Climate Science And Horse Racing -- Place Your Bets!

Climate change science debating is fun to watch. Scientists on all sides and flavors (the skeptics and the convinced) go at each other like Tyson and Hoyfield. No punches are pulled, thinly veiled insults are hurled without regret and the occasional ear is bitten. When it comes to verbal sparring, career-ending/making peer reviews and pound for pound ridicule, these guys and gals hold their own.

Some ear biting is cute ... some isn't.
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Today's climate change hot topic is continual adjustments to historical temperature data. The issue moved into the spotlight a few weeks ago when national media reported on a post by Steven Goddard (aka Tony Heller). The post claims adjustments, including estimated data for up to 40% of the USHCN dataset, caused a fake warming trend in the USA by cooling the 1930s and warming the 1990s. 

There are three sides in this debate: adjustments are good, adjustments are bad, need more data and more context.

On Judith Curry's Climate Etc blog, Zeke Hausfather explains the rationale behind the adjustments in this post. It's interesting and thought provoking as is the debate that follows in the comment section.

One commenter raised an apt analogy about the adjustments. It got me thinking. (No small feat.) The analogy is clever. I posted it below with my reply:

A fan of *MORE* discourse | July 7, 2014 at 9:39 am | Reply

Question  Why does the Daily Racing Form publish “adjusted” Beyer speed figures for each horse? Why not just the raw times? Answer  Because considering *ALL* the available information yields *FAR* better betting strategies.

Question  Why does the strongest climate science synthesize historical records, paleo-records, and thermodynamical constraints?? Answer  Because considering *ALL* the available information yields *FAR* better assessments of climate-change risk.

These realities are *OBVIOUS* to *EVERYONE* — horse-betters and climate-science student alike — eh Climate Etc readers?

When I signed up to be a stud in the breeding program, this isn't what I had in mind.

My reply:

Matt L. | July 7, 2014 at 3:52 pm | Reply

The Beyer speed analogy got to me. It succeeds at what it was designed to do. Kudos.

As I am oft wont, lay curiosity (in climate science and horse betting) forced an immediate investigation into Beyer speed.

As a thought and pattern matching exercise, the Beyer speed analogy is quite good. However, within a few minutes, I found an erudite bettor who supplies a different take on the underlying premise that Beyer speed, while working as designed, furnishes reliable data on which to bet one’s wad of cash. He wrote:

“The theory:

Horses that can win races are the ones that can significantly IMPROVE their previous race speed figure. Today’s winner is not the horse with the highest figure from its last race but the horse that is most likely to REACH its highest figure today. Bold-face Beyer figures function essentially as mirages, optical illusions that distort racing reality. Yes, they are more than reasonably accurate most of the time. But they are not worth their face value, for an accurate rendering of the past is not the same thing as an objective prediction of the future. Better stated, the past performances are something that should be seen dynamically, as if they were part of a moving process.”

It seems climate science and horse betting share more than one initially thinks.

I enjoyed the analogy. As we attempt to understand scientific research, numskulls like me could use more of them.

It behooves each of us to acquire and maintain at least cursory knowledge of the data and the ideas surrounding climate change. Plus, because it reminds us just how beastly our species can turn when trying to "win", watching the occasional ear bite, like chicken soup, is good for the soul.


Tags: climate science,, climate change

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Matt Writes Anything

"I love talking about nothing. It is the only thing I know anything about."  - Oscar Wilde