Tag Archives: Steve McIntyre

Contrarian scholarship: Revisiting the Wegman report

[Update, Dec. 19: This post has been substantially revised to remove speculation about Donald Rapp's possible role in the Wegman report. I apologize for any embarrassment caused to Donald Rapp or Edward Wegman by that speculation.

The post has also been updated to reflect new information about the provenance of Wegman et al's section on tree ring proxies, as well as more background detail on some of the events leading up to the Wegman report. There are also  more details about  large swathes of unattributed material found in the Wegman report and in Donald Rapp's book Assessing Climate Change.

It is clear that the circumstances and contents of both the Wegman report and Rapp's text book deserve closer scrutiny.

Dec. 20: Comments are now open again.]

As Climategate devolves into a rerun of old battles about the “hockey stick” graph, I thought I would revisit the roots of that benighted controversy and take a look at the chaotic events of a few years back when the politicization of science (also known as the Republican war on science) really took hold.

I was planning to write another installment of the  “In the beginning” series on Steve McIntyre.  So I decided to take a look at the infamous Wegman report that Republican congressman Joe Barton relied on to ensure that the “numbers added up” (or not, as he was sure was more likely). The 2006 report was the work of a mysterious “ad hoc” committee led by George Mason University statistics professor  Edward Wegman,  along with David Scott and Yasmin Said. With its near-veneration for putative hockey-stick destroyers Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, and its scornful denunciation of Michael Mann and his “social network” of like-minded researchers, the report has been a touchstone for contrarians.

But then I started thinking about something that had always bothered me. How could a trio of statistical experts, all on their own,  hope to write a  report on a field, climate science, of which they had no previous knowledge or experience?

Part of the answer lies in the close examination of  the Wegman report. Surprsingly, extensive passages from Wegman et al on proxies have turned up in a skeptic text book by contrarian author Donald Rapp.  And at least one of these common passages on tree ring proxies closely follows a classic text by noted paleoclimatologist Raymond Bradley, but with a key alteration not found in the original. Moreover, Wegman’s section on social networks appears to contain some unattributed material from Wikipedia and from a classic sociology text.

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McIntyre provides fodder for skeptics

[This post was updated on December 12 to provide additional context that strengthens the original analysis - see below for details.]

This so-called Climategate is really getting out of hand, isn’t it?

Steve McIntyre has published allegations – twice now – that an internal IPCC authors’ debate about the inclusion of Briffa’s tree-ring reconstruction in a key figure from the 2001 WG1 Third Assesement Report was driven by concern about the post-1960 “decline” in tree-ring widths, a decline that showed a marked divergence with the instrumental tempertaure record.

The Climategate Letters show clearly that the relevant context is the IPCC Lead Authors’ meeting in Tanzania in September 1999 at which the decline in the Briffa reconstruction was perceived by IPCC as “diluting the message”, as a “problem”, as a “potential distraction/detraction”. [Emphasis added]

McIntyre even claims that lead author Michael Mann worried that showing the series with this decline would give “fodder” to “skeptics”.

But even a cursory examination of the emails in question shows that the discussion was really about other aspects of the reconstruction, specifically obvious discrepancies between Briffa’s reconstruction and the other two under consideration over the major part of the reconstruction’s length. Thus, once again, McIntyre’s speculations are shown to be utterly without foundation.

Even worse, McIntyre left out intervening sentences within the actual proffered quotes in what appears to be an unsophisticated attempt to mislead.

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The Times: Climate e-mail hackers “aimed to maximise harm to Copenhagen summit”

According to TimesOnline, investigators of the CRU email theft (dubbed SwiftHack or Climategate) have concluded that the release of the stolen material was held back for weeks in order to cause maximum damage to the upcoming Copenhagen conference.

This development, along with new reports of breakins and other attacks at the University of Victoria, should finally lay to rest the baseless rumour that the hacked email archive was assembled at CRU as part of a contingent FOI response and released by an inside whistleblower, a canard that was started by – wait for it – none other than Steve McIntyre himself!

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Contrarian Education at NOAA

JetStream is an “online weather school” hosted by the Southern Region Headquarters of the U.S. National Weather Service (part of the NOAA). Great idea – except one page  reads used to read like something from Marc Morano or Ian Plimer, as discovered by Philip Machanick over at RealClimate.

Not only has the page in question contained misinformation since 2003, but someone inserted highly misleading statements about the temperature record in 2007, echoing a common contrarian confusion between the U.S. and global temperature record.

[Update, Nov. 3: The dubious CO2 lesson has been removed from the overall lesson plan, although it remains unchanged and no longer exists.  It used to be #10 in the Atmosphere section, right after "Canned Heat".

Update Nov. 11: The carbon dioxide lesson has been reinstated, with the previous misinformation removed from the discussion section.]

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Briffa teaches, but will McIntyre ever learn?

Recently we’ve discussed several aspects of the raging controversy around climate blogger Steve McIntyre and dendrochronologist Keith Briffa and the supposed destruction (once again) of the “hockey stick” temperature graph.

A few commentators have suggested that more attention should be paid to  McIntyre’s actual “analysis” of Briffa’s Yamal tree-ring chronology, and less to his outrageous accusations (not to mention all the inconvenient evidence that those accusations were completely without foundation).

Now that Keith Briffa has delivered his promised detailed response in an article co-written with Thomas Melvin, it is a good time to do just that. Here, then, is a review of the various problems I and others have pointed out in comments here and elsewhere over the past while, along with highlights from Briffa’s response.

First, here is the abstract of Briffa’s article .

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Let the backpedalling begin

KHantemirovRM Fig 5 zoomThe latest battle over the “hockey stick” has taken quite a turn, one that may finally lay to rest all the  absurd claims of its demise made by contrarians (not to mention apparently libelous accusations of scientific malfeasance). In previous posts, we discussed climate blogger Steve McIntyre’s scurrilous accusations of “cherrypicking” against UK dendrochronolgist Keith Briffa, and summarized a a quick technical critique of McIntyre’s work by a dendrchronologist known as Delayed Oscillator.

Now comes new evidence that McIntyre’s accusations were completely false. And not only that, one of the Russian researchers who actually control the raw tree-ring data that McIntyre was mistakenly hounding Briffa for, has apparently confirmed that utilization of  a newer more complete Yamal data set has no substantial effect  on Briffa’s Yamal temperature reconstruction.

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“Delayed Oscillator” on divergence

Anyone who has blogged, or even just hangs around blogs more than they should, is familiar with the “pingback”. You know, it’s that automatically generated comment that signals that another blog has referred to a particular post. Yesterday, I got this “pingback” from a blogger called Delayed Oscillator (or “delayed.oscillator” as it is formatted there) and decided to follow it up.

And am I ever glad I did. DO (pronounced Dee-Oh), as I will call this blogger (I hope that’s OK!) has brought a welcome expert perspective to the discussion of the Steve McIntyre-Keith Briffa controversy, said by certain economists and business section editors to expose the global warming sham once and for all. In a two-part series of posts, DO shows why it “ain’t necessarily so” (to say the least).

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Climate “auditor” Steve McIntyre: Yamal like “crack cocaine”

By now, anyone who follows the climate blog wars knows that a new battle is underway over the standard temperature reconstruction popularly known as the “hockey stick”. Although it has been declared thoroughly shattered many times, apparently it must be attacked again and again.

Over the last few days, self-appointed climate “auditor” Steve McIntyre has made several insinuations concerning the work of UK dendro-climatologist Keith Briffa, focusing on the recently released Yamal series of tree-ring measurements. Along the way, he has once again rehashed an oft-repeated accusation that “cherry-picking” of proxy sites is endemic in the paleo-climatological community that he disdainfully calls the “Hockey Team”. But this time, McIntyre has outdone himself, comparing the repeated use of the Yamal tree-ring chronology in paleoclimatology studies to a “crack cocaine” addiction.

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Dropping the P-Bomb

Contraian Publication RecordThe blogosphere, or at least the climate contrarian part of it, has been up in arms over supposed misconduct and plagiarism on the part of climate scientists. First, there was a minor kerfuffle earlier this summer over NOAA’s citation of the surfacestation.org website instead of an online publication by Anthony Watts. That turned out to be just the latest in a series of accusations of misconduct from ClimateAudit.org.

But that was nothing compared to the furor over the Corrigendum to the Steig et al. paper, “Warming of the Antarctic ice-sheet surface since the 1957 International Geophysical Year” (just published in Nature). Steig et al. were accused of failing to acknowledge the role of Hu McCulloch in identifying an error in the calculation of trend significance. The corrigendum thus was held to constitute an act of plagiarism.

Meanwhile, some of the same bloggers who have risen up in righteous indignation and made groundless accusations against Steig et al, have been strangely silent regarding a real act of plagiarism, namely EPA economist Alan Carlin’s wholesale appropriation without attribution of large swathes of Patrick Michaels’ World Climate Report.

And, of course, an examination of the accusations against Steig et al shows them to be completely baseless. In fact, Hu McCulloch has apparently already withdrawn his accusations, although at present we have yet to see any apologies or retractions from Steig et al’s accusers.

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Canadians front and centre at 2nd Heartland Conference

Heartland Conference Logo - March 8-10, 2009

The “climate change skeptic” right-wing think tank Heartland Institute has been quietly updating its list of almost 60 speakers for the second annual International Conference on Climate Change to be held in New York this March – and Canadian skeptics are front and centre. And in at least two cases, the official affiliations listed for speakers appear unlikely to be bona fide.

Last year’s inaugural event was derided by climate scientists as a PR sham masquerading as a scientific conference. Conference speakers, most of whom are not practicing climate scientists, are paid a generous honorarium and all travel expenses. Funding sources are not disclosed, but the Heartland Institute has received $676,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998.

This year’s meeting will feature first time invitee Stephen McIntyre, founder of the popular ClimateAudit blog, as one of six headliners. McIntyre is described by Heartland as a “devastating critic of the temperature record of the past 1,000 years”, but has published only one peer-reviewed article in a recognized science journal.

Interestingly, McIntyre’s listed affiliation is with the University of Toronto. McIntyre’s connection to the University is unclear, although he does apparently have a University email address.

Among the other five confirmed Canadian speakers, undoubtedly the most controversial is Lawrence Solomon, listed as affiliated with the National Post, a national Canadian daily newspaper. Solomon is the author of The Deniers, a book based on a long series of individual profiles written for the Post. He has recently launched attacks in the Post on Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, as seen  here and here. Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe, a non-profit group that “works for  environmental sustainability by promoting property rights.” (Closer scrutiny of this group  is clearly warranted, but will have to wait for a future post).

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