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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

“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. 401
    Brendan H says:

    Fran Barlow: “Anything asserting/strongly implying conspiracy or “social engineering” or “IPCC fraud” or other major and repeatedly debunked talking points ought to be savagely culled.”

    I agree. I also think this issue should be given a time limit; a week or two should be enough to air all points of view. Then move on.

    There is a sizable contingent among climate sceptics that has for years cried fraud. These people are properly called deniers; they have little interest in the science and are opposed to AGW on an ideological level. Their aim is to defeat the science and destroy the scientists.

    It’s a waste of time and counter-productive trying to satisfy these sorts of people. Their demand for explanations is just an excuse to pile on.

    It may be worthwhile for individual scientists to explain some of the more ambiguous comments in the emails, but mainly to settle the anxieties and retain the support of Real Climate’s lay supporters.

    But don’t get locked into lengthy explanations of minute points. This is a major event, but it will pass.

  2. 402
    PeterPan says:

    What I’ve learnt from these e-mails: I’m very happy to see that so many scientists are concern with the problem of substandard denialist documents in the peer reveiw literature, and that they are doing their best to prevent these underqualified documents from being published in the scientific literature. I’m very happy to see that so many of you are concerned with the scary threat that denialist hype is. Congratulations and thank you for your commitment with all the society.

  3. 403

    Another denier: I don’t see how the peer reviewed literature can be trusted when several of the prominent researchers in the field conspired in a dirty tricks campaign to block research from entering the peer reviewed literature.

    BPL: They weren’t blocking “research.” They were blocking “incompetent crap by people who obviously didn’t know what they were talking about.” There’s a difference.

  4. 404

    Another denier: The best outcome for CRU would be to co-operate with any external independent investigation that might result from this episode.

    BPL: And THAT, I think, is what’s really behind all this–the deniers want to sue or prosecute CRU and as many climate scientists as possible. They know they’ve lost on the science, so now they’ll try and suppress the truth using lawyers and friendly prosecutors. Any tactic. I’m waiting for them to use assassination. (They already got Jim Salinger fired and hauled Michael Mann up before a congressional committee, HUAC-style).

    I’m also reminded of David Irving suing Deborah Lipstadt for calling him a Holocaust denier. When you can’t win in the journals, take it out of science and into some venue where you can win. Except, of course, that Irving got his butt kicked in court.

  5. 405
    Mogo says:

    Just wanted to say this is a great day. [edit]

    General reaction seems to be that the CRUgate emails are genuine, but with the caveat that there could be some less reliable stuff slipped in.

    In the circumstances, here are some summaries of the CRUgate files. I’ll update these as and when I can. The refs are the email number.

    * Phil Jones writes to University of Hull to try to stop sceptic Sonia Boehmer Christiansen using her Hull affiliation. Graham F Haughton of Hull University says its easier to push greenery there now SB-C has retired.(1256765544)
    * Michael Mann discusses how to destroy a journal that has published sceptic papers.(1047388489)
    * Tim Osborn discusses how data are truncated to stop an apparent cooling trend showing up in the results (0939154709). Analysis of impact here. Wow!
    * Phil Jones describes the death of sceptic, John Daly, as “cheering news”.
    * Phil Jones encourages colleagues to delete information subject to FoI request.(1212063122)
    * Phil Jones says he has use Mann’s “Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series”…to hide the decline”. Real Climate says “hiding” was an unfortunate turn of phrase.(0942777075)
    * Letter to The Times from climate scientists was drafted with the help of Greenpeace.(0872202064)
    * Mann thinks he will contact BBC’s Richard Black to find out why another BBC journalist was allowed to publish a vaguely sceptical article.(1255352257)
    * Kevin Trenberth says they can’t account for the lack of recent warming and that it is a travesty that they can’t.(1255352257)
    * Tom Wigley says that Lindzen and Choi’s paper is crap.(1257532857)
    * Tom Wigley says that von Storch is partly to blame for sceptic papers getting published at Climate Research. Says he encourages the publication of crap science. Says they should tell publisher that the journal is being used for misinformation. Says that whether this is true or not doesn’t matter. Says they need to get editorial board to resign. Says they need to get rid of von Storch too. (1051190249)
    * Ben Santer says (presumably jokingly!) he’s “tempted, very tempted, to beat the crap” out of sceptic Pat Michaels. (1255100876)
    * Mann tells Jones that it would be nice to ‘”contain” the putative Medieval Warm Period’. (1054736277)
    * Tom Wigley tells Jones that the land warming since 1980 has been twice the ocean warming and that this might be used by sceptics as evidence for urban heat islands.(1257546975)
    * Tom Wigley say that Keith Briffa has got himself into a mess over the Yamal chronology (although also says it’s insignificant. Wonders how Briffa explains McIntyre’s sensitivity test on Yamal and how he explains the use of a less-well replicated chronology over a better one. Wonders if he can. Says data withholding issue is hot potato, since many “good” scientists condemn it.(1254756944)
    * Briffa is funding Russian dendro Shiyatov, who asks him to send money to personal bank account so as to avoid tax, thereby retaining money for research.(0826209667)
    * Kevin Trenberth says climatologists are nowhere near knowing where the energy goes or what the effect of clouds is. Says nowhere balancing the energy budget. Geoengineering is not possible.(1255523796)
    * Mann discusses tactics for screening and delaying postings at Real Climate.(1139521913)
    * Tom Wigley discusses how to deal with the advent of FoI law in UK. Jones says use IPR argument to hold onto code. Says data is covered by agreements with outsiders and that CRU will be “hiding behind them”.(1106338806)
    * Overpeck has no recollection of saying that he wanted to “get rid of the Medieval Warm Period”. Thinks he may have been quoted out of context.(1206628118)
    * Mann launches RealClimate to the scientific community.(1102687002)
    * Santer complaining about FoI requests from McIntyre. Says he expects support of Lawrence Livermore Lab management. Jones says that once support staff at CRU realised the kind of people the scientists were dealing with they became very supportive. Says the VC [vice chancellor] knows what is going on (in one case).(1228330629)
    * Rob Wilson concerned about upsetting Mann in a manuscript. Says he needs to word things diplomatically.(1140554230)
    * Briffa says he is sick to death of Mann claiming his reconstruction is tropical because it has a few poorly temp sensitive tropical proxies. Says he should regress these against something else like the “increasing trend of self-opinionated verbiage” he produces. Ed Cook agrees with problems.(1024334440)
    * Overpeck tells Team to write emails as if they would be made public. Discussion of what to do with McIntyre finding an error in Kaufman paper. Kaufman’s admits error and wants to correct. Appears interested in Climate Audit findings.(1252164302)
    * Jones calls Pielke Snr a prat.(1233249393)
    * Santer says he will no longer publish in Royal Met Soc journals if they enforce intermediate data being made available. Jones has complained to head of Royal Met Soc about new editor of Weather [why?data?] and has threatened to resign from RMS.(1237496573)
    * Reaction to McIntyre’s 2005 paper in GRL. Mann has challenged GRL editor-in-chief over the publication. Mann is concerned about the connections of the paper’s editor James Saiers with U Virginia [does he mean Pat Michaels?]. Tom Wigley says that if Saiers is a sceptic they should go through official GRL channels to get him ousted. (1106322460) [Note to readers – Saiers was subsequently ousted]
    * Later on Mann refers to the leak at GRL being plugged.(1132094873)
    * Jones says he’s found a way around releasing AR4 review comments to David Holland.(1210367056)
    * Wigley says Keenan’s fraud accusation against Wang is correct. (1188557698)
    * Jones calls for Wahl and Ammann to try to change the received date on their alleged refutation of McIntyre [presumably so it can get into AR4](1189722851)
    * Mann tells Jones that he is on board and that they are working towards a common goal.(0926010576)
    * Mann sends calibration residuals for MBH99 to Osborn. Says they are pretty red, and that they shouldn’t be passed on to others, this being the kind of dirty laundry they don’t want in the hands of those who might distort it.(1059664704)
    * Prior to AR3 Briffa talks of pressure to produce a tidy picture of “apparent unprecedented warming in a thousand years or more in the proxy data”. [This appears to be the politics leading the science] Briffa says it was just as warm a thousand years ago.(0938018124)
    * Jones says that UK climate organisations are coordinating themselves to resist FoI. They got advice from the Information Commissioner [!](1219239172)
    * Mann tells Revkin that McIntyre is not to be trusted.(1254259645)
    * Revkin quotes von Storch as saying it is time to toss the Hockey Stick . This back in 2004.(1096382684)
    * Funkhouser says he’s pulled every trick up his sleeve to milk his Kyrgistan series. Doesn’t think it’s productive to juggle the chronology statistics any more than he has.(0843161829)
    * Wigley discusses fixing an issue with sea surface temperatures in the context of making the results look both warmer but still plausible. (1254108338)
    * Jones says he and Kevin will keep some papers out of the next IPCC report.(1089318616)
    * Tom Wigley tells Mann that a figure Schmidt put together to refute Monckton is deceptive and that the match it shows of instrumental to model predictions is a fluke. Says there have been a number of dishonest presentations of model output by authors and IPCC.(1255553034)
    * Grant Foster putting together a critical comment on a sceptic paper. Asks for help for names of possible reviewers. Jones replies with a list of people, telling Foster they know what to say about the paper and the comment without any prompting.(1249503274)
    * David Parker discussing the possibility of changing the reference period for global temperature index. Thinks this shouldn’t be done because it confuses people and because it will make things look less warm.(1105019698)
    * Briffa discusses an sceptic article review with Ed Cook. Says that confidentially he needs to put together a case to reject it (1054756929)
    * Ben Santer, referring to McIntyre says he hopes Mr “I’m not entirely there in the head” will not be at the AGU.(1233249393)
    * Jones tells Mann that he is sending station data. Says that if McIntyre requests it under FoI he will delete it rather than hand it over. Says he will hide behind data protection laws. Says Rutherford screwed up big time by creating an FTP directory for Osborn. Says Wigley worried he will have to release his model code. Also discuss AR4 draft. Mann says paleoclimate chapter will be contentious but that the author team has the right personalities to deal with sceptics.(1107454306)

    [Response: Putting this list up so that there is an index for what people seem to think are important. – gavin]

  6. 406
    Ferran P. Vilar says:

    Dear guys, don’t let you feel depressed by that. You are scientists, you are truth seekers, you know where the truth is and where there is falsehood and deception. You also know how difficult is the truth to find its way through the public and, hélas, you find yourselves in the middle of a dirty battle that it’s not your battle, and you are not well equipped for it.

    You must be aware that this action is only intended to destroy your morale and cause divide in your interactions and friendliness. Consider gathering (without publicity) all those who can feel angry with a colleague. Explain yourselves and, if necessary, deeply appologize. Weight if a brief common statement is necessary. Don’t overactuate individually nor collectively.

    Those documents only show you are real humans. And remember all the time what is at stake, and that we, the Humanity, needs you more than ever.

    Kind regards from Barcelona, Spain


  7. 407

    chainpin: I hope that all those involved with this debacle reflect on Feynman’s words.

    BPL: Sure. Reflect also on the fact that Feynman was in the habit of intimidating lonely, neurotic women in bars to get them into bed with him, as he describes in one of his books, treating it as a joke. So his standing to teach others about ethics is questionable.

  8. 408
    Enrique Perez-Terron says:

    I wish the scientific community would become better at public relations. The issue of whether there is a global warming is so important that if it were to be revealed as a hoax or conspiracy, it would be unimportant whether the revelation became possible through illegal access, or whether the affected scientists feel bad about having their private communications made public. What the public needs to know is that there is no hoax, and that all the “evidence” to the contrary in the emails is easily explainable. There are some good examples of such explanations in the reactions, but they are buried behind about one thousand words. Not all readers get that far. Move these examples to the first or second paragraph, and express your outrage over privacy violations last. As it is, the random reader gets the feeling that the victims of the outing want to ask the public to forget about evidence of cheating for legal or technical reasons, without addressing the doubt that the disclosure raises. Those few that read far enough into the text, are those that least needed the reassurance.

  9. 409
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Well, Gavin, If your goal was a post that brings out the tin-foil-hat-and-black-helicopter crowe, you found it! In a way it is VERY instructive. The absence of even the most rudimentary understanding of the science coupled with the absolute certainty that climate change is a massive hoax is astounding. I can only hope that Justin Kruger and David Dunning are mining the nuggets from this exchange. You have to wonder how these people dress themselves and shave.

  10. 410
    avl says:

    i read some of the leaked mails. i’m a biologist, not a climatologist, but even so am well aware of the work and tweaking and correspondence and talk(ing down) and arguments and sometimes fireworks that precedes publication. i have great interest in the field of climate change, regularly read up on the subject (as should anyone living on this planet).

    in the end i can only summarise the entire issue with:


    surely there are other and better things to do with our time than getting sidetracked by this silly and empty issue.
    (i might clean up my email archives, though…)

  11. 411

    Joe V: To believe that a complex system such as our climate can be predicted by a set number of variable inputs, when the number is infantesimal.

    BPL: “Infinite.” “Infinitesimal” means “vanishingly small.” And while a large number of things may affect climate, they do NOT all affect it to the same degree. That’s what “explained variance” is all about in statistics.

    JV: We have enough problems predicting global weather conditions seven days in advance as supposed to 30 years.

    BPL: Don’t confuse climate with weather:

  12. 412
    pete best says:

    Everyone wants AGW to be wrong no doubt and many of the public see it as some kind of ruse to raise taxes and hence deprive them of their right to spend money as they see fit. This entire episode actually means nothing meaningful in the literature of climate science or any science for that matter for email is easy and hence a lot of it is sent and recieved these days. Its the reason why it is personal or of a personal professional nature and should not be seen by those who know nothing of its context.

    Personally I think that this entire episode shows the medias lack of respect (or understanding for that mater) of the scientific method and process by which it has enriched our world and also threatens it which is the bit we do not like. Who is arguing against quantum physics or relativity I wonder or other areas of physics that climate science draws its central tenet from, that of thermodynamics and how the earths warms and cools what happens what a lot of the suns heat does not go away as it usually does due to gases in the atmosphere that prevent it indeed the heat get reabsorbed by the earth which for humankind can cause problems.

    Its basic science in fact is GHG theory and one that no single scientist has called into question. What is in question is the sensitivity of the earth to the trapping of heat and what it implies over 100s of years. WE know the problem, but probably not the solution for it could change the our world.

    Stop bealting and accept the physics is what I say for there is nothing in these emails and data that will have changed anything about AGW. Tell me sometihng wrong with thermofynamics aagain please someone ?

  13. 413
    Alan Burke says:

    The illegally acquired emails have been published online at

  14. 414
    TexasHornToad says:

    Your site is one of the first things I read every day but I’ve never posted anything because you are too smart for me. That said — I did attempt to post a response to the NYT story and so far it hasn’t appeared. So the NYT can read it here. Hopefully it will offer your regulars a view from a different perspective. Here goes:

    “I’ve been reading about this all day and my reporter’s BS monitor is going off the Richter. If they haven’t already, a certain demented senator and wishy-washy climate reporter better start shredding their own e-mails.

    “By the way, beware of links to the “damning” e-mails posted by readers at the super-patriot sites trumpeting the story. There’s a whole crime industry you’ve never heard of out there that makes a killing off of the blind following blind teabaggers, Truthers, militias, etc.

    As for the denial community, now you’ve gone and done it — forced these scientists out of their labs. Be prepared to sit and listen to the world’s longest and scariest science lesson.

  15. 415
    BJ_Chippindale says:

    Several people have commented about encryption of e-mail and that might work and might also work against us all. I don’t regard it as needed in this sort of environment… we shouldn’t be keeping such secrets. However a less intrusive matter of SIGNING e-mails with PGP would have made it possible to be sure that the contents were not tampered with.

    Whether this would be a good or bad thing can be debated. It would perhaps, help the people involved in university politics and as heads of research, remember that they are in fact subject to public scrutiny that you can more easily delete a letter you send through the post than an e-mail, and it might keep them mindful of how they communicate with one another. It would however, also protect us all from having to try to sort through every word to try to guess if all words in the mail are in fact our own.

    Which is to say, about a third of the speculation about what is here would be gone. We would be able to trivially check the authenticity.

    Not saying this is the way to go. It might also push conversations into back-channels. I’m just mindful that this entire thing speaks volumes about the lack of understanding of security issues around e-mail and communications in general.

    Because we still have no way to verify that nothing was tampered with. I note too, that the timing of this was carefully calculated… and the manner of its release calculated as well. Not to a prosecutor but to the net. Not when some actual possible wrong was mooted, but when the world is going to Copenhagen. The sparseness of the record and the length of it indicates that someone has already filtered the take somehow. What was removed?


  16. 416
    Intrigue says:

    Does anybody think that this is the only compilation that the hacker has? After this little taste, perhaps another two, or three, or twelve compilations will be presented onto the net. Looking forward to the rest of the chapters, after certain folks have explained their way into a deep hole.

  17. 417
    James McDermott says:

    mommycalled wrote (20 November 2009 @ 10:20 PM):

    > #48 Gerard Harbison

    > I going to have to call you on this one. […] When asked to review a paper, if you need more information about a section of the paper you are reviewing you don’t consult other journal articles or researchers in the can explain the context?

    @mommycalled: you’re being very disingenuous here. The allegation is not that referees consulted other researchers for help. The allegation is that referees colluded. I pointed out (comment #264) Gavin’s misunderstandings in his response to Harbison. Harbison has not yet been answered.

    [Response: Because I don’t see any email in which this was the case. What are you actually referring to? – gavin]

  18. 418
    Endre Varga says:

    I think we reached the point when it is safe to state, this is not science but *war*. I hope the lessions are learned, and we know now what to expect.

  19. 419

    Squidly: The problem that I have with this is, it is up to the theorists (hypothesis really) to “prove” that AGW is real, not the other way around. But, instead, the proclamation of “settled science” and “debate is over” is presented. I must have been sleeping through the 90’s as I don’t recall any such “debate” and can’t seem to find reference to such either.

    BPL: You could try cracking a book. Then you’d know that AGW was essentially confirmed by the 1950s.

    In 1824, Jean-Joseph Baptise Fourier realized that the Earth’s atmosphere kept the planet warmer than the sun alone could.

    In 1859, John Tyndall established in lab work that the major greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere were water vapor and carbon dioxide.

    In 1896, Nobel-prize-winning chemist Svante August Arrhenius proposed the theory of anthropogenic global warming.

    In 1901, Angstrom and Koch apparently disproved AGW with a lab experiment. This was the “saturation” argument.

    In the 1940s, high-altitude observations from airplanes showed that the “saturation” argument was invalid.

    In 1955, Smagorinsky et al. put together the first tentative general circulation model of Earth’s atmosphere. The same year, Hans Suess detected the radioisotope signature of fossil-fuel CO2 in the atmosphere.

    In 1956, Gilbert N. Plass nailed down the case for AGW.

    In 1957, Revelle and Suess showed that the new CO2 was primarily from fossil-fuel burning.

    In 1958, Keeling and others began systematic monitoring of the world’s CO2 level.

    In 1960, Keeling’s team showed that CO2 was rising very quickly in historical terms. We now have 50+ years of time series data from them and other observation stations–plus ice core data going back 800,000 years.

    In 1964, Manabe and Strickler wrote the world’s first working radiative-convective model, putting together several important parts of modern radiation codes for the first time.

    In 1988 Hansen and others showed that, despite occasional bouts of cooling, the world temperature trend had been up overall for over a century.

    I’d recommend reading Spencer Weart’s “The Discovery of Global Warming” (2nd ed. 2008) for an in-depth overview of the history. Philander’s “Is the Temperature Rising?” is a good non-mathematical introduction to the science.

    Of course, if you really want to understand what’s going on, I’d recommend going through Dennis Hartmann’s “Global Physical Climatology,” John Houghton’s “The Physics of Atmospheres,” and Grant W. Petty’s “A First Course in Atmospheric Radiation”–and working all the problems.

  20. 420

    David: I didn’t say anything about how long the field of climate science has existed.

    BPL: Then what did you mean by “human understanding of our global climate is in its infancy?”

    David: BTW BPL, was that arrogance or just condescension? Impressive either way – you insult my opinion and knowledge, while ignoring the whole point of the statement.

    BPL: I wasn’t ignoring your point. I was pointing out how grossly, ignorantly wrong it was. Climate science is older than relativity or quantum theory, both considered very much mature sciences. Does that mean everything is known? Of course not. But none of those fields is “in its infancy.”

  21. 421
    Endre Varga says:

    I found 1071 mails in this leak, the first dated at 1996. This means 1071 mails in ~4300 days. Is it possible that this is the whole message list? It seems unrealistic to have 1 email in every 4 days. considering that this contains emails from and to many peolple.

  22. 422
    charlie says:

    I have to say I am really surprised reading these blog comments that there are people actually defending the hacker here by drawing parallels to Daniel Ellsberg, whistleblowers, or court searches. Those all involve witnesses to and/or investigations of crimes. There is nothing of the sort going on here–all evidence points to a fishing attempt by some unauthorized third party to break into the computer of a respected scientist and throw whatever he or she found there onto the web to embarrass the researcher and the community of people he corresponded with. This is a serious crime with no moral ambiguity to it, and to defend it or argue that in some way justice is being served demonstrates a severe lack of class!

  23. 423
    Paul says:

    This is classic academia, the whole shit show as it is. Is anyone really surprised. This is why the planet is working to eradicade our species. We really are not its best work.

  24. 424
    Marco says:

    I’ve decided to put my few eurocents in as well:
    First of all, those that claim they, as scientists, are appalled at the tone of several of the e-mails are obviously blissfully unaware of the difference a research field can make. I sincerely doubt their e-mails would contain as many nice words as they do today when they are constantly attacked and harassed, and have to respond to the same old (and wrong) stories time after time after time after…you get the drift. People like McIntyre could have had a truly useful contribution, if only he’d come with constructive criticism and showed a willingness to help. He chose a different approach.
    The criticism about the whole Climate Research peer-review issue is also completely misdirected. When a journal has an Editor who is willing to allow fundamentally flawed papers to be published in his journal, to some extent by rigging the review process, this will affect the standing of the journal. Skeptics have every right to get their research published, but they should go through the same rigorous peer-review process as any other paper. When a journal editor rigs that process, the journal is tainted.
    If I have any concern, it is the FOI issue, with Phil Jones seemingly asking for something that may be considered illegal. However, as long as we do not know the context, it is way too early to cry “foul” over anything.
    I do think mitigation is required beyond reactions on a blog. Be pro-active and go to the media to tell your story (I’m referring to Phil Jones et al here), write Letters, and take any mail that may be misinterpreted and explain the whole context. I realise it will take time, but it may actually be used to squash quite a few of the skeptics: if they can’t even find a smoking gun in ‘private’ conversations between scientists, there IS no smoking gun.

  25. 425

    Pete Best: Who is arguing against quantum physics or relativity I wonder or other areas of physics that climate science draws its central tenet from…

    BPL: You’d be surprised. The phenomenon of pseudoscience is incredibly widespread both in the US and around the world. If you look for them you can find plenty of people who deny relativity, quantum mechanics, celestial mechanics, evolution, stellar evolution, or mainstream archaeology, sociology, anthropology, psychology, and medicine.

    Millions of Americans believe we never landed on the Moon, that aliens built the pyramids, that UFOs are alien starships, that aliens regularly kidnap and molest people, that something in the Bermuda Triangle eats ships, that there are giant alien machines on the Moon (which NASA is suppressing the photographic evidence for), that there are giant alien buildings on Mars, that people from a habitable 12th planet created Sumerian culture and perhaps modern humans, that the Old Testament miracles were caused by Venus being erupted out of Jupiter in historical times and passing near the Earth, that you can get unlimited “zero-point energy” to power civilization, that the USAF reverse-engineered an alien starship at Roswell, NM, that HIV does not cause AIDS, that vaccinations cause autism… I could go on all day. Ignorance is very, very widespread, and where it touches on political (read: financial) interests, it often becomes well-funded militant ignorance.

  26. 426
    VonTrapp says:

    I agree with Intrigue’s post above. This was only a sliver of the documents and emails. I think the hacker may be waiting until it is attempted to be explained away and then the next batch is released with even more damaging information.

  27. 427
    pjclarke says:

    The University’s statement on copyright is here:

    As is common, The UEA retains the copyright on any ‘intellectual property’ created as part of an employment there. This includes, amongst other things computer software.

    I seem to remember a certain blogger objecting to a video containing a small amount of copyright material being posted on the Web…..?

  28. 428
    biff says:

    The intentional deletion of information subject to public entitlement to access under law, is improper on its face.

    But it’s the apparent need to hide from scrutiny that is most insidious.

    Everything I’ve viewed about this, including the “responses” on this website, evidences a severe bunker mentality.

    A mentality that is the opposite of the scientific method.

    (copied for posterity in case this post is “filtered out”)

  29. 429
    DIXON STEELE says:

    We’ve had a lot of talk recently about the difference between religion and science, in books by Richard Dawkins and others. What’s delicious about these e-mails is the way they expose the thinking processes of what might be called the average Joes, or perhaps that should be the average Phils, who while their time away as working scientists. The pettyness, the vindictiveness, the intolerance of opposing views, the treating of scientific data as if it were some kind of religious artifact only to be accessed by those properly initiated. What we see here is science being practised with what can only be described as religious fervour. I’m an atheist myself but for me this demonstrates the practice of science and practice of religion are uncomfortably close. Perhaps, I’m being unfair in taking Phil Jones as representative of the average Joes in science, but I think not.

  30. 430
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Intrigue says: “Does anybody think that this is the only compilation that the hacker has? After this little taste, perhaps another two, or three, or twelve compilations will be presented onto the net. Looking forward to the rest of the chapters, after certain folks have explained their way into a deep hole.”

    Actually, I have yet to see anything that requires explanation. The picture that emerges to my eye is of people doing science–and I’ve been doing science for more than 20 years. The fact that the denialists are trumpeting this as if it were some scandal merely illustrates how devoid of understanding they are.

    I’m going to try to be uncharacteristically nice to all you lower-than-snakesh*t and dumber-than-owlsh*t denialists: Yer doin’ it wrong! You will never make the specter of anthropogenic climate change go away by resorting to personal attacks and trying to discredit science or the scientific process. In the end, we need scientists–can’t do without them when it comes to important issues like climate. In the end, any new scientists will wind up doing science in pretty much the same way as their predecessors, because 1)they’re human, and 2)science works. And they’ll ask exactly the same questions of ol’ Ma Nature, and she’ll give them the same answers. Ol’ Ma Nature doesn’t change her story, and she’ll keep telling us what we don’t want to hear no matter how long we sit there and say, “La-la-la-la, I can’t hear you.” Matter of fact, she’ll turn up the volume on her response!

    If you want to make the specter of anthropogenic climate change, the answer is easy: Come up with a theory of climate that equal explanatory power and greater predictive power than the current consensus theory, of which anthropogenic causation of the current warming is an inevitable consequence. Now run along and do that. The adults have work to do saving the planet.

  31. 431
    ar says:

    I think the type of exchanges that #48 was referring to are like the following:

    “Can I ask you something in CONFIDENCE – don’t email around, especially not to Keith and Tim here. Have you reviewed any papers recently for Science that say that MBH98 and MJ03 have underestimated variability in the millennial record – from models or from some low-freq proxy data. Just a yes or no will do. Tim is reviewing them – I want to make sure he takes my comments on board, but he wants to be squeaky clean with discussing them with others. So forget this email when you reply.


    This is neither collaborating with co-authors for a response to reviewers nor suggesting reviewers to editors (both of which are of course legitimate), but a clear violation of the peer review process. And to reiterate the comments of #48: no, other researchers don’t do this sort of thing.

  32. 432
    H LIME says:

    The stolen email orrespondence, by and large, appears to attempt to bolster a held view. It does not seem to want to permit the existance of alternative variants. Hardly in the sprit of scientific inquery, I would have thought.

  33. 433
    TJA says:

    If you look at the polls and trends of opinion on this subject, it is pretty obvious, as it is from the threads here, that the willing have been converted, but that the skeptical are not folding under the stonewall approach revealed in these emails. Maybe try a little openness if you wish to win over those who would like their questions answered before submitting to a new economic regime that looks pretty dismal, quite honestly.

  34. 434
    Alan Burke says:

    Concerning the communication of climate change science to the public, I recommend “The Psychology of Climate Change Communication” downloadable from

  35. 435
    Paul L says:

    Great, “publish the e-mails!” has been added to the whole “publish the data” crock.

    Public employees are not slaves whose every second at work is to be scrutinised by Joe Public – and anyway, universities (such as UEA) aren’t branches of the government. They don’t even get the majority of their funding from the government.

    And let’s get this clear – if all e-mail correspondence of all public sector scientists *was* published, it would need a server the size of the Mount Kilimanjaro to put it online.

    “Publish all of the e-mail correspondence”, indeed – who would be stupid enough to swallow such a pathetic anti-scientific delaying tactic?

    One final thing, on the question of moderation/opening up the thread to all and sundry to come along, spout their nonsense and then not read the answers, before coming back and spouting the same nonsense again. The problem is that threads can get cluttered up with morons who think that using words like “conspiracy” constitutes scientific debate. People who at length refuse to accept the meaning of the word “trick” are just wasting time for everyone else reading through the 300+ posts. It’s a difficult thing to get right, because you don’t want to provide fuel for paranoid deniers to go elsewhere and claim persecution – but let’s be clear here, someone who posts crap and then refuses to read or understand the very clear explanation of why they are talking crap, should be filtered out. Perhaps a “spam folder” for each thread, where such pointless ravings could be posted (and viewed online, without getting in the way of the genuine discussion), might be a way to mute the cries of censorship. On the other hand, it might just be a whole new ball-ache.

  36. 436
    Dendroica says:

    Wow, emails from one colleague to another asking questions about someone else’s work. This is clear and incontrovertible evidence that global warming is a hoax…

  37. 437
    John Y says:

    Having read a few pages of the emails a couple of thoughts occur (1) the files are nothing like any archives of mine or any scientists I know – no personal emails, no spam, no internal bureaucracy emails, etc. So, clearly there has been careful selection of emails for inclusion/exclusion and it is likely to be a biased sample. (2) Given this selectivity it really is very hard to find anything to get excited about. Certainly a few embarrassments and a few amusing comments, but if this was the worst that could be found from a mighty trawl through email archives then the scientists involved really come out rather well.

  38. 438
    Adam Soereg says:

    Dear Gavin and Colleagues,

    I can absolutely agree with you that breaking into any computer system and obtaining private information is against the law and considered to be an unethical way for getting the details of something. In your post, you try to minimise the impact of the recent information leak by saying that it will not have any effect on the current state of climate science.

    Sure, it won’t have any measurable effect but it reveals perfectly your way of thinking. You can call me a skeptic, a lot of people do so, but to label someone with skepticism is absolutely unnecessary in case of science. One thing must be clear for anyone: you clearly believe in the theory of anthropogenic global warming, instead of continuous criticism towards your own thoughts and belief. The lack of ‘healthy skepticism’ in your way of thinking is obvious even from most of the posts on this site. You often commit well-known logical fallacies, such as referring to an authority, talking about a scientific consensus (argumentum ad populum), and many others in order to show your viewpoints as the only acceptable ones. Mentioning a consensus is pointless, because reality is not determined by popular vote.

    In the recent past, one of your common argument was the small number of peer-reviewed publications on the skeptic side. Now it is evident that in some cases you prevented the possible appearance of controversial papers in the most respected journals. Of course your case is not unique, as an economist I’ve seen group-think and censorship in my own field, too. Please avoid such dishonesty, because with such behaviour you risk that your credibility will be completely destroyed in the coming years.

    Furthermore, I and maybe lots of reasonable people would highly appreciate if any author or commentator on this site aren’t going to use the word ‘denier’ for a person who do not accept the theory of man-made global warming. As I’ve seen it in recent years, nobody denies the fact that the globe had been warmed significantly since the begginning of the 20th century. The exact amount of warming remains uncertain, but the direction of change is clear. Our question is only about the role of man. It is evident that CO2 is a greenhouse gas but it is also evident that CO2 is only a minor component of the total greenhouse effect in our atmosphere. CO2 molecules can only absorb and re-emit heat on relatively narrow bandwiths of infrared radiation. The doubling of CO2 from pre-industrial levels can only cause a negligible increase in global temperatures.

    The validity of the whole anthropogenic global warming theory depends on the existence of positive feedbacks, mainly caused by water vapor, the most important greenhouse gas. Theoretically, water vapor feedback relies on the Clausius–Clapeyron equation. If the atmosphere warms, it can and it will hold more water vapor – the absolute humidity will increase. However, 60 years of global radiosonde measurements shows that the absolute humidity in the middle troposphere is decreasing. The problem with the AGW theory is nothing else than there is no evidence for it. We have two empirically observed facts: global temperature has risen by about 0.6-0.7°c in the 20th century, and CO2 levels are also increasing due to the combustion of fossil fuels. But we know that CO2 alone couldn’t have caused the observed amount of warming.

    In the 4th IPCC report we can read an argument that the observed warming cannot be explained by natural variability, only when we include the effects of increasing amount of greenhouse gases (amplified by positive feedbacks). Climate models rely on the assumption that most of the warming observed in the last 30-40 years have been caused by antropogenic factors. A model which is based on a certain theory cannot prove the very same theory, this is also a common logical fallacy. The argument about “observed warming cannot be explained by natural variability” has another problems too. Literally it means that “we cannot think anything better” – argumentum ad ignorantiam.

    [Response: This is completely backwards. The physics of greenhouse gases was worked out decades before the temperatures had risen out of the noise, and the models incorporated it from the beginning. Predictions made by those models using this physics matched what was subsequently observed. The is not ‘assuming the answer’, it is accurately predicting future observations. Your argument that suddenly that well-tested physics should be discarded because it provides a good explanation for the recent changes (including stratospheric cooling) is fallacious. Not only would you need to come up with a better explanation for recent warming, but you would have to explain why increasing GHGs aren’t having the effect they are predicted to have. – gavin]

    Kindest regards from Hungary,

    Adam Soereg

    PS: Really sorry for any grammatic mistakes, English is not my native language though.

  39. 439
    Eric (skeptic) says:

    Steve (304): I can give a few examples, when I posted here a few years ago and asked on-topic questions, I was eventually given the “go away” message from Mark who was crude and uncensored. I was non censored then. Then in “Hey Ya mal” I posted again, and it was censored. Instead they allowed completely off-topic skeptic questioners and began answering those questions about models, warming pauses, etc. Then they allowed angry denialist questions. Then finally after a few days they allowed some pertinent and intelligent questions, but it was a little late at that point.

    There is a process repeated here which is (roughly) to selectively allow postings that perpetuate a caricature of denialist irrationality and denialist simplicity (the stereotypical OT questions). This is also done to maintain an appearance of noncensorship. Steve, I will be happy to ask specific questions that are on-topic on a future thread. My interests and knowledge is varied, I will ask about modeling granularity and weather fidelity, I will ask about proxies that are used for current warming (species changes, sea level, etc) without examining historic evidence using those same proxies. Other topics will interest me as well.

  40. 440
    petek says:

    It is excellent that these mails and documents were hacked and posted – apart from the breach of privacy. It exposes the sceptics of what they rightly are regarded as i.e. a mere nuisance to science. The descripton of the recent Lindzen paper as “crap”, well done.

  41. 441
    Endre Varga says:

    Now that much of the data, documents, and even programs are out, is it possible to compile an “official” bundle together with commentaries to explain the data, the methods, the conclusions, all referencing the leaked docs?

    Anyway, I STRONGLY SUGGEST to get a timestamped digital sign from a legally trusted provider on the leaked data, just to prevent intentionally modified versions to show up over time. It is best to be prepared.

  42. 442
    Sam I Am says:

    Anyone who doesn’t think that humans negatively impact their environment have never been in a public restroom.

  43. 443
    Endre Varga says:

    Also, as I suspect this is not the whole emails list, it would be useful to compile a difference list, as I suspect that the emails were filtered for selected persons (although I cannot be sure, as I have no access for the original data). This will give an indication who were the targets.

  44. 444
    Stephen says:

    Gavin. a poster wrote:

    Group: “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.
    ”Well, since this happens “often”, it would be good to see a couple of examples of the word’s usage from other fields to understand why it is not problematic. Thank you.

    You responded:
    [Response: Sure. It’s mostly used in mathematics, for instance in decomposing partial fractions, or deciding whether a number is divisible by 9 etc.etc.etc. – gavin]

    My response: I’m dumbstruck by your response. A shortcut to solve a math problem shortens the path to the unambiguously correct answer. The “trick” referenced in the Jones’ e-mail referred to a manipulation that changed to answer (in that case, a graph) by making data visually disappear. Is that your best shot?

    [Response: The graph in question (from a WMO report made ten years ago) was made to show the paleo-reconstructions in context with the recent instrumental record, smoothed in order to show the long term trends. These graphs have been produced hundreds of times, with small variations in how the data is presented or processed and are for the most part, completely interchangeable. What do you think is being hidden? – gavin]

  45. 445
    Alan Clark says:

    Presumably the CRU research was funded using public money (e.g. NOAA). I personally believe that publicly funded research should be completely open to public view – it appears that scientists can be more concerned with keeping their work at least partially closed in order to support their need (desire) to publish. There is also an ingrained view that research work should only be reviewed by other qualified researchers in the field – no one else can apparently have an opinion.

    In an area such as climate research which has profound implications for the long term viability of the planet as well as short term economics (tax, restriction of fossil fuel use….) it seems that the need for research to be completely open is particularly important.

    I agree that emails should be at least semi-private however it appears that these were not “personal” emails but were “work” emails that were written by a scientist working on publicly funded projects and in my opinion “work” email should be written in a professional manner as it may well be seen by third parties.

    It does not help when CRU describe themselves as “setting the environmental agenda” which gives an impression of CRU as a political organization rather than an objective research centre.

  46. 446
    Grand Moff Texan says:

    Maybe try a little openness if you wish to win over those who would like their questions answered before submitting to a new economic regime that looks pretty dismal, quite honestly.

    As opposed to the present economic regime? Seriously, this line of economic argument really doesn’t work anymore.

  47. 447
    Grand Moff Texan says:

    There is also an ingrained view that research work should only be reviewed by other qualified researchers in the field – no one else can apparently have an opinion.

    Oh they can have an opinion. It just won’t be worth anything.

  48. 448
    SeanD says:

    I think they should be allowed to include these published emails in their list of publications. The number of citations is sure to be enormous…

  49. 449
    mike d says:

    “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.”

    I agree with you, but I wonder if these tactics are resorted to because of attempts to silence and discredit all who question the science, as shown in the emails themselves where it is discussed how best to marginalize those who question their conclusions. When you stop using science and start using politics to silence dissent you are also treading on a line of unethical behavior are you not?

    re:” Steve Bloom says:
    20 November 2009 at 3:06 PM

    How I love the smell of denialist concern trolling in the morning. :)

    As Dano says, they (still) got nothin’.”

    Really??! …REALLY? Who exactly is the deniar here?

  50. 450
    Jimbo says:

    I am a skeptic layman. I think the mistake AGW believers made was when then let people like Al Gore proclaim that the debate is over. This begs the question “Why are we all still posting on blogs?” As Gavin well knows in science the debate is never over. I hope my post is accepted, if not then it will further demonstrate why skeptic blogs abound on the net.

    “Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.”

    “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”