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Judith Curry

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Judith Curry

Learn more from the Center for Media and Democracy's research on climate change.

Judith A. Curry is chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. A prolific climate communicator, she runs a climate blog[1] and has been invited by Republicans on several occasions to testify at climate hearings about uncertainties in climate understanding and predictions.

Climate scientists criticize her uncertainty-focused climate outreach communication for containing elementary mistakes and inflammatory assertions unsupported by evidence.

Education

Curry has a B.S. in Geography from Northern Illinois University (1974) and her PhD in Geophysical Sciences from the University of Chicago (1982).[1]

Career

Research interests

Curry's research interests have included hurricanes, remote sensing, atmospheric modeling, polar climates, air-sea interactions, and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for atmospheric research. In 2010 and beyond, she has been looking at uncertainty.

Academic institutions

Curry's academic positions have been:[2]

  • 2002- : Georgia Tech, Chair, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
  • 1992-2002 University of Colorado at Boulder, Professor, Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences
  • Earlier positions at Penn State, Purdue University, University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Business - Climate Forecast Applications Network

With partner Peter J. Webster, Curry has run a weather prediction consulting business, Climate Forecast Applications Network (CFAN), since 2006.[2].

Clients not disclosed

The identities of Curry's clients have not been disclosed.

Fossil fuel industry funding

In an interview with Curry for a October 2010 Scientific American profile[3], Michael Lemonick reports (pers. comm.) that he asked Curry about potential conflicts of interest, and she responded,

"I do receive some funding from the fossil fuel industry. My company...does [short-term] hurricane forecasting...for an oil company, since 2007. During this period I have been both a strong advocate for the IPCC, and more recently a critic of the IPCC, there is no correlation of this funding with my public statements."

In a communication to SourceWatch, Curry claimed that this funding is the full extent of her ties to fossil fuel interests, and said she has no ties to organizations or individuals with an interest in delaying climate action, or to organizations working on behalf of such interests such as PR firms and "advocacy science" firms, or subcontractors of such firms.

Climate views

Curry believes the IPCC has done a bad job of characterizing uncertainty".[4] She believes "skeptical scientists" have difficulty getting their papers published.[5] She does not view herself as a climate hawk[6] (one who judges that the risks of climate change are sufficient to warrant a robust response.[7]) - though somewhat confusingly, she denies playing down the urgency of climate action: "I am saying nothing about that one way or the other".

Blog - Climate Etc

In September 2010, Curry started a weblog, Climate Etc., which takes the same "stress-the-uncertainties" approach also seen in other efforts to thwart science-based policy actions, as documented by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway in their book Merchants of Doubt[8].

Criticisms from climate scientists

Criticisms of outreach communication

Laundry list

Curry's contrarian-leaning "public outreach" public communication is criticized by prominent climate scientists and other science-aligned climate bloggers for a propensity toward "inflammatory language and over-the-top accusations ...with the...absence of any concrete evidence and [with] errors in matters of simple fact."[9],[10],[11],[12],[13],[14].

"...Examples of the unreliability of Curry's blog publications are illustrated by Michael Tobis[15] and James Annan[16], who both showed basic flaws in her understanding of uncertainty and probability, or at least an irresponsible level of sloppiness in expressing herself. Arthur Smith pointed out an under-grad level misunderstanding[17] in her own field's basic terminology," said Coby Beck.[9]

Climate scientist James Annan has provided examples (with rebuttals) of assertions made by Curry on topics like no-feedback climate sensitivity, aerosols, climate change detection&attribution, and the IPCC tolerance of challengers; he finds there's a pattern of "throwing up vague or demonstrably wrong claims, then running away when shown to be wrong",[18]

Willingness to criticize based on second-hand info from contrarian, inexpert sources

"In a 2010 comment[19] she called blogger Deep Climate's detailed and well-documented investigation into the Wegman Report "one of the most reprehensible attacks on a reputable scientist that I have seen" even as she revealed in her incorrect synopsis of the charges that she had not even read it for herself. ... [i.e.] she shows herself ready to publicly criticise someone else in the strongest terms based entirely on second hand information gleaned from places like Climate Audit and Watts Up With That."[9]

Offering off-the-cuff, uninformed criticism of mainstream climate science

Gavin Schmidt has criticised Curry for "not knowing enough about what she has chosen to talk about[20], for not thinking clearly about the claims she has made with respect to the IPCC[21], and for flinging serious accusations at other scientists without just cause."[22].

2011: Berkeley Earth Project "BEST" dissension, and widely publicized claims of "pause"

Curry was a member of the partially-Koch-funded Berkeley Earth Project temperature reanalysis project headed by former global warming skeptic Richard Muller, which reanalyzed existing weather station data and found yes, global warming was real. The project FAQ[3] (and a draft paper, which lists Curry among the authors[4]) reported there was no evidence to indicate the rate of global warming had changed in the last decade.

But despite Curry's having agreed (as evinced by her coauthorship) with this conclusion, London Daily Mail contrarian (and oft-misrepresenting[5], [6], [7]) journalist David Rose portrayed a vigorously-disagreeing Curry saying, "This is 'hide the decline' stuff. Our data show the pause, just as the other sets of data do. Muller is hiding the decline."[23].

Curry backtracked somewhat on her blog, saying "The article spun my comments in ways that I never intended"[23], but didn't step back from "Our data show the pause", and "There has been a lag/slowdown/whatever you want to call it in the rate of temperature increase since 1998."[24] When pressed for the scientific basis for these statements, Curry admitted the time period was too short for a statistically significant difference to emerge.

RommSkepticsPauses.png

In response Tamino noted, "There is Occam's razor -- ... the simplest hypothesis (namely: the trend hasn't changed) is preferable. Besides which, basing her statement on "It may have stopped since 1998" is really no different than "it may have stopped since last Thursday.""[8]

Eyeballed "pauses" are misleading - in a graph titled "How "Skeptics" View Global Warming", Joe Romm shows that if you see a "pause" in the post-1998 temperature data, you'll also think global warming "paused" at least six times from 1973-2010, covering almost the entire period - yet the global temperature actually continued to increase.[25]

Criticisms of academic research

2011 WIRES article on uncertainty

Climatologist James Annan noted in passing that in this article Curry had "grossly misrepresented the IAC report."[26].

Claims not backed up

The WIRES article also didn't back up claims made earlier: in an earlier paper, Curry and Webster had said the forthcoming article "argues that the attribution argument cannot be well formulated in the context of Boolean logic or Bayesian probability...[and] argues that fuzzy logic provides a better framework..."[9] But when the WIRES paper appeared[10], it didn't do so - not even mentioning fuzzy logic, Boolean logic or Bayesian probability.[27]. (When asked, Curry said her reviewers had found that section confusing, so "in the revised version, I simplified the argument".[28])

2010: Liu and Curry

Liu and Curry's August 2010 paper, "Accelerated warming of the Southern Ocean and its impacts on the hydrological cycle and sea ice"[29], has been criticized for its failure to cite previous papers drawing the same conclusion, and for its "uncritical use of invalid data".[30], [31]



Articles and Resources

References

  1. Judith Curry CV.
  2. About CFAN. CFAN. Retrieved on 2010-10-28.
  3. Michael D. Lemonick (2010-10-25). Climate Heretic: Judith Curry Turns on Her Colleagues. Scientific American. Retrieved on 2010-10-28.
  4. Keith Kloor (2010-04-23). An Inconvenient Provocateur. Collide-a-scape. Retrieved on 2010-10-29. “"Chapter 2.3 in the IPCC WG1 Third Assessment Report and Chapter 6 in the IPCC WG1 Fourth Assessment Report, both of which address the paleoclimate proxy record, were not accurate assessments of the science and its uncertainties."”
  5. Judith Curry (2011-07-27). Nature on Heartland. Climate Etc.. Retrieved on 2011-07-28.
  6. John Rennie (2010-10-25). Update on Climate Hawks, Judith Curry and more. Retort. Retrieved on 2010-10-28. “"...So the answer is no, I am not going to sign up to be a climate hawk"”
  7. Dave Roberts (2010-10-20). Introducing ‘climate hawks’. Grist. Retrieved on 2010-10-29. “it evokes a judgment: that the risks of climate change are sufficient to warrant a robust response.”
  8. Brian Angliss (2010-07-08). WordsDay: Merchants of Doubt. Scholars and Rogues. Retrieved on 2010-10-28. “Merchants of Doubt also describes how Seitz et al misrepresented scientific uncertainty to their advantage over the course of the last 60 years. The scientists did this in a number of ways...”
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Coby Beck (2010-11-05). Judith Curry plants her flag. A Few Things Ill Considered. Retrieved on 2010-11-05.
  10. Steve Bloom (2010-08-23). comment on Currying confusion. Not Spaghetti. Retrieved on 2010-11-03. “She...specifically asserts that a Charney sensitivity well below 2C is plausible...her response was to point me to a recent review paper (Hegerl co-auth) she said agreed with her. I looked and... no, it didn't.”
  11. Tim Lambert (2010-07-29). Judith Curry and the hockey stick. Deltoid. Retrieved on 2010-10-29. “Tamino has written a detailed review of the [Montford] book with particular emphasis on two of the three main critiques that Curry identified. The response from Curry was perplexing. Instead of thanking Tamino for addressing the main critiques that she had identified, Curry wrote that the cons for Tamino's review were: "numerous factual errors and misrepresentations, failure to address many of the main points of the book..." Pressed to identify these errors, Curry instead moved the goalposts, coming up with nine different "key points" of the book. When Gavin Schmidt demolished these, rather than concede that some, at least, were wrong, Curry asserted that Schmidt's rebuttal was full of logical fallacies (though once again without identifying any of them at all)”
  12. William M. Connolley (2010-04-23). Curry. Stoat. Retrieved on 2010-10-29.
  13. Joe Romm (2010-04-26). Beef with Curry. Climate Progress. Retrieved on 2010-10-29.
  14. Things Break (pseudonymous blogger) (2010-09-12). Welcome to the blogosphere, Dr. Curry!. The Way Things Break. Retrieved on 2010-10-29.
  15. Michael Tobis (2010-10-29). Judith Curry: Born Beyond the Shark?. Only In It For The Gold. Retrieved on 2010-10-29. “It's one thing to tolerate cranks. ... It's another thing entirely to encourage them and agree with them. Crank: 'There are many forcings and some are known to be underrepresented in the modeling such as aerosols / clouds and black soot.' curryja: 'very true, same goes for solar also.' ... [I]f you buckle down and try to understand what she is saying (instead of just nodding in enthusiastic agreement with the "not the IPCC" position) it is incomprehensible.”
  16. James Annan (2010-10-29). More Curried leftovers. James' Empty Blog. Retrieved on 2010-10-29. “...she apparently conflates the concept of evidence for and against the proposition "most of the observed warming was very likely due to the GHG increase" with an estimate of the proportion of warming that was due to anthropogenic vs natural factors. This seems like a rather elementary point to get confused over ... Note that in the very first premise of her argument, she only assigns 70% probability to the fact that surface temperatures actually show a warming at all! This is the warming that the IPCC famously called "unequivocal" in their 2007 report. As far as I can tell, at this point she is simply so far out of touch with mainstream climate science that her analyses aren't worth the time it takes to read them. End of story.”
  17. Arthur Smith (2010-08-18). Currying confusion. Not Spaghetti. Retrieved on 2010-11-05. “Where all the uncertainties in climate science lie is in the feedbacks, and the complex land and ocean processes Curry refers to play a critical role in those uncertainties. But on the "without feedbacks" number, as far as I can tell, she was just plain wrong.”
  18. James Annan (2010-11-06). Where's the beef, Curry?. James' Empty Blog. Retrieved on 2010-11-12. “She's really building up quite a history of throwing up vague or demonstrably wrong claims, then running away when shown to be wrong. Here on the no-feedback climate sensitivity, for example. Gryposaurus took her to task here on aerosols and D&A (based partly on comments from Gavin) and found her response lacking. Here is Eric Steig refuting her absurd claim about the IPCC that "they will tolerate no dissent, and seek to trample and discredit anyone who challenges the IPCC." Her eventual response (which had to be dragged out of her through repeated challenges that she kept on ducking) was merely to dismiss it as an "anecdote", even though one single case serves to refutes her claim. Well, I don't think I got quite such a rapturous response as Eric did, with my attempts to improve the AR4 drafts, but I certainly didn't get trampled and discredited either - merely made to feel mildly unwelcome, which I find tends to happen when I criticise people outside the IPCC too. But they did change the report in various ways. While I'm not an unalloyed fan of the IPCC process, my experience is not what she describes it as. So make that two anecdotes. Maybe I'm an "insider" too, in her book :-) If she ever deigns to address the substantive point on probability, maybe she can let me know, but I'm not holding my breath. Her main tactic seems to be throwing up layers upon layers of an increasing shaky edifice as quickly as possible hoping that no-one will notice that the foundations are collapsing as quickly as people can read.”
  19. Judith Curry (2010-04-25). comment on An Inconvenient Provocateur. Collide-a-scape. Retrieved on 2010-11-05.
  20. Judith Curry (2010-07-24). comment on The Montford Delusion. RealClimate. Retrieved on 2010-11-03.
  21. Gavin Schmidt (2010-08-08). comment on The Curry Agonistes. Collide-a-scape. Retrieved on 2010-11-03.
  22. Gavin Schmidt (2010-11-03). Science, narrative and heresy. RealClimate. Retrieved on 2010-11-03.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Tim Lambert (2011-11-01). Rosegate: Rose hides the incline. Deltoid. Retrieved on 2011-11-07.
  24. Tamino (pseudonym) (2011-10-30). Judith Curry Opens Mouth, Inserts Foot. Open Mind. Retrieved on 2011-11-03.
  25. Joe Romm (2011-). How Can It Be Warming When It's (Almost) Always Cooling?. ThinkProgress. Retrieved on 2011-11-07.
  26. James Annan (2011-11-07). The null hypothesis in climate science. James' Empty Blog. Retrieved on 2011-11-07.
  27. James Annan (2011-11-04). Curry on fuzzy logic. James' Empty Blog. Retrieved on 2011-11-04. “I've been waiting for a year now for Curry to explain her muddled and confused approach to probability, in particular her nonsensical "Italian Flag" analysis which she seems to be recasting as "fuzzy logic"...So I was eagerly awaiting "Curry (2011b)", which has just appeared. And what does it say about fuzzy logic?...Not one single mention...[or] of Bayesian probability...Or Boolean logic. These terms are completely absent from the paper, so this whole line of specious assertions has simply been abandoned without any support whatsoever.”
  28. email to ahaynes,2011-11-05
  29. Jiping Liu1 and Judith A. Curry (2010-08-16). Accelerated warming of the Southern Ocean and its impacts on the hydrological cycle and sea ice. PNAS. Retrieved on 2010-11-12. “...observed sea surface temperature in the Southern Ocean shows a substantial warming trend for the second half of the 20th century. Associated with the warming, there has been an enhanced atmospheric hydrological cycle in the Southern Ocean that results in an increase of the Antarctic sea ice for the past three decades”
  30. William Connolley (2010-08-23). Accelerated warming of the Southern Ocean and its impacts on the hydrological cycle and sea ice?. Stoat. Retrieved on 2010-11-12. “The main problem with the paper is the uncritical use of invalid data.”
  31. Eli Rabett(pseudonym) (2010-08-29). Judy and the INTERTUBES. Rabett Run. Retrieved on 2010-11-12. “Hank Roberts has been. . . . annoyed by Liu and Currys' not mentioning... Manabe, Spellman and Stouffer, published in 1992 as well as Zwally, Comiso and Parkinson from a decade later on which appear to have. . . .anticipated the Liu and Curry paper (see comments at Stoat and elsewhere). IHRHO the claims of"newness" in the Ga. Tech press release accompanying Liu and Curry, were... a bit over the top”

Related SourceWatch Articles

External resources

External articles

Wikipedia also has an article on Judith Curry. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.