McLean’s folly 2: the reckoning

Ten months ago, Aussie “sceptic” John McLean predicted that 2011 would be “the coolest year since 1956”. I pointed out at the time that this was nonsense, and so it has proven to be. I’ve taken the GISS global temperature figure for Jan – Nov 2011 (+0.51ºC compared to the 1951-80 average) and added it to the graph I created to illustrate the full extent of McLean’s folly:


Last year was warmer than 1956 by a whopping 0.68ºC — about three standard deviations, in statistical terms — making McLean’s forecast an abysmal failure. Yes, 2011 was cooler than 2010 or 2009, but still one of the top ten warm years.

ENSO does have an effect on global temperature — that’s been understood since the 1970s, if not earlier. La Niña years tend to be cooler than the years around them, as this WMO graph illustrates.


It’s clear that even cool La Niña years have been warming, with 2011 being the warmest such year in the instrumental record.

The reason McLean’s forecast failed is quite simple. He failed to take into account the warming trend that’s incredibly obvious when you look at the GISS and WMO data. Why would he do that? Well, he was lead author on a paper that “established” a link between ENSO and global temperature, but did that by filtering the global mean temp to remove any long term trend and to emphasise the ENSO time scale. Voila! The Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) suddenly accounted for most of the variability in the (filtered and detrended) global mean temperature. As pointed out in the rebuttal to McLean et al, just about any time series would be “explained” by the SOI after passing through their filter.

In order to make his unphysical forecast, McLean must have forgotten what he had done in the paper he was so keen to promote. I could perhaps be forgiven for suspecting that he didn’t know what he was doing in the first place — but then that just makes his co-authors, Chris de Freitas and Bob Carter look equally daft. They certainly didn’t rush to correct McLean’s folly. As ever, in the land of the Climate Clueless™, anything goes.

See also: McLean, de Freitas and Carter win the Friends of Gin and Tonic’s inaugural Climate Idiots of the Year award. Richly deserved.

[A glimpse of stocking.]

14 thoughts on “McLean’s folly 2: the reckoning”

  1. You have to wonder why they do it. I know it’s ideology and all that, but deep down in their hearts many of the fake-skeptics know they’re wrong. Every silly ‘global cooling’ prediction is going to fail miserably because the oceans just keep building up heat. Given the physics involved there’s no way around that.

    But then again you never know, the climate could have some sneaky little trick up its sleeve. It’s certainly gone awry a few times in the past. I just wouldn’t hold my breath waiting……..

    Oh, and McLean’s one of those ‘greenhouse gases can’t heat the ocean’ disciples, he was trying that canard on over at The Conversation. So he probably genuinely believed his own delusion.

    1. I think that’s the point that McLean illustrates: he believes his own delusions. Same goes for most run-of-the-mill sceptics – they have constructed a little world for themselves where warming can’t be true, and so they lap up even the most contradictory bits of “evidence”, even when it’s obviously bollocks. That’s what µWatts does so well – it throws a constant stream of confirmation to the cranks.

      There is a special circle of hell reserved, however, for the high profile “sceptics” who know they are playing a game, and for those who guide the strategy. Of which more later…

      1. Furthermore, they have invested so much “scholastic” endeavour in their pet thesis, that they now have to defend that position, however ridiculous it proves to be. The same goes for Spencer, he cannot admit that he is wrong, because that would negate his life’s work! Such is the human condition.

  2. I’m disappointed at how churlish this article is. Why didn’t you show some civility and do what someone else did earlier this week, simply invite me to respond?

    I only learned about this comment by someone drawing it to my attention. At least it did prompt me to investigate whether the UAH MSU data for December was now available.

    Shortly I’ll be posting an extended comment about what happened in 2011. It will appear on my own web pages and I’ll offer it to Climate Realists. Whether you read it or not is unimportant to me because your position is abundantly clear and I suspect that attempting to discuss it with you woul dbe akin to teaching a pig to sing – annoying to both parties and ultimately unrewarding.

    – John McLean

    1. When you stop issuing press releases, I’ll stop commenting on your predictions.

      Meanwhile, would you be kind enough to explain the physical mechanism that you beleved capable of reversing 50 years of warming in a single year? Or would you prefer to keep that information to you and your pigs?

      1. Oh come on, Gareth, you are being too harsh on John. Quite clearly 1956 was a typo, and he really meant that 2011 would be the coolest year since 2009, so he was actually spot on.

        Anyway, everyone knows that the way forecasting works is to wait and see what happens, then go back and change your forecast so that it matches what happened. Just wait for John’s update, and then you will see how right he was all along…

  3. Ah, here’s a point of interest! I notice none of these [cough] Galileo types who’ve been hovering around again recently has given us a comment on this one. When the going gets tough the Deniers……. forgot to feed the cat!

    Yes; it’s *crickets* time again.

    The difference here, gents, is that nasty old Jim Hansen’s an important scientist who has a grasp on things like the relative contributions to warming of the various forcings, solar included, and this ‘prediction’ was barely even laughable from the word go.

    Don’t any of you feel even slightly rattled that this was so palpably absurd? Yet you all nodded sagely and went along with it; all these fearless, independent-minded scientific geniuses on your side and yet somehow no-one could bring themselves to break ranks and say ‘well, that’s just a bit silly, isn’t it’?

  4. Interrupting the peacful sound of *crickets* over here again.

    AT SkS you can wait for this prediction to appear (last) on the second animated chart. And then compare ‘skeptic’ predictions to those of the mainstream scientific community.

    Oh, dear.

    C’mon, heroic Galileo type defenders of Troo Sci-ence and Libuurty – why aren’t you guys generally even close; and I restate my challenge to offer us an explanation both for how absurd this was from the off, and, consequently, for how not one of you all-the-knowledge-at-our-fingertips whizz-kids managed to call him on it.

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