Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Adjust your predictions to match the facts

The CONversation this morning posted an article by ABC's favourite Coral whisperer Ove Hoegh-Guldberg. The post is titled "Drowning out the truth about the Great Barrier Reef". It certainly lives up to the headline, for it seems the truth has been well and truly drowned.

I posted the following comment, that survived until about lunch time before being removed by the editors:

Doesn't help the media, Ove when you make ridiculously overblown statements about coral mortality. Your recent failed predictions made on your blog about coral armageddon on Ningaloo, following higher than normal water temps is a classic case in point. While bleaching occurred, mortality was no where near as severe as you predicted.
I suspect if you tone down the rhetoric and hyperbole and get some predictions correct you may find the media more inclined to listen 
As to your claims of being a "humble" scientist-pull the other one mate, I believe it plays Narcissus.
My comments regarding failed predictions of coral mortality at Ningaloo were based on a dramatic prediction made by Ove in a post at his blog Climate Shifts titled Mass mortality of corals on West Australian reefs. The prediction was apparently made on May 6, 2011 (see screen shots below). There is an update on reef conditions at Ningaloo and based on this it seems that the predictions of coral mortality made by Ove are in error by a factor of 3! 

The updated information (not dated) reads:
UPDATE-2:  Looks like the Ningaloo reefs are likely to escape major mortality given they have remained just outside the main hot spot.  These reefs are likely to lose about 10% of their corals. Things still remain serious in this analysis for the Houtman Abrolhos Islands (well inside the hotspot – see map and Tyler’s comments).  We will have to wait for the results of the surveys to be completed and analysed.

Looking at the prediction as it reads today, and the update above,  it seems that while the coral mortality predictions were way off the mark, (Ove predicted coral mortality of 30%, the update suggest actual figures of 10%), Ove may have been correct about one part of his "prediction":  the effect of bleaching on the Houtman Abrolhos Islands. However when I downloaded the webpage containing this prediction in May this is how Ove's "Prediction" read:

PREDICTION: We will see large-scale mortality of reef-building corals (30% or more) and many other organisms on reefs from Exmouth to Shark Bay along the West Australian coastline (300 km or more).   This will occur over the next 1-3 months.  Reefs in this region will take more than 10 years to recover (see screen shot below).

Nothing about the Houtman Abrolhos Islands in this early version. Here's how the "Prediction" currently reads:

PREDICTION: We will see large-scale mortality of reef-building corals (30% or more) and many other organisms on reefs along parts of the West Australian coastline.  This will occur over the next 1-3 months.  Reefs in this region will take more than 10 years to recover. Coral reefs around the Houtman Abrolhos Islands look particularly vulnerable.

If only we could all change our predictions to match the facts! Ove is welcome to post an explanation.

To add to the insult at The CON, after my factually correct comment was removed by the editors, they let through this comment, without providing further explanation:
"It would seem our geologist friend who posted earlier this morning has deleted his comments." 

As indicated above my comment was removed by the editors. Seems the truth has been drowned, then cremated!

In his book Future Babble journalist Dan Gardner takes a critical look at expert predictions and the psychology that explains why people believe them even though they consistently fail. Based on the failed predictions at Ningaloo, and the apparent attempt to later change the prediction to match the outcome, it seems ABC's coral whisperer is in fact a coral babbler.

Here's what Ningaloo Atlas says about the bleaching event...(seems 10% will probably be incorrect as well)

Screen shots from Climate shifts,click to enlarge:
1. Downloaded May 18,2011

2. Downloaded today, August 30,2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Missing News: CERN vindicates Svensmark

There are a couple of climate science related papers in the most recent issue of Nature (Volume 476 Number 7361 pp371-482),.
One speculates on the relation between climate and civil conflicts (HERE), and the other presents experimental results that provide support to the notion put forward by Solar Physicist Henrik Svensmark that Cosmic rays play an important role in cloud formation (HERE) and hence affect global climate.

Which one will the ABC report on? I'm guessing the former will receive more favourable treatment than the later.
Update: My they are predictable! Nothing on the CERN results, but there's this article on the climate-conflict link...Study proves climate a trigger for conflict

UPDATE 2: ABC finally get on board...Mystery factor clouds climate science

Nigel Calder, a former New Scientist editor, provides a run down on the CERN result HERE.
Here's some coverage  from the Institute of Physics
"Svensmark welcomes the new results, claiming that they confirm research carried out by his own group, including a study published earlier this year showing how an electron beam enhanced production of clusters inside a cloud chamber. He acknowledges that the link between cosmic rays and cloud formation will not be proved until aerosols that are large enough to act as condensation surfaces are studied in the lab, but believes that his group has already found strong evidence for the link in the form of significant negative correlations between cloud cover and solar storms (which reduce atmospheric ionization). "Of course, there are many things to explore," he says, "but I think that the cosmic-ray/cloud-seeding hypothesis is converging with reality.""

UPDATE: Seems ABC's scare mongering affiliate "The Conversation" have got around to opening their latest copy of Nature. No guesses as to what they have reported on. See...The El NiƱo effect: how the weather makes wars

Monday, August 22, 2011

Comma butterfly

ABC Science goes gaga over reports Britain's Comma Butterfly has migrated about 220km over the last 20 years; from central England to Edinburgh, Scotland. Pity they, and the researchers responsible for the study, didn't bother to look at past reports of the migratory habits of this remarkable insect. If they had, they would have discovered that current movements are in fact, not unprecedented in recent history and the Comma Butterfly has previously been abundant in Scotland. Still, when your mandate calls for doom and gloom, I guess ignoring history  becomes mandatory. 

Here's some interesting reading from the Glasgow and SW Scotland Branch of Butterfly Conservation:

The Comma is known to have a very dynamic range in the UK. It was known in eastern Scotland in the early-19th century being found as far north as Fife and Alloa, Clackmannanshire in the east but it was absent in western Scotland. After 1850, the Comma was in decline with the last 19th century record being for Denholm, the Borders in 1868.

By the 1920s, the Comma's distribution in England had retreated to the west Midlands and then exapnded again in the 1930s reaching Lancashire & South Yorkshire by 1950; Durham by 1976. By 1995-1999, the Comma had reached the Scottish borders with a few scattered records in Dumfries & Galloway. Since then, the Comma has spread north and west into Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and the Lothians. The above photos were taken in a Motherwell garden in 2008.

ABC source the photo from "Butterfly Conversation" but fail to mention the Comma's habitat has previously included Scotland. ABC Science pick and choose the facts to suit their alarmist agenda. Something Richard Feynman would have described as: cargo cult science!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Change FOI to govern ABC

Former ABC board member Judith Sloan writes in today's Australian:

Their ABC is just ungovernable
"Short of some broad-based and hard-nosed external review and significant cuts to taxpayer funding of the organisation, it is hard to see how the ABC will fundamentally change -- and, of course, that suits the Friends of the ABC and other devotees just fine."
Follow the link to read the rest.

A simple method to make the ABC more accountable is to expose the organisation to the full force of FOI. The ABC currently enjoys wide ranging exemptions from FOI for "documents that relate to program material". The exemptions provide a means to shelter the ABC from public scrutiny. As we have found HERE this exemption is widely applied by the ABC to the detriment of the public's right to know. As FOI lawyer Peter Timmins documents in an article on his blog, titled FOI front in the News v ABC battle, ABC's use of the exemption has been extended to cover information relating to audience data and employee salaries. These subjects are not related to program content, but ABC has successfully argued the exemption still applies. It seems that as the ABC's role is "programming" it can argue virtually everything it does should be covered by the exemption.

ABC programming is paid for by tax payer's funds and should be as open to scrutiny and audit as much as the rest of government. Why is the ABC provided with a "chamber of secrets" in which to hide its dirty laundry?
I guess ABC's membership of the "Right to Know" coalition is for publicity purposes only.

UPDATE 19/8/2011 Letters page in today's Oz contains some comments on Judith's article (including ours) HERE.

Monday, August 15, 2011

mistaking weather for climate

Note the tags below this story on cold weather in NZ...
Climate change: now any weather event out of the ordinary.

Here are a few past climate change events to hit our eastern neighbours...


The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954) Monday 2 July 1934 p 9 Article

FIVE KILLED. In Terrific Blizzard. New Zealand Catastrophe AUCKLAND, January 20.

Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld. : 1885 - 1954) Tuesday 21 January 1930 p 6 Article


The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931) Wednesday 17 July 1912 p 10 Article

SNOW AND RAIN. Heavy Storm in New Zealand. WELLINGTON (N.Z.), Sunday.

The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) Monday 27 August 1934 p 10 Article

Terrible Blizzard STORM IN NEW ZEALAND SOUTHERN PORTION SWEPT HEAVY FALLS OF SNOW Wellington, July 1. [coming soon]

Geraldton Guardian and Express (WA : 1929 - 1947) Tuesday 3 July 1934 p 1 Article

Midsummer Freeze Hits New Zealand

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956) Monday 17 February 1947 p 3 Article

working on a solution

Seems ABC innovation are still working hard, battling those image problems on the ABC's environment news page...
We initially advised ABC of the issue on the 4th of April. According to those in the know..."ABC Innovation has advised that stories from across the ABC that are filed with no image are randomly assigned an image on the Environment portal from a pool of images. I understand relevant ABC Innovation staff are aware of the discordant match-ups that this system has produced and have been working on a solution. The examples published on your website have been brought to the attention of ABC Innovation management."

Friday, August 12, 2011

Before the ABC: When weather equals climate change

Earlier this month ABC reported on warmer than average August temperatures in South Australia and managed to drag the specter of global warming into the story.
Looking over a few past headlines from an era prior to the ABC at the National Library's newspaper archive, it seems they have confused the weather and the climate.

The Advertiser - 29 August 1928: A hot day, record August Temperatures.
Kalgoorlie Western Argus -15 August 1911: Hot Weather in Adelaide.
The Advertiser - 27 August 1914: Breaking Records, Exceptionally dry August

Before the ABC: an occasional snapshot of news in the days BABC

Claims left unchallenged

ABC provide this report that claims a study by the ACTU and the Australian Conservation Foundation has found strong action on climate change will lead to job growth on the New South Wales mid-north coast. 

At the end of the report Don Henry, Executive Director of the Australian Conservation Foundation, claims "But the bottom line is when you look at independent research, it shows, for example, for the mid-north coast, that we'll see strong job growth over the next 20 years and that makes sense because as you cut pollution and have a cleaner economy, it creates job opportunities."

This claim is left unchallenged by the ABC. Since when did a woeful report by the ACTU and ACF constitute "independent" research? To cap it off the "study" is actually old news based on a May 2010 study by the ACTU and ACF announced HERE

And somehow ABC regard this lack of inquiry and recycling of old news as journalism!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Media Watcher

Professor Bunyip casts an eye over Jonathan Holmes to do list. Perhaps some of these will be put to rest tonight?

Missing News: Arctic Sea Ice

According to a  BBC report: Scientists say current concerns over a tipping point in the disappearance of Arctic sea ice may be misplaced. See the rest of the story, missing from the ABC at the BBC. ABC's most recent report on Arctic Sea predictably promotes the opposite view: Arctic ice melting fast.