Meteorological Spring

It began today. But never forget, the irony’s in the UK weather, not the climate.

Let the Met Office make everything clear, thoughtfully updating six days ago:

Astronomical seasons refer to the position of Earth’s orbit in relation to the sun taking into account equinoxes and solstices. Meteorological seasons are instead based on the annual temperature cycle and measure the meteorological state as well as coinciding with the calendar to determine a clear transition between the seasons.

Since the seasons vary in length, the start date of a new season can fall on different days each year. This makes it difficult to compare seasons between different years and resulted in the introduction of the meteorological calendar. This splits the calendar into four seasons of approximately the same length. The astronomical seasons run approximately three weeks later than those of the meteorological calendar. …

The meteorological seasons consists of splitting the seasons into four periods made up of three months each. These seasons are split to coincide with our Gregorian calendar making it easier for meteorological observing and forecasting to compare seasonal and monthly statistics. By the meteorological calendar, spring starts on 1 March.

The seasons are defined as spring (March, April, May), summer (June, July, August), autumn (September, October, November) and winter (December, January, February).

Ah, those seasonal statistics. Where would we all be without them?

And on this day …

Wind the clock back a mere 32 seasons and on this very day we had Professor Calculus and his protege Phil Jones answering questions on the Climategate emails before the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee. What I hadn’t noticed before, or for quite a few seasons, anyway, is a curious little incident on Radio 5 live also on 1st March 2010, as told two days later by Charles Crawford.

I’ll let those into climate nostalgia read those two rather fun threads rather than quoting. But, looking back, doesn’t it all come across as a more innocent age?

Christopher Booker, in presenting his mini-book on climate groupthink at the House of the Lords the other day, highlighted the moment ‘denier’ became the moniker of choice to smear anyone questioning the so-called consensus on AGW. He dated that as 2006. A few threads back Manic Beancounter asked the very good question why Booker didn’t even mention Professor Stephan Lewandowsky in his (admittedly potted) history.

I think it’s been very helpful for Booker to pick up on the work of Irving Janis in trying to explain the sorry climate story. I also think Kevin’s question alone shows it isn’t enough.

I was going to write more about all that but the clock is ticking. I probably will in comments, if anyone asks nicely.



  1. I don’t get how these things are defined. My understanding of the rough divisions of the seasons was
    Spring: Feb, March, April
    Summer: May, June, July
    Autumn: Aug, Sept, Oct
    Winter: Nov, Dec, Jan
    with the equinoxes & solstices being the mid-points (hence, mid-summer & mid-winter, & folk traditions welcoming in the summer with the May). Spring & autumn are the shoulder seasons, & thus can have attributes of summer & winter (spring, for example can encompass the last great hurrah of winter, & the sharp heat of an early summer).

    I would trust the old ways on this because they were more in tune with the land, given how much of their lives & livelihoods depended upon it. But whatever. Nothing makes sense any more.


  2. What a bigoted northern hemispheric viewpoint this post has. We do have some poor souls who comment here who (for their sins?) have just entered Autumn (or those even more afflicted – the Fall).


  3. Paul. ????? Your post dated 2 March (repeat MARCH)!!!! = Astrological Spring (= climatological summer).
    In southern parts does that not make it autumn¿¿¿¿

    ???? For Alex read Alan ????


  4. Apologies Paul, these double-barrelled replies commonly catch me out, and today I officially enter the ranks of the “old farts”. I can now expect any mistake to be instantly forgiven or excused, however whatever cred I held has now been lost or deliberately trampled over.


  5. Geoff: I had completely forgotten the name Charles Crawford and that, together with the scathing reviews of the main parliamentary sketchwriters of Acton and Jones, was partly the point. There was widespread scepticism from people from a wide range of backgrounds making itself known in the UK at that particular moment. I’d even forgotten the select committee hearings were on the first day of meteorological spring. What kind of sceptic am I?

    It was a search for 1st March on my personal wiki yesterday that turned up Crawford and thus the Bishop Hill discussion that followed of whether veteran BBC presenter Peter Allen had really meant to indicate that he was secret sceptic but prevented from saying so by Auntie’s edicts. But what strikes me eight years on is that no BBC frontperson would today ask the question he did to a ‘non-expert’:

    Well, it’s a funny year Angela.
    What do you think – is it your Global Warming that’s doing it?
    What do you think?

    It had been snowing more than usual in 2010 – what goes around comes around – and Angela was manager of one of the Glencoe’s ski centers so she had every right to say the snow comes and goes and that, in her opinion, that was nothing to do with mankind’s emissions of CO2. But today I would say expressions of such common-sense expertise have been ruthlessly cracked down upon. The successors to Peter Allen wouldn’t ask the question.


  6. So this was partly about gradual silencing of sceptical lambs from that moment. As one of Bishop Hill’s most interesting and penetrating commenters said 40 days later, as the whitewashing of Phil Jones and Climategate generally became clear:

    Same old same old. What more is there to say?

    I miss Don Pablo de la Sierra and many others. Wasn’t he a practicising psychiatrist or at least a psychologist of some sort? It seems relevant now with both Janis and Lewandowsky in the frame. (Not to mention the greenburst from your cut-price Oxfam guy, so to speak.) And they have been in the frame for me since hearing Booker and reading folks like Kevin Marshall and Andy West here. But I’ve been dealing with the death of my mother and related stuff. It makes one sensitive to psychological issues, let’s put it like that.


  7. And Jordan Peterson of course. What an intelligent sceptic there, whatever one makes of Jung. The title Meteorological Spring was partly a nod to Arab Spring. And that shows how desperately sad the looking back can be. But we’re either ruthless truth-tellers or nothing.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The Radio 4 quote is extremely apt. Pointing out there are observations that disagree with beliefs is verboten. All that matters are the core beliefs, and the data that supports those beliefs.
    Brad Keyes, in his recent post at Joanne Nova’s, showed a small quote from the 2010 book “Merchants of Doubt“. At first I thought he had made up. It is on page 262.

    From the Oreskes and Conway perspective, in relation to understanding climate, when a group of academics get together promoting theories that give an intellectual justification for their ideological beliefs, those outside the circle should accept those beliefs. Anyone who points out that observations disagree with current beliefs are engaged in an act of dishonesty. Thus a “climate denier” is one who rejects consensus Groupthink on the basis of observations contradicting reality, whereas a “climate scientist” is one analyzes events in terms of the mantra “AGW is real, human-caused, serious, and solvable” (Supran & Oreskes 2017).

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Manic. In the distant past – pre e-mail (PEM) consensus was defined and promulgated by textbook. What was in the book was true (eventually you learned that it was probably true, most of the time). During my time at UEA I saw the demise of the textbook – fewer and fewer students bought the textbook, more and more reliance was given to class notes (written and biased by the lecturer), less and less variety of opinion proffered although discussion of consensus could be endless. More and more emphasis was given to reading a few, highly selected primary research papers. Mea culpa: students came to expect pre-digested science. You waited and pounced on any undergraduate (to offer encouragement) who showed an inkling of resistance to such pap. Most undergraduates were only interested in anything that was needed to write good exam answers and little else.
    I’m not just writing about climate science. To me one of the great joys of my science (geology) is that only rarely can you gain sufficient evidence to make definitive interpretations. This means that either there are several different interpretations that can be defended or argued for or against., or alternatively it is possible to use extremely clever methods to achieve the seemingly impossible. An example is to measure depth and diameter of raindrops on ancient beach sands to establish the gravitational constant at that time. For many this holds no delights , they want to know the answer, not alternative explanations, and you can demonstrate the value of g in the Pre-Cambrian, and the reply comes back – so what? or a yawn.
    I sometimes despair for my and all science. Has any escaped its current plight?

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Manic: That’s another extraordinary find from Brad. The “fellowship of experts” – I think I now see one of the sources for his JRR Tolkien banter elsewhere. But Feynman would have none of it. Thank you for your continued and manic attention to the data.

    As I’ve indicated in the main post your initial comments on Booker’s latest were something of a springboard for my own thoughts. I agree with you (if you still hold to this) that a proper history has to include mention of the evil of Lewandowsky.

    There was deliberate irony in my presentation above. ‘Denier’ first became mainstream in 2006 according to Booker – and it’s a real strength of his and Janis’ framing that it includes pre-emptive demonisation of those who disagree. But I was writing of 2010 here:

    I’ll let those into climate nostalgia read those two rather fun threads rather than quoting. But, looking back, doesn’t it all come across as a more innocent age?

    Innocent my foot. We were already being labelled in this horrendous way – but it wasn’t working. That’s why Lewandowsky had to be deployed, to intensify the demonisation.

    That’s unashamedly making conspiracy part of the picture, with corruption and groupthink concentric circles outside it. The boundaries are of course impossible to precisely identify and indeed porous – a person may simply be corrupt, then tempted to engage in some localised plotting (as the Climategate emails show) then just go back to being corrupted. And there are those for whom groupthink alone is enough to keep them in line – and that circle most certainly includes demonisation of opponents so innocent it ain’t.

    Though Alan’s comments on lecturing in geology are very much appreciated I’m struggling to say something useful on much of the detail. But I’m very grateful to Booker for causing me to think again about the big picture. I need to read him in full, and Lewin, and Darwall, before saying much more. See you all again at Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Alan,
    I can see the importance of textbooks from my own study of economics. In any subject where there is little data, (or lots of estimates, averages etc) and many possible (often contradictory) theories/conjectures to explain the data (or observations) then for an introduction to the subject it is useful to have the sifted perspective of a textbook. Even a fairly partisan perspective, so long as it references the other perspectives, can be a foundation for further study. In economics, the textbooks used to be a major source of income for some of the leading figures, with the reputation based on giving a rounded perspective of the leading controversies.
    I believe that comparing and contrasting the different perspectives not only gives some understanding of strengths and weaknesses of each, but may highlight the large gaps in the arguments. In terms of the CAGW consensus, I believe the most glaring gap is in policy implementation. If saving the world from climate catastrophe is from reducing greenhouse emissions, then this cannot be achieved if
    (a) the developing countries with 80% of the world’s population do not reduce their emissions and
    (b) at least 75% of proven reserves of fossil fuels (and the much greater amounts of non-proven deposits are left in the ground.
    The other option is climate adaptation. If CAGW is to some extent true, for genuine scientists the direct contribution is in better defining the when, where and magnitude of impacts. That is so that limited resources are not wasted. Treat climate change like earthquakes. You cannot prevent earthquakes, but you can design buildings in high risk areas to withstand quite severe impacts. However, it would be a waste of resources to have EU-wide uniform earthquake regulations, covering both central Italy and Ireland – which my 1973 Guinness Book of Records listed as the most earthquake-free country in the world.


  12. Manic. I was mostly with you until the last few sentences. As you know calculating risk, especially from low frequency but high intensity events can be counterintuitive. I was disbelieving, until I was taken through the calculations, that I was more at risk from being killed by an earthquake when I moved to Dallas from near the San Andreas fault in northern California. Dallas had a very low probability of being affected by a re-occurrence of the strongest earthquake to affect North America (focus in the Mississippi Valley). If it did, it would cause substantially more deaths than its equivalent in California because houses and infrastructure are not designed for any earthquakes, let alone biggies. Even a moderate quake would be devastating.
    There are many faults in the geology of Ireland. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that one of them could move. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Just remembered a little factoid that might be of interest. It was claimed in the 1980s (when I lived there) that if the San Andreas fault (which even then was considered overdue) slipped to generate “the BIG ONE” during rush hours, the number of casualties (not deaths) would exceed the total number of hospital beds across the whole of the USA.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Richard,

    I try to keep comments short and to the point – something that I am not very good at :). One way I cut short the comment that that prompted your thoughts was by looking at only one of two approaches to furthering our understanding of Groupthink with respect to climate alarmism – or of behaviours that may replicate some of its inwards-looking characteristics.

    1. Is the consensus promotion Groupthink or deliberate?

    From my previous comment

    There are two alternative questions that can be posed about this promotion of the climate consensus, along with smearing of opponents, by academic psychologists.

    Are the consensus enforcers deliberately using the tools psychology as weapons to promote their own political beliefs by excluding others?


    Are the consensus enforcers so immersed in Groupthink that they are completely blind to anything outside of their shallow consensus opinions?

    This might be an interesting topic, but it does not tackle the consequences of adverse consequences of Groupthink.

    2. What are the alternatives to Groupthink?

    Booker, in explaining the work of Janis states on page 4 stated the following.

    But Janis then followed this litany of failure with two examples of US foreign policy initiatives that provided a complete contrast: the Marshall Plan in the late 1940s and the ending of the Cuban missile crisis, which had threatened a new world war in 1962. He showed how the difference had been that these initiatives were driven by the very opposite of groupthink. In each case, those responsible had deliberately canvassed the widest range of expert opinion, to ensure that all relevant evidence was brought to the table. They wanted to explore every possible consequence of what was being proposed. And in each case the policy was outstandingly successful.

    That is, successful policy initiatives canvassed different points of view. In academia, I believe that one should try to understand the different perspectives and compare them to observations.

    Rather than someone doing a follow-up on the Lewandowsky-Oreskes school of consensus enforcement, I believe that there should be a look at positive ways to enhance understanding of climate and policy. This will help break away from partisan modes of thinking, and utilize a variety of different skills and perspectives. I have suggested various (and sometimes overlapping) ways this can be done over the years. Some examples.

    Evaluate the data from a broader perspective. My most recent post is on Bob Ward’s citing of a tracking survey where 8.1% of men and 7.1% of women answered “I don’t think there is such a thing as climate change” or “Climate change is caused entirely caused by natural processes”.
    The inference is that men are more dismissive of climate change than women. A check on the data reveals a slightly larger imbalance on the belief that “Climate change is entirely caused by human activity”. The broader perspective is that men tend to be slightly more opinionated than women.
    Following the logic of the argument. The 2006 Stern Review claimed that the likely costs of unmitigated climate change were many times the policy costs. In October 2013 I followed the economic logic using Stern’s assumptions. If only a few countries cut their emissions then the world would be better off, but the policy countries would be worse off. Further, the most catastrophic impacts of runaway climate change would be mitigated so countries following the lead of the UK would face different cost-benefit ratios at the margin. For many, it would which not be cost-beneficial to join later, even it would have been if all countries had started policy together.
    Learning from other disciplines. The issue I identified in the previous point is the classic economic “free-rider” problem in the provision of public goods. Many issues, such as decision making under conditions of uncertainty, hypothesis testing and the role of value judgements have also been formalised and debated for decades in economics. In medical diagnoses or with expert forensic evidence in law or with accounting standards, the trend has been to reduce subjective evaluations by “experts” to using objective tests to laid down standards.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Forget astrology and the MO, boxing hares on a heath near Thetford, Norfolk, tell it all.


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