Saturday, November 08, 2008


The Problems With DJ Drummond's 2008 Election Analysis

DJ Drummond is a writer at WizBang. Before the 2008 election, he wrote several articles theorizing that the polls were wrong in showing Obama with a commanding lead for the election. Using his knowledge of statistics, he claimed several systematic flaws in the polls and a better way of analyzing the raw polls using historical weightings. One thing that was a bright spot for DJs articles was thye first paragraph of his Accountability article. There he made some very good points about being honest and being responsible for what he writes. Given his history, I was very interested to see if he would manage to live up to that after the election was completed and the results were known. Sadly, he did not (see Issue #1). So, I have taken it upon myself to document where he was wrong and why. I just have seven issues at the moment, but I expect to be adding more as time goes by and I have a chance to document them.

Issue #1:
DJ has cut off comments on that Wizbang after too many people called him on his multiple errors, logical flaws, and self-forgiving rhetoric. Eric and mantis already did a good job of bringing up points that I was going to make myself. DJ, being the accountable person that he is, decided to post a non-responsive reply, accusing mantis of lying without providing any evidence, claiming vindication, and having the last word. He did nothing to address the arguments mantis and Eric made, especially the one about using old polls for comparison (see Issue 2).

Issue #2:
First, the election results. At this time, President-elect Obama has won 52% of the popular vote, while Senator McCain has received 46% of the popular vote. Against that, let's look at what the polls were saying on October 21...

After the election, DJ, arguing that his analysis should be considered correct, takes polls from two weeks before the election. Of course, the actual polls taken just before the election had converged to a 7.6% advantage for Obama, withing 1% of the actual margin. Naturally, there was more uncertainty and variance 2 weeks before the election. DJ completely ignores this fact. If his analysis about how the polls had systematic flaws was correct, then those flaws should have still been there on election day.

Issue #3:
A portion of this article is devoted to the premise that "turnout this year was down, not up. Down by more than five million votes from 2004. Somebody did not bother to vote this year." I questioned this premise, since DJ was comparing the final tallies of 2004 (123,535,883) with the current, unfinished tallies from this election. At the time, the spread was 5 million votes, as DJ said. According to DJ's CNN link, the current total for McCain and Obama, as of 11/8, stands at 122,852,251 with 99 percent of precincts reporting, so there are still some more votes yet to count. However, this still leaves out two things. First, the CNN site just has Obama and McCain vote tallies. If you add the votes for other candidates, the total is over 1 million votes higher. The total for just Bush and Kerry was 121,069,054. The other thing is that there are still absentee ballots that haven't been counted yet. Even if a precinct has reported, these can still be added to the final total. Here is an independent and much more detailed analysis of what is left outstanding. While it does seem very unlikely that the total will reach the 130 million that was being reported the morning after the electon, 125 million certainly seems within reach. There are already more total votes than in 2008, so at least numerically, this article’s premise on that point is not correct.

Issue #4:
If you mean the 2006 article, Joe, that was opinion, not analysis. If you are claiming that I predicted a McCain victory from poll analysis, you are claiming something other than what I said.

I was speaking of the 2006 article and your reiteration of the claim here. I didn't mention poll analysis, so I'm not sure how DJ got that idea. As he says, this was a prediction based on opinion. However, he had very specific reasons that he believed this would happen. He believed that Republicans in general will put the country ahead of everything else, and the voters know this. Did McCain lose because Republicans don't put the country first or because the voters didn't realize it?
Of course he also believed that the Democrats would nominate a Senator, and the Republicans wouldn't. He further challenged another commenter:
Show me where I specifically predicted a McCain win, Crusty. Link and specific quote.
but cut off comments on that thread before he could be answered. Unless he want's to claim that McCain was not the Republican nominee, I believe that has been adequately answered.

Issue #5:
Let's get down to Historical Weighting, the basis for much of DJ's analysis over the past few weeks. Specifically, we'll turn to his Turners article. Most polls had several states solidly Obama and several solidly McCain, with fewer swing states. We'll use FiveThirtyEight for comparison. They had CA,CT,DC,DE,HI,IA,IL,MA,MD,ME,MI,NJ,NY,OR,RI,VT,WA,WI as "Safe Obama"; CO,MN,NH,NM,NV,PA,VA as "Likely Obama"; OH as "Lean Obama"; FL,IN,MO,NC as TossUp; GA,MT,ND as "Lean McCain"; AZ,LA,SC,SD as "Likely McCain"; and AK,AL,AR,ID,KS,KY, MS, NE,OK,TN,TX,UT,WV,WY as "Safe McCain". The election went almost perfectly this way. Their percentage for popular vote was also almost exactly correct. In DJ's article, historical weighting produced the following bizzare schisms with reality.
It showed CO a "lock" (75.0%) for McCain, as opposed to "Likely Obama".
It showed FL a "lock" (70.6%) for McCain, as opposed to "Tossup".
It showed IN a "lock" (80.9%) for McCain, as opposed to "Tossup".
It showed NH a "lock" (75.5%) for McCain, as opposed to "Likely Obama"
It showed OH a "lock" (71.7%) for McCain, as opposed to "Lean Obama"
It showed VA a "lock" (79.4%) for McCain, as opposed to "Likely Obama"
It showed ME a "toss-up" (51.6%) for Obama as opposed to "Safe Obama"
It showed MI a "toss-up"(53.3%) for McCain as opposed to "Safe Obama"
It showed PA a "toss-up"(51.5%) for Obama as opposed to "Likely Obama"
It showed WI a "toss-up"(52.3%) for Obama as opposed to "Safe Obama"
It showed OR a "toss-up" (50.2%) for Obama as opposed to "Safe Obama"
5 of DJ’s 6 toss-ups were double-digit wins for Obama. Only NC was an actual toss-up. Additionally, 6 or DJ’s 17 locks for McCain went to Obama. This analysis was quite far from reality, much farther than the national and state polls at that point.

Issue #6:
Chicago is getting really, really interesting. Yeah, it's strange that McCain should be close at all in Illinois, but there's some blue-collar backlash that turned Indiana around and has started moving some Illinois opinion. Like other states, I think the movement is temporary; Obama will no more lose Illinois than McCain will lose North Carolina, but I just report what the numbers show, and weird they are..."

Of course, the actual numbers showed no such thing. Illinois was never in question for Obama. North Carolina was very close, and did go to Obama.

Issue #7:
The closest thing to a prediction based on your historical norm statistical analysis that I could find was:
I will not call it definitive, but in my opinion if the demographic weighting is corrected the popular vote becomes Obama 46.9%, McCain 46.6%, but with McCain taking the electoral vote 278-260. When the shadow effect is applied, the electoral numbers change to 147-71 McCain, with 320 to be decided. The message is clear then, that the race remains to be decided.

If DJ was right, then McCain, who finished with 46% and 163 electoral votes barely got anything after that. Meanwhile Obama went from 47% to 53% and claimed around 300 Electoral Votes. That happened in one week. Is it easier to believe that almost all the undecided voters broke for Obama or that DJ’s analysis was very inaccurate? While he does not call this definitive, that’s just enough to give him bragging rights in the unlikely event he was right, but deniability if he was wrong.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


A Brief History of Tuwaitha

This post is in response to the original WizBang article: Where The Hell Did THAT Come From? posted by Jay Tea.


From the linked AP article:

What's now left is the final and complicated push to clean up the remaining radioactive debris at the former Tuwaitha nuclear complex about 12 miles south of Baghdad.

Question from JT's article:
where did the yellowcake come from?

Answer from
"As of 2002, the only known store of nuclear material in Iraq is in heavyweight sealed barrels at the Tawaitha research facility south of Baghdad. It consists of several tons of low-grade uranium and is monitored by an international agency with the full co-operation of the Iraqi regime. Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center, located 18 km SSE of Baghdad, was the main site for Iraqi nuclear program. Tuwaitha is the location of the Osiraq reactor bombed by Israel in 1981."

Another question from JT's article:

WHY is this story coming out now, over five years after we invaded Iraq?

The story of the Tuwaitha reactor and the yellowcake from it is very well documented both before, during, and after the invasion. From the linked AP article, "Tuwaitha and an adjacent research facility were well known for decades as the centerpiece of Saddam's nuclear efforts."
Before the war, the storage facility was sealed by the IAEA and inspectors visited the site as part of their pre-war inspections before the Bush administration asked them to leave.

During the war, it was big news that the Marines had "discovered" the site and explored it, finding high radiation readings.

After the invasion, it was discovered that the Tuwaitha facility had been looted, at least partially, though the US would not allow IAEA members to inspect the facility at the time to see what was missing. The barrels were often taken by locals who just dumped out the yellowcake and used the barrels.

As for this particular story, I would say that it's being reported now because the transport of the yellowcake was just completed on Saturday. It seems like a current event kind of story.

As Ed Davis, a commenter at WizBang, pointed out, the quote refers to low-grade uranium, not yellowcake. This site has a much more comprehensive list of the material Iraq was know to possess before the Iraq War.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


The Great Global Warming Swindle Review: Part II

Unfortunately, it has been quite a while between part I and part II, but better late than never. This installment will deal with the assertion in the program that CO2 is an insignificant greenhouse gas. This argument (starting about 11 minutes in the show) takes a few forms, each of which we will examine:

1) CO2 is only a small part of the Earth’s atmosphere (13:31)
2) CO2 is not the most significant greenhouse gas, H20 is (14:10)
3) Humans contribute only a small part of the greenhouse gases (22:33)

Assertion #1 is undoubtedly true, but completely irrelevant. The vast majority of the Earth’s Atmosphere is N2 and O2, but these gases do not absorb infrared radiation, and are therefore not greenhouse gases. Since the program correctly states that the greenhouse effect is responsible for keeping the earth from being a frigid ball by trapping heat that would otherwise be reflected into space, it’s important to understand that without the greenhouse effect, the earth would be 25 degrees Celsius cooler than it currently is.

Assertion #2, that H20 is the most important greenhouse gas is also true. Although Tim Ball claims, "The atmosphere is made up of many gases. A small percentage of them, we call greenhouse gases, and of that very small percentage of greenhouse gases, 95% of it is water vapor, it's the most important greenhouse gas," the actual reality is that H20 is responsible for 36% to 70% percent of the greenhouse effect and CO2 is responsible for 9% to 26%. It is impossible to determine the exact percentages because of overlap, but Ball’s given number of 5% for everything but H2O is at least two times smaller than the most conservative measured estimate.

Just as a very, very rough generalization, skipping any feedback or feed-forward effects, let’s assume that the 9% contribution number is correct and that CO2 has grown by 23% since 1957. If we take the 25 degree Celsius number for the greenhouse effect, then we would expect a warming of 25*.09*.23 = .52 degrees Celsius of warming due to increases in atmospheric CO2. The amount of warming since 1957 is around .5 degrees Celsius. So, you can see that even if we take a conservative estimate of CO2's overall impact, it can have a noticable change on temperature with the current changes.

Before ending the H2O to CO2 comparison, there is another important distinction between the two. Changes in the levels of atmospheric CO2 are considered to be a force applied in the modelling of climate that will drive the temperature up. There are several other forces that act on the climate as well and change over time. H2O is not considered to be a force in the same way. Why? Because the mean level of H2O in the atmosphere is almost entirely a function of temperature. Introducing increased levels of H20 into the atmosphere will just cause them to quickly be rained out. Conversely, removing H2O from the atmosphere will be replaced in short order by evaporation. So, when people speak of H2O not being considered in the current climate models, it's not something that has been overlooked. It's just not something that drives climate due to independent changes in its concentration.

Finally, we get to assertion #3, humans contribute only a small part of the greenhouse gases. To quote John Christy, "Humans produce a small fraction, in the single digits, percentage wise, of the CO2 that is produced in the atmosphere." Human production of CO2 is about 24,000,000,000 metric tons per year as of 2002. This is about one tenth of the total production of CO2 in a given year by all natural sources. Of course, before the increased output of man, the natural production of CO2 and the natural sinks of CO2 were roughly aligned, so the overall level of CO2 in the atmosphere didn’t vary much from year to year. Increasing the output side by 10% has essentially overwhelmed the ability of the biosphere to absorb that excess CO2, so we get increased CO2 in the atmosphere year after year.

One other note on this subject as a closer. The program makes the bold (and completely false) claim at about 22:45 that, "Volcanoes produce more CO2 each year than all the factories and cars and planes and other sources of man-made carbon dioxide put together." The actual release of CO2 "from volcanoes, fumaroles, and hot springs and amounts to about (0.01 - 0.05) x 10^15 g C/year" compared to the burning of fossil fuels which releases about 5 x 10^15 g C/year, dwarfing the volcanoes output by a factor of at least 100. It is utter and complete falsehoods like this that make this show such a laughable endeavor.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


The Great Global Warming Swindle Review: Part I

As noted in a previous post comments, I recently watched "The Great Global Warming Swindle" thanks to a link from Reliapundit. It was a very interesting program, and I'll comment on it at length. I took quite a few notes, including direct quotes from the documentary, but I should warn that they may have slight errors where I missed a word or two.

There are several points and theories advanced in this video, and I intend to address most of them, with the notable exception of any issues related to the Kyoto protocols or the impacts of any such suggested solutions. This will be a topic that will undoubtedly take up several posts over the next few weeks.

In this first one, I will cover some generalized claims from the movie. Many of the specific claims will be dealt with in subsequent posts:

1."The Earth's Climate Is Always Changing"
Yes, it's true that the Earth's climate is always changing and has changed in the past many times with no human intervention. There are several things that can cause changes in the climate: changes in the sun's irradiance, changes in the earth's orbital alignment, changes in the level of particulate matter in the atmosphere, changes in the level of greenhouse gases, and, as this show features prominently, changes in the cloud cover of the planet. But, the number of direct climate drivers is actually relatively small, and at this point, pretty well measured and understood. Climate modeling often takes a hit, because it is essentially impossible to predict how these factors will change, and even what feedback effects will result from maintaining the status quo. However, it is very important to understand the difference between climate modeling to predict the future and climate modeling to explain the past, especially the recent past. When modeling past climate, the factors have all already been determined. The researcher has to measure all of the forcings that were applied to the climate and determine how they should be weighted to best explain the data. When climate scientists make predictions about the future, they are relying on modeling. When they make statements like, "the earth has warmed ~.6 degrees C in the past 30 years and anthropogenic greenhouse gas production is responsible for much of that increase," they are relying on measurements more than modeling.

So, the important fact isn't that the earth's climate changes, it's what's causing the change and with what level of certainty we can make that determination. People often die, but we do autopsies to determine what caused their death when we're not sure of the cause. If it was natural causes, then there is usually no need to delve any further. If it was some type of trauma that caused the death, then there is probably a need for investigation. A scientist saying "the earth's climate is always changing" is like a police officer saying "people die all the time" when pointed to a body lying in the street. It's true, but has little meaning when we can investigate and determine the root cause.

2. There is Nothing Unusual About the Current Temperature Change
That brings us to point 2. Is there something different about the current warming that separates it from past warming events? The directors of "Swindle" certainly conclude that there is not any difference. If we look at the past 2000 years of temperature reconstructions we can see that the current warming is easily the greatest temperature reached during that time. Although much is made of the Medieval Warm Period in the movie, the global temperatures at that time were only warm compared to the other temperatures before 1975. The global temperatures during the Medieval Warm Period did not approach the current global average. So, we're currently experiencing warming that, to the best of our knowledge, has not happened in the past 2000 years. Is that unusual? Going back farther, the reconstructions get more divergent and the granularity of measurement gets less, but, taking the average of reconstructions, we are currently warmer than we have been for 12,000 years (note: dark black line is the average of the reconstructions). Is there anything else that we are currently experiencing that is a climate driver that hasn't been this high in 12,000 years? As a matter of fact, there is. CO2. Can a similar claim be made for any of the other climate drivers we've identified? We'll see, in upcoming segments...

Saturday, April 07, 2007


Watching the "Great Global Warming Swindle"

I sat down this morning to watch "The Great Global Warming Swindle," with notepad in hand, ready to see just how good of a presentation anthropogenic global warming deniers would put together. Unreliapundit had helpfully provided a link for me to use to see the video, but, much to my surprise, I clicked on it and got, "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Wag TV." Quick Google and YouTube searches also came up with a few deleted entries, and I didn't see any copies for sale on Amazon or Ebay. For now, I seem to be at an impasse in viewing and reviewing this work. If someone has a working link, please let me know.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Analyzing Beck's "Gas Analysis of Air by Chemical Methods"

This paper was recently pointed out to me as absolute proof of a huge level of CO2 in the atmosphere around 1940, much greater than the current level. I hadn't seen this paper before, but apparently it has gained much credence with global warming skeptics that don't bother to look at actual scientific papers. So, I wanted to put up a quick review in case anyone else runs across this, giving some quick ways in which it and the underlying data are flawed.

First let me note that this paper does nothing except take previous measurements by other scientists, combine them, smooth them, and present them. There is no discussion or hypothesis on what could lead to such giant rises in CO2 or their subsequent precipitous falls. Naturally, since neither of those topics is discussed, there is no discussion of why, since the CO2 measurements have been continuously recorded since 1958, we don't see either of those phenomenons since that time.

Given that, let's take a look at some of the underlying data and see what we can note from it. First, the sites of these measurements not chosen to be accurate representations of the general atmospheric CO2 as the current sites are. Secondly, looking at the data, we can see that, in many cases, the large fluctuations in measurement weren't year to year or even month to month, but day to day, and even hour to hour. Let's take the Misra data set as an example. Look at the first line of measured CO2 percentage, taken at 06:00:00 on 12/14/1941. They show .052, .063, and .087 at the respective measurement heights. at 10:00:00 4 hours later the measurements were .031, .030, and .037. approximately 1/2 of the CO2 concentration measured just 4 hours earlier. Of course, that's just one data set. Let's look at some more. Duerst, Kreutz, Hock-Schollander, and to a lesser extent, Haldane all show tremendous fluctuations over very, very short periods of time. Ones that don't show these incredible fluctuations, such as Buch and Steinhauser all show measurements much more in line with the ice core record and well below the current CO2 level.

Please also note, the Misra data is especially important, since it is the only titrimetric data measurement between 1939 and 1950 that Beck uses.

One last note. Ever since the modern measurements have been taken, we have seen very regular annual cycles of CO2, peaking in April/May/June and bottoming out in Sept/Oct, causing 10-15 ppm difference. Looking at Kreutz, the volumetric measurement from 1939-1941, we see April/May/June hovering around 340-370 ppm whereas August/Sept shoots up to over 500 ppm.

So, in summary, let me say that wildly varying data (in ways we know that it shouldn’t vary) from 2 scientists in specific locations that are not controlled for any kind of CO2 contamination (Misra's location even seems to be chosen because of the agricultural CO2 contamination) with no even suggested theory as to how these spikes came about or why they dissipated isn't much. I guess that's why this paper was published here, instead of an accepted peer-reviewed journal.

On the other side, we have a method of measuring historic levels of CO2 at a location we know has no contamination issues and that current measurements match almost exactly with the continuous measurements of other locations chosen to avoid contamination. This doesn't seem like much of a contest, but somehow, there seems to be lots of grasping at this particular straw.

Update - 4/3/2007: I wanted to elaborate on two points:
1. The fact that the data is varying so much in the samples above could have one of two explanations. First, it's possible that there is a close source of CO2 or CO2 absorption. In any event, it is clear that what is being measured is not a stable condition of ambient CO2 in the atmosphere. The other explanation is, of course, that the measurements are insufficiently precise.
2. On the subject of precision, the volumetric method used by many of the papers referenced by Beck is discussed in the Erikson paper:

The average CO2 found in the Point Barrow samples is near to 0.040 per cent, and hence is seemingly 0.01 per cent higher than the standard value. This discrepancy is, however, within the analytical uncertainty of the method and may be unreal...Within the accuracy of the method (+ or - 0.015 per cent) the carbon dioxide and the oxygen concentrations were found to be constant through the seasons and within the standard values for temperate regions.

So, the volumetric method, trying to measure something that is approximately 0.030% of the volume of the sample has a error of 0.015%, or half of what it's trying to measure. Great...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


What's in an Ellipsis

Whenever I see a posted article with ellipsis, I always wonder what got cut out. Was it something that was irrelevant, or was it something that didn’t serve the point that the person doing the quoting was making? Today I have a perfect example of a dishonest use of ellipsis courtesy of, who else, Unreliapundit.

He’s written an article on how, “anthropogenic global-warming is bunk,” supposedly supported by this article. Here are some of his quotes:

“The Earth's orbit is not a perfect circle ... shifts in Earth's pattern of movement are relatively minor compared with those of other planets. But they can greatly influence the amount of radiation -- heat and light -- which Earth receives from the Sun. ... Astronomical impact "provides a crucial missing piece in the puzzle" of regular species turnover, it says.”

Note the first bolded ellipsis. What got left out? The cycle period of these changes. Here’s some of the unredacted passage:

The Earth's orbit is not a perfect circle: it is slightly elliptical, and the ellipticality itself goes through cycles of change that span roughly 100,000 and 400,000 years.
Its axis, likewise, is not perfectly perpendicular but has a slight wobble, rather like a poorly-balanced child's top, which goes through cycles of 21,000 years.
In addition, the axis, as schoolbooks tell us, is also tilted, and this tilt also varies in a cycle of 41,000 years.
These three shifts in Earth's pattern of movement are relatively minor compared with those of other planets.

So, he is trying to explain rapid warming over 100 years (at the most) with cycles that are tens of thousands of years long. Only he doesn’t want to let you in on that part. I guess it goes without saying that his last quote cut off just before this in the original article:
In addition to natural factors, the world's climate system and its biodiversity are also being affected by the burning of fossil fuels.
Oil, gas and coal, and to a lesser degree agriculture, release carbon gases into the atmosphere, creating a "greenhouse effect" that traps solar radiation and causes Earth's surface temperature to warm.


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