Exposure Meters and Climate Science

From an old post of mine, something I think we need to keep in mind as we talk about UEA/CRU…

What I’m wrestling with as a first step is my belief in the power of groupthink. In the power of the innate human desire to go along with the group, and the effect it has on people.

When I was in college, I was a pretty serious photographer. I made some money doing it; I sold some pictures (journalism to local and regional papers and sports photos to some calendars) as well as took some fairly serious classes. I took a class from a photographer named Joe Czarnecki – I’ve remembered his name because of what he did.

He told us that he wanted to calibrate our meters, and walked up to a wall held up his expensive light meter, and announced that it was an EV of – I don’t remember – and that it would thus be an exposure at 1/250 at, say F 2.8 (I’m making up the values).

One by one, we walked up to the wall, looked through our SLR’s or at our meters, and announces that yes, the right exposure for ASA200 film was F2.8 @ 1/250.

I walked up to the wall, held up my camera (I had a meter stuck to the top of a rangefinder Leica) and it read something completely different. I remember looking at it, and in what even then felt like an act of complete, if minor, cowardice, announcing that I agreed with the group within a 1/4 stop.

Several others came by, agreed, and then once we were all in, Joe walked back to the wall.

“Oops,” he said. “I must have made a mistake. It’s really F1.4 at 1/60.” And he looked at us with what I can only describe as contempt.

The room was full of mortified silence. Everyone else had done what I did.

Czarnecki explained that his point was simple. When our eyes disagreed with what other people were telling us, we should trust our eyes.

He had a larger point, about artistic vision, which he went on to make. But his basic point – believe your eyes and don’t give in to the pressure of the group is a memory that’s pretty well rooted in me; and as I see sensible people like Kevin Drum explain that the only thing that keeps The New Republic from being the anchor point of modern liberalism is this one issue where they just won’t go along, the image I keep having is of my professor leaning into the wall, holding his light meter, and going “Oops”.

Data Destruction? This Is Gonna Be Interesting…

October 2009

Climate scientists are refuting claims that raw data used in critical climate change reports has been destroyed, rendering the reports and policies based on those reports unreliable.

At issue is raw data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, including surface temperature averages from weather stations around the world. The data was used in assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, reports that EPA has used in turn to formulate its climate policies.

Citing a statement on the research unit’s Web site, CEI blasted the research unit for the “suspicious destruction of its original data.” According to CRU’s Web site, “Data storage availability in the 1980s meant that we were not able to keep the multiple sources for some sites, only the station series after adjustment for homogeneity issues. We, therefore, do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (i.e. quality controlled and homogenized) data.”

Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit, said that the vast majority of the station data was not altered at all, and the small amount that was changed was adjusted for consistency.

The research unit has deleted less than 5 percent of its original station data from its database because the stations had several discontinuities or were affected by urbanization trends, Jones said.

November 2009

SCIENTISTS at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based.

It means that other academics are not able to check basic calculations said to show a long-term rise in temperature over the past 150 years.

The UEA’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) was forced to reveal the loss following requests for the data under Freedom of Information legislation.

These could be reporters getting it wrong (they do that, those little scamps). Or else…

Look Closely…

I have a friend named Tony who is a – dedicated doesn’t cut it, he’s a fanatical – motorcycle rider. He’s famous for riding to San Francisco from Los Angeles and back for lunch. He’s never owned a car. He motorcycles or bicycles to work.

Here’s his motorcycle somewhere in Northern California where he’s off on a trip:


He doesn’t like stopping much, so he’s added an auxiliary gas tank to the back of the bike – it’s that aluminum drum you see. But he’s also got a wicked sense of humor – check it out more closely:


…yes, it says “Pabst Blue Ribbon“…

If you see him, wave and smile – he’s having a great time and it’s a proven fact that the more people are out there having a great time, the happier we all become.

‘Green Lanterns’ And Elections

The Juicebox Mafia made a big deal out of mocking the notion that ‘determination’ is an important ingredient in strategic success in conflicts (like Iraq and Afghanistan). It’s amusing to see the concrete manifestation of the ‘GLE’ in domestic politics – Democratic voters are apparently feeling disinclined to participate electorally – which is going to have some significant effects next year.

There’s actually an interesting literature on domestic conflict and signaling in international relations – I’ll try and fold something in when I write about Afghanistan tomorrow night.

More On Climate Science

Mark Buehner and I have cited Prof. Judith Curry’s comments earlier, but she’s now posted a manifesto at pro-AGW site ‘Climate Progress.‘ It’s worth checking out, no matter what side of the issue you stand on today.

An open letter to graduate students and young scientists in fields related to climate research

Based upon feedback that I’ve received from graduate students at Georgia Tech, I suspect that you are confused, troubled, or worried by what you have been reading about ClimateGate and the contents of the hacked CRU emails. After spending considerable time reading the hacked emails and other posts in the blogosphere, I wrote an essay that calls for greater transparency in climate data and other methods used in climate research. The essay is posted over at climateaudit.org (you can read it at http://camirror.wordpress.com).

What has been noticeably absent so far in the ClimateGate discussion is a public reaffirmation by climate researchers of our basic research values: the rigors of the scientific method (including reproducibility), research integrity and ethics, open minds, and critical thinking. Under no circumstances should we ever sacrifice any of these values; the CRU emails, however, appear to violate them.

Read the rest, please…

“…Such Representations Are Especially Liable To Nonsense.”

I’ve just finished Matthew Crawford’s great book “Shop Class as Soulcraft,” tripped over a paragraph that I thought relevant to the struggles we’re having dealing with science entirely performed through modelling, and thought I’d share.

Some modern motorcycles have begun to include onboard, computerized self-diagnostic functions, just as cars do. But they haven’t eliminated the kind of judgment mechanics exercise. If we can understand why they haven’t, this will help illuminate further the limitations inherent in the idea of an “intellectual technology,” and the perversities that get laid upon work when those limitations aren’t heeded.

Car manufacturers are supposed to standardize their diagnostics under a protocol called OBD-II (for onboard diagnostics), but as any mechanic will tell you, sometimes the system gives the wrong trouble code. Being off by one digit might give a diagnosis of “System fuel too lean on bank one” (P0171), that is, an air-fuel mixture that is too much air and not enough fuel on the first bank of cylinders, when in fact the problem is “System fuel too rich on bank two” (P0172). An experienced mechanic can tell too lean from too rich by looking at the spark plugs; they will look blanched white in the first case and sooty in the second. Representing states of the world in a merely formal way, as “information” of the sort that can be coded, allows them to be entered into a logical syllogism of the sort that computerized diagnostics can solve. But this is to treat states of the world in isolation from the context in which their meaning arises, so such representations are especially liable to nonsense. To rely entirely on computer diagnostics would put one in the situation of the schoolchild who learns to do square roots on a calculator without understanding the principle. If he commits a keying error while taking the square root of thirty-six and gets an answer of eighteen, it will not strike him that there is anything amiss. For the mechanic, the risk is that someone else committed a keying error.

Computerized diagnostics don’t so much replace the mechanic’s judgment as add another layer to the work, one that requires a different sort of cognitive disposition.

[emphasis added]

Climate Homework

So since I’m actually interested in this, I’ve been working up my plans to dig a level deeper into the state of climate research.

The first round will be pretty straightforward; I’m going through IPCC WG1 AR4 Report and pulled out the chapter on the “Historical Overview of Climate Change Science” (pdf). The plan is to pull out the papers cited in this chapter and review the availability of the supporting data and models.

As a side note, I’ll try and assemble pro and con commentary on the papers so we can see what the state of play looks like.

This is going to be a fair amount of work; it would be (shockingly) sped up pretty substantially if I could get people to help. I’ll have a list of papers up over the weekend…

A Thank You To My Son

On this Thanksgiving, I have a lot to be thankful for…TG, my dear and close friends scattered all over the country (and even the world), our home, work, and most of all today – our sons. Littlest Guy is sitting at the table with me reading the paper, Middle Guy is sleeping in after a hard night of barroom trivia competition (I went out with him and his friends and tried to help – we still got skunked by his high school teachers), and we just this minute got another call from Biggest Guy in Afghanistan.

I’d known that his company was hit by several IED’s over the weekend, lost two and had several wounded – some seriously enough to be sent to Germany. He’s OK, sounding a little sad on the phone between the laughs, and concerned that I know he’s OK and safe and that he and his team are taking good care of each other.

I know they are, and I’m so incredibly thankful today for his team, for the fact that he’s part of a web of loyal, fierce and tough men who watch out for him as they watch out for each other.

And even more, I’m thankful to my son and all of those with him for answering their heart’s call and country’s need and being willing to put themselves at risk – body and soul – to protect us, for a cause that they believe in and hope that we all do as well.

Thank you, all the sons and daughters out there in uniform today. Today each of you has hundreds of millions of parents, and today each of us sitting at home has hundreds of thousands of absent children that we care deeply about and wish were home, safe, with us.

And, simply, thank you, son.

Thank You, Phil Carter

Yesterday’s news feeds brought news that Phil Carter – who I’ve known since we were both standing at the sidelines together at LA Press Club events – before he re-enlisted and went back to Iraq – has resigned his position as deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee policy.

Phil and I did not always agree on first principles; but I have so much respect for him that when we’ve disagreed on policy I’ve always stepped back and revisited things from the ground up, and often wound up far closer to his positions than I’d began. Phil did not just talk about these issues, he involved himself in them. He re-upped and served as a MP training law enforcement, judges, and lawyers in Iraq when the war there was still quite hot.

He commented once that he brought all his men home, and that nothing could make him prouder.

An attorney, he involved himself as an amicus in detainee issues early on, and was an early supporter of Obama – and I’d be a liar if I didn’t tell you that his support for Obama gave Obama a huge leg up in getting my support.

Detainee policy in this era is a minefield, and I don’t know if Phil caught a mine or if – genuinely – he just wanted a family life again. Knowing Phil, I’d tend to take his statement that it’s personal, not policy that’s sending him back to the private sector at face value.

There are definitely things about Obama’s detainee policy that I disagree with, and that make me unhappy. But I am absolutely confident that no one could have navigated these treacherous waters better than Phil, and that we are all better off because he was there.

Thank you, Phil, for everything.

Speaking Of Orwellian…

I kind of drifted away from Andrew Sullivan when he got so obsessed with Sarah Palin’s uterus that I started to think that what he really wanted to do was visit it.

But I do regularly read Ann Althouse, who I think is a kindred spirit in calling it like she sees it without regard to ‘tribes,’ and her recent back-and forth with Sullivan can’t be missed.

Here’s the back-and-forth:

Sullivan lists a number of ‘lies’ in Palin’s book, including:

Here’s Palin doing her usual make-it-up routine with Shimon Peres:

"I wanted to meet you for many years," Ms. Palin told Mr. Peres, according to an aide to the president. "The only flag at my office is an Israeli flag," she was quoted as saying, "and I want you to know and I want Israelis to know that I am a friend."

Er: there are several flags in recent photographs of her office, including the American and Alaskan flags, as one would expect. She meant the only foreign flag, presumably.

Now, that’s an entire post from Sullivan; he thinks this is important enough to do a post over.

Althouse responds (in my mind, pretty rationally):

I know Sullivan wants me to check out his list of “lies.” I picked one to check out, that she said the only flag in her office was the Israeli flag. As Sullivan himself notes, she must have meant to say the only foreign flag, since she did also have an Alaskan and an American flag in her office. That’s the sort of sloppy speaking that one would correct easily if it were pointed out at the time. Of course, I also have the state flag and the American flag. I mean, it would be pretty ridiculous for a state governor to only have a foreign flag! There isn’t even a motivation to lie.

That there’s no motivation here doesn’t mean it’s an “odd lie” – which is Sullivan’s term. It means it’s not a lie at all. What’s odd is his definition of a lie. If I said I was just wearing jeans to a party, you wouldn’t have exposed me as a liar if I turned up wearing a shirt and shoes as well. In fact, you’d sound like a dork – or, with good enough delivery, a comedian – if you said, “You liar. You said you were just wearing jeans!”

Calling something like this a lie marks you as someone who’s centered not on finding out what is true, but on destroying someone. It doesn’t motivate me to go through the rest of the long list systematically to see what each item is about, and it certainly doesn’t make me want to look at the list and accept the conclusion that wow, Sarah Palin really is a terrible liar.

To which Sullivan responds:

Althouse picks an odd lie that is motivated by a desire to please a political constituency as well as say something with utter indifference to reality. It is indeed one of the milder ones, as I noted myself. It’s an exaggeration that is literally untrue but not at the level of delusion of the rest. It is not what Althouse wants to say: a prediction of future events that doesn’t work out that way. It is a statement of current reality that is untrue. But keep going, Ann. Debunk them all. With facts, not spin.

And, of course, Althouse is right that any single one of these “odd lies” could be explained by the usual human fallibility. We all make minor things up from time to time, white lies, on the spur of the moment. But all of them? Empirically disproven by the public record? In a relatively short career? It’s the pattern here that I’m establishing. And the pattern is emphatically not one of mere bad memory or spin. It is one of clinical delusion.

It is my contention that all is not right here. In fact, something is very seriously wrong. This is not about destroying anyone. It is about saving a system that perpetrated an error as huge as this one. And we cannot save this system until we fully understand the depth of the scandal in front of us: that this clinically delusional person had a good chance of having her finger on the nuclear button. And still does if she is not fully vetted and understood. I intend to keep doing that until the whole truth is in front of us.

Now let me take a second and see what sense I can make of this…

“Althouse picks an odd lie…”

No, Andrew picked the lie and thought it important enough to do a post about it.

“…motivated by a desire to please a political constituency as well as say something with utter indifference to reality.”

I donno, Althouse pretty much explained it as a common feature of how we use language; we pick the significant fact and talk about it (“I wore jeans to the party” does not to anyone I know imply that I wore no shirt or shoes). So the “utter indifference to reality” is a part I’m struggling with here.

“It is not what Althouse wants to say: a prediction of future events that doesn’t work out that way.”

I don’t have any idea what he meant here. Anyone?

“We all make minor things up from time to time, white lies, on the spur of the moment. But all of them? Empirically disproven by the public record? In a relatively short career? It’s the pattern here that I’m establishing. And the pattern is emphatically not one of mere bad memory or spin. It is one of clinical delusion.”

OK, OK, that may be arguable from Palin’s record (which I don’t know well enough to take a position on – I guess after I read global warming papers this weekend, I’ll see what I can do) – but how Andrew gets to B from A makes sense to me only if you’ve declared that she’s a liar – therefore anything she says is inherently a lie, and so evidence that – she’s a liar. I feel a Cretan paradox coming on.

I’d feel a lot better about Andrew’s case if he said “Look, that was a misfire; you’re right that I read something into it that wasn’t there – but there are important misrepresentations of the truth, and here is a list with links to support them.

This whole thing makes me uncomfortable in the same way the climate issue below does; there’s this whiff of ‘we’ve decided on the truth, the only facts that matter are the ones that support it’ … which ought to make someone with Orwell on his masthead just a little bit squeamish.