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The sports implement that must not be mentioned

The sports implement that must not be mentioned is the title of an email (#0922) from Stefan Rahmstorf to Jonathan Overpeck and the IPCC 4AR paleoclimate chapter authors.

You can't say he hasn't got a sense of humour.

The text is less funny - it's a call for proxy reconstructions to be normalised on the twentieth century values. Otherwise they might diverge. And we can't have any divergence on show I guess.

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Reader Comments (30)

If you take measurements of any unrelated properties with positive slope trends iwth time (house prices, CO2, childhood obesity etc) and normalise them so the latest time period is aligned it will look as though those properties are all agreeing on measuring the same thing. Even if they aren't.

Great for lying with graphics to politicians and "decision makers" who have no idea what they are looking at.

Dec 21, 2011 at 10:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

A once decent, quiet, and promising-to-be-useful subject called climatology has been degraded and demeaned by newcomers over the past 20 to 30 years. It is as if it was no more than a vehicle for 'the cause'. A cause as yet undefined, as far as I can see, but apparently shared by the team and so shameful and/or so lacking in support that they dare not make it a public one. Bit of a mess all round. The world would have been a better place today without them, and without the IPCC.

Dec 21, 2011 at 10:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

If they are all normalized on the 20th century era then that would mean the the divergences would be shown in the past or so it seems to me. So, the 20th century would be close but the past (say the MWP or LIA) would exhibit the spread divergence that exists between the reconstructions. So a close 20th century would create large error bars in the past.

I think that Lucia pointed this out in terms of climate model hindcasts

Dec 21, 2011 at 10:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterTom Gray

John Shade, 10:33 PM

It's quite clear what 'the cause' is if you read the words of the IPCC's Edenhofer: it's global redistribution of wealth via climate policy. This sort of thing has always worked out well in the past of course:

Dec 21, 2011 at 11:30 PM | Unregistered Commenterwoodentop

If they are all normalized on the 20th century era then that would mean the the divergences would be shown in the past or so it seems to me.

With judicious weighting, not so much. And if averaged out you would get a flat line. The desired hockey shaft.

Dec 21, 2011 at 11:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterMooloo

Lucia at the Blackboard was either a speed reader or clairvoyant with her recent post showing how using a current baseline will show less divergence!!

Dec 21, 2011 at 11:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterkuhnkat

That is indeed a plausible contender, woodentop, and is at least, I suspect, a substantial part of 'the cause'. As the man says 'One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore...'

If the IPCC should survive long enough to produce another big report, we may well get more clues. Since the scientific rug, so to speak, has been pulled from beneath their feet, and they know that their 'summaries of the science' will get Fisked more thoroughly and more rapidly than ever before, my hunch is they will downplay the science (maybe just using a 'take it for granted' spin) and major on their favourite lines of policy development. In which case the good folks of CRU and elsewhere will be deemed to have served their purpose and will be sidelined, if not written out of the narrative altogether.

Dec 21, 2011 at 11:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

I had long thought that the MWP was a global thing, allowing farms on Greenland, and such like. I have been informed that it was a local anomaly centred, oddly, over Greenland, as can be seen on this map on the obviously totally unbiased site Skeptical (sic) Science - getting skeptical about global warming skepticism.

Why do the goalposts keep being moved?

Dec 22, 2011 at 1:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

Radical Rodent

There is considerable evidence that the MWP and Little Ice Age were global phenomena. If you follow the Soon and Baliunas thread over on Discussions it will give you some idea. Despite misgivings over some aspects of Soon & Baluiunas 2003, even BBD (our resident wamist commentator) accepts that the balance of evidence points to the existence of these phenomena, that it can be found all over the globe and that the events were of significant magnitude. Beyond that, claims about the detail of the MWP (strength of warming relative to the C20th, speed of onset, speed of change to the LIA etc etc) seem to me to be on very dubious ground.

If skeptical [sic] science [sic] is still trying to bang the drum for the MWP being less warm than today or confined to the northern hemisphere (or just a part of the northern hemisphere) then it just shows how partisan and close-minded they are.

Dec 22, 2011 at 4:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterGixxerboy

An other example, how Rahmstorf science works, if something "stands out in Medieval times".

"I have a question regarding your picture. Would it be easy to make a somewhat modified
version of it for our publication? This concerns just our model run, Bauer et al. You
chose to depict the one based on C14 solar data, which kind of stands out in Medieval
times. It would be much nicer to show the version driven by Be10 solar forcing, which
fits your data very well."

Dec 22, 2011 at 7:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterMarkus

@Radical Rodent:

I like that map at sic sic very much, especially the bit in South America, must be Peru, where they have two adjacent grid cells, one with the maximum positive anomaly next to another with the maximum negative anomaly.
I guess the have collected studies that are impossible to prove wrong, put them in red and compensate by colouring a very blue grid cell next to it, where there is no data whatsoever.

Dec 22, 2011 at 8:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterPatagon


I think we have coined a new term to avoid the controversy over shorthand for that dreadful propaganda site: sic sic it is.

Dec 22, 2011 at 9:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterGixxerboy

Gixxerboy Dec 22, 2011 at 4:32 AM wrote

If skeptical [sic] science [sic] is still trying to bang the drum for the MWP being less warm than today or confined to the northern hemisphere (or just a part of the northern hemisphere) then it just shows how partisan and close-minded they are.

You have obviously failed to read and understand the explanation of how Dr Mann is able to resurrect... reconstruct past temperatures at any point of the Earth's surface. Let me help you -- here's how they explain it:

Mann 2009 uses a Climate Field Reconstruction (CFR) method. This method involves analysing proxies and instrumental records for spatio-temporal covariance patterns during periods when sufficient data is available, then applying those patterns to build past maps when and where there is no physical data.

SSTs at any given gridpoint would be reconstructed by reference to proxies (land or ocean, near or far) with an established covariance relationship.

You see, Gixxerboy, the relationships which exist now have always existed, the teleconnections between all points on Earth are established science and... Hmmm.... hang on a bit. I wonder if Dr Mann has tried to work out if a warm Antarctic teleconnects with other points? No, of course it doesn't, no way, otherwise the Arctic warming calculations might not work because a cooling Antarctic would mean a cold Arctic*, I'm not listening, la la la, I can't hear you...

Anyway, 'SSTs at any given gridpoint would be reconstructed by reference to proxies (land or ocean, near or far) with an established covariance relationship' means we can save a lot of work.

HTH. That'll be ten trillion dollars. I thank you. Kerching!

*please insert any two points that fit your favourite proven science here.

Dec 22, 2011 at 10:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterJulian Flood

I see I have made an error in my previous post by using the word 'teleconnections'. This term, with its science fictional -- not to say fantasy -- feel, has been replaced in the lexicon by 'an established covariance relationship'. I'm sure everyone agrees that it now sounds much more scientific.

To explaining new science terminology, making good etc, 10 billion dollars, kerching!


Dec 22, 2011 at 10:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterJulian Flood

A once decent, quiet, and promising-to-be-useful subject called climatology has been degraded and demeaned by newcomers over the past 20 to 30 years.
Dec 21, 2011 at 10:33 PM | John Shade

John, I thought back then it was called meteorology or weather forecasting back then! Still, you are correct in your comment.

Dec 22, 2011 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

The whole global warming/climate change/climate disruption (call it what you will) show is over. Unfortunately, it will die a slow, painful death as there will be many adherents who will refuse to give up their faith; a faith that gave them prominence and a sense of their own importance. The claims of imminent catastrophe will become ever more outlandish and shrill and the vitriol will plumb new depths. The public have seen through the scam and politicians are gradually and subtly distancing themselves from what is now a vote loser. With the initial claims of man-made disaster having been screamed through headlines across the world's media, the retraction will be low key and made without fanfare (a good analogy would be the way papers bury apologies for incorrect front-page headlines).

Merry Christmas and a doomless New Year to you all


Dec 22, 2011 at 11:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Jones

"spatio-temporal covariance patterns"

BS baffles brains, as usual.

Dec 22, 2011 at 12:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Thomas Kuhn in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1970 ed.): p. 150 quoted the German physicist Max Planck who said:

"A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."

Perhaps we will have to wait until most of the leading lights in the present generation of climate scientists have retired before the consensus that human activities are the main factor in climate change is discarded.

Dec 22, 2011 at 12:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Put simply - making the data fit a narrative.

Dec 22, 2011 at 12:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

The MWP was a Greenland local phenomenon, its extension limited to just 20,000km in all directions.

Dec 22, 2011 at 12:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

Well of course they are reduced to saying the MWP is a northern hemisphere phenomenon because there is nowhere near enough worthwhile data to reconstruct the southern hemisphere's temperature. The whole concept of a 'global temperature' is so absurdly flawed it is not worth taking seriously. And to argue that because of CO2 we are heading for a soar-away world temperature is simply to pile absurdity upon absurdity.

Dec 22, 2011 at 3:07 PM | Unregistered Commenterbill

Hey Bishop Hill folks, there’s more! Went back to Climategate 1 code and guess what I found – what looks like nearly a decade of code ‘hiding the decline’ across a bunch of supposedly independent studies.

Dec 22, 2011 at 4:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterAJStrata

AJStrata - those headers do look like an interesting find!

But in the code, am I right in thinking that the printf statement is actually outputting data to a file? i.e.either osborn_briffa_WITHLOWFREQ.alps.dat or osborn_briffa.dat

In which case the note about the decline having been artificially removed is actually being output as a header which is then being stored at the top of the data file.

So how were these files subsequently being used, and what use was the header?

Dec 22, 2011 at 5:21 PM | Unregistered Commentermatthu


Yes it is a print statement. But where it goes is not as important as what it admits (deleting real data and using fudged data). I do know it was associated with a Osborn, Briffa series, who knows where it went!

That is the problem - their code says they fudged the data.

Now where, why and when needs to be answered.

Dec 22, 2011 at 6:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterAJStrata

What sports implement are they using? A racket?

Dec 22, 2011 at 9:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeN

BTW, major updates confirming my original analysis are now added to the post on 'hide the decline'

Dec 22, 2011 at 10:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterAJStrata

This email gives interesting insight into how reliable the code headers are:

Hi Tim,
There are two rd0 programs. Here's an extract from my big READ_ME diary/file, from a
year or so ago:
20. Secondary Variables - Eeeeeek!! Yes the time has come to attack what evenTim seems
to have been unhappy about
(reading between the lines). To assist me I have 12 lines in the gridding ReadMe file..
so par for the course.
Almost immediately I hit that familiar feeling of ambiguity: the textsuggests using the
following three IDL programs:
So.. when I look in the code/idl/pro/ folder, what do I find? Well:
3447 Jan 22 2004 fromdpe1a/code/idl/pro/
2774 Jun 12 2002 fromdpe1a/code/idl/pro/
2917 Jan 8 2004 fromdpe1a/code/idl/pro/
2355 Jun 12 2002 fromdpe1a/code/idl/pro/
5880 Jan 8 2004 fromdpe1a/code/idl/pro/
In other words, the * scripts are much more recent than the *tdmscripts. There
is no way of knowing which Tim
used to produce the current public files. The scripts differ internally but - you
guessed it! - the descriptions at
the start are identical. WHAT IS GOING ON?
Given that the'README_GRIDDING.txt' file is
dated 'Mar 30 2004' we will
have to assumethat the originally-stated scripts must be used.
I've just reviewed the file, and sure enough, it is designed to read
precip anomalies. specifically, it contains this line in both the 61-90 and full
pregrd(nland)=((pregrd(nland)/100.0)+1.0)*prenorm(nland) ; make pre anom into abs
There is nothing comparable in
So.. I'll have a play with this! Bearing in mind that the precip normals are probably up
the creek..
Ian "Harry" Harris
Climatic Research Unit

Dec 22, 2011 at 10:26 PM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

An email extract I found interesting:

On Fri, 7 Feb 1997, Keith Briffa wrote:

> Matti,
> please tell me in some detail what the hell is going on. I was away for
> a week with flu and come back to find incomprehensible messages from Joensuu
> and now you. I have tried to phone Pentti but with no success. What is the
> problem and is what Janice wrote back a problem for you. Please do not think
> I have yet taken any side in this because I have yet to find out the
> background.
> awaiting some sane explanation
> Keith
> --
> Dr. Keith Briffa, Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia,
> Norwich, NR4 7TJ, United Kingdom
> Phone: +44-1603-592090 Fax: +44-1603-507784
Dear Keith,
This is a difficult thing, but I try to explain this in simple words.
Before I left here, I wanted to make sure that dendro work will be in
progress in Finland while I am absent. As you know, Pentti has not given
the data (just a part) to the other members of the Finnish research group.
I told him that I will not sign the contract with him for this spring,
before he has delivered all data. A short time before I left here he told
me that he had sent the data to Markus and Mauri, and I put my name to the
contract paper. Markus and Mauri managed to open the files after some
difficulties, but when they had studied the data for some weeks, they
found that the "gap" was about 600 years long! Pentti had cut and hidden
this part of the material. We cannot work with a man like him. He lied to
me that he had sent all data and this way got my signature to the
contract. I think that it is also a serious wrongdoing to hide a crucial
part of the data in this way without telling anything to the
He only makes tricks to prevent the other researchers
(including me and undirectly also you) from making progress in the
research. And he pretends to work with us for a common project!

Dec 22, 2011 at 10:40 PM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

This email gives an insight into how climate change scientists might be prepared to manufacture data or alternatively rely on synthetics in order to conceal bad data. Harry has made a suggestion to Tim Osborn that data might be legitimately (?) manufactured to replace some inconvenient data. Tim forwards the suggestion on to Phil Jones who has a preference for relying on synthetics. (What are synthetics?)

This part of the email is from Harry:

Looks like the data added 1990 and after
is significantly lower than the previous data (on which the normals
would be based).
This is the geneaology of the current rd0 database:
rdy.0709111032.dtb (MCDW composite)
rdy.0710151817.dtb (CLIMAT composite with metadata added)
However, as I've now understood that this problem existed in 2.1,
it's back to square one. we have two courses of action, I think.
Incidentally, Tim - I've checked and I must have imagined a big MCDW
archive - both CLIMAT and MCDW bulletins were only acquired from Jan

presumably on the basis that Tim M. had already incorporated them
for the period prior to 2003? Mitchell & Jones (2005), Table 1,
indicates that he did indeed do that for 1990-2002 for MCDW and for
1994-2002 for CLIMAT. Their Figure 1, though rather blurred,
suggests that it is MCWD not CLIMAT that dominates for wetdays.

well the series look to diverge from 1990 rather than 1994, so that

1. We could delete all rd0 data after 1990 and rely on synthetics.
This may introduce noticeable incongruities in certain areas,
especially as we're changing methodology just after the normals
2. We could just derive rd0 from the precip data. After all, it's a
pretty good relationship.
How about I do both, and we compare? It won't take too long..

Dec 22, 2011 at 10:54 PM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

Don't forget Sea Who Must Be Obeyed:


Boslaugh, Mark B., Exploratory Simulation Technologies, Sandia National Laboratories, \ and Keigwin, Lloyd D., Geology & Geophysics, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution,

Keigwin (Science 274:1504–1508, 1996) reconstructed the SST record in the northern Sargasso Sea to document natural climate variability in recent millennia. The annual average SST proxy used δ18O in planktonic foraminifera in a radiocarbon-dated 1990 Bermuda Rise box core. Keigwin’s Fig. 4B (K4B) shows a 50-year-averaged time series along with four decades of SST measurements from Station S near Bermuda, demonstrating that the Sargasso Sea is now at its warmest in more than 400 years, and well above the most recent box-core temperature. Taken together, Station S and paleo-temperatures suggest there was an acceleration of warming in the 20th century, though this was not an explicit conclusion of the paper. Keigwin concluded that anthropogenic warming may be superposed on a natural warming trend.

In an unpublished paper circulated with the anti-Kyoto “Oregon Petition,” Robinson et al. (“Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide,” 1998) reproduced K4B but (1) omitted Station S data, (2) incorrectly stated that the time series ended in 1975, (3) conflated Sargasso Sea data with global temperature, and (4) falsely claimed that Keigwin showed global temperatures “are still a little below the average for the past 3,000 years.” Keigwin’s Fig. 2 showed that δ18O has increased over the past 6000 years, so SSTs calculated from those data would have a long term decrease. Thus, it is inappropriate to compare present-day SST to a long term mean unless the trend is removed. Slight variations of Robinson et al. (1998) have been repeatedly published with different author rotations.

Various mislabeled, improperly-drawn, and distorted versions of K4B have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, in weblogs, and even as an editorial cartoon—all supporting baseless claims that current temperatures are lower than the long-term mean, and traceable to Robinson’s misrepresentation with Station S data removed. In 2007, Robinson added a fictitious 2006 temperature that is significantly lower than the measured data.

This doctored version of K4B with fabricated data was reprinted in a 2008 Heartland Institute advocacy report, “Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate.”

Jan 2, 2012 at 5:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell Seitz

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