Proof and Genius

I know you guys missed me, Real Climate sure did. Eric Steig has written a letter to “The Guardian” (booming voice) in response to a Nic Lewis letter patiently explaining problems in an article written by yet-another-know-nothing with a keyboard.  Unfortunately for us, the article itself has been updated in response so we can’t read the original.  What is interesting about the exchange is Dr. Steig’s wild reply.

My bold.

Nicholas Lewis (Letters, 28 August) complained that your report (Arctic ice
melt likely to break record, 24 August) gave the impression that typical
temperatures in Antarctica have risen as much as on the Antarctic peninsula.
While he is correct about this, his letter also refers to an outdated study
of his, which argued that previous estimates of overall Antarctic warming
were too high. In fact, the work of Lewis and co-authors has been proven

The relevant paper here is Orsi et al, Geophysical Research Letters, vol.
39, 2012, which shows that the rate of warming in west Antarctica is as
great, or greater, than what we showed in our original work (Steig et al,
Nature, vol. 457, 2009). Moreover, Lewis’s own paper shows there has been
significant warming in west Antarctica and that the average trend over
Antarctica is of warming, not cooling as is often stated.

The reality is that the Antarctic is warming up and is contributing
significantly to sea level rise; and that there is strong potential for a
greater contribution to sea level rise from Antarctica in the future.
Professor Eric Steig
University of Washington, Seattle, USA

Our 2010  study is now outdated???
Seriously!!  This absolutely is the doctor who never learned about matlab.
For those who have not read the history of the Antarctic wars, here is a pictorial summary.

Steig said this on the cover of Nature magazine:

We said, no you screwed up the math so using the same data it is more like this:  (Ryan O’Donnel)

Because without the satellites the temperature stations alone say this:

So it absolutely cannot be the image on the right:

Steig 09 smeared the peninsula warming across the continent (see how it is missing from the peninsula on the left), but now he says O10 has been “proven” wrong.  This tells me that he has apparently never understood that  the result we produced is nothing more than thermometer data.   That is all it is.

Temperatures as reported by thermometers.  It is a skeptic plot I tell you!!

Perilously, Steig 09 was precociously printed on the previously prestigious primary page of Nature publication.  Carelessly comprised of contaminated and crappy satellite data with thermometers taking a tertiary role in tolling temperature.   Sorrily, Steig’s seminal segment was further stuffed by sloppy math.  (alitteral too far?)

So Jeff , what did he base his conclusion that the PCA distributed thermometers of O10 are now “outdated” and “proven wrong” on?

A single borehole temperature reconstruction at a single point……

One spot

—->     o     <—-


It was workmanship like that which got me labeled as a skeptic in the first place.

Notes to Real Climate and Orsi:

The PCA method S09 attempted to employ, is about redistribution of thermometer information according to covariance of AVHRR satellite data.   By nature, every temperature station affects every point in the reconstruction.  Kriging the temp stations, is a far more controlled and far more verifiable solution for the same thing and it would produce the same result as O10.   The 3 pc’s of the Steig 09 method “smeared” the thermometer data everywhere, so no matter what is published, S09 methods will NEVER be verified.   S09 can never, and will never, be correct….because it isn’t!  The fact that it is to be cited in AR5 is yet another wart on the last few grains of credibility the IPCC holds.

Sorry for that.

Does the error of S09 that mean that O10 is right?    No, of course not.  But O10 is very close to actual thermometer results.  This is because in a “skeptic” plot, we cleverly used actual thermometers.  Bunch of morons I say.  This is in direct contrast to S09 which preferred 3 pc’s of highly noisy Satellite AVHRR data WHEREVER available.  That was not a smart plan ….. Um, if you want good results.

Even with enough pc’s as O10 used, there are points in this sort of reconstruction with noisy data, where modes of the PC are a dominant factor in creating the local trends of the plot.  These methods mean that station information can be and IS copied across an entire continent.  This was proven by the S09 cover of nature(Figure 1 above). The trick is to minimize the information bleeding. What this means to me is that I am quite comfortable that the O10 reconstruction will never be proven wrong, not because something as massive and complex as o10 doesn’t contain a boo-boo, but rather because it is an approximation of a field.  The best anyone will ever do — is improve on it.

Apparently, this is something that Steig has never figured out.  He might not ever work it out, but science is a cold sport and my guess is that those who are smarter than him  ….. will.


Other notes of surprise:

What normal thinking person would take a temperature from a lousy borehole and hold that out as superior to an actual thermometer?


30 thoughts on “Proof and Genius

  1. Answer to your final question: The “normal” type person that came up with idea that a massive smearing of some temperatures was really “smart” as they got on the cover of Nature.

  2. Thanks for this Jeff – I was at BAS a couple of months ago and the use of Steig’s scary Orange Antarctica was used in soooo many presentations I was quite getting fed up with it. My memories of the release of Steig’s thing were that it was torn to shreds in the blogosphere in a very short period of time. Your recap of the main points is a welcome refresher.


  3. Oh and you get a win for the epic alliteration too. 🙂
    Perhaps you could place “peripatetic”, or perchance “priapic”, in the page there somewhere?

  4. Good to see you back.

    “What normal thinking person would take a temperature from a lousy borehole and hold that out as superior to an actual thermometer?”

    This is BAU for climate science.

    The tree-ringers throw out ring data when it disagrees with recent thermometer data, and simultaneously claim a few trees measure global or hemispheric temperatures to 0.1 C a thousand years ago.

    The tropospheric warmers threw out the temperature data and used wind shear to ‘prove’ the existence of the mid-trop hotspot.

    The silt-abuser flipped the sign of the silt proxy when necessary.

    Aerosols cool and/or warm, depending on the climate model and the operator’s whims.

    etc etc etc etc

    I can’t wait for the IPCC AR5-

    “the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on global warming will be much worse than the last one.”

    Robert Orr, UN under secretary general for planning, November, 2010

  5. Good to see you back Jeff.

    Dr. Steig, you comment here from time to time, why don’t you come here and post up how S09 “showed” warming in West Antarctica.

  6. This fits with “Team” thinking since to them a single tree in Yamal is all that is important for the entire globe. So, hey why not a single borehole for Antarctica? Look at the brightside at least they are scaling back!

  7. The hockey stick lives. I thought boreholes being closer to the core are warm anyway. How any single spot on earth can be used as proof of global average warming is beyond me.

  8. Jeff: I left this response at WUWT. What is your opinion of my analysis?

    Some points on Orsi. His Figure 3 shows warming of about 1.5 deg since the 80s. I believe this is what Steig is happy about.

    The problem, though, is that Figure 3 shows no warming from 1957 to about about 1980. Steig said there was a warming of about 0.5 deg/decade from 1957 (correct me if the dates are wrong). That would make warming of about 2.6 deg warming to 2009 (2.15 deg to 2000). Not the 1.5 deg measured by Orsi to 2000. Orsi’s start date is moot, as he shows no warming 1900-1980.

    Thus, Orsi validates O’donnel 2010 (O10), as O10 shows about 0.25 deg/decade of warming from 1957, in the location of the WAIS Divide. (yellow, 0.25 deg/decade, in the temperature scale for O10; red and 0.5 deg/decade for Steig09). O10 would give a warming of 0.25 deg/decade, vs Orsi’s 0.35, starting both from 1957.

    This is also totaly ignores the fact that Orsi shows no warming for over 20 years (1957-1980), but which Steig09 says did occur.

    Steig09 is actually proven wrong by the Orsi paper.Both in the amount of warming, and in the length of the warming, and in the slope of the warming. Orsi’s numbers are much closer to O10, except the slope.

    Granted, Orsi’s warming is about 0.75 deg/decade, but there is only two decades of warming in his record.

    Summary: From 1957, O10 shows 1.075 deg of warming to 2000. Steig09 shows 2.15 deg. Orsi’s measured warming from 1957 is 1.5 deg to 2000. O10 (-28% low) is closer to Orsi than Steig (+43% high).

    caveat: most of the numbers I use are eyeballed, albeit using a ruler for Orsi and figure 3.

  9. “A hypothesis is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon. For a hypothesis to be a scientific hypothesis, the scientific method requires that one can test it.”

    The problem for many is that the ‘proposed explanation’ is so always limited by the knowledge of the proposer; this little problem also tends to limit the ‘test’ for some reason. Remember, there is nothing new under the Sun, as always, there are very few great minds on this rock. One other observation if I may, have you noticed that there are fewer books by science fiction writers? Books are so yuck these days! Wanna’be-fiction-writers who couldn’t write a book if their life depended on it, or sell one if they could write, seem to become PhD’s these days. It may be the fact that they have an endless supply of captive, blank, young minds to blow each day. Maybe?

    PS: Hypothesis – The more we blog of, and with, science fiction PhD’s the more they make. (Hummmm.. wonder if I could do that too?;-)

  10. One good thing is that Eric remains just as dilusional (or dishonest) as he was in the original review process. Good to know that he absolutely can’t be trusted; this simplifies things, you just ingore everything he writes or says. Take his course in Mathcad indeed!

  11. Nice post Jeff. I know (or believe I know) how time pressured you are.

    Eric just can’t stand being wrong. That gets in the way of good science, and he’s very capable of that, so this is a pity for all of us, not just those who rely on him to defend the status quo.

  12. Thanks everyone. There were a few questions about Orsi’s support of Steig and where that came from in the WUWT thread.

    This quote is in the conclusion of Orsi:

    “This record also confirms the work of Steig et al.
    [2009], showing that WAIS Divide has been warming by
    0.23  0.08 C per decade over 1957–2007 C.E.”

    Which is what earned him an honorable mention in the post. Just because nonsense math resulted in a similar slope to other nonsense math, doesn’t mean it confirms anything.

    1. Jeff: If I am reading the colors right, your paper gives a 0.25 deg/decade warming (yellow) in the area of the WAIS Divide.
      Steig shows 0.5 degree/decade in his (red).

  13. Ever since the “release” of the AR5 ZOD’s it’s been obvious to me that O10 was going to get sidelined and S09 was going to continue to be promoted as the seminal paper. This just confirms it. Charlatans, the lot of them.

  14. Jeff, thanks to the courage and patience of climate skeptics and whistle blowers, and official responses from leaders of nations, editors, and heads of research organizations and institutions that confirm intentional deception, . . .

    I was finally able to “connect all the dots” and to find the words to concisely express my conclusion to Climategate:

    From Hiroshima in Aug 1945 to Climategate in Nov 2009

    Living inside the “sphere of influence” of the Sun’s pulsar core
    Is like living in electron orbits around an atom’s nuclear core
    We are humbly connected to RTG (Reality, Truth, God), or
    We are arrogantly connected to false illusions of control !


    The conclusion is being written here;

    It is consistent with the conclusion of many other scientists and religionists:

    We can arrive at the same RTG (Reality, Truth, God) by many different paths:
    Experimentation, observation, meditation, contemplation, silence, prayer, etc.

    Thank you, Jeff, for all that you have done to make this possible.

    With kind regards,
    – Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

  15. “This record also confirms the work of Steig et al.
    [2009], showing that WAIS Divide has been warming by
    0.23 0.08 C per decade over 1957–2007 C.E.”

    Jeff, I am curious whether the borehole was actually a bore hole or an ice core measurement. I have recorded and analyzed a number of ice core measurements and found these result greatly varying – as a proxy for temperature – over relatively short distances. The O18 and H2 isotope ratio proxy concepts for temperature are probably the best temperature proxies available in my opinion, but these proxies are better at measuring large changes in temperatures as occurred over a complete glacial period than in getting smaller changes like we see over the modern warming period correct.

    If Steig is making his claim based on a single proxy measurement, I would think that would be evidence that he has been spoiled by the climate science community that seems to accept without criticism conclusions that are in agreement with the consensus.

  16. Jeff, thanks for the copy of the Orsi paper. Here I would like to comment on the my earlier surmise that Steig was premature in his assessment of the impact of this paper on the Steig/ O’Donnell debate. First of all the O’Donnell paper pointed to problems of the Steig paper and those problems do not go away because a single borehole happens to agree more closely with the Steig paper than the O’Donnell paper.

    As we know the basis of using borehole temperature profiles to model the surface ground temperature history uses the inverse methods which are inherently ill posed. The method obtains solutions through subjective selection of parameters and assumptions. There are actually a couple of approaches to using borehole profiles for temperature reconstruction:

    “2 Ways to Interpret Depth Profiles:

    Forward Modeling: Straightforward “trial-and-error approach.” Compute the temperature-depth profile given an estimate of the past surface temperature history, and adjust the input temperature history according to the discrepancy between borehole observation and constructed profile. _

    Inversion: Several mathematically sophisticated inverse methods exist. Requires subjective judgement in choice of method, parameterization of reconstruction (eg. judgements of data quality), assessment of uncertainty, resolution”

    Click to access Pollack_and_Smerdon_Journal.pdf

    What surprises me is that borehole measurements and temperature reconstructions are rather well accepted by many in and outside the climate science community as a valid measurement of , at least, low frequency changes in past temperatures.

    The comment below from Wikipedia warns against using borehole measurements, with the poor temporal resolution existing in these methods, for comparison with the instrumental temperature record.

    “At the start of the 20th Century, their resolution is a few decades; hence they do not provide a useful check on the instrumental temperature record.”[

    In addition we have the difference of surface air temperature versus ground measurement.

    “However, they record surface temperature not the near-surface temperature (1.5 meter) used for most “surface” weather observations. These can differ substantially under extreme conditions or when there is surface snow. In practice the effect on borehole temperature is believed to be generally small.”

    We also have the warning in the excerpt from the paper linked below about placing confidence in a single borehole measurement.

    “We examine the subhemispheric spatial correlation of GST and SAT trends at various
    spatial scales. In the 5-degree grid employed for optimal detection, we find that the
    majority of grid element means are determined from three or fewer boreholes, a
    number that is insufficient to suppress site-specific noise via ensemble averaging…

    …To appreciate the significance of this sparse occupancy, one must recognize the uncertainties that affect the interpretation of individual borehole temperature profiles. The inevitable presence of site-specific noise in subsurface temperatures (see Shen et al. [1995] and Pollack and Huang [2000] for a discussion of these effects), has led geothermal researchers to caution against placing confidence in a reconstruction derived from a single borehole; more typically they discuss regional ensembles of data [Shen et al., 1995; Pollack et al., 1996] and the regional climatic reconstructions derived from the data ensembles. This procedure has parallels in the assembly of a dendroclimatological chronology. A chronology derived from a single tree would surely be viewed with skepticism compared to a chronology assembled from scores of trees. [18] To enhance the regional climate signal while suppressing site-specific noise, geothermal researchers employ simultaneous inversion of several boreholes [Beltrami et al., 1997] or averaging of several individual reconstructions [Shen et al., 1995]. Simultaneous inversion seeks a signal compatible (within tolerance levels) with all of the individual borehole temperature profiles; the averaging technique operates under the assumption that site-specific noise is random and cancels under averaging, whereas a regional climate signal is common and additive.”

    Click to access Pollack_and_Smerdon_Journal.pdf

    In commenting on the various ice core records the Orsi paper states the following:

    “In addition, other records have weak trends (South Pole [Mosley-Thompson et al., 1993]), or slightly increasing trends (Siple Dome [Mayewski et al., 2004]), raising the possibility of considerable spatial heterogeneity of the climate signal within Antarctica.”

    What I find amusing is that if a layperson or non member of the climate science community were to make a very incautious statement such as Steig did here that person would be severely (and rightly so) criticized for their lack of a broader view of the issue at hand.

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