Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Apology to Michael Mann

I'm guilty of not understanding the context of at least one of the emails I quoted yesterday -- just what FOIA hoped for, I guess. It's this excerpt:

<2884> Wigley:
Mike, The Figure you sent is very deceptive [...] there have been a number of dishonest presentations of model results by individual authors and by IPCC [...]

I've given the entire contents of the file below. The quote above is from an email from Tom Wigley to Michael Mann, and the figure in question is not Mann's. It's not clear to me whose figure it is. The email chain says it's from Gavin Schmidt, modified from this post on RealClimate, but that post contains several figures, including a comical figure from Christopher Monckton. so it's impossible to know which figure Wigley is referring to.

I didn't do enough research and fell into the trap. Mea culpa, and apologies to Michael Mann.

Is it significant that Tom Wigley considered another scientist's graph "deceptive?" No. Scientists doubt the work of others all the time. Doubt is their hallmark -- it's crucial to the enterprise. And there's absolutely nothing untoward about expressing such doubt to a colleague in a private communication. I was wrong on this one.

Update (10:55 am): Gavin commented on the figure in question this morning.
It's this one, and he wrote, "It was my figure - nothing to do with Mike, and I used it in this RealClimate post. I disagreed (and disagree) with Wigley, as I stated in response at the time (2509). There is an update to the figure here, and I will update it again in a month or so.- gavin]"

File 2884:
cc: Kevin Trenberth <>, Stephen H Schneider <>, Myles Allen <>, peter stott <>, "Philip D. Jones" <>, Benjamin Santer <>, Thomas R Karl <>, Gavin Schmidt <>, James Hansen <>, Michael Oppenheimer <omichael@Princeton.EDU>
date: Wed, 14 Oct 2009 15:57:10 -0600
from: Tom Wigley <>
subject: Re: BBC U-turn on climate
to: Michael Mann <>


The Figure you sent is very deceptive. As an example, historical
runs with PCM look as though they match observations -- but the
match is a fluke. PCM has no indirect aerosol forcing and a low
climate sensitivity -- compensating errors. In my (perhaps too harsh)
view, there have been a number of dishonest presentations of model
results by individual authors and by IPCC. This is why I still use
results from MAGICC to compare with observed temperatures. At least
here I can assess how sensitive matches are to sensitivity and
forcing assumptions/uncertainties.



Michael Mann wrote:
> thanks Tom,
> I've taken the liberty of attaching a figure that Gavin put together the
> other day (its an update from a similar figure he prepared for an
> earlier RealClimate post. see:
> It is indeed worth a thousand words, and drives home Tom's point below.
> We're planning on doing a post on this shortly, but would be nice to see
> the Sep. HadCRU numbers first,
> mike
> On Oct 14, 2009, at 3:01 AM, Tom Wigley wrote:
>> Dear all,
>> At the risk of overload, here are some notes of mine on the recent
>> lack of warming. I look at this in two ways. The first is to look at
>> the difference between the observed and expected anthropogenic trend
>> relative to the pdf for unforced variability. The second is to remove
>> ENSO, volcanoes and TSI variations from the observed data.
>> Both methods show that what we are seeing is not unusual. The second
>> method leaves a significant warming over the past decade.
>> These sums complement Kevin's energy work.
>> Kevin says ... "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of
>> warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't". I do not
>> agree with this.
>> Tom.
>> +++++++++++++++++++++++
>> Kevin Trenberth wrote:
>>> Hi all
>>> Well I have my own article on where the heck is global warming?  We
>>> are asking that here in Boulder where we have broken records the past
>>> two days for the coldest days on record.  We had 4 inches of snow.
>>>  The high the last 2 days was below 30F and the normal is 69F, and it
>>> smashed the previous records for these days by 10F.  The low was
>>> about 18F and also a record low, well below the previous record low.
>>>  This is January weather (see the Rockies baseball playoff game was
>>> canceled on saturday and then played last night in below freezing
>>> weather).
>>> Trenberth, K. E., 2009: An imperative for climate change planning:
>>> tracking Earth's global energy. /Current Opinion in Environmental
>>> Sustainability/, *1*, 19-27, doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2009.06.001. [PDF]
>>> <>
>>> (A PDF of the published version can be obtained from the author.)
>>> The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the
>>> moment and it is a travesty that we can't.  The CERES data published
>>> in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even
>>> more warming: but the data are surely wrong.  Our observing system is
>>> inadequate.
>>> That said there is a LOT of nonsense about the PDO.  People like CPC
>>> are tracking PDO on a monthly basis but it is highly correlated with
>>> ENSO.  Most of what they are seeing is the change in ENSO not real
>>> PDO.  It surely isn't decadal.  The PDO is already reversing with the
>>> switch to El Nino.  The PDO index became positive in September for
>>> first time since Sept 2007.   see
>>> Kevin
>>> Michael Mann wrote:
>>>> extremely disappointing to see something like this appear on BBC.
>>>>  its particularly odd, since climate is usually Richard Black's beat
>>>> at BBC (and he does a great job). from what I can tell, this guy was
>>>> formerly a weather person at the Met Office.
>>>> We may do something about this on RealClimate, but meanwhile it
>>>> might be appropriate for the Met Office to have a say about this, I
>>>> might ask Richard Black what's up here?
>>>> mike
>>>> On Oct 12, 2009, at 2:32 AM, Stephen H Schneider wrote:
>>>>> Hi all. Any of you want to explain decadal natural variability and
>>>>> signal to noise and sampling errors to this new "IPCC Lead Author"
>>>>> from the BBC?  As we enter an El Nino year and as soon, as the
>>>>> sunspots get over their temporary--presumed--vacation worth a few
>>>>> tenths of a Watt per meter squared reduced forcing, there will
>>>>> likely be another dramatic upward spike like 1992-2000. I heard
>>>>> someone--Mike Schlesinger maybe??--was willing to bet alot of money
>>>>> on it happening in next 5 years?? Meanwhile the past 10 years of
>>>>> global mean temperature trend stasis still saw what, 9 of the
>>>>> warmest in reconstructed 1000 year record and Greenland and the sea
>>>>> ice of the North in big retreat?? Some of you observational folks
>>>>> probably do need to straighten this out as my student suggests
>>>>> below. Such "fun", Cheers, Steve
>>>>> Stephen H. Schneider
>>>>> Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental
>>>>> Studies,
>>>>> Professor, Department of Biology and
>>>>> Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment
>>>>> Mailing address:
>>>>> Yang & Yamazaki Environment & Energy Building - MC 4205
>>>>> 473 Via Ortega
>>>>> Ph: 650 725 9978
>>>>> F:  650 725 4387
>>>>> Websites:
>>>>> ----- Forwarded Message -----
>>>>> From: "Narasimha D. Rao" <
>>>>> <>>
>>>>> To: "Stephen H Schneider" < <>>
>>>>> Sent: Sunday, October 11, 2009 10:25:53 AM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
>>>>> Subject: BBC U-turn on climate
>>>>> Steve,
>>>>> You may be aware of this already. Paul Hudson, BBC’s reporter on
>>>>> climate change, on Friday wrote that there’s been no warming since
>>>>> 1998, and that pacific oscillations will force cooling for the next
>>>>> 20-30 years. It is not outrageously biased in presentation as are
>>>>> other skeptics’ views.
>>>>> BBC has significant influence on public opinion outside the US.
>>>>> Do you think this merits an op-ed response in the BBC from a scientist?
>>>>> Narasimha
>>>>> -------------------------------
>>>>> PhD Candidate,
>>>>> Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER)
>>>>> Stanford University
>>>>> Tel: 415-812-7560
>>>> --
>>>> Michael E. Mann
>>>> Professor
>>>> Director, Earth System Science Center (ESSC)
>>>> Department of Meteorology                 Phone: (814) 863-4075
>>>> 503 Walker Building                              FAX:   (814) 865-3663
>>>> The Pennsylvania State University     email:
>>>> <>
>>>> University Park, PA 16802-5013
>>>> website:
>>>> <>
>>>> "Dire Predictions" book site:
>>> --
>>> ****************
>>> Kevin E. Trenberth                  e-mail:
>>> <>
>>> Climate Analysis Section,
>>> <>
>>> NCAR
>>> P. O. Box 3000,                     (303) 497 1318
>>> Boulder, CO 80307                   (303) 497 1333 (fax)
>>> Street address: 1850 Table Mesa Drive, Boulder, CO  80305
>> <Wigley-RecentTemps.doc>
> --
> Michael E. Mann
> Professor
> Director, Earth System Science Center (ESSC)
> Department of Meteorology                 Phone: (814) 863-4075
> 503 Walker Building                              FAX:   (814) 865-3663
> The Pennsylvania State University     email:
> <>
> University Park, PA 16802-5013
> website:
> <>
> "Dire Predictions" book site:



ourchangingclimate said...

"historical runs with PCM look as though they match observations -- but the match is a fluke. PCM has no indirect aerosol forcing and a low climate sensitivity -- compensating errors."

The conclusion being: To obtain as good of a match while including indirect aerosol forcing, the climate sensitivity ought to be larger.

Of course FOIA left that part out in his quote...

Cedric Katesby said...

To be sure, it’s very easy to take nearly any email out of context...

Why yes it is. None of the emails have context. People can read into them what they want. They are emails after all, not peer-reviewed literature ready for publication. Emails taken from a vast stolen pile and kept hidden by FIOA.

Of course, the majority of the public doesn’t care about that and wouldn’t understand the context anyway.

Oh yes.

Even trying to guess at the context and keeping it in mind, some of these excerpts are inexplicable.

Climate denialism is built on guesswork. And blogs. And newspaper articles.

In what I’ve culled below, the ones in red seem, to me, to be the most damaging...

Yes, speculate away. What could possibly go wrong?

The red ones strike me as probably devastating.

Oh but they are. Completely devastating. Guesswork, lack of context and native bias will ensure that.

It's all happened before.
And it worked very well.

...just what FOIA hoped for, I guess.

Sure but will you do anything about it or just carry on regardless? That you man up and apologise over a single email is commendable. You are unique in your honesty and personal integrity.
But there's a host of other emails.
Plenty of opportunity to rinse, recycle and repeat.

What are you going to do?

Doubting Richard said...

"Is it significant that Tom Wigley considered another scientist's graph "deceptive?" No. Scientists doubt the work of others all the time. Doubt is their hallmark -- it's crucial to the enterprise."

I agree with your premise, in fact my blog is called "My Doubts" because I am a scientist by nature, if not by profession. However I disagree with your conclusion that this disagreement is not significant.

The main problem has been the lack of doubt, the public face that none of the conclusions or the collected works of climate "scientists" (if you wonder why the quotes, look here ) were debatable. To prove that even those in the clique doubted the work of others is itself very significant. If it can be proved to be widespread I might have to reconsider those quotation marks.

Steve Bloom said...

Doubting Richard misses the point.

What would that be? Well, that climate scientists don't spend a lot of time debating what is already entirely clear, specifically including the big picture.

But you really want to miss that point, don't you?

Oddly, David, who ought to know better, seems to have missed it too.

BTW, David, picking up on Bart's point, I am especially amazed how you were suckered by "FOIA"'s utterly transparent manipulation of again releasing selected portions of the emails. You compounded the error by making judgements without asking the quoted scientists for the relevant context, which I'm sure they would have provided.

All of this reminds of the way the media treated the Kardashian wedding. Who cares what was real or sincere, it drew lots of eyeballs, right?

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why you are apologizing to Michael Mann??? The full E-mail with context was there all along, Mann sent Tom Wigley a figure Gavin created for RealClimate to show temperature was in line with models. Tom Wigley thought the figure was deceptive and went on to say that he felt there had been "a number of dishonest presentations of model
results by individual authors and by IPCC". It seemed to me that was the take home point, nothing against Mann.

Anonymous said...

Steven Schneider once said: "On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but — which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we'd like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public's imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This 'double ethical bind' we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both."

Don't the climategate email tell us that the scientific work of many important climate scientists appears to have been corrupted by "attempting to make the world a better place? Schneider provides a clear test for distinguishing between science (the truth ... caveats) and policy advocacy (scary stories, no doubts). By this standard, IPCC's SPM's should be considered to be policy advocacy, not science.

I suggest that journalists like you should ask every scientist you interview whether they are speaking as a scientist ("including all of the doubts...") or as a policy advocate. When you believe they are talking to a policy advocate, journalists like you are ethically obligated interview those with contrary opinions and present a balanced account of your investigation.

Anonymous said...


Your original post only said the emails were troublesome I don't think you made any statement worthy of such grovelling. Take as a whole those emails show the public fear message to form policy was more important than the public proof or public openness.

Anonymous said...


“If Mike said that my calibration procedure is ‘flawed’, I will be extremely pissed off”

“In all candour now, I think that Mike is becoming a serious enemy in the way that he bends the ears of people like Tom with words like ‘flawed’ when describing my work and probably your and Keith’s as well. This is in part a vindictive response to the Esper et al. paper.

He also went crazy over my recent NZ paper describing evidence for a MWP there because he sees it as another attack on him. Maybe I am over-reacting to this, but I don’t think so.”

hro001 said...

"Scientists doubt the work of others all the time. Doubt is their hallmark"

Really? In that case, perhaps you could explain why many who question or "doubt" the words/works of Mann have been labelled (by him and his acolytes and lesser lights) as "deniers".

David Appell said...


Because people doubt the doubters.

And because several other groups have found similar results, as has a completely different mathematical method (Tingley and Huybers).

Martin Vermeer said...

FYI Gavin's reponse mail nr. 2509 is here:

Anonymous said...

hro001: it all depends on the context. I have called work of some of my colleagues "crap", because I think it can be done much better. But I would never ever accept anyone calling their work "crap" and suggest incompetence and/or misconduct at the same time. Because there's no evidence for that.


J Bowers said...

David, will you be aplogising to Peter Thorne, too? He does leave a comment for you explaining the context of the quote mines he is also being subjected to.

Bill said...


Just found this site and it seems like a good one in that you seem a very reasonable skeptic.

However, I disagree with your classification of several/many the e-mails into problematic and just being scientists, and being human.

The ones from Hulme on religion belong in the human category.

As several others here have indicated, if the problem one has with the IPCC and the larger debate is that of the "consensus" being used to stifle debate, then more of the e-mails are problematic. It's one thing to say a figure needs to be revised, that's science. It's another for people on "The Team" (sorry but that is a faster way to get my point across and not nearly as derogatory as "denier") to say that people are being dishonest, that Mann is vindictive, that errors are not being discussed in a forthright manner, that things are being politicized, that things are edited in IPCC report at the end, etc. These are similar to complaints by scientists such as Pielke Sr. and Landsea that resigned from IPCC. This is a sign that at least in the media and IPCC that it has been heavily politicized. The scientific literature is better as far as discussing errors but you still have, in such a politicized environment, to worry about what you say since you don't want to make enemies of people who may review your grants and papers. So, P. Thorne now saying he did not mean any of it has to be taken with a grain of salt. His career and reputation are at stake and he needs to toe the party line to some extent. This is getting long, so I will just close by saying that the e-mails in green are not all just scientists being scientists, but the fact that these things are not said in public, to the media, etc. and that people like me with two degrees in the hard sciences can be marginalized and put in the same category as Holocaust deniers and creationists by this artificial consensus that the scientists don't actually believe in when they speak in private. I think you are too easy on them with these categories.

How about a 4th category like: comments that seem to indicate they don't really believe the consensus is as iron-clad as has been portrayed?