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A new HSI review

The latest edition of Mathematics Today includes a review of the Hockey Stick Illusion. The reviewer seems to like it:

Overall it is a good read for anyone following the Global Warming Debate. It is well written and referenced but it should be read alongside other points of view.

...but I'm not sure he has taken on board all of the arguments made in the book.

Mathematics Today review

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    - Bishop Hill blog - A new HSI review

Reader Comments (36)

But at least people are open to the other side now, and are saying "this is also a valid viewpoint to be assimilated against the standard establishment one"

Compared with how we were when you wrote the book Bish, this is a great advancement.

Mar 1, 2013 at 2:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

The reviewer comes across as a bit confused in my view - the appalling verification statistics demonstrate that the alleged proxies are worthless, even before we consider the 'hide the decline' issue.

Mar 1, 2013 at 2:01 PM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

I see from their website that 2013 has been nominated Mathematics for Planet Earth, and we soon get into the usual unprecedented challenges etc. stuff.

Mar 1, 2013 at 2:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Fowle

I suppose any publicity is better than none.

I think he's only pretending to have understood it.... "The technicalities may be beyond the scope of the general reader and even the mathematician will need to do some background research". So he sits on the fence saying you've got to look at both sides.

I wondered what CMath MIMA stood for. A quick search revealed:

"Chartered Mathematician (CMath) is a professional qualification in mathematics (not a degree) offered by the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications in the United Kingdom."

Application Form For Chartered Mathematician Designation

Educational Requirements: Applicants must have:-
(i) obtained, at least, a three year honours degree in which two thirds or more of the course is mathematics or
(ii) obtained a degree with less than two thirds mathematics, but can demonstrate the subsequent acquisition of mathematical training appropriate to their employment.

Mar 1, 2013 at 2:34 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

You'd want people to read it alongside other points of view.

I suspect that the almost overwhelming refusal of alarmists to acknowledge even valid sceptical positions is part of the reason many people become sceptics in the first place. In my case the contrast between the reasonableness I saw at Climate Audit and Real Climate's sneering refusal to address actual concerns was part of my becoming aware of how the warmist side behaves.

Mar 1, 2013 at 2:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterHK

This jumped out at me:

These [climategate emails] do not support any conspiracy theory but give an impression of scientists, strongly partisan like the sceptics, . . .
[My bold]

As if the opposition to the hockey stick and CAGW grew out of political ideology. Has the writer even read McIntyre's blog? This is the old "they all do it . . . " excuse and it doesn't hold water here.

Mar 1, 2013 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered Commentertheduke

I don't think the reviewer understood the criticisms made. His italicised use of the word 'evidence' gives it away.

Mar 1, 2013 at 3:24 PM | Registered Commentershub

He is desperate to keep his government funding hence " but it should be read alongside other points of view."

He can't make a decision based on the facts.

Mar 1, 2013 at 3:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Somebody should simply and politely raise questions with the reviewer. He is a senior lecturer and I would not assume that he does not understand the math.

Mar 1, 2013 at 3:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterbernie

He is a senior lecturer and I would not assume that he does not understand the math.

I would. See my 2:34PM comment above.

He may be a senior lecturer but he does not seem to have a higher degree - normally a pre-requisite for even a university lecturer appointment prior to the renaming of former technical colleges as "universities".

Mar 1, 2013 at 3:58 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

After reading the full review Mathematics today is struggling to catch up to Mathematics 15 years ago.

Mar 1, 2013 at 4:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterredc

He's a senior lecturer in Business Studies or IT or something similar. Couldn't find him on the CBU website.

QME4003 - Business Problem Analysis
Lecturer: Francis Mcgonigal
Lecturer: John Colby
Lecturer: Mike Jackson

This module is designed to give students the knowledge, understanding and confidence to make informed choices about the use of quantitative methods in business problem analysis.

Mar 1, 2013 at 5:12 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Look, my simple point is that rather than casting aspersions on someone ask them questions. It is easy enough to get his email. It seems strange to see so much credentialism on this site.
Let me clear, I think the review was not very well done but it treated the HSI and Andrew with a reasonable level of repect. I do not get the piling on.

Mar 1, 2013 at 7:14 PM | Unregistered Commenterbernie


I agree. Chill out everyone.

Mar 1, 2013 at 7:22 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

It's good that the review appeared and that it was not a hatchet job. Of course one can wish for more insight and serious engagement, but in the current climate it is progress simply to get a respectful review in such a publication.

Mar 1, 2013 at 7:44 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil


What sort of questions would be worth putting?

Mar 1, 2013 at 8:07 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

It is very encouraging that THSI is now firmly embedded as a academic reference even for those whose main interest may be peripheral to Climate Science itself.

Mar 1, 2013 at 8:08 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

You HAVE to have this stage.

Paradigm shift goes:

1 - Anyone who believes 'a+b=c' or publishes it is a 'denier', and certifiably mad
2 - 'A+b=c' is what the other side believes, and it's obviously and demonstrably wrong
3 - Here are the arguments for 'a+b=c', they should be weighed accordingly
4 - 'A+b obviously = c. This is what we were publishing all along...

We are currently entering stage 3....

Mar 1, 2013 at 8:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Despite years of Team obfuscation and worse, the true facts about the abysmal failings of MBH98/99 and related works will gradually be revealed more widely. I can hardly believe it is seven years since this:

Although the "Team" pretends to move on the recent decades will provide ample material for case studies of un-scientific behaviors in climate science for a long time to come.

Mar 1, 2013 at 8:57 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

Martin A:
Nicely done.
I would start with questions regarding his following of the technical aspects of the debate - the NAS Report, the Wegman Report and the North Report - and the analysis of the Cliamategate emails . I know Andrew covers these in a fair amount of detail in the book, but I want to know how carefully he has been folllowing the technical issue. I would then ask him about the extent of his experience personally using PCA to identify the underlying structures in fuzzy time series data - fuzzy in the sense that the measurements are dependent on a host of known, unknown and interacting factors. I would also ask him to identify what source he suggests one might read along side the HSI.
You may have other questions though.

Mar 1, 2013 at 9:05 PM | Unregistered Commenterbernie

"but it should be read alongside other points of view."
Yes, the reviewer should follow his own advise and put the HSI up against
"The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines" by Michael E. Mann. The HSI would shine even brighter by comparison. Then ice the cake with a reading of "Hiding the Decline".
I would not criticize the reviewer for throwing in this disclaimer though as it might ameliorate any savaging by alarmists.

Mar 1, 2013 at 9:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert Austin


"I would also ask him to identify what source he suggests one might read along side the HSI."

I think that's a very good one and one that could be put inoffensively.

I think the others are highly pertinent but, almost irrespective of how carefully they were posed, I'd have thought they would be likely to come across to the reviewer as hectoring and partisan and therefore be unlikely to result in a helpful response - especially in those cases where the truthful response would something like "Er - I'm not sure about that, I haven't given it much thought".

Mar 1, 2013 at 9:51 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Let's put this one to bed already.

There are large groups, on both the right and left, who know nothing (and couldn’t care less) about climate science. For these folks the issue involves firmly fixed beliefs and/or agendas, which are not relevant in scientific considerations. But after brushing aside these two groups the problem remains because supposedly credible scientists (climatologists, physicists, geophysicists, and geologists, among others) are also split on this issue. Claims that there is a “consensus” and that the science is “settled” are political, not scientific statements. The so-called census referred to was based on a bogus survey and, in any event,votes don’t count in science, and science is NEVER settled.
Lindzen, an MIT scientist, states that to be identified as a “skeptic” the issue in question must be plausible, and in the case of AGW it is not. Arguments from authority, certainly in this case, have no validity. It is the “authority” position which is in question. Any "scientist" who uses such arguments instead of responding to the relevant science issues does not deserve the title.
Credible skeptics do NOT claim that human activity has no impact on our climate. (Proving such a claim is obviously impossible.) However, credible skeptics do declare that, so far, there is NO evidence supporting anthropogenic global warming (AGW). It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that most of the skeptic’s questions have not, and cannot, be rebutted. Some background follows:
There are only two known human activities which could be responsible for an increase in the planet’s temperature – land use and use of energy which leads to increasing levels of co2. The third possibility – that there is no other explanation, is speculation, and even that is only plausible if the earth had never experienced climate change or extreme weather events in the more distant past, before humans could have been involved.

1. Land use
2. Co2 increase due to industrial activity
3. It must be due to human activities because there is no other explanation.
3. Our last ice age, (clearly an extreme long term event by current standards, ended about 13,000 years ago (end dates are invariably somewhat arbitrary.) That last ice age was obviously not brought on, nor terminated, because of human activity. In just the last 1.3 million years the planet has experienced 13 ice ages, average duration 90,000 years, each followed by an interglacial period, (such as the one we now enjoy) average duration 10,000 years. Within our current interglacial period there have been several brief durations as warm, likely warmer, than our current warming. Our most recent earlier period of warming was about 1,000 years ago, long before any industrial activity, and is known as the Medieval Warming Period (MWP).
Peer reviewed studies by scientists across the globe, representing 40+ countries, continue to show up very regularly and these studies confirm the earlier understanding hat the MWP was a global event and was likely warmer than now. (links to all MWP studies can be found at
The duration of climate recorded directly by humans represents a quite small period when compared to what is needed to gain some perspective of climate variability. While there’s only a few hundred years of data covering “minor” events , such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and droughts, (so-called extreme weather events) statistical studies have established that more recent extreme weather events are no more fierce, nor have they shown up more frequently. It is important to understand that even many scientists who are otherwise firm believers in AGW agree on this issue.
1. We know that land use can directly influence temperature. It is not uncommon for cities (concrete jungles) to register temperatures several degrees higher than in the surrounding suburban area. And the suburban areas, in turn, is generally warmer than the surrounding rural area. This phenomenon is known as the "urban heat island” (UHI) effect. But, again, even those scientists who are proponents of AGW acknowledge that UHI has no impact on global temperatures because even the surrounding rural areas show no impact from the conrtained UHI. Further, urban areas represent a very small percentage of the earth’s surface. Oceans cover about 70 percent, and add to that the Antarctic and Arctic, jungles, deserts, large lakes and forests plus numerous other sparsely inhabited regions. Temperature variation due to land use, while locally quite significant, appears to have no influence on the global temperature.
2. Most scientists agree that increasing levels of co2 should lead to additional warming since this is the case in controlled experiments. Howver, in the open atmosphere there are known (and probably unknown) feedbacks, which could offset or further exacerbate any temperature increase brought on by increasing co2.
While we still know very little about such feedbacks, the authors of those computer models used to calculate temperatue increases due to AGW apparently all ASSUME that water vapor responds to such temperature increase by further amplifying the temperature increase by a factor of 2 to 3. In other words, most of the computer projected temperature increase is actually brought on by water vapor feedback. But NOBODY yet understands these feedbacks. Some scientists, such as Svensmark, argue that existing evidence indicates that cloud cover (one manifestation of water vapor) actually provides a negative (offsetting) feedback. Portions of Svensmark's theory have also recently been validated by CERN scientists.
Many scientists now also take issue with the validity of computer model projections because of consistently too high projections of temperature. Computer model projections are NOT evidence of anything apart from the author(s) understanding, which may include confirmation bias. While the major news media never mentions it, one must also take into consideration that even the authors of these models admit their results are merely projections, not predictions. Predictions, unlike projections, come with some assurance of accuracy. Such projections are often referred to as SWAG (scientific wild-ass guesses.)
The correlation over geologic time periods between global temperature and the planet's co2 level show that temperature increases first, from 800 to 1500 years BEFORE the corresponding increase in co2. That is merely the carbon cycle at work. Because of the relative difference in density between the atmosphere and water, oceans heat and cool much more slowly than the atmosphere. A cooling ocean takes in co2 and a warmer ocean expels (outgases) it. There is also no recent correlations over the last two centuries indicating that co2 increases are the cause of temperature increase. Co2 has been increasing steadily, beginning about the mid 1800s, and since then we have had several periods of cooling temperatures, the most recent being from the 1940s to the 1970s. Since about 1995 there has been no further increase in temperature although co2 has continues its slow steady climb.
While it appears that our co2 level has been relatively stable for perhaps as long as several hundred thousand years, up to about the mid 1800s, before then it was 10 to 20 times higher than now, and for a much longer period of several hundred million years. Scientists also know that life forms not unlike our own survived during at least the more recent part of that era. We also know that co2 has been much higher than now during two ice ages and going into one ice age, so there does not appear to be any nearby "trigger points". Co2, a trace gas, is now at about 400 ppmv (parts per million by volume), and is increasing at about 2 ppmv annually. It is expected to reach 600 ppmv by 2099. Plants thrive at higher co2 levels and also need less water. A crowded gym with poor ventilation would measure about 1000 ppmv. Submarine crews live for months in 3000 to 5000+ ppmv.
Our current warming began at the “bottom” of the little ice age (LIA) which was around the early to mid 1600s. (The “end” of the LIA is an arbitrary date, and certainly long after the commencement of our current warming.) Our current warming actually began at least two centuries before co2 began increasing. That implies natural climate warming two centuries before the beginning of our industrial revolution. In addition, because of the miniscule annual increase in co2 it would have taken another century for the increasing co2 to reach a level where there could have been any measurable impact on global temperature. That being the case, it is likely that our current warming was a natural event for at least the first 3 centuries, which brings us to the 1940s.
From the 1940s to the 70s our planet was cooling, even as co2 continued to increase. (In the 70s Holdren, now Obama's science adviser, was actually an alarmist about the likelihood of an oncoming ice age.) From the mid 70s to about 1995 the planet grew warmer. However, from 1995 until now, during some 15 to 17 years of additional increase in co2, there has been no further increase in the global temperature.
To summarize, there is no evidence linking man’s activities to the planet’s temperature. The only possible link between man’s activities and temperature is the recent increase in co2. As far as I know, no scientist is making the claim that co2 increase can directly cause extreme weather events. As pointed out earlier, it’s been warmer than now several times earlier in this interglacial, before man could have had any impact on temperature. Even the beginning of our current warming had to have been a natural climate event during the first three centuries. None of this is to say that we should not continue searching for more efficient energy resources; but it appears we have time, so no need to permit politicians to take advantage of what appears to be Mencken’s newest hobgoblin.

Mar 1, 2013 at 9:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterDenis Ables

it only takes one question: What else would you read?

Mar 1, 2013 at 10:21 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

I would have preferred the reviewer possess prior knowledge of the Hockey Stick and Climategate issues beforehand, but we can't assume everyone cares as much about this business as we do. In fact, I take comfort from the fact that increasingly few folks in the real world (as opposed to tenured academic types) take CAGW seriously nowadays. Soaring oil prices and a stagnant economy have a way of refocusing priorities like that.

The review was, on the whole, quite favorable, and as they say, any publicity is good publicity.

Mar 1, 2013 at 11:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterJBirk

I thought it interesting that the reviewer was so mislead as to imagine that even though the R2 was low, that the low correlation could be useful because the data selection was "evidence based". Along with the various statistical misdemeanours committed in MBH one of the major criticisms of the paper (and as I recall well covered in the book) is the data selection and retention policies.

One of the points that deserves to be covered more often is that the original Bristlecone records were used by Gray & Idso in a paper to "prove" that the ring width increases were due to CO2 fertilisation, and Mann et al used the same data without any proof to demonstrate a supposed correlation with temperature. It does appear that subsequent investigation strongly suggests a different reason again for the increases (the strip-bark phenomena itself) but there is no scientific justification for discarding a "peer-reviewed" paper on why the widths increase with a pure assumption.

The very different results that one gets from using the alternative Linah Abebnah (spelling ?) collected ring width and density data should be enough to make any reviewer skeptical of the MBH selection policies and also make them use the phrase "evidence based" with more care. But of course the Abebnah data is very poorly known and not, as I understand it, readily available.

Mar 2, 2013 at 1:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterEd Snack

How large must the small mercies become before "the skeptics" start becoming grateful?

In the final paragraph the reviewer states "It is well written and referenced, but it should be read alongside other points of view". Fine. But. The article then finishes with three references with the authors being Mann, Bradley, Hughes, Osborne and Briffa. No references to "other points of view".

So still some way to go then for that particular reviewer, who began the same paragraph with "Overall it is a good read for anyone following the Global Warming debate."

If he had made reference to the most notorious tree of modern times, Yamal Larch YAD06, then he might have got away with convincing me that he really was someone "following the Global Warming debate" with more than half an eye.

Mar 2, 2013 at 1:26 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Good points about Bristlecone pines - (I wonder how Steve M is doing).. It always struck me that the models for tree ring growth were way under-specified and that interaction effects among growth factors that influence tree ring growth probably make any solutions rather unstable. The Mann et al approaches simply felt like data trolling.

Mar 2, 2013 at 4:36 AM | Unregistered Commenterbernie

By attacking the man's credentials we become no better than those at UNReal Climate.
Given the polluted intellectual environment the writer is operating in I think he has done quite well. The review is not damning it may say the book should be read with othe points of view, which surely is fine?
The one thing that did stick out was that Ross McKitrick is not referred to as Professor of Economics?

Mar 2, 2013 at 11:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterStacey

Denis Ables

A very clear exposition - should be required reading in Whitehall!

You point out that: "The duration of climate recorded directly by humans represents a quite small period when compared to what is needed to gain some perspective of climate variability", which is doubtless why geologists tend to more skeptical than most.

The existence of far warmer periods (e.g. 50m years ago, when the Antarctic was forested) in the past, when there was no runaway warming or flooding (or human activity!) clinches it for me - why are we worried about 2, 4 or even 6 degrees increase now?

Mar 2, 2013 at 12:11 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Like me, you must not be worried about your beachfront property! 50 years ago I remember having to do calculate what would happen to London if all the polar ice melted. Back then it was a math problem, not a PR stunt. Funny enough it came after that terrible winter in the early 60s.

Mar 2, 2013 at 2:17 PM | Unregistered Commenterbernie

The one thing that did stick out was that Ross McKitrick is not referred to as Professor of Economics?
Mar 2, 2013 at 11:56 AM Stacey

Not sure why that should stick out. In a similar way, Mann is not referred to as Professor of climatology.

Mar 2, 2013 at 2:37 PM | Unregistered Commentersplitpin


Since Mann has no qualifications in climatology, that would seem reasonable to me.

Mar 2, 2013 at 7:52 PM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor


Thanks. I'm afraid it could stand more than a bit more wordsmithing,

but the most important question is "Where is the evidence? In fact, where is ANY evidence?" The typical response to criticism by Mann and his mates is something like "would you use a dentist to operate on your gall bladder?" That kind of response by one of the supposedly important scientist players to others posing valid questions is, really, all you need to know to assess their credibility.

Mar 2, 2013 at 8:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterDenis Ables

I think BH should be pleased with this review. At least the reviewer has clearly read the book. And if he's also read Mann's book, he may be wondering why the latter contains no reference or response to HSI. For myself, I'm glad to see 'global warming' referred to by the reviewer as an 'hypothesis', rather than, say, as 'a fact'. Though, as a lukewarmer/sceptic, I'd rather the reviewer had specified ' [anthropogenic CO2-emission driven] warming...'.

Mar 3, 2013 at 4:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterColdish


If you're a "lukewarm/skeptic", perhaps you know of some evidence that hasn't caught my eye. Please elaborate.

Mar 3, 2013 at 5:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterDenis Ables

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