Tag Archives: hockey stick

The New Hockey Stick

First of all, please accept my apologies for not posting for so long. I have been writing a paper based on some research, and have been working 7 day weeks on it for a long period. It is a challenging piece of work, with some results which undermine a body of theory. In order to get it published I have had to be more thorough, and go into depth that would not normally be required, and still it will be a fight to get it published. This is the nature of challenging the orthodoxy.

On the other hand, if you write something that is in line with the orthodoxy it is relatively easy to publish, even if the standard of the work is not very impressive. This brings me to the subject of this post, which is the Marcott et al (2013) paper, with the abstract as follows:

Surface temperature reconstructions of the past 1500 years suggest that recent warming is unprecedented in that time. Here we provide a broader perspective by reconstructing regional and global temperature anomalies for the past 11,300 years from 73 globally distributed records. Early Holocene (10,000 to 5000 years ago) warmth is followed by ~0.7°C cooling through the middle to late Holocene (<5000 years ago), culminating in the coolest temperatures of the Holocene during the Little Ice Age, about 200 years ago. This cooling is largely associated with ~2°C change in the North Atlantic. Current global temperatures of the past decade have not yet exceeded peak interglacial values but are warmer than during ~75% of the Holocene temperature history. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change model projections for 2100 exceed the full distribution of Holocene temperature under all plausible greenhouse gas emission scenarios.

I typed in the word ‘Marcott’ into Google News search, and the first headline that greeted me said ‘We’re Screwed: 11,000 Years’ Worth of Climate Data Prove It’. I don’t think it is possible to be more ‘alarmist’ than this. The article is found in the Atlantic, and the article lifts the following diagram from the Marcott et al paper:


The article goes on to say that:

Back in 1999 Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann released the climate change movement’s most potent symbol: The “hockey stick,” a line graph of global temperature over the last 1,500 years that shows an unmistakable, massive uptick in the twentieth century when humans began to dump large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It’s among the most compelling bits of proof out there that human beings are behind global warming, and as such has become a target on Mann’s back for climate denialists looking to draw a bead on scientists. [emphasis added]

The article goes on to propose that the Marcott et al paper vindicates Michael Mann’s long discredited hockey stick chart. The hockey stick chart of Mann has always been a key plank of the alarmist argument, as it is the ‘evidence’ that the warming that took place in the 20th century was unprecedented; it was the ‘smoking gun’. In particular, it removed two key elements from the temperature record, which were the medieval warm period, and the little ice age which followed in the wake of the medieval warm period. In a post in Climate etc., Rud Istvan explains it thus:

The MWP has progressively ‘disappeared’ over the course of  the IPCC reports. FAR and SAR showed it to have been much warmer than the present—and nothing to do with CO2. By TAR the MWP was gone, leading to the hockey stick controversy and climategate.

While the MWP did not completely disappear in this new paper, it turned into a <0.1°C blip colder than 1961- 1990. This is quite curious. The MWP was not a blip for the entire northern hemisphere, as illustrated by this figure adapted from a 2010 paper by Ljungvist.

The diagram referenced is given below:

Ljungqvist 2010

As is evident in the Atlantic article, the media bandwagon has started rolling on the findings of Marcott et al, but the problems are already starting to appear. The data used for the paper was made available (which is certainly a positive), but this has allowed others to look closely at the findings. For example, at Suyts blog, Hank ‘discovered that only nine of the 73 proxies contained data that extended to 1950. Of those nine, only two contained data that extended to 2000′ [and] Starting at 1,500 before present (BP), I graphed the nine proxy datasets. And here’s what I got:’


The hockey stick is not apparent, and this is why:

This new 73 proxy study has alarmists convinced that this is an independent verification and vindication of Mann’s hockey stick. It isn’t. The hockey stick blade at the end of the reconstruction is resulting from an adjustment of the proxy data to agree with Mann’s treemometer study. That, or it is an outright splice of Mann’s data directly.

Inevitably, Steve McIntyre, who played a key role in discrediting the Mann hockey stick, has weighed in. In what Bishop Hill calls an ‘astonishing’ post, McIntrye observes that:

Marcott, Shakun, Clark and Mix did not use the published dates for ocean cores, instead substituting their own dates. The validity of Marcott-Shakun re-dating will be discussed below, but first, to show that the re-dating “matters” (TM-climate science), here is a graph showing reconstructions using alkenones (31 of 73 proxies) in Marcott style, comparing the results with published dates (red) to results with Marcott-Shakun dates (black). As you see, there is a persistent decline in the alkenone reconstruction in the 20th century using published dates, but a 20th century increase using Marcott-Shakun dates. (It is taking all my will power not to make an obvious comment at this point.)

The graph comparing the two is given below:


There is plenty more to the critical analysis of the work, for example the absence of the hockey stick in Marcott’s thesis, or the lack of resolution of the proxy data. As a headline from Wattsupwiththat put it, ‘Tick, tick, tick – how long will the new Marcott et al hockey stick survive?‘ My purpose is not to review the many gaping holes appearing in the Marcott et al paper but to consider why this paper has appeared now. The first point to note is that the data was released with the paper. This is important, as it is an admission that hiding data is no longer acceptable practice. However, this presents a problem for alarmists who present questionable work; they are damned if they do not release the data and damned if they do.

As the data comes under increasing scrutiny, it is becoming very apparent that this paper is extremely problematic, and that the conclusions trumpeted by alarmist media sit upon extremely shonky foundations. The authors, unless very naïve, must have been aware that there paper would not hold up to close scrutiny. However, in having a paper accepted in the peer reviewed literature, they have managed to potentially reinstate the hockey stick – and this might now appear in the next IPCC report. In publishing this work, the authors may have sacrificed their credibility to some degree, but in doing so, they have gained membership of the faction in climate science that dominates the literature (see here for why this matters).

The publication of this paper has been important for the alarmist position as the science of climate change, and the alarmist position, is bumping up against the harsh wall of reality. In particular, the models that are so important in the alarmist case are having trouble with the recent stall in warming; they cannot explain it. There is a very good summary of the problems created by the stall in a report issued by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, written by David Whitehouse. This is from the executive summary, but I recommend reading the whole report (about an hour to read):

The standstill observation was first made in 2006; the global annual average temperature had not increased for the previous five years, even though many climate scientists, and the media, were talking about an ever-warming planet powered by strong anthropogenic global warming. The initial debate was couched in cautious scientific terms but, because it ran counter to popular opinion, many dismissed it and questioned the motives of those pointing out these observational facts. But to the amazement of many, and the obvious annoyance of some, as the years passed all the major global temperature datasets showed no warming throughout the first decade of the 21st century and beyond. As this report shows, as the statistical significance of the standstill increased, the debate about its potential importance grew among many branches of science, even though many prominent scientists and institutions, and almost all of the media, were steadfastly looking the other way.

The problem for the alarmist position is that, as David Whitehouse points out, even some of the most prominent alarmists such as Hansen are now having to accept the reality of the stall, albeit they are using various dubious methods to deflect attention away from it. When crying that the world is heading for catastrophe, it is more than a little problematic when the world does not conform to the narrative. As such, it becomes ever more important to shift focus away from the harsh reality of the evidence that contradicts the narrative, and refocus attention on something that might support the narrative.

Perhaps I am wrong, but it is possible that Marcott et al have made ‘a pact with the devil’ (just a metaphor!). In return for creating the right narrative, they join a privileged elite of alarmist climate scientists, but do so at the cost of selling their scientific souls as the price. They have provided a paper which may be highly questionable, appears not to stand up to scrutiny, but have provided the material that is needed by both the media and IPCC to continue an alarmist narrative – in the face of evidence that is increasingly problematic for the alarmist case. In career terms, Marcott et al may have won from this. Their future work will undoubtedly be looked upon kindly by the gatekeepers of climate science.

However, only Marcott et al know their own motives, and I can only speculate on them here. On the one hand, there is a possibility (and one I would like to believe, even if I do not) that they think their paper is ‘sound’ but, in light of the problems in the paper, and the way it has been presented this would be hard to believe. On the other hand there is the possibility they made the trade-off. I can only wish that the former is true, because the latter is just depressing.

Note: The new batch of climategate emails are starting to cause a new stir. I am very pleased that the use of the emails has (so far) been cautious, and attention has been given to preventing non-climate science related emails being kept out of the public domain. We will undoubtedly find some interesting new insights as the tedious task of going through the emails progresses.

Marcott, S. A., J. D. Shakun, et al. (2013). “A Reconstruction of Regional and Global Temperature for the Past 11,300 Years.” Science 339(6124): 1198-1201


Climategate 2 – Defending the Indefensible

A while ago, I wrote a post in which I put a series of Climategate emails together, and showed how the so-called ‘team’ (a group of leading IPCC scientists), conspired to have a journal editor sacked from his role as an academic journal editor, and also tried to have him sacked from his university. It is a long post, and continues in a second post, but you may wish to read them before continuing. When writing the post, I never imagined that people might actually try to defend the ‘team’, as the whole series of emails are in context, and very clearly show abysmal behaviour on the part of the team.

However, I have just engaged in an exchange of comments with someone who is actually trying to defend the team. He is not the first person to do so in the comments section (see my last comment below, this was a commentator called ‘Alex C), but nevertheless I am surprised that he is mounting such a determined defence. It is just plain odd. As such, I thought I would publish our small debate. It is interesting of itself, as I believe that it is illustrative of a willful disregard for the evidence of shabby behaviour on the part of the team. My point in posting the exchange is this; I simply cannot understand the motivations for defending the indefensible.  I am just plain puzzled.

The comments come at the end of the post, and I simply cannot see what the commentator is trying to achieve – people will have read the emails. Why are they defending the behaviour that they are defending? Do they really believe the arguments they are putting forwards? I genuinely cannot see why they continue to defend this. With this introduction over, I will paste in the comments (I will not block quote them to avoid block quotes within block quotes which will be hard to read):


John C

How is this corruption of peer review? The mails seem to describe a situation where an editor has allowed reports for publishing that should have never passed peer review.

This seems to be more about the lack of peer review on part of the editor than a corruption of peer review.

Does the blog author agree that a scientific journal which willfully publishes poor research should lose credibility?



I think that you may not know what peer review actually is? The papers were, as was stated in the emails, subjected to qualified people for review.

As for poor research, what about the work of Michael Mann? Are you suggesting that the work behind the so-called hockey stick chart was good science? Or, like those who sought to have Professor de Freitas sacked, do you think good science only involves findings of climate alarm? Nobody who has respect for science would find the attempt to destroy a person’s career, for simply allowing a peer reviewed paper to be published, to be acceptable. The process of science involves challenge, debate, and alternative explanation….do you not understand this?

I do not think anyone who reads your comment will be convinced….

Nice try.


John C

How about we try to stick to the topic. Trying to change the subject is not an honest approach to debating.

Could you post the exact quotes that state that the papers went through actual, qualified peer review? Because this is what I’m seeing:

“the Soon and Baliunas work is just crap science that should never be passed peer review”

And another thing the e-mails seem to show is that this is not the first time de Freitas allows through papers of poor quality.

So again, how is this corruption of the peer review process? The actual corruption these e-mails indicate is that de Freitas allows through papers that are simply not good science, which undermines the integrity of the peer review process.

Do you disagree that if an editor keeps allowing poor research to be published, that is a problem? For example, an editor of a biology journal lets a creationist publish poor research attacking Evolution?



I am sticking to the topic. You are following the ‘team’s’ method of ad hominem attack when you suggest I am not debating with an ‘an honest’ post. Michael Mann’s hockey stick has been discredited, and his presentation of his results was ‘crap science’ intended to create a false impression of the temperature record (see link below).


If you read the emails, you will find that Michael Mann is front and centre in this terrible behaviour. The paper at the centre of this was work which questioned his hockey stick. Does it not seem odd to you that the very people who had such a stake in a now utterly discredited piece of work are the very same people who are trying to wreck the career of the person who allowed publication of work that went against it?

You correctly point out that the emails accuse Professor de Freitas of allowing other poor quality papers through. It is not the role of a cabal of people to determine/decide upon the quality of work that is published, in particular when the work just happens to be contrary to their own work. Do you not think there is a conflict of interest here??? If your approach was, for example, applied to the idea of Phlogiston, with Becker as the person who determined the ‘quality’ of all subsequent work, would modern chemistry have ever have gotten off the ground? Science advances through fits and starts, with occasional wrong turns. However, alternative explanations need to be published in order to identify when science has taken a wrong turn.

Also, although calling my approach ‘dishonest’ do you not think this might describe your linkage with creationism? The Soon and Baliunas paper has flaws (as do many generally good scientific papers), but it is clearly work of science. Perhaps it is not a very honest approach to set a dishonest analogy and to try to sway the minds of readers with this analogy. The work of Soon and Baliunus cannot be compared with creationism. This is a rhetorical trick.

Returning to the question of peer review, this is is in the emails:

How to deal with this is unclear, since there are a number of individuals with bona fide scientific credentials who could be used by an unscrupulous editor to ensure that ‘anti-greenhouse’ science can get through the peer review process (Legates, Balling, Lindzen, Baliunas, Soon, and so on).

I have highlighted the point about bona fide, as the paper was reviewed by scientists. The ‘team’ may not like or agree with some scientists, but they are nevertheless bona fide scientists. What the team object to is that these scientists have a different theoretical position on climate change to their own. They object to the idea that these scientists are questioning their own theory. Well, tough! If their theory is strong enough, they can defend in the peer reviewed literature, but that peer review literature must not be subject to their interference! Why, if they have such a strong case, would they resort to the kind of behaviour that is evident in the emails? Is it because, for example, they were all aware that Mann’s hockey stick would not withstand scrutiny?

As I said in my previous response, I do not think you understand how peer review is supposed to work. It is not about a self-selected group ensuring that only work that agrees with their own is allowed to be published, where such a group determine ‘quality’ based upon whether work supports their own theory.

Again, I will leave it to readers to make their own judgement.


John C

That’s a lot of text. I would like to return to the core of the issue, as I am not here to discuss everything you can manage to bring up in a single comment.

Do you or do you not agree that if an editor keeps allowing poor research to be published, that is a problem?

Do you or do you not agree that the scientists you are accusing of corrupting peer review genuinely think the research was so poor it shouldn’t have been published?

Do you or do you not agree that the paper in question was a poor one?

Do you or do you not agree that if scientists notice that a journal is publishing papers that should have never been published in the first place, they are justified in dealing with that in some way?

Do you or do you not agree that a group of scientists should be allowed to discuss how to deal with a journal that keeps publishing poor research?

The reason I mentioned creationism is that it’s an easy example to use. Most rational human being reject creationism, so it’s a good way to see whether you are being consistent when you make your claims and arguments.



I will answer you point by point:

Do you or do you not agree that if an editor keeps allowing poor research to be published, that is a problem?

You are making an assumption here that the research is poor. As I have said, even good papers might have flaws. (edit) see answer below as well.

Do you or do you not agree that the scientists you are accusing of corrupting peer review genuinely think the research was so poor it shouldn’t have been published?

I disagree with this. I do not believe they think it is poor research, they think it disagrees with their own work. They may dress this up, and try to convince themselves, but…their own internal dissent over the hockey stick chart suggests that they put their ’cause’ above science. In particular, many of the ‘team’ expressed serious reservations about Mann’s hockey stick, but they did nothing about it. If they are the great defenders of science, why did they not immediately publish a paper to express their concerns with the validity of the hockey stick?


It doesn’t quite work does it. You are trying to portray the team as a group of scientists of integrity trying to defend the world against ‘crap science’ – but it is odd, is it not, that this integrity did not include getting a rebuttal of Mann’s hockey stick into the peer reviewed literature. Clearly, the ‘team’ thought the hockey stick was highly problematic, so why not act to correct the science? In short, the harping on about science appears as a crass case of self-justification for what they knew was wrong. For example, from the emails, Wigley acknowledged the nature of what they are doing:

Jim Salinger raises the more personal issue of deFreitas. He is clearly giving good science a bad name, but I do not think a barrage of ad hominem attacks or letters is the best way to counter this.

If Jim wishes to write a letter with multiple authors, I may be willing to sign it, but I would not write such a letter myself.

Look at the email, and look who is on the distribution?

Do you or do you not agree that the paper in question was a poor one?

As I state in the about section of this blog, I leave the details of climate science to others. I have read in other skeptic blogs that the paper had flaws, but was overall a good paper (see link below):


However, this is not the issue, is it? The peer reviewed literature is filled with papers with flaws, and the place to deal with these flaws is in the peer reviewed literature, not through seeking to attack individuals. This is corruption of the scientific process.

Do you or do you not agree that if scientists notice that a journal is publishing papers that should have never been published in the first place, they are justified in dealing with that in some way?

Again, you are making an assumption that this work should never have been published and relying upon the views of the people whose work is being questioned to say that it should not have been published. I am not sure you are getting the point here. If there were such a problem (and there is no reason to think this is the case), the proper way of ‘dealing with it’ is to seek to challenge the content in the peer reviewed literature, not to plot to damage the careers of those involved. It really is that simple…..

Do you or do you not agree that a group of scientists should be allowed to discuss how to deal with a journal that keeps publishing poor research?

Absolutely, if scientist believe that work is poor, then they should be able to discuss this. However, there is discussion of science, and then there is plotting to attack someone’s career through smearing their name, and running a campaign to have them sacked from an editorial position. This is not the same as discussing the merits of scientific work, is it?

Again, I will leave readers to judge between your defence of the emails. I do not think they will be convinced. In the end, the authors of the emails make my case for me, with their own words. When uncovering these emails, I remember my sense of shock and disgust. I am guessing that this will be the reaction of most readers, and this is reflected in most of the comments here.


[My comment: This was sent through as I was writing this post – determined does not express this.]

John C

1. The first question is a general question. I did not say whether it was poor or not in this case.

2. Why would they lie to each other and pretend that they geninely thought the research was poor in internal e-mails? That doesn’t make sense at all.

3. You leave the details of climate science to others, but it is clear that the paper was a poor one, as it has received significant criticism. Indeed, Wikipedia states that “the publisher subsequently admitted that the conclusions of the paper could not be supported by the evidence and that the journal should have requested appropriate revisions prior to publication.”

Furthermore: “Eventually half of the journal’s editorial board resigned along with von Storch. Von Storch later stated that climate change sceptics “had identified Climate Research as a journal where some editors were not as rigorous in the review process as is otherwise common” and complained that he had been pressured to publish the paper and had not been allowed to publish a rebuttal contesting the authors’ conclusions.”

The issue is that an editor allegedly allowed poor research to be published. And this was not an isolated incident. There’s a major difference between finding flaws after publication, and overlooking or allowing major flaws and publishing it anyway!

Wikipedia links:


Do you still deny that the paper was a poor one, and should have never been published? It seems to me that others have already looked at the details of the paper and found it lacking. Indeed, they have found that it should have never been published, and the only reason it was published is that climate skeptics had identified the journal as not having a sufficiently rigorous review process.

4. The question about whether poor research should be published or not is a general question again. Do you think it’s OK to publish papers that are fatally flawed to the point where they should never have been published in the first place? And if not, it must surely be OK for someone to deal with this.

5. You first say it’s OK to discuss how to deal with a journal which allows poor research to be published, but then you say it’s not OK anyway?

Do you not agree that now that we have established that the paper did indeed not qualify for publication, and the only reason it was published was that the journal had a flawed and sub-standard review process?

And does it not follow from that that it was necessary to do something about this, so as to prevent further pseudoscience from posing as real science?

What should they have done, exactly?



You still have not explained why the response was not that which is the normal way for science to proceed. That is, if scientists have a problem with the quality of work, they should simply respond by putting their view of why it is wrong in the peer reviewed literature. It really is that simple. There is no need to conspire to have journal editors sacked from their editorship or from their job. In the end, you are just using smoke and mirrors to try to hide the fact that this is not the way that science proceeds. You do not address the problems of Mann’s blatant misrepresentation of data in any of your emails, but still continue to harp on about the quality of the Soon and Baliunas paper? Is this not odd?

In the end of your email, you talk about ‘pseudo-science’. We have now moved back on to the same method you used earlier, when you linked the paper to creationism. On what basis is it pseudo-science? I took the trouble to answer all of your points, so I will now ask you to answer one for me:

Do you think that Mann’s misrepresentation of data in his hockey stick chart is good science or pseudo-science?

I ask this question, because although there were flaws (and good points) in the Soon and Baliunus paper, they did nothing comparable to what Mann did with the hockey stick chart. However, you keep on focusing on the paper. You do so, because the behaviour of the team is abysmal. This is the smoke and mirrors. However, whilst defending this group of scoundrels, you keep on suggesting that they are defending ‘science’. However, you make no acknowledgement of the crass distortion of science in the misrepresentation of data in the hockey stick chart. If I were very cynical, I might suspect that you are Michael Mann, or one of the team. I also note that another comment defending this comes from a person called ‘Alex C’ in the second of the two posts (he gives two comments, and the defence comes in the 2nd comment).


An odd coincidence that you are both posting with the same name format? However, I have assumed that you are just an interested observer, and have responded on this basis.

You end this comment with the question of ‘what should they have done exactly?’

I think I have answered this question so many times, I am puzzled that you continue to ask. Endless repetition of the question does not change the answer. As such I will both say what they should and should not have done:

What they should have done: It is so, so simple. If they felt that a paper was wrong, they should simply write a paper and seek to publish it in the peer reviewed literature.

What they should not have done: They should not have conspired to have an editor sacked, should not have smeared his good name, and should not have sought to have him sacked from his job at his university.

I am sure that you can keep on going. I am sure that you will….I will let you have the last word here and will not respond further – life is too short and, more to the point, I will let readers judge for themselves. I really see no point in going forwards. I am also so puzzled by your determination to defend this behaviour that I am making a post out of our exchange here (you will be able to find it on the home page in a short while. I am genuinely puzzled at your determination to defend these people, and their shabby behaviour. Again, I am working on the assumption that you are just a genuinely interested party.

Over to you for (I hope) a final comment.


That is the end of the exchange so far. No doubt, the commentator will respond, and you will find his answer in the comments section of the post. It really is odd, the accusation of Soon and Balunias as being pseudoscience, but no comment on the misrepresentation of data by Mann. All very, very odd. Comments, thoughts, explanations for this kind of determination to defend this are welcome.

More Hockey Stick Tricks

For those that have seen Al Gore’s (in)famous film on global warming, they will no doubt remember the hockey stick chart, where Al Gore ascends on a forklift. The hockey stick chart was promoted by Al Gore and the IPCC as a ‘smoking gun’ of climate change, and perhaps still resides in popular imagination in this role.

Unfortunately, for the anthropogenic global warming thesis, the hockey stick chart was long ago discredited by Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick ( see here for a peer-reviewed paper, here for a summary, and here for a presentation to the US government). Then came climategate, and the notorious attempts to hide and block skeptic views from being published and the attempts to block McIntyre and McKitrick (here for a summary of some of the revelations), and the attempts to manipulate results to create the hockey stick.

Following climategate, there were whitewash investigations of the ‘scientists’ involved in the dodgy practices revealed by the climategate emails (see here for Ross McKitrick’s summary). There is more though, with Steve McIntyre’s tirelessly unearthing new evidence of the ways in which the investigations were a whitewash, which can be found at the Climate Audit website. It all makes rather depressing reading.

As if this rather sordid story of scientific misconduct, and attempts to cover up scientific wrongdoing, were not enough, there are yet more revelations on data manipulation in the construction of the hockey stick chart. This from the climate audit website:

The day before yesterday, I reported that Briffa and Osborn (Science 1999) had not just deleted the post=1960 decline (see also CA here), but had deleted the pre-1550 portion as well – the deletions contributing to an unwarranted rhetorical impression of consistency between the reconstructions, an impression that was capitalized upon in the commentary in the running text of Briffa and Osborn 1999.

However, the best way to view the problem is with the chart that is supplied along with the text:


As you will see from the chart, there are two sections of data that have been deleted without any explanation – the deleted data on the right is the ‘hide the decline’ that is discussed in the climategate emails, and the central deleted data is the latest revelation. Anthony Watts, on the Watts up with that blog, reasonably has the following to say of this new example of misleading use of data.

As I’ve written elsewhere, this sort of truncation can be characterized as research misconduct – specifically falsification. But where are the academic cops? Any comment from Science magazine?

This is yet more evidence of the shabby behaviour on the part of so-called climate ‘scientists’. How many exposures of these kinds of ‘tricks’ will it take before the academic institutions and journals finally do something about this kind of misconduct? Thanks to the tireless efforts of those at Climate Audit, there will no doubt be further revelations to come….