Monday, July 30, 2007

More BS Is Brewing

You can always tell when folks are selling bullshit as science because they feel the need to run everything like a public relations campaign. Which begs the question: What kind of snake oil are they selling?

First the story from Reuters: Study blames climate change for hurricanes

The number of Atlantic hurricanes in an average season has doubled in the last century due in part to warmer seas and changing wind patterns caused by global warming, according to a study released on Sunday.

Hurricane researchers have debated for years whether climate change caused by greenhouse gases from cars, factories and other human activity is resulting in more, and more intense, tropical storms and hurricanes.

The new study, published online in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, said the increased numbers of tropical storms and hurricanes in the last 100 years is closely related to a 1.3-degree Fahrenheit rise in sea surface temperatures.

The influential U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in a report this year warning that humans contribute to global warming, said it was "more likely than not" that people also contribute to a trend of increasingly intense hurricanes.

In the new study, conducted by Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and Peter Webster of Georgia Institute of Technology, researchers found three periods since 1900 when the average number of Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes increased sharply, and then leveled off and remained steady.

From 1900 to 1930, Atlantic hurricane seasons saw six storms on average, with four hurricanes and two tropical storms. From 1930 to 1940, the annual average rose to ten, including five hurricanes.
Gee, I'd like to see a study that can do that despite all the myriad problems with comparing satellite collected data from the space age with the spotty reports of the early 20th century. (See my take here, Chris Landsea's that I blogged about here.) Not to mention that the study seemingly contradicts the latest findings in the field which predict warming decreasing the number and intensities of tropical storms. (Blogged about here.)

Of course, maybe they came up with something actually new and they did not (as I suspect) repackage the same old tired garbage that the media loves to print so much. And hey! The Reuters article said it was published online. I've looked for an hour and I cannot find it. If the article is available on the web why wouldn't Reuters have a link to it? Oh, that is because it hasn't actually been published yet. That happens tomorrow.

So what source of information is this "free and independent journalist" writing from?

Oh, I found that most important piece of present day "science"...the press release. Plus it's handy helper, the guide for idiot journalists. (So you can hold their hands when you tell them what to print.) But the actual study itself? Who needs it?!. Ah science.

Of course there is a name for all of this behavior. It is called "stealing a march." By placing sympathetic (with emphasis on the pathetic) stories in the media before anyone else can gainsay the report by doing crazy things like actually reading and studying it, you can get the message you want out in the press. And if it generates a few more press clippings that you can append to your next grant proposal, well who's to say anything against it?? That your actual work may be not worth the paper it is printed on is beside the point. You have what you want: another line on the CV, another hysterical item in the press, and another restful night because you know you will get your version of the story out and never have to deal with criticism from the other side until its too late.

It is bullshit, and unethical bullshit to boot.


The "march stealing" is bearing fruit I see. (USA Today, and AP.)

But, luckily, not everyone is so credulous. Blue Crab Boulevard (who will be added to the blog roll any day now) had this to say:

Despite the confident claims, consider for a moment: Until the mid 1940s, there were no reliably consistent way to track the majority of storms. Unless a ship sailed through the storms itself - and reported that to someone - there would be no records. You can look at the compiled hurricane data yourself and notice that hurricane reporting from the 19th and early 20th century very often show no activity out in the middle of the Atlantic. At all. Does anyone in their right mind believe that? Also, how many ships gathered temperature data through the 19th and 20th centuries? Probably the most significant criticism noted above is the one from James Elsner of Florida State University. He believes that warming increases hurricanes,, but also points out that the claims of the two researchers are based on nothing.

This garbage had me so agitated last night that I suffered from insomnia as a result. (Sad but true.)

Of course you realize this means war?


Another person gets it right over at Wizbang.


Tully said...

This all sounds so familiar somehow. Like I've heard it somewhere before.... ;-)

Nice to have debunked a study before it was written. I'll hunt down this new study in my spare time and see how they adjusted their data to cover the missing baseline data in the pre-plane pre-satellite period. I mean, when the data is just not there, guessing at it and then saying your guess shows you what happened seems an unproveable claim.

As I pointed out in the link, when you have that much missing data on the front end of your datasets, ALL curve-fiiting and trend extrapolations will evidence a rising trends, ALWAYS, regardless of actual historical occurence. Kinda like Mann and his hockey-sticking but from another angle. Nature of the incomplete data.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

I know it is sort of surreal. These exact concerns are NOT unknown. How can you publish a study that to all intents and purposes ignores them and expect to be taken seriously?

Maybe next month they will have an article expounding upon the great new idea flogiston.


Tully said...

Only if it corrects their bodily humors...

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

"Scientists announce the world is actually made up of only four elements!"

Actually, all this assumes they know their history of science as well. I see nothing that warrants such an assumption on our part.

Too bad. It WAS fun.


Ned Hughes said...

Things like this always make me wonder what the satellites were showing 100 years ago. I think that it's our ability to monitor these things that's making it seem so dire.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

Ned, you are exactly right. Look at tornadoes. There have actually been folks claiming that the incidence of tornadoes has "increased" because the NWS issues more tornado warnings then they did in say the 1960's. Well, of course they do. Dopplar radars are now cheap and plentiful, and I'm not sure they existed in the 1960's. (I could google to find out...but who cares.) We "see" more of the storms because our technology improved.

Its the same with hurricanes.