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« That break-in | Main | Another journalist threatened »

Quote of the day

Hat tip to Hans von Storch for pointing out this comment in the emails. It was sent by paleoclimatologist Ed Cook to the CRU's Keith Briffa, outlining his opinions on the current (2003) state of knowledge of past temperatures:

The results of this study will show that we can probably say a fair bit about <100 year extra-tropical NH temperature variability (at least as far as we believe the proxy estimates), but honestly know fuck-all about what the >100 year variability was like with any certainty (i.e. we know with certainty that we know fuck-all).

Read that carefully people. We know a fair bit about the temperatures in the last 100 years, but only for the extra-tropics. Before that, we know nothing. Nothing.


Read the whole email. It's astonishing.


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Reader Comments (22)

Another admission against Hockeystickism.

Dec 7, 2009 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheSkyIsFalling

This is interesting, and needs circulating

Dec 7, 2009 at 10:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

It goes to one part of the problem.

It's the claim that current climate change is unprecendented, and so by default must be anthropogenic.

Bar the logic, which is that we have to accept the first cause we think of, lets look at one part, unprecedented.

You can only say its unprecendented if you know what has happened before.

That's why machinations over the MWP are needed, becuase if you accept what was the temperature records, the current climate change is less than that in the MWP.

Similarly any graph used to justify anthropogenic climate change that starts circa 1900 is bogus. It leaves out what went before. Hides the prior climate and is a cherry pick

Dec 7, 2009 at 11:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterNick

Nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing.
The Fugs first album.
Nothing changes.

Dec 7, 2009 at 12:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterJMac

Another telling comment in the e-mail is this....

"Publish, retire, and don't leave a forwarding address"

They all know that to contradict the 'consensus' in any way is the professional equivalent of a suicide note.

Ed Cook seems to be all too well aware of the weaknesses in the paleoclimate record, it's a long shot but he would make an ideal reviewer for OGH's book.

Dec 7, 2009 at 12:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterDiogenes

Not sure I agree with your interpretation there Bishop. My reading is that there's fair correlation in the temperature reconstructions when considering relatively short term (<100year) changes, but not when considering longer term variation.

Dec 7, 2009 at 12:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterAidey

Email doing the rounds:

From: Gilbert, Pip On Behalf Of Slingo, Julia (Chief Scientist)
Sent: Monday, December 07, 2009 10:33 AM
To: Climate_Research; Met R&D all staff
Subject: URGENT: Supporting the science
Importance: High

Dear All,

As you are very aware, the science of climate change is under an
unprecedented attack and I know that many of you feel that we, as the
science community in the UK, should try to make our voice heard too. We
are therefore seeking a groundswell of support for a simple statement
that we, the UK science community, have the utmost confidence in the
science base that underpins the evidence for global warming. That
evidence has been arrived at through decades of painstaking and
meticulous research by many scientists across the world, who adhere to
the highest levels of integrity and honesty, the hallmarks of true
scientific endeavour. We come together now to defend our profession
against this unprecedented attack to discredit us and the science of
climate change.

I know this is very short notice but we would like to gather a list of
names from you and your scientific colleagues who support this move. We
would like to collect these names over the weekend and on Monday so that
a short letter, basically saying the above, can be released to the press
on your behalf on Tuesday, at the latest. If we can reach 100 signatures
or more from the UK academic community that would be a fantastic
response. Please can I request your help by asking you to not only
respond yourself, but also to send this on to scientific colleagues as a
matter of urgency.

The Met Office is able to provide help to pull these names together and
if you wish to support this statement then please send an email to: with 'Yes' in the Subject.

Many thanks,

Julia Slingo and John Hirst

Julia Slingo Chief Scientist
Met Office FitzRoy Road Exeter EX1 3PB United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)1392 885014 Fax: +44 (0)1392 885681

See our guide to climate change at

Dec 7, 2009 at 12:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterSplice

What say we get 100 scientists who don't agree with this statement and publish it at the same time?

Dec 7, 2009 at 12:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterSplice


Isn't that kind of what I said?

Dec 7, 2009 at 12:44 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

What sort of professional would put their name to a letter that has not even been written yet. You would have to be out of your mind to agree to that or even ask someone to do it.

The proposed text seems too lose to me - that the science "underpins the evidence for global warming" - I thought the issue was anthropogenic global warming - specifically that CO2 as a result of human activity will cause disasterous global warming. If all they have come up with is that the climate is warming why is there a debate? I think most people agree that the climate changes over time.

Spin Spin Spin.

Dec 7, 2009 at 12:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheSkyIsFalling

Bishop, I was just pointing out that the email doesn't address the last 100 years, but rather, short term variation at any point within the record.

Dec 7, 2009 at 1:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterAidey


Ah yes, you are right.

Dec 7, 2009 at 1:50 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

I'm ready as a scientist to sign a letter that says I don't have "confidence in the science base that underpins the evidence for [man-made] global warming".

Dec 7, 2009 at 2:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

I'm ready as a scientist to sign a letter that says that we "honestly know fuck-all about what the >100 year variability was like with any certainty".

While Aidey is perfectly correct on the nuance, a corollary of this is that we know fuck-all about what the global temperature was like more than 300 years ago. Which is pretty much was Wegman said as far as I recall.

Dec 7, 2009 at 3:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Bishop/Aidey - it might be just the semantics but the title "Northern Hemisphere Temperatures Over The Past Millennium: Where Are The Greatest Uncertainties?" is also a clue - the issue surely is that they do noy understand the (past) temperature..

The other point of interest is the concern over the "papal infallibility".....

But whichever - this is a very interesting email!

Dec 7, 2009 at 3:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterHysteria

I think the Met Office letter is misguided.

As I see it there are two issues at stake: the content and the process of science. Even if one takes the view that Climategate makes little dent in the content (i.e. the case for AGW), it raises serious questions as to whether the climate community has at all times engaged in entirely "meticulous research" (the infamous Harry file) and acted with "the highest levels of integrity and honesty" with regard to process (FIORs). And I think there are very real questions as to whether the Met Office itself can be said to have acted with "the highest levels of integrity and honesty" over Dave Holland's FOI requests.

Dec 7, 2009 at 3:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichieRich

That (Cook to Briffa) is a most excellent email. The emails have been very enlightening in that one can really see at times that some of these scientists are asking the right questions and pushing the right responses. Cook and Briffa especially, but sometime also Trenbarth seem to be trying lead efforts in productive directions only to be stymied by fear of Jones & Mann.

Jones and Mann have a lot to answer for IMO. They seem to have coopted this whole field (or at least much of the work at CRU) not even for political/true-believer reasons but for base personal aggrandizement.

This paper suggested by Cook is the type of thing that leads to the truth... unfortunately the truth is does not seem to be convenient for Jones and Mann. (forgive the cheap shot, couldn't resist)

great find - thank you

Dec 7, 2009 at 4:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterEric

"The results of this study will show that we can probably say a fair bit about <100 year extra-tropical NH temperature variability (at least as far as we believe the proxy estimates), but honestly know fuck-all about what the >100 year variability was like with any certainty (i.e. we know with certainty that we know fuck-all)."

So they are talking about the Proxy constructions of temperature over the last 100 years. And they are confident about this. Except for the fact that they accept that the proxy record diverged from the thermometer record from 1960. So that was about 43 years before this email. So they are saying that they are confident that the record they have from 100 years ago to 43 years ago is good ...

... not bad for a claim that he last 30 years have been the hottest in the last 2000 years. How certain is that claim now?

Where does that leave the rest of the last 2000 years of which the last 30 years have allegedly been "the warmest on record"?

What they are saying is that the proxy reconstruction tells them nothing about what previous temperatures actually were!

Conclusion, the hockey stick is dead....


Now can I get a private jet and a gas guzzling limo to Copenhagen?

Dec 7, 2009 at 4:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterKen Hall

"Jones and Mann have a lot to answer for IMO. They seem to have coopted this whole field (or at least much of the work at CRU) not even for political/true-believer reasons but for base personal aggrandizement."
While I agree that these two are up to their necks in it I do not think that they are the main conspirators. Even those like gore et al who have made enormous amounts of money and stand to make more lacks the original thought to come up with a plan as dastardly as this. Our governments far from being stupid also lack the intelligence to come up with a fraudulent scheme to defraud the public purse of millions from our respective countries. Uncovering who the ringleaders are is the real question here and why!
It really is the tip of the iceberg!

Dec 7, 2009 at 6:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuart Hampshire

Aidan / Bishop:
It all depends on what your definition of "was" is. The e mail is ambiguous, you might both be right.

(Sorry to misquote clinton, but then there are liars, outliers and out and out liars, to misquote churchill)

Dec 7, 2009 at 6:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterjames

The first truly shocking admission I've read from these emails (we already knew about the peer review gaming and the stick fiddling!). Nice find.

Dec 7, 2009 at 6:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

this is far more damning than anything going before it.

Of course, none of what I have proposed has addressed the issue of
seasonality of response. So what I am suggesting is strictly an
empirical comparison of published 1000 year NH reconstructions
because many of the same tree-ring proxies get used in both seasonal
and annual recons anyway. So all I care about is how the recons
differ and where they differ most in frequency and time without any
direct consideration of their TRUE association with observed

I think this is exactly the kind of study that needs to be done
before the next IPCC assessment. But to give it credibility, it has
to have a reasonably broad spectrum of authors to avoid looking like
a biased attack paper, i.e. like Soon and Balliunas.

If you don't want to do it, just say so and I will drop the whole
idea like a hot potato. I honestly don't want to do it without your
participation. If you want to be the lead on it, I am fine with that


Dr. Edward R. Cook
Doherty Senior Scholar and
Director, Tree-Ring Laboratory
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Palisades, New York 10964 USA

Dec 8, 2009 at 3:12 AM | Unregistered Commentertheotherstevejobs

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