Grant Foster: Mathturbation

Posted: February 27, 2011 by tallbloke in climate, flames, solar system dynamics

The censorship prone ‘Tamino’ (Grant Foster) on his blog, which I call ‘closed mind’ has a new post up which takes to task what he perceives to be ‘anti physics’ elements who think quasi-cyclic events such as the main oceanic cycles might have an effect large enough to bring into question the amount of anthropogenic greenhouse warming touted by his preferred version of the hypothesis.

Looking at the way Grant goes about torturing the data until it confesses to crimes it didn’t commit, the title of the post is a great one for a …statistician such as himself.

Yours truly gets a mention in comments from a guy named John Mashey, who says:

Some (not mashey to be sure) might think you’ve been picking up Rabett-isms 🙂

I object to the leprechaun theory, which is clearly insufficient.
That is:

a) One needs both leprechauns, which provide a non-physical connection that changes the Earth’s energy content, somehow.
b) But one also needs “gremlins” that nullify greenhouse gas effects, quantum mechanics, laws of thermodynamics, etc.

But the mathturbation term is great. In a recent look at the newly-famed “tallbloke” website, I found a cornucopia of cycles and anti-physics, of which a small sample is:

Clearly I’ll owe John some thanks for my increased web traffic today, and some pleasant, informative and interesting comments from new visitors. Which is more than you’ll find on ‘closed mind’ for sure. It’d be interesting to know what NASA scientists Wolff and Patrone would make of their inclusion in Mashey’s ‘little list’ of ‘anti-physics’.


  1. Roger Andrews says:

    Well yeth. But at leath we’re doing thienth, which ith more than can be thaid for you guyth.

  2. Robert E. Phelan says:

    Ah, yes, John Mashey of “the Wegman Report is plagiarized” fame. I’m trying to work my way through his 2.2 meg .pdf about plagiarism and conspiracies… but the slogging is rough. Must be me.

  3. Roger Andrews says:

    Please excuse the levity above, but I just couldn’t resist. Tallbloke, please feel free to give it the (snip).

    I have just posted the following reply to John Mashey over at Tamino.


    As the author of one of the Tallbloke threads on your list, specifically, might I respectfully suggest you read it? You will find that my admittedly crude conclusions support not only a solar influence on climate but also an anthropogenic impact that’s much in line with the IPCC’s estimate.

    And if after having read it you still have a problem with what I said, please tell me about it. I’m not an anti-physicist or a leprechaun. I’m just another guy trying to unravel the mysteries of climate change, and I’m always open to new ideas.”

    The comment is still awaiting moderation. We’ll see what happens next.

  4. tallbloke says:

    It’s been posted, with the following reply from Grant:

    [Response: OK I looked at your post. This here post is about you.

    Anyone wishing to argue about it (including you) can do so on tallbloke’s blog. Not here.]

    Sure looks like someone not as open minded as their blog title suggests.

  5. tallbloke says:

    Commenter Ron Broberg notes that:

    Solar variability seems to be fairly small compared to climate variability. The question of how these small changes in input result in large changes in climate is interesting.

    This may come as a surprise to Ron, but he should consider that the secular trend in solar activity since the LIA is thought by Krivova, Solanki, et al to be around 1.5 W/m^2, which is about 0.1% of the solar output. The Earth’s surface may have warmed by around 2.5K from the end of the little ice age which is around 0.8%. Nir Shaviv in his Journal of Geophysical Research paper “Using the oceans as a calorimeter” found the terrestrial amplification of the solar signal is around
    seven to ten times.

    Even if Nir SHaviv has overegged the pudding a bit, solar variation can account for most of the warming from the end of the little ice age, if Solanki et al are somewhere near.

    Now Leif Svalgaard says the solar variation is much lower, but then, he’s a Frohlich supporter, so we need to be careful. Leif is working on the old geomagnetic records, which unfortunately, according to him, don’t cover the period of the Dalton Minimum. I wrote to the British geomag people to check that out, but got no reply. TSI fell a long way at the last mimimum, and we suspect it has further to go. However, Frohlich, who has his hands on the satellite data, has a history of databending if Richard Wilson is correct.

    Interesting times ahead.

  6. Roger Andrews says:

    Well, I was hoping to get some dialogue started, but I see I’ve been told in no uncertain terms to keep my muddy boots off their marble tiles and go back to the hut where I belong. But all is not lost. In the next reply “Toto” promotes me to “prominent skeptic”.

    Tallbloke, you were right. Tamino richly deserves the “closed mind” moniker.

    I was going to post another comment over there – hardly a new observation, but I think an apropos one – asking why we are still spending billions of dollars on climate research if things are as cut-and-dried as they say they are. But I guess I won’t bother. It would have been snipped anyway.

  7. tallbloke says:

    Welcome to the club. He banned me after I told him I’d apologise to Gavin for saying that he said the science is settled if Gavin would withdraw his accusation that all sceptics scientific arguments are cherrypicks to support a preconceived agenda.

  8. Roger Andrews says:


    Thank you. I am honored to be a member of this exclusive club.

    Re your earlier post. I don’t think surface warming since the end of the LIA has been anywhere close to 2.5C. Even the Hockey Stick shows only about 1C.

  9. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Hey Roger, at least you’re prominent. 🙂 pg

  10. tallbloke says:

    Heh, being as tall as a tallbloke I can’t help that either.

    Roger, don’t forget the hockey stick scythes of the top of the Medieval Warm Period and chucks it into the Little Ice Age hole to level out the Teams hockey field.

    Dethentered Printhiple Component Analythith: Michael Mann’s Mental Mathturbation Mathterclass.

  11. Roger Andrews says:


    I can find a 2.5C increase only in the Antarctic ice core proxies. Everything else (Mann HS, Moberg, Loehle speleothems) suggests +/- 1C of post-LIA warming. I’m also fairly sure that Jim Hansen once came up with a 0.75C estimate, but I can’t find the reference now. So I think 1C is the number you should shoot at.

  12. tallbloke says:

    Well, ok, The Central England Temp shot up over 3C between 1690 and 1730 (something worth thinking about in and of itself) but went back down again of course.

    We need to allow for the fourfold reduction in TSI before it gets to the surface, but I think we are still in the hockeypark.

  13. Roger Andrews says:


    You know, this is really quite remarkable. You offer the readership (bloggership?) a golden opportunity to dump on Tamino, and nobody can be bothered. Instead we’re already back to talking about the science again. I think that says a lot.

    Anyway, now that we’re O/T and talking about the science again, allow me to make an observation. I think we tend to get carried away dividing TSI by four to allow for geometric effects. The geometric effect in the tropics cuts TSI by only a few percent. This is where the solar heat gets absorbed.

  14. tallbloke says:

    A damn good point Roger. How can we quantify that properly?


    0.375×0.75=0.28W/m^2 increase on the ocean surface of the sunlit hemisphere( a bit less allowing for atmospheric absorption). Don’t forget the hemisphere is falling away to max obliquity on each side of the point directly below the Sun as well as to northerly and southerly latitudes.

    Someone will have done the calcs already, including the 30Wm^2 winter/summer variation.

  15. Roger Andrews says:

    FWIW, the table on shows about three times as much annual insolation at the tropics than at the poles. It seems to allow for everything, but you would be a better judge of that than I.

  16. tallbloke says:

    Excellent find. It’s well worth getting a good appreciation and understanding of this basic info into our heads. It helps in understanding the Earth as a whacking big heat engine, shifting energy around.

  17. Tenuc says:

    Roger Andrews says:
    February 28, 2011 at 10:04 pm
    “…I think we tend to get carried away dividing TSI by four to allow for geometric effects. The geometric effect in the tropics cuts TSI by only a few percent. This is where the solar heat gets absorbed…

    Very good point, Roger. Averaging over geography and time has the effect of smearing the signal and prevents understanding. This especially true for complex non-systems like our weather/climate and also applies to the output from the sun which delivers its energy in spikes and troughs.

    We recently bought a new 800w microwave oven. It has a neat feature which allows it to produce 1000w for a few minutes to boost the start of heating. This works by changing the wave form of energy delivery to produce short high spikes with shallow lower power troughs. The effective power of the sun changes at any delta-t and this could have big effect on power delivery to Earth weather/climate systems.

  18. tallbloke says:

    Good stuff Tenuc. I’m done in, but happy today. Major digging done in the veg patch, milestones passed on here, and my chainsaw works again. I’ll catch you guys tomorrow.

  19. Roger Andrews says:

    Tallbloke, when you wake up refreshed answer me this one. According to the table in the poles get 20-30% more insolation at the solstices than the Equator gets at the equinoxes. The poles have a solar zenith angle of 23.4 degrees at the solstice, which means that we have to multiply by sine(23.4), or 0.397, to get the incident insolation. Doubling it to allow for the fact that the sun is shining 24 hours a day instead of 12 then gives us 0.794. But at the Equator at the equinoxes the sun is directly overhead, which gives us sine(90), or 1.000 – 25% more insolation than at the poles. What am I doing wrong?

  20. tallbloke says:

    Hi Roger,

    Go back to what I said above:

    “Don’t forget the hemisphere is falling away to max obliquity on each side of the point directly below the Sun as well as to northerly and southerly latitudes.”

    So whereas the north pole at summer solstice gets a constant sunshine angle of 66.5 degrees, the equator is not only half in shadow, but the obliquity of the solar incidence is varying from zero directly below the sun to 90 degrees at the limbs of the Earth. So only around a third (2×66.5deg) of the equator is getting as much or more insolation at equinox as the north pole gets at solstice.

    So if you divide the 1.00 by ~3 rather than 2, then it’s less than the .397 you calculated for the polar insolation.

  21. Roger Andrews says:

    Right. Forgot about that.

  22. Joe Lalonde says:


    You may have forgotten to add the difference in the distance of the sun to the planet.


    You may want to think about the angle of solar rays going through the atmosphere can change like the lenses in prescription glasses. This would magnify or retract focusing on angles since our atmospheric gases are somewhat clear in optics.

  23. tallbloke says:

    Hi Joe, if you are referring to the aphelion-perihelion distance difference, I mentioned that above:

    “including the 30Wm^2 winter/summer variation.”

  24. Roger Andrews says:


    I’ve taken the w/m2 estimates on the table and converted them to absolute watts by multiplying them by (approximate) ocean area. I get the following:

    Each day 3.1 * 10^? watts (I haven’t figured out what ? is, but it’s large) are absorbed by the oceans. About 1.3 watts is absorbed in the NH and about 1.7 in the SH (more ocean there).

    About a third of the watts are absorbed between 15N and 15S latitude, about a half between 25N and 25S and almost 80% between 35N and 45S.

  25. God doesn´t play dice….but likes to play cycles 🙂

  26. tallbloke says:

    Pat Frank says:
    June 18, 2011 at 5:46 pm
    Tamino has taken to snipping out my replies, made in defense of my analysis. His prior repertoire of science-relevant criticisms included idiot. Those, such as fredb or charles, who wanted me to respond directly to Tamino, and who wanted a debate without personal attacks should notice Tamino’s progression. Criticism, personal attack, and finally censorship.

    Here’s the post Tamino snipped out: (PJKlar had accused me of fraud) PJKlar, in my original post I wrote this: “For right now, though, I’d like to put all that aside and proceed with an analysis that accepts the air temperature context as found within the IPCC ballpark. That is, for the purposes of this analysis I’m assuming that the global average surface air temperature anomaly trends are real and meaningful.”

    Towards the end, I wrote this: “Clearly, though, since unknown amounts of systematic error are attached to global temperatures, we don’t know if any of this is physically real.”

    Given those explicit qualifiers, how you can see the analysis as any sort of fraud is beyond understanding.

    Ray Ladbury, you wrote, “How, pray, is temperature supposed to rise unless there is a net input of energy?”

    If the atmosphere and the global ocean are coupled oscillators, can thermal energy pass from one to the other without any net external energy input? We both know the answer to that question.

    You also wrote, “A conservative approach is one that is 1)consistent with known physics, 2)consistent with known evidence.”

    The physics of climate is not well-known and what is known is certainly not well resolved in climate models. However, there is theory that describes resonant modes in ocean basin energy flux, activated by random atmospheric stimulation.

    For evidentiary precedent, Chen, et al., (2010) “Modality of semiannual to multidecadal oscillations in global sea surface temperature variability” J. Geophys. Res., 115, C03005; discuss interdecadal oscillations (IDO) in the SST record. They found four main periodicities including an interdecadal oscillation of 62.2 years; virtually identical to the period implied by the cosine fit to the CRU anomalies.

    Further, McCabe, et al. 2008 did a frequency analysis of an 820 year record of drought in Montana, linked to SSTs, and found a prominent 60-year signal; see their Figure 1.

    So now, here is a PSD analysis of HadCRUT3v (click over to Figure 1). It shows the same ~60 year period as found in the 800-year Montana precipitation record and as the multidecadal period noted by Chen, et al.

    MartinJB, note that the unfit residuals themselves show no significant excursions away from zero over their whole length. They are both linear and of virtually zero slope everywhere. How is incorrect to conclude, therefore, that the fit accounts for the signal?

    Barton, A ~60 year oscillation was noted to enter the GISS complete global anomaly set when the ocean temperatures were added into land-only temperatures. So, in the event, the fit did not represent an arbitrary cosine, but found one that exhibited the same periodicity as was induced by entry of the marine temperatures.

    I’ve fit the 1999 GISS land-only temperature anomalies using the same cosine+linear strategy. The difference between the two fits , GISS (land+marine) minus GISS (land-only) produces an oscillation that goes right through the difference oscillation of the data sets themselves.

    The observation that an oscillatory signal appears in the anomaly record with the marine temperatures, empirically justifies the strategy of fitting with a cosine. Look also at the similar 60-year cycles I referenced in the reply to Ray Ladbury. They also justify the result in terms of a known SST period.