RealClimate logo

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. 201
    James Tait says:

    From point 174:

    FOI requests regarding data/confidentiality agreements. Pass the FOI onto the RO of your sponsor. Let them deal with it. You cannot release confidential data that does not belong to you nor should you put your head in the sand.

  2. 202
    Paul Harris says:

    Just want to add my name to the list of those who have congratulated Gavin in particular and RealClimate as a whole for their work here.

    Also to support the pithy comments on skeptics made by dhogaza in comment 156:)

  3. 203
    Robert.I says:

    I’m still waiting for a rational explanation as to why researchers should release data they’ve only gotten access to by signing agreements stating they wouldn’t release it.

    I’m still waiting for a rational explanation as to why, if researcher A says “I can’t release data from B”, denialists just don’t get off their lazy ass and ask for data from “B” rather than file FOI requests trying to force researcher A to violate the agreement entered into. And then why the FOI filer bitches when the FOI compliance officer says “sorry, we can’t do that”.

    Explain it to me in baby-steps so I can understand, please.
    Comment by dhogaza — 23 November 2009 @ 7:22 PM

    I would suggest that it isn’t just about the raw data. It’s also about the processes that “B” employed to produce their results. I am sure you will agree that transparency in science is critical for searching out the truth. Science only becomes credible when independent verification of Data + Verified Methods = Results is achieved. I must admit, I don’t understand why there needs to be agreements in place between A and B except for revenue purposes. Surely the agreement, if not for revenue, is a direct violation of the scientific method? On this basis, results that are not verifiable from data + method are not credible.

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

  4. 204
    AMac says:

    I wrote Comment #128 (23 novembre 2009 @ 1:57 PM, supra) on the use of Lake Korttajarvi varve proxies by Mann et al (PNAS, 2008). Gavin, thanks for addressing this question. While your response is detailed, it unfortunately contains some assertions that may mislead readers unfamiliar with these issues.

    (1) Upside-down is upside-down–truncated or not.

    [Response: Kaufmann et al fixed it in their correction as they discussed in the email. – gavin]

    (2) Mann et al’s main test of the potentially problematic proxies was the original Fig. S8a, which showed their exclusion made no difference at al. At the Penn State website but not at, the corrected Fig. S8a shows that the inclusion of Lake Korttajarvi proxies do affect the reconstruction.

    [Response: Your threshold for a significant difference is clearly different from mine. I don’t see one if you remove the ‘7 problem’ proxies. – gavin]

    (3) The reasoning you offer after eyeing Mann et al’s first-round non-inclusion results has interesting implications, beyond the scope of this brief comment.

    (4) The peer-reviewed literature stands in error. Hacked CRU email 1252154659.txt appears to demonstrate that the PNAS paper’s authors are aware of this error. Should it be corrected?

    [Response: The issue was acknowledge and the appropriate sensitivity test is already included in the PNAS paper. There is no point in anything else. – gavin]

    I concur that this topic was covered at Stoat; interested parties can follow arguments there, profiting as well from reading other blogs where dissenting viewpoints are better-tolerated.

  5. 205
    EL says:

    160 – “nfortunately one cannot assume just because the IP address used was one assigned to a computer in Turkey that in fact that (or any other specific) computer was actually part of the attack. The ability to “spoof” IP addresses is rather widely known and attempting to track down the computers actually used is rather a nightmare and best left to speciialists.”

    I agree, and I sent Gavin an email on the subject.

    I don’t know how much time the FBI would be willing to commit to an investigation of a security breach on a blog. The CRU hack will be taken far more seriously. I would send the IP to them in case he or she used different IP’s in the attacks.

  6. 206
    dhogaza says:

    However badly I feel for fellow scientists this is a lesson to us all. Do not ignore FOI requests.

    They weren’t ignored. McIntyre’s FOI request was turned down by the compliance officer (not the correct bureaucratic label, which I forget, but functionally that’s the person’s job). McIntyre appeal. Rejection: upheld.

  7. 207
    Rod says:

    Kind of interesting how all of this came up around the time that McIntyre started to have an epiphany that was leading him to doubt the viability of tree ring proxies.

  8. 208
    Ike Solem says:

    Paul Hudson – that rings a bell, because he wrote one of the most atrocious articles on climate I’ve ever seen recently:

    Headline: “What happened to global warming?”

    “But it is true. For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures…

    A disingenuous appeal to tobacco scientists? Yes:

    But one solar scientist Piers Corbyn from Weatheraction, a company specializing in long range weather forecasting…claims that solar charged particles impact us far more than is currently accepted, so much so he says that they are almost entirely responsible for what happens to global temperatures. He is so excited by what he has discovered that he plans to tell the international scientific community at a conference in London at the end of the month. If proved correct, this could revolutionise the whole subject.”

    The “global cooling” myth was repeated by Andy Revkin at the NYT:

    The world leaders who met at the United Nations to discuss climate change on Tuesday are faced with an intricate challenge: building momentum for an international climate treaty at a time when global temperatures have been relatively stable for a decade and may even drop in the next few years… The plateau in temperatures has been seized upon by skeptics…

    NYT – 23 Sept 2009
    BBC – 9 Oct 2009

    Such myths have been dispelled, thanks to RC. Here’s an excerpt:

    “It is noteworthy in this context that despite the record low in the brightness of the sun over the past three years (it’s been at its faintest since beginning of satellite measurements in the 1970s), a number of warming records have been broken during this time. March 2008 saw the warmest global land temperature of any March ever recorded in the past 130 years. June and August 2009 saw the warmest land and ocean temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere ever recorded for those months. The global ocean surface temperatures in 2009 broke all previous records for three consecutive months: June, July and August. The years 2007, 2008 and 2009 had the lowest summer Arctic sea ice cover ever recorded, and in 2008 for the first time in living memory the Northwest Passage and the Northeast Passage were simultaneously ice-free. This feat was repeated in 2009. Every single year of this century (2001-2008) has been warmer than all years of the 20th Century except 1998 (which sticks out well above the trend line due to a strong El Niño event)…”

    So, what do we have here but deliberate distortion of the facts by these major press reporters assigned to the climate beat? These two reporters might as well be employed by some fossil fuel think tank as by “legitimate and reputable news sources.”

    Is there some reputable news source we can use to put this little event into context? Sure – but we have to go back a few years:

    To spell it out:

    There are clear similarities between the language used and the approaches adopted by Philip Morris and by the organisations funded by Exxon. The two lobbies use the same terms, which appear to have been invented by Philip Morris’s consultants. “Junk science” meant peer-reviewed studies showing that smoking was linked to cancer and other diseases. “Sound science” meant studies sponsored by the tobacco industry suggesting that the link was inconclusive. Both lobbies recognised that their best chance of avoiding regulation was to challenge the scientific consensus. As a memo from the tobacco company Brown and Williamson noted, “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.” Both industries also sought to distance themselves from their own campaigns, creating the impression that they were spontaneous movements of professionals or ordinary citizens: the “grassroots”.

    Clearly, this is just such an event – but apparently, the fossil fuel lobby has far more sway over what reporters at the NYT and BBC cover than these institutions pretend – conclusion, they are not independent “news sources” but are rather acting more like “perception managers” who spin stories to please their advertisers and shareholders.

    By the way, there’s only one reason for Paul Hudson to keep it secret – timing. The fossil fuel lobby wanted to release this directly before Copenhagen in order to make the maximum impact on the discussions and hopefully kill off legally binding climate agreements.

    If Paul Hudson and others went along with that plan, then they are merely PR agents posing as reporters, very similar to those PR agents who pose as scientists.

  9. 209
    JBowers says:

    Can anyone tell me if this paper is published and/or peer reviewed?:

    “Recent unprecedented tree-ring growth in bristlecone pine at the highest elevations and possible causes

    1. Matthew W. Salzera,1,
    2. Malcolm K. Hughesa,
    3. Andrew G. Bunnb and
    4. Kurt F. Kipfmuellerc

    + Author Affiliations

    1. Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721;
    2. Department of Environmental Sciences, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225; and
    3. Department of Geography, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455


    Edited by Harold A. Mooney, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, and approved September 28, 2009 (received for review March 19, 2009)


    Great Basin bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) at 3 sites in western North America near the upper elevation limit of tree growth showed ring growth in the second half of the 20th century that was greater than during any other 50-year period in the last 3,700 years. The accelerated growth is suggestive of an environmental change unprecedented in millennia. The high growth is not overestimated because of standardization techniques, and it is unlikely that it is a result of a change in tree growth form or that it is predominantly caused by CO2 fertilization. The growth surge has occurred only in a limited elevational band within ≈150 m of upper treeline, regardless of treeline elevation. Both an independent proxy record of temperature and high-elevation meteorological temperature data are positively and significantly correlated with upper-treeline ring width both before and during the high-growth interval. Increasing temperature at high elevations is likely a prominent factor in the modern unprecedented level of growth for Pinus longaeva at these sites.
    Author contributions : M.W.S. and M.K.H. designed research; M.W.S., M.K.H., and A.G.B. performed research; M.W.S., M.K.H., A.G.B., and K.F.K. analyzed data; and M.W.S., M.K.H., A.G.B., and K.F.K. wrote the paper.

    The authors declare no conflict of interest.”

    Full text:

    [Response: Yes. See here. – gavin]

  10. 210
    lucia says:


    [Response: Now that’s interesting. Is there a shield law in the UK? Otherwise not reporting knowledge of ongoing criminal activity might be a little tricky to deal with. – gavin]

    There appears to be a shield law for whistle blowers discussed in comments at VC. I don’t know if there are other shield laws.

    Until we know the identity of the person who leaked the information and how they obtained it, it’s difficult to speculate whether a reporter holding the information since October and not reporting it would have been involved in anything tricky to deal with.

    One might imagine any BBC reporter would have had access to legal staff with whom to share information when deciding how to proceed with investigation of the story.

    [Response: Note: My above comment is withdrawn after the confusion pointed out above. – gavin]

  11. 211
    Eli Snyder says:

    Re: 90

    “It is exactly this attitude, that we must save the world, that has caused these people to forget their scientific training, so that the end justifies the means, and science violations occur.”

    I have one more thing to say about this. I think you are completely mistaken — if anybody has stepped outside the bounds of legitimate scientific behavior (I am not willing to stipulate that, but for the sake of argument…), I think it is in response to the highly unscrupulous attack made against these scientists by people of… shall we say, questionable moral character.

    That has been the most distinct impression I’ve had in going over these emails — I think the ruthlessness of the attack and its complete lack of intellectual integrity threw these scientists for a loop, causing them to become overly defensive and closed off.

    Scientists are used to defending themselves from attack from other real scientists, which is not truly hostile in intent and can be defended with logic, reason and evidence. They are not normally subjected to brutal assault by political hacks who will twist and distort any defense they attempt to make to serve an obstructionist agenda.

    In my experience scientists are normally quite open in talking about their work, but you find in these emails instances of people telling each other things to the effect of, “don’t talk to these people, you know how they’re going to use anything you say.” That’s not normal or healthy, and to the extent that the usual openness of the scientific process has been subverted, I think that’s why.

    This current episode is certainly not helping. If you actually want to encourage genuine scientific openness, stop viciously attacking scientists for everything they say and instead engage in honest intellectual discourse!

    Judy Curry posted a good essay about this over at CA actually, and I think she made some very good points.

  12. 212
    Robert.I says:

    [Response: All of the above. But the use of tree-rings for temperature means looking for places and situations where temperature is the dominant control. See here for instance. There is also a book by Fritts that is worth googling. – gavin]

    Gavin, thank you for the link. One observation is that ring width at -1800 is very nearly the same for 2000. Let’s assume that ring widths are dominantly influenced by temperature. This suggests that -1800 was nearly equally as warm as 2000 and suggests a primary influence of natural origins (-1800, that is) Would this be a reasonable assumption?

    Secondly, How do we differentiate dominant temperature to optimal growing conditions/ influences caused by previous suggestions? Why would there be a divergence from 1960 onwards?

  13. 213
    Anne van der Bom says:

    23 November 2009 at 7:13 PM

    to make policy that will be seriously damaging to the quality of life enjoyed by those in the developed world

    I don’t expect to suffer much from charging my electric car with solar/wind/nuclear power instead of filling it up with petrol. Even at twice the current energy price, that electric car will be cheaper to run. But thanks anyway for your concern.

    (B.t.w. I think the ‘back to the stone ages’ argument is alarmism of the other kind)

    I agree with you on the rest of your post. Climate models have their value in predicting what is heading our way so we can prepare. But you definitely don’t need them to decide whether to cut CO2 emissions or not.

    Humanity fiddling with the climate feels about as safe as Homer Simpson at the control panel of a nuclear plant.

  14. 214
    Johny says:

    “politically-motivated nonsense”

    But you feel obligated to label everything you don’t like as such?

    [Response: Not in the slightest. I have many scientific disagreements with colleagues but these are usually about real uncertainties about which we have still to come to a satisfactory conclusion. Obviously I think I’m right and they’re wrong – but that isn’t always how it works out of course. But constant and strident claims that ‘it’s all the sun’/’CO2 is saturated’/’CO2 rise is natural’/’It’s volcanoes’/’Models can’t be trusted!’ etc. etc. is politically motivated nonsense. Not something I hear much of at conferences funnily enough. – gavin]

  15. 215
    Paul H says:


    I’m withdrawing my comment regarding Paul Hudson. For the record Paul Hudson did not mean this current set of emails in his blog post (i.e. the he was referring to a set of emails sent to him as a chain from various commentors within the climate community. I apologise for any negative aspersions I cast.

    [Response: Noted. I’ll remove the comment to prevent confusion spreading. – gavin]

  16. 216
    AMac says:

    Re: earlier two Comments on the Lake Korttajarvi varve proxies.

    The corrected version of Mann et al. Fig. S8a that is currently at the Penn State website has two Temperature Anomaly traces that are nearly-identical: “original NH CPS” (black) and “NH CPS minus 7” (green).

    The corrected version of Mann et al. Fig. S8a that I downloaded from that site circa 11/4/09 had two Temperature Anomaly traces that were not wholly superimposable: “original NH CPS (green) and “NH CPS minus 7” (black).

    I have uploaded these files to BitBucket: earlier version and later version.

    I am not aware of text at the Penn State website or at PNAS that explains why or when the one file was replaced by the other. I am not aware of an explanation for the discrepancy between the two “NH CPS minus 7” traces (green line in the earlier file, black line in the later one).

  17. 217
    Juan says:

    Okay, you answered my question in the last thread, but I fear that you may not have understood me. Basically, despite one of the graphs being “prettied up” for presentation, the original data in constructing the graph remains unaltered. Am I correct in assuming that? Sorry for repeating the question, but when I first posted it, it was grammatically awful and incoherent. Though you did answer “of course”. Much appreciation in advance.

    [Response: Yes. All of the original data is downloadable from NOAA. – gavin]

  18. 218
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Ghillie says, “These are not the issues for me. The law is. The people at CRU are public servants, and there is no case for their work correspondence to be “private”. In UK, government officials’ correspondence is “in the public domain” from the moment it is signed off.”

    Bullshit. You are as ignorant in matters of law as in matters of science. The emails and all other records belong to the institution employing the scientists unless the grant explicitly states otherwise.

    However, the real question is why scientists should be treated as criminals merely for doing their job!

  19. 219
    David Gordon says:

    >[Response: You know as much as we do. And we aren’t privvy to the rest of everyone’s emails. However, the answers to his questions are probably addressed in the pages that Briffa put up in response to the Yamal brouhaha. The cru server is down but the Google cache still has them: google “briffa yamal”. – gavin]

    Thanks for the response. There are a lot of hits on that search term, but when I add “+Keiller” or “+Kieller” no results are returned. If you are in communication with someone who can provide an authoritative answer, please pass on my email address and question.

  20. 220
    JBowers says:

    [edited to prevent escalation of confusion]

    May be pertinent:

    “In the UK, journalists are protected from revealing their sources by the Contempt of Court Act of 1981. It provides that: “No court may require a person to disclose … the source of information contained in a publication for which he is responsible, unless it can be established to the satisfaction of the court that disclosure is necessary in the interests of justice or national security or for the prevention of disorder or crime.”

    In 2001, the High Court in London ruled that the Contempt of Court Act did not protect individuals who wrote anonymously on the discussion boards of finance websites Motley Fool and Investor International.

    Ordering the disclosure of the identity of individuals who made anonymous, libellous comments, Mr Justice Owen reasoned that the Act did not apply because the sites neither took responsibility for what was posted on their discussion boards nor exercised editorial control. He also believed that, in any event, disclosure was necessary “in the interests of justice.””

    At the end of the day, it’s up to a judge.

  21. 221
    Johny says:

    Great. So the phrase “it’s all the sun’s increased activity” you don’t hear much at the conferences and is hence politically motivated nonsense.
    I call it: “Denial”.

    [Response: Yup. – gavin]

  22. 222
    Andrew Hobbs says:

    So while the deniers fiddle, the Earth burns. I see that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet is rather more sensitive to AGW than previously thought.

  23. 223
    Ben says:

    Thanks for the reply! It will be interesting to see what happens. Personally I think the best thing about global warming us that action will require global cooperation; which can only be a good thing. You have got to be feel sorry for the third world countries though! They are getting told tha we have built a giant computer network and have applied it to the climate (just running the climate models and gathering the data probably produces more CO2 than some contries emit) and the conclusion is that they should not be allowed to industrialise their economies since we have already caused too much damage. Probably won’t go down too well!!!

  24. 224
    Ron Taylor says:

    Gavin, I have long admired the tireless work of you and your colleagues at RC. You provide a unique and invaluable service to those of us who are trying to understand the science. My admiration has only grown as a result of your handling of this disgraceful hack business. I cannot imagine how you could have handled it better. I am frankly in awe of your energy and patience. But what is really important is how your personal and professional integrity have shined through. Only the real paranoids, who are more in need of therapy than scientific explanations, would fail to recognize that.

  25. 225
    Shirley says:

    You know, the more I look at all of the details and parsed out snippets of emails, I think to myself, that if this is the best ammunition deniers can come up with, then it really should be a good day for science.

    Seriously. The people who are dancing around over this stuff are really making fools of themselves, like desperate thieves who’ve broken into a house expecting to find money and jewels, and instead finding a grocery list, a stack of bills and unfolded laundry, while pretending to be thrilled about the cache. It’s mind blowing, actually.

    As others have said, there is no smoking gun here. Nothing. All of the most “damning” words and phrases are not only pulled out of context, but very small snapshots of a much larger process. Compiling data is not easy, and it is time consuming. Large data sets – regardless of what they’re from – climate, economic, or otherwise – will be full of weird blips and wild anomalies that don’t really reflect reality.

    This is why I’m disturbed by those calling for an all out expose of all data from “everyone” whoever that may be. Why? Because raw data is just that: raw and unprepared. Data must be reviewed first by those involved in collecting it (and again, not just climate – anything), because despite the sophistication of any instruments or people/etc. collecting it, there will be errors. During and after data collection, all of it must be scrutinized for errors – days machines weren’t working correctly or interfered with by some other factor, human error, etc., etc., etc. This takes time.

    Oh yeah… and that other pesky problem with releasing data. Most researchers don’t own the data they collect. The institution or grant-bearing agency or combination thereof owns it. I’ve read of cases where a researcher published data later in life which they collected as a grad student and got sued because their grant contract specified that they didn’t own the data. Contrarily, it seems that Gavin and others make their data available once they’ve published on it. Suggesting they do so beforehand is absurd.

  26. 226

    Hacking is low and I’m always wary of arguments such as, “the ends justifies the means”. However, illegal manoeuvrings such as this have been perhaps triggered by a slight lack of transparency in the field. The long-term damage to the scientific process and reputation is what worries me most.

  27. 227
    Dan E. Bloom says:

    so was it a whistleblower or a hacker? team inhofe or team Morano? concerned UK professor whistleblower, or failed love affair angry person?
    my guess is whistleblower. his or her photo will be on cover of TIME and NEWSWEEK soon.

  28. 228
    Phil. Felton says:

    Ray Ladbury says:
    23 November 2009 at 8:17 PM
    Ghillie says, “These are not the issues for me. The law is. The people at CRU are public servants, and there is no case for their work correspondence to be “private”. In UK, government officials’ correspondence is “in the public domain” from the moment it is signed off.”

    When I worked at a university in the UK we certainly were not “public servants”, nor “government officials” either! As far as I know that hasn’t changed since.

    Bullshit. You are as ignorant in matters of law as in matters of science. The emails and all other records belong to the institution employing the scientists unless the grant explicitly states otherwise.


  29. 229
    David B. Benson says:

    Climate change email hacking to be looked into by University of East Anglia:

  30. 230
    Dirk says:

    As more uncertainty is injected into the political debate as a result of this hack, there will be increased calls to “slow down” and “not take drastic action”.

    I’d just like to go on the record as saying that we need to take drastic action to solve the problems of air pollution as soon as possible. The health effects of burning organic material indoors to create heat are well known, and can be resolved by development and electrification.

    We need to take advantage of current political situation and electrify as much as possible as soon as possible. If with solar panels, fine. If with coal- just as fine. But action must be taken sooner than later, as people are dying.

  31. 231
    Hank Roberts says:

    > The corrected version of Mann et al. Fig. S8a that I
    > downloaded from that site circa 11/4/09

  32. 232
    Bob Beal says:

    Why don’t people start spinning this the other way around? It seems to me that the hackers have provided pretty good evidence that the only conspiracy among climate scientists is one to get the science done.

    I have no scientific background, so I can’t comment much on the scientific issues raised in all this. However, I am a historian, expert in handling and assessing archival collections, which this has essentially become.

    The hackers appear to have got into the university’s computer and stolen a great many emails, dating back to 1998. They posted a selection of about a thousand of these on the Internet. I have no idea how many emails they stole (there must have been many thousands available) or how they decided which ones to steal. Selectivity is the first thing any historian thinks about when looking at any archival collection. In this case, I have little idea what their methodology was — a description of the methodology does not seem to have been posted on the Internet.

    I glanced through a portion of the 1,000 posted. Some are as important as the grocery list I made last Saturday. Some might be very interesting to scientists in the various fields.

    People making an issue of this seem to quote at most 10 or so of these emails over and over again, the ones they can find that just might indicate something questionable, often vaguely questionable. There are few topical associations one can make among the 10 or so quoted; you can’t add them together to make any good point.

    If that is all there is, I think any historian (or good police detective) would conclude there is likely nothing at all that one should waste time following up.

    With regard to the silly arguments about the meaning of the word “trick,” just tell people to look at the Oxford Dictionary. Consulting the dictionary is one of the tricks of my trade.

  33. 233
    ML says:


    It looks like George Monbiot at the Guardian has plunged into the fray. Not productive at all.

  34. 234
    ccpo says:

    Comment by Max — 23 November 2009 @ 6:53 AM
    A small reply to ccpo:

    Why it is necessary to have a good understanding of climate science… blah-blah-blah…

    most political decisions are made while being unaware of the respective science. You claim that is not true

    Incorrect. Your reading comprehension is the issue, thus your screed following is irrelevant. By your logic, nothing should be decided without absolute knowledge and agreement. This is ridiculous. No public policy, of any kind, anywhere, is decided at such levels of certainty. Red Herring.

    Your position is all the more ridiculous because the changes we are seeing are so blatantly obvious, it boggles the mind that those of your ilk pretend you don’t see them simply to fill your pockets or remain slavishly chained to your ideology.

    they just think that the amount of warming is exaggerated in the methods we have nowadays.

    First, there is no evidence they “believe” any such thing. It’s a smoke screen. And they are wrong even if they do actually “believe” it. Logic tells you so: the changes we see are larger and sooner than expected. Climate sensitivity has to be at least 3C.

    Besides, this is just Denial Lite. A new twist on an old theme of delay, obfuscate, confuse.

    But they believe that the complex system of radiative forcings and feedbacks doesn’t easily have an amplification of much more than 1.

    They are wrong. See above.

    a more rational and sensible level

    Uh-huh. You all want to wait for that truck to hit you. I guess suicide is rational for some.

    Comment by J — 23 November 2009 @ 11:23 AM

    CCPO:>> [And it’s been warmer before 1850] No, it hasn’t. Check the recent lit. At least 2k years last I heard.

    2k is before 1850. And the MWP was about 1k before.

    Please don’t be childish.

  35. 235
    gavin says:

    Update on the RC hack. The IP address used turns out to come from a free proxy server based in Turkey and the CA comment came from a similar server in Russia. Since anyone can use these, the trail probably goes cold there.

  36. 236
    ccpo says:

    Reality vs. Modell:

    Is this true?

    Georg F.

    [Response: I don’t think so. See here. (which is where I think that picture is derived from). – gavin]

    Comment by Georg Filzmaier — 23 November 2009 @ 7:56 AM

    Georg, apply your synapses: Modell? Egad…

  37. 237
    Charlie says:

    From the previous thread:
    tharanga says to Gavin Schmidt: 22 November 2009 at 3:23 PM
    “I hope you have a grad student or somebody helping you with this deluge of comments. It’s not as if this is your job.”

    Gavin is a US Government employee, working for NASA. We are paying his salary. I agree with you that moderating a blog is probably not his job.

  38. 238
    Ron R. says:

    Ron said at 3:27PM: “Ron, are you more comfortable with a standpoint paid for by Big Government? Keep in mind government has access to a lot more of your money than Big Oil/Coal, is always looking for ways to get more of it, and for expanding its control of everything (lots and lots of cushy jobs at stake here).”

    Hmmm, so then the real motivation behind all of climate change science is the protection of a few thousand “cushy” government jobs??? That would be the biggest most elaborate hoax ever if true. But it’s also a pretty ridiculous notion don’t you think? So then tell me, what does the government (or governments) stand to gain from AGW theory? We know what the petroleum and coal industry stand to gain. That’s crystal clear and requires no explanation on my part. Further, don’t you think that it’s maybe just a bit of a conflict of interest to be on the take from the very industry which is implicated in climate change while simultaneously making scientific pronouncements about climate change? Knowing that they are on the take from industry should anyone with half a brain take the skeptics pronouncements seriously?

    “Anyway, let’s get out of the search for motivation (at best it’s a saw-off) , accept that a source of information is no guarantee of its truth and let the best science available go about its proper business of discovering truth wherever it can be found.

    Unfortunately one need always “consider the source”. I, for one, would like to know if an article on human evolution was written at the Discovery Institute. Does that mean that I would instantly toss it? No, but it means that I would be much more critical about the contents. One needent publish in Science or Nature to make a positive mark on science. If one’s ideas are solid and testable and stand up to review they will rise to the surface, no whining necessary.

    An example was when Berkeley’s Ignacio Chapela and David Quist published a paper in Nature on the appearance of GM transgenes into indigenous Mexican maize. The paper was immediately attacked by the biotech industry as flawed. Under tremendous pressure Nature even retracted the paper. C&Q however were vindicated when it became evident that introgression had indeed occured. Here’s the story:

    But I do agree with your comment that we should always be open to other ideas no matter the source and be ready to revise our own when necessary IF those holding other views can provide good evidence for them. If we weren’t nothing new would ever be learned.

    But it’s a safe bet that openness to the idea that the world may indeed be flat would be rather stupid.

  39. 239
    Star says:

    I am not really a skeptic, I’m just some random EE that knows diddly about climate change.

    My question is: Is this recent divergence problem unique? Or are there other times when the tree ring data doesn’t match up with other proxies?

    Oh yeah, given all available data, what kind of error bars do you guys get when talking about temperatures lets say greater then 300 years ago?

    [Response: Not clear. Some discussion of this in this recent review. As for mean temperature uncertainty in previous centuries, you can get a sense from the IPCC compilation figure (6.10). – gavin]

  40. 240
    DaveS says:

    Since this was just a “random sample” of emails, one might wonder how many iterations of this debate the future holds.

  41. 241
    SE says:
    “Lawmakers Probe Climate Emails


    Congressional Republicans have started investigating climate scientists whose hacked emails suggest they tried to squelch dissenting views about global warming.

    An aide to Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said investigators are studying the documents, which unknown hackers stole last week from the computer of a prominent British climate-research center…..”
    “….Separately, Sen. James Inhofe (R., Okla.), an outspoken critic of the view that humans are causing global warming, said that in light of the emails, he will call for an investigation into the state of climate science if the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works doesn’t act soon….”

    “….Hans von Storch, editor at the time of “Climate Research,” had his own objections to the paper mentioned by Dr. Mann, and resigned shortly after it was published, citing a breakdown in the peer-review process. But Dr. von Storch, now at the University of Hamburg’s Meteorological Institute, said Monday that the behavior outlined in the hacked emails went too far.

    East Anglia researchers “violated a fundamental principle of science,” he said, by refusing to share data with other researchers. “They built a group to do gatekeeping, which is also totally unacceptable,” he added. “They play science as a power game.”

  42. 242
    theduke says:

    Since you mention Hans Von Storch, you should know that he had the following item on his website today:

    “Interesting exchanges, and evidences, are contained about efforts to destroy “Climate Research”; that we in the heydays of the hockeystick debate shared our ECHO-G data with our adversaries; and that Mike Mann was successful to exclude me from a review-type meeting on historical reconstructions in Wengen (demonstrating again his problematic but powerful role of acting as a gatekeeper.)
    “I would assume that more interesting issues will be found in the files, and that a useful debate about the degree of politicization of climate science will emerge. A conclusion could be that the principle, according to which data must be made public, so that also adversaries may check the analysis, must be really enforced. Another conclusion could be that scientists like Mike Mann, Phil Jones and others should no longer participate in the peer-review process or in assessment activities like IPCC.”

    [Response: There is a history here, but let’s not get into personality issues here. Thanks. – gavin]

  43. 243

    Jonas #31:

    <Wikileaks and other whisteblowers has done truly good deeds over the years. In fact, not leaking data if you know about a coverup or corruption somewhere is the unethical and immoral thing to do.>

    Perhaps, but don’t you think there’s a big difference between (a) leaking materials to which you have legitimate access and (b) illegally hacking into someone’s network with the specific intent of stealing private documents?

  44. 244
    EL says:

    “Update on the RC hack. The IP address used turns out to come from a free proxy server based in Turkey and the CA comment came from a similar server in Russia. Since anyone can use these, the trail probably goes cold there.”

    Email them and see if they keep logs. Remember to send the date, time, and urls. May want to convert it to their time.

  45. 245
    Timothy Chase says:

    It would appear that Great Britain has its own version of James Inhofe…

    This morning Lord Lawson, who has reinvented himself as a prominent climate change sceptic since leaving front line politics, demanded that the apparent deception be fully investigated.

    He claimed that the credibility of the university’s world-renowned Climatic Research Unit – and British science – were under threat.

    “They should set up a public inquiry under someone who is totally respected and get to the truth,” he told the BBC Radio Four Today programme.

    “If there’s an explanation for what’s going on they can make that explanation.”
    Last week Lord Lawson, who served as chancellor for six years under Margaret Thatcher, told The Daily Telegraph that he planned to establish a think tank to challenge the consensus that drastic action is needed to combat global warming.

    Lord Lawson calls for public inquiry into UEA global warming data ‘manipulation’
    By Matthew Moore, Published: 8:45AM GMT 23 Nov 2009

  46. 246
    RaymondT says:

    Gavin, In reference to your reply listed below, if we don’t know which part of the temperature history is due to the natural variability how can we be sure that the selection of the radiative forcings obtained during the history matching is unique ? Thanks.

    [Response: Great question. And if you have a good answer, write it up and submit it to Science straight away! Joking aside, it is a hard problem. There are multi-decadal variations in both the internal variability and the forcings. Our measurements of the historical variations don’t extend back over more than one or two multi-decadal cycles so it is almost impossible to do a statistical separation. Therefore you are left with a model-based approach, but there is quite a lot of variation in the model realisations at this frequency, and so it is not particularly definitive. One could theoretically extend the instrumental data with the proxy records – at least for a couple of centuries – to get some bounds on the magnitude though, and that indicates that it is relatively small in the global mean, but larger in certain regions. But of course, that comes with its own issues. – gavin]

    [Response: We don’t know that it is unique. There could be a range of net forcings, and indeed a range of climate sensitivities, and a range (though not unlimited) of the magnitude of internal variability. We use the various other constraints – ocean heat content uptake, paleo-climate at the LGM etc. to try anc constrain these values, but there is still a range – which leads of course to a range of projections. For the medium term (~20-30 years) they are robust, but over the longer time scale, they begin to diverge. – gavin]

  47. 247
    Todd Albert says:

    I find it reprehensible that anyone would publicly post personal emails. While I respect RealClimate for keeping true to the science, we should be making a bigger stink about this.

    Libelous talk about climate scientists in the media go unchecked.

    Hacking our emails and posting them all over the Internet goes unpunished.

    And the files are STILL available to download.

    Can I find another habitable planet without such morons? Earth 2.0?

  48. 248
    DeNihilist says:

    #1063 – michael,

    “Anderson’s First rule of ecosystem consequence dynamics.
    “Any physical, chemical, thermal, biological, or mechanical contribution to any ecosystem other than those derived through natural processes; forces exponential dynamic adaptation, evolution, and creation of new species and the extinction of existing species.” [Anderson, et al]”

    All contributions are nutural. Nothing can be outside of nature. This is the fallacy that corrupts all – that nature and humankind are opposers. Again, nothing can be outside of nature. What we as a species do, is natural for us as part of nature.

    If as you contend, that we as a species, are helping to evolve super bacteria/viruses, that will lead to our extinction, then that too must be a natural progression.

    We as a species, need to drop this biblical assumption that we are at the top of the ladder. No, we are just another rung within nature. Nature has no feelings, nor does it have a plan. It just is. If we disapear, no notice will be taken. Life will go on

  49. 249
    Joe V. says:

    Let people see the code. And the remarks written to indicate the changes.

    function mkp2correlation,indts,depts,remts,t,filter=filter,refperiod=refperiod,$
    pro maps12,yrstart,doinfill=doinfill
    ; Plots 24 yearly maps of calibrated (PCR-infilled or not) MXD reconstructions
    ; of growing season temperatures. Uses “corrected” MXD – but shouldn’t usually
    ; plot past 1960 because these will be artificially adjusted to look closer to
    ; the real temperatures.

    [Response: We discussed this below. Since the authors of this code and proxy have told people not to use that data beyond 1960. why are you surprised that the code is consistent with what is in the papers? – gavin]

  50. 250
    CB says:

    The following was posted by Tom Fuller in comments on Andrew Revkin’s blog:

    Tom Fuller
    San Francisco
    November 23rd, 2009
    5:44 am
    I was one of several who received these files early. I said then and I’ll say now that it was probably not a hack. It was, in my opinion, a whistleblower who had access to the files and posted them anonymously on the Internet. I speculate that it is the Freedom of Information file collected by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office, and that when the decision to reject Steve McIntyre’s request for information was released that the whistleblower downloaded the file and went off with it. The file was named FOIA, the message accompanying it referenced the FOIA, and there are no strictly personal messages in the file. I obviously cannot prove it, but it seems much more likely than a hack.

    Tom’s page at the Examiner is here:

    I find the statement “I was one of several who received these files early” quite interesting as it implies that a number of people who could be counted on to be sympathetic and had access to a media megaphone were also fed the files at a very early stage.

    Gavin, please feel free to post this or not as you see fit.