Last January, the European Physical Journal Plus, a Nature journal, published the open access paper, Alimonti et al. — “A critical assessment of extreme events trends in times of global warming.” Just over a week ago, immediately following criticism of the paper by The Guardian, the journal added the following note: “Readers are alerted that the conclusions reported in this manuscript are currently under dispute. The journal is investigating the issue.”
I am opening up this thread to host a public extended peer review of the paper. The ground rules are simple — keep focus, be respectful and support your statements with evidence. Here are the questions to address:
Does Alimonti et al. show indications of research misconduct?
Are there mistakes or errors so egregious to warrant retraction (or other action)?
This discussion thread is open to everyone.
I found the use of statistics disappointing.
At the begining of the article they suggest a 90% or 10% definition for an extreme event.
This conceptual framework is then dropped and the rest of the article provides little by way of measurement. There are no R^2 or p-values given in support of conclusions about trends.
There is no supporting dataset or R or python code, if someone wants to replicate they have to go back to the underlying sources.
The analysis is not - in my opinion - particularly deep either.
As has been pointed out elsewhere, the heatwave analysis is threadbare.
The NOAA's web page on hurricanes and climate change (https://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/global-warming-and-hurricanes/) is, in my opinion much more through and considers a greater range of extremes and underlying papers than Alimonti et al., and that's just a website rather than a paper. For example NOAA also consider the speed of intensification, precipitation and propagation speed. Alimonti et al. graphics and analysis appear to be a subset of what's on that webpage.
Similarly for rainfall, Alimonti, G., Mariani, L., Prodi, F. et al., focus on daily max and thus would miss important events like 2-3 consecutive days of heavy rain. Their focus on the count of stations ignores the extent of increase in those stations where an increase was found.
However should the paper be withdrawn - no way!
None of the above are evidence of misconduct or egregious error. It's obvious why they have been singled out. Political censorship has no place in science.
I've written a comment about this interesting THREAD and the paper of G. Alimonti et al. in the Swiss online media "Nebelspalter" (in German) https://www.nebelspalter.ch/kein-trend-zu-mehr-extremwetter (with paywall) and on my website as well https://www.schlumpf-argumente.ch/kein-trend-zu-mehr-extremwetter/
I am an expert in ship machinery systems, alternative fuels and emission reduction (GHG and the important local pollutants). I manage a group of researchers in this field and I know science publications and how they work. And most important, how to read them.
I am reading this paper now and I find it well documented and true to the references it gives. In my view, you learn a lot about a paper by reading the references and how they are framed.
That some people do not like what this paoer says is ok, everyone is free to their own opinion. But the paper itself is good and there is absolutely no need for a heads up warning on it.
It's sad and depressing that editors of scientific journals are increasingly spineless when it comes to defending papers that don't conform to current ideological narratives. In that respect they resemble university administrators or won't defend the free and open discussion of ideas of all kinds. Even the once great journal SCIENCE has in recent years become "woke" and especially in its book review and editorial sections has published nonsense, or should I say non-science.
I wish they authors hadn't used the phrase "natural" disasters" here: "The analysis is then extended to some global response indicators of extreme meteorological events, namely natural disasters, floods, droughts, ecosystem productivity and yields of the four main crops (maize, rice, soybean and wheat)." Disasters happen when a meteorological event strikes a vulnerable system or community.
But this is minor in the context of the big-picture question. More on that anon.
I am not a climate scientist, I am soil scientist/geostatistician. The interesting thing here for me is that the journal now says "Readers are alerted that the conclusions reported in this manuscript are currently under dispute". In my own field we have had some heated discussions and controversial papers, including about the potential for long-term C storage in soils. But we have never had one of "our" journals put this "disclaimer" on any paper. What we've had are (1) Discussion papers, where the journal editor knows the paper is controversial and invites comments and replies on publication, (2) "reply" papers that re-analyze or re-interpret the work of the original paper. So we as a community see the entire debate among reputable scientists (nota bene, all papers have been peer-reviewed) and we then synthesize for ourselves. I could certainly slap the "under dispute" label on many papers in my field! Note this is quite different from "the data are suspected to be fraudulent" or "the analysis is suspected to have been incorrect".
Thanks for the comments so far. No case has yet been made here (or at The Guardian or elsewhere) in support of retraction or even meaningful error. The paper, as I read it, is consistent with the IPCC AR6 and USNCA 2017. The paper does have some editorializing at the end that may or may not be appropriate, depending on one's tastes, but that passed through editorial scrutiny via peer review so was apparently judged acceptable by this journal (which I am not familiar with).
I'll continue to solicit views. Thanks all who have participated so far.
I'm a retired chemical engineer with a long-term interest in things climate. To answer your two questions:
1. I see no signs of misconduct in their research because they are basically interpreting the results of the research of others. Anyone with sufficient knowledge and understanding can replicate their work.
2. There might be mistakes and/or errors which I am not qualified to judge but I see nothing which could be considered "egregious".
There are some difficulties with presentation which someone suggested might be the result of translation. I was particularly struck by this phrase: "what the figure is really showing is the evolution of the registration of natural disaster events over time”. As I read it my interpretation of this somewhat tortuous statement is that our ability to identify particular events has improved over time. But my observation of the literacy of many younger people today suggests many would not understand the quotation.
What we are observing here is a growing movement in public media and the technical/scientific press to suppress comment which runs contrary to accepted "wisdom" and political desire about climate change. It is a situation which has allowed egregious publications to influence public attitudes. But accurate evidence —fact—is slowly emerging and has the "establishment" (with vested interests) concerned to the extent it feels the need to suppress information which might undermine it. There are parallels in totalitarian politics!
By definition of a "climate emergency", you won't find it in data, however carefully analysed. This is an obvious methodological flaw in the paper: it CANNOT support the conclusion it claims to reach. It is perhaps also a flaw in the notion of a climate emergency, though that's a separate issue. On the other hand, I'm no fan of retraction. Bad papers don't get cited, which is punishment enough. Unfortunately, because of political polarisation, they may get quoted in non-academic publications. But that's the price to pay for open science.
I take it that everyone is invited to comment. However, it would be helpful if those with climate related training/expertise would state their background.
The costs of disasters have increased because more people are living in disaster zones. It is easier to blame climate change than bad decision making. It you build in a hurricane zone, don't build single story homes with toothpicks. The second comes from the funding of studies where the conclusion is in the study funding requirements such as "What and where will we expect damage from climate change?" The bias is built in to the request.
Oh, BTW if climate change is coming from carbon the west can do ZERO to stop it. China alone emits more CO2 then all of the western nations combined! And they are building more coal power pants. So are India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and the rest of the developing world.
The last issue I have with ALL scientific studies is can it be repeated? The detractors lack any academic rigor until the report is dissected, analyzed, and repeated by a team of unbiased scientists it is not science. It is not science unless it can be repeated.
Lacking independent replication it is all gumming and flapping of the lips.
I have been around a long time. Got my Ph. D. from Berkeley in 1959. I am still active (co-investigator on "MOXIE now converting CO2 to O2 on Mars). Over the years, I've seen a cultural change in the way scientists present and portray their work. We used to be somewhat humble and proposed findings tentatively, subject to confirmation. In the last few decades the culture has swung toward arrogance. Scientists working on sparse data and flimsy models make assertive predictions for the future that are simply incredible. A substantial fraction of published research is bogus.
Here's an example: Dominik Schumacher, a climate scientist at ETH Zurich, a university in Switzerland, recently published a paper in which he asserted (among many other things): "Floods and droughts are made 20 times more likely by climate change", "will repeat every 20 years", and "With an additional 1.44 degrees of warming, this type of drought will happen once every 10 years in western central Europe and every year throughout the Northern Hemisphere". Note the two significant figures in the temperature. I am not here to argue whether his assertions are correct or not. I claim that there is by far, not enough data, not enough veracity in models, and not enough predictive power in any conceivable analysis, to warrant such narrow, specific detailed conclusions. These assertions must be dismissed out of hand because he can't possibly know how to make such predictions.
Comparing the present to the past can also be a minefield because so many of the key factors have changed, data is usually flaky and sparse, and motivated people seem to cherry pick from what little there is.
The thing that is missing in almost all climate studies is humility. This paper has some humility: "How the climate of the twenty first century will play out is a topic of deep uncertainty. We need to increase our resiliency to whatever the future climate will present us." However, it is not yet clear whether we should "remove the burden of being in a climate emergency" – a clear implication by the authors that they think claims by climate alarmists are bogus.
Climate alarmists, in their enthusiasm to save the planet from perceived danger, have exaggerated the imperative to cut emissions using various falsifications, misrepresentations and biased analysis and reporting. One well-documented case is the analysis of global temperatures over the past 2000 years resulting in the "hockey stick". Montford's book (and mine as well) goes to great extent to expose the fakery. Another is the subject of this publication: repeated claims we read every day that each new flood, drought, wind, temperature or storm is due to carbon dioxide. An honest evaluation of the inadequate data that we have suggests that if the alarmists are ultimately right, they have jumped the gun, and present evidence compared to the past does not support the belief that we are already in the midst of the alarmist future.
I have the article by Altimonti, et al. and have read parts of it, and will reference it in my next climate-related talk "How Analytical Chemistry provides new Knowledge about the Earth's Climate, Past and Present ..." I do not have any serious questions about the contents of the article. There are good references for the authors' conclusions in each section of the article.
I read the article in the Guardian. It cites Michael Mann and three scientists who are involved in some aspect of climate. Their brief comments do not include quotations of any specific paragraphs or sections in the Altimonti article, but just make general points.
The author of the article, Graham Readfearn, has no degree in science and very little connection to science in his career. Here are some excerpts from his website https://www.readfearn.com/about/
"Born in Burnley in England’s east Lancashire region, he took a decisive career choice in 1994 when he gave up a job with a national pub chain for a new life as a journalist.
"After gaining work experience at the tiny Todmorden News (first assignment chasing an escaped heifer through the town centre), he was awarded a scholarship by a newspaper group to study journalism."
"After a career-break to travel the world – visiting Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil – he returned to the UK as a freelance feature writer covering social affairs, youth issues and sustainability for national magazines and newspapers.
"He immigrated to Brisbane in 2005 with his wife and young son and started writing for The Courier-Mail’s features sections."
"Since then, his work has been featured in many publications, including ABC Environment, Green Lifestyle magazine, The Drum, ECOS, bmag, Independent Australia, Crikey and The Guardian.
"He reported from the United Nations climate talks in Warsaw in 2013, Lima in 2014 and the landmark 2015 negotiations in Paris.
"He writes at DeSmogBlog, on his The Guardian Planet Oz blog and tweets @readfearn."
* Someone needs to peer review the Guardian piece! Michael Mann commenting on someone else’s expertise, methodology, research misconduct? C’mon, man!
* The paper itself seems pretty solid. Nothing particularly beyond the pale I.t.o. methodology. Absolutely no evidence of misconduct.
As a separate issue, the one place I haven’t seen anyone look for evidence of climate change is volatility. Given that the atmosphere is a poorly mixed fluid (e.g., the 1-2 yrs it takes CO2 to cross the earth), I would expect that increasing heat content would lead to greater volatility. Last night I did a quick calculation using the landfalling hurricane data and found that volatility increased comparing data prior to 1960 to data after 1960. Not sure whether the increase is stat. sig. tho (I am not that good a statistician even for a jackleg chemist.
The paper is primarily a review of the work of others and an attempt to summarize the literature, put it in perspective and provide the opinions of the authors as to significance. I think it succeeds in achieving its' objectives. Most of the work on weather, disaster and climate extremes seems pretty consistent with the major body of Pielke's work and the summaries he's presented here on Substack.
The objections by the Guardian and their select "scientists" is primarily that the authors have bravely expressed the opinion that the data in no way supports the assertion of a climate emergency that requires doing all sorts of costly and destructive things in the name of achieving Net Zero lest we all die. I would be surprised if Roger took exception with this view, though he avoids stating or even implying it probably in the hope of maintaining his self appointment as The Honest broker.
The conclusions of the report are consistent with the IPCC's Climate Change 2021, a summary of what climate scientists are reasonably certain about. The survey seems to represent the mainstream view. My guess, those that are most critical are activists or have a political bias. We shouldn't be arguing about documented historical weather trends - you can't keep claiming climate change is accelerating when there are few statistics supporting it.
Editor's say: Readers are alerted that the conclusions reported in this manuscript are currently under dispute. My question: ¿What are the objections/disputed conclusions? Why?
I noted that the paper did not deal hardly at all with heat waves. A heat wave index was defined as the occurrence of warm spells of at least 4 days in duration with mean temperature exceeding the threshold for a 1-in-10-year event. The historical occurrence of heat waves is available from NOAA. While this index has been increasing in the past few decades, it remains far below the peaks in the 1930s. In addition, Kunkel et al. (2008) showed that the area over which hot daily highs and lows were reached has been increasing over the past few decades, but the percentages of total remain low at under 0.5%. I don't know how to include a plot of heat wave index vs. year from 1895 to 2020 but it oscillated between about 1 and 20 prior to the 1930s, peaked around 100 in the 1930s, then returned to 1 to 20 afterward, with a slight increase after 1980. See: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1293872/us-heat-wave-index/
In my experience a critical review is invariably at odds with the mainstream view and in that respect the paper has achieved exactly what it set out to do. Of essence here is the accuracy of the data upon which the opinions are based – if the data reported in the paper are correct and accessible to all then the authors are entitled to place whatever interpretation on them they wish. One cannot claim that a paper should be retracted merely because one disagrees with the conclusions. Climate science among all disciplines of science rarely appears to be subject to rigorous accounting and critical review so it was both refreshing and a surprise to see this critical appraisal in print. Also, it is not for a newspaper, known for its partisan view, to decide what is and what is not a valid opinion based on the data.
I could see no indications of research misconduct so the validity of this paper rests on the accuracy of the data as reported by the authors and not on their interpretation and opinions.
I was surprised by this section:
"Existing records of past Atlantic tropical storms or hurricane numbers (from 1878 to present) indeed show a pronounced upward trend; however, the density of Atlantic shipping reports was relatively low during the first decades of this period: if the storms of the modern era (after 1965) had hypothetically occurred during those decades, a considerable number of storms probably would not have been observed by the naval observation network.
"Therefore, after adjusting the time series to take into account the smaller observational capacities of the past, there remains only a small nominally positive upward trend of the tropical storms from 1878 to 2006. Statistical tests indicate that this trend is not significantly distinguishable from zero."
To begin with, there was an absolute crapload of shipping across the Atlantic in the late 19th century--England and the northeastern US were the world's centers of shipping at the time. In addition, the fact that there was no air travel meant that all passenger and a lot of the freight now carried by planes were on ships. True, they lacked our "observational capacities," technologically speaking, but it seems plausible to me that there was more vessels on the North Atlantic then than now. In any case, this is something to be examined empirically, by consulting shipping records, and not lazily asserted, as here.
Similarly, I was startled to find that they "adjusted the time series" without specifying what that adjustment was, and performed "statistical tests" without identifying them.
The subject of the paper is not an arena in which I have worked. Generally, to my level of understanding, the paper seems to fit the standard for such analyses, many of which appear on a regular basis.
I do have a few comments as follows.
There are no laws of nature, either the local-instantaneous or global averaged formulations, that indicate that an increase in a global average surface temperature shall lead to increases in extreme weather events. The spatial and temporal variations of the different specific events considered in the paper are in themselves proof that weather events, nominal or extreme, are solely functions of the local-instantaneaous states of the climate subsystems of which the events are a part.
The use of a functional response metric in which all the effects of all physical phenomena and processes are reduced to a single scalar number, and in this case it is literally a global functional, has led to these attempts to relate weather events of all kinds, and weather-related events such as wildfires, to the functional. The approach cannot lead to identification of root-cause causality, and so will fail.
The use of time-series data alone, omitting considerations of all physical phenomena and processes that lead to weather, is counter to the standard methodology used in all other scientific and engineering analyses. Climate seems to be defined to be the average of weather over a an extended period of time; 30 years seems to be a rough value. I understand the thought to be that ‘close' comparisons of the global functional over an additional period of 30 years following some kind of rough and inexactly specified state of an initial 30 years will indicate that a new state of climate has been obtained. Until that state has been obtained, and the occurrences of extreme weather events have been compared for the two time periods, assigning extreme weather events to ‘climate change’ cannot be correctly carried out.
I am a Ph. D. scientist and I've written a book on climate change (on amazon) but I am not expert on the specific matter of extreme events. I read the article and it reads appropriately and convincingly. I see no evidence of misconduct or malfeasance. I've been educated by Roger P. to understand that one cannot simply compare old data to new data because old data misses many events, inflation has a major effect, and people have located into vulnerable areas over the years. I think this paper takes these factors into account. I was particularly impressed by the opening statement to the effect that any conclusions in this arena are limited by the quantity and quality of the data, which falls short in many respects. That limits the certainty of any conclusions, pro or con vs. effect of greenhouse gas increases. I regard this as an interim report for the moment, not a firm conclusion for the century. I hope Roger P. will chime in after a while.
I see some bad writing or maybe poor translation that may give offense. In particular, there is a lack of the customary "we found…" prior to conclusions and assertions. For example (from the abstract) "global trends in heatwave intensity are not significant." Huh? Sez who? is the natural reader reaction, since it is not clear from the text.
The media has already convinced the younger generations that we somehow had Goldilocks weather and climate in the past. The vast majority of young people spend most of their lives in a climate controlled environment these days, and have never been acclimated to the natural world. This makes it very easy to convince them that extreme weather events are increasing. The media knows that if they continue to tell the lie, it will eventually become "truth".
The fact that the solution to climate change is so stupid (100% wind, solar, and battery storage) tells me that climate alarmism is really about fundamentally changing the global economy through massive government spending. It has very little, if anything, to do with actual science.
Roger a comment thread is not going to be very definitive or authoritative. I think we would all like to see your analysis of the paper and your view.
Certainly not as exciting, or as fashionable, as paper predicting an imminent super storm, end of civilization in 12 years, need for billion dollars of surveillance/research funding, or trillion dollars of wealth redistribution.
What could be more boring than repeating over and over[paraphrasing] X trends have been slightly positive, then slightly negative, but statististically indistinguishable from zero. But boring and uncontroversial are not grounds for retraction.
I have no substantive criticism of the paper’s content.
Others’ criticism seems unsubstantial, gravitating towards impugning the authors’ motives or affiliations.
Mann seems to suggest that authors were not part of his club, which by his design suppresses or expunged anyone who doesn’t start out with the conclusion that there is a climate emergency. He says as much.
I guess he thinks you license to read and interpret a thermometer, wind gauge, graph plotting 100 years of history, published in a peer reviewed study.
Source: Prof Michael Mann, a climate scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, told Temperature Check the journal article was “another example of scientists from totally unrelated fields coming in and naively applying inappropriate methods to data they don’t understand”. (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/sep/22/sky-and-the-australian-find-no-evidence-of-a-climate-emergency-they-werent-looking-hard-enough)
The paper looks very solid. The authors acknowledge warming world. The sections on tornados and hurricanes show clearly no long term increasing trend matching IPCC. The authors acknowledge increasing global precipitation and small increase extreme precipitation events in some regions - so once again critics seem to be nit picking. The issue of droughts is complicated and authors acknowledge this, but common sense tells us a wetter world will average fewer droughts. The Guardian critic is big on name calling and acting as if scientists not in the CC club aren't qualified to discuss the topic - big red flag that The Temperature Check can't compete on the battlefield of ideas.
The climate crisis narrative is able to co-opt IPCC and related science into hysterical language that is easily consumable by media and activists. Those of us with a contrary position have to do a better job translating science like this peer reviewed paper into consumable language for media and be willing to speak to it forcefully.
Well beyond my 'pay grade' but the discussion surrounding the application of resources j will not bear fruit until the governments around the world unsubscribed to the 'end of mankind' religion...
The long knives are out on this one. Talking against the Global Warming Narrative will NOT be tolerated: The fascist cabal.