18 August 2009

Speeding Through Haldane's Four Stages

In 1963 J. B. S. Haldane wrote that the acceptance of scientific ideas goes through four usual stages (PDF):
(i) this is worthless nonsense;
(ii) this is an interesting, but perverse, point of view;
(iii) this is true, but quite unimportant;
(iv) I always said so.
Klotzbach et al. seems to be going through these stages at an unusually rapid pace. Here are some examples.

(i) this is worthless nonsense;
From University of Texas atmospheric scientist Michael Tobis a first reaction, "my BS detector is ringing pretty loud."
(ii) this is an interesting, but perverse, point of view;
From climate modeler James Annan, "an interesting paper which, if correct, helps to align the satellite and surface temperature trends . . . all he seems to have shown is that his preferred metric is even less useful than it at first appeared."
(iii) this is true, but quite unimportant;
Tobis again, a little later, not passing judgment but saying "if they have [actually resolved the temperature trend differential], it means that both temperature records are substantially correct."
(iv) I always said so.
Hmmm . . . I haven't heard anyone yet get to this stage. Perhaps someone will argue that the observational divergence that we document is "consistent with" the behavior of the models based on some enormous spread of heretofore unrecognized uncertainties. But where might that perspective come from? I wonder . . . ;-)


  1. A variation on Schopenhauer?
    "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

    On a different topic but policy relevant; have you seen this?
    " Referring to the mitigation service by India’s forest and tree cover, the report states 'Our estimates show that the annual CO2 removals by India’s forest and tree cover is enough to neutralize 11.25 per cent of India’s Green House Gas (GHG) emissions (CO2 equivalent) at 1994 levels, the most recent year for which comparable data is available for developing countries based on their respective National Communications (NATCOMS) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).”

    "This is equivalent to offsetting 100 per cent emissions from all energy in residential and transport sectors; or 40 per cent of total emissions from the agriculture sector"."

    "This is the path we intend to tread in India"
    India covers Kyoto by copying the American defense you might say. Of course we might also conclude that it was "self-evident" that the best carbon collectors turned out to be trees after all. Nature knows best.

  2. The disagreements on our paper should focus on this issue

    "Using a single level over land near the surface as representative of deeper layer temperature trends introduced a bias."

    If you disagree with that, please state why.

    When the average temperature of the lower troposphere increases, sampling just at one level near the ground as a measure of that tropospheric temperature increase, introduces a warm bias. If the lower tropospheric temperature decreased, it would be a cool bias. The land temperatures at 2m are particularly sensitive to changes in the vertical distribution of heating.

    Since the global average surface temperature trend is used to diagnose global warming (i.e. the famous "we cannot exceed 2C issue"), such a bias is of considerable importance,

    On the claim that the Eastman et al paper is central to the Klotzbach et al paper, this is absurd. That paper was just cited to indicate that added CO2 is one way that the near surface minimum temperatures are increased more than the temperatures higher up. [Roger A. Pielke Sr.]

  3. I'm surprised it's going this quickly. It's a long paper and I am not sufficiently familiar with all the background material to make any snap judgement. I skimmed and decided I would need to budget time later.

    I was a bit surprised at MT's extremely rapid first evaluation, which seemed to be nothing more than ruminations suggesting that there is a problem with authors including citaitons to relevant work if those citations happened to have published in the past.

  4. The reaction is disgusting and rather stupid at this point. I don't know why the heck they are trying to spin this as "just more validation of the surface record" and "reconciliation of the satellites and surface record"-nearly the opposite of what is actually said in the paper!!!

    That my friends is the Climate of Extremes.

  5. Similar to:

    1. I never borrowed that money from you.

    2. It wasn't $100 - it was only $50.

    3. And anyway, I already paid you back.

    When this stuff comes from Angry Message Board Guy, it's fair to blame the messenger and not the message. When it comes from world-famous climate scientists, don't you have to start questioning the message?

    General rule: when people are confident that they have the truth on their side, they tend to just keep repeating the truth. When people stray from the truth to support their argument, it's generally because they don't believe what they're saying.

  6. Climate scientist James Annan has reached stage 3 and shows signs of Stage 4 thinking:


    With climate scientists snark seems fairly constant across the stages ;-)

  7. James Annan also is missing an important conclusion which is independent of the amplification issue. The warm bias is clearly present. The conclusion that

    "[F]rom our papers (Pielke and Matsui 2005 and Lin et al. 2007), a conservative estimate of the warm bias resulting from measuring the temperature near the ground is around 0.21 C per decade (with the nightime T(min) contributing a large part of this bias) . Since land covers about 29% of the Earth’s surface (see), the warm bias due to this influence explains about 30% of the IPCC estimate of global warming. In other words, consideration of the bias in temperature would reduce the IPCC trend to about 0.14 degrees C per decade, still a warming, but not as large as indicated by the IPCC"

    is not based on our new paper.

    This is based on observed temperature trends at two levels. While it is certainly a limited set of data, the theoretical basis for this based on boundary layer physics is solid.

    The new Klotzbach et al paper provides further, more definitive support for the robustness of the conclusion of the warm bias, regardless of the specific value of the amplification factor.

  8. Ah, but my favorite (and possibly relevant to climate change) quote of Haldane's is
    “Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we "can" suppose.”
    (I put "can" in quotes because I couldn't figure out how to do italics in a post- oh well).

  9. A bit of context is missing. I said:

    "Whether Koltzbach and Pielke Sr. have actually resolved the temperature trend differential or not is something I am keeping an open mind about for now. But if they have, it means that both temperature records are substantially correct. I can't imagine why any scientist would be dissatisfied with a result like that, or what scientific motivation there could be to paint it as something else, and then trumpet the unsupported assertion as a new result on a contentious website like Watts'."

    This was before I read Gavin Schmidt's point, and before I started thinking about the contradiction with Parker. So I am now less inclined to assert that anything is resolved. But I appreciate that at least you carried the "if" along with my quotation.

    The context of the quote from me in your point 3 was to suggest, as I have since I came to understand what you mean by "bias", that your result, notable if true, is being misrepresented in public communication, notably on the Watts site.

    How "notable if true" is read as "true but unimportant" quite escapes me.

    I believe you should actively assert that "Our paper does not indicate any systematic error in the surface temperature record." Then we can talk about whether it's true, a question I am still thinking about.

    I CAN explain why the proposed effect (we should name it) would appear in the Eastman experiment as an artifact of the flaws in its methodology, independent of any real boundary layer physics.

    Meanwhile you cannot explain why the effect is spectacularly absent in Parker's data. And Schmidt explains straighforwardly that an absence of tropospheric amplification over land is to be expected on very simple grounds.

  10. jgdes:

    Schopenhauer never said the quote you attributed to him. No one has ever produced an original citation of Schopenhauer's work where this appeared, and I have consulted Schopenhauer scholars on this.

    Schopenhauer did once say something vaguely similar: "To truth only a brief celebration of victory is allowed between the two long periods during which it is condemned as paradoxical, or disparaged as trivial."

  11. Tobis asks that you actively assert the opposite of what the paper says:

    "Our paper does not indicate any systematic error in the surface temperature record."

    Maybe you should oblige him. After all, scientists wouldn't want to undermine their friend's political goals with facts would they?

  12. I have further discussed the significance of our paper on my weblog at


    To emphasize, we are not saying that the surface temperatures trends are not accurately measured at that level. It is just that they are NOT representative of long term trends higher in the troposphere. Their use to characterize a deeper atmospheric layer introduces a bias. [Roger A. Pielke Sr.]