Arctic sea ice was higher in 1989 cherrypicking by Harrison Schmitt and Heartland Institute


How could someone possibly claim that

Arctic sea ice has returned to 1989 levels of coverage

Easy. The proof is in the data, of course:

See: The red line is clearly higher than the blue one in april. 

Is this a joke? I wish. This was said by ex-astronaut and New Mexico’s energy secretary Harrison Schmitt. The Heartland Institute had carefully picked april of 1989 and 2009 as the basis for comparison.

As regular readers here know, I’m very open to different opinions and to reconciliation efforts. But this has of course nothing to do with true skepticism. Look at those two lines! This is definitely not the kind of “skepticism” that we should be taking more seriously. I hope everybody (including Judith Curry) can at least agree to that. I’m all for bridge building, but let’s at least make sure that reality remains somewhat in view while standing on the bridge.

See also Scott Mandia, Chris Mooney, Charlie Petit, Lou Grinzo, Richard LittlemoreTim Lambert (suitable title: “Now THAT’s cherrypicking”), Peter Sinclair and Peter Gleick at the HuffPo.

Graph via Tim Lambert and Peter Gleick. Pictur here.

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51 Responses to “Arctic sea ice was higher in 1989 cherrypicking by Harrison Schmitt and Heartland Institute”

  1. Dana Says:

    Indeed, cherrypicking seems to be the favorite pastime of “skeptics” like Schmitt and Monckton, and even Lindzen. It’s disturbing that these people are taken seriously despite constantly being guilty of this sort of intellectually dishonest behavior.

    John Cook did a nice job covering this story too.

  2. Tom Fuller Says:

    Good to know that gross error is not limited to one side. Something to keep in mind.

  3. Derecho64 Says:

    Do you have a comparable “gross error” from the non-“skeptic” “side” in mind, Tom?

  4. Tom Fuller Says:

    Please refer to current discussions regarding Eric Steig, or Prall, Schneider et al, or Rajendra Pachauri’s manipulation of the release of data regarding Himalayan glaciers prior to the awarding of a contract to his consulting firm to study Himalayan glaciers, or James Hansen’s prediction that the streets of Manhattan would be underwater in 2010, or Phil Jones asking his colleagues to delete emails, or Nicholas Stern using inflated population projections in his analysis of the impacts of global warming…

    Oh, Derecho, etc. etc. etc.

  5. Derecho64 Says:

    I just wanted to see the list you could come up with. Thanks for providing it. My estimation of you hasn’t changed.

  6. Tom Fuller Says:

    Well, consistency is a virtue whose value increases. Or is it a value whose virtue increases? Now I’m confused…

  7. PDA Says:

    it’s like there’s a “make a comment about Eric Steig on every blog” meme abroad today: a subspecies of those “change your facebook status for breast cancer” things.

  8. Tom Fuller Says:

    PDA, if this is as bad as it looks, this may reverberate far outside the rather tightly-knit band of frenemies debating climate change. If Steig manages to damage the reputation of peer review, he can do a lot of damage.

    To throw peer review under the bus for a paper like this is almost tragic.

  9. Deech56 Says:

    Does this mean the Trenberth-bashing era is over and it’s Steig season? I would have expected it to be Kerry Emanual’s turn – he’s become more outspoken. He was recently interviewed on Science Friday.

    I figured it would be time to trot out the “another poor science spokesperson” meme.

    The issue with the H. Schmidt example isn’t that there is disagreement about something that is in the margin of our current understanding, but that he used a gross misrepresentation of data to support his point.

  10. PDA Says:

    Yes, and if my grandmother had testicles she’d be my grandfather. I’d suggest we wait to see how this plays out.

  11. Tom Fuller Says:

    I think Kerry will get a bit of a free pass because he outed himself as a Republican.

    I think I commented over at Things Break a couple of months ago that he ought to make a chart of all cherry picks. If he used the transgressions from both sides, it’d be a monster spaghetti chart–wouldn’t that be cool?

  12. pointer Says:

    Tom, James Hansen did not predict “that the streets of Manhattan would be underwater in 2010”. He said in 2006: “I think we have a very brief window of opportunity to deal with climate change … no more than a decade at most”, and that the consequences of inaction would lead to a very different planet, one in which sea level rise would affect Manhattan.

    This was his famous ‘tipping point’ speech. He gave no time frame for Manhattan being under water but made it clear that if we don’t act, dire consequences will be unstoppable.

  13. Tom Fuller Says:

    From the Rob Reiss interview:

    “While doing research 12 or 13 years ago, I met Jim Hansen, the scientist who in 1988 predicted the greenhouse effect before Congress. I went over to the window with him and looked out on Broadway in New York City and said, “If what you’re saying about the greenhouse effect is true, is anything going to look different down there in 20 years?” He looked for a while and was quiet and didn’t say anything for a couple seconds. Then he said, “Well, there will be more traffic.” I, of course, didn’t think he heard the question right. Then he explained, “The West Side Highway [which runs along the Hudson River] will be under water. And there will be tape across the windows across the street because of high winds. And the same birds won’t be there. The trees in the median strip will change.” Then he said, “There will be more police cars.” Why? “Well, you know what happens to crime when the heat goes up.”

  14. dhogaza Says:

    Yes, so we have one person claiming to recollect the *exact words* of Hansen 12 or 13 years earlier (though he can’t remember which), and you take this as gospel.

    Come up with an actual verified quote made by Hansen and maybe you’ll get our attention.

    Meanwhile, I well remember the post you made oh, one or two years ago, that you’re still beating your wife …

  15. dhogaza Says:

    Tom Fuller:

    PDA, if this is as bad as it looks, this may reverberate far outside the rather tightly-knit band of frenemies debating climate change. If Steig manages to damage the reputation of peer review, he can do a lot of damage.

    To throw peer review under the bus for a paper like this is almost tragic.

    Which, of course, is very strong evidence that Ryan O’Donnell is full of it.

    Steig’s just ignoring them. Good for him. The gutter’s already full with all of you people.

  16. pointer Says:

    Apparently, for Tom Fuller one poorly sourced quote relying on a memory from over a decade ago and which has never been repeated is the equivalent of a error-ridden and intellectually dishonest paper sent to NASA. Just because.

    Ten years ago I met the King of Spain and he told me he collects his belly button lint in a silver jewellery box. I’m pretty sure that’s how the conversation went.

  17. Tom Fuller Says:

    Hiya Bart, good to see your friends are so welcoming and convivial. Hope I can respond with equal good cheer.

    Hey Pointer, got a point? Or do you just want to sit around and grumble all day? Got any sisters? (Song reference only…)

  18. Tom Fuller Says:

    Pointer: “James Hansen did not predict that the streets of Manhattan would be underwater in 2010.”

    James Hansen: ““The West Side Highway [which runs along the Hudson River] will be under water.”

    Pointer: “Wahhh. It was a decade ago! Only the person he said it to has quoted him! Wahhhhhhhh! You’re a denier and the King of Spain (Police song reference?) has lint in his belly button! Wahhhhhh!

  19. pointer Says:

    For Tom Fuller, saying “I predict X will happen” is apparently the same as saying “I predict X will happen in a year of Tom Fuller’s choosing.”

  20. pointer Says:

    When is one *alleged* quote, stated more than 10 years ago, not repeated since, and by objective measures unreliable — since it’s based on someone’s memory, and we all know how reliable decade-old memory is — equivalent to a written paper submitted to a government agency?

  21. pointer Says:

    Answer: It’s not, unless you hold climate scientists to impossible high standards such that likely misremembered quotes are allowed to be attributed to them and assumed to override everything else they say.

  22. pointer Says:

    We’re also losing sight of the shock here: that an appointed official is on record committing an intellectual lie. Tom Fuller can’t get very worked up about that though, because Jim Hansen might have said something that could possible be misconstrued more than 10 years ago. Eyes on the ball!

  23. dhogaza Says:

    So Fuller’s effectively hijacked another thread.

    Schmitt’s *proven* dishonest statement, documented, backed up, undeniable isn’t important to Tom.

    What’s important is that he’s derailed the thread by posting an undocumented claim about Hansen in some kind of twisted effort to make Schmitt’s statement reasonable in light of his lies about Hansen.

    Bart – it’s really OK to moderate some times.

    Thread hijacking is not exactly a sin … but Fuller’s a serial sinner.

    Think about it.

  24. pointer Says:

    Yeah, partly my fault for letting Tom Fuller draw me in. As I realised, the real outrage here is that an appointed official is willing to flat out lie about data that’s easily checked. And the Heritage Foundation carries water for him while Tom Fuller does everything he can to deflect into sleptic myths.

    But climate hawks should be prepared for much much more nonsense like Schmitt’s. Deniers clearly are on the ascendant.

  25. pointer Says:

    Edit: skeptic not sleptic.

  26. Marco Says:

    Tom, I’ll answer you later today (perhaps this evening) on the Open thread.

    But the Hansen “prediction” can be rebutted very easily:

    “Michaels also has the facts wrong about a 1988 interview of me by Bob Reiss, in which Reiss asked me to speculate on changes that might happen in New York City in 40 years assuming CO2 doubled in amount. Michaels has it as 20 years, not 40 years, with no mention of doubled CO2. Reiss verified this act to me, but he later sent the message: “I went back to my book and re-read the interview I had with you. I am embarrassed to say that although
    the book text is correct, in remembering our original conversation, during a casual phone interview with a Salon magazine reporter in 2001 I was off in years. What I asked you originally at your office window was for a prediction
    of what Broadway would look like in 40 years, not 20. But when I spoke to the Salon reporter 10 years later – probably because I’d been watching the predictions come true, I remembered it as a 20 year question.” So give
    Michaels a pass on this one — assume that he reads Salon, but he did not check the original source, Reiss’ book.

    Now, back to the topic at hand, perhaps?

  27. Marco Says:

    Whoops, pushed “post comment” too fast. The citation ended right before “Now back to the topic at hand, perhaps”. That last sentence was mine again, not Hansen’s.

  28. pointer Says:

    I’m wondering whether Schmitt will actually walk back his written statements about the sea ice extent. My immediate impulse is to say no, he won’t. Of course he won’t! Climate change is a religion, yadda yadda.

    But the man used to be a astronaut. He has a PhD in geology. Perhaps there’s still some respect for academic proprieties there.

  29. Bart Says:

    Discussions not pertaining to the topic of this post (blatant cherrypicking by Schmitt and Heartland) should go to the open thread!

    I don’t moderate this blog 24-7 so be a little cooperative, please.

    Back and forth bickering is not interesting for anyone except possibly yourselves. There really is no need to put it on display.

  30. pointer Says:

    My apologies, Bart.

  31. pointer Says:

    As I was saying, I think the political ramifications are important to those who care about climate change. (Actually, I doubt the actual political ramifications will be great as Schmitt appears to have the backing of the governor who appointed him, and in any case, this is very much inside baseball and few people are paying attention.) But if he is compelled to walk his rhetoric or ‘clarify’ it, then that will tell us something about the state of the debate.

    If not, well …

  32. Deech56 Says:

    I think the lesson is that there is no penalty for misrepresenting science as long as it conforms to a certain ideology.

  33. PDA Says:

    I still like the word “sleptic.”

  34. Herman Vruggink Says:

    Indeed, good example of cherrypicking, seems to be the favorite pastime of both “skeptics” and “alarmist”

    Find some other examples of ice cherrypicking in this week’s discussion under Dr. Richard Rood’s article:

    Bart, I think the label 2009 near the red line in the graph must be 2010 ?

  35. Shub Says:

    Could someone tell me where I can read about the importance of ‘sea ice’?

    As far as the present Schmitt controversy is concerned, his speech is full of so many things the IPCC/consensus would attack. The ice bit is the one thing Peter Gleick concentrated on to bash on Joe Bast.

  36. J Bowers Says:

    @ Marco: February 9, 2011 at 09:23

    You star. Thanks.

  37. MapleLeaf Says:

    “Good to know that gross error is not limited to one side. Something to keep in mind.”

    Come again? Not limited to one side? You really are delusional. How about the mountains of misinformation, distortion and cherry picking (and lies even) from McIntyre, McKitrick, Monckton, Carter, Easterbrook, Douglass, Lindzen, Spencer, Michaels, Curry, Watts, de Freitas, Goddard, Singer, Wegman et cetera that have been made by “sceptics” over the years. And that excludes the so-called journos. Where do you think the 148 (and counting, see SkepticalScience) myths and speaking points parroted by “skeptics”and denialists originated for God’s sakes? Primarily from those folks.

    I expect a column from you denouncing the misguided comments of Schmitt and declaring that the “skeptics” camp cannot be trusted, is playing politics instead of science and has no credibility.

    Go on, surprise us. And marco just outed you with regard’s to your uncritical parroting of Reiss. Beautiful.

  38. Tom Fuller Says:

    MapleLeaf, your slip is showing. BTW, I have retired from the column building business–so hard choosing between Doric and Ionic on a daily basis…

  39. MapleLeaf Says:

    Apologies Bart.

  40. MapleLeaf Says:

    Does anyone know if Schmitt has issued a public apology and correction?

    I find it troubling that Heartland jumped to his defence. There really is nothing to defend here.

  41. Sailrick Says:

    I seem to remember skeptics making claims about ice extent last March, just before the big melt started.

  42. Scrooge Says:

    Just got information he is out. May have been thrown under the bus.

  43. Marco Says:

    Scrooge: just standard business. He doesn’t want to be subjected to the mandatory background check.

  44. Scrooge Says:

    Yea Marco of course you could be right. In todays fishbowl world having a background check could be scary for anyone. And there was a chance he wouldn’t get the job anyway.

  45. Leonard Weinstein Says:

    I suspect Schmitt wrote his analysis just after the cross over rather than after all of 2009 was in. He was correct at that point, but later data contradicted it. That sounds just like most of the climate scientists, being contradicted by data after they make pronouncements. However, I do think the arctic sea ice is generally recovering from the dip, but the proof is in the next several years. The rest of Schmitt’s note is spot on. The claim that supporters of CAGW have proven that most claims by skeptical scientists has been disproven is a first order lie. In fact, the opposite is true. There are skeptics and supporters of CAGW that are not scientists that make nonsense claims, but those need to be ignored (many more from CAGW side).

  46. Herman Vruggink Says:

    I agree with Leonard

  47. Scrooge Says:

    Well the good thing he is gone. I think the intelligence level of the skeptic side just went up with him out of the picture. Its not just the sea ice fiasco but the whole letter has to make you wonder. Government intelligence is an oxymoron.

  48. dhogaza Says:

    However, I do think the arctic sea ice is generally recovering from the dip…

    Sheer fantasy

  49. Prima o poi, ci insegneranno come batterli Says:

    […] Arctic sea ice was higher in 1989 cherrypicking by Harrison Schmitt and Heartland Institute […]

  50. Julie Kinnear Says:

    So what’s the issue here? Are we going to argue who said what and if is it true? This topic is concerning to our future so let’s take it more seriously. The Holocene Period that we are in now is probably coming to the end and as we all know it is in the middle of two Ice Periods. So if we take the human’s activity into account as well there can be something true about those statements. All what I am trying to say is that we are standing on the crossroad and we have to decide which way to go further.

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