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« Perverse incentives in the ivory tower | Main | Paul Nurse on sceptics again »

The wind from Hawaii

Science has obtained statements from Eugene Wahl and Michael Mann regarding recent reports about the "delete all emails" episode. The major point of interest is that, Mann says that, contrary to some reports, he said nothing to Wahl, merely forwarding Jones' request to the AR4 delete emails:

Mann, reached on vacation in Hawaii, said the stories yesterday were "libelous" and false. "They're spreading a lie about me," he said of the Web sites. "This has been known for a year and a half that all I did was forward Phil's e-mail to Eugene." Asked why he sent the e-mail to his colleague, Mann said, "I felt Eugene Wahl had to be aware of this e-mail … it could be used against him. I didn't delete any e-mails and nor did I tell Wahl to delete any e-mails." Why didn't Mann call Wahl to discuss the odd request? "I was so busy. It's much easier to e-mail somebody. No where did I approve of the instruction to destroy e-mails."

Wahl confirms Mann's story in a separate statement.

I must say, I wasn't aware that Mann had added nothing. Does anyone know where this was revealed?

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Reader Comments (85)

@ Steve McIntyre 3:46am

Steve, do you think this is where the "year and a half" timeline comes from? That Mann thinks he admitted forwarding Jones's email in that interview and that we all understood that he was admitting it? I don't recall, before today, seeing anything where Mann admitted he passed the email on, but maybe I missed it. Even so, if Mann wasn't denying his forwarding of the email, that leaves even bigger questions about the PSU inquiry and how they arrived at the conclusions they did.

Mar 10, 2011 at 4:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterLC

mrjohn --
I think you have it right. Jones didn't have Wahl's email, so Mann forwarded it as a favour without thinking about it. Perhaps -- he then thought about whether he (Mann) should act on Jones' suggestion, and decided he didn't have any emails that would be embarrassing, so he didn't delete any. [That's accepting his account that he didn't delete any emails himself, which is posited here for the sake of argument, but for which the only evidence to hand is Mann's own statement.]

It would not surprise me that this was Mann's mind-set as he was responding to the PSU inquiry -- as he personally did not delete any emails, nor (directly) ask anyone to, then he was not complicit. I don't think the action of forwarding seemed to him (nor, perhaps, seems to him now) as indirect participation.

Not that it's particulary releveant, but I don't believe that Wahl did anything illegal in deleting the emails. He was subject to no FOIA request. I agree that it looks bad, because it's an attempt to hide Briffa's violation of IPCC procedures. But not *illegal*. I would argue the same for Mann.

Mar 10, 2011 at 4:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

@ Steve McIntyre 3:46am

Reading this perhaps too closely, is it possible that Mann's statement "I did not delete any such email correspondences" refers very narrowly only to emails he [Mann] had with Briffa re AR4, and that Mann might have deleted cc's he had of Briffa-Wahl correspondence? Such a deletion would be compatible with Mann's statement, if read very precisely.

This seems less likely (to me) than the possibility that Mann really didn't delete any emails on the topic; why should he bother to do so merely because Jones was in a state?

Mar 10, 2011 at 5:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

Mann was not openly cc'ed on the surreptitious Wahl-Briffa correspondence that is at issue. Nor was Jones.

Mar 10, 2011 at 5:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve McIntyre

Mar 10, 2011 at 4:33 AM

To my knowledge, Mann never previously admitted to forwarding the Jones email. None of his statements at the time admit forwarding and the Penn State inquiry appears to have been unaware of his forwarding (else they could not have made their finding.) Now that Wahl has made the admission, it seems to me that the Team is pretending that it was known all along and thus isn't news. This isn't correct. It seemed probably that Mann had forwarded the email, but no one knew for sure and it had never been admitted.

Mar 10, 2011 at 5:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve McIntyre

@ Steve McIntyre 5:18am

"It seemed probably that Mann had forwarded the email, but no one knew for sure and it had never been admitted".

Yup, that was my understanding too. But that still takes us back to the PSU investigation again and begs the question of why nobody on that panel apparently thought to ask if Mann had complied with Jones's request and passed the email on to Wahl.

@ HaroldW 4:56am

Yes, I think you are right when you say that neither did anything illegal per se and I don't think anyone should either expect or even discuss the possibility of criminal charges. It just distracts from the real issue. What they are, undoubtedly in my view, guilty of is unethical academic and scientific behaviour and corruption of the IPCC processes. It is this that we should be concentrating on. With AR5 just around the corner, we must do everything we can to ensure that the formulation of that report is carried out in as transparent and open a manner as we can. I think that means we must chase down this particular incident (and others like it) to the nth degree. Not, as some of those on the other side of the fence would have it, to extract revenge or somehow to invalidate all of the science, but to ensure that all those involved with the IPCC know, for certain, that they must stay honest, open and true. That way, we can then have an honest discussion about the science and where it takes us. Let the chips fall where they may.

Mar 10, 2011 at 6:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterLC

Possibility 1: Mann forwarded the email and did not thereafter delete that correspondence. The email was therefore in the evidence submitted to Penn State inquiry. It then beggars belief that they did not uncover that evidence. Were they complicit in keeping this a secret?
Possibility 2: Mann forwarded the email and thereafter deleted that correspondence. Not looking too clever in the light of his evidence to the inquiry.

Mar 10, 2011 at 6:48 AM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

@ LC -
Along those lines, wouldn't it be refreshing if the IPCC actually looked into, say, the Briffa-Wahl correspondence? If this were a corporation, the firm's ethics office would undoubtedly investigate, and talk to individuals who were seen to be deviating from the firm's policies. They would issue a mild public statement such as "Certain employees were reminded of their responsibility to support our firm's values of fairness and openness." But it seems that responsibility is not something which is high on the IPCC's list of priorities.

Mar 10, 2011 at 6:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

@ HaroldW

Absolutely. However, were they to do so, they might then have to look higher up the chain too. Overpeck and Soloman don't exactly look good in all of this either ;)

Mar 10, 2011 at 7:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterLC

Time for Jones to visit the House of Commons Science & Technology Committee again?

Mann mentions Libel......reaches for the popcorn and sits back in anticipation! Should have had lawyers involved in all this a long time ago!

Mar 10, 2011 at 7:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

“I’ll contact Gene about this ASAP. His new email is:
talk to you later,

How’s this plot?

Mann knows that forwarding that message is ethically and professionally wrong because of its contents. He doesn’t really want to send it because that leaves his fingerprints. So the ASAP was a stall, intended to prompt Jones to send Wahl that message directly – which is why he sent him his new email address.

But Jones knew what it meant too, and didn’t bite. So Mann had to take that risk for the Team and send it. No comments meant minimal fingerprints. And if Mann contacted Wahl by phone, no need for comments on the forwarded email..

Imagine how much simpler Mann’s life would be if he had not sent it. Maybe Jones would have sent it to both Mann and Wahl if he had the latter’s new email address?

In any event, here we are now.

Mar 10, 2011 at 8:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterAl Gored

"I'll contact Gene about this ASAP. His new email is:

talk to you later"

Surely the obvious reply to Jones should have been.

"it's probably better coming from you. Here's Gene's new e-mail.

Mar 10, 2011 at 8:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

"Mike can you sharpen this knife for a ritual sacrifice, and pass it on to Eugene, I don't have his address."

"I felt Eugene Wahl had to be aware of this knife … it could be used against him"

This has been known for a year and a half.... all I did was forward the knife... I did not partake in any ritual sacrifice, and nor did I tell Wahl to commit murder"

Why didn't Mann call Wahl to discuss the odd request?

"I was so busy. It's much easier to post a knife to somebody. No where did I approve of the instruction to use it in ritual sacrifice, I was just making him aware of the knife.
How come Jones got away with sending it in the first place, complete with promotion no less!

Mar 10, 2011 at 8:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrosty

@ Pete H

It would be lovely if he would actually sue for libel, but he won't. He wouldn't be that stupid........would he?

Mar 10, 2011 at 9:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterLC

If I receive a forwarded email, I assume that the forwarder approves of it unless there is a qualifying note. Otherwise, why send?

Mann is wriggling and, greased piglet that he is, will escape again and scamper up the beach. Where's Jack Lord when you need him..?

Mar 10, 2011 at 9:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Dr. Mann:

I did not delete any such email correspondences.

Seems pretty clear to me. But I suppose he could have made it even clearer if he 'd said something along the lines of:

I want you to list to me.
I'm going to say this again.

I did not delete any such email correspondences

I never told anybody to do it.
Not a single time, never.
These allegations are false.
And I need to go back to work for the American people.

Here's a link to show how Bill Clinton might have delivered these lines, or something very similar:

Mar 10, 2011 at 9:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Boyce

Science has updated and corrected the item, thus;

*This item has been corrected. The original item stated that Wahl's deletion of e-mails was revealed on blogs yesterday; what was revealed was Wahl's explicit admission of receiving Jones's message via Mann. The item also omitted the fact that Jones told Mann to ask Wahl to delete them.

Here is the state of play:

Briffa > Jones > Mann > Wahl = deletion of incriminating emails.

S&TC > Oxburgh > Russell > Penn State = the failure to investigate fully and properly the deletion of incriminating emails.

Mar 10, 2011 at 9:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

HaroldW wrote:

Along those lines, wouldn't it be refreshing if the IPCC actually looked into, say, the Briffa-Wahl correspondence?

Muir Russell's "investigation" already did that and (surprise!) their careful framing succeeded in giving it a clean bill of health (in no small measure thanks to the "blessing" of the IPCC):

Issues and questions to be examined with Professor Jones and Briffa at 9 April meeting

Professor Briffa
b) Briffa sent IPCC chapter materials, including Reviewer Comments to Wahl of Alfred College, in apparent contravention of IPCC rules, seeking advice on how to respond to review comments about divergence. Wahl supplied Briffa with unpublished material that had not gone through the IPCC review process (1155402164)

Review comments are mentioned as part of the evidence in support of the allegations [Item 34, p. 79]. However the Report’s findings and conclusions are deafeningly silent on the questions inherent in the above. So it would appear that somewhere between pages 79 and 84, someone dropped the ball – perhaps they saw fit to do so because they found “The evidence and narrative provided by Briffa is persuasive[...]” [p. 83].

[p. 81-82 of Muir Russell report - my emphasis added]:

Breaching confidentiality

Briffa responded to the allegation of having broken confidentiality in sending draft text to Wahl to comment on, that there is no proscription in the IPCC rules to prevent the author team seeking expert advice when and where needed. The Technical Support Unit (TSU) and the CLAs of Chapter 6 agree that the author team was allowed to seek such advice. Copies of communications from both CLAs (Jansen and Overpeck) and the IPCC WG1 TSU are provided by Briffa (and published on the website) to provide support to Briffa‘s claim that his actions did not contravene IPCC procedures.

Briffa asserts that Wahl was asked for comment on text as a knowledgeable and objective arbiter and as such was a wholly reasonable judge of whether the responses were appropriate.

Considering that Wahl’s unpublished paper was ultimately used as the basis for supposedly refuting M&M2003, “objective arbiter” is not a phrase that comes immediately to my mind. “Interested party”, definitely; or, more to the point, “very interested party”. Actually, I’d be more inclined to describe Wahl’s input as outright conflict of interest. YMMV. But I digress ...

The Review team’s conclusions [pp. 84-85] on this particular matter:

9.5 Conclusions

40. In summary, we have not found any direct evidence to support the allegation that members of CRU misused their position on IPPC to seek to prevent the publication of opposing ideas.

41. In addition to taking evidence from them and checking the relevant minutes of the IPCC process, we have consulted the relevant IPCC Review Editors. Both Jones and Briffa were part of large groups of scientists taking joint responsibility for the relevant IPCC Working Group texts and were not in a position to determine individually the final wording and content. We find that neither Jones nor Briffa
behaved improperly by preventing or seeking to prevent proper consideration of views which conflicted with their own through their roles in the IPCC.

The only investigation that even recognized (let alone considered) the possibility of conflict of interest was that of the IAC. [see: InterAcademy Council did not investigate...]

Mar 10, 2011 at 9:36 AM | Unregistered Commenterhro001


Jones got away with his incitement because he wasn't asked if he did what we all know he did.


Mar 10, 2011 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterScott

While the e-mails, deleted or not, never mind who sent what-when-to-whom, are important, and while the squirming and weasel words of the main participants are very enjoyable, the most important point is, imho, that the PSU whitewash has now been proven to be just that, in the same way the British 'inquiries' have been proven to have been whitewashes, and sloppy ones at that.

This means that arguments from AGW believers ('the scientists have been totally exonerated'!) can be laughed out of court, as can their and The Team's continuing risible attempts of hiding yet another pea under yet another shell. They don't even notice how transparent and ridiculous they have become.

Mar 10, 2011 at 10:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterViv Evans

Hide, Delete,Travesty.

Three words used by the team: follow each one and the conclusion is the same - AR4 is a house of cards.

Mar 10, 2011 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

Viv Evans

A good summary.

I would also add that Briffa, Jones, Mann, Wahl, the members of the various whitewash reviews, with one exception, S&TC, Oxburgh, Russell and Penn State, and the institutions, the House of Commons select committee system, UEA, CRU and Penn State have all sustained significant personal and professional reputational damage as a direct consequence of the fall-out from Climategate.

Climategate is still the gift that gives on giving.

Mar 10, 2011 at 11:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

@hro001 -
You're quite correct on both counts. But a firm would be expected to look into the matter, as it affects its reputation. I wouldn't expect any ringing "guilty!" verdicts from the IPCC; a lukewarm response such as the one mentioned would be more likely, and perhaps even most appropriate after the fact. [As (presumably) first offences, sacking would not be the punishment I'd choose in a corporate context, but a verbal reminder of the policies and their purpose.] However, the IPCC aren't even minded to look at the issue, which is telling.

Mar 10, 2011 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

This affair is a wonderful example of how a powerful establishment (IPCC and adjuncts) looks after itself and how wonderfully and willfully blind some of its highly-paid servants can be. Thanks to dedication and a 'nose' for facts posessed by a few dedicated sleuths, this house of cards will eventually collapse and destroy a considerable number of reputations with it. It will also confer some new and thoroughly deserved reputations upon all who have connived in the scam and also to hide the scam. The Nixon team found the cover-up more costly than the break-in.

Mar 10, 2011 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

This has been mentioned elsewhere, but if Mann simply forwarded Jones' email, it would have retained the subject line:

Subject: Re: IPCC & FOI

This makes it hard to credit Wahl's statement to the inquiry that he knew nothing about it being connected with FOI requests:

Q. I guess if the exchange of comments and your review was appropriate, I guess what I’m just trying to understand why you’d be ask to delete the emails after the fact, at the time that they’re — it appears that the CRU is receiving FOIA requests
A. Yeah. I had no knowledge of anything like that

Looks like Wahl has more explaining to do...

Mar 10, 2011 at 12:55 PM | Unregistered Commentergenette

Vacation in Hawaii? Doesn't that involve a bunch of carbon emissions and stuff?

Mar 10, 2011 at 2:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterFred Jensen

Steve McIntyre said:

Mann was not openly cc'ed on the surreptitious Wahl-Briffa correspondence that is at issue. Nor was Jones.

How can we make this conclusion? How can we make the conclusion that neither Jones nor Mann had any knowledge of that exchange? The "ASAP" in Mann's e-mail suggests to me that they did know.

Mar 10, 2011 at 3:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy

"When word and deed conflict, believe the action - every damn time."

Mar 10, 2011 at 3:28 PM | Unregistered Commentermojo

Why, why, why?

Those of you that have followed this saga for some time will probably understand what it is all about, but for the benefit of any new readers let me again put up a link to my Russell Review Submission and say that paragraphs 62 and 63 are what I believe the “delete all email” is really about.

Jones’ email is certainly not the only reason for the Climategate leak, but the “hockey team” have so far managed to mount plausible defences to the “hide the decline”, to interfering with peer-review, to Eugene Wahl’s back-channel to Briffa and even to the retrospective change in the “in press” deadline that allowed Wahl and Ammann 2007 to remain in AR4. Indeed AR5 have adopted AR4’s policy of allowing citation of papers not “in press” until 3 months after the Government and Expert Review stage. Four inquiries have made little criticism of the climate scientists or the IPCC process.

No sceptic is convinced, of course, but that does not matter so long as their supporters remained committed to them as they are now - and would still have remained committed if everything released in Climategate had been disclosed 20 days after I first asked for it on 5 May 2008.

So why did Jones take the career-ending risk to try to get all AR4 emails held by Briffa, Mann, Wahl and Ammann deleted? What I think made the difference on 27 May 2008 was not my request to UEA but what I asked the Secretary of the IPCC, Renate Christ, a couple of hours earlier.

Government and Expert Reviewers had sent suggestions for correcting or improving the IPCC Report in “comments” and each was given a unique reference. By the June 2006 Bergen Lead Authors’ meeting, I will bet dollars to doughnuts that Jones, Overpeck, and Solomon knew that the US Government and other Expert Reviewers had pointed out that Wahl and Ammann 2007 broke the citation rules and that those published rules required its removal from the IPCC Report.

In Briffa and Osborn’s evidence to Russell, Solomon admits that, with her Head of the TSU, Manning, and Jones, Overpeck, and the other Lead Authors she retrospectively changed the deadline to two months after the review stage had ended. On 3 July 2006, WGI TSU sent a memo to all 600 Expert Reviewers which said that “many” of them had made suggestions that resulted in the new guidelines that the memo contained. Unsurprisingly the memo did not say that it would allow Wahl and Ammann 2007 to be kept in the Report. Indeed it applied only to “additional” “2006” papers. However, the critical Review comments on Wahl and Ammann 2007 were rejected by reference to these new guidelines.

But, regardless of whether the Lead Authors were entitled to change the deadline (and technically they may have been), what if it was totally untrue that “many” Reviewers had suggested the deadline change? What if no Reviewer had? If it were beyond doubt that WGI TSU, with the agreement of the Co-Chair, all Lead Authors, and with the acquiescence of all Review Editors, had sent out a lie to all Reviewers? How could anyone in the world trust any of them?

So you can guess what I asked the IPCC secretary on 27 May 2008 and what may have spooked Jones into his email on the 29 May. Having seen the loose talk in the Climategate emails I doubt that he could be sure of just what he, Briffa, Mann, Wahl or Amman might have put in an email.

I simply asked to be told which of the 11, 283 comments, that thanks to Steve McIntyre and despite the best efforts of Susan Solomon had just been released, suggested the deadline change. She did not answer then and she did answer when I asked her and Susan Solomon on 2 April 2010. By then I had thoroughly searched electronically all the comments whereas previously I had only searched four chapters. I put it to them that there were no suggestions and asked them to disprove me.

On 12 April 2010, I think I got an indirect reply. The Russell Review refused to publish the submission that I had sent on 25 February 2010 and has since refused to say why. However, after saying that they needed to correct every statement in my submission, Briffa and Osborn, in their evidence to Russell, chose not to show or comment on paragraphs 62 and 63 of my submission.

Despite Russell’s suggestion that someone might want to sue them for defamation if my submission was published no one, so far, has even hinted at it to me even though it is easily available through the Parliamentary website. If AR4 WGI wishes to prove it did not lie, it is very simple. They need only quote the references to some of the “many” comments from AR4 WGI Expert Reviewers that suggested the deadline change.

Mar 10, 2011 at 3:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

Re Mar 10, 2011 at 3:16 PM,

Jones wasn't openly cc'ed by Briffa, but he may have been bcc'ed. Or maybe Jones asked Briffa when the FOI requests came in 2008. It's the sort of thing that one expected Muir Russell to investigate.

Unfortunately, as we know, no "investigation" took place.

Mar 10, 2011 at 3:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve McIntyre

"I think you have it right. Jones didn't have Wahl's email, so Mann forwarded it as a favour without thinking about it."

The email was directed at Mann. The request to delete emails was directed at Mann. A side request was made to pass the message onto Wahl. If the forward request was the main jist of the email, you might have a point. It wasn't. The emails primary stated aim was to ask Mann to delete emails. He must have read that before he read about forwarding. His response to Jones shows no doubts and implies he understood the 'urgency'. He would do this "ASAP".

Mar 10, 2011 at 4:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveJR

Why would he forward it ASAP why not NOW? How long does it take to forward an email especially if its open in front of you. It seems to me forwarding the email was not the main object.

Mar 10, 2011 at 9:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

Michael Mann’s brain has been captured by big oil and their minions are manipulating his mouth to make him look stupid so as to discredit climate science. The evidence is so overwhelming that this is likely to be true by a statistical significance of 99+%. The fact that Mann appears to be moving his own mouth and that no one has ever seen the minions just shows how effective the sabotage campaign is.

Mar 10, 2011 at 9:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

Golf Charley: "Without photographic evidence, I will not accept that Mann is in Hawaii."

He's there. But not on vacation. He's searching for the long-form birth certificate. He's an expert in historical reconstruction. His help is badly needed.

Mar 10, 2011 at 9:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterJane Coles

Tsunami news: BH readers will be relieved to learn that the world's best-loved paleoclimatologist has survived the Hawaii wave. But all his data and computer code has been washed out to sea, along with his entire email archive.

Mar 11, 2011 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterJane Coles

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