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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 http://bit.ly/8jOjX1).

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. 351
    Tom says:

    OK, I’m not a scientist, nor do I play one on TV. But I do brew my own beer, and am therefore continually dealing with Henry’s Law in getting my beer carbonated. Wouldn’t Henry’s Law show CO2 in seawater as a lagging indicator of global warming? Wouldn’t it also therefore have to do greatly with increased atmospheric CO2 levels during periods of warming? Why don’t I see this discussed?
    Thanks

    [Response: Rest assured that brewing beer is carbon neutral. The CO2 produced by the yeast was taken out of the air by the barley. Solubility effects do contribute to the carbon cycle response to climate change, but they aren't the whole story (there are lots of biological effects and also ocean circulation changes). It is relevant to what happens to the natural CO2 fluxes as the climate warms though and it may start to make it harder to have the human CO2 absorbed into the ocean. - gavin]

  2. 352
    Eli Snyder says:

    I posted this on greenfyre’s, and thought it might be worth reposting here:

    I’ve been thinking about strategy and Sun Tzu, and I think it’s always wise to check against Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido.

    I admit I’ve been thrown off balance by the strength and viciousness of this attack — but the stronger the attack, the more it puts the opponent off balance. Keep one point, maintain equilibrium, and the opponent will defeat himself.

    I tend to forget this in the heat of battle, but it is good to revisit it:

    “If your opponent strikes with fire, counter with water, becoming completely fluid and free-flowing. Water, by its nature, never collides with or breaks against anything. On the contrary, it swallows up any attack harmlessly.” — Morihei Ueshiba

    Perhaps instead of striking back, we should bend and flow and absorb this attack, allowing the opponents to throw themselves off balance and ultimately defeat themselves. Here’s a possible frame for that:

    In science, we welcome all forms of criticism. Criticism and skepticism make science stronger. Let us, by all means, investigate this to the fullest extent, make all of the data and methods as open as possible, and we will see what the scientific conclusions are.

    You want openness of data? By all means, let’s have openness of data. You want an investigation? Let’s investigate thoroughly. Let’s check and double-check the science and find out for sure what the evidence really shows.

    If the science is sound (which it probably is), then the claims of fraud will be exposed for the unfounded lies that they are, and their proponents will look all the more foolish for jumping to conclusions without evidence.

    A good example of how off-balance the opponent is right now was provided by Glenn Beck (who has not, in my opinion, been keeping one point lately.

    “If your gut said, “Wait a minute, this global warming thing sounds like a scam.” Well, I think you’re seeing it now. We told you this was going on, without proof, because we listened to our gut.” — Glenn Beck

    That’s an outright admission that he’s not living in an evidence-based reality, and that he makes unfounded accusations without proof.

    Ironically, he seems to be getting this from Stephen Colbert, who said this in a performance for the Bush administration:

    “it is my privilege to celebrate this president, ‘cause we’re not so different, he and I. We both get it. Guys like us, we’re not some brainiacs on the nerd patrol. We’re not members of the factinista. We go straight from the gut. Right, sir?

    That’s where the truth lies, right down here in the gut. Do you know you have more nerve endings in your gut than you have in your head? You can look it up. Now, I know some of you are going to say, “I did look it up, and that’s not true.” That’s ’cause you looked it up in a book. Next time, look it up in your gut. I did. My gut tells me that’s how our nervous system works.” Stephen Colbert

    Only Beck is serious!

    Maybe we shouldn’t strike back. Maybe we should just keep on giving them more rope…

  3. 353
    ben says:

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

    !!!

    The mathematical equations derived to study the evolution of climate change will be non-linear. We have observed instabilities and tipping points in the climate history of the earth. Therefore I think it is clear that the climate is chaotic in a mathematical sense. (please correct if wrong?)

    [Response: Actually it's not clear. And in fact there is significant evidence against it. First off, why are any climate changes predictable? The cooling of Pinatubo, the seasonal cycle, the mid-Holocene, the temperatures at the last ice age, the similarity of the interglacials etc. Climate models - even though they are chaotic in the classical Lorenz sense (individual trajectories diverge very quickly), have stable statistics regardless of the initial conditions. Thus climate - the statistical description of the model state - does not seem to be chaotic. The model climate does not have a sensitive dependence on initial conditions for instance. This isn't a proof that the climate isn't chaotic, and indeed simpler models show parameter regimes where it is, but it certainly isn't 'clear' that it is. - gavin]

    I think what you are trying to say is that given a set of models and assuming stability you can predict the likehood, according to those models, of the temperature being warmer or colder this time next year. That’s the best prediction that can be made at our current level of technology. However the prediction may well be incorrect once we observe the real temperatures next summer.

    [Response: There is little evidence that models have much skill at predicting summer temperatures a year in advance. They might improve, but for the moment that is a little speculative. Those predictions however are still based on known initial conditions, not the forcing from GHGs or the sun or whatever. The expectation, given the observed and modelled signal-to-noise ratio is that you need a decade or two to get skillful projections of global mean T. - gavin]

  4. 354
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Shorter Steve Geiger #321: Gavin stopped bashing his wife.

  5. 355
    RaymondT says:

    Gavin, Thanks for your reply (listed below) to my question (251 RaymondT 23 November 2009 at 10:58 pm). When you use the ocean heat content and paleo-climate to further constrain your history match you also run into the problem of not knowing the contribution of the natural variability. Because your projections agree in the medium term does not mean that you have explored all the possible ranges of forcings and climate sensitivities. One issue that came up in the email exchange was that of testing the climate models. If we do not know the contribution of the natural variability on average temperatures how can we test the models ? Your answers are really helping me understand better the complexities of climate modelling. I appreciate your scientific honesty in discussing the uncertainties in the climate models.
    [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]

  6. 356
    SecularAnimist says:

    Mark Gibb wrote: “My problem is, regardless of the science, I just cannot accept the liberty-destroying political outcomes that are favored by the global-warming fearists.”

    With all due respect, I suggest that you have succumbed to a corporate-sponsored pseudo-ideological propaganda campaign that equates ExxonMobil’s profits with “liberty”.

    What exactly is it about a vision of individuals, communities, small businesses, farmers and others owning their own solar and wind based energy generation systems, with which they can independently harvest free energy rather than having to buy scarce, expensive fuel from giant corporations, that you feel threatens your “liberty”?

    Besides which, if you don’t like the solutions that are being proposed, then the rational response is to put forward your own proposals, not deny the facts of physical reality.

  7. 357
    J. Bob says:

    #280, 292,293 – Lawrence, as a former EE, I assume you have some background in Signal Processing, to sort out the signal from the noise. So here are a couple of neutral sites to get some info on this whole discussion. Staring with global temps.
    http://www.climate4you.com/
    Go to global Temp, Comparing global air temp estimates. In this figure you will notice the temp has pretty much flattened over the past 8-9 years, in spite of all the CO2, and other gases emitted. It’s interesting to use several analysis methods, yourself, to see what information underlies the raw data. Another good site for temp data is
    http://www.rimfrost.no/
    where they have long term data (over 200 years), Uppsala, Berlin, Paris, etc. to get a direct measurement perspective.

    Now go to these and check sea ice levels. For whatever reason they seem to have stabilized. It does not look like the Arctic will be ice free in my lifetime, or some time thereafter.
    http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/cgi-bin/seaice-monitor.cgi
    http://arctic-roos.org/observations/satellite-data/sea-ice/ice-area-and-extent-in-arctic
    http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/

  8. 358
    encs says:

    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.

    The best analogy to illustrate the difference between weather and climate that I’ve come across is this one: i can’t predict the next b l a c k j a c k hand, or the one after that, & so on, but I know at the end of the year that the c a s i n o is going to be profitable.

    Excuse the spelling, necessary to get around a spam guard.

  9. 359
    Mark Hersh says:

    “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.”

    And what if the warming is neither slow nor predictable? What if it is greater than 0.2 C / decade, and terrestrial ecosystems collapse?

  10. 360
    Pencil Neck says:

    Gavin,

    You said, [Response: No data has been lost or destroyed. - gavin]

    How on earth can you state that with even smidgeon of honesty? If you can state that, in truth, then you must have complete control of every action taken on every server in question. Do you want to make that claim?

  11. 361
    Pete Ridley says:

    Numerous comment here suggest that those files that were leaked are private, but they are not necessarily so. As I understand it, in the UK E-mails exchanged using your employer’s facilities are not personal or private but available for legitimate scrutiny by your employer – who employs the researchers at the UEA. As a previous comment points out, the UEA CRU Policy on FOI states that such E-mails are not private property. Even if it is illegal for an unauthorised individual to steal or leak these files, it is quite possible that such an action would be considered justified under the circumstances. The English courts have recently ruled in favour of environmental terrorists who attacked an industrial installation QUOTE: Cleared: Jury decides that threat of global warming justifies breaking the law UNQUOTE (Note 5). It is possible that the courts would find that the threat of unwarranted taxation and economic damage in the guise of global warming justifies breaking the law.

    The UK’s Lord Lawson today announced the formation of The Global Warming Policy Foundation (Note 2) of which Dr Benny Peiser said QUOTE:The Foundation’s aim is to become the most trustworthy and readily accessible source for those, whether in politics, the media or among the wider public, who wish to be informed of the most reliable and authoritative analysis of both the claims of climate alarmists and the policies currently in place or being discussed, whether in Copenhagen or elsewhere UNQUOTE.
    The only problem with this Foundation is that involves politicians, which immediately makes thinking people suspicious of its motives.

    A more reassuring development is that QUOTE: TaxPayers’ Alliance Reports Phil Jones et al to Information Commissioner UNQUOTE (Note 3 and 4). The involvement of the UK’s TaxPayers’ Alliance is long overdue. I tried to get it interested months ago but it didn’t want to know. Well, better late than never.

    Today the University of East Anglia issued statements (Note 6) which included complaints about the “illegal” manner in which those files were leaked. including one from Professor Phil Jones which acknowledges QUOTE: My colleagues and I accept that some of the published emails do not read well. I regret any upset or confusion caused as a result. Some were clearly written in the heat of the moment, others use colloquialisms frequently used between close colleagues. UNQUOTE. He has a very difficult task to persuade us to accept his closing words and would have an equally difficult task to convince a jury if his own actions are considered to be illegal.

    No matter how hard Realclimate’s Gavin Schnidt tries to stem the flood, this will not go away. As is said elsewhere (Note 7) QUOTE: Gavin over at realclimate keeps distracting people by saying the issue is the scientists being nasty to each other, and what Trenberth said, and the Nature “trick”, and the like. Those are side trails. To me, the main issue is the frontal attack on the heart of science, which is transparency. UNQUOTE.

    NOTES:
    1) see http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/cleared-jury-decides-that-threat-of-global-warming-justifies-breaking-the-law-925561.html
    2) see http://climateresearchnews.com/2009/11/the-global-warming-policy-foundation-gwpf-launched-today/
    3) see http://climateresearchnews.com/2009/11/cru-foi-emails-taxpayers-alliance-reports-phil-jones-et-al-to-information-commissioner/
    4) see http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/campaign/2009/11/cru-emails-reveal-inconvenient-truths-about-foi.html
    5) see http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/cleared-jury-decides-that-threat-of-global-warming-justifies-breaking-the-law-925561.html
    6) see http://www.uea.ac.uk/mac/comm/media/press/2009/nov/homepagenews/CRUupdate
    7) see http://omniclimate.wordpress.com/2009/11/24/willis-vs-the-cru-a-history-of-foi-evasion/

    Pete Ridley, Human-made global climate change agos(cep)tic

  12. 362
    E.L. says:

    320 – “I just cannot accept the liberty-destroying political outcomes that are favored by the global-warming fearists.”

    How is the regulation of pumping chemicals into the atmosphere an attack on liberty? The release of greenhouse gasses is taking away liberty. A small group of people are making profit by damaging your future and the future of your children. If someone was putting radioactive waste into your water supply, do you believe that is an act of liberty? How can you possibly buy into the liberty argument? When someone is granted rights over other people, he or she is not enjoying liberty but totalitarianism.

    Aside from liberty, most nations in the west are having to import much of their energy. Fossil fuels require us to burn up most of our capital. Shamefully, we have the technology to solve the global warming problem, create a lot of much needed jobs in the west, and stabilize some of the worst regions in the world, but irrational human behavior stands in the way.

  13. 363

    I don’t really understand Monbiots angle on this. It looks like a massive overreaction. He seems surprised that scientists discuss how to present their work and how to keep bad science out of the spotlight. Weird.

  14. 364
    Bob says:

    Gavin, has anyone requested e-mails and files from Goddard/NASA through FOIA?

    Bob

    [Response: Sure. The was a request for materials related to the peer review of the EPA Endangerment Document last year, and one for materials associated with the Bush-era media crackdown in 2004/2005. There may have been more. -gavin]

  15. 365
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Prince Prospero, Far be it for me to lob incendiary rhetoric at someone who clearly has a reading comprehension problem. Note the last sentence, “If I get an email from Glenn I’ll suggest this.”

    Haven’t you ever been solicited by an editory to suggest referees for a paper? I certainly have, and I usually sought to recommend those most knowledgable in the field–that is the competitors of the author. It is beyond me how you can read anything else into this email.

  16. 366
    E.L. says:

    326 – “we can expect ecosystem structure and function to change in ways that could have serious consequences for human well being.”

    I’m very concerned about this subject as well. I worry that we may see a biodiversity collapse. I think the additional stress on biodiversity is the greatest threat we face from global warming. The Red List did a sample of around 45,000 different species not long ago, and they found 38% of the species are in trouble. The 38 percent number is just astronomical. In truth, we are witnessing nothing short of a extinction level event triggered mostly by human influence. I don’t think people comprehend how fragile our ecosystems are at the moment nor how much we depend upon them.

  17. 367
    Molnar says:

    Gavin,

    those Turkish proxies are listed as transparent. Was the hacker’s proxy also transparent?

  18. 368
    Harold Brooks says:

    “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?

    The way this reads to me is that if Jones gets an e-mail about being a referee, he’ll recommend Francis (Zwiers?) and Myles (Allen?) as referees. Standard statement from every editor I’ve ever dealt with or any time I’ve requested reviews as an editor: “If cannot or do not want to do the review, please recommend other possible reviewers.”

    Jones never says he’s going to contact McGregor about these people as reviewers. He only says something about if McGregor e-mails him (presumably to be a reviewer). Not only ethical, but expected, behavior.

  19. 369
    David Reese says:

    Niels A Nielsen posted a comment 20 november 2009 at 1:26 PM, referring to a CRU email describing deliberate adjustments to the ‘warming blip’ for the 1940′s. A response was published as follows:

    [Response: This relates to the known problem in the SST records (as discussed here) related to changes in measuring technology and attempts to assess how important it is. The reworked raw data with corrections for this has not yet been released, and so people want to have a heuristic that might help see what impact they will have on any analysis that relied on the original (uncorrected data). - gavin]

    Comment by David Reese:
    It is fortunate that the ‘data glitches’ existed or Captain Henry Larsen wouldn’t have been able to sail the Northwest Passage with his wooden vessel the St Roch, twice, back in the 1940′s

  20. 370
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Anand Rajan, Wow, did you study doublespeak under Orwell, himself?

    OK, Anand, I’ll cop to the charge of wanting to keep planet Earth habitable for human beings. How about you? That on your agenda or are you too “disinterested” for that?

    Now as to the charge that this constitutes an agenda for climate science, that is false. The goal of climate science is to understand climate. Period. It just so happens that the only theory we have that accomplishes that goal tells us we are warming the planet by adding CO2 to the atmosphere. So the discovery that humans are causing climate change is a by-product of climate science. The desire to save the planet is a by-product of being human. Try it sometime.

  21. 371
    Henry chance says:

    Brewing beer takes heat. Having visited breweries, the heat to roast the grain and to bring up brewing temps also is energy intensive. In the case of brewing ethanol. a lot of heat is used to distill the qalcohol which has a lower boiling point than water.

  22. 372

    #321 Steve Geiger wrote: “…is more dangerous
    than slow, predictable warming of the planet.”

    Where in the world did you dig up this
    delusional fallacy of “slow and predictable warming?”
    You don’t have the slightest idea of what you
    are talking about.

    The following facts show that your idea of slow
    and predictable warming is totally wrong.

    Frozen methane and CO2 deposits, the provable
    rapidly increasing exponential human-made
    CO2 levels, the inability of the warming oceans
    to keep absorbing CO2 as well, the fact that
    many warming ecosystems start giving off CO2
    instead of absorbing it, the nearly, if not totally
    unprecedented world wide speed of the current
    warming (it has taken 5000 years in the past to
    do the warming of the last 200 years), all point
    to a dangerously unstable and unpredictable
    and unprecedented current warming pattern due
    to the virtual artificial tsunami of Co2 being forced
    into the long-term CO2 cycle.

  23. 373
    Ray Ladbury says:

    kenlovorn: Dude, brilliant satire! I mean completely missing the fact that the last time CO2 levels where this high, our ancestors were about 2 feet long and had prehensile tails. Brilliant!

    Oh! You didn’t know that! Oh! So, you want to say “Never Mind,” or do you want me to say it for you?

  24. 374
    dhogaza says:

    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?

    No, if you bothered to read carefully, you’d see that Jones says that IF ASKED TO BY THE EDITOR, he will recommend referees.

    Now, why do you think that if the editor e-mails him to ask for suggestions for referees, he should respond by saying “no! I won’t! I won’t help you by recommending a referee!”?????

  25. 375
    dhogaza says:

    Or, additionally, if the editor were to e-mail Jones asking if Jones would referee the paper, why on earth would it be considered unethical for Jones to say, “no, I’m not available, but I recommend Prof X and Prof Y be asked” ???

  26. 376
    Mark Gibb says:

    So, Hank Roberts, you actually believe that the effects of global warming will be so catastrophic that humanity will not survive long enough to become known to other star systems? Hyperbole.

    Assuming that all the science behind AGW is as good as human foibles allow, I still don’t believe the catastrophic outcome is likely. The belief in catastrophe seems to be based on a very static conception of human potential, and underestimates the ability of humans to solve problems, adapt, and thrive.

    [Response: I'm sure someone used that line with the Easter Islanders too. - gavin]

    Trying to force adaptation by enabling governments to have more power is making a deal with the devil, and will fail.

  27. 377
    dhogaza says:

    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

    Actually, recent hacking of internet servers has uncovered this proof that 1 = 0.

    By induction, 1 = 2 and therefore 2+2 = 1+1 = 2.

    They’ve been hiding this from you for YEARS. This should expose, once and for all, the algebraist plot to impose a one-world communist government. Since 1 = 0, in this government, every ONE of us will have ZERO rights or property.

  28. 378
    JBowers says:

    342 Anand Rajan KD says:
    “Laws, must ultimately speak to man and his life. Maybe it will affect the lives of his children. Nothing more. ”

    Well, I guess the Laws of Physics will certainly be affecting the lives of his children, then.

  29. 379
    JM says:

    Rest assured that brewing beer is carbon neutral. The CO2 produced by the yeast was taken out of the air by the barley.

    I would be more worried about non-fermentable sugars, which contribute to flatulence.

  30. 380
    pete says:

    Hope you have an attorney Gavin, you and realclimate are being named in this lawsuit……..

    http://spectator.org/blog/2009/11/24/climate-gate-development-cei-f

    Today, on behalf of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, I filed three Notices of Intent to File Suit against NASA and its Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), for those bodies’ refusal – for nearly three years – to provide documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

    - those relating to the content, importance or propriety of workday-hour posts or entries by GISS/NASA employee Gavin A. Schmidt on the weblog or “blog” RealClimate, which is owned by the advocacy Environmental Media Services and was started as an effort to defend the debunked “Hockey Stick” that is so central to the CRU files. RealClimate.org is implicated in the leaked files, expressly offered as a tool to be used “in any way you think would be helpful” to a certain advocacy campaign, including an assertion of Schmidt’s active involvement in, e.g., delaying and/or screening out unhelpful input by “skeptics” attempting to comment on claims made on the website.

    [Response: 'A certain advocacy campaign'? These guys are smoking something. And I like the idea that people can be sued because they moderate a forum. Perhaps we could move on to the WSJ letters page? - gavin]

  31. 381
    Ric Merritt says:

    I loved the fellow in #117 who assured us, several times in a rather short post, using very grave and responsible-sounding language, that everything anybody does anywhere is best when it is transparent and open.

    Then he signs himself ….. “Ed”.

  32. 382
    Ed says:

    It seems fairly clear to a casual observer that these “hackers” are among your own ranks, and that bias is too easy to introduce in the face of complexity. Rather than trying to calm the storms (whether in a teacup or not), perhaps you should all be considering providing greater openness to data sets and computer model algorithms. If the fear of the rising tide is justified, then the science will hold up to scrutiny. Maintaining datasets as secretive intelletual property has only resulted in this scandal. The flood gates will be open.

  33. 383
    Anand Rajan KD says:

    “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?”

    The kind of person that doesn’t have a stake in the planet’s well-being is the kind of person who minds his own business. Sorry to put it bluntly, but therein lies the whole crux of the issue.

    Climate scientists have taken it upon themselves to ‘care for the globe’. You refuse to see through this. Any manipulation, twisting of the facts, lies, deception would seem noble in such a high stakes game. The science most certainly would seem honorable. Is it difficult to see that a scientist who sets himself up to save the world would stop at anything? I see the CRU crusading evangelists to fit this mould. You do the science to save the world and the opponents to the science look like haters of humanity. Now, is that a tricky situation for a scientist to be in or what?

    All practitioners of prediction, including those who want to legislate based on predition, have only one suitable response. They are probably allowed a ‘See, I told you so’ – nothing more. Legislation should impact on palpable realities, not things like ‘future of the planet’, ‘planet’s well-being’ and their ilk.

    Wanting to care for the whole planet is just overarching hubris and power hunger in disguise. Such a motive should not lie at the root of climate research, but unfornutately it does, as your own words seem to indicate.

    [Response: This comment should be framed and placed somewhere on Easter Island to serve as a warning to society. This attitude is so completely abhorrent to me, that I find it almost incomprehensible that you genuinely think it is a defensible intellectual position. I can understand people having different views on how to care for the planet (or a child), but not the callous shrugging off of any responsibility at all. You want me to mind my own business when my and others research shows the potential for great risk? I feel sorry for you. - gavin]

  34. 384
    Dan says:

    I find the fallout from this leak really quite depressing, and I was wondering if scientists do, too? I mean, by what mechanisms do leaked emails, brilliant rhetoric, and so on, have the slightest effect on CO2 levels? If person A “wins” on Newsnight over person “B” or vice versa, it doesn’t really make the slightest difference except, perhaps, to sales of their book. I’m not an expert on the isotopes of Carbon, but I’m pretty sure that the finest spectrometer in the world can’t distinguish anthropogenic form natural. It seems like people are decided on their opinions now, and all this public waffle isn’t going to change anything. This is why I ignore climate change articles now, and am breaking a pledge in posting here, it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference. Who wins debates or argues the most compellingly in politics / media / the blogosphere / townhall meetings is nothing at all to do with reality. There is zero correlation between outcome of debates in fora like this and what eventually comes to pass.

    I’m not going to tell you which side I’m on, that would be hypocritical given the above, but I act/vote/buy appropriately, and quietly. We all know all the (publicly comprehensible) arguments, it’s not through lack of info that we act, and to add to them only reinforces the legitimacy of the illegitimate and unfounded general debate.

    The last people on earth will be two pundits arguing whose fault it was.

    I therefore recommend that the responders completely ignore this comment and others in this thread, and get on with proper work, unless they’re working here primarily for their own satisfaction, in which case do what you will! :)

  35. 385
    Jay Reynolds says:

    I see Mr. Schmidt is mentioned in a lawsuit against NASA.
    http://spectator.org/blog/2009/11/24/climate-gate-development-cei-f

    [Response: Fame at last! Not that they are 'playing the man' and not the ball or anything... ;) I'd be more impressed if they submitted a comment on one of the 20 papers I've authored or co-authored in the last 2 years. 'Cos I'm sure they are really interested in the science. - gavin]

  36. 386
    Tim Smith says:

    I think the biggest unknown is clouds. I think all will agree that water vapor is the primary greenhouse gas, and cloud cover has a significant effect on global temperature. Can anyone say for certain that cloud cover is properly accounted for in the models. Have these computer models, that everyone relies on to predict the future, been validated for accuracy in predicting cloud formation? Can they properly model historic data?

  37. 387
    monty says:

    This is off topic but, don’t you think it’s time to update your homepage comment “…that anti-science schlock meister Michael Chrichton…” – the man’s been dead for over a year! “De mortuous nil nisi bonum”

  38. 388
    Mike Bauer says:

    The saddest thing about the way the GW debate is coming off is that if science is right it’s because we’ve understood something whereas if the ‘deniers’ are right it’s only because science got it wrong (in most cases anyway).

    Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.
    – Benjamin Franklin

  39. 389
    Paul K2 says:

    Gavin, help is on the way; The ‘Keystone Cops’ are on the case!
    Charles the Moderator at WUWT has put up a post suggesting and analyzing different scenarios of how the email file was released. He suggests:

    I have a theory.
    With the blogosphere all atwitter about the emails and data “stolen” from the Climatic Research Institute at the University of East Anglia, two theories have become dominant describing the origin of the incident.

    1. CRU was hacked and the data stolen by skilled hackers, perhaps an individual or more insidiously some sophisticated group, such as Russian agents.
    2. An insider leaked the information to the NSM (non-mainstream media)

    Theory number one is the preferred explanation of the defenders of CRU. This allows them to portray CRU as victims of illegal acts. It allows them to scream bloody murder and call for an investigation of the crime. How can we take the fruits of hideous crime seriously? The end does not justify the means!

    Theory number two is the preferred explanation of, for want of a better term, the Skeptics Camp. It is a romantic thought. Some CRU employee, fed up with the machinations, deceit, and corruption of science witnessed around him or her, took the noble action of becoming whistle-blower to the world, bravely thrusting the concealed behavior and data into the light for all to see. This theory is attractive for all the right reasons. Personal risk, ethics, selflessness etc.

    I would like to offer a third possibility based on a bit of circumstantial evidence I noticed on the Web Saturday afternoon.
    There’s an old adage, never assume malice when stupidity or incompetence will explain it.

    A short time ago there was a previous leak of CRU data by an insider. In this case, Steve McIntyre acquired station data which he had been requesting for years, but someone inside CRU unofficially made the data available. …

    So this is my theory is and this is only my theory:
    A few people inside CRU possessed the archive of documents being held in reserve in case the FOI appeal decision was made in favor of Steve McIntyre. They shared it with others by putting it in an FTP directory which was on the same CPU as the external webserver, or even worse, was an on a shared drive somewhere to which the webserver had permissions to access. In other words, if you knew where to look, it was publicly available. Then, along comes our “hackers” who happened to find it, download it, and the rest is history unfolding before our eyes. So much for the cries of sophisticated hacking and victimization noted above.

    If I had to bet money, I would guess that David Palmer, Information Policy & Compliance Manager, University of East Anglia, has an even chance of being the guilty party, but it would only be a guess. …

    I have a different theory than Charles the Moderator, so I spelled it out in a comment:

    Paul K2 (09:29:12) :

    Charles – I think you are being too simplistic, and ignoring the most likely scenario. The idea that a file created for FOI purposes, i.e. legal reasons, was left unprotected, and someone came along and just stumbled over it is pretty naive.

    Other commentators seem to be reading too many romantic novels, if I have “been watching too many movies”. They have the idea that this is the work of a HadCRU insider. OK, perhaps a misguided worker would take the risk of releasing the file, but why would they orchestrate a cyber attack on RC? They would be taking too many risks and committing too many felony acts.

    I like the name ClimateGate for these events. Like Watergate, we know a ‘burglary’ was committed. Now we need to find the ‘burglar(s)’, and their bosses. It is pretty easy to identify the prime suspects; clearly suspicion should fall on McIntyre’s group who lost the appeal for the FOI release.

    I believe the FOI compliance authorities knew about the file of emails, but declined to release it since the emails are not useful for scientific purposes, the reason M’s group sought FOI release. It is likely HadCRU has already addressed some of the FOI concealment concerns.

    The most likely scenario is M’s group also knew about the file, and few days after losing the appeal, orchestrated the release in violation of the FOI appeal decision. This is similar to the kidnapping of a child, a few days after a father loses a custody trial… the suspicion would immediately fall on the father.

    Are you certain that people associated with McIntyre didn’t release the information?

    UPDATE: At this point in time, Charles the Moderator hasn’t responded to this theory, which I call Question the Prime Suspects.

  40. 390
    debreuil says:

    Thanks for the link Gavin, I did go the the NOAA site and I am knocking my self out : ).

    One thing, they have 92 proxies there, and it seems all of them (where possible) have done the same temperature grafting thing at the end, am I reading that correctly? I went into the data, and much of it was truncated before the alarming upswings we see in the graphs, still looking for full data that shows that (not doubting its there, just still working through it).

    The main graph there is very misleading imo [1]. It has the data in color, and actual temps at the end in black (which is fine). However it then blends the measured data in with recorded temps to modify it at the end. They are upfront about doing this in the notes, but that really seems to be graph manipulation at its worst imo. Knowing how some of those original graphs have been massaged now makes it even more suspect. People are smarter than given credit for, I think an honest graph and a good explanation would do more for the science long term than this kind of thing.

    Also I looked again, and I believe all the CRU tree code in the CRU files is compensating twice — once for inaccuracies vs recent measured temps (aka the decline) and once when grafting on the current temp records. Is that right as well?

    So far from casual looking at code and data:
    - all CRU code available manually adjusts data post 1960, or 1940, or sometimes later
    - the data is also blended with a second (more accurate but certainly hotter) set of data at the end
    - the IPCC charts for historical temps also do this.

    Is there a published or even online chart of what the raw data for in these studies look like? I understand that isn’t necessarily accurate for reasons given in the papers, but it would be good to know where we are starting from too.

    [1] http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/pubs/pcn/fig6-10b.png

    [Response: All the raw data are there in the NOAA Reconstructions page, and there is no blending in that figure. The proxy records don't go up to the present, and so when there is a 20 year smooth they end prior to the 1990s. - gavin]

  41. 391
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #331: Caerbannog, I don’t think it’s at all clear that anyone at CRU acted inappropriately. If you’re referring to the FOI business, note that the (apparent) deletions were of material first identified as exempt by the FOI officer. This identification was contingent on the two U.S. scientists involved saying that they believed the emails to have been confidential, but I’m confident that would have happened.

    This situation is all too analogous to driving down the road and seeing someone jumping up and down and pointing into a building while shouting “Fire!” Even lacking any other evidence such as smoke or actual fire, we are wired to respond as if the assertion was true until we see firm indications otherwise. The media have been responding in that way, but let’s try not to join them.

  42. 392
    DJK says:

    Re: #285

    “Where is the link, the data or other evidence, that shows warming is -driven- by CO2 increase – especially when it seems, when looking at longer term temp and CO2 record, that CO2 is re-active to temp change and not leading?

    [Response: No one disputes that temperature changes affect the carbon cycle - how could they not? Thus if temperature changes for an independent reason (say, umm... orbital forcing), then the carbon cycle will react and the CO2 levels will change. No disputes either (hopefully) that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Changes in greenhouse gases change climate - and in fact we get even get close to explaining how cold the ice ages were unless we include that amplifying process. Thus you have chickens and eggs and they feed back on each other. More eggs leads to more chickens leads to more eggs etc. Now the modern situation is different - we have dug up a huge number of fossil chickens and thrown them into the coop. More eggs are likely to emerge! - gavin]”

    With all due respect, Dr. Schmidt, your answer is a non-answer. The poster asks for evidence and/or analysis on this key point–which is in fact the lynchpin of the entire AGW argument–and you respond with the chicken and egg analogy?

    I have been trying to dig into the science here on both sides of the argument, and my assessment is that from an evidential standpoint, there is more in common than anyone would care to admit. In particular:

    -No one disputes that the earth’s temperature warmed in the 20th century.
    -No one disputes that carbon dioxide emissions have increased substantially during this period.
    -No one disputes that the source of the increased emissions is the combustion of fossil fuels by human beings.
    -No one disputes that the earth’s climate is one of the most non-linear, chaotic systems imaginable, subject to a multitude of forcings and spanning time scales ranging from hours to hundreds of millions of years.
    -No one disputes that the forcings in question include, but are not limited to, solar flux, orbital perturbations of both the earth and the solar system, greenhouse gas concentrations (of which water vapor is the most important contributor), cloud cover, volcanic activity, albedo effects, and ocean phenomena such as the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

    Based on what I have read, there are only two main points of contention in the debate:

    1) The exact sensitivity of the climate to increases in carbon dioxide relative to other forcing mechanisms (i.e. the thrust of the question in post #285.)

    2) The state of our current climate relative to the paleoclimate; i.e. are we experiencing unprecedented temperatures relative to, say, the Medieval Warm Period, or is our current climate within a historical range?

    It seems that McIntyre & McKitrick are focused primarily on question #2, but in my mind, the most important issue is question #1, because of its implications for our society, government, and economy. AGW proponents insist that both questions have been irrefutably resolved, but my own reading of the science suggests that this is far from the case, and in fact a vigorous debate still remains. In particular, the exact magnitude and sign (positive or negative) of the heat flux feedback “gain” in response to CO2 increases remains contentious. General circulation models all seem to assign positive values to these feedbacks, yet there is new evidence that they may be closer to zero or even negative.

    On the surface, this would appear to be a simple matter of letting the science continue to shed more light on the issue. Unfortunately, as evidenced by the rancor and elitism which is apparent in the released e-mails, the AGW proponents’ desire appears to be to shut down all debate and skepticism and let the politicians proceed with dismantling our current way of life. I can’t say whether this attitude is motivated by politics, money, genuine altruism, or simply the desire to be right–but given the magnitude of the proposed policy changes, I find the underlying scientific foundation to still be lacking. Your glib response to the poster’s serious question reinforces my belief.

    [Response: Don't talk wet. Point 1) is a valid goal in science and multiple groups all around the world are focussed on it. Your point 2) is a complete red herring. It is irrelevant whether the MWP was 0.1 deg C warmer than the late 20th C or 0.1 deg C cooler. If you want a time in the past that was warmer than today, try the last interglacial, or the Pliocene, or the Eocene or the Cretaceous. There is no ambiguity there. If you want evidence of non-CO2 forcings, look at the 8.2 kyr event or the mid-Holocene. Similarly. No conceivable revisions of the medieval temperatures are going to constrain either sensitivity, or solar forcing or internal variability - the differences are just too small to be useful. As for M&M tackling the MWP, they have done nothing of the sort. They have never published a single reconstruction. Never mind one that goes back to medieval time. The issue is not one of shutting down debate - there is debate a-plenty at science conferences and workshops across the world. it's that the 'skeptics' keep talking about non-issues - however loudly they declare that they are being repressed. - gavin]

  43. 393
    Rob says:

    281 –
    Gavin- Do you write your own code? If not, who does?

    [Response: Mostly me. The GCM is a collective long-term effort though and so many people have contributed code. -gavin]

    Re the above, what kind of configuration management system do you use to track changes to the source code? PVCS, RCS, ClearCase, Source safe?

    [Response: CVS. why? - gavin]

  44. 394
    anon says:

    “It bears repeating: The idea that a layman somehow thinks they know something ”

    Laymen are being asked ^H^H^H^H^H forced to pay for it. It would behove everyone involved to have a clear, concise explanation for them.

  45. 395
    Rob says:

    Is this it? It appears as if you are in a need to spin this each time the subject arise. ( Sorry for being insinuative..;-) )

    89 –
    Can you or anyone else point me to a text stating THE physical evidence linking CO2 to ‘warming’ with any degree of necessity?
    And could you point me to a text stating what would FALSIFY this? Of course, these two would have to be in the same text, if it is to be considered hard evidence.

    [Response: The evidence that CO2 specifically is having an impact on climate comes from radiation measurements and in particular temperature trends in the stratosphere (which are cooling in contradiction of almost all other drivers). Combine that with expected changes predicted decades ago that have actually happened, you end up with a strong case that CO2 (along with the other GHGs and aerosols) are having an impact, and that will increase in decades to come. If you want to falsify this, you'd have to show that spectral data on CO2 absorption is wrong, that the stratosphere is not cooling as expected (this is a cleaner test than the surface temperatures because there are less extraneous factors), or improve the satellite measurements by an order of magnitude and have the fluxes not look like what is expected. Tall order, but conceivable. - gavin]

    285 -
    Where is the link, the data or other evidence, that shows warming is -driven- by CO2 increase – especially when it seems, when looking at longer term temp and CO2 record, that CO2 is re-active to temp change and not leading?

    [Response: No one disputes that temperature changes affect the carbon cycle - how could they not? Thus if temperature changes for an independent reason (say, umm... orbital forcing), then the carbon cycle will react and the CO2 levels will change. No disputes either (hopefully) that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Changes in greenhouse gases change climate - and in fact we get even get close to explaining how cold the ice ages were unless we include that amplifying process. Thus you have chickens and eggs and they feed back on each other. More eggs leads to more chickens leads to more eggs etc. Now the modern situation is different - we have dug up a huge number of fossil chickens and thrown them into the coop. More eggs are likely to emerge! - gavin]

  46. 396
    sod says:

    Gavin, you are the next on their hitlist.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/11/24/cei-files-notice-of-intent-to-sue-nasa-giss/

    CEI sought the following documents, among others, NASA’s failure to provide which within thirty days will prompt CEI to file suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia:

    - those relating to the content, importance or propriety of workday-hour posts or entries by GISS/NASA employee Gavin A. Schmidt on the weblog or “blog” RealClimate, which is owned by the advocacy Environmental Media Services and was started as an effort to defend the debunked “Hockey Stick” that is so central to the CRU files. RealClimate.org is implicated in the leaked files, expressly offered as a tool to be used “in any way you think would be helpful” to a certain advocacy campaign, including an assertion of Schmidt’s active involvement in, e.g., delaying and/or screening out unhelpful input by “skeptics” attempting to comment on claims made on the website.

    shouldn t they at least pretend, to be interested in science?

  47. 397
    Mal Adapted says:

    #345 Dan says:

    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.

    It does indeed bear repeating: you’re describing the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

  48. 398
    subgenius says:

    Thanks Gavin for all the time and effort you have put in to dealing with this.

    I don’t know how many have seen it, but there is a real head of steam building in the media over this – first Monbiot’s spinelessness and now this:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704888404574547730924988354.html

    The science is being discredited in the eyes of the general population and this is sure to lead to change of political will in short order unless some kind of offensive is launched. I have no idea how this could be done, but it seems that (as “the best defense is a good offense”) it is a step that must be given serious consideration.

  49. 399
    Chris Colose says:

    George Monbiot’s recent post on this e-mail thing is rather interesting. He doesn’t blow it out of proportion as some skeptics have, but he does explicitly state that it puts a dent in the credibility of a handful of scientists. I think his reaction is a bit hasty. Maybe he should talk to some of those scientists himself?

  50. 400
    Anne van der Bom says:

    Mark Gibbs
    24 November 2009 at 9:24 AM

    My problem is, regardless of the science, I just cannot accept the liberty-destroying political outcomes that are favored by the global-warming fearists.

    Some skepticism towards the political and economical fearists would be a good idea.

    What is your opinion about the liberty-destroying dependence on foreign fossil fuels?


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