Posted by Jeff Id on December 3, 2009
These emails have a lot of detail in them. Much of it has to be put in context to understand. This post discusses NAS panel brought together to examine Michael Mann’s work on the hockey stick. The commission was created after certain individuals noticed the math would get a generous D- in class – and that wasn’t the biggest problem. This was the biggest deal in climate science at the time and now have a little more context regarding the conclusions.
The report was requested by Congress after a controversy arose last year over surface temperature reconstructions published by climatologist Michael Mann and his colleagues in the late 1990s. The researchers concluded that the warming of the Northern Hemisphere in the last decades of the 20th century was unprecedented in the past thousand years. In particular, they concluded that the 1990s were the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year. Their graph depicting a rise in temperatures at the end of a long era became known as the “hockey stick.”
Some of the results:
The Research Council committee found the Mann team’s conclusion that warming in the last few decades of the 20th century was unprecedented over the last thousand years to be plausible, but it had less confidence that the warming was unprecedented prior to 1600; fewer proxies — in fewer locations — provide temperatures for periods before then. Because of larger uncertainties in temperature reconstructions for decades and individual years, and because not all proxies record temperatures for such short timescales, even less confidence can be placed in the Mann team’s conclusions about the 1990s, and 1998 in particular.
Some of these emails only make sense in the context of the committee so I’ve put in the legwork the press should be doing yet again. The following is a long email to invite Keith Briffa. — I clipped the unrelated info.
>>>> Dear Dr. Briffa,
>>>> The National Research Council of The National Academies of the United
>>>> States is empanelling a committee to study “Surface Temperature
>>>> Reconstructions for the Past 1,000-2,000 Years”.
Since this issue has been the subject of considerable controversy, we
>>>> have taken great care to assemble an unbiased panel of scientific
>>>> experts with the appropriate range of expertise to produce an
>>>> authoritative report on the subject.
>>>> The committee slate will be
>>>> formally announced on Wednesday, but I can tell you that Jerry North
>>>> (Texas A&M) will be chairing the committee, and NAS Members Mike
>>>> Wallace, Karl Turekian, and Bob Dickinson will be on the panel, in
>>>> addition to a half-dozen other scientists with expertise in
>>>> climate variability, and several different types of paleoclimate proxy
>>>> The committee would like to invite you to come to Washington DC on
>>>> Thursday, March 2nd to speak about your extensive work with this area
>>>> and to discuss your perspective on the issues noted above and in the
>>>> study proposal.
Speakers will be
>>>> for travel expenses and invited to stay for the entire open session of
>>>> the meeting (which will include a reception on Thursday evening and a
>>>> few speakers on Friday morning).
>>>> Ian Kraucunas
>>>> Ian Kraucunas, Ph.D.
>>>> Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate
>>>> National Research Council of The National Academies
Keith Briffa sends this to Michael Mann – the center of the NAS investigation:
>>> IN STRICT CONFIDENCE I am sending this for your opinion. To be
>>> frank, I am inclined to decline . What do think?
>>> Presumably you and others are already in the frame?
You don’ t need to be an FBI agent to wonder why Mann is being asked. This is Dr. Briffa’s field and a bad outcome would be expensive for the whole paleo-from-trees excercise. At the same time, you don’t want to appear to bias the results. Michael Mann got this quite clearly of course.
>> Hi Keith,
>> I think you really *should* do this if you possibly can. The panel is
>> entirely legititimate, and the report was requested by Sherwood
>> Boehlert, who as you probably know has been very supportive of us in
>> the whole Barton affair. The assumption is that an honest
>> review of the science will buttress us against any attempt for Barton
>> to continue his attacks (there is some indication that he hasn’t
>> given up yet). Especially, with the new Science article by you and
>> Tim I think its really important that one of you attend, if at all
>> I’m scheduled to arrive Thursday March 2rd, and give a presentation
>> friday morning March 2nd. I believe Malcolm is planning on
>> participating, not sure about Ray. I would guess that Tom C and
>> Caspar A have been invited as well, but haven’t heard anything.
>> The panel is solid. Gerry North should do a good job in chairing
>> this, and the other members are all solid. Chrisy is the token
>> skeptic, but there are many others to keep him in check:
>> So I would encourage you to strongly reconsider! Let me know if you’d
>> like to chat over the phone at all about any of this. My cell phone
>> number is xxxxxxx. I teach in about an hour, for about 1.5
>> hours, but then free most of the day…
Don’t you love that – the assumption is. Well ya don’t have to be in a tinfoil hat to figure this out do you? This panel was headed by the same Gerry North who exposed his advocacy status in defending the climategate emails. And just to be clear, you don’t have a ‘token’ anything in an unbiased panel.
In the next email Dr. Briffa tells us the ‘real’ reason for not going.
> thanks for this but after a lot of soul searching this weekend , I
> have decided to decline the invitation. Pressure of stuff here is
> intense – but the real reason is that I really think it could be
> politic to retreat into “neutral” mode , at least until after the IPCC
> Report is out. I know you can argue this various ways but the sceptics
> are starting to attack on this “non neutral” stance, and the less
> public I am at the moment the better I think. Hope you do not think I
> am a wimp here – just trying to go the way I think best.
> best wishes
Ross McKitrick and Steve McIntyre were invited to present to the panel. Here is a link to the presentation given to the panel from climate audit. I’ve uploaded it here b/c I’ve just learned the CA server is actually sweating now from the workload – no kidding. NAS.M&M
In the first paragraph of their report, we learn that Ross and Steve were well aware of the panels pre-determined status on the relevant issues.
Thank you for the invitation to speak to you today. We are flattered to be included among so many distinguished presenters and to have the opportunity to be heard by such an eminent panel. We have expressed our concern to the NAS that a couple of panel members have close associations to people who strongly oppose our views. We reiterate the need for the Panel to undertake a thorough and unbiased examination of the evidence we present, and we have prepared our submission on the assumption that this will be done.
The complaints about MBH98 were laid out by MM here.
• The study used “new” statistical methods that turned out to “mine” for hockey stick shaped series. These methods were misrepresented and/or inaccurately described in important particulars and their statistical properties were either unknown to the authors or unreported by them.
• The reconstruction failed an important verification test said to have used in the study. This failure was not reported and the statistical skill was misrepresented both in the original article and by the IPCC.
• Dominant weight was placed on proxies known to be inappropriate temperature proxies, along with, at best, misleading information about their impact and, at worst, actual withholding of adverse results;
• The method of confidence interval calculation leads to unrealistically narrow confidence intervals;
The committee was formed of these individuals.
GERALD R. NORTH (Chair), Texas A&M University, College Station
FRANCO BIONDI, University of Nevada, Reno
PETER BLOOMFIELD, North Carolina State University, Raleigh
JOHN R. CHRISTY, University of Alabama, Huntsville
KURT M. CUFFEY, University of California, Berkeley
ROBERT E. DICKINSON, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta
ELLEN R.M. DRUFFEL, University of California, Irvine
DOUGLAS NYCHKA, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
BETTE OTTO-BLIESNER, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder,
NEIL ROBERTS, University of Plymouth, United Kingdom
KARL K. TUREKIAN, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
JOHN M. WALLACE, University of Washington, Seattle
An executive summary of the committee findings is here.
In my opinion the group result was far too nice to the Mann98 hockey stick results although it didn’t work out as well for Mann as he wanted. They didn’t beat up the statistics enough and spent too little time pointing out that the result was no good. I have to admit though that since I already know Mann’s paper was junk and that his latest work is even worse, I am biased against anyone defending this horse crap. In my opinion, Michael Mann has deliberately invented multiple data mining methods in recent years to support his pre-determined conclusions. It’s also my opinion that it’s so damned obvious, that the paper’s acceptance singularly proves the biasedness and complete corruption of the peer review process. There is simply no justification for throwing away data which doesn’t support your conclusions and keeping the rest. He does it right in the open too and it makes a strong case for the early methods being intentionally bodged up bullet 3 above from the MM presentation. The Mann would sell his grandma for a hockey stick IMO.
I’ll finish with this and let you all figure out the backgrounds of the committee members.
The Senate Committee under Senator Barton investigating this scandal
appoint Edward Wegman, the most distinguished statistician in the US,
probably in the world, to form a panel to advise it on Mann’s
credility and work. Wegman found Mann’s credibility to be zero and his
work to be a sham, for reasons we shall address below.
The National Academy of Science Panel (NAS Panel) under Gerald North,
another distinguished academician, was set up specifically to counter
the Wegman Panel. But after studying the Mann papers, the NAS Panel,
while expressing itself less forcefully than the Wegman Panel, in
every essential agreed with Wegman, finding that,
*** the principal components method by which Hockey Stick was achieved
***Mann’s RE [reduction of error] tests are insufficient for
statistical significance (i.e. the Hockey Stick has zero meaning)
***Mann’s Hockey Stick depends on bristlecone proxies which are known
to be unreliable
***Such strip bark forms should be “avoided” in reconstruction
This is a comprehensive condemnation of a statistical report, stated
politely. (In plain English, Mann was either incompetent or
deliberately cooked up a politically desirable result. Remember, this
is a panel constituted specifically to exonerate Mann!) Certainly, to
support a multi-trillion policy, for which purpose the Mann Hockey
Stick was put forward by IPCC, one would expect at least enthusiastic
support from a scientist’s peers, especially from a panel which was
constituted specifically to support Mann against Wegman.
North and his panel were then also called before the Senate
subcommittee, together with Wegman. The members of the NAS panel were
then asked under oath if they wished to dispute the Wegman findings,
and this interesting dialogue ensued:
CHAIRMAN BARTON. Dr. North, do you dispute the conclusions [about the
Mann papers] or the methodology of Dr. Wegman’s report?
DR. NORTH. No, we don’t. We don’t disagree with their criticism. In
fact, pretty much the same thing is said in our report.
DR. BLOOMFIELD [statistician to the NAS Panel]. Our committee reviewed
the methodology used by Dr. Mann and his co-workers and we felt that
some of the choices they made were inappropriate. We had much the same
misgivings about his work that was documented at much greater length
by Dr. Wegman.
WALLACE: The two reports were complementary, and to the extent that
they overlapped, the conclusions were quite consistent.