Thursday, November 26, 2009

Protocols of the elders of climate science [updated]

All you need to know about the CRU hack right here, courtesy of Desmogblog. You're welcome.

UPDATE: (November 26) The elders respond with a smackdown.

The denialists will continue to gibber and spin, of course, but here's the skinny:
  • No FOI request has ever been stymied by the CRU researchers.

    The researchers have been subjected to a barrage of FOI requests, no doubt from the usual suspects, and have been working with the Information Commissioner's Office
    to process them.

    The main difficulty is that the data obtained from around the world does not belong to them, and obtaining permissions from all and sundry has proven to be an exhausting process. But that process continues.

    In relation to the specific requests at issue here, we have handled and responded to each request in a consistent manner in compliance with the appropriate legislation. No record has been deleted, altered, or otherwise dealt with in any fashion with the intent of preventing the disclosure of all, or any part, of the requested information. Where information has not been disclosed, we have done so in accordance with the provisions of the relevant legislation and have so informed the requester.

    The Climatic Research Unit holds many data series, provided to the Unit over a period of several decades, from a number of nationally-funded institutions and other research organisations around the world, with specific agreements made over restrictions in the dissemination of those original data. All of these individual series have been used in CRU’s analyses. It is a time-consuming process to attempt to gain approval from these organisations to release the data. Since some of them were provided decades ago, it has sometimes been necessary to track down the successors of the original organisations. It is clearly in the public interest that these data are released once we have succeeded in gaining the approval of collaborators. Some who have requested the data will have been aware of the scale of the exercise we have had to undertake. Much of these data are already available from the websites of the Global Historical Climate Data Network and the Goddard Institute for Space Science.

  • The CRU researchers have nothing to hide:

    We have...decided to conduct an independent review, which will address the issue of data security, an assessment of how we responded to a deluge of Freedom of Information requests, and any other relevant issues which the independent reviewer advises should be addressed.

  • "The facts speak for themselves; there is no need for anyone to manipulate them."

    Tim Jones is right: as he points out, even if you discount the CRU findings holus-bolus, the same results have been replicated elsewhere.

    There is excellent agreement on the course of temperature change since 1881 between the data set that we contribute to (HadCRUT3) and two other, independent analyses of worldwide temperature measurements. There are no statistically significant differences between the warming trends in the three series since the start of the 20th century. The three independent global temperature data series have been assembled by:

    • CRU and the Met Office Hadley Centre (HadCRUT3) in the UK.
    • The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Asheville, NC, USA.
    • The Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS), part of the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) in New York.

    The warming shown by the HadCRUT3 series between the averages of the two periods (1850-99 and 2001-2005) was 0.76±0.19°C, and this is corroborated by the other two data sets.

    My co-blogger John Cross has noted that, since this "scandal" broke, no one in the denialist camp has been able to point to a single email that undermines the scientific consensus on AGW. There is just no "there" there. In fact, Canadian Cynic has issued a challenge on this point, which I think the denialists will be very, very slow to take up.
  • The "trick"; "hiding the decline."

    Here's CRU:

    One particular, illegally obtained, email relates to the preparation of a figure for the WMO Statement on the Status of the Global Climate in 1999. This email referred to a “trick” of adding recent instrumental data to the end of temperature reconstructions that were based on proxy data. The requirement for the WMO Statement was for up-to-date evidence showing how temperatures may have changed over the last 1000 years. To produce temperature series that were completely up-to-date (i.e. through to 1999) it was necessary to combine the temperature reconstructions with the instrumental record, because the temperature reconstructions from proxy data ended many years earlier whereas the instrumental record is updated every month. The use of the word “trick” was not intended to imply any deception.

    Phil Jones comments further: “One of the three temperature reconstructions was based entirely on a particular set of tree-ring data that shows a strong correlation with temperature from the 19th century through to the mid-20th century, but does not show a realistic trend of temperature after 1960. This is well known and is called the ‘decline’ or ‘divergence’. The use of the term ‘hiding the decline’ was in an email written in haste. CRU has not sought to hide the decline. Indeed, CRU has published a number of articles that both illustrate, and discuss the implications of, this recent tree-ring decline, including the article that is listed in the legend of the WMO Statement figure. It is because of this trend in these tree-ring data that we know does not represent temperature change that I only show this series up to 1960 in the WMO Statement.”

There are several conclusions that one might reasonably draw at this point.

First, ferret around as they might, the denialists have not found anything to uphold their conspiracy theory: no smoking gun.

Secondly, parse as they might, they can't turn a scientific "trick" into guile, nor make a negative colouration stick to the phrase "hide the decline" when the CRU folks themselves have published papers on it.

Thirdly, eel about as they might, they have discovered nothing in private emails that indicates anything other than human frustration on the part of the CRU people at having to deal with fringe elements and cranks when they'd rather be doing science.

And just a note about George Monbiot's too-quick reaction to all this. He was moved to attempt a human sacrifice as a purification rite. But, as it turns out, no such purification was necessary. The rest of his article, by the way, is a good read.

ADDENDUM: John Cross, who found the East Anglia link above, points to another one worth taking a look at:

Earlier there was some talk about the comments on the code that have been found. While I have not followed this side of the argument much, there is a new site called AllegationAudit (cute name) which has looked at the gory details of the IDL code.

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