Here is Pat Frank’s post on North’s seminar. You should also look at North’s answers in the Chronicle Q&A session yesterday. North has a slide in his presentation entitled “Enter the Amateurs”. If one associates professionalism with care and due diligence, one wonders whether he has placed this particular cue at the right location in his presentation.
I’ve now had a chance to listen to North’s seminar. I really have to say that I found his general attitude and all that avuncular “‘œha-ha-ha-ing’ irritatingly patronizing. The attitude comes out right away with the slide showing “Enter the amateurs (M&M)”‘? He was even patronizing towards Wegman, the cause being Wegman’s very reasonable suggestion that statisticians be included among workers doing proxy reconstructions (as though it were a patent “‘œmake work for statisticians”‘œ gambit). Then North extended his patronizing dismissal to statisticians in general, wanting to exclude them from science because they tend to be “anal.”‘? He also disparaged you (Steve M.) and Ross M. as “‘œhalf-fools’ implied Ross is non-credible, and rambled toward the 30-yard line by completely mis-stating the history leading to ClimateAudit. He finally told a story that one of Wegman’s reviewers sent him (North) an email saying she only got 3 days for her review, thus casting general aspersions on Wegman’s claim of independent review.
The feeling one gets is that he considers most oppositional people as zanies, and most of his audience was clearly in agreement. He offered empirical evidence for AGW in the apparent correspondence between the “‘œhockey stick’ trend of rising CO2 over the last millennium juxtaposed with the MBH hockey stick trend. One wonders if he knows the difference between “‘œassociation’ and “‘œcausality.’ North promised at the beginning of his talk to tell us whether the M&M analysis “makes any difference,”‘? but instead later passed over the statistical questions as “too arcane,”‘? and ended up never addressing the question at all. He said there are problems with PC analysis ala’ MBH but never said what they are, and never mentioned that PC’s are numerical constructs without inherent physical meaning.
His arguments concerning the environmental determinants of tree-ring widths were totally hand-waving. There was nothing analytical in them, or theoretical, or quantitative, even in reference. He passed quickly over those lacunae to go directly to splicing the tree-ring widths to the temperature record (a grotesque miscarriage of science). He talked about the physically confonding inputs affecting tree-ring widths, such as out-of-range growth and non-linear effects, but then never discussed them again as though they had no effect. That whole part is a ludicrous display of non-science.
In his discussion of ice-cores, right after he finished saying that dO-18 temperatures from tropical ice-cores are confounded by possible changes in hydrology (as opposed to those from the poles), he went on to exclaim over the 20th century HS shape of dO-18 temps derived from ice cores taken from Tibet and the Andes! I.e., ice-cores from the very places he just finished saying were untrustworthy!
At the end of his talk, as he discussed all the various flavors of published reconstructions, North not only said that the error bars, more than just statistical, are also physical, but he went on to say that we don’t really know what the errors are. That is, after all the song-and-dance, and displays of other proxies that look like hockey sticks, he said in effect that we don’t really know, after all, whether the hockey stick is even a hockey stick. And then he concluded that part with the observation that what you do on an “expert panel”‘? is “kind of [wing] it.”‘? Incredible. He winged his entire analysis.
On the question of whether the 20th century was the warmest in 1000 years, he gave a chuckling account of the committee’s choice of the word “plausible”‘? and left us with this, both on his slide and stated: “[Using] 30-year averages, warmest in 1000 yrs – (Plausible, -reasonable, impossible to bring a convincing argument against, no numbers).”‘?
Of course, his comments about not knowing the errors leaves us with no convincing argument for, either, but that side of the coin was left unexplored. I’m left wondering whether the retreat of the northern treeline since the MWP would be considered “a convincing argument against.”‘?
During the Q&A, he laughed about a conversation he had with a reporter from the Dallas Morning News, who told him Rep. Barton had said, during a speech, that the HS was statistically discredited. North went on to laugh disparagingly about Barton’s dismissal and talk about being cynical concerning politicians and their hearings. No matter that North himself said not 20 minutes earlier that no one knows what the error bars are on the proxy reconstructions. It’s as though his mind contained two non-overlapping magisteria (to use a peculiarly apt SJ Gouldian logism).
At the very end, pace Lee, North said that the real basis for putting the “A”‘? in AGW is the correspondence between the GCMs (“‘?we know all the forcings,”‘? and, “the lynch-pin is the physics”) and global temperatures. He dismissed the uncertainties in climate physics with passing notice.