Data Destruction? This Is Gonna Be Interesting…

October 2009

Climate scientists are refuting claims that raw data used in critical climate change reports has been destroyed, rendering the reports and policies based on those reports unreliable.

At issue is raw data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, including surface temperature averages from weather stations around the world. The data was used in assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, reports that EPA has used in turn to formulate its climate policies.

Citing a statement on the research unit’s Web site, CEI blasted the research unit for the “suspicious destruction of its original data.” According to CRU’s Web site, “Data storage availability in the 1980s meant that we were not able to keep the multiple sources for some sites, only the station series after adjustment for homogeneity issues. We, therefore, do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (i.e. quality controlled and homogenized) data.”

Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit, said that the vast majority of the station data was not altered at all, and the small amount that was changed was adjusted for consistency.

The research unit has deleted less than 5 percent of its original station data from its database because the stations had several discontinuities or were affected by urbanization trends, Jones said.

November 2009

SCIENTISTS at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based.

It means that other academics are not able to check basic calculations said to show a long-term rise in temperature over the past 150 years.

The UEA’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) was forced to reveal the loss following requests for the data under Freedom of Information legislation.

These could be reporters getting it wrong (they do that, those little scamps). Or else…
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13 thoughts on “Data Destruction? This Is Gonna Be Interesting…”

  1. Chris was correct that the raw data is indeed still available at the GHCN and NCAR. The question is whether the code and metadata used to construct the datasets still exist (HADCRUT3 in particular) and a list of which station data was taken from where (the data apparently doesn’t match exactly). The FOIA requests that started a lot of the email chains was asking for the list of stations used to construct HADCRUT3 and the raw data attributed to each (see “here.”:http://omniclimate.wordpress.com/2009/11/24/willis-vs-the-cru-a-history-of-foi-evasion/ )

    So in essence, the raw data does exist, but the ‘key’ to which data was used to construct the dataset may not.

    Going through the emails I would suspect Jones wasn’t so much stonewalling as embarrassed and exasperated that that information wasn’t readily available (or at all quite possibly). Without that information there are legitimate questions about that dataset and any studies attached to it.

  2. Where I have an issue w/Chis is this – is this the data that went into HADCRU? The issue was “core AGW datasets and code”; snippets of code and heaps of data w/o metadata don’t meet my gut requirement.

    But I think that we’re beginning to understand the perception gap…the AGW folks took the position “hey, the raw dats is there – go ahead and spend a year making sense of it.”

    The assumption is that either you’re in the academy – where they are the gatekeepers – or you can be dismissed as a carbon industry shill is you’re funded by AEI or similar.

    They hadn’t counted on a retiree like Steve McIntyre.

    Marc

  3. It amazes me that if the raw data is actually available, why wouldn’t someone go back and start fresh with that.

    I might be embarrassed and stonewall if I couldn’t document my past work, but my current work would be creating a documented version ASAP.

    The fact that these guys have been, so far, unable to do so suggests that they can’t show what they want to show if they do it by the book.

  4. Since I’m apparently still being discussed, I should probably ask one question:

    bq. Where I have an issue w/Chis is this – is this the data that went into HADCRU? The issue was “core AGW datasets and code”; snippets of code and heaps of data w/o metadata don’t meet my gut requirement.

    Where, exactly, are these “snippets” of code, AL? To the best of my knowledge, I linked you to several models which were all complete, many of which had make files and/or scripts attached.

    And, er, guys? You do realize that even if HADCRU is utterly and completely discredited, that it’s only one of multiple parallel data sets and models that show the same basic trend?

    Ok, that was two questions. Still, have fun trying to demolish all of climate science as a part-time hobby, guys…

  5. Greg F-

    bq. There are not multiple parallel data sets. See Roger Pielke Sr.
    Also see “Musings from the Chiefio” in comment #4.

    Greg has a point – I should have been more precise. The input land station data is not exactly the same, as even Pielke admits in the paper he links (90 – 95% overlap); the methods are different and the final resulting data is different.

    There are also plenty of other indications of a warming planet – reduced snow cover, earlier springs, ocean temperatures, etc. that, to the best of my knowledge are wholly independnet of CRU.

    That said, David Blue has the right idea – leave my name out of it and y’all can trash AGW all you want. Thank you.

  6. So, I’ve been going through the information that I can dig up on the models and the climate data, and I have a bit of an idea, I think, on what exactly was being done. I haven’t gotten this tied down yet, so this is just an impression, and I cannot rigorously support it yet. But it seems to me that what happened is that the team (Jones, Mann, Hansen, maybe Briffa, et al) developed a hypothesis and then built a model to test it. When the model didn’t work, they first attempted a number of technical fixes and increased sophistication. Once they had atmospheric and ocean models tied together, and had increased the sophistication, the models still didn’t work.

    But here’s the deal: the models that show AGW seem to be built on the assumption of AGW – in particular they submit that trace gases in the atmosphere dwarf the effect of the sun on climate over long time scales. I suspect that early on, when models didn’t quite match data, they started adjusting both data and models to get into closer alignment, and I suspect that once it became clear that the models were simply not working, they started the vigorous massaging of data that would “prove” the models.

    In other words, I think that they got into a feedback loop based on attempting to build a model that showed AGW, and to fit that to the data, because the data didn’t match the model and they couldn’t accept either that the model was completely flawed or that the premise (AGW) was wrong.

  7. _”Still, have fun trying to demolish all of climate science as a part-time hobby, guys”_

    Apparently being an self-important git is full time.

  8. Just how does an ad hominem attack add to the debate. I would have though you would be well aware of the policy against drive-bys on the site.

  9. Another scientist weighs in on why what the emails reveal is not the norm in research fields:

    _” However, if researchers actively tried to avoid disclosing basic data to their critics, as one might infer from several e-mails, I believe this was unethical. In one case, in which someone apparently advised deleting e-mails that might be subject to a Freedom of Information Act request in the U.K., it looks as though scientists may have broken the law, or at least seriously considered doing so. If so, this is not “normal” in scientific circles and it certainly is not acceptable.”_

    _”It was even more troubling for me to read messages in which, in at least two instances, scientists discussed how to get associate editors removed from journals that published papers critical of their work.”_

    _”Some of the stolen CRU e-mails state that if an associate editor of GRL was “in the greenhouse skeptics camp” he should be “ousted,” suggesting that the e-mail authors viewed any critic of their work, no matter how ethical or well-informed, as incompetent. If so, this is a remarkable instance of hubris, and an implicit attack on the basis of the peer-review process, not a normal part of the give-and-take of scientific debate. “_

    “Peter Kelemen”:http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/earth/4338343.html?page=4 professor of geochemistry at Columbia University’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

    He goes on to talk about why he believes AGW is still a valid concern and the evidence compelling.

  10. It amazes me that if the raw data is actually available, why wouldn’t someone go back and start fresh with that.

    It does but it is also a mess. The raw data is from the GHCN (Global Historic Climate Network) and USHCN (United States Historic Climate Network).

    “Musings from the Chiefio”:http://chiefio.wordpress.com/ has been doing a audit of the raw data and found the average stations altitude has been dropping and moving toward the equator. He has found numerous problems with GISS temp (the second most quoted surface temperature record behid the CRU).

  11. bq. And, er, guys? You do realize that even if HADCRU is utterly and completely discredited, that it’s only one of multiple parallel data sets and models that show the same basic trend?

    There are not multiple parallel data sets. See “Roger Pielke Sr.”:http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2009/11/25/an-erroneous-statement-made-by-phil-jones-to-the-media-on-the-independence-of-the-global-surface-temperature-trend-analyses-of-cru-giss-and-ncdc/
    Also see “Musings from the Chiefio” in comment #4.

  12. Chris:

    Since I’m apparently still being discussed…

    I’ll stop doing that, starting now. I would feel it rude to say more if you won’t be here upholding your side of the argument.

  13. bq. There are also plenty of other indications of a warming planet – reduced snow cover, earlier springs, ocean temperatures, etc.

    Climate changes so a “warming planet” only proves we have a warming planet. It doesn’t prove why.

    Ocean temperatures have been flat since 2003 and took a rather “dramatic nose dive”:http://bobtisdale.blogspot.com/2009/10/nodc-corrections-to-ocean-heat-content.html in January through June this year. The energy content of the oceans is orders of magnitude higher then the atmosphere. The presumption that the planet is warming is questionable.

    One of the CRU emails admits the same.

    bq. On Oct 14, 2009, at 10:17 AM, Kevin Trenberth wrote:

    bq. Hi Tom
    How come you do not agree with a statement that says we are no where close to knowing where energy is going or whether clouds are changing to make the planet brighter. We are not close to balancing the energy budget. The fact that we can not account for what is
    happening in the climate system makes any consideration of geoengineering quite hopeless as we will never be able to tell if it is successful or not! It is a travesty!

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