Unscientific views of scientist Salinger

Herald headline, 4 August – Climate scientist: It’s cold now, but NZ region just saw its warmest July.

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Prof Jim Salinger

Professor Jim Salinger, who helped create the benchmark seven-station national temperature series, the 7SS (or SSS, if you prefer), now runs a competing series using 22 hand-picked land weather stations (let’s call it the 22-station Salinger series, or 22SS). He claims July is an all-time record 1.79 °C above average, while the previous record of 1.74 °C above average in July, 1998, is demoted to second.

As Salinger explains it, this “record high” of a mere 0.05 °C is due to the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) in positive phase, warmer sea surfaces, no pronounced El Nino or La Nina at the moment—plus a “background” of global warming (whatever that means).

It’s hard to visualise the month’s temperatures having any “background” other than the paper they’re written on. Temperatures have a cause, yes, but global warming is supposed to be the new climate, and climate does not cause temperatures; the temperatures cause the climate.

Since global average temperatures are abstracted from high and low temperatures around the world, they don’t actually exist—nobody lives with them, so his words have no meaning. He mentions global warming only to remind us it’s meant to cause every weather event and it’s all our doing. Mentioning global warming is a political act, not a scientific one.

But the law of averages operates in New Zealand the same as it does everywhere. That means that every month, half the recorded temperatures are below and half are above the average. We cannot conclude a warming trend from any single month—you need several years.

Most thermometers don’t measure hundredths of a degree, so claiming a record on the basis of 0.05 °C is laughable—never mind using a single month to declare a trend, or saying it has a “background” of global warming. Never mind the story also declares “it’s cold now.”

We’re so fully attuned to global warming doublespeak that we happily accept that global warming ruled last month but not this month. Sometimes, I despair.

Why didn’t Jamie Morton, “Science” Reporter, laugh at Salinger’s claims? Salinger is called a scientist—mind you, Morton is called a journalist.

When Salinger elaborated these non-scientific views of the “warmest July”, the immediate question from a properly sceptical journalist would have been: “Why do you say that?” Hopefully, that would have been closely followed by: “Isn’t warming considered a trend?”

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9 Thoughts on “Unscientific views of scientist Salinger

  1. Ian Cooper on 07/08/2019 at 1:27 pm said:

    Is this Dr Jim (we are blessed/cursed with two ‘Dr Jim’s’ BTW) not aware of what the other Dr Jim and several more NZ scientists found whilst digging in to the reasons why both Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers advanced from the mid 80’s to the mid 00’s? They found that little ol’ NZ is special! So special that while the rest of the world was suffering from “Global Warming,” we were bucking the trend and experienced two decades of cooling which enabled said glaciers to advance in the way that they did.

    Those two decades included the year 1998 with its warm July (very similar to one two years later BTW). In typical NZ fashion the ‘warm Julys’ haven’t occurred at the height of the Grand El Nino events, but on the rebound towards either ENSO neutral, as is the case now, or well into La Nina territory, as was the case in 2000.

    This Dr Jim has a propensity to seek out record-breaking hot months, or even days at any time of the year in order to over-emphasise a human connection to such events. On one memorable day in February 2010 it looked like the Met site at Timaru Airport might break the long-standing NZ record set on Feb 7th 1973. Unsurprisingly, when I compared the synoptic chart for the day in 2010 to that of 1973, the charts were almost identical. A low off our SW coast had a typical NW front passing over the Southern Alps. The Fohn affect was on maximum and the jet stream was dragging hot air right out of the heart of Australia down onto NZ at the height of summer. Poor Dr Jim. It didn’t quite pan out the way he would have liked! Close but no prize!

    As you say Richard, hot days, hot months, hot years are like rogue waves compared to the ocean. They are isolated events, yet this Dr Jim puts so much weight on them in a totally unscientific way because he knows that a lot of the general public fall for sensationalism, and he needs the public behind him, never mind how bad the science is. The real funny thing is that the public is the same public that he & his mate Trevor Chinn blame for the catastrophe he is promoting!

  2. Richard Treadgold on 07/08/2019 at 2:41 pm said:

    Nicely said, Ian. Exciting to read. Just one question: you say it didn’t quite pan out the way Salinger would have liked. Forgive my rustic ignorance, but would you say what you mean by that, please?

  3. Alexander K on 07/08/2019 at 7:27 pm said:

    People in positions of authority tend to say silly things and expect their silliness to pass unnoticed. A few years ago a Conservative (UK, note the big C) politician insisted that ALL fifteen-year-old school students should be taught sufficiently well to achieve above-average passing marks in their end-of-year exams. He very obviously did not understand that half of every population has to be below average and the other half above on any given measure. Some brave person attempted to explain the concept of average to him on TV, on air, live. Teachers across the UK had a good laugh watching the broadcast, then realised that particular politician was determined to set education policy after the following election. It didn’t seem so funny after realising he ‘just knew better’.

    Dr Jim does tend to errors of the same magnitude in pursuit of his dogma, rather than science.

  4. Maggy Wassilieff on 08/08/2019 at 9:09 am said:

    Exactly where are Salinger’s 22 stations?

    How many are affected by some Urban Heat Influence?

    Because it is obvious that the reports of Global record temperatures last month were coming in from poorly sited temperature stations.

    Have a look at these space-station views of UHI islands in June .

  5. Ian Cooper on 08/08/2019 at 3:45 pm said:

    Hi Richard. In answer to your question, I should have said that I have noted over the years the level of excitement put out by that Dr Jim when there is the prospect of a record breaking heat event imminent! I’d pick that he would be a very poor poker player. He gives his game away too early, and when the wrong cards are dealt, as in Feb 2010, Dr Jim S. can’t hide his disappointment. If & when the record is broken, that Dr Jim will be shouting from the roof tops, “look what you’ve done!” “I told you all that this would happen!”

    I find it rather pathetic to see a supposedly scientific person hanging out for these ‘rogue wave’ events to confirm his pet theory. The circumstances of this ‘hot July,’ and our ‘hottest ever recorded day,’ have happened prior to those events, and will happen again. Among the chaos of our weather & climate there are repeat patterns that emerge from time to time. Trying to recognise those patterns in advance is extremely tricky to say the least. I believe both Dr’s Jim should stick to looking into why that happens, but they have their eye on the bigger prize of ‘Pi in the Sky!’ A circular argument if ever there was one!

    Once again I better explain that last comment. Back in March 2003 I attended a Regional Council Meeting in P.N. where this Dr Jim was the guest speaker. The meeting was a regular feature I believe, although it was the only one that I have attended. Representing NIWA at the time, Dr Jim spoke of all manner of climate related things, mostly on the national or even international scale. At the end a local cockie got up and asked about the current severe drought affecting our region. What was causing it & how much longer would it go on for? The cockie said he saw a similar pattern to the Great Drought of 1977-78. A dryish Nov, a normal (90mm) December rainfall. Then the taps were turned off around Boxing Day. I too was very familiar with the Great Drought of 77-78 that gave P.N. its driest 3 consecutive months on record. J-F-M of 2003 was heading into similar territory. Dr Jim was visibly stunned at this revelation and literally had no answer to the man’s questions. It seemed that NIWA were fixated on the big global questions rather than focussing on the detail around what was happening in the regions. Yes they do put out ‘Climate Outlooks’ every month, but they tend to be fairly conservative affairs. They rarely call a drought until it is almost half way through. The 77-78, & 02-03 situation repeated in 2012-13. I called it as early as Nov 20th 2012, NIWA called in mid March!

    The patterns are there if they would only look for other causes they might see them. There was another drought here the following year. A different pattern than the others I have mentioned, but almost identical to one seen here in 1946-47. I called it in Jan 2014, NIWA did likewise in March that year. Two to three months advanced warning would certainly help those in the primary industries for a starter and perhaps others. There is a whole field there ready to be examined by professionals who have far more time & resources to devote to this than I have, but they travel another road that is of little use to us!

  6. Peter Fraser on 10/08/2019 at 1:24 pm said:

    Dan Corbett the TV1 weather presenter is another cherry picker. He is obviously a died in the wool warmist as a temperature warmer than the average for that particular time of year at that location invariably comes with a comment about how hot it was and how much it was above average. An overnight low of -7 in Central Otago goes by without comment. I have not done a count but would estimate the word “hot” is used by Dan twenty times more frequently than “cold”

  7. Mack on 10/08/2019 at 4:22 pm said:

    “died in the wool” … accidentally got pressed into a bale of wool ? : )

  8. Peter Fraser on 10/08/2019 at 9:37 pm said:

    Thank you, dyed

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