Climate Feedback

CRU scientists in leaked data row respond

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.


  1. Report this comment

    David B. Benson said:

    CRUhack was illegal.

    Nothing else was even unethical.

  2. Report this comment

    peter m said:

    Very weird blog.

    I’ve had a chance to review some of these emails and there is nothing ugly or bizarre about them.

    People communicate,

    Especially when they are collaborating on reports… stupid!

    Skeptic will go to every extreme to distract from what is actually happening within our biosphere, atmosphere, and humanities march toward the future.

    shame on the rabid right-winger

  3. Report this comment

    John M said:

    Amazing how some folks don’t seem to think FOI requests are important or requesting e-mails be deleted after one occurs is not “unethical” (try “illegal”).

    I guess those laws were just meant for those nasty military and intelligence guys.

    Government workers engaged in cimate science? Nah!

    Perhaps it would be worthwhile reading one your competitor’s pieces, where there is actually some reporting going on (gasp!).

  4. Report this comment

    Frank K said:

    In light of your response to this evolving controversy, may I (facetiously) suggest a name change for your blog? How about “Climate Feedback – The Blog for Support of Deceptive Science?”

    Seriously, the global warming community needs to own up to the realities of this “controversy.” Continuing to deny what is becoming more and more obvious might seem OK within a carefully constructed echo chamber, but this chamber is crumbling as the facts come out.

    Publish CRU’s primary data sets and the programs used to interpret them, and let an unimpeded scientific review process proceed to whatever conclusion is consistent with fact. To deny there has been a serious problem with the process to date is to proceed on the path to irrelevance.

  5. Report this comment

    Greg Leisner said:

    Bishop Hill obviously didn’t read the CRU page link in this article because Jones does indeed “explain the word ‘hide’”:

    Phil Jones comments further: “One of the three temperature reconstructions was based entirely on a particular set of tree-ring data that shows a strong correlation with temperature from the 19th century through to the mid-20th century, but does not show a realistic trend of temperature after 1960. This is well known and is called the ‘decline’ or ‘divergence’. The use of the term ‘hiding the decline’ was in an email written in haste. CRU has not sought to hide the decline. Indeed, CRU has published a number of articles that both illustrate, and discuss the implications of, this recent tree-ring decline, including the article that is listed in the legend of the WMO Statement figure. It is because of this trend in these tree-ring data that we know does not represent temperature change that I only show this series up to 1960 in the WMO Statement.”

  6. Report this comment

    Hank Roberts said:

    > explain the word “hide”

    > Bishop Hill

    Why yes, in fact, in several of the many other times you posted the same claim, people have been explaining it.

    Example, easy to find.

    This is the top hit on the first page of a Google search:

    “RealClimate: The CRU hack

    This is utterly standard: Bishop Hill reveals his ignorance. … use Mann’s “Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series”…to hide the decline” …"

    Olive, the big problem here is that science journalism needs to be like database management — one record and many pointers. As long as you all here keep trying to open brand new topics, they will get filled up fast by the same people in a hurry to post bafflegab.

    This killed Prometheus, it’s made DotEarth almost unreadable, and it’s happening here.

    New model needed. Point to where the questions have already been answered, rather than just leaving blank space for the people who never read the answers and just hurry to repost their questions to increase uncertainty.

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