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One Of The Scandals In The CRU Emails

To get a little more context behind some of the emails that were liberated from the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University in Great Britain, we go back to an article that appeared in the UK’s Register back in September:

Treemometers: A new scientific scandal

If a peer review fails in the woods…

By Andrew Orlowski

29th September 2009

A scientific scandal is casting a shadow over a number of recent peer-reviewed climate papers.

At least eight papers purporting to reconstruct the historical temperature record times may need to be revisited, with significant implications for contemporary climate studies, the basis of the IPCC’s assessments. A number of these involve senior climatologists at the British climate research centre CRU at the University East Anglia. In every case, peer review failed to pick up the errors.

At issue is the use of tree rings as a temperature proxy, or dendrochronology. Using statistical techniques, researchers take the ring data to create a "reconstruction" of historical temperature anomalies. But trees are a highly controversial indicator of temperature, since the rings principally record Co2, and also record humidity, rainfall, nutrient intake and other local factors.

Picking a temperature signal out of all this noise is problematic, and a dendrochronology can differ significantly from instrumented data. In dendro jargon, this disparity is called "divergence". The process of creating a raw data set also involves a selective use of samples – a choice open to a scientist’s biases.

Yet none of this has stopped paleoclimataologists from making bold claims using tree ring data.

In particular, since 2000, a large number of peer-reviewed climate papers have incorporated data from trees at the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia. This dataset gained favour, curiously superseding a newer and larger data set from nearby. The older Yamal trees indicated pronounced and dramatic uptick in temperatures.

How could this be? Scientists have ensured much of the measurement data used in the reconstructions remains a secret – failing to fulfill procedures to archive the raw data. Without the raw data, other scientists could not reproduce the results. The most prestigious peer reviewed journals, including Nature and Science, were reluctant to demand the data from contributors. Until now, that is.

At the insistence of editors of the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions B the data has leaked into the open – and Yamal’s mystery is no more.

From this we know that the Yamal data set uses just 12 trees from a larger set to produce its dramatic recent trend. Yet many more were cored, and a larger data set (of 34) from the vicinity shows no dramatic recent warming, and warmer temperatures in the middle ages.

In all there are 252 cores in the CRU Yamal data set, of which ten were alive 1990. All 12 cores selected show strong growth since the mid-19th century. The implication is clear: the dozen were cherry-picked.

(This oversimplifies the story somewhat: for more detail, read this fascinating narrative by blogger BishopHill here (http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2009/9/29/the-yamal-implosion.html).)

Controversy has been raging since 1995, when an explosive paper by Keith Briffa (http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/people/briffa/) at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia asserted that that the medieval warm period was actually really cold, and recent warming is unusually warm. Both archaeology and the historical accounts, Briffa was declaring, were bunk. Briffa relied on just three cores from Siberia to demonstrate this.

Three years later Nature published a paper by Mann, Bradley and Hughes based on temperature reconstructions which showed something similar: warmer now, cooler then. With Briffa and Mann as chapter editors of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this distinctive pattern became emblematic – the "Logo of Global Warming".

IPCC’s Assessment Report from 2001 – with the error bars in grey emphasised

Hokey hockey sticks

Mann too used dendrochronology to chill temperatures, and rebuffed attempts to publish his measurement data. Initially he said he had forgotten where he put it, then declined to disclosed it. (Some of Mann’s data was eventually discovered, by accident, on his ftp server in a directory entitled ‘BACKTO_1400-CENSORED‘.)

Tree data was secondary in importance to Mann’s statistical technique, which would produce a dramatic modern upturn in temperatures – which became nicknamed the "Hockey Stick" – even using red noise.

Similarly, all the papers that used the Yamal data have the same point to make. All suggest recent dramatic warming. Having scored a global hit with a combination of flawed statistics and dubious dendroclimatology, the acts repeated the formula.

"Late 20th century warmth is unprecedented for at least roughly the past two millennia for the Northern Hemisphere," wrote the two authors of Global Surface Temperatures over the Past Two Millennia published in Geophysical Research Letters in 2003 – Mann, and Phil Jones of CRU.

For example, Briffa’s 2008 paper concludes that: "The extent of recent widespread warming across northwest Eurasia, with respect to 100- to 200-year trends, is unprecedented in the last 2000 years."

The same authors in 2004:

It continues to this day. A study purporting to show the Arctic was warmer now than for 2,000 years received front-page attention last month. Led by Northern Arizona University professor Darrell S Kaufman, and including dendro veteran Mann, this too relied heavily on Yamal, and produced the signature shape.

Now here’s Yamal.

And when Yamal is plotted against the wider range of cores, the implications of the choice is striking:

A comparison of Yamal RCS chronologies. red – as archived with 12 picked cores; black – including Schweingruber’s Khadyta River, Yamal (russ035w) archive and excluding 12 picked cores. Both smoothed with 21-year gaussian smooth. y-axis is in dimensionless chronology units centered on 1 (as are subsequent graphs (but represent age-adjusted ring width).

"The majority of these trees (like the Graybill bristlecones) have a prolonged growth pulse (for whatever reason) starting in the 19th century," wrote Canadian mathematician Steve McIntyre on his blog on Sunday. "When a one-size fits all age profile is applied to these particular tries, the relatively vigorous growth becomes monster growth – 8 sigma anomalies in some of them."

McIntyre’s determination to reproduce the reconstructions has resulted in the Yamal data finally coming to light.

All the papers come from a small but closely knit of scientists who mutually support each other’s work. All use Yamal data. And without the Yamal data, the temperature record shows a very different shape.

What went wrong?

The scandal has serious implications for public trust in science. The IPCC’s mission is to reflect the science, not create it.

As the panel states, its duty is "assessing the scientific, technical and socioeconomic information relevant for the understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change. It does not carry out new research nor does it monitor climate-related data." But as lead author, Briffa was a key contributor in shaping (no pun intended) the assessment. A small group was able to rewrite history.

When the IPCC was alerted to peer-reviewed research that refuted the idea, it declined to include it. This leads to the more general, and more serious issue: what happens when peer-review fails – as it did here?

The scandal has only come to light because of the dogged persistence of a Canadian mathematician who attempted to reproduce the results. Steve McIntyre has written dozens of letters requesting the data and methodology, and over 7,000 blog posts. Yet Yamal has remained elusive for almost a decade.

This is what the CRU folks were fighting.

They don’t want information like this to ever come out.

And they have done everything in their power to prevent that.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, November 24th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

12 Responses to “One Of The Scandals In The CRU Emails”

  1. puhiawa says:

    The data was tampered with. CRU’s analysis was a scientific hoax for political and financial ends.

  2. proreason says:

    It appears to be the greatest hoax in scientific history.

    And it happened despite thousands of people screaming at the top of their lungs about it.

    What this tells me is that the wonders of modern communication haven’t made discerning the truth any easier. In fact, modern communications make finding the truth even harder.

    Those “scientists” should be imprisoned for life. Imagine how many people would have died because of their scam. Still might.

  3. U NO HOO says:

    The global warming scammers must be stupid, they used email.


  4. crosspatch says:

    This is also what they were fighting:


    Imagine you have an area broken up into grid cells. Now imagine you have a cell with no reporting station in it. How do you get the temperature of that cell? Why you take the average of the surrounding cells. Sounds logical until you end up with a situation where you have a cell with no reporting station that ends up with a temperature HIGHER than any of the surrounding cells. How did that happen? Someone noticed this once and went to CRU to ask why and to ask for the data used and the method used to derive that value to check to see if there was an error someplace.

    They tried for years. They never got it.

    HADCRUT is junk.

  5. Tater Salad says:

    Just in: The United States Constitution has been located in a dumpster behind the White House.


  6. Chuckk says:

    These scientists can be bought for government grant money. They will have a great second career in politics.

  7. pagar says:

    The minute the Senate is back in session, there should be a resolution introduced expressing the sense of the Senate that not one more dime should be spent on global warming, especially on the Copenhagen Conference. The resolution should be signed by 40 Republican Senators and of course, any Democrats that wanted to.

    This would break this fraud wide open.

  8. BannedbytheTaliban says:

    The BBC and the rest of the liberal media are unfazed by any of this. They continue to beat the drum of global warming and report on “facts” without vetting or even mentioning the data may be suspect. A sample of today’s global warming “news”:

    This year ‘in top five warmest’

    Climate policies ‘improve health’

    Climate ‘is a major cause’ of conflict in Africa

    Newsweek: Have we reached a climate tipping point?

    Lawsuits put global warming on more dockets

    All of this based on cherry picked data now proven to be falsified to support the researchers own idea that global warming is a problem. According to the BBC, the cause of all of the world’s problems. Because Africa was conflict free before global warming, and life expectancy has never been shorter.

    • Rusty Shackleford says:

      The reason for this should be obvious.

      The deadbeats in the UK want money. They can see the overrun in their home nation by moose-limbs, the increase of control by their government, the healthcare system they have going broke, as well as everything else dumping money down the rat-hole so it’s no wonder the only thing left is to try to feed the money vacuum by clinging to fraudulent chicken-little concepts using manipulated data and faith-based schemes that have no merit.

      And, sadly, it’ll work.


  9. Liberals Demise says:

    “UGGG …..Tree Gods now angry!!”

  10. The Redneck says:

    In every case, peer review failed to pick up the errors.

    This is why “peer review” is the Holy Grail of scientific research. Peer review is a way of getting your friends to back you up, and getting others to think that proves your work as having been vigorously tested.

    Meanwhile–despite the long string of errors “peer review” has produced–it’s also used to lock out scientists who make discoveries they’d rather were not known. This is how they can claim that proof of their flawed and rigged Capitalism-is-destroying-the-planet theories is “not science.”

    BTW–they do the same thing for evolution.

  11. ptat says:

    It is interesting how so much of the globaloney warming THEORY fraud mirrors the THEORY of evolution fraud. Both are junk science with scant evidence but are essential to the status quo and attaining of grant money. Both minimize or ignore God, and degrade His creation, including man.

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