When I first began to immerse myself in the world of global warming, nearly ten years ago now, what perplexed me most was the business of measuring something called global temperature. The data seemed so spotty, so irregular, so contrived, that making an average of the averages of the averages (an arithmetic mean, more precisely), and then going on about differences of a less than a degree C seemed to me dubious in the extreme. I wrote a piece about it here.
So my tendency was just to dismiss it all. But if you did that, Professor Bob Carter pointed out to me, you couldn’t enter the debate at all. The orthodox and sceptics alike had to accept some measurement, and since the orthodox relied on their measurements, those who didn’t agree had to find fault with those ones, or supply their own, or both. I have remained uneasy about all this measurement nonetheless, as readers will have discerned from a lot of my essays here.
I now have a new source of encouragement for my doubt. It is a long paper by the French Société de Calcul Mathématique SA, which you could translate roughly as the Mathematical Calculation Company Ltd, and I’ll call SCM hereafter. SCM does a lot of work for the French Government, especially in defence and related areas, and it claims high competence in the areas of mathematical modelling, which is its core strength. Its home page (there is an English version) is most interesting — and its corporate slogan is ‘tools for decision help since 1995’. The paper is among other things a wonderful summary of what is known, what tools are used, where the data come from, and how valid and reliable they are.
SCM has called its monograph a ‘White Paper’, with the title ‘The battle against global warming: an absurd, costly and pointless crusade’, and that is strong stuff from France, which, the paper says, likes to see itself as the “good boy of Europe”, [and] adds an extra layer of virtue to every crusade. The English translation of this 195pp work is available here, and in this essay I am simply going to summarise its first chapter, which is on measurement. We in Australia are Anglophone to a great degree, and tend to dismiss stuff that doesn’t come in English. I could not have translated the paper without days of work, but someone else has done it, and even provided keys to the diagrams where they are in French.
Here is the start: All public policies, in France, Europe and throughout the world, find their origin and inspiration in the battle against global warming. The initial credo is simple: temperatures at the surface of the planet have been rising constantly for the past thirty years, and human beings are to blame.
SCM takes exception to the small numbers of measurement recording stations used to provide global averages. France has 554, but only 50 of them are used in the global system maintained by the WMO, and there are very few in much of Africa, northern Canada, western China, Greenland and inland Australia, let alone Antarctica, while those used to establish sea-surface temperatures are concentrated in a few areas. The Earth has a total surface area of approximately 500 million km2; this means that a reliable global analysis would require at least five million sensors, which is 1,600 times more than the 3,000 stations being used at the moment. And that is simply for the calculation of surface temperatures. This distribution would have to be repeated at every layer of the atmosphere and every depth of the seas.
The company doesn’t like the ‘anomaly’ either. The word ‘anomaly‘ is loaded in itself and not very scientific; it gives the reader the idea that there is going to be something abnormal, whereas it simply concerns the difference in relation to a reference period. Why not use a temperature figure? It is fascinating to see that, on such a heavily debated subject, nowhere on the American Government site is there any mention of a simple, global figure: for year N, the average temperature is so much. This in itself is enough to set off alarm bells for any mildly curious scientist… This simple observation [that] the average temperatures recorded vary from year to year. [and the question] Why? – is never analyzed by the scientists responsible for these matters.
In Europe and the USA, the paper points out, there have been good temperature data since 1880 (1850 for Europe). If you are going to use an anomaly, why isn’t the reference period 1880 to say 2010, rather than 1960 to 1990? The paper is scathing about the following commonly used graph, which does use a global temperature figure rather than an anomaly.
The format of this graph, the paper says, encourages the reader to interpret it as showing a recent rise in temperatures. The graph also shows the CO2 profile, and the graph‘s format might lead to a misreading: the reader will be tempted to see a correlation between temperature and CO2, when in fact the two profiles are different between 1880 and 1980, and a simple change in the scaling of the axes would alter the shape of the CO2 curve, destroying the visual link the reader has been tempted to make.
And more: Let us state this clearly: there is absolutely no scientific justification for presenting data in terms of anomalies. It is tendentious and encourages conclusions concerning global warming. One has every right to expect to be given a simple, global figure, which would simply be the average of values recorded locally.
The paper provides a succinct and accessible explanation of the difficulties that are involved if one is trying to define and calculate an average temperature, and shows how NSA changed the data three times between 1999 and 2014, each time providing a steeper trend in temperature anomalies for the USA. At the same time, another US organisation, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was showing that heat waves were very much worse in the 1930s than at any time since, including the present.
Here is the SCM conclusion. None of the information on global temperatures is of any scientific value, and it should not be used as a basis for any policy decisions. It is perfectly clear that: there are far too few temperature sensors to give us a picture of the planet‘s temperature; we do not know what such a temperature might mean because nobody has given it any specific physical significance; the data have been subject to much dissimulation and manipulation. There is a clear will not to mention anything that might be reassuring, and to highlight things that are presented as worrying; despite all this, direct use of the available figures does not indicate any genuine trend towards global warming!
Oh my goodness. Why haven’t we had something like this from within the UK, Canada, the USA or Australia? Will anyone in authority in the English-speaking world take notice of it? Probably not, for all the reasons I have mentioned in recent essays. But if you want to read something straight to the point, balanced and scientific that is also sceptical about the fuss about global warming, start with this SCM paper.
Join the discussion 73 Comments
With wonderful precision, you identify exactly the critical thing we need to know in this controversy – global surface temperature – the weakness in the calculation of this, a source that examines and disarms the problem, and then you present the situation to us in fauktlessly lucid argument! A first rate essay that should be compulsory on educational curricula from primary on. And sent to every MP in our parliament. My thanks for this one, which I’ll file.
Don’t the satellite temperature measurements (you know, the ones that show the 18 year hiatus) give us a better indication of global temps than the WMO’s patchy terrestrial measurements? And, as I haven’t had time to read the 190 pages, but did they mention the satellite data?
The word ‘satellite’ appears on 22 pages of the document. A search of the pdf will find them.
The paper is somewhat sceptical about satellite measurements, on methodological grounds.
The report makes the point that the variation of the “yearly
world average temperature”(my quotes), which is an average of an average of an average of thousands of locations over a year, can be as large as the 100 year “increase”.
I find it interesting that the people asking everyone to “respect
the science” invariably attack personally those who disagree with them.
As you point out it would require millions of stations to arrive at a reasonably accurate average surface temperature. However, the posited warming from an enhanced GH effect should appear everywhere and manifest as an increase in the average temperature for most locations. There do exist a good number of widely dispersed well maintained stations of long standing with no changes in location and no local development for which “adjustment” is needed. A sample of the change in the average temperature for even a hundred such stations must surely be sufficient to determine a reasonably accurate estimate of the degree and sign of any such change.
But as the French point out, the data are presented as ‘anomalies’, so no-one actually has any idea what the temperatures actually are. Australian media hysterically present ‘records’ that are, in fact, some hundredths of a degree.
Actual Temp = mean temp + anomaly
I hope this helps. 🙂
But David, as the French have pointed out, at some length, there is no agreed global ‘mean’ temperature, so ‘anomalies’ are artefacts.
“the French”? One French mathematician does not speak for the nation, any more than Don’s opinions could be referred to as “the Australians”.
I accept that you may not be familiar with colloquial English.
1, The “average” they use to calculate an anomaly is not obtained from a second, “agreed to” data set, it is the average that is derived from initial data set.
2. JimboR makes a good point. Lets not refer to Bernard Beauzamy as “the French”. Beauzamy’s views are are as marginalized in France as anywhere else in the world.
3. The pompous sub-headings reminded me of an IPA-lite, if it is possible to conceive of something more ideological and less substantive than the IPA.
Thanks for picking up on this Don. It should be sent to every global warming blog, though no doubt ‘skeptical science’ would dismiss it on the grounds they are not ‘climate scientists’.
Got that right 🙂
…and the fact that that they hyperventilate over the fact that the temperature time series has been demeaned. One good reason to present results like this, is to allow comparison of trends from different geographical locations. Obviously each location will have a different mean temperature.
And none of this changes the generated coefficients, which describe the relationship between CO2 and temp.
I should have acknowledged Jo Nova’s website as the original link to this excellent paper.
lol You should probably have acknowledged me, but maybe you don’t read your blog.
I’m mystified. I saw a reference on an American website, then on Benny Peiser’s GWPF, with the link to Jo Nova. Then I went off to CSM itself.
Bryan Roberts • 6 days ago
God bless French mathematicians.
I’m old too, Don, so I forgive you.
SCM’s “contribution” is 1 part maths, 9 parts conspiracy theory.
…And the 10% that is maths is not good and the 90% that is conspiracy theory is not original.
It’s a shame the paper isn’t attributed. As far as I can tell the SCM is just a single mathematician by the name of Bernard Beauzamy. He handles everything right down to the domain name registration. That home page that you find “most interesting” Don, hasn’t changed significantly since 2011: http://web.archive.org/web/20110613163223/http://www.scmsa.eu/. I wonder how many leading tech companies have the same page today as they did 4 years ago. When you’re on a good thing stick to it I guess.
As for the professor’s views on temperature stations, they appear not to have changed since at least 2009 when he had them published in the FT (Anglo and mainstream enough for you Don?). Here’s how the Met Office replied at the time: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/30e61dc4-e9e2-11de-ae43-00144feab49a.html
Nothing new or newsworthy here… just old conspiracy theories recycled.
Funny about conspiracy. It’s not mentioned anywhere in the paper, and I did not see any suggestion of it, other perhaps than the reference to a ‘clear will’ that I quoted at the end of my essay. I thank you for the references, which I will follow up.
But just what was wrong with the mathematics and the presentation? It is, after all, based on dozens of straightforward scientific references. Your argument is ….?
On p 24 SCM argues
“We can see again from this example that the method used to
calculate the average has an influence on the result. According to the integration method, the average is 18ºC, which is a comfortable temperature for people. However, this average temperature of 18ºC occurs during a short period (twice a day) and the periods of high and low temperatures would prevent any normal life in this environment. So the average temperature is of no practical
This argument is rubbish. To illustrate; the mean of (2,4,8
&10) is 6, but according to your French mathematician there would be something “wrong” with reporting a mean of 6 because 6 does not appear in the data set.
Perhaps you missed the graph and example on p23.
David can go and live in the desert with a mean temp of 18 deg C. I prefer a bit more greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. Norfolk Island might be a good choice for 18 degrees.
I take your point. Temperature range is an important consideration. But to argue that the average “is of no practical importance’, as SCM does, is not tenable.
Obviously a desert with an average temp of 20 deg is hotter than a desert with an average temp of 18 deg. But to try and dismiss the importance of this increase because the mean temperature only occurs twice in any 24 hr period, is silly. Very silly.
I don’t think you understand the point being made. None of us lives according to average temperatures, especially the mean. Canberra’s mean temperature in winter will sometimes be 3C, but what is more important is that the nights are freezing and the day can be quite pleasant from about 10 to 4. Those extremes are what we live by, using central heating for the cold and solar positioning for the sun.
Perhaps you have found a real problem in the mathematics of the paper. If so, please set it out.
To conclude, that
“…the average temperature is of no practical significance”
on the basis of a mathematical argument that there is a daily maximum and minimum temperatures that may be uncomfortable if dressed in a T-shirt, is silly.Means are a measure of central tendency. There are other statistics available to measure dispersion (range, SD etc)
And all this discussion is in the context of AGW. So what do you suggest, we all turn on the AC?
This reminds me of a famous John Howard quote. When asked what he thought Australia would be like for his great grandchildren if average temperatures were to be 4C or even 6C higher than they are today, he replied… “Well, it would be less comfortable for some than it is now”.
I think this whole thread demonstrates pretty nicely why statisticians are completely out of their depth when it comes to climatology. They understand the statistics and therefore think they understand climatology… how hard can it be.. it’s just averages right?
I thought that was the basic message in pages 21 to 25.
“Concentrations of CO2 vary, as they always have done; the figures that are being released are biased and dishonest.”
Dishonesty is an example of conspiracy
DISHONEST: A fraudulent or deceitful act (OED)
The level of dishonesty is rising much faster than the sea level. It has totally swept scientific literature, where a good many writers endeavor to produce models showing something worrying. The press disregards all the others and its various organs vie to bring them to public attention.
And p. 175
“The IPCC‘s demonstrations in fact rely on simplified numerical models that have never been validated. Using such models as a political decision-making aid is both dishonest and illogical.”
And p. 183
“In reality, evidence for human influence has not grown—far from it. The studies are all
contradictory, showing that we do not understand anything about the phenomena in
question. The IPCC is implying that we have scientific certainties and that these
certainties point to a single culprit: humankind. That is just being dishonest.’
Yep, the paper drips conspiracy theory.
Not at all, see above. The paper suggests dishonesty on the part of some of those engaged in climate science. Different thing.
Don, I am not sure if you really believe this, or the comment is a face saving exercise. I suspect the latter.
I wrote another response this morning (hence the reference to see above) but for some reason it is not there. To recapitulate, a conspiracy, according to the Shorter OED, is ‘a combination of persons for an evil or unlawful purpose’. The paper alleges dishonesty on the part of some climate scientists, and that can the case whether or not there is or was a conspiracy as well. Conspirators don’t have to be dishonest, though they would be likely to be so, but people can be dishonest without acting conspiratorially.
The paper has occasional references to dishonesty, but not at all, at least not to me yet, of conspiracy.
“Occasional references to dishonesty”, 8 in fact including a sub-heading. 🙂
And the references to dishonesty on p. 175 and p. 183 do not just refer to “some scientists” they implicate the entire IPCC.
Whom do you have in mind in talking of ‘the entire IPCC’? It is hard to know just what goes on there, but if I put the best possible construction on it all, those concerned felt that they had to do what they had to do, notwithstanding the problems with data and argument. That doesn’t, once again, require a conspiracy, just what others have called ‘noble cause corruption’.
And once again, see above in my response to Jimbo, it’s not a great example of the best science, is it.
If you feel there is something to be gained from holding out for a distinction between institutional dishonesty and a conspiracy, then knock yourself out.
I could agree with aspects of what you wrote to JimboR. But look at the difference between the qualified allegations you make in your response to JimboR and the juiced-up language used by SCM to make sweeping allegations of dishonesty.
If SCM just wants to entertain other skeptics, then unsubstantiated allegations of dishonesty at the IPCC work a treat. Its all good fun, no doubt. But if SCM wants to be taken seriously and actually persuade others then these unsupported claims of widespread dishonesty are quite counterproductive.
“dishonesty on the part of some of those engaged in climate science”
Isn’t that precisely the conspiracy we’re all talking about? The SCM could have argued the climate scientists have made a mistake, and pointed out where, but instead they’ve claimed they’ve deliberately dishonestly set out to deceive.
Regardless of whether or not it’s true, the magnitude of that conspiracy is mind-blowing. That so many scientists from so many respected institutions would get together and all agree to fake the results… and fake them in a generally consistent manner, is an extraordinary claim.
That you don’t even see that as a conspiracy Don, speaks volumes. In fact, it probably reveals way more than all of the factoids you google up and echo in your essays.
No. You don’t get it at all. You write — ‘That so many scientists from so many respected institutions would get together and all agree to fake the results… and fake them in a generally consistent manner, is an extraordinary claim.’
It is an extraordinary claim, and I cannot think of anyone anywhere, least of all the SCM paper, who has made it, other than yourself.
Don’t you think there has been some dishonesty of the party, say of Michael Mann,with respect to his hiding the decline? Don’t you think there is some dishonesty in climate scientists’ not considering the other possibilities, with respect to the lack of warming of any significance in this century — that, for example, the CO2 knob might not be as powerful as they would like to think?
Their failure to do so is not a sign of a conspiracy, at least in my judgment, but is surely not a good example of the best science.
It gets better and better. Beauzamy has an autobiographical piece published in the Bulletin of the Irish Mathematical Society, which is great fun, and well worth reading. I liked his remark about mathematical models that provide solutions that no one understands to problems that no one raised.
Further research makes clear that Beauzamy is a seriously important mathematician, a doctoral student of Laurent Schwartz and a colleague of Per Enflo, both of them mathematical greats. I usually try to analyse the work, not the researcher, but in this case my appreciation of the work is heightened by discovering that Beauzamy is tops in his field. His c.v. is most impressive in the number and ranger of his publications.
Now. could we have some serious criticism, rather than ad hominem put-downs?
I don’t have the same respect for the Met Office as you do. Its seasonal forecasts for Britain have been pretty awful over the past few years. It seems they take great notice of their models… The BBC has not renewed its contract with the Met Office, though that decision may other causes.
Now why don’t you show what is actually wrong with what he has put forward? Yes, its root and branch disagreement with the orthodoxy. BUT WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIS ARGUMENT OR MATHS?
First the French weatherman, now the Professor.
Looks like a few “berms” are being lobbed before the big party.
As much as the French like insurrection, it will take a bit to beat Climate Gate.
JimboR and David,
If you read beyond the first page of the document, you will find the following.
Our previous work on these issues dates back to 2001, when we wrote a Note to the General Secretariat for National Defense (Prime Minister), entitled ?Global warming: mystifications and falsifications‘.
Contributors to this White Paper
Ce?cile Haberstich, Adrien Schmitt, Gottfried Berton, Ga??lle Tournie? and Miriam Basso.
Editor: Marie Gombero.
JimboR, you will note that Bernard Beauzamy is not listed among the contributors.
Bryan JoNova states.
“The English Translation of the Calculation Mathematical Society, SA web page. SCM was established in 1987, by University professor, Dr. Bernard Beauzamy. Their “first specialty” is mathematical modeling.”
But fair point Bryan, Beauzamy appears to have 5 friends. And if you tell me they are all real I will take your word for it.
The fact is, that France has subsequently agreed to host this months UN conference on Climate change even after, or perhaps because of, receiving their “note”. This should tell you all you need to know about the esteem with which their analysis is held in France, and elsewhere.
The French Department of Defence apparently held their work in some esteem, judging by the number of contracts awarded. Regardless, I do not see that the location of an international conference has any bearing on the content of the document under discussion, and I can’t be bothered arguing any further.
Following Bryan below, I did some research on what SCM has done — 20 contracts with the Ministry of Defence, and 154 with other clients, many of them big ones. That suggests to me that there really is a company, not just BB and five friends. Why don’t you do some reading too?
Its not reasonable to argue that SCM represents “the French”.
Not anything I have argued.
Well maybe. But you have jumped into the middle of a thread with a tangential comment. I was bringing you back to the main point.
But you are not entirely blameless. You wrote “Oh my goodness. Why haven’t we had something like this from within the UK, Canada, the USA or Australia? ”
[And of course we do. You write this type of hyperbole all the time. No wonder you like it.]
To which Bryan, then started referring to the paper as “the French”. Hence, the discussion about whether, the authors should really be referred to as the French.
You still haven’t shown where or how the paper is wrong about measuring global warming. As so often, you argue ad hominem, both about the paper and about what I write.
I have watched any number or of US Senate and UK Parliamentary enquiries on “the facts”on climate change ..robust public discussions that just don’t happen in Australia. Turnbull is the new science based PM and I look forward to seeing and hearing a similar series of discussion from a cross section of scientists (from here and overseas) on this issue. We might start with teasing out the 97% consensus to see if that is worth a tinkers curse.
I would give SCM a fail for the section on CO2.
They are grasping at straws when they say there are not enough measuring stations to indicate whether CO2 is increasing or not in the atmosphere.
Most sceptics would concur with the orthodox on this point, though the dragon slayer types don’t believe the increase is due to the burning of fossil fuels.
There is a great post at WUWT on the recent satellite mapping of CO2, some great comments there too.
The key question is whether or not Beck’s method is to be taken seriously. If it is, he shows that CO2 levels have been much higher than 400 ppm in the past. If not, why not? And NASA’s CO2 maps show that CO2 is not well mixed…
I haven’t got to CO2 yet in the long paper, and I have something else for my next essay. But before long I guess.
The scale shown on the NASA CO2 map is between 387ppm and 407ppm. Given the size of the sources and sinks of CO2, the measurements actually show that atmospheric gases mix well over time and so they should given the closeness of the molecular weights of CO2, O2 and N2 of 44, 32 and 28 respectively and the amount of energy in the atmosphere to stir these up.
Real Climate gives Beck’s paper short shrift. http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/05/beck-to-the-future/
They also mention Guy Callendar who has reviewed much of the early work on CO2 prior to the 1960s. Callendar’s review in 1957 “On the amount of Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere” demonstrates the slow progression of CO2 up to about 328ppm in1955. Nowhere does Callendar mention values like Becks.
I’d be happier if you’d used a reference other than RealClimate, but I’ll get round to CO2 shortly.
WUWT also had a short post on Beck back in 2008 but left any discussion to the commenters, who were generally quite critical. Callendar’s 1957 review paper is readily available on the web.
Judith Curry has an excellent piece on her website exactly on this topic — http://judithcurry.com/2015/11/05/jc-op-ed-the-politics-surrounding-global-temperature-data/#more-20343
For those who see everything as conspiracy there is even something for them, if on the other side of the debate.
Climategate by subpoena?
The whole argument about ‘restricting’ global warming to less than 2 degrees is the most complete absurdity. It does not seem to have occurred to anyone that IF the Greenland and Antarctic ice shelves ARE melting – at TODAY’s temperatures – there is no force known to man that will stop them, let alone the idiots at the UN or the IPCC.
This is not a brilliant deduction, it is completely obvious. Therefore ‘climate summits’ have nothing to do with saving the planet (which, if they believe they are correct, they know is in deep shit), they are a way of providing well-paid sinecures for further thousands of UN bureaucrats who can roam the world in comfort (well
except for being ankle-deep in seawater), telling people not to burn coal in their rapidly-quenching power stations.
Of course, if they DON’T believe they are correct, climate summits are simply an elaborate scam, with exactly the same political objectives.
[…] this essay I return to the SCM paper that I discussed last week, considering this time what it says about atmospheric carbon dioxide, which for the orthodox is […]
Don, you label this blog post “Measuring global warming”, and then you go on to talk about something you erroneously call “global temperature”. There is no “global temperature”. Temperature is defined at a point for systems estimated to be in some notion of equilibrium. Perhaps you mean global average surface air temperature.
Global average surface air temperature is not even a metric for global warming. The units of global warming are not temperature. Here’s something for you to think about which you will probably struggle with because you have not studied physics: what are the natural units of global warming?
I think you are a newcomer to this site. I have written quite a bit about global warming and the problems of measuring it, let alone of discovering its causes. You can read some of it by using the search button. I do understand what you are saying, despite not having studied physics at university.
The key idea Don is that global warming is predominantly about energy not temperature. Global warming means that there is more radiative energy entering the climate system from space – i.e. the sun – than is escaping from the outer atmosphere into space. Global warming units are some choice of energy units per time units.
Global surface temperature does not give enough information to ascertain whether global warming is occurring, because it is an index for thermal energy accumulating in a thin (~50cm) layer of air around the earth.
There are two ways to ascertain whether global warming is occurring: you can either have a satellite/s measuring incoming and outgoing radiation, or you can approximate it well by adding up the thermal energy in the entire climate system: the oceans, atmosphere, land, ice. The latter measurement result in the following graph, which is essentially a graph of global warming with time:
So how does increasing thermal energy lead to increasing temperatures? By a simple equation: the thermal energy flow into a piece of matter divided by the heat capacity of that matter equals the increase in temperature of that matter. Note that accumulating energy in the climate system doesn’t all manifest as thermal energy though – some is converted to kinetic energy of convection.
It’s probably too late for most readers, but Joanne Nova has published a long essay on measuring Australian temperatures which is well worth reading. It makes important methodological points that are in harmony with the CSM paper referred to here.
[…] foray into the SCM document on ‘climate change’ that I have investigated twice before, here and here. But before I get into it, readers in New South Wales will have noticed that the […]
[…] my last foray into the SCM document on ‘climate change’ that I have investigated twice before, here and here. But before I get into it, readers in New South Wales will have noticed that the […]