Anyone who has worked in a job where the presentation of data is an important factor, such as manufacturing, finance, IT, HR, retail, government, education, etc., will know that there are several underhand tricks one can play to persuade the viewer of the opinion you’re trying to sell.
Canny observers are sensitive to these and quickly challenge the presenter or, in sales situations where they have an alternative, simply dismiss the sales pitch and move to a more truthful competitor.
Consider then, this latest chart crime from Peter “weather is climate” Hannam in the ever-declining organ, the Sydney Morning Herald.
If you’ve never seen a graph before, the fact that this one is showing the Indian Ocean Dipole ratio trending above 2.0 for the first time ever may send you off into a public mental decline á la Mx. Thunberg.
Everyone else with a brain looks at the X-axis and immediately asks themselves two questions;
- What happened in all the years before 2015? and,
- What is Peter Hannan’s agenda for not showing it to us?
Hannam can’t quite bring himself to completely lie by omission though, so leaves a clue in the article (highlighting mine):
Scientists caution that reliable observation data only goes back a couple of decades but it is clear this year’s positive-IOD is already one of the strongest of record. So-called “reanalysis” using a combination of observations and modelling suggests the event is also notable over the past 150 years.
After warming us up with that seemingly benign statement explaining that we’ve got about 20 years of observations and then just modelled the rest using a completely un-disprovable simulation, he then goes on to show us the “missing” part of the chart:
Tip for new chart readers; that small print below the graph, explaining the data collection method is where the real news lies (pun intended).
Then comes the obligatory explanations of the data by scientists paid to research the subject of which we are being persuaded is important:
While researchers are yet to settle on how much of a role climate change is already playing in big El Ninos or IODs, “we’re seeing extreme events become more common”, Abram says.
Go on then, define “extreme” and “more common”. We’ll wait….
England says that while IODs can act independently of the Pacific, the connections remain important. For instance, the so-called Indonesian Throughflow – where warm water from the Pacific funnels its way to the Indian Ocean – could change.
…and if my mother had wheels we could use her as wheelbarrow.
“The predictions are for that to weaken,” he says. “If it does, that would be a double whammy of more El Ninos plus more positive-IODs.”
The potentially huge consequences from such complex interactions are a reminder that researchers can’t rest.
Those poor researchers, unable to rest. Thank goodness there’s an infinite supply of tax-slaves to fund their unending Heraklean endeavours.
In all areas of life, beware of people brandishing suspicious charts. Question not only the data collection methodology but the start and end points of both the x and y axis and whether or not a logarithmic scale is more appropriate.
After all, I might have presented the x axis of this chart completing at November 25th:
One of the scientists offered this word salad in the interview:
“We are perturbing the atmosphere in a profound way with greenhouse gases,” England says. “How this changes our modes of variability is uncertain.”
There’s a key point being made here; the driving forces resulting in the Indian Ocean Dipole ratio over the last 100 years and into the future are, wait for it, multi-variable, as in an almost infinite number of variables.
Anyone claims to be able to accurately predict, or even directionally-predict a multi-variable equation such as the ratio of sea temperatures between the western and eastern sides of an ocean is either a fool or a knave.
Peter Hannam has enough of a back catalogue of presenting this sort of mendacity as fact that we feel certain his motivation is to lie to us to push forward a personal agenda.
J’accuse, Peter Hannam. You are a liar.