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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. 201
    Donald Oats says:

    In mathematics and physics it isn’t uncommon – or at least it wasn’t in the 90s – to refer to a slick solution as a trick, usually prefaced with the originator’s name. I’m talking here of informal discussions, whether face-to-face or via email. Certainly I’ve done it a few times, but I doubt that anyone has referred to the “Oats trick”, more’s the pity :-(

    Whether that has any relevance here or not I cannot say, except don’t jump to conclusions that every word in an email is a sign of the Devil.

  2. 202

    To all who think that these Emails expose a left-wing peer-review conspiracy aimed at eliminating anti-global warming evidence: Below is an easily verifiable, blatant fact, period:

    Please read them yourself. These are a few of the published peer-reviewed studies that publicly, openly attack various aspects of climate change/global warming, often published in top mainstream scientific journals.

    This fact speaks loudly and completely for itself. The peer-review scientific process allows these extremely muddying anti-global warming-aspect reports to be published, even now. It is part of the open, scientific method to not only allow, but encourage differing viewpoints:

    Soon and Baliunas, 2003.
    Soon et al, 2003.
    Schwartz, 2007, Journal of Geophysical Research.
    Scafetta and West, 2005.
    Scafetta, N., and R. C. Willson, 2009.
    McKitrick, McIntyre 2005.
    Lindzen, 2001.
    Miskolczi, 2007, Idojárás.
    Craig & Lohle 2008.
    Douglass et al.2007.
    Klotzbach et al, 2009

    I have heard many top publishing scientists, whose work stands up over time, personally tell me over 11 years, that they are grateful for legitimate contradictory studies, because it makes their work better and stronger.

  3. 203
    sod says:

    pretty tough job Gavin.

    heads up, you are doing the right thing.


    folks, please never forget: the guys who are trying to take the moral high ground here with their attacks, are basing all of it on STOLEN MAIL!

  4. 204
    Jed says:

    I don’t think the e-mails have to mention George Soros to prove “Conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating warming data, possibly illegal destruction of embarrassing information, organized resistance to disclosure, manipulation of data, private admissions of flaws in their public claims and much more.”

  5. 205
    Dale says:

    I’m not a scientist but my wife and my son are. I do know however that when a researcher deliberately fudges his data he’s pretty much finished unlike Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck and other anti intellectual “Intellectuals.”

    I also know through osmosis that when it comes to research scientists don’t have an agenda

  6. 206
    Bill1234 says:

    Moira – A trick to hide? The word trick is certainly not a problem, but a trick to hide a decline in the tree ring derived temperatures?

    That’s a problem.

  7. 207
    G J Lau says:

    Mother always said to wear clean underwear and never put something in an e-mail that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the Washington Post. That way no one will ever see your dirty laundry.

    That aside, none of this has anything to do with what is happening in the real world. Do you think the jellyfish are expanding their territory because someone gave them their marching orders in an e-mail. Are glaciers melting because of all the hot air in the blogosphere.

    I got interested in climate change not because I read a lot of studies but because after 5o plus years of living it was obvious that the seasons were changing, that the winters were milder, that the kudzu was on the move.

    To paraphrase Bob Dylan, you don’t need a weatherman (or the CRU) to know which way the wind is blowing.

  8. 208
    Michael Sullivan says:

    I was under the impression that was unbiased, lesson learned. Aren’t we all on the same planet with a common goal of protecting it? You categorize anyone who questions the consensus as a ‘skeptic’? That’s what science is all about, the never ending search for the truth. Your incredible biases hurt the true environmentalist’s cause and give ammunition to those with no respect for our planet. It is clear that facts were intentionally hidden from the public, now we’ll see the consequences…

    [Response: Which facts were they? RC has never claimed to give equal weight to all opinions out there on climate science. We are instead ‘biased’ towards what is in the peer-reviewed literature and what the mainstream climate science community thinks – whether it is all in agreement or whether it is not. – gavin]

  9. 209
    Dan Smeski says:

    Please note that these emails include information between these scientists on how to transfer research money around in order to avoid taxes, and to avoid raising the notice of U.S. Federal authorities by keeping transferred amounts under $10,000 per day.

    [Response: Tax avoidance is not illegal (tax evasion is), and the email in question is a request for funding for Russian researchers in 1996. I imagine that at that time, this was not a state in which it was straightforward to conduct joint research activities. – gavin]

  10. 210
    dhogaza says:

    Little Green Footballs is acting rational.

    There’s no evidence of a conspiracy to commit massive fraud. There are no admissions of faking data. The worst thing they’ve dug up out of thousands of emails is this one referring to a “trick” used to adjust warming data, which Delingpole dramatically labels “Manipulation of evidence:”

    “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) amd from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.”

    “Trick,” of course, can also mean “an effective technique,” but if you were desperately hunting for anything smear-worthy, I suppose the word would stand out.

    Gosh, an American conservative who knows the meaning of the word “trick”, amazing.

    This quote is followed by excerpts from this real climate post, summarizing:

    they [the “group post” at the head of this thread] make more excellent points about the absurdly exaggerated denialists’ claims.

  11. 211
    Um, right says:

    With all due respect, I have talked to a number of my friends who are active scientists in other fields, and they’ve all made it very clear that they have never seen anything like the content of these e-mails. Sure, there are reasonable explanations for the ‘trick’ comment, and it’s not unusual for people to comment on data and so forth, but many of these e-mails point to some very questionable behavior regarding the use of funds and responses to FOI requests. That’s the big issue here. Such a scandal doesn’t ‘disprove’ AGW, of course, but you’re not going to be able to simply go, “It’s no big deal.”

  12. 212
    Phil. Felton says:

    Kevin McKinney says:
    20 November 2009 at 5:25 PM
    Does Kevin Trenberth’s “travesty” comment have anything to do with the non-flight of DSCOVR, still inexplicably mothballed, AFAIK?

    I do think that affair would merit the term.

    I think that was the topic (at least implied), it certainly was my interpretation..

  13. 213
    Steve DR says:

    you are defending the indefensible. “Hide the money”, “Hide the gun”, Hide the beer bottles”, “Hide the Decline”. Looks like a duck. Quacks like a duck. It must be a duck.

    Gavin, you have an impossible job dude. Good luck. Although at some point, defending the indefensible drags people into the morass.

  14. 214
    Guy says:

    Makes you wonder what kind of conspiracy theory you could generate if you went through the denier’s emails going back several years.

  15. 215
    Robert M says:


    Can you comment on some of those emails that include you? [edit] I’m sure that you can clear this up. Please do so.

    Robert M

    [Response: Sure. I take full responsibility for anything I wrote. What do you want explained? – gavin]

  16. 216
    Andrew says:

    pdboddy: “Ignoring the dirty laundry…”

    You don’t have to ignore anything. And there are surely enough adversarial-minded lawyers on the planet to make sure that every e-mail that can be selectively mined to incriminate whoever they want, and the ham sandwich they rode in on. So nothing is going to get ignored. I actually have a lot of sympathy, having spent the bulk of my career in a field where serious government regulation and critical trade secrecy were around every corner. We were trained (annually, as it turns out) to consider how would we feel if every e-mail, instant message, phone call, post card, cocktail party napkin, or gum wrapper off the street that stuck to our shoe, were published on the front page of the New York Times the next morning.

    When I went to graduate school, coincidentally in a climate science group (although I am not actually a climate scientist) there was no such training. It was all about doing good science. So I don’t think climate scientists will look like heros when their scientific correspondence gets published. Some might have to deal with very unpleasant consquences if in fact they have violated any of several considerations of scientific integrity, however I expect that will be a small minority. Still, everyone has to answer for what they have to answer for.

    However, I will be utterly astonished if it turns out that anthropogenic global warming is actually a scientific fraud perpertrated by a small cabal. In the first place, it would have to be a really big cabal spanning some widely spread fields. If you know anything about scientists, they don’t really travel in packs big enough, and they tend to have friction across field boundaries as opposed to conspiracy. Coincidentally, my wife studied some climate science in graduate school, this was about ten years after I had gone on to my work in other fields, she was exposed more to atmospheric chemistry. Well none of the climate scientists she knows are people that my group knew, and vice versa. They didn’t really know each others’ work much at all and weren’t that interested.

    Many years later, I was involved in a company seminar intended to try and keep house scientists apprised of science in the “rest of the world”. We had Gavin Schmidt as one of our speakers. I think I surprised him by recognizing an ENSO signature in one of his slides, and later we talked about my background. He did not explicitly say so, but he gave me the distinct impression that he was not very impressed by who I did my Ph. D thesis with (although he is a high profile climate scientist). Not everything my adviser believed about climate change was orthodox – I would bet it still isn’t; although this seemed well within the normal course of scientific disagreement. So I would be really surprised if he is in a “conspiracy” with Gavin Schmidt.

    However just about everyone I know in climate science (despite these different bits of climate science not really being any kind of single tightly knit community let alone anything that could countenance overt misconduct) is convinced that anthropogenic global warming is an important fact. What tipped the scales for some people wasn’t the same as for others, but over the past few decades there has been a lot more convergence than divergence.

    So is there likely to be malfeasance somewhere in the work on global warming? Well, it’s enough people doing it that I’d be surprised if nobody every stepped over any line. Fine, we don’t want to ignore misconduct.

    But the chances that there is enough misconduct to “explain away” even most of the case for AGW? Impossible. Professional conspirators with fancy lawyers to help them conspire couldn’t do it – it would require far too many players.

    The deniers really are going to have to content themselves with the model of evolution denial – instead of really getting people to agree with them, the best they can hope for is to muddy the water – to trap enough people in uncertainty to avoid action. Here, the hacked files probably play a much bigger role – they are GREAT fodder for people as interested in controversy as they are in truth. I think some of the professional “deniers” realize this – they can keep getting paid if they can keep the uncertainty alive. I wonder what those e-mails look like?

  17. 217
    Bill Asher says:

    I agree with the comments in your blog post, but there is so much candid talk in the e-mails that can be interpreted in the most inflammatory manner that this is going to be a huge disaster. The climate denialists can already concoct preposterous theories out of nothing, this is like giving them a huge “denialist talking point tinker toy set” for Christmas. As far as political support in the U.S. goes, science and policy will be set back for years. Even Obama won’t want to touch climate after this. This will make the unofficial U.S. policy of “adapt before mitigate” virtually certain to become official.

  18. 218
    APE says:

    Assume your conclusion and your conclusion is correct. This cuts both ways! Another unfortunate glimpse into human nature. Seems like this mess should have been cleared up by simply giving data/methods to those that request it. If theres nothing to hide there’s nothing to hide, right?

  19. 219
    WMitt says:

    Regarding the use of the word “trick,” set theorists have a high regard for “Scott’s trick,” named for the eminent mathematician Dana Scott:

  20. 220
    JM says:

    We seem to get one of these manufactured “scandals” from the idiotsphere every few months or so, probably because the denialists aren’t in the business of producing research of their own. Remember last year when 1938 was supposed to be the real hottest year on record? Remember this summer when 1998 was supposed to be the hottest year on record? Remember how it was all a conspiracy? Remember how this was the end for AGW theory? Or this was the end? Or this?

    A quick spin around the internet shows this non-story taking root in all the usual non-thinking places, and getting short shrift in the professional and scientific press. Revkin, as usual, is credulous, but that’s about it. They haven’t even convinced LGF?

    Turn out the lights, this party’s already over. Ho-hum. By next year they’ll gin up some new Final Proof of Global Cooling and we’ll be back on it again.

    Boring, I have to say.

  21. 221
    Avatar says:

    Leaving aside the specifics of the discussion of the science…

    The e-mails dealing with responses to FOI requests are worrying. The e-mails regarding deletion of other e-mails look really, really bad.

    There’s nothing wrong, in a legal sense, with saying “we need to coordinate how we’re responding to requests for information”, though stonewalling such requests is at least distasteful from a scientific viewpoint. But if you’re talking to people and saying “we need to delete e-mails regarding this topic, now”, while you have FOIA requests potentially dealing with that topic…

    That’s a huge red flag for a judge. If you’re not just deleting internal e-mails, but coordinating specific deletions, the implication is that you expect to be forced to allow access to your e-mail archive and that the content of those e-mails is highly prejudicial to your case.

    Of course, these e-mails may not be genuine. Unfortunately, there’s no way to authenticate them based on the hacked data. But it’s also difficult for CRU to disprove any of them; if they’re deleting e-mails, you have to assume that any e-mail not found in their archive has been purged from it rather than simply not having existed in the first place. The only way to truly authenticate the e-mails would be to secure an old backup and process it; even that could be frustrated, but realistically nobody overwrites all their old backups in this kind of situation, not without leaving tracks.

    Then again, CRU’s track record for having backups available is not good, is it?

  22. 222
    caerbannog says:

    Please read them yourself. These are a few of the published peer-reviewed studies that publicly, openly attack various aspects of climate change/global warming, often published in top mainstream scientific journals.

    This fact speaks loudly and completely for itself. The peer-review scientific process allows these extremely muddying anti-global warming-aspect reports to be published, even now. It is part of the open, scientific method to not only allow, but encourage differing viewpoints:

    Soon and Baliunas, 2003.

    I should add that those of you who are attacking the CRU scientists who got all worked up over the publication of the above paper should track it down and read it. And if you can’t figure out why the CRU folks were pissed-off (i.e. you don’t have the technical chops to identify the show-stopper flaws in the authors’ methodology), then you should just sit down and shut up.

  23. 223
    Rich says:

    My question is, and maybe its been answered in one of the other 150 comments, but why is Jones so hesitant to release his data? Why fight FOI? Why write specifically about stonewalling any request to see his data and attempt to recreate his findings? The IPCC is basing most, if not all, its recommendations on his data. If they want to spend Trillions based on his research…his research should be avaialble to any and all who think they can discredit it.

    [Response: Because, as he has explained frequently, that in order to get the maximum amount of data available they gave assurances and signed memoranda with many National weather services not to distribute raw data that the NWS’s would rather sell. If you want the free stuff, you can just look at the GHCN records (which is the basis for the GISTEMP product – all of which is online and available for anyone to look at). – gavin]

  24. 224
    DaMav says:

    If this is no big deal as the AGW people are arguing, why not impress us all and open up your data books to the world to peruse? Why should there even be a FOI request to obtain that which we as taxpayers are paying to allegedly have researched? And ditto the emails and public correspondence. Anyone claiming such things are off limits has never been through a Federal or EEOC audit. I don’t think anyone is asking for confidential personnel records but climate data and discussion on modeling. This should not have required a whistleblower to reveal; hopefully all institutions involved in this will be forced to be more open with their facts and methodologies.

  25. 225
    Ron Johnson says:

    Why am I not surprised with the comments in the blog post. A tipical reaction of someone who is cheating on his wife and is caught in the act “It’s not what you think, I can explain.”
    I was not sure about climate change, now I am.

  26. 226
    Andrew says:

    tpm: “at least in the companies I work with, is a direct result of the Enron trials, which started in 2006”

    Some industries were circumspect about e-mail long, long before that.

  27. 227
    Kevin Johnstone says:

    Well I’ve now read all the mails in the downloaded FOIA file and it leaves me underwhelmed. This is a small chosen subset of mail between CRU and other scientists over many years, and these were the worst the ‘hacker’ could find?. Where the WUWT commenters see collusion and conspiracy I see co-operation & collaboration. As for use of wording like trick & hide, context is everything and it is the hacker who has removed context in this carefully chosen subset of emails.

  28. 228
    Robert M says:


    You said:

    [Response: I know that when people start throwing around insinuations of scientific malpractice in the absence of any evidence, that this is not justified. Asking for clarification on what was actually done (a step singularly not followed by McIntyre) seems sensible. You have a problem with that? Information should precede condemnation. Not the other way around. – gavin]

    Ummm How can you say that when you and yours have done everything in your power to suppress the information?

    [Response: Me? what did I have to do with it? McIntyre had the raw data in 2004, so how are any of ‘mine’ suppressing data? – gavin]

  29. 229
    gtrip says:

    Steve Fish said: it is not necessary to look to mathematics for an example of one of the many meanings of the word “trick” (e.g. one synonym is stratagem). I suggest that those individuals such as Joe Hunkins, Matty Virtanen, and dcook who are confused might benefit from looking in Merriam-Webster. That should do the trick.

    From Merriam-Webster for the synonym of “trick”: stratagem implies a ruse used to entrap, outwit, circumvent, or surprise an opponent or enemy .

    [Response: You are being rather sly. Try linking to the definition, and looking at #3. This is a really weak point you are trying to make. – gavin]

  30. 230
    Axel Edgren says:

    Lot’s of people pointing at thousands of e-mails going “It’s all there!” without offering any quotes or research.

    Lot’s of people who obviously think people owe them a gold star and a pat on the head for participating.

    When are you going to understand that you have to do actual work, point to actual text, summarize the plethora of e-mails and actually earn attention and regard? I’m not charitable with my respect – start putting some work in before you make your claims or lose standing in the eyes of actual skeptics.

  31. 231
    Steve says:

    Is Dr Trenberth correct in his claim that we can’t explain why the planet hasn’t been warming as expected?

    [Response: It is the level of explanation that is the issue. The zero-th order explanation is that ‘natural variation’ and possible structural issues in the surface data sets are plenty large enough. But it would be good to know exactly what form that natural variation has taken and why exactly it has the impact on the global mean temperatures it has. It is this second-order explanation that Trenberth is discussing. – gavin]

  32. 232
    joshua corning says:

    [Response: Bad papers clutter up assessment reports and if they don’t stand up as science, they shouldn’t be included. No-one can ‘redefine’ what the peer-reviewed literature is. – gavin]

    I think we have to stop considering “Climate Research” as a
    legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate
    research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also
    need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently
    sit on the editorial board…
    What do others think?
    At 08:49 AM 3/11/2003 +0000, Phil Jones wrote:

    I don’t see how the peer reviewed literature can be trusted when several of the prominent researchers in the field conspired in a dirty tricks campaign to block research from entering the peer reviewed literature.

  33. 233
    Adam says:

    Hi all,

    I’m what you might call a skeptic, that is to say, I have yet to see any evidence (observed data rather than modelled data) for C02-driven climate change.

    As a lay person, all of my understanding of climate science comes from others and I’m constantly looking for more context on the issue whilst trying to avoid the “believer/denier” name-calling nature of the debate.

    Could someone please point me to explanatory sources that share a similar ease of reading and brevity to:

    The Skeptics Handbook:
    The Skeptics Handbook II:

    I’d also be very interested in any commentary on the above articles that answer directly some of the questions posed: namely where’s the evidence.

    I hope you don’t perceive this comment as a troll. I’m genuinely interested in learning more from sources that neither sugarcoat nor preach and just present the ugly truth, admitting to what is known and what is not.


  34. 234
    The Lawyer with a physics degree says:

    [Personal position: I’m agnostic on AGW. My gut instinct says that the sun is probably more important than it is being given credit for at the moment.]

    First, the emails. Time, bandwith and an overfull hard disc mean that I haven’t downloaded the file and gone through it, so I am relying on the extracts from others. Yes, you should write your emails on the basis that anyone may use them against you at any time in the future. It’s not difficult. Lawyers have been guarded in what they write since before emails were invented. What concerns me is the tone of those things which I have read, which seem to have strayed from science into religion, from minds which are open to minds which are closed.

    Second, the data. There is a tendency to claim that data are protected by (presumably) copyright or possibly as an actionable trade secret. For reasons which are a bit technical and a bit long for one of these comments, I rather doubt it. I can expand if wanted. In any case, intellectual property rights are rights, not duties, and can be waived. On that basis and on the basis that I was always taught that science should be open, the refusal to release the data either ordinarily or in response to FOI requests leads inevitably to the suspicion that something is being hidden.

    So my conclusion is that the strength of the AGW case is being undermined by the behaviour of its proponents.

  35. 235
    John N-G says:

    To find an example of a legitimate use of the word “trick” that even global warming skeptics can accept, one need only look at a blog posting from three days ago at Watts Up With That:
    A planetary “greenhouse” is a curiosity, a trick of nature. It works solely because although a sphere only has one side, a shell has two sides. The trick has nothing to do with greenhouse gases…

  36. 236
    Ron says:

    -Gavin, in your reply to san Quinton (#41, N0v 20, 2:10PM) you make an admirable statement; “We do screen out a lot of the random squawk of the blogosphere and the baseless accusations of malfeasance that are commonplace on open forums. We do that unapologetically in order to maximise the signal-to-noise ratio in threads.”

    -No snark intended, but to get a sense of how you deal with submissions what then would be your assessment of the signal to noise ratio of post #30, by ccpo, 2:01pm. “I often wonder what would happen were even one climate scientist to take the time and effort to take a member/members of the denialists to court for the many, many instances of outright slander, libel and defamation that go on.
    Imagine the science held up to the light of day of a court proceeding. Imagine these people being proven to have lied. Imagine a huge settlement of jail time.
    Of course, you could get a clueless judge who announces Gore was wrong justa little and then the deniers would go around saying he lied about everything…
    Still, there are some air-tight examples of slanderous, libelous and defamatory stuff out there…”.

    -By the way ccpo, “libel”, “slander” and “defamation” are not three separate things. Although some jurisdictions are collapsing the distinction , libel and slander are different ways (methods) of defaming someone, with libel considered more serious. Hopefully you’re not hearing any libelous statements—if so, check in with your doctor asap.


  37. 237
    DC says:

    Absolutely riveting material. After following the research for the last 8 years, I am appalled that these effete pseudo-intellectuals deemed it necessary to concoct and manipulate data to conform to their personal philosophies.

    [Response: More like “… deeming it necessary to misrepresent and distort private emails to conform to their personal philosophies”. – gavin]

  38. 238
    David B. Benson says:

    Wow! Talk about stirring up a tempest in the teapot…

  39. 239
    SecularAnimist says:

    Andrew wrote: “The deniers really are going to have to content themselves with the model of evolution denial – instead of really getting people to agree with them, the best they can hope for is to muddy the water – to trap enough people in uncertainty to avoid action.”

    Well, that’s the whole point of the denialist propaganda machine: to mislead and confuse the public, to use deceit to create uncertainty, and thereby defuse public support for action, and thereby delay action as long as possible.

    ExxonMobil alone is raking in some 40 Billion dollars per year in profit and the other fossil fuel corporations also have multi-billion dollar profit streams flowing in from the sale of their destructive products. Every day that they can delay the urgently needed phase-out of fossil fuels, means tens of millions of dollars more profit.

  40. 240
    Scott says:

    I believe it’s clear these guys (you too Gavin) have made an artform of situating the appreciation instead of appreciating the situation when it comes to looking at raw data.

    I’m pretty surprised at the veracity of Gavin’s defence when many parts of this or indefencible. It’s bad when someone does something wrong. What really worries me is when someone does something wrong then when it’s pointed out still doesn’t understand what they did was wrong.

    It’s a crying shame that the world will be taxed $160 Billion dollars soon on the basis of this shoddy work.

    [Response: I do try and maintain the veracity of my comments. Don’t be surprised about it! (PS. $160 Billion dollars is one sixth the cost of the Iraq War, and comes to about $30 dollars per person. Doesn’t seem like a lot of money to save a planet). – gavin]

  41. 241
    MarkB says:

    Re: #160,

    “It’s a shame it wasnt the Heartland Institute’s email server that got hacked – that would have been FAR more interesting”

    Perhaps…but it just occurred to me that if the Heartland Institute or web server of any skeptic organization got hacked, it wouldn’t interest me much more than this soap box episode (that is, only a little at most). Climate contrarians (conspiracy theorists) seem to live off this sort of garbage. Publicly printing personal emails in such a manner and parsing words to this extent is the sort of thing political hacks do, not scientists.

    I think the note from this post about what is NOT contained in the emails is revealing. Here we have – what – thousands of personal emails from scientists dating back well over a decade, broadcast shamelessly to the world. Shocking that there might be something mildly embarrasing. But this is a prime opportunity for contrarians to prove that global warming is a grand hoax by looking at what scientists REALLY think, and the best this crowd can come up with are a few selective quotes from such a great depth of personal material, clearly lacking context, and not at all supporting such a theory?

    Take for example comment #19. I read that email before reading Gavin’s response and immediately recalled their post from awhile back regarding the issue with changing measurement techniques for SSTs in the 1940’s. Such a discussion makes sense to me. Those not understanding the issue at all could jump to conclusions, especially if lead a certain way by a certain political crowd. It seems that whenver a comment is read that isn’t understood, some are pre-disposed to automatically assuming ill intent.

  42. 242
    MC says:

    Yes, we all know the meaning of the word ‘trick’. That’s not a particularly interesting word in that sentence. I’m much more interested in the word ‘hide’. Perhaps you should stop this inane discussion of the word trick and focus more on defending the appropriateness of massaging the data with a techniques to hide a divergence problem?

    [Response: How is publishing a result in Nature ‘hiding’ it? – gavin]

  43. 243
    BillJ says:

    I have to say that this is the most open and transparent comments I’ve ever read here!

  44. 244
    ADR says:


    In your opinion, what percentage of global warming is due to human causes vs. natural causes?

    [Response: Over the last 40 or so years, natural drivers would have caused cooling, and so the warming there has been (and some) is caused by a combination of human drivers and some degree of internal variability. I would judge the maximum amplitude of the internal variability to be roughly 0.1 deg C over that time period, and so given the warming of ~0.5 deg C, I’d say somewhere between 80 to 120% of the warming. Slightly larger range if you want a large range for the internal stuff. – gavin]

  45. 245
    James T says:

    Please, please get these guys on Real Climate to explain some of the quotes, or this will go down really, really bad.
    I am working my way through most of the denialist claims so far, and debunking as many as possible. In a few days I think I may start up a website defending the CRU scientists. If they could provide some explanations for some of the suspicious stuff, that would be nice.
    Considering that so far, a huge number of quotes have been taken out of context, I fully support the innocence of these men. However, a full inquiry must be made, and it would be great if they themselves could respond to some of the quotes.

  46. 246
    Joe Hunkins says:

    Kudos to Gavin and the RC folks for publishing some of the critical comments here, including mine above. Thank you.

  47. 247
    Hank Roberts says:

    > trick

    Google finds about 92,700 hits searching for:

    mathematics statistics trick

  48. 248
    Karl says:

    One of the most amusing aspects of this circus is the folks who suggest that maybe we all ought to agree to just ignore the content in all of these emails because they were revealed by an illegal action. From what Ivory tower do these wise monkeys come from?

    This is not a legal court where evidence can be kept away from the jury. This is not the scientific debate, where publications not peer reviewed can be studiously ignored. This is now in the court of public opinion, and that jury will see everything that is available, regardless of its provenance. Some dirty laundry just got exposed to the public. It isn’t going to go away. Like it or not, it is something that will need to be addressed and explained.

  49. 249
    David says:

    “Please read them yourself. These are a few of the published peer-reviewed studies that publicly, openly attack various aspects of climate change/global warming, often published in top mainstream scientific journals.”

    Sorry but you can’t have your cake and eat it too. The hacked emails show coordinated discussion on how to crack down on “rogue” journals that published these articles, discussion on how to stop things getting into the IPCC report even if it meant “redefining peer-review”, and a general disappointment that there were some journals which they did not effectively have control over. The mainstream climate scientists come across as being extremely interested in preventing publication then using the fact that the skeptics papers are not peer reviewed in published literature to slap them down in public.

    Hat’s off to the moderation crew by the way, there seems to have been a huge improvement in what is allowed to get through.

  50. 250
    Scott says:

    Regarding FOI. I find it disturbing that the Jones made a point of expaining who the data would be going to and what they would do with it. This utilitarian approach is outside the bounds of FOI legislation. Ethical speaking the “WHO” in an FOI request is totally irrelevant. The “WHAT” is what matters.

    The approach taken to FOI request where a scientists takes it upon himself to speak to the FOI officer, Librarian and Vice-Chancellor in order to convince them not to release information based on who it was going to is highly unethical. I’m a computer scientist and not a lawyer so I won’t comment on the legality of it.