Sunday, November 29, 2009

CRU emails

An interesting thought from an old engineer (emphasis mine):
These guys called climate scientists have not done any more physics or chemistry than I did. A lifetime in engineering gives you a very good antenna. It also cures people of any self belief they cannot be wrong. You clear up a lot of messes during a lifetime in engineering. I could be wrong on global warming – I know that – but the guys on the other side don't believe they can ever be wrong.
-- David Holland, FOI requester, electrical engineer

The big clue is hiding the raw data. No engineer or scientist worth his salt should expect anyone to believe his analysis if he was unwilling to share the raw data along with enough detail that someone else could reproduce (or not) his results. Hiding the data betrays astounding arrogance, when you do that you are basically saying, "I get the last word, no one else could possibly come up with a better analysis method than what I've done."

A couple of climate scientists provide the sort of level-headed response I'd expect from an honest researcher. Note especially Judy Curry's thoughts on the data (emphasis mine):
The HADCRU surface climate dataset needs public documentation that details the time period and location of individual station measurements used in the data set, statistical adjustments to the data, how the data were analyzed to produce the climatology, and what measurements were omitted and why. If these data and metadata are unavailable, I would argue that the data set needs to be reprocessed (presumably the original raw data is available from the original sources). Climate data sets should be regularly reprocessed as new data becomes available and analysis methods improve.

More on data sharing from the emails themselves (emphasis mine):
And the issue of with-holding data is still a hot potato, one that affects both you and Keith (and Mann). Yes, there are reasons -- but many *good* scientists appear to be unsympathetic to these. The trouble here is that with-holding data looks like hiding something, and hiding means (in some eyes) that it is bogus science that is being hidden.
-- Tom Wigley, 1254756944.txt

Color me unsympathetic.

It's too bad those fine fellows didn't listen to words from a wise man back in 1999 (emphasis mine):
I have worked with the UEA group for 20+ years and have great respect for them and for their work. Of course, I don’t agree with everything they write, and we often have long (but cordial) arguments about what they think versus my views, but that is life. Indeed, I know that they have broad disagreements among themselves, so to refer to them as "the UEA group", as though they all march in lock-step seems bizarre.

>As for thinking that it is "Better that nothing appear, than something unnacceptable to us" though we are the gatekeepers of all that is acceptable in the world of paleoclimatology seems amazingly arrogant. Science moves forward whether we agree with individiual articles or not....
-- Raymond S. Bradley, 0924532891.txt

This arrogance is the symptom of a group of folks who have convinced each-other that theirs is a righteous cause to advocate rather than an intellectual position to hold with humility in the face of honest uncertainty and new understanding.


  1. The Wegman report seems almost prescient (emphasis mine):

    "Our findings from this analysis suggest that authors in the area of paleoclimate studies are closely connected and thus 'independent studies' may not be as independent as they might appear on the surface.

    It is important to note the isolation of the paleoclimate community; even though they rely heavily on statistical methods they do not seem to be interacting with the statistical community. Additionally, we judge that the sharing of research materials, data and results was haphazardly and grudgingly done. In this case we judge that there was too much reliance on peer review, which was not necessarily independent.

    Based on the literature we have reviewed, there is no overarching consensus on [Mann's work]. As analyzed in our social network, there is a tightly knit group of individuals who passionately believe in their thesis. However, our perception is that this group has a self-reinforcing feedback mechanism and, moreover, the work has been sufficiently politicized that they can hardly reassess their public positions without losing credibility.

    It is clear that many of the proxies are re-used in most of the papers. It is not surprising that the papers would obtain similar results and so cannot really claim to be independent verifications."

  2. Too true, we all race against obsolescence...

  3. Richard Lindzen: The Climate Science Isn't Settled

    "The notion that complex climate "catastrophes" are simply a matter of the response of a single number, GATA, to a single forcing, CO2 (or solar forcing for that matter), represents a gigantic step backward in the science of climate."

  4. Hans von Storch on 'sustainable' science, his requirements:

    1) Admitting that scientific knowledge is uncertain and often in need of future revision.

    2) Understanding that the public discourse about climate change driven by two different knowledge claims – a scientific and a medial construction.

    3) Accepting that from the understanding of the dynamics of climate change and of future perspectives unequivocally political conclusions about required or meaningful measures cannot be drawn.

    4) Accepting that accurate language is needed – and that scientific terminology may conflict with every day language.

    5) Explaining that reality is really complex and not simple.

  5. An extensive write-up on the email leak, references the 'context' provided by Steve McIntyre, and includes blow-ups of the graphics which illustrate 'hide the decline'.

  6. The CRU e-mails as published on the internet provide prima facie evidence of determined and co-ordinated refusals to comply with honourable scientific traditions and freedom of information law. The principle that scientists should be willing to expose their ideas and results to independent testing and replication by others, which requires the open exchange of data, procedures and materials, is vital. The lack of compliance has been confirmed by the findings of the Information Commissioner. This extends well beyond the CRU itself - most of the e-mails were exchanged with researchers in a number of other international institutions who are also involved in the formulation of the IPCC's conclusions on climate change.
    -- Institute of Physics Memo

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