Monday, February 15, 2010

The Phil Jones Interview, Part III

Here is the conclusion of the interview with Dr. Phil Jones by the BBC.  

K - How much faith do you have - and should we have - in the Yamal tree ring data from Siberia? Should we trust the science behind the palaeoclimate record?
First, we would all accept that palaeoclimatic data are considerably less certain than the instrumental data. However, we must use what data are available in order to look at the last 1,000 years.
I believe that our current interpretation of the Yamal tree-ring data in Siberia is sound. Yamal is just one series that enters some of the millennial long reconstructions that are available.
Nonsense.  In order to believe the MWP is as minor or non-existent as contended by Dr. Jones in the IPCC "hockey stick" one would have to believe that the Vikings bore through tens of feet of ice to leave artifacts to be discovered if the glaciers ever retreated along with lying in their written records. While I agree we do not know whether the MWP was a worldwide phenomena (as opposed to northern hemisphere only) it is ridiculous to contend the MWP never existed as Jones, Mann and others previously contended. 
My colleague Keith Briffa has responded to suggestions that there is something amiss with the Yamal tree-ring data. Here is his response:
N - When scientists say "the debate on climate change is over", what exactly do they mean - and what don't they mean?
It would be supposition on my behalf to know whether all scientists who say the debate is over are saying that for the same reason. I don't believe the vast majority of climate scientists think this. This is not my view. There is still much that needs to be undertaken to reduce uncertainties, not just for the future, but for the instrumental (and especially the palaeoclimatic) past as well.
“I don’t believe the majority of climate scientists believe ‘the debate is over’.”  I agree. Unfortunately, the U.S. media has taken that phrase over as if it is a mantra.
O - Can you tell us about your working life over the past decades in climate science. Paint a picture about the debate with your allies and scientific rivals etc.
I have been at CRU since November 1976. Up until 1994, my working life was almost totally in research. Since 1994, I have become more involved in teaching and student supervision both at the postgraduate and undergraduate level. I became a Professor in 1998 and the director of the Climatic Research Unit in 2004 (I was joint director from 1998).
I am most well known for being involved in the publication of a series of papers (from 1982 to 2006) that have developed a gridded dataset of land-based temperature records. These are only a part of the work I do, as I have been involved in about 270 peer-reviewed publications on many different aspects of climate research.
Over the years at scientific meetings, I've met many people and had numerous discussions with them. I work with a number of different groups of people on different subjects, and some of these groups come together to undertake collaborative pieces of work. We have lively debates about the work we're doing together.

P - The "Climategate" stolen emails were published in November. How has your life been since then?
My life has been awful since that time, but I have discussed this once (in the Sunday Times) and have no wish to go over it again. I am trying to continue my research and supervise the CRU staff and students who I am responsible for.
Q - Let's talk about the e-mails now: In the e-mails you refer to a "trick" which your critics say suggests you conspired to trick the public? You also mentioned "hiding the decline" (in temperatures). Why did you say these things?
This remark has nothing to do with any "decline" in observed instrumental temperatures. The remark referred to a well-known observation, in a particular set of tree-ring data, that I had used in a figure to represent large-scale summer temperature changes over the last 600 years.
The phrase 'hide the decline' was shorthand for providing a composite representation of long-term temperature changes made up of recent instrumental data and earlier tree-ring based evidence, where it was absolutely necessary to remove the incorrect impression given by the tree rings that temperatures between about 1960 and 1999 (when the email was written) were not rising, as our instrumental data clearly showed they were.
This "divergence" is well known in the tree-ring literature and "trick" did not refer to any intention to deceive - but rather "a convenient way of achieving something", in this case joining the earlier valid part of the tree-ring record with the recent, more reliable instrumental record.
I was justified in curtailing the tree-ring reconstruction in the mid-20th Century because these particular data were not valid after that time - an issue which was later directly discussed in the 2007 IPCC AR4 Report.
See Part II of the interview for my commentary on this point. 
The misinterpretation of the remark stems from its being quoted out of context. The 1999 WMO report wanted just the three curves, without the split between the proxy part of the reconstruction and the last few years of instrumental data that brought the series up to the end of 1999. Only one of the three curves was based solely on tree-ring data.
An astonishing admission. The World Meteorological Organization report wanted what was a misleading depiction of the data. 

The e-mail was sent to a few colleagues pointing out their data was being used in the WMO Annual Statement in 1999. I was pointing out to them how the lines were physically drawn. This e-mail was not written for a general audience. If it had been I would have explained what I had done in much more detail.
R - Why did you ask a colleague to delete all e-mails relating to the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC?
This was an e-mail sent out of frustration at one FOI request that was asking for the e-mail correspondence between the lead authors on chapter six of the Working Group One Report of the IPCC. This is one of the issues which the Independent Review will look at.
That is a very charitable interpretation of the "deletion" request. 
S - The e-mails suggest you were trying to subvert the process of peer review and to influence editors in their decisions about which papers to publish. Do you accept that?
I do not accept that I was trying to subvert the peer-review process and unfairly influence editors in their decisions. I undertook all the reviews I made in good faith and sent them back to the editors. In some e-mails I questioned the peer-review process with respect to what I believed were poor papers that had appeared. Isn't this called freedom of speech? On some occasions I joined with others to submit a response to some of these papers. Since the beginning of 2005 I have reviewed 43 papers. I take my reviewing seriously and in 2006 I was given an editor's award from Geophysical Research Letters for conscientious and constructive reviewing.
The Climategate emails speak for themselves in this regard.

T - Where do you draw the line on the handling of data? What is at odds with acceptable scientific practice? Do you accept that you crossed the line?
This is a matter for the independent review.
U - Now, on to the fallout from "Climategate", as it has become known. You had a leading role in a part of the IPCC, Working Group I. Do you accept that credibility in the IPCC has been damaged - partly as a result of your actions? Does the IPCC need reform to gain public trust?
Some have said that the credibility in the IPCC has been damaged, partly due to the misleading and selective release of particular e-mails. I wish people would spend as much time reading my scientific papers as they do reading my e-mails. The IPCC does need to reassure people about the quality of its assessments.
As we have learned in the “Son of Climategate” scandal, the quality of IPCC assessments has been shaky, to put it charitably.

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