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Wilson on millennial temperature reconstructions

Last week I attended a lecture given by Rob Wilson at the University of St Andrews. This was a two-hour marathon, a format that is excellent if your lecturer is good enough to carry an audience, as it enables issues to be addressed in much more depth than is the norm. In the event, the time shot by, and if you read on you will see why.

Rob was doing a review of the millennial temperature reconstructions, following the story from the First Assessment Report through to AR5. As readers here know, Rob is no kind of a sceptic (a point he repeated over lunch), but on the northern hemisphere paleo studies his position is not a million miles away from mine. In places our positions are identical, as you will see.

Because of the prominence of Michael Mann's work in the area, some of the lecture was devoted to the Hockey Stick, to the 2008 paper (the "upside down Tiljander" study to the initiated) and to Mann's most recent area of focus, the influence of volcanoes on tree ring growth. Students learned that the Hockey Stick included a whole lot of inappropriate proxies and heard something of the issues with its verification statistics. The wallpapering of the Third Assessment with Mann's magnum opus and John Houghton's claims about unprecedented warmth based on this single study were described as "ridiculous". "Ultimately a flawed study" was the conclusion, with a gory list of problems set out: inappropriate data, infilling of gaps, use of poorly replicated chronologies, flawed PC analysis, data and code withheld until prised from the grasp of the principals. In the paper's defence, it was noted that it was an early attempt at a millennial reconstruction and that it did at least attempt to discern spatial variability, something that had not previously been done.

We also heard about Mann's  minumus parvum opus, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, which Rob, like so many others, had given up on in fairly short order, and then saw an excerpt from Iain Stewart's Climate Wars TV programme. Having seen Mann's paper criticised so forcefully, I assume that Stewart's unquestioning faith in the graph will have left the audience with a pretty low opinion of his abilities.

That was the gentle beginning. When we got onto Mann et al 2008, we learned about the silliness of the screening process, and students were invited to try screening a set of random generated timeseries in the way Mann had gone about this study. Tiljander didn't get a mention, but I guess there are only so many flaws one can take on board, even in a two-hour lecture.

The real fireworks came when Mann's latest papers, which hypothesise that tree ring proxies have large numbers of missing rings after major volcanic eruptions, were described as "a crock of xxxx".

Away from the Mann stuff, this was, as I have suggested a very fair representation of the science of millennial temperature reconstructions, with the overwhelming impression being of a field that is still trying to work out if is possible to constrain the answers to the point where they are useful. The students were undoubtedly hearing the truth, warts and all, about the field they were studying. If only policymakers could hear the truth too.


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Reader Comments (126)

Oct 21, 2013 at 3:14 PM | Registered Commentersteveta

Not sure, but it looks like the Mann has removed the original denier/closet tweet.

Think you're right, I retweeted it and it has gone from my TL.

With that possibility in mind looking at Mann's latest tweet just strikes me dumbstruck with awe. :)

Me-thinks Mann realises he has crossed a line, but what to do? He knows he can't claim he didn't say it. It's was there for all to see. He knows he can't apologise that just doesn't fit with his image as climate certainty Goliath and shows weakness.

So what's he do?

Rob Wilson not a climate change denier but has played a contrarian role in debate...

All you amateurs behold. ;)

Oct 21, 2013 at 3:23 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Taking this module and having attended the lecture I can say that Dr Wilsons honest approach towards teaching climate science (no quotes) has been insightful. However, what commenters on this blog seem to demand is not a critical approach towards teaching climate science (i.e. understanding error margins, etc.) but a 'balanced' approach that moves away from claiming climate change to be 'unquestionable'. This is also what ALECs "Environmental Literacy Improvement Act" has mandated - a 'balanced' teaching of climate science in K-12 classrooms. But to 'balance' mainstream climate science is to teach climate - denial; you cannot treat both sides of the argument equally when on one side there are the majority of scientists advocating that there exists a significant degree of anthropogenic forcing on the climate and on the other there are a handful of fossil fuel lobbyists + a handful of sceptics who caution the unknown. If we´re going to go down the road of teaching 'balanced' climate science, we may as well also bring creationism back into the biology curriculum.

Oct 21, 2013 at 3:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterABC

"If we´re going to go down the road of teaching 'balanced' climate science, we may as well also bring creationism back into the biology curriculum."

Oct 21, 2013 at 3:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterABC

Though it is obvious to everyone on this site, I would like to point out that the analogy between skeptics and creationists is a false analogy. Creationists offer an account of species that is contrary to Darwin but no skeptic has offered a theory of climate that is contrary to textbook climate science. In brief, skeptics have argued that climate science is in its infancy and has not accumulated the physical evidence to support its claims of dangerous AGW.

Oct 21, 2013 at 3:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin


not to mention there is actual evidence for Darwinism

Oct 21, 2013 at 3:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterDolphinlegs

Oct 21, 2013 at 1:56 PM | The Leopard In The Basement

Having had the huge misfortune to tangle with someone with a severe case of clinical Narcissism (I challenged him about his behaviour, and ... BANG!), I can tell you that at the core, the Narcissist is stuck in infanthood, stamping their feet in an eternal tantrum at the injustices perpetrated against them. That Penn State clearly think that Mann's behaviour is acceptable simply demonstrates what a crass institution it must be.

Oct 21, 2013 at 4:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

ABC, could you point me at any of the "handful of fossil fuel lobbyists" to whom you refer?

For despite several years of reading the skeptical blogosphere, I don't think I have yet encountered these villians.

Oct 21, 2013 at 4:00 PM | Registered Commentersteve ta

"without knowing anything about the person involved"

Michael does know Rob well in a professional capacity. Which is why I was so shocked.


Oct 21, 2013 at 3:20 PM | Tamsin Edwards

Shocked? But this is standard behaviour by Mann - first the Ad hom, and then more. See my post just above on how the Narcissist is stuck in early childhood. And permanently angry at the injustices perpetrated against them. I'm surprised he's not abusing the IPCC for losing his hockey stick, poor diddums.

Oct 21, 2013 at 4:05 PM | Registered Commenterjeremypoynton

Oct 21, 2013 at 3:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterDolphinlegs

Right. When stating the obvious, I sometimes lose track of how much must be stated.

Oct 21, 2013 at 4:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

Rob Wilson: Excellent tantalizing summary. I'd like to add my desire to read the transcript also.

Sure sound like the kind of thing that should be recorded on video. Has Anthony scheduled his WUWT-A-Thon yet? Rob should be included!

I must say; I sure enjoyed the thought of a Manniacal squinting through sleepy eyes and getting word of Rob's presentation. Sure would like that on a video. Maybe Josh will think of a good cartoon.

Oct 21, 2013 at 4:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterATheoK

ABC, welcome to the forum. The IPCC, the mainstream media, etc have tried to frame the climate debate in terms of whether there is global warming taking place and whether mankind is responsible. Most people are not exposed to the "other side" and therefore unquestioningly accept these terms of reference. Indeed, your comment above says ".....on one side there are the majority of scientists advocating that there exists a significant degree of anthropogenic forcing on the climate and on the other there are a handful of fossil fuel lobbyists + a handful of sceptics who caution the unknown".

Basic radiative physics states that a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere will produce a temperature rise of about 1.1 degC. The overwhelming majority of climate sceptics as well as mainstream scientists agree on this. If this were to happen then it would not be a catastrophe. In fact, it would be beneficial.

The CO2 global warming theory then states that this 1.1 degC will be amplified to between 1.5 and 4.5 degC (draft AR5) by the action of positive feedbacks - principally water vapour. It is this aspect of the theory which is disputed by sceptics. No empirical evidence for significant positive feedbacks has ever been presented. All so-called "evidence" amounts to simulations from computer models. On the contrary, this hypothesis has corollaries which have been shown to be false such as the missing tropospheric hotspot and the falling (rather than rising) water vapour content at the 400 mb altitude. Further, there is plenty of evidence that feedbacks might even be net negative, meaning that the climate system has natural thermostats restraining the effect of CO2.

As the concentration of CO2 has been increasing and humans are responsible for some of this then mankind is causing some warming. But how much ? Is it significant and dangerous or trivial and net beneficial ?

The sceptic position is based on empirical evidence. The orthodox position is based on computer simulations. Which is the real science ? If you were not aware of any of the above, then this highlights that we do, indeed, need more balance in education and in the public debate regarding climate change.

Oct 21, 2013 at 4:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Lilley


Welcome. Good to hear your thoughts from the front line.

IMHO it's all cart before the horse stuff. "Climate science" (with quotes :-)) is in its infancy so I wouldn't have it in the classroom and I certainly wouldn't have it anywhere near policy. Therein lies the problem.

At a push I guess you could include it in school to show how the scientific method should work, comparing predictions to actuals, maybe chuck in a few of those famous Feynmann quotes as well. Then ask the students what conclusions they would currently draw!

I notice that in common with others you seamlessly move to "the majority of scientists", rather than the "majority of climate scientists", agree with some vague proposition. The latter is the same as saying 97% of priests/homeopathers/astrologers believe in their chosen voodoo, i.e. not that impressive.

For the former it always seems a moving goalposts thing. Can you clarify exactly what claim you mean and then substantiate it, say for all people with a BSc? Not meaning to be confrontational just making sure we know what we're talking about here.

I'm also a big believer in "follow the money" but surely you don't fall for the Fossil Fuel smokescreen stuff do you? Just look at any of the sums involved and you'll see on which side of the debate the cash truly lies. Who of say the main sceptical bloggers receives substantial FF cash? They all look like unpaid/lowly paid volunteers to me whereas at least it is the "climate scientists" day job so they ARE funded.

As for "a handful of sceptics", have a look at the web stats for the various sceptical blogs as an indication of how false that is. There are plenty of scientists at BH and also here.

Do stick around to provide your perspective on things though.

Oct 21, 2013 at 4:32 PM | Registered CommenterSimonW

ABC 3.31:
"...........bring creationism back into the biology curriculum"
This analogy is not just wrong but actually reversed. "Creation" does not challenge "Evolution" as it is senior by about 3000 years. Darwin is the challenger, and is not alone. There is also the rest of Biology, Paleontology, geology, genetics, astrophysics, cosmology, etc. Who in this spat is defending an established position against fresh data and analysis? Who is answering specific questions with the argument from authority and ad hom abuse? Who is demanding that questions should not even be asked? Which of these positions is the process we refer to as "scientific inquiry" and which denies it?

Oct 21, 2013 at 4:41 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenese2

Mann's tweet just reveals openly what has long been his working assumption. To Mann, a "skeptic" is anyone who doesn't accept his work uncritically, and a "denier" is anyone who actually disagrees with him.

Oct 21, 2013 at 4:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss McKitrick

I think it's a shame Soon & Balinaus didn't get covered. I think it'd be interesting for the listeners to see how they tried a different approach, got different results and were highly criticized for it - to the point of being criticized for things commonly done in paleoclimatology. My favorite example is they were criticized for conflating temperature and precipitation information (though they were clear that they did so) when temperature reconstruction after temperature reconstruction directly used precipitation proxies as temperature proxies. I think that shows how misguided the defense of the hockey stick can get.

Still, this is great to read about. I remember seeing Rob Wilson criticized for not saying things like he said here. It may be late, but it's still great.

Oct 21, 2013 at 4:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrandon Shollenberger

Oct 21, 2013 at 4:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Lilley

Excellent post. Captures just about everything in the fewest words possible.

Oct 21, 2013 at 4:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

Rob Wilson
Thank you for the original lecture and for addressing our comments here.
My own view is that you have done climate science a major service, as have Curry and a few others, by being prepared to take an independent line and consider critically the meanings and implications of the research that has been done and probably is still in train.
Slavish adherence to a paradigm or persuading your colleagues to "replicate" your results by using the same dubious data and applying the same dubious methods and trumpeting the result as vindication is never going to progress any field of science.

You are mistaken when you suggest that "what commenters on this blog seem to demand is not a critical approach towards teaching climate science".
I cannot speak for all the commenters here but the majority certainly would be delighted to see a critical approach not only towards the teaching of climate science but also in the practice. I fail to see how you differentiate between a critical approach and a balanced approach. Why is there a problem in moving away from the "unquestionability" of climate change — though I will agree that it would be helpful if we could agree on just what we mean by "climate change"!
Saying that "to 'balance' mainstream climate science is to teach climate - denial" is, frankly, rubbish (though again it would be handy if we could agree on terms since the phrase "climate-denial" is itself meaningless). A proper reading of the IPCC reports (all five of them) demonstrates that climate science has evolved in the last 20 years. The mantra of "the science is settled", which I agree was never to my knowledge used in so many words, has long been disproved by the behaviour of the climate itself and if the climate refuses to obey the models then I don't need to question climate change because the climate is doing it for me.
You next say "you cannot treat both sides of the argument equally when on one side there are the majority of scientists advocating that there exists a significant degree of anthropogenic forcing on the climate and on the other there are a handful of fossil fuel lobbyists + a handful of sceptics who caution the unknown."
Well in the first place, we're not talking about an argument with two sides or if we are it is because climate science has set out (pretty successfully) to shut down debate so that — very unscientifically — those who don't sign up to the Gospel according to Mann or Pachauri or Gore (forgive the religious language but I'm afraid we are heading in that direction) are heretics to be excommunicated, their views not to be published, journals which dare publish their work to be sidelined and/or their editors fired. They are to be subjected to ad hom attacks (as witness what is happening this afternoon!), accused of being in the pay of Big Oil (as if that was relevant to anything and ignoring the funding that the oil companies have been giving to climate research), their motives impugned even where their scientific qualifications match, or in many cases out-strip, the heavyweight players in the climate science community.
How can any scientific discipline properly progress when only one point of view is permitted? And how many times is it necessary to thump home the message that that is not science; it is religion — and one that is even stricter than Islam or Roman Catholicism, I might add!
And where in all this is the respect for science and scientists? Your comment, welcome as it is (and I mean that) shows to me that you have misunderstood the basis on which science is, or ought to be, practised.
There is nothing, be it climate change or any other sphere of scientific endeavour, that is settled to the point where it must not be challenged and that applies especially to climate science which is still very much in its infancy. It is time that arrogance was replaced with a little humility, the ability to accept that the current paradigm might, just might be wrong.

Oct 21, 2013 at 5:03 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Mann's tweet is self-satire. #Narcissistic Twit #Ideology Uber Alles

Oct 21, 2013 at 5:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterOld Hoya

Steering away from the name-calling and back to the subject if I might, I'll remind people of Jim Bouldin's numerous essays showing the underlying unreliability of millennial scale reconstructions, for mathematical reasons, starting here:

and ending here:

Oct 21, 2013 at 5:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterJason Jackson

The LITB has shown us the original Mann Tweet (since removed), but what struck me was that in making the tweet and including the url for this thread, Mann was actually improving the chance of directing traffic (now, there's a job he could do when he loses his current job!) to his Grace's site! (I'm also tickled that a lot of Mann's disciples might get to read this thread...)

Could this be a new definition of The Mann Act? (Trafficing [minors] across State Lines)

Oct 21, 2013 at 5:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterSnotrocket

One of the interesting aspects of this spat is Rob Wilson's role in exposing the fallacy that everyone is either a fully paid-up upholder of everything the IPCC has ever said (and everything that some people think they have said, e.g. that 'extreme weather' due to AGW is a reality), or a denier. Rob has been sympathetic for many years to some of the criticisms that Steve McIntyre has made of the Hockey Stick, and has corresponded with Steve for years, and commented on Climate Audit (see a 7-year old example of such engagement here). But at the same time, he clearly believes that AGW is a serious problem, that the IPCC consensus is broadly correct, and is happy to be rather rude about the views and motivations of many people who comment on sites such as BH. See an example in this thread which was in fact a guest post by Rob here - and led to some notable follow-ups.

Just like many people with interesting views, e.g. Bjorn Lomborg, Judith Curry, Tamsin Edwards, both Roger Pielke's, or our host, Rob doesn't fit neatly in the tidy Alarmist/Denier either/or classification. Funny that Michael Mann thinks he must do.

Oct 21, 2013 at 5:53 PM | Registered CommenterJeremy Harvey

Jeremy Harvey
I struggle to identify what it is that drives Mann or Trenberth — or even Jones with his totally unscientific complaint that he wouldn't release his data because somebody might find fault with it.
Likewise I'm not sure why a procession of Government scientific advisers and RS presidents with no more qualification in any of the climate-related science disciplines than I have are so wedded to the CAGW meme. You would have thought that a couple of them might have looked into the science a bit deeper and come up with conclusions a little closer to the people you name (as well as Christy, Spencer, Lindzen, Ball and others).
Funding and tenure seems to be far too glib a response; these are people for whom anything less than catastrophe is completely unacceptable, an attitude that I find unhealthy in anyone especially a scientist.
If someone comes up with some research that that even hints at "things might not be worse than we thought" any reasonable human being would investigate it if only because (you would imagine) they would like it to be correct.
So why the perverse obsession with doom and gloom?

Oct 21, 2013 at 6:31 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson


Awful blog piece ( …) may well have misrepresented Rob Wilson's views. I suspend judgment, pending his disavowal of it..

clearly Mann hasn't read the comments, where Rob pre read the article, and stood by his own comments!!!

Oct 21, 2013 at 6:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Surely it's only a matter of time before Rob Wilson is derided by Mann as a "fossil-fuel funded disinformer".

Edit: re Mann's tweet (as given by Barry Woods 6:40 PM) -- Mann's definition of "suspending judgment", given his prior tweet, is, shall we say, idiosyncratic.

Oct 21, 2013 at 6:46 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

"I still think this gargantuan fr*ud warrants jail time - anybody else concur?"

If they locked people up for being blind, stupid ego maniacs, there's be more people in prison than in the streets. If you want to argue he perpetrated an intentional fraud, go ahead. But virtually impossible to prove.

Oct 21, 2013 at 6:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterpokerguy

Does this sort of behaviour (by which I mean juvenile name-calling through social media) occur in any other field of study?

I find it strange that an academic would stoop as low as Michael Mann has done and still expect to retain any credibility.

Things have obviously changed since I graduated. As a Physics undergraduate in the 80s scepticism and questioning of everything was compulsory. If not, you weren't doing it right.

Oct 21, 2013 at 6:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Jones

Corruption Lie, Passion Lie, Spin, Mistaken, Naive, Stupid
- anyone else coming to a belief that key people on the other side are like movie character liars ?
it's not a feeling I am comfortable with, but after fact checking I keep thinking "that warmists must have known what he said was untrue"
yet I don't want to be like those warmists dismissing every difficult question with "deniers are evil liars paid by big oil"

- Big Green :there do seem to credible connections to Green Businesses behind a lot of "concerned citizens" posts
- and Greens from their actions don't seem to care about the environment much ..they seem to do things all the time that are bad for the environment.

(I actually wrote this note this morning before that Mann spat, but more and more I am seeing people being devious in front of my own eyes, it's like the shock after getting robbed .. you brain doesn't want to believe someone just behaved like that)

Oct 21, 2013 at 7:10 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Oct 21, 2013 at 6:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

clearly Mann hasn't read the comments, where Rob pre read the article, and stood by his own comments!!!

I found Mann's "I suspend judgment, pending his disavowal of it.." a bit rich. Like he thinks the world awaits the great mans adjudication on whether Wilson really is a denier. So made sure to tweet him the direct link to Rob WIlson's comment.

Just so Mann knows he doesn't need wait for any "pending disavowal", so he can give us his latest "judgement"... ;)

@MichaelEMann belive Rob Wilson commented b4 your first tweet "Although I vetted Andrew's post, I want to clarify..." …

He didn't respond, but neither did he block me, that's a good sign isn't it? :)

Oct 21, 2013 at 7:12 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Oct 21, 2013 at 6:31 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Have just re-read your post and it has got me wondering if there is actually a psychological need amongst a significant percentage of the population to be worried about something potentially catastrophic befalling them. Some of the needy will be in a position to generate such fears, no prizes for guessing who that might be, so they also have reputations and intellectual investments to protect by ensuring the fear is perpetuated. And we also know that politicians love protecting us poor helpless citizens from that which we fear.

Sadly, I think that when cAGW is finally dead and buried a new gravy train will be on the rails and the process will begin all over again. Think how tabloid journalism and the paparazzi were going to buck their ideas up following the death of Princess Diana. Unfortunately, the market for tittle-tattle remained, and grew stronger, and there were plenty of scumbags ready to supply the market.

Oct 21, 2013 at 7:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Jones

The Leopard In The Basement

If you think I was defending Mann, your sarcasm meter probably needs recalibrating.

Oct 21, 2013 at 7:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Koch

Nice to know that Mann reads the Bishop's blog.

Oct 21, 2013 at 7:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterredc


You may be right, but I can't get past the fact that Mann clearly knew exactly what he was doing with his faked statistical methods, opportunistic abuse of previously unheard-of tests, failed model validations, accidental publication of self-labelled 'censored' files and has tried to cover up his malfeasance with outrageous bullying tactics. As a scientist who was trained to never, ever, fake or omit unhelpful data or abuse scientific methods to favour your pet theories (I hope I'm not alone in this) I am utterly repelled by this character. By the standards I believe scientists should maintain, he's a narcissistic chancer, a crook and worthy of the entire contents of the abovementioned crock.

It takes some piece of work to make Lysenko look like a (relatively) nice guy.

Oct 21, 2013 at 7:39 PM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

Oct 21, 2013 at 7:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Jone

If you think I was defending Mann, your sarcasm meter probably needs recalibrating.

Ok, sure. If you could give me two examples your sarcasm; one at your most sarcastic and then one your most mildly sarcastic that should be enough for calibration ;)

Oct 21, 2013 at 7:47 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

@ Rob Wilson

Thanks for stopping by. Any chance for a link via this website to the power point presentation/transcript/video of the lecture? I am sure there is interest in your lecture beyond your students and your university to the greater world at large. I note you listed references in an earlier comment above, but the thing of interest is how you interpret those papers. While it is great to have AM's summary of your lecture, a video recording in particular would help us to decide for ourselves.

A two-hour lecture certain suggests you have a lot to say on the subject. You mention you spent a lot of time on the D'Arrigo et al. (2006) study. Perhaps if you had been a little more publicly vocal in the past seven years instead of waiting to see which way the wind was blowing, the lecture could have started with the more recent contributions and ended a little quicker.

Oct 21, 2013 at 7:51 PM | Unregistered Commenternvw

Mann's silly tweets comes as no surprise , as he as long show himself thin skin and fat heading when it comes to dealing with others views. For an ego that stretches some considerable distance toward the sun, is not one that can easily deal with the concept of in any way being wrong .
Indeed as now what really marks him out is not his views on AGW sceptics, mad as they are , but his views on people on his own side should they commit the 'crime' of not fully and unquestionable agreeing with him.

Keep him in the spot light , keep him under pressure and he will do much good work for the very people he hates , now that is what I call irony.

Oct 21, 2013 at 7:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterKNR

Steve Jones
There certainly does seem to be a human propensity for being attracted to "the dark side", whether you are referring to sin or scary scenarios.
We love ghost trains and watching (in my young parenthood days) Doctor Who from behind the settee — but they did watch". Perhaps it's the adrenalin rush.
And we mustn't forget H L Mencken ...

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
I wouldn't go so far as to claim that global warming is imaginary but the hobgoblin aspect probably is and the menacing by politicians and activists of other stripes certainly is.

Oct 21, 2013 at 8:09 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

The use of "denier" to stigmatize skeptics is appalling because it likens CAGW skeptics to holocaust deniers and, more generally, substitutes ad hominem attacks for reasoned debate. When a climate scientist calls someone a "denier", isn't that a clear sign that the name calling climate scientist is almost certainly a politicized hacktivist? Are there any exceptions to this rule, any examples of non hacktivist climate scientists who call others "deniers"?

Oct 21, 2013 at 8:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Koch

Rob Wilson: Thanks being willing to vet this post for our host, taking the time to comment here and especially for making the relevant literature more accessible.

If Mann (2012) had used a climate model with a climate sensitivity at the low end of the range determined from observations (using energy balance models), he would have predicted cooling of about 1 degC for the largest volcanic eruptions rather than 2 degC. In that case, one doesn't need to propose that tree rings are missing. If you are certain that tree rings aren't missing, the sensible - perhaps inescapable - conclusion to draw from Mann (2012) is that the climate sensitivity of Mann's model is far too high!

You may be interested in a blog post (unpublished so far) improving on the published analyses of Pinatubo. When all heat fluxes are fit to all the observations, the most likely ECS is 1.4 degC with a range of 0.9-1.7 degC.

Oct 21, 2013 at 9:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrank

Frank: "You may be interested in a blog post (unpublished so far) improving on the published analyses of Pinatubo. When all heat fluxes are fit to all the observations, the most likely ECS is 1.4 degC with a range of 0.9-1.7 degC."

Sounds interesting, do you have a link to this blog post? It seems doubtful to me that climate sensitivity will turn out to be a specific constant. It seems more likely that it will be a function that has lots of input variables.

Oct 21, 2013 at 9:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Koch

The purpose of my comment was to spark a conversation about balanced climate science education. I am an undergraduate Geography student, not a scientist/ climate scientist, and my knowledge on the subject comes from a variety of (biased - in both ways) sources. My opinion about climate change is in no way settled and I´m still making up my mind about what to believe. It's been interesting to hear your views, so thank you!

Oct 21, 2013 at 9:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterABC

For information, over the last few weeks I have spent time looking for articles using the "d" word and pasted a copy of "The sceptic view which is a list of points that most sceptics agree on.

I note that since I have started this campaign, that the Guardian has recently carried two articles asserting their (false) idea of "the sceptic view", that William Connolley appears to have read this and taken exception to us holding views on the scale of warming.

It is clearly working as the frequency of the D word has shown a marked decrease. I think this is because when we put up the evidence that shows the "d" word is lie, journalists know they cannot just flagrantly libel us. This probably means that people like Mann are finding it increasingly difficult to outlets for their denier lies about us.

But does this outburst from Mann show far more? Is his attack against a respectable academic on his own "side" a sign that he is the one who has been most responsible for this "denier campaign" which is now falling apart?

Oct 21, 2013 at 9:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeHaseler

HaroldW says-

"Surely it's only a matter of time before Rob Wilson is derided by Mann as a "fossil-fuel funded disinformer"."

Better check with Rob Wilson. I wouldn't be surprised if he, his Dept. or the University receives grant money from BIG FOSSIL FUELS.

Indeed, I am 95% confident that more than half of the climate scientists in the world since the 1950's have had some trickle of fossil fuel funding buried in their research grants, travel stipends, consultancies, etc. Mann has a target-rich environment.

This is great fun!

Oct 21, 2013 at 9:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterchris y

"I still think this gargantuan fr*ud warrants jail time - anybody else concur?"

If they locked people up for being blind, stupid ego maniacs, there's be more people in prison than in the streets. If you want to argue he perpetrated an intentional fraud, go ahead. But virtually impossible to prove.

Oct 21, 2013 at 6:48 PM | pokerguy
@SteveJones & Mike Jackson

The dark side.... I'm 62. As long as I can remember we have been regaled with tales of the impending EcoApocalypse. How appropriate then that the Millennium should see the ramping up of the EcoApocalypse of EcoApocalypses?

Yea, the oceans shall boil and we all will fry.

Odd, then, that he is resisting so strongly the release of emails and documents in two court cases.

Oct 21, 2013 at 9:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton


" my knowledge on the subject comes from a variety of (biased - in both ways) sources."

Had the same issue years ago, so took the bias out by going to the actual observational data.

It is all there for the inquisitive. DYOR, it provides the best opportunity for awareness as I am sure you will have gleaned from Rob Wilson and maybe just a little more from the subsequent discourse?

"Balanced climate science education", is learning how to go find out. Used to be know as "nullius in verba", maybe your generation will help give it back its true meaning?

And may i wish you well with your studies

Oct 21, 2013 at 9:51 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

and when will Entropic Man weigh in to tell us that Mann is the person who pays attention to data unlike the people who deride him, who only pay attention to something undefined, outside of Entropic Man's comprehension?

Oct 21, 2013 at 9:54 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Michael Mann used to be wedded to the word 'contrarian' in reference to sceptics. Of late however, the 'denier' label has assumed the ascendancy (see below for usage). Strange that a professor finds himself unable to extract from the rich fount of the English language a more novel and entertaining pejorative of suitable escalated insult other than 'denier'. Normally favoured by lesser politicians and protestors.

Oct 21, 2013 at 10:04 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

As Green Sand says the only way is to go to the original data, best the raw unadjusted data.

Also as Jeremy Poynton says when you get into your 60s you've heard tales of impending doom for all your life. You either ignore it and wait until the story changes or if the clamour gets too great you then do your own research.

Asking questions here and the the sceptical opposing view at a "warmist" blog and comparing the answers might also be enlightening. Be prepared to get attacked by both sides, depending on how you phrase the questions.

Good luck with your studies.

Oct 21, 2013 at 10:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

".........this isn’t about truth at all, its about plausibly deniable accusations...."


Oct 21, 2013 at 10:13 PM | Unregistered Commenter52

ABC: "what commenters on this blog seem to demand is not a critical approach towards teaching climate science (i.e. understanding error margins, etc.) but a 'balanced' approach that moves away from claiming climate change to be 'unquestionable'."

I appreciate we may be difficult to understand, but there is method in what may appear our madness.

After completing my physics course at St.Andrews I went to work in industry. What I learnt there was that science may work in theory but it often fails to work in practice. Unfortunately, science is taught in a way so that students being to believe that science is infallible. This then leads students in industry to have an unjustifiable belief in their ability to apply science in real world situations.

It takes a while for science graduates to learn to be "humble" and accept that science is a huge help in dealing with real life situations but there are many many other problems.

And it is not only that real life situations are far more complex than those found in labs or university text books, but real life situations are full of real people who just don't make "scientific" sense and break all the rules you are taught. E.g. working in Timex one day I was informed that a huge number of lights had failed the test. There was nothing much to the light except a bulb and two wires. I checked out the "reject" pile and could find nothing wrong. I then checked out the equipment ... and could find nothing wrong. Science did not help me find the problem.

Eventually common sense kicked in and I asked to see the operator perform the test. They clipped the test leads onto the plastic insulator and said: "look it fails". I started to try to explain that the metal was conductive ... the lady looked completely blank. I tried to think of a way to explain to her that she had to clip onto the metal parts.

Eventually ... I hit upon the answer ... I said: "see those shiny bits ... clip onto those". It worked, we had no more failures.

And, this type of problem is a real issue for science graduates. Because science teaches us to remove the observer from the experiment ... so when we see real life problems we tend to focus on the equipment and ignore the monkey behind the wheel.

The problem with most science graduates is that they can't imagine how daft some of the problems are that they will encounter. That I suggest is why science students get asked to "go to the stores for a long wait" or "long stand" or "tartan paint". This is all part of their education ... you have to learn to think beyond "understanding error margins" and start thinking of the people who (didn't) take the temperature measurements in the cold winter blizard. You have to think of the incentive to exaggerate the danger of warming to get grants.

It is not that we want "balance", but that we want you to think outside the small confined "science box" you are taught in University and to consider other alternatives. E.g. why don't climate researchers ever understand "natural variation", it is a far better answer to the question "what caused 20th century warming", but it is dismissed much as a new science graduate could not believe anyone could be stupid enough to clip onto the plastic insulator of the wires.

Oct 21, 2013 at 11:00 PM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

Michael Mann's outpourings on Twitter have dug his holes deeper, even as he struggles to explain himself. Now he is denying that Rob Wilson's criticisms are offered in "good faith" --

@dougmcneall I have no problem w/ good faith criticism. But I don't see Rob Wilson's latest as falling into that category :-(

[emphasis added]

Mann tweets from more recent to earlier in the day (reverse of the order in which they appeared):

Michael E. Mann ‏@MichaelEMann 6h

@flimsin @dougmcneall Fair enough Tamsin--lets leave it there. Apologies if I appeared to question your motives. For the record, I do not!

Michael E. Mann ‏@MichaelEMann 6h

Awful blog piece ( …) may well have misrepresented Rob Wilson's views. I suspend judgment, pending his disavowal of it..

Michael E. Mann ‏@MichaelEMann 6h

@dougmcneall @flimsin Just 2B clear, I consider Tamsin's commentary 2B in good faith. I don't question her integrity, just her views!

Michael E. Mann ‏@MichaelEMann 6h

@flimsin @dougmcneall No problem, didn't mean to imply any motive Tamsin, but simply that the reinforcement mechanisms favor contrarianism..

Michael E. Mann ‏@MichaelEMann 7h

@dougmcneall @flimsin those mechanisms act regardless of motive. But often they do not serve the public discourse well (2/2).

Michael E. Mann ‏@MichaelEMann 7h

@dougmcneall @flimsin u were wrong. Was pointing out that positive reinforcement mechanisms actually favor taking contrarian position (1/2)

Michael E. Mann ‏@MichaelEMann 8h

Rob Wilson not a climate change denier but has played a contrarian role in debate...

Michael E. Mann ‏@MichaelEMann 8h

@AnsonMackay @flimsin just a statement of fact, not of motive..

Michael E. Mann ‏@MichaelEMann 8h

@dougmcneall I disagree w/ that, as do many climate change communicators

Michael E. Mann ‏@MichaelEMann 8h

@dougmcneall @flimsin Not talking about that. Talking about Rob Wilson talk. Tamsin piece was honest but misguided, as I said at the time.

Michael E. Mann ‏@MichaelEMann 8h

@dougmcneall I have no problem w/ good faith criticism. But I don't see Rob Wilson's latest as falling into that category :-(

Michael E. Mann ‏@MichaelEMann 8h

@flimsin nope wasn't imputing motives.

Michael E. Mann ‏@MichaelEMann 8h

@flimsin Was widely viewed as attack on colleagues like James Hansen for speaking out publicly.

Michael E. Mann ‏@MichaelEMann 8h

Greatly uninterested in twitter was w/ those who seem far more concerned about scientists "tone" than rebutting disingenuous attacks. #Sad

Michael E. Mann ‏@MichaelEMann 8h

@flimsin No doubt your attacks on colleagues over what you call "advocacy" has raised your profile greatly in recent months.

Michael E. Mann ‏@MichaelEMann 8h

@flimsin Tamsin, I don't need to be lectured on "tone" by you, of all people. Uninterested in a profile-raising twitter debate w/ you.

Michael E. Mann ‏@MichaelEMann 8h

@flimsin Please see the PAGES 2K link that I tweeted. That's the most basic rebuttal to the sort of nonsense spouted by Rob Wilson.

Michael E. Mann ‏@MichaelEMann 8h

@flimsin Not for criticizing my work, but for apparently regurgitating #denialist drivel by the likes of McIntyre etc.

Oct 21, 2013 at 11:20 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

re: Urban Dictionary and ancient crocks

I'm pretty sure there is nothing to that tale of ancient speakers being required to accept a crock of poo, it's just something someone made up for the Urban Dictionary. I can find nothing with earlier sources, have never heard of such a thing.....

It is an entertaining story for sure.....

Oct 21, 2013 at 11:27 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

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