SEPP SCIENCE EDITORIAL #21-2010 (July 10, 2010)
By S. Fred Singer, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project
Climategate: The Muir-Russell report: Some initial comments
In contrast to the Oxburgh report, the Muir-Russell (MR) report is quite substantive (160 pp, incl 8 appendices) and very professionally produced. MR members held some dozen meetings (presumably in Edinburgh), conducted many interviews at UAE, and accepted some 100 submissions (all unpublished). [A very few of these came from recognizable skeptics; none from Douglass, Christy or Singer, although our work is referred to on pp 148-149 — as a threat to Jones?]
I have several major criticisms, mostly connected to the fact that the MR team had no in-house competence in the relevant science (atmospheric physics and meteorology). Prof Geoffrey Boulton is a geologist, Prof Peter Clarke is a particle physicist, and Professor James Norton seems to be a general expert on engineering and business. Sir Muir Russell himself once got a degree in natural philosophy (physics). As far as one can tell, they consulted only supporters of anthropogenic global warming (AGW), i.e., supporters of the IPCC.
As a result, they could not really judge whether Phil Jones (head of the Climate Research Unit at UEA) manipulated the post-1980 temperature data, both by selection of weather stations and by applying certain corrections to individual records. Had they spoken to Joe D’Aleo or to Anthony Watts, they might have gotten a different slant on the CRU’s handling of station data.
The MR Team concentrates much of the report on the ‘hockey stick,’ and on whether the 20th century was the warmest in the past 1000 years (as claimed by Michael Mann and also by IPCC-3, relying mainly on tree-ring data,). But that issue is really irrelevant and a distraction from the main question (which is never addressed): is the warming of the past 50 years mainly anthropogenic (as claimed by IPCC-4) or natural (as asserted by NIPCC and some other IPCC critics)?
In pursuing the question, the Team must realize that the CRU deals only with land data (covering, imperfectly, only 30% of the Earth’s surface) and that sea-surface temperatures (SST) are really more important. Weather stations and trees tend to be land-based.
Also, the Team never bothers to inquire about the atmospheric temperature record from satellites, the only high-quality and truly global record in existence. They seem unaware of the substantial disparity between satellites and the CRU record.
In defense of the MR Team, they consider science to be outside of their charter and within the remit of the Oxburgh team. [See Item 5 on p.10] (Having seen the Oxburgh report, however, some might consider this a joke.) Yet the Team feels empowered to speak with authority about conclusions that depend on climate science. In fact, none of the investigations so far have had a serious look at the crucial science issues.
As a result, the Team doesn’t seem to realize [p.23 and 32] that “hide the decline” and “Mike’s [Michael Mann] ‘trick” refers to a cover-up. Mann’s 1000-yr temperature record (from proxies) suddenly stops at 1980 – not because there are no suitable post-1980 proxy data (as Mann has claimed in e-mails that responded to inquiries), but because they do not show the dramatic temperature rise of Jones’ thermometer data.
This problem recurs again with Fig 6.2 (which is Fig 3.1 from IPCC-4) and involves misuse of the ‘smoothing’ procedure, i.e., replacing annual temperatures with a ‘running average’ of (usually) five years and sometimes longer. [I discussed the matter in some detail in my Science Editorial 8-09 (2-28-2009)]. As can be seen by inspection, there is little rise in temperature between 1980 and 1996, until the ‘super-El-Nino’ of 1998 (which has nothing to do with GH gases or AGW). The satellite record shows more clearly the absence of any significant temperature rise between 1979 and 1997.
It is ironic then that the real post-1980 global temperatures may be closer to the proxy record than to the thermometer record. We will find out when we learn what data Michael Mann discarded.
In this connection, the legal demand for all of Mann’s data by Virginia’s Attorney-General Ken Cuccinelli assumes additional significance. Based on his own statements, one suspects that Jones has deleted some crucial e-mails. It is likely that these may be discovered among Mann’s e-mails, now held by the University of Virginia. It might put a new light on the whole Climategate affair.