IPCC fail

Meltdown of the climate ‘consensus’. Key quote:

What does the best evidence now tell us? That man-made global warming is a mere hypothesis that has been inflated by both exaggeration and downright malfeasance, fueled by the awarding of fat grants and salaries to any scientist who’ll produce the “right” results. The warming “scientific” community, the Climategate emails reveal, is a tight clique of like-minded scientists and bureaucrats who give each other jobs, publish each other’s papers — and conspire to shut out any point of view that threatens to derail their gravy train.

Harvard researcher admits to research misconduct

Another scientific scandal, this time in the field of animal and human cognitive research: Harvard scientist Marc Hauser has admitted to eight instances of misconduct. Three key quotes:

The university said in a statement last week that Dr. Hauser or a co-author had been directed to correct three published papers for which the original data could not be found. [emphasis mine]

Harvard itself had faced growing criticism for not releasing more details of the inquiry since The Boston Globe reported on Aug. 10 that the university had found evidence of scientific misconduct in Dr. Hauser’s lab. On Friday, Michael D. Smith, dean of the Harvard faculty of arts and sciences, issued a letter to the faculty confirming the inquiry and saying the eight instances of scientific misconduct involved problems of “data acquisition, data analysis, data retention, and the reporting of research methodologies and results.” No further details were given.

Harvard’s findings against him, if sustained, may cast a shadow over the broad field of scientific research that depended on the particular research technique often used in his experiments.

Gee, this sure sounds a lot like the Phil Jones/East Anglia University climategate scandal, where both the researcher and his university provided cover for each other, thereby leaving a cloud over a vast amount of climate research that depends on Jones’s data.

More questions raised about Mann’s hockey stick graph

A new research paper, written by statistical scientists and to be published next month in the Annals of Applied Statistics, has found that Michael Mann’s hockey stick graph, showing a steep increase in global temperature in the last two hundred years, is statistically invalid. Key quote:

Research on multi-proxy temperature reconstructions of the earth’s temperature is now entering its second decade. While the literature is large, there has been very little collaboration with university level, professional statisticians (Wegman et al., 2006; Wegman, 2006). Our paper is an effort to apply some modern statistical methods to these problems. While our results agree with the climate scientists findings in some respects, our methods of estimating model uncertainty and accuracy are in sharp disagreement.

[We] conclude unequivocally that the evidence for a ”long-handled” hockey stick (where the shaft of the hockey stick extends to the year 1000 AD) is lacking in the data. The fundamental problem is that there is a limited amount of proxy data which dates back to 1000 AD; what is available is weakly predictive of global annual temperature. Our backcasting methods, which track quite closely the methods applied most recently in Mann (2008) to the same data, are unable to catch the sharp run up in temperatures recorded in the 1990s, even in-sample. [emphasis mine]

In other words, the temperature data going back to 1000 AD is poor, and cannot be reliably used to prove a sudden increase in global temperature in the last two hundred years. More importantly, according to this paper, Michael Mann tried to use statistics to prove his point, without consulting any statisticians.

Deniers of science

On Saturday (July 24) the American Geophysical Union published a paper in Geophysical Research Letters, entitled “Northern Hemisphere winter snow anomalies: ENSO, NAO and the winter of 2009/10.” This paper attempted to explain the unusually cold 2009-2010 winter, with its record snow falls.

The conclusions of the paper were reasonable, noting that this past winter experienced both an El Nino event in the Pacific as well as a very negative (cold) North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). To quote the paper’s conclusions: “In winters when an El Nino event and a negative NAO combine, analysis reveal that there are positive snow anomalies across the southern U.S. and northern Europe.”

The authors of the paper made no attempt to explain why these two climate events “combined” this past winter, which in the field of climate change is actually the essential question. What caused it? Moreover, did the deep and extended negative (cold) phase of the Arctic Oscillation (AO) contribute as well, and if so, why did the AO also go negative this winter? And finally, were all these climate events somehow related to the Sun’s unusally long and deep solar minimum?

That they didn’t answer these fundamental questions is not surprising. Climotogists have been struggling with them for decades, and to expect this quickly written paper focused on this one climate event — the cold winter of 2009-2010 — to answer them would be unreasonable. In fact, considering the state of our knowledge, it probably is impossible for any paper to answer these questions at this time.

What makes this particular paper really noteworthy, however, is a quote in its introductory paragraphs:

The wintry winter has encouraged deniers of global warming » Read more

An update on the Dept of Energy’s hold on monies to East Anglia

This story about the Department of Energy’s decision in May to suspend payments to the University of East Anglia because of the climategate scandal might very well be a Potemkin village. The story notes that they are placing a hold on $200k. However, Anthony Watts notes that DOE has probably provided East Anglia significantly more funds, in the millions. The suspension in funds then is only about one specific and not very large contract, with nothing said about the other funding. Note also that the hold was placed in May, pending the results of East Anglia’s own investigation. Since that investigation was a whitewash, I expect DOE to release these funds in near future.

Press Release Journalism

The Penn State University investigation report on Michael Mann might be a whitewash, but what is really a travesty is the way some so-called professional journalists have covered this story. First, go and read the these two news articles at the New York Times and the Washington Post. I’ll wait till you’re back.

All done? Okay. Note how both news articles say very little about the report itself, other than its conclusions. Instead, the news articles follow the same boring news formula for writing these kinds of stories:

  • First, report the conclusions in the opening paragraphs.
  • Then, follow with a quote from a supporter of those conclusions, combined with a quick very superficial summary of the controversy.
  • Top this with by another quote from a supporter, slamming the opposition.
  • Then, add for balance a single quote from an opponent. (I find it ironic and a bit hilarious that both news articles went to the same global-warming skeptic for this particular quote, suggesting that these so-called professional reporters have very limited contact with the skeptics in the scientific community.)
  • Finally, finish things off with another quote from a supporter to emphasize the correctness of the report’s conclusions.

Neither news article provides the reader with the slightest analysis of the investigation report itself. Neither bothers to describe its superficial nature and its almost obsessive desire to find Michael Mann innocent.

Finally, both news articles read as if the reporters barely read the report itself and knew little about the content of the East Anglia emails. Instead, their stories read as if they simply scanned the press releases about the report and worked from those.

Another example of press release journalism at its worst.

Another Climategate Whitewash

The investigation at Pennsylvania State University of Michael Mann and his behavior as revealed in the East Anglia emails was released today, clearing him of all but one minor charge. You can read the actually report here. I suggest you do, as you will be amazed by the absurdity of this so-called investigation.

First, the manner in which the university investigated and then cleared Mann of the main charges was a joke. The panel reviewed the East Anglia emails, then brought Mann in to answer questions. When he essentially told them he had done nothing wrong, they decided that was evidence enough, clearing him of three of the four main charges.

Then, on the one remaining minor charge, the sharing of other people’s unpublished manuscripts without permission, the panel brought in other scientists for independent opinions, though only one of which, Richard Lindzen, is a skeptic of Mann’s work. Lindzen’s reaction when he learned he was not being interviewed on any of the main charges is quite entertaining. To quote the report itself,

When told that the first three allegations against Dr. Mann were dismissed at the inquiry stage . . . Dr. Lindzen’s response was: “It’s thoroughly amazing. I mean these are issues that he explicitly stated in the emails. I’m wondering what’s going on?”

The Investigatory Committee members did not respond to Dr. Lindzen’s statement.

On this final charge, the committee decided only that Mann’s distribution without permission of other people’s unpublished manuscripts was “careless and inappropriate,” and then finished by essentially saying in very stern words: next time, ask first.

Not surprisingly, the New York Times report on the conclusions of the investigation is somewhat joyous.

Unfortunately, this whitewash will only do harm to the reputation of science and the modern scientific community, and will almost certainly increase the general public’s distrust of climate research (and the reporting of it by mainstream publications like the NY Times).

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