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Second CRU inquiry reports

Filed under: — gavin @ 14 April 2010

The Oxburgh report on the science done at the CRU has now been published and….. as in the first inquiry, they find no scientific misconduct, no impropriety and no tailoring of the results to a preconceived agenda, though they do suggest more statisticians should have been involved. They have also some choice words to describe the critics.

Carry on…


1,421 Responses to “Second CRU inquiry reports”

  1. 1
    Jim Galasyn says:

    One would hope that this settles the matter. If only as much effort were taken to find the hacker and his *cough*ClimateAudit*cough* sponsors.

  2. 2
    Stormy says:

    An interesting and dispassionate report. Unfortunately, it will do little to dampen the damage already done.

    I would like to see the same panel openly and directly address the critics that have seized on the emails as evidence of a vast conspiracy.

    It is time for those who know better to address the damage being done to our understanding of the facts and our using that understanding to fashion a sensible publlic policy.

  3. 3
    Paul Gosling says:

    One wonders how the report was able to conclude that the methods used at CRU were appropriate and did not involved cherry picking or manipulation when, from reading the report, there seems to be few records of how a lot of the analysis was done.

  4. 4
    Theo Hopkins says:

    Round two of three to the CRU scientists!

    Yip! Yip!

    Round three coming soon, so go for the hat trick there, lads.

    Ooops. I had better not use the word “trick” there…..

  5. 5
    Geoff Wexler says:

    Some celebration is now in order! Just one point which earlier commentators may not realise. It’s not about the hack but about CRU’s published papers i.e it has tacked the more important issue first.

  6. 6
    Pete H says:

    It seems the only sticking point that remains is the lack of notes / inability to recall exactly how the raw data was treated to come up with the working data set. Perhaps if that was more transparent the critics would seem less credible?

  7. 7
    t_p_hamilton says:

    “One wonders how the report was able to conclude that the methods used at CRU were appropriate and did not involved cherry picking or manipulation when, from reading the report, there seems to be few records of how a lot of the analysis was done.”

    One wonders why someone would assume that being somewhat disorganized becasue of organic growth of the CRU program is the same as having few records.

  8. 8
    Eli Rabett says:

    Paul in #3 asks how the report was able to conclude that the methods used at the CRU were appropriate and did not involve cherry picking or manipulation. The answer is simple, and is on the first page of the report. The Committee members READ THE PAPERS PUBLISHED BY THE CRU. Try it sometime.

  9. 9
    RickA says:

    I agree with #3.

    The report was very weak.

    It sure would be nice if all climate scientists take the advice from the report and get their work reviewed by statisticians.

    That is the area where most of the criticism of climate science seems to come from.

    We will see.

  10. 10
    Bill says:

    Take care that you summarise such an important report accurately :
    “We cannot help remarking that it is very surprising that research in an area that depends so heavily on statistical methods has not been carried out in close collaboration with professional statisticians,” the panel remarked in its conclusions.
    This is not quite reflected in your summary….

    [Response: Watch those goalposts move! Let me be sure that I have your position correct: all of the noise, insults, threats, libel and cries of fraud, fabrication and misconduct are because you feel that more statisticians should have been coauthors on the CRU papers? Got it. - gavin]

  11. 11
    Hank Roberts says:

    As the Report urges bringing statisticians in more, it might be timely to point out the longstanding American Statistical Association public position on changes in climate, and see if any other statistical associations (is there one in the UK?) have stated positions?
    http://magazine.amstat.org/2010/03/climatemar10/

  12. 12
    John E. Pearson says:

    8: Eli Rabett says: “READ THE PAPERS PUBLISHED BY THE CRU.”

    Aren’t they, uhh, like, all hard and technical and stuff?

  13. 13
    Tim Jones says:

    Who didn’t know this wasn’t going to happen?

    A bit off topic but I’m hoping you all are keeping up with this as well:

    forward:

    Hi All,

    Well you did not hear from us for weeks while we spent most of the time preparing for the upcoming Climate Summit. Now we are in more frequent touch. So if we are ‘bugging’ any of you, please feel free to reply with an Unsubscribe in the subject line.

    In a few hours MIT will open up the custom portal they have created for The Climate Summit into the Climate Collaboratorium (CC). When that happens I will post a link on our website’s home page and will send you one more short email to put the link in your hands.

    Here is a video explanation of the CC, and its intent to harness the collective intelligence of humanity to solve the climate crisis. http://techtv.mit.edu/videos/4171-the-climate-collaboratorium

    We would like to ask you all to engage energetically in this project. It is a win-win-win situation for us all to do so. The CC website will engage you in responding to a series of debates with a variety of positions. I will attach a document from which these debates are being constructed. Reading this attachment will prime you for these debates online. Engaging in these debates will provide input to The Climate Summit for this Friday, April 16th.

    As always, I thank you so much for your participation with us on The Climate Summit project, and please do tell some friends!

    For the Earth,
    Stuart Scott, Director
    The Climate Summit

    Climate Collaboratorium Debates and Positions 04/12/10

    Category: Motivating humanity to act
    How can the media be used to motivate humanity to respond proactively to climate change?
    – Position: Reports in traditional mass media (film/television, newspapers, magazines)
    – Position: Advertising/public relations campaigns
    – Position: New media (blogs, wikis, social media) and guerilla marketing (e.g. T-shirts, bumper stickers)
    – Position: Media simply reflects larger societal attitudes, and it’s more useful to focus in other realms

    How can education motivate humanity to respond proactively to climate change?
    – Position: Make primary and secondary education central, to build awareness among the young
    – Position: Emphasize university-based education, due to the complexity of climate science and environmental economics
    – Position: Adult education, both formal and informal
    – Position: Education is a handmaiden to political and economic power and the problem must be addressing by working in those domains

    What kind of political action can motivate humanity to respond proactively to climate change?
    – Position: Work through formal electoral process (voting and contacting elected officials)
    – Position: Demonstrations, rallies, and civil disobedience
    – Position: Grass roots outreach and person-to-person organizing
    – Position: None

    Role of religion and faith: Do religion and faith have a role in motivating humanity to respond proactively to climate change?
    – Position: Religion and faith have a central role
    – Position: Religion and faith are not important in this domain, which is the province of science and economics

    How might a proactive response to climate change be inhibited?
    – Position: Raise questions about climate science
    – Position: Emphasize high costs of action
    – Position: Point out other pressing needs, such as global development

    Category: Policy approaches
    What government policies should be adopted to address climate change?
    – Position: International agreement on emissions reductions/land use
    – Position: Cap and trade or carbon tax for nations or large regional blocs (such as European Union)
    – National/regional subsidies for green technology
    – State/provincial or city/metro region climate plans
    – None

  14. 14
    Paul Gosling says:

    Eli

    I am afraid reading any paper tells you very little about what actually went on behind the paper. It only tells you what the authors want you to know.

  15. 15
    Jaime Frontero says:

    “3. Although inappropriate statistical tools with the potential for producing misleading results have been used by some other groups, presumably by accident rather than design…”

    heh.

  16. 16
    eric says:

    One of the simple points made by the panel is that “at a global and hemispheric scale temperature results are surprisingly insensitive to adjustments made to the data and the number of series included.”

    Actually, this isn’t surprising at all. This is obvious to anyone with even the most basic grasp of statistics and the dynamically determined spatial scale of climate variability.

  17. 17
    Bill says:

    re 10 ; Not my position Gavin, dont be so sensitive. The report has some very sensible comments which should not be discarded in the general ‘its all fine, we told you so’generalities. Its a good time to have a less arrogant approach, appreciate that everyone can learn lessons, and then move forward stronger for the experience.

  18. 18
    Toby says:

    As a statistician, I am delighted to see a recommendation for more jobs for statisticians.

    Of course, the rest of the report was not too bad, either.

  19. 19
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “12
    John E. Pearson says:
    14 April 2010 at 10:26 AM

    8: Eli Rabett says: “READ THE PAPERS PUBLISHED BY THE CRU.”

    Aren’t they, uhh, like, all hard and technical and stuff?”

    Yeah, and we ALL KNOW that the only reason why those papers got published is because they’re also conspiring against the truth of the falsity of AGW, right, guys?

    So therefore we *can’t* look at the papers in front of us!

    So we should look at the papers in front of NASA, then.

    But I gues the CRU already thought of that and would have swapped the papers around, thinking that only a madman would choose the papers in front of him…

    where was I…?

  20. 20
    Paul A says:

    #10 Bill

    I’d be quite happy for CRU to be given more money so it can employ professional statisticians, and also maybe an archivist and other support staff. The report states “we found a small group of dedicated if slightly disorganised researchers who were ill-prepared for being the focus of public attention. As with many small research groups their internal procedures were rather informal”. Overall, it paints a picture of CRU as under-resourced and under-staffed, but still producing sound results despite that.

  21. 21
    Alexandre says:

    Let’s see how much media coverage this gets.

  22. 22
    Jesús Rosino says:

    #10 Bill says: “Take care that you summarise such an important report accurately [...] This is not quite reflected in your summary…. ”

    This is a short post, you could have read it before writing. That’s perfectly reflected in RC’s summary: “they do suggest more statisticians should have been involved”.

    They have no specific complain about the statistics themselves, anyway.

  23. 23
    Completely Fed Up says:

    ” Paul Gosling says:
    14 April 2010 at 10:29 AM

    Eli

    I am afraid reading any paper tells you very little about what actually went on behind the paper. It only tells you what the authors want you to know.”

    You’re thinking of a NEWSPAPER not a SCIENCE PAPER. These are different things.

    A SCIENCE PAPER tells you enough to get on and do your own damn work to see if you can see the same effect.

    A NEWSPAPER tells you what the customers of the newspaper wants you to hear. NOTE: The reader is not the customer, they’re the product being sold.

  24. 24
    Mark A. York says:

    Professional climate scientists are statisticians! Hello?

  25. 25
    Paul A says:

    #14 Paul Gosling

    “I am afraid reading any paper tells you very little about what actually went on behind the paper. It only tells you what the authors want you to know.”

    Think this through Paul. Basically you are saying all published science is unreliable. Can science really operate on that basis? Can the individual really operate on that basis?

  26. 26
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Here’s the predictable Telegraph spin: ‘Hockey stick’ graph was exaggerated

    …Prof Hand praised the blogger Steve McIntyre of Climate Audit for uncovering the fact that inappropriate methods were used which could produce misleading results.

    Under the front-page headline:

    ‘Climategate’ inquiry: scientific data criticised
    Climate change scientists at the centre of an ongoing row over global warming are criticised for being “naive” and “disorganised”

  27. 27
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Paul Gosling @14, on the contrary, the paper and its supporting documents will tell you everything you need to know to replicate the authors work, providing you are capable of designing your own code and scripts so that you are not merely duplicating their work, which would be pointless.

  28. 28
    Green Marauder says:

    Congratulations again. Will we now see some action on prosecuting the hackers, as well as those who republished the emails?

  29. 29
    MikeV says:

    #23 said: “A SCIENCE PAPER tells you enough to get on and do your own damn work to see if you can see the same effect.”

    If only that were true, we wouldn’t have this mess.

    [Response: That is unfortunately hopelessly naive. Take the GISTEMP product - all data, all code, all papers describing the methods are online. It has been independently verified that the code does exactly what it is supposed to do. There can be no-one who will seriously argue that this is not reproducible or replicable under any definition you choose. The results from it are robust and other analyses of the raw data and methodologies to correct for UHI have shown no significant difference. Yet there are still hour long TV specials being made accusing the agency and the scientists of fraud and misconduct related to this specific product. How is it possible to be more open or do more to show 'the workings'? And yet the attacks continue. Why might that be? Clue: the attacks have nothing to do with the scientific need for replication or openness. - gavin]

  30. 30
    chris says:

    Prof Oxborough just briefly interviewed on BBC’s “Five Live” radio programme here in Blighty…

    Very sound and considered responses especialy to the retort by the interviewer: “Hang on, there weren’t any climate skeptics on the panel”.., to which he replied (paraphrasing) that the interviewer would have to ask the other members of the panel for their specific views on climate change, but their role was not to consider climate change itself, but to address issues of the CRU’s science in relation to the allegations; the panel were confident that this (the science) had been done honestly and reliably….

    ..and concerning the allegations that lead to the enquiry, Oxborough stated (I’m paraphrasing) “…we addressed a very large number of criticisms, some of them pretty slanderous…”

  31. 31
    chris says:

    ooops…I’ve overloaded “Oxburgh” with an excess of vowels!

  32. 32
    NS says:

    “With very noisy data sets a great deal of judgement has to be used. Decisions
    have to be made on whether to omit pieces of data that appear to be aberrant.
    These are all matters of experience and judgement. The potential for
    misleading results arising from selection bias is very great in this area. It is
    regrettable that so few professional statisticians have been involved in this
    work because it is fundamentally statistical.”

    It’s as well that decisions that affect most economies of the western
    world aren’t based on this work then!

    NS.

  33. 33
    John E. Pearson says:

    Goslin babbled in 3: “from reading the report, there seems to be few records of how a lot of the analysis was done.” and then asserted in 14: “I am afraid reading any paper tells you very little ”

    You apparently learn whatever it is that you want to learn from the things you read, independent of what is written. Bizarre

  34. 34
    Bob says:

    19 (CFU),

    Ah, but a clever man would have spent many years reading papers, slowly building up a tolerance to them, so that it would not matter which papers he read, and so he would be able to safely ignore any sort of truth forced up on him.

    You may now proceed to the fireswamp, where you will encounter Anomalies of Unusual Size.

  35. 35
    Bill says:

    From #20 Paul A. I cant disagree with this.
    :The report states “we found a small group of dedicated if slightly disorganised researchers who were ill-prepared for being the focus of public attention. As with many small research groups their internal procedures were rather informal”. Overall, it paints a picture of CRU as under-resourced and under-staffed, but still producing sound results despite that.
    BUT,how does this provide any sound basis for supporting future policy decisions affecting billions of people and likely costing billions of dollars?
    Its nonsensical…

  36. 36
    Forlornehope says:

    The Daily Telegraph web page is leading with this story. It would appear that they had access to a completely different report.

  37. 37
    MapleLeaf says:

    I would like to see a panel convened which will take the contrarians to task for their false and libelous claims made against CRU and others. Would it not be nice to see McIntyre and others cross-examined and have their true colours revealed?

    Great news, but hardly surprising. And not a whitewash, there was some justified critique.

    Did the denialsits really/honestly in their hearts of hearts think they had a legitimate and convincing case?

  38. 38
    Doug Bostrom says:

    The very brevity of this report speaks volumes about how little substance there ever was to this “scandal.”.

    On the other hand, the seemingly limitless horizons of hyperbole explored by such as Glenn Beck and George Monbiot and then eagerly reported throughout the popular media says even more about how gullible, easily manipulated and incapable of exerting critical thinking skills our so-called “thought leaders” have become.

    Now Beck is obviously a hopeless case but Monbiot could still largely salvage his reputation with a contrite and unqualified apology for his remarks about Phil Jones. Come on, George, you can gag it up. A few moments of pain and it’ll all be over.

  39. 39
    Martin says:

    @all climate scientists
    “…it is very surprising that research in an area that depends so heavily on statistical methods has not been carried out in close collaboration with professional statisticians.”

    How common is it for climate researchers to collaborate closely with professional staticians?
    I know that, i.e. in astronomy, it is not uncommon for the names of professional staticians to appear next to their astronomer colleagues in peer reviewed papers. Is this the exception rather than the rule in climate research? Even if the paper is heavily dependent on statistics for its conclusions?

    Do you think such a close collaboration is necessary? Or are most climate researchers already sufficiently proficient staticians?

  40. 40
    Doug Bostrom says:

    NS says: 14 April 2010 at 11:31 AM

    It’s as well that decisions that affect most economies of the western
    world aren’t based on this work then!

    And of course there was never the possibility that decisions of such magnitude would be taken from work produced by a microscopic research unit. Instead, we’re making those decisions based on the work of thousands of researchers working in a vast variety of fields of inquiry who have produced largely inadvertently a coherent, self-consistent, highly robust and highly confident overarching conclusion about what we’re doing to the planet and how we’re doing it, thus implying some possible course of action to fix the problem.

    Indeed it’s very fortunate.

  41. 41
    Steve Missal says:

    Re: 37;
    Yes, Mr. Monbiot, especially considering your often worthwhile writings pre-Jones, and considering that I, too, was highly critical (and I think now very unfairly so) of Dr. Jones, and now feel he deserves a break on this issue…how about a bit of backing up and giving the real story an airing. And…the real story is that there really wasn’t a story, other than an attempt by some unethical scoundrels to scuttle the reputation of climate scientists.
    I have a second also to another idea proposed above: how about CNN and MSNBC do a thorough ‘airing’ of the McIntyres of the world with the same fervor and scrutiny that they put legit scientist through? (Well, maybe the scrutiny is suspect)..
    Third thought: does Mr. Gosling have any clue how, uh, how can I put this politely, un-thought-through the comment about research papers was? Others have pointed this out with some humor (and a bit of bite); my point is that that sort of argumentation (that we don’t know what is going on behind the papers, hence can’t trust them) shows a basic lack of understanding of what these papers are and how they are generated, peer-reviewed etc. Indeed, if you mistrust all papers of this sort, perhaps you should resort to a bit of tea leave analysis, or haruspicate instead.

  42. 42
    The Ville says:

    Re: 26 and the Telegraph report.

    Wow, that is some spin even for the Telegraph!
    The the Oxburgh report doesn’t mention McIntyre.

  43. 43
    Walter Manny says:

    Moving goalposts? This is a game? Surely the research group should have been expected, in retrospect, to have been in collaboration with experts in areas that were outside their own expertise. Their dismissal of McIntyre, as an example, was hardly laudatory, or was it? It’s hardly a damning report, if that’s the “victory” or “defeat” some had in mind, but it’s a useful one and a learning tool, I would hope, for the researchers. It has certainly been a good education for the public for these e-mails to have come out and for the various committees to have responded to them. The alternative seems worse: no e-mails and we’d still be debating rather encouraging transparency.

  44. 44
    Edward Greisch says:

    Still no police report on the hackers. It isn’t turned all the way around until the REAL criminals are convicted and strong AGW legislation is passed in the US.

  45. 45
    Puhis says:

    I guess next denials want an inquiry that will examine work of this panel…

  46. 46
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Moving goalposts? This is a game?
    Point is, you’re acting like you are playing a game.
    You have no opponent in this, and yet you’re losing.

    Going into every topic and trying to turn it to discussing your own hobbyhorse is ‘moving the goalposts’ — trying to change the discussion off the point.

  47. 47
    Deep Climate says:

    #26 – Here are more of Prof Hand’s comments as quoted by the Telegraph:

    “The particular technique they used exaggerated the size of the blade at the end of the hockey stick. Had they used an appropriate technique the size of the blade of the hockey stick would have been smaller. The change in temperature is not as great over the 20th century compared to the past as suggested by the Mann paper.”

    This appears to suggest that Hand’s contention is that the original MBH graph exaggerated 20th century rise with respect to the period immediately preceding it (i.e. end of the 19th century). Since the instrumental record was used for the end of the blade, I find this statement somewhat baffling.

    The reporter also paraphrases Hand as follows:

    “He said the graph, that showed global temperature records going back 1,000 years, was exaggerated – although any reproduction using improved techniques is likely to also show a sharp rise in global warming.”

    It’s not clear from this whether Hand understands that MBH looked at northern hemisphere only or whether that is the reporter’s misinterpretation.

    It’s all very well to state that statisticians should be more involved in climate studies, but Hand’s comments demonstrate that it’s very difficult to get them up to speed on the real issues, if they have no previous relevant scientific experience.

    And as far as I can see there is little difference in the 20th century rise in Mann et al 2008 vs MBH 1999.

    Or am I missing something here?

  48. 48
    Brian Carter says:

    This is stupid. Statistics are a tool of the trade. Any scientific worker learns the statistical analysis procedures that he/she needs for his/her specific line of enquiry. A good grounding in basic statistical procedures is even taught at undergraduate level. Is there any suggestion that the statistical methods used at the CRU were inadequate to the task?

  49. 49
    Doug Bostrom says:

    I like how the conventional wisdom among rejectionists has swerved within the space of hours to “Oh, that CRU, they should have been in collaboration with statisticians.”

    Dogs eat what’s in their dish. The “FraudKibble” bag is empty, now it’s “StatisicalYummyNuggets” and never a look back.

  50. 50
    MapleLeaf says:

    Brian @ 48:

    I stand to be corrected, have not read the report yet, but going by what I have been reading on the web thus far the answer to your question @48 is a definitive No, there is no suggestion that the methods were inadequate.

    That is not surprising given that the HadCRUT SAT record has been replicated by many (including skeptics), and has also been corroborated by independent data observation platforms (RATPAC and MSU data).


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