Saturday, November 23, 2013

Judith Curry's Version of Denialism

Here is a very good example of what's wrong with much of the science blogosphere, and why science, with its emphasis on evidence and careful, deliberate thought, doesn't really fit in to it.

Judith Curry passes along an interview with Hans von Storch, said to be translated by someone named "Pierre Gosselin." Here is her quote, and here is how Gosselin's translation ends:
Also, von Storch believes that the oceans could be warming up, but that there is very little data out there to confirm it.
That's how Gosselin's interview ends -- with no supporting evidence at all.

That matters, since almost all of global warming goes into the ocean.,

That makes the statement gossip, not science. There is no evidence whatsoever to support it. 

von Storch offers nothing -- or, if he did, the interview didn't communicate it.

First of all, if there is such little data to confirm it the oceans are warming, why does von Storch believe it? Does he believe things for which there is no evidence? 

And Curry passes it along without any supporting evidence at all. 

That is not what a good scientist does. 

Real scientists support their assertions, and accept the assertions of others based on the evidence. 

That, clearly, is not what's happening here. 

Judith Curry wants to be a player. Clearly. My distinct impression is that she thinks that means she has to offer up controversial statements and take an obstinate position.

It might get her a lot of comments. I wonder if it gets her a lot of respect.

Because a great deal of work has gone into calculating the changes in ocean heat content over the last 50+ years. Really hard work, digging up records and undestanding them and figuring out what they say and their limitations.

People like Sydney Levitus, who just retired from NOAA, have spend entire careers trying to understand ocean warming. Look at this document -- NOAA Atlas NESDIS 60, WORLD OCEAN DATABASE 2005 -- an enormous amount of work has gone into it -- millions of observatoins. And even then they can't get the error bars for OHC less than about 50% for the 1950s-1960s. 


The next few pages show clearly that they have worked on understanding XBT accuracy, their errors, teir corrections, etc.

Or check out their section 1.2, pg 24:
With the distribution of WOD05 there are now approximately 7.9 million temperature profiles and 2.7 million salinity profiles (as well as other profile data and plankton data) available to the international research community in a common format with associated metadata and quality control flags.
That is really difficult scientific work. Damn hard. Infinitely harder than blogging.

So people like Judith Curry and Hans von Storch don't get to dismiss that work with a wave of the hand.

And this is just one example. It is endemic in the denialist blogosphere -- and, yes, I am choosing the word "denialist" knowing full well what it means -- it means people who take a position without regard to the evidence. Which is exactly what Curry is doing here. 

Maybe von Storch did too -- but I can't tell without knowing the full transcript of his interview that was translated. 

This kind of shit has to end. Either people like Judith Curry are scientists, or they are not. Posts like this indicate she is not, even if journalists (including me -- I try to include all voices in my writing, though it's getting ever harder) write her and even if she gets creampuff interviews on NPR -- one of the sadder recent moments in my trade of science journalism. 


Anonymous said...

In Judith's most recent post, she highlights two posts from ScottishSeptic. Her only comment is You should read the entire posts, and the comments are interesting as well. What Judith fails to comment on is that the author of those posts, in the comments, argues that climate scientists may well deserve the death penalty if we were, in future, to decide to judge them for what they've done. I fail to see how any reasonable person could regard such a view as acceptable. I also fail to see how Judith can simply highlight such posts without at least making some kind of statement about the value of such posts.

As you say, it seems like Judith is simply happy to promote controversial things so as to increase her readership.

Anonymous said...

I should add that me typing "ScottishSceptic" as "ScottishSeptic" was a typo and not intentional.

Andy S said...

There's a clear bias in Judith Curry's opinions. She will say (an apparently appreciative) Wow! when commenting on Murry Salby's weird ideas on CO2 and then, later, be immediately dismissive of the careful work of Cowtan and Way on the temperature record, seemingly without having read the paper in any detail.

Then, as noted above, she dismisses data on ocean temperatures as too uncertain, yet accepts the corrected historical data on tornadoes as being good enough to declare Richard Muller correct, despite more careful analysis by people like Jeff Masters.

I honestly don't know whether Curry deserves to be labelled a "denier" on AGW. However, she certainly exhibits enough bias to be denied being taken seriously as an honest broker on the science, which, I am guessing, is how she would like to be seen.

Paul S said...

Judith Curry's behaviour is archetypally contrarian. She has an idea (which may or may not be correct) of what mainstream scientific views are and tries to promote views which she believes to be alternative to the mainstream.

First of all, if there is such little data to confirm it the oceans are warming, why does von Storch believe it? Does he believe things for which there is no evidence?

This might be unfair to von Storch. Under the Bayesian paradigm you have degrees of belief so it's perfectly reasonable to believe something is most likely the case while recognising that the data available don't rule out alternatives. I'm not sure to what period the quote refers but almost all relevant conclusions in AR5 are presented as likely, which means >66% chance. It's only upper ocean warming (<700m depth) from 1971-2010 which was considered to be virtually certain.