AP Promotes The Third Kind of Lie

UPDATE: I noticed an aspect of the AP article that is interesting, and comment on it after the remarks I’ve already made.

“There are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.” ~ Attributed by Mark Twain to Benjamin Disraeli, true origin unknown

Originally, I was considering just calling this post “Bullshit from the AP” and in a sense, that is a more accurate title because they insist on calling  things what they aren’t. So what has the illustrious media group done to earn my ire? This nonsense. The article is titled “Statisticians reject global cooling”. This is right up our alley, isn’t it? Presumably what this means is that negative trends fall outside their 95% confidence intervals on…some data (what, in particular, is unclear…). This is impossible if one is speaking of the last twelve years in either the standard surface data (HadCrut) or either analysis of the lower troposphere (RSS, UAH), since the OLS trends over that period ARE negative. A trend can’t lie outside its own 95% confidence interval. So right off the bat, something appears to be wrong with this claim. The problem is that the AP means to say “statisticians fail to reject warming on the basis of cooling”. Of course, AP can hardly be expected to understand the difference and naturally goes with the more agenda fitting, and unfortunately for them, inaccurate, wording. Let’s get a closer look:

In a blind test, the AP gave temperature data to four independent statisticians and asked them to look for trends, without telling them what the numbers represented. The experts found no true temperature declines over time.

What data were given exactly? What is “over time”? What is a “true temperature decline”? Presumably they only looked at periods longer than twelve years and only the last thirty or so years. Other wise you’d have to say that there was no “true decline” in such odd situations to make such a claim as after the eruption Pinatubo, or in the mid century cooling period. But there is something else: Statisticians who have no idea what they are looking at can’t possibly know what to look for! Appropriately enough this must have lead the Statisticians Devoid of Nulls to test for rejection of retention of! Fortunately there is some sanity injected by John Christy, who actually accurately describes what the data show:

“It pretty much depends on when you start,” wrote John Christy, the Alabama atmospheric scientist who collects the satellite data that skeptics use. He said in an e-mail that looking back 31 years, temperatures have gone up nearly three-quarters of a degree Fahrenheit (four-tenths of a degree Celsius). The last dozen years have been flat, and temperatures over the last eight years have declined a bit, he wrote.

And yet, something here is left to be desired. The AP fails to note a couple of important things. First, the thirty one year trend corresponds to about .13 degrees per decade. This is the UAH trend, more or less. But this is less than that reported by the surface groups, in spite of being a measure of the lower troposphere which should warm more. And it is much less than the trend that the IPCC forecasts for the future (especially considering the flat last twelve years). And note the innuendo “the satellite data that skeptics use”-as if only skeptics use the UAH data-in is in fact the only data set for lower troposphere temperatures available from the Climate Explorer. It is referenced in a large number of papers. There is nothing toxic about it except to Real Climate. Oh wait…

So what does the AP rely on to determine that there is no global cooling?

Since 1998, temperatures have dipped, soared, dropped again and are now rising once more. Records kept by the British meteorological office and satellite data used by climate skeptics still show 1998 as the hottest year. However, data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA show 2005 has topped 1998.

Here, again, is the shot at the satellite data as “skeptic” data (I wonder why? Not). So according to the AP, let’s not trust satellite data which agree with radiosondes, aren’t effected by any number of things which can bias surface data, etc. And let’s not trust the surface data from the Hadley center, the IPCC’s cheif reference for surface temperature change, but instead trust the US government data and that of Activist Scientist James Hansen. Right. Well, it’s two for two. Add RSS and it’s 3 to 2 against AP. Count different types as just one and it’s 2/3rds with the AP and 1 and 1/3rd (UAH/RSS and Hadley) against.

Let’s get real. Is it really believeable that the rate of global warming is going to increase relative to the last thirty years by seven tenths per century suddenly after twelve years of none whatsoever? That’s what would be necessary to make the IPCC’s projections on target. But evidently that’s what Gavin Schmidt believes will happen:

NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt predicts 2010 may break a record, so a cooling trend “will be never talked about again.”

Good luck with that Jerry. From your boss’s track record, you are gonna need it.

UPDATE: I noticed another interesting aspect of the article:

Statisticians said the ups and downs during the last decade repeat random variability in data as far back as 1880.

Anyone else smell a rat? In the middle of warming periods, can you find extended periods without warming? Sure, you can find them going back to 1880, then you’ll find them during cooling intervals. But it turns out that it is true that since 1975, there were two periods thatdidn’t see warming-1977-85 and 1981-89. Those aren’t really as long as 1997-2009, though. And there is one little problem-those periods weren’t random. They were caused by Volcanoes. NOAA previously dragged out that canard, but it was dishonest. The fact of the matter is that the 1997-2009 period has been rather unusual in the middle of “warming”. Well, the media does enjoy making data stew from soup ingredients. But soup is a poor substitute for stew.

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4 Responses to “AP Promotes The Third Kind of Lie”

  1. Steve Bloom Says:

    Gavin clarified that comment, noting that while a new record year will put to rest discussion of a post-1998/2005 cooling trend, it is unavoidable that the same crowd will begin speaking of another one as soon as the next cooler year occurs and continue doing so until another record is set. Lather, rinse, repeat.

  2. timetochooseagain Says:

    Steve-I really don’t get how setting a record all of a sudden will change that the warming is proceeding pretty slowly. It largely depends on how big a record is set.

    However, to be clear, I’m really not questioning that a new record would probably bring the trend back up. I’m skeptical of Gavin’s claim that 2010 WILL be a record. There is no way to know that. He’s just speculating.

  3. Alan Cheetham Says:

    Calculating linear trends through data without considering a visual plot of the data is one of the major mistakes in data analysis.

    The global temperature since the satellite era shows two plateaus of no change with a step change resulting from the 1997/98 El Nino: Global Temp

    Here is an example showing the effect of the 1976 Pacific climate shift on stations in Alaska: Alaska

    In both cases a simple linear trend through the whole dataset provides a misleading interpretation.

  4. timetochooseagain Says:

    Alan-In general, I agree, however I think that it is possible to account for the ENSO effects and if you combine that with solar and volcanoes, it does a good job of explaining the variability in global temperatures eg:

    Michaels, P. J., and P. C. Knappenberger (2000), Natural signals in the MSU lower tropospheric temperature record, Geophys. Res. Lett., 27(18), 2905–2908.

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