Detecting regime shifts in climate data – the modern warming regime ended in 1997

Detecting regime shifts in climate data – the modern warming regime ended in 1997 (2012-07-03). Anthony Watts blindly publishes another piece of scientific nonsense. Sam Outcalt, Emeritus (naturally) Professor of Physical Geography (naturally) has screwed around with Excel and discovered you can turn pretty much any data trend into a parabola that suits your goals if you just rescale things and only plot cumulative sums of deviations from average.

“This short analysis indicates that an alternate model of climate change based on serial regime transitions rather than anthropogenic global warming is consistent with the results of the Hurst Re Scaling analysis.”

It’s so simple! Um, too simple:

“Cumulative sums can show very interesting behavior. They can also be extremelytricky to deal with statistically. That’s not a problem for Outcalt, his post doesn’t seem to have any statistics.” – Open Mind

This is what fake linear temperature trends look like when plotted along side real temperature the the way Outcalt did:

Looks like Dr. Outcalt’s dunce-cap methodology turns any linear trend into a parabola that can be presented as proof that the trend has reversed…

955 words and four references (do “personal communications” really count?) are all Outcalt needs to underpin his argument. I think Anthony’s denialist blog is the pinnacle of this “paper’s” trajectory. Outcalt is a retired permafrost guy, his last paper seems to have been in 1994.

‘Ads by Google’ helpfully suggests that “If you use a spreadsheet to manage work, you should watch this helpful 1 minute video.” Maybe the good Perfessor should take Google’s inscrutable advice?

Update: Here’s a real temperature trend, from 1800 to 2010. Notice the lack of “regime change” in 1997? This data is from the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, in which Anthony placed great faith until it didn’t give the result he wanted.

“So what?” you say, another emeritus academic outside of his area of expertise who thinks he’s “proved” everyone else is wrong. Dime a dozen at Watts Up With That. Well… true. But every now and then (meaning several times a week) a classic example of Anthony’s tactics comes along and gives us a useful way to deconstruct Anthony’s method:

  1. He will publish literally anything with a “conclusion” that suits his agenda, even if he has no ability whatsoever to understand it. Perhaps especially if he doesn’t understand it.
  2. He will imply that any forthcoming criticism will be malicious so that his readers will think that Anthony has the intelligence to anticipate and dismiss factual scientific criticism:

    “Great paper. Thanks for re-posting this Anthony. Hurst makes perfect sense and it is well defended in the paper. I think Tamino is over his head with a paper like this.
    REPLY: Oh, he’ll try to shoot it down anyway. – Anthony”

  3. He posts new stuff so fast that by the time anyone intelligent can respond his mesmerized audience has forgotten about it other than a few unshakable rearguard commenters. Although they will all keep a vague memory of another perfect proof, probably contradicting earlier perfect proofs, that there is no global warming, which stopped in 1997 anyway.
  4. He counts on his denialist ditto heads to repost WUWT posts so that if any intelligent analysis infects the comments of his own posts and disrupts the head-nodding the copies will remain uncorrected and continue to deceive. (Of course he’ll never correct his own post either, so that readers that don’t mine the comments will remain unaware.)
  5. His censors “moderators” will always invoke (im)plausible deniability when Anthony’s caught and will pretend his readers are up-to-date in all the physical sciences anyway:

[REPLY: Anthony publishes lots of stuff, not all of which he agrees with. It is simply “interesting”. WUWT commenters are fully capable of critiqueing the work and have done so. Anthony is not a co-author on this article and is not required to justify or explain anything, especially to anonymous individuals using anonymous proxy servers. Check site policy regarding that. -REP]

Not particularly clever, but effective if you lack peripheral vision.

Update: Anthony re-applied his denialist french kiss to Outcalt’s fake technique one day later when Outcalt sends him some rigged solar data: Another regime change indication – this time in solar data. One day the climate switch flipped in 1997, the next day the switch flipped in 2005. Just pick one and stick with! This time Anthony gets called on it too fast to slip away and pulls an “as I expected”:

UPDATE: As I expected he would, Dr. Leif Svalgaard takes exception to this characterization of the identification of October 2005 being a regime changepoint, saying:

While I agree that the sun is going quiet, the ‘step change’ is spurious. It is mainly due to a sporadic, single magnetic storm in September 2005: and here is the next rotation: You can find many such steps.

Such step changes happens all the time: They are just weather, not climate.

Of course Anthony takes as “skeptical” view of the opinions of actual solar experts as he thinks can get away with:

While I defer to Dr. Svalgaard’s overall superior knowledge on the dynamics of sun, and agree there are many sharp transitions in the Ap record, this looks to me to be a step change event of merit based on the factors listed above. I’ve yet to see a fully convincing explanation that this was a spurious event rather than a regime changepoint. But, I remain open to seeing such an explanation.

5 thoughts on “Detecting regime shifts in climate data – the modern warming regime ended in 1997

  1. Amazing

    Every year since and including 2001 and through 2011 was warmer than any year in the record, before 1998.

    And Outcalt thinks the modern warming regime ended in 1997.

    [Thanks for reminding even me! Sometimes I get so caught up in the particular stupid denialist argument that I forget to include the big picture. I’ve updated the post with your trenchant point. BTW, your comment got caught in my spam filter. Sorry! – Ben]

  2. So, the warming ended in 1997, but the 13 warmest years on record all occurred *after* 1997 (I include 2012 which surely will be among the 13). Denier stats, gotta love it!

    [Sometimes Anthony & Co. go so far down the rabbit hole that even I forget the context of reality. I’ think I’d drop a real temperature trend chart into this post. – Ben]

  3. What are the size of the error bars on your proposed “real temperature” graph in degrees Celsius? How did you measure the global temperature so precisely?

    [Nothing “proposed” about it, this chart was built from skeptic-selected temperature measurements taken around the world. I guess your roving skeptic eyeballs missed the chart notation “gray band represents 95% uncertainly interval”. Do you understand how this stuff works? – Ben]

  4. So, according to Anthony Watts and pals , I am supposed to totally ignore the reality of 2012, the year of the crazy hot and wet weather new records around the world, am I?

    Now, let’s see according to the latest “Arctic Sea Ice News”: Rapid sea ice retreat in June. The summer Arctic sea melt is three weeks ahead of schedule, with new June record low in both mass and area.

    New record mean average air temperatures recorded at the 3000 foot level over the Arctic Ocean. Greenhouse gas levels pass symbolic 400ppm CO2 milestone!

    Snow cover over Northern Hemisphere lands retreated rapidly in May and June, leaving the Arctic Ocean coastline nearly snow free.

    ENSO conditions moved from La Nina to neutral conditions with a continuing trend towards to “El Nino”: Models suggest further warming through winter.

    A quick check with Dr Jeff Masters “Weather Underground Blog”, shows even more disturbing adverse weather news.

    David Roberts: Climate change is simple: We do something or we’re screwed [my TEDx video].

    As to how, or why, anyone can deliberately ignore the reality of today’s record breaking world wide weather anomalies in the 21st century is very strange indeed!

    Epic face palm.

    [All you have to do is squint really, really, really hard and there’s no annoying reality to get in the way. – Ben]

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