Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rabett goes Romm

Ian Plimer has written the most Titanic load of nonscience in the history of make believe and there are some real contenders out there. And Eli does mean TITANIC with a capital TITANIC. Big, really huge. Not one word you can believe, not one graph not photochopped.

Tim Lambert (aka Deltoid) calls Plimer out as Tim Lambert (aka Deltoid) calls Plimer out as Plimer the Plagerist, Ian Enting got a good laugh, but after 46 pages of listing Plimerrors was found rolling on the floor and had to be sedated, Eli Rabett, that excellent lagomorph, went out for a few jars of absinthe after a couple of paragraphs and has mercifully forgotten what he read.

Plimer's response, the woe-is-me whining, caused brain damage in readers from its self pity. The whine was so loud ambulances could not be heard. Substance-free ad hominem innocent victim Plimer thinks his only sin is to have — cue violins — patiently and persistently written excellent, peer-reviewed research on aspects of the climate. All with a room temperature IQs disagree.

In the real world Plimer routinely tries to drown the reputation of top scientists — including all of NOAA— with no justification whatsoever. Chicken Plimer big mouths challenges to debate, and then wankers out.

So let’s set the record straight. Ian Plimer is the most debunked Aussie in the science blogosphere, possibly the entire universe. Heck, computer scientist Tim Lambert (aka Deltoid) has a whole category just for Ian, which I commend to anyone who still takes the man seriously. There are some things that call for a full frontal assault and Mt. Plimer is one of them.

But Eli digresses, what really is needed here is a first class fisking, and there is so much to frisk. Plimer has the most (unintentionally) damning book I’ve ever seen, parts of which I’m going to reproduce here since I’m sure progressives will want to use them in explaining why we must never go back to the deny-delay policies of the fossil fool industry. Take IP's take on Mauna Loa, please, in Plimer Purple Prose.
The measurement of CO2 in the atmosphere is fraught with difficulty. There is a 180 year record of atmospheric CO2 measurement by the same method. It has been measured with an accuracy of 1-3% from 1812 until 1961 by a chemical method. (2090).
Where Ian signs on to the Diplom Beck express. Eli has had a word or two on these Beckies. Beck, the credulous, accepted any measurement without a critical evaluation of whether it made any sense.
Between 1812 and 1961 there have been more than 90,000 measurements of atmospheric CO2 by the Pettenkofer method. These showed peaks in atmospheric CO2 in 1825, 1857 and 1942. In 1942 the atmospheric CO2 content measured by these methods (400 ppmv) was higher than now. 2091 A plot of the CO2 measured by these methods shows that for much of the 19th Century and from 1935 to 1950, the atmospheric CO2 was higher than at present and varied considerably.
As Ferdinand Engelbeen said
Besides the quality of the measurements themselves, the biggest problem is that most of the data which show a peak around 1943 are taken at places which were completely unsuitable for background measurements. In that way these data are worthless for historical (and current) global background estimates. This is confirmed by other methods which indicate no peak values around 1943.
and Ferdinand has the data to show that the middle of Vienna (500 ppm minimum and huge variations) ain't the best place in the world to measure CO2, nor are most of the other Pettenkofer hangouts.

The method itself sucks. 1-3% would be 3 - 9 ppm CO2, but that is if the operator gets it right, the moon is in Aquarius and you believe six impossible things before breakfast. There is lots of evidence that lots of them couldn't find a CO2 concentration in a paper bag with handles. More on that later.

Ralph Keeling pointed out that reporting 90,000 measurements of nonsense is simply a lot of nonsense
It should be added that Beck’s analysis also runs afoul of a basic accounting problem. Beck’s 11–year averages show large swings, including an increase from 310 to 420 ppm between 1920 and 1945 (Beck’s Figure 11). To drive an increase of this magnitude globally requires the release of 233 billion metric tons of C to the atmosphere. The amount is equivalent to more than a third of all the carbon contained in land plants globally.
But Plimer charges forward with an argument that might impress a dumb frog
There are great variations in CO2. A simple home experiment indoors can show that in a week, CO2 can change by 75 ppmv. A variable CO2 content is exactly as expected, a smooth CO2 curve rings alarm bells.
This is crazy Eddy stuff. Your house is a small closed chamber in which cooking and heating goes on and CO2 can collect. The atmosphere is large, open, and has winds which mix stuff together. There can be issues close to the ground in agricultural or urban areas, but once you get into the free troposphere above the inversion layer thing get smooth.

Plimer continues
In 1959, the measurement method was changed to infra-red spectroscopy with the establishment of the Mauna Loa (Hawaii) station, and measurements were compared with a reference gas sample.
Well, that is true
Compared to the Pettenkofer method, infra-red spectroscopy is simple, cheap and quick.
Quick yes. Simple, in the sense of straightforward, but cheap only after someone buys the equipment. OTOH, the Pettenkorfer method is a titration which only requires some inexpensive glassware.
The infra-red technique has never been validated against the Pettenkofer method.
Plimer also, some how, neglects to think (that is asking a lot perhaps) that calibrations against primary standard mixtures is a more accurate method of measuring accuracy than calibration of two methods against each other. Since the IR method was calibrated against standard mixtures, its accuracy has been confirmed. One could ask if the Pettenkorfer method was calibrated against accurately mixed standards. The literature, at least the papers Eli has read are quiet on that matter. Still the Pettenkofer methods, or at least the Pettenkorfers, were compared with the calibrated IR method. The Pettenkorfer method was found very wanting. There is a small footnote in Charles Keeling Rewards and Penalties of Monitoring the Earth describing how
At two stations in Finland, samples collected by station personnel had been sent to Scripps. These samples yielded nearly the same concentrations as those measured at Mauna Loa Observatory, proving that the errors in the Scandinavian program were mainly analytical rather than due to variable CO2 in the air being sampled.
Still Ian Plimer persists
The raw data from Mauna Loa is 'edited' by an operator who deletes what is may be considered poor data. Some 82% of the raw CO2 measurement data is "edited" leaving just 18% of the raw data measurements for statistical analysis. With such savage editing of raw data, whatever trend one wants to show can be shown.
For this, Peter Tans of NOAA called Plimer out as a con artist, showing that there are well studied meteorological reasons for excluding excluded data, and that even if one includes the non-background data the differences are only slight, with the seasonal cycle becoming a bit larger due to upslope winds, esp. during the summer and a bit here is maybe 1 ppm or so. Plimer is making an argument from ignorance here. Tans didn't see the infamous lie that Plimer next uttered or he might go Rush Limbaugh on Revkin Plimer.
In publications, large natural variations in CO2 were removed from the data by editing in order to make an upward-trending curve showing an increasing human contribution of CO2.
It is difficult to imaging a fate nasty enough for someone who would attack others in this way. Plimer should get down on his knees and beg forgiveness but he continues
The early Mauna Loa and South Pole CO2 measurements were considerably below measurements made at the same time in northwestern Europe from 21 measuring stations using the Pettenkoffer method. During the period these 21 stations were operating (1955-1960), there was no recorded increase in atmospheric CO2. There is poor correlation between temperature and the greatly fluctuating atmospheric CO2 content measured by the Pettenkofer method.
Of course, we now know that these 21 stations were measuring strange and local conditions badly done. As Charles Keeling writes
At the IUGG meeting there were also presentations of CO2 data obtained by the chemical methods, and an honorary address by Dr. Kurt Buch, who had championed atmospheric CO2 measurements in Finland as early as 1920. Atmospheric CO2 measurements at an array of stations over Scandinavia, reported routinely since 1955 in a new journal, Tellus, were presented.

This Scandinavian program, started by Rossby in 1954, had been a major factor in triggering interest in measuring CO2 during the IGY. Nevertheless it was quietly abandoned after the meeting, when the reported range in concentrations, 150–450 ppm, was seen to reflect large errors. Rejected along with the Scandinavian sampling program was Rossby’s hypothesis that CO2 concentration data could be useful to tag air masses (14).
Some people can recognize the truth, but not Ian Plimer, he likes the mumbo jumbo
The Pettenkofer method measurements in northwestern Europe showed that CO2 varied between 270 and 380 ppmv, with annual means of 315-331 ppmv. There was no tendency for rising or falling CO2 levels at any one of the measuring stations over the 5 year period. Furthermore, these measurements were taken in industrial areas during post-World War II reconstruction and increasing atmospheric CO2 would have been expected.
It ain't a feature, the large changes are a bug, showing that the Pettenkorfer measurements are useless or in error because they are being measured in places where the CO2 is not well mixed. The fact that they were taken in industrial areas shows that they are completely untrustworthy as even Plimer could see from this jaunt through Essen Germany while measuring CO2. The wild assed guess about WWII is just that.
While these measurements were being undertaken in northwestern Europe, a measuring station was extablished on top Mauna Loa in order to be far away from CO2 emitting industrial areas. The volcano Mauna Loa emits large quantities of CO2, as do other Hawaiian volcanoes. (2006). During a volcanic eruption the observatory was evaculated for a few months and there was a gap in the dat record which represented the period of no measurement. There are now no gaps in the Mauna Loa data set. (2097)
Except that the volcanic CO2 at MLO is well characterized. Most days it does not even contribute 1 ppm at the times when it is flowing downslope (the times which are excluded). This is dealt with in a 2001 article by Steve Ryan Ryan, S. (2001), Estimating volcanic CO2 emission rates from atmospheric measurements on the slope of Mauna Loa, /Chem. Geol., 177/, 201-211 and Quiescent Outgassing of Mauna Loa Volcano 1958-1994. The background emission from the Mauna Loa has been studied, and even during an eruption the extra amount of CO2 at the Observatory is not large

Plimer clearly is selling some funny weed,
The annual mean CO2 atmospheric content reported at Mauna Loa for 1959 was 315.93 ppmv. This was 15 ppmv lower than the 1959 measurements for measuring stations in northwestern Europe. Measured CO2 at Mauna Loa increased steadily to 351.45 ppmv in early 1989. (2098) The 1989 value is the same as the European measurements 35 years earlier by the Pettenkofer method, which suggests problems with both the measurement methods and the statistical treatment of data.
Yes, it suggests that the Pettenkorfer measurements were bollocks. Plimer has swept down the memory hole the fact that the IR measurements are continually calibrated against standard mixtures of CO2, which means that the Pettenkorfer measurements which were not calibrated against such mixtures, are the ones that are wrong.
In fact, when the historical chemical measurements are compared with the spectroscopic measurements of air trapped in ice and modern air, there is no correlation. Furthermore, measurement at Mauna Loa is by infra-red analysis (2099, 2100) and some of the ice core measurements of CO2 in trapped air were by gas chromatography (2101)
Let's see, two methods of measurement come up with the same answer (GC and IR), one method is wildly different. Which do you trust if you are Ian Plimer
The Mauna Loa results change daily and seasonally. Night time decomposition of plants and photosynthesis during sunlight change the data, as does traffic and industry. Downslope winds transport CO2 from distant volcanoes and increase the CO2 content. Upslope winds during afternoon hours record lower CO2 because of photosynthetic depletion in sugar cane field and forests. The raw data is an average of four 4 samples from hour to hour. In 2004 there were a possible 8784 measurements. Due to instrumental error 1102 samples have no data, 1085 were not used due to up slope winds*, 655 have large variability within 1 hour but were used in the official figures, and 866 had large hour by hour variability but were not used.
The Excellent Tim Lambert has shown how this was lifted from Ferdinand Engelbeen's blog, an example of plagerism by Plimer. Tim points out that
So it seems that the reason why Plimer didn't cite Engelbeen was that Engelbeen conclusively refuted Plimer's claims about data selection at Mauna Loa being used to manufacture a trend.
Plimer copied and omitted to print a false claim.
The Mauna Loa CO2 measurements show variations at sub-annual frequencies associated with variations in carbon sources, carbon sinks and atmospheric transport. (2103) Air that arrives during the April-June period favours a lower CO2 concentration. Seasonal changes derive from Northern Hemisphere deciduous plants that take up CO2 in spring and summer and release it in autumn and winter due to the decay of dead plant material. Every April, the Northern Hemisphere reduction of atmospheric CO2 shows that Nature reacts quickly to CO2 in the atmosphere and can remove large amounts in a very short time. This is not news. For millennia farmers have called this time the growing season.
And for generations farmers measured the variation in CO2. Right Ian? Oh you didn't think of that. How surprising. The measurement of the seasonal variation was the indication that convinced almost everyone that Keeling and the MLO measurements were a huge improvement on the wet chemical ones, which could not resolve this variation. In short, it's a feature.
There may be errors in sampling and analytical procedure. (2104). Measuring stations are now located around the world and in isolated coastal or island areas to measure CO2 in air without contamination from life or industrial activity to establish the background CO2 content of the atmosphere. The problem with these measurements is that land-derived air blowing across the sea loses about 10 ppm of its CO2 as the CO2 dissolves in the oceans
And inland measurement stations get the same values as the isolated ones, for example Schauinsland, located on a ridge above the Rhein and other places. Plimer continues to emitepizootics of the blowhole

Eli has gotta get more Romm.


John Mashey said...

1) Reread double reference to Tim, reminiscent of old Tandem Computer saying:
"It's so nice, it's so nice, we do it twice."

2) This Beck-stuff keeps coming back, and in the last month, I've seen Physics PhDs give several pages to it in books:

Howard C. Hayden, "A Primer on CO2 and Climate", 2008, p.8.

He does G&T also:
p.29: "The 33-degree ifference is usually attributed enitrely to the greenhouse effects, but the comparison is false, as eloquently noted by Gerlich and Tscheuschner."

There there's Ralph B. Alexander, who thanks Hayden for advice when doing his own book (of course one would ask a retired atomic physicist):
"Global Warming FALSE ALARM - The bad science behind the United Nation's Assertion that man-made CO2 causes global warming.", 2009.

It obtains glowing reviews at Amazon, of which the first, entitled "Warm and revealing book about the great distortion of climate science" is an absolute must-read.

Maye it's some kind of virus.

EliRabett said...

John, a certain amount of prolixity and Tandem writing was required when Rabett went Romm. It's not a bug:)

carrot eater said...

Now that's a work of art.

I may be in a minority here, but I think Romm hurts more than he helps. I meet people who say "I don't know what to believe about global warming, the science is so politicised". Turns out very few of them have ever picked up GRL or Nature, but they have heard from the confusion industry, but they've also heard from Romm-like types.

Maybe I'm too ivory tower, but I just don't like his schtick.

EliRabett said...

de gustibus non est disputandum. IEHO you need some of everything.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

Let's not forget my favorite Plimerism--he apparently believes that the sun is made out of iron.

Think I'm kidding? Read the book.

bit_pattern said...

A brilliant dissection of Plimer's Frankenstein! Eli wields his scalpel with remarkable dexterity. I'll be sure to show the autopsy report to any Plimer-ites I encounter.

Hank Roberts said...

> you need something of everything

What made it worse was that these people seemed to welcome provocation, to go looking for it, all for the sake of causing discomfort to others.

Cordle couldn't understand why this should be, until one midsummer's day, when he was driving through the northern regions of Spain while stoned out of his mind, the god Thoth-Hermes granted him original enlightenment by murmuring, "Uh, look, I groove with the problem, baby, but dig, we gotta put carrots in or it ain't no stew."

"Carrots?" said Cordle, struggling for illumination.

"I'm talking about those types who get you uptight," Thoth-Hermes explained. "They gotta act that way, baby, on account of they're carrots, and that's how carrots are."


Barry Mapp said...

Whatever happens about the science and the interpretation of the science we must not go back to, as you put it, the deny-delay policies of the fossil fool industry. We must slow and then stop using fossil fuels. This is so regardless of the science. It is unethical. But we must listen more carefully to these so called sceptics who are suggesting that CO2 is not the problem - otherwise we could be wasting valuable resources in changing something that will make no difference. There is definitely more natural variation in all things than our mainstream scientists give credit for (and this because the math we actually use in calculations 'factors out' the variation giving us a Math World rather than a Real World Perspective) Group Think has lead to many disasters in the past and will lead to more in the future if we seek to ridicule those who show us a different perspective on the arguments. We need to ask why 20% of all scientists still do not believe the climate change data. This is a small but highly significant amount.