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The CRU hack: Context

Filed under: — gavin @ 23 November 2009

This is a continuation of the last thread which is getting a little unwieldy. The emails cover a 13 year period in which many things happened, and very few people are up to speed on some of the long-buried issues. So to save some time, I’ve pulled a few bits out of the comment thread that shed some light on some of the context which is missing in some of the discussion of various emails.

  • Trenberth: You need to read his recent paper on quantifying the current changes in the Earth’s energy budget to realise why he is concerned about our inability currently to track small year-to-year variations in the radiative fluxes.
  • Wigley: The concern with sea surface temperatures in the 1940s stems from the paper by Thompson et al (2007) which identified a spurious discontinuity in ocean temperatures. The impact of this has not yet been fully corrected for in the HadSST data set, but people still want to assess what impact it might have on any work that used the original data.
  • Climate Research and peer-review: You should read about the issues from the editors (Claire Goodess, Hans von Storch) who resigned because of a breakdown of the peer review process at that journal, that came to light with the particularly egregious (and well-publicised) paper by Soon and Baliunas (2003). The publisher’s assessment is here.

Update: Pulling out some of the common points being raised in the comments.

  • HARRY_read_me.txt. This is a 4 year-long work log of Ian (Harry) Harris who was working to upgrade the documentation, metadata and databases associated with the legacy CRU TS 2.1 product, which is not the same as the HadCRUT data (see Mitchell and Jones, 2003 for details). The CSU TS 3.0 is available now (via ClimateExplorer for instance), and so presumably the database problems got fixed. Anyone who has ever worked on constructing a database from dozens of individual, sometimes contradictory and inconsistently formatted datasets will share his evident frustration with how tedious that can be.
  • “Redefine the peer-reviewed literature!” . Nobody actually gets to do that, and both papers discussed in that comment – McKitrick and Michaels (2004) and Kalnay and Cai (2003) were both cited and discussed in Chapter 2 of 3 the IPCC AR4 report. As an aside, neither has stood the test of time.
  • “Declines” in the MXD record. This decline was hidden written up in Nature in 1998 where the authors suggested not using the post 1960 data. Their actual programs (in IDL script), unsurprisingly warn against using post 1960 data. Added: Note that the ‘hide the decline’ comment was made in 1999 – 10 years ago, and has no connection whatsoever to more recent instrumental records.
  • CRU data accessibility. From the date of the first FOI request to CRU (in 2007), it has been made abundantly clear that the main impediment to releasing the whole CRU archive is the small % of it that was given to CRU on the understanding it wouldn’t be passed on to third parties. Those restrictions are in place because of the originating organisations (the various National Met. Services) around the world and are not CRU’s to break. As of Nov 13, the response to the umpteenth FOI request for the same data met with exactly the same response. This is an unfortunate situation, and pressure should be brought to bear on the National Met Services to release CRU from that obligation. It is not however the fault of CRU. The vast majority of the data in the HadCRU records is publicly available from GHCN (v2.mean.Z).
  • Suggestions that FOI-related material be deleted … are ill-advised even if not carried out. What is and is not responsive and deliverable to an FOI request is however a subject that it is very appropriate to discuss.
  • Fudge factors (update) IDL code in the some of the attached files calculates and applies an artificial ‘fudge factor’ to the MXD proxies to artificially eliminate the ‘divergence pattern’. This was done for a set of experiments reported in this submitted 2004 draft by Osborn and colleagues but which was never published. Section 4.3 explains the rationale very clearly which was to test the sensitivity of the calibration of the MXD proxies should the divergence end up being anthropogenic. It has nothing to do with any temperature record, has not been used in any published reconstruction and is not the source of any hockey stick blade anywhere.

Further update: This comment from Halldór Björnsson of the Icelandic Met. Service goes right to the heart of the accessibility issue:

Re: CRU data accessibility.

National Meteorological Services (NMSs) have different rules on data exchange. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) organizes the exchange of “basic data”, i.e. data that are needed for weather forecasts. For details on these see WMO resolution number 40 (see

This document acknowledges that WMO member states can place restrictions on the dissemination of data to third parties “for reasons such as national laws or costs of production”. These restrictions are only supposed to apply to commercial use, the research and education community is supposed to have free access to all the data.

Now, for researchers this sounds open and fine. In practice it hasn’t proved to be so.

Most NMSs also can distribute all sorts of data that are classified as “additional data and products”. Restrictions can be placed on these. These special data and products (which can range from regular weather data from a specific station to maps of rain intensity based on satellite and radar data). Many nations do place restrictions on such data (see link for additional data on above WMO-40 webpage for details).

The reasons for restricting access is often commercial, NMSs are often required by law to have substantial income from commercial sources, in other cases it can be for national security reasons, but in many cases (in my experience) the reasons simply seem to be “because we can”.

What has this got to do with CRU? The data that CRU needs for their data base comes from entities that restrict access to much of their data. And even better, since the UK has submitted an exception for additional data, some nations that otherwise would provide data without question will not provide data to the UK. I know this from experience, since my nation (Iceland) did send in such conditions and for years I had problem getting certain data from the US.

The ideal, that all data should be free and open is unfortunately not adhered to by a large portion of the meteorological community. Probably only a small portion of the CRU data is “locked” but the end effect is that all their data becomes closed. It is not their fault, and I am sure that they dislike them as much as any other researcher who has tried to get access to all data from stations in region X in country Y.

These restrictions end up by wasting resources and hurting everyone. The research community (CRU included) and the public are the victims. If you don’t like it, write to you NMSs and urge them to open all their data.

I can update (further) this if there is demand. Please let me know in the comments, which, as always, should be substantive, non-insulting and on topic.

Comments continue here.

1,074 Responses to “The CRU hack: Context”

  1. 601
    Geoff Wexler says:

    Who wants proof? … of astroturfing.

    (Related topic).

    Near the end of a report by Justin Rowlatt on Obama’s energy policy (BBC2, 7PM), the recent activities of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity were described. (Apologies to those who know about this already). Congressmen received letters from various grass roots organisations who expressed opposition to the Climate Bill. It turns out that these letters were fakes. The ACCCE disowned the fakes and claimed that they had told congress about this (but only after the vote on the bill). Was it their fault ? ; No, after all, they have ‘clean’ in their title. Perhaps it was a bit of independent action by the PR firm they had hired? No? Because that PR company had hired another PR firm. Not them either? It appears that they are pinning the blame on an employee. I trust that the ACCCE refused to pay the first PR firm and they in their turn refused to pay the second PR firm.

    This recent hack may turn out to be harder to explain than diagnosing the causes of GW.

  2. 602
    Deep Climate says:

    #454 (and others on “decline” and “hiding” thereof)

    Since this is the site by and for real climate scientists, would somebody please explain the scientific basis for applying the “fudge factor” in the tree ring data programs below:

    ; PLOTS ‘ALL’ REGION MXD timeseries from age banded and from hugershoff
    ; standardised datasets.
    ; Reads Harry’s regional timeseries and outputs the 1600-1992 portion
    ; with missing values set appropriately. Uses mxd, and just the
    ; “all band” timeseries

    etc. etc.

    [Response: Without any context, you have no basis for your statements. What was this for? what paper did it appear in? was it even ever used? Track that down and then we can talk. – gavin]

    I’ve omitted the code and the OP’s comments.

    I’ve had an admittedly cursory look at the code above and that posted at WUWT. Some of the latter even includes what appears to be *output* warnings that certain series should not be plotted beyond certain dates as the results are not valid.

    So why the “fudge factors”? Admittedly, this is just preliminary speculation. But notice that these routines *plot* various series (no calibration or calculation). If one is plotting a series that stops in, say, 1960 or even 1980, alongside an instrumental record that is baselined to 1961-1990, one needs some way of baselining the proxy series to match up. But obviously one can’t use the deprecated part of the proxy series to do this.

    As I say, at this point it’s just speculation on my part. And I don’t even know where this code was used.

    But if I’m right, what we have here is yet another frothing tempest in a teapot.

  3. 603

    #383 Anand Rajan

    I join in the abhorrence of any such callous and ignorant attitude. It is a sad state of affairs that reason should be abandoned to such extent of inconsideration in discourse of such matters of import. Your argument here simply has not coherence with regard to knowledge and understanding of the science of climate as now understood.

  4. 604

    #320 Mark Gibb

    Global warming itself has more potential to destroy liberties than most other threats simply because it can not be so easily changed by a mere shift in thinking but requires a paradigm shift that translates to sufficient action that suffers from the law of diminishing returns over time. The longer we wait, the less capable we are to meaningfully reverse the course of the inertia and feedbacks in time to reasonably preserve civilization as we might like it to be.

    The subtle suggestion you make that free-market solutions will be a ‘cure all’ ignores the fact that our economy is predicated on a regulated fiat based market system that is polluted by special interests and legislative infiltration of conflicts of interest between objective transparent markets and the the current legislated reality which is in conflict with the premise of achievement of such liberty as one might desire.

    Ignorance is not bliss in this case, it’s dangerous and deadly.

  5. 605
    Phil M says:

    – I didn’t realise until this evening that the GISS GCM is available from your web-site
    – I think this is a commendable act of openness

    I am not sure how long this has been available, but I would be interested to hear what sort of feedback this has generated?
    – do you find that you get bombarded with nit-picking questions?
    – does it provide you with useful feedback (i.e. allowing others to run & verify your algorithms)?

    – obviously, this is WRT the openness with which CRU has operated….

    [Response: A little, people download it and run it and sometimes find issues with datasets or options. But it is a very minor part of our public communications. The people who worked on EdGCM had a much harder time of it. – gavin]

  6. 606
    Majorajam says:

    “Much of the major scientific thought over the ages has been reversed.” he opines via electromagnetic signal internally reflected in total through umpteen thousands of miles of optical fiber, received and interpreted by a miniaturized electric circuit capable of making billions of calculations per second for display and distribution to a world wide network of such machines.

    Irony is not your forte, is it sport?

  7. 607
    Phil M says:

    GISS GCM again
    – the other question is – do you find that knowing that the GCM is published on an open network, encourage you to make sure that all the data & algorithms are well maintained, commented & documented sufficiently?

    [Response: Maybe a little, but it’s already a full time job doing the development we need to do for ourselves, and so improvements in legibility, interfaces etc. are mostly driven by our own internal needs. – gavin]

  8. 608
    Deech56 says:

    RE David Gordon (sorry about the earlier typo):

    Followup from #458, #499: I am trying to figure out the truth of the matter here to my own satisfaction, and being directed to papers which don’t address the questions I am asking, or to key documents which are not available, does not serve to convince me that the conclusions drawn from this data and these methods are valid.

    I will repeat the key issues I am trying to resolve so that there should be no confusion.

    #1 Sample size: a) Are the 10-15 cores from Yamal considered enough to produce statistically significant results in this field of study? b) are the 16 sites noted in the referenced paper sufficient to establish statistically significant results for the planet as a whole?

    [Response: The more trees the better. The later period (post 1990) when there are only 12 would not be as well characterised as the earlier period. But Briffa’s comment on his website (google for the cached version) shows the results are very similar even when you add in more recently collected material. Note that we don’t need tree rings to know that the temperatures have warmed since 1990. – gavin]

    The cached version is somewhere (the text looks like it’s posted at Watt’s place as well), and the “caution” is here. The additional analysis which includes more living trees (up to 120) by Hantemirov and Shiyatov hasn’t been published, but the preliminary data can be found here (scroll down to the second Oct 8 update).

    For an answer to your sample size question, check out Esper 2003 (pp92-3). According to Esper, a sample depth of 5 or 6 samples at some times may be sufficient to produce a signal is RCS is used.

    One last thing – independent confirmatio nis a powerful tool. A number of proxies show similar results – it becomes difficult to attribute this to coincidence. Mann, et al. 2008 is a powerful paper, especially when viewed in the light of the NAS findings from several years before that. It is a good lesson on how science progresses.

  9. 609
    Deech56 says:

    RE EconRob

    People are getting weary of “pointy” head know-it-alls…

    Have you seen the pictures of Gavin and Michael Mann? “Pointy” head indeed! (Being follicularly challenged myself I am allowed to make that statement.)

  10. 610
    Rod B says:

    Richard Barrett (1067 of thread-1), I don’t strongly disagree with much of what you say, though your examples are sloppy. Except your last point (which is kinda on topic)” the public are the employer of civil servants only in the symbolic sense. In the specific and legal sense, like if they have carte blanche access to their emails e.g., they are not.

  11. 611
    Kate says:

    “We’re looking at the diversion of about A TRILLION DOLLARS OF INCOME from established industries to new ones. I imagine the established companies will do a lot before they’ll give that up.”

    Not as much as the new ones are doing to get it.

  12. 612

    #432 007

    Note that Lindzen is associated with Singer, and possibly, or even likely involved in the hack job that Singer pulled on Revelle. Singer admitted in testimony that he may have received comments from Lindzen, but his response was ambiguous. Lindzen himself is standing on his ‘Iris Effect’ which, by all reasonable indications, is an unsupportable hypothesis.

  13. 613
    Holly Stick says:

    Maybe some scientists should release all of their correspondence with certain denialists. For instance, how many stupid things has McIntyre written over thw last few years?

    But I suppose much of it would need annotation.

  14. 614
    m miller says:

    Mr. Elifritz,

    You are correct it is not just about science; it is about the perversion of objectivity, which is known as science. FYI other individuals beside the so called “teabaggers” are interested in the credibility of these rogue scientists.

  15. 615
    EconRob says:

    “Progressed” “reversed” whatever. The point is in science the truths we hold are often transitory. The AGW hypothesis is out there, data has been gathered, so why not continuous analysis by SKEPTICS? Seems like it would only “progress” the science. Something as big as AGW should attract the skeptics. It cannot hurt.

  16. 616

    Thank you for giving me ammunition for three correspondants who are serious deniers and are crowing about the news of the emails. I sit through the likes the effite Earl/Viscount Monckton that they sent me. And I send them references like this site. Still they nit pick. In that they think Fox News is fair and balanced, I should not be surprised facts do not deter their denials.

  17. 617

    #474 Adam
    #498 Shiv (this generally applies to you as well)

    It seems you are not being considerate of the contexts involved in the perspectives of the discussions. How can there be anything wrong with discussing and questioning things in the context of what the scientists know and see in the potentials of the science, as well as the means, methods or perspectives that may enable greater clarity in addressing a particular solution?

    Further, isolating specific lines (in the emails) outside of the overarching context is a disservice to substantive reason.

    Context is key.

    Also, Adam, since you did not post your full name, I wonder just how you have risked your reputation?

  18. 618
    Rattus Norvegicus says:

    How peer review really works!

    HT to Hank Roberts.

  19. 619
    FergalR says:

    Gavin, I genuinely like you. You have taken the brunt of this with calm aplomb. You are a great scientist. We both know that Svensmark is right. For the sake of your discipline please stand up like a man and admit that you were wrong. All you did was make a mistake, there was no malice involved, noone would have suspected cosmic rays. End this charade while “Hopenhagen” can still be easily averted. You’d be a hero just like Henrik, you know that. Happy Thanksgiving in any case. Have a good time.

    [Response: Thanks! But no thanks. – gavin]

  20. 620
    DocMartyn says:

    Gavin, have you and the rest of the team ever heard of the earthworm? In North America it was all but wiped out during the previous ice-age. It was introduced by the European colonists.
    Earth worms change the growth of all the plants that they share soil with. The European earth worm is a slow mover, about 1/125 of a mile per year. They are pretty slow mountaineers, but they do climb up to the snowline.
    They have a profound impact on tree growth*; generally in hardwoods, they increase the average growth, but at the same time they increase the sensitivity of the trees to moisture. Trees become less nutrient limited and more water limited.
    One cannot use dendroclimatology in North America unless one knows when the European earthworm was introduced at a particular site.
    However, you obviously must know about the impacts of earthworms on tree rings; so when did they appear in the White Mountains, the Inyo Mountains, and the Panamint Range in California?

    *DOI 10.1007/s10530-009-9523-3
    Tree rings detect earthworm invasions and their effects in northern Hardwood forests

  21. 621

    In comment #15, Gavin suggests some missing context, as follows:

    [Response: … De Frietas was the editor on the Soon and Baliunas (2003) paper – but I’m not sure what is referred to here. MM is likely to be McIntyre and McKitrick (2005) in E&E (a very poor choice of journal if they wanted to be taken seriously). …]

    Given the date on the email and the mention of De Frietas, I suggest that MM in this case is more likely to be a reference to McKitrick, R., and Michaels, P.J. (2004): A test of corrections for extraneous signals in gridded surface temperature data, in Climate Research, 26: pp 159–173.

    De Friestas is an editor of Climate Research and likely implicated in the publication of lousy papers like this one. There is a realclimate blog from 2004 on this: see Are Temperature Trends affected by Economic Activity?

  22. 622
    Jim Galasyn says:

    In case you haven’t heard: Competitive Enterprise Institute to sue RealClimate blogger over moderation policy

    Great, a nuisance suit to occupy Gavin’s time further. Time to organize a legal defense fund?

  23. 623
    R.C. says:

    Question: Does the RC community yet have a rebuttal to all the computer programmer types who’re analyzing HARRY_READ_ME.txt and the related code which ought to be able to, but apparently is not able to, replicate the published results from CRU?

    I ask, because when that community starts throwing around words like cluster**** and kluge and laughing about the utter unworkability of it all, it makes me wonder how the data was produced the first time around…?

    [Response: Have these savants realised that ‘Harry’ was working on CRU TS 3.0, a completely different product than the HadCRUT? Have they never worked on databases that bring together multiple sources of incompatible source data? Or ever debugged code (over a 4 year period)? Or occasionally got frustrated? Hmmm… – gavin]

  24. 624
    R.C. says:

    To Dan@567:

    “When new data comes forth that provides new conclusions, that is not “reversing”.”

    Well, no, it’s progress as you say.

    But that doesn’t mean the original poster was wrong; their intent was to point out that the new conclusions can turn out to be the complete opposite of the old ones…or, can turn out to contain the realization that we have insufficient data to MAKE conclusions (the equivalent of NULL results in database-speak).

    It seems to me that some deniers are saying, irresponsibly, that were the data widely available and the process for producing the published results replicated, the conclusions would be the opposite of what they were before. I’m not sure if they mean by that that the conclusions would predict cooling, or that the conclusions would predict no appreciable warming (presumably the latter).

    But the less-irresponsible ones seem to mean that the conclusions would somehow demonstrate that we have insufficient data, or insufficiently reliable models, to come to any conclusions with any amount of reliability. They’re predicting a “NULL” conclusion.

    This would not be a reversal of the previous conclusion. But it’d pretty well put the kibosh on any policy recommendations.

  25. 625
    mike roddy says:

    Since George Monbiot has been brought up here…

    His whole shocked apology is way out of proportion, and has been slingshot around all the far right denier sites. As good as he usually is, Monbiot suffers from liberal guilt delusions.

    This has enabled deniers to do things like frame the language (climate change, not global warming, skeptics, not deniers, etc), and even the terms of the debate itself- in spite of the fact that they have no scientific reality to support them. Liberals roll right over, wave their paws, and apologize, like Monbiot did here.

    Why engage them in nonsensical “debates” at all? Why pay attention to their outrage over the contents of personal emails that were most likely unearthed in the same manner as a Black Ops exercise? Why, in other words, treat them as equals in any fashion, since this is the crowd that basically has denied simple temperature readings and the radiative forcing characteristics of CO2?.

  26. 626
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Okay, it looks like “Copenhagen” is now closed for comment, so I’ll make it hre.

    I really appreciate all the hard work the climate scientists are doing under terrible TERRIBLE time constraints, so thank you for THE COPENHAGEN DIAGNOSIS.

    My meta-science science of this, having followed climate science since 1990, is there is a definite trend, which amounts to “It’s worse than we thought.” It seems almost a non-linear, accelerating trend, perhaps, “It’s much much worse than we thought.”

    Sort of reminds me of how the timeline divergence between chimps and humans kept getting shorter over the many decades I’ve been studying anthropology…..even scientists have a hard time accepting reality. Except, of course, in the case of climate change we’re talking about the life & death fate of the biosphere, not just how close certain monkey-face relatives are to us.

    BTW, those commie denialists are really bad actors. They’re a bunch of commies (an epithet I developed for a scifi novel, DOOMER, set in 2080….meaning “pro-commerce guys”). So, you commies, just keep away from decent folk, and stop making Eric mad.

  27. 627
    Dale Power says:

    I have a question in regards to the data that cannot be released. (since it is owned by people selling it, as are most intellectual properties int he world right now…)

    Would a non-scientist be allowed to purchase such data from the source?

    Would the “Denier” scientist in the pay (directly or indirectly) of big oil and coal comapnies be allowed to purchase and use this data?

    (Provided they sign and follow the non-disclosure agreements of course.)

    If the answer is yes, then why haven’t the deniers done their own models and studies using the data? Wouldn’t the best response here be to show that the “mainstream” scientists are simply incorrect by doing better work?

    Just something I have been wondering really. Because if they can purchase the data (and even if pricey, you can’t tell me that Exxon can’t aford it!) then what is the problem with not realeasing the raw data again?

  28. 628
    PKerr says:

    I do think one has to account for the huge body of people who have concern about whether this science makes sense. Unfortunately science has been overtaken by spin, politics, and money for the funding of good research or taxes.This tends to result in the polarised argument we are witnessing. Most people it seems, rely on the media for an explanation of science which is no longer reliable. I believe the sicentists discussions freely express this
    The research is a particular type of science which is very problematic indeed and I salute them for all the hard work and publications. However as in many areas a small group becomes the power brokers and exceptionally so in this case.
    Personal view is it is like programs fed by data which can not produce an easy answer
    Good science never mocks or scorns a skeptic for it is impossible to progress without them. Perhaps good will come of this for the data and emails speak for themselves.I do hope individuals will not be judged for loose talk but the science will stand or fall on its own merits

    [Response: The science does stand on it’s own. But not all sceptics are created equal. All you need to do to see this is to look at some of the other sites discussing this – there is all manner of crackpot theories and long debunked talking point getting a new airing. There is a reason why peer-review is there to screen the more inane stuff, and no-one should be apolgising for that. This clearly conflicts with our natural democratic urge to have a voice heard and not to restrict anyone’s free speech. But as Daniel Moynihan said “You can have your own opinion, but you cannot have your own facts”. Science is tough on non-facts. That is just how it works. – gavin]

  29. 629
    BJ_Chippindale says:


    I am observing a poisonous relationship because one exists. I actually reckon it to have existed since Mann and McIntyre first mixed it up, and I would be surprised if it mattered who fired the first barbed comment. The relationship is what it is. You are associated with Michael Mann, so McIntyre isn’t going to see you as anything but an enemy from the very start.

    I apologize for coming on harsh about this but I have changed my mind 4 times in the past week about what would best repair the PR problem we have. I am VERY grateful for the work you are doing here, as this is a resource without parallel. I am considering that “the best defense is a good offense”.

    The point with Michael Mann is that he is very much tied into the stoush with McIntyre… and replied in the affirmative to that FOIA e-mail. NOT a good look… yet I think now I was wrong about ANY resignations helping (you convinced me), but the alternative plan has to be that Jones puts himself on the line and answers questions raised and does so very comprehensively AND publicly, so there is a definitive rebuttal to the accusations in the public record that the press and the denialsphere cannot ignore.

    Unless you can think of something better.

    I’m sorry for coming across harsh but I’ve had about 15 hours of sleep in the last 5 days, largely over this, and largely because I DO NOT have personal knowledge of any of the individuals involved. I am trusting YOU in this because in your online presence here you have exhibited patience and have been providing real answers with science that I am able to understand. So I have learned to trust your judgment… and this IS about trust.

    What I said about this being a political issue is quite real… dealing with it is a matter of dealing with public perceptions, NOT with science. Can the public trust the protagonists? In order for us to get any traction with the public, success in the Senate, or at the Copenhagen conference they HAVE to… it isn’t like the average person understands the science. The APPEARANCE of anything that undermines that trust is quite sufficient to do great damage.

    I know that what Professor Jones does next is up to him, not you or me, but this is a PR problem that is unmanageable unless he moves and moves first – before there is a subpoena or an official political inquiry. A good offense, not reacting to official questions but meeting the challenges head-on.

    After Jones defends this e-mail record as I am sure that he can (I only hope that he understands that he MUST). He invites the opposition to a conference. We need something LIKE a conference or meeting, at which idiots like Wishart and Plimer and yes McIntyre state their case and those arguments get shot to pieces by Jones, and Briffa, and Hansen and Mann and yourself in near real time. A public debate in which the PUBLIC sees that the people who are working on naked opinion and shoddy analysis are not actually able to answer the science… that the scientists are real people who answer questions.

    I don’t know how to organize it, or where the money for it comes from (the news organizations?) or anything else… just that it is needed.

    What we cannot do is get angry. That is what worries me. You have the temperament for this. Not everyone does.

    You have my utter respect for the work you are doing.
    Don’t stop.


  30. 630
    Jonathan Fischoff says:

    After reading through the emails and reading a few blog posts at skeptics websites I’m wondering if it actually impossible to get the raw data for calculate the global mean temperature. I went to CRU and could only find intermediate data. Is it true that the original data was destroyed?

    [Response: No. All the original data is with the National Met services who it belongs to. – gavin]

  31. 631
    JDZ says:


    If you could entertain a novice question that would be great. Happy thanksgiving to you and yours!

    I fish the atlantic ocean and the upper and lower Delaware bay regularly. A few years ago, the bay vater temps columns never inverted leaving the first few feet at or slightly below air temp but anywhere between 20 to 100 feet the water temp could only be described as frigid. Pulling a fish from depth was like holding on to a beer can just pulled out from the tailgate cooler!

    This anomaly lasted the entire summer. The bay was as expected void of dinner fish and most of the old salts thought the bay was dead.

    Local reports were blaming everything from AGW to dumping but it was obvious to anyone that knew anything was that the rules of the road for bait fish had changed that year.

    I checked with those in the know and for the most part the unusual temp profile was caused by persistent off shore winds. However, that did not stop the universities in question to speculate and forward some rather interesting causes, most bogus.

    My question to you Sir is this; How can we produce accurate measures on climate change when in effect our universities can not distinguish true natural phenomenon from man made activity? Like the local On-Air Meteo, that does not bother to look out the window for his short term forecast, I believe there is much common sense being lost to brain cell deducements.

    I digress, what my question is how much can anyone in your field be sure OF AGW when,(when not one Local Scientist bothered to report the truth that year)there are just so many variables that we do not have record of, and like the wind variation on Delaware bay that year, are so impactful and not forecasted yet never mentioned?



    [Response: Get yourself a better informed local university! There is no excuse for some of the ‘pop’ attributions that people sometimes make when there some event and a microphone is thrust under someone’s nose. Proper attribution is hard, and it isn’t going to be done on the morning news. – gavin]

  32. 632
    Jack Kelly says:

    OK, this is getting stranger and stranger. This is slightly off topic but bear with me… I left a supportive comment earlier in this thread (comment #8 on “The CRU hack”) and I’ve had two emails today, both disagreeing with my comment. I supplied my web address with the comment and my website has a “contact me” form. Has anyone else had any private contact as a direct result of posting on this thread?

    Here are the emails I received today in response to my RealClimate comment:

    ——–EMAIL 1———–
    DATE = 25 November 2009 03:51 (GMT)
    FROM = me
    IP = resolves to
    “” (geolocation = San Francisco)
    Top Level Domain: “”

    SUBJECT: “e mails”

    BODY: “what a pile of crap”

    ——–EMAIL 2———–
    DATE = 25 November 2009 21:18 (GMT)
    FROM = John
    IP = resolves to
    “” (geolocation = canada)
    Top Level Domain: “”

    SUBJECT = “sick with fear”

    BODY = “Jack…..get a grip….what are you sick about….that the data used to ‘predict’ climate change has proven to be falsified, that your high priests have been exposed, that climate change can’t be stopped by humans…’re afraid, according to your post, that non-existant AGW can’t be stopped. You are confused.”


    (my original post on this thread ended with “I feel sick with fear at our chances [of] averting dangerous climate change.”)


    This is just getting wierder and wierder. I have never, ever had anyone contact me privately to disagree with me due to a comment I left on a blog post (and I’ve been commenting on blog posts for roughly as long as blogs have existed). Of course, it is entirely possible that these two emails were sent by completely separate individuals who are both convinced that AGW is false and that I’m an idiot for “believing” the evidence. But the language is too strange (how can *data* be falsified? I though *theories* were falsified?!?) I could be entirely wrong and I’m about to indulge in the kind of conspiracy theory that I accuse sceptics of flirting with but this smells like a concerted anti-Copenhagen campaign to me. Has anyone else received emails like list?

  33. 633
    Robert.I says:

    203: [Response: Not true. You can verify using other methods and other data and in the end that’s much more important. – gavin]

    Gavin, I have given this response a lot of thought and the conclusion I have come up with would be to generally disagree. Please let me explain my reasoning.

    1) Comparing between proxies, datasets, mothodology etc would not be comparing like for like. If two cats breed and two dogs breed, the cats are not going to give birth to dogs!

    2a) Part of the scientific method and peer review is to ensure that other parties can, without bias, replicate the original findings, verify there are no mathematical errors (for example) in the method and verify the same conclusions.

    2b) It is a requirement of all major science journals that methods/data/code etc is published to enable verification. It is false to assume that papers published in the peer reviewed literature are correct until verified, hence the requirements.

    However, I do agree with you on the following point;

    3) Verification of general, but not direct outcome can be made using other methods, however the criteria would have to be very precise. Tree rings in Yamal verified by local raw weather station data around the Yamal samples + local lake sediments etc should in theory correlate together in a general way, but we would have to presume a reasonable error margin for this to be acceptable.

    I hope that you see where I am coming from and would appreciate feedback.

    Happy thanks giving from over the pond!

    [Response: Let me give you an example. A Greenland ice core is drilled, the samples analysed and very surprising amounts of climate variability is found in the last ice age and the last interglacial. What is replication here? rechecking all their ice (now water) samples and looking in detail at their code to do the 20 year smoothing they published? Maybe. But far more interesting is a completely independent effort, done by different people, with different mass specs, drilled 50 km away. The results end up replicating almost exactly down to about 100,000 years ago, and then diverge dramatically. Conclusion? The ice age stuff is solid, the earlier stuff is not. Much more satisfying and much more informative than the simple and uninformative approach you suggest. The key here is that the specific core is only an means to an end (understanding climate change), and it is the end that needs replicating, not each of the specific means. – gavin]

  34. 634
    J SMITH says:

    God, REALCLIMATE has now turned into any other site which gets swamped by self-(badly)taught, unscientific, preening Global Warming denialists. I hope you can soon return to the scientific and informative site you used to be (free from the swarm of self-appointed ‘guardians of tax-payers dollars’ and ‘freedom-fighters against elitist scientists’) because it is now boring and tiresome trawling through the denialist chaff.
    Bring back the science – that’ll scare off the denialists !

  35. 635
    Blair Dowden says:

    Who are “those who supply the data”, and why do they not release it to the public? After all, this is data about the temperature of the Earth, probably gathered by research paid for by public funds. And how can papers be published based on data that cannot be verified?

    [Response: National Met Offices around the world (though not the US) often have a mandate to commercialize their data and their forecasts. Thus they often provide academics with data on the understanding that it won’t be passed on to third parties which might undercut their commercial services. I think this is mostly unnecessary, but it is hard to change. Write to your representatives and tell them. – gavin]

    This all seems so unnecessary. I do not believe there is anything to hide, but it sure can be spun to look that way. I think the only solution to this circus is to have a fast and impartial public inquiry. What I have seen so far suggests an attitude problem, but I doubt there is any real misconduct. Lets prove that, and get on with the real science.

  36. 636
    Joe Duarte says:

    Hi Gavin,

    Have you seen this?:

    FYI — The author is a well-known figure in the open source software community:

    I don’t know what to make of the code he is analyzing, and I’d welcome a response from someone at RC.

    The real problem I’m having with this episode is gauging its relevance within the larger context of the science of ACC/AGW. You seem to be taking the position that it’s irrelevant. Not being a climate scientist, I don’t have the full context and knowledge of the extant work, or the logical hierarchy of the various findings, datasets, etc.

    I take it that your position is that there is no data spinning, cherry-picking, or biased modeling documented by the e-mails that undermines any critical assumptions that underlie the broader findings in the science of ACC. Correct?

    The big issue here is that we need to be able to trust climate scientists to police themselves — because no one else is in a position to do it. If climate scientists are going to hide data, ignore requests for data, spin data, or demonize dissent, then we have a credibility problem. Now maybe this whole thing is overblown, but some of the e-mails sure seem to raise a trust issue in the reasonable layman. It’s a very strange situation.

  37. 637
    GlenFergus says:

    1600 comments and counting. And 386 in-line reponses (I made that up).

    Your stamina is breathtaking. Erstwhile Eric needs some of it, over on that other thread. (Congrats to his team, and UNSW, for one of the clearest summaries of a complex matter for a non-speċialist audience that I’ve ever seen.)

  38. 638
    Willie says:

    Free the data and the code that make up the models.

    Publish properly documented code and the data into a public repository.

    You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

  39. 639
    Mike Sigman says:

    Gavin, I’m not sure you realize it, but this is too big of a jam to dismiss with “none of it was really wrong”. Maybe a tad bit of judicious “this part was wrong and this part was justified”? Otherwise your reputation, such as is left, will go down in infamy. This is too big and there was too much obvious partisanship on the part of RealClimate’s pronouncements:


    [Response: We are interested in the science. Not in debating whether particular scientists are nice to their colleagues or not. None of that will matter a damn in a year’s time. Does this impact the science? No. (If you think differently, then point out which one of these points you think have been refuted in the last week). But clearly, there are some real concerns out there about peer-review and data accessibility. They need to be acknowledged, regardless of my opinion about whether the cause of those concerns are really valid or not. – gavin]

  40. 640
    charles says:

    The coders are going through the data files now and by all reports they are a mess and there are some pretty damning comments. What do you have to say about the samples below? Thx for your response.

    The problem is that the synthetics are incorporated at 2.5-degrees, NO IDEA why, so saying they affect particular 0.5-degree cells is harder than it should be. So we’ll just gloss over that entirely ;0)

    As far as I can see, this renders the station counts totally meaningless.

    It also means that we cannot say exactly how the gridded data is arrived at from a statistical perspective

    Worked out an algorithm from scratch. It seems to give better answers than the others, so we’ll go with that.

    These are very promising. The vast majority in both cases are within 0.5 degrees of the published data. However, there are still plenty of values more than a degree out.

    [Response: Work in progress. Why is this shocking? – gavin]

  41. 641
    The Raven says:

    “this is a PR DISASTER”

    And this is blaming the victim.

  42. 642
    rockpaperscissors says:

    CO2 and IR. That is all that is really needed to make the case. All the computer modeling and additional surface temp stations were money consuming and energy wasting and unnecessary. Some genius thought it was a forgone conclusion what the stations would show. And another set of geniuses thought the models would work (and with a 50/50 chance of being randomly right, they all still missed). As someone who has seen teams with virtually unlimited Cray time trying to model how car parts “should” behave, I can tell you there’s no chance of modeling ‘climate’ in any fashion that will withstand skeptic scrutiny or the test of time. It is a fool’s errand.

    Now, since the models failed to predict what the surface stations showed, we’re stuck having to lie and cajole. We are way off-message.

    “Hide the decline” ??? How’s that as fodder for the skepticsphere? What genius could write such a phrase? Gavin, your apologetic energy is amazing, almost Jesuit-like, but what do you do with that one? There is no context in which that would be defensible. Sorry, Mann and Co. are being hoisted on their own petard and deserve no mercy. Good riddance. If the movement doesn’t come clean, police itself, deal with this harshly, it will invite others to do so and be weakened, and possibly even fail. This is a defining moment.

  43. 643
    David Miller says:

    In 534 Theranga says:

    On the other hand, couldn’t McIntyre just sweet-talk the CEI into buying him the commercial data sets?

    I personally doubt McIntyre even wants the data. It sounds to me like he knows there’s nothing to be gained from it vs the freely available sets.

    If he gets the data he’ll lose the whole story line that they’re hiding something.

  44. 644
    Terry Rambrine says:

    Re: 545

    Taxpayers fund your research. Nondisclosure is not an option, if you want to retain your credibility. It seems to me climate scientists should acknowledge the inherent problem of nondisclosure and work hard to fix it. It really does not matter why you cannot release the data. Nonscientists will not trust the science until the process is 100% transparent.

  45. 645
    JimM says:

    I guess I’ve been around long enough to see more than a few scientific “facts” be later found to be mistakes, and theories that we were fairly certain of be ultimately disproven. So whenever I see scientists or pseudo-scientists on either side of an issue become absolutely convinced that they are right, and others are wrong, my alarm bells go off. And when those scientists begin arrogantly demeaning those who disagree, I realize that science has taken a back seat to ego.

    I would caution those involved in these discussions, no matter how highly you regard your own expertise on the issues, to remember that a true scientist is always questioning, and is always open to the possibility that he/she might be wrong. Especially on an issue that can likely never be proven in any of our lifetimes.

  46. 646
    BJ_Chippindale says:

    Jeff Masters

    Thank you! That is an excellent site documenting the way the science and scientists are being slimed.


  47. 647
    ctwardy says:


    Reasonable explanations on the technical matters, but I wish you had a better answer regarding the apparent FOIA denials. When you get a chance?


  48. 648
    David Miller says:

    Manacker #494 and J.Bob in 529:

    If you think Arctic sea ice has recovered you might take a peek here. We may not have hit the lows in ice extent at the end of September, but for the last month we’ve been matching its lows in re-establishment.

    Given the 2007 low during the 2006-2007 el-nino, and that we’re currently entering an el-nino, and that we have significant lows for both ice extent and ice thickness, I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that we will see a record low arctic ice extent in 2010.

    What I’m really curious about is the effect a more-open arctic will have on weather patterns in the northern hemisphere. I’m afraid that’s one of Rummy’s “unknown unknowns” and that we have no historical data with which to test models. I’d love to hear I’m wrong on that count.

  49. 649
    Roger says:

    VERY HARSH WORDS from George Monbiot, a leading environmentalist, said Phil Jones should resign
    from the Climatic Research Unit over leaked emails that appear to show
    researchers suppressed scientific data.

    Monbiot: ‘I am now convinced that they are genuine, and I’m dismayed and
    deeply shaken,’ he said. ‘There are some messages that require no spin to
    make them look bad. There appears to be evidence of attempts to prevent
    scientific data from being released, and even to destroy material that
    was subject to a Freedom of Information request. Worse still, some of
    the emails suggest efforts to prevent the publication of work by climate
    sceptics, or to keep it out of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on
    Climate Change. The head of the unit, Phil Jones, should now resign.
    Some of the data discussed in the emails should be re-analysed.’

    The defenses put forth on RC are so much like the Wizard of Oz…
    “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

    These pourloined e-mails reflect terribly on the case for AGW, and
    it’s amazing to me to read the cries for prosecuting the “Deep Throat.”

  50. 650
    Gnrnr says:


    Is there any truth to the NZ temperature raw data being adjusted to increase the appearance of warming? This is being discussed on WUWT at the moment and I’d like to know how you explain this kind of raw data adjustment.

    In the field i am in, adjustment of raw data is a fairly large no-no.


    [Response: No clue. But if WUWT thinks it wrong, odds on it’s fine. On your more general point, there is a long way between raw weather records that were made for immediate use in understanding weather and turning that into a climate quality data set. Stations move, the instruments change, the time at which the measurements are taken, cities grow, trees grow etc. All of these things can create false trends. Therefore everyone needs to homogenise the data before you can trust it for climate trends. Unfortunately we can’t go back to the 19th Century to do it properly, and so we have to make do the best we can. – gavin]