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« 28gate in the Scotsman | Main | 28 gate still running »

Lonely old Mann 

A group of prominent paleoclimatologists has written a paper rebutting one of Michael Mann's recent contributions to the scientific literature. The new paper was announced on the ITRBD Forum by Rob Wilson. The list of authors of the new paper is very long. Almost looks like they are ganging up on him. ;-)

In February of this year, Mike Mann and colleagues published a paper in Nature Geoscience entitled, "Underestimation of volcanic cooling in tree-ring based reconstructions of hemispheric temperatures". Their main conclusion was that a tree-ring based Northern Hemisphere (NH) reconstruction of D'Arrigo et al. (2006) failed to corroborate volcanically forced cold years that were simulated in modelling results (e.g. 1258, 1816 etc). Their main hypothesis was that there was a temporary cessation of tree growth (i.e. missing rings for all trees) at some sites near the temperature limit for growth. This implies Dendrochronology's inability to detect missing rings results in an underestimation of reconstructed cold years when different regional chronologies are averaged to derive a large scale NH composite.

We scrutinized this study and wrote a response to Nature Geoscience. We are pleased to announce that our comment, along with a reply by Mann et al., was finally published on Nov. 25, 2012 ( -- 8 months after submission. Our comment focuses on several factors that challenge the Mann et al. (2012) hypothesis of missing tree rings. We highlight problems in Mann et al.'s implementation of the tree ring model used, a lack of consideration for uncertainty in the amplitude and spatial pattern of volcanic forcing and associated climate responses, and a lack of any empirical evidence for misdating of tree-ring chronologies.

We look forward to a continued discussion on this subject.

Kevin J. Anchukaitis, Petra Breitenmoser, Keith R. Briffa, Agata Buchwal, Ulf Büntgen, Edward R. Cook, Rosanne D. D'Arrigo, Jan Esper, Michael N. Evans, David Frank, Håkan Grudd, Björn Gunnarson, Malcolm K. Hughes, Alexander V. Kirdyanov, Christian Körner, Paul J. Krusic, Brian Luckman, Thomas M. Melvin, Matthew W. Salzer, Alexander V. Shashkin, Claudia Timmreck, Eugene A. Vaganov, and Rob J.S. Wilson

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Reader Comments (173)


Academics never needed public castigation to sideline anyone.

Some needed to be sidelined sooner than they were. Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer for example. Your blanket statement of trust in academics would be rather endearing if it wasn't for such cases. But it wasn't castigation, it was a statement of the obvious.

Nov 29, 2012 at 3:26 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

> Some needed to be sidelined sooner than they were.

This applies to more than one might presume by saying so.

> Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer for example.

Indeed, and let's not forget about all those who wronged Galileo.

> Your blanket statement of trust in academics would be rather endearing if it wasn't for such cases.

There was no such statement, so the whole point is quite moot. Citations are no academics anyway. . Perhaps when we'll publish singular agents, but not yet.

> But it wasn't castigation, it was a statement of the obvious.

The "it" lacks a referent. I had not any "statement" in mind, but an institutional response, with all its biases. Looking at institutional responses works both ways. Our beloved Bishop's silence is deafening.

Contrarians should be happy Mike is being Mike: if he did not exist, an whole cottage industry would have to reinvent him. Not that it would be difficult. The whole playbook predates by far Herbert Lamb, a name inserted here for another kind of connotation effect than Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer.

Nov 29, 2012 at 4:53 PM | Unregistered Commenterwillard

Contrarians should be happy Mike is being Mike ...

Why on earth would anyone be happy? His being and his doing, and the fame the IPCC showered on him for it from 2001 onwards, have been a massive waste of time, because he did not respond to detailed criticism in the way a scholar should, as described so aptly by Thomas Sowell in Tuesday's article. And time wasting is putting it at its best. The impact on vastly expensive public policy decisions of this IPCC endorsement that hoodwinked so many is hard to do justice to. Please do not assume what you have signally failed to prove.

Nov 29, 2012 at 5:29 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

> Why on earth would anyone be happy?

This was a figure of speech. It is alleged that the Erinyes were never quite happy, even when they should have been. Perhaps it was a part of their social function, if we're to borrow a concept our fellow Shub is holding dear, or their bias, if we're to borrow our beloved Bishop's new ringtone.

Which was the point of my first comment hereunder, underhandedly censored. Procrustes would have been proud of the pea and thimble machine the contrarian blogland has developed. It is quite able to produce an indignated shriek or a sardonic laugh day, in day out, to a point where there is no valid reason to surmise that it will end after Mike's demise, if that were to happen.

Contrary to mine, this kind of audit will never end.

Nov 29, 2012 at 5:51 PM | Unregistered Commenterwillard

I think I see what kind of figure of speech "contrarians should be happy Mike is being Mike" was. The kind that meant we weren't happy. The kind where one states the opposite of the truth, then calls it a figure of speech. I like it. You are the most constructive contributor we've ever had on Bishop Hill. And that's a figure of speech.

Why indulge in such meaninglessness? I can't think of a reason except to divert attention from something important. I think I'll hand back to the studio at this point.

Nov 29, 2012 at 6:09 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake


Thank you for the kind words.

I suppose your sudden loss of interest provides evidence that there are things which are best be left unsaid. For instance, we certainly should not recall that you're mentioning Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer's name hours after admonishing a commenter on another thread for a smear using a name of a criminal I am not sure I should mention since it has since been redacted. And that's notwithstanding that your prescription might be tough to reconcile with Sowell's conclusion you just embraced about freedom of research.

I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree about what is meaningful and what's not. You should have taken Moshpit's hoodwinked call to party discipline. Even if it would have hinted at the generalized effect of the "silence of the lamb", this might have been the lesser evil.

But please, do continue. For instance, you could tell me that I am making no sense, or that I should provide more evidence for what I am saying. Sooner or later, we can surmise that playing dumb will look less and less plausible.

But that lots of theories. Why shan't we play this out instead?

More Omertà, Dick?

Nov 29, 2012 at 6:46 PM | Unregistered Commenterwillard

willard, I'd say you are a bore, and I don't know why, and I don't want to know ...

Nov 29, 2012 at 8:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonas N

Although you don't make it clear which incident you refer to, as is typical, you seem to be agreeing and claiming affinity with the pseudonymous entity deleted yesterday morning having advocated murder of our opponents. This charming nym also called me Dick and complained loudly that I was at heart a censor. It's also notable that he pretended to be a radical sceptic but that you both adopt the same attitude to me, you both use the same unusual nickname for me and you now seem to allude positively to him. The deletion in his case was inevitable. But why bring it up except to signal your agreement with the darkest attempts to blacken Bishop Hill and all those who post here with integrity? And to intimidate me, which you have neither achieved nor come close to achieving.

Nov 29, 2012 at 8:21 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Looks like Mann needs the skeptics more than they need him.

I'd say he's useful though.

Nov 29, 2012 at 9:05 PM | Registered Commentershub


You're right - it looks like even the tumbleweed has gone. Lonely old Mann indeed.

Nov 29, 2012 at 11:02 PM | Registered CommenterSayNoToFearmongers

Richard Drake,

First, it is a pity that you seem to take offense in my using Lindzen's diminutive to address you. I called you Dick because it helped my last sentence to ring like "More Omertà, Nick?", a sentence the Auditor used against a critic to burden him with commitments he did not have in the discussion.

For the sentence, see

For the overburdening of a commitments of a commenter, see Jean Goodwin's analysis of this chasing technique at Steve's:

This is a frequent "trick" (TM -- Climate Science), so deserves due diligence.

I won't use Lindzen's diminutive again to refer to you.


Perhaps inspired by this diminutive, and despite his avowed ennui, Richard Drake now acts like a gatekeeper.

Gatekeepers should be very prudent with their readings of the people they want to throw out of the auspices they want to protect.

First, I am not claiming affinity with that sorry chap Richard Drake browbeaten a bit yesterday. What I could say, though, is that Richard's responses does seem to make him claim the affinity. If he does, he should own it, and not burden me with an affinity he projects.

Second, this distracts us from the comparison between a murderer and a sorry fellow who was both a Nazi and an eugenist. To mention in passing a scientist who worked at Auschwitz to refer to people who, like Mike, should be sidelined, just a bit after after having browbeaten someone who associated climate scientists with a murderer, takes a very lenient sense of duty as a gatekeeper.

However biased they might be, institutions should beware of such flagrant double standards.

Fourth, I in no way claimed that Richard Drake was a censor. I stated that our beloved Bishop did censor some comments yesterday. Unless another person is responsible for curating this blog, this is a fact. It is the prerogative of a curator to censor at his heart's content, and even most of the time justified. In exchange, that precludes him from brandishing YesButRcModeration:

Gatekeepers should pay due diligence to facts.

Fifth, it was never my impetus to intimidate Richard Drake. I am quite pleased to see him pursuing this discussion. More so that he succeeded to remain silent on everything relevant for our discussion we put forward in our last comments.

It is not impossible to remain topical even while having to defend the constant personal attacks. It is even easy when the whole point of our intervention is to show when words are hurled to hide a decline to discuss what is really being conveyed by a propagandist, and how this comedy is enforced by gatekeepers.

Institutions are judged by the way they open their gates to other voices. That includes establishments like RC, whose editorial practices I do not wish to defend. (I rarely read that blog and have other interests than defensive ones.) But that also includes contrarian institutions, with all their biases.

Considering how all the institutions maintain topics beyond discussion (i.e. in our case, that our beloved Bishop's might be licking his chop a bit too loudly for prudence's sake), that there is silence among us here, right now, does not imply that any of us is a lamb. And contrary to what Feynman might have idealized in an overblown address to budding scientists, only a few can claim the integrity they pretend. Such pretence does not matter much to science, which in the end always have to progress in spite of it.

The honour Steve defends in his personal vendetta does not transfer to his mutualist niche.

Nov 30, 2012 at 4:40 AM | Unregistered Commenterwillard

I wonder if you have noticed that now RealClimate has deemed it necessary to huff and puff a little about the matter?

'Nothing to see here, move along' seems to be the message ...

Nov 30, 2012 at 5:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterJonas N

Quote from the future: "Michael who?".

The only chance Michael Mann has for lasting reference to his works will be in under-graduate statistics courses to demonstrate inappropriate use of statistics and as a classical example of the screening fallacy.

Other than that, I suspect he may get viewed in the future more as an interesting case study like Basil was in the Fawlty Towers episode The Psychiatrists - "There is enough material there for an entire conference".

Nov 30, 2012 at 9:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

You don't understand Richard's reasoning so you shouldn't waste your breath. And what is all this talk of gatekeeping? Aren't you able freely wander in here and throw generalized insinuations freely? People will defend what and whom they want to defend. That alone does not constitute 'gatekeeping.'

If you believe that the warmie blogs have any virtue, you are deluded.

Nov 30, 2012 at 9:30 AM | Registered Commentershub


Thank you for your comment on my exchange with Richard Drake, allowing you to stay quiet on factual errors from his part while probing my mind.

1. To use a concept I know you appreciate [1], we can interpret gatekeeping as a function of an in-crowd. This function does seem to characterize quite well an activity that is not unlike what is being hinted in this remark above:

> Almost looks like they are ganging up on him.

Wink wink, of course.

The freedom of my wandering has little to do with the concept of gatekeeping [2]. A freedom which is conditional to our beloved Bishop editorial deleaturs, which are now subreptitiously less invisible in a most recent thread than therein.

(I don't believe I am insinuating anything here: I don't think I need to emphasize much more to make myself perfectly clear, at least to whom my comment may concern. Feigning anasthesia might not be advised, but please do go ahead and make me insist.)


2. Standing aside these monkey wrenches, we can enter the crux of the matter:

> If you believe that the warmie blogs have any virtue, you are deluded.

This sentence does seem to attest some understanding of what I am trying to convey, however (please may insert their favorite adverb here) I do, for it indirectly answers the last sentence of my last comment (with emphasis):

> The honour Steve defends in his personal vendetta does not transfer to his mutualist niche.

I welcome this indirect response, since I believe it might very well be the most important sentence of that comment.

The indirection is quite revealing: you do seem to be saying "But". But the "Yes" that comes before that sounds suffocated, to a point it's as if we don't hear it at all. Before the "but", there should be a "Yes", no? Tu quoques usually work like that.

Not only is this indirection a tu quoque, but it burdens me with a commitment I explicitely diavowed: I'm not here to defend any warmie blog. This exemplifies yet again the tactic that I just described as a frequent chasing technique.

Speaking of chasing techniques, perhaps you remember this documentary where hyenas ganged up on a weakened and young rhinoceros all night long. We could not see the end of if, only the last wails of the prey. Sometimes, some things are better not seen, I suppose.

What readers can witness in climate blogland might have been enacted more crudely since the dawn of time in the Serengeti.


3. What I am **saying** right now about the editorial content of the main post, the concept of gatekeeping, and this last chasing technique has already been described by Ron Broberg, answering the question:

> Why this Constant Scapegoating? [3]

I hope this suffices to show that I am being quite topical, that my cryptic style does not prevent me from carrying the climateball into the endzone, and that my nonchalant meandering is mainly there to dodge monkey wrenches.

As the efficiency of your last comment makes quite clear, Shub, I am confident readers can appreciate how good you are at what you do.

Please do continue,






Dec 1, 2012 at 1:54 AM | Unregistered Commenterwillard

If you wish to continue with the subject of gatekeeping, please continue on the discussion page. This post is about Mann's contribution to the recent climate paper.

Dec 1, 2012 at 8:23 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Interesting discussions at realclimate. Mann promises that all will be clear once he has presented his devastatingly convincing new evidence. Rob Wilson seems less than entirely convinced.

Dec 1, 2012 at 3:08 PM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

Jonathan Jones - Thanks for the link. As one of the comments at RC says, "I see Mike is doing his best to ensure sure his AGU talk is well attended by irate dendrochronologists :-)"

Dec 1, 2012 at 4:43 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Jim Bouldin has now published part four of his series. It keeps on getting better: for example his discussion of RCS

This seems at first glance like a reasonable solution to a potentially thorny problem. There is one small hitch though: it doesn’t work. A second small hitch is that there are no other known solutions to the problem. Only in certain highly optimal situations, completely unrealistic for most real tree populations, does it approximately remove the tree size effect and return an adequate long term trend estimate. Otherwise it will fail badly, usually with a definite directional bias. Big time problem. As in, leading to an uncertainty that is fatal to confidence in resulting chronologies and climate reconstructions. I’m not exaggerating; keep reading.

If I understand correctly he has submitted a paper to PNAS on this topic.

Dec 4, 2012 at 2:52 PM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

Thanks Jonathan. I hopeful the articles are helpful; it's a challenge to explain the issues well.

Dec 5, 2012 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterJim Bouldin

Thanks Jonathan. I am hoping the articles are helpful; it's a challenge to explain the issues well.

Dec 5, 2012 at 4:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterJim Bouldin

The articles are extremely helpful, and I personally find the level pretty much right. The only change I would suggest is that it would indeed be useful for you to provide R code for your calculations as some people have suggested. If you write in words or even in pseudo-code there is enormous potential ambiguity in precisely what you mean, while actual code is (usually) (almost) unambiguous. Several extremely heated threads both here and on other blogs have in essence been arguments over the exact meaning of fragments of pseudo-code.

Dec 5, 2012 at 5:10 PM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

Did anyone see the much touted Mann presentation on December 5th? Were you convinced by it?

Dec 10, 2012 at 8:11 AM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

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