Sunday, January 29, 2012

The ATI's Outrageous Spin of the Mann Emails

Here's a good example of the lengths to which American Tradition Institute is spinning these emails to try to find something -- anything -- untoward: the circumstances surrounding the Soon & Baliunas paper. (A blast from the past.)

Maybe this is worth a little review: that 2003 paper published in Climate Research reviewed over 200 published papers and concluded "Across the world, many records reveal that the 20th century is probably not the warmest or a uniquely extreme climatic period of the last millennium."

Sounds definitive. Yet it contained such huge and elementary errors that it wouldn't have been acceptable as a first-year graduate student paper. As Malcolm Hughes said in Scientific American, "The Soon et al. paper is so fundamentally misconceived and contains so many egregious errors that it would take weeks to list and explain them all."

In short:
  • their work lacked a quantitative foundation (Soon: "I was stating outright that I'm not able to give too many quantitative details, especially in terms of aggregating all the results.")
  • they grouped 50-year periods by "wetness" and "dryness," but didn't even define those words. When asked they said they "referred to the standard usage in English."
  • what they did define was so broad as to include nearly any conclusion. Worst of all was defining "climate anomaly" as any 50+ year period that was wetter or dryer, or warmer (for the MWP) or cooler (for the LIA).

    So even if the temperature was completely constant in the period, it was considered an "anomaly."

    So a 50-year dry period anytime between 800 to 1300 AD, anywhere in the world, counted as evidence for the Medieval Warm Period. Regardless of temperature.
    So did a 50-year wet period. Regardless of temperature.

  • By choosing a 50-year window, they excluded anything that happened after 1950.
You can read more here in Scientific American.

So it wasn't that the paper was inconvenient to paleoclimatologists -- it was so appallingly bad anyone had to wonder how the hell it ever appeared in a so-called peer-reviewed journal, and what was going on there. And, in fact, later that year several scientists resigned from the journal's editorial board, including the newly on-board editor-in-chief Hans von Storch.

It's bad enough to get sucker punched, but when it's a low blow as well, what do you do? Clearly you avoid that person, and you recommend to everyone they do the same. Which is what Michael Mann wrote in PE-15:

From: "Michael E. Mann"
To: Phil Jones, Ray Bradley, Malcolm Hughes, Scott Rutherford, Thomas Crowley
Subject: Re: Fwd: Soon & Baliunas
Date: Tue, 11 Mar 2003 08:14:49 -0500
Cc: [several]

The Soon & Baliunas paper couldn't have cleared a 'legitimate' peer review process anywhere. That leaves only one possibility--that the peer-review process at Climate Research has been hijacked by a few skeptics on the editorial board. And it isn't just De Frietas, unfortunately I think this group also includes a member of my own department...

So what do we do about this? I think we have to stop considering "Climate Research" as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board...

What do others think?

Seems straightforward. Why would anyone who cares about science and their field want to encourage a journal that was publishing such atrocious stuff? And why wouldn't you want to minimize the threat of more sucker punches in the future?

Yet how did the American Tradition Institute characterize this?
The selected emails include graphic descriptions of the contempt a small circle of largely taxpayer-funded alarmists held for anyone who followed scientific principles and ended up disagreeing with them. For example, in the fifteenth Petitioners’ Exemplar (PE-15), Mann encourages a boycott of one climate journal and a direct appeal to his friends on the editorial board to have one of the journal’s editors fired for accepting papers that were carefully peer-reviewed and recommended for publication on the basis that the papers dispute Mann’s own work.
Which is a 180 degree spin-job, because whatever S&B was, it clearly was not "carefully peer-reviewed."

But, of course, an accurate portrayal is about the last thing the ATI is interested in, and there's nothing traditional about it, either.

Anyway, enough of that. I just thought it was important to accurately review what all the fuss was about while some people are trying to rewrite history.


ScruffyDan said...

John Mashey did some digging and produced a report called pal-review which digs into the problems at Climate Research.

It is worth reading.

anonicon said...

That Mann email was in the climategate release. It's not new.

dave said...

Not only is the email not new, but the Coalition for Responsible Regulation, the Ohio Coal Association, Peabody Energy, the Southeastern Legal Foundation, and the State of Texas submitted it to the EPA as evidence of the alleged "boycott", and were soundly knocked back by the EPA.

EliRabett said...

Ah, but do you know how much Sally got paid?