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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 05/10/2010

Virginia AG's risky climate science investigation

By Andrew Freedman

* Week starts cool, then warmer with shower chances: Full Forecast *

The fallout from the so-called 'climategate' email affair has metastasized yet again, this time into a highly controversial investigation by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, who is examining the research practices of a former University of Virginia climate scientist. The civil investigation seeks to determine whether Michael Mann, a prominent specialist in the planet's climate history who now directs the Earth Systems Science Center at Penn State University, violated Virginia's Fraud Against Taxpayers Act when he conducted research financed by the state of Virginia prior to leaving the faculty in 2005.

Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia Attorney General.

Mann has correctly labeled the investigation a "witch hunt," and even ardent climate science skeptics have condemned Cuccinelli's actions, as noted by Andrew Revkin on DotEarth last week.

According to the civil investigative demand (CID), which is similar to a subpoena, Cuccinelli's investigation "relates to data and other materials that Dr. Mann presented in seeking awards/grants funded, in whole or in part, by the Commonwealth of Virginia or any of its agencies as well as data, materials and communications that Dr. Mann created, presented or made in connection with or related to" five separate grants. Interestingly, most of the grants were funded mainly by the federal government, not the state of Virginia.

The investigation also seeks all correspondence between Mann and a list of about 40 climate scientists, several of whom had their emails stolen in the climategate dustup. The list includes Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia in Britain, Gavin Schmidt of NASA and the realclimate blog, Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., as well as well-known climate skeptic Steve McIntyre, a longtime critic of Mann's work.

Mann specializes in paleoclimatology and has written numerous studies on the earth's climate history. His reconstruction of climate change during the past 1,000 years became one of the most controversial climate science charts in history when it was included in the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Third Assessment Report in 2001. It showed a highly unusual and sharp increase in temperature during the latter part of the 20th century, and was cited as evidence that human activities are significantly altering the climate. The chart was dubbed the Hockey Stick, since the temperature increase resembles the blade on a hockey stick.

Due to persistent questions about that study, a National Research Council panel examined its methods in 2006, and found no major flaws. In the wake of climategate, Mann has been investigated by his current academic institution, which has essentially cleared him of wrongdoing, although part of the investigation is still ongoing.

Cuccinelli's investigation has the potential to dramatically curb scientific research at U. Va. and elsewhere. If scientists fear they will be investigated if the attorney general dislikes their research results (Cuccinelli is known to be skeptical of the widely held scientific view that human activities are warming the climate), they may refrain from conducting potentially controversial research.

It's extremely difficult to read the CID as anything other than an assault on climate science research, and to a broader degree, on scientific research in general. For example, if Cuccinelli's investigation were truly about whether Mann improperly used grant funding, why would the CID include a list of scientists, several of whom were swept up in 'climategate', and several (such as McIntyre) who did not work on the grants at all?

Couldn't this really be about trying to unearth more fodder for climate science skeptics by revealing more of Mann's emails?

There has been widespread criticism of Cuccinelli's investigation, including from the Washington Post's editorial board, which published a scathing editorial on May 6, saying that Cuccinelli "has declared war on the freedom of academic inquiry."

"By equating controversial results with legal fraud, Mr. Cuccinelli demonstrates a dangerous disregard for scientific method and academic freedom," the editorial stated.

In an article in the Post yesterday, Cuccinelli was quoted as saying the investigation is not about Mann's research results, but rather the way he spent state funds. "That subpoena is directed at the expenditure of dollars. Whether he does a good job, bad job or I don't like the outcome -- and I think everybody already knows his position on some of this is one that I question. But that is not what that's about," Cuccinelli said.

However, considering the costs to Virginia of pursuing the investigation, when compared to the grant funding in question, Slate's Dahlia Lithwick wrote: "Spending half a million dollars of taxpayer funds to possibly recover some part of half a million dollars of misspent grant money doesn't even begin to make sense."

Roger Pielke Jr., a political scientist at the University of Colorado whose correspondence with Mann is being sought under the CID, said the investigation is purely political, and is extremely unlikely to turn up any evidence of misconduct.

...Make no mistake, this is a fishing expedition pure and simple. The point of the "investigation" is not to recover Virginia funds that were misappropriated, as the law might suggest, but to go back to the Climategate well one more time to see if more embarrassing information or emails might be dredged up. And on this point, there are probably more embarrassing things in Mann's emails and files. But given the attention he has received and the information already found in the East Anglia emails, it'd be a shock to find anything indicating research misconduct.

For more reaction to Cuccinelli's investigation, see climate skeptic Tom Fuller's open letter to Cuccinelli, as well as articles from the Climate Progress blog and US News and World Report.

What do you think of Cuccinelli's investigation of Michael Mann?

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

By Andrew Freedman  | May 10, 2010; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Freedman, News & Notes, Science  
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Posted by: Brian-CapitalWeatherGang | May 10, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Imagine if Goldman Sachs was investigated by a panel of Goldman Sachs investors, instead of by the government. Imagine if BP's Oil spill was investigated by the BP Board of Directors. Imagine a soldier in Iraq being tried by his friends in the squad, and not allowing victims to testify.

None of those would be acceptable. So why is it not only acceptable, but mandatory that Climate Science only be investigated by those with a vested interest? We expect our government to investigate those who cannot be trusted to do their own investigations, so we must allow the government to do an investigation even when we believe that the parties are trustworthy (the scientists).

Climate Science can't afford any more forbidden texts. Every time we object to a review, it influences the public into believing we have something to hide. By the time the truth comes out, nobody cares.

What Cuccelli is really after is Mann's computer codes, which turn the data into a "hockey stick" by adjusting historic temperatures. While the raw data has been released, Mann has never released the code.

Also, it should be noted that for as many investigations that have validated the hockey stick, there have been as many (Wegman Report) that condemn it as flawed.

Remember, things like the Medieval Warming Period and the Little Ice Age were common knowledge before Mann rewrote climate history using one tree in Siberia.

Posted by: ecocampaigner | May 10, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

This is not Cuccinelli's only offense. He seems to think that his right-wing version of fundamentalist Christianity is the only "valid" religion. According to him, the only "valid" scientific text is the one that begins with Genesis and ends with Revelation--in the "King James" version, to boot. [If he's Roman Catholic, he might admit to the "validity" of the Vulgate.]

He may also be behind the effort to consider the "U Va. lacrosse" murder of Yeardley Love to be a capital offense. It probably isn't--this murder was probably a spur-of-the-moment "crime of passion". Normally the death penalty is reserved for multiple serial murders, murders during the commission of another felony, and muders of an officer of the peace. It probably would not apply to a crime of passion; we don't even know at present if the UVa murder was premeditated.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | May 10, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I think the Science and Enviromental Policy Project ( said it the best:

In 2006, Professor Edward Wegman of George Mason University, chair of the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics, headed a team of statisticians testing the methods used by Mr. Mann. Professor Wegman testified before Congress that Mann's faulty statistical techniques always produce the infamous hockey stick configuration, even from random data.

If Mr. Mann had been open with his research data and methods, and permitted their review by independent scientists, his errors may have been appropriately corrected in a scientific setting rather than in a political one. Instead, he chose to withhold the information. It is imperative to understand the full extent to which Mann's now discredited study distorted the climate and energy policies of the US government - at great cost to the taxpayer and energy consumer.

Those who invoke "academic freedom" and "scientific freedom" would do well to ask themselves how are these noble goals served when research is kept secret? How is democracy served when government- funded research so critical to public policy is kept secret?

Posted by: dave09 | May 10, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

ecocampaigner: I was with you until your last two grafs, neither of which are at all accurate. Far more probes have exonerated Mann than have faulted his work, and accusing Mann of "rewriting climate history using one tree in Siberia" is, in a word, ridiculous.

However, you're right in my view that the post-'climategate' investigations into climate science need to be transparent, and involve outsiders as well as insiders, otherwise the reviews will lack some degree of credibility.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | May 10, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

@Andrew - thanks for the response.

I never counted the investigations, lets say some have validated Mann's work, and others have condemned it.

Regarding the "one tree from Siberia", can you clarify why you think this is wrong with this statement? Is it 12 trees and not 1 tree (I've heard it both ways)?

The Mann study that produced the Hockey Stick was from data that involved between 1 and 12 trees out of samples from 250 trees. Mann then published the hockey stick, which showed no MWP (Medieval Warming Period) and no LIA (Little Ice Age). To me this is rewriting climate history.

This is significant, because prior to the Hockey Stick, the MWP was considered to be warmer than today's climate, which of course means that it wasn't caused by human carbon emissions, and that it wasn't catastrophic for the environment.

Posted by: ecocampaigner | May 10, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Pielke has a PhD in political science, but he's a professor of Environmental Studies.

Posted by: tomtildrum | May 10, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Is Cuccinelli an expert on the little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period? Is he an expert on computer code? Will Cuccinelli also review work on string theory? Now that's a theory I have trouble with (no doubt because I don't know much about it and probably don't have enough math to understand it.)

One question with the Medieval Warm Period is whether it was a global phenomena or restricted to northern Europe and the North Atlantic. I have heard it is not apparent in Chinese records.

The NAS review of Mann's work didn't believe there was enough data before 1600 for Mann to draw conclusions about global temperatures. Maybe the same is true about previous climate work.

Seems like Mann's work has been critically examined again and again and people have felt quite free to judge it without seeing the computer code apparently. Either these people have judged prematurely or you don't need the actual computer code.

Mann's work has been critically and carefully reviewed by a host of scientists.
Maybe it's time to move on.

Posted by: Dadmeister | May 10, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse


Its typical for prosecutors to use subject matter experts for analysis of technical evidence, so its very unlikely that Cuccelli himself would be the reviewer.

On Feb 10, 2010 there was a study released confirming the global nature of the MWP, including a Chinese MWP (as well as a South American MWP). Here's the lead text:

"“Zhang et al. conclude that their proxy climate data “reveal that the North Atlantic MWP and the LIA were accompanied by climate changes on the northeastern Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau,” while their comparison with Esper et al.’s data indicates that their data are also well correlated with long tree-ring chronologies from much of the Northern Hemisphere. The research team thus provides important evidence for the broad geographical reach of both the MWP and the LIA.”

Posted by: ecocampaigner | May 10, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Virginia residents who are readers: Do you believe the AG is doing a proper job? He had an overwhelming percentage of the vote, so I am wondering how those of you especially who voted for him--how do you view his job performance now?

Posted by: Camden-CapitalWeatherGang | May 10, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure that my post will be deleted, but here's the other side of this debate, which (as is typical for Freedman) is not included. After all, there's only side to the climate debate, which is HIS.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | May 10, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Kookie Ken wants to shut down any scientific research that does not agree with his scientific ideas. Given the long history of non-scientists interfering in science (e.g. the Catholic church condemning Galileo), it is unbelievable that this theocratic lunatic is the AG of VA.
A recall effort should be started immediately on Cuccinelli.

Posted by: kashe | May 10, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Apparently, people have found out enough about Michael Mann's work to critique his statistical methods. Experts have expressed their opinions already. Why does the great state of Virginia have to get involved?

It is one thing to argue science. It is another to accuse the other side of fraud and lies. ( ????) Because someone has a different view of the Medieval warm period than you, do you really think the Attorney General of Virginia should investigate them????

Posted by: Dadmeister | May 10, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

WashingtonDame: We don't delete comments unless they violate our terms of use (see: So no, your comment won't be deleted, even though you disagree with my views ;)

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | May 10, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

I voted straight R for the last election although voted for Deeds in the primary and would have been ok with him. It was interesting to watch Deeds backpeddle on cap and trade in the campaign. He would likely have been a "C" governor on AGW.

Anyway to issue at hand, I have thought about it and don't see any legal reason to go after Mann. It is a fishing expedition. That politics and science doesn't mix is a good lesson for both sides. The best we will get out of anti-AGW politics is feel-good witch hunt with zero progress against the AGW promoters in corporate America.

The very best that AGW politics will get us is a bunch of relatively inefficient feel-good green measures. The more likely case is will waste money and energy to produce lesser amounts of politically correct energy and tax small business to pay for it.

But if political battles is what people want, that's what they will get. BTW Virginia is not a state, but we are a great commonwealth.

Posted by: eric654 | May 10, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

If Cuccinelli wants the computer code, why doesn't he just ask for the computer code? Instead, what he wants are "All documents that constitute or are any way related to correspondence, messages, or e-mails sent to or received by Dr. Michael Mann from any of the following persons:". The following persons list contains 39 individual names plus "All research assistants, secretaries or administrative staff with whom Dr. Mann worked while he was at the University of Virginia." And that's just the first entry of the list of stuff he's looking for.

That sounds more like a criminal investigation to me, and if the AG has evidence of criminality, I think he should share it. As it is, it's hard not to think that Cuccinelli is going after Mann simply because he doesn't like his conclusions.

Posted by: kevinwparker | May 10, 2010 6:53 PM | Report abuse

jeez, i hadn't heard about this until just now. the fact that pielke's against cuccinelli's investigation really shows how off base cuccinelli is.

i find it funny and telling that WashingtonDame thought her comment would be deleted. it kind of takes a conspiracy theorist to think climate scientists are "in cahoots", trying to pull the wool over our eyes....

to wit:

to answer your question, though i didn't vote for him, i think he's doing a terrible (but not surprising) job and his positions on "science issues" are embarrassing.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | May 10, 2010 7:48 PM | Report abuse

kevinwparker, Mann's conclusions do not raise the ire of skeptics, but his methods. His conclusions are simply what I would expect from incorrect and inapplicable methodology. But the rest of what you said is correct. This is a misapplication of a law that allows criminal-style investigations without, from what I can see, any reasonable suspicion of a crime. As much as I loath Mann's science, I have seen no evidence in the many emails that I read that he committed this crime, namely:

submits "a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval" or making a false statement to get a false claim approved. They both require false claims for payments, not naive statements about the applicability of PCA.

Reading through the entire law starting at, I don't see anything about rights for the defendant, nor any way to stop the investigation other than some sort of court ruling. So it will end up being a legal matter more than a political one.

Posted by: eric654 | May 10, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

eric654, (and andrew and others)
i read someone's criticism somewhere (sorry to be so overly precise...) that "using mann's methods you could generate the 'hockey stick' from a random set of data"?

now that seems pretty damning if true. i doubt it's true, i mean mann and climate scientists in general can't be THAT stupid, right? what do you think he's referring to?

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | May 10, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

The InterAcademy Council (IAC), an organization of the world’s science academies, announced last week its selection of a 12-member committee to conduct an independent review of policies, procedures, management and communication strategies of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report is expected to be delivered to the U.N., WMO and IPCC. The intent is to ensure that future IPCC products have as strong a scientific basis as possible, giving governments and the public confidence in the findings and projections.

I can’t help but wonder if the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) would ever permit a comparable review. I doubt it, especially if funding of its sources were included in the investigation

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | May 10, 2010 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Walter, methods of red noise hockey stick generation was discussed since 2005 or so by Steve McIntyre at and probably by others earlier.

A red noise time series is one where the next value in the time series is a small random deviation from the previous. So the time series will trend down and up randomly, but can't jump from low to high or vv. So red noise series could be used to simulate a set of "random" temperature proxies like tree rings based on the assumption that the climate changes gradually.

After generating a number of these series, Steve and the other skeptics would use the rather straightforward algorithm of selection of series from principle components that match the instrument record (which starts about 1850 and basically shows a rise in the late 20th century). Their algorithm wasn't much different from Mann's, although he never divulged his.

There were a couple reasons for the hockey stick shape. One was incorrect centering, namely subtracting the average of the 20th century from each point in the entire series (1000 years) rather than the average of the entire series from each point in the entire series. Mann defended this because his use of the temperature record (which only had values since 1850 or so).

A second reason for the shape was the theory of calibrating tree rings against the temperature record, the guts of which uses PCA. The calibration theory posits that trees that match up with the climate now, did so in the past. Also called "treemometers" by skeptics. The skeptics point out that any tree could easily change from matching anything (like the temperature record) to a complete mismatch. As easy as being next to another tree that toppled over and voila, the remaining tree starts growing much faster. Or the groundwater pattern changes and the tree growth changes.

Posted by: eric654 | May 10, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

(cont) reason 3: "hide the decline". The treemometers which nicely matched the instrument record, rising perhaps to 1950 but not beyond were truncated where they started to decline (or near that point). This was excused by there being a physical reason the tree no longer matched temperature any more. Maybe true in some cases, but a little too convenient in others.

Reason 4, instrument record improperly spliced to the proxy record. The instrument record and the proxy record are apples and oranges and should never be shown together but routinely were. The instrument record has been measured differently than the tree rings and has its own mistakes and biases (e.g. urban heat island). The instrument record would produce a bright red blade straight up at the end of the stick whereas a proper depiction would show proxies varying in the late 20th century, some up, some down.

The main culprit is PCA and the treemometer theory which, with fake red noise trees, also produces a hockey stick (random series that match the temperature record's late 20th century rise are selected).

Posted by: eric654 | May 10, 2010 10:11 PM | Report abuse

eric, thanks much.

i don't address the issue of someone saying "mann's method produces a hockey stick from random data." but i guess you're saying these are the reasons skeptics criticize mann & the "hockey stick".

as to each reason:
reason 1 doesn't seem like it would make a difference in the shape of the graph - maybe the absolute values, but not the shape.

reason 2 seems like it could have errors either way. i mean, if they're unreliable, aren't they just as likely to be unreliably high?

for reasons 3 & 4, i can't believe that mann and subsequent mainstream climate scientists are so stupid as to not have thought of these things.

in fact, looks like they have been addressed:

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | May 10, 2010 10:57 PM | Report abuse

But reason #1 did change the weighting of the various shapes. Suppose you had two series, one fluctuating from -1 to +1 since the year 1000 and another flat at zero since the year 1000 but rising to +2 from 1900 to 2000.

If you normalize over the whole range, both series don't move much, the first fluctuates around zero and the second stays slightly below zero until the rise to slightly below 2.

But if you normalize using only the average from 1900 to 2000 instead of the full range, the first series still doesn't move (assuming it varies -1 to +1 from 1900 to 2000 like it did previously). But the second series is suddenly shifted down to -1 from 1000 to 1900 then rises to +1 from 1900 to 2000. Same shape though as you point out, but the weighting is not the same because -1 is weighted more strongly than zero which affects the 900 years before 1900.

For the dummies guide, right away I can see that it is pretty silly to claim that PC1 is all important in 1998 but PC4 is in 2005 because they got rid of the centering bias. You had it right the centering or normalizing should have no effect on shape or PC's except when incorrectly used (e.g. in 98)

Posted by: eric654 | May 10, 2010 11:33 PM | Report abuse

What they are admitting, without admitting it, is that centering on 1900 in the 1998 study was a mistake and caused PC1 to have the hockey stick shape. But in 2005 they removed that mistake and went all the way to PC4 to get their shape. Deciding which PC to stop at requires intensive analysis of the domain (how the data gets the shape that it ends up with), not just a convenience of getting the shape that one wants.

Posted by: eric654 | May 10, 2010 11:38 PM | Report abuse

Here's a complete explanation of the PCA and other mistakes made by Mann.

Posted by: eric654 | May 10, 2010 11:49 PM | Report abuse

i'll check it out later today. "see" ya.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | May 11, 2010 7:01 AM | Report abuse

Re Camden's Question: I wasn't thrilled with Deeds as a candidate, but I voted a straight Dem ticket in the last VA election because I knew that both Cuccinelli and McDonnell have absolutely no interest in either good governance or sound policy (based on SCIENCE, not denialism). They see their current offices as stepping stones to inflict their radical ideology on the rest of us and could care less in addressing the actual problems of the Commonwealth.

I think we'll probably be spared having to suffer both these idiots as Federal officeholders in the future however, as both of them have shown, through their actions, to be unfit for federal office (McDonnell because he's a racist and Cuccinelli has apparently never met a taxpayer dollar he's not afraid to waste on ideological crusades like attacking HCR and climate change).

Posted by: EFroh | May 11, 2010 8:33 AM | Report abuse

I do think this is an over reach of power. I am against this no matter what party affiliation it is. Steve McIntyre has a post where he also criticizes this move.

He is taking flack for this but he is right. The real culprits here are the UVA officials who will not require Mann to release his code. If people can not reproduce someones work, then it is the authors responsibility to show EXACTLY how he produced the results. When using aggressive and sensitive statistics like Mann does, this can have a huge effect on the results. UVA should force him to release this, not the state of Virginia.

Posted by: Tom8 | May 11, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Tom8, Mann left UVA five years ago and you're arguing about his paper published twelve years ago. IPCC AR5 is already underway; you're two AR's behind. If you want to discuss paleoclimate, at least get up to date with AR4, just three years old:

As far as advancing science, using someone else's code is the wrong way to do it. Science advances when work is done independently, and the results are compared to previous results. If the results are the same, then the conclusion is bolstered; if they are different, then the algorithm may be too sensitive.

Posted by: imback | May 11, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse


Imagine if someone claimed that vaccines caused autism, but refused to release all of the experimental data. The scientific community might waste years and millions on research to independently prove this elusive link, only to find it was fabricated. You don't have to imagine it, because it just happened.

Actually its only science if the work can be reproduced as the original scientist did. If it can be independently verified through subsequent research, it becomes more valid.

But if the Scientist refuses to share all data/code/models/experiments with the other scientists, and no one is given the opportunity to verify the original work, than it was never science to begin with.

Posted by: ecocampaigner | May 11, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

it appears you are correct than mann et. al. made some mistakes early on. but as it relates to cuccinelli's investigation, they don't appear to be fraudulent.

on the substance of the validity of a "hockey stick", in a way mcintyre's and mcitrick's criticisms have helped advance the science. apparently also, there are others properly applied appropriate methods still come up with the "hockey stick" shape.

what's wrong with tamino's analysis?

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | May 11, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

I've found some great evidence of how Mann rewrote climate science. Here's the story of a 1997 paper that contradicted Mann, and how the authors changed the study by discarding 97% of their data, so the rest would match up with Mann's newly published and highly influencial Hockey Stick.

Its peer reviewed, tree-ring independent, and confirms the previously held knowledge of a global MWP and LIA.

Posted by: ecocampaigner | May 11, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

love/hate your ironic handle. it's like "green earth society"...

the MWP and LIA, while interesting and indicative of a variable climate, are kind of red herrings: we know humans weren't emitting (or absorbing) huge quantities of greenhouse gas back then....

those sorts of "anomolies" will likely continue "in the background" of the recent co2-induced warming. they don't somehow "disprove" AGW.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | May 11, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Scientists seeking NSF funding will soon be required to submit data management plans.
"The changes are designed to address trends and needs in the modern era of data-driven science." See:

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | May 11, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

On the "1997 paper that contradicted Mann":

The authors of that paper have recently published a new paper - - including the statement about the 97 paper (HPS97):
"The consequence of excluding the upper 100 meters is that the 20,000 year reconstructions in HPS97 contain virtually no information about the 20th century. As the authors of HPS97 we can be criticized for not stating explicitly in the abstract and figure caption that the ‘present’ (the zero on the time axis) really represents something like the end of the 19th century, rather than the end of the 20th century."

So, ironically, the 1997 paper you refer to is quite consistent with the conclusion that the last two decades are likely warmer than the MWP.

Posted by: marcusmarcus | May 11, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse


Walter, I completely agree with most of what you said, only disagreeing that its not a red herring.

What's important about the MWP specifically, is that it was both warmer than current predictions will have us, and that it was not a catastrophic event. Phil Jones agrees (recently).

My handle isn't ironic. I am an environmentalist campaigner. The simple answer is that I believe CO2 very well could cause the temperature changes that are predicted, but that it will have little negative impact on the world.

I'd prefer to see the billions of global warming monies be directed to things like clean water projects, or project to erradicate malaria or AIDS.

Posted by: ecocampaigner | May 11, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

"As the authors of HPS97 we can be criticized for not stating explicitly in the abstract and figure caption that the ‘present’ (the zero on the time axis) really represents something like the end of the 19th century..."

HAHAHAhHhahahahaha....nice...nice catch marcusmarcus.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | May 11, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

"So, ironically, the 1997 paper you refer to is quite consistent with the conclusion that the last two decades are likely warmer than the MWP. "

Mann's Hockey Stick paper shows no temperature change over the last 1000 years. The "1997 paper" shows significant temperature fluctuation over the past 1000 years. That's not what I would call consistent.

Neither proxy record (Mann's tree rings, nor the Ice-Cores) claims to show accurate temperatures for recent present. This was the problem Mann use the "hide the decline" to solve, but substituting modern temperature records.

The difference is the "1997 Paper" shows modern thermometer temperatures are within the typical range of the past 1000 years, and Mann's hockey stick claims the thermometer temperatures are abnormally high comparatively.

Labeling the present as 1900 on that graph was the minor addition. Maybe you missed the part where they threw out 97% of their original data, so as to conform to the new version of climate history. That's a bit more significant, wouldn't you say.

Posted by: ecocampaigner | May 11, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

ecocampaigner, you said,
"....I believe CO2 very well could cause the temperature changes that are predicted, but that it will have little negative impact on the world."

yes, well, that may or may not be the case. it will probably take us 20-30 more years before we start addressing THAT question. the gosh-darned "skeptics" are so good at confusing the public that we're STILL arguing over WHETHER global warming and not WHAT, if anything, to do about it.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | May 11, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

The Post's editorial was wrong. Cuccinelli is doing a superb job, not only with this case, but with others he has handled as well. I'm glad I voted for him......and become more glad of it each day.

And I was not alone.....He, like Governor McDonnell, won with a roughly 20% margin. That shows that he is in tune with the clear majority of VA's voters.

Posted by: MMCarhelp | May 11, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Ecocampaigner: Before you keep talking about the 1997 paper, please read the 2008 paper that I cited above. It addresses all the differences between the 97 paper, the 98 paper, and the 2008 paper.

Also, "boreholes" are not "ice-cores".

Posted by: marcusmarcus | May 11, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Walter, Tamino (Grant Foster of a bit of climategate fame) has posted many whoppers such as:

Here he uses a 30 year "Savitsky-Golay filter". What he actually did was take the data and run it through all the filters in an undoubtedly large library of filters and pick out the one with the best (and bogus) end effect. In the context of science it is essentially using a tool to create propaganda, not uncover truth.

The two posts you linked are a continued defense of the treemometer theory which only seems to work with some trees of very few types. Tamino et al consider some strip bark trees to be good treemometers. Take a look at a red cedar (I have many you can look at) and you will see bark missing on various sides. How much does that wood grow each year right now? Zero, no new rings. Meanwhile another side has rings. Later the bark will cover the first side which will start growing rings again. Measuring those rings is fraught with hazards.

Posted by: eric654 | May 11, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

(cont) Specifically regarding Mann2008 which Tamino defends in his post, the problems are misuse of PCA (treemometers), use of bristlecone pine and Briffa's Yamal series. Briffa is especially bad since it relies on one tree for a large amount of hockey stick and Briffa ignored other related collected data that would have changed the results.

Another problem is that a dataset was included in Mann2008 upside down. The Tiljander data is created by sediment collecting in a lake. Warmer temperatures meant more sediment collected (around year 1000). Colder recent temps meant less sediment, but some recent disturbance (I think man-made) made the sediment especially low (and useless as a proxy). Mann turned it upside down and used the (now) increase as evidence of warming. When confronted, he issued a correction but then said it makes no difference to his results.

What Mann did most of all in Mann2008 is prove that the peer review system for climate articles is broken beyond repair. He used strip bark trees that NAS said not to use. He used Briffa Yamal long after it was revealed that Briffa ignored available (but contradictory) data. He used a series upside down and ignored a published comment that it was upside down (mainly because the comment got sidetracked by the people that control most of the literature).

Posted by: eric654 | May 11, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Here's the Mann "correction" where he excludes the upside down Tiljander series and the tree rings that never should have been included. Note that the resultant light blue line is indeed warmer in the Medieval Warm Period and cooler today. The bright red instrument record can be ignored, it is apples and oranges (need to compare proxies to proxies only).

Mann's explanation of the upside down error shows an extreme amount of obfuscation: "The previously posted version of the figure had an error due to incorrect application of the procedure described in the paper for updating the network in each century increment."

The closer I study Mann's work, the more of a nasty taste I get. But the witch hunt against him that is the topic of this thread is completely unjustified and a misapplication of a law against fraudulent claims for PAYMENT, not mistaken claims or naive uses of PCA, and not obfuscations like the above.

Posted by: eric654 | May 11, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

eric654- That is a great analysis. I hope people read this to learn about the consistent errors that Mann was making and seemed to ignore. I also agree that with you that this witch hunt is unjustified. I think science needs to take care of science in this argument.

Posted by: Tom8 | May 12, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Congratulations to Cuccinelli for having the courage to question what MUST be questioned -- the ridiculous man-made global warming fairy tales, based on which Obama and his comrades want to further empower and enrich themselves at our expense -- and at the expense of our children and grandchildren.

Most HONEST scientists side with Cuccinelli.

More than 700 international scientists dissent over man-made global warming claims. They are now more than 13 times the number of UN scientists (52) who authored the media-hyped IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers.

Additionally, more than 31,000 American scientists have signed onto a petition that states, "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate."

We must not allow Obama and his comrades to force another scam down our throats, another scam to radically transform our country from a prosperous, capitalist, FREE country into another failed, socialist, ENSLAVED country.

Posted by: AntonioSosa | May 12, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Those brainwashed to the point of wanting to destroy the economy to "prevent global warming" are behaving like the most primitive human beings who were duped into believing that human sacrifices would ensure them good weather. Human beings don't have the power to control climate! And killing the economy will not help the environment. Poor countries can't protect the environment. Just look at Haiti!

Posted by: AntonioSosa | May 12, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

indeed, it appears there were (or may have been, depending on margins of error) temperatures during the MWP that rivaled today's temps. they may even have been higher for a brief period according to this one graph.

there are others that show lower MWP temps:

i know i'm not supposed to look at it, but wow, that "instrumental record" just shoots up off the graph, no? isn't the instrumental record the most accurate?

why don't you think that's accurately placed on the graph? is it that you think the entire proxy record should be shifted up?

conspiracy much?

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | May 12, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

my understanding of the MWP is that it corresponds to a suspected period of high solar irradiation, and that the LIA correlates with low solar irradiation. agree?

it is also my understanding that recently solar irradiation has been pretty constant - trending down if anything. i.e. the recent warming captured in the instrumental record is not due to increased solar irradiation. agree?

so, is it your contention that the recent warming is caused by some other "natural variation"? or is it the clearly increasing man-made co2 causing it?

what i'm getting at is do you deny the warming recorded in the instrumental record? or, do you deny that it's man-made? or do you just think that it won't be that bad?

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | May 12, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Walter, it's simply apples and oranges. The instrument record is more accurate in several ways: far more measurements, greater precision and calibration. But that doesn't help us judge what proxies say about past temperature. Either the proxies have reliable information about the past and present and can be compared, or they don't.

The claim is that the proxies are "calibrated" against the instrument record, but they are actually only selected against the instrument record. Those proxies that match the instrument record are claimed to be good "treemometers". But why would that make them good treemometers over their history?

What happens, for example, when a tree spends hundreds of years in shade, then all of a sudden in 1900 or so finds itself in the open and is able to grow much faster? That tree would (roughly) match the instrument record showing rising temperatures, but it would be coincidental. Using lots of cores might seem to be a solution but 1) Briffa didn't for Yamal and ignored cores that he could have used and 2) Mann's strip barks are highly irregular and difficult to measure.

The bottom line however is that the proxies and temperature record diverge and so can't be compared. If we take simple averages of the proxies they do not match the temperature record. If we then throw away most trees because they don't match, we are left with coincidental matches like I described above.

Posted by: eric654 | May 12, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

(cont) One of the main results of the divergence was the "trick" which was that Mann simply chopped off the declining proxy data and discarded it (the Briffa series post 1960). The data was not archived with the other digital data archives and the chopping was undocumented. So IPCC readers were given a false sense that the proxies match the temperature record and show warming and therefore could be relied upon as temperatures proxies for historical temperatures. They did not and they cannot.

Posted by: eric654 | May 12, 2010 8:30 PM | Report abuse

so if that's the case, why do they trust proxy data from before 1960? what happened after 1960 to suddenly make it unreliable? did the tree-ring data match the instrumental record before then?

and, surely there are other proxy data besides tree rings?

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | May 12, 2010 9:04 PM | Report abuse

Walter, perhaps MWP was primarily higher solar, but there are there are other natural factors, most notably the PDO which was positive for much of the "late 20th century warming". I don't contend anything, I just recognize that increased CO2 causes some warming and natural variations caused some and some cooling. The amounts are difficult to pin down and not particularly relevant when discussing Mann's work.

It's a really good question to ask why they trust any tree ring proxy data. Especially when Mann's early work (98) depended on such poor sources (single core drilled into a very uneven strip bark tree). But Mann is not stupid and his newer proxy studies have much more than tree rings. But there are problems, like I explained above he used Tiljander upside down. Also erasing the debatable trees and the upside down stuff resulted in the warmer MWP. Yet still he insists on including the old stuff in every new study (e.g. Briffa's Yamal, and his own old poor quality sources).

The bottom line, without the old hockey stick producing tree rings (or some other gross error like upside down Tiljander), he doesn't get a hockey stick. The big question to ask is what did a warm MWP mean? The answer is: higher sea levels (as much as 0.5 meters) but lots of good things resulting in a huge increase in overall human comfort, many of which were wiped out in the subsequent LIA (worldwide, not just Europe). Lots of people fret about ice and polar bears and other species, etc. But all of that and much more happened in the MWP.

Posted by: eric654 | May 12, 2010 10:03 PM | Report abuse

Andrew Freedman, perhaps you would be willing to cover and discuss for the benefit of your readers two presentations on May 14 at the The George C. Marshall Institute | 1601 N Kent St by Dr. William Happer and Dr. Roger Cohen which will review key features of climate science behind the legislation and regulation aimed at controlling greenhouse gas emissions . These are predicated on the belief that science definitively shows that man's greenhouse gas emissions are causing the Earth's temperature to rise, with serious deleterious effects.

What if the cause-and-effect relationships between GHGs and temperature are greatly overstated? What if the data used to measure temperature change and its effects are of poor quality? What if we don't adequately understand important climatic systems (such as clouds or oceans) to simulate them accurately in the computer models used to predict climatic change? What if the stated positions of key scientific societies are under assault by the member rank and file? What if the state of empirical knowledge points to only a small human effect on climate? What if the best scientific information we have does not justify the economic costs associated with proposed legislation and regulation?
This is an opportunity to discuss, argue and challenge these scientists. Andrew, are you willing to report on their presentation?

Posted by: 123andy | May 12, 2010 11:32 PM | Report abuse


What if elephants could fly? What if the earth were flat? What if President Obama were a space alien? What if Newton's apple fell up, etc.

What if Dr.Cohen were not a retired Exxon Mobil executive? What if Dr. Happer were not Chair of the board of directors at the Marshall Institute, which received at least $715,000 from the ExxonMobil Foundation and Corporate Giving division from 1998 to 2006 (according to the company’s public reports)?.

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | May 13, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

walter- I do not think anyone is denying there was definitely an increase in the instrumental records post 1960. If you exclude problem with urban heat islands in the data and problematic data adjustments ect., there is clearly a recent warming trend. The discussion here is with historic temp trends which have been used to describe this period of warming an "unprecedented" and "without a doubt" due to man's/women's influence. I would argue that the proxy data being put out by Mann et al. does not definitely prove this one way or another.

Posted by: Tom8 | May 13, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

In a tangent Steve states that the Marshall Institute got at least $715k from Exxon. Note that Mann got almost $500k from Virginia over roughly the same time period. In my opinion (which is pretty well researched), both of them misused their money on shoddy science. Let's call it a wash and forget about it.

Posted by: eric654 | May 13, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Tom8, you said,
"The discussion here is with historic temp trends which have been used to describe this period of warming an "unprecedented" and "without a doubt" due to man's/women's influence."

well, those are of course different issues. the "unprecedented" part is much less important to me. anyone who looks at the long long long term climate of earth knows that right now the earth is relatively cold. for most of earth's history, it has been warmer than now.

the "due to man's influence" part IS pretty much "without a doubt".

now before you go crazy and accuse me of saying "the science is settled" or anything, it depends on what "science" you're talking about. EVERY serious scientist agrees co2 is a greenhouse gas. a basic science-fair-type experiment shows that. WE are soon going to have doubled the concentration of atmospheric co2. the global temperature has been rising ever since we started really pumping it out (except for a period when we emitted "cooling aerosols"). these things are known "without a doubt".

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | May 13, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

what is in doubt is how much of the rise is caused by us, and what happens when temp rises.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | May 13, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

andrew (CWG),
i for one would love it if you took "123andy" up on his "challenge".

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | May 13, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Walter your follow-on post is much better than the original. What is not in doubt is that CO2 causes warming and that certain types of aerosols cause cooling. But there is considerable doubt that the 40's through 70's cooling was aerosols especially when it correlates well with negative PDO ( and not so well with aerosols (

And that's all Tom8 was saying. You should not claim more certainty about aerosols than is justified (i.e. worth a mention maybe).

Posted by: eric654 | May 13, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Steve (CWG), your "what ifs", other than being funny in a dumb way are why we are not able to have a discussion. What does it matter that XOM gave less than 100K$/year to the Marshall Institute for about ten years? Or that Roger Cohen retired from XOM several years ago? Why not listen to what they say and make the cogent arguments? But, no lets attack first. My challenge to Andrew (CWG) still stands, report on the meeting. By the way, there is a meeting in Chicago Sunday through Tuesday where several folks will be discussing climate science without an AGW predisposition. I am sure that the results presented there will be reported as well by Andrew.

Posted by: 123andy | May 13, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

eric654 wrote, "In my opinion (which is pretty well researched), both of them misused their money on shoddy science. Let's call it a wash and forget about it."

But how can you call it a "wash and forget about it" when one of those men is vilified and ignored, and the other is quoted by the IPCC and held in high regard by the dinosaur press? Wouldn't they both have to receive equal treatment by the public, the press, and the scientific community in order to call it a wash?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | May 13, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Mr Q, One of them is Marshall Institute which has 4 men and 2 women on staff according to their website. But to answer your rhetorical question, yes, they are tagged as evil because they got contributions from some corporations. Personally I like CATO and give to them yearly. But they also get the same tag because they get some corporate money.

Mann, on the other hand, is a pristine angel because he only took his $6 million in funding from you and me.

Posted by: eric654 | May 14, 2010 5:55 AM | Report abuse

what does the gubmint have to gain if global warming is caused by burning fossil fuels?

what does exxon have to lose if global warming is caused by burning fossil fuels?

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | May 14, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Government gains: political control over 1/4 of the economy. Creating subsidies for favored industries (who contribute to the two parties). Ultimately controlling freedom of association (if you can't drive to the meeting, you can't associate). Creating a new class of dependents using heating fuel subsidies.

Industry losses: Control over the value of resources that they own (e.g. coal in the ground). But that is mitigated by the politics above, they will get subsidies for carbon sequestration after burning coal because the politicians have lots of constituents who depend on coal in various ways.

Posted by: eric654 | May 14, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

From Expressway to Serfdom (, read the whole article to see the context.

"Finally, one key part of the program to
break the middle class to the new aristocrat's mold is to further impoverish them through programs and policies that will drastically increase their cost of living, mainly through energy rationing, under the guise of concern for the environment. This is what drives the decision not to drill for more American oil. This is what drives the global warming scaremongering. This is what drives the push for the cap-and-trade fiasco. This is what drives the rejection of clean coal as a potentially limitless source of energy, easily gotten right from our own foothills. In fact, most everything that our government does with respect to energy policy that seems stupid and counterproductive can be traced back to this."

Posted by: eric654 | May 14, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

"... a National Research Council panel examined its methods in 2006, and found no major flaws."

I suggest you read that report for yourself. It essentially agreed with the Wegman Report that Mann's statistical methods had no merit. But it found "no major flaws" in the climate science behind it. I find that conclusion very unusual because they had no way of knowing, from the investigation itself, that the science behind it was sound. That was obviously a preexisting conclusion.

@eric354: Thank you for your patience in presenting your own investigations into these matters. I have done similar though less complete studies and can vouch for many of your details.

Posted by: DBCooper2 | May 14, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

eric, you said,
"Government gains: political control over 1/4 of the economy. Creating subsidies for favored industries (who contribute to the two parties)."

i don't really see how this follows. are you saying because the govt. will fund "alternative energy" research/development programs? or because gas (or cars) will become more expensive? i just don't see how it helps the government to make up something to spend money on.

i can't believe we give oil companies subsidies. that seems crazy to me.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | May 14, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

What the politicians are proposing with cap and trade is to make high oil company taxes much higher (see below), then rebate a bit of it to consumers so they can pretend to do something for the little guy. In reality they will be controlling and rationing the resources that drive that 1/4 of the economy. By being the ones to dole out favors, resources, carbon credits or whatever, the politicians are controlling the economy for their benefit and at the economy's expense.

We don't subsidize oil companies, we tax the heck out of them, they are cash cows see for example:

Posted by: eric654 | May 14, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

JR Nyquist has a short article that is analogous to the situation above. As we all know (or should know) the situation in the financial markets has reached a crisis thanks to the politics of what might be called crony capitalism typified by the company that gave the most to both parties: Goldman Sachs. In fact they are not profiting from capitalism, but the capital-destroying practice of absurdly low interest rates. Nyquist points out that the answer to such obvious corruption is not corruption of the opposite kind (i.e. socialism or increased government control of the markets) but a return to true capitalism. His article is here:

He concludes:

"There is danger from the Right as well as danger from the Left. How do we realistically navigate between this Scylla and Charybdis? We must remember three things: first is the Golden Rule, which calls us to justice; second is to recognize the frailty of all human reason when subjected to passions; and third, is adherence to constitutional government and the non-violent resolution of disputes. Regarding this last point: once our system of peacefully resolving domestic differences is broken, the loss of money and the crash of markets will be the least of our worries. "

Posted by: eric654 | May 15, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

So what is the connection to the posting that Andrew started with above? Simply this: any time that politics or worse, the threat of force, is substituted for the normal processes (albeit imperfect) of scientific discussion or in Nyquist's article, the resolution of financial disputes, then we are on a somewhat slippery slope to a breakdown in civilization.

In the global warming dispute there is danger from both the left and the right. Mr. Cuccinelli should think about the consequences of his approach.

Posted by: eric654 | May 15, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

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