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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 10/ 5/2009

Another Slapshot in Climate 'Hockey Stick' Faceoff

By Andrew Freedman

* Full Forecast | Autumn Activities | Reasons to Love Fall *

Hockey stick chart from the 2001 IPCC Third Assessment Report, showing Northern Hemisphere surface temperatures (departures from the 1961-1990 average, in degrees Celsius) of the past 1,000 years. Courtesy IPCC.

An enduring dispute in the scientific community and the blogosphere over an iconic climate science graph, known as the "Hockey Stick," has boiled over yet again in the past two weeks, with climate skeptics touting a new analysis they say greatly weakens the evidence supporting the mainstream scientific view that recent warming of Earth's climate is highly unusual and largely due to human emissions of greenhouse gases.

Others say the latest twist in the controversy boils down to baseless accusations of a scientific cover-up.

The fact that this debate is playing out in the blogosphere, rather than peer-reviewed scientific journals, has raised questions about how scientific discourse is conducted in the age of the Internet.

The Controversy

The Hockey Stick chart reconstructs the planet's temperatures going back 1,000 years -- temperature estimates before approximately the mid-1800s are based largely on proxy data such as ice cores and tree rings -- and shows unprecedented warming in the latter half of the 20th century. The recent temperature spike resembles the blade of a hockey stick, which is how the chart earned its nickname. The chart became famous when it was featured in a 2001 U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

Subsequent studies have largely affirmed the main conclusion of the original hockey stick research -- that recent warming is extremely unusual at least in the past millenium -- but it continues to be a primary target of criticism from skeptics who question its methods.

The blog Climate Audit, which is a project of Canadian statistician Steve McIntyre, has been investigating the hockey stick and other climate studies for several years. Spurred by the acquisition of new data, in the past few weeks McIntyre has written extensively about temperature reconstructions by a British dendroclimatologist, Keith Briffa, of the University of East Anglia. Briffa specializes in using tree-ring records to decipher Earth's climate history, and some of his work has been used to validate the findings of the original hockey stick study.

The studies McIntyre has questioned are based on tree-ring measurements from the Yamal region of northern Russia, where Briffa has found the familiar hockey stick pattern, with a rapid rise in temperatures in the 20th century. According to his recent posts, McIntyre (after years of effort) obtained Briffa's raw data, and he found that Briffa used very few tree-ring chronologies when he reconstructed 20th-century temperatures. Suspecting that the small sample size influenced the results, McIntyre then performed his own analysis to determine whether the same hockey stick pattern would be evident if he replaced Briffa's tree-ring chronologies with others from the Yamal region.

World map of tree-ring sites. Courtesy NOAA.

Once he substituted the different tree-ring chronologies, McIntyre found that the rapid warming trend shown in Briffa's studies, and used to verify the broader Hockey Stick study, disappeared. A Climate Audit chart compares Briffa's and McIntyre's climate reconstructions, illustrating the dramatic difference.

Allegations of a Cover-Up

McIntyre's fans portray him as a sleuth, hot on the trail of climate science malfeasance. The data has been cooked, McIntyre and others allege, in favor of manmade climate change. The fact that it took about a decade for McIntyre to pry the original data from Briffa, which he needed in order to replicate and then modify his work, has heightened the sense among many climate skeptics that a conspiracy is afoot. Stories of disappearing climate data from other researchers have also raised eyebrows.

McIntyre wrote that Briffa's work has been influential in the climate science community because it fits climatologists' preconceived notions. "... the resulting Yamal chronology with its enormous Hockey Stick blade was like crack cocaine for paleocliomatologists and got used in virtually every subsequent study," McIntyre wrote.

On Sept. 30, Briffa issued a statement denying accusations of cherry-picking data. "The substantive implication of McIntyre's comment... is that the recent data that make up this chronology (i.e. the ring-width measurements from living trees) were purposely selected by me from among a larger available data set, specifically because they exhibited recent growth increases." (Such growth increases would indicate a warming climate).

"This is not the case."

Briffa also downplayed the importance of McIntyre's analysis, stating, "I do not believe that McIntyre's preliminary post provides sufficient evidence to doubt the reality of unusually high summer temperatures in the last decades of the 20th century."

Meanwhile, McIntyre's critics are accusing him of having a politically driven agenda, and challenging him to prove his claims in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

Last week, the blog RealClimate, which is run by climate scientists including the lead author of the original hockey stick study, posted a rebuttal to McIntyre's work that satirized his emphasis on the Yamal temperature reconstruction.

"Apparently everything we've done in our entire careers is a 'MASSIVE lie' (sic) because all of radiative physics, climate history, the instrumental record, modeling and satellite observations turn out to be based on 12 trees in an obscure part of Siberia. Who knew?" RealClimate's scientists wrote in a group post.

The RealClimate scienitsts also question the validity of what they call "Blog Science" as compared with peer-reviewed science.

"There is nothing wrong with people putting together new chronologies of tree rings or testing the robustness of previous results to updated data or new methodologies. Or even thinking about what would happen if it was all wrong," RealClimate stated. "What is objectionable is the conflation of technical criticism with unsupported, unjustified and unverified accusations of scientific misconduct. Steve McIntyre keeps insisting that he should be treated like a professional. But how professional is it to continue to slander scientists with vague insinuations and spin made-up tales of perfidy out of the whole cloth instead of submitting his work for peer-review?

"Peer-review is nothing sinister and not part of some global conspiracy, but instead it is the process by which people are forced to match their rhetoric to their actual results."

By Andrew Freedman  | October 5, 2009; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Freedman, News & Notes, Science  
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Mr. Freedman wrote, "The fact that it took about a decade for McIntyre to pry the original data from Briffa, which he needed in order to replicate and then modify his work, has heightened the sense among many climate skeptics that a conspiracy is afoot."

If any scientist(s) takes tax payer funds for his/her/their research, that research should be available for the public to view. ALL OF IT!

I think it is disgusting that a scientist would take tax payer money and then hide ANY of their data. Now factor into the equation that political arguments that affect everyone are being hotly debated, and this "research" is pivotal to the debate, and I find it unfathomable that he was able to hide his data for so long. Political decisions that would affect hundreds of millions of people are being debated and scientists ARE HIDING THE RAW DATA!

And the fact that so called "journalists" refuse to point out these scientists hiding their data and methods says as much about the so called "journalists" as it does about the so called "scientists".

Why don't you use your job position to do the taxpayers of the world a favor? See if you can get Dr. Jones to "find" his raw data.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | October 5, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

McIntyre appears to have no financial interest in this debate, apart from his $20 tip jar. Those who are funded by regulation, from researchers, to most journal editors and RealClimate organizers, to state broadcasters, have.

I am heartened to see The Washington Post pay attention to this debate, as it is easy to listen to the establishment and ignore those who challenge orthodoxy.

Regarding the science, perhaps the egregious decade-long abuses have been (i) non-disclosure of the tree-ring data used to claim that present warming is unprecedented in human history and (ii) denial or obfuscation of the lead-lag relationship between temperature and carbon dioxide, evident in hundreds-of-thousands of years of ice-core data. The most reasonable interpretation of the lead-lag is that temperature is independent of carbon dioxide (cf.

Posted by: tleadsc | October 5, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

"Subsequent studies have largely affirmed the main conclusion of the original hockey stick research"

This is a misleading statement. It would be more accurate to say that subsequent studies by the same authors that rely heavily on tree ring proxies show similar results. But most proxy studies conducted by independent authors that use things other that tree rings show no signs of a hockey stick (with the exception of a two cherry picked ice code studies).

The issue has been that any attempt to assess the accuracy of tree ring proxy studies has been met with stonewalling by the authors. Why?

The IPCC has given undue weight to a small set of tree ring studies showing hockey stick warming despite the inability of independent scientist to verify these studies. The claim that the tree ring studies have been peer reveied is a canard. Edward Wegman, a eminent statistician was asked by a US Congressional panel to examine the Hockey stick and he found that the peer reveiwers have been chosen from a small clique of researchers who all publish papers together.

Posted by: JohnP10 | October 5, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

This article is another in the long record of shame in the mainstream media for not covering the skepticism on anthropogenic global warming. McIntyre's finding along with Richard Lindzen's recent work and several others will be shown to have driven the final nails in the coffin of AGW. Why can't the 4th estate do a better job of trying to get at the truth instead of performing Yellow Journalism in service to the statists.

Posted by: HowIsThisJournalism | October 5, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

"HowIsThisJournalism: Why exactly do you think this is "yellow journalism" that "service(s) the statists?" How does this not cover the skepticism on anthropogenic global warming?

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | October 5, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

It seems self-evident that in climatology the scientific method has broken down. In addition to the serious allegations outlined here, there are numerous examples of journals refusing to publish papers that do not conform to the orthodoxy that has grown like a cancer in this field. After billions spent on sophisticated instrumentation, these guys can't even agree on how hot it is outside or whether the troposphere and oceans are warming or cooling. Science is failing us just when we need it most.

Temperatures have not risen in a decade and we are entering a 30 year phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation that in the past has been associated with cooler global temperatures. We should use this hiatus to perform an independent top-to-bottom review of the data and methodologies. The climate models which are driving the policy debate should be examined by modeling experts from outside the climatology field.

We are about to make decisions that could melt the globe or the global economy. It would behoove us to make these decisions rationally. Science and agendas do not mix.

Posted by: jpat | October 5, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

The National Academy of Sciences has had several panels review the question of global warming. One in fact reviewed the hockey stick. IMHO that panel was not a small clique, but contained many excellent scientists. If I remember right, it said there was not enough data before 1600 to support or disprove the hockey stick, but there was enough evidence to support the hockey stick after 1600.

Posted by: Dadmeister | October 5, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

This is quickly developing; McIntyre has set the record straight on accusing Dr. Briffa of deliberately picking trees that fit his theories. Rather, he believes that the original Russian data collectors were the ones to do so, as they were collecting trees for one purpose that were used by Dr. Briffa for another purpose. Ignorance of the statistical bias that this introduces (amongst other statistical blunders) is still a valid point.

Real Climate's argument about radiative physics is irrelevant; nobody is debating all of climate science. One issue at a time; the hockey stick is being debated here, and any arguments not aimed at justifying how it was constructed are irrelevant distractions.

Posted by: CGullans | October 5, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

CGullans: Real Climate and others tend to perceive the efforts to invalidate the Hockey Stick as an effort to somehow invalidate the vast body of scientific research on climate change in general, which includes radiative physics. The quote I used shows them pointing out that even if the hockey stick turns out to be incorrect, the foundation of climate science would remain standing. What is your view on the larger implications of the hockey stick debate?

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | October 5, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Dadmeister wrote, "If I remember right, it said there was not enough data before 1600 to support or disprove the hockey stick, but there was enough evidence to support the hockey stick after 1600."

And how would they know? Did they get to see Briffa's raw data? Of course they didn't. Anyway, it is a moot point. It simply proves how pathetic peer review is.

The debate isn't over how much data is available. The debate is over the fact that a meager 12 trees were used. There could have been a mountain of data available. No one disputes that. The dispute is centered around the NON-USE of that mountain of data.

Perhaps you can explain why the mountain of data was discarded and only 12 trees were used?

But in my opinion, the debate should be about the hiding of the data and the old, dying media's reluctance to cover that scandal. Perhaps you can explain why Briffa refused freedom of information requests for over a decade. Or perhaps you can explain why the old media did not consider that news worthy.

Hundreds of billions of dollars (if not trillions) are at stake and some scientists have been hiding the raw data, and the old media didn't find that news worthy until now?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | October 5, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Andrew, thanks for showing both sides of the debate bubbling in the blogosphere. Quick question and I don't know the answer to this: why has the IPCC stopped showing that hockey stick graphic in their subsequent reports on the state of the science? The theory put forth by many skeptics is that there were too many questions relating to its validity to keep it in the large body of IPCC work. Do you know of a different story?

Posted by: MattRogers | October 5, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Andrew Revkin of the New York Times just published a post on DotEarth regarding the Hockey Stick controversy. He too zeroes in on the conflict between 'blog science' and the peer reviewed literature. "What is novel about all of this is how the blog discussions have sidestepped the traditional process of peer review and publication, then review and publication of critiques, and counter-critiques, by which science normally does that herky-jerky thing called knowledge building. The result is quick fodder for those using the Instanet to reinforce intellectual silos of one kind or another," Revkin wrote.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | October 5, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Freedman wrote, "He too zeroes in on the conflict between 'blog science' and the peer reviewed literature."

So let me make sure I understand what you are saying.

The problem isn't scientists hiding their data. Heck no.

The problem isn't the total lack of old media coverage of this scandal. Nope. No problem there.

No, the problem is that a world renowned expert (who debunked the original hockey stick, and has testified in front of Congress) published his analysis on his blog rather than in a peer reviewed journal.

Un. Frickin. Believable.

This thing has gotten so unbelievable, I couldn't parody it if I tried. People wouldn't know if I were being serious or making a joke. It is surreal.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | October 5, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

In fall 2005, I set out my views on the significance of the Hockey Stick, if any, to the wider debate.

In respect to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, I was an IPCC reviewer and suggested that, if the 1000-year paleoclimate arguments were not relevant to the "big picture", then IPCC should remove the 1000-year paleoclimate discussion from the IPCC report entirely and avoid distracting controversy about their validity. I observed that this would also enable them to focus their attention on presenting the best and most important arguments more clearly.

My recommendation was not accepted. I guess there was a "consensus" that this information was, after all, relevant to policy-makers.

Posted by: SteveMcIntyre | October 5, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

It's interesting to see how both sides of the debate r sure the other side is wrong. I guess sometime in the future one side will be right, but I seriously doubt any of us will b around 2 c who is right. This is like interpeting the bible, every1 has as an opinion & they all think they r right,and no1 will change their opinion.

Posted by: VaTechBob | October 5, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Matt - Steve may have answered your question, but otherwise I don't have an answer for you regarding the exclusion of the hockey stick from the Fourth Assessment Report.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | October 5, 2009 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Andrew, it is my view that it is a text-book ad hominem argument to defend the hockey stick by questioning the motives of those who are quite demonstrably showing it to be a product of faulty statistical practice. I personally think it is possible that other areas of climate science are similarly flawed, although to a lesser degree; I think this because I have seen the confirmation bias that climate journals have, that the IPCC has, and that governement grant givers have. I do expect that physicists are far less likely to make such glaring mistakes though, and I do concede that it's possible that other areas of climate science are well-founded. We just don't know because there is no availability of data or computer code in the vast majority of studies (release of which happens to be Steve McIntyre's number 1 priority).

So, I say realclimate should stop censoring critics and cut the hockey stick loose if it is wrong, and then defend other things if they are right. That is science, after all.

Posted by: CGullans | October 6, 2009 12:46 AM | Report abuse

MAtt and Andrew - the Summary for Policy Makers did not have a Hockey Stick graph. There was a spaghetti graph in chapter 6.

In his review comments on the Summary for Policy Makers, Mann objected to their failure to include a paleoclimate graphic (noticeable given the prominence in the promotion of the Third Assessment Report. Mann complained:

Every other major section of the SPM has at least one supporting graphic. The lack of a supporting graphic in the "A Paleoclimate Perspective" section seems a slap in the face to the authors of chapter 6 as well as the paleoclimate community. It also sends a disturbing message that AR4 is somehow backing away in its support for claims made in the TAR where conclusions drawn from paleoclimate studies were highlighted in the SPM.

The answer on the record was :

Not every chapter has a figure. Figures depend upon merit and need. Text has been clarified regarding conclusions of TAR and new conclusions here, as well as uncertainties.

While I was a reviewer for IPCC AR4, I was far on the outside when it came to such decisions and can only speculate along with anyone else as to whether there were any other motives for not having a graphic in the SPM.

BRW I've just done a post at discussing my Review Comments concerning Yamal in light of the data that just became available.

A point that has received little publicity so far is that Keith Briffa (of the Yamal seris) was the section author reviewing his own material.

Posted by: SteveMcIntyre | October 6, 2009 1:17 AM | Report abuse

Mr. McIntyre wrote, "A point that has received little publicity so far is that Keith Briffa (of the Yamal seris) was the section author reviewing his own material."

Why am I not surprised?

The gentleman who steadfastly refused to release his raw data is the section author responsible for reviewing his own material. How does one parody that? It makes peer review (what a joke) look strenuous!

And the old media focuses on stuff like, "Wear a Condom... Save the Planet?".

It is an upside down world. I am waiting on Rod Sterling's voice to announce, "In a world gone mad, ..."

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | October 6, 2009 2:00 AM | Report abuse

The peer-review angle is an interesting outcome of this discussion. What happens if all the "peers" are drinking from the same fountain? The web-angle allows analysis from outside. If the scientists would properly archive their data, I think there could be fruitful discussions rather than personal scorn from both sides. As we have seen in this example, once Dr. Briffa's raw data was released, we could learn how the raw data was applied to his analysis. Thus a reader can decide whether the data supports the conclusions.

Posted by: Tom8 | October 6, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

This story points up a typical style of argument used by the skeptic crowd. You can have dozens of sound studies all basically pointing in one direction, but if there is one that is found to be either (1) statistically unsound in methodology or even (2) deliberately jacked with (I'm not familiar with either Briffa or the details of his study so I'm not insinuating either, I'll just assume McIntyre - previous agenda noted and all - has a legitimate objection), the mob of yahoos will seize upon it, waving it amidst their torches in the streets and proclaiming it as "proof" that the whole field is corrupt/incompetant/both.

You want the truth? If you go into ANY field, or micro-field of scientific inquiry and examine 20 studies on the same phenomenon in detail, get a hold of their primary data and crunch it through (assuming you have the expertise to do it justice), you will invariably find one or two that failed to treat confounds they should have, or their original data was gathered in a way that left it suspect for further use. It is a fact of scientific life, and this is why every field requires several studies all pointing in the same (general) direction before the field starts to believe it.

97% of currently publishing climatologists believe humankind is at least partly driving the warming of recent decades.

I do wish the skeptic crowd would spend at least a tenth as much time in their public libraries skimming through Science or Nature (two real scientific journals) - or even something like ScienceNews or Scientific American (two layman's pubs that are generally well-written and faithful to the current thinking) - as they do pouring over these slanted, agenda-driven skeptic websites.

Posted by: B2O2 | October 6, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

jpat wrote:

"The climate models which are driving the policy debate should be examined by modeling experts from outside the climatology field."

Yeah, burn that palace down! And hey, while we're at it, shouldn't we have all of those cell-physiology models that the medical field has been basing their drug development efforts on verified by some "outside" body of experts? Say, some economic modeling experts? Those people are really sharp, right? And I'm sure that no basic knowledge of biology is necessary to construct and test those models. And those conniving cell biologists, well, we all know that they are a corrupt and conflicted lot. After all, if they stop discovering and publishing new metabolic mechanisms and pathways, they stop getting funded! Q.E.D. Basic medical research is such a scam, ain't it?

Posted by: B2O2 | October 6, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

CGullans pronounced:

"I think this because I have seen the confirmation bias that climate journals have, that the IPCC has, and that governement grant givers have."

Okay, one at a time.

Journal editors have a vested interest in running a journal that will end up having published the most reliable and sound studies, when all is (eventually) revealed. Their reputation, readership and impact factor then skyrockets.

The IPCC's only proof of bias is that it is European, which for conservatives who resent having their God-given right to drive an Explorer to the supermarket threatened, is enough for them. I suggest pouring some more French wine into the sewer and deal with your europhobia that way.

And lastly, I love the grant-giver bias argument. It's a staple of the skeptic crowd. The NSF is the largest grant-giver in this country for climatology work as far as I'm aware. The head of the NSF is a PRESIDENTIAL APPOINTEE. Before January of this year, for the past eight years we had not just a president, but an entire administration (Cheney, Rice who had a freaking oil tanker named after her, and many others) in the executive branch who hailed directly from the oil industry. If there were a "grant giver" bias going on at the NSF, it would presumably be one that says, "give the money to the guys who find *something* that forestalls or obfuscates this darned consensus that is curtailing our future profits potential".

Posted by: B2O2 | October 6, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Postscript and partial apology to CGullans for my tone above. I just now appreciated that you were focussing on "confirmation bias" in that post, rather than a more nefarious political/agenda-driven bias.

Confirmation bias is always a danger in science, but I think most scientists when they get to the level of editing a journal have had to come to terms with that in themselves, at least a little. And the incentive to get it right, which I pointed out, is still there. You want your journal to thrive. If there's a sound study that contradicts the prevailing wisdom, you want to publish it. You don't *want* to bury it.

The rest of my post probably applies better to other posters, who posit more nefarious conspiracy motives to the IPCC and the NSF and other granting bodies. Again, you probably didn't merit the level of sarcasm I put into that post.

Posted by: B2O2 | October 6, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

The map illustrating this article doesn't show the tree-ring sites at the centre of the controversy. (The NOAA has 55 other Briffa sites but hasn't yet got around to including the recently released '90s data from the Yamal Peninsula). Sly dig or simple oversight?

Posted by: VinnyBurgoo | October 6, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

VinnyBurgoo: If the Yamal data is not included in that graphic, it is a simple oversight, not a dig. This was the best such image I could find. Can you point readers to a better graphic? Thanks!

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | October 6, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

B2O2- Mr McIntyre is a statistician who has a background to question the proxy models that climate scientists are using. In fact you could make an argument that he is more of an expert on statistics than most of the climate scientists. He has the background to make these decisions. He puts his conclusions openly on his blog and takes comments and corrections. If you disagree with him, then go over there and review his findings and tell him why he is wrong.

Posted by: Tom8 | October 6, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Interesting to see the mainstream press pushing for this debate to revert to the tried and true (and controlled) domain of "peer review." Unfortunately peer review is itself severely damaged by MacIntyre's revelations. Because of issues like Briffa being lead IPCC reviewer of his own work. And refusal to release publicly funded data to the public.

The attempts to reframe the discussion to the status quo (peer review) is disingenuous. Frankly people, that's simply a tainted old school and the old school is rapidly collapsing.

Posted by: Thotful | October 6, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Thotful - I am not pushing for the journal system to continue, but rather am raising the question of what the blog debates mean for the larger scientific enterprise. I guarantee you that most scientists view the peer reviewed journals as far more reliable than a science blog, though.

Blogs have arisen as a lively addition to the journals - more accessible to most people and more interactive, but also frequently agenda-driven and lacking in robust verification procedures. (I am not singling out any particular blog with this comment, btw). The issue now is to what extent blogs are substituting for peer reviewed journals, and what this means for scientific discourse in general. What evidence do you have that peer reviewed journals are "collapsing," as you say?

Also, I am curious - if you were a science reporter, what sources would you rely on and why?

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | October 6, 2009 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Look, if we're going to spend trillions of dollars trying to "reduce global warming" I want someone to do real due diligence on the science. I don't make investment decisions (and as a tax payer, this is one big investment decision) based on the collegial interactions of a bunch of college professors. That standard is simply not high enough for the level of investment we're talking about. The science that the IPCC relies upon should be audited and the data and methods should be made public. My fellow investors -- is this too much to ask before we saddle our children with trillions of dollars in debt?

Posted by: JohnP10 | October 6, 2009 11:22 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Andrew Freedman wrote, "Blogs have arisen as a lively addition to the journals - more accessible to most people and more interactive, but also frequently agenda-driven and lacking in robust verification procedures."

What are you talking about?!?!

They had to drag the code out of Dr. Hansen. I don't believe he ever released all of it. A great portion of it had to be reverse engineered.

Briffa stonewalled requests for the raw data for OVER A FRICKIN DECADE!

Dr. Jones has come right out an basically told his skeptics that he will not give them the raw data. At least that is what he used to say. Now he claims the raw data is lost forever.

And on, and on, and on, and on it goes.

And you have the audacity to say "... and lacking in robust verification procedures."

You must be joking!

All of those incidents I reference above are directly related to buddy reviewed, oops, I mean "peer reviewed" papers/studies. Please explain to me how they have a "robust verification procedure". I am dying to know.

Every skeptic blog, in the same vein as Mr. McIntyre's blog, puts their entire criticism on line for all the world to see. They HIDE NOTHING! If there is a "lacking of robust verification", it is only because no one takes the time to do it! You want to verify their work. Go do it. Everything you need will be provided to you. If you can't find something, just ask. It will be provided.

And that is head and shoulders above the so called "peer reviewed" literature. I dream of the day that peer review studies come close to the openness of the skeptic blogs. Then you would see a TRUE robust verification process! Not this buddy review process where apparently they don't even bother looking at the raw data and verifying your math!!!!!!

How are you coming with getting MIT to release the information that I requested?

Any luck getting Dr. Jones to "find" his lost raw data? Some people are dying to do a little robust verification on his work.

I swear to God, sometimes I think we are inhabiting different worlds.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | October 6, 2009 11:26 PM | Report abuse

JohnP10 wrote, "... I want someone to do real due diligence on the science."

Hear! Hear!

I propose that every single "study" used in the debate be put on line for everyone to see. Every piece of raw data, every assumption, every working note, and every piece of math/code. All of it! Then allow everyone 90 days to review it.

If any person fails to disclose all of the above info, then their study/work needs to be discarded, for the purpose of the political debate. And every study that uses or builds upon their work needs to be discarded as well.

Or would that be too much to ask when TRILLIONS of dollars are on the line, and according to some, the survival of millions of people is on the line. Hey, if the survival of millions of people is on the line, why would you even want to hide anything? That doesn't make any sense.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | October 6, 2009 11:38 PM | Report abuse

As a scientist, I find Steve's position much more tenable than the "competition". Scientific results must be repeatable. Without the data, findings can not be repeated. Leaving aside a journal's policy on data, I think the IPCC should make available everything relevant to their findings (code, data, metadata, etc.). If they aren't going to do this for some piece of the story, then sorry, that piece should be pulled from the report. If the IPCC does not want to do this, then there will remain questions any many people's minds as to reliability of the results. Note that a lot of data is available, but on many of the alarming poster-child hockey stick plots, it is not.

An example from theoretical physics (my background) and similar subjects. If I put forth a theory in the form of equations/derivations etc., other readers can come along and determine whether or not I made a mathematical or logical error. However, if I do not show the math, but only show the final equations with some plots, it is very hard for someone else to come along and determine whether I am right or wrong. If I don't show some steps, am I hiding something? (There's a great cartoon with two math folks looking at a chalk board filled with math symbols, which has written something like "and a miracle happens here". One guy says to the other "you should be a little more explicit at this step." See upper right thumbnail at ) Personally I have a desire for approval: it is very rewarding to have some one say "I've looked over the details, and it appears correct." I find the stonewalling tactics by Briffa, Mann, and others to be indications that they are hiding something. I understand Briffa and Mann think Steve is out to get them, but if your science is rock solid, you shouldn't be the least worried.

Posted by: TreyG | October 7, 2009 1:12 AM | Report abuse

And yet, the fact remains that the Briffa and McIntyre got different results. Rather than attacking the substantive allegations, you (and others) attack McIntyre's motives.

I think it's ridiculous to believe that there's some sort of vast left wing scientific conspiracy. But can't say I blame people who believe that when contradictory data is meant with allegations of ill-motives rather than explanation.

Posted by: nlcaldwell | October 7, 2009 1:42 AM | Report abuse

@Andrew: 'Can you point readers to a better graphic?' There are maps locating the Yamal dead-tree samples in several palaeoclimate papers. I don't think any of them show the locations of the 'hockeystick blade' cores taken from living trees. Here's one (1.3 MB). Page 718.

Posted by: VinnyBurgoo | October 7, 2009 7:47 AM | Report abuse

Nlcaldwell - Before you go putting words in my mouth, can you please point out exactly where in this story I "attack[ed] McIntyre's motives"?

VinnyBurgoo - thanks for the link to that map!

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | October 7, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I am really amazed by this conversation about blogs. Come on, what is a blog? It is a place for opinions, statements, discussions and interactions. Blogs are great for scientific discussions. It allows researchers and scientist to share information and receive feedback, ideas and suggestions from other research and the public. BUT, blogs should not be considered "reviewed" or the place to go for "accurate" or authoritative information regarding a particular scientific topic. Anyone in search of information regarding any topic or information on blogs, should use extreme caution and be totally skeptical of what is said. This is not to say that the blog is wrong or incorrect, but given the nature of blogs and other online communications, they often leave out the "whole" story behind the content, and they certainly reflect the bias of the contributor.

If Bob over there, says, "Hey! I have solved the universal theory of everything. I posted it on my blog!" He very well might have, but without community support, critique, review and acceptance, his work will more than likely never gain credibility.

The peer review system, with all of its problems, has a very important purpose in science. The system is not perfect, but is put in place to do quality control on the research and information that comes out. The scientific community relies on the peer review process to do this and to do it to the best of their ability. Do they make mistakes? Sure, we are all limited to our own personal knowledge and framework (i.e. education, experience and ideology), but what I love about science is that if you think your findings are better than pervious ones, you can lay it out and defend it, until you are either proven right or wrong. Both of which contributes to the science.

With all of this said, I feel it is imperative that if you or your institution or organization uses "open source" data for research, ALL data and ALL methods must be documented and disclosed, as well as reviewed (especially if the data is used in published materials.) And this material should be allowed to be review by ALL, regardless of background, political affiliation, conflict of interest or whatever.The whole purpose of publishing information, both scientifically and socially, is to allow others to learn, digest and understand the information. If I am told that I can not have access to the the raw data and methods used to develop scientific conclusions, as a scientist, I will be inherently skeptical and cautious when using this data. This will raise many VALID questions regarding the results of the information, as it very well should. At the same time, I understand the concerns of some of the scientist that if their data is publicly available that constant witch hunts will inevitably hurt the credibility of the data. But, I feel that this scrutiny and peer review is needed and is an important part of the process, because in science, only the best theories and data will prevail. If the theory or data is solid, then the review of them should only help build better theories and datasets.

My two cents,


Posted by: meteoscott | October 8, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Andrew Freedman wrote, 'Nlcaldwell - Before you go putting words in my mouth, can you please point out exactly where in this story I "attack[ed] McIntyre's motives"?'

Although nlcaldwell's precise claim was false, you did not attack McIntyre's motives, the underlying thrust of his criticism is valid. You have employed a classic technique used by proponents of AGW - you ignore the criticism and focus your attention on the messenger.

It appears that you are trying to steer the conversation away from the content of the criticism and would prefer to talk about "how" the criticism was delivered.

The only people fooled by this ploy are those who wish to be fooled. In other words, the only people fooled by this are the ideologues who actively seek a reason to ignore the criticism.

We wouldn't want to talk about the renowned scientists of the AGW hypothesis hiding the data, now would we? Heavens no! Let's not talk about that! And let's not talk about McIntyre's findings! No way! Let's talk about how McIntyre presented his findings instead. ;)

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | October 9, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

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