Thursday, March 25, 2010

McLean's whine part 2

OK, having talked about the (absence of) science in McLean's reply, on with dealing with the whine with which they try to smother it.

Well, the first point is that it may be unprecedented for the authors' reply to fail to pass peer review, although conversely it may very well have happened before without my hearing about it. (FWIW, many years ago I once found out quite by chance that someone had published a "comment on" one of my papers in a journal that I didn't regularly read, and neither the author nor the editor had bothered to contact me at any point in the process.) In the AGU journals there is no automatic right of reply, there is only the right to submit a reply for the consideration of the editor. In this case, it seems that after peer review McLean et al's reply was not found to meet the standards for publication. I don't make any claim to be disinterested but on reading it, I can only agree with this judgment, specifically on the following grounds.

(A) Their reply performs a dishonest bait-and-switch in initially claiming that their analysis was not based on the filtered data[1], but then conversely stating that their statistics only refer to the filtered data and were never even intended to refer to long-term variation[2]. Of course their acknowledgment of this second point means that there is not one scrap of support in the paper for their claim that the analysis "shows the potential of natural forcing mechanisms to account for most of the temperature variation" [over the last 50 years]. Their analysis simply has no bearing on any long-term trends, since they filtered them out of the data.

(B) They don't even try to address the fact that their original paper pretended that the differencing was done to reduce the noise, when in fact it amplifies noise and eliminates long-term variability[3]

(C) they present no defence of their claim of a "stepwise shift" in the mid-1970s, which (as we pointed out) their naive statistics do not support.

There is other stuff that I could criticise in their reply, but this is more than enough to justify a rejection. They simply aren't responsive to our criticisms.

As for the stuff they quote from the hacked emails...well that's all pretty small beer. First, the most (only? IIRC) critical comment that they have reprinted from one of our three reviewers was a very reasonable complaint and I think we were all happy to make some edits to the tone of the original. Since that is available on the web, you can look for yourself to see the minor differences. There were also some useful comments from all three reviewers about clarity and references, but nothing major. As you can see, the people that we discussed proposing for reviewers are all authoritative and respected figures in the field. The complaint that they were "reasonably well known" to one of the more prominent authors is particularly laughable - there could hardly be anyone of similar experience who isn't. However, the actual choice of reviewers is the responsibility of the editor and I don't know who was used. It would certainly be amusing to know who McLean et al proposed for both their original paper and the attempted reply, but somehow I doubt they'll be prepared to divulge either this information or the full reviews that they received. I can only assume that the editor made his own choice of reviewers, which is not only his right but duty if he thinks the suggested reviewers are inappropriate. The list of suggestions is not to enable the authors to choose their reviewers, but rather to provide the editor with some help.

The complaint about "prior publication" due to placing a copy of the submitted manuscript on a personal web-page is just a petty and pathetic attempt at armchair-lawyering. The AGU explicitly endorses publication of manuscripts on a personal web-page, the only minor error was in some carelessness over the formatting which was corrected within a couple of days. This could justify a minor slap on the wrist but it is not "prior publication" by any reasonable definition, including that of the AGU. For one thing, it wasn't even put on the web-site prior to submission!

I don't see on what grounds there could possibly be any criticism of the AGU for using a different editor and reviewers from those who dealt with the original paper. Obviously, the submission of a comment may be considered an implicit criticism of those responsible for the original publication, so it is reasonable to remove this possible source of bias. But anyway, neither of these matters has anything to do with us.

I thought it was supposed to be the Poms that whinged. On this evidence, some Aussies are pushing them pretty hard. If only they had devoted as much effort to science they might have learnt something.

[1] "contrary to what Foster et al. (2010) imply, the data in question (Figure 7) were not subjected to contrived statistical analysis" and "we used the filtering technique solely to establish that a 7-month time lag existed between changes in the ENSO and changes in global average lower tropospheric temperature...Our substantive conclusions were then based on applying this time-lagged relationship to the raw data sets"

[2] "Our comments about the change in Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) accounting for 72% of the variance in satellite (MSU) GTAA, 68% of variance in the radiosonde (RATPAC-A) GTAA and 81% of variance in the tropospheric temperature in the tropics were made in the context of the discussion of our derivatives based on differentials between 12 month averages, and we stand by them. Contrary to Fea10 claims, those figures do not refer to long-term variations but only to the derivatives that were used."

[3] "To remove the noise, the absolute values were replaced with derivative values based on variations. Here the derivative is the 12-month running average subtracted from the same average for data 12 months later."


EliRabett said...

Since when does McLean get to see the reviews of your comment??

P. Lewis said...

I wondered about that (and why they didn't also print the comments they themselves received from the refs, in the name of balance -- tsk, tsk).

Were stolen e-mails (and attachments) the source?

James Annan said...

Yes, they were in the hacked CRU emails.

Roger Jones said...

Hypothesis – waggists vs greetists

A dog was observed wagging its tail and running up to greet its master. The greetists maintain that the dog was pleased to see its master, therefore ran to greet her while wagging its tail. We disagree with this conclusion, so set out to measure the effect of the dog, its forward movement and wagging of its tail.

Dog is denoted G and tail, T. The dog moves forward with velocity V with the tail wagging at rate W. We noted that the tail began to move 0.5 s before the dog began to move, then the dog moved forward with a motion of 0.7 to 2.3 wags per m with the rate of wagging increasing with the dog’s forward velocity.

Therefore, the velocity of the dog is VD = p/t(0.7W,2.3W)-0.5, with p to be determined. We then compared the number of wags each second, creating a time series of wags between the initiation of motion and the dog reaching its master.

The resulting time series, with a lag of 0.5, increases randomly from 0.9 to 2.0 over a distance of 10 m. There is abundant evidence that dogs greeting their masters will begin wagging their tails before commencing forward movement. Our analysis therefore shows quite clearly that the tail is wagging the dog.

(Sorry about the crap math, but I'm channeling McL, DeF and C)

Roger Jones said...

Do you think GRL would accept this - are any of the editors dog lovers?

Anonymous said...

James, you do not seem to realize your wading in a rotten swamp. May someone help you guys.

jules said...

Dear Anony Mouse,

An obvious answer to that springs immediately to mind. As this story illustrates, it might all be worth it.

P. Lewis said...

Anonymous @ 10:34 am is correct in saying

James, you do not seem to realize your [sic] wading in a rotten swamp. May someone help you guys.

And bounding out from the warren comes help from Eli in fleshing out the comments of reviewer 3 beyond what the swamp creatures MdFC supplied courtesy of those stolen e-mails ... also supplied courtesy of those stolen e-mails!

Marco said...

Let me see if I can get this right: if you follow a bunch of more and less drunk people that walk from point A to B, and correlate their deviations from a straight line to their degree of drunkenness, using MdFC logic these people get from A to B *because* they are drunk?

Yeah, makes sense, I guess...

If you're drunk!

deepclimate said...

To me this part of the benighted reply (from the summary) takes the cake:

"Our research did not set out to analyse trends in mean global temperature, but if any such trend exists, it must be linked in most part to natural mechanisms that underlie the Southern Oscillation."

That's enough to reject right there.

It's very similar to a statement in the third press release way back when:

"The results in Figure 7 clearly show that the SOI related variability in MGT [Mean Global Temperature]is the major contribution to any trends that might exist, although the McLean et al study did not look for this. The key conclusion of the paper, therefore, is that MGT is determined in most part by atmospheric processes related to the Southern Oscillation."

Cthulhu said...

I assume that none of McLean's co-authors (bob carter?) are part of the NZCSC.

Because something from DeepClimate last July sounds a bit familiar to McLeans concern over violation of AGU rules relating to hosting papers on personal websites.

"The link to the NZCSC version of the paper no longer works. Most likely, this is related to the fact that the NZCSC appeared to have been in egregious violation of the authors’ copyright agreement with the AGU. That agreement permits alternate electronic publication only of unformatted versions of published articles, and these must be hosted only at the authors’ personal websites."

James Annan said...

Sees that they both are.

deepclimate said...

As I wrote back then:

"Authors John McLean, Chris de Freitas and Bob Carter all have a long history of links to climate disinformation groups and associated PR campaigns (many of which lead back to Canadian spinmeister Tom Harris, director of the International Climate Science Coalition)."

Current scorecard:

NZ CSC: Carter, de Freitas

Australian CSC: McLean, Carter

International CSC: Carter, McLean, de Freitas

The ICSC actually claimed that the title of the article was "Nature, Not Man, Rules the Climate"

[See above Deep Climate link for more.]

Marco said...

Hilariously, someone on Bart Verheggen's blog has the audacity to claim that Foster et al do not understand the statistical techniques used by MdFC..., 'we' indeed do not understand the use of faulty statistics, especially when they are followed by unsupported conclusions.