the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

More Context

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.

From this link:

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.

exec summary here

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
>>>> statistics,
>>>> climate variability, and several different types of paleoclimate proxy
>>>> data.

>>>> 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
>>>> reimbursed
>>>> 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).

>>>> Sincerely,
>>>> 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?
>>> Keith

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
>> possible.
>> 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…
>> mike

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.

> Mike
> 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
> Keith

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.

Andre Jute has a well written but undated post on the NAS report excerpted below.

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
was flawed
***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.

20 Responses to “More Context”

  1. telecorder said

    [b]Western Business Roundtable: Stop Rulemaking until U.S. Completes Corrupted Data Probe[/b]
    Dec 01, 2009 All work by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop mandatory limits on greenhouse gases should be put on hold until congressional investigators determine whether or not the science upon which EPA is relying was doctored, a group of Western business leaders urged in a Dec. 1 press release.

  2. 40 Shades of Green said


    Which came first. Wegman or NAS.

  3. 40 Shades of Green said


    I should have been a bit clearer. Which report was initiated first (and by whom) and which reported first.


    40 ShaDES

  4. P Gosselin said

    I’ve heard there are still another 150 MB not yet released.
    When can we expect them to be released? Or is it going to be effectively dribbled out like the ACCORN sting?

  5. Jeff Id said

    #2 This link has some good info, I think wegman was first from the congressional statements above.

    #3 I’ve heard nothing but these emails have much much more information in them that hasn’t been covered by the press or in blogs. It’s all about the context the statements were used in. I think some of the stuff from 10 years ago on tree rings and strip bark will make some interesting posts.

  6. BobC said

    There is simply no justification for throwing away data which doesn’t support your conclusions and keeping the rest.

    What are you talking about? The justification is obvious: You select the data to get the answer that you know will keep the funding flowing from politicians who reward results supporting power grabs. It’s obvious.

    It is also SAP in the Government labs — Josh Willis did the same thing while trying mightily to turn the Argus float data from ocean cooling to ocean warming: Throw out data you don’t like, add in data from sources known to be biased in the direction you approve of, etc. See this article in a NASA publication titled “Correcting Ocean Cooling”: This is done right out in the open as if he thought everyone would just accept it. His colleagues apparently did — only when outsiders began questioning it did he backpedal somewhat.

    In the end, Josh couldn’t get the “value-added” data to show warming, only less cooling. This is why you never hear about the $100M Argus float network that was supposed to be the final proof of AGW (same reason you don’t hear that last summer’s meltoff in the Antarctic was the least since satellite observation began — or in “recorded history” as it is usually claimed if the change is approved.)

  7. BobC said

    Pardon, that would be “SOP” (Standard Operating Procedure)

  8. Jeff Id said

    #6 I wasn’t aware that last seasons Arctic melt was the least. Can you explain that a bit further?

  9. BobC said

    “You select the data to get the answer that you know will keep the funding flowing from politicians who reward results supporting power grabs.”

    BTY, this feedback loop between science and government (perhaps the most important positive feedback loop so far discovered in climate science?) was foreseen by Dwight Eisenhower in his farewell address

    Though this speech is better known for Ike’s warning about a “Military-Industrial Complex” he also warned that, if government funding came to dominate science, there was the danger “…that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”

  10. BobC said

    Jeff Id said
    December 3, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    #6 I wasn’t aware that last seasons Arctic melt was the least. Can you explain that a bit further?

    The Antarctic melt was the least seen (see: ), not the Arctic. The Arctic melt this summer was still more than the average over the satellite observation period, but has recovered significantly from the record melt in 2007. (see: )

    BTY, I think that the National Snow and Ice Data Center (who maintains the polar ice records) is an honest broker, since alarmists simply resort to lying about the data. I read an AP article in the paper 2 days ago that claimed that the Arctic ice melt has been “accelerating” since 2007 — just the opposite of the NSIDC data showing that it is recovering from the 2007 maximum.

  11. Jeff Id said

    #9 I do a lot of posts on sea ice using the gridded data. I’m never sure who’s aware. I’ll have an update on that work soon.

  12. Greg Cantrell said

    Jeff, P Gosselin asked if there were more data to be released. Do you have any insight on this? It is the second time I have heard mention of possibly more out there. The first was at Desmogblog. It is my personal opinion that there will be more. If I was the leaker I would do exactly that in order to allow the “team” to dig holes for themselves.

  13. Jeff Id said

    #11 I haven’t heard anything.

  14. Jean Demesure said

    The Mann would sell his grandma for a hockey stick IMO.
    All grandmas sold out, Mann is now selling Jones.

  15. Mark T said

    If I was the leaker I would do exactly that in order to allow the “team” to dig holes for themselves.

    Which, not surprisingly, they are doing.


  16. boballab said

    couple of things:

    1. about the size: I noticed Gavin said, I forget the exact number, but something like 120+ Mbs was attempted to be loaded up on RC. The Zip file was around 63 Mb’s. Now I haven’t looked at how much data the zip file is if it was unzipped but the size Gavin claims could be that.

    2. Now that still doesn’t mean the person that released the info doesn’t have more and if I was that person I would do it on the opening day of Copenhagen, right after some of the politcos make their statements.

  17. Chris S said

    I doubt if there’s any more to come. I think the confusion is caused by reporting of the files packed (62Mb) and unpacked (157Mb) sizes.
    I do hope I’m wrong though.

  18. Mark T said

    No, the confusion stems from the initial posting in which the informant/leaker/whistleblower/hacker (since we don’t know) called it a “sample.”


  19. Great post, Jeff. Great for a layman like me.

  20. Chris S said

    Mark T

    We hereby release a random selection of correspondence, code, and documents.

    They did then quote a sample of the e-mails from the file though. Could be read many ways but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
    It’s hard to believe that more damning stuff comes to light every day, but it does;)
    Another batch like this would really scupper Copenhagen, even the BBC are reporting it now.

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