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Only An Idiot Would Take Up Nate Silver’s Bet

Yesterday left leaning blogger Nate Silver issued a bet to global warming climate change skeptics in response to John Hinderaker’s post about the unseasonably cool summer much of the country is experiencing. Silver states:

Therefore, because I’d like to see more accountability on all sides of this debate and because I’m tired of people who don’t understand statistics and because I’d like to make some money, I issue the following challenge.

Hello? Illegal gambling? Silver is undaunted:

For each day that the high temperature in your hometown is at least 1 degree Fahrenheit above average, as listed by Weather Underground, you owe me $25. For each day that it is at least 1 degree Fahrenheit below average, I owe you $25.

So on one hand Silver is upset because climate skeptics (according to him) don’t understand statistics and the concept of anecdotal evidence – and then proceeds to make a bet over short term temperatures – the exact anecdotal evidence he is railing about. Regardless of the outcome you can be sure of one thing: This bet will not dissuade true believers, who will brush it off as anecdotal evidence if they lose and claim an urgent need to act if they win. You can not bet against a group of people who move the goalposts (global warming->climate change) when data doesn’t conform to their belief system. As a result you would have to be an idiot to bet Nate Silver.

UPDATE – Its worth mentioning that the average temperature over the date range Silver provided (June 21-July 18) is 70.5 ° F while historically it is 71.96 ° F according to data from weather.com.

Author: Ryan Underdown

My name is Ryan Underdown, I’m the director of search engine marketing for Web-Op where I get to work on lots of interesting projects. Please follow me on twitter.

10 Comments

  1. I surely agree that this bet has little to do with global climate change and a lot to do with short term regional temperature variations.

    With that in mind, and guided by the NWS forecast suggesting that temps will be below normal in the Minnesota area for August/September/October, I am trying to take up the Silver bet.

    http://justoneminute.typepad.com/main/2009/07/everybodys-talking-about-the-weather-but-no-one-is-betting-on-it-yet.html

    I guess we will see soon enough whether that makes me an idiot.

  2. Well I think you should consider forcing him to use average temperature as opposed to days above/days below average. He could still win that way even if temperatures are considerably colder than average. He’s certainly hedging his bet.

  3. “He could still win that way even if temperatures are considerably colder than average.”

    Yeah, but live by the sword, die by the sword – a few very hot days will drive up the average but not bail him out.

    FWIW, from the weather data I glanced at for that area, there wasn’t much difference – months with an above-mean temperature also had more hot days above the daily max, and cool months were cool by either measure.

    I have been told that I have a little play working for me – higher means are driven by higher minimums, not higher maximums, or so the theory goes. Over one month who can tell?

  4. Well either way it will probably be good for your site’s seo. Should get a fair amount of traffic + links if you can build some buzz around it.

  5. Assistant Village Idiot July 21, 2009 at 5:39 pm Reply

    Whoa. There are usually more days above the average than below it in any given year. This may sound counterintuitive, but it is because the floor – how far below average a day can go – is usually greater than the ceiling. A series of very hot days, say above 100, are 20 degrees above the mean. A series of cold days, say 20 below, are 40 degrees less than the mean. Check the record high and record low for scattered days around the year to see what I mean. So it can get colder, but Silver still win his bet.

  6. You wrote:

    “So on one hand Silver is upset because climate skeptics (according to him) don’t understand statistics and the concept of anecdotal evidence – and then proceeds to make a bet over short term temperatures – the exact anecdotal evidence he is railing about.”

    It seems to me that the point he is making is that even their anecdotal evidence does not support their claim that global warming is nonsense.

  7. Except the average temperature has been cooler even if it is clear that such a short period is clearly statistically insignificant.

    Hinderaker and Drudge are engaged in tit for tat. I didn’t see Silver pointing out that spokesmen of the left were full of shit when, for example, they were making outrageous claims in regard to Hurricane Katrina.

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