Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Why I Parted Ways With Little Green Footballs

As a long time reader of LGF, I've finally given up on Charles Johnson. While he was a great help in crushing Dan Rather in Memogate, and for his honesty about the rising threat of Islamism, he's also a left-leaning statist with nary a libertarian bone in his body. Among my gripes with Charles (I had these problems with him long before his "why I left the right" post, btw):

1. Frequent and incorrect accusations of "racism." FYI charles, Kenyan isn't a race. "Racist" has little meaning anymore, since leftists throw it around at the drop of a hat, and scientists can't even define race.

2. Banning me from comments when my comments included the crimes of:
  • writing that other commenters were being jerks to me, when they were being obvious jerks to me in comments.
  • asking if Charles was a prodigal son of the left.
That's it, that's all, and I got banned. Thanks Charles, really nice treatment there.

3. He's a complete ignoramus on the second amendment issue, parroting MSM scare articles without a clue.

4. Choosing sides in the AGW debate when he has a poor grasp of the science.

Regarding #4, case in point #1: Charles' link to The Climate Killers article in which we are invited to meet "the 17 polluters and deniers who are derailing efforts to curb global warming." The problem with this idiotic link is that the authors omit MIT Professor Richard Lindzen, who is the top denier in the world, and who doesn't fit their bullshit.

Case in point #2: Charles' post New Study: US Weather Stations Not Biased Toward Warming.

If Charles had a critical eye, he would be a little skeptical of the results given by this "new study," which considered the effects of the situation of weather stations in the United States on the measured increase in temperature in the U.S. over the past century. As most of you hopefully already know, there have been complaints that some of these weather stations are poorly sited near building exhaust ports, on asphalt surfaces, etc., so that the temperatures measured at these sites will be warmer than if the weather stations had been sited better. Along comes Dr. Matthew Menne and his co-authors at NOAA NCDC with a study that looks at this problem. Their study is a good one, and shows that if these problematic stations are removed from the data set, voila! the temperature increase measured in the CONUS over the last century is actually a little higher than without the poorly sited station data.

This result, that omission of data from the poorly sited weather stations gives a greater increase in average temperatures in the CONUS, may indeed be correct. But the conclusion that "the badly situated stations tend to have a bias toward cooler temperatures" is problematic. It seems they are saying that the situation of these weather stations near probable sources of extra heat lead to cooler measurements. This is an odd result, which may turn out to be true, but it certainly warrants skepticism. Charles apparently isn't capable of such.

Here's what the researchers stated about the results:
While the poor sites had a slightly warmer average minimum temperature than the good sites (by 0.03°C), the average maximum temperature measured at the poor sites was significantly cooler (by 0.14°C) than the good sites. As a result, overall average temperatures measured at the poor sites were cooler than the good sites.
Here's the problem. The researchers don't know what the measured temperature at the poorly situated sites would have been had the sites been better situated. They only know that the poorly situated sites show overall average temperatures that are lower than those measured at the better situated sites.

There were 525 weather stations considered in the study. Of them, 71 were rated good (as in well-situated) and 454 were rated bad. The authors claim that
...the sites with good exposure, though small in number, are reasonably well distributed across the country and, as shown by Vose and Menne [2004], are of sufficient density to obtain a robust estimate of the CONUS average.
I don't have access to the Vose and Menne [2004] study mentioned, so I can't comment on the result as well as I'd like. We're supposed to just accept their result, that the 2004 study gave a "robust estimate." Robust can mean a lot of things, but in a scientific context it most often means strong. What it does not mean is accurate, otherwise they might have said that their estimate was not only robust but accurate. They didn't tell us how accurate their estimate was, nor did they compare the robustness or accuracy of their estimate to what we'd have had if all the temperature stations were well situated and used in the estimate.

Comparisons, people, I want them. And until I get them, I remain skeptical of these results.

Now here's the rub. Consider the following possibility that Charles and the study authors did not. Suppose the temperature stations were biased upward due to being poorly sited. The results of the study show that the overall average temperature in the CONUS is lower with data from these sites. If both these conjectures are true, then we have the overall result that the average temperature is actually cooler still than what is given with data from all 525 sites.

The reason this bothers me so much is that the authors seem to go out of their way to show the exact opposite result. On an anecdotal level, this seems to happen an awful lot, that errors in the research always show an increase in regional or global temperatures when corrected. Always. Sort of like how election recounts always favor Democrats. The probability of this always being the case is quite low, and so this warrants skepticism.

Anyway, the long and short of this mess is that Charles is off my reading list. He used to be on the side of the skeptics, so he claims, until he read all the stuff that he isn't capable of properly understanding, and was finally convinced. This is the problem with most people on both sides of the political spectrum taking sides in the AGW debate. Most of them aren't capable of understanding the science, and they really ought to stay out of believing one side or the other.

The big sis says I need another paragraph in here somewhere to wrap this up, but I'm out of gas, as usual. So long Charles, thanks for the links to Andy McKee.


Blogger Stickwick Stapers said...

Not gonna end it with your signature "Sit on it, Malph"?

2/04/2010 7:40 PM  

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