Eduardo Zorita has a must-read post up at Klimazwiebel, discussing a new paper by Smerdon et al. Michael Mann fans will be amused to read of geographical problems uncovered in some of Mann's papers, which will instantly bring to mind favourite episodes from the Hockey Stick story, like the Rain in Maine (falls mainly in the Seine) and the documentary records of East African climate from the medieval period (Mann et al 2008). Here's a sample:
In one case, when interpolating the climate model data onto a different grid, the data were rotated around the Earth 180 degrees, so that model data that should be located on the Greenwich Meridian were erroneously placed at 180 degrees longitude; in another case the data in the Western Hemisphere were spatially smoothed, while the data in the Eastern Hemisphere were not.
As Eduardo points out the implications are rather interesting, since Smerdon's findings imply that Mann's stress-testing must have been too weak to actually demonstrate what they purported to do. Fascinating stuff.
Tamino has a rave review of the Hockey Stick Illusion up at Real Climate. I'm reading it now.
A few initial observations - there is a lot of discussion of proxy selection rules in Tamino's piece. This is complex for those who aren't embedded in the nitty gritty of the science, but stand back and ask yourself this: if you have over 100 series in your database, and one of these is the fourth most important pattern in the tree rings of a couple of closely related tree species in one area of the western USA, how comfortable are you that this series should form the basis of the temperature reconstruction for the northern hemisphere? The idea that you can reconstruct hemispheric temperatures in this way is deeply unsatisfactory.
Matt Ridley discusses the importance of rebutting your opponents' actual arguments, citing examples of failure to do so both in the case of the Hockey Stick and the fossil "hobbit", Homo floresiensis.
GWPF have responded to the Times' silly "sceptics funded by big oil" story, pointing out that their articles of association preclude them from accepting oil money. Despite this the Times have tried to link them to big oil and have refused them a right of reply.
Richard Black discusses global warming scepticism alongside consideration of neo-nazi attacks on Stephen Schneider. Nice.
Adam Corner, writing in the THES, says that the CRU scientists were exonerated (H/T Doug Keenan) and argues that peer review is still effective. Doug Keenan has written to him putting him right. There is an accompanying editorial which repeats the central theme but at least seems to think there are lessons to be learned.
Dear Dr. Corner,
Your article asserts that researchers at the Climatic Research Unit have been exonerated of wrongdoing. I dispute that.
I have alleged that Phil Jones committed fraud in his work on the 2007 IPCC Report. My allegation was published in a peer-reviewed paper. It was also widely publicized, including in a front-page story in The Guardian. Yet neither the Russell Review nor the Oxburgh Review considered any of the evidence for the allegation.
Other people have also had their allegations against researchers at CRU not properly investigated. David Holland’s allegation, for example—where the Russell Review just asked CRU researchers and their supporters if the researchers were guilty, and then accepted the replies without question, or asking Holland for comment.
The Reviews were plainly not attempting to reach justice. That, however, is not the problem. The real problem is that the lack of systemic accountability. The reviews were ad hoc responses and should never have existed. There should be some general mechanism in place whereby allegations of improper behavior are dealt with.
There are tens of thousands of scientists in the United Kingdom. As far as I know, none have been convicted of research fraud in at least twenty years. That is not credible. What kind of society would we have if there were no police, judiciary, or prisons? That, in effect, is the system in place in science today.
The result is a culture of impunity. The main problems with the peer review system are consequences of that culture. There are many other consequences: bogus research is widespread.
Douglas J. Keenan
In the comments, I am asked if there is a coordinated programme of stories in the media on warmist themes. I think the answer may well be yes.
Ben Webster's "Sceptics funded by big oil" story in the Times the other day was very peculiar: with no obvious news value it looked exactly like a PR piece. Then there was the BBC's travesty of an article about the melting (that isn't) on Everest.
Today we have this toe-curlingly awful piece in Nature, in which a series of oceanographers are lined up to say that there was nothing in the Climategate emails.
I wonder if anyone is still taking this kind of thing seriously?
Do you remember the Institute of Physics submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry? The institute's criticisms, being so strongly worded and coming from such an important body, were seen as highly significant. The opening gambits of the paper gives a flavour of the rest:
1. The Institute is concerned that, unless the disclosed e-mails are proved to be forgeries or adaptations, worrying implications arise for the integrity of scientific research in this field and for the credibility of the scientific method as practised in this context.
2. The CRU e-mails as published on the internet provide prima facie evidence of determined and coordinated refusals to comply with honourable scientific traditions and freedom of information law.
Andy Revkin is interviewed on America's NPR on the subject of the aftermath of Climategate. A transcript can be seen here. During the course of the interview, a member of the public asks AR about the Hockey Stick.
The original paper was riddled with caveats, all these could, would, might, to be sure, kind of phrases. And it - but then it quickly got spun, including by the IPCC in 2001. In the illustration they derived from it, they removed the gray bands that showed you the error, the possible up and down error. And as you go farther back in time, the range of possible error in these estimates is much, much higher. So that was where the problem was. The National Academy of Sciences did a study that assessed this. And largely, there were some problems that they raised with the way it had been done. But since then also, the main thrust of that work has been repeatedly replicated by other groups of scientists.
So the idea that we're in a period of unusual warming in the last 50 years has not been erased. The - what's been returned is - for the original paper - the sense that it's important to be sure you talk about the things we don't know, even when you talk about what's been learned in climate science. And if you don't do that, then you can be accused of, kind of, oversimplifying things.
All very strange. Can Andy really be unaware that Mann was a lead author on the paleoclimate chapter of the Third Assessment Report? Does he also not know that the "repeated replications" mostly rely on the same faulty data as the Hockey Stick itself? And I can't say I was aware that the IPCC had removed the error bars from the graph either (perhaps he means in the spaghetti graphs?).
The Maui News has a review of The Hockey Stick Illusion.
The Hockey Stick Illusion deserves space on the shelf of classic books about science fraud like Peter Medawar's The Strange Case of the Spotted Mice. Montford, though not a scientist, is a good choice to tell this story, for, as Medawar said, "There is poetry in science but also a lot of bookkeeping."
When my FoI request to Imperial led to the disclosure of the Hand and Hoskins emails, there were many redactions of names, which I found rather frustrating. From the language of many of the emails, it appeared that many of the names were of senior people and should thus have been disclosed. I queried this with Imperial who have now disclosed almost all of the relevant detail.
One interesting snippet has emerged from this. When the original emails were released I reported on an inquiry made to Lord Oxburgh by Oliver Morton of the Economist about how Oxburgh's Eleven papers were chosen. When he replied, Oxburgh said in essence that he didn't know.
What I received was a list from the university which I understand was chosen by the Royal Society The contact with the RS was I believe through [name redacted] but I don't know who he consulted. [Name redacted], when I asked him, agreed that the original sample was fair.
Well, now we know who the redactions were. The contact through with the Royal Society was through Martin Rees - we knew that already. The other redaction, the other person consulted about whether the sample of papers was reasonable, was...Phil Jones.
Now, whichever way you look at it, this is a funny question to put to the accused if one's objective is a fair trial. I mean, what could Jones say? "You've picked all my bad papers"? And of course Jones must have known that the sample was not representative.