2011-06-20 10:37:14Excellent, detailed feedback on Interactive History from NASA scientist
John Cook


Got this from Wiscombe Warren from NASA:

   BTW, thanks for the great service you provide.  I have had NASA order your book as my small contribution of support.  I am teaching in Israel, Earth System Science, at Weizmann Institute. 

   You helped me toward my goal of a paperless office.  Many of these references I had only in paper form.

   Some of my comments below may be a function of my Internet access here, but normally it is excellent so I think other people in other countries may have a similar experience.

   Here are my comments on your new interactive timeline of GW:

Might warn viewers that if their library or web domain does not have access to the journal source sites, they will not be able to get the papers without paying.

JSTOR only works if you log in.  It took me a while to figure this out.  Weizmann is a member of JSTOR but I still had to log in.

Response time on getting papers can be very slow.  Sometimes this is due to going to an inapt server.  For anything from AGU or AMS, it is much better to go directly to their own journal websites since they have been very good about scanning in almost all their archives.

Chamberlin papers of 1899 not neutral (and there are several, in JSTOR).  He was one of the most famous early supporters of what was then called "the CO2 theory of climate".

The many papers on clouds (from 1800s) in the “neutral” category don't add much if anything;  there were a lot of speculations about clouds before they had much in situ data about them.

Translations of the Angstrom papers?  It is hard to appreciate his role as skeptic without a knowledge of German.  BTW, why is Angstrom a skeptic in 1900 and neutral in 1901?

Some of the citations are just notes, neither memorable or historic.

Some articles come up incomplete, just hanging (eg Corrigan, 1908 or Angstrom, 1913, Note on…) even though you click “Full refereed article (PDF)”;  other times it works fine (eg Angstrom, 1913, Studies of …) and you get the full article

Vis a vis neutral papers:  there are probably many many more than listed here, since “climatology” was a science founded by Koppen and pursued by many since the early 1900s;  just listing all these innumerable contributions, or a selection of them, without focus seems to me not worthwhile.

* Plass, 1956, The CO2 Theory of … (one link, the bottom one, led to a warning about a suspicious website)
* Hansen, 1981

Rasool & Schneider (1972) was actually somewhat of a skeptical paper, saying aerosols were more important than CO2, but Schneider later retracted its conclusions and used to joke about it.  He wrote in 1975 “On the CO2-Climate Confusion”, a confusion which he helped create.

I was surprised to see Sellers (1973) classed as a skeptic paper.  I knew him and he was not known as a skeptic.  His main interest was ice ages, which, in spite of historical revisionism, were a huge subject of scientific interest in the 1970s -- as was the remaining length of the current interglacial.  Even Wally Broecker used to show a slide showing the next several thousand yr, with a huge spike he called “the CO2-induced super-interglacial” after which he showed us falling back into an ice age.

Idso (1977) is listed as pro-AGW yet he later became a crusader against GW.  Bob Cess used to chase Idso around the US trying to undo the damage he did.

Speaking of Cess, I don’t see his papers from the 1970s.  He was a regular NCAR visitor in those days and got interested in cloud feedback very early.  The first Cess reference is 1981, on ocean heat capacity (still a hot topic!).

The Bolin (1977) link led to a dead end for me.  Library of Medicine.  No access.

Broecker (1979) was a dead end.  LaTrobe Univ?  no access

I stopped at 1982 but I have to say, some of the pro-AGW papers are of little lasting note.  Check the SCI (Science Citation Index) to see if they made a lasting impact.  Someone already made a listing of climate scientists according to their citation impact.  I could dig it out, or Steve Schwartz of BNL could.

In 1950, there were way more than 2 skeptic papers.  That’s what Plass was fighting against -- most of the community didn’t side with him.  It’s just that skeptic papers in those days were not blatant or political -- they just disputed arcana of radiative transfer, as for example the famous duel between Plass and Kaplan.


The little open circles are too small, esp if only one paper;  sometimes they hide in the middle of the cluster and are devilishly hard to click on.

An idea:  stack the circles in order of year instead of letting them distribute randomly;  this gives a much better idea of the growth of the subject, and of lulls that occurred;

An idea:  make big circles for the obviously important papers (there is a way to judge this, at least since a volume of important papers in GW was compiled recently -- I can dig out the reference if you want);  this would give students quicker access to the key papers;  eg Eichenlaub, 1970, did not make much of a stir in the GW world…

Rather than a slider, which requires very fine motor movement to move from one year to the next, a standard forward arrow button that moves forward one year would be easier on those of us with poor fine motor control;  ditto a back button.

Warren Wiscombe

PS  Since I will become even more overly busy shortly, I should mention this now:  one of the 100+ items in your list of skeptical arguments is "global dimming".  I have personally been involved with that subject, and it is not skepticism, it is just an empirical fact (it reversed from dimming to brightening around 1990 except in heavily polluted places like India and China).  It is now well established even though the climate community fought it tooth and nail for a while.  It is a mystery that climate models generally don't capture it -- and the number of W/m^2 involved are not small!  As usual, it is some mixture of clouds and aerosols that cause it, and climate models aren't too hot on either of those.

PSS  I was just e-chatting with Manabe the other day.  He is still active!  He's back at Princeton.  He was my early hero of climate theory -- his 1967 paper just blew the subject wide open and dispelled misconceptions that had plagued the field for decades.  His recent comment to me was "Arrhenius got it right, then Plass and Callendar got it wrong".  He is a salty dog.

2011-06-20 14:25:48
Ari Jokimäki


It seems to me that he has misunderstood this thing so that the papers are classified by their take on theory of AGW instead of their take on the skeptic myth in question. Is it time to change the "pro-AGW" to "against skeptic myth" already as this seems to be a common misunderstanding? He also seems to think that the database is complete (because he is complaining about missing skeptic papers). Might be a good idea to insert a clearly visible note somewhere that the database is not complete.

2011-06-20 17:03:11
Ari Jokimäki


Few specific responses on Warren's comments:

- Chamberlin (1899): papers are classified by their take on a specific skeptic argument - not by their take on AGW theory in general or by Author's general opinion about the issue.

- Useless cloud-papers from 1800's: Lot of neutral papers can be dismissed by similar argument. The database aims for completeness (although is still far away from that goal) in addition to relevance. Also, it is relevant to show historical papers just to show that the research is there and has been for long time. One of the most common skeptic myths (missing from John's argument list, I think) is 'we haven't studied this' (where 'this' varies by subject) to which it is nice to show that we have studied it since the 1800's.

- Ångström's german papers: Lot of relevant science were done in German back then. Maybe we should work on this point. Perhaps our German translator team could help us here. Let's dig up old German science papers and see what they are saying and tell it to the people.

- Ångström being skeptic in 1900 and neutral in 1901: I have added these papers. I remember using google translator trying to decipher the 1901 paper's take on issues but the first page shown in journal abstract page did give very neutral impression (as introductions usually do). When it is not certain or not know if paper is pro-AGW or skeptic, then neutral is selected. This time it was not known due to language and paper access problems.

- Numerous neutral papers not worthwhile: I disagree. Neutral papers contain the backbone (method development and basic science) of the pro-AGW (and skeptic) papers. Sometimes a neutral paper is not very relevant in any sense but most neutral papers do have a meaning. At least I would like to show the science as a whole.

- Rasool & Schneider (1971): There seems to be two entries for this paper - a skeptic and pro-AGW. It's pro-AGW for climate sensitivity is low and skeptic for ice age predicted in 1970's. Tiny difference in the abstract link. Perhaps we should delete the pro-AGW entry (I tried to find a way to delete it but couldn't).

- Sellers (1973): This paper finds that CO2 doesn't affect surface temperature very much and is classified as skeptic paper under 'negative feedbacks will stabilize climate'. I think the classification is correct but perhaps some different argument might be more appropriate. I also note again that we do not classify papers by the general opinion of the author. We classify papers by what each paper says on some specific issue.

- Idso (1977): Again, we classify papers by what they say, not what their authors think in general.

- Missing 1970's papers from Cess: Lot of other are missing too. Papers in the database currently represent just a scratch in the surface. Everyone are welcome to add missing papers. I have seen some of Cess' early papers and they definitely are interesting. - Dead ends in Bolin and Broecker: We just give links to abstract pages.

- pro-AGW papers of little lasting note: I don't see the point here. Sometimes some relevant papers go unnoticed. Even less cited papers might have importance.

- More than 2 skeptic papers in 1950: There certainly were more skeptic papers and also more pro-AGW papers, but we just haven't added them yet. Database is not complete.

2011-06-21 03:07:12
Paul D


I think the idea of the left right arrow buttons is a useful addition. I was experimenting with the idea when trying to implement the significant events thing. But i think it should be in addition to the slider. The slider allows you to quickly move to a specific year, where as buttons would have to move one year at a time. Although adding a second set of fast forward/backwards buttons could jump a number of years.

I'm actually losing track of all the suggestions. It would be nice to collate all the ideas into a list and then from that produce a version two development document.

I'm more in favour of having a minimum size single paper circle and letting the visualisation literally grow based on that minimum size. Visualisations often 'spread' out like that. Maybe the list of papers should appear in a window.
I'm not sure how easy/hard it would be to have a 'window' appear in front of the visualisation??
Possibilities include using Raphael to do it, or use CSS/HTML in some way??
Once you had finished looking at the list, then you could click on a close window button/link.

2011-06-21 03:23:49
Paul D


BTW I actually like the idea that it should be possible to change what the circles display.

I still like the idea of a search facility, with the circles reflecting the search, but the default being what we have now.
A search facility could also include 'key' papers.

Also a search could do two things at once, 1. display the list of papers found and 2. show the circles (in clusters and with different sizes) for the subject searched for.