Watts Up With That? recently published a post about an improvement to a method developed by Steig et al. (2009). This paper aimed to identify temperature trends over the data sparse Antarctic. The improved method has been accepted for publication in Journal of Climate, which is a decent achievement.
Firstly, I think its great that this exchange of ideas is happening in the peer-reviewed literature and not only on blogs.
I say this because, as Watts demonstrates, blogs can be used to insinuate things that are not the case.
For example, there is a quote from one of the paper authors in the post:
“I would hope that our paper is not seen as a repudiation of Steig’s results, but rather as an improvement.”
Yet Watts decided to title his post “Skeptic paper on Antarctica accepted – rebuts Steig et al”. Whilst I realise the difference between “rebut” and “repudiate”, it strikes me as poor form.
There also seems to be a tone of indignation in Watts’ part of the post about how long it took to get the paper through peer review and that one of the “difficult” reviewers had probably been involved with the initial paper:
“Anyone want to bet that reviewer was a “[hockey] team” member?”
I don’t understand why Watts is surprised about this: if you contribute something novel to the literature then the peer review process assesses that work against itself; if, on the other hand, you criticise and amend other people’s work then it would be irresponsible of the journal editor not to send the paper to one of the people being questioned.
Anyway, so what is the difference between the two analyses? Here are the plots that are provided before the paper is published properly:
The striking differences in the update are the increased positive trend on the peninsula and a “new” negative trend from the South Pole to the eastern Weddell Sea. The positive trend over most of Western Antarctica has also largely gone.
I expect Real Climate will post a response once the full paper is published so I don’t want to try to pick the methods apart here.
However, it struck me as a little odd that Watts was almost celebrating the re-affirmation of a massive warming on the Antarctic Peninsula!
Sure, the atmospheric dynamics of this region are very complicated and it’s not clear exactly what the distribution of temperature changes mean. But this “victory” seemed to focus more on getting one over the “hockey team” (ugh) rather than achieving something potentially useful.
Ryan O’Donnell, Nicholas Lewis, Steve McIntyre, Jeff Condon (2011). Improved methods for PCA-based reconstructions: case study using the Steig et al. (2009) Antarctic temperature reconstruction Journal of Climate, in press