Thursday, November 15, 2018

Nic Lewis Owes Resplandy et al an Apology

Note added Nov 6th 2019: I regret this post and have given Nic Lewis an apology.

I'll assume you know by now the saga of the 10/31 Resplandy et al Nature paper that found a larger uptake of heat by the ocean.

Short story: Nic Lewis found an issue with the paper, but then couldn't refrain from acting unprofessionally.

Longer story via a timeline recap:

10/31 - Respandy et al publish a paper in Nature that uses a new method to calculate heat uptake by the ocean, finding that "the ocean gained 1.33 ± 0.20  × 1022 joules of heat per year between 1991 and 2016, equivalent to a planetary energy imbalance of 0.83 ± 0.11 watts per square metre of Earth’s surface."

10/31 - Media coverage, such as WaPo's "Over the past quarter-century, Earth’s oceans have retained 60 percent more heat each year than scientists previously had thought."

11/6 - Nic Lewis writes a blog post on Judith Curry's site with the title "A major problem with the Resplandy et al. ocean heat uptake paper" -- a big feather in his cap -- also saying he contacted Resplandy.

11/7 - Nic Lewis writes a second blog post, "Resplandy et al. Part 2: Regression in the presence of trend and scale systematic errors"

11/8 - An article in Reason magazine quotes Nic Lewis as saying,
Via email, Lewis responded: "I've had no substantive response from Professor Resplandy, just a non-committal reply saying that they were looking into the questions I had raised and if they found anything that needed correction they would address it. Unfortunately, they have every incentive to conclude that they don't need to take any action! So do Nature; journals don't like being made to look foolish."
(Emphasis mine.) This insult takes the feather out of Lewis's cap.

11/13 - media coverage of Resplandy et al's correction, for example, WaPo.

11/14 - a post on about their error and correction, by Ralph Keeling, a co-author on the paper, also writing "We would like to thank Nicholas Lewis for first bringing an apparent anomaly in the trend calculation to our attention."

So only two days after he pointed out what he thought was an error, Nic Lewis was already castigating Resplandy et al for not acknowledging his analysis. [Correction 11/21: Lewis says he email Resplandy on 11/1. So it was 5 days before his blog post. This doesn't change my opinion that his 11/8 comments to Reason were unprofessional.] He gave them no-to-little time for analysis, no time to figure out what he was saying or to address the subtleties involved -- Lewis was mostly interested in scoring points.

That's unprofessional.

This paper went from publication to correction in two weeks. (BTW, their results didn't change much; see below.) But that wasn't good enough -- Nic Lewis wanted to do a victory lap on their faces just TWO DAYS after his blog post, when he had no idea if Resplendy et al were considering his argument or not. In fact, they were considering it, carefully.

Nic Lewis owes Respendy et al an apology.

PS: The Resplandy et al results didn't get much lower after this correction, but do now have a much larger error bar: they went from an oceanic heat uptake of (1.33 ± 0.20) x 1022 J/yr from 1961-2016 to (1.21 ± 0.72) x 1022 J/yr, a decrease of 9%.

PPS: Come on, how about using zettajoules (1 ZJ = 1021 J)? Odd units are why spacecraft crash.


E Zubek said...

Factoring in the uncertainty, the new numbers are worse (1.9 versus 1.5).

David Appell said...

How so? I quoted the original and new numbers above: the OHC annual change is 9%, but with a much larger error bar. Where are you getting 1.9 and 1.5?

David in Cal said...

Yes, Lewis was unprofessional to so quickly criticize the response to his correction. Still, Lewis is owed a debt of gratitude for finding the error. We all want accurate science.

Keeling and his co-authors also deserve congratulations for acknowledging the error. Some researchers are less ethical. A few years ago my wife published a correction to some statistics in a paper by an Italian scientist named Zamboni. Dr. Zamboni did respond, but not as unambiguously as Keeling did.

Another example involves a friend named Mark Hudes. Mark found errors in work by a group of Indian scientists. The errors were clear cut and actually looked intentional. Rather than acknowledge the errors, these Indian scientists wrote a bullshit response.

Salvatore Del Prete said...

We need real climate science not this waste of a time on AGW THEORY and all it's false claims.

Layzej said...

i think the 1.9 and 1.5 that E Zubek mentioned are the high end of the uncertainty for the new and original results. I'm not sure we should put as much stock in the high end estimates though as they are not as consistent with previous results.

David Appell said...

Salvatore denies the science of AGW, because he things cooling began in 2002:

"Your conclusions are in a word wrong, and that will be proven over the coming years, as the temperatures of earth will start a more significant decline (which started in year 2002 by the way)...."
- Salvatore del Prete, “Reply to article: IC Joanna Haigh - Declining solar activity linked to recent warming,” 10/8/2010

Layzej said...

Interesting theory... Doesn't seem to have panned out though.

Solar activity did plummet over the period but it doesn't seem to have had much of an effect...

I'd be interested to hear from Salvatore about whether this failed prediction altered his preconceptions.

David Appell said...

Layzej, Salvatore doesn't do self-analysis. He makes the same dumb predictions on Roy Spencer's blog year after year, and won't ever admit he has been wrong. His denial is exceptionally strong.

Anonymous said...

lol u r a fag

Anonymous said...

Nic Lewis owes Resplandy et al an apology. Nature just retracted Resplandy et al. Oops

Anonymous said...

The Reason comments are unreasonable. It stands to reason that even if an error was made, that the authors will want to understand what they did wrong, why, check the rest of the work, etc. And they ended up agreeing to the basic claims within a short amount of time.

I don't see anything wrong in Nic's blog posting though. After all if work is public, especially when accompanied by newsy press releases, critics are justified in rapid critiques within the news cycle. And as events proved, the technical criticism was apt.

Puzzling to me that they had a conceptual error that was seen so quickly by a critic but not caught in review. I do know that it is easy to have logical errors in statistics. But given the complexity of the work, the substantial dependence of the results on statistical method choices, it seems that better checking of stats should be done by reviewers and authors. And really the papers ought to go into more detail on the stats methods.