McClimategate continues: Yet another false accusation from McIntyre and McKitrick

How do they get away with it? That’s the inevitable question as I examine one of the most specious – and despicable  – “climategate” allegations from contrarians, namely the oft-repeated claim that climate scientists at East Anglia University’s Climate Research Unit inappropriately adjusted certain tree-ring temperature proxy data to provide a better match with instrumental temperature record.

In an extraordinary interview with FoxNews in December of last year, economist Ross McKitrick alleged that scientists were “faking the match” between proxy and temperature data. McKitrick averred this was “not being honest with the reader” and even invoked a comparison to  falsified experimental medical research.  Stephen McIntyre of  ClimateAudit recently claimed that the “artificial correction” seemed “to have entered the CRU toolkit” (in his submission to the U.K. parliamentary committee examining  allegations arising from stolen CRU emails, no less).

Yet a close examination of the computer code and ensuing research bears out the key contention of the firm rebuttals from East Anglia University, as well as CRU scientist Tim Osborn, namely that the specific adjustments in question were for private exploration only and never incorporated into CRU scientists’ subsequent published research temperature reconstructions. So, once again, McIntyre and McKitrick have made odious and unfounded accusations, based on non-existent evidence. They should withdraw these specious allegations immediately.

Most readers will recall that among the “climategate” documents stolen last November from East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, were a number of research computer programs, with code and comments that appeared to show the use of a “fudge factor” to “artificially correct” tree ring-data after 1960. A number of bloggers, led by Anthony Watts, fell over themselves to bring forth this supposed “smoking gun” proof of fraudulence perpetrated by scientists.

As the furor over the stolen emails and documents mounted, Fox News prepared a one-hour documentary, provocatively entitled Global Warming … or a Lot of HotAir? The program was based largely on  interviews with McKitrick and McIntyre (as well as Patrick Michaels), and aired a few days before Christmas. The program was subsequently archived at WattsUpWithThat in six convenient segments (unfortunately, the links are no longer operative due to flagrant copyright violation).

The remote split-screen interview with McKitrick is in the third segment and appears to have been conducted with McKitrick in his book-lined office at the University of Buckingham (where he was visiting professor until January). At around 3:30 of that segment, the documentary discusses the “fudge factor”.

FOXNews narrator: Then there is the suggestion that climate scientists were improperly massaging their data. It ‘s found within the computer codes that they used in their temperature research. One program contained information referred to as a fudge factor.

FOXNews interviewer: Can you explain what the fudge factor is?

Ross McKitrick: The fudge factor is actually a line written into a computer program at the Climate Resaerch Unit, where they’ve run into a problem with their data. They want to fit some tree-ring proxy data to their temperature data, but the tree-ring proxy data goes in one direction; it goes down, and the temperature data is going up.

Narrator: In other words, at times the tree-ring data and the temperature didn’t match. The thermometers said warmer, and the tree-ring said cooler.

Interviewer: It almost sounds like it’s faking it.

McKitrick: It’s faking the match. The problem is, if they haven’t explained that they use this fudge factor to force it to match, then it’s not being honest with the reader.

Narrator: Another programmer note reads,  “These will be artificially adjusted to look closer to the real temperatures”.

Interviewer: Do all scientists do this?

McKitrick: I sure hope not. I mean where would we be in medical science, for instance, if they took all the people that died from the experimental treatment and just recoded so it looks like they got better.

A few minutes later, a denial is desultorily displayed:

The University of East Anglia added that the “fudge factor” computer codes were never used for published articles or data and defended the Climatic Research Unit’s work, as its director, Phil Jones, has temporarily stepped aside for a university investigation, and the world has learned that the Unit had discarded much of its temperature data.

Aside from the obvious implication that the University denial is untrustworthy, since the head of CRU is “under investigation”, note that Fox introduces the canard that CRU had discarded “much of its temperature data”, data which was not actually CRU’s, and not relevant to the research discussed in any event.

Naturally, the debate about the “fudge factor” has become a key part of the U.K. parliamentary Science and Technology Committee investigation of the stolen CRU documents. In a submission to that committee, CRU paleoclimatologist Tim Osborn gave a detailed explanation of the matter.

8. CRU’s Computer Code is Fit For Purpose and Does Not Reveal Secret Manipulation of Data

A small sample of my computer programming code was included in the disclosed files. It has been argued that comments within the code such as “Fudge factor” and “shouldn’t usually plot past 1960 because these will be artificially adjusted to look closer to the real temperatures” demonstrate that data have been manipulated in an inappropriate and undisclosed manner. My programs that were highlighted on BBC Newsnight that contained comments such as these were not the basis for any published article or dataset, and thus are not a valid indication of inappropriate data manipulation. If we do need to make adjustments to data that are scientifically justified, then we state clearly both the justification and the adjustment when we publish the article or dataset. In relation to the second of the two highlighted comments, it was simply a note that should have read “…because these will have been artificially adjusted…” to remind myself that I had applied an adjustment to this particular set of data (for the purposes of exploring the consequences of recent trends for the calibration of tree-ring temperature proxies) and that if I did plot them it would give a false impression of the agreement between tree-rings and temperature because of the adjustment. Thus, rather than indicating that an undisclosed adjustment would be made, it was a warning to avoid using adjusted data without realising it. To re-iterate: I have made no adjustments to data except those that are scientifically justified and stated in published papers. [Emphasis added].

Yet despite these convincing and forthright explanations, McIntyre forged ahead with his own reckless accusation in his  submission to the parliamentary committee.

7. One of the underlying problems in trying to use tree ring width/density chronologies for temperature reconstructions is a decline in 20th century values at many sites – Briffa’s 1992 density (MXD) chronology for the influential Tornetrask site is shown at left below. The MXD chronology had a very high correlation to temperature, but went down in the 20th century relative to what it was “expected” to do and relative to the ring width (RW) chronology (which had a lower correlation to temperature.) So Briffa “adjusted” the MXD chronology, by a linear increase to the latter values (middle), thereby reducing the medieval-modern differential. This adjustment was described in private as the “Briffa bodge” …

“Bodging” then seems to entered [sic] into the CRU toolkit to get reconstructions to “look” right, as evidenced by the Climategate documents containing annotations that the method contains “fudge factors” or “very artificial corrections for decline” (e.g. …


[Emphasis added]

Although neither McKitrick and McIntyre gave any specific instances where this undisclosed “method” to get “reconstructions to look right” had actually been used in subsequently published research, that inference was very clear. And McIntyre even implies that this was a regular occurrence, as the manipulation was supposedly part of the “CRU toolkit”.

So there is a clear conflict between the fanciful accusations from McIntyre and McKitrick on the one hand, and the actual CRU explanations on the other. However, for the benefit of anyone still in doubt that Osborn is more credible than McKitrick or McIntyre, I’ll now look a little more deeply at some of the actual code.

The computer program in question is the very one from which McIntyre quoted (, apparently written by Ian Harris of CRU). John Graham-Cumming discussed the “artificial correction” as implemented in that particular program back in November. He explains how the correction table is used to create a linear interpolation and adjust MXD (maximum latewood density) according to year.

Up to 1924, proxy values are unaffected, while post-1960 values are boosted considerably.

Clearly, as Graham-Cumming surmised, the point was to study an aspect of the well-known “divergence problem“, whereby the MXD proxy at high-latitude locations show marked divergence from local temperatures in the late twentieth century.

But was this program actually used in published research? Or rather was it used merely for the exploration of calibration issues, as Osborn stated?

Looking at the code, one can see that two methods for standardizing tree-ring series were compared (standardization is a necessary step in combing individual tree-ring samples into a site or regional series).

printf,1,'Correlations between timeseries'
printf,1,'Age-banded vs. Hugershoff-standardised'
printf,1,'     Region    Full   <10   >10   >30   >50  >100'

As we have seen before, multi-centennial reconstructions using tree-ring proxies need to account for age-related growth characteristics (usually younger trees grow faster than older ones), but in a way that preserves “low frequency” information as much as possible. (Hugershoff standardization on the other hand, preserves detailed interannual variation, suitable for, say, studying the relationship between temperature and volcanic eruptions).

Keith Briffa’s “regional curve standardization” (RCS) is the best known technique for accomplishing this low-frequency retention, but requires large amounts of tree-ring data from a single species in a realatively prescribed region.

So Briffa and Osborn also proposed an alternative “age-band decomposition” (ABD) as a compromise technique for situations where RCS would lead to unacceptable uncertainty levels. The technique was first described in a 2001 JGR paper, “Low-frequency temperature variations from a northern tree ring density network”, co-authored with Osborne, Harris, Phil Jones and three other researchers.

In a useful summary of this and other papers, available at the CRU site, Osborn states:

The MXD measurement series from individual tree cores were processed using the Age-Band Decomposition method introduced and described in this paper. The rationale for this new method is that if data are initially analysed and combined within relatively narrow ranges of tree age, then it is no longer necessary to detrend individual tree-core time series to remove any dependence on tree age. This detrending, which is part of traditional standardisation techniques, results in the loss of variance on long time scales that might be caused by changing climate. Because the Age-Band Decomposition method does not require this detrending step, the reconstructions obtained with it have stronger variance on longer time scales. The method may introduce different types of uncertainty compared with traditional standardisation methods, especially when the sample of tree-ring measurements is small, so we consider that the regional and hemispheric reconstructions produced using this method are more appropriate for the study of climate variations on multi-decadal time scales and longer.

It seems that the Briifa_sep98_e program is early exploratory work using ABD with these same chronologies. The program lists the chronology data sets to be opened and plotted:


The 2001 paper gives nine MXD regional northern hemisphere chronologies.  By the time of the paper, the acronyms identifying the chronologies have changed, although the regions they represent are recognizably the same ones. Here’s the caption from the polar map of the regions studied:

Figure 1. Locations (circles) of the 387 tree ring density chronologiesto, getherw ith the boundaries of the nine arbitrary regions: NEUR, northernE urope; SEUR, southernE urope; NSIB, northern Siberia; ESIB, eastern Siberia; CAS, central Asia; TIBP, Tibetan Plateau; WNA, western North America; NWNA, northwestern North America; ECCA, eastern and central Canada.

But the actual paper, far from using manipulation (undisclosed or otherwise) to force a match between post-1960 MXD data and temperature, examines the effect of different combining techniques on the full time range of the series, up to 1994, clearly showing overall “divergence” between the instrumental temperature record and proxies in the late 20th century.

And the paper also states the proxy data for many chronolgies after 1960 was unreliable and should not be used for calibration; this period was also excluded for the various cross-comparisons between regional chronologies and with other reconstructions.

The period after 1960 was not used to avoid bias in the regression coefficients that could be generated by an anomalous decline in tree density measurements over recent decades that is not forced by temperature[B riffa et al., 1998b].

So at no point, was the “manipulation” in the above exploratory computer program used in this particular published research. And, since this paper appears to be the only one that discusses these nine regional chronologies and ABD in any detail, the inevitable conclusion is that there exists no evidence of any published research that may have used the output of the Briffa_Sep98_E program specifically referred to by McIntyre. None whatsoever.

If either McIntyre or McKitrick had any evidence at all to back up their accusations, surely they would have released it by now.

Now there is only one course of action open to them. McIntyre and McKitrick must withdraw, immediately and unequivocally, their false accusations. And they must also publicly apologize to Keith Briffa, Tim Osborn, Ian Harris and Phil Jones, as well as to East Anglia University and its unjustly maligned Climate Research Unit.


66 responses to “McClimategate continues: Yet another false accusation from McIntyre and McKitrick

  1. It is behaviour like this that demonstrates why McIntyre and Watts have zero credibility.

    Far from being innocent ‘auditors’ with a high level understanding of the science, they are actively anti-science and frequently make mistakes so profound enough to make a freshman blush.

  2. Gavin's Pussycat

    If anyone has Tim Osborn’s ear, this draft should be properly put on-line again.

    BTW DC, is there still time to submit this (your work) to the parliamentary investigation?

    [DC: I think it’s too late for an official submission. ]

    • What about DotEarth?

    • Gavin's Pussycat

      DC, but Nick Barnes submitted after the official deadline. Apparently they accept if it is in response to a submission before the deadline.

      [DC: OK, I’ll look into it. In fact, McIntyre’s whole presentation is worth debunking point by point, starting with his exaggeration of his publication record. McKitrick and Mosher also have submissions, but I haven’t the had time (or the stomach) to look at those yet.

      Is the Barnes submission available somewhere? ]

    • DC: Nick posted it on his livejournal:

  3. “It is behaviour like this that demonstrates why McIntyre and Watts have zero credibility.”

    In my constant dreaming about projects I don’t have time for: wouldn’t it be great to have a website that listed Watts’ and Mcintyre post’s absolute falsehoods, with very clear corrections side-by-side? Limiting it to the absolute howlers (of which there are probably more on WUWT) so that no-one (sensible) could argue – but that they’d all be viewable in one list. You could leave a column saying “date WUWT acknowledged mistake and corrected it.”

    Two examples leap to mind, alongside this stuff: WUWT posting the Daily Mail “u-turn by Prof Jones” story (though he was careful not to actually endorse that story, I note) and this bit of genius that Tamino took apart:

    Where Watts had a guest who, unknowingly it seems, because they were so incompetent, took GISS data and turned it upside down.

    So: Watt’s story, following by “shows no understanding of the difference between ‘significant’ and ‘statistical significance’ (maybe with a link to some stats101 site). Or, “shown to produce completely false results” etc.

    One would *hope*, all these being in one place, Watts might eventually feel the need to address his errors.

    I just feel like there needs to be some central, easily viewable list of all the corrections we’re waiting for. We could even be sensible people and avoid putting the word “GATE” after each one in block capitals.

  4. [DC: I think it’s too late for an official submission. ]

    Give them a call. I know for a fact that they took a call from someone else who found a serious problem with McI’s second submission, and whoever it was at the committee knew what he was talking about.

    Clerk Glenn McKee 020 7219 8367
    Second Clerk Richard Ward 020 7219 2792
    Committee Specialist Dr Christopher Tyler 020 7219 1352
    Committee Specialist Xameerah Malik 020 7219 2118
    Senior Committee Assistant Andrew Boyd 020 7219 2793
    Committee Assistant Camilla Brace 020 7219 2794
    Committee Assistant Dilys Tonge 020 7219 2655
    Committee Assistant Melanie Lee 020 7219 2794
    Committee Support Assistant Jim Hudson 020 7219 0732
    Media Officer Rebecca Jones 020 7219 5693

  5. BTW, even John Christy mentioned “hide the decline” on CNN when he was debating with Gavin Schmidt during the CRU affair. Christy said that hide the decline referred to hiding cooling temperatures. Ugh!

  6. Robert Murphy

    This will mean absolutely nothing to those enamored with the conclusions of M & M. It’s the “seriousness of the accusation” that matters, not the utter lack of substantiation of the charges. Up is down and black is white.

    The worst part from my perspective is that I know people who are otherwise intelligent, who look at the claims of creationists and rightly see through their idiocy, yet eat up every moronic rant from people like Watts and the M & M duo. It’s sad and a little scary how easily the human mind can trick itself into believing nonsense when it’s faced with some unpleasant facts.

    [DC: I’d like to think that this case has a certain simplicity that makes the falsity of the accusations more apparent, whereas Yamal and “hide the decline” permit obfuscation more easily. Surely at least some mainstream journalists can see it more clearly. We’ll see. ]

  7. Pingback: Dweb | Blog » Se lo trovo, lo strangolo

  8. “Yet a close examination of the computer code and ensuing research bears out the key contention of the firm rebuttals from East Anglia University, as well as CRU scientist Tim Osborne, namely that the specific adjustments in question were for private exploration only and never incorporated into CRU scientists’ subsequent published research.”

    I can see this from a ‘skeptics’ point of view: if you have no experience of coding, of models. It’s like people’s assumption about novelists or song-writers: sitting in some high tower, channeling their art in one sitting. Most people are not familiar with the often fumbling, constant re-writes necessary for either book-writing or code-writing.

    I can see how this would make people view testcode with suspicion. They’re wrong, but I think it’s actually quite hard to convey the travesty of the accusations because of this.

    [DC: Again, though, shouldn’t there be some actual evidence of this undisclosed and improper manipulation? Where’s the beef?

    If it is clearly explained that there is no evidence whatsoever for M&M’s accusations, surely their argument falls apart for all except those predisposed conspiracy theories.

    But this presupposes that prominent scientists and journalists with a wide audience will issue the challenge to M&M to provide evidence or withdraw the allegations.

    Who will be the first? George Monbiot? Andrew Revkin? ]

  9. McIntyre has a habit of over-reaching. Also of conflating issues. It really is a shame that he can not be more thoughtful and intellectually honest.

    One of the things, you learn in writing a science paper is how to report datapoints, trends, inferences, and more speculative conclusions. Sharing all you know, but being carefully clear about different levels of inference. However, McI, who has really written little science, fails to understand this…and his analyses become wrapped into the form of meandering polemics.

  10. “I’d like to think that this case has a certain simplicity that makes the falsity of the accusations more apparent, whereas Yamal and “hide the decline” permit obfuscation more easily. Surely at least some mainstream journalists can see it more clearly. We’ll see.”

    It’s not just about memes and about zinging people. I am quite able to see what was wrong in “hiding the decline” (they sexed a graph) and simultaneously agree with you that McI should not fault people for stuff that did not make it into print (and/or be clear about that happening). It just takes a dedication to truth…rather than to one side or the other.

  11. Yes, so M&M and Watts and D’Aleo and Smith need to do some serious soul searching and apologizing.

    Of course, being men of honor and integrity they will do the right thing and apologize both in private and public, and retract the libelous and fallacious statements. Being the the cadre of eminent and respected professionals, they know that admitting error (like the IPCC did) and then correcting the errors for the public record is the right thing to do.

    I am sure that big media outlets will be outraged by the lies of M&M and Watts, and will blast their transgressions and critique of their bad behaviour all over the net, TV and print media. I mean, WUWT et al. are after all now the ones to be believed when it comes to the science behind AGW.

    And yes, I am being incredibly sarcastic in the last two paragraphs.

    Also posted at Tamino.

  12. DC, once again excellent work. Thanks, again, for standing up for science. I honestly do not know where you find the time and energy to keep at this.

    Now we wait….I for one am not holding my breath. The deniers have zero accountability, zero integrity, zero conscience, and zero honor.

    I wish that were not so, but their actions repeatedly show that to be the most plausible explanation of their sadly lacking ethics.

    Yet the media continue to fawn upon the mendacious deniers.

  13. For debunking WUWT, your prayers may have been answered

  14. Thanks for once again providing the needed detail, DC.

    Watts and McIntyre seem to be skating on charm alone. Isn’t it time that a major media outlet took up the outlandish pattern of deceit here? This could lead to a breakthrough in this long and uncalled for trench warfare.

    There is no sense arguing with Singer or Morano, since they are obvious whores, but Mc and Watts have big followings, many of whom don’t know they are being lied to. I’m open to suggestions here.

  15. Good analysis, Deep!

    I’ve started a blog at to make quick responses to the WUWT bunk, but I don’t have the background to really tear down the pseudoscience.

  16. “How do they get away with it?”

    Academic scientists and/or their home institutions fail, inevitably, to file libel suits. That’s how.

    [DC: The home institutions should do it on the scientists’ behalf. ]

  17. Academic scientists and/or their home institutions fail, inevitably, to file libel suits. That’s how.

    One possible reason for the reluctance of scientists to file lawsuits is that when they see all those menacing emails and abusive message-board comments, they think to themselves, “that’s my jury pool…”

  18. Academic scientists and/or their home institutions fail, inevitably, to file libel suits. That’s how.

    I’d be cautious of that. Michael Mann recently gave his reasons for not doing so, and they were pretty clear: time and money. The last thing you also want is for the septics to be able to cry “Boo-hoo! They’re trying to crush dissent!”. That would be a rallying cry for every wingnut, for a start. Choose your battles wisely and make sure they’re won before even setting foot in the field because that’s when it stops about who is right, it becomes all about who wins.

  19. The code may have been early exploration for, but not used in, the Briffa et al. 2001 paper, as you state. But my understanding is that code with a similar purpose was used in the unpublished Osborne et al. 2004 paper that Gavin’s Pussycat linked to above (manuscript at Google cache only). If that’s correct, it matters, because it makes clear the perfectly legitimate rationale and purpose of applying the correction.

    As far as I understand, the point was to extend the limited calibration period for summer temperatures, where data before 1911 was sparse and MXDs after 1960 diverged. Artificially “removing the decline” after 1960 was tested as a way to extend the calibration period up to 1990, and only for calibration purposes:

    the MXD data were (temporarily) adjusted to artificially remove the decline, then the calibration coefficients were determined using unfiltered data and applied to the unadjusted MXD data to generate the reconstruction.

    (See the introduction to section 4 of the manuscript, and the detailed explanation in s. 4.3.)

    The manuscript cautions repeatedly against the adjusted data for any other purpose.

    As this was never published, your conclusion that “that there exists no evidence of any published research that may have used the output” stands. But more importantly, if I understand correctly, the 2004 MS is evidence that there wereplans to use such output for a limited and transparently declared purpose that had nothing to do with hiding any decline on any plot.

    Or am I barking up the wrong tree?

    [DC: Key elements of the allegations is the implication that such “corrections” were undisclosed and not used for any legitimate scientific purpose. McKitrick, for example, describes it as “faking the match” and “not being honest with the reader”, under the assumption that there exists such undisclosed adjustment. But there is no evidence that this ever happened.

    Apparently in this case a limited, disclosed correction was employed for the specific purpose of exploring sensitivity to the calibration period. That supports the CRU version of the matter, not McIntyre and McKitrick. Moreover, it is clear that even this limited use of the “artificial correction” was rarely used in published research, if at all. And that it came with full disclosure and appropriate caveats.

    The adjustment described was clearly not applied to the reconstruction itself, that is, it was not applied to make “the reconstruction look right”, as McIntyre claimed, much less part of the “CRU toolkit”. ]

    • Yes, the allegations are bogus, and the facts that I pointed to support the CRU version, not Mc&Mc. I quite agree and I thought I was clear about that, but thanks for expressing it more clearly.

      [DC: I didn’t mean to express disagreement. I was just expressing my understanding of the situation and the implications of the (apparently unpublished) paper you found. Also, I have amended my statement above, which was not precise enough. ]

  20. Geoff Wexler

    Th IoP’s dog-whistle has atttracted lots of dogs who are holding a party in the comments section here:

  21. One thing I wouldn’t be cautious about:

    There’s a big opportunity for everyone to correct some misinformation. (a website of the Institute of Physics) has an article on the IoP submission. Check out who’s first in the comment list banging on about deleting proxy data, etc.

    ‘Concerns raised over Institute of Physics climate submission’ March 11.

    It takes a minute to sign up. I’m quite gobsmacked by some comments already made there.

  22. @ Geoff Wexler: Sorry, Geoff, I missed your post somehow 😉

  23. DC, sorry I misconstrued your inline, and again thanks for clarifying.

  24. Pingback: A Closer Look at the ‘Climategate’ Computer Code - Charles Johnson - The Lizard Annex - True/Slant

  25. I’m a software engineer and deal with complex numerical models on a daily basis.

    A few things that raise my eye-brows:

    1. Why didn’t the CRU (and everyone else for that matter) use SPSS or SAS? It’s very odd (and frankly suspicious) that they would need to write their own code to do something so trivial.

    2. I’ve looked at the code. It’s poorly written and what I would expect from a student. It wouldn’t see the light of day in a commercial application. For example: Manually entering numbers in to an array, and binning the way they did, where said numbers (and bins) are clearly significant and supposedly based on some other equation, is sloppy and very odd.

    3. Modeling and simulation is a complex technical craft. These researchers, despite their good intentions, are clearly not qualified to be doing this sort of work. Their models are incredibly simplistic and their methods demonstrate incompetence in a number of areas.

    I’m not saying their conclusions are right or wrong. I am saying they are ‘inadmissable’.

    From where I stand I think you would be foolish to accept anything produced by these guys. It’s not an honesty thing– it’s a quality of work thing.

    [DC: You’re jumping to unwarranted conclusions about the purpose of that particular program. The code we’re looking at above, is likely at one end of a spectrum running from exploratory, preliminary research through to “production” code to be used over and over again for regular updates of processed data. Even the latter probably wouldn’t come up to commercial standards, but it is certainly unrealistic to expect the former to do so.

    If you would like to see real incompetence in paleoclimatic reconstruction methods, might I suggest Wegman et al? The ignorance in that paper is appalling. It is a textbook example demonstrating that knowledge of statistical methods is a poor substitute for domain knowledge.

    By the way, I’ve looked at Mann et al’s PNAS 2008 code (Matlab), and McIntyre’s R code emulating the same. Have you? If you have, you would surely agree that Matlab is more appropriate for that particular task and that Mann et al’s code is better structured than McIntyre’s. For example Mann et al parameterized the reconstruction step, so that the verification periods used the same routine as the main reconstruction. McIntyre in effect hard-coded parameters for each of the three reconstructions. In other words, he failed to do proper analysis before coding (he should have spent more time with the paper and, yes, the code which was made available, in large part because he threw a tantrum about the non-availability of previous code). Yes, we don’t expect the same standard in one-time research projects (let alone preliminary exploration as the particular code discussed above) as comercial production software, but McIntyre’s code hardly qualifies him to critique others.

    By the way, I had to fish your comment out of the spam filter, hence the delay. ]

  26. Any apologies from McIntyre or McKitrick yet? And yes, I am being serious, kind of 🙂

  27. Dan Olner said:”In my constant dreaming about projects I don’t have time for: wouldn’t it be great to have a website that listed Watts’ and Mcintyre post’s absolute falsehoods, with very clear corrections side-by-side?”

    I’ve dreamt that complimenting Watts when he accidentally writes one sentence that is scientifically valid, thus proving AGW once and for all, might be accepted on his site, but as of of yet there’s been no occasions (not that I visit there much, so I don’t actually know if this has happened, but my compliment wasn’t accepted).

  28. Stirling English

    Simple way to settle the argument. Publish the actual program that was used, together with the data, and whether or not these ‘experimental’ bits of code were used will be self-evident (I assume Fortran still has a DEBUG facility?)

    [DC: I believe the program in question is in IDL.

    But the larger issue is that your suggestion, and McIntyre’s blog science, is completely backwards. Science would be better served if McIntyre would take the time to understand the literature, and then publish critiques in the peer-reviewed literature.

    In the mean time, there is no evidence whatsoever that there has been undisclosed inappropriate manipulation of the data in published research, much less that this is a pattern of conduct, as suggested by McIntyre and McKitrick. ]

  29. Stirling English

    OK. I assume IDL has a debug facility. So my earlier remark stands.

    And even if there is no evidence of any ‘undisclosed inappropriate manipulation’, the whole matter could be laid to rest in 5 minutes flat, once and for all, by publishing the data and the programs.

    Then no matter what he motivations or abilities of any critics, the evidence would be clear for all to see.

    It would also give confidence to those like me who are beginning to wonder if the hard work put in by those who don’t want to publish their stuff (as compared with the ease of publishing it on a FTP server) is actually a consequence of wanting to conceal something.

    When being transparently honest would so much improve the credibility of the work, why should anyone wish to do otherwise?

    [DC: As far as I’m concerned, Briffa and Osborn have been a lot more transparent and honest than their critics. They have both published dozens of papers and studies. Critiques made without proper understanding of that corpus are doomed to be ill-informed. Besides, past experience has shown that release of data and code is never enough for the self-appointed “auditors”. ]

    • SE, does “being transparently honest ” help NASA-GISS or Mike Mann and crew? Of course not.

  30. Stirling English

    So that’s a ‘NO’ then?

    Still doesn’t actually answer the point about being actively seen to be honest and transparent.

    And by not doing so, public confidence that ‘the science is settled’ is weakened considerably.

    If the discussion were merely one in a learned journal about something trivial, this might be acceptable behaviour (just academics having a tiff). But the consequences, costs and benefits of the political and economic changes we are all asked to make are so large that such playground rules don’t apply.

    I’m sure that before any far-reaching decisions are actually implemented, the code, data, methods and actions of all involved will be audited until its been seen from every possible angle and from every possible specialisation. And preferably by those who have nasty suspicious minds and start with a famous UK television interviewer’s mindset ‘why is this lying bastard lying to me?’

    And then, only then, when there really is an unassailable body of ‘bomb proof’ evidence, will the public be persuaded that they need to make those changes.

    Because at the moment, the actions of those involved (obfuscation, false triumphalism, secrecy, defensiveness and intellectual arrogance) have all the characteristics of a con trick. Which may be just an unfortunate coincidence, but is the lasting impression.

    Sadly, perhaps, the numbers who believe in AGW are falling. And actions/inactions like this do nothing to reverse that trend.

    [DC: I’m all for honesty and transparency, and rigorous review of the science. What I object to is the severe double standard, whereby “skeptics” and their promoters get a free pass, and climate scientists are unjustly attacked on the flimsiest evidence..

    Your standard of “bomb proof” evidence is simply unattainable, at least until it would be way too late. But the scientific evidence for AGW is overwhelming, while recent skeptic efforts such as Klotzbach et al, and Lindzen and Choi are notable mainly for their sheer incompetence. And for incompetence mixed with severe lack of honesty and transparency, you should look at McLean et al 2009.

    It’s clear that the real problems of honesty and transparency, and, yes, competence are mainly on the “skeptic” side. ]

  31. Stirling English

    And just to add…it is no real argument when criticised for lack of professional standards and reproducibility to simply say…’yes, but the other guys are even worse than we are’. That, too, is a playground excuse.

    For AGW to regain traction it has to be based on absolutely gold-standard science. The more I see of it, and of the legitimate criticisms made of it (eg Will, above), it has a very long way to go to even approach that level of credibility.

    Slagging off critics – rather than engaging head on and showing where their criticisms are wrong – is a really really bad strategy.

    And endlessly parroting ‘peer review’ when the CRU e-mails at least put a very large question mark over the legitimacy and independence of that process is no real answer either.

    [DC: Above I argued that taking program code out of context was a terrible way to assess “professional standards”. I also argue that any such evaluation needs to take into account the purpose and context of the programming code, and should also be applied evenly to all participants in the ongoing debate. So I think you have oversimplified my argument to say the least.

    There is no question that the science of paleoclimatology has evolved enormously. Simply compare MBH98 and 99 to Mann et al in PNAS (2008). Yet the sceptics continue to criticize based on out-of-context material from more than a decade ago.

    The question mark over peer review mainly concerns the continued ability of the “skeptics” to get sub-standard papers published by gaming the system. In the worst cases, we have seen undisclosed ties of authors and even editors to industry-funded lobby groups. We can see this in the fiasco at Climate Research (which was even worse than realized at the time). There is also some evidence of this problem at AGU journals, but unfortunately lack of transparency (e.g. lack of open review, failure to identify editors) makes the full extent of the problem yet to be assessed. ]

  32. Stirling English

    ‘SE, does “being transparently honest ” help NASA-GISS or Mike Mann and crew? Of course not.’

    Maybe it doesn’t directly help….but not doing so has done them immense damage in the past. Jones antics of obfuscation re access to data has destroyed his credibility at least in UK. And that of his datasets.

    And anyway, are we not entitled to expect transparent honesty as a minimum standard from publicly funded researchers? If not, please advance some good reasons why not.

    • “Jones antics of obfuscation re access to data has destroyed his credibility at least in UK. And that of his datasets. “

      How are his datasets flawed?

      They match just fine with other measurements, don’t they?

      As for obfuscation with data, if you’re talking about the raw data, how could he copy over half a million sheets of paper and send the 60 metre high parcel to Canada while justifying that to the taxpayer (minus the data he couldn’t send for legal reasons)?

    • Thanks, J Bowers. I would also be interested in knowing whether SE has confidence in the results of GISS and Mann; has the huge amount of data they’ve released resulted in their increased credibility?

    • Just to put some perspective on 60 metres:

    • Stirling,

      McIntyre, Watts, and the others screaming for “open access to data” are NOT interested in the truth.

      What these folks want is delay, delay, delay.

      Keep in mind that these folks operate with the mindset that scientists are either incompetent or conspiratorial.

      As long as CA and WUWT keep their followers happy then the kings have a kingdom.

  33. And anyway, are we not entitled to expect transparent honesty as a minimum standard from publicly funded researchers? If not, please advance some good reasons why not.

    You want transparency? Well, here it is: Every bit of code and temperature data needed to replicate NASA/GISS temperature computations can be found there (just follow some links).

    Unlike CRU, NASA/GISS decided long ago to use public-domain temperature data exclusively. No proprietary data with restrictions on redistribution. Just the public domain stuff.

    If you have some programming/technical skills, you should have no trouble roughly replicating NASA’s results (or if you are convinced that NASA is in error, you should be able to perform your own independent analysis demonstrating where NASA has gone wrong).

  34. Stirling English

    ‘Code, data, methods and actions’ was what I actually remarked.

    Sure…some data is available from some sources. For managing to come up to the absolutely minimum expected standard, I suppose some minor credit is due to those institutions that have grudgingly done so (sound of one hand clapping).

    In accountancy terms..those institutions have managed to come up with some things that look like they might be a P&L and a Balance Sheet. So the competent auditor now wants to see the transactions that go behind these climate terms the programs, methods and algorithms that are have been used to process the data.

    Just so that she can be satisfied that the intermediate steps have been done correctly. Just because auditors have nasty suspicious minds like Paxman..’why are these lying bastards lying to me’

    That these simple tests to really gauge the validity of climate science haven’t been done was encapsulated by Jones’ remark at the select committee when asked why he hadn’t given over his programs and methods for examination ‘Nobody has ever asked’

    I fear that many people are asking more and more searching questions and being able to hide behind such an unprofessional approach will no longer be an acceptable way forward.

    Today’s great gurus (Jones, Mann, Hansen) and their acolytes day has passed as has their credibility. One can only hope that some up and coming young successors will have learnt the lesson of ClimateHagen and adopt a more persuasive stance in the future.

    [DC: You seem to confuse methods and computer programs. That’s a common misunderstanding among the non-scientific self-appointed auditors.

    It’s also pretty clear that you want to discuss issues that have nothing to do with the topic at hand – namely the false accusations by McKitrick and McIntyre against CRU paleoclimatologists, chiefly Briffa abd Osborn. I’ve given you plenty of latitude to discuss the surface temperature record, but from here on you will have to stick to the topic at hand. Thanks! ]

    • SE, have you even looked at what is available from GISS and Mann’s SI? What’s missing (be specific)?

      [DC: This comment has been moved to Unthreaded #2, as SE’s comments are getting increasingly off topic. We’ll continue the conversation there. ]

  35. Stirling English

    This comment has been moved to Unthreaded #2, as it is off-topic …

  36. I support your demand for retractions, but it assumes that M&M are interested in facts, and operate in good faith. That’s an awfully big reach.

  37. “Today’s great gurus (Jones, Mann, Hansen) and their acolytes day….”

    You’re including Hansen in this list of discredited ones now?

    [DC: See Unthreaded #2 for rest of this comment. Discussion may be continued there. ]

  38. Stirling English

    ‘You seem to confuse methods and computer programs. That’s a common misunderstanding among the non-scientific self-appointed auditors’

    I think my understanding of these topics is quite robust thanks..especially as I have made my living doing such work.

    [DC: Then I would suggest you familiarize yourself with the methods of Briffa and Osborn, if you want to contribute meaningfully to this discussion. Here is a good starting point to the literature.

    Thanks! ]

  39. M&M are a little tougher to debunk than, say, Singer or Morano, but it ends up getting accomplished eventually, and you and the commenters have done an admirable job here.

    This reminds me of a past relationship. She had a tactical advantage, because she chose to lie whenever that provided an advantage, and I chose not to. There were many ways that she could exploit this, most of which are demonstrated in this thread via the references to M&M and their supporters.

    Of course, this kind of relationship is doomed, and the person who accepts the lying and tries to work around it is enabling the bad outcome. Which in our case was an inevitably busted relationship. In the case of the earth, it’s a dessicated planet. We need to get hold of ourselves here, and fight on every level.

  40. This reminds me of a past relationship. She had a tactical advantage, because she chose to lie whenever that provided an advantage, and I chose not to.

    Wow … when and where did you meet my ex-wife? 🙂

    [DC: Personally, I don’t relate to this analogy. ]

  41. OT, but I need help from those of you with research grant experience. I have already heard from several scientists but it would be nice to hear from a few more. I originally posted this at RC last week and am now branching out to this blog and others.

    I have a thread on my blog titled Taking the Money for Grant(ed) – Part I that
    responds to the following two claims:

    1) Scientists are getting rich from research grants!
    2) Scientists holding an anti-AGW viewpoint cannot get funding!

    I used my own recent grant experience to debunk claim #1. In a future post called Part II, I want to show examples of how grant money is spent at other institutions, especially the larger research institutions. Essentially, tell me why you are also not getting rich from your grants. You can comment on my blog or send me a private email.

    My email address is

    You can give me as much or as little detail as you think it necessary to dispel claim #1. Before I post part II, I will send a draft copy to any person whose information is being used and you will have carte blanche to edit what I had planned to post. Nothing will appear in my post that you do not confirm.

    I appreciate all the help you can offer!

  42. Pingback: Climategate investigations, round 1: CRU exonerated « Deep Climate

  43. Where is the libel suit?

  44. Paul Middents

    Fuller links to McKitrick’s latest whine over at Tobis’ place:

    Fuller says:
    “After reading the entire article, please feel free to tell me what part of climate science I don’t understand. Because I would submit it’s the behaviour of individuals and institutions that I do not understand, not the science.”

    A quick glance at McKittrick’s piece indicates that it’s the old global temperature record can’t be trusted UHI la la. The thread on Tobis post quickly moved on to other things—led primarily by Fuller’s repeated appearance after several dramatic final farewells. Fuller is not worth the effort of answering but McKitrick is.

    McKitrick’s thing is making the rounds of the denialosphere and probably needs answering. I’m certainly not competent to do it but this looks like something right down your alley. Tamino might like to have at it too.

    Paul Middents

    [DC: I’m not sure of all the back-and-forth, but Gavin Schmidt did publish a rebuttal paper of McKitrick’s work, including spatial auto-correlation.

    Schmidt, G.A., 2009: Spurious correlations between recent warming and indices of local economic activity. Intl. J. Climatol., 29, 2041-2048, doi:10.1002/joc.1831. ]

  45. Paul Middents

    Pielke is all over this. The usual suspects are chiming in. McKitrick seems to think he has something beyond the 2007 paper that Schmidt responds too.


  46. OK you made me look. McKitrick is quite tedious is he not?

    At p. 6 we have an, um, interesting account of the de Freitas/Climate Research kerfuffle.

    The paragraph at the bottom of p. 8 contains a glaring error – an actual misreading of IPCC AR4 section

    If I write those up, hopefully someone else will carry on.

  47. DC,

    I had a quick read of McKitrick’s woeful missive. Wow, McKitrick really does go for the jugular, but it is desperate times for the deniers……

    McKitrick’s story all lines up way too nicely. If most of the warming were indeed UHI effects in the SAT data as he alleges, then why on earth are the SAT, MSU and RATPAC trends in excellent agreement? And why is the OHC going up?

    McKitrick also makes a, IMO, a blatant lie designed to really get the deniers riled up:

    “IPCC used false evidence to conceal an important problem with the surface temperature data on which most of their conclusions rest.”

    Most of the IPCC’s conclusions rest on the HadCRUT SAT data!?

    That statement set off my BS filter. Now, alas, someone has to waste their time showing McKitrick to playing loose with the facts, again.

    That all said, I did find the reason the IPCC gave as being rather odd, and they should have been more assertive and quantitative. They can;t throw the likes of McKitrick bones.

    And it has taken McKitrick three years to put this all together and join the dots? I smell a rat. The rat being that they went after WGII and now they are going after WGI….they are also probably pretty angry at failing to convince the HoC committee, so now they are using the blogs to disseminate less ‘structure’ and vetted ‘arguments’ that they know they can’t be taken to account on in the slippery world of the internet.

    The denier choir will be delighted by this missive, even when it is probably shown to be, for the most part, nonsense.

    [DC: McKitrick made similar claims at the end of 2007 in the National Post. A lot of current “climategate” claims are just recycled ones that didn’t fly first time around. ]

  48. DC,

    When you strip away McKitrick’s narrative, much of which IMO is self-serving and intellectually dishonest (I quote one example over here at Bishop Hill about the article), I think McKitrick has a point. Like you I think he misreads (and if this misreading carries over to his actual paper, it must be junk). This doesn’t reflect well on him but it still leaves the text in AR4 looking like it lacks support, and this is the real problem.

    Now, McKitrick’s analysis and also that of de Laat does seem to be have been rebutted (Gavin Schmidt gave me a very clear response on this here – the point about finding better correlations with country areas in particular looks to blow the whole thing away and is also very funny.

    However this was not information available at the time of writing AR4 (unless someone had done a back of envelope calculation or something, but this is pure conjecture and would also be pretty weak in terms of WG1 referencing). Any way you look at it, the reasons given in IPCC AR4 do not seem to have been supported at the time or even since. Specifically the claim about statistical significance, though it may well be true, is not shown to be the case or backed up with anything in AR4. Of it it is, it is far from obvious. At best this is a case of ‘citation needed’.

    Not only does he seem to have a point, but this particular issue – the support for that claim in AR4 – is a centrepiece of McKitrick’s submission to the emails inquiry, so it matters. Again, it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the big picture – whoever wrote that in IPCC AR4 seems to be ultimately vindicated in that the papers were not right – but still.

    It will be interesting to see what people make of this. This particular point does require a response IMO.

    (I will note in passing that de Laat and Maurellis, who McKitrick says found the same effect he did (they don’t seem to agree) do not appear to have a similar op-ed whining about peer review. Nor like others with papers that have ‘sceptical’ conclusions do they seem to be unemployed now. This rather gives the lie to McKitrick’s contention that the peer review process is desparately unfair and publishing papers with ‘sceptical’ conclusions is a career limiting move)

    [DC: As it happens, I’m just finishing a post on McKitrick’s misinterpretation of section But I’ve also noticed that McKitrick avoids all discussion of the substantive critique of his work by Gavin Schmidt in favour of trying to score points on AR4. Nevertheless, a complete dissection of McKitrick’s talking point may take a little longer. ]

  49. Paul Middents

    I, along with many others, are glad you are taking on the latest effluent from McKitrick. He is just “sciency” enough to be really dangerous.

    Tom Fuller won’t be convinced, but others will compare your dissection to his complete acceptance and come to the conclusion that Fuller is completely irrelevant to any serious discussion of climate science or energy policy

    Keep up the good work.


  50. Pingback: McKitrick gets it wrong on IPCC « Deep Climate

  51. Has anybody done a detailed analysis of McIntyre’s background and current involvement with the oil and mining sector?

  52. Pingback: Climate Denialists in Denial |

  53. Skip Smith

    >>”Yet a close examination of the computer code and ensuing research bears out the key contention of the firm rebuttals from East Anglia University, as well as CRU scientist Tim Osborn, namely that the specific adjustments in question were for private exploration only and never incorporated into CRU scientists’ subsequent published research temperature reconstructions. <<

    How do you know this, given that these guys have never released their code?

    [DC: The accusation was that the reconstructions were secretly and artificially “adjusted” to look closer to 20th century temperature. The paper I describe above is the major research and reconstruction published using the ABD standardization methodology. It is obvious that this reconstruction was not adjusted using undisclosed or inappropriate methods, as it shows the divergence problem quite clearly after the mid-twentieth century.

    If McIntyre and McKitrick have any evidence whatsoever of their charges, they have yet to present it. ]

  54. Pingback: Muir Russell report on CRU: “Their rigour and honesty as scientists is not in doubt” « Deep Climate