Archive for July, 2010

The Barometer Episode 2: Volcanicity

July 28, 2010

We’ve just released episode 2 of The Barometer, this time we’re talking about the volcano. This is quite relevant to us as members of the Centre for Atmospheric Science were involved in taking observations (ground and air based) and talking to the media about the situation as it developed.

Here it is:

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Science Blogging Talkfest 2010

July 15, 2010

I was fortunate enough to combine a trip down to London yesterday with the Science Blogging Talkfest organised by Alice Bell and Beck Smith.

It was a nice event with not too much mutual back slapping going on – Jack of Kent was also on hand to keep scientific egos in check.

I thought I’d go over a couple of the points that came up that particularly interested me…

“Climategate” was raised at one point but wasn’t really discussed much. Despite my interest in climate science, I think that not dwelling on the UEA emails was probably for the best. No-one that’s spent much time on that issue has come out of it well (apart from those fantasists that now have a fragment of reality to associate with their conspiracy theories). One point that I should have made was that it’s all very well flinging mud and picking at the science from the edges but until the “sceptic” bloggers face the same scrutiny as those they attack (both in the press and scientific journals) there’s no level playing field here and this, in my view, needs resolving.

Blog comments came up and was an interesting discussion, including the idea that readers could be charged for leaving comments! I’m particularly interested in reader comments as, from the point of view of climate science, I’m always amazed at how many comments climate blogs and newspaper articles generate. With Alok and Mark there, I would’ve loved to hear how trolling patterns have changed at The Times since the paywall went up and whether the Grauniad has any plans to restrict commenting to unidentifiable individuals.

Ed Yong brought up some work by the Pew Research Center that looked at the proportion of stories on science in new (10%) and old media (1%), citing this as a success for science blogging. This research slightly worries me because the Traditional Press column only adds up to 73% where the Blogs one gets to 100% but the bigger point, which Mark Henderson raised, was that the volume of science blogs is not necessarily a good thing as a lot of these blogs are written by, for example, climate change deniers and quacks. Well, nice point but a shame that The Times’ science supplement Eureka put one of the top climate change “sceptic” sites – Watts Up With That? – in its Top 30 Science Blogs earlier this year! Unfortunately, the event ended there and I didn’t get a chance to put this point to Mark (and maybe it would’ve been a bit mean.)

All in all, a great night out which I’m sure will generate many blog posts!

Ignoring Monckton was not a good suggestion…

July 15, 2010

A couple of days ago I wrote a post suggesting that Christopher Monckton’s awful musings on climate change should just be ignored.

I was wrong.

Monckton is now encouraging readers of WUWT to email the President of John Abraham’s university (St. Thomas University) to take down his criticisms of a talk Monckton gave.

Firstly, this is not how science should be done.

Secondly, this is just the kind of mob mentality that led to the break down in relations between the “sceptic” bloggers and the UEA scientists that reached a climax with the climategate media non-event. It seems that Monckton and WUWT have learnt absolutely nothing from all this and are continuing with the same tactics that they employed in the past.

In response, the Hot Topic blog has started a petition in support of Abraham to send to the President of St. Thomas University. Whilst I wish we didn’t have to waste time on things like this, I think it’s important to make it clear that this type of action is not acceptable.

Why do I care what Christopher Monckton says?

July 13, 2010

I’ve just notice (via Stoat) that Christopher Monckton has spent a lot of time trying to refute the claims made by John Abraham in this long document. Abraham had produced a talk debunking the points that Monckton made in a talk last year, which I guess upset Monckton.

Most of Monckton’s points are not very interesting (I only looked at 50 or so of the 500ish, yawn) and he still feels the need to defend the IPCC First Assessment Report “Hockey Stick” type graph (see his page 16), which is misguided at best. I also don’t know where he gets the idea that the central England temperature is “regarded as a reasonable proxy for global temperatures”. I’m sure that there are other equally wrong things in there.

But after spending 20 minutes or so reading it, I started to wonder “why am I bothering?” Monckton has never demonstrated himself to be a reliable source of information on climate science (or other things) yet he’s managed to get into a position where people listen to him.

Should we just ignore him? Or do people still have to show that most of what he says on this subject is not reliable?

The Independent Climate Change Email Review not so bad for CRU…

July 7, 2010

The final of the three UK reports that resulted from the CRU email leak/theft was published today. It all sounds pretty good for CRU.

Their first of 3 key findings is very positive:

“Climate science is a matter of such global importance, that the highest standards of honesty, rigour and openness are needed in its conduct. On the specific allegations made against the behaviour of CRU scientists, we find that their rigour and honesty as scientists are not in doubt.”

The second of the three key findings is also positive for CRU:

“In addition, we do not find that their behaviour has prejudiced the balance of advice given to policy makers. In particular, we did not find any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments.”

As suspected, they do find that there are issues relating to openness. The third key point:

But we do find that there has been a consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness, both on the part of the CRU scientists and on the part of the UEA, who failed to recognise not only the significance of statutory requirements but also the risk to the reputation of the University and, indeed, to the credibility of UK climate science.”

They also say later in the document:

“We find that CRU’s responses to reasonable requests for information were unhelpful and defensive.”

It looks like there’s lots of other interesting things in there – that the tree-ring proxy reconstructions and peer-review issues didn’t seem to worry the review panel much caught my eye.

Perhaps the biggest criticism relates to the infamous 1999 WMO report:

…the figure supplied for the WMO Report was misleading. We do not find that it is misleading to curtail reconstructions at some point per se, or to splice data, but we believe that both of these procedures should have been made plain – ideally in the figure but certainly clearly described in either the caption or the text.”

I need to read through the report properly but at first glance it looks very supportive of the CRU scientists.