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Yamalian yawns

Filed under: — gavin @ 11 May 2012

Steve McIntyre is free to do any analysis he wants on any data he can find. But when he ladles his work with unjustified and false accusations of misconduct and deception, he demeans both himself and his contributions. The idea that scientists should be bullied into doing analyses McIntyre wants and delivering the results to him prior to publication out of fear of very public attacks on their integrity is ludicrous.

By rights we should be outraged and appalled that (yet again) unfounded claims of scientific misconduct and dishonesty are buzzing around the blogosphere, once again initiated by Steve McIntyre, and unfailingly and uncritically promoted by the usual supporters. However this has become such a common occurrence that we are no longer shocked nor surprised that misinformation based on nothing but prior assumptions gains an easy toehold on the contrarian blogs (especially at times when they are keen to ‘move on’ from more discomforting events).

So instead of outrage, we’ll settle for simply making a few observations that undermine the narrative that McIntyre and company are trying to put out.

First of all, it should be made clear that McIntyre’s FOI EIR requests on the subject of Yamal are not for raw data, nor for the code or analysis methodology behind a published result, but for an analysis of publicly available data that has not been completed and has not yet been published. To be clear, these requests are for unpublished work.

Second, the unpublished work in question is a reconstruction of regional temperatures from the region of Yamal in Siberia. Regional reconstructions are generally more worthwhile than reconstructions from a single site because, if there is shared variance, the regional result is likely to be more robust and be more representative – and that makes it more valuable for continental and hemispheric comparisons. The key issues are whether all the trees (or some subset of them) share a common signal (are they mostly temperature sensitive? are some localities anomalous? etc.). It isn’t as simple as just averaging all the trees in a grid box or two. The history of such efforts follows a mostly standard path – local chronologies are put together, different ‘standardisation’ techniques are applied, more data is collected, wider collations are put together, and then regional reconstructions start to appear. Places that are remote (like Yamal) have the advantage of a lack of local human interference, and plenty of fossil material, but they are tricky to get to and data collection can be slow (not least because of the political situation in recent decades).

UK FOI (and EIR) legislation (quite sensibly) specifically exempts unpublished work from release provided the results are being prepared for publication (or are incomplete). So McIntyre’s appeals have tried to insinuate that no such publication is in progress (which is false) or that the public interest in knowing about a regional tree ring reconstruction from an obscure part of Siberia trumps the obvious interest that academics have in being able to work on projects exclusively prior to publication. This is a hard sell, unless of course one greatly exaggerates the importance of a single proxy record – but who would do that? (Oh yes: YAD06 – the most important tree in the world, The global warming industry is based on one MASSIVE lie etc.). Note that premature public access to unpublished work is something that many people (including Anthony Watts) feel quite strongly about.

Worse, McIntyre has claimed in his appeal that the length of time since the Briffa et al (2008) paper implies that the regional Yamal reconstruction has been suppressed for nefarious motives. But I find it a little rich that the instigator of a multitude of FOI requests, appeals, inquiries, appeals about inquires, FOIs about appeals, inquiries into FOI appeals etc. is now using the CRU’s lack of productivity as a reason to support more FOI releases. This is actually quite funny.

Furthermore, McIntyre is using the fact that Briffa and colleagues responded online to his last deceptive claims about Yamal, to claim that all Yamal-related info must now be placed in the public domain (including, as mentioned above, unpublished reconstructions being prepared for a paper). How this will encourage scientists to be open to real-time discussions with critics is a little puzzling. Mention some partial analysis online, and be hit immediately with a FOI for the rest…?

The history of this oddity (and it is odd) dates back to McIntyre’s early obsession with a reconstruction called the “Polar Urals” Briffa et al. (1995). This was a very early attempt at a local multi-proxy reconstruction, using a regression of both tree-ring widths and densities. McIntyre has previously objected to observations that 1032 was a particularly cold year in this reconstruction (though it was), that the dating of the trees was suspect (though it wasn’t), and that no-one revisited this reconstruction when reprocessed chronologies became available. [Little-known fact: McIntyre and McKitrick submitted a comment to Nature complaining about the dating issues in 1995 paper around Dec 2005/Jan 2006, which was rejected upon receipt of Briffa's response (which was an attachment in the second tranche of CRU emails). Neither this submission, the rejection (for good cause), nor the Polar Urals dating issue have been mentioned on Climate Audit subsequently.]

Around this point, McIntyre got the erroneous idea that studies were being done, but were being suppressed if they showed something ‘inconvenient’. This is of course a classic conspiracy theory and one that can’t be easily disproved. Accusation: you did something and then hid it. Response: No I didn’t, take a look. Accusation: You just hid it somewhere else. Etc. However, this is Keith Briffa we are talking about: the lead author of Briffa et al, (1998)(pdf) describing the “inconvenient” divergence problem in some tree ring density records, a subject that has been described and taken up by multiple authors – Jacoby, D’Arrigo, Esper, Wilson etc. Why McIntyre thought (thinks?) that one single reconstruction was so special that people would go to any lengths to protect it, while at the same time the same people were openly discussing problems in reconstructions across the whole northern hemisphere, remains mysterious.

Similarly, McIntyre recently accused Eric Steig of suppressing ‘inconvenient’ results from an ice core record from Siple Dome (Antarctica). Examination of the record in question actually demonstrates that it has exceptionally high values in the late 20th Century (reflecting the highest temperatures in at least the last 700 years, Mayewski et al.), exactly counter to McIntyre’s theory. McIntyre made these accusations public “a couple of days” – his words – after requesting the data, since apparently university professors have nothing more pressing to do than than respond instantly to McIntyre’s requests. In short, you have to give McIntyre what he wants within 48 hours or he will publicly attack your integrity. Unsurprisingly, no apology for that unjustified smear has been forthcoming.

So on to Yamal. The original data for the Yamal series came from two Russian researchers (Rashit Hantemirov and Stepan Shiyatov), and was given to CRU for collation with other tree-ring reconstructions (Briffa, 2000). As a small part of that paper, Briffa reprocessed the raw Yamal data with the regional curve standardisation (RCS) technique. The Russians published their version of the chronology with a different standardization a little later (Hantemirov and Shiyatov, 2002). McIntyre is accusing Briffa of ‘deception’ in stating that he did not ‘consider’ doing a larger more regional reconstruction at that time. However, it is clear from the 2000 paper that the point was to show hemispheric coherence across multiple tree ring records, not to create regional chronologies. Nothing was being ‘deceptively’ hidden and the Yamal curve is only a small part of the paper in any case.

Another little appreciated fact: When McIntyre started to get interested in this, he asked Briffa for the underlying measurement data from Yamal and two other locations whose reconstructions were used in Osborn and Briffa (2006). In May 2006, Briffa politely replied:

Steve these data were produced by Swedish and Russian colleagues – will pass on your message to them
cheers, Keith

Briffa was conforming to the standard protocol that directs people to the originators of data series for access to the underlying data, as opposed to the reconstructions which had been archived with the paper. McIntyre expressed great exasperation at this point, which is odd because in email 1548, McIntyre is quoted (from Sep 26, 2009 (and note the divergence in post URL and actual title)):

A few days ago, I became aware that the long-sought Yamal measurement data url had materialized at Briffa’s website – after many years of effort on my part and nearly 10 years after its original use in Briffa (2000).

To which Rashit Hantemirov responds:

Steve has an amnesia. I had sent him these data at February 2, 2004 on his demand.

Thus at the time McIntyre was haranguing Briffa and Osborn, McIntyre had actually had the raw Yamal data for over 2 years (again, unmentioned on Climate Audit), and he had had them for over 5 years when he declared that he had finally got them in 2009 (immediately prior to his accusations (again false) against Briffa of inappropriate selection of trees in his Yamal chronology).

Back to the main story. Of course, regional reconstructions are a definite goal of the dendro-climatology community and Briffa and colleagues have been working on these for years. Some of those results were published in Briffa et al (2008) as part of a special issue on the boreal forest and global change. Special issues come with deadlines, and as explained in a submission to the Muir Russell inquiry, a regional Yamal reconstruction putting together multiple sources of tree ring data was indeed ‘considered’ but wasn’t finished in time. McIntyre’s claim of deception comes from a strained reading of the MR submission (it is actually quite good reading). In response to extended (and yet again false) accusations from Ross McKitrick in the Financial Post:

Between these [two other reconstructions] we had intended to explore an integrated Polar Urals/Yamal larch series but it was felt that this work could not be completed in time and Briffa made the decision to reprocess the Yamal ring-width data to hand, using improved standardization techniques, and include this series in the submitted paper [Briffa et al., 2008].

Subsequently, in response to the issues raised by McIntyre, we explored the use of additional ring-width data local to the Yamal sub-fossil data. This work established the general validity of the published Yamal chronology information, albeit with significant statistical uncertainty, including during the medieval time and the late 20th century. [Refers to the online Oct 2009 response]

We still intend to publish an extended review paper that will compare and contrast features of the different published (and unpublished) versions of various regional composite chronologies in northern Eurasia and the effect on the character of climate reconstructions of calibrating them using different regression techniques.

So, Briffa et al did consider a regional reconstruction and are indeed working on it for publication, and it didn’t get into the 2008 paper due to time constraints. Clear, no?

However, a little later on in the submission, there is this paragraph:

(From McKitrick):

Thus the key ingredient in most of the studies that have been invoked to support the Hockey Stick, namely the Briffa Yamal series, depends on the influence of a woefully thin subsample of trees and the exclusion of readily-available data for the same area.

McKitrick is implying that we considered and deliberately excluded data from our Yamal chronology. The data that he is referring to were never considered at the time because the purpose of the work reported in Briffa (2000) and Briffa et al. (2008) was to reprocess the existing dataset of Hantemirov and Shiyatov (2002).

(my highlights).

This is clearly a response to McKitrick’s unjustified accusations, and in using the reference to the 2008 paper is a little contradictory to the paragraphs above which were much more explicit about the background and purpose of the 2008 paper. However, to take a slight mis-statement in a single sentence, when copious other information was being provided in the same submission, and accusing people of deliberate deception is a huge overreach. Were they trying to deceive only the people who hadn’t read the previous page? It makes no sense at all. Instead, McIntyre conflates the situation at the time of the 2000 paper with the very different situation around 2008 in order to paint a imaginary picture of perfidy.

The one new element this week is the UK ICO partial ruling on McIntyre’s appeal for access to the (still unpublished) regional Yamal reconstruction. For reasons that are as yet unclear (since the full ICO ruling has not yet been issued), the list of components from which the regional reconstruction might be built were released by UEA. All of this data is already public domain. And of course, since Briffa et al have been working on regional reconstructions since prior to the 2008 paper it is unsurprising that they have such a list. McIntyre then quotes an email from Osborn sent in 2006 in support of his claim that the reconstructions were finished at that point, but that is again a very strained reading. Osborn only lists the areas (and grid boxes) in which regional reconstructions might be attempted since “most of the trees lie within those boxes”. It makes no statement whatsoever about the work having already been done.

McIntyre’s subsequent insta-reconstruction from the list is apparently the ‘smoking gun’ that the results are being withheld because they are inconvenient, but if any actual scientist had produced such a poorly explained, unvalidated, uncalibrated, reconstruction with no error bars or bootstrapping or demonstrations of common signals etc., McIntyre would have been (rightly) scornful. Though apparently, scientists are supposed to accept his reconstruction at face value. The irony is of course that the demonstration that a regional reconstruction is valid takes effort, and needs to be properly documented. That requires a paper in the technical literature and the only way for Briffa et al to now defend themselves against McIntyre’s accusations is to publish that paper (which one can guarantee will have different results to what McIntyre has thrown together). In the meantime, they can’t discuss it online or defend themselves because the issue with the FOI appeal is precisely their ability to work on projects prior to publication without being forced to go public before they are finished.

Finally, a couple of observations regarding the follow-through from Andrew Montford and Anthony Watts. Montford’s summary is an easier read than anything McIntyre writes, but it is clear Montford’s talents lie in the direction of fiction, not documentary work. All of his claims of “why paleoclimatologists found the series so alluring”, or that the publication “must have been a severe blow”, or “another hockey stick” was “made almost to order to meet the requirements of the paleoclimate community” and other accusations are simply products of his imagination. He also makes up claims, that for instance, McIntyre asking Briffa for the Yamal data “was, as expected, turned down flat” (not true – the actual response was given above) and he imagines even more ‘deceptions’ than McIntyre. Since he assumes the worst of the people involved, everything he sees is twisted to conform to his prior assumptions – if there is an innocent explanation, he expends no time considering it. As for Watts, the funny thing is that he immediately thinks that Michael Mann needs to answer these accusations, and attempts a twitter campaign of harassment when Mike, rightly, points out that Yamal doesn’t actually impact that much and, in any case, it has nothing to do with him at all. Watts is clearly a cheerleader for the ‘Blame Mike First’ campaign, so maybe his next post will be on why Mike is responsible for the Greek bank default (have you seen those bond yield curves?!?).

It should also go without saying that sometimes life gets in the way of work, and suggestions that academics have to work on issues according to a timetable dictated by hostile and abusive commentators is completely antithetical to the notion of free inquiry or the inevitable constraints of real life. McIntyre is of course free to do any analysis he wants, but he has no right to demand that other people do work for him under fear of highly public false accusations of dishonesty. We can nonetheless look forward to more of these episodes, mainly because they serve their purpose so well.


References

  1. K.R. Briffa, V.V. Shishov, T.M. Melvin, E.A. Vaganov, H. Grudd, R.M. Hantemirov, M. Eronen, and M.M. Naurzbaev, "Trends in recent temperature and radial tree growth spanning 2000 years across northwest Eurasia", Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol. 363, pp. 2269-2282, 2008. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2007.2199
  2. K.R. Briffa, P.D. Jones, F.H. Schweingruber, S.G. Shiyatov, and E.R. Cook, "Unusual twentieth-century summer warmth in a 1,000-year temperature record from Siberia", Nature, vol. 376, pp. 156-159, 1995. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/376156a0
  3. K.R. Briffa, F.H. Schweingruber, P.D. Jones, T.J. Osborn, I.C. Harris, S.G. Shiyatov, E.A. Vaganov, and H. Grudd, "Trees tell of past climates: but are they speaking less clearly today?", Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol. 353, pp. 65-73, 1998. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.1998.0191
  4. P.A. Mayewski, K.A. Maasch, J.W.C. White, E.J. Steig, E. Meyerson, I. Goodwin, V.I. Morgan, T. van Ommen, M.A.J. Curran, J. Souney, and K. Kreutz, "A 700 year record of Southern Hemisphere extratropical climate variability", Annals of Glaciology, vol. 39, pp. 127-132, 2004. http://dx.doi.org/10.3189/172756404781814249
  5. K.R. Briffa, "Annual climate variability in the Holocene: interpreting the message of ancient trees", Quaternary Science Reviews, vol. 19, pp. 87-105, 2000. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0277-3791(99)00056-6
  6. R.M. Hantemirov, and S.G. Shiyatov, "A continuous multimillennial ring-width chronology in Yamal, northwestern Siberia", The Holocene, vol. 12, pp. 717-726, 2002. http://dx.doi.org/10.1191/0959683602hl585rp
  7. T.J. Osborn, "The Spatial Extent of 20th-Century Warmth in the Context of the Past 1200 Years", Science, vol. 311, pp. 841-844, 2006. http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1120514

228 Responses to “Yamalian yawns”

  1. 1
    Salamano says:

    So… reading this means that eventually we’ll get a Briffa published response, and that response will either show:

    (a) A regional reconstruction with all the core data that will show a different result than McIntyres, but with available reproducible methodology.

    or

    (b) A regional reconstruction that selectively weights different data sets based on how well the authors think it more authentically reflects temperature trends, regardless of relative sample saizes, because of things like ‘undisturbed’, ‘declared-to-be-more-sensitive to temperature’, etc. — but one where, if everything were done as in method (a) would show a temperature reconstruction difference a little closer to McIntyres ‘insta-reconstruction’.

    Yes? No?

    It will be interesting indeed to see how these volleys go. Yamal has been a topic of intense scrutiny all throughout the CG emails, and it continues.

    [Response: Actually it won't be that interesting because I guarantee that whatever judgement calls that Briffa et al make (on the level of coherence necessary, significance levels, magnitude of common signal, statistical method etc.) they will still be accused of fudging it to produce a desired result - because that is so easy for the 'critics' to do. Every analysis involves judgement calls - even McIntyre's. And so if people don't like the result, they will attack the judgements - regardless of how they actually impact the final result or how justified they are. If you are already convinced that scientists can't be trusted, then no amount of justification from those scientists will change anything because people see nefarious intent everywhere. It is a perfect epistemic bubble - impervious to any actual contact with reality. - gavin]

  2. 2
    David Wilson says:

    thanks again for balanced (have to hesitate these days before using that word) & comprehensive reporting

    I don’t follow the contrarian side very closely so had to go to Wikipedia to see who Steve McIntyre might be (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_McIntyre) – and that’s my only quibble :-)

    thanks again, be well.

  3. 3
    J Bowers says:

    Impressive, and very, very clear. Thanks.

  4. 4
    Nick says:

    Steve McIntyre is free to do any analysis he wants on any data he can find.

    =================

    That is the problem. Finding the data to replicated the analysis. Now who is the problem when it comes to finding the data? In the UK is Hadley.

    Secret data and secret analysis isn’t science.

    [Response: Oh please. All of this data has been available for years and the peta-bytes of stuff that is now online is actually overwhelming our ability to analyse it. None of this is 'secret science' - that's just another meme used to avoid looking at it. - gavin]

  5. 5

    Gavin,

    Thank you for taking the time to debunk the grand conspiracy. It pains me that you had to take time out of your busy schedule to (yet again) scold the children who do not learn their lessons the first time.

    Unfortunately, this waste of your time is exactly what McIntyre, Watts, Bishop Hill, Heartland Institute, Chris Horner’s American Tradition Institute, etc., etc. etc. want when they post their blogs or send their FOIAs.

    One way we can all help to protect the scientific endeavor is by supporting the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund. Donations are tax-deductible. http://climatesciencedefensefund.org/

  6. 6
    Salamano says:

    @1 Gavin — Thank you for your responses.

    Your response is more-or-less what I expected (and you’re right). I suspect then so long as everyone’s methodology is out there (complete with all judgement calls and all that), then it would be fairly easy for the science/blog communities to examine both– it seems that perhaps the regional Ural cores data’s significance might simply comes down to various judgment calls, which is why multiple lines of dendro evidence that do not use Yamal, bristlecones, etc. need to exist (which I recall your other long-ago post may provide)…Though to McIntyre’s point it may be a small amount of vindication to see the significance of the judgment calls become the main route to the results of Yamal (though you did say that happens all the time in research).

    @4. From what I recall… it’s not exactly the data that was the subject of McIntyre’s beef, but instead the “list” of which data went into the methodology. It’s one thing to have thousands of cores publicly available all over the place for re-analysis, it’s quite another to have zero concrete, explicit, specific, exact idea of which actual cores of the total are being used for purposes of replication. I think that beef has been getting traction.

  7. 7
    Menth says:

    “Every analysis involves judgement calls – even McIntyre’s. And so if people don’t like the result, they will attack the judgements – regardless of how they actually impact the final result or how justified they are. If you are already convinced that scientists can’t be trusted, then no amount of justification from those scientists will change anything because people see nefarious intent everywhere. It is a perfect epistemic bubble – impervious to any actual contact with reality.”

    Relevant article by Dan Sarewitz about systemic bias: http://www.nature.com/news/beware-the-creeping-cracks-of-bias-1.10600

    I submit that climatologists or any other scientists are not impervious to epistemic bubbles. This is why we need antagonistic jerks that will try to destroy our work; we will not do it on our own.

    [Response: Yes, of course. That's the way science progresses. What's at issue here is whether McIntyre is actually interested in science progressing, or merely in stopping it from progressing. Surely you would agree that there is some level of antagonism (not to mention jerkiness) that goes beyond the pale?--eric]

  8. 8

    “It is a perfect epistemic bubble – impervious to any actual contact with reality.”

    A delicious and apt phrase. This exactly the problem with much of our public discourse today, IMO.

    However, real bubbles are unstable (unless frozen in!), and one hopes that epistemic ones will prove to be, too.

  9. 9
    BillS says:

    Clearly Mr. McIntyre is suffering from data envy. Lacking the requisite skills to generate any of his own he tries to siphon it from real scientists.

    Perhaps Mr. McIntytre’s time would be better spent if he stuck to his own business. Since becoming Chairman of the Board of Trelawney Mining and Exploration, Inc. (TRR.V), the company’s stock price has declined about 42% (14 July 2011-10 May 2012, down 42.12%).

  10. 10
    Stewart Hunter says:

    Isn’t it time for the scientific community to consider defamation proceedings against people such as Watts, Montford and McIntyre? In any other walk of life malicious behaviour such as theirs has consequences for the perpetrators; they’ve been allowed to believe they are immune to such consequences.

  11. 11
    Paul A says:

    Thanks. All that effort I expended trying to decipher McIntyre’s atrociously opaque ramblings confirmed to be a waste of time. I won’t bother in future.

  12. 12
    Sou says:

    Thank you for the clear and comprehensive take down.

    I wonder if it’s because McIntyre, Watts and the people at Bishop’s Hill are feeling very marginalised these days. Maybe they are trying to recapture some of the glory days when they had their 15 minutes of fame by perving at stolen emails and harassing scientists with fake FOI requests.

    Climate change is starting to become apparent to even the sturdiest (non-fake) sceptic. Renewable energy is gaining traction. Denier organisations like the Heartland Inst are imploding. The general public is noticing droughts coinciding with flash floods, earlier spring and summer, commercial shipping and gambits for resource exploration in the arctic as the ice melts. Bloomberg is today reporting the billions being invested by oil companies in developing ‘green’ fuel. I don’t think trees in Yamal are top of mind for most people.

    I’m thinking this is an attempt to hang onto the few die-hard denier fans who wear tin foil hats: ‘look at us, we’re outwitting the scientists’. However most people would not be too impressed by their shenanigans – even if they understood what they were on about or had heard of this anti-science blogging fraternity.

    The issue would be of little interest to the general public. Regional reconstructions are of interest to science as they provide a piece of the scientific puzzle.

    It’s still important to have these facts, because every now and then someone will raise the issue. Appreciate the clarity, too.

  13. 13
    Eli Rabett says:

    McIntyre is a rent-seeker who always tries to force others to do his work. Unfortunately he is no where near as amusing as Tom Sawyer

  14. 14
    ZT says:

    ‘…he immediately thinks that Michael Mann needs to answer these accusations…’ factually, wasn’t that Revkin?

  15. 15
    Walter Scott says:

    Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive!

  16. 16
    Tokodave says:

    Actual observations, and the supporting science and math can be such a pain. As long as you don’t need to be concerned about actual observations or the science and math there are an almost infinite number of ways to prove that global warming/climate change doesn’t exist. Secret science, secret sauce, don’t ask me I’m at a loss….

  17. 17
    J Bowers says:

    4 Nick: “That is the problem. Finding the data to replicated the analysis.”

    Rote repetition is not scientific replication.

  18. 18
    caerbannog says:

    McIntyre may be much more well-versed in statistics than I am, but his ideology drives him to make “whopper” blunders that even a non-expert can flag. Below is my take on the problems with his “hockey sticks from noise” attack on Mann’s work (hopefully in plain-enough English that non-techie can understand).

    This is copy/pasted from my reply to a negative amazon.com review of Dr. Mann’s latest book: It is my “limited expertise” view of the problems with the well-worn “hockey-sticks from random noise” claim.

    ################## Begin copy-paste #################

    “Normally I would say he is dishonest since how could any PhD with a brain cell in his head test a hypothesis w/ computer code that spits out hockey stick shape graphs when fed with random data?”

    – That particular attack on Mann’s hockey stick is incompetent on multiple levels, for the following reasons:

    1) The “random noise” used to generate those “noise-only” hockey-sticks was contaminated with hockey-stick signal, because the folks who authored the “random noise hockey-sticks” claim forgot to filter out the hockey-stick signal from the tree-ring data before they used it to “train” their random-noise generator. Dudes — if you are going to use real data to “train” a random-noise generator, you have to remove the signal from the data first! Otherwise, your “random noise” will be completely useless for testing “noise only” system behavior. Oops #1.

    2) Even with the help of that hockey-stick contamination, the hockey-sticks generated with that “random noise” were *much* smaller than Mann’s genuine hockey-stick. A quick look at the eigenvalue magnitudes is all that is necessary to distinguish a “random noise” hockey-stick from the real thing. Oops #2.

    3) Half of the “hockey-sticks” generated with that “random noise” were upside down (in addition to being much smaller than a genuine tree-ring hockey-stick). That simple fact should be a “red flag” indicating that your leading PC is an obvious noise artifact. An obvious test to see whether a PC represents a coherent signal or is just a noise artifact is to compute the inner-products of that PC against all the vectors in the input data matrix. Inner-product results that are consistently positive would indicate the presence of a real signal; results that are randomly positive/negative would indicate a noise artifact. The authors of that attack on Mann never bothered to perform that very obvious test. Oops #3.

    4) Anyone who uses SVD/PCA for “data reduction” purposes (as Mann did with some of his tree-ring data) knows full well that you can’t just focus on the single leading singular-vector/principal-component. You generally need to retain more than just one PC. But the only way to make that determination is to apply a proper eigenvalue thresholding procedure to your SVD output. If you don’t do that, you will often throw away crucial information. The fixation on a single principal component is yet another blunder. Oops #4.

    5) Mann’s eigenvalue-thresholding procedure automatically compensates for the “offset effect” introduced by his short-centering of the tree-ring data. The authors of the “hockey-sticks from noise” claim apparently didn’t realize (or chose to ignore) that simple fact. Oops #5.

    But let’s give Mann’s detractors some credit here. Aside from accidentally contaminating their “random noise” with hockey-stick signal, failing to compare their “random-noise” eigenvalues with Mann’s tree-ring eigenvalues, failing to apply a proper eigenvalue thresholding procedure to their SVD outputs, failing to compute simple “inner-product” statistical tests on their “random noise” hockey-sticks, and failing to study Mann’s methodology well enough to see that his eigenvalue-thresholding procedure automatically compensates for the effects of “short centering”, their “hockey-sticks from random noise” study really wasn’t all that bad!

  19. 19
    Larry Gilman says:

    Editorial nitpick: “lards” or “laces” is intended in the second sentence of the post, not “ladles.” There is no sense of the latter word that makes any sense in this context.

  20. 20
    Douglass Schumacher says:

    It’s encouraging and painful, at the same time, to read these responses from the realclimate team. Great because you’re fighting back, painful because I hate seeing you take this time from your research. Thanks for all your great work.

  21. 21
    Tim Osborn says:

    Thank you Gavin and RealClimate for once again bringing much needed clarity to the situation. The huge amount of work you do in explaining and contextualising the latest climate stories (and “non-stories” such as these false allegations of deception) is greatly appreciated by me and many others.

    [Response: Tim, I (and I think I speak for all of us here) want to thank *you* and Keith and the others for calmly and thoughtfully continuing to do the great work you're doing despite the dishonest personal attacks, and despite the concerted efforts by McIntyre and his ilk to interfere with and disrupt your efforts. -Mike]

  22. 22

    #9 Bill is right, I must add, the work needed to come up to validate accusations of mis-conduct has not been met. I can say McIntyre is the tooth fairy, but where is my evidence supporting this claim?
    The chaps loving calling climate scientists liars don’t do the tedious time consuming reconstructions themselves, therefore they are tooth fairies until they actually do some climate science. By the way, hard laborious efforts deserves our attention, name callers should be left out of the debating room, perhaps stand on soap boxes in a park somewhere giving off pamphlets instead of published scientific articles.

  23. 23
    Alex Harvey says:

    Dear Gavin,

    I haven’t read Steve’s latest post, and I’ve only skimmed this one. I am not deeply interested in the hockey stick and associated controversies, but I do have the distinct impression of scientists talking past each other. Steve’s recent post spoke to me of the genuine frustration, even depression, this causes him. The present post speaks of your genuine anger.

    [Response: Mild correction. I'm not in the least bit angry. I probably should be, and I know people who are, but anger is not a productive emotion. This kind of stuff is best dealt with in world-weary way. I know why it happens, and I can see how people convince themselves that they are correct, but getting angry just inflames the situation. The ironies here are more than a little amusing though - and if it wasn't for the fact that good people are being falsely maligned, I would just spend my time pointing them out. - gavin]

    I would like to make a radical suggestion – and while this could sound facetious I’d like to assure you that it’s not: why don’t you set aside some quality time to actually talk to him? Sit down over a virtual beer and work out what he wants and why. Maybe you’re right that it would be never ending. Then fine, make it a ritual.

    It was Lyndon Johnson who said of J. Edgar Hoover – ‘it’s better to have him inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in’. Does this apply to Steve McIntyre? He has expertise in this area and he evidently enjoys pulling things apart and figuring out how they work.

    You seem aware of the damage all round that this war is causing – damage to scientists’ reputations, the demands on everyone’s time, and the emotional toll. Why not just drop the guard and let him in?

    [Response: Let him in where? From the first post he ever made mentioning me he has implied I am dishonest and he insinuates that on a regular basis. I'm not sure about you, but my (limited) time is better spent talking to people who don't think that everything I say is a lie. Mcintyre has convinced himself of this and many other things that aren't actually true, but I see no evidence that he is willing to re-consider any of them. Instead, they become entwined into an ever more elaborate construction involving a wider and wider circle. Like I've said many times, if he took the effort to do something constructive that might be worthwhile and it would be a basis to have a shared discussion about what the climate history actually was (which, he might be surprised to learn, is the point). - gavin]

  24. 24
    SecularAnimist says:

    Gavin wrote: “If you are already convinced that scientists can’t be trusted, then no amount of justification from those scientists will change anything …”

    Or more to the point, if you are paid to convince the public that scientists can’t be trusted …

  25. 25
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Alex Harvey,
    The scientific community would just love to have Stevie “in”, if he would just fricking publish something! A publication can be evaluated. It’s right or it’s wrong. It’s useful or it’s not. Stevie’s drive-by, rapid-fire approach is more akin to a Gish Gallop than to science. It does not advance understanding, and it generates more heat than illumination.

    I have no doubt Steve has some skill at statistical modeling. However, he applies that skill to analyzing utterly irrelevant and trivial matters until he has beaten them to death, while making outrageous claims about the significance of his analyses and the integrity of his opponents. The tent door is open, but until he chooses to walk through it by publishing, he can piss up a rope.

  26. 26
    J Bowers says:

    @ Alex Harvey.

    Nature: Climate Change, August 2009

    …McIntyre’s point here is that he should be treated as a legitimate academic given his background and publication record.
    [...]
    Although Jones agrees that the data should be made publicly available, he says that “it needs to be done in a systematic way”. He is now working to make the data publicly available online and will post a statement on the CRU website tomorrow to that effect, with any existing confidentiality agreements. “We’re trying to make them all available. We’re consulting with all the meteorological services – about 150 members of WMO – and will ask them if they are happy to release the data”, says Jones. But getting the all-clear from other nations could take several months and there may be objections. “Some countries don’t even have their own data available as they haven’t digitized it. We have done a lot of that ourselves”, he says.
    [...]
    Once the data become publicly available, Jones wants McIntyre to produce a global temperature record. “Science advances that way. He might then realize how robust the global temperature record is”, says Jones. Asked if he would take on the challenge, McIntyre said that it’s not a priority for him, but added “if someone wanted to hire me, I’d do it”.

    Oh well.

  27. 27
  28. 28
    MarkB says:

    I take issue with one statement

    “but if any actual scientist had produced such a poorly explained, unvalidated, uncalibrated, reconstruction with no error bars or bootstrapping or demonstrations of common signals etc., McIntyre would have been (rightly) scornful.”

    I find McIntyre’s scorn to be very selective and misdirected, independent of any lack of self-critique. Where is the audit of this goofy Don Easterbrook “reconstruction”, for instance?

    http://chriscolose.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/easterbrook.jpg

    Where is the auditing, complete with character attacks, of the co2science website or Loehle’s shoddy E&E work? Then we have Lamb 1965 the defining “global” reconstruction, evidence that subsequent work is bogus and deceitful.

  29. 29
    caerbannog says:


    Once the data become publicly available, Jones wants McIntyre to produce a global temperature record. “Science advances that way. He might then realize how robust the global temperature record is”, says Jones. Asked if he would take on the challenge, McIntyre said that it’s not a priority for him, but added “if someone wanted to hire me, I’d do it”.

    The CRU data in question became publicly available nearly 10 months ago. What have the folks who had been demanding access to that data done with it since then? Any of you skeptics out there who had been howling for that data have any results to share with us? How do your results compare with the CRU’s global-average temperature results?

    You’ve had nearly 10 months to come up with *something* — how about sharing it with us?

  30. 30
    robert says:

    McEnttire’s continued fixation with this data seems utterly pointless to me. What is he trying to show? That the planet isn’t warming? That the land surface, sea surface and satellite data are also wrong? That the cryosphere isn’t melting?

    And does he think that the results of this dendro analysis will prove the greenhouse effect doesn’t exist? Seriously, what in the world can he hope to accomplish?

  31. 31
    Mark A. York says:

    It’s all part of a grass roots effort on the behalf of those with political views who can’t accept global warming to discredit anyone who can prove AGW exists, and also a rampant contempt for authority and expertise. Why can’t everyone have it without the mess of actual work on the subject?

  32. 32
    Hank Roberts says:

    > The CRU data in question became publicly available
    > nearly 10 months ago.
    > Jones wants McIntyre to produce a global temperature record….
    > Asked if he would take on the challenge,
    > McIntyre said … “if someone wanted to hire me, I’d do it”.

    Nobody wanted to hire him to do it?
    Heartland has money for their billboard campaign, but not for McIntyre?

    Or has someone hired him, gotten a result, but not published?

    The BEST lesson may have been a painful one.

  33. 33
    dhogaza says:

    Gavin:

    Instead, they become entwined into an ever more elaborate construction involving a wider and wider circle.

    He’s become a full-blown conspiracy theorist.

    He’s always been a bit delusional, IMO – remember the incident where he wget’d a NASA website, got blocked by the sysadmin because he was spidering the site, and he responded by be absolutely convinced that the sysadmin did intentionally because it was Steve McIntyre, not as a routine block of a spidering effort that ignored the site’s robot.txt file? And the ensuing discussion at CA where several of his tech-savvy supports tried to get him to see that the sysadmin’s response was totally appropriate and his claim that he’d never heard of McIntyre completely believable?

    That’s when I realized he really does have a “they’re out to get me” world view, that he’s the kind of person that sees a conspiracy behind every bush.

    It’s just gotten worse. His fixation on issues from the 90s, etc, makes it obvious that he can’t, and never will, let go.

    robert:

    McEnttire’s continued fixation with this data seems utterly pointless to me. What is he trying to show? That the planet isn’t warming? That the land surface, sea surface and satellite data are also wrong? That the cryosphere isn’t melting?

    My own opinion is that at this point, he’s so fixated on the notion that there’s an international conspiracy among climate scientists to hide … something … that the goal has become as much to prove the existence of that conspiracy as it is to prove any particular outcome that has resulted from the conspiracy.

    And, as was the case with the hapless NASA sysadmin who had the temerity to block his spidering of a web site until he explained what he was up to, McIntyre is convinced that the conspiracy is at least partly *personal*, pointed at *him*.

    Jack Foster:

    Both Bishop Hill and WUWT respond

    Who cares? Seriously?

  34. 34
    grypo says:

    Gavin writes:

    McIntyre then quotes an email from Osborn sent in 2006 in support of his claim that the reconstructions were finished at that point, but that is again a very strained reading. Osborn only lists the areas (and grid boxes) in which regional reconstructions might be attempted since “most of the trees lie within those boxes”. It makes no statement whatsoever about the work having already been done.

    To me, McI’s (as well as anyone who follows him) accusations have to show that Gavin is wrong here. Otherwise, his entire argument crumbles into nothing. He has an subsection in his post called “Insufficient Time” which he claims the emails show:

    They had already calculated a Yamal-Urals regional chronology: they could have used the one at hand? And why did they tell Muir Russell that couldn’t “complete” the chronology in time, when they had already done the calculation. If they felt that there were technical issues that disqualified the regional chronology calculated in 2006, why didn’t they report these problems (along with the regional chronology itself) in the article itself and/or to Muir Russell.

    I have to ask anyone defending McIntyre to prove this. Otherwise, he should withdraw his accusations, which amount to scientific malfeasance, if true.

  35. 35
    dhogaza says:

    Excuse the fractured english above, shouldn’t try to post while holding a conversation at the same time…

  36. 36
    A.Ashfield says:

    Why did the University of East Anglia FOI refuse the FOI requests for both the Yamal-Urals regional chronology and a simple list of sites used in the regional chronology, if they were publicly available as you write?

    [Response: The raw data is and was available, and if anyone wants to put a group of them together they can. FOI exempts 'work in progress' and so scientists don't have to tell people exactly what they are working on and what the results are before they have finished. Remember this is unpublished work, and I can't think of anything more likely to turn academics off the whole idea of FOI than if competitors were able to get their latest data or measurements before the originators were able to publish them. - gavin]

  37. 37
    chris says:

    Question. What is meant by the term “regional chronology”?

    I can imagine that a local chronology might be established from an overlap of distinct tree ring patterns in fossil trees of overlapping ages. If the tree ring record within this chronology satisfies particular properties (concordance with an independent validated measure of temperature over a “training” period), a local temperature reconstruction might be established.

    Several local temperature reconstructions might be combined to determine a regional temperature reconstruction.

    But what does a “regional chronology” mean? If we want a “regional temperature reconstruction” what’s the point of a “regional chronology”, when it seems to make more sense to combine local temperature reconstructions from local chronologies to generate a regional temp reconstruction?

    [Response:As used by Briffa et al., (2008), the term basically refers to the result of fitting a regional curve to the tree ring series of a given species over some regional area (of typically several hundred miles in linear extent). That is, the expected ring response for each year, each tree core, is determined by the group (= "regional" = group central tendency) response of all the cores in the region (dozens to hundreds of tree cores). The deviation from that expectation, for each individual ring, is then computed and all such are then averaged over all the trees at a particular site (not region), to give the estimate of the climate anomaly at that site for that year (after calibration with the closest climate station or estimated climate grid box). In other words, it refers to the fact that the expected response of any given tree ring is derived from all the trees in some larger regional area.--Jim]

  38. 38
    Unsettled Scientist says:

    I don’t think I’ve heard of McIntyre before, certainly I’ve never paid attention to him, but now I know a bit more about Yamal, Siberia and regional reconstructions. Briffa 1998 keeps coming up, so I picked up the PDF here and I’ll have to digest this paper some point soon. I should probably read through Briffa’s online response too.

    Thanks for the signal, I’m leaving the noise behind.

  39. 39
    Hank Roberts says:

    > if competitors were able to get their latest data or measurements
    > before the originators were able to publish them

    Not “if” !

    The mining/fossil fuel industry can and does get such data
    in the US, for federally funded research — they got a
    court order allowing them to do so.

    They’ve worked to suppress publication of scientific work
    embarrassing to the industry — for years.

    In recent news:

    “… lawyers representing the Mining Awareness Resource Group, which works on behalf of the mining industry, sent letters to a number of scientific journals, including Occupational and Environmental Medicine and The Annals of Occupational Hygiene, suggesting they “reconsider” publication of articles submitted by the National Cancer Institute or the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health on the Diesel Exhaust in Miners Study …
    … the most recent effort by the mining industry to derail and delay this $11.5 million publicly-funded study of the relationship between exposure to high levels of diesel exhaust that occur in and around mines and lung cancer. It began in mid-1990s ….”
    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/03/13/442106/war-on-science/

    Remember: Climate Science Legal Defense Fund

  40. 40
    chris says:

    Salamano, it’s not easy to see what McIntyre “is trying to show”…. if he doesn’t actually knuckle down and publish something. Otherwise it looks like yet another episode of rabble-rousing. All the things that you suggest he might be “trying to show…” are pretty meaningless if he doesn’t actually do some science and publish it. [moderator's note: that rant was moved to the 'borehole']

  41. 41
    Phil Clarke says:

    You’re clearly right about Watts and his leading of the Two Minute Hate against Professor Mann. The wee small problem being that every time he puts finger to keyboard Watts merely reveals the depth of his ignorance. Take this double swipe at Mann and Hansen on the occasion of Dr Hansen presenting to the AGU on climate sensitivity

    Hansen makes a bold statement that he has empirically derived CO2 sensitivity of our global climate system. I had to chuckle though, about the claim “Paleo yields precise result”. Apparently Jim hasn’t quite got the message yet that Michael Mann’s paleo results are, well, dubious, or that trees are better indicators of precipitation than temperature.

    That’s right, Watts can’t tell the difference between a reconstruction going back 2,000 years and the Pliocene, still this unqualified blogger feels entitled to snigger at professional scientists.

    And this buffoon is the proprietor of the leading ‘sceptical’ website ….

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2008/12/21/jim-hansens-agu-presentation-hes-nailed-climate-forcing-for-2x-co2/

  42. 42
    Mike Roddy says:

    Thanks for the housekeeping here, Gavin. Watts has already been thoroughly discredited through continued post-BEST flogging of his Temperature Station Project, while Lomborg, Lindzen, Michaels etc. have been shown to be empty vessels.

    I’m with Scott Mandia in believing that the time is right for serious and concerted pushback against the deniers, who continue to muddle the conversation on Fox and elsewhere. Millions of Americans still believe them. This pushback could take the form of defamation suits, but a comprehensive media campaign might accomplish more. Scientists such as yourself will need boots on the ground, willing to confront editorial boards and television station advertisers. The deniers are in retreat, and it’s time to press the advantage. If scientists would rather do something else,

    [Response:You mean, like say, doing science Mike?--Jim]

    you need to find informed and determined troops.

  43. 43
    Jeff Id says:

    [edit]

    You know the lack of disclosure of data not used, is nearly equivalent to the regression methods which automatically reject data not preferred. The mere fact that the reconstruction with ALL of the data wasn’t published is not enough to counter the obvious possibility of pre-selection.

    [Response: In any statistical analysis there is always a possibility of pre-selection to get a signal, or the possibility of trying different combinations until the signal disappears depending on what the conscious or unconscious bias might be. Yet the scientific literature is not full of people saying that other authors are deceptive or guilty of misconduct because they got a different result. No one can ever prove that they didn't do a calculation, and ever more insistent demands that they must, are pointless. McIntyre is dead wrong here - both in his conclusions and his conduct. - gavin]

  44. 44
    Geoff Sherrington says:

    Thank you for your hard work and explanations. I’ve blogged on Climate Audit’s latest, but my contribution was mostly a copy of an email between Ed Cook and Keith Briffa. How can you accuse me of being a bad person by repeating what is now in the public domain?
    Incidentally, I would not call a person who freely posts his moderately complex working code for others to use a “rent-seeker.”
    The bottom lines are twofold, a. what are the regional recorded thermometer temperatures used for calibration at Yamal and elsewhere discussed within 400 km? b. which tree ring records, once processed (as is on the record), were rejected for public/scientific presentation and for what reasons?

  45. 45
    cbone says:

    Gavin,

    It is so cute to see you in full damage control spin mode. Don’t get too dizzy with your spinning.

    Cbone

  46. 46
    Steve Fish says:

    Re: Jeff Id — 11 May 2012 @ 5:58 PM, currently at #43. \

    In science the way in which specific analyses and conclusions are challenged is to take the raw data and make ones own analysis and conclusion. This would include the decision of what raw data to include or reject. Redoing someone else’s analysis accepts their methods and just checks their math, a trivial pursuit, while doing ones own analysis checks everything. In my area I would additionally collect a new data set to do this, but I realize that climate data is a bit more expensive to generate

    So, your and/or McIntyre should make your own analysis from the raw data, which I believe is readily available, and then make your complaint with a published paper for support. Otherwise, you are just another science denialist pissing in the wind. Steve

  47. 47
    Steve Metzler says:

    @caerbannog (#18)

    Not only did McIntyre base his red noise simulations on data with climate signal in it, but he also way over-cooked the red noise. He used ARFIMA, which IIUC has a decorrelation time that is about the same as AR1 with a coefficient of .9, so: (1 + .9)/(1 – .9) = 19 years!

    This does not in any way simulate what might happen in nature with non-climatic effects on trees such as insect infestation, which is the very purpose of adding a bit of noise to the signal: to verify that your PCA can still pick out the signal. It is generally accepted that AR1(.2), with a decorrelation time of (1 + .2)/(1 – .2) = 1.5 years produces more realistic red noise. This concept is discussed here on RC in a guest post by David Ritson:

    How Red are my Proxies?

    And then, McIntyre cherry-picked the top 100 most ‘hockey stick-like’ PC1s mined out of 10,000 simulation runs (that used the aforementioned over-persistent red noise). 12 of these found their way into the Wegman Report, which is shown here to be a complete stitch-up of MBH98:

    Replication and due diligence, Wegman style

  48. 48
    Susan Anderson says:

    I’m grateful for recent insights provided by Gavin, and agree with the person who suggested WWGS as a technique: “What would Gavin say” (h/t Radge Havers)

    I’m not in the least bit angry. I probably should be, and I know people who are, but anger is not a productive emotion. This kind of stuff is best dealt with in world-weary way. I know why it happens, and I can see how people convince themselves that they are correct, but getting angry just inflames the situation. The ironies here are more than a little amusing though – and if it wasn’t for the fact that good people are being falsely maligned, I would just spend my time pointing them out. – gavin]

    No to mention the presence of real scientific looksee.

  49. 49
    Shelama says:

    Reading this and following casually the this FOI strategy a bit, it’s easy to be dismissive of McIntyre, et.al. Including agenda, methods, conclusions, message dissemination, etc. Is there anything in law, now or plausibly in the future, that could put reasonable legal contraints on what clearly is an intrusive, political abuse and subversion of an important procedure and safeguard (FOI)?

  50. 50
    Mike Roddy says:

    In response to Jim, yeah, like doing science- but I did not mean to show any disrespect. Slogging it out in public is not for everyone.


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