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The Yamal deception

As many readers are probably aware, there has been an important new posting at Climate Audit about the Yamal affair. This posting is an attempt to set out the whole story of Yamal. It reworks an article I did in 2009 and incorporates new developments since that time. I hope readers find it useful. I have also prepared a Kindle version of the post, for which there is a small charge - click here:

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The story of Michael Mann's Hockey Stick reconstruction, its statistical bias and the influence of the bristlecone pines is well known. Steve McIntyre's research into the other reconstructions of the temperatures of the last millennium has received less publicity, however. The story of the Yamal chronology may change that.

The bristlecone pines that created the shape of the Hockey Stick graph are used in nearly every millennial temperature reconstruction around today, but there are also a handful of other tree ring series that are nearly as common and just as influential on the results. Back at the start of McIntyre's research into the area of paleoclimate, one of the most significant of these was called Polar Urals, a chronology first published by Keith Briffa of the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia. At the time, it was used in pretty much every temperature reconstruction around. In his paper, Briffa made the startling claim that the coldest year of the millennium was AD 1032, a statement that, if true, would have completely overturned the idea of the Medieval Warm Period.  It is not hard to see why paleoclimatologists found the series so alluring.

Yamal saves the day

Keith BriffaSome of McIntyre's research into Polar Urals deserves a story in its own right, but it is one that will have to wait for another day. We can pick up the narrative again in 2005, when McIntyre discovered that an update to the Polar Urals series had been collected in 1999. Through a contact he was able to obtain a copy of the revised series. Remarkably, in the update the eleventh century appeared to be much warmer than in the original - in fact it was higher even than the twentieth century. This must have been a severe blow to paleoclimatologists, a supposition that is borne out by what happened next, or rather what didn't: the update to the Polar Urals was not published, it was not archived and it was almost never seen again.

With Polar Urals now unusable, paleclimatologists had a pressing need for a hockey stick shaped replacement and a solution appeared in the nick of time in the shape of a series from the nearby location of Yamal.

The Yamal data had been collected by a pair of Russian scientists, Hantemirov and Shiyatov, and was published in 2002. In their version of the data, Yamal had little by way of a twentieth century trend. Strangely though, Briffa's version, which had made it into print before even the Russians', was somewhat different. While it was very similar to the Russians' version for most of the length of the record, Briffa's verison had a sharp uptick at the end of the twentieth century -- another hockey stick, made almost to order to meet the requirements of the paleoclimate community.  Certainly, after its first appearance in Briffa's 2000 paper in Quaternary Science Reviews, this version of Yamal was seized upon by climatologists, appearing again and again in temperature reconstructions; it became virtually ubiquitous in the field: apart from Briffa 2000, it also contributed to the reconstructions in Mann and Jones 2003, Jones and Mann 2004, Moberg et al 2005, D'Arrigo et al 2006, Osborn and Briffa 2006 and Hegerl et al 2007, among others.

The data is not free

When McIntyre started to look at the Osborn and Briffa paper in 2006, he quickly ran into the problem of the Yamal chronology: he needed to understand exactly how the difference between the Briffa and Hantemirov versions of Yamal had arisen. McIntyre therefore wrote to the Englishman asking for the original tree ring measurements involved. When Briffa refused, McIntyre wrote to Science, who had published the new paper, pointing out that, since it was now six years since Briffa had originally published his version of the chronology, there could be no reason for withholding the underlying data. After some deliberation, the editors at Science declined the request, deciding that Briffa did not have to publish anything more as he had merely re-used data from an earlier study. McIntyre should, they advised, approach the author of the earlier study, that author being, of course, Briffa himself. Wearily, McIntyre wrote to Briffa again, this time in his capacity as author of the original study in Quaternary Science Reviews and he was, as expected, turned down flat.

That was how the the investigation of the Yamal series stood for the next two years until, in July 2008, a new Briffa paper appeared in the pages of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, the Royal Society's journal for the biological sciences. The new paper discussed five Eurasian tree ring datasets, which, in fairly standard Hockey Team fashion, were unarchived and therefore not susceptible to detailed analysis. Among these five were Yamal and the equally notorious Tornetrask chronology. McIntyre observed that the only series with a strikingly anomalous twentieth century was Yamal. It was frustratingly therefore that he had still not managed to obtain Briffa's measurement data. It appeared that he was going to hit another dead end. However, in the comments to his article on the new paper, a possible way forward presented itself. A reader pointed out that the Royal Society had what appeared to be a fairly clear and robust policy on data availability:

As a condition of acceptance authors agree to honour any reasonable request by other researchers for materials, methods, or data necessary to verify the conclusion of the article...Supplementary data up to 10 Mb is placed on the Society's website free of charge and is publicly accessible. Large datasets must be deposited in a recognised public domain database by the author prior to submission. The accession number should be provided for inclusion in the published article.

Having had his requests rejected by every other journal he had approached, McIntyre had no great expectations that the Royal Society would be any different, but there was no harm in trying and he duly sent off an email pointing out that Briffa had failed to meet the Society's requirement of archiving his data prior to submission and that the editors had failed to check that Briffa had done so. The reply, to McIntyre's surprise, was very encouraging:

We take matters like this very seriously and I am sorry that this was not picked up in the publishing process.

Was the Royal Society, in a striking contrast to every other journal in the field, about to enforce its own data availability policy? Had Briffa made a fatal mistake?

Summer gave way to autumn and as October drew to a close, McIntyre had still heard nothing from the Royal Society. However, in response to some further enquiries, the journal sent McIntyre some more encouraging news -- Briffa would be producing most of his data, although not immediately. Most of it would be available by the end of the year, with the remainder to follow in early 2009.

Some Briffa data

The first batch of data appeared on schedule in the dying days of 2008 and it was something of a disappointment. The Yamal data, as might have been expected, was to be archived with the second batch, so there would be a further delay before the real action could start. Meanwhile, however, McIntyre could begin to look at what Briffa had done elsewhere. It was not to be plain sailing. For a start, Briffa had archived data in an obsolete data format, last used in the era of punch-cards. This was inconvenient, and apparently deliberately so, but it was not an insurmountable problem -- with a little work, McIntyre was able to move ahead with his analysis. Briffa had also thrown a rather larger spanner in the works though: while he had archived the tree ring measurements, he had not supplied any metadata to go with it -- in other words there was no information about where the measurements had come from. All there was was a tree number and the measurements that went with it. However, McIntyre was well used to this kind of behaviour from climatologists and he had some techniques at hand for filling in some of the gaps. Climate Audit postings on the findings followed in fairly short order, some of which were quite intriguing. There was, however, no smoking gun.

There followed a long hiatus, with no word from the Royal Society or from Briffa. McIntyre would occasionally visit Briffa's web page at the CRU website to see if anything new had appeared, but to no avail. Eventually, though, Briffa's hand was forced, and in late September 2009, a reader pointed out to McIntyre that the remaining data was now available. It had been quietly posted to Briffa's webpage, without announcement or the courtesy of an email to Mcintyre. It was nearly ten years since the initial publication of Yamal and three years since McIntyre had requested the measurement data from Briffa. Now at last some of the questions could be answered.

A strange lack of twentieth century data

When McIntyre started to look at the numbers it was clear that there were going to be the usual problems with a lack of metadata, but there was more than just this. In typical climate science fashion, just scratching at the surface of the Briffa archive raised as many questions as it answered. Why did Briffa only have half the number of cores covering the Medieval Warm Period that the Russian had reported? And why were there so few cores in Briffa's twentieth century? By 1988 there were only 12 cores used, an amazingly small number in what should have been the part of the record when it was easiest to obtain data. By 1990 the count was only ten, dropping still further to just five in 1995. Without an explanation of how the selection of this sample of the available data had been performed, the suspicion of `cherrypicking' would linger over the study, particularly since the sharp twentieth century uptick in the series was almost entirely due to a single tree (It is true to say, however, that Hantemirov also had very few cores in the equivalent period, so it is possible that this selection had been due to the Russian and not Briffa).

The lack of twentieth century data was still more remarkable when the Yamal chronology was compared to the Polar Urals series, to which it was now apparently preferred. The ten or twelve cores used in Yamal was around half the number available at Polar Urals, which should presumably therefore have been considered the more reliable. Why then had climatologists almost all preferred to use Yamal? Could it be because it had a hockey stick shape?

Briffa's regional chronology

The low core counts in the Yamal series certainly looked odd, but when they were seen in the context of Briffa's 2008 Royal Society paper they looked positively suspicious. In the paper, Briffa had explained that he and his co-authors had combined series so as to create regional chronologies covering much wider areas. These regional chronologies, he suggested provided  "strong evidence that the extent of recent widespread warming across northwest Eurasia, with respect to 100- to 200-year trends, is unprecedented in the last 2000 years". 

One of Briffa's regional chronologies was AVAM-TAIMYR, which was produced by merging the Taimyr chronology with another site, Bol'shoi Avam, located no less than 400 kilometres away. While the original Taimyr site had something of a divergence problem, with narrowing ring widths implying cooler temperatures, the new composite site of Avam--Taimyr had a rather warmer twentieth century and a cooler Medieval Warm Period. The effect of this blending of datasets was therefore, as so often with paleoclimate adjustments, to produce a warming trend.

This however, was not what was interesting McIntyre. What was odd about AVAM-TAIMYR was that the series seemed to have more tree cores recorded than had been reported in the two papers on which it was based. So it looked as if something else had been merged in as well. But what?

With no metadata archived for AVAM-TAIMYR, McIntyre had another puzzle to occupy him, but with some effort he was able to unravel the mystery. Forty-two of the cores turned out to be from another location called Balschaya Kamenka, some 400 km from Taimyr. The data had been collected by the Swiss researcher, Fritz Schweingruber. The fact that the use of Schweingruber's data had not been reported by Briffa was odd in itself, but what intrigued McIntyre was why Briffa had used Balschaya Kamenka and not any of the other Schweingruber sites in the area. Several of these were much closer to Taimyr -- Aykali River was one example, and another, Novaja Rieja, was almost next door. The suspicion of cherrypicking was hard to avoid.

The Khatdyta River experiment

But there was another mystery in Briffa's paper too. As we have seen, Briffa had been in the business of creating regional chronologies, for example supplementing Taimyr with data from other locations such as Avam and Balschaya Kamenka. Similar regional chronologies had been created for Fennoscandia and allegedly for Yamal. But the Yamal data appeared to represent only the original Hantemirov and Shiyatov data with no supplementation with other sites in the area at all. Why had Briffa left Yamal on its own, when the core count was so low? Suitable data was certainly available - Schweingruber had collected samples at a site called Khadyta River, close to Yamal, and with 34 cores recorded it represented a much more reliable basis for reconstructing temperatures.

McIntyre decided to perform a sensitivity test on Briffa's database, replacing the 12 cores that were behind the twentieth century uptick in the Yamal series with the 34 from Khadtya River. The revised chronology was simply staggering. The sharp uptick in the series at the end of the twentieth century had vanished, leaving a twentieth century apparently without a significant trend. The blade of the Yamal hockey stick, used in so many of those temperature reconstructions that the IPCC said validated Michael Mann's work, was gone.

Sound and fury

The reaction to McIntyre's blog posts on Yamal was almost instantaneous. The RealClimate blog, run by prominent climate scientists in an effort to protect the IPCC orthodoxy, ridiculed McIntyre's work:

McIntyre has based his ‘critique’ on a test conducted by randomly adding in one set of data from another location in Yamal that he found on the internet. People have written theses about how to construct tree ring chronologies in order to avoid end-member effects and preserve as much of the climate signal as possible. Curiously no-one has ever suggested simply grabbing one set of data, deleting the trees you have a political objection to and replacing them with another set that you found lying around on the web.

A few weeks later, Briffa and some of his colleagues joined in, writing a long response to McIntyre. Interestingly, this took a slightly different line to their colleagues at RealClimate, acknowledging that Khadtya River met the criteria for inclusion in the the Yamal chronology, but claiming somewhat implausibly that they had not considered it at the time.

Judged according to [our normal] criterion it is entirely appropriate to include the data from the [Khadtya River] site...when constructing a regional chronology for the area. However,we simply did not consider these data at the time, focussing only on the data used in the companion study by Hantemirov and Shiyatov and supplied to us by them.

However, they also presented what they said was a revised Yamal chronology, produced "by making use of all the data to hand", and giving broadly the same result as the figures they had published previously:

Original caption: Comparison of published and reworked Yamal chronologies. This Figure shows the two earlier versions of the Yamal RCS larch chronology in red (published in Briffa, 2000) and blue (Briffa et al., 2008) compared to the new version, based on all of the currently available data (Yamal_All) for the original (POR, YAD and JAH) sites and including the additional data from the KHAD site (in black). Tree sample counts for this 'new' chronology are shown by the grey shading. The upper panel shows the data smoothed with a 40-year low-pass cubic smoothing spline. The lower panel shows the yearly data from 1800 onwards. All series have been scaled so the yearly data have the same mean and standard deviation as the Yamal_All series over the period 1-1600.

Climategate and the Yamal-Urals chronology

Just weeks later, the attention of the Climate blogosphere was well and truly diverted by the Climategate disclosures, and the arguments over the Yamal core count was forgotten in the media storm that followed. However, there were many emails in the Climategate zip file that directly pertained to the Yamal story. The message that immediately attracted attention was one that demonstrated that CRU had funded Hantemirov and Shiyatov to collect the Yamal data in the first place, something that did raise questions over Briffa's claim that the data was not theirs to give to McIntyre. However, at the time most attention was focused on Shiyatov's request that the funds be sent to his private bank account so as to avoid problems with the Russian tax authorities.

However, there was another email that was much more important, although it was barely noticed by anyone apart from McIntyre. The email in question, number 1146252894, was from Briffa to a scientist at the Met Office and dated back to 2006.

Hi Philip,
We have three "groups" of trees:
"SCAND" (which includes the Tornetrask and Finland multi-millennial chronologies, but also some shorter chronologies from the same region).  These trees fall mainly within the 3 boxes centred at:
     17.5E, 67.5N
     22.5E, 67.5N
     27.5E, 67.5N
"URALS" (which includes the Yamal and Polar Urals long chronologies, plus other shorter ones).  These fall mainly within these 3 boxes:
     52.5E, 67.5N
     62.5E, 62.5N (note this is the only one not at 67.5N)
     67.5E, 67.5N
"TAIMYR" (which includes the Taimyr long chronology, plus other shorter ones).  These fall mainly within these 4 boxes:
     87.5E, 67.5N
     102.5E, 67.5N
     112.5E, 67.5N
     122.5E, 67.5N

There could be little doubt that these were the regional chronologies that had been prepared for the Royal Society paper. Crucially then, this email showed that Briffa and his colleagues had prepared a regional chronology that incorporated Yamal and the Polar Urals - a much wider area than the Yamal-only chronology that had appeared in the final paper.

Briffa's decision to drop the URALS regional chronology (incorporating Yamal and sites in the Polar Urals) in favour of a Yamal-only chronology with only a handful of trees in its modern section was starting to look indefensible. It was also hard to square the existence of the URALS chronology with Briffa's rebuttal of McIntyre's earlier blog post. When Briffa had said his revised Yamal chronology incorporated "all the data", he  had actually only incorporated a handful of sites in the Yamal area, without mentioning that he had prepared the much broader-based URALS chronology. The deception in Briffa's response was now clear, at least to McIntyre.

The only way to prove that all this mattered, however, was to find out what the URALS chronology looked like. If it lacked the hockey stick shape, as McIntyre suspected, Briffa would be completely undone. McIntyre duly submitted a freedom of information request for the chronology itself and a list of the sites used. As he expected, this was refused, and before long the long and tedious appeals process was set in motion.

The Climategate inquiries

While the wheels of the FOI appeals process were grinding away, Briffa was having to fend off the Yamal allegations again. These had been put to him by members of the Russell panel, which was investigating Climategate on behalf of the University of East Anglia. However, a former colleague, Geoffrey Boulton, was dealing with the investigation of the Yamal allegations, so Briffa would presumably have had few concerns.

Since the Russell panel had only allowed a few days for submissions of evidence, the Yamal allegations had not been formally put to the inquiry, although McIntyre had covered it briefly, mentioning the email that revealed existence of the URALS chronology. Boulton, however, had asked Briffa to respond to a distillation of the allegations that McIntyre's co-author Ross McKitrick had written as an op-ed in a Canadian newspaper.

Briffa's response repeated the story he had made in his earlier rebuttal of McIntyre, namely that he and his colleagues had never considered the other data in the region:

The data that he is referring to were never considered at the time because the purpose of the work reported in Briffa (2000) and Briffa et al. (2008) was to reprocess the existing dataset of Hantemirov and Shiyatov (2002).

Readers may already have noticed that Briffa's explanation was directly contradicted by the Climategate email quoted above, which showed that the data referred to had actully been under consideration since at least 2006. Remarkably, despite having Briffa's email available, Boulton does not seem to have noticed this obvious deceit. Since the Russell panel decided not to allow CRU's critics to challenge the evidence of the CRU scientists, nobody else could point out the truth either. The Russell panel's decision therefore appears culpable.

The second part of Briffa's explanation is equally misleading. While the purpose of the original Briffa 2000 paper was indeed to reprocess the Hantemirov and Shiyatov data, this could not be said of the later, 2008 paper, the purpose of which was to prepare and examine regional chronologies. This second deceit, like the first, went unremarked by Boulton.

Later on in the same document, Briffa changed his story slightly. He said that the 2008 paper had been intended for a special issue of the journal concerned and he had therefore been working to a strict deadline. He said that he and his colleagues had simply run out of time to prepare the URALS regional chronology and had decided to reprocess Yamal on its own:

...we had intended to explore an integrated Polar Urals/Yamal larch series but it was felt that this work could not be completed in time and Briffa made the decision to reprocess the Yamal ring-width data to hand, using improved standardization techniques, and include this series in the submitted paper.

This story was again entirely implausible. As we have seen, the regional chronology had been around since at least 2006, but Briffa chose not to mention this in his evidence to Russell.

Briffa also made the extraordinary claim that he and his colleagues had not looked at Polar Urals for many years:

We had never undertaken any reanalysis of the Polar Urals temperature reconstruction subsequent to its publication in 1995.

Again, this was directly refuted by the Climategate emails, which showed that Briffa had incorporated Polar Urals into the URALS regional chronology in 2006. Once again, the deceit was missed by Boulton.

Boulton had missed three clear deceptions in as many paragraphs of Briffa's evidence. It is perhaps not surprising that with an inquiry of this nature, a "not guilty" verdict regarding the Yamal allegations was subsequently issued in the Russell Panel's final report.

The Commissioner calls

In April 2012, the tide began to shift against Briffa. The UK's Information Commissioner wrote to UEA with some bad news - although a decision on the release of the URALS chronology had not been reached, the commissioner advised the university that there could be no good reason not to disclose the list of sites used and accordingly he intended to rule against them on this issue. Briffa's hand was finally going to be forced.

The list of 17 sites that was finally sent to McIntyre represented complete vindication. The presence of Yamal and Polar Urals had already been obvious from the Climategate emails, but the list showed that Briffa had also incorporated the Polar Urals update (which, as we saw above, did not have a hockey stick shape, and which Briffa claimed he had not looked at since 1995) and the Khadtya River site, McIntyre's use of which the RealClimate authors had ridiculed.

Although the chronology itself was not yet available, the list of sites was sufficient for McIntyre to calculate the numbers himself, and the results were breathtaking. Firstly, the URALS regional chronology had vastly more data behind it than the Yamal-only figures presented in Briffa's paper

But what was worse, the regional chronology did not have a hockey stick shape - the twentieth century uptick that Briffa had got from the handful of trees in the Yamal-only series had completely disappeared.

 Direct comparison of the chronology that Briffa chose to publish against the full chronology that he withheld makes the point clear:

It seems clear then that the URALS chronology Briffa prepared to go alongside the others he put together for the 2008 paper gave a message that did not comply with the message that he wanted to convey - one of unprecedented warmth at the end of the twentieth century. In essence the URALS regional chronology was suffering from the divergence problem - the widely noted failure of some tree ring series to pick up the recent warming seen in instrumental temperature records, which led to the infamous 'hide the decline' episode.

Remarkably, however, Briffa did allude to the divergence problem in his paper:

These [regional chronologies] show no evidence of a recent breakdown in [the association between tree growth and temperature] as has been found at other high-latitude Northern Hemisphere locations.

The reason for dropping the URALS chronology looks abundantly clear. It would not have supported this message.

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Reader Comments (122)

I'm a mere layman without Mannian (Briffian) subtleties of verbal and statistical acrobatics, so if I'm asked to give a capsule summary of what the problem is here, I think I'd say

"cherry-picking data, deceiving colleagues, subverting the scientific process, reviling perceptive critics, and then lying about it all to official inquiries and to the public"

Anything wrong with that as a first glimpse of what is described above and on WUWT?

Follow on questions would include (1) what if any laws were broken? (2) does the UEA/CRU have any standards at all? (3) who actually takes responsibility for integrity and quality assurance in climate science?

May 9, 2012 at 9:23 AM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

Briffa got paid for this? Is this not obtaining money through deception?

May 9, 2012 at 9:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterKenny

Houghton has done his bit, and gone to gardening. Briffa has done his, and gone where? Has he retired to the country? He seems still to be at CRU, but why does he not engage in the controversies to which he has contributed so much? Ditto for Jones.

Anyway, your post provides a very welcome elucidation of this part of the saga. It will surely add to the repository of knowledge that will help future scholars when they try to make sense of this astonishing, and dismaying, period of intense interaction between politics and science.

(note typo: 'succeptible') [Dealt with, thanks. BH]

May 9, 2012 at 9:32 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

John Shade:

If you look at Briffa's page at, you will see that, although it was updated on 25th October 2011, his biography ends with the words "I am a Lead Author of Chapter 6 (Palaeoclimatology) of the Fourth Assessment Report of Working Group 1 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, due for publication in 2007". His last significant publication was in 2006. It would appear that, although he is now Deputy Director of the CRU, he is keeping a very low profile.

May 9, 2012 at 9:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Beautifully written; clear, succinct, evidence based and absolutely to the point. No one reading this article will have any doubt about what certain climate scientists have been up to. Thank you for the time and hard work you've put into this explanation.

Steve McIntyre should be celebrated for his persistence and determination to get to the truth about the tree rings used in proxy climate reconstructions. His suspicions have been vindicated that only the data which produced a hockey stick was used, despite other data being available which showed that the hockey stick was wrong.

May 9, 2012 at 9:49 AM | Unregistered Commentermfo

The Leopard wrote:

Looking at this it seems like paleo-dendro work must be like selecting at the pick-n-mix counter at Woolies to get your preferred selection ;)

It is well known that you have to pick cherries if you want to make cherry pie and that the ability to pick and choose which samples to use is an advantage unique to dendroclimatology. They don't even pretend that they are doing things properly.

May 9, 2012 at 9:53 AM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

John Shade; you must remember Hulme who in a Guardian article admitted he changed CRU from the scientific institution set up by Lamb to Marxist post-normal science, aka the end justifies the means.

20 years' ago, the collapse of the Soviet Empire meant International Marxism had to find another host, and it was the environmental movement. You can't blame the bit players for this, only the Principals.

Houghton is a religious fanatic not a Marxist but the basic science he promoted is wrong in key areas.

May 9, 2012 at 9:55 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

If your looking for weak link in 'the Team ' it is Briffa, for if it blows up from within the chances are it will be him that pushes the button. Now that may be because of lack of guts or an excess, for the Team, ‘of integrity.

Two things to note, normal scientists are data monster they can never get enough , but like a lot of things climate science is not normal science.
And ‘hand full of trees ‘ its remarkable that such a tiny amount of data from a very limited area is good enough to predict climate doom but a far bigger range of data with a much wider geographical spread is worthless in telling us there was an MWP because it does not provide perfect world-wide coverage .

May 9, 2012 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Has anyone thought to bring this to the attention of Richard Black/BBC. It looks like a great story for a journalist to take up and run with ......

Nevertheless wouldn't it be a good idea to have it on the record that the BBC have been made fully aware of the issue so that, at some time in the future (hopefully near future), it can be pointed out to them that they have been remiss in not reporting on major developments that seriously undermine "the cause" and its proponents.

May 9, 2012 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterTC

I was just about to put a link up to Lucy Skywalker's comparison of the Yamal treering and neighbouring temperature data. Just in case anyone who has not seen it thinks that Lucy may be blowing her own trumpet it is well worth a gander:

Circling Yamal 3 - facing the thermometers

I never ceases to amaze me that so much time and effort has been spent trying to 'establish' and verify the hockeystick, when as Lucy has simply shown, no hockeystick can be found the 20th Century temperature records, even with the contribution from UHI.

Don't get me wrong, Steve McIntyre has done an amazing job to highlight the mendacity of CRU and Mann, and deserves much credit for his services to science, but using dendroclimatology to try to establish 20th Century temperatures in Northern Siberia, when we have weather station data in the same region is very peculiar. A case of not seeing the wood for the trees?

Ah, I get it, it is much easier to fiddle proxies than temperature data to suit your narrative (though NOAA and Hansen may disagree with this): NOAA 20th Century USCHN data adjustments

May 9, 2012 at 10:01 AM | Registered Commenterlapogus

It would be good to have a list of references at the end, with links to pdfs, so that all good sceptics can check the claims made about the various papers. This would help make the whole document look a bit more scientific.

For example

K. R. Briffa (2000)
Annual climate variability in the Holocene: interpreting the message of ancient trees.
Quaternary Science Reviews 19 (1-5): 87–105.

R. M. Hantemirov and S. G. Shiyatov (2002)
A continuous multimillennial ring-width chronology in Yamal, northwestern Siberia
The Holocene vol. 12 no. 6 717-726.

Perhaps others can help complete the list?

May 9, 2012 at 10:11 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews


Thinking of integrity, in science and in all endeavors, reminds me of the great words of the late Richard Feynman in his legendary 1974 Caltech Commencement Address to the new science and engineering graduates ("Cargo Cult Science"):

"So I have just one wish for you--the good luck to be somewhere where you are free to maintain the kind of integrity I have described, and where you do not feel forced by a need to maintain your position in the organization, or financial support, or so on, to lose your integrity. May you have that freedom."

Words that may have painful resonance for many at CRU and in "climate science" more broadly.... where is the integrity?

[of course true integrity will not allow one to sacrifice scientific virtues for personal gain, but.... humans are human.....]

May 9, 2012 at 10:12 AM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

'Tis a pity that SMc and your Grace are not American citizens. I have checked the eligibility rules and categories for the award of the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism and it requires the submission to be based on the contents of an American Newspaper or 'News Site' (definition required - is a Blog not a News Site?). See:

Such a shame, as I reckon this work by SMc and your Grace certainly merits such distinguished recognition. It's certainly up there with the Bernsteins and Woodwards of this world. Perhaps someone here can recommend a similar award that Canadians and Scots are eligible for.

May 9, 2012 at 10:22 AM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

"This does not mean that one could not improve a chronology by reducing the number of series used if the purpose of removing samples is to enhance a desired signal. The ability to pick and choose which samples to use is an advantage unique to dendroclimatology.

Enhance the desired signal- is that the one that shows an upturn in the 20th Century?

Just imagine that this was a drug trail. It started off with 100 volunteers. By the end of the trail 90 had dropped out because of adverse side effects. The remaining 10 showed "the desired response".
This "adjusted" data was then used to file for a licence for this drug.
No prizes for guessing what would happen when the deciet was uncovered.

On a more serious note the type of data analysis that "The Team" are using is called a "post-hoc" test. It does have utility (IF USED PROPERLY) in finding patterns within large datasets that would otherwise be obscure. Needless to say such an analysis requires careful control measures to avoid Type I statistical errors- in short false positives.

Of course "The Team" is noted for its diligence and expertise in this area.

May 9, 2012 at 10:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Keef, Keef - you're not the messiah, you're just a very naughty boy! (What is it with academics and beards anyway?)

It is however, very hard to laugh about this. Brilliant work Steve and Andrew! May the accolades you both deserve be awarded in abundance.

May 9, 2012 at 11:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris M

Many thanks for this, Bishop: I had twice read through Steve McIntyre's own post, but didn't feel I'd grasped the significance of the latest discovery, but I do now!

Likewise. Much credit is due to Steve McIntyre for his dogged tenacity and relentless inquiry but your account here is far easier to follow than the post at CA.

Thank you immensely for you clear and interesting writing of this scam.

May 9, 2012 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterP. Solar

Slightly OT but others might have the same problem. I've downloaded the Kindle version of The Yamal Deception to my Kindle for PC. It appears and can be read there. I've clicked "Tools, Sync & Check for New Items" but it doesn't sync to the Kindle app on my HP TouchPad. As far as I can see, it only snyc's items bought direct from Amazon, and I presume the same problem arises for Kindle users. Anybody know the solution?
PS - brilliant work by Steve M & the Bishop.

May 9, 2012 at 11:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterJockdownsouth

Excellent write up Your Grace. I'll visit the tip jar some time later today.

May 9, 2012 at 11:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

Here (UK) we have a criminal slang term called 'ringing' it is where a fraud is carried out where the identity of a stolen car is replaced with another genuine identity.

People that carry out such crimes are known as 'ringers' so perhaps we have a new subtle term for these alleged scientists ... Tree ringers. And it looks like Steve McIntyre has uncovered a global 'Tree ringing' operation.

May 9, 2012 at 11:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterMan Bearpig

Doesn't seem to leave any wriggle room for the team, surely they will have to respond. If not now, then at some point after GWPF, Dellingpole, Booker et al turn up the heat.

May 9, 2012 at 11:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrosty

Someone just put this up in he WUWT comments-

You put your Yamals in,
Your leave your Urals out:
In, out, in, out.
You shake it all about.
You do the hokey sticky,
And you turn around.
That’s what it’s all about!

May 9, 2012 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

Have you considered submitting this to somewhere like Reason magazine or the Washington Examiner, with a view to a convenient Pullitzer nomination?

At the least, a Pullitzer nomination would require a serious response.

May 9, 2012 at 12:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterDead Dog Bounce

What's the betting this doesn't make the MSM? They already proved they don't care about the story. Perhaps the Bish should have added the threat of some calmity to the end, then they'd look.

May 9, 2012 at 12:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Hi BigYin: the MSM has changed. The DT is even handed, the Indy is downgrading environment. The Guardian is curtailing its rabid warmists.

But the key arbiter is that the politicians are backing away like mad being given time by the MSM in return for favours presumably, before the real scandal of the fraud and corruption comes out.

For a view of the US, look at the debate in Vermont. The man who led the equivalent corruption in the UK has just died.

May 9, 2012 at 12:13 PM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

Good work, very concise and understandable as usual.

Thanks to Steve Mac as well for fighting his corner.

May 9, 2012 at 12:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Homewood

I hope you're right about the MSM. We've just about won the scientific battle. The MSM is next. The the politicians will give it up.

May 9, 2012 at 12:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Does Richard Betts know Briffa? Maybe he can get Briffa here to explain this ?

May 9, 2012 at 1:47 AM | Jack Hughes

I believe, but am not 100% certain, that Betts knows most if not all of the team and, in a recent communique, said they were all honest, nice people.

May 9, 2012 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

I suggest that someone draws the attention of Mr Graham Stringer MP to this - either one of his constituents who reads this site or Bishop Hill himself. Mr Stringer, of course, is the (only?) MP to sit on the HoC Science and Technology Committee during both the previous and present governments who heard all the presented "evidence". I will send a copy to my MP with an appropriate covering letter.

How the HoC authorities respond will be very revealing.

May 9, 2012 at 1:14 PM | Unregistered Commenteroldtimer

I had the same problem. I am still a novice with my Kindle Fire but the solution that worked for me was to send the .prc file as an attachment to your kindle email address - found at My Account - from my PC. Apparently .prc is for Palm based platforms. Good luck.

May 9, 2012 at 1:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterBernie

I've made this point before, but I'll make it again. In the film Brazil, the Michael Palin character (Jack Lint) is an utterly charming man. At home, he is devoted to his family, and especially his toddler daughter.

At work, he is a torturer, a government asassain.

Beware charming smiling people with a career dependent on government largesse.

May 9, 2012 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterHector Pascal

FYI, one of the many comments on my site

David A. Evans says:
May 9, 2012 at 3:48 am

The link is wrong. Should be…


REPLY: No, it WAS right…but Bish somehow republished the piece, and it changed the date portion of the URL, breaking every external link. Here is what it was:

Should work now, as I’ve updated it. – Anthony

May 9, 2012 at 1:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnthony

Sir: A tip for you is on it's way. Little recompense for all your hard work. Thank you and Steve and WUWT!

Paul Richards

May 9, 2012 at 1:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul R

I *tried* the tip jar, entered all my credit card data, although was baffled by no inclusion of US states,
only sub-parts of the world on the other side of the pond, but....

Clicked enter and I got an error: can't enter amt $0.

I'd overlooked the thingie at the top. I thought of ten bucks US, but it had to be pounds, so I settled
for ten pounds.

Click process and the site reset.

I suspected that, not being able to enter a US state from an option menu, would be the next killer if
I tried the tip jar, again.

So, I stopped. ...sigh.... But: excellent story. .............Lady in Red

May 9, 2012 at 1:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterLady in Red

That was a terrific summary - clear and with the emphasis on the significance of locations to Briffa's representations of his analysis. It must have taken more than a few "billable" hours.
It was well worth the price of a couple of pints I dropped in the tip jar. Cheers!"

Actually it was an update of his post from 29.9.2009, but keep that under your hat!!

Good on you Mr M for getting some of the FOI information you have asked for. As you might recall I submitted an identical request and posted here some time ago in 2010 about the responses to your request and to mine. I didnt in fact appeal to the ICO as I knew that you had and I sincerely hope that you get the chronolgy as well as the list of sites. Your tenacity is really admirable.

If you recall Dr Osborn was kind enought to visit my previous guest post here on this FOI/EIR issue and it might be of interest to revisit some of his comments on that thread.

Again, well done Mr M.

May 9, 2012 at 1:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterRB

@ clipe

McIntyre Clan motto: Per ardua

Michael Mann Clan motto: Ad Astra!

May 9, 2012 at 2:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Someone, somewhere -- on one of the sceptic blogs -- suggested that when the dust settles the whole saga will make a spectacular block buster film/movie. When I first read this I thought it sounded a bit far fetched. But now, with the striking success of Steve McIntyre's masterly detective work and Andrew's magnificent explanatory skills it sounds eminently reasonable.
In the interests of mankind as whole and science in particular the sooner the whole story of the astonishing and despicable chicanery is brought out into the open the better. And a correctly timed film/movie might well expedite this whole process.
The rehabilitation of science is near and dear to my heart.

May 9, 2012 at 3:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterTed Swart

Andrew - could this article be published/publicized more widely? E.g. with the GWPF, Delingpole, Letter to Nature, New Scientist, etc. ? The UEA and the CRU are shown clearly to have been less than honest and this deserves wider appreciation. How about a GWPF press release?!

May 9, 2012 at 4:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

I hate to be a pessimist, but this seems to me like the BEF defeating the Germans at Arras in 1940. Nice little morale booster and then the retreat continued.

The fact is that all Western governments and opposition parties are proving equally cowardly in the face of their colossal deficits. All of them are agreed that the solution is not to cut public spending, but to find ways of milking the kulaks to pay for it all.

Along comes the bottom half of the geography A-Level set of 1978, with their climate change baloney (because they're all a bit thick), and of course they are greeted like rescuers. They have furnished governments of all political stripes with a pretext for taxing air. It's genius. They've finally done it. They've finally invented a tax you cannot possibly avoid no matter how you change your behaviour, unless you're prepared to live like a Chinese farmer in about 1950.

Against this background, it's completely irrelevant whether the psyence is right or wrong. It matters not a toss. Stalin didn't shoot kulaks because they really were stealing the harvest, he shot them because he wanted to shoot them, and that was just the pretext. Likewise, governments don't care whether the psyence is a load of made-up baloney. They don't know much about psyence but they know what they like, and they like the tax the psyence can be used to justify; the biggest tax in UK history.

The Climate Change Act will never be abolished. Never. Income tax wasn't permanently abolished after Napoleon was defeated. Same same. Once the government's got used to spending all the money, the immediate response to any demands to repeal the Act will be that it pays for schoolzanospitals. If you want those cut, then you're obviously simply horrible and deserve to be killed, or something.

May 9, 2012 at 4:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

@May 9, 2012 at 10:00 AM | TC


May 9, 2012 at 4:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

Excellent summation, Bish. Steve Mc is unparalleled as a source detective uncovering this stuff. Your ability to distill the science issues in such a way as to be accessible to anyone is equally valuable. Any chance of submissions to the popular press such as the Daily Mail? Perhaps you are and I'm not aware of it. Anyway, this needs popular exposure and you're the man for it.

May 9, 2012 at 4:17 PM | Unregistered Commenterneill also informed.

May 9, 2012 at 4:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

With much respect and great admiration... I read Steve's post on this, and yours. Very interesting and amazing. And depressing at the same time, because now those of us who see such obvious and intentional lying and deceit will be accused of being crackpots by those unwilling to honestly look at how "Real" climate science is being performed at the CRU. Let's give them less ammunition.

Still reading, but if I may, a small suggestion -- remove accusatory phrasing such as these:
- "Had Briffa made a fatal mistake?"
- "This was inconvenient, and apparently deliberately so, but it was not an insurmountable problem"
- "This was inconvenient, but it was not an insurmountable problem"
Present facts; let the reader conclude.

I agree with this. Although it gives the narrative an interesting whodunnit style, I would urge you not to put any words in Briffa's mouth. Let his actions speak for themselves.

May 9, 2012 at 5:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterMickey Reno

. 3:40 PM | Ted Swart

"film/movie might well expedite this whole process" - if you put it all together, nobody would think it anything but completely exaggerated and OTT.

May 9, 2012 at 5:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterHuhneToTheSlammer

Hmmmn. The (US-based) website is not reporting any Kindle editions, nor Kindle downloads are available under several different search combinations of Hill, Bishop, Yamal, etc. Is the linked source compatible with US Kindle downloads? Or are paper copies only for those of us on this side of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge?

An editing comment:

It is not clear which Briffa paper (which year of publication) you are refering to in these first sentences, which are important in setting the chronology of the chronology. 8<)

Back at the start of McIntyre's research into the area of paleoclimate, one of the most significant of these was called Polar Urals, a chronology first published by Keith Briffa of the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia. At the time, it was used in pretty much every temperature reconstruction around. In his paper, Briffa made the startling claim that the coldest year of the millennium was AD 1032, a statement that, if true, would have completely overturned the idea of the Medieval Warm Period.

May 9, 2012 at 5:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterRACookPE1978

To Jockdownsouth :

For a small fee (I don't know what it is right now), the file can be emailed to your Amazon Kindle account and downloaded wirelessly from there, presumably to all registered devices.

I have the PC version of Kindle, but haven't yet tried to copy the file via USB. Is there a USB connection available on the Touchpad? You may be able to copy directly from the Documents folder of the Kindle to the local Kindle software's Documents folder. Since there's no DRM on the file, it should work.

May 9, 2012 at 5:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonasM

Justice4Rinka is dead right. People can go on tearing holes in "the science" until the cows come home, it won't make a blind bit of difference. Governments approaching the logical conclusion of their Ponzi schemes simply aren't going to give up on anything that staves off the day of reckoning. And since they're all in it together, all parties in all countries will sing from the same song-sheet, so p*ssed off voters who know its all baloney will simply have no-one to vote for.

May 9, 2012 at 5:42 PM | Unregistered Commenterbill

I'm going over the Climategate emails now with "Yamal Urals" plugged into the search. It's interesting to read now with this background. I recommend it,

How's this one just for a bit of fun, the aim of the divergence project is...

Dear Hakan
this is a request from us in the hope of getting your support and collaboration for a project we are submitting to the UK NERC , concerned with the "divergence" issue. We would be really pleased if you feel you could support this. It is aimed at providing Tom with a salary for the next 30 months. Please see the attached letter for more details.
Keith. Tim and Tom
Very best wishes

May 9, 2012 at 5:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

re: Kindle version

I downloaded it easily starting from the link at the top of the thread. I was never dealing with Amazon, I think "Kindle" version simply refers to the format?? I received an automated email with a download link once I had paid (I recall it was $1.31 US, what a bargain). It showed up quickly in my Kindle-on-PC which is what I use on my laptop. For both this download and for the Tip Jar I was able to pay as a "Guest" of PayPay since I did not wish to set up a PayPal account.

May 9, 2012 at 5:53 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

Thanks for the summary. I have commented earlier on an e-mail in the first climategate batch on Climate Audit (in one of the many threads) which I think is relevant to the discussion. I am currently out from my stationary computer and cant give a direct citation or number of the mail but:

In an e-mail from Hantemirov and Shiyatov to Briffa they thank him for the invaluable comments and help they have got from him regarding their work with there 2002 article. They express that they think it is a pity that he (Briffa) do not want to be a co-author of the article. They have however one objection to his (Briffa) alteration/editing of their conclusion. They say that Briffas wording "that the last century has been the most favourable for threegrowth" of the whole series (going back several thousands of years) is not supported by their results, and ask him if they (Hantemirov and Shiyatov) could change it to one of the most favourable periods rather than the most.
It is obvious from this e-mail that Briffa have strongly edited their text and proposed them to wright something that their results doesn´t support. It is a strong evidence that Briffa on purpose did try to have them publish a conclusion in line with the hockeystick not supported by their material.
I am happy to post the number of the e-mail at a later date

May 9, 2012 at 6:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterLars Jonsson

"Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations, epochs and climate psyentists, it is the rule." - Nietzsche

May 9, 2012 at 6:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

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