Hockey Stick Redux

October 1, 2009

Before anyone reads any further, I want to offer up an extraordinary disclaimer: What I’m about to say should be taken as the view of a relative outsider.  I’m approaching the following issue as a philosopher, hopefully impartially, and looking at the reasons that are offered by (at least) two parties.  I want to discern who has the burden of proof, who has to demonstrate what, given the scientific state of affairs.  In particular, I want to respond to growing excitement in the community of those who are skeptical about the data on climate change (a.k.a. the Skeptics, Deniers, and Denialists).  I don’t want to introduce a discussion about the climate science itself, since I’m not really qualified to do so, except as a well-educated non-specialist.  Further, as a well-educated non-specialist, my tendency is to defer to established scientific record — which in this case is the IPCC AR4, as well as most of the climate science following from that — and to make judgments about the reliability of challenges to this record based on my understanding both that shenanigans happen in the peer review process and the scientific record is open to amendment.

I can’t give the whole back-story on the issue I’m responding to, as it’s way too convoluted.  Best to refer to my colleague Roger Pielke Jr. for his take on things, and then to refer to McIntyre’s original post, followed by Bishop Hill’s relatively straightforward, albeit extremely entertaining, accusation that some very famous climate data was cherry-picked (or insufficiently and unjustifiably employed, depending on your preference).  When you’re done with that treat, follow it up with a heavy shot of RealClimate.  Roger thinks RealClimate is unjustifiably bristly.  I’m not so sure.

Point being: I’m really stepping into the thick of things here.  Not sure why.  Sadism, perhaps.  Stupidity, maybe.  Too much wine, most likely.  This issue has just caught my attention.  Anyone who would like to fillet me should feel free, though they should know that even with my extraordinary disclaimer, my skin ain’t that thin and I can usually hold my own.

Now, on to it.

As I’ve said, I’m not familiar enough with the history of this conflict, but from what I’ve gathered, my immediate reaction is that McIntyre has a pretty steep hill to climb.  What has to be determined are Briffa’s reasons for selecting the data that he selected (and by “Briffa’s reasons,” I don’t mean “reasons that he actually held,” nor necessarily “reasons that he believed,” but rather, “reasons that best support and explain his actions”).  Scientists like Schmidt at RealClimate like to ask for evidence — that’s what they do, they’re scientists — but what Schmidt is asking for (or, more aptly, demanding) is a smoking gun that suggests that Briffa had bad reasons for selecting the data that he did.  That’s much harder to demonstrate, and I think McIntyre basically can’t demonstrate such a thing.  People, even scientists, don’t always air their reasons, particularly if they’re not challenged up front.  There’s nothing duplicitous about this.  That’s the way all actions are taken.  I have an infinite number of reasons for doing the things I do, for believing that my next step will not be the step during which my shoe spontaneously combusts and catches my hair on fire, for instance.  I don’t air these reasons.  They’re just part of the fabric of doing things.  To ask me to air such a reason places too heavy a demand on me as an actor.

Given McIntyre’s story, we don’t know what Briffa’s reasons were; and it is likely that if he had bad or duplicitous reasons, he’d keep those bad and/or duplicitous reasons to himself.  RealClimate offers some pretty compelling reasons for using the data that Briffa did, to my mind, so I think we can infer that perhaps those were also Briffa’s reasons.  (Their reasons, so far as I can tell, are that the Yamal Climate Record was already standard by the time Briffa got to it; and that trees in Schweingruber alternative were too small to detect a centennial trend without introducing noise.  But again, I’m not a climate scientist, so I think it’s wise to let the big kids play in that sandbox.  I have no reason to doubt RealClimate’s claim about the smaller trees and about the use of the Yamal record; and I equally don’t have a reason to doubt McIntyre’s numbers, so I’m just going off of where I think the reasons fall.)

In any case, it seems to me that Schmidt is defending Briffa against the implication that he somehow engaged in research misconduct by deliberately cherry-picking data.  That’s a minor misfire on Schmidt’s part, since it’s not the deliberateness in question, as Roger points out (though it’s also not unreasonable to assume that the cherry-picking charge is embedded in the original claim, so it makes sense for Schmidt to debunk it up-front; let’s just not get confused).  McIntyre, on the other hand, is charging that the reasons that Briffa had for selecting the data that he did, whether malicious or not, were unjustified.  He hasn’t yet demonstrated that.  He also hasn’t demonstrated that the Schweingruber alternative is a real and reasonable dendro-climatological possibility.  Just because it’s data doesn’t mean it’s not noisy or unreliable data.

I think the burden of proof is really on McIntyre to demonstrate why the broader data set is the best data set, at least if he wants to show that the currently accepted position is faulty.  Given McIntyre’s arguments, it’s not clear why one would necessarily include the data in the Schweingruber set.

Having said this, given the volatility of this topic, I think there’s a similarly heavy burden of proof on Briffa (or maybe those at RealClimate) to explain why the data used in the Briffa model are more reliable than other data…simply because McIntyre’s concern, by being raised, has become an issue.  But this burden of proof is primarily political: only if they want to further reinforce the robustness of the hockey-stick model, which it seems to me is already sufficiently robust.  (Again, not a climate scientist, just going off these graphs.)  Even if Schmidt is super snarky in his blogpost, which seems to bother Roger, I don’t think there’s any reason to focus on the snarkiness.  As I’ve mentioned before, I  snarkiness, even from people with whom I vehemently disagree.  Snarkiness is just noise, much like, it seems to me, noise introduced by the alleged Schweingruber alternative.


  1. Your focus on _reasons_ is fine, but you have the context wrong as far as what matters most here. The reasons for doing this or that in a scientific study will inevitably be sorted out through the entirely normal if sometimes messy process of science.

    The _reasons_ that you should be asking about are why it took 9 years to get the data in the first place. And the _reasons_ why institutions of science did not uphold their own standards in this regards (until Phil Trans. acted). And the _reasons_ why once the data is released the scientists act as if they have been wronged. If you have nothing to hide, then don’t hide anything, or act like you are hiding something.

    As far as snark at RC, I’m quite used to that. Its the outright lying in order to smear someone that clearly steps over the line.

    • Roger, you are the most dishonest person in the blogosphere – your accusation of lying should be seen as a badge of honor.

      • That’s right Tempus. And of course, you can prove your assertion, can’t you?


        Then STFU

  2. When you understand how McIntyre operates, the whole business will seem much easier to grasp. Repeatedly, he will insinuate scientific misconduct, and then retreat when debunked and claim that he is being misinterpreted and should not be held responsible for the comments his work generates. But this usually only occurs after a wave of news stories in (for the most part) Conservative leaning news outlets, which of course will never be corrected.

    • Ah yes, BSF is back!

      Steve has insinuated nothing. Its professional liars like you that have been the ones insinuating everything from a mythical fossil fuel funded conspiracy to secret links to Republicans.

      Steve has stated that the Briffa data is seriously disturbing because it is serriously unrobust and looks like cherrypicking of dominant and co-dominant trees into a chronology which breaks even Briffa’s own stated guidelines.

      All of which are true. The real world of science is collectively astonished at what Briffa has tried to hide, but only professional liars like you spin as mendacity on McIntyre’s part.

      You obviously need a course in remedial reading before you take on Steve McIntyre, because he has made his case unambiguously and replicably that the reconstructions of past climates using tree rings is very, very unsafe.

  3. Roger, so the issue isn’t the legitmacy of Briffa’s result anymore, its the fact that, despite the legitimacy of his result, his allegedly failing to reveal his data led Mc to make alot of unfounded accusations? And that’s Briffa’s fault? Mc couldn’t help himself in talking alot of nonsense at CA and the fact that he did so is laid at the door of real climate scientists? Is that the state of the argument at the moment? Just to be clear.

    • I think you’re engaging in a bit of rhetorical sleight of hand here. Briffa’s conduct is problematic based on x reasons, 1 of which he took 9 years to let data out into the public which should have been made available in 2000. So x > 0 right off the bat. Nobody disputes that the data was only released in 2009 and the data had been requested for many years.

      The question is whether the only misconduct was that or were there other reasons as well. It’s a question of how deep is the rot not whether there is any rot at all. Had this discussion been conducted in 2001 a month after Briffa released his data, the burden of proof would be less on him and more on his challengers. The long slog just to get data should work against any assumptions of Briffa’s scientific professionalism and integrity.

      Alchemists compulsively kept their data secret and tended to have a great deal of fakery in their profession. Scientists publish theirs and hold replication of experiments as a cornerstone of their method. Is Briffa a scientist or an alchemist? That is a question that would not have come up had he not hidden his data away.

  4. Well, I think the nine years question is a separate question from the question about the burden of proof, though it’s definitely an interesting question. I’ll plead “newbie” on this one, since I don’t know the whole history. I do know, however, that there are many non-malicious reasons for withholding data from the scientific community, even for very important studies. Fact is, data are hard to come by. If I have access to a particular data set that can generate a fair bit of research for me, and particularly if I’ve spent a fair bit of energy, money, or political capital acquiring that data, there may be good reasons for me to restrict access to that data. That happens all the time with comprehensive and influential data sets. And I’ve definitely heard this concern by many statisticians in the past. Much as we’d like to imagine the scientific universe as one in which everyone shares their findings immediately upon doing the research, it’s just not like that. It would also be nice if the pharmaceutical companies would share their findings with other pharmaceutical companies and private research labs so that we could arrive at medical solutions more quickly. Ideally, that’d be great… but neither science nor medicine moves like that.

  5. bigcitylib-

    You’ll forgive me for not taking you seriously:


  6. It’s a simple question, Roger. Are we no longer arguing about the legitimacy of Briffa’s reconstruction? Are you now arguing that Briffa’s not coughing up data for MC kind of drove MC to make a lot of unsubstantiated claims? That is the most obvious way of taking what you’ve written. MC screwed up and its Briffa’s fault.

  7. Ben-

    Yes, in the abstract there are good reasons to withhold data. Imagine if a drug company published a study that showed that drug XB1 cured swine flu (fictional) and then withheld data on its study. Nine years later the data was finally released and there were preliminary indications that that XB1 actually does not cure swine flu, but makes you sicker. That’d be a big deal, even if all the science was all settled. You might question the integrity of the pharmaceutical company that produced the drug and paid for the study.

    We can have lots of fun with hypotheticals, but I am interested in the specifics of this case.

  8. sorry — should be “even if the science is NOT all settled”

  9. Dr Hale

    I’m sure you’re a nice guy, but I’m afraid you just haven’t done the homework necessary to discuss this matter in any resonable way. If you were a student, you would get a failing grade. If you want to go read the detailed story – no climate science expertise necessary – go to Steve McIntire’s blog and find his perfectly lucid summaries on the general topic, as well as the Wegman report. Until you do that, I’m afraid you’re out of your depth here. We don’t presume to challenge you on the finer points of philosophy without preparing ourselves – it would be disrespectful.

  10. I think that the case for showing that Briffa’s results are invalid is fairly straight forward.

    1. Briffa uses just 10 cores in the recent portion of his proxy. There is no evidence or suggestion in the dendrochronological literature that such a small sample is adequate for Briffa’s methods and conclusions.

    McIntyre has been quite aggressive on this point, challenging Briffa (or anybody else) to find even a single dendro who will vouch for the propriety of this decision.

    As there is no love lost between McIntrye and the dendro community, an inability to respond to this challenege will speak very loudly.

    2. Briffa’s statistical methods assume:

    A. a roughly normal distribution of tree rings in the absence of temperature change.

    B. a roughly linear response to temperature change.

    A simple visual inspection of his data (http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=7241) reveals these assumptions to be obviously unjustified.

    What compounds these rather serious defects, is Briffa’s decision to hide hide data rather than disclose it. He refused to disclose in connection with his 2006 paper in Science. He again refused to disclose with his more recent publication in Phil Trans B. It took over a year of pressure from the Royal Society before the obviously flawed data was made public.

    It can be no surprise that, after such a long period of willful non-disclosure, allegations of impropriety now surround Briffa. Whether they prove justified or not, hopefully other scientists will be persuaded by this incident to be more open with their data and methods.

  11. Glad you have a blog! (although the IT overlords at my dept. may not like the blog-name when it appears on the radar).

    I’m in no position to set anyone straight. That being said, this all reminds me of why, say, post-processual archaeology places itself in a rut. We have to agree on what can be “known” before sifting through the pile of trash.

    I think the underlying issue, much larger than Yamal, is the idea of a “global” or “NH” or “summertime” reconstruction from proxies. Briffa is looking for a signal, he found one at Yamal. Parsing, grouping, calibrating, discarding, QA occurs and then it becomes part of a NH reconstruction for the last 100 years. The problem is (no matter how many RealClimate graphs are used in rebuttal, which by the way don’t go back 1000 years, one should only compare to the most recent Mann “spaghetti graph” 2008 where the MWP creeps back into existence), this signal that is concluded on is not seen “everywhere.” Most striking, is that after the NH reconstruction is created using Yamal, one can back back and look at the most recent instrumental record http://data.giss.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/gistemp/gistemp_station.py?id=222233300002&data_set=1&num_neighbors=1

    and the signal is not there. SO what is wrong with the picture, when you can use a proxy to create a large regional construction, and then go back and check the reconstruction with an actual temperature record for the proxy vicinity and they don’t jive? Way too much confidence in the reconstruction.

    No one should ASSUME a signal to be found (back to post-processualism). I don’t believe Briffa “cherry-picked” but the whole signal/noise thing is way to suspect in an already suspect proxy method!

    • by thomas hine October 2, 2009 at 9:02 am
      ….the reconstruction with an actual temperature record for the proxy vicinity and they don’t jive? Way too much confidence in the reconstruction.

      BTW, Thomas, “Jibe”, not “Jive”.

      Sorry, pet grammatical peeve of mine, right up there with “lose” and “Loose”.

  12. You’re right about the swine flu case, Roger; but as it happens, that’s pretty much the way things are done — All the time. It happens with AIDS research, cancer research, pretty much every kind of research out there.

    I’m not saying it’s right, particularly in your H1N1 example… but this is a question about the systemic and institutional pressures that keep data under wraps, not directly about the rightness of a single decision on the Royal Academy’s part. (As an example, consider the birther claim that Obama should release his long-form birth certificate. He’s not going to, on principled grounds, because he’s protected from doing so by law. The law is in place for a good reason — to protect people, constitutionally, from an unending chain of harassment. He possibly could release the long form version, but I think he shouldn’t… on principle.)

    As I mentioned, I do think the nine years question (9YQ) is extremely interesting and difficult, but maybe not for the reasons that you think it’s interesting and difficult. There may be strong ethical reasons to release any and all data when lives or money are on the line. But the criteria by which data should be released are not clearly spelled out anywhere, to my knowledge; and it is certainly true that in almost all cases of research, there is at least some money on the line; and in many cases, lives (or at least, livelihoods) are also on the line. So it seems to me that we actually do need to assess the hypotheticals to get at the reasonableness of the principle you’re calling for.

    If the discussion goes this direction, it has to move in the direction of addressing the criteria by which scientific data should be released to the greater public. So not only must it address the reasonableness of such a criterion, but it also has to address the connection between the principle and this particular case.

    As I mention, I think there are a lot of other interesting issues in this particular case, and I tried to pick up just one (about the burden of proof) in my post above. The 9YQ is another one of several.

    • You are making an argument that Briffa is no more corrupt than his peers, an alchemist among alchemists, if I may. But alchemists are not scientists and should not be treated as such.

      There is a societal hygiene problem here and an obvious bright line to be drawn. Scientists release data, alchemists don’t. If you’re doing science and you’re not under a national security order from your government, you release your data. If you don’t resist your data, especially if you could release your data, especially if you have somebody who wants to replicate your results, you are not doing science, but rather alchemy.

      I’ll take your word that a lot of other people are doing it too but that’s no argument for normalizing the practice but rather to cleaning up house far more than I had realized up to now.

    • Ben,

      As a pharma guy, I can tell you that what you say is outdated. You are describing a situation that existed some years ago, but because of public and government pressure is quite unusual. Every major pharma company publishes its findings on clinicaltrial.gov and regards this is a matter of corporate responsibility. See here for example:

      Pharma companies recognize the need to make data available notwithstanding proprietary issues. Why should we not hold Briffa to the same standard?

      • I haven’t gotten all the way through the comments, but we are talking about tree ring data, not ultra some secret code for a pharmaceutical drug which has the potnetial to make millions of dollars.

      • Jerry – it’s not millions. It’s tens of billions of dollars that are at stake 😎

  13. Big City Lib:

    As I just detailed, Briffa’s results are obviously flawed on at least three counts not necessarily involving deliberate impropriety:

    1. Briffa used only 10 samples for the modern portion of his reconstruction. There is no dendrochronological basis for using such a small sample. No Dendro will vouch for this for the very simple reason that there are innumerable observed cases in which local factors caused growth spurts in a handful of local trees.

    2. Briffa used methods which assumes a roughly Gaussian ring distribution and a roughly linear temperature response after age is corrected for. Obviously there are serious problems with these assumptions: http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=7241

    If there is some reason why Briffa’s results a robust in the face of these problems, I’d love to hear it. I’ve read the Real Climate article, and they were too busy adding in snark to address Steve’s main points. Perhaps you will enlighten us?

  14. And Mark: I’ve done enough homework to know that McIntyre is spelled with a ‘y’, not an ‘i’. When I see such sloppiness in the papers of my own students, I bet you can guess which grade I gravitate towards.

  15. By the way, a direct quote from MC:

    Unfortunately, to date, people in the field have not honored this responsibility and, to an outside observer, seem to have done no more than pick the version (Yamal) that suits their bias.


    The accusation of scientific misconduct was pretty up front.

    • BCL, please stop repeating that obviously incorrect read of SM’s statement. You have it wrong, and so does Mr Appell. Clearly, it is a statement about the many people who are addicted to using the Briffa data set, not about Briffa.

      There’s plenty of factual evidence showing Steve’s statement is correct.

  16. The point is not whether Briffa’s conclusions are valid or not.

    The point is that Briffa did not provide either his data (for 9 years), nor his justification for selecting such a small sample.

    Statistically, the smaller the sample, the more likely the results are to deviate from the real world, unless a valid selection criteria is given. This, to date, is not the case.

    Without the data, it is also impossible to validate methodology or the claimed results. Peer review becomes impossible. And, as Wegman pointed out, a small coterie of co-author’s is not effective peer review.

  17. Ben-

    The hypotheticals and general cases are sure fun, but you are absolutely wrong on this specific point:

    “But the criteria by which data should be released are not clearly spelled out anywhere, to my knowledge”

    Yes they are. Most major scientific journals have such criteria (as does NSF). Whether those criteria are justifiable and/or could be improved upon is an interesting question but not one relevant to this discussion.

    The simple point is that these journals and NSF did not follow their own self-imposed criteria in this particular case. That alone is problematic and speaks to the issue of institutional integrity that I find so troubling in this instance.

    Were it an isolated incident it’d be one thing, however, it is not.

  18. Hey Ben,

    Welcome to the mud pit. You’ll never have so much fun getting dirty. Seriously, I’m looking forward to a philosopher’s perspective. Does this mean you’ll be taking on your peers in the policy arena, such as my old buddy, Mr. environmental pragmatism, who’s now camped out at CAP in D.C.

  19. Oh boy…could we have a moratorium on second-guessing, please? And on analyses of “ulterior motives”…

    Both are pretty much ridiculous undertakings in a discussion about an affair of data witholding, data choice and data interpretation.

    Somebody will soon claim they have the definitive evidence that McIntyre/Briffa (delete as appropriate) is right…but such evidence will only be made available in 2018… 8-P

  20. And how about paraphrasing Carl Sagan…

    claims with extraordinary public consequences require extraordinary publication of all evidence

  21. Folks, the two key points:

    1. A sample of ten is too few for analysis by the RCS methodology.

    2. Briffa must, and has not, explained how he chose this sample.

    These two points are readily understandable by the mass of honest and objective scientists who’ve been fooled by the ‘Popular Delusion and Madness of the Crowd’ that GroupThink has engendered to create the exaggerated paradigm that CO2=AGW. The herd can take pause. The Ents are on the move.

  22. Dr. Hale –

    I would suggest that you ignore his spelling issues and follow Mark B’s advice. If you go to the Climate Audit website and read the “Wegman Report” and the “Wegman Reply to Stupak” and you will be well prepared to understand the current controversy.

    Wegman was a neutral referee of high standing in Statistics who was enlisted to evaluate the claims of Mann et. al (a subset of RealClimate) vs. those of McIntyre. After reading his reports you might re-consider claims of incompetence, dishonesty, etc. by the RealClimate authors.

    In regard to the multiple hockey stick graphs dishonestly presented by RC, read this: http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2009/10/01/how-to-read-rc/

  23. At least on the 9YQ and the standards of journals, I stand corrected. I just don’t know. But assuming that that’s the case, and I have no reason to doubt you, I think there’s still a reason to be suspicious.

    Suppose that there are release criteria that have been disregarded. If so, the question has to be “Why? Why have these criteria not been rigorously followed?” You seem to be asking that question, but you’re also implying an answer (which, knowing you, I’m sure is very well informed). You’re saying (I think) that there was some misconduct.

    If that’s true, then Schmidt and Briffa seem justified in defending themselves. Someone, somewhere, probably has some kind of reason for holding back on the data. There’s gotta be, and there probably will be, a verdict on this eventually.

    I’m not trying to undermine your question. I’m just saying that as far as the 9YQ is concerned, that’s gotta be hashed out in the face of whatever reasons were offered… and moreover, it’s gotta be hashed out according to the assessment of the relevance of this data.

    Here’s a formal rephrasing of what I’m thinking — and again, I may be misfiring here, as I don’t know the whole history — but it is entirely plausible that Critic C presents a case to Journal J that Data D should be released for reassessment. If Editor E determines, through whatever (perhaps questionable, but charitably reasonable) process, that C’s case for the release of D is not sound, perhaps even given the journal’s own criteria, I think there’s reason to give E the benefit of the doubt and to place the burden of proof on C. True, this is a judgment call, and to a large part depends on the process by which E determines the inapplicability of C’s request, but this is, in a way, a peer-reviewed judgment call, and it is the kind of judgment call that is made all the time in the peer-review process.

    _Why_ should E release the data to C, particularly if the research in question has already undergone peer review? E has an obligation to protect the researcher’s integrity, as well as to protect the integrity of the journal. That’s a prima facie obligation, granted… but it is prima facie against another obligation to ensure that all stones are unturned, which actually means “all _reasonable_ stones.”

  24. McIntyre has not made any allegations of cherry picking.

    Your premise is flawed and so are your conclusions.

    Bad science is bad science and these tree ring studies (Not all) are some of the worst.

  25. Ben, this is an interesting topic from so many different perspectives, and yet:

    “I think the burden of proof is really on McIntyre to demonstrate why the broader data set is the best data set, at least if he wants to show that the currently accepted position is faulty. …

    Having said this, given the volatility of this topic, I think there’s a similarly heavy burden of proof on Briffa (or maybe those at RealClimate) to explain why the data used in the Briffa model are more reliable than other data…simply because McIntyre’s concern, by being raised, has become an issue.”

    you’ve managed to write something that says almost nothing.

    Think harder. Be provocative. Or else–why bother?

    • My understanding is that in statistics, smaller data sets are always more suspect than larger ones. If you have a well accepted general rule in statistics, all studies that make use of statistical analysis come under that rule unless there is a specific exception. Briffa (2000) makes use of statistical methods, Briffa (2000) falls under the rule. Briffa (the man) has never explained why he should have made an exception to the rule and in other parts of his work, pulls in more trees in order to make his numbers bigger, something you would expect to happen when you are trying to apply the rule.

      Briffa thus has the burden to explain why he acts in some parts of his work like he believes that larger numbers are better but not at Yamal where acting consistent to the rule would have substantially altered his conclusions.

      Only once Briffa explains why his behavior is consistent with the general application of statistics does it make sense to seek anything out of Mcintyre. Even if Mcintyre’s attack is wrong, Briffa still owes the explanation and has owed it for 9 years. We just didn’t know to demand it because nobody outside his trusted colleagues ever got access to the data.

  26. “_Why_ should E release the data to C, particularly if the research in question has already undergone peer review? E has an obligation to protect the researcher’s integrity, as well as to protect the integrity of the journal. That’s a prima facie obligation, granted… but it is prima facie against another obligation to ensure that all stones are unturned, which actually means ‘all _reasonable_ stones.'”

    Good heavens. Seriously?

    Click to access How%20to%20Publish%20a%20Comment.pdf

  27. Ben,

    Science disregarded its release criteria specifically because the research had previously been peer reviewed (at a time when no such criteria existed).

    I am now uncertain as to your main point. When you wrote “bad” choices in your original post, did you mean “scientifically invalid” choices, or “deliberate scientific misconduct”?

    If the former, this thread already contains clear explanations of why Briffa’s choices were “bad”.

    If the latter, you must first remove Steve McIntyre from the conversation. He seems to be bending over backwards to invent a story by which Briffa could have “honestly” accepted data from other researchers and simply misapplied it in his analysis.

    If allegations of scientific misconduct are to be proven, they will require: 1. Somebody willing to make the accusations [that means somebody other than Steve] and 2. Full release and archiving of all Yamal cores taken by Briffa and his collaborators. Point #2 seems exceptionally unlikely.

    When Briffa’s CRU colleague, Jones, had allegations of impropriety made against his research, the data which was alleged to have been invented was determined to be missing, and the charges could not proceed. I’m not even sure that this is a miscarriage of justice. Old research does get lost or discarded. The problem here is that most cores are never archived, and when they are, it is often a decade or longer after the fact.

    Briffa’s honesty is (in my mind) ultimately secondary to the validity of paleoclimactic studies (which seems very tenuous at the moment).

  28. Ben-

    Suggestion: Maybe number your comments?

    In reply to your CJDE comment, the onus is clearly on holder of data D to explain why it should not be released. This is standard across science and has just been reinforced in a NRC report on data access:


    It is perfectly fine to argue that there should be other rules governing scientific data, but so long as it is established policy to release data, I think that climate scientists should be held to the same standards.

    When you don’t and people make a big deal about it, and then when the data is released it shows some peculiar things, no one should be surprised at the result.

    On the substantive point, yes, I very much am looking forward to Briffa’s explanation why he chose the subset of data that he did. maybe he has very good reasons. I’d still like to hear them myself.

    • And here’s what NASA Earth Science has to say on “Data Management”

      NASA promotes the full and open sharing of all data with the research and applications communities, private industry, academia, and the general public. The greater the availability of the data, the more quickly and effectively the user communities can utilize the information to address basic Earth science questions and provide the basis for developing innovative practical applications to benefit the general public.

  29. I want to raise a point about this controversy that provides context about its implications that may not be obvious to someone just stepping into this issue.

    I do not believe that the Briffa results themselves are the disconcerting aspect of this saga. Instead the issue is that it appears that a mistake could have been made that was not picked up because the peer review process in the original journal and, more importantly, in the IPCC process was inadequate. By mistake I mean that when a sensitivity test using data that would be expected to give the same answer gave the opposite answer more red flags than in the Chinese army should have gone up and the reason addressed in the original article. Unfortunately, this paper has been subsequently used in reports justifying significant CO2 emission reductions.

    Based on my experience as a meteorologist, author, and article reviewer I would not at all be surprised that there was an innocent mistake. Briffa found a usable data set, applied it to extend his work, and he got his expected results. I have done the same thing many times – once I got a reasonable answer I stopped. This has led to egg on my face more than once by the way but the point is that we all have demands on our time and even getting all the data in one place for someone to independently review is a significant effort. Maybe I have been a poor journal reviewer in the past but I never asked for the data and independently replicated the analysis when I reviewed a paper. Furthermore, I have never been asked for the data behind my submittals. Therefore, I don’t think it is out of line to assume that his journal article reviewers did not request the data to replicate his results.

    On the other hand, the stakes in my research and analyses are miniscule in comparison with the stakes involved here. I have also been involved with EPA air pollution program technical reviews. Because there are great societal stakes riding on the science behind those proceedings, independent review of critical data sets has been a routine part of the EPA rule-making process. At this time EPA is preparing to release its CO2 endangerment finding which will provide the basis to regulate CO2. I believe that the same standard for data accessibility that has applied in previous EPA proceedings should be used. However, the draft endangerment finding relied on the journal “peer-review” and IPCC review processes which we now find to be inadequate.

    Therefore, the real concern is that these results suggest that the rationale for making decisions is not going to be based on the best science. I am not claiming that this means that there should not be a CO2 control program! It is well accepted that pollution reduction costs rise exponentially as more controls are added. My concern is that some of the CO2 control programs currently proposed are going to the far end of the scale and that the control costs will be very high and the benefits will not be what we thought they were going to be.

    Therefore, the lesson that should be learned from this is that the science used to determine the scale of CO2 controls has be better that what has come out of the IPCC process. This issue only came up when McIntyre took the time and effort to review the data and methodology. It is not unfair to ask that the EPA process for regulating CO2 be based on a transparent data set that can be validated by many independent reviewers.

  30. Following up on previous points, this may be of interest:

    “In recent years a considerable amount of attention has been paid to mechanisms for ensuring transparency and veracity in financial reports from publicly-traded corporations. Penalties for failure to meet these requirements are based on the recognition that there is a fiduciary trust at stake when investments are solicited. The public policy making process also involves large amounts of spending, but the documents and research reports that motivate such spending may provide no comparable guarantees of transparency and veracity. Specifically, empirical research in academic journal articles is often cited as the basis for decisions, yet such work is rarely subject to independent checks for accuracy during the peer review process, and the data and computational methods are so seldom disclosed that post-publication verification is equally rare. The relevant mechanisms for ensuring transparency in private-sector documents fall under the heading of “due diligence.” This study questions whether due diligence is adequately undertaken within academia, and whether researchers themselves have allowed habits to persist that prevent it from occurring. Of particular interest to us is whether due diligence is delayed or prevented for the subset of academic studies that form a basis for public policy decisions.

    This study arose out of our experiences in attempting to replicate published
    empirical research, as well as our observations of the way empirical research is used in public policy formation. Much of this paper documents examples of lack of transparency in academic research. Non-disclosure of essential research materials may have deleterious scientific consequences, but our concern herein is something different: the possible negative effects on public policy formation. Nobody would recommend basing policy on flawed research. Precisely to avoid such situations, the research must be demonstrably sound. If the researcher has obtained his results in accordance with the principles of the scientific method (i.e., kept a log book, clearly identified all data used, documented the computer code, etc.) then the burden on the researcher to disclose data and methods will be negligible. On the other hand, if the researcher has not followed the principles of the scientific method and has not kept an audit trail of his research, then the “research” should not be used as a basis for policy.

    Scholars must have the unhindered right to publish their research and make
    their points of view known without fear of reprisal. But when a piece of academic research takes on a public role, such as becoming the basis for public policy decisions, then practices that obstruct independent replication, such as refusal to disclose data or the concealment of details about computational methods, prevent the proper functioning of the scientific process and can lead to poor public decision making. In this study we will show that such practices are surprisingly common, and that researchers, users of research, and the public need to consider ways to address the situation.”

    Click to access DueDiligence.pdf

  31. Dear Dr. Hale,

    Steve McIntyre is a mathematician and statistician with particular expertise, acquired over the last few years, in the statistical techniques and proxy data used in paleoclimatology by climatologists such as Biffra, Mann, and Gavin at Real Climate, none of whom are statisticians. McIntyre’s criticism of Biffra focuses on Biffra’s use of a very small sample of a population of readily available tree ring data without explanation or justification.

    In particular, the sample of thirteen trees used to infer the temperature of the twentieth century, either as provided to Biffra or as selected by Biffra, is likely not a random sample of the population of tree ring data available for the period. Usually, Biffra’s circle of climatologists specifically select and use tree ring data which correlates with instrumental temperature indices, sometimes local temperature, sometimes “world” temperature. They call this “calibration”. Tree ring data from the available population of tree ring data which does not correlate with rising temperature is either discarded or given little weight in the temperature record inferred from the tree ring data by various statistical methods. No one knows for certain how the tree ring data used was selected because Biffra did not, and will not, disclose or justify the selection process or criteria.

    The selection criteria usually applied by Biffra’s circle of climatologists of trees from the instrumental period necessarily implies that some tree ring data is “good”, i.e. correlates with instrumental temperature, and some tree ring data is “bad”, i.e. does not correlate with instrumental temperature. Biffra would therefore argue that the “bad” data should be excluded because it dilutes the temperature “signal”, and averaging or regressing on the entire population of tree ring data would therefore mask the temperature “signal” of the “good” trees in the “noise” of the “bad” trees.

    Because there are no reliable instrumental temperature records before the late nineteenth century, “calibration” can be made only on tree ring data which overlaps the instrumental temperature record. However, even though the tree ring data predating the instrumental record cannot be “calibrated”, uncalibrated tree ring data is used in the regression analysis to infer temperature before the instrumental record. Because “good” trees cannot be distinguished from “bad” trees before the instrumental temperature record, both are used to infer a temperature record before the instrumental temperature period. This process guarantees a “hockey stick” shaped inferred temperature record because the “good” trees and “bad” trees average out to a flat “hockey stick” handle and the “good” trees, because they are calibrated to rising instrumental temperature, average out to a rising “hockey stick” blade.

    McIntyre has conclusively demonstrated, absent some selection or sampling rationale not disclosed by Biffra, that the “hockey stick” shape of Biffra’s temperature reconstruction is a statistical artifact created by an inappropriate selection, or sample, of twentieth century trees. When a larger sample of available twentieth century tree ring data is either substituted for, or merged with Biffra’s sample, the “hockey stick” disappears. Therefore, the burden of proof is on Biffra to justify his exclusion of tree ring data, not on McIntyre to justify its inclusion.



  32. I think the nine years question is a separate question from the question about the burden of proof,

    Is it separate from the burden or proof issue? The difficulty is the phrase “The burden of proof” doesn’t tell us ” on which question?” Is the question: “Did Briffa do something that merits censure?” That’s a sort of legalistic question. If that’s the question, then the burden of proof is on those who accuse Briffa of wrong doing.

    But Steve hasn’t accused Briffa of that, so he has no burden of proving something he has not claimed. So it’s difficult to see how this question is even worth asking.

    If you’ve decided the question is: Does the hockey stick hold up given new data? Then, the reasons for using one set of data rather than another, and who has the burden for explaining why one choice is better than another lies on both those who believe Briffa’s results and those who don’t believe them.

    This would simply be a matter of science. We wouldn’t care if someone as moral, immoral, sneaky, conniving, whiney, esteemed, more widely published, better looking, more fun on prom night or anything else. We just want to know which set of data is the better choice.

    In ordinary circumstances, one might just go with the peer reviewed article, and say the non-reviewed work needs to show a burden of proof. Certainly, the non-reviewed work will be required to show the different choice is better if submitted to peer review.

    But what is a member of the public to think today? Under the current circumstances?

    One difficulty has been that up to now, the question Steve raises wasn’t even addressed because the fact that a choice was made was not even revealed, and the reasons for the choice not provided. So, a question that would ordinarily have been asked either during peer review, or shortly after publication of the Briffa paper has not been asked.

    And the reason we tend to assume peer reviewed papers are more likely to be well argued than non-peer reviewed papers has to do with what we assume occurs during the peer review process.

    Ideally, back in 1995, during peer review, Briffa should have been burdened with the requirement to explain his choice. But, in this case, this did not happen. Part of the reason it did not happen is that the fact that a choice was made was not revealed, and the data were not made available. This made it impossible for anyone to even discover that a choice had been made.

    So it seems to me that thinking individuals are now at the point of needing to step back, suspend judgment about whether or not Briffa’s choice could have been defended in 1995. The community must ask both men to explain their reasons for making the choices and read both sets of reasons.

    It is going to be difficult to find qualified people to make fair judgment because at this point very large numbers of people working in paleo-climatology have published papers using the Yamal data. Those authors will have a conflict of interest — vitiating their own work will tend to cause them some cognitive dissonance.

    Returning back to other questions you might be asking… Do you want to discover “The burden of proof” about
    * why the data were not archived and disclosed to the broader public?
    * why the other authors who used the Yamal data did not discuss the reason the Yamal data were selected from the subset?

    SteveM clearly has no burden of proof on these. He would only have a burden of proof if he claimed he knew the answer. But he does not. He only claims the data were not archived (true) and that they were only disclosed after quite a bit of intensive badgering (also true.)

    So, SteveM seems to be giving evidence to support the things he claims. He’s meeting his burden.

  33. I agree with you regarding the steep hill for McIntyre to climb.

    However, his claims are slightly different from what you read, which is hard to tell from his posts.
    Namely, the Briffa Yamal version uses just 10 trees in some parts, and McIntyre is claiming that this number is too low and calls the whole Yamal work into question. The Russians who did the same work, and are the ones who collected the data used a different method, so their study is not comparable, but McIntyre is claiming that for the method Briffa used, there are not enough core samples.

    Also, Briffa developed another set of trees in the region called the Polar Urals that shows a different result from Yamal as well. Here, it was a finished chronology that was thrown aside in place of Yamal, and indeed not even published.

    So it is not just the selection of trees that is being accused, but also the selection of finished studies.

  34. MarkB, he has done plenty of reading.
    I think it’s a horrible position to take that one gets a failing grade unless they read blog postings that contradict the IPCC reports.

  35. Shouldn’t a scientific work be replicable before it can be used? The methods used for core selection and the like were not well documented. It was only now that the low core number, and the testing of the study could be done. There still is not a full release of data from these studies.

    Without this study, many hockey sticks fall apart. The Kaufmann09 Arctic warming paper relies on this and a few other proxies also questioned by McIntyre. One Finnish scientist Atte Korhola, echoes McIntyre’s claim that they are using another proxy, Tiljander, in an upside-down fashion.

  36. OMG i just read thomas hine’s comment.

    Why would you pick a name for your blog that sounds like an S&M site?
    I’m sure I’ll be getting a call from my internet gateway monitors over this one. Too late now.

    I don’t think Briffa performed any selection. McIntyre raised the question of why there seemed to be missing sequence numbers in the list of samples, but even before he had proff McIntyre suggested that the selection was winnowed down to the oldest trees by the russians before Briffa got the data. I don’t fully understand why that set was a valid sample for the russian corridorization method if it wasn’t valid for RCS, but I haven’t seen anyone claim the russians shouldn’t have used it the way they did.

    Once he had the data, Briffa had to have known it was too thin a sample to be usable.

    Why did Briffa publish a study based on that sample?

    What value was there to the data after Briffa published?

  37. Also, Briffa also produced a separate study called the Polar Urals from the same area. So he should also be explaining why he is not using that data, and why he hasn’t published it?
    Esper did use his data in one paper.

  38. “…my immediate reaction is that McIntyre has a pretty steep hill to climb.”

    Really? How so?

    Steve doesn’t make accusations (although many of his blog visitors do, Steve has not). He’s done what peer review failed to do. He’s linked the (only recently) available tree ring data to his own code used for showing the data in graphical form and asked others to review it and find holes in it. He’s demonstrated that the Yamal tree ring reconstruction presented by Biffra that flattened out the MWP and amplified the current temp record was from a very, very small sample size… a sample size that wasn’t reported in the reconstruction papers. He also demonstrated that one tree ring alone had a profound impact on the overall Biffra temperature reconstructions (again, not reported in the reconstruction papers). He also demonstrated that the reconstruction methods were sensitive to inclusion of particular tree rings… inclusion of tree ring data from very similar sites failed to produce a “hockey stick” graph of temperature over time.

    In short, Steve has done what should have been done in the first place: following the scientific method. Everything Steve has done has been open, it’s freely available, and it’s testable.

    This is the exact opposite of what Biffra has done.

    So why exactly do you believe that Steve has a “pretty steep hill to climb”?


  39. Ben, I believe that you have the causality reversed in the 9YQ issue. According to the policies of Science Magazine, the journal has professed a duty to supply data supporting the articles they accept for publication. There is no room in their stated policies for equivocation by their editors, and it follows that an interested party should not have to make a case for disclosure.

    Briffa was under no compulsion to allow his research to appear in a publication such as Science Mag if he did not wish to conform to their policies and disclose his data. Both Briffa and Science have been seriously remiss in this matter, and the resultant inability of others to replicate the work in the article should have significantly curtailed its citation in other works.

  40. Nobody has accused Briffa of misconduct. Briffa published data from a sample that appears, for whatever reason, to be non-representative of patterns in a broader region – patterns that would have consequences for many other studies which rely on the Briffa sample. Briffa has been asked to account for the difference. He is still formulating a full reply. His initial reply indicated he could account for the difference, but he did not actually do the accounting. Is Briffa a victim of circumstance? Quite possibly. Will his result hold up under additional investigation? Possibly. Time will tell. The presumption of misconduct by unscrupulous reporters is premised on the observation of a history of non-compliance with ordinary data disclosure rules. It was, for example, Phil Trans Royal Soc B ‘s choice to enforce that rule that has precipitated this story.

  41. Jason: I wrote bad “reasons,” not bad “choices.” I’m concerned about whether there are good reasons to impugn the study or Briffa’s research. I don’t care if the reasons actually “belonged” to Briffa.

    What I’m asking, both in the 9YQ now and with my original question in the main post, is who maintains the burden of the proof and what must he or she do to gain ground as having the correct position. In both cases, there are established, albeit admittedly flawed, procedures for determining whether and what counts as correct. I am expressly not saying that one or the other scientist/statistician is correct. As I’ve mentioned, I’m not qualified to judge that.

    What I’m pointing out, instead, is that _from what I’ve read_, I can imagine clear objections to a given claim X, sometimes of the form that I’m offering. Since there are clear objections _of that form_, whether those objections are correct is irrelevant to a determination of the strength of X. For X to be stronger, it also has to respond to, anticipate, or cut off the formal objections. It’s a logic thing, ultimately. Disregard the truth value of the claim.

    So I think this gets back to a point that Roger made on his blog a bit earlier: if McIntyre has an important finding, I would think that such a finding would pass peer review. I know there are institutional obstructions sometimes in peer review, and believe me, I have my own gripes with peer review in philosophy, so I’m not necessarily a fan of peer review…. but I have to agree with Roger here that the strength of McIntyre’s findings will have to wend its way through the peer channels to establish whether it is, in fact, a strong enough reason to disregard the original findings. (To clarify, this relates to my original point in the original post above, not to my responses to Roger on the 9YQ.)

  42. MarkP: that’s new information for me. I don’t know the issue, as I’ve said. I’m just looking at what seems reasonable. If it’s true that Science Magazine makes this explicit, and if it’s true that this was made explicit at the time that the original Briffa article was published, and also if it’s true that this is legally enforceable policy, without conflict, then I think the 9YQ is considerably hazier.

  43. Does Steve McIntyre have an important finding? He has uncovered a morsel that could have major consequences. Unfortunately, the bulk of the data and code that are used to generate all the world’s multiproxy climate reconstructions are cloistered away in IP-protected ivory tower. So it is impossible right now to say how this morsel might propagate through. Stay tuned. You never know what might be disclosed in ANOTHER 10 years.

  44. Oh, and Michael L:

    “you’ve managed to write something that says almost nothing.”

    What I’m saying is that the burden of proof for Briffa, Schmidt and others is contingent on the political questions. McIntyre’s objections don’t impugn their findings. IMHO, RealClimate really should respond to McIntyre’s claim, and they will respond to it, but for the time being, the burden on them is only to quell growing unrest in the skeptical community. I’m sure they’re exhausted from doing so, and it may in fact be a distraction from research that they take to be far more important, but because of the political electricity surrounding the term “hockey stick,” I think it’s a hypothetical imperative.

    On the other hand, until McIntyre has his data vetted and evaluated by qualified and impartial reviewers, the burden of proof is on him to demonstrate that Briffa has really screwed things up. Maybe he’s closer to doing that than he ever has been before, but there are still many questions that have to be answered… and it is he or his proxies (in the form of most of you, provided that you know what you’re talking about), not Briffa and his proxies, who need to answer these questions.

    • Ben said:

      “On the other hand, until McIntyre has his data vetted and evaluated by qualified and impartial reviewers, the burden of proof is on him to demonstrate that Briffa has really screwed things up.”

      No. NoNoNo!! That’s backward. The burden of proof is on the one advancing a new hypothesis, not on anyone questioning it.

      The widespread failure to understand the Scientific Method is getting monotonous. Steve McIntyre is not the one who needs to be vetted. Keith Briffa is. Please listen up:

      It is not the responsibility of those questioning a new hypothesis, such as AGW, to prove anything.

      It is the job of those promoting their new AGW hypothesis to show that their hypothesis explains reality better than the long accepted hypothesis of natural climate variability –- which has never been falsified, unlike the repeatedly falsified CO2=AGW conjecture.

      The Scientific Method requires full and complete transparency by those putting forth any hypothesis. Briffa deliberately hid his data and methodology for almost ten years, despite many formal written requests to disclose it.

      The Scientific Method requires those putting forth a new hypothesis to provide all of their raw and adjusted data and their methodologies to anyone who asks for it, so that other scientists can replicate the experiments and try to falsify the new hypothesis. That is how scientific truth is arrived at; there is no other way. The hypotheses that survive those attacks become accepted as a basis for new hypotheses. Science advances in increments.

      Furthermore, the Scientific Method requires that the scientist(s) putting forth their hypothesis have an obligation to try to falsify their own hypothesis, and to fully cooperate with others in trying to falsify the new hypothesis. Truth is the objective in the Scientific Method.

      Richard Feynman would be spinning in his grave if he saw the rampant corruption in what now passes for the Scientific Method. All good scientists are skeptics, because factors like emotions, money, and status make us believe what we want to believe. Only by rigorous skepticism can we learn the truth. And only the truth survives vigorous attacks and attempts at falsification.

      Keith Briffa has collected £708,805 in various grants [well over 1 million in USD] following his Yamal paper. That is a mighty big incentive to refuse to disclose his data and methodology, especially since it came down to essentially one tree. Had he opened his books, then from what we have just learned about his juvenile methods, the grant gravy train he’s been on for the past decade would have been at least reduced, if not eliminated.

      “Should I take the money, or keep my integrity? Decisions, decisions…”

      • Ah, so you basically don’t understand the scientific method. The Briffa hypothesis is now nine years old, remember. It’s been vetted by scores and scores of people. I’d show you documentation, but that gets tedious. So the continual vetting, while a good thing in principle, has been going on for a while. Good concerns have risen to the surface and been addressed (though perhaps not to the satisfaction of some). Bad concerns fall to the bottom and are quashed (perhaps to the frustration of some).

        Suppose I say that Briffa needs to have his hypothesis evaluated because his name looks a lot like ‘Brillo’. That’s not a very good reason, but being a scrub-brush fearing dirt lover, I advance that as my criticism of his position. Someone might request that I get serious, as they should. In this case, the burden of proof is on me to demonstrate why this is a reasonable concern regarding his research. And I can do that, by offering really cogent and strong arguments that appeal to the community of experts qualified to evaluate my claims.

        The burden falls on my shoulders mostly because Briffa, by having an article published and accepted widely by enormous numbers of qualified experts, maintains what has now become the established view, whether you agree with it or not. We’re in a different phase now.

      • Dr. Hale,

        Your reply to Smokey October 2, 2009, 4:27 pm has me puzzled. You wrote: “The Briffa hypothesis is now nine years old, remember. It’s been vetted by scores and scores of people.”

        Being vetted by “scores and scores of people” does not establish truth. The history of mankind is filled with “vetted truths” that have been falsified–for example, phrenology was ‘vetted’ by many German scientists.

        It may be reasonable to argue that once a ‘scientific discipline’ has accepted a hypothesis, the burden of showing the hypothesis to be incorrect falls on those who question the hypothesis. Fair enough. But (1) what exactly is the Briffa hypothesis you are referencing, (2) what scientific discipline has auspices over the hypothesis, and (3) what do other scientific disciplines say on the matter?

        Is the Briffa hypothesis: (a) that man’s release of CO2 via the burning of fossil fuels will lead to runaway and harmful global warming; (b) the MWP didn’t exist; (c) the decade of the 1990s is the warmest decade in the last 1000 years; or (d) something else.

        If (a), then I disagree that the hypothesis has been vetted to any significant degree except by those who either (i) for ulterior motives want it to be true, or (ii) will gain financially if public officials accept the hypothesis and act accordingly–the Germans so to speak. Note: I realize this is just my hypothesis, but it has been vetted by many of my friends.

        If (b), then I disagree because as much as the AGW branch of the dendroclimatology community believes the MWP didn’t exist, there are scientific disciplines who believe it did exist.

        If (c) then I disagree because although the NAS said the decade of the 1990s may have been the warmest in the last ten centures, both the NAS and Dr. Wegman concluded that the tree-ring studies of Dr. Mann and Dr. Briffa are statistically flawed and as such do not warrant such a conclusion. Quoting from the Wegman report: “Overall, our committee believes that Mann’s assessments that the decade of the 1990s was the hottest decade of the millennium and that 1998 was the hottest year of the millennium cannot be supported by his analysis”.

        If (d), then you may be correct. But then as I started this post, I’d like to know what hypothese (d) is, what scientific disciplines accept the hypothesis, and what scientific disciplines, if any, reject the hypothesis.

        Reed Coray

  45. “…further reinforce the robustness of the hockey-stick model, which it seems to me is already sufficiently robust.”

    You really are late to the party.

    Few who are paying attention believe in the “robustness” of the hockey stick except out of visceral tribal loyalty. The denial of the Medieval Warming Period (the handle) is even more of an ideological construct than the grafts of recent (usually) instrumental data(the blade).

  46. I am just a laymen who has followed CA website on a casual basis and I acknowledge that many of the statical arguments and “dendro” arguments are way over my head. I do have a few comments.
    First, I am not certain that McIntyre is claiming that he has fully met his “burden of proof”. I read him as saying something like, “I finally got the data and here is what I found. It looks very suspicious, but it is too early to draw final conclusions. If someone can explain why this is reasonable, please do.”
    Second, did not Briffa have an ethical obligation to disclose the sparcity of data upon which he was relied. If his sample size was so small that it would reasonably raise eye brows, shouldn’t this have been disclosed.

  47. Science didn’t think Briffa had to log his data because he only referenced another study, also by Briffa. That first study was not archived, and the original publication didn’t have policies to that effect.

  48. If “the burden of proof is on McIntyre to demonstrate that Briffa has really screwed things up”, then by the same mechanism, the equal burden of disclosure lies with Briffa et al, whose code and data are required to calculate the full impact of McIntyre’s discovery. Or perhaps we can just trust Briffa et al. to do the calculation themselves? Well, that didn’t work so well in the case of MBH98 and MBH99, so I’m not sure it would work here. Maybe Dr. Arthur Wegman has nothing better to do than arbitrate like he was forced to in the case of MBH98.

  49. Ben, you seem to believe this issue comes down to a question of “he said-she said” between what Steve is claiming vs. what Biffra is claiming. That’s not the case.

    Steve’s methods, data, and code is freely available for all to use. There is no burden of proof on Steve.

    It is Biffra who has withheld data for nearly 10 years and only grudgingly released it and with no notification after being (appropriately) scolded into doing so.

    It is Biffra’s data and methods that run against volumes of evidence of the medieval warm period.

    It is Biffra’s data and methods that don’t match the recent instrument record for the region (temperature records for Yamal don’t show “unprecedented” warming over the last 20 years).


  50. Ben –
    I have a comment on one of your basic assumptions:

    Further, as a well-educated non-specialist, my tendency is to defer to established scientific record — which in this case is the IPCC AR4.

    On the face of it, this is an entirely reasonable position. However, the lack of qualified nuance in your statement indicates your lack of experience on this issue.

    You might find McKitrick’s paper on bias in the IPCC process enlightening. The table on page 11 is especially interesting.

    Bottom line: there’s plenty of evidence that IPCC publications do not actually reflect the established scientific record.

  51. Someone, somewhere, probably has some kind of reason for holding back on the data. There’s gotta be, and there probably will be, a verdict on this eventually.

    The reasons for holding back data don’t matter. The publications require the data be available and the authors chose to accept those requirements. So two parties agreed to make the data available; the publishers promise that to the public, and the authors promise that to the publishers.

    Both publishers and authors violated the agreements. The question of why is important, Mr. Philosopher.

    The publishers had decided in the past that making data available was important. Why do they no longer think it is important? If they no longer think it is important, why have they not removed the requirement?

    The authors had agreed to make the data available when they submitted the paper to those publications. If the authors did not read the terms of the agreement, they might not have consciously decided to agree. However, once the data was requested and the publication’s requirement was pointed out, why did the authors decide to violate their agreement?

    The authors either consciously lied when they agreed to the terms for publication, or they consciously decided to violate the terms after gaining the benefits of publication. Why?

    The publishers have chosen to not enforce their requirement. They could have helped urge that the author release the data, and they could have published a statement to nullify their earlier publication. The publishers chose to do nothing. Why?

    The fact that it dragged on for nine years eliminates any claims that the parties did not have enough time to act. The publishers and authors repeatedly chose to violate their agreements. The publishers might claim their bureaucracy managed to block the institution from making this decision, but that indicates their bureaucracy is at least eight years too powerful.

  52. but what Schmidt is asking for (or, more aptly, demanding) is a smoking gun that suggests that Briffa had bad reasons for selecting the data that he did. That’s much harder to demonstrate, and I think McIntyre basically can’t demonstrate such a thing.

    The ‘burden of proof’ in this instance would have to be Schmidt’s – he needs to make it clear how McIntyre has made such a claim about Briffa. SM – in spite of the frustrating experience he has had – is perhaps the commenter who is the least inclined to make statements about motive. So much has been said above, and a visit to his site will confirm it. Make such a claim on CA, and SM is likely to ask you to make a more considered contribution.

    You recognise that the ‘burden of proof’ speaks about the politicisation of the issue, Ben. So doesn’t this also imply that there is a problem with our expectations that a ‘best data set’ (either the restricted or the full sequence) exists, and that this is the one which serves to inform the political decision?

    Can’t we just say ‘the data/study that exists is inadequate for this purpose’? And doesn’t the fact that we don’t/can’t, again, say more about the need to base political decisions in science than is perhaps wise?

  53. The problem with Schmidt’s further hockey stick graphs is that they are generated using the same methods and techniques as those under scrutiny in Briffa. If you agree there is an issue that Briffa has to answer, then you are falling for the real-climate meme that this is an error or potential issue in isolation. It is not. Every time a hockey stick has come under sustained scrutiny, it has failed. That the process of scrutiny is underperforming in the peer review process is something that should alarm you. Wegman explained how this could happen and if you haven’t read his report, I urge you to do so.

    I note that if Briffa had a sensible, reasonable explanation for his core selection, he could easily have included a paragraph in his rebuttal explaining how he did it. That he did not do this is itself cause for concern.

  54. This “controversy” was dealt with and dispatched years ago. It’s done. But people like Roger Pielke Jr. keep whipping it up.

    Why? Nobody knows.

    Click to access wsj.pdf

    Click to access skeptics.pdf

  55. Sorry about the delay in comments appearing, folks. Apparently if you include hyperlinks in your comments, WordPress automatically flags your comment as possible spam. I didn’t realize I had a few hanging around.

  56. Ben,
    You say..’I’m approaching this as a philosopher, hopefully impartially..’ and follow with ‘as a well educated non-specialist, my tendency is to defer to the established scientific record… the IPCCAR4’.
    I was wondering just how one can be impartial with a tendency to defer?
    Also, why is there not room in the debate for agnostics – you mention skeptics, deniers, denialists. (I think I am an agnostic because there are so many times when I don’t know what to think!!)
    And one last point, does the ‘established scientific record’ have a RWP, MWP and LIA or not?

  57. Steve has no hill at all to climb. The issue has nothing at all to do with motives. The climate journals have been publishing papers that use novel/untested/inappropriate statistical methods. The journals have failed to ensure that such articles be reviewed by people expert in statistical methods. Had the peer reviewers been statisticians and had Briffa disclosed that he used a population of 10 trees, this paper never would have been published. Instead, because the paper showed up in a prestigious journal with the imprinteur of peer review, it became a highly influential paper.

  58. Tony: assuming a role of impartiality doesn’t mean that one abandons judgment or reliance on expertise. Assuming impartiality just means that one tries to abandon irrelevant prejudices. The AR4 is a relevant document to this discussion, as is the testimony of climate scientists, of which I’m not one. Fortunately for me, I live in Boulder and work at the University of Colorado with Roger and other ENVS and CSTPR faculty. I’m lucky to know many NCAR researchers personally, and to have spoken with them about their research and some of these issues. I therefore have even a second reason to trust their expertise: I know them, and so at least as far as validity claims go, don’t have reason to challenge them on their trustworthiness or integrity. There’s no reason for me to abandon what I understand to be trustworthy evidence unless it can be demonstrated that my evidence is not trustworthy. (Not everyone has this good fortune; but they do have the benefit of a peer review process, which, however flawed, is one of the better methods of discerning good research from bad research.) And that, again, brings us back to this question about burden of proof. The burden is on those who are challenging the established, peer-reviewed view. That’s not an outrageous position, unless you’re completely skeptical either about peer review, the scientific method as presently implemented, or some similar such institution. (And if you are, then you must also demonstrate why your method of getting at the truth is so much better than the other method of getting at the truth.)

  59. Don’t let anyone scare you off the topic just because you haven’t been following this for decades. Focus on ethics and philosophy of climate change and you’ll be fine.

    For far too many, this is a fantasy football league where they memorize publication references instead of statistics–the big picture is where it all gets weak.

    Start with the null hypothesis. Look at who bears the burden of proof. What are the ethics of conducting cost-benefit analyses on policy mechanisms (and what should the discount rate be, and who determines it)?

    Both sides want to turn Carl Sagan’s statement against their opponents–for outrageous claims, outrageous evidence is required.

    Which side denies agency to the other? Which side supports free and open inquiry? (Kind of a prejudicial sounding question right now, but this is just one episode.)

    Is this a zero sum game? Does one side have to be right and the other wrong? Is the solution likely to be winner-take-all?

    Most important, we need credible figures of respect, as we are not all going to become climate experts. Who can we trust and how will we know them?

    I think you’re going to have fun.

  60. You have identified the issue rather well, but draw the wrong conclusion. Yes the underlying issue is why Briffa chose to this sub-sample to use as his proxy, the problem is we are discussing a scientific paper.

    The reason he chose this sub-sample, the alternatives, the size of the sample and the total data set should have been in the paper to begin with. That they weren’t should provide ample scope for deciding the value of this paper for its scientific content and the efficacy of “friend-review” within “climate science”.

  61. Ben, you say:

    “The burden is on those who are challenging the established, peer-reviewed view. That’s not an outrageous position, unless you’re completely skeptical either about peer review, the scientific method as presently implemented, or some similar such institution. (And if you are, then you must also demonstrate why your method of getting at the truth is so much better than the other method of getting at the truth.)”

    I give up. You still have it backward as to which entity has the burden of proof.

    And yes, I am completely skeptical of climate peer review. See here: click.

    But I commend you for allowing different points of view here, unlike the alarmist sites, which almost never allow skeptics’ comments. Before I go, a few thoughts.

    Here is Richard Feynman, writing about the peer review process

    “It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty -– a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid -– not only what you think is right about it; but other causes that could possibly explain your results.”

    The climate peer review process has been thoroughly corrupted, as the Yamal incident makes clear. Rather than open up the data behind published work to other scientists, the new clique in charge of climate peer review are almost all like Keith Briffa; they game the system, and they fight tooth and nail to avoid publicly archiving their data and algorithms. That is directly contrary to the Scientific Method. But as you say, the Scientific Method “as presently implemented.” Which isn’t the Scientific Method at all. It is the antithesis of the Scientific Method, which requires complete transparency and cooperation.

    Current climate peer review is tightly controlled by a relatively small clique that acts as gatekeepers. Toeing the Party line of AGW gets papers like Briffa’s hand-waved through with little or no scrutiny, while papers by skeptical scientists are made to jump through flaming hoops to even get a simple comment published, much less a scholarly paper. Don’t believe me? Look here: click. [I LOL’d reading that link — until I realized that the writer was telling a true story!]

    I know it may be a little hard to grasp, but the Scientific Method absolutely requires the ability to replicate experiments exactly. By withholding the data as Briffa did, the experiments could not be reproduced.

    And it also requires transparent honesty, and total cooperation with other scientists, which is routinely denied by the proponents of AGW.

    Finally, the Scientific Method builds upon the previous hypotheses that have withstood falsification; a new hypothesis such as CO2=AGW is the upstart challenging the long held theory of natural climate variability. Therefore, the CO2=AGW hypothesis has the burden of proof. But the CO2=AGW theory/conjecture is being falsified by the planet itself: click. So the AGW believers simply censor facts and comments that are contrary to their beliefs.

  62. [Erratum: “Here is Richard Feynman, writing about the peer review process…”

    …should have been: “Here is Richard Feynman, writing about the peer review process Scientific Method:”]

  63. BTW: You need to include in your deliberations the way that Biffra replied. He has NOT actually respond to what Steve has demonstrated.

    It appears that he did not actually read what Steve had done (which doesn’t bode well for Biffra.. how careful is he?) or he has read what Steve did and chose to intentionally mis-characterized what Steve showed (I’m not going to attribute motive so I’ll leave it there).

    The reality is that nowhere has Biffra actually come up with reasonable explanations for the decisions and his actions.

    Please also note Gavin Schmidt’s response at RC as well. Again, NO explanations; lot’s of mud-slinging and a lot of churlish behavior. These are decidedly NOT scientific responses to what should be scientific questions.


  64. “Bottom line: there’s plenty of evidence that IPCC publications do not actually reflect the established scientific record.”

    Please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_consensus_on_global_warming#Statements_by_concurring_organizations

    This part is relevant: “With the release of the revised statement by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists in 2007, no remaining scientific body of national or international standing is known to reject the basic findings of human influence on recent climate change.”

    Debates on release of data or a particular study – or a particular conclusion in the IPCC reports, are one thing. But every major scientific academy in the world backs the IPCC – its methods and its conclusions. Support for the IPCC by scientific organizations around the world is overwhelming. Some of you think they’re all wrong, but that doesn’t change that the IPCC represents the established scientific position. Equating skepticism of AGW with Galileo’s position against an earth-centered universe necessarily equates modern science with the medieval Catholic Church.

  65. Again, I’m not talking about the science. I’m only talking about who has to demonstrate what. RC and Briffa don’t have to demonstrate anything until someone somewhere vets McIntyre’s work, demonstrates its strength, and lodges a formal complaint against management. Schmidt and Briffa can prance around with carrots up their noses and make utter goof-balls of themselves for all I care. The burden isn’t theirs (yet). Maybe they _should_ respond to McIntyre, but again, that’s only a political concern. What is necessary is to have some folks from the dendro community, or someone qualified to assess McIntyre’s claims, pass this through the channels of review. I trust that this will happen. You should too, however skeptical you may be.

    (Incidentally, Roger’s 9YQ is a different matter and one that I will take up with him personally tomorrow as we schlep boxes for another colleague of ours. I have no doubt that Roger will school me in this history, probably while I’m holding 150 pounds.)

  66. Dean @ 9:19 pm, well, you are close. The collapse of the CO2=AGW paradigm is analogous to the findings of Galileo because it will redefine man’s relationship to his environment. The understanding that man-released CO2 is a simple, but very minor, determinant in climate does not have the cosmic significance as Galileo’s disagreement with the Dogma, but it will have far greater immediate social consequences, that is the freeing of fossil fuels from this chimeric demonization.

    The analogies with Galileo and dogma are apt if not perfectly parallel.

  67. 150 lbs? Dude.

  68. Ben at 9:30. I refer you to my points at 9:37 am:

    1. Ten is too small a sample for the RCS methodology.

    2. Briffa must, but has not yet, explain the choice of sample.

    A Tom P has responded to Steve that his sample isn’t comparable, and his objection has validity. But what Steve says is almost beside the point now; the problem remains, Briffa’s sample is inadequate and inadequately explained. All of the balls are in Briffa’s court.

  69. RPJ @ 9:39 Yes, please, the nucleus pulposis is not engineered for 150 lbs. Be careful. Don’t bend sideways. Lift with the knees. Sneeze forward, too.

  70. I’m not going to debate people who think that AGW is a myth and that the National Academy of Science is akin to the Catholic Church. My point is that the IPCC is the scientific standard. You can believe that the earth is a trapezoid for all I care.

    As to burden of proof, I don’t think it’s all on one side or the other. Briffa isn’t done supporting his work and conclusions. But I think that the real question is where the venue for the debate is. Real Climate awaits McIntyre to publish his claims peer-reviewed journal. McIntyre, Id, and Watts invite RCers to post on their blogs.

    The result is that the disagreeing parties cannot agree on a venue for resolving their dispute.

    • “My point is that the IPCC is the scientific standard.”

      This is not a wise position to take because:

      1. The IPCC does not consider itself to be the scientific standard. It is a political body intended to allow UN member governments to formulate a consensus position on climate change.

      2. If the scientific standard is broken, then the science can not be trusted.

      The IPCC is rather transparently and self-referentially broken, as it hasn’t even followed its own procedures, and is facing serious criticism from a significant portion of the people who have contributed to its process.

      FORTUNATELY, the IPCC is NOT the scientific standard. The science is considerably more robust than the IPCC. The science is ALSO considerably more nuanced than the IPCC would like us to believe.

  71. @ Ben Hale October 2, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    You state: “The Briffa hypothesis is now nine years old, remember. It’s been vetted by scores and scores of people.”

    This is categorically not true. Biffra’s data was finally released only last month. No one can “vet” Biffra’s hypothesis without the data underlying his paper, they can only use it uncritically.



    • Actually as McIntyre now admits he has had the data since 2004, he got it from the Russian researchers who produced it just as Briffa did (by the way your deliberate misspelling of his name is very juvenile).

      • Anyone like to correct Phil, who is late to this discussion?

      • Bender using McI’s principle the lack of a rebuttal would seem to indicate that I’m correct!

      • phil., you are just repeating Eli Rabbet’s lie, which I note he’s quit promoting here. Steve has explained in great detail at his site why you are wrong. Simply, Steve did not know what part of the larger data set was what was used by Briffa. Nor do any of us yet have the rationale for Briffa’s choice, particularly of an 8 sigma tree.

  72. Dean @ 9:51 AGW is a myth because a small effect has been magnified by scientists, journalists and politicians into an earth damaging event. It is a lie, the Big Lie, despite its tiny grounding in real physics.

    And respect the metaphor with Galileo and see the similarities, try to learn from it. This is clearly a paradigm cracking, or not. The natural cycles sure have the inside track, lately, though.

  73. I would add this. My focus on science vs the Medieval Catholic Church relates to the burden of proof because as science works now, if McIntyre – or anybody – can get a criticism of Briffa published – then Briffa will have the burden of responding. But this only applies if the broader scientific community still has credibility. If you’re of the opinion that the major journals and science academies have given in to some kind of religion of AGW, then the peer review process no longer is the arbiter that a criticism is worthy of response.

  74. Dean, in climate science peer review has broken down. See Wegman. See the derivative chain of hockey sticks stemming from Briffa’s inadequately peer reviewed work.

  75. The principle of peer review is not broken; the application of it in some arenas of climatology is broken.

  76. As a criminal prosecutor for over 20 years and the holder of a BSc in Biology I am both professionally expert in the application of the concept of “burden of proof” and somewhat literate in the science under discussion. Ei incumbit probatio, qui dicit, non qui negat; cum per rerum naturam factum negantis probatio nulla sit. – The proof lies upon him who affirms, not upon him who denies; since, by the nature of things, he who denies a fact cannot produce any proof. As to the hypothesis that C02 produced by human combustion of fossil fuels is causing “unprecedented” global warming: the onus lies on those who say so. As to the proposition that there has been an alarming late 20th century spike in global temperatures: the onus lies on those who say so. As to the unsuitability of Briffa’s cores for the use to which they were put by him to warrant a graph showing a “hockey-stick” temperature history in the Yamal Peninsula: I submit that Steve McIntyre has more than discharged the onus to prove that. No one had stepped forward to deny any of the material particulars on which he bases his argument, and no one has offered any rebuttal of his arguments so based: that the Schweingruber 34 drawn from the same area show an actual downturn, and that the combination of Briffa’s cores and the Schweingruber 34 show a flat trend, and that when you examine each of Briffa’s cores you find one, now nicknamed the “Enchanted Larch of Yamal” by some, which is anomalous in the extreme, to which it would appear almost all the spike in Briffa’s graph can be attributed. What further onus would you have Steve McIntyre discharge?

  77. I have to disagree. The fundamental issue IS science. Methods matter. Reproducibility matters. Actions MATTER.

    The fundamental issue is that the scientific process has been corrupted by Biffra. Biffra’s results have been reproduced by Steve McIntyre. Biffra hasn’t denied that he used a very small sample of tree ring cores to come up with his findings. He has not denied that ONE TREE is responsible for the vast majority of the uptick in recent temperatures that Biffra “found” in his studies. He has not explained why.

    Steve’s methods have been posted and his code made available to anyone who wants to check it. In fact, one poster at CA DID try to “break” Steve’s analysis using Steve’s code. That poster could not find fault with Steve’s analysis. In fact, he inadvertently reproduced Biffra’s findings (findings that were obtained by using gradually smaller numbers of tree ring samples over time… exactly what Biffra did).

    Steve’s findings mean that Biffra used (at best), questionable methods (inadequate sample size for the statistics used)… methods that, without adequate explanation, invalidate the results of his study. Steve’s analysis showed that the Biffra results are not “robust” in that replacement of Biffrra’s chosen tree ring cores with other cores from the same area produce vastly different results. Biffra used (at best) questionable judgment in NOT disclosing or properly describing his methods in his papers. He consistently refused to adhere to journal policies (and frankly basic scientific principles) on data archiving which would allow the scientific process to work.

    Remember: Biffra’s results not only showed a remarkable uptick in temperatures in recent times, his work also flattened the Medievil Warm Period. This goes counter to mountains of other, better evidence of the existence of a Medieval Warm Period.

    The burden of proof is now on Biffra and/or his colleagues to demonstrate a reasonable rationale for why he used the methods that he used and to explain the scientific basis for his those choices. He has not. This is entirely his burden.

    Or, thinking about it from the other perspective, your suggestion that it’s Steve’s burden… suppose that Biffra never released the data. NO ONE would have been able to replicate the study and no one would have been able to question the findings. That’s not science. In fact, in that scenario, it wouldn’t matter that other studies from the same area don’t demonstrate the same results.

    Click to access Walker_AGU_2008.pdf

    See page 14 of the presentation… tree rings from Yamal show no hockey stick shape.

    It’s also a good idea to look at the data that Biffra said he used:

    Anyone can download the data and plot it. Anthony Watts recently did so and came up with this graph:

    OK, no match with Biffra’s findings there…

    Do Biffra’s findings match the instrument record for the region? No.







    Plus many, many other studies of climate over the past 1000 + years that show evidence of a Medieval Warm Period that magically disappears in Biffra’s analysis.

    The reality is that there are numerous lines of evidence that show Biffra’s findings are not consistent with the best available science.

    The burden of proof is clearly on Keith Biffra to adequately describe his methods and WHY he chose the methods that he did.


  78. “What further onus would you have Steve McIntyre discharge?”

    As both Real Climate and Roger Pielke have asked (they agree on something!), that he submit it to a proper journal – preferably the one that published Briffa. If his work is solid, it will get published and we will see where it goes. Peer review is not a perfect filter, but it’s better than blogs.

  79. Dean, I agree that the information SHOULD be published in a scientific journal. However, there are a couple issues.

    1. The data is available. The code is freely available. The software is free for anyone to download. What possible advantage does publication in a journal have over what’s already been accomplished? Seriously.

    You seem to believe in the need for an official blessing (literally, an “imprimatur”) from a journal in order to “believe” the results. What more do you want than access to the data, complete description of methods (in fact, INTERACTIVE methods!!!), and the tools to reproduce the findings yourself? I mean, isn’t that what publication is actually about? Describing your methods, your procedures and findings in such a way as to be replicable? That environment already exists without journal publication… The real question: what additional value does journal publication offer?

    2. Who exactly would review the paper? Who would publish the paper??? This topic has demonstrated that the review process is flawed. The reviewers are not unbiased. The journal editors are not unbiased. Why should Steve use his time to participate in the flawed and limited publication process when he can make the information and methods available to everyone to let them replicate his findings?


  80. What Dean said.

    And JT: I submit that the name ‘Briffa’ looks a lot like ‘Brillo’; and therefore that Briffa’s research is null and void. Should Briffa have to respond to that?

    Here, I’ll give you a hint: No. My question is irrelevant. To show its relevance, I have to introduce many more premises (though I can’t fathom what those premises might be).

    The question that is being raised here is not whether Briffa’s model is right (even though that is the question that appears to motivate many commenters), but whether Briffa’s research finding is corrupt. McIntyre presents a challenge to the accepted position. In this particular case, McIntyre’s claim that the finding is corrupt must be demonstrated as reasonable and pertinent. To establish this, it must be vetted by qualified reviewers, which neither of us are. Once it is vetted, then, and only then, does it become imperative for Briffa to take it seriously as a criticism against his work.

    To see this a little more clearly, let’s play Galileo, since that appears to titillate some other respondents. Suppose that Galileo has not yet demonstrated to the scientific community that he is correct. Suppose he bucks the trend, pushing hard against the stubborn geocentrists. “We have clear evidence,” say the geocentrists, but it is known to many that they also maintain a stranglehold on the learned establishment. In this case, the burden of proof is on Galileo, unfair though that may be. Galileo must show through reasoned argument and clear presentation of evidence that his view is the correct view. If Kim’s analogy is apt (which I don’t think it is, but meh, that’s neither here nor there), then she agrees with me and not with you: the burden of proof is on McIntyre, just as it was on Galileo. The accepted view is held by Briffa.

    If, on the other hand, your position is correct, that McIntyre represents the accepted view, then I would think there’s not too much to worry about, except that Briffa is steaming down the road after McIntyre and his cohorts as the next incarnation of Galileo. So maybe you should worry.

    Basically, sorry to disappoint you, you’re wrong about the burden of proof.

  81. Ben, what you’ve admitted to is a logical fallacy and used one try to to make your point. Your logic is that there must be “qualified reviewers”. That is NOT a requirement for science.

    Science requires that the results be reproducible. It does NOT require specific or formal training to do so.

    If you personally don’t feel qualified and informed enough to draw conclusions in this instance, that’s fine and perfectly reasonable for you. But, that doesn’t mean that others can’t learn the issues, read the literature, analyze the data and come to their own, well informed conclusions.

    In fact, it is a requirement that concerned citizens do so. The alternative is to allow a relatively small group of people make decisions that can affect everyone without the ability to question their conclusions… a frankly silly and illogical argument.


  82. Also, Ben, you make too rigid the metaphor with Galileo. The skeptics’ point isn’t a whole new paradigm, really it’s the just the replacement of this one with the older paradigm about natural cycles, and the destruction of this new and corrupt paradigm that CO2 has a large effect on climate. Respect the metaphor and learn from it; it is about dogma and dissent, and about man’s place in the immediate universe.

  83. Thinking about this another way, the accepted view (Biffra’s) is actually based on not based on science but is instead based on successful marketing. There’s plenty of scientific publications that run counter Biffra’s findings, but they don’t get the press that Biffra’s version does.

    One can say (as Dean has suggested) that the accepted view is by definition that of the latest IPCC report. OK, then how does one square the fact that Biffra was the lead author of the IPCC chapter that relied on Biffra’s reconstruction?? Clearly, the IPCC report was not unbiased in it’s assessment of the literature. If you take this view that the “majority rules” or that the group with the best marketing wins your vote, how does the science work? How is it possible for the process to get corrected???

    There are plenty of reasons to question the IPCC findings, aside from the conflict of review editors relying on their own publications.

    If you read further on the goings on withing the IPCC process, you get a very different view of the objectiveness of the process… see this “check kiting” scheme to allow a paper to be improperly included in the IPCC 4th report.

    This description of the IPCC as an oligarchy

    This example of IPCC refusing to consider some published research that according to IPCC rules SHOULD have been included in the IPCC literature review process.

    Steve’s past workings with the IPCC process… the reviewer editors don’t follow the stated procedures:

    An insiders assessment of the IPCC process: by Vincent Grey:

    Click to access gray2.ipcc%20spin.pdf

    Or Paul Reiter’s experience in dealing with the IPCC findings…


  84. And no, the burden of proof is on Briffa to explain why ten trees, or one, may 8 sigma warp the knowledge.

  85. You just don’t get it; Steve has exposed what Keith must prove. Rog fils, where’s my wicked thick two-by-four?

  86. We drift into myth and irony here, but really what’s been exposed is that Keith Briffa cannot justify the use of this Larch Orchard and the Enchanting Larch of Yamal.

  87. I’ll give you one Charlemagne chopping down the Sacred Larch for two Galileos whirling the earth around the sun.

  88. Dean said, “As both Real Climate and Roger Pielke have asked (they agree on something!), that he submit it to a proper journal”

    and Ben Hale said, “McIntyre presents a challenge to the accepted position. In this particular case, McIntyre’s claim that the finding is corrupt must be demonstrated as reasonable and pertinent. To establish this, it must be vetted by qualified reviewers, which neither of us are. Once it is vetted, then, and only then, does it become imperative for Briffa to take it seriously as a criticism against his work.”

    I ask “Why?” McIntyre’s argument is published now, and anyone with the necessary skills to be a “qualified reviewer” is able to critique it now. If it is a valid argument it won’t become any more valid by virtue of being published in Science or Nature, and if it is invalid it won’t be made any more invalid by virtue of being rejected by Science or Nature. The argument seems to be that the Journals constitute some kind of official court of science such that an onus of scientific proof can only be discharged in them. But I submit that Science is not subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the editors of prominent Journals. The community of scientists is much larger than that and communicates within its borders and across its borders through many more channels than just Scientific Journals. When Scientists seek a hearing in the court of public opinion and attempt to discharge their onus of proof there (as some climate scientist have done), they have no complaint if a critic endeavors to discharge his onus to show the invalidity of their proofs in the same forum. There are plenty of peers in the fields of Dendrology and Statistics who could review McIntyre’s post and who, presumably, care enough about the subject to care whether what he has said is true. Perhaps some of them will accept his invitation to post free of censorship on his blog, or perhaps some of them will post in other blogs which will allow him to reply free of censorship there.

  89. Ben,

    I was in your position six years ago, a philosopher/computer scientist wanting to get a handle on all of this. I will tell you that, after six years, I still don’t understand what is going on with the climate. I will also mention that I have a tremendous respect for Steve McIntyre.

    I do not share your confidence in peer review, at least not in the formal review process undertaken by academic journals. In our ideological culture, it has lost its credibility. Mother Nature is the final arbiter here, and she has not spoken clearly yet.

  90. Sometimes I wonder how many of the eager commenters on this “affair” have ever attempted to do any scientific work at all.

    Published (*) peer-review is not the start or the end of it. I see McIntyre’s work as equivalent to a short presentation or poster at an international scientific conference: it is made public before and without peer-review. Still, all interested parties ought better have a look at it even if it has not been published, especially when it raises questions on previous work.

    And yes, there is lots of rubbish presented at international scientific conferences, especially in the form of a poster presentation (just like on the internet). Everybody knows that, still it is unwise to miss the poster sessions as that’s where cutting-edge, challenging, rough-but-thought-provoking stuff starts from.

    And so, as Briffa has shown, if one is serious about his own work, the “short presentation in the shape of a blog” by Steve McIntyre does deserve careful analysis before and independently from seeing it peer-reviewed and published.

    Because by the time a McIntyre article surfaces in the pages of Nature or Science, it might (just might) be way too late for Briffa to salvage all those years of work without having to climb a very, very steep hill.

    (*) The peer-review requested by Pielke Jr and Schmidt needs to be qualified with “published”. Passing the filters of peer-review is never enough. One has also to find an Editor open-minded enough to let the article appear. There is in fact no obligation whatsoever on the part of an Editor to publish an article, even if it has received as many glowing peer-reviews as one wishes.

  91. Ben, thanks for your previous reply.

    You said…’assuming a role of impartiality doesn’t mean that one abandons judgement or reliance on expertise. Assuming impartiality just means that one tries to abandon irrelevant prejudices’
    Yes agreed. I worry however about the shades of grey eg when our assessments shift- or start shifting – from objective to subjective.Are we always aware of our own prejudices? Can we always tell the difference between relevant and irrelevant prejudice?

    BH:’I know them , and so at least as far as validity claims go , don’t have a reason to challenge them on their trustworthiness or integrity’
    We are both fortunate to know scientists who are honourable people.

    BH:’There’s no reason to abandon what I understand to be trustworthy evidence unless it can be demonstrated that my evidence is not trustworty’
    Agreed on evidence. Is it sometimes trustworthy advice instead of trustworthy evidence? I think there are times when the distinction needs to be made and/or can make a difference. I am also troubled by the idea that you/me/we would abandon what we understand (unless we were completely mistaken). Would it not be easier and more prudent to acknowledge that there will likely, at some future point, be a need to modify our understanding?

    BH: ‘Not everyone has this good fortune, but they do have the benefit of a peer review process, which, however flawed, is one of the better methods of discerning good researdh from from bad research’
    I would suggest that anonymous peer review is flawed. Anonymous reviewers carry no more responsibility than anonymous bloggers. Why should reviewers not be responsible and accountable for their work? (Good and bad research – could this be a new topic on its own?)

    BH:’And that again brings us back to this question of burden of proof. The burden of proof is on those who are challenging the established peer reviewed view’
    While I agree with you on this point I am not sure if you will agree with me:) It seemed to me that 20 years ago the historical, archaeological, climatological et al established peer reviewed wiew was that there was indeed a RWP and a MWP and a LIA. I thought the evidence was trustworthy. Now I see graphs of proxies that tell a different story on the front cover of IPCC reports and elsewhere.
    It seems to me , and correct me if I am wrong, that the makers of these proxy-graphs have on the whole been slow to release some of their data and methods – or slow to release most of their data and methods- or refuse to release any…
    Is not the burden of proof on the makers of the proxy-graphs to disprove the estabished peer reviewed view that previously prevailed.

  92. “To establish this, it must be vetted by qualified reviewers, which neither of us are. Once it is vetted, then, and only then, does it become imperative for Briffa to take it seriously as a criticism against his work.”

    It has been vetted by a qualified reviewer: Ross McIntrick. Both SM and RM have published in journals. But you must see that they are being held up to a higher standard than researchers on the other side of the debate? The vast majority of what passes for “research” today is published by press release. Regardless of whether it is peer reviewed or not, the blog format allows anyone, not just a closed cabal of self-interested “experts”, to review and submit comments. We are returning to the days before big science, where individuals, working in their back room, can create and disseminate Scientific knowledge. This can only be a good thing.

  93. Sadism is enjoying inflicting pain on others masochism is doing it to yourself. It seems to Eli that this topic is sado-masichism. BTW, what was the wine?

  94. So let us ask a few basic questions:

    1. The “data” the tree ring samples, belongs to the Russians. True or false.

    2. If 1 is true, the Russians are the ones to approach for the “data”. True or false

    3. Briffa and colleagues received the “data” and used them to construct a proxy record by joining the entire series they had received from the Russians. True or false.

    4. Briffa and colleagues disclosed their methods which had previously been described in enough detail that a skilled dendrologist could duplicate them. True or False.

    • Eli

      How can you avoid the most basic of questions

      0. Briffa refused for years to release the data related to his articles published in journals whose stated policy is that all data related to all published articles should be released. True or False.

      • If the data belongs to the Russians it IS NOT Briffa’s to release. Old principle.

        As far as I can see no one has touched this point, and it is vital to know WHAT data people are talking about.

    • omnologos’ question 0 overrides Eli’s 1-3.

      And the answer to #4 is “false”. Briffa admits he has some work to do in response to Steve’s challenge. And his work has nothing to do with #1-3 but with #4. Steve has challenged Briffa to disclose the justification for his apparently-incorrect statistical methods, which were NOT fully disclosed.

      If Briffa hid his use of an inadequate sample size for his RCS analysis, and if Briffa used methods that (unwittingly or not) misrepresent the climate of the region, then not only is it false that a skilled dendrologist could duplicate them, but also false that they would WANT to duplicate incorrect methods.

      Ben, do you not agree as a teacher that it is incumbent on scientists to uphold the integrity of the scientific method, promoting skill in proper use of methods that best enable us to observe and understand the reality of the world around us?

      If Briffa has failed at this, and if peer review has completely failed to recognize this failure, then this is Massive Fail of the scientific method and peer review process for nine years. If this is true, the problem (so far) is not being corrected by the self-correcting peer-review scientific method but by the new open-science method.

      • MrPete

        this is Massive Fail of the scientific method and peer review process

        I disagree. The method and the process are just fine. The failure is in their application. What is wrong is in having a “data disclosure policy” only then to refuse to follow it.

      • This becomes an interesting question that’s probably right up Ben’s alley, and apropos to many areas of policy and leadership around the world today.

        What does it take to create a workable set of policies and methods, when there’s a lack of integrity for conscientiously implementing those policies?

        I was reading a newspaper in a developing world nation a few years back, and marveled that a politician *convicted* of huge embezzlement was still in office. The published comment: “Of course he’s still in office. There are more than 50 officials in similar situations right now. They’ll stay as long as their supervisors still want them to remain.”

        Please understand, I’m NOT accusing anyone in the current situation of breaking any laws.

        I’m asking what seems to me a difficult philosophical question: how do you create a system of accountability for what is right, when few people in a position of leadership actually care about ethics?

      • If the data did not belong to Briffa he could not give it to anyone else. You got a massive fail here

      • If Briffa could not share the data, he could not publish.

        And neither could the others.

        You’re proving too much, Eli.

        McIntyre’s discovery only requires potential recalculation of the papers.

        Your claim would require retraction of the papers.

        Take your pick; which do you prefer? Both are bad science.

        You don’t teach scientific ethics do you? I sure hope not.

    • We honestly do not know yet if Briffa’s methods are incorrect on the surface. They appear to be incorrect, and they appear to misrepresent the climate of the region. Briffa needs to respond before the chapter is complete.

      The community now has a challenge: who is an adequate referee for this?

      Since the peer-review process has completely failed to disclose even the existence of this problem, is it capable of revealing the truth?

      Perhaps an open review is needed similar in some ways to the open science that disclosed the problem in the first place.

      Sunshine always seems a good disinfectant.

  95. Burden is on McIntyre? What tosh. The burden is on Briffa and the major institutions of “science” for violating its standards, practices and ethics.

    Or else, why would a certain Finnish climatologist write:

    “I put immediately forward a thesis that I’m glad to expose to public criticism: when later generations learn about climate science, they will classify the beginning of 21st century as an embarrassing chapter in history of science. They will wonder our time, and use it as a warning of how the core values and criteria of science were allowed little by little to be forgotten as the actual research topic — climate change — turned into a political and social playground.”

    Indeed-we all have been wondering.

  96. omnologos unduly diminishes McIntyre’s scientific activity.

    First, there are the demanding requirements of the Canadian authorities regulating securities in the mining industry. Has omnologos done this? Nope.

    Hoe about Mcintyre’s status as an expert IPCC reviewer? No.

    This was consequent to publishing in GRL and E&E on climate. As well as presenting to The World Federation of Scientists at Erice, Itraly.

    omnologos ? Thought not.

    Then there are the citations upon causing a major scientific row over thee Hockey Stick, and two NAS panels set to work. Tell you what: nobody opining here has done that!

    • Orson – I can’t understand your comment…where did I “diminish” McIntyre’s activity? Or are you trying to be somehow humorous?

  97. The notion that the burden of proof is on McIntyre in this situation is a negation of the epistemological foundation of science.

    The primary epistemological basis of science is the process of induction — the process of observing reality and gathering data to establish the facts, i.e. to establish the truth. Induction as a process depends crucially on the accuracy and sufficiency of the supporting data.

    The notion that a scientist can make a claim, but is not obligated to release the data supporting it, amounts to the demand that we accept his claim on the basis of NO evidence, i.e. that we accept on the basis of FAITH.

    Faith has no place in science — and that includes the notion that certain “qualified authorities” have a right to be taken on faith based on their alleged “qualifications”. There is simply no substitute for reason and evidence in supporting a scientific claim. Anyone who makes a claim about reality but refuses to support it by releasing his data and methods has evicted himself from the realm of science.

  98. Mr Pete

    > how do you create a system of accountability

    I am not sure we can do much more than we do now. One position that IMNSHO should be chopped off at once is the one of “Editor-Dictator” 😎

    What I would really not like to see is people throw the babies (the scientific method, the peer-review process) with the bathwater (the withholding of the data). I am pretty confident Science is robust enough to find a way out of what is not true, even if it might take a generation or more for that to happen.

    I fully expect the “It’s all CO2! It’s all AGW!” dogma to evaporate between 2018 and 2091.

    If you look at what might be better described as “the Pre-cambrian Scandal“, when obvious evidence was dismissed by scientific consensus for nine decades, you’ll know what I mean…

    • It seems there’s a significant policy implication here.

      Right now, published material achieves instant fame if not fortune. PR proclivities amplify the effect. Policy further entrenches the situation. And since the claimed outcomes are so dire, the world is already implementing expensive policies in support of that action.

      If we’re seeing Yet Another Proof that science can take many decades to correctly understand the situation, perhaps we need to be a bit more cautious about our policies.

      In software R&D methodology terms: Skunkworks or XP rather than Waterfall.

  99. Briffa’s study has now been shown to be incompetent. If this had been discovered shortly after it was published there would have been no problem. The problem is it was not discovered until now but the results have been used in many peer reviewed subsequent papers. All of the papers and journal articles that have relied on Briffa’s work should now be retracted.

    The EPA has proposed that CO2 is a hazardous substance based on the “peer reviewed” papers and not on any validated science. Policy is being set on incompetent work.

    Many scientific papers are published as part of on going work. This gives a chance for the work to be reviewed and suggestions made for improvements. The peer review often means little more that the paper is interesting and worthy of dissemination to a wide audience. It does not mean it is correct. Briffa knew his work was being widely used by others but continued to stonewall the release of the original data. The consequences of hiding the data are so bad that one has to call this scientific misconduct.
    The worst part of this is that a number of prominent journals and funding agencies have allowed this to happen even when they had policies that stated that the original data should be made available. They are now tainted with misconduct for not enforcing their own policies.

  100. Re: Sadism and wine.

    The wine was some cheap schwag we scored at our local liquor super-mart. Yellow Tail, I believe. But I like it.

    On sadism: I’m enjoying myself. Presumably the rest of you are writhing in pain. Maybe there’s some element of Schade for me too (as when I read the painfully twisted logic in some comments), so I guess the S&M label fits. Plus, it works nicely with the title of my blog.

  101. Blinding icy glints,
    The bright flash of hockey sticks.
    Penalty: Briffa.

  102. Oligohydramnios@7:59am: “It’s all CO2! It’s all AGW!”

    Are reputable people actually saying this? Even with my basic and flawed understanding of AGW, this is expressly not what people are saying. I call straw man.

    • Why is it that there’s always a wise guy making jokes on other people’s usernames?

      Anyway, here’s your straw-man

      The main reason for concern about anthropogenic climate change is not that we can already see it (although we can). The main reason is twofold.
      (1) Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are increasing rapidly in the atmosphere due to human activity. This is a measured fact not even disputed by staunch “climate skeptics”.
      (2) Any increase in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will change the radiation balance of the Earth and increase surface temperatures. This is basic and undisputed physics that has been known for over a hundred years.”

      aka “It’s all CO2 (and other GHGs)! It’s all AGW!”. It’d be nice to hear if the people at RC are “concerned” about anything else.

      • Oligo: Sorry about the name jab. Oligohydramnios is nothing to be embarrassed about.

        But okay, so we revise the first portion of your statement to include GHGs. The second portion is also suspect. “It’s all AGW!” I call straw man.

  103. Omigod, Ben, you’ve really got to read up. The Whole Question is what is the true effect of CO2. Granted, Arrhenius was on to something, perhaps 0.5 to 1.0 degrees C temperature rise per doubling of CO2 concentration. This is one tenth to one fifth the effect, or less, than is claimed by those seeking carbon encumbrance. The true effect of CO2 on climate is unknown, and is conceivably even a cooling one. We need to know more, backed with replicable science, before we enact multi-trillion dollar policy.

  104. I guess we can just spit out methane then. That right?

    • At the very least, we can recognize that our understanding of methane impact is significantly changing. IIRC it was this decade that bovine methane production was discovered as a significant factor.

      Cows: the amazing new technology of the 21st century 🙂

      • Ah, interesting, so it’s not widely held that it’s all CO2 all the time.

      • I certainly haven’t seen credible “all CO2” arguments. However, that appears to be the primary policy push.

        That’s why I prefer incremental approaches (my “Skunkworks/XP vs Waterfall” comment above.)

        Personally, I’m constantly bemused by mankind’s tendency to think we can wholesale “fix” nature. Far more evidence that we mess it up worse with our attempts to mitigate.

        Staying out of the way generally works well of course.

        Seems Roger would agree, based on his recent book recommendation.

        One of these days, I’m gonna have to stop by. After all, one daughter went to school there, and another works right down the street…

  105. First, I join those who have expressed appreciation for Ben’s openness to comments from dissenting positions on this blog. It’s healthy.

    I amazed though, that all all the very smart minds on either side of this discussion, that everyone has missed what the subject is about which the burden of proof discussion revolves. this isn’t about AGW or CO2. This is about the hypothesis that these tree ring studies demonstrate that temperatures prior to the instrumental record were roughly flat for over a thousand years before the instrumental temperature rise of the past century.

    What one concludes about other matters such as CO2, AGW, etc are a completely different (albeit important) matter.

    From a scientific method perspective, the question of burden of proof rests with those promoting a hypothesis, until it becomes a theory. Note that I use those terms specifically. There are many definitions, and an interesting discussion of the evolution of terms here:


    The essence of relevance in this discussion is whether the hypothesis that temperatures were roughly flat for so long has reached the point of being considered to be a theory. I contend that it has not, given all the evidence of the MWP from sites all around the world. As long as the flat temperature approximation remains a hypothesis, it remains the burden of proof of those promoting it, such as Briffa. When evidence is presented that is credible (peer review is not a requirement for credibility) contradicts the hypothesis, it remains for those promoting the hypothesis to carry the burden of proving their hypothesis.

    I contend that this is where we sit. Any number of scientists can ‘accept’ the hypothesis, but that does not promote it to the status of a theory as long as there is so much existence of the MWP that has not been refuted.

    Briffa uses his Yamal data as one attempt to prove the hypothesis, but it is still a bypothesis. So sound statistical analyses that suggest that Briffa’s analysis MAY be incorrect tosses the ball back in Briffa’s court to prove his hypothesis.

    The “Brillo” argument is a red herring. Briffa is doing statistical analysis. Statistical evidence and mathematical models of what constitute valid statistical samples constitute credible evidence. The “Brillo” red herring is not credible evidence and as such is not a valid analogy.

  106. Ben

    About “It’s all AGW!”

    Forgive me if I re-quote part of the RC blog already mentioned, with added emphasis to help see the point

    The main reason for concern about anthropogenic climate change[…]
    Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are increasing rapidly in the atmosphere due to human activity[…]

    Am I incorrect in interpreting the above as saying that they (and by simple logical extension) the scientific consensus on Climate Change, are concerned because human activities are increasing ghg’s (and especially, CO2) in the atmosphere?

    What was the IPCC established for, after all, if not to investigate the warming effects of CO2/GHGs emissions from human activities? Here’s from the FAR (1990) as per Wikipedia

    …emissions resulting from human activities are substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gases: CO2, methane, CFCs and nitrous oxide. These increases will enhance the greenhouse effect, resulting on average in an additional warming of the Earth’s surface…

    And therefore, what exactly is wrong in the synthesis “It’s all CO2! It’s all AGW”?

    Apart from it being a synthesis…would you fault a newspaper article’s title if it didn’t cover each and every detail mentioned in the article?

    • Nothing in those quotes rules out the possibility that concurrent natural GW is also in play. As far as I’m concerned, those quotes are exactly right: we should be concerned with what we’re doing. And here are some basic facts: when I burn a gallon of gas, I emit pollutants into the atmosphere. I should be concerned about that. I have a derivation of why elsewhere, but that’s my position. IPCC is looking at the aggregate effects. They’re concerned about any causal connection between what we do and what’s happening to the climate.

      • Look, CO2 and H2O are the necessary and natural byproducts of that gasoline combustion. The pollutants are scrubbable, similarly coal plant stacks.

        The rabbet leaves droppings but why these droppings? The Russians have a rationale for their selection for the Corridor Standardization methodology. What is Keith Briffa’s rationale for his picking among their sample for an entirely different methodology, that of RCS, for which a dozen trees is manifestly too few?

  107. As someone who does my share of peer review (often seems like way more than my share!) I’d like to comment about what peer review actually does as practiced today (with the caveat that peer review is obviously somewhat different in different disciplines, which I’ll discuss briefly below).

    Peer review in most fields establishes two things about a submitted paper–plausibility and conformance to the accepted practices of the discipline. It does NOT establish validity. This distance between plausibility and validity increases as the field grows noisier, as the pre-processing of data swells, as the required statistical sophistication of data processing develops, and as the possible political, financial, and/or emotional biases of the reviewers become larger or more deeply ingrained for whatever reasons.

    Climate science is, of course, an especially politically charged discipline, with financial incentives abounding and environmental romanticism, public approbation, and technological world-view strongly influencing different reviewers’ emotional reaction to the papers they review. On top of that, climate science papers fall into the unusually noisy category (sharing the problems of many medical papers and geology/anthropology/sociology papers).

    For many reviewers who are teaching classes and doing their own research, they just don’t have time to completely replicate the work they are reviewing (nor are they expected to). On top of that, reviewers often can’t even properly comment on the methods used to manipulate the raw data in a paper–there are very few climatologists with anything resembling a nuanced understanding of the proper statistical treatment of time-series data (as evidenced in the frequent disputes between climate scientists and statisticians about methodology), and, most importantly, lots of the manipulation and, particularly, the selection of data is done “off-radar”, with at most broad, conceptual explanations of what was done.

    The dominant paradigm of climate scientists right now is a pro CO2-induced AGW mindset, and that factors into peer review as well–when examining the plausibility of a paper, one is inevitably tempted to consider papers that agree with the paradigm more favorably. The evidence for this across fields is undisputed.

    To summarize, a pro-AGW paper being peer reviewed by other climate scientists is probably (like Briffa appears to have been) being considered favorably because of its results, is being reviewed by reviewers who know and often have co-authored with the paper’s writer, likely contains undisclosed data treatment that influences the result, is being reviewed by reviewers who do not have the mathematical background to spot subtle statistical errors, and is being judged on “conformity to accepted practices in the discipline” in a discipline that is evolving so quickly that the “accepted practices” themselves are not well validated.

    I’m not sure that this kind of peer review means what many of us appear to think it does.

  108. Eli STILL wants to know WHAT data everyone is panting over and who OWNS it to give away. Everyone is avoiding this.

    • Mr. Halpern,

      Don’t be disingenuous. You know exactly what data. The real question is why you deem it so important to keep the data secret yet trust the conclusions drawn from the secret data.



    • > Eli STILL wants to know WHAT data

      Maurizio STILL says that if you CANNOT publish the data, you SHOULD NOT publish any article about that data either

      • Answer the question folks. It looks more and more that the data was the Russian tree ring information which belonged to the Russians and which they had published on previously. Data shared by it’s owners cannot be ethically given to a third party by the people it was given to.

        You could try it. Once.

        So what we seem to have here is McIntyre asking the wrong person for something that is not his.

        Our ethics guy should say something about this

      • Haven’t you evacuated enough, rabbet? I laid a snare for you in the 1:47 response to Ben. The Russians selected this sample for a corridor standardization methodology; Briffa picked among the sample for a subsample manifestly too small for his methodology, that of RCS. Briffa should explain his own actions.

      • So, everyone agrees the data belonged to the Russians. Good to know.

      • Eli,
        If the data belonged to the Russians, and was not available to be made public, then Briffa had no right to publish a paper based on that data in any journal with policies requiring disclosure of the data.

        No matter how you cut it, this appears to be a Fail.

      • You don’t have a clue about the ethics of this situation, do you?

        Ray Ladbury said it well:

        Now hold on just a wee minute. One does not release data one has obtained elsewhere without the express consent of the individual one got it from AND from whoever signs the paycheck of said individual. There is nothing to stop McI or any other Frauditor from going to the Russians and asking for the data. There is no reason why, given McI’s lack of publication record, the Russians should take him seriously, but if they did, McI could then audit the data to his hearts content. Ignoramuses who know nothing of how science is done have no business criticizing Briffa or other working scientists. NONE! Science doesn’t advance by “audits”. It advances when other researchers improve on a previous result and in so doing either confirm or refute it.

        To date, ALL reconstructions show a hockey-stick like rise in the 20th century. Some hockey sticks have long handles, some shorter, but the anomalously large rise in temperature in the 20th century AND EXTENDING INTO THE 21ST, is undeniable. Briffa’s work is thereby confirmed.

      • Josh “I Can’t Teach” Halpern says “Science doesn’t advance by “audits”.”

        Josh, what would you know about science? Published much lately? I think not.

        Why should anyone care about a can’t-publish-can’t-teach-professor at Howard U whose claim to fame is 1 zillion content-free blog comments impressioning a rabbit over the past year?


      • Mr. Rabbet, do you have any idea how weak a response and absurd these comments are? Has the Duchess rushed you?

        From your 10/3 comment @ 7:44 pm, how does ownership make any difference on transparency and replicability, which are the critical points in this debate?

        And from 10/3 @ 10:26: ‘Ignoramuses who know nothing of how science is done’ sounds a lot like the ad hominem argumentation for which you are admittedly fond.

        You are factually wrong about hockey sticks and all temperature reconstructions. Loehle-McCulloch is likely the best reconstruction presently extant.

      • Eli,
        Don’t bother linking RC comments. Nobody who disagrees — or even wants to add to the discussion from a helpful-but-nonaligned perspective — can get a word in edgewise. So anything said there is unvetted blather.

        You can talk about protected data all you want. It doesn’t make a hill of beans difference to this case.

        Journals require disclosure of data. If the data is confidential, the work can’t be published. Period.

        That’s the ethics.

        PS: Eli, do you have ANY background in ethics? I see little evidence of it if you do. Not that it matters, but I do, including a few decades of experience with both IP-protected and open-source developments.

      • PS, MrPete; I agree with Eli that special attention ought to be paid to the ethics complaint he brings. I’m reminded of the last refuge of a running, but tired, rabbet. I’m speaking of a tactic long past the leaving of calling cards.

        What’s that phrase in ‘The Once and Future King’? Shall we go ‘spooring’?

      • Kim, I think you may have been confused by the various replies. Eli’s one Rabbett who doesn’t think there’s anything to be concerned about the ethics displayed by Briffa in this.

      • Well, MP, you’re right, and wrong. I’m confused by the hypocrisy of Eli’s ethics charges, and the phoniness, too. My statement about special attention for Eli’s charges was both ironical and not. I’d consider our host delinquent if he fails to understand and comment on the ‘ethics’ of Eli, the running Rabbett. Why am I reminded of last refuges?

    • Briffa has now released the data. If it was not OK to release the data (because the Russians said not to), then it would never have been released, and Briffa would have used that excuse as to why he couldn’t release it. Your only out on this Eli is to say that the Russians changed their mind recently, and if so, the burden of proof is on you. Otherwise, sorry, try other tactic.

  109. You are missing the point completely. The issue is nothing to do with Briffa. The issue is whether we have enough reason, based on the various Hockey Stick materials which have been made available, to invest trillions of dollars. This is a net present value question, not a raw science or motivation question. What is the expected value of that investment compared to others, or no investment at all, and what is the evidence for it?

    Expected value, in case your finance course are a few years back, is net cash flow times probability.

    Was Briffa’s choice of trees correct? Well, the question is whether any selection is justified. If so, we need to know why, what the rationale is. We have none. All we know is that if you do a study with 12 trees from the region you get one result, if you do it with a different 12 you get another. What does that do to expected value?

    If I look at rental returns from 10 properties in a city, I get one result. If I look at a different 10 I get another. Do I invest? Or do I decide that this whole thing is a lot harder to figure, and perhaps a lot riskier, and thus has a lower expected value, than I had thought? If I find that it is very very hard indeed to find properties which over time give good returns, well, perhaps this is telling me something about the real estate market these days.

    Much of Briffas conclusion on global temps appears to depend greatly on just one tree. As we have just found out.

    Now, when we start in my example doing the math on different property samples, the first thing we want to do is talk to the guy who proposed the investment. In the Briffa case, we discover that he will not tell us which properties he selected or why. Its only when he is forced to tell us by external forces, that we discover that a different selection led to a different conclusion, but he concealed that for 10 years.

    Its real simple, we do not invest. This is way, way too risky. The expected value is way way too low. May even be negative.

    Don’t get all messed up with motivation, snarkiness, even whether AGW is right or wrong. This is about Keith Briffa, promoter and investment broker. He is urging you to invest with him based on some data and some studies. Should you?

    On what we now know, hell no!

  110. Orson says: “(the) Burden is on McIntyre? What tosh.”

    Michael Smith, Gary Palmgren, and many others above also understand the Scientific Method. But Ben Hale still doesn’t understand how the Scientific Method works. I’m here to help:

    The long accepted theory of natural climate variability posits that the climate warms and cools on a multi-decadal time scale oscillating above and below a multi-century, gradually increasing trend line going back to the Little Ice Age (LIA), and before that, to the last great Ice Age.

    That theory makes the climate generally predictable, and shows that natural global warming and cooling cycles regularly occur.

    But now there is an upstart hypothesis, which attempts to replace the theory of natural climate variability with a new hypothesis claiming a relatively flat and unchanging climate from before the Medieval Warming Period (MWP) until the mid-1800’s, when, because of increasing levels of carbon dioxide due to human activity, the climate began rapidly warming.

    Michael Mann’s scary looking (and now thoroughly discredited) Hockey Stick chart was a result of the new AGW hypothesis. It shows a very flat climate until the 1800’s; no MWP and no LIA.

    Because of the McIntyre/McKitrick/Wegman falsification of the Mann Hockey Stick graph, the UN/IPCC was forced to stop using it [although they now use even less credible hockey stick graphs, none of which are as visually frightening as Mann’s].

    The new CO2=AGW hypothesis is unable to predict the climate. Not one of the 20+ climate GCMs (computer climate models) were able to predict the past year’s unusually severe Northern Hemisphere winter. Further, none of the models predicted the flat to declining temperatures from 2002 onward. A valid hypothesis must have predictive value. The CO2=AGW hypothesis does not.

    As climatologist Dr. Roy Spencer says: “No one has falsified the hypothesis that the observed temperature changes are a consequence of natural variability.”

    The CO2=AGW hypothesis/conjecture fails, not only because it can not make valid predictions, but because it can not falsify or replace the current theory of natural climate variability.

    The current benign climate is well within the parameters of past natural climate variability. There is nothing unusual about today’s climate, despite the incessant scare stories in the media, and by dubious claims from rent-seeking grant hogs who intend to keep both front feet in the public trough through their alarming predictions, based solely on computer climate models.

    It is not the duty nor the responsibility of skeptical scientists [the only legitimate scientists] to pass any kind of peer review. Rather, it is required by the Scientific Method that the entity proposing a new hypothesis, such as CO2=AGW, must withstand falsification of the hypothesis. This requires total transparency and sharing of all data and methodologies — something the AGW crowd refuses to provide in most instances. And when it is finally grudgingly given up, as in the Briffa case, it is quickly falsified.

    There is no real world, empirical evidence that human activity causes measurable global warming. None. Any *very* minor warming due to human emissions of CO2 — if it exists at all — is overcome by many other factors, and thus can be completely disregarded as insignificant for all practical purposes.

    Furthermore, human contributions of CO2 compared with natural emissions are themselves insignificant: click. For every molecule of CO2 emitted by human activity, the Earth emits 33.34 molecules. Human emissions of CO2 are within the annual variability of the planet’s natural CO2 emissions.

    Finally, the relatively small clique (Prof. Wegman’s term) of climate peer review gatekeepers is not much larger than the UN/IPCC’s 51 authors of the IPCC’s Assessment Reports.

    Contrast that tiny number of well-paid political appointees with the voluntary signers of the OISM Petition, which states:

    The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind. There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.

    That statement has been signed by over 31,000 American scientists. Emails are not accepted; they had to download, print, sign and mail in their hard copy in order to be added to the list. And only those with degrees in the hard sciences are accepted; no English Lit, Sociology or Ethnic Studies majors are accepted [or any “studies” majors for that matter].

    Those 31,000+ scientists — a real consensus — understand the Scientific Method. They themselves do not need to be peer reviewed. Only the proposer of a new hypothesis, such as the CO2=AGW hypothesis, must be peer reviewed. Their experiments must be testable and falsifiable. And that is the reason the promoters of the AGW scare deliberately hide out from disclosing their data and methodologies: they have made a conscious choice between grants and status, and ethical behavior based on the Scientific Method.

  111. Regarding burden of proof I’d like to pose a question:

    If McIntyre disappeared tomorrow and never wrote another word, would it be reasonable for any scientist to use Briffa’s findings in a new paper without his (McIntyre’s) questions being addressed?

    I would say not, and until there are answers to these questions a peer reviewer should reject any paper future making use of Briffa’s findings.

    As a result the burden of proof lies with Briffa if he wants his work to be used, or if Briffa fails to meet this obligation then the burden lies with whoever wishes to use Briffa’s work.

    Who would judge whether McIntyre’s questions are important enough for reviewers to act like this? I’m a layman here, but as far as I can tell, that is a responsibility of the reviewers themselves. If McIntyre gets this work published in a reputable scientific journal then it is more likely that the reviewer will insist the questions are covered. However it should not be necessary for reviewers to wait until McIntyre’s work is published before raising the questions with future scientific authors.

    The next question is about making use of papers that relied on Briffa. Any scientist should be cautious about doing so.

  112. Prof. Hale:

    Are you asking, does science proceed rationally? Perhaps, moreso than many human endeavors–in the long run, and, perhaps, in the short run, too. But science is also fraught with hypocrisy, politics, low cunning, and the human condition. Peer review is no panacea (I know you didn’t claim that). But peer review might, at least, moderate the usual human drift toward self interest and corruption. So that’s a good thing.

    As I understand it, Mr. McIntyre threw down a reasonably well defined gauntlet. You, equally reasonably, argue that he needs no response until his claim has had time to be vetted–a process that is always political in the near term. Why else the snark from RealClimate? One might speculate that all the hand waving is a distraction from the basic question of the suitability of Briffa’s fundamental data. It’s good, I think, to direct us toward vetting that claim. The argument can’t reasonably proceed until the relative (and I use that term carefully) merit of the charge has been discerned. The rest is sound and fury.

    The possbility of “vetting” anything is a question for another day.

  113. (apologies for my “double personality”…sometimes WordPress makes me appear as “Maurizio Morabito”, my real name, other times as “omnologos”, my WordPress account…I’ll try to fix that…)

    Ben writes about the “It’s all CO2! It’s all AGW!” slogan:

    Nothing in those quotes rules out the possibility that concurrent natural GW is also in play.

    Let’s look at it from a purely logical point of view.

    What would happen if human activities would not be emitting CO2/GHGs? There would be no IPCC.
    What would happen had it been thought there were no AGW, Anthropogenic Global Warming? There would be no IPCC.

    That is, CO2/GHGs and AGW are necessary conditions for the whole IPCC/AGW scientific consensus to exist.

    What would happen if the only driver for climate change were human emissions of CO2/GHGs? There would still be an IPCC.
    What would happen if the only climate phenomenon of note were AGW? There would still be an IPCC.

    That is, CO2/GHGs and AGW are sufficient conditions for the whole IPCC/AGW scientific consensus to exist.

    Therefore, since CO2/GHG emissions and AGW are both necessary and sufficient for the IPCC and the AGW scientific consensus to exist, the IPCC and the AGW scientific consensus are for all intents and purposes exclusively dedicated to CO2/GHG emissions and AGW. “It’s all CO2! It’s all AGW”.


    Hence, as remarked by MrPete, the “primary policy push” is about GHGs, and in particular about CO2.

    In a saner world, in fact, we would have gone a long way already to eliminate that other, and shall I say even more established source of climate change and untold numbers of respiratory diseases and deaths, namely soot. And especially the soot generated by primitive cooking stoves.

    It is one of the biggest tragedies of the AGW consensus: we could have in a month a 10-year worldwide plan to physically eliminate all human emissions of soot at a relatively minor cost…look instead how many person-years are being wasted for a Copenhagen deal that everybody well knows it will be ineffectual and costly at best. But what can we do? It’s all CO2! It’s all AGW!

  114. OK Ben. If you believe the onus is on Steve M, then what would you propose that he do?

    What specific activity would satisfy your argument that he needs to show that the methods used by Biffra were faulty?


    • Sorry if misunderstood you, omnologos.

      I am late catching up on this thread. I noticed your mention of McIntyre’s poster presentation at AGU -I understood you to imply “that’s all he’s done” (above my posts).

      After sleep, I realize I do recognize your photo from your own blog on AGW. Mr. “Maurizio Morabito “.

      • Orson

        A poster or oral presentation at an international scientific conference is nothing to be contemptuous about.

        Gordon Teal for example told a 1954 conference of the Institute of Radio Engineers

        Contrary to what my colleagues have told you about the bleak prospects for silicon transistors, I happen to have a few of them here in my pocket.

        And by the way…Edwin Hubble’s January 1, 1925 announcement on galaxies being their own “island universes”, I don’t think that had been peer-reviewed either…

  115. Omnologos,

    I don’t think anyone on the skeptic side of the AGW debate is saying that human activity has zero effect on the climate. At this point we simply don’t know — which is quite a different attitude than what plenty of alarmists believe.

    CO2 rises follow increases in temperature, but not vice-versa. And human emissions of CO2 are minuscule compared to the planet’s natural emissions.

    The Economist debate that just ended [see here] is filled with people who appear to be entirely clueless about reality. Lots of them want the use of fossil fuels stopped right now.

    But as one commenter pointed out, fossil fuels have provided the means to substantially extend human life and health. Try doing your laundry for just one day using a washboard or river rocks, or cutting and baling hay without the electricity produced by fossil fuels.

    And if we’re being honest about alternative energy sources, they can only compete with fossil fuel and nuclear power due to the extra-heavy taxpayer subsidies they receive.

    Regarding your comment about the IPCC, they are entirely self-serving, and the proof will come in December when a thousand taxpayer-funded gluttons fly first class to Copenhagen to feast on lobster, caviar and champagne, and party the night away while blinking back crocodile tears over the additional heavy burden that CO2 reduction will put on the backs of the world’s poor.

    The money that goes into mitigating CO2 (and the most preposterously stupid idea currently in existence: sequestering this beneficial trace gas underground) would be much better spent on providing the world’s poor with sanitary facilities, vaccination programs, malaria eradication, primary education, clean water, agricultural assistance, etc.

    But, NO-O-O. These greedy folks are scheming to funnel taxpayer $Trillions into make-work boondoggles that, by the IPCC’s own admission, will only make a tiny fraction of a degree difference by the end of the century. Does it make sense to starve many other programs of the funds they need in order to feed the fabricated CO2 beast the IPCC has deliberately created?

    If the UN/IPCC was formed because of the CO2 question (and in large part it was, but for political reasons, not because of science), then they, along with the entire climate alarmist crowd, are deliberately disregarding Occam’s Razor:

    “Never increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything.”
    ~ William of Ockham (1285-1349)

    Demonizing a very minor and entirely beneficial trace gas like CO2 — which is every bit as harmless, and necessary to life on Earth as H2O — was the reason for the IPCC. They didn’t go partying and feasting in Bali to admit that they have no empirical evidence that CO2 is a problem, or that it causes any warming; that admission would cut off the UN’s gravy train. In the mean time, skeptical scientists are still waiting for that first bit of real world AGW evidence.

    What the IPCC (or anyone else, including climate modelers) should have done initially is to model the climate without adding the unnecessary entity of CO2. When that is done now, the results are indistinguishable from the model results that include CO2. What does that tell you?

    Good scientists are natural skeptics. And they see that the “evidence” for the AGW conjecture comes from always-inaccurate computer models, not from the real world. There is no empirical evidence that an increase in CO2 causes global warming: click.

    Furthermore, the planet’s temperature is almost exactly what it was thirty years ago: click. The planet itself is falsifying the CO2=AGW conjecture.

    Based on those simple facts, I’d like someone to explain to us exactly why we are expected to spend $Trillions to “mitigate” the CO2 non-problem.

    • Smokey

      I don’t think anyone on the skeptic side of the AGW debate is saying that human activity has zero effect on the climate

      Well, some people are, but I am not.

      Interestingly, AGW-believer Michael Shermer of Skeptic Society fame has recently published a blog where he strongly argues against

      all extremist plans that entail expenses best described as Brobdingnagian, require our intervention into developing countries best portrayed as imperialistic, or involve state controls best portrayed as fascistic

      The link to the blog (pardon me for the #’s, it’s to avoid going into this blog’s spam folder) is http:##skepticblog.org#2009#09#29#economic-triage-for-global-climate-change

  116. Bruce asked what extra advantage is given by going through peer review. Really?

    Consider the criminal prosecutor’s example. Should people be tried on blogs rather than get their day in court? If a prosecutor misbehaves in an official duty, should that be decided in blogs? Hey – maybe we could impeach the President on a birther blog for being born in Timbuktu. Really.

    For many things of importance, we have defined processes for adjudicating disputes. The word DUE is sometimes used regarding that process. People reading this blog are free to form their own opinion, and obviously many have. But personally, I do not have the time to read volumes of papers – the original piece, the criticism, etc. And further – yes – I trust scientists who have been studying the issue for decades, and studying the work of others who have studied it for decades before. They aren’t perfect, and neither is peer review, but it is the best around.

    Briffa used a small number of trees for a specific reason, because he felt that other trees were affected significantly by factors other than temperature. The question is whether this process was flawed, and even if it wasn’t, whether the small number of trees is adequate to form a trend that he did. If you believe you have the expertise to come to a thoughtful conclusion on that question, then by all means. But I have no reason to trust any of you individually more than I do to decide my guilt if I was criminally charged. I want a jury trial, not a blog trial.

    A defined process that has been used for a long time is not perfect, but it is better. And by the way, I trust juries to decide guilt and innocence more than I trust myself after reading a few articles in the newspaper or watching a cable news show about the case.

    The point here is that having Briffa debate McIntyre on CA is pointless. What is the process for reaching a conclusion? Or is that so many of you already have a conclusion and nothing more is needed? I don’t think that’s McIntyre’s position. And that’s why he needs to take this to the proper venue for resolution.

    So the onus is on SM to take his points to a journal, then the onus will be on Briffa to respond.

    • Dean @ 6:06 pm. I’d like to focus on these two sentences of yours: “Briffa used a small number of trees for a specific reason; because he felt that other trees were affected significantly by factors other than temperature. The question is whether this process was flawed, and even if it wasn’t, whether the small number of trees is adequate to form a trend that he did”.

      Well, first of all, you don’t know the specific reasons Briffa chose this sample; you are utterly and vacantly speculating. His choice is a very important question, unanswered as of yet.

      Second, it is not a matter of opinion that the sample is too small for RCS methodology. So his sample is inadequate. This is not a matter of ‘trust’ or of ‘trial’. This is why the ‘burden of proof’ is on Briffa. The fact is that he cannot prove that it is an adequate sample.

      Here’s a lovely irony for you. This column is all about ‘burden of proof’, but the burden for Briffa is unprovable. All this rhetoric is just storm tossed words. Briffa’s hockey stick, and the other hockey sticks he’s midwived, are stillborn.

    • Dean, the advantage of publication USED to be that information about your experiment got out to others. Publication required that the idea be well written and appropriately documented to allow reproduction of the experiment. Publication was not only a mechanism of communication, it also provided a road map so that others could build upon the work of the original author.

      Peer review wasn’t intended to be an audit of the work… it is meant only to provide a initial review… to make sure that the message in the paper was plausible and communicated in a way so as to be understandable.

      Those criteria (at least in this instance) now exist without the need for journal publication. The methods are described, the programs available, the data linked. In fact, you can now repeat the experiment yourself if you so chose. Others have done so (which is a HIGHER standard that what exists in most peer review processes).

      That’s my point.

      It seems that what you REALLY want is someone else to tell you it’s OK to accept or reject the paper (appeal to authority).


    • Come closer, Dean; I have a little snare for you, too. It has to do with deselecting other trees that were ‘affected significantly by factors other than temperature’. Can you avoid the trap even though warned?

      My understanding of this particular point, though, has been critical for opening a pathway to forgiveness of Keith Briffa and others breathing with him; they were naive to proper statistics. They really thought it was OK to check their tree sample with temperature records. This is a different matter than absence of transparency; this is just plain ignorance.

  117. Dean, the criminal prosecutor analogy is inapt. No one on a blog or any other can discipline Briffa for scientific misconduct, fudging the data, or withholding algorithms. But we can point those things out.

    The great value in blogs is getting information out that isn’t being reported by the major media or the scientific journals. We would not have heard a word about Briffa’s shenanigans if not for the internet. As it is, it took ten years to make him cough up the data. As stated above, the Scientific Method required him to provide the backup info promptly to anyone who asked for it.

    Keith Briffa used a very small set of trees in one small locale on which to base his worldwide conclusions. In fact, if one single tree (YAD061) was removed, there would be no hockey stick.

    You can see a completely different result when a) the Briffa trees are used; b) a larger set of trees was used in a previously peer reviewed sample (Schweingruber et. al), and c) Briffa’s tiny sample, combined with Schweingruber’s: click.

    You are making a very weak argument by conflating blog info with criminal prosecutors. As stated, we would know none of this if it were not for sites like this.

    Finally, a new Yamal analysis by Bishop Hill is worth reading: click.

    And if you liked that, you will love this one: click.

  118. Smokey should take a look at the Briffa reconstruction when YAD061 is removed. Hardly affects the shape. Wanna try again?

  119. I’ve seen it and I don’t buy it. I’ll go with the chart posted by Steve McIntyre here. It has facts, vs opinion. And Briffa is still backing and filling, when he should man-up and answer the questions about his methodology and how he chose his pet trees. But that may take another ten years.

    Perhaps Eli Rabett might better spend his time improving his teaching, rather than trying to claim that one tree doesn’t really matter.

    • “I’ve seen it and I don’t buy it”

      You’re making this a question of belief. Its not. Its a question of science. If Tom P.’s math is right, then it is the collection of 10 trees, not just a single one that is making the difference.

      If he’s wrong, it won’t be because you believe McIntyre’s graph, but because Tom made an error.

      Either way, the Briffa study has been invalidated (NOT because you believe in McIntyre, but because science tells us so).

      • Hi Jason,

        I think I didn’t make myself clear enough. Sorry.

        Belief has nothing to do with my view; skepticism has everything to do with it.

        I’ve been closely following the CO2=AGW debate for many years. Before I retired I worked 30 years in a Metrology lab, calibrating weather related instruments (temp, humidity, dew point, frost point, barometric, and other weather/climate related instruments.) The instrument manufacturers regularly sent us the current literature. In out lab there were more than 140 engineers and technicians. It would be safe to say that not one believed that CO2 alters the climate as is claimed.

        As a scientific skeptic (a redundant term) I am still waiting for verifiable, testable and reproducible evidence that a tiny trace gas rules the climate. If anyone has real world evidence to that effect, please post it.

        Regarding my personal decision to reject the chart in question, I think that the eight sigma deviation that one single tree had on the result should be dismissed. The larger study by Schweingruber et. al shows a more reasonable conclusion: click.

    • Steve has been carefully avoiding replying to Tom P.

      Further there are lots of proxy reconstructions without Yamal that show the same shape as MBH 98, and there are even proxy reconstructions without tree rings that show the same shape.

      In short McIntyre is wrong on this based on the data.

      But keep the ad homs coming dears.

      • Eli Rabett,

        A little honesty please.

        “Steve has been carefully avoiding replying to Tom P.”

        Steve has responded to no fewer than two dozen of Tom P’s. He has already shown one of Tom P’s graphics to be completely wrong (Tom P used a smoothing algorithm to include post 1990 data in a pre 1990 curve, then claimed that he had removed all 1990 data).

        In his first look at Tom P’s more recent code, Steve wasn’t even able to reproduce Tom P’s images.

        I love how quickly you jump to conclusions that support your pre-existing view, even to the point of placing your faith in the coding of somebody who is just learning R.

        Perhaps Briffa’s mistakes can be attributed to a similar faith.

      • Eli Rabett

        keep the ad homs coming dears

        Methinks it’s the ad-homs you’re after. In fact, despite the absence of any ad-homs on my part, you have consistently failed to address the simplest of questions ((a):how can you publish an article on data you cannot publish).

        MrPete has already identified another, sadly unaddressed flaw in your reasoning ((b):if the data could not be shared, plenty of articles will have to be retracted).

        Furthermore, you are also accusing Briffa of having been dishonest with the Russians((c):Briffa has now published the data, allegedly without asking the Russians for additional permission).

        I don’t think it can get any worse, and that would explain why you are more interested to answer the ad-homs than to address the gigantic flaws in your reasoning.

        Please reconsider your arguments.

  120. Smokey:
    “I don’t think anyone on the skeptic side of the AGW debate is saying that human activity has zero effect on the climate. At this point we simply don’t know….”

    True. Except that we do have some empirical guidance.

    As Pat Michaels has pointed out, the lower-bound of IPCc projections has been close top what has been observed. Given what appears to be the impact of the PDO on temperatures, one can argue for even lower over the past three decades.

    Lindzen and Choi (2009), using satellite data, come up with 0.5C for 2XCO2. Similar estimates come from Spencer’s satellite data.

    If these estimates hold up, the question arises: how little is enough to live with? I don’t see any effort by alarmists to address this.

    But as Lawrence Solomon avers (See National Post column), skeptics can start thinking the Great Global Warming Scare, 1988-2009 is over.

    I think an intermediate step, as observed by Lubo Motl in comments at his site, is more important: if there is fraud by IPPC’s lead author Briffa, WHAT IS TO BE DONE? Crichton’s prescience occurs to me: change the structural funding of the institutions of Big Science to ensure that Truth will out – NOT fraud.

    It is the least lovers of science can do. So what baby-step reforms can be mapped out in the meantime?

    Apologists for Big Science like Chris Mooney are in deep denial of this defect. They think government funding ipso facto means more scientific rationalism will govern policy. Nonsense. History, as Terence Kealey shows (SEE “Sex, Science, and Profits: How People Evolved To Make Money”), proves otherwise.

  121. McItrick attacks the failure of peer review from 1995 to 2009 this way, in his recent National Post column:

    “Over the next nine years [after MBH ’98], at least one paper per year appeared in prominent journals using Briffa’s Yamal composite to support a hockey stick-like result. The IPCC relied on these studies to defend the Hockey Stick view, and since it had appointed Briffa himself to be the IPCC Lead Author for this topic, there was no chance it would question the Yamal data.

    “Despite the fact that these papers appeared in top journals like Nature and Science, none of the journal reviewers or editors ever required Briffa to release his Yamal data. Steve McIntyre’s repeated requests for them to uphold their own data disclosure rules were ignored…Whatever is going on here, it is not science.

    “When the IPCC was alerted to peer-reviewed research that refuted the idea, it declined to include it. This leads to the more general, and more serious issue: what happens when peer-review fails — as it did here?”

    If this state of baleful affairs is conceded, what is to be done?

  122. Smokey, repeating true statements is low, too low. From Halpern’s course evaluations:

    “This man is the WORST teacher ever, he doesn’t care, he talks to himself, he doesn’t help you and his notes are pointless. If you like to teach youself take this class but that still won’t help you on his exams!”


    Eli Rabett is some dead wood. That old guy should spend less time making comments on blogs and more on his job. Whatta joker.

    • When the facts are against you resort to name calling. A clear sign that you have lost the arguments

      • Is that what you tell your students who rate you as a bum?

        Obviously a clear sign that you have migrated to professorial dead wood status. Maybe you should be cored? Though I doubt there is much of a warming trend to be found.

  123. I hereby declare joshinya to be a sock puppet whose goal is to make even Eli Rabett look good.

    If joshinya were a genuine skeptic, he would have called out Eli Rabett on more substantive grounds like this amusing dity:

    “Steve has been carefully avoiding replying to Tom P.”

    Which conveniently ignores a rather considerable fraction of Steve’s prolific output. [In fact, I’d reckon that since Tom P. started posting about Yamal, Steve has authored more comments responding to him than any other CA contributor]

    Instead he has resorted to name calling. This can have no purpose other than to make his apparent target look good, and the positions that joshinaya purportedly represents look bad.

    • Jason

      For all we know, joshinya=Eli Rabbet

      just kidding 😎

  124. Ironically, Rabbet makes the skeptics points. If, as he claims, the data underlying Briffa’s work cannot be examined, why should it be considered in the body of science? Furthermore, Rabbet’s excuse is not satisfactory to explain the use of an inadequately small sample. Briffa’s small sample is inadequate for the RCS methodology, so why should it be considered in the body of science?

    This is not just a failure of peer review, but a failure of human understanding.

    • No.

      Besides the Yamal series, there is a tremendous amount of paleoclimate data that has been archived and generally available. NOAA has one of the largest sites, but data is also available from other archives (not all on the net) and the owners. It appears that McIntyre never wrote to the Russians but dedicated himself to abusing Briffa. Steve has a long history of this type of behavior.

      Many others have gotten access to all kinds of data simply by asking nicely and agreeing to credit the owner in any publication.

      This publicly available data has been used in many proxy reconstructions which don’t include the Yamal series. One of the slights of hand here is that Yamal is “absolutely key” if a reconstruction is to have a significant hockey stick shape. The answer, as Real Climate shows, is no, Yamal is useful as any additional data is useful, but without it one finds a hockey stick shape.

      • So now you speak out of both sides of your mouth; The data is unavailable from the Russians and Steve is presumed not to have looked for it.

        Real Climate’s series of hockey sticks are a sad commentary on the state of expert alarmist rhetoric.

        Briffa’s sleight of hand, unexplainable, too, was to use too small a sample. That fumble is lost no matter how he picked his sample.

      • Eli R

        without Yamal one finds a hockey stick shape

        This has been already covered by McIntyre

        There are two series that play a particular role in the current spaghetti graph population: strip-bark bristlecones/foxtails (especially as Mann’s PC1) and Briffa’s Yamal (and its predecessor). These two series are both shown in IPCC AR4 Box 6.4 Figure 1 as the two biggest HS series – going off the top right corner of the graphic

        As usual, one can only report what the “experts” (McIntyre, Briffa, Schmidt, others) say, and leave the interpretation and plausibility check to each reader.

        IMNSHO if (BIG “if” indeed) McIntyre is right and Briffa’s Yamal is one of the two most important HS-shaped series, then if Briffa’s Yamal will be invalidated, then the whole “Hockey Stick” story will have to be heavily reinterpreted.

        Furthermore, if then in the future problems are discovered with “strip-bark bristlecones/foxtails“, then we will have to exchange “hockey sticks” with “cricket bats

  125. On a related note, the UN has published its plans for the upcoming Copenhagen climate treaty conference.

    The AGW movement, with its iconic Hockey Stick alarmism, is based originally on an 1896 paper by Arrhenius postulating that CO2, a tiny trace gas, could cause significant global warming. The CO2=AGW hypothesis stems directly from Arrhenius’ 1896 paper, which assigned a very large climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide; a number that is still quoted by climate alarmists despite Arrhenius’ later rejection of it.

    But those pushing the CO2=AGW hypothesis deliberately ignore the fact that Arrhenius recanted his high CO2 sensitivity number in his 1906 paper. That is how the Scientific Method works: even those proposing a new hypothesis are obligated to attempt to falsify it. Arrhenius did so, greatly reducing the climate sensitivity number for CO2.

    But it was still much too high, as we now know. Current estimates of CO2 sensitivity range from 0.5 – 1.0 (although the IPCC still assigns a ridiculously high sensitivity to CO2 for political reasons).

    The current climate shows that the computer model-estimated CO2 sensitivity is still much too high. In fact, CO2 may possibly have a cooling effect. The jury is still out. But the fact that the planet is cooling as CO2 rises indicates that the effect of CO2 on global temperature is, at the most, insignificant: click. Even the deep ocean is cooling.

    The cooling climate is the reason that the UN is so desperate to reach an agreement in Copenhagen in December, because taxing CO2 will be looked at with a jaundiced eye by those expected to pay, when they realize that the CO2=AGW hypothesis has been falsified by the planet itself. The UN/IPCC has cried wolf too often. None of their alarming predictions have been empirically verified by the real world.

    To understand what is at stake, and what is planned at Copenhagen for the targeted U.S. taxpayers, this link contains the UN draft proposal and explains it well: click.

    And again, kudos for an interesting blog.

  126. “You are missing the point completely. The issue is nothing to do with Briffa. The issue is whether we have enough reason, based on the various Hockey Stick materials which have been made available, to invest trillions of dollars.”

    This is the kind of directions that these things go in. Whatever one thinks of Briffa’s methods, it’s just a tiny piece of the AGW picture. The greenhouse process was discovered and described almost 200 years ago. The potential for AGW was described in the 1890’s and both principles have been settled science for over a century. Saying that CO2 can’t cause significant warming (and I’m not saying McIntyre is saying this, but some of his peanut gallery are) is like saying that gravity isn’t so strong as we thought.

    There are still many details that are not settled science, and some people who believe in AGW exaggerate what is settled. But the outcome of this particular debate has minimal impact on the overall case for AGW, which rests on centuries of research, physics, etc.

    While it’s completely beyond my resources to read even a small percentage of the responses here, just a quick jumping-around shows that many people think that AGW is about to collapse under the weight of 10 or 12 trees and it ain’t so.

    The debate over how Briffa processed trees to find a climate trend is going to take some time. Anybody who thinks his results are already debunked simply doesn’t understand how all this works. His work is challenged. At some point he will respond in more detail than he has now. But it isn’t going to be today or tomorrow. It’s probably next month, or maybe later.

    So get on with your lives, participate if you have the expertise, and let’s see how it turns out. Sheesh.

    • Dean

      I am not saying I disagree with you. I would like just to take the opportunity to make a very single point.

      We are told time and again concepts similar to yours

      The greenhouse process was discovered and described almost 200 years ago. The potential for AGW was described in the 1890’s and both principles have been settled science for over a century

      However, the above is not a proper argument. There are many effects that act very clearly in a lab setting, and in a seemingly obscure/impenetrable manner in the real world.

      Take for example the ongoing debate on the alleged anti-aging properties of antioxidants (they do take care of free radicals in Petri dishes).

      Another example nearer to the greenhouse effect: everybody knows that warm gases move upwards.

      Such “warm gas effect” is a principle that has been settled for millennia (Aristotle believed flames were just trying to reach their proper place in the Universe, just above the air).

      Still, who would argue that, on the basis of the “warm gas effect”, air at the same height as the top of Everest should be much warmer than air at sea level? Obviously, the behavior of the atmosphere has little to do with a “lab” (or even “kitchen”…) setting and there is a humongous multitude of effects at play, often with each other.

      How each effect individually behaves in a controlled environment, is an interesting starting point but far, far from the last word on the topic.

    • Dear Dean,

      No one is questioning that the greenhouse process based on increasing CO2 is real in the theoretical sense. The argument at issue is the magnitude of the effect increased CO2 has on the climate and designated “climate sensitivity”.

      Biffra’s study is important to the AGW hypothesis because it concludes that natural climate variability cannot explain current warming. The argument is that CO2 is causing the CWP because atmospheric CO2 concentration is rising and temperature is also rising (at least until the last decade and ignoring the fact that correlation does not prove causation). It does so by creating a temperature reconstruction in which the Current Warm Period (CWP) is the warmest period during the period covered by Biffra’s temperature reconstruction. In Biffra’s temperature reconstruction, contrary to all previous paleo-climate temperature reconstructions, the MWP does not exist.

      If, contrary to Biffra’s conclusion, either the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), or for that matter the Roman Warm Period, were warmer than the CWP. Before Biffra and Michael Mann produced their “hockey sticks” excising the MWP from the climate record, the “settled” science acknowledged that the MWP was warmer that the CWP.

      If the MWP was warmer than the CWP, the CWP is obviously within the bounds of natural climate variability, the effect of CO2 minimal, and the CWP nothing to worry about. That is why the “Hockey Team” circle of paleo-climatologists so fiercely defend papers which fail to show the MWP.



    • No, Dean, Briffa’s work debunks itself. The sample is too small. Now look at the superstructure of belief that has been built on that inadequate foundation.

      Similarly, the meme that has become CO2=AGW has been built with inadequate materials on a good foundation, Arrhenius’s century old description of CO2 as a greenhouse gas, which is physically sound. What’s been built on that solid foundation, though, is a house of cards; all the mistakenly assumed feedbacks that are supposed to magnify the simple physical effect. This house of cards has little or no basis in empirical science, built as it has been on public and political opinion from the flawed and exaggerated climate models.

      And all Sir Arthur had to do was pull one core out of the Enchanted Larch of Yamal.

  127. “Saying that CO2 can’t cause significant warming (and I’m not saying McIntyre is saying this, but some of his peanut gallery are) is like saying that gravity isn’t so strong as we thought.”

    This is a rather absurd comparison. (And I agree that AGW is the main cause of the current warming period.)

    The earth is an incredibly complex system, which we aren’t even close to understand. The best climate models are commonly off by three degrees Centigrate (which is one reason why they use anomalies instead of absolute temperatures). A more apt comparison might be this:

    Saying that increased atmospheric CO2 will not caused increased surface temperatures is like saying that Milankovitch cycles cause surface temperature to vary.

    Both are the complex result of well understood scientific principles (the optical properties of CO2 and gravity).

    Both, if proven wrong, would be shocking, but would not somehow invalidate science as we know it.

    Both could be subject to heretofore unknown influences that reduce, change or invert their impact.

    The fact of the matter is that gravity is directly measurable and verifiable in an experimental setting, and returns the same result every time. Very slight measured differences have been convincingly attributed to details of the individual experiments.

    Global warming, while very convincing, isn’t even remotely comparable.

  128. I agree with a lot of what Jason says. Where we differ is whether AGW is significant enough to even measure. As of now, it is not, so any putative anthropogenic global warming is either non-existent, or it is so minor that it can effectively be disregarded as insignificant.

    We are all beaten over the head 24/7 by endless media and UN statements that AGW causes every blip in the natural world. But when “everyone” believes something, it pays to look closer.

    So let’s look closer:

    Chart1 shows us how the UN/IPCC wildly overestimates the CO2 residence time. This is critical: if CO2 has a residence time of 12 years or less, it cannot trigger runaway global warming. Keep in mind that the IPCC is run by political appointees who stand to greatly benefit at our expense if they can convince society that CO2 controls the climate. As we will see, it does not. And note that this estimate is from the UN’s latest assessment report; previous IPCC numbers were even higher.

    Chart2 shows the warming effect of additional CO2. Notice that almost all the warming from CO2 that is physically possible has happened already in the first 20 parts per million. The logarithmic response to more CO2 means that even if atmospheric carbon dioxide were doubled (extremely unlikely), the increase in global temperature would only amount to a small fraction of a degree.

    To “mitigate” CO2 the UN proposes spending $Trillions, without being able to show us convincingly that a few tenths of a degree would cause any problems. The atmosphere has had over twenty times more CO2 in the past — for hundreds of millions of years at a time — and during these geological epochs of high CO2 the planet went repeatedly into major Ice Ages.

    Chart3 shows clearly that CO2 has no measurable effect on global temperature. None. Note the R² non-correlation below the chart (BTW, all the data used to construct these charts is peer reviewed).

    Chart5 shows global temperatures over the past thirty years. The climate is at the same temperature today as 1979-80. Natural climate variability brings the temperature back to trend over decadal time scales. We are now overdue for a significantly cooling climate.

    Rather than simply accept what the media and the UN are demanding that we believe, so that they can ram major changes through, it would be better to look at their CO2 conjecture, which is plainly wrong.

    [My HTML-fu isn’t up to the level of my science; hope these charts linked correctly. Unfortunately, WordPress has no preview function.]

    • Chart 1 show the residence time of a single CO2 molecule, not the time that it takes for an increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations to die away. In other words it would take hundreds of years for CO2 to go from 390 part per million (current) back to the preindustrial 280 ppm, but the individual CO2 molecules in the atmosphere would interchange over a few years.

      Classic indirection.

      Chart 2 is more of the same. Additional CO2 increases temperature roughly logarithmically. A quick and dirty shortcut is that the change in temperature for a change in CO2 is 4.3 ln ([CO2n/CO2o] Where o and n are old and new. The comparison you need in this figure (which it don’t give) is the change between 280 and 390, about 1.4 C

      As the figure shows, the initial sensitivity is very high (roughly linear with concentration) but we are a long way from there for CO2, however we are still in the linear area for methane, which is why methane emissions need to be controlled.

      Chart 3 is the classic let me control the endpoints on a fit and I can give you any number you want for the slope. 1998 was a very warm El Nino year. try starting the fit at the 1975 or 2000. The best take downs of this is here and here.

      These charts are the sort of things that your local denialists use to mislead. Anyone who has been following the issue knows about them and why they are misleading

  129. Well, I see that Chart4 didn’t make it.

    Seven years of declining global temperatures are not a long term trend. But during that same time period, CO2 has steadily risen. If CO2 sensitivity were as high as the UN would have us believe, then global temperatures would be rising, too. Therefore, logic dictates that CO2 forcing is small to non-existent.

    Much of the arm-waving over CO2 is based on scary charts like this, where the y-axis begins at an artificially high number.

    To compare them to CO2 charts with an honest y-axis, see here and here. Look close!

  130. Since Halpern’s comments are generally as vague as the one above, with zero citations or charts of his own, I’ll let others look at the charts I posted, and they can make up their own minds — something the bunny doesn’t seem to want.

  131. My apologies, the links don’t stand out and I missed them. But I must say that linking to tamino is pretty lame.

    Tamino’s ‘Closed Mind’ didn’t even rate making the finals in the “Best Science” category. BTW, how did the Rabbit’s site do? And RealClimate? Looky: click. RealClimate was spanked by WUWT by 10 – 1. There’s a reason: people gravitate toward open dialog and quality.

    Here, use the best site: the winner of this year’s Weblog Awards for “Best Science” site: http://wattsupwiththat.com

    The central difference between wattsupwiththat.com and tamino, realclimate, climateprogress, and all the other climate alarmist sites is two-fold: the moderators at wattsupwiththat.com do not censor opposing views, like they do constantly at the climate alarmist sites; and unlike the alarmist sites, the discussion is polite, open, and very interesting. After all, who wants to be in a foul-mouthed echo chamber? Don’t believe me? Do a comparison.

    Also, WUWT routinely has well known climate scientists writing guest articles. People like the internationally esteemed climatologist Dr Richard Lindzen, Chair of the Atmospheric Sciences department at M.I.T. — one of the world’s premier engineering schools [BTW, where is Howard U rated among all U.S. schools? Want me to do a search and report back?]

    Face it, CO2 is rising as the climate cools. The Earth itself is falsifying the repeatedly debunked CO2=AGW conjecture.

    So who are you gonna believe? Al Gore? Or planet Earth?

  132. Ben : “[1]McIntyre, on the other hand, is charging that the reasons that Briffa had for selecting the data that he did, whether malicious or not, were unjustified. He hasn’t yet demonstrated that. [2]He also hasn’t demonstrated that the Schweingruber alternative is a real and reasonable dendro-climatological possibility. [3]Just because it’s data doesn’t mean it’s not noisy or unreliable data.”
    Points [1],2,3 have been addressed by McIntyre in a recent post and you should find sustantiated replies to your questions : http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=7278 especially about the “Schweingruber alternative” (which is all except an “alternative”).

    For someone caveating he’s newbie to the climate debate, you should be much less definitive in your claims about what has been (more precisely what you think has been) demonstrated or not. Moreover, I find it strange that you used the argument from authority of the IPCC and at the same time place on the same footing the assessments about a dendrochronology debate of Gavin/RC who admits beeing “not a tree ring person” and McInctyre who has devoted his past 8 years to the question, who has published several peer-reviewed dendro articles and who is a IPCC reviewer of the 4AR’s paleoclimate chapter.

    • The output of the RCS calculation was matched following Briffa’s description by McIntyre. Enough detail was provided. You are confusing the data set with the calculated product, which was provided.

      • Eli – your statement is akin to saying that cold fusion has been replicated because there was enough in the original Fleischmann & Pons article to be able to verify their graphs and calculations.

        I don’t think anybody has ever believed that Briffa’s work was not consistent with itself.

  133. […] fame in the blogging circuit), trying his best Musketeer of the Guard impersonation in the “Hockey Stick Redux” comments at Ben Hale’s blog (more about that blog […]

  134. Ben, even though this thread is a little long in the tooth, let me try a variation on a well worn theme.

    The hockey stick shaped temperature proxies do not reflect well known history. Fortunately, there are proxies which are better than HSs, such as those in the graph on page 3 in this article by Jasper Kirkby of CERN, the Geneva based European Organization for Nuclear Research. These proxies confirm that the MWP was warm, the Little Ice Age was chilly, and the current period is warm again. Imagine that. The first discredited hockey stick is shown for contrast.

    Click to access 0804.1938v1.pdf

    Also on the same page is a graph of the isotopes Be10 and C14 which are generated by visiting galactic cosmic rays, inverse indicators of solar activity. During this multi-century period there is a rough correlation between solar activity and temperature. There is no similar correlation between CO2 and temperature, which is why AGW advocates have been compelled to create a different history, hence their need for the hockey stick.

    Those with a sense of history and no CO2 phobia have been sceptical of hockey sticks, and now we know how Briffa created his.

  135. Ben Hale is correct that Steve McIntyre has a hill to climb. The problem is that Briffa et al. are standing in the way with their continual obstruction and claims of intellectual property rights, defended by those such as Eli Rabbett.
    Perhaps Ben Hale, as a philosopher, can give us his take on IP claims on data and computer code used in support of public policy?
    Example. If I were a chemical company wanting to put a factory in Ben’s backyard and he wasn’t satisfied with my claims of safety, am I obliged to disclose to him the details of the chemical process, plant engineering design, etc? Or can I dodge the issue by hiding behind the claim that the design of my plant is a valuable “trade secret”? Does my right to profit trump his right to safety?

  136. I’m going to be pretty disappointed if Dr. Hale doesn’t reply to this one. If that happens it will be my last visit here.

    • bender – this is pretty absurd. Since we are on the internet, Ben Hale or anybody else may as well reply today, tomorrow or in a decade. Especially since this is his blog.

      • And so where is YOUR reply? We’re listening …

      • I’m working on it. Just a little patience. I’m somewhat new to the blogging thing and trying to shuffle my daily responsibilities around so that I a can address these issues. Lots of other stuff going on. Roger has been laughing hysterically about what I’ve gotten myself into. He’s sadistic like that. I may open a new thread with a new line in a bit…

      • Bender: sincere apologies. I’ll get to this later tonight. I do like your comment and I want to take it up. I’ve just been swamped this morning, I have to run out for the next few hours… very soon. Promise.

      • I can make your work easy, Ben; just read the double underlined stuff.

    • Thank you kindly for the promisory note, Dr. Hale. Where is your tip jar?

      • On the piano? BTW: any of you should feel free to call me ‘Ben’. The only person who can’t do that is my son. I insist that he call me ‘Dr. Hale’.

      • “Roger has been laughing hysterically about what I’ve gotten myself into.”

        Kind of places the blog name into a new light 😉

  137. […] All CO2! It’s All AGW! 5 10 2009 There is a beautiful discussion going about “Hockey Stick Redux” (HSR), the Oct 1 entry of brand-new blog “Cruel Mistress – Being Human on a […]

  138. Regarding Galileo, your point would be valid if the site were climatescience.org, but it is climateaudit.org.
    The other comments about The Hockey Stick Is Dead go too far, but the burden is on Briffa to provide data.
    The output of his RCS calculation was HIS data, not the Russians, which he published two years before the Russians. Yet he did not produce this data until PhilTransB made him do it.

  139. […] characters.  I also have significant publication responsibilities…but never you mind, this whole discussion has been heaps of fun, so I think I’ll […]

  140. Well, Steve M has finally admitted that Eli was right, he went to the wrong well for the measurement data.

    • Eli – I will try for one last time – I know I shouldn’t even dare comparing my flawed logic and limited intellect to the likes of you, obviously inhabiting a Higher Level of Existence (in the company of tamino, one suspects).

      Still, I think that if I follow your logic, and the data were not Briffa’s, and Briffa could not ethically share the data; since Briffa has now shared the data, that means Briffa has now acted unethically, according to your logic.

      And that is what you are accusing him of, from the Ultimate Region of Heaven or nearby.

      Right? Wrong? Who knows?

    • Very interesting, Eli. I just read your post. I’ll forward it to Roger and maybe read it again more carefully tomorrow morning.

      • What you should read carefully is Steve’s response to this. It is clear that Briffa and Science dropped the ball, and had they not, this pitiful bit of science would have been exposed four years ago.

    • Steve has replied. Eli, you’re lying. Admit it.

      1) Steve has not admitted anything to you. Your statement is a lie.

      2) Briffa did not tell Steve to ask the Russians. (Briffa didn’t even say who they were.) Briffa said HE would go ask the Russians. As was appropriate.

      3) Other climate science authors (of D’Arrigo 2006) failed to get the data. What makes you think Steve would have succeeded?

      Bottom line:
      *Briffa* is the one (like Esper before him, and now Kaufman) who published a journal article based on Russian data.
      *Briffa* is the one who was required to disclose data.

      The difference in 2008 isn’t coauthorship. It’s a journal that cares about transparency in science.

      If you don’t think this is intransigence on the part of Briffa, then please show us where ANYone told Steve who HE should ask for the data.

      Briffa’s statement “I have some colleagues who produced this data; I’ll pass your message on to them” is hardly a cooperative suggestion that Steve can get the data by asking these unknown colleagues himself!

      Eli, this is not a game.

      • Forgot the link to McIntyre’s reply (#61 and #63 in that thread, at least right now)

      • What if Eli Rabbett were a skeptic trying to remove any credibility the AGW side ever had? Hope he is, as he’s really doing a great and very successful job about it.

      • MrPete’s link does not work anymore. Perhaps he means this reply to Michael Ashley by Steve McIntyre posted on the 2009-10-07 at 9:22, in which we read:

        > I already had a version of the data from the Russians, one that I’d had since 2004


  141. No, because Briffa and Hantemirov were co-authors on a 2008 Phil Trans paper that was based on the measurement data. So that was the first time the owners and Briffa were on the same paper about this data.

    • Eli – are you sure you know what you are talking about? I have never heard that co-authorship on a paper means giving up one’s rights on the original data. If that were true, nobody in their right mind would ever think of co-operating with anybody else.

      • As a co-author on a paper in a journal where there is an archiving requirement, You are required to archive within limits.

        There are interesting limits. One that I know of for example is that instrument scientists on NASA probes do not have to archive for one year after the data is acquired but may publish. In that case there is clearly public ownership, but there is also a private interest and a middle ground.

        There are also issues with how the data has to be assembled for archiving. In many of the cases where data is not in a standard format this may take considerable time. People have been pointing to cases where measurement data has to be submitted with the manuscript. In those cases the instruments used to get the data directly produce files in standard formats so there is little to no work needed to produce those files.

        In the other direction, ice cores are drilled and then stored. A partial analysis may be published, but the cores have not been completely characterized (you can measure a bunch of stuff). Do you deposit the core on Google? Beyond that there is an ethical question as to the exclusivity (ownership) of access to the data by those who labored to acquire it for a period. Your interpretation would deny those laborers the fruits of their endeavor. Data socialism.

    • Eli,

      ignoring for the moment that Briffa MIGHT have actually had an obligation to provide the data and proceudres, exactly what kind of childish gotcha games are being played by not telling someone asking for information where he can request it??

      Is this really the level that y’all are operating on??

      • On the contrary, we have, on Climate Audit, a posting from McIntyre admitting that Briffa wrote to him as follows

        “Steve these data were produced by Swedish and Russian colleagues – will pass on your message to them]
        cheers, Keith”

        I’ve posted a link. Ethically I need the clicks.

        But that posting on Climate Audit CLEARLY shows than multiple people including the editors of Science were telling McIntyre about the difference between measurement data and results.

  142. Here’s a related posting on CA from 2005, on replication policy.

    I find a statement in there quite interesting: a journal article “is only the advertising for the data and code that produced the published results.”


  143. The notion that Steve is “in the wrong” on the Briffa Yamal reconstruction because he didn’t ask the right people for the data turns the whole issue on its head.

    Anyone who publishes a scientific claim bears responsiblity for supporting it and providing data permitting replication. If this principle is not upheld, then quite literally anyone can publish and claim anything — and we are left without any means of evaluating the truth of the claims.

    Publishing a claim when you don’t have the authority to release the data is the equivalent of demanding the public “take my word for it”, i.e. it is the demand that the claim be taken on faith. Faith has no place in science.

    Steve sent 40+ e-mails to Science, Osborne and Briffa when in fact, he shouldn’t have had to submit a single e-mail — the data should be publicly archived at the time the study is published.

    Those who publish claims and then can’t — or won’t — release supporting data deserve only to be ignored.

    • False.

      • “false”!

        I think your lack of a scientific education is showing.

        “Those who publish claims and then can’t — or won’t — release supporting data deserve only to be ignored.”

        Actually this condition applies to more than science. Journalism. Law. …

        Please explain where it doesn’t apply.

  144. Eli Rabett is attempting to phrase this issue in terms of Briffa’s non-disclosure of someone else’s data. That is NOT the issue. Not this time. If Briffa had disclosed the metadata – the size of the sample (n<=17) – for example, THAT ALONE would have been damning evidence. Had he disclosed the non-use of the Schweingruber Yamal data, THAT would have been a red flag. Had he disclosed the method of sub-sampling their would be no speculation today. The issue is not who Steve should have asked for the raw data, but why Briffa failed to disclose his methods and metadata. The data he presented was a non-representative sample, that was clear to McIntyre from the start. The issue is how (and why?) did Briffa choose to work with the hockey-stick shaped chronology – a chronology which we now know was developed using a method (RCS) that is highly sensitive to low sample size and prone to enhancing the amplitude of 20th century warming relative to 1000 years ago.
    The reason for the Rabett distraction is that it is now necessary to keep people away from the fact that IPCC senior authors covered up their substitution of Yamal for a non-hockeystick shaped Polar Urals series. Residual evidence of which can be found in the incorrect ringwidth-temperature correlations that were reported in AR4: 0.49 reported versus an actual 0.12. Ask yourself, like McIntyre, an expert IPCC reviewer, did: why is the temperature correlation in the 20th century inflated four-fold? Answer: because that is the correlation between Yamal and tempeartures at … Polar Urals. The 0.49 was an orhpaned bit of text that never got edited out and corrected! So, their cover-up failed; McIntyre caught the error. This error is far from trivial. It is clear evidence of biased sampling to favor the hypothesis: that the current period is warmer than during the MWP 1000 years ago.
    That's why Eli needs to distract you by trying to re-shape the debate.
    Briffa did not, in his reply to McIntyre, deny cherry-picking chronologies to match instrumental records. What he denied doing was cherry-picking samples within a chronology. Watch the pea under the thimble folks. These guys are very practised at this art of deception.

    • Hear, Hear, bender; Hear.

      That’s cognate with ‘hark’ and with ‘audit’.

      • And you will note the McIntyre has downplayed this one, in terms of rhetoric, preferring instead to leave it up to sentient readers to realize for themselves that THIS is one of the most disqueiting facts ever revealed at Climate Audit. (And thus we now see why the Schweingruber versus Briffa graph was billed as “one of the most disquieting”. It’s not one man’s non-disclosure. It’s the institutional cover-up of a very suspicious data substitution.
        McIntyre is making us figure it out for ouselves, the way he did, card by card.

      • Oh, dear truth, you are the Cruelest Mistress of all.

      • Cruel for your own good, dear boy.

      • Thank you, bender.

    • It’s even more simple than that. Eli’s most recent absurdity is too divert attention from his last absurdity; that Briffa couldn’t give SM the data because it didn’t belong to Briffa.

      It’s pretty clear that Briffa knew the Russians were generous sharing the data and wouldn’t refuse is to SM. What Briffa wouldn’t do was tell SM that what he had from the Russians what what he used.

      Eli, different incidences of foolishness don’t cancel each other out, they add to each other. Time to invoke the law of holes; when you’re in one, stop digging.

    • Speaking of “reshaping the debate”, here is what phil said a few days after this comment from bender:

      > Actually as McIntyre now admits he has had the data since 2004, he got it from the Russian researchers who produced it just as Briffa did […].


      It’s been two years now and this simple fact has not even been acknowledged.

      This omission is far from trivial.

  145. […] the original Hockey Stick Redux comments section, I replied at several points that there may be other plausible mitigating reasons why Briffa, or […]

  146. But does Briffa have one more card than McIntyre to play? Can the Yamal hockey stick be patched back together with the help of additional Russian data? (And can McIntyre break it yet again?) Only Briffa and McIntyre know what cards they hold. Know one knows what’s to be dealt.
    Is this a case of Briffa ultimately being right despite his wrong methods? Does it matter to anyone but scientists that
    … especially when your noble goal is to save the planet?
    But why should anyone care? Even IPCC suggests the paleoclimatic data are incidental to the primary argument. If the CWP is not warmer than the MWP, the models – the rock solid radiation physics AOGCMs – predict it very soon will be. So then this is much ado about nothing.
    Or are the modelers in on it too?
    Let’s consult the IPCC reports for a summary of how these models arrive at the numbers that they do. How are “ensembles” generated to obtain such alarming estimates of “climate sensitivity”? How is the warming schedule generated, and why the continual back-pedalling on doomsday: 2010, 2015, 2020? Time to crack open the code …
    Cruel indeed.

  147. Oh, and just so there are no miconceptions (knowing how the Rabett works). The substitution performed by Briffa is considered by some (many?) in the establishment to be acceptable or even “valid” practice. Thus Briffa is not being accused of doing anything illegal or unnacceptable. Cue Jan Esper. The problem is statistically unjustifiable biasing caused by scientists exercising a *perceived* right to choose which samples are used in an analysis. A right they do not have. No one has the right to quadruple the significance of their results by cherry-picking data that support the hypothesis. (And yes, I know how EXACTLY how dendroclimatology works, so spare us the technical smoke-screening.) But don’t ask me. Ask Dr. Arthur Wegman. Or any qualified arbitrator of the Rabett’s own choosing.
    It’s the sort of practice that a “retired mining consultant” might be very, very well qualified to judge.

    • Wegman is clueless about dendrology, as is McIntyre. You have to understand a great deal about the samples before you do statistical analysis on them.

      Now Eli has been a nice beast, but no, bender, you are not an expert on dendrology no matter what your mom says.

      • Briffa, Mann et al are clueless about honest statistics. You have to understand a great deal about the world to realise the need for honesty expecially in statistical treatments before analysing dendrological data!!!

        Now Eli, I will admit you are a nice beast, but, please keep the floor clean and admit that you are not an expert on statistics, dendrology, or ethics.

      • Eli, the name of the discipline is DENDROCHRONOLOGY, not dendrology. If you don’t even know the name of the subject you are talking about, I would say you are not in a position to assess other people’s expertise on the discipline. McIntyre may not be a full-time dendrochronologist as are Ed Cook or Keith Briffa, but he has been working on this and many other closely-related subjects for several years now and is probably much better prepared to properly analyze tree-ring time series than many authorities in the field today.

      • The issue is sampling. The probability that two samples are divergent. The sample size required to avoid an error-ridden result. The method required to achieve an unbiased sample. The effect of introducing an endpoint bias in a time-series. This is not tree biology.

      • The issue is simple and has been from the beginning. Briffa’s sample is too small for the methodology he chose. Philosophically it is simple, too; he cannot know what he has tried to tell us. Now that what he has tried to tell has been exposed as a lie, the reason it was a lie is simple; he could not know the truth.

        Bang, bang. This two by four is getting heavy and having no apparent effect. Wicked, uh huh.

      • Let me tighten up my terminology a bit. The reason that what Briffa told us has been exposed as an untruth is that a. it is not the truth, and b. by his method Briffa could not know the truth.

        Now, read all the backstory to determine if his intransigence and that of his fellow climatologists to help you determine if his ‘untruth’ is a lie.

        There is a clue to the lie vs untruth argument in the naivete of the dendrochronologists to legitimate statistics. But they’ve been made aware of their naivete for years, and still this pushing of an ‘untruth’. There is something rotten on the Yamal Peninsula and I can smell it all the way over here.

      • I will quote in full:
        “When the facts are against you resort to name calling. A clear sign that you have lost the arguments” by Eli Rabett October 3, 2009 at 10:33 pm
        “bender” and “Eli” have no CVs attached to them. Therefire our credibility must be assessed on the basis of the content of our comments. What I see from Eli is name-calling and attempts to discredit by detecting inconsistencies amongst sound-bites.
        The material fact is that McIntyre has detected a disquietingly suspicious result. No one knows quite how this result arose, although there are some clues.

  148. Someone just brought to my attention a posting today by Steve McIntyre in which he admits that he had received the measurement data from the Russians in 2004.

    Eli expects ritual groveling from all those who have been criticizing Briffa for not sharing the data.

  149. Oh, read the post, Eli, instead of mischaracterizing it. Briffa, and Science, have been clearly out of bounds, and Briffa’s choices are unsupportable.

  150. the link is


    Bender enjoys moving goalposts. How about how McIntyre has not disclosed that he had the data since 2004 and has stirred a controversy about it.

    • I do not “enjoy” it. I hate it. I am forced to move back what you have moved away.

    • Eli, are you being insincere or just obtuse? I’ve rarely met an educated person who is so unable to understand the facts.

      An extreme version of the situation: I’m quite certain your computer contains both 1’s and 0’s. In fact, I’m confident it contains examples of every possible 8 bit and 16 bit number.

      Your logic says you don’t need file names to find your latest work. After all, as I’ve shown the data is all there in your computer. In fact, you have a copy of the Russian’s data too! We all do. So what’s the big deal?

      The obvious fact is that NOBODY was able to analyze Briffa’s work until a few days ago. It was only when the correct data was identified, by Briffa, that this could be done.

    • If I “enjoyed” this I would be hopping through the blogosphere dropping rabbit turds – and blog advertisements – everywhere I visited. It is never fun to be forced by integrity to question a ruling orthodoxy.

      • I’m going to be pretty disappointed if bender doesn’t reply to this one. If that happens it will be yet another time it does this. Two years now and counting.

  151. Finish the story Rabett – it turned out to be the data used by Briffa but there was no way to verify that until the data were recently archived. No groveling necessary.

    • The basic problem with McIntyre is that you have to hold his hand while he bites yours. Come on, McIntyre got the data from the Russians early on. He wants Briffa to swear to him on a stack of hockey sticks that it was the same data? Eli would not be shocked if somewhere in that correspondence was a note saying “this is the same data we shared with Dr. Briffa”.

      • … and how exactly is this supposed to make Briffa look better? Just give it up.

  152. You apparently still haven’t read Steve’s post. Briffa’s choices, creating a subset are unexplained. Also undisclosed, to other interested parties as well as to Steve, was just what his subset was. You are not telling the truth Eli, and it is obvious.

    • Actually the correspondence with Hantemirov and the mysterious correspondent (MikeN?? if so good for him) revealed today leaves you undressed.

      • All I see is Briffa trying to clothe the nakedness of his method with twelve trees, and unsuccessfully at that. They just don’t cover the ground.

  153. Heh, beat me to it, geochemist; my point exactly. Eli, ‘fess up, you joker, you. You’ve fooled Ben Hale big time. He ought not to appreciate that.

    • He is not fooled. Read his latest. His hand is much easier to read than Briffa’s or McIntyre’s.

      • We’ll see. He may have opened one eye; maybe he won’t stick a finger in it. I know the two by four is overly unsubtle for that practiced mind, but his mulishness about this matter is frustrating.

      • Mullishness is a good sign in a philosopher.

  154. Naw, not fooled. I’ll roll with the facts as they roll with me. They’re mere contingencies, as far as I’m concerned.

  155. Eli, how about the fact that this proves that Briffa made no attempt to ask the Russians for permission to publish the data? How about the fact that Steve explains that he wasn’t sure the data from the russians was the data Briffa used until now (because Mann had screwed up in archiving the wrong dataset for MBH)?

    There is no way around this… the “Hockey Team” have been playing games for years and they finally were definitively caught doing so.

    • It’s not Briffa’s job. Besides which you have no basis for your statement. OTOH, Mann is now responsible for McIntyre’s not trusting Briffa. Have you any idea how weak your argument is?

      Besides which McIntyre did screw up the data that Mann sent and his obstreperousness was a big part of it. For example, McIntyre insisted on using the non instrumental part of the CET. Eli was there to set Mc right.

      • Ok, I will rephrase. Steve decided that it was good general practice to confirm certain facts before doing analyses, because sometimes “obvious” conclusions you make in that regard are in fact wrong (i.e. Steve assumed that Mann’s archived data was the data he actually used, which obviously is a reasonable assumption, but turned out to be wrong). So, he no longer makes that assumption.

        This still changes nothing about Briffa and how he repeatedly refused to ask the Russians for data, data which he was required to archive and would not report, and data which now appears to be fatally flawed for the purposes for which it was used.

  156. Poisonally, I like mulled whine.

  157. By the way Eli, you should update your post with a review of the policies of both Phil Trans R Soc B and Nature.

    Nature made Moberg disclose date under the same conditions. He had to add someone as a coauthor as the price of revealing the data. It was the owners’ choice, not some rule about authorship.

    With PhilTrans, Briffa revealed data for which neither he nor any of his coauthors had a share of ownership, the data from Helama et al. The idea that Hantemirov was a coauthor now but not before is irrelevant.
    It was that Phil Trans made him reveal the data, and Science did not.

  158. With PhilTrans, Briffa revealed data for which neither he nor any of his coauthors had a share of ownership, the data from Helama et al.


    The reconstruction of Helama, et al. (2002) (in which Eronen was a co-author) was derived with data from Eronen et al. (2002), of which Briffa was a co-author.

    Additionally, Schweingruber is a co-author of Briffa, Osburn, et al. (2002)

    Think about that.

  159. Eli,
    I’m sure you have a devastating response to Steve’s latest on this topic: Core Counts and Reverse Engineering.

    His bottom line:

    Perhaps I should have been able to have determined much earlier that the low-replication Hantemirov corridor standardization data set was used by Briffa for RCS standardization, but the fact of the matter is that I didn’t. Until I was able to inspect a data set that I knew for certain had been used by Briffa in Briffa 2000, I did not know of the low replication of this data set. Nor, to my knowledge, did any other specialists in the field including the authors of D’Arrigo et al 2006.

    Obviously it shouldn’t have taken nine years from the publication of Briffa 2000 to establish the inadequate replication of Briffa’s Yamal chronology nor that it was not “more highly replicated” than Polar Urals, as the authors of D’Arrigo et al 2006 thought. The root problem lay in Briffa’s failure to formally present the Yamal RCS chronology in a peer reviewed publication where core counts would have been required. Second, prior to using the Russian data in a publication, Briffa should have obtained any required consents from the Russian originators of the data so that he could respond to requests for data himself. Third, Science should have insisted on Briffa providing the data when it was at issue in 2006 and not relied on a third party journal for ensuring data archiving compliance, especially when the authors were the same. Briffa’s delays in complying with Phil Trans B instructions cost a year as well. Given that the Briffa version proved identical to the Hantemirov version, this could have been archived in a few minutes: why did it take a year?

    Up to Sept 2009, none of the users of Briffa’s Yamal data set had discovered its inadequate replication. The first person to determine this was me and only after Briffa finally archived the data as used. And critics are angry at me for not figuring it out earlier. Climate science.

  160. Let’s not forget to mention that Steve had the whole situation sleuthed out well enough that once he knew what Briffa’s data was he could expose the flaw in days or hours.

    Is there any doubt that Briffa knew his sample was too small to say what he said it said? Even other dendros were curious, but hung back from Briffa’s stonewalling, enabled by the delinquent editing of some major institutional journals, and by the IPCC putting Fox Briffa in charge of its paleoclimatology chicken house.

    • Careful not to gloat. Briffa has an out. It is possible that the result in his small sample will be supported by the large-sample Hantemirov dissertation. It is possible he even knew this a few years ago, that he decided to stonewall knowing his result would be independently verified through a much larger sample. The last card has not been played yet …

      • The last card is hardly a wild joker, though. Who really believes the evidence of Briffa’s small grove is an accurate reconstruction of the worldwide temperature of the recent millenia, or of modern times? Even if Briffa can justify his choice, the sample is too small and unrepresentative to support his study’s role in the great climate debate.

      • Agreed. The battle of Briffa is but one in this war of the global multiproxy reconstructions.
        I can’t find the comment where Rabett celebrated Boris’s “prediction” that there would be a “moving of the goalposts” off McIntye and back onto Briffa. Eli, when your friends are telling you that the goalposts are about to move, it’s a charitable way of telling you that you’re kicking in the wrong direction. The problem here, as I said from day one, is a problem of undisclosed data substitutions and conflict of interest. Read McIntyre’s latest and tell us where he’s wrong.
        And can we try for a little more charity?

  161. I don’t have time for anything other than a brief comment.

    Ben, you say, relying on Real Climate, that “the Yamal Climate Record was already standard by the time Briffa got to it”.

    This is untrue. To the extent that there was a type site in this area in the 1990s, it was Polar Urals (published in Briffa et al Nature 1995, which claimed that 1032 was the coldest year of the millennium). A few years later, more subfossil material from the Polar Urals site (russ176) was crossdated to the medieval period, which, if published, would have shown elevated medieval values relative to modern values. Such calculations were made by the authors of Esper et al 2002 and D’Arrigo et al 2006, but the only place that the updated Polar Urals chronology has ever been shown as a graphic is at Climate Audit.

    It seems odd that Briffa wouldn’t have done a similar calculation, but perhaps he didn’t. What we do know is that Briffa 2000 used Yamal instead of Polar Urals. Briffa’s Yamal chronology was thereafter used in multiple temperature reconstructions. See http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=528 and various links.

    In any event, it is wrong to say that Yamal was in any sense “standard” prior to Briffa.

  162. Simply put, Briffa rejected the more reliable data set which did not show a hockey stick in favor of the less reliable data set which did show a hockey stick, and then stonewalled the facts and the rationale of his choice. Steve rigourously avoids mention of motive, but I don’t.

    There has been a crime of climate science committed. Briffa et al had motive and opportunity to commit this crime, and now the method is being revealed. Time to empanel the jury.

  163. […] comment and review.  You can read all about it at the three, relatively hot hockey stick threads here, here, and […]

  164. Wow! Thank you! I permanently needed to write on my blog something like that. Can I take a portion of your post to my blog?

  165. […] one can only imagine what very public slaughter of AGW articles Rabett’s idea would entail. Reminded of, but still in complete denial of such fundamental points, Eli Rabett came back with a vengeance: […]

  166. […] led me to elaborate more on the topic (see here and here and here). I am putting it all together […]

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