otherwise, the future of science will be a load of hyped rubbish.

Nothing to Show: AGWers’ Big Stumbling Block

2008/11/27 16 comments

UPDATE NOV 29: William M Connolley says he is not impressed by Romm’s list either

There’s an underlying feeling of desperation in Joe Romm (ClimateProgress)’s “What are the near-term climate Pearl Harbors?, a list “of what might drive action strong enough to avoid the worst“.

The list includes the Arctic “ice-free before 2020“, “superstorms like Katrina“, “a heatwave as bad as Europe’s 2003” , and the 2012 IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (perish the thought it might be less catastrophiliac than the Fourth Assessment Report…).

Note that Romm’s blog has been echoed by Heliophage, on Andrew Revkin’s Dot Earth, and in Nature’s Climate Feedback. An unwise move, if you ask me: one wonders what people would make if they knew that those claiming to work towards saving Planet Earth, are actively hoping disasters of all sorts befall upon us.

Talk about striving for unpopularity!!!

The desperation is evident in the fact that a person allegedly as well-informed on climate stuff as Romm, comes up with wholly inappropriate examples. Katrina was a big storm but not more superstorm than other hurricanes (Romm even acknowledges this point), and the destruction of New Orleans was evidently a matter of bad engineering and incompetent relief management. Didn’t he have anything better to put forward?

Likewise for the European heatwave of 2003. And even more importantly: neither Katrina, nor the European heatwave, can be linked to Climate Change and/or Global Warming. And so if, say, another heatwave will materialize, it will tell us absolutely nothing about Climate Change and Global Warming.

Actually, looking at the list of 9 items posted by Romm, the only ones that may provide ammunitions to the AGW cause may be the ice-free Arctic, and “accelerated mass loss in Greenland“.

Most likely, Romm is simply and perhaps unwittingly acknowledging the fact that for all the huffing and all the puffing, there is very little that AGWers can show to support their claims.

Look at when Revkin (a journalist I am grudgingly but steadily learning to respect) makes a very clear point to Romm:

As I [Revkin] wrote in 2006 (”Yelling Fire on a Hot Planet“) problems that get people’s attention (and cause them to change) are “soon, salient and certain” and the dangerous aspects of human-forced climate disruption remain none of those things

In other words, the dangers of AGW are not about to happen, they are not strikingly conspicuous, and they are not sure or inevitable.

And what has Romm got to reply to that? Very little. Actually, almost nothing: he spells out some kind of humanitarian deathwish, a desire for a big climate crisis; makes a critical point against journalists (who doesn’t); and decries how he understands things but most people don’t:

Multi-hundred-billion-dollar-sized government action happens only when there is a very, very big crisis […] labeled as such by very serious people who are perceived as essentially nonpartisan opinion leaders […] bad things must be happening to regular people right now […]

Better journalism would help. […] We simply don’t have a critical mass of credible nonpartisan opinion leaders who understand the nature of our energy and climate problem.

Revkin’s “soon, salient and certain“, by the way, is a quote originally from “Helen Ingram, a professor of planning, policy and design at the University of California, Irvine.

Won’t Prof. Ingram be excited upon hearing that salience is not a problem, but persons not being bright enough is…

The supreme pinnacle of irony, in the Romm/Revkin exchange, lies in the former’s misunderstanding of the latter’s point about “certainty“. In 2006, Revkin noted that:

Projections of how patterns of drought, deluges, heat and cold might change are among the most difficult, and will remain laden with huge uncertainties for a long time to come […]

While scientists say they lack firm evidence to connect recent weather to the human influence on climate, environmental campaigners still push the notion […]

Romm’s reply? Another accusation, refusing to acknowledge Revkin’s first point (emphasis in the original):

You [Revkin] understand this but you don’t convey this to your readers: Doing nothing or doing little eliminates the uncertainty.

Romm’s near-term climate Pearl Harbors post, actually, does look suspiciously as a way of “pushing a notion” the non-scientific notion of connecting recent weather to (future?) climate change.

======

The above doesn’t look very promising for the AGW movement.

I am actually starting to think that the problem is in the fact that most AGWer haven’t grasped the nature of the issue they are concerned about. And so they use the tools learned to protect pandas or clean up the Hudson river. And for most intents and purposed, they fail: because, as Revkin has realized, Anthropogenic Global Warming, aka Climate Change, truly is a completely different beast.

Climate Change Explained (As the British Obsession With Weather)

2008/11/05 6 comments

A telling choice of words in the latest issue of Nature may reveal an important aspect behind the unrelenting fixation among scientists and journalists to see (global, anthropogenic) climate change everywhere and in everything:

Changing weather patterns, producing the wrong kind of snow, have transformed the population dynamics of lemmings in northern Scandinavia

The wrong kind of snow“?

That’s a very familiar phrase with every British commuter, alongside “wrong kind of leaves on the line“, “wrong kind of rain” and whatever else is quite common and should be reasonably expected (until, that is, it can be used as a bizarre excuse to mask the shortcomings of public transport, such as delayed trains).

And in fact: here’s the publisher’s presentation of a book that came out exactly a year ago: “The Wrong Kind of Snow” by Antony Woodward and Rob Penn (£9.10 on Amazon in the UK):

It’s the great British obsession and not surprisingly: no other country in the world has such unpredictable weather, with such power to rule people’s lives as we have. The Wrong Kind of Snow is the complete daily companion to this British phenomenon. From the Spanish Armada to the invention of the windscreen wiper, each of the 365 entries beautifully illustrates a day in the weird and wonderful history of the British and their weather.

And in fact: where do the authors of the “Lemmings Doomed by Climate Change” (“Population biology: Case of the absent lemmings“) article work?

Tim Coulson and Aurelio Malo are in the Department of Life Sciences, Silwood Park Campus, Imperial College London, Ascot, Berkshire UK

And in fact: where is “Nature” managed from? Why,

The Macmillan Building, London, United Kingdom

And in fact: what major news organization immediately picked up the “Lemmings” story and published it without a comment in an unsigned article? Of course: the British Broadcasting Corporation, aka the “BBC”.

And so when in a few years’ time people will be scrambling to explain the absence of catastrophic climate change, expect the blame to be placed on this: the wrong kind of Anthropogenic Global Warming!

Warming World Affecting the Minds of Nature Editors

2008/05/16 5 comments

Much fanfare on Nature and elsewhere about a paper by Rosenzweig et al that appears to be a re-hash of chapter 1 of the IPCC AR4-WG2 report.

Now, there is one thing that is very evident: the vast majority of reported changes are about Europe.

Nature reporter Emma Marris admits “the bulk of the observations come from Europe”. That statement is somewhat incomplete. In the IPCC report, for example, there are, from Europe, 28,115 observed biological changes out of a worldwide total of 28,671.

That’s 98%. Just from Europe. And most of it, just from a single meta-analysis.

Perhaps Marris should have substituted “bulk” with “pretty much the absolute totality”.

========

So the years are passing by, but the question remains: what if Global warming is just European?

ps I am worried about Californian birds (the ones with plumage, that is). There’s a researcher studying them, Cagan Sekercioglu of Stanford University, but he doesn’t show much interest in the real world:

““We shouldn’t even need to publish such papers at this point,” he says. “This paper is an argument that climate change is causing the observed changes. This should be a given. Thirty years later we are still trying to convince people of this.”

Well, Mr Sekercioglu, with an attitude like this, I bet you’re going to make lots of unexpected discoveries, aren’t you?

Scientific American’s Mauling to Pieces of Nature’s Review Process

2008/03/18 1 comment
This will be no news to those that know of the Hockey stick controversy
Nature editors reject peer review process that reduces gender bias

Following a surprisingly unscientific line of reasoning, the editors at the most renowned and prestigious of science journals have rationalized away the need to fix an ailing peer-review system.

Increasing skepticism about the effectiveness and integrity of single-blind peer review—the process by which most academic papers submitted for publication are accepted or rejected—has prompted empirical evaluation of the system.

Standard practice is: reviewers—selected for their expertise and fluency in the chosen discipline—are aware of all authors’ names and affiliations, while authors are kept in the dark about the identity of their reviewers (although some journals allow them to request specific referees).

The growing argument against this lopsided method is that knowledge of authors’ identity—gender, nationality, research institution, level of experience in the field—can (and does) bias reviewers’ opinions on the merit of the research.

The most vocal critics of the current system are those who believe their submissions do not get fair consideration—women, early-career scientists, people with foreign-sounding names—when matched up against authors who sail through the submission process on the status of their lab or the history of their career. And in an environment in which research funding, hiring, tenure, salary, and academic reputation are massively dependent on publishing record, one can easily imagine the ripple effects such a disadvantage would bring. […]

Gulf Stream Myths (2)

Another March, another collection of scientific half-truths about the Gulf Stream. I do not believe it is a coincidence that I wrote about gulf stream myths a year ago, quoting also Richard Seager, Senior Research Scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory:

“That the Gulf Stream is responsible for Europe’s mild winters is […] nothing more than the earth-science equivalent of an urban legend. […]

All Battisti and I did was put these pieces of evidence together and add in a few more illustrative numerical experiments. Why hadn’t anyone done that before? […]

The blame lies with modern-day climate scientists who either continue to promulgate the Gulf Stream-climate myth or who decline to clarify the relative roles of atmosphere and ocean in determining European climate. This abdication of responsibility leaves decades of folk wisdom unchallenged, still dominating the front pages, airwaves and Internet, ensuring that a well-worn piece of climatological nonsense will be passed down to yet another generation.”

Nothing has changed since. And so yesterday we have learned that the “Atlantic’s Gulf Stream has huge influence on atmosphere“. But is it really so?

(1) Not to mention Prof. Carl Wunsch, let’s have a look at what NASA has to say about oceanic currents:

“The major surface currents are wind generated (as most other oceanic currents are)”

Therefore, rather than discovering that “a band of rain […] tracks the warm surface water” it may very well be the other way around.

(2) In terms of European warming by the Gulf Stream, let’s also compare like-for-like following Seager’s line of thought: and so the cities to choose around latitude 50N are Vancouver (V) and London (L), not Quebec City or the island of Newfoundland.

Vancouver and London, in fact, have an Ocean to their West: while Quebec City, Newfoundland, or the Avachinsky volcano in Kamchatka, all places much cooler on average than London, are just east of a continent.

And so: weather conditions as from the BBC weather site show very little difference between the two cities. Values in the following list are VancouverLondon: for example “Avg Min: -1.3C” means Vancouver is 1.3C cooler in average minimum temperature, than London.

Average Sunlight (hours): 1.2
Temperature (C):
Avg Min: -1.3
Avg Max: 0.2
Rec Min: -3.2
Rec Max: -0.4
Relative humidity am: 11.4
Relative humidity pm: 6.4
Average Precipitation (mm): 72.1
Wet Days (+0.25 mm): 1.6

As it happens, there are warm Oceanic currents that reach Vancouver. But how likely is it that they are as powerful there as the Gulf Stream is in London? What a remarkable coincidence that would be.

Rather, the best explanation in the Occam’s Razor sense is that the warming of Vancouver and London compared to other places around latitude 50N, is due to a metereological (atmospheric) effect, not an Oceanic one.

Ocean Circulation May or May Not Weaken with Global Warming

Ocean circulation in a warming climate – J. R. Toggweiler & Joellen Russell
Nature 451, 286-288 (17 January 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature06590; Published online 16 January 2008
Abstract: Climate models predict that the ocean’s circulation will weaken in response to global warming, but the warming at the end of the last ice age suggests a different outcome.

And so AGW studies start resembling dieting advice. Whatever you like to eat, just wait long enough and some paper will say it’s good for you.

ps a more serious note: how much more exciting would climatology be, were it not poisoned by all the save-the-planet agitation!!

%d bloggers like this: