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CRU Hack: More context

Filed under: — gavin @ 2 December 2009

Continuation of the older threads. Please scan those (even briefly) to see whether your point has already been dealt with. Let me know if there is something worth pulling from the comments to the main post.

In the meantime, read about why peer-review is a necessary but not sufficient condition for science to be worth looking at. Also, before you conclude that the emails have any impact on the science, read about the six easy steps that mean that CO2 (and the other greenhouse gases) are indeed likely to be a problem, and think specifically how anything in the emails affect them.

Update: The piece by Peter Kelemen at Columbia in Popular Mechanics is quite sensible, even if I don’t agree in all particulars.

Further update: Nature’s editorial.

Further, further update: Ben Santer’s mail (click on quoted text), the Mike Hulme op-ed, and Kevin Trenberth.

1,285 Responses to “CRU Hack: More context”

  1. 1
    Timmy says:

    Here’s something I’ve yet to see addressed: If the famous hidden “decline” is irrelevant, then how accurate can any of the historic tree ring data be?

    It seems to me that such a major “decline” would indicate that there is no link between tree ring data and historic climate.

    Isn’t Tree ring data somewhat important to AGW theory?

  2. 2
    Mesa says:

    Well, steps 1-4 are OK, but steps 5 and 6 is where all the action will be in the comments. The truth is that most people who have studied the issue at all understand that a doubling of CO2 will lead to a temperature increase of 1.2 C or so **all other things being equal**. What’s not at all clear is how the feedbacks should operate, with by far the biggest feedback effect that of water vapor/clouds. If the 3 C sensitivity number comes from Annan’s bayesian paper – it’s very, very skinny science. If it comes from model simulations – well, it’s apparent even from IPCC that the models don’t handle water vapor/cloud feedbacks very well. I think it’s a hard problem, and it needs more study, but to wave hands and say that the effect with feedbacks is triple that of the bare effect is not going to impress. I think it’s possible that natural variability has masked the drift over the past 10 yrs, but with too many more lost warming years, different ideas and models will be needed.

    [Response: Water vapour and clouds are very different things. The first is very well characterised, the second not so much, and you are correct – the climate sensitivity is a more interesting discussion than the earlier issues – but the top-down constraints on that are not ‘hand waving’. – gavin]

  3. 3


    You don’t need the tree-ring records as evidence of anthropogenic climate change if you don’t trust those records, for whatever reason. Last year, there was a reconstruction (by Mike Mann et al) of the global temperature record over the past 2,000 years, with and without tree-ring records.

    Without inclusion of the tree-ring measurements, the data still showed that recent
    warming is greater than at any point in at least the past 1,300 years. Instead of tree ring data this reconstruction used sources such as corals, cave deposits, sediments etc.

    See: Proc. Natl Acad. Sci USA 105, 13252–13257 (2008)

  4. 4
    Mesa says:

    OK – sorry to use the term hand waving – not productive. Here’s a topical question – how much of the derived sensitivity depends on the CRU/GISS instrument record? In other words, if total sensitivity with feedbacks is now thought to be 3+ C per doubling of CO2, if the instrumental temperature rise over the past 100 yrs was half of what it now appears to be, what would that do to the implied consensus sensitivity? Suppose there was no significant temperature rise except for in the Arctic over the past 100 yrs? Thanks.

    [Response: As we’ve discussed often, the problem with trying to constrain sensitivity over the 20th Century is the uncertainty in the aerosol contribution. If it is at the high end, then you get very large sensitivities indeed, while if it is at the low end, then sensitivities are lower (but not that low). Issues with ocean uptake are also relevant. Thus the constraints from the surface temperature record in the last century are not that useful. The LGM is much more useful. – gavin]

  5. 5
    Jim Bouldin says:

    Tree ring data is critical in documenting former land surface temperatures, but AGW concepts rest on much more than just tree rings, or any collection of proxy data for that matter–in particular on the thermodynamics of atmospheric gases in relation to the magnitude of other radiative forcings.

    There has been much discussion here and elsewhere on the divergence problem. First, it does not present itself in all locations (see, e.g. the recent “Treeline story” article here). Second, when it does occur, there can be non-climatic explanations, particularly related to the mathematics of the method of standardization chosen. Third, even if it is in fact due to reduced sensitivity of the trees, this does not mean that the historic T estimates are necessarily in error, as a substantial, valid calibration period still exists in almost all cases. Although it does indeed raise the possibility that formerly warm periods could be under-estimated, and attention to this possibility needs to be paid, it is not as though this is unrecognized. If you have access to the literature, start with Esper and Frank, 2009, Divergence pitfalls in tree ring research, Climatic Change 94:261-66. Also a paper last year by D’Arrigo et al.

  6. 6
    caerbannog says:

    You don’t need the tree-ring records as evidence of anthropogenic climate change if you don’t trust those records, for whatever reason. Last year, there was a reconstruction (by Mike Mann et al) of the global temperature record over the past 2,000 years, with and without tree-ring records.

    And the tree-ring data correlate well with these alternative proxies for pre-1960 time periods. It’s just *certain* tree-ring data diverge from the temperature record and the other proxies post-1960. As long as they are cross-checked with other proxies, even the divergent tree-ring data can provide useful information.

    And of course, people shouldn’t confuse “using tree-ring data” with “relying solely on tree-ring data” (as “skeptics” seem to do all too often).

  7. 7
    Jim Bouldin says:

    D’Arrigo et al., 2008, On the ‘Divergence Problem’ in Northern Forests: A review of the tree-ring evidence and possible causes. Global and Planetary Change 60: 289–305.

  8. 8
    cc81 says:

    I really tried to find if this had been taken up before but I might have missed it:

    I got intrigued by one of the hacked CRU emails, from the Phil Jones and Kevin Trenberth to Professor Wibjorn Karlen. In it, Professor Karlen asked some very pointed questions about the CRU and IPCC results. He got incomplete, incorrect and very misleading answers. Here’s the story, complete with pictures. I have labeled the text to make it clear who is speaking, including my comments.

    Is this “a smoking gun” or just manipulations from a blogger? Thank you for taking your time Gavin.

  9. 9
    Adam says:

    “Isn’t Tree ring data somewhat important to AGW theory?”

    Not really, no. It can be useful in comparing current to past temperatures, but tells more of the régime we’re entering than how we got there.

    As for the post 1960s issue (divergence), I’m just a layman so this will be simplified but AIUI it basically comes down to two issues.

    1) Tree rings form in the centre of the tree and show a different width relative to the growth factors (such as temperature) than the older rings which are further out. There are techniques to account for this, but it does not cope well with the rings at either end of the scale (very inner and very outer rings). Thus the most recent set of rings are not going to be as useful as the earlier (but perhaps not the earliest) rings.

    2) Other human impacts. Some areas have had considerable human impact in more recent years (last century, say) such as pollution, CO2 percentage, land use changes, etc. These may have an effect on tree ring growth that hides what was once a clear temperature dependency.

    These issues are being investigated and techniques worked on. However, the earlier rings can be compared to earlier temperature measurements, ice cores, and other proxies and generally holds up pretty well.

  10. 10

    Regarding sensitivity:

    Bony, et al. (2006). How well do we understand and evaluate climate change feedback processes? Journal of Climate, 19, 3445 – 3482.

    Knutti, R. & Hegerl, G. (2008). The equilibrium sensitivity of the earth’s temperature to radiation changes. Nature Geoscience, (1), 735 – 743.'s+temperature,+2008.pdf

    It does appear that the uncertainty is at the upper bound and not the 2C lower bound with 3C showing as the most likely. Of course, with the release of the Copenhagen report, 3C is starting to look like the lower bound. Not good.

  11. 11


    If the real sensitivity were just the CO2-only value of 1.2 by any miraculous cancellation of feedbacks, you’d have a very hard time explaining how ice ages could possibly have occurred. Just to name one constraint.

    James Annan has a blog too, so you can take his “skinny science” up with him if you want/dare:

    I have yet see a hole being poked in it, so I’m all ears to your argument.

  12. 12
    Sebastian says:

    I’d be curious your thoughts on Phil Jones stepping down. Personally I see it as disappointing; I know the administration had said they wouldn’t accept his resignation if he tendered it. Seems like adding fuel to the fire.

    Meantime, I was debating a denialist re: the MBH98 numbers their assertion that corrections issued suggest some sort of obstructionist trench warfare tactics on the part of climatologists in general. Can you help me specifically counter that?

  13. 13
    David Harrington says:

    Was it actually a hack? Or was it a leak from an insider. A leak would be a much more serious problem than a hack as it would tend to imply that someone on the inside nwas not happy with what they were seeing.

    Personally I think it was a leak.

    [Response: My information is that it was a hack into their backup mailserver. – gavin]

  14. 14
    VM says:

    I’m a beginner in this debate, trying to understand the basics. Going back to your six easy steps. Step 3 is a non-sequitur. You have not shown the duration of the changes you discuss or that they are anthropogenic. sorry but your argument needs shoring up.

    [Response: That’s actually the easiest thing to demonstrate (we should have a link there though). How do we know recent CO2 increases are due to human activities. – gavin]

  15. 15
    Mesa says:

    The problem with Annan’s paper is that it takes a lot of wildly uncertain estimates and uses bayesian methods to try to narrow the distribution – I just don’t buy it. I guess I would say that I think the error bars on the original estimates are (much) wider than he does. It’s also possible that the climate doesn’t have “one sensitivity” – ie looking at it as a single number is not useful, just as looking at “global temperature” may not be that useful. I think he’s a smart guy, and I understand part of the idea was to chop off the higher tails in the sensitivity estimates.

  16. 16
    Jim Bouldin says:

    Didn’t Charney et al, NAS, have the sensitivity at right about 3C, 30 years ago?

  17. 17
    Timmy says:

    Thank you Olive, Jim and Adam for trying to sort out the importance of Tree Ring data for me, but i still have a couple unanswered questions:

    Olive: Do you have a link to Mann’s reconstruction minus the tree ring data? (A graph would be preferable, since I’m a layman and work better with pictures.) Every reconstruction I’ve been able to locate includes tree ring data.

    [Response: Here (Blue line). See the supplemental data on Mann et al 2008. – gavin]

    Jim & Adam: I understand that there is far more to AGW theory than historic temperatures, however, the reason it is considered a crisis is because of the assumption that current warming is an unique event. If the modern tree data underestimates the current observed warming, it also could have underestimated it in the past. Which would indicate that the current warming is neither unique, nor a crisis.

  18. 18
    VB says:

    I was under the impression that this is supposed to be a neutral website discussing climate. Are you honestly telling me that only global warming skeptics make mistakes in their papers? I find that a little difficult to stomach.

    [Response: Not at all. The distortion comes in how much press/spin accompanies the mistaken papers which seem to cast doubt on the mainstream science. Good peer review can catch mistakes on both sides though (albeit imperfectly). – gavin]

  19. 19

    Sebastian has already asked this, but I’d also be interested to know your thoughts on Phil Jones’s decision to temporarily hand over the role of director to Peter Liss while the investigation is under way.

  20. 20
    Jim Bouldin says:

    It’s also possible that the climate doesn’t have “one sensitivity” – ie looking at it as a single number is not useful, just as looking at “global temperature” may not be that useful.

    You have to start with a global number and try to get that right before you can start looking at regional sensitivities, it seems to me.

  21. 21
    walter says:

    Timmy, you should also note the tree-ring data was not used for _extrapolation_. Extrapolations based on noisy signals are very tricky and can lead to hilarious errors.

    An example; lets say on april 13 temperature outside is 14 degrees. On april 14 it’s 13 degrees, on the 15th its 11 degrees. This can happen, as weather is very noisy. But if we want to forcast the temperature on april 21th, we should not use said data to extrapolate: the conclusion would be some 5 or 6 degrees!

  22. 22
    Adam says:

    Timmy #comment-146368

    There certainly have been warmer periods in the past, the Cretaceous is one example. However whether there have been warmer periods during the Holocene is I guess the point you’re trying to make. Well tree rings aren’t the only proxies for starters, and as shown above, the reconstructions are not dependant on them.

    “the current warming is neither unique, nor a crisis.”

    What has uniqueness got to do with it? It’s not like we’ve got the evacuation of half of Bangladesh down to a fine art.

  23. 23
    Tom Wiita says:

    Is everyone on this “we do science” site braindead? re: comment 9, no, champ, tree rings form on the outside of the tree as layers of growth are added to the wood already grown. Didn’t anybody here take 7th grade science?

  24. 24
    Jim Bouldin says:

    re # 17:
    If the modern tree data underestimates the current observed warming, it also could have underestimated it in the past..

    Yes, it could have at certain locations. See my response to that point above.

    Which would indicate that the current warming is neither unique, nor a crisis.

    No. The fact that the current warming may not be unique in some locations does NOT mean that the cause of the current global warming is not due to GHG forcing. And “crisis” is a matter of subjective description.

  25. 25
    caerbannog says:

    I was under the impression that this is supposed to be a neutral website discussing climate. Are you honestly telling me that only global warming skeptics make mistakes in their papers? I find that a little difficult to stomach.

    No, but the “skeptics” make mistakes that would earn college students F’s on their exams. For example, taking the time-derivative of temperature and SOI data before correlating them and then drawing the wrong conclusion about how much of the observed warming is due to the SOI might be such a mistake (I see a good exam question for college students here).

  26. 26
    Joe says:

    ReT_P_Hamilton on the previous thread ( ):

    “Why don’t the deniers just make their OWN homogenization process, and publish in the scientific literature? That would be far better. Perhaps they are incompetent.”

    You clearly miss the point about homogenization. Let’s say, in a very simple case, I collect temperature measurements directly from my carden and my friend in California does the same. We then both send our data to someone in, let’s say, Uzbekistan becuase he wants to do some research.

    Now, my measurements have been taken at a certain altitude (in metres), using an old mercury thermometer that shows celsius cos that’s all I can afford. My friend has taken his at a different altitude (in feet cos he’s American), in farenheit (again, cos he’s American) using a state-of-the-art thermocouple system (again cos he’s American and they like their gadgets).

    The person in Uzbekistan has to correct for the different altitudes and temperature scales and make allowance for the difference in accuracy of the two thermometers and the fact that my Californian friend has an aircon unit which might heat his garden enough to make a difference. That’s the homogenization process.

    Immediately there’s a problem that the only way he can account for the aircon unit is by making an estimate, informed by current knowledge, (an assumption) of the effect it has. That’s fine from an integrity POV as long as his estimate is realistic but it might be realistic and wrong, or someone might come up with new information that affects what would be “realistic”.

    He does all that, in good faith, but genuinely forgets to convert the American altitude from feet to metres. So he’s placed the American thermometer roughly 3x as high as it really is.

    That means that his (honest) conversion will make the American reading seem hotter than it should be because he will have allowed too much for altitude. There is no possible way to spot that error from the dataset he produces. To find such errors you MUST have access to the original data that my friend and I supplied. To confirm that any assumptions were reasonable (including honest mistakes and changes to the state of understanding) you must also have details about what assumptions were made.

    So, no, those sceptical of AGW can’t simply “make their own process” because that process is entirely dependent on what the raw data was and why it needed homogenizing in the first place.

    I have the utmost respect for people working in climate science – it’s a vast, multi-disciplinary, area where no one person can possibly “understand it all” so an awful lot has to be taken on trust, especially in terms of available data.

    The very fact that it’s such a complex and (possibly) vitally important field makes it all the more essential that all data and methods are open to scrutiny and that there is not even a hint of suppressing alternative theory. Otherwise there can be no scientific basis to trust anything published anywhere.

    Incidentally, I also believe that anyone honestly suggesting some global Big Brother conspiracy between Science and Government is a first class fruit-cake with a side-order of nuts (probably served in tinfoil).

  27. 27
    RichieRich says:


    Thanks for RC’s continued coverage of this issue. I think I’m raising a new point here.

    The most thought-provoking piece I’ve read on the CRU saga is that by Willis Eschenbach at

    As I understand it, he was the first person to make a FOI request. His account of his experiences makes me think that the way UEA dealt with the request left – shall we say – something to be desired.

    But perhaps more importantly, Eschenbach argues that the fact that the raw data was/is avaiable on other sites really wasn’t/isn’t the point. And he raises some – to my mind – interesting questions about the role of reproducibility in science.

    I wonder if you think an (extended) RC comment on his piece might be useful/worthwhile?


  28. 28

    Since we are on the subject of the conservative response to global warming, I just wanted to know … does the climate science community have any explanation for that great rainstorm which occurred approximately 6000 years ago and covered everything except for the highest mountain peaks, carved out the grand canyon and disrupted the water vapor canopy that allowed the antidiluvians to live for centuries and even longer.

    I mean, there’s this great mass of historic climatic data in the book of Genesis. The conservatives will gladly tell you all about it and you can even read their scientific writings here:

    Climate scientists would score big points with the conservatives simply by acknowledging their peer-reviewed (peer reviewed by God!) textbook, the Bible.

    [Response: Funny. But no further discussion on biblical inerrancy here though, thanks. – gavin]

  29. 29
    Neil Pelkey says:

    Was the Copenhagen diagnosis peer reviewed? Do the policymakers really understand the amount of work behind the production of some of those certainties? I am not a a denier that humans are impacting the climate, and I think the reality does lie within the error regions we see in the IPCC projections. But why do “good scientist include clearly exaggerated graphs like figure 9 in the Copenhagen report? Why depict the lowest ice year against the highest ice year? Why not get the y Axis label correct– 20 million sq kilometers in Greenland? This was not done by journalists, but by some of the best climate science has to offer.

    It is child’s play to use the same data to show that Greenland is cooling at an alarming pace.

    The following linear model represents the rapid decline in Greenleand temperatures measured from the CERES Greenland climate network. Thanks to Konrad Steffen for the data. The decline is .18 degrees per year. Given winter temperature of -40, we can predict that by the year 2100 Greenland will have cooled by 16 degrees. This is likely to lead to a massive expansion in the greenland ice sheet triggering a new ice age.

    Estimate Std. Error t value Pr(>|t|)
    (Intercept) 349.046434 18.413814 18.96 <2e-16 ***
    Decline in Degrees C per year -0.183091 0.009193 -19.92 <2e-16 ***

    The data are real. The analysis is real. The outcome is highly unlikely even though the p-values are through the roof (Greenland was probably not 350 C in 50 bc). In fact, 2/3rd of the Greenland weather stations show significant temperature declines over their life span.

    If such a paper were sent to you for review, then the discussion of data error–those icy weather station have hard time getting the same temperature reading from identical sensors on the same day at the same time– and changes in satellite platforms would be brought up to reject the paper. If it showed that the ice sheet was declining and temperatures on the rise, your review would not be as rigorous or as negative.

  30. 30
  31. 31
    Jeff Johansen says:

    Adam, although not critical to your post, the oldest tree rings are in the center if the tree, new rings are added by the vascular cambium to the outside of the stem/trunk every year. The cambium produces phloem to the outside (which is destroyed as part of the growth process) and the xylem to the inside. It is the xylem that forms the rings.

  32. 32
    Jeff Johansen says:

    I would be interested in knowing if there is any published theory/data as to why 1998 was the hottest year on record (I know 2005 was pretty close or tied), but we have had a decade in which we have not broken that record. Although I do not think there has been a decline in temperature (only a decline in the surrogate measure of tree ring data), it seems it has at least been pretty flat. Are we in the downside of a solar radiation cycle? Are aerosols increasing and causing cooling. I am a scientist, but not a climate scientist, and am wondering if this has been discussed in the peer-reviewed literature.

  33. 33
    ghost says:

    I don’t see a good alternative to Phil’s standing aside. Remaining in the position, regardless of whether that would affect any enquiry, would invite claims of bias and cover-up. It might be equally misguided, but his stepping aside evokes some comfort that his actions have not, and will not be found to have, affected the science or the conclusions drawn from it. I still expect to hear grumblings about foxes guarding the chicken coop, but the people (in the U.S.) raising this didn’t seem concerned about that concept RE: oversight during/just before the Iraq war. Probably nothing will soothe them anyway.

  34. 34
    Steve Fish says:

    harry — 1 December 2009 @ 5:30 PM (from the previous thread):

    Your argument regarding the reason for the freedom of information requests is disingenuous. This is because the next logical step for those requesting data, after learning they were proprietary, was to ask for it directly from the separate agencies that own it, not the CRU. Further, it has been stated that the CRU doesn’t always keep the raw data after it has been processed for irregularities and to make the different sources compatible with the metrics of the whole data set. And, if the requests were for the purpose of uncovering hidden or improperly biased data, how could the CRU be trusted to supply accurate data?

    If the freedom of information requests were actually for the purpose of replicating CRU research they were misplaced. Instead requests for the original source data should have been put to the different agencies that own it. Within this context, the requests for proprietary data, or for the data agreements from the CRU, was clearly unproductive and harassment.


  35. 35
    Donald says:

    “It seems to me that such a major “decline” would indicate that there is no link between tree ring data and historic climate.”

    Tree ring data has proved a good indicator of historical temperature- it’s used by archaeologists for example who compare the tree ring data with site occupancy in locations where life is only possible in a warm climate, and they find a good correlation.

    I remember reading a paper by Linah Ababneh on the subject which I found here:

    And I read elsewhere that tree ring proxies show a good correlation with instrumental records (which after all go back a couple of centuries or so) up to about 1960.

  36. 36
    Pat says:

    It’s all about the argument that these e-mails were taken out of context. I don’t understand how they’re taken out of context if full strings of e-mails are provided in COMPLETE context?? This is like saying if you found an e-mail from your wife to another guy she met, say a guy she met a social gathering, that read “hey baby, I’m gonna get away from the house tonight and come over to your place and don’t worry about my husband, he’ll never find out about us, I’m great at hiding these things.” Would you say to yourself, “hmmm oh no, this can’t be, I’m just being silly…. I must have completely taken this out of context, God… I ALWAYS do this… when am I gonna learn to stop being such a worry worm?” It doesn’t wash fellas. The science isn’t settled, it’s not concrete, neither side is right and more research is required. By the way, it’d be great if the powers that be could leave the raw data alone and perhaps even keep it on file so that other climatologists can measure this data and weigh in fairly. Well… providing that you allow them to publish their findings :)

  37. 37
    Adam says:

    “So, no, those sceptical of AGW can’t simply “make their own process” because that process is entirely dependent on what the raw data was and why it needed homogenizing in the first place.”

    So (a) download the raw data that’s freely available and (b) ask the respective met services where it isn’t, for the data that isn’t. As part of the reason why some of the data is NDA is down to tit-for-tat on the UKMO’s data restrictions (not CRU, note), then someone in a different country, say Canada, should have little trouble obtaining it – though it will still probably be under NDA.

    Also, as the data is gridded you can do checks on various subsets of the data to check for errors (though not exhaustive or likely to pick up all individual errors, would certainly turn up systematic problems).

  38. 38
    Adam says:

    Re #31 & #23 – mea culpa, did I really write that? Apologies for the mistake – it was a writing error, not a comprehension error (though I expect only 50% of my critics to believe me). Shows I should re-read after editing.

  39. 39
  40. 40
    Joseph says:

    Isn’t Tree ring data somewhat important to AGW theory?

    I don’t think so. There are reconstructions based on boreholes, glaciers, and other proxies. Plus there are at least 150 years of instrumental data that can be analyzed.

    I do think the CRU reconstructions might be a bit on the warm side in the 17th century (considering other temperature reconstructions, and CO2 ones.) I wonder if tree-rings are not only not able to proxy high temperatures very well, but also low ones.

  41. 41
    Bobby says:

    I do think the email have an impact on my view of the science. I never questioned the science before this news story and was lukewarm on the topic in general. Having now read a few of the emails, the 2007 IPCC report, the IPCC Summary for Policymakers, and your “Six Easy Steps,” I am surprised by the intellectual standards in this field. I am more skeptical now than I was before I started reading the IPCC and other material for myself. My background is in logic and I was only briefly exposed to graduate studies in the Philosophy of Science, so I am less fluent in the numbers than in the tactics in the arguments.

    Three things the emails have made me question are first, the use of mixed ice core and atmospheric standards of comparison in the IPCC Summary for Policy-makers diagrams. I read about the science of the controversy, so I’m not looking for an explanation of it. My point is: the diagram is intended for a non-scientist policy-maker to base a judgement on and the practice (or game) of mixing measuring sticks is deceptive. This point was also made in the rejected reviewer comments in one of the Mann emails.

    The second thing my attitude is changed on is to me it sounds like you are understating the uncertainties in climate science because your mind is made up. I believe you should “be aware of a tendency for a group to converge on an expressed view and become overconfident in it.” This is a principle I borrowed from the IPCC Guidance Notes for Lead Authors of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report on Addressing Uncertainties. ( That’s not to say AGW is false, just to say IPCC recommendations on verbal and social hygiene is not being practiced in this field.

    Finally, again indirectly, the general attitude toward changing or “correcting” data to make diagrams look better prompted me to go back and see whatever came of the “missing heat” from the Argo ocean sensors I heard on NPR last year ( So I Googled “Josh Willis” and found what became of it. In the article “Correcting Ocean Cooling” ( they explain that they got rid of the heat in the measurements by factoring in some other data. That way they could make the ocean cooling “go away.”

    To me it’s surprising that they would even want the measurements they take from a large initiative with 3,000 robots to “go away.” But, on page 4 I find the passage “Since the revision, says Willis, the bumps in the graph have largely disappeared, which means the observations and the models are in much better agreement. “That makes everyone happier,’ Willis says.” In the context of the emails it sounds like there is some pressure to find ways to make data conform to a desired conclusion formed by peers. Again, I’m not arguing whether the ocean is cool or hot, or whether the globe is warming. I’m saying this type of social thinking undermines my need to trust scientists to tell it like it is.

  42. 42
    Anand Rajan KD says:

    Now there’s a new term for you: “Standing aside”.

    The CRU did not comply with any FOI requests. They were all denied. The harassment value of FOI lies in the effort that would go into putting the information together. CRU counter-harassed by not complying with the requests anyway. They hit back – it is the leak that’s actually exposed the whole thing, not FOI. When a matter has reached the stage of FOI being applied, it is not for the requested party to claim harassment, atleast officially. It is one thing to grumble about it in private (like emails) but it is another thing to plot to deny the requests, based on the alleged motives of the requests.

    You are basically screwed if you have stuff that can be gotten out with an FOI request, and you dont want it out. That’s why the “dont anyone tell [them] that there is an FOIA in the UK” (albeit jokingly)from Jones. The grain of truth in that comment is the pinch.

    And who do you think will file FOI requests? Your buddies? It *is* your opponents who will, however low you might think of them notwithstanding. Jones did not have a strategy. Just a string of ad-hoc responses.

  43. 43

    Mr. Pelkey, methinks you should learn some more very basic knowledge about the Greenland ice sheet, because your analysis is laughable.

  44. 44
    Timmy says:

    “tree ring proxies show a good correlation with instrumental records (which after all go back a couple of centuries or so) up to about 1960”

    That’s almost half a century!

    It’s over a THIRD of all reliable observed temperature records. It seems pretty clear that Tree Ring data is virtually worthless

  45. 45
    Andy Mayhew says:

    With regards the FOI requests

    “Eschenbach argues that the fact that the raw data was/is available on other sites really wasn’t/isn’t the point.”

    But that IS the point- under the FOIA there is no requirement to provide any data that is available elsewhere. Under Section II, Exempt Information, it reads:

    “Information accessible to applicant by other means

    (1) Information which is reasonably accessible to the applicant otherwise than under section 1 is exempt information.

    (2) For the purposes of subsection (1)—

    (a) information may be reasonably accessible to the applicant even though it is accessible only on payment, and

    (b) information is to be taken to be reasonably accessible to the applicant if it is information which the public authority or any other person is obliged by or under any enactment to communicate (otherwise than by making the information available for inspection) to members of the public on request, whether free of charge or on payment.

    (3) For the purposes of subsection (1), information which is held by a public authority and does not fall within subsection (2)(b) is not to be regarded as reasonably accessible to the applicant merely because the information is available from the public authority itself on request, unless the information is made available in accordance with the authority’s publication scheme and any payment required is specified in, or determined in accordance with, the scheme. ”

    Other sections of the Act also apply and as far as I can determine the CRU were in no way obliged under the terms of the Act to provide the requested data.

  46. 46
    SecularAnimist says:

    Bobby wrote: “My background is in logic …”

    Anthropogenic global warming has nothing to do with “logic”. It is an empirically observed physical reality.

  47. 47

    Bobby, the ocean is the elephant on the planet. Theory says it should be warming, starting on the surface and moving downwards, but the water at the bottom is very cold, and there is a lot of it, and get this, it MOVES.

    The problem is one of access to the temperature data, and only more sophisticated deep roving robots will give us that data. Until then we can only sense the surface waters down to about 3000 meters or so in any great detail, and those details are somewhat sketchy due to the lack of these robots, the speed at which they needed to be fielded and their calibration.

    But there is no need to spread doubt about what simple theory says. It says that absent any significant ocean overturning, the heat that we know is accumulating at the surface will melt the ice, warm the ocean and acidify it. That process of ocean heating and ice melting will change salinity and alter the currents, and then the deeper ocean waters will rise up and temporarily cool the surface. That is how thermodynamics works – heating really is cooling, and vice versa. The end result will be a new equilibrium, but as long as carbon dioxide rises, that equilibrium is centuries if not a millennium away, and during that period we can expect alternate heating and cooling until it is reached. It ain’t gonna be pretty. Climate and planetary science is about predicting and tracking these changes to equilibrium, and we have a good idea where these currents are, but clearly we need to get out there and up there and cover this planet with sensors. Robotic sensors. As in a robotic space program run by NASA and NOAA. Complementary to that program is a human space flight program that will give us the skills to continue to thrive on this planet.

    Hopefully Mr. Obama will announce the results and decisions of his administration’s discussions required to grapple with these problems, but suffice it to say that his people are not the only people who have come to grips with this. Whenever you feel you’re ready, you need to address it as well. There is very little doubt about what is already happening to our oceans, ice sheets and planet, the questions are merely dynamical details.

  48. 48
    Jim Bouldin says:

    It’s over a THIRD of all reliable observed temperature records. It seems pretty clear that Tree Ring data is virtually worthless

    What “seems pretty clear” is that you prefer to hold to your personal biases instead of listening to what people tell you in response to your questions, or doing any actual investigation into the matter (such as for example, reading).

  49. 49

    Another destabilization will be our retreat into modern feudalism, where any powerful group and each sovereign will demand fealty. Science has long been cloistered in a university system that affords protection from the warrior aristocracy.

    These squabbles should be familiar. This is a ruthless suppression of Science – the goal is to drive scientists back into quiet, controlled submission, completely removed from the political fray.

    As a class, scientists generally refuse to submit to any irrational political entity – but still forge alliances in the political world. And political rulers, who rule by passion and irrationality – will only acknowledge as much science as is required to rule.

    Weak political overlords feel challenged and will shoot the messenger. Smarter leaders will embrace the message.

    It is worth remarking on the famous story of the great Viking ruler King Kanut – who commanded the tides not to rise:

    “…he commanded that his chair should be set on the shore, when the tide began to rise. And then he spoke to the rising sea saying “You are part of my dominion, and the ground that I am seated upon is mine, nor has anyone disobeyed my orders with impunity. Therefore, I order you not to rise onto my land, nor to wet the clothes or body of your Lord”. But the sea carried on rising as usual without any reverence for his person, and soaked his feet and legs. Then he moving away said: “All the inhabitants of the world should know that the power of kings is vain and trivial, and that none is worthy the name of king but He whose command the heaven, earth and sea obey by eternal laws”. Therefore King Cnut never afterwards placed the crown on his head…”

    We can hope leaders today can learn, however now our metahistory has a new factor: the looming deadline and compressed timescale for catastrophic change. And science challenges all with a message that this could overpower and trump everything.

    In this Anthropogenic Era, not only is the biosphere destabilizing – political structures are too. We can expect people to be cranky and angry.

  50. 50
    Silk says:

    #44 I’m not commenting on the worth, or otherwise, of tree ring proxies, but EVEN IF they were ‘worthless’ this in no way invalidates AGW, since AGW has been demonstrated by numerous other sources.