Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bunny Bait

The Weasel has opened the Why Watts New Paper is Doomed to Fail Review season, so Eli thought he might contribute a scientifical entry.  To start, of course Bunnies, Eli went and RTFR and a review previously linked by Victor Venema.  The Rabett also thought about Tony's Elevator Speech, cut and pasted directly from the breathless press release

The new improved assessment, for the years 1979 to 2008, yields a trend of +0.155C per decade from the high quality sites, a +0.248 C per decade trend for poorly sited locations, and a trend of +0.309 C per decade after NOAA adjusts the data.
However, and of course there is a however with anything Watts or his svengali, Pielke Sr. touches, the press release is based on raw data, which, as everybunny knows is not necessarily a hot thing to do and provides a very interesting answer to the question of why.  Venema shows a table of results when NOAA adjusts the data

Table. The mean temperature trends from Figure 17 of Watts et al. (2012) in °C per decade.

Class 1/2 Class 3/4/5 Class 3 Class 4 Class 5
Urban 0.302 0.294 0.318 0.299 0.218
Semi-urban 0.341 0.311 0.327 0.325 0.249
Rural 0.314 0.321 0.327 0.316 0.319

and notes that the successful application of homogenization confirms, rather than falsifies the NOAA adjustments, as did Tony's previous essay
Also in Falls et al. this trend was about 0.3 °C per decade. Also in Falls et al. the tend in the raw data was 0.1 °C per decade smaller. Thus I cannot see this manuscript as unprecedented. Leroy (2012) will be happy that his new siting quality classification seems to work better as judged by the larger difference in the trends between the categories. That seems to be the main novelty. This result is worth a paper, I am not sure if it worth a press release.
In that, of course, Victor is wrong, today every paper is worth a press release and an NSF highlight to be posted.  One can get a hint of what is happening by looking at the same Figure 17 from the paper that Venema does.

Eli has added some dotted lines and words to divide the figure into three parts, the mean trend on the left (he has emerged from your monitor in pursuit of carrots), the trend of the maximum temperatures in the middle and the trend of the minimum temperatures on the right.  The blue line shows the adjusted NOAA estimate.  As many have pointed out the use of unhomogenized data to calculate meaningful trends is problematical, and as many have pointed out in the few days since Sunday the time of observation correction is among the most important, but the question remains as to WHY Tobs affects the rural stations more than the suburban or urban ones.

Update:  Turns out that one of the Anonymice at Variable Variability (VVenema's blog) had spotted this yesterday.  Gazumphed!:)

Update:  Zeke Hausfather provides a link to this poster, on which Ron Broberg is also an author, and also this post of his discusses changes in the time of observation over the years.

With this sharpening of the issue, Eli went a merrily googling. What is it, if anything, that makes rural stations more subject to Tobs bias than urban or suburban ones.  Fortunately, Ari Jokimäki, or more precisely Thomas Karl, had already answered that question.  In his AMS lecture (video here), Karl pointed out that
The time of the observation also causes a problem for the analysis. Early in the morning temperature usually is lower than in the afternoon. If the observation time of some station changes for example from morning to afternoon, it causes a warming bias to the data of the station in question. This has caused a false urban heat effect. There is practically no time of observation bias in urban-based stations which have taken their measurements punctually always at the same time, while in the rural stations the times of observation have changed. The change has usually happened from the afternoon to the morning. This causes a cooling bias in the data of the rural stations. Therefore one must correct for the time of observation bias before one tries to determine the effect of the urban heat island. Karl shows a comparison between urban and rural stations after the time of observation bias has been corrected, and there’s hardly no difference when the situation of the USA is considered. In the global analysis the rural stations even seem to show slightly more warming than the urban stations. Stations are being classified as urban or rural with assistance of satellite measurements where the amount of light pollution is measured in different areas. Also some other information are being used, such as maps, population statistics, etc.
Update:  Victor Venema has a short introduction to time of observation bias.

Update: Victor Venema's comment from below
 No Nobel price for Anthony Watts?

An experienced colleague, knowledgeable about the US network gave me the tip to look into the time of observation bias (TOB). Thus this may well explain much of the differences in the trends of the raw data.

If this is really an important effect, I do not see it as an excuse that Anthony Watts is not an academic insider. This is something one should check before publishing and I would see this as a lack of rigor. That there is an TOB in the US network is no internal secret, but known from the literature, for example, studied in Vose et al. (2003).

Thus we now have three reasons, why the technical problems may cause a difference in the trends of the raw data:
1. Time of observation bias stronger in rural stations.
2. More problems due to the UHI in the bad stations.
3. Selection bias (bad/good stations at the end of the period may have been better/worse before)

Sounds like the first two problems can be solved by homogenization. And the third problem is only a problem for this study, but not for the global temperature trend.

Time for the Team Watts to start analyzing their data a bit more.

Russell S. Vose, Claude N. Williams Jr., Thomas C. Peterson, Thomas R. Karl, and David R. Easterling. An evaluation of the time of observation bias adjustment in the U.S. Historical Climatology Network. J. Geophys. Res., VOL. 30, NO. 20, 2046, doi: 10.1029/2003GL018111, 2003. 
The take home, of course, beyond confirmation bias, is the same one that Eli discovered a long time ago when Tony, Monckton, Steve and the rest of the crew were all agog at the stamp collection of early CO2 measurements assembled by Ernst Beck

What amateurs lack as a group is perspective, an understanding of how everything fits together and a sense of proportion. Graduate training is designed to pass lore from advisors to students. You learn much about things that didn't work and therefore were never published [hey Prof. I have a great idea!...Well actually son, we did that back in 06 and wasted two years on it], whose papers to trust, and which to be suspicious of [Hey Prof. here's a great new paper!... Son, don't trust that clown.] In short the kind of local knowledge that allows one to cut through the published literature thicket.

But this lack makes amateurs prone to get caught in the traps that entangled the professionals' grandfathers, and it can be difficult to disabuse them of their discoveries. Especially problematical are those who want science to validate preconceived political notions, and those willing to believe they are Einstein and the professionals are fools. Put these two types together and you get a witches brew of ignorance and attitude.

Unfortunately climate science is as sugar to flies for those types.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Patricide Pleads for Mercy as an Orphan

'Stoat brings word of Ross McKitrick's reviews of one of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature papers.  While not commenting directly on the review Eli notes that in the introduction McKitrick nails just about any paper he ever wrote

  On March 8 2012 I was asked by JGR to review a revised version of the Wickham et al. paper. I submitted my review at the end of March. The authors had made very few changes and had not addressed any of the methodological problems, so I recommended the paper not be published. I do not know what the journal's decision was, but it is 4 months later and I can find no evidence on the BEST website that this or any other BEST project paper has been accepted for publication.
One can guess how McKitrick who really has no clues about the issue got to review the paper.  One guess is that Muller committed suicide because of his former friendship with Steve McIntyre, another is that one of the BEST authors, Judith Curry SuperSkeptic put in the oar.

For more on Ross McKitrick,see the Deltoid Collection but who can forget his confusion of radians and degrees, Celcius and Kelvin, and bad geography  -the last one infects just about any paper McKitrick has published in the last five years:)

Eli must invoke the McKitrick/McIntyre rule which requires that all of McKitrick's papers be withdrawn forthwith and the authors offer ritual apologies, burn their PhD degrees and retire to a life of flipping burgers at McDonalds serving coffee at Tim Horton's for having shattered scientific regulations established by the Climate Audit Institute.

Eli's Olympics

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Missing the Trees for the Forest

The Novim Group paper is posted. Eli hates, just hates, whosoever posted the link because then he had to interrupt a perfectly good Sunday [chocolate ice cream] to go read it.  The conclusions are (roughly) that since about 1840, the global surface temperature has been controlled by CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, that in the period between 1750 and 1840 there were large negative excursions due to volcanic eruptions.  The discussion of the mechanism involves more than a little hand waving and some of the pattern matching is Landscheidt level.  The figure at the left shows, in red, the combined CO2 and volcanic forcings, with the dips representing the volcanoes and the ten year average w. uncertainties and a ten year running average of the global surface temperature.  Beyond that BEST correlates fluctuations from their simple fit line against an AMO index since 1860, and finds a strong correlation. 

The statistical treatment, Rabett Run will leave to our betters, except noting the assumption that fluctuations at the sites are normal.  Still that should not make an enormous difference.

More concerning is the overwhelming naivety of their attribution studies.  While it is true that public discussion focuses on  the global temperature anomaly, this is, at best, a crude and not very informative axe that BEST is wielding, a tool that you can pick up in any blog (see Wood for Trees for the franchised version).  It ignores the spatial structure of the forcings and the observations which are necessary for real attribution. Although it notes some, thus missing the trees (what kind are they, how old, condition), for the forest (look, great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill shall come).  OK, it did not make much difference to MacBeth in the end that the trees were fir, dead is dead, but in trying to understand the past, present and future of the earth linking cause and effect requires more than a single global parameter.

In particular the proud abhorrence of using models, to validate observations and explain correlations, the forest level comparisons, ignoring anything at a finer level than global land surface temperature anomalies, drives a huge stake through the paper, whose conclusions, while probably along the right path,
Many of the changes in land-surface temperature follow a simple linear combination of volcanic forcing (based on estimates of stratospheric sulfate injection) and annanthropogenic term represented here by the logarithm of the CO2 concentration. The best fit an volcanic forcing term is -1.5 ± 0.5 ºC per 100 Tg of atmospheric sulfate. The anthropogenic forcing parameter is 3.1 ± 0.3 ºC for CO2 doubling (compared to pre-industrial levels), broadly consistent with the IPCC estimate of ~3 ºC for the equilibrium warming at doubled CO2. When we included solar forcing we found that the solar variability record assumed by the IPCC did not contribute significantly to the fit of historic temperature. This could imply that any effect associated with solar variability is too small to be detected by our simple approach. It might also imply that the shape of solar forcing assumed by the IPCC during the last 250 years is too inaccurate for an effective comparison. However, if the shape of the solar forcing history is accurate, then the impact of solar variability on climate would have to be on the low side of present estimates, no more than 0.08 ºC since 1750.
are not really supported by the low level curve matching without spatial (including up) pattern matching and modeling studies.  This is true not only of the global temperature anomaly, but also the correlations against the AMO and more.  In Michael Mann's twitter:  Welcome to 1980 Rich.

Watts' opus has been dispatched by Victor Venema, as linked from the Weasel who also doesn't much like Rohde, Muller, et al.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Incidence of Solipsism Among Physicists

The incidence of solipsism  among physicists is high.  In Richard Muller it is ginormous.  Writing in the NY Times (as rumor had it.  Rumor was right as they say), Muller does a full reverse Lomborg,  "I used to be an X, but now, I am a Y and proud of it.

CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming.
Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause. 

My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases. 
 Muller's doubts were, of course, what a bunny reads everyday at numerous blogs, urban heating, it's the sun, surface stations ain't perfect and so on.  And, of course, Muller and Ralph Robert Rohde [update:  Sincere apologies and thanks to the Weasel for pointing this faux pas out, but the initials are good anyway RR] (who did the heavy lifting) found what everyone else has found, that none of this makes a dime's worth of difference, but, of course, since Muller showed it, it must be right.

This ain't saying that the BEST project was useless, they have developed some interesting methods, and  pushed the surface temperature instrumental record back somewhat.  It wasn't that others were unaware of such records, but the level of trust was, let us say, about where Michael Mann stands in Steve McIntyre's mind.  Eli remembers a talk Drew Shindell gave about 10-15 years ago asking "Who should we trust about 19th century temperatures:  Models or data"  and the answer was, well, who knows.

To give an idea about how the records stand, take a peek at the Eli Rabett Mann Muller curves with MBH98 on the top scaled to MR2012 on the bottom.  FWIW, the proxy's show less uncertainty compared to the BEST surface temperature record

The news, such as it is, is that the Berkeley group has posted its manuscripts
The careful analysis by our team is laid out in five scientific papers now online at BerkeleyEarth.org. That site also shows our chart of temperature from 1753 to the present, with its clear fingerprint of volcanoes and carbon dioxide, but containing no component that matches solar activity. Four of our papers have undergone extensive scrutiny by the scientific community, and the newest, a paper with the analysis of the human component, is now posted, along with the data and computer programs used.

The language is interesting.  Sure sounds like, well, you need to think about some of this stuff more clearly.  The language at the BEST Blog
The Berkeley Earth team has already started to benefit from feedback from our peers, so these figures are more up-to-date than the figures in our papers submitted for peer review (see below). 
Submitted for publication in JGR Atmospheres

Has the hint of them being slam dunked at Science, Nature and GRL, but JGR is an excellent journal.  Eli, being the suspicious type would bet that the referees reports were the equivalent of did you think we fell off the turnip truck? Other people figured this out years ago, your data set is interesting, but just because something is new to you, don't mean it is new to the world.

OTOH, since it ain't Tuesday (the deadline) these papers can be considered by the IPCC under their gray literature rules.  Eli has been known to publish in arXiv.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Rumor has it that climate change is real

According to Ron Bailey at Reason.com

Stress - this is a rumor. However, the rumor says that next week Richard Muller will release the latest Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature analysis of surface temperature data going back as far as the 18th century. Muller, once skeptical of the temperature records that showed considerable global warming in recent decades, set up BEST to reanalyze that data.
The rumors say that new BEST reanalysis will show that global average temperature has increased by 1.5 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times and will suggest that most of the warming since the 1950s is the result of increased greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

Watch out for the look over there act from the usual characters.  The Pielkesphere is parsing furiously.  Rumor has it that Tony Watts has gone into full lockdown mode, that Steve McIntyre has sold all his penny stock and will be flying back from England with the CRU server, but more importantly, Tuesday is the last day to have papers considered in the next IPCC report. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Count your fingers

Recently the Chronicle of Higher Education has been publishing some questionable stuff in their forum.  Now Eli is not talkin differences of opinion here, but damn close to if not defamation, academic misconduct and similar.

Naomi Schaefer Riley, got disinvited from the Chronicle, for making stuff up without having read (let alone understood) the stuff she was opining on.  A comment from one of those who replied to Ms. Riley pretty well captures her arrogance

"In fact, most of the people most of the people (especially those who work in Black Studies/African American Studies/Africana Studies) have objected to your post because you dismissed an entire academic field based on the cherry-picked titles of three in-progress dissertations. As you admit, you have not bothered to actually find out any concrete details of the methodology, research, presentation, and so on, of these projects. And, yes, you have a responsibility to check these things out before you lay waste to the validity of a scholarly field, not to mention the careers of three young scholars, in one of the websites most widely read by academics."
Oh yes, she also whined about left wing persecution.

The editor, Liz McMillan wrote
We now agree that Ms. Riley’s blog posting did not meet The Chronicle’s basic editorial standards for reporting and fairness in opinion articles. As a result, we have asked Ms. Riley to leave the Brainstorm blog.
Since Brainstorm was created five years ago, we have sought out bloggers representing a range of intellectual and political views, and we have allowed them broad freedom in topics and approach.  As part of that freedom, Brainstorm writers were able to post independently; Ms. Riley’s post was not reviewed until after it was posted.

I realize we have made mistakes. We will thoroughly review our editorial practices on Brainstorm and other blogs and strengthen our guidelines for bloggers.
 But, of course, John Mashey's good friend, Peter Wood, honcho of the National Association of Scholars (probably the NAS that Fred Seitz was referring to in the Oregon Petition Papers) came right to her defense, of course, whining about left wing persecution.

Wood has been trying to throw mud at Michael Mann, but fortunately, like Naomi Schaefer Riley, has not RTFR, so it is pretty easy to deal with him in comments.  Alas no one reads the comments.  The latest attempt was the old student body left, writing first about Jerry Sandusky, then about Mann, under the heading of "A culture of evasion" (read the comments).

Wood, of course is a great fan of academic freedom, which brings Rabett Run to Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at UT Austin who got his doctorate at Chapel Hill (that's a teaser bunnies).  Regnerus took a bunch of money from a group opposing gay marriage and published a study which was, well confused. Let a comment at Wood's plaint about left wing persecution explain the facts.
I'd be more sympathetic to Mr. Regenerus' current situation if he hadn't jumped through so many hoops, and made so many oddball choices, to reach the conclusion he did. He stacked the deck by comparing intact same-orientation marriages to collapsed mixed-orientation marriages with a known affair, and the mother abandoned the child at some point. These are known predictors of bad outcomes for children. They may, in fact, account for all of the bad outcomes, and the "gay" parent has nothing to do with the bad outcomes. We don't know, and Regnerus can't say, because his work is so shoddy. This is a politically potent topic and when you make assertions that not only defy years of previous research as well as create a weapon to be used against a minority group, you better get your facts straight, so to speak. Regnerus failed mightily in that regard. To say, well, it's hard to get a decent sample size doesn't cut it. If you can't do the study properly, don't do it.
 As far as the academic malpractice concerns, let's just say the police have accused, and a jury convicted, someone of murder on lesser evidence.
Bad studies are everywhere, what made this one radioactive is that the study was used in as evidence (right after publication) in a suit about the legality of gay marriage, and Regnerus was not shy about exaggerating his study.  Scatter has a summary of the criticisms and a bunch of links, but no, that is not what this is about.

Now comes one Christian Smith, again in the Chronicle, to whine about how the left wingers are persecuting poor Mark (shorter version at Lawyers, Guns and Money:
“If academic freedom means anything, it’s that published work should be completely beyond criticism, even when a researcher draws inferences from data that the data plainly cannot support and writes popular articles further defending these unsupportable inferences. Why won’t his hardcore leftist critics, like known Trotskyite Walter Olson, leave him allooooone?”
For some, not Eli of course, that would be the point, but no, the point (Have any doubts Eli would get there) is a line in Smith's whine:
Regnerus was trained in one of the best graduate programs in the country and was a postdoctoral fellow under an internationally renowned scholar of family, Glen Elder, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Full disclosure: I was on the faculty in Regnerus's department and advised him for some years, but was not his dissertation chair.)
That is bunny bait, because it leaves a lot of room for shenanigans.  Dissertations have a) advisors, b) readers and c) the thesis oral exam has, usually a Chair, who is not the advisor, and one or more external examiners.  So Eli hit ProQuest (the old diss abstracts on line) and looked up one Mark D. Regnerus' thesis, and there, on the title page, what appears:

Prof. Smith, was the Advisor:)  Which says in no uncertain words it ain't shenanigans, its straight old North Carolina wool pulling. When these folk start whining on your lapel, count your fingers.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Good climate news, bad climate news

On the good news front, an excellent post from David Roberts on the amount of emissions the US has cut in recent years.  Go read.  Joe Romm has argued that we may have reached peak emissions in the US in 2007, this provides additional support.  New to me was that wind power is following the same downward price trend as solar, and may reach price parity with gas in this decade.

So enough with the good news.  Bad news is with global emissions generally, and China particularly:

Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) -- the main cause of global warming -- increased by 3% last year, reaching an all-time high of 34 billion tonnes in 2011. In China, the world's most populous country, average emissions of CO2 increased by 9% to 7.2 tonnes per capita. China is now within the range of 6 to 19 tonnes per capita emissions of the major industrialised countries. In the European Union, CO2 emissions dropped by 3% to 7.5 tonnes per capita. The United States remains one of the largest emitters of CO2, with 17.3 tones per capita, despite a decline due to the recession in 2008-2009, high oil prices and an increased share of natural gas.
I still wouldn't assign China the same level of blame as Europe - it's the total emissions per capita that matter, not the annual emissions.  China has also promised not to hit the US level of per capita emissions.  While China and India don't deserve the same level of blame as the developed democracies, they are on a very dangerous course for the entire world.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Syria speculations

1.  Me from Aug. 31, responding to William's request for my prescience on Syria:

I'm clearly not too prescient about civil insurrections, but I think the bad guys will win in Syria, at least for the short term. The military hasn't seemed divided there, which is the only way for the unarmed good guys to win.
So, wrong again, somewhat.  Maybe penalties assessed against me could be reduced by my "short term" qualifier.  The Libyan and Syrian civil uprisings started about the same time but the former started peeling off military units immediately while the latter only had random low-level deserters until recent months.

My guess based on other countries has been that people power uprisings have to win quickly, within weeks, or not at all.  I should modify that to say that successful people power uprisings win quickly or not at all, unless they become civil wars which follow a different kind of trajectory.  I still think Syria is unusual though in the length of time it lasted as civil demonstrations before either fading away or transitioning to what it's now become.

2.  Pretty obvious it's a civil war now, and despite the only-recent change in terminology by the Red Cross, it's been a civil war for months now.  Also obvious that Assad's finished, although I still disagree that it was obvious a year ago.  The US government seems to agree he's finished.

3.  As rebels are starting to take territory, although not necessarily hold it, the situation is becoming more like Libya, including a downside that rebels become more vulnerable to air power.  I stand by the argument I made in February that we should provide more direct military assistance to rebels, particularly in creating safe havens.  The tens of thousands of people that have fled to Turkey in just the last few days could still be in a Free Syria, starting to organize the transition.

4.  My argument in February relied on negotiations first, with military assistance as a backstop.  That's changed - unless there's a coup/assassination, negotiations are useless now.

5.  The key issue now is planning that prevents massacres of Alawite and Christian minorities.  Peeling off enough of them to assist the rebels would definitely help.

6.  Speaking of Syrian Christians, it's interesting that conservative American Christians are so aggressive over Syria when most of them were far more reticent to support change in Egypt.  The obvious difference is the attitude of the regimes toward Israel.  I'm guessing conservative American Christians aren't all that interested in the fate of Syrian Orthodox synods.

7.  The rebels in Syria seem even more like a black box than the ones in Libya.  OTOH, things seem to be going okay in Libya (no takers still on my Libya bet offer).

8.  Not sure of the value of my military predictions, but here's one:  Assad won't use chemical weapons.  I believe without evidence that Western nations have secretly communicated to him their guarantee that the gain to him from using them will be outweighed by the Western response.  He might still be tempted to use them in extremis but at that point, hopefully, anyone given the order will realize the personal best option is to disobey/take government succession planning into their own hands.

UPDATE:  forgot to reference the one-month rule that started working in Libya around May 2011 - from then on, setbacks to the rebels never lasted more than 30 days, and each month left them more powerful than the month before.  My guess is the same rule may have started applying in Syria a month or two ago, and a month or two more of the same will indicate the eventual result.

Space 2012

View from the ISS at Night from Knate Myers on Vimeo.

Knate Myers has put together picture from the International Space Station to produce a stunning video.  Even better full screen HD at Vimeo in HD.  Tip of the ears to Nasawatch

Death Penalty

Eli, as some have noted, is an ancient professor, an academic if you will.  He has followed the collapse of governance at Penn State with the interest of a bunny watching a disaster unveiled, and recently saw much back and forth about the NCAA (the folks who profit from and do the pompous on intercollegiate athletics in the US) imposing the death penalty on football at PSU.

Folks, that ain't the death penalty Penn State has to worry about.  Accreditation at US institutions of higher learning runs through cooperative associations of colleges and universities, who certify to the US Department of Education.  That ain't whiffle ball because all federal funding, student loans, research grants and more depend on that certification.

In Penn State's case the accrediting agency is the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and yes, they have taken note of the unfolding disaster surrounding Jerry Sandusky's being allowed free  run by the athletic department at PSU, requesting an informational report last November,

This letter is written in response to recent coverage in the media concerning the criminal allegations brought forward by the Pennsylvania Attorney General and the related investigations launched by the United States Department of Education.

The policies of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education state, “If an institution conducts its affairs in ways which generate serious public concern, the Commission reserves the right to request further information from the institution.” In addition, federal regulations require that the Commission monitor and reevaluate accredited institutions and programs, and conduct special evaluations or visits as deemed necessary.

In our opinion, the recent reports raise questions about the ethical conduct of University officials and constitute cause for concern as to whether the University remains in compliance with the Requirements of Affiliation of the Commission on Higher Education and with Standard 6, Integrity. This concern requires us to request written information.

Therefore, on behalf of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, The Pennsylvania State University is asked to submit an information report by no later than January 2, 2012 addressing the recent developments and/or plans to ensure the University’s ongoing compliance with the Commission’s Requirements of Affiliation and with Standard 6, Integrity.

In addition, the Commission requests to be kept informed of the status and results of the on-going criminal investigation, the investigation conducted by the United States Department of Education, and/or any subsequent investigations conducted by the NCAA or other governing bodies related to these matters. 
Eli notes in particular that there is an ongoing investigation by the US Department of Education.

Penn State first responded on December 21, 2011.  The response was noncommittally accepted by Middle States at their March meeting.  There are some additional comments in an April Fools Day update principally on other issues which Middle States had previously asked for information on learning goals and assessment.

The investigatory report by Lloyd Freeh commissioned by the Penn State Board of Trustees was quite clear
The most saddening finding by the Special Investigative Counsel is the total and consistent disregard by the most senior leaders at Penn State for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims. As the Grand Jury similarly noted in its presentment,1 there was no “attempt to investigate, to identify Victim 2, or to protect that child or any others from similar conduct except as related to preventing its re‐occurrence on University property.”
This extended to the highest levels of the University, the Board of Trustees, the President, the Head Football Coach (according to most who outranked everyone) the Athletic Director and the Vice President for Business and Finance.  In its December 21 response to Middle States, well, nothing much about what the the athletic department and specifically the football program has done, (which appears to be nothing much) but they were assiduous in making sure that none of the studs jumped ship
Conference calls with parents of current football players were held, as well as with incoming student-athletes to answer questions and reassure them of Penn State’s commitment. Meetings have been held with all head coaches to ensure that teams and student-athletes are maintaining open communication lines for individuals who may need support or assistance. These efforts have been supplemented by e-mails to student-athletes and parents that include awareness of specific resources available.
including this little tidbit
The Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics (COIA) is an example of an extension of shared governance that constitutes an alliance of 58 (out of 115) NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Division schools. Originating in 2002 with Penn State Professor (now Professor Emeritus) of Communications John Nichols as a founding member and current chair, the Coalition provides a national faculty voice on intercollegiate sports issues, including areas of concern such as academic integrity and quality, and student-athlete welfare (http://blogs.comm.psu.edu/thecoia/). Chair Nichols, in light of recent events and given his affiliation with Penn State, requested that the Coalition’s 16-member Steering Committee “review the appropriateness of his continued leadership and of COIA’s close association with Penn State.” In response to that request, the Coalition’s Steering Committee communicated to President Erickson on November 21, 2011, reaffirming support noting that they were “mindful of Penn State’s long history of accomplishments in athletics governance, as well as the way in which the integrity of all our schools is continually challenged by the role of contemporary college sports,” and further noted that the Steering Committee “has strongly and unanimously reaffirmed COIA’s links to Penn State, and its confidence in the leadership of Professor Nichols.” In closing, that statement of reaffirmation stated that “Penn State is one of America’s great public universities, and as advocates for the excellence of U.S. higher education, all of us in COIA are anxious that Penn State emerges from this crisis and continues its strong role as partner in our communal academic mission.”
The only mention of Paterno is rather footnotey
The Center for the Study of Leadership and Ethics was established in 1996 and is currently housed in the College of Education. It is devoted to the support, promotion and dissemination of theory and research on values and leadership. The College of the Liberal Arts has a listing of ethics courses (http://laus.la.psu.edu/current-students/paterno-fellows-program/PossibleEthicsCourses.pdf/view) and offers an interdisciplinary minor in ethics housed in the Philosophy Department.
There is a lot in the Penn State reports about how they are strengthening ethics training everywhere (except pretty much nothing specific about in intercollegiate athletics), donations to various charities for abused kids, new reporting requirements and hotlines, etc.  but no one wants to really bell the cat.

There is serious trouble in Happy Valley, but more importantly this offers the accrediting agencies the opportunity to get control of athletics if they dare (aka professorial wet dreams).

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me

Sincerely of course.

Eli has been having some fun with Peter Woods over at the Chronicle, pointing out that Wood's copycatting on the Michael Mann is just like Jerry Sandusky act (very popular in some circles), is, well, as Steve McIntyre would put it, defamatory.

  It has come to Eli’s attention that you have made defamatory statements about Michael Mann, in an article by juxtaposing him with the odious Jerry Sandusky.  Moreover you have made serious, defamatory and untrue statements about the Penn State Investigation on Prof. Mann's scientific work
This, of course, was a take on McIntyreGate XCII, where Steve tried to first bludgeon David Karoly, by sending him, what, on the face of it, was a demand letter, sincerely, of course
This is a very welcome initiative. The threats of legal action and FOI requests are not just occurring in North America. In Australia, I have just received a threat of legal action from Steve McIntyre in Canada and am currently dealing with 6 different FOI requests.
The usual comedy of errors ensued when the publisher of Karoly's book review moved it from free access  behind the paywall (for their reasons, which themselves added to the fun read the comments over at the skeptical science thread hijack that followed) and McIntyre upped the Gate count to XCIII by doing the innocent old me act with a dash of belittlement thrown in.  Tom Curtus (HInAL and an Aussie one to boot), summed it up both at Skeptical Science AND at Climate Audit
That claim is simply absurd. All that McIntyre needed to do so that the letter did not have the form of a concerns notice under Australian law was to drop the phrase "defamatory". By excluding that word, the letter no longer makes a claim of defamation and therefore no-longer clearly presents claims of defamation.

Further, McIntyre's claim that his only intention was to persuade Karoly to "behave as a professional" is dubious. A professional, and certainly a scholar is concerned to be truthful. Simply alleging that Karoly's claims where untruthful would have been sufficient if McIntyre's purpose had only been to persuade Karoly to desist from allegedly unprofessional conduct. Given that, the only point in including the term "defamatory" would appear to be to make Karoly (at a minimu) reflect on his legal situation - and if that was the intent it was definitely an implicit threat. On McIntyre's say-so I will accept that his letter was poorly drafted for his stated intent. But as drafted, it was legally a "concerns notice" and as such represented a threat of legal action.  
For true high comedy, head on over to Climate Audit to watch pro parsing at work with a fair dollop of confusion.

Well, another shoe has dropped, a demand letter from Michael Mann's lawyers (published on Mann's Facebook page) showing that, well, yes, the word defamatory in a letter DOES have legal meaning even in North America.  Evidently Prof. Mann has decided to pull the football on the denialists.

The letter, to National Review, starts
The purpose of this letter is to put you on formal notice of the defamatory content of a recent article that was published on your webside, National Review Online, regarding my client Michael Man and to demand a retraction and an apology.  We also demand that the publication be removed immediately.

A copy of the defamatory publication is attached to this letter.  It is entitled "Football and Hockey" and was authored by an individual named Marc Steyn.  The letter makes the false allegation that Dr. Mann has engaged in academic fraud an allegation which, of course, is defamatory per se.  Specifically  the publication states that Dr. Mann "was the man behind the fraudulent "hockey stick" graph the very ringmaster of the tree-ring circus"

Your allegations of academic fraud is false, and clearly made with the knowledge that it was false.  It is well known in the scientific community, and certainly well known to you and Mr. Steyn, that there have been numerous investigations into the issue of academic fraud in the wake of the disclosure of certain e-mails from the the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia and that every one of these investigations has concluded that there is no basis to these allegations and no evidence of any academic fraud.
. . . . .
further you draw insidious comparison between Dr. Mann and Jerry Sandusdy, who as you point out, was recently convicted of child molestation.  This reference is simply outrageous and clearly subjects your publication to a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress
Now, Brian (BISAL) might disagree, but that last paragraph is a neat piece of jujitsu, because, as all bunnies know, the rest of the denial sphere is going to start making the same comparison, but their doing so strengthens Mann's claim against NRO.

Popcorn please, sincerely of course.  UPDATE:  Eli will share with J Bowers

The pros are using sports to explain climate science

I'm very glad to see this:

More info at the UCAR website.

I've been arguing for this type of analogy for years.  There are alot of people out there, especially high school age students but not just them, who haven't thought much about statistics and how they apply to weather and climate.  They do have an intuitive understanding of statistics when it comes to their favorite sport.  This is a way to reach them.  The climate/weather distinction works especially well when they consider short term event in their sport where random effects are important, versus long term outcomes where overriding factors become obvious.

In other climate news, iron fertilization of the ocean may have some, limited potential to eliminate between 1 and 10 percent of current emission levels from the atmosphere.  As with any other geoengineering approach, we should think carefully about it, but we should consider it.  If some day we used other means to get our net emissions to near zero, this may be one of several techniques like biochar and biomass power-plus-sequestration that could start reducing atmospheric CO2 levels to acceptable levels within a century from now, instead of the several centuries that the oceans will need to absorb most of the CO2 naturally.