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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. 301
    Franks says:

    Who was it that said that the amount of emotion expressed in support of an opinion is inversely proportional to the number of facts supporting the opinion?

    [Response: Glenn Beck? – gavin]

  2. 302
    truth says:

    Peter Williams [299]
    If you believe, as you say, that Steve McIntyre’s views are ‘complete lies and fabrications’, why don’t you specify exactly which of his claims are lies —and exactly what it is in his reasoning that’s a fabrication?
    Invective without reasoned argument = panic.
    As to the sceptic community , it does include many scientists who have hitherto been treated with respect by the international scientific community, so on what grounds do you think they have turned into ‘horse dung’?

  3. 303
    doug W says:

    Unlike many of the people posting here, I have actually cored trees and studied the rings. I did a simple study of growth rate vs. altitude for an undergraduate Alpine Ecology course. Even in that study, I used a larger sample size than Briffa did for the hockey stick portion of his Yamal series. I collected the samples myself, and yes, it took time, but in the end I felt certain my numbers could be replicated.

    I have to say, McIntyre sounds reasonable when he questions the wisdom of attaching significance to such a truncated data set, and I wonder how the work of Briffa obtained such prominence.

    If nothing else, the observations of climate audit should serve to point out that serious subjects need first class data collection before analysis and conclusions. If the data set is large, reproducible, and available, there should be fewer opportunities for this sort of second guessing.

  4. 304
    Walter Manny says:

    264. Ray, thanks for those Woodfortrees data, which are indeed fun to play with. I linked to your 1999:2009 graphs, and changed the start dates from 1999 to 2000, 2001, and then 2002. Try it if you’re curious.

    As to your point in 252 that to say “warming has stopped” is a lie, you offer as evidence that this decade’s temperatures are flat (all of them hot but one). I’m guessing you did not mean to imply that “hot” is the equivalent of “getting hotter” and might want to clarify? – Walter

  5. 305
    natural_feedback says:

    I certainly appreciate the time and effort of the RealClimate blog to educate non-expert readers on climate issues. I come to this web site to find a counter balance to various challenges to measurements and conclusions about climate. A question was raised about methodology.

    I don’t care about past ideological battles. I don’t care about the questioner’s motivation. It looks to me like an interesting and relevant question. It would be helpful to see an impartial response. Is there a website which makes a strong counter argument with facts and less passion?

  6. 306
    spilgard says:

    Re #294,
    Eli, I agree completely. Yet, we all know how the affair would play out.
    1) “Graasroots” organization covers defendant’s legal fees.
    2) Legal decision is inconclusive.
    3) Defendants bray that “warmists are so desperate that all they can do is attempt legal action to silence dissent”.

  7. 307
    John Phillips says:

    I’m usually just a lurker, but since engineers have been criticised by you wonderful scientists, I feel compelled to respond. Engineers are different than scientists because they are usually confronted with reality sooner than most scientists. This does not allow us to color the practice of our profession with our political beliefs. There are plenty of engineers on all sides of the political spectrum, but if the engineering analyses are not correct the plane doesn’t fly, bridge doesn’t stand, manufacturing process is inefficient or doesn’t work, etc. Scientists, especially academic ones have the luxury of being starry eyed and dreamy. Since their chance of humiliation is less than engineers, they tend to be more arrogant. I have worked with scientists on occasion, mainly with the development of design basis accidents for nuclear reactors. In my experience, scientists I worked with did not use theoretical statisticians to help and review their work to ensure proper sampling, and the overall set up of their design of experiments. That may be why many engineers tend to be sceptical of the climate change science.

    [Response: We’ve had tons of discussions based on generalisations about what ‘engineers’ and ‘scientists’ do or don’t do or think or don’t think. They are very rarely enlightening. – gavin]

  8. 308
    John says:

    I found your blog from a friend who follows it closely. She and I go round and round on AGW. Here is my response to her after reading this post and most of the comments:

    “I don’t think all scientists are scamming us. And all deniers don’t take their position because they are lazy and want their SUV’s – to hell with the planet, let the kids figure it out (like generations have done with other hard political problems like Social Security, etc). This “motive issue” clouds the understanding of the opposition both ways.

    As I see it:
    I hear a news report that the North Pole ice is melting. (Read AGW might be true). But then I hear a news story that some scientists have found a correlation between sun spots and Earth’s temperature. (Read, AGW probably not true). This happens back and forth a dozen times or more. To me, there is no convincing proof that it is really Man-made (just considering the news/studies that are reported/etc). Then I look at the people who are promoting each side. Al Gore – hypocrite, not a scientist, making money off of carbon credits, etc – charlatan. I’m not buying what he’s selling. Then the UN promotes the view of AGW. Another Left-leaning global body that does almost no good in the world from my perspective. Again, another strike against AGW. To me, it seems that all the front men for AGW seem to have something to gain to push their agenda (something more than saving the planet). When I hear people like the creator of The Weather Channel, former head of NASA, other smart people who have scientific degrees standing on the opposing side, I think to myself, “Well, if there are people like this who know something about something and they don’t buy it, I’m on pretty safe ground.” So at the end of the day, when there really are equally valid scientific claims (as I understand them), with equally valid scientific minds defending the claims, and I see no tangible evidence to support AGW (record cold spells, 30-40 year cycles of cold/warm/cold/warm that have been traced), I conclude someone is getting all excited for nothing. That’s how simple this gets. And yes, I know you think not all rebuttals are credible. But I don’t see Al Gore willing to debate? You even wince at watching a Fox News video. And the times when some news channel gets two opposing views represented, it generally seems like the guy who is the denier seems more level-headed to me. What am I to do.

    So standing in “a complete load of horse dung” as commenter 299 describes it, this is how simple it gets for those of us on the “outside”. I admit it’s not that scientific. But hakim’s razor works for me. The burden of proof really is on the believers in AGW to prove we have the ability to radically change the global climate in 50 years with our single-digit percentage of CO2 contribution to the atmosphere. And, as with anything else, the default position is always going to be “doubt first until evidence is convincing”. This is not the same as always asking for more data. It comes down to “common sense”. It really seems unbelievable that we humans can have such a huge impact. Can you show me how this is solidly demonstrated in any study (even with a hockey stick and where the sun spot “theory” isn’t just rejected out of hand)? I’m telling you guys, this is where most “deniers” are at. And to help with the believability issue, get the charlatans and hypocrites out of the spotlights/media and your position might have more credibility to the average Joe. When President George Bush has a more eco-friendly house on his Crawford, TX ranch than Al Gore, I don’t care how much you hate George Bush, it just makes Al Gore (and by proxy) the AGW position look laughable – and this has nothing to do with science. Sorry if this is not the blog for these comments. But it might help bring some perspective to some very intense commentary here.

  9. 309
    Tilo Reber says:

    “It goes up, not down. Thank you for playing.”

    Hmm, it’s interesting that people who voiced such strong objections to starting with a strong El Nino have no problem at all starting with a long La Nina.

    In fact, the effects on the plot of the strong El Nino and the long La Nina basically cancelled each other out. Now you have more El Nino’s than La Nina’s and you are starting with a very long La Nina. Try Gavin’s ENSO correction method and you will find that the plot is very close to flat. The question is why. The answer is given by Svensmark.

  10. 310
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    Re: 168. Thanks Gavin. I was also scratching my head seaching for a correlation..I only thing I could think that was worth a shot was imbalances in the thermocline gradient at the seabed..getting warmer and therefore less dense..lifting somewhat the water pressure on the seabed just enough to trigger tectonic activity that would previously have been held in place by heavier denser colder water. Cheers!

  11. 311
    Rene says:

    The point that still needs addressing in the wider world, is that it stands to reason that scientists in the pay of governments will tend to come up with arguments that promote the interests of government. And AGM fits this bill so perfectly – legitimising green taxes, bureaucracies (and more climatologists) galore. Certainly seems more than a coincidence. Formal peer-review is not much help here either, since this process is also politically funded. I don’t see mainstream climatology’s reputation recovering until it uses some other funding and so ceases to be politically driven.

    [Response: This is simply paranoia. Governments seem to be doing just fine at creating bureaucracies and taxing people all on their own. – gavin]

  12. 312
    Dan says:

    What I find remarkable is the contempt those who are trying to prove AGW hold those that have yet to be convinced (or denialists as you would say).


    [Response: This is completely false. We spend a huge amount of time talking to people who have questions or want to know more about this issue and have written multiple books, articles etc. to help people understand what is going on. They are a completely different group of people than those who parrot long-debunked nonsense for political purposes because they think that IR absorption of CO2 is a communist plot. People who insinuate baseless accusations of scientific misconduct based purely on their dislike of a scientific result are the ones being criticised here. Remember, ignorance is a curable disease. – gavin]

  13. 313
    Eli Rabett says:

    Let us ask a few basic questions:

    1. The “data” the tree ring samples/records, belongs to the Russians. True or false.

    2. If 1 is true, the Russians are the ones to approach for the “data”. True or false

    3. Briffa and colleagues received the “data” and used them to construct a proxy record by joining the entire series they had received from the Russians. True or false.

    4. Briffa and colleagues disclosed their methods which had previously been described in enough detail that a skilled dendrologist could duplicate them given the Russian records. True or False.

    5. If 1..4 are true, what is the “data” that McIntyre is asking for?

  14. 314

    Scott Mandia,

    Your analogy hits the nail on its head if you ask me. I have often used medical analogies as well, as I think they are both valid and easily understandable by everyone. My late brother had cancer, but that doesn’t stop me from using these analogies.

    Anthony Watts clearly has a double standard, though he probably doesn’t see it like that himself.

  15. 315
    Neil Craig says:

    “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?”

    Who indeed? Your explanation doesn’t actually mention whaat the 12 trees have to do with it. McIntyre alleges that there were 34 trees & that Mann decided to choose only 12 of them, which were atypical. [edit]

    [Response: You are extremely confused. a) this has nothing to do with Mike Mann, b) the tree cores were collected by the Russians of which these 12 were a small part, c) Briffa just reprocessed the cores the Russians gave him, d) The ’34 trees’ were collected later and come from a different location and were not part of the Russian collection, e) no-one has provided any reason why the ’12’ are special in any way other than they give a result some people don’t like, f) will more cores help improve the chronology? Probably yes. Are there more data around? Yes. Will the chronology change once they are included? Maybe or maybe not. Does McIntyre’s calculation have anything to add? No. – gavin]

  16. 316


    you should start by accepting that the last 10 years has either flattened or cooled.

    It hasn’t.

    Then you have to ask yourself if this was seen by any models? No. Then you may start to ask yourself if models can really foresee little dips? No. Is this a little dip? No, because it’s been a decade.

    Do you know what you’re talking about? No, because 10 years tells you nothing about climate, since climate is “mean regional or global weather over a period of 30 years or more” (WMO).

    So what good are models?

    Models are good for making projections if current trends continue.

    The simple fact is that temperatures have not responded in the way that pro-AGWers thought they would. Fact.

    The simple fact is that you don’t know what you’re talking about. Fact.

  17. 317


    I remain baffled by the animosity toward McIntyre here at RC.

    You remain baffled at the animosity of scientists for a guy who regularly accuses scientists of being frauds, tolerates very blatant and hostile comments to that effect on his blog, and uses his blog as his venue instead of submitting papers to peer-reviewed journals?

    Many RC regulars here simply do not understand who their friends really are.

    It sure ain’t McI.

    Thank God he is taking the time to sharpen the statistical tools. Think of it this way; he is trying to give climate science a gift. Don’t end up on the wrong side of history on this one. If he is guilty of anything, it is his passion for accuracy.

    If he is guilty of anything, it is pontificating about a subject he’s never formally studied (climatology), pushing pseudoscience as hard as he could, blatant dishonesty about real scientists, and trying to block society from dealing with one of the biggest problems it has ever faced.

  18. 318
    Don Keiller says:

    Mike, you say “Response: Forest ecosystems respond to climate forcing on multi-generational timescales. Evidence from fossil pollen, tree lines, etc. can thus in general only be used to infer climate change on multi-century timescales. They cannot be used to infer decadal timescale changes such as the anomalous warming of the past few decades.”

    Yet Esper and Schweingruber report “larger-scale patterns of treeline changes related to decadal-scale temperature variations”.

    Esper and Schweingruber (2004). Large-scale treeline changes recorded in Siberia. Geophysical Research Letters 31.

    Again this is confusing since I know that Esper is one of your co-workers.
    So do tree lines shift on centenial or decadal timescales?

    [Response: This characterization is misleading. Esper and Schweingruber were not looking at the shift of treelines in the usual sense (e.g. as determined in the more distant past by looking at relict stumps, etc.). Instead, they were looking at the modern past (20th century) where other sorts of evidence can be established to look at far more subtle shifts in the ecotomes, e.g. the germination dates of saplings, whether they were upright or not, etc. This sort of more subtle evidence cannot be extended to past centuries, hence they are unable to provide a quantitative reconstruction of past temperature in the past, and certainly don’t attempt any such thing in this paper. Moreover, even if they were able to do this, the migration of the treeline depends on factors such as permafrost distribution which is greatly influenced by winter temperatures. Tree-ring growth in these regions, however, is generally reflective of summer temperatures. So even if a quantitative reconstruction from treelines were available, it wouldn’t even be comparable in terms of the seasonality reflected by the record. In short, there is nothing there that challenges the quantitative climate reconstructions provided by tree-rings. Take your talking points elsewhere. -mike]

  19. 319
    Paul A says:

    The way the denialists/pseudo-sceptics have leapt upon and have championed these baseless accusations demonstrates yet again that they have given up on science and are now simply looking for evidence of a conspiracy. That is all their case now rests on.

  20. 320
    Tkearney says:

    For an deconstruction of McIntyre’s analysis and McKitrick’s Da Vinci Code-style claims, read something from actual working climate scientists

    Um, Einstein was not an ‘actual working’ physicist…Copernicus was a priest and ran a mint…

    [Response: … from which we should conclude what exactly? – gavin]

  21. 321
    Tkearney says:

    from which we should conclude what exactly? – gavin]

    That innovations can and do come from outside the guild.

    [Response: Fine. But that doesn’t mean that every idea from outside has merit. Quoting Carl Sagan (almost) “They may have laughed at Galileo, but they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.” Ideas and contributions have to evaluated on their merits, not from where they come from. – gavin]

  22. 322
    Chris says:

    It has (flattened). See my post at #277 which I think people have missed as it took some time to appear.
    10 years does tell you something about climate. It gives you exactly a third of the data for your thirty year averages. If we get to half the data and the trend (ENSO-adjusted) is still flat, then it will tell you something more:
    “The simulations rule out (at the 95[per cent] level) zero trends for intervals of 15 yr or more, suggesting that an observed absence of warming of this duration is needed to create a discrepancy with the expected present-day warming rate.”
    I suspect that less than 15 yrs is needed to create a discrepancy with the warming expected by models using higher climate sensitivities (and producing the more “scary” scenarios).

  23. 323
    Rene says:

    I earlier commented on the notion of a link between political funding of science and peer-reviewing, and the findings of such science tending to serve as support for political expansionism – additional taxes and bureaucracies.

    Gavin: This is simply paranoia. Governments seem to be doing just fine at creating bureaucracies and taxing people all on their own.

    Yes, but obviously the more excuses they find, the more they’ll get away with.

    I think, Gavin, you are burying your head in the sand here. Effective climate science peer-review is largely in tatters, thanks to the bias of eg Nature and Science, [edit] The price science pays for political funding, will always be to favour politically correct answers.

    [Response: Absolute rubbish. Look at the grants being funded in climate science by NSF (all of which are listed in the public domain), perhaps you could discern the ‘political correctness’ in explorations of atmospheric dynamics, interpretations of ice cores, ocean mixing processes, satellite calibrations and the like. Instead of just asserting that there is a bias in funding that twists results, try actually demonstrating it with real examples. Until that happens (and I doubt it will), your assertions are pretty much worthless. – gavin]

  24. 324
    Chris says:

    p.s. note i was replying to the post from 6.27am (it has now become #316)

  25. 325
    Tkearney says:

    [Response: Fine. But that doesn’t mean that every idea from outside has merit. Quoting Carl Sagan (almost) “They may have laughed at Galileo, but they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.” Ideas and contributions have to evaluated on their merits, not from where they come from. – gavin


    True; that’s why I read the ‘skeptics’ and have come to see that there is much there besides “DaVinci Code conspiracies’

    [Response: Maybe you’d care to enlighten us? A single new idea perhaps that isn’t just the reworking well-known issue that has been worked on for years? – gavin]

  26. 326
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Horse puckey! Hadcrut shows 1999-2009 with about the same slope as 1979-1989, and Gistemp shows a rate closer to 1989-1999. This likely indicates that the far North has warmed more than the rest of the hemisphere–an observation consistent with the rapid ice melt we’ve seen in the last 10 years.

    Your contention that 10 years of data gets you a third of the way there is utterly ignorant. Uncertainties in information metrics like likelihood. AIC, etc. scale exponentially with the amount of data. And since the current decade shows a warming trend, your reference to 15 years without warming is a contrary to fact supposition.

  27. 327
    Jim Eager says:

    Chris @320: “It has (flattened).”

    No it has not, no matter how many times you say it has.

    The slope has reduced, but ten years is not enough to determine a _climate_ trend.

    “10 years does tell you something about climate.”

    No it does not, no matter how many times you say it does.

    “It gives you exactly a third of the data for your thirty year averages.”

    You have no clue.

  28. 328
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Tkearney says, “Um, Einstein was not an ‘actual working’ physicist…Copernicus was a priest and ran a mint…”

    So, is your ignorance finite or unbounded? Einstein worked in the patent office AS a physicist. His technical expertise was why they hired him. And during the evenings, he was actively involved in theoretical research. As to Copernicus, look at the dates–there were no scientists during his life. Science dates from roughly 1600, the work of Galileo and Bacon.

    In science, expertise matters. That’s why students study 10 years to get a PhD, spend another 5-10 years in post docs and only then starta career as scientists.

  29. 329
    Jim Eager says:

    John @309: None of your points have anything to do with the science. Not a one. This is a science site. If you have questions about the science, this is the agood place to ask them. If they are not about the science, you might want to try other places.

  30. 330
    Jim Eager says:

    Dan @313: The contenpt is not for those who are merely not convinced, it is for those who make up their own facts and deliberately fabricate and spread disinformation.

    You would do well to learn the difference.

  31. 331
    Tkearney says:

    Ray Ladbury wrote: Einstein worked in the patent office AS a physicist

    Yes, the physics of patents. Yes, he had the training. But he was from outside the guild.

    [Response: Oddly enough Einstein published all of his research in the technical literature, didn’t go around implying that Bohr and Lorenz were frauds, or that Fitzgerald was guilty of scientific misconduct, made constructive improvements to theory and dominated the research landscape of the field for decades. You were saying? – gavin ]

    I don’t think science was invented in the 1600s, was it?

    Fact is, my post was to simply point out that people outside the guild can contribute to the debate and are not necessarily crackpots. As you might be aware, it was economists who were outside the mainstream who overthrew the 1970s belief in big models which were garbage in/garbage out. But those models were inside the guild (at the time) and so generated plenty of grants, peer reviewd articles and prizes (including Nobel Memorial Prizes).

  32. 332
    Ray Ladbury says:

    John@309 First, what the hell are you doing getting your news on science from mainstream media. They’re as ignorant as you are!! Talk about the blind leading the blind.

    What matters, John, is what the vast majority of the scientists actively working in climate science think. Fully 90% of scientists actively publishing in climate science say the globe is warming and that we’re behind it. This is not controversial. As far as science goes, there is no other side. If you decide to get more educated, you can look at how often these guys publish and how many times their work is cited. Google Scholar and this site

    are invaluable. This isn’t beyond your ability to comprehend. Listen to the real scientists, the real experts, the real professionals, try to learn enough of the science so you understand the basics, and you will see why scientists are concerned.

  33. 333
    Hugh Laue says:

    For the skeptics posting here:

    Read Greg Craven’s book “What’s the worst that can happen?” to understand that, if your skepticism is used to justify taking NO ACTION to limit fossil fuel combustion, then essentially you are taking a bet that any damage to the short term economic health of the planet is going to be MORE SERIOUS than any damage to the health of the planet through long term climate change.

    The way I see it now (after reading Greg’s book) is that RC provides a site where those seeking a better understanding of climate science can share their insights with intelligence and respect for the scientific method and the scientists practicing it seriously (this means publishing one’s arguments in the peer reviewed literature). For them it is not really an argument about “is AGW true or false” – for them it is real and quite well understood (it appears to me). Their interest is “how is the scientific understanding progressing in narrowing the range of uncertainty in both the longer and shorter term projections, and what is most likely to unfold regionally rather than just globally?”

    So skeptics, what would convince you that your bet (the one NOT to take action now) is a high risk bet to take? It’s a bet that you have only one shot at, because if you’re wrong then it will be too late to change your bet. Will you continue to believe economists, who have a very poor track record of projecting the future, or scientists who have a very solid track record? If the world were your business, who would you consult to help you evaluate the risk that AGW might just turn out to be true and catastrophic, and potentially much worse that taking mitigating action now? As Greg asks – what is the pragmatic thing to do?

    In that light, the likes of McI’s contribution can be ignored completely.

  34. 334
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Walter Manny, As I am sure you know, a positive trend–and all trends for the current decade (1999-2009 are positive), is not “flat”. Temperatures are still rising. The only way anyone can conclude the opposite is by cherrypicking 1998-2008–and that is dishonest.

    You are placing your hope on the 2nd derivative, even though determination of the 2nd derivative with any confidence can only be done with even more data than is required for the first derivative! To try to draw conclusions about the 2nd derivative with 10 years of data is simply silly.
    (Where’s Graham Chapman when you need him (I know, I know…dead))

  35. 335
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re: the eternal scientists vs. engineers meme

    Look here:

    You will notice that there are many physicists (with no climate expertise) on the denialist petitions. These educated idjits, put the lie to any attribution of profession as an indicator of crackpotness. What matters is realizing the limitations of one’s education when it comes to fields of study well outside your expertise. This is Dunning-Kruger in action.

  36. 336
    Chris says:

    I am not engaging with those kinds of replies (8.02/8.07am.) I leave it to the objective/respectful/open-minded to read what I actually said (in relation to *ENSO-adjusted trends*, from 1999-2008) and the link that I gave.

  37. 337

    Some of the statements appearing in the Non-IPCC (2008) by S. Fred Singer (cough) include:

    The IPCC is pre-programmed to produce reports to support the hypotheses of anthropogenic warming and the control of greenhouse gases

    (IPCC) was an activist enterprise from the very beginning. Its agenda was to justify control of the emission of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide.

    From the very beginning, the IPCC was a political rather than scientific entity, with its leading scientists reflecting the positions of their governments or seeking to induce their governments to adopt the IPCC position.

    Certainly its agenda to find evidence of a human role in climate change is a major reason; its organization as a government entity beholden to political agendas is another major reason; and the large professional and financial rewards that go to scientists and bureaucrats who are willing to bend scientific facts to match those agendas is yet a third major reason.

    One can simply play devil’s advocate to quickly dismiss these claims. If there were a massive conspiracy by hundreds of climate scientists to perpetuate a global hoax and if the IPCC truly misrepresented the facts due to politics one must consider the following:

    Where are the secret emails and memos that detail this elaborate hoax? If there are hundreds of conspirators surely at least ONE communication could be found to blow this massive conspiracy out of the water. Where is this smoking gun?

    If the research from hundreds of scientists were misrepresented by the IPCC due to political considerations, where is the massive backlash by these scientists who have been “wronged”? The IPCC Fourth Assessment has been publicly available for over two years now. Why do the overwhelming majority of scientists support the IPCC findings if in fact they are not a true representation of the current science?

    The Bush Administration made it no secret that it believed global warming may not be real and that it was questionable that human activities could play a major role in climate change. How was it possible for hundreds of American scientists to get funding if the NIPCC’s claim were true that these scientists were reflecting the positions of their governments? Surely during the eight year tenure of the Bush Administration, climate change skeptics should have dominated the literature – instead the evidence that human activities were causing unprecedented global warming was cemented.

    Any reasonable person who carefully considers all the evidence must conclude that there is no conspiracy nor any real incentive to delude billions of people about climate change. To the contrary, there is a large financial incentive for the fossil fuel industry to promote the massive conspiracy argument because to combat climate change humans must reduce the use of fossil fuels.

  38. 338
    Chris says:

    Just in relation to this comment at 8.02am:
    “This likely indicates that the far North has warmed more than the rest of the hemisphere–an observation consistent with the rapid ice melt we’ve seen in the last 10 years.”
    The far North appears to have cycles which are particularly lagged/out of synch with ENSO etc.
    As there was a pronounced peak in far North temps in 2007 (RSS 60-82.5N average anomaly +0.87C) and a pronounced trough in 1999 (+0.17C), it is not surprising that the 1999-2007 trend shows rapid warming.
    However, since then the average anomaly has been +0.41C (Jan 2008 to Aug 2009), which is comparable to 13 years ago (+0.42C for Jan 1995 to Aug 1996).
    So the trend in RSS temps for 60-82.5N is already downwards for nearly 8 years i.e. from Jan 2002 to Aug 2009. You can check it out for yourself using the data at
    Not so far behind the global trend then.
    Also with a bit of trigonometry you can calculate what fraction of the total area north of 60N is north of 82.5N i.e. not included in RSS. I seem to recall it’s less than a fifteenth?

  39. 339
    greg kai says:

    @334: on realizing the limitation of our own education.

    It is partially true, in any field, for the small details and some traps…But the git of a theory should be quite convincing, and usually more so the more deep you dive in the details, up until you finally discover the different schools disputing not the core of the theory, but new details, applications or fine-tuning.

    For AGW, I have the feeling, maybe untrue, that many outsiders are “believer” by default, but then when they start to scratch a little bit (because they have the basic math and physics skills to do so) they doubt more and more. It is certainly my case, and, while it may be skewed because it is an effective rhetoric tactic, many skeptics claim the same.

    Even if this is only a feeling and it is in fact not true (most non-climate scientists have less doubt when they start to dig into climate science), this is a common idea on skeptics site, and one that is hugely convincing. On the other hand, exagerations a la Al Gore and argument from authority, while thay may be effective convincing non-scientific or technically-minded public, are devastating AGW credibility for any scientifically skilled amateur (engineer, physicist, geologue, historian, paleontologist…).

    So back to the subject: what global temperature reconstruction should I trust, now, what is the most widely accepted curve among mainstream climate scientists for the last 2000 years???

    [Response: You are perhaps asking the wrong question. It is very unlikely that any single curve is correct. Each different method produces slightly different results and no proxies are perfect. The latest papers use more proxies from a wider selection and with more regional information and so are likely to be more representative. But maybe it is better to ask yourself why you think it matters. Do you think that finding a period warmer than the modern period makes a difference to the detection and attribution of climate change today? Well, that wouldn’t be correct – we know of plenty of periods that were unambiguously warmer than present (the Pliocene, the Eocene, the Cretaceous etc.) and D&A for the 20th Century is independent of any of these reconstructions. Is it because you want to see how big natural variability was and look for signatures of solar and volcanic forcings in the past? That’s fine, but the differences of 0.1 or 0.2 deg C that we are talking about in the uncertainties don’t really make that much difference. Is it because you want to know how global temperature has changed in the last 100 years? Well you should be looking at the instrumental record, not the proxies. There is plenty to learn about the climate of the last 2000 years – particularly at the regional and decadal scales, but nothing that has been discussed this week has any bearing on that whatsoever. – gavin]

  40. 340
    dhogaza says:

    “It goes up, not down. Thank you for playing.”

    Hmm, it’s interesting that people who voiced such strong objections to starting with a strong El Nino have no problem at all starting with a long La Nina.

    Once again, Jeff, not I, insisted on “ten years”.

    You and I know that’s an obsolete phrase that once cherry-picked 1998 as the start point, and which now cherry-picks 1999. Ain’t my fault.

    I also stated that the fact that changing the starting point by one year causes the slope to switch from negative to positive tells us something about using ten-year time periods, and asked “can you tell us what that is?”

    So your statement that I have no problem starting with a La Niña year is incorrect. My implicit point was that 10 years is too short a period to be significant, and the fact that choosing different start points has such a strong effect on the slope of the regression should be a dead giveaway that this is true (given that you can get a good linear fit for sufficiently long periods of time).

  41. 341
    Eukaryt says:

    “The 20th Century was fueled by dirty oil, dirty cars and dirty coal,” Schwarzenegger said, imploring leaders to put workers from coal mines into solar panel factories and oil workers into biodiesel refineries.

  42. 342
    Boris says:

    Perhaps it would be helpful if someone like Briffa wrote a piece for RC describing the process of dendroclimatology from site selection through taking cores and then onto calibration and testing. For the layperson there might seem to be some “hidden step” whereby a trend can be chosen rather than deduced. Some skeptic blogs use these gaps in knowledge (and some expert quote mining) to spread accusations of fraud.

  43. 343
    dhogaza says:

    Even if this is only a feeling and it is in fact not true (most non-climate scientists have less doubt when they start to dig into climate science), this is a common idea on skeptics site, and one that is hugely convincing.

    For those of us who’ve tracked the creation/evolution “debate”, the “HIV doesn’t cause AIDS” “debate”, the anti-vaccine debate, and yes, the anti-AGW debate, it’s not hugely convincing at all.

    Rather, it reeks of being a common tactic meant to legitimatize the anti-science position. I, a reasonable person who claims to have a resonable education, have looked into evolution, the HIV-AIDS connection, the vaccine-autism connection, and the more I look into the science, why, the more fraudulent it seems!

    This act of claiming to be reasonable and objective, and educated, and to have deeply studied “both sides”, and to conclude that the anti-science side has “better evidence”, is nothing but a tactic. When asked to explain what they believe the scientific position is, such people *invariably* paint a strawman version of the science (“climate scientists claim that temperatures should rise monotonically as CO2 concentration increases”, etc etc).

    Writ large, you get, WUWT, etc, where the science is always misrepresented, scientists always portrayed as being dishonest and lying in order to push a political agenda, all the reasonable people “know” this, etc.

  44. 344
    Jim Cross says:


    I don’t think the ultimate origin of the data is pertinent to this. Once Briffa used the data for evidence and argument, in a sense, the data became Briffa’s. According to McIntyre, he had an obligation from the journal it was published in to archive it and make it available. This seems reasonable to me especially if the data is not widely available. But apparently this didn’t happen in this case and McIntyre had to make repeated inquiries and petitions for it.


    I keep hearing this ’30 years is climate” ROT (Rule of Thumb) but there is good evidence that this too short a time period for making multi-decadal predictions. In light of recent studies of the influence of PDO on global temperatures and the suggestions that there may be factors that magnify the solar irradiance influence, fifty or sixty years (or perhaps 100) might be more useful.

    So naturally I agree that 10 years is too short to draw any conclusion; however, by the same token, extrapolating the last part of the 20th century into the 21th may not be valid either. Of course, looking at 100 years, we still see a CO2 influence on climate but the magnitude of it may be harder to gauge when the consider the effect of longer term solar cycles.

  45. 345
    chris says:

    Re #302 truth

    “skeptical community”? What does that mean? Can you clarify? Can you list a selection of the particular scientists you speak of “who have hitherto been treated with respect by the international scientific community”?

    Please be specific, truth.

  46. 346
    chris says:

    re #303

    I have to say, McIntyre sounds reasonable when he questions the wisdom of attaching significance to such a truncated data set, and I wonder how the work of Briffa obtained such prominence.

    Has it “obtained such prominence” doug W? I would say that Dr. Briffa has done a substantial amount of solid work in paleoclimatology. His work is part of a large body of paleoclimatological analysis that informs us on climate in the past. I think you’ll find that this particular tiny piece of work has “obtained such prominence” because some wannabe with a blog has chosen to attempt to trash it, instigating a nasty (but happily, short lived if past experience is a guide) pulse of unpleasantness through the blogosphere…

    …If the data set is large, reproducible, and available, there should be fewer opportunities for this sort of second guessing.

    There will always be “opportunities for second guessing” doug, when there are opportunists out there who revel in second guessing. Happily, the scientific process is pretty robust, and while Dr. Briffa will no doubt feel nonplussed by the cowardly opportunist second guessing he’s been subjected to, he can feel proud of his contributions in this field, and the fact that his work has informed a large and broadly consistent body of paleoanalysis of the past decade and more.

  47. 347
    chris says:

    Re #304

    As to your point in 252 that to say “warming has stopped” is a lie, you offer as evidence that this decade’s temperatures are flat (all of them hot but one). I’m guessing you did not mean to imply that “hot” is the equivalent of “getting hotter” and might want to clarify? – Walter

    Warming certainly hasn’t stopped Walter. The earth continues to accumulate heat even during the period (2003 – 2008) that has seen the sun progress to the bottom of its solar cycle, and a substantial La Nina episode in 2007/8.

    The most recent analysis of ocean heat uptake shows that the period 2003-2008 has resulted in substantial absorption of solar energy at the rate of around 0.8 W.m-2 during this period.

    von Schuckmann, K., F. Gaillard, and P.-Y. Le Traon (2009), Global hydrographic variability patterns during 2003–2008, J. Geophys. Res., 114, C09007, doi:10.1029/2008JC005237.
    (see Figure 11a).

    This extends the period of large heat absorption into the earth system characterised since the middle of the last century, right through to the near-present:

    Murphy, D. M., S. Solomon, R. W. Portmann, K. H. Rosenlof, P. M. Forster, and T. Wong (2009), An observationally based energy balance for the Earth since 1950, J. Geophys. Res., 114, D17107, doi:10.1029/2009JD012105.

    The earth is getting hotter Walter, because it is accumulating heat under the influence of a positive radiative imbalance

  48. 348
  49. 349
    Tom P says:

    I’m afraid I lost my patience and have kludged Steve McIntyre’s code to do my sensitivity analysis (code is posted on Climate Audit).

    First, here is the chronology without YAD061:
    Whatever that tree was drinking, it looked like it shared the round.

    Now for the sensitivity analysis for the CRU archive:
    1) Removing the cores less than 72 years old – the drooping tail at the end of the distribution I posted on CA:
    As I suspected, these cores don’t contribute much to the chronology.

    2) Removing the cores less than 100 years old:
    Not much difference.

    3) Removing the cores less than 150 years old:
    Still not much of a shift.

    4) Removing the cores less than 200 years old:
    This has removed YAD06 amongst other cores, but the profile remains the same. The noise is increasing but the shape is till clear. There are now 64 cores left, with an average age of 262 years, or an average of 8 cores at any one time.

    5) Removing the cores less than 250 years old:
    Now there are just 32 cores left with an average age of 303 years, or just four cores at any one time. The hockeystick has finally been broken, but only by removing so many cores that the noise has finally overcome the signal.

    Briffa’s result appears robust to a very demanding test. I await Steve McIntyre’s response to this.

  50. 350
    Bob Coats says:

    Be sure to check out Bill Maher’s comments on the climate change deniers: