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Hey Ya! (mal)

Filed under: — group @ 30 September 2009

Interesting news this weekend. Apparently everything we’ve done in our entire careers is a “MASSIVE lie” (sic) because all of radiative physics, climate history, the instrumental record, modeling and satellite observations turn out to be based on 12 trees in an obscure part of Siberia. Who knew?

Indeed, according to both the National Review and the Daily Telegraph (and who would not trust these sources?), even Al Gore’s use of the stair lift in An Inconvenient Truth was done to highlight cherry-picked tree rings, instead of what everyone thought was the rise in CO2 concentrations in the last 200 years.

Al Gore apparently confusing a CO2 curve for a tree

Who should we believe? Al Gore with his “facts” and “peer reviewed science” or the practioners of “Blog Science“? Surely, the choice is clear….

Yamal sub-fossil larch trees in river sedimentMore seriously, many of you will have noticed yet more blogarrhea about tree rings this week. The target de jour is a particular compilation of trees (called a chronology in dendro-climatology) that was first put together by two Russians, Hantemirov and Shiyatov, in the late 1990s (and published in 2002). This multi-millennial chronology from Yamal (in northwestern Siberia) was painstakingly collected from hundreds of sub-fossil trees buried in sediment in the river deltas. They used a subset of the 224 trees they found to be long enough and sensitive enough (based on the interannual variability) supplemented by 17 living tree cores to create a “Yamal” climate record.

A preliminary set of this data had also been used by Keith Briffa in 2000 (pdf) (processed using a different algorithm than used by H&S for consistency with two other northern high latitude series), to create another “Yamal” record that was designed to improve the representation of long-term climate variability.

Since long climate records with annual resolution are few and far between, it is unsurprising that they get used in climate reconstructions. Different reconstructions have used different methods and have made different selections of source data depending on what was being attempted. The best studies tend to test the robustness of their conclusions by dropping various subsets of data or by excluding whole classes of data (such as tree-rings) in order to see what difference they make so you won’t generally find that too much rides on any one proxy record (despite what you might read elsewhere).


So along comes Steve McIntyre, self-styled slayer of hockey sticks, who declares without any evidence whatsoever that Briffa didn’t just reprocess the data from the Russians, but instead supposedly picked through it to give him the signal he wanted. These allegations have been made without any evidence whatsoever.

McIntyre has based his ‘critique’ on a test conducted by randomly adding in one set of data from another location in Yamal that he found on the internet. People have written theses about how to construct tree ring chronologies in order to avoid end-member effects and preserve as much of the climate signal as possible. Curiously no-one has ever suggested simply grabbing one set of data, deleting the trees you have a political objection to and replacing them with another set that you found lying around on the web.

The statement from Keith Briffa clearly describes the background to these studies and categorically refutes McIntyre’s accusations. Does that mean that the existing Yamal chronology is sacrosanct? Not at all – all of the these proxy records are subject to revision with the addition of new (relevant) data and whether the records change significantly as a function of that isn’t going to be clear until it’s done.

What is clear however, is that there is a very predictable pattern to the reaction to these blog posts that has been discussed many times. As we said last time there was such a kerfuffle:

However, there is clearly a latent and deeply felt wish in some sectors for the whole problem of global warming to be reduced to a statistical quirk or a mistake. This led to some truly death-defying leaping to conclusions when this issue hit the blogosphere.

Plus ça change…

The timeline for these mini-blogstorms is always similar. An unverified accusation of malfeasance is made based on nothing, and it is instantly ‘telegraphed’ across the denial-o-sphere while being embellished along the way to apply to anything ‘hockey-stick’ shaped and any and all scientists, even those not even tangentially related. The usual suspects become hysterical with glee that finally the ‘hoax’ has been revealed and congratulations are handed out all round. After a while it is clear that no scientific edifice has collapsed and the search goes on for the ‘real’ problem which is no doubt just waiting to be found. Every so often the story pops up again because some columnist or blogger doesn’t want to, or care to, do their homework. Net effect on lay people? Confusion. Net effect on science? Zip.

Having said that, it does appear that McIntyre did not directly instigate any of the ludicrous extrapolations of his supposed findings highlighted above, though he clearly set the ball rolling. No doubt he has written to the National Review and the Telegraph and Anthony Watts to clarify their mistakes and we’re confident that the corrections will appear any day now…. Oh yes.

But can it be true that all Hockey Sticks are made in Siberia? A RealClimate exclusive investigation follows:

We start with the original MBH hockey stick as replicated by Wahl and Ammann:

Hmmm… neither of the Yamal chronologies anywhere in there. And what about the hockey stick that Oerlemans derived from glacier retreat since 1600?

Nope, no Yamal record in there either. How about Osborn and Briffa’s results which were robust even when you removed any three of the records?

Osborn and Briffa (2006) Supplemental Material

Or there. The hockey stick from borehole temperature reconstructions perhaps?

No. How about the hockey stick of CO2 concentrations from ice cores and direct measurements?

Err… not even close. What about the the impact on the Kaufman et al 2009 Arctic reconstruction when you take out Yamal?

Oh. The hockey stick you get when you don’t use tree-rings at all (blue curve)?


No. Well what about the hockey stick blade from the instrumental record itself?

And again, no. But wait, maybe there is something (Update: Original idea by Lucia)….


One would think that some things go without saying, but apparently people still get a key issue wrong so let us be extremely clear. Science is made up of people challenging assumptions and other peoples’ results with the overall desire of getting closer to the ‘truth’. There is nothing wrong with people putting together new chronologies of tree rings or testing the robustness of previous results to updated data or new methodologies. Or even thinking about what would happen if it was all wrong. What is objectionable is the conflation of technical criticism with unsupported, unjustified and unverified accusations of scientific misconduct. Steve McIntyre keeps insisting that he should be treated like a professional. But how professional is it to continue to slander scientists with vague insinuations and spin made-up tales of perfidy out of the whole cloth instead of submitting his work for peer-review? He continues to take absolutely no responsibility for the ridiculous fantasies and exaggerations that his supporters broadcast, apparently being happy to bask in their acclaim rather than correct any of the misrepresentations he has engendered. If he wants to make a change, he has a clear choice; to continue to play Don Quixote for the peanut gallery or to produce something constructive that is actually worthy of publication.

Peer-review is nothing sinister and not part of some global conspiracy, but instead it is the process by which people are forced to match their rhetoric to their actual results. You can’t generally get away with imprecise suggestions that something might matter for the bigger picture without actually showing that it does. It does matter whether something ‘matters’, otherwise you might as well be correcting spelling mistakes for all the impact it will have.

So go on Steve, surprise us.

Update: Briffa and colleagues have now responded with an extensive (and in our view, rather convincing) rebuttal.

759 Responses to “Hey Ya! (mal)”

  1. 1
    Sean says:

    I love this blog, but I have to say that the dripping sarcasm and condescension evident in your tone here does the world of true science no favors when it comes to the public. I understand the frustration, but we can never give pseudo-scientists a toe-hold, especially an emotional one.

  2. 2
    Steve Missal says:

    This is a recurrent theme with the McIntyres of the world. I just read a column this morning by George Will in our daily rag, the Arizona Republic (Phoenix) that represents another public personality weighing in on something about which they have zero expertise. He also lets fly with sly innuendo and barely disguised ridicule that he feels towards climate change proponents, and you know that the layman, upon reading this, will not understand the absolute lack of credentials and understanding on the part of Mr. Will. I guess I am still amazed that people who seem to have at least the ability to write whole sentences, drive cars and operate cell phones lack the insight to go the simple next step of actually reading and understanding the current research and literature ‘out there’, as in sites like RealClimate. I think what most bothers me with these naysayers is the sarcasm and arrogance with which they address both the issue of climate change and the scientists working so diligently to find out what the reality of the situation is. I would love to have Mr. Will actually engage in a dialogue on this site with some of you all…in fact, consider this a public and direct invitation to do so, Mr. Will.

  3. 3
    Tom P says:

    Reports of the death of Biffra’s hockey stick have been much exaggerated.

    Steve McIntyre actually dealt the deathblow to his own analysis when he graphed the live tree data in the Briffa/H&S set with his preferred Schweingruber alternative. McIntyre’s alternative was dominated by trees much too short to detect any centennial trend, as I pointed out to him.

    Here is what I hope is close to the final exchange at Climate Audit, for the benefit of those who don’t visit often:

    Steve McIntyre:
    “However, I disagree that the trees in the CRU archive are “much longer-lived”, other than the trees selected for the modern comparison.”

    Tom P:
    “But the modern comparison was the subject of your original sensitivity analysis that was supposed to have broken the Yamal hockeystick!

    “All you have done is inject noise into the Biffra/H&S series by adding in much shorter lived trees. This also explains why the Schweingruber series did not well correlate with the instrumental temperature.”

    I wonder how Steve is now feeling with all the attention he is getting. Hubris might describe it.

  4. 4
    Greg says:

    >I love this blog, but I have to say that the dripping sarcasm and
    >condescension evident in your tone here does the world of true
    >science no favors when it comes to the public. I understand the
    >frustration, but we can never give pseudo-scientists a toe-hold,
    >especially an emotional one.

    Are you kidding? The attitude is absolutely necessary. Are you proposing that cranks and crackpots are put on the same pedestal as real science? To treat them in any other way makes them seem more important/accurate than they actually are. Especially when you see how the data clearly do not match the assertion, and the hypocrisy of claiming a conspiracy around cherry-picked data, when that claim is the one based on cherry-picked data.

  5. 5
    Pete says:

    What do you think of Oppo, Rosenthal and Linsley’s temperature reconstruction using sea surface temperatures from the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool? They found that sea surface temperatures during the Medieval Warm Period are approximately equal to today’s temperatures. What reconstructions do you think are more accurate, land based or sea based? It would seem to me that sea based temperature reconstructions would be more accurate because 75 percent of the earth is covered in water, but that is just a guess. Any thoughts?

    [Response: Its a nice paper. The conclusion that certain regions were similarly warm (i.e. comparable to late 20th century) during medieval times is uncontroversial (for example, this is true w/ the Obsorn and Briffa, 2006 study mentioned in the main article). Other evidence indicates that the eastern and central tropical Pacific, by contrast, was quite cold at that time. Such an enhanced east-west temperature gradient across the tropical Pacific during medieval times is suggestive of a La Nina type pattern, something that too has been discussed in the recent past. Stay tuned for more on that theme in the near future. – mike]

  6. 6
    Stephen says:

    There is a notable contrast between Professor Briffa’s measured and dignified response, which acknowledges that Mr. McIntyre’s work merits further investigation, and the vituperative tone of this piece which does the latter little credit.

    [Response: You should note that we specifically welcome, nay encourage, further work on climate proxies. Our objection is to the exaggerations and the unfounded accusations of wrong-doing that permeate the discussion of these issues. – gavin]

  7. 7

    Mixing up Mann’s Hockey Stick with Gore’s Cherry Picker moment re: CO2 projections just shows how shallow and lacking in curiosity this group really is.

  8. 8
    FredB says:

    If you want to cut McIntyre’s feet out from under him then all you have to do is release the raw data and the processing code. Until you do this he will always appear to have a convincing case.

    I really can’t see why you don’t undertake this simple and devastating step.

    [Response: All of the data and models for any of our recent papers are online and downloadable by anyone. You must have us confused with someone else. – gavin]

  9. 9
    John says:

    The comments regarding George Will are accurate. He is not a scientist and for him to comment on the science is wrong.

    Let’s use the same standard for Al Gore.

    [Response: Talking about science is not the problem. More people should be encouraged to do it. The big difference is that Al Gore actually asks scientists about the science beforehand. – gavin]

  10. 10
    Mark says:

    Hmm, Sean.

    I take it you’ve popped along to Monkton’s blog at Bishop Hill to tell him off about his dripping sarcasm, condescension and language?

    How about ClimateAudit?

    What about WUWT?

    Of course, Orlowski doesn’t let there be any feedback on his climate stories because he doesn’t like to be shown how wrong he is, but you can still mail him too about his language and phraseology.

  11. 11
    Jonas N says:

    What is the message here? Regarding Briffa’s Yamal-chronology:

    Are you saying that there likely was a sharp shift uppwards in 20th century temperaturs on the Yamal peninsula? Or do you think that this assertion may be questionalbe?

    [Response: All assertions are questionable (of course). That’s why you try and use as much information as possible from as many different sources as possible so that conclusions are not dependent on any one piece of the puzzle. – gavin]

  12. 12

    What is the truth behind the claim that Briffa’s data was not made publicly available until he was forced to make it available?

  13. 13
    Mark says:

    “[Response: All of the data and models for any of our recent papers are online and downloadable by anyone. You must have us confused with someone else. – gavin]”

    I suspect you give Fred too much credit: he doesn’t care to check, even if he doesn’t know at the moment. And it’s fairly likely he knows he’s telling porkies anyway, but this doesn’t matter to him.

  14. 14
    John says:


    This is not sarcasm, but rather a serious question –
    Which scientists does Al Gore speak to in forming his opinions?

    [Response: He has a pretty wide network and has had from before he was VP. He’s been quite interested in stuff we’ve been doing on interactions between air pollution and climate for instance. – gavin]

  15. 15

    Perhaps we are missing the psychological forest in these trees of denial.

    It is strangely fascinating how humans can wrangle through such contorted thinking. How is it possible that we can so easily nurture denial, use pseudo logic to dismiss logic, manufacture skepticism, and generally try to defeat science?

    It is as if a ranting, delusional, maniac interrupts our work – we protect our field and spend time describing their craziness… eventually we need to move beyond defending ourselves and ask why and how this kind of thinking and behavior is so common.

    The risk is in moving the science exploration from the external, to the internal. Perhaps not now on this blog, but examining the reasons for such common human limitations should not be ignored. Thanks for taking the first steps in defining the problem.

  16. 16
    thomas hine says:

    re Tom P:

    What if (using similar logic) you only use instrumental temperature stations with 100 years of data or more to construct the instrumental temperature record. Recent warming marginalized indeed (even with most of the long records missing huge chunks of 1920-1940s data)!

    The defense (apparently) for not doing this is robustness (GISS). The problem in this case (dendrochronologies) and the temperature record is how to handle the fusion of “data” to make it “complete.” ASSUMPTIONS are used in parsing, etc.

    “Curiously no-one has ever suggested simply grabbing one set of data, deleting the trees you have a political objection to and replacing them with another set that you found lying around on the web.” BE CAREFUL OF THE VICE VERSA HERE – there ARE problems with all of your graphical defences, but by the time they are examined in depth, the audience is all but asleep.

  17. 17
    PaulC says:

    OK but I am troubled – I am a supporter of this site but I am a layman. I regularly debate issues with skeptics and rely on comments from the folks here to defend my position – mostly successfully I might add.

    I do read (because they are often thrown at me) comments from the other side of the debate yet when I posted, what I thought was a reasonable request for some response to this latest attack, my post did not even appear! Why not?

    I am regularly questioned by folks as to whether the scientists leading the ‘alarmist view’ (as they call it) are hiding key data. I have to say I think they have a point and this latest episode does not help our case.

    I simply do not see why any data or methodology should be withheld from wider scrutiny unless you have something to hide and I find it deeply unnerving.

    We desperately need to get the wider public more onside with the the threats of climate change but equally the science needs to made open and accessible. Let the skeptics verify it in all its glory then they might actually shut up. Why are we hiding the facts?

    [Response: No one is hiding the facts. There is abundant data available for anyone who cares to look. Is it absolutely complete? No. Could it be better? Yes. Will it ever be so complete that the skeptics will be happy? No. Because you can always ask for more. People that have no trust in anything we say will never be satisified with any degree of openness. – gavin]

  18. 18
    Mathias says:

    You should take a look at the book Idiot “America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free” (ISBN 9780767926140) by Charles P. Pierce. It describes very well how science is in a crisis because in this country, everyone can be an “expert”. Which is great, unless you actually are an expert.

  19. 19
    Hank Roberts says:

    > how humans can … try to defeat science?

    Relevant, from a sociologist who understood ecology early on and has been writing cautionary pieces ever since:

    Summer 2001
    Reactions to Unwelcome Knowledge
    by William R. Catton Jr.

    “… the idea of an inexhaustibly cornucopian world remains an inordinately seductive dogma. It has been embraced in the industrial era “with almost ferocious loyalty,” according to a retired director of research for an oil company (Carr 1976, p. 252)…. “Without a steadily growing economy,” he said, “Keynesian economists … are like dogs without noses.”
    …. These faithful have supposed the finiteness of our planet poses no insoluble problems for a burgeoning population. Technology-based economic progress is, in their ideology, inherently perpetual. Together with economists’ presumed infinite substitutability of one resource for another, it ensures that growth can continue forever (Maurice and Smithson, 1984).”

  20. 20
    Nylo says:

    In his response to McIntyre, Briffa says that “We do not select tree-core samples based on comparison with climate data”.

    However I have read in RealClimate, on a post called “A New Take on an Old Millenium” from February 2006, that “They make use only of those proxy records which demonstrate a statistically significant relationship with modern instrumental temperature records”.

    How are these two statements true at the same time?

    [Response: Because they are talking about different things? The first is associated with which physical tree cores go into a particular chronology (like Yamal) which are composites of hundreds of trees. They do not pick their trees based on what the eventual chronology will look like. The second statement is with respect to a particular question relating to temperatures at multiple sites during the Medieval Climate Anomaly – what would be the point of looking at rainfall proxies? – gavin]

  21. 21
    FredB says:

    “All of the data and models for any of our recent papers are online and downloadable by anyone. You must have us confused with someone else.- gavin”

    Delighted to hear it. May I suggest that all future responses to McIntyre’s ravings should include the URL of the relevant archive. That would really help readers to judge for themselves.

  22. 22
    Paul Gosling says:

    I shouldn’t get too upset Gavin. I have come to the conclusion that you are wasting your time. There is no appetite, either amongst politicians or the public to take the necessary steps to stop climate change. I am sure we will get lots of promised action at Copenhagen, followed by a great deal of tinkering around the edges, without actually doing anything of substance. The developed world will keep on consuming and the developing world will still do all they can to catch up – you can’t blame them. Only when temperatures are up by 3 or 4 degrees will anything happen and then I think we will see a massive program of geo-engineering on the scale of what the USA did in WWII. Will it work? Who knows/cares most of us will be dead by then anyway.

  23. 23
    mike roddy says:

    This is the best smackdown of the entire denier oeuvre that I’ve ever read, Gavin, thanks.

    The humor was absolutely called for. If you got into a sober exchange of data with McIntyre, he could fool a reader who did not understand the science. Better to spank him and send him to his room.

  24. 24
    Dan Hughes says:

    Maybe I’ve missed it in the highly-technical and extremely on-point information presented in the post and comments here.

    Could someone point out the errors in the methods that Steve McIntyre has used, or in the applications of these methods.

    [Response: Hmmm. where to start? perhaps here and then here. -mike]

    McIntyre has extensive expertise and experience in statistical analysis. In what ways do his recent posts on the subject of the post here depend on subject areas other than those for which he has expertise and experience?

    Lacking any errors, or, heaven forbid, straying outside his primary areas of extensive expertise, in what ways is he contributing to the destruction of science?

    Pointers to specific examples in McIntyre’s recent posts relating to this post would be very useful.

    Thanks in advance.

  25. 25
    TCO says:

    Steve needs to drop the stream of consciousness blog-processing with all the instant hit gratification from the peanut gallery…or at least supplement it with proper PAPERS. I say this as someone MORE CONSERVATIVE than Steve, someone who would love for hoaxes to be exposed or for orthodox thinking to be strengthened…whichever way the tests come out.

    It’s not even about peer review per se. It’s about EDITORIAL review. The guy does not even write clear white papers. If Steve has something, let him write it clearly and mathematically describe the extent and show clear references and label axes and eschewing snide remarks, meanders, and the like.

    His stuff is going on a 5 year tease…since his single “real paper” (GRL05). It’s just not worth diving down the rathole one more time. If he wants to challenge the conventional thinking, FINE. But do it in a manner that makes it easy for someone to READ IT. Pairing anti-orthodox science with lazy explication is just a waste of everyone’s time. It just becomes a big social blog game.

    The guy loves to have his cake and eat it too. He will say that his blog is just doodling and a lab notebook. Then say that people should read, refernce and respond to it.

  26. 26



    “I love this blog, but I have to say that the dripping sarcasm and condescension evident in your tone here does the world of true science no favors when it comes to the public. I understand the frustration, but we can never give pseudo-scientists a toe-hold, especially an emotional one”,

    I think there are limits to tolerance, whether you are Pharyngula or RealClimate. At least RealClimate is addressing the issues raised by McIntyre and ilk rather than going after their methods, something which might be considered ad hominem, but I personally believe is legitimate. The trouble is that folks in the public and the media don’t understand that it is very difficult to establish the truth of anything, as the late Professor Feynman was fond of noting, and it takes a LOT of work. It would suffice to note that McIntyre and company have not done their homework.

    But, R.C. has the courtesy of taking their arguments at face value and dismantling them. That’s more than I would do.

  27. 27
    Jason says:

    McIntyre addresses all of the proxy studies you mentioned in a post dated September 29th, 2009.

    Why act as if was somehow unaware of (or deliberately ignoring) these studies when they are explicitly discussed on his home page?

  28. 28
    Jim Galasyn says:

    John, the difference between Gore and Will is that Gore is representing the science; Will is misrepresenting the science. Is Will incompetent/lazy, or is he willfully lying? You be the judge.

  29. 29
    Jim Galasyn says:

    TCO says: If Steve has something, let him write it clearly and mathematically describe the extent and show clear references and label axes

    TCO, if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll enjoy Tamino’s blog: Open Mind.

  30. 30
    Jack Mott says:


    That post does not address all of the proxy studies mentioned here. It fact it excludes two of them quite explicitly

  31. 31
    James Allan says:

    If McIntyre was doing serious science, he’d table his objections in a serious scientific forum. Instead, he dropped it into the middle of the denyosphere and watched as the ripples move outward. Besides the ridiculous headlines that have cropped up over the last few days (c.f. “The Day the Hockey Stick Died”) his very snide insinuations of dishonesty have snowballed to the point where you have websites like The Registry using it to call into question the entire peer-review process and by extension, anything any that any scientist has ever said (I hope the irony of that being on a technology-based website isn’t lost on them). This isn’t furthering science, it’s just muddying the waters amongst the general public. McIntyre knows exactly what he is doing and in my opinion deserved no more respect from Gavin than he got.

  32. 32

    Kudos to Briffa for having decided to “review the details of [McIntyre’s] work”.

    Is it too much to state that most of what has happened, would not have happened had the data been made available upon (first) request?

    On that topic, I believe that NASA changed its policy regarding space probes a decade ago or more, in order to avoid (crackpot) accusations of being in the business of airbrushing aliens out of the photos. That is why mission websites like MER’s _prominently_ show the just-received “raw images”, especially in the first days of the mission (please correct me if I am wrong).

    Wouldn’t it therefore make sense to apply the same rules to all just-published papers, i.e. presenting the “raw data” to the visitor, rather than simply leaving it “available for anyone who cares to look”? Especially in a field such as climate change, where any accusation/finding is bound to elicit plenty of reaction.

  33. 33
    Tim Jones says:

    Ah, the howls of the accusers that turnabout has become foul play! Good work. …not to mention that the continuing explanations of the hockey stick graphs always sorts out in the end to substantiate the alarming trends of anthropogenic climate change. Thanks for the comeback, as well as the entertaining sarcasm.

  34. 34
    Larry Saltzman says:

    Research scientists are fighting two different problems in getting the world to take action. There are obviously special interests out there prepared to spend a great deal of money to slow progress. But then there is the vexing issue of why people can’t absorb the information about global warming and take action. You all need to open a dialogue with social scientists on how people change. here is an example of the thinking going on in social sciences:

    The social organisation of denial: Understanding why we fail to act on climate change, and what we can do about that.

  35. 35
    spilgard says:

    This is one Massive Lie too many. I can’t keep up. I refuse to become righteously indignant over this latest Massive Lie because it would compromise my indignation over the GISS Massive Lie, which itself detracts from my outrage over the SST Massive Lie, which diminishes my lather over the 2nd Law Massive Lie… on and on, until I can’t even work up a decent snit over the MWP conspiracy.

    It’s no wonder that the entire world science commuity is involved in the coverup, given the sheer number of Massive Lies that have to be maintained. As a government scientist, I’m holding up my end of the conspiracy, but it’s getting harder as the annual budget shrinks. For FY10, I’m funded to tell Massive Lies only through August, after that it will have to be Small Lies or even The Truth until FY11. The real tragedy is that I don’t have a project number for conspiracy maintenance, so it ends up getting billed as Administrative Overhead.

  36. 36
    Mike G says:

    “May I suggest that all future responses to McIntyre’s ravings should include the URL of the relevant archive. That would really help readers to judge for themselves.”

    How does that help readers judge for themselves? The methods are already outlined in the papers. If you don’t understand why one method is appropriate and another isn’t, which is what it takes to judge for yourself, looking at the code isn’t going to help.

  37. 37

    RC Group,

    I am mad at you! (grin)

    When this story first broke at CA and WUWT I posted on WUWT that Mann et al. (2008) reproduced the hockey stick with and without tree rings and that all of the data and supporting materials were free to download. I thought that that was pretty clearly the death blow to the CA controversy. Of course, the thing just took off at WUWT.

    So, I have spent the past several days and many hours working on a reply that was similar to this thread but, of course, you guys beat me to it and did a much better job than I could ever have done.

    I will say that in my brief research, I think boreholes look very promising as perhaps the best temperature proxy.

    Huang, S. (2009). Brief introduction to the geothermal approach of climate reconstruction. Retrieved September 20, 2009 from Borehole Temperature and Climate Reconstruction Database:

    Huang, S. P., H. N. Pollack, and P.-Y. Shen (2008). A late quaternary climate reconstruction based on borehole heat flux data, borehole temperature data, and the instrumental record, Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L13703, doi:10.1029/2008GL034187.

    Pollock, H. (2005, December). Reconstruction of ground surface temperature history from borehole temperature profiles. Retrieved September 29, 2009, from

  38. 38
  39. 39

    @Dan Hughes,

    “McIntyre has extensive expertise and experience in statistical analysis”

    Indeed. Show me some.

  40. 40
    Mark says:

    “Wouldn’t it therefore make sense to apply the same rules to all just-published papers, i.e. presenting the “raw data” to the visitor, rather than simply leaving it “available for anyone who cares to look”?”

    No, it wouldn’t.

    Why would it?

    After all, the surfacestations whole grist was that the siting of weather stations was not condicive to direct use in climate studies.

    But the data was corrected for poor placement and other errors.

    Hence not raw.

    And how “raw” is raw anyway?

  41. 41
    The Lorax says:

    I find what is going on at CA deeply troubling. I also find it almost impossible to discern what McIntyre is actually trying to say, he needs to learn how to write an abstract and to prepare proper graphics– for example to overlay his temperature reconstruction superimposed on the traces for that **same region** derived from pervious work. Context, context, context.
    Those in denial have now somehow come to the bizarre conclusion that the Hockey Stick is broken, not b/c of problems with the MWP (i.e., the “shaft”) as originally alleged, but b/c of the “blade”? But we do not need proxy data for the “blade” do we? Have I got that much right? Just what is is point anyhow? That Briffa et al. allegedly “fiddled” the data so now all climate proxies are bunk?
    McIntyre’s initial crusade was to show that the MWP was warmer than today, and so that there is nothing to worry about interms of AGW. However, his own analysis of the Siberian data (hang on , is that just not one small portion of the globe?) shows that even if one excludes the alleged incorrect data, then his curve and that of the CRU are almost the same, and that the only differences arise in the 20th century when McINtyre’s data show cooling. To me it seems he has shot himself in the foot. So now it seems McIntyre has conveniently shifted focus from the Hockey Stick “shaft” to the “blade”, but there is not doubt as to the warming that has been observed since 1880, not only from the instrumented SAT record but numerous independent data sets as was clearly demonstrated above.

    I’m hoping that the experts here can explain something to someone not familiar with tree ring analysis. Did Briffa perhaps choose those records (as alleged) which showed warming b/c that is indeed what the regional climate was doing in the 20th century? If a proxy was not reflecting recent warming/cooling does it not call into question the validity of that particular proxy? Should the proxy be first checked to see whether or not it reflects the most recent, and observed, temperature record for that region? If not, then should it not be left out of the analysis as bad/corrupt/suspect data? Thanks in advance.

    Can someone who is an authority on this subject (hint!), please write guest editorials in the mainstream media on this matter/fiasco. Someone has to counter the steady stream of misinformation from CA, WUWT etc, this blog does that but is is a very small audience and thus does not cut it. The public is listening– just read the opines posted on AGW stories in major newspapers. I think that we scientists have too much faith in the public, when they hear McItyre’s stories in the media it becomes truth, whether it is right or wrong. McIntyre et al. could post a correction, but the seed has been sown, and it confuses people and makes them even more loathe to change. It is, alas, a very effective tool used in the industry of misinformation, denial and Mann et al. need to start putting the record straight, not just in journals, but in the mainstream media. Sorry for the verbose message, as you can see I am very disheartened.

  42. 42
    Patrik says:

    Gavin, you are a bit unclear when you answer Nylos question above.

    “They make use only of those proxy records which demonstrate a statistically significant relationship with modern instrumental temperature records”.

    You describe the context of the above as follows:

    “The second statement is with respect to a particular question relating to temperatures at multiple sites during the Medieval Climate Anomaly – what would be the point of looking at rainfall proxies?”

    Can you please explain better, because I can’t see how these two sentences are talking about the same thing.

    [Response: There are multiple stages to this whole problem. First off you need the raw data. For tree rings these come from individual trees – some living, some fossil – and in each area people will generally collect many hundreds for tree cores for analysis. Now since each tree only lives a few decades (or a couple of centuries or more if you are lucky), constructing a ‘chronology’ of what has happened in that area over a longer time period is hard. You need to find ways to join up the different individual trees in standardised way that aligns the dates and deals with any potential non-climatic trends in tree ring growth. This gets you into the RCS vs. corridor methods that are the difference between the Russians and Briffa’s treatment of the individual trees. It is at this stage that you don’t pick and choose individual trees based on how you think the final record will pan out. Once you have a standardised long chronology that tells you about tree growth in your study area, you will want to assess what it represents. Depending on your goals to start with, you might have an idea that it will be related to precipitation (if you are in an area where tree growth is constricted by water resources), or (as in Yamal) you might have an a priori expectation that it will reflect summer time temperatures. Now if you want to say something about the medieval period vs the modern at your site, then you need to check whether your chronology actually reflects local temperatures – if it does, that’s well and good. If it doesn’t then it isn’t likely to help with your comparison. – gavin]

  43. 43
    Mark says:

    “Delighted to hear it. ”

    But not so delighted that you’ll apologise for haivng made an accusation with no attempt to see if it was true.

    How very unpleasant of you Fred. You do the denialists argument a great disservice with your lazy attitude to research and scurrilous approach to instigation of rumour.

    Where’s Sean to berate you when we need him…?

    PS Gavin: “Will it ever be so complete that the skeptics will be happy? No. Because you can always ask for more.”

    See for a perennial example, the “missing link” meme for creationists to “disprove” evolution. For each missing link found, there are now two gaps created…

  44. 44
    tamino says:

    Re: #32 (Maurizio Morabito)

    Is it too much to state that most of what has happened, would not have happened had the data been made available upon (first) request?

    Do you really believe that? Do you think, if all data from every study for all time were freely and easily available, that would have stopped McIntyre from useless unfounded FUD? Or even slowed him down?

    I don’t.

  45. 45
    helvio says:

    Scientific results should not only be peer-reviewed! They should be peer-re-reviewable! If the class of scientists where you guys claim to belong decide to hide their data, and/or the algorithmic methods used to process it, then all the conclusions that you publish are not scientific! If it’s not peer-re-reviewable, then it’s as good as claiming that you have an answer to the question of the existence of God, but you do not provide the evidence.

    [Response: But of course. However replicability is not just about checking arithmetic or running turnkey code. The important things that need to be replicated are the conclusions about the real world – and that requires multiple approaches using different source data and different methodologies. It’s much better that there were two independent Greenland ice cores than it would have been if everyone was simply checking the calibration on a single mass spec. It’s better that tree rings and lake varves and ice cores and corals tell similar stories than obsessing over single chronologies. We’ve discussed this many times. – gavin]

  46. 46
    Sekerob says:

    Hey, let’s face it, the blogarrhea is caused by one more Briffacone up the wrong esophagus of the baksheesh paid mining industry employee SMcIFy paid. All the fanfare, yet the snow off expanse continues, the arctic sea ice continues several standard deviations below, and my regional weather is highly anomalous… whats more watching plants and everything else living outdoors, nature is to me in panic mode… let’s also ignore the bark beetle in the US pine forests… it’s ain’t true they say, the lobotomized.

    But, all else, reading that its really the Freemasons, Bilderbergs, the Illuminati, and hold on, Barack M. Obama the decendent of the inticrist as it was intentionally misspelled recently on a ‘humanitarian goals’ forum to get passed the word-filters.

    Lost for words.

  47. 47
    PaulC says:


    Thank you for your response – I hope you know that I have the utmost respect for your work but this chap McIntyre (who seems to me to have an unbelievably large ego) repeatedly cites instances where he cannot get the data or the methodology used. I think we have a really strong argument on Climate Change thanks to all the work you and your colleagues have done so why don’t we give him what he wants and ask him to ‘put up or shut up’?

    [Response: I think we just did. But there is a bigger issue here. Take the GISTEMP product for instance. This takes public domain data provided by the Met Services, homogenises it and makes a correction for urban warming based on nearby rural stations. The method was amply described in a number of publications and lots of intermediate data was provided through the web interface. Good right? But the descriptions of the algorithms were not enough, and a number of people complained that the full code wasn’t available and how that meant GISTEMP was somehow hiding some secret manipulations. Now the code isn’t particularly pretty but it worked and so in response to that pressure, they put the whole thing online. Finally the secrets were going to be exposed! Except that….. people looked over it briefly, there was one formatting error found, there were some half-hearted attempts to look at it…. and nothing. McIntyre et al got bored and went off to find another windmill to tilt at. And people still complain that the data and the code aren’t available. This happens because people (in general) are much keener on the political point scoring than they are in doing anything with the data. The reality is not the point. Given that I share your desire for open science and transparency, why do these antics bother me? Because it sends completely the wrong signal. These politically driven demands for more code, more data, more residuals, more notes, more background are basically insatiable and when the people that provide the most, end up being those who are attacked most viciously, it doesn’t help the cause people claim to espouse. So when you hear this demands for more openness look at what those people have done with what is already there and judge for yourself whether it is genuine or merely grandstanding. – gavin]

    [Response: Just two recent examples for how serious such claims are: it was brought to my attention that McIntyre made a big spiel out of me supposedly using a “secret” data filtering code in a Science publication, when in fact I used a publically available software package, described in the AGU newsletter Eos. When someone e-mailed me asking for this software, I pointed them to the authors of the code where they could get it (and where I got it) – and voila, that was enough for the allegation of me not providing the code… I guess next thing I will be accused of not distributing the matlab software package.
    Later, without asking me and as a clear breach of copyright, McIntyre published my own computer code used for another Science paper as if this was some kind of scoop. Yet, this code had long been freely available as supplementary online material on the website of the journal Science. -stefan]

  48. 48
    dhogaza says:

    There is a notable contrast between Professor Briffa’s measured and dignified response, which acknowledges that Mr. McIntyre’s work merits further investigation

    Uh, he points out that McI stated that his (McI’s) work merits further investigation due to possible problems.

    The actual quote from Briffa:

    I note that McIntyre qualifies the presentation of his version(s) of the chronology by reference to a number of valid points that require further investigation. Subsequent postings appear to pay no heed to these caveats.

    This is being spun now by the denialsphere to mean that Briffa’s saying McI raises points regarding Briffa’s work that require further investigation. Briffa said no such thing. But the spin doesn’t surprise me…

    Briffa’s being kind, actually, as he’s drawing a line between McI and the frothing mass of denialists at CA and WUWT. McI acknowledges that his versions require further investigation, i.e. McI does *not* claim that he’s “smashed the hockey stick”. Briffa notes that subsequent postings ignore the caveats and jump to the conclusion that McI’s work proves that the “hockey stick is smashed” (again!), that Mann and Briffa are guilty of scientific fraud (again!) etc.

    I admire Briffa’s being kind here but c’mon, it’s time to call a spade a spade and to quit pretending that McI’s not trying to paint a picture of fraud and an overturning of all evidence of recent, uncharacteristic warming.

    I’m glad that RC is hitting back.

  49. 49
    Richard Rosas says:

    Global Climate Change is Historical,it is nothing new to the planet. Our present Global Climate Change is uncompared to any prviously found. We are presently in an accelerated and extreme period of Change. The increase in Natural and Biological Disasters are Pandemic; with the worst yet to come.It is up to all you good folks to find out what the future has in store for our planet and how we can best prepare and Adapt to the forthcoming Change. May God have mercy on our blindness!

  50. 50
    Jerry Toman says:

    This may be slightly off-topic, and I apologize if somehow I have missed it, but, after nearly half a decade, where is the scientific community’s follow-up to “Inconvenient Truth”?

    This would be (is?) a video giving a much more scientifically rigorous depiction of the “Greenhouse Effect”. It would show the role it plays in the earth’s energy budget, and clearly illucidate what is meant by the term “forcing”. The climate models, of which it forms an integral part, could be projected first into the past (with animation) to show how it “fits” the data, and then into the future.

    It could be shown in one of PBS’s documentary series, the Discovery Channel, or, if unavailable, run as a short film in theaters, or, at least be available on U-tube.

    I would assume that it would need to break down the troposphere into 3-5 layers or zones and include an animated portrayal of the radiative and convective activity that goes on there.

    The purpose would be not only to educate the public to a much greater extent, but also to preempt attacks from the deny-o-sphere. They would be forced to say exactly which part of the model they consider to be “wrong” or otherwise disagree with.

    It might also take Al Gore out of the picture as a favorite “punching bag” for the denialist camp.

    “One picture (video) is worth a thousand words.”