Climatologist Steps Down as "ClimateGate" Furor Continues

By Andrew Moseman | December 2, 2009 1:58 pm

computer security220SwiftHack, ClimateGate—whatever you want to call the response to hackers stealing and releasing a bevy of e-mails from the Hadley Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in the U.K., the furor simmers still. Now, as the university begins its official inquiry into the incident, climatologist Phil Jones has stepped aside as the head of the CRU pending the result.

In addition, Penn State University said it would review the papers of Michael Mann, the RealClimate blogger and Penn State researcher whose name appears in many of the East Anglia e-mails. Mann responded to the criticisms of his words here.

Climate skeptics have seized on several e-mails from Phil Jones to other researchers as evidence that prominent scientists have sought to silence their voices in the debate over global warming [Washington Post]. Among the alleged infractions are e-mails that suggest trying to keep the work of climate skeptics out of peer-reviewed journals, avoiding journals that published skeptics’ articles, or hoarding information and keeping it away from global warming deniers.

Scientists and science writers like DISCOVER bloggers Phil Plait and Chris Mooney have entered the fray, arguing that although the hacked scientists’ correspondence is  angelic (and makes them look pretty bad with their words now in the light of day), the controversy is a non-issue because the body of climate change science remains strong. Or, to pull a metaphor from Columbia University geochemist Peter Kelemen, climate science is more a deck of cards than the flimsy house of cards skeptics claim. Some data and interpretations of those data are more certain than others, of course. But pulling out one or two interpretations, or the results of a few scientists, does not change the overall picture. Take away two or three cards, and there are still 49 or 50 cards facing you [Popular Mechanics].

Related Content:
The Intersection: Why “ClimateGate” Ain’t Nothing
The Intersection: The “ClimateGate” Burden of Proof
The Intersection: The Latest on the “SwiftHack”
Bad Astronomy: The Global Warming E-mails Non-Event

Image: iStockphoto

MORE ABOUT: global warming, hackers
  • peppanicky

    The timing is irrelevant. The emails are damning but not really relevant. The coding that is relevant. Very relevant. It shows the data is unequivocally cooked. Sorry, end of story.

  • Michael Wright

    Why not demand a full scale open debate? Like a Presidential debate.

    Hiding behind “consensus” is not going to work anymore.

  • Frank

    With big oil and other special interests pouring millions into the mouths and pens of climate change deniers, the truth is still obviously bleak.

    I can’t believe how easily people are lead and mislead. At least Lemmings scream as they fall off the cliff. We’ll argue all the way down.

  • Peter

    So far we’ve only seen 1073 email chains and 3485 other documents. The CRU must have thousands of emails and documents on its servers that have not yet been seen. This first release will force the release of *all* of their files. Next will be the files at NASA/GISS (they are currently being sued because of their failure to respond to FOIA requests). Then will be NCDC, NCAR, NOAA and lots of other institutions with four-letter acronyms beginning with National. Ultimately, the IPCC will be called to account.

    When all of the data comes into the public relm and the skeptics have had a chance to dig though them, the ‘…trick…to hide the decline…’ will become insignificant.

  • Rmoen

    The purloined emails that many now call ‘Climategate’ underscore the need for the United States to convene its own objective, transparent Climate Truth Commission. The emails strongly suggest that some of the science behind man-made global warming is not rock solid and that the scientific consensus is in part the product of silencing or marginalizing those who might upset it.

    — Robert Moen,

  • Sharon Howard

    The grandest run for world power is taking place. First, the present U.S. administration and its congress slashes the economy with its stimilus packages. The powers-that-be in other nations follow suit. Second, the present U.S. administration forces its major manufacturers into bankruptsy, to open the door for more control over the wealth within our borders. Now, lies and manipulation about the earth’s climate is served up by the present administration, its congress, and its climatologist/gophers to further surpress the independence of America, by fixing the data, so that Americans cannot tap into its own oil resources. All this in the name of a “New World Order” that will ultimately be the undoing of any and all rationality for mankind!
    If I’m living and breathing in 2010, I will cast my vote. Save us from these tyrannical, selfish hypocrites! There is absolutely nothing honorable about their aim to take over the world, redistribute the wealth, or anything else that may be on their hidden agendas. Their greed is beyond me. May all those who wish to enslave humankind with your grandiose schemes, fly away to another planet! Then, mankind will be able to live in peace–real peace!

  • Julian

    “”I can’t believe how easily people are lead and mislead. At least Lemmings scream as they fall off the cliff. We’ll argue all the way down.””

    Well, Fank, I can’t believe how easily people believe myths and misconceptions about Lemmings . . . and global warming.

  • Stuart

    For “climategate” to work like the deniers claim, there has to be a vast conspiracy of the world’s scientists to pull it off.

    The enormity of such a conspiracy is mind-boggling.

    And it begs several questions that deniers would have to explain:

    1. What is the motivation for scientists to conspire to commit such wide-scale fraud?
    2. How would this be limited to just those scientists involved with climate studies? After all, there are a lot of fields involved with collecting and analyzing all this data – Physics, Geology, Biology, Oceanography, Chemistry, etc. This effort is not limited to just Climatology.
    3. Why stop with climate change studies? Why not call ALL science into question?

    It’s much easier to believe the experts in the field – that the consensus is overwhelmingly in support of climate change caused by humans – than to believe in some ill-defined, nebulous conspiracy theory.

  • J Gary Fox

    What is the reason to commit such a wide-scale fraud?

    Let’s count the ways:

    Fanatical believe in your CAUSE.

    Power & Status

    Nobel Prize

    Other Prizes

    Generous Funding for personal research

    Oracle of science

    Control of peer review

    Control of research funding to friends

    Control of Climate research

    Personal emolients … salary, travel, consulting

    Once you get it, you don’t want to lose it to some non-peer review “denalist”

    At lastly, fear of exposure.

    It’s called “human nature”.

    And I’ve developed a software to complete evaluate and predict “human nature. I’m looking for a few millions to get it off the drawing boards. Just go to my website: and make a contribution. It is all tax deductible and it will earn you a guaranteed 12% return annually on your donation.

  • Brian Too

    GM issues a recall on a 1987 Sunbird.

    Therefore, obviously, all cars everywhere are unsafe, unsound, and the product of a car manufacturing conspiracy!!

    This is essentially the argument of the climate change skeptics.

    Now let’s examine an alternate interpretation. Many of the climate change skeptics were peddling their ideas long before this current e-mail exposé. There is a not-so-secret, non conspiratorial, meeting of the minds among certain oil industry executives, Republicans, and conspiracy nuts. It’s no accident that the Kyoto Accord was never approved by the U.S. and the Bush presidency occupied the White House for 8 years. Those terms overlapped very nicely indeed.

    George W. Bush? Former oil man. Dick Cheney? Former oil man.

    The people denying climate change will deny it until it affects them personally. Then they’ll find an excuse why it’s someone else’s fault that they denied it for years. Meanwhile many of the world’s great cities are at terrible risk due to rising ocean levels and more extreme weather.

    Britain built a flood barrier to protect London at a cost of billions. Holland built a flood barrier to protect Rotterdam at a cost of billions. Yeah, they spent the money because of a whimsical fantasy called “flooding”. New Orleans and the Army Corps of Engineers stood pat and look where it got them.

    Now how do we protect New York, Hong Kong, Cape Town, Dhaka, Sao Paulo and all the rest?

  • Scott W. Somerville

    Is climate science a “deck of cards” or a “house of cards”? As an old computer programmer, I rely on the acronym “GIGO” (garbage in, garbage out). The outputs can’t be any better than the inputs–and my biggest concerns in the “Climategate” files have to do with the underlying data. From what I can tell, the dataset is (a) very complex, (b) somewhat subjectively assembled, (c) “massaged” to create “value-added” datasets, and (d) no longer attached to the underlying raw data. I have also heard that all the major datasets are “contaminated” to some degree or other by the dataset that is now being questioned.

    If ALL the scientists are working with some form of the same data, they should ALL get similar results. That’s great if the data is sound–it’s good science. But it’s TERRIBLE if the data itself is corrupt.

    We’ve seen this before–all the major intelligence agencies agreed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The US relied on that overwhelming consensus to launch an attack. Are we SURE we want to repeat that process now?

  • Bill C

    The problem is that, in this case, science has become intertwined with politics. This is a sure- fire recipe for distortion, hyperbole, and special interest influence (e.g., the ethanol lobby). True scientists always value vigorous debate; but with climate change this virtue appears to have been a casualty of political motives.

  • Stuart

    “If ALL the scientists are working with some form of the same data, they should ALL get similar results. That’s great if the data is sound–it’s good science. But it’s TERRIBLE if the data itself is corrupt.”

    They aren’t working with the same data. That’s the point.

    Interesting how a few, select emails now have all the arm-chair scientists thinking they have this conspiracy all figured out.

    “all the major intelligence agencies agreed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction”

    No they didn’t. It was a politicized process that ignored the data, in the same way deniers ignore climate change data.

    If any of you are really interested in the facts, try these sites out. Loads of data. You can even get copies of the raw data.

    Now, which data is “corrupt?” The satellite readings that prove the troposphere is heating, while the stratosphere is cooling? The rise in CO2 levels, measured from Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii? The melting ice sheets? The receding glaciers? Ice core data?

    Who’s wrong? The Physicists? The Geologists? The Oceanographers? The Climatologists?

    The deniers claims are just too complicated to work. Perhaps after a few beers, it makes more sense.

  • Jeremy

    No, it can’t be the oil/coal companies who are spending millions of dollars to confuse the public on climate change so that they can continue to rake in billions in profit off their product. Nope can’t be that. It’s really the whole community of Climatologists and other scientists around the world who are involved in bringing forth a one world government! Yes, that makes more sense!

    *shakes head*

  • Andrew

    It is understandable that many people have latched on to the emails, but in their defense the people at CRU indicate that the emails are ‘without context’ or somehow ‘normal banter’ in a scientific institution.

    The program code however is different.

    It is the actual program code, the modeling code that contains the most damaging evidence. I am not talking about the ‘comments’ in the code but rather the actual computer program source code itself.

    Unlike comments and emails the computer code can only be interpreted in one way. Unlike the comments and the emails the computer code is whole unto it self and requires no external context.

    So now everyone has the code.

    However now the CRU have somehow ‘lost’ the world’s raw climate data that they used in their modeling.

    It may have been necessary for them to have lost the raw temperature data. If the raw temperature data was available then they might be asked to reproduce Exactly The Same Results, in front of skeptical witnesses, as they had used in their peer-reviewed publications that were distributed to the world. This might have been impossible without using some infected modeling code, which an investigating scientist might discover.

    If the results can not be reproduced the paper that used the results should be withdrawn. Then every paper that cited that paper, and so on until the whole web of pseudo-science that can be traced back to the original fabrication has been purged from the libraries

    It is not scientific unless an independent body can reproduce the results.

    Please see also:

    For a satirical look and the programming fraud:

    Anthropogenic Global Warming Virus Alert.

  • mike wegrzyn

    Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) Hope she is in jail soon along with many of her fraud friends…….many more frauds are going to be exposed. We will soon have world peace and an end to the drug trade that must break there hearts…

  • Tom

    People, wake up. We, as westerners, should know that if it is being pushed by the media (call it conditioning…), then it’s probably a lie, or a half-truth. “The bigger the lie, the more the people will believe it…the more the lie is told, the more the people will believe it.” Adolph Hitler

  • Eamon


    The agencies who supplied the data to the CRU still have the data they sent them. Copies of the data may have been disposed of – the the original data remains.

    As for the code, not only is it a test segment that got commented out (and as someone who once coded for a living, this is not surprising) but the commented out offset doesn’t feature in the graph the code was used to make!


  • Michael

    I’ve been a man-made global warming skeptic for a long time, not because of religion or politics, but due to the science. I’ve been called a very highly charged demeaning name — “denier” as in, obviously, holocaust denier. This shows the pathetic level of the discourse.

    The real tragedy here is the terrible pounding that science is going to get from this fiasco, and how the anti-science, religious right is going to benefit from it. There is no conspiracy here, just a cabal of powerful people with a similar world view attempting by nefarious menas to force that view’s effects on others by ignoring and cooking data.

    It’s mind-boggling how reputedly rational scientists have been cajoled or bribed into fostering the man-man global warming myth without any shred of sound data. The earth will continue to cool, as it has done for countless climate cycles, and then will warm up again, as it has done for millions of years.

    I hate to see this, as the entire global warming cluster-frak is doing terrible damage to science and scientists, and giving fodder to the ID exponents and other anti-science wackos. It’s a shame and a tragedy.

  • Stuart

    “It’s mind-boggling how reputedly rational scientists have been cajoled or bribed into fostering the man-man global warming myth without any shred of sound data.”

    Funny how deniers claim there is no data. It’s either because they choose to ignore all the data (NOT related to any of this email issue at CRU), or they apply motivated reasoning to filter what does not line up with their pre-conceived notions about climate change.

    The data is there. My post above has a few links with data – again, NOT associated with CRU. But now, deniers will just wave it off as “tainted”. Another reach for that all-powerful, yet still ill-defined “cabal”.

    I have seen neither an explanation, nor hard evidence yet on how that “cabal” works. Why isn’t Beck and his all-famous chalk-board on this? This is bigger than ACORN! This should be a slam-dunk for him!

    “The earth will continue to cool, as it has done for countless climate cycles, and then will warm up again, as it has done for millions of years.”

    Yes. And how did that happen? Do you know?

    Ever hear of “Milankovitch cycles?”

    And which part of that cycle are we on now? Do you know?

    I’ll leave you with some words from the wise…

    “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” – Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

    “Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

    “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” – Confucius

    “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

    “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain — and most fools do.” – Dale Carnegie

  • Jerry

    You as a denier of given evidence and using selective interpretation to apply the last quote to yourself, “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain — and most fools do.” – Dale Carnegie

  • YouRang

    For anyone who has failed to read Mann’s response. Most of the stuff is about science that was ACKNOWLEDGABLY iffy when published and continued to be. The bottom line is: All the BEST DATA unequivocally support the conclusions of global warming.
    On an aside: Here in the SE USA we’ve been experiencing a wet cold fall. It’s been wet and cold and unpleasant BECAUSE of ONE OF THE SUPPOSED NULLIFIERS of GW–increased cloudiness.

  • Sam

    Global warming is a joke ‘Climate Change’ is an eternal reality. . .human activity has zippo to do with it. . .ROFL- – -the sea levels are not rising and where ice is melting, other ice is thickening. . .as for New Orleans and the Netherlands. . .yo dah, they are at or below sea level Whole ancient cities have been found miles off the coasts of our current continents. . .hmmmm, the sea levels must rise and fall in the eternally changing climate of earth, eh? Oh, and incidentally, Greenland, in the not so distant past was colonized. Sheep and vegetables were raised there. Historical fact that cannot be denied. Al Gore should go and live in Greenland and take his friends with him Hey Al, please take Nutbag Pelosi with you. . .

  • Cesar Hechler

    What I find disconcerting in this whole thing is the immensity of data that is overlooked. Global warming research is multi-disciplinary; there are physicists and oceanographers and climatologists and a myriad of other focused scientific researchers and universities working on the issue. Then there are the number of countries who are involved in research. China wouldn’t have taken the steps it has in recent months if their own research didn’t give them reason to believe what western research has shown. The emails center on communications between a U.K. facility and American scientists. Should we automatically assume now that people in Russia, Canada, Australia, Brazil, etc. are all in on the secret money-making clique of global warming science fraud? Anyone thinking so must be used to believing absurdities.

    Most bothersome are those that have their thinking so ingrained that everything is a conspiracy and a hoax, that they think society should do nothing. I have enough university physics and chemistry and have seen enough data and plot points to come to my own conclusions on the issue. It shouldn’t take much of an intellect to gather that there is at least enough real data to be concerned to the point our civilization needs to curtail its emissions simply as a precautionary measure. A bacterium is fully bent on eating, reproducing and pooping itself out of a place to live. I would hope that humans are a little bit smarter than bacteria and give consideration to warnings that have enough scientific backing to create concern, whether they come to pass or not.

    A few emails from one facility that admit to some disingenuous manipulation for personal gain does not undo what thousands of other scientific personnel are concerned with. Ad hominem attacks against Al Gore, David Suzuki or other figures who are making money from the issue does not undo the work of the larger research community. Cherry picking errors and political grandstanding contribute to a populace that thinks it is safe when the opposite could be fully underway and even possibly beyond repair. I don’t think that says much about the collective intellect when we ignore possible dangers simply because of personal desire or pre-conceived ideas. We may as well have remained as bacteria then and just eat, reproduce and poop ourselves out of existence…or is that what some people would actually like to happen?

  • GW = HOAX

    Oops another website that just lost all credibility. Put this one on your boycott list…


    Sorry we are not falling for it.

    Al Gore should be in jail along with IPCC.

  • Jessica Gimort

    I like your focus on decisions.

  • Stuart

    Interesting how the deniers focus on just a few lines of text from a few emails out of “thousands” to “prove” scientist “hid the decline” – with REAL data, I might add. I guess it would have been ok to use FAKE data?

    So, let’s assume there WAS a decline in global temps. Where’s the data to support that?

    Deniers conveniently ignore the proxy data. What’s “proxy data?” It’s independent measurements of geological, satellite, oceanographic, etc. data that all shows the same trends in warming. But, that’s all too much for deniers to wrap their little brains around, so they selectively ignore it.

    Check this site out for a simple explanation of this “controversy”:

    And a link to NASA’s measurements of troposphere / stratosphere temperatures:

    A quote from that site: “An increasing trend of 0.051 C/decade has been observed in the troposphere, while the lower stratosphere shows a cooling trend of -0.236 C/decade.”

    Net – the lower atmosphere (troposphere) is warming, while the upper atmosphere (stratosphere) is cooling. Why? Because green-house gases are trapping the heat in the lower atmosphere. If this was all caused by the sun (as some claim) you’d see BOTH layers tracking together. So much for the sun theory.

    I’m actually happy this has all been made a big deal. And I hope Congress does have those hearings they are promising. But deniers, don’t hold out promise that it will go your way. Be prepared for a big let-down.

    Complex, ill-defined conspiracies have a tendency to be exposed as total fabrications.

    Science has served us well throughout history. Why would the world’s scientists suddenly decide to con us now? I’ll stick with the scientific consensus on this one.

  • marty

    These hackers deserve the Nobel award. They are heroes to anyone with a basic fundamental understanding of physics has been saying since day 1. Human induced “global warming” is the biggest scam of all time.

  • Robert Gipson

    “Science has served us well throughout history.” ???

    Well…what is “science?” It’s this: Data, interpretation of data, and inquiry.

    Science is NOT slick, dramatic media productions to indoctrinate brain-dead masses. Science is notdisparagement and suppression critical thinking and inquiry. That’s not science, it’s prostitution. And, yes, I concede, prostitutes have ‘served us well throughout history.’

  • Stuart

    Here’s a link to a great video.

    Kinda puts it all out there on how this whole “climategate” conspiracy works.

    Caution – may not be suitable for die-hard diners. May cause brain swelling, palm sweats, bleeding eyes and ears, uncontrolled teeth-clenching, muscle-tension, and explosive heart.

  • John T

    OK, setting aside the pros and cons of global warming, I have one and only one concern: the intent to deceive or lead astray anyone utilizing the FOIA. As a taxpayer, I paid for that data, I’d damn well better get it when I ask for it.

    The above is a felony in the US. So, did they or didn’t they attempt to deny FOIA requests? If yes then there is a huge criminal issue here, if no, then I might be more inclined to believe the ‘much ado about nothing’ crowd.

    Also, on a side note, there are quotes of ‘not responding to requests for raw data’. Once again, why? Even in my high school science classes we kept detailed notebooks of all experiments. Why? To demonstrate reproducible results whenever a teacher wanted to confirm our results.

    Come on folks, this is basic science 101 and anyone not following basic science 101 is just as guilty of fraud as Professor Hwang of Korea.


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