Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“The New Deal began, like the Salvation Army, by promising to save humanity. It ended, again like the Salvation Army, by running flop-houses and disturbing the peace.”     H. L. Mencken

December 7, 2009

Monday Morning Question

by Brad Warbiany

All, if you’ve followed the ClimateGate scandal, you’ll note that most coverage on both the left and the right centers around the emails. There is discussion in the emails of trying to influence access to peer-reviewed journals to stop critics (unethical), and even some suggestions that data requested under FOIA be deleted (potentially illegal).

So we’re stuck with two basic sides:

Skeptics: “This shows that we’ve been right about you trying to stonewall us, and thus we won’t accept your conclusions unless you show us the source data and methodology, which you’ve tried to avoid for years. Your behavior suggests you have something to hide, and these emails show that you’re hiding it. Now put up or shut up.”
AGW Crowd: “This is regrettable and we all think there should be more transparency in the process. But it hardly invalidates the claims, which are from source data available elsewhere and which correspond with the claims of other climate researchers working independently of us.”

The debate largely stays at this level, because like most political debates, few in the media or in the public are comfortable looking at the deep dark bowels of all of this — numbers.

As an engineer, though, I am not stricken with such numerophobia, and thus wading through data sets and statistical methods. As such, I’ve seen a particular critique which bothers me greatly (as described here by Eric S. Raymond (via QandO)):

From the CRU code file osborn-tree6/ , used to prepare a graph purported to be of Northern Hemisphere temperatures and reconstructions.

; Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL correction for decline!!
valadj=[0.,0.,0.,0.,0.,-0.1,-0.25,-0.3,0.,- 0.1,0.3,0.8,1.2,1.7,2.5,2.6,2.6,$
2.6,2.6,2.6]*0.75 ; fudge factor
if n_elements(yrloc) ne n_elements(valadj) then message,’Oooops!’

This, people, is blatant data-cooking, with no pretense otherwise. It flattens a period of warm temperatures in the 1940s 1930s — see those negative coefficients? Then, later on, it applies a positive multiplier so you get a nice dramatic hockey stick at the end of the century.

All you apologists weakly protesting that this is research business as usual and there are plausible explanations for everything in the emails? Sackcloth and ashes time for you. This isn’t just a smoking gun, it’s a siege cannon with the barrel still hot.


(Note: Raymond points out later that he missed the 0.75 modifier, so what is shown here (at the maximum) as a 2.6 deg correction in the graph is likely a 1.95 deg correction. This appears to be an older version of the graph.)

One caveat — this is the only “smoking gun” I’ve seen thus far, and I personally haven’t scoured these files at all to determine exactly how important this particular file is to the whole picture. I’m likewise a bit concerned that we haven’t seen more of these “corrections”; if this is purported to account for the northern hemisphere, what about the southern?

But at this time, that’s beside the point. Absolutely NO voice on the pro-AGW side that I’ve come across has even attempted to answer this critique. They may think it’s not serious, or know that it’s being misinterpreted, or they may simply believe that if they don’t give it an answer, it’s obscure nature to most innumerate people will let a true critique be ignored. I’m not sure.

So here’s my question to readers: Have you seen any credible answer to the charge by Eric Raymond that this is blatant data-cooking? Barring that, have you seen any non-credible answer or off-handed dismissal of this charge? What I’m trying to find out is if there are actually voices trying to answer this, or if it is being ignored.

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  1. Read the comments on Eric’s original post (yes, all several hundred as of a few days ago). There were links posted in the comments that attempt to answer that routine. As I recall the answers, there were two basic ones:
    1) The code was commented out, not in use! (That doesn’t mean it wasn’t in use at some point)…
    2) It’s common practice to “adjust” data as described when trying to understand how the model responds to different inputs (potentially valid, but requires an assumption of good faith).

    In any event, yes some people have *tried* to answer that. Reading their accounts I didn’t feel they were particularly successful. What’s more important, though, is what the actual people involved say their answer is; speculation from third parties on this point isn’t going to help nearly as much as the original programmers saying why they did that, and what model runs it may have influenced.

    Comment by TriggerFinger — December 7, 2009 @ 1:40 pm

    Many posts here involve a discussion of the E-mails.

    Comment by Matty — December 8, 2009 @ 8:52 am
  3. [...] Matty: http://www.realclima Many posts here involve a discussion of the E-mails. [...]

    Pingback by The Liberty Papers »Blog Archive » Free Market Capitalism: Good for the Environment? — December 14, 2009 @ 10:01 pm

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