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« Waking policemen | Main | Sleeping policemen again »
Wednesday
Nov232011

The scientific firmament

An amusing exchange of views between Bob Ward and Phil Jones on statistics:

Dear Phil,

I was wondering whether you have seen the article by David Whitehouse in the latest edition of 'New Statesman'? [3]http://www.newstatesman.com/200712190004

It would be great if somebody could respond to the article. I would be happy to do so if somebody can supply me with the ammunition. Any thoughts?

Best wishes,

Bob

Bob Ward

Jones responds swiftly:

 From: Phil Jones
Sent: 20 December 2007 13:58
To: Bob Ward
Subject: Re: More nonsense on climate change

Bob,
Quickly re-reading this it sounds as though I'm getting at you. I'm not - just at the idiots who continue to spout this nonsense. It isn't an issue with climatologists. All understand. If I tried to publish this I would be told by my peers it was obvious and banal. I will try and hide it in a paper at some point. I could put it on the CRU web site. I'll see how I feel after the Christmas Pud.

 I would have thought that this writer would have know better! I keep on seeing people saying this same stupid thing. I'm not adept enough (totally inept) with excel to do this now as no-one who knows how to is here.

 What you have to do is to take the numbers in column C (the years) and then those in D (the anomalies for each year), plot them and then work out the linear trend. The slope is upwards. I had someone do this in early 2006, and the trend was upwards then. It will be now. Trend won't be statistically significant, but the trend is up.

 This is a linear trend - least squares. This is how statisticians work out trends. They don't just look at the series. The simpler way is to just look at the data. The warmest year is 1998 with 0.526. All years since 2001 have been above 0.4. The only year before 2001 that was above this level was 1998. So 2cnd to 8th warmest years are 2001-2007

 The reason 1998 was the warmest year was that it resulted from the largest El Nino event of the 20th century in 1997/8. We've not had anything resembling a major El Nino event since - they have all been minor.


Using regression, it is possible to take the El Nino event into account (with a regression based on the Southern Oscillation Index). This accounts for about 0.15 deg C of 1998's warmth. Without that 1998 would have been at about 0.38.

 There is a lot of variability from year-to-year in global temperatures - even more in ones like CET. No-one should expect each year to be warmer than the previous. The 2000s will be warmer than the 1990s though. This is another way of pointing out what's wrong with their poor argument. The last comment about CET is wrong. 2007 will be among the top 10 warmest CET years - it will likely be 2cnd or 3rd.

Cheers

 Phil

Ward is impressed:

Dear Phil,

Thanks for responding so comprehensively. I have plotted the data before, and as you observe, the trend is up but the result isn't statistically significant, which I think makes it open to attack. I think the problem is that NOAA made the following statement in its report on the 2006 data:

"However, uncertainties in the global calculations due largely to gaps in data coverage make 2006 statistically indistinguishable from 2005 and several other recent warm years as shown by the error bars on the [1]global time series."


I'm not sure how to argue against this point - it appears to imply that there is no statistically significant trend in the global temperature record over the past few years.

Best wishes,

Bob

 

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Reader Comments (79)

It's all for "The Cause".....

Nov 23, 2011 at 2:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterHoi Polloi

[snip - venting]

Nov 23, 2011 at 2:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

[snip - venting]

Nov 23, 2011 at 2:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterSayNoToFearmongers

They really are intellectual giants aren't they?

Nov 23, 2011 at 2:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterBuck

Ward - "I'm not sure how to argue against this point - it appears to imply that there is no statistically significant trend in the global temperature record over the past few years."


Dead right. So save your brain cell and DON'T argue with it.

Nov 23, 2011 at 2:53 PM | Unregistered Commentermarchesarosa

Behold! The Mighty OZ!

<small dog pulls curtain to one side>

Ah.

Nov 23, 2011 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

This is classic

I'm not adept enough (totally inept) with excel to do this now as no-one who knows how to is here.

What you have to do is to take the numbers in column C (the years) and then those in D (the anomalies for each year), plot them and then work out the linear trend. The slope is upwards. I had someone do this in early 2006, and the trend was upwards then. It will be now. Trend won't be statistically significant, but the trend is up.

That explains an awaful lot about what is wrong with climate change science, and I have seen the same argument applied on this blog by a couple of people. "The trend is not not statistically significant, but it's up." or "The trend is not statistically different, but it's bigger."

Now I know where they get it from: they've been reading too many of Phil Jones' papers!

Nov 23, 2011 at 3:06 PM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

This is beyond parody.

I recently gave my first year students a task that involved using Excel to fit a least squares regression to some experimental data they had collected. Then they had to use the regression coefficients to calculate the precise intercept on the X-axis.
Most got it right.

These are FIRST YEAR STUDENTS STRAIGHT FROM SCHOOL!

On this basis they would make excellent climate scientists.

Nov 23, 2011 at 3:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

The Team's close connections with the media and the willingness of some in the media to become attack dogs for the cause is truly remarkable.

The behaviour of Harrabin, Black, Monbiot, Revkin, Ward et al would even make News International blush in embarrassment.

Nov 23, 2011 at 3:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Trend won't be statistically significant, but the trend is up.

Talk about dense. This man does not understand that there is not such thing as a non-significant trend -- it is noise.


The reason 1998 was the warmest year was that it resulted from the largest El Nino event of the 20th century in 1997/8. We've not had anything resembling a major El Nino event since - they have all been minor.

Gee, Phil, have you read this and thought about what you are really saying? Hint: It was warmer in 1998 then since. How can there be a warming trend?

Nov 23, 2011 at 3:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Exactly Don.

If you look at what the UEA Climate Science BSc entails, it covers a whole range of disciplines that are normally full degree subjects in themselves, notably stats. If you slot seven or eight disciplines into one degree you end up with a sort of General Science qualification in which you are a mile wide and an inch deep, like the Powder River.

As the people who take such courses are quite thick to begin with, it follows that climate scientists are likely to be activists who don't know much science but know what they like; that's why they did climate science. They are sure to be poorly trained in it either way.

Nov 23, 2011 at 3:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

As I posted earlier. David Whitehouse was way ahead of both Ward and Jones. Neither of them could disprove what he was saying, because he was right.

[Snip - venting. Also Bob Ward says he didn't say the words you attribute to him. Provide a link next time.]

Nov 23, 2011 at 3:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterPiers

This admission of ineptitude explains how confused Jones was in trying to respond to Steve McIntyre's request for the actual data. He is a know-nothing and has to depend upon somebody else to do the inputting, cleaning and analysis of the data. Anybody who has worked with large data-bases will realize that this is a recipe for potential major goof ups. This situation is scary bad.

Nov 23, 2011 at 3:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterBernie

What I posted on another thread


The Bob Ward/Phil Jones emails are very revealing. It shows the extend of behind-the-scenes scheming that Bob Ward is up to. I also not that he is doing this stuff using his workplace email. I wonder what his then bosses at Risk Management Systems would have to say about Bob Ward dragging their name into the mud?

It shows Bob Wards frantic desire to go into battle about David Whitehouse's pioneering 2007 New Statesman article pointing out that the global annual average temperature between 2001 - 2007 showed no statistical change. Bob seems desperate to refute this but lacks the mathematical/statistical skills to do it, which shows he had already made his mind up before he had gathered the evidence.

And then what happens, neither Phil Jones nor his Met Office friends can refute Whitehouse's claim! (I expect that Whitehouse might take a dim view of Phil Jones' comment that overlapping trends might be beyond Whitehouse given that Whitehouse has a PHD in physics!)

The fact that Phil Jones et al could not refute Whitehouse's claims makes the New Statesman 'reply' - an article by Mark Lynas in which he says Whitehouse was totally wrong - look even more stupid.

Bob Ward comes across as an interfering bully who makes his mind up first and seeks evidence later. Whitehouse comes over as a gentleman who is confident in his assertions and figures, but then he had done his homework, unlike Bob, and, also unlike Bob, had completed his PHD. Perhaps simple statistics was in the part of the PHD that Bob never got around to.

Kudos to Whitehouse. He had Bob and Jones/Met Office running round in circle to prove him wrong...and they couldn't.

Nov 23, 2011 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterPiers

Who would have believed that climate psyence also involves working hand in hand with cuddly bankers such as Goldman Sachs in a "strategic alliance"?

4092.txt

date: Mon, 18 May 1998 10:00:38 +0100
from: Trevor Davies
subject: goldman-sachs
to: j.palutiko p.jones,m.hulme

Jean,

We (Mike H) have done a modest amount of work on degree-days for G-S. They
now want to extend this. They are involved in dealing in the developing
energy futures market.

G-S is the sort of company that we might be looking for a 'strategic
alliance' with. I suggest the four of us meet with ?? (forgotten his name)
for an hour on the afternoon of Friday 12 June (best guess for Phil & Jean
- he needs a date from us). Thanks.

Trevor


++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Professor Trevor D. Davies
Climatic Research Unit
University of East Anglia
Norwich NR4 7TJ
United Kingdom

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Nov 23, 2011 at 3:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterBuffy Minton

Might be an idea to forward this onto Mark Lynas. He seems to have undergone a very small Damascene conversion in the last few years. Maybe he was had too.

There is no love lost between him and the 'Destroy Civilisation' Greens.

Nov 23, 2011 at 3:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

Would you describe Bob Ward as Phil Jones attack-dog, lap-dog, or his bitch?

Nov 23, 2011 at 3:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

sorry, wrong thread.....

Nov 23, 2011 at 3:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterBuffy Minton

Perhaps Jones and Ward should review Dessler's video on regression (a few times):

http://youtu.be/juQcaxblk54

Dessler published his conclusions based on a regression coefficient indistinguishable from zero in Science, Dessler is a professional climatologist.

Nov 23, 2011 at 3:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Bob's reply to Phil suggests to me that he (Bob) might feel a bit patronised by Prof. Jones' simplistic answer. His problem is not being unable to work the simple stats, but that the stats don't say what he wants them to.

The fact that a scientist who is in charge of a major global data set claims not to be able to plot two columns in a spreadsheet is dumbfounding. Not only that, but he feels sure that relatively few people around him could either.

The line "I had someone do this in early 2006..., " suggests that it is the sort of menial task he'd leave to a non technical assistant. Now, I've some time for delegation of appropriate tasks, and keeping the best brains thinking, not engaged in mundane tasks, but data analysis is part of the science surely.

Nov 23, 2011 at 3:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

It would be interesting to see what Richard Betts has to say about all this.

Nov 23, 2011 at 3:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

My thankless and so far fruitless search for a promoter of climate alarmism who is both prominent and admirable continues. My hopes that this new set of emails would help me find one have been cruelly dashed by posts such as this, and quite a few others I have seen today. If none of their 'thought-leaders' are admirable, and the scientific basis is so frail and flaky, what on earth has motivated all those 'opinion-makers' within and around the IPCC, for example, to get so carried away about carbon dioxide?

Nov 23, 2011 at 3:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

DPdlS

I would imagine that Richard Betts has decided to stay in bed all week and report in sick.

There are 52 references concerning Betts in these emails.

Nov 23, 2011 at 3:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

I believe Jones did Environmental Science at Lancaster, a soft option science without rigour.

Nov 23, 2011 at 4:03 PM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

I can't actually find any references to Richard Betts which aren't passing (e.g. cc'd in an email, or mentioned as an LA) - anyone?

Nov 23, 2011 at 4:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Nov 23, 2011 at 3:38 PM | Cumbrian Lad

"The fact that a scientist who is in charge of a major global data set claims not to be able to plot two columns in a spreadsheet is dumbfounding. Not only that, but he feels sure that relatively few people around him could either."

The thing is that without all the IPCC/AGW stuff going on it isn't a major data set and really just a useful archiving analysis centre that is worth doing for academic reasons but really doesn't need any major skills to participate in. The same is true for most of cimate science, some interesting academic questions to be asked but generally not important to the general public.

Nov 23, 2011 at 4:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

Monty Python knew:

Cut to a woodland glade.
Voice Over
But Mr Figgis-Jones is no ordinary idiot. He is a lecturer in idiocy at the University of East Anglia. Here he is taking a class of third-year students.
Half a dozen loonies led by Figgis-Jones come dancing through... the glade singing tunelessly. They are wearing long University scarves.
Voice Over
After three years of study these apprentice idiots receive a diploma of idiocy, a handful of mud and a kick on the head.

Sadly the modern graduation award is no longer a kick in the head, but a lead authorship on AR5 WG1.

Nov 23, 2011 at 4:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterSayNoToFearmongers

TBYJ

Try 0738 for starters.

I like this quote by Simon Tett , "All -- are you happy with this. Am I missing any tricks...."

What tricks would that be Richard?

Nov 23, 2011 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Here's a book that Prof Jones and Bob Ward could do well to study.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Excel-2010-Dummies-Computers/dp/0470489537

In fact, they could ask Roger Harrabin to buy them a copy, he seems to have all the money, and ask him to give one to Richard Black, or organise a Cambridge Media seminar on it.

Nov 23, 2011 at 4:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterPiers

Mac, that's Simon Tett including him in an email about papers he is co-authoring, I can't see any text or input attributable to Richard in there. I'll keep looking.

Nov 23, 2011 at 4:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

"The fact that a scientist who is in charge of a major global data set claims not to be able to plot two columns in a spreadsheet is dumbfounding. Not only that, but he feels sure that relatively few people around him could either."

This might explain this from Willis Essenbech at WUWT:

"From David Palmer to Phil Jones, regarding my FOI request, email #1184, April 2007 (emphasis mine):

Gents,

My head is beginning to spin here but I read this as meaning that he wants the raw station data; we don’t know which data belongs to which station, correct? "

Nov 23, 2011 at 4:24 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Phil & Bob . . poster kiddies for the Climate Scientologist Award of the Year

Nov 23, 2011 at 4:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterFred from Canuckistan

What about this from the climate gate files.
Newly discovered picture of Bob Ward and Phill Jones together.

http://02varvara.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/bert-and-harry-piels.jpg

Nov 23, 2011 at 4:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterKLO

or perhaps this

http://gregcookland.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/picHensonBertErnieWeb.jpg

Nov 23, 2011 at 4:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterKLO

Where's Phil's Mum to explain that Phil wasn't very good at sums at school so he decided to be a climate scientist? Where's Bob's Mum to explain that Bob wasn't good at anything at school so he decided to go in for political spin?

Nov 23, 2011 at 4:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Piers writes:

'Ward is a hypocrite. he realised that the figures indicated no warming but he went on to argue they did anyway. In another of his emails with Jones he says, no warming "how can I spin that?"'

Ward is an obsessive-compulsive spinner. He would spin 'It is "p" and it is not "p."'

Nov 23, 2011 at 5:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

and yet I see that Bob Ward was head of public relations at the Royal Society.

Doesn't that speak volumes.

Nov 23, 2011 at 5:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterKMO

the exact opposite to David Whitehouse is Damien Carrington in the Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/damian-carrington-blog/2011/nov/23/climate-change-scepticism-hacked-climate-science-emails?CMP=twt_gu

never mind what the emails say, go for the messenger.

I bet he's friends with Bob Ward.

Nov 23, 2011 at 5:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterKMO

Nov 23, 2011 at 3:38 PM | Cumbrian Lad

"The fact that a scientist who is in charge of a major global data set claims not to be able to plot two columns in a spreadsheet is dumbfounding. Not only that, but he feels sure that relatively few people around him could either."

And not only that but Jones has the nerve to call Jim Goodridge a jerk.

He maybe lacks spreadsheet skills but he knows how to mislead journalists:There is no doubt the world is warming and will continue to warm...

Jones shouldn't be resigning, he should be fired, for incompetence and dishonesty.

Nov 23, 2011 at 5:29 PM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

@ John Shade

what on earth has motivated all those 'opinion-makers' within and around the IPCC, for example, to get so carried away about carbon dioxide?

Grants, sinecures, the opportunity to fly around the world for nothing to nice places (you don't get climate seminars in Detroit or Birmingham), a Trojan horse to force on people what they won't vote for, and - if you're a government - a pretext to tag and monitor the little people and subject them to taxes they can't avoid.

What's not to like?

Nov 23, 2011 at 5:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

Phil gets slapped dowm: 4550.txt


hil, I'm sorry you take exception to my contacting David Palmer about this matter. I felt
that, since the University was being "slagged off" on a much read website and people were
advancing possible legal ways in which the information they request could be obtained from
the university, it was important to warn David Palmer about this development. I assumed
that you would be aware of what might be being said on that website, whereas David Palmer
would not be expected to be so informed. In fact he was not, and thanked me for the
information

I'm not exactly sure what you are complaining about and if the same situation arose again I
think I would act in exactly the same way again.

What you do with your data is not my concern, nor was it ever. I would not presume to
interfere in this area, nor have I done so. I am, however, concerned that UEA will be
beset by possible legal challanges and I consider it only prudent to warn those involved.
Here ends any further envolvement.

Also please don't you presume to lecture me about what particular website I should or
should not be consulting. I'll make my own mind up. In actual fact , I read both
ClimateAudit and RealClimate.

AlanK

Nov 23, 2011 at 5:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

The situation becomes a little clearer for me with these emails. Clearly those "on high" in the political world had made it clear what message they wanted. (perhaps CAGW is after all simply a means of collecting together huge amounts of tax payer money and making it easily accessible to the same old players). These "academics" were pleased to comply and they made monumental efforts to do so. It makes me feel sick, to be honest.

And although my view of Zed has been made clear on this blog and that I now ignore her as much as is possible, I wandered over to the the Daily Mail today - not a rag I ever read. I noted not without satisfaction that Zed was there, using the same old lines, and was getting absolutely panned. I admire her stubborness, I really do - but the game is up. If she is in any way sentient she will realise that she has been played all this time and she must be gutted about it.

Nov 23, 2011 at 6:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterRB

Who is Alan Kendall ENV?

Nov 23, 2011 at 6:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

I am an independent physicist, 63 years old. I don't choose to even have Excel, and don't use commercial spreadsheets or database software to do my scientific analyses. That's for commercial business record-keeping, and science amateurs (dilettantes). You should be ridiculing Phil Jones for his incompetent "just looking at the data" -- any good scientist does that, but does a decent job of it, unlike Jones and the other members and defenders of the Team. If a scientist tells you you can't tell anything from just the last 10 - 15 years, he/she is incompetent, and/or deliberately "hiding the decline" from those he/she considers hapless geeks who will accept anything from an "expert".

Nov 23, 2011 at 6:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Dale Huffman

Kudos to Alan Kendal http://www.uea.ac.uk/env/people/facstaff/kendalla

4550.txt

If the climategate-1 emails were cherry picked and out of context, why is it that the climategate-2 emails reveal many additional examples of poor behavior in additional context?

Does this mean that the climategate-1 cherry pickers were incompetent? Two years ago weren't they terribly clever politically motivated Russian (or right-wing) hackers?

Nov 23, 2011 at 6:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Alan Kendall
http://www.uea.ac.uk/env/people/facstaff/kendalla

He's been in the pay of Big Oil!

Nov 23, 2011 at 6:35 PM | Unregistered Commentermarchesarosa

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/higher/dr-alan-kendall-science-never-used-to-have-a-consensus-419742.html

Dr Alan Kendall: 'Science never used to have a consensus'
INTERVIEW BY NICK JACKSON THURSDAY 12 OCTOBER 2006

Dr Alan Kendall is a senior lecturer in geology at the University of East Anglia who teaches a class in fossil fuels and climate change. He has vigorously opposed the Royal Society and George Monbiot's denunciation of research that is funded by oil companies....

There are some sane people at UEA, apparently.

Nov 23, 2011 at 6:40 PM | Unregistered Commentermarchesarosa

Jones......"I'm not adept enough (totally inept) with excel"!

No wonder he had to have the Vice Chancellor baby sit him at the whitewash hearings! What a truly sad state of affairs, in the age of reliance on statistics for this putrid excuse for science, that someone in his position cannot fulfill such a basic task!

Monbiot was disgusted after the first release. I wonder how he feels now or has the simply fallen under Wards spell?

Nov 23, 2011 at 6:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

So all that debate about how the significance of a trend depends on the underlying model (whether, for example, it is AR(1) or the series requires differencing) has passed Professor Jones by, though he purports to be the expert (or others do on his behalf). Just do a linear regression on the anomalies and hope for significance!

One might be more sympathetic were he not so keen to dismiss the rest of the world as "idiots".

Nov 23, 2011 at 7:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

And all this time I thought these people were insane! Now I'm not so sure that simple incompetence doesn't account for their inane publications and pronouncements. EXCEL? No scientist with any real statistical training would regard Excel as their tool-of-choice for database work. UN-be-FRIGGIN-lievable!

Nov 23, 2011 at 7:28 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

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