The Hockey Schtick

The hockey stick controversy is what drew me to climate science and here I am, several years later, still watching the skeptic blogs debate it and trying to break it as if it is a proxy for the whole issue of global warming.

This recent paper by McShane and Wyner is a case in point.  In the greater scheme of things to do with global warming, the MBH98/99 papers and the graphic derived from it known as the hockey stick graph is relatively unimportant. It has attained a somewhat iconic status solely because of the controversy surrounding it and how skeptics have used and abused it to cast doubt on the reality of global warming. What we end up is round after round of face offs over the stick.

One wanders over to the skeptic blogs and finds that the hockey stick is still alive and well some 12 years later: a spectre haunting their dreams, with Michael Mann as the focus of their hatred — their whipping boy.  There were two other authors of that paper, but I never — never — hear anyone speak ill of Bradley or Hughes. Mann is the Man, the focal point of the skeptic/denier/contrarian’s hatred, loathing and fear.

Seriously, the vitriol directed towards Mann and the Hockey Team, the hockey stick graphic and climate science over at the thread on WUWT is awe-inspiring and somewhat concerning. I read over at WUWT and see commentary that makes me question the mental health of some of the posters there. Why so angry? Why so worked up over a 12-year old graphic that has been replicated and then superceded by other graphs? I can only explain it by pointing out that the internet has become a place where crackpots of all genres can come together and obsess and rail about their own brand of nuttery.

It’s their thing. They hold up M&M like some David against Goliath, but in reality, it’s truly the other way around, but that’s for another post.

As I was reading McS&W2010, I was struck by the very political tone of the opening section. This didn’t seem quite appropriate for a scientific/technical/statistics paper. Frankly, it read more like the opening to a magazine or news article and undermines the credibility of the authors. Perhaps they are unaware of the effect of their choices on the reader, but I suspect not. Instead, the authors seem to be deliberately situating their work firmly in the skeptic camp, using all the right code words and signs.

A few select passages to illustrate:

This effort to reconstruct our planet’s climate history has become linked to the topic of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). On the one hand, this is peculiar since paleoclimatological reconstructions can provide evidence only for the detection of AGW and even then they constitute only one such source of evidence.

The first sentence seems so self-evident to be rather sophomoric. Of course paleoclimate reconstructions are linked to the topic of AGW — duh!  It’s climate. Climate change. Paleoclimate studies past climates and climate changes. The claim that this is peculiar makes no sense — of course we want evidence for the detection of AGW!

Who are these people?

Here’s more:

On the other hand, the effort of world governments to pass legislation to cut carbon to pre-industrial levels cannot proceed without the consent of the governed and historical reconstructions from paleoclimatological models have indeed proven persuasive and effective at winning the hearts and minds of the populace. Consider Figure 1 which was featured prominently in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report (IPCC, 2001) in the summary for policy makers1 . The sharp upward slope of the graph in the late 20th century is visually striking, easy to comprehend, and likely to alarm.[my emphasis]

This reference to policy and “the consent of the governed” and the use of the code word “alarm” seems out of place in a technical paper in a stats journal. The authors could cut out the entire section here and it would not diminish the paper at all — in fact, including this detracts from the paper’s overall sense of objectivity. Perhaps this is commonplace in statistics journals and I am just misled. I somehow doubt it.

But it gets worse — this paper reads as an almost pure advocacy paper.

Quotations like the above and graphs like those in Figures 1, 2, and 3 are featured prominently not only in official documents like the IPCC report but also in widely viewed television programs (BBC, September 14, 2008), in film (Gore, 2006), and in museum expositions (Rothstein, October 17, 2008), alarming both the populace and policy makers. [my emphasis]

Alarming policy makers? Reported widely in television programs?  Museum expositions? Oh, the humanity! This reminds me of an episode of Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura…

Wait — there’s even more

The authors then provide a section on the controversies surrounding the hockey stick graph.

With so much at stake both financially and ecologically, it is not surprising that these analyses have provoked several controversies. While much of this has recently erupted in the popular press (Jolis (November 18, 2009), Johnson (November 23, 2009), Johnson and Naik (November 24, 2009)), we root our discussion of these controversies in the history as it unfolded in the academic and scientific literature. [my emphasis]

Jolis, Johnson and Naik are all from The Wall Street Journal. Gee, the controversy was covered in a helluva lot more media outlets and forms than the WSJ. Of course, WSJ has also tended to take a skeptical approach to the issue of AGW, especially in the last year or so. The WSJ articles referenced are all pro-skeptic, focusing on Steve McIntyre and climategate. So much for situating the controversy historically and objectively…

I mean, if you’re going to delve into this, do it right and do it credibly.

Not only is the history of the controversy badly done, but the coverage of the scientific and statistical controversy and history is likewise inadequate and slanted towards the skeptic/contrarian side. It is also erroneous, as Deep Climate shows in his post on the paper.

Some of the language used is also highly suspect and not appropriate for a serious paper in a stats or science journal, at least in my view.

In his Congressional testimony (Wegman, 2006), committee chair Edward Wegman excoriated Mann et al. (2004)’s use of additional principal components beyond the first after it was shown that their method led to spurious results…


This is a facile presentation of the Wegman hearing. There is no deeper analysis of Wegman and the investigation and it shows either a willful or real ignorance of the fact that along with so-called alarmism, there is also denialism. Even if one accepts that the graphic was used to alarm policy makers and the public — and I don’t — one should also recognize that the reverse can be true and some players can try to unreasonably dismiss evidence and downplay danger. An objective observer would provide analysis of both sides, those who overplay and overstate risks and certainties. I see no objectivity or balance in the presentation of the history and controversy in this paper.

Faced with a poor showing in the intro, one does lose confidence in the ability of the authors to be objective. However, it is entirely possible for the authors to get the history and controversy section wrong and they can be entirely right in their analysis of the technical issues. Even there they appear to get it wrong as other commenters along with Deep Climate point out.

Rabbet offers this:

When you calibrate, respectable Rabett’s want the largest spread of the variable calibrated against as possible. M&W calibrated proxies that respond to regional changes against the GLOBAL temperature record. If you look at Tamino’s figure, for about 80 of ~120 years (M&S only go to 2000, there ain’t a lot of proxies that go to 2010), a flat line is about the best description of what happened. This covers the period from ~1880 – 1920 and ~ 1940 – 1980. In such a situation, random noise is the best description of the variation. So especially if you hold out the last 30 years and prattle on about, bunnies find that random noise about a straight line provides the best fit, which is what the boys find, and of course it does not capture the sharp rise in the last 30 year period. As they say,

In other words, our model performs better when using highly autocorrelated noise rather than proxies to predict temperature. The real proxies are less predictive than our “fake” data.Since the proxies are affected by the local temperatures (and precipitation and some other things that are all local) and the local temperatures varied much more strongly than the global in most cases, and surely for those cases where the proxies vary strongly, this is kindergarten work. Trivially, this procedure underestimates the response of the proxies to the temperature over long periods and exaggerates the error projected back to the year dot. You are fitting noisy data to a straight line to find a slope? C’mon. QED

DCs basic critique:

McShane and Wyner’s background exposition of the scientific history of the “hockey stick” relies excessively on “grey” literature and is  replete with errors, some of which appear to be have been introduced through a misreading of secondary sources, without direct consultation of the cited sources. And the authors’ claims concerning the performance of “null” proxies are clearly contradicted by findings in two key studies cited at length, Mann et al 2008 and Ammann  and Wahl 2007.These contradictions are not even mentioned, let alone explained, by the authors.

In short, this is a deeply flawed study and if it were to be published as anything resembling the draft I have examined, that would certainly raise troubling questions about the peer review process at the Annals of Applied Statistics.

Martin Vermeer also provides a crit of the paper in comments at Deltoid:

The funny thing is that this paper actually replicates Mann et al. 2008 without even noticing it…

To partake in this dirty little secret, see their Figure 14 on page 30: the blue curve is wiggle-identical and practically a photocopy of Mann’s corresponding EIV NH land curve. As it should be. The higher (green) curve they canonize and which is shown above is the result of an error: they calibrate their proxies against hemispherical mean temperature, which is a poor measure of forced variability. The instrumental PC1 which the blue curve is based on, is a much better measure; its EOF contains the polar amplification effect. What it means is that high-latitude proxies, in order to be made representative for global temperatures, should be downweighted. The green curve fails to do this. Thus, high latitudes are overrepresented in this reconstruction, which is why the “shaft” is at such an angle, due to the Earth axis’s changing tilt effect on the latitudinal temperature dependence described in Kaufman et al. 2009.

The authors have no way of detecting such an error as their RMSE goodness-of-fit seems to be also based around the hemispherical average…

John Mashey has an extended comment that is worth note:

Here’s his concluding line:

While “How to Lie with Statistics” is famous, most statisticians do not lie, in my experience….

What might we find, examining that document:

“A. Professionalism
1. Strive for relevance in statistical analyses. Typically, each study should be based on a competent understanding of the subject-matter issues…”


Zorita has a post up about the paper as well, that is worth a read. Zorita finds numerous errors and omissions and in general feels the paper lacked because the authors either didn’t read the papers they quoted or could have used some assistance from climate scientists.

In summary, admittedly climate scientist have produced in the past bad papers for not consulting professional statisticians. The McShane and Wyner paper is an example of the reverse situation.

So — a new attempt to demolish the hockey stick and from initial analysis, not so successful despite the high-fives and happy dancing over at WUWT, CA and other places.

The main criticisms of MBH98/99 and 08 can be summarized by the following: the “hockey stick” is a fabrication, created by improper methods and data:

  1. The use of a skewed or decentered PC
  2. The use of bad proxies such as the Stahle and NOAMER PC1 series
  3. The Gaspe series
  4. Bristlecone pines
  5. Tree rings are not good temperature proxies — divergence
  6. Overstating confidence in the findings of tree ring studies

All of these criticisms have been either addressed or refuted at blogs like RC and others.

Still, the skeptics/contrarians/denialists hold on tight to their mantras about the hockey stick being broken. They rushed to congratulate the authors and each other over this yet-unpublished paper before most of them probably even understood what it concluded or whether its conclusions were valid.

Sorry, pals.

About Policy Lass

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33 Responses to “The Hockey Schtick”

  1. PolyisTCOandbanned Reply August 19, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    I think there were some definite things wrong woth MBH and remain things wrong with M08. As long as the specifics are still debated, still not conceded, then why not continue the dispute?

    Note, a lot of places Steve and such overreach. But that does not stop Mike from having done some stuff wrong and from being very political in not conceding those. And there are people like Zorita and Jolliffe who see flaws both in Mike’s statistics and in his trying to defend it with new methods (rather than correct it with new methods).

    • Agreed that there were problems with MBH98/99 and that MM were right about non-centered PC method. Still, the controversy was manufactured and magnified because of the politics of global warming. Had the proxies been for a particular species habitat range instead of historical temp, it would have gone through the normal peer review process and eventually get weeded out / corrected. McI’s subsequent hijinks at CA and the lame blog science and citizen audit is bogosity. The vilification of Mann and of climate science is purely political. Your side doesn’t want to accept AGW because it is inconvenient politically (anti-regulation), ideologically (libertarian) or economically (Barton f trough).

      Sent from my iPhone

  2. PolyisTCOandbanned Reply August 20, 2010 at 4:08 am

    Agree with all of that, iphone gurl.

  3. PolyisTCOandbanned Reply August 20, 2010 at 4:14 am

    Mike Mann iz a weasel though. He’s not all apolitical scientist…

  4. For all the kerfuffle in blogland, M&W2010 still showes an acute upswing in temperatures in modern times, and that upward trend continues even more acutely through the past decade, albeit measured with more precision and consistent across different metrics.

    Despite MBH’s NAS validation and subsequent more recent confirmations by A&W and Mann again, for denialists the hockey stick must die. There’s plenty of wishful thinking and maybe they’ve even tried pins in voodoo dolls too, but there just isn’t the evidence to kill it.

    And even if there was, it doesn’t alter our understanding of planetary thermodynamics. To paraphrase what Trenberth said, we need to know a lot more detail about the Earth’s energy budget, but there’s no great missing black hole from which a magic answer to ever increasing temperatures is going to appear.

  5. PolyisTCOandbanned Reply August 20, 2010 at 7:09 am

    I don’t think Mike’s hockey stick was “validated”. Himself, he has moved on to other methods.

    It must suck not being able to just say, “I was wrong” on even the tiniest point. I couldn’t even get Mike to agree that he erred in not disclosing (let alone using) short-centered PCA.

    • As to the hockey stick being validated — maybe not the original in its original form, but do the same thing with the same data and properly centre the mean and you do get a hockey stick PC and reconstruction, according to Tamino at RC.

      Do scientists ever concede or do they just move on? I’m thinking that it depends on the issue and point of contention. Mistakes are made all the time in science and I’ll bet some people are generally reluctant to do mea culpas because of the impact on their reputation. If you appear to have been unharmed in a battle, and are still standing with sword (or stick) in hand, then you are unharmed etc. as long as you keep standing. If Mann has been recalcitrant in some things, I can understand why — look at his opposition. Obsessed political nutters, biased denialist with a paid agenda, and small minded hoi polloi a lot of them. People who have found some personal meaning in their otherwise miserable lives by joining a tribe and showing their colors but really don’t have a clue about the science. OK that’s just mean, but I never said I was nice. As a policy wonk / part-time grad student, I, of course, escape such tribal mundanity. Meanness is a different matter. 😉

  6. If you’ll accept a truncated quote, the general thrust of the NAS report was that, “The basic conclusion of Mann et al. (1998, 1999) was that the late 20th century warmth in the Northern Hemisphere was unprecedented during at least the last 1,000 years. This conclusion has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence”. With caveats, of course.

    Bearing in mind that MBH98 was a trip into previously uncharted territory, I’d say that it’s held up pretty well against the other studies in the spaghetti graph, and that Mann’s adoption of alternative methods subsequently shows that despite any intrisic processing errors, the story the data tells remains the same and isn’t a statistical fluke. Despite DC’s criticism of M&W2010’s methods, the same data manages to tell a remarkably similar story although it’s been slightly muffled in the retelling.

    Of course the denialists could always go gather their own data and do their own independent studies, but it’s not like that’s ever going to happen. After all, they’re not actually doing science so much as negative PR work.

  7. chek, they had Loehle…

    Let’s not even get into the issues with THAT paper (if you’re McIntyre that is, you then give Loehle a forum to tout his reconstruction).

  8. Thanks for the correction Marco.
    Now you mention it, I do recall including Craig’s E&E effort in a listings answer to a question about reconstructions a year or three back.
    Evidently it’d slipped off my radar this time though.

  9. Speaking of Gordie Howe, I stumbled upon a photo where he’s wearing an helmet:

    Here’s why:

    Ten years earlier, in the 1950 playoffs, Howe was very seriously injured during a game against the Leafs. Howe went into the corner to check Teeder Kennedy. Kennedy moved and Howe crashed into the boards and was knocked out, suffering from serious facial and head injuries. Surgery saved his life. Some Red Wing fans blamed Kennedy, but no one else, including Howe, did. It was just an unfortunate incident.

    Ironists might not fail to recognize that we are talking about the **Toronto** Maple Leafs.

    If McShane is Gordie Howe, Zorita is either Teeder Kennedy or the Maple Leafs’ Gardens’ boards.

    To please TCO, we could also say that Zorita is covering the front of the net like Jacques Laperrière.

  10. I was always a great fan of the “Gordie Howe Hat Trick”. A goal, an assist and a fight. The man was a god.

  11. PolyisTCOandbanned :
    I don’t think Mike’s hockey stick was “validated”. Himself, he has moved on to other methods.
    It must suck not being able to just say, “I was wrong” on even the tiniest point. I couldn’t even get Mike to agree that he erred in not disclosing (let alone using) short-centered PCA.

    Yeah, it must suck, knowing that if you do admit to being wrong on even the tiniest point even more right-wing politicians will be calling for *criminal* investigations into your work, call for your being fired, reprimanded for research fraud, etc.

    There’s a reason these people live in a bunker mentality, you know.

  12. Shewonk : This recent paper by McShane and Wyner is a case in point. In the greater scheme of things to do with global warming, the MBH98/99 papers and the graphic derived from it known as the hockey stick graph is relatively unimportant.

    The basis of political action is that we are in a peak of warming not seen in 1000 years. The Hockey Stick purports to show just this. The statisticians have said the uncertainty levels in the data is far too high to conclude this.

    How can this be unimportant ?

    • The basis of action is the science, not one graph from one paper.

      The physics and chemistry of the GHE, the physics and chemistry of CO2, the fact that we have desequestered 750+ GB of fossil fuel and all the CO2 contained within. This is carbon that has not been in circulation for tens to hundreds of millions of years. The fact that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is at a level not seen in millions of years. These are all the bases of action. The hockey stick graphic is not the basis of action, despite what denialist websites might tell you.

  13. No, Punksta, the basis of political action is that we are on our way to temperatures where we can expect major disrupting changes in climate. That we have paleoclimatic information that shows we’re already warmer than a thousand years ago, while we are not even near to equilibrium and are still adding CO2, just makes it even more urgent to take action.

    And what the statisticians have shown, people like Doug Nychka, is that the hockeystick is a quite good approximation of the temperatures over the last 1000-2000 years. What McShane and Wyner show is that you can attack strawmen, use procedures already known to be flawed, novel methodology without showing it is appropriate, and then get applauded by the climateaudit crowd…

  14. Marco :
    That the statistics of the Hockey Stick have been shown to be hopelessly flawed, shows that we do NOT have paleoclimatic data showing we are warmer than 1000 years ago. Due to large error bars, the Hockey Stick is no better a fit than a straight line through the middle.

    The broken Hockey Stick is indeed the basis of political action, as the heavy use of it by the IPCC, Gore etc attest.

    And while the radiative physics of CO2 are not in dispute, this is by no means decisive as far as the CAGW thesis is concerned – feedbacks still being a key unknown. And there have been periods in the earth’ history where CO2 has been much higher, yet temps were lower.

  15. Punksta, repeating the claim that the statistics are hopelessly flawed does not make them hopelessly flawed.

    Of course, you also make the false claim that Al Gore heavily used the hockeystick (it features once in an inconvenient truth, and that actually was an accident, it should have been a Thompson reconstruction). The IPCC used the hockeystick to advertise the TAR, but has hardly used it afterwards.

    And then the “but CO2 was higher in the past with lower temperatures!”*: you need to take all known forcings into account, Punksta. Since you frequent various climate blogs, you should have known this.

  16. You delude yourself that the Hockey Stick has not been a general poster child of alarmism for communication outside the science itself, the basis of political action.

    As regard its stats, these have been exposed a nonsense by Wegner, and before by McIntyre. It has no support from serious statisticians. That the IPCC has moved away from it, shows they too privately this, but lack the openness to say so, since this would conflict with their prior commitment to political action.

    And since we cannot at present account for all forcings with any confidence – eg feedbacks – , how can we do it for ages ago?

  17. Punksta, if you can’t even get Wegman’s name right…oh dear. And sadly for you, the report did not show the statistics were wrong. He merely repeated McIntyre’s analysis and claimed it indeed showed what McIntyre showed. That McIntyre had made mistakes in his analysis was not investigated at all by Wegman. The North report showed that while one may criticise the short-centered PCA that Mann used, it did not significantly alter the result. Wahl and Ammann showed that the result was robust towards several different methods.

    Of course, the IPCC also never moved away from the hockeystick. It was still in AR4, along with all the new reconstructions since 1999.

    And you’re now doing the Gish gallop on the forcings. We know that albedo has changed significantly over time. We know solar output has significantly changed. We have GCMs that do a pretty good job of reconstructing global temperatures in the past, including those periods with high GHGs. So, instead of trying to do the handwave dismissal, try and read up on climate science. At least then we can get a substantive discussion. But I doubt that you will, considering your prior comments on other blogs.

  18. The fact is, the Hockey Stick has no support from serious statisticians, only criticism. The only supporters are other climate scientists, in the alarmist camp.

    Merely modelling historic temperatures is itself just a handwave.

  19. Yawn. McShane is not a serious statistician (and his paper with Wyner is fraught with problems as shown by DC and others); McIntyre is not even a statistician. Wegman is a statistician with an ideological agenda and a pathetic understanding of paleoclimate (e.g., the striking resemblance to his text on the subject and the work by Bradley, some might even go so far as to say Wegman plagiarized Bradley and others).

    The first HS had some issues, Mann et al. do not deny that. That said, the graph has been reproduced in independent studies, using independent methods, and independent data. Some people (like McI et al.) are very desperately trying to make mountains out of molehills and fabricate controversy….

    Those are the facts. That and the fact that the theory of AGW does not require the HS–only ignorant amateurs make the mistake of believing that the HS is one of the pillars of the theory of AGW (was it Solomon or Corcoran who made that gaff?).

  20. After all these years, no proper statisticians AT ALL validate the Hockey Stick stats. Only the small cadre of ideologically motivated IPCC alarmists do. And Wegman is actually a believer in AGW, not a sceptic. And he validated McIntyre’s critique. Mann’s statistics are utter nonsense, since the high levels of uncertainty make the Hockey Stick a no better fit than any number of other randomly chosen fits.

    The so-called independent reproductions of Mann were shown to be all interrelated, not independent at all.

    The importance of the (broken) Hockey Stick to CAGW in this is crucial – since this is what purports to show we are in a period of unprecedented warming.

  21. Punksta, we’ve been around this block again and again. The scenery is boring. You bring nothing new to the debate so I have no interest in your posts.

  22. Yawn….I agree SheWonk.

  23. Offtopic – but people need to know.

    Over at DeepClimate’s blog in Open Thread #6, we were discussing the Royal Society’s statement and Andrewo asked for textbooks on climate science. Someone gave him a list of resources, all of which were alarmist. I wrote a reply which appears below after it was severely edited by DeepClimate.


    If you only want one side of the story, then you should read only those listed. Spencer Weart’s Discovery of Global Warming is actually quite good as a history of climate science. It shows the science is still in its infancy.

    [DC: It shows nothing of the kind. Climate science, including AGW, is rooted in well-established principles and observations. ]

    If you would like resources by acclaimed climate scientists who do not hold to the majority view, I would suggest:

    * Human Impacts on Weather and Climate, a book by William Cotton and Roger A Pielke Sr.

    * Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies That Hurt the Poor by Roy Spencer.

    * The Great Global Warming Blunder: How Mother Nature Fooled the World’s Top Climate Scientists by Roy Spencer.

    * Climategate: The Crutape Letters by Steve Mosher and Thomas Fuller.

    [DC: I’ve edited out your misleading descriptions.

    End quote.
    I responded to his charge of “misleading descriptions” as below but the comment is still awaiting moderation.

    Ron Cram | October 1, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Deep Climate,
    You say my descriptions are misleading. If you believe so, why not leave the descriptions in and explain to readers why you believe they are misleading?

    Is it misleading to call Dr. Pielke an ISI highly cited climatologist? No, it is an objective fact.

    Is it misleading to say William Cotton is an environmentalist? The man rides a bicycle to work and recycles (his trash, not his bicycle – although I guess it is fair to say he recycles his bicycle home everyday).

    Is it wrong to call Dr. Spencer an award-winning scientist from NASA? Or to say he is one of the keepers of the UAH satellite temperature record? No. Both are objectively provable facts.

    Why censor facts? Why would you be afraid of your readers having all the facts?

    End quote

    I don’t understand how people can expect to be persuasive when they are afraid of facts or censor facts so their readers don’t know. It only makes him look ridiculous.

    • Ron, when people say “textbooks”, they don’t usually mean popular science and/or self-published books that focus on the politics. They usually mean science texts written by bona fide scientists / academics whose books are used in university courses on the subject. In other words, when studying planetary mechanics, you would not usually find Immanuel Velikovsky’s “Earth in Upheaval” or “Worlds in Collision”. 😉

  24. Here’s another comment at DeepClimate that is still awaiting moderation.

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    The issue of Australia’s poor regional climate forecasts on seasonal timescales is not subject to interpretation. The BoM has admitted in the press they are right about half the time. Unfortunately, it is hard to find archived news stories. Perhaps this quote from the Australian Parliament report will persuade you the BoM is not pleased with their own accuracy.

    “BoM stated that existing seasonal forecasts for Australia appear to have reached their peak level of performance, and may even be declining in skill as the climate changes. BoM further explained that recent initiatives are focused on developing next-generation dynamic seasonal prediction models that can take changing climate conditions into account.44″ (p. 16)

    Click to access fullreport.pdf

    The quote does not spell out the fact the “peak level of performance” was never really any good, but it does tell you they are not happy with the accuracy (or the criticism they have taken for the poor forecasts).

    In another report by Perry Wiles of the BoM:
    “The current skill of seasonal forecasts in most regions of Australia is currently only moderate and, even so, varies throughout the year. Further, the probabilistic terms in which these forecasts are usually expressed are often not well understood, which can lead to a lack of confidence in using them for practical decision making. The latter can be addressed through greater end-user consultation and education, the former stands the most chance of being addressed with further improvements in dynamical seasonal forecasting and a consequent shift to these dynamic models for operational forecasting. Even so, improvements in skill and reliability are likely to be evolutionary rather than evolutionary. The levels of certainty we might wish for in our seasonal forecasts will in all likelihood remain an alluring prospect – an elusive holy grail veiled by the chaotic nature of the climate system.”

    Click to access Long%20range%20and%20seasonal%20forecasting.pdf

    Here Dr. Wiles appears to be admitting that seasonal climate forecasts are not likely to get much better. Of course, the Met Office in the UK also has a very, very poor record of seasonal climate forecasts.

  25. Here’s the comment I made which set up the JBowers request for information:

    The statement by the Royal Society still supports the majority view but it is a big retreat from previous statements which were much more confident and called for immediate political action. Also absent is any mention of the Hockey Stick or any claim that current temperatures “are the warmest in 1,000 years.” Perhaps the Royal Society has taken the view espoused by Phil Jones that it really is not possible to know global temps going back 1,000 years.

    Statements of uncertainty regarding climate models are welcome, including this one:

    “The ability of the current generation of models to simulate some aspects of regional climate change is limited, judging from the spread of results from different models; there is little confidence in specific projections of future regional climate change, except at continental scales.”

    I have no idea why the statement includes the phrase “except at continental scales” since Australia is considered a continent and regional climate model predictions there have been no better than a coin flip.

    The fact this statement by the Royal Society is less confident and more scientific is a welcome change. I expect we will see more of this in the future as scientists outside the current group of climate scientists look more closely at these issues.

    J Bowers | October 1, 2010 at 8:50 pm |
    “since Australia is considered a continent and regional climate model predictions there have been no better than a coin flip.”

    Cite your sources, Ron, then I’ll go and find proper sources that contradict you because you usually get it wrong anyway.

    • Australia isn’t really comparable to the other continents in size so your point has little weight in terms of debunking the argument that regional climate models are more accurate.

  26. Also, Ron is confusing regional climate models of Australia (with Australia split into several regions) and Australia as a continent.

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