Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A temporary end to bliss

With a rare exception or two, I've been blissfully ignoring Roger Pielke Jr's recent stuff for the last year or so as he slid into irrelevance. As long as I didn't read his stuff, I could keep open the possibility that he was doing something useful.

Or not, regarding the Marcott paper. The Oglaf comic is great though, but highly inappropriate.

Others have handled it, (Eli shows up in the comments at the link), but I'll just add the parallel I see between this and how James Annan spotted the Pielkean confusion between detection and estimation of climate change effect on disasters, way back when in 2006.* Back then, people were trying to estimate what aspect of disasters were climate change-related, which Pielke denounced as failing to scientifically detect climate change in disasters. They weren't doing detection until more recently, as the science improved and disaster dice started rolling 13s.


RPJr: You say X (percent of disaster damages) proves Y (climate change)
Rest of humanity:  No, I said assuming Y, here's our estimate of X.
RPJr.: You're wrong to say X proves Y!

(paraphrasing, not actual quotes)

It's the same issue or even less valid with RPJr and the post-1850 hockey stick/wheelchair component in Marcott. The paper is very clear in that they're not attempting to prove the current rise in temps via proxies. They even warn you not to consider their estimate robust, and they indicate the modern record they add is not theirs.

I agree that the press release could be clearer, but also agree with Stoat that it doesn't matter. It's like a paper examining Mars' orbit around the sun, where a press release might confuse a reader to think it also was about the fact that earth orbits the sun. There's no controversy about whether the earth orbits the sun. And the paper's clear.

So, just more of the same from RPJr.

*I think I spotted it too but could never find where I wrote it, thus reducing my own claim to a bitter, bitter footnote.


Albatross said...


Roger has been shown to be misrepresenting others' research. This includes quote mining (see here, for one example), making false accusations (dare a say even lying), and deleting inconvenient data from a figure (amongst other things), and slandering/belittling scientists (for example and another) whose findings do not sit well with his world view..

His latest post in which he takes issue with Munich Re also shows him to have cherry picked an outdated study that fits with his beliefs.

Sadly Roger is more interested/invested in saving face, than he is about his integrity and credibility. Needless to say, such candor on my part has not been well received by him ;)

Roger is free to continue trashing his own reputation of course, but typically institutions like CSTPR, CIRES and the University of Colorado-Bolder do not take kindly to having their reputation being brought into disrepute by certain employees. At some point they will likely sooner throw the problem under the bus than have their reputations tarnished.

Roger's preferred tactic of late seems to be to find (or if need be fabricate) some issue (no matter how small), blow it out of proportion and then with faux indignance paint the whole of climate science as being tarnished or some such.

IMHO, it is time to start shining the bright light of truth and facts on junior's antics. For further examples of Roger's prestidigitation, I encourage people to review recent exchanges between him and me on his blog.

EliRabett said...

The interesting question is where Roger holds tenure, maybe even if he has it. He is not a member of any department, but rather is part of the Environmental Studies Program and a couple of centers.

You may recall the fit a couple of years ago when the Poli Sci Department told him to pound sand and he did the full Groucho

Albatross said...

Hi Eli,

Interesting, I did not know that. Funny how Roger tried to spin that situation, but that is what he does. He certainly likes to walk a fine line.

Then again, he is beholden to the policies of the University of Colorado, from CSTPR:

"Unless otherwise specified, the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of Center staff,
affiliates, visiting scholars, and students are governed by the administrative policies and
procedures of the University of Colorado."


Roger has been quite busy recently, but possibly not in a manner that certain folks would approve of.

Some more lights please-- addressing Roger's distortions, spin and misrepresentations could be a full-time job, but a bunny has to feed its family.

Albatross said...


"The interesting question is where Roger holds tenure, maybe even if he has it"

He claims to have tenure (did not specify where), but tenure is not necessarily the panacea some might wish to think.

Albatross said...

Hi Eli,

FWIW, here is a post refuting Roger's latest BS. He is trying his best to shout squirrel so as to distract from the paper's inconvenient finding ;)


The interesting finding, that you did not highlight (wink), is that they find an increase in damages since 1970 even after applyling your normalization methodology from your 2008 paper. They say:

"From these findings we conclude that it is predominantly the change in hazard over time – rather than the change in destructible wealth or vulnerability – that has driven up normalized losses, as reflected in the strong similarity of the longer-term signals in Fig. 8."

Now how did that key finding go unnoticed by you in your blog post? ;)

To reiterate, they do find that the environment/climate in which the damaging storms are developing has changed. They say:
"As a conclusion, a high probability is assigned to climatic variations primarily driving the changes in normalized losses since 1970."

What they didn't try and determine is whether or not that change in the severe thunderstorm climate regime is anthropogenic or natural, and nowhere in the paper or the press release do they refer to anthropogenic climate change causing the changes storm environment. However, and this is critical, the observed changes (e.g., increasing CAPE) are consistent with the theory and expected changes as a result of AGW. They say that in the paper and in the final sentence of the abstract:

"Nevertheless, the expected impacts of anthropogenic climate change on the forcing of convective storms appear consistent with these findings."

CAPE, which they use in their study, is modulated by a great degree by low-level moisture (in their case the lowest 100 mb above the surface). So the NCEP-NCAR reanalysis must be showing an increase in low-level moisture to facilitate an increase in CAPE. One can increase CAPE by warming the low-levels and cooling temperature aloft (differential heating), but the impact of changing low-level moisture has by far a greater impact on CAPE than does the differential heating. Indeed if one looks at the 850-mb specific humidity in the NCAR-NCAR reanalysis data between 1970 and 2009, there is a clear increase in the specific humidity over the "CNA" region for the March-September period.

What I do take issue with in their paper is their use of Willett et al. (2010). That paper looked only at annual trends up until 1999, whereas this paper looks at data through 2009 and for March through September (i.e., not annual). Other papers have extended the analysis out further in time or have used different data. Brown and DeGaetano (2013) find statistically significant increases in the surface dewpoint over the "CNA" region (see their Fig. 7) in the spring (MAM) and summer (JJA) between 1947 and 2010. Further, Durre et al. (2009) found an increase in column-integrated water vapor below 500 mb (Fig. 3c in Durre et al. 2009, JGR) at some sites within the "CNA" region for the summer months between 1973 and 2006.

So the authors should have either cited a more appropriate paper and/or or shown the trends in the low-level moisture over their study area and time window from the NCEP-NCAR reanalysis data that they used. But this is hardly controversial and in no way undermines their findings.

This is just another example of certain opportunists pouncing on an inconvenient paper to advance their agenda against climate scientists, through a willful misinterpretation and twisting of the paper and associated press release.

Roger what this amounts to is you making a straw man argument here about "attribution", and then going on to make sweeping derogatory generalizations about climate science. Shameful and desperate antics by you in my opinion.


PS: In your conclusions you should be referring to "specific humidity" and not "humidity, they are very different things."