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New Scientist on significance

An article in New Scientist picks up on the vexed question of Phil JOnes' recent prognostications of significance in the temperature records. The author, Andy Coghlan links to the story here:

Jones told New Scientist that in the short time since his latest statement on the data's "significance" had been aired in the media, some sceptics had already challenged it in blogs.

Having made this unexceptionable statement, the article strangely continues as follows:

But Jones insists that his latest analysis is correct because it is a combination of land and marine temperatures. "It's the combination that gives the true global picture," he says.

To which the only meaningful response possible is "Huh?". We agree on few things across the climate divide, but there is no dispute that we are looking at "a combination of land and marine" temperatures. It's the statistical treatment that is the principal beef of people on this side of the debate, although clarification of which dataset Jones used for his latest analysis would have been useful too. Jones statement here makes no sense.

It really would have been nice if Andy Coghlan had asked for Jones data' and code. That would have moved things forward.

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Reader Comments (33)

It wasn't scientists that challenged it in blogs. It was statisticians, who seem to understand a little bit more about statistics than Jones. As his UEA colleague, Paul Dennis stated on this blog:

I'm rather bemused by the article. 1995-2009, no significant warming, 1995-2010 significant warming and perhaps 1995-2011 no significant warming depending on this years temperature. Who knows! Adding a year to the trend and suddenly claiming significance as the headline asserts ('Global warming since 1995 'now significant') really shows a complete lack of understanding of linear regression, let alone the nature of the data.

Jun 14, 2011 at 5:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

2 currants short of a Fruitcake, he gets paid money for this nonsense ?

Jun 14, 2011 at 5:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

rubbish. it says nothing.

Jun 14, 2011 at 5:48 PM | Unregistered Commenteromgarry

By releasing the latest analysis, Jones ...

Err, what "analysis" has Jones released?

Jun 14, 2011 at 6:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaulM

Re: omgarry

What is rubbish and what is the "it" that says nothing?

I've read the post and the comments and I can not see what the context is for your statement.
Please enlighten me.

Jun 14, 2011 at 6:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

The New Scientist piece. It's rubbish. Says nothing.

Jun 14, 2011 at 6:16 PM | Unregistered Commenteromgarry

Re: omgarry

Thanks for the clarification.

Jun 14, 2011 at 6:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Given the tone of the article, it wouldn't be surprising that the author conflated quotes to create this non sequitur. Can't tell without a transcript of the interview. The poor quality of journalism only degrades the questionable quality of the science.

Jun 14, 2011 at 6:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterGary

I do not think that his comments were well thought through. 2010, being an El Nino year, is likely to be seen as an outlier. There is every chance that 2011 will be less warm and we will then be in the scenario highlighted by Philip Bratby. It is therefore quite likely that Phil Jones will make a fool of himself by having to concede that once 2011 data is in there is no significant warming during the period 1995 to 2011. In this scenario, at the very least, the present pronouncemnet will be seen to be premature with the man going off half cocked.

Jun 14, 2011 at 7:18 PM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney


I'm sure it's just a cowboy outfit....

If seriously O/T I apologise.

Jun 14, 2011 at 7:29 PM | Unregistered Commenterjones

When you can get away with it with most people the first time, why not do it again.

Jun 14, 2011 at 7:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterShevva

Speaking of rubbish, with the article I see a comment captioned "Right Or Wrong We Need To Take Action!" That certainly fits the same mindset as "Recent warming trend is significant after all" (next year, maybe it won't be, but THIS year let's do something, for God's sake!)

Jun 14, 2011 at 7:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterP. Kenny

What is this article talking about ?

To me, it looks like another case of the Arctic Oscillation pap that they passed on regarding McKitrick's paper: totally meaningless, irrelevent and leaves you saying "Huh!", but to new ears, it makes it sound as though 'the sceptics' (per New Scientist' made some kind of a mistake (leaving out the oceans).

I voiced the same concern in the previous thread. Unless you take these types of discussion to a serious platform, nothing will change - these guys will keep bullshitting and pulling the wool over your eyes. What is needed is a citation hook - you have a Richard Black article to begin with, and now a New Scientist piece.

I cannot believe this Jones guy.

Jun 14, 2011 at 7:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

P. Kenny, that comment, by Daniel Staples, is fantastic. Well worth reading. It is almost a work of art in the way it articulates we-must-do-somethingness in the absence of evidence of any cost-benefit analysis.

Jun 14, 2011 at 7:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterj

Phil Jones just keeps on digging a deeper hole.

This was a contoversy of his own making. In his original interview with Richard Black in 2010, Jones stated, "Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods."

In strict statistical terms 2010 maybe signficant but is it scientifically significant given that 2011 may see a return to the 2009 position statistically?

We need to remember what Lord Oxburgh concluded, "We cannot help remarking that it is very surprising that research in an area that depends so heavily on statistical methods has not been carried out in close collaboration with professional statisticians."

This little episode has highlighted that in both statistical and scientific terms Phil Jones has again failed to convince. It is both embarrassing personally for him and his colleagues.

Jun 14, 2011 at 7:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Phillip Bratby

I have no idea why his UEA colleague, Paul Dennis is bemused. Dr. Dennis should give poor Phil credit for try, try, try, try, try, trying again. Who knows, if he does it twenty times, he should come up with a "significant" result at the 95% level.

Breathe of Fresh Air

2 currants short of a Fruitcake
yes, but he makes up for it with all those nuts.

Jun 14, 2011 at 8:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

I know I will probably get "got at" for this but I am truly beginning to feel sorry for Jones! Here is me close to 60 and worried about my "Sell By Date" and here is Jones obviously past his and derogatory as that sounds lets look at the evidence.

In front of the parliamentary committee he admits his office work is sub standard and had it not been for the Vice Chancellor (who was also not up to speed) and a sub standard committee, Jones would have been ripped apart. Obviously his statistical work is way below par.

Now we are supposed to accept 1 year adds to significance?

Is it an early pension for Jones?

As for Black...enough has been said about that sorry excuse for a so called "BBC Journalist". Not many chances of C.I.F. on his garbage though!

Jun 14, 2011 at 8:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

wow. No holding back from the GWPF

Jun 14, 2011 at 8:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterOMGarry

I have to agree Pete H.

Jones is not doing himself any favours. UEA needs to act to prevent any more embarrassment. It would be best for all concerned if Jones went quietly.

Jun 14, 2011 at 8:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

I sense the dark hand of the Bob in the New Scientist article. It has a quote from the Bob accusing sceptics of cherrypicking but being the Bob, happily ignores the minor point that we don't know what cherries Phil has picked.

Jun 14, 2011 at 9:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

Top man, Prof Jones. Totally excellent. Statistics is just a fascist capitalist conspiracy anyway.

Jun 14, 2011 at 9:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave Greenspart

richard verney not a problem as its an announcement he either will never make nor if the hell should freeze over one that will get no coverages . What was seen was not a aspect of correction of the science, it was a piece of political theater designed to show how Jones was very much still 'on side' by trying to undo this past truthfulness error . The BBC boy played a full and willing part in this.

Jun 14, 2011 at 9:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Mac says:

It would be best for all concerned if Jones went quietly.

I say:

After he is hung out to dry.

Jun 14, 2011 at 10:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterRETEPHSLAW

Anyone seen this from the register

Jun 14, 2011 at 11:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterFred Bloggs

Don't mind the expression but New Scientist's pretty much Bob's bitch, isn't it?

Jun 15, 2011 at 12:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

If this is true, it's game over for AGW.

Jun 15, 2011 at 12:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterFred Bloggs

New Scientist....

I subscribed to their email "alert" service for a while but after looking at what had accumulated in the New Scientist folder I have to say that they seem to be science journalism's answer to the Sunday Sport or the News of the World.

Even now, years later - at a news stand, I only bother with flipping it open to The Last Word. Their AGW stance was (is?) insufferable.

New Science - as in edgily post-modernist science perchance?

Jun 15, 2011 at 12:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterTom

Fred Bloggs

Just followed your link to the register and read the fascinating article. Whilst I don't want to experience the onset of a new littlt ice age, if the observations in this article are accurate, we may well be able to sit back and let the sun do the talking.
My Fair Lady comes to mind "wouldn't it be lovely" all together now..

Jun 15, 2011 at 12:52 AM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

But Jones insists that his latest analysis is correct because it is a combination of land and marine temperatures. "It's the combination that gives the true global picture," he says.

But the criticisms were based on HadCRUT3 not showing significance over the stated time period and HadCRUT3 is a combination of land and marine. So what the heck is Jones trying to say?

Jun 15, 2011 at 1:29 AM | Unregistered Commenterlucia

I probably does not matter anymore. The AGW is dead (probably)
Nearly all mainstream media has taken this up The phrase "it may cool" is in my eyes enough to kill it in the eyes of the general public (eventually). Have a champagne on me LOL

Jun 15, 2011 at 1:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterAdalberto

Actually better link but notable is the MSM uptake

Jun 15, 2011 at 1:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterAdalberto

More notable is the complete lack of MSM uptake in the UK (so far).
But they all reported the solar flare on Tuesday.

Jun 15, 2011 at 7:02 AM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

Have a read of this link...a pretty comprehensive smacking around the ears for the BBC and their Mann Made Global Warming (tm) advocates! Its almost embarrassing!



Jun 15, 2011 at 2:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

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