Why is 20 years statistically significant when 10 years is not?

Why is 20 years statistically significant when 10 years is not?” (2011-11-05). Anthony Watts loves a long-winded sneering crank who can slap together reams of irrelevant charts (see Willis Eschenbach). Here he gives us James Padgett, ironically also known as WUWT commenter “Just the Facts”, who asks if PhD climatologists “are smarter than a 5th grader” after implying that climate scientists are only vaguely aware of the sun.

Padgett has a “simple vision” that beats the pants off of all those chrome-domes and their complicated ‘takin’ everything into account’. It’s just the sun, don’t you know! Thus ending Global Warming forever.

The statistical question posed in the post title is, unsurprisingly, never answered. When all is said and done James Padgett has simply gone to great lengths to prove that he’s not “smarter than a 5th grader.” Naturally Anthony’s commenters declare Padgett’s assertions to be “Very, very interesting and important” and rail about the arrogance of them scientists and their studyin’.

You know you’re reading the theories of an utter idiot when Padgett’s opening paragraph is this:

Many of you are aware that the concept of continental drift, proposed by Alfred Wegener, was widely ridiculed by his contemporaries. This reaction was in spite of the very clear visual evidence that the continents could be fit together like a giant puzzle.

Wegener’s theory is a perfect example of that pinnacle of denialist scientific method known as “eyeballing”. Wegener’s theory always had its supporters but wasn’t accepted for 40 years until evidence emerged that explained how the continents had actually moved (although he almost had it right). Just like no-one takes denialist Global Warming “science” seriously because it is utterly unable to explain the observed climate trends with only natural influences.

You do have to admire Padgett’s determined arm-waving though. It’s eye-wateringly hard work pawing through reams of charts, squinting as hard as possible to ignore everything that doesn’t suit his pre-determined conclusion.

Why do denialists make so many contradictory arguments at once? None of them stand up, they’re all merely efforts to distract:

  • The temperature records are wrong / OK, maybe they’re pretty good.
  • It’s not warming / OK, maybe it is warming.
  • The warming has stopped / OK, maybe it hasn’t stopped.
  • It’s not us / OK, maybe it is us.
  • It’s not harmful / OK, maybe it is harmful.
  • It’s not unfixable / OK, maybe “fixing” it would be really difficult.

Sharpen those eyeballs, James, if you want to be more than noise.

12 thoughts on “Why is 20 years statistically significant when 10 years is not?

  1. How very strange, the very first recorded mention of continental drift theory, was mentioned in the 1596 edition of the world atlas “Theatrum Orbis Terrarum” edited by one Abraham Ortelius. Oops!

    All in all, an interesting use of fallacious ad hominem arguments and corruption of statistics..

    “If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future. ” Winston Churchill

    [Perhaps I should have summarized Padgett’s argument as “Galileo!” – Ben]

  2. Here are some of your errors/misconceptions:

    1. I’m not the commenter known as “Just the facts” [Wow, the one area I would have expected Anthony Watts to be authoritative! Can’t find his reference in your post now. What’s up with that? – Ben]
    2. My proposition was that the record showed that both solar and oceanic influences dominant the temperature record. The fact that you said that I said it was just the sun once again shows your poor reading comprehension. [It was surprising how little of your post I had to read to understand your argument. What do you think “influences” the oceans? Poseidon’s mighty trident? The sun drives all natural influences. But the climate changes we’ve seen since the introduction of anthropogenic CO2 don’t match natural variation no matter how you squint. – Ben]
    3. I did not right the title. I did not ask the question. I was merely amused by the different criteria for statistical significance (and yes, I have taken college level statistics, but it has been a while). [Don’t tell me; you’ve forgotten more stats than I’ll ever know! Now I’m amused too. – Ben]

      My personal belief is that that neither periods are statistically significant for showing “long” term trends and both may be significant for showing short-term trends. [See, that’s the interesting thing about statistics. They do a pretty good job of eradicating “personal belief” from rational discussion. – Ben]

    4. Weg[e]ner didn’t understand the mechanism but he absolutely knew what was happening – namely that the continents were slowly moving. His evidence for this was extensive – fossils, geology, geography, etc. [This is a classic example of confusing “observing” with “explaining”. You and I both have two ears (I hope) but that doesn’t mean we’re brothers.]

      Similarly, we don’t understand how gravity works, but we can tell that it does work.

    One day people will laugh at the idea that a trace gas like CO2 dominated the climate through positive feedbacks just like we now laugh at the idea of the earth expanding as an alternate explanation of continental drift. [Yes, you’ll be hailed as a prophet! You’ll have the last laugh! Or… the current laughter over your ideas will simply continue. – Ben]

    You may claim to understand the mechanism for warming since the end of the Little Ice Age using the convoluted global warming models, but I disagree. I think the dominant factors are clearly the oceans and the sun. [Uh, every climatologist on the planet agrees with this. (Hey, you won!) The legitimate ones just recognize that humanity has recently begun affecting our climate in way that always drives our climate in a hotter direction. – Ben]

    I made my case in my article, you’ve made your straw man arguments and petty insults. [Gosh, I’m convinced. So… when are you getting your honorary keys to the planet? – Ben]

    1. You can’t find the reference because it was never there. You confused my post with the author of the previous post – once again, your reading comprehension isn’t winning any awards. [I never read that post. Shrug. – Ben]
    2. Yes, the sun does dominate the oceans. The periods of warming, which line up exactly with the Pacific decadal oscillation, not carbon emissions, have a mechanism which is not clear. [“a mechanism which is not clear”? Classic – Ben]

    Some possible explanations are an increased level of clouds closer to the equator, which would dominate the Pacific the most; lag time from the increased solar activity (not just TSI); or even changes in tidal currents/forces caused by long-term lunar cycles.

    The point is that while the sun does affect the oceans the most, the cause of the oceanic cycles is unclear and so I’m not going to attribute them to the sun without evidence.

    Unless of course you were using a stupid definition which, if applied to CO2, would allow me to say the sun is the only driver of climate because without it there would be no greenhouse effect.

    3) There is no way of telling what the “natural variation” is. The surface station record is crap and we’ve only had satellite data for a few decades. Pseudo-measuring the temperatures since the end of the Little Ice Age and declaring an emergency is incredibly short-sighted and foolish. Again, as I showed in my post, the warming cycles exactly match the pacific warm phases – not increased emissions from carbon dioxide. [So the temperature record is “crap” except for how you use it? Classic. – Ben]

    Your assertion that it is carbon dioxide requires willingly blinding yourself to the data. This isn’t surprising considering the enormous lack of maturity you’ve shown, which seems to be driven by ideological hatred for ones “enemies.”

    4) You say mankind’s influence is “always drives our climate in a hotter direction.” Explain the cooling period from 1945-1976 without contradicting your previous statement. I already it in my post – it exactly matched the cool phase of the Pacific ocean. [Ooh, ya got me! Aerosols. Kinda blows a hole in your rejection of the “philosophical belief that man is more powerful and damaging than he is” in your next paragraph, don’t it? Also, contemplate the difference between “hotter” and “hotter direction”. – Ben]

    My explanation is elegant, accurate and unbiased. Your solution requires adding “fudge factors.” Remember, even Einstein got the universe wrong, he added his own “fudge factor,” known as the cosmological constant, to general relativity, because he had a philosophical belief that the universe must be stationary just like you have a philosophical belief that man is more powerful and damaging than he is.

    Eventually observational data won out in that case because adding constant excuses, like is done with climate models and theories, is neither elegant nor likely to be accurate.

    [So your explanation is “elegant” even though you admit that the mechanism is not clear while asserting in your “accurate and unbiased” way that it can’t be us. Also, Einstein was stupid. Got it. Please compare yourself to Galileo, I’m in the middle of a drinking game I want to win. – Ben]

  3. “[“a mechanism which is not clear”? Classic – Ben]”

    As I said before, the mechanism behind gravity is not clear either, but it is clear that it exists and has a real effect upon the universe. I’m not sure what is so “classic” about that. [You don’t think we haven’t seen denialists definitively invoking unknown causes of warming, which of course they also deny is happening, before? Now my eyeballs are really rolling. – Ben]

    “[So the temperature record is “crap” except for how you use it? Classic. – Ben]”

    No, the temperature record is crap because they’ve taken a bunch of thermometers, mostly in the US and Western Europe, and declared they can derive the average temperature of the earth from over a century and a half ago, within a few tenths of a degree, while accurately accounting for urban heat bias, siting bias, selection bias and instrument changes.

    They further prove that the surface station record is crap by altering the records/methods, over half a century later, to cool the temperatures in the past. For example, GISS’s adjusting of 1934 downwards, while adjusting 1998 upwards.

    Does it have some value? Yes, but any graph of global temperatures using that record should have significant error bars.

    [Ooh, ya got me! Aerosols. Kinda blows a hole in your rejection of the “philosophical belief that man is more powerful and damaging than he is” in your next paragraph, don’t it? Also, contemplate the difference between “hotter” and “hotter direction”. – Ben]

    As I said, “without contradicting yourself.” You said man “always” drives the climate in a hotter direction. If the aerosols were responsible for cooling then that would be an example of man cooling the climate – not in a “hotter direction.”

    Thanks for playing.

    In any case, you do realize the aerosol excuse is complete nonsense right? Sure is convenient that the aerosols cooled the climate exactly when the Pacific was in its cool phase and then, when the Pacific went into its warm phase, suddenly aerosols stopped cooling the climate.

    Oh wait, it isn’t warming anymore, and guess what? The climate “scientists” are declaring aerosols to be the cause again. How nice it must be to be able to come up with ridiculous and unproven excuses every time the CO2 hypothesis doesn’t line up with reality.

    “[So your explanation is “elegant” even though you admit that the mechanism is not clear while asserting in your “accurate and unbiased” way that it can’t be us.”

    It is elegant because it doesn’t require constant excuses and fudge factors like the CO2 hypothesis (e.g. aerosols, unmeasured deep ocean heat, etc).

    ” Also, Einstein was stupid.”

    Not what I said – that would be another straw man on you part. The point was, like in my original post, very smart people can make big mistakes when they let their ideology get in the way of their rational thinking.

    ” Got it. Please compare yourself to Galileo, I’m in the middle of a drinking game I want to win. – Ben]”

    Why would I do that? Galileo made some huge mistakes in his day as well.

    [I have to ask: is nit-picking your critic’s wording really a defense of your supposed scientific discovery? Your just chasing your own tail. I do admire your determination though. – Ben]

  4. “[You don’t think we haven’t seen denialists definitively invoking unknown causes of warming, which of course they also deny is happening, before? Now my eyeballs are really rolling. – Ben]”

    Most skeptics (do you intentionally try to be insulting with your terminology?) believe there has been warming. After all, the Earth has been warming and the seas rising since the end of the last glacial maximum about 18k years ago. It has been warming since the end of the Little Ice Age around 1850. [If you keep repeating the same debunked crap you’re not a “skeptic”. Your assertions in this very paragraph are excellent examples. – Ben]

    There are of course many ideas about the extent and causes of the warming because the skeptic community is very diverse. [Funny how all those diverse skeptics magically converge on the conclusion that the only thing it CAN’T be is us. – Ben]

    The only time you lack such a diversity of opinion is when dogma is involved.

    And yet your community is troubled by this lack of dogma and amusingly finds it to be a fault, when I think it shines a light on the rigid thinking (dogma) of the “settled science” propagated by some people.

    “[I have to ask: is nit-picking your critic’s wording really a defense of your supposed scientific discovery? Your just chasing your own tail. I do admire your determination though. – Ben]”

    Nit-picking your wording? You might want to reread the post since the only way your statement is accurate is when I called you out on your claim that man always drives the climate in a hotter direction.

    I even gave you a chance to correct your mistake, but you instead double downed on it.

    In any case, the vast majority of that post had nothing to do with your mistake – why you’d focus on that is certainly curious after I trashed several fundamentals behind your belief system.

    [Yes, yes, it’s all about everyone else’s belief systems. – Ben]

  5. “[If you keep repeating the same debunked crap you’re not a “skeptic”. Your assertions in this very paragraph are excellent examples. – Ben]”

    Be specific. Which of my assertions, in that paragraph, are “debunked crap?” Was it my assertion about the earth warming since the Last Glacial Maximum ended? Or my assertion about it warming since the Little Ice Age ended? [Yep. LIA was not global and only a liar would claim that it’s all just one long warming trend since the last glacial minimum. – Ben]

    “[Funny how all those diverse skeptics magically converge on the conclusion that the only thing it CAN’T be is us. – Ben]”

    Wrong again. Many skeptics, myself included, which you would already know if you’d read my articles, believe carbon dioxide may have a warming effect. It is the extent of that effect that is in dispute.

    I believe there are negative feedbacks that limit its effect (in addition to the logarithmic nature of its radiative forcing), its warmth is mostly limited to the coldest places on earth and at night, and that such warmth is likely to be more beneficial than harmful.

    In any case, it is clearly a small effect since it is so overpowered by natural cycles and variation that it can’t be found in the record – only theorized.

  6. “[Yep. LIA was not global”

    Interesting that your link doesn’t support your claim. Let’s take a look at a broader view of evidence (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Ice_Age):

    North America – cool
    Central America – cool
    South America – cool
    Europe – cool
    Antarctica – cool
    Greenland – cool
    Africa – cool
    Australia – cool

    So what is your argument? That Asia might not have been cool?

    Once again you seem to have swallowed, hook, line and sinker, the excuses given by some climate “scientists” to strengthen their theory without actually looking at the evidence or the quality of that evidence.

    Even more interesting, let’s apply your logic about it not being “global” to our current situation. What was the hottest year on record in the US? 1934 perhaps ( http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0823/p02s01-wogi.html )?

    Hard to say with the way James Hansen keeps “adjusting” older temperatures. If it is 1934 for the US then that is one example of “global warming” not being so global after all.

    “and only a liar would claim that it’s all just one long warming trend since the last glacial minimum. – Ben]”

    That would be yet another straw man on your part. Just like I never said the LIA was global (the evidence suggests that it is though). However, the basic trend since the end of the LGM has been one of warming.

    The oceans have risen well over 400 feet since the end of the LGM.Was it all straight up? Of course not, it was a general trend up just like the current (150+ years) has been generally warming (assuming the accuracy of SS record).

    Shall I call you a liar by making a straw man and saying that the temperatures have gone straight up since the end of the LIA? That’s what you’ve done to me.

    So it seems your “debunked crap” is both a series of straw man arguments and misinformation on your part.

    [Responding to you is like playing whack-a-mole. Am I the only person responding to your claims? I think it’s time for you to play alone. Other readers can pass judgement. – Ben]

    • Now,I am as cynical and skeptical as the next man, as for my misconceptions, surely it is you that have artificially created a make believe world of denial and one that defies the reality of the real world we all actually live in.

      Alas, I am sad to say, all of your corrupted science presented thus far, totally fails “Occam’s Razor Test“.

      Let me introduce you to a short lecture from Barry Bickmore on “How to Avoid the Truth About Climate Change“!

      As for the denial of reality of climate change/global warming arguments, let me introduce you to a list of 172 thoroughly debunked ones and still counting!

      There is an old saying; “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me”!

      “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” Theodore Roosevelt

      “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. ” Abraham Lincoln

      • Amusing that you’d mention Occam’s razor when that is both what first turned me skeptical and the basis for my article.

        You seem to be using it like a trump card, by simply stating you are using Occam’s razor, rather than actually applying it.

        Again, look at both my model and the IPCC/Realclimate model.

        Them:

        1) .038% of the atmosphere (carbon dioxide) causes global warming.
        2) But not between 1945-1976 because of sulfates
        3) And not since 1999 because of sulfates, deep ocean heat or a myriad of other unbacked excuses
        4) And it’ll be really extreme warming even though
        1a) Our alarmist predictions have failed in the past (James Hansen’s sea level rise predictions for one)
        1b) The earth has had much higher levels of CO2 in the past, even during much cooler climates. In fact, the history of life on this planet was during periods of much higher CO2 levels.
        1c) The radiative forcing of carbon dioxide is logarithmic

        because:

        2a) Carbon dioxide will heat the earth which will make more water vapor to heat the earth more (water vapor is actually down by 10% in the last decade)
        2b) Carbon dioxide will heat the earth which will release methane (methane levels have leveled off in a clear logarithmic function)
        2c) Carbon dioxide will melt the glaciers, eliminate sea, reduce snow cover and therefore the albedo of the earth (glaciers have been melting and sea ice reduced since the end of the last glacial maximum over 18k years ago)

        Me:

        1) The climate is dominated by solar/oceanic influences.
        2) Most other effects are so small they can’t be distinguished from natural cycles and variability.

        I presented my model in the quoted article and it explains the trends quite accurately. It is the clear winner if Occam is the judge.

        In any case, you may want to watch “The Trouble with Experts” and try to relate it to global warming:

        [I was hesitant to click through on your links, but surprised to land on segments of a legit Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary. I think you’re mistaking dedicated scientists with decades of training (that would be real experts) with glib hucksters simply because you don’t like what they’re telling you. Your own self-concocted ideas fall much more easily into the fake expert category. Your efforts are characterized by attention-seeking, emphatic assurance in spite of very weak knowledge and appear motivated by a personal bias. Let’s not even start on such lights of the denialist movement as Anthony Watts (high school graduate) or “Lord” Monckton (journalism degree)! Every single prominent denialist fits the criticism of your documentary about fake experts like a glove. Thank you. – Ben]

  7. “I think you’re mistaking dedicated scientists with decades of training (that would be real experts) with glib hucksters simply because you don’t like what they’re telling you. Your own self-concocted ideas fall much more easily into the fake expert category.”

    I guess you missed the parts where they talked about how often people in academia get things wrong and how dreadfully inaccurate the information from “peer-reviewed” papers often ends up being.

    Our current education system is so politicized that it is practically worthless for most attendants.

    [I guess you missed the part, here in the real world, where recognition of AGW isn’t based on a handful of “wrong” or “dreadfully inaccurate” papers. Are you seriously arguing that our education system is “practically worthless”? Your comment is one of the most self-serving statements I’ve read in a long time. This conversation is closed. – Ben]

  8. Pingback: What I’m Reading Saturday, November 19, 2011 | Rationally Thinking Out Loud

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