Friday, November 27, 2009


Yet More on ClimateGate

Wow this stuff just gets worse and worse. Let me clarify two things before proceeding:

1) I personally have no problem whatsoever with the guy who said he wanted to beat the cr** out of Pat Michaels (besides my pacifism). That alone didn't faze me at all; of course academics are going to get feisty in private emails and crack jokes like that. Ditto for the thing about being glad that one of the skeptics died. Who cares? Such statements don't give me any view as to the quality of the work these people are doing.

2) I asked my two climate scientist associates--one who is a definite skeptic, the other not (but who is a huge Ron Paul fan)--and neither of them thought ClimateGate would change their views of the science. On the one hand, I guess it's not so surprising that the skeptic wasn't surprised; presumably he already had his doubts about CRU techniques etc. and their limitations. But I was surprised that the other guy said to me, "I haven't been following this, I'm working on my paper."

OK let me move on to relay the two most damning things that have come to light so far, in my amateur opinion. The "hide the decline" email of course is the most blockbuster, but in fairness if you don't really know the context, it's hard to evaluate it.

However, check out this analysis of the so-called "HARRY_READ_ME.txt" file. (HT2 savecapitalism from a previous thread on this blog.) Far more than any one-off statement (perhaps one made with humor) in an email, this saga definitely suggests that the CRU people can't replicate some of their own reported results, and maybe that's why they are so jealously guarding their data and code. ("Don't let it fall into the wrong hands" etc.)

But now here is the single biggest smoking gun, as far as I'm concerned. (HT2 Dan Simmons) So that you don't have to do a handstand, I'll put the relevant emails in chronological order, and the bolding is mine:


From: [PhD student]

To: "Stephen H Schneider"

Sent: Sunday, October 11, 2009 10:25:53 AM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific

Subject: BBC U-turn on climate


You may be aware of this already. Paul Hudson, BBC's reporter on climate change, on
Friday wrote that there's been no warming since 1998, and that pacific oscillations will
force cooling for the next 20-30 years. It is not outrageously biased in presentation as
are other skeptics' views.



BBC has significant influence on public opinion outside the US.

Do you think this merits an op-ed response in the BBC from a scientist?

[PhD candidate]


PhD Candidate,

Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER)

Stanford University

On Oct 12, 2009, at 2:32 AM, Stephen H Schneider wrote:

Hi all. Any of you want to explain decadal natural variability and signal to noise and
sampling errors to this new "IPCC Lead Author" from the BBC? As we enter an El Nino
year and as soon, as the sunspots get over their temporary--presumed--vacation worth a
few tenths of a Watt per meter squared reduced forcing, there will likely be another
dramatic upward spike like 1992-2000. I heard someone--Mike Schlesinger maybe??--was
willing to bet alot of money on it happening in next 5 years?? Meanwhile the past 10
years of global mean temperature trend stasis still saw what, 9 of the warmest in
reconstructed 1000 year record and Greenland and the sea ice of the North in big
retreat?? Some of you observational folks probably do need to straighten this out as my
student suggests below. Such "fun", Cheers, Steve

Stephen H. Schneider

Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies,

Professor, Department of Biology and

Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment

Michael Mann wrote:

extremely disappointing to see something like this appear on BBC. its particularly odd,
since climate is usually Richard Black's beat at BBC (and he does a great job). from
what I can tell, this guy was formerly a weather person at the Met Office.

We may do something about this on RealClimate, but meanwhile it might be appropriate for
the Met Office to have a say about this, I might ask Richard Black what's up here?


Kevin Trenberth wrote:

Hi all

Well I have my own article on where the heck is global warming? We are asking that here
in Boulder where we have broken records the past two days for the coldest days on
record. We had 4 inches of snow. The high the last 2 days was below 30F and the normal
is 69F, and it smashed the previous records for these days by 10F. The low was about
18F and also a record low, well below the previous record low. This is January weather
(see the Rockies baseball playoff game was canceled on saturday and then played last
night in below freezing weather).

Trenberth, K. E., 2009: An imperative for climate change planning: tracking Earth's
global energy. /Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability/, *1*, 19-27,
doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2009.06.001. [PDF]
(A PDF of the published version can be obtained from the author.)

The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a
travesty that we can't. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on
2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our
observing system is inadequate.

That said there is a LOT of nonsense about the PDO. People like CPC are tracking PDO on
a monthly basis but it is highly correlated with ENSO. Most of what they are seeing is
the change in ENSO not real PDO. It surely isn't decadal. The PDO is already reversing
with the switch to El Nino. The PDO index became positive in September for first time
since Sept 2007. see


Tom Wigley wrote:

Dear all,

At the risk of overload, here are some notes of mine on the recent

lack of warming. I look at this in two ways. The first is to look at
the difference between the observed and expected anthropogenic trend relative to the pdf
for unforced variability. The second is to remove ENSO, volcanoes and TSI variations
from the observed data.

Both methods show that what we are seeing is not unusual. The second

method leaves a significant warming over the past decade.

These sums complement Kevin's energy work.

Kevin says ... "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment
and it is a travesty that we can't". I do not agree with this.


On Oct 14, 2009, at 10:17 AM, Kevin Trenberth wrote:

Hi Tom
How come you do not agree with a statement that says we are no where close to knowing where energy is going or whether clouds are changing to make the planet brighter. We are not close to balancing the energy budget. The fact that we can not account for what is happening in the climate system makes any consideration of geoengineering quite hopeless as we will never be able to tell if it is successful or not! It is a travesty!

Michael Mann wrote:

Kevin, that's an interesting point. As the plot from Gavin I sent shows, we can easily
account for the observed surface cooling in terms of the natural variability seen in
the CMIP3 ensemble (i.e. the observed cold dip falls well within it). So in that sense,
we can "explain" it.
But this raises the interesting question, is there something going
on here w/ the energy & radiation budget which is inconsistent with the modes of
internal variability that leads to similar temporary cooling periods within the models.
I'm not sure that this has been addressed
--has it?


From: Kevin Trenberth
To: Michael Mann
Subject: Re: BBC U-turn on climate
Date: Wed, 14 Oct 2009 08:36:36 -0600
Cc: Tom Wigley , Stephen H Schneider , Myles Allen , peter stott , "Philip D. Jones" , Benjamin Santer , Thomas R Karl , Gavin Schmidt , James Hansen , Michael Oppenheimer

Here are some of the issues as I see them:
Saying it is natural variability is not an explanation. What are the physical processes?
Where did the heat go? We know there is a build up of ocean heat prior to El Nino, and a
discharge (and sfc T warming) during late stages of El Nino, but is the observing system
sufficient to track it? Quite aside from the changes in the ocean, we know there are major
changes in the storm tracks and teleconnections with ENSO, and there is a LOT more rain on
land during La Nina (more drought in El Nino), so how does the albedo change overall
(changes in cloud)? At the very least the extra rain on land means a lot more heat goes
into evaporation rather than raising temperatures, and so that keeps land temps down: and
should generate cloud. But the resulting evaporative cooling means the heat goes into
atmosphere and should be radiated to space: so we should be able to track it with CERES
data. The CERES data are unfortunately wonting and so too are the cloud data. The ocean
data are also lacking although some of that may be related to the ocean current changes and
burying heat at depth where it is not picked up. If it is sequestered at depth then it
comes back to haunt us later and so we should know about it.


OK people have already jumped all over the "Where the heck is the warming?" stuff, but Gavin Schmidt et al. are just blowing that off by saying he was concerned about dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's in their energy budgets; there is no threat to the "consensus" here.

But hold on just a second. In the follow-up email--after Michael Mann Tom Wigley said he disagreed with him--Kevin Trenberth (who is no slouch in the field) says that their ignorance is such that they couldn't even tell if geoengineering techniques were working. (!!) To me, that is a stunning admission. If they wouldn't be able to judge the potency of a suggested cure, doesn't that necessarily mean they don't really understand the severity of the disease?

Let's step back and remind ourselves of something: Most of the derided "skeptics" who are actually trained in these areas don't deny that human activities are warming the globe. Rather, they deny that the climate sensitivity is as high as the IPCC says. So in that context, Trenberth's admission (to me at least, as an acknowledged amateur) is simply stunning.

Last point: Note the dates on the emails above. This isn't uncertainty expressed eight years ago, this is RIGHT NOW.

IMO, The fallout from these revelations is that policymakers, worldwide, will likely put on ice any major initiatives in the near term (at the very least). What elected official would stake their political career on defending massive new environmental programs now?

In order for these iniatives to be rvived, a trustworthy source of verifiable scientific information will have emerge to take place of anything closely connected with CRU.

My take is that the damage to massive new environmental programs is now measured in years, but it could be decade(s).

I wish I could be so optimistic. They pushed through TARP even though the public (as judged by phone calls) was opposed at least 9-to-1 (I believe).
Bob, I still don't see the big deal.

Perhaps I'm really missing something but what I see is scientists seeing some data that doesn't fit with their theory.

The key point is that they're using science to try and explain the problem. They're not throwing up their hands and saying they should give up because nobody does that.

When massive amounts are pushed into the economy and the price level doesn't rise straight away you don't turn around and say "well I guess the quantity theory is bunk, Keynes was right after all".

Most importantly, they're not saying "well, we knew this stuff was a bunch of crap anyway, but Obama needs us to continue lying to the public".

Tyler Cowen was right, this says far more about scientists than it does about the science itself. Yet plenty of people are acting is if this spells the end of AGW -- it doesn't.
Bob, I might be wrong, but I heard the TARP protests was something like 90 to 1.

Of course, that was from a congresswoman's mouth, and being a creature of government, it's possible she got it wrong.

Can you guess what she did in the face of all those calls from her constituents? That's right, she voted for it anyway.
The key point is that they're using science to try and explain the problem. They're not throwing up their hands and saying they should give up because nobody does that.

And they're discussing making ultimatums to journal editors who publish views that disagree with them (at least with their public views--not with the views that Trenberth expressed in the email!). And let's not forget refusing to release data and code, and deleting emails. Is that "science" in your book?

This is why I stressed the point about what the "skeptics" are actually saying. Trenberth's view is just like the one that Romm et al. flipped out about in the Superfreakonomics chapter. I'm not going to bother digging it up, but Levitt & Dubner quoted somebody who said something like, "It's a religion, and you can't even tell if your penance is working."

So Romm et al. flipped out about that; yet this is exactly what Trenberth said in the email that you find insignificant.

So again, if the actual debate were, "Is the earth hotter or colder?" then that would be one thing. But that's not what the debate actually is. It's more like, "Would a doubling of CO2 concentrations lead to 0.5C warming or 4C warming?"

BTW regarding your money/CO2 analogy, I have had in mind a post on just this topic for weeks. So if and when I write it up, don't take offense that I ripped off your idea. (Not that ideas can be owned anyway...)
"But the data are surely wrong."

That's hilarious! Because there's no way his theory can be wrong. And that other guy: Oh, the sun spots will come back and El Nino will go away. Is he a scientist or a stock broker.

All of this excitement is only for the tabloids. What matters is what they're going to do with it in India and China. I would bet this means they'll do nothing in terms of global warming, ever. With out them, the rest of the world is just wasting our time even talking about it.

Between TARP, all the other bailouts, the stimulus (and probably the second stimulus), zero percent interest rates, medical reform, and escalation in Afghanistan, the American economy is already dead. You can't kill it again with cap & trade.
Perhaps I missed something in my last post, but I still don't see the big deal.

OK, this statement "The fact that we can not account for what is happening in the climate system makes any consideration of geoengineering quite hopeless as we will never be able to tell if it is successful or not!" seems to be a point against those sending the emails.

But I still think you're overstating your case. I don't seem these emails as being damning. Like I said, this looks exactly like what you'd expect if you've taken a class in philosophy of science.

As for the letters to editors, refusal to release information and editing data I think Schmidt deatl with that, unless you have any objections to his explanations?

I'm not entirely sure what you're getting at though, so if you could be more specific that'd be great.

By the way, I'm pretty sure you came up with the money/ global warming analogy before me, so it's your intellectual property (yeah, I believe in that stuff).
Giles wrote:

But I still think you're overstating your case. I don't seem these emails as being damning. Like I said, this looks exactly like what you'd expect if you've taken a class in philosophy of science.

Giles, I don't mean to be a jerk, but it sounds like you are not aware of the nature of the debate. There are people like Richard Lindzen and Roy Spencer--well-credentialed and published in climate science areas--who are saying, "The IPCC 'consensus' is faulty. The Earth's temperature will not rise as much as they say, for a given amount of CO2 atmospheric concentration, for these various reasons..."

And then people like Gavin Schmidt are saying, "These guys are liars or stupid. There is no serious disagreement among the real climate scientists. The idiot press and industry-funded deniers can latch onto phrases taken out of context and so forth, but the peer-reviewed literature is clear: We know that we are already past the safe point, and we should cease further GHG emissions or risk serious consequences."

So in that context, when someone in the clique says, "We are nowhere near to balancing the energy budget, at this point we couldn't even tell if geoengineering would be successful" then that is incredibly damning.

Note that I'm not saying that sentence proves Trenberth is a bad scientist, I am saying he is being a wuss for keeping his mouth shut while his buddies actively try to quash any dissenting publications, and when they confidently tell the world that the debate is over. Trenberth knows they are bluffing.

And by the same token, Gavin & Co. should stop saying all the "deniers" are idiots and/or lying stooges of Big Oil, if even Trenberth voices such concerns privately. They know there is serious disagreement on whether their models are really as accurate as they are assuring the public.

That's why, in the post above, I also underlined Mann's statement when he said, "I suppose we should check to see if the natural variability we cite to explain the lack of warming is actually consistent with our models--have we done that yet?" (not exact quote)

Do you see what I mean, Giles? To go back to your analogy, it would be as if I emailed Will Wilkinson and said, "What the heck are you giving a platform to Scott Sumner for? Have you seen his crazy views? This will just weaken the public's resolve to ride Bernanke and keep inflation at bay. If you publish Scott's stuff, you'll never get anything from me."

Can you possibly imagine me saying that, Giles? That's a far cry from me just saying, "Hmm, that's weird that price inflation is so tame. I'm not yet ready to assume money has nothing to do with price inflation though."
There's no being a jerk, I really don't know anything about the debate.

As I said, I was probably missing something in my previous posts and it turns I was - the whole context of the debate.

That said, I still think there are some ridiculous claims being made about this being "the end of AGW". (I'm not saying you hold such views).

Thanks for the clarification.
Sure, A failure of the price level to rise in response to an increase in the money supply wouldn't lead most people to discard the quantity theory of money. But it would certainly cause them to re-evaluate it if they actually thought that you could determine P to within a tenth of a percent based upon a specific increase in M.

They're not just saying that an increase in CO2, all things equal, will produce warming. It would be very hard to find anyone to disagree with that. What they are doing is making very precise forecasts of how much the atmosphere will warm as a result of a given increase in CO2. The more precise the forecast the more complete your knowledge has to be.

The acknowledgement that they would not be able to measure the impact of geo-engineering efforts betrays a significant gap in their knowledge of the physical processes involved. Imagine if I were trying to sell you insulation and told you that the degraded quality of your existing insulation is adding another 4.7% on your energy bill per year. Now, let's say you ask me how much the bill would be reduced if you were to buy my insulation. If I couldn't tell you, wouldn't you wonder where the hell I got the 4.7% from?
'"But the data are surely wrong."

'That's hilarious! Because there's no way his theory can be wrong.'

Scientists are often quite correct in holding that "the data are surely wrong." Try reading a little history of science.
Hey Gene,

If I can trouble you to take a moment away from mocking my regulars, can you tell us if this HARRY file sounds legitimate? I mean, do programmers really b*tch and moan inside the programs like this? Except that nobody (to my knowledge) is denying its authenticity, I would have thought this was a bad forgery.
What HARRY file?

Check this out.

I guess the most conversational stuff is allegedly from a READ_ME file, so it's less implausible, but I still think this looks too good to be true. Does it strike you as legitimate?

(Gene was a professional programmer in case people are wondering why I'm asking him.)
Well, some of it looks fine -- if you're doing weird work-arounds in your program, you definitely need to write comments and explain them -- but some of it looks a little over the top, but not too far over.
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