Archive for the ‘skepticism’ Category

My blogging review of 2010

January 4, 2011

So, it’s 2011. Time for a quick look back at the first whole year of my blog.

Surprises

Well, I’m shocked at how many people have read and commented on my blog. I thought I’d be writing mostly for friends and colleagues but the blog seems to have reached a little further. If anyone reads regularly or just wants to say hello, I’d really like to hear from you; please leave a comment to let me know who you are and if there’s anything you think I should be writing in 2011. (And thanks for reading!)

The other big surprise was being linked to and quoted in a Guardian article about the Institute of Physics. I only knew about it when I was reading the paper in a cafe and noticed my name in the paper!

I also wasn’t expecting the response to my “Hockey Stick” post, which I wrote mostly for my own benefit to have all the IPCC climate reconstructions in one place. I’ve been meaning to write a review of the Hockey Stick book (by the Bishop Hill guy) but haven’t quite found the time.

That leads nicely on to the next point…

Networks

I’ve not actually been reading climate blogs for that long, probably 2 years or so. I’d like to spend more time reading and commenting but there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve noticed in that time and it’s probably not very shocking.

There seem to be two, shall we say, very passionate groups/sides of bloggers. I guess you’d group them as pro “established climate science” or against. I quite often see the same names commenting on the same “sides”. It’s all quite cliquey and often impolite (to say the least). Maybe I should look into this more and think of a way of analysing it but this isn’t really the time to do it.

The point I want to make now is about my blog. Some of the days when I’ve got lots of hits/comments are when I’ve been linked to from one of the bigger blogs and, by the nature of those comments, it’s not difficult to tell which “side” that link has come from!

I’m actually quite glad I’ve not been blogging long enough (or comment around enough) to have been drawn in to one of these well-defined cliques – I’m happy enough to just be writing about what’s interesting me rather than feeling an allegiance to a particular cause.

Top Posts

According to WordPress, these are my posts that got the most views in 2010.

1

Dear Institute of Physics… March 2010
62 comments

2

The “Hockey Stick” evolution June 2010
104 comments

3

Britain’s snow and climate change January 2010
1 comment

4

Antarctic climate change – the exception that proves the rule? March 2010
10 comments

5

Skepticism or denial? February 2010
20 comments

(I’m surprised that the snow post is in there. I think it must have googled a lot recently!)

Anyway, thanks again for reading and hope to see you here in 2011.

Skepticism or denial?

February 3, 2010

Whilst I would describe myself as a scientific skeptic, in that I will try to investigate claims before coming to a judgement, I would not say I was a “climate change skeptic”. This term is often used to label those that are irrationally dismissive of the scientific evidence (or worse). Several commentators on climate issues, notably George Monbiot of the Guardian, have now started referring to many within this group as “climate change deniers” as it appears that any amount of evidence counter to their stance will alter their belief in that position. One prominent blogger, though, found the use of the denial tag unhelpful and has set himself the challenge, as a layperson, “to make sense of the global warming and climate change debates” via a new blog.

Now, though, we have an opportunity to test the scientific integrity of one of these skeptics. Anthony Watts, an American weather presenter, blogger and self proclaimed climate change skeptic, was instrumental in setting up a web campaign to survey the United States climatological surface station records – SurfaceStations.org. This is a laudable scientific aim, regardless of the fact that it was done in the belief that it would show that the surface temperature recording method was flawed and that the warming trend observed in the US was an artefact of the local micro-conditions.

The analysis on the website consists of quite a lot of not-very-scientific comments about photographs on how poorly sited some of these stations are. Watts has also published a report with some of the photographs alongside their temperature records. However, Matthew Menne (a scientist at the American National Climatic Data Center) and co-authors have published a peer reviewed, systematic analysis of the US surface station temperature records. The results show that the poorly located stations, as determined by SurfaceStations.org, actually show a negative bias relative to the well located sites. This means that the poorly located sites introduce an artificial cooling in the temperature record, not a warming as Watts predicted. Clearly, the uncovering of such a bias in the surface station network in the US means that the infrastructure requires tighter regulation as it is not, at certain locations, doing its job properly.

In this situation, I suspect that a true skeptic would be proud that their effort had highlighted a real issue and contributed to the scientific understanding. However, as SurfaceStations.org approached their investigation with the hypothesis that the network would introduce artificial warming, how will they react?

Reference:

ResearchBlogging.orgM. J. Menne, C. N. Williams, & M. A. Palecki (2010). On the reliability of the U.S. Surface Temperature Record Journal of Geophysical Research : doi:10.1029/2009JD013094

Links:

The paper can be found here
There is a more thorough analysis of the paper by the Skeptical Science blog
There is some comment in The Guardian’s Environment blog


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