Thanks to all the readers who have altered me to Roy Spencer and William Braswell’s new paper, “On the Misdiagnosis of Surface Temperature Feedbacks from Variations in Earth’s Radiant Energy Balance,” published in Remote Sensing. I have just downloaded a copy of the paper and will read it later today.
It’s been picked up widely in the press, thanks to Jim Taylor writing about it in Forbes. Taylor even managed to sneak in the word “alarmism;” not once, but many times.
I also specifically note that my pal Gav has not yet written about Spencer and Braswell’s new work. Well, best to be cautious. I will follow Real Climate’s example and take my time to analyze the statistical model used in the paper.
When I’m finished, I’ll initiate a new post called “Misdiagnosis of Surface Temperature Feedbacks”, and I’ll put a link to it here. It may be tomorrow, it may be next week. I have to travel again early next week: I wish I had multiple grants from NASA and Greenpeace like some so that I could stay in one place! (Rest assured that I will adopt a full-body scientific attitude when reading the paper.)
You’ll have heard that Charles Monnett, with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, was iced by his bosses over “integrity issues.”
Monnett was one of those scientists who provided the beat to the tune It’s Worse Than We Thought when he and a colleague managed to slip a peer-reviewed paper into Polar Biology which intimated that polar ice was disappearing so fast that polar bears were drowning at a shocking rate, because they had to swim increasing distances in the newly created open water.
His evidence was in the form of observations of a couple of bears that drowned after a particularly powerful storm (winds passing 50 km/h). He said that these observatios “suggest that drowning-related deaths of polar bears may increase in the future if the observed trend of regression of pack ice and/or longer open water periods continues.”
The activist group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has taken up Monnett’s cause and claim that the man is being “hounded” over the paper.
One point of contention is where Monnett said, “These extrapolations suggest that survival rate of bears swimming in open water during this was period was low (9/36)=25%).” That’s the statistic that was picked up by Al “Buy My Carbon Offsets” Gore, and which Gore used to prove that most polar bears would soon be dead.
In a hilarious exchange with investigator Eric May, Monnett tries to deny that the 25% statistic was a statistic:
ERIC MAY: Did they comment at all about any of the stats or —
CHARLES MONNETT: Uh, there’s no stats in [the paper].
ERIC MAY: Well, calculations, for, for example, the 25 percent survival rate.
CHARLES MONNETT: Oh, well, that’s just a mindless thing. That’s in the discussion. Um, that is not a statistic. Um, that’s a ratio estimator. It’s a it’s a fifth grade procedure. Do you have kids?
ERIC MAY: No.
CHARLES MONNETT: Okay, well, if you had kids, you would know that in about fifth grade, they start doing a thing called cross multiplication. “X” is to “Y” as, you know, “N” is to “M.” And you can — there’s, there’s a little procedure you use to compare the proportions. And so that’s a, um, simply a calculation. It’s not a statistic.
ERIC MAY: Okay.
CHARLES MONNETT: And, uh, we were very careful, um, in how we presented that, to first make it clear that we had â€“ we didnâ€™t have sufficient sample size, although a, a, a peer statistician type would probably argue we did. But we felt we didn’t have a sufficient sample size to do statistics and, you know, and to estimate, to do any estimators or confidence intervals or anything like that on. And we put caveats throughout that section, saying that, uh, “it’s possible.” And we felt that, um, we didn’t want to leave the reader thinking that, â€œ”Okay, they went out, and they surveyed it, and there were four dead bears.” Because this is a survey, and it only looks — it only covers a small part of the habitat.
Well, Chuck, old boy, that was a statistic. A bad, too; and wildly misleading.
It’s all made worse when Monnett admits that he actually only saw three dead bears—and not four, as he claimed many times and in many places. Monnett says that this goof was “not scientific misconduct anyway. If anything, it’s sloppy.”
It is obvious that Monnett’s work was badly off. But if this is all they have against him, best guess is that Monnett, being a federal employee, will not be fired. He could argue that, after all, his paper was reviewed and accepted by his peers, that no paper is considered final, and so forth. And how often are government employees fired?