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A Closer Look At Those Climate Change Graphs

One of the most controversial of all the "Climategate" emails is this message from November 1999, written by Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit:

Dear Ray, Mike and Malcolm,

Once Tim's got a diagram here we'll send that either later today or
first thing tomorrow.

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. Mike's series got the annual
land and marine values while the other two got April-Sept for NH land
N of 20N. The latter two are real for 1999, while the estimate for 1999
for NH combined is +0.44C wrt 61-90. The Global estimate for 1999 with
data through Oct is +0.35C cf. 0.57 for 1998.

Thanks for the comments, Ray.

Cheers
Phil

Naturally most of us would assume that it is impossible for good science to be predicated on "tricks" or attempts to "hide the decline" in a data set. What was Jones talking about, and what exactly was his team trying to accomplish?

Defenders of the CRU's research have complained that the Climategate emails, particularly this one, have been "taken out of context." However, thanks to the efforts of the indefatigable Steve McIntyre, the circumstantial context of these emails is slowly coming together, and the fascinating story of the corrupting nexus between climate science, politics, and public funding is beginning to emerge.

Starting with their First Assessment Report, issued in 1990, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has insisted that man-made carbon dioxide emissions have significantly contributed to an enhanced greenhouse effect, and have caused the Earth's climate to warm significantly. For their efforts, they shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore.

Phil Jones' "hide the decline" email was written while Jones, Michael Mann, and others at the East Anglia CRU were hard at work drafting the IPCC's Third Assessment Report, which was scheduled to be released in 2001. The heart of the report was going to be a CRU-prepared temperature diagram that would convincingly illustrate their assumption that the Earth's climate had warmed significantly during the twentieth century, and that the Earth was warmer in the year 2000 than at any time during the past one thousand years. All the CRU team needed to do was to figure out which data sets should be included in the chart, and how those numbers needed to be crunched in order to support that assumption.

Climate science is a relatively new scientific discipline, one that merges elements of geophysics, meteorology, biology, and archeology into an attempt to understand what controls the climate of our planet. Part of the research carried out by climatologists involves measurements of the current climate; other research involves trying to piece together a picture of the climate in past eras, and determine how the Earth's climate has changed over time.

It is this attempt to recover past climate data that poses the greatest problem. Because there were no thermometers before the eighteenth century, climate scientists must rely on approximate temperature measurements gleaned from historical and physical sources like almanacs, ice cores, and tree rings. Because this data is approximated, rather than measured, it is denoted as "proxy data."

Anyone who performs environmental measurements will tell you that observed values largely depend on the testing methods and mediums that are used. Some methods and equipment do a much better job of detecting certain phenomena than others. Likewise, data derived from ice cores and tree rings isn't always consistent, because (as would be expected) water and trees react to temperature differences in different ways.

The chart that Jones, Mann, et. al. were working to produce for the 2001 IPCC report spanned from 1000 AD to the year 2000, thereby including roughly 700 years of proxy data, 250 years of sporadic actual temperature measurements, and 40 years of relatively trustworthy modern climate studies. They eventually decided that the best numbers for the 700 years of proxy data would be derived from the tree ring analysis of Dr. Keith Briffa.

Briffa knew exactly why they wanted it, writing in an email on September 22: 'I know there is pressure to present a nice tidy story as regards "apparent unprecedented warming in a thousand years or more".' But his conscience was troubled. 'In reality the situation is not quite so simple - I believe that the recent warmth was probably matched about 1,000 years ago.'

Another British scientist - Chris Folland of the Met Office's Hadley Centre - wrote the same day that using Briffa's data might be awkward, because it suggested the past was too warm. This, he lamented, 'dilutes the message rather significantly'.

Over the next few days, Briffa, Jones, Folland and Mann emailed each other furiously. Mann was fearful that if Briffa's trees made the IPCC diagram, 'the sceptics [would] have a field day casting doubt on our ability to understand the factors that influence these estimates and, thus, can undermine faith [in them] - I don't think that doubt is scientifically justified, and I'd hate to be the one to have to give it fodder!'

Finally, Briffa changed the way he computed his data and submitted a revised version. This brought his work into line for earlier centuries, and 'cooled' them significantly. But alas, it created another, potentially even more serious, problem.

According to his tree rings, the period since 1960 had not seen a steep rise in temperature, as actual temperature readings showed - but a large and steady decline, so calling into question the accuracy of the earlier data derived from tree rings.

This is the context in which, seven weeks later, Jones presented his 'trick' - as simple as it was deceptive.

All he had to do was cut off Briffa's inconvenient data at the point where the decline started, in 1961, and replace it with actual temperature readings, which showed an increase.

And this is exactly what Jones and Mann did. As part of a 1999 "first order draft" of the forthcoming Third Climate Assessment Report, they submitted an early version of their now-infamous "hockey stick" chart that simply truncated the data line derived from Briffa's tree ring studies as it became entangled with other data lines after 1950. The chart that was included in the final 2001 version of the report contained an altered tree ring data line created by eliminating the tree ring data collected after 1960 and replacing it with actual measured temperature data.

fig2-21.gif
(The published "hockey-stick"chart)

article-0-07949B82000005DC-809_634x447.jpg
(blow-up from The Daily Mail)

Needless to say, such a mixture of estimated proxy data and measured data does not produce a reliable result. Even if standard, well-known statistical methods are used (and they were), the now-questionable origin of the data sets ought to spur interest in a closer examination of Jones and Mann's work, and an effort to produce new versions of their diagrams based on data sets that have not been aggressively massaged. Unfortunately, at this time the CRU is either unwilling or unable to make much raw data available for review.

It seems clear from the emails between the CRU scientists, and their generally testy attitude toward those who would question their work, that deep down they are uncertain whether their work would stand up against rigorous scientific scrutiny. Yet there is no doubt that this group of scientists still believes they are on the right track -- they are convinced that greenhouse-induced global warming is real, and that if mankind does not immediately begin altering the way he interacts with the planet, permanent damage will be done. They further believe that attempts question their work are actually harming the planet, since such questions inevitably lead to delays in governing bodies implementing climate change policies.

To this end, they had no problem starting with a conclusion (which is the antithesis of good scientific research, even if you believe that you are right) and selectively using the "right" data in order to support their conclusion. It seems they were also interested in guiding the UN and other international policy-making organizations toward making the "right" policy decisions. In their own eyes they were blameless -- after all, they were the last best hope to save the world.


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Comments (34)

Kinda reminds me of the arg... (Below threshold)
epador:

Kinda reminds me of the arguments for a flat world made when certain scientists were accused of heresy...

"To this end, they had no p... (Below threshold)
Thomas Moore:

"To this end, they had no problem starting with a conclusion (which is the antithesis of good scientific research, even if you believe that you are right) and selectively using the "right" data in order to support their conclusion"


A little like your analysis:

1) Conclusion: IPCC graphs are false

2) Select parts of emails to support this claim (interpreting them to fit the conclusion)

3) Graphs are false!

Who who had thought it?

"<a href="http... (Below threshold)
Neo:

"There is far more independent due diligence on the smallest prospectus offering securities to the public than on a Nature article that might end up having a tremendous impact on policy."

.. and here underlies the real problem with "Climate Science" as shown by the CRU e-mails.

Naturally most of ... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
Naturally most of us would assume that it is impossible for good science to be predicated on "tricks" or attempts to "hide the decline" in a data set. What was Jones talking about, and what exactly was his team trying to accomplish?

Under normal circumstances the assumption about good science would be valid. However, after blindly accepting "radiative forcing" as a fundamental fact of physics it's easy to understand such behavior. In fact, the scientists see themselves as courageously trying to save humanity from the folly of polluting the atmosphere with CO2. For decades they see themselves in a righteous struggle with public ignorance and greedy big oil working the back rooms of politics.

With the release of the leaked emails the little voice in their head says "how dare anyone question my true motives when I have sacrificed so much for the sake of humanity." If the raw data doesn't show what it's supposed to in MUST be in error and some brilliant corrective trick can be employed even if it looks like fraud to the ignorant or bought-off deniers.

The reason the raw data doesn't show what it's supposed to is that the fundamental assumption about radiative forcing is wrong, at least in part. Yesterday I explained in some detail why it's wrong, but such information will remain undiscovered by science for some time to come. Only an extended cooling trend similar to what was seen the 1970's will cause some climatologist to reexamine the fundamental assumption of radiative forcing and then maybe they will discover what many of us will have known for a long time.

In the meantime the best we can do is clamor for transparency in order to force the self-deluded saviors of humankind to release the raw data and the metadata they use to show us what they think we must see.

[insert lie here][... (Below threshold)
Victory is Mao's:

[insert lie here]

[add a generic sneer]

[more sneer + optional lie/smear]

Peace.

Good article over at HotAir... (Below threshold)
MPR:

Good article over at HotAir:
http://www2.macleans.ca/2009/12/13/centre-of-the-storm/
The video at HotAir of Lord Monckton interviewing a Green Peace supporter is a little long but, worth the look and listen. I have had the same conversation with people and what it comes down to is that they have no idea that they don't know what they don't know about the subject.

another thing the "decline"... (Below threshold)
Jeff:

another thing the "decline" exposes is the inaccuracy of tree ring temperature proxies ... remember they use recent temperature measurements (last 60-80 years) to "calibrate" their tree rings for the last 100 years ...
In this case they had tree rings since 1960 that diverged which means not only did they not track actual temperatures very well, they actually went in the opposite direction ...
The Hockey Team needs the tree rings because that is the only way they can minimize the MWP which is the key to claiming that the 1970 - 2000 warming was unprecedented ...

House of cards ...

Funny how all credible anal... (Below threshold)
DavidC:

Funny how all credible analysis has found nothing incriminating in the stolen emails and data, but a handful of sideshow blogs have.

* http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v462/n7273/full/462545a.html

* Science not faked, but not pretty. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gRa5F7Lv_zO0ZKaHmbQENlyV3KdgD9CHUS980

* http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climatechange/news/latest/uk-science-statement.html

Hmmmm.

>Funny how all credible ana... (Below threshold)

>Funny how all credible analysis has found nothing incriminating in the stolen emails and data, but a handful of sideshow blogs have.

Funny how you attack the messenger but can't possibly refute the message.

How do you explain this truncated data?

Aside from the fraud that obviously is taking place, I mean.

You can't. So you go back to the liberal standard of ad hominem attacks.

Jolly good.

DavidC,The links you... (Below threshold)
MPR:

DavidC,
The links you provided all have opening statements as false as your opening statement. Good science based on "the scientific method" stands on it's own. That's the problem. AGW cannot stand on it's own. I'm sure you can find a way to contribute to these third world countries that want money for nothing. I think I will pass on that.

Typical Libs, attack the me... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Typical Libs, attack the messenger. Nothing to see here, just move on. Libs are all for "science". Especially the Joey Biden type. "Just make shit up".

The IPCC will investigate i... (Below threshold)
Dave McK:

The IPCC will investigate itself.
Already 1700 subjects (scientists) have been compelled to sign a loyalty oath affirming the outcome of it in advance of its completion, so you may be sure consensus will emerge in due course.

Meanwhile, the world turns without their help or hindrance. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFbUVBYIPlI

I disagree that these "scie... (Below threshold)
OLDPUPPYMAX:

I disagree that these "scientists" are convinced of the truth of man-made global warming. I believe they are radical leftists who wish to destroy free enterprise, capitalism and particularly the US while creating a central world government with limitless power.

REAL scientists welcome pee... (Below threshold)
Justrand:

REAL scientists welcome peer review!
REAL scientists retain their raw data, to substantiate and extend their analysis and/or re-think it!
REAL scientists develop theories to explain their data, instead of developing data to fit their theories!

Global Warming is a CULT, and the adherents do not even resemble REAL scientists!

"If the science dont fit, t... (Below threshold)
914:

"If the science dont fit, the real data We must omit."


signed ~ Algore & his underlings

<a href="http://www.google.... (Below threshold)
Eric:

AP IMPACT: Science not faked, but not pretty

This AP story confirms the point of Michael's article.

The "trick" that Jones said he was borrowing from Mann was to add the real temperatures, not what the tree rings showed. And the decline he talked of hiding was not in real temperatures, but in the tree ring data which was misleading, Mann explained.

The data wasn't misleading, it showed the temperatures declining, hence the need to "Hide the Decline". Withholding pertinant information to influence a conclusion is called lying by ommission.

The AP studied all the e-mails for context, with five reporters reading and rereading them -- about 1 million words in total.

Isn't that special. The AP dedicated a whole 5 people to the Climategate e-mails. Consider that the AP dedicated 11 people to factcheck Sarah Palin's 432 page book. At an average of 250 words per page that is a total of 108,000 words divided by 11 equals 9818 words per reporter to analyze.

1 million words of climategate e-mails divided by 5 reporters equals 200,000 words per reporter to analyze. That certainly is an efficient use of resources.

E-mails stolen from climate scientists show they stonewalled skeptics and discussed hiding data -- but the messages don't support claims that the science of global warming was faked, according to an exhaustive review by The Associated Press.

They looked at the e-mails, but say nothing about looking at the underlying data and programs that went with the e-mails. This wasn't an analysis by the AP, this was another white wash. Nothing to see here folks, move along moment.

It's getting more interesti... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

It's getting more interesting -

What's going on? CRU takes down Briffa Tree Ring Data and more - Watts Up With That?

Odd things are going on at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

Widely available data, existing in the public view for years, is now disappearing from public view.
And isn't THAT strange? If there's nothing wrong, nothing to hide, nothing that could be misinterpreted - if the data is completely and totally unambiguious - then it should still be there, right?

The scam's blown. They're trying to bury the evidence now - they can't exactly leave town, can they? So - get rid of the evidence, and pretend nothing's wrong at all! The equator will be boiling in five years, unless we FUBAR the economy now, and give all our money to the people who are telling us there's a problem, but are hiding the data!

Eric..that was the first th... (Below threshold)
Rich:

Eric..that was the first thing that popped into my head when I read about the AP and its 5 reporters. Global Warming is going to kill the planet and we are all going to die!!! 5 reporters. Sarah Palin wrote a book!!! 11 reporters.

Poll results released today... (Below threshold)
bobdog:

Poll results released today by Al Gore show that 115% of all Americans incontrovertibly agree that the earth will spontaneously combust within 10 years. Only .00017% of Americans disagree.

Gore called on all Americans to rush their support without a second's delay. Paypal and credit cards are accepted.

And beware of the hockstick... (Below threshold)
Flu-Bird:

And beware of the hocksticks thrown in by liberals especialy AL GORE the UN and GREEN PEACE

In hockey high-sticking is ... (Below threshold)
Extreme Centrist:

In hockey high-sticking is a foul.

Science writer... (Below threshold)
Neo:

Science writer Andrew C. Revkin, the individual journalist most identified with reporting on climate change, is leaving The New York Times.

#8 - David C.Well,... (Below threshold)
Ryan:

#8 - David C.

Well, thats a rather easy statement to make when you, like the people involved in those emails, defines a credible analyst as one who agrees with Global warming. . .

Poll results relea... (Below threshold)
Marc:
Poll results released today by Al Gore show that 115% of all Americans incontrovertibly agree that the earth will spontaneously combust within 10 years. Only .00017% of Americans disagree.
He also says, "buy a canoe, NOW."

Of course somehow, somewhere he most probably owns or has a piece of every canoe manufacturer on the planet.

The four horsemen of the ap... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

The four horsemen of the apocalypse make an appearance at the Copenhagen conference. Appropriately religious symbols for a religious movement, yes?

Meant to include a link. <a... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Meant to include a link. Four Horsemen

They claim that they didn't... (Below threshold)

They claim that they didn't 'manipulate' date, but instead they corrected it, because starting in 1960, tree ring data diverged from actual temperatures.

There are a few problems with this.

First, they weren't up front with this, and their emails show they tried to hide the fact that they fudged the numbers, because the tree ring data wasn't supporting their conclusion.

Second, if the tree ring data isn't accurate after 1960, which they claim is because of the rapid rise in temperatures, then how can they be sure it is accurate during other times where we have evidence of rapid warming, such as the medieval warming period and Roman warming period (not called that exactly). You can't say it isn't accurate now, but it was back in the days when we didn't have temperature monitoring stations to compare it to.

Third, the emails show a clear effort to strong arm peer reviewed journals that allowed opposing views, and to even talk about changing the criteria for what a peer reviewed journal was, in order to keep opposing views out of the IPCC assessment reports.

This whole affair is comple... (Below threshold)
Highlander:

This whole affair is complete CRAP!! The best you conservatives can do is a couple of stolen emails from TEN YEARS AGO???

DAMN FOOLS, why don't you read what your own beloved Pentagon and CIA have to say about global warming THIS YEAR???? Here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=121352495&ft=1&f=1004

highlander, you're an idiot... (Below threshold)
ke_future:

highlander, you're an idiot. from the article you linked:

"I always look at the worst case," says one senior intelligence official who follows climate issues. "Whether it's global warming or the chance of Country A invading Country B, I just assume the most likely outcome is the worst one."

Their job is to look at worsrt case scenarios. Besides, just becasue the alarmists can't prove their science doesn't mean that some other people, as stupidly naive as you, won't take actions based on the belief that the alarmist are right.

when the alarmist make all of the raw data available as well as the rationale behind their alterationations, then i will be willing to take a look and see if they can convince me.

Highlander, you're parrotin... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Highlander, you're parroting erroneous Dem talking points. I thought you were better than that. Allow me to disabuse you of your ignorance:

Al Gore in an interview with our brethren in Australia at the Herald Sun claimed the Climategate emails were ten years old. Of the most damning the oldest email was a year old. Yes Al Gore is still spewing inconvenient mistruths or commonly known to average Americans as lies. Three times he tells the ten year lie in the one interview.
How convenient to claim the... (Below threshold)
RicardoVerde:

How convenient to claim the other side had few peer reviewed publications when your own side held the keys to the gate. Not only do you keep them from publishing but then use their lack of published papers as evidence against them. A two-fer! I noticed many of the AGW apologists commenting here had used this same argument within the last few months.

And the Climategate scandal is about much more than the emails. The program notes were similarly damning. Even though many of th programs were simply generations of temperature curves for use as illustrations, it was obvious that they were trying to reproduce curves that had already been published, but the data wasn't there or had to be fudged.

In the case of the greens a... (Below threshold)
Flu-Bird:

In the case of the greens al gore and the UN and the hockstick they should be sent to the PENALTY BOX

Thanks for sharing. Excelle... (Below threshold)
jack hooper:

Thanks for sharing. Excellent article.

Thanks for sharing. Excelle... (Below threshold)
jack hooper:

Thanks for sharing. Excellent article.




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