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Cooking the books

Skeptical Science and its host, John Cook, have been much commented upon recently, the site's grubby treatment of Roger Pielke Snr having caused considerable disquiet. I'm grateful to reader PaulM for pointing me to another example of the way things are done on John Cook's watch.

Take a look at this page on the site. It's an older article, dating back to 2008, and it covers the vexed question of whether Antarctica is gaining or losing ice.

Skeptic arguments that Antarctica is gaining ice frequently hinge on an error of omission, namely ignoring the difference between land ice and sea ice.

This is not a straightforward area of science. As the article goes on to explain,

One must also be careful how you interpret trends in Antarctic sea ice. Currently this ice is increasing and has been for years but is this the smoking gun against climate change? Not quite.

and then expands on this by pointing out that in Antarctica,

sea ice is not the most important thing to measure. In Antarctica, the most important ice mass is the land ice sitting on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and the East Antarctic Ice Sheet.

...which of course is shrinking, we are told.

So there you go, simple enough even for a sceptic to follow. Or perhaps not simple enough - take a look at comment #3 from AnthonySG1:

OK smarties. If Antarctica is overall losing ice, then how do you explain the data?

The Arctic doesn't seem to be doing so bad anymore, also:

This particular scurvy sceptic is sent packing with a rapier-like thrust:

Response: It's somewhat discouraging that the first point I make is that people often fail to distinguish between sea ice and land ice. They are two separate phenomena. And yet you repeat the error. To clarify, Antarctica is losing land ice at an accelerating rate. Sea ice around Antarctica is increasing. The reasons for sea ice increasing in a warming Southern Ocean are complex and described in detail above.

And then there's comment #5 from PaulM himself:

The misinformation on this site is astonishing. Antarctic ice is increasing.
In addition to the cryosphere link provided Anthony,
This is confirmed by NSIDC,
by NCDC,
and by numerous scientific papers, including
Cavalieri and Parkinson, J. Geophys. Res. 113, C07004 (2008),
Comiso and Nishio, J. Geophys. Res. 113, CO2S07 (2008).

You have managed to find one paper that finds a decrease - but that only covers a 3 year period! Obviously you cannot get a significant trend from 3 years data.

These sceptics! How do you get through to them? Send 'em packing again:

Response: Please, people, pay attention! Sea ice is increasing. Land ice is decreasing. Read and reread the post above  until you realise they are two separate phenomena.

The exchange is, apparently at least, a damning indictment of the behaviour of what are sometimes referred to as "so-called sceptics".

Well, damning of the sceptics, that is, until you examine the same page on the Wayback Machine. The archive version is dated 3 February 2009, nearly six months after the comments were posted.

And its completely different!

While East Antartica is gaining ice due to increased precipitation, Antartica is overall losing ice. This is mostly due to melting in West Antarctica which recently featured the largest melting observed by satellites in the last 30 years. As well as melting, Antartic glaciers are accelerating further adding to sea level rise.

Astonishingly, more than six months after having their errors pointed out to them, the denizens of Skeptical Science rewrote the article and then inserted comments suggesting that their commenters hadn't read the article properly.

I'm simply flabbergasted.

And it's even more amazing when one recalls that Skeptical Science was recently the recipient of an award from the Australian Museum for services to climate science.

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Reader Comments (253)

@jamesc: I believe that the Eastern Antarctic is gaining ice, the Western Antarctic is losing ice and the Antarctic Sea ice is expanding. As for the Arctic everybody knows it's sea ice expands and contracts. In 1959 a US submarine was able to surface at the North Pole, in the 1920s Arctic Land ice disappeared to above 80 degrees, and there are reports in the Royal Navy archivesnof ice being considerably further north than it is today. My take on ot is that the warmists are talking up the loss of ice in the Arctic because the Antarctic is gaining ice.

As for this thread I believe it's about a blog owner who retrosipectively change his blog then humiliated posters who had quite rightly pointed put his first blog was incorrect. If tthat doesn't turn you on then I suggest you don't read it.

Sep 21, 2011 at 8:32 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Before getting too angry, consider that these are the actions of a side who know they are losing. They are well past the point of doing science, and just want their brave new science-led world government at any cost, even at the cost of the integrity of science itself.

Also, as much as I like blogs, it's only a blog, with the same old internet arguments (pointless, mostly) that have been going on for 30 years. Arguing about the content of a partisan blog is just giving it more importance than it warrants. Data archaeologists in 100 years will be laughing in their bearskins from a cave under 1 mile of ice in London by then.

Sep 21, 2011 at 8:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

I must say I find the idea that you can insert a response to a months old comment without realising that it was such to be a tad unconvincing.

Sep 21, 2011 at 8:36 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Well, this explains why all my brilliant and highly cogent responses on this blog come off looking like feeble rants...

Sep 21, 2011 at 8:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterJon Jermey

Come on Your Grace have a little a charity. John and Neal have explained it all, admittedly differently, and young dana has even demanded an apology and a retraction of you. They wouldn't be making this sort of fuss if they were guilty would they?

I well remember what the Murdochs had to put up with when they declared their innocence. Oh wait a minute...

Sep 21, 2011 at 8:46 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

might I suggest that Cook, King and 'dana' are examples of precisely what Arthur C Clarke had in mind when he said

the human minds capacity for self deceit is beyond belief

Sep 21, 2011 at 8:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterGras Albert

"The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns to …long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting ink." - George Orwell.

The real aim of Skeptical Science is to provide a medium for trashing dissenting voices. It is not interested in honesty in science.

Sep 21, 2011 at 9:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

"The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns to …long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting ink." - George Orwell

The real aim of Skeptical Science is to trash and squash dissent. It is not interested in bringing honesty back to science.

Sep 21, 2011 at 9:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

John's reply sounds reasonable but, I agree with most here, it does not convince.

Guilty as charged... but I would set the fine at two gobstoppers and no pocket money for a week.

Sep 21, 2011 at 9:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

The denizens of SS make great play of the fact that their motivation is only to "seek the truth" by reference to published peer-reviewed papers.

Reading the site carefully, however, there are obvious clues marking it out as a propaganda site.

The most obvious clue is the continually repeated rhetorical device of proclaiming THE SCIENCE SAYS as a way of cutting short any debate on genuine differences of scientific opinion which might weaken the CAGW case.

The phrase is used in introductions to articles on subjects where there are genuine large differences of scientific opinion (like antarctic ice and cloud effects) and also to bully commentators who bring up doubts or controversies.

The device of magically derived scriptures which may not be doubted or debated has, of course, been used by the promoters of organised religions throughout human history - to the huge detriment of scientific progress.

Science is the free and open debate of competing ideas - THE SCIENCE SAYS is religion.

Sep 21, 2011 at 9:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose



There's actually no reason for John to have doctored the record to make interlocutors look stupid. It doesn't convince them of anything. What would be the angle?

Some people feel that SS is a false-flag attempt to keep those with genuine intellectual curiosity about the AGW hypothesis within the "mainstream consensus", rather than genuinely engage AGW-skeptic views. It is consistent with this view that Mr. Cook would wish to ridicule AGW-skeptics and to portray them as bumbling idiots. I hope this rebuts your "no reason" point in an acceptible manner.

There is no honest, non-incompetent explanation for the edits and disparaging comments. Mr. Cook has claimed that there was no attempt to deceive. IMO, he opportunity to repair his error. We'll be watching very carefully. He has an opportunity to demonstrate his intellectual honesty, or not.

Sep 21, 2011 at 9:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterDead Dog Bounce

John and Neal's comments are in my view sort of reasonable, but quite revealing in what they imply (dana is just a bully). The internet brings new ways of communicating and people interpret the rules of etiquette that crop up around these differently. In a blog, the author proposes a topic, perhaps gives his or her views about it, and then people respond to the OP and to other comments. If a comment violates the blog rules badly, it is snipped. Post-hoc edits to the OP or comments that materially change the meaning are a no-no. Clearly, SkS, although it uses blog software, is not a blog. It is a quick-reference catechism site, a bit like Ian Paisley's old Errors of Rome site. John's aim is to initiate a conversation: it is to end debate. In that mindset, his explanation makes perfect sense and I readily believe him when he says he doesn't think he is being dishonest. It does terminally nullify any temptation I might have to visit SkS, though. And significantly reduce any respect I had for anyone whoe uses SkS as an alleged source of objective science.

Sep 21, 2011 at 9:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Harvey

John Cook,

I am encouraged by your desire to comment here @ BH. Thank you.

Perhaps you might have a briefing for your staff member Dana. The SS site you created and own is not, apparently, the SS site he currently envisions.


Sep 21, 2011 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Whitman

Apparently the response to the sceptic commenters has yet again been altered:

"Response: Note: the rebuttal above has been updated since this comment was posted, incorporating later references and clarifying that sea ice and land ice are two separate phenomena. Antarctica is losing land ice at an accelerating rate. Sea ice around Antarctica is increasing. The reasons for sea ice increasing in a warming Southern Ocean are complex and described in detail above."

Sep 21, 2011 at 9:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterLeo Norekens

John Cook et al

dana1981: Your treatment of Dr. Peilke, a distinguished and respected scientist, was, and remains, an absolute disgrace. It speaks mountains for your immaturity that you aren't ashamed enough of yourself that you would come onto any site where decent people exchange ideas and expect to be treated seriously. The same by the way for John Cook and Neal J. King who are also party to the shabby treatment handed out to Dr. Peilke. It would be nice if all three of you took the opportunity to publicly apologize to Dr. Peilke on this thread.

I endorse geronimo. This forum is SkS's opportunity to apologize, not defend or rant against BH.

Re your invites to join your discussions, SkS, I don't want to engage in discourse in a crooked court, I want to see the process of justice re-established first, by your demonstrating willingness to portray the best of both sides of all the climate arguments, and you can start with referencing Monckton's rebuttal of Abraham's rebuttal in the same place as you reference Abraham's rebuttal of Monckton.

Plus, Pielke was right, your titles are ad hom for precisely the above reason. Onesidedness.

Sep 21, 2011 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterLucy Skywalker

"An excuse is worse and more terrible than a lie; for an excuse is a lie guarded." - Alexander Pope

Sep 21, 2011 at 10:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Debunking Climate Lies No Longer Hit and Myth

Climate-change deniers have nowhere to hide thanks to an ingenious piece of software that detects inaccurate statements on global warming that appear on the internet and delivers an automated response on Twitter citing peer- reviewed scientific evidence.

The so-called ‘Twitter-bot' is the brainchild of Australian webmaster John Cook and software developer Nigel Leck, and is part of an armoury of tools Cook has developed to rebut common myths and inaccuracies about climate change.

A physics graduate from the University of Queensland who majored in solar physics in his postgraduate honours year, Cook launched the Skeptical Science website in 2007 after becoming frustrated at lies and half-truths surrounding global warming. The site provides a scientifically accurate database of climate information and is the engine room of Cook's campaign to use the web, smartphone apps and social media tools to disseminate climate information.

Having received international acclaim within the science world, the Skeptical Science website receives more than 500,000 visits per month, while the iPhone app has been downloaded more than 72,000 times.

For his work in communicating science to an online audience, Cook has won the 2011 Eureka Prize for Advancement of Climate Change Knowledge.

The prize is part of the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, the most prestigious awards in Australian science. The winners were announced last night at a star-studded evening for the country's most inspired minds.

‘The Eurekas', as they are fondly known, have become the most coveted science awards in this country. Every scientist knows a ‘eureka' moment comes after decades of singular dedication, deep inquiry and rich collaboration. Receiving an Australian Museum Eureka Prize is regarded as a pinnacle achievement for any Australian scientist.

"Working in his spare time to better explain climate science, John Cook is reaching hundreds of thousands of readers and providing material that has been adopted by scientists and climate communicators around the world," says Frank Howarth, Director of the Australian Museum. "His unique efforts using web and social media tools come at a time when accurate information is essential in terms of understanding and responding to climate change."

Written for an international audience, the Skeptical Science website has published rebuttals to more than 150 climate myths featuring explanations in both plain language for the public and more technical versions for science aficionados. The rebuttals have been translated into 19 languages and draw from an online community that provides a steady flow of educational material on climate science.

Blog posts from Cook and his team are available on smartphones as an iPhone, Android or Nokia application, while news content and the latest research is announced via Twitter (to more than 2600 followers) and on Facebook (to more than 3300 friends).

Cook has published the highly popular 12-page booklet The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism, which has been downloaded more than 550,000 times. He has also co-authored the book Climate Change Denial with environmental scientist Haydn Washington and has published climate articles in mainstream media outlets, including The Guardian, The Huffington Post and ABC Environment, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's online gateway to environmental debates.

The $10,000 New South Wales Government Eureka Prize for Advancement of Climate Change Knowledge is awarded to an Australian individual, group or organisation for communication that motivates action to reduce the impacts of climate change.

When you consider that the Australian Museum consider sceptics to be deniers it is little wonder that a propaganda site won the Eureka Prize.

Frank Howarth, Director of the Australian Museum has called for the media to censor sceptical voices (deniers).

Here is an extract from the Australian Museum's own "Code Of Conduct".

Respect for people

Museum employees are to treat members of the public and their colleagues fairly and consistently; in a non-discrimatory manner with proper regard for their rights and obligations. In this regard they should perform their duties in a professional and responsible manner.

They should also ensure that their decisions and actions are reasonable, fair and appropiate to the circumstances, based on a consideration of all the relevant facts and supported by documentation.

So the Australian Museum's director not ony supports the use of the word "denier" in direct breach of the museum's own code of conduct but also supports the use "revisionism" in the climate debate by proxy.

Sep 21, 2011 at 10:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Whether it is a once off "mistake" or an ongoing pattern of behaviour the example highlighted is deplorable.

I assume people are already checking for any further "mistakes" so time will tell how bad this actually is.

I cant say I am impressed by the corrective action taken so far because that still shows disrespect for commentators. Personally I think the article and all the comments and inline response should be reverted to their original form. If John Cook then wishes to update the headline article to rebut some of the comments then that is up to him but he should make it clear he is doing so and also make it clear by date that the amendment is after the event.

Sep 21, 2011 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered Commenterclivere

There has been a lot posted since I took my break, and I'm not going to respond to most of it.

I will say this: the folks at SkS do try to understand things in terms of mainstream science, as that's what we learned growing up in school & university. If something is not compatible with modern-day physics and mathematics, that's a strike against it, in our view.

No apologies for that.

Sep 21, 2011 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterNeal J. King

Plenty of unintended irony in the texts you've posted, Mac (Sep 21, 2011 at 10:55 AM).

First of all, our messianic JC (sorry...couldn't resist!) got a newly-minted "Eureka" prize that has nothing to do with any "eureka" moment or actual scientific work. It is a prize whose focus is so narrow, one wonders who'll be eligible next year apart from some other SS crew (dana1981, by the sound of Frank Howarth's tones).

Furthermore one would be forgiven to question the strength of a scientific area that can be (a) canned into a twitter bot, by definition a mindless idiot (the bot, I mean) and (b) promoted by a cartoonist in his spare time. A cartoonist who's replaced the scientists...

Finally, given the topic of this blog post, the mentioning of "accurate information" in SS is terrifically topical.

ps I wonder if any Australian scientist has won any Eureka prize for any scientific discovery?

Sep 21, 2011 at 11:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

Neal J KIng: the folks at SkS do try to understand

Try harder then. It's going to be tough, I know, since you've foregone four centuries of scientific process and progress, and are trying hard to emulate the good old days of geocentrism.

The reference to what we learned growing up in school & university is truly priceless. May I point you to other fields full of heresy? For example, everybody learned growing up in school & university that there could not be a planet closely orbiting two stars.

Perhaps Astronomy needs its Protection Squadron too.

Sep 21, 2011 at 11:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

@Neal J King - There has been a lot posted since I took my break, and I'm not going to respond to most of it.

Yes Neal - best for you to just gloss over the fact that you keep mis-characterising Cook's actions as " just trying to answer what he thought of as not-yet-answered comments. " when in fact one of the comments HAD been replied to already.

Cook actually had to delete the original reply and insert another, more caustic reply - so if Cook is to be believed, not only did he apparently not notice the date on the post he was replying to but he also had to have somehow not noticed the date on the original response to that post, as well as the date of the last revision/re-write of the article in question

The website does not show a date stamp for the responses from SS-mods BUT the content-management system in use at the website most certainly would have flagged all these Date stamps. (unless you SS-mads are now going to claim that you actually hand-coded the web-page in question)

So that is at least 3 very important and very relevant dates that Cook had to (somehow) have not noticed. All of this while responding to a comment on an article which he HAD TO have known was extensively rewritten on one or more occasions since it was originally published.

Cook is either extremely inept when it comes to date-checking and replying to comments on articles which are constantly being re-written Or he is being "economical with the actualité".

The latter seems much more plausible than the former, given that Cook certainly knew that the article in question had undergone at least one MAJOR re-write (and possibly more) since it's original publication.

Sep 21, 2011 at 11:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterHu Bris

Typo - "SS-mads" (though apt) should read "SS-mods"

Sep 21, 2011 at 11:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterHu Bris


From the Australian Museum's statement on Climate Change (2010).

"A second group of sceptics commonly pick up an error in some small aspect of the overall scientific analysis and assume that this invalidates the whole model for climate change and the role of human activities in it. One good example is the recent furore concerning the IPCC prediction for the rate of retreat of the Himalayan glaciers. There is little doubt that the IPCC statement was based on inadequate research, but this minor error does not invalidate the scores of other similar studies which show that there is major climatic change at present. For example, the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland are shrinking:"

This statement was authored by Frank Howarth and by Dr Robin Torrence , Senior Principal Research Scientist.

This paragraph highlights once again the difficulties that CAGWists have in dealing with specific errors that results in introducing more errors thru grand unsupported assertions.

Both the Australian Museum and Skeptical Science are being dishonest in the climate change debate.

Sep 21, 2011 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

"I will say this: the folks at SkS do try to understand things in terms of mainstream science, as that's what we learned growing up in school & university. If something is not compatible with modern-day physics and mathematics, that's a strike against it, in our view."

I wouldn't respond either in your shoes. I come back to the utterly schoolboyish and shabby treatment of a distinguished climate scientist on your website. Where do Dr Peilke's views differ from the mainstream science or aren't compatible with modern mathematics and physics?

Sep 21, 2011 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Would John Cook please do a detailed analysis of the the points made by Al Gore in "An Inconvenient Truth"?

This would be a good way of demonstrating his intention to tackle bad science, rather than provide ammunition for impressionable school children and bored housewives

Sep 21, 2011 at 12:26 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

Bishop, I've tried to look at several of the web pages you reference in your book. Some have since been deleted by the authors. From memory, I think Tamino and The Stoat are both culprits, although I may be wrong. I since found some of the originals using wayback. Thee only way around this is to store pages which you suspect may be altered or deleted at some future date. You might want to bear this in mind should your book be reprinted.

Sep 21, 2011 at 12:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Bagley


Thanks for this. Yes, I'm aware of this issue. All refs in the next book will be waybacked.

Sep 21, 2011 at 12:45 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

I hope SkS now realise that from now on anyone who references their site in any way will now routinely be reminded about this debacle, that their reputation is in tatters and that they are not a trustworthy source of information. They are now the CAGW equivalent of Comical Ali, he also stated:

"I can assure you that those villains will recognize, will discover in appropriate time in the future how stupid they are and how they are pretending things which have never taken place."

Sep 21, 2011 at 12:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterJason F

Jason F

But what will the trolls do without the SKunk Science Crock of Cook's Crooked Croneyism?!

Bish, I take my inspiration for abuse from John Cook himself

Sep 21, 2011 at 12:56 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

golf charley

lol, maybe they can do a Dana and just shout "all of your blog are belong to us"

Sep 21, 2011 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterJason F

Mr Cook has acted on the error pointed out in this blog post.

If he were to take up the suggestion to review "An Inconvenient Truth" in an honest manner, it would do something to repair the damage of this affair to his reputation.

Since we know that he's reading this thread, should he fail to do so, people will draw their own conclusions. And share them widely.

Sep 21, 2011 at 1:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterDead Dog Bounce

@Jason F

I hope SkS now realise that from now on anyone who references their site in any way will now routinely be reminded about this debacle, that their reputation is in tatters and that they are not a trustworthy source of information. They are now the CAGW equivalent of Comical Ali

I think you are over-stating here. What we've learned is that in the past they have distorted and caricatured commenters at their site. They are not trustworthy people to debate, in part because they do not appear to have the least understanding of basic ethics.

It isn't clear whether they are a trustworthy source of information. We'll see the answer in whether they take up the suggestion to review "An Inconvenient Truth".

Sep 21, 2011 at 1:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterDead Dog Bounce

Honestly folks...we cannot blackmail JC like that. SS only worries about what Cook etc al perceive as pseudoscience propaganda written by skeptics of the Trenberth Mann Hansen Jones school of CAGW. Gore is no skeptic of course so SS will happily allow him and even support Gore in distributing any kind of pseudoscientific propaganda, and the physics learned at schools, universities and the real world be damned.

Sep 21, 2011 at 1:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

The responses to comments by AnthonySG1 and PaulM have been replaced:

Response: Note: the rebuttal above has been updated since this comment was posted, incorporating later references and clarifying that sea ice and land ice are two separate phenomena. Antarctica is losing land ice at an accelerating rate. Sea ice around Antarctica is increasing. The reasons for sea ice increasing in a warming Southern Ocean are complex and described in detail above.

John Cook has chosen to dig a deeper hole, rather than issue an apology.

Sep 21, 2011 at 1:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterDuke C.

Marginally on topic, ... I used to believe that in a warming world the atmosphere would have more moisture capacity, would carry more water vapour and therefore would be able of increased precipitation. This would be very noticeable in cold climates.

It is therefore quite surprising how much effort goes into decreasing the mass balance of the polar icecaps, while in consistency with a warming world they should be increasing. Obviously that would be a buffering effect on sea levels, and a question mark on the evils of CAGW.

Here and here a couple of papers (link to full text inside) that questions the modelled results of GRACE for Antarctica and a recent evaluation of Greenland mass balance, 63% higher than previously thought, and overall positive.

Sep 21, 2011 at 2:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterPatagon

I'd be intrigued if John or Neal could point to anywhere on SS where they are actually sceptical of climate science. Since they are adamant ("Ridicule is nothing to be scared of", sorry, nearly 30th anniversary of Prince Charming release) that deniers are unscientific, that would have to be of mainstream science, maybe the Hockey Stick, maybe "Mann's nature trick or maybe claims about extreme weather (obviously not Mr Cook's boss's work on coral reefs. The site just doesn't strike me as being sceptical in the least, disparaging of off message work, yes, credulous of on message work, yes, but sceptical no.

I'm also a little suspicious of scientists who have such a religiously fervent faith in peer review. In my field I do not care where a paper appears, I am confident that I am qualified to make my own assessment of its worth. I can understand a layperson's belief that peer review is a guarantee of truth, but having been involved in peer review myself, I know that it is simply an assertion that a paper is worthy of publication so that its contents may be debated in the public arena.

Sep 21, 2011 at 2:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterDocBud

Even if we accept Mr. Cook's apology as truthful, it implies a serious level of sloppiness in his work on the site. This cannot be the first article to be revised extensively, and it would appear that previous revisions did not have comments reset. Failure to do a basic level of due diligence and check comment time stamps implies that Mr. Cook was more interested in slamming the comment that providing a reasoned response.

Sep 21, 2011 at 2:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpellbound

I've commented once over SS. It happened as I got a chance to be a first commentor on an article I knew something about. See here:
My comment was never commented, but doesn't it look quite weird now? Nowhere they are claiming that the trick was to truncate the tree ring data, so it appears as I'm foolishly commenting a non-issue!

Well, they have completely re-written the article (and explenations) without mentioning it anywhere but still leave the original comments to stay! See here for the article as it was when I commented it:

BTW, the trick is still wrongly explained, but I feel it does not bother to try to get a correction...

Sep 21, 2011 at 2:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterJean S

Bish, I use a resource called for things I don't want to have evaporate so I can reference them later. Free and easy, it logs the whole web page instantly. The only drawback is that it won't log Java interactive pages, screencaps are needed in that case.

For example, this one:
(scroll to the end and have a look at the "corrections")

It also allows me to link to the page for discussion without giving undeserving libelers like these any traffic or bumps in Google ranking.

Sep 21, 2011 at 2:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Watts

Thats a nice thought, in a fairer world the re-write would be preceeded by a comment such as:
The following article has been rewritten to take account of comments by x, y and z. The original article and its associated comments are archieved here (ref...). New comments are welcomed.

Of course this sort of thing assumes we are all mariners together on a voyage to seek the truth.

Sep 21, 2011 at 2:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterEddy

I am convinced that John Cook, being the master skeptic of skeptics that he self-claims to be, knows that skepticism is the gift that just keep on giving exponentially more skepticism. : )

Based on BH's excellent post, with the aid of similar WUWT posts, I think SS will really appreciate that it might be getting a lot more help now than it ever could have imagined. Getting help identifying and discussing in open venues all of SS’s 'mistaken' revisionist activities.

With luck and the aid of many new skeptical volunteers from more open venues, SS might very quickly be 'revisionist' mistake free in that brief moment right before its scientific content reaches zero.


Sep 21, 2011 at 2:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Whitman

"Sceptical Science 'Argument' articles are regularly updated, mainly in response to reader feedback or new research"

What's the word for this when applied to John Cook-the-Book ? Oh yes, revisionism.

Sep 21, 2011 at 3:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterJean Demesure

John Cook wrote:
It's never my intent to make commenters look like "bumbling trolls" - my goal is always (and has always been) to point people towards the peer-reviewed science. So I'm not terribly happy with myself for making the mistake - the result is people here seem to be talking more about the timing of comments and responses rather than what the peer reviewed science is saying about what's happening to Antarctica.
Sep 21, 2011 at 2:10 AM | John Cook

Translation: I got caught cooking the books by the wayback machine, but none of this matters because it's not science it is internet technicalities, lets talk about the science. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, lets talk about science!

Dana wrote:
Bishop, I'd like to request that you update the original post with John's explanation of the events. Of course you'll have to make sure the updated text is clear. Otherwise you'll be accused of re-writing history and cooking the books!...

...Oh, and please stop telling people how to run their websites.

Translation: My memory is so poor, I don't remember what I just asked you, so I'll contradict myself.

Skeptical Science isn't some sort of historical record. We try to keep the information as up to date as possible, and new research is constantly published. If a relevant study is published, we update the myth rebuttal accordingly (usually publishing an accompanying blog post).

Translation: Everything we say on SS is honestly presented and trustworthy, and when it is not, well we bear no responsibility for the implied message. So we wont tell you when we've made updates/corrections we'll just pretend it was always that way.

If you don't like it, then just don't use the site, but there's no need to make rude accusations about it.
Sep 21, 2011 at 5:42 AM | dana1981

Translation: I now distract the matter by implying that this entire discussion is about likes/dislikes and has nothing to do with integrity.

Thanks for the laugh Bishop, Can you invite these friends of yours back again? They clearly have been living in their own bubble for too long.

Sep 21, 2011 at 3:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy

Most people already know this, but it probably is worth mentioning given the potential to misunderstand the significance of terms like "increasing rate of loss" that Antarctica has been losing about 100 km3 per year since 2002 ( That is a loss of about 10000 km3 per hundred years. This seems pretty significant until you realize that the land ice in Antarctica is approximately 30 million km3 ( The ice loss amounts to 0.03% over 100 years. This relevant metric is not mentioned on the NASA page written by Erik Conway - indeed he does not even mention the actual volume of the land ice sheet. It is also interesting to note the tendency to hype even this very small number.
At these rates it is possible that we are not seeing melting but potentially increased ablation and a reduction in snowfall associated with a concommitant increase in sea ice.

Note: The second reference highlights Steig's recent Antarctica temperature results in an unqualified way.

Sep 21, 2011 at 3:51 PM | Unregistered Commenterbernie

golf charley

But what will the trolls do without the SKunk Science Crock of Cook's Crooked Croneyism?!

In the very unlikely case that you mean me, I rarely visit SkS. Although I did come across a rather good synoptic piece on climate sensitivity recently, which explained matters better than most.

If you doubt this, here's a silly, time-wasting game we can play: every time I refer to a paper, you can check and see if I seem to be cribbing my sources from SkS. A couple of months of that (or a careful review of all my comments of the last four weeks) should put your mind to rest.

If you meant all the other well-read trolls at BH, then my apologies.

Sep 21, 2011 at 3:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD


Yes, I know and love Webcite. A tremendously useful tool.

Sep 21, 2011 at 4:24 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

I only visited Cook's website once and that was during the the Amazongate scandal.

I hoped they'd be able to cite the paper -any paper!- that floated the 40% figure for the Amazon forests that were under threat.

They offered no reference whatsoever. All I remember is them saying climate change is badly affecting the Amazon forests and that the threat was worse than we thought, or words to that effect.

Needless to say, I've never visited 'skeptical' site ever again.

Sep 21, 2011 at 4:47 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

Don Pablo de la Sierra
Sep 20, 2011 at 10:33 PM:

Assuming this statement is correct, is the loss due to melting or sublimation? They are not the same at all. And if it were due to melting, why does the increase in precipitation (snow) cause a increase, while there is a decrease where there is less precipitation. This phenomenon, if as reported, can only be explained by relative rates of precipitation and sublimation as melting, had it occurred, would have melted the new precipitation as well.

Way back on page one of the comments you made the above statement with regard to Antarctic ice loss.

You have failed to take account in your statement of the third method by which Antarctic ice can disappear off the continent. There are huge rivers of ice flowing off the high plateau which terminate in ice shelves. As the ice shelves grow they eventually break up at the ice front for any number of reasons. So, the third method by which Antarctica sheds ice is by physically transporting the ice to the ocean. (same applies to Greenland)

Sep 21, 2011 at 4:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

I have to say, I find the tone of all the comments here disturbing. It's rather like a roomful of unruly 7th graders. From what I read Cook made a mistake on his site. He came here and admitted as much (even though the original post was accusing him of something more nefarious). But no one has the maturity to accept a perfectly reasonable explanation. What we have left is a long muddled collective diatribe of accusations, innuendo and slurs. It's not what I would expect from a room of mature adults, that's for sure.

Quite honestly, John Cook has been the most mature atult to post on this thread of comments.

Sep 21, 2011 at 5:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrank

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