Archive for May 15th, 2010


Fudge Swirl

May 15, 2010

There’s a kinda interesting/kinda repetitive discussion going on over at Roger’s blog about whether Mike’s “nature trick” to “hide the decline” attempt was either a face-saving fudge or a fraud. It’s a response to this Der Spiegel article, which appears to suggest that the climate science was compromised. Lots to say about this article, but let’s just look at the fudge/fraud issue.

Roger’s on the fudge side. Some of his readers are on the fraud side. I guess I’m on a side similar to Roger’s–that is, I see it as a fudge–but I disagree that it’s a “face-saving” fudge. A face-saving fudge would involve some attempt to save face, or some attempt to look good given other statements or claims that may have been made previously. I can’t imagine that that was what was going on when the climate scientists sought to hide the decline.

More likely to me, and more defensible in many ways, is that Mann and others were fudging the findings in order to “smooth them out” so that they were easier to read, so that their findings would not be misinterpreted by a lazy and apathetic press, so that an anomalous line wouldn’t distract from the overarching observation, which is that there is persistent change. Moreover, I assume that they could provide a moderately plausible argument for this, since the instrumental record was also in place and widely viewed to be more reliable. It’s not like, after all, we turn to ice core studies, or dendro studies, for most of our 20th century climate information.

What makes this hide the decline move problematic is that it flies in the face of what can sometimes be the insistence from the climate community that they are not being political. If my read is correct–and frankly, I think it is the most charitable read–smoothing out findings and hiding the decline is, without question, a move that is taken with political considerations in mind. Seems to me that climate scientists would do better just to acknowledge that this is a deeply political issue and to do so publicly. It won’t undermine the science.