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Lubos and a few misconceptions

In typical style skeptics love to criticize, it is our strength. Sadly, diplomacy, manners, courtesy — burned at the door on a moment’s notice. Sigh. After five years in this debate you’d think I’d know not to expect respect or goodwill from every fellow skeptic. Call me naive, I don’t expect them to agree with me, just to be polite.  If someone asks you for a review before they publish, would you congratulate them privately, ask questions, ignore the answers, ignore large parts of the paper, then later post those misunderstood points, without so much as a courtesy check first? Yes, I’m baffled too.

Hey Lubos, no hard feelings, but next time let us save you from posting unnecessary innuendo, irrelevant criticisms, and not-so-informed commentary. It only takes an email.

I groan. In a highly gregarious species, where power is clawed through high-order political games, schmoozing and collaboration, some skeptics still wonder why people who are bad with numbers but good with people, control the institutions, the publications and big budgets. The mystery of it all!

Anyhow, because it is out there (or was, I’ve reproduced it here)* and is being discussed, obviously we need to correct the errors. Lubos says he spent hours reading the paper but he doesn’t seem to be aware of several of the major points (hey, it’s a very long paper). Unfortunately, because Lubos thought we were suggesting something we weren’t, he concludes it’s all unlikely and bases quite a bit of his reasoning on this misconception. Here’s Lubos saying largely what we’ve said, but he thinks he’s explaining something new:

“Natural mechanisms on Earth just won’t produce a response function that happens to vanish exactly for the 11-year periodicity!”

We explained in this public post, the big paper, the FAQ, the small summary, and David wrote in personal email answers to him (April 11th), that we don’t think the delay and notching occurs on Earth. It doesn’t seem at all likely that the actual solar rays would take 8 minutes to arrive on Earth, then wait 11 years to warm the planet. The 11 year delayed effect is very odd – dare I say “mysterious?” (Perhaps I better not, lest it’s seen as “demagogy”, eh?)

Obviously the place to look for the notch and delay is on the Sun, where internal dynamics could easily produce an 11 year cycle, so easily, it already has. I don’t think Lubos realizes we are suggesting that the 11 year delay may have something to do with the timing of the 11 year solar magnetic flips? Perhaps it’s a coincidence the notching happens at the same time the sun’s magnetic field collapses and it flips its north and south pole. Perhaps it isn’t.  Surely it’s an idea worth raising?

Again, I am ready to believe that the Sun has a significant impact on the Earth’s climate. But it must be either something else than the TSI, or the effect must be such that all the wiggles shorter than 20 years or so must be universally suppressed.

The argument that it is “due” to TSI, and “it’s not a mechanism on Earth” are both strawman: “it must be something else than TSI” he says — well yes, exactly. We go out of our way to say TSI is “associated with” with temperature, but does not “cause” temperature.

As for the “wiggles”, the evidence shows that all the wiggles shorter than 20 years are not equally suppressed. That is the point. Lubos is  mixing up a low pass filter with the notch. The data most definitely does not suggest a low pass filter with a 20 year break point. (If it did, the lines in the graph Lubos reposted twice would be flat lines to 20 years, then bend down with a 45 degree decline to zero from there in the shorter frequencies.) The low pass filter appears weakly with about a 5 year break point. The low pass filter is a non-controversial idea — I don’t think many people would suggest that the Earth doesn’t smooth out the sun’s effects over at least a few years.

How about some manners?

For the sake of helping the skeptic world polish up on it’s key weakness, it’s time to discuss the forgotten topic of manners and communication. They matter in science. The truth may come out eventually anyway, but bad communication makes it slower, and bad manners risks burning off the independent valuable pool of volunteers who are providing a foil for the monopolistic bureaucratic influences of science. Strategically, it’s a win for skeptics to hold the torch on other skeptics, but a failure for them to waste time doing it on inaccurate and irrelevant points.

After five years of doing my genuine damnedest to improve science and advance human knowledge one tiny sliver at a time, I’m accustomed to being accused of blind faith or shallow marketing, but not from people who I thought shared the same goals.

Hence yes, lines like these (based on zero evidence) are disappointing. False motivations? Imputed intentions? Baseless accusations? We can do better.

There are climate skeptics who will endorse any claim or idea that goes against the “consensus”.

Obviously this does not apply (sometime I disagree with skeptics, sometimes I agree with the IPCC). Why say it?

David’s goal is to claim that the whole evolution of the global mean temperature – or a big portion of it, to say the least – and especially the 20th century global warming and its various intense episodes may be due to the Sun.

David’s goal is to learn more about what drives the climate, not to make false claims. Twice he dropped this project because the data didn’t seem to support the theory that there was a low pass filter (he went looking for the low pass filter, but eventually realized there was a notch obscuring it and the notch was the big deal). It’s what a scientist does. Let’s rise above the cheap shots.  We don’t need pop psychoanalysis based on bad guesses.

I think that many of you will agree that the marketing point used as the title on Jo’s blog

For the first time – a mysterious notch filter found in the climate

is pure demagogy.

So when is it accurate science communication, and when is it “marketing” for an undescribed purpose? No one knew what might drive the notch, (or even that a notch existed) so mysterious seems pretty accurate, likewise, no one has described it before — looks like a first.

C’mon Lubos. Haven’t the footsoldiers in this David and Goliath battle at least earned the right to basic respect (and the right of reply) instead of half-baked, clumsy character slurs? Are they people and researchers or  just dumb bloggers…


Correcting Lubos’ Errors

Dr David Evans, 19 June 2014, David Evans’ Notch-Delay Solar Theory and Model Home

Here we correct several errors of fact or misleading impressions about the notch-delay theory made by Lubos.

1. Changes in TSI Did Not Cause the Recent Global Warming

Lubos says “David’s goal is to claim that” … “a big portion of” the “evolution of the global mean temperature”, “especially the 20th century global warming”, may be “due to” TSI. This is incorrect.

We have explicitly stated what our aim is, and that the recent global warming is NOT principally “due to” TSI. To repeat:

2. Transfer functions are always output divided by input, in the frequency domain

After needlessly introducing complications such as convolution and integrals, and performing some handwavy and essentially correct math, Lubos says, as if he had uncovered something:  “This frequency-based Evans response function is simply the ratio of the Fourier-transformed global mean temperature and the Fourier-transformed solar output!”   (By “response function” he means “transfer function”.)

That definition of a transfer function is not only standard, it is explicitly stated from first principles in the Part II: “A transfer function tells how a sinusoid in the input is transferred through the system to the output. We are only concerned with amplitudes (that is, not phases), so its value at a given frequency is simply the output amplitude at that frequency divided by the input amplitude at that frequency. Dividing the orange line in Figure 4 by the orange line in Figure 2, we arrive at the empirical transfer function shown in Figure 5.”

 3. There is no peak at 11 years in the temperature spectrum (i.e. there is a notch)

Lubos writes “What the near-vanishing of R~(f) for 1/f close to 11 years really means is that … the 11-year cycle isn’t present in the temperature data.

Just caught on Lubos? The main point in the first substantive post is that the temperature record does not contain detectable temperature peaks at 11 years, which would corresponding to the peaks of TSI every 11 years. This is unexpected, and is the discovery. Under the heading “Spot the big clue. There is no peak at 11 years!” we said “The TSI peaks every 11 years or so, yet there is no detected corresponding peak in the temperature, even using our new low noise optimal Fourier transform!”

4. The notch is the starting clue

Lubos says about the absence of an 11 year peak in the temperature datasets: “This is a problem – potentially a huge problem – for any theory that tries to present the solar output as the primary driver even at the decadal scale and faster scales. … It makes the solar theory of the climate much less likely, not more likely. Suggesting otherwise is a case of demagogy.”

Not at all. It is the vital clue that leads us to the delay (which is corroborated at least in part by several studies), and then to the conclusion that an indirect solar force that is not TSI is potentially responsible for most of the recent global warming. This is unfolding in the blog posts already posted, and was available to Lubos in the main paper.

5. Notching originates on the Sun, caused by the synchronicity between two solar forces

Joanne has mentioned that Lubos is attacking a strawman with his arguments about “natural mechanisms on Earth”. This is a major point. We said as much so in the post on interpreting the notch and delay: “As far as we know there is nothing on Earth with a memory spanning multiple years. But there is one climate actor with an 11 year clock—the Sun.” We then proposed force X, which like TSI originates in the Sun, and showed the peaks in TSI every 11 years (on average) always exactly coincide with troughs in force X, which we propose as the notching mechanism.

Curiously, in one of his emails to me Lubos asked about exactly these “unnatural” mechanisms on Earth: “Concerning the unnaturalness, are you religious – what I really mean, do you believe in Intelligent Design?” (10 April). I replied (11 April) “No, I don’t believe in Intelligent design, but in logic, data, and reading carefully 🙂  … The 11 year timing (or more likely, the solar cycle length) almost certainly originates in the sun, presumably as two signals given off by different parts of the sun and 180 degrees out of phase. See Fig. 31. Force X lags TSI by 180 degrees of the 22-year Hale cycle, presumably. Hence the timing and the notching.”

6. The predictions are due to the delay

Prediction due to ringing? No, force X lags TSI by 11 years, so knowing what the TSI did we can predict what force X will do several years in advance—not Fourier analysis, just physical principles. From the post on the physical interpretation of the notch and delay: “Because TSI indicates what force X will do in about 11 years, the TSI record is also a record of future force X.


It was the world’s sloppiest reading job. I asked for feedback when I first emailed it to him (“I’d really appreciate some feedback, especially if you disagree with or are uncomfortable with some aspects.”). But instead of sorting this out by email, he goes silent then writes a careless blog post that misrepresents the model. Unhelpful.


*Lubos took the post down. I told him that was unnecessary, I asked him to repost it. I’m reposting it here.

PS: Sadly Lubos has not coped well with this post. He refuses to correct his obvious mistakes, or quote me directly.  My emails to him were polite and logical (read them in full here). I’ve asked him for an apology. Credit to him for publishing my comment on his blog. I remain baffled otherwise.


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