Dec 12 2009
Wild Speculation Alert – no facts here!
Major Updates At The End
A while back Andrew Bolt from Australia’s The Herald Sun speculated on who the whistleblower was in what is known as Climategate. Climategate is, as most people know, the publication of files and emails from the University of East Anglia’s (UEA) Climate Research Unite (CRU). Andrew Bolt thought the whistleblower was one Tom Wigley of UCAR and CRU, until Wigley responded in no uncertain terms that he was a loyal member of the warmist crew.
The 1000 emails and 3000 files (which CBS News laughingly referred to as a “handful emails”) is a carefully selected set of information that had to have been collected over a period of weeks, and by someone with deep knowledge of what to select. This is not all of CRUs emails or code or data – not by a long shot. To pull this coherent and massive amount of data from the internal mountain of information inside CRU was not a quick in-and-out theft.
Climategate is a massive jigsaw puzzle which will take months to unravel. But it will be unraveled under the scrutiny of thousands of bright bloggers who are also scientists, mathematicians and engineers. It seems clear someone dropped all this data on the world to send a message, a message yet to be discovered. It is more than the fact the Earth is not warming. It is about the bastardization of science.
Who had the insight to gather all this information? What did they want known? Why have they not come forward!
I am of the opinion Climategate is the result of someone deep in the inner circle of the climate movement who decided to take a stand against the lies and deceptions. Someone who looked at the corruption of data and the suborning of the scientific method and decided they could no longer go along with ‘hockey team’ (as the crew at the epicenter of this scandal are known). Someone who had to turn in their colleagues, but couldn’t do it out in the open.
I originally thought Keith Briffa was one of the top masterminds of the alarmist mythology, a mythology built up by a core of zealots who believed so hard in their AGW hypothesis that they ended up doing whatever it took to make the data show what they wanted to see. Because Briffa’s Yamal series, with its magically selected set of trees, was the only data series to survive the destruction of Micheal Mann’s fictional hockey stick graphs I assumed Briffa was a willing and active force in the charade of AGW.
But now with Steve McIntyre’s exposure of the 1999 data manipulation I see were Briffa’s work was actually the monkey wrench standing in the way of AGW for a decade (my take on this discovery is here). It now seems that Briffa’s tree ring work was a stubborn outlier which had to be hidden because it ‘diluted’ the AGW theory. Something IPCC was not happy about. Something the Hockey Team struggled with.
Briffa was in a unique position, one Mann and Jones and others could not easily control – he wasÂ the Deputy Director at CRU. With CRU at the heart of the IPCC data sets (the UN would never rely on “American” data sets from NCDC or GISS – this is an international effort!) no one was going to push the deputy director of that institution under the rug. Not the current director Jones, or former director Wigley.
It makes a bit of sense. Who is the one person on the Hockey Team not out doing damage control in the news media since Climategate broke? Briffa. Briffa’s work was the first that had to be surgically removed to ‘hide the decline’. None of his data post 1960 could be used by the Hockey Team since it challenged the premise of AGW by diverging from the desired result.
I think Yamal was Briffa’s attempt to get back on the team, and in the end it cost the team even more heat from the skeptics because the effort required to get the tree rings back in the AGW mold required severe statistical gymnastics. It was these obvious statistical machinations that lead McIntyre to the Yamal mess, and which spooked the Hockey Team into near panic.
Prior to Yamal being exposed Dr. Briffa had been going through some very challenging personal times. First his mother passed away in May 2008 (note, my version of this email is much more extensive than listed at this site):
On 5/21/09 7:43 AM, “Keith Briffa” wrote:
Hi Peck and Eystein
sorry have not responded to recent emails re Palaeo stuff in nextÂ IPCC assessment – have been away from the Unit and email because ofÂ Â the death of my mother and ensuing issues.
Then around March 2009 he and his wife Sarah were not feeling well and were canceling events with the Hockey Team. Not long afterÂ Dr Briffa had some kind of surgery which had him out of work for months recuperating. All this while Yamal was blowing up on the Hockey Team, which left them to defend Keith’s work. We see in the emails this defense fell hard on Briffa’s co-author Tom Osborn.
There seemed constant friction between Mann and Briffa, which is highlighted in this email from February 2009:
At 14:15 02/03/2009, you wrote:
Following the recommendations of Malcolm [Hughes] and Phil [Jones] (via Ray), it’sÂ clear that I should have come to you sooner.
On the tree-ring side, it’s clear to me now that I should notÂ haveÂ used the series from the Mann et al. compilation, and I hadn’tÂ seeÂ your 2008 Phil Trans paper until just last week. As far as I canÂ tell, the only records that meet the criteria for this study areÂ yourÂ three new RCS series from Eurasia and D’Arrigo’s Gulf of AlaskaÂ record. Apparently, none of the Malcolm’s series in Mann et al.Â wereÂ processed in a way that would preserve the millennial trend, andÂ these should be omitted from the synthesis.
Darrell S. Kaufman
Professor of Geology and Environmental Sciences
Northern Arizona University
Now this is truly interesting. Phil Jones and Maclolm Hughes directing Kaufman to deal with Briffa over Mann. Is this more than just pointing a coworker to the better source of data? It turns out Kaufman ends up in the same hot water (skeptic wise) as Briffa not long after this.
One thing becomes clear is Kaufman, Briffa and Osborn repeatedly seemed more willing to work things out with McIntyre and deal with the AGW warts, while the rest of the Hockey Team kept trying to hide and delay (while moaning constantly). It seems there was a rift forming between 2nd tier scientists and top tier (famous) AGW zealots.
If we fast forward to September 2009 two things strart breaking. First the team discovers and confirms that they used a proxy series wrong (another find by the esteemed Steve McIntyre):
On Sep 4, 2009, at 5:24 PM, Nick McKay wrote:
The Korttajarvi record was oriented in the reconstruction in the way that McIntyre said.Â I took a look at the original reference – the temperature proxy we looked at is x-rayÂ density, which the author interprets to be inversely related to temperature. We hadÂ higher values as warmer in the reconstruction, so it looks to me like we got it wrong,Â unless we decided to reinterpret the record which I don’t remember. Darrell, does this
sound right to you?
There’s other criticisms that have come up by McIntyre’s group:
(1) We cherry-picked the tree-ring series in Eurasia. Apparently this is old ground, but doÂ we need to address why we chose the Yamal record over the Polar Urals? Apparently, there’sÂ also a record from the Indigirka River region, which might not have been published andÂ doesn’t seem to be included in Keith’s recent summary. If we overlooked any record that metÂ our criteria, I suggest that we explain why. Keith: are you back? Can Ray or Mike provideÂ some advise?
Please let me — better yet, the entire group — know whether you think we should post aÂ revision on RealScience, and whether we should include a reply to other criticism (1Â through 5 above). I’m also thinking that I should write to Ojala and Tiljander directly toÂ apologize for inadvertently reversing their data.
Note how Kaufman is trying to answer the questions in a scientific manner. He gets shot down by the zealots.
The second thing to blow, as hinted at in this email, is the Yamal crisis (the magical larch). If one reads the emails from Sept-Oct 2009 the Hockey Team is obsessed with McIntyre’s find and the concern that whole AGW theory is resting on a few trees in Russia (a the larger set of tree data from the region does not show recent significant warming).
McIntyre’s discovery starts an avalanche of panic on the Team. Briffa is dragged into work to try and provide an answer and everyone is wondering when he will be able to stop the rising tide of skepticism.
On Wed, 30 Sep 2009, Tim Osborn wrote:
Hi Mike and Gavin,
Keith’s temporarily come in to get a handle on all this, but it will take time. LikelyÂ outcome is (1) brief holding note that no cherry-picking was done and demonstrating dataÂ selection is defendable by our time tomorrow; (2) longer piece with more evaluation etc.Â in around a week. No point is posting something that turns out to be wrong.
Keith may post them on the CRU website, but presumably they could be linked to from aÂ RealClimate page or, if Keith agrees, be reproduced on RealClimate?
Briffa is scrambling trying to find the data he needs to counter McIntyre to the point he accidentally irritates Malcolm Hughes by asking for data that won’t be published for a year. Malcolm’s response seems to be another indication that a fissure building between the US and CRU groups. He is not happy with Briffa.
Mann tries to put on a bold front that Yamal means nothing, but he still has to confirm with CRU that it really is all OK:
thanks for alerting us to that detail of Kaufman et al which I’d overlooked. We’dÂ already asked Darrell if he could compute a Yamal-less version of his series, but as youÂ point out he’s really already done this! And Osborn and Briffa ’06 is also immune toÂ this issue, as it eliminated any combination of up to 3 of the proxies and showed theÂ result was essentially the same (fair to say this Tim?).
Sadly for Mann and the Hockey Team, Osborn was not so confident:
yes, you’re right: figs S4-S6 in our supplementary information do indeed show resultsÂ leaving out individual, groups of two, and groups of three proxies, respectively. It’sÂ attached.
I wouldn’t say we were immune to the issue — results are similar for these leave 1, 2 or 3Â out cases, but they certainly are not as strong as the case with all 14 proxies.
Then comes a bit of a bombshell for those who so desperately need (career and reputation wise) the current warming to be significantly higher than the MWP (e.g., unique to the industrial, CO2 emitting age):
CertainlyÂ in figure S6, there are some cases with 3 omitted (i.e. some sets of 11) where modernÂ results are comparable with intermittent periods between 800 and 1100. Plus there is the additional uncertainty, discussed on the final page of the supplementaryÂ information, associated with linking the proxy records to real temperatures (remember weÂ have no formal calibration, we’re just counting proxies — I’m still amazed that ScienceÂ agreed to publish something where the main analysis only involves counting from 1 to 14!Â :-)).
But this is fine, since the IPCC AR4 and other assessments are not saying the evidence isÂ 100% conclusive (or even 90% conclusive) but just “likely” that modern is warmer than MWP.Â So, yes, it should be possible to find some subsets of data where MWP and Modern areÂ comparable and similarly for some seasons and regions.
This is not good. A warmer MWP blows AGW out of the water and here is Briffa’s co-author being blunt about it all. A decade after Mann and company had to fix their graphs because the IPCC needed more dramatic warming, here they were again faced with tree data that could not prove that today’s warming was unique in history, and in fact proved it was not!
This is when it really got bad.Â On October 4th Tom Wigley (formerly of CRU and now at UCAR in Colorado) was trying to give Briffa time to respond and hold the team together:
On Sun, Oct 4, 2009 at 8:50 PM, Tom Wigley <email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>>Â wrote:
I think it would be wise to let Briffa respond to theseÂ accusations before compounding them with unwarrantedÂ extrapolations.Â With regard to the Hockey Stick, it is highly unlikely thatÂ a single site can be very important.
A David Schnare from the Center for Environmental Stewardship was not impressed and lambasted Briffa:
Briffa has already made a preliminary response and he failed to explain his selectionÂ procedure. Further, he refused to give up the data for several years, and was forced toÂ do so only when he submitted to a journal that demanded data archiving and actuallyÂ enforced the practice.
More significantly, Briffa’s analysis is irrelevant. Dendrochonology is a bankruptÂ approach. They admit that they cannot distiguish causal elements contributing to treeÂ ring size. Further, they rely on recent temperature data by which to select recent treeÂ data (excluding other data) and then turn around and claim that the tree ring data
explains the recent temperature data. If you can give a principled and reasoned defenseÂ of Briffa (see the discussion on Watt’s website) then go for it. I’d be fascinated, asÂ would a rather large number of others.
This is coming from a hard core skeptic working for a group who want to drill for more oil in the US – so take it with a grain of salt. Tim Wigley defends Briffa:
However, Keith Briffa is in the Climatic Research Unit (CRU), and I wasÂ Director of CRU for many years so I am quite familiar with Keith andÂ with his work. I have also done a lots of hands on tree ring work, bothÂ in the field and in developing and applying computer programs forÂ climate reconstruction from tree rings. On the other hand, I have notÂ been involved in any of this work since I left CRU in 1993 to move toÂ NCAR. But I do think I can speak with some modicum of authority.
You say, re dendoclimatologists, “they rely on recent temperature data by which toÂ *select* recent tree data” (my emphasis). I don’t know where you get this idea, but IÂ can assure you that it is entirely wrong.
But on the very same day Tim Wigley, formally of CRU and coworker of Briffa, turns on Keith’s work using very similar language to the Hockey Team lead players:
Date: Mon, 05 Oct 2009 03:57:57 -0600
From: Tom Wigley <email@example.com>
It is distressing to read that American Stinker item. But KeithÂ does seem to have got himself into a mess. As I pointed out inÂ emails, Yamal is insignificant. And you say that (contrary toÂ what M&M say) Yamal is *not* used in MBH, etc. So these factsÂ alone are enough to shoot down M&M is a few sentences (whichÂ surely is the only way to go — complex and wordy responsesÂ will be counter productive).
But, more generally, (even if it *is* irrelevant) how does KeithÂ explain the McIntyre plot that compares Yamal-12 with Yamal-all? AndÂ how does he explain the apparent “selection” of the less well-replicatedÂ chronology rather that the later (better replicated) chronology?Â Of course, I don’t know how often Yamal-12 has really been used inÂ recent, post-1995, work. I suspect from what you say it is much lessÂ often that M&M say — but where did they get their information? IÂ presume they went thru papers to see if Yamal was cited, a pretty foolproof method ifÂ you ask me.
Perhaps these things can be explained clearly and concisely — but I am notÂ sure Keith is able to do thisÂ as he is too close to the issue and probably quite pissed of[f].
And the issue of with-holding data is still a hot potato, one thatÂ affects both you and Keith (and Mann). Yes, there are reasons — butÂ many *good* scientists appear to be unsympathetic to these. TheÂ trouble here is that with-holding data looks like hiding something,Â and hiding means (in some eyes) that it is bogus science that isÂ being hidden.
I think Keith needs to be very, very careful in how he handles this.
Keith may have been pissed off, but Wigley just launched a broadside at CRU and Briffa – who could blame Keith?
Now I have new questions. Who is it who convinced Briffa to withhold data all those years? Was it his idea, or Mann’s and Jones’? Briffa was once again becoming the fall guy for the Hockey Team, just as he was getting back on his feet. I am sure he had plenty of moments to contemplate where is life was heading and why he was putting up with these people.
Wigley’s attack could have sent Briffa (and others in the British contingent) over the edge. It was a cheap shot, and one that probably stung from the ex-patriot turned yankee. The house of cards was falling down and it was tree rings at the center of it.
If I recall correctly, Briffa was even trying to reach out to McIntyre a few times during all this. This last email is very intriguing. It is from Osborne, telling American Gavin Schmidt from NASA GISS to stop acting like the exposure of Yamal was a planned attack on a sick Briffa:
At 14:30 29/09/2009, Gavin Schmidt wrote:
The fact is that they launched an assault on Keith knowing fullÂ well he isn’t in a position to respond. This is despicable.
be careful here, I think it more likely that McIntye only learned ofÂ Keith’s absence after he started posting about Yamal and the realÂ reason for the timing of all this is that we made the Yamal tree-core measurements available about 2-3 weeks ago (in fact Keith hadÂ thought they had been made available before he fell ill, and onlyÂ realised in early September that they weren’t — and asked for thatÂ to be rectified).
I take Osborn at his word, Keith was trying to provide the data to McIntyre very early on. This would have been seen as treachery from the Mann, Jones and Wigley perspective. They had spent years avoiding FOIA requests, and here is Briffa engaging the skeptics openly. I can see why the bad blood might be forming.
I can also tell some at CRU were getting tired with the melodrama of their US cohorts. Having worked in the international arena myself I can safely say Mann is not one of those lovable Americans Europeans admire. He is to boorish and vindictive.
What I also cannot help but notice, besides Briffa’s recent silence, is two other very strange events.
- All of Briffa’s materials at CRU have been pulled from their website. Even the cached versions are gone. Want to read is Yamal response? You can’t.
- While Briffa is cc’d on and the direct subject many of the recent emails, there is almost nothing from him in the last year! How is it we see so little of Keith in all these emails? He was at CRU and and his emails would be in the same group – why are his apparently missing or so few?
This a very thin and highly unlikely scenario, but someone inside CRU compiled this data and it did not happen over night. I find it interesting that Briffa’s role is both necessary (without him there is no cooling off of the MWP to make current climate so dramatic) and frustrating to his colleagues. He appears to want to let the data tell the story, but keeps getting caught shading it to meet the Hockey Team’s goals. I think Keith Briffa was more scientists the AGW zealot – which is why I think he is top candidate to blow the whistle.
Who knows. But we will know someday. This puzzle will be completed.
Update: Reader CP notes that the first email is also a dead giveaway. It is to Keith Briffa regarding his efforts to work on Yamal and is from 1996. This makes total sense if the FOIA request the was data collected was actually for Briffa’s files!
In September 1999, Jonesâ€™s IPCC colleague Michael Mann of Penn State University in America – who is now also the subject of an official investigation –was working with Jones on the hockey stick. As they debated which data to use, they discussed a long tree-ring analysis carried out by Keith Briffa.
Briffa knew exactly why they wanted it, writing in an email on September 22: â€˜I know there is pressure to present a nice tidy story as regards â€œapparent unprecedented warming in a thousand years or moreâ€.â€™ But his conscience was troubled. â€˜In reality the situation is not quite so simple – I believe that the recent warmth was probably matched about 1,000 years ago.â€™
It is an incredible article, which I bet is shaking the foundations in Copenhagen!