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« BBC attempts to outdo Heartland | Main | Non-hydraulic fracking »

RealClimate on Yamal

Gavin Schmidt has issued the official response to the recent excitement over Yamal. I have to say, even on a brief glance through it is a wild piece of writing.

Briffa, as we know, reprocessed data from Hantemirov and Shiyatov in his 2000 paper on Yamal. He used the same data again in his 2008 paper on regional chronologies. Schmidt says:

McIntyre is accusing Briffa of ‘deception’ in stating that he did not ‘consider’ doing a larger more regional reconstruction at that time. However, it is clear from the 2000 paper that the point was to show hemispheric coherence across multiple tree ring records, not to create regional chronologies. Nothing was being ‘deceptively’ hidden and the Yamal curve is only a small part of the paper in any case.

As McIntyre's article is quite clear that the Yamal regional chronology dates back only to 2006 it can of course not be relevant to the 2000 paper. This is something that he makes quite clear in his article.

One of the purposes of Briffa (2000) was clearly to demonstrate the effect of RCS methodology on the Hantemirov and Shiyatov 2002 dataset. I have no objection to CRU claiming this “purpose” for Briffa (2000).

But, by 2008, this was no longer their “purpose”. Indeed, one doubts whether the editors of Phil Trans B would have accepted a 2008 paper with such a mundane purpose. The actual “purpose” of Briffa et al 2008 is stated quite clearly and was entirely different: it introduced and discussed “regional” chronologies.

Schmidt is therefore engaging in some serious disinformation. Unfortunately, this is not the only occasion. For example, he points out that McIntyre had long ago received "the data" from the Russians who originally collated it. the time McIntyre was haranguing Briffa and Osborn, McIntyre had actually had the raw Yamal data for over 2 years (again, unmentioned on Climate Audit), and he had had them for over 5 years when he declared that he had finally got them in 2009 (immediately prior to his accusations (again false) against Briffa of inappropriate selection of trees in his Yamal chronology).

Schmidt suggests that McIntyre should have assumed that the data as used by Briffa were the same as those used by the Russians. This is an interesting line of argument because of course his colleague Michael Mann has argued vociferously in the past that the only correct place to get the data is from the actual author of the paper (see the Hockey Stick Illusion Chapter 4). However, since we know that the Russians' data was not the same as Briffa's (see the core count profiles for the two versions in this article) Schmidt's argument again looks more like disinformation than an attempt to explain the truth.

In a later section of his posting, Schmidt discusses the November 2009 article that Ross McKitrick wrote about Yamal, the last time there was a blog storm over the series. Readers need to remember that at the time the article was written, nobody knew about the Yamal regional chronology. Schmidt quotes Briffa's response to the McKitrick piece, which formed part of his evidence to the Russell inquiry, and notes his claim that the other sites in the area were "never considered at the time". Schmidt then notes Briffa's earlier statement:

...we had intended to explore an integrated Polar Urals/Yamal larch series but it was felt that this work could not be completed in time

The contradiction between this sentence, discussing the preparation of a regional chronology and the earlier one stating that the extra sites were not considered is clear. Schmidt's implication is that Briffa had misspoken and that he had been clear all along that the regional chronology had been prepared. He'd just run out of time, you see.

There are a number of problems with this story though. Firstly, the quote above doesn't actually say that the work on the regional chronology had been performed, so it represents a very thin defence that Briffa had been open with the inquiry. Moreover, Briffa actually mentioned not considering the other data twice. This is the other occasion, from Briffa's response to McIntyre in October 2009:

However, we simply did not consider these data at the time, focussing only on the data used in the companion study by Hantemirov and Shiyatov and supplied to us by them

And moreover, we know that the regional chronology was in place by 2006. Why was Briffa publishing a paper saying there was no evidence of the divergence problem in his boreal forest regional chronologies when he had a Yamal regional chronology in his hand that said that there was such a problem? Why would he choose to go ahead and use the Yamal-only series, with an absurdly small amount of data too back up any statement about the divergence problem, instead?

(Added note on source of other Briffa quote)

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Reader Comments (87)

I've been pondering the fascinating contrast between initial reactions of Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt to the latest Yamal issues (h/t to poster "Taphonomic" on WUWT). Mann tried to pass it off initially as "largely irrelevant" and "mountain meet molehill"..... yet so soon after Gavin Schmidt decides this matter is so important that he will self-immolate with a hugely confused rant that is being picked apart and exposed and ridiculed for its many mis-statements of fact and analysis.

Soooo.... according to MM this is all much ado about (almost) nothing while to GS it is so important that he wastes inordinate amounts of time on a very shoddy response. It's so interesting when propaganda spinners on the same "Team" take such opposite spins on the same set of issues.

May 11, 2012 at 8:50 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

Well, good 'ol Gav certainly has a way with words, doesn't he?!

Too bad for him, though, that his way with words is so deficient in accuracy, brevity and clarity. So what we end up with is yet another ever-changing story from Gavin.

But one is supposed to accept whatever Gavin says (or whatever his "judgment" tells him to say), merely because he says so - and no doubt Revkin will, as he always has.

May 11, 2012 at 9:05 PM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

May 11, 2012 at 8:50 PM | Skiphil

according to MM this is all much ado about (almost) nothing while to GS it is so important that he wastes inordinate amounts of time on a very shoddy response. It's so interesting when propaganda spinners on the same "Team" take such opposite spins on the same set of issues.

But this is part of a longstanding pattern, is it not?! First they ignore anything that is inconvenient to their "cause" - in the hope that it will go away. When that fails, then one member of the team will resort to the "it doesn't make any difference" yawn tactic. And when that fails, another team member is designated as the bully who skates onto the ice to divert attention - with a blustering obfuscatory "fight".

May 11, 2012 at 9:16 PM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

It's interesting that the claim the one dataset out of the four is anomalous because it's negative instead of positive. However if we assign an equal likelihood that any of the four could be anomalous and show the opposite trend, it suddenly becomes 2 datasets positive and 2 datasets negative. It seems to me that it is much more likely that 1 out 3 datasets is anomalous than only the one they don't like.

May 11, 2012 at 9:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterTim B

You say: However, since we know that the Russians' data was not the same as Briffa's (see the core count profiles for the two versions in this article) Schmidt's argument again looks more like disinformation than an attempt to explain the truth. and link to a CA post from 26/09/2009

Yet less than two weeks later McI says: In response to your point that I wasn’t “diligent enough” in pursuing the matter with the Russians, in fact, I already had a version of the data from the Russians, one that I’d had since 2004. What I didn’t know until a couple of weeks ago was that this was the actual version that Briffa had used.

You say the data sets are different, McI says they are the same. How does one reconcile these two contradictory claims?

May 11, 2012 at 10:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterTurboblocke


I think we are converging on the same thing. If someone proposes a natural phenomenon as a temperature proxy then he should express exactly why it can be considered to act as a temperature proxy. She should explain how the proxies were collected to avoid potential bias. He should explain potential issues and uncertainties. This helps to codify the error estimates.

And then you crunch the numbers. In the case of tree-rings, there are all sorts of assumptions to be made. The papoer should describe what procedures were taken to equalise old and young trees etc etc. And if the numbers do not meet pre-specified criteria in the period where you can check them against thermometers, then you conclude that you do not have a valid temperature proxy.

But if the proxies do pass calibration tests, then you include valid meta-data in your write-up to let reviewers see whether you met your criteria - as expressed before you collected the proxies.

How does Briffa come out of this?

May 11, 2012 at 10:29 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Turbo - it is easy. Briffa did not say exactly what data he had used. And in case you had not noticed, he did not use the entirety of the Russian data.

How would you decide which data he had used?

May 11, 2012 at 10:30 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

I'm also under the impression that McI in 2009 didn't know what McI in 2012 knows.

That's a limitation mostly affecting skeptics. Warmists always know immediately everything they need to know, and it's right from the get-go.

May 11, 2012 at 10:38 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos


I think there is even a tele-co0nnection so that
Schmidt instantly knows the identities of the trees used in any paper by Briffa and the "proxies" used by Mann. They do not need to place them on file. The Warmists just know by instinct.

May 11, 2012 at 11:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Just as well Einstein didn't say, "E=MC.......... oh dear I've run out of time".

May 11, 2012 at 11:32 PM | Unregistered Commentermfo

quote from Gavin above -

"In the meantime, they can’t discuss it online or defend themselves because the issue with the FOI appeal is precisely their ability to work on projects prior to publication without being forced to go public before they are finished."

can you see where he is going with this (FOI bad for science) wonder where i heard that before.

May 11, 2012 at 11:50 PM | Unregistered Commenterdougieh

Why would he choose to go ahead and use the Yamal-only series, with an absurdly small amount of data too back up any statement about the divergence problem, instead?

Err ... to get the right answer?

May 12, 2012 at 12:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobert of Ottawa

I think the only viable excuse left for the Team is to NOT publish anything. That way they can ALWAYS use the reason that since they only plan to publish it, they have no obligation to release any data.

May 12, 2012 at 2:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

GISS' Gavin has taken too many lessons from Baghdad Bob.

May 12, 2012 at 2:04 AM | Unregistered Commenterstan

May 11, 2012 at 11:15 PM | diogenes

Schmidt instantly knows the identities of the trees used in any paper by Briffa and the "proxies" used by Mann. They do not need to place them on file. The Warmists just know by instinct.

Indeed. It occurs to me that this "higher" level of "doing science" fits in quite well with Phil Jones' preferred mode of assessing a paper when he's doing peer review: "intuition" tells him if something isn't right - and he says so!

In fact, without these ... uh ... traditions ... their "science" would be as shaky as a Fiddler on the Roof ;-)

May 12, 2012 at 2:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterHilary Ostrov

In politics veracity is not relevant. The important thing is that a denial goes on the record so that it may be cited by followers later.

May 12, 2012 at 2:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterWill Nitschke

“A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.” - Saul Bellow

May 12, 2012 at 2:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

It is really amazing that one field can be so dominated (in terms of public presence) by so many liars. What's just as bad, maybe worse, is that the "honest" ones don't simply stand up and say to people like Gavin: "you really need to shut up."


May 12, 2012 at 3:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterMark T

"My impression is that there needs to be explicit justification for all the judgement calls that you make in a piece of work and that you should be explicit about those judgement calls." --diogenes

Not if the "work" is simply a piece of propaganda.

Rick: great quote from Bellow.

May 12, 2012 at 4:01 AM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

May 11, 2012 at 9:05 PM | Registered Commenter Hilary Ostrov

Thanks Hilary, for the link to your excellent review of Gavin's obfuscatory confusions on Climategate.

Both Mann and Schmidt impress me as ideologues who learned a veneer of science rather than as genuine scientists. Certainly their meanderings in the public debates have not been what we should be able to expect of prominent scientists. The idea that people of the caliber of Schmidt and Mann should be directing policy decisions of vast scope is scary.

May 12, 2012 at 8:03 AM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

This is like whack a mole, only better.

May 12, 2012 at 11:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Cruickshank

Has anybody else noticed that Keith Briffa's recent publications have little to do with paleo temperature proxies? He also has not published very much. This obviously begs the question as to when Gavin expects him to write the promised paper.

May 12, 2012 at 2:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterBernie

Revkin asks Mann, Mann says it doesn't matter, Gavin intervenes unasked, Jones stays quiet...either nobody respects Briffa or he's very sick at the moment.

May 12, 2012 at 3:05 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

RC is a laugh a minute web-site at the moment...try this:

Tim Osborn says:
11 May 2012 at 9:56 AM

Thank you Gavin and RealClimate for once again bringing much needed clarity to the situation. The huge amount of work you do in explaining and contextualising the latest climate stories (and “non-stories” such as these false allegations of deception) is greatly appreciated by me and many others.

[Response: Tim, I (and I think I speak for all of us here) want to thank *you* and Keith and the others for calmly and thoughtfully continuing to do the great work you're doing despite the dishonest personal attacks, and despite the concerted efforts by McIntyre and his ilk to interfere with and disrupt your efforts. -Mike]

May 12, 2012 at 3:17 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Diogenes and all

re: [Michael Mann]: "...and despite the concerted efforts by McIntyre and his ilk to interfere with and disrupt your efforts. -Mike]"

This is nutty delusional stuff. If Briffa & Osborn & co. had reasonable policies on archiving of data, programs, and methods there would not be a problem. No one is trying to "disrupt" and "interfere".... some people would simply like the data, methods, and programs which are supposed to influence decisions of vast public import to be properly scrutinized.

The idea that The Team should be able to proceed on their merry way without any "INDEPENDENT" oversight is delusional, and is the principal cause of these fusses.

May 12, 2012 at 4:23 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

Is cru so poor briffa and friends have to respond to FOI requests by themselves?

I think Mann will be remembered in history as totally insane.

May 12, 2012 at 4:28 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

I saw that little exchange as well.

Must be so hard to trust each other, despite all that is known.

I think this public hugging says all there is, about the upcoming paleo the AR5

May 12, 2012 at 4:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

"McIntyre and his ilk"

As though they were cattle.

What a great 'scientist.'

I'm glad I formed my impression of science before I ran into this guy.

May 12, 2012 at 4:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

RC is actually a very good allegory of how climate science is practised by the Warmists. The blogposts tend to be scientifically misleading or factually inaccurate; there is lots of abuse of dissentient opinions and the only comments allowed through are from a braying cohort of back-slappers. Or else, a dissentient view is allowed through, often heavily edited, with all follow-up excised, so that the drooling masses can tell themselves how intellectually superior they are to people they brand as sceptics.

Meanwhile, a place called The Bore Hole is filling up with most of the really scientific or thoughtful contributions.

May 12, 2012 at 4:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Good time for a reminder:

Hi Ben and Phil,
as you may know (Phil certainly knows), I'm on the editorial board of IJC. Phil is right that it can be rather slow (though faster than certain other climate journals!). Nevertheless, IJC really is the preferred place to publish (though a downside is that Douglass et al. may have the opportunity to have a response considered to accompany any comment). I just contacted the editor, Glenn McGregor, to see what he can do. He promises to do everything he can to achieve a quick turn-around time (he didn't quantify this) and he will also "ask (the publishers) for priority in terms of getting the paper online asap after the authors have received proofs". He genuinely seems keen to correct the scientific record as quickly as possible.
He also said (and please treat this in confidence, which is why I emailed to you and Phil only) that he may be able to hold back the hardcopy (i.e. the print/paper version) appearance of Douglass et al., possibly so that any accepted Santer et al. comment could appear alongside it. Presumably depends on speed of the review process.
If this does persuade you to go with IJC, Glenn suggested that I could help (because he is in Kathmandu at present) with achieving the quick turn-around time by identifying in advance reviewers who are both suitable and available. Obviously one reviewer could be someone who is already familiar with this discussion, because that would enable a fast review - i.e., someone on the email list you've been using - though I don't know which of these people you will be asking to be co-authors and hence which won't be available as possible reviewers. For objectivity the other reviewer would need to be independent [one's better than none?], but you could still suggest suitable names.[...not even one!]
Well, that's my thoughts... let me know what you decide.
Dr Timothy J Osborn, Academic Fellow
Climatic Research Unit
School of Environmental Sciences
University of East Anglia
Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK

May 12, 2012 at 5:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Also a good time to recall the sordid history recounted here by AM in "Caspar And The Jesus Paper"

May 12, 2012 at 5:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterSkiphil

Has anyone written a summary article of all that has emerged from Climategate emails plus the "Caspar" history etc. of all the procedural biases and improper behaviors introduced by The Team into journal review processes? I.e., it would be good to have one concise source to link to when trying to explain to people how The Team likes to "re-define peer review"....

Perhaps that is in our host's new book?! One hopes....

May 12, 2012 at 6:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterSkiphil

Lets be honest here guys...Gav is not writing articles for just anyone. No, he is writing his articles for the faithful so it doesnt matter if his articles are full of half truths and lies because he isnt writing his stuff for us. His writings serve no other purpose but to preach to the converted and to keep their faith up. Nothing more, nothing less.



May 12, 2012 at 10:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Milman - his style is getting closer to the Morning Star every week

May 12, 2012 at 11:12 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

too funny, a certain troll upthread objected to my characterization of Gavin's meanderings on RC as a "rant" (about Steve McIntyre's criticism of the Yamal fiascos)..... now the Climate Audit response quite properly refers to Gavin's diatribe with the R-word:

Steve McIntyre discusses Gavin's rant

Since the RC piece was an intemperate effort to avoid the main issues it is nice to read this response on Climate Audit.

May 14, 2012 at 7:21 AM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

An earlier commenter said: "The hockey stick -- as it comes in its various guises -- isn't sustainable, there's too many eyes on the fabricators and too much contradictory evidence seeing the light."

I agree. But I believe the current reaction to downplay any damage against Yanal and Briffa;s work is designed to keep the hockey stick alive through one more iteration of IPCC reports. That will give "Real" scientits a reprieve of sorts, and give nature a couple of more years to behave itself and act as it "should" and prove GCMs and tendentious proxy reconstructions true, before the last wheels finally fall off this careening CAGW wagon.

And there's an economic and financial part of this as well. In the face of huge impending government spending cutbacks, if the IPCC v5 comes out with mealy-mouthed, watered down warming claims, many government funded and sponsored careers could end before the next IPCC iteration. But if IPCC v5 comes out with the same dire hockey stick warnings, then some of these rummies will still have jobs in the short term, and maybe the world's economy will improve, making it more likely government funding can continue, allowing climate rent-seekers to hang on.

May 16, 2012 at 5:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterMickey Reno

From Climategate, I gained an impression that the Russians were screwed financially by Briffa and that created a situation where stories had to be invented and excuses made for delays. You find quite a few examples if you use key word "money" in CG1 searches. There are not so many hits to read, but they are interesting.

Jan 24, 2013 at 11:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

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