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« HSI in Quadrant magazine | Main | A brick wall »

McIntyre on RC on BH

Steve M weighs in on Tamino's review of the Hockey Stick Illusion.

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Reader Comments (37)

I strongly recommend Steve's latest comment. He does an excellent job reminding me, at least, of the r2 issues and, given Gavin's struggle to cite a source for Mannian methods, does an excellent job undercutting Gavin's citation of Fritts(1976) by pointing out that Fritts apparently argues for using r2 first!

Jul 25, 2010 at 9:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterBernie

'phrenology' is not such a bad analogy for temperature reconstructions using PCA. Multivariate analysis in general, and PCA in particular is a playground in which formal statistical methods and tests struggle to make an impression. The playground is the best we can do so far for complex data sets, and it is worthwhile as a source of hypotheses that might be tested by experiment or by more rigorous statistical methods in due course. Phrenology was also a wonderful source of hypotheses, but they were unfortunately not always recognised as such. Some people clearly took them as gospel, and wanted actions based on them. Naughty people. No longer taken seriously. Just a matter of time really.

Jul 25, 2010 at 10:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

Bravo Super Mc :)

Jul 25, 2010 at 11:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterDung

I just posted this on RC:

In case anyone has missed, Steve McIntyre has posted on this issue over at climateaudit It would be interesting for RC to rebut McIntyre's points, which are far more detailed and documented than the points i made in my review of Montford's book.

Jul 25, 2010 at 11:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterJudith Curry

Got a chuckle from Ross McKitrick's comment "It’s on my list of things done a long time ago, which might eventually see the light of day if my coauthor would get around to returning the draft. Ahem."

Jul 25, 2010 at 11:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Dr. Curry. I do rather think that you are really beginning to enjoy yourself!

Jul 25, 2010 at 11:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

Dr Curry,
I just looked and your comment is not on view at RC (under Tamino's article on the HS). I suspect it is in the process of being moderated.

Jul 26, 2010 at 12:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterHector M.

Doh. I forgot about teleconnections, they're explained in Cameron et al, here-

without teleconnections, there's a little paradox. MWP wasn't a global phenomena because spatially seperated proxies don't all see it. Some do though, so why are the Hockey Sticks in any way globally significant? Answer is obviously an undiscovered organic Proxynet predating the Internet by a good few years before Al invented our version.

Jul 26, 2010 at 12:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

Hector M.

Dr Curry's post WAS published but you have to look at the right hand side of their main web page and select "Inline Responses". We have had all our posts removed from the "popup window responses" available at the bottom of the Tamino article.

Jul 26, 2010 at 1:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterDung

I posted on RC about something that concerns me regarding CO2, I got no response. However I also posted the same concern here and got no response.
May I therefore ask for help here?
We know that billions of years ago levels of CO2 were up in the tens of thousands of parts per million.
I have read that the minimum level of CO2 in the atmosphere that will support plant life is 220 ppm.
Just before the current interglacial levels of CO2 dropped to 250 ppm.
Atmospheric CO2 has been falling consistantly during the 2.5 billion years of climate history that we have constructed.
It seems to me that falling CO2 is a far greater and more immediate threat than rising temperature.
Can some clever person comment pls?

Jul 26, 2010 at 1:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterDung


A certain level of bicarbonate (aka Carbon Dioxide) is needed in your body for it to function correctly. However, you are in no danger of running short, so you don't have to hold your breath any longer.

What most people miss is CO2 is not mostly sequestered in trees as we have all been led to believe, but in the ocean as bicarbonate, carbonate and good old ROCK. Instead of massive trees gobbling up CO2, it is tiny little plankton mostly doing it, making bicarbonate, then carbonate, which with calcium, forms things like limestone, shells of seafood, and then into nice stuff like the Cliffs of Dover, chalk, marble and pearls. When CO2 levels drop, the little buggers stop for a while. All very complex but ignored by "Climate Scientists", whatever they are.

As for the balance of things, like the CO2 levels, have a read HERE.

The world is far more complex than a hockey stick graph.

Jul 26, 2010 at 2:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Given the reality of CO2 sequestering in limestone, perhaps we should have a Rock and Chip tax. That is, everyone should build their houses out of limestone. It would beautify the world. Just look at the Parthenon. And it would put thousands of masons back to work.

Just a thought.

Jul 26, 2010 at 3:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Dung, This story from poptec has a couple of great videos at the bottom of the page. There is something on CO2 there, tho probably not exactly the answer you are looking for. I will look for another ref on the historical bit.

Apologies for going OT!

Jul 26, 2010 at 9:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterJosh


This is what I don't understand about evil Co2, if plankton feeds on it and there is an increase in Co2, doesn't that mean there will be an increase in plankton food, which leads to increased plankton which leads to increased food for whales?

Surely this is a good thing? :)



Jul 26, 2010 at 9:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Hi Andrew,
I'm still working through my copy of HSI, it's a riveting read-congratulations.
Here's a review from Australia's Quadrant magazine that might interest.

Jul 26, 2010 at 9:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterMarcH


Thanks - I've blogged it.

Jul 26, 2010 at 10:14 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

I've abandoned RC (for good, I think). I've posted a few comments on climateprogress, here is the text of my latest comment.

Consensus on a scientific issue is established as science evolves through the following successive stages (Funtowicz and Ravetz, 1990):
1. no opinion with no peer acceptance;
2. an embryonic field attracting low acceptance by peers;
3. competing schools of thought, with medium peer acceptance;
4. a dominant school of thought accepted by all but rebels;
5. an established theory accepted by all but cranks.

At the time of the TAR, MBH reflected an embryonic field (level 2). There was very little justification for any kind of consensus statements with “likely” and “very likely”, even by the standards of IPCC’s guidelines. By the time of AR4, the field had arguably matured to level 3, a more established field with competing schools of thought. The conflict that has ensued over the high confidence levels in the IPCC conclusions and the attempts to establish a premature consensus is described by Montford’s book.

The response of a rational person considering the evidence from both sides (which is a necessity for level 3 science) is to weigh evidence from both sides and make both sides aware of arguments from the other side and emphasize the need for refuting arguments from the other side in justify your thesis.

The response of an irrational person is to declare level 2 or level 3 science as “settled science”, “a fact on par with the theory of infrared radiative transfer of gases.”

Jul 26, 2010 at 12:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterJudith Curry

Hi Andrew,

Half-way through HSI and loving it. In relation to SM's post, he mentions "Mannian teleconnections, and later on Fritts, though not in relation to the Fritts Method as discussed by you on p46(?) of your book.

I have to say that that's the bit that surprised me most about the whole story. I'm sure there are millions of people in the UK who believe in global warming and, to some extent, the hockey stick, but grow tomatoes in their green houses. Are trees cleverer than tomatoes? Do tomatoes not teleconnect? If I've understood the assumptions underlying the Fritts method (on which the hockey stick is based) correctly, then trees and tomatoes wouldn't grow faster in a warm greenhouse because they know it's cold outside - is that correct?

While the wider public and politicians might not understand the finer points of short-centering or PC analysis, surely EVERYONE understands that Fritts analysis is fraud, any work based on unrealistic assumptions shouldn't be trusted, and therefore the stick should be thrown out.

Doesn't this deserve a higher position in the debate?


Jul 26, 2010 at 12:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterThomas

JC: "I've abandoned RC (for good, I think). (...)"

I was surprised JC stuck it out so long at RC. Posting rational comments to which the responses seemed to be a deluge of insults and parroted irrelevancies had the appearance of not being much fun - and not being very beneficial.

The RC habit of inserting contradictions in the middle of a persons comment always struck me as a bit like arguing with a drunk in a pub - before you finish a sentence, he has interrupted with a shouted and irrelevant incomprehension.

Jul 26, 2010 at 1:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

Gavin at RC, IMHO, abandoned the ship and declined to further engage ThinkingScientist. I think Steve's reposting of Tamino and the Magic Flute was the final straw - judging by the timing. In particular, Steve's posting of table 1S from Wahl and Ammann which clearly indicates that the r2 verifcation statistics are essentially zero for period before 1750 simply cannot be explained away. This came after Gavin made a clear statement about the need for verification. I don't understand.
As for their treatment of Judith Curry - it simply reminded me that good manners and rational discourse are not strong points among the RC crowd.
It is all quite sad.
(P.S. They did not post my comment which drew Gavin's attention to table 1S.)

Jul 26, 2010 at 1:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterBernie

And in a 1 week, 2?

Back to PR business as usual for RealClimate, Michael Mann, IPCC et al...

99.99% plus, of the world's population, and 99.9% plus of the UK's politicians will STILL be completley oblivious to all this excitemnet...

Chris Huhne UK Climate and Energy minister, will still be blocking nuclear, and evangelising about offshore windfarms.

More old people wil die this winter because of increased energy costs.

The third world will be left to suffer the political consequences of the CAGW delusion.

and in 5 years time, all the green UK energy policies will have failed at MASSIVE cost, and the energy gap will cause rollling blackouts.. And thew CO2 taxtionwill have driven even more jobs and industry abroad.

Schools wil continue to 'educate' yours and my children with the 'fact' that CO2 is a pollutant.

Most people will STILL never have heard of Bishop Hill, Watts Up, Climate Audit or RealClimate, and not least Judith Curry.

What can stop the delusion, is it too late, why do we bother in the face of an apparently unstoppable delusion?

Jul 26, 2010 at 2:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

I have to take back part of what I said about Gavin not including my post. It has now show up with a response from Gavin. (The delay is understandable given the volume of stuff that he has to handle.)

In full it reads:

317Bernie says:
25 July 2010 at 11:50 PM
I am not sure how what you say in your response to #316 squares with the results presented in Table 1S in Wahl and Ammann 2007. The NH r2s for the verification period are modest to the point of being vanishingly small. Those after 1820 look intriguing if not overwhelming. Those prior to 1750 account for less than 2% of the variance compared to 50% for the calibration period. This type of finding in my experience suggests that major problems exist in the PCs extracted. They are not robust.

[Response: No one is claiming that the original MBH reconstruction is perfect. The data going back to 1400 are sparse. The question was whether it gave anything useful. The low r2 numbers indicated that it isn't useful for the high-frequency variations in the earlier part, but that the overall mean does have some skill. Subsequent reconstructions with more data and different methods show very similar patterns (though not identical ones), and so, yes, the general impression of MBH is robust. - gavin]

This all sounds terrible reasonable until you actually look at Table 1S, (courtesy of Steve McIntyre)
Gavin's approach to statistics is idiosyncratic to say the least.

Jul 26, 2010 at 3:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterBernie

If Dr. Curry returns and reads this far, I have a question. My understanding is that no one replicates (or even audits) the studies of other scientists (because there is no grant funding for replication). Whenever people actually get a chance to examine a study, we see that the errors keep piling higher. (e.g. Mann, Briffa, Jones, Rahmstorf, Steig,et al) And the errors aren't minor.

Given the widespread incompetence that has been revealed so far, and the baseless claims that are so common (e.g. IPCC), how can any careful, responsible researcher simply accept without question so many of the claims made by other scientists. Having been burned repeatedly, wouldn't the prudent course be to retrench and require replication before accepting someone else's purported findings?

I certainly believe that society should require replication before making policy on the basis of scientific studies. Shouldn't scientists adopt that attitude as well? That announced findings are really only a theory until others have tested the study thoroughly?

I realize that climate science simply isn't done that way today But wouldn't it be preferable, given the enormous costs involved in the policies being based upon it.

Jul 26, 2010 at 4:02 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

Barry Woods What can stop the delusion, is it too late, why do we bother in the face of an apparently unstoppable delusion?

An interesting question. It's a religion and I can imagine there will still be some adherents in 2000 years time. But as a mass delusion, it will undoubtedly be abandoned at some point. The only question is whether this will be in 1 year, 10 years, ..., 10,000 years from now?

I think that there are a few things that could put an end to the nonsense. For example:

- Several more bitterly cold winters. If they were made even more uncomfortable by daily electric power cuts due to the failure to replace life-expired nuclear power stations, wind farms notwithstanding, the nonsense would stop quite abruptly.

- The financial collapse of the USA due to its unsustainable (and still accelerating) level of debt, with the EU and Britain following on in short order.

Jul 26, 2010 at 4:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

"What can stop the delusion?"

Ridicule will stop it faster than anything else. Point out all the incompetence.

Jul 26, 2010 at 5:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

Dr. Curry - I misjudged you. Apologies. Barry...have to keep plugging away. Thank goodness for the internet as none of this is possible 20 years ago.


Jul 26, 2010 at 6:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterDBD


Gavin's approach to statistics is idiosyncratic to say the least.

Sadly, a gross understatement.


"What can stop the delusion?"

Ridicule will stop it faster than anything else. Point out all the incompetence.

Yes, it will but it must be used carefully. Else it backfires. And it must be VERY carefully used.

However that leads me to a second, related point. Most "skeptics" want to argue this on factual grounds, while the other side uses rhetoric. It is sort of like bringing a knife to a gun fight. Having been in one, I can assure you that you do need a gun. Hence my suggestion of a counter icon.

Roger Knights suggested a brilliant one, Breaking the Hockey Stick. Sadly it has gone nowhere. So until it does, we will still carry knives I fear.

Jul 26, 2010 at 8:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

"What can stop the delusion?"

Prof Philip Stott says it at

Jul 26, 2010 at 8:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Don Pablo,

But the targets are so many and the time is so short!

Someone just needs to make a list of all the bogus claims, incompetent statistics, unmanageable code, bizarre sausage making, and ridiculous arguments. We keep hearing the same refrain -- "the _____ is wrong, but the science is solid." Bull! By the time we fill in the blank with all the things that are wrong, there is precious little that is right.

It's time the jokers were stripped of the presumption of competence and evaluated on the basis of what they have actually said and done -- and that ain't pretty. They don't check their instruments. Didn't even occur to them to check. When an outsider established that their instuments flunked, they said it didn't matter! They butcher statistics at every turn, they can't write workable computer code, their forecasts violate the basic principles of forecasting and they use models which haven't been verified and validated. They don't check each other's work and when an outsider actually manages to get hold of enough of their work to check it, it collapses (see E.g. Briffa's magic single tree, Jones' mysterious Chinese data, upside down Mann, Rahmstorf's analysis of made up numbers from the future, and on and on.) Then there is the IPCC! It's all a massive cluster %$#@!

If we can't make fun of the rampant incompetence and unscientific behavior, we can't make fun of anything.

Jul 27, 2010 at 4:23 AM | Unregistered Commenterstan


As a one-time psychologist, I can tell you that you need to have FOCUS. That is why I am suggesting a visual icon that can be identified with our view. The Broken Hockey Stick being held up in revolt by a slave who has just snapped the chain binding his hands together is a powerful image and drives a stake into the heart of their icon. It also says "we are free of this tyranny!" The tyranny is instantly identified by the opposition's icon being broken. That "takes power" from them.

I know that this is all pure PR bullsh** but it is what works with the rest the population. That leads to political power, that leads to the politicians protecting the likes of Hansen, Gavin, and Tamino, as well Jones, to run.

Then you can hunt them down and punish them because they are no longer protected. I think they all should be fired, if not thrown into jail, but it will not happen with the present political structure. We have to scare the politicians first. If you don't believe that, just look at all the white washes that happened. Do you think they would have tried that if they knew the general population as angry about it?

As I said, Don't bring a knife to a gun fight. If you have a fight, use the appropriate weapons. In this case it is political pressure. To get that you need an icon.

Neville Chamberlain was a gentleman. Look at what that got him.

Jul 27, 2010 at 6:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Re: I've abandoned RC (for good, I think). I've posted a few comments on climateprogress, here is the text of my latest comment.
July 26, 2010 | Judith Curry

Well I think you shouldn't . .
As it stands there, Gavin stated, that you are wrong an basically all issues you raised..
- Problems for MBH98 and R^2 validation (without the Bristlecones)
- Downtuning of the likelyhood from TAR to AR4 (biggest increase and warmest decade in 1000year) as response to NAS-North
- "bending" of timelines
and many more (like you I am citing out of my head)
While in fact you are correct (well, not 100% I am afraid, in Mann08 is a reconstruction which uses a contaminated Tiljnader-proxie and no trees ..)
Gavin distortion is unbelievable! I don't think he cites anything uncorrectly, but sums up the facts in a rather odd way..
For example I cited S. McIntyre with “[..] If a sensitivity analysis is done in which the Graybill bristlecone chronologies are excluded from the AD1400 network, then a materially different reconstruction results – a point made originally in the MM articles, confirmed by Wahl and Ammann 2007 and noted by the NAS panel. In addition to failing the verification r2 test, a reconstruction without bristlecones fails even the RE test.”
and it was impossible to get a straight answer.
Someone like you should call his bluff and not give in!

Jul 27, 2010 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterLaws of Nature

The delusion will fall. Sadly, you people are labouring under it. Religion? Well, yes, there's quite a lot of cultish behaviour here. Some at RC, too, but this, well, this is staggering.

If you think Judith was hard done by at RC, you are all quite quite mad. I suggest you re-read the comments.

Judith says "Tamino's comments are full of holes"

The RC community reply "which holes are those then?"

Judith responds with a synopsis of the HSI book

The RC community reply "None of that explains what /anything/ Tamino wrote is wrong"

Judith comes out with some weird stuff about a book review, and how she wasn't trying to prove anything, and anyway, the fact the people have gone to the trouble to correct her misconcepotions PROVES Montford is right, somehow. (Huh?)

I'm a scientist. Explain two things two me.

1 - What is wrong in Tamino's reasoning. A point-by-point rebuttal will do. No strawmen or attacks on RC, please.

2 - Given that the Mann paper from 2008 CONTAINS NO PCA, and given that reconstructions THAT EXCLUDE TREE RINGS also give rise to a 'HS'-like trend, where's the problem?

Jul 27, 2010 at 6:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterSilk

In case you missed this on climateaudit:

Judith Curry
Posted Jul 27, 2010 at 2:49 PM | Permalink | Reply
All the heat that I get in the blogosphere is worth it to me because of the many thoughtful emails I receive, offering support, ideas and information. I just received this in via email, referring to an interview with Stephen Chu in the Financial Times, Feb 17, 2010 (registration required):

FT: On the climate threat, do you think there is legitimate concern now about the fact that some of the science, even if it’s not flawed, it’s been misrepresented, which has undermined the case in many people’s eyes.

SC: First, the main findings of IPC over the years, have they been seriously cast in doubt? No. I think that if one research group didn’t understand some tree ring data and they chose to admit part of that data. In all honesty they should have thrown out the whole data set. But science has a wonderful way of self-correcting on things like that. What the public doesn’t understand is that as you go forward there will be these things and they will self correct. On balance if you look at all the things the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the body of experts convened by the United Nations to advise governments in responding to global warming] has been doing over the last number of years, they were trying very hard to put in all the peer-reviewed serious stuff. I’ve actually always felt that they were taking a somewhat conservative stand on many issues and for justifiable reasons.

In all honesty, they should have thrown out the whole data set. And here I was trying to be polite . . .

Jul 27, 2010 at 9:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterJudith Curry

I forgot to provide the appropriate background on my previous post: Stephen Chu is the Nobelist in physics that is currently the U.S. Secretary of Energy

Jul 27, 2010 at 9:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterJudith Curry

Silk, I am not a scientist, and Steve McIntyre has just done a number of posts that pull apart Tamino's arguments far better than I can over at Climateaudit.
However as Steve puts it you have to watch the pea undr the thimble with the Team.
Mann pulls out all Tree rings but leaves in an upside down Tiljander series.
He also has his short centering method that will pull a hockey stick out of a hat every time.

Jul 27, 2010 at 10:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterDung

Dear silk,

please feel free to have your own opinion, but if you want to see some critiques on the topic of Proxi temperature reconstruction, you should not avoid S. McIntyre!
About Tamino's post .. I already pointed out Steve's citation.. If the MBH98 reconstruction does not hold any statistical significance without the bristlecones, it's done and Tamino is well aware os that.
About Gavin's answer to Judith. . well look 3 posts up..
About Mann08 .. well here we have bristlecones again in one reconstruction and Tiljander in the other, togehter with some Ural series, which are not fishy, but there is a reconstruction right next to it, which was not used..
Beside some methodical flaws once the proxies are selected, once more it is unclear how the proxies were selected. Gavin was correct: If you discard all proxies which contain a hockeystick it will disappear .. but this argument can also be turned around..
Read a bit at CA . . ask questions, they are very nice and unlike RC posts are not moderated into oblivion (RC was better for a while, but try to ask them if MBH98 fails validation tests without the bristlecones ..)

Laws of Nature

Jul 28, 2010 at 8:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterLaws of Nature

sil - the Air Vent has the maths behind the problems with mann08.

1. the proxies are poorly selected and badly weighed - McIntyre

2. then the mann08 algorithym takes over, and boy is that a doozy - jeff id takes it apart and holds it up to the light

sorry, but mann 98 - 08 is all a crock of nice cherry picking, weighting and adjustments. but of course he's sorry the hockey stick graph was abused ... of course he is ...

Jul 30, 2010 at 3:41 AM | Unregistered Commenterpete m

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