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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 12/ 1/2009

Scientist: Consensus withstands climate e-mail flap

By Andrew Freedman

* Rain tomorrow? Full Forecast | First snow chance | 2010 calendar *
* Climate scientist at center of e-mail controversy to step down *

The debate about the significance of hundreds of leaked personal e-mails between a handful of top climate scientists, which were stolen off a British Web server and posted online about two weeks ago, rages on. Although most scientists agree that the contents of the e-mails do not invalidate the scientific consensus that human activities are changing the climate, the e-mails have raised troubling questions about how climate science is being conducted, such as whether researchers are stifling dissent and manipulating research results.

I've been conducting a series of interviews that shed light on the e-mail controversy and the effects it may have on both climate science and the public's perceptions of that science. Today, I bring you an interview with Gerald North, a distinguished professor of atmospheric sciences and oceanography at Texas A&M University.

But first, here's a brief recap of how the debate has been shaping up thus far...

Those who doubt the established scientific evidence that Earth has been warming due to human activities have viewed the e-mails as conclusive evidence that the books have been cooked, and that scientists with an agenda are distorting their findings.

Those who subscribe to the mainstream science on climate change have downplayed the scientific significance of the e-mails, but many have expressed concerns that they may cause the public to be less trusting of climate science findings anyway.

Somewhere in the middle are some prominent scientists, such as Judith Curry of Georgia Tech, who have said the e-mails demonstrate that climate science needs to be conducted in a more transparent manner to increase public understanding. I recommend reading Curry's comments on Andrew Revkin's DotEarth blog.


Gerald North

Now, on to Professor North, a physicist who specializes in investigating the causes of climate change through the use of various types of computer models, among other techniques. He is especially well-qualified to comment on this controversy because of his role in investigating the work of one of the key players in the e-mail flap, Michael Mann of Penn State University.

In 2006, North chaired a National Academy of Sciences panel on "Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the last 2,000 Years," which examined Mann's controversial study, known as the "Hockey Stick," which traced Earth's recent climate history. While the panel found some flaws with the study, it largely affirmed Mann's conclusions that late 20th century surface temperatures were higher than they had been in at least four centuries, and possibly far longer than that.

(In the interview, North discusses the work of Stephen McIntyre, who runs the blog ClimateAudit. McIntyre has been writing extensively about the leaked emails. North also refers to a specific leaked e-mail from Phil Jones, who is the director of the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit, in which Jones referred to a "trick" used in a study).

Andrew Freedman: What are your thoughts on the significance of this scandal, both in terms of what it may mean scientifically and for public perceptions of climate science?

Gerald North: Scientifically, it means little. All scientists know that this kind of language and kidding goes on verbally all the time. Some of us forget that email has the potential to become public at any time. The public perception is another matter. There may be some people who do not know any scientist personally and think they are lily pure, dedicated (do-gooder) nerds. These private comments might lead to less confidence in science. It is a shame, since our country is so scientifically illiterate and is easily swayed by perceptions that have little to do with scientific method and culture. They have very little influence on my opinion.

AF: Do these hacked e-mails make you question the "consensus" on climate change at all, or to a greater extent perhaps than you did before?

GN: I accept the IPCC [U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] procedure of assessment. It is not perfect, but it is probably the best we can do in learning the state of the science at an instant in time. It employs people who work actively in the field. Sometimes they are assessing their own work - egos clash. They are drawn together in workshops; then they separate to write the chapters of the report. There is a huge amount of anonymous refereeing of the reports. Monitors check that every complaint is at least discussed (in writing but not necessarily in the final report). There is a tendency to make the report reflect the mainstream view and de-emphasize some things that contradict it.
This is the way science works. People follow an established paradigm. They stay with it until it becomes uninteresting or stagnant. A paradigm can fall by an internal inconsistency that cannot be reconciled, or it may face an insurmountable contradiction with observed data. This latter does not happen overnight. Usually, with long standing paradigms, the data or its interpretation turn out to be wrong.
"ʻClimategateʼ is not even close to causing active researchers to abandon the anthropogenic [manmade] global warming hypothesis."
ʻClimategateʼ [the nickname of the email controversy] is not even close to causing active researchers to abandon the anthropogenic [manmade] global warming hypothesis. This hypothesis (Anthropogenic GW) fits in the climate science paradigm that 1) Data can be collected and assembled in ways that are sensible. 2) These data can be used to test and or recalibrate climate simulation models. 3) These same models can be used to predict future and past climates. It is understood that this is a complicated goal to reach with any precision. The models are not yet perfect, but there is no reason to think the approach is wrong.
Was data manipulated? I do not think so. In the NAS 2006 Report on Reconstruction of Surface Temperatures for the last 2000 Years (I was Chairman of that committee, and it took a different approach to assessment: a panel of experts who are not directly involved in the controversy - note the difference from the IPCC approach), we constructed our own hockey stick curve. We put the tree ring record on the graph and stuck the instrument record on for the last 50 years in exactly the way [Phil] Jones in his [leaked] email referred to as a ʻtrickʼ.
We did not know of his email (it was happening at the same time and we were careful not to have any contact with the IPCC process going on at that time), and we did precisely the same thing because it was the natural thing to do. The tree rings follow the observed temperatures pretty well but those in high northern latitudes ʻdivergeʼ starting about 1960. The exact cause of it is not known but there are several ideas floating around. We devoted several paragraphs and a number of references to it in our report. There is nothing dishonest going on. A prominent skeptic, John Christy, was on our committee.

AF: A number of researchers, including Judith Curry at Georgia Tech, have raised concerns about the transparency of climate science and the "circling the wagons" behavior exhibited by some of the scientists involved, in which they resisted requests for information/data from climate skeptics and sought to exclude certain studies from publication in scientific journals. Do you agree with the assessment that climate scientists should take this opportunity to increase transparency, in order to prevent a future scandal like this from eroding public confidence in their work? Why or why not?

GN: First, I do not think this is a scandal. I normally do not read the blogs, neither ClimateAudit nor RealClimate. But I did dial up ClimateAudit and by chance come upon Curryʼs statement. She has some respect for Steve McIntyreʼs contributions, and so do I. He was treated respectfully throughout our NAS hearings and deliberations in 2006.
I believe McIntyre is very sincere and is not doing any of this for money, etc. I think he has the conviction that we are rushing to judgment about the interpretation of the surface temperature data. His very popular blog makes fun of scientists in a way that unnerves them, since they cannot make fun of him in return without appearing ʻunprofessionalʼ. Many find this frustrating to the point of exasperation. Itʼs like asking a government official to speak publicly like a radio talk show host.
Before addressing the issue of transparency, let me try to tell you some history as it related to the hockey stick controversy, which is what our committee was all about.
McIntyre entered the fray by asking for data from Mann and his coauthors in about 2000. As I understand it they complied, but the more they complied the more he wanted. He began to make requests of others. He sometimes not only wanted data, but computer programs. When he could not figure out how the programs worked he wanted help. From what they tell me this became so irritating that they stopped answering his emails.
He (or his supporters) went to Congress. A Congressional Committee wanted copies of all emails exchanged between coauthors. In my long career I have never heard of anything like this. It is easy to get the feeling that McIntyre is really trying to shut down scientific operations, rather than wanting to get to the truth. It is probably not so, but after a while one begins to feel that way. So McIntyre has generated lots of irritation in the science community.
I did read Curryʼs piece on McIntyreʼs blog. She is a highly respected friend of mine. It seems to be her first encounter with these folks. Of course, transparency is good -- no one would disagree. But science is a very competitive enterprise. Teams (ʻtribesʼ) do get very territorial and there is competition between groups, and not just for funds. Priority of discovery is the holy grail. Over my long career, I have observed this behavior in many different fields in physics and climate science. The experience Judith recalls from her own experience is between two different scientific groups pushing different hypotheses (about hurricane genesis).
It got pretty heated. But itʼs all part of the game. I testified later in 2006 to another NAS committee on transparency. I am for it. But it is easier said than done. If you make things more transparent, you might eliminate competition - imagine giving away trade secrets in the private sector (who gets the holy grail?). Another issue is whether there is enough funding to put such a bureaucratic burden on the scientific investigator. Many believe that more well documented archival of data and computer programs could be done if the funding is there, but this costs lots of money. Do we cut out science to maintain flat budgets?
Finally, I would like to comment on McIntyre and his actions. I do think he has had an overall positive effect. He has made us re-examine the basis for our assertions. In my opinion this sorts itself out in the due course of the scientific process, but perhaps he has made a community of science not used to scrutiny take a second look from time to time. But I am not sure he has ever uncovered anything that has turned out to be significant.

AF: What might you say to the layperson who has not heard much about this scandal, and is wondering whether it means that climate change is no longer such a big problem?

GN: Again it is not a scandal. But perhaps the media can actually construct a scandal out of whole cloth if it wants to. After all, it is hard to get the public in a democracy to do uncomfortable things that have only long-range implications. Oneʼs instincts simply do not work that way. Hence, it only takes a dozen or so persons with scientific credentials to spoil what might be a sensible policy.
I recently looked online at the Journal of Climate, the leading climate science journal in the world. It had about 2000 authors in 2008. The smaller international journal Climate Dynamics had 2400 pages in 2009. Both journals have very high standards. There are also the Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, Journal of Geophysical Research and many others. Where are these guys? Most are in the trenches following the paradigm. Grinding out data, model simulations and interpretations. They are not going to throw away their careers on something that is stupid or wrong.
Science has a way of correcting itself over time. Because of the policy relevance (and political sensitivity) of it, we do not always have the time for the normal process to work itself through. Obviously this can lead to the kind of false flaps we are seeing here.

You can read my previous interviews with geoscientist Thomas Crowley and science historian Spencer Weart. I am planning at least one more interview, with someone on the more 'skeptical' side of the climate debate.

Related link: A BBC News column that discusses the different views of whether and how the IPCC should be reformed in the wake of the climate email flap.

The views expressed here are the author's and interview subject's alone and do not represent any position of the Washington Post, its news staff or the Capital Weather Gang.

By Andrew Freedman  | December 1, 2009; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Freedman, Interview Series: Controversial Climate E-mails, News & Notes, Science  
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Comments

Thank you, Professor North, for bringing the Climategate discussion back toward the center. But I believe the purloined emails merely underscore the need for the United States to convene our own objective, transparent Climate Truth Commission.

For twenty years I believed in man-made global warming theory, but the evidence has changed. During that period we have had ten years of warming then ten years of little or no warming. I blame the confusion on the United Nations for getting ahead of their facts. When they claimed CO2 drives global warming, I think they were more concerned about politics and funding than science. One only needs to look at their track record: UN forecasts do not fit what actually happened.

- Robert Moen, http://www.energyplanUSA.com

Posted by: Rmoen | December 1, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

As an experimentalist I don't think it's quite that simple. I am especially concerned about the destruction (they say loss) of the raw data. NOBODY DESTROYS RAW DATA! I don't believe that the issues are settled and believe that we really need good, transparent scientific thought. Climategate doesn't mean AGW is wrong, but let's just totally forget about the hypothesis being settled!

Posted by: Scott65 | December 1, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

"I accept the IPCC [U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] procedure of assessment."

Did he raise his right hand or put his hand over his heart when he said this?

Posted by: Elisa2 | December 1, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse


A 21st Century Psalm

December 7th is coming fast
We must act, before Copenhagen is passed
If that Treaty is law I guarantee
Another occurrence of infamy
As they strip away democracy


We wish to debate the natural state
It was warm for awhile, but cold as of late
The scientist tried to hide the decline
Deny debate through deceit and design
The science was settled and the data deleted
All opposition was effectively defeated
From checking the facts, and results repeated
Who could prove the science was cheated
Man Made Global Warming is a lie
The CRU e-mails and codes do testify
The purpose, a Carbon Debt to apply
Kiss your money, technology and freedom goodbye


The silence is deafening across the land
As the revelations the public now understands
The weathers a carrot meant to disguise
A corrupt agenda before our eyes
And now we see light shining in Truth
Politicians, media, and search engines declare moot
You can glimpse the extent of the hypocrisy
In how they declare there is nothing to see
So much for transparency

Climategate Googlegate Copenhagengate
Who gave you permission to decide our fate?
Censoring discussion denying debate
The Spirit of Truth you desecrate
In all debate Truth intervenes
Asks does the end justify the means?
Demands that honesty remains supreme
That commitments aren’t made on fraudulent schemes.


It’s time for the passive acceptance to end
It’s time to stand for freedom as free men
It’s time to expose the lies and deceit
It’s time to take it to the streets
Do not commit sedition do not get jailed
Non-Violent revolutions do not fail
The voice of the Prophets, Gandhi and King
Are calling for you to get marching

Or just sit back and take the vaccine.

Posted by: Bondservant1958 | December 1, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

It must be awfully tiresome dancing around that elephant in the living room.

"No matter how long you have gone down the wrong road, don't be afraid to turn back."

Posted by: JimWatson101 | December 1, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Andrew Freedman, i guess your positioning is made clear by how you frame the discussion: "Although most scientists agree that the contents of the emails do not invalidate the scientific consensus that human activities are changing the climate" This does not agree with the dozens of scientists colleagues that I talk to. You keep softballing the issue by repeated interviews of folks who agree with your premise I quoted above. At least the NYT and WSJ has broached the issues, the WP seems to settle to whitewash it all. Scientific integrity is simple and clear. As a scientist I resent the softballing that you insist of those who at least on the face of it have violated the scientific ethics, even if what they have done does not change the science. Minimally they have conspired to limit free scientific debate and discussion of differing views.Form is as important as substance, process is as important as the results. That is what science ethics is about. I am waiting for the scientific organizations to speak out on this. Organizations like AAAS, ACS and APS. My impression is that the priority is Copenhagen and nothing can interfere with that.

Posted by: 123andy | December 1, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

What a shame it is to see people acting as apologists for what is clearly an attack on science as such.

Whatever happened to devotion to truth? Independence of thought and judgment? Consistency, reason, and honesty?

Grow a spine and stand up for something. Don't just accept that the anti-intellectual behaviors revealed in the ClimateGate letters are in any way proper, acceptable, or normal.

They should be considered for what they are: abominable.

Posted by: r74quinn | December 1, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

More nonsense from North. If all the data was archived and publicly available - it wouldn't have to be asked for. If we are going to have to endure massive taxes and restrictions in the name of global warming, then we need the help of a statistical expert like McIntyre to examine the evidence - global warming industry funded scientists aren't going to do it for us.

The multiproxy studies illustrated in the NAS panel to support the hockey stick, and their relevant flaws were:

Mann and Jones 03 (bristlecones)
Moberg el al (Use of grey data, bristlecones, hilarious use of Glob bulloides proxy)
Hegerl et al (Cherrypicked data, secret data)
Esper et al(bristlecones/foxtails, use of dodgy Polar Urals site, cherrypicked data, secret data)
Osborn & Briffa (Uses the hockey stick itself, naked cherrypicking of hockey stick shaped series).

The NAS panel never explained how they could condemn the use of bristlecone pines as proxies but still cite studies based on them in support of the hockey stick.

And what was said under oath?

CHAIRMAN BARTON Dr. North, do you dispute the conclusions or the methodology of Dr. Wegman’s report?

DR. NORTH No, we don’t. We don’t disagree with their criticism. In fact, pretty much the same thing is said in our report.

Barton then asked North’s colleague on the NAS panel, Peter Bloomfield, a similar question. Bloomfield’s reply: “Our committee reviewed the methodology used by Dr. Mann and his co-workers and we felt that some of the choices they made were inappropriate. We had much the same misgivings about his work that was documented at much greater length by Dr. Wegman.”

The leaked 'Climategate' emails don't help the 'consensus,' they demonstrate how it is constructed and defended by a small group of activist scientists who knobble the peer review process and control the IPCC reports.

Posted by: pmbbiggsy | December 1, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

123andy: What you see as "softballing" and slanted coverage, I see as focusing on a central point in this debate that is getting lost in much of the media coverage: this does not change the scientific foundation underpinning the hypothesis of man made climate change. Nearly every single climate scientist I've spoken with agrees that is the case, but all say the perception this controversy gives is that the foundation is shaky. There is a difference between perception and reality, however, and the coverage needs to reflect that.

I agree with you that the behavior of the scientists involved raises many interesting issues about peer review and the processes of the IPCC, tribalism in science, and violations of information disclosure laws. I have noted that in my coverage, as have other Post reporters. CWG is not finished conducting these interviews, so your point that we are being too selective in choosing voices is a bit premature.

If you'd like to suggest an interview subject for our next interview, please feel free to do so.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | December 1, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Andrew (and Dr. North0 thanks for this interview. This whole thing has been pretty clearly a tempest in a teapot, driven by the need of certain people to disbelieve something that 97% of praciticing climate researchers have concluded.

I especially appreciate the clear statement about the "trick" to "hide the decline" - which concurs with many similar statements I have seen around the web from other scientists. It's the perfect kind of convenient language for wild mobs with torches who have no desire to truly understand what was happening there, to seize upon since it confirms their paranoias. I just wish they were a tenth as interested in learning about the science as they were at dismissing it.

Robert Moen, if you are interested in why the past ten years may have shown "little or no warming", you might check out a paper that came out earlier this year, by Lean (NRL) and Rind (NASA) in Geophysical Research Letters. It's a subscription journal, but there is a write up at

http://www.tnr.com/blog/the-vine/el-ni%C3%B1o-1998-and-global-cooling-revisited

In a nutshell, there was a sharp spike up in 1998 due to El Nino, and then on top of that we've been in a declining phase of the solar cycle since then - making things "look" flat since then. The same paper projects that we are in for a roaring back of warming due to the recession of these two obscuring factors. Even with them, a commonly ignored fact is that the second order spline/smoothing of temperature has continued to go up during the past decade.

As for a "Climate Truth Commission" that so many of you keep calling for, I can't imagine one that would satisfy you. That's what the IPCC was. If you're dismissive of that because it was held in Europe and you're one of those folks who pour French wine into the sewer because you're convinced they are simply hell-bent on destroying the American economy (which by the way would destroy theirs along with it), I cannot help you. There's also every major national and international scientific organization being in agreement with the consensus. There's 97% of practicing climatologists. It will never be enough for some people, and I understand that.

Posted by: B2O2 | December 1, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

From North:
"This hypothesis (Anthropogenic GW) fits in the climate science paradigm that 1) Data can be collected and assembled in ways that are sensible. 2) These data can be used to test and or recalibrate climate simulation models. 3) These same models can be used to predict future and past climates. It is understood that this is a complicated goal to reach with any precision. The models are not yet perfect, but there is no reason to think the approach is wrong."

Oh please! Have you looked at HARRY_READ_ME.txt? How can you look at that and then claim that data was "collected and assembled in ways that are sensible"? Climategate PROVES that the data were absolutely not taken care of AT ALL, not to mention that the HadCRUT code contains "fudge-factors" (a.k.a. fraud) as well as completely wrong assumptions about the data and a willingness to proceed despite things being wrong. The programmer himself wrote these things, check out HARRY_READ_ME.txt (google it).

Posted by: CGullans | December 1, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Dr. North emailed me this comment to be posted, clarifying two points in his interview:

I learned from a blog that I had misinterpreted the 'trick' I referred to. It seems that this referred to an action in 1998, long before my committee met. Phil Jones allegedly [based on the email], chose to 'blend' the tree ring data with the more recent instrumental data. While I might not have done it this way myself, I do not consider it dishonest or even manipulative. What he did was indicate to the best his knowledge what the situation was. At that time we knew rather less about the so-called divergence problem with the tree rings. I learned from a blog that I had misinterpreted the 'trick' I referred to. I t seems that this referred to an action in 1998, long before my committee met. Phil Jones allegedly [based on the email], chose to 'blend' the tree ring data with the more recent instrumental data. While I might not have done it this way myself, I do not consider it dishonest or even manipulative. What he did was indicate to the best his knowledge what the situation was. At that time we knew rather less about the so-called divergence problem with the tree rings. Sorry, I just cannot bring myself to read those emails.

I want to note another mistake in my statement. There were only about 1000 authors in the Journal of Climate last year. There are surely many thousands of active scientists around the world working on this problem.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | December 1, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

One thing I find interesting in this whole flap is the about-face a certain kind of people have made regarding the ONE aspect of this that is even remotely bothersome. That is the fact that in climatology - as in every other scientific field of inquiry, researchers tend to be jealously protective and territorial about their data and models. They worked hard to collect and develop them, and there is some intellectual property at stake.

Now, in every other sphere of life, when people demand that private enterprises share something they are hording that could benefit the rest of humankind (think health care, phone company monopolies, etc.), conservatives HOWL till the cows come home against the notion that anyone should be required to "cough up" their precious jewels. But suddenly on this issue, every last developed program and scrap of primary data should be shared "for the good of the many". It's a very interesting about-face for them.

Of course, as the interview alludes to, research groups HAVE stopped what they were doing to provide much of their data and models and programs to outside "auditors" like McIntyre. But of course, it's not enough until they completely cease their own work and spend full time holding the hand of anyone whose sole goal is find some shred of the research out of which they can cherry pick something to make part of the research sound flawed.

Again, free market principles seem to go out the window when it comes to standing on your own two feet in this area.

Posted by: B2O2 | December 1, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Who are the deniers now?

Posted by: davidmichael1 | December 1, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Dear Andrew (and North, for that matter):

Your questions are apparently "softball" or too general. You did not ask questions on specific emails. What about the email on silencing the opposing view by "redefine peer-review"? I'd like to know how Dr. North like that.

Clearly, Dr. North has not read the email or follow the climategate closely. When he finally know the "trick", notice how his tone changed? His defense reduced to trusting Jones' integrity, while admitting he wouldn't do the same. Reading between the lines, that's hardly an endorsement of the "trick". More like a back-paddling.

This interviewee has clearly something to lose in climategate. His stand and the committee conclusion will be eggs in his face when climategate is proven a scandle.

Posted by: ZekeZ | December 1, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

This article is a total whitewash con job.

The emails are nothing compared to the climate code that was released.

The climate models are a total fraud.

Listen to a software developer explain the blatant fraud in climate model code:

http://fascistsoup.com/2009/11/25/more-on-the-climategate-source-code/

Posted by: michaelsuede | December 1, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Breaking: Phil Jones, a key figure in the emails controversy, is stepping aside temporarily from his position as director of the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia, pending the results of an independent investigation into allegations generated by the emails. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5j_dt9Bjj5yVV7k1PAyDnVHKvKtgAD9CAM0VG0

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | December 1, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

First, Prof. North says: "All scientists know that this kind of language and kidding goes on verbally all the time."

Then, in his correction admits "Sorry, I just cannot bring myself to read those emails."

So how can he know the content of the emails was "kidding" and what was there language when he hasn't even read them? The Professor has unwittingly provided another example of that which he sought to debunk by giving this interview: this community of climate scientists is sloppy and loose with evidence, and rather cavalier in making conclusive proclamations just because, well, they can.

Posted by: OlePeep | December 1, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Professor North wrote, ""Sorry, I just cannot bring myself to read those emails."

Nice. That is two people you have "interviewed" about ClimateGate who HAVE NOT EVEN READ THE EMAILS!

Why are you interviewing people about ClimateGate who haven't read the emails?!?!

Don't worry. That last question was rhetorical. I know why you are interviewing them.

Just in case some people are new here and may not be aware, but Andrew Freedman is personally invested in the theory of man made, catastrophic global warming. From their "Meet the Gang" page - "He holds a Masters Degree in Climate and Society from Columbia University, and is completing a Masters in International Affairs from the Fletcher School at Tufts University."

When the hypothesis of catastrophic, man caused global warming is proven to be the big scam that it is, Andrew's degree in climate won't be worth the paper it is printed on. He has to believe it is true. And no amount of evidence will convince him otherwise.

But he also needs you, his readers, to believe it too. And so he brings out people who haven't read the emails (and probably haven't looked at the code) to convince you that these emails are no big deal. Absolutely pathetic. This is getting embarrassing to watch.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | December 1, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

I wonder, Andrew, if you actually read the report, which doesn't quite come across as a staunch defense of AGW. Clearly Professor North did not agree with some of your excerpts of your discussion, given the changes made after post.

The report itself actually sits clearly on the fence, which is different from your position:
"Based on the analyses presented in the original papers by Mann et al. and this newer supporting evidence, the committee finds it PLAUSIBLE (HB - note not definitive) that the Northern Hemisphere was warmer during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period over the preceding millennium.
The SUBSTANTIAL UNCERTAINTIES (HB emphasis)currently
present in the quantitative assessment of largescale surface temperature changes prior to about A.D. 1600 LOWER OUR CONFIDENCE IN THIS CONCLUSION(HB emphasis
compared to the HIGH LEVEL OF CONFIDENCE (HB)we place in the Little Ice Age cooling and 20th century warming. EVEN LESS CONFIDENCE CAN BE PLACED IN THE ORIGINAL CONCLUSIONS BY MANN ET AL. (1999) that “the 1990s are likely the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year, in at least a millennium” because the uncertainties inherent in
temperature reconstructions for individual years and decades are larger than those for longer time periods, and because not all of the available proxies
record temperature information on such short timescales."

Not exactly a ringing endorsement from Mr North and the NAS report, eh Mr. Freedman. Please note that the highest values rendered in the committee's re-graphing (not sure it was actually a full reconstruction) was the HADCRU dataset which is the bone of current discussion.

Summation here: http://dels.nas.edu/dels/rpt_briefs/Surface_Temps_final.pdf

If you do follow up questions with Professor North, it would be interesting to hear to what level the committee looked at the computer models and source data for Mann, given that is a now apparent issue at CRU.

Posted by: HenryButtal | December 1, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

B2O2's comment that the recent year temperature declines are the result of a 1998 super El Nino anomaly followed by a declining solar phase are correct. His next comment that warming will be "roaring back" is based on an assumption: that CO2 plays a significant role in climate. Now that Climategate has shown that data has been manipulated, it is clear that that assumption is in error. That increased CO2 may WANT to drive temperatures higher (under ideal conditions) does not mean that it will do so in the chaotic, non-linear, multi-feedback system known as Earth's biosphere. To say it will is a denial of the totality of the empirical data.

Posted by: stevea526 | December 1, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Andrew,

The reason your coverage is considered "softball" is that you completely gloss over the fact that RAW DATA HAS BEEN DESTROYED. The entire premise of the AGW theory is based upon raw data, which we know know has been tainted and some of it destroyed!! How can you continue to ignore this and keep up your sham of objectivity?!

And the "climate scientists" you are talking to are only those who happen to agree with you. Please spare me the excuse that there aren't any that disagree with your views on AGW. There is a list of over 20,000 legitimate scientists who disagree with your beloved IPCC, how about interviewing one of them? Since this story broke, you have become more hypocritical and shameless than ever. Are you ever going to be intellectually honest with your readers?

Posted by: octopi213 | December 1, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

You are part of the fraud. There is no consensus. That's not how good science works.

Al Gore, Phil Jones and Michael Mann should go to jail. But I still want to know, where was the media all this time? The fraud was obvious.

Now it's time to get to Obama's background and birth certificate.

Posted by: steveb777 | December 1, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

In his update Dr. North says:

"What he did was indicate to the best his knowledge what the situation was. At that time we knew rather less about the so-called divergence problem with the tree rings."

I can't reconcile that with the language used in Jones' email: he used a "trick" to "hide the decline." Since "the decline" is "the divergence problem" clearly the issue was well understood.

Posted by: MichaelLenaghan | December 1, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

I would encourage readers to look at the responses by McIntyre at http://camirror.wordpress.com/

These provide some further context to Dr. North's remarks.

Posted by: clt510 | December 1, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

I second clt510's note.

Please refer to Steve McIntyre's response at his blog http://camirror.wordpress.com

It appears Dr North may want to review the documentary history before he remarks further on the issue.

Posted by: mrkwong | December 1, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

"Although most scientists agree that the contents of the e-mails do not invalidate the scientific consensus that human activities are changing the climate,"


MOST scientists do not agree, and there is no scientific consensus; it is quite obvious now, as it has been to many for years, that the "consensus" was forced by eliminating anyone who had an adverse opinion!

North has a vested interest in Mann and Jones being innocent of what they are being charged with; he chaired the panel that exonerated Mann in 2006, and he will look like an utter fool if Mann is now found guilty.

Why don't you interview Richard Lindzen? If you want to be truly unbiased, let's hear from someone who hasn't bought the AGW line hook, line and sinker, and has been speaking out for a decade on the fact that data was bad, scientists were engaging in politics and deception, and the facts don't support the so called "consensus" opinion. He has participated in the IPCC reports, and he is a well qualified physicist. Let's hear from him!!

Posted by: anna_78750 | December 1, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Andrew Freedman, thanks for your thoughtful response to my note. I actually do think that despite protestation to the countrary the basic science issue of the link between rising CO2 and global temperature, i.e. the premise that rising CO2 is the major, dominant driver of global temperatue change, and thus climate change is in fact the issue. The quality of the data under question is an important element of that linkage. The data that has been used is pretty limited and the now known loss of that data is a serious deficit. But, if you are looking for folks to interview I would recommend Professor Wegman, the author of the report to congress that addressed many of the same issues much before they were exposed by the hacked e-mails, others to consider is Prof. Willie Soon, the scientist whose paper caused much of the hacked e-mails about forcing a journal not to publish papers that disagreed with the "concensus view" and to play games with the refereed journal process at the IPCC study, Prof Lindsay who has written extensively on the endargement of the scientific process in climate science, and so on. It would be useful for readers of WP to read their perspective. Others have already been covered by other venues.

Posted by: 123andy | December 1, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Professor North's account of the McIntyre requests does not seem to accord with the facts. The major reason why McIntyre was initially unable to replicate the Mann results was the fact that Mann did not accurately describe what he had done in the original Nature article. In particular Mann said he had used principal components analysis, when he had in fact used his own rather eccentric version (possibly previously unknown to science) which promoted the famous bristlecone pines to first principal component from either fourth or second (depending on exactly how "normal" principal components is done. There was no way that McIntyre could have known this from anything Mann had published. It only emerged by accident from a file apparently accidentally left on a server...(pre-echoes of climategate?). I'm an economist and the best economics journals now request data and code for empirical articles at the time of submission. If Nature had followed such a policy no-one would have been further inconvenienced by subsequent data and code requests. In the absence of data and code we get the silly situation where someone says "I can't get your results from your description", only to be met with "that's because you're doing it wrong - and we won't tell you exactly how you were doing it wrong". There are no winners when science is conducted like this.

Posted by: mikeph | December 1, 2009 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Subtle whitewash once again, though I fully expect your interview with a skeptic to exhibit copious tenacity.

Posted by: Middlebridge | December 1, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Dr. North, what a load of BS. You are in on this as much as they are, because you messed this up 4 years ago and "believe" (I mean that as unscientifically as possible) that they are correct. Go to climate audit (currently www.camirror.wordpress.com) to see what is actually going on... let's see if North bothers to correct himself.

Consensus, my ass.

Posted by: CGullans | December 1, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Also, to quote you above in the comments:

"Phil Jones allegedly [based on the email], chose to 'blend' the tree ring data with the more recent instrumental data. While I might not have done it this way myself, I do not consider it dishonest or even manipulative. What he did was indicate to the best his knowledge what the situation was. At that time we knew rather less about the so-called divergence problem with the tree rings."

For those of you that don't know, these climate scientists attempt to reconstruct past temperatures by finding things that are correlated with recorded temperature now, but extend into the past. Are you sure that it isn't "dishonest" to remove half of the temperature record because the proxies have no relation to temperature in that period, at all? A normal person would say, "gee, I guess these proxies aren't representing temperature well after all". Climate scientists say: "This is a 'divergence problem'; we will note it and then continue as if nothing is wrong". What have we "learned about the divergence problem" lately North? It's a complete joke of a concept, so please enlighten us on how this makes any sense, and further how it can justify blending temperature with the proxies without disclosing that you are doing so?

Posted by: CGullans | December 1, 2009 7:19 PM | Report abuse

So there is a scandal at the Vatican and all you do is question the College of Cardinals? Nice journalism. Here is a simple question that I think your readers deserve an answer to. Do you want AGW to be true? This is a yes/no question and I am not asking whether it is true or not nor whether the issue is in dispute. I am asking what you want the answer to be.

Posted by: DAVEDECARO | December 1, 2009 8:12 PM | Report abuse

I have a Ph.D. in physics and spent a large fraction of this long holiday weekend reading the emails and code. I can understand why Dr. North would not want to do so. It surely would make him ill.

While scientists might use the word "trick" to describe an innocuous piece of data manipulation, that is not the case here.

The temperature reconstruction done by Prof. Mann supposedly shows that the earth's climate was relatively stable for over a thousand years and then shoots up in the latter part of the 20th century. It looks like a hockey stick.

However, the actual temperature proxy, derived from tree ring widths, goes down in late 20th century, i.e. it diverges from the actual temperature record.

This is the decline that needs to be hidden (as described in the emails) and the trick is essentially to replace the proxy data with the actual temperature data, but not tell anyone that is what you are doing. This makes it appear that the proxy is good, when in fact it is questionable. I can think of no justification for this - the word fraudulent comes to mind. Furthermore the emails make it clear that Mann knew this and that is why he would not share the data and code with McIntyre.

If the temperature proxy is wrong for the modern era then how it it can be used to reconstruct past temperatures? In particular the Mann reconstruction made the Medieval Warm Period disappear. This make it appear that the current warming is unprecedented, when it fact it may be even weaker than what the earth experienced during the MWP.

Mann's hockey stick actually a hokey stick.

Posted by: Walter227 | December 1, 2009 9:29 PM | Report abuse

They need to be prosecuted for their fraud. They should be sitting in jail with Bernie Madoff.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | December 1, 2009 10:35 PM | Report abuse

Wonderful. The birthers have finally shown up. You know, I've never seen a subsegment of a species so hell-bent on doing in their species.

Posted by: B2O2 | December 2, 2009 12:00 AM | Report abuse

Billions Yes Billions of $$ are being spent to line the pockets of these so called junk fraud scientists and Al "the sky is falling so line my pockets" Gore.

Calf alone has spent $600 million to fund Global warming research. AND THEY HAVE NO MONEY!!!!!!

Tune in to the biggest Fraud in our life time.

Why is Obama going to go listen to these crooks in Copenhangen? Does he have no Brain?

I won't rest until every politician that has jumped on the "give away Billions for Global warming bandwagon" is voted out of Office. First the House that voted for Cap and Tax then Barak "cover up the news" Obama is out of office.

Posted by: RongCapsFan | December 2, 2009 12:04 AM | Report abuse

Are you honestly wondering who you can interview with an opposing point of view? From the email, and from this article, it is obvious that McIntyre was the person that is at the other side of the storm. Apparently he wasn't even contacted for a comment.

If he is indeed the person that single handedly can bring all research to a halt with his incessant requests for data and 'bogus' analysis, shouldn't you see what exactly it is that he is doing? If he can find enough flaws that Mr. North requires a correction in the comments, don't you think he might be worth a follow up? I don't understand how everyone can talk about his motives ad infinitum, and no one talk to him.

Even a district police chief caught with a hooker gets contacted for comment. I guess fairness is easier then.

Posted by: rd3309 | December 2, 2009 1:25 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, Gerry North is not an objective observer of the controversy. Despite his comments, the email controversy is causing people to change their minds. See http://clivecrook.theatlantic.com/archives/2009/11/more_on_climategate.php

Also, it is a little surprising North's view of the email scandal is considered valuable when he admits he has not read the emails.

I do not know who Andrew Freedman is planning to interview from the skeptical camp, but if it is not Steve McIntyre everyone will wonder why. McIntyre is central to the scandal even though he has done nothing wrong. It was his persistence in requesting information that caused the emails to be leaked. We all have McIntyre to thank for the good that will come from higher standards being practiced by climate scientists and new openness to skeptical papers from journals.

Posted by: RonInIrvine | December 2, 2009 1:57 AM | Report abuse

"Dr. North emailed me this comment to be posted, clarifying two points in his interview:

I learned from a blog that I had misinterpreted the 'trick' I referred to."

It may be worthwile to mention the blog in question here: Steve McIntyre's Climate Audit, see http://camirror.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/gerry-north-doesnt-understand-the-trick/

Posted by: Alberto2 | December 2, 2009 2:46 AM | Report abuse

"Dr. North emailed me this comment to be posted, clarifying two points in his interview:

I learned from a blog that I had misinterpreted the 'trick' I referred to."

It is worthwile to mention the blog in question here: Steve McIntyre's Climate Audit, see http://camirror.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/gerry-north-doesnt-understand-the-trick/

Posted by: Alberto2 | December 2, 2009 2:49 AM | Report abuse

In the interest of full disclosure, I would like to know how much research funding Prof. North has received over the past 15 years from federal agencies to support research connected with climate change. If he is receiving such funds, he is hardly impartial. Expressing views supportive of Stephen McIntyre and other skeptics would jeopardize his future research funding.

Posted by: ponderosaTX | December 2, 2009 7:34 AM | Report abuse

Andrew,

As we discussed last week, it was my understanding that you were going to interview at least one scientist with a more skeptical viewpoint. I, as with Crowley last week, find this interviewee somewhat irrelevant because he claims not to have read the e-mails. He is also nearly a clone of Crowley. I have to agree with the comment above, "[s]o there is a scandal at the Vatican and all you do is question the College of Cardinals?"

Unfortunately, this important story may now be outside the scope of what has recently been reconfigured as a "regional" paper, requiring that coverage of national and global issues fall to bloggers and columnists, instead of staff journalists.

Andrew, I appreciate the series of columns, and they are great addition to the Weather blog. I only wish the Post could dedicate some hard-hitting reporters and neutral journalists to the story, but again, the story seems to be outside the Post's league. Thanks for the effort, and I look forward to reading more of your columns.

RWW

Posted by: WestEndVoter | December 2, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Andrew,

You asked earlier for suggestions on whom else you should interview in this ongoing debate. I suggest that you contact Steven McIntyre for an interview. He can give you some perspective on what was done to the data and the impact that the 'trick' has on it.

Posted by: bobaganoush | December 2, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Lorne Gunter wrote in National Post about the silence of "mainstream media" on climategate:

"What is keeping this story from being reported is a mindset rather than a conspiracy. It is socially and intellectually easier to take the word of the pleasant, safe crowd claiming to be interested in saving the Earth. Standing with the skeptics is harder work, not to mention riskier."

Gunter probably should have added that journalists had taken the AGW side in an overwhelming proportion. Eating crow must be really hard.

So we readers get a rare chance to see who is doing his/her job as a journalist.


Posted by: ZekeZ | December 2, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

I do not remember the year but somewhere between 1991 and 1993, Dr North said in a Texas A&M faculty meeting "Should I use global warming or global cooling in grant proposals." My roommate was the graduate student representative at the time. When he got home, he couldn't believe what he had heard in the meeting. He reported that in the meeting, Dr North stated that he could make his model defend either side of the arguement. At the time, AGW was not the big issue as it is now. But I personally had no trust in the research after I heard about this information exchange during the faculty meeting.

Posted by: snaarf | December 2, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

snaarf:

Thank you for sharing that. It is up to Andrew Freeman or someone with journalist integrity to dig that out.

I served NSF grant review panel several times in the past several years. It is clear to me that many researchers try really hard to jump on the global warming bandwagon for the purpose of getting money. It becomes a common grantsmanship that you get better chance by crying wolf.

Consider that only about 15% of proposals get funded. The competition is brutal. So it is no surprise that North said what he said.

Think about it: Who is going to give you money for research if your objective is to prove the earth is safe from CO2? You think you can end up in the top 15% by that?

The is no orchestrated conspiracy among AGW alarmists. It is not needed to make a hoax. It is the money, stupid.

Posted by: ZekeZ | December 2, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Here is the reason why the tree ring data could not be used by climate researchers after 1960 (the "trick" about "hiding the decline"):

http://www.climateaudit.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/briffa_recon.gif

Strangely, it shows a spike around the 1930s instead of now. Weird, huh?

Posted by: MattRogers | December 2, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

MattRogers wrote, "Strangely, it shows a spike around the 1930s instead of now. Weird, huh?"

Not only is the spike around the 1930's, but it is a fairly constant DECLINE in temperature from that point forward until today. Now why would he possibly want to "hide" that decline?

It is funny how little the real proxy resembles his hockey stick.

They have committed massive fraud. They need to repay every single tax payer dollar that they received and then go directly to jail.

Then, every single study and computer model that uses any of the work product of Jones or Mann needs to be IMMEDIATELY DISCARDED. You can't use bad data in your study and get an accurate result!

Matt, have you seen the comparison between New Zealand's raw temperature and the ADJUSTED temperature? It looks as if they took a page straight from the Phil Jones and Michael Mann playbook.

Check it out. The New Zealand "adjustments".

Funny how it takes constant adjustment and tweaking to generate a warming surface record.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | December 2, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Andrew Freedman, you have written three columns trying to defend the so called scientists of ClimateGate. With each of those columns you have promised that an interview with a more skeptical scientist is forthcoming. Over one week ago, you said it would be "in coming days".

Two questions -
1. Do you intend to do an in depth interview with a skeptic well *PRIOR* to the start of Copenhagen, or is it your intention to minimize the impact on Copenhagen by running the interview after the climate conference is under way?
2. Which skeptical scientist will you be interviewing?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | December 2, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Mr Q., yes I saw the New Zealand data. And to be honest, I have ran data for several U.S. cities and cannot yet find the rapid warming shown on these global temperature hockey sticks (except for Vegas and Phoenix's massive urbanized data points).

This is what gets me. For the past several years, the engine of the warm global temperature readings has been in two areas with the least amount of surface reporting stations: Russia and the Arctic. So the majority of the warming is coming from the least measured (more interpolated) locations. See what I mean here for October 2009:

http://data.giss.nasa.gov/work/gistemp/NMAPS/tmp_GHCN_GISS_1200km_Anom10_2009_2009_1951_1980/GHCN_GISS_1200km_Anom10_2009_2009_1951_1980.gif

So this begs the question: are the tree rings correct after 1960 after all?!?!?

Posted by: MattRogers | December 2, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

So today we heard from Prof. Holdren, the President's Science Advisor. He is part of the same "tribe" that was exposed by ClimateGate, has done his fair share of blocking and tackling scientists who have disagreed with him. The reports on his testimony leave the impression that his questioners were not well prepared to force him to address his role in spreading the dogma of CO2 controlled climate change. He has a history with ignoring and hiding refereed publications he does not like, he has been pretty open about destroying scientists who have challenged his scientific connclusions and statements. He has been one of those who in his post graduate work has been chasing one devastating crisis after another that have the potential the destroy humankind. Overpopulation and climate change have been his hot buttons for a while. I wonder if he has ever briefed the President about scientific results that question if CO2 control alone will control climate change? Based on my contacts in the White House he has not, and has fought hard to keep any scientific arguments that challenge this monochromatic view from the President and his staff.

Posted by: 123andy | December 2, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Andrew has done a terrific service to a better undertanding of how science works. . .and indeed as Dr. North points out showing us that scientists are human also. . .with all our foibles. The scientists are imperfect, the science of global change/warming is imperfect. It DOES NOT mean that the general data, theory, observations and conclusions are wrong or should now be disregarded because of a few selected e-mails I am sure everyone involved would love to take back. Perhaps Andrew might interview Roger Pielke Sr. for a contrasting view.

Bob Ryan

Posted by: bobryan1 | December 2, 2009 6:53 PM | Report abuse

123andy: Would you care to identify yourself, as you level allegations against the White House Science Advisor?

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | December 2, 2009 9:02 PM | Report abuse

Andrew Freedman, you have written three columns trying to defend the so called scientists of ClimateGate. With each of those columns you have promised that an interview with a more skeptical scientist is forthcoming. Over one week ago, you said it would be "in coming days".

Two questions -
1. Do you intend to do an in depth interview with a skeptic *WELL PRIOR* to the start of Copenhagen, or is it your intention to minimize the impact on Copenhagen by running the interview after the climate conference is under way?
2. Which skeptical scientist will you be interviewing?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | December 2, 2009 9:11 PM | Report abuse

Andrew Friedman, what I have said about Science Advisor Holdren in my earlier post is well known in the senior science community, had you done your research you would know about it. It was extensively discussed at the time of his nomination, just nobody was interested in pursuing it. It was brought to the attention of the White House, but they were not interested.

Posted by: 123andy | December 2, 2009 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Steve McIntyre is directly and flatly contradicting Mr. North in this blog post, http://camirror.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/gerry-north-doesnt-understand-the-trick/
.

Posted by: firefifty | December 2, 2009 11:23 PM | Report abuse

North needs to refresh his memory, if that's possible, by reading the NAS report to see how the NAS panel displayed the instrument records alongside the proxies in their graphs. There is no resemblance to Jones' "trick...to hide the decline" (in the proxy's indication of temperatures in the last half of the 20th century). See Figure O-6 in the NAS report:
http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11676&page=17

Both North and the blogger who did this interview need to read the NAS report to see that they did not, repeat not, find Mann's results to be sound. They agreed that temperatures were likely higher in the last part of the 20th century compared to the prior 400 years--because of a simple fact that they also acknowledged, namely those prior centuries were the Little Ice Age!

The NAS panel opined that Mann's general claim of warmth in the 20th century was merely "plausible," but they had "even less confidence" in his claim that the 1990s were warmer than any other time in the prior 1000 years. What's less than "plausible"?

Posted by: Micajah | December 3, 2009 12:23 AM | Report abuse

The journal "Nature" published an editorial today

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v462/n7273/full/462545a.html

which make me lose all the respect to this supposedly top journal in science. I have no problem for Nature editorial board to pick a side one way or the other. However, the editorial lables the scientists on the other side as "climate-change-denialist fringe" and their side as "mainstream climate researchers". It blames the "denialists" harassment that forced the scientists at CRU to behave badly.

Now I know Nature is that political and bias. It goes this low in a scientific debate to literally attack skeptical scientists. What a shame.

This scandal goes deeper and deeper.

Posted by: ZekeZ | December 3, 2009 3:19 AM | Report abuse

Here are the NAS Committee's key conclusions, in their own words from the report. These conclusions support my statement in the article that "While the panel found some flaws with the study, it largely affirmed Mann's conclusions that late 20th century surface temperatures were higher than they had been in at least four centuries, and possibly far longer than that."

"After considering all of the available evidence, including the curves shown in Figure S-1, the committee has reached the following conclusions:

*The instrumentally measured warming of about 0.6°C during the 20th century is also reflected in borehole temperature measurements, the retreat of glaciers, and other observational evidence, and can be simulated with climate models.

*Large-scale surface temperature reconstructions yield a generally consistent picture of temperature trends during the preceding millennium, including relatively warm conditions centered around A.D. 1000 (identified by some as the “Medieval Warm Period”) and a relatively cold period (or “Little Ice Age”) centered around 1700. The existence of a Little Ice Age from roughly 1500 to 1850 is supported by a wide variety of evidence including ice cores, tree rings, borehole temperatures, glacier length records, and historical documents. Evidence for regional warmth during medieval times can be found in a diverse but more limited set of records including ice cores, tree rings, marine sediments, and historical sources from Europe and Asia, but the exact timing and duration of warm periods may have varied from region to region, and the magnitude and geographic extent of the warmth are uncertain.

*It can be said with a high level of confidence that global mean surface temperature was higher during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period during the preceding four centuries. This statement is justified by the consistency of the evidence from a wide variety of geographically diverse proxies.

*Less confidence can be placed in large-scale surface temperature reconstructions for the period from A.D. 900 to 1600. Presently available proxy evidence indicates that temperatures at many, but not all, individual locations were higher during the past 25 years than during any period of comparable length since A.D. 900. The uncertainties associated with reconstructing hemispheric mean or global mean temperatures from these data increase substantially backward in time through this period and are not yet fully quantified.

*Very little confidence can be assigned to statements concerning the hemispheric mean or global mean surface temperature prior to about A.D. 900 because of sparse data coverage and because the uncertainties associated with proxy data and the methods used to analyze and combine them are larger than during more recent time periods.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | December 3, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Both Google and Bing have removed "climategate" from their autocomplete list of words. Both of them had climategate in their list of autocomplete just three days ago. But now, it is GONE.

Google will suggest "climate gate scandal" for you. Which returns 6,430,000 results. But doing a Google search on "climategate" returns 27.5 MILLION results.

Bing is more sinister. Climategate was on the list a few days ago. But not now. But Bing will suggest "climate-gate" which returns 10 Million results. And a Bing search for "climategate" returns only 9.8 Million results.

But I have a screenshot from November 29th of a Bing search for "climategate" which returned 50.1 MILLION results!

Who ever heard of a search engines results going DOWN (reduced to less than one fifth!!) after 4 days when searching for what is undoubtedly the largest scientific scandal in my lifetime?

How does that happen?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | December 3, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Mr Q.,

What do you think the odds are that Andrew actually interviews a genuine "skeptic" such as McIntyre? Judging from Andrews past interviews, comments, and posts, I'd say there's less than a 5% chance he decides to display intellectual honesty and interview someone who can disprove his beliefs.

Posted by: octopi213 | December 3, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

octopi213,

I think the odds are very low. I'd say you are pretty close with your estimate of 5%.

Notice how in a very short period of time he was able to run THREE columns trying to minimize the leak prior to the start of Copenhagen. And he has been stringing his readers along with a promise to interview a skeptic.

What do you think the odds are that he will post an interview with a skeptic before Friday afternoon?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | December 3, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Andrew post an interview with a skeptic less than 24 hours from now? Is is possible to have a probability less than zero? If there is I go with -5%.

Posted by: octopi213 | December 3, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Let's hope he proves us wrong.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | December 3, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

And here are the words used by the NAS panel just a couple of pages later to explain their key conclusions:

http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11676&page=20

"Based on the analyses presented in the original papers by Mann et al. and this newer supporting evidence, the committee finds it plausible that the Northern Hemisphere was warmer during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period over the preceding millennium. The substantial uncertainties currently present in the quantitative assessment of large-scale surface temperature changes prior to about A.D. 1600 lower our confidence in this conclusion compared to the high

[go on to the next page for the rest]

level of confidence we place in the Little Ice Age cooling and 20th century warming. Even less confidence can be placed in the original conclusions by Mann et al. (1999) that “the 1990s are likely the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year, in at least a millennium” because the uncertainties inherent in temperature reconstructions for individual years and decades are larger than those for longer time periods, and because not all of the available proxies record temperature information on such short timescales."

The "original conclusions" illustrated in Mann's "hockey stick" about the unprecedented nature of the 1990s and 1998 in particular were not found to be plausible by the NAS panel.

Those "original conclusions" were the reason the hockey stick was given such prominence by advocates of AGW and drew such attention from skeptics who wanted to know just how that hockey stick was produced.

If you want to appear to be fair in reporting on this subject, you need to include the bad (for Mann) with the good.

Posted by: Micajah | December 3, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Micajah wrote, "If you want to appear to be fair in reporting on this subject, ..."

You must be new here.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | December 3, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

As someone who definitely does not have a dog in this fight, who used Trewartha as a text in his grad school climate course, and regards climate science, which investigates processes that MIGHT be important to climate variation, as a relative new comer to atmospheric science, I'd like to know, for this important discussion, where I can obtain these data. Are they publicly available? Is there a website from which I can download these data for my own analysis supported entirely by the Social Security Administration and TIAA-CREF, neither of whom, like myself, have a dog in this fight.

If I can't download these data TODAY without the intervention of a principal investigator but perhaps the help of an international data manager (it is international data, isn't it), then "something is rotten in the state of Denmark" as the Bard would say.

Sorry, the 'free market' doesn't work in science. Investigators who proprietize their data and do not make it available publicly after a short period of vetting and primary use (defined publicly in funding proposals or public statements), should not receive public funding. Code and analysis techniques, often part of the creative side of science, are another story. Replication of a result, using several different analysis methods, increases confidence. Looks like this group is discussing a sample of one (Mann, et al.). Bad science (non-gender) guys.

By the way, and some of my colleagues will roll their eyes and say:"Here he goes again!":

The mean value is not a very good statistic for these kind of discussions. In fact, I'd like to see the Frequency Distributions (one for each mean value) of the data from which the mean values, which define the hockey stick time series, are drawn. The median is a much better statistic. And what about the other, higher order statistics, variance, skewness, kurtosis? I would argue that society has much more to lose from interaction with the higher order statistics than the lowly mean, which reacts greatly to outliers.

With this in mind, since I stumbled into this from the land-atmosphere/air-sea interaction/watershed world, I better read this Mann, et al. paper and see if they provide at least mean, median, variance, skewness, and kurtosis from 'their' data; a lot about the confidence of the data can be gathered from those statistics (i.e. the Fischer-Mendel controversy). Maybe someone on this blog can save me the trouble.

I am making this comment because, as a scientist who regards the data he took during 30+ years in the field as not only 'sacred' but public, I am getting the impression that ALL of us are on trial.

and I don't want to be because of a few newcomers to atmospheric research.

Posted by: grossman1 | December 4, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

So Mr. Q, it has been 24 hours and still not a peep from Mr. Freedman. Do we both get cookies for our correct predictions?

Posted by: octopi213 | December 4, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Uh oh, looks like I spoke too soon. Mr. Freedman has indeed proved us wrong and posted his interview with the most skeptical individual yet.

Posted by: octopi213 | December 4, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

What this discussion refuses to acknowledge is the damage caused by ClimateGate revelations. We see "climate scientists" behaving badly. Unscientifically. Manipulating and altering the very data upon which the purported "consensus" is made. Any real scientist will tell you simply that science does not use consensus. It uses the scientific method. That is there is NEVER a consensus until experimental observation demonstrates without fail to confirm hypothesized results.

These "climate scientists" demonstrate a severe lack of good character and honesty. They believe their goals are higher than truth necessitates and so, as evidenced in these emails, elect to manipulate, fabricate, and obfuscate access to it. CRU's work is imbued in each of the three official temperature records that the "consensus" relies on. It has been shown to be suspect if not outright falsified. CRU/Hadley Met Center have admitted this by announcing a full re-calculation of all temperature records for 150 years.

This admission to transparency this late in the game only heightens suspicions. Why have they only now elected to come clean? If their data has been so unassailable why have they not put it in the open for all to verify??

There are no answers for these questions. Regardless of the stature of the consensus institutions - they have relied on corrupted data. The work to determine if there is any such thing as man-made global warming from CO2 emissions - must begin again.

Posted by: Thotful | December 5, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

The problem with the NAS panel's study of Mann was they did a literature review to see if his paper was somewhat within the realm of possibility based on other papers. They found it was for the last 400 years (during the Little Ice Age) but had less confidence in the claim the 20th century was the warmest in 1000 years.

North never did an independent review of Mann's data and method. His panel never looked at the question of the Artificial Hockey Stick - the claim by McIntyre that Mann's method would result in a Hockey Stick even if you you fed in trendless red noise as data. This is an important claim but the NAS panel never looked at it.

The Wegman Report was much better because it actually did an independent review of Mann's method and data. It found a number of problems, including that Mann's method would result in an Artificial Hockey Stick. This result was confirmed by Hans von Storch and Eduoardo Zorita.

When Steve McIntyre testified before Congress he made three points.
1. The Hockey Stick is not reliable and none of the various efforts to salvage it are reliable either.
2. Peer review as practiced by academic journals is not an audit but something much more limited. In turn, scientific overviews such as the ones produced by IPCC or even by the NAS panel are based almost entirely on literature review rather than independent testing.
3. Climate scientists, particularly in paleoclimate, do not archive their data, metadata and code as is required by journals and funding sources and it makes replication virtually impossible.

McIntyre is right on all counts. Instead of claiming the AGW consensus still holds, North should be asking for a full review of the data. Many, many climate science papers are suspect now because of what we learned from the CRU emails. It is almost easier to consider which papers have not been affected by these disclosures than to think of the papers which have.

What papers have not been damaged by the CRU emails or documents? Any paper dealing with atmospheric data, either UAH or RSS has not been severely damaged. Any paper dealing with ARGO data has not been severely damaged. I am at a loss to think of any other class of paper which would not be affected.

What papers has been most damaged? Almost any paper in the field of paleoclimate, with the exception of the Loehle/McCulloch temp reconstruction which did not use tree-rings. Almost any paper dependent on surface temp record, either from CRU or GISS. Some may argue that GISS is independent of CRU but the emails do not indicate that. GISS is almost as secretive as CRU and CEI is suing GISS for being non-responsive to FOIA requests. If it turns out the dust bowl years of the 1930s and 1940s were warmer than the 1990s, it will be very damaging to the claim we are experiencing unprecedented warming. The papers affected include those estimating climate sensitivity to CO2. They almost all rely on surface temp data.

This is my honest assessment. Claims that this CRU scandal does not hurt climate science is just ridiculous.

Posted by: RonInIrvine | December 8, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

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