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« Lewis 2013 as an "outlier" | Main | Far fetched and fatuous »

Donald ducks

Donald Prothero, a geologist and (official) skeptic, has written an article about the Marcott hockey stick, but mentioning its less illustrious forebear as well. While there is obviously quite a lot one can say about Marcott's work, I thought it best to address myself to the section on Mann. This was as follows:

The chief legitimate scientific criticism about the original “hockey stick” paper (so-called because it shows climate as nearly a straight trend through the past 1000 years, culminating in a sharp bend upward in the past 200 years,  like the blade of a hockey stick) was that Mann and colleagues generated a composite curve of actual observed global temperatures (the last 150 years or so), with older records from tree rings, ice cores, and a few other data sources. Since all these recorders measure global temperature differently, it is always a challenge to calibrate them properly so they yield a single consistent climate curve. However, NONE of these attacks on the data of Mann et al. (1998) contradict the fact that the sharp rise in temperatures in the past 200 years is real, or that it is much more rapid than any climate change we could detect from these data sources over the previous 1000 years.

As readers here will no doubt realise, this is about as wrong as it's possible to be in three sentences, so I submitted a comment as follows:

Your paragraph on the original hockey stick is not even close to being correct. The overlaying of instrumental temperatures on the proxies was a minor talking point – it merited a paragrah in my book.

The major criticisms related to use of proxy data that were known to contain a non-climatic signal and the use of an ad-hoc statistical technique that overemphasised hockey stick shaped series in the dataset and the fact that it failed standard statistical verification tests.

The point that none of the criticisms of the hockey stick refuted the idea that temperatures have risen sharply in the last 200 years is a surprising thing to say, given that the hockey stick shows temperatures rising only from the year 1900. However, that wasn’t what the hockey stick paper or the criticisms of it were about anyway (why would you need proxies to tell you about 20th century temperatures?). What was in dispute was whether the medieval warm period was warmer than today.

These words were deemed too horrible for the sensitive Skepticblog readers and my comment has not appeared.

Dr Prothero is, it seems, a man who would rather duck the possibility of being confronted with his errors.

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Reader Comments (28)

Donald Prothero has written a book - "Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters". It is a reasonable description of evolution but goes into preaching mode when he discusses the arguments by creationist. The book is full of his rantings. However, his descriptions of creationist antics are very similar to his own when he discusses climate change.

For example, on page 75 he states "Creationists books are full of mental gyrations needed to make the Noah's ark story remotely believable"

So are hockey stick books/blogs!

Apr 19, 2013 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterConfusedPhoton

Quite plain. Marcott, and redressed Mann is a meme for low information masses. Ikons are ikons for I connot tell you how many reasons.

Apr 19, 2013 at 1:24 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Your Grace,

It's quite helpful and useful to have your delightfully succinct critique of "The Hockey Stick."

Apr 19, 2013 at 1:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterDiogenes

And you are surprised because?


Apr 19, 2013 at 1:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Right...just had a look abd, eyes!!! My eyes!!!

It was clear pretty quickly where this guys loyalties lie...and it's not with objective science as the term "denier" is used liberally and freely to label anyone who dates question the catastrophilia that passes for climate science these days.

Although I was surprised that some of his justifications were links to news articles at the huffpo.

Finally, hot weather = climate change while cold weather is just weather that's cold.


Apr 19, 2013 at 1:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

"These words were deemed to horrible for the sensitive Skepticblog readers and my comment has not appeared."

It's unfair of you to deploy the humour weapon against the poor little darlings, they've no idea how to respond.


Apr 19, 2013 at 1:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterPointman

I left a perfectly reasonable comment on this article at Skepticblog yesterday pointing out the deficiencies of the Marcott paper. Needless to say it was blocked. If the science fails you the last resort of the scoundrel is censorship in the climate science arena.

I can't understand why Prothero is taken seriously by anyone.

Apr 19, 2013 at 2:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohnB

It was called a hockey stick because you need one for ice hockey and it must be cold for ice and Global Warming means no more ice and..... ramble, ramble. You all following this? Good no more ice, so increase taxes, enrich the landowners, now i know about land im a geologist dontchaknow.. blah, blah.......

Apr 19, 2013 at 2:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterNick in Vancouver

What a cogent and concise summary in your three paragraphs.

Apr 19, 2013 at 2:59 PM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle

Have I read it correctly? Is Prothero basically saying that Marcott's garbage confirms Mann's hockey stick?!

Apr 19, 2013 at 3:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh.

Typo to correct:

...deemed to horrible...

Apr 19, 2013 at 3:24 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

There may be an advantage in withdrawing our comments from pages such as this.

Without balance, warmists are likely to collapse in on themselves, and develop ever more extreme proposals which seem perfectly reasonable to them. They will, in effect, voluntarily withdraw themselves from mainstream discussions and join the David Icke brigade.

"When your enemy is making a mistake, don't interrupt him..."

Apr 19, 2013 at 3:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer


When did you submit the comment? Is there any possibility it has been held up in moderation?

[24 hours ago perhaps - others posted since]

Apr 19, 2013 at 4:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterHK

Is there perhaps a little irony in the snipping of comments from it-who-shall-not-be-named in an article about snipping of comments by other sites?

I couldn't possibly comment.

Apr 19, 2013 at 5:12 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

Apr 19, 2013 at 3:44 PM | Unregistered Commenter Dodgy Geezer

David Icke is one of us! He knows CAGW is a total crock as well.

Apr 19, 2013 at 5:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh.

I also put a comment on the blog 24 hrs ago, which said this, also posted at WUWT:

"Donald Prothero calls himself a skeptic but has not thought to question anything about the paper or look at the data on which it is based, or search the web for any criticism of it.

Incidentally there are now two criticisms of the Marcott paper up on the Science website
One from me and one from Arno Arrak.
I guess Prothero didn’t notice these either."

Apr 19, 2013 at 5:25 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

With reference to Prothero’s repeated use of the term “denier”: one definition of denier could be: one who denies facts in spite of any evidence presented.

What evidence do the proclaimed “deniers” in the climate change argument deny?
Do they climate change / global warming? Answer: No.
Do they deny CO2 is a “greenhouse gas”? Answer: No.
Do they deny humans have contributed to an increase in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere? Answer: No.
Do they deny that humans, and their modifications of local environments may have some effect upon the climate? Answer: No.

What they do question is that the climate change is alarming, to the point of catastrophic.

They also question whether it is ONLY because of humans that the climate is changing; and they question whether it is possible for us to affect the change of climate.

Finally, they question our headlong rush into unproven methods of power generation, and the commensurate reduction of large numbers of the population into fuel poverty.

There are deniers in this argument, though, who happily deny without question, and in spite of evidence being thrust into their faces: they deny that there can be any questioning of the science; they deny that there could be another cause for the climate change; they deny that it is an event that has been repeated throughout history; they deny that the main suspect (CO2 – or, more specifically, human-generated CO2; I assume that naturally-created CO2 is benign, though how you can tell the difference, I have no idea) might not be the culprit; they deny that it might not be as catastrophic as feared; they deny that the actions that we are being rushed pell-mell into may have consequences even more dire than those they predict; they even deny that the rate of warming has effectively stopped for one and a half decades.

So, who exactly are the deniers?

Apr 19, 2013 at 5:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

' However, NONE of these attacks on the data of Mann et al. (1998) contradict the fact that the sharp rise in temperatures ... is much more rapid than any climate change we could detect from these data sources over the previous 1000 years.'

Errrm, don't think so, Mr Protheroe.

'A Chinese team of scientists led by He YuXin of the University of Hong Kong, however, took a very close look at Mann’s liberally interpreted data and his postulated Central Eurasian cold zone. Using sediment cores extracted from two different lakes and using the so-called alkenone method, the Chinese scientists reconstructed the temperature development over the past 2000 years for the northern Tibetan Plateau, which according to Mann was significantly colder 1000 years ago.

The surprise was big when the new, hard data showed the opposite was in fact true. It turns out that the region of the theoretical cold in the northern Tibetan Plateau during the Medieval Warm Period was indeed not colder but was warmer than today, see Science Bulletin.'

Apr 19, 2013 at 6:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

Radical Rodent:

As I see it, the point about the use of the term ' denier' to quash, dismiss, etc., anyone not buying into the notion that CAGW was REAL! HAPPENING! needed to be confronted INSTANTLY! at WHATEVER price, is that it was coined at a time when there was an overwhelming acceptance not just on the part of Western political elites but of the Western media that the problem was indeed as described.

Given that in reality only a relatively small number of scientists, whatever their claims about a wider consensus, were driving the scare, it seemed only sense for them to come up with what surely seemed an unanswerable assertion that the only people opposing them were the kind of swivel-eyed nutcases who could surely be sneeringly, condescending written off by comparing them – and the word could hardly have been chosen at random – to those who denied the Holocaust.

The political, economic and media tide flowing so apparently irresistibly in their favour, it must have seemed a wizard wheeze at the time, a certain way of swiping aside the handful of obvious nutters still opposing them.

ANyone with serious claims to scientific objectivity who still uses the term today can, by definition, be written off as an activist, not a scientist.

The term was chosen to achieve a specific political advantage. It had and has nothing – I repeat, nothing – to do with science.

You may accordingly dismiss anyone who uses it today as desperate, properly thick or ignorant.

Apr 19, 2013 at 6:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterAgouts

Is there perhaps a little irony in the snipping of comments from it-who-shall-not-be-named in an article about snipping of comments by other sites?

No. ZDB is an abusive, disruptive troll. His Grace's post was factual and accurate. Prothero censored it because he couldn't refute it.

Apr 19, 2013 at 6:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

It's not just my coments that failed to make it then?

Who would have guessed?

Apr 19, 2013 at 6:24 PM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

What we dealing with here is Orwell's 1984 idea of a skeptic, where the only views possible are good or double plus good for there is no bad or wrong when talking about 'the cause ' for people such has Prothero. Its only ever a question of how well and how strongly you agree never that your actual 'doubt' .

Apr 19, 2013 at 6:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Not *just* a troll, but a liar too.

Apr 19, 2013 at 7:43 PM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

Prospero is just another balloon inflated to a dangerous level, well beyond his safe capacity, by the heady joys of being part of a gang, an establishment gang with lots of money, that goes around scaring people to make more money for themselves. But his grasp of key issues doesn't impress the Bish much, nor me for that matter, nor, I suspect, anyone who knows him at all well.

Apr 19, 2013 at 7:53 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Good grief. I click on the link and the first thing I'm greeted with is a graph labelled as I've volume observations since 1979.

Errmmm... Have we really been making I've volume measurements since 79? I don't think so! Yep, he's put modelled results up as if they were observations. I don't think this guy is really adding much to the debate and that is long before he gets to hockey sticks. He doesn't even seem to understand what an observation actually is.

Apr 19, 2013 at 9:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpence_UK


Yes, you are right. I totally agree with you, which was the point of my post; let us not just meekly accept the term “denier” but let us put it to those who are truly the deniers – and, to look at their techniques, associates them more with those the “deniers” in the original context seem to defend. To just go with the flow, and hope that the rest of the world catches up with us is putting a lot of hope in humanity – and hope is what humanity does seem to be rather short on. I am merely trying to turn the tide on the charlatans, and more correctly label them with the term with which they label us.

In defence of all scientific thinking, we should try to ensure that being a sceptic of a theory – any theory; Newton had his sceptics, as did Einstein, as does Darwin – does not make you a denier; it is defence of a theory despite all the evidence against it that makes you a “denier”.

Apr 19, 2013 at 9:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

For what it is worth, my post was "moderated" out, too. It does make you wonder about the argument if even a lightweight such as myself cannot be considered; surely it would make sense to air my view, then rip it to shreds - unless, of course, that option is not available, with my argument being too strong an argument.

Apr 20, 2013 at 11:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

Mr Prothero's silly "scepticblog" website does seem to be an echo chamber. I had this comment moderated out:

Guy Leech says:
Your comment is awaiting moderation.
April 19, 2013 at 5:46 pm

The post says “The voices of climate denialism, fueled by funding from the energy industries …”

What evidence is this statement based on? The books and websites I read which challenge the CAGW orthodoxy are not, as far as I am aware, funded by the energy industries. What voices are you referring to?

Apr 20, 2013 at 8:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterGuy Leech

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