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Dummies guide to the latest “Hockey Stick” controversy

Filed under: — gavin @ 18 February 2005 - (Français)

by Gavin Schmidt and Caspar Amman

Due to popular demand, we have put together a ‘dummies guide’ which tries to describe what the actual issues are in the latest controversy, in language even our parents might understand. A pdf version is also available. More technical descriptions of the issues can be seen here and here.

This guide is in two parts, the first deals with the background to the technical issues raised by McIntyre and McKitrick (2005) (MM05), while the second part discusses the application of this to the original Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998) (MBH98) reconstruction. The wider climate science context is discussed here, and the relationship to other recent reconstructions (the ‘Hockey Team’) can be seen here.

NB. All the data that were used in MBH98 are freely available for download at (and also as supplementary data at Nature) along with a thorough description of the algorithm.

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The global cooling myth

Filed under: — group @ 14 January 2005 - (Français)

Every now and again, the myth that “we shouldn’t believe global warming predictions now, because in the 1970’s they were predicting an ice age and/or cooling” surfaces. Recently, George Will mentioned it in his column (see Will-full ignorance) and the egregious Crichton manages to say “in the 1970’s all the climate scientists believed an ice age was coming” (see Michael Crichton’s State of Confusion ). You can find it in various other places too [here, mildly here, etc]. But its not an argument used by respectable and knowledgeable skeptics, because it crumbles under analysis. That doesn’t stop it repeatedly cropping up in newsgroups though.

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Is Climate Modelling Science?

Filed under: — gavin @ 12 January 2005

At first glance this seems like a strange question. Isn’t science precisely the quantification of observations into a theory or model and then using that to make predictions? Yes. And are those predictions in different cases then tested against observations again and again to either validate those models or generate ideas for potential improvements? Yes, again. So the fact that climate modelling was recently singled out as being somehow non-scientific seems absurd.
par Gavin Schmidt (traduit par Gilles Delaygue)

A première vue, cela semble une question étrange. Est-ce-que la science n’est pas précisément la quantification d’observations dans une théorie ou un modèle, et ensuite son utilisation pour faire des prédictions ? Oui. Et est-ce-que ces prédictions de différents cas sont ensuite confrontées, maintes fois, aux observations, afin soit de valider ces modèles ou bien de faire émerger des idées d’amélioration ? Oui, encore une fois. Ainsi la mise à l’index récente de la modélisation climatique comme quelque chose de non scientifique semble absurde.


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How do we know that recent CO2 increases are due to human activities?

Filed under: — eric @ 22 December 2004 - (Svenska) (Español) (Français)

Note:This is an update to an earlier post, which many found to be too technical. The original, and a series of comments on it, can be found here. See also a more recent post here for an even less technical discussion.

Over the last 150 years, carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations have risen from 280 to nearly 380 parts per million (ppm). The fact that this is due virtually entirely to human activities is so well established that one rarely sees it questioned. Yet it is quite reasonable to ask how we know this.

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Just what is this Consensus anyway?

Filed under: — group @ 22 December 2004 - (Français)

We’ve used the term “consensus” here a bit recently (see our earlier post on the subject), without ever really defining what we mean by it. In normal practice, there is no great need to define it – no science depends on it. But it’s useful to record the core that most scientists agree on, for public presentation. The consensus that exists is that of the IPCC reports, in particular the working group I report (there are three WG’s. By “IPCC”, people tend to mean WG I). Fortunately that report is available online for all to read at It’s a good idea to realise that though the IPCC report contains the consensus, it didn’t form it. The IPCC process was supposed to be – and is – a summary of the science (as available at the time). Because they did their job well, it really is a good review/summary/synthesis.

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