Open Thread #9

Here are some possible topics:

  • Discussion (or lack of thereof) concerning climate change issues in the Canadian election campaign.
  • Steve McIntyre’s recent attacks on Keith Briffa and Tim Osborn, which also happen to contradict earlier allegations that IPCC TAR lead author Michael Mann took it on himself to “delete” or “chop off” data in a key “spaghetti” figure of paleoclimate reconstructions (allegations I had previously shown to be false).

And to start things off, I’ve redirected a comment by “George Mason” (presumably a pseodonym), who reminds us that one rogue professor and a lackadaisical and complaisant administration are not necessarily representative of George Mason University as a whole.


42 responses to “Open Thread #9

  1. George Mason

    Did I miss someone else talking about the George Mason climate communicator of the year award?

    [DC: Originally posted at Open Thread # 7 and redirected here. ]

    • Gavin's Pussycat

      About the award, it is amazing that none of the folks involved with this, nor the Award’s web site, even mention the Wegman scandal… a search of their entire site for Wegman returns zilch. This is surreal.

      If it is true as John Mashey says, that GMU is a large organization within which there is place for good guys as well as bad guys, it is amazing that the good guys don’t speak up, as the bad guys are most certainly affecting their reputation — not to speak of their future possibilities to apply for Federal funding.

      And isn’t the investigation of the Wegman scandal, or rather the failure to investigate, the responsibility of the top level GMU leadership? There isn’t even the pretense anymore of an ongoing investigation. Time line? What time line?

      I am having this mental image of the ‘Yes Men’ turning up at the Award Ceremony… one can dream…

  2. Steve Metzler

    But the post-1960 “hide the decline” is so… passe. McIntyre has a new trick. Hide the *pre-1550* decline:

    An opportunity for on-line peer review

    Come to think of it, I haven’t seen any takedowns of this one in the scientific blogosphere. Not worth it? Off the radar? What’s the story on this?

    • Bill O'Slatter

      An open discussion allowing the contrapositive to McIntyre’s as usual stupid proposition is on

    • Steve Metzler

      Bill, hi,

      Thanks for the link. I’ve found a new climate science resource 🙂 I accept Nick’s explanation of why the pre-1550 data was left out, but of course there’s a lone McIntyre fan posting there that just won’t let go.

    • I think Nick Stokes has correctly identified a key issue, i.e. the paucity of data. But beyond that the exposition is a little fuzzy, or at least incomplete.

      The best reference to understand the Briffa and Osborn 1999 (Science) and Briffa 2000 (also used in IPCC TAR) reconstruction versions is Briffa et al 2001 in JGR.

      First, in order to preserve low frequency variation, the site chronologies used Age Band Decomposition (ABD), not RCS as Stokes states. The techniques are similar, insofar as chronologies are not individually standardized to account for age-related growth, but in ABD the growth curves are derived from grouping tree series within the same age interval or “band”.

      The main difference between the two reconstructions is in the processing of the site chronology set for subsequent regression against the instrumental data. As stated in Appendix A of Briffa et al 2001, the original Science reconstruction used a simple unweighted average of the site chronlogies. And, as noted in the paper (and highlighted in comments at Moyhu), the 15th century was overweighted to Eastern Siberia. That region also happens to have had a poorer relation to the instrumental data than the others.

      Subsequent work grouped the sites into nine regions and explored various ways of combining them. This makes a big difference pre-1550, since there were only two regions avaialable for most of the 15th century and three in the early 16th century. Briffa got the best result by combining PCs of the regions. Even here, although the early RE is respectable, it is well under verification statistics of the later period portions of the reconstruction. It’s also worth noting that different techniques for combining the chronologies make little difference after about 1650.

      There’s more I could say, and I’m considering writing this up as a full blog post. On the other hand, there seems to be little urgency, as McIntyre appears to have gotten much less traction with this than in the original “hide the decline” accusations, or Yamal for that matter.

    • In regards to DC’s comment.

      Looking at the thread, it seems as though McIntyre understood the reasoning behind both the ‘hidden’ decline and the reason it changed in Briffa 2001. This is of course if you ignore the phrase – ‘Briffa 2001 reconstruction may well depend on the flipping of data’ – which looks like another ‘upside-down’ explanation. But then again in the Moyhu comments, he questions what changed in Briffa 2001

      Nick, your excuses are opportunistic and inconsistent. Briffa et al 2001 reported a chronology prior to 1550 with the same network. Explain that.

      He says he will get to this later, but it appears he has no idea. Or he does and doesn’t feel like talking about it. It’s all very ‘bizarre’.

    • Ok, we are now back to Yamal decline hiding. Where does Briffa keep all these declines? Who knows? Steve doesn’t. That whole post reeks of wordplay and broken puzzles. But the important part is that somebody somewhere may or may not have been correct about something at some point.

      WUWT is very excited!

  3. Holly Stick

    I haven’t seen too much. Bigcitylib, a Liberal supporter, has posted:

    And at Macleans, one of Aaron Wherry’s many posts:

    There is the Green Party not being included in the debate this time. And Joanna Macdonald, one of the people booted out of a Conservative rally, was probably booted because of her conection with Sierra Club:
    She studies environmental science at U of Guelph:–student-says-environmental-activism-barred-her-from-harper-campaign-event

  4. Holly Stick

    I should add that U of Guelph appears to be active in encouraging youth to vote, and had a couple of Vote Mobs, including one the day of the rally. Some wore red and white; preumably the Conservatives think of those as Liberal colours, rather than Canada’s colours. They appear peaqceful and joyful; but Harper is campaigning on fear, so I guess they scare him.

  5. Holly Stick

    And an important article today:

    “Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his international colleagues have not gone far enough to avoid “dangerous” climate change, according to an Environment Canada report that could cause problems for the Conservatives on the campaign trail…”

  6. A piece in the WSJ by Doug “everythings in climate science is s**t and a fraud” Keenan has been getting quite a bit of coverage in the denialosphere. Shame it’s not very good. Here’s a copy:

    • I particularly like the part where he claims to have a better model for climate noise than the IPCC, but neglects to tell us what it actually is.

    • Rattus Norvegicus

      Yeah, that was a good one. Tamino did an analysis which showed that AR1 is a good first approximation for the noise function in GISS, but that ARMA(1, 1) is a better model. But guess what? Using either AR1 or ARMA(1, 1) the result is still significant.

      Like most everything else Keenan writes, this is nonsense.

  7. Keenan was “good enough” to make the list in CCC. See his entry on p.131:.

    • How d’ya lecture go?
      (it was the 7th, right?)

    • John Mashey

      I thought it went OK, but the speaker is not the optimal person to ask.
      Given that it was mostly assembled the previous week at our ski condo, and this was the third time given, and they always evolve quickly. I’d call it about a 90%, starting from an 80% a few days earlier. Another 3 times should get me to 95-99%, although (I hope) there will be certain additional details that become available publicly later on.

  8. Anthony Watts is soliciting donations for Tim Ball’s legal defense fund:

    Unbelievably, the story casts Dr. Ball as a “72-year old pensioner”, and not as the first professor of climatology in Canada, or whatever his previous claim to fame was.

    There are some good quotes from an “interview” with Dr. Ball:
    “I am also concerned that the credibility of science in general is in jeopardy because too many scientists, including Suzuki, Weaver, Mann and others have been involved directly or indirectly in the process.” !

  9. John McManus

    Apparently Mann wants to deball Canadian journalism. As a Canadian I am delighted but a bit ashamed that it’s an American doing it( well maybe Weaver did his duty ) .
    By the way, Davis Suzuki is also a pensioner, just not a whiney one.

  10. I recently e-mailed the Computational Statistics & Data Analysis editor because I thought he might be unaware of the issues with Said et al. 2008. He kindly has let me know they were aware and that, in line with Elsevier’s ethics policy, Elsevier will be formally retracting Said et al. 2008

  11. Indeed^2.
    Retraction seems foregone conclusion.
    The more interesting questions are:
    1) As per SSWR W.5.6, pp. 148-151, Ted Kirkpatrick had pointed out the 6-day acceptance of this, and on p.149 I showed how odd such a quick acceptance was. Hence, we can hope that CSDA will offer a forthright explanation of how all this happened.

    2) Of course, this was the one that Ack’d 3 Federal agencies, one of which is covered by the ORI, and none of whom have obvious reasons to fund low-grade SNA, with plagiarism, and that leaps to unwarranted conclusions that verge on defamation.

    3) Note of course that RETRACTION seems the likely approach.

  12. Steve Metzler

    It looks like there may finally be a plausible explanation for the post-1960 decline in tree ring growth in high latitude North American bristlecones:

    Tree rings detect earthworm invasions and their effects
    in northern Hardwood forests

    This was apparently around the time European earthworms were introduced into an alien ecology. It explains why the trees become more sensitive to drought.

    • Rattus Norvegicus

      Just looking at the abstract, this seems to apply to hardwood forests. Not so sure that it would apply to northern treeline boreal forests.

    • This has been online for about two years and this is 1st Ive heard of it. Only 1 citation, not climate related. Is this being researched as a serious cause of bristlecone divergence? Is anyone aware of it?

    • Steve Metzler

      @Rattus Norvegicus:

      You make a good point there. The boreal forests that showed the divergence problem were much further north than the area covered in the paper, which was northern Minnesota. And pine is not hardwood.

      Sorry, looks like I jumped the gun there. Must be my contrarian side 😉 Still… it would be interesting to see how far north these European earthworms have propagated. The best guess seems to be that the trees that show the divergence problem are drought constrained. It would be nice to be able to pin down the cause.

    • The Minnesota earth worm phenomenon is also different from the general “divergence” problem in that the earth worm infested tree sites showed *greater* growth than unaffected sites, as opposed to the *reduced* response to temperature in some high-latitide boreal forests.

      Also, I’m not aware of “high latitude” bristlecones. There are three bristlecone pine species, all more or less in the southwestern U.S. Bristlecone pines figure strongly in the MBH98 controversy, of course, since the “strip bark” samples seem to have greater response to temperature than non-strip bark forms.

    • Steve Metzler

      Thanks for the clarifications, DC. I’ll bow out gently now, if you don’t mind. Obviously, just reading the abstract of a paper whilst at work doesn’t cut it. As to conflating bristlecone pines with trees in high latitude boreal forests… for that, I have no excuse.

      Not a good day for Steve today.

  13. Below I have linked more detail about the Kommersant article that appeared in Cucinelli’s suit against the EPA. Cucinelli actually cited a somewhat edited English-language version that appeared in RIA Novosti, the Russian government’s official press agency. Cuccinelli’s brief has a slight typo (spacing) in the address they link to.

    Some denialists suggest that the scientists are motivated by socialist/communist politics, so I think it is only fair to point out who is toeing the Kremlin line in his idiotic EPA suit.

    I know other states also sued. I wonder how many of them also used the Kommersant article as “proof” that our “crafty” climate scientists are fudging their science?

    I will have to find that EPA link and look at the other briefs. Maybe they are all getting their “facts” from Alisher Usmanov’s Kommersant.

  14. Attorney General Cuinelli’s dad is a career gas lobbyist. He started at the Amerian Gas Association and currently is the head of an advertising/marketing/communications company. The website notes that the elder Cuccinelli’s other company is active in Europe and Latin America.

    I would like to find out what is going on there. Sometimes “professional services” can really be a way of laundering money for political operations.

    According to an Internet site, Cucinelli got 96,000 dollars from his dad’s company, so I think we can ask. His family also may profit financially because of Cuccinelli’s attacks on the scientists. They may get clients who pay them to do that. I can’t say this is happening, but this looks suspicious to me. No newspapers ever mention the father’s business might have something to do with the son’s attacks on climate science.

    I have emailed W. Russell, Cuccinelli’s deputy many times and asked about this situation, which seems like a confilict of interest or impropriety. They have never responded even once.

    Here are the details. I think voters should know what is going on here. Someone should investigate Cuccinelli, not Dr. Mann, to see if he is abusing his power and taxpayer money to attack scientists for the private profit of a family business.

    People should know that Cuccinelli will not answer questions about this.

    I don’t think the Tea Party people would approve of citing Russian/Gazprom sources when suing the EPA. Also, I think the Tea Party might also want to know if Cuccinelli might be getting money from a business that has foreign clients.

    There should be transparency so the voters know who is behind Cuccinelli.

    He talks about how Virginia revolted against foreign control, but I wonder if he is getting money from foreign gas/oil companies. After all, he cites Russian sources that are close to the Kremlin in order to defame our scientists and the science of climate change.

    Here are the details:

  15. Sometime soon, I think there will be good reason to be address the Cuccinelli issue, as after all, the September CID certainly used the Wegman Report.

    See CID, p.18, where it starts:
    “Not only are they few in number…”

    That comes from the WR’s faux social network analysis, which DC shwoed was plagiarized , and was reused in Said, et al (2008), which also Ack’d 3 Federal contracts, of which one is covered by the Office of Research Integrity. Of course, Cuccinelli also cites the infamous Soon/Baliunas paper in Climate Research, the equivalent of relying on strongly-overturned legal rulings as though they were still in force.

    If at some point this material is clearly judged fraud, Cuccinelli&Russell might face interesting questions, not jusst the use of fraudulent material, but who helped them write this thing…

  16. John, any news on Wegman? I’m getting beyond annoyed that this serious issue has fallen by the wayside at GMU.

    • I’m curious, too. I had speculated previously that a possible reason for GMU’s delay might be that they hoped to forestall any further public airing of their systemic problems of scholarship and lapses in academic oversight until after the deadline for submission of materials relevant to their accreditation review by SACS (*irony*).

      Another reason for delay might be the pending litigation filed by Raymond Bradley, which could be mired in discovery, depositions, and/or dilatory, bad-faith “negotiations.” At this point, valid reasons, if any ever existed, for GMU’s failure to investigate the accusations against Wegman seem to have sunk to depths beyond salvage, just like Cuccinelli’s CID. None of this would deter Donald Trump from investigating Obama’s place of birth–but I digress.

      It’s just my hunch, of course, but I’d expect that any announcement, “apology,” press release, or quiet settlement of the complaint by Professor Bradley will be handled in the most advantageous and carefully timed manner as GMU’s press office/PR consultant deems appropriate.

  17. If “Social networks of author–coauthor relationships” doi:10.1016/j.csda.2007.07.021 has been retracted, when and where should we expect mention of that on the Computational Statistics & Data Analysis site?

  18. FWD:

    Subject: Climate Change
    From: “David”
    To: dan.johnson

    Just wanted you to know that Dr. Tim Ball is NOT on the fossil fuel
    industry payroll. I am his eldest son and can tell you for a fact
    that this
    is so. You mock his credentials ( which are legitimate), because you
    refute his science. You write letters without having any evidence to
    back it
    up. Whatever happened to the scientific method? Is your motivation
    political? Or is it fear of losing your funding? How childish your
    are. Stop attacking the man because you have no answer for the data.
    Obviously, a good son would defend his father, but I am also defending
    truth. I have a family myself, so the future is very important to
    me, for my
    children’s sake. I take the climate issue very seriously, yet I have
    very little proof for your argument, aside from conjecture and
    which does not good science make. It is about good science, isn’t it???
    …………………………. David C. Ball

  19. John Mashey

    it has been *scheduled* for retraction, the notice is not yet out.
    The last issue appeared a few days before this (some people check the website often), so presumably it will appear in the next issue.

    See Elsevier plagiarism complaint process and Withdrawal process in this case, retraction being the appropriate flavor.