Spiegel’s stunning 8 part series – Climate Catastrophe: A Superstorm for Global Warming Research

If you have not read this yet, now is the time. Given what president Obama recently said about skeptics in his inauguration address, I thought this 2010 article would be worth revisiting.

In Germany, there’s a revolution going on. That revolution is that they are backing away from the global warming issue, and taking on much more pragmatic outlook on it an many things “green”. For example, they are going big on coal power. Below is one excerpt from the series, describing the David and Goliath story of Steve McIntyre. Links to all eight articles of the series follow. I suggest sharing this far and wide, because it tells the skeptic story quite well. – Anthony

Climate Catastrophe: A Superstorm for Global Warming Research

By Marco Evers, Olaf Stampf and Gerald Traufetter

Part 3: A Climate Rebel Takes on the Establishment

One man notes with particular satisfaction how Phil Jones and his colleagues are being forced to confess to one mistake after another. Steve McIntyre lives in a small brick house near downtown Toronto. It is a Sunday afternoon and he is sitting at his well-worn desk, illuminated only by a small energy-saving bulb on the ceiling.

This man, with his thinning gray hair, is an unlikely adversary for climatologists, and yet he is largely responsible for the current tumult in their field. “This is the computer I used to begin doing the recalculations,” he says, holding a six-year-old Acer laptop with a 40-gigabyte hard drive. “My wife finally gave me a new one for Christmas.”

The laptop marks a sharp contrast to the supercomputers at the disposal of Phil Jones and the other prophets of global warming, whose computers fill entire floors. Instead of gigabytes, they deal in petabytes. How is possible that this Canadian was able to bring such a self-confident group of scientists to their knees?

It all began when his three children went off to college and moved out of his house, which is filled with Asian antiques. “Things weren’t going so well in the markets at the time,” says McIntyre, “so I took six months to examine how climatologists arrive at their curves.”

Hitting Pay Dirt

McIntyre normally works in the investment field, specializing in major mining projects. He has always been good at math. “I won mathematics prizes in school,” says McIntyre. But after finishing his studies, which included a spell at the UK’s elite Oxford University, he left the academic world for a career in high finance.

His late return would shake the academic world to its core. One day, McIntyre came across a curve that seemed all too familiar to him. It was the famous hockey stick curve (see graphic), with which US climatologist Michael Mann sought to prove that, during the last millennium, temperatures have never increased as sharply as they are rising today.

But McIntyre was suspicious. “In financial circles, we talk about a hockey stick curve when some investor presents you with a nice, steep curve in the hope of palming something off on you.”

The stubborn Canadian pestered one scientist after another to provide him with raw data — until he hit pay dirt and discovered that the hockey stick curve was, in his opinion at least, a sham.

Too Few Trees

The climate historians working with Michael Mann used tree rings as the primary source of their data. The problem with this approach is that large numbers of trees from suitable regions are required if conclusions about past temperatures based on tree growth are to be drawn. “Unfortunately, if we go back more than 500 years, we don’t have many reliable trees for our analyses,” explains Jan Esper of the University of Mainz in western Germany.

For example, there are many indications that in medieval times, between 900 and 1,300 A.D., when the Vikings raised livestock in Greenland and grape vines were cultivated in Scotland, it was in fact warmer than it is today. This is precisely what Mann denied, with a certainty that irritated even his allies.

McIntyre put the Mann curve to the arithmetic test. He accuses Mann of having filtered out the hockey stick graph more or less arbitrarily from the fluctuation noise of his tree-ring data. To prove his contention, McIntyre programmed his computer using Mann’s methodology and entered completely random data into the program. The results, says McIntyre, “was a hockey stick curve.”

Then the Canadian rebel turned his attention to the far more important temperature curves of the recent past, those of Phil Jones and of his comrade-in-arms at NASA, James Hansen. All things considered, the blunders he discovered at first were not particularly significant, but they were all the more embarrassing. For instance, scientists had long claimed that 1998 was the warmest year in the United States since temperatures were first recorded — until McIntyre discovered that it was even warmer in 1934.

‘Playground Bully’

McIntyre’s findings did not make him very popular. In the hacked Climategate emails, he is referred to as a “bozo,” a “moron” and a “playground bully.” But with their self-aggrandizement, the climatologists made him into a legend on the Internet. A million people a month visit his blog, climateaudit.org. They include climate skeptics and the usual conspiracy theorists, but also, more recently, many academics who are able to do the math themselves.

McIntyre asserts that he does believe in climate change. “I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water,” he says, “but when I find mistakes, I want them to be corrected.”

He repeatedly bombarded Jones with emails in which he drew his attention to freedom of information laws. This tenacity would prove to be disastrous for Jones.

McIntyre doggedly asked for access to the raw data. Jones was just as dogged in denying his requests, constantly coming up with new, specious reasons for his rejections. Unfortunately for Jones, however, McIntyre’s supporters eventually included people who know how to secretly hack into computers and steal data.

Their target was well selected. Jones was like a spider in its web. Almost every internal debate among the climate popes passed through his computer, leaving behind a digital trail.

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

About these ads
This entry was posted in The Skeptic's Case and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Spiegel’s stunning 8 part series – Climate Catastrophe: A Superstorm for Global Warming Research

  1. Alexander says:

    SP_IE_GEL, ie “Mirror” not Speigel

    REPLY: Fixed, thanks, Anthony

  2. Luther Wu says:

    The problem is that “green” is often the new “red” and the old tried and true tactic of any lie for the cause still holds sway.

  3. Eliza says:

    AW this seems to be have published April 2010? is this correct

    REPLY: Yes, but given what’s going on in the world today, after Obama’s speech, I thought I’d make this available again since he’s trashed skeptics. I’ll make the point clearer. – Anthony

  4. Their conclusion seems to still be “the world is warming, the waters are rising, the ice is melting… and it’s too late to stop.” Doesn’t seem to useful to quote for a skeptics case, IMO.

  5. Jimbo says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but one of our greatest allies is in fact a Warmist.

  6. Walt The Physicist says:

    Steve McIntyre I admire you. Anthony you are great. It is fantastic contribution to cleansing the climate science of politically and funding/fame driven phonies. I hope that your next target will be “geoengineers”. And I think next, you should start cleaning the source of the troubles – the science of physics as it becomes more polluted by fake scientists who are well regarded, well funded, vicious, and steer whole physics into failure (Lee Smolin is trying to clean quantum physics). Best wishes to you guys.

  7. Jim G says:

    This, like many of the posts here lead one to believe that climate skepticism is making headway. Though I hope it is true, while we may be making some in-roads, here in the US, at least, the government is continually sinking its green roots into all aspects of of the bureaucracy. I found this one today at the SBA website:

    “•Greenhouse Gas Inventory Management Plan
    This Inventory Management Plan (IMP) provides a framework for the management of greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting within the U.S. Small Business Administration. The Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) mission is to maintain …

    Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan
    The SBA’s Sustainability Policy is to execute the SBA mission in a manner that preserves the environment. The SBA is committed to helping the federal government lead by example in creating a clean energy economy. The SBA will …”

    Four more years of this may be irreversible. Truth has no value to those presently in charge. A way must be found for the accuracy of real science to become louder

    ..

  8. Tom J says:

    History sure is interesting. I guess it’s fitting that after the U.S. helped rescue the world from Natzi Germany, now Germany may help rescue the world from the U.S. (and the Obama administration, neither of which possess any knowledge of that subject). It’s sadly ironic that what the Enlightenment and the Founders bequeathed to the us in the U.S. apparently performed its function so well that its purpose has been forgotten. We’ll have to relearn it the hard way.

  9. John Whitman says:

    Spiegel’s article ‘In Part 3: A Climate Rebel Takes on the Establishment’ said,

    “McIntyre doggedly asked for access to the raw data. Jones was just as dogged in denying his requests, constantly coming up with new, specious reasons for his rejections. Unfortunately for Jones, however, McIntyre’s supporters eventually included people who know how to secretly hack into computers and steal data.”

    – – – – – – – – –

    Spiegel’s writers, by innuendo, are implying that among the supporters of McIntyre were to be found the CG1 leaker(s) / hacker(s) / releaser(s).

    What basis do they have of that claim?

    John

  10. Doug Huffman says:

    “We’ll have to relearn it the hard way.” Lessons easily learned are as easily forgotten. “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.(George Santayana, The Life of Reason, Reason in Common Sense)”

  11. rgbatduke says:

    n less Interesting article, although (as noted) a bit dated. It is interesting, in fact, to think about what has changed over the last 2.5 years. Not one single major atlantic hurricane made landfall on the continental U.S. during that interval, for example, bringing us to a continuing all-time record stretch without a cat 3 or better storm (and no Atlantic storm of this magnitude even remotely likely before July or August of next year, and not particularly probable before September or October).

    The global sea level anomaly has, surprisingly enough, remained perfectly constant or perhaps even reduced a little bit since 2010, see e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Global_Mean_Sea_Level.svg

    That is, not only has SLR not persisted at the trend of 3.1 mm/year visible in the satellite record post 1993, but over the last few years it hasn’t gone up at all and might even have gone down some. Probably not significantly, looking at the overall curve, but this is certainly not evidence that the 3.1 mm/year is accelerating as is often claimed. FWIW, this rate predicts 10 inches of SLR extrapolated to the year 2100, with error bars that easily encompass the overall SLR growth rate of 9 inches from 1870 to the present (there is at least one other twenty year interval in that record back in the 30’s to 50’s when SLR went up at the same coarse grained rate it is today).

    The UAH LTT has dropped roughly 0.2 C from its 2010 peak in the meantime to a whopping 0.2 C overall anomaly from the entire 33 year baseline — note a suggestive correlation between SLR and UAH LTT. In the meantime, global CO_2 has increased from roughly 387 or 388 ppm in early 2010 to roughly 395 ppm today — an increase of roughly 8 ppm or 2%. The US had a very warm year (record or no record being open to debate) and a very dry year (but not even close to the driest years on record or visible in the proxy data). The rest of the world was pretty normal, with the single exception of arctic sea ice extent overall, which was at or very near a low point over the reliable statellite record largely because of loss at just two or three specific places (but again, not necessarily at a low point even over the last full century as we have no way of reliably saying how low arctic sea ice got in the 1930s, when ships that passed through the region reported that it had all but disappeared. Alaska, OTOH, is experiencing near record cold and significant growth of icepack and glaciers as the reversed PDO begins to take solid effect, and the Antarctic continues to exhibit overall growth in sea ice with contributions from everywhere but a single peninsula.

    If there was little cause for alarm visible in the actual data in 2010, there is surely even less today, as temperatures overall and the SL overall have both dropped even as CO_2 levels have continued to rise. Global temperatures overall have been basically flat since the 1997-1998 super El Nino, which caused them to kick up roughly the 0.2 to 0.3 that seems to represent the entire 33 year anomaly in a step jump that in no way resembles the systematic 1% growth rate of CO_2 over that era. If anything, the weak El Ninos and string of La Nina years seem to be levelling to possibly even reducing global average temperature (although the intervals are far too short to say anything with certainty either way here). If one views SLR as a remarkably accurate global thermometer first — since almost all SLR to date has come from thermal expansion, not ice melt — then the last two years have truly been globally flat to falling as far as temperature is concerned, precisely as suggested by the UAH LTT.

    Personally, I think that sea level is by far the best global thermometer that there is. Even any surplus that might indeed come from ice melt is likely to be a (less accurate) measure of surface warming outside of the oceans and hence a reasonable land adjustment, where otherwise the 70% of the Earth’s surface that is ocean is remarkably well represented by this simple global figure. If we really do end up having a solid, extended La Nina (something not being predicted, but how good are the predictions) we could see a protracted leveling of SLR and continuation of neutral temperature change for years yet. Or not. That’s the fun of it.

    rgb

  12. Werner Brozek says:

    Suspicious things are still going on. Over the last week, the highest monthly anomaly on GISS, namely January 2007, was raised from 0.89 to 0.93.
    You can see the 0.93 at
    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/tabledata_v3/GLB.Ts+dSST.txt
    You can see the 0.89 on WFT since it has not been updated yet.

  13. Latimer Alder says:

    To remind interested readers that they can learn a lot more about Big Steve’s epic quest – and eventual triumph – in Andrew Montford’s great book ‘The Hockey Stick Illusion’

  14. RobW says:

    I sure hope all the “adjustments” are being tracked and recorded. One day this insult to real science will look at all of those as a lesson of politicized science.

  15. RobW says:

    On another note. It is very interesting that Canadian media no longer allow forum posts to many of the CAGW declarations. Seems every time such posts are allowed the people who have seen the real data post it for all to see and poof goes the fear. So as a result posting comments is severely curtailed for any CAGW fear story in Canadian media. And they (MSM) wonder why MSM is becoming irrelevant in todays society. The internet has opened the eyes of the masses to the falsehoods being pushed by the MSM.

  16. mpainter says:

    Jimbo says: January 23, 2013 at 8:26 am

    Correct me if I’m wrong but one of our greatest allies is in fact a Warmist.
    ===============================
    You stand corrected.

  17. AlexW says:

    “In Germany, there’s a revolution going on. That revolution is that they are backing away from the global warming issue, and taking on much more pragmatic outlook on it an many things “green”. For example, they are going big on coal power.”

    The average German doesn’t know that “they are going big on coal power”. For them power comes from the wall plug. Switching off 8 nuclear plants at once only proved that the plants aren’t needed in the first place.
    The “official” but not widely known statement is that coal substitutes nuclear until the renewables overtake (no later than 2020)

  18. Matt Bergin says:

    You are right Rob W I checked at the link and any AGW article was comment-less but all of the other articles I looked at had comments.

  19. Tony Mach says:

    There I was, fearing I had to rethink my opinion of the Spiegel.

    “McIntyre’s supporters eventually included people who know how to secretly hack into computers and steal data.”

    This is an awful piece.

    No matter what nation, the news-reporting from the popular media is bloody awful. Either one takes the time to look into matters himself, by finding those who try to gather facts and report as truthful as possible (as Steve McIntyre does so well). Or, if one can’t do that, one is better served by ignoring the popular media and their news-reporting in its entirety, I fear.

  20. Tony Mach says:

    And just to add: At least for me I can say, it is better to be uninformed then misinformed.

  21. Ray Downing says:

    “…a man of transcendent genius, though working under difficulties and with inadequate tools, will do more useful and inspiring work than a man of mediocre intellect with all the resources of the laboratory at his disposal.” – Dorothy L. Sayers (‘Aristotle On Detective Fiction’).

  22. Idebenone says:

    SPPI Note: For a growing catalog of cases of surface temperature record data ‘fixing” see our extensive 209-page report: Surface Temperature Records: Policy Driven Deception?

  23. highflight56433 says:

    AlexW says:

    January 23, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    “In Germany, there’s a revolution going on. That revolution is that they are backing away from the global warming issue, and taking on much more pragmatic outlook on it an many things “green”. For example, they are going big on coal power.”

    The average German doesn’t know that “they are going big on coal power”. For them power comes from the wall plug. ….

    Really? More like the average “everybody” doesn’t know the “grid” engineering, or electrons’ madness. Intelligenz-Quotient, was devised by the German psychologist William Stern. He would be appalled at the dumbing down of modern man. Maybe add some “electric” or “climeate” I.Q. to the Quotient mix. Maybe have a climate I.Q. here at WUWT. :)

  24. hro001 says:

    Meanwhile … longtime IPCC Lead Author (including for Ch. 12 of WG1’s AR5) Andrew <barrage of intergalactic ballistic missiles> Weaver – a dedicated modeller who is frequently billed as one of Canada’s best-known “climate science experts” – is a BC Green Party candidate in the upcoming provincial election (and recently appointed Deputy Leader of the BC Greens) is peddling Greenpeace’s hyper-alarmist polemics and grey literature.

    [shameless plug alert]

    IPCC Lead Author is Greenpeace PR Agent?

  25. Paul Chomik says:

    Steve McIntyre is to be highly commended for doing what should have been done in the first place in the name of “science” – that is, truthful, tansparent and accurate validation of Mann’s “hockey-stick” graph which has been used incessantly to manipulate public perception.

    Mr. McIntyre should be awarded the Order of Canada for his fine work on behalf of the scientific community, and he should be recognized world-wide also.

  26. Paul Chomik says:

    RE: Alex W postng earlier;

    “In Germany, there’s a revolution going on. That revolution is that they are backing away from the global warming issue, and taking on much more pragmatic outlook on it an many things “green”. For example, they are going big on coal power.”

    It may come as a surprise to most people, but global “green” leaders such as Germany and Denmark have generated over 50% of their electricity using coal for decades.

    Those two countries, as well as many others in Europe, have successfully utilized “clean-coal” technology for over 20 years now to provide cost-effective electricity with lower air emissions which often rival those from natural gas power plants.

    “Clean-coal” is not the myth often promoted to those who are ignorant of reality.

  27. Jeff Alberts says:

    mpainter says:
    January 23, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Jimbo says: January 23, 2013 at 8:26 am

    Correct me if I’m wrong but one of our greatest allies is in fact a Warmist.
    ===============================
    You stand corrected.

    Not exactly. I wouldn’t call McIntyre a “Warmist”, but he’s stated, as far as I recall, that he tends to accept the IPCC’s conclusions. Which seems somewhat bizarre to me, considering everything he and many others have uncovered.

  28. Neven says:

    I see pro-AGW articles on Spiegel International all the time these days. I don’t what the situation was like years ago.

  29. Mark says:

    Jeff Alberts says:

    “… he (McIntyre) tends to accept the IPCC’s conclusions. Which seems somewhat bizarre to me, considering everything he and many others have uncovered.”

    If you think about it carefully, not really. Reconstruction of past temperatures is a different animal entirely from the physics of climate forcing mechanisms. There is no logical contradiction in McIntyre thinking we could have errors in our reconstruction of past temperature records, but that we have a correct understanding of (anthropogenic) climate forcing mechanisms that would drive current and future warming.

Comments are closed.