Blogger Anthony Watts twists science, and yet no-one is surprised

Normally I refrain from commenting on the worlds largest climate change denial blog, “Watts up with that?”.

Firstly, its author is a former US weather man whose blog serves as the main rallying cry for the denial movement globally. My “niche” is watching the Australian denial movement.

Secondly, there are plenty of other blogs and commentators tearing down the daily nonsense Anthony Watts posts.  However there are times when the intellectual dishonesty of Watts shocks even me.

And so dear reader, further evidence that supports the case that Anthony Watts lies to his reading audience.

Disinformation 101: cherry pick your facts

One of the classic techniques of climate change deniers is to cherry pick the results of scientific research:

“Cherry picking is the act of pointing at individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position…”

Creationists and climate change deniers excel at taking data and information out of context and reshaping it to suit their arguments.

Watts provides a text book example of this in the following post:

Surprise: Peer reviewed study says current Arctic sea ice is more extensive than most of the past 9000 years

“…A peer-reviewed paper published in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences finds that Arctic sea ice extent at the end of the 20th century was more extensive than most of the past 9000 years. The paper also finds that Arctic sea ice extent was on a declining trend over the past 9000 years, but recovered beginning sometime over the past 1000 years and has been relatively stable and extensive since.

Although it seems like a day doesn’t go by without an alarmist headline or blog posting obsessing over the daily Arctic sea ice statistics (and never about Antarctic sea ice extent which reached a record high this year), this paleo-climate perspective takes all the wind out of alarmist sails…”

It is very clear the Arctic is entering a death spiral: but week after week Watts publishes lies and disinformation, desperately trying to assume his readers that it is not happening.

Watts cites a paper which suggests the Arctic is fine.

The problem is, the paper states anything but that.

How Watts twists the actual science

The paper Watts references was published in 2008, so it’s not even that new:

Holocene fluctuations in Arctic sea-ice cover: dinocyst-based reconstructions for the eastern Chukchi Sea Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 45: 1377-1397, Authors: J.L. McKay, A. de Vernal, C. Hillaire-Marcel, C. Not, L. Polyak, and D. Darby

It is a rather dense, technical piece as most scientific papers are. The average punter could be forgiven for glossing over many of its points and not fully appreciating what it is saying.

However one thing is clear: in no way does it disprove the Arctic is in trouble.

It looks at a long-term trends and drivers, in particular what is known as the Arctic Oscillation (AO) which drives the volume and extent of sea ice.

The paper notes the following in its introduction:

“The decline in Arctic sea ice associated with the +AO results primarily from the rapid removal of older, thicker ice from Arctic through Fram Strait and intensified cyclonic atmospheric circulation that brings warm air into Arctic, thus increasing sea-ice melt (Meier et al. 2005).

But here is the important part:

…However, sea ice has continued its rapid decline, since the AO returned to a more neutral state in the late 1990s, suggesting that anthropogenic warming of surface air temperatures is playing a role in the loss (Overland and Wang 2005), as now recognized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2007).”

The AO has shifted to neutral, however sea ice loss is continuing in spite of that, most likely due to AGW.

The authors state this very clearly.

The paper also explicitly acknowledges the conclusions of the IPCC.

Seriously, all you have to do is READ THE FIRST FRAKIN’ PAGE which isn’t THAT HARD TO UNDERSTAND and to see that Watts either hasn’t read the paper or is JUST MAKING STUFF UP.

Excuse the upper caps – but I can’t believe how transparent his dishonesty is.

Watts readers then chime in, adding posts that gleefully note how this paper disproves global warming.

Clearly they haven’t read it.


6 thoughts on “Blogger Anthony Watts twists science, and yet no-one is surprised

  1. Nick says:

    Even before reading the first page,read the title: This study is based on one site off Point Barrow in the eastern Chukchi Sea,which is a tiny fraction of the Arctic Ocean. So it contains no conclusions about ‘Arctic sea ice extent’,just regional conditions ,which it pointedly compares with other studies findings for the Holocene in other Actic Ocean regions. The whole picture is one of great regional divergence and considerable fluctuation at millenial scales in often opposing directions. Extrapolate from one site with caution….unless you’re Watts.

    His headline claim is absolutely untenable.

    • Watching the Deniers says:


      However, I’ve noted that with every piece of bad news about the climate, Watts rushes to reassure his audience “everything is fine”.

      • Nick says:

        With every passing season and the gathering of unambiguous indicators from across the Arctic,it gets harder for Watts to find that magic blog-analgesic,but he’s a real trier,for sure. Dedicated to his flock.

  2. Des Carne says:

    What I’ve noticed about US TV meteorologists is that, unlike Australia at least, they unmistakeably warm to their roles as actors on the public stage and fashion their personas (careers) accordingly.

    In Australia TV weather bulletins generally function to give viewers information so they can plan their weeks or weekends: rug up it’s going to be chilly to night; surfing will be great this weekend on the 8′ swell; camp on open ground, it’s bushfire season; farmers in the wheatbelt can’t expect rain anytime soon; and so on. More often or not young and attractive female presenters are trained to read teleprompters and perform the appropriate gestures over the backcast weather map, and everybody is happy.

    Weathercasters in the US seem to be predominantly male figures who unmistakeably see themselves as avuncular figures whose role is to provide the public reassurance, whatever local weather perturbations that have to announce or explain. I think of it as convergent evolution – like radio and TV public reassurers of the political climate, they see this sort of self-casting as the appropriate way to advance their careers, by imopressing their personae on the public consciousness. And like them they’d rather do that than do any real public science education, like explain the difference between weather and climate.

  3. alexander says:

    i love this bit:
    “It is very clear the Arctic is entering a death spiral: but week after week Watts publishes lies and disinformation, desperately trying to assume his readers that it is not happening.”

    pure science! should be more of! go girl!

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