Von Storch and the Mighty Ducks

In the ES&T article, Jerry Mahlman, rather than using ad hominem techniques like discussing biases in principal components methodology, spurious significance of RE statistics or the validity of bristlecone pines as temperature proxies, described us simply as "quacks".

We start our consideration of the use of the technical term "quack" in climate science through the remarkable iconography of von Storch’s recent presentation in Boulder.

The iconography has a long story, even involving the Wall Street Journal, and shows a pleasingly humorous side to Prof. von Storch.

Here are two other icons in the von Storch presentation in Boulder.

Is there some significance to the Donald Duck iconography in von Storch’s presentation? Inquiring minds want to know: let’s google "von Storch donald duck".

We learn that long before anyone heard of The Donald, in 1977, a young Hans von Storch founded D. O. N. A. L. D., the "Deutschen Organisation der nichtkommerziellen AnhàƒÆ’à‚⣮ger des lauteren Donaldismus". D.O.N.A.L.D. has a continuing website with its own logo. and von Storch (interestingly "stork") is identified as the founder of the German school of duck research.

Prof. Dr. Hans von Storch, Direktor am Institut fàƒÆ’à‚⻲ KàƒÆ’à‚⻳tenforschung Geesthacht, Inhaber eines Lehrstuhls fàƒÆ’à‚⻲ Meteorologie an der UniversitàƒÆ’à‚⣴ Hamburg, ist der BegràƒÆ’à‚⻮der des deutschen Donaldismus und der D.O.N.A.L.D. (deutsche Organisation nichtkommerzieller AnhàƒÆ’à‚⣮ger des lauteren Donaldismus).

And again the following history of the "Donaldist":

Der Donaldist: Eine Begegnung mit Professor Hans von Storch, dem BegràƒÆ’à‚⻮der der Duck-Forschung
Am 16. 4. 1977 rief der Meteorologe Hans von Storch zum GràƒÆ’à‚⻮dungskongress des D. O. N. A. L. D., der “…⽄eutschen Organisation der nichtkommerziellen AnhàƒÆ’à‚⣮ger des lauteren Donaldismus”. Die Institution steht ihrer Satzung gemàƒÆ’à‚⥃ ƒÆ’à…ⶠauf dem Boden der "freiheitlich donaldistischen Grundordnung" (FDGO). Seit dieser Zeit wird geforscht was das Zeug hàƒÆ’à‚⣬t und alle donaldistischen ForschungsansàƒÆ’à‚⣴ze haben gemeinsam, durch ErgràƒÆ’à‚⻮dung spezieller PhàƒÆ’à‚⣮omene die metaphysische Verankerung Entenhausens in der realen Welt oder die Existenz eines Parallel-Universums nachzuweisen. Neueste wissenschaftliche Forschungsergebnisse werden auf den jàƒÆ’à‚⣨rlichen Kongressen veràƒÆ’à‚ⵦfentlicht oder im Zentralorgan “…⽄er Donaldist”. Das Vereinsregister liest sich zum Teil wie ein Who is Who des deutschen Feuilletons.

This was not simply a topic of local interest. The Feb,10, 1978 issue of the Wall Street Journal, in an article entitled "Donald Duck Faces A Morals Charge", covered the efforts of "Hans von Storch, a 28 year-old mathematician and founder of the 100-member Donald Duck Club" to overturn a morals decision by the Helsinki council against Donald Duck. The Wall Street Journal continued:

Mr. von Storch says that studying Donald Duck isn’t as funny as it sounds. He argues that studying Duckburg is like studying mathematics or physics in that you have an "artificial system" in which an infinite number of questions can be asked. Every question can be answered, he says, by examining the evidence in the comic books themselves. In fact, some questions can be logically answered in more than one way, Mr. von Storch maintains, prompting heated debates among club members.

Sort of like, umm, the Hockey Team.


  1. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Sep 1, 2005 at 11:48 AM | Permalink

    Interesting, though you do have a typo showing the Wall Street Journal article coming out in 1878 rather than 1978.

  2. àƒ'?anàƒËœ
    Posted Sep 1, 2005 at 7:06 PM | Permalink

    Ja, alles ist klàƒ⣲. Plenty of evidence for what’s going on here, Steve.


  3. McCall
    Posted Sep 1, 2005 at 9:39 PM | Permalink

    Von Storch sure is an interesting figure in all this. Even with the claims and lessons at the end, my favorite slide is #41!

  4. Posted Sep 2, 2005 at 6:48 AM | Permalink


    The point is thus?

  5. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Sep 2, 2005 at 7:18 AM | Permalink

    Does everything have to have a point? It’s a bit of word play on "quacks". I particularly thought the images were funny in the present context. Who would have attributed such a sense of humor to von Storch? I find it very appealing.

  6. TCO
    Posted Sep 3, 2005 at 1:54 PM | Permalink

    What is Stork’s argument wrt your red noise issue being irrelevant to a historical reconstruction? Your response? and any changes in your position based on what Stork has asserted?

  7. TCO
    Posted Sep 5, 2005 at 8:38 AM | Permalink


  8. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Sep 5, 2005 at 9:06 AM | Permalink

    TCO, this is in final stages of GRL comment-reply cycle. I’m going to go through this stuff pretty thoroughly in the near future and don’t want to do it in half measures. However, boiled down: von Storch did simulations in his climate model with pseudoproxies all of which had a high (0.3-0.7 correlation to gridcell temperature) and none of which had nonclimatic factors (“bad apples”). Under such circumstances, he concluded that a multiproxy reconstruction could survive even the horrendous MBH artificial hockey stick method. (He acknowledges that Mann’s PC method is erroneous and biased.)

    He didn’t test the effect of the goof on MBH itself or on systems with lousy proxies where you introduce a few nonclimatic “proxies” [bristlecones]. To me, this seems like the old joke about the economist on the desert island: assume we have a can-opener. If you assume that the proxies are all really good and that there are no bad proxies, then the erroneous method wouldn’t matter.

    He doesn’t deal with RE and R2 or report them. I asked for these stats but got nowhere with GRL – there’s a new editor-in-chief, who was quoted in ES&T as saying that he was personally involved in the editing. My guess is that von Storch has both high R2 and RE in his simulations, which is obviously different than the spurious MBH situation.

    There was nothing in his reponse that bothered me in terms of demonstrating that there was anything wrong with our position (and I try to be coldly objective about this.) However, I’m sure that partisans will seize on his comment. I don’t get the sense that climate scientists have the faintest interest in actually understanding the problems with MBH; they just want to get off the hook. Von Storch will give them some ammunition, although it’s completely off point.

  9. TCO
    Posted Sep 5, 2005 at 9:11 AM | Permalink


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