Friday, May 20, 2011

Integrity of Stephen McIntyre examined... a review by Real Climate

The following is a collection of posts from a website put together by real climatologists, folks who actually publish real peer-reviewed articles - as opposed to being wrapped within a non-peer reviewed media machine as is the case with the famous Stephen McIntyre - the mining engineer, investment promoter, and the statistician who thinks his personal intellectual powers permit him to stand judge and jury over the entire establishment climatology community and decades worth of research.

Over at the he has a great defender who's constantly challenging me to provide evidence for McIntyre's deception, yet rejects all that doesn't agree with her outlook. But, like I keep trying to remind her, One Directional Skepticism Equals Denial.

So for folks out there who are interested in what the brains have to say about the controversies and misperceptions being peddled by Mr. McIntyre here is a little collection.

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{Admittedly this is the longest post I've put together and you might want to simply link to the various Real Climate posts where you can get the full scoop rather than these truncated versions.}

{The earliest reports, at the bottom of the page, are actually the most interesting so far as meat'n potatoes understanding of the scientific background to McIntyre's manufactured controversies.
But, here we have an example of the dishonest manipulation and dissemination of information which the denier echo-chamber has turned into a high art form.}

Wahl-to-Wahl coverage — gavin @ 9 March 2011

Eugene Wahl asked us to post a statement related to some incorrect claims circulating in the blogosphere:
The Daily Caller blog yesterday contained an inaccurate story regarding a correspondence that was part of the emails hacked from East Anglia University Climate Research Unit (CRU) in November 2009.

For the record, while I received the email from CRU as forwarded by Dr. Mann, the forwarded message came without any additional comment from Dr. Mann; there was no request from him to delete emails. At the time of the email in May 2008, I was employed by Alfred University, New York. I became a NOAA employee in August 2008.

The emails I deleted while a university employee are the correspondence I had with Dr. Briffa of CRU regarding the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, all of which have been in the public domain since the CRU hack in November 2009. This correspondence has been extensively examined and no misconduct found. As a NOAA employee, I follow agency record retention policies and associated guidance from information technology staff.

Dr. Eugene R. Wahl
March 9, 2011

RC's comments:
These claims are simply the latest attempt to try and manufacture scandals and smear scientists, particularly Mike Mann, based on the UEA emails. The story appears likely to have come from Senator Inhofe’s office who presumably had access to the transcripts taken by the NOAA Office of the Inspector General (whose investigation found no evidence of any wrongdoing by NOAA employees). The story was planted with Steve McIntyre, Anthony Watts, and Chris Horner, and then linked to by Inhofe’s office to provide a little plausible denialability – a rather blatant media spin operation.
But the facts of the case do not support the narrative they are pushing at all. . .
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{Quite the interesting 3,000 word read examining the usual denialist claims.}

The Montford Delusion — 22 July 2010 — Guest commentary by Tamino

If you don’t know much about climate science, or about the details of the controversy over the “hockey stick,” then A. W. Montford’s book The Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science might persuade you that not only the hockey stick, but all of modern climate science, is a fraud perpetrated by a massive conspiracy of climate scientists and politicians, in order to guarantee an unending supply of research funding and political power. That idea gets planted early, in the 6th paragraph of chapter 1.
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{Here RC discusses the Yamal tree ring data and McIntyre’s critique which once again “proved” climatologists have it all wrong... not }

Hey Ya!(mal) — group @ 30 September 2009

Interesting news this weekend. Apparently everything we’ve done in our entire careers is a “MASSIVE lie” (sic) because all of radiative physics, climate history, the instrumental record, modeling and satellite observations turn out to be based on 12 trees in an obscure part of Siberia. Who knew?

Indeed, according to both the National Review and the Daily Telegraph (and who would not trust these sources?), even Al Gore’s use of the stair lift in An Inconvenient Truth was done to highlight cherry-picked tree rings, instead of what everyone thought was the rise in CO2 concentrations in the last 200 years.
So along comes Steve McIntyre, self-styled slayer of hockey sticks, who declares without any evidence whatsoever that Briffa didn’t just reprocess the data from the Russians, but instead supposedly picked through it to give him the signal he wanted. These allegations have been made without any evidence whatsoever.
McIntyre has based his ‘critique’ on a test conducted by randomly adding in one set of data from another location in Yamal that he found on the internet. . .
One would think that some things go without saying, but apparently people still get a key issue wrong so let us be extremely clear. Science is made up of people challenging assumptions and other peoples’ results with the overall desire of getting closer to the ‘truth’. There is nothing wrong with people putting together new chronologies of tree rings or testing the robustness of previous results to updated data or new methodologies. Or even thinking about what would happen if it was all wrong.

What is objectionable is the conflation of technical criticism with unsupported, unjustified and unverified accusations of scientific misconduct. Steve McIntyre keeps insisting that he should be treated like a professional.

But how professional is it to continue to slander scientists with vague insinuations and spin made-up tales of perfidy out of the whole cloth instead of submitting his work for peer-review? He continues to take absolutely no responsibility for the ridiculous fantasies and exaggerations that his supporters broadcast, apparently being happy to bask in their acclaim rather than correct any of the misrepresentations he has engendered.

If he wants to make a change, he has a clear choice; to continue to play Don Quixote for the peanut gallery or to produce something constructive that is actually worthy of publication.

Peer-review is nothing sinister and not part of some global conspiracy, but instead it is the process by which people are forced to match their rhetoric to their actual results. You can’t generally get away with imprecise suggestions that something might matter for the bigger picture without actually showing that it does. It does matter whether something ‘matters’, otherwise you might as well be correcting spelling mistakes for all the impact it will have.

Update: Briffa and colleagues have now responded with an extensive (and in our view, rather convincing) rebuttal.
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{Another interesting read, this one explaining the background to the claim of 1934 being the warmest year, sometime even being misrepresented to claim world temps - when it only concerned US temperature data. It is a case in point of how a minor fix is morphed into a mountain it just isn’t.}

1934 and all that — gavin @ 10 August 2007

Last Saturday, Steve McIntyre wrote an email to NASA GISS pointing out that for some North American stations in the GISTEMP analysis, there was an odd jump in going from 1999 to 2000.

The U.S. annual (January-December) mean temperature is slightly warmer in 1934 than in 1998 in the GISS analysis (Plate 6). This contrasts with the USHCN data, which has 1998 as the warmest year in the century. In both cases the difference between 1934 and 1998 mean temperatures is a few hundredths of a degree.

The main reason that 1998 is relatively cooler in the GISS analysis is its larger adjustment for urban warming. In comparing temperatures of years separated by 60 or 70 years the uncertainties in various adjustments (urban warming, station history adjustments, etc.) lead to an uncertainty of at least 0.1°C. Thus it is not possible to declare a record U.S. temperature with confidence until a result is obtained that exceeds the temperature of 1934 by more than 0.1°C.
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{Here we start getting into the nitty gritty of the tree ring data, PCA and centering and red noise, it's a fairly long post, here I include only a few highlights.}

On Yet Another False Claim by McIntyre and McKitrick — mike @ 6 January 2005

McIntyre and McKitrick (MM), in one of their many false claims regarding the Mann et al (MBH98) temperature reconstruction, assert that the “Hockey Stick” shape of the reconstruction is an artifact of the “non-centered” Principal Components Analysis (PCA) convention used by MBH98 in representing the North American International Tree Ring Data Bank (ITRDB) data series. We already demonstrated the falsehood of this assertion here
Here, however, we choose to focus on some curious additional related assertions made by MM holding that (1) use of non-centered PCA (as by MBH98) is somehow not statistically valid, and (2) that “Hockey Stick” patterns arise naturally from application of non-centered PCA to purely random “red noise”. Both claims, which are of course false, were made in a comment on MBH98 by MM that was rejected by Nature , and subsequently parroted by astronomer Richard Muller in a non peer-reviewed setting–see e.g. this nice discussion by science journalist David Appell of Muller’s uncritical repetition of these false claims.

These claims were discredited in the response provided by Mann and coworkers to the Nature editor and reviewers, which presumably formed the primary basis for the rejection of the MM comment.

Contrary to MM’s assertions, the use of non-centered PCA is well-established in the statistical literature, and in some cases is shown to give superior results to standard, centered PCA
Lets turn, now, to MM’s claim that the “Hockey Stick” arises simply from the application of non-centered PCA to red noise. Given a large enough “fishing expedition” analysis, it is of course possible to find “Hockey-Stick like” PC series out of red noise. But this is a meaningless exercise. {...} This analysis showed that the “Hockey Stick” pattern is highly significant in comparison with the expectations from random (red) noise for both the MBH98 and MM conventions.
So the facts deal a death blow to yet another false claim by McIntyre and McKitrick. Despite the plain facts, as laid out here, however, their false claims have nonetheless been parroted in op-ed pieces of dubious origin and other non-peer-reviewed venues.

One of the primary missions of “RealClimate” is indeed to expose the false, disingenuous, and misleading claims often found in such venues.
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{This post preceded the above post, discussing PC, the centering mess and explaining how Mann et al. processed the data. Again I include only highlights of a much longer worthier post at RealClimate}

False Claims by McIntyre and McKitrick regarding the Mann et al. (1998) reconstruction — mike @ 4 December 2004

A number of spurious criticisms regarding the Mann et al (1998) proxy-based temperature reconstruction have been made by two individuals McIntyre and McKitrick ( McIntyre works in the mining industry, while McKitrick is an economist). These criticisms are contained in two manuscripts (McIntyre and McKitrick 2003 and 2004–the latter manuscript was rejected by Nature; both are collectively henceforth referred to as “MM”). {...}

[McIntyre and McKitrick have additionally been discredited in a recent peer-reviewed article by Rutherford et al (2004)].

{...} Application of the standard selection rule (Preisendorfer’s “Rule N’“) used by MBH98, selects 2 PC series using the MBH98 centering convention, but a larger number (5 PC series) using the MM centering convention. Curiously undisclosed by MM in their criticism is the fact that precisely the same ‘hockey stick’ pattern that appears using the MBH98 convention (as PC series #1) also appears using the MM convention, albeit slightly lower down in rank (PC series #4) (Figure 1). {...}

{...} As discussed above, MM incorrectly truncated the PC basis set at only 2 PC series based on a failure to apply standard selection rules to determine the number of PC series that should be retained in the analysis. {...}

We further show that the entire issue raised by MM regarding the centering convention used in PCA is spurious by demonstrating that similar results are produced whether or not proxy networks are represented using PCA at all (Figure 3).

We performed the reconstruction employing all 95 proxy indicators available in the MBH98 proxy network back to AD 1400 individually (rather than using any PC series to represent these indicators). {...} The central ‘hockey stick’ result of MBH98 is thus quite clearly seen to be robust to the specious criticisms raised by MM with regard to the centering convention used in the PCA of proxy data networks or the infilling of missing values in certain proxy series.
Given that each of the criticisms of MBH98 raised by MM are demonstrably false, one might well be led to wonder how MM, using the MBH98 method and their putative ‘corrected’ version of the MBH98 proxy dataset, were able to obtain a reconstruction so at odds with the MBH98 reconstruction and virtually all existing reconstructions (in particular, in its apparent indication of anomalous 15th century warmth). Rather than ‘correcting’ the MBH98 proxy data set, we demonstrate that the reconstruction of MM resulted, instead, from their selective censoring of key indicators from the MBH98 proxy dataset.

Indeed, we are able to reproduce the MM reconstruction of anomalous 15th century warmth when the entire ITRDB North American data set (and the ‘Queen Anne’ series) are censored from the proxy network (Figure 4). These data (in fact, 70% of all of the proxy data used by MBH98 prior to AD 1600) were unjustifiably censored from the MBH98 dataset by McIntyre and McKitrick (2003) in their original analysis (see Jones and Mann, 2004, and Rutherford et al, 2004 for a discussion).

MM in their more recent rejected submission to Nature, instead filtered out the ‘hockey stick’ pattern of low-frequency variability in the North American ITRDB data through the incorrect PCA truncation described above, which censors this pattern by retaining too few Principal Components series in the data.
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{Here we have a fairly simple run down of Mac's myths. I've only included section headings so please do read what the pro's have to say.}

Myth vs. Fact Regarding the "Hockey Stick"
— mike @ 4 December 2004

MYTH #0: Evidence for modern human influence on climate rests entirely upon the "Hockey Stick" Reconstruction of Northern Hemisphere mean temperatures indicating anomalous late 20th century warmth.

MYTH #1: The "Hockey Stick" Reconstruction is based solely on two publications by climate scientist Michael Mann and colleagues (Mann et al, 1998;1999).

MYTH #2: Regional proxy evidence of warm or anomalous (wet or dry) conditions in past centuries contradicts the conclusion that late 20th century hemispheric mean warmth is anomalous in a long-term (multi-century to millennial) context.

MYTH #3: The "Hockey Stick" studies claim that the 20th century on the whole is the warmest period of the past 1000 years.

MYTH #4: Errors in the "Hockey Stick" undermine the conclusion that late 20th century hemispheric warmth is anomalous.
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{Here RealClimate is reporting on peer review science in action. Specifically how Rutherford et al 2005 deconstructs McIntyre and McKitrick's claims.}

Rutherford et al 2005 highlights — mike @ 22 November 2004

The claims of McIntyre and McKitrick regarding the Mann et al (1998) temperature reconstruction have recently been discredited by the following peer-reviewed article to appear in the American Meteorological Society journal, “Journal of Climate“:

Rutherford, S., Mann, M.E., Osborn, T.J., Bradley, R.S., Briffa, K.R., Hughes, M.K., Jones, P.D., Proxy-based Northern Hemisphere Surface Temperature Reconstructions
: Sensitivity to Methodology, Predictor Network, Target Season and Target Domain, Journal of Climate, in press (2005).

Key excerpts from the article are provided below:
1. page 13, 2nd paragraph (through top of page 14)
It should be noted that some falsely reported putative errors in the Mann et al.(1998) proxy data claimed by McIntyre and McKitrick (2003) are an artifact of (a) the use by these latter authors of an incorrect version of the Mann et al. (1998) proxy indicator dataset, and (b) their misunderstanding of the methodology used by Mann et al. (1998) to calculate PC series of proxy networks over progressively longer time intervals. In the Mann et al. (1998) implementation, the PCs are computed over different time steps so that the maximum amount of data can be used in the reconstruction.
The latter misunderstanding led McIntyre and McKitrick (2003) to eliminate roughly 70% of the proxy data used by Mann et al. (1998) prior to AD 1600, including 77 of the 95 proxy series used by Mann et al. (1998) prior to AD 1500. This elimination of data gave rise to spurious, anomalous warmth during the 15th century in their reconstruction, sharply at odds with virtually all other empirical and model-based estimates of hemispheric temperature trends in past centuries (see e.g. Jones and Mann, 2004).

2. page 32, beginning (5th) sentence, 3rd paragraph:
{...}We terminated the calibration period in 1971 to address the criticism by McIntyre and McKitrick (2003) of the use by MBH98 of a modest number of infilled missing proxy values in the PC/Multiproxy network between 1971 and 1980.

3. page 33, beginning 2nd paragraph:
A remarkably close similarity is observed (Figure 3) between the RegEM and Mann et al. (1998) NH annual mean surface temperature reconstructions. The two reconstructions are indistinguishable well within their 2-sigma uncertainties.
The close reproducibility of the MBH98 reconstruction based on both (a) the use of an independent CFR method and (b) the use of the individual proxies used by MBH98 rather than the Multiproxy/PC representation used by MBH98, discredits the arguments put forth by McIntyre and McKitrick (2003) in support of their putative correction to the MBH98 reconstruction.
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{If after all this you are ready for a little RealClimate on the lite side, here is a fun historical review.}

A brief history of knowledge about Antarctic temperatures
— eric @ 9 December 2010

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