More on Antarctica and “Consistent With”

January 24th, 2009

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Eric Steig, lead author of the recent study showing warming in Antarctica, has taken issue in the comments of the original thread with my assertion that one of his co-authors, Drew Shindell, said that the models are “consistent with” the data, writing:

By the way, I cannot help but point out that Roger was obviously poised to make this point of apparent contradiction. Yet he actually failed in this case to find a good example to fit his preconceptions. The quote from Drew Shindell doesn’t actually refer to the models, and whether they are consistent with the data, at all.

So that there is absolutely no ambiguity, here is yet another quote from Shindell, explaining the significance of their findings in a way that leaves no room for parsing:

They’re really consistent with the general warming that we get from greenhouse gases. So we now see that warming is taking place on all seven of the Earth’s continents in accord with what models predict as a response to greenhouse gases.

You can read more on the “consistent with” chronicles and why they matter in this op-ed I wrote past year.

20 Responses to “More on Antarctica and “Consistent With””

  1. lucia Says:

    “In accord with”: The new “consistent with”.

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  3. EDaniel Says:

    I’m not so sure.

    It depends on how tight they want to parse. My thesaurus doesn’t list ‘in accord with’ under ‘consistent’.

    Maybe it’s a whole new concept; somewhere between ‘consistent with’ and ‘inconsistent with’.

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  5. Brian G Valentine Says:

    This sounds to me like the response of a criminal caught in a contradiction within his alibi.

    “Yes. I was there. Yes. That’s consistent with what I told you before, when I said I wasn’t there. Yes. I was there, and I wasn’t there before. Yes.”

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  7. Brian Rookard Says:

    Roger, at the link you provided Eric Steig also says this …

    “ERIC STEIG: And what we have found, in a nutshell, is that Antarctica is not cooling. Now, some parts of it have been cooling, but only since late 1970s and only in certain seasons, primarily in autumn.”

    Now, I thought we had to by the annual averages … and not break it down into seasons. Don’t the annual averages have “meaning” according to the modelers?

    I say this because I live in Detroit, and I looked at the GISS data for the Detroit station. And when I looked at the data for Detroit you will see that the warmest month (July) has the smallest variation, and appears to show no major warming trend. On the other hand, when you look at the winter months, you see the greatest variations in monthly average temperature and it appears (to my eyeball) that winter is where the warming is occuring (and which is having the greatest effect on the yearly average for Detroit (in short, as winter goes, so goes the yearly average – so to speak).

    I checked other random stations in the Northern Hemisphere – and of course, it seems that the winter months have the greatest effects on the yearly averages.

    So, if the logic of Steig is to be applied – can we look at the data and say that the greatest warming is occuring

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  9. Brian Rookard Says:

    continuing my prior comment where I accidentally hit enter …

    So, if the logic of Steig is to be applied – can we look at the data and say that the greatest warming is occuring during the winter months, with no major increases in the summer months. Can we break it down to see when the warming is occuring (during which season). That’s what they did.

    Are there any studies which attempt to break the “global warming” to see if we’re just experiencing warmer winters … but really no major increase in the hotter summer months?

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  11. lucia Says:

    The Free Online Dictionary defines accord in two ways:

    1. to grant: she was at last accorded her true status
    2. accord with to fit in with or be consistent with [Latin ad- to + cor heart]

    The first would not apply with the usages in the statement Roger quoted. The second would. So, “accord with” ~ “consistent with”, at least according to this particular dictionary. (It’s the first I found. I haven’t checked others.)

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  13. tarpon Says:

    So what does a tenth of a degree mean when it’s 50 below?

    And how does back-filled interpolated data become consistent with measured data. How does statistics become consistent with real measured data.

    And how do computer models become consistent with real science? Especially if you are unwilling to demonstrate those very same models accuracy and abilities to predict the past?

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  15. Sylvain Says:

    This is in line with a local meteorologist who in the winter 2006-2007 blame the lack of snow on GW and that it was to be more frequent.

    In 2007-2008 the same meteorologist blame the heavy snowfall on GW and that heavy snowfall were to be more frequent.

    Isn’t Gw more of the same, I mean extreme variability of weather?

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  17. jae Says:

    The Spin Doctors got caught, again. They don’t know their stethoscope from their proctoscope.

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  19. Climate Research News » Some Reactions to Antarctic ‘Warming’ Study Says:

    [...] More on Antarctica and “Consistent With” [...]

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  21. MattN Says:

    So. Do the models predict warming in Antarctica, or do they predict cooling? Because they were either wrong a year ago, or they are wrong now. Pick one please….

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  23. Chris Schoneveld Says:

    “in accord with” could be interpreted as being “consistent with” the meaning of the following expressions:

    “in accordance with”, “in agreement with”, “consistent with”, “in assent with”, “in congruence with”, “in harmony with”, “in concert with”, “in sympathy with”, “in conformity with”.

    Obviously the same phraseology could be used for any other mechanism that causes warming of the atmosphere. It is not exclusively proving a man-made cause.

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  25. eric.steig Says:

    Fans of Roger Piekle, Jr.:

    Look at Figure 3.7, bottom panel, of the 2007 IPCC report, here:

    It obviously shows warming on average over Antarctic since the late 1950s. There is a relatively flat trend (not cooling) since the 1970s. This flattening is thought to be due to ozone depletion. The only difference between my paper and IPCC figure is that the IPCC summary figure includes no data from West Antarctica. What we show is that when you include West Antarctica, the flattening-out largely disappears in the continent-wide average.

    Even in our results — which show more average warming than the IPCC summary does — the average trend is much less than seen in the Arctic. That is what models have always shown should happen (less warming in the Antarctic than in the Arctic).

    There’s more to it of course, and if our attempts at RealClimate, to explain the more subtle aspects of this have failed, due to inadequate precision of writing, I’m sorry. Perhaps you should turn to the primary literature instead.

    I’m off to Antarctica next week, so further discussion of this with me — if anyone is actually interested in a constructive conversation — will have to wait until Spring.

    Eric Steig

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  27. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:


    My view is that when the author of a paper loudly calls out the “skeptics” via press release and through the media (as Michael Mann did) upon a paper’s publication, you are going to get exactly the sort of reaction that your paper has. What else did you expect?

    As far as the “consistent with” chronicles, maybe next time instead of silently cringing when you read something on your own blog that is imprecise or incorrect, you’ll simply correct it and move on. The Climate Science Infallibility complex is something that this community could certainly do without.

    Anyway, thanks for participating in the discussion, and I wish you a safe and productive trip!

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  29. lucia Says:

    I think Eric isn’t getting the point. The issue is not whether Eric is correct about the temperature trend in Antarctica. The issue is whether Spencer Weart’s Feb 2008 write up at RC gave readers an entirely different impression about what scientists believed or knew about temperatures about Antarctica and what models predicted.

    Spencer Weart’s article gave people the impression that Antarctica was getting colder, and that the models had predicted this for decades. The defense of Weart’s article on another thread was that he never actually said Antarctica was getting colder. Similar defenses are appearing at RC, and Weart posted something at CA.

    The difficulty is that Weart’s article was structured in a way that was “accurate but not true”.

    This sort of thing is done in politics all the time. An incident involving John Edwards discussed by Deborah Howell Washington Post.

    From what I see from time to time, RC uses the “Accurate but not true” tactic to create a false impression about consistency between models and data. The problem is not Eric or his current findings. The problem is the “accurate but not true” Weart article.

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  31. eric.steig Says:


    You know I often agree with you on your general take on how one reports science.
    That’s why I continue to engage with you — in spite of what I increasingly see as your extremely misleading ways of representing things. Regarding the press releases — they were a lot worse as originally written. You’d be surprised how little control an author has over his own press releases — it is the University, Nature, NASA that put these out. It was very hard to get rid of the “cooling vs. warming” meme.

    As for my correcting the not-precise-enough language in Weart’s post, let me reiterate: I didn’t see anything to correct. I cringed because I thought it might get misused by people like you. I just didn’t anticipate how much it would get misused. That’s my point. Don’t blame RC for your mis-use of what we write. You ought to know things are more complex, yet you paint them as simple to try to score points. You’re very good at that. But scoring points isn’t how one makes progress.

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  33. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:


    The specific comments from Mann I was referring are ones like these, which I think can’t be blamed on the press release process:

    ” Outside of these impacts, the study also take away “one of the standard talking points of [global warming] contrarians,” Mann said. The argument used by skeptics was “how can the globe be warming if a whole continent is cooling,” Mann explained.

    Mann said that this argument was “disingenuous” to begin with because the cooling caused by ozone depletion was reproduced by climate models, but the new study soundly routs contrarian claims, he said. ”

    Surely you recognize that this sort of triumphal chest thumping is going to get some animated responses, especially from anonymous commenters in the blogosphere.

    More importantly, if you thought that Weart’s comments might get misused, then you must have read them as being imprecise (at best) or misleading (at worst). Maybe you didn’t think it mattered much at the time. Fair enough. However, I have re-read the Weart post several times, and I still see it as saying that the skeptics are wrong because Antarctica is behaving exacting as projected by the models. I am pretty sure that he did not write that post to explain to your readers that Antarctica is a cold place.

    Since you are familiar with my work, you know that I have been focused on predictions, models and their evaluation for more than 15 years, and I have focused a great deal on public claims made by climate scientists about the consistency of observations and model predictions. In this context, if you think that my juxtapositioning of Weart’s comments with those by Shindell and Mann is a mistake, then you can certainly have a forum here to say so.

    Like you, I think that there is a lot of value in hearing from climate scientists what observable phenomena over a period of, say, a decade would be inconsistent with model predictions. I’ve yet to hear an intelligent answer to this question. So I’ll keep pursuing it.

    Stay warm, I hear Antarctica is cold!! ;-)

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  35. EDaniel Says:

    Eric Steig at, said:

    “Regarding the press releases — they were a lot worse as originally written. You’d be surprised how little control an author has over his own press releases — it is the University, Nature, NASA that put these out.”

    When did PR become a part of science?

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  37. Mark Bahner Says:

    “I am pretty sure that he did not write that post to explain to your readers that Antarctica is a cold place.”

    I’m pretty sure Spencer Weart wrote the post to attempt to portray “skeptics” as fools, to Real Climate’s readers. (Talk about preaching to the choir!) (And the religious reference isn’t unintentional.)

    I don’t think it’s credible to claim that Weart’s conflation of “cold” with “cooling” was accidental. I’m pretty sure he wrote the post as he did (frequently substituting “cold” for “cooling”) so that his readers would think that “skeptics” thought that, if global warming was actually happening, that Antarctica should not be cold.

    I think my position is very solidly supported by the fact that Real Climate not only refused to post my comments pointing out that Weart conflated “cold,” with “cooling,” but they also never bothered to change the wording after getting my comment.*

    *P.S. This reminds me of an similar amusing (if dishonesty is amusing)situation at Scientific American (or “Scientific” American). David Biello claimed that an operating nuclear reactor control room was over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. When several commenters and I pointed out that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would never allow such an event, and that it was actually the containment building (not “room”!) that got to that temperature, Biello repeatedly claimed that he was right…that it was indeed the control room.

    Finally, I grew so exasperated that I offered offered him and everyone else at Scientific American a fabulous free money offer. I offered them $120 if they could point to a credible news source (not including Scientific American, obviously) that said the control room got to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

    So what did he (or they) do? He (or they) CHANGED the wording of the original post to “containment”…but didn’t acknowledge at all that it had ever been anything different!

    Since Spencer Weart and Real Climate never even bothered to change the “cold” to “cooling”–let alone print my comments–I conclude that they don’t even have the integrity and commitment to the truth of “Scientific” American.

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  39. Mark Bahner Says:

    Eric Steig writes, “As for my correcting the not-precise-enough language in Weart’s post, let me reiterate: I didn’t see anything to correct.”

    You don’t see anything to correct in any of these?

    1) Headline: “Antarctica is Cold? Yeah, We Knew That”

    2) Paragraph 1: “…we often hear people remarking that parts of Antarctica are getting colder, and indeed the ice pack in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica has actually been getting bigger. Doesn’t this contradict the calculations that greenhouse gases are warming the globe? Not at all, because a cold Antarctica is just what calculations predict… and have predicted for the past quarter century.”

    3) Final paragraph: “Bottom line: A cold Antarctica and Southern Ocean do not contradict our models of global warming. For a long time the models have predicted just that.”