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Updated: More heat, less light in CRU hacking ‘scandal’

Daniel Cressey; cross-posted from The Great Beyond

Update:The CRU has now reponded to Daniel Cressey’s request for comment on the Sunday Times article discussed below. See the CRU statement below the fold.

The fallout from the hacking of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia continues this week, with huge attention still focused on the controversial content of leaked emails between leading climate scientists.

The university said on Saturday that 95% of the CRU climate data set concerning land surface temperatures has been made available to the public for “several years” and that all data will be released as soon as they are clear of non-publication agreements. A key complaint of climate change sceptics is that the unit has been withholding information and the leaked emails show a conspiracy to keep raw data hidden.

Another twist on this complaint appeared yesterday in the Sunday Times. The paper declared:

Scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based.

The data were gathered from weather stations around the world and then adjusted to take account of variables in the way they were collected. The revised figures were kept, but the originals — stored on paper and magnetic tape — were dumped to save space when the CRU moved to a new building.

There have been previous claims that CRU destroyed data. At the start of last month – before the emails leaked – the Competitive Enterprise Institute think tank claimed that the unit “destroyed the raw data for its global surface temperature data set because of an alleged lack of storage space”. The Competitive Enterprise Institute describes itself as “dedicated to free enterprise and limited government”. Its funders have included automotive industries and oil companies.

That claim from the CEI was refuted by the CRU. Greenwire reported on this shortly after the CEI press release:

Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit, said that the vast majority of the station data was not altered at all, and the small amount that was changed was adjusted for consistency. The research unit has deleted less than 5 percent of its original station data from its database because the stations had several discontinuities or were affected by urbanization trends, Jones said.

Refuting CEI’s claims of data-destruction, Jones said, “We haven’t destroyed anything. The data is still there — you can still get these stations from the [NOAA] National Climatic Data Center.”

We’ve asked the university that hosts the CRU for a response to the Sunday Times article.

In other CRU-news, Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says the unit’s scientists couldn’t have biased the IPCC even if they wanted too.

“The processes in the IPCC are so robust, so inclusive, that even if an author or two has a particular bias it is completely unlikely that bias will find its way into the IPCC report,” he said (Guardian).

“Every single comment that an expert reviewer provides has to be answered either by acceptance of the comment, or if it is not accepted, the reasons have to be clearly specified. So I think it is a very transparent, a very comprehensive process which insures that even if someone wants to leave out a piece of peer reviewed literature there is virtually no possibility of that happening.”

The CRU has now responded to the Sunday Times article with the following statement:

No data has been lost. The collection of land surface air temperature data by the Climatic Research Unit goes back to a time when there was insufficient computing data storage capacity to retain all versions of data records on computer – unlike today when all versions may be kept thanks to greater storage capacity.

Sometimes quality control will have been undertaken in CRU and, in the case of some records that were first assembled during the 1980s, it is the quality controlled data and not the original raw data that have been kept in digitised form. How these figures were arrived at is explained in published scientific papers from which the raw data could be retrieved.

Much of the earlier data exists in World Weather Records volumes (published by the Smithsonian Library) and, of course, original data will still be available from the appropriate national meteorological services.

Around 95% of the data have been in the public domain for several years, through the Global Historical Climatology Network. The Climatic Research Unit and the Met Office Hadley Centre have already made known their intention to publish all data, once permissions have been secured from the appropriate national meteorological services which own them.


  1. Report this comment

    Ron Cram said:

    This is a poorly written and misleading post. The newspaper reported the CRU admitted it had lost/destroyed climate data. This admission came after the leak of CRU emails became public. This post attempts to debunk the newspaper report by quoting a statement made by Phil Jones prior to the email leak. Do you not see a problem with this?

    If you put these statements together in the proper timeline, you see the statement made by Phil Jones attempting to debunk the report by the Competitive Enterprise Institute was untrue.

    This report should not have gone to press without getting a response from the university first. It would have saved you some embarrassment.

  2. Report this comment

    Ryan O said:

    Mr. Cressey,

    Given the political importance of this issue, I would recommend you get your facts straight before writing a blog post like this. UEA THEMSELVES claimed to have destroyed original data. They, in fact, put up a web page on their server saying just that. The link used to be here:

    The information contained on this link (repeated verbatim) is the following:

    “We are not in a position to supply data for a particular country not covered by the example agreements referred to earlier, as we have never had sufficient resources to keep track of the exact source of each individual monthly value. Since the 1980s, we have merged the data we have received into existing series or begun new ones, so it is impossible to say if all stations within a particular country or if all of an individual record should be freely available. Data storage availability in the 1980s meant that we were not able to keep the multiple sources for some sites, only the station series after adjustment for homogeneity issues. We, therefore, do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (i.e. quality controlled and homogenized) data.

    Emphasis is mine.

    CRU also admitted to deleting data after a series of FOI exchanges with Willis Eschenbach, which is archived here:

    Pages 7 and 16 of the document contain admission by CRU that data was deleted, and that the station network used by Jones et al., 1990, was unknown.

    Perhaps you ought to ask Phil Jones why, after posting a web page saying the data was deleted, he would then claim that they “haven’t destroyed anything.”

  3. Report this comment

    VG said:

    I think you will find that your stature, readership base will be plummeting I certainly would not even consider submitting anywork to your journal much less subscribe. Advice: get rid of your global warming fetish

  4. Report this comment

    Ron Cram said:

    Daniel, the CRU’s response makes it clear the data has been lost. Instead of flatly admitting it, they list out a number of sources from which the data may be reassembled. Hardly cheering news. Who is going to pay for this reconstruction of the raw data Phil Jones deleted? The UK taxpayers. It is a good thing Jones has stepped down during the investigation. I predict he will not be back.

  5. Report this comment

    Mac said:

    Satement by UEACRU, “We, therefore, do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (i.e. quality controlled and homogenized) data.”

    That clearly states that data had been deleted. Worst still the data that was deleted was the original raw data. So HADCRUT3 cannot be independently verified.

  6. Report this comment

    JM said:

    So the Times was recycling a story from October knowing it was incorrect and that no data has been lost?

    Considering who owns the Times, I cannot be surprised.

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