Prat Watch #12: warmest winter makes Ring writhe (and other tales)

It’s time for another update on the antics of our favourite climate cranks — and this week’s star is New Zealand’s very own über crank, weather astrologer Ken Ring. He’s been reinventing NZ’s warmest-ever winter to make it fit with his forecasts. Here’s Ken, back in April, in a piece headlined “Severe winter ahead” [WebCite1]:

The closer the moon is to the earth, the more extreme is the weather, and this year’s closest perigee occurs in late June, which will set us up for a very cold July. […] Very cold temperatures may break records at or near both mid July and mid August.

Unfortunately for Ring, none of that happened. Instead, we got record warmth, and a marked absence in July and August of the frigid southerlies from polar oceans that bring NZ its coldest weather. He is so desperate to make this winter appear cold and to justify his forecast that he’s just published a barely coherent article titled White lies in winter [WebCite]. He thrashes around at a number of targets, but his aim is clear: we have to believe that this was not a record-breaking warm winter. Under a list of links to newspaper articles that don’t support his cold contention, he appeals to his reader’s innate weather measuring equipment:

Does the above sound like the warmest winter ever to anyone? […] I am sure we have all felt the winter cold; now we have a cool September and a cold October to get through before a shift to warmer December weather.

Unfortunately, the nation’s real temperature recording devices don’t agree with Ring. The final numbers confirm that this was New Zealand’s warmest winter since data started being collected in the 1860s. But that’s not enough.The moon man isn’t about to give up. He’s noticed there’s a lot of snow around the nation’s ski fields:

Happily this winter has been fantastic for ski operators because all ski fields are lush with snow. That alone should demonstrate that the season has not been too over-warm. The smallest child will know that snow comes in colder weather and thaws when temperatures rise. Winters can have both warm and cold spells but a good snow-base would not be capable of hanging around throughout any “warmest season ever”.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Ring is talking complete bollocks. A “good snow base” can easily linger right through spring and into high summer. This winter, my two local ski fields had a huge dump of snow in late June, and with one or two small top-ups, have been providing wonderful skiing right through the warm winter. There’s so much snow at Mt Hutt, for instance, that they’ve already decided to extend their season by two weeks — and when they do close, it will be because of a lack of custom, not lack of snow.

One other notable point about Ring’s article: he accuses the Prime Minister’s science advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, of being a liar.

When even the Chief Science Advisor also goes public with falsehoods about climate, a person the public trusts as much as the Ombudsman, this generates serious distrust in science.

What really sows distrust in science is the nonsense spouted by Ken Ring — a man who wouldn’t know real science if it leaped up and bit him on the bum. I wish it would…

Meanwhile, the head honcho at NZ’s official climate crank convocation, Barry Brill, has been busy penning words that he hopes will pass for wisdom at µWatts. That’s not a very high standard to achieve, but Brill still manages to fall at the first hurdle. He’s taking aim at the forthcoming IPCC launch of the summary for policymakers of the Working Group one report on the science of climate change. Here’s a part of his intro:

The timetable for the global treaty was deferred at the Durban COP because developing countries (particularly China and India) felt that the 2013 SPM was an indispensable input to the negotiations. Governments need an authoritative up-to-date assessment of both the extent and the causes of the climate change threat, present and future.

As is usual in Brill’s commentary on climate issues, he’s simply making stuff up. Agreement wasn’t deferred because of any desire to see more scientific evidence. It was put off because it was impossible to get everyone to agree on a way forward in the time available.

The rest of Brill’s piece is nothing more than a lawyer trying to make a case: that climate sensitivity is overestimated, that the lack of any new global temperature record means that warming has somehow stopped, and that the IPCC is therefore in trouble. In that, he’s about as successful as he was in bringing a suit against the NZ temperature record: prolix and unpersuasive to all but the µWatts faithful.

The science is what the science is, and the people who know it best are the people doing it. They are part of the IPCC process, and their views will be the ones given weight in the WG1 summary for policymakers, due out at the end of the month. Barry Brill is a propagandist — and not a very good one, at that. Perhaps he should take up astrological weather forecasting. He might, at a pinch, be able to do better than Ken Ring.

  1. Because Ken has a history of altering stuff after the fact to make himself look better. []

24 thoughts on “Prat Watch #12: warmest winter makes Ring writhe (and other tales)”

  1. Actually I think the more he rants – the less credible he becomes. The human thermometer is telling every one I meet that this has been a very warm winter. And I see it is the same in Aussie, so this latest rant will confirm in peoples minds that Ring is out of his.

  2. Marco, bear in mind that this is the same Ken Ring who co-wrote the book called Pawmistry, which tells you how to understand the secret life of your cat by reading its paws. A must read, Marco! And, like Monckton, I believe he has a magic elixir to cure all ills. Its amazing how these cranks end up singing the same nutty songs.

    Snake oil salesman, they were once called. In the late 19th Century the Rings and Moncktons of the day would sell you their snake oil while demonstrating that apes are clearly devolved from humans in a process called ‘devolution’.

    Take the truth, turn it on its head and hey presto! In flows the money!

    1. Poor old Ring – his winter forecast was as wildly inaccurate as one could imagine. So he denies the data, and also presumably sticks his fingers in his ears so he can’t hear any the the huge number of anecdotal comments about the mildness of the winter. If we get a cooler than normal spring month, he’ll probably try to redefine winter!

      1. Ken Ring should apply to be Tony Abbott’s climate change adviser. Clearly, he has all the right qualifications for the job, being ignorant, dogmatic and wrong.

        1. Auuuuugggghhh! I’ll go over to Hot Topic, I thought, at least that will give me some respite from having to contemplate (at least) 2 terms of the Mad Monk, Cory Bernardi, and Sophie Mirabella…

          Ken Ring is probably overqualified.

          1. I am really sorry for the election outcome in your ends of the sticks. On the upside: Opposition to outright fools and liars is probably easier and more successful than a battle with a perhaps well intended but dysfunctional bunch who pretend to do good…

            1. But perhaps not as sorry as I am!… 😉

              The other thing that’s unbearable is all the dimwits – and there’s no shortage of them – who imagine they’ve just elected new laws of physics as well. The electorate that prefers the tendentious prattle of Andrew Bolt and Lord Monckton to the science of the CSIRO is going to get what it deserves – sadly, everybody and everything else gets what they deserve, too…

            2. As you say bill we live in the Age of Stupid.

              I fear the “lucky country” is just about to get very unlucky..

            3. As they say, it sometimes has to go from pretty bad to really bad before it can get better…. I say, let the stupid bring it on then and let them crash under the weight of their own ignorance. The truth wins in the end.

  3. What I really like is the way that Ring is apparently predicting that there won’t be a November this year! If he’s right, my wife and son will both be pissed off as they have birthdays in Nov…

  4. Brill makes a good point regarding the content of the long-awaited SPM. If it virtually ignores the 21st century pause or offers no consensus explanation for it, it risks being sidelined because it hasn’t used the latest data. These questions are also being raised by the EU and US, as well as the skeptic bloggers.

    It is looking like the Scripps paper may have the answer. The La Nina-heavy years have been keeping cool a small section of the Eastern Pacific which hasn’t featured in the models.

    1. Brill makes no good points, simply attempts to misrepresent what we know.

      For a good discussion of the ENSO effect, I commend Tamino’s latest. Note that while (some) models can generate realistic ENSO events, they are not tied in to current conditions and so cannot “forecast” ENSO’s effect on global temps in any meaningful way in the short term. In the longer term, as Tamino notes, they tend to average out El Niño and La Niña events.

    2. What pause would that be, Australis? Oh, you mean the pause that appears in only one of the many indicators of global warming? The pause that only appears when you cherry-pick start dates and apply the wrong null hypothesis in your test of statistical significance? That pause? Or is there another pause that you are talking about?

  5. Gareth – the assumption that El Ninos and La Ninas are equalized and average out is truly heroic. The Tamino notion is discussed at

    CTG – yes, I’m talking about the pause shown by HadCRUT4, NOAA and GisTEMP on the SkS Calculator at Try going back 5,10,15 and 20 years from 2012. Or compare the 30-year trend ending in 2003 with its 2012 counterpart.

    1. In a multi-model mean, they most certainly do average out.

      In the real world (equivalent to one model run), ENSO overlays onto the underlying warming (ie heat accumulation in the climate system) and periods dominated by one phase can affect the global average surface temperature trend. That’s obvious, and observed. But ENSO cannot itself be a cause of heat accumulation – it simply moves the heat around. You can’t escape the radiation physics of CO2…

      Curry’s original assertion – however she now twists and turns – was nonsense.

    2. Dear oh dear, you didn’t understand anything of what I wrote, did you Australis? The three temperature series you mention are all measurements of the same indicator – surface air temperature. There are several other indicators, such as ocean heat content, which show global warming merrily carrying on without a pause, but for some reason you don’t mention those.

      Nor did you listen to what I said about picking start dates and choosing the correct null hypothesis. Tell you what, I’ll give you some hints, then you go off and read a stats book and try it out yourself.

      First of all you have to realise that time series analysis is very prone to edge effects – the choice of start and end dates has a significant effect on your analysis. As soon as your so-called pause is dependent on a specific set of date ranges to appear, this should be an alarm bell that maybe it is not a real signal.

      Next, think about what you are trying to show. You say there has been a “pause” – I assume you are implying a pause in global warming, rather than just in the surface air temperatures, otherwise you wouldn’t be making such a fuss about it. Well, implicit in that statement is that global warming was happening before 1998. Never mind what might have caused it – you do at least agree that during the period 1970 to 1998, the world did warm? Good.

      So if you now contend that since 1998 there has been a “pause” in this warming, you have to demonstrate that there has been a significant change in the temperature series since that date. This is not as simple as doing a linear regression from 1998 and saying “Voilà, this trend is not significant therefore there has been no warming since 1998”. The test for significance on that regression is using the null hypothesis that the data are random – i.e. if the confidence limits on the slope include zero, then you cannot exclude zero as being the true slope.

      But the hypothesis you were testing was not whether the slope of the regression since 1998 is non-zero – you are specifically testing whether the warming paused in 1998. You need a different null hypothesis. We are testing whether the data since 1998 differ significantly from the data before 1998. So start off by looking here, which shows that the trend from 1970 to present does not differ significantly from the trend 1970-1998. That in itself suggests that the pause is a red herring, but we can still do better. We can compare the 1998-2013 trend against the 1983-2013 trend, like so. At first blush this might look like damning evidence of a pause, but that’s just your lying eyes. You need to do some stats to get the real picture. Now, here’s the thing – to prove your hypothesis of a “pause”, your null hypothesis has to be: there is no difference in the trends from 1983-2013 and 1998-2013. And when you do that, you will find that the confidence limits for 1998-2013 include the slope of 1983-2013, therefore you cannot reject the null hypothesis.

      I’m sorry, Australis, but the figures simply do not bear out your contention of a pause in global warming. Yes, undoubtedly the surface air temperatures have been rising slower than expected in the last decade, but there is no evidence that global warming magically stopped in 1998. There is gathering evidence that ENSO has played a large role in keeping the SATs down, and plenty of evidence that heat continues accumulate in the system, but no evidence of a “21st century pause” that “cannot be ignored”

  6. Surface (or tropospheric) air temperature is where humans live and is what affects our climate. I’m not sure what else you want measured, but the entire public discussion on climate change has focused on surface temperatures for at least the last 20 years.

    The UNFCCC definition of climate change is limited to human activities which “affect the composition of the atmosphere”. A temperature change in space or in the stratosphere or in the depths of the ocean might or might not affect climate in some future era. Those issues have been little studied.

    I agree that trend measures are very prone to edge effects. That is why I begin at a logic-driven date – the latest year for which data is available. The 30-year trend at the beginning of 2013 was 0.158°/decade whereas it was 0.185°C/decade a decade earlier.

    I think you will find there has been mush discussion in the scientific literature regarding the “pause” and its cause. Notably, the recent data has produced a series of papers suggesting that climate sensitivity is likely about one-third less than previously thought.

    1. You must have been living in a cave, or out of internet contact, or something, because global average temperature (GAT) has only ever been considered one metric of warming. In fact, only a few years ago µWatts favourite Prof Roger Pielke Sr was arguing most vociferously that ocean heat content was the most important thing to consider.

      There have been a few papers discussing the so-called pause – most of them pointing out that it doesn’t represent any slowdown in heat accumulating in the system. Check my recent post to learn more.

      Your perspective on climate sensitivity appears to be based on wishful thinking. The balance of evidence still supports 3ºC per doubling at equilibrium as the most likely figure, as AR5 is likely to confirm.

    2. How terribly convenient for you – just declare that air temperatures are the only thing that affect humans, and poof! all those other pesky indicators of global warming just vanish into thin air.

      the entire public discussion on climate change has focused on surface temperatures for at least the last 20 years.

      Really? Tell that to the IPCC – in the First Assessment Report, published 1990, included the following assessments of climate variability:
      Surface Temperature Variation
      Precipitation and Evaporation Variation
      Tropospheric Variation
      Sub-surface Ocean Temperature and Salinity Variation
      Cryosphere Variation
      Atmospheric Circulation Variation
      Climatic Extremes

      So surface temperatures are just one of 8 different indicators of global warming that the IPCC has been measuring for the last 23 years.

    3. Australis, well over 90% of the global heat content is stored in the oceans.
      The NOAA graph linked up here shows the global ocean heat content between 0 and 2000m depth. There is no indication whatsoever of any hiatus over the last decade or more. To the contrary.
      The oceans function as a very effective heat storage and distribution system of the planet. Atmospheric conditions are significantly affected by its circulation.
      Only if there was a sustained reduction in the rate of heat energy increase in the entire system, could we start to speculate about a shift in AGW progression. But there is no evidence at all that our planet has somehow stopped warming.
      The hiatus in atmospheric temperature increase discussion is a political sideshow played upon by the usual culprits. Plus the ‘average’ global atmospheric temperatures are only telling a very twisted take as the temperature changes in the most vulnerable and critical parts of the Earth system are of special concern.

  7. Is it possible that surface temperatures are just earth’s way of setting a venus fly trap. To a fly everything looks and smells OK until a certain bounday is crossed. Perhaps George Carlin was right, “earth will dust humans off just like a bad case of fleas, so pack your sh– folks!”

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