Climategate and HADCRUT
May 28, 2012
Bishop Hill in Climate: Allen, Climate: CRU, Climate: Surface

I'm sure most readers are aware of Steve McIntyre's post on the Myles Allen video. The comments thread is also very interesting. I was particularly taken with Lucia Liljegren's response to a comment made by Myles on the subject of the relevance of the temperature records to CRUTEM. This is what Myles said:

I stand by the assertion that, thanks to the sloppy coverage the affair received in the media, it wasn’t just Sarah Palin who got the impression that the instrumental temperature record was seriously compromised: The Times opened the relevant story with “A science blogger has uncovered a catalogue of errors in Met Office records…”

Lucia's response should be read in full, but this excerpt gives a flavour

I would suggest that the main reason for this “sloppy coverage” was that reporters turned to people trying to rebut those discussing climategate at blogs and in forums. Some people people who (like you) might prefer to discuss the thermometer record rather than misbehavior of scientists or what “hide the decline” meant, diverted the discussion to the thermometer record.

I strongly suspect the behavior of the scientists who wanted to suppress discussion of climategate succeeded in giving the media the incorrect impression that climategate was about the thermometer record is one of the reasons much of the media, some politicians, and Sarah Palin developed the impression climategate is about the thermometer record. That you can show they were confused about what people at blogs and forums were posting about merely shows you don’t know what it was about.

The thing that struck me was that the errors found in HADCRUT had almost nothing to do with Climategate anyway. When the initial furore over the East Anglia emails broke out, the Met Office for some reason decided to release its data and code. This was subsequently analysed by John Graham-Cumming, who found some minor errors in it. The related Times article that Myles refers to can be seen here in the Internet Archive. Readers will note that it contains no mention of the University of East Anglia or the Climategate emails and in fact dates to several months after the UEA disclosures. The two stories are linked only by the fact that the Met Office's decision to release its data and code seems to have been prompted by the lack of trust in climatologists engendered by the UEA disclosures.

Nevertheless, it's interesting to ponder the way the Climategate story came to be so much intertwined with the surface temperature records - Sarah Palin's initial comment on the day the story hit the press, Beddington's diversion of the Russell panel's work, the SciTech committee's decision to look at CRUTEM and the work of John Graham-Cumming. Cause and effect are hard to determine here.

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