Friday, December 26, 2014

Annals of Derp: Global whacking

John Shortt-Smith, Storm Blowing up over Edeowie.
Storm blowing up! House troll duffandnonsense in comments over at No More Mister Nice Blog has been touting a climate-science scandal that "eclipses even the so-called climategate event" according to its discoverer, a somewhat long-in-the-tooth graduate student (he got his BS in Plant and Soil Science in 1980) working on a PhD at the University of New Mexico, Mike Wallace, who is accusing Dr. Richard A. Feely of the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) of fraud.

Though not, as far as I can tell, at his own website; he's leaving that to the experts at American Thinker and the Arizona Daily Independent and WattsUpWithThat, and Marita Noon at the climate change denial website CFACT.

Feely, it seems, is responsible for the following graph, purporting to illustrate the increasing acidification of the oceans in tandem with an increase in atmospheric CO2 levels, referenced a couple of weeks ago at the San Francisco PBS affiliate science website Quest:

Why, these inquiring minds want to know, does the measurement of oceanic CO2 and pH on this chart start only with 1988? (Note that Noon, in the screenshot below, is apparently unconsciously using the wrong picture, and judge her seriousness accordingly.)

Well, I'd say it's probably because 1988 is when they started measuring it at the Aloha Station, one of the four long-term time series observatories operated by the US Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (JGOFS) and the first to get going. The graph says they're measurements from Aloha Station! They couldn't have gotten the data before they had taken any observations.

While there are earlier data on ocean acidification, going back to 1910 or so and available online from the NOAA, they do not come from long-term time series observations done under controlled conditions at consistent locations, and if Michael Wallace (who claims to have found that there has been no oceanic acidification at all over the past century) thinks he can somehow turn these millions of observations taken from essentially random stations into one global time series, well, he's not explaining his methodology clearly enough for me. Or at all. I'm pretty sure he found garbarge.

Wallace's table of oceanic pH values from 1910 through 2010. You can pretty much see the randomness of the data through at least 1970 and their coherence in the fairly steady decline in pH = increasing acidity from around 1990 onwards, when the collection process became systematic.
Sabine, Feely et al. 2004 modeled the time scale of acidification, on the other hand, by comparing the amounts of dissolved inorganic carbon in the ocean water at different depths in a very large-scale survey, in what seems to me an entirely transparent methodology, to arrive at the following very loose curve in a brief published online in 2006:

This one was apparently upsetting to Michael Wallace, according to Mr. WattsUp:
Wallace sent Bard an email: “I’m looking in fact for the source references for the red curve in their plot which was labeled ‘Historical & Projected pH & Dissolved Co2.’ This plot is at the top of the second page. It covers the period of my interest.” Bard responded and suggested that Wallace communicate with Feely and Sabine—which he did over a period of several months. Wallace asked again for the “time series data (NOT MODELING) of ocean pH for 20th century.” Sabine responded by saying that it was inappropriate for Wallace to question their “motives or quality of our science,” adding that if he continued in this manner, “you will not last long in your career.”
I don't know, if I were Sabine, I probably would have said something like, "There is no time series data before 1988," and pointed him to the 2004 paper explaining the modeling technique (I found it in the bibliography that comes with the chart in the 2006 brief), but it probably wouldn't have done any good. The red curve mirrors the blue curve because that's what acidification is: more dissolved carbon equals lower pH.

Wallace tried FOIA-ing the NOAA for the missing "time series data"; he
received no reply, but the FOIA was closed in July 2013 with a “no document found” response.
Interestingly, in this same general timeframe, NOAA reissued its World Ocean Database. Wallace was then able to extract the instrumental records he sought and turned the GEPH data into a meaningful time series chart, which reveals that the oceans are not acidifying. (For another day, Wallace found that the levels coincide with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.) As Wallace emphasized: “there is no global acidification trend.”
It's not that interestingly (code for "because they're so afraid of Cand. Doc. Wallace"), they've been releasing updates of the World Ocean Database at five-year intervals since 2001. They closed the FOIA because there were no documents corresponding to his wacky request, and they released the WOD because they always do. It's probably in the contract.  And you can't, for the last time, create a "time series chart", meaningful or otherwise, unless you have time series data. This case is already as senseless as the "hockey stick controversy" clearly became over the 12 years during which denialists kept flogging it. It's just the rightwing noise machine, pumped up with petrodollars and braying its eternal song.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

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