Sunday, November 29, 2009

Forecasting experts' simple model leaves IPCC climate models cold

A simple model was found to be produce forecasts that are over seven times more accurate than forecasts from the procedures used by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This important finding, is reported in an article titled "Validity of climate change forecasting for public policy decision making" (PDF) in the latest issue of the International Journal of Forecasting. It is the result of a collaboration among forecasters J. Scott Armstrong of the Wharton School, Kesten C. Green of Monash University, and climate scientist Willie Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

In an earlier paper (PDF), Armstrong and Green found that the IPCC's approach to forecasting climate violated 72 principles of forecasting. To put this in context, would you put your children on a trans-Atlantic flight if you knew that the plane had failed engineering checks for 72 out of 127 relevant items on the checklist?

The IPCC violations of forecasting principles were partly due to their use of models that were too complex for the situation. Contrary to everyday thinking, complex models provide forecasts that are less accurate than forecasts from simple models when the situation is complex and uncertain.

Confident that a forecasting model that followed scientific forecasting principles would provide forecasts that were more accurate than those provided by the IPCC, Green, Armstrong and Soon used a model that was more consistent with forecasting principles and knowledge about climate. The forecasting model was the so-called "naive" model. It assumes that things will remain the same. It is such a simple model that people are generally not aware of its power. In contrast to the IPCC's central forecast that global mean temperatures will rise by 3 degrees C over a century, the naive model simply forecasts that temperatures next year and for each of 100 years into the future would remain the same as the last years'.

The naive model approach is confusing to non-forecasters who are aware that temperatures have always varied. Moreover, much has been made of the observation that the temperature series that the IPCC uses shows a broadly upward trend since 1850 and that this is coincident with increasing industrialization and associated increases in manmade carbon dioxide gas emissions.

In order to test the naive model, annual forecasts were made from one to 100 years in the future starting with 1850's global average temperature as the forecast for the years 1851 to 1950. This process was repeated by updating for each year up through 2007. This produced 10,750 annual average temperature forecasts for all horizons. It was the first time that the IPCC's forecasting procedures had been subject to a large-scale test of the accuracy of the forecasts that they produce.

Over all the forecasts, the IPCC error was 7.7 times larger than the error from the naive model. While the superiority of the naive model was modest for one- to ten-year-ahead forecasts (where the IPCC error was 1.5 times larger), its superiority was enormous for the 91- to 100-year-ahead forecasts, where the IPCC error was 12.6 times larger.

Is it proper to conduct validation tests? In many cases, such as the climate change situation, people claim that: "Things have changed! We cannot use the past to forecast." While they may think that their situation is unique, there is no logic to this argument. The only way to forecast the future is by learning from the past. In fact, the warmers claims are also based on their analyses of the past.

Could one improve upon the naive model? The naive model violates some principles. For example, it violates the principle that one should use as long a time series as possible, because it bases all forecasts on simply the global average temperature for the single year just prior to making the forecasts. It also fails to combine forecasts from different reasonable methods. The authors planned to start simple with this self-funded project and to then obtain funding to undertake a more ambitious forecasting effort to ensure that all principles were followed. This would no doubt improve accuracy. However, the forecasts from the naive model were very accuurate. For example, the mean absolute error for the 108 fifty-year ahead forecasts was only 0.24 degrees C. It is difficult to see any economic value to reducing such a small forecast error.

Above article received by email. Author: Scott Armstrong []

Climate change data dumped

Leaky Jonathan does a straight report for once (below). Is his faith wavering? He does not however go as far as puncturing the excuse given by the CRU below: That the dumped data was on obsolete media. Transferring it to modern magnetic media would have cost virtually nothing in terms of both space and money

SCIENTISTS at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based. It means that other academics are not able to check basic calculations said to show a long-term rise in temperature over the past 150 years.

The UEA's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) was forced to reveal the loss following requests for the data under Freedom of Information legislation. The data were gathered from weather stations around the world and then adjusted to take account of variables in the way they were collected. The revised figures were kept, but the originals - stored on paper and magnetic tape - were dumped to save space when the CRU moved to a new building.

The admission follows the leaking of a thousand private emails sent and received by Professor Phil Jones, the CRU's director. In them he discusses thwarting climate sceptics seeking access to such data. In a statement on its website, the CRU said: "We do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (quality controlled and homogenised) data."

The CRU is the world's leading centre for reconstructing past climate and temperatures. Climate change sceptics have long been keen to examine exactly how its data were compiled. That is now impossible.

Roger Pielke, professor of environmental studies at Colorado University, discovered data had been lost when he asked for original records. "The CRU is basically saying, `Trust us'. So much for settling questions and resolving debates with science," he said.

Jones was not in charge of the CRU when the data were thrown away in the 1980s, a time when climate change was seen as a less pressing issue. The lost material was used to build the databases that have been his life's work, showing how the world has warmed by 0.8C over the past 157 years. He and his colleagues say this temperature rise is "unequivocally" linked to greenhouse gas emissions generated by humans. Their findings are one of the main pieces of evidence used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which says global warming is a threat to humanity.


The great climate change science scandal

The report below appeared in "The Times" of London, which means that the news concerned has now gone mainstream and has become general public knowledge. And it is again an objective article from the keyboard of Leaky Jonathan! Quite a change! He can obviously tell which way the wind is blowing

The storm began with just four cryptic words. "A miracle has happened," announced a contributor to Climate Audit, a website devoted to criticising the science of climate change. "RC" said nothing more - but included a web link that took anyone who clicked on it to another site, Real Climate. There, on the morning of November 17, they found a treasure trove: a thousand or so emails sent or received by Professor Phil Jones, director of the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.

Jones is a key player in the science of climate change. His department's databases on global temperature changes and its measurements have been crucial in building the case for global warming.

What those emails suggested, however, was that Jones and some colleagues may have become so convinced of their case that they crossed the line from objective research into active campaigning. In one, Jones boasted of using statistical "tricks" to obliterate apparent declines in global temperature. In another he advocated deleting data rather than handing them to climate sceptics. And in a third he proposed organised boycotts of journals that had the temerity to publish papers that undermined the message.

It was a powerful and controversial mix - far too powerful for some. Real Climate is a website designed for scientists who share Jones's belief in man-made climate change. Within hours the file had been stripped from the site. Several hours later, however, it reappeared - this time on an obscure Russian server. Soon it had been copied to a host of other servers, first in Saudi Arabia and Turkey and then Europe and America. What's more, the anonymous poster was determined not to be stymied again. He or she posted comments on climate-sceptic blogs, detailing a dozen of the best emails and offering web links to the rest. Jones's statistical tricks were now public property.

Steve McIntyre, a prominent climate sceptic, was amazed. "Words failed me," he said. Another, Patrick Michaels, declared: "This is not a smoking gun; this is a mushroom cloud."

Inevitably, the affair became nicknamed Climategate. For the scientists, campaigners and politicians trying to rouse the world to action on climate change the revelations could hardly have come at a worse time. Next month global leaders will assemble in Copenhagen to seek limits on carbon emissions. The last thing they need is renewed doubts about the validity of the science.

The scandal has also had a huge personal and professional impact on the scientists. "These have been the worst few days of my professional life," said Jones. He had to call on the police for protection after receiving anonymous phone calls and personal threats.

Why should a few emails sent to and from a single research scientist at a middle-ranking university have so much impact? And most importantly, what does it tell us about the quality of the research underlying the science of climate change?

THE hacking scandal is not an isolated event. Instead it is the latest round of a long-running battle over climate science that goes back to 1990. That was when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - the group of scientists that advises governments worldwide - published its first set of reports warning that the Earth faced deadly danger from climate change. A centrepiece of that report was a set of data showing how the temperature of the northern hemisphere was rising rapidly.

The problem was that the same figures showed that it had all happened before. The so-called medieval warm period of about 1,000 years ago saw Britain covered in vineyards and Viking farmers tending cows in Greenland. For any good scientist this raised a big question: was the recent warming linked to humans burning fossil fuels or was it part of a natural cycle?

The researchers set to work and in 1999 a group led by Professor Michael Mann, a climatologist at Pennsylvania State University, came up with new numbers showing that the medieval warm period was not so important after all. Some bits of the Atlantic may have been warm for a while, but the records suggested that the Pacific had been rather chilly over the same period - so on average there was little change. Plotted out, Mann's data turned into the famous "hockey stick" graph. It showed northern hemisphere temperatures as staying flat for hundreds of years and then rising steeply from 1900 until now. The implication was that this rise would continue, with potentially deadly consequences for humanity.

That vision of continents being hit by droughts and floods while the Arctic melts away has turned a scientific debate into a highly emotional and political one. The language used by "warmists" and sceptics alike has become increasingly polarised. George Monbiot, widely respected as a writer on green issues, has branded doubters "climate deniers", a phrase uncomfortably close to holocaust denial. Sceptics, particularly in America, have suggested that scientists who believe in climate change are part of a global left-wing conspiracy to divert billions of dollars into green technology.

A more cogent criticism is that there has been a reluctance to acknowledge dissent on the question of climate science. Al Gore, the former US vice-president turned green campaigner, has described the climate debate as "settled". Yet the science, say critics, has not been tested to the limit. This is why the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia is so significant.

Its researchers have built up records of how temperatures have changed over thousands of years. Perhaps the most important is the land and sea temperature record for the world since the mid-19th century. This is the database that shows the "unequivocal" rise of 0.8C over the last 157 years on which Mann's hockey stick and much else in climate science depend.

Some critics believe that the unit's findings need to be treated with more caution, because all the published data have been "corrected" - meaning they have been altered to compensate for possible anomalies in the way they were taken. Such changes are normal; what's controversial is how they are done. This is compounded by the unwillingness of the unit to release the original raw data.

David Holland, an engineer from Northampton, is one of a number of sceptics who believe the unit has got this process wrong. When he submitted a request for the figures under freedom of information laws he was refused because it was "not in the public interest". Others who made similar requests were turned down because they were not academics, among them McIntyre, a Canadian who runs the Climate Audit website.

A genuine academic, Ross McKitrick, professor of economics at the University of Guelph in Canada, also tried. He said: "I was rejected for an entirely different reason. The [unit] told me they had obtained the data under confidentiality agreements and so could not supply them. This was odd because they had already supplied some of them to other academics, but only those who support the idea of climate change."

It was against this background that the emails were leaked last week, reinforcing suspicions that scientific objectivity has been sacrificed. There is unease even among researchers who strongly support the idea that humans are changing the climate. Roger Pielke, professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said: "Over the last decade there has been a very political battle between the climate sceptics and activist scientists. "It seems to me that the scientists have lost touch with what they were up to. They saw themselves as in a battle with the sceptics rather than advancing scientific knowledge."

Professor Mike Hulme, a fellow researcher of Jones at the University of East Anglia and author of Why We Disagree About Climate Change, said: "The attitudes revealed in the emails do not look good. The tribalism that some of the leaked emails display is something more usually associated with social organisation within primitive cultures; it is not attractive when we find it at work inside science."

There could, however, be another reason why the unit rejected requests to see its data. This weekend it emerged that the unit has thrown away much of the data. Tucked away on its website is this statement: "Data storage availability in the 1980s meant that we were not able to keep the multiple sources for some sites ... We, therefore, do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (ie, quality controlled and homogenised) data."

If true, it is extraordinary. It means that the data on which a large part of the world's understanding of climate change is based can never be revisited or checked. Pielke said: "Can this be serious? It is now impossible to create a new temperature index from scratch. [The unit] is basically saying, `Trust us'."

WHERE does this leave the climate debate? While the overwhelming belief of scientists is that the world is getting warmer and that humanity is responsible, sceptical voices are increasing. Lord Lawson, the Tory former chancellor, announced last week the creation of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a think tank, to "bring reason, integrity and balance to a debate that has become seriously unbalanced, irrationally alarmist, and all too often depressingly intolerant". Lawson said: "Climate change is not being properly debated because all the political parties are on the same side, and there is an intolerance towards anybody who wants to debate it. It has turned climate change from being a political issue into a secular religion."

The public are understandably confused. A recent poll showed that 41% accept as scientific fact that global warming is taking place and is largely man-made, while 32% believe the link is unproven and 15% said the world is not warming.

This weekend many of Jones's colleagues were standing by him. Tim Lenton, professor of earth system science at UEA, said: "We wouldn't have anything like the understanding of climate change that we do were it not for the work of Phil Jones and his colleagues. They have spent decades putting together the historical temperature record and it is good work." The problem is that, after the past week, both sceptics and the public will require even more convincing of that.


Big backdown. Shamed University of East Anglia to release climate data

This is still much less of a concession than it appears. It will only be data as "edited" by them which will appear -- unless their claim to have "lost" the raw data was a lie. It will still be interesting, though. Comparing their edited data with any available sources of raw data should be MOST instructive. It will reveal any biases in their editing methods -- and expect plenty of those. It is precisely such comparisons that they have obviously been fearing for years

Leading British scientists who were accused of manipulating climate change data have agreed to publish their figures in full. The U-turn by the university follows a week of controversy after the emergence of hundreds of leaked emails, "stolen" by hackers and published online, triggered claims that the academics had massaged statistics. In a statement welcomed by climate change sceptics, the university said it would make all the data accessible as soon as possible, once its Climatic Research Unit (CRU) had negotiated its release from a range of non-publication agreements.

The publication will be carried out in collaboration with the Met Office Hadley Centre. The full data, when disclosed, is certain to be scrutinised by both sides in the fierce debate.

A grandfather with a training in electrical engineering dating back more than 40 years emerged from the leaked emails as a leading climate sceptic trying to bring down the scientific establishment on global warming. David Holland, who describes himself as a David taking on the Goliath that is the prevailing scientific consensus, is seeking prosecutions against some of Britain's most eminent academics for allegedly holding back information in breach of disclosure laws. Mr Holland, of Northampton, complained to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) last week after the leaked emails included several Freedom of Information requests he had submitted to the CRU, and scientists' private responses to them.

Within hours, a senior complaints officer in the ICO wrote back by email: "I have started to examine the issues that you have raised in your letter and I am currently liaising with colleagues in our Enforcement and Data Protection teams as to what steps to take next." The official also promised to investigate other universities linked to the CRU, which is one of the world's leading authorities on temperature levels and has helped to prove that man-made global warming not only exists but will have catastrophic consequences if not tackled urgently. Mr Holland is convinced the threat has been greatly exaggerated.

In one email dated May 28, 2008, one academic writes to a colleague having received Mr Holland's request: "Oh MAN! Will this crap ever end??"

Mr Holland, who graduated with an external degree in electrical engineering from London University in 1966 before going on to run his own businesses, told The Sunday Telegraph: "It's like David versus Goliath. Thanks to these leaked emails a lot of little people can begin to make some impact on this monolithic entity that is the climate change lobby." He added: "These guys called climate scientists have not done any more physics or chemistry than I did. A lifetime in engineering gives you a very good antenna. It also cures people of any self belief they cannot be wrong. You clear up a lot of messes during a lifetime in engineering. I could be wrong on global warming - I know that - but the guys on the other side don't believe they can ever be wrong."

Professor Trevor Davies, the university's Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Research Enterprise and Engagement, said yesterday: "CRU's full data will be published in the interests of research transparency when we have the necessary agreements. It is worth reiterating that our conclusions correlate well to those of other scientists based on the separate data sets held by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. "We are grateful for the necessary support of the Met Office in requesting the permissions for releasing the information but understand that responses may take several months and that some countries may refuse permission due to the economic value of the data."

Among the leaked emails disclosed last week were an alleged note from Professor Phil Jones, 57, the director of the CRU and a leading target of climate change sceptics, to an American colleague describing the death of a sceptic as "cheering news"; and a suggestion from Prof Jones that a "trick" is used to "hide the decline" in temperature. They even include threats of violence. One American academic wrote to Prof Jones: "Next time I see Pat Michaels [a climate sceptic] at a scientific meeting, I'll be tempted to beat the crap out of him. Very tempted."

Dr Michaels, tracked down by this newspaper to the Cato Institute in Washington DC where he is a senior fellow in environmental studies, said last night: "There were a lot of people who thought I was exaggerating when I kept insisting terrible things are going on here. "This is business as usual for them. The world might be surprised but I am not. These guys have an attitude."

Prof Jones, who has refused to quit despite calls even from within the green movement, said last week in a statement issued through University of East Anglia, "My colleagues and I accept that some of the published emails do not read well. I regret any upset or confusion caused as a result. Some were clearly written in the heat of the moment, others use colloquialisms frequently used between close colleagues." He suggested the theft of emails and publication first on a Russian server was "a concerted attempt to put a question mark over the science of climate change in the run-up to the Copenhagen talks".

He added: "Our global temperature series tallies with those of other, completely independent, groups of scientists working for NASA and the National Climate Data Centre in the United States, among others. Even if you were to ignore our findings, theirs show the same results. The facts speak for themselves; there is no need for anyone to manipulate them.


The Litigation Begins

This is a post from a few days ago but I thought it was still worth a mention

Yesterday "the Competitive Enterprise Institute filed three Notices of Intent to File Suit against NASA and its Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), for those bodies' refusal--for nearly three years--to provide documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act," CEI fellow Christopher Horner announces at Pajamas Media:
The information sought is directly relevant to the exploding "Climategate" scandal revealing document destruction, coordinated efforts in the U.S. and UK to avoid complying with both countries' freedom of information laws, and apparent and widespread intent to defraud at the highest levels of international climate science bodies. Numerous informed commenters had alleged such behavior for years, all of which appears to be affirmed by leaked emails, computer code, and other data from the Climatic Research Unit of the UK's East Anglia University.

All of that material, and that sought for years by CEI, goes to the heart of the scientific claims and campaign underpinning the Kyoto Protocol, its planned successor treaty, "cap-and-trade" legislation, and the EPA's threatened regulatory campaign to impose similar measures through the back door.

A lawyer writes us that "'the purloined 'global warming emails' suggest several lines of legal inquiry":
Tortious interference: For researchers and academicians, publication in peer-reviewed journals is important to advancement, raises, grant funding, etc. Wrongful interference with the ability to publish has monetary and reputational damages. If that interference is based not on editorial judgment of worthiness for publication, but rather on protecting reputations, scientific positions, political goals or "places in history" (as mentioned in one email), then it could give rise to liability in tort for the individual scientist and possibly for the university or organization for which he works.

Breach of faculty ethics standards or contracts: Most universities and research organizations have ethics clauses in their faculty/employee manuals and in their contracts with faculty/researchers. If (as suggested by the purloined emails) these individuals cooked data or manipulated assumptions to achieve preferred outcomes, or denied others access to data essential for replication of result that is essential to the scientific method, they could have violated university or organizational ethics standards.

State-chartered universities: Some of these individuals appear to work for state-chartered and state-funded institutions, and might well be classified as state employees (and thereby eligible for generous state benefits). The conduct suggested by the purloined emails might violate state ethics or funding policies. State governments and legislatures therefore might have a basis for inquiry and oversight.

Federal grants: Federal grants typically have ethics/integrity clauses to assure that the research funded by the grant is credible and reliable (and to assure that the agency can avoid accountability if it isn't). As noted, the purloined emails suggest that data might have been cooked and assumptions might have been manipulated to generate a predetermined outcome. If true, and if the work in question was funded by federal grant, the researchers in question might well have violated their federal grant contracts--for which there are legal consequences. Inspectors general of the grant agencies should be in position to make inquiry if the data/assumptions in question could be linked in time and topic to a contemporaneous federal grant to the researchers in question.


California's "smart" electriciy meters causing uproar

Not highlighted below is the main reason for installing these meters: They enable the government to switch your airconditioning on and off any time they like. It is the Democrats' alternative to building new power stations in the teeth of Greenie opposition. Californians will be FORCED to reduce their electricity usage

A push by California's electricity provider to modernize its power grid is turning into a public relations disaster, as allegations mount that it's responsible for stratospheric overcharges. At issue are the 10 million smart meters Pacific Gas & Electric, or PG&E, is rolling out to customers throughout the state. The digital meters, unlike the analog devices they're replacing, provide two-way communications between electricity users and the power stations that serve them. That eliminates the need for meter readers to visit each customer to know how much power has been consumed.

It also turns the power grid into a computerized network that can provide real-time data operators can use to make their grids "smart," at least in theory. During periods of peak usage, for instance, the meters can automatically tell washing machines to stop running until power is more plentiful.

Over the past few months, PG&E's rollout has been pre-empted by complaints that the meters are wildly inaccurate. Most notably, a lawsuit filed on behalf of Bakersfield, California-based resident Pete Flores claimed his bills jumped from about $200 on average to $500 to $600, even though there was no change in his usage pattern.

The Utility Reform Network, a non-profit that advocates on behalf of power users, has received more than 100 smart-meter complaints, according to the lawsuit. California State Senator Dean Florez has also jumped on the bandwagon, telling one newspaper "They are fraud meters" and calling for a moratorium on their installation. Articles such as this one in which customers decry the unreliability of the new meters, is now a regular staple in state news feeds.

Michael Louis Kelly, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, said the problem is that there wasn't enough testing of the meters before they were installed. "You're transmitting things wirelessly and you're relying upon computer interfaces to accurately transmit information that may or may not be happening," he told The Register. "If this was a weights and measures issue, every scale at Wholefoods, for example, is tested to make sure if you buy and ounce of something, it's an ounce."

PG&E, and the providers of the smart meter gear take strong exception to those claims. "The manufacturers test and certify the meters before they leave the factory," said PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno. "We also do some testing of meters upon arrival, and when meters are deployed in the field, before we convert the billing, we also check usage reads to ensure they're consistent with a customer's historic usage." Once the complaints started rolling in, PG&E began paying visits to angry customers to test their meters. So far, it has tested more than 1,100 of them and none has been found faulty, he said.

Moreno said customers' bills are rising not as a result of the new meters, but because of recent rate increases and a hotter-than-normal summer, which has driven up air-conditioning costs.

Landis+Gyr and Silver Spring Networks, two of the companies providing technology for the smart meters, also insist their gear has been rigorously tested. Among other criteria, the equipment must pass accuracy and performance muster spelled out in in ANSI C12.20, they say. "The system itself is working exactly as intended," said Eric Dresselhuys, an executive vice president for Silver Spring. "The accuracy of the meters and the accuracy of the system in total is excellent."

Erfan Ibrahim, a technical executive at the Electric Power Research Institute, also argues that the meters are accurate. "If the accuracy was in question, all the meters would be showing errors because it would be a structural issue," he said. To date, the complaints amount to a tiny fraction of the people using them.

The controversy has grown so heated that the California Public Utilities Commission recently agreed to hire an independent consultant to test the meters. PG&E's Moreno said the utility supports the move.



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