Thursday, 31 December 2009

Importing Haloscan comments to Wordpress

As I previously mentioned, I have imported my Haloscan comments to a WordPress blog. I have no intention of switching from Blogger to WordPress at this stage, but this is the best I can do currently to retain online access to my old comments.

As I have been asked how this was done I will provide a brief outline here with the links to the pages I referenced. It is not particularly straightforward and I did this with the assistance of stratman.

Haloscan has been purchased by JS-Kit. They initially offered to transfer comments to an upgradeable free account. I understand that this commenting system is integrated into Blogger which suggests comments would have been transferred back to Blogger's commenting system. This was not available until one was notified of the transfer, by which stage it was Echo commenting which was a paid system. Not too unreasonable I guess, but given they can possibly insert the comments into Blogger that would have been a nice option.

My steps

I downloaded comments from Haloscan. You should do this first, and probably do it anyway in case of future need. Comments download as an xml file which you can view in Notepad. Blogger does not recognise the comments in this particular xml format, though the comments are indexed by the blogpost code determined by Blogger.

I needed to set up WordPress blogging software. WordPress develop free blog software which is very versatile. The software needs to be uploaded to a webhoster which I don't have. They also have their software on their own webhoster conveniently (or confusingly) called This is less versatile and is insufficient for the import.

Not having a webhoster I needed to host the software on my computer by having it act as a server. I downloaded WampServer which is open source software located at SourceForge.

I installed WampServer following this guide. Although I did not create virtual hosts; the default is a single localhost. And be careful about creating a password. You probably do not need one. If you create a password the file you need to modify ( is not in the www\phpmyadmin\ directory that it must have been in the 2005 version of WampServer. It is currently located in the apps\phpmyadmin3.2.0.1\ directory.

WordPress downloads as a zip file. After unpacking, the files can be copied into the www/ directory. Alternatively you can follow these directions.

WordPress blogs can be viewed and modified from within a browser. It is reasonably straightforward but more details here. I went to Tools/Import and imported posts (and old, pre-Haloscan comments) directly from Blogger. You need to give WampServer/ Wordpress permission from Blogger to do this. Even with permission I got an error. Work around was to open the php.ini file and find the line
The semicolon (;) indicates this is a comment. Decomment by removing the semicolon and save the file. Reboot WampServer and WordPress can import directly from Blogger. Alternatively you can export the file from Blogger then import to WordPress.

Next I installed a WordPress plugin to import Haloscan comments. Essentially Blogger uses unique numeric codes for blog authors and blog posts. Haloscan uses the same blogpost codes for comments. Blogger codes are lost on the import to WordPress. The plugins identify the blogpost codes and attach the Haloscan comments to the correct post. Here are the pluggins and instructions for importing the Haloscan comments. They worked fine other than adding > to the beginning of post titles and the first paragraph of the post body. Because of timeouts I set the thread identification pluggin to only grab 10 posts per time.

There is some development code to import WordPress to Blogger. It involves installing Python, and apparently does not keep the comment dates intact, so I have not used that. Thus I do not have my old comments in Blogger. I have a WordPress blog which I uploaded the posts and comments to, which will have to suffice. It is unlikely people other than me will use it. But perhaps this post may be helpful to those who use WordPress rather than Blogger.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

The post-exilic chronology. Part 2: A revised timeline

In part 1 of this series I gave a brief outline of the common reconstruction of the post exilic period. Others have suggested an alternative, essentially chronological reconstruction (which I will call the sequential reconstruction). Taking Ezra as it is presented, the narrative reads as if the reigns of the kings are per the order they are given. We have a simple order in Ezra-Nehemiah: Cyrus, Ahasuerus, Artaxerxes, Darius, then Artaxerxes. The list is not necessarily exhaustive.

Cyrus Ezra 1:1–4:3
Ahasuerus Ezra 4:6
Artaxerxes Ezra 4:7–24
Darius Ezra 4:24–6:22
Artaxerxes Ezra 7:1–Nehemiah 13:9

The outline of the sequential reconstruction is as follows. Note the distinction between the temple and the city.

Cyrus gives permission to return to Jerusalem and build the temple.
Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. (Ezra 1)
Some exiled Jews return. The altar is built in the seventh month and sacrifices are offered,
But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid. (Ezra 3)
So they pay builders and buy wood. Then they start building in the 2nd month of the 2nd year. There was a large celebration when the foundation was finished.
And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. (Ezra 3)
Foreign adversaries ask to help build the temple, but are refused. Then they (or others) opposed their building of the temple and frustrated their plans.
Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. (Ezra 4)
Here we have a summary statement. The opposition started during the time of Cyrus and continued until the time of Darius. Then we have a description of a significant way in which the Jews were opposed. Such was the level of opposition they were completely prevented from building. We hear of a letter to Ahasuerus (Ezra 4:6), then we are shown a copy of what is written to Artaxerxes (Ezra 4:9–16). The brevity of the comment about Ahasuerus raises the possibility that Ahasuerus is (this) Artaxerxes, though such an identification is not necessary for the sequential reconstruction. In the letter to Artaxerxes, Rehum complains that,
[The Jews] are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. (Ezra 4)
King Artaxerxes replies,
Therefore make a decree that these men be made to cease, and that this city be not rebuilt, until a decree is made by me. (Ezra 4)
So the Jews stop building the city at this time. Work also stops on the temple.
Then the work on the house of God that is in Jerusalem stopped, and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia. (Ezra 4)
The comment about the work stopping until the 2nd year of Darius is a lead in to the narrative of how the work on the temple restarted at this time (the 2nd year). The prophets Haggai and Zechariah tell the Jews to rebuild the temple (Ezra 5:1). Haggai rebukes them for building their own luxurious houses when the temple is not yet complete
In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: "Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD." Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, "Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes." Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD." (Haggai 1)
So Jews start work on the temple again. This may not strictly defy the earlier decree from Artaxerxes. Even though the city is not to be rebuilt the question remains what can be done. We learn from Haggai that the people were building panelled, that is luxurious, houses. It is possible that the decree of Artaxerxes preventing the building of the city was allowed by God in order to focus the Jews on the proper task which was to build the temple as per Cyrus' decree. But after the decree of Artaxerxes they stopped work on the temple as well as the city. However they built themselves nice houses. So God chastises them by frustrating their agricultural labour. It may have been reasonable for the Jewish men to build basic shelters initially, but more extensive renovations should have been delayed until after the temple was completed. This interpretation makes sense of what we learn from the books of Ezra and Haggai.

So the Jews return to working on the temple after the encouragement of Haggai and Zechariah. This time a letter is sent from Governor Tattenai to Darius about the work on the temple, not the work on the city. Though the accusation from Tattenai to the Jews is phrased negatively,
Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?
They also asked them this: “What are the names of the men who are building this building?
God did not let Tattenai prevent the Jews from building until Darius sent orders. It is interesting to see that the phrasing of the letter was more in line with seeking to confirm the Jewish response to Tattenai and it does not appear as strong an appeal for the Jews to stop compared with the opposition during the earlier time of Artaxerxes. Tattenai begins his letter,
Be it known to the king that we went to the province of Judah, to the house of the great God. It is being built with huge stones, and timber is laid in the walls. This work goes on diligently and prospers in their hands. (Ezra 5)
Tattenai then tells Darius what the Jews have said to him, then he ends his letter thus,
Therefore, if it seems good to the king, let search be made in the royal archives there in Babylon, to see whether a decree was issued by Cyrus the king for the rebuilding of this house of God in Jerusalem. And let the king send us his pleasure in this matter. (Ezra 5)
Darius confirms the decree originally from Cyrus, warns Tattenai not to interfere, provides resources for the building, and requests the Jews pray to God for the royal family. Thus the temple is completed during Darius' 6th year.
Then, according to the word sent by Darius the king, Tattenai, the governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their associates did with all diligence what Darius the king had ordered. And the elders of the Jews built and prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. They finished their building by decree of the God of Israel and by decree of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes king of Persia; and this house was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king. (Ezra 6)
What is intriguing in this passage is that the completion is ascribed to God first; and also to the kings: Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes. But the decree from Artaxerxes in Ezra 4 is not to build, but to stop building; and this decree referred to the city. Martin Anstey suggests that verse 14 should be translated,
They builded and finished it according to the commandment of Cyrus and Darius (even Artaxerxes), King of Persia.
I would phrase it,
They finished their building by decree of the God of Israel; and by decree of Cyrus and Darius, that is Artaxerxes, king of Persia.
This translation implies that the completion was due to the decrees of only 2 kings, Cyrus and Darius; and those decrees essentially a single decree reiterated. I will return to a defence of this translation in a later post.

The temple is completed in Darius' 6th year. The book of Ezra continues,
Now after this, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra... went up from Babylonia. And there went up also to Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king, some of the people of Israel, and some of the priests and Levites, the singers and gatekeepers, and the temple servants. And Ezra came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. (Ezra 7)
If we are correct about Artaxerxes being Darius then the time between chapters 6 and 7 is a few months, not the half century proposed by the common reconstruction.

Ezra leaves Babylon in the 1st month of Darius' 7th year and arrives in Jerusalem in the 5th month. The rest of the book discusses issues that Ezra deals with on his return to Jerusalem.

Nehemiah hears about the broken walls of the city in Artaxerxes' 20th year and returns that same year, some 13 years after Ezra returned. Nehemiah completes the repair of the wall (Nehemiah 6) then hangs the gates. There was further opposition to the Jews rebuilding over this period, on this occasion the opposition was to the walls being repaired. The opposition was led by Tobiah.

Nehemiah stayed in Jerusalem 12 years as governor until the 32nd year of Artaxerxes then returned from Jerusalem to Babylon (Nehemiah 5).

Note that Ezra taught the Jews during the time Nehemiah was governor of Jerusalem.
And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people,... (Nehemiah 8)

Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Back to Blogger commenting

Haloscan are stopping their free commenting system. I switched previously from blogger to haloscan to allow more control over commenting. I wished to allow easy commenting without anti-spam codes, but therefore need to be able to delete comments. But back to blogger commenting for now. Will see how easy it is to work with their system. Blogger allows commenters to delete their own comments. As administrator I can delete any comment.

I wanted to import my haloscan comments but this is proving quite difficult. For now the comments are on a wordpress blog which mirrors this blog for the last 3 years. I may write about the process at some stage. I suggest that others using haloscan at least export their comments so they have a copy on their own hard drive, perhaps future software will be able to make use of it. Exporting now is important as the information may not be obtainable in the future.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Santa comes to our house

Yesterday we had 3 families opening Christmas presents. One parcel under the tree had no gift tag so the intended recipient was unknown. No one there claimed giver status. Of course this did not prevent us opening it. But even when the contents of the gift were revealed, British confectionery and a gift voucher, no person remembered buying the gift, let alone who it was intended for.

Despite his absence from our house since we had children, one suspects the jolly, hoary elf finally decided to pay us a visit.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Herod's slaughter of the innocents

National Geographic did an article on King Herod last year. I didn't find the writing style particularly riveting though it was variably informative. The article started with this comment about Herod.
An astute and generous ruler, a brilliant general, and one of the most imaginative and energetic builders of the ancient world, Herod guided his kingdom to new prosperity and power. Yet today he is best known as the sly and murderous monarch of Matthew's Gospel, who slaughtered every male infant in Bethlehem in an unsuccessful attempt to kill the newborn Jesus, the prophesied King of the Jews. During the Middle Ages he became an image of the Antichrist: Illuminated manuscripts and Gothic gargoyles show him tearing his beard in mad fury and brandishing his sword at the luckless infants, with Satan whispering in his ear. Herod is almost certainly innocent of this crime, of which there is no report apart from Matthew's account. But children he certainly slew, including three of his own sons, along with his wife, his mother-in-law, and numerous other members of his court. Throughout his life, he blended creativity and cruelty, harmony and chaos, in ways that challenge the modern imagination.
The claim that Herod is innocent of this crime because there is not further documentary evidence of the event betrays an unjustified anti-biblical bias.

That Herod was capable of commanding the murder of infants is mentioned in the paragraph above: 3 sons, a wife, etc.

Herod had these people killed,
  • Mattathias Antigonus
  • Several leaders of Antigonus’ group
  • John Hyrcanus
  • Aristobulus (brother-in-law)
  • Kostobar (brother-in-law)
  • Alexandra (the mother of Herod's wife Mariamme)
  • Miriamme (wife)
  • Alexander (son)
  • Aristobulus (son)
  • 300 military leaders
  • Several Pharisees
  • Antipater (son)
Many of these were killed to prevent a perceived challenge to his kingdom.

And if these examples do not suffice to document Herod's paranoia and blood-thirst, Josephus records a well known story how Herod had many men imprisoned in Jericho shortly before his death with instructions they be executed when he died. The reason? So there would be mourning at the time of his death. This was not carried out.

So it is apparent that Herod was capable of ordering the death of children if he perceived a threat to his throne.

However the bigger issue here is the illegitimate implication that documentary evidence from the Bible has second class status. Or even errant status. Not only is any other contemporary (or not so contemporary) document held up as the primary standard that the Bible is judged by, the Bible is often assumed to be in error when it touches on aspects of history that no other historian has mentioned.

Matthew was roughly contemporary with these events. He wrote of Herod earlier than Josephus did.

There is documentary evidence of Herod slaughtering the children. It is recorded in Matthew 2. There is no evidence that Herod did not do such an action. There is no good reason to exempt him of this crime.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

The post-exilic chronology. Part 1: A common timeline

Sorting out the post-exilic Israelite chronology has its difficulties. Modern biblical scholarship relies heavily on Persian material. The ESV Study Bible is probably typical in its outline. See table below (abridged).

EventYear (BC)
Cyrus king of Persia captures Babylon539
First year of King Cyrus; issues proclamation freeing Jewish exiles to return538–537
Jewish exiles, led by Sheshbazzar, return from Babylon to Jerusalem537?
Altar rebuilt.537
Temple rebuilding begins536
Adversaries oppose the rebuilding536–530
Temple rebuilding ceases530–520
Temple rebuilding resumes (2nd year of Darius)520
Temple construction completed (6th year of Darius)516
Ezra departs from Babylon to Jerusalem (arrives in 7th year of Artaxerxes I)458
Hanani brings Nehemiah a report from Jerusalem (20th year of Artaxerxes I)445–444
Nehemiah before King Artaxerxes445
Nehemiah repairs Jerusalem walls445
Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem (32nd year of Artaxerxes I)433–432

The problem I have with this reconstruction (which I will refer to as the common reconstruction) is that it tries to meld the biblical data with the secular perspective of the Persian data. Reading Ezra-Nehemiah using this scheme makes less sense and constant reference to a study Bible is needed to understand when events are happening.

This is the list of Persian kings as they appear in the Bible.

Cyrus Ezra 1:1–4:3
Ahasuerus Ezra 4:6
Artaxerxes Ezra 4:7–24
Darius Ezra 4:24–6:22
Artaxerxes Ezra 7:1–Nehemiah 13:9

The common reconstruction places Cyrus ~530 BC. The opposition described in Ezra 4:1–6 is during the time of Cyrus to Darius ~530–490 BC, so Ezra 4:7 onwards is proposed to be describing a similar situation, i.e. opposition, even though it is several years later. There is a single verse about the time of Ahasuerus ~480 BC then several verses dedicated to Artaxerxes who is placed later ~460 BC. This aside supposedly stops at Ezra 4:23 with the next sentence returning to the opposition under Darius. Effectively the text is interpreted thus,
Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. [Aside on Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes.] Then the work on the house of God that is in Jerusalem stopped, and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.
After the discussion about rebuilding the temple under Darius ~520 BC the text moves to the return of Ezra under Artaxerxes ~460 BC (some 50–60 years later).

Then Nehemiah returns some 13 years after Ezra, also during the reign of Artaxerxes.

Having laid out the common reconstruction I would like to point out what I see are the deficiencies.

Probably the most obvious issue is the distortion of the narrative around the opposition to building. We read of opposition in Ezra 4:4–5 and instead of any explanation we get a diversion some 50 years into the future. When the story returns to the previous era there are no details about the opposition previously mentioned. Ezra does go on to talk about letters sent in the days of Darius but this does not appear to be so much external opposition as enquiry. The governor Tattenai does ask about the authority under whom the Jews were acting in rebuilding the temple, but he does not stop them, and then he asks Darius if the Jewish claim can be confirmed from the archives.

There is also a possible issue with the common reconstruction in that Artaxerxes opposes the building of the city, which includes the walls (Ezra 4:12), yet he sends Nehemiah back to repair the walls in the 20th year of his reign (Nehemiah 2:8). It is possible that Artaxerxes did change his mind, but this does give one pause.

Further, the context of Ezra 4:24 fits the preceding verse 23 better than the earlier verse 5. We have a letter of opposition from the surrounding people leading to a decree by Artaxerxes to stop building the city,...
Then, when the copy of King Artaxerxes' letter was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe and their associates, they went in haste to the Jews at Jerusalem and by force and power made them cease. Then the work on the house of God that is in Jerusalem stopped, and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia. (Ezra 4:23–24)
If we read these verses together it says that the Jews were rebuilding the city and were compelled to stop, therefore the work on the temple also ceased. And there was no further building until the time of Darius.

Lastly, if one were not attempting to fit his prior ideas about the reigns of the Persian kings, would the common reconstruction come out of the book of Ezra?

In part 2 I will discuss a revision of this scheme.

Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Potential advent astronomical events

Below is a table of astronomical events that occurred near and up to 1 BC as seen from Jerusalem.

Dates are according to the Julian calendar.

Time is Jerusalem time. For universal time (UTC) subtract 2 hours. For Babylon time add 1 hour. Time is specified as such
  • Conjunction: time of closest approach.
  • Eclipse: time of central shadow.
Jerusalem is longitude 35°14' East

5 BC
Mar 23


Total lunar eclipse
Sep 15


Total lunar eclipse
4 BC
Mar 13


Partial lunar eclipse
3 BC
Feb 15

Partial solar eclipse

May 20†

Mercury Saturn

Conjunction: 40'
Jun 12

Venus Saturn

Conjunction: 7.2'

Aug 12

Venus Jupiter

Leo/ Cancer
Conjunction: 4.2'
Aug 31

Mercury Venus


Sep 8–10


Sun and Moon in Virgo
Sep 11


Sun in Virgo. New Moon at feet of Virgo

Sep 14

Triple conjunction (1): 20'
Dec 1


Jupiter stationary

2 BC
Feb 17

Triple conjunction (2): 51'
Mar 29


Jupiter stationary

May 8

Triple conjunction (3): 43'

Jun 17

Venus Jupiter

Conjunction: 6". Close to Regulus. Full Moon
Jul 17


Partial lunar eclipse. Not visible from Jerusalem

Aug 26

Mars Jupiter

Conjunction. Venus and Mercury also massing with Mars and Jupiter
Dec 25–30



Jupiter stationary. December 25 is solstice

1 BC
Jan 10†


Total lunar eclipse

Dec 29


Partial lunar eclipse. Only end of eclipse visible

*Const. = constellation.
†Date given based on time in Jerusalem. Times are usually given in UTC which for these events would be 1 day prior.

These dates were obtained from The Star that Astonished the World by Ernest Martin and NASA's lunar eclipse site.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The moon and the age of the earth

In my defence of a young earth I wanted to address the philosophical issues which I think are foundational to the argument. Discussions that fail to identify these issues end up with proponents of an old earth indirectly defending their presuppositions as if they are conclusions.

Consider 2 dating systems that give contradictory results. Which do we take as preferable? They both cannot be true. One or neither is true. Frequently the position is taken that dating system A gives the correct result and dating system B in in error because of incorrect assumptions X, Y, and Z. But it may be just as reasonable to take B as the correct result and explain why A is in error. Unfortunately proponents of A fail to see the philosophical validity of this. And even if they do, their subsequent arguments still frequently assume A.

I am not saying that all systems are equally convincing in their arguments. Rather that if B can be questioned then so can A.

I anticipated giving further specific arguments in favour of a young earth, or at least against a 4 billion year old earth. One argument is the maximum age of the moon.

The moon is known to be receding from earth. The rate is currently about 4 cm per year, though it is decreasing; the moon receded more quickly in the past. The recession is due to a transfer of angular momentum from the earth to the moon. The loss of angular momentum on earth is due to ocean tidal friction.

If we calculate how long it would take the moon to get to its current position if the moon was initially at the surface of the earth we get a figure of ~1 billion years. This is the maximum possible age for the earth-moon system. It can be much younger than this.

This maximum age is slightly, but negligibly, shorter if we consider the Roche limit. The earth's gravity exerts a force on the moon dependant on the distance of the moon from the earth. At a certain distance the force exerted from the earth on the near-side of the moon compared to the lesser force on the far-side of the moon is greater than the gravitational force holding the moon together. This is called the Roche limit. This ignores added force from any internal tensile strength that holds the moon together.

The Roche limit for the moon is ~18,000 km from the centre of the earth. The moon is currently ~384,000 km from the (centre of the) earth. The earth's radius is ~6,300 km.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Hostile witnesses on Climategate

Much of the internet was abuzz about the released emails and documents from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, now referred to as Climategate (or the CRUtape letters). Notable for their silence were more mainstream newspapers and internet news sites. And when Climategate was covered the issue was minimised as having no real significance, a normal spat between fallible people who happened to be scientists, and having no bearing on the truth of anthropogenic global warming.

I think it does have bearing because if the scientists involved are shown to be otherwise dishonest, there is reason to suspect this character flaw would extend to fraudulent reporting and publishing in the scientific arena.

The desire and willingness for fellow global warming affirmers to defend these people is slightly concerning. Appropriate responses are to withhold judgment until further information is available, or to decry such behaviour as damaging to the issue. Dubious defence for one's cause should be shunned, it causes damage in the long run.

Several who are convinced of the reality of global warming have realised the serious nature of these emails and stated as such. Below are several links to comments by people who otherwise think global warming is real and man-made. I do not agree with this hypothesis, nor everything they have written in these articles. I include them to emphasise to those who subscribe to global warming that the emails and documents are of a serious nature and suggest dodgy behaviour by several people in the forefront of the pro-global warming debate.

George Monbiot
There appears to be evidence here of attempts to prevent scientific data from being released, and even to destroy material that was subject to a freedom of information request.Worse still, some of the emails suggest efforts to prevent the publication of work by climate sceptics, or to keep it out of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I believe that the head of the unit, Phil Jones, should now resign. Some of the data discussed in the emails should be re-analysed.

Chip Knappenberger
As it now stands, a bias can exist in the current system. That it does exist is evident in the Climategate emails. By all appearances, it seems that some scientists are interested in keeping certain research (and particular researchers) out of the peer-review literature (and national and international assessments derived there from). While undoubtedly these scientists feel that they are acting in the best interest of science by trying to prevent too much backsliding and thereby keeping things moving forward efficiently, the way that they are apparently going about it is far from acceptable.

Instead of improving the process, it has nearly destroyed it.

If the practitioners of peer-review begin to act like members of an exclusive club controlling who and what gets published, the risk is run that the true course of science gets sidetracked. Even folks with the best intentions can be wrong.
Richard Tol
The emails reveal a systematic effort to deny legitimate freedom-of-information requests.

They contain evidence that the rules of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were deliberately broken to include a paper that supports a particular point of view.

The emails show an intolerance of views and facts that do not support the received wisdom of the people involved.

One of the stolen documents reveals that a key result, the instrumental record of the global mean temperature since 1850, cannot be reproduced.

This is serious stuff.
John Tierney
As the scientists denigrate their critics in the e-mail messages, they seem oblivious to one of the greatest dangers in the climate-change debate: smug groupthink. These researchers, some of the most prominent climate experts in Britain and America, seem so focused on winning the public-relations war that they exaggerate their certitude — and ultimately undermine their own cause.

...Contempt for critics is evident over and over again in the hacked e-mail messages, as if the scientists were a priesthood protecting the temple from barbarians. Yes, some of the skeptics have political agendas, but so do some of the scientists. Sure, the skeptics can be cranks and pests, but they have identified genuine problems in the historical reconstructions of climate, as in the debate they inspired about the “hockey stick” graph of temperatures over the past millennium.

It is not unreasonable to give outsiders a look at the historical readings and the adjustments made by experts like Harry. How exactly were the readings converted into what the English scientists describe as “quality controlled and homogenised” data?

Trying to prevent skeptics from seeing the raw data was always a questionable strategy, scientifically. Now it looks like dubious public relations, too.
Judith Curry
In my opinion, there are two broader issues raised by these emails that are impeding the public credibility of climate research: lack of transparency in climate data, and “tribalism” in some segments of the climate research community that is impeding peer review and the assessment process.
And further comment by Curry here
What has been noticeably absent so far in the ClimateGate discussion is a public reaffirmation by climate researchers of our basic research values: the rigors of the scientific method (including reproducibility), research integrity and ethics, open minds, and critical thinking. Under no circumstances should we ever sacrifice any of these values; the CRU emails, however, appear to violate them.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Adjusting multi-site and single site temperature data

NIWA offer as their explanation for the temperature adjustments the paper
  • Rhoades, D.A. and Salinger, M.J., 1993: Adjustment of temperature and rainfall measurements for site changes. International Journal of Climatology 13, 899–913.
Though they do not link to it nor give a digital object identifier (doi:10.1002/joc.3370130807).

The abstract states
Methods are presented for estimating the effect of known site changes on temperature and rainfall measurements. Parallel cumulative sums of seasonally adjusted series from neighbouring stations are a useful exploratory tool for recognizing site-change effects at a station that has a number of near neighbours. For temperature data, a site-change effect can be estimated by a difference between the target station and weighted mean of neighbouring stations, comparing equal periods before and after the site change. For rainfall the method is similar, except for a logarithmic transformation. Examples are given. In the case of isolated stations, the estimation is necessarily more subjective, but a variety of graphical and analytical techniques are useful aids for deciding how to adjust for a site change. (Emphasis added)
I did not fully follow all the maths in the paper. It was not particularly complex but I would need to spend some time doing examples to completely grasp it.

In the introduction they define "site change",
We use the term site change to mean any sudden change of non-meteorological origin. Gradual changes can seldom be assigned with any certainty to non-meteorological causes. Where long-term homogeneous series are required, for example, for studies of climate change, it is best to choose stations that are unlikely to have been affected by gradual changes in shading or urbanization. This is no easy task. Karl et al. (1988) have concluded that urban effects on temperature are detectable even for small towns with a population under 10000.

...This paper is concerned with the estimation of site-change effects when the times of changes are known a priori, such as when the station was moved or the instrument replaced.
The paper predominantly discusses adjustments to data when there are site changes and there are surrounding overlapping data sets (nearby thermometers) that can be used to assess whether there needs to be adjustment.

Later in the paper when discussing sites that have no overlapping data the authors state,
Such an adjustment involves much greater uncertainty than the adjustment of a station with many neighbours. A greater degree of subjectivity is inevitable. In the absence of corroborating data there is no way of knowing whether an apparent shift that coincides with a site change is due to the site change or not. However, several statistical procedures can be used alongside information on station histories to assist in the estimation of the effect of a site change. These include graphical examination of the data, simple statistical tests for detecting shifts applied to intervals of different length before and after the site change, and identification of the most prominent change points in the series independently of known site changes. Finally, a subjective judgement must be made whether to adjust the data or not, taking into account the consistency of all the graphical and analytical evidence supporting the need for an adjustment and any other relevant information.
Moreover when they apply this adjustment to a station in Christchurch to demonstrate their method comparing with the more accurate method used earlier in the paper they significantly over estimate the difference,
The 1975 site change at Christchurch Airport is somewhat overestimated, when compared with the neighbouring stations analysis. The contrast between the estimates based on 2 years data before and after this site change is particularly marked. For the neighbouring stations analysis the estimate is 0.45°C (Table TI); for the isolated station analysis the estimate is 1.58°C (Table V). This is to be expected when a site change coincides with an actual shift in temperature, as occurred in this case. The isolated station analysis then estimates the sum of the site change effect and the actual shift.
In their conclusion they note,
Adjustments for site changes can probably never be done once and for all. For stations with several neighbours, the decision to adjust for a site change usually can be taken with some confidence. The same cannot be said for isolated stations. However, large shifts can be recognized and corrected, albeit with some uncertainty. Ideally, for isolated stations, tests for site change effects would be incorporated into the estimation of long-term trends and periodicities as suggested by Ansley and Kohn (1989). This is not practicable at present on a routine basis, but may be in the future.
Whatever adjustment procedures are used, the presence of site changes causes an accumulating uncertainty when comparing observation that are more distant in time. The cumulative uncertainties associated with site change effects, whether adjustments are made or not, are often large compared with effects appearing in studies of long-term climate change. For this reason it is a good idea to publish the standard errors of site change effects along with homogenized records, whether adjustments are made or not. This would help ensure that, in subsequent analyses, not too much reliance is placed on the record of any one station. (Emphasis added)
Ironically, the methods suggested in this paper do not include the method used by NIWA in defending their Wellington data.

Monday, 7 December 2009

What it means to explain adjustments

After the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition released it's paper, "Are we feeling warmer yet?" there was much discussion around the necessity of adjusting data. Focus was on the Wellington data though, as I pointed out, there is no overlap between Thorndon and other sites given. So adjusting to a nearby site of the same elevation, while possibly reasonable, can be questioned: busy international airport, large amounts of asphalt (especially when considering the multi-decadal time difference), urbanisation effects. Even disregarding that Anthony Watts gives Kelburn a rating of CRN=4.

This is an issue of the legitimacy of specific adjustments. The paper above acknowledges the figures are adjusted, they question why,
At a minimum, the adjustments made to the official NZ temperature record must be made public.
Treadgold had also said,
The real issue is that adjustments were made by NIWA and not acknowledged publicly on their website....
NIWA responded initially to the paper with this article and referencing the same Wellington data. They also stated concerning the temperature adjustments (corrections) (as I mentioned in my earlier post),
NIWA climate scientists have previously explained to members of the Coalition why such corrections must be made.
NIWA have also expanded their explanation displaying the Wellington graphs previously shown by Gareth Renowden (as per my earlier post).

NIWA have also released their own graph from raw data. They used sites that have not been shifted since 1930.

I am not certain why they used a trend line without also including a smoothed line like they had for their earlier graph.

NIWA give more justification that New Zealand temperature is rising here. They mention several confirmatory records that show the temperature rise over the decades. And they refute several claims by the NZ Climate Science Coalition, specifically NIWA claims that the Coalition have had access to:
  1. the raw data
  2. the adjusted data (anomalies)
  3. information needed to identify the adjustments made by Dr Salinger
  4. information needed to develop their own adjustments.
The Coalition confirm that the raw data is available and they stated that in the original paper. The other 3 claims are not so clear. An email sent to the Coalition said that the adjusted (corrected) data was held by Salinger,
Dr Jim Salinger maintains the "corrected" dataset and is the best person to talk to you about it.
But the Coalition deny receiving all the corrected data despite requests for it. Further, the 7 sites labelled on the data they received differed from the 7 sites that were specified in other correspondence from NIWA. And even if they had the information to identify the adjustments (item 3 above), they do not have the reasoning as to why this was done. This also makes it difficult to do item 4. When the Coalition analyses the Hokitika data they see no good reason as to why it is adjusted as it has been. Wellington is the example that is repeatedly mentioned. What of Hokitika and the other 5 stations?

Which raises the issue of the post title. What the Coalition want, and what NIWA should have had available on their site before any requests were made, is both the raw data and the adjusted data, and the explanation of the adjustment. NIWA offer as their explanation this paper (doi:10.1002/joc.3370130807).

I will return to this paper tomorrow but the response from NIWA misses the point. It is not a methodology or technique of temperature adjustment the Coalition is asking for. It is why the adjustments were made for every adjustment.
  • Adjustment A was made in this data set because of a site change. And the reason for this amount of change is because we took sites 1, 2 and 3 into account.
  • Adjustment B was made because of a change in thermometer.
  • Adjustment C was made to take into account the urban heat island effect.
One can mention the methodology as well if helpful,
  • Adjustment... following the method of Smith for isolated stations.
It is then one can reproduce the adjusted data and discuss the merits of each adjustment.
  • What about sites 4 and 5, they would attenuate the data by 0.1 °C.
  • You haven't allowed for wind effects which are relevant before 1965 because...
  • Smith was developed for continents and has not been validated for temperate islands, the method of Jones is more appropriate.
The when and why is needed so that this discussion can be had.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Papyrus of Turin to be modified

In c. 1820–1822 Italian Bernardino Drovetti discovered a papyrus in the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes which contained a list of Egyptian kings on the reverse side. It lists them thru to about the 17th of 20th dynasty of Egypt which suggests that it may date from this period. It is unknown who the author was nor the source for the data recorded on the papyrus. The Turin Papyrus is written in hieratic, a script related to hieroglyphic.

Unfortunately it was transported to a Museum of Egyptology at Turin, Italy with inadequate care so it was unpacked in tiny pieces, many of which were lost. Reconstruction was attempted by Jean-Fran├žois Champollion then Gustavus Seyffarth. Although this reconstruction was incomplete and possibly inaccurate in places.

Earlier this year visitors from the British Museum, Richard Parkinson and Bridget Leach, asked about the missing fragments. (Original source.)
After hours of discussion was Elvira D'Amicone, Egyptology from the ministry, who had the right intuition: if the papyrus fragments had come to the museum, the missing parts should not be too far away. Maybe we should look for them in the basement, in that mysterious warehouse that holds enough artifacts to set up another museum, the day that there will be money to deal with seriously. And indeed they were there, forgotten for over half a century in a closet: a compassionate hand had even included some of the two plates of glass, because it preserved without damage.
They found the lost fragments in the basement. And now the papyrus has been shifted to the British museum (as far as I can tell from the translation) for reconstruction.

This could lead to some interesting modifications to the received Egyptian chronology. I do not accept the current secular proposals for the various Egyptian pharaohs. And I think too much weight is given to Manetho. The Turin Papyrus may challenge both Manetho and modern reconstructions.

The Turin Papyrus does not appear to be written for a specific king, thus may be less likely to modify the data to be favourable to any ruler. It also includes material on the Hyksos who were not well liked by the Egyptians. Therefore there is some reason to consider it somewhat reliable. Nevertheless the author is reliant on the accuracy of his source material, and there is the general tendency for ancient writers to suggest greater antiquity of their nations over others.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Random quote

It looked not so much as if Christianity was bad enough to include any vices, but rather as if any stick was good enough to beat Christianity with.

G.K. Chesterton


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