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The Montford Delusion

Filed under: — group @ 22 July 2010

Guest commentary by Tamino

Update: Another review of the book has been published by Alistair McIntosh in the Scottish Review of Books (scroll down about 25% through the page to find McIintosh’s review)

Update #2 (8/19/10): The Guardian has now weighed in as well.

If you don’t know much about climate science, or about the details of the controversy over the “hockey stick,” then A. W. Montford’s book The Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science might persuade you that not only the hockey stick, but all of modern climate science, is a fraud perpetrated by a massive conspiracy of climate scientists and politicians, in order to guarantee an unending supply of research funding and political power. That idea gets planted early, in the 6th paragraph of chapter 1.

The chief focus is the original hockey stick, a reconstruction of past temperature for the northern hemisphere covering the last 600 years by Mike Mann, Ray Bradley, and Malcolm Hughes (1998, Nature, 392, 779, doi:10.1038/33859, available here), hereafter called “MBH98” (the reconstruction was later extended back to a thousand years by Mann et al, 1999, or “MBH99” ). The reconstruction was based on proxy data, most of which are not direct temperature measurements but may be indicative of temperature. To piece together past temperature, MBH98 estimated the relationships between the proxies and observed temperatures in the 20th century, checked the validity of the relationships using observed temperatures in the latter half of the 19th century, then used the relationships to estimate temperatures as far back as 1400. The reconstruction all the way back to the year 1400 used 22 proxy data series, although some of the 22 were combinations of larger numbers of proxy series by a method known as “principal components analysis” (hereafter called “PCA”–see here). For later centuries, even more proxy series were used. The result was that temperatures had risen rapidly in the 20th century compared to the preceding 5 centuries. The sharp “blade” of 20th-century rise compared to the flat “handle” of the 15-19th centuries was reminiscent of a “hockey stick” — giving rise to the name describing temperature history.

But if you do know something about climate science and the politically motivated controversy around it, you might be able to see that reality is the opposite of the way Montford paints it. In fact Montford goes so far over the top that if you’re a knowledgeable and thoughtful reader, it eventually dawns on you that the real goal of those whose story Montford tells is not to understand past climate, it’s to destroy the hockey stick by any means necessary.

Montford’s hero is Steve McIntyre, portrayed as a tireless, selfless, unimpeachable seeker of truth whose only character flaw is that he’s just too polite. McIntyre, so the story goes, is looking for answers from only the purest motives but uncovers a web of deceit designed to affirm foregone conclusions whether they’re so or not — that humankind is creating dangerous climate change, the likes of which hasn’t been seen for at least a thousand or two years. McIntyre and his collaborator Ross McKitrick made it their mission to get rid of anything resembling a hockey stick in the MBH98 (and any other) reconstruction of past temperature.

Principal Components

For instance: one of the proxy series used as far back as the year 1400 was NOAMERPC1, the 1st “principal component” (PC1) used to represent patterns in a series of 70 tree-ring data sets from North America; this proxy series strongly resembles a hockey stick. McIntyre & McKitrick (hereafter called “MM”) claimed that the PCA used by MBH98 wasn’t valid because they had used a different “centering” convention than is customary. It’s customary to subtract the average value from each data series as the first step of computing PCA, but MBH98 had subtracted the average value during the 20th century. When MM applied PCA to the North American tree-ring series but centered the data in the usual way, then retained 2 PC series just as MBH98 had, lo and behold — the hockey-stick-shaped PC wasn’t among them! One hockey stick gone.

Or so they claimed. In fact the hockey-stick shaped PC was still there, but it was no longer the strongest PC (PC1), it was now only 4th-strongest (PC4). This raises the question, how many PCs should be included from such an analysis? MBH98 had originally included two PC series from this analysis because that’s the number indicated by a standard “selection rule” for PC analysis (read about it here).

MM used the standard centering convention, but applied no selection rule — they just imitated MBH98 by including 2 PC series, and since the hockey stick wasn’t one of those 2, that was good enough for them. But applying the standard selection rules to the PCA analysis of MM indicates that you should include five PC series, and the hockey-stick shaped PC is among them (at #4). Whether you use the MBH98 non-standard centering, or standard centering, the hockey-stick shaped PC must still be included in the analysis.

It was also pointed out (by Peter Huybers) that MM hadn’t applied “standard” PCA either. They used a standard centering but hadn’t normalized the data series. The 2 PC series that were #1 and #2 in the analysis of MBH98 became #2 and #1 with normalized PCA, and both should unquestionably be included by standard selection rules. Again, whether you use MBH non-standard centering, MM standard centering without normalization, or fully “standard” centering and normalization, the hockey-stick shaped PC must still be included in the analysis.

In reply, MM complained that the MBH98 PC1 (the hockey-stick shaped one) wasn’t PC1 in the completely standard analysis, that normalization wasn’t required for the analysis, and that “Preisendorfer’s rule N” (the selection rule used by MBH98) wasn’t the “industry standard” MBH claimed it to be. Montford even goes so far as to rattle off a list of potential selection rules referred to in the scientific literature, to give the impression that the MBH98 choice isn’t “automatic,” but the salient point which emerges from such a list is that MM never used any selection rules — at least, none that are published in the literature.

The truth is that whichever version of PCA you use, the hockey-stick shaped PC is one of the statistically significant patterns. There’s a reason for that: the hockey-stick shaped pattern is in the data, and it’s not just noise it’s signal. Montford’s book makes it obvious that MM actually do have a selection rule of their own devising: if it looks like a hockey stick, get rid of it.

The PCA dispute is a prime example of a recurring McIntyre/Montford theme: that the hockey stick depends critically on some element or factor, and when that’s taken away the whole structure collapses. The implication that the hockey stick depends on the centering convention used in the MBH98 PCA analysis makes a very persuasive “Aha — gotcha!” argument. Too bad it’s just not true.

Different, yes. Completely, no.

As another example, Montford makes the claim that if you eliminate just two of the proxies used for the MBH98 reconstruction since 1400, the Stahle and NOAMER PC1 series, “you got a completely different result — the Medieval Warm Period magically reappeared and suddenly the modern warming didn’t look quite so frightening.” That argument is sure to sell to those who haven’t done so. But I have. I computed my own reconstructions by multiple regression, first using all 22 proxy series in the original MBH98 analysis, then excluding the Stahle and NOAMER PC1 series. Here’s the result with all 22 proxies (the thick line is a 10-year moving average):

Here it is with just 20 proxies:

Finally, here are the 10-year moving average for both cases, and for the instrumental record:

Certainly the result is different — how could it not be, using different data? — but calling it “completely different” is just plain wrong. Yes, the pre-20th century is warmer with the 15th century a wee bit warmer still — but again, how could it not be when eliminating two hand-picked proxy series for the sole purpose of denying the unprecedented nature of modern warming? Yet even allowing this cherry-picking of proxies is still not enough to accomplish McIntyre’s purpose; preceding centuries still don’t come close to the late-20th century warming. In spite of Montford’s claims, it’s still a hockey stick.

Beyond Reason

Another of McIntyre’s targets was the Gaspe series, referred to in the MBH98 data as “treeline-11.” It just might be the most hockey-stick shaped proxy of all. This particular series doesn’t extend all the way back to the year 1400, it doesn’t start until 1404, so MBH98 had extended the series back four years by persistence — taking the earliest value and repeating it for the preceding four years. This is not at all an unusual practice, and — let’s face facts folks — extending 4 years out of a nearly 600-year record on one out of 22 proxies isn’t going to change things much. But McIntyre objected that the entire Gaspe series had to be eliminated because it didn’t extend all the way back to 1400. This argument is downright ludicrous — what it really tells us is that McIntyre & McKitrick are less interested in reconstructing past temperature than in killing anything that looks like a hockey stick.

McIntyre also objected that other series had been filled in by persistence, not on the early end but on the late end, to bring them up to the year 1980 (the last year of the MBH98 reconstruction). Again, this is not a reasonable argument. Mann responded by simply computing the reconstruction you get if you start at 1404 and end at 1972 so you don’t have to do any infilling at all. The result: a hockey stick.

Again, we have another example of Montford implying that some single element is both faulty and crucial. Without nonstandard PCA the hockey stick falls apart! Without the Stahle and NOAMER PC1 data series the hockey stick falls apart! Without the Gaspe series the hockey stick falls apart! Without bristlecone pine tree rings the hockey stick falls apart! It’s all very persuasive, especially to the conspiracy-minded, but the truth is that the hockey stick depends on none of these elements. You get a hockey stick with standard PCA, in fact you get a hockey stick using no PCA at all. Remove the NOAMER PC1 and Stahle series, you’re left with a hockey stick. Remove the Gaspe series, it’s still a hockey stick.

As a great deal of other research has shown, you can even reconstruct past temperature without bristlecone pine tree rings, or without any tree ring data at all, resulting in: a hockey stick. It also shows, consistently, that nobody is trying to “get rid of the medieval warm period” or “flatten out the little ice age” since those are features of all reconstructions of the last 1000 to 2000 years. What paleoclimate researchers are trying to do is make objective estimates of how warm and how cold those past centuries were. The consistent answer is, not as warm as the last century and not nearly as warm as right now.

The hockey stick is so thoroughly imprinted on the actual data that what’s truly impressive is how many things you have to get rid of to eliminate it. There’s a scientific term for results which are so strong and so resistant to changes in data and methods: robust.

Cynical Indeed

Montford doesn’t just criticize hockey-stick shaped proxies, he bends over backwards to level every criticism conceivable. For instance, one of the proxy series was estimated summer temperature in central England taken from an earlier study by Bradley and Jones (1993, the Holocene, 3, 367-376). It’s true that a better choice for central England would have been the central England temperature time series (CETR), which is an instrumental record covering the full year rather than just summertime. The CETR also shows a stronger hockey-stick shape than the central England series used by MBH98, in part because it includes earlier data (from the late 17th century) than the Bradley and Jones dataset. Yet Montford sees fit to criticize their choice, saying “Cynical observers might, however, have noticed that the late seventeenth century numbers for CETR were distinctly cold, so the effect of this truncation may well have been to flatten out the little ice age.”

In effect, even when MBH98 used data which weakens the difference between modern warmth and preceding centuries, they’re criticized for it. Cynical indeed.


The willingness of Montford and McIntyre to level any criticism which might discredit the hockey stick just might reach is zenith in a criticism which Montford repeats, but is so nonsensical that one can hardly resist the proverbial “face-palm.” Montford more than once complains that hockey-stick shaped proxies dominate climate reconstructions — unfairly, he implies — because they correlate well to temperature.



Criticism of MBH98 isn’t restricted to claims of incorrect data and analysis, Montford and McIntyre also see deliberate deception everywhere they look. This is almost comically illustrated by Montford’s comments about an email from Malcolm Hughes to Mike Mann (emphasis added by Montford):

Mike — the only one of the new S.American chronologies I just sent you that already appears in the ITRDB sets you already have is [ARGE030]. You should remove this from the two ITRDB data sets, as the new version should be different (and better for our purposes).

Here’s what Montford has to say:

It was possible that there was an innocent explanation for the use of the expression “better for our purposes”, but McIntyre can hardly be blamed for wondering exactly what “purposes” the Hockey Stick authors were pursuing. A cynic might be concerned that the phrase actually had something to do with “getting rid of the Medieval Warm Period”. And if Hughes meant “more reliable”, why hadn’t he just said so?

This is nothing more than quote-mining, in order to interpret an entirely innocent turn of phrase in the most nefarious way possible. It says a great deal more about the motives and honesty of Montford and McIntyre, than about Mann, Bradley, and Hughes. The idea that MM’s so-called “correction” of MBH98 “restored the MWP” constitutes a particularly popular meme in contrarian circles, despite the fact that it is quite self-evidently nonsense: MBH98 only went back to AD 1400, while the MWP, by nearly all definitions found in the professional literature, ended at least a century earlier! Such internal contradictions in logic appear to be no impediment, however, to Montford and his ilk.

Conspiracies Everywhere

Montford also goes to great lengths to accuse a host of researchers, bloggers, and others of attempting to suppress the truth and issue personal attacks on McIntyre. The “enemies list” includes RealClimate itself, claimed to be a politically motivated mouthpiece for “Environmental Media Services,” described as a “pivotal organization in the green movement” run by David Fenton, called “one of the most influential PR people of the 20th century.” Also implicated are William Connolley for criticizing McIntyre on sci.environment and James Annan for criticizing McIntyre and McKitrick. In a telling episode of conspiracy theorizing, we are told that their “ideas had been picked up and propagated across the left-wing blogosphere.” Further conspirators, we are informed, include Brad DeLong and Tim Lambert. And of course one mustn’t omit the principal voice of RealClimate, Gavin Schmidt.

Perhaps I should feel personally honored to be included on Montford’s list of co-conspirators, because yours truly is also mentioned. According to Montford’s typical sloppy research I have styled myself as “Mann’s Bulldog.” I’ve never done so, although I find such an appellation flattering; I just hope Jim Hansen doesn’t feel slighted by the mistaken reference.

The conspiracy doesn’t end with the hockey team, climate researchers, and bloggers. It includes the editorial staff of any journal which didn’t bend over to accommodate McIntyre, including Nature and GRL which are accused of interfering with, delaying, and obstructing McIntyre’s publications.

Spy Story

The book concludes with speculation about the underhanded meaning of the emails stolen from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) in the U.K. It’s really just the same quote-mining and misinterpretation we’ve heard from many quarters of the so-called “skeptics.” Although the book came out very shortly after the CRU hack, with hardly sufficient time to investigate the truth, the temptation to use the emails for propaganda purposes was irresistible. Montford indulges in every damning speculation he can get his hands on.

Since that time, investigation has been conducted, both into the conduct of the researchers at CRU (especially Phil Jones) and Mike Mann (the leader of the “hockey team”). Certainly some unkind words were said in private emails, but the result of both investigations is clear: climate researchers have been cleared of any wrongdoing in their research and scientific conduct. Thank goodness some of those who bought in to the false accusations, like Andy Revkin and George Monbiot, have seen fit actually to apologize for doing so. Perhaps they realize that one can’t get at the truth simply by reading people’s private emails.

Montford certainly spins a tale of suspense, conflict, and lively action, intertwining conspiracy and covert skullduggery, politics and big money, into a narrative worthy of the best spy thrillers. I’m not qualified to compare Montford’s writing skill to that of such a widely-read author as, say, Michael Crichton, but I do know they share this in common: they’re both skilled fiction writers.

The only corruption of science in the “hockey stick” is in the minds of McIntyre and Montford. They were looking for corruption, and they found it. Someone looking for actual science would have found it as well.

581 Responses to “The Montford Delusion”

  1. 451
    Kristofer Larsen says:

    After browsing Judith Curry’s commentary on her “blogospheric experiment”: “On the Credibility of Climate Research, Part II: Towards Rebuilding Trust” available at her home page and seeing statements such as: “…has a combination of groupthink, political advocacy and a noble cause syndrome stifled scientific debate, slowed down scientific progress and corrupted the assessment process?” and,
    “In their misguided war against the skeptics, the CRU emails reveal that core research values became compromised.”, it’s become fairly clear to this layman that her presence in the blogosphere is geared to helping her fill out a narrative (or completing a story arc) in prep for her “paper”.
    It’s come so far to the point of posting teaser excerpts at CAudit. Posted Jul 28, 2010 at 12:38 PM
    Because she never addresses any direct question put to her (only responding with more generalized commentary regarding anyone else’s responses), all of the speaking of science in abstract and symbolic terms and the insinuations regarding integrity seem simply designed to provoke more content for her to write about.

    From an outside perspective the aim of the story seems, in a very selfish and single minded way, to have no room for factual correctness.

  2. 452

    Judith Curry, 28 July 2010 at 3:43 PM: I was not in any way attempting to counter Tamino’s “review of the science”… I am not motivated to dig into any scientific nuances here and debate them publicly

    Judith Curry, 24 July 2010 at 7:43 AM: “Montford’s book clarifies three weaknesses in the paleoreconstructions… problems with tree rings, the centered PCA analysis, and the R2 issue. The tree ring issue is admittedly murky… The centered PCA and R2 issues are much more straightforward. The centered PCA is bad statistics… The high level of confidence ascribed to the hockey stick inferences in the IPCC TAR… used new methods and found results that were counter to the prevailing views. The extreme difficulties that Steve McIntyre had in reproducing the MBH results… Science needs to be reproducible. Period. The NAS North et al. report found that the MBH conclusions… were unsupported at that those confidence levels. The Mann et al. 2008, which purports to address all the issues raised by MM and produce a range of different reconstructions using different methodologies, still do not include a single reconstruction that is free of questioned tree rings and centered PCA.”

    If there’s any way to read the earlier post as anything other than a counter to Tamino’s review of the science, filled with nuances, I would genuinely, earnestly like to understand how.

    It’s as if Dr. Curry feels this is a cocktail-party debate, where one can just airily assert, “no, that’s not what I said” as if one’s earlier comments were not right there in black and white.As Dr. Curry herself accurately says, “credibility is a combination of expertise and trust.” How can either be maintained when the message is that of Chico Marx in Duck Soup: “Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”

  3. 453
    Doug Bostrom says:

    An actual “history of science tome.” The difference begins with the title and expands from there.

    I wonder what actual historians of science think of Montford’s book?

  4. 454
    Gator says:

    Dr. Curry has stated many times that climate science “is an immature field with many uncertainties” but then she stops. When does a real scientist stop when faced with a question? Scientists face uncertainty every day, and what do they do? They *quantify* the uncertainty. If Dr. Curry really believes that the uncertainty in climate science is so large that no conclusions can be made she ought to be able quantify that uncertainty and show that conclusions cannot be made.

    It seems she is turning to some sort of social or political science… I wonder if she has studied those fields any more than she claims to have studied the climate science she now condemns.

  5. 455
  6. 456
    adelady says:

    If uncertainty is the issue, remember Gavin posted this not long ago.

    The Uncertainty Prayer.

    Grant us…
    The ability to reduce the uncertainties we can;
    The willingness to work with the uncertainties we cannot;
    And the scientific knowledge to know the difference.

    My feeling is that the ability is fine. Unfortunately the “willingness” aspect requires more than just scientists.

  7. 457
    ccpo says:

    The point of this history of science is to understand how this happened and why. In reading this, i saw many points where i said “if only something slightly different had happened, this would never have occurred.” This conflict is fundamentally different from a merchants of doubt conflict.

    I’ll likely regret this, but… what we know to be true is that McIntyre is well associated with what I am very comfortable calling the denialist machine. He takes pains to pick at what he cannot fail to know is irrelevant in the larger context. He associates with people who insult climate scientists and the body of work itself on a daily basis. You are known by the company you keep. And he refuses to, or is unable to, publish. Lastly, his work is virtually always shown to be in error and/or, as previously stated, irrelevant.

    Secondly, as others have pointed out, the title of a book means something. The title is pejorative. Period. This is not something you can debate, nor will I do so with you. If you believe that book to be a reasonable exploration of a few little conflicts, you are either beyond your expiration date or being pulled over to the dark side. Your original comments here were pejorative, as well. Tamino and Gavin would be well within their rights to ask your superiors to have a quiet word with you. Or a very public one, all the better.

    Your insinuation that the conflict lies anywhere but where it does, at the feet of the various denialist lackeys, think tanks and bloggers, is insulting to everyone making an effort to deal with this crisis, but mostly to the scientists doing the work.

    Essentially, what I see here is the latest stage in denialist evolution. We had the, “It’s all a hoax!” type. That was followed by the, “It’s not much, and it ain’t us!” type. Then came the, “It’s not enough to worry about, and if it is, we can’t afford to do anything (and it is only a little likely it’s us)” type. Next came the, “It’s nasty, but it’s natural. One world Government led by Fat Al Gore!” type. Now there’s the, “We can only drill our way out! We need money, and lots of it, and energy and lots of it, to mitigate (although most places will be quite nice to live in. Think I’ll buy property in Canada)” type.

    Now there’s Judith with the, “The Auditors will save us! They’ll stop all that… um… not really dishonesty, but, well, lying without REALLY being lying, ’cause I would never say you lied, tho you did… but *I* didn’t say that, that’s what the book said. And the book is right, though I don’t support the book on the details, just on this hyster…er historical look at all the wackiness that’s been caused by all this conflict because you guys lie… er… made some pretty big (yeah, right!) mistakes, so people had to check your work. And they’ve been ever so lovely in doing so!”

    Please, Judith. The folks you are supporting have no intention of finding the truth. They are looking for blood, and blood only, so as to fit their agenda. Sometimes I think McIntyre must believe his own press, but he couldn’t possibly be that deluded, could he? To attack and insult for years and years and claim he’s just correcting a few mistakes? I suppose stranger things have happened. But that gets annulled immediately because he allows many others to attack in his name and with his blessing while taking no pains to hold them in check or correct *their* factual errors.

    For whatever reason, you are feeling some satisfaction in poking your fellow scientists with sticks. It can’t be for good reasons, despite your twisted rationales.

    I strongly suspect you represent the latest incarnation of denialist. Even if you don’t, personally, you have likely created the mold.


  8. 458
    Jacob Mack says:

    you are confusing many issues and from my reading of your posts it seems you need a good undergraduate science education.

  9. 459
    anonymous says:

    “correct in spirit”, maybe JC thinks this is a spiritual book?

    Are there any references to religion/Theology in there?

    There are religious sites to discuss the spiritual issues. Here it is mostly off topic (or maybe even totally, please confirm that?).

    If so, I might consider reading the sources for those refs, and discuss those on an appropriate venue. Just, as JC should have done on scientific issues before posting here or in peer-rewiewed journals. She appears to me like some kid throwing rocks at specific cars for some nice candyman promised some afterwards. Sad state to be, and sad thing to happen to a once not brilliant, but ok scientist.

  10. 460
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Denial of the greenhouse effect is not a prerequisite for being a denailist. Those who refuse to consider evidence also qualify–as do those who focus obsessively on the “hockeystick” to the exclusion of all the other overwhelming evidence that shows anthropogenic warming.

    We really need another term for those who deny the greenhouse effect. How about “wackaloons”?

  11. 461

    #435 Judith Curry

    So it starts out by building up McIntyre (a known obfuscator in the debate that actually knows a lot about numbers and apparently very little about the context because he takes molehills in the Hockey stick and does his absolute best to McKi’trick’ everyone into believing that it is a mountain) as an expert;

    then at the end, you present their well documented version of climategate

    and their ‘version’ of the technical details (which as we all know and has been shown by multiple reviews to merely be cherry picked statements spun out of context by the denialist tribe) while you are not realizing that “The who said what when is accurate as far as i can tell, as well as explanation of the scientific details. The narrative is of course open to some spin.”, is in fact pretty much all spin.

    Okay, your C- made me go back up and check the article again. As always context is key. Your perspective is that it is about the history of climate science, which you state “starts out with the rollout of the TAR report”. Well:

    So, context is key. Tamino reviewed the Hockey Stick component of the book for this article (see above). He can clarify, but I would guess he did this because, MM seem to have a large arthropod in their rectal cavity about the Hockey Stick and by attacking it, by any means necessary, they can continue to undermine the foundations of climate science, which of course is a big Red Herring. The fact that they are concurrent if not complicit with Montford in their willingness to help further the illusion should not go unnoticed.

    Your focus on “immature field with many uncertainties” has been my point of contention. just because something or someone is immature does not mean it or they are not useful.

    Your redirection of the argument to deflect blame from yourself, to RC posters and commenters, is further evidence of your disconnect, or willing avoidance by apparent argument to your own authority.

    “So the issue that montford raises, and that i have raised in my posts, are general issues, about the integrity of science, how to avoid conflicts, how to deal with mistakes, how science should be conducted when there are alot uncertainties and the field is immature, when the situation is politicized, etc.”

    It would help if scientists such as yourself actually corrected your mistakes in the forums where you make those mistakes. To come into RC, make a slew of mistakes, and then say well mistakes should only be corrected in the peer review literature is very strange.

    “So I have no intention of debating any aspects of the science on this topic. In spite of the fact that most people on this thread thought the point of all this should be defending Mann’s science (and Amman, etc) and identifying scientific “truth” in all this. This is highly uncertain science in a young field. So get over it, we aren’t going to get “truth” on this anytime soon. The challenge is to avoid these crazy conflicts and move paleo reconstructions forward”

    So you come in to RC, make a bunch of accusations about how unfair we all are, while inferring McIntyre is a pillar of honor and integrity (so to speak); make a bunch of claims and arguments in the debate without providing evidence, and then say I won’t debate it here.

    I don’t know what is the best word to describe your illustrated behavior? Maybe, lazy, or confusing, or arrogant? How is it proper for you to come here, make a claim and then justify not substantiating your claim because claims should only be dealt with elsewhere; or that it’s okay for a scientist, such as yourself, to make claims and then not substantiate, leaving those of us that are not in the ivory tower to worship in awe your eminence in knowledge and understanding? Does this have something to do with setting up the ‘Institute of Phrenologic Climate Science’?

    Are you saying we should just believe you because you are a scientist?

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  12. 462

    JC 435: . This is highly uncertain science in a young field.

    BPL: This is a lying cliche from the deniers.

    Aristotle divided the world into torrid, temperate, and frigid zones around 300 BC.

    Galileo invented the thermometer in 1610.

    Torricelli invented the barometer c. 1660. Shortly thereafter he showed that temperature generally declines with altitude.

    Hadley worked out the basics of the general circulation in 1735.

    Fourier discovered the greenhouse effect in 1824.

    Agassiz established that there had been at least one ice age in 1837.

    Tyndall identified the major greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere as water vapor and carbon dioxide through spectroscopic lab work in 1859.

    Langley got a rough picture of the absorption intensity spectra of different gases c. 1880.

    Svante August Arrhenius proposed the theory of anthropogenic warming in a paper in 1896. In it, he prediced several features such as polar amplification, and made a numerical estimate of climate sensitivity.

    In 1901, Angstrom and Koch thought they had shot Arrhenius’s paper down with a lab experiment on saturation.

    In 1938, Callendar revived AGW theory.

    In the 1940s, high altitude observations made during the war showed that absorption parameters changed radically with pressure and somewhat less so with temperature. This invalidated the work of Angstrom and Koch.

    In 1956 Gilbert Plass once again reintroduced AGW theory. Since then, no one familiar with the field has doubted it.

    Smagorinsky et al. wrote the first tentative global circulation model in 1955. Manabe and Strickler wrote the first radiative convective model in 1964; such models are now a staple of planetary astronomy.

    So climatology is a very old field indeed, and even AGW theory predates relativity and quantum mechanics.

  13. 463
    Phil Clarke says:

    Ooops. I guess there may be a larger number of visitors from CA than usual for this thread, so I’d better modify my 4.30pm post to meet their expectations…. here goes

    ‘After a long period of stonewalling and a series of unlikely excuses, each less credible than the last, and including the eyebrow-raising assertion that it is apparently OK to make untrue statements so long as they were ‘correct in spirit’, Team Curry eventually and petulantly provided the answer to my straightforward question.’

    That’s better. Yeah I know, cheap shot and a trite point. Doubtless it is meant humourously and doubtless the regulars lap it up, but Mr McIntyre might gain a little more traction with a wider audience for whatever points he has if he eased up a little. On my rare visits to Climate Audit I find it v tiresome to wade through the constant background music of accusations of bad faith and insinuations of scientists behaving badly. Yes, I know that the Hockey Team epithet was first coined by one of its members, but the joke wore thin a long time back and its constant and pejorative repetition adds nothing, in my view.


    PS and BTW As we are apparently talking History of Science I wonder where using a fake name to log onto discussion boards to ramp up support for your arguments sits in Dr Curry’s attributes of scientific integrity? Just askin’, Nigel.

  14. 464
    Øystein says:

    My comment is short, and possibly unneccesary (so delete if you want).

    I think JC has identified a crucial issue: trust. However, her actions have been designed, it seems, to remove said issue towards herself. Her intentions are (I believe) good, but her communication fails, and she does not reach through. As a result, she has ended up losing the trust of several people – who will now look for ulterior motives in whatever she writes.

    The sad thing is that she brought it on herself, and it does not seem (yet) that she grasps that.

  15. 465
    Bernie says:

    It just occurred to me that while Tamino is attempting to critique Montford’s book the real impact of the work documented in the book is already manifest: McIntyre’s work, like it or not, has dramatically raised expectations and methodological and statistical standards around paleoclimatology and dendrochronology to an extent such that researchers in the field are far more careful in what they pull together and try to publish. One can almost hear the discussion between the authors – “Will it pass McIntyre’s scrutiny?” In addition, journal reviewers will question the attempted inclusion of certain proxies and will ask for the data and methods.

    [Response: You haven’t the slightest clue as to what you’re talking about–not that that seems to matter much when McIntyre’s claims are involved.–Jim]

    Now that is the real power of the peer review process!!

    [Response: No that’s the power of one person using the internet to play the role of self-styled rebel expert to a bunch of other people who want to hear that kind of thing.–Jim]

  16. 466
    Michael says:

    Firstly, sincere thanks to Gavin for his indefatigability in contributing to the public understanding of science.

    I’m not a fanatical reader of the comments, but I did so today because I’ve come across some mutterings about Dr Curry, and never really understood what it was about.

    Now I understand.

    Dr Curry has adopted the irreconcilable approach of wanting to elevate the debate about the science while accepting at face-value accusations of “corruption” against scientists. As she has now said herself in this discussion, she hasn’t taken the trouble to personally check the veracity of the claims in the book, yet endorses it as a way forward.

    She accepts accusations of misconduct against her scientifc colleagues based on the allegations of non-scientist, self-appointed ‘auditors’, without bothering to verify their accuracy. Those who do check the accusations, and find them seriously wanting, are the subject of Dr. Curry’s ire.


  17. 467
    Judith Curry says:

    At the request of the many emails I’m getting, here is one more salvo about trying to remind people of science should be done and how arguments should be conducted, and how disagreements can be resolved, and conflicts avoided.

    [Response: For a start, we could stop thinking of a discussion as a series of ‘salvos’… – gavin]

    Charles Sanders Peirce (from the Wikipedia) outlines four methods of settling opinion and overcoming disagreements, ordered from least to most successful:
    1. The method of tenacity (sticking with one’s initial belief) and trying to ignore contrary information.
    2. The method of authority, which overcomes disagreements but sometimes brutally.
    3. The method of congruity or “what is agreeable to reason,” which depends on taste and fashion in paradigms.
    4. The scientific method whereby inquiry regards itself as fallible and continually tests, criticizes, corrects, and improves itself.

    Much of the disagreement is often about ambiguity of statements, and these are easily resolved if the situation has not elevated into animosity and conflict. In the course of rapid exchange blogospheric discourse, people tend not to present formal arguments with carefully crafted premises and conclusions drawn using a specified logic (including myself and the scientists that host this blog), its more in discussion mode. I would personally be interested in a blog that consisted only of formal arguments, queries about ambiguities, and formal rebuttals. But that is not what we have here. Further, when trying to develop a specific thesis in a blog comment stream, other comments hone in on ambiguities in one of the premises as an attempt to dismiss the entire thesis. Yes, lets try to eliminate the ambiguities, but more importantly lets try to understand the main thesis in someone’s points. In the blogosphere, when all this is laced with heavy snark and appeal to motive attacks, it is very difficult get anywhere.

    [Response: Indeed, that’s why we have the peer-reviewed literature. – gavin]

    A critical element in avoiding conflict, justifying a thesis, and understanding someone’s statement or thesis is to ask the question “What would have to be the case such that this statement/thesis were true?” And then both the proponent and examiner should ask the reverse question: “What would have to be the case such that this statement/thesis were false?” The general idea is that the fewer positions supporting the idea that the statement/thesis is false, the higher its degree of justification. Verbal ambiguities can easily be resolved in this way. And it’s a good way to clarify scientific debates also. This is called looking at both sides of the argument and actually trying to understand them. Kudos to those of you who wandered over to climateaudit to try to see what was going on over there and understand their arguments.

    When there is a great deal of uncertainty and ignorance on a scientific topic (paleo reconstructions certainly qualifies here), the problem arises when we have conflicting “certainties” by two sides. Conflicting certainties arises from differences in chosen assumptions and the natural tendency to be overconfident about how well we know things. Most of this conflict can resolved by acknowledging and understanding the uncertainties. Conflicts about methodology can be more easily resolved than conflicts about scientific hypotheses (e.g. 1998 is the warmest year in the last millennia), although methodological issues are a key element required to support a scientific hypothesis.

    Uncertainty is complex beast, with multiple locations, different natures (imperfections of knowledge vs inherent variability), and different levels ranging from the unrealizable ideal of complete deterministic uncertainty to total ignorance. The IPCC has not done a very thorough job in characterizing uncertainties. In the first IPCC assessment reports, the executive summaries included lists of “we are certain of the following” and “we have confidence that”, and they included a list of four broad areas of uncertainty. For the IPCC third and fourth assessments, Moss and Schneider’s (2000) guidelines were followed, with a common vocabulary to express quantitative levels of confidence based on the amount of evidence (number of sources of information) and the degree of agreement (consensus) among experts. The actual implementation of this guidance in the AR3 and AR4 WG1 Reports adopted a subjective perspective or “judgmental estimates of confidence,” whereby a single term (e.g. “very likely”) characterizes the overall confidence. Now there have been all sorts of critiques of this method in the published literature, but lets accept the method for the sake of argument.

    With this in mind, lets examine the following aspects of my statement in #167:

    “3. The NAS North et al. report found that the MBH conclusions and “likely” and “very likely” conclusions in the IPCC TAR report were unsupported at that those confidence levels. How the hockey team interpreted the North NAS report as vindicating MBH, seems strange indeed.

    This statement is ambiguous, it can be interpreted in several ways. The verbal ways that the strength of the arguments in MBH, the IPCC, and the North report were described differently, I attempted a generalization using words that the readers would identify as confidence levels. The ambiguity could have been resolved with a longer statement that was more clearly worded. Remember, the point of my summary was to describe the overall content and arguments in Montford’s book to support my earlier statement that Tamino had missed much of what the book is about. This statement was just one statement in a post that included many points to support my thesis regarding missing elements in Tamino’s review, my intent was not to reproduce these arguments in any detail or immerse myself in the technical battle on this issue. This ambiguity in my statement is easily clarified, and does not detract from my overall thesis, and does not in any way reflect on the accuracy of Montford’s book.

    [Response: But your statement was based on false premises – that IPCC TAR had made very strong likelihood statements about paleo-reconstructions, that North et al had found them unsupported etc. Arguments that follow from false premises are just pointless – they serve no purpose in resolving any point of scientific dispute, and indeed are only generally found when people are making points purely for rhetorical effect. Lesson to be learned? Don’t predicate arguments on false premises, and don’t be surprised when people correctly distinguish rhetorical tricks from actual discussion. – gavin]

    Now on to the real point. My statement below is correct and unambiguous.

    4. A direct consequence of the North NAS report is that the conclusions in the IPCC AR4 essentially retracted much of what was in the IPCC TAR regarding the paleo reconstructions. This is the only instance that I know of where the IPCC has reduced a confidence level or simply left out a conclusion that was in a previous IPCC report. This is discussed in the CRU emails.

    A reminder, it is this statement in the TAR that is omitted from the AR4:
    “It is also likely that, in the Northern Hemisphere, the 1990s was the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year.” The word “likely” means a confidence level of 66-89%. Gavin and I both agree that this statement is unjustified. We disagree on the significance of this high level of justification in TAR and its retraction in the AR4. This is the only instance of a retraction in confidence from the IPCC. The statements that Gavin cites from Lindzen regarding uncertainties in clouds and aerosols are correct; the IPCC continues to acknowledge a high level of uncertainty and low confidence in these areas, and new uncertainties pop up as the frontier of the science is extended and the description of the nature of the uncertainties becomes more precise. The IPCC has never presented a statement of confidence at the very likely or likely level that has the words “cloud” or “aerosol” in it. The cloud-aerosol forcing/feedback includes much at the border of ignorance, which is acknowledged by the IPCC. But I argue that the ignorance surrounding global/hemispheric global temperature over the past millennia from paleo proxies is a topic where the ignorance level is even greater than the cloud-aerosol issue. I also suspect that the there will be further retraction of the confidence levels in the AR5 regarding global/hemispheric temperature reconstructions. This overconfidence in the IPCC reports on this topic is at the heart of the conflict described in Montford’s book.

    [Response: I strongly disagree. Your first statement was not at all specific and therefore ambiguous. AR4 did not ‘essentially retract’ much of what TAR had to say. What is ‘essential’? What is ‘much’? This will read by many people with many different opinions and they will infer many different things. My response to you on the other hand was very specific. I did not say that the sentence you quote was ‘unjustified’, I said that I would have been happier with a ‘more likely than not’ designation. Saying it was ‘unjustified’ could equally imply that it was completely wrong or that there was no evidence for it in the slightest – neither of which I agree with. Again, you are using language in a very ambiguous way which only adds to confusion. I would also add that using your own forecasts of what will be in AR5 as an argument to bolster your case is not useful. Finally, if you think that a difference in 4 words in the IPCC TAR is the only or even an important reason for this mess, you really have not been paying attention. – gavin]

    [Further response: It is also worth pointing out again that on the increase of temperature over the last 500 years and the length of time that is was likely that we had exceeded multi-decadal temperature levels (1300 years), AR4 substantially strengthened TAR conclusions. I consider that far more ‘essential’ and they were not ‘retracted’ in the slightest. – gavin]

    So going back to Charles Sanders Peirce and how to overcome disagreement. On the subject of Montford’s book, Tamino’s review, and the larger issue of the state of the science of paleo reconstructions, what have we seen over the past few days in the blogosphere? CP relies almost exclusively on strategies #1 and #2, my statements rankle so much with Romm because I am an “authority” that he previously referred to. At RC we have seen a mixture of all 4 strategies, with a heavy dose of appeal to motive and ad hom attacks. Given that the RC moderators reject many comments, it is not to their credit that they have been letting these through. BH tends to #3, they are very polite by blogospheric standards and Montford is amazingly snark-free, but not heavy on scientific arguments on the blog. CA scores highest on #4 (there are elements of the others, but they don’t dominate), they stick to mostly to arguments, evidence, identification and clarification of ambiguities, and ad homs and appeal to motives are snipped. With regards to snark, it is more evident in the main posts at CA than at RC, although the inline comments from McIntyre are relatively snark free, whereas those from Gavin are not. Snark is endemic to the blogosphere, makes it entertaining I guess, to some anyways. But snark neither adds nor detracts from scientific arguments, it merely distracts. So readers interested in the arguments should filter it out, and not keep tallies based on snarky gotchas that are minimally relevant to the argument.

    [Response: We snipped a lot of comments that were inappropriate directed at you, this is not perfect, but there is a limit to how much time people have to moderate these things. As for whether people can get past the ‘snark’, we are going to have to disagree on that. I find continual insinuations of misconduct, lying, and ‘hiding the pea under the thimble’ offensive. I also find continual misrepresentation tiresome. For instance, I made a comment mentioning that the NAS report had cited Fritts (1976) as a source on the use of the RE statistic (which is true). This was completely misrepresented by SM. I also made a statement about what happens in the no-dendro/no-Tiljander case with the Mann et al (2008) data and method – which is true, and yet was interpreted as yet more perfidy from scientists. SM knows the PCA issue is moot, and yet keeps on bringing it up. You may think whatever you like about CA, but as a forum in which truth-seeking can be done, it fails miserably. – gavin]

    And finally, since I am a glass half full kind of person, I am trying to see what we might have gained from this exchange across the four blogs. The insults that have been heaped upon me are irrelevant to me, if i want friends i can hang out on facebook. They are irrelevant to the arguments themselves, and are only of relevance if you are using Peirce’s #2 strategy, which isn’t very effective in any event. I am prepared to declare victory if anyone is seriously looking at both sides of the arguments, there are any new readers for Montford’s book, if people have wandered over to climateaudit to check it out, if people (especially the RC principals) are starting to get it that the watchdog auditors (e.g. McIntyre) are different from the merchants of doubt (I’m sure that CP won’t cede this). And most importantly I hope that the dialogue can change regarding uncertainty, to acknowledge that there is a high level of uncertainty in level 3 science (as per my previous post on Funtowicz and Ravetz classification), and still a significant level of uncertainty in level 4 science, and not too much of climate science is actually at level 5. The rebels who dispute the level 4 consensus are not irrational, and you need to differentiate rebels from cranks. An interesting case of this is Roy Spencer (a rebel) currently taking on the cranks that are denying that the greenhouse effect exists.

    It would be much easier if the public could just trust the experts to be right. This doesn’t work, and again Feynmann said it best: “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts. When someone says, ‘Science teaches such and such,’ he is using the word incorrectly. Science doesn’t teach anything; experience teaches it. If they say to you, ‘Science has shown such and such,’ you should ask, ‘How does science show it? How did the scientists find out? How? What? Where?’ It should not be ‘science has shown.’ And you have as much right as anyone else, upon hearing about the experiments (but be patient and listen to all the evidence) to judge whether a sensible conclusion has been arrived at.”

    [Response: No-one disagrees with Feynman, so I wish people would stop quoting him as if we have never read this. But this issue has nothing to do with anyone here saying that no-one should ask questions, or that everything that there is to be known is known, or that the IPCC or ‘science’ is perfect. At workshops, meetings and emails all of the issues are regularly being hashed out and looked at. It should go without saying (but obviously doesn’t) that people should ask as many questions as they want, that there is a lot more to be learned, and that neither I, the RC contributors, the IPCC, ‘science’ or the NAS are perfect. (Though that does not imply that we know nothing). Again (and this too should go without saying, but apparently it doesn’t), no-one in the scientific community is against openness, or transparency or data availability. None of these things are points of contention in the slightest (though neither are they always simple).

    What is being pushed back against is the continual barrage of innuendo, accusations of corruption and fraud, and insinuations of misconduct because people had the temerity to do their jobs and publish results which some people do not like. This has happened to Ben Santer, Phil Jones, Mike Mann, and many others and follows in a long line of similar tactics employed by the ‘merchants of doubt’. McIntyre might not fall exactly into that mold (almost certainly very different motivations), but he feeds that machine quite willingly – and not just in relation to MBH: read his posts on Hansen or his accusations against Briffa on the Yamal issue, for instance. Every time there is a puzzle or ambiguity or something he doesn’t understand, the first recourse is to accuse the scientists of bad faith. Montford’s book is just more of the same paranoia (‘the corruption of science’? Really?), and your championing of it simply further poisons the atmosphere of debate. Why is it so hard to realise that you can’t have a dialogue between scientists and people who accuse them of lying all the time?

    If McIntyre wants to be taken seriously by scientists (and it is not clear that he does), he needs to eschew that kind of nonsense despite the adoring Greek chorus who egg him on for their own reasons. Indeed, in the past you have made exactly the same point. It isn’t that these insinuations get in the way of understanding his points, it is that they appear to be his points. As I said earlier, science has indeed set up structures (peer-review etc) that allow arguments to be resolved efficiently. Those structures work remarkably well. It is time the ‘auditors’ started to use them. – gavin]

  18. 468

    Genuinely good people are scratching their heads over the Judith Curry phenomenon.

    But, as usual, I find the timing of all of this very interesting, just as the timing of the release of the stolen CRU e-mails was deliberate.

    I am beginning to think that this was a trial balloon launched by the Climate Denial Machine just in time to blow smoke in front of the latest report from NOAA on the 10 indicators of global warming. (Gee, did we see that story run in The New York Times? hmmm, no. But Bloomberg ran it, so there’s a start.)

    The only problem is, this balloon is not flying well. Curry’s ability to obfuscate is not yet well-honed, despite how it seems in these comments.

    [I’ll just leave out my ideas on why it is not flying well, lest I give aid and comfort to the CDM.]

    Perhaps we should call this entire affair “Currygate.”

    I think it has a nice ring to it.

  19. 469
    Hank Roberts says:

    > history tome

    Ah, well then, what’s it doing in a science blog?
    There’s a big, profitable market for revisionist “history” books these days, quite well documented; many states prefer their own versions of history.

    Here’s another “history” book teaching lies about climate change (and about school prayer; there’s long been a movement in the US to teach children that big gummint threatens them, the ‘privatize it all’ idea).

    I. Global Warming
    A. The Textbook Repeatedly Casts Doubt on the Fact of Global Warming
    B. Firmly-Established Science Contradicts the Textbook’s Assertions ….”

    Here’s a broadside about California’s failings to assess accuracy textbooks, with links:

    Look at the broader pattern of teaching falsehood to children.

    And remember, if you’re in the USA:
    “Vote Nehemiah Scudder in 2012 — the last president you’ll ever want”

  20. 470
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Acolyte of Citizen Auditors:

    One can almost hear the discussion between the authors – “Will it pass McIntyre’s scrutiny?” In addition, journal reviewers will question the attempted inclusion of certain proxies and will ask for the data and methods.

    That is hysterically funny, what’s more the author’s obliviousness to the inherent absurdity of such remark is also pretty amusing. A joke inside a joke. How can DenialDepot do any better?

    The trouble is, we’ve got Senators here in the U.S. who also can’t distinguish Robespierre from Rousseau. Make a joke into a law and the laughter may stop.

  21. 471
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Dr. Curry’s remarks at 29 July 2010 9:35 AM improve my estimation of the IPCC process, and not only because of Gavin’s replies but because Dr. Curry is (despite some rhetorical quibbles I have) describing a process that is indeed self-correcting. Presumably she’s correct in her broad meaning despite the incorrect and odd use of words such as “retract.”

    The “I am prepared to declare victory…” part bothers be because Dr. Curry seems still to be missing the problem with applying an epistemological scale of assessment built assuming good faith to a situation where I think we all can agree some people are acting in bad faith.

    This is not a matter purely of “scientific camps” battling with integrity to best demonstrate the validity of their reasoning, this is a situation where actors outside of science are doing their level best to portray science as more than defective but actually corrupt, hence the title of Montford’s book. Epistemology after all must be able to describe a criminal element, if we consider vandalism of our cultural arc of knowledge to be a criminal act. Dr. Curry does not seem prepared to acknowledge that problem, or that is to say she does not seem to understand that the world of “auditors” she’s fond of is infested with bad faith. Gavin’s tried to explain that, I think polite explanations need to keep coming until somebody comes up with a description that fits for Dr. Curry.

    If there’s any consensus to be found among scientists it’s that progress is not possible without honesty. I think a lot of people don’t understand that concept, don’t understand that the word “fraud” means something entirely more dire and frightening to a scientist than it does to an accountant. As Gavin implies, scrupulously drop the freighted hyperbole and things will go more smoothly.

  22. 472
    Hank Roberts says:

    (P.S. — yes, it’s ironic to see Heartland and Cato proclaiming textbooktrust — odd champions of factual accuracy in textbooks. Selective vision.)

  23. 473

    I can’t believe what I just ran across on a google search of dear Judith’s name:,,EMI143938-16270,00-JUDITH+CURRY+NAO+TENHO+MEDO+DO+CLIMA.html

    She was down here in Brazil in May 2010 giving an interview to Época magazine (it is a bit like Business Week), and I am so sorry that I cannot translate it in about the next 10 minutes, but it is chock full of amazing statements, thus proving that her current performances on RealClimate and Climate Progress are not nearly so innocent as she would like us all to believe.

  24. 474
    Chris Squire [UK] says:

    22 (Peter):
    Turned Out Nice: How the British Isles Will Change as the World Heats Up by Marek Kohn [Faber 2010] is a book you should look at:
    ‘ . . Our main response to climate change might be draconian immigration controls, prompted by torrents of refugees from more catastrophic changes elsewhere.’ So you’d better move here quickly while you can still get in!

    Reviewed at:

  25. 475

    Boy! Dr Curry writes a lot and casting spells of trivia left right and center. All while, always, she misses the topic, hemmm : the hockey stick. Which she cant make a comment about it, since she is not an “expert” on graphs I suppose. That is not a snark, but an observation.

    Being on topic is important, and Gavin is too kind in responding to mind numbing diversions, always, avoiding the success of the said reconstruction graph, especially with respect to actual current world wide all time high temperatures, as it should have been, if reconstruction and AGW theory is correct.

    Dr Curry, admit it, the reconstruction is a damn nice piece of work, and move on!

  26. 476
    Didactylos says:

    Tenney Naumer: Google translate does a good job.

    I was particularly struck by the way she claims Mann and Jones behaved inappropriately, while at the same time, agreeing with the conclusions of the investigations clearing Mann and Jones completely.

    Evidence that a little gossip and mean-spirited innuendo trumps rational enquiry any day.

    I wish she really meant what she says about improving the IPCC, when clearly all she wants is the inclusion of those views that she personally subscribes to. She says as much in the article.

  27. 477
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Re Tenney’s post, here are some tidbits:

    Judith Curry: ‘I have no fear of climate’

    … We’re talking about bias in the time to adjust the temperature data to compensate for the effects of urban heat (the growth of cities, with the concentration of cement and asphalt, artificially raises the temperature in the region). Or fill in areas of the world where no data are available. …

    No one knows for sure how much of the warming occurred in the second half of the twentieth century can be attributed to human action.

    ÉPOCA – You see any lobbying campaign of the fossil fuel industry to increase the confusion?

    Curry – This also exists. But I see as an important factor in the general skepticism about climate change. Most people who write against the use of emissions control political or economic arguments. They do not care about science. Neither one could call them skeptics. There are other skeptics with scientific training. But few receive any money from oil or coal. Entities such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute are concerned about policies that affect U.S. competitiveness and our economy. So they spend time and money by organizing conferences and demanding information from climate researchers. …

    ÉPOCA – The messages exchanged by Michael Mann and Phil Jones show any signs of inappropriate behavior?

    Curry – There are several investigations to assess this. From what I know, the answer would be yes.

    [Response: Actually, the answer would be no, no, no, no, and no]

  28. 478
    Chris Ho-Stuart says:

    I don’t think it is appropriate to open up this thread to the topic of “Judith Curry” herself as the focus. The Época magazine interview cited by Tenney in in comment currently #473 above is a divergence down that trail. I can understand the interest (I share it, frankly!) but I think we are better to focus on claims rather than the person. (FWIW, that interview is generally a whole heck of a lot more reasonable that what we have seen in this comment stream; but it isn’t the topic here.)

    [Response: Agreed. Hopefully everyone is on board with that sentiment.- gavin]

  29. 479
    dhogaza says:

    McIntyre might not fall exactly into that mold (almost certainly very different motivations), but he feeds that machine quite willingly – and not just in relation to MBH: read his posts on Hansen or his accusations against Briffa on the Yamal issue, for instance. Every time there is a puzzle or ambiguity or something he doesn’t understand, the first recourse is to accuse the scientists of bad faith.

    Or his post on the network administrator who blocked him from downloading the full content (IIRC) of a NASA site, ignoring the contents of the robots.txt file. The poor network admin thought he was blocking a spider, while McIntyre’s response was deeply paranoid …

  30. 480
    SecularAnimist says:

    Judith Curry wrote: “… The insults that have been heaped upon me are irrelevant to me …”

    I haven’t read any of the other blogs but as for this one, it seems to me that the “insults” have been “heaped upon” what Dr. Curry has written here, not upon her person, and actually quite relevant to what she has written.

    And some might see Dr. Curry’s condescending lectures about Feynman, “scientific integrity” and so on as being themselves insults to the intelligence of other readers.

    [Response: Enough about this. thanks. – gavin]

  31. 481
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Bernie #465

    One can almost hear the discussion between the authors – “Will it pass McIntyre’s scrutiny?”

    You don’t have to use your imagination any more to hear publishing scientists discuss McIntyre’s “contribution” to the science, Bernie. As it happens you can read the stolen emails, and I daresay the picture from those looks a wee bit different (hint: Yamal). Try it.

  32. 482
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Chris Ho-Stuart says: 29 July 2010 at 12:32 PM

    …I think we are better to focus on claims rather than the person.

    Chris, there are claims at play here, unfortunately repeated by a person who was incautious in attaching her name to those claims:

    ÉPOCA – The messages exchanged by Michael Mann and Phil Jones show any signs of inappropriate behavior?

    Curry – There are several investigations to assess this. From what I know, the answer would be yes.

    My instincts keep dithering here. One moment I think Dr. Curry is simply not very good at choosing words, the next I’m confronted with examples such as that interview snippet and then have to integrate that with my sympathies. Perhaps it’s truncated unfairly but on its face Dr. Curry’s remark seems unambiguous. Dr. Curry rendered her opinion even as she admitted she was not in command of all the facts of the case, a phenomenon we see repeated here and one of the main reasons for loss of patience. Her unfounded opinion was in concurrence with people far less credible so not only did she unwittingly ally herself with those folks, she lent her own credibility to the cause of public confusion, again a matter testing the tolerance of people who know better. Events subsequently appear to have proven her wrong in concurring with bad actors but she still does not seem prepared to defer to a more detailed exploration than her own, yet again confounding those of us inclined to think Dr. Curry to be engaged in some so-far inexplicable but well-intentioned mission.

  33. 483
    Bernie says:

    Jim, Doug, Martin;
    Are you suggesting that strip barked BCP, Gaspe Cedars, Yamal Larch and Tiljander sediments are going to be used in future multi-proxy temperature reconstructions?

    [Response: Almost certainly yes. See Salzer et al on the bristlecone pine record. See updates from Briffa et al on the Yamal record. See the use of the un-problematic parts of Tiljander proxies in Kaufmann et al etc. Remember that no proxy is perfect, but if it can be checked against others and validated, why would you not use them where you can? – gavin]

  34. 484
    TJ says:

    Well, well.. I’ve been taught & confirmed true thru life & living for many years in various countries that REALITY is THE best/only friend, cus IT always shows up – sooner or later.
    This, me best friend, has also taught me to always keep to the truth, simply because by sticking hereto, you do not ever have to remember what you say – easy & rather basic/clever/common sensed.

    Brgds from Sweden!

  35. 485
    J Bowers says:

    @ Judith Curry

    Judith, a reminder of something one of your students pointed out concerning Climate Audit after an exercise that you assigned, which you posted there back in 2006:

    “Some people use statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts for support rather than illumination.” — Andrew Lang

    I’d personally feel more at ease with your own support of McIntyre if you were to ask him to “audit” Lindzen, Soon, Baliunas, Christy, Spencer, Douglass, and the other unusual suspects, instead of him masquerading as a ‘Climate’ auditor, which I find to be something of a pretention given his specific targeting of particular individuals on one side of the debate. It suggests nothing less than partisanship in my view.

    (H/T to Willard for the CA post)

  36. 486
    sturat says:

    J Bowers @ #484

    Very interesting link to the 2006 CA thread and Dr. Curry’s student’s exercise.

    Perhaps Dr. Curry would like to try that again with a few of her current students to get their analysis of this and the parallel thread at CP.

    Or, … how about get an analysis from some of the other professors in the GT department and see what their opinion of this whole mess is.

    Do I hear crickets …. ?

  37. 487
    cross trainer brochures says:

    What will we find when Interpol finds the CRU email hackers (who also tried to hack

  38. 488
    chek says:

    I’m finding this situation as described to be increasingly Alice-in-Wonderland by the day.

    Few – at least in part for the reason noted by J. Bowers @ #485 – buy McIntyre’s ‘honest auditor’ schtick, which just so happens to reinforce the delaying tactics of the most powerful interests on Earth, much as he mostly maintains the appearance of an arms length of separation from them. But he’s certainly not an Oreskes and Conway style merchant of doubt we are assured by Curry. No siree.

    Yet here is this McIntyre character with an entry-level science degree, with a single paper puiblished years ago in a second rate tier social science journal presuming to comprehend and ‘audit’ the work of a roomful of PhD’s with decades of practical experience in their fields better than the well established process of peer review?

    If this is Curry’s Big New Idea, then along with her shilling of Montford’s masterpiece of innuendo, her recommendation seems to be nothing more than another step towards the triumph of mediocrity.

  39. 489
    John Mashey says:

    re: #374
    H/T Timothy Chase, I must correct an error in my post .

    I wrongly ascribed the article on sheep suffocation in JSE to M. Ishida, but that contribution was really a comment on the original article, and if so, I apologize for any embarrassment, as Ishida’s comment is may be quite reasonable (but paywalled, so I haven’t read it). The actual sheep article is thankfully still available, by Lewis E. Hollander, Jr, Unexplained Weight Gain Transients at the Moment of Death, which reports some quantization of this effect.

    Of course, the main reason for mentioning JSE was HSI’s pp.28-29 quotation of Deming’s article there, which contains interesting citations consistent with Deming’s Wikipedia Entry.

    Anyway, it is important to correct errors.

  40. 490
    Bernie says:

    Many thanks for the references. I will check them out, though I am actually familiar with Salzer et al.

    [Response: The bigger point are that (1) one uses the site chronologies that appear most suitable to the task at hand, and (2) you don’t get hung up on supposed problems in a tiny fraction of your data. If you think a site’s problematic and can do without it, leave it out or address the problem somehow. You have to know what your goal is and how the characteristics of the data might affect that.–Jim]

  41. 491

    The original post, as well as the ongoing conversation across multiple blogs, has been both informative and, in a sick way, entertaining.

    I can only hope that the take away from this will be that scientists will finally give in and adopt some sort of system (for now, until we come up with a better name, let’s call it “peer review”). That system can vet papers before they are published, and correct uncaught or unexpected mistakes after publication with new publications, continually revising and advancing the science, and all without any sloppy public name calling, arguing, hurt feelings, etc., etc.

    Such a system would go a long way towards preventing sorry episodes like this one.

    The people involved should probably also have appropriate degrees and credentials, and like any other profession from plumbing to engineering to politics to medicine, participants will need to sort of climb the ladder from apprentice to journeyman to master, paying their dues, and always being forced to prove themselves along the way, with no shortcuts (like premature advancement because daddy owns the company, or because one has his own blog and isn’t afraid to use it, or just plain because one knows that one is right when everyone else in the corrupt, incompetent system is wrong).

    Not that it should be a closed circle, like an old boys club, but face it, every profession has a path that must be followed. No one gets to start the race right in front of the finish line, no matter how gifted they may appear to be.

    Can you imagine what would happen to, for instance, an aircraft manufacturer if they replaced their engineers with anyone who claimed to have a better understanding of what really keeps airplanes up in the sky?

    Being able to play well with others also helps (I got that juicy nugget from Mrs. Richmond in kindergarten, and it’s almost never failed me), especially if you’re the new kid on the block, trying to fit in and be taken seriously in a difficult and serious profession.

    If this idea is offensive to some, my sincere apologies. I don’t mean to step on anyone’s toes. But as an outsider, looking in, the way you scientists do your jobs looks really, really shabby. You need management consultants, or anger management therapy, or a group hug, or something.

    There must be a better way.


  42. 492
    Eli Rabett says:

    The defining thing about Currygate is her willingness to toss colleagues into the dumpster in order to establish credibility with the opponents of any action to deal with climate change. This speaks not well of her, nor does it require that others afford her any respect.

  43. 493
    SecularAnimist says:

    Perhaps relevant here, the EPA has responded to petitions filed by various fossil fuel industry groups and “conservative” think-tanks seeking to overturn EPA’s finding in December 2009 that greenhouse gases endanger the health and welfare of Americans:

    EPA determined in December 2009 that climate change caused by emissions of greenhouse gases threatens the public’s health and the environment. Since then, EPA received ten petitions challenging this determination. On July 29, 2010, EPA denied these petitions.

    The petitions to reconsider EPA’s “Endangerment Finding” claimed that climate science can’t be trusted, and asserted a conspiracy that calls into question the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) , the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the U.S. Global Change Research Program. After months of serious consideration of the petitions and of the state of climate change science, EPA found no evidence to support these claims.

    The scientific evidence supporting EPA’s finding is robust, voluminous, and compelling. Climate change is happening now, and humans are contributing to it. Multiple lines of evidence show a global warming trend over the past 100 years. Beyond this, melting ice in the Arctic, melting glaciers around the world, increasing ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, altered precipitation patterns, and shifting patterns of ecosystems and wildlife habitats all confirm that our climate is changing.

  44. 494

    493 (SecularAnimist),

    Nice to see. Lets hope that other departments and branches of the U.S. government use the same level of intelligence, consideration and responsibility.

  45. 495
    Doug Bostrom says:

    The petitions to reconsider EPA’s “Endangerment Finding” claimed that climate science can’t be trusted, and asserted a conspiracy that calls into question the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) , the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the U.S. Global Change Research Program. After months of serious consideration of the petitions and of the state of climate change science, EPA found no evidence to support these claims.

    A “conspiracy.” That’s the best they can do? Same deal from the bottom of the food chain all the way to the top, it seems. “Hockey Stick Illusion” is of course just a “history of science tome,” not a middle-level bolus of bunk.

  46. 496
    Daniel "The Yooper" Bailey says:


    In light of the stir Judith Curry has created, both here and at Climate Progress (this post here: Consensus on a scientific issue is established as science evolves through the following successive stages (Funtowicz and Ravetz, 1990) ), perhaps this would be a good time for RC to weigh in with a post on the current scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming today in those same terms.

    The National Academy of Science recently touched on this back in May in their report Advancing the Science of Climate Change – Settled Facts. But as usual, the media failed to follow up on it.

    Such a post would go a long way towards reducing the noise level being generated by the usual denialist sites and their denizens.

    Just an idea.

    The Yooper

  47. 497
    willard says:

    J Bowers,

    To add a bit to what you said above (#485):

    Judith Curry had two students make presentations in her class discussion, a while ago. The first student was “a 2nd year graduate student, slightly older and with a mature and broad perspective.”

    Here is how he generalize CA’s discussion:

    1. attacking a paper on global warming, before reading it very carefully or understanding the context of the paper, assuming that the author is either dumb or has an “agenda”

    2. a plethora of statistical activity of a fairly rudimentary nature

    3. realization that the issues are complex

    4. some attempts at trying to gain physical understanding of what is going on

    5. realization that the issues are even more complex

    6. give up and move onto something else


    Later on, the only real counter-argument offered is that step 5 never occured regarding any of **the Team**’s members works. This counter-argument was repeated at least three times.

    That might be true for CA, but it appears that it’s exactly what occured here:

    Please bear with me that it does in any way constitute a formal proof. It is presented to express a problem with “tribalism” meme: there are students who could see things as if they were tribe members. Does that mean that tribalism is innate? ;-)

    By the way, it is said that some “report cards” comment have been moved to another thread. I can’t find them. If someone does, that would be appreciated.

    PS: Thank you for the hat tip, but we must also thank TCO (!) for having worked endlessly in the ice corners and passed me the puck in front of the net.

  48. 498
    Bernie says:

    Jim (#490):
    As you know, there is no problem defining what is or is not a good proxy as long as the selection, physical or statistical, is in essence made on an ex ante basis then fine, otherwise basic statistical assumptions are not met. The challenges with relative small numbers of data sets that are hard to collect are very difficult.

  49. 499
    dhogaza says:

    The challenges with relative small numbers of data sets that are hard to collect are very difficult.

    D’oh. Thus the relative large uncertainties associated with the relevant analyses, right?

    Do you think you’re saying anything that the relevant scientific community (including Jim) hasn’t thought of before?

    Your “very difficult” claim says nothing about whether or not scientists in this field have managed to overcome the difficulties.

    All envelope-pushing science and engineering, after all, involves overcoming the “very difficult”, and every time I fly safely on an airliner I’m thankful of our species having the ability to overcome “very difficult” problems.

  50. 500
    dhogaza says:

    PS: Thank you for the hat tip, but we must also thank TCO (!) for having worked endlessly in the ice corners and passed me the puck in front of the net.</blockquote.

    Now that TCO has proclaimed himself to be (relatively) sober, he's much more rational, so the (!) isn't quite as "!" as it would've been in the past.

    HIs disgust with the denialsphere seems pretty much complete, but of course he still thinks he's the 2nd most intelligent person on the planet after Feynman (someday, someone has to tell him that Feynmann's been pushing up worms for such time).