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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. 301

    AJ, hope this doesn’t dash your “white knight” fantasy trip of breaking through the “sensorship” (sic), but the text you post has already been posted here and thoroughly discussed.

    RTFT, dude. Don’t just drive by.

  2. 302
    Craig Allen says:

    Gavin, can I suggest that a new section be added to the RC site that has lists of all the publicly available data and code. It may allay some of the concerns some people have about it all being hidden. Clearly many (most) people outside of the fields are unaware of just how much is readily available for download.

    [Response: Our thoughts exactly. It will be up soon. – gavin]

  3. 303
    Wag the Dog says:

    Expect to see a lot of this happening with the stolen emails:
    (Dawkins on Quote Mining)

  4. 304
    BJ_Chippindale says:


    Monbiot’s calling for Jones to resign would seem justified on the basis of the texts of the e-mails he cites.

    He points out that this doesn’t influence AGW science, but he is I think, offended for the same reasons I am. Monbiot found some mail that I had not yet seen in that package, specifically relating to the FOIA efforts of Jones and Michael Mann.

    Between the two of them they have IMO done more damage to the reputations of good scientists and the effort to actually inform people about AGW than a hundred McIntyres. I am not sure the field needs either of them any more. They have ZERO remaining credibility and nothing they do from now on will add value to any actual science being done. Nobody will believe them. With good reason.

    Meaning that I am going to be doing locally, a lot MORE work to keep people focused on the science rather than the scientists… and we can expect climate science to be widely discredited and discounted.

    This needs a hell of an effort to clean up and regain credibility. We have to be seen to accept that there was a problem there, and clean house thoroughly. I even toyed with the notion that McIntyre should have a role as a watchdog on the process. It HAS to be seen to be done thoroughly and openly.


  5. 305
    charles monneron says:

    “… our inability currently to track small year-to-year variations in the radiative fluxes.”

    I have a question relative to the direct measurement of the earth energy budget (and I couldn’t find an answer after some web browsing) :
    Is gaining one order of magnitude in the precision of the measurement (I.e. measuring net balance with 0.1 W/m2 accuracy) a physically impossible endeavor (captors completely out of current technology range) or “simply” a question of cost (bigger and more expensive instrumentation on satellite, or need to launch an array of satellite to perform simultaneous measures over the globe).

    When I see what is possible on the space telescope, 1% relative uncertainty seems a lot to me.

  6. 306
    Ed Griffiths says:

    I’m assuming that most here don’t spend a lot of time reading comments on stories on newspaper websites, newspaper blogs and the bbc website…

    Well, perhaps now you need to. Lately any commentable story or blog entry mentioning climate change has been 90% about ‘it doesn’t exist’ on these – and after the CRU hack it has changed to ‘it’s finally been proved a lie’. The people posting to the mail, Telegraph etc are the backbone of British public opinion, like it or not.

    I believe there is a major shift in public opinion going on & anyone who can needs to get out there and prove there is climate change, with maximum reference to original data.

    The government of New Zealand no longer believes in climate change. I see 6 years from now the next UK goverrnment voted out by climate change deniers.

  7. 307
    Anne van der Bom says:

    24 November 2009 at 12:52 AM

    Posted twice before on RC:
    20 November 2009 at 1:55 PM

    23 November 2009 at 8:41 AM

    As you might have noticed, discussions on climate change attract a lot of people with no knowledge and an unsuppressable urge to make themselves heard. Did it ever occur to you that Micheal Mann might haver referred to suppressig the quacking, not the inconvenient questions or opposing viewpoints? What makes you think the Osborn & Briffa paper would not survice critical questioning?

  8. 308
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Giles asks, “How many jobs around the world depend directly on the assumption that AGW is the threat that Prof Jones et al would have us believe?”

    Fine, draw your own conclusions, but is it too much to ask that they not be based on utter ignorance? Dude, the unemployment rate for PhD physicists, chemists, etc. is about 2%. We have jobs for experienced technical people going begging. Do you really, honestly think that if these guys weren’t trying to understand climate change that they’d be driving a frigging cab? Do you really think that climate science would cease to be a subject of interest if anthropogenic climate change were not an issue?

    Dude, get a friggin’ clue!

  9. 309
    Hans says:

    I demand some data,
    no, not that data,
    that other data,
    oh, you’ve already given me that Data…
    well now I want this other data, OK, smartypants?
    oh, I can get that too huh?
    How about…
    Could you give me some data about some other data that you have not given me and then I can want that data?
    I could really use that data.
    Come on, be reasonable!
    Data is really not much good to me unless I can’t have it.
    It is unethical of you to deny me this data about the data I haven’t got,
    because if I don’t have the data on the data I don’t have,
    I don’t know what data I want, that I can’t have, that you are denying me.
    Stop denying me.
    You are denying me data.
    Release the data on the data.
    I demand some data,

  10. 310
    Anne van der Bom says:

    charles monneron
    24 November 2009 at 8:06 AM

    0.1 W/m2 resolution on ~1365 W is better than 0.01% accuracy, not 1% as you state.

  11. 311
    imapopulistnow says:

    How do you react to Mr. Monbiot’s comments: “It’s no use pretending this isn’t a major blow. The emails extracted by a hacker from the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia could scarcely be more damaging. I am now convinced that they are genuine, and I’m dismayed and deeply shaken by them.”

  12. 312
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Mike M. asks about determinism in climate systems based on his experience with computer modeling.

    First, if you really are doing computer modeling, you will realize that there are many different types of computer model. GCMs are dynamical models that put in the best physics and go with that. Because climate studies are interested in average properties, the outcome of any single run is not particularly relevant. What matters is the average behavior and the spread of behaviors, any skew, etc.–in other word the statistical properties of many realizations over varying initial conditions, etc.

    I think you will agree that it is much easier to predict averages–at least you will do so if you are relying on a 401K rather than a lottery ticket for your retirement.

  13. 313
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Ed Griffiths says “The government of New Zealand no longer believes in climate change.”

    You know, funny thing about the physical world: It doesn’t give a damn whether we believe in it or not. Mother nature isn’t changing her story. Maybe the Kiwis will change their mind once they look out their windows:

  14. 314
    Dan says:

    re 304 and Monbiot’s calling for Jones to resign…

    What absolute hogwash. Since when does Monbiot has any credibility at all in climate science? Just because non-scientists do not understand the processes or vocabulary involved with scientific research does not mean the denialists have any credibility with their nefarious hacking. The science is unequivocal.

    “They have ZERO remaining credibility and nothing they do from now on will add value to any actual science being done. Nobody will believe them. With good reason.”

    No, stop with the ridiculous, anti-science hyperbole. Publishing many papers in peer-reviewed journals and presenting at many scientific conferences and backed by every major climate science organization around the world more than establishes their superb credibility. Science is not about popularity polls.

  15. 315
    Larry Thiel says:

    by the way.
    you still haven’t shown anyone, one shred of data.
    you showed me a link to some graphs and tables that were made as a result of the data. and that’s fine.
    but you’re not showing anyone the data that was collected to make those graphs and tables.
    and that’s what we need to see.
    that’s where the lies and the manipulations took place.
    as mcintyre has well shown you.
    actual data.
    not a table.
    not a graph.
    the data that was used to make the graph.
    the data that was used to make the table.
    that’s data.

    [Response: Data. More data. Even more data. – gavin]

  16. 316

    Mike M #287:

    that’s surprisingly simple. It’s not an initial value problem, like weather prediction; it’s a boundary value problem.

    Look, I cannot predict the weather 20 days in advance even with a supercomputer and the finest satellite data. But I can predict that next summer will be warm and next winter cold — that’s climate. Not precisely how warm or how cold… that’s weather again. Some summers are just hotter than others, but they are consistently warmer than winters.

  17. 317
    Joe says:


    Is there the posibility of anything else “damaging” comming out after all of this?

    Or is this the worst that we should expect to see?

  18. 318
    Jim Cross says:

    Maybe this has already been addressed – I haven’t been able to follow this entire chain – but the original post that started this off here said this:

    “…these emails (a presumably careful selection of (possibly edited?) correspondence…”

    My interpretation of “edited” as opposed to “selected” is that individual emails had sentences or paragraphs removed or altered so as to give a misleading impression. This would be different from just providing a subset of emails but providing them in a complete and unaltered form.

    Is there any actual example of that?

  19. 319

    Mike M #287:

    I’m not a scientist but i do use computer models and lately have been studying initial conditions problems with any open ended non-linear systems – which i would assume is the basis for any climate modelling.

    Nope… it’s not an initial value problem, like weather prediction; it’s a boundary value problem. Weather is chaotic, climate is not.

    Look, I cannot predict the weather 20 days in advance even with a supercomputer and the finest satellite data. But I can predict that next summer will be warm and next winter cold — that’s climate. Not precisely how warm or how cold… that’s weather again. Some summers are just hotter than others, but they are consistently warmer than winters.

    I can make this prediction with little more than common sense — no supercomputer required. Why? Two reasons:

    1) historical experience, and
    2) astronomical understanding.

    It’s the same with the greenhouse effect and global warming:

    1) we know from geological history what changes in CO2 concentration do to temperatures: increases drive them up; decreases drive them down. Lots of examples in the literature: snowball Earth, PETM, glaciation/deglaciation, Venus, Mars.
    2) understanding what greenhouse gasses do in the atmosphere. The basics is 150 year old science based on laboratory measurements; then there are quantum theoretical computations (in agreement); current understanding is integral to remote sensing measurements of the atmosphere from aircraft or satellite (some expensive remote sensing and intelligence gathering equipment would be in trouble if we got this wrong!), etc.

    I suspect you are confused by the software codes used for climate simulation being very similar to the codes used for numerical weather prediction. This is true. The difference is the way they are being used. For climatology use, the long term trends are extracted e.g., by ensemble averaging. The weather averages out, as does the initial condition choice and its effects.

    Hope this helps.

  20. 320
    Mark Gibb says:

    Even though I have a technical math/physics/software background, I am not qualified to fully judge the science. I am somewhat skeptical, but that is my standard mode to be in for everything.

    My problem is, regardless of the science, I just cannot accept the liberty-destroying political outcomes that are favored by the global-warming fearists. Giving governments around the world even more power to control the economy and impede productivity is more dangerous than slow, predictable warming of the planet.

    I have great faith in the idea that individuals, working together in communities and companies, will be able to adapt and prosper. There is enough time to do that, if people are free enough to try things. Under the grip of command and control economies that would result if all the fear-based global-warming policies are enacted, our ability to adapt will be retarded.

  21. 321
    Steve Geiger says:


    – Dan, the MWP was understood as truth for decades. It was overturned for some (others, Briffa included, apparently did not agree) reasons with the advent of the MBH work. To question that would in no way be the same as to question (or try to get rid of) the hockey stick…this analogy fails, IMO.

    [Response: This is just wrong. You are confusing Lamb’s initial description of medieval temperatures in England (and maybe Northern Europe) with some imaginary consensus on a globally coherent climate event. The inconsistencies in that picture was known to people well before Mann’s paper in 1998. (For instance, Hughes and Diaz in 1994). – gavin]

    #38, Dan “I’d almost stopped reading RC because I felt (perhaps wrongly?) that many reasoned but critical comments were lost in moderation.”

    – this was the case for certain, that critical posts were edited and/or removed. Things apparently have changed for now. Lets hope it stays this way and I too congrat Gavin on the new format…presuming that he will permit more critical posting.

  22. 322
    JAY963 says:

    After CRU all the data and correspondence need to be made public. If anything is hidden all credibility will be lost.

  23. 323
    Layman Lurker says:

    #282 Sloop

    First, why don’t you go to CA yourself or email and ask Steve specifically which climate and paleoclimate data set or paper is lacking data, metadata, code, methodology, etc. After he tells you then you can check the claims yourself if you want to.

    Second, it sounds like your actually trying to rationalize that data/code etc should not be made avaialble to SM because he does not “qualify”. Good luck with that argument.

  24. 324
    BJ_Chippindale says:

    RE 309

    Well done Hans!!! That’s the first chuckle I have had in days. :-)


  25. 325
    Tim S. says:

    Is it true that CO2 lags behind temperature change in ice core study samples? If so, might we not expect a decline in CO2 levels in the coming years if the atmosphere continues cooling? And if that happens without a reduction in manmade CO2 emissions, would that mean that CO2 doesn’t trap heat the way we think it does?

    [Response: No. The carbon cycle feedback is roughly 20 ppm per degree C after a few hundreds years. The change in CO2 currently is 2 ppm per year – related to human emissions. The temperatures are rising at around 0.2 deg C per decade – which would translate to ~4 ppm increase hundreds of years later. That’s not negligible, but it isn’t enough to overturn the rise due to fossil fuel emissions even if the planet cooled substantially for some unknown reason for decades (which it won’t). – gavin]

  26. 326
    Peter Houlihan says:

    In response to comment #122 Anand Rajan

    The current rate of warming and predicted increase in the rate is too fast for many species of animals and plants to either adapt or acclimate to. There are currently multiple stressors on biodiversity (habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, habitat degradation, over-exploitation, invasive species, pollution). Many species experience several of these stressors simultaneously. Adding a warming climate to the mix of stressors is predicted (and probably already has) to drive many to extinction. In addition to the loss of species, we can expect ecosystem structure and function to change in ways that could have serious consequences for human well being.

  27. 327
    Charlie says:

    #310 Although the measurements may have 0.1W/m^2 resolution, the absolute accuracy is much worse.

    If you compare the readings of various satellites, you will find discrepancies of a few WATTS/sq meter.

    They know that their base calibration constants are off significantly, but don’t know who, if anybody, is correct. This isn’t an insurmountable problem in tracking changes is solar radiation. They simply cross calibrate by comparing results across a common time period.

    But the ABSOLUTE accuracy is horrible.

  28. 328
    Journeyman says:

    The SST corrections with the 1940s blip, in the e-mail it looks like the amount of correction is to be chosen by the user, in this case Phil Jones. They want to keep some correction to match the land blip, but not too much.

    [Response: Wrong and wrong. Tom Wigley is trying to get Phil to estimate how much of an effect it is likely to be once the corrections are made. The mismatch between land and ocean are likely to get smaller as a consequence – which will be a validation of the corrections. – gavin]

  29. 329
    JM says:

    Most likely will get sensored but nice to give it a try so much for being objective!!!!

    … or the moderator may just use you as an example of the kind of idiots he’s up against. Thanks for the content.

  30. 330
    dhogaza says:

    It would be interesting to know at some point if M&M appealed. It’s a simple step to take after all.

    Yes, he did, and the appeal upheld the rejection of his FOI request.

    What also intrigues me is, if the data were so vital to their research, why didn’t they just follow the same procedure and acquire the data from the owners in the same manner? Surely having the data itself is more important than the procedure used to acquire it?

    It really depends on whether one is interested in the science or something else, doesn’t it?

  31. 331
    caerbannog says:

    So it looks like Inhofe wants hearings. That’s great. Go for it — Boxer will be calling the final shots on that one.

    Some points to make in the hearings (assuming that they happen).

    1) The Brits (CRU) did act inappropriately in response to continuous, dishonest attacks from the deniers. Don’t use that to excuse the Brits’ actions here — but highlight the deniers’ dishonest tactics in order to put some context here. Context, not excuses here! Emphasize that it was a British, not an American, institution that got caught out. No offense to the Brits, but you’ll be playing to a big audience of yahoo Yanks here — so it will be Brits’ turn under the bus this time.

    2) American institutions (NOAA, NASA) have been much more open — point out the tremendous amount of data and code that “we American scientists” have been putting out for public scrutiny for *many years*. Once again, apologies to the Brits for the “we Americans” bit here, but you will be playing to a *very* provincial audience (putting it kindly). Point out that in all the years that NASA/NOAA have made their data and code available, the climate-denial community hasn’t done anything with it. When it comes to rolling up sleeves and doing real work, the denialists …well… don’t!

    3) As for accusations of journal censorship and pressure on journal editors, the best response is “Soon/Baliunas 2003”. That paper is so pathetically bad that you could explain its flaws to a high-school student (or Senator). Make the denial community own that paper. Lay out in Senator-friendly detail, all the problems with the papers’ methodology. Boxer would have lots of fun pointedly asking Inhofe’s witnesses if they would be proud to be listed as co-authors on that paper. The deniers have slipstreamed other garbage into journals, but most of the other garbage papers require some math/science background (calculus, etc) to fully understand why they are garbage. Soon/Baliunas 2003, however, is in a class by itself. Like I said, make the denial community *own* that paper.

    4) The out-of-context stuff. Pick a bunch of examples that would be easy for Senators to understand. I like Mann’s “contained” MWP. Go back 1,000 years and you get half a MWP. Go back 2,000 years and you get it all. That should clarify the meaning of “contain” here. Much of this out-of-context stuff, if presented correctly, will make the denial community look downright stupid. Light-hearted explanations that draw laughter from the Senate floor would be most effective here.

    Anyway, these are suggestions from someone who doesn’t do PR or anything like that for a living — so take them for what they are worth!

  32. 332
    Hank Roberts says:

    Chris Dunford says: 24 novembre 2009 at 6:53 AM (re Gavin’s reply in #255)

    > I wish there were a site/wiki with very specific information like this.

    There’s a good start — click “RC Wiki” at the top of the page.

    Homework for someone: copying detailed information out of these comment threads to the links already waiting there (some of which, like Soon, are not yet filled). Many of the links do contain details and links already.

    Whoever’s been doing the work, thank you. Holler if I can help in some way.

    [Response: If people want editing privileges, create an account, email us and I’ll set you up. – gavin]

  33. 333
    Ron says:

    It’s is clear that both sides in the climate debate have become more polarised. Nothing has changed says the team; it’s a smoking gun say the deniers. Some months ago I and a colleague set up a web site to try and present an objective balanced view. It is at:
    We’ed much appreciate any constructive criticism.

  34. 334
    Donald Oats says:

    This is a little off-topic, but with the “decline” after 1960, has the impact of pollution (or lack of) been investigated? It would depend in part upon prevailing winds, local temperatures, elevations, etc as to whether it is an issue or not. I’m not familiar with the geography of the area(s) in question, I’ll add.

  35. 335
    kenlovorn says:

    How is it that every one of the comments that I have read have totally ignored one factoid which no one can dispute: The totality of all CO2 molecules in the world were at some time a form or carbon or oxygen either entrained in the earth’s crust or floating about in the atmosphere. Therefore, at some point in time, all of the CO2 that went to create carbonaceous materials on earth, such as coal, natural gas, and oil, was in the atmosphere. If is had not been in the atmosphere, then the plants that grew and died could not have been made into coal on earth. The animals that ate the plants and died could not have been combined with plants to have made the oil on earth. So all of this carbonaceous material that we are now burning is just being converted back into CO2 and put back from whence it came… i.e. the atmosphere.

    Did lots of the carbon or oxygen come from some where else and was transported to earth from another planet or star so as to make it possible for humans to burn up their home planet by creating Co2 that was not here before?

    Give me a break! Everything that is here, has always been here and just moves from one form to another. We are not GENERATING anything that has not been here since the beginning of time and we are not putting anything some where in which it was not situated at some time in the past. Such egocentric, megalomaniacs, thinking that people are creating something when there was nothing there before!

    [Response: Actually, most of the carbon is in the form of carbonate rock. Not something that has much of an impact on climate. There is a very small flux of organic carbon into sediments that sometimes go on to form oil and gas and coal. The accumulation of that carbon over millions and millions of years is being released into the atmosphere at something like 150 times faster than it accumulated. You don’t think that might have some effect? – gavin]

  36. 336
    Joel Shore says:

    DchuckB says:

    “They have some good posts on this issue.

    I would beg to differ. The scientific conversation in the e-mails is interesting but the “spin” put on it by the blogger is pretty silly in my view.

    First of all, the fact that uncertainties in the forcing due to SO2 (and other aerosols) is considerable (and that it actually makes it difficult to constrain the climate sensitivity from the 20th century temperature record) is nothing new. You need look no further than the IPCC report to find plenty of discussion on this.

    Second of all, the concern that most scientists have with the possibility that SO2 emissions could be offset much of the warming due to CO2 is that, while such offsetting can work for a while, it is not a long term solution because unlike CO2, the sulfate aerosols don’t accumulate in the atmosphere. This means that in order to increase the cooling effect, you have to keep emitting ever-increasing quantities of SO2 and, while the Chinese may want to do this for a while, they will eventually not want to do this if they also want to be able to breathe the air. (There is the geoengineering solution of injecting sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere but that has its own problems, as has been discussed here before.) Hence, what you have is really a “masking” of the problem…I.e., the full extent of the warming due to CO2 is being masked by the cooling effect of the aerosols.

    Third of all, it is kind of silly to be talking about what scientists do or do not “want” the global temperature to do and what this means in regards to their motivations. He seems to put a lot of interpretation into what they actually say and, furthermore, what the scientists “want to happen” does not in any way affect what will happen. And, I think to the extent that some of the scientists in that conversation seem to be hoping that temperature don’t remain flat for too long, that can be explained by their concern that the problem is being masked by the cooling effects of aerosols, which does not represent a long-term solution to the problem of the warming due to greenhouse gases. They presumably believe that society needs to act to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions but that the masking of the warming in the short-term will help the “skeptics” continue to sow doubt and thus prevent the political will to take action to address the long-term problem.

  37. 337
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Mark Gibb, Want to preserve freedom? Great, then come up with some ideas of how to solve this problem the promote freedom. The science is real, and sound. It is the solutions that have yet to be determined. Please, learn enough about the science so that you can responsibly exercise your duty as a citizen. Your progeny will have you to thank if they in fact inherit a working civilization.

  38. 338
    Ed says:

    This development is not surprising to anyone who has any experience in working in the combined areas of science-engineering and public policy.

    Both those who support and those who are against many controverial subjects cannot over time help but converse in terms that may seem somewhat biased to outsiders. Science is replete with examples of researchers becoming emotionally attached to their research and their views, especially if they believe the research has social consequences.

    This is not bad. It is simply being human. While all credible researchers try to follow the scientific method as much as possible, anyone who has ever conducted science knows how the real work often intrudes on the results of studies and models and experiments. This does not mean the underlying hypothesis may be incorrect, but it does complicate things in a world where the public is increasingly skeptical and has access to scientific studies and debate that would never have been possible even 50 years ago.

    This at a time when it can also be argues the average person actually understands very little about science and the scientific method.

    So, let the debate continue. It may cause some to be a bit more careful about their email thoughts…and both sides of this debate will find plenty of grist for a while, and then it will subside…..

  39. 339
    Prince_Prospero says:

    For those who don’t know, “Glenn”, in following e-mail, is the Chief Editor of the International Journal of Climatology (IJC) Glenn McGregor:

    P. Jones wrote to Ben Santer (LLNL), “With free wifi in my room, I’ve just seen that M+M have submitted a paper to IJC on your H2 statistic – using more years, up to 2007. They have also found your PCMDI data – laughing at the directory name – FOIA? Also they make up statements saying you’ve done this following Obama’s statement about openness in government! Anyway you’ll likely get this for review, or poor Francis will. Best if both Francis and Myles did this. If I get an email from Glenn I’ll suggest this.” (See 1233245601.txt)

    Gavin, you stated earlier that submitting the names of possible referees, to an editor, is an acceptable technique in the peer review process. The preceding e-mail implies that Jones is recommending referees, to the Chief Editor of IJC, for a paper that he is not the author of. Do you consider this an ethical practice w.r.t. the peer review process?

    Before “Ray Ladbury” gets a chance to lob a volley of incendiary and least common denominator accusations, I’d like to point out that I’m not anti-science. On the contrary, I’m very pro-science, having received my Ph.D. in theoretical physics two decades ago. I’m also quite familiar with the peer review process, with most of my papers published in IOP journals and Physical Review. I was also a referee for an IOP journal for 5 years before moving into a different field of study.

  40. 340
    JBowers says:

    Mark Gibb says:
    “I have great faith in the idea that individuals, working together in communities and companies, will be able to adapt and prosper. There is enough time to do that, if people are free enough to try things. Under the grip of command and control economies that would result if all the fear-based global-warming policies are enacted, our ability to adapt will be retarded.”

    That may well be the case in developed and wealthy Western economies, (although the unprecedented* deluge in Britain in the past week has left people dead and local infrastructure in tatters including the destruction of bridges in one area). Unfortunately, that’s only a certain percentage of the world’s population, and the less fortunate have very problems to deal with. Have a read of this: “Climate ‘is a major cause’ of conflict in Africa”

    *By saying “unprecedented”, I am being unashamedly literal:

  41. 341
    Jeff says:

    I strive to adhere to purely scientific principles in my professional work (albeit not in climate science). I have long suspected that the lack of transparency in sharing data, code, and methodology among certain climate scientists indicated a lack of certainty in the integrity and resilience of their work. Reading these emails (especially those referring to the dodging of FOI requests and deleting emails) turns the dial up on these suspicions.

    Two questions for Gavin (or other climate scientists):

    1. Let’s assume for a moment that the work of those scientists implicated in these emails is ultimately discredited. If we assume by default that other publications based heavily on that work must also be set aside, what impact does that have on our certainty of climate change as we understand it now?

    [Response: Very little. Warming is unequivocal and seen in dozens of data sets – the vast majority of which are open access and which curiously the ‘skeptics’ exhibit no interest. Paleo-reconstructions are made by groups all around the world, and are again based on publicly accessible data, and that all show very similar things. Their role in the detection and attribution of human caused climate change is minimal in any case. The important point is the case for AGW is based on multiple lines of evidence, none of which are exclusively the work of anyone at CRU. That isn’t to say that they haven’t made great contributions – they have. But like everything that is robust, those conclusions have been evaluated and validated in many other research centers. – gavin]

    2. Wouldn’t this be a good time for folks in the climate science arena to publicly and openly commit to increased transparency in the scientific process? Why not give honest “skeptics” a chance to preview code, data and methodology prior to publication? Wouldn’t that just make the final result more robust, reliable, and durable?

    [Response: The clamour for ‘more data’ is insatiable and will not stop however open and transparent we are (and we actually are very open and transparent). It’s just too powerful a political club. Nonetheless we should always strive to be as open as is possible. Should the National Met services allow CRU to release their data? sure. Should countries share satellite and observational feeds in real time? sure. Write to your representatives to push for it. But don’t blame the scientists who are caught in the middle. Not sure about pre-publication vetting of scientific results though. The few honest skeptic there are might have their hands full! Note too that the issue of replication is not one of arithmetic checking – some errors might exist there, but true replication of results comes about when people support the conclusion through independent means – and that takes more time and a more constructive attitude. – gavin]

    Keep up the good work.

  42. 342
    Joel Shore says:

    By the way, I should have commented on one other aspect of the Powerline blog post:

    They purport to show that the prediction that 2009 would likely be one of the top 5 warmest years has not come true by giving a link to something showing only U.S. temperature data. Since the prediction was for the global temperature, this is comparing apples and oranges. I am not sure if 2009 is still in the running to be one of the top 5 warmest years globally but it is certainly running a fair bit warmer than 2008 and, just eyeballing the data available, it looks like the year will at least be in the top 10…and might still be in the running for the top 5.

  43. 343

    Ted, from the press release you link, this study appears to be dealing essentially with UHI warming, which is stated to be twice the warming rate observed globally. Hence, “50%” of this higher warming rate due to land use means a wash–no net global warming down to land use. Just analyzing what they say in the PR. . .

    That said, Gavin’s point about “science by press release” is highly apropos. (Even if the press release quotes the lead investigator, as here, there’s no guarantee they got the quote correct, or that the quote, if correct, embodies a good description of what was actually meant.)

  44. 344
    Anand Rajan KD says:

    “…Coupled with the uncertainty of exactly a planet that would be warmer (say 3ºC) than at any time in the last 3 million years would look like (and note that sea levels were ~60 ft higher then!), I don’t want to take the risk.”

    Sort of a late response but…

    So my question again, was, what stake does a scientist have in the ‘planet’s well-being’? I believe the answer should be none. But, by your own words, you seem to have a stake. Why?

    [Response: Because I’m a human being? I’m sorry, but what kind of a person doesn’t have a stake in the planet’s well-being? Which planet do you propose moving to? – gavin]

    Mind you, the polluters are not doing what they do to primarily pollute or warm. It is a byproduct, if it is. What you do, as a scientist is otherwise. Why do I say that? Because you believe that your findings indicate that we will all warm up and probably drown, and therefore you want to stop the process, or have at least a say in it yourself.

    That leaves you, the climatologist/researcher, an interested party who does the science. A position the oil companies for example, dont find themselves in. If they perform and create ‘denial science’, it is to save their livelihoods. If you perform AGW science, it is to save your ‘livelihood’ so to speak, which is the science itself.

    To me therefore, it appears very difficult to get away from the fact there is an agenda a priori. There is an agenda to cool the globe from the scientists. There is no agenda to warm the globe on the warmers’ table.

    How do you expect then, to convince anyone of your findings? The agenda lends to your people (the climatologists) the conspiratorial blush that’s evident to an outside observer. Add to that the extremely bogus shoring-up of defenses by harping about ‘peer-reviewed’ literature only discredits AGW further. Do you believe, in today’s ‘networked world’ that it is difficult for a bunch of people to bandy up together and call themselves ‘peers’? Too much reliance on peer-review alone to support one’s contentions shows weakness, not credibility.

    Laws, must ultimately speak to man and his life. Maybe it will affect the lives of his children. Nothing more. We may speak big things but we must all go home to rest and wait for tomorrow. To pass draconian laws issued from the mouth of a quasigovernmental body that will affect the whole globe and the future of ‘humanity’, to want to do that, is wrong.

  45. 345

    To date, there has not been a single credible journal article that shows a natural cause for the modern day warming while also showing how record high greenhouse gas concentrations are not significant.

    NOT ONE.

    Do people really believe that the scientists at CRU are able to squelch every scientist on the planet who tried to publish this landmark anti-AGW paper? Is there no sense of the low probability and the large scale of this conspiracy for this to be true?

    If one throws out the HadCRU data and all papers by these folks, there is still a mountain of evidence for AGW.

    Do the rapidly melting ice sheets and glaciers have access to these emails and joined in on the conspiracy?

    Do the various climate models that show GHGs as the dominant forcing mechanism have access to these emails and joined in on the conspiracy?

    Do the GISS, UAH, RSS data have access to these emails and joined in on the conspiracy? Certainly Spencer and Christy would not align themselves with AGW and yet their satellite-derived measurements track reasonably with GISS, RSS, and HadCRU.

    Does the ocean read these emails and magically increase its heat content?

    Does the cooling stratosphere (even accounting for ozone loss) read the emails and join in on the hoax?

    Do the plants and animals read these emails and decide to die off and/or change their migratory habits so that they can support the conspiracy?

    I could go on ad infinitum.

    For quite a long time, we have known that a doubling of CO2 will warm the climate at least 1C and there is fairly good certainty that the resulting feedbacks will produce at least 2C additional warming with 3C more likely. We are also measuring CO2 increases of 2 ppm and climbing (except last year where there was a slight decrease due to the global recession) and we have levels that have not been seen in the past 15 million years.

    Are we to conclude that these emails deny all of this evidence?

    It is obvious that pre-Copenhagen, the tried and true method of “if one does not like the message then attack the messenger or redirect the conversation” practiced by Big Tobacco and now Big Oil and their front groups (Heartland Institute, George C. Marshall Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, etc.) is alive and well.

    Scott A. Mandia – Professor, Meteorologist, Concerned Citizen

  46. 346
    John Mason says:

    [satire]An urgent call for a public enquiry was made this morning into the revelation that some simple mathematical equations that guide UK economic policy might be flawed and the flaw deliberately concealed. For many years, it has been accepted by the establishment that if you put two and two together, you get four. But the recent appearance on the internet of some papers allegedly hacked from a computer network at the mathematics department of one of the UK’s leading universities have thrown things into confusion. The papers show how, repeatedly, leading bank executives have added the two numbers together and produced a variety of results, often with no obvious trend. Some of the numbers have a single nought on the end, some two noughts or even as many as eight, the latter appearing in a paper entitled “how much money can you lend to people who cannot afford to pay you back?”

    At the same time, the BBC has come in for criticism for giving airtime to a prominent addition sceptic, who said on this morning’s Today programme that, in the case of two and two, the maths was far from settled and that it could quite possibly make five. The BBC defended their position, stating that their inclusion of the sceptic argument was “in the interests of balance”. But critics say that the situation is too dangerous to allow any more confusion of what should be acknowledged as settled elementary mathematics. “If we continue allowing this sort of thing to happen, we will end up with a gigantic and unsubstainable credit bubble which when it bursts will have catastrophic impacts all over the world”, said one mathematician, who did not want to be named.


    Cheers – John

  47. 347
    Dan says:

    “that’s where the lies and the manipulations took place.”

    And your credibility in climate science is? Research? Peer-reviewed papers in established, credible journals? Conferences?

    Thought so. Google Scholar: .

    It bears repeating: The idea that a layman somehow thinks they know something about climate science that literally thousands of peer-reviewed climate science researchers (who have spent literally decades studying the issue) and every major climate science professional society including the AGU, the AMS, the RMS, the NOAA, the AMOS, the EPA, and the NSF (for starters) is ludicrous and the height of arrogance.

  48. 348
    Chris says:

    Just curious… I’m starting to see this piece of code show up on a lot of denier’s posts elsewhere. What exactly was the purpose of this code. People familiar with IDL will know exactly what it is doing. If it was to adjust for tree-ring data and ring width decline… why does it start adjusting data in the 40s instead of the 60s?









    ; Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL correction for decline!!




    2.6,2.6,2.6]*0.75 ; fudge factor

    if n_elements(yrloc) ne n_elements(valadj) then message,’Oooops!’









  49. 349
    Hank Roberts says:

    Mark Gibb writes: “regardless of the science, I just cannot accept”

    giving the most likely reason for the Fermi Paradox in a nutshell.

  50. 350
    rgi says:

    I just wanted to post a couple of thoughts.

    An earlier post claims that science is based on an open and honest exchange of ideas (which I agree with whole-heartedly) as justification for some of the email content. However, being a bit naieve, I don’t understand why this doesn’t apply between the pro-AGW and Skeptics (for want of better descriptions)? There doesn’t appear to be a lot of scientific discussion between the 2 sides – just personal attack and obstruction.

    There has also been a lot of talk of peer reviewed papers and articles but I wonder how a scientific article can be peer-reviewed if the data that the article is based on isn’t made publicly available along with supporting notes regarding the data sources and analysis taken. I would have thought that any of the CRU data would be made freely available to the reviewing peers for open scrutiny. Otherwise it can’t be ‘peer-reviewed’ can it? Surely this is basic science? Therefore I find the stories (which is all that they are at the moment) of data being with-held, hidden or deliberately massaged before release extremely puzzling and worrying (if true).

    [Response: Peer-review is not the same as the manual checking of every calculation. That would be a huge and impossible burden to manage. Instead, it is there to check the logic, make sure that the paper properly refers to the literature, that the calculations are appropriate and the the conclusions follow from the analysis etc. Note too that peer-review is simply the first stage of review. Once papers are published (and if they are interesting or important enough), people generally pile on with either supportive or conflicting evidence and a dispute can rage on in the literature for years. If needed the data used in a paper is put online or sent to whoever asks if possible. – gavin]