The Virginia AG's Attack on Climate Scientists

By Chris Mooney | May 2, 2010 5:02 pm

Tim Lambert has news that deeply troubles me: The state of Virginia’s Republican attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, has launched a fishing expedition investigation into climate researcher Michael Mann’s days at the University of Virginia. The request sounds quite massive, according to the Hook:

Among the documents Cuccinelli demands are any and all emailed or written correspondence between or relating to Mann and more than 40 climate scientists, documents supporting any of five applications for the $484,875 in grants, and evidence of any documents that no longer exist along with proof of why, when, and how they were destroyed or disappeared.

The request also appears to cover a six year period.

This is clearly another attempt to make fire out of the mere smoke that was ClimateGate. But remember, so far, Mann has been vindicated by his university. In this context, I don’t see how one can possibly justify putting scientists through such an extensive and burdensome inquiry. There is obviously strong potential for a chilling effect on their research.

I am sure this post will prompt a lot of comments–so, be good…..

Comments (114)

  1. SLC

    In the previous thread, Mr./Ms. Gaythia said the following

    Both Michael Mann and the University of Virginia are likely to have to respond to this situation from behind the shields of their attorneys.

    I am not a lawyer but, IMHO, Michael Mann need not do anything as he is no longer associated with UVA; currently, he is at Penn State and resides in Pennsylvania. Unless kookoo Ken files these requests in federal court or in a Pennsylvania court, Prof. Mann can tell him to go fly a kite. AFAIK, any order from a Virginia court would have no standing relative to him. Of course, UVA is another matter.

    By the way, for those folks who are dissatisfied with President Obama, and are thinking of not voting in November to indicate their displeasure, the fact that the low turnout in Virginia allowed this clown to be elected should be a wake up call.

    It should also be noted that kookoo Ken has also filed suit to have the health care bill passed by Congress declared unconstitutional. He’s right up there as a world class whackjob with Minnesotas’ Michelle Bachmann and Iowas’ Steve King.

  2. Nullius in Verba

    Email is easy – that’ll all be backed up on tape, so it’s a ten minute job for the IT people to pop it in the post. Documents supporting grant applications ought to be filed, so that’s a bit more work, but not a problem. The university would want it accessible for its own purposes. And I think Mann has already said no documents were destroyed, although no proof was offered. If he’s telling the truth, that’s not going to involve any work at all. All in all, it would seem to require little effort, and less from Mann himself.

    And you should bear in mind that the “vindication” by his university (who obviously have a vested interest) was of carefully limited scope that didn’t examine the questions under dispute, nor provide any answers. Politicians certainly know how that game is played.

    I have little hope that this enquiry will make any dent on the scientific controversy; so I don’t think you need worry. But the need would never have arisen if Mann had behaved as a scientist should, and answered the questions about his work openly when they were first asked. Honesty is the best policy.

  3. Guy

    This isn’t so much about finding truth as it about intimidation and stirring up the denier set into another frenzy. Doesn’t this AG have something better to do? I think someone needs to investigate the misuse of his office to promote an anti-science agenda.

  4. Nullius in Verba

    You might be interest to know that Steve McIntyre has just criticised it too.

  5. Sean McCorkle

    Chris: I’m glad you posted this. It deserves a LOT of sunlight. At first glance, this strikes me as such a blatantly political action by an attorney general – I mean, what could be his justifications? Angry comments in purloined emails? What Fox news reports? – that the citizens of Virginia must have some kind of recourse to call shenanigans on this guy. There’s got to be a way to call him out on this. Otherwise, what academic is safe?

  6. Bob

    I for one am glad of this indepth investigation. Since Penn States investigation wasn’t thorough, no witnesses, looked at a handful of email and basically accepted the word of Michael Mann that he didn’t do anything. Why now witnesses? The answer is Penn State has a vested interest in this as to funding. Lets see what the documents say. There is nothing to fear if the documents are squeaky clean as he says they are.

  7. David

    Ehh, not that much to discuss actually. Acting like it is a witch hunt and poor Dr. Mann is being subjected to undue scrutiny is a bit too dramatic. If he is clean, he will be vindicated. If not, that will come out too. If you take someone else’s money, there is always a possibility that they will want an accounting of how it is spent. The institution that would have to cough up money if fraud was found wasn’t what I would consider an impartial judge.

    The scope of the previous inquiry was too selective to clear up all the issues raised. One way or the other, an independent review should clear up any outstanding issues.

  8. tresmal

    Guy @2:”Doesn’t this AG have something better to do?”
    Does this count?: http://hamptonroads.com/2010/04/cuccinelli-opts-more-modest-state-seal

  9. “Nullius” and Bob: the demand to produce voluminous documentation can, itself, be a form of intimidation. At the very least it prevents those who are involved from going on with their work.

    If there was any fraud, or even less tendentious misinterpretation of evidence, other researchers will eventually figure it out. Why, you ask? Because science is a competitive enterprise in which you make a name for yourself by showing that you’re right and, especially, by showing that you predecessors were wrong. (See David Hull, “Science as a Process.”) Who proved that N-Rays were fake? Who demonstrated that Piltdown Man was a fraud? Was it the VA Attorney General? No, it was other scientists, out to show that they knew better than their predecessors or competitors. Scientists are far from perfect, but the nature of their game implies that, ultimately, the best answer will win out.

  10. Marc

    Witch hunt, pure and simple. It’s shameful and terribly embarrassing for Virginia.

  11. V.O.R.

    “Acting like it is a witch hunt and poor Dr. Mann is being subjected to undue scrutiny is a bit too dramatic.”

    Good point. Such investigations are quite routine. How many massive fishing investigations were launched by the V. AG over “media trial” level-accusations? In the last year, I mean. At least half a dozen, wasn’t it? 37?

  12. Brian Too

    My initial reaction is, how on earth do you establish that missing documents are missing? I mean, if there really was document destruction, and it was effective, you’re looking for that which does not exist anymore??

    Note too that mere disposal of documents is not automatically bad or nefarious. Lots of organizations have document retention guidelines with mandated destruction after the established retention period is up. In fact this is the preferred arrangement by both internal legal counsel and the document management profession. The idea is to make records retention an official policy, and destruction of old records is not arbitrary, but rather conducted according to a transparent rule set.

  13. ChrisD

    There is nothing to fear if the documents are squeaky clean as he says they are.

    I would like to know who on this Earth would come out “squeaky clean” if every detail of his or her life over a period of six years was exhumed.

    It should be borne in mind that Ken Cuccinelli is, well, a curious creature.

    – He contemplated not getting a Social Security number for his seventh (!) child because “it is being used to track you.”

    – He appears to be a closet birther. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-3nkQYONic)

    – He uses an altered version of the state seal (which was designed by a signer of the Declaration of independence and has been in use since 1776) because Venus’s left breast is exposed in the original. In his, it’s not.

    – He sent a letter to Virginia’s public colleges and unversities stating, in essence, that it would be just fine with him if they were to disciminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

    – In the state Senate he introduced a bill that would have disqualified non-English speakers from receiving unemployment benefits.

    As one blogger noted, it appears that Virginia voters accidentally elected a crazy person.

  14. ChrisD

    @Brian #8:

    My initial reaction is, how on earth do you establish that missing documents are missing?

    For most of what he asks for, you can’t. It’s ridiculous. Seriously, what he’s asking for would include every Post-It, every cocktail napkin with anything written on the back of it, every doodle, every scrap of paper that had a bad idea scribbled on it and then got wadded up and tossed in the trash can.

    He includes “things”. Literally. item 10: “The scope of this CID is to reach any and all data, documents, and things in your possession….” Things??

    And he wants to know not just what was on it and how it disappeared, but who else knew what was on it and who else knew how it dispappeared.

    “Fishing expedition” is a staggeringly inadequate term for what he’s doing. It’s insane. Seriously. Anyone who doesn’t believe this, go look at the original document (http://www.scribd.com/doc/30755623/Untitled). Chris’s description, “extensive and burdensome”, doesn’t begin to describe it.

    And the killer is that, as far as I can tell, this is based on no facts at all. I haven’t seen any indication that anyone has ever alleged that Mann ever did anything wrong while he was at UVa. The document mentions only “possible violations” by Mann. It’s my bet that Cuccinelli has no allegations of any actual violations. He’s just hoping to find some.

    In six years’ worth of Post-Its, cocktail napkins, and things, it will be a miracle if he doesn’t. But even if he doesn’t, I guarantee you that there will be some “hide the decline” email that will get leaked for the “skeptics” to willfully misinterpret.

  15. Marion Delgado

    Let’s “nicely” get a petition to recall going – it’s a huge barrier – 10% of the electorate, in fact. But not undoable.

    Recall the AG, and do it now. Or kiss science goodbye.

  16. Alexander

    Calm down, people, ok?

    Cuccinelli isn’t asking for anything that University must not have archived anyway, for exactly this situation – when government officials start inquiring about grant use. All government grants gets checked sooner or later.

    I’m not going to bother until Cuccinelli’s investigation finds something – or nothing, which is also a possibility.

  17. Nullius in Verba

    #9,
    ““Nullius” and Bob: the demand to produce voluminous documentation can, itself, be a form of intimidation. At the very least it prevents those who are involved from going on with their work.”

    He’s intimidating the wrong person, then. This fishing expedition is against the university, not Mann. Mann himself left for Penn State several years ago.

    And voluminous documents are in the nature of lawsuits; it’s called ‘discovery’. (Ironic for this magazine, eh?) As you rightly say, having even spurious lawsuits brought against you can be destructive for those with few resources. The university is not the first to face such a thing. Where were you for all the others? Are you calling for a review of the legal process in general, or a specific immunity from lawsuits only for favoured academics?

    Preparing documents for discovery is a hassle, but in practice you just shrug and roll up your sleeves. It’s not really all that big a job, compared to many of the other things government makes us do.

    “If there was any fraud, or even less tendentious misinterpretation of evidence, other researchers will eventually figure it out.”

    We have already figured it out. There are many dark corners still left where we don’t know the details, but what has come out into the open is enough to damn professor Mann scientifically many times over.

    And it’s Science’s job to sort it out, not Law. But Science is being a bit slow about it, because of all the politics that has got involved, and the money. Yes, this is a case of political grandstanding that is unlikely to result in anything positive. Cuccinelli simply isn’t equipped to get to the bottom of the science, and has gone after the wrong targets anyway (probably because he doesn’t have jurisdiction over the right bits). So it’s all going to be a big flop, that’ll embarass the sceptics.

    People on that side of the fence are split between those who are pleased to see anybody in authority doing anything about it, and those who are unhappy because it’s totally the wrong way of going about it, and is going to backfire horribly.

    Personally, I’m indifferent. It’s not going to work, but it’s not going to have much effect on the situation either way. And it’s not going to be the only stupid lawsuit to spoil somebody’s day in the US. If you don’t like it, set up a better system.

  18. Gaythia

    @SLC #1 Are you expecting to be addressed as Mr/Ms SLC? For the record, I am female. Is this some form of making gender into an issue, or are you proposing increasing levels of civility on blog comments by addressing everyone with formal titles?

    It unfortunately should be noted that the Virginia Attorney General is not alone in his lawsuit on health care. Virginia has it’s own health care lawsuit but other attorneys general in (I think) 13 other states have joined to file a lawsuit also. So, he is somewhat, but not entirely isolated in his actions.

  19. rick g

    “It should also be noted that kookoo Ken has also filed suit to have the health care bill passed by Congress declared unconstitutional.”

    How dare the people think they they have a say in how they live their life! Don’t they know that the Federals government knows best (when a liberal is in the Whitehouse) and should not be questioned! Outrageous!

  20. SLC

    Re Gaythia @ #17

    It’s Dr. SLC.

  21. ChrisD

    @Nullius in Verba #17:

    And it’s not going to be the only stupid lawsuit to spoil somebody’s day in the US.

    Hold on, this isn’t “a stupid lawsuit”. This isn’t someone suing McDonald’s because she spilled her coffee. This is an elected official on a very expensive government-sanctioned fishing expedition for which he has no apparent reason. This is going to cost the Virginia taxpayers a pantload at the same time that Viriginia is cutting back on things that are actually important, like education.

  22. ChrisD

    @Alexander #16:

    Cuccinelli isn’t asking for anything that University must not have archived anyway….

    Unfortunately, he is. See the document. He asks for extensive information about documents that are no longer in existence, much less archived. He wants UVA to turn over “things”.

  23. moptop

    “This isn’t so much about finding truth as it about intimidation”

    Mann could have avoided this whole mess by not discussing playing fast and loose with grant money with Jones in the Climategate emails. Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas.

  24. moptop

    Even the scientists at the CRU made Mann the but of jokes:

    >I have just read this lettter – and I think it is crap. I am sick to
    >death of Mann stating his reconstruction represents the tropical
    >area just because it contains a few (poorly temperature
    >representative ) tropical series. He is just as capable of
    >regressing these data again any other “target” series , such as the
    >increasing trend of self-opinionated verbage he has produced over
    >the last few years , and … (better say no more)
    >Keith
    >

    http://www.eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=272

    I know that I am not very smart, so I was wondering if any of you guys could give me any other interpretation of this email other than McIntyre is right and Mann is an opinionated blowhard.

  25. moptop

    Other than that “Keith Briffa believes that McIntyre is right…” I should have said.

  26. Guy

    “Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas.”

    That’s odd coming from the camp of denial and outright fraud. You need only to dig a little deeper into the denial industry to find a whole slew of shenanigans by some of scummiest people on Earth. Some of it is for political reasons to preserve the plutocracy. Mostly it is about greed to preserve the fossil fuel industry, at all cost.

    The science camp is certainly not getting rich off of grant money in the same way that the fossil fuel industry is making billions by pillaging the environment for it’s resources.

  27. Will

    Chris Mooney said “But remember, so far, Mann has been vindicated by his university.”

    This isn’t true, and repreating it over and over again will not make it so. He was cleared of 3 charges and the recommendation was that the 4th be investigated further. 75% is not vindication.

    The headline to this post isnt’ true either: This isn’t an attack on Climate Scientists. This is an investigation in to Michael Mann. Michael Mann != all climate scientists. One lone scientist. Singular.

    I, for one, am looking forward to a _proper_ audit being done.

  28. moptop

    I’m sorry again, but does anybody see any factual arguments in Guy’s response? It seems like he’s mostly sayin’ “hurray for our side.” I didn’t know that we were trying to decide an emotional issue, I thought this was about facts and evidence.

  29. moptop

    Another thing, I don’t see any links to the prosecutor’s side of the issue, in his own words. Instead I see a link to the Leftypedia profile on the guy.

    I don’t understand why Chris passes up a chance to make a mockery of this guy by posting his reasons in his own words? Does that ever make any of you guys wonder if you get both sides of the story?

  30. Tom Upshaw

    The unreasonableness of the requests demonstrate this is a witch hunt. Companies and organizations normally have information security and records retention policies that specify that e-mails are NOT permanent records and should be deleted within a fairly short time frame or documented in a permanent report of some kind. No records are generally kept of the timing or reason for e-mail deletions.

  31. Guy

    “I thought this was about facts and evidence.”

    You seem to be coming up short on both, which is not uncommon for the denier camp.

  32. moptop

    “No records are generally kept of the timing or reason for e-mail deletions.”

    Really? So if George WBush deleted a bunch of emails, you would be O.K. with that? Just asking, because once Mann takes govt money, he is held to the same standards.

    Do you have any links to any recognized “best practices” sources where public servants may delete their email at will, and without record?

  33. ChrisD

    @moptop #30:

    Another thing, I don’t see any links to the prosecutor’s side of the issue, in his own words.

    Well, where is that? I can’t find anything. Can you? All I’ve seen is one statement from his office stating that they “can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of a pending investigation.”

    So, what is the prosecutor’s side of the issue? What links do you think Chris should have posted?

  34. David

    Tom Upshaw:

    The routine request for documents does not constitute an unreasonable request. If they have been deleted per record retention policies, that will be the fulfillment of the documents requested in the discovery. It is just asking for what documents still exist.

    This AG might be a grandstanding jerk but hey, he is the jerk that the voters in VA wanted.

    Someone will most likely be embarrassed by this whole mess but we will not know if it is Cuccinelli or Mann until it is finished.

    Either way, it will be done in public and on the record.

  35. ChrisD

    Thomas Fuller writes to Cuccinelli (emphasis added):

    Sir,

    As co-author of a book (Climategate: The CRUtape Letters) that was harshly critical of the performance of Michael Mann and his colleagues, I write in criticism of your decision to investigate Mr. Mann for potential violations of state laws on fraudulent payment of claims.

    Mr. Mann has been extensively investigated regarding his work product, and although I consider his actions to be often unprofessional and politically oriented, neither I nor any of the people interviewed for our book have any doubt whatsoever that Mann performed the scientific work he has been commissioned to do, or that he engaged in any fraudulent actions.

    No matter what has prompted your investigation, there is no doubt that it will be interpreted as a witch hunt. If you are in fact investigating a credentialed scientist for results that do not suit your political opinion, that interpretation is correct. Unless you can reveal to the public prima facie evidence that shows cause for this investigation, I beg you to reconsider. There are ample avenues of professional and academic recourse for people like me who think he has done something wrong. But being wrong is not a crime, and intimidating scientists not a path that this country, including I presume Virginians, should ever pursue. You may consult with colleagues in Salem to determine how long it takes to live this type of thing down.

    Sincerely,

    Thomas Fuller

    McIntyre has also disinherited Cuccinelli. Lubos Motl, on the other hand thinks it’s terrific (see his comment).

  36. ChrisD

    Correction to my #13: It is “Virtus” that Cuccinelli felt to compelled to clothe properly in his version of the Virginia State seal, not Venus.

  37. Phil.

    16. Alexander Says:
    May 3rd, 2010 at 2:46 am
    Calm down, people, ok?
    Cuccinelli isn’t asking for anything that University must not have archived anyway, for exactly this situation – when government officials start inquiring about grant use. All government grants gets checked sooner or later.

    Indeed they do, universities in receipt of federal government funds are periodically audited by a government agency (in my university’s case it was the DoE). However, in this case we have a state official going beyond his authority and demanding information concerning federal grants. His pretext for this appears to be a single grant awarded to UVa by the Commonwealth of Virginia (PI John Albertson). Not even quarter of a million, not the half a million claimed. A grandstanding fishing expedition which UVa should challenge based on its dubious legality.

  38. moptop

    ChrisD,
    You are right, I can’t find anything either, except the possible angle that Mann has been taking taxpayer money to produce propaganda in furtherance of a personal political goal, not usable data. See Keith Briffa’s comment on Mann’s Hockey Stick above. In fact, the only difference between McIntyre, the Satanic skeptic, and Dr Briffa, one of the elect dendro-climatologists in the small group known among themselves as “The Team” is Briffa’s snark.

  39. Nullius in Verba

    #21, “Hold on, this isn’t “a stupid lawsuit”. This isn’t someone suing McDonald’s because she spilled her coffee. This is an elected official on a very expensive government-sanctioned fishing expedition for which he has no apparent reason.”

    Hang on. Are you saying it is a good lawsuit, or not? I thought your position would be that it was stupid. You’re saying it isn’t?

    And there are plenty of “apparent reasons”. Entire books have been written on all the reasons. The problem is that this particular investigation isn’t going to get to the bottom of those, because it’s out of the AG’s jurisdiction, and courts of law aren’t generally equipped to decide such matters anyway.

  40. Guy

    “Entire books have been written on all the reasons.”

    Book stores have entire shelves devoted to conspiracy theories, but that doesn’t make conspiracy theories any more valuable to science or history. There are published authors on a wide variety of junk science. Just being published doesn’t make them credible sources of information. Credibility requires undergoing the critical peer review process by credible peers. That is something that Dr. Mann has and his detractors do not.

  41. moptop

    “for which he has no apparent reason.”

    How many times do I have to tell you guys? Just because you can’t see a reason, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I think his reasons are excellent, and I think you would rather that this particular rock not get turned over. I assume this is because you want MM to have his precious research time to manufacturing more hockey sticks. If he has nothing to hide, this should take very little of his time, as he will not be the person responding to the request, he shouldn’t be actively trying to shape its content.

    Besides which, the govt is attempting to set up a carbon market which Chicago cronies gloat will be worth ten trillion dollars over the next decade, you would hope somebody would do some due diligence on the basis for the necessity of such a huge outlay.

  42. ChrisD

    @Nullius in Verba #40:

    Hang on. Are you saying it is a good lawsuit, or not? I thought your position would be that it was stupid. You’re saying it isn’t?

    I’m saying that it isn’t a lawsuit at all. The AG hasn’t filed a suit or a criminal complaint of any kind. He hasn’t said that Mann did anything wrong. He won’t even “confirm or deny the existence or nonexistence of a pending investigation.” (Go ahead, parse that statement for a while. I may or may not be thinking or not thinking about a pending post on this.)

    This is a government official spending a ton of money that the state doesn’t have–on something that is not a legal action and that may not even be an investigation–in pursuit of God only knows what. It would greatly surprise me if this investigation that doesn’t exist didn’t end up costing far more than the grant in question.

    But whatever this is, one thing it ain’t is a lawsuit.

  43. moptop

    “That is something that Dr. Mann has and his detractors do not.” – Guy

    OMG, Steve McIntyre of ClimateAudit has 104 citations of his peer reviewed paper in Geophysical Research Letters taking down Mann.

    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2005/2004GL021750.shtml

    BTW, it is kind of funny, Guy, that you wrote this about me upthread.

    “You [moptop] seem to be coming up short on both, which is not uncommon for the denier camp” – Guy

    Not to mention that the Climategate emails are full of references to torque the peer review process to keep papers like the above out of the literature through bullying, getting people fired (successfully) and even the intemperate declaration that they would keep certain papers out “even if they had to re-define what peer review means.”

    Face it, Guy, the air is gone out of that peer-review argument.

  44. ChrisD

    @moptop #39

    You are right, I can’t find anything either, except the possible angle that Mann has been taking taxpayer money to produce propaganda in furtherance of a personal political goal, not usable data.

    Did Cuccinelli say that? I thought that was someone else.

  45. ChrisD

    Correction:

    It would greatly surprise me if this investigation that doesn’t exist ….

    should be

    It would greatly surprise me if this investigation that may or may not exist or not exist ….

  46. moptop

    “That[peer review] is something that Dr. Mann has and his detractors do not.” – Guy

    For another example Guy, that guy, Dr Briffa, who wrote the email mocking Mann I quoted above, has tons of peer reviewed articles. and in fact is mad because Mann is twisting, misrepresenting, and cherry picking his data, ruining his reputation by association.

  47. moptop

    ChrisD,
    I don’t know, I am not afraid of sunshine though.

  48. Nullius in Verba

    #41.

    I agree that the fact that it is in a book does not make it true, but have you even looked at what the arguments and evidence are? Because the most important parts of it are based on Mann’s own work itself, not just what other people say about it.

    To take just a couple of examples, we know Mann used short-centred PCA – I’ve looked at Mann’s code myself – which is not how PCA should be done. Nobody outside this band of climate scientists claims it is right, and PCA is a widely known and well understood technique. We know that Mann’s reconstruction shows no correlation with real temperatures in the verification period, the several-times-rejected Ammann/Wahl paper that was weaselled in to the IPCC 4th report by underhand means (as you ought to know) published the numbers (in the final version that was printed, not the final version that went to the IPCC). And we know that Mann knew, because he had previously published the r-squared correlation result for one of the steps (where it wasn’t quite so bad), and because the calculation of r-squared is in his code.

    Are you saying that Caspar Ammann is a part of the conspiracy? Because he was one of Michael Mann’s PhD students, and an inner member of their team.

    And if you’re not, on what basis do you allege this is a conspiracy theory? Do you have any evidence at all? Do you think evidence is even necessary when it comes to dismissing scepticism?

    Peer review is argument from authority, and the criticisms by McIntyre and McKittrick are peer-reviewed and published anyway. RealClimate even did a special post on why peer review couldn’t always be trusted, specially for the occasion. So yes, his critics do have peer-review. Did you have any evidence for that statement to the contrary, either?

    And is there any possibility that you might acknowledge any of this? Just once?

  49. ChrisD

    @Nullius in Verba #49:

    Because the most important parts of it are based on Mann’s own work itself, not just what other people say about it.

    But isn’t it true that if you make all the requested corrections to the PCA and so forth, what you get is…still a hockey stick?

    I don’t think even Mann claims that the original analysis was flawless. But it is equally incorrect to say that the graph is “discredited”, “fake”, or “fraudulent”, as we hear constantly. That would require that if you fix all this stuff, what you end up with is more or less a flat line–something other than a hockey stick. It’s my understanding that this is not the case.

  50. Nullius in Verba

    #46,

    If you’d read those books, you’d know the answers to all those points RealClimate bring up, and just how disingenuous they all were.

    I started going down the article, but got bored after the first few errors. There’s so much wrong with it, it’s hard to know where to start. But here’s a few to be going on with.

    They say “the latter manuscript was rejected by Nature”. They don’t mention that the reasons given for rejection were entirely spurious (first they said it was too long, then when they cut it down, they said it didn’t give enough detail because it was too short), and that in fact the peer-reviewers had liked it.

    They say “The choice of how the data are ‘centered’ in PCA (i.e., what time interval is used to define the ‘zero’ baseline for the data series) in general simply changes the relative ordering of the leading patterns of variance”. This isn’t true. It doesn’t re-order them, it takes a linear combination of them which very rarely is a simple permutation.

    They say “The centering convention does not influence important properties of PCA such as the orthornormality of the Empirical Orthogonal Functions (EOFS) or the completeness of the eigenvector basis set.” Strawman. M+M never said it did.

    They say “The MBH98 reconstruction is indeed almost completely insensitive to whether the centering convention of MBH98 (data centered over 1902-1980 calibration interval) or MM (data centered over the 1400-1971 interval) is used.” This would only be true if you change the selection rules post-hoc to allow smaller contributions to be included that were rejected in the first version. Changing the test after you’ve seen the results is something that every statistics course warns you must never do.

    There is, contrary to their assertion, a big difference between a pattern appearing in PC1 and PC4. It’s like saying the team at the top of the league goes forward to the championship, and then when it turns out they cheated and actually came fourth, announcing that under new rules the top five teams go forward to the championship. With the championship then rigged to make sure your team come out on top.

    And so on. All this stuff was known and answered years ago. How can you possibly dismiss M+M’s arguments if you don’t even know what they are?

  51. ChrisD

    @moptop #48:

    I don’t know, I am not afraid of sunshine though.

    Yeah, I don’t think it was Cuccinelli, in which case it doesn’t really get you where you want, which was a link to something from the Coochster himself. I don’t think there is anything.

    I’m not afraid of sunshine either. I just think it’s stupid, politically/ideologically motivated, an expensive insult to the state’s already overburdened taxpayers, and an unncessary burden on UVa personnel when they have much better things they could be doing.

    But other than that, it’s fine.

  52. moptop,
    Except, you see, the President has LAWS that apply to his records-keeping. Not some minor professor at a university:

    http://www.archives.gov/about/laws/presidential-records.html

    So no, Mann is not held to the same standards as the POTUS.

  53. ChrisD

    @moptop #42:

    I think his reasons are excellent….

    What are they, and how do you know?

  54. Nullius in Verba

    #51“But isn’t it true that if you make all the requested corrections to the PCA and so forth, what you get is…still a hockey stick?”

    No. It isn’t. You get a result with a strong MWP.
    (And that doesn’t mean that a strong MWP is thereby demonstrated. M+M never proposed this alternative as being a “reconstruction”, just a demonstration that the original paper was not robust. And indeed it is their opinion that none of these methods can possibly work, because tree ring data is just too noisy and corrupted by other influences.

    And even if it were the case, it still wouldn’t rescue the original hockeystick paper. Getting right answers by wrong methods is still wrong, and ought to be acknowledged as such.

  55. ChrisD

    @ Nullius in Verba #56:

    You get a result with a strong MWP.

    The key feature of the graph is the very strong and very sudden uptick at the end, not a bump from a thousand years ago. It’s what’s at the end that makes it a hockey stick. It’s still there after you make all the corrections, and it matches graphs from other scientsts using other kinds of data. I say it’s still a hockey stick.

    But that’s really beside the point. This started with #40 where you said that there are “entire books” full of “apparent reasons” for the AG’s investigation. These appear to be errors in the analysis, since that is really all you’ve talked about.

    Are you saying that mistakes in a research paper provide sufficient reason for an investigation by a state Attorney General?

  56. Nullius in Verba

    #57,

    “Are you saying that mistakes in a research paper provide sufficient reason for an investigation by a state Attorney General?”

    No. Definitely not.

    The primary question (or rather, one of several possible questions) is whether Mann took money from the state to produce a 1000 year temperature reconstruction that he already knew was probably junk because it failed the verification statistics that he’d already calculated, and then not reported.

    It has to be for something that he was contracted to produce through the grant, where the result provided was not as required, and that this was done knowingly.

    Inadvertent errors are fine. Faking science that you’re not being paid to produce is legal, if unethical. But when you get paid for doing science, then scientific academia does not hold sole jurisdiction.

  57. Rob P.

    “Nullius in Verba” and “moptop”: Are you getting paid to cut and paste nonsense from disinformation outlets? Or are you stupid enough to do it for free? My guess is the latter. morons.

  58. Nullius in Verba

    #59
    Rob P,

    Are you?

    Nobody gets paid, and as I said, the failed verification statistics were reported in Ammann’s paper, who is most definitely not on the sceptics side (Caspar Ammann was a student of Mann’s), although I suppose you could describe him as a disinformation source if you like. Although you can also get the same statistics by running McIntyre’s code in which he replicates Mann’s methods so far as is possible with public information, and which has all been published as peer-reviewed science. You don’t have to take anybody’s word for it.

  59. Guy

    @Rob #59,

    Flogging the scientist is standard fair for climate deniers.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cp-iB6jwjUc

  60. Nullius in Verba

    61.

    Interesting video. But is any of it true?

    (And incidentally, I don’t deny climate change. And I certainly don’t deny climate!)

  61. Guy

    @Nullius #62,

    What part the video of isn’t true?

    Also, the term “climate denier” is just short-hand for anthropogenic global climate change denier. Using the accronym AGCCD would be slightly less meaningful.

  62. Chris Edwards

    The whistleblower emails from the CRU and the shameless alteration of history should nail this blatant fraud. I would expect he, like many others “slant” their research to please their financial supporters, a typical human failing but of all people scientists, especially those entrusted with the public purse, should be above. I am pleased someone is being called to account for a gross waste of taxpayers hard earned money.
    Sadly the real crooks, those who prey on weaker people, will go scott free. Think of a rich person, one who made an award winning “documentary” that was proven to mainly be lies and despite wanting to tax us into poverty to stop CO2 emissions, in part because the settled science tells us seal levels will rise catastrphically who has just spent over 8 million dollars on a beachfront property, he will not be brought to account will he??

  63. Nullius in Verba

    #63,

    Well, the video didn’t describe any of my beliefs accurately. And in several cases motives were ascribed which I’m pretty sure aren’t true.

    The starting bit seemed to be judging the accuracy of articles by the adverts that surround them. I’ve seen ad hominem, but that’s an entirely new one on me!

    The next bit does the “no global warming since 1995 one.
    This is a classic, because the sceptic position is a bit more nuanced than it first appears. The question is twofold: is AGW a falsifiable theory, and if so, how much lack of warming would it take to falsify it, and whether the rise is simply autocorrelated noise or a linear trend plus noise. Autocorrelated noise tends to result in spurious trends that in the long run always disappear. Recently, the temperature has deviated below the linear trends predicted/drawn by the models. Could it be a spurious trend? How long do you have to watch it before this is acknowledged to be a problem, and how far along are we towards getting to that point?

    It seems to sceptics a fairly uncontroversial point. You get different trends depending on what timescale you look at. (We consider it an indication that such trends are not meaningful.) On a decadal timescale, there was warming in the 80s and 90s but after 2000 it seems to have stopped. We agree that considered on slightly longer timescales there is no evidence that it isn’t continuing, and on even longer timescales not enough data to tell either way. It doesn’t confirm or deny AGW to admit this. But for some reason, AGW scientists have long been determined not to concede this minor point. They have said that the trend continues upwards, even though the last ten years the temperatures have levelled off. Now understand, the value of the trend line at a particular time is not a real measurable physical temperature but a a mathematical artefact, derived from the whole of a long period of data, and in particular, it’s current upwards rise is entirely a consequence of the rise in the 80s and 90s. So in saying the “trend continues upwards today”, all they’re saying is that the trend in the 80s and 90s is still upwards today.

    The sceptic excitement over Jones’ statement on the BBC (and the BBC article was cited directly in all the posts I saw) was because Jones had finally conceded the point.

    You have to go back 15 years before the rise gets significant, and since the rise itself is only about 25 years long (mid 70s to 1998) you’re getting close to finding it hard to distinguish signal from noise. If 15 years is noise, but 25 years is signal, how carefully do you have to set (and justify) your threshold? Is there a risk that you’re cherrypicking? – Setting your test level to get the result you want?

    But anyway, back to the video. First he says the headline was that Jones had said no warming since 1995, then he called this a lie, and a complete fabrication, then he went through various other questions in the article to show Jones still believed in AGW, and then he showed the bit in which Jones did indeed say there was no significant warming since 1995, just as the headlines had said. This was apparently a telling point against the sceptics.

    I’m not clear on whether he first misinterpreted the headlines and then criticised us for this misinterpretation, or whether he was simply trawling through the tail end-ers of the sceptic Chinese whispers game who had misinterpreted the reports of the reports of the initial reports. Either way, I wasn’t impressed.

    But what I was mostly asking for was to determine whether you had actually checked? Did you take his word for it? Or did you, for example, ask a sceptic?

  64. ChrisD

    Chris Edwards #64

    The whistleblower emails from the CRU ….

    You have no factual basis for calling these “whistleblower” emails. You’re assuming that things we don’t know yet will turn out in the way that is least favorable to CRU.

    Then you assume that the CRU’s “financial supporters” want the research to come out in a certain way, which is something else for which you have no evidence.

    Then you state that Gore’s film is “mainly lies”, which is not only patently false but also has no bearing on whether or not the scientists are right about climate change.

    Stuff like this really casts a nasty shadow over anything you say. It’s best to stick to known facts if you want to make a point.

  65. moptop

    Guy,

    Is RealClimate peer reviewed? No it isn’t. Why do you get to change the rules and use non peer reviewed sources to attack peer reviewed literature? I am just trying to figure out the rules, or at least a set of rules that will apply to both of us. Playing Calvinball with you is fine, but just know that you are playing Calvinball.

    You said that Mann’s critics were not peer reviewed. I pointed out two peer reviewed researchers who have criticized Mann. One in the peer reviewed literature, and the other in a private email from one of his allies. There are more peer reviewed criticisms of Mann. Get over it, the more you flail like this, the worse it is for your side. At least ChrisD has a pulse, intellectually. You seem to appoint yourself

    “Are you getting paid to cut and paste nonsense from disinformation outlets? Or are you stupid enough to do it for free?”

    There is an easy way to test this theory of yours, why don’t you take some of our sentences and google them. If we are cutting and pasting them, they will show up. NV can speak for himself, but I am always amused when one of your warmies accuses me of getting my arguments from somewhere else. You see, the thing is, you are defending the indefensible with rhetoric, I am using logic and evidence. That puts you at a terrific disadvantage no matter how “smart” you are.

    “It’s still there after you make all the corrections, and it matches graphs from other scientsts using other kinds of data. I say it’s still a hockey stick.” ChrisD

    Chris, there was another poster who kept making this claim around here, and every time he provided a link, it turned out that it was just another version of Mann’s cherry picked data. However, if you want to play this game again, it’s a vast internet, maybe you can find the independent data that the other guy couldn’t.

  66. moptop

    ” It’s what’s at the end that makes it a hockey stick. It’s still there after you make all the corrections, and it matches graphs from other scientsts using other kinds of data. I say it’s still a hockey stick.” ChrisD

    ChrisD, Maybe you should check out this thread between Jon and me where we went where I think you are going. Maybe I am wrong, but I don’t think you can support it. But maybe you can pick up his position from where he abandoned it.

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2010/03/10/longer-transcript-of-michael-mannpoint-of-inquiry-interview-up-at-climate-science-watch/#comment-53441

  67. For another example Guy, that guy, Dr Briffa, who wrote the email mocking Mann I quoted above, has tons of peer reviewed articles. and in fact is mad because Mann is twisting, misrepresenting, and cherry picking his data

    Maybe you’d have a better chance puzzling out what Keith Briffa believes if you bothered to read any of the “tons of peer reviewed articles” he’s helped author, instead of trying to read his mind via fragments of decade-old email conversations.

    Here for example: Kaufman et al., Science 2008

    Recent Warming Reverses Long-Term Arctic Cooling

    The temperature history of the first millennium C.E. is sparsely documented, especially in the Arctic. We present a synthesis of decadally resolved proxy temperature records from poleward of 60°N covering the past 2000 years, which indicates that a pervasive cooling in progress 2000 years ago continued through the Middle Ages and into the Little Ice Age. A 2000-year transient climate simulation with the Community Climate System Model shows the same temperature sensitivity to changes in insolation as does our proxy reconstruction, supporting the inference that this long-term trend was caused by the steady orbitally driven reduction in summer insolation. The cooling trend was reversed during the 20th century, with
    four of the five warmest decades of our 2000-year-long reconstruction occurring between 1950 and 2000.

    If it isn’t obvious from the text, the last is a reference to what you call the “hockey stick”. Mann is cited twice in the paper. His results are compared to that of Briffa’s group and the rapid upwing in temperatures over the last century is obvious in both.

  68. ChrisD

    @Nullius #65

    The next bit does the “no global warming since 1995 one. This is a classic, because the sceptic position is a bit more nuanced than it first appears.

    No, it’s not. The skeptic position was almost exclusively, “Top Brit researcher admits no warming since 1995.” There’s nothing nuanced about that; it’s just plain false. That is not what he said.

    First he says the headline was that Jones had said no warming since 1995, then he called this a lie, and a complete fabrication, then he went through various other questions in the article to show Jones still believed in AGW, and then he showed the bit in which Jones did indeed say there was no significant warming since 1995, just as the headlines had said. This was apparently a telling point against the sceptics.

    Whoa. You’re cheating. I’ve added some handy highlighting to the bit that you changed between the first and second parts of that paragraph. The word “significant” wasn’t in the first part, and it wasn’t in the headlines, but it mysteriously appeared in the second part. You know, and I know, and everyone here knows that “no warming” is not the same thing as “no significant warming.”

    What Jones said was that there had been warming—0.12C/decade, as I recall—but that it just missed the 95% confidence level (apparently it is about 93%). That is not the same as saying that there was “no warming”, which is what all of Sinclair’s headlines claimed. They were wrong, and Sinclair called them on it.

  69. UVa envicsi faculty

    This absolutely has a chilling effect on us climate scientists here at UVa; if you do societally relevant science that isn’t politically convenient to the VA Governor’s office, watch out! What makes this situation even worse is that the administration here at UVa is not going to bat for us at all. They are showing as much backbone as a wet noodle.

  70. Guy

    #65,

    “But what I was mostly asking for was to determine whether you had actually checked? Did you take his word for it? Or did you, for example, ask a sceptic?”

    I already was aware of the false claims and responses before watching the video. It just confirmed what I already suspected. The fraudulent climate skeptics cherry pick the data to fit their hypothesis. The non-scientist deniers just pick up on anything that is useful for spreading dis-information. Perhaps you should focus your “scepticism” on them instead.

  71. moptop

    Is there a link to the paper anywhere? Or are we supposed to work from the abstract? It is pretty sparse.

    If he is citing Mann and Briffa, and Overpeck is one of the authors, you likely have a load of Climategate twaddle. I wouldn’t mind reading it though, if you have a link.

  72. moptop

    “I already was aware of the false claims” –Guy

    That is pretty funny Guy, since you have been shown to have made false claims on this very thread, and you pretend it didn’t happen.

    Jinchi,
    That paper seems to be pretty solid, It doesn’t back up Mann though. Maybe you can explain to me why the GRIP borehole data which contradicts it is wrong?

    On a philosophical note, does it bother you that the planet seemed to be falling into an ice age? Do you know what the minimum amount of CO2 that can support plant life is?

  73. Guy

    “That is pretty funny Guy, since you have been shown to have made false claims on this very thread, and you pretend it didn’t happen.”

    I don’t pretend to know everything about climate denial. It’s not my field of study. Unlike you, I try to find credible sources of information. What little evidence you provided didn’t pan-out and you are trying to pretend that it did.

  74. @UVa envicsi faculty #71

    This absolutely has a chilling effect on us climate scientists here at UVa; if you do societally relevant science that isn’t politically convenient to the VA Governor’s office, watch out!

    This has not been a good couple of days for a very fine institution. Hang in there.

  75. Gaythia

    @UVa envicsi faculty #71 and ChrisD @76;

    I too think that it is important for all of us to support science researchers at UVa. This has a chilling effect not only on climate scientists at UVa but scientists everywhere.

  76. Nullius in Verba

    #70,

    Ah! I see what you mean now. The complaint is that “statistically significant” was omitted, yes? OK, I’ll give you that. It was terrible that many sceptics omitted it from their headlines.

    I had a quick look. The daily mail article cited does omit it from the headline, but includes it in the body of the report (and links to the BBC article).

    The second was a news aggregator called Politifi that gives the first few lines before linking to the main story, this time at Instapundit. Again, it’s missing in the headline but contained in the body, and it refers the reader to the BBC interview, linking to it in an update. Says the Daily Mail over-hyped it.

    The third appears to be the Daily Mail article again, only in a different layout. I’m not sure where it has been reposted.

    The fourth is an individual blog called “PawPaw’s house”, in the body of the post he disclaims the headline as being the Daily Mail’s, and then quotes it with ‘statistically significant’ in place.

    Fifth is yet another direct reposting of the original article.

    Sixth is at Frontpage, an abridged version of the original, but again including the “statistically significant” quote in the body of the article. It mentions the BBC, but links to the Mail.

    Next up is Wizbang, and you can actually see the start of the “statistically significant” quote not quite cut off at the bottom of the screen grab. Mentions BBC, but links to Mail. And explicitly says: “To head off the comments below, no, the above does not mean that the science is “settled” and there is no such thing as global warming.”

    Last, a site called ‘GlobalClimateScam’ with an even more abridged version, but still including the “statistically significant” quote.

    So yes, the Daily Mail shortened the headline and only gave the complete version in the body of the article, and lots of people copied them. It’s shocking the way they write newspaper headlines.

    For your entertainment, I thought you might like to see one of the first ‘sceptic’ articles in which I came across the story. (Strictly speaking, Lucia is a ‘lukewarmer’ as they are called, I’m not sure if the distinction is helpful here.) It discusses some of the other technical details left out of the statement.

    http://rankexploits.com/musings/2010/no-statistically-significant-warming-since-1995-maybe-or-not/

    You will note that the headline is intact.

  77. moptop

    “What little evidence you provided didn’t pan-out and you are trying to pretend that it did.” – Guy

    I gotta admire your stubbornness. Who are you trying to convince? Yourself? Look at this again:

    “That[peer review] is something that Dr. Mann has and his detractors do not.” – Guy

    I showed you where Steve McIntyre has a peer reviewed criticism of Mann with 104 citations. You point me to a link in a web site which was acknowledged by Michael Mann in the climategate emails to have been put together partly to defend his work. Did you know that Mann discusses RealClimate in the emails and discusses ways to prevent skeptical points of view from appearing?

    So your response to peer reviewed criticism is an article from this site which is not peer reviewed?

    Tell you what, that is not a rhetorical question. Answer it yes or no before you go gloating about the direction of this thread.

    Jinchi,
    That paper of yours, to which you did not provide a link, uses PCA. I am not saying that PCA is an invalid technique, but I would like to know what the target series, as Briffa puts it, was? Was it the CRU database? I am not accusing, I am just asking.

  78. Guy

    “That[peer review] is something that Dr. Mann has and his detractors do not.”

    Let me rephrase the statement.

    Credible peer review is something that Dr. Mann has and his detractors typically do not.

    I was vaguely aware of the McIntyre and McKitrick paper before, but I didn’t think anyone outside of the denier camp thought it was credible enough to use as evidence. Neither of them are climate scientists and Steve McIntryre has been proven wrong numerous times.

  79. @nullius #78

    You briefly agree that the omission was “terrible”, but the rest of your post reads like you’re trying to exonerate them.

    I had a quick look. The daily mail article cited does omit it from the headline, but includes it in the body of the report (and links to the BBC article).

    Yes, they finally use the phrase “statistically significant”–without explanation–in the sixth paragraph. You speak as thought this somehow ameliorates its omission from the headline. It does not. The headline is wrong. Not only did Jones not say what the headline claims, he said the exact opposite of what the headline claims. He said that there had been warming, and he gave the number. So, here is a similarly wrong headline:

    Titanic Arrives In New York

    The headline is just as wrong even if the article mentions in the sixth paragraph that what arrived was actually a lifeboat with “Titanic” painted on the bow.

    It’s shocking the way they write newspaper headlines.

    The fact that other people have also written poor headlines doesn’t excuse. My kids knew that “Timmy did it too” wouldn’t fly by the time they were five.

    Look, a headline can’t hope to completely characterize an article, but it shouldn’t be wrong. “There has been no global warming since 1995″ is flat-out wrong.

    What people look at, what they remember, is the headline. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to try to correct blog comments like “Yeah, well chief fraudster Jones finally admitted that it hasn’t warmed since the 80s”. And the operative word there is definitely “try”. I’m some unknown blog commenter. They’re the Daily Mail. You can guess how that works out.

    It’s despicable and inexcusable.

  80. ChrisD

    @Nullius #78

    One more thing: The Mail has now had over two and a half months to correct its error and has failed to do so.

    What a shock.

  81. moptop

    ChrisD,
    Speaking of headlines:

    “Melting Icebergs in Polar Oceans Causing Sea Level Rise Globally, New Assessment Finds”

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100428142258.htm

    FTA:

    “The loss of floating ice is equivalent to 1.5 million Titanic-sized icebergs each year. However, the study shows that spread across the global oceans, recent losses of floating ice amount to a sea level rise of just 49 microns (μm) per year — about a hair’s breadth.

    There is a response to you that seems to have been gobbled up by the moderation system. If it doesn’t show up in a couple hours, I will attempt to re-post it, if I haven’t been banned for controversial opinions ;)

  82. Is there a link to the paper anywhere? Or are we supposed to work from the abstract?

    Recent Warming Reverses Long-Term Arctic Cooling :
    Here’s an open link to the pdf for anyone who doesn’t have access to a Science subscription.

    http://www.see.ed.ac.uk/~shs/Climate%20change/Data%20sources/Kaufman%20Schneider%20recent%20warming.pdf

    Figure 3G compares the result of Briffa’s group with Mann’s most recent reconstruction.

    If Briffa disagrees with Mann, it isn’t about the “hockey stick” result.

  83. I am not saying that PCA is an invalid technique, but I would like to know what the target series, as Briffa puts it, was?

    moptop, you started this comment section asserting that “Keith Briffa (a man who has tons of peer reviewed articles) believes that McIntyre is right”

    Keith Briffa does not agree with McIntyre on this point. I haven’t seen evidence that he agrees with McIntyre or the skeptics on any point. He sees the same hockey stick pattern that Mann sees.

    So your original argument is just flat out wrong. You’ve misinterpreted the East Anglia emails. And that’s an excellent example of why the hacked emails proved nothing. Denialists are constantly trying to fill in the gaps in the conversations with their own fantasies of what the authors must have been thinking. It’s no surprise that you’re simply confirming your own biases.

  84. moptop

    “Keith Briffa does not agree with McIntyre on this point” – Jinchi

    Really? Read the email again, this time with your partisan guard down just for a minute, and you tell me what he is talking about. To me, it is obvious that he is agreeing with McIntyre’s criticism, widely shared, BTW, and proven both with Excel, and Mathematica, that you can make a hockey stick out of just about any data set with red noise in it, like climate data, using the rules and assumptions Mann used. Even Dr Phil Jones admitted that we don’t know if it was warmer during the MWP than today, which, if your mind wasn’t so closed, would be apparent to you as a slap at Mann, who insists he has proven it. Now, with these facts in mind, read the comments from Briffa again:

    >I have just read this lettter – and I think it is crap. I am sick to
    >death of Mann stating his reconstruction represents the tropical
    >area just because it contains a few (poorly temperature
    >representative ) tropical series. He [Mann] is just as capable of
    >regressing these data again any other “target” series , such as the
    >increasing trend of self-opinionated verbage he has produced over
    >the last few years , and … (better say no more)

    >Keith

    In light of all of the above, do you still believe that Briffa buys Mann’s “hockey stick”? In fact, if you read through the climategate documents, Briffa comes off as a possible leaker. He often expresses reservations about what is being done with his data.

    For cripes sakes, Briffa is summarizing McIntyres criticism of Mann in the email! Come on Jinchi, really.

  85. moptop

    “I don’t pretend to know everything about climate denial.” -Guy

    But Guy does know, somehow, which peer reviewed sources are “credible,” and which non peer reviewed sources override other peer reviewed sources, I guess because those peer reviewed sources don’t agree with him.

    Here is an excerpt from a letter from a senior editor at the journal Nature to your non credible blogger:

    “”Regarding your specific questions, we have not scheduled a publication date for the Correction (including the complete data set as Supplementary Information), but it will be published as soon as possible, and we will suggest an acknowledgement of your efforts to the authors.””

    You will have to google it to find the original, since I apparently am not allowed to link to that site.

    If you google up corrigendum and Kaufman 2009, you will also find were Kaufman was forced to print a correction in the journal Science, of issues that were raised by a certain unlinkable blogger.

  86. Guy

    @moptop #87,

    I think that you have to look at the “why” behind what someone is saying before you can buy into “what” it is they are saying. When I look at (what appear to be) the motivations of climate deniers, I can find nothing there that coincides with what I believe about the world around me. When I view the tireless efforts of scientists (like Dr. Mann) working to reveal to us the true nature of climate change, it inspires me to listen to what they have to say and to take it seriously. That is how we filter what seems credible from what is not.

  87. moptop

    OK Guy #88,
    Thank you for finally admitting that your judgments about what is “credible”, and what is “non credible” are based in no way on any kind of understanding of the science, or the peer review process, or arguments based on logic and evidence. This will save a lot of time in the future.

  88. Nullius in Verba

    #81,

    “Look, a headline can’t hope to completely characterize an article, but it shouldn’t be wrong.”

    Well, it’s a policy I can see some arguments for. But do you apply it consistently?

    Will you, here and now, declare that if I can find any example of a widely copied pro-AGW disaster-predicting news headline that it not factually correct as written, that AGW promoters are also generally dishonest? That this is also “despicable and inexcusable”?

    Because I reckon that I can. And I reckon that you know newspaper copy editors well enough to know it too. They’re famous for it. Would you commit your credibility to the integrity of environmental journalists trying to sell an exciting story?

    Before you answer, bear in mind that there are reams of this sort of quality commentary out there in the pro-AGW camp. How confident are you that I couldn’t find some more?

    I would normally consider that sort of tactic as dishonest in a debate, but I’m interested to see if you can persuade me otherwise. What do you think?

    As regards the headline being wrong, that’s a matter of interpretation. As you know, the Earth both warms and cools on every timescale. From day to day, from year to year, it goes both up and down. That’s natural background variation, and while it is strictly true to say that the Earth cools every NH winter, I don’t think it would be a widely accepted use of the word to call it “global cooling”. It switches from warming to cooling every few months as the line zigzags. Implicit in the term is the understanding that normal small-scale variability is excluded, which in turn might be taken to mean that the terms “global warming” and “global cooling” implicitly assume that the change being spoken of is a significant one.

    And from a strict scientific standpoint, the statement Dr Jones made to the BBC was incorrect too, as Lucia pointed out. It assumed a particular statistical model for the trend and errors without making this explicit, and without which the statement isn’t generally valid. Of course, it would be silly to expect that sort of technical detail in something intended for the general public, unless one was trying desperately to make a point.

    However, in the context of reporting such a precisely worded statement by Dr Jones, on a topic in which subtleties count, I would agree that it ought to have included “statistically significant” in the headline too. Journalists do have a bad habit of bending accuracy in favour of brevity – a phenomenon not confined to AGW scepticism. I’m not going to say that it’s a practice of which I approve. On the other hand, I don’t see it as all that serious, either.

    Does that make my position any clearer?

  89. moptop

    “When I look at (what appear to be) the motivations of climate deniers” – Guy

    Bonus response. I will tell you what my motivations are. The science does not add up yet. It simply doesn’t. I have a pretty good idea that when I get a chance to read that Kaufman 2009 paper cited above, I will find dependencies on fudged data and “adjustments” that are “best guesses” and are larger than the signal under examination. I haven’t read it yet, so I don’t know. It is just that every time I read one of these papers, that is what I find. I enjoy this back and forth, and it is my way of seeking the truth.

    And you didn’t ask me for my opinion, but I think you should leave these arguments to people like ChrisD and Jinchi who can hold their own. Remember that way more people read these threads than comment.

  90. Dubliner

    Is this normal activity in the US? Now that China is emerging from the dark ages of government attacks on “dissidents” (ie. any opinion it disagrees with) is America going to take it’s place. This seems very sinister to me.

  91. Guy

    “Thank you for finally admitting that your judgments about what is “credible”, and what is “non credible” are based in no way on any kind of understanding of the science, or the peer review process, or arguments based on logic and evidence.”

    Of course, you completely missed the point and twisted around what I said to mean something totally opposite.

    Climate deniers are largely motivated by greed and the desire to preserve a plutocracy, not the common good of the planet or the people, thus they are not trust worthy sources of information.

    I do understand the science of climate change, probably more so than you do since you dismiss the work of the actual climate scientist as being fraudulent.

    I can more than “hold my own.” Just because I share what I believe doesn’t mean that I am somehow admitting defeat. I am thankful that there are many others fighting this fight and it doesn’t all depend on one person to do it.

  92. Nullius in Verba

    #93,

    “Climate deniers are largely motivated by greed and the desire to preserve a plutocracy”

    I’m not.

    “I do understand the science of climate change, probably more so than you do since you dismiss the work of the actual climate scientist as being fraudulent.”

    Excellent! I’ve got a few questions. Care to have a go?

  93. moptop

    #94
    Oh come on. He already admitted that he is arguing from faith alone, why rub his nose in it?

  94. Guy

    @Nullius #94,

    Then what does motivate you? What are you so concerned with that is more important than insuring a good future for our children?

  95. Read the email again, this time with your partisan guard down just for a minute, and you tell me what he is talking about.

    For someone who is so passionate about “reading the emails”, you show an astounding lack of interest in tracking down what they are actually talking about. So you jump to the conclusion “Briffa agrees with McIntyre” and conflate the MWP with the hockey stick and discussions about red noise. For the record the “hockey stick” refers to the rapid rise of temperatures in the last century (the long term decline followed by a rapid upswing looks like a hockey stick). Notice that you can still see this shape in Kaufman’s paper. The MWP refers to a more poorly constrained period about 1000 years ago.

    If you look at the email again, you’ll see several clues to what Briffa is writing about. It’s a short note between Keith Briffa and Ed Cook written in 2002. The subject is Re: Esper et al. and Mike Mann. Notice the reference to Briffa’s Perspective piece and Mann’s letter.

    So we’ve got a scientific debate between 4 climatologists. What were these 4 talking about in 2002? Let’s check.

    Esper et al. is this paper: Low-frequency signals in long tree-ring chronologies for reconstructing past temperature variability http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/short/295/5563/2250

    Briffa’s Perspective is this: Blowing Hot and Cold http://www.sciencemag.or/cgi/content/summary/295/5563/2227

    Mann’s Letter is a response to Esper: Tree-Ring Chronologies and Climate Variability http://www.waldschutz.ch/staff/jan.esper/publications/Science_Mann_2002.pdf

    And Cook and Esper’s response to Mann is appended to the Letter itself.

    Note that the debate was very public and published in the pages of Science magazine, so there was nothing in your Climategate email to be leaked. The question was how to properly deal with sparse data sets, particularly the limited number of tree ring analyses that were available in 2002 to constrain the earlier part of the record (like the MWP) and how much of this record reflected regional as opposed to global trends. Mann was arguing that the difference between his reconstruction and Esper’s were regional effects. Briffa and Cook disagreed (that’s why the email mentions the word tropical 3 times).

    Everyone involved agreed on the need for more data.

    Here’s the last line from Briffa:

    We need more independent reconstructions like this, based on improved proxy records, and we need to know why it was once so warm and then so cool, before we can say whether 21st-century warming is likely to be nearer to the top or the bottom of the latest IPCC range of 1.4° to 5.8°C

    from Mann:

    Rather than refuting past temperature estimates, the record underscores the mounting evidence for substantial differences between tropical and extratropical temperature trends in past centuries and the need for more records of millennial length and for a better understanding of the situations under which multicentennial climatic information may be extracted from tree-ring data

    and from Cook:

    Clearly, more millennia-long tree-ring records, with better replication and preservation ofmulticentennial variation, will improve our confidence in determining how warm the MWP was.

    The dispute was not only well known, it was a starting point for further research on the subject.

  96. moptop

    Guy, your every question assumes you are right as a premise. I know that went over your head, but yeesh! What if you are wrong and we spend trillions of dollars in actual costs and lost jobs and production? Won’t that hurt our children’s future too?

  97. Nullius in Verba

    #96,
    Ensuring a good future for everybody’s children.

    The past few centuries have lifted most of mankind out of the misery of poverty, disease, and continual labour. That has largely been due to cheap energy, advancing technology, and more efficient economics. As we live better than our ancestors of a hundred years ago, so our grandchildren will be immeasurably more prosperous, healthier, and more capable than us.

    And I regard the spread of those bounties to the developing world to be especially important, not only from a moral standpoint, but also because it will make us better off too. I regard it as criminal to snatch this hope away from them just as it finally comes within reach.

    It is also important for the environment, as one needs a high level of resources to devote to protecting it, and to generate economic alternatives to exploiting it. In the West, the state of the environment has improved steadily in line with our growing prosperity. I would want that to continue, and to expand to the rest of the world.

    For centuries people have been trying to stop that – declaring that we are facing imminent doom, about to run out of resources, regarding anything technological or human or artificial as toxic. They embody the naturalistic fallacy gone wild. They nearly got us in the 1970s, when the big scare was overpopulation, that civilisation would collapse and most of us would die in the 1980s and 1990s unless drastic measures to stop population growth were taken. We even instituted a few sterilisation programs as a condition of development aid before we were brought to our senses, we took it that seriously. And when we ignored them, and their apocalyptic predictions, nothing happened. Except that we all got a lot better fed and better off. (Yes, the developing world, too.)

    I think back on that, and what could have happened if we had taken them seriously. How much of a disaster it would have been for them, for us, and for future generations.

    So I don’t want us destroying our future unless we have a VERY good reason, backed up by the most solid, detailed, well-examined investigations possible. I want everything public, everything documented, everything audited, all objections and questions answered, all options considered, and the most rigorous science to be practised. Because I don’t want us to get caught out again by yet another destructive Malthusian scare.

  98. Guy

    @Nullius #97,

    Thanks. That’s a much better explanation than moptop’s lame excuses.

    I agree with that most rigorous science has to be practiced. That should go without saying, but who should be the judges of what constitutes rigorous science? Those who want to tear it down because it doesn’t conform to their biases and beliefs or those trained in the scientific method? A lot of these demands for information come from deniers have that have little or no formal scientific training.

  99. Nullius in Verba

    #98,

    “That should go without saying, but who should be the judges of what constitutes rigorous science?”

    That’s always a difficult question to answer, in any scientific field. To some degree, I’d say the answer was “everybody” – you don’t want any one group having that sort of authority. But more specifically, I’d say one needs to ensure that those trying to attack it do have training in the scientific method. Either train them, or motivate some of those so trained to try. Only through the failure of well-motivated attempts to falsify a theory, under circumstances considered likely to falsify it if it was in fact false, can the theory gain scientific credibility. So sceptics are enormously important to the process. Shutting them out is such a waste of a resource.

  100. Guy

    @Nullius #101,

    Numerous, well-respected organizations have endorsed the IPCC report on climate change. What more proof do you need?

    Scientists are generally more skeptical than most. If they can’t be trusted to verify the work of their own peers, then who can we trust?

    I’d be much more inclined to trust the scientists than just some dude with a popular website and an axe to grind.

  101. Nullius in Verba

    #102,

    “Numerous, well-respected organizations have endorsed the IPCC report on climate change.”

    On what basis? And what answer do they have to all the questions?

    If one of these societies not only gives an endorsement, but also a detailed report on exactly why they gave that endorsement, then I’d be interested, because I could find the answers to my questions. And if their reason for endorsement was along the lines of “it’s peer-reviewed, isn’t it?” or “lots of scientists say so” then I’d know what to do with that, too.

    Back before science properly started, the accepted authority for everything scientific was Aristotle. If Aristotle said it, there was no need to enquire further. They even had a phrase for it – ‘ipse dixit’ – ‘he himself said it’.

    It was the break from that tradition, towards questioning everything, accepting no authorities, that the Enlightenment contributed to the birth of Science. I don’t know if you’ve ever Googled my pseudonym and its history, but I didn’t pick it by accident.

    “I’d be much more inclined to trust the scientists than just some dude with a popular website and an axe to grind.”

    As I’ve said before, when people are not claiming scientific authority for what they say, they can believe for whatever reasons they want – including trusting authority, correlation implying causation, popularity, politics, or anything else. People without the scientific training have little other choice. All I would say is that other people can believe otherwise, for the same sorts of non-scientific reasons, and not be intellectually or morally inferior for doing so.

    Believing what scientists say is a sensible heuristic, but it is not itself a scientific one.

    You might also like to consider what Tom Wigley (who is pro-AGW) said regarding one of these endorsements:

    “No scientist who wishes to maintain respect in the community should ever endorse any statement unless they have examined the issue fully themselves.”

    But sadly, many do.

    Google for the full context. It’s well worth it.

  102. Guy
  103. If one of these societies not only gives an endorsement, but also a detailed report on exactly why they gave that endorsement, then I’d be interested, because I could find the answers to my questions. “
  104. Here you go, happy reading.

    http://ncseonline.org/nle/crsreports/climate/clim-2.cfm

  • Guy

    Here is a good explanation of the peer review process.

  • HOW DO WE KNOW WHAT IS
    SCIENTIFICALLY CORRECT?
    The Peer Review Process
    Science is an on-going process of making
    observations and using evidence to test hypotheses.
    As new ideas are developed and new data are
    obtained, oftentimes enabled by new technologies,
    our understanding evolves. The scientific community
    uses a highly formalized version of peer review to
    validate research results and our understanding
    of their significance. Researchers describe their
    experiments, results, and interpretations in
    scientific manuscripts and submit them to a
    scientific journal that specializes in their field of
    science. Scientists who are experts in that field
    serve as “referees” for the journal: they read the
    manuscript carefully to judge the reliability of the
    research design and check that the interpretations
    are supported by the data. Based on the reviews,
    journal editors may accept or reject manuscripts
    or ask the authors to make revisions if the study
    has insufficient data or unsound interpretations.
    Through this process, only those concepts that
    have been described through well-documented
    research and subjected to the scrutiny of other
    experts in the field become published papers in
    science journals and accepted as current science
    knowledge. Although peer review does not guarantee
    that any particular published result is valid, it does
    provide a high assurance that the work has been
    carefully vetted for accuracy by informed experts
    prior to publication. The overwhelming majority of
    peer-reviewed papers about global climate change
    acknowledge that human activities are substantially
    contributing factors.
    A meltwater stream on the Greenland Ice Sheet flows into the
    ice through a tunnel called a moulin. About half of the loss
    of Greenland’s ice mass flows into the North Atlantic Ocean
    as melt water. Liquid water, which is denser than ice, can
    penetrate through the ice sheet, lubricating the underside, and
    also accelerate ice loss. Warmer temperatures cause melting
    in the summer months, which leads to faster flow, drawing
    more of the ice sheet down to warmer, lower altitudes.
    Source: Roger J. Braithwaite, The University of Manchester, UK
  • http://downloads.climatescience.gov/Literacy/Climate%20Literacy%20Booklet%20Low-Res.pdf

  • Nullius in Verba

    #104,

    Thank you. Yes. They say essentially that “A large number of scientists believe…”, which is honest, at least. They correctly state that the primary evidence relied upon is model results from GCMs, they correctly say that the reliability of these has been called into question, but then unfortunately they answer that with a “correlation implies causation” argument based on the modern rise in temperature.

    They essentially agree that all my concerns and questions exist, are valid, and not fully answered, but go on with a “nevertheless…” and cite the IPCC’s opinion and the precautionary principle. (Which I’ve always considered to be a modern version of Pascal’s Wager.)

    So I’d say it was a fair statement of the position, but it doesn’t actually answer my questions. That’s a lot better than many, though.

  • moptop

    Now I want Guy to show me where it is written that RealClimate overrules peer review.

  • Nullius in Verba

    Guy,

    #105.
    This article is incorrect. Under the scientific method, when results are published, the rest of the scientific community examine them, attempt to replicate them, knock them down, extend them, and so on. If a published result subjected to this barrage survives the process, it gains in credibility. If it can’t be replicated, or alternative explanations are found, or the methods are shown to be flawed, then it is rejected. It stays in the literature, but scientists who know the literature also know that it is not to be relied upon. This extended process, that can take years or decades, could be described as ‘peer review’.

    But journal peer review is entirely different, serving a different function. Back in the old days of science, scientists communicated their results by writing letters to one another, but because this was so inefficient, they got together into societies that acted as central distribution points. Letters and results were submitted, and all the members of the society could read the published journal. The journals, hungry for subscriptions, were keen that papers published would be interesting, relevant, and competently done for their audience, so the editor would select what he considered the best papers. Occasionally, if he didn’t have the relevant expertise, he would ask the opinion of an outside expert. It wasn’t until the 50s if I remember correctly that external peer-review was expanded to the system we have today. But a peer-reviewer does not check a paper for accuracy – he does not re-do calculations or experiments, analyse data, chase references, or check observations. It is a far more cursory examination. Is it going to be of interest to the journal’s audience? Is it novel and useful? Does it provide enough detailed information for a reader to be able to tell what was done, replicate, or check? Does the weight of evidence support the claims? (As in Sagan’s dictum: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.) Does it contradict other work or standard results in the field, and if so is the conflict addressed? And does it appear to be competently done, with no obvious errors? Basically, it asks the question: is this worth your time looking at? It offers no guarantee that it is correct.

    Journal peer-review is an editorial function. Rather than the entire community of scientists, it is conducted by a mere two or three, over a couple of weeks, of part-time unpaid work. Journals and peer-reviewers can often have their own professional prejudices. (If you work in academia, you get to know what these are and what journals will publish what.) And a paper can be rejected for not fitting the journal’s intended audience as easily as for any errors.

    I’ve done peer-review in the past, so I do know.

    So you see, when Steve McIntyre asked to download Dr Mann’s data, so that he could try to replicate it, that was the scientific process moving forward. And when he found problems with it, that ought to have triggered the community to have another look, and if necessary revise it or even throw it out. The fact that they haven’t shows that something has gone wrong with the scientific process in this area.

    This is not really all that unusual. During the 1930s, the scientific establishment led by the British astronomer Eddington rejected black holes as a possibility, after Chandrasekhar first demonstrated them as an inevitable solution to Einstein’s field equations in general relativity. Other prominent physicists, such as Pauli and Bohr agreed with Chandrasekhar privately, but would not support him publicly against the astrophysical community. As Max Planck said, “Science advances one funeral at a time.” It took several decades before black holes were generally accepted. Chandrasekhar eventually won the Nobel prize for his work.

    Scientists themselves are human. Science will self-correct eventually; it always does. But it may take some time.

  • Nullius in Verba

    Guy,

    #108.
    Thanks for the link. But I’m after something in a bit more depth.

    Regarding this particular page, I noted the bit where they say ice ages take 5,000 years to warm 7C, so the recent rise is 8 times faster than previous warming. This is incorrect.

    Temperature shows different rates of warming on different time scales, because it is a fractal process. It’s a bit like asking how long the coastline of an island is – look at it coarsely and you get one number, look at the finer detail and you get a much bigger number, measure round each rock and pebble, and you get a huge number. Temperature works the same way. The rate of rise or fall can be much faster over short intervals.

    Here’s an easy experiment to do, that is well worth it for the intuition it gives you about such processes. Use a spreadsheet to generate a series in which the first term is zero, and then each term after that is 0.99 times the previous value, plus a zero-mean random number.
    In Excel for example, you can do this with the formula
    A1 = 0
    A2 = 0.99*A1 + NORMSINV(RAND())
    A3 = 0.99*A2 + NORMSINV(RAND())
    A4 = 0.99*A3 + NORMSINV(RAND())
    etc.

    (or if you find it easier to follow, you can use A2 = 0.99*A1 + (RAND()-0.5).)

    Continue it for a few thousand lines, and then plot a graph of the data.

    You will see that over long periods things are fairly slow and flat, but as you look at shorter and shorter intervals, it gets wilder with long, steep rises and falls. The behaviour over short intervals can vary much more rapidly than it does over long ones.

    (Note, I’m not saying that temperatures follow this particular sort of process. This is a simple example to build intuition about stochastic persistence. The models they fit to simulate real temperatures are a bit more complicated. Nor am I saying that climate is just random numbers – it’s just that the output of chaotic processes often act as if they were random.)

    It’s also worth changing that 0.99 to a zero, so you get pure white noise randomness. Which graph looks more like temperature data?

    Another thing worth knowing about is the Central England Temperature series – known as HadCET to the trade. This measured temperatures in England back to the 1600s, and it shows several extended trends. The biggest, from about 1680 to 1733 was bigger, longer, and steeper than the rise in temperature in the modern period. It started from a much lower point, and peaked just short of the present day maximum.
    (You can download the data from the internet if you want to check.)

    The problem of course is that while we know that on a local scale the modern warming is not unprecedented, we don’t have the worldwide records to be able to say whether 1733 was a global phenomenon.

  • Guy

    @Nullius #110,

    There’s a lot more supporting information out there. You say you have a scientific background. I suggest you do your own study, but try to avoid letting bias get in the way of finding out the truth. That’s the main problem with people like McIntyre. He is biased against AGW theory so all his work is muddied by it, and so it can not really be trusted.

    NASA has a lot of climate change information and their work is probably the most bullet proof stuff there is. It might be a good idea to see how they used their own data and methods to arrive at the the same hockey stick as Dr. Mann. Several other have done this independent verification work too so they might also be worth taking a look at.

  • But a peer-reviewer does not check a paper for accuracy – he does not re-do calculations or experiments, analyse data, chase references, or check observations.

    This is flat out wrong. Peer reviewers absolutely do check calculations, check references and check observations. They may not have access to specific samples or equipment required to validate whole experiments. But they certainly do check for accuracy. Even if all of those checks work out, reviewers often insist that a paper include additional analyses or different methodology to back up conclusions. Reviewers are also chosen because they have enough experience in the field to see fundamental flaws in an experimental design.

    And in cases where the data are public, codes are widely available and the study largely mathematical (like much of the work in climatology) it is possible to validate study results entirely.

    It is a far more cursory examination. Is it going to be of interest to the journal’s audience? Is it novel and useful? Does it provide enough detailed information for a reader to be able to tell what was done, replicate, or check? Does the weight of evidence support the claims?

    What you are describing is the job of the editor, not the peer reviewer.

    I’ve done peer-review in the past, so I do know.

    Well then you’ve done it wrong.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #111,

    Steve McIntyre has said in the past that he’s inclined to accept basic AGW theory, and that his view is that politicians would be sensible to accept the IPCC’s findings. For those who think it’s a matter of politics, he has also described his political position as corresponding to a “Clinton Democrat”. Canada tends to be a bit more liberal than the US, anyway.

    But if bias against AGW renders work untrustworthy, then what does bias for AGW do?

    NASA do indeed have a lot of climate change information, but unfortunately, while some bits of NASA’s output are bullet proof, other bits aren’t. In particular I have indeed seen some of the code they used, and even as a person inclined to doubt their output, I was shocked.

    Here’s a bit:
    SUBROUTINE CMBINE (AVG,WT,IWT, DNEW,NF1,NL1,WT1, ID,NSM,NCOM)
    C****
    C**** Bias of new data is removed by subtracting the difference
    C**** over the common domain. Then the new data are averaged in.
    C****
    COMMON/LIMIT/XBAD,NLAP
    DIMENSION AVG(*),DNEW(*),WT(*),IWT(*)
    C**** Loop over years
    NSM=0
    C**** Find means over common domain to compute bias
    SUMN=0
    SUM=0
    NCOM=0
    DO 10 N=NF1,NL1
    IF(AVG(N).GE.XBAD.OR.DNEW(N).GE.XBAD) GO TO 10
    NCOM=NCOM+1
    SUM=SUM+AVG(N)
    SUMN=SUMN+DNEW(N)
    10 CONTINUE
    IF(NCOM.LT.NLAP) RETURN
    BIAS=(SUM-SUMN)/FLOAT(NCOM)
    C**** Update period of valid data, averages and weights
    DO 20 N=NF1,NL1
    IF(DNEW(N).GE.XBAD) GO TO 20
    WTNEW=WT(N)+WT1
    AVG(N)=(WT(N)*AVG(N)+WT1*(DNEW(N)+BIAS))/WTNEW
    WT(N)=WTNEW
    IWT(N)=IWT(N)+1
    NSM=NSM+1
    20 CONTINUE
    50 CONTINUE
    RETURN
    END

    This particular bit of code was of special interest, because it was errors discovered in this part that ultimately led to Steve McIntyre forcing NASA to finally publish the code, after many years of resistance. Steve had managed to reverse engineer how the code works from its output – a brilliant tour de force of detective work. It contains the adjustment for merging fragments of series from one location that have come via different routes into a single series. What it does is to look at the two bits during the overlap period, find the difference between the averages during this time, and then add this offset to one of them before splicing them. It’s supposed to compensate for systematic differences between different temperature monitoring stations.

    However, it sometimes happens that you get data from the same station via different routes, which get merged by the same routine. If there are transcription errors or missing values in one portion, the averages during the overlap will be different, and one bit will be shifted relative to the other, even though they are exactly the same data. This introduces erroneous trends into the result.

    The size of the error that resulted was not particularly significant, but the point of the discovery was to show how poorly the code had been validated. As you can see from the above snippet, the variable names are short and not meaningful, there are few comments and they’re very terse, there is no documentation, there is dead code from previous versions left in (The “50 CONTINUE” line isn’t called from anywhere and doesn’t do anything), there’s no error checking, the computer language (Fortran 77) is archaic, poorly structured, and hard to read, and it is littered with a spaghetti of GOTOs jumping everywhere. It’s hard to understand, even for a coder.

    There are several other problems with it too, to do with integer division, but I won’t get into that now.

    This standard of code would get spat back with a ‘fail’ in even a first year computer science homework. And yet this is what NASA use today to generate GISTEMP, one of the most prominent temperature series in the world.

    Anyway, now that the code is out in the open, a bunch of software engineers are busy re-writing it to modern coding standards. See their presentation on progress here. I believe NASA have already said they’ll be adopting it as soon as possible.

    Besides NASA, there are also a range of other temperature reconstructions from various groups, and yes, I have looked at them. Several of them use Mann’s output as one of their inputs – in particular, the noamer1 series that Mann constructed for North America, and which is dominated by a small group of Bristlecone pines in one small corner. (And which were already known not to be temperature-sensitive.) The reconstructions that don’t use Bristlecones almost all use another series called Yamal, which was recently discovered to depend for its hockeystick-shaped signal on a single tree. (Called YAD061 in the record.) The story of how the Yamal data finally got published more than ten years after it was first requested is also a fascinating story, but too long to do it justice here.

    Seriously, if you’re interested in knowing the full story, there’s a book called The Hockey Stick Illusion that tells the entire tale. If you want to be able to argue that the sceptics are wrong, you need to know what they’re saying first.

  • Nullius in Verba

    Jinchi,

    #112,
    “This is flat out wrong. Peer reviewers absolutely do check calculations, check references and check observations.”

    When Steve McIntyre was reviewing a paper, he asked the journal to provide the data so he could check it. The journal editor (Stephen Schneider I believe) replied that nobody had ever asked for data before, and that he would not be provided with it.

    When he asked for background data on a paper during his review for the IPCC, Susan Solomon not only refused, but said that he would be thrown off the list of reviewers if he “abused” his position as an IPCC reviewer by demanding data again.

    No. They don’t check. Until McIntyre came along, nobody had checked Mann’s data – if they had, they would immediately have found all the flaws in it. They would have immediately found that the result wasn’t calculated in the way Mann said it had; that there were a whole list of unpublished steps.

    It may be the practice in other areas of science (it depends on the journal, I suspect), but there are plenty of other academics who have said exactly the same thing. Peer-review does not offer any guarantee of accuracy.

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