27 Nov 2009

Yet More on ClimateGate

All Posts No Comments

Wow this stuff just gets worse and worse. Let me clarify two things before proceeding:

1) I personally have no problem whatsoever with the guy who said he wanted to beat the cr** out of Pat Michaels (besides my pacifism). That alone didn’t faze me at all; of course academics are going to get feisty in private emails and crack jokes like that. Ditto for the thing about being glad that one of the skeptics died. Who cares? Such statements don’t give me any view as to the quality of the work these people are doing.

2) I asked my two climate scientist associates–one who is a definite skeptic, the other not (but who is a huge Ron Paul fan)–and neither of them thought ClimateGate would change their views of the science. On the one hand, I guess it’s not so surprising that the skeptic wasn’t surprised; presumably he already had his doubts about CRU techniques etc. and their limitations. But I was surprised that the other guy said to me, “I haven’t been following this, I’m working on my paper.”

OK let me move on to relay the two most damning things that have come to light so far, in my amateur opinion. The “hide the decline” email of course is the most blockbuster, but in fairness if you don’t really know the context, it’s hard to evaluate it.

However, check out this analysis of the so-called “HARRY_READ_ME.txt” file. (HT2 savecapitalism from a previous thread on this blog.) Far more than any one-off statement (perhaps one made with humor) in an email, this saga definitely suggests that the CRU people can’t replicate some of their own reported results, and maybe that’s why they are so jealously guarding their data and code. (“Don’t let it fall into the wrong hands” etc.)

But now here is the single biggest smoking gun, as far as I’m concerned. (HT2 Dan Simmons) So that you don’t have to do a handstand, I’ll put the relevant emails in chronological order, and the bolding is mine:


From: [PhD student]

To: “Stephen H Schneider”

Sent: Sunday, October 11, 2009 10:25:53 AM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific

Subject: BBC U-turn on climate


You may be aware of this already. Paul Hudson, BBC’s reporter on climate change, on
Friday wrote that there’s been no warming since 1998, and that pacific oscillations will
force cooling for the next 20-30 years. It is not outrageously biased in presentation as
are other skeptics’ views.



BBC has significant influence on public opinion outside the US.

Do you think this merits an op-ed response in the BBC from a scientist?

[PhD candidate]


PhD Candidate,

Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER)

Stanford University

On Oct 12, 2009, at 2:32 AM, Stephen H Schneider wrote:

Hi all. Any of you want to explain decadal natural variability and signal to noise and
sampling errors to this new “IPCC Lead Author” from the BBC? As we enter an El Nino
year and as soon, as the sunspots get over their temporary–presumed–vacation worth a
few tenths of a Watt per meter squared reduced forcing, there will likely be another
dramatic upward spike like 1992-2000. I heard someone–Mike Schlesinger maybe??–was
willing to bet alot of money on it happening in next 5 years?? Meanwhile the past 10
years of global mean temperature trend stasis still saw what, 9 of the warmest in
reconstructed 1000 year record and Greenland and the sea ice of the North in big
retreat?? Some of you observational folks probably do need to straighten this out as my
student suggests below. Such “fun”, Cheers, Steve

Stephen H. Schneider

Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies,

Professor, Department of Biology and

Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment

Michael Mann wrote:

extremely disappointing to see something like this appear on BBC. its particularly odd,
since climate is usually Richard Black’s beat at BBC (and he does a great job). from
what I can tell, this guy was formerly a weather person at the Met Office.

We may do something about this on RealClimate, but meanwhile it might be appropriate for
the Met Office to have a say about this, I might ask Richard Black what’s up here?


Kevin Trenberth wrote:

Hi all

Well I have my own article on where the heck is global warming? We are asking that here
in Boulder where we have broken records the past two days for the coldest days on
record. We had 4 inches of snow. The high the last 2 days was below 30F and the normal
is 69F, and it smashed the previous records for these days by 10F. The low was about
18F and also a record low, well below the previous record low. This is January weather
(see the Rockies baseball playoff game was canceled on saturday and then played last
night in below freezing weather).

Trenberth, K. E., 2009: An imperative for climate change planning: tracking Earth’s
global energy. /Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability/, *1*, 19-27,
doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2009.06.001. [PDF]
(A PDF of the published version can be obtained from the author.)

The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a
travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on
2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our
observing system is inadequate.

That said there is a LOT of nonsense about the PDO. People like CPC are tracking PDO on
a monthly basis but it is highly correlated with ENSO. Most of what they are seeing is
the change in ENSO not real PDO. It surely isn’t decadal. The PDO is already reversing
with the switch to El Nino. The PDO index became positive in September for first time
since Sept 2007. see


Tom Wigley wrote:

Dear all,

At the risk of overload, here are some notes of mine on the recent

lack of warming. I look at this in two ways. The first is to look at
the difference between the observed and expected anthropogenic trend relative to the pdf
for unforced variability. The second is to remove ENSO, volcanoes and TSI variations
from the observed data.

Both methods show that what we are seeing is not unusual. The second

method leaves a significant warming over the past decade.

These sums complement Kevin’s energy work.

Kevin says … “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment
and it is a travesty that we can’t”. I do not agree with this.


On Oct 14, 2009, at 10:17 AM, Kevin Trenberth wrote:

Hi Tom
How come you do not agree with a statement that says we are no where close to knowing where energy is going or whether clouds are changing to make the planet brighter. We are not close to balancing the energy budget. The fact that we can not account for what is happening in the climate system makes any consideration of geoengineering quite hopeless as we will never be able to tell if it is successful or not! It is a travesty!

Michael Mann wrote:

Kevin, that’s an interesting point. As the plot from Gavin I sent shows, we can easily
account for the observed surface cooling in terms of the natural variability seen in
the CMIP3 ensemble (i.e. the observed cold dip falls well within it). So in that sense,
we can “explain” it.
But this raises the interesting question, is there something going
on here w/ the energy & radiation budget which is inconsistent with the modes of
internal variability that leads to similar temporary cooling periods within the models.
I’m not sure that this has been addressed
–has it?


From: Kevin Trenberth To: Michael Mann
Subject: Re: BBC U-turn on climate
Date: Wed, 14 Oct 2009 08:36:36 -0600
Cc: Tom Wigley , Stephen H Schneider , Myles Allen , peter stott , “Philip D. Jones” , Benjamin Santer , Thomas R Karl , Gavin Schmidt , James Hansen , Michael Oppenheimer

Here are some of the issues as I see them:
Saying it is natural variability is not an explanation. What are the physical processes?
Where did the heat go? We know there is a build up of ocean heat prior to El Nino, and a
discharge (and sfc T warming) during late stages of El Nino, but is the observing system
sufficient to track it? Quite aside from the changes in the ocean, we know there are major
changes in the storm tracks and teleconnections with ENSO, and there is a LOT more rain on
land during La Nina (more drought in El Nino), so how does the albedo change overall
(changes in cloud)? At the very least the extra rain on land means a lot more heat goes
into evaporation rather than raising temperatures, and so that keeps land temps down: and
should generate cloud. But the resulting evaporative cooling means the heat goes into
atmosphere and should be radiated to space: so we should be able to track it with CERES
data. The CERES data are unfortunately wonting and so too are the cloud data. The ocean
data are also lacking although some of that may be related to the ocean current changes and
burying heat at depth where it is not picked up. If it is sequestered at depth then it
comes back to haunt us later and so we should know about it.


OK people have already jumped all over the “Where the heck is the warming?” stuff, but Gavin Schmidt et al. are just blowing that off by saying he was concerned about dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s in their energy budgets; there is no threat to the “consensus” here.

But hold on just a second. In the follow-up email–after Michael Mann Tom Wigley said he disagreed with him–Kevin Trenberth (who is no slouch in the field) says that their ignorance is such that they couldn’t even tell if geoengineering techniques were working. (!!) To me, that is a stunning admission. If they wouldn’t be able to judge the potency of a suggested cure, doesn’t that necessarily mean they don’t really understand the severity of the disease?

Let’s step back and remind ourselves of something: Most of the derided “skeptics” who are actually trained in these areas don’t deny that human activities are warming the globe. Rather, they deny that the climate sensitivity is as high as the IPCC says. So in that context, Trenberth’s admission (to me at least, as an acknowledged amateur) is simply stunning.

Last point: Note the dates on the emails above. This isn’t uncertainty expressed eight years ago, this is RIGHT NOW.

Comments are closed.