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Not a cite for Soare eyes

Posted on 16 January 2011 by MarkR

A recent paper in an obscure journal (Soares, 2010) used correlations between temperatures and CO2 concentrations to conclude that;

"The absence of immediate relation between CO2 and temperature is evidence that rising its mix ratio in the atmosphere will not imply more absorption and time residence of energy over the Earth surface. This is explained because band absorption is nearly all done with historic CO2 values."

Soares looks at correlations between change in CO2 and change in temperature for a month to a few years. He doesn't find a correlation between short term CO2 changes and temperature changes in the following months. His Figure 8 shows the change in temperature or CO2 from one year to the next.

 
Do we live in Soares’ world where CO2 isn’t causing warming, or in the world of mainstream physics where theory and measurements show increased CO2  heating? What does mainstream physics expect to see in the above graph?

Firstly it expects atmospheric temperatures to change regularly: natural cycles like El Nino transfer heat from the oceans and can change atmospheric temperature by up to 0.4 °C in a year causing the big vertical spread.

The graph below is based on Meehl et al, 2004 and shows a climate model estimate of how much global warming was expected from greenhouse gases for the past century: always less than 0.02 °C/year - so small that the noise effectively hides the incline if you only look at year to year changes. Fortunately, very simple statistical techniques work around this.

Some rough calculations using the NASA global data shows that to detect the expected CO2 global warming for the past 40 years at 95% confidence would require about 160 years of measurements - and hundreds more measurements to detect the CO2 signal when it is smaller.

 

We have some more expectations for the graph: low CO2 emissions should mean slow warming and vice versa. On the left of the graph we expect average warming of under 0.01 °C/yr and on the right hand side we expect just under 0.02 °C/yr. So if you plot a slope you expect it to be positive – going from 0.01 on the left up to 0.02 on the right but practically impossible to find amongst so much noise (although Soares does plot it).

The next trick is to implicitly assume that nothing else shows a warming or cooling pattern: but we know that there is. From the 1940s to the 1970s we pumped enough reflective aerosols into the atmosphere to temporarily halt global warming by 'global dimming' (Ramanathan et al, 2001). 

This is like putting a pan of water over a lit gas stove and then dropping in an icepack big enough to cool the water. Soares would say the cooling shows that burning gas can’t heat water, but mainstream science says that a big pack of ice temporarily masks the heating and that burning gas does, in fact, make water warmer than it would otherwise be. Importantly, you can account for the ice and determine whether the heat is on and other scientists would do this.

Soares’ method is like searching for a needle in a huge haystack by picking a handful of hay rather than using a magnet. You almost certainly wouldn’t find the needle even if it was there, so to claim you’ve disproved its existence when other scientists have found it with their magnets is simply stunning.

UPDATE: This blog post has been used as a rebuttal to the skeptic argument 'Soares finds a lack of correlation between CO2 and temperature'.

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Comments

Comments 1 to 32:

  1. Please let me know if anyone here has understood how his conclusions come from his analysis.

    From my understanding I'm absolutely stunned that any journal, even an obscure one, would publish this. My biggest problem was forcing myself to ignore most of the mistakes in it to concentrate on the main point which made this article very difficult to write!
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  2. MarkR
    it's the same old trick, use changes in something (i.e. derivatives) to mask the long term trend and amplify short term noise. Indeed, he fails to do the simple direct correlation between the two quantities. Really no surprise that noise (variability) in CO2 concentration and noise in temperature are not correlated.
    Statistics is a useful tool but, quoting from Berliner's comment on McShane and Wyner paper,

    The problem of anthropogenic climate change cannot be settled by a purely statistical argument. [...] Rather, the issue involves the combination of statistical analyses and, rather than versus, climate science.
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  3. MarkR,
    Love your last paragraph! Very nice image, a guy walking around with a handful of hay saying, 'See? There's no such thing as needles!'

    Perhaps this author doesn't realize that it would be stunning indeed if the noise actually correlated with the signal. Perhaps this 'journal' is so desperate to produce more fodder for their cattle-in-denial to ruminate over. With this kind of research in their hands, the anti-needle crowd will next conclude that magnets are a part of another science scam. 'You can't trust 'em -- sometimes they attract, sometimes they repel. W@tts up with that?'

    We touched on the Soares paper in Zombie graphs, starting with this comment. An actual statistical analysis by G.T. Wilson is worth another plug here. He reaches the exact opposite of Soares' conclusion.

    The most significant and best estimated effect is the dependence of temperature on the rate of increase of CO2, i.e. the change in the current value of CO2 from its value the previous year.
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  4. I remember years and years ago my lecturer telling us about the data stream from the Voyager spacecraft having a huge number of error correction bits because the signal was so weak and the noise levels were expected to be high. Also the time to request a repeat transmission is very long, so it is preferred to have it correct the first time.

    The alternative would have been to send the same data hundreds of times automatically so that the base station on Earth could work out the data from the background noise.

    However it is done, you end up using more bits of data (12 bits of real data may require 24 bits transmitted) than would be the case with a cleaner signal.

    The point being that to get to the actual signal, you need to sample more data (years in the case of climate) to filter out noise.
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  5. This paper was published by the International Journal of Geosciences, part of the Scientific Research (scirp.org) family of journals.

    These are very strange journals, apparently, published by an organization based in China. Some of the papers in these journals have apparently been republished without acknowledging the original date of publication, implying that they are new, when in fact some of them are a decade or so old:

    World's Strangest Collection of Scientific Journals

    Nature: Two new journals copy the old

    These journals have also had people listed on their editorial boards who were there without their knowledge. Some of those on the editorial boards actively disagree with the content of the material in the journals, and gave their permission by mistake, thinking that they were agreeing to be on the boards of journals with a similar name, according to Nature.
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  6. scirp About Us:

    "Scientific Research Publishing (SRP: http://www.scirp.org) is engaged in the service of academic conferences and publications. It also devotes to the promotion of professional journals. The company has an outstanding work team as well as the widespread third party relations, enables our customers to obtain great satisfactions and convenience in their publications."


    Apparently based in the US.
    However the grammar suggests a poor translation from another language.
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  7. Also if you scroll to the bottom of the scirp page, there is a list of text links, including Contact Us, About Us etc, that aren't actually links.

    Anyone, starting a genuine publication would never have dead links like that.
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  8. Here's a good one from SCIRP: Causality and Reversibility in Irreversible Time (coming soon...)

    It should be no surprise that this book is 'coming soon'. Or maybe it already did; how would anyone know?
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  9. Has SCIRP possibly been set up to discover how gullible/deluded the so-called skeptics are, and to show up how they will cite anything in desperation, no matter how far-fetched ?
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  10. JMurphy, at the least it is a useful tool to discern who is the most gullible and desperate.
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  11. Hi muoncounter-

    It should be no surprise that this book is 'coming soon'. Or maybe it already did; how would anyone know?


    :)

    The whole episode reminds me of the Soon and Baliunas paper published by Climate Research, which led to the resignation of several members of the editorial board of Climate Research.

    Soon and Baliunas controversy - Climate Research

    Both are cases of obscure journals claiming peer reviewed status for papers that are outside the mainstream of climate science, for example.

    The obscurity of the Journal did not prevent the Soon and Baliunas paper being used in Congressional testimony, however, and having an apparently large effect on the legislative process.

    Just a thought.
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  12. If I make a chart of how many calories I eat everyday and compare that to my weight change on each day, I bet I could show that it does not matter what I eat, it is not correlated to my weight gain.
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  13. @mspelto:
    Hehe good comparison!
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  14. The web page of the International Journal of Geosciences is http://www.scirp.org/journal/ijg/ . A page linked from "Editorial Board" shows that its "Editor in Chief" is "Prof. Shuanggen Jin, University of Texas, USA", but I did not find his name at the web site of Univ. of Texas. His name in the "Editorial Board" page links to his "Biography" page, which has a list of his professional publications. It seems that he is an expert of geodesy, in particular application of GPS.

    SCIRP has another journal "Positioning" (http://www.scirp.org/journal/ijg/ ), and its "Editorial Board" lists Jin as a mamber (not the chief), and his affiliation is shown there as "Shanghai Astronomical Observatory, CAS, China". (CAS stands for Chinese Academy of Sciences.) The web site of the Observatory (http://english.shao.cas.cn/ ) list Jin as one of the scientists (http://english.shao.cas.cn/scientists/ge/ ), and http://www.shao.ac.cn/geodesy directs to a page of his laboratory.

    So Jin is a real scientist and that his current affiliation is Shanhai Astronomical Observatory. Apparently SCIRP fails to update information of his move, and it seems a significant fault in this particular case where credibility of SCIRP's journals crucially depends on their editors.

    The rest of my comment is just my guess and does not have enough evidence. It does not seem to me that SCIRP is an organization which has such an agenda as denial of anthropogenic climate change, but just an organization established to hastened to ensure quality. It does not seem to me that Jin has such an agenda either. I guess that the situation is very similar to what occurred in "Climate Research" in 2003, that the decision to appove climate-related papers is delegated to a member of the Editorial Board who may have a political agenda.
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  15. That jounal definitely deserves to reamin obscure. But since there is so much money riding on the issue, I am sure the oil companies will find it in their hearts to generously donate wads of cash to build up there reputation -- even though they deserve to be shut down instead.

    But personally, I did not need all the excellent detailed analysis of this Skeptical Science article to figure out how unreliable they are: all I needed was to witness the pathetic abuse of the English language in the first sentence quoted: "The absence of immediate relation between CO2 and temperature is evidence that rising its mix ratio in the atmosphere will not imply more absorption and time residence of energy over the Earth surface."

    The abuse here betrays the author as uneducated and incompetent. "rising its mix ratio"?? Try "raising its mix ratio".

    For that matter, there is the incompetent omission of the indefinite article even before that to tip us off. Yet somehow I did not notice it on first reading; but that could be since seconds before I was reading in a language with neither definite nor indefinite articles;)

    If neither the author nor the editors can take the time and effort to fix such errors before publication, then they are flakes.
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  16. Answering Riccardo #2: your comment about statistics reminds me of two things: Disraeli's famous quip about "Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics" and that marvelous book I hope all contributors to Skeptical Science have at least skimmed, "How to Lie with Statistics".

    But going beyond and updating Huff and Disraeli's conclusions, there was an excellent article in The Atlantic not so long about about the abuse of statistics that has become the norm in the medical sciences, as exposed by John Ioannidis. Google "john ioannidis atlantic lies statistics" to find it.

    I think you will find the same thing has been going on in climate science too, especially in "scientific work" sponsored/supported/bribed by the usual suspects.
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  17. MarkR

    Given the haystack is huge there's a good chance you won't find the needle using the magnet as well.

    The Soares work does seem poor and you'd have to start to wonder about the scrips.org journals but then every piece of science needs to be assessed on it's merit. You seem to have done a good job of that.

    In relation to you're question in #1. I'd say more generally there is a tendancy for some conclusions in climate science to go beyond the scope of the analysis. I think that it's due to the interpretative nature of the science, often based on imperfect data sets and uncontrolled experiments. It's a bugbear of mine, some authors are worse than others , of course many manage to say within acceptable boundaries. I'm happy to give my least favorite example of this if it isn't going off topic.
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  18. #16: "I think you will find ..."

    Its not clear where that comment is headed, but nonspecific accusations of bribery are usually not a good sign. That sort of thing usually gets deleted pretty quickly. As far as good and bad use of statistics is concerned, see On Statistical Significance.
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  19. I have done a few literature review recently. I am amaze how awfully written paper can manage to get published. My general impression is that too many referee dont even care to read the paper.
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  20. MattJ:

    "all I needed was to witness the pathetic abuse of the English language in the first sentence quoted: "The absence of immediate relation between CO2 and temperature is evidence that rising its mix ratio in the atmosphere will not imply more absorption and time residence of energy over the Earth surface."

    The abuse here betrays the author as uneducated and incompetent. "rising its mix ratio"?? Try "raising its mix ratio"."

    I'm sure you'd look even more uneducated and incompetent if you were to try to write a technical article in Mandarin.

    I think the whole suite of journals is some sort of Chinese (government backed) effort to quickly establish a wider China-based academic press. Could be wrong, but the language faux-pas is consistent.
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  21. dhogaza, please see
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3017277/
    I don't think SCIRP is Chinese government-backed. In fact, I think the Chinese involved in SCIRP would prefer to leave the Chinese government out...
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  22. 21 Marco

    You could write a whole blog on the issue of publishing access for scientists is resourse poor regions of the world.

    I remember a professor of mine when I showed him a paper I'd read said, paraphrasing, "ignore that it's written by Indians". The crassness of that remark may have disappeared somewhat but I think the sentiment is still there.

    It's not coincidental that many journals who's titles start International are at the lower end of the impact factor scale.
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  23. As in the case of Energy and Environment, I would like to know more about the International Journal of Geosciences. I would like bone fide climate scientists who have been widely published and cited to step forward and say, "yes, I have participated in peer reviews for that journal and I stand behind the published papers I have reviewed." They don't have to identify which papers, just that they back the journal.
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  24. I have actually looked at the short comings of the Soares paper on my own humble blog a week ago;

    http://lazarus-on.blogspot.com/2011/01/gold-standard-in-science.html

    An obscure journal is the least of the problems in my opinion and I didn't even really look at the science in the detail you have!
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  25. I think you missed an important point here, and perhaps need to revise this posting. Soares eliminated the secular growth in CO2 from his data. In other words, he wasn't looking for an anthropogenic signal to begin with: he was looking for (and found) a non-anthropogenic signal of warming oceans giving up CO2, and cooling oceans absorbing CO2. This paper isn't really about CO2 causing climate change. It's more about the cause/effect of, for example, the 800 year temp/CO2 lag seen in ice cores.
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  26. Marco:

    "I don't think SCIRP is Chinese government-backed. In fact, I think the Chinese involved in SCIRP would prefer to leave the Chinese government out..."

    Thank you for that reference, that's interesting. So SCIRP perhaps is just a symptom of the general shoddy nature of much of the Chinese academic press ...

    (for those of you who didn't chase Marco's link, the story is that essentially that rather than promote crappy Chinese science journals, the government is seriously looking into trying to weed them out.)
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  27. According to scientific studies, variation of atmospheric CO2 in interannual time scale is correlated with ENSO. But it is not that the warmer eastern Pacific Ocean give up more CO2 during the El Nino phase. Rather it is the terrestrial biosphere around the western Pacific (and perhaps also Amazon river basin) that take less CO2 then. I think this connection has already been discussed somewhere at this web site. Otherwise I will look for references.
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  28. re 25: Keith, I tried to explain in my post that he hasn't 'eliminated' CO2 caused warming, he's simply suppressed it.

    You can still spot it: a constant rate of warming from CO2 becomes a constant offset in his graph. An-above-linear rate of CO2 warming would appear as some function with a positive gradient.

    But Soares manipulates the data to minimises this effect whilst maximising noise. If you want to look at the noise then that's useful, if you're trying to find whether CO2 caused warming exists then choosing to minimise it and then acting all surprised when it's too noisy to see if it's there (actually, to IGNORE that it's too noisy and simply claim that it isn't) is ridiculous.

    The conclusions of the paper are utter dross.
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  29. Looking at the page for the International Journal of the Geosciences, it has an "open access" icon at the top, next to the name of the journal.

    International Journal of the Geosciences- Open Access

    Does this mean that anybody with the price of publication can now be a "peer reviewed" author?

    There appears to be another paper on climate science in Volume 1, Number 3 of IJGS "Recent Energy Balance of the Earth" by Knox and Douglass:

    A recently published estimate of Earth’s global warming trend is 0.63 ± 0.28 W/m2, as calculated from ocean heat content anomaly data spanning 1993-2008. This value is not representative of the recent (2003-2008) warming/cooling rate because of a “flattening” that occurred around 2001-2002. Using only 2003-2008 data from Argo floats, we find by four different algorithms that the recent trend ranges from –0.010 to –0.161 W/m2 with a typical error bar of ±0.2 W/m2. These results fail to support the existence of a frequently-cited large positive computed radiative imbalance.


    Gee, that's a surprise. Using a shorter interval obscures the trend? Who knew?
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  30. Unless I am missing something, and I am not an expert in any field relating to climate science or statistics, even if it is correct, isn't Soares paper essentially irrelevant to the AGW hypothesis? Saores finds that there is no short term correlation between CO2 and temperature. The AGW hypothesis never claims that there will be such a correlation, in fact it expects this by using a measurement methodolgy (moving averages) to account for such short term variability.
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  31. (Re: my comment #27)
    Here are some references about interannual variability of CO2 flux and its relationship with El Nino. (Excuse me I cannot provide more up-to-date ones.)
    C.D. Keeling et al. 1995
    R.A. Feely et al. 1999

    (Re: Leland Palmer's comment #29)
    The results of Knox and Douglass paper is essentially Willis's analysis of Argo data, which has already been discussed in The intermediate rebuttals of No. 28 "Oceans are cooling".
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  32. (Re: my comment #31)
    Excuse me. The last link should be this.
    The intermediate rebuttals of No. 28 "Oceans are cooling".
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