the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Paul Matthews — A Journal Publication on the Air Vent Reader Background Thread

Posted by Jeff Id on February 11, 2015

How can you start an anonymous blog, writing on a topic of science, with near zero advertising and expect to have any readers.   Seriously, the first article I wrote here had like 9 views in 24 hours!  The unlikely visitors were probably looking for furnace vents or something. It hardly justified the time put into writing but everyone has an opinion so better out than in right….   Well this is a lot of years later and after some time this blog was blessed with a lot of readers. As Paul Matthews paper demonstrates, the readership here was far from an average slice of the population.   The comment level was so high on this (and other skeptic blogs), that I started a reader background thread to capture the social profile of what is happening.  It quickly became one of my favorite threads here and I put a permanent link to it at the top of the page. Reader Paul Matthews found the thread interesting enough that he has written — and published — a journal article describing distribution of the skeptical blog community and unsurprisingly to those who have traversed these pages, it is comprised of a group of highly educated and extremely scientific individuals.

A link to Paul Matthews announcement of publication is here .  A preprint version of the article is online here:

At his blog, Paul writes:

A little over a year ago I noticed a call from the journal Environmental Communication for a special issue of articles on “Climate change communication and the internet”.  For some time I had been thinking vaguely about writing something about the interesting Reader Background thread at Jeff Condon’s Air Vent blog, so I wrote a paper on this and sent it to the journal.


Some interesting quotes:

A particularly striking aspect of the comments on the Reader Background thread is
the high level of educational background. Forty of the 154 sceptics state that they have
a PhD degree. Of these, 12 are in chemistry, 8 in some form of engineering, 8 in physics,
4 in mathematics, 3 in biological sciences, and the remaining 5 in arts subjects, computer
science, economics or unspecified. A further 11 contributors cite an MSc degree as their
highest educational level, while three have an MBA. Of the remainder, 46 have a BSc and
14 a BA degree.

This relatively high proportion of contributors who changed their opinion substan-
tially on the issue of climate change does not provide support for the hypothesis that
the views of individuals are largely determined by their worldview or cultural background
(Kahan et al., 2012; Poortinga et al., 2011), and fits better with the view of Smith and
Leiserowitz (2012) that worldview and political ideology are minor factors.
This emphasis on scientific details is to be expected given the scientific focus of this
particular blog and the high level of scientific and technical background of the commenters,
noted in the previous section. In this regard, the blog is typical: a survey of climate sceptic
blogs found that the most prominent of these generally tend to concentrate on scientific
aspects of the climate debate (Sharman, 2013)
I couldn’t agree more that the skeptical climate blogs are typically very high science content.  This is true even in comparison to the AGW advocacy groups like the ironically named “skeptical science”.  While tAV readers of the past and present are my personal favorites ;),   the concept Paul Matthews expresses of high education and limited bias holds true across most skeptic blogs.  The Blackboard, Climate Audit, Tallbloke, Judith Curry, WUWT, Lubos Motl’, Brandon Shollenberger, Trees for the Forest, Jo Nova, on and on and on….. The readership and authorship is educated and intelligent far beyond what is generally portrayed in media. The reality is that the threads of these blogs often contain as much or more information than the posts.
I was very much surprised to see a publication on the Air Vent thread, (at least one which doesn’t involve accusations of a nonsense conspiracy theory) and am especially pleased to see the recognition of quality of the readership here and skeptical blogs in general.  As the article notes, the Air Vent has seen better days.  It leaves me longing for the old days when our company was smaller and I had more time for serious climate study.  The recognition of the readership of these blogs is the real story and that is well past due.
Congratulations to Paul Matthews et al. and even more to the general open-minded climate community.

28 Responses to “Paul Matthews — A Journal Publication on the Air Vent Reader Background Thread”

  1. Mark T said

    Huh, I read the short blurb at Bishop-Hill but did not read the linked article. Reading the comments there, I did not think it was about the thread here (which I did comment in) until I checked. I guess I’ve (we’ve) been studied now! 😉

    Personally, time and interest have taken me away from serious study of the signal processing aspects of the great scam, though I do keep current on what has been happening, just reserving most of my comments for stupid things Mosher says (I swear he is actually more than one person, or schizophrenic). My job for the last 3 1/2 years has been mentally exhausting (sat-comm SDR) leaving me in no mood to think after I get home from work. Scotch is a frequent friend these days. 😉

    I still check in here on occasion, however, just to see what you have been up to. I hope all is well.


  2. A gem of a thread and a legacy for your blog. The perspective is badly needed. There does not seem to be any inclination for critical thought within the climate science community. The current discussion about Marotzke and Forster at CA stimulated by your old buddy Nic Lewis is the latest case in point.

  3. Say Jeff, for some of us The Air Vent and Climate Audit were stations
    along the Climate ‘Change’ road to Damascus.

  4. ianl8888 said

    > … the ironically named “skeptical science”

    Not irony, Jeff, simply low level sarcasm

  5. stan said

    Jeff, would you have any interest in weighing in on the BEST post that Zeke, Mosher et al put up at Judy Curry’s?

    I have little regard for any effort which purports to take a pile of crap and slice and dice it with sophisticated statistics such that they turn it into gold. Didn’t turn out well for the Wall Street firms that hired the best stats talent on the planet to take crappy mortgages and sliced them with a tranche-o-matic into supposed investment grade gold.

    The simple question raised deals with the adjustments which turn the temp history of Paraguay, for example, from cool to hot. If the consensus crowd wants me to accept their databases, they have to carefully show how the station histories deserve those kind of adjustments. Simply declaring that their algorithm works great on the global scale regardless of the crap it turns out locally won’t get it. I’m not willing to accept their regal declaration that all is well when I can see the messes they create.

    • Jeff Id said

      I haven’t looked at the code of the algorithm but they justify it by the fact that the global trend doesn’t change — much. While that is a reasonable conclusion, the auto-homogenization uses data from adjacent areas to “correct” trends in local regions. The bias in their trend seems to be net-positive from the raw data and the black box method provides no strictly statistical justification for this shift. The difference could be entirely erroneous in direction and magnitude. However it is still a small net effect.

      Your comment is the second report I’ve heard of local information bleeding. Brandon Shollenberger wrote the same thing. I still have not verified that it actually occurs myself, but that is exactly what “homogenization” by step removal would be expected to do – take information (trends) from adjacent regions and apply them to local temperature stations. Some bias in an algorithm like that is literally impossible to avoid, but it may be too small to worry about. On a local scale, the change in trend could be quite large depending on the information blending distance. It might be like Steig’s paper except that the average trend of all the data comes out similar to the raw. If there are areas with positive changes in trend, the global or even the larger area result means that they are mostly balanced by some negative changes in other areas.

      I basically agree with you. The global result means that the algorithm probably isn’t that bad but nowhere has its complexity been justified as necessary or even beneficial. As you likely know, it is very hard to beat an average for accuracy.

  6. Geoff Sherrington said

    Hi Jeff,

    We hope and trust that you are keeping well (I am not).
    As one of the graduate respondents to your April 2010 blog thread, might I simply say that Paul Matthews seems to have it just about right?
    Geoff Sherrington Australia

    p.s. Yesterday I posted 3 essays in a comment at Climate Etc
    plus one lead essay on JoNova

    Not wishing to be seen as disloyal to you, but are you opening for more business now?

    • Jeff Id said


      I’m sorry to hear you are having trouble. I’m still well enough but working way too much. I’ve just lost another weekend to work. You are of course quite welcome to contact by email for blog use or any other reason you may see fit. Don’t worry a bit about loyalty to this free webpage though, it is more important that hard work has solid readership.

  7. Carrick said

    Jeff, Paul Matthews wrote a fascinating article. I suppose your reader thread (which was indeed very eye opening) is worthy of such study.

    One thing that wasn’t really touched on there was “why are people here”. Or why were people here, when you were here. 😉

    I think your technical background drew a fair number of us, and the fireworks in some of your commentary drew more. There were some incredibly technical threads, some of which I participated, and some of which I didn’t, and a few where I was the target of skepticism from others. I found none of that off-putting, unlike what I find on what are supposed to be mainstream science blogs.

    I’m guessing I’m one of the eight not categorized. I’d have to actually describe myself as a “climate moderate”. That puts me roughly in the same camp as James Annan, though possibly I am less skeptical that there could be benefits for moderate warming, and I am probably more skeptical of claims about the supposedly significant level of damage from the current level of anthopogenically induced climate change.

    LIke you I think there is much exaggeration and intentional misinformation, which I find completely appalling. Since I tend to be vocal about these themes with colleagues, they are often surprised to find that my views on the basic climate science are much more mainstream. I think I can afford to be more vocal, because I don’t receive climate science funding, and don’t expect to receive any in the future. If you say the wrong thing in some communities, no question that can affect your future fundability.

    • Jeff Id said

      The one aspect of all of this that often is misrepresented is that skeptics universally ‘believe’ in global warming. The media, and main-stream climate scientists love to portray the opposite.

      For me this is not about black and white or even about the environment, AGW has been about a global scale gross misrepresentation of science. Blog writers and commenters have documented an overwhelmingly biased misrepresentation and corruption of the scientific process for ostensibly pro-government reasons. A mess like this attracts a lot of smart technical people who don’t have as much preconceived bias or personal pressures as those in the field do. The billions of dollars of funding they receive feels insurmountable sometimes, then you realize an article like Nic Lewis just wrote at CA corrects another huge chunk all over again.

      • Carrick said

        Well I agree with much of what you say about exaggeration and misrepresentations, which is why people see me being critical of so much of how the mainstream climate science is portrayed.

        It’s saying something that some very liberal people (Obama voters) have made the journey to complete skeptics. I have one colleague who views climate science on the same level as string theory.

        If you knew what he thought of string theory (the only “prediction” of string theory, and it really represents a tuning of the model, is “3+1 non-compact dimensions”), you’d realize just how negative of a view that is.

        I view the current overselling on par with Y2K, but worse. Catastrophic AGW is responsible for everything bad, and if we all gave up our wealth and lived in teepees things would be better in a lot of ways.

        When you were in business, this was a go-to place to get good quality discussion, up there with Lucia’s and Brandon’s blog. What I value about you, Brandon and Lucia, is that none of you ever seem willing to moderate what you had to say to just keep readership, or prevented people from participating simply to control what people said to keep it flattering towards you or to keep the blog comments “on message” (it’s not just activist blogs that have problems in this regard btw).

        if you ever started back up, looking at uncertainty in BEST is a good start.


  8. timetochooseagain said

    I would have appreciated supplementary material explaining who was categorized how.

  9. dfhunter said

    Hi Jeff, hope all is well 🙂
    nice to see your post linked to by Paul.

    had a read thru the comments again to refresh my memory & thought this reply by Roddy was worth a quote given it was 5yrs ago now –

    “Roddy Campbell said
    April 21, 2010 at 1:05 pm
    I’m a Brit Fund Manager / Trader, age 50, used to be a mathematician but where I went to school statistics was considered low maths, it was for actuaries and common people, so I’m weaker in that area. Also read politics philosophy and economics, so the whole combo makes me feel cleverer than I am.

    1 Almost all environmental/scientific stuff in my life has been hyped and exaggerated, from swine flu to mad cow to killer bees to HIV, you all know the list. On the other hand, the anti-pollution legislation has been terrific, air is clean, water clean, brain damage from lead all gone etc, on my farm we had to stop pouring slurry into the river system back in the 70’s sometime.

    2 Vociferous greens are nuts, and so anti-libertarian it makes one weep. And they will believe almost anything, they seem to have no filter, and can be staggeringly ignorant about their subject.

    3 But so long as they were confined to the WWF and Greenpeace and stayed away from me, and every now and then did something good like saving the whale or annoying the French, it was ok.

    4 But then ‘they’ increasingly wanted things to be bad, and wanted it to be man’s fault, the Michael Crichton ‘environmentalism the successor of Judeo-Christianity’ essay. We had to be sinners, even though on any measurable basis the developed world was doing rather a good job of not sinning, from where I stood.

    5 And along came the IPCC and Al Gore, and over a decade the whole thing went crazy, the planet was endangered by our sinning, local went global, the scientists and activists and teepee dwellers and ngo’s and G7 protestors and anti-globalisation campaigners and wind turbine manufacturers and doomsters and politicians all got in a big tent together, and started taking acid and going to Copenhagen.

    6 With the result that if you even made a joke about the actual cost-benefit to the planet of recycling a milk bottle you were asked to leave the room.

    7 And this was becoming rather annoying, because it began to affect selfish me. It probably wasn’t all true, my children shouted at me if I left the tap running while brushing my teeth, my taxes would go up, British jobs would be exported as we ‘did our bit’, and total a-holes would make a fortune, and people who had annoyed me since 1975 would crow.

    8 Then, whoopee, whoop whoop, tAV, CA, WUWT and so on came into my ken, and, oh joy of joy, climategate shortly after.

    On re-reading the above I sound like a biased religious nutcase myself, I see. But really, that is not the case. I’m a Pielke-ist, please show me why we should do this, and show me the numbers, show me the cost and benefit of mitigation, and of adaptation. And don’t tell me that the UN should use sanctions against any emerging country that builds a coal power station, it’s just stupid, impractical, and inhuman.

    Pip pip”

    Pip pip – only a Brit could end with such a upbeat note 😉

  10. Wendy Thompson said

    The Ranque Hilsch vortex tube “provides empirical evidence that a force field acting on molecules in flight between collisions causes an interchange of molecular potential energy (relative to that force field) and kinetic energy. This creates a temperature gradient in the plane of the force field because only the kinetic energy component affects temperature. That temperature gradient in a steady force field represents the state of maximum entropy (thermodynamic equilibrium) which the Second Law of Thermodynamics tells us will tend to evolve autonomously. We note that specific heat (Cp) appears in the denominator of the temperature gradient, just as it does in expressions for the temperature gradient caused by the force of gravity in all planetary tropospheres.”

    Such temperature gradients continue in sub-surface regions of Earth even down to the core. Because the gradient is the state of thermodynamic equilibrium, any additional thermal energy supplied at the ccoler (outer) end will disturb that state. The Second Law tells us a new state will evolve and this obviously entails some thermal energy transfer by conduction or convection towards the warmer regions as explained in our group’s website.

    Therein lies the explanation as to how thermal energy from the Sun makes its way to the core of any planet or satellite moon, including our own Moon where core temperatures are over 1300°C.

  11. “DFhunter quote one “Roddy Campbell at length. One point deserves a reply – and that pertains to his generalizations about the environment and the benefits of environmentalism.

    On the one hand, “Almost all environmental/scientific stuff in my life has been hyped and exaggerated, from swine flu to mad cow to killer bees to HIV, you all know the list.” Fair enough.

    But “On the other hand, the anti-pollution legislation has been terrific, air is clean, water clean, brain damage from lead all gone etc, on my farm we had to stop pouring slurry into the river system back in the 70’s sometime.” Except that the data in the US show that these declines, in general, precede legislation.

    And then the continuing declines in, say, air pollution and heavy metal contaminants, decade by decade, out pace official goals.

    Why is that? Simply, that newer, better technology is cleaner – productively speaking. In other words, one huge often uncredited leap in “environmentalism” is not the product of beneficial bureaucratic overlords, helping everyone. But simply the work of competitive markets seeking faster, more, better and therefore more efficient (and thus cleaner) results.

    This Truth gets air-brushed by environmentalists, and it allows the anti-human and anti-industrial and anti-technology hippies to get away with anti-environmental lies and promote their scare-mongering. And the political “credibility” of these eco-hysterics emboldens the CO2-hating AGWA cult to get funding to perpetuate all their madness.

    DON’T LET THEM! Defend the Truth. Technological progress is human, and humane, and engineers are the leading heroes of civilization and the environment.

  12. Ghowe said

    Orson Olson said:

    Technological progress is human, and humane, and engineers are the leading heroes of civilization and the environment.


    I sent Mr. Campbell’s comment to some friends. I should have included Mr. Olson’s as well. You guys are great. Thanks Carrick, great reading, as usual.

    Congrats Jeff on all the success. Glad to see you are still posting.
    Now, back to work!

  13. omanuel said

    Are other Climategate fans concerned that the internet may not survive?

    Is the entire future of the internet now at risk, as Tom Fernandez suggests?

  14. CS said

    Jeff, I thought I’d chime in on the readership topic: in addition to having technical graduate degrees, I thought you might be interested to know that I’d be considered a liberal in most circles, or at least on most topics. I am only a mild skeptic (“lukewarmer”?), but an open minded skeptic all the same. See, not all liberals are bad. 😉

    • Jeff Id said

      I have a lot of liberal readers. I just wish that liberals would catch on to the fact that their party isn’t about liberty, it is about authoritarianism of the most severe kind.

    • Jeff Id said

      Actually, if you could personally experience the cash taken directly from me by only the CHANGE in taxes from this administration, you might rethink. If you had the experience of not being able to compensate your employees as they deserve because of taxes sent to non-working people, that might do it too. Or maybe the incredible pressure of sending jobs overseas in exchange for 10X your salary. All because of LIBERAL policies. We simply won’t do it — yet anyway.

      It is not ok to be liberal anymore, which doesn’t make you a bad person. The problem is that most haven’t figured it out yet.

    • Jeff Id said

      actually, I don’t want to sound bitter about it, but it is a reality. Freedom is suffering a death by a thousand cuts under liberalism and I need to be free.

  15. Andrew McRae said

    I posted a late comment on your Merry Christmas thread that you probably didn’t read.
    Since then I have increased the virtual Earth’s climate sensitivity, decreased the Svensmark effect by 30%, and the resulting RMS Error was cut in half.
    I can see how climate modellers end up believing their own models as the process is quite addictive.

    • Jeff Id said

      I did read it. From Wiki:

      With four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk.
      Attributed to von Neumann by Enrico Fermi, as quoted by Freeman Dyson in “A meeting with Enrico Fermi” in Nature 427 (22 January 2004) p. 297

      It is more true than people realize. We probably cannot solve climate science through well matched regression, but you don’t have to be an aeronautical engineer to assume that we will continue to try.

  16. Wiley said

    The enjoyable thing concerning this advantage is
    that they can even be present in several links in the diverse sites.

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