by Gavin and Mike
The long-awaited and surprisingly thorough Muir Russell report (readable online version) was released this morning. We’ve had a brief read through of the report, but a thorough analysis of this and the supplemental information on the web site will have to wait for a day or so.
The main issue is that they conclude that the rigour and honesty of the CRU scientists is not in doubt. For anyone who knows Phil Jones and his colleagues this comes as no surprise, and we are very pleased to have this proclaimed so vigorously. Secondly, they conclude that none of the emails cast doubt on the integrity and conclusions of the IPCC, again, something we have been saying since the beginning. They also conclude as we did that there was no ‘corruption’ of the peer-review process. Interestingly, they independently analysed the public domain temperature data themselves to ascertain whether the could validate the CRU record. They managed this in two days, somewhat undermining claims that the CRU temperature data was somehow manipulated inappropriately. (Note that this exercise has been undertaken by a number of people since November – all of which show that the CRU results are robust).
All in all, none of the various accusations and insinuations that have been floating around the blogosphere have been sustained. (See some of the early media coverage of the report).
However, there are two issues that have come up that deserve some comment. The first are the evolving practices of data presentation and access, and the second is the issue of how to handle Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.
As climate science has moved away from single researcher/single study/single site analyses towards synthesis across multiple studies, across the globe and involving more and more researchers, practices that were appropriate at one time don’t necessarily scale up to the new environment. Data requests dealt with on an ad-hoc and informal basis work fine if only a couple of people are interested, but more formal and automated procedures are needed when the data sets grow and many more people are involved (see the PCMDI/CMIP3 archive of model results for instance). Given too, the obsession in certain quarters with irrelevant details of smoothing techniques and end-point padding in decade-old papers, it is clear that the more information that is put out as supplementary material to the creation of high-profile figures, the better off we will be. Examples of this for figures in IPCC AR4 already exist, but it will be helpful for IPCC to adopt this practice more generally. Historically, this hasn’t been done – mainly because no-one thought it particularly interesting (most smoothing methods produce very similar results for instance), particularly for figures that weren’t for publication in the technical literature.
One example of this was the cover art on a WMO 1999 report which, until last November, was completely obscure (we are not aware of any mention of this report or this figure before November in any blogospheric discussion, ever). Nonetheless, in the way of these things, this figure is now described as ‘an icon’ in the Muir Russell report (one of their very few mistakes, how can something be an icon if no-one has ever seen it?). In retrospect (and as we stated last year) we agree with the Muir Russell report that the caption and description of the figure could indeed have been clearer, particularly with regard to the way proxy and instrumental data sources were spliced into a single curve, without indicating which was which. The WMO cover figure appears (at least to our knowledge) to be the only instance where that was done. Moving forward, nonetheless, it is advisable that scientists be as clear as possible about what sorts of procedures have gone into the preparation of a figure. But retrospective applications of evolving standards are neither fair nor useful.
With respect to the continuing barrage of FOI requests (which are predominantly for personal communications rather than for data), we can attest from personal experience how disconcerting these can be at first. Since there are no limits on what can be asked for (though there are many limits on what will be delivered), scientists presented with these requests often find them personally invasive and inappropriate. Institutions that do not have much experience with these kinds of requests, and who are not aware of what their employees do that is, and is not, covered by the legislation, are often not much help in sorting out how to respond. This can certainly be improved, as can the awareness of the community of what is recoverable using these procedures. While it is not relevant to the legislation, nor to what can be released, the obvious bad faith of many of the requesters indicates that actual information about the functioning of public bodies is not the primary goal in making these requests. However, it would be a terrible mistake for scientists to retreat from the public discussion on climate science because of these attempts at intimidation.
We will post on more specific aspects of the report, and perhaps the legacy of the whole affair over the next few days…
235 Responses to "The Muir Russell report"
Scott A Mandia says
This is good news overall and it is satisfying to hear that the exonerations keep coming in. Unfortunately, the accusations always get more coverage than the exonerations.
The melting ice, threatened species, and ocean acidifcation are disappointed. They were so hoping that climate scientists were guilty and this whole AGW thing was a hoax. That way they could stop melting, dying, and acidifying. Sigh.
Scott A. Mandia, Professor of Physical Sciences
Global Warming: Man or Myth?
My Global Warming Blog
“Global Warming Fact of the Day” Facebook Group
Excellent note. And great news.
Of course, it will make no difference to McIntyre et al. Apparently a skeptic inquiry into the various “white-washing” inquiries is already in the works.
There is a further issue that hasn’t really been addressed in this report and that it one of records management for research.
Creating repositories of research results and maintaining those over time is difficult enough but add in the issue of loose informal records such as records contained in emails, with the attendant mix of formal prose and informal writing, attachments, assorted file formats and personal and private data, all coming under a variety of laws, and you get a very complex and time consuming task to manage.
On the other hand, researchers could rediscover the use of the telephone!
Good to see the truth come out in the end, although it will be simply (and conveniently) dismissed as a ‘whitewash’ by the pseudo-sceptics.
However for non-scientists like me, who don’t often have the time and patience to go through some of the in-depth articles here, these kinds of patient debunkings of the pseudo-science and political attacks against climate science are very important. You guys are spreading the message the right way – keep it up!
Good post Gavin and Mike, I look forward to more commentary from you in the coming days.
This report will of course do nothing to appease certain ‘skeptical’ elements, well probably most of them, then again when global SATs anomalies approach +2 C they will still remain unconvinced. Odd how that works, they demand inquiries and then simply dismiss them as ‘whitewash’. The reason of course is all about perception, and that it allows them to make more insinuations and to make mountains out of molehills. They know that the science is robust, but the fabricated scandal and ensuing circus has done damage.
What I think now has to happen is that certain “skeptical” elements need to be officially investigated and held to account. For example, people keep trying to highlight Lindzen coaching Anthony Watts to manipulate the SAT data to avoid obtaining a stat. sig. trend, but that seemingly blatant example of scientific misconduct by a prominent “skeptic” seems to keep falling on deaf ears. Why?
How someone can admit to orchestrating a vexatious FOI barrage and get away without any consequences whatsoever is beyond me. Or how someone can accuse a scientists of withholding data when they had those data all along is ridiculous. And on and on it goes. The ‘skeptics’ demand “transparency” and “accountability”, yet no one is officially holding them to account or demanding transparency from them.
Please tell me that there is something in the works to do this. The climate scientists have been on the defensive for far too long now (long before SwiftHack).
Dr. Jones, if you happen to be reading this– congratulations.
Now let us all get back to doing science :)
[Response: A big Amen on that last point…On your previous point, I agree that there are people out there who are getting away with murder and not being held accountable for it, and this isn’t right. In science there are standards of conduct, but unfortunately in the blog world and a good chunk of the media, there aren’t, and these people take advantage of that fact. Here’s another point to consider though. Scientists have been more or less steadfastly holding to the legitimacy (and importance) of the scientific findings, throughout this melee, rather than getting into a mud sling. That’s because we have confidence in the science, regardless of all this extraneous junk. So another very legitimate strategy is to simply hold the line and watch as certain elements unknowingly and progressively paint themselves into a corner with their antics (and maybe hand them the paint and brush). And that is exactly what we are seeing as these accusations fall apart under repeated and close examination.–Jim]
Just a quick follow-up. Unlike the vitriol and invective being spewed in the denialosphere, the tone of this post is tempered and rational. Please continue to take the high road.
Mike of Oz says
Now that Climategate is nothing more than a rotting corpse (not that it was ever destined to be anything different) hopefully scientists can accelerate their work of improving our understanding of climate and how we are affecting it.
Unfortunately it won’t change the abuse and interference they’re getting from the more “psychologically challenged” out there being whipped into hysterical frenzies by certain prominent individuals, but perhaps those genuine and intelligent people who were starting to harbour doubts might now realise that the science was indeed correct after all.
Again, I´d like to see how much media coverage this gets. Unlike the US, here in Brazil the news regarding climate change seldom make it into the mainstream media, but the hacked emails did.
I´d like to see if someone mentions this here.
David Guidos says
Despite the results of this report, the emails that initiated this investigation show that they tried to hide or distort results by re-presenting them. [edit – insulting stuff deleted]
[Response: ‘Re-presenting’ data is now a bad thing? Sorry, but you are very confused. Data is re-presented all the time, as updates come in, as new graphics programs are used, as different issues and emphases are highlighted, etc. Do you think that GDP growth should never be replotted once it is issued from the government? Are people not entitled to deal with the data presentation in any way they see fit? You may not agree with the emphasis, nor the conclusions, but there is nothing wrong in ‘re-presenting’ data. Please, no more made-up ‘rules’. – gavin]
[Response: I have an idea. Why don’t you just negate the whole report with one quick dismissal based on your opinion? Oops you’re one step ahead of me.–Jim]
Zeke Hausfather says
http://rankexploits.com/musings/2010/comparing-global-land-temperature-reconstructions/ would be the more appropriate temp reconstruction post to link to, as there have been many land-only reconstructions but only a few land/ocean reconstructions by bloggers to date.
Also, the Muir-Russell report only focuses on land reconstructions (CRUTEM) as far as I can tell.
Nick Barnes says
“The submission by Barnes is also very helpful and illustrative in this context.” W00t!
Will Koroluk says
As a layman I’d like to say thank you to all you scientists who simply kept on working through the whole hack-and-smear mess. And I’d like to echo the point made by HappySkeptic in Post #4: There are a lot of us non-scientists who find this blog indispensable as we try to understand what’s happening in the world around us. Keep it up!
Edward Greisch says
Thanks to LLNL for the archive.
David Mathews says
Those people who sought to slander the scientists aren’t going to stop slandering scientists regardless of how many reports are issued. The opponents of science aren’t interested in the science except to the extent that they can manipulate their audience into believing absurdities and propaganda which would cause them to doubt everything they might ever hear from a scientists.
In the end, the audience of climate change deniers will assert that it is all a conspiracy and that all scientists are liars and the scientific method itself is corrupt. These people are essentially anti-science zealots and they will remain so forever.
I’m certain that we’ll keep on hearing climategate mentioned even when the high tide reaches downtown Miami. Two centuries of science hasn’t stopped the creationists from denying evolution. Three centuries of geological evidence hasn’t stopped the creationists from insisting that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old.
The same sort of anti-science thought process is exhibited throughout the reactionary conservatives. These people don’t want to live in the past … they are actually living in the past with their 19th century mindset set in concrete.
The best thing to do with such people would be to bypass them but the polluting corporations have billions of dollars and enough political power to prevent the United States from doing anything whatsoever to limit pollution.
David Kidd says
This whole “Climategate” affair has been very worrying for us all. The scientists named have had the heaviest load, but all of us who are concerned by what the science has been indicating should have been concerned. Only one of the “Exonerations” by the inquests needs to have had just the slightest ambiguity or weakness in phrasing for the “Denialosphere” to have swung into action again. Our thanks to all and thanks for holding the line.
This site is highly valued by me and many others. Thank you for what you do.
Adam R. says
Congratulations again to CRU, UEA, Dr. Jones & Dr. Mann for the well-deserved vindications of their integrity. Thanks to all at RC for being a steadfast voice of reason throughout this despicable affair.
And may bot flies afflict the posteriors of Morano, McIntyre, Lindzen, Watts, Monckton, et al. who did their best to destroy the careers of far better men than themselves.
Martin Vermeer says
Funny you should also catch the WMO graph remark… my concern is more that if this becomes the standard of rigour for outreach materials, I expect they will acquire the teflon quality of legal briefs etc., desperately avoiding saying anything wrong, but in the process not saying anything well that is right either. Not exactly what successful outreach calls for!
Mike of Oz says
@9. David Guidos
Sigh. It just never stops, does it? Some people seem to have formed an almost drug-like dependency on believing climate science is all a con, no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary.
So when are they going to catch the hacker/s?
Jim wrote to David Guidos: “Why don’t you just negate the whole report with one quick dismissal based on your opinion?”
Because it’s actually hard work to come up with his own opinion, and it’s easier to negate the whole report with one quick dismissal based on Rush Limbaugh’s opinion?
Geoff Wexler says
Another piece of excellent news.
I don’t think that we have the right to pressurise others into the hazards of being in the front line, so I shall not provide all the various supporting arguments for the following:
Provided he wants it back, I hope Phil Jones can be persuaded to return to his previous job as quickly as possible.
Only very recently I spoke to someone who argued that he was utterly convinced that CRU were guilty of distorting the data. It turned out that his ‘strongest’ reason was that Phil Jones had resigned.
[Unfortunately, for people like the author of #9, every development, will provide evidence that the conspiracy was even bigger than they previously thought.]
LOL I stopped reading at “thorough”
[Response: Sorry, next time we’ll only use words with one syllable. – gavin]
Geoff Wexler says
Please ignore or withdraw my previous comment.It has been overtaken by events.(My fault)
Nice to see this thing finally coming to an end. What are the prospects of some of the top individuals making the accusations being subject to an investigation of this variety? I’d like to have the focus back on the science and policy, but failing to hold anyone at all remotely accountable will just result in progressively more garbage being put forth by dubious sources.
As one of Phil Jones’s students, I am happy to see this report emerge. I have just had a look at emails I was sending back in November (to one of the people who submitted an FOI request to CRU) and my judgement at the time has held out:
‘Haven’t seen much so far that suggests any published papers will have to be amended/withdrawn.’
As also apparent to me at that time, their data availability policy will have to change, as a result of the internet even more than FOI legislation.
Regarding the state of public opinion, the cold winter seems to have influenced the public perception more than the emails. Maybe this is so, but then watch out for a further shift in opinion when people realise how hot this year is globally – and in the UK it is also dry: a hosepipe ban has been introduced for the North West, with more bans likely to follow unless some rainfall occurs.
Recently, I have been taking an interest in the energy industry, particularly offshore wind. It is amusing to see forms of argument that will be familiar from the climate debate appear in the energy discussions e.g. various blanket statements about what does and doesn’t constitute scientific evidence. This site is great for debating skills – thanks!
Lou Grinzo says
Everyone in the reality enhanced community should accept (if he or she hasn’t already) that there is no way to defeat the deniers and make them go away. Just as there are still individuals who deny that HIV causes AIDS or smoking dramatically increases a person’s cancer risk or that we landed on the moon, there will always be a hard core group who insist the increasing climate change is due to cosmic rays, solar flux that only they can detect, etc.
Any minuscule scrap of evidence that goes their way will be trumpeted endlessly as if it overthrows the entire field of study. Anything that goes against them will be ignored or lied about or held up as proof of a vast climatologist conspiracy.
The best we can hope for is that their influence will dwindle until virtually everyone (especially the media) sees them as being wrong and safely ignorable.
While I’m normally a big proponent of open access to data and research material, no one here should doubt that any change in this area will simply provide the deniers with even more opportunity to cherry pick and misrepresent data.
Finally, let me add my sincerest thanks to all the scientists working on expanding our understanding of the Earth System and climate change in particular.
Following on from my congratulations to Mike Mann on the ‘Penn State Reports’ thread (although I did write ‘Mick’ instead of ‘Mike’ – sorry), I would now like to congratulate Phil Jones and the rest of the team at CRU for the re-instatement of their integrity and honesty – not that any of us in the real world doubted either.
I have sent an email message to CRU doing the same and would urge others to do so also, if only to counteract the probable imminent deluge of cowardly hate mail which they are likely to receive from the more die-hard, deluded deniers.
So it looks like Jones is getting his old job back minus the administrative hassles. Definitely a PI’s dream (even if getting there was more trouble than what it was worth…).
After hoisting some ales for Mike based on the PSU report, looks like I will have to do the same for UEA – after today (blood donation).
For openness, the NASA-GISS and Mike’s supplementary data in PNAS, Science and the PSU site (which includes alternative analyses) are also good examples of openness that others can emulate – budget allowing, of course. Will this stop the naysayers or win any points in the denialosphere? No, but it doesn’t hurt to keep on the high road.
If there is any way to pass along congratulations and appreciation to our UK friends from RC posters and lurkers, please do.
Lynn Vincentnathan says
RE responses/reactions to denialists and skeptics, I think I understand how climate scientists might feel, and why they might not be inclined to be so open and forthcoming as they might be when dealing with a reasonable and considerate person making a reasonable and considerate request.
I’ve been defending climate science myself for some time now, and, well, I started getting a bit sassy the last few years, thinking that the skeptic/denialist/uninformed person I was responding to was so hardened in their thinking that a soft and frank approach just wouldn’t work, and the only possibility was a response that was a bit sassy and insulting.
So when the typical denialist “it’s been colder than average here in Podunk the past few weeks” was put out there as proof against AGW, I wrote back saying, “AGW has to do with global AVERAGE temperatures over longer time periods, and the problem is that people just don’t understand ‘average’ and that you have to add X1 + X2 + X3 + … + Xn, then divide by n.”
That response made some people pretty upset, and I realized that they were not hardened denialists, but simply people confused and putting out what they thought was important info that might disprove AGW. I then apologized, and they appreciated my apology, and I think they actually started listening a bit to what I had to say.
It’s just that you sometimes can’t tell who is hardened and evil on this, and who is simply uninformed and confused, or misinformed, not realizing it, and perhaps amenable to the truth.
@30. Lynn I know how you feel. I have become quite crusty in the past couple of years myself. I have tried being must lest terse and much or teaching in my attitude and this seems to help. I am finding that a lot of the people who are not knowledgeable, even a little bit, are really just reacting to whatever it is they hear. Sadly most do not read. They watch ‘news’ on TV and most of the time that is on Fox. So I take a little more time to explain things and try so hard not to sound condescending. You must remember, many people are afraid. Afraid of many things. And AGW is so hard to comprehend that it is even scarier than ‘libruls’ and ‘treasonists’. Can you tell I am in Texas? Anyway back on topic. Many people do not understand science and many dont want to. So I just take more time to explain and I stay calm. Patience is something I am still practicing. However, there are times when I still want to pull the head off of some guy who is playing the stupid role and refusing to pay attention. :-)
Tony Sidaway says
It’s time to celebrate. Having followed this affair closely for some months now (I happened to be doing routine article and discussion minding on Wikipedia when the news broke) I feel as if an important chapter in my life has just closed and I can now breathe out.
Everybody at RealClimate, everybody at the University of East Anglia, celebrate now.
Dr. Mann, I can only imagine how you must feel to be targeted for investigation by the Attorney General of Virginia. The academic community worldwide, not only in Virginia and in Pennsylvania where you now work, should actively oppose this obscene fishing expedition because it threatens academic freedom for all.
Thanks especially to all involved in this blog, which has been more consistent than most in keeping to the high road.
It’s been interesting watching people who work in AGW go through the same process that biologists did earlier in the decade, when confronted by a well-financed creationist smear machine. Over time, even responsible researchers realize that they’re not confronted with honest critics, and that they do themselves a disservice by treating dishonest people with any respect at all. Gradually, ordinary academics grow more aggressive in asserting the consensus and less accommodating to deliberately dishonest people and their sad hangers-on. The tone hardens. The answers grow shorter.
The end result is that the smear machine is defeated when it can no longer draw out researchers into phony debates. They can no longer ambush researchers with sound bites designed to prey on the ignorant, because no one will give them a forum.
Time to take out the trash, folks.
pete best says
Never in doubt but still the skeptics aergue on and will contine to do but it must still be fought and won otherwise todays kiddywinks wont thank us.
Ray Ladbury says
As Han Solo said to Luke Skywalker, “Great, Kid. Now don’t get cocky!”
The denialists have tipped their hand as to how far they will go. They would not hesitate to go there again. After all, it bought thm nearly 8 months of reprieve, and when you turn your back on the evidence, lies are all you have at your disposal.
Perhaps most disturbing, there is no cost to the liars. They are not disgraced in the eyes of their followers. They’ll be as eager to believe the lies they tell next time.
Serve up the truth piping hot. Truth–it’s what’s for dinner.
Philip Machanick says
I didn’t doubt this outcome, hence my petition supporting the scientists under attack.
Thanks to all who signed, and I hope more will do so.
This whole episode amounts to an attempt at criminalising having your emails stolen and misrepresented. The chilling effect that would have on academic conversations if allowed to stand (just imagine, before I send this email, should I get legal advice?).
Meanwhile in Australia, one of the chief political climate deniers, leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, has argued that he shouldn’t be held to anything that he says in the heat of the moment.
Two standards, anyone?
Another reason to hence sign my petition…
One thing this whole business highlights is the urgent need for FOI legislation to be amended in each country to prevent the use of the process for harrassment. I’ve no idea how you could do this, perhaps a limit on the number of FOI requests each individual or organisation could lodge in a year, or an adminstration fee for each request.
Clearly the use of FOI by denialists is very far from the original intent of the legislation.
John McManus says
My favorite part was the – any idiot can write the temperature graph programme- part. Just what kind of clowns do they have working over there at Climate Audit.
Someone above said that Phil Jones has his credibility back. Wrong! He never lost it.
Philip Machanick says
I had a quick read of the report and found one obvious error, referring to Energy & Environment as a “scientific journal”. The editor herself admits it is not a scientific journal.
The report is very careful not to make judgements on anyone on the denial side.
Oh well. They will have to wait their turn.
In an AP story today, you were quoted as saying:
“the planet is getting warmer. 2000-2009 was the warmest since the 1850s.”
One might interpret that to mean the 1850’s were at least as warm.
[Response: Hmmm… obviously I meant since at least the 1850s, but it was a phone interview and sometimes you don’t speak quite as clearly as you should. I don’t think anyone will be too confused though (but you never know). Thanks for the heads up. – gavin]
Chris Squire [UK] says
Re: Mikel’s advice above: ‘On the other hand, researchers could rediscover the use of the telephone!’
This is something for all of us to ‘read, mark, learn & inwardly digest.’ Emails are modern postcards: don’t write anything that you would be embarrassed to justify to a High Court Judge.
You’ll be quoted-mined, I’m sure …
“obviously I meant since at least the 1850s”
“ClimateGate Scientist Gavin Schmidt Admits 1850’s Might Have Been Warmer Than Recent Decade…Debunks Fraudulent Hockeystick Again”
OK maybe I shouldn’t give the clowns ideas.
Martin Vermeer says
Having now read the report in its entirety, it seems a remarkable achievement by non-experts in this limited time. They worked for their money. Much broader than anybody could hope for, but in some instances still not broad enough.
Besides the WMO figure cock-up — which Myles Allen also pointed out — there are instances of ‘talk is cheap’, like where they say that CRU could have helped to have the Yamal data — which they don’t own — enter the public domain earlier (Yes? How?). And spelling Peiser’s name wrong…
Another strange omission is not mentioning Open Access for articles, which will certainly be part of the Brave New Internet World of their glorious vision. I know that paywalls are the bane of some ‘citizen scientists’ commenting here, and yes, they are a pain. But the money hss to come from somewhere.
Finally, they fail to highlight the kind of openness and outreach that initiatives like RealClimate represent, which surely is at least as important as servicing information requests by assholes in a timely manner. They passed up the opportunity to recommend something really positive here (why wasn’t anyone from CRU along in establishing RC by the way? Surely they now recognize this as an error).
The fact that ” they independently analysed the public domain temperature data themselves to ascertain whether the could validate the CRU record. They managed this in two days” further shows that many of the FOI requests are simply harassment.
Jim wrote in a response to #5 “In science there are standards of conduct”. I agree 100% with that viewpoint.
Jim, would you say CRU personnel have always acted to uphold proper science standards of conduct, professionalism, and ethics?
Awe-inspiring commentary by Fred Pearce which might as well have been penned by RP Jr. This is how you accentuate the negative! (while ignoring the preponderance of what the committee actually, you know, found.)
Dr Mat says
I don’t know about other countries, but in Australia there are also FOI laws – but the supplying organization can charge for the cost of releasing data. Sometimes this runs into thousands of dollars – perhaps a new funding source for climate scientists ?
calyptorhynchus and Dr Mat:
FOI law typically restricts the cost of releasing data to a reasonable minimum. However, there are already legal protections against vexatious or repeated requests. Despite this, dealing with them takes time away from more important concerns.
Unfortunately, the legal standard isn’t what climate science has to meet. The “standard” is whatever silly ideal the mass media feels like promoting today – a variable and unhelpful standard, setting everyone up to fail.
Steve Bloom says
George Monbiot climbs down (from his prior call for Phil to resign), not all the way but sufficiently.