Cubasch on MBH "Can of Worms"

Ulrich Cubasch is Professor of Meteorology at the Free University in Berlin and a co-author of the 2007 IPCC Report. He reports that they are currently working on replicating Mann’s work and that his Ph.D. student "promptly found a can of worms".

This is Benny Peiser’s translation of http://www.heise-medien.de/presseinfo/bilder/tr/05/tr0503038.pdf

In my view, the present debate about Michael Mann’s diagram is actually an expression of a healthy scientific discussion. Whoever questions the curve does not have to be a climate sceptic. My team of researchers is also working on the curve. I had set one of my PhD students the task to replicate Mann’s work. Quite soon, she came to the conclusion that she cannot reproduce his diagram. We strove to look deeply into it – and promptly found a can of worms. After all, that’s how science works. The real problem in this case, in my view, is that Michael Mann does not disclose his data. It is also problematic that the discussion has become politically explosive. As climate sceptics notices that there are uncertainties in the results, they immediately see that as proof that climate research produces only nonsense. I consider it inadmissible to turn a completely specialist science debate into a fundamental criticism of climate research and the IPCC. After all, Mann’s study appeared in NATURE, a renowned peer-revewied specialist journal. In such cases, the IPCC team has to rely on peer review. To check each publication used in the IPCC report would take far too long.

In the meantime, a European Union project named "Soap" has been set up which is looking into the problem with Mann’s climate curve. Climate researchers from seven institutes are working on temperature curves for the last 1000 years. The project has a budget of nearly 1.4 million euro over a period of three years – which is the period one needs to examine Mann’s curve reliably.

Benny Peiser commented:

Good timing! It means that the "Soap" results will most likely be published just in time for the 2007 IPCC report – but without leaving ‘auditors’ any time for critical assessment of possible
flaws.

I hardly know where to start in commenting on this and will content myself with two short comments and probably re-visit this on another occasion.

It’s nice that 7 years after the fact, 4 years after IPCC TAR that Cubasch’s group is examining Mann’s curve. Given the public reliance on Mann’s curve, I would have thought that Cubasch’s group had some sort of obligation to publish some sort of notice of their findings of the "can of worms", rather than delaying 3 years using SOAP as an excuse.

I’ve tried to get access to SOAP data but have gotten nowhere.


20 Comments

  1. Louis
    Posted Mar 4, 2005 at 12:21 PM | Permalink

    So when was this posted on realclimate?

  2. Chris Chapman
    Posted Mar 4, 2005 at 1:04 PM | Permalink

    Initially, I was a little bouyed by the thought that an IPCC draftsman would be taking the time to actually put the effort in to review Mann’s statistics. Then I read:

    “After all, Mann’s study appeared in NATURE, a renowned peer-revewied specialist journal. In such cases, the IPCC team has to rely on peer review. To check each publication used in the IPCC report would take far too long.”

    And nearly fell off my chair. This is just an appalling statement for a “learned” member of academia to take, but unfortunately, it’s become all too common these days.

    To say that it would have taken too long to check the numbers before using a graphic based on flawed data that is now being used to marshall participating countries into costly misadventures which have a very real effect on their daily lives is disingenous.

    Accountability is sorely lacking here; where does the buck stop and when it comes out in the wash that there were serious errors, who will pay for it? The IPCC? Ulrich? Mann et. al?

    Not. Likely.

  3. Posted Mar 4, 2005 at 1:40 PM | Permalink

    In the German radio station, WDR III (Westdeutscher Rundfunk, 3. Programm) this week, Cubasch told a reporter, that he his very critical on Mann’s hockey-stick. Mann’s Hockey-stick is now under critical examination.

    Cubasch explained they have found that real-measured temperature data-series are not correct. They have found temperature series in Paris, which belongs to Berlin, some temperature sets are twofold etc.

    And TV showed a woman who was examining old books with temperature data-sets.

    Have not seen a worm, but must be something like that.

  4. Ross McKitrick
    Posted Mar 4, 2005 at 2:44 PM | Permalink

    3 years and $1.4 million spent euros on “SOAP” and they only just revealed (in response, I presume to Marcel Crok’s article) that they knew Mann’s curve is unreproducible and a “can of worms”. And people accuse Steve and I of profiteering. Why didn’t Cubasch say anything when MM03 came out?
    As for pleading innocent that the IPCC couldn’t check every article, no one expects them to. But the IPCC made the hockey stick central, and having increased the focus on it they should have increased the scrutiny of it proportionately.

  5. John A
    Posted Mar 4, 2005 at 2:49 PM | Permalink

    Will Mann claim to be intimidated by the European Union as well?

    Message to Professor Cubasch: publish the “can of worms” today. By the time 2007 has come and the IPCC produces a new report, nobody will care about what you have said you have found two years before.

  6. Jeff Norman
    Posted Mar 4, 2005 at 3:38 PM | Permalink

    I still find it strange that Mann et al’s graph completely changed the shape of climate history and yet it was accepted so readily by the people who are supposed to be the climate experts.

  7. Andy
    Posted Mar 4, 2005 at 3:51 PM | Permalink

    SOAP is here http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/projects/soap/

  8. Michael Mayson
    Posted Mar 4, 2005 at 5:02 PM | Permalink

    According to the programme on the SOAP site (see #7) SOAP was set up in 2002 and their work is, at the latest, due for completion by November 2005.
    There are some interesting looking presentations on the site but they are password protected!

  9. Posted Mar 5, 2005 at 2:42 AM | Permalink

    The Last update of SO&P
    Is from
    November 2002, Mike Salmon

    http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/projects/soap/

    And the controversial 15 th. century is not included.
    The simulated climate variations are from AD 1500 – to 2000.

    So what Cubasch said is not quite clear : Is there a new SOAP program from 1000 to 2000 ?

    “…⼠in the meantime, a European Union project named “Soap” has been set up which is looking into the problem with Mann’s climate curve. Climate researchers from seven institutes are working on temperature curves for the last 1000 years”

    And here from the official web-side

    “…⽓cientific objectives and approach

    “…⽔he specific objectives are summarised as follows:
    To use observational and reconstructed climate, and climate simulations under historical external forcing, to evaluate the reliability of state-of-the-art climate models that are currently used in climate change signal detection studies and for future climate predictions.
    To analyse simulated climate variations for the period AD 1500-2000 using two advanced climate models forced with natural (volcanic aerosols, solar irradiance and orbital changes) and combined natural and anthropogenic (greenhouse gases, ozone, and sulphate aerosols) forcings.”

  10. Posted Mar 5, 2005 at 6:05 AM | Permalink

    There is a question :

    SOAP uses data sets from MBH98

    http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/projects/soap/data/proxy/#mbh98

    If these data sets are wrong, what does this mean for the whole SOAP project ?

    Is SOAP wrong and for nothing ?

  11. Paul Mensink
    Posted Mar 5, 2005 at 7:48 AM | Permalink

    Ross McKitrick asked “Why didn’t Cubasch say anything when MM03 came out?”

    You might ask Professor Cubasch.

    I somehow get the feeling that you might find an answer in Timur Kuran’s book “Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification” that analyzes the dynamics of paradigm shift (and much more). German readers might be more familiar with the – related – “Spiral of Silence” concept described by Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann.

    In short that answer would be: people who think only few people share their controversial opinion have little incentives to step forward and speak out.

  12. andre bijkerk
    Posted Mar 6, 2005 at 1:37 AM | Permalink

    Well you guys do wonder why MBH was so readily accepted, virtually unchallenged, which indeed is very odd because it was a paradigm shift (killing the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age). Such should be challenged but like Richard Muller said: “If the result is attractive then I tend to lower my standards”. A more playful analyses on the psychology of global warming here:

    http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=54723

  13. Peter Hearnden
    Posted Mar 6, 2005 at 3:23 AM | Permalink

    Paul Mensink said

    “In short that answer would be: people who think only few people share their controversial opinion have little incentives to step forward and speak out.”

    True, at least in that few people like me speak out here. Mine is the controversial opinion here. All of you the ones in need of a paradigm shift, imo. So, what will provide the final deciding blow for you ? Well, I’d – honestly – like to know, my view is I doubt anyone here will change mind short of being around when it 2C warmer – and some will still call that natural I bet. Me? Say five years noticable global cooling without obvious cause (like volcanic, meteorite) would change things.

  14. Peter Hearnden
    Posted Mar 6, 2005 at 4:53 AM | Permalink

    Andre, said “Well you guys do wonder why MBH was so readily accepted virtually unchallenged…”, well, putting aside the assumption you/they make that it was, presumably, Andre, you mean to imply it’s becuase the ‘we’ like me aren’t as smart, critical and psychologically sound as the ‘you’ like you? What do you call that ;).

    If MBH were so readliy accepted why did, for instance, Moberg et al bother with their reconstruction???

  15. Spence_UK
    Posted Mar 6, 2005 at 5:58 AM | Permalink

    Peter,

    We had thirty years of cooling from 1940-1970 whilst there was increasing CO2. We have now had thirty years of warming. We are still (probably) cooler than the medieval warm period and the mid-holocene “optimum”.

    I don’t think 5 years of cooling would (or should to be honest) convince you of anything other than the fact that the natural climatic has underlying chaotic behaviour – but then the past behaviour of climate should make that pretty obvious. Of course mankind will have an effect – just as a butterfly flapping its wings in Africa can change the behaviour of a hurricane over the Carribean – but don’t doubt that there is a very robust (but complex) control mechanism behind this, that keeps everything in check in the long term. Since our current temperature is within the bounds typical of the last 10,000 years through which man comfortably survived (and thrived) I see no immediate reason for concern.

    Mans greatest folly in this venture is the belief that he can capture the complex model of climate with superficial models, in the same way that Rev. Thomas Malthus attempted to capture the complexities of the human population with simplistic models 200 years ago, resulting in his doom and gloom prophecies.

    At what point would I be concerned about climate? Well if the temperature did rise above that of the past 10,000 years it would be a concern because it would be outside the levels of human experience. But I wouldn’t be so naive to believe that the sole source of this was anthropogenic – I would be more inclined to take action that didn’t make underlying assumptions about the cause, which would be more effective than adopting a solution which works on one towering assumption, and achieves nothing if that towering assumption is wrong. As we have seen, this particular tower appears to have foundations of sand.

  16. Michael Mayson
    Posted Mar 6, 2005 at 8:45 AM | Permalink

    Spence_UK wrote: “….but don’t doubt that there is a very robust (but complex) control mechanism behind this, that keeps everything in check in the long term.”
    Here is a good summary of recent studies showing this negative feedback (control machanism).

    http://www.warwickhughes.com/hoyt/allfeedbacks.htm

  17. Paul Mensink
    Posted Mar 6, 2005 at 12:03 PM | Permalink

    I took the liberty to inform Professor Cubasch about this discussion to give him the opportunity to respond. That seemed fair to me and also might help to clarify the issue.

  18. Louis Hissink
    Posted Mar 8, 2005 at 6:16 AM | Permalink

    Peer Review – Thieves agreeing amongst themselves that a new report by one of them on. say, the robbing of the Bank of England in 1930, was a job well done. Not to matter the illegality of it or other, normally, social judgements of such activities. Peer review is simply a scientific version of the “herd mentality”.

  19. Hans Erren
    Posted Mar 8, 2005 at 6:56 AM | Permalink

    re: #18
    Louis,

    That’s a guilt by association fallacy: Please don’t.

  20. TCO
    Posted Sep 17, 2005 at 11:52 PM | Permalink

    The password protection thing for the data is awful.

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