Sunday, October 17, 2010

Gerald North dishes

UPDATE: MT points to a letter in today's (10/18/10) Washington Post from Gerald North which essentially tells Joe Barton to take and insert. BTW, yes, Eli is playing blog pong, but MT started it:)

One of the delights of commenting and posting is the delicious moment comes that shows that you are right and someone else is, well, not. This is a bit unfair, as Eli has been engaging with AMac on Our Changing Climate in a useful interchange. Eli has already posted part of this as his Perils of Wisdom, and, to be honest, AMac has held up his part of the interchange with honor and intelligence, you can read it at Bart's, but for the record, Eli had a few other things to say (this is his blog after all), including

The NRC report pretty much agrees with what Eli has been saying, that useful math can be formally incorrect, or better put, not optimal, and can be improved on, but still remain useful. As the data (which contrary to TimG’s bald assertion) has grown and better methods of analysis have been applied, the results confirm the broad outlines of the 1998 and 1999 papers.

Increasingly climate disruption is being subject to a four corners offense, playing out the clock. This is a pretty old strategy perfected by Singer for delaying any action on the acid rain problem and it works, except, given the nature of climate disruption, procrastination penalties are very very high. Conclusion 4 is exactly that ploy.

The rest of the conclusions were simply argumentative bleats based on an ignorance of paleoclimate but a sharp understanding of politics with the possible exception of the data and code sharing issue, which is not a slam dunk. There is, for example, a lot of weather forecasting code which is not disclosed for commercial and intellectual property reasons. For enough carotts, Eli will argue either side of that one.

To quote from the North NAS panel

“Despite these limitations, the committee finds that efforts to reconstruct temperature histories for broad geographic regions using multiproxy methods are an important contribution to climate research and that these large-scale surface temperature reconstructions contain meaningful climatic signals. The individual proxy series used to create these reconstructions generally exhibit strong correlations with local environmental conditions, and in most cases there is a physical, chemical, or physiological reason why the proxy reflects local temperature variations. Our confidence in the results of these reconstructions becomes stronger when multiple independent lines of evidence point to the same general result, as in the case of the Little Ice Age cooling and the 20th century warming.”

Contrast this with the Wegman Report’s conclusions. The first conclusion that academic work has been politicized ranks right up there with patricide claiming mercy because she is an orphan. It goes downhill from there.

One of the ongoing ideas propagated by the denial crowd is that the Gerald North, Chair of the NAS Committee which looked into the same issues, agreed with the Wegman Panel. They should read Prof. North's written response to the question of what he thought of the Wegman Report.
8. At the hearing you were asked if you disputed the conclusions or the methodology of Dr. Wegman's report, and you stated that you did not. Were you referring solely to Dr. Wegman's criticism of the statistical approach of Dr. Mann, or were you also referring to Dr. Wegman's social network analysis and conclusions?
ANSWER: Dr. Wegman's criticisms of the statistical methodology in the papers by Mann et al were consistent with our findings. Our committee did not consider any social network analyses and we did not have access to Dr. Wegman's report during our deliberations so we did not have an opportunity to discuss his conclusions. Personally, I was not impressed by the social network analysis in the Wegman report, nor did I agree with most of the report's conclusions on this subject. As I stated in my testimony, one might erroneously conclude, based on a social network analysis analogous to the one performed on Dr. Mann, that a very active and charismatic scientist is somehow guilty of conspiring or being inside a closed community or 'mutual admiration society'. I would expect that a social network analysis of Enrico Fermi or any of the other scientists involved with the development of modern physics would yield a similar pattern of connections, yet there is no reason to believe that theoretical physics has suffered from being a tight-knit community. Moreover, as far as I can tell the only data that went into Dr. Wegman's analysis was a list of individuals that Dr. Mann has co-authored papers with. It is difficult to see how this data has any bearing on the peer-review process, the need to include statisticians on every team that engages in climate research (which in my view is a particularly unrealistic and unnecessary recommendation), or any of the other findings and recommendations in Dr. Wegman's report. I was also somewhat taken aback by the tone of the Wegman Report, which seems overly accusatory towards Dr. Mann and his colleagues, rather than being a neutral, impartial assessment of the techniques used in his research. In my opinion, while the techniques used in the original Mann et al papers may have been slightly flawed, the work was the first of its kind and deserves considerable credit for moving the field of paleoclimate research forward. It is also important to note that the main conclusions of the Mann et al studies have been supported by subsequent research. Finally, while our committee would agree with Dr. Wegman that access to research data could and should be improved, as discussed on page 23 of the prepublication version of our report, we also acknowledge the complicated nature of such mandates, especially in areas such as computer code where intellectual property rights need to be considered.


Belette said...

I hadn't noticed "the need to include statisticians on every team that engages in climate research (which in my view is a particularly unrealistic and unnecessary recommendation)" - interestin point. The septics harped on this one endlessly.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me for not delving directly into the mire of the Wegman report.

But, may I assume its authors, while attempting to undermine Dr. Mann by use of "social network analysis," also included in the report, such analysis upon THEMSELVES to verify absence of any possible taint and, therefore, guaranteeing validity of their conclusions?

John Puma

J Bowers said...

It's worth going to "those emails" and seeing what a dendro/paleo guy had to say about statisticians being provided, which was CC'd to ITRDB Dendrochronology Forum.

"If Wegman et al. are suggesting that statisticians should be put to work to serve the interests of paleoclimatologists (which they are), then who on this list is going to argue that? I say let's put them to work!" -- Barry Cooke 17 Jul 2006

willard said...

Was Barry Cooke asking a rhetorical question?

Anonymous said...

Snow Bunny says:

The idea that climate science is done by a closed group is an awful crock.

The data on what's happening to the globe is wide open and reported from many fields and disciplines. Whatever the data types, they support the predictions of global warming, indeed, they often find results at the high end of the predictions. Instance, the Grace gravity satellites, which measure the loss of mass of the Greenland ice and found a higher amount than the glacialogists had been able to see. Or, the multitude of biologists who have found movement of species northward and upward to cooler ecological niches.

The social network yarn should be challenged with the evidence.

John Mashey said...

Social networks analysis (SNA)
Eli is kindly doing Dummies Guides to Strange Scholarship in the Wegman Report.

There are so many issues, he hasn't gotten to SNA yet, but if you want the hard-core SNA stuff, see SSWR, Appendices W.5 and W.2.3.

David B. Benson said...

Climate dysfunction.

John Mashey said...

John Puma:
1) People easily can generate wrong conclusions all by themselves, i.e., not being part of a social net does not guarantee correctness.

2) On the other hand, being a senior member of a large, strong social network, and displaying various actions that bend/break peer review, is *not* a good basis for attacking a then-junior researcher's network.

3) Wegman & co:
a) Never talked to climate scientists (from testimony)
b) Never talked to serious SNA researchers (inference from the various errors.) I only quoted one, as dead horses are dead. I could have gotten more if needed.

If you want more, See SWSR, Appendix W.5.1-6, ~10 pages.

AMac said...

Mr. Bunny,

Thank you for your kind words, and the responsiveness to my questions at Bart's. FWIW, I commented on the WR at Lucia's. IMO, Prof. Mann's 2008 paleo paper was a poor choice for "AGW advocates" to take a stand for the robustness of paleotemperature reconstructions. So, now, Prof. Wegman's report is a poor choice for "skeptics" to take a stand on what doesn't constitute plagiarism.