Cassandra has moved. Ugo Bardi publishes now on a new site called "The Seneca Effect."

Monday, August 13, 2018

Why is it so Easy to Deceive People? The Strange Case of the Cooling Trend of the United States

The figure above, showing a cooling trend in the United States, was posted by Steven Goddard (aka Tony Heller) on his blog with the remarkable title of "The Deplorable Climate Science Blog" (actually there is a slightly different one on the blog, right now, but it is simply a difference in the smoothing procedure). The author claims that this graphic is based on real data and that turns out to be true: but is it a honest graph?

The world is becoming more and more complicated. And the more complicated it is, the more difficult to understand it becomes. And there appear more and more opportunities to deceive people: we are all swamped by the news and have neither the competence nor the time to verify what the media serve to us.

So, this August, Mr. Tony Heller, writing under the pen name of Steven Goddard, published on his blog the graph you see above, showing a clear cooling trend in the United States. Make no mistake, these are real data, or so they are said to be. And they do show that summers have been cooling. But what about heat waves we are experiencing nowadays? Just an impression, apparently, because the data say otherwise. Then, what about global warming? An illusion, probably a fraud.

The graph is having a certain diffusion in the social media. An earlier version was even picked up by James Delingpole in his Breitbart news site. It quickly became a growing meme, scoffed or cheered depending on the attitude of the people commenting on it. As usual, the debate on climate on the social media is little more than a shouting match. It took some work by an expert, Tamino, on his "Open Mind" blog to dissect the story of this graph and show the tricks behind it. Tamino's whole post is reproduced below.

Basically, Steven Goddard's post is a textbook example of two well-known propaganda methodsCarlo Kopp describes the technique called "deception by omission" noting that it works when "the victim has poor a priori knowledge or no a priori knowledge or understanding of what the attacker is presenting to be a picture of reality" He also notes that deception by omission is often accompanied by "deception by spin" which consists in presenting only the information favorable to a certain viewpoint of a certain issue.

Note that neither deception by omission nor deception by spin require lying. It is all a way to present (or not to present) the data. This is what Goddard does, carefully choosing the data available on the NOAA site and presenting only those supporting the idea that the US has been cooling, not warming, during the past century or so. That's just not true, but the trick of these things is the ability to demonstrate a wrong thesis by using real data.

And that's what is truly impressive: how little it takes to deceive people. All that was needed to create a wholly new alternate reality was some patience and a high school level ability to manipulate data. No need for Goddard to be a government agent or to be paid by the PTB. All he needs is to be a lone troll with a stone ax to grind.

Now, stop for a moment and think: what if the real spooks were to engage in deceiving us for good? I mean, governments have resources and competencies in propaganda infinitely larger than those of a single person. What could they do to us if they were to direct us to a completely wrong perception of reality? Do you remember the story of the "weapons of mass destruction" at the time of Saddam Hussein? Now they can do much better than that. Yes, they can deceive us. And probably they do - they are doing that right now.

So, what's happening? The anthropologist Roy Rappaport spoke about "diabolical lies," defined as lies which tamper with the very fabric of truth.  Maybe our whole civilization is being destroyed by lies, diabolical or not, and we desperately need a new epistemology to rebuild trust in our institutions and in ourselves as human beings. This is the task that the early Christian thinkers had engaged in at the time when another civilization, the Roman one, was being destroyed from inside by the very truths it had been built on - by then become diabolical lies. As Poul Anderson said, "all evil is rotten good" and that may well describe our situation.

At this point, I can only propose to you to read Tamino's post, below. At least, it clarifies a section of our perception of the universe.


USA Temperature: can I sucker you?

Suppose I wanted to convince people that temperature in the USA wasn’t going up, it was going down. What would I show? Let’s try yearly average temperature in the conterminous U.S., also known as the “lower 48 states” (I’ll just call it “USA”):

Well that won’t do. It shows that temperature has been rising, not falling. By the way, I’ve included two trend estimates. The blue straight line is a linear trend estimate and it’s going up. The red curvy line is a nonlinear trend estimate, it has gone up and down and up, and is now rising fast. Scary fast. That definitely won’t do.

But wait! The temperature shown is the mean temperature, which is the average of the high and low temperatures. What if I tried just low temperatures?

That won’t do either. Scary fast.
How about high temperatures?

That still won’t do, but it’s a little better. There’s a more pronounced hump in the 1930s — that’s the dustbowl era. Could I maybe make the most of that?

Let’s try this: look at high temperature during the different seasons of the year. After all, we know winter has been warming faster than summer, maybe summertime only — or maybe at least one of the seasons — will give a more useful “sucker people” picture. Here are the average high temperatures for all four seasons separately:

Now we’re getting somewhere! Summer high temperature has still been increasing overall, but that hump during the 1930s (the dust bowl era) is far more pronounced. Maybe I could make something of that?

Perhaps I could just get rid of some of the data I don’t like. I can’t get rid of the most recent stuff — then people will figure out I’m trying to sucker them. How about I get rid of some of the early stuff? I’ll start with 1918, instead of starting when the data actually start (1895). That leaves this:

Finally! I’ve got a graph that looks like there’s nothing to worry about, where the linear trend is so small you almost can’t tell it’s still (barely) rising, and I only had to pick one of 12 possible combinations (mean/high/low temperature over winter/spring/summer/autumn) and leave out the early data to get it. Clever.

Even so, the trend is still going up even if just barely. And that’s the linear trend; the nonlinear trend looks like it might be rising noticeably lately, maybe even getting close to as hot as the summer of the dust bowl era. Could I fix that?

Of course I can! Instead of using the USA temperature data from the “experts,” those people at NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) who think they’re so good at it just because they’ve spent decades studying all that “math” and learning how to do it “right,” I’ll just take the raw data and form a simple average. Those NOAA people will tell you that isn’t right, that over the years new stations have come online and old ones have retired so you have to take that into account. They’ll talk about fancy-schmancy math stuff like “area weighting.” That’s all just NOAA tricks, aren’t they just a bunch of frauds? We can completely ignore the fact that over the years the average location of all the contributing stations has moved slightly northward to colder territory:

Heck we can completely ignore everything that they’ve learned about how to do it right … mainly because if we just take a simple, naive average we’ll get what we want.

There’s a graph going around the internet from Steve Goddard a.k.a. Tony Heller, claiming to show that temperature in the U.S. has been declining, using only high temperatures, using only summertime temperatures, using only data since 1918, based on a simple average without taking into account new stations coming online or old stations retiring or area-weighting or any of that “expert” stuff:

Imagine that.


  1. Brilliant, in a mad non-scientist sort of a way!

    I had the good luck to read Darrel Huff's "How to Lie with Stastistics" in 4th grade ( Initiated a healthy sense of skepticism which has served me well. This method fits right in.

    Thanks for reposting!

    Dave Z

  2. I invite everyone coming to this site to read (if not done already) 'Why average does not give the full picture' by Prof Corey Bradshaw.

  3. "A Lie Can Travel Halfway Around the World While the Truth Is Putting On Its Shoes"

    I love Twain's version but it has a long heritage and for a very good reason.

  4. Well played, Mr. Tony Heller, well played.

    People "think" first with their emotions, they rationalize it with their mind. Science never sold very well, never will.

    Speaking of failing to get the message across... I've just found out the US version of Youtube will now start placing Wikipedia factoid snippets under wrongthink videos that contradict the party line on contested issues such as MMR vaccines, UFOs and of course some concerning climate change, even including one with Richard Lindzen.

    This attempt at thought control is so misguided it can only backfire. Somehow this eludes the implementers.

    1. Well said, Vyan Roy. I share your appreciation of Mr Heller's efforts.

      And I would like to add that his site ( features a lot more than one graph. It's one of the best "go-to" places to get an understanding of the extent to which NASA, NOAA and other alphabet agencies are rewriting the past (adjusting past temperature data to make the past seem cooler so that the present seems warmer by comparison) and for archived news reports from decades gone by detailing climate scares, outrageous predictions of doom and extreme weather events going back to the 19th century.

      Speaking metaphorically, the catastrophic anthropogenic climate change glacier is part of the much larger globalist icecap. Both were growing up until the time of the Bush Presidency, spent a decade or so stagnant under Obama, and are now melting rapidly in the age of Trump. This is a disaster for the problem-reaction-solution alarmists, who much now look elsewhere for bogeymen.

      Not that there aren't a lot of real clear and present dangers facing humanity, including that huge Seneca Cliff that Ugo has done more than anyone to warn us about. But manmade global climate as existential threat appears to have been successfully debunked and anyone who is still harping on about it is beating a dead horse.

    2. Greywolf, my comments were more lighthearted than your interpretation. I'm concerned about global warming, but at the same time see that much has been fudged about it. I'll take a look at Heller's most certainly evil website.

      Sometimes very odd things happen, like Trump pulling out of the Paris Accord, only to find that Jim Hansen thinks the Paris Accord is a sham anyways. Oddly, I had come to the same impression myself even though I'm not much of an expert (unlike Trump). It’s just not very popular to point out such things but it is interesting when a prominent pro-climate change and an anti-climate change advocate agree.

      Real science happens when there is a strong debate, but the presently dominant faction is now trying to ban debate. That in itself opens up another huge can of worms.

      As an aside, I'm agast at the bridge collapse in Gênes. I wonder if Ugo sees the falling maintenance budgets, bridges, and the Seneca cliff as part of a trend. Maybe we could plot out the rate of bridge failures and use it to estimate the approaching "edge" of the Seneca cliff.

  5. A couple of points, keeping in mind that I agree in general with your overall point of view. 1) Don't underestimate Tony Heller. While you may not agree with his analysis, his skill with data and software is superb. 2) I think calling him a troll is misleading. He's a zealot, a true believer in the "global warming is a fraud" school of though. He's nobody's tool. I don't say he's right. I find much to disagree with from him on climate and other issues, so much so that he bans my comments, but he's saying what he truly believes.

    1. Honestly, I am not very impressed by what Heller did. He just plotted data that he found tabulated in the NOAA site. And used a smoothing function of his plotting program. As I say, it is something that a high school student should be able to do.

      On the other hand, I agree that he believes in what he says and he is nobody's tool. I didn't say otherwise in my post.

  6. We never went to the moon. Lets talk about THAT...

    SIGH... WAKE UP !!!!!

  7. Dmitry's not noted for commenting on conspiracy theories but ventured with this one today...

    "I am just like you—gullible. Sure, a few Arab tourists armed with box cutters destroyed three steel skyscrapers by flying two aluminum planes into them. Do your own math, but that’s just 2/3 of a plane per skyscraper—ought to be enough, right? Jet fuel, which burns at 800° to 1500°F, melted steel columns. (Steel melts at 2750°F.) Two aluminum cans packed with kerosene, meat and luggage destroyed three steel structures. I find this explanation perfectly satisfactory; do you? If you need to know more, it’s easy to find out, but don’t wait on me because, being so gullible, I am perfectly satisfied."

    ~ Dmitry Orlov

    1. I wonder why anyone would be so gullible as to think that a plane full of jet fuel could ignite a few floors full of paper and furniture and raise temperatures of steel floor support joists enough to soften them and make them lose their strength. After all, it is impossible to soften steel in a forge fueled by only carbonaceous materials, isn't it?

    2. And one more confirmation of my thesis, sigh....

  8. The two latest comments confirm what I said: we desperately need some kind of new epistemology, otherwise we'll be just switching from a brainless belief in government propaganda to a just as brainless belief into whatever looks to us as the opposite of government propaganda. Sigh. . .

    1. we desperately need some kind of new epistemology

      What about science? There is plenty that scientists get wrong, but, to paraphrase Martin Luther King, "The arc of science bends toward truth".

    2. I have been thinking about that. Unfortunately, though, science is failing right now in front of us. It is a disaster, miraculously, some decent work is still being done, but nobody can say for how long that will be possible. On the other hand, a good Seneca Collapse could provide the shakeout that Science desperately needs

    3. The most poignant book on this subject to cross my desk is Carl Sagan's "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark"

      The chapter on witches made me weep.

  9. Hi Ugo.

    The 911 situation seems a particuarly pertinent example. We have:

    a) the official finding, b) the various conspiracy theories, c) something a little unusual in the group Architects & Engineers for 911 Truth.

    Prima facie they appear to be a legitimate organisation and their recent report is open for anyone to have a look at.

    The scale of the 911 event and the number of people and cameras involved meant there was a substantial legacy of physical evidence available to chase up and investigate and that appears to be what they have done and done effectively.

    To my gullible mind it seems even a summary of the evidence presented in relation to the 2.5 seconds of free fall of World Trade Centre 7 appears to be mutually agreed by all proponents and thus to be a piece of unassailable physical evidence. WTC7 was the tower that didn't get flown into.

    If one accepts the fact of free fall for 2.5 seconds then it means that the entire 911 event is a conspiracy ... "somebody" prepared WTC7 with explosives in advance of knowing that aircraft were going to be driven into the towers. And the 2.5 seconds of free fall is not the only critical piece of evidence in their finding, making it very very difficult to avoid the above conclusion.

    I almost hate myself for typing the above because until I read the report I considered the mere utterance of the sentence above to be an infringement on my own cardinal rule of not contributing in any way to one of the usual sorts of conspiracies.

    Here is the reference for enquiring minds.

    Two point five seconds is a long time for an object to fall without hitting anything especially when that object is the top floor of WTC7.

    So we appear to have a situation where it is at least possible for an alternate and apparently reasonable set of facts to entirely displace the offical version for one heck of an event.

    The response to that single event has shaped much of the trajectory of world affairs.

    1. ok, i'll bite. here goes. there is absolutely nothing odd about the physics and footage of 9/11. steel loses strength at fire temps. steel frames do not need to melt to cause structural failure. thus basic 'foundational problem' with conventional and observed reality resolved! and the 9/11 'truth' petition has a statistically irrelevent number of members compared to the vast numbers of professionals working in those fields. but is entirely statistally consistent with the number of conspiratorially minded, paranoid anti government wackjobs in the usa. and to imagine anyone in power would deem it necessary to both fly jumbo jets into skyscrapers AND jerry rig them with explosives is to imbue them with a truly unbelievable level of incompetence and stupidity. the hypothosis fails on so many levels its laughable. imagine the conspiritors at a meeting. "er so you think flying jet planes full of high octane fuel into the trade center and immediately killing hundreds of people will not be dramatic enough or hard enough to organise and keep secret mr president'. "no. we need to go to the huge extra trouble and risk of rigging each of the buildings with several hundred packs of high explosives as well". "er, but wouldnt that be weirdly massive overkill and wont it exponentially increase the chance of discovery of our plot or things going wrong. what if the explosions fail or go off prematurely or something". "hmmm good point. shelve the explosives. no, keep them. its a good idea. just do it"

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Andy, you are on the right track. Now, go one more step and ask yourself how is that the only publicly appearing alternative explanation of the 9/11 events is the totally silly one of the "controlled demolition." But keep the answer for yourself, it is not wise to express some things in public.

    4. i think it may be a little late for me. you'll know what i mean if you've ever listened to hambone littletails 'view from zombie island' videos on his channel 'humptydumptytribe. still, the men in black have not come for me yet and im not expecting them to because there is no need. they know fringe radicals have zero power or influece over the zombie masses. as for conspiracy theories. they are blue lies and as such, and like religions in general, have to be insanely implausable by definition because they exist to prove alligiance to the cultural group. they act as a form of initiation ceremony and social glue. they are saying in effect 'if you believe in this garbage, (or at least say you do and defend it) you are one of us and can be trusted'. and of course humans are monkeys and need to belong to a group and the truth be damned.

  10. Ooops, fat finger, 2.25 seconds not 2.5 seconds. Sorry.

  11. Merci Monsieur Bardi !

    C’est le problème posé par le « tout est justifiable ». Oui, à première vue, mais non, certes non !

    La confusion organisée pour régner.

  12. Synnicool, allow me to tell you something. Truth is one, but lies are many. Not for nothing the devil is said to be the master of lies. And, in this story, the devil has done his job very well.

  13. well worth a watch



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)