Monday, March 9, 2015

Proving the Negative

One of the most common complaints deniers made about my global warming skeptic challenge was "you cannot prove a negative" as an excuse for why they were unable to prove manmade global warming wasn't real. This, I told them, was a false statement. In fact, all experiments are designed to prove the negative. It's called the null hypothesis. The most common example I gave of proving the negative consisted of my saying the door is locked. If you were to try the door and find it is unlocked, you have proven the negative. I could come up with countless other examples (the Sun is in the backyard, cats are actually dogs, there is a gold coin under a given rock, deniers accept science, etc.), but that one works.

I was reminded of this when I saw an article from the National Science Foundation: Techniques to prove or disprove existence of other planets. Surely, that is just a title. They don't really mean they are proving a negative. Do they?

To the dismay of deniers everywhere - yes, they do mean that. The article is about how habitable planets had been identified around a particular star, Gliese 581, but new technology and methods proved the planets did not exist - "it was disappointing to disprove the habitable zone planets in the Gliese 581 system."

So, if you ever have someone say to you, "You can't prove a negative," be sure to tell them they are wrong and you can prove it. Isn't that actually proving a negative in itself?

23 comments:

  1. Constant GardenerMarch 9, 2015 at 1:19 PM

    I haven't worn an overcoat here in Phoenix in years, even before the RRR started showing up. But since that high-pressure ridge has appeared, it's been unreal. This year we had five nights with freezing temperatures. Last year, we had none. It's been so warm, for so long, that mosquitoes have been back for weeks.

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  2. I tried to follow the US East Coast winter. I didn't see any record cold, just lots of windchill and snow. The ocean temps off Boston seem high.

    But the west coast - simply incredible. Some of heat can be explained by the drought perhaps.

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  3. The drought is certainly having an effect on the temperatures. Without moisture in the ground there is less evaporative cooling.

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  4. The ways that deniers exploit any minor anomaly by using cherry picked data, is truly insidious, but I think we need to also give some attention to the bizarre scenarios and fictitious stories used to justify a supposed government plot.


    Thanks for pointing out that the fact that so many scientists in different countries around the world all support the facts about human caused global warming. A conspiracy that vast would truly require suspending all reason to believe. And the fact that all major scientific organizations around the world concur with what is happening, truly places this issue in true perspective.


    Even though, most of the climate projections from the 1970s have been proven to be quite accurate, if the people behind the plot back then were to be proven accurate, we can only assume that dumb luck has smiled on them by actually providing the weather extremes that we are now seeing throughout the world, and since most of the original climate scientists must now be of advanced ages, they bought into an enormous diabolical plot that would probably only benefit their grandchildren on the basis of making incredible lucky guesses. Unless they took a time machine to the post 2000 world, they would have had no way to verify that their supposedly false projections would come true--as many have.


    The whole government conspiracy assumes that without government grants, most climate scientists would have no way of making money, but since when is it true that scientific research only examines one particular issue--even if it had long ago been proven that global warming was false, I'll wager that scientists would still have their hands full of various forms of climate research involving other aspects of climate, or would be doing research in entirely different fields. Besides how many times have we seen a research scientist in any walk of life, living a rich and opulent lifestyle? The plot would also, certainly not be a partisan one either, since many Republicans and even several Republican President have been in power since climate change became the subject of much research, so why would the GW Bush's administration for example, not try to work with researchers to change their story. GW is largely responsible for ignoring the Kyoto agreement, and as an oil rich millionaire has no reason to want to place a burden on big oil such as reducing their C02 emissions. Did you hear about any massive numbers of scientists taking Bush's 8 years as a opportunity to declare their freedom and renounce cruel liberal taskmasters--I didn't! But if this falsehood becomes important enough for them to deny, I'm sure that deniers will create some other fantastic spin to justify the existence of such an incredible plot.


    What is the most perplexing thing of all, is why average Americans who are not very familiar with scientific knowledge of any kind, are so willing to take the words of laymen and political opportunists who are often employed by conservative think tanks and/or big oil? Everyone knows that if we want our kidney stones removed we should consult an accredited surgeon, but deniers have successfully circulated the idea that somehow those employed by big oil and those funded by organizations which benefit from denial, are more qualified to edify us, even if they have far more motives and special interest backing to justify their lies than any typical research scientist. The day this myth is shattered and really hits home, we may be on the way to a world in which average people are aware of the truth--hopefully sooner than later!

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  5. I liked this comment so much I made it into a guest submission. Let me know if you object to that.

    http://dialoguesonglobalwarming.blogspot.com/2015/03/guest-submission-fictitious-government.html

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  6. The GISS Surface Temperature Analysis site with interactive temperature maps clearly shows a moderate El Nino situation for J-D 2014, which explains the warmth in the West, and the reason for 2014's "record" high temperature. Compare it with the 2013 J-D map, and those for the strong El Nino years of 1997-1998..

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  7. I have no objections if anyone wants to use the basic drift of my comments in any kind of submission to a reputable scientific website, or, wants to elaborate on my ideas by adding more pertinent information themselves. Be my guest, your knowledge of the science is probably far superior to mine, and I would welcome any expertise from someone who likely know much more than myself---especially if their submission results in the spread of factual knowledge that edifies and informs the public.

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  8. Sorry, there was no El Nino present in the fall of 2014. Plus, that claim is simply not in agreement with the data. Please keep in mind the record high heat in California did not start in the fall of 2014, it has been going on for years and getting progressively worse. Then, of course, there is the rest of the world and the rest of the record for the last 40 years to contend with.

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  9. I just like the idea of people hearing it from someone in addition to myself.

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  10. If they read it in the comments about this article, they will have heard an argument from me. However, I don't have a degree in Climate scinece, and although I did well in the High school and college math and science courses that I took, I think someone with a better background can lend more veracity to my opinions. In a nutshell, my opinions are that, if we want to consider the truth and credibility of any claim, we should first question what would also would need to be true, or to happen, if such a claim were actually true. Thus for example, a time machine to the future in order to ensure that projections made in the 70s and 80s would actually happen and validate such a nefarious plot---without that, continuing conventional climate patterns would stop any supposed conspirators in their tracks.

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  11. Thanks Christopher,


    I thought you wanted to publish your own submission and would only include some of the observations I made. It was surprising to see it published word for word, as a new submission with my own name listed as the author.


    Pretty Awesome!

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  12. I have also heard that El Nino, or (La nina ?), is in part responsible for weakening the Jet Stream's ability to hold back cold arctic temperatures. Does this also have to do with the simple fact that cold air sinks and warm air rises? That would mean that extremely high temperatures in southern regions would create less dense air, and that the denser, colder air from the North would tend to penetrate further south and initiate a polar vortex. Please tell me if any of this is accurate.


    I also live in a region which has had many long cold snaps and low temperatures during this winter, but as you said, I can remember colder days 30 or 40 years ago, that trump this years temperatures easily--the current cold has just happened more frequently in 2014-15's winter.


    I also cannot understand how deniers can continually float the idea that cold temps in America indicate that no global warming exists? Whenever I write letters to the local opinion pages I emphasis that global warming is just that---GLOBAL warming and that the US actually represents a very small percentage of the worlds surface. And the fact that our oceans have been absorbing heat much more than in the past is a useful thing to mention also.


    Thanks for the information about the 15,000 record highs and 10,000 record lows in 2014. Numbers like this will certainly make some who are undecided think twice, especially if I also point out that climate scientists have actually projected increasing weather extremes, not just that every place in the world is expected to keep warming (or cooling) simultaneously.

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  13. You're on the right track. Remember the tropics are not 'down' from the poles, though. The polar vortex is a mass of cold air that forms over the Arctic Ocean. The jet stream works to keep mass in place. A strong jet stream is pretty straight, but a weak jet stream begins to meander and that allows the cold air mass to move. The strength of the jet stream is dependent on the relative temperature difference between the Arctic and the lower latitudes. If the difference is great there is a strong jet stream. If the temperature difference gets smaller, the jet stream will get weaker. This creates a situation that compounds itself. If there is a large temperature difference the jet stream will be strong and the air mass will stay in place, maintaining a large temperature difference. If the temperature difference begins to get smaller, the jet stream will weaken, allowing the cold air mass to move southwards and make the temperature difference even smaller.

    So, as the average temperature in the Arctic region goes up (and, the Arctic is the region of the planet that is experiencing the greatest amount of temperature increase), the conditions for severe winter storms will also go up.

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  14. Thanks that all makes sense, and so the cold temps in my region, happened because the Jet stream was able to move further south after less temperature differences between the arctic and lower latitudes weakened it. And I said, although we had many days of this cold, it did not rival what I remember as the most extremely cold temps during the 1960s. There were several days during this time, when temps plunged to -40 Fahrenheit, and this winter -20 seemed to be as low as temperatures reached. We also did not figure in wind chill effects like we do today.

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  15. I live in a small town near the Western tip of Lake Superior. Twenty below is quite common now, but as I said, in the days of my youth it was not uncommon for us to reach temperatures of forty below, and during most winters, at least thirty below---but that was more than forty years ago.

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  16. You apparantly did not review the GISS Surface temperature analysis maps for year 2014, especially for Oct, Nov, Dec. They show warming that meets the criteria for an El Nino: +5 deg. or higher anomaly in the El Nino 3.4 region (5 deg N.- 5 deg S, 120 deg - 170 deg. W . It is continuing into 2015 (see the Jan 2015 map).


    You might want to plot the annual mean Jan-Dec global temperatures from NASA's "Global Land-Ocean Temperature Index". The peaks and valleys along the upward temperature trend line correlate very well with El Ninos, La Ninas, and volcanic eruptions. They need to be considered when making any judgment about any year's temperature change.

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  17. I don't know why you would assume something you have no possible knowledge. I have, in fact, been following the ocean temperatures on a daily basis for years. The problem with your conclusion is you only included the ocean surface temperature in your assessment. ENSO is much more complicated than that and includes the sub-surface temperature, winds and ocean-atmosphere interaction. The experts in this field did not find the conditions for El Nino existed until their February assessment.

    In your comment of March 10 you referred to oceans temps of "J-D". I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you meant "July - December" instead of "January - December." You can go to the Climate Prediction Center and see the archive of their findings for last fall.

    Oct 2014:
    "Collectively, these oceanic and
    atmospheric anomalies reflect a continuation of ENSO-neutral conditions."

    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/CDB/CDB_Archive_html/bulletin_102014/Tropics/tropics.shtml

    Nov 2014:
    "Collectively, these oceanic
    and atmospheric anomalies reflect a continuation of ENSO-neutral conditions."

    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/CDB/CDB_Archive_html/bulletin_112014/Tropics/tropics.shtml

    Dec 2014:
    "Collectively, these oceanic
    and atmospheric anomalies reflect a continuation of ENSO-neutral conditions."

    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/CDB/CDB_Archive_html/bulletin_122014/Tropics/tropics.shtml

    I am also at a loss to understand why you would think ENSO and volcanic eruptions are not included in calculations. These are significant events, especially ENSO, and have a major impact on the world's weather and climate.

    Incidentally, where do you think all of that energy involved in an ENSO event comes from?

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  18. While -20 is certainly cold, it's a lot warmer than -40. I have heard many stories like yours. Checking the literature reveals even more. Chesapeake Bay used to freeze over. When I was stationed in Norfolk, VA in the late 1970s we would see icebreakers going up the bay to keep it open. I personally saw icebergs floating in the bay. Historical records show the bay used to freeze over solid and people could walk across it. Today, there is no ice at all on the bay in the winter.

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  19. Yes I agree!

    Twenty below is plenty cold but not like the lows we used to have several decades ago. And, just recently our weather in Northern Wisconsin has take an unseasonably warm turn. We went suddenly from freezing cold to record setting warmth in the space of a few days, and although because we live right next to the lake, which often cools us off, just a little ways south we recently had a 65 degree day! This may not seem impressive to many, but it was a record high for this area. And, although that record high didn't last, many places near here, continue receiving temperatures above normal--not record setters, but clearly above normal. This is all pretty sobering since those of us who have been following environmental issues over the decades, know that if anything, global warming will create weather extremes, rather than just all highs or all lows.

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  20. J-D of course means Jan-Dec.


    I based my conclusions on examination of the GISS Surface Temperature Analysis Global maps, comparing maps of years with known El Ninos with those of June, July, August, Sept., Oct, Nov, Dec, 2014, and the same pattern was absolutely present in 2014 in the" El Nino" area, as you can see if you take the time to examine the maps.


    It is a complete mystery to me as to why the "experts" could not confirm an El Nino until February, when the evidence was plain to see during most of 2014.


    To claim that there was no El Nino in 2014 appears to be an effort to blame 2014's "record" temperature on other than a natural cause.



    You ask "where do you think all of that energy involved in an ENSO event comes from"


    My answer would be that it is due to the increased insolation caused by the removal of dimming anthropogenic SO2 aerosols from the atmosphere--but you already knew that.

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  21. You are always so funny. There is no correlation for your claims, but you keep trying your best to stretch reality. Wouldn't it just be easier to accept the fact that the scientists know what they're doing?

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