Embattled UK climate scientist steps down

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:53 PM GMT on December 03, 2009

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The embattled director of the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU), Dr. Phil Jones, announced that he will be temporarily standing aside as director. An independent review of his conduct in light of the emails illegally hacked from his computers last month is in progress. In a press release, Professor Jones said: "What is most important is that CRU continues its world leading research with as little interruption and diversion as possible. After a good deal of consideration I have decided that the best way to achieve this is by stepping aside from the Director's role during the course of the independent review and am grateful to the University for agreeing to this. The Review process will have my full support".

The University and the police are investigating the break-in, and it is currently unknown if this was the act of an insider or an external break-in. I think it is highly unlikely this was the work of an insider in a whistle-blower type of action, since a computer at realclimate.org was hacked into the same week (via a computer in Turkey), and the criminal attempted to upload the emails stolen from CRU to the realclimate.org server. This is not the sort of action a whistleblower would do. Dr. Gavin Schmidt of realclimate.org said in a comment yesterday that the CRU break-in appeared to have been done from the outside, into a backup mail server. It is unlikely the hacker acted alone, since hackers aren't typically intimately familiar with the details of the climate change science debate. The emails and code stolen were selectively culled by someone who appeared to have considerable expertise in climate science.

What did Dr. Jones do wrong?
So, what did Dr. Jones do wrong? For starters, he should have confronted the allegations raised by his critics immediately and talked candidly to the press about some of the specific accusations being made. For example, one of the emails contained the statement that he would like to "redefine what the peer-reviewed literature is" to exclude two questionable papers from the IPCC report. Well, that's not something a good scientist should seriously advocate, and is an impossibility, in any case. No one can redefine the peer-reviewed literature, since the rules for this are well-established an not subject to change. When I read the comment in the context it was made, it reads as a joke. There is no discussion in the hacked emails about how to go about redefining the peer-reviewed literature. In the end, the two papers Jones was referring to with this comment, McKitrick and Michaels (2004) and Kalnay and Cai (2003), ended up being cited and discussed in Chapter 2 of the IPCC AR4 report. Those intent on discrediting the science of human-caused global warming are spinning the comment differently, creating a controversy about something that is impossible to do, and was not being seriously suggested. Jones should have immediately spoken up to quash the hype on this comment.

The "trick" to "hide the decline"
Another area of concern is over a graph Dr. Jones helped construct in 1999 showing the "hockey stick" of Earth's surface temperature going back 1,000 years. This graph combined instrumental measurements made since the 1800s with older paleoclimate data (including data from tree rings) to show a continuous 1,000 year record of Earth's temperatures. The paleoclimate data after 1960 show a bogus decline in Earth's temperatures that does not agree with what modern thermometers have been measuring, due to a well-known variation in tree ring thickness as a function of time, referred to as "the decline". Thus, Jones elected to toss out the bogus paleoclimate data (using a "trick" to "hide the decline") rather than present it in the graph. The graph was not properly labeled to show this was done, so viewers of the graph would have had needed to be familiar with a 1998 paper published in Nature or the 1999 paper referenced in the caption on the graph, which explained this well-known data issue. The graph that Jones used his "trick" on was put into a 1999 report called the "WMO Statement on the Status of the Global Climate". The report was given to policy makers, but was never published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. No reputable climate scientist believes that the paleoclimate data since 1960 is of higher quality than the instrumental record (this is discussed in detail in Chapter 6 of the 2007 IPCC report). In order to make the "hokey stick" graph less confusing, removing "the decline" from the tree ring data is a reasonable thing to do--provided one labels the graph properly. The graph was not properly labeled. Does Jones' "trick" and failure to properly label the graph constitute data falsification, or was it merely sloppy science? The hacked emails contain no suggestions that the "trick" was done to intentionally fool people, and the "trick" never appeared in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, including the IPCC reports. In Dr. Jones' words, "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".




Figure 1. The WMO 1999 "hockey stick" figure (top) with climate reconstructions and instrumental temperatures merged, and a version (bottom) with the climate reconstructions (coloured) and instrumental temperatures (annual & summer in black) shown separately. Note "the decline" in the temperature obtained from tree ring data (green curve) in the bottom curve. Image credit: University of East Anglia.

Global warming contrarians are spinning the "trick" as reason to discredit the "hockey stick", claiming that the data was falsified to hide the fact that tree rings were telling the real story. Since the hockey stick was falsified, some claim, the entire science behind human-caused global warming needs to be questioned. This is plain ludicrous. The graph was never published in a scientific journal. Several updated versions of the "hockey stick" graph have been published in the ten years since the disputed graph was produced, and the "hockey stick" can be reproduced in essentially the same form excluding the controversial tree rings, using other paleoclimate data such as boreholes (See Mann et al., 2008, Figure 2). Furthermore, the peer-reviewed science supporting human-caused global warming is not based solely upon the "hockey stick" and the CRU data used for the last 150 years of the hockey stick graph. There are three separate data sets of global temperatures maintained by NASA, the CRU, and NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, that all show essentially the same global warming. We also have evidence from nature herself in the form of plants and animals expanding their ranges poleward, the record loss of Arctic sea ice in 2007 and record loss of multi-year Arctic sea ice this year, the shrinking of mountain glaciers, reductions in the length of freeze season in many Northern Hemisphere lakes and rivers, the shifting of spring blooms earlier in most regions of the world, and on and on and on. Again, Jones should have spoken up immediately to kill the ridiculous hype being pushed by global warming contrarians about the importance of a 10-year old graph that is now scientifically irrelevant, and was never published.


Figure 2. The "hockey stick" of global temperature anomalies since 300 A.D., as published in a 2008 paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Mann et al.. Even if one excludes tree rings (blue curve), the hockey stick looks the same.

Resistance to releasing data to other researchers
The hacked emails also show that Dr. Jones resisted releasing his data to contrarians and urged others to delete emails regarding Freedom Of Information (FOI) related requests. Many countries protect their weather data under an international agreement called World Meteorological Organization Resolution 40, which prohibits the data from being made public (this is why wunderground can't give out the UKMET model forecasts on our web site, for example). About 5% of the CRU data fell in that category, making release illegal. However, deleting emails related to FOI requests is inadvisable and implies one has something to hide. The investigation should certainly pursue the issue of whether Dr. Jones properly handled the requests to turn over his data to outside researchers. Ideally, weather data documenting Earth's climate history should be free to everyone on the planet (I am not a big fan of WMO Resolution 40). However, another aspect to this issue is the time it takes for the scientists involved to prepare the data for release. Large, complicated data sets require extensive documentation and access to related computer codes in order to process them, and making the data available to every amateur investigator interested in the data puts an unfair burden on the scientists who maintain the data sets. In particular, an amateur climate science investigator named Stephen McIntyre, who runs the web site Climate Audit, has created such an issue. McIntyre, a retired mining executive and an investor, is not a professional scientist, but has been successful identifying several technical errors made in the published literature. He has also generated a huge amount of misleading and incorrect information over the years, and has done a tremendous amount of damage to the understanding of climate science. McIntyre is intent on discrediting the science of human-caused global warming--presumably for ideological reasons, since he has no obvious ties to the fossil fuel industry--and has generated a large number of Freedom of Information requests to further his cause. One of the hacked emails, from Dr. Ben Santer, complained that McIntyre's FOI requests were intrusive and unreasonable with no scientific justification or explanation given, and appeared to be a calculated strategy to divert Santer's attention and focus away from research. It's worth reading Santer's reaction to the hacked email affair to learn more. Given such tactics by McIntyre, Dr. Jones' resistance to FOI requests from McIntyre is understandable, but appears to have been poorly handled.

The science of human-caused global warming remains unaffected
None of the hacked emails reveal any conspiracy to publish falsified or "fudged" material in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. The science of human-caused global warming will require no revision as a result of this affair. Baseless accusations of fraud, data manipulation, and conspiracy against climate change scientists stemming from the hacked emails are being massively hyped by the Manufactured Doubt industry in an effort to discredit climate scientists, since no flaw with the science can be found. Most of the public is in no position to distinguish good science from bad, so if you can create doubt, uncertainty, and confusion, you can win--or at least buy time, lots of it. The hacked email affair is all about politics, not science. Dr. Jones is an excellent scientist, but unfortunately was over-matched as a politician. It was hardly a fair fight--one scientist against the political might of the mightiest PR campaign against science ever waged, armed with some selectively culled stolen emails taken out of context.

Other posts in this series
The Manufactured Doubt industry and the hacked email controversy
Is more CO2 beneficial for Earth's ecosystems?

Next post
I'm working on a post called, "Don't shoot the messenger", and plan to run this Sunday or Monday.

Our Climate Change expert, Dr. Ricky Rood, will be in Copenhagen for Monday's start to the crucial COP15 climate change treaty negotiations. Be sure to tune into his blog for updates on the talks. Wunderground has provided financial support for several University of Michigan students to attend the talks, and I may be featuring portions of their blogs over the coming weeks.

Jeff Masters

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320. the carbon is combined with oxygen from the atmosphere during combustion. each mole of carbon weighing 12 lbs becomes a mole of carbon dioxide weighing 44 lbs when two oxygen atoms are added to make the molecule...
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i think it's the -60 lbs that did wonders for his looks... :)

LOL j/k!
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al looked good with the beard.

he looks like an al-coholic...check out the red nose and cheeks....
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Quoting txag91met:

CO2 is going up because humans burn fossil fuels.
1 gallon of gasoline produces 22 pounds of CO2.


Huh? A gallon of gas weighs about 8 pounds... where'd the extra weight come from?
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314. Okay, I'm not an Al-hater or anything but seriously - eewww, eeewwwww, eeeewwwwwwwww!!!!
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313. Yes, I hear that happens with insecticides. ;)
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Even the NWS has some Troll Spray (look on the desk)

Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 24 Comments: 8201


"I got your Global Warming right here, baby...."
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312. unfortunately, due to overuse, i think its lost some of its effectiveness as of late :)
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Quoting pearlandaggie:
305, 306. you guys should always have a case of this stuff on hand to pass out to the youngens :)


Shoot, we should start stockpiling that stuff now, before the next hurricane season starts. :)
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Is that frontal boundary going to stay over South Florida for very long? Are the models showing this?
Member Since: August 28, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 2895
Quoting pearlandaggie:
305, 306. you guys should always have a case of this stuff to pass out to the youngens :)


LOL (:
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 24 Comments: 8201
308. beell
Quoting JeffMasters:


Certainly most of the people who comment on this blog have taken the time to research the issue,

Jeff Masters


Don't know if you had to go that far, Doc!
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305, 306. you guys should always have a case of this stuff on hand to pass out to the youngens :)
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Quoting NRAamy:
thanks Mrs. Flood!


No problem! I'm right there with you when it comes to trolls picking on kids...it's just wrong.
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thanks Mrs. Flood!
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Quoting JFLORIDA:


To bad many of you couldn't post a legitimate source once for it.


What? HUH? Say What? Come Again? Ya?
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Quoting JFLORIDA:


To bad many of you couldn't post a legitimate source once for it.


what are you quoting?
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 24 Comments: 8201
298. thanks for that. those of us in technical careers that collect and analyze complex data on a daily basis appreciate the honesty :)
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Quoting NRAamy:
hahahaha!

P.S.

PacificStorm is a 14 year old kid who has a blog on here...a serious blog, unlike mine...and for the past few days, he's been attacked by new trolls....I get upset when trolls pick on kids....just not kosher....maybe you guys could flag the posts on his blog to help get rid of the trolls and help a kid out?

thank you


Looks like the offending posts have already been removed, Amy. I couldn't find anything objectionable to flag!
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What a class act...
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298. JeffMasters (Admin)
Quoting hooptie1964:
Dr. Masters - "The public is in no position to distinguish good science from bad....."

It's disappointing to see that Dr. Masters appears to be of the opinion that we "the public" are not bright enough to make decisions for ourselves. I suppose I should just act like a sheep and follow what the masses tell me is true and not form my own opinion.

It's actually sort of offensive.



That's a good point, I've changed the line to "most of the public". Certainly most of the people who comment on this blog have taken the time to research the issue, and I appreciate your informed comments.

Jeff Masters
297. Skyepony (Mod)
Looking at the T-Depth Anomaly this El NiƱo is just getting started..
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"There are three separate data sets of global temperatures maintained by NASA, the CRU, and NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, that all show essentially the same global warming."

You mean this NASA data set?

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/dec/03/researcher-says-nasa-hiding-climate-data/

Researcher: NASA hiding climate data

The fight over global warming science is about to cross the Atlantic with a U.S. researcher poised to sue NASA, demanding release of the same kind of climate data that has landed a leading British center in hot water over charges it skewed its data.

Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said NASA has refused for two years to provide information under the Freedom of Information Act that would show how the agency has shaped its climate data and would explain why the agency has repeatedly had to correct its data going as far back as the 1930s.

[snip]

Mark Hess, public affairs director for the Goddard Space Flight Center which runs the GISS laboratory, said they are working on Mr. Horner's request, though he couldn't say why they have taken so long.

-----------

Do I detect a pattern developing here?

"When I read the comment in the context it was made, it reads as a joke."

That's the best you can come up with? It was just a joke? What about the banter about getting an editor removed - and that editor was later removed?

You just don't want to get it, do you? There is a pattern of stonewalling about transparency and in suppressing dissenting viewpoints that is revealed both in these emails and in the history of skeptics trying to use legal means to access AGW datasets for independent review. Lifting out single emails without looking at the larger body of related emails might allow you to fool yourself and true believers, but doesn't fool the larger public - skepticism over AGW datasets has risen to 59% in Rasmussen polling. The AGW movement is calling for massive government regulation to reduce carbon emissions. The impetus is therefore on the AGW proponents to be completely transparent with the underlying science.

In the end, Clive Crook said it best:

http://clivecrook.theatlantic.com/archives/2009/11/more_on_climategate.php

The closed-mindedness of these supposed men of science, their willingness to go to any lengths to defend a preconceived message, is surprising even to me. The stink of intellectual corruption is overpowering.





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hahahaha!

P.S.

PacificStorm is a 14 year old kid who has a blog on here...a serious blog, unlike mine...and for the past few days, he's been attacked by new trolls....I get upset when trolls pick on kids....just not kosher....maybe you guys could flag the posts on his blog to help get rid of the trolls and help a kid out?

thank you
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Quoting hurricanejunky:


Wow! My wife's relatives are in Garland and they said they were seeing it too. Makes the holidays for them. We received .31" of rain which isn't much but better than nothing! Thanks for asking. Tell Flood hey!


Yup, at least it's something. We went through a very dry summer, so I know how frustrating it can be. Fortunately, our yard is, for the most part, xeriscaped. It gets by on very little water.

I'll pass the greetings along to Flood, and maybe I can get him in here later.
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Quoting NRAamy:
I will when they start posting here. :)

( purple hippo shuffles off to change avatar....)


something more flattering I hope...
Member Since: August 28, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 2895
Quoting NRAamy:
I didn't post what you're quoting...

when has that ever stopped anybody from posting crap on here....

;)


You are absolutely right. (never thought you'd hear those words from me, huh?)
Member Since: August 28, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 2895
I didn't post what you're quoting...

when has that ever stopped anybody from posting crap on here....

;)
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someone might be getting 1/2 foot of snow for crying out loud
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
Quoting txag91met:

CO2 is going up because humans burn fossil fuels.
1 gallon of gasoline produces 22 pounds of CO2.


I didn't post what you're quoting...
Member Since: August 28, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 2895
Winter Storm Watch In Effect From Friday Morning Through
Friday Evening...

The National Weather Service In Houston/Galveston Has Issued A
Winter Storm Watch... Which Is In Effect From Friday Morning
Through Friday Evening.

Rain Will Develop Early Friday Morning. High Temperatures Will Be
In The Lower 40s In The Morning But Will Fall Quickly Into The 30s
Once The Precipitation Begins. The Rain Will Get A Little Heavier
Toward Noon And Become Mixed With And Change To Snow. Periods Of
Snow Are Expected During The Afternoon. There Is A Growing
Consensus That The Heavier Precipitation Amounts Will Lie Along
And East Of Us Highway 59. Snow Amounts Will Vary Greatly
Depending On When The Rain Changes Over To Snow. Preliminary
Estimates Show Snow Totals Of 1 To 2 Inches Across The Area With
Some Isolated Snow Totals Approaching 5 Inches. Most Of The Snow
Accumulations Will Be On Grassy And Elevated Surfaces. This
Situation Is Still In Flux And Forecasts Could Change Radically By
Friday Morning. Please Keep Up With The Latest Forecasts... Winter
Weather Watches... Or Warnings. The Threat Of Snow Is Expected To
End Overnight As The Storm System Moves Off To The East. Very Cold
Temperatures Are Expected Friday Night So Any Residual Wet Spots
Will Freeze And Elevated Bridges Will Likely Have Some Icy Spots.

Precautionary/Preparedness Actions...

A Winter Storm Watch Means There Is A Potential For Significant
Snow... Sleet... Or Ice Accumulations That May Impact Travel.
Continue To Monitor The Latest Forecasts.

Roads... Bridges... And Overpasses In The Watch Area May Become
Slick And Hazardous. Accumulation Of Snow Or Ice On Roadways...
Bridges And Overpasses May Make Travel Treacherous. Exercise
Caution If Travel Is Necessary. Motorists Should Remain Alert To
Changing Weather Conditions... And Take Necessary Precautions If
Travel Is Necessary.
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
I will when they start posting here. :)

( purple hippo shuffles off to change avatar....)
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Quoting LongStrangeTrip:


Hey there, junky! It's cold as a well-digger's you-know-what in a Midland snowstorm!! I don't know what the actual measurement was yesterday, but it took the entire half-hour ride to work for all the snow to melt off the truck. If it had been colder for a few days more before the snow, it would probably have amounted to at least 2-3 inches.

I almost hate to ask, since I know it's a sore subject, but did you get any rain yesterday?


Wow! My wife's relatives are in Garland and they said they were seeing it too. Makes the holidays for them. We received .31" of rain which isn't much but better than nothing! Thanks for asking. Tell Flood hey!
Member Since: August 28, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 2895
Quoting NRAamy:
It's a big purple thing...that has to be bad for the planet

tell that to Barney...and Grape Ape...


I will when they start posting here. :)
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Quoting NRAamy:
It's a big purple thing...that has to be bad for the planet

tell that to Barney...and Grape Ape...


LOL well you see what Barney has done....
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 24 Comments: 8201
It's a big purple thing...that has to be bad for the planet

tell that to Barney...and Grape Ape...
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with all the off-topic stuff, i found this interesting...

http://gizmodo.com/5416161/us-secret-plane-uncovered

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So we can expect more people to come pouring in from being featured on CNN.
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Quoting NRAamy:
"my neighbor has a junkpile on his lawn and since he won't clean his up I'll just leave a junkpile on my lawn."

junky has a junkpile....

;)


I keep it there for all the purple hippos. They like to frolic in junk piles. ;)
Member Since: August 28, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 2895
Quoting NRAamy:
Your avatar certainly contributes to global warming.


say what?


It's a big purple thing...that has to be bad for the planet.
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Quoting hurricanejunky:

The world's climate goes through natural warming and cooling cycles, mostly dependant on the Sun's output. Some say the climate warms, then CO2 increases. Others say the CO2 is increasing, creating the warming. I do not know which scenario is correct.
GREAT POST!!!

CO2 is going up because humans burn fossil fuels.
1 gallon of gasoline produces 22 pounds of CO2.
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theory = a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena
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268. did anyone actually see it?

LOL j/k :)
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Quoting tornadodude:
Congratulations to Dr. Jeff having this blog mentioned on CNN today

Link
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 24 Comments: 8201

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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.