2010 blog round-up

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I started writing this blog in mid 2008, and it was off to a quiet start. In the last months of 2009 and the start of 2010, my blog traffic gradually increased due to me chiming in on popular blog discussions on topics such as the CRU email affair or criticizing some contested ‘skeptic’ or ‘lukewarmer’.

A big change in my readership occurred in March 2010, after I wrote a post comparing different datasets of global average temperature. I was looking for a good looking graph of the major surface temperature reconstructions for use in a presentation, and after I couldn’t find one to my liking decided to prepare my own.

Now in all honesty, it wasn’t my pretty graphs that drew thousands of visitors to check out that post, but rather the verbal antics of pseudonymous commenter “VS”. It was initially picked up by Bishop Hill (causing a massive traffic spike) from where it spread to WUWT, Josh’s cartoons and others. It garnered over 2000 comments, many of which consisted of cheering VS on in his attempt to show that the increase in global average temperature could be described by a random walk (from which he later seemed to backpedal), based on a near unit root in the timeseries. But besides the expected chorus of “see, it’s all a scam/random/don’t touch my SUV!”, which got on my nerves at times, it was an interesting discussion from which I learned a thing or two. Of course, from energy balance considerations it is quite clear that the global average temperature can’t randomly walk away in any one direction without being somehow “forced” to. But I do have this desire to understand where someone else is coming from, to search for a nucleus of truth amidst the rhetoric, and to see if common ground can be reached between reasonable people who disagree.

I did a recap of this discussion in various posts thereafter (though never a proper round-up regretfully): Here, here, and my favorite: a sarcastic analogy on April fools day, followed by part 2 (not half as funny).

My site stats clearly show this post is an outlier: 45,000 views, whereas all the others are below 3000. After the big spike was over, the number of pageviews stabilized on a level a few times higher than before (~3000/week after vs ~700/week before). I think a lot of this increased traffic is due to more lively discussions taking place in the comment threads. The number of pageviews in 2010 were almost 10 times that in 2009, and in 2008 it averaged less than 100/week.

Since my recent posts are published in whole on the front page, the number of pageviews of separate posts sais more about the popularity of the discussion ensuing in the comment thread than of the head post itself (most of my pageviews are to the frontpage). That said, after the global avg temp thread the top-3 most popular discussions were:

The risk of postponing corrective action to a gradually deteriorating situation (2713)

The NIPCC report: don’t be fooled (2712)

Scott Denning to ICCC Heartland ‘conference’ gathering: “Be skeptical… be very skeptical!”  (2378)

The NIPCC post (from 2009) is popular because it’s one of the only rebuttals of their 2009 “climate change reconsidered” document, and as such is easy to find by google. The others were mainly popular because of the ensuing debate I think, though I like the post featuring Scott Denning’s excellent Heartland presentation a lot.

I don’t think these were necessarily my best posts; I’ll try to make a list of those some time later this week. Suggestions welcome, as I’m curious to hear what my readers liked or disliked.

It is clear though, even from my own blog, that antagonism sells. Posts where I’m sharply critical of something or someone tend to be more popular than thoughtful essays. Others have similar experiences I believe. Which goes to show that for many, blogs are mostly about entertainment and polarization. The challenge is to get some thoughtful reflection, discussion and critical thinking in there too.

A happy, thoughtful and fun new year everyone!

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6 Responses to “2010 blog round-up”

  1. Jeff Id Says:

    Congratulations on your efforts and your blog Bart.

    As a request which I’m sure many of your readers would agree with, I would like to see more technical posts based on your expertise. Don’t be afraid to discuss science you are currently interested in, let it rip and the reader beware. Technical posts attract some of the best comments, even on the less technical ones.

    Anyway, thanks for the nice forum.

  2. TimG Says:

    Bart,

    Thank your for your transparent moderation policy. I appreciate being told exactly why a post has been disallowed so I can adjust future posts as required.

  3. Bart Says:

    Jeff,

    I’m wondering if that counts for most people; my experience and that of others show otherwise.

    Some posts that conform to your request are my guest postings at RC on aerosol formation and its relevance (including via the illusive cosmic ray link) for climate. On the second topic some newer articles have since appeared with some other results.

  4. mikep Says:

    Bart, it seems to me you still don’t get the unit root issue. First note that while a random walk has a unit root not all unit root processes are random walks. It’s simply that the random walk is the simplest unit root process.
    Second, your argument that global temperature cannot possibly just be a random walk because that implies no forcings seems misconceived. Despite the length of the thread to which you refer we never really got to the interesting discussion of co-integration. If two series are co-integrated then a linear combination of them is stationary even if the variables themselves are not stationary. This means that the two variables are related to each other. So if global temperature follows a unit root process and so does another, forcing, variable and they are co-integrated then, provided the equation satisfies all the usual constraints then your forcing explains global temperature and you should be happy. The point is that correlation between non-stationary variables is not proof of anything very much. Co-integration is a much more powerful relationship which indicates that something is really related to something else. The idea that showing that a variable follows a unit root process means that it is just random and only explicable by chance is just wrong.

  5. Bart Says:

    mikep,

    1) I get that not all unit root processes are necessarily a random walk, even though it took VS a very long time to let go of the notion of randomness, and even then he did so halfheartedly. Clarity of argument was sorely missing.

    2) My argument is based on physics and more specifically conservation of energy. Cointegration or not, I think conservation of energy is a fairly strong constraint.

  6. mikep Says:

    Randomness is in there still. A unit root process is a stochastic trend – but one stochastic trend may be driven by another stochastic trend (forcing?). So if the forcing, or combinations of forcings is best described as a stochastic trend then you would expect the dependent variable also to be a stochastic trend. If variables really are related you would expect them to be co-integrated.

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