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The CRU hack

Filed under: — group @ 20 November 2009

As many of you will be aware, a large number of emails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia webmail server were hacked recently (Despite some confusion generated by Anthony Watts, this has absolutely nothing to do with the Hadley Centre which is a completely separate institution). As people are also no doubt aware the breaking into of computers and releasing private information is illegal, and regardless of how they were obtained, posting private correspondence without permission is unethical. We therefore aren’t going to post any of the emails here. We were made aware of the existence of this archive last Tuesday morning when the hackers attempted to upload it to RealClimate, and we notified CRU of their possible security breach later that day.

Nonetheless, these emails (a presumably careful selection of (possibly edited?) correspondence dating back to 1996 and as recently as Nov 12) are being widely circulated, and therefore require some comment. Some of them involve people here (and the archive includes the first RealClimate email we ever sent out to colleagues) and include discussions we’ve had with the CRU folk on topics related to the surface temperature record and some paleo-related issues, mainly to ensure that posting were accurate.

Since emails are normally intended to be private, people writing them are, shall we say, somewhat freer in expressing themselves than they would in a public statement. For instance, we are sure it comes as no shock to know that many scientists do not hold Steve McIntyre in high regard. Nor that a large group of them thought that the Soon and Baliunas (2003), Douglass et al (2008) or McClean et al (2009) papers were not very good (to say the least) and should not have been published. These sentiments have been made abundantly clear in the literature (though possibly less bluntly).

More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to ‘get rid of the MWP’, no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no ‘marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords. The truly paranoid will put this down to the hackers also being in on the plot though.

Instead, there is a peek into how scientists actually interact and the conflicts show that the community is a far cry from the monolith that is sometimes imagined. People working constructively to improve joint publications; scientists who are friendly and agree on many of the big picture issues, disagreeing at times about details and engaging in ‘robust’ discussions; Scientists expressing frustration at the misrepresentation of their work in politicized arenas and complaining when media reports get it wrong; Scientists resenting the time they have to take out of their research to deal with over-hyped nonsense. None of this should be shocking.

It’s obvious that the noise-generating components of the blogosphere will generate a lot of noise about this. but it’s important to remember that science doesn’t work because people are polite at all times. Gravity isn’t a useful theory because Newton was a nice person. QED isn’t powerful because Feynman was respectful of other people around him. Science works because different groups go about trying to find the best approximations of the truth, and are generally very competitive about that. That the same scientists can still all agree on the wording of an IPCC chapter for instance is thus even more remarkable.

No doubt, instances of cherry-picked and poorly-worded “gotcha” phrases will be pulled out of context. One example is worth mentioning quickly. Phil Jones in discussing the presentation of temperature reconstructions stated that “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.” The paper in question is the Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998) Nature paper on the original multiproxy temperature reconstruction, and the ‘trick’ is just to plot the instrumental records along with reconstruction so that the context of the recent warming is clear. Scientists often use the term “trick” to refer to a “a good way to deal with a problem”, rather than something that is “secret”, and so there is nothing problematic in this at all. As for the ‘decline’, it is well known that Keith Briffa’s maximum latewood tree ring density proxy diverges from the temperature records after 1960 (this is more commonly known as the “divergence problem”–see e.g. the recent discussion in this paper) and has been discussed in the literature since Briffa et al in Nature in 1998 (Nature, 391, 678-682). Those authors have always recommend not using the post 1960 part of their reconstruction, and so while ‘hiding’ is probably a poor choice of words (since it is ‘hidden’ in plain sight), not using the data in the plot is completely appropriate, as is further research to understand why this happens.

The timing of this particular episode is probably not coincidental. But if cherry-picked out-of-context phrases from stolen personal emails is the only response to the weight of the scientific evidence for the human influence on climate change, then there probably isn’t much to it.

There are of course lessons to be learned. Clearly no-one would have gone to this trouble if the academic object of study was the mating habits of European butterflies. That community’s internal discussions are probably safe from the public eye. But it is important to remember that emails do seem to exist forever, and that there is always a chance that they will be inadvertently released. Most people do not act as if this is true, but they probably should.

It is tempting to point fingers and declare that people should not have been so open with their thoughts, but who amongst us would really be happy to have all of their email made public?

Let he who is without PIN cast the the first stone.

Update: The official UEA statement is as follows:

“We are aware that information from a server used for research information
in one area of the university has been made available on public websites,”
the spokesman stated.

“Because of the volume of this information we cannot currently confirm
that all of this material is genuine.”

“This information has been obtained and published without our permission
and we took immediate action to remove the server in question from

“We are undertaking a thorough internal investigation and we have involved
the police in this enquiry.”

Update II: Please comment on the next thread.

1,092 Responses to “The CRU hack”

  1. 601
    tensorized lurker says:

    [Response: Again, how is a publication in Nature hiding anything? I know you don’t think that climate scientists are very bright, but really, the purloined Nature article? – gavin]

    Dr. Jones himself described Mann’s Nature trick as ‘hiding’. Is there another meaning of ‘hiding’ that I am missing here?

    [Response: The decline in the Briffa reconstruction was ‘hidden’ on that one single graph, but the interannual variability was also ‘hidden’, so was the interhemispheric difference. They are not ‘hidden’ in any nefarious way as the statements implying that Jones was ‘hiding’ data would imply. And it remains unclear why this was described as Mann’s Nature trick since no such effect is seen in Mike’s paper in any case. – gavin]

  2. 602
    John Franklin says:

    576 and 581 – Do you think the choice is one between academics and plumbers or mining consultants?

    I was suggesting in 567 that the inherent insecurities in the academic world (relating to tenure, status, funding, etc.) means that it is the sort of arena that encourages emails of the type being exposed.

    The level of hubris and poor judgment displayed in some of the emails means that from now on every discussion I have with someone denying or wanting to know more about climate change will have me making excuses for the bad manners of a physical scientist while trying to defend the record of climate change.

    For those of us concerned about the science and the planet more than our academic standing or funding this has been a major setback.

  3. 603
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Ron @592 Opposing anti-science scumbags IS working toward a sustainable society. We will never achieve anything like sustainability until we establish the proposition that policy should be based on science rather than wishful thinking. Do I get emotional about this issue? Damned right! When a bunch of innumerate wannabes get together and pretend to be scientists in the hopes of duping unwary laymen on an issue that threatens the continued viability of human civilization, that is worth getting upset about. I am sorry if devotion to the truth offends you.

  4. 604
    Biff Larkin says:

    Semantic games indeed.

    “So rather than me rack my brains for what data it is you are referring to, perhaps you could just tell me what data do you think any of us are holding that anyone would like to see?”

    The data that Jones says he would rather destroy then turn over to McIntyre. That data.

    [Response: It may have escaped your notice, but I am not Phil Jones, neither is Mike Mann, and nor is anyone else associated with the RealClimate. We might look superficially alike and have similar accents, but we are actually different people, and we live in different countries and work on different things. The issues with the base CRU data have been discussed above (and here), but to recap, CRU data includes extra information from Nat. Met. Services which were given on the understanding that they could not be passed on to third parties except as part of the gridded data set. This information is something that the relevant NMS’s sell commercially and so they often have legal mandates not to undermine their own revenue streams by giving things out for free. Now I don’t really know how key that is, and how flexible they might be to rethinking those agreements, but while they exist, CRU is in a bit of a bind. I stress that this has absolutely nothing to do with anyone at RealClimate, and has absolutely nothing to do with wanting to hide data. It possibly has something to do with the fact that CRU has recieved dozens of vexatious FOI requests from people who are trying to score points rather than do any science. – gavin]

  5. 605

    I appologise for taking up so much space, however it needs
    saying and speaks loudly and clearly for itself amidst all the
    hullabaloo going on.

    The following is a fact:

    The following world-wide established scientifically-oriented
    bodies have all issued verifyable written statements that human
    caused-global warming/human-caused climate change is now

    They are all risking their hard-earned reputations, which is all-
    important in science, (and risking funding and ridicule if they are
    wrong), to issue statements that human-caused climate change
    is currently happening:

    1) European Academy of Sciences and Arts- 2007

    2) InterAcademy Council- 2007

    3) International Council of Academies of Engineering and
    Technological Sciences-2007

    4) 32 national science academies (Australia, Belgium, Brazil,
    Cameroon, Canada, the Caribbean, China, France, Ghana,
    Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, India, Japan, Kenya,
    Madagascar, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, New Zealand, Russia,
    Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Sweden, Tanzania, Uganda,
    United Kingdom, United States, Zambia, and Zimbabwe).-2001

    5) The national science academies of the G8+5 nations issued a
    joint statement declaring- 2009

    6) Network of African Science Academies- (Cameroon, Ghana,
    Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan,
    Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, as well as the African
    Academy of Sciences).- 2007

    7) Royal Society of New Zealand- 2008

    8) Polish Academy of Sciences- 2007

    9) US National Research Council -2001

    10) American Association for the Advancement of Science- 2006

    11) European Science Foundation- 2007

    12) Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological
    Societies- 2008

    13) American Geophysical Union- 2007

    14) European Federation of Geologists- 2008

    15) European Geosciences Union- 2005

    16) Geological Society of America- 2006

    17) Geological Society of Australia- 2009

    18) International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics- 2007

    19) National Association of Geoscience Teachers- 2009

    20) American Meteorological Society- 2003

    21) Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society- (As
    of 2009)

    22) Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric
    Sciences- 2005

    23) Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society- 2007

    24) English Royal Meteorological Society- 2007

    25) World Meteorological Organization- 2006

    26) American Quaternary Association- (from at least 2009)

    27) American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians- (from at
    least 2009)

    28) American Society for Microbiology- 2003

    29) Australian Coral Reef Society- 2006

    30) UK’s Institute of Biology- (from at least 2009)

    31) Society of American Foresters- 2008

    32) American Academy of Pediatrics- 2007

    33) American College of Preventive Medicine- 2006

    34) American Medical Association- 2008

    35) American Public Health Association- 2007

    36) Australian Medical Association- 2004

    37) World Federation of Public Health Associations- 2001

    38) World Health Organization- 2008

    39) American Astronomical Society- (from at least 2009)

    40) American Chemical Society- (from at least 2009)

    41) American Institute of Physics- (from at least 2009)

    42) American Physical Society- 2007

    43) American Statistical Association- 2007

    44) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

    Not one, I repeat, not one scientific body of national or
    international standing, (to the best of my knowledge) is known to *reject* (but three out of four
    American geological scientific bodies are issuing neutral
    statements- some dating from 1999) about the basic findings of
    human influence on recent climate change on the entire planet
    Earth *currently as of 2009*)…

    …not one *currently as of 2009* rejects anymore the IPCC findings,(to the best of my knowledge)that we humans are warming the Earth. However, it was a different story several years ago before the world-wide mainstream climate science’s evidence advanced enough to become indisputably solid in mainstream science (with the help of intense contrarian arguments and became so strong)…

    It has been an evolving process since at least 1824 with Jean-Baptiste Fourier’s published writings. The first mainstream mathematical calculations in journals to show that we humans could warm the Earth by burning oil, coal and gas and making CO2 were from 1896 (Svante Arrhenius)…

  6. 606
    David B. Benson says:

    Good lord!

    Five hundred and ninety eight comments so far!

    Very much ado about very, very little.

  7. 607
    Ian says:

    Are these emails illegally hacked? There seems to be a suggestion they are from a whistleblower at UEA

  8. 608
    Sean says:

    As per
    Why wouldn’t the sensitivity of tree growth in the second half of the century be taken to be more accurate than the sensitivity measured in the earlier years of the century. Surely we have gotten better over the years at measuring mean temperature directly (evolving from mercury thermometers to satellite data as an example). In a nutshell, why do we have more faith in the thermometer readings taken 100 years ago versus that readings taken 25 years ago?

    [Response: We don’t. It’s the trees that have a problem, not the temperature measurements. – gavin]

  9. 609
    Brian says:

    The sad thing is the unbelievable level of arrogance these scientists display. Public money, full disclosure, why is that so hard?

  10. 610
    Sloop says:

    Reading through the hacked emails impartially exonerates the CRU scientists and their colleagues. No smoking gun. No “mushroom cloud.” Clearly many posters here and elsewhere don’t understand how the institutions and mechanisms of scientific research function. FOIA requests are resisted by the CRU scientists because they were clearly coming from folks out to obfuscate and defame the research. There is NOTHING to hide here folks and it is for reasons explained lots of reasons why the met data just couldn’t be released upon request. Furthermore, this hacking event seems highly orchestrated and nefarious in and of itself. The efforts led by CA are not affecting scientific consensus and much of their work is clearly pseudo-science. But they are deliberately or ignorantly misleading the lay public and fueling the ideologues who have the same agenda. My questions to readers of this blog are thus this- how should this hacking event after it is fully investigated by the legal authorities be responded to by major government entities such as NOAA? Should it be ignored or should government authorities step in with a complete review and discussion of what is going on here? Your answer probably would depend on how influential one considers the blogosphere in the first place on different facets of society. US government entities generally are very hesitant to respond to pseudo science initiatives unless absolutely necessary; but has whatever is being orchestrated to obfuscate the advance of climatology and related disciplines, to slow progress on climate change law and treaties crossed a line in terms of manipulating public opinion, defaming legitimate scientists, and denigrating valid and critical scientific findings? The comments on Gavin’s hacker posts will clearly go on for a while. Much of what I’m perusing here is not useful. If we’re going to continue this thread ad nauseum, could at least some of us try to engage in a more useful discussion???

  11. 611
    MadRocketScientist says:

    “Look, I’ve known Phil Jones for a decade and I have no doubts as to his integrity despite some rather unfortunate comments in these emails. Neither he, nor his allies (whoever they might be), are deleting any data. Not now. Not ever. You don’t know him, but you have formed an impression based on these communications. Now I doubt I will convince you that your impression is wrong, but it is”

    The problem is, the science is not really at issue here, it’s the perception that you are witholding data, or finding ways to withold data, or seriously wanting to withold data, which is something the general public believes scientists (especially University Scientists) do not do. Same goes for the personal attacks on skeptics and journals (science always welcomes the skeptic).

    It’s like finding out that your local DA has been keeping info from the defense, or engaging in a nasty PR campaign against a defendant. In both cases, you should not need to do that, your logic & your data should stand on their own.

    Also, this is bad for science as a whole, as it will feed into the fear of those who are on the fence about contentious topics (like evolution). It encourages the idea that there is a conspiracy to push one POV over another. Just wait until someone starts going on about how much money there is in Climate Research, and how much is invested in green technologies, and how much is to be made in carbon credits & tax, and you’ll see more people deciding you are all on the take. You may not agree with me, but I’ve already seen it happening. Those who didn’t believe now have more reason to not, and those on the fence, are now questioning how much the politics drove the science.

    You guys should have avoided trying to control the debate (and don’t claim you weren’t, applying pressure to institutions and publishers to oust or ignore people is controlling the debate).

    And always assume your work emails are public.

  12. 612
    Robert says:

    The problem is not about the fact that papers are being dismissed for being inadquate and of poor qualitiy – and it is totally acceptable that they are harshly criticised internally by peer reviewers.

    The huge problem is that it cleary appears that papers were rejected because the peer reviewers did’nt like their RESULTS, and this is what the public fury is about. It seems that RC and its partners are rather driven by ideology or personal interests rather than science and that is highly probelmatic.

    [Response: No. The problem with Soon and Baliunas was their methodology, not their results (which were pre-determined in any case). Same for Douglass et al and same for McClean et al (and note that an author on the last one, was actually the editor on the first). – gavin]

  13. 613
    steven mosher says:

    There is a lot of speculation on whether these files were “cherry picked” there is some evidence that they were selected by CRU themselves. There is some evidence that the files were collected as part of an FOI appeal. An appeal that was denied on Nov 13th. The date of the last email was Nov 12th.

    I think the bottomline on this whole story is this. The institutions that govern scientific behavior are going awry. Those institutions are being corrupted by money and power and politics. The tonic for this is transparency. Free the data; free the code; free the debate.

    But some on the AGW side are interested in controlling the message. They fight against data release because they fear what people will do with it. They fear that data will be misused: it will be. They fear people finding errors: errors will be found. None of these errors will overturn the basic science which is sound. They fear that people will be less certain: they will be. And they fear that it may take some time to convince people to take action: it will. And so they act out of fear and try to control the message. Everyone who understands the nixon white house understands how this fear drives people to do things that they ordinarily would not. The one thing they never feared: disclosure. Leaks. And so the thing they feared the most, delaying action on climate science, is the very thing they may have got. They should have trusted that open debate would yield the next right action in the shortest time possible. They didnt. They feared a “corporate enemy” that would delay action. And, ironically, in the end they ended up being the thing they feared.

  14. 614
    Rod B says:

    I want to comment before this thread reaches critical mass. I think there is some negative substance in the emails that in fact does cast some shadows on the science (or maybe more accurately some of the people in the science). Clearly there is some evidence that some climate scientists have been less than pure and pristine in their endeavors, and that some of the science is less than as perfectly portrayed. With that, it is also understandable that some of the responses are emotionally and loudly defensive.

    However, maybe surprising to some here, I come down firmly on the side of RC. I criticize some AGW proponents for being completely dogmatic (bordering on religious) in their defense (or offense) of every and all aspects of AGW science when it is obvious that at least some parts of the science are less than 100% certain. This still holds. But I have also understood (and have said) why those guys (and gals), unless there is complete segregation between the science and the politics — which is not possible, can’t always do otherwise. This is because if some degree of uncertainty is appropriately discussed and accepted within the science, this can “get out” and attach to the political arena, and in that (just as in the criminal arena) can be used completely out of context in a negative and nefarious way against the science.

    The business memos analogy is apt. (And unless arbitrarily limited specifically to emails goes way further back than Enron). It’s recognized by business (with maybe Gates as an exception…) that the thing that will lose the anti-trust case is the otherwise simple innocuous little memo long forgotten and sitting for years in the secretary’s file cabinet. Business goes to great efforts to make sure that nothing that might be construed as incriminating (even though there was zero criminal thought or intent) is hard written or kept. This might aid them in some future problematic proceedings, but it also greatly inhibits what might be significant and helpful business discussions. The same holds true here. A climate scientist ought to feel free to challenge and criticize a fellow scientist’s assertion. This greatly aids the scientific process. But if just the criticism sneaks out without its proper context it can provide an AHA! moment for the aginers — which maybe has little validity within the science but can be persuasive outside the science. Absolutely unfortunate and unhelpful.

    The folks who argue, “but if they have nothing to hide…….” are the same idiots who would throw out the 4th Amendment.

    I was going to comment on other specific posts, but at 500+ per day, this is getting ridiculous!

  15. 615
    EL says:

    105 – dcook
    The word “trick” is used differently in technical fields and even in layman fields. In fact, the actual definition of trick has many meanings. From, one meaning of the word trick means “The art or knack of doing something skillfully.” This particular meaning of the word trick is used quite frequently in mathematics, and I’m sure it is used in science as well.

    107 and others – On Moderation

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with moderation, and it is used frequently on just about every single forum on the Internet. One of my favorite forums is, and it is heavily moderated. If they did not moderate the forum, it would be filled to the brim with posts by religious zealots.

    Real climate may want to post similar rules so that moderation is very clear to the public so that everyone is very clear on what is and what is not acceptable. I think it would also be helpful to include a “forum” with the web site so that other discussions could take place.

    110 – On conforming suspicions.

    I don’t think anything has changed. For the most part, the arguments will be peppered with an added form of nonsense. I’ve already seen several people cite the word “trick,” and they only use the meanings suited to meet their argument. It reminds me of the ‘reverse’ song arguments made by religious communities a few decades ago. Researchers took a group of people and played a song in reverse. The subjects could not understand what the singer was saying; however, once they were told what was being said, all could hear it. Much of the same is taking place here.

    117 – On trick again.
    “Could you give a few examples? I searched right here at Realclimate for uses of that term they tend to relate to “trickery”, not good science.”

    I’ll give you a very simple example.

    Lets assume that a fraction has an irrational number in the denominator, and we want to rationalize the denominator in order to make the mathematics with fractions cleaner.

    For example: 1/square-root-of(2)

    Since an irrational number in the denominator makes for ugly mathematics, we can use a trick to move the irrational number to the numerator by multiplying the top and bottom of the fraction with the irrational number.

    Given: 1 / Square-Root-of(2)
    Step One: (1 * Square-root-of(2)) / (Square-Root-of(2) * Square-Root-of(2))
    Step Two: Square-root-of(2) / Square-Root-Of(4)
    Step Three: Square-Root-of(2) / 2

    And so we have rationalized the denominator.

  16. 616
    Nick says:

    Yes, illegal. Unethical? If someone had hacked into Exxon’s servers and found emails talking about how they need to hire and promote global warming deniers, you’d be applauding and justifying the actions of the hackers.

  17. 617
    the equaliser says:

    @597 MarkB
    “Climate scientists are doing a tremendous service to society. I hope they will keep up the good work, and will not be deterred by political bullies.”

    i think i c your heart breaking just a ‘ittle bit

  18. 618
    MadRocketScientist says:

    And BTW, before someone jumps on me about being a denier, I’m not, I accept that the world is warming. I think we are in a natural warming period and human activity is accelerating the trend and has the potential of making the the peak higher than it normally would be.

  19. 619
    gt4 says:

    As a long time reader of CA and RC I can testify to one dramatic difference between the skeptics and the believers, the skeptics are more tolerant of dissent. In fact, CA encourages discussions with the believers and the most interesting discussions are often between McIntyre (or others) and a person on the establishment side. Prior to this thread, I have personally had every post I put on RC deleted. All were on point and relevant the the current discussion. After reading the email talking about managing the message on RC I don’t feel so bad.

    I would suggest you open your website to more critical posts and stick to the facts instead of personal attacks.

    [Response: And I’m sure you have made exactly the same point elsewhere… – gavin]

  20. 620
    John Mason says:

    re – 601

    Richard, I pretty much agree.

    This work goes back a century and a half, and has not yet failed the test of falsification. What (watt??) is it with these muppets who constantly attempt to reinvent the laws of physics to suit their particular political stances?

    I despair, I really do!

    Cheers – john

  21. 621
    Brnn8r says:

    I have a couple of (meta?)science questions that are confusing me.

    But first off I’d like to explain that I consider myself a luke-warmer. i.e. CO2 is a greenhouse gas that is being increased by man and of course this should lead to some increase in the global mean temperature anomaly. I’m not sure agree with the IPCC AR4 conclusion that man is mostly responsible for the warming. It seem to me it’s too difficult at this stage to rule out natural internal variability. For example we don’t really have a good handle on what clouds have been doing for the last 50 – 60 years do we?

    Anyway I hear reports, on the one hand, that climate change is accelerating “faster than even experts predicted” and yet on the other hand that (land/ocean) temperatures are currently relatively stable if not decreasing (I’m basing this off the RSS, MSU, GISS temps and the ARGO system). Doesn’t the fact that temperatures are not really increasing mean that some of this reported acceleration is not happening? Or does it really depends on where you choose your start point?

    [Response: “worse” or “better” than expected depends on what it is you are looking at. CO2 emissions are worse, CO2 levels are about right, CH4 levels are better, summer sea ice extent is worse, temperature is hard to tell. Given the IPCC expectations consist generally of a best guess and a range, one would expect some things to be better or worse even if IPCC had been perfect. Compared to 1995 (IPCC SAR), emissions are worse, sea levels are worse, temperatures about right. etc. I would personally avoid statements along those lines until you have longer data-sets. A couple of years have too much noise for conclusions to be robust. – gavin]

    Also, IIRC, based on a climate sensitivity of 3C for 2CO2 (IPCC best estimate?) there should have been more warming in the 20th century than was recorded. The implication I got was that the oceans were storing this extra heat and would release this at a latter date. How does this reconcile with decreasing oceanic temperatures? i.e. can we still balance the energy equations with 3C for 2CO2 and if not where is the other heat energy going?

    [Response: The expected warming over the 20C is a function of three things – the net forcing (CO2 and aerosols and CH4 etc.), the sensitivity and the ocean uptake of heat. The first is uncertain, as is the second, though the long term rise in the third indicates that the net forcing was indeed positive. However, the delay in the system because of the ocean thermal inertia, while implying there is some warming in the pipeline, does not mean that the energy in the oceans is going to come back out at a later date. It is there pretty much for good. As the ocean is warming at depth, the surface is a little bit cooler than it will be at equilibrium. Where do you get the idea that oceans are cooling though? – gavin]


  22. 622
    Jay says:

    If you, Gavin, could please clarify for me and post the question and answer.

    From what I can tell there are only a handful of people who have actually used raw data and created a history of the climate based on said data i.e. Mann, Briffa, etc.

    [Response: Not even close. Mann and Briffa work in paleo-reconstructions, not the temperature data at CRU. Their source material are the hundreds of published individual records from tree-rings, ice cores, corals etc. (got to the NOAA Paleoclimate site to download that). – gavin]

    Other scientists use the results that these previous studies already got for their own experiments. I know there is the Mann graph, the Briffa tree ring, and one or two more. From my understanding all others have used the results or already smoothed and fixed data.

    [Response: No again. There are many groups of people doing their own reconstructions directly from the raw paleodata. – gavin]

    Is it also true that the original raw data from these studies is missing?

    [Response: No. ]

    All that is left are copies of the corrected data?

    [Response: No. Are you referring to the instrumental records though? In which case all of the met services have all their original data. – gavin]

    If all of these scientists and organizations that previous posts have referred to, use the previous studies as reference and don’t reconstruct the data for themselves, would that not lead them to the same conclusions regardless of validity?
    Basically, if there is a mistake could that same mistake be made over and over if the original data were not verified over and over. We know gravity exists because everytime its tested it works in the same way? I am confused.

    [Response: The basis of the data are hundreds of different records – both for the paleo stuff and the temperatures. With so much data you can cross check and find records that are problematic or diverge from other nearby sites. New paleodata can always be collected (though old instrumental data can’t). – gavin]

  23. 623
    Skip Smith says:

    Agree with comment 602. The arrogance of this group of climate scientists is amazing. They seem to think they get to decide if someone is worthy of having their FOIA request fulfilled. They also treat the public and policymakers like idiots.

    I see some of that same arrogance in the responses to comments here.

    One of the core tenets of science is replicability. Why not let anyone interested have the data and code for these studies? If the science is valid, it will stand up to scrutiny. What are they so afraid of?

  24. 624
    Steve Richards says:

    I am absolutely shocked at what I have read on this very web site.

    People deleting data, people conniving to stymie FOI requests.

    Lets get down to basics:

    You do some research, you publish, people duplicate your research.

    These steps go on in science around the world all the time.

    However, in climate research, there is a problem.

    You can not replicate all research, some raw data is not available to you.

    Research that you can not replicate is bad research.

    If I stood in front of you today and said “Ladies and Gentlemen I will show you now how I can generate electrical power from fresh water”. I press a button, lights flash, noises emanate from a flash looking demo box on the desk in front.

    A light comes on and I declare free electricity for all.

    Now, if I gave scientists all the data needed to replicate my demo, I could become a multimillionaire overnight.

    If I said, sorry some of the contents of the demo are private, I would be roundly condemned as a sharlotan.

    Many climate researchers can and should be conemded and sharlotans because they either:

    Refuse to release data or

    Use outputs that rely upon refused data.

    It would be an interesting study to see what dependancies exist on unreleased data!

    To have a paper published in a peer reviewed journal must be a proud moment in a scientists career,

    be proud, publish all the data, not doing so spreads fear of quackery.

    We must know the provenance of all data used in all released research.

  25. 625
    ExtraO says:

    Well, who’da ever thunk it? A boatload of people with credentials up the yin-yang who clearly ought to know better than to input anything into an electronic messaging medium that they wouldn’t declare on the front page of the NYT to their worst enemy’s face, don’t know any better. Human beings are not only no “smarter” than yeast, we are decidedly more clueless. Back in WWII the slogan was “loose lips sink ships” – I shudder to think what all this will end up sinking.

  26. 626
    Tim says:

    I have but one question. Is there a chance, a realistic chance that the 44 organizations listed in post #601 could be wrong?
    If the answer is no, then your combined egos have become bigger then the question you’re trying to answer. If the scientific community would treat theory as theory then the rest of the world might pay more attention. You call people deniers and they can hear the contempt you show for them. It’s a zero sum game as far as I’m concern: Personally I believe man can influence to a certain degree the climate of the world. But I also believe in God and have faith in his design to be able to handle the change. Good luck cleaning this mess up.

  27. 627
    Rod says:

    @607 Nick

    You don’t have to hack into their servers as that very fact is public record:

  28. 628
    Hank Roberts says:

    A reminder — if the quote attributed to whoever posted the file is correct, they said:

    “We feel that climate science is, in the current situation, too important to be kept under wraps. We hereby release a random selection of correspondence, code, and documents.”


    Whatever it means, it can’t mean this is a reliable sample or evenhanded

  29. 629
    Tom says:

    If the emails are legit, then this is over. The most damning is the FOI stuff. The average person will see the evasion, and maybe illegal activity, that is going on here. It is not scientists just being human.

    There will always be believers. But this will be done as a mainstream issues. After this, the average person is going to see the believers and the first thing they will think is this episode.

  30. 630
    Rod says:

    Correction – My (hopefully published) previous comment was directed @615 Nick

  31. 631

    James Hoggan has certainly put his finger on the reality of this conlict. Fossil fuel companies are behind that email scam. It is interesting to add this to the message of his his book (something about the corrupted science of these bastards skeptics).

  32. 632
    johhnyvu says:

    Does anyone think the following behaviour of “cutting points” is acceptable? Or perhaps is this e-mail “out of context” too?


    From: Mick Kelly
    Subject: RE: Global temperature
    Date: Sun, 26 Oct 2008 09:02:00 +1300

    Yeah, it wasn’t so much 1998 and all that that I was concerned about, used
    to dealing with that, but the possibility that we might be going through a
    longer – 10 year – period of relatively stable temperatures beyond what you
    might expect from La Nina etc.

    Speculation, but if I see this as a possibility then others might also.
    Anyway, I’ll maybe cut the last few points off the filtered curve before I
    give the talk again as that’s trending down as a result of the end effects
    and the recent cold-ish years.

    Enjoy Iceland and pass on my best wishes to Astrid.


    [Response: No. It is completely unnecessary. – gavin]

  33. 633
    Sean says:

    OK, thanks for the input Gavin. I just think that it’s odd that we think that we know exactly how trees behave physiologically up until 50 years ago. After this point something mysterious happens that we don’t understand and we blame the trees for the blip. From my point of view, the variable that changed after 1960 is temperature record. There seems to be an inverse relationship where the more we know about the temperature the less we know about the trees.

  34. 634
    gt4 says:

    On item I found particularly interesting was the spreadsheet with funding. In the interest of full disclosure it might be interesting to note the funding for other AGW proponents from the NSF (only one source):
    Gavin Schmidt $820,000
    Michael Mann $1,500,000
    Raymond Bradley $3,500,000
    Malcolm Hughes $2,300,000

    My point is only that “Climate Research” is a lucrative little business that is fully funded by the government and dependent on the continued belief in a man made crisis.

    Obviously this money doesn’t go the the researchers only, but it funds their “business” and for that business to continue, the must support AGW. That is what interested me about the spreadsheet.

    Gavin, I’m sure you’ll cut this, but I respect your efforts to defend RC and don’t question your motives. I am sure you are sincere in your belief in AGW.

    [Response: For reference, that is $820,000 over 8 years (3 grants I think), and funded 4 graduate students, my salary and a couple of research associates. And note that 50% goes right off the top as overhead. Work out how big the lap of luxury it is that I was sitting in. – gavin]

  35. 635
    Ray Ladbury says:

    MadRocketScientist says, “And BTW, before someone jumps on me about being a denier, I’m not, I accept that the world is warming. I think we are in a natural warming period and human activity is accelerating the trend and has the potential of making the the peak higher than it normally would be.”

    Well, except that natural forcers would be causing the planet to cool substantially about no. So… what exactly is the basis of your belief that the planet is warming “naturally”?

  36. 636
    steven mosher says:

    It’s funny. Everyone is focusing on and defending the word “trick.” That’s not the important word or phrase. The key is “hide the decline.” In the end it’s just an argument about chartmanship. There is a technical problem with endpoint smoothing here. Just own up to that VERY MINOR PROBLEM. Display the various approaches to managing that problem. It has no bearing on the science. Just own up to the technical difficulty that this “trick” addresses. Show alternative tricks. Argue the pros and cons. Sunshine, not hiding. You see I trust people to come to the correct conclusion. Nothing to hide. Those with technical experience will understand the mathematical issue at play. And if the lay public sees technically competent people discussing issues in an open fashion, conceding points, agreeing to disagree, then you will not have a lack of trust in a consensus view. The meme of consensus has dominated the epistemology of climate science. But we should remember that for much of the audience this is intended to convince, consensus is formed from an open, free rigorous debate. A majority opinion and a minority opinion. And now when people get to see how the “majority” acts in a closed debate, their trust will be shaken.

  37. 637
    Manuel says:


    Do you care to share with us how many emails have you deleted these past few days? It would be an interesting piece of information.

  38. 638
    Joe V. says:

    Hey Bartont Paul Levenson,

    Sorry about the late night spell check typo. To believe that a complex system such as our climate can be predicted by a set number of variable inputs, when the number is infinite.

    Joe V: To believe that a complex system such as our climate can be predicted by a set number of variable inputs, when the number is infantesimal.

    BPL: “Infinite.” “Infinitesimal” means “vanishingly small.” And while a large number of things may affect climate, they do NOT all affect it to the same degree. That’s what “explained variance” is all about in statistics.

    “A problem with measures of the proportion of variance explained is that there is no consensus on how big an effect has to be in order to be considered meaningful. In some cases, effects that when measured in terms of proportion of variance explained appear to be trivial, can, in reality be very important.” I could not have stated it any butter. Sorry, better.

    JV: We have enough problems predicting global weather conditions seven days in advance as supposed to 30 years.

    BPL: Don’t confuse climate with weather

    Climate is the accumulted results of weather paterns over a long time series. So how is it not important to be able to predict the weather when considering climate prediction. Thunk you. I mean Thank you.

  39. 639
    Ray Ladbury says:

    OK, so look at the emails, and what do you learn?
    1)A bunch of scientists resent being treated like criminals and subjected to an FOI request. Is this surprising? In science we have developed a substitute for FOI when it comes to getting data. It’s called “asking nicely”. Try it some time.
    2)A bunch of scientists said bad things about a bunch of REALLY bad papers and the people who wrote them. Whoa! Hold the presses! Ever hear of Pauli’s description of a paper as being so bad it wasn’t even wrong? Oh, snap! That’s gotta leave a mark!

    What does all this change? Nothing. We have evidence going back to the 1600s that shows evidence for climate change in the dates when cherry blossoms bloom on Mt. Fuji! Wow, those clever scientists must have developed a time machine in addition to all those black UN helicopters, huh? The evidence that the planet is warming is incontrovertible. The evidence that we’re behind it is equally so. All this shows is that scientists are human, get exasperated and express themselves intemperately. Those of us who actually do science already knew this.

  40. 640
    PeteB says:

    RE 627 Steven Mosher Sunshine, not hiding

    the IPCC reports – they state clearly what was done and why and what the other viewpoint is and that it is not resolved – there is certainly no cover up ?

    ‘…This ‘divergence’ is apparently restricted to some northern, highlatitude regions, but it is certainly not ubiquitous even there. In their large-scale reconstructions based on tree ring density data, Briffa et al. (2001) specifically excluded the post-1960 data in their calibration against instrumental records, to avoid biasing the estimation of the earlier reconstructions (hence they are not shown in Figure 6.10), implicitly assuming that the ‘divergence’ was a uniquely recent phenomenon, as has also been argued by Cook et al. (2004a). Others, however, argue for a breakdown in the assumed linear tree growth response to continued warming, invoking a possible threshold exceedance beyond which moisture stress now limits further growth (D’Arrigo et al., 2004). If true, this would imply a similar limit on the potential to reconstruct possible warm periods in earlier times at such sites. At this time there is no consensus on these issues (for further references see NRC, 2006) and the possibility of investigating them further is restricted by the lack of recent tree ring data at most of the sites from which tree ring data discussed in this chapter were acquired.’

  41. 641
    Lazar says:


    “a) Requesting that scientists delete email correspondence
    b) in the knowledge that those emails may be subject to FOI

    [Response: This was ill-advised. – gavin]”

    Ill-advised, but not unethical?

    “c) Proposing to deliberately mangle/supply requested data into a form that is more difficult to use

    [Response: Not true. – gavin]”

    Gavin, how else do you interpret 3)?…

    “Options appear to be:
    1. Send them the data


    3. Send them the raw data as is, by reconstructing it from GHCN. How could this be done? Replace all stations where the WMO ID agrees with what is in GHCN. This would be the raw data, but it would annoy them.”


    “d) Proposing the deletion of parts of a dataset before it is released under FOI

    [Response: Depends what was requested and what was in the datafile. Some of it might not have been responsive. – gavin]”


    “e) Considering the deletion of an entire dataset to avoid FOI release

    [Response: Shouldn’t have been said but is clearly hyperbole and not an actual proposal. – gavin]”

    It is not clear to me that it is “hyperbole”…

    “The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone.”


    “f) Deliberately concealing a mismatch between reconstructed and instrumental temperatures (”to hide the decline” is unambiguous, and is not excused by the fact that the discrepancy is discussed in *other* publications; Pat Michaels’ omission of Hansen 1988’s B & C scenarios in Congressional testimony is not justified by the fact that they were available in Hansen 1988 — I am not saying though that the two are ethically equivalent)

    [Response: They are not in the slightest. Michaels’ actions were a deliberate misrepresentation of Hansen’s work in front of Congress. The incompleteness of a caption in a brochure while unfortunate is nothing like as serious, nor does it rise to deliberate misrepresentation. The procedure used should simply have been noted more clearly. – gavin]”

    I think the caption *is* complete in describing the plot (front cover of “WMO STATEMENT ON THE STATUS OF THE GLOBAL CLIMATE IN 1999”);

    “Northern Hemisphere temperatures were reconstructed for the past 1000 years (up to 1999) using palaeoclimatic records (tree rings, corals, ice cores, lake sediments, etc.), along with historical and long instrumental records.”

    The misrepresentation is in creating a plot to deliberately “hide” divergence of proxy and instrumental. They could have overlaid the instrumental record.


    “g) Witholding a clean, commented version of publicly released code, presumably with the intention of not making use of the code any easier

    [Response: Your presumption is just not justified by the text. Just below he says “Phil: is this worth a followup note to GRL, w/ a link to the Matlab code?” which is hardly a declaration that the code is going to be withheld. Code gets cleaned up and hopefully easier to use all the time. – gavin]”

    Accepted and withdrawn, with my apologies to M. Mann.

  42. 642
    gt4 says:

    In my last post I couldn’t find the detail of the funding for Phil Jones, but here is the link:

    It is interesting considering the continual (and false) attacks on CA or other skeptics for accepting funding from “energy” companies. I would coordinate my message also with this much money at stake and a belief humans were destroying the planet.
    Thanks for your posting my previous message, I have posted on CA talking down the name callers. It’s much more interesting to read a real debate.

  43. 643
    Jeff Id says:

    I see the comment moderation policy has opened up.

    Since we now know the Phil Jones comment about hiding data, perhaps you would like to expand on the validity of this chopping off of inconvenient data and replacement with other data. i.e. pasting thermometers on tree rings. Do you ‘gavin’ feel that this is appropriate methodology or will you simply claim ‘not an expert’.

    I’m somewhat sorry about the comment tone but really this method should be chucked out the door ASAP. Jones wouldn’t even admit to knowing about it when he was on the hotseat. Why support something that makes no sense. There is other evidence for your case.

    [Response: This isn’t an issue of expertise. I can see why people would want a smoothed series that goes from the paleo through to today but anything you did to show that should be clearly described. – gavin]

  44. 644
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Tim@623 You aren’t paying attention. Here is a primer:

    If you don’t know about or understand the evidence that shows incontrovertibly that we are warming the planet, you are IGNORANT. No sin here. You can rectify your ignorance by hard study.

    If you refuse to put in the hard study, then you are WILFULLY IGNORANT and your opinion is worthless.

    If you refuse even to look at the evidence even when it is shoved in front of your face and still insist you understand better than all the experts, then you are a DENIALIST.

    Finally, if you insist that all the scientists are engaged in a global hoax to preserve their lucrative grants (which amount in salary to about what a mid-level IT administrator would make), then you are an IDIOT.

  45. 645
    Steve Geiger says:

    618 – RE CA vs RC. I agree completely. However, if RC would commit to allowing true discourse (like today), I would definitely pay more attention (and will, unless things fall right back). I don’t even have any problems with the RC moderators trimming the real ‘noise’ (how many times do we have to hear ‘that’s the final nail in the coffin of AGW’. These assertions are ridiculous and DON’T reflect the opinions of the true ‘skeptics’..rather the right wing (or some) fringe, perhaps. But that ‘echo chamber’ rattles on both sides of this debate…and when you always (apparently) allow comments from one side and not the other if just makes for very bad reading.

    Cheers again to all for today’s glasnost at RC!

  46. 646
    Bobby says:

    Can you explain comments such as these? Is “inventing” another “trick” of the trade?


    Remember all the fun we had last year over 1995 global temperatures,
    with early release of information (via Oz), “inventing” the December
    monthly value, letters to Nature etc etc?

    I think we should have a cunning plan about what to do this year,
    simply to avoid a lot of wasted time.

  47. 647
    Jay says:


    Thank you for answering my question with the thoroughness that you did. I appreciate all the work you have done in the past few days. Although, I may not know what the truth is, I appreciate that you have gone out of your way to clarify things on here.

  48. 648
    Jes says:

    Stating that there are no emails that would support claims that they would support if those emails existed does not negate what the actual emails reveal.

  49. 649
    Terry says:

    I’m a democratist. The democratic majority (to judge from all recent polls) rejects your arguments. Are you prepared to abide by the will of the democratic majority? Yes or no will do as an answer. However, I would interested in an explanation, if possible.

    [Response: Science is not decided by majority vote. -gavin]

  50. 650
    eric says:

    Eric (skeptic) — 21 November 2009 @ 8:50 AM:

    I hope you do come back with questions after all this hoopla wears off. I have had some very inoffensive posts not make it, but just chalk it up to the glitchy website software. Just try again.

    The reason I suggested simple, specific questions is that it is easy to trigger an overreaction when one refers to misinformation commonly repeated here by pseudoskeptic trolls. I am sometimes annoyed that questions for information are ignored because the moderator and regulars are dealing with posters that are on a mission, however a straightforward question usually gets answered or a link to an informative piece is provided. If your post doesn’t make it or you don’t get an answer, just rephrase and try again. Be persistent, it will be worth it.