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« Stringer on climate and MMR | Main | Quote of the day »

More splicing, more hiding the decline

I'm grateful to a reader for this excerpt from The Hot Topic: How To Tackle Climate Change and Still Keep the Lights On, a book by King and Walker published in 2008.

King is Sir David King, the former government chief scientist who is now what you might call one of the great and the good. Here's Wikipedia's take on his current positions:

Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford, Director of Research in Physical Chemistry at the University of Cambridge, Director of the Collegio Carlo Alberto, Chancellor of the University of Liverpool and a senior scientific adviser to UBS.

Gabrielle Walker is "a freelance writer, broadcaster and speaker specialising in energy and climate change. She presents flagship BBC radio programmes and has made many TV appearances".

The excerpt is about global temperature history - what else - and shows a spaghetti graph.  Here it is:

Notice anything odd? Of course you do: the Briffa series has been truncated at 1960 (this looks similar to the end-padded version of the Trick that was used by the IPCC in the Fourth Assessment Report). Here's a blow-up just to make it all clear...

But there's something else odd about the series shown. Take a look at the one with the very sharp uptick at the right hand end. That's normally the instrumental temperature, isn't it? But now follow it back towards the left. It seems to keep right on going back past the beginning of the instrumental record to...well, let's take a look. If you click on the first chart above it will give you a full-size blowup. If you examine this, you will see that the series goes right back to AD 1000.

The source of this data is given as PD Jones, TJ Osborn and KR Briffa, The evolution of climate over the last millennium, Science 2001; 292(5517): 662-7. Let's take a look at that source shall we? Here it is:


The caption reads:

Fig 2A: Northern Hemisphere surface temperature anomalies (°C) relative to the 1961-1990 mean (dotted line). Annual mean land and marine temperatures from instrumental observations (black 1856-1999)...and estimated by Mann et al (red 1000-1980)...and Crowley and Lowery (orange, 1000-1987). April to September mean temperature from land north of 20°N estimated by Briffa et al (green 1402-1960) and estimated by recalibrating (blue, 1000-1991) the Jones et al Northern Hemisphere summer temperature estimate. All series have been smoothed with a 30-year Gaussian weighted filter.

As we can see, the Briffa series was truncated in the original, so King and Walker appear blameless for hiding the decline - that was down to the CRU team. But what about the instrumental record? Regrettably, there is a crucial difference between Jones' paper and the King and Walker book. Here's the twentieth century sections of both graphs side by side, so you can see what was done:

As far as I can tell, in the King and Walker book the Hockey Stick - the red series from the Science paper - appears to have become conjoined with the instrumental record with a smoothing to hide the join.


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Reader Comments (72)


Fascinating quote from A. Illarionov. Is there a link/source for this? I'd like to follow it up.


Mar 14, 2011 at 9:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

@ dave

I think I may better put my point by saying that while there has been an obvious avalanche of studies into the effects of a warming world, we are still picking through a very few examining if that state indeed exists. If I had to publish to survive - and believe me, with my mediocre abilities in science,it would be a struggle - it would be easier to publish on the back of a popular theory than to challenge it. I have always found that average people are like electricity - they follow the path of least resistance.

Mar 14, 2011 at 9:20 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

BBD: Re Illarionov, there is a great account of this (and King's walkout at the conference with all the British scientists when posed a question he couldn't or wouldn't answer) in Christopher Bookers' excellent book The Real Global Warming Disaster. He also has the full reference for the quote. I don't have the book to hand (its at work and I am at home) - perhaps someone else will provide the http? If not I'll post it tomorrow.

Mar 14, 2011 at 9:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

Thanks TS and SSAT

The only attribution I can find is here:

Does anyone have another source independent of this for verification?

Mar 14, 2011 at 10:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Paul Nurse: "I failed French O level six times." (you'd have thought that enough French to pass an O'level would have seeped in during the first 2 or 3 exams, oh well)

Mar 14, 2011 at 10:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

BBD: Booker gives some very long quotes from the statement by Illarionov given at the end of the conference to the press. Its compelling and absolutely damning of both King and the attitude of the entire British delegation. I remember it being reported at the time and found it a very apt and highly embarassing condemnation of British climate scientists. They appeared to have no shame. King started the conference demanding changes in the speakers and programme (even appealing to Blair in London), they were reported as constantly interrupting papers/speakers they didn't want to hear and refused to respond/engage with legitimate questions they didn't want to agree with or accept.

Booker defintely gives a full online reference to the press speech. I'll chase it down for you tomorrow.

Mar 14, 2011 at 10:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

Re A. Illarionov

This seems to be it:

Strong stuff, and I hardly need mention the then political context as it comes out of the text clearly enough ;-)

Very interesting, all the same.

Mar 14, 2011 at 10:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD


Thank you. If the reference Booker gives is different to the one above, would you mind posting it up here?

Mar 14, 2011 at 10:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD


Nurse failed his CO2 level more recently:)

Mar 14, 2011 at 11:04 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

Steve McIntyre

Thank you for that (and for everything else).

“I was asked at a lecture by a young woman about what she could do and I told her to stop admiring young men in Ferraris,” he said.

“What I was saying is that you have got to admire people who are conserving energy and not those wilfully using it.”


Mar 14, 2011 at 11:54 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

Booker on the Russian seminar (quotes of Illarionov):

In many international meetings, seminars, conferences and congresses and these issues both in Russia and in many countries, including the seminar that we had today and yesterday, Honestly, these papers [presented by King and his team] differed dramatically from what is usually offered at international congresses and conferences.

Simultaneously, they revealed an absolute - and I stress, absolute - inability to answer questions concerning the alleged progessional activities of the authors of these papers. Not only the ten questions that were published nine months ago, but not a single question asked during the two-day seminar by participants in the sminar, both Russian and foreign, were answered.

When it became clear that [the King team] count not provide a substantive answer to a qiestion, three devices were used. and I have to say it now, although it has not direct hearing on the Kyoto Protocol and the content of the extremely interesting presentations made duing the past two days.

The British participants, insisted on introducing censorship during the holding of this seminar. The chief science advisor, to the British government (King) demanded in the form of an ultimatum, at the beginning of yesterday, that the program of the seminar be changed and he presented an ultimatum demanding that about two-thirds of the participants not be given the floor.... Mr King spoke about "undesirable" scientists and undesirable participants in the seminar. He declared that if the old program was presented, he would not take part in the seminar. He declared that if the old program was preserved, he would not take part in the seminar and walk out taking along with him all of the other British participants. He has prepared his own program which he proposed, it is availble here and my colleagues can simply distribute Mr King's hand-written program to change the program prepared by the Russian Academy of Sciences...

Other attempts were made to disrupt the seminar. At least four times during the course of the seminar ugly scenes were staged that prevented the seminar from proceeding normally. As a result we lost at least four hours of working time in order to try to solve these problems. During these events Mr King cited his conversations with office of the British Prime Minister and had got clearance for such actions.

And tyhirdly, when the more or less normal work of the siminar was restored and when the opportunity for discussion presented, itself, when questions on professional topices were asked, and being unable to answer these questions, Mr King and other members of the delegation, turned to flight, as happened this morning, when Mr King, in an unprecendented incident, cut short his answer to question in mid-sentence realizing that he was unable to answer it and left the seminar room.

It is not for us to give an assessment to what happened. But in our opinion, the reputation of British science, the reputation of the British government and the reputation of the title "sir" has sustained heavy damage.

Mar 15, 2011 at 1:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterUK statistician

Jane Coles>

Never officially a poly, but it was always known as Norfolk Poly rather than UEA.


Absolutely, wouldn't disagree with that. There are lots of small things like it which go a long way to explaining the state CliSci is in without assuming malicious intent.

Mar 15, 2011 at 3:05 AM | Unregistered Commenterdave

BH, I think I've got it right. This was the focus of Arthur Smith's 'Stephen Mosher is Fuller of it' thread. Of the 3 instances Mosher pointed out, he was wrong on 2 of them, with only TAR having a hide-the-decline trick. Try reading that thread, and ClimateAudit's Arthur Smith's trick. Steve McIntyre ended up conceding my point that Mosher made some errors in his book with regards to Hide the Decline.

Mar 15, 2011 at 5:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterMikeN

BBD, the citation you have is the one I have. Lavoisier that is.

Jane UEA is known throughout the academic community as the University of Easy Access. It does, however have a world class Creative Writing course (honestly!). It seems,from what he've been getting from Jones, Briffa and co. that there has been some cross fertilisation between the departments in the university and the climate scientists have been taking the opportunity to avail themselves of world class tutoring in Creative Writing.;

Mar 15, 2011 at 7:20 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

dave, geronimo:

I'm not defending UEA or its academic reputation, I'm simply being pedantic. There is a large set of UK universities that were once polytechnics. UEA is not a member of that set.

In the context of CAGW discussion, pedantry is good (cf. McIntyre).

Mar 15, 2011 at 9:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterJane Coles


Many thanks for checking the Booker reference. Much appreciated.

Mar 15, 2011 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Paul Nurse: "I failed French O level six times." (you'd have thought that enough French to pass an O'level would have seeped in during the first 2 or 3 exams, oh well)
Mar 14, 2011 at 10:39 PM ZT

An interesting quote from Nurse in that same article -

Nurse isn't a natural moaner though. He'd rather give advice to scientists wanting to make it big. One way is to shamelessly jump on bandwagons. "It's the most effective way to succeed. You have to be completely aware of the fashions in science and as soon as a new area breaks, you get working on it. It's not the way I like doing science at all, but it's effective,"......

He says he doesn't subscribe to the theory himself - but he clearly understands exactly how UEA-type "science" works.

Mar 15, 2011 at 12:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose


The citations given by Booker for Illarianov are below. The transcript of the press conference is at:

There are some links on the above to the "10 questions" the Russians had sent to the IPCC and which were never answered. Further comment cited by Booker is at:

My favourite passage from Booker about King at the Russian conference is (p115-116):

"When King himself then put forward the now familiar claim that global warming was responsible for the melting of the ice on the summit of Kilimanjaro, Reiter challenged him by referring to various studies showing that the melting had been taking place since the 1880s. It was not due to global warming, these had concluded, but to deforestation causing a sharp drop in local precipitation. Apparently unable to answer Reiter's point, King broke off in mid-sentence and led his delegation out of the room."

King as Chief Scientific Adviser to HM Government? He was a disgrace and an embarassment. I've got a pdf copy of one of his alarmist powerpoint presentations from 2005 - its pretty poor, and using things like "number of flood events since 1950" as a proxy for "global warming", increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over 30 years (ie truncating the data without showing the 30 year cycles and higher activity in the 1950s), predicted changes of risk of flooding damage in the UK by 2080 (almost whole map goes red!, oh and only shows England and Wales, perhaps he's also predicting Scotland will be independent by 2080?), CO2 levels are shown for 60,000 years ie conveniently flat from the last ice age to present, but not the last warming etc. He was not acting as a scientist but as a political advocate.

Mar 15, 2011 at 1:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

A few years ago in NZ, we had a Socialist Education Minister who saw it as terribly unfair that only half of each year group could be above average, so he lowered the passing mark for our equivalent of GCSE to 45%. With a change of government, the various specialist subject associations managed tp persuade the new minister of education to return the passing mark to 50% again.
When I began teaching Design Tech in UK Comps almost a decade ago, I laughed in a staff meeting when a senior teacher outlined the requirements for a pass in D&T at GCSE, as I thought he was joking. I was terribly embarrassed when I found he was not! The standards in any 'hard' subject in the UK for GCSE are abysmal, which is probably the factor that leads to the dodgy science at some of the less favoured teaching and research institutions. I have been flummoxed to discover that few politicians in the UK understand that half of any population must be below average and half must be above average; as to the statistical Bell curve, that's one of life's great mysteries among those politicians who would advise educators!

Mar 15, 2011 at 3:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

Thanks for the Nurse insights and comments.

More on (no pun intended...) the Nurse condition here:

"Nurse used to sell the Socialist Worker and was involved in a student occupation of the vice-chancellor's office. He remains unapologetic. "A scientist should be engaged with society," he says."

"Nurse – "as ever the old socialist", as Hunt puts it" (Hunt being his Nobel prize co-awardee)

"He is a good leader but he can be pretty brutal with those who cross him. He will liquidate them – metaphorically. He is not a doormat." (also from Hunt).

So perhaps Nurse is not above deliberate lying for the old cause?

Mar 15, 2011 at 4:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Alexander K

You don't understand the leftie-liberal worldview. In this, equality of opportunity = equality of outcome. The assumption is that humanity is perfectible.

Talk of bell curves and skewed distribution of ability within a population or cohort will not only baffle, it will anger.

Mind your step, comrade. Such talk is noticed.


Thanks. The link you provide is derived from the Lavoisier archive (see March 14 10:43pm above). I can't find anything that pre-dates it, but if anyone does... ;-)

Isn't this interesting though:

The statistical data underpinning these documents and issued in millions of copies are often considerably distorted if not falsified. The most vivid example of that is the so-called "ice hockey stick", or the curve of temperature changes on the planet over the past 1000 years. It is alleged that there were insignificant temperature fluctuations for 900 years but there was a sharp rise in temperature in the 20th century.

A number of scientific works published lately show that in order to produce this "ice hockey stick", nine intentional or unintentional, I don't really know, mistakes were made that led to distortions in initial data and final results. Using the words of famous poet Vladimir Vysotsky, everything is not the way it should be.

Remember that this press conference took place in July 2004. Clearly the Russians had a subscription to Energy & Environment and the office copy got passed around.

McIntyre and McItrick made a wider impression than I had realised.

Mar 15, 2011 at 6:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

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