GISS responds to my complaint

As predicted, Gavin Schmidt did not respond, but I did get a nice letter from Dr. Reto Ruedy after Gavin forwarded the complaint. To his credit, Dr. Ruedy has now corrected the issue that I highlighted here. I appreciate his response. Some email addresses were redacted to prevent autospamming – Anthony

From: Ruedy, Reto A. (GISS-611.0)[TRINNOVIM, LLC]

Sent: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 9:17 AM

To: Anthony

Cc: Sato, Makiko (GISS-611.0)[GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER] ; Schmidt, Gavin A. (GISS-6110) ; HANSEN, JAMES E. (GISS-6110)

Subject: RE: courtesy note

Dear Mr. Watts, 

The page with the figure you mention in your email has been created manually until recently and no data have been displayed in the past on that page for periods that partially lie in the future.

However, when I automated the creation of that page there was one program – the one that finds the US annual means – that missed the feature not to produce such means.

That oversight – which had no effect until this month – has been corrected and you should only see on our temperature web site estimates for periods that lie completely in the past. The 2012 US mean anomaly estimate will not be shown in that display before January 2013.

Thank you very much for notifying us. We appreciate and as far as I know always responded to any notification of an actual or suspected error on our web page. If I ever failed to respond to any of your emails to GISS, please forward them to me – I could not find any in my mailbox.

I am familiar with and appreciate your work examining the quality of temperature reports and want to thank you for that effort.

Best regards,

Reto Ruedy

—–Original Message—–

From: Schmidt, Gavin A. (GISS-6110)

Sent: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 8:09 PM

To: Ruedy, Reto A. (GISS-611.0)[TRINNOVIM, LLC]

Cc: Sato, Makiko (GISS-611.0)[GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER]

Subject: FW: courtesy note

something definitely odd with the 2012 number in Fig.D.gif – and I wonder why it’s being calculated at all? We only have 7 months so far for an annual mean…

Gavin

=============

Gavin Schmidt

NASA/Goddard Institute for Space Studies

2880 Broadway

New York, NY 10025

Tel: (212) xxxxx

Email: Gavin.A.Schmidt@xxxx

URL: http://www.giss.nasa.gov/staff/gschmidt.html

________________________________________

From: Anthony

Sent: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 3:44 PM

To: Schmidt, Gavin A. (GISS-6110)

Subject: courtesy note

Dear Dr. Schmidt,

I doubt you’ll credit me when you fix this, or even acknowledge receipt of this message, but I’m informing you of the error anyway.

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/08/21/climate-fail-giss-is-presenting-2012-us-temperature-as-off-the-chart-while-preventing-older-data-from-being-archived/

Best Regards,

Anthony Watts

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42 thoughts on “GISS responds to my complaint

  1. Anthony,
    ‘Thank you’ is nice but I think GISS ought to send you a fee for examining the quality of their temperature reports.

  2. See? You can correspond with those who don’t agree with you in a courteous manner. Maybe this will be a lesson for some of the people like Dr. Schmidt.

  3. Gavin does a good job in directing my occasional RC posts to his ‘bore hole’ archive. This has unintended consequence and a great advantage in that all my posts are on the same web page, hence viewing of the old posts is frequent, which wouldn’t be the case if he left them where they were intended.

  4. Anthony, you sent the link to Gavin, did he actually come here to look at it or did he send someone else??
    “He-whos-website-must-not-be-affirmed”

    REPLY: Can’t tell, as I get dozens of hits from GISS on regular basis, they don’t show who. I suspect he would have had to, otherwise he wouldn’t know what I was talking about about from the context of the email. It doesn’t really matter, all that matters is that the problem was recognized and solved after I pointed it out. – Anthony

  5. omnologos on August 22, 2012 at 9:47 am
    > Have they credited you? Is any change log appearing on the page?

    This is not the sort of thing that needs to go on the Web page. A thank you note is adequate, an explanation is a nice extra. That’s all I’ve expected on pages I’ve sent corrections for.

  6. That is a good response from Ruedy. Indeed, it is so good that it could be used to present as an example when some other ‘climate scientists’ respond in an inappropriate manner upon being presented with helpful information.

    Richard

  7. Good stuff! Even if he is aware (duh!) that you and Hansen are not pals, he is being professional. And I am sure that he will, indeed, honour his intention to respond to you quickly and professionally.

    There is hope for the situation yet.

    This is what Hansen and Gore and Suzuki don’t want (though they understand well): when contrary positions occur, but the disputants still talk, a position of mutual satisfaction, if not agreement perhaps, can result. The Team doesn’t want this to happen, however, as any mutually satisfactory position has to recognize the internal (at least) validity of the others viewpoint. H et al cannot agree to such a compromise, as they claim zero doubt and zero unsettleness about what they state.

    You can sell a house buit on sand; high demand sites on Galveston Island attest to this. But you cannot expect a would-be-buyer to believe he will survive a serious storm in it. The Team are in the business of selling houses, however they know their clients want to buy only if the foundations are on solid rock. The Team see this as an undesirable limitation of their business opportunites. As a result, no one with a shovel is welcome wherever they’re working.

  8. It’s nice to get a courteous response which goes further than any thanks that one could reasonably expect. It’s not about scoring points or who caught out who but simply about requiring the best standards from public bodies and ensuring that data are factually presented. Good job all round, even Gavin, who must have had some teeth-gnashing moments when dealing with this ;) ( I know, unnecessary )

  9. Honestly, it sounds like Dr. Ruedy is an actual fan of yours. His response went beyond professional and he seems to actually appreciate your work.

  10. There’s a very important point to be made about this that has nothing to do with the data and everything to do with automation. When you automate something, it is exceedingly difficult to exclude unintended consequences such as this one.

    In this case, the error stood out like a sore thumb. Implementing automation requires regression testing to ensure that the automation hasn’t introduced new errors. Regression testing needs to be done when new verisions of software are released, but also when manual systems are automated. This ensures that the automated system produces the same result as the previous system (be it manual or automated) and this was clearly not done in this case.

    Which leads to the obvious question. Are there additional errors that are no so obvious embedded in the automation that we have not yet detected?

    Supplemental to the obvious question. With the fate of the world at stake, why are rigorous regression testing practices not in place?

    Supplemental to the supplemental. Are other automated systems at GISS similarly run without suitable regression testing?

  11. imoira says:
    “I think GISS ought to send you a fee for examining the quality of their temperature reports.”

    I agree. I’d say you’re worth at least two and a half Hansens and a Gavin!

  12. Here’s another boner Ruedy should fix:

    “Continental US” includes Alaska.
    “Contiguous US” excludes it–the term is equivalent to “the lower 48″
    It’s a common error to use “continental” when “contiguous” is meant.

    GISS’s chart is subheaded “Continental US annual mean anomalies…”

    Shouldn’t that be “Contiguous“?

  13. BS BS BS …and you should only see on our temperature web site estimates for periods that lie completely in the past. BS BS BS

    Seems to me like the truth was hidden within a lot of platitudes.

    Dear Anthony,

    We only estimate temperatures. These should have all been guesses about past temperatures. We messed up. You caught us. Shoot. Maybe you caught us before, can you please tell us if you did, so that we can cover that up too.

    All our love,

    GISS, (Guessing Is Simple, Stupid!).

    Hmmmm…

  14. It’s certainly refreshing to see this courteous exchange with NASA GISS. Some of their exchanges and public statements have been surpringly unprofessional for a US government scientific agency. It’s also good to see Anthony Watts doing what he does best. He deserves major public recognition for his contributions to climate science.

  15. The issue of the mean being calculated early has been acknowledged, but what about the old archives that are now buried and, they hope, forgotten?

  16. Perry says:

    August 22, 2012 at 10:59 am
    Dr. Ruedy’s response is well mannered, gracious and courteous. A man of integrity.

    First sentence is correct and the evidence is clear. Second sentence is an assumption with no evidence to back it up.

  17. My theory is that the Romms and Taminos of the world are too obsessed with WUWT to look at any other page. Likewise, Gavin never looks at the GISS site either.

  18. The response is professional – and a step in the right direction.

    That said I must poke a little good natured fun – it was perhaps a little too honest:

    The page with the figure you mention in your email has been created manually until recently and no data have been displayed in the past on that page for periods that partially lie in the future.

    However, when I automated the creation of that page there was one program – the one that finds the US annual means – that missed the feature not to produce such means.

    That oversight – which had no effect until this month – has been corrected and you should only see on our temperature web site estimates for periods that lie completely in the past.

    I think all would prefer if they simply didn’t “lie” at all …☺

  19. davidmhoffer says:
    August 22, 2012 at 10:38 am

    “Which leads to the obvious question. Are there additional errors that are no so obvious embedded in the automation that we have not yet detected?”

    I migrate data professionally, and one of my warnings to customers about automating data modifications is that you need to do a lot of testing, the worst kind of error is the undetected error.

  20. Dr Ruedy is a man. Well done Sir. That is how you respond to errors. Gavin, Mann, Jones et al, look and learn.

  21. Reto Ruedy looks like a ‘class act’.

    Problem identified, fixed, and acknowledged. Nice.

    It’s a refreshing change from the “deny, denigrate, insult, and attack” that often happens in such things.

    If there were more folks like that (on both sides) willing to recognize what the other has to offer; there would be a lot more progress and a lot less pointless rock tossing.

  22. Boy, that courteous response makes your original email look a bit snide and petty.

    REPLY:
    Gavin’s reputation precedes him. Never had a cross word with Reto though, probably never will. Next time I see a problem with GISS, I’ll just bypass Gavin altoether and deal directly with Reto – Anthony

  23. This is good. I keep reminding myself that GISS isn’t full of Hansens. Inside every one of these warmist agencies there are genuine scientists and thinkers looking on and frowning at the extremists in charge. Think of NASA’s 49. Retired people can talk without threat to their livelihood but there are plenty of others watching and waiting. I believe the same is true for the MSM. Some of them fully understand what is going on and are biding their time (at least I hope so). We get shown the surface layer of alarmism but underneath that there is growing discord. That’s the way I see it.

    You got a good and helpful response, Anthony, and a correction in place. Every bit helps. :)

  24. Dr. Reudy’s award appears to be a well-deserved recognition of a scientist “down in the ranks” rather than the the organizations leader, i.e,. Hansen.or his alter ego, Gavin Schmidt. Reudy’s response to Anthony was prompt and respectful.

  25. “estimates” !!! First time I’ve seen GISS, or any of the other usual suspects, publicly acknowledge what their temperature numbers actually are. So how do you estimate (v) to 100th of a degree?

  26. Just wait until ‘the Team ‘ harewhat Ruedy, has done , how long before he does a 180 and says there was no error and even if there had been one he would never take advice from a ‘fossil fuel funded climate change denier ‘. The Team never forgives nor forgets .

  27. REPLY: Gavin’s reputation precedes him. Never had a cross word with Reto though, probably never will. Next time I see a problem with GISS, I’ll just bypass Gavin altoether and deal directly with Reto – Anthony

    ================

    This deserves repeating, ;-)

  28. Gavin’s reputation precedes him. Never had a cross word with Reto though, probably never will. Next time I see a problem with GISS, I’ll just bypass Gavin altoether and deal directly with Reto – Anthony

    I’d suggest cc’ing Gavin but directing the email to Reto. Gavin does care about the quality of his products, but he’s obviously not the one who maintains the software.

  29. Excuse me, but that “courtesy note” was anything but and Gavin Schmidt was right to not reply to you.
    Regardless of what you think of the man, if you are going to inform him of something “as a courtesy”, then you’re obliged, at least initially, to BE COURTEOUS.
    It’s not enough simply frame a rude message with “Dear Dr Schmidt” and “Best Regards”.
    Implying off the bat that he would be not acknowledge or credit you is RUDE; not to mention giving absolutely now info in the message except for a link to your blog – one that includes “climate-fail-giss” right in the URL
    Your messages to the mailing list routinely include substantial info; if you truly intended to be “courteous”, at least a modicum of info should have been included, preferably at the start of the e-mail instead of the implication of presupposed ingratitude.
    If you wanted to link to something, it should have been the problematic GISS page not your own analysis of their “climate fail”

  30. @ D Marshall on August 23, 2012 at 7:49 am:

    By normal rules of courtesy you are correct, but not in this case.

    I would not describe the initial email as rude, perhaps surly, but understandable given the history. Reflecting that, Anthony stated his expectations and reported the problem, simultaneously pointing out he had already blogged about it. If he was being absolutely polite he would have emailed before blogging to give them a chance to fix it beforehand, although they should have already noticed the problem before the post.

    In this case, given the history, for Anthony to be as courteous as you suggest, if done consistently, given how relatively often these things crop up, to Gavin it may well have sounded like a little kid continually tugging on the sleeve of someone painting a wall, “Excuse me, mister, but you missed another spot”. Which may well have exacerbated the already-contentious tension between them.

    For the situation, the wording of Anthony’s missive was well measured, considerate with the expected tone, but without what could be interpreted as an insulting manner (neither too harsh nor too polite).

    Of course, for all we know they could just be communicating in a “friendly” style like two guys who are frequently in competition might do:
    “Hey d**che bag, I know you’re not gonna thank me but I’m telling you now, you screwed up again!”
    “You got that right, s***head, I ain’t ever gonna thank you for anything!”
    Now imagine Gavin and Anthony sharing a pitcher of beer at a bar, talking like that…

  31. Why a complaint? Would it not have been simpler and less contentious to say something like “I brought to their attention a problem with one of the graphs on their site?”

    REPLY: It’s a complaint, because they didn’t have any quality control in place nor caught it themselves, you bunny bonehead. Sheesh. If the situation was reversed, you’d release a snark horde on me. – Anthony

  32. Why was the complaint directed at Gavin Schmidt in the 1st place? Looking around the GISS site, I would think any of the following would have been a better choice as their names are featured far more prominently:
    \
    Featured in the banner at the bottom of every page
    NASA official: James Hansen
    Website curator: Robert B Schmunk

    From the contacts area on http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/

    James Hansen, Reto Reudy, Makiko Sato, Ken Lo.

    Even on http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/references.html, Schmidt’s name is nowhere to be found.

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