Intrinsic Extrinsic Intensive Extensive

There is a philosophical point, one I sometimes mention, but mostly just ignore. (Most people ignore it almost all the time). Yet, I think it is important. But attempts to explain it usually result in a “does so / does not” argument with warmers (and a “Wha?” response from most folks – as it is obscure).

It doesn’t help that the same arcane point has 2 similar sounding yet different names.

One is “Intrinsic vs Extrinsic” properties. The
other is “Intensive vs Extensive” variable or property.

Sometimes I’ve
seen “Internal vs External” property, as well.
even “Interior and Exterior”.

You would think we could pick one set of words…

So what is this, and why does it matter?

has a long discussion of it, and how it presents some sticky issues to the basic philosophy of things. (Many things…As you read that link, not only will your head start to hurt but you will run into an awful lot of “may” and “could” and not a whole lot of “is” and “must”… At least, not as much as I would have liked.

The Wiki is almost useless on this point (no surprise there):

In the physical sciences, an intensive property (also called a bulk property, intensive quantity, or intensive variable), is a physical property of a system that does not depend on the system size or the amount of material in the system: it is scale invariant.

By contrast, an extensive property (also extensive quantity, extensive variable, or extensive parameter) of a system is directly proportional to the system size or the amount of material in the system.

For example, density is an intensive property of a substance because it does not depend on the amount of that substance; mass and volume, which are measures of the amount of the substance, are extensive properties.

Note that the ratio of two extensive properties that scale in the same way is scale-invariant, and hence an intensive property.

Oh great. Just sort of “given” as Some are green, some are square and with no idea what it means…

But “meaning” is a philosophical concept, and leads back to the first link… and in fact, even the very understanding of what is intrinsic can lead to “issues” that can be “resistant to analysis”…

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Properties
First published Sat Jan 5, 2002; substantive revision Tue Jul 25, 2006

I have some of my properties purely in virtue of the way I am. (My mass is an example.) I have other properties in virtue of the way I interact with the world. (My weight is an example.) The former are the intrinsic properties, the latter are the extrinsic properties. This seems to be an intuitive enough distinction to grasp, and hence the intuitive distinction has made its way into many discussions in ethics, philosophy of mind, metaphysics and even epistemology. Unfortunately, when we look more closely at the intuitive distinction, we find reason to suspect that it conflates a few related distinctions, and that each of these distinctions is somewhat resistant to analysis.

So why does all this matter? Because “temperature” is an intensive property, while “heat content” is an extensive one. We measure “temperatures” then manipulate them as though they were “heats”, when they are not. To me, it looks like the very foundation of that manipulation is up for dispute.

A simple intuitive example:

Color is an intrinsic property of an object. (We may also want to make a distinction about perception of color, as distinct from the actual color, as human eyes do not measure photons with perfection. The Wiki tries to make this of great importance, enough to disavow color as an intrinsic property, but that is an error. Copper Sulphate solid HAS a color, even if we may perceive it as different colors under different lighting or other external changes. The wavelength of photon that comes off its atomic bond length at a given temperature is fixed by nature.)

Why does this matter?
What is the meaning of an average of two intrinsic properties?

So, take Copper Sulfate, it is blue as the whole crystal. Average that color with the red of a ruby.

What is the average color?

You can not know. To know, would require more information. Enough to turn that intrinsic property into an extrinsic one. Was it a pound of copper sulfate or a gram? A ton of ruby, or a nano-gram? Was the temperature when mixed 0 C, 1000 C, 0 K?

To know what the “Average Color” means, would require information we do not have. The “average of blue and red” is a meaning-void concept.

Taste is also an intensive property. As is smell. Coconut has a flavor. So does mint. So does liver. What is the “average flavor” of mint, liver, and coconut? Meaningless…

How MUCH of each? And how do you “average a flavor” anyway? What is the average flavor of your last 3 meals?

This “issue” holds for all intensive variables or intrinsic properties when you try to average them. It is a fundamental problem.

A Back Door Waffle

So the Wiki has an example of using an intensive property to make an average. Hidden in the way they describe it is the fact that you need to bring in the other properties that make things into an extensive property. Yet that the intensive property alone is insufficient is not made clear:

Combined intensive properties

There are four properties in any thermodynamic system, two intensive ones and two extensive ones.

If a set of parameters, {ai}, are intensive properties and another set, {Aj}, are extensive properties, then the function F({ai},{Aj}) is an intensive property if for all α,

It follows, for example, that the ratio of two extensive properties is an intensive property – density (intensive) is equal to mass (extensive) divided by volume (extensive).
Let there be a system or piece of substance a of amount ma and another piece of substance b of amount mb which can be combined without interaction. [For example, lead and tin combine without interaction, but common salt dissolves in water and the properties of the resulting solution are not a simple combination of the properties of its constituents.] Let V be an intensive variable. The value of variable V corresponding to the first substance is Va, and the value of V corresponding to the second substance is Vb. If the two pieces a and b are put together, forming a piece of substance “a+b” of amount ma+b = ma+mb, then the value of their intensive variable V is:

V= (m(a)V(a)+m(b)V(b))/(m(a)+m(b)

which is a weighted mean. Further, if Va = Vb then Va + b = Va = Vb, i.e. the intensive variable is independent of the amount. Note that this property holds only as long as other variables on which the intensive variable depends stay constant.
Note that you have to measure the amounts in the same unit that was used to calculate the intensive property from the extensive property. So when you interpolate density, you have to measure the properties in volume, as density is mass per volume. The formula makes no sense when you measure the properties in mass (kg).

All of which sounds really impressive and makes it look like it is no problem to do something like (the example they give) mix two ideal gases and get the average temperature. Yet glosses over that key term weighted.

The simple fact is that the average of two temperatures is void of meaning. It must be “weighted” in some way to have meaning. We must convert it to an EXTENSIVE variable via some kind of weighting in order for there to be some valid preservation of meaning.

Yet throughout “Climate Science” this is simply ignored. It is assumed that the value of a temperature from over a snow field is the same in extrinsic characters as the temperature over a parking lot, and that the temperature inside a Stevenson Screen is the same in extrinsic characteristics as the temperature in a MMTS or ASOS structure.

Much of the work of Anthony Watts at WUWT looking into global warming and the Surface Stations project is based on the fact that those extrinsic properties are not the same. The kind of whitewash or latex paint used on a Stevenson Screen changes the temperatures measured. The presence of a Chevy Suburban next to the thermometer in Marysville (as it was in the parking lot) changes the mass and air flow around a sensor. A thermometer in Antarctica under 4 feet of snow is in a different extrinsic milieu.

Those kinds of specifics are easily understood as “errors”. But harder to understand as exemplars of a broader issue.

A fair amount of work goes into attempts to standardize all the external factors so that we can pretend that we can average temperatures. To create a kind of standardized set of extrinsics. A given height above ground. A given color of cover. A given size of enclosure. A given kind of ground surface. A given kind of ventilation hole.

Yet, in the end, there are still things we can not standardize. Humidity changes (and with it, the specific heat of the air). Rain falls, and evaporates, and with it the heat to temperature relationship (as a phase change absorbs heat but with no change of temperature). Falling temperatures hit the dew point, then condensation happens, rather than temperature change, as heat leaves the system.

There are some we could standardize, but didn’t. Now we have data of many forms. Stevenson screens have one air volume inside and one rate of heat gain / loss, or of air flow in a given wind. MMTS have another set of such properties. ASOS yet another. Change of land use over time breaks the “average” exterior albedo, transpiration, color, air flow (think trees vs asphalt).

All those extrinsic values that we like to ignore (if a “warmer”) or harp on (if a skeptic), are all “of a whole” in that they point back to this simple core fact:

We are trying to create an average of an intensive property by assuming the extensive properties are constant and equal when they are very demonstrably anything but constant and equal.

So, take a piece of ice at 0 C and a piece of lead at 100 C. What is the “average temperature”? It’s intuitively obvious that it is 50 C. Yet nothing in that system is AT 50 C and temperature is an intrinsic property. To what object is that intrinsic property of temperature assigned?

This isn’t just pedantics.

Can you even HAVE an intrinsic property if it is not embodied IN something? The very definition of intrinsic property says “NO”.

The standard way to introduce the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic properties is by the use of a few platitudes. Stephen Yablo provides perhaps the most succinct version: “You know what an intrinsic property is: it’s a property that a thing has (or lacks) regardless of what may be going on outside of itself.” (1999: 479). David Lewis provides a more comprehensive list of platitudes.


A sentence or statement or proposition that ascribes intrinsic properties to something is entirely about that thing; whereas an ascription of extrinsic properties to something is not entirely about that thing, though it may well be about some larger whole which includes that thing as part. A thing has its intrinsic properties in virtue of the way that thing itself, and nothing else, is. Not so for extrinsic properties, though a thing may well have these in virtue of the way some larger whole is. The intrinsic properties of something depend only on that thing; whereas the extrinsic properties of something may depend, wholly or partly, on something else. If something has an intrinsic property, then so does any perfect duplicate of that thing; whereas duplicates situated in different surroundings will differ in their extrinsic properties. (Lewis 1983a: 111-2)

So “Where’s the THING?”

And if there is no thing, there can not be an intrinsic property of it. An ‘average of temperatures’ is not a temperature. It is a property of those numbers, but is not a property of an object. If it is not a temperature, it is fundamentally wrong to call it “degrees C”.

Take that ice and that lead. Put the lead on the ice. What is the temperature now?

You don’t know. It depends on the relative masses.

OK, make it a ton of ice and a gram of lead. The final temperature will be 0 C as some water will change phase from ice to liquid. No THING is of 50 C. The average of 0 C and 100 C was not only meaningless, it has no predictive value. No information content about heat nor temperatures in the real world.

Yet that is what we do, day in and day out, all over “Climate Science”. We average temperatures. Yes, in GIStemp they DO average temperatures. Eventually they make “anomalies” out of these averages, but that is after they have averaged them. Further, the “temperatures” they work with are the product of making an average of a minimum and a maximum temperature at one place during a given day. (Though even there, sometimes they use ‘interpolations’ of temperatures from other places to fill in missing bits or adjust values they do not like).

So, is it OK to average two temperatures from the same place in one day?

There are actually some “issues” around that… beyond just dew point, wind, humidity and shade changes.

As P. T. Geach (1969) noted, the fact that some object a is not F before an event occurs but is F after that event occurs does not mean that the event constitutes, in any deep sense, a change in a. To use a well-worn example, at the time of Socrates’s death Xanthippe became a widow; that is, she was not a widow before the event of her husband’s death, but she was a widow when it ended. Still, though that event constituted (or perhaps was constituted by) a change in Socrates, it did not in itself constitute a change in Xanthippe. Geach noted that we can distinguish between real changes, such as what occurs in Socrates when he dies, from mere changes in which predicates one satisfies, such as occurs in Xanthippe when Socrates dies. The latter he termed ‘mere Cambridge’ change. There is something of a consensus that an object undergoes real change in an event iff there is some intrinsic property they satisfied before the event but not afterwards.

David Lewis (1986a, 1988) built on this point of Geach’s to mount an attack on endurantism, the theory that objects persist by being wholly located at different times, and that there can be strict identity between an object existing at one time and one existing at another time. Lewis argues that this is inconsistent with the idea that objects undergo real change. If the very same object can be both F (at one time) and not F (at another), this means that F-ness must be a relation to a time, but this means that it is not an intrinsic property. So any property that an object can change must be extrinsic, so nothing undergoes real change. Lewis says that this argument supports the rival theory of perdurantism, which says that objects persist by having different temporal parts at different times. While this argument is controversial (see Haslanger (1989), Johnston (1987) and Lowe (1988) for some responses), it does show how considerations about intrinsicness can resonate within quite different areas of metaphysics.

So perhaps that Stevenson Screen at 8 am is not “the same” as the one at 6 pm…

2.3 Interior vs. Exterior Properties

J. Michael Dunn (1990) suggests that odd consequences of Lewis’s theory are sufficient to look for a new concept of intrinsicness. He suggests that the notion of intrinsicness is governed by platitudes like the following. “Metaphysically, an intrinsic property of an object is a property that the object has by virtue of itself, depending on no other thing. Epistemologically, an intrinsic property would be a property that one could determine by inspection of the object itself – in particular, for a physical object, one would not have to look outside its region of space-time” (1990: 178) As Dunn notes, the metaphysical definition here is the central one, the epistemological platitude is at best a heuristic. On this view, being identical to X will be intrinsic (except in cases where X has essential properties rooted outside itself), while being a duplicate of X will not be. Also, having X as a part will be intrinsic, though it is not on Lewis’s account.

So you can see that there are some sticky issues surrounding just averaging the morning and evening temperatures for a single device (even if you ignore changes of dew point and humidity)…

A bit on thermodynamics

The wiki goes on to discuss a bit of thermodynamics. Why anyone with exposure to thermodynamics would think you can average a changing number of thermometer from around the world and have it mean anything about heat gain / loss is beyond me. All I can figure is that not many folks understand thermodynamics, or they are too lazy to actually think about it.

At any rate, it is well established how to do thermo. That is NOT to just average a bunch of temperatures while ignoring specific heat, mass, mass flow, etc. I’m going to quote a chunk of the wiki just so you can see that there are a lot of other properties that need to be added to the mix to “have meaning”.

Although not true for all physical properties, there are a number of properties which have corresponding extensive and intensive analogs, many of which are thermodynamic properties. Examples of such extensive thermodynamic properties, which are dependent on the size of the thermodynamic system in question, include volume (V), internal energy (U), enthalpy (H), entropy (S), Gibbs free energy (G), Helmholtz free energy (A), and heat capacities (Cv and Cp) (in the sense of thermal mass). Note that the main symbols of these extensive thermodynamic properties shown here are capital letters. Except for volume (V), these extensive properties are dependent on the amount of material (substance) in the thermodynamic system in question.

For homogeneous substances, these extensive thermodynamic properties each have analogous intensive thermodynamic properties, which can be expressed on a per mass basis, and the corresponding intensive property symbols would be the lower case letters of the corresponding extensive property. Examples of intensive thermodynamic properties, which are independent on the size of the thermodynamic system in question and are analogous to the extensive ones mentioned above, include specific volume (v), specific internal energy (u), specific enthalpy (h), specific entropy (s), specific Gibbs free energy (g), specific Helmholtz free energy (a), and specific heat capacities (cv and cp, sometimes simply called specific heats). These intensive thermodynamic properties are effectively material properties which are valid at a point in a thermodynamic system or at a point in space at a certain time. These intensive properties are dependent on the conditions at that point such as temperature, pressure, and material composition, but are not considered dependent on the size of a thermodynamic system or on the amount of material in the system. See the table below. Specific volume is volume per mass, the reciprocal of density which equals mass per volume.

In Conclusion

Climate Science is dedicated to the notion that you can average just one, intensive, variable, that being temperature, and do thermodynamics. (Or calorimetry).

It is just absurd on the face of it, but at a much deeper philosophical level, it has no standing. No basis in a valid philosophy. It is bankrupt of meaning.

“Global Average Temperature” is an oxymoron. A global average of tempertures can be calculated, but it is not a temperature itself and says little about heat flow. Calculating it to 1/100 of a unit is empty of meaning and calling it “Degrees C” is a “polite lie”. It is a statistitcal artifact of a collection of numbers, not a temperature at all. (There is no thing for which it is the intrinsic property).

This is clearly evidenced in the real world, as well. Thermodynamics and much of modern engineering depends on the validity of this philosophical base. Chemistry and calorimetry depend on it too. You can’t just throw that out with a wave of the Assumption Wand and expect to “get things right”. Mass matters. Phase change matters. ALL those thermodynamic properties matter. Because the philosophical basis matters.

Yet the notion of “average tmperature” is so widely embraced that any attempt to ask “Where are the Emperor’s Clothes?” is met with nothing more than derision. Yet it is a fundamental and foundational flaw to think that you can average temperatures of different objects (devoid of extensive modifiers) and have it mean anything. Anything at all.


Further Reading:



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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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32 Responses to Intrinsic Extrinsic Intensive Extensive

  1. PhilJourdan says:

    In one sense, it means something. It is an exercise in mathematics. Math does not have the qualifiers that the rest of sciences have to put on things. If you add 3 apples and 2 oranges, you get 5 “things”. Math will do that. But if you want a banana, adding apples and oranges is not going to help you.

    Good article! I like philosophy as well (taken in moderation). All science and no art makes Jack (or Phil) a dull boy.

  2. Jeff Alberts says:

    So, based on this, and I’m sure I don’t understand all of it (despite it being very well-written), how can we “know” whether it was warmer during the MWP or colder during the LIA? It seems that all we have are either anecdotes/historical accounts of vikings, and thermometers from the CET and the like. Do isotopes in ice cores tell us about temperature at any given time, or about heat within “the system” at any given time?

  3. Ed Forbes says:


    the only way I get my head around this is that certain plants need a certain amount of heat content to do well. “degree days” is another scale used to determine what plants will grow.

    Lamb has shown that during the MWP plants could grow where they can not grow today.

    Therefore, the heat content of the MWP was higher then than now.

    Now….where this falls on the dC & % humidity scale in relation to today…no clue.

    But it had to be “warmer” in the MWP as plants were grown in an area that these same plants will not grow in today.

  4. Hugo M says:

    @E.M. Smith: Thank you very much for this precise synopsis! Given that most weather stations measure air pressure and humidity besides temperature (and wind velocity), one would think that the heat content of air should be determinable, since a century at least. I’d like to know the climatological justification for not using these data.

    @Jeff Alberts
    My understanding is that Isotope ratios in icecores tell you a bit about (predomiantly) marine surface temperatures . But the temperature of a thin boundary layer certainly can not tell that much about the heat content of the system that is earth. Even today, the heat content of the oceans is largely unknown. Besides that, I doubt that the specific evaporation ratios of water molecules containing different isotopes of oxygen only depend on temperature. Humidity may be near 100% near the marine surface, but pressure varies a lot. Wind patterns as well as precipitation do influence the fraction finally transported to the poles. An interesting question: exactly how the d18 signal is tied to marine surface temperatures?

  5. E.M.Smith says:


    IMHO, this is one of the most difficult points for most folks to “get”. It can take a year or so to finally have it sink in that some things folks do every day have a “nonsense” basis.

    At the same time, “Absense of evidence is not evidence of absence”…

    That an average of temperatures is not a temperature and says nothing about heat content does not mean it is completely devoid of meaning. We just are not very sure what that meaning is or is not.

    So, put a thermometer on my back porch. MOST things are held MOSTLY constant. Even things like humidity have a relatively constant annual cycle (wiht sporadic ‘way off’ moments with surprise rains, like last week…)

    So MOST of the time, an average of 7 June days compared to an average of all days in past Junes will tell me SOMETHING about the present week vs the prior Junes. But exactly what? And to what degree of precision? That’s a bit harder….

    We get lulled into the idea that “over 100 for 7 days” is an “above average June week”. We forget to ask things like: Was there no rain to absorb the otherwise normal heat flow? Was the thermometer just down wind of a forest fire? We simply assume “all else was held constant”, when it was not. Because for some unknown percentage of the time things are likely close enough….

    In essense, it means that the “error bars” are of un-defined size (and perhaps un-definable).


    Oddly, this same property of temperatures as an intrinsic variable means that many of the “temperature proxies” may actually be MORE accurate at recording the past.

    Ice Cores: The specific heat of water and the heat of fusion are fixed. We have some of those OTHER thermodynamic properties “in the mix”. So we can look at things like thickness of each ice layer and know how much HEAT they represent.

    Tree Rings: Trees respond to added warmth (as to all plants as near as I can tell, they all need a certain number of “degree days” to mature) but also to added water flow. So in times of drought, when less heat is being transported by the water / precipitation, their growth slows; just as it does when things are cooler. To the extent both things are correctly recorded in the rings, we have a better indication of total heat flow, rather than poorer. (Yet, trees also respond to sunlight levels – clouds – and fertilizer – bear ‘visits’…and bug infestations, and… so they have ‘other issues’)

    In essence, since we use “proxies” for past temperatures, we are often accidentally measuring what we really OUGHT to be measuring: heat flow. Then from that back-figuring a fictional temperature.

    So “how can we know” about the MWP and related? By phsical systems that DO integrate more than just one intrinsic property. Where plants grew. How much grain was raised. Where Romans built villas without windows vs those with expansive open walls (in parts of, IIRC, France there are Roman villas that would freeze your buns off today and no way to stop the cold. Yet the Romans knew how to make small windows and central heat where they needed it. Again, that “heat” word…)

    We look at things that measure “heat”, not temperature. And that is how we know it was “warmer” as there was more “heat” in the system.

    It is the creation of a fictional “temperature” out of it that is broken.

    But, in many cases, if you simply relabled the “Temperature since 2000 BC” graph with “Average heat content of the surface layer since 2000 BC” you would have an accurate statement.

    Then, the bogus part, calculating an “average temperature” from an average of a bunch of thermometers and grafting that on at the end…

    Basically, MANN and his “tree rings” were likely being quite accurate, as was “The Decline” they had to hide. Those were based on HEAT. It was the graft at the end and calling it temperature that was borken ;-)

    For the LIA we have other “proxy” evidence for heat flow out of the system.

    Records of Ice Fairs on the Thames. Paintings with tons of snow where now there is little ( mass of water, specific heat of water, heat of fusion of water, temperature of water that is frozen == much less heat than now).

    All those “proxies” clearly state that there was much less heat in the system then, than now.

    You can even use some INDIVIDUAL thermometers as a proxy for heat. A well situated thermometer in a site that did not change will record the temperature accurately over a long period of time. THAT will be an accurate record of the intensive property of that thermometer: temperature. Using that, we can then say that, for example, if it was reading “near -10 F minimums” in Feb of 1850 on most days, but now reads “near 5 F minimums” in Feb of 2000, it is highly unlikely that the humidty, wind speed, air density, etc. have changed enough to account for that. It is good evidence of some unknown degree of heat gain.

    But what you can’t do is average a bunch of these together, ignore all the extrinsics, and call the ball to 1/100 C. That is taking the step into Thermodynamics and / or Calorimetry without the needed extrinsic factors to justify it.

    Basically, a string of comparative temperatures at a place, taken with A THING (that same thermometer) can be COMPARED to set a likely bound and / or trend direction; but they cannot be AVERAGED to make a temperature nor to calculate the heat flow (gain / loss).

    If you have a large number of places where the comparative temperatures on the same instruments show “higher now” you can say it’s hotter now (but only vaguely imply probable heat gain via the assumption that ‘all extrinsics are held constant’..) It is not possible to QUANTIFY that increase in temperature by any mathematical manipulation of those intrinsic temperatures and it’s not possible to measure the heat flows from them.

    This also starts to verge into the issue of the temperature field being a fractal with a hot patch of black asphalt being 20 degrees hotter than a nearby chunk of snow in the shade of a tree… WHICH surfaces do you measure? All that “siting issues” stuff and instrument change stuff. But basically, look at any IR photograph and you can see that there is no one local “surface temperature”, so the temperature you get depends on measuring that fractal topology, and the size of a measured fractal depends on the size of the ruler you use… and we keep changing the size of the ruler… One of the OTHER problems of an intensive variable… “What is the THING that has that temperature?” A spot IR gauge pointed at the tree, the snow in the shade, the river with snow melt, and the asphalt patch in the sun will give drastically different readings. Measure the air 3 feet up as it drifts by inside a standard Stevenson Screen and you HOPE it is giving a valid “average of the heats” as reflected in the temperature of that air…. But a change of wind speed will change “the size of the instrument” (mass of air) that is doing that ersatz averaging…. and so the reading…

    So a person looking around and saying :”Gee, snow behind the tree in the shadow in June, must be colder this year” is likely more accurate than the thermometer down wind of the new parking lot on a day with slow wind drift over that asphalt toward the box…

    (That isn’t a hypothetical. At about 17 years old, a friend and I went camping up near Quincy California. Next day, nice and warm. About 75 F to 78 F IIRC. Even warmer in the open spaces with bare dirt. Absolutely gorgious creek with a large boulder in the middle. I decided to “jump in”. Nice dive, and down UP! onto that boulder. The water was 32 F / 0 C. I was instantly bright pink and had an instant headache. And had to figure out how to get back… Warmed about 20 minutes in the sun, rapid dog paddle back… Around the bend in the shade of tall trees we saw the last of June snow melt adding water to the creek…. So what was “the temperature” of that “grid cell”? The 78 F air temp? The 90 F asphalt? The 32 F creek? The 32 F snow? And what temperature reflected the “heat gain” as the 32 F snow was turning into 32 F creek?)

    At the same place, on another June day, one might well find no snow melting, a generally more “heated” time. Yet lower air temperatures due to a bit more cloud in the sky. Is it really “colder” then? With air temps at 65 F instead? But no melting snow left?

    We assume it is, when using temperatures as a proxy for heat, and we are wrong.

    The creek is warmer. The dirt under the “snow patch” area is warmer. It is the asphalt that is cooler. (The trees do transpiration to maintain constant leaf temperatures… and so change the humidity more than the temperatures) Our “air averaging” has told us a polite lie in terms of heat flow. (But a very useful thing in terms of what clothing we ought to wear as we are embeded in that air flow… at least, after we get out of the water ;-)

    BTW, another usefull example that I’ve shamelessly stolen from George was that mindlessness of The Average Telephone Number.

    A slightly extended form here:

    443 – 2745
    355 – 1214

    Each of those in an intrinsic property of exactly ONE telephone. Now we can averate all the telephone numbers in the phone book to a gazzilon decimal points of precision. But does it have any MEANING?

    Lets average those numbers (remembering that the same effects will be seen no matter how many we would average, so using 2 just illustrates the error band better and the philosohical bankruptcy even more).

    So lets “average that intensive property”. We can do this two ways. We can do it “position by position” or as a single foating point number.

    As a “position by position” we get
    798 – 3959
    for the sum, now, divide each position by 2:

    3.5 4.5 4 – 1.5 4.5 2.5 4.5

    Please dial that number on your phone and see what happens… What? You can’t dial fractional numbers?

    There is no THING to which this fictional number connects. It is an average of two intensive property values, but it is not the same property.

    Oh, I can immagine someone saying, you need to just average them as full numbers, not digit by digit:


    divide by 2

    399 – 1979.5

    Oops…. Still have that “fractional part”…. So do we round it, or truncate it?

    Much of the “instrumental record debate” is centered on questions like “to round or truncate” and very little asks the question: “Is there a 399 interchange at all?” or “Do we use 399 -1979.5 or 3.5 4.5 4 – 1.5 4.5 2.5 4.5 “; and virtually none of it says “There is no phone number 399 – 1979 nor 399 -1979.5 nor 399 – 1980 so isn’t that a complete farce?”

    The same problem exists in temperatures, and for the same reasons.

    Averaging more of them does not “fix it”.
    Ignoring the problem does not “fix it”:
    Assuming the problem away does not “fix it”.
    Assuming the extrinsics are constant does not “fix it”.
    Assuming the extrinsics don’t matter does not “fix it”.

    And the folks who endlessly want to shout “Of course you can average temperatures, you idiot!” at anyone who points out the problem, does not “fix it”….

    It is fundamental to the nature of intrinsic properties, and for temperatures the only way to “fix it” is to bring in the extrinsic properties and do proper Calorimetry or Thermodynamics. (For the phone number there is no fix…)

  6. E.M.Smith says:

    I’ve added a couple of links as an “update” at the bottom of the article. They may be helpful.

  7. Skeptik says:

    You’re at your best when you give the detail (I suppose on a subject that interests me).
    Well done – you explicate well. I learnt.

  8. H.R. says:

    Fine, post E.M. I’ve gone through it twice and it’s twice as nice.

    BTW, what is the average color of the earth? Anybody? Anybody?

    Maybe someone can model that and project it out to 2100. If they need grant money I can cough up $5 bucks for a model ;o)

  9. Another Ian says:

    E.M. O/T but I think you’ll appreciate the good dose of English sarcasm at

  10. E.M.Smith says:

    @Another Ian:

    Love it! A “taster” for others:

    “The second reason to choose the low-carbon path is self-evident: it is more resource efficient.”

    No it isn’t you gargantually stupid onanist. It is “more expensive”. More expensive is a way of measuring “greater resource use”. We pay 46p per unit of solar PV ‘leccie, 9 p for coal derived. Thus each unit of solar energy uses 35 p more in resources than each unit of coal derived. Shit, this isn’t economics even, this is just accounting!

    Yes, politicans continuing to confuse ‘expenditure’ with ‘investment’ and ‘spending’ with ‘wealth creation’…

    Why I would love a mandatory training session for each politican to teach them the difference between GDP (consumption laden) and Net National Wealth creation:


    I think you’ve got it!

    Also, one might ask (as we see the influence of my dip into the English Sarchasm end of the pool…)

    “What is the average virginity of the country?”

    Are we all non-virgins as the number is below 100% and do we calculate it on a “per population instance intrinsic value” or on an “average instances of encounter” basis? I mean, if we can get the national virginity up by shooting a few folks who “do it” 10 times a night, well, heck, just think what that would do to the national net moral fibre! We need to incarcerate those folks Right Now to preserve our Average National Virginity and do it (or not “do it” ;-) for The Children…

    Yes, worry about the Average Temperature is just as nutty.

  11. kuhnkat says:

    Thank you. I had a very rudimentary understanding of this but couldn’t explain it well enough to convince anyone. I still probably won’t be able to convince anyone even using your link as reference, but, it will be obvious that it is THEIR DENIAL that is the problem now!!!

  12. kuhnkat says:

    Oh, I can see a number of them like Mosh saying it all averages out!!!


  13. H.R. says:

    @Another Ian

    “E.M. O/T but I think you’ll appreciate the good dose of English sarcasm at


    Thank you! The comments were a hoot, too.

  14. ROM says:

    Totally off topic.
    Just noting the number of visitors from various parts of the world in your Visitor’s Flags section and I note that on a population basis you are getting a very big response per head of population from Australia and an even bigger or the largest response per head of population from NZ.
    We must be [ an intellectually ? ] curious bunch down here.

  15. Chuckles says:

    Well said as always E.M.,

    On the subject of mean temps, Tony Brown had a post up at WUWT recently (Little Ice Age Thermometers) where he provided a link to the Handbook of Climatology by Dr. Julius von Hann, and he noted some fairly acerbic comments by the good Dr. on such matters.
    The handbook is well worth downloading, if you don’t already have it –

    Original article here –

    Like you I have always been very unimpressed by the hand-waving and mumbling that goes on to justify the use of these constructs, and their claimed accuracy and precision, and I’d offer the following additional caveats –

    The measurements are not those of air temp or whatever, they’re the temp of the thermometer or temp probe used to make the measurement.
    Even then, they’re not a temp, but an observation of a proxy – length of a mercury or alcohol column, or electrical resistance of a particular material, which we HOPE closely approximates the property we’re actually trying to determine.

    Very little attention seems to be paid to the data acquisition process (how do those min and max numbers that are written down and used to create a ‘global mean temp’ actually get generated), or the fact that the process was designed for a completely different purpose.
    When this is queried, there is usually much huffing about averaging, the ‘Law of Large Numbers’, the use of anomalies to obviate absolute temp accuracy, etc etc.

    Using the data capture process for just the MMTS systems as an example –

    The base system has a manufacturers spec. accuracy of +-0.5deg C. The system displays temps to 0.1 deg F. During the course of the day, the system stores the min and max values for the 24hr. period.
    The observer notes the min and max temps recorded for the day, and records each rounded to the nearest degree F.

    To this simple engineer, that process destroys any possibility of extracting any usable average, anomaly or anything else from the data for the purposes of inferring global climate temp trends to 0.1, 0.01 or any other ridiculous manufactured precision or accuracy?

  16. j ferguson says:


    This is a bit OT but provoked by your astonishing output week after week, its diversity, complexity, and density of content.

    After living with myself for 68 years, I’ve discovered that I have two speeds, off and on. During “on” I can work relentlessly and without interruption for hours, sometimes days on a project or idea, sometimes without sleep. Spouse has noticed that I forget to breathe. Off means doing nothing that I, or anyone else, can recognize.

    A family-member with a bipolar disorder has a more extreme expression of this condition in the sense that his “on” can include projects and activities that are not in his best interest.

    So here we have you, who appear to never be off.

    Is this something you’ve wondered about?

    I used to think that you could type faster than you could think, but the continued quality of your work shows that an erroneous idea.

    Ready access to blogs like this one in addition to the web capacity to discover and locate people who are doing things you are interested in throughout the world make me very optimistic about our future.

    I’m completing an instrumentation project on our boat using a device and code from a guy in Germany who had already done what i had been wanting to do. It’s a pic and I had pretty much figured out how to do it myself, but there it was, already done.

    7 years ago, a guy in Seoul Korea, found with a Google search, helped me sort out a driver conflict on a machine i was building with what were apparently very infrequently combined motherboard, graphics and audio adapters.

    Thank you for your persistence with this blog. I worry that you’ll lose interest and shift your attention to the maintenance of your motor pool, the rabbits, the cat, or something else.


  17. pyromancer76 says:

    I got up early this morning to have time to read “Intrinsic Extrinsic…” in a leisurely manner with my favorite coffee. The post is even more delicious. You’ve put lots of time and thinking effort before into explaining to us why “global average temperature” is a nutty idea lacking one whit of science. (I like this definition of “whit” from the — “whit
    noun — bit, drop, piece, trace, scrap, dash, grain, particle, fragment, atom, pinch, shred, crumb, mite, jot, speck, modicum, least bit, iota”) This is one of the best.

    I hope you are willing to keep at it. I have always known the idea was absolute nonsense, but I use history (scary — depends on who is telling the story for what purpose) as my truth meter: who was living where under what conditions and dining habits. Works for all other life forms too. Glad to have the basic science and philosophical backing as well, even if I probably won’t be able to articulate it myself.

    Am sending in my quarterly “subscription” to your mind-and-life-enhancing blog this morning. I hope many others do too. This niche you have developed — I imagine it naturally evolved out of your fine posts on WUWT — is something only the free global internet could have made possible. For however long you are willing, I am. Thank you.

  18. j ferguson says:

    gotta buy the man his Urquel.

  19. Sparks says:

    Excellent Article, you completely hit the nail on the head, I noticed a small typo it says “af” instead of “of”.

  20. H.R. says:

    ” [...] (We may also want to make a distinction about perception of color, as distinct from the actual color, as human eyes do not measure photons with perfection. The Wiki tries to make this of great importance, enough to disavow color as an intrinsic property, but that is an error. Copper Sulphate solid HAS a color, even if we may perceive it as different colors under different lighting or other external changes. The wavelength of photon that comes off its atomic bond length at a given temperature is fixed by nature.) [...]“

    Sorry, Wiki. People see with their brains, not with their eyes. Color is intrinsic. If a ruby is lying down in a forest and there’s no one there to see it, is it still red? Yes.

    I learned that lesson a few years ago; that we see with our brains. I’m partially blind in both eyes, smack dab in in the central field and it’s about 25% loss in each eye. (There were bulges in my eyes that, if left untreated would have kept spreading and totally detached my retinas.) After the surgery I saw the expected grayed out areas for a few days but then the brain kicked in. If I looked at a straight line on paper, it was neat to see that it continued all the way across the paper. The ol’ brain sez, “I see what looks to be a straight line, so it must look like this where there’s no reception from the retina.” The brain literally fills in the blanks.

    The same is true for color. Assuming one has a normal complement of normally functioning cones in the eyes, the brain has been trained to see the ruby in the forrest as “red” but who knows what you’re actually seeing? Yet regardless of what your brain is doing with the information that’s coming in, the wavelengths of light absorbed by the ruby are intrinsic to that ruby, no matter who’s looking (or not).

    “Color” (absorption or reflection of various wavelengths) is an intrinsic property of an object. What the human eye picks up (assuming normal function) is all the same, too, but what an individual’s brain does with all those little photons (perception) will vary.

    (Side bar: I don’t touch type so it is difficult for me to “hunt and peck” when my brain is trying to keep up with finding letters on the keyboard that the eyes cannot see, thus my short comments, typically bon mots. When I go on for more than a paragraph or two, ya’ll will know I’m particularly worked up on a subject. That Wiki comment that color is not an intrinsic property really ticked me off.)

  21. Owen Hughes says:

    Chiefio: You rock. I had bumped into passing mentions of intensive/extensive but, not being trained much in science, didn’t “get” the meaning and the distinction. Your essay lays it out very clearly, and (although I will need to read it again, and again: for pleasure as well as instruction) it gets at the point I have struggled to explain to friends: that geographic temperature averages are close to nonsensical. If I tell you that the average temperature of the USA right now is 75 degrees F, what dang use is that? You need to know: how many temperatures taken on what kind of grid? What range? And so on. And all that does is “get behind” the average, to an (extensive) representation of the temperature field. That 75 could represent 110 in Miami and 40 in Minneapolis; it could represent 75 in both (all) places. It “maps” to an infinitely large set of possibilities, and contains virtually no useful information. Certainly far less information than the “climate scientists” seem to want.

    Deep stuff; made deeper by its ubiquity and apparent familiarity. We “feel” these distinctions from being in the world; but the hand-waving and (deliberate?) misconstructions have obscured them. Thanks.

  22. pouncer says:

    The history of medicine, specifically the determination of (intrinsic) “normal body temperature”, as compared to “fever” and “chills”, is enlightening.

    An exceedingly careful 19th century German researcher took the measurements, noted that men and women differ, children and adults differ, the elderly and infirm differ from the hale and vigorous — and the best he could offer was a mean body temperature (as taken by a metal thermometer at the armpit) of 37 degrees C. (Implicitly, plus or minus a full degree)

    Over the decades this was “translated” to 98.6 degrees F, as taken by mercury/glass thermometers under the tongue.

    It is a highly happy co-incidence that the inaccuracy of the original metal meters, which read high by a degree or two, offset the difference between axial and oral body temperatures. It is another happy coincidence that a decade or so of technological development improved the accuracy of all such meters from plus or minus a degree C to a fraction of a (smaller) degree F.

    None of which explains why mothers across the English speaking world consider a reading of 99.1 F to indicate a child’s fever.

    Whatever we believe, it behooves us to behave as if there is such a thing as an intrinsic, normal, body temperature and significant clues to be drawn from variations around that measurement. But the true professional doesn’t consider the “norm” a commandment from Heavenly Authority.

  23. E.M.Smith says:


    This is also an example of one of the times when the ‘non verbal’ side of the brain “gets it” and the verbal side is playing catch-up.

    One of the very first postings I ever did as the Mr. McGuire Would Not Approve posting. It was, essentially, this same point (but far more crudely spoken).

    Now, a few years later, I think I’ve finally gotten the words together to embody the “grokking” sufficiently to explain it. (At least, I hope I have). All during that time, the “issue” would wander by again, and the mind would kick it around some more. “Come on you dolt, put some WORDS on it” followed by vague feeling of “Why, I can see it just fine on my side of the brain, it’s your linear verbal side that’s a dolt.”…

    Eventually, after enough time “It Happens”. In this case, I was desperately trying to go to bed, and just couldn’t. The Idea Was Ripe. It Was Time. So I sat up doing what I hope is a “final translation” and connection from the non-verbal “got it” to the verbal word painting.

    There is a bit of satisfaction in that moment, as the two halves of me stop bickering and agree that they both “get it” now… and usually agree that coffee or other beverage is also an agreed upon choice ;-)


    I suspect it is partly as my Mum was from England and her best friend moved to New Zealand. I use the language in a 1/2 English way (so many of the Americanisms do not offend so much…). I have a strong interest in Australia and New Zealand, and many articles have featured sites and stories from there.

    The Mysterious Marble Bar, for example.

    @J Ferguson:

    Going to be on the Space Coast next week….


    Typo fixed, thanks.

    Glad you like it. With luck, I’ve got it clear enough this time to avoid the endless “does so – does not” of the first couple of rounds…


    Thanks for the links, I’ll take a look.

    I’ve noticed a pattern. Folks who have had to actually make things work and fix things, especially bugs in programs and engineering “issues” are much more picky about how the math is done… and with good cause, IMHO.

    Folks from “soft sciences” or folks from the Humanities are far more embracing of the narrative of AGW…

    @J Ferguson:

    I think I have 3 speeds.

    Off – often seen on weekends or after a long all night thinking bing. Lump. Either asleep or staring blankly at the TV. Maybe a couple of hours at a shot?

    Slow – usually seen during garden time et. al. Sometimes while having morning coffee. It’s when I do things like laundry and the dishes. As I “warm up”, the mind starts to ponder on the things ‘en queue’…

    Driven – So, once I’m warmed up, there is a stew of things rushing around that need processing, and they do. I see a loose thread of an idea and keep pulling until the whole thing is a pile of yarn, then re-knit it… There are the times of Thought Storms. Can’t really stop it. Just hang on and enjoy the ride. Have learned how to let “go slow” keep on doing what it does at the same time, though; so “at work” I’d keep knocking out “product” while the thought storm took most of the cycles… I can make a budget or a work schedule out of the little time slices between thinking about things like galactic black hole collisions… so folks don’t usually notice…

    It’s just that Driven happens rather a lot, and “slow” is usually about 1/4 the day (and only the early part at that). Driven can sometimes run for a couple of days on really interesting things…

    There is also a subconcious processing batch. I know it happenes, as sometimes “I just get answers” float up; and I can kind of make requests… but it just cranks on some stuff with whatever cycles are leftover…

    Yes, the “connectedness” of the modern world is an aid in that way, but also it can add a time sink. The ‘win’ is in the balance…

    Per “quiting”: Possible, but not likely. I started this site as a place to “put my notes”. It can stay that forever. I shifted from “any comment is fair” to “moderate the folks who are a PITA” largely to control time sink, but I’ve come to realize that the use of moderation to filter out the negative and leave the postive with an open mic works rather well too. (“positive” NOT meaning “in agreement”, meaning “adds to understanding” or “asks interesting things” or “has intersting observations”… not just carping and nay saying.)

    So most likely this will continue as long as I can do it and barring any future employer saying “no”. I will always be thinking and that means always needing a place to put notes, links, etc.


    You might want to learn to touch type… It isn’t all that hard. Just start with the “home row” and “hunt and peck” the others. One letter at a time, add the row above and below “home”. I think you could learn “one letter a day” so it’s just a couple of months…


    I was instrumented for body temperature for 3.5 months (that NASA study). My “normal high” is about 99.1 to 99.3 (when I’m “driven”…) my nightly low can be down to 97.3 (when I’m “off”). My “day length” is 25.5 hours, so I slowly drift later around the clock unless I get ‘stuck’ by a work schedule.

    So what is my “normal” body temperature?

    Is it “better” for me to be force fit into a 9 to 5 work schedule? (I’ve learned to ‘tough it out’ in meetings at 97.x F with lots of coffee – then do the ‘real work’ whenever I’m warmed up…)

    The body temp example is a good one…

    FWIW, one of the OTHER guys in the study had a 23 hour day cycle and ran about 98.6 +/- a tiny most of the time. Don’t know if the pattern is an accident or has something to it. Sample of 2 is a bit small ;-)

  24. j ferguson says:

    Re: Space Coast,

    We’re in the west end of the Metedeconk River, NJ (north end of Barnegat Bay). Return to Marathon in mid December, Titusville early December, all after I get my eyes fixed. Cataracts have dropped correctable to maybe 20/40 and no prescription will help any longer. I hate it, but the doc doesn’t want to do job until then.

    I agree on the productivity of sleep. Life in construction produced a constant stream of seemingly insoluble (at least economically insoluble) problems to a great many of which I awoke in the morning with a doable answer. It was loading up the brain with all the parameters and then letting the random walk sift through them.

    My retirement in 2003 stopped the flow of problems, and I found that the brain’s answer was to invent the most godawful situations with people and places I’d worked with but things that had never actually happened – nightmares. It must have missed the real ones and the circuits just made them up.

    they are less frequent now.

  25. pouncer says:

    E.M. : “I was instrumented for body temperature for 3.5 months (that NASA study).”

    I’m almost afraid to ask where…

    The German 19th century guy “instrumented” armpits (axial) because he thought oral temperature measurements interfered with breathing, and anal was just offensive and morally wrong. Again, his instrument read high, his location produced readings that were low (compared to later oral sites) and it’s a pure accident his results bear much correlation to modern standards.

    When I was a college freshman I, like many, participated in studies of various sorts. (Most “studies” of human nature, intrinsic or ex- , are actually studies of college freshmen as statistically extrapolated to the populace at large.) They themo-coupled my arches, ankles, neck, and earlobes, and made us solve chess problems crossword puzzles, rebuses, etc for six hours while the room temperature varied up and down.

    I later learned my data — along with a few other set taken from the engineering majors — was pitched because we actually solved too many such puzzles before each sample period ran out, regardless of temperature. The supposedly difficult tasks were only difficult for participants who were in more popular degree programs. (Not bragging, just pointing out a feature of bad experimental design. )

    For myself, I learned that my brain slowed down when my feet were cold. That has prompted me to always pack extra socks … a preparation that only rarely, but usually usefully, pays off.

  26. George says:

    I had come to a similar conclusion WRT temperature a long time ago. I think it came to me while reading something from Pielke The Younger and his discussion of land use changes.

    So image we have 20 temperature recording stations. 5 of them are in an arid rural area of the Western US. Now we build dams and begin to irrigate and urbanize. This raises the nighttime low temperatures which increase the overall average temperature. Lets say that over 100 years, the average temperature across all the stations increases by one degree but at the stations where the surrounding land has remained unchanged, the temperature has not increased at all and shows no trend over the period.

    This would seem to indicate that the global climate did not change. That there is no overall change in climate at all but the change in the overall average temperature is an accumulation of local land use changes. So this whole global average thing becomes quite silly and doesn’t really mean anything.

    This whole notion of global climate monitoring by using surface stations is doomed to failure. It doesn’t measure global climate. It measures a collection of local climates which are, over the past 100 years, biased toward things which cause warming due to agricultural development and urbanization.

    At the same time, the stations most likely to undergo little or no change have been removed from the network. Stations at high latitudes and high altitudes (where in places like North America, population has been falling), are being removed from the network used to measure global climate leaving the stations where the most active land use change has occurred taking an increasing share of the monitoring. It is just plain nuts, but they get away with it because a particular political agenda has learned how to use it in order to advance their own policies.

    Quite sick, actually.

  27. Sera says:

    “I’ve noticed a pattern. Folks who have had to actually make things work and fix things, especially bugs in programs and engineering “issues” are much more picky about how the math is done… and with good cause, IMHO.”

    Sounds like this:

    Enjoy your holiday, everyone.

  28. gallopingcamel says:

    GISTEMP fraud won’t matter in the long run as its divergence from satellite measurements gets more obvious year after year.

    James Hansen can go on a announcing each year is hotter than the last but here in Florida we have had the two coldest winters in 25 years, back to back.

  29. E.M.Smith says:

    @J. Ferguson:

    Best of luck with The Doc. Last I looked, that was a few years back, cataracts where very succesfully treated.

    FWIW, my “solution” to the brain wanting to keep on working was to find another problem to work on… Things like the “dumpster dive” into GIStemp code…


    One of the things they learned was that a custom molded ear plug thermometer was just a PITA (as it messed up hearing and was uncomfortable when sleeping) while an “anal probe” was not a PITA… Slim plastic coated wire with barley sized tip was substantially unnoticed all day. (Putting it in was, er, “not pleasant”…)

    But nothing like getting that call on the intercom at 2 am to ask you to check your anal prob as your temp is reading 80 F…

    The things I’ve done for “Real Sciene ™”…

    I suppose that now they have some IR skin dingus. (For all those post Skylab astronauts: I appologize for not telling the “operators” that the earpiece felt “just fine” ;-)

    As a college Lab Rat, I, too, learned that I functioned best mentally when warm. “When you’re hot you’re hot” is very true. Now I will deliberately “warm up” prior to any mental challenge. I’m about 10 IQ points smarter after the morning shower than before, and hot coffee adds another tranche… (A careful observer can actually find the effect by a study of my misspelling rate. It is highest when cold, lowest when hot. I offen “comment” while warming up and getting coffee, then go back to “spell check” later in the day… I just can’t care enough to sort out which language spells it apartement vs appartement vs apartment vs… when still low temp…) If a task is particularly tricky or imporant, I try to schedule it for 2 pm to 6 pm at my temperature peak.

    Part of what we did was fly a fight simulator. They wanted to know “Which is best: Everyone on a single day / night schedule and in an emergency some guy gets awakened to fly back ‘cold’, or someone is always on “hot standby” and folks work on divergent schedules?” For me, it was pretty clear that when they woke me up at MinCoreTemp I was a much worse pilot.

    As “short day folks” start to warm up about 4 AM (and can’t stand staying in bed after about 6am, reaching peak mid-morning, then fading in the afternoon, headed to bed at 9 pm) while a “long day” person is just cooling down from peak between 6 pm and Midnight, maybe getting really sleepy by 2 am… ) I think they settled on a “normal length day of 24 hours” but have a “morning crew” and “evening crew” assignment for “emergency pilot” based on what your internal clock does. (At least, watching the TV of the space station it looks like they have a day and night schedule. Given that, it would be ‘prudent’ to have a ‘morning person’ and a ‘night owl’ pilot on each crew.) Either that, or just have an “emergency pilot espresso” machine ;-)


    Like turning cow pasture to international airports…



    Just remember that Economics is applied psycology blended with applied accounting ;-)


    Frankly, that’s why you havn’t seen any GIStemp articles from me in the last year or so.

    They came out with GHCN.v3 and a GIStemp update. Both have new and “improved” adjustments, fudge, and distortions in them. I really OUGHT to “dig here” and do some stories on it. But I just don’t care enough to do it and nobody wants to pay for my time to give me a reason to care. So it sits. Once I figured out that “the game” was all in “mystery homogenizing and adjusting” along with “given these conclusions which thermometers can I select?” it became “less interesting”.

    Showing some trivial detail of how they got the averaging “wrong” is less interesting once you realize that averaging AT ALL is mindless. It is just arguing over angels and pins at that point…

    Then the cold started to come…

    It takes about 18 years for a cold change to propagate from Mid Pacific up to Alaska / Arctic ocean. The “swap” started in about 1998. That makes us 14 years into it. In 4 more years, the Arctic starts freezing up a LOT more. Already, the last couple of years, it has reached the Gulf of Alaska and that’s the source of weather for much of North America. We’ve gone quite cold down the Pacific Coast.

    As that cold trend spreads out over the northern edge of Canada, more cold will then be available to “fall down” the middle of the continent and onto the East Coast. IMHO, that started in the last couple of years (thus your Florida cold years).

    So at this point, we’re in the “end game”.

    Cold is already spreadout to about Utah and headed into Colorado. It’s spread down to about San Francisco, headed toward L.A.. As that spread continues, other places will cool too. The “sporadic Canadian cold fronts” in winter will become more frequent and deeper. Eventually even Florida summers will cool a bit.

    In a half dozen years, we’ll have Arctic Ice building up and even more cold. Eventually, at the next swap of the PDO, Arctic Ice will only have a couple of more years of “build” before the next cycle swap.

    The “wild card” being the sun. To the extent it stays “UV low”, we continue to have “excess heat loss” along with “more clouds”. If this IS a “major minima” (yes, I like G&S ;-) then it’s going to be even colder, even longer. If that also causes a few more Great Volcanoes, we’re in for a “year without a summer”….

    Somone on the “Warmers” side knows this. Thus the attempt to “rebrand” from “Global Warming” to “Climate Change” and “Climate Chaos”. They simply telegraphed that they actually do know what is going to happen and that the “AGW” branding was a fraud of marketing, IMHO.

    WHY would you make a movie about warming causing a Little Ice Age if you didn’t need to “sterilize” that topic in advance? WHY would you swap to “Climate Chaos” just before a hot/cold swap brings back the “loopy jet stream” of the 1960′s and the more variable weather then if you did not know it was coming?

    No, not enough evidence to “prove” anything. But the pattern is quite clear. “Rebranding” happens just a year or two prior to each bit of cyclical weather change that leans toward that same rebranded direction.
    They Know.

    So, IMHO, the “schedule” had AGW as the lever heading into the hot peak of a PDO cycle. They were planning to get control of the energy economy (and through it, make $Billions along with taking effective economic control), then show that the “treatement” in fact “worked” as things started to get to the cool side of the PDO and the snows returned.

    Their schedule got blown when Kyoto stalled out and folks did NOT addopt the “cures”. Now they are tryint to patch, adapt, and do a “cram down” in the waning days of the hot PDO / cod PDO transistion; but even that is hitting a wall and going too slow. Thus the “rebrand” to “Climate Chaos” so they can try to claim any weather problem as a “climate chaos” problem.

    But the Sun going quiet was a surprise for which they were not prepared.

    So “chaos” is turning into “Minor Little Ice Age Redux” and they are once again scrambling for how to adapt to that; ladle on a global recession that has got folks attention elsewhere and, well, I’d not want to be an “Al Gore Acolade” at the moment. Future not looking to good with Il Duce Redux…

    I’m a patient sort. So while I know that a lot of folks are not, I’m relatively comfortable with just “running out the clock” over the next decade. I know I ought not to be. I know that “they” will not slow down but will double down. I know I ought to be doubling effort too… but I’m not.

    It’s a character flaw. I know it.

    As a ‘paid minion’ I’d be happy to focus on it for 8 hours a day. But there isn’t any money on the “skeptic” side. (At least, not for me…)

    Doing this as a hobby, well, it has to take ‘back seat’ to things like trading strategies (where I get my bread money) and “what interests me now”.

    I’ll continue to “toss a grenade” or two “their way” as I find some juicy bit, and more so if it looks like the Durban Debacle starts to gain any traction; but from this point forward, IMHO, it’s rather like W.W.II after Stalingrad and The Battle of the Bulge. Still a formidable adversary, but you know where the end game will be…

    Can you immagine The One telling Americans that they will need to pay $4 MORE per gallon of gasoline for “Carbon Taxes”? $8 total? Can you say “career limiting move”?

    Can you immagine Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Spain accepting Austerity and more “Green Taxes”?

    The leading edge of The Charge has just run off the cliff.
    The reserves are running into a Green Tax Wall.
    China is saying “STFU” and doing what it damn well pleases, building a load of coal plants.
    It is colder each year than the year before.
    The snows come sooner / melt later.

    At this point the “smart politicans” will be “distancing themselves” from “the movement”. IMHO, we saw the first wave of this with Barak Obama. At the SOTU address he mentioned “global warming” and there were guffaws and snickers from the audience. You’ve seen no movement from him since. Tosses a few “sops” to the base. Has some agencies propose stupid “regulations”. But HE does not go on camera advocating the AGW position…

    Each cold year, more folks will be in the “not me” camp. A small but growing number will be in the “No Warming” camp. And as this solar cycle plunges back into another even more dead one, the snows will be even deeper and we’ll have a decade history of it, not just “weather” anymore…

    So yeah, look for more “coldest in 25 years” and then some “coldest in 100 years”… And Hansen will just retire “victorious” on full pension… and write books for ‘the base’…

  30. Chuckles says:

    E.M., while you may claim that your discreetly positioned and undetectable temp. probe was fitted by NASA, and that it allowed you to fly flight sims, swim, play tennis, ride horses at any time of the month etc etc, your readership will instantly apply Occams Chainsaw and realise that, actually, you were abducted by Aliens.
    This explains much.

    Oh, and easy on the ‘Durban Debacle’ terminology there. Some of us were born there, and are quite fond of the place….:)

  31. E.M.Smith says:


    Actually we were living “in a box” to similulate the isolaton of space and were not allowed to see any other humans for 3.5 months. of social isolation… No swim, no tennis, no horses

    All communications were via intercom.


    Now that I think about it… we didn’t actually SEE our “keepers”…


  32. mrsean2k says:

    Thanks for this – an article that repays revisiting, and I’m gearing up for a 3rd run through.

    But one thing I’d question is that the exercise of calculating a “global average temperature” necessarily has to be pointless (although I’d agree that by the look of things, it currently is in any current manifestation).

    If we scale the problem down somewhat, imagine we’re presented with a large volume of air, in a relatively enclosed space – a cube greenhouse will do as a satisfying example.

    We want to estimate the energy of the heat within the greenhouse. We aren’t privvy to the history of radiative fluxes (or we are at best extremely uncertain on the subject, and acknowledge that fact).

    If it was a small vessel, we could consider sticking it in a calorimeter and our problem is solved. We might have to wait a while, but we would end up with a pretty accurate estimate.

    So we fall back on approximation and we try various tactics;

    1) Single thermometer

    We set a single thermometer in the geometric center of the greenhouse. We let the temperature reading settle for a bit and use that reading. We know the volume of the greenhouse and the specific heat capacity of the air, and Lo! we have an estimate for the heat energy.

    Clearly this is a blunt instrument. We don’t know much about the physical conditions inside, turbulence, differing density of the air as it heats, cools, falls and moves.

    Our single datapoint may taken from the “average” place, but that the volumetric center represents an average is an axiom more based on hope than anything else.

    2) Column of thermometers

    We know that the temperature of the air is likely to increase as we get higher. We position a column of multiple thermometers at the plan-centre of the greenhouse, say, 50cm apart.

    Take a reading. Calculate the heat content of the horizontal slice of air measured. Sum them. Compare to 1)

    It should be a more accurate representation, but we’re still only covering one position in terms of area – we know there are chaotic forces at play and possibly other inhomogeneities that could skew the results

    3) Grid of thermometers

    We duplicate our single column, divide the greenhouse into a 3×3 grid, and place a column in each.

    Measure, calculate, sum. This time a thermometer records a much smaller subdivision of the air inside and the heat capacity of that air.

    Clearly, the accuracy of our estimate for the heat content is contingent on the scale of the grid we choose to do our measurement. The finer the grid, the more accurate the estimate.

    I’ll elide over the fact that filling the greenhouse with measuring equipment might change the dynamics a bit.

    So it seems to me that it’s a question of how the value of the approximation changes, and the certainty / uncertainty introduced with each method.

    I appreciate that in saying a thermometer is, er, “responsible” for a given volume of air it is equivalent to making the switch from extrinsic / intrinsic, but of course anyone is free to stipulate that as a condition when calculating.

    In the case of a “global average temperature” is there anything to salvage if we stipulate that the figure represents one term of the equation for a homogenous block of atmosphere equivalent in energy to the sum of any gridded measurement?

    Plenty of evidence to suggest that coverage / measurement techniques are so bad that you could still put little faith in any calculation, but is it a matter of exceptionally poor / difficult execution as opposed to the use of one metric being irretrievably flawed?

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