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The CRU hack: Context

Filed under: — gavin @ 23 November 2009

This is a continuation of the last thread which is getting a little unwieldy. The emails cover a 13 year period in which many things happened, and very few people are up to speed on some of the long-buried issues. So to save some time, I’ve pulled a few bits out of the comment thread that shed some light on some of the context which is missing in some of the discussion of various emails.

  • Trenberth: You need to read his recent paper on quantifying the current changes in the Earth’s energy budget to realise why he is concerned about our inability currently to track small year-to-year variations in the radiative fluxes.
  • Wigley: The concern with sea surface temperatures in the 1940s stems from the paper by Thompson et al (2007) which identified a spurious discontinuity in ocean temperatures. The impact of this has not yet been fully corrected for in the HadSST data set, but people still want to assess what impact it might have on any work that used the original data.
  • Climate Research and peer-review: You should read about the issues from the editors (Claire Goodess, Hans von Storch) who resigned because of a breakdown of the peer review process at that journal, that came to light with the particularly egregious (and well-publicised) paper by Soon and Baliunas (2003). The publisher’s assessment is here.

Update: Pulling out some of the common points being raised in the comments.

  • HARRY_read_me.txt. This is a 4 year-long work log of Ian (Harry) Harris who was working to upgrade the documentation, metadata and databases associated with the legacy CRU TS 2.1 product, which is not the same as the HadCRUT data (see Mitchell and Jones, 2003 for details). The CSU TS 3.0 is available now (via ClimateExplorer for instance), and so presumably the database problems got fixed. Anyone who has ever worked on constructing a database from dozens of individual, sometimes contradictory and inconsistently formatted datasets will share his evident frustration with how tedious that can be.
  • “Redefine the peer-reviewed literature!” . Nobody actually gets to do that, and both papers discussed in that comment – McKitrick and Michaels (2004) and Kalnay and Cai (2003) were both cited and discussed in Chapter 2 of 3 the IPCC AR4 report. As an aside, neither has stood the test of time.
  • “Declines” in the MXD record. This decline was hidden written up in Nature in 1998 where the authors suggested not using the post 1960 data. Their actual programs (in IDL script), unsurprisingly warn against using post 1960 data. Added: Note that the ‘hide the decline’ comment was made in 1999 – 10 years ago, and has no connection whatsoever to more recent instrumental records.
  • CRU data accessibility. From the date of the first FOI request to CRU (in 2007), it has been made abundantly clear that the main impediment to releasing the whole CRU archive is the small % of it that was given to CRU on the understanding it wouldn’t be passed on to third parties. Those restrictions are in place because of the originating organisations (the various National Met. Services) around the world and are not CRU’s to break. As of Nov 13, the response to the umpteenth FOI request for the same data met with exactly the same response. This is an unfortunate situation, and pressure should be brought to bear on the National Met Services to release CRU from that obligation. It is not however the fault of CRU. The vast majority of the data in the HadCRU records is publicly available from GHCN (v2.mean.Z).
  • Suggestions that FOI-related material be deleted … are ill-advised even if not carried out. What is and is not responsive and deliverable to an FOI request is however a subject that it is very appropriate to discuss.
  • Fudge factors (update) IDL code in the some of the attached files calculates and applies an artificial ‘fudge factor’ to the MXD proxies to artificially eliminate the ‘divergence pattern’. This was done for a set of experiments reported in this submitted 2004 draft by Osborn and colleagues but which was never published. Section 4.3 explains the rationale very clearly which was to test the sensitivity of the calibration of the MXD proxies should the divergence end up being anthropogenic. It has nothing to do with any temperature record, has not been used in any published reconstruction and is not the source of any hockey stick blade anywhere.

Further update: This comment from Halldór Björnsson of the Icelandic Met. Service goes right to the heart of the accessibility issue:

Re: CRU data accessibility.

National Meteorological Services (NMSs) have different rules on data exchange. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) organizes the exchange of “basic data”, i.e. data that are needed for weather forecasts. For details on these see WMO resolution number 40 (see

This document acknowledges that WMO member states can place restrictions on the dissemination of data to third parties “for reasons such as national laws or costs of production”. These restrictions are only supposed to apply to commercial use, the research and education community is supposed to have free access to all the data.

Now, for researchers this sounds open and fine. In practice it hasn’t proved to be so.

Most NMSs also can distribute all sorts of data that are classified as “additional data and products”. Restrictions can be placed on these. These special data and products (which can range from regular weather data from a specific station to maps of rain intensity based on satellite and radar data). Many nations do place restrictions on such data (see link for additional data on above WMO-40 webpage for details).

The reasons for restricting access is often commercial, NMSs are often required by law to have substantial income from commercial sources, in other cases it can be for national security reasons, but in many cases (in my experience) the reasons simply seem to be “because we can”.

What has this got to do with CRU? The data that CRU needs for their data base comes from entities that restrict access to much of their data. And even better, since the UK has submitted an exception for additional data, some nations that otherwise would provide data without question will not provide data to the UK. I know this from experience, since my nation (Iceland) did send in such conditions and for years I had problem getting certain data from the US.

The ideal, that all data should be free and open is unfortunately not adhered to by a large portion of the meteorological community. Probably only a small portion of the CRU data is “locked” but the end effect is that all their data becomes closed. It is not their fault, and I am sure that they dislike them as much as any other researcher who has tried to get access to all data from stations in region X in country Y.

These restrictions end up by wasting resources and hurting everyone. The research community (CRU included) and the public are the victims. If you don’t like it, write to you NMSs and urge them to open all their data.

I can update (further) this if there is demand. Please let me know in the comments, which, as always, should be substantive, non-insulting and on topic.

Comments continue here.

1,074 Responses to “The CRU hack: Context”

  1. 1
    Steve says:

    Best wishes to RC and the relevant scientists – no professional deserves the violation of privacy done by these virtual thugs.

    Please persevere; knowledge and information beats special interests in the long run.

  2. 2
    Leonard Herchen says:

    i’m going to repost the question in response to your question about my interest in a 10 year old graph.

    Thanks for responding. There are several reasons I care about the 10 year old graph, but the foremost one is simply credibility. I’m reading charge and counter charge in these websites, and my degree is in physics, not statistics or climate. So unless I can duplicate the work that you or MM do, I have to depend somewhat on my interpretation of credibility to decide who to beleive. Just like, if I was sick, I would go to the credible doctor, instead of getting my own medical degree. . The CA website threads ongoingly assert that climate science is closed system, doesn’t correct its errors and shouts down criticism. I don’t know if it is true or just internet breeze that I should ignore. So, I thought I would simply ask you the direct question and get the answer from you directly.

    Even without a degree in climate science, I can see that mixing proxy data onto temperature data yields results that may not mean much, and the CA guys are making a big deal about this. So I wanted to check if it really is that simple. That is, was it done and not clearly acknowledged? And if so, why?

    Again, I appreciate very much your attention to my comment.

    [Response: Ok, last word on this before I turn in. This 10 year old graph is irrelevant to any current readings of the science. The caption describing what was done is unclear and should have been more complete. I have no personal knowledge of how smoothing was done in any of a hundred different variations of this particular theme. The rule should be that what ever is done, and for what ever reason, the description should match. The latest version of this kind of figure in IPCC AR4 is very clear about what is done, and it does not merge the two kinds of data. However, if you have two kinds of data showing similar things I am not surprised that people want to plot them together and I don’t see why that is – in principle – problematic. I’d be much more interested if this actually mattered. – gavin]

  3. 3
    J says:

    [Response: That would only be true if they had in fact produced convincing evidence that solar effects were larger than thought. They did not, and so the conclusion does not follow. – gavin]

    I remind you of what is was replying to:

    [Response: …Hint: if you assume that only one factor matters, then it is rather predictable that this is what you think is important.]
    You seem to have gone backwards in your argument here.

    And I’ve already posted the link to the rebuttal of Benestad and Schmidt’s criticism.

    [Response: (I’m Schmidt if you didn’t realise). You aren’t getting this. Scafetta’s work assumes that only solar can be responsible for the trends and very unsurprisingly comes up with a conclusion that it does! However, this doesn’t mean anything. In a proper attribution study you need to include all of the factors otherwise you risk conflating two elements which might both have a trend. In model results where you know the answer, Scafetta’s kind of technique does not work in extracting a true solar signal. Thus it demonstrates nothing about the real world. As for the ‘rebuttal’ we were promised a comment on the paper would be submitted within days of that blog posting. No such comment has emerged. Neither has a copy of Scafetta’s code that would allow us to reconcile our calculation and his. Maybe you’d like to complain that he’s ‘hiding’ something? – gavin]

  4. 4
    DavidCOG says:

    Could I recommend to anyone who invests time arguing against the Deniers? We’re going to suffer them quoting words and phrases from these emails for quite some time, so it’s good to be clear on how to respond. Basically, just reply:

    “So? How does that refute any of the *science*?”

  5. 5
    ccpo says:

    From the previous thread, about any credible anti-ACC science, and illogical behavior wrt ACC science:

    re: ccpo 1031

    Doesn’t the IPCC say there is a 90% chance that the change in temps is anthropogenic? Therefore doesn’t this mean there is a 10% chance it isn’t. Is that 10% chance of it not being anthropogenic “to any degree at all” for you?…



    Comment by Michael — 22 November 2009 @ 9:56 PM

    Actually, Mike, it does, but shouldn’t. There was a lot of discussion at the time about the political aspect of the final edition. The scientists wanted to use the term they defined to mean, essentially, zero doubt. The US gov’t, among others, objected and the next lower one was used.

    I’d go get the sources, but what’s the point? 90% certainty for you people means, “Stop! Do nothing!!!” while for the rational it means, “90%? OH MY FREAKIN’ DEITY!”

    An analogy (or two): 90% chance a car will hit you if you don’t move out of the road: you move.

    90% it will rain: you take an umbrella.

    90% you will die if you eat a poorly-cleaned puffer fish: you don’t eat it.

    90% chance you will be in an accident and go to the hospital: you change your underwear.

    A, what? 10%, or much less, chance you’ll be in a car accident in the next 5 years: you keep insurance.

    A, what? 1% chance your house will burn down in the next 5 years: you keep insurance.

    But, for you folk, a 90% chance of the increases in CO2/CO2e being human-caused, and dangerous to our current civilization and global sustainability? Party on, Dude!! That that chance is actually 100%, but scientists have been politically prevented from saying so in a documented form makes it that much more absurd.

    If you can’t see your own ilogic staring you in the face, god help you. And us.

    Re: Hank Roberts: “J, be skeptical..”

    Thanks Hank, I think I am being. We now (if my last post was accepted) have the paper, it’s rebuttal and the response to the rebuttal.

    I ask that you bear in mind the discussion this is part of. It’s was in response to a request for: “ANY scientific paper, or set of scientific papers, that disprove, to any degree at all, the anthropogenic influence on climate..”

    Now, if you logically arrive at the requests assumption you have: “There is NO scientific paper, or set of scientific papers, that disprove, to any degree at all, the anthropogenic influence on climate..”

    As you can see, this is far from your sensible request to be skeptical.

    Comment by J — 22 November 2009 @ 11:42 PM

    How is it not sensible? You deny ACC (Anthropogenically forced Climate Change) despite an amount of evidence that is truly astounding and offer two poor papers in response. Not only was my request sensible, it was prescient.

    And you are right, I did assume you could not answer. This was sensible. There literally is not one single paper that disproves any aspect of what is currently known about ACC. Not one. At least, not that I know of or have ever heard about, and I’ve been asking for one for three years.

    This simple fact should be the refrain from every ACC activist AND scientist: There is not even one scientifically sound paper that puts ACC in doubt, not even one small aspect of it.

    What I find totally typical and unsurprising is that you don’t seem to understand what “disprove” means. You keep presenting papers you think challenges the science, but don’t, and don’t even come close to disproving anything.

    I’m not surprised that scientists won’t make this same statement as they cannot possibly personally review every paper. But I can say this because it is true, and I’m not bound by absolute certainty. Very, very, very close is good enough. In fact, virtually all policy decisions other than climate change depend on a degree of certainty far, far below what we have for ACC, yet, we act on them all the time.

    There is no logically tenable foundation for ACC denial. Caution? Sure. Denial? Truly a form of… well, it isn’t skepticism.

  6. 6
    Jeffrey Park says:

    Best Wishes as well to the RC moderators. The wave of disinformation is pretty intense. An ordinary reader of RC ought not be required to read all the purloined email to refute some of the trolls who express crocodile tears over “fraud” in climate science. When I learned that Hank Roberts had dug into one such claim and discovered that the “fraud” being discussed by the CRU scientists was one of the many flawed papers co-authored by the denialist Fred Singer, I could truly smell the crocodile.

  7. 7
    KTB says:

    Thanks for your efforts.
    It’s good to have some responses, but at some point it’s probably best to let this be. The “skeptics” are far off in la-la land and are refusing to listen to any explanations for anything. They have their mind set as “the scientists are dirty and nothing can be trusted anymore”.

    One question came up which I haven’t seen answered or talked about.
    There’s some controversy about tree ring data from new zealand oroko swamp. I don’t have the email about this but here is a graph and the “problem” is that it doesn’t show the hockey stick… The graph contains the emails number though (or the file contains the CRU data). So the presumption probably is that CRU has hidden this info somehow

    [Response: No idea why this is interesting. I think this ended up as series 6 in figure 6.12 in AR4 “New Zealand tree rings”. And this has nothing to do with CRU in any case, it is from an Ed Cook paper. There is no discussion of any ‘problem’ with this data as far as I can see. – gavin]

  8. 8
    Dan E. Bloom says:

    This is why we are going to need polar cities in 500 years. Nobody ever listened to me. Pay attention now.

  9. 9
    Andrew says:

    As I understand, there are approximately 1000 emails in the leaked archive. Spanning over several years and comprising of communications among a number of people, 1000 emails tells me that this is a very small selection from the big picture.

    People should keep that in mind, and make their own judgment considering the hacker’s intention of releasing these particular emails.

    The trouble is, whatever context is added now, it still leaves a taint of suspicion about the rest of the unseen communication. Some will wonder if the kinds of communication we’ve seen are par for the course, the tip of the iceberg, or just cherry-picked for their eyebrow-raising value.

    The bottom line should be whether any of the scientific conclusions are affected, and not what was meant by any particular word or exchange. Unfortunately, it’s too political for that.

  10. 10
    J says:

    >>>CCPO: “Seriously, even one, that in any way challenges anthropogenic warming as the cause of warming since 1850?”
    Non-anthropogenic are not at least *part* of “the cause of warming since 1850?”

    Can you see this is an exaggerated claim?

    It’s also cooled since 1850. And it’s been warming since the end of the last ice age. And it’s been warmer before 1850 – and colder.

    Hyperbole detracts from credibility.

  11. 11
    Steve Bloom says:

    Gavin, you may want to edit #74 in the prior thread, noting the obscene pseudonym used by the commenter.

    [Response: Maybe I’m getting old, but google gives no such interpretation as I can see….? – gavin]

  12. 12
    J says:

    [Response: (I’m Schmidt if you didn’t realise)…]

    I do realize and I’m very aware that you are referring to your own work and that this is your site.

  13. 13
    Ian Wishart says:

    You guys just don’t stop spinning, do you? The context is there for anyone with English as a first language.

    What part of stacking the peer review process don’t you understand is wrong?

    What part of the email from Phil to Michael 1077829152.txt which reveals both men essentially in a position to peer review their own work (or challenges to their work or department’s) don’t you see as a conflict of interest?

    [Response: Editors very commonly send papers critical of someones work to the author of the work being criticised. The editors also know that this needs to be weighed appropriately along with reviews from other parties. – gavin]

  14. 14
    BCC says:

    Re #74 :Gavin, say the poster’s name slowly. Hint: It starts “Hey, would ya…”, and yes, it’s lame.

    Well, on the bright side, I was getting kind of tired of debunking the same old, same old. At least there’s something new to talk about…

    [Response: Ah… – gavin]

  15. 15
    dukeofurl says:

    What was the ‘context of this comment

    The other paper by MM is just garbage – as you knew. De Freitas again. Pielke is also losing all credibility as well by replying to the mad Finn as well – frequently as I see it. I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. K and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is !

    [Response: The ‘mad Finn’ is very likely to be Timo Hameranta, a finnish lawyer, who for years regularly sent out hundreds of clippings of supposedly anti-GW abstracts to all and sundry. De Frietas was the editor on the Soon and Baliunas (2003) paper – but I’m not sure what is referred to here. MM is likely to be McIntyre and McKitrick (2005) in E&E (a very poor choice of journal if they wanted to be taken seriously). This last one was cited in IPCC AR4 (though against my suggestion in my review – based on it’s unclear status as a possibly un-peer-reviewed paper). – gavin]

    [Further response: As noted below, the MM paper is McKitrick and Michaels (2004) and the first paper being discussed is Kalnay and Cai (2003). Both of which were cited and discussed in Chapter 2 3. – gavin]

  16. 16
    Paul Middents says:

    Re #74

    Just say the name quickly and you will agree with Steve Bloom.

    You have the patience of Job.

    Paul Middents

  17. 17
    Chris Byrne says:


    Have you had a look through the coding comments in Harry_Read_Me.txt? There’s a lot of speculation in the blogosphere about this. I have to admit I had a chuckle.

    [Response: That file is obviously just a notebook for someone piecing together work legacy code made by other people. Messy for sure, but certainly not the ‘final version’ of the code. It was probably produced in moving from the CRU TS 2.1 to 3.0 version (which is a completely separate data set from the standard HadCRUT numbers by the way) and involves a lot more interpolation. See here: (when their server comes back up), also Mitchell and Jones (2005). – gavin]

  18. 18
    Mark says:

    This is crazzzzy. I don’t understand the logic of folks who are so quick to dismiss ACC. As an environmental activist it can be extremely frustrating to see the rules of inference perverted to such a degree. Think about this. If Albert Einstein created an equation that accounted for the relationship between mass and energy, or light and gravity, but failed to provide one that accounted for the expansion of the universe… would you deny the existence of the universe??? The denialistas are so full of non-sequiturs its scary…

  19. 19

    I think it better not to discuss hacked, stolen personal messages at all, even if they pertain to science. What use they have is dubious, and discussing them only encourages further hacking. Why not discuss public comments, and now commercials such as from friends of science, with their “10 year of cooling since 1998” radio advert, due to the sun, Arghhh guys, we got work ahead not from stolen past messages which have meaning only to the writers, these were not meant for public discourse. We need discuss peer review papers and climate events and grasp their meanings, before enlisting the help of sordid hackers…


    That is a correct version of things, I personally confirmed this warming by independent refraction method.

    Then in the same POST:

    dont you think that present discussions are much more important?

  20. 20
    Seb says:

    Are there any plans to make all your climate data publicly available?

    [Response: Already there. GISTEMP, ModelE. We’ll put up a more comprehensive listing in the next post. – gavin]

  21. 21
    Nicolas says:

    I am really sorry that this happened and I want to say that I am fully behind you people. What has been done is unacceptable and everyone knows, as you say, that what is written in private emails is not what you would say in a public statement. The whole context, how you feel when writing for example, can make a great difference in how you write. And between colleagues, in private, you might talk about tricks and seem to take things lightly. This by no means is a sign that the research you are doing is biaised or unscientific. I find nothing shocking about the selection that was leaked when one really thinks about them for what they are. I’m really thankful for you taking the time to comment on all this and taking this seriously. I really hope the effects of this can be minimized and the press and the public opinion come to their senses. Thank you again for your great work.

  22. 22
    Eli Snyder says:

    Mark, wishful thinking is an incredibly powerful force.

    Gavin, I’m amazed at your endurance — get some sleep, dude! Well done with the responses, and hang in there. I suspect this whole thing is going to backfire… of course, that could just be wishful thinking on my part. ;-)

    The important thing to remember in the response to this is to try to keep everyone’s eye on the ball. The laws of physics are not going to change because somebody hacked somebody’s email. That this is even being discussed just goes to show that “reality is what you can get away with.” — RAW

    Gavin, I’m going to pass on some words of encouragement that a very wise person once gave me in trying times. They may seem a bit odd, but perhaps you will find some use in them. It is worth remembering that, given the circumstances, scientists studying climate at this juncture are likely among the most important humans extant. You will be held to a higher standard, and maybe that’s OK, because when the stakes are this high, you can’t make a lot of mistakes. Keep in mind that you are genuinely, without hyperbole, here to save the world.

    Anyway, some words of wisdom from an old friend:

    “You are a Jah Warrior, a Light Messenger. You are here to spread love and light in the world. You need to remember who you are and why you are here!”

  23. 23
    cbp says:

    In reply to Ian Wishart:
    > The context is there for anyone with English as a first language.

    That’s the problem with the sceptical argument, right there. How can you argue against it?

  24. 24
    Eli Snyder says:

    cpb, exactly. Ian, the context is _never_ that simple. The amount of unspoken assumptions, shared experience, background knowledge etc involved in any discourse, especially among people who know each other, is astounding. It is sheer folly to try to interpret any text without knowledge of the underlying information flow.

    This is not an excuse, it is simply the way it is: you weren’t there, and neither was I, and you simply can’t tell what someone meant by something said offhand like this, especially if you don’t analyze the context carefully.

    In any case, it doesn’t ultimately matter unless data is revealed that affects the actual science. So far that has not happened, and until it does, we’re pretty much just arguing about our opinion of somebody’s character. Try to have some sense of perspective.

  25. 25
    Wadard says:

    Hi Gavin & RC

    I can’t believe you have to fight this rear-guard action rather than just get on your your job, but fight it you do have to.

    I wonder whether you can comment on some of the comments within code, that Watts has moved onto having accepted the emails are no ‘smoking gun’. These new accusations amount to suggesting the code has been fixed to ignore ‘inconvenient’ data:

    pro maps12,yrstart,doinfill=doinfill
    Plots 24 yearly maps of calibrated (PCR-infilled or not) MXD reconstructions of growing season temperatures. Uses “corrected” MXD – but shouldn’t usually plot past 1960 because these will be artificially adjusted to look closer to the real temperatures.


    Plots (1 at a time) yearly maps of calibrated (PCR-infilled or not) MXD reconstructions of growing season temperatures. Uses “corrected” MXD – but shouldn’t usually plot past 1960 because these will be artificially adjusted to look closer to the real temperatures.

    Finally, the dastardly ‘hidden’ decline:

    From documents\harris-tree\

    ; Computes regressions on full, high and low pass Esper et al. (2002) series, anomalies against full NH temperatures and other series. CALIBRATES IT AGAINST THE LAND-ONLY TEMPERATURES NORTH OF 20 N
    ; Specify period over which to compute the regressions (stop in 1960 to avoid the decline,

    [Response: At least since 1998, the producers of a single MXD series (Briffa and colleagues) have counseled against using their series past 1960. Finding that, in fact, they don’t use that series past 1960 in doing analyses is hardly surprising. If you don’t like this, don’t give it any weight in your assessment, and look at the other series instead. But finding code that supports exactly what is in the literature is hardly a smoking gun. – gavin]

  26. 26
    TD says:

    Neophyte Request:

    I hope everybody is doing well. I take it, your not.
    For some years I have been searching for an ACCESSABLE book that explains AGW.
    The books I have consulted rely way, way to heavily on argument from authority. “Smart people say this, so you are wise to believe it.”

    If I could order a book its outline would be like:
    1.Remembering your high-school earth science – explaining the radiative balance and heat distribution throughout the world. The roles of clouds, currents, etc. etc.
    2.CO2’s role in that balance and its significance/magnitude against other factors.
    3.Measuring temperature from Ancient times (the past 1000’s of years.) The insight and problems of using proxy data. It would list the proxies. It would list the pro’s and con’s of each proxy.
    4.Measuring temperature in modern times. Weather stations, satellite, others. Getting this temperature at the Earth’s surface, significant altitudes and land vs sea.
    5.Explanation of the various forecasts and the significant factors that explain their difference.

    No AGW book that I have ever seen does this. Instead, they throw up a bunch of graphs and quote a lot of studies and say “now, we must act.” This is an argument from authority. As such, it is unpersuasive.

    I have had my eye open for such a book but one has never found me, nor I it.

    Books not worth recommending to me:
    1. Al Gore’s various books. Too political, even if it is good science.
    2. M Mann’s Dire Predictions. Just throws up the usual graphs. Does not explain the underlying pro’s and con’s of proxy data, for example.

    [Response: Try mine! ;) – gavin]

  27. 27
    Ron R. says:

    Dave Mc said Nov 22 @6:44PM: “Experts from across the the world in Climate should be invited to take part in peer review, irrespective of their standpoint.”

    Not if their standpoint has been bought and paid for by Big Oil and King Coal.

    “The opinion of an AGW ’sceptic’ is as valuable as that of a AGW ‘believer’.”

    Again, not if their standpoint has been bought and paid for by Big Oil and King Coal.

  28. 28
    Steven J Heimel says:

    Sorry, it is happening regardless of whether one tries to deny it. To #284 Damian and #320 Jack, you had better hope that the taxes and restructuring you fear comes to pass, or much worse awaits. T#346 Robert, they should have cracked down on that coal mining a decade ago. #680 Jere has already been answered, but, how can you not see the difference in time scale for acidity in the oceans? And to #371 JLC well, we all hope you are right but the oceans seem to be rising faster and higher than anyone expected.

  29. 29
    Thomas Roberts says:

    Thi is the same Ian Wishart who wrote the sceptical book Air con and who says
    >if you believe that (species can evolve), then you’ll believe life is not special and mankind is the master of all her surveys. You’ll believe there is no God and free yourself and your family from any moral code.”

  30. 30
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #23: I had thought that the language spoken in New Zealand (wherefrom Wishart hails) was a dialect of English, but now I stand corrected! :)

  31. 31
    Jonas says:

    I read the leaked emails much differently than what is reported in some media: If this is the worst they can come up with after a full decade of email harvesting — there is no conspiracy. Period.

    Falsifying data is the most serious of scientific crimes, I’ve heard that these emails prove that this has happened and if that’s true I depise it, but I haven’t seen any of that so far in the leaked emails that have been published.

    But I have to react on your last blog post where you said “releasing private information is illegal, and regardless of how they were obtained, posting private correspondence without permission is unethical.” That is unethical in itself!

    Wikileaks and other whisteblowers has done truly good deeds over the years. In fact, not leaking data if you know about a coverup or corruption somewhere is the unethical and immoral thing to do.

  32. 32
    PeterPan says:

    Now that there’s been some comments on Scafetta, I take the opportunity to ask for references regarding his latest paper. I’ve seen very informative comments on his previous papers (SW 2006a, SW 2006b and SW2007), but I haven’t read anything specifically dealing with S09 in which, disregarding previous criticism about his 25-35 % solar contribution since 1980, he even pumps the possible contribution up to 65 % since 1980! I imagine that this paper keeps the previous flaws, but I’d like to know if there is any paper or blog post addressing this latest paper in more detail. Thanks!

  33. 33
    Glen Raphael says:

    90% certainty for you people means, “Stop! Do nothing!!!” while for the rational it means, “90%? OH MY FREAKIN’ DEITY!…That that chance is actually 100%…

    I’m going to argue for the “Stop! Do nothing!” position.

    You guys use a “30-year” reference period for climate because that’s the scientific standard that we somehow evolved over time, right? Well, many of us use “95%” as our scientific standard for minimum reasonable certainty for much the same reason. It’s an arbitrary choice to be sure, but it’s important to have made such a choice and to stick to it rather than change it at a whim based on circumstances.

    Forget climate science for a moment. Let’s say there are TEN scientific disciplines all looking for trends that might indicate imminent disaster. Astronomers, biologists, virologists, geologists…I’m sure we could come up with ten without too much effort. Now suppose there’s some random variation – due to chaos or factors we can’t measure well – that affects the trends being examined, and in each case the randomness is of sufficient magnitude that there’s a 10% chance of the random-noise trend appearing calamitous to the small group of scientists looking at it.

    For each individual discipline, that’s not too bad. But for the sum of them taken together, it’s terrible; there’s a very good chance that *one* of those ten disciplines will be able to tell us a very scary story that – if we follow your “90% is good enough” rule – could cause us to spend vast amounts of resources attacking a problem that ultimately turns out to have been random noise. The trend was real, but not ultimately significant.

    The cost of action in that case is that we waste resources fighting a fake threat which leaves us less able to fight real ones later.

    Given that dynamic, 90% probably isn’t good enough. 95% is the minimum we’d want to see. So: could you elaborate on *why* you think it’s “really 100%”? (Hint: if you’re not comfortable taking bets at 50-1 odds, it’s not “really 100%”. It’s not even “really 98%”.)

  34. 34
    Ms Hansen says:

    I see a lot of contradiction right here (see below). I am by no means a sceptic, but I do question just how much of the climate change we are experiencing is natural vs AGW? More importantly, I’m keen to know more about CRUs refusal to provide info in a FOIA request. Science should always be open – the moment it gets conducted behind closed doors is the moment you open yourself up to scepticism!!

    Your responses to the below interest me – one moment you know, and then another you’re not sure.

    Jay says:
    20 November 2009 at 1:54 PM
    Again, I write to the moderator. What did I write that was so inflammatory that you would not post it? I have not attempted to stir anything up? I would like to know the truth. Thats all. The truth needs no moderation nor to be covered up. What is wrong with my saying that? Maybe you can post this and a response as I don’t see what could possibly be wrong with this post.

    My only questions now is…

    I hear a lot about the FOIA and data that was being withheld that is now lost or destroyed. Is there an explanation or a reference to that which would answer what I have been hearing on the other end?

    [Response: No data has been lost or destroyed. – gavin]

    John Masher says:
    20 November 2009 at 2:12 PM
    Can you explain the multiple references in the emails to evading FOIA responses, for example as in “delete all email [on certain topic] and I will do the same”?

    [Response: No. But I am not party either to those FOIA requests, nor the timing and nor do I know what happened or what the scope was. – gavin]

  35. 35
    charlie says:

    There is a crucial cultural/historical point that some of the posters here of the “open up everything and let the world see your raw data and all your notes” or the “you’re government employees and work for me and I wanna see everything you’ve ever written” persuasions don’t seen to appreciate. Which is that, since the second world war, geophysics has existed within a sort “dual-purpose” continuum between military and civilian science.

    At its best this leads to a swords-to-plowshares repurposing of military data for civilian scientific breakthroughs. The classic example here being plate tectonic theory arising from the submarine-warfare-inspired sea floor mapping and nuclear-test-monitoring seismic networks. Remember too that of the first three purposes to which computers were put–nuclear explosion simulations, cryptography, and numerical weather prediction–only one even had a civilian component to it. A third example off the top of my head would be the monitoring of bomb-derived radiocarbon after the 1960s to estimate planetary-scale fluxes within the carbon cycle.

    Or consider the telling mistake that some early reporters of this story made, that the data theft occurred at the Hadley Centre, and not the University of East Anglia. The Hadley Centre operates under the British ministry of defense, and thus have extremely tight security procedures that would surely have prevented this sort of thing from ever happening in the first place. The UEA is a university, and the CRU there collates and analyzes data from contacts in governments around the world and does an enormous service to the community by making their derived data sets available to the public.

    The point being that all geophysicians I think have an innate appreciation for the fact that sometimes there is data out there that someone might be willing to share to a limited degree but not make public, and are willing to respect that. Because we work within a system where we are reliant on government support for data, supercomputers, etc., we must respect it when someone says something is confidential. The fact is that some governments consider weather/climate data to be a state secret. Scientists who work in a purely civilian field have no such constraints, and I suppose that scientists who work on purely military things are probably secret enough that the problem doesn’t come up at all.

  36. 36
    Sir Hopalot says:

    As many others, I’ve followed the theory of AGW, this website and many other sources. I’ve read mounds of gibberish posted here for years. I’ve watched this website change it’s arguments to fit the whatever direction the wind happens to be blowing for the day. I’ve remained silent with my disagreements, but I would like to point one out to the ones running this website. You wish to claim hacking into that email server was a crime… You may wish to bone up on recent UK precedents and what makes it so ironic is we have you and others like you to thank for it:

    If at anytime those hackers are found and can show they were acting to protect themselves (society at large) from fraudulent ‘science’ coming from this organization they will have comitted no crime at all under UK law.

    I do have a question though. Where has your top 10 list of skeptic’s myths debunked gone? You know, the one where you claim CO2 overwhelms natural variance? Maybe quote something from Hansen?

    Because according to your claims and your models, the world should be heating up faster than ever since CO2 levels are higher than ever, but the Earth’s actual temperatures are refusing to agree with you.

    I’ve also noticed you now use a 10-year running average for your global temp numbers when in 2005 you used 5-year running averages. I don’t suppose the recent switch was because the 5-year average wouldn’t give you the results you wanted would it?

    [Response: Please check your facts. Still using a 5 year mean. We’ve never had a ‘top 10’ skeptic arguments, but these people do. – gavin]

  37. 37
    Dan Olner says:

    I wonder what RC thinks about the possible ultimate impact of this email theft on public opinion? It seems to me that most denialosphere activity is a very closed world – how much of it gets through to the real world? I know some does – recent media reports on cooling and Delingpole’s crazed MASSIVE LIE stuff must sow enough doubt to make some believe action isn’t urgent.

    But compare to, say, the denialosphere’s obsession with Deming’s “We have to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period”, parroted by Monckton and others as (another) smoking gun/bombshell/final proof that climate science is a fraud. A google search for that phrase gives 150,000 hits. I’m sad enough to have gone through about 200 of them – I was trying to find evidence of someone asking sensible questions about this quote. Did Deming actually get that email? If so, what was the context? Who was it actually from? Even if everything Deming said is true, would it make any difference overall? I’ve yet to find one Google link from that search that asks sensible questions: mostly, it’s just an uncritical denialosphere echo chamber.

    Imagine the reverse situation: Al Gore claims he received an email from a prominent climate critic. Someone asks, “was it McIntyre?” – Gore merely replies, “you might say that, I couldn’t possibly comment.” Gore tells us the email said: “we have to get rid of the hockey stick.” How would the denialosphere react? Lies! Slander! Show us the email or shut up! We’re being persecuted!

    We know all this of course: the double standards on show are just gobsmacking. Insinuations like the MWP email are broadcast across the denialosphere, many pick it up and immediately rush to sound the big red “BOMBSHELL” klaxon – with little or nothing to back it up, and certainly not even the most basic critical questions asked. Yet it’s fine to be obsessively, minutely critical of one tiny part of the evidence base for AGW, year after year, despite the fact that even if that whole section of work was magically subtracted from the universe by an act of God, the evidence for AGW would be almost entirely unaffected.

    So we know, don’t we, that these attacks will continue? People who, through some combination of malice or stupidity, don’t understand that niggling at one line of evidence is never going to undermine the evidence for AGW, will continue with their blog version of Chinese water torture, dripping on the same point over and over. With this email hack, you can see the same: there are occasional genuine questions about some of the content, but it’s mostly just noise: “BOMBSHELL! MASSIVE LIES! SMOKING GUN!”

    These people are not going to suddenly grow a logic module. So – what are the actual points where this nonsense may actually affect wider public opinion? That’s where the results matter, isn’t it – not in the denialosphere echo chamber? That being the case, what could be done to keep the focus on those public-opinion forming points? And is there a danger of mistaking blogosphere argument for making a difference to public opinion? I suppose one might respond, “blogs are public opinion too!” – and I’d be interested to hear how much RC readers think it does matter, ultimately, to way the AGW survey numbers have been changing in recent months. Who knows, they may in fact be mostly affected by economic downturn and have nothing to do arguments like this either way.

    cbp asks of the skeptic arguments, ‘how can you argue against it?’ I wonder, how can one decide what to target, and when to just pull back and let the denialosphere vent, given that we’re often dealing with Gish Gallop tactics? There’s a finite amount of time to spend, how do we maximise it?

  38. 38
    Joseph Hunkins says:

    Fantastic thread Gavin – appreciate your stamina. I’d almost stopped reading RC because I felt (perhaps wrongly?) that many reasoned but critical comments were lost in moderation. Clearly not the case in this thread so please keep up the excellent and very light-handed moderation policy!

  39. 39
    David Horton says:

    #20 “Are there any plans to make all your climate data publicly available?
    [Response: Already there. GISTEMP, ModelE. We’ll put up a more comprehensive listing in the next post. – gavin]”
    Is this really all of it? Have you deleted some? Have you altered some? Is the sensor accurate? How do you know there wasn’t a computer glitch? This can’t be all of it. And what’s this statistical analysis? How does that work? …….

  40. 40
    ccpo says:

    CCPO: “Seriously, even one, that in any way challenges anthropogenic warming as the cause of warming since 1850?”
    Non-anthropogenic are not at least *part* of “the cause of warming since 1850?”

    Can you see this is an exaggerated claim?

    It is in no way an exaggeration. Not one. Oreskes found this in ’04 and nothing has changed since. Care to post some more bad science and get slapped down yet again?

    It’s also cooled since 1850.

    Only if you choose to take a view that “…since 1850…” doesn’t mean the long-term trend.

    And it’s been warming since the end of the last ice age.

    Except that from the time of Christ until 1850 we appear to have been in an overall downward trend in temps. I used to think the same, tho, so won’t hold that one against you. Much.

    And it’s been warmer before 1850

    No, it hasn’t. Check the recent lit. At least 2k years last I heard. CO2 levels haven’t been this high in 2,000,000.

    Hyperbole detracts from credibility.

    Comment by J — 23 November 2009 @ 1:18 AM

    At least you have a sense of humor. Enough, j. You aren’t up to the task.

  41. 41
    WDS says:

    Protecting this behavior is a little ridiculous. I’m an academic and I consider colluding to keep manuscripts out of the literature and colluding to replace ‘unfriendly’ editors entirely unethical. In fact, the entire tone of uncertainty (with respect to the science) contrasted with the facade presented to the public is equally disingenuous.

    Surely, admitting mistakes (especially with the lack of openness of data) and resetting the agenda will aid science and the community overall.

  42. 42
    Edward says:

    So is security being upgraded at university servers or are old emails being taken off line or the opposite? I really get annoyed at receiving 10 phishing attempts a day. Are there any genuine attempts to police the internet or is the IRS phishing detective and the like just for show? Does Congress care? Is there a petition in the works?
    Is there a way we can actually help?

  43. 43
    Chris L says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the time to respond to the firestorm of comments here. You really have provided a lot of valuable context. I have a feeling that one of my “skeptical” friends will be speaking to me about this affair very soon, and thanks to your hard work I’ll have some answers for him.

    Best wishes that this blows over soon.

  44. 44
    guthrie says:

    English is my first language, I’m educated up to tertiary level, written reports and emails galore over the last decade, have a vocabulary that is extremely wide and so on, and I still don’t see any context in the purloined e-mails.

  45. 45
    Nylo says:

    I have seen emails where a magazine editor is urged to delay the publication of a “skeptic” paper so that a different paper can be presented at the same time critizising it, instead of by means of a comment to the paper, so that the author of the “skeptic” paper doesn’t have the opportunity to respond to the critizism.

    Exactly what is the right context we should see such a thing in so that, once clarified, it can be understood that no conspiration was taking place? On what basis should we not consider such a thing as completely contrarian to the spirit of the rules, the scientific method or just plain ethics? Why are these people so afraid of the defense that the skeptic author could do of his own paper, as to consider that he should not have the opportunity to defend it against a direct attack that he won’t be able to be aware of before print?

  46. 46
    Heather says:

    Please do continue. I realize this takes time from science, but these people are determined and can adversely affect all climate research in future. Going back to the Dark Ages won’t keep warming from happening, but it will suit the suits who fund these political attacks, for the next couple of decades — until it’s too late to do much of anything about it. So, it’s time well spent, giving the context to those of us who need the explanations in order to push back with any effect. Thank you. You could detail a bright grad student to do some of it??? :-)

  47. 47
    John Y says:

    I thnk there are two questions which come into focus from this (1) is the tree ring historical climate data as reliable as it has been protrayed? (2) How significant is this data to the understanding of climate change?

    On the first issue I am deeply disappointed to discover this “divergence problem”, if tree rings can’t record the recent climate warming how can we assume they would have recorded warming events in the historical record? If the data has been over-hyped then it needs to be admitted

    [Response: If you want a fair assessment of what the real issues are and what is being done to deal with the imperfections that exist in any idea about what happened in past climate, read the relevant chapter in the IPCC report. The ‘divergence problem’ doesn’t affect every tree ring series and many attempts have been made to see how far you can get without using tree rings at all. – gavin]

  48. 48
    Ed Davies says:

    Thanks for these posts. A quick quote from them can do wonders to derail “denialist” arguments which I think will be influential with those who are still not sure, one way or the other.,9085.0.html

  49. 49
    Espen says:

    Eli Snyder: “Keep in mind that you are genuinely, without hyperbole, here to save the world.”

    That’s no good advice to give a scientist. Let the scientists establish the science, but leave the savior role to activists and politicians. Allegedly, some of the leaked mails and documents show that some of the scientists may have mixed these roles, and that this may have influenced the quality of the science.

  50. 50
    BJ_Chippindale says:


    I’ve just been looking at the 1940’s spike is being addressed within the problem of matching the dissimilar collection methods for SST (Buckets vs Sea-Water-Injection temperatures). It was suggested that rather than choosing the correction to match the land data through the coupling, that it would be better to do the experiment on a couple of ships with a couple of these buckets and take a 100 or so samples to work out the difference and what correction to actually use. I think there’s a couple of minor points to favor this.

    First is that there is an implicit assumption that the sst-land coupling is constant. It is likely to be a really minor correction if it is not, but if it IS changing, wouldn’t we like to know? Tying to the existing coupling makes analysis of such things more difficult. It WOULD be a pretty cheap (comparatively) experiment to do.

    The other argument is scientific purity. This is an unknown for which we CAN get pretty good data.

    … or did I totally misunderstand what was going on there?

    I want to say bless you, for everything you’ve done here because I have really REALLY needed this support. Of course, being an atheist I can’t say THAT :-) but you are going to be wallowing in positive karma no matter what else happens in your life.

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!