Decline of the Review
Posted by Jeff Id on July 7, 2010
Well as you are probably all aware, the Muir Russell report came out today. This happened despite the fact that they somehow managed to conclude that ‘hide the decline’ was no big deal, again seeming to ignore the frank discussions in the climategate emails of the intent to make the IPCC’s final story consistent. This post covers not just the email but some of what should have been considered the evidentiary discussion in other emails, giving context to ‘hide the decline’. Just to make it clear, here’s the famous email again.
From: Phil Jones <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: ray bradley <email@example.com>,firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Subject: Diagram for WMO Statement
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 1999 13:31:15 +0000
Dear Ray, Mike and Malcolm,
Once Tim’s got a diagram here we’ll send that either later today or
first thing tomorrow.
I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps
to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from
1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline. Mike’s series got the annual
land and marine values while the other two got April-Sept for NH land
N of 20N. The latter two are real for 1999, while the estimate for 1999
for NH combined is +0.44C wrt 61-90. The Global estimate for 1999 with
data through Oct is +0.35C cf. 0.57 for 1998.
Thanks for the comments, Ray.
Now we know the issue is more complex than this but the bottom line of “hide the decline” is an attempt to make reconstructions all tell the same story despite data to the contrary as the following email conversations will make clear.
These emails are edited for the unrelated comments so please check the full content yourself by date at http://eastangliaemails.com/.
>>> From: Phil Jones [SMTP:firstname.lastname@example.org]
>>> Sent: 22 September 1999 12:58
>>> To: Michael E. Mann; email@example.com
>>> Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
>>> Subject: Re: IPCC revisions
>>> We [malcom/keith] both mentioned the lack of evidence
>>> for global scale change related to the MWE and LIA,
>>> As for the TAR Chap 2 it seems somewhat arbitrary divison to exclude
>>> the tree-ring only reconstructions. [they had apparently openly considered excluding
>>> the peer reviewed Briffa record entirely]Keith’s reconstruction is of a different
>>> character to other tree-ring work as it is as ‘hemispheric in scale’ as
>>> possible so is unlike any other tree-ring related work that is reported
>>> upon. [Jones suggestion is to fall back on an unsubstantiated reason for the difference]
>>> If we go as is suggested then there would be two diagrams – one simpler
>>> one with just Mann et al and Jones et al and in another section Briffa et
>>> al. This might make it somewhat awkward for the reader trying to put them
>>> into context.
>>> Another issue I would like to raise is availability of all the series
>>> you use in your reconstructions. That old chestnut again !
>>> Prof. Phil Jones
The reply to this proposal came from Chris Folland:
At 01:07 PM 9/22/99 +0100, Folland, Chris wrote:
>>A proxy diagram of temperature change is a clear favourite for the Policy
>>Makers summary. But the current diagram with the tree ring only data
>>somewhat contradicts the multiproxy curve and dilutes the message rather
>>significantly. We want the truth. Mike thinks it lies nearer his result
>>(which seems in accord with what we know about worldwide mountain glaciers
>>and, less clearly, suspect about solar variations). The tree ring results
>>may still suffer from lack of multicentury time scale variance. This is
>>probably the most important issue to resolve in Chapter 2 at present.
Briffa’s response came in one enormous paragraph, while I cannot criticize anyone’s punctuation—- wow. The green quote says it all.
At 04:19 PM 9/22/99 +0100, Keith Briffa wrote:
> Let me say that I don’t mind what you put in the policy makers
>summary if there is a general concensus. However some general discussion
>would be valuable . First , like Phil , I think that the supposed
>separation of the tree-ring reconstruction from the others on the grounds
>that it is not a true “multi-proxy” series is hard to justify.
>I know Mike thinks his series is the ‘best’ and he might be right – but he may also be too dismissive of
>other data and possibly over confident in his (or should I say his use of
>I still contend that multiple regression against the recent
>very trendy global mean series is potentially dangerous.
[this is and has been my repeated criticism here except that I don’t beat
around the bush about it. Dhog, once nominated me for the fields award at RC over this point.]>>
I prefer a Figure that shows a multitude of reconstructions (e.g similar to that in my Science
>piece). Incidently, arguing that any particular series is probably better
>on the basis of what we now about glaciers or solar output is flaky indeed.
> There is still a potential problem with non-linear responses in the
>very recent period of some biological proxies ( or perhaps a fertilisation
>through high CO2 or nitrate input) . I know there is pressure to present a
>nice tidy story as regards ‘apparent unprecedented warming in a thousand
>years or more in the proxy data’ but in reality the situation is not quite
>so simple. We don’t have a lot of proxies that come right up to date and
>those that do (at least a significant number of tree proxies ) some
>unexpected changes in response that do not match the recent warming. I do
>not think it wise that this issue be ignored in the chapter.
> Finally I appologise for this rather self-indulgent ramble, but I
>thought I may as well voice these points to you .
> cheers to all
So then there is this heavily edited (by me) reply from none other than Michael Mann. This is an important email which to us non-climatologists demonstrates a single minded focus on the preferred result rather than what the data is. Please excuse the horrible use of color.
From: “Michael E. Mann” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Keith Briffa <email@example.com>, “Folland, Chris” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, ‘Phil Jones’ <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: IPCC revisions
Date: Wed, 22 Sep 1999 12:35:xxx xxxx xxxx
Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Thanks for your response Keith,
Walked into this hornet’s nest this morning! Keith and Phil have both
raised some very good points.
I am perfectly amenable to keeping Keith’s series in the plot, and can ask
Ian Macadam (Chris?) to add it to the plot. The key thing is making sure the series are vertically
aligned in a reasonable way. I had been using the entire 20th century, but in the case of Keith’s,
we need to align the first half of the 20th century w/ the corresponding mean
values of the other series, due to the late 20th century decline.
So if Chris and Tom (?) are ok with this, I would be happy to add Keith’s
series. That having been said, it does raise a conundrum: We demonstrate
(through comparining an exatropical averaging of our nothern hemisphere
patterns with Phil’s more extratropical series) that the major
discrepancies between Phil’s and our series can be explained in terms of
spatial sampling/latitudinal emphasis (seasonality seems to be secondary
here, but probably explains much of the residual differences). But that
explanation certainly can’t rectify why Keith’s series, which has similar
seasonality*and* latitudinal emphasis to Phil’s series, differs in large part in
exactly the opposite direction that Phil’s does from ours. This is the
problem we all picked up on (everyone in the room at IPCC was in agreement that this
was a problem and a potential distraction/detraction from the reasonably
concensus viewpoint we’d like to show w/ the Jones et al and Mann et al
So, if we show Keith’s series in this plot, we have to comment that
“something else” is responsible for the discrepancies in this case. Perhaps
Keith can help us out a bit by explaining the processing that went into the series
and the potential factors that might lead to it being “warmer” than the Jones
et al and Mann et al series?? We would need to put in a few words in this
regard. Otherwise, the skeptics have an field day casting
doubt on our ability to understand the factors that influence these estimates
and, thus, can undermine faith in the paleoestimates.
[This demonstrates that they don’t know why the data goes the wrong way, yet
they are ready to accept any explanation. Briffa would already have explained
by this point in the discussion. This is therefore nothing but searching for an excuse!]
SO I think we’re in the position to say/resolve somewhat more than, frankly,
than Keith does, about the temperature history of the past millennium.
And the issues I’ve spelled out all have to be dealt with in the chapter.
I’m sure we can can up with an arrangement that is amenable to all, and I’m
looking forward to hearing back from Keith, Phil, and Chris in particular
about the above, so we can quickly move towards finalizing a first draft.
Looking forward to hearing back w/ comments,
From: Phil Jones <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: “Michael E. Mann” <email@example.com>, “Folland, Chris” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: FW: Mann etal
Date: Fri, 11 Aug 2000 13:40:30 +0100
Chris and John (and Mike for info),
I’m basically reiterating Mike’s email. There seem to be two lots of
suggestions doing the rounds. Both are basically groundless.
1. Recent paleo doesn’t show warming.
This basically stems back to Keith Briffa’s paper in Nature in 1998
(Vol 391, pp678-682). In this it was shown that northern boreal forest
conifers don’t pick up all the observed warming since about the late
1950s. Hence in a new paper submitted to JGR recently we develop a new standardization approach (called age banding) and produce a large-scale reconstruction
(calibrated over the period 1881-1960 against NH land north of 20N)
back to 1402.
This background is to illustrate how Singer et al distort things. The
new reconstruction only runs to 1960 as did earlier ones based solely
on tree-ring density. All the other long series (Mike’s, Tom Crowley’s
and mine) include other proxy information (ice cores, corals,
historical records, sediments and early instrumental records as well as
tree-ring width data, which are only marginally affected). All these
series end around 1980 or in the early 1980s. We don’t have paleo data
for much of the last 20 years.
It is possible to add the instrumental series on from about 1980 (Mike
sought of did this in his Nature article to say 1998 was the warmest of
the millennium – and I did something similar in Rev. Geophys.) but there
is no way Singer can say the proxy data doesn’t record the last 20 years
of warming, as we don’t have enough of the proxy series after about 1980.
Well you can see what the point is here. Hide the decline happened in time between the last two emails presented here. Despite the fact that they claim publicly that nobody deleted emails and they contradictorily claim that they had done so in the climategate files, there is a large chunk of missing discussion between the beginning discussion as to whether they should present the series, and let’s hide the decline.
The order of climate denial.
– Evidence that the offending series was intended to be left out entirely
– Acknowledgment that it would be an arbitrary choice
– Discussion of the magnitude of the problem created by Briffa’s series in diluting intended ‘message’.
– Search for alternate explanations for the decline to show confidence in other increasing results
– Realization that the difference can’t be explained
– Recognition of the most favored science status for the hockey stick for the policy maker summary and that big uptick results are preferred (jones et al, Mann et al)
– Replacement of the series with an ‘age banding’ version that is truncated at 1960 as an as yet unpublished alternative.
– Suggestion of Mann’s nature trick of deleting data and pasting on temperature curves to ‘hide the decline’
– Finally using data with the new as yet unpublished age-banding methods and clipping the data since 1960
From this we know that there was pressure to present a tidy story, because it was repeatedly implied and explicitly stated by Briffa in the green italics above. Were it not true, can you imagine what reasonable scientists would have replied to this indictment? Instead the direct statement that the science was being pressured for a result was accepted wordlessly. It’s further clarified in that the rest of the emails repeatedly talk of working toward the same goal.
That’s all that hide the decline represents, an effort to present a self consistent story from otherwise ‘ridiculously’ bad data and methods. It’s difficult to imagine how worse data and methods could be developed, but that is the state of paleo climate science.
They don’t know if the data is linear, they don’t know why the data is different, they don’t know if the data is temperature or rain or something else and they definitely know the methods cause spuriously unprecedented results in noisy data. They somehow divine from this – the warmest temperatures in a thousand years!!
But Muir Russell saw nothing wrong.
On the allegation that the references in a specific e-mail to a „trick‟ and to
„hide the decline‟ in respect of a 1999 WMO report figure show evidence of
intent to paint a misleading picture, we find that, given its subsequent iconic
significance (not least the use of a similar figure in the IPCC Third
Assessment Report), the figure supplied for the WMO Report was
misleading. We do not find that it is misleading to curtail reconstructions at
some point per se, or to splice data, but we believe that both of these procedures
should have been made plain – ideally in the figure but certainly clearly
described in either the caption or the text.