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The CRU hack

Filed under: — group @ 20 November 2009

As many of you will be aware, a large number of emails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia webmail server were hacked recently (Despite some confusion generated by Anthony Watts, this has absolutely nothing to do with the Hadley Centre which is a completely separate institution). As people are also no doubt aware the breaking into of computers and releasing private information is illegal, and regardless of how they were obtained, posting private correspondence without permission is unethical. We therefore aren’t going to post any of the emails here. We were made aware of the existence of this archive last Tuesday morning when the hackers attempted to upload it to RealClimate, and we notified CRU of their possible security breach later that day.

Nonetheless, these emails (a presumably careful selection of (possibly edited?) correspondence dating back to 1996 and as recently as Nov 12) are being widely circulated, and therefore require some comment. Some of them involve people here (and the archive includes the first RealClimate email we ever sent out to colleagues) and include discussions we’ve had with the CRU folk on topics related to the surface temperature record and some paleo-related issues, mainly to ensure that posting were accurate.

Since emails are normally intended to be private, people writing them are, shall we say, somewhat freer in expressing themselves than they would in a public statement. For instance, we are sure it comes as no shock to know that many scientists do not hold Steve McIntyre in high regard. Nor that a large group of them thought that the Soon and Baliunas (2003), Douglass et al (2008) or McClean et al (2009) papers were not very good (to say the least) and should not have been published. These sentiments have been made abundantly clear in the literature (though possibly less bluntly).

More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to ‘get rid of the MWP’, no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no ‘marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords. The truly paranoid will put this down to the hackers also being in on the plot though.

Instead, there is a peek into how scientists actually interact and the conflicts show that the community is a far cry from the monolith that is sometimes imagined. People working constructively to improve joint publications; scientists who are friendly and agree on many of the big picture issues, disagreeing at times about details and engaging in ‘robust’ discussions; Scientists expressing frustration at the misrepresentation of their work in politicized arenas and complaining when media reports get it wrong; Scientists resenting the time they have to take out of their research to deal with over-hyped nonsense. None of this should be shocking.

It’s obvious that the noise-generating components of the blogosphere will generate a lot of noise about this. but it’s important to remember that science doesn’t work because people are polite at all times. Gravity isn’t a useful theory because Newton was a nice person. QED isn’t powerful because Feynman was respectful of other people around him. Science works because different groups go about trying to find the best approximations of the truth, and are generally very competitive about that. That the same scientists can still all agree on the wording of an IPCC chapter for instance is thus even more remarkable.

No doubt, instances of cherry-picked and poorly-worded “gotcha” phrases will be pulled out of context. One example is worth mentioning quickly. Phil Jones in discussing the presentation of temperature reconstructions stated that “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.” The paper in question is the Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998) Nature paper on the original multiproxy temperature reconstruction, and the ‘trick’ is just to plot the instrumental records along with reconstruction so that the context of the recent warming is clear. Scientists often use the term “trick” to refer to a “a good way to deal with a problem”, rather than something that is “secret”, and so there is nothing problematic in this at all. As for the ‘decline’, it is well known that Keith Briffa’s maximum latewood tree ring density proxy diverges from the temperature records after 1960 (this is more commonly known as the “divergence problem”–see e.g. the recent discussion in this paper) and has been discussed in the literature since Briffa et al in Nature in 1998 (Nature, 391, 678-682). Those authors have always recommend not using the post 1960 part of their reconstruction, and so while ‘hiding’ is probably a poor choice of words (since it is ‘hidden’ in plain sight), not using the data in the plot is completely appropriate, as is further research to understand why this happens.

The timing of this particular episode is probably not coincidental. But if cherry-picked out-of-context phrases from stolen personal emails is the only response to the weight of the scientific evidence for the human influence on climate change, then there probably isn’t much to it.

There are of course lessons to be learned. Clearly no-one would have gone to this trouble if the academic object of study was the mating habits of European butterflies. That community’s internal discussions are probably safe from the public eye. But it is important to remember that emails do seem to exist forever, and that there is always a chance that they will be inadvertently released. Most people do not act as if this is true, but they probably should.

It is tempting to point fingers and declare that people should not have been so open with their thoughts, but who amongst us would really be happy to have all of their email made public?

Let he who is without PIN cast the the first stone.

Update: The official UEA statement is as follows:

“We are aware that information from a server used for research information
in one area of the university has been made available on public websites,”
the spokesman stated.

“Because of the volume of this information we cannot currently confirm
that all of this material is genuine.”

“This information has been obtained and published without our permission
and we took immediate action to remove the server in question from
operation.”

“We are undertaking a thorough internal investigation and we have involved
the police in this enquiry.”

Update II: Please comment on the next thread.


1,092 Responses to “The CRU hack”

  1. 251
    Brian Dodge says:

    “It’s a shame it wasnt the Heartland Institute’s email server that got hacked – that would have been FAR more interesting…”

    Now that WUWT, CA, Blackboard, WSJ, and others have defined the “rules of engagement”(or lack thereof), I don’t think it will be long before Watts, McIntyres, Exxons, DCIs, FOS, and Heartlands mail servers will be targeted as “fair game” and appear online. Anybody wanna bet on what the hackersphere is doing right now?

    [Response: Surprising as this might appear. I don't think this should be encouraged at all. Private communications picked over by a hostile audience can make a saint look like a sinner, and so while there might be some karmic justice to that, I would not wish it on my worst enemy. - gavin]

  2. 252
    Hank Roberts says:

    Check the date on any discussion of “Climate Research” and compare the history of that journal. It’s a classic study. E.g.
    http://www.sgr.org.uk/climate/StormyTimes_NL28.htm November 2003
    … the circumstances behind the resignation of half of the editorial board of the journal Climate Research
    How can the publication of one poor paper in a scientific journal have caused the resignation of half the members of its editorial board (including the newly-appointed editor-in-chief) and have these resignations had any effect? As one of the editors who resigned from Climate Research at the end of July 2003, these are some of the questions ….

  3. 253
    caerbannog says:

    Joshua (#221) — Google up the paper in question (authors Soon and Baliunas, title “Proxy climatic and environmental changes of the past 1000 years”) and *read* it. If you have enough technical expertise to judge the work of climate scientists, you should have no problem identifying at least two or three “showstopper” problems with the Soon/Baliunas paper. It would have been an act of professional negligence for scientists to give that journal’s editorial board a pass for publishing that train-wreck of a paper.

    (Of course, it turned out that the paper was published over the objections of six of the journal’s editors, who later resigned in protest.)

  4. 254
    caerbannog says:

    Joshua (#222) — Google up the paper in question (authors Soon and Baliunas, title “Proxy climatic and environmental changes of the past 1000 years”) and *read* it. If you have enough technical expertise to judge the work of climate scientists, you should have no problem identifying at least two or three “showstopper” problems with the Soon/Baliunas paper. It would have been an act of professional negligence for scientists to give that journal’s editorial board a pass for publishing that train-wreck of a paper.

    (Of course, it turned out that the paper was published over the objections of six of the journal’s editors, who later resigned in protest.)

  5. 255
    gtrip says:

    re 214: Steve Fish is the one that brought up the synonym “stratagem”, I just obliged him with a definition.

    M-W definition number three of “trick” is: 3 a (1) : a quick or artful way of getting a result : KNACK (2) : an instance b : a technical device (as of an art or craft)

    I am guessing that you would apply 3b. Which would make the statement read: “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature technical device of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline”.

    But I believe that most will read it as this: “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature of getting a desired result of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline”.

  6. 256
    Adam Sullivan says:

    Everyone owes Gavin props for being on this thread all day and taking on any and all comers in real time.

  7. 257
    Denis Allen says:

    Sir,

    In response to your claim

    “There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy”,

    I wrote

    “Among others, the emails’ authors admit to deleting emails in anticipation of FOI requests. (…) Here we have a case of deletion with the intent to evade.”

    you write,

    “there is no evidence that any email that was responsive to a FOIA request actually was deleted.”

    With all due respect, this is immaterial. There does not have to be an ongoing FOI request. The point to keep in mind is that “your” emails at your workplace in fact are not yours. They belong to your employer. And if you work for a public institution like an UK university, they belong to the public, as does any information you generate there. You have no right to destroy them but by following pre-established retention rules. Not having such rules does not absolve you from the duty to keep the records. In other words, if indeed the staff deleted information, they are out of compliance already.

    If anyone, even outside the UK, would tomorrow request access to the staff’s emails that fall into the time period mentioned and if indeed any mail would have been deleted – as was alluded to in the stolen mails – then first CRU and then the Hadley staff would be open to litigation that in past cases lead to heavy fines.

  8. 258

    Have you seen the total hatchet job by Revkin with first and last word on the subject by Patrick Michaels?

    Does anyone have any doubt left about what is really going on here?

    This hatchet job got placed on the front page of the online edition of the NYT.

    Oh, and that bit about “trick” was left to stand as if it had the meanings given in comment #100 — your explanation was nowhere to be seen.

    Ya think it might not be a coincidence?

  9. 259

    “The hacker’s message that accompanied the link read: “We feel that climate science is, in the current situation, too important to be kept under wraps. We hereby release a random selection of correspondence, code and documents.”

    “a random selection”… If this is true, this is troubling as well (ie. cherry picking). In science, all the informtion would need to be released for a full picture.

    I am sure that a lot of the confidential emails would also show that many main stream scientists are privately very alarmed about climate change and they think it is a very real threat to you, your children’s, and your country’s future.

    I know that this is what many of the publishing climate scientists mentioned in the above emails have privately told me over 11 years…

  10. 260
    RJHJ says:

    The argument that emails are private is nonsense. If you work for government and your emails are subject to Freedom of Information requests and it’s illegal for you to delete any emails, other correspondence or paper work then under no circumstance could the claim be made that they are private.

    [Response: None of the people involved work for the government. - gavin]

    “PS I’m getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station temperature data. Don’t any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act !”

    “When the FOI requests began here, the FOI person said we had to
    > abide by the requests. ”

    “Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4?
    Keith will do likewise. He’s not in at the moment – minor family crisis.
    Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? I don’t have his new email address. We will be getting Caspar to do likewise.”

  11. 261
    Guy says:

    Gavin, I was at least heartened to read your inline response to #199…

    “We are instead ‘biased’ towards what is in the peer-reviewed literature and what the mainstream climate science community thinks – whether it is all in agreement or whether it is not”

    …given your response to #160 in Muddying the peer Reviewed literature:

    “Paper in peer-reviewed literature” does not imply ‘science and evidence’.

    Clearly there is more than one peer-reviewed paper , but I’ve no idea how many… and I do want to know what the balance is.

    These look like dark days to me. Please keep on plugging away at flawed papers, but the system isn’t functioning too well at the moment. With all the blogsphere noise and largely irrelevant leaked emails, we desperately need to know what the real state of climate science is in. As I posted there, an independent overview of the entire peer-reviewed literature is desperately needed. These leaked emails I suspect will do a great deal of damage even if they contain (as I suspect) nothing worse than occasional lapses in taste. Find a way to help the public believe in the scientific method again.

  12. 262
    Axel Edgren says:

    “Like it or not, it is something that will need to be addressed and explained.”

    …By the people making the claims about the content of the e-mails. Most of the excitable puppies here *leave that out*.

  13. 263
    DEdward says:

    gavin wrote: “This is a typical over-reaction. Perhaps you are unaware that almost all journals demand that you submit names of potential reviewers as part of the submission?” My own experience is limited to submissions and publications in about 10 journals in medical research and related fields, and service as an editor on three or four journals in medical fields, and I have never seen this practice. Can others here comment on whether this is common in climate science, and why it should be?

    [Response: It is common practice (look at the journals at AGU, or AMS for instance), and it exists because finding appropriate reviewers in a timely fashion for papers that might range of a huge field is hard. Most of the time the suggestions make that a lot easier on the editors. - gavin]

  14. 264
    Ray Ladbury says:

    It seems that the denialosphere must periodically fabricate a controversy just to remind us of how utterly their movement is with respect to the science. Frankly, I think the climate science community has been entirely too accommodating of whe wannabes and anti-science idiots.

    Guys, here’s a hint: If you aren’t smart enough to verify an analysis from the same publicly available data the authors used, then you aren’t smart enough to pass judgment on the science. To hell with these bastards. Let them bask in their own irrelevance while the rest of us get about constructing a sustainable society.

  15. 265
    Aldyen Donnelly says:

    (Moderator, why don’t you cancel my prior post and consider this properly spaced one.)

    I am not a skeptic and agree that a full reading of the emails will likely reveal no conspiracy. But the emails (if they are real) graphically reveal two unrelated common practices that the greater scientific community should acknowledge and act to address.

    LACK OF TRANSPARANCY
    The emails reveal a great lack of respect for FOI and an unwillingness among at least some of the researchers to be open and transparent about their research. This is arrogance and should not be tolerated in the wider scientific community. The “Peer Review” process should be formalized to include some basic steps–including data disclosure and assessment (this can be done under confidentiality agreements if necessary)and development and disclosure of model documentation. Far too often what looks like good science is output from very sophisticated models that rely on input that is output from models that rely on input that is ouput from models that rely on input that is output, etc. All too often, when we break these massive modelling exercises down (which we typically do after a resource stock failure that the sustainable yield models failed to forecast, or a financial market failure that the leading economic “experts” failed to anticipate) we find few if any independent variables in the Russian doll-style modelling exercise. This is a huge issue.

    UNPROFESSIONAL BEHAVIOUR
    I don’t care whether the communication is private or otherwise, it is highly unprofessional for scientists to belittle others in the manner displayed in the emails. This behaviour is not accepted under the professional standard guidelines under which lawyers, acountants, etc. operate. It is juvenile behaviour. Hopefully the most important lesson learned, here, is that if the wider academic scientific community wants to be treated with the respect it deserves, the members of that same community have to learn to engage in more respectful, patient debate and dialogue.

    I hold the juvenile behaviour of some of the scientists responsible for the research that links climate change to rising GHG concentrations and rising GHG concentrations to anthropogenic discharges at least as responsible fo the increasing credibility of the skeptics/deniers as the skeptics. You want to have greater credibility? This is not just about doing better science. You have to be more open–even with your detractors–respond patiently to criticism and always more professionally than your opponent.

    McIntyre’s advantage, in the public and business community’s eyes, is that he has rarely if ever called people names. He has restricted his criticisms to the science and–-even if het gets the science wrong–his argements are more appealing and credible to other professionals than the personal attacks that usually dominate the GW community’s public responses to McIntyre’s work.

    I have dedicated the last 15 years of my professional life to the development of AGW mitigation strategies. In the process of trying to move companies and governments forward, I often find, however, that the scientists whose basic research I trust are also my largest liability.

  16. 266
    Scott Sidney says:

    Does anyone remember the Pentagon Papers? At any rate, all is fair in love and war.

  17. 267
    Reuben A says:

    It is sad that this exceedingly low and pathetic instance of invasion of privacy among colleagues will be used by climate change deniers to further inflame the ignorant that are already judging this as the “nail in the coffin”. The bottom line is we are overconsuming resources at a dramatic rate and such overconsumption is leading to disastrous environmental consequences, many which will be felt by the common person in the next few years. The only peace I can have now is that those deniers will have no room to hide behind the idiocy when disaster hits our species, but so sad we all have to pay the price for their arrogance.

  18. 268
    Dave G says:

    I would respectfully suggest that the entire email document repository be published so the press can examine the full context in which the statements were made. And also to highlight any editing that may have been done by the hackers.

  19. 269
    mackinacnick says:

    I appreciate the willingness of climate science to address this issue.

    From what I have seen of the emails, they do seem damning, in that rigorous scientific debate should be rigorously scientific, not political in nature. And that is the problem with the emails – the political has taken over the science. Part of this is the nature of the “cure” for global warming is political – however- and here is the rub, the science of the debate has to be done in the best of the traditions of science – very open, very transparent, and that, I am afraid has NOT been the case with Climate Change. I think that the end result of this scandal will be that those who are seeking the political changes must now publish, fully, the raw data sets about the science.

    regards

  20. 270
    Ahmet G says:

    Dear Dr. Schmidt,

    I am doing a PhD in climate science and am quite shocked to read some of the things in the hacked e-mails. I would never think of “hiding” or “deleting” some data or code. Look what Prof. Jones once wrote:

    At 09:41 AM 2/2/2005, Phil Jones wrote:

    “…
    And don’t leave stuff lying around on ftp sites – you never know who is trawling them. The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone. Does your similar act in the US force you to respond to enquiries within 20 days? – our does ! The UK works on precedents, so the first request will test it. We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind. Tom Wigley has sent me a worried email when he heard about it – thought people could ask him for his model code. He has retired officially from UEA so he can hide behind that.
    …”

    Funny thing is, I’ve been searching for the CRU station data too. Only to learn that I can get the gridded data and nothing else. I was surprised, but now I understand.

    I am seriously considering leaving ‘science’, if this is what I have to become after years. What is your advice for me?

    Regards

  21. 271
    Andrew says:

    Love how only comments that are less that 100% supportive earn a [Response:]!

  22. 272
    Brian Dodge says:

    I wonder how many IP addresses the Russian mob collected from the people who downloaded the file. If one could quantify gullibity, and wanted to filter IP addresses for some gullibility quotient, how would YOU go about it?

  23. 273
    Joe Shea says:

    Long time RC reader, but first time poster. All I can say is kudos for acknowledging the subject of the emails, and the sometimes personal nature of the comments contained therein. The hard facts of science still stand, and anthropogenic climate change hasn’t disappeared.

  24. 274
    Peter Wood says:

    Let us not lose track of what has happened here: a whole lot of people’s private emails have been hacked into and been publicly placed on the internet. What a disgusting invasion of privacy.

  25. 275
    Tonyb says:

    Gavin

    The Giss records start at the bottom of the temperature cycle in 1880. Why should anyone be surprised when they start to climb up to the next summit?

    [Response: They start in 1880 because that's when the coverage becomes wide enough. I doubt that the Weather services of the 19th Century set themselves up just because they knew that the global was going to warm 100 years later. - gavin]

    We have plenty of historic instrumental readings that demonstrate the peaks and troughs of climate variabilty without the need to start constructing complex proxy studies.

    [Response: No we don't. How many weather stations are there in 1000 AD? - gavin]

    Phil Jones has studied the historic records in some detail-and got an EU grant to do it. Measuring temperature summit to temperature summit would have resulted in a completely different answer to the one that yourselves and Hadley/Cru have arrived at.

    Tonyb

  26. 276
    Nobody says:

    Im uncomfortable of the way how one side of this conversation keeps naming the other side as ‘denialist’ from what they usually call themself, ‘skeptics’. It makes this whole conversation sound too much like a religion where nonbelievers, or slightly disagreeing people are called heretics.

    In the same logic the ‘denialists’ might as well call the other party ‘dogmatics’ eg. people with belief that is held stubbornly and without evidence which is their basic claim and would suit as well from their point of view.

    Grouping people with alienating names that inherently claim they are wrong just makes the conversation more difficult and insulting. Or is the insulting delibirate? You can hardly expect a civil and amiable conversation if you start with a belittling and arrogant start.

  27. 277
    geo says:

    What appalled me, if it turns out to be true, was an email purported to be from Phil Jones to Mike Mann where the archive shows “Jones” wrote on 2/2/2005, “The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone.”

    If proven to be true, that goes far beyond deleting emails as a crime against science, and perhaps a criminal act as well. I certainly cannot feel comfortable with Dr. Jones being in a position of responsibility where he could actually carry out that threat unless he disavows that email as being something he actually wrote.

    [Response: It is obviously not meant seriously, but that is hard to discern from little snippets like this. - gavin]

  28. 278
    Geir Heljesen says:

    Gavin!

    Howcome sites like:

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100017393/climategate-the-final-nail-in-the-coffin-of-anthropogenic-global-warming/

    calls this the “final nail in the coffin of AGW” at the same time as you say something like “move along people, nothing to see here.

    Are you not at all open to accepting some critics as to how these e-mails are formulated.

    Could you agreed to some extent that these are e-mails written by people paid by the public so to speak and therefore they are not as private as you want them to be?

    Anyway it’s it very good of you running this story and answering critical questions.

  29. 279
    Zap says:

    Looks like somebody made their own FOIA inquiry

    Dum da dum dum!

  30. 280
    Seth says:

    [Response: Over the last 40 or so years, natural drivers would have caused cooling, and so the warming there has been (and some) is caused by a combination of human drivers and some degree of internal variability. I would judge the maximum amplitude of the internal variability to be roughly 0.1 deg C over that time period, and so given the warming of ~0.5 deg C, I'd say somewhere between 80 to 120% of the warming. Slightly larger range if you want a large range for the internal stuff. - gavin]

    How can you say natural drivers “would” have caused cooling over the last 40 years? This can not be observed;

    [Response: Sure it can. TSI + volcanoes. - gavin]

    furthermore there seems to be some confusion explaining just the last 10 years. I think there is a problem claiming man is responsible for 80 to %120 of warming when there is no way to prove this one way or the other as of yet. Why this worries me is the presence of files such as [RulesOfTheGame.pdf] which spell out how to convince the masses regardless of the information available. FURTHERMORE schools are required to show children material on this while they are still too young to understand basic science; only emotion.

    FURTHERMORE I think this issue has gotten away from the scientists who seemed to have lost the grasp on the fact that their work is being used to do nothing less than change the way we live as we know it. In this context I think complaining about a few emails being thrown around is the least of our worries. As far as other emails being aired, fine, at least make an effort to find out what is happening here!

    My apologies for the length.

  31. 281
    s graves says:

    Gavin, is the ANYTHING in the emails that indicate untoward behaviour or other unscientific behavior on the part of email authors or recipients…or is it all just one big misunderstanding on the part of those who are criticising? Is the anything?

  32. 282

    re: #177

    SecularAnimist,

    You are correct, sir. I could not have said it better.

  33. 283
    CM says:

    Well, there’s a lot of new faces here tonight, aren’t there?

    Why haven’t we heard from you before? Didn’t have much to say because you didn’t get the science stuff people here were always droning on about?

    But reading other people’s letters, harping on quotations, jumping to conclusions about malfeasance and conspiracy, getting all self-righteous and nominating yourselves the court of public opinion — oh yes, you get that, don’t you?

    Sad.

    And what exactly is this whole Jerry Springer show supposed to prove about global warming?

  34. 284

    Gavin, thanks for your reply to the hacked mails and your continued comments. I am a first time visitor , usually restricting myself to green blogs and AB for ongoing enlightenment re AGW. Many dilettantes like me , I suspect, regard the WAY facts , data , arguments etc are used by conflicting sides to aid their learning or opinions in a subject they are not trained in. This only works if one is prepared , hopefully ,to exercise discipline and as much objectivity as possible for a search for truth. What concerns me most is the lack of significant debate about the real effects of an ETS on our society . Most debate reads like a futuristic sci fi novel where the ‘Alarmists’ are in constant battle with the ‘Denialogues’. I am constantly amazed at the vehemence from both sides and their language of emotion. The language is clearly there for all to see. This implies mostly negative outcomes for what’s best for us as a community and the environment in the long term as the ‘high ground’ has been taken by the most vocal at the expense of real debate. Mix in a healthy dollop of vested interests and the scene reeks of a guagmire. For mine ,as a family man , small business owner , employer and with a long background of living on and with ‘the land’, it would be simply ridiculous and counter productive to all to impose a tax at this point.

  35. 285
    AKD says:

    [Response: Oh dear. You ask for examples of how the term is used in a non-malicious way, I provide two (and there are many more), and that undermines my point? Fail. - gavin]

    You indicated your examples were from academic use amongst mathematicians. I pointed out your examples were from a wiki lay person explanation and elementary school teaching, not from the field of mathematics.

    [Response: Since I used to be a mathematician, I can assure you these terms were used in such contexts (as has been demonstrated by other commenters too). But how does showing that the usage is even wider than my specific claim support your point in the slightest? - gavin]

  36. 286
    Jean Kiehm says:

    “Asking real questions about real issues is welcome. ”

    Question: What brought on the last glacial period?

    [Response: Orbital forcing. - gavin]

  37. 287
    KG says:

    “Watts doesn’t hide anything, neither does McEntyre. Only people with something to hide, hide things. It’s really that simple.

    [Response: I'll take you seriously when either of them opens up their Inbox for everyone to look at. - gavin]”

    Watts and McIntyre don’t take money from the government for what they do. However, you are on the public payroll, are you not? I may not be an expert on climate but I do know the law. As for your whine about these being private emails, legally that is pure nonsense. Anything that is on a computer that belongs to the government or mail that is on a government email server is government property. So stop with the “private” nonsense.

    [Response: This was a university system. That is not a government entity. -gavin]

    [edit]

    Dhgoza: In case you haven’t kept up, Mad King Charles of LGF has single-handedly made his blog a laughingstock. He will quickly ban anyone who disagrees with him in the slightest. Big practitioner of six-degrees-of-separation guilt by association. If anyone raises the slightest dissent, he and his favored minions will join the pile-on and the inevitable ban stick. Sound like some other site you know? LGF is no longer conservative (if it ever was) and is now a second rate DKos.

  38. 288
    Ecochemist says:

    Gavin,

    I hope you guys will come clean soon. I do appreciate your (finally) allowing differing views post even if it has to come through in such a personally troubling way for you.

    First off, I never wish anyone ill will, however I will admit I am not exactly rooting for you at this point. I just wanted to make that clear so you understand where my opinions lie.

    Second, I think that you can try to explain away a “trick” all that you like, however I think most reasonable people can understand what is going on. A “trick” used in science is putting the data into the proper context. I work with marketing people who are utterly useless when it comes to science. So I must essentially use “tricks” to put my data into proper context. I do not have to use “tricks” to change the outcome of my results.

    Third, I think it is difficult to ignore several things found in the emails. They range from tax evasion (don’t deposit more than 10k at a time!) to outright bullying of the peer review process.

    Fourth, and this is the point I would like you to address adequately. Yes, I said adequately and by that I mean without your usual snark and with absolute sincerity. It would appear that in the context of these emails that there is a combined effort to withhold information from those who may want to challenge your findings. Let’s not be childish and ignore it and play word games… it is now a fact. There also seems to be an aligned effort to stifle the efforts of science contrary to your opinions and findings. This may be by influencing the peer review process or controlling reviewers and editors. So, what in your opinion, can be done to ensure that there is a proper debate of the science and facts in an open and public way? I’m sure that being a man of integrity you feel that raw data should be supplied as well as all supplementary data in order to recreate results. So surely you would support complete and open debate on the subject. You don’t have to worry about being wrong. Most scientists… good scientists… are wrong most of the time. It is not about right or wrong, but more about the work you do. There is a value in climate science and most citizens have no problem offering a few bucks to support it. Do you think there is a too closed off circle tied around Michael Mann as was shown in M&M? It would surely seem that he makes a compelling point. This is why in my science-based line of work we sometimes need to go to outside independent sources. So, with all of that said, what do you think can be done to make the system better so that the people can be sure that the science from here on out is completely truthful and able to be replicated?

    Thanks.

    [Response: You have a very distorted view of the situation. But before addressing that, let's make some things clear. Openness and transparency aid replication and are essential to the progress of science. As far as possible, data and code should be available to everyone. Note, however, that replication of results is much more usefully achieved using independent approaches and sources of data rather than checking other people's arithmetic. Independent explorations of problems are far more fruitful in terms of learning about the details and seeing new ways of looking at things than simply running someone else's code. Open debate about uncertainties and approaches are essential (and if you ever go to a conference you will see this happening in spades).

    Now that is out of the way, let's examine what is actually happening in the public sphere. There are undeniably people who fervently do not wish for results of the science to be true. This can be motivated many things - vested interest, inclination, background etc. Regardless of why that exists, it undoubtedly does. However, among the scientific community no-one doubts that humans are causing CO2 (and other GHGs) to rise, no-one is confused about the fact that there is a greenhouse effect and that we are enhancing it, and no-one is in denial of the fact that the temperatures (as predicted) are in fact warming. This information, and the vast amount of ancillary data, theory and modelling that exists has led the science community to warn that continued emissions of GHGs risk changing the climate substantially. Given the first group of people's inclination to not want this to be true, there have been (and continue to be) determined efforts to undermine the scientific conclusions. One of the most effective tactics is to continually claim that data is being hidden and that the process is not open and transparent. This is successful, not because anything is actually being hidden, but because regardless of what data is available you can always ask for more. Five years ago it was a demand than Mann make his code and data available - it was, and nothing changed. A couple of years ago the demand was for the GISTEMP data and code - that was made available... and nothing changed. The requests then moved to CRU, who because of their agreements with the Met Centers, can't release everything in the public domain. This fact has been greatly exploited by people who conveniently ignore it when making ever more harassing demands for 'the data'. Whether they get it or not, nothing will change. The target will simply be moved. Meanwhile, the real need for openness and transparency is set back because the vast majority of demands are very clearly partisan and insincere.

    As for the peer-reviewed literature, bad papers (such as are described in the emails) sometimes make it through the process due to various events. Note that the papers in question are just bad - they come to unjustified conclusions based on faulty reasoning, bad analysis, and (often) a desire to get the 'right' result. This is not unique to papers that go counter to the mainstream (there are many bad papers on the other side too), but these are the ones that get picked up by the denial-o-sphere and are loudly touted in Senate hearings as if they undermined a century of work. Improving the functioning of the peer-review system so that this happens less often is a good idea - because it will lessen the chance of bad papers of any stripe wasting everyone's time. Note that peer-review is simply an (imperfect) filter that allows scientists to focus on work that has passed a least a basic screening (usually). When we have to respond to obviously flawed, but highly publicised, papers it takes us away from doing real research and focussing on issues about which there is genuine (as opposed to manufactured) uncertainty.

    If people want genuine public debate over issues that matter, the way is clear: Stop fuelling fake witchhunts looking for evidence that GW is a hoax, stop continually going back to long debunked talking points, and instead engage with scientists, here and elsewhere, on real questions. You will actually find scientists of all stripes remarkably keen to talk about their research and it's implications once you get past the 'when did you stop hiding your data' type accusations. Not everyone has unlimited patience in dealing with constant attacks on their integrity that comes with being in the public eye on these issues, and so many choose not to be involved in that public debate at all. That is a shame, but it's not a mystery. - gavin]

  39. 289
    Brian Klappstein says:

    Hard to say how much of this will make it into the mainstream media. If it turns out to be true, and a lot of it does get into the media (outside of Glenn Beck), then it will do serious damage to not just the political cause of anthropogenic global warming, but to science itself. It reveals the scientists not as dispassionate objective thinkers, but at times petty and vindictive.

    Don’t get me wrong that doesn’t surprise me, but it will jar the public perception of the world of science.

  40. 290
    Geronimo says:

    I think this is terrible, what sort of people will publish the private e-mails of people who are doing their best to save the world?

  41. 291
    Grand Moff Texan says:

    Like it or not, it is something that will need to be addressed and explained.

    Good thing it already has been. So sad for the Cult of Denial that this ‘broke’ on the same day Oprah retired.

    Better luck next time.
    .

  42. 292
    Keith says:

    I do not support hacking in all its forms. Emails between people should be considered private, but government has access to all emails as a matter of course. The only variation between jurisdictions is the relative ease with which government may have access, but ultimately no jurisdiction forbids government access. I would have thought that scientists who are usually technically savvy, being aware of potential government incursion, would not post compromising emails to each other. I think context is probably quite important, but people caught in the organised crime and terrorist drag nets have been judged based on such material, usually without the ‘benefit’ of having them posted on the internet. The best outcome for CRU would be to co-operate with any external independent investigation that might result from this episode.

  43. 293
    Ben Kalafut says:

    Is Anthony Watts’s and Steven McIntyre’s posting of some of these e-mails to the Web legally actionable?

    Seems a lot like fencing stolen goods…

  44. 294
    Brian Dodge says:

    [Response: Surprising as this might appear. I don't think this should be encouraged at all... Gavin] I fully agree that the public policy debate would be much better served by sticking to the data rather than the personalities; I don’t envy the jobs of the politicians who don’t have the background to judge what the science really is, and are used to deciding issues on “proxy” trust info – “do I believe the skeptics who stole the CRU files, or do I trust the scientists who might not be telling the whole story? Which side are my constituents on, and which choice will cost me the least number of votes?” It doesn’t matter what we wish – the Republicans and Democrats may say it’ll be a knife fight, but they’ll still show up packin’ heat (and polls, and possibly subpoenas, which will have nothing to do with the science) Maybe we’ll get lucky (public opinion having more to do with the weather than the climate) and have a 98 style el nino. Or maybe we’ll discover there are unanticipated methane hydrate/permafrost instabilities comparable to Larsen/Wilkins ice shelves.

  45. 295
    Timothy says:

    [Response: Because, as he has explained frequently, that in order to get the maximum amount of data available they gave assurances and signed memoranda with many National weather services not to distribute raw data that the NWS's would rather sell. If you want the free stuff, you can just look at the GHCN records (which is the basis for the GISTEMP product - all of which is online and available for anyone to look at). - gavin]

    Gavin-

    This is the biggest problem that some people, including myself, have with your data. We cannot check your work. That is the biggest problem. We cannot check your work. (Repeated for emphasis) Therefore, because We -as the public outside of a specially selected group- cannot independently verify your work, we have to put a giant asterisk by it, signifying that the work in question has a great cloud of uncertainty when it comes to validity.

    This asterisk may not impinge on the accuracy and precision of your work, it just means that we cannot use it as a source without putting giant caveats on our own.

    Tim

    [Response: This is not 'my work'. If you want my model code or my model output, all of it is available. If you want all the temperature records and code to analyse it, go to the GISTEMP site. If you don't want to use the CRU data, don't, but the difference it makes is minor. - gavin]

  46. 296
    TattyMane says:

    I think the defense of the use of the word ‘trick’ looks a bit like this ploy:
    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
    “The question is, ” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

  47. 297
    Windy City Kid says:

    The “Audit the Fed Amendment” was passed yesterday to prevent the Federal Reserve from operating in secrecy. I am hopeful that similar progress can be made in preventing climate science from operating in secrecy in the future. Tactics to delay or prevent data from being released is unacceptable. Stricter standards should be required or funding should be frozen until transparency is established.

  48. 298
    Geronimo says:

    Gavin, it has been on my mind for the last few weeks that proponents of the AGW theory are proved to be incorrect the results for science and scienctists will be catastrophic. I wondered how people working in Hadley / CRU, and of course in the US, who had somehow or other lost the scientific tradition of caution and had decided to become political and push a political agenda would cope if their science was exposed to be flawed and that the politicians suddenly found themselves exposed by more sober minded scientists would react. I think you’ll get away with the current embarrasment because the politicians won’t want to look fools, but once they can exact their revenge without looking foolish they will, believe me.

  49. 299
    Stephen Frost says:

    Regardless of the facts, this is now a PR nightmare; where there is smoke there is fire. Something stinks. Maybe its the billions of public money being poured in. Maybe its the billions of private money being poured in to alternative energy companies. I don’t know. But this debate stopped being about the science several years ago. It is now a political issue. Unfortunately, by painting skeptics as “deniers”, those who do think that there’s a problem to be solved have simultaneously painted themselves as “believers”. Its become a religious war. There are no winners in a religious war.

  50. 300
    J says:

    This email excerpt could be prophetic:

    “It is inconceivable that policymakers will be willing to make billion-and trillion-dollar decisions for adaptation to the projected regional climate change based on models that do not even describe and simulate the processes that are the building blocks of climate variability.”

    [Response: Predictions of regional climate change are hard and still an ongoing reserach goal. That does make short-term adaptation difficult. No surprise there. - gavin]


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