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« Time to Mann up – Part 2 | Main | Time to Mann up »

The Cook timeline

John Cook says:

... I regularly update old rebuttals when new data is released or when new papers are published. In this case, I updated my original rebuttal of the "Antarctica is gaining ice" myth with the latest GRACE data from Velicogna 2009 and while I was at it, also incorporated references to a number of other papers, trying to give a broad overview of what the peer-reviewed science had to say about what was happening in Antarctica.

Fine. I see that. The original article was written in December 2007, but attracted no comments until March 2008, including the one from AnthonySG1, which first appears in the page capture in July 2008. A non-committal ("stay tuned") response from Skeptical Science was already in place.  PaulM's comment came some months later at the start of September 2008 and was captured at the end of that month. However, there was no reply at this point.

Six months later, the article was rewritten, with its new focus on a distinct treatment for land and sea ice. Although no date appears to have been given for the rewrite, it was captured on 14 April 2009. At this point AnthonySG1's comment still had the original noncommittal response and PaulM was unanswered. This meant that Skeptical Science had an article that said that land ice was falling and sea ice was growing, but had two old comments that disputed an entirely different claim - that Antarctica was losing ice overall. The result was confusion: a comment in June 2009 told PaulM to chill out:

Chill, amigo (no pun intended).

The article makes the distinction right off the bat between land ice and sea ice. Your two links discuss SEA ICE. We know there's been an increase in sea ice.

It wasn't until January 2010 that the comment thread was adjusted. Here's John Cook's take on what happened.

When I posted the responses to those particular comments, I mistakenly thought they were comments to the updated post (SkS is a big site so I don't keep track of all the comments as they come in). So in responding to the commenters, thinking they hadn't read the updated article, I was unfair to them. It was an honest mistake but I'm a little annoyed with myself for making it because the focus on the timing of comments and responses distracts attention from the science discussed: Antarctic land ice is shrinking at an accelerating rate but Antarctic sea ice is increasing despite the fact that the Southern Ocean is warming faster than the rest of the world's oceans. This information is accurate, derived from peer-reviewed research, as SkS's main commitment is to maintain fidelity to the peer-reviewed literature.

I see two problems with this explanation. Firstly, not only were the comments not new, but the article was not new either. The comments were a year and a half old, and the article itself had been revised nearly a year earlier. I have cast my eye over the April 2008 2009 version of the article and the one at January 2010 and they don't appear to be materially different to me. Perhaps someone with more time than me can check this out in more detail.

The second problem is the suggestion that Cook erroneously thought the commenters hadn't read the article, forgetting he had rewritten it several months before. However, he did know that he had responded before - he could read what he had said to AnthonySG1 back in 2008. His explanation doesn't cover the question of what he was thinking about his earlier response. We are presumably asked to believe that he deleted it without thinking and inserted the new "erroneous" ones, ridiculing AnthonySG1 and PaulM.

It's a stretch, in my opinion.

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Reader Comments (128)

You are definitely more cynical than I.
Your choice of ad is subject to confirmation bias. What would you expect them to say in an ad for such a position!

I did check the link to their resource page that Mac noted. Now that clearly shows an intent, albeit quite legitimate, to influence public opinion and overcome resistance to wind farms. By spot checking a few of the resources, I would say that the team that put together that list were amateurs since a number of the references contained counter-arguments to wind farms, e.g., clear health impact on neighbours, while others included facts that would be difficult to support, e.g., a projected 30% utilization of installed capacity which is substantial higher than the figures for Denmark for the period covered by the review (less than 25%).

Sep 22, 2011 at 9:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterbernie

Bishop, I apologize for continuing OT, but as someone who has never posted on a climate blog, but has regularly read many for years, being PC for the sake of being PC puts me off more than calling an apple an apple. I’ve spent plenty of time at SkS to come to my own opinion on its’ merits, and feel Jeremy’s word choice perfectly acceptable and appropriate given the circumstances. Tiptoeing around the elephant in the room is the realm of politics, not science.

Sep 22, 2011 at 10:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterwatts

The comments are not the major issue with skepticalscience. It is the analysis. It picks from the peer-reviewed data to give the most alarmist spin, often ignoring the more rounded, more recent and less alarmist articles or data. (a pattern familiar to those who have read the Hockey Stick Illusion)

On Antarctic ice melt, this is certainly the case. SkS relies on a single author - Velicogna (two papers 2006 & 2009) - to substantiate the claim that the Antarctic pack ice is not just melting, it is accelerating. The 2009 paper looked at only six years of data. Yet less than two months ago there was published a paper that looked at a much longer period, looked at various studies (including Velicogna) and at different ways of estimating. It concluded that there may be some ice loss, but no acceleration. Anthony Watts summarises this paper quite nicely at
Watts's article also links to the original article. Do not take the word of a (slightly) manic beancounter. Do the comparison and you will find that the SkS is anything but sceptical and is not scientific.

I would suggest that this is not an isolated incident either. I have found at least two more. Perhaps others could have a delve?

Sep 22, 2011 at 11:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterManicBeancounter

John Cook has no affiliations with any organisations or political groups.

People may care to browse around the website of John Cook's employer, especially the newsletter, and decide whether or not he is affiliated with a political group:

Sep 22, 2011 at 11:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterDocBud

Mac Sep 22, 2011 at 10:08 AM has details of Dana1981 - a lead writer on SkS.

"an environmental scientist and have researched climate science as a hobby for the past 5 years."

Fair enough. So by definition not an economist. So is Dana1981 qualified to comment on the economics of public policy?

Compare with books on policy by Roger Pielke Jnr, Nigel Lawson, Matthew Sinclair & Tim Worstall...

For those who have studied economics and public policy, you will find that Dana1981 views are somewhat one-sided and elevates economic models to a much higher level of certainty than any mainstream economist countenance.

Sep 22, 2011 at 11:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterManicBeancounter


That thread re: Dana - 404 Not Found

Sep 23, 2011 at 12:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterGixxerboy


Make sure there is not a full stop after "html"

Sep 23, 2011 at 12:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterDocBud

As an aside to SS's penchant for rewriting history, I note that Dana's book review of the HSI at Amazon has been deleted. I'm gutted about this, as it was "Exhibit A" as to the unfathomable mindset of Dana. Still, I suppose there is a glimmer of hope, as I assume he deleted when the level of ridicule he was receiving for reviewing a book he'd never read became intolerable, and the lameness defences (which consisted almost purely of ad mom attacks) became obvious even to him.

I notice that quite a few of the earlier one star reviews of the HSI have also gone missing (all written by people who had nill to negligable acquantance with the actual content of the HSI). On one level I suppose that is good, but on another I feel ripped-off, after having put in such work (along with many others) pointing out how absurd these reviews (an the reviewers) were. It could have been a wonderful "resource", as the professional communicators say, for illustrating the calibre of the CAGW fetishests. Does anyone know if there is a way to recover these deleted review and comments, or are they like tears in rain?

Sep 23, 2011 at 12:56 AM | Unregistered Commenterjames west

james west - "ad mom attacks"
Such as "your mother wears army boots"?

I realise this is just a typo, but it's a funny one.

Sep 23, 2011 at 1:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

Gixxerboy 12:00
I tried it again leaving out the final period and it worked for me.

Update - interestingly Lucia and Zeke Hausfather popped in and suggested a way to resolve the problem. Dana says he was going to update it. Let's see if he gives credit to Lucia, Zeke and all the commenters who pointed out how problematic his digitizing is. In addition, a Paul from VA (Comment #20) has an interesting chart showing the sensitivity of the trend to changes in length of period covered and the starting date. It is a bit rough but it looks like it could be interesting.

Bottom line for me is that SkS is worth looking at and there is some genuine dissent, so long as you remember that they tend not to give you the whole story - as was illustrated in the hyperbolic description of land ice loss that started this cooking class.

Sep 23, 2011 at 2:58 AM | Unregistered Commenterbernie

Let's see if he gives credit to Lucia, Zeke and all the commenters who pointed out how problematic his digitizing is. In addition, a Paul from VA (Comment #20) has an interesting chart showing the sensitivity of the trend to changes in length of period covered and the starting date. It is a bit rough but it looks like it could be interesting

I'm waiting to see if Dana acknowledges that Charlie A -- the first commenter-- was correct about Dana's incorrect computation of trends. Charlie A tried pretty darn hard to get Dana to see they were clearly wrong. It seems to me he attempted multipel sorts of evidence to get Dana to see this. (Eg: Charlie did things like observing the trend looks wrong for the period stated-- that is 2000-2010. Observing it is quite different from the trend mentioned by the IPCC-- which was for a longer period-- but still, quite different. Repeating the question a few times. Asking for clarification on how it was computed. Asking Dana to test a different time period. But Dana persisted in insisting the trend for the A2 model 2000-201 was 0.12 C/dec when this is <I>clearly wrong.

It will be interesting to read what Dana writes in the revision. I took plenty of screen shots so we can compare. :)

Sep 23, 2011 at 4:16 AM | Unregistered Commenterlucia

I have a very stupid question on Antartic land ice.
It seems that land termperature never really rise above zero C, so ice is not lost due to melting. So why would land ice be lost? This should be the result of glacial movement. The great ice sheet is always moving out to sea from high ground to low.
So the loss of land ice must be the result of replentishment. Less water vapour, less snow OR simply that moisture content has not changed but the wind was blowing in the wrong direction.
Less water vapour means that climate has not warmed but cooled.
Wrong wind direction is just weather, hence the increase in sea ice, the total energy budget is preserved.
So why is loss of land ice given such importance? Surely Antartica has not warmed above zero, or has it?

Sep 23, 2011 at 6:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

Your comment on Dana's post was certainly gracious as was CharlieA's and Zeke's. Let's hope like is exchanged for like. I am off to take a look.

Sep 23, 2011 at 11:22 AM | Unregistered Commenterbernie

Bishop Hill: "Again, no more discussion of Nazis please."

But references to Comrade Lysenko pass unremarked on this blog. And our host never intervenes to suppress them. So references to 1930s German history are taboo, whilst references to 1930s Russian history are just fine. It's a moral distinction that the kulaks might find hard to fathom.

Sep 23, 2011 at 11:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterJane Coles

You have engendered a very interesting set of responses. Carrick also has added to the discussion in a useful way.
I urge everyone to check out Lucia's excellent follow through on this.
It makes for very enlightening reading. Lucia has attracted some pretty numerate folks. It also clearly demonstrates that the issues with SkS are not only the rewriting of past posts and the creation of false comments, they also simply report that which fits their overall narrative best. The immediate examples are the significant increasing trend but insignificant loss of Antarctic land ice (by my rough calculation 0.03% per 100 years), now the choice of GISTemp for trend comparisons with the models.

Sep 23, 2011 at 11:54 AM | Unregistered Commenterbernie

Edwin -
I hesitate to respond because this thread is about what happened at SkS, and not about the particular question at SkS. But your question is hardly stupid (as you characterise it), and I'll give it a brief response, and perhaps for further information you could open up a thread under Discussion. (See the right-hand sidebar.)

You ask "So why is loss of land ice given such importance?" Well, the natural answer is that loss of Antarctic land ice would be expected to result in increased sea levels, and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet alone contains enough water for some (3?) metres of increase.

"It seems that land termperature never really rise above zero C, so ice is not lost due to melting. So why would land ice be lost?" You're correct that most of the Antarctic ice sheet can't melt due to air temperature, an exception being the Antarctic Peninsula. There is some sublimation, but...

"This should be the result of glacial movement. The great ice sheet is always moving out to sea from high ground to low." Again, correct. The concern is that several glaciers end below the ocean's surface. Warming of the ocean -- as opposed to the air -- may be eroding that base faster than snow replenishes the surface.

Again, to continue this, it would be advisable to open a Discussion topic.

Sep 23, 2011 at 1:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

Tetra Tech are clearly in the Climate Change business.There is a lot of potential money to be made, consequently it is in the board's, employees and shareholders interests to protect that business.

Importantly for Tetra Tech they promote company and employee activsim - Quote: "We also encourage our professionals to participate in outreach programs. Tetra Tech associates and offices participate in many non-profit agencies and projects within their local communities."

Enter dana1981. Here is a climate change zealot who has saught for many a year a pulpit to preach from. dana1981 turns up on SkS late 2010, whereupon in his own inimitable way he effectively takes over this rebuttal site from John Cook.

Was this by accident or design, a marriage made in heaven or hell?

dana1981 is the preacher, SkS is the pulpit, Tetra Tech pays the preacher and encourages such zealotry.

SkS states that is funded by Cook and reader donations only, but how much does it help to have the support of companies such as Tetra Tech who thru the contributions of dana1981 are subsidising the efforts of SkS.

Sep 23, 2011 at 1:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Still, my treatment of Skeptical Science (SS) is that if a mostly rational commenter or poster on an open/uncensored/un-manipulated blog makes a referral to SS, then I might visit SS specifically for that. Otherwise, if I want to get the same content as at SS then I can just go read the problematical AR4 and the associated info on climategate (and many associated other 'gates).


Sep 23, 2011 at 3:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Whitman

Wayback Machine strikes again! dana's missing review of HSI at (missing but incriminating due to the eventual admission he had reviewed but not read the book), lamented by a number of the above comments, can still be found. Well, some at least can be retrieved at
and in case this also disappears, I have copied it below for the record. Another missing 1* review by Jane Bowles, who seems not to have read the book either, likewise can be partially retrieved. Dana also appears in the comments to this review (some of your comments survived James! )

6 of 21 people found the following review helpful:
Not bad for science fiction, July 22, 2010
By Dana A. Nuccitelli
This review is from: The Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science (Independent Minds) (Paperback)
If you're looking for a work of science fiction detailing a vast conspiracy similar to Michael Crichton's 'State of Fear', this may be the book for you.

The only problem is that this book claims to be non-fiction. Montford weaves a crazy tale of data manipulation and vast conspiracies which have very little semblance to what actually happened with regards to the infamous 'hockey stick'. A good summary of fact vs. fiction can be found here:

As long as you don't take the book seriously it makes for an entertaining read. Just think of the book as another Crichton story, sit back, and enjoy a fun conspiracy theory. The only problem is that the story claims to be true, but is filled with misinformation, lies, and nonsense. And for that, I can only give it 1 star.
Showing 1-10 of 42 posts in this discussion

Initial post: July 22, 2010 5:59 PM PDT
J. Thomas says:
Have you actually read the book, Dana?
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4 of 6 people think this post adds to the discussion. Do you?

Posted on July 23, 2010 2:22 PM PDT
Richard J says:
My apologies if I am wrong, but I rather suspect your post is in response to a recent call from a well-known alarmist climate blog because the rocketing success of the book is increasingly troublesome to their cause, and that you have neither had time or inclination to read it. I have, and, consider it an outstanding classic of our time. It is a magnificant demonstration of human fallibility where passion and zeal overthrows logic and reason.
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Posted on July 23, 2010 2:38 PM PDT
C. Johnson says:
In one of your posts you indicated that Anthropogenic Global Warming is a closed science and that 93% of climate scientists form a consensus on the subject. I'm going to attach a link that (though I'm sure you will have a disagreement with who put it together) simply lists dissenting climate scientists with quotes from them on the subject. If you can get past the title page, I would be curious what your response would be to that many climate scientists, many of whom were actively involved in the IPCC process, disagreeing with the notion that AGW is a foregone conclusion.

I know I said I was done, but I've been reading more and more lately of scientists changing their minds on this subject, so I did further research. I would be interested in your feedback. Likely, over a glass of wine, you and I would have an enjoyable and lively debate! Who knows.
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In reply to an earlier post on July 23, 2010 3:42 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on July 23, 2010 7:31 PM PDT
Dana A. Nuccitelli says:
Actually it's 97-98% of climate scientists, C Johnson. See any number of studies and surveys - Oreskes, Peiser, Doran, most recently Anderegg, etc.

As for the Inhofe list (apparently copied onto Hatch's site), it's a catch-all of anything any scientist (including non-climate scientists) has ever said remotely negative about any aspect of AGW. Just take a few examples:

John T. Everett, a federal fisheries researcher and manager, says there's nothing bad about warmer oceans (he ignores acidification, but whatever). He doesn't dispute that humans are causing global warming.

Lindzen - disputes that future warming will be significant, but not that humans are causing global warming.

Frauenfeld merely says that climate models aren't accurate enough for his liking. Doesn't dispute anthropogenic warming.

Tol - warmer is better, doesn't dispute AGW.

Christy - same as Lindzen.

Going through the first several pages, I didn't find a single scientist claiming that humans aren't causing global warming, which is what you're arguing (or at least that there's uncertainty about this). As I said before, there are climate science subjects about which there is uncertainty - how much the planet will warm in the future, how sensitive the climate is to CO2, when various feedbacks will kick in, etc. The cause of the current warming is not one of those subjects. The science is settled on that question.
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In reply to an earlier post on July 23, 2010 4:48 PM PDT
C. Johnson says:
One thing is for sure. Time will tell. You live in West Sacramento, so you are HOT right now.
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In reply to an earlier post on July 23, 2010 7:32 PM PDT
Dana A. Nuccitelli says:
Yeah. Only problem is if the majority of climate scientists are right, and we don't do enough to reduce our CO2 emissions, it's going to get really really ugly. And the fact that we can't even pass a watered-down climate bill that's good for the economy is not a good sign, to say the least.
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Posted on July 24, 2010 3:58 AM PDT
james west says:
Hey Dana, your review here is written in a manner which clearly implies that you have read the book. Yet in a reply to me elsewhere on this topic, you say (and I quote):

"James, I don't need to read the book, I've already read McIntyre's case against the 'hockey stick'. I'm not going to reward the author for peddling misinformation by buying his book just like I'm not going to buy Ian Pilmer or Glenn Beck's books. The facts are what they are. If the book makes false statements, buying it and reading it doesn't make them any less false. You seem to think that because you read the book, that makes the statements it contains true".

Well blow me down. Not being a little economical with the truth, are we? I'm shocked, shocked I tell you!
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In reply to an earlier post on July 24, 2010 8:10 AM PDT
Dana A. Nuccitelli says:
I never said I read the book, I merely criticized the factually inaccurate claims it makes. I suggest you get over yourself.
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In reply to an earlier post on July 24, 2010 9:29 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on July 24, 2010 9:32 PM PDT
james west says:
Yes Dana, you're right. I just have trouble suppressing my outmoded attachment to the notion that people who write book reviews should have first hand knowledge of what the book actually says.

I realise now that for a whole class of people, exemplified by you and the other 1 star reviewers here, the idea that evidence based opinions are worth more than opinions based on deliberate ignorance is anathema.

I apologise unreservedly for taking such narrow world view.
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In reply to an earlier post on July 24, 2010 10:44 PM PDT
Dana A. Nuccitelli says:
How convenient to dismiss a debunking of your beliefs because it's presented to you secondhand.

Sep 23, 2011 at 4:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Dodd

//"I never said I read the book,"//


//As long as you don't take the book seriously it makes for an entertaining read.// etc etc etc

Thanks Roger - The tears are running down my face!!!

Sep 23, 2011 at 4:28 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Sorry, those links didn't wrap. They were:

Sep 23, 2011 at 4:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Dodd

Roger, priceless - very very entertaining, thank you.

Sep 23, 2011 at 5:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

@Josh, @not banned yet: Avec plaisir; It was James (West) who elicited dana's confession, so we should be thanking him.

Sep 23, 2011 at 5:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Dodd

Roger - James' unreserved apology was the icing on the cake! :-)

Josh - there must be a cartoon in there somewhere?!

Sep 23, 2011 at 5:41 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Roger Dodd and James West

My Round. Thanks.

Sep 23, 2011 at 8:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

Interesting to note that John Cook was recently awarded the Eureka Prize here in Australia. See here:

Even more interesting is that the people awarding him the prize are a mixture of employees of various State government bureaucracies of the state of New South Wales (NSW) and science academics in NSW universities.

NSW recently had a change of government from the Labor Party to the (conservative) Liberal-National Party coalition which has numerous AGW sceptical politicians.

IMO this award is partly a reflection of the deep degree of division which applies within NSW govt. agencies where a bitter guerillla war now goes on between the Department of Planning and Infrastucture (the planners) and numerous other agencies who seek the right to completely ban new coal mines, CSG exploration drilling, and numerous other projects which are now proscribed by the ideology of the warmistas who now dominate those agencies.

It's getting bad!

I wonder just how aware the new NSW State government is aware of the level of partisan pro-AGW bias driving those who awarded Cook this prize?

Presumably the same sort of thing that is now going on elsewhere in other developed countries?

Sep 24, 2011 at 12:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Short

Roger Dodd,

I am truly grateful for your efforts here. I'll have to master this way back machine.

I'd forgotten just how much fun I had in my little exchange with Dana. All I can say is that I hope that the other side keeps recruiting people of his calibre.

Sep 24, 2011 at 1:19 AM | Unregistered Commenterjames west

Sceptical Science also got caught out by Tallbloke.

Bit of a pattern emerging here.

Sep 25, 2011 at 6:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Cowper

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