Solid Treadgold, easy action (NZ still warming fast)

It’s time to return to the delusions harboured by New Zealand’s little coterie of climate cranks about the NZ temperature record. Readers may recall that — somehow — the men who lost a court case against NIWA and then folded the charitable trust they’d used to bring the case in order to avoid paying costs, managed to get their “reconstruction” of the NZ temperature record through peer review and into the scientific literature. To no-one’s surprise, they found that warming in NZ was only one third of that found by NIWA and a generation of NZ climatologists. To do that, they had to torture the data beyond endurance, as I showed at the time.

Equally unsurprising is that Richard Treadgold, prime mover of the whole fiasco, felt moved to respond in a number of typically prolix posts at his blog. His first, What Mullan actually says, purports to lay out the disputed points:

…I think these are the debating points he’s trying to make, lined up with the passages in which he makes them.

One small problem. This is not a debate. The facts are what the facts are, just as the temperature data is what it is. No amount of handwaving — or appeals to judicial authority — can change the facts of this matter. What can change is the interpretation placed on those facts, and that’s where Treadgold et al went wrong on day one.

In 2010 they decided — and explicitly told the world — that NZ’s climate scientists had been cooking the books. Everything they’ve done since has been a part of building a false narrative, a silly superstructure of misinterpretation and misdirection clumsily bolted together, designed to fool anyone sympathetic to their position. The new paper, by de Freitas, Dedekind & Brill 2014 (dFDB 2014) is just the latest effort to prop up that tottering edifice.

I have no intention of wasting time by playing along with Treadgold et al’s narrative. There are so many misdirections and misunderstandings on display in his sequence of posts that it would take a magnum opus to deal with them all. If I thought that by doing that I might change their minds — win them over to the world of climate rationality — then I would be happy to do it, but Treadgold et al are not what I would describe as rational actors. They admit no facts that are inconvenient to their world view, and show no sign of educability on climate science.

I will confine my response to a few simple points. In his “debating points” post, Treadgold’s point 8 is:

The de Freitas et al. (2014) paper should have discussed the relevant literature, including Mullan (2012).

The response (one presumes from Dedekind) is:

Mullan (2012) is not relevant literature.

I fell off my chair with laughter on reading that bald statement. A paper that explicitly deals with the statistical techniques described in the paper dFDB 2014 claims to base its reconstruction on, as applied to the temperature data dFDB 2014 uses, is somehow “not relevant”!

Let’s be blunt. Any peer-reviewed paper discussing the NZ temperature record should refer to all the recent published literature on NZ temperatures. We’re not talking about a field so crowded with publications that some selection might be necessary. Even more importantly, because Mullan (2012) explicitly points out the correct application of the techniques that dFDB claim to apply, they really had no option but to deal with that in their paper — at least, if they wanted to be taken seriously.

That dFDB 2014 did not even cite Mullan (2012) tells us two things: that the peer reviewers were not familiar with the local literature or they would have insisted the authors address the points raised by Brett Mullan’s paper, and that dFDB were keen to avoid dealing with inconvenient arguments.

Treadgold’s point 4 is:

In compiling Mullan et al. (2010) minimum/maximum data were looked at as well as the mean data used for the publication. These calculations were supplied to BOM.

This misses my point, even though he quotes my post above his summary. If you are going to insist that you will only adjust series if there is a statistically significant difference between sites, then you have to consider the significance of maximum and minimum temperature changes, not just look at the mean. Dedekind tries to hand wave his way around this crucial point:

Min/max records are useful on occasion, but it is the mean that is adjusted up or down and therefore it is the effect on the mean that is of interest to readers. This is why all 170 pages of M10 discuss adjustments to the mean data and only mention min/max data in passing (in relation to Albert Park station).

It is of course possible to prepare a full adjusted minimum or maximum chart along with the adjusted mean temperature chart, but our purpose in the paper was to prepare a mean temperature reanalysis.

A very telling comment. Their “purpose” was not to look at the data — all the data — and see if adjustments were necessary. They were not interested in trying different approaches to test the sensitivity of their approach — something any real scientist would do, and which was explicitly a part of the Rhoades and Salinger method as described in their 1992 paper.

Again, let’s be blunt. If you are going to use statistical significance as your break point for applying an adjustment, then you have to consider maximum and minimum temperatures, not just look at the mean, or you will exclude adjustments that should be made. Surely that wasn’t what they were aiming for?

Treadgold’s point 3:

All of Jim Salinger’s original calculations for the 1992 version were made available during discovery in the High Court proceedings.

His reply (presumably from Barry Brill) is a classic of its kind:

NIWA’s discovery process was a classic example of the “blizzard of documents” trick. Barry Brill, NZ Climate Science Coalition chairman and solicitor for the NZCSET, was led into a mid-size room at NIWA’s Wellington premises where climate data spreadsheets were stacked 2-3 cartons deep around all the walls, to a height of about 5 feet. However, he found some cartons marked “Salinger” which he was told had been sitting in Jim Salinger’s office for untold years.

He finally came across one that seemed to relate to the MetService work. It was a total mess. There was no way in the world anybody could have found data relating to the seven stations, let alone identified the adjustments or the calculation techniques. The only reference to adjustments were updates done by Maunder and Finkelstein. The lack of adjustment calculations is unsurprising. Salinger92 says they “set the computers rolling” rather than do them manually.

Presumably Brill was unable to locate the manila folders clearly labelled with the station names — one or more folder for each of the 24 stations homogenised in Salinger et al (1992). If he had opened those folders, he would have discovered computer printout headed up “Program Adjust”, with site cross-correlations, adjustments, standard errors, and phrases like: “12 months used before and after each change”. Then, next page: “24 months used before and after each change”, and on the next page: “48 months used before and after each change”. Perhaps Brill, a lawyer and former politician with no apparent interest in climate science until taking over the chairmanship of the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition, having called NIWA scientists incompetent and dishonest, found it difficult to ask for their assistance in interpreting the information there for him to examine.

Whatever happened in that room at NIWA, it is clear that Brill failed to inform himself and his clients about what was really in those boxes piled so deep. Had he done so, it would have been clear that the narrative they had constructed was untenable when tested against the facts — something the judge in their failed court case was able to spot. Worse, it makes it clear that the central contention of dFDB 2014 — that theirs is the first application of the Rhoades and Salinger techniques to the long term NZ temperature record — is a straightforward falsehood.

There is more — much more — that I could write about dFDB 2014 and the pathetic attempts by Treadgold, Dedekind and Brill to defend their actions and their shoddy paper, but as I said earlier, life really is too short to enter their alternate universe and deal with it on its own terms — especially when that universe is sorely lacking in entertainment or intellectual stimulation. Nevertheless, I suspect dFDB 2014 will get a further response in due course where it belongs — in the peer-reviewed literature. That will put the matter to rest in the real world, but in the tough little epistemic bubble inhabited by Treadgold, Dedekind, de Freitas and Brill, there will be a wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth — but very little else will change.

[T Rex]

1 thought on “Solid Treadgold, easy action (NZ still warming fast)”

  1. Two quotes come to mind here:

    It Is Useless To Attempt To Reason A Man Out Of A Thing He Was Never Reasoned Into.

    – Jonathan Swift

    It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

    – Upton Sinclair

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