Curry curries no favour

Judith Curry has co-authored a new paper published in PNAS titled “Accelerated warming of the Southern Ocean and its impacts on the hydrological cycle and sea ice”. You can read a copy at her website.

Hat tip to SteveF over at Rabett Run.

I obtained a copy of it (yeah I paid $10) and have read it through. Well, to be honest, I’ve spent the last few hours trying to work through it. While I’m interested in the study itself and what it finds about this question, I’m really more interested in the treatment of Curry and her paper by the denialist/ skeptic/ contrarian crowd. I’ve been watching the response on WTFIUWT and wow. Just wow.

More on that later.

As to the paper, it reviews and addresses the “the seeming paradox of the observed increasing total Antarctic sea ice area for the past three decades” and presents the results of model runs using two of the IPCC scenarios for anthropogenic forcings.

One of the big debates in climate blog land is over the ice. As Mosher once quipped, alarmists run to the ice when every they are challenged and I could respond that  skeptics/denialists point to arctic sea ice extent when they likewise are challenged. Ice seems to be a real point of contention. So, Curry and her co-author attempt to address the fact that despite the increase in global temperature over the past decades, total antarctic sea ice has increased rather than decreased.

So, in a layman’s nutshell, and correct me if I’m wrong on this, the authors hypothesize that warming in the atmosphere (which, contrary to the yahoos at WTFIUWT, warms the oceans). leads to warmer oceans, which leads to increase in evaporation and increased moisture in the lower troposphere. This moisture is transported by the “meridional circulation” towards the pole where it falls as liquid precipitation in the high-latitudes of the Southern Ocean (rain, IOW). More fresh water results in a slowdown of the heat transport due to decreased salinity. I take it this is similar to the thermohaline circulation in the Atlantic and its affects on temps in the North Atlantic. Increased precipitation in higher latitudes leads to an increase in snow and ice. Increased snow and ice increases albedo, which enhances this process, etc. This is enough to overcome the warming seen elsewhere.

Is that accurate from what you know or have read?

That’s a bit of a knock to those who point to increased ice extent in the Antarctic as some kind of proof against anthropogenic global warming. How many times have I seen this pulled out in response to a pro-AGW post? Too many. I believe Skeptical Science has some good work on this.

Back to Curry. I’m not up on the statistical analysis used to evaluate SST records or the projections using models so I will leave it to those who are up on it to comment on that aspect. Suffice it to say that the models did not show the observed variability in SST in the 20th century.

I was interested in the apparent inability of the models to capture the variability in SST in the last half of the 20th century.

“…none of the models’ individual ensemble members have the dominant spaciotemporal SST variability found in the observations what was characterized by the broad-scale warming of the Southern Ocean.”

So the models appear unable to replicate the variability in observed SSTs when the anthropogenic forcings of the last 50 years of the 20th century are used. This admission is used by Curry’s detractors at WTFIUWT as we shall see further down in the post.

The authors conclude, based on their model runs:

“With increased loading of greenhouse gasses through the 21st century, the models suggest that there is an accelerated warming in the Southern Ocean. Moreover, there is a strong poleward expansion of warming from low to high emissions. As shown in Fig. 4B, SST under sea ice in the 2090s is a few tenths of a degree warmer than in the 2000s, and the warming could be as large as 1 – 1.5C in the ACC. THus, the pronounced warming in the Southern Ocean during the 21st century offsets and exceeds the cooling effect associated with the decrease of upward ocean heat transport as a result of the enhanced hydrological cycle. As the warming extends poleward, the circumpolar westerlies are projected to intensify and shift poleward due to increasing greenhouse gasses, coupled with the presence of the Antarctic ozone hole.”

As I say, I’m not competent to evaluate the methodologies used in this paper. I am interested in what others who are more adept have to say and what they conclude so I so look forward to reading comments and response to the paper here and elsewhere.

And please, if I’ve made glaring errors, please post and correct me. I won’t be insulted.

I’m a bit taken aback by the response at WUWT — I suppose there must be a lot of scientists and experts on sea ice, antarctic climate and ocean dynamics there because the commenters question the very basis of the paper and Curry’s ability to do this research.


What I am interested in is the way the paper is received on skeptic/denialist/contrarian blogs, for Judith Curry seems to have hitched her wagon to the skeptics, making quite strong and in some cases, quite defamatory statements on skeptic blogs about climate scientists and science bloggers.

She appears to be trying to reach out to skeptics/deniers/contrarians in order to, well, I don’t really understand her motives or agenda in doing so, and so I will leave it at that.

Let us just say that she is a polarizing figure in this whole matter. AGW supporters question her motives, and skeptics laud her willingness to consort with them and criticize climate science and climate scientists.

But their response to her recent paper is quite awe inspiring.Over at WTFIUWT, the slings and arrows are let fly:

Mike G expresses it clearly:

Ed Caryl says:
August 17, 2010 at 6:15 am
I learned one thing here. Ignore Judith Curry!

Good luck getting your paper accepted Dr. Curry. The establishment seems to have turned on you, as they do to anyone who stops drinking the kool air and worshiping at their altar, even if only temporarily.

Willard might find this amusing — both sides use the reference to drinking kool aid. I’ve seen it used on both skeptic and supporter blogs so it’s a popular reference  and carries a strong sense of ridicule.

Here’s a few responses to Curry’s paper that I noted:


The trick is to tag-team with the other authors to avoid blatant self-contradiction; and to almost-say or almost-imply with cunning shifts whereby a speculation or assumption is deftly transformed to a fact-base for further speculations and assumptions.

When all else fails, there’s the princess routine: that lofty and wistful yearning for a “thoughtful question”.

Tim Clark:

This paper is a big disappointment. I expected a little better from you. Another paper submitted with the aid of cronyism.

1Dandy Troll:

Wow reality trumping fiction as snowing in antarctica is now considered a paradox.

Wonder what they calla an normal warm day in sahara, a freak of nature?


We don’t want to hold you to this rock solid, scientifically based prognostication, Ms Curry. Science is supposed to be about SOLID predictions. Curry can’t even say unequivocally that SOME DAY the ice extent might actually start to shrink. Something as certain as the Sun coming up tomorrow, and she is waffling on it.

The problem is that she knows she is just flapping her gums. The reporters seemed not to notice and duly wrote it down

George E. Smith:


Gaiaa doesn’t make paradoxes; she takes care to see that everything works exactly as it is supposed to; so for the last time; there is no Antarctic paradox !

If you guys (and gals) don’t know how or why it works, why don’t you say so; instead of implying that you do understand how it works; but it isn’t working that way. You and your blathering are the paradox; not Antarctica !

jim hogg:

And this is what passes for science in the 21st Century! . . . It’s overloaded with unjustifiable assumptions and speculative in the most obvious and shallow fashion conceivable.

Climate Watcher:

So that amount of GHG forcing is baked in the cake as an assumption
because the 1d models lack fidelity to the real world where additional
CO2 cools the Earth/Atm system under some cases.

Empirical scientists would like to know.

BTW: Not missing a tropospheric hot spot are you, or some Long Wave radiation as measured by the ERBE and CERES satellites, and how are those model projections holding up vs the actual temperature record? Hmmmm?

In all seriousness – how on earth do I distinguish your all warming all cooling CO2 theory as an actual falsifiable scientific theory and not quakery?

As I said – please rule some phenomena out – then we can measure it and see how your theory stacks up. – anything else is nonsense.

Robert of Ottawa:

mosomoso says August 16, 2010 at 9:40 pm

…that the woman is shifty!

It may be that Judith Curry just doesn’t buy this BS any more, but cannot say that without losing her job. She is already on warning, I expect, given the reaction of the Team to her previous attempts at reason.

and earlier:

Judith is waving her arms about her so much she’s actually taken flight.


These folks at Georgia have no clue how Climate works. As the globe warms the precipitable potential arriving to the poles decreases; the perturbations that turn that potential into precipitation become weaker. And as usual, no mention of the upward migration of the rain/snow threshold in a warming scenario.

The media and these unscrupulous “scientists” try to deceive the public day by day with things like this. When will it all end?


These simpletons try to find false answers, to keep their agendas from failing. It’s all due to the oceanic oscillations. Yes, the Antarctic sea ice will melt in the next 30 years, but Arctic ice will increase. That’s why Antarctic Sea Ice hit a record low in 1980, and the Arctic hit a record high in 1980…………Antarctic temperature records, showed that it warmed very substantially from 1950-1977 (the cold PDO) then began to cool after that, solidifying my claim.

There’s much more, but I’ll end with this:


The propensity to speculate about the future and to see “signs” is endemic in science today. Increasingly, modern science is no longer distinguishable from voodoo or witchcraft. I suspect Judith and her cronies have a cauldron:

“Wool of bat and tongue of dog, Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting, Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing, For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble. ALL. Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.”

We skeptics can have oracles too – for McIntyre said that:

“Mann shall never vanquish’d be until
Great Burn’em wood to high Hokey shtick
Shall come against him.”

Curry has spent a great deal of time consorting with the skeptics and contrarians, but if she thought it would help prop up their view of climate science and her in particular, she was obviously wrong.

About Policy Lass

Exploring skeptic tales.

23 Responses to “Curry curries no favour”

  1. Well,I suppose it’s….welcome back,Judith!

  2. PolyisTCOandbanned Reply August 18, 2010 at 8:56 am

    This whole meme of stoneing the one who strayed pisses me off. Makes me get all male-defensive for her as well.

    Curry is not the only legit scientist who criticize the crew. Zorita is every inch of him a working climate scientist in the trenches. And I would go into combat with that man. He is true blue.

    Mike and Gavin and Jones are little DKoss weasel-bois. Want to make them do pushups and pullups and pistol squats until they cry.

    Not Annan though. Dude is all buff and all. I’m on my bike a lot, but I figure I need to get a little stronger before I mouth off to him.

  3. PolyisTCOandbanned Reply August 18, 2010 at 9:05 am

    I made the mistake of scanning the WTFIUWT thread. What a bunch of dolts I have on my side. They should all make lemming and jump off a cliff.

  4. I find it amusing that you have phrasings like WTFIUWT and comments such as above, while complaining about my blog.

    Pot, kettle, and all that.


  5. Curry’s actual published papers have always struck me as…. competent. She just doesn’t apply the same standard to blog discourse – or even the standards normally associated with scientific blogging.

    I get the impression that Curry’s paper is completely unexciting. What does it say that’s new? What, in fact, does she say at all? Snow? Bindun. Models can be improved? Well, duh.

    She doesn’t cite Powell et al (2005), yet cites stuff from her buddy-network that really is barely relevant.

    “Competent” is not a compliment. I hate papers that hide their uninspiring results in heaps of verbiage.

    PS: Watts, you’re still a fraud. When are you going to publish your “surface stations” results? Oh right. That didn’t work out, did it.

  6. TPL said: “both sides use the reference to drinking kool aid. I’ve seen it used on both skeptic and supporter blogs so it’s a popular reference and carries a strong sense of ridicule”.

    Actually the modern usage of the phrase always raises a grin with me.
    The whole point of the original ‘kool aid’ was that LSD enhanced consciousness helped enable seeing through mundane everyday illusions (opened doors of perception etc.) with energised as opposed to dulled down thought – precisely the opposite of what is now implied as a low wattage (Wattage? – there! back on topic!) groupthink.

  7. Actually chek, I think the usage dates make to the Jim Jones massacre in Guyana. People drank the cyanide spiked Kool-Aid there because they followed their leader blindly (or were forced to if they didn’t actually want to die). It has no connection, as far as I can recall, to dropping acid.

  8. I get the Jim Jones hi-jacked crypto-reference RT, but “The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test” is Tom Wolfe’s book of the story of the 1968 school bus tour by Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters.

    Still, never let historical revisionism get in the way of the truth, as they say.
    (Not that I’m holding you responsible for that RT – i always appreciate your comments).

  9. Anthony Watts :
    Pot, kettle, and all that.

    Shewonk, don’t tell me you traced his IP address as well?

    What is it?

  10. Rattus Norvegicus Reply August 18, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    I’m don’t recall “drinking the Kool Aid” to ever have become part of the lexicon for dropping acid, and I’m old enough to remember, although I first ran into the stuff about four years later.

  11. I referred to the Jim Jones event – never heard of acid spiked kool aid.

    Aparently, Watts stepped in and asked for some decency towards Judith Curry. I’m looking forward to reading all her responses. She’s been a model of grace under fire, so I give her kudos for that. I’d have launched into an expletive-filled snarkfest if it had been me…

  12. Well, the famous counter-culture book was published in 1968, and the Jonestown massacre occurred in 1978.

    Q.E.D., I’m afraid people.

    FWIW, I never heard the Jim Jones event in Guyana referred to as anything other than a mass suicide here in the U.K., so I would suspect that the ‘kool aid’ reference originated with hippy culture-hating Republicans or their like in the U.S.

  13. P.S. My apologies to all for going off topic to make a minor conversational point.

    • Apology accepted. 🙂 Not being one so horrified by OT diversions, I’ll further contribute by posting the Wiki entry: (besides, no one seems to want to actually discuss the paper…)

      Drinking the Kool-Aid” means becoming a firm believer in something: accepting an argument or philosophy wholeheartedly or blindly. The term originated with the Jonestown Massacre,[1][2][3] where members of the Peoples Temple were said to have committed suicide by drinking Kool-Aid laced with cyanide.[4]

      Evidence gathered at the Jonestown site after the incident indicated that rather than Kool-Aid, Flavor Aid, a similar powdered drink, was used in the massacre. Some survivors of the incident object to the link between blind faith and the People’s Temple implied by the phrase, since some victims were murdered rather than being convinced to commit suicide.[5]

      Objections notwithstanding, the phrase is commonly used in a variety of contexts to describe blind, uncritical acceptance or following, generally in a derogatory sense.

  14. Okaaaay, so to recap Kool-Aid wasn’t actually used in the context it is now commonly claimed to have been, but nevertheless by lucky happenstance serves to slander a seminal counter-cultural social experiment by acquiring a polar opposite popular usage.
    Older Russians will likely have a word for that.
    And presumably Flavor-Aid and Gatorade had sharper lawyers 🙂

  15. This blogpost was a ‘wow’ even before the comments started.
    Willis found it sufficient to merely profess “incredulity” (credit to a commenter), rather than to critique the paper, Liu and Curry(2010), or its predecessors…

    Ffyfe(2006): “Southern Ocean warming due to human influence”
    Gille(2002): “Warming of the Southern Ocean since the 1950’s”
    Jacka and Budd: “…(1949-1998)…the 22 Southern Ocean (island) stations have warmed at 0.7-1.0degC per century…”
    Zhang(2007): “Increasing Antarctic sea ice under warming atmospheric and oceanic conditions”

  16. And she carries on in much the same manner as previously with the vague accusations of fraud and misconduct, as well as trumpeting the likes of the garbage heap known as WUWT. Apparently Dr. Curry really loves blog science. I’m a little shocked she is even publishing outside the blogosphere anymore.

    • After her treatment at WUWT, I’d think Curry would get a clue but I guess not.

      Seriously, there are many well-intentioned lay people there who are truly interested and who, for many reasons, like the ethos there and the identity of climate skeptic, citizen auditor, and defender of science integrity. They’re easy dupes, no more. I have no real animosity for them as they are just interested bystanders who don’t know enough science to know better. It’s fine to admit you know nothing and ask questions – curiosity is the foundation of knowledge acquisition. But to assume you can evaluate the science with nothing but common sense as your guide is hubris…

      I save my righteous anger for those who should and/or do know better but are shills for industry or political interests.

      Sent from my iPhone

  17. Shewook,

    You bet I find this Kool-Aid reference amusing! It now renders me almost extatic, if only to stick with the LSD theme, considering the discussion between chek and our favorite rat!

    Both seem to agree that “drinking Kool-Aid” refers to endorsing (and promoting, of course) a belief or a set of beliefs. Both version pressupose that it’s bad way to entertain a belief. What they disagree is about the kind of willingness behind this endorsement and promotion.

    Here is I can distinguish the two cases. If we use Tom Wolfe’s narrative, guinea pigs are fooled by using contextual beliefs that pertain to normal situations. If we use the Wikipedian reference to the Jonestown massacre, followers are fooled because they entertain beliefs that pertain to a sectarian setting imposed by the charisma of a crazy leader. Both are misled, but look at how the setting have been predisposed!

    And so I prefer chek’s version, which is Tom Wolfe’s. It seems to me the more charitable. That said, I am afraid that both presume what they should be purported to proof, i.e. that the Kool-Aid has been duly spiked.

    I also note that it hints at a bad way to interpret appeals to authority. Everyone should believe but check. But is that always really the case?

  18. willard :Shewook,


    Sorry, sometimes a bit of fun is…well…fun (to me).


  1. Collide-a-scape » Blog Archive » Collide-a-scape >> The Tribal Outcast - August 18, 2010

    […] a new PNAS paper by Curry and one of her colleagues (PDF here), is receiving over at WUWT. Like Policy Lass, what interests me most is the harsh response, and how, as Lass observes, Curry now stands accused […]

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