date: Fri, 07 Aug 2009 09:34:10 -0700
from: Ben Santer <santer1atXYZxyzl.gov>
subject: Re: [Fwd: Re: [Fwd: concerns about the Southeast chapter]]
to: "Thomas R. Karl" <Thomas.R.KarlatXYZxyza.gov>
I'm inclined to agree with Mike. Some people are accessible to rational
scientific debate. They are good Bayesians - when confronted with new
scientific information, they are capable of modifying previously-held
views. John Christy is not accessible to rational scientific debate. New
evidence does not cause him to change his views. He simply claims that
the new evidence is wrong. From John's perspective, any datasets in
disagreement with UAH-based estimates of tropospheric temperature change
constitute "bad data".
John is incapable of recognizing and admitting that Douglass et al. used
a flawed statistical test to reach incorrect conclusions. He continues
to misrepresent the analyses we performed in our response to Douglass et
al. I don't see what useful purpose can be served by trying to engage
him in reasonable scientific debate.
At the Hawaii IPCC meeting in March, John stood up in front of an
audience of IPCC Working Group I Lead Authors and attempted to portray
himself as a victim of scientific discrimination. He claimed that his
"alternative" views on the nature and causes of climate change were
being ignored by the mainstream scientific community. This claim is
bogus. The "mainstream" scientific community has not ignored the
"alternative" views of folks like John Christy. The sad reality is that
we've wasted an inordinate amount of time responding to the flawed
science and incorrect claims of John and his colleagues.
I'm hopeful that I won't have to waste much more time on the "great
satellite debate". In my personal opinion, we're already well past the
point of diminishing returns on this debate. The point of diminishing
returns was reached three years ago, when you overcame great obstacles
to lead a fractious bunch of scientists to the successful completion of
the first CCSP Report.
With best regards,
Thomas R. Karl wrote:
> Just got to this. I wonder if it would be useful to directly respond to
> John, or would this be a time sink? Maybe a cleaned up version of this
> is a single reponse? Just thinking out loud.
> Thanks Ben
> P.S. I have no idea what he is talking about regarding ERST.
> Ben Santer said the following on 7/30/2009 9:41 PM:
>> Dear Tom,
>> Thanks for forwarding the message from John Christy. Excuse me for
>> being so blunt, but John's message is just a load of utter garbage.
>> I got a laugh out of John's claim that Santer et al. (2008) was
>> "poorly done". This was kind of ironic coming from a co-author of the
>> Douglass et al. (2007) paper, which used a fundamentally flawed
>> statistical test to compare modeled and observed tropospheric
>> temperature trends. To my knowledge, John has NEVER acknowledged that
>> Douglass et al. used a flawed statistical test to reach incorrect
>> conclusions - despite unequivocal evidence from the "synthetic data"
>> experiments in Santer et al. (2008) that the Douglass et al. "robust
>> consistency" test was simply wrong. Unbelievably, Christy continues to
>> assert that the results of Douglass et al. (2007) "still stand". I can
>> only shake my head in amazement at such intellectual dishonesty. I
>> guess the best form of defense is a "robust" attack.
>> So how does John support his contention that Santer et al. (2008) was
>> "poorly done"? He begins by stating that:
>> "Santer et al. 2008 used ERSST data which I understand has now been
>> changed in a way that discredits the conclusion there".
>> Maybe you or Tom Peterson or Dick Reynolds can enlighten me on this
>> one. How exactly have NOAA ERSST surface data changed? Recall that
>> Santer et al. (2008) actually used two different versions of the ERSST
>> data (version 2 and version 3). We also used HadISST sea-surface
>> temperature data, and combined SSTs and land 2m temperature data from
>> HadCRUT3v. In other words, we used four different observational
>> estimates of surface temperature changes. Our bottom-line conclusion
>> (no significant discrepancy between modeled and observed
>> lower-tropospheric lapse-rate trends) was not sensitive to our choice
>> of observed surface temperature dataset.
>> John next assets that:
>> "Haimberger's v1.2-1.4 (of the radiosonde data) are clearly spurious
>> due to the error in ECMWF as published many places".
>> I'll let Leo Haimberger respond to that one. And if v1.2 of Leo's data
>> is "clearly spurious", why did John Christy agree to be a co-author on
>> the Douglass et al. paper which uses upper-air data from v1.2?
>> Santer et al. (2008) comprehensively examined structural uncertainties
>> in the observed upper-air datasets. They looked at two different
>> satellite and seven different radiosonde-based estimates of
>> tropospheric temperature change. As in the case of the surface
>> temperature data, getting the statistical test right was much more
>> important (in terms of the bottom-line conclusions) than the choice of
>> observational upper-air dataset.
>> Christy's next criticism of our IJoC paper is even more absurd. He
>> states that:
>> "Santer et al. 2008 asked a very different question...than we did. Our
>> question was "Does the IPCC BEST ESTIMATE agree with the Best Data
>> (including RSS)?" Answer - No. Santer et al. asked, "Does ANY IPCC
>> model agree with ANY data set?" ... I think you can see the difference.
>> Actually, we asked and answered BOTH of these questions. "Tests with
>> individual model realizations" are described in Section 4.1 of Santer
>> et al. (2008), while Section 4.2 covers "Tests with multi-model
>> ensemble-mean trend". As should be obvious - even to John Christy - we
>> did NOT just compare observations with results from individual models.
>> For both types of test ("individual model" and "multi-model average"),
>> we found that, if one applied appropriate statistical tests (which
>> Douglass et al. failed to do), there was no longer a serious
>> discrepancy between modeled and observed trends in tropical lapse
>> rates or in tropical tropospheric temperatures.
>> Again, I find myself shaking my head in amazement. How can John make
>> such patently false claims about our paper? The kindest interpretation
>> is that he is a complete idiot, and has not even bothered to read
>> Santer et al. (2008) before making erroneous criticisms of it. The
>> less kind interpretation is that he is deliberately lying.
>> A good scientist is willing to acknowledge the errors he or she
>> commits (such as applying an inappropriate statistical test). John
>> Christy is not a good scientist. I'm not a religious man, but I'm sure
>> willing to thank some higher authority that Dr. John Christy is not
>> the "gatekeeper" of what constitutes sound science.
>> I hope you don't mind, Tom, but I'm copying this email to some of the
>> other co-authors of the Santer et al. (2008) IJoC paper. They deserve
>> to know about the kind of disinformation Christy is spreading.
>> With best regards,
>> Thomas R. Karl wrote:
>>> -------- Original Message --------
>>> Subject: Re: [Fwd: concerns about the Southeast chapter]
>>> Date: Mon, 27 Jul 2009 09:54:22 -0500
>>> From: John Christy <john.christyatXYZxyztc.uah.edu>
>>> To: Thomas C Peterson <Thomas.C.PetersonatXYZxyza.gov>
>>> CC: Thomas R Karl <Thomas.R.KarlatXYZxyza.gov>
>>> References: <4A534CF9.9080700atXYZxyza.gov>
>>> I've been on a heavy travel schedule and just now getting to emails
>>> I've delayed. I was in Asheville briefly Thursday for a taping for
>>> the CDMP project at the Biltmore estates (don't know why that was the
>>> backdrop) while traveling between meetings in Chapel Hill, Atlanta
>>> and here.
>>> We disagree on the use of available climate information regarding the
>>> many things related to climate/climate change as I see by your
>>> responses below - that is not unexpected as climate is an ugly,
>>> ambiguous, and complex system studied by a bunch of prima donnas (me
>>> included) and which defies authoritative declarations. I base my
>>> views on hard-core, published literature (some of it mine, but most
>>> of it not), so saying otherwise is not helpful or true. The simple
>>> fact is that the opinions expressed in the CCSP report do not
>>> represent the real range of scientific literature (the IPCC fell into
>>> the same trap - so running to the IPCC's corner doesn't move things
>>> I think I can boil my objections to the CCSP Impacts report to this
>>> one idea for the SE (and US): The changes in weather variables
>>> (measured in a systematic settings) of the past 30 years are within
>>> the range of natural variability. That's the statement that should
>>> have been front and center of this whole document because it is
>>> mathematically/scientifically defensible. And, it carries more
>>> weight with planners so you can say to them, "If it happened before,
>>> it will happen again - so get ready now." By the way, my State
>>> Climatologist response to the CCSP was well-received by legislators
>>> and stakeholders (including many in the federal government) and still
>>> gets hits at http://**vortex.nsstc.uah.edu/aosc/.
>>> There also was a page or so on the tropical troposphere-surface issue
>>> that I didn't talk about on my response. It was wrong because it did
>>> not include all the latest research (i.e. since 2006) on the
>>> continuing and significant difference between the two trends.
>>> Someone was acting as a fierce gatekeeper on that one - citing only
>>> things that agreed with the opinion shown even if poorly done (e.g.
>>> Santer et al. 2008 used ERSST data which I understand has now been
>>> changed in a way that discredits the conclusion there, and
>>> Haimberger's v1.2-1.4 are clearly spurious due to the error in ECMWF
>>> as published many places, but analyzed in detail in Sakamoto and
>>> Christy 2009). The results of Douglass et al. 2007 (not cited by
>>> CCSP) still stand since Santer et al. 2008 asked a very different
>>> question (and used bad data to boot) than we did. Our question was
>>> "Does the IPCC BEST ESTIMATE agree with the Best Data (including
>>> RSS)?" Answer - No. Santer et al. asked, "Does ANY IPCC model agree
>>> with ANY data set?" ... I think you can see the difference. The fact
>>> my 2007 tropical paper (the follow-on papers in 2009 were probably
>>> too late, but they substantiate the 2007 paper) was not cited
>>> indicates how biased this section was. Christy et al. 2007 assessed
>>> the accuracy of the datasets (Santer et al. did not - they assumed
>>> all datasets were equal without looking at the published problems)
>>> and we came up with a result that defied the "consensus" of the CCSP
>>> report - so, it was doomed to not be mentioned since it would disrupt
>>> the storyline. (And, as soon as RSS fixes their spurious jump in
>>> 1992, our MSU datasets will be almost indistinguishable.)
>>> This gets to the issue that the "consensus" reports now are just the
>>> consensus of those who agree with the consensus. The
>>> government-selected authors have become gatekeepers rather than
>>> honest brokers of information. That is a real tragedy, because when
>>> someone becomes a gatekeeper, they don't know they've become a
>>> gatekeeper - and begin to (sincerely) think the non-consensus
>>> scientists are just nuts (... it's more comfortable that way rather
>>> than giving them credit for being skeptical in the face of a paradigm).
>>> Take care.
>>> John C.
>>> p.s. a few quick notes are interspersed below.
>>> Thomas C Peterson wrote:
>>>> Hi, John,
>>>> I didn't want this to catch you by surprise.
>>>> -------- Original Message --------
>>>> Subject: concerns about the Southeast chapter
>>>> Date: Tue, 07 Jul 2009 09:25:45 -0400
>>>> From: Thomas C Peterson <thomas.c.petersonatXYZxyza.gov>
>>>> To: jim.obrienatXYZxyzps.fsu.edu
>>>> CC: Tom Karl <Thomas.R.KarlatXYZxyza.gov>
>>>> Dear Jim,
>>>> First off and most importantly, congratulations on your recent
>>>> marriage. Anthony said it was the most touching wedding he has ever
>>>> been to. I wish you and your bride all the best.
>>>> Thank you for your comments and for passing on John Christy's
>>>> detailed concerns about the Southeast chapter of our report, /Global
>>>> Climate Change Impacts in the United States/. Please let me respond
>>>> to the key points he raised.
>>>> In Dr. John Christy's June 23, 2009 document "Alabama climatologist
>>>> responds to U.S. government report on regional impacts of global
>>>> climate change", he primarily focused on 4 prime concerns:
>>>> 1. Assessing changes since 1970.
>>>> 2. Statements on hurricanes.
>>>> 3. Electrical grid disturbances (from the Energy section).
>>>> 4. Using models to assess the future.
>>>> /1. Assessing changes since 1970./
>>>> The Southeast section has 5 figures and one table. One figure is on
>>>> changes in precipitation patterns from 1901-2007. The next figure is
>>>> on patterns of days per year over 90F with two maps, one 1961-1979,
>>>> the other 2080-2099. One figure is on the change in freezing days
>>>> per year, 1976-2007. The next figure is on changes to a barrier
>>>> island land from 2002 to 2005. And the last figure was on Sea
>>>> Surface Temperature from 1900 to the present. The table indicates
>>>> trends in temperature and precipitation over two periods, 1901-2008
>>>> and 1970-2008. As Dr. Christy indicates in his paper, the full
>>>> period and the period since 1970 are behaving differently. To help
>>>> explain this, the table shows them both. Of the 5 figures, only one
>>>> shows the changes over this shorter period.
>>>> Since, as the IPCC has indicated, the human impact on climate isn't
>>>> distinguishable from natural variability until about 1950,
>>>> describing the changes experienced in the majority of the time since
>>>> 1950 would be a more logical link to future anthropogenic climate
>>>> change. In most of the report, maps have shown the changes over the
>>>> last 50 years. Because of the distinct behavior of time series of
>>>> precipitation and temperature in the Southeast, discussing the
>>>> period since 1970 seemed more appropriate. Though as the figures and
>>>> table indicate, this shorter period is not the sole or even major
>>> See crux of the matter in email above - looking at the whole time
>>> series is demanded by science. Any 30 or 50-year period will give
>>> changes - blaming the most recent on humans ignores the similar (or
>>> even more rapid) changes that occurred before industrialization (e.g.
>>> western drought in 12th century). The period since 1970 WAS the
>>> major focus in the SE section (mentioned 6 times in two pages). And,
>>> OF COURSE any 30-year sub-period will have different characteristics
>>> than the 100-year population from which it is extracted ... that
>>> doesn't prove anything.
>>>> /2. Statements on hurricanes./
>>>> Dr. Christy takes issue with the report's statements about
>>>> hurricanes and quotes a line from the report and quotes an
>>>> individual hurricane expert who says that he disagrees with the
>>>> conclusions. The line in the report that Dr. Christy quotes comes
>>>> almost word for word out of CCSP SAP 3.3. While individual
>>>> scientists may disagree with the report's conclusions, this
>>>> conclusion came directly out of the peer-reviewed literature and
>>>> assessments. Dr. Christy also complains that "the report did not
>>>> include a plot of the actual hurricane landfalls". However, the
>>>> section in the Southeast chapter discussing landfalling hurricanes
>>>> states "see /National Climate Change/ section for a discussion of
>>>> past trends and future projections" and sure enough on page 35 there
>>>> is a figure showing land falling hurricanes along with a more in
>>>> depth discussion of hurricanes.
>>> You didn't read my State Climatologist response carefully - I
>>> mentioned page 35 and noted again it talked about the most recent
>>> decades (and even then, the graph still didn't go back to 1850).
>>> This hurricane storyline was hit hard by many scientists - hence is
>>> further evidence the report was generated by a gatekeeper mentality.
>>>> /3. Electrical grid disturbances (from the Energy section)./
>>>> Moving out of the Southeast, Dr. Christy complains about one figure
>>>> in the Energy Chapter. Citing a climate skeptic's blog which cites
>>>> an individual described as the keeper of the data for the Energy
>>>> Information Administration (EIA), John writes that the rise in
>>>> weather related outages is largely a function of better reporting.
>>>> Yet the insert of weather versus non-weather-related outages shows a
>>>> much greater increase in weather-related outages than
>>>> non-weather-related outages. If all the increases were solely due
>>>> to better reporting, the differences between weather- and
>>>> non-weather-related outages would indicate a dramatic decrease over
>>>> this time period in non-weather related problems such as
>>>> transmission equipment failures, earthquakes, faults in line, faults
>>>> at substations, relaying malfunctions, and vandalism.
>>>> Thanks to the efforts of EIA, after they took over the
>>>> responsibility of running the Department of Energy (DOE)
>>>> data-collection process around 1997, data collection became more
>>>> effective. Efforts were made in subsequent years to increase the
>>>> response rate and upgrade the reporting form. It was not until EIA's
>>>> improvement of the data collection that the important decoupling of
>>>> weather- and non-weather-related events (and a corresponding
>>>> increase in the proportion of all events due to weather extremes)
>>>> became visible.
>>>> To adjust for potential response-rate biases, we have separated
>>>> weather- and non-weather-related trends into indices and found an
>>>> upward trend only in the weather-related time series.
>>>> As confirmed by EIA, *if there were a systematic bias one would
>>>> expect it to be reflected in both data series (especially since any
>>>> given reporting site would report both types of events).*
>>>> As an additional precaution, we focused on trends in the number of
>>>> events (rather than customers affected) to avoid fortuitous
>>>> differences caused by the population density where events occur.
>>>> This, however, has the effect of understating the weather impacts
>>>> because of EIA definitions (see survey methodology notes below).
>>>> More details are available at:
>>> The data were not systematically taken and should not have been shown
>>> .. basic rule of climate.
>>>> /4. Using models to assess the future./
>>>> Can anyone say anything about the future of the Southeast's climate?
>>>> Evidently according to John Christy, the answer is no. The basic
>>>> physics of the greenhouse effect and why increasing greenhouse gases
>>>> are warming and should be expected to continue to warm the planet
>>>> are well known and explained in the /Global Climate Change/ section
>>>> of the report. Climate models are used around the world to both
>>>> diagnose the observed changes in climate and to provide projections
>>>> for the future. There is a huge body of peer-reviewed literature,
>>>> including a large number of peer-reviewed climate change
>>>> assessments, supporting this use. But in Dr. Christy's "view,"
>>>> models should not be used for projections of the future, especially
>>>> for the Southeast. The report based, and indeed must base, its
>>>> results on the huge body of peer-reviewed scientific literature
>>>> rather than the view of one individual scientist.
>>> No one has proven models are capable of long-range forecasting.
>>> Modelers write and review their own literature - there are millions
>>> of dollars going into these enterprises, so what would you expect?
>>> Publication volume shouldn't impress anyone. The simple fact is we
>>> demonstrated in a straightforward and reproducible way that the
>>> actual trends over the past 30, 20, and 10 years are outside of the
>>> envelop of model predictions ... no one has disputed that finding
>>> with an alternative analysis - even when presented before
>>> congressional hearings where the opportunity for disagreement was
>>> openly available.
>>>> I hope this helps relieve some of your concerns.
>>>> Tom Peterson
>>> John R. Christy
>>> Director, Earth System Science Center voice: 256-961-7763
>>> Professor, Atmospheric Science fax: 256-961-7751
>>> Alabama State Climatologist
>>> University of Alabama in Huntsville
>>> Mail: ESSC-Cramer Hall/University of Alabama in Huntsville,
>>> Huntsville AL 35899
>>> Express: Cramer Hall/ESSC, 320 Sparkman Dr., Huntsville AL 35805
>>> *Thomas R. Karl, L.H.D.*
>>> Director, NOAA�s National Climatic Data Center
>>> Lead, NOAA Climate Services
>>> Veach-Baley Federal Building
>>> 151 Patton Avenue
>>> Asheville, NC 28801-5001
>>> Tel: (828) 271-4476
>>> Fax: (828) 271-4246
>>> Thomas.R.KarlatXYZxyza.gov <mailto:Thomas.R.KarlatXYZxyza.gov>
> *Thomas R. Karl, L.H.D.*
> Director, NOAA�s National Climatic Data Center
> Lead, NOAA Climate Services
> Veach-Baley Federal Building
> 151 Patton Avenue
> Asheville, NC 28801-5001
> Tel: (828) 271-4476
> Fax: (828) 271-4246
> Thomas.R.KarlatXYZxyza.gov <mailto:Thomas.R.KarlatXYZxyza.gov>
Benjamin D. Santer
Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
P.O. Box 808, Mail Stop L-103
Livermore, CA 94550, U.S.A.
Tel: (925) 422-3840
FAX: (925) 422-7675