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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. 701
    Sue Jones says:

    Furthermore, we all ”fiddle with the data” it is part of the process. Gone were the days when we kicked our TV to get a signal, or the car to kickstart it. We did it without a second thought. That was pure physics, though I doubt most of us thought of it that way.

    No-one questions the science that has given us satellite communications, magnetic resonance diagnosis,immunisation, space travel, air travel…, no one questions the physics. Well it is those same physics; the immutable laws that govern our universe, that have given us climate change as an unintended consequence of our actions.

    Science seeks to reveal the truth of the human condition and the environment in which it finds itself. It is the purest of philosophical expressions, alongside mathematics and music, art and law.

    It is all about truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

    So really I feel that this should be tried in a court of law, with some impartial judge ( Judge Garzon?) presiding. It has, quite rightly, entered legal territory.

    The prosecution are pleading that they have been lied to and the defendant is the science and the scientists.

    That is what Cicero would do.

    I stand on the side of the defense. Hypatia will be vindicated.

  2. 702
    Steve Fish says:

    Skookum John — 21 November 2009 @ 11:37 AM:

    Hint- If CO2 rises over thousands of years the sea critters adapt and evolve.


  3. 703
    Jere Krischel says:

    “In sciences you need to establish an opposite theory or at least a valid argument – based on observation (data) or experiment that challenges a theory.”

    A valid argument can simply be, “the predictions of your theory did not work”. The null-hypothesis does not require a completely opposite theory -> the answer may very well be “we don’t know”.

  4. 704
    Bobby says:

    I think you underestimate the driving forces behind protecting one’s reputation. Once a highly respected scientist becomes so professionally invested in what appears to be a good theory and then works for years enhancing and promoting that theory, the temptation to make the theory fit (no matter what later evidence is presented) is extremely strong. Scientists are human, they have egos like other humans, they have a lot vested in their reputations. In some sense (particularly in academia), without your reputation you are nothing (professionally). The longer they promote the theory the more they have to lose if it turns out to be incorrect. Add to that political pressure, the bias of government grants given to prove rather than disprove the theory and the “us versus “them” mentality and you quickly realise that there are many reasons to collude for the “greater good”. The problem is that by doing so, other views get sidelined no matter whether they have merit or not.

    The emails indicate a desire to make data fit the theory, stop opposing views getting published and even have intriguing comments such as

    “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?”

    [Response: I have no idea what that is referring to. But I’m pretty sure that ‘fun’ is meant sarcastically (remember he’s British). – gavin]

  5. 705
    Jeff Id says:

    Wow, thanks for letting the comment through. I’m shocked. You missed the point though which is not surprising (and intentional FOIA) but I’ve clearly explained my question.

    Just for kicks I’ll do it again. I agree that being honest about explaining what someone did in a particularly unusual operation like this is critical and that it has been explained. Nobody hid anything in the publications I’ve read.

    The question is why is it ok to chop off data from a several hundred year record, simply because it goes down? Doesn’t that bring into question any other part of the trees as thermometers record?

    As one who works in science, this would be unacceptable procedure in any field – explained or otherwise without clear justification based on known data problems. Therefore it requires more than ‘peer reviewed’ and ‘it was disclosed’ as explanatoins. It needs real and open justification. IMO, Phil realized it has no justification and was simply a little too candid in his email. What say you?

  6. 706
    thefordprefect says:

    Appologies not sure why that got truncated here it is again please delete the first if this works!
    Just for the record, and so people know the legality of computer hacking. Note that it says nothing about being ok if it exposes supposed baddies!:

    1 Unauthorised access to computer material.
    (1) A person is guilty of an offence if-.
    (a) he causes a computer to perform any function with intent to secure access to any program or data held in any computer;.
    (b) the access he intends to secure is unauthorised; and .
    (c) he knows at the time when he causes the computer to perform the function that that is the case.
    (2) The intent a person has to have to commit an offence under this section need not be directed at-
    (a) any particular program or data;
    (b) a program or data of any particular kind; or .
    (c) a program or data held in any particular computer.
    (3) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale or to both

    Territorial scope of offences under this Act .
    (1) Except as provided below in this section, it is immaterial for the purposes of any offence under section 1 or 3 above-
    (a) whether any act or other event proof of which is required for conviction of the offence occurred in the home country concerned; or .
    (b) whether the accused was in the home country concerned at the time of any such act or event.
    (2) Subject to subsection (3) below, in the case of such an offence at least one significant link with domestic jurisdiction must exist in the circumstances of the case for the offence to be committed.
    (3) There is no need for any such link to exist for the commission of an offence under section 1 above to be established in proof of an allegation to that effect in proceedings for an offence under section 2 above.
    (4) Subject to section 8 below, where-
    (a) any such link does in fact exist in the case of an offence under section 1 above; and .
    (b) commission of that offence is alleged in proceedings for an offence under section 2 above;
    9 British citizenship immaterial .
    (1) In any proceedings brought in England and Wales in respect of any offence to which this section applies it is immaterial to guilt whether or not the accused was a British citizen at the time of any act, omission or other event proof of which is required for conviction of the offence.
    (2) This section applies to the following offences-
    (a) any offence under this Act;
    (b) conspiracy to commit an offence under this Act;
    (c) any attempt to commit an offence under section 3 above; and
    (d) incitement to commit an offence under this Act.

    Extradition where Schedule 1 to the Extradition Act 1989 applies .The offences to which an Order in Council under section 2 of the [1870 c. 52.] Extradition Act 1870 can apply shall include-
    (a) offences under section 2 or 3 above;
    (b) any conspiracy to commit such an offence; and .
    (c) any attempt to commit an offence under section 3 above.

    17 Interpretation .
    (1) The following provisions of this section apply for the interpretation of this Act.
    (2) A person secures access to any program or data held in a computer if by causing a computer to perform any function he-
    (a) alters or erases the program or data;
    (b) copies or moves it to any storage medium other than that in which it is held or to a different location in the storage medium in which it is held;
    (c) uses it; or .
    (d) has it output from the computer in which it is held (whether by having it displayed or in any other manner);
    and references to access to a program or data (and to an intent to secure such access) shall be read accordingly

  7. 707
    Anne van der Bom says:

    Steve Geiger,

    (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’

    I sometimes go over to WUWT to read up on the latest state in ‘skeptical science’ and honestly, the majority of the comments posted there exactly fit your description. I am glad there is someone here to keep that crap out the door.

    if RC would commit to allowing true discourse (like today), I would definitely pay more attention

    Not reading a certain web site because it does not reflect your opinion is incompatible with someone who calls himself a skeptic.

    Why don’t you come over here just to read the blog posts? You should try that for a while, only read the posts and not the comments (same for CA & WUWT). Comments contain a lot of noise and distraction. Just for some time look at the evidence as it is presented and make up your own mind. Nothing could be healthier for a true skeptic.

  8. 708
    AJ says:

    From my point of view, which is that of an established researcher in a completely different field, several of the “gotcha” quotes can be explained by legitimate analytical methods.

    It also appears that there is indeed some unethical behavior taking place re. FOIA and peer-review bias. I think with enough time, both of these conclusions will be made, and the result for these particular CRU employees will be permanent stains on their careers. CRU itself will likely see a funding hit, perhaps some of it justified.

  9. 709
    Lazar says:


    “And if he’d said “unethical”, you’d ask, “unethical, but not ill-advised”


    “Stupid games, stupid games.”

    Do you really think I’m playing games?

  10. 710
    DaveS says:

    @651 ***”What I find is that they are tolerant of just about anything because that suits the purpose of sowing confusion and casting doubts on rigorously-conducted, peer reviewed science.”

    Yeah, peer-reviewed science is the way to go. And if we disagree with something that gets through peer-review, we can call it an “awful paper” and agitate for the resignation of the people who published it. It’s sort of win win, no?

    [Response: So peer-review is somehow immune from criticism? This old discussion is probably helpful. – gavin]

  11. 711
    Anne van der Bom says:

    Sue Jones,

    The sceptic/contrarians/deniers are wary of an hypothesis that, if true, demands they change the very principles on which their lives are based.

    The only thing that will change is that 10 years from now instead of filling up my car, I’ll have to plug it in. How much of a difference can it make if that electricity is generated by wind turbines or nuclear plants? How does that change the “very principles on which our lives are based”? I have never understood why people by into that obviously fake argument so easily.

    But feel free to prove me wrong.

  12. 712
    Megin says:

    I know you might prefer one less comment even to one more comment of support, but I am filled with admiration for the calm, collected and fact-based way you are handling this. Speaking as a fellow scientist, I know I would have great difficulty being as level-headed if this were to have happened to me. Of course, I haven’t had the practice of people constantly attacking my life’s work, so maybe it’s a skill one develops at need, and it’s a shame you’ve needed to.

    I think that the entire climate change “debate” at large just shows how badly our educational systems have failed at giving people the intellectual tools needed to understand science. We teach facts first and methods only second when we should be teaching methods first. Although my field of research (psychology) is pretty far from your own, in every one of my classes I try to focus on giving people the basic principles (such as: you go with the weight of the evidence, not single studies) that they need to be an informed participant in the political process, or even read a damn newspaper, when issues like this are being discussed.

    Feel free to not publish this one as it doesn’t add to the substantive debate, I just wanted to let you know I’m with ya, and wish you luck in the next few days as this tempest in a teapot storms. Here’s hoping you’re back at the bench (or whatever the climate scientist equivalent is) getting the important work done as soon as possible.

  13. 713
    Janet says:

    I’m the daughter of scientist you all sharply criticized, discredited, and claimed his theories were washed up a few years back on this site, and I just want you to know your pain at the moment is my pleasure.

    [Response: Sorry if we caused you any problem, but whether a scientific idea is valid or not is not a reflection on the quality of the person who proposed it. I would advise you to take scientific criticism less personally. – gavin]

  14. 714
    Biff Larkin says:

    In 664 BBC asks and Gavin answers:

    BBC: “Can you not understand that your position that AGW is a dire threat to humanity which requires the urgent re-ordering of our economies AND that some of the data which supports this cannot be released because of the commercial interests of scientists or their employers, is completely incredible to any intelligent person?”

    Gavin: “If this bothers you and it should, write to your representative and ask that met offices release more of their data to the WMO CLIMAT network and release CRU from their prior agreements. Inundating CRU with FOI requests is a waste of time.”

    Well, what bothers many of us is clear, irrefutable evidence that CRU desires to hoard data. Jones’ statement that he would rather destroy certain data than turn it over to McIntyre speaks for itself. As does Jones’ request to delete e-mails subject to FOI.

    So here is my question, Gavin — and I don’t question your probity, nor your good faith. Can you actually prove that CRU is prohibited from releasing certain data according to a certain agreement or certain agreements?

    Or do you merely believe this to be the case?

    [Response: Here. – gavin]

  15. 715
    Sue Jones says:

    To Leo G: I am on the northwest coast of Spain. The November temperature for my region (Catalonia, Mediterranean climate) is hovering around 20/23º C daytime, the nights are occasionally cold, but not so cold. The autumn rains have failed. Lots of unusual high misty cloud cover. The weather is rather out of sync…It is abnormally warm for the time of year.Very dry and calm.

    I would recommend a thorough study of the meterology of this region

  16. 716
    Hank Roberts says:

    MadRocketScientist says: 21 November 2009 at 5:28 PM
    > Ray said
    >> “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”?”
    > Forcers? What forcers would cause the planet to cool naturally?

    “… a change in seasonal incoming solar radiation (warmer winters and colder summers) associated with changes in Earth’s axial tilt, its longitude of perihelion, and the precession of its elliptical orbit around the Sun. These small changes must then be amplified by feedback from reflected light associated with enhanced snow/ice cover, vegetation associated with the expansion of tundra, and greenhouse gases associated with the uptake (not release) of carbon dioxide and methane ….”

    OCEAN SCIENCE: Global Warming and the Next Ice Age — Weaver et al.
    Science 16 April 2004, Vol. 304. no. 5669, pp. 400 – 402
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1096503

    Q: How can we know this is possible?
    A: Science.

    Would a picture help?

  17. 717
    Mike D says:

    I can’t believe that the bad behavior of a few scientists is going to set back efforts to prevent climate change by years. Before one could always dismiss the conspiracy theorists out of hand. A massive global conspiracy just sounded ridiculous. It doesn’t anymore, at least not to the average person. Data fudging? Cover-up attempts? You can read all about it, plain as day (or so it would seem), in these emails. I have always hoped people would have confidence in the projections of their scientists and supporting the action needed in advance. I feel that confidence has just been shattered. But the effects of global warming will inexorably mount regardless of the minor (in the scheme of things) missteps of a few researchers. Unfortunately now we may have to wait until those effects become obvious even to the layperson and we will take the necessary action.

  18. 718
    David Harper says:

    Gavin… there is talk over at Climate Audit that you are about to throw Jones et al “under the bus”. I’m sure that’s not true just be careful that they don’t try to do the same to you. I’ve seen these emails and you come across as the chief propogandist for CRU. Be very careful. There are emails that talk of “Gavin had a great idea”.

    Cover your back. There are a lot of angry people out there.

  19. 719
    Dale Husband says:

    Comment by Nick — 21 November 2009 @ 4:13 PM

    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.


    That’s entirely an assumption. Not all supporters of the man-made global warming hypothesis have the same ethical values (or lack thereof), nor should we assume all global warming skeptics are virtuous saints. We need to fight fair and stick to using scientific methods to prove our case, not theft and invasion of private property.

  20. 720
    Brian says:

    After a brief online check on google, I could not find a complete archive of the emails in question. The only material easily visible are these out-of-context snippets. Why not post the whole archive yourself, organized into threads etc.? It can’t be worse than selective release by your opponents and the “drip drip” effect.

    Meanwhile, do you have any information about any law enforcement response to the hacking?

  21. 721
    Julius Philips says:

    I have been doing a lot of research with algae. I can tell you that lately (as in last 12 years) there has been an explosion of algae around the world. It counters any extra Co2 production.

  22. 722
    Hank Roberts says:

    Top Weekly Downloads:
    (341) Is the airborne fraction of anthropogenic CO2 emissions increasing?

    (127) Anthropogenic forcing dominates sea level rise since 1850:

    For the past 200 years sea level rise is mostly associated with anthropogenic factors. Only 4 ± 1.5 cm (25% of total sea level rise) during the 20th century is attributed to natural forcings, the remaining 14 ± 1.5 cm are due to a rapid increase in CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

    Jevrejeva, S., A. Grinsted, and J. C. Moore (2009), Anthropogenic forcing dominates sea level rise since 1850, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L20706, doi:10.1029/2009GL040216.

    (120) A new perspective on warming of the global oceans:

    We obtain a much clearer picture of the drivers of oceanic temperature changes, being able to detect the effects of both anthropogenic and volcanic influences simultaneously in the observed record. Our results show that climate models are capable of capturing in remarkable detail the externally forced component of ocean temperature evolution over the last five decades.
    Citation: Palmer, M. D., S. A. Good, K. Haines, N. A. Rayner, and P. A. Stott (2009), A new perspective on warming of the global oceans, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L20709, doi:10.1029/2009GL039491.

    (82) Global warming, convective threshold and false thermostats

    the typically skewed appearance of tropical SST histograms, with a sharp drop-off above some threshold value, should not be taken as evidence for tropical thermostats.

    Williams, I. N., R. T. Pierrehumbert, and M. Huber (2009), Global warming, convective threshold and false thermostats, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L21805, doi:10.1029/2009GL039849.

    (60) Extraordinary September Arctic sea ice reductions and their relationships with storm behavior over 1979–2008

  23. 723
    Anne van der Bom says:

    21 November 2009 at 5:28 PM

    Forcers? What forcers would cause the planet to cool naturally? And would those forcers be enough to overcome the additional warming from CO2, NH4, heat islands, etc.?

    I think you did not understand Ray. He meant natural forces *alone*, without the extra forcing of CO2 from fossil fuel burning and CH4 from cattle.

    And what you mean by the heat islands? Don’t tell me you don’t know that the ‘heat island’ refers to a measuring artifact and not a contribution to warming.

  24. 724
    mommycalled says:

    Joe V #661 indeed you are correct that an “insult is the last recourse for intelligent conversation.” What you and your ilk refuse to accept is that this is not an intelligent conversation. To paraphrase Barney Frank: Carrying on a conversation with a global warming denier is like carrying on a conversation with a dining room table

  25. 725
    Joseph Hunkins says:

    The IPCC should adopt a new rule: Only papers are accepted where the data, the algorithms and the programs are available to everybody, on a public server.

    Amen to that. The reluctance of all parties to agree to this is simple indefensible from a scientific point of view. I’m sure there are bureaucratic and political and monetary reasons for alternatives, but they pale in comparison to the notion of pure transparency in the science.

  26. 726
    NikFromNYC says:

    I must point out that “hide the decline” doesn’t mean, as Fox News headline claims “hide the decline in temperature”. It means to minimize the appearing of a decline in temperature during modern times when thermometers actually show a rise. That’s not a bad decline to “hide” since it’s obviously a false decline.

    However this cuts both ways in a very serious way. Given that no other explanation has been offered for this “divergence problem” perhaps the explanation is the utterly obvious one: cold-adapted trees grow faster when it warms up but then suffer when that warming becomes too hot. Extrapolated into the past this would mean that some tree ring proxies would indeed not only hide hot periods but make them look like cooling periods.

  27. 727
    Mike from Down Under says:

    Aww crap. My father-in-law (very conservative, generally nice guy, but the most scientifically ignorant person I’ve ever met) just came running in and shouted “hey I just heard on the radio that global warming has been proven to be a giant hoax and the researchers are being investigated by the FBI!”

    So now where to? I’m also trying to educate some rather ignorant sceptics (though not full time trolls) on another blog about the current science. This is gut-wrenching, having to now drop my previous arguments and explain how out-of-context these emails are being quoted. The denyosphere is going nuts……

  28. 728
    Majorajam says:

    This whole thing feels very Insider-esque. Does anyone else note the cosmic symmetry of this revelation happening at the same moment that the US health insurance companies succeed in beating down a public option proposal that Americans by a large majority are in favor of, and that individual states can opt-out of if they (ostensibly) feel it’s not good for their citizenry? I mean, these corporate interest types are motivated, resourceful, and loaded with resources in a world people with their hands out ready to sell their souls to the highest bidder.

    Climate scientists by virtue of the policy/political implications of their work find themselves in the cross-hairs of a far larger and more powerful set of special interests than the health care/insurance industry. Exxon alone makes, what, 100 billion a quarter? How many PR firms and other paid attack dogs (hackers?) can it hire before it shaves a rounding error off reported EPS? It was a great moment in that movie, the Insider, when Crowe sits in a dark hotel room staring at the office building across the way where the legal et al department on Brown Brothers 40th some odd floor are working round the clock to, as you’re allowed to say in an R/18 rated movie or private correspondence for that matter, ‘f*ck me’.

    Yea, it’s total speculation, but in a world where a single small potatoes coal company can hire a firm that hires a firm that hires some temps that forge letters from interest groups to Congress claiming, e.g. that the NCCP opposes cap and trade, I’d call it informed speculation. Notwithstanding that that firm ‘had no way of knowing that this was going on’ and other funny stories.

    Anyway, this too will pass and scientists will get on with their work because that’s what they do. We’ve known now for a while that the world was going to kick fossil fuel rationing to the curb for at least a little longer anyway, while India & China hopefully ignore the can of whopass their intransigence will eventually accrue to them, and the West’s integrity challenged denialosphere (and US Republicans) finish jumping the shark. By the time people realize that nothing at all has changed, the world is not ‘cooling’ or ‘not warming’ etc. then hopefully we can go to bat again.

    So unpleasantness aside, no harm no foul. Saying all that, and you’ll have to pardon me for acknowledging it, but this was always something of a forlorn hope. We’re simply not a species that is very capable of taking advantage of our unique ability to foresee problems in advance.

  29. 729
    oracle2world says:

    May I raise the biggest issue in the global warming debate?

    That anomolous data that doesn’t fit theory, is explained away in increasingly bizarre fashion.

    No theory explains all the data. There are outliers, background noise, maybe data just plain wrong. So whenever AGW attempts to explain away EVERY SINGLE ITTY-BITTY piece of non-conforming data … something is not right.

    Every new drug has side effects. If a drug company reports clinical data that shows no side effects, the FDA knows the data are fraudulent.

    In my mind AGW would have a lot more credibility if it acknowledged up front and clearly what the anomalies are, and not leave them for the skeptics to gleefully beat up on.

    Because right now, everything fits together waaaaaaaaaay too neatly within AGW to be credible.

  30. 730
    David B. Benson says:

    Well, all this has put RealClimate well over the nine million visitors mark…

  31. 731
    Ron says:

    Richard Ordway says:
    21 November 2009 at 3:48 PM

    First Richard, that’s some impressive list.
    Second, it really reduces to the argument from authority —-so, while it’s a list of science related organizations, it’s not, in itself, science.
    Third, all organizations (private, public, mom-pop, mega corps —-ALL) have two fundamental purposes: the formal and the behavioural. The formal may be defined as the intention of the founders to make or do some specified thing or activity. The behavioural is the preservation and expansion of the organization itself abstracted from its formal purpose. As organizations increase in size there tends to be an increase of the behavioural purpose at the expense of the formal. In fact more than a few organizations persist long after their formal purposes have been altered or completely forgotten. Whenever anyone speaks on behalf of an organization it is well to listen carefully to determine which of the two purposes is being addressed. It is also useful to examiner how an organization’s bureaucracy interacts with the various activities of its members.
    Cheers, Ron.

  32. 732
    Steve Fish says:

    PhryingPhish — 21 November 2009 @ 2:51 PM:

    “…would you, or any like scientist have the courage to say, ‘Well, I guess I was wrong. Gotta go now and find a new job.’, I doubt it.”

    You are wrong, but your whole proposition indicates that you don’t really understand how science is done.

    The real Fish

  33. 733
    Neal J. King says:

    669, Winston:

    This is kind of what one would expect. It’s awfully hard to read someone else’s code anyway. You can do it if you’re working on the same problem, or have a really urgent need that the numbers be right.

    Otherwise, it’s not going to be quite as easy as finding spelling errors…

  34. 734
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Joe V., I am not in doubt about my own intelligence–neither its breadth or its limitations, thank you very much. You contend that the case for anthropogenic causation is not incontrovertible. Fine. Perhaps you had better get started explaining some of the evidence. Start with simultaneous tropospheric warming and stratospheric cooling, a warming trend lasting 30 years in which each decade has been warmer on average than the last, polar amplification, and the annual and diurnal pattern of warming. The consensus theory has ready explanations for all of these phenomena, and in fact predicted some before they were observed. Your move!

  35. 735
    oracle2world says:

    “… the first climate model being done in 1896 (Svante Arrehnius) …”

    Arrehnius thought a warmer climate was good. And his “climate model” was a complete WAG.

    So given that Arrehnius was brilliant, why should we discard his conclusion that warm is good?

    It’s stuff like this that skeptics live for.

    Just aim for some consistency and present ALL the data, good, bad, and ugly.

  36. 736
    Steve Fish says:

    Ron — 21 November 2009 @ 3:22 PM:

    I don’t agree with your comments about Ray.


  37. 737
    Susann says:

    What I find amusing is that the so-called ‘skeptics’ are not showing any skepticism when it comes to these documents. If they were real skeptics and not merely fanatical adherents to a conspiracy theory, they would be demanding to see evidence that these are authentic and undoctored. Who ever hacked these documents could have doctored them to achieve some political purpose. The ‘skeptics’ refuse to accept evidence for global warming, claiming to be ‘skeptics’ wanting to audit the evidence, and yet accept without any proof the veracity of some files posted anonymously on the internet.

    Where’s the skepticism?

  38. 738
    Mike Bower says:

    There has been much a buzz about whether in the last decade or so the temp has gone up, stayed the same, or is even going down, with many claims of cherry picking data to prove one’s point. Is there any computer models that have accurately predicted what we have seen in the last decade? If they can not predict based on data from 10+yrs ago what happened with enough resolution, never mind the “random variations” argument, for this 10 year block of time, why would anyone believe they can predict 100 yrs. from now? It seems to me that we simply do not have a good enough understanding of all of nature’s never mind man’s effect on the weather. If we did than the model should be able to hit the prediction for the next ten years right on the money.

    So I propose a standard be set, that any model we consider for basis of action be able to do at least that, predict within +- .01 degree C 1 yr. 5 yr. and10 yrs. out. Pretty basic I think. If it can’t do that than simple logic gives me no confidence in any discussion about 100 yrs. from now.

    Where’s the Beef?

    [Response: What the IPCC models really say. – gavin]

  39. 739
    Steve Fish says:

    Sloop — 21 November 2009 @ 4:04 PM:

    Sloop (du jour), you have to get with the thread, stop being so reasonable.


  40. 740
    ML says:


    Its commendable that you have spent time to allow all these posts and take time to respond to many too.

    This whole issue of smoking guns, academic haughtiness toward the general public as well as the questioning of funding and the whole science of climate change is saddening. I can’t help wondering if most of the skeptics posting here are skeptical not because of their trained, educated perspectives based on a clear understanding of empirical consensus in science. Rather, maybe I sense there is a certain rejection of what could be seen as a clear threat to changing lifestyles that must conform with the reconstruction of our societies and their continual growth that modify the world around us. The rejection could stem from ‘belief’ in the tradition of skepticism itself (not a bad thing in itself). However, when it is clear from so much empirical evidence and consensus (as posted by others in the ongoing firestorm) that we are responsible for changes around us, then I think we have to maybe understand scepticism as fear of change.

    And, whether the changes be anthropogenic or caused by natural changes is an irrelevant issue. Either way, we will need to adapt to reconfigurations made by our own doing, or the climate. This is a chance for humanity (especially the percentage that is fortunate to be located in the industrialized areas that allow for business as usual lifestyles), to reflect upon how our world is a finite, complex series of systems that is changing through homo faber’s (man the creator) own doing.

    Finally some in this long thread have made insinuations about academics being able to possibly pocket money from their funding. As a funded academic I have to be accountable for every last yen in my budget supplying receipts and invoices to detail exactly how that money is used. Going into science within research and academic institutions (especially public and therefore accountable entities) is on the understanding that you are not going to become stinkingly rich but pursue knowledge.

  41. 741
    Frank Davis says:

    Sue Jones 665 wrote: “The sceptic/contrarians/deniers are wary of an hypothesis that, if true, demands they change the very principles on which their lives are based. They want a solid guarantee, 100% certainty. Anything less arouses deep suspicion. … They are right to demand certainty before they commit themselves.But the problem appears to be that as far as climate change is concerned, there can be no certainty, 90% is not enough.”

    Good point. Why should people abandon the principles on which their lives are based on the say-so of a handful of climate scientists? Particularly when one of them, Kevin Trenberth, wrote in an email just a month back that “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.” Well yes, it is a travesty. These guys can’t even agree among themselves. And that’s another very good reason why this sceptic is going to carry on being sceptical, I’m afraid.

    [Response: Perfect example of confirmation bias in action I’m afraid. Read Trenberth’s work on this in detail – it doesn’t say what you think it does. – gavin]

  42. 742
    sam says:

    @various who are supposedly willing for the entire content of all their work emails and even face-to-face discussions (!) to be published:


    Yeah, no.

    I work for a university and recently got a telling-off from upper management of my unit because I had commented rather too frankly (criticised a university decision, which could also be seen as criticism of another part of the university) in a public blog. That same criticism, I was assured, would be entirely welcome internally. In other words, I am perfectly free to make internal comments (say, by email, or face-to-face) which the university does not wish to be released publicly. This doesn’t seem hugely surprising to me. Is it surprising to anyone who works for any organisation (university or corporate)?

    Likewise I might make comments about other people’s decisions or opinions (possibly not so much in email, but certainly face-to-face) which I don’t want to be released in public, because I have to work with said people – and even if they actually know what I think (they probably do, and might have been the ‘face’ in that phrase), putting those criticisms in public makes it an entirely different level when others can react to it and take it out of proportion.

    And I certainly use flippant terms which could easily be misinterpreted by somebody other than the intended recipient. For instance, I have in the past said things like ‘we have to assume all students are stupid’. I do not for a moment genuinely believe that; almost all of our students are intelligent and highly motivated (yes, really), and I fully respect the educational mission of my place of work, or I wouldn’t work there. The comment is shorthand for certain software design approaches (for example, although our students are intelligent, they don’t all have a high level of computer literacy and nor should they have to learn complex operational details that are not relevant to their study). But those two long sentences of caveats wouldn’t have been included in my email and putting it out in public would’ve looked pretty bad. Plus, I might likely have been fired.

    I understand that people are a bit more careful about emails these days, but if you really never say anything at work, even face-to-face, that could not cause problems if publicly released and taken out of context, then you must be living under a disturbing degree of self-censorship – and one which cannot be remotely good for the institutional health of your place of work, or for any relevant collaborations.

    (Sometimes these things will leak out, as in this case – fine. Just a fact of life; it can be dealt with and will probably blow over. But purposefully saying you’re happy to release everything? I don’t believe it.)

  43. 743
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    To me this reeks of desperate measured taken by the skepticazy. What is the background on the guy who hacked into UEA? Was he working alone or was he hired? Did he know the nature and location of the data he was stealing? Maybe with all the data they collected they can come to their own logical conclusion about AGW..coz again as far as I can tell nearly all that data actually supports AGW. Australia has had another run of temp records broken a couple of days ago..Adelaide SA and Melbourne Vic. Highest spring temp on record @43C and longest run in spring on >40C for 8 days. We in SE QLD have settling on >32C for the past few weeks and it should only by ~27C.
    Back to the seems as though the discreditors of AGW are ramping up their ultimately futile attempts to vindicate their cause.The focus of their mission seems to be is polarise the masses or at least to sway the fence sitters. What might be the answer is for a unified chorus by the majority of world leaders who have after-all unrestricted access to scientifically sound, peer-reveiwed literature and who understand the magnitude of the task we are up against to globally voice the facts about the validity of AGW/ACC. That should make the denyalists truly understand they are up against an unbreakable unified governmental/polital and scientific concensus.

  44. 744
    Neal J. King says:

    407, Barton Paul Levenson said: “Sure. Reflect also on the fact that Feynman was in the habit of intimidating lonely, neurotic women in bars to get them into bed with him, as he describes in one of his books, treating it as a joke. So his standing to teach others about ethics is questionable.”

    BPL, I believe I was present at the talk where Feynman made his recommendation. Just before he proposed that principle, he stated explicitly that he was talking about issues of SCIENTIFIC integrity, and not of moral integrity; for which he referred his audience to their minister or rabbi or whatever.

  45. 745
    Seth says:

    [Response: Sure it can. TSI + volcanoes. – gavin]

    On #280, what I meant is that something that “would” (but did not) happen cannot be measured. Is it your assertion that any warming not explained by natural drivers is automatically anthropogenic and there is no unexplained drivers? In other words is everything left over filed under “man caused” until further explained? I ask this because when unexpected cooling is observed, albeit not prolonged yet, It seems like it is never even considered that anthropogenic warming is overestimated, just that the cooling is unexplained.

    It seems like an all out effort to preserve the estimated AGW. Bias is the concern.

    Excerpt from [1255558867.txt]

    At the risk of overload, here are some notes of mine on the
    lack of warming. I look at this in two ways. The first is to
    look at
    the difference between the observed and expected anthropogenic
    trend relative to the pdf for unforced variability. The second
    is to remove ENSO, volcanoes and TSI variations from the
    observed data.
    Both methods show that what we are seeing is not unusual. The
    method leaves a significant warming over the past decade.
    These sums complement Kevin’s energy work.
    Kevin says … “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack
    of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t”. I
    do not
    agree with this.

    I know you are very busy. Thank you for all the time you have taken.

  46. 746
    Steve Fish says:

    Steve Richards — 21 November 2009 @ 4:26 PM:

    Could you please tell me what specific hidden data and which published research papers you are referring to. This would really help me to understand what is going on.


  47. 747
    Bob says:


    Answer as honestly as you might. What do think the state of climate change would be today if all of the grant money was allocated to “global cooling”

    [Response: Interesting statement – not because of the question, which makes no sense, but because it is revealing of an assumption that people are being paid to research global warming. They just aren’t. People are paid to research clouds, rain, temperature, land surface fluxes, radiation, bogs and ice cores and ocean mud and cave records. Which of those do you think are going to change their field of study if the globe was cooling instead of warming? – gavin]

  48. 748
    CB says:

    ” Sean says:
    21 November 2009 at 4:03 PM

    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?”

    Sean, a short answer regarding the tree data is that it appears that the growth environment for the trees in question has changed significantly so that different environmental factors are now limiting growth than was the case in the past. Maximum late-wood density was strongly associated with temperature in the past (i.e cold temperatures limited growth, warmth enhanced it). This relationship appears to have changed – perhaps because of changes in the permafrost setting in which the trees grow due to the recent warming. This is being investigated to try and better understand what changes have occurred and how this might affect tree growth.

    Regarding weather records – an ideal record would be one from a station that has never moved, never changed it equipment (weather instruments) or recording method, is unaffected by urban encroachment or other changes in the surrounding environment, has no missing data, collected a variety of measurements, not just temp and precip, and is very long – more than 100 years – more than 150 would be even better. How many such records exist in the world? Perhaps a handful, none of them perfect.

    Think about wars and political upheaval, changes in technology, urbanization, landuse changes, etc, etc. All these have an effect on data quality and consistency. For instance in the US some stations had good records up to WWII and then due to the demands of the war and subsequent changes in technology there are gaps in the records and problems in data homogeneity.

    The task of assembling a gridded dataset from the horrible mishmash of available station records is a truly monumental task – and rests on the efforts of many hundreds of people over many decades. Newer equipment does not necessarily mean more accurate or more reliable data – as if an automated system goes down it may take some time for someone to notice to get it repaired, Likewise some sensors degrade over time and must be checked, and periodically calibrated or replaced. A mercury thermometer doesn’t degrade and a precip can measured by hand will always give a consistent result – provided the observer isn’t on holiday or taken ill, or drafted…

    There are reliable methods of dealing with all these problems, but it takes time and effort to do so.

    On a completely different note, the Funkhouser email is clearly referring to a data set that simply didn’t work for the reconstruction that was being put together. The measured tree-ring parameter simply didn’t contain any signal germane to the reconstruction – no matter how the data was analyzed. Clearly a bummer for the investigators who has put considerable effort into collecting the material and working it up for analysis.

    As Gavin noted earlier – duff data.

  49. 749
    Sean Rooney says:

    We have seen the deniers amp up their attacks since June, leading to this crescendo … all of it aimed directly at blowing up Copenhagan and its prospective Kyoto-II Climate Treaty.

    The gloves are truly off. This is open warfare funded by Exxon-Mobil et al. It creates a “High Noon” scenario, with the swarm of denialists due on the train at noon armed to the teeth and ready to take out Gary Cooper, the lone Sheriff, who appears to be much less sure of himself than we may like. Nevertheless, he represents the science.

    We all know how the movie ends.

    And this story will play out much the same, the Sheriff will win. The Sheriff always wins.

    The Hackee in this case should immediately declare that no hacked or pilfered e:mail or document has the worth of dirt owing to the potential for editing by the parties that released them, or their agents.

    End of story.

    Well, not quite of course, the war goes on, unfortunately. Whomever mentioned the idea that this sort of thing is done as as much to divert attention from the work and thus dillute the science effort has a good point. It’s built right in.

    The response from the science community should be specific to specific questions or contentions or crucial inferences (much as Gavin has done here) set forth in one place (one website) so that it need not be endlessly repeated but can be said once and once only. This process must be as efficient as it can be made, and hence to divert as little attention from the real work as is practicable. There should be no dwelling.

    When they stoop to this level, you know you’ve got ’em on the run. And if you’ve been to the Arctic lately, you know why.

  50. 750
    Nick says:

    This is crazy. Rest assured the less conniving majority out here won’t read your personal emails, nor will we judge you on the less courteous (private) comments we read as quotes posted within other articles (anyone who has been robbed knows the sting). As for the science, we will judge based on our own interpretations of methods and analysis – not by politically spun, unethically obtained personal correspondence.