RealClimate logo

Technical Note: Sorry for the recent unanticipated down-time, we had to perform some necessary updates. Please let us know if you have any problems.

Climate scientist bashing

Filed under: — stefan @ 7 April 2010

A new popular sport in some media these days is “climate scientist bashing”. Instead of dealing soberly with the climate problem they prefer to attack climate scientists, i.e. the bearers of bad news. The German magazine DER SPIEGEL has played this game last week under the suggestive heading “Die Wolkenschieber” – which literally translated can mean both “the cloud movers” and “the cloud traffickers” (available in English here ). The article continues on this level, alleging “sloppy work, falsifications and exaggerations”. By doing so DER SPIEGEL digs deeply into the old relic box of “climate skeptics” and freely helps itself on their websites instead of critically researching the issues at hand.

As a scientist I do not have the time to dedicate a whole day to one article and to do much research on it, which is why I here discuss only a few of the most obvious flaws and distortions of facts in this story.

Temperature data

Cynically and inhumanely the article sets off with remarks on our British colleague Phil Jones. The authors extensively revel in sentences like this:

He feels a constant tightness in his chest. He takes beta-blockers to help him get through the day. He is gaunt and his skin is pallid.
Jones is finished: emotionally, physically and professionally. He has contemplated suicide several times recently.

And this is the result of a media campaign consisting of precisely such poorly researched and fact-twisting articles as this one, for which Marco Evers, Olaf Stampf and Gerald Traufetter are responsible.

What is first greatly hyped is then gleefully destroyed. According to DER SPIEGEL “the entire profession” of climate science “based much of its work on his [Jones'] research” and “almost every internal debate among the climate popes passed through his computer”. Now it happens that I, most likely not an untypical example, have never worked with Jones’ data and have only exchanged a handful of emails (out of tens of thousands every year) with him, although I do probably count as part of the “profession”. There is a whole set of other data of global temperature, e.g. the data from NASA which is based on weather stations (and which I prefer for various reasons) or data from NOAA or the satellite data from RSS or the UAH. As is always scientifically useful, important conclusions are based not on one single set of data but on the fact that a whole range of competing scientific groups find consistent results, using different methods (see Figure).

Global mean temperature (annual means) according to the 5 most often used data sets. The graph shows the deviation from the mean of the last 30 years, as well as the linear trend over the last 30 years. The data from the Hadley Center, NASA and NOAA use measurements from surface weather stations, each with its specific method of quality control (e.g. correction for heat island effects) and interpolation and spatial integration. Independently, the satellite data from RSS and UAH (available from 1979 onwards) provide two different analyses based on the same microwave raw data. These measure the temperature of the middle troposphere, the variations of which can differ from those of the surface temperatures on short time scales. The record El Niño year of 1998 is an example. It has caused a greater temperature anomaly in the troposphere, presumably as warm air rising in the tropics spread in middle altitudes. The climatic trends, however, do not differ significantly since on longer time scales the surface and tropospheric temperatures are closely coupled due to turbulent mixing processes.

The quality of raw data from worldwide weather stations and vessels is indeed often unsatisfactory, especially if one goes further back in time – after all they were gathered to help forecast the weather and not to determine long-term climate trends. However, the error margin has been carefully analyzed – as is standard in science – and is shown in the temperature graphs on the Hadley Center´s website as well as in the IPCC report, and to date there is no reason to assume that the actual temperature evolution lies outside these error margins – the more so as the satellite data correspond well with the ground data. Whether the global warming trend was 0,15 or 0,17°C per decade in the past decades is of no relevance to any practical concerns.

IPCC-Figure of global mean temperature 1850-2005 (Fig. TS6).

According to DER SPIEGEL Jones has erased raw data and is “an activist or missionary who views ‘his’ data as his personal shrine” who “is intent on protecting it from the critical eyes of his detractors”. However, Jones is neither the producer and owner nor the archivist of these data – it is simply data from the national weather agencies, who also are responsible for its archiving or for the question to whom and under what circumstances they may be passed on. The majority of these data is freely accessible online. However, some weather services do not allow their data to be passed on because they sell such data. Other scientists have compared the CRU-data with freely available raw data from weather stations. And at NASA one can find the computer algorithms which are used to calculate the global mean temperature, publicly available for everybody. There is hardly any other scientific field in which more data and computer codes are freely accessible than in climate science (e.g. also codes and data of my current papers on sea level rise in Science 2007 and PNAS 2009). Do for example economists, on whose advice many political decisions depend, disclose their raw data and the computer codes of their models?

The British House of Commons has just published the report by the committee which has been appointed to examine the accusations made against Phil Jones. The report concludes:

The focus on Professor Jones and CRU has been largely misplaced. [...] The scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact.

The fact that Jones has been rehabilitated will be welcomed by all those who know this decent, always helpful and universally well-liked scientist. For the general public the conclusions on his scientific findings will be even more important:

Even if the data that CRU used were not publicly available-which they mostly are-or the methods not published-which they have been-its published results would still be credible: the results from CRU agree with those drawn from other international data sets; in other words, the analyses have been repeated and the conclusions have been verified.

The ever-popular “hockey stick” discussion

DER SPIEGEL resurrects one of the oldest shelf-warmers of the “climate skeptics”: the hockey stick debate and a series of flawed accusations with it. The so-called “hockey stick” is a temperature construction for the Northern Hemisphere for the last millennium published by Michael Mann, Ray Bradley and Malcolm Hughes in 1999, of which DER SPIEGEL writes that the Canadian Steve McIntyre unmasked it as “a sham”. (And this is the only clue within the whole article pointing to the alleged “falsifications”). This is not true. Even a committee of the National Academy of Sciences looked in 2006 at the accusations made by McIntyre and has cleared the authors of all suspicions.

Raw data and computer codes of the “hockey stick” are online and publicly available, and independent scientists have recalculated everything years ago using their own codes (also available). The current IPCC report from 2007 shows in Fig. 6.10 these reconstructions together with a dozen more which have meanwhile been added; the Copenhagen Diagnosis published in 2009 shows some even more recent ones in Fig. 19 (page 43). All show consistent results, not in detail but in their fundamental aspects. This is why the conclusions drawn in the IPCC report of 2007 were stronger than back in 2001, when the “hockey stick” had been shown for the first time. The IPCC report 2007 concludes:

Palaeoclimatic information supports the interpretation that the warmth of the last half century is unusual in at least the previous 1,300 years. [Summary for Policy Makers, S. 9]

In the third report from 2001 such a statement had been made only for he last 1000 years.

All reconstructions – with or without using tree-ring data – agree that the temperature in the Northern Hemisphere (for the Southern Hemisphere insufficient data existed until recently) is higher today than in medieval times. DER SPIEGEL simply claims the opposite:

There are many indications that in medieval times, between 900 and 1,300 A.D., when the Vikings raised livestock in Greenland and grape vines were cultivated in Scotland, it was in fact warmer than it is today.

No scientific evidence in support of this claim is mentioned. Locally – in the North Atlantic region – climate reconstructions do indeed show higher temperatures than today (see Fig.); hence there is no contradiction to the anecdotal evidence about Greenland and Scotland.

Temperature difference between the middle ages (years 950 to 1250) and the modern period (years 1961 to 1990) according to a reconstruction by Mann et al. 2009. The grey shadinghatching shows regions with statistically significant results.

Incidentally, looking at the forcings, it would be surprising if it had been warmer in medieval times than now. Forcings are the factors which affect the global radiation budget of the Earth, such as variation of solar activity, volcanic eruptions or changes of the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. If we compute the temperature evolution from the known forcings over the last thousand years, the result is consistent with the temperature reconstructions mentioned above. Merely one (in the meantime corrected) model simulation by Zorita and von Storch is an exception. These model calculations (18 in total) are compiled and compared with data in the IPCC report in figures 6.13 and 6.14 .

Only by looking at the forcings can one draw conclusions about the causes of global warming – the fact that currently it is unusually warm does not by itself tell us anything about the causes. If only natural and no anthropogenic forcing existed it would be much colder now than in medieval times.

The hockey stick debate exemplifies how the „climate skeptics“-lobby has tried to discredit an inconvenient scientific finding over the course of many years, without success. The scientific conclusions have proven to be robust.

Tropical storms

Under the subheading “The Myth of the Monster Storm” the SPIEGEL article reports on a “hurricane war” amongst US climate scientists:

The alarmists, using the rhetoric of fiery sermons, warned that Katrina was only the beginning, and that we would soon see the advent of superstorms of unprecedented fury. Members of the more levelheaded camp were vehemently opposed to such predictions and insisted that there was no justification for such fears.

Sadly, no example for the “rhetoric of fiery sermons” is quoted. “Levelheaded” is the well-worn SPIEGEL-parlance for describing anyone who downplays climate change, regardless of whether their claims are scientifically well-founded.

Then a recent study from Nature Geoscience is cited which allegedly announces “the all-clear signal on the hurricane front” and which signifies “another setback for the IPCC”. This is because “the IPCC report warned that there would be more hurricanes in a greenhouse climate”. Let us simply quote from the abstract of the new study:

Future projections based on theory and high-resolution dynamical models consistently indicate that greenhouse warming will cause the globally averaged intensity of tropical cyclones to shift towards stronger storms, with intensity increases of 2-11% by 2100. Existing modelling studies also consistently project decreases in the globally averaged frequency of tropical cyclones, by 6-34%. Balanced against this, higher resolution modelling studies typically project substantial increases in the frequency of the most intense cyclones, and increases of the order of 20% in the precipitation rate within 100 km of the storm centre.

Long story short, fewer but heavier tropical storms can be expected. By the way, the potential destructiveness of storms increases more steeply than the wind velocities; a 2-11% higher speed means a 6-37% higher destructiveness. (Emanuel 2005).

And what did the IPCC report have to say on this topic?

Based on a range of models, it is likely that future tropical cyclones (typhoons and hurricanes) will become more intense, with larger peak wind speeds and more heavy precipitation associated with ongoing increases of tropical sea surface temperatures. There is less confidence in projections of a global decrease in numbers of tropical cyclones. [Summary for Policy Makers, page 15.]

Long story short, fewer but heavier tropical storms can be expected, even if there was still less confidence about the first aspect at the time. The WMO, whose expert group has published this study, consequently describes the result as follows:

Substantial scientific progress has led the Expert Team to raise their confidence levels on several aspects of how tropical cyclone activity may change under projected climate scenarios.

This means: there is no reason for speaking of a “setback” in a “war”; rather the early findings of the IPCC report have been given a higher confidence level. The SPIEGEL story on this issue falls into a category of false allegations against IPCC mentioned by us already in February, namely those which can be falsified by simply reading the report (in this case even a quick look at the Summary for Policy Makers would have sufficed).

IPCC mistakes

According to DER SPIEGEL “more and more mistakes, evidence of sloppy work and exaggerations in the current IPCC report are appearing”. We already investigated this and came to the conclusion that of the mistakes discussed excitedly in the media, nothing much remains except for the Himalaya mistake. The SPIEGEL does not have anything else to offer either – it counts “Jones’ disputed temperature curve” as one of them; apart from that “the supposed increase in natural disasters” – wrongly so as we have already showed (in German) reacting to an article published in Die Welt which claimed the same.

DER SPIEGEL elaborates on the story of the alleged “phantom graph” by Robert Muir-Wood which we have explained there as well. According to DER SPIEGEL, Roger Pielke “tried to find out where the graph had come from” and “traced it” to Robert Muir-Wood. This must have been hard indeed, given that Muir-Wood, who provided the graph, is named by the IPCC in the figure caption. The only difficult thing is to find this graph (which incidentally is correct but not very informative) at all: other than DER SPIEGEL claims, it is not in the IPCC report itself but only provided as “supplementary material” on its website, where the IPCC publishes such background material. Although on the 3,000 pages of the report there was no space for it, the graph now seems to be important to SPIEGEL readers for reasons unknown.

What is it all about?

SPIEGEL defames some of the best scientists worldwide, who not least for this reason have become prime targets for the “climate skeptics”. If you look at publications in the three scientific top journals (Nature, Science, PNAS), the just 44-year-old Mike Mann has already published 9 studies there, Phil Jones 24 (comments, letters and book reviews not included). In contrast, DER SPIEGEL always calls upon the same witness, the mathematician Hans von Storch, who has published only a single article in the prime journals mentioned (and that was faulty). But he says the politically wanted thing, even if without any supporting evidence from the scientific literature: in his view we can easily adapt to climate change. He also publicly accuses the vast majority of his colleagues who disagree with him of alarmism, calls them “prophets of doom” or “eco-activists” who indoctrinate the public. He also insinuates political or financial motives for disseminating horror scenarios. In this article he says things like “unfortunately, some of my colleagues behave like pastors, who present their results in precisely such a way that they’ll fit to their sermons”. This quote matches the article´s inflationary usage of the words “guru” “popes” “fiery sermons” “missionaries” and so forth. And he goes on: “It’s certainly no coincidence that all the mistakes that became public always tended in the direction of exaggeration and alarmism.” The following statement would have probably been more correct: it is certainly no coincidence that all the alleged errors scandalized in the media always tended in the direction of exaggeration and alarmism.

It is obvious that DER SPIEGEL does not care about science. This really is about politics. This year will decide about the future of the German climate policy: in the fall the government will announce its new energy strategy. This will decide whether the energy transformation towards a sustainable electricity supply, increasingly based on renewables, will be pushed forward or thwarted. In a global context the issue is whether global warming can be limited to a maximum of 2 ºC, as the Copenhagen Accord calls for, or whether this opportunity will be lost. The power struggle on this issue is in full gear. The energy transformation can best be prevented by creating doubts about its urgency. The fact that scandal stories about climate science have to be invented to this end just proves one thing: good, honest arguments against a forceful climate policy apparently do not exist.

p.s. (26 April): It’s just a curiosity, but telling: DER SPIEGEL calls Pachauri’s novel “Return to Almora” an “erotic novel”. The novel follows the life story of Sanjay Nath, from a childhood in the 1950s in the Himalayas through decades spent in the US building up a chain of meditation centers, until his final return to the Himalayas at age 60. The 400-page book contains a handful of love scenes, only gently hinted at in a few sentences. Calling this an “erotic novel” is devious; it can only serve the purpose of letting Pachauri appear in a dubious light.

Correction: As Roger Pielke has pointed out to us, the Supplementary Material to the IPCC reports is not only available on the IPCC website, but also on a CD-ROM distributed with the printed books.

[This piece is a translation of an article that originally appeared in German on the KlimaLounge weblog.]


Emanuel, K., 2005: Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years. Nature, 436, 686-688.

Knutson, T. R., J. L. McBride, J. Chan, K. Emanuel, G. Holland, C. Landsea, I. Held, J. P. Kossin, A. K. Srivastava, and M. Sugi, 2010: Tropical cyclones and climate change. Nature Geoscience, 3, 157-163.

Mann, M. E., R. S. Bradley, and M. K. Hughes, 1999: Northern hemisphere temperatures during the past millennium: inferences, uncertainties and limitations. Geophysical Research Letters, 26, 759-762.

Mann, M. E., Z. Zhang, S. Rutherford, R. S. Bradley, M. Hughes, D. Shindell, C. Ammann, G. Faluvegi, and F. Ni, 2009: Global Signatures and Dynamical Origins of the Little Ice Age and Medieval Climate Anomaly. Science, 326, 1256-1260.

517 Responses to “Climate scientist bashing”

  1. 1


    On surface temp reconstructions, there has been a whole slew of blogger-driven efforts by Tamino, Nick Stokes, Jeff Id/Roman M, myself, and others to create their own global land temp reconstructions. I reviewed them recently over here, and noted how similar their results are:

    Its a good example of good blog science, and hopefully will make spatial analysis and anomaly tools more widespread and available to dispel some of the sillier arguments out there (like the one in Spiegel, or that terrible Fox News article on GISSTemp last week).

  2. 2
    Steve in Dublin says:

    Nicely written, Stefan.

    You can see that things are beginning to come to a head. More people are becoming aware that the deniers have nothing substantive to bring to the table; they can only nibble away at the edges of the science, and for them it’s really all about the politics.

    Also, the behind the scenes funding of those conservative ‘think tanks’ by the oil and coal conglomerates is being outed, and it’s always the same names/lobbyists that keep popping up. Funny that, huh?

  3. 3

    God bless you for standing up for Phil Jones. The bullying this man has undergone simply for telling the truth is almost unbelievable.

  4. 4
    Steve Bloom says:

    Thanks, Stefan, and nicely done. The post covers a lot of ground, although it would probably need to be at least three times longer to correct all of the errors and misrepresentations in the article.

    I wanted to add a couple of specifics and then make a request. First, this old chestnut rears its head in Part 3:

    “For instance, scientists had long claimed that 1998 was the warmest year in the United States since temperatures were first recorded — until McIntyre discovered that it was even warmer in 1934.”

    As long-time RC readers will know, this factoid is a near-complete distortion of reality. The worst of it is that it makes it sound as if McIntyre’s “auditing” is something like doing science rather than just checking for arithmetic errors.

    In Part 4 McIntyre homie and economist Ross McKitrick’s idea that the measured temp increase is largely due to urban warming gets uncritical treatment. Deep Climate and Deltoid have current threads demonstrating once again why this is a complete crock.

    Also in Part 4 are a series of quotes from respected climate scientist Peter Webster (apparently) criticizing the CRU temp record. Given the problems with rest of the article I don’t want to assume even that the quotes are accurate, but under the circumstances I think it’s appropriate for Peter to make a careful statement of his views on the matter. RC would be a good place to do it.

  5. 5
    jo abbess says:

    I would like to propose that we form a “Phil Jones Devotional Circle”, and put a nice logo on our personal and organisational websites, linking through to a page here at RealClimate (or elsewhere) that extols the virtues of said Phil Jones, and catalogues his many great achievements.

    That, at least, could warm Phil Jones’ heart, in letting him know how much we value and support him. If those suffering from septicaemia choose another target, we should have a “We Love…” page for them as well. I think it’s about time we had a page explaining just how much we venerate and adore Michael Mann, for example. And James Hansen. And Malte Meinshausen. And Tom Wigley… There’s such a long list…

    Over Easter, I was reflecting on the work of J. S. Bach in his Johannespassion, based on Chapters 18 and 19 of the Gospel of John. So many parallels to the campaign to denigrate, humiliate and crucify Phil Jones…including that immortal, mocking question “What is truth ?”…

    We could perhaps entitle our Phil Jones page “Der Jonespassion” ? Or “Stations of the Climate” or somesuch ? Or is that going a tad too far ?

  6. 6

    I’d like to second the sentiments above. I’m afraid I didn’t have the fortitude to wade through more than part I of the Spiegel series. That was quite enough to show me that they weren’t overly concerned with accuracy. (Sadly.)

    I hope Dr. Jones is finding some relief these days!

  7. 7
    Geoff Beacon says:

    The Sunday Times had a large spread for a piece by Jonathan Leake, “Arctic ice recovers from the great melt” (April 4, 2010). He says

    IF you thought it was cold in Britain for the time of year, you should see what is happening around the North Pole. Scientists have discovered that the size of the Arctic ice cap has increased sharply to levels not seen since 2001.


    This claim comes two months after the graph on the NSIDC website showed ice cover at its lowest level for millenia.

    The “recovery” is thin ice the NSIDC points out

    “As sea ice extent approaches the seasonal maximum, extent can vary quite a bit from day to day because the thin, new ice at the edge of the pack is sensitive to local wind and temperature pattern.”

    Jonathan is on thin ice calling this thin ice a recovery.

    He also repeats the scientists-got-storms-wrong-argument

    Scientists have made mistakes over other short-term trends such as increases in tropical storms. In 2004-5 an increase in the number and severity of storms, including Hurricane Katrina, prompted some researchers to suggest a link with global warming — but this was then followed by a decline in storms.

    Are these just a simple mistakes?

  8. 8
    Bioluminescence says:

    I seems to me to show how desperate deniers have become – their ‘arguments’ are so repetitive that even I can dismantle them without doing additional research.

    Shame on them for their personal attacks on climate scientists. It’s clear that it’s their last resort, having effectively lost the scientific debate, but these attacks are nothing short of disgusting.

    Thank for the good work.

  9. 9
    DVG says:

    “Climate Scientist Bashing”????? — oh, you mean against guys like John Christy, Richard Lindzen and such.

    My, what a one-way street some insist on.

  10. 10
    veritas36 says:

    The Washington Post yesterday had a strange column about climate models, as you are no doubt aware.

    The article quotes Gavin Schmidt, and extensively from one Warren Meyer, doubtless to present “the other side of the story”.
    Meyer is not in your data base. He has a degree in dynamical systems and says the case for rests on feedback mechanisms, which aren’t stable. According to him, the direct forcing alone is large enough to produce catastrophic change.

    He clearly plays hokey games. He presents early 20th century temperature data side by side with late 20th century data to show that the rising pattern is the same. Showing no values of temperature, leaving the overall impression that actual rise in temp was the same.

    So I was wondering, how much of the climate model results depend on feedback? I can’t figure out how to get the straight scoop by googling. If the WaPo is going to quote him, I guess I’d like to know more about him.

  11. 11
    M Roberts says:

    Re Prof. Jones there is another snide article by Mombiot in the UK Guardian .The attack now is based round FOI where it seems that there is some bad blood between this journalist and the UEA .It seems that in Mombiots opinion Prof Jones should resign over the FOI story !

  12. 12
    Russell Seitz says:

    It’s sad to see Der Spiegel, whose fact checkers once rivaled the old New Yorker’s, descending into the counterfactual kulturkampf of the post-Murdoch WSJ Ed Page.

    Sadder in fact, as Redaktion still has science editors on call.

  13. 13
    Doug Bostrom says:

    In the department of selectively sanctimonious commentary, see George Monbiot’s latest: commentisfree/ 2010/ apr/ 06/ climate-change-emails-science-humanities

    Monbiot has of late modified his complaints about CRU. Now he’s all in a lather about how clueless scientists have jeopardized the freedoms journalists have worked so hard to gain.

    Faced with discerning whether CRU or ClimateAudit were the primary abusers of FOI, Monbiot manages to maintain his mandatory hermetic ignorance of how CA barraged with CRU w/synthetically divided portions of one single FOI request. Thus, of Dr. Jones’ exhausted patience with Steve McIntyre’s band of pranksters Monbiot purports to be entirely baffled:

    None of it made sense: the intolerant dismissal of requests for information, the utter failure to engage when the hacked emails were made public, the refusal by other scientists to accept that anything was wrong.

    Monbiot’s another journalist who has ascended what at first glance looked like the moral high ground, but has belatedly discovered himself “up” with no elegant way of getting down from what’s proven a faulty position. The last thing he can do at this point is squarely address ClimateAudit’s misuse of FOI, not without saying “oops, maybe I was wrong about Jones.”

    Monbiot goes on to analogize climate scientists with perverted priests and police officers too fond of their batons:

    We all detest closed worlds: the Vatican and its dismissal of the paedophilia scandals as “idle chatter”; the Palace of Westminster, whose members couldn’t understand the public outrage about their expenses; the police forces that refuse to discipline errant officers.


  14. 14
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Here’s Joe Bastardi bashing climate science on yesterday’s Colbert Report: Science Catfight – Joe Bastardi vs. Brenda Ekwurzel.

  15. 15
    Jim Steele says:

    You show a graph of all the temperature data bases basically agreeing. But I read an article by Dr. Roy Spencer who I believe manages much of the UAH data set and he argued that most of the warming since 1973 was spurious,. He states that Jones treatment of the data base shows 20% more warming than his computations. So here is a fellow climate scientist who disagrees. I am curious what you have to say about his temperature graphs shown and his article his article is here and on what basis Jones treatment is better than Spencer’s.

    [Response: There is some merit in using databases of high resolution temperature data instead of the monthly means available via WMO or GHCN. However, there are no panaceas, and no reason to expect that these data are less affected by inhomogeneities than the monthly data. AFAIK Spencer has not looked at that, and so claims that everyone else has got it wrong are very likely to be somewhat premature. Once he has a proper paper outlining exactly what was done, and how the known issues have been dealt with, we might be in a better position to judge - but for now, this is merely curious, not definitive. - gavin]

  16. 16
    jo abbess says:

    @GeoffBeacon (#7)

    > Jonathan [Leake] is on thin ice calling this thin ice a recovery.
    > …
    > He also repeats the scientists-got-storms-wrong-argument
    > …
    > Are these just a simple mistakes?

    No. He’s doing it deliberately, apparently, and Tim Lambert at Deltoid has supposed evidence (with a bunch of investigative reports) :-

    Jonathan Leake appears to be abusing his position of large-audience publishing privilege to swing bats at Science and Scientists.

    Or, alternatively, it might be that he doesn’t believe the seemingly unresearched, unverified stuff he writes, but he is bound to do the will of his employers in writing what looks like untenable guff, and so apparently shows resistance by writing in a vein so as to possibly ignite opposition…

    But that’s a bit convoluted…and such a strategy could backfire in terms of losing his employment…so I won’t plump for that possible explanation.

    He has allegedly claimed he is not a Climate sceptic, but it sure looks like he is one.

  17. 17
    Deep Climate says:

    Steve Bloom points out that McKitrick is back with more “contamination” nonsense (and I thank him for the pointer to my post).

    But McKitrick’s latest is more than that – it’s an outrageous, whining attack against the IPCC and science journals for having the audacity to tell him his work is not up to snuff. He actually claims that the only reason he is having trouble getting published is because he is pointing out “errors” in the IPCC “consensus”. He even claims that the IPCC treatment of his work is based on “fabricated evidence”.

    Needless to say, his case for his own work and version of events is less than compelling.

    So far only one media outlet is biting – the Washington Times.

    Interestingly, they repeat McKitrick’s claim:

    “Mr. McKitrick has spent the past two years attempting to publish a scientific paper that documents a fundamental error in the 2007 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.”

    But they then claim that McKitrick and Michaels (2007) was excluded from AR4, when in fact the “error” McKitrick complains of is a statement about that very same paper!

    You can’t make this stuff up.

    Unfortunately this blather about censorship and gatekeeping in the peer reviewed journals from McLean et al and now McKitrick is just the beginning, I’m afraid. I expect a whole lot more as AR5 gets going.

  18. 18
    MapleLeaf says:

    I have not looked at Der Spiegel for many years, my impression back then was that it was a reputable magazine.

    How the mighty have tumbled. I think the folks at Der Spiegel need to be reported to the German Press Council or their equivalent. The defamed scientists, e.g., Jones, would also be on solid ground to take them to task legally. Although is is probably not up for that right now. Maybe someone else can step up and take them on.

    The folks at Der Spiegel really do need to take some of their own advice and “look in the mirror”– calling others on alleged (and fallacious) inaccuracies, yet getting very few, if any, right themselves. Their hypocrisy and double standard is astounding.

    DVG @9: First, the ‘bashing’ of Lindzen et al., you will note, is primarily from their peers who are qualified to critique and take issue with their work. That is not the same as the media (TV, print and internet) attacking Jones and Mann et al. Second, there is another important difference, some of the contrarians have actually been shown to be fudging and cherry-picking data, subverting the peer-review system and/or engaging in extremely weak science. Third, such stern critique of contrarian scientists are not manufacture scandals based on stolen information as is the case of the attacks on science and scientists by those in denial about AGW. Nobody is calling for the contrarians to be “drawn and quartered”, or to commit hari kari or to be flogged in public.

    The fact that you cannot discern the difference between how reputable scientists like Gavin and Stefan deal with and resolve conflict or scientific disagreements and how the denialists do is both telling and worrisome.

    Dr. Jones, if you are reading this, stay strong.

  19. 19
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #15: Gavin delicately neglects to mention it, but Roy Spencer has a long history of making mistakes with his data and then defending those errors to the bitter end, to the point that his scientific credibility is in tatters. Search for Spencer’s name on this site for a good sampling of the mistakes.

  20. 20
    Kai-Uwe Kuhn says:

    “Do for example economists, on whose advice many political decisions depend, disclose their raw data and the computer codes of their models?” Yes, at least to publish in top journals economists have to make their data sets available online(if you look at the website of the American Economic Review, for example, you will find for each empirical paper the data set used). But that does not mean that everything can be published. For example, raw data that could identify individuals (as generated in economic experiments and survey research cannot be made available easily due to issues of protection of personal data). Disclosure is also problematic when proprietary data sets are used (as in the CRU case). Full disclosure of everything is not necessarily the best or most ethical policy – and the best policy will depend on the kind of data involved. “We are much better at disclosure than those economists” is therefore not a really good argument. What is relevant is that all the data to replicate and check the work in climate science is available – despite of the political noise to the contrary. No need to bash economists to make that point.

    [Response: Thanks for making this point. I actually asked a leading economist about this before I wrote it, and he said that some computer codes of economic models are available (e.g. by Bill Nordhaus), but this is the exception rather than the rule. It wasn't meant to "bash" economists, the point was just that climate science should not be held to higher standards than any other policy-relevant science. -stefan]

  21. 21
    Didactylos says:

    Is there any way we can show our support, confidence and thanks to Professor Jones (without flooding him with mail)?

    Perhaps we can call on UEA to reinstate Jones? Demand of those media outlets we consider not totally beyond redemption to issue a formal apology to Jones for their shocking and misdirected treatment of the story?

  22. 22

    Jim Steele,

    Those posts referred to U.S. data, where Dr. Spencer discovered that raw ISH data differs from adjusted Hadley data. His ISH data for the U.S. does agree quite well with raw USHCN data, though he didn’t highlight that. Its well known that USHCN adjustments for the U.S. increase temps a fair bit to correct for cooling biases due to TOB changes, MMTS sensor transitions, and other factors, so showing that raw data (ISH in this case) runs cooler than adjusted data (Hadley) isn’t particularly novel. I looked at the issue in a bit more detail over here:

    Interestingly enough, Spencer’s reconstruction of global temps using ISH agrees almost perfectly with HadCRU:

    He remarked that,

    “I’ll have to admit I was a little astounded at the agreement between Jones’ and my analyses, especially since I chose a rather ad-hoc method of data screening that was not optimized in any way. Note that the linear temperature trends are essentially identical; the correlation between the monthly anomalies is 0.91.”

  23. 23
    calyptorhynchus says:

    There goes another cherished illusion: that it is only English-language media which are clueless and criminal.

    Clearly Der Spiegel has been taking lessons in infamy from English-language media.

  24. 24
    Garry S-J says:

    Jim Steele @15, please note that, whatever it’s merits, Spencer’s argument concerns only the contiguous 48 states of the US (ie excluding Alaska and Hawaii).

    The contiguous states are only 1.6% of the Earth’s surface.

  25. 25

    Not sure of journalists like those who produce stories like this are stupid or evil. They for sure are not acting in the tradition of their profession. I worked with anti-apartheid journalists in South Africa in the late 1980s, where the invention of the low-cost laser printer and easy to use Macs made it possible for journalists of principle to go after the real story in a police state. It makes me cringe to think that these people are categorised along with the idiots who wrote this stuff.

    Didactylos #21: you could sign my petition. Even if you don’t 100% agree with the wording you can post your correction as a comment.

  26. 26
    Mike says:

    It is an odd article. The deniers love it, but it also says that
    “in only 20 years, snow could become a thing of the past in Germany.”

    So, in twenty years, the deniers (if there are any then) will point to this article as an example of AGW alarm-ism any time there is a snow flurry in Germany.

  27. 27

    Jim Steele #15: I wonder if Spencer is switching focus to UHI because the latest satellite data is unmistakeably on warming trend that can’t be explained away by ENSO or the solar cycle. While this is short-term data, and something could change it, maybe he’s running out of options for making the satellite record inconsistent with AGW?

    Correcting for UHI by using population density assumes that population density is the only reason an area may be warming faster than average. Given that human settlement patterns are non-random, this is a dodgy assumption. For example, if human settlement is more likely at relatively low altitudes and near a large body of water, are such locations more likely to warm even in the absence of urbanisation?

    In any case, if you max out the UHI correction and end up with the US getting cooler, you have to wonder how this accounts for warming in the Arctic. My suspicion is that all the beat ups over UHI have resulted in over-correcting for the effect — much as the beat ups over sea level rise lead the IPCC to leave out most of the land-based ice melt contribution in 2007.

  28. 28
    Publicola says:

    Here’s an example in that Der Spiegel article of a brazen, outright lie.

    Per the Der Spiegel article, in reference to Chris Landsea:

    “Last month Landsea, together with top US hurricane researchers, published a study that finally disproves the supposed link between hurricanes and global warming. The study concludes with the assessment that ‘tropical cyclone frequency is likely to either decrease or remain essentially the same.’”

    The article didn’t provide a reference for that quote, but it comes from a paper co-authored by Landsea and published in Nature Geoscience in February (2010) titled “Tropical cyclones and climate change”:

    Here’s the quote in its proper, larger context:

    “Improvements have encouraged us to raise our confidence
    levels concerning several aspects of cyclone-activity projections.
    These include our assessment that tropical cyclone frequency is
    likely to either decrease or remain essentially the same. Despite this
    lack of an increase in total storm count, we project that a future
    increase in the globally averaged frequency of the strongest tropical
    cyclones is more likely than not — a higher confidence level than
    possible at our previous assessment.”

    Which is to say, the Der Spiegel article lied by omission when it cherry-picked the frequency quote but omitted the immediately-following severity quote “Despite this … we project that a future increase in the globally averaged frequency of the strongest tropical cyclones is more likely than not.”

    The authors of the Der Spiegel article moreover outright lied when they asserted:

    “Last month Landsea, together with top US hurricane researchers, published a study that finally disproves the supposed link between hurricanes and global warming.”

    To the contrary, that study of course supports the opposite conclusion with respect to the “supposed” link between hurricanes and global warming.

    I know it probably shouldn’t at this point, but the audacity of global warming deniers like the authors of this Der Spiegel article can still amaze me.

    Until now I had also been under the impression that Der Spiegel’s standards were higher – or at least that Der Spiegel had standards. Obviously, no one at Der Spiegel had bothered to fact-check this denier propaganda.

  29. 29
    Dan Lufkin says:

    @10 The WaPo piece on climate models quoted Warren Meyer to counterbalance Gavin. I audited Meyer and found much strangeness at and even more at BMOC seems to be the title of a novel by Meyer about the evils of tort lawyers. He also runs CoyoteBlog, dedicated to the evil procurement practices of the Obama admin. A real all-rounder. I sent a message to David Fahrenthold, author of the WaPo piece, pointing out Meyer’s brief experience in climatology and expressing the hope that Fahrenthold would have an early opportunity to ameliorate the mischief his article is causing. Meyer is trumpeting his exposure on Climate-skeptic and the comments are worth reading. If I hear back from Fahrenthold, I’ll let you all know. He’s a regular contributor to the Post’s science section and generally pretty careful.

  30. 30
    Hank Roberts says:

    Great catch by Publicola.

  31. 31
    Curtis Grinn says:

    For a little over 1-year now I have been reviewing all of the various comments, blogs and reports regarding the renewable and clean energy discussion. Anyone that is truly interested in advancing the use of alternative energies needs to understand that it can actually happen if and only if, they start appealing to individual’s “common sense”.
    When spoken about from a Political tone or even from a Social and Environmental voice, people tend not to want to listen. The fact is most people are disgusted with the political overtures thrown around the country. Once they get a sense that a politician is speaking of the subject, whether it be for the good or not, they tune out and the movement goes nowhere. The same rings true if spoken by an environmental activist type. The fact here is, most people do not want to be thought of as some “environmental greenie” type. Although, if the discussion were framed as an appeal to one’s “common sense” such as: 1) do you think we should STOP buying/importing oil from overseas…? Everyone spoken to would without a doubt answer emphatically YES! 2) Mention, are you aware that the U.S. uses 25% of the world’s oil but, can only produce 2% – so unless we do something else, we cannot stop importing the oil needed to survive. 3) Ask, are you aware that the U.S. Government, especially the military are currently using all sorts of renewable and clean energy to conduct their various businesses. 4) Express to the U.S. public that in China, only 1% of the population owns a car, yet the Chinese Government is aggressively pushing with big incentives its’ citizens to purchase automobiles, and that China’s population of course, is 3-times the size of ours – then ask, where do you think gasoline prices are going once their driving citizens get onboard? 5) Explain how by going renewable your electric bills will decrease. Of course however, if there is not a great demand for the renewable energy source, the prices are initially higher to the consumer but, if the demand were to arrive, prices would ultimately decrease, alas the way of “flat-screen televisions”.
    The tone of the conversation must change if there is to be any headway made in the advancements of renewable energy. EVERYBODY would welcome the change if and only if, the texture of the discussion was different. Take a peek at a new site I discovered online,
    It is my understanding that they are trying to change the texture of the discussion. Good for them, but better for the American people because, the current dialog hasn’t and isn’t getting us anywhere.

  32. 32
    Sou says:

    I add my support for Prof Jones and all the other scientists who’ve been wrongfully savaged and libelled in the media.

    It’s appalling to me to see the depths to which journalists will stoop, including those who work for what I previously thought of as mostly ethical publications, such as Der Spiegel, the Times, the Guardian, and the Australian. Even though I haven’t always agreed with the political slant, I hadn’t until recent months put them in the same category as gutter tabloids.

  33. 33
    paulina says:

    I was reading this novel (!) and the mom is looking at her kid’s (6-year-old?) drawings. He keeps drawing her, the mom, over and over, much like his dad paints “her,” over and over. And over.

    She asks the young artist [Stoney] what this thing is, appended to her hand, in every drawing. Like a ring or something, but much larger. A stick with a half moon shape attached.

    “It’s your wine glass.”

    “He thinks it’s part of you,” one of her older kids says.


    What’s Stoney’s ontology, I wonder.
    My own–ours–seems surreal, with climate scientists, apparently, made for bashing.

  34. 34
    Hank Roberts says:

    Here, Chesapeake Bay compared to Juneau, in recent years:

  35. 35
    David Miller says:

    To Jim Steele and others, about Dr Roy Spencer:

    I went to his website ( the other day and was quite astounded at the articles.

    What can one say when they alternate between:

    “The global-average lower tropospheric temperature continues to be quite warm: +0.65 deg. C for March, 2010. This is about the same as January. Global average sea surface temperatures (not shown) remain high.


    Direct Evidence that Most U.S. Warming Since 1973 Could Be Spurious: INTRODUCTION
    My last few posts have described a new method for quantifying the average Urban Heat Island (UHI) warming effect as a function of population density….

    Waitaminit here. His own analysis of satellite data shows a .65C warming and yet he turns around and says that measured global warming is a function of population density at temperature measuring stations?

    The only way for this to be logically congruent is if the population density problem he’s investigating somehow affects the satellite data. Somehow I doubt the UHI reaches that far into space….

  36. 36
    sod says:

    a horrible article.

    i was deeply shocked by the “vikings and wine” quote. this is about as low as journalism can sink. directly quoting the denialist talking points.

    i read the article about one week later, so it already knew about the Phil Jones parliamentary report when i read the spiegel bashing him.

    a good example of completely one sided reporting. it would be good, if the magazin would be forced to retract some of the worst claims, gfor example the landsea one?

  37. 37
    wilt says:

    David Miller (#34) writes about dr. Roy Spencer: “His own analysis of satellite data shows a .65C warming and yet he turns around and says that measured global warming is a function of population density at temperature measuring stations?”, and concludes that this is not logically congruent.
    I suppose that David Miller has often enough read about the difference between short-term and long-term observations. Even if the satellite measurement for March 2010 would have indicated a 6.5 degree warming, then still it is quite possible that temperature measurements at the earth surface between 1973 and 2010 have been influenced by the Urban Heat Island effect. And the UHI effect itself is not even the main topic of dr. Spencer’s document: it’s about the possible link of UHI and population density. I am not saying that dr. Spencer is right or wrong, but his remarks about the period 1973-2010 are certainly not disproven by an isolated temperature measurement in March 2010.

  38. 38
    Geoff Beacon says:

    DVD mentioned deniers who are climate scientists: “John Christy, Richard Lindzen and such”.

    It’s hard to put a name to a third one.

  39. 39
    jo abbess says:

    @DougBostrom (#13)

    George Monbiot appears to have compounded his error at The Guardian again today, so I have written a little about it :-

    This anti-Science of Climate Change campaign by Steve McIntyre and the other various Mc’s has been going on awhile, and George Monbiot seems unaware of it. Maybe we should do some research to help him find the truth path of enlightenment.

    I did not keep a record of it, sadly, but I have a distinct (hopefully not false) recollection of having been in a very unproductive e-mail conversation with Steve McIntyre, sometime before 2003. I asked William Connelly, (who I think I was also in contact with around that time) about whether he had any records, but he did not. Who is William Connelly ?

    If the CRU UEA hackers got e-mails going back 13 years, then they might have found e-mails from me in there, as I made several enquiries, I believe, regarding the Media around the 1998 temperatures and the Science behind it. But sadly, I did not keep a record of that, either, so I cannot confirm or deny it.

    I do remember my general conclusions from interaction with actual Climate Change Scientists – that the denier-sceptics were completely out of step with the facts, and should be ignored. Unfortunately, we now have to deal with them, their deliberate obstruction and their bad behaviour, as they have managed to acquire a larger profile.

    Is there anybody out there with the research capacity and the kind of record-keeping, say, somebody in the military or intelligence agencies, who can help provide evidence of Climate Change sceptic-denier malpractice over the course of 15 years to help us put this whole sorry narrative into context ?

  40. 40

    jo abbess (5),

    May you never be in a position where people all over the world are suddenly accusing you of crimes just for doing your job.

  41. 41

    DVD (9),

    The old “deniers are being persecuted” line is garbage. The intimidation has been all the other way. Climatologists have been threatened with everything from being fired to having their children “brutally gang-raped” and being burned alive by lynch mobs. Andrew Breitbart called for James Hansen to be executed; Rush Limbaugh also said climate scientists should be executed. Phil Jones received so many death threats he had to receive police protection.

    Deniers are not being suppressed. Lindzen, Christy, et al. routinely get articles published in peer-reviewed journals. They can chatter about their nonsense 24/7 on the internet. Their books are best-sellers. They OWN right-wing talk radio. Best of all, they managed to sink Phil Jones and the CRU and derail Copenhagen. The persecution and intimidation are all the other way.

  42. 42
    gs says:

    @Jim Steele
    As far as dr Spencer is concerned, please take into account the following: as you can see in the version 5.2 of his analysis:

    the anomalies for Jan/Feb are, respectively, 0.721 and 0.721. However, newer version 5.3:

    shows 0.603 and 0.653 respectively. I’m sure dr Spencer has valid reasons for these corrections, but can you even start imaging the public uproar that could be caused by a similar, off-hand modification in another temperature record by a TENTH of a degree in the OTHER direction?

  43. 43
    Matthew L says:

    Excellent article and I too am very disheartened by the current tone of the debate, which seems to have declined into an unholy slanging match over the last two or three years. As a beginner it has been a struggle to find rational discussion of real science among all the politically inspired rants.

    Just a small point:
    Do for example economists, on whose advice many political decisions depend, disclose their raw data and the computer codes of their models?

    Actually, in the UK, they do. The UK Treasury model is available to outside bodies and is used by one or two of the major “think-tanks” to run parallel studies of the UK economy with whatever inputs they deem appropriate. I think it is an example of good practice that could be copied in climate science.

    On the point about Phil Jones, I have lots of sympathy for him personally – and I feel he has been left to hang out to dry by his political masters.

    It is clear that he was seriously under-resourced given the reliance being placed on his data by the world’s climate community in informing major economic and political decisions. His research should have been used to inform the collection and analysis of the data – with a directly funded body like the Met Office collecting and verifying the actual data, thankfully something that they have now taken on since the collapse of the CRU. Hopefully when this has all blown over and he has recovered his health the Met Office can find a role for him in future work. I do hope so as his enforced absence appears to be a real loss to climate science, particularly in the UK.

    Sometimes when we are under pressure we don’t scream “help!” when we should. With hindsight he probably should have done so when deluged by the FOI requests that he says he could not handle. If he had then he might not now be in this pickle. A lesson to be learnt there I suspect.

  44. 44
    Russ H says:

    Wasn’t it Der Spiegel which was taken in by those faked Hitler diaries?

  45. 45

    The real wonder is what has happened to Der Spiegel? It used to be and in most aspects still is some of the best German language has to offer when it comes to thoughtful, investigative journalism, but with Traufetter it reads increasingly like the Wall Street Journal on climate issues. The sad thing is that it is not blatantly political as the WSJ, but simply presents the standard “Climategate” narrative and the accusations of scientific obstruction and manipulations as true. With Hans von Storch as their “concern troll”:

    apparently being their prime source for climate information, I am afraid that the average reader of Der Spiegel will be left with the impression that the mainstream climate science is trying to distance itself from Phil Jones and the CRU data. Surely, that is the message James Delingpole is purporting. Quite sad, indeed.

    Does anybody know if Traufetter has “a chicken to pick” (Ein Hühnchen zu rüpfen – I do not know if that is the correct Englisch translation) with mainstream climate science?

  46. 46
    dhogaza says:

    I went to his website ( the other day and was quite astounded at the articles.

    What can one say when they alternate between…

    Creationists such as Roy Spencer who do science are, of necessity, capable of highly compartmentalizing their lives.

    On the one hand you see the results of his primary scientific work, i.e. the UAH product.

    On the other hand, you see his political beliefs at work and the effect of compartmentalization, i.e. the UHI shows that warming could be spurious despite the fact that, of course, the satellite that provides the data he analyzes is a very long distance from the International Space Station … :)

  47. 47
    Neil says:

    With reference to “IPCC-Figure of global mean temperature 1850-2005 (Fig. TS6)” and in particular the “5%-95% Error bars” – it appears that a significant number of the “Annual Mean” data points are outside this range? Taking this at face value would it not be expected that only 10% of the data points would infact be outside? I am not necessary doubting the statistic – but this is something that could easily be “latched” upon as an issue of “credibility” by any skeptics which I am guessing “lay-person” would struggle to understand.
    Unfortunately for whatever reasons this topic has now “moved” to such an extent that not only are scientific facts required but these must be presented in such a way that a “lay person” can easily understand and except them.
    Not just because of the issues with climate change but the general public no longer take the words of the scientist community for granted.

    [Response: Read the label: they are decadal error bars, not annual error bars. Variability of the annual values is much larger, of course. - stefan]

  48. 48
    CM says:

    Jo (#5), just in case you’re being serious, yes, I think you’re going overboard. Let’s keep veneration, adoration and other religious feelings for where they belong, and let’s rather respect those who do cutting-edge scientific work, admire them when they show civic courage under political fire, and take what opportunities exist to show our support when they’re being bullied (I’ve signed Philip’s online petition).

  49. 49
    Matthew L says:

    #34 David Miller,
    Actually I think this is perfectly reasonable scientific enquiry. He is not talking about the UHI effect on the satellite record (clearly ludicrous) but on the weather station record. It is an interesting and valid approach to the subject. It is a shame he does not put enough effort into these papers to get them into peer reviewed journals – albeit that this point is a very minor one that probably does not warrant a full paper.

    What puzzles me is presumably he has enough data of his own to publish what the satellite says the temperature over the USA has actually been. The easiest way for him to prove or disprove the UHI effect is to compare his satellite temperature record for the USA with the weather station record.

    I suspect that if he does he will find them in close agreement – which would make his other research totally pointless!

    Maybe somebody else can do this for him. I wonder how easy it would be to get the UAH data? I see an FOI request in the offing! ;-)

  50. 50
    simon abingdon says:

    And VS has been bashing Tamino.

Switch to our mobile site