Posts Tagged ‘Blogging’

A little bit more on BEST and Watts

March 31, 2011

I wrote a short post recently about the hot air surrounding the new surface temperature record being compiled at Berkeley.

One of the issues was the data sample that was used in preliminary BEST analysis that was being discussed.

UPDATE (31/3/2011 11:58am): Carbon Brief have some graphs to show how similar the 2% sample is to NOAA, GISS and HadCRU.

It seems that Watts was mistaken about the 2% sample of BEST data being from Japan. He updated his post in the last few days:

“ERRATA: I made a mistake regarding the 2% figure, I misheard what was being presented during my visit with the BEST team at Berkeley. As many of you may know I’m about 80% hearing impaired and the presentation made to me was entirely verbal with some printed graphs. Based on the confidentiality I agreed to, I did not get to come back with any of those graphs, notes, or data so I had to rely on what I heard. I simply misheard and thought the 2% were the Japan station analysis graphs that they showed me.

I was in touch with Dr. Richard Muller on 3/28/2011 who graciously pointed out my misinterpretation. I regret the error, and thus issue this correction about the 2% figure being truly a random sample, and not just stations in the Japan test presentation shown to me.”

It’s just a shame that he didn’t notice the contradiction between the BEST statement (“random”) and his own understanding (“Japan”) before writing his post and shouting down commenters asking for clarification (i.e. “Ah I see you are immediately back to wasting everyone’s time…“).

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RealClimate libel threat

February 22, 2011

The publishers of the journal Energy & Environment have threatened libel action against the RealClimate blog because of remarks they made about the peer review process in E&E.

The key quote that upset them, from this post, was:

“The evidence for this is in precisely what happens in venues like E&E that have effectively dispensed with substantive peer review for any papers that follow the editor’s political line.”

I think it is somewhat cowardly of E&E to threaten this libel action as it is often used to silence critics when their arguments can’t be refuted with evidence (see the RealClimate post for examples and then go and sign the petition to reform English libel laws).

If E&E can defend their peer review system, then I think should do so. What would be even better is if E&E took the plunge and opened up their peer review process and became a model for other journals. After all, many of the “skeptics” who have published in or are on the editorial board of E&E have called for the peer review process to open up. Here’s a great opportunity to make some progress on that front!

I wrote their publishers a letter explaining my view:

Dear Bill Hughes,

I have just read the letter that you sent to RealClimate regarding their criticism of the peer review process in E&E. I am disappointed that you consider a libel threat a valid response to their post.

Indeed, if E&E has a robust peer review process then this opportunity could be taken to open that process up. In doing so, you could not only refute the claims made by RealClimate but also become a trailblazer for a system to replace the current model of anonymous/closed peer review, which is often criticised for favouring the consensus view on subjects like climate change.

I look forward to an imaginative and constructive response from E&E.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Russell

WUWT alarmism?

December 6, 2010

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.

ResearchBlogging.orgRyan 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