Saturday, November 21, 2009

CRU Emails #8: an interesting conversation at random

Looking through the CRU documents provides some enlightening conversations. Here's one that I'd particularly like to draw your attention to, since it illustrates a number of points worth considering.

The relevant bit starts, on October 2nd 2009, with Benny Peiser sending a round-up of articles and blogposts concerning the Yamal Implosion to a group called CCMedia (Climate Change Media?). In reply, Alan White (this Alan J White?) asks...
more of the same. what gives with these guys?

Surprisingly, it seems that Alan is not referring to the sceptics, but the people who have faked bollocksed up the Yamal data, i.e. Mann, Briffa and the rest of "The Club" (as I shall now call them), because Eugene I Gordon (a respected physicist) replies as follows: [All emphasis in this email and the following ones are mine.]
Thanks for the extensive and detailed e-mail. This is terrible but not surprising. Obviously I do not know what gives with these guys. However, I have my own suspicions and hypothesis.

I dont think they are scientifically inadequate or stupid. I think they are dishonest and members of a club that has much to gain by practicing and perpetuating global warming scare tactics.

That is not to say that global warming is not occurring to some extent since it would be even without CO2 emissions. The CO2 emissions only accelerate the warming and there are other factors controlling climate. As a result, the entire process may be going slower than the powers that be would like. Hence, (I postulate) the global warming contingent has substantial motivation to be dishonest or seriously biased, and to be loyal to their equally dishonest club members.

Among the motivations are increased and continued grant funding, university advancement, job advancement, profits and payoffs from carbon control advocates such as Gore, being in the limelight, and other motivating factors I am too inexperienced to identify.

Alan, this is nothing new. You and I experienced similar behavior from some of our colleagues down the hall, the Bell Labs research people, in the good old days. Humans are hardly perfect creations. I am never surprised at what they can do. _I am perpetually grateful for those who are honest and fair and thankfully there is a goodly share of those._


Please note that all the suppositions above are merely speculation from Gene Gordon; please also note that he believes that anthropogenic global warming is occurring. But he is not one of the hysterics.

At this point, David Schnare contributes the following email to the conversation.

I've been following this issue closely and this is what I take away from it:

1) Tree ring-based temperature reconstructions are fraught with so much uncertainty, they have no value whatever. It is impossible to tease out the relative contributions of rainfall, nutrients, temperature and access to sunlight. Indeed a single tree can, and apparently has, skewed the entire 20th century temperature reconstruction.

2) The IPCC peer review process is fundamentally flawed if a lead author is able to both disregard and ignore criticisms of his own work, where that work is the critical core of the chapter. It not only destroys the credibility of the core assumptions and data, it destroys the credibility of the larger work - in this case, the IPCC summary report and the underlying technical reports.

It also destroys the utility and credibility of the modeling efforts that use assumptions on the relationship of CO2 to temperature that are based on Britta's work, which is, of course, the majority of such analyses.

As Corcoran points out, "the IPCC has depended on 1) computer models, 2) data collection, 3) long-range temperature forecasting and 4) communication. None of these efforts are sitting on firm ground."

Nonetheless, and even if the UNEP thinks it appropriate to rely on Wikipedia as their scientific source of choice, greenhouse gases may (at an ever diminishing probability) cause a significant increase in global temperature. Thus, research, including field trials, on the leading geoengineering techniques are appropriate as a backstop in case our children find out that the current alarmism is justified.

David Schnare

In other words, Schnare believes that the tree ring proxies are useless—and that those studying them should know that they are useless. However, Schnare also takes the attitude that certain ideas should be explored, i.e. geoengineering, if humans have a problem in the future, i.e. mitigation not prevention.

In reply, Gene Gordon says...

I concede all of your points but add one other thought. It is my grandchildren I worry about and I suspect their grand children will find it exceedingly warm because sunspots will return and carbon abatement is only a game; It wont happen significantly in their lifetime AND IT WONT BE ENOUGH IN ANY CASE. HENCE _WE WILL NEED A GEOENGINEERING SOLUTION_ COME WHAT MAY!


Gene Gordon obviously believes that the sun has a significant effect on the world temperature—something that the IPCC has consistently denied. Gordon believes that mitigation will be needed in the future.

Now it is time for Tom Wigley—who, as we know from these documents, is one of the members of "the club" that Gene Gordon refers to—to defend Briffa. Because, as Gordon put it in the email above, he has a need to be "loyal to [his] equally dishonest club members".
Dear all,

I think it would be wise to let Briffa respond to these accusations before compounding them with unwarranted extrapolations.

With regard to the Hockey Stick, it is highly unlikely that a single site can be very important. M&M have made similar accusations in the past and they have been shown, in the peer-reviewed literature, to be ill-founded.

Two recent papers you should read are those in the attached Word document (first pages only).


As we now know, a single site was not just "very important" but absolutely crucial—because the entirety of the last decade was based on one or two trees—not even one site.

It is also worth noting that these emails go back ten years and show, in quite a lot of detail, how Wigley and other members of The Club spent their time stitching up the peer review process. They have done this by forcing out editors who disagree with the alarmist position; The Club have collaborated to discredit papers supposedly peer-reviewed by only one of them; and The Club have bullied and forced their opinions throughout the peer-review process.

In short, The Club have rigged the peer-review process to force their own point of view and dishonestly discredit any sceptics.

At this point, of course, Schnare, Gordon, Peiser and others cannot have known that Wigley was a member of The Club (or none of them would have been so indiscreet about the existence of "the club") but Wigley did, of course, copy in the other members in his reply—or else we would never have seen this exchange.

David Schnare, however, is having none of Wigley's prevarication.

Briffa has already made a preliminary response and he failed to explain his selection procedure. Further, he refused to give up the data for several years, and was forced to do so only when he submitted to a journal that demanded data archiving and actually enforced the practice.

More significantly, Briffa's analysis is irrelevant. Dendrochonology is a bankrupt approach. They admit that they cannot distiguish causal elements contributing to tree ring size. Further, they rely on recent temperature data by which to select recent tree data (excluding other data) and then turn around and claim that the tree ring data explains the recent temperature data. If you can give a principled and reasoned defense of Briffa (see the discussion on Watt's website) then go for it. I'd be fascinated, as would a rather large number of others.

None of this, of course, detracts for the need to do research on geoengineering.

David Schnare

This is a fairly sharp—and to-the-point—response by Schnare, and it is obvious that he holds Briffa's research in contempt.

Nonetheless, Wriggly Wigley is back to defend his buddy, Briffa.

This is entirely off the record, and I do not want this shared with anyone.

I hope you will respect this. This issue is not my problem, and I await further developments.

However, Keith Briffa is in the Climatic Research Unit (CRU), and I was Director of CRU for many years so I am quite familiar with Keith and with his work. I have also done a lots of hands on tree ring work, both in the field and in developing and applying computer programs for climate reconstruction from tree rings. On the other hand, I have not been involved in any of this work since I left CRU in 1993 to move to NCAR. But I do think I can speak with some modicum of authority.

You say, re dendoclimatologists, "they rely on recent temperature data by which to *select* recent tree data" (my emphasis). I don't know where you get this idea, but I can assure you that it is entirely wrong.

Unfortunately, the Yamal IMplosion showed that this is exactly what had happened.
Further, I do not know the basis for your claim that "Dendrochonology is a bankrupt approach". It is one of the few proxy data areas where rigorous multivariate statistical tools are used and where reconstructions are carefully tested on independent data.

Note, please, the way in which Wigley equates statistical analysis with measured data. And also note that he thinks that the measuring of tree rings is one of the "few proxy data areas" in which "rigorous multivariate statistical tools are used".

Given how poor—and selective—we know the tree ring data to be, we must now start examining all the other proxy methods used by these climate scientists—they must all now be under suspicion.
Finally, the fact that scientists (in any field) do not willingly share their hard-earned primary data implies that they have something to hide has no logical basis.


Except, of course, in Briffa's example, it was, in fact, the case that there was quite a lot to hide. And whatever the motivation for hiding the data, we know that members of The Club—including Wigley—had discussed how best to hide or destroy data that might be requested: even to the extent of destroying data that might be requested under the law.

Scientists may well guard their data jealously, but when you are considering, effectively, breaking the conditions of your employment (through defiance of your employer's responsibilities under the Data Protection Act) and of the law, then surely there must be more to your motivation that professional jealousy...?

Further, if you have nothing to hide then surely you would be happy to have others pore over your data and realise that your conclusion is correct? Unless, of course, you believe that said scientists will find problems with your data?

The last email in this conversation is from Phil Jones, who says nothing of any real interest—except that he justifies Briffa's results with reference to some other reconstructions. One of these is the "Moberg" reconstruction that he himself had criticsed in an earlier email (I will find the link)—for missing out the warm years from about 1500 to 1750.

All in all, a quite revealing little conversation, I think—on a number of levels.

And there are plenty more to come...

UPDATING: a list of The Kitchen posts, so far, concerning this is posted below:
  1. Climate Alarmism revealed

  2. A selection of emails: Dr Keiller complains

  3. Real Climate responds

  4. Summarising the salient points of the emails

  5. The Englishman speculates

  6. Follow the money

  7. Harrabin leads the BBC fightback

  8. Random scandals: a conversation on dendroclimatology

  9. A note on the authenticity of the data

  10. Hacked? Or leaked?

And, just as a reminder, feel free to browse the searchable database.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can tell you're loving this DK, because that was a post without any gratuitous swearing at all.

Your happiness is poring out of my screen