Saturday, December 27, 2014

Global Whacking: Some Clarifications

Duff writes, in comments, with reference to the previous post:
"Sabine, Feely et al. 2004 modelled the time scale of acidification" [my emphasis]. Ah yes, that titchy little word that means so much!
Modeling, Duff, is how science is done. Copernicus and Galileo did not truck around the solar system with surveying equipment measuring where things were in relation to each other ("Got to the sun yesterday, about 93 million miles from Cracow!"); they stayed home and imagined how it might be structured and what consequences such a structure might have that you could observe from earth.

Having done that, they were able to start looking at the data as test data. There was lots of data already, incidentally, and it was very good—as you know, scientists were able to make completely accurate predictions of eclipses and comet visits and planetary movements and so on in spite of their mistaken geocentrism—but it wasn't sufficient for Galileo's needs, since the geocentrists had worked out rationalizations to cover their model's problems; to clinch the question he needed something different, which turned out to be the observation with Galileo's own 1609 improved telescope of a single planet over a four-month period in 1610.

I can imagine the Duffs of the day chuckling: "Ooh, he built his own telescope, did he, and spent a few weeks looking at Venus through it? And that's supposed to outweigh all the observations made over the past 13 centuries and prove his so-called model, according to which when the sun rises it's not really the sun rising but us whirling in the opposite direction at 1,070 miles per hour? Hold onto your hats, gentlemen, I'm feeling seasick already! Must be a very special telescope!"
"While there are earlier data on ocean acidification, going back to 1910 or so and available online from the NOAA, they do not come from long-term time series observations done under controlled conditions at consistent locations," [my emphasis]" Ah, yes, 'controlled conditions', so important, you know!
Experimental control, Duff, is a necessary element of hypothesis testing, to make sure your data are pertinent to the question you're examining and not distorted by some irrelevant variable. I thought everybody learned this in primary school; I'm surprised to see you using "control" with a snicker as if it referred to some kind of "dodgy" manipulation of the facts.

A study of ocean acidification needs to be controlled for place and time. If I take a measurement of the water off Coney Island today and find a pH of 8.1, and you take one off Maidstone on Wednesday and get a pH of 7.9, that does not mean that the ocean has radically acidified this week: it means, rather, nothing at all. Coney Island and Maidstone are different places, in different conditions, and we have no idea how the conditions affect the results.

If we repeat the procedure a million and a half times, in Tahiti and Alaska one week and the Seychelles and the Falklands the next, that doesn't produce any more value than the first one, since its value was zero to start with and zero times a million and a half is zero. This, as far as I can see, is what Michael Wallace has done with the NOAA acidification data from 1910 to 1988; dumped it all year-by-year and decade-by-decade into a plotting program and mistaken the inevitable resulting noise as a "finding"—naturally a finding that nothing in particular has happened, because that's what statistical noise looks like: nothing in particular.

Wallace's chart of all the measurements from 1910 to 1920 (only four years because World War I) dumped into a single file without regard to where they were taken or whether the sample of places is comparable to the sample for 1920 to 1930, etc.
Screenshot of results from a search of the NOAA database for items relevant to ocean acidification from 1910 to 1914, from which Wallace created the chart above. Note that half of them were taken at unknown locations and none of them were taken over a time span longer than 19 months. The problem isn't that the measurements are inaccurate but that they are not commensurable with the measurements from other decades, nor are the more thoroughly done measurements from later decades commensurable with each other until you get to the JGOFS program in 1988. 
The question remains: "Who determined that the directly measured ocean pH data was not of “sufficient quality” and if it wasn’t, why then did NOAA make the data available on their website as part of other ocean data in their World Ocean Database without a caveat?" 
There is nothing whatever wrong with the NOAA data, and there is no reason why NOAA should have issued them with a "caveat".  I am sure they have all sorts of uses. They are simply not usable for what Wallace wants to do with them, aggregating them into a single database and calling them a "time series". As you see from the illustration above, they cannot form part of a time series because you have no clue how water pH levels changed in any particular place over any particular timespan as long as two years, let alone a century (by the 1960s you find a few studies carried out over terms as long as 8 or 10 years, but most of them are as short-term as those of the 1910s, and there are still tons of readings from unknown locations). It would be like trying to draw a map using a list of place names without geographical coordinates.
"a very large-scale survey" conducted at ONE!!! location since 1988!!! as opposed to millions of measurements taken around the globe over the last hundred years.
No, not at all, Duff, you are reading very carelessly. The very large-scale survey discussed in the 2004 paper was of a global inventory of 9,618 stations over a five-year period in the 1990s, "which represents the most accurate and comprehensive view of the global ocean inorganic carbon distribution available." And it was a survey of oceanic carbon distribution, as stated, not of pH, so entirely independent of the Aloha Station pH measurements or the century's worth of pH measurements to which you refer.

The carbon distribution was used, in the first place, "to provide an ocean data-constrained global estimate of the cumulative oceanic sink for anthropogenic CO2 for the period from ~1800 to 1994." Starting around 1800 because that is when massive CO2 emissions began with the industrial era. Since it is well established that oceanic carbon sinks, very gradually, over time, it was possible to date the carbon found in the survey, the oldest carbon being that at the lowest depths, and to construct the 2006 model (see below) on that basis.

The Aloha Station data were then used to test the model, on the general lines I was talking about at the top of the post, for the period 1988 to 2010, and it passed, you know. If you don't like the single-station study you can check out one (without the participation of Feely and Sabine) that covers all seven ongoing time series projects with similar results.

The evidence, as Ten Bears and Ken_L remind us, goes well beyond Richard Feely, and only gets stronger with time.
"a somewhat long-in-the-tooth graduate student (he got his BS in Plant and Soil Science in 1980)" - isn't that blatant age-ism? 
To me there is something a little odd in a person with a 30-year career as a hydrologist and a substantial list of publications (though not in ocean acidification) billing himself as a "graduate student". I'm almost certainly older than he is, anyway. Does that make me a self-hating geezer? So be it.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.


Never Ben Better said...

Acceptance of experimental results which contradict previously held beliefs is necessary to the scientific mind, and anathema to the duffs of this world.

gocart mozart said...

So I bought some lumber at Home Depot in the hopes of using it to build a rocket ship to Mars. It was totally worthless for that task! Why did Home Depot make the lumber available at their store as part of other merchandise for sale in their store without a caveat?

Ken_L said...

Not sure there's any point trying to argue with the likes of duff. He's obviously hugely thrilled to be getting all the attention, and you know you'll never change his beliefs or even get him to engage in good faith discussion. In my experience these kinds of denialists have no interest in the truth or otherwise of what they are saying; they just get a kick out of scoring imagined points off liberals in the childish game they're playing in their heads. It's best simply to ignore them IMHO or they clog up the comments threads with their tedious nonsense.

Erik C. said...

Hey, has the duffster ever acknowledged that that "kill cops" video he was pushing was proven to be fake?

Ten Bears said...

No, Erik, it has not.

Yes, "it".

Professor Fate said...

Ken L - I would say that the best way to describe Duff's opinion on well anything is to borrow the phase credited to Wolfgang Pauli and say He's "not even wrong"
and then proceed accordingly.

duffandnonsense said...

Thank you, Mr. Yastreblyansky, very informative. And I suppose it was all that 'carefully modeled science' of the '70s which predicted a new ice age - ooops, quick, about turn - so in the '80s/'90s we had some more, er, 'carefully modeled science' which predicted the planet heating up and up and up as CO2 emissions rocketed up, up and away, er, but, oh dear, none of those models **predicted a 17-year hiatus** in global temperatures.

Quick, let's all think of another 'carefully modeled' theory to explain the fact that temperatures have stuck for 17 years despite east Asia pumping out CO2 at record levels - oh yes, I know - let's invent a new model and say all the CO2 fell in the ocean - that's a good 'un!

Well it was up until some poke-nose checked actual, real measurements, not made-up ones for modeling purposes, and demonstrated that the oceans were virtually unchanged. But of course, say the 'modelers', he's just a soil scientist so what does he know? Bit like what the scientific establishment said about that up-start a hundred years ago - but he's just a clerk in the patent office in Berne, what does he know?

David Duff

Professor Fate said...

This exchange does make one wonder what Duff's views are on The Moon Landing or Evolution. Or the Big Bang theory for that matter. Don't really care to know but it does make one wonder.

duffandnonsense said...

Happy to oblige, Prof. Fake. The moon landing was an enormous waste of money. Evolution is real enough but the cause of many of the physical changes in living things is probably not tiny incremental changes as postured by 'Archbishop' Dawkins. And the 'Big Bang' theory remains exactly that - a theory.

Dark Avenger said...

Duff, nobody here wants your commentary. Why don't you go back to drinking yourself to death?

That's an undertaking which will probably be the first success that you've had in decades.

duffandnonsense said...

And a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you, too, DA!

Victor said...

I read this post to the fern in our living room, and it nodded its leaves - so I believe it probably has a better understanding of reality, than duff.

Yastreblyansky said...

Ken_L--you're right, of course. Do not feed the trolls. They're only parroting what they hear from the professionals like Charles Krauthammer anyway (Krauthammer's jowl-tremblingly indignant reference to the "patent clerk in Bern" last February inspired what is possibly my favorite Rectification post of the year.

duffandnonsense said...

From our jovial host:
"Experimental control, Duff, is a necessary element of hypothesis testing, to make sure your data are pertinent to the question you're examining and not distorted by some irrelevant variable."

Jolly good show, Yastre, old chap, I suppose you mean this sort of thing.

Several rainfall swots - Held, I.M. and Soden, B.J. 2006; IPCC. 2007. Climate Change 2007 [Solomon, S. et al. (Eds.). Cambridge University Press]; Wang, L., D'Odorico, P., Evans, J.P., Eldridge, D.J., McCabe, M.F., Caylor, K.K. and King, E.G. 2012 - all reckoned that "global warming is expected to increase the moisture-holding capacity of the atmosphere (IPCC, 2007) and to intensify hydrological cycles, especially in arid and semiarid regions," citing Held and Soden (2006) and Wang et al. (2012) in this regard"

So a collection of Chinese swots went off to the Loess Plateau (no, me neither!) and checked *real* rainfall records from 89 different weather stations since 1957! Guess what?

"the six scientists determined that annual precipitation decreased slightly in the central, southern and eastern parts of the Loess Plateau, which together account for 86% of that region's total area. They also discovered that "regional precipitation in the spring, summer, autumn, wet season, dry season, early flood period, and late flood period also exhibited insignificantly decreasing trends," with only winter showing a small precipitation increase."

Whodathunkit? More important, who did the, er, 'modelling' for the IPCC report? Still, Yastre, old chap, I expect you're glad that another theory bites the dust when tested against reality!

Tom Hilton said...

And I suppose it was all that 'carefully modeled science' of the '70s which predicted a new ice age - ooops, quick, about turn...

Sadly, no. They didn't.

Professor Fate said...

And as one might have suspected Duff does not have the slightest idea what the word 'theory' means in scientific use.

Uncle Mike said...

Yeah, that gravity "theory" is pretty flimsy, too.

Dark Avenger said...

Ignorance on two legs, that's all Duff represents.

Victor said...

Uncle Mike,
And his mom dropped the baby duff up into the sky, where he must have hit a cloud with his head, resulting in emotional trauma and reduced mental capacity.

Aunt Snow said...

So does all that make you feel better now, duff? Has your petty little ego been stroked?

Now fuck off.

duffandnonsense said...

Manners, Aunt Snow, remember, you are a lady!

Dark Avenger said...

And that Duff prides himself on not being a toff.

Ten Bears said...

Do I get points for not feeding the troll?

Yastreblyansky said...

Hey gocart, nice to see you.

Yastreblyansky said...

What? He's the Sultan of Swots!

Yastreblyansky said...


Yastreblyansky said...

Updated Blogger for Android on the telephone falsely told me it was going to let me post individual replies and I got overexcited. The previous are addressed to gocart, the Avenger, and Tom respectively.

Barry said...

Duff: "Thank you, Mr. Yastreblyansky, very informative. And I suppose it was all that 'carefully modeled science' of the '70s which predicted a new ice age - "

Note that this is not true; there was no such scientific consensus, and the few articles were generally in pop science magazines.