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Away with the fairies

Journalist David Appell appears a couple of times in The Hockey Stick Illusion, firstly in Chapter 4, in the section entitled "Mann's mouthpiece", where he is the source (if perhaps not the ultimate source) of the (false) claim that Mann sent McIntyre an Excel spreadsheet. It's worth reading again if you have a moment.

Anyway, in the wake of Mark Steyn's book on Michael Mann, Appell has written to Jonathan Jones enquiring about the latter's comments on the Hockey Stick and the results have been written up in a blog post here. It's hilarious.

For example, Jones observes that bristlecones are not reliable temperature proxies and that principal components analysis requires data to be centred, before following up with similar scientific objections to a couple of other papers that Appell has cited in support of Mann. Appell's response to all of these objections is, in total:

This is clearly just a lot of hand-waving.

Read the rest of it too. The guy is away with the fairies.

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Reader Comments (231)

A polite rebuke by Jonathan Jones regarding the fairy queen, is viewed as an attack on all fairies. In fairy land, sometimes you get what you didn't wish for.

Aug 28, 2015 at 2:38 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Anyone familiar with climate discussion blogs will recognise David Appell's name. He is like the Duracell bunny in his defence of the cause. He's always on Judith Curry's site talking down to others. However, I'd always had him tagged in the 'Schmidt' category: Bright but ideologically blind.

The email chain he posts on his website shows that I was wrong. He would appear to be a little thick. He asks Jones a question. Jones answers it calmly, and in detail. Then Appell just accuses Jones of not answering the very question he has just answered. Appell then resorts to abuse. Jones has had enough.

If he were bright, but ideological, Jones [BH adds: I assume you mean Appell?] would have buried the whole thread for fear of the general reader taking him for a nitwit. The fact that publishes it shows that he genuinely doesn't understand what is being said. This would be hilarious if it were not so sad.

Aug 28, 2015 at 2:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

Not hilarious, but pathetic.

Aug 28, 2015 at 3:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeff Norman

But even Mann08 disagreed with MBH98 and Mann later wrote a paper trying to tie in hurricanes with the Medieval warm period that is missing in MBH98 but exists in Mann08. So if the peer-reviewed science has actually moved on and discredited a study, how can anyone be so blinkered as to argue that the old peer-reviewed science trumps the new peer reviewed science. Apart from which, if you ask for peer reviewed science and someone supplies it and you say 'nobody I talked to thinks very much of it' then that is the very essence of hand-waving and the very opposite of scientific reasoning. So he is hoist by his own petard. Does this guy need someone to tie his shoes in the morning?

Aug 28, 2015 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

I wonder if Appell and Ken Rice have even been seen in the same room at the same time?
Just wond'rin'.

Aug 28, 2015 at 3:25 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

I fear he is yet another victim of the Great CO2 Scare. He just wanted to be one of the boys and join in, but he got carried away by the fairies instead.

Aug 28, 2015 at 3:30 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Notice the way these clowns always try to pick on what they think is the weakest link - by avoiding all the derogatory comments from Mann's own climateering colleagues and attempting to grill someone who hasn't published on climate.

He then pretends that if you don't publish on climate then you can't comment on the methods used therein and complains about blog-based science. Then breaking his own rules he directs the reader to a home-spun, blog-bound, physics-based interpretation that he thinks is too clever for a professor of Physics. As Einstein said, there is no limit to stupidity.

Aug 28, 2015 at 3:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Appel is obviously an ignoramus and a nincompoop. Why waste your time with him? You can't do science in blogs because they aren't peer-reviewed? What a total bozo! How we ever got Newtonian mechanics with no peer-reviewed journals around, this thickhead will never explain.

Aug 28, 2015 at 3:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterRon House

He emailed me privately wondering about the 'peer reviewed' sources concerning my comment about likely 2015 Greenland ice mass gain, part of an open critique of Hansen's new SLR paper undergoing public review. I responded with a link to DMI's official annual charts. Then pointed him to NASA estimates and their annual GIS summary, the latest of which was Jan 2015 for 2014, reporting essentially no net ice loss for the year with less snow accumulationnthan 2015.. Never heard back. Pretty poor journalist who doesn't know about primary sources, and who cannot be bothered to research for himself. Jones has schooled him again. Appell is too dense to realize it.

Aug 28, 2015 at 3:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterRud Istvan

You may be tiptoeing on microaggression/sensitivity training territory with the fairy talk!

Aug 28, 2015 at 3:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

If Appell is such a great scientist, and holds Mann in such high esteem, surely he will be happy to provide Mann with expert witness and support in his forthcoming legal case.

It would give him the chance to demonstrate to the world how much he knows about his chosen specialist subject.

Aug 28, 2015 at 4:12 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Thank you BH for amending my post. Yes, Appell, not Jones.

Curious that Appell has such a passion for Marcott. Of all the flag-bearers of alarmism that one has to have been the easiest and quickest to be thoroughly debunked. I was genuinely shocked that Appell doesn't seem to know that. Especially, as Jones points out, even the authors no longer defend it.

It pretty much reveals Appell to be an activist, not a journalist.

Oh, and being 'qualified' to comment on papers means only the King's tailors would have been qualified to comment on the state of the Emperor's undress. And they had skin in the game.

Aug 28, 2015 at 4:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

I don't know why but his article brought to mind the Monty Python Black Night sketch.

Aug 28, 2015 at 4:37 PM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

Have heart. The facts tend to undermine Mr. Appell's livelihood. Of course he fights back.

Aug 28, 2015 at 5:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterCurious George

It's not a sexist observation and make of it what you will, but they do seem to have an inordinate amount of fairies on their side ...


Aug 28, 2015 at 5:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterPointman

Actually, David Appell is one of the few climate journalists who has scientific training in physics, both undergraduate and graduate work, I believe. So he should be very familiar with peer review, scientific journals, the scientific method, independent analysis, physical mechanisms, boundary values on what is possible, etc, etc, etc.

Aug 28, 2015 at 5:27 PM | Unregistered Commenterchris y

I often wonder why no one uses the summary compiled by Brandon Shollenberger which clearly shows how different all reconstructions are from the Mann hockey-stick. Far from confirming those results, they destroy them.

Aug 28, 2015 at 5:27 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

My manager is one of those types who needs to be the smartest person in the room, even when there is great evidence to the contrary.

If you explain something to her, and she doesn't understand, it is your fault.

I didn't know she had a brother...

Seriously, this guy starts his article castigating a fellow writer for...writing opinion.

Aug 28, 2015 at 5:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterCaligula Jones

Will David Appell next start on about the Royal Family being reptilian aliens from outer space?
Or is he already being treated by that psychologist from Bristol...the one with the Polish name specialising in delusions?

Aug 28, 2015 at 5:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterGraeme No.3

To be fair to David, he has authored some pretty good articles on science related topics. It seems that he completely loses the bubble when the topic touches on climate change.

Aug 28, 2015 at 6:24 PM | Unregistered Commentertimg56

Can we appeal to the Fairies and ask them to take this guy away for safe keeping for a few thousand years, would there be room for Mann as well?

Aug 28, 2015 at 7:31 PM | Registered CommenterDung

My working definition of a "denier" comes from this. A skeptic rejects theory when facts are inconsistent. A denier rejects facts when inconsistent with theory. I leave if to you to determine who is the denier.

Aug 28, 2015 at 8:17 PM | Unregistered Commentertmitsss

Where is 'And Then There's Physics' when we need him?

Aug 28, 2015 at 8:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

Another contender for smear-test gyne the womb.

Aug 28, 2015 at 8:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterHenry Galt

The fearies. The dear, misguided fearies. No evidence to support their fear(s) so they make stuff up and then call their detractors names. Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah.

Very well paid little fearies.

Aug 28, 2015 at 9:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterHenry Galt

Appell isn't the only one with a climate blind spot. Ben Goldacre is another.

See my 3.25pm comment! Two peas from the same pod at least.

Aug 28, 2015 at 10:12 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Stuck Record - "It pretty much reveals Appell to be an activist, not a journalist."

November 1999

The Kansas decision against evolution suggests that more scientists need to become local activists
By David Appell

Subscription required to read more.

Aug 28, 2015 at 10:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterCB

Appell is not biased. He is dishonest.

I told him at WUWT that Marcott did not indicate support for Mann's hockeystick. He didn't try to defend it. Not even when it was shown that even Marcott himself said so.

But now - in a different forum - he still points to Marcott as a defence of Mann.

He is deceiving and he knows it !
But he still does it.

Aug 28, 2015 at 10:40 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

Tut Tut Bish Olde Bean.

Book sales a bit slack then ?

Do promote your own book if you must in faux stories on your own blog,
but at least offer readers a link to the URLs of your masterpiece .........

must try better - 10 points deducted from Gryffindor for failure to disguise a book plug.


Aug 28, 2015 at 10:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterA Publisher

M Courtney

If he was deceiving, he could not possibly believe that what he wrote was a refutation of Jones' comments: he would have written the blog post at all. (It is telling that (last time I looked) it has no comments.)

That blog post, imo, demonstrates that he genuinely doesn't understand the issues involved.

A Publisher


Aug 28, 2015 at 10:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterWFC

chris y

If Appell does indeed have a background in physics, and believes that that qualifies him to opine on the "hockey stick", why does he believe that a background in physics disqualifies Prof Jones from so opining?

Aug 28, 2015 at 11:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterWFC

'A Publisher' correctly recognises that the Bishop is a noble and courageous Gryffindor.

But he lacks the subtlety to achieve greatness - no Slytherin he.
And no logic or reference are provided - not a Ravenclaw.

Must be a Hufflepuff. Loyal to a fault.
And the fault is they are loyal to the wrong definition of good.

A fine illustration of the justification for the 1st Commandment.

Aug 28, 2015 at 11:12 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

@ Mike Jackson

> I wonder if Appell and Ken Rice have even been seen in the same room at the same time?

Not allowed - we could never survive the ensuing creation of a black hole

Aug 28, 2015 at 11:45 PM | Unregistered Commenterianl8888

At the above link David Appell links to a previous post where he gives an insight into an alarmist’s reasoning, explaining why Mann’s 1999 hockey stick is obvious viz. demographic history and proxy CO2 present as hockey sticks so it follows that global (N H actually) temperature would be expected to follow the same trajectory. It really is that simple.
It’s unclear whether he thinks human reproduction is the cause of increasing CO2 or vice versa.

Aug 29, 2015 at 1:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris Hanley

I think we can safely say that Mr Appel has what are politely termed "issues"...

Aug 29, 2015 at 3:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

"If Appell does indeed have a background in physics, and believes that that qualifies him to opine on the "hockey stick", why does he believe that a background in physics disqualifies Prof Jones from so opining?

Aug 28, 2015 at 11:00 PM | WFC"

Indeed. :-)

Aug 29, 2015 at 5:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris y

I remember a dust-up between Mr Apell and Mr Watts at WUWT some years ago over much the same issue. Slow learner?

Aug 29, 2015 at 5:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

Suspiciously few comments at Appels place ?

Aug 29, 2015 at 7:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterMorph

I seem to recall an exchange with David Apell about Mann's bogus claim that Mcintyre's conclusions arose from the use of a faulty spreadsheet he had been accidentally sent. The entire series of email exchanges were published on Climate Audit, showing that Mcintyre had never asked for or received a spreadsheet. Apell's response was to say that the series of emails proved nothing... It's hard to decide whether he is stupid or just ideologically blinded.

Aug 29, 2015 at 8:51 AM | Unregistered Commentermikep

Mikep~ Both, I suspect.

Aug 29, 2015 at 9:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterClimateOtter

Older readers will remember from PoW sit coms and films that one meaning of 'Appell' is 'roll call'.

So, is he on a roll or is he calling out in desperation?

Just arsking.....

Aug 29, 2015 at 9:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

I disagree with the claim that Appell is bright . Jones made absolutely clear that it doesn't matter if other studies agreed with Mann, all that matters is whether mann was correct in applying the data and techniques.

If mann et al is wrong In the way that it applies statistical techniques and all data then no other study can validate it.

Aug 29, 2015 at 1:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko


I often wonder why no one uses the summary compiled by Brandon Shollenberger which clearly shows how different all reconstructions are from the Mann hockey-stick. Far from confirming those results, they destroy them.

I've often wondered the same thing, or at least why nobody has made their own, better version of the comparison. I'd get it if people just thought, "Eh, his isn't good enough to want to use," but if so, I'd expect someone to come along and do a better job. But instead, people just don't seem interested in the line of argument at all.

It's weird. The idea other work has "confirmed" the hockey stick is probably the biggest argument in the hockey stick debate. All it takes to shoot that argument down is to just plot the other work against the original hockey stick. But... nobody does.

Aug 29, 2015 at 2:45 PM | Registered CommenterBrandon Shollenberger

Re: Appell.
I am fairly convinced that he posts under dozens if not hundreds of different names in or local paper, the Oregonian.

He wrote that Katrina was caused by global warming:
There is no crisis that will change our minds – not heat waves in France, not Katrina, not the disappearance of Arctic ice up north. We want what we want, and our species is lousy at planning for the future.

I once posted a suggestions that Mann's hockey stick was a fraud and he sent me a private email. The ensuing exchange included these. If anyone wants the full set, just ask at jjkarlock at gmail dot com (NOT IN ORDER):
I'm sorry, but if Fred Singer is the best you can do, I'm wasting my time. He has very little credibility in the scientific field. He has taken huge amounts of money from the fossil fuel industry. (Before that, the tobacco industry.)
He was wrong about tobacco. He was wrong about ozone. Why should I think him right now?
I've also seen him in public debates. He was far from convincing -- and very arrogant, I might add.
I thought you might have legitimate scientific information.
If Fred Singer is your idea of a legitimate scientific source, I have taken your pulse and am not going to waste any more time on you.
David Appell
Singer might have one day done something good, but he long ago sold his soul to the highest bidder. Tobacco, anti-ozone -- how many times does a person have to be proven wrong? Everyone knows this. He doesn't even publish in the scientific literature anymore -- the first sign of a marginalized scientist.
I've seen him in action, at seminars. He is insufferably arrogant, whether he's right or wrong. It is almost embarrassing.
First of all, this data is 15 years old, a veritable lifetime in climate science. Do you have more recent data? As I wrote on portlandtransport, the MWP here is wrong -- virtually no one thinks it is such a large, dramatic bump when calculated globally.
Second of all, accusing someone of "fraud" implies that they knowingly provided false information. Do you have such proof?
Third of all, how do you explain the about a half-dozen studies that independently arrived at the same result as Mann-Bradley-Hughes original hockey stick, such as Crowley and Lowery.
I am especially interested in the second of these facts, since actual fraud on the part of MBH would be one of the largest science stories in the last 100 years. Do you have explicit evidence of fraud, as you have charged?
I'm asking one last time: do you have evidence that MBH committed "fraud" with their two important papers?
You have evaded this question and attempted to divert the argument into all other kinds of directions.
I don't have the time for that. I simply want you to prove your assertion -- that MBH "probably" committed "fraud."
Either you have the proof, or you should shut the fuck up.
David Appell
Portland, OR
ME --Sorry no time now.
Funny how you have the time to make serious accusations, but not the time to actually prove them.
This is one of the first signs of someone full of shit. And intellectually dishonest.
Jim, the whole IPCC 4AR is peer-reviewed. Massively. I know the scientists who peer-reviewed it. I have profiled them for national magazines. I have had lunch and dinner and coffee with them. I know how they have flown around the world several times a year and argued about the smallest details that have appeared in the final IPCC report.

Not all scientists are right. Science is not a democracy. There is good science and there is bad science. There are disagreements and they get worked on, and the field advances. Our civilization has been advanced significantly by people how know the difference between good science and bad science.

You, I've come to learn, do not. You just quote whatever you think proves a point, regardless of its value, including a host of boobs who are handsomely paid by fossil fuel interests, or people who won't even talk to journalists, like CO2science.

Jim, even if McIntyre proved the Hockey Stick wrong -- something most scientists and journalists I've spoken with/read in the past two years do not agree with -- that does not imply *fraud*.

"Fraud" means the knowing conduct of dishonest methods.

Like I said, I am still awaiting you proof of such a serious charge. Frankly, I don't think you have the slightest proof whatsoever.

ME---Further, the hockey stick HAS been destroyed, you just refuse to recognize the fact. See the NAS report, the Wegman report, the lack of prominence in AR4.
Being proved wrong (and many do not agree) is very, very different from "fraud." You charged fraud (though are trying to change the subject now.)

"Fraud" implies intentional misconduct to imply a result that is not true.
Where is your proof of intentional fraud??
I've asked repeatedly. You have never, ever provided such proof.

Otherwise, I think you should shut the fuck up and stop denigrating better men than you.

ME---It is simply too hard to believe that a "scientist" of Mann's stature would make such a long string of "mistakes" (faulty data pre-processing, using known bad temperature proxies, not noticing that just a very few hockey stick shaped proxy curves, amoung hundreds, dominated the final reslult), neglect to use readily available experts, refuse to divulge data and techniques without intent. Hence Mann's hockey stick "is likely a fraud."
Mann was out front on his calculation of temperature proxies for the last 1000 years.

If you knew anything about science, you'd know that a great many scientists have performed original calculations as best they could, long before the exact results could be determined. Planck and his spectrum for blackbody radiation. Arrhenius's calculation of CO2 warming. Bethe's (infinite) calculation of the Lamb shift. Faraday's law minus the displacement current. Einstein's calculation of the (stationarity) of the universe.

All of these results were informal but not quite correct. All eventually had problems. That doesn't mean they all committed fraud. All were important advances in the field, unlike anything you have ever done and unlike anything you could ever imagine doing.

On the contrary, they all advanced their field in important ways.

So it is with Mann's calculation. It advanced the field greatly, and was basically confirmed by several others, such as Crowley and Lowery, Jones & Mann, and about 6 others. Did they all commit "fraud" as well?

They refined and improved Mann's calculations, esp wrt uncertainites. That does not mean Mann committed "fraud" -- ie, something dishonest.

I know him far better than you ever will, and I have talked about his work with dozens of scientists, and all agree that he was essentially right and made a significant leap in his field, even if he wasn't entirely correct about everything.

No scientist who makes a quantum leap forward ever is.

When you do some science on that level, you will get to have a say about the advancing work of others. Until then, you are just a poseur.

And you in no way have any footing to accuse others of fraud. The "proof" you offer is utter and complete total bullshit, and it stinks from a large distance.

ME> Where is the empirical data?
It is in the black line on the graphs I showed you. Are you unable to read captions? Do you see that big fat thick line there? That's the empirical data.
Are you also unable to follow references? The referenced data has been collected for over 100 years by NASA GISS and the UK Met Office. It is readily available on the Web.
I realize it may be difficult for someone of 2nd-grade scientific abilities to follow such erudite documentation, but that's really your problem Jim, not the world's.
ME> Where is the proof that the models actually work as described?
The proof is in front of your face, idiot. The models, when run backwards with today's initial conditions, predict the last 100 years of climate. What other proof could you possibly want?
ME> Where is the proof that anthropological forcings is the only
ME> explanation for the gap between the two lines?
Again, Jim, please learn how to read captions. It is *precisely* in the distinction between the blue and pink areas.
Jim, your scientific inabilities are more apparent with every post you make, and frankly at this point are getting quite ridiculous. Not only do you clearly not understand the relationship between GHGs and temperature, you do not even seem to understand the meaning of a simple chart when it's presented right in front of you.

I just can't keep on wasting time tutoring you in basic science and reading ability.


Aug 29, 2015 at 2:59 PM | Unregistered Commenterjim

Jim Karlock wrote:
"I am fairly convinced that he posts under dozens if not hundreds of different names in or local paper, the Oregonian."

You are wrong.

I comment under my own name, always. I have nothing to hide and am not ashamed of my opinions.

Aug 29, 2015 at 7:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Appell

golf charlie wrote:
"If Appell is such a great scientist, and holds Mann in such high esteem, surely he will be happy to provide Mann with expert witness and support in his forthcoming legal case.

It would give him the chance to demonstrate to the world how much he knows about his chosen specialist subject."

I'm not a scientist, or an expert in paleoclimate data. And never said I was either.

But I do know some physics and mathematics. And they say the hockey stick is an obvious result. The proof can fit on a cocktail napkin:

1) Atmospheric CO2 concentrations rose superexponentially after the Industrial Revolution -- faster than exponentially.
2) temperature change is proportional to forcing, which for CO2 is proportional to the logarithm of the atmospheric CO2 concentration.

(1) + (2) => a hockey stick curve


You still need to do the reconstructions for the details, but it would be far more surprising if the hockey stick WASN'T true.

More details here:

Aug 29, 2015 at 7:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Appell

How can we have been so blind !

It's bristlecones all the way down.

Aug 29, 2015 at 8:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

"I comment here all the time, usually using a pseudonym. And none of you ever realize it."

That is what David Appell claimed over at WUWT. I hope I got my link right !

This does not seem to line up with his claim here to comment in his own name, always.

Aug 29, 2015 at 8:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

Aug 29, 2015 at 7:27 PM | David Appell

Wow! Like: Wow!!!!! Say no more...

Aug 29, 2015 at 8:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

David Appell (@davidappell)
August 7, 2015 at 1:09 am
I comment here all the time, usually using a pseudonym. And none of you ever realize it.

I comment under my own name, always. I have nothing to hide and am not ashamed of my opinions.
Aug 29, 2015 at 7:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Appell

Aug 29, 2015 at 8:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterIvor Ward

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