The online publication of sensitive material from a British climate centre is brewing into one of the scientific controversies of the year, causing dismay among affected institutes and individuals, reports Quirin Schiermeier over on Nature News [subscription].
The disclosure of the contents of over 1,000 e-mails and documents obtained illegally from the server at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit is sparking heated debate across the blogosphere, leading to accusations from climate skeptics that scientists are trying to conceal evidence that contradicts anthropogenic global warming.
One email in particular, sent by CRU director Phil Jones, has been poured over for its reference to using a “trick” to hide a decline in the data.
As Daniel Cressey reports on The Great Beyond, even US Senators are discussing it. Republican senator James Inhofe says he will launch an investigation into what has predictably become known as “Climategate”. Inhofe says:
“I certainly don’t condone the manner in which these emails were released. However, now that they are in the public domain, lawmakers have an obligation to determine the extent to which the so-called ‘consensus’ of global warming, formed with billions of taxpayer dollars, was contrived in the biased minds of the world’s leading climate scientists.”
Yesterday, the CRU finally retorted to the accusations of bad behavior with several statements on its website. In one of the statements, Jones writes:
“Our global temperature series tallies with those of other, completely independent, groups of scientists working for NASA and the National Climate Data Center in the United States, among others. Even if you were to ignore our findings, theirs show the same results. The facts speak for themselves; there is no need for anyone to manipulate them.”
He also explains that a large number of data sources, other than the temperature record, show that the world is warming.
In a separate statement, the CRU scientists explain the use of the word “trick” in the email. They say that it referred to adding recent instrumental data to the end of temperature reconstructions based on proxy data. Apparently, this was done for a figure for the WMO Statement on the Status of the Global Climate in 1999. They write:
The requirement for the WMO Statement was for up-to-date evidence showing how temperatures may have changed over the last 1000 years. To produce temperature series that were completely up-to-date (i.e. through to 1999) it was necessary to combine the temperature reconstructions with the instrumental record, because the temperature reconstructions from proxy data ended many years earlier whereas the instrumental record is updated every month. The use of the word “trick” was not intended to imply any deception.
This correlates with the account posted last week over on Real Climate.
Jones admits that he regrets the poor choice of language in some of the emails:
My colleagues and I accept that some of the published emails do not read well. I regret any upset or confusion caused as a result. Some were clearly written in the heat of the moment, others use colloquialisms frequently used between close colleagues.