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Hey Ya! (mal)

Filed under: — group @ 30 September 2009

Interesting news this weekend. Apparently everything we’ve done in our entire careers is a “MASSIVE lie” (sic) because all of radiative physics, climate history, the instrumental record, modeling and satellite observations turn out to be based on 12 trees in an obscure part of Siberia. Who knew?

Indeed, according to both the National Review and the Daily Telegraph (and who would not trust these sources?), even Al Gore’s use of the stair lift in An Inconvenient Truth was done to highlight cherry-picked tree rings, instead of what everyone thought was the rise in CO2 concentrations in the last 200 years.

Al Gore apparently confusing a CO2 curve for a tree

Who should we believe? Al Gore with his “facts” and “peer reviewed science” or the practioners of “Blog Science“? Surely, the choice is clear….

Yamal sub-fossil larch trees in river sedimentMore seriously, many of you will have noticed yet more blogarrhea about tree rings this week. The target de jour is a particular compilation of trees (called a chronology in dendro-climatology) that was first put together by two Russians, Hantemirov and Shiyatov, in the late 1990s (and published in 2002). This multi-millennial chronology from Yamal (in northwestern Siberia) was painstakingly collected from hundreds of sub-fossil trees buried in sediment in the river deltas. They used a subset of the 224 trees they found to be long enough and sensitive enough (based on the interannual variability) supplemented by 17 living tree cores to create a “Yamal” climate record.

A preliminary set of this data had also been used by Keith Briffa in 2000 (pdf) (processed using a different algorithm than used by H&S for consistency with two other northern high latitude series), to create another “Yamal” record that was designed to improve the representation of long-term climate variability.

Since long climate records with annual resolution are few and far between, it is unsurprising that they get used in climate reconstructions. Different reconstructions have used different methods and have made different selections of source data depending on what was being attempted. The best studies tend to test the robustness of their conclusions by dropping various subsets of data or by excluding whole classes of data (such as tree-rings) in order to see what difference they make so you won’t generally find that too much rides on any one proxy record (despite what you might read elsewhere).


So along comes Steve McIntyre, self-styled slayer of hockey sticks, who declares without any evidence whatsoever that Briffa didn’t just reprocess the data from the Russians, but instead supposedly picked through it to give him the signal he wanted. These allegations have been made without any evidence whatsoever.

McIntyre has based his ‘critique’ on a test conducted by randomly adding in one set of data from another location in Yamal that he found on the internet. People have written theses about how to construct tree ring chronologies in order to avoid end-member effects and preserve as much of the climate signal as possible. Curiously no-one has ever suggested simply grabbing one set of data, deleting the trees you have a political objection to and replacing them with another set that you found lying around on the web.

The statement from Keith Briffa clearly describes the background to these studies and categorically refutes McIntyre’s accusations. Does that mean that the existing Yamal chronology is sacrosanct? Not at all – all of the these proxy records are subject to revision with the addition of new (relevant) data and whether the records change significantly as a function of that isn’t going to be clear until it’s done.

What is clear however, is that there is a very predictable pattern to the reaction to these blog posts that has been discussed many times. As we said last time there was such a kerfuffle:

However, there is clearly a latent and deeply felt wish in some sectors for the whole problem of global warming to be reduced to a statistical quirk or a mistake. This led to some truly death-defying leaping to conclusions when this issue hit the blogosphere.

Plus ça change…

The timeline for these mini-blogstorms is always similar. An unverified accusation of malfeasance is made based on nothing, and it is instantly ‘telegraphed’ across the denial-o-sphere while being embellished along the way to apply to anything ‘hockey-stick’ shaped and any and all scientists, even those not even tangentially related. The usual suspects become hysterical with glee that finally the ‘hoax’ has been revealed and congratulations are handed out all round. After a while it is clear that no scientific edifice has collapsed and the search goes on for the ‘real’ problem which is no doubt just waiting to be found. Every so often the story pops up again because some columnist or blogger doesn’t want to, or care to, do their homework. Net effect on lay people? Confusion. Net effect on science? Zip.

Having said that, it does appear that McIntyre did not directly instigate any of the ludicrous extrapolations of his supposed findings highlighted above, though he clearly set the ball rolling. No doubt he has written to the National Review and the Telegraph and Anthony Watts to clarify their mistakes and we’re confident that the corrections will appear any day now…. Oh yes.

But can it be true that all Hockey Sticks are made in Siberia? A RealClimate exclusive investigation follows:

We start with the original MBH hockey stick as replicated by Wahl and Ammann:

Hmmm… neither of the Yamal chronologies anywhere in there. And what about the hockey stick that Oerlemans derived from glacier retreat since 1600?

Nope, no Yamal record in there either. How about Osborn and Briffa’s results which were robust even when you removed any three of the records?

Osborn and Briffa (2006) Supplemental Material

Or there. The hockey stick from borehole temperature reconstructions perhaps?

No. How about the hockey stick of CO2 concentrations from ice cores and direct measurements?

Err… not even close. What about the the impact on the Kaufman et al 2009 Arctic reconstruction when you take out Yamal?

Oh. The hockey stick you get when you don’t use tree-rings at all (blue curve)?


No. Well what about the hockey stick blade from the instrumental record itself?

And again, no. But wait, maybe there is something (Update: Original idea by Lucia)….


One would think that some things go without saying, but apparently people still get a key issue wrong so let us be extremely clear. Science is made up of people challenging assumptions and other peoples’ results with the overall desire of getting closer to the ‘truth’. There is nothing wrong with people putting together new chronologies of tree rings or testing the robustness of previous results to updated data or new methodologies. Or even thinking about what would happen if it was all wrong. What is objectionable is the conflation of technical criticism with unsupported, unjustified and unverified accusations of scientific misconduct. Steve McIntyre keeps insisting that he should be treated like a professional. But how professional is it to continue to slander scientists with vague insinuations and spin made-up tales of perfidy out of the whole cloth instead of submitting his work for peer-review? He continues to take absolutely no responsibility for the ridiculous fantasies and exaggerations that his supporters broadcast, apparently being happy to bask in their acclaim rather than correct any of the misrepresentations he has engendered. If he wants to make a change, he has a clear choice; to continue to play Don Quixote for the peanut gallery or to produce something constructive that is actually worthy of publication.

Peer-review is nothing sinister and not part of some global conspiracy, but instead it is the process by which people are forced to match their rhetoric to their actual results. You can’t generally get away with imprecise suggestions that something might matter for the bigger picture without actually showing that it does. It does matter whether something ‘matters’, otherwise you might as well be correcting spelling mistakes for all the impact it will have.

So go on Steve, surprise us.

Update: Briffa and colleagues have now responded with an extensive (and in our view, rather convincing) rebuttal.

759 Responses to “Hey Ya! (mal)”

  1. 101
    EmilyP says:

    Do you think the Washington Post would accept your reply to this? I’m so tired of George Will being given such a platform on this topic.

  2. 102
    TCO says:

    James, the existence of released data and methods does not prevent replication by alternate routes. Really that is a robustness test.

    I think this feild is a little different than say semiconductor physics, where making a new batch of doped main group compounds is not tricky and checks can be made by redoing experiments. Instead in this feild, we have a relatively small amount of previous (some several years old) field experiments and a lot of the work being done is reprocessing, adding in more results, etc. Essentially “meta analysis”. In that case the real contribution is in the methods used and decisions made…and it is important to share the details of these so that the assumptions/decisions can be evaluated and so tests can be made of sensitivity to alternate choices.

  3. 103
    John N-G says:

    #51 joshv –

    For an instance of McIntyre’s unfounded allegation of apparent scientific misconduct, see here:

    #83 Vinny Burgoo asks “…but they weren’t used. Why?”

    Scientists have all manner of worthwhile things they can do to improve studies. Science is inherently a triage process: you do what (a) fits your expertise, (b) will be of the greatest importance, and/or (c) you are being paid to do. The possible impact of the Schweingruber trees did not seem to be of particular importance until McIntyre pointed it out, and it seems Briffa will take a look at it.

    Meanwhile, of course, some other worthwhile project will be put aside.

  4. 104
    TrueSceptic says:

    48 dhogaza,

    I confess I misread Briffa’s statement too.
    I note that McIntyre qualifies the presentation of his version(s) of the chronology by reference to a number of valid points that require further investigation. Subsequent postings appear to pay no heed to these caveats.

    I think that this could have been worded better: “that require further investigation” could be read as requiring further investigation by either McIntyre or Briffa (or anyone, really).

    But regardless, McIntyre is too clever to make explicit accusations. He just presents the “evidence” and lets the denydiots run with it. He is clever enough to censor the extreme ASS sufferers at his site, as they would make CA less credible, but makes no effort to correct them elsewhere. He makes no effort to correct Watts, D’Aleo, etc., no matter how incompetent their “science” or obvious their lies, because they are on on the “same side” and he can always claim ignorance.

    One more thing: despite accusations here of his incompetence, I think he knows enough stats (more than some of us, perhaps) to present the case he wants, and to do so in a way that convinces many.

  5. 105
    MarkB says:

    Alex (#90)

    Hope you don’t mind a bit of satire…

    I just love the use of the word “deniers” to describe those of us who are not yet convinced that the data we have supports the claims that the Earth is not flat, much less the conclusions of the major scientific academies and organizations. I really wonder why people have such a hard time keeping an open mind. I am open to the possibility that the Earth is not flat, but nothing about the data is conclusive. And just because people are willing to say it is conclusive does not make that statement so…

    Point being, the more one examines the data and reads the studies, the more difficult it is to deny the significant human impact on global warming. I actually find so-called climate “skeptics” to often be the least open-minded, contrary to what genuine skeptism is supposed to be. Climate “Skeptics” only see what they want to see.

  6. 106
    Hank Roberts says:

    Word missing in Gavin’s inline reply above.

    I think the poster was trying to be snarky and suggest the scientist was “trying to find a way to prove” something existed rather than trying to find a way to determine whether it’s possible to determine an effect in the material.

    The inline quote’s missing a word or six; Gavin wrote:

    … He wants to find robust methods that can used to how climate has changed. ….

    And I’m sure means something like

    He wants to find robust methods that can used to
    [[determine whether a trend exists that would show]]
    how climate has changed.

    This is the big thing Stat 101 teaches — given a lot of data collected over some length of time, some ways to figure out whether it’s possible to conclude that there is a high probability it demonstrates a change over time and if so which way it’s changing.

    And the choice of the statistic has to be made early on.
    Deciding how to analyze data is what the scientist and statistician spend a lot of time working on.

    [Response: Err… yes. Thanks. What I should have said is “He wants to find robust methods that can be used to find out how climate has changed.” (3 missing words). – gavin]

  7. 107
    spilgard says:

    Something peculiar is that this Massive Lie iteration harps on the crime of NOT USING enough data, while a previous iteration harped on the exact opposite: the crime of USING all data. The event was the glorious crusade to invalidate the GISS surface temperature record. After painstakingly winnowing the family of surface stations to exclude those not meeting a standard of correctness, a new and “truthier” temperature curve was produced. Unfortunately, the new curve had the same shape as the GISS curve. When the curve refused to look different from GISS, enthusiasm for the endeavor faded away — rather sad, because all of that painstaking effort expended to validate the GISS curve might have made an excellent journal article.

  8. 108
    TrueSceptic says:

    51 Gavin,

    I’m sorry but what’s required is specific quotes, with URLs of course, to refute nonsense immediately. Replies like yours just feed nonsense claims of “snark”.

    [Response: Fair enough, so here goes (a couple of allied quotes as well): 1) “In my opinion, the uniformly high age of the CRU12 relative to the Schweingruber population is suggestive of selection”, 2) “It is highly possible and even probable that the CRU selection is derived from a prior selection of old trees”, 3) “I do not believe that they constitute a complete population of recent cores. As a result, I believe that the archive is suspect.”,4) (Ross McKitrick) “But it appears that they weren’t randomly selected.”, 5) (Anthony Watts) “appears to have been the result of hand selected trees”, – gavin]

  9. 109
    Halldór Björnsson says:

    I find this replication discussion to be a bit strange. I am currently mulling over a method used by a collegue in a paper. I could be lazy and email him and ask for his code. But if I really want to use his method what I should do is to write my own code based on what he describes in his paper. Replication is checking if I get the same results as he did.

    A few years ago I wrote a paper describing what I felt was an improvement to a method that had been used to calculate temperature maps. Recently I saw a talk where someone else approached the problem from a different angle, and derived a more general way of doing this. My method was a special case in his analysis. And in that case the results where the same. – I felt it was a nice replication of my work, – not because the guy needed my code but because he showed that the results were robust.

    The “audit” philosophy of asking for code and data and then looking for bugs is of limited use for advancing science. Replication is hard work.

  10. 110
    Greg Craven says:

    Disclaimer: This post is NOT a pitch to buy my damn book. It will never sell enough to make me another penny. But I want people to at least look at the tools proposed in it, and give them a shot at breaking the logjam in the popular debate. Steal the book, borrow it, check it out from a library, scan the damn thing and post the PDF on the Internet*, I don’t care! Just get the ideas out there, because …

    It specifically addresses the questions, frustrations, conundrums, and challenges expressed in comments #’s 2, 11 (Gavin’s response), 15, 17, 18, 22, 34, ****, proposing I effective solutions (I think) to all.

    And especially important: it addresses the central question at the start of the article: “Who should we believe?” by _circumventing_ that question. The problem is, in the great unengaged majority out there—which is where, after all, this war will be won or lost—John Q. Citizen’s brain will believe whoever reaffirms what he _wants_ to believe. It’s hardwired into our brains (confirmation bias), and the current culture of the U.S. (anti-intellectual) feeds that. Confirmation bias is central to the popular debate (I’ve come to think), and immunizes the general populace from _any_ appeal to “trust” or “belief” or “evidence” short of their own weather going wacky.

    Over the last two years, I’ve developed quite a bit of expertise on the thinking of the common man in the U.S. about climate change (sparked by my posting of “The Most Terrifying Video.”) So when I went to write my book, I predicated the whole thing on an exploration of the psychology of denial, and reverse-engineered the book from there.

    Not saying I’m an expert in anything. Just that I’m really freaking thorough, I’m trying a method that hasn’t been tried before (as far as I can tell), and it’s got enough potential (demonstrated by the ridiculously surprising success of my ten-minute whiteboard exposition on climate change—7.5 million views with zero marketing by me; I gave the URL to less than 150 people, and did nothing after to publicize it), that it’s worth giving it a shot, and then _enlisting_others_ to do the same (viral spread).

    I may be wrong, I may be obsessive, I may have delusions of grandeur in thinking that I’ve “found the answer.” But this late in the game, is it worth risking that I’m not?

    Thanks for your indulgence.

    Greg Craven
    The book: “What’s The Worst That Could Happen? A Rational Response to the Climate Change Debate.”
    The Amazon listing:

    * Even though my publisher has now explicitly told me they will do no more marketing for me—I’m on my own—I’m still not willing to risk a breach of contract (and the return of my advance) by posting such a file myself. That said, if someone “comes across” such a posting, please send me the URL via, so I can refer others to it. ;-)

  11. 111
    TrueSceptic says:

    63 Sean,

    Why do you bring CET into this?

    If you want to discuss CET, Open Mind (Tamino) has a current thread.

  12. 112
    John Mashey says:

    1) Other than those restricted for legal reasons, it is clear that all of the following should be archived, with a good browser interface so that any random person could find anything:
    – all input data, including all versions, iterations, down to scribbles on lab notebooks, and especially any corrections that have happened on any iteration, so those can be checked.
    – all code, including every iteration, to make sure that no funny business has gone on. A full set of RCS / CVS files might be good enough. Every makefile also.
    – all versions of any compilers, libraries and operating systems used, because they might make a difference, and might be required to reproduce the exact results. Actually, the source code of these might be needed also, to make sure generated code is correct, although one has to be careful, as there is at least one famous case where a C preprocessor did something magic to itself and hid its tracks.
    – actually, since not everyone understands F90 (for example), alternate, proved-equivalent code should be provided in Java, COBOL, and Excel.
    – a really extensive set of regression tests, so that people can run numerous cases themselves and evaluate whether or not the code is robust.
    – all outputs, including OCR’d versions of any printed output, and movies of any interactive 3D simulations.
    – Adequate documentation and tutorials, especially if someone who isn’t a programmer needs to find errors in F90 code, or so anyone can learn the equivalent of a physics PhD as needed. This should also include detailed numerical analysis of all relevant code to make sure
    – All emails discussing any of this.
    – Ideally, records of discussions on whiteboards (via one of those electronic whiteboards).

    And probably, it would be a good idea for NASA, GFDL, NCAR, etc to provide compute clusters of similar size to what they use for general use by auditors.

    2) Now, to fund the vast increase in staffing, facilities, and computers, I propose that we first increase the taxes in Ontario (where McIntyre is located), to fund these efforts worldwide (especially in USA and UK, from whom he has demanded data), but anyone else can pitch in, too. *I’m* not interested in my tax money being spent this way, but others may want to spend their own money for such.
    So, how much are people willing to pay? I’m sure Gavin & co could use lots more budget. Anonymous calls for someone else to spend their time doing more of this … are not worth the bits on disk to keep them.

    3) More seriously:
    a) Doing commercial-grade software products is *very* different than doing software for research, and the tradeoffs are very different.

    b) Chris Mooney’s book mentions the Data Quality Act and what it was really for (i.e., hold up inconvenient research results, and ideally keep demanding further study and wasting time so that the inconvenient research slows to a halt.)

    c) I strongly urge those who are honestly confused or unsure about this to read that book, and the brand-new one Climate Cover-Up about the general tactics.

  13. 113
    freespeech says:

    Hank Roberts says[85]:

    “the stimulation of yield by elevated CO2 in crop species is much smaller than expected”

    Can you confirm that the Yamal proxies were of crop species, grown in otherwise ideal conditions, which is what this quote is referring to? My understanding is that they are of trees in the Arctic. The study specifically confirms elevated carbon gain (that’d be wood for a tree) in drought conditions and lower water use. I wonder if this might be advantageous in permafrost?

  14. 114
    TrueSceptic says:

    70 Gavin,

    (Sorry, still catching up.)

    Can I suggest what Greenfyre does? Anyone posting off-topic is invited to move their post to a relevant thread as it will get deleted in 24 hours.

    I see this as an identifying denydiot characteristic: regardless of the current thread, they jump in and repeat their obsession with whatever they think is wrong with Science. Do they even read the OP?

  15. 115
    John Finn says:

    In addition to my earlier ppost. I’ve checked out this link and we have the same problem.

    The instrumental records obscure the proxy reconstructions which gives a completely misleading impression. I’m sure that’s not what’s intended, but it’s clear the reconstructions fail to simulate the observed temperatures – by some distance. Is it possibe to view the spaghetti graph without including the instrumental record.

    [Response: The instrumental record is shown along with the reconstructions. Some methods do not produce a reconstruction per se over the calibration period. In such cases, validation experiments are done (and described in detail in the paper), wherein one part of the record (e.g. the earlier part) is used to calibrate the proxy data, and a reconstruction is independently performed over the other part of the record (e.g. the late part), where it can be directly compared against the part of the instrumental record not used in the calibration process. the role of the early and late periods are then alternated for completeness. The ability of the reconstruction to independently reproduce the observed instrumental temperature changes over the independent interval is used as a crucial diagnostic in establishing the skillfulness of the reconstruction. This is true of the “EIV” reconstructions in Mann et al (2008) for example shown above, where these validation experiments were featured in the main article (Figure 2 and surrounding discussion). Attempts to imply that such comparisons were not done or not taken into account are at best willfully naive. – mike]

  16. 116
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Tim G: I know nothing about climate. But what I do know is there is a way to make code and data available “turnkey” so that others can use it. If you are confident in your science, then that’s what you should do. It’s more work, yes, but it is less work than all this silly sniping.

    Exactly, and since you work in software, you can go ahead and write a nice user interface for all that FORTRAN code. When you’re done, I’ll happily run it on my desktop — thanks in advance!

  17. 117
    Hank Roberts says:

    John, I recall reading somewhere the story that Linus T. simply emails anything important to his friends, thereby letting the Internet back it up for him.

    Those who want all available information could post their email and invite people to send it to them, eh?

  18. 118
    Walter Pearce says:

    RE: #100 (James Allan)
    Let’s hear it for Mr. Allan! I’ve been away for some months, and it’s quite sad, though not unexpected, to see the cast of deniers change somewhat but the same old intellectual dishonesty — not to mention sheer laziness — remains.

  19. 119
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Halldór: If I really want to use his method what I should do is to write my own code based on what he describes in his paper. Replication is checking if I get the same results as he did.

    Just so.

  20. 120
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Jammer 1 October 2009 at 3:14 PM

    “The complaint is not that there isn’t enough data. It’s that (in the cases McIntyre complains about) there isn’t ANY data. In order to reproduce the published results, all the original data must be archived and made available. It’s not “more” data that is being requested here.

    Science is PRECISELY about replicability”

    Your understanding of what “replication” implies in the context of science appears to be wrong.

    Redoing the calculations behind a result is not what is meant by replication of a result.

    The fundamental objective of replication is to either increase or decrease confidence in a prior claim or result. If you want to attempt to reproduce a result you can use the same methods described for the original experiment, or you can devise another, independent method that may or may not result in congruence with the original report. Preferably the latter.

    In sum, you do not need the original data to attempt replication.

    In fact, this overweening clamor for raw data seems to miss the obvious point that if Mann or Briffa or the legions of others working in this arena are so wrong in their conclusions, it should be an easy task to disprove their claims using various experiments entirely independent of the data in question.

    But this noise about original data is not really about science, it’s more about slinging accusations of misconduct and obfuscation in lieu of contradictory experimental findings.

  21. 121
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Richard: May God have mercy on our blindness!

    I think we may be certain that God will not have mercy on our species. The Archbishop of Canterbury has said so himself.

    God won’t rescue world from ‘stupidity,’ says top Anglican

  22. 122
    TrueSceptic says:

    87 Gavin,

    Some data is lost due to computer breakdowns, technological obsolesence or bad data management practices (those would be bad reasons). However, some results need work to resurrect – intermediate steps that were erased due to data storage constraints for instance – but that somehow become interesting to someone.

    This is absurd. Are these people so incompetent that simple backups, easily affordable by any home computer user, are not taken?

    We are not talking about the huge data requirements of video or the much smaller ones of still images; we are talking about plain text.

    Perhaps scientists assume they have competent IT departments when they don’t?

    [Response: I was not excusing it, simply acknowledging that this happens. Some data was taken in the 1980s and people are asking now for auxiliary information from field campaigns that happened then. Say 20 years. That’s maybe 5 generations of computer systems and the transition from 8 inch tapes, to floppies, to zip disks, to USB sticks etc. Do you still have access to a floppy disk drive? Sometimes key people move, retire or die. Cultures shift. Is this a problem? Absolutely. Is it fixed simply by someone on a blog demanding that it should be? No. – gavin]

  23. 123

    Naomi Oreskes crystalises in a brilliant, pithy way the basis for the scientific consensus over the reality of anthropogenic global warming as, “multiple, independent lines of evidence converging on a single coherent account.”

    She has an excellent slideshow on the topic of “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change: How Do We Know We’re Not Wrong?” that explores how the consensus view meets a wide range of scientific methods and standards at (the quote above is in slide 83).

    This post reflects the need for using “multiple, independent lines of evidence.” The tree ring data is just one part of the evidence being used.

  24. 124
    Greg Craven says:

    Whoops. In my post (#110), I didn’t finish the list of comment numbers that I think my book directly addresses. Should have read:
    #2 (Steve), #11 (Gavin’s response), #15 (Richard), #17 (both PaulC and Gavin’s response), #18 (Mathias), #22 (Paul), #34 (Larry), #41 (Lorax), #72 (Oakwood), #90 (Alex), and #99 (Hank).

  25. 125
    glen says:

    #78 “you ask what would happen when you take out the Yamal data from Kaufman et al.’s reconstruction, providing a graph. When you look closely at the graph, it appears that removing Yamal lowers temperatures by ~0.15-0.2Celsius (difficult to tell from the small scale).

    Is that not quite a big effect on temperature in a reconstruction ?


    Actually the Yamal(nw siberia) is only 1 of 4 sites(others; gulf of alaska, fennoscandia, and siberia) used in the report for tree ring proxy. In the study, a compilation of 12 lake, 7 ice, and 4 tree rings proxy sites were used.

    You mention ~0.15-0.2C — the temperature reconstruction spike for the tree ring proxy occurs early in the 20th century(for about 60yrs), but for 1000ad to 1900ad the tree ring proxy is in good agreement with the ice and lake proxies.

  26. 126
    John N-G says:

    Re: #103 John N-G, #108 TrueSkeptic with response by Gavin:

    McIntyre asserts that he did not accuse Briffa of picking through the data in his latest blog entry and specifically explains what he meant in the quotation that I referenced above at #103 here: . I accept his explanation, which applies to Gavin’s flagged quotes at #108 as well.

    However, as Gavin’s third-party quotes at #108 show, Gavin and I are clearly not the only ones who had read the text differently, despite McIntyre’s inability to see how there could be any misunderstanding.

  27. 127
    Jeff says:

    I personally think it highly unlikely that there is anthropologically caused global warming taking place. Throughout history, there has been a tendency to believe the world is ending based upon some predicted catastrophe. Cf. Richard Malthus. These Malthusian prophecies, so far, have not materialized. Of course, given the stakes it is admittedly wise to at least consider the possibilities, if human intervention could possibly prevent it.

    But perhaps you can dispel my skepticism. Here are just a few questions:

    1. When the weathermen can’t accurately predict the weather out more than a few days at best, why should anyone believe that global warming models going out even several decades are reliable? This question is sort of a common sense gut check. Logically, it is conceivable that we are better at macro-climate predictions out many decades than micro-weather predictions out a few days. Still, we have a lot more data for weather predictions, and the predictions are closer in time to the event, so it seems odd to suppose that we can do better with a thinner data set and a longer time horizon.

    2. What is the prediction as to when anthropologically caused global warming will become irreversible? I seem to recollect announcements 10 years ago that we only had 10 years to stop it. Has the date been moved? On what basis? What is the current time frame?

    3. If the global warming models are reliable, why has the earth’s temperature been in decline in the past 10 years? Was that decline predicted by the models? Or do you deny there has been a decline and believe that there has been accelerated warming during the past 10 years?

    If anyone has good answers to these questions, I’ll ask my follow ups.

  28. 128
    caerbannog says:


    There’s an old saying: To ask an intelligent question, you first must know some of the answer. To help you get to that point, I’d like to provide you this link to a National Academy of Sciences document:

    Study it thoroughly, and you be in a position to ask more well-informed questions.

  29. 129

    Great post. and the smart sarcastic tone is entirely appropriate. A flat
    diffident tone may well be interpreted by non-scientists as a sign that confidence is
    lacking. All too often sarcastic insults are a substitute for data and solid
    argument. But you have both, in spades, so you might as well lay it on thick … this is
    a blog after all!

  30. 130
    Karen Kohfeld says:

    Thanks for providing clear and irrefutable proof that US Gavins are warming the planet. ;-)

  31. 131
    dhogaza says:

    I think that this could have been worded better: “that require further investigation” could be read as requiring further investigation by either McIntyre or Briffa (or anyone, really).

    Yes, but the *object* is very clearly McI’s work, and Briffa’s jab, though a bit subtle, is a good one. Briffa, you, joe blow, McI, whoever further investigates the flaws in McI’s work … it doesn’t matter. McI’s claim to have blown up Briffa’s work is itself flawed – according to McI.


    Jeff … such a boring post, but here are some answers, on the unlikely possibility that you’re actually interested in learning (I’m a bit jaded, sorry):

    1. When the weathermen can’t accurately predict the weather out more than a few days at best, why should anyone believe that global warming models going out even several decades are reliable?

    Gee, I dunno. Why should anyone believe our models that predict that July 2010 will be warmer than January 2010 in the northern hemisphere? We can’t predict two weeks into the future, how the heck can we predict that summer will be warmer than winter?

    2. What is the prediction as to when anthropologically caused global warming will become irreversible?


    I seem to recollect announcements 10 years ago that we only had 10 years to stop it.

    Then you misunderstand what’s being predicted. Time to hit the books …

    3. If the global warming models are reliable, why has the earth’s temperature been in decline in the past 10 years?

    It hasn’t.

    Was that decline predicted by the models? Or do you deny there has been a decline

    Given that it hasn’t, why wouldn’t one deny it?

    On the other hand, since climate is noisy, it’s almost *guaranteed* that we’ll see short-term runs of cooling as well as short-term runs of warming noticably above the trend.

    Just as flipping a fair coin can result in runs of a few heads or a few tails in a row.

    If you don’t understand such basic things, you probably don’t understand why slot machines are for losers.

  32. 132
    Jim Eager says:

    As is usual, it is abundantly obvious that none of the terriers clamoring here for release of all data and code have any idea what the concept of replication of results actually means.

    To be of any value replication must be independent, using different data and different code.

    It’s also abundantly obvious that none of them would have the slightest idea how to go about doing so.

  33. 133
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jeff, It is clear that you have not done much research into the current warming epoch. As to your questions

    1)Do you have a 401k? Can you tell me what the closing value of the S&P 500 index will be in 5 days? Hell, 1 day? The average behavior of a complicated system can be much simpler than predicting detailed short-term behavior. People bet trillions of dollars on it.

    2)It may already be irreversible. However, it is not unsustainable yet. We can certainly make things much worse. We have been for 20 years even as the science has become indisputable

    3)You are misinformed. 1998 was a very strong El Nino year, and so much warmer than the norm. 2008 was a strong La Nina, and so cooler. See

    I am afraid that without an understanding of the science, one can easily be misled by liars or by those ingnorantly repeating a lie. My recommendation would be to learn as much of the science as you are able OR go with the consensus of the experts in the field.

    To learn more, go to the START HERE button at the upper right corner of this webpage. As to the consensus–90% of all scientists publishing in climate science agree that the planet is warming and that we’re causing it.

  34. 134
    dhogaza says:

    Maybe OT, maybe not, but I find it hard to believe at times that WUWT isn’t heavily infested with sockpuppets, just like Uncommon Descent (if you’re familiar with that site, there’s a small army of scientists devoted to infiltrating it under pseudonyms, making ridiculously idiotic posts, which are thoroughly embraced by those who run the site).

    For instance, from one of the current AGW-as-fraud threads at WUWT:

    Isn’t it just amazing that the entire field of climate change was resting on just 10 or 12 trees! The whole temperature record for the last half of the 20th century was a few trees, and now we know it’s all wrong!

    This can’t be real, can it? Someone, please tell me it can’t be for real …

    Poe reigns, though … it just might be real.

  35. 135
    Ray Ladbury says:

    John N-G, If you believe that McI is SHOCKED!!! SHOCKED!!! that his little digs would be taken as allegations of fraud, then you and I need to play Po–ker sometime. Are you really that naive. Where have you spent the last 10 years?

  36. 136
    Dan L. says:

    >dhogaza: I’m glad that RC is hitting back.


    McI is a coy, sneaky b… uh, fellow. He is cunning enough to avoid directly exposing his nitpicking to peer reviewed publication, relying instead on the usual suspects to shriek on his behalf. Congratulations to RC for knocking the pins from under the WUWTs of this world and their hockey stick obsessions.

  37. 137
    Hank Roberts says:

    Jeff, it’s even worse than you thought.

    Looky here: they can’t predict the tide height accurately within a minute or two, yet they claim to publish tide tables that go out into the future for months. Who can trust this kind of information?

    Look at how messy these results are, for example.

    In the top chart, each little X is an observed height at the moment, and the curve is the predicted height:

    Much like weather and climate, isn’t it?

  38. 138
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Jeff @126:

    1. Apples to oranges. Meteorologists (weathermen) try to predict the weather at a particular place at a particular time in the future. Natural day-to-day weather variation is a chaotic system, which makes it very difficult to make accurate predictions of its behaviour more than the few days out.

    Climate is by definition the average of weather over time, nominally around 30 years. Averaging smoothes out day-to-day and year-to-year natural weather variability and extremes, removing much of the chaotic behavior, revealing any underlying long term trends in climate, such as a long term increase or decrease in temperature, or long term shifts in precipitation patterns.

    Climate modelers are not trying to predict the weather at a specific place at a specific point in the distant future, they are projecting the most probable direction, sign and magnitude range of underlying trends in climate based on the underlying physics of the climate system and how much we have perturbed the climate and will continue to perturb it in the future.

    2. It is already irreversible. We have only begun to see the change in temperature and climate caused by the amount of CO2 that we have already added to the atmosphere (+38%), and it will continue to change until the ocean-atmosphere climate system fully responds to that addition. But of course, in the mean time we will continue to add more.

    Moreover, because the added carbon is now part of the active carbon cycle, which exchanges carbon into and out of the atmosphere naturally and permanently removes carbon from the cycle very, very slowly, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere will remain elevated for several centuries, unless we can come up with a way to draw down what we have added.

    3. Earth’s temperature has not been in decline for the past 10 years. The temperature record clearly shows this. The underlying trend clearly shows a positive slope, although that slope is not as steep as it was in the previous 20 years.

  39. 139
    Aaron says:

    I am a frequent visitor to Real Climate and Climate Audit. Unlike so many others I am only interested in the science and that of course leads one directly to the statistical mathematics behind the assertions about global warming. There is no doubt that despite all the emotional capital being invested into the debate, climate science is perched on a statistical argument and nothing more. How on earth could there be so much rancorous disagreement about the results? If a person is qualified to handle the data competently and also publishes the raw data and the mathematical treatments used to produce a particular result then all should be clear. Replication of these results may come in many forms but re analyzing the original data and use of modern statistical modalities in the hands of recognized experts in the fields of statistics and paleo-dendro-climatology ought not to be feared and is a perfectly acceptable form of applying the scientific method. This latest tree ring data re investigation is both refreshing and intellectually stimulating. I am glad to see that Briffa raw data has been released and hopefully his results will not only be validated but even more insight gained into the behavior of tree growth in the Russian Arctic circle and exactly how the resultant tree ring record is or is not a reliable indicator of temperature and if so, what it tells us about the Arctic climate record.

    Putting another set of eyes on the data by a recognized statistical wizard like McIntyre is nothing to be frightened of. If you actually read his comments, his motives are quite pure as I believe Briffa’s to be. Let’s allow these two men discuss this matter like gentleman and we will all benefit from the fruits of their labors. We are lucky to have them both. Name calling from either side is a just a waste of time. I for one am keenly interested in how this re analysis will ultimately play out and plan on keeping an open mind. And by the way, hats off to the two gnarly Russians Rashit Hantemirov and Stepan Shiyatov who did the dendro field work. How hard was that? Brrrrrr. They deserve the best efforts of the brightest we’ve got. If someone made an unintentional error, it will soon be obvious.

  40. 140
    jyyh says:

    I guess Dhogaza you meant by the answer to 2.When the AGW is irreversible? Never, that never is a quite long time.

  41. 141
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Jeff 1 October 2009 at 7:18 PM

    “But perhaps you can dispel my skepticism. Here are just a few questions…”

    I suppose it’s remotely possible that we’re hearing your own personally derived “skepticism”, but if you’d bothered to take a brief look at literally hundreds of other persons using exactly the same overworked, exhausted and factually bankrupt talking points in prior postings on this site, you’d understand why I personally think it highly unlikely that you’re actually seeking any answers here as opposed to making yet another ineffectual attempt at scoring rhetorical points.

    “If anyone has good answers to these questions, I’ll ask my follow ups.”

    The real enthusiasts here I’m sure would prefer to work with original material. Do you have any?

    Surely you can do better.

  42. 142
    vg says:

    I have a new found respect for this site today. You have allowed considerable questioning. This raises your profile well done!

  43. 143
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    I just can’t get into reading this entry or the article on which it’s based (total lack of time).

    However, I am taking time (since I’m writing an article on GW’s impact on food) to listen to the conference tapes and download the presentations of the Oxford conference: 4 Degrees & Beyond at

    According to a link Hank Roberts gave a while back, you can’t really talk to these people….they are beyond reasoning with. They’re pretty much like those fundies who refuse to believe in evolution and have even developed their own parallel & bogus science for creationism – see:

    The main point is: “You can’t reorganize village life to suit the village idiot.”

    Every sane person who cares about life on planet earth has to ignore these climate denialists.

  44. 144
    Hank Roberts says:

    > tides
    Aww, they don’t keep’em around for too long.

    Try this link:,+HI#

    Or a month from now, go back and look at Sept. 28-Oct. 1, for a particularly interesting period that’s just about over.

    (Looks like they lag the plotting of the archive by a month. You’ll see the difference between the two kinds of prediction and acquire an example by analogy that may help understand why having many observations over a long term makes long term projections workable, while not helping a lot with the short term detailed answer.
    weather prediction (minute by minute sea level); climate (tide)

  45. 145
    dhogaza says:

    I guess Dhogaza you meant by the answer to 2.When the AGW is irreversible? Never, that never is a quite long time.

    Actually, by now hopefully it’s apparent that I interpreted the question to mean “runaway warming” (ala Venus).

    Ray Ladbury (who I deeply respect) and Jim Eager (who I also deeply respect) interpreted it differently (more like “is it irreversible that it’s going to screw us?).

    I don’t know which of the interpretations of the question is correct, but I’m certain that our different answers are based on different interpretations of the Q.

  46. 146

    McIntyre does not impress, will never impress unless he does a guest blog here, on RC, and withstands criticism
    in one piece after a few days. This dialogue about him being full of pontifical nonsense flows one way, without a response, this silence is a buffer extending his life span as a legitimate skeptic by default, since he can’t stand the heat from real climate scientists left on the way side, crushing legitimate science away from any chance to reach a badly mislead audience, simply because he is more popular in the fringe right wing media world dwelling on sound bites and stupidity. Somehow, one day will come, he will have to face criticism in the first person by climate peers who can predict the future with a successful track record, and realize that popularity and being grossly misleading can be a tandem, and perhaps for him, it will not be too late to learn…

  47. 147
    dhogaza says:

    Now something interesting is happening at WUWT …

    Something that has long been observed at modern biology denialist sites (i.e. creationists) has been that when something embarrassingly wrong has been posted, and when it’s pointed out, a veritable flood of unimportant (but “on topic)” threads are started which cause the possibly embarrassing rebutted post to be pushed off the front page.

    I think we’re seeing this from WUWT, which after multiple top-posts on “Briffa and Mann are frauds” blah-blah, and after various challenges, has moved on.

    Last three headlines as I type this:

    “NASA Goddard climate scientist charged in nepotism money scheme”

    May be true, may not be true, but if true, what the hell does it have to do with science? And nothing to do with the screamfest.

    Then the old reliable “market proves climate science wrong” meme:

    “Carbon Credit Market Imploding: CCX now 10 cents a tonne”

    And most oddly, since tree ring analysis is so evil and wrong:

    “A tree ring study estimating past rainfall and drought shows the southeast USA drought was mild compared to past events”


    Without even reading the Watts post, I’d say that if the current devastating SE USA droughts are mild, than rather than be comforted by this fact, one might be asking “holy shit, and when they get worse as predicted?”

    Anyway, it appears that WUWT is pushing the “briffa fraud” posts off the front page …


  48. 148
    joshv says:

    Response: Fair enough, so here goes (a couple of allied quotes as well): 1) “In my opinion, the uniformly high age of the CRU12 relative to the Schweingruber population is suggestive of selection”, 2) “It is highly possible and even probable that the CRU selection is derived from a prior selection of old trees”, 3) “I do not believe that they constitute a complete population of recent cores. As a result, I believe that the archive is suspect.”,4) (Ross McKitrick) “But it appears that they weren’t randomly selected.”, 5) (Anthony Watts) “appears to have been the result of hand selected trees”, – gavin]

    1) You managed to omit the second half of this sentence – which says that the selection was most probably done by the Russians. “In my opinion, the uniformly high age of the CRU12 relative to the Schweingruber population is suggestive of selection – in this respect, perhaps and even probably by the Russians” Impressive intellectual honesty there Dr. Schmidt.

    2) Similarly, the rest of the quote speaks for itself:
    “The subfossil collection does not have the same bias towards older trees. Perhaps the biased selection of older trees an unintentional bias, when combined with the RCS method. This bias would not have similarly affected the “corridor method” used by Hantemirov and Shiyatov themselves, since this method which did not preserve centennial-scale variability and Hantemirov and Shiyatov would not have been concerned about potential bias introduced by how their cores were selected on a RCS chronology method that they themselves were not using.”

    3) Again, further down we see “This doesn’t “prove” that a selection was made, but it is reasonable to “suspect” that a selection was made and to ask CRU and their Russian associates to provide a clear statement of their protocols. ” McIntyre is not suggesting anything, he admits he doesn’t know the source of the selection, or the reasons behind it, and is asking for more data.

    Quotes 4) and 5) are not McIntyre’s and are not relevant to your accusations against him.

    [Response: Oh sure. He’s just ‘asking questions’ – and yet the innuendo and implication was perfectly clear to his friends and to the greek chorus and no correction of McKitrick’s or Watts’ comments were made. Strange that. At absolute minimum McIntyre is complicit in propagating slander – and if that makes you feel better about this, than good for you. It doesn’t do much for me. – gavin]

  49. 149
    Radge Havers says:

    PaulC at #17

    OK but I am troubled – I am a supporter of this site but I am a layman. I regularly debate issues with skeptics and rely on comments from the folks here to defend my position – mostly successfully I might add.

    Gavin’s response to your comments and to Jammer @ 87, plus Halldór Björnsson’s comment @109 and possibly some others make the case and should provide you with plenty to respond to deniers.

    Maybe this is tangential, but you got me to thinking. RC can sustain a well modulated tone because it’s well moderated. Elsewhere on the Internet, let’s face it, attacks on AGW are part of a pattern of using words as a proxy for violence. Responding to them is as much about responding to bullies and making their attempts at mob politics onerous as it about the science.

    Now I have occasionally seen a scientist enter the blogosmear and diffuse tension with an even tone, but that’s mainly because they have the strength of their expertise behind them. I can’t help thinking that things might be a little better if more of them had gotten more involved a little earlier, rather than disdaining to deal directly with the ignorant rabble. As it is, much of the defense of climate science gets left to cutting and pasting — not necessarily a bad thing in the sense that, unless you’re doing original science you are doing some form of cut and paste anyway.

    Lots of professions make the claim, but it really is true that the best and brightest minds are on the cutting edge of science. If a strategy can be found anywhere to deal effectively with this political mess, odds are that at least part of the solution can be found there. It’s one of the reasons I keep coming back to RC–for approaches, not just arguments.

    Anyway, here’s to success in dealing with the wingnuts!

  50. 150
    Bernard J. says:

    Gavin said:

    All of the data and models for any of our recent papers are online and downloadable by anyone. You must have us confused with someone else.

    which drew, from FredB, the response [at #21](

    Delighted to hear it. May I suggest that all future responses to McIntyre’s ravings should include the URL of the relevant archive. That would really help readers to judge for themselves.

    May I suggest FredB, that anyone who does not have the nouse to find by themselves the freely available files to which Gavin refers, probably does not also have the requisite understanding to analyse and interpret the data properly?