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« Climate-no-science - Josh 96 | Main | Wonky Science - Josh 95 »
Sunday
May012011

Climate data quality improvement

As if there weren't enough problems with climate data already, the latest bright idea from CAGW subscribers is to use opinion polls to measure climate change. I kid you not...

The journal Biology Letters this week reports a novel yet kind of obvious way to tackle the data dearth; simply asking Himalayan villagers about their experiences.

To be fair, the phrase "simply asking" does the researchers a disservice, because what they emphasise throughout their paper is the need to gather local knowledge "rapidly and efficiently... using systematic tools".

It has to be structured, internally consistent and rigorous; that's the message.

We know that some scientists are happy to treat climate model output as data. Now it seems that people's opinions are to be counted as climatic data too.

It's a funny old science, innit?

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Reader Comments (33)

All we need now, to complete this folk history, is for some diligent historian to discover medieval documents recording anecdotally, but with rich and impartial detail, the development (and subsequent decline) of the Medieval Warm Period in northern Europe.

Oh, wait a minute, hasn't that been done already ... ?

May 1, 2011 at 8:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterCassio

In my opinion the recent increase in global temperatures have been directly responsible for the recent serious outbreak of Royal Wedding.

May 1, 2011 at 8:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Thinking about this, although the evidence gathered in such a manner will be rather anecdotal, if the exercise could be carried out on a global scale it could provide useful information.

Maybe they could come to Yorkshire and ask me. Last year I had a really piss poor harvest from my veggie patch because the spring and early summer were so cold and nothing grew. we also had a white Christmas and a foot of snow. Everyone at work mucked in and shovelled all the snow of the car park and another foot came down and we had to do it all again.

May 1, 2011 at 9:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterStonyground

Josh might consider another 'kit' to celebrate UEA's latest foray into promoting dishonesty, theft and abracadabra as the basis for academic fields of study and future career choices:-

http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/education/energy_firms_back_new_engineering_degree_at_uea_1_859702

May 1, 2011 at 9:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

They're only following in the footsteps of smoking research. All the 'data' there is essentially anecdotal. Are you a smoker? How many cigarettes have you smoked in your lifetime? What disease, in your belief, did patient X die from? Old age? Lung cancer? Heart disease? Or a mixture of all three? Please give the exact proportions of the mix. To the nearest furlong, how far is it from London to Brighton, in your opinion? No, don't you dare measure it!

Nothing is ever measured accurately. Everything is essentially a guess, or an opinion. But it provides numbers, which are then treated as if they are exact measurements. 24.3% of the population smokes. 1.2% of the population dies of old age. And so on..

It isn't science. It isn't even astrology (which relies, after all, on precise measurement of planetary motions). But the resulting fog of numbers can be spliced and diced and averaged and shuffled to produce whatever result you like, and this is the important thing. Because in this sort of 'science', you always know your conclusions from the outset, and simply adopt the appropriate methods needed to reach them.

May 1, 2011 at 9:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrank Davis

Frank Davis

Are you actually trying to say that you don't think that 90+% of all lung cancer is caused by smoking? Could you be clearer on your point please.

May 1, 2011 at 9:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed

Martin Brumby, your link shows a curious outburst of hyphenation -


It is our belief that through the di-verse range of energy supply and on-going investment within the region, the east of England can form an inter-nationally recognised ‘hub’ for future energy production and storage.”

Maybe it's the royal wedding fever. One needs to hyphenate all of ones words?

May 1, 2011 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered Commenterandyscrase

There was a study mentioned somewhere (and I cannot remember where, it might have even been the subject of a newspaper article) where specific people where asked their thoughts on events in their past. The only catch was that those events where actually documented by them at the time they occurred.

I think it was some wartime/post-war government study, where people where asked in detail about certain things. Those detailed notes where then used to approach the people near the end of their lives.

The younger and older selves did not correlate, subjectivism ruled... in fact people where very poor at remembering the details of their past. Take autobiographies with a large pinch of salt.

May 1, 2011 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

How many people tell lies in opinion polls? How many people give an answer that they think might benefit them in some way (financially perhaps)?

It's a funny old science, innit?

I see no science. What science? Ah you mean "climate science"!

May 1, 2011 at 10:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

People cannot be relied on to remember faces,or other pertinent facts, after an incident of some sort even a relatively short time ago. The 'science' of psychology has proved this time and again. Yet we can rely on people to remember the weather 10 years ago? This is absurd, but richard black seems to think it a good idea. Hell, the climate is definately colder and wetter in the summer now then when I was a lad, and the summers don't last as long. We only get a 'summer' in spring these days followed by a long wet dreary cloud covered summer. Ask anybody !

Jeez, they wont discuss the science, they can't, so now they turn to sociology to get their answers and their grants.

May 1, 2011 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

Post normal science relies on Rose Tinted Glasses !!!!!!!


Just think about it, all our taxes pay for this garbage.

May 1, 2011 at 10:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

When I was a lad at Grammar School it was always hot and sunny when Exam Time came around. In fact it was always hot and sunny during the summer term, period. This ideal ceased when the summer holidays began.

I would suggest that age, in this case youth, greatly influences perception of the past and of the passage of time.

May 1, 2011 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter T

As though virtual worlds in an X-Box wasn't enough.

Let me tell you - summers were always sunnier, rain not as wet and it only ever snowed on xmas day when I were a lad.

May 1, 2011 at 11:41 AM | Unregistered Commenter3x2

The very thought makes me shudder; it could be done right but I can't imagine climate science being able to keep it neutral and avoid leading questions.

I am reminded of a video report here (at 5min40) http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/apr/10/bolivia-enshrines-natural-worlds-rights
The whole interview just feels contrived to me, but that opinion is probably coloured by having checked the temperature data presented and finding it doesn't stand up: http://diggingintheclay.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/cherrypicking-in-bolivia/

May 1, 2011 at 11:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterVerity Jones

...in some villages about half of the people questioned reported that summer was now starting earlier than 10 years ago; which raises the question of why the other half did not...you might expect a more consistent view....researchers could and should make more use of specialist statisticians.

Let's see now...50% said 'yes,' and 50% said 'no'...what would a "specialist statistician" make of that? Duh...

Of course, if the "specialist statistician" were from UEA or IPCC, we'd be certain of the answer before we asked the question.

May 1, 2011 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Maloney

All this scientific fraud is making me dizzy.

May 1, 2011 at 2:49 PM | Unregistered Commenterstopcpdotcom

Are you actually trying to say that you don't think that 90+% of all lung cancer is caused by smoking?

I think that, given the methodology of the epidemiological research - which has always been reliant on questionnaires, death certificates, etc - the accuracy of the raw data is highly questionable, and therefore also the conclusions drawn from them.

In addition, although smoking prevalence in the USA has been falling for 60 years, lung cancer incidence has kept on remorselessly rising. And in addition more and more never-smokers have been contracting the disease. Neither of these facts would seem to bear out the tobacco hypothesis of lung cancer causation.

So I'd say that we don't really know what causes lung cancer. Although it seems clear that smoking is one risk factor.

May 1, 2011 at 3:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrank Davis

To get the "correct" (wink, wink, nod, nod) result, it would be important to combine this effort with an '"education" effort to give the locals a proper perspective on both the danger of climate change as well as the overwhelming consensus that it is happening. Oh, and its also necessary o let the locals know that they will be compensated if the data indicatives that they are a population "most at risk". That ought to do it.

May 1, 2011 at 3:47 PM | Unregistered Commenterbob

I seem to recall reading on these pages "Benny Peiser's talk was the one that intrigued me. He essentially argued that the science is irrelevant - that the public have made their minds up". Only a couple of weeks back opinion polls cherry picked by a skeptic were good enough evidence to base an argument that AGW science is irrelevant. Today , you are taking the position that opinion polls are without value. Poor form Mr Montford.

May 1, 2011 at 4:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterHengist McStone

@Hengist... you are being disingenuous there I think...

One would presume the researcher up the Himalayan mountain with his clip board and MP3 recorder speaking to the 100+ year old villagers is not asking them about whether they believe in CAGW and the sceince behind it. One would presume they would asking things like how high was the snow, when did the tracks open up and down the mountain etc.

Who here is linking this idea to opinion polls or people's perception of the "science" of CAGW?

May 1, 2011 at 5:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

@Jiminy Cricket
It says it in the headpost 'the latest bright idea from CAGW subscribers is to use opinion polls to measure climate change. I kid you not... ' So today such evidence is low value.

Yet a couple of weeks ago opinion polls were held up to demonstrate that the science is irrelevant http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2011/3/30/the-spectator-debate.html

So the value Bishop Hill puts on opinion polls depends on what such evidence tends to prove.

May 1, 2011 at 6:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterHengist McStone

@Hengist, obviously I stand corrected, but to be honest I never picked up this was anything about opinion polls. Opinions yes, but opinion polls no.

Using opinions (polls or otherwise) for science, as opposed for indication of "mood" (the most precise definition I am prepared to give) are two different things. Which I think was BH's point.

May 1, 2011 at 6:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Hengist

You say:

Only a couple of weeks back opinion polls cherry picked by a skeptic were good enough evidence to base an argument that AGW science is irrelevant.

Not irrelevant per se. Irrelevant to the public when it decides how much cost it will tolerate as a consequence of 'green' policies.

BH originally said (emphasis added):

Benny Peiser's talk was the one that intrigued me. He essentially argued that the science is irrelevant - that the public have made their minds up and that they vote out any party that pushes the green line too far. He also noted that they have moved on to other issues, such as the economy.

Your argument here is tenuous and relies on a careful misrepresentation of what was actually written.

Pettifogging? Trolling? Hard to say.

I am however sure that you are not as clever as you think you are.

Has your arithmetic improved recently BTW?

May 1, 2011 at 7:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Nothing new under the Sun

http://www.climategate.com/mountain-ice-disappearance-claims-by-ipcc-based-upon-student-dissertation-and-magazine-article

In its most recent report, it stated that observed reductions in mountain ice in the Andes, Alps and Africa was being caused by global warming, citing two papers as the source of the information.

However, it can be revealed that one of the sources quoted was a feature article published in a popular magazine for climbers which was based on anecdotal evidence from mountaineers about the changes they were witnessing on the mountainsides around them.

The other was a dissertation written by a geography student, studying for the equivalent of a master’s degree, at the University of Berne in Switzerland that quoted interviews with mountain guides in the Alps.

May 1, 2011 at 8:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterBreath of fresh air

Zed, the fact that non-smoking inner Londoners' have a higher incidence of death by lung cancer than rural workers in the Midlands who are smokers might indicate that there are more dangerous substances than tobacco smoke in the London atmosphere and suggests the willingness of the anti-tobacco lobby to classify any death where the deceased had the vaguest relationship with tobacco smoke just may be a little over-enthusiastic.

May 1, 2011 at 8:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

The subjectivity of such an approach is highly questionable. Any smart villager will realise that claiming that things have gotten worse will make it more likely for him and his family and his village to obtain some form of compensation.

May 1, 2011 at 8:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterFred Bloggs

"non-smoking inner Londoners' have a higher incidence of death by lung cancer than rural workers in the Midlands who are smokers"
May 1, 2011 at 8:43 PM | Alexander K

Err, except they don't. That's just make-believe of the first order. Was that something you heard down the pub, and your ability to assess the quality of evidence is so poor, that you assume it was correct?

Words fail me.

And as for Frank Davis and "we don't really know what causes lung cancer. Although it seems clear that smoking is one risk factor.", the guy's clearly half-witted.

It once again shows how totally you all fail at genuine scepticism, that none of you since have pointed out what manure this is.

Anti-science rantings hidden behind a pretence of scepticism - that you can all pretend to have any sort of integrity without challenging Frank's comment, makes me sick.

May 1, 2011 at 10:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed

Zed

Anti-science rantings hidden behind a pretence of scepticism - that you can all pretend to have any sort of integrity without challenging Frank's comment, makes me sick.

Surely as an habitue of climate blogs you know the dangers of extrapolation?

And the tiresomeness of wild, ad hominem generalisations like this?

May 1, 2011 at 10:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Let's see now...50% said 'I ordered a hot dog,' and 50% said 'I had the Polish sausage.'...what would a "specialist statistician" make of that?

It's wurst than we thought.

May 1, 2011 at 11:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

This has "manufactured consent" written all over it.

"Hi. I'm from the Climate Change Compensation Bureau. We are providing funds for those poor villagers who have been impacted by the planetary fever.

Have you noticed any climate change that you would need to be compensated for?"

The result would actually measure the number of people too honest or stupid to recognize the opportunity for a free lunch.

May 2, 2011 at 2:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterAl Gored

Sorry, Zed, but you have not yet learnt the old truism taken from the game of Rugby "Play the ball, not the man." In other words, ad hom attacks are no substitute for facts. Prove my statement that you quoted incorrect if you are able, that's how it works. Merely snarling at me is not advancing the discussion and only adds further proof that your mind is firmly closed to anything that doesn't fit your own beliefs.

May 2, 2011 at 9:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

A colleague I used to work with looked out of the window one October afternoon - the sun was shining - she said; "well that proves that global warming is happening"

Can't argue with logic like that!

May 2, 2011 at 10:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterDougS

ZedsDeadBed,

I take it that in respect of lung cancer, and climate change, and anything else you may care to mention, "the debate is over", and has been for a long time. Acknowledged experts and world authorities have spoken: Smoking causes lung cancer, and CO2 causes global warming, and there is nothing further to be said about this or any other matter. The case is closed.

Speaking purely for myself, however, I'm not inclined to put too much trust is 'experts' and 'authorities'. Throughout the course of history they have often been shown to be wrong, about more or less everything. The case is never closed. Absolutely everything is open to doubt. All knowledge is provisional. However desirable it may be, certainty is unobtainable.

May 2, 2011 at 11:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrank Davis

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