East Anglia Refusal Letter

Last week, I reported on my progress (or rather lack of progress) in identifying the stations used in Jones et al 1990 on urban heat islands. Here’s the next episode.

The original request on Feb 22, 2007 was as follows:

Dear Phil, a couple of years ago, I requested the identities and data for the Russian, Chinese and Australian networks studied in Jones et al Nature 1990 on urbanization. At the time, you said that it would be unduly burdensome to locate the information among your diskettes as the study was then somewhat stale. However, I notice that Jones et al 1990 has been cited in IPCC AR4 (in the section where you were a Coordinating Lead Author) and continues to be cited in the literature (e.g. Peterson 2003).

Accordingly, I re-iterate my request for the identification of the stations and the data used for the following three Jones et al 1990 networks:

1. the west Russian network
2. the Chinese network
3. the Australian network

For each network, if a subset of the data of the data was used, e.g. 80 stations selected from a larger dataset, I would appreciate all the data in the network, including the data that was not selected.

In each case, please also provide the identification and data for the stations used in the gridded network which was used as a comparandum in this study.

Thank you for your attention.

Steve McIntyre

Here is the most recent response from UEA. There were no attachments so the first line of the letter makes no sense.

Dear Mr. McIntyre


Your request for information has now been considered and the information requested is enclosed.

Some of the information requested cannot, however, be disclosed and, Pursuant to Regulation 12, Environmental Information Regulations 2004, I am not obliged to supply this information. The exemptions are clearly indicated within the attached document and the reasons for exemption are as stated below

Exemption Reason

Reg. 6(1)b: Information already publicly available & easily accessible to the applicant

Reg. 12(4)a: Information not held by the authority

The reason for claiming Regulation 6(1)(b) is that the station specific raw (i.e. daily) urban’ data requested is already accessible on publicly available websites, specifically:
1) The Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN-Monthly) page within US National Climate Data Centre website at:
http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/ghcn-monthly/index.php, and,
2) the Climate & Global Dynamics Division (CGD) page of the Earth and Sun Systems Laboratory (ESSL) at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) site at: http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/tn404/

In regards Regulation 12(4)(a), the information from rural’ data stations no longer exists in the form requested at the University of East Anglia.

The public interest in claiming these exemptions is clear; in the case of Reg. 6(1)(b), information can be provided to the requester faster, and without diverting resources of the University than if the University were to provide this information directly. Clearly, we cannot provide information we do not possess, and the public interest is not at issue.

I apologise that not all of your request will be met but if you have any further information needs in the future then please contact me.

You also have the right of appeal against the decision. If you wish to appeal (or if you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request) please set out in writing your grounds of appeal and send to me at:
University of East Anglia
Norwich, NR4 7TJ
Telephone 0160 393 523
E-mail foi ATuea.ac.uk.

You also have a subsequent right of appeal to the Information Commissioner at:
Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Telephone: 01625 545 700

Yours sincerely

David Palmer
Information Policy Officer
University of East Anglia

Given that NO information was sent to me, the following sentence makes no sense:

Your request for information has now been considered and the information requested is enclosed.

I have sent the following response:

Dear Mr Palmer,

Your reply is unresponsive to my request and not in accordance with your policies. I hereby request that you re-consider your refusal to provide the following information:

A) the identification of the stations … for the following three Jones et al 1990 networks:

1. the west Russian network
2. the Chinese network
3. the Australian network

B) identification … of the stations used in the gridded network which was used as a comparandum in this study

While the data for these stations may or may not exist at GHCN and/or CGD (and such data may or may not be in the version used in Jones et al 1990), it is impossible to identify the stations used in Jones et al 1990 by inspection of the GHCN or CGD data sets and your application of Reg 6(1)b cannot be justified. I would be surprised if Jones et al no longer even have a record of what stations were used in their study. Acccordingly, I appeal your ruling.

Yours truly,

Stephen McIntyre


  1. Stan Palmer
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 11:20 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Is it outside the realm of possibility that the data has been lost?

  2. Don Keiller
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 11:28 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I bet they love you!

    On a more serious note, if this paper and the data therein is still being used by the IPPC then it should be made freely available. Not to do so suggests, to my cynical mind at least, some more sinister (Team-based?) reason.

  3. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 11:48 AM | Permalink | Reply

    As a result of this refusal, I’ve now sent the following Materials Complaint to Nature:

    Dear Sirs,

    Re: Jones, P.D., P.Y. Groisman, M. Coughlan, N. Plummer, W.C. Wang and T.R. Karl, 1990. Assessment of urbanization effects in time series of surface air temperature over land, Nature 347, 169-172.

    With reference to the following Nature policy:

    a condition of publication in a Nature journal is that authors are required to make materials, data and associated protocols available to readers promptly on request http://www.nature.com/authors/editorial_policies/availability.html

    I hereby notify you of a persistent refusal of Dr. Jones make the following data available:

    A) the identification of the stations used in the following three Jones et al 1990 networks:

    1. the west Russian network
    2. the Chinese network
    3. the Australian network

    B) identification of the stations used in the gridded network for comparison

    C) the data used by Jones et al for each of the above stations

    This study continues to be relied upon and cited, including by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Thank you for your consideration.

    Yours truly

    Stephen McIntyre
    Toronto, Canada

  4. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 11:51 AM | Permalink | Reply

    #1. If they don’t know what stations they used any more, then IPCC 4AR shouldn’t be using the study. The Coordinating Lead Author of the relevant chapter, Philip Jones, would presumably know that they no longer knew what was done and would should not have self-cited his own work.

  5. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 11:53 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Can someone post up here a relevant link to the US FOI provisions. If you look at the author list of Jones et al 1990, you’ll see an obvious additional approach to this particular conundrum.

  6. Ross McKitrick
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 11:58 AM | Permalink | Reply

    If the data were lost (which could easily be the case for a 17 year old paper) they should just say so. But that’s not their answer–they’re saying you can’t have the data. At the same time the IPCC is basing a key claim of the AR4 on this study. So once again we have a key IPCC citation based on data that the originating authors refuse to disclose.

  7. Michael Jankowski
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 12:45 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Phil Jones EGS Hans Oeschger Medallist – 2002 here:
    “Phil Jones has been active within the World Meteorological Organization, serving on committees that have continually strived to improve the free international exchange of climatic data.”


    I find his comments directed at funding agencies and DOE somewhat peculiar.

  8. bernie
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 12:47 PM | Permalink | Reply

    To what extent was the issue of non-posting of data addressed in the Ch4 movie. It seems you guys have both the scientific and moral highground in the debate and it should be broadcast. I will be interested to hear Nature’s response. Good luck.

  9. John G. Bell
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 12:55 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve M. Is there any possibility of you contracting to write an article, a series of articles or a book for a US publisher? They know, particularly the newspapers, FOI requests backwards and forwards. It may help to have a US citizen or company pushing the request. Perhaps you could cooperate with some project already going forward?

  10. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 1:20 PM | Permalink | Reply


  11. Pat Frank
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 1:44 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Not to beat a dead horse, but . . . http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=1235#comment-93246

  12. cbone
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 2:00 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Here is where you might want to start, if you were interested in obtainging information via FOIA from a certain co-author.

    However, don’t expect much. I doubt seriously that you will get any further. Most likely you will get the “the material is available in the public domain” answer.


  13. Jeff Norman
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 2:00 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Re:#11 Pat Frank,

    It seems as though it would be a much easier prospect to put together a just-as-large, just-as-widespread set of sites as Jones had, and do an independent temperature analysis.

    Yes but like in the paleoclimate reconstructions, if you have little confidence that your end result would be representative of anything real, then you would be hypocritical in undertaking such a project.

  14. Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 2:42 PM | Permalink | Reply

    If you are refused data by UK government bodies, there is a formal appeals procedure that you can go through.

  15. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 2:54 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I recall that there is some case law related to discovery and disclosure that maybe one of the lawyers who reads the blog can help with.

    Imagine if a litigant was asked to identify a subset of people involved in something and said that they are listed in the telephone book and here’s a telephone book. They’d have costs against them and a production order in no time. Does anyone have a handy case from U.S> Canada or UK that I can mention if necessary? I know that I’ve read a case on this somewhere, but forget where.

  16. Ian McLeod
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 3:02 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Perhaps one way to help would be for all interested parties to initiate a letter writing campaign that regularly visit this blog. After all, we are all interested parties. I’m sure if Steve made the request (kindly asked us), he would get 15-20 people writing letters, maybe more. If we all sent a letter to Jones, his University, Nature, and the IPCC (simultaneously), someone, somewhere is going sit up and take notice.

    If at that point it is discovered the data is not available because it is lost, misplaced, or Jones et al do not want to hand it over on principle, I think this would be a great story for a hungry journalist to make his/her name. I can think of a couple of journalists in Toronto that would find this an intriguing story, and dig hard to uncover the truth. I suspect the IPCC would make an effort to avoid more negative press.

    This approach may speed up the inevitable: either the data is made available, or it is not. I suspect either way, the IPCC will be embarrassed.

  17. jae
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 3:12 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve M. This might be helpful, if Dept. Energy funded any of the work.

  18. Darwin
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 3:15 PM | Permalink | Reply

    #5 Steve, Go to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, based in Arlington, Va. It has a reponse form you can follow to fill out for both federal and state agencies plus a handbook on the FOIA in the US and relevant court cases.

  19. Reid
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 3:25 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Alert the media! Under normal circumstances they would jump on a story like this. The Wall Street Journal and National Post would be interested.

    How about sending a letter to Congressman Joe Barton and Senator Inhofe explaining the situation?

    It looks like Steve is onto another find that is potentially as big as the Hockey Stick fiasco.

  20. Jim Edwards
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 4:09 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve, you’re not dealing with common sense, here, you’re dealing with the law. Quick thoughts:

    1. It’s obviously a form letter, hence the “information requested is enclosed” language.

    2. Contrary to what Ross thinks (#6), they haven’t said “you can’t have the data.” The information officer’s response makes more sense if you read his second excuse first. This is an example of pleading in the alternative [e.g.- I didn't do it, but if I did do it I wasn't negligent.].

    What he said was we don’t have the information in the form you requested [12(4)a], but if we did have it the law doesn’t require us to give it to you [6(1)b].

    3. Your materials complaint was much better written than your original request to Dr. Jones / UEA. The materials complaint clearly breaks out that you are asking for several things, locations + data. The original letter could be read to combine them into one tangled mass. An uninformed information officer could be excused for not understanding the independent relevance of station location, and was probably directed to the alternate data repositories by Dr. Jones. I realize that your letter was to Dr. Jones, and not a formal FOI request, but perhaps there is a lesson for the future.

    4. You asked the information officer to reconsider his prior refusal, stating that the decision was in violation of their policies. If that is so, you need to tell him which policies were violated.

    This guy doesn’t know anything about paleoclimatology or your history with Dr. Jones. What he does know is that agencies get requests from beligerent conspiracy theorists all the time. You need to be careful in how precisely you phrase your requests, because you may have trouble if somebody decides you are making “Vexatious or repeated requests” {FOI ACT section 14}.

    5. The FOI / Section 74 Regs only appear to make something accessible to a request if it has been recorded – and is still held in a recorded form at the time the request comes in. Dr. Jones might have had a responsibility to treat your letter several years ago as a FOI request. Since you didn’t call him on it at that time, you probably can’t retroactively. If he [hypothetically] used the intervening time to discard or destroy all copies of notebooks et al identifying station location, then you might be SOL. [Other data preservation laws might apply.]

    If he remembers the locations but they aren’t written down, that’s not sufficient to compel release. Once he writes an e-mail to Team buddies using UEA computers, that’s probably sufficient.

  21. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 4:24 PM | Permalink | Reply

    #19. cool your jets on this. All we know is that the Team is being obstreperous. Don’t jump to any conclusions beyond that. They might well do that just to annoy me. HAving said that, I’m all for other people writing to various information officers and requesting data. If they want to be annoying, there’s no harm in making them work at it.

  22. Steve Sadlov
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 5:14 PM | Permalink | Reply

    RE: #20 – Some very good advice!

  23. bernie
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 5:16 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I think Jim’s response is very measured and on point. An additional strategy might be to first be clear that the said data set still exists. This I think could be determined by looking at abstracts of recent empirical work that seem to reference Jones’ original data. Assuming that Jones in not a complete one man band then co-workers, graduate students and collaborators may be able to affirm that the data exists – and even provide more details. Its a bit like applying Wegman’s network analysis to track down who is most likely to have the data.

    As Steve pointed out, we should definitely not go to the press helter skelter.

  24. Stan Palmer
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 7:18 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Would it be possible to ask a direct question of Dr. Jones and the university if the dataq has been lost. Their answer or lack thereof would be on the record then.

  25. Earle Williams
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 7:33 PM | Permalink | Reply

    In the U.S. the way to get good FOIA results is to focus on specific records. In this case you may wish to focus solely on the locations of the stations used to generate a specific data output, such as HadCRUT3. Were I in a similar situation I would request the following:

    * All notes, emails, and electronic files that identify or include the name and/or location of meteorological stations used in the HadCRUT3 compilation.

    If you’re angling for a U.S. FOIA request from one of the co-authors’ agency, you may want to add:
    * All correspondence (including attachments) with Phil Jones, Hadley Centre, etc.

    You may wish to state in your request that none of the records meet the nine exceptions of FOIA.

  26. Pat Frank
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 7:53 PM | Permalink | Reply

    #13 — Jeff, if a temperature reconstruction is nonsensical, then it should be possible to establish that condition without asking Phil Jones for his station data. One just publishes the analytical demonstration of nonsensicality, and goes on to say that all the papers purporting a global average temperature trend are now demonstrated as false and specious. That would include Jones 1990, the IPCC ARs, and all the spaghetti graph proxy temp papers Steve M. has been auditing these past years.

    So far as I know, that has never been done (Ross, why not?)

    On the other hand to ask Phil Jones for his station data and methods is necessary to audit the validity of his methods as such, regardless of whether you believe the resultant temperature trend is nonsensical.

    Presumably, the latter is what Steve M. is after.

    In that context, producing your own global average temperature trend (GATT) using open and valid methods, regardless of whether you think such a trend is scientifically sensible or not, will stand as a stark and embarrasing contrast against the attitude and behavior of Jones and the HT.

    If your new trend, regardless of scientific validity, is different from Jones’ and everyone knows exactly how you generated your trend, and everyone knows that your methods were valid (you can bet the HT and its supporters will engage in intense scrutiny), then the pressure will be on Jones to show that his now-contradicted iconic GATT was produced in a methodologically valid manner.

    If he cannot do so, or still refuses to release his data and methods, then the GATT line that we’ve all grown to know and love gets flushed. The 0.6 C of global average warming becomes entirely moot. All 25 years of effort Phil Jones has been protecting from Warwick Hughes goes down the drain. If that happens, the IPCC suddenly loses its pants. Not a pretty sight, indeed.

    So, as I see it, if Steve M., Warwick, and the rest produce their own methodologically valid GATT, they stand to accomplish everything they want, and more constructively to boot. To pursue the line of bureaucratic tree-shaking may eventually get the job done, but not without lots of pain and frustration. An end-around seems much more fruitful to me. I think it’s the way a scientist, as opposed to a lawyer, would proceed.

  27. Ross McKitrick
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 8:00 PM | Permalink | Reply

    #20: True they haven’t come out and said that the data still exist. Maybe they really don’t have it. But if neither the data nor the locations exist anymore, they would surely recognize that it would save them lots of bother at this point if they would just say so. They could say in one line: “Sorry but the diskettes are gone and the list of locations was lost and we can’t retrieve any of it.” Instead they trot out regulations and exemptions. They say the rural data are no longer there “in the form requested” and they point to a haystack for the rest, without responding to the request for locations. It sounds to me like they have the data, they are just looking around for procedural delays to avoid releasing it.

    I expect that if the data were released the results would be easily reproduced. There’s nothing apparently complicated in what Jones et al. 1990 did. So I don’t understand why they responded this way.

    I doubt Nature will intervene since the paper is so old. There’s probably an implicit statute of limitations. And they can say that it’s not their problem if the IPCC keeps citing the study. But we’ll see.

  28. NicholasV
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 8:11 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I agree that the combination of asking for the locations and the data is problematic. I would try asking for just the locations. I don’t see how they can claim that information is in the public domain (or if it is – great! Just let us know where…). If they continue to claim they don’t have the location data any more, then I guess you should ask Dr. Jones what happened to it. Seems like a curious thing to lose.

  29. Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 9:16 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I am a lawyer in a civil litigation practice. I have tried to comment previously from time to time on this site, but my comments from work have been blocked. This one I am sending from home.

    The US Federal Government has a statute called the Freedom of Information Act. The citation is 5 USC Section 552. Here is a link to the text of the statute. http://www.usdoj.gov/oip/foia_updates/Vol_XVII_4/page2.htm

    Essentially the procedure requires you to start with an agency that you think has the information. Each agency is required to have an office and responsible people to respond to requests. If you don’t get what you want on the first request, there is an elaborate appeal process, first within each agency, and then, if you still don’t get what you want, into the federal courts, and ultimately to the US Supreme Court. It can take a long time, but in the end there is a good likelihood that you will get a sympathetic ear sooner or later if you have time and patience.

    You clearly want to strategize carefully in making these requests to be sure that you will have something that will stand up in an appeal process. For an appeal process you will want to have counsel. I strongly suspect that it will be possible to get counsel on a pro bono (free) basis for this project. I may even be able to get my firm to let me take it on. Alternatively, the Federalist Society has a pro bono network where it will likely be possible to find people either to do it themselves, or to assist me. (The Federalist Society is an organization of conservative and libertarian lawyers; I have various titles in that organization.)

    As to England, they obviously have an FOI statute, but I am not well informed on what you do when initially rejected. I know many lawyers over there, but they all cost a lot of money, and I don’t know much about how to get pro bono assistance. However, I definitely know a few people I could ask. And it certainly makes sense to evaluate the English v. US procedures to decide which venue to select.

  30. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 9:41 PM | Permalink | Reply

    #25. Since it’s now clear that they want to do this the hard way, I agree that the correspondence approach makes sense. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone asks U of East Anglia what information Phil Jones or associates sent to UCAR/NCAR/NCDC and someone else asks UCAR/NCAR and NCDC what information Phil Jones sent to them.

  31. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 9:47 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Wei-Chyung Wang, another co-author, is at SUNY, New York Wang AT climate.cestm.albany.edu; Groisman, formerly in Russia, is at NCDC. Michael Couglan, another coaithor, is at BOM Australia, M.Coughlan at bom.gov.au- maybe someone wants to write him about the identity of the stations in Jones et al 1990. It would be funny if none of these guys knew the identity of the stations any more.

  32. Undath Govor
    Posted Mar 12, 2007 at 10:34 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Much funnier would be to find out that the stations used were progressively enclosed inside urban areas from the mid-70s onward.

  33. Jim Edwards
    Posted Mar 13, 2007 at 12:27 AM | Permalink | Reply

    #27 Ross,

    Re: Journals and 17 yr old papers.

    It seems reasonable to me for a scientist to throw out ten year-old data when he moves from one office to another. What seems unreasonable to me is a respected journal publishing results w/o sufficient procedural explanation to reproduce the results.

    It’s Nature’s blunder. I don’t see how they could attempt to hold anybody’s feet to the fire at this late date, no matter who’s citing the work.

    Imagine if ten Team members each require Steve to spend 100 hours extracting basic data out of them. That’s six months that he’s not auditing their collective work.

  34. dover_beach
    Posted Mar 13, 2007 at 4:41 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I might just take up your offer and write to the BoM. Living in Melbourne, their office is local. Could you list exactly what you would like from the Australian network, and I’ll get to work. You should have my email if you’d like to discuss this privately.

  35. MarkW
    Posted Mar 13, 2007 at 5:32 AM | Permalink | Reply


    The problem is that you can’t prove a negative. That is, you are trying to show that it is impossible to fix the temperature
    record enough.

    All Jones et. al. have to say to counter this is “But if you use my super secret statistical trick, we are able to pull meaningfull
    data out of the noise.” Which is essentially what they have done.

    Then you are back to our current problem. Getting Jones to tell anyone outside the Mann clique, what this super secret magical method is.

  36. bernie
    Posted Mar 13, 2007 at 6:01 AM | Permalink | Reply

    At this point I suggest that “specific” next steps around this issue be discussed off line to prevent any organized effort to prevent access to the requested data. As the old joke goes, the trouble with paranoia is that somebody may be out there trying to do mischief!!

  37. John Lang
    Posted Mar 13, 2007 at 6:21 AM | Permalink | Reply

    It seems like the historical temperature record is going to have to be constructed from scratch by a new independent agency.

    If Jones and Hansen and their colleagues have been playing fast and loose with the adjustments they have applied (as it appears), they are not going to provide you with the information to sink their careers. Even Mann testifying under oath before a Congressional committee was less than forthcoming.

    Someone just needs to gather the raw data. A well-organized, well-funded agency will be required to do this however.

  38. Ross McKitrick
    Posted Mar 13, 2007 at 7:59 AM | Permalink | Reply

    #26: Pat, the analytical demonstration of nonsensicality has been done, but I doubt it will have the effect you are hoping for, at least not for a long time yet.

    I agree that the field is wide open for anyone and everyone to construct a global average temperature, since the methods are so ad hoc. However the field has organized its thinking firmly around the Hadley/GISS results, so any graph departing from those will be considered invalid. The argument will go as follows.

    (i)The observed global temperature is the one produced by Hadley.
    (ii)We know it is the observed global temperature since all the valid estimates agree with it.
    (iii)The McIntyre/Frank global temperature estimate is invalid since it does not agree with the observed global temperature.

  39. crosspatch
    Posted Mar 13, 2007 at 10:05 AM | Permalink | Reply

    “It seems reasonable to me for a scientist to throw out ten year-old data when he moves from one office to another. What seems unreasonable to me is a respected journal publishing results w/o sufficient procedural explanation to reproduce the results.”

    Yes, it would seem reasonable for an individual to discard unused items after some period of time. This is why I believe that organizations that publish such work should also collect a copy of the data and procedures used on it for safekeeping in some repository so that it might be obtained by someone wishing to replicate the study to see if A) there are any errors in the data or methodology or B) to get a new sample of data from the same stations to see how the results might change over time using the same procedures on the data as the original test. The data themselves would not need to be archived since it is, as someone mentioned, in the public domain. What is NOT in the public domain is the identification of the stations. So they would need to simply archive the identification and date range of the data used along with the procedures used on them.

    I keep thinking “cold fusion” when I hear stuff like this.

  40. Posted Mar 13, 2007 at 10:54 AM | Permalink | Reply


    What is NOT in the public domain is the identification of the stations.

    The reviewers should have noticed the stations were not identified and insisted they be mentioned in the paper, or failing that, the stations should be mentioned in someone’s thesis or a publically available laboratory report. Reviewers often forget they should insist on traceability because, full replication is unusual in science (because you generally can’t publish something unless it is “new” in some way.) Also, reviewer are also not expected to verify the actual computations or underlying data, so they sometimes don’t notice the data are untraceable. However, there is a well accepted notion that analyses and experiments should be documented sufficiently well that another investigator could replicate the experiment or analysis if they wished to do so.

    In this case, if an investigator can’t discover the station names, they can’t obtain the data. That means they can’t repeat the analysis and verify it. They also can’t do other interesting things– like see what happens if you vary the analysis method etc. It sounds like the reviewers fell down on this one.

  41. Jean S
    Posted Mar 13, 2007 at 11:00 AM | Permalink | Reply

    #38: Ross, regarding your paper (Section 3), you might want to take a look:
    Aczel & Dhombres: Functional Equations in Several Variables, Cambridge University Press, 1989.

    Chapters 15, 17, and 18 are relevant.

  42. Ron Cram
    Posted Mar 13, 2007 at 11:11 AM | Permalink | Reply

    re: 41

    I do not have access to the book here. Are you saying it a global temperature series is possible?

  43. John G. Bell
    Posted Mar 13, 2007 at 11:36 AM | Permalink | Reply

    #38 Ross,
    Thank you for pointing out that article. It is obvious in hindsight but a bit of a jaw dropper if you hadn’t pondered it beforehand.

  44. Pat Frank
    Posted Mar 13, 2007 at 11:51 AM | Permalink | Reply

    #38 — Congratulations, Ross, and to Chris, too. :-) For anyone who reads the linked pre-print and wants the full citation, here it is: “Does a Global Temperature Exist?” By: Essex, Christopher; McKitrick, Ross; Andresen, Bjarne. Journal of Non-Equilibrium Thermodynamics, 2007, Vol. 32 Issue 1, p1-27, 27p; DOI: 10.1515/JNETDY.2007.001.

    It’s amusing to note that your item 3., page 4, where, “A global spatial average cannot be an index for local conditions, otherwise nonlocal dependence (i.e ”thermodynamics at a distance”) for local conditions would be required.” seems to reject exactly what is claimed exists by Mann and others, concerning the ‘climate field’ that justifies cherry-picking their proxy series.

    I think you should have a press conference.

    Regarding your item (iii) in #38, while disavowing the possibility that my name would ever be included among that elite, there would be an item (iv), namely, The MacIntyre/Warwick temperature is proved methodologically sound but we (the HT) are rejecting it anyway.

    It’s this last that would make the tension eventually unbearable. Plenty of scientists are sympathetic to the non-A in GW and they would not be averse to a new surface temperature calculation. There would, in short, be public allies as well as opponents. If the case is objectively sound, it must eventually carry the day.

  45. Jim Edwards
    Posted Mar 13, 2007 at 12:29 PM | Permalink | Reply

    #26 Pat Frank:

    How about taking a cue from the GCM guys and run a hundred historical temperature reconstructions and comparing Jones’s 20th cent dT w/ the range of dT for all 100 reconstructions ?

    1) An author could use a random number generator to select the same number of stations Jones used out of the available stations with data recorded on, say, > 90% of days in 20th cent.

    2) ‘Average’ time series from the 17 randomly selected stations to construct a 20th cent ‘global’ temp record.

    3) Repeat 100-200 times to end up w/ 100-200 different reconstructions based upon random station selection.

    4) Create distributions of 20th cent dT and post-1975 dT, then illustrate whether Jones’ reconstruction from selected stations lies near the middle, or ‘coincidentally’ is at the high end of claimed global temp increase.

    5) It would be better to repeat the exercise [50 times? Let a statistician figure these things out...] with stations selected randomly by longitude but controlled by latitude, and / or controlled by proximity to water – to see if doing so varies the result from pure random selection

  46. crosspatch
    Posted Mar 13, 2007 at 1:33 PM | Permalink | Reply

    “In this case, if an investigator can’t discover the station names, they can’t obtain the data. That means they can’t repeat the analysis and verify it.”

    It is much more important to me than just the scientific angle. When public policy is made on the basis of such research, there is a responsibility to the public to ensure than such policy is made on a firm foundation of fact. It is a matter of the public trust. For government at any level to cite such research as the basis of policy decisions without sufficient access to the data and methods used to reach conclusions in the research, is tantamount to fraud or corruption. We must have completely transparent information if we are going to demand money from the public (under threat of prosecution if you don’t pay your taxes) for spending on related policy. That much should be simple common sense and not have any “religious” aspect as to “believing” in AGW or not.

  47. Jean S
    Posted Mar 13, 2007 at 3:54 PM | Permalink | Reply

    re #42: Ron, no, I’m saying that the “averaging operator” (dealt mainly with examples in Section 3) has been nicely classified (and there are some related theorems) in the literature. Reading the paper gave me impression that the authors might not be aware of that, but I may be wrong. In any case, the reference might be useful for them in the future.

  48. Pat Frank
    Posted Mar 13, 2007 at 8:35 PM | Permalink | Reply

    #45 — Jim that would be an interesting study, as it would tell you about the total systematic plus non-systematic variation. The problem is that Jones claims to have adjusted his temperatures looking for non-systematic effects, such as station moves or changes in instrumentation, not to mention the UHI effect. So, he’d just be able to say that your study, while interesting, has little to do with his, what with all the care he’s taken to eliminate biases in the data. Of course, we’ll all have to take his word on that.

    With respect to non-systematic errors, I continue to remember with some respect a paper I read a few years ago where some workers were looking at individual temperature stations. On one island, a small automatic station had been located at the top of a ~ 1 meter pole in an open area. Over 20 years, a distant line of trees had grown to block part of the sky at the horizon. The authors noted in passing that this change alone was enough to produce a spurious 2 degree warming trend.

    Such a study as you describe would have all of those sorts of things in it, making conclusions pretty tough to get. How Jones took all of that sort of thing out is anyone’s guess.

  49. Jim Edwards
    Posted Mar 14, 2007 at 12:11 AM | Permalink | Reply

    #48, Pat
    Yes, I’m sure you’re right about his probable response. And we mortals don’t have the “skill” to come up with “robust” results, anyway [That's sarcasm...].

    When I worked in thin films we sometimes engineered product / experimental designs which were denominated “best of breed” [thickest passivation layer + smoothest substrate, etc. ] because there were too many potential variables to test each permutation and bring product to market. We made educated guesses as to what would likely work and tested for improvement upon a baseline.

    When testing for reliability, we did the opposite to determine failure rates for worst case in-spec manufactured product [thinnest passivation layer + thinnest lube + roughest disc, etc]]

    The multi-scenario approach of GCM modelers is analogous to this.

    Thought Experiment:
    I wonder what data from the above study would look like if one took high/medium/low estimates of UHI, “wood bucket”, and other effects and applied pro-AGW advocacy / literature average / anti-AGW adjustments to the randomly selected data sets to come up with three trend lines: upper, lower and “middle”. Where would Dr. Jones’s construction lie ?

  50. Willis Eschenbach
    Posted Mar 14, 2007 at 4:58 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Pat, overall an interesting post. You say:

    The problem is that Jones claims to have adjusted his temperatures looking for non-systematic effects, such as station moves or changes in instrumentation, not to mention the UHI effect.

    Jones has actually done a very curious thing with the UHI. He has assumed that it goes from 0 in 1900 to (IIRC) 0.05°C at present in a straight line. But instead of subtracting that from the data as you would expect, he has added it to the error bars … go figure. And not only that, he has added it symetrically, as much addition error above as below the data. Both of these adjustments seem totally indefensible to me.


  51. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Mar 14, 2007 at 8:20 AM | Permalink | Reply

    #50. Willis, did he really do that? Ah, the Team never cease to amaze. Where is this particular stunt described?

  52. Posted Mar 14, 2007 at 11:59 AM | Permalink | Reply


    It is quite hard to decode what has been done, but Folland et al 2001 GRL might be helpful

    However, because some cold biases are also possible in adjusted semi-urban data, we conservatively model this uncertainty as symmetrical about the optimum average.

    We assume that the global average LAT uncertainty (2 \sigma owing to urbanization linearly increases from zero in 1900 to 0.1°C in 1990 (Jones et al, 1990), a value we extrapolate to 0.12°C in 2000 (Figure 1a).

  53. MarkW
    Posted Mar 14, 2007 at 1:59 PM | Permalink | Reply


    Some cold biases are also possible? Did he attempt to figure out what these biases were? Try to quantify them? Try to see if there
    actually were any?

    Or was it just an assumption so that the warm biases he did find could be ignored?

  54. Willis Eschenbach
    Posted Mar 14, 2007 at 5:27 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve M, UC and MarkW, see the description of “bias errors” (which include UHI) in Global temperature change and its uncertainties since 1861, C. K. Folland et al. (including Jones)

    The urbanization uncertainty could be regarded as one sided: stations cannot be “too rural” but may inadvertently be “too urban” (Jones et al., 1990; Peterson et al., 1999). However, because some cold biases are also possible in adjusted semi-urban data, we conservatively model this uncertainty as symmetrical about the optimum average. We assume that the global average LAT uncertainty (2σ) owing to urbanization linearly increases from zero in 1900 to 0.1°C in 1990 (Jones et al, 1990), a value we extrapolate to 0.12°C in 2000 (Figure 1a).

    However, it appears that they have changed their minds in the latest description of the HadCRUT3 errors (emphasis mine):

    2.3.3 Bias error
    Bias correction uncertainties are following [Folland et al., 2001] who two biases in the land data: urbanisation effects [Jones et al., 1990] and thermometer exposure changes [Parker, 1994].

    To make an urbanisation assessment for all the stations used in the HadCRUT dataset would require suitable meta-data for each station for the whole period since 1850. No such complete meta-data are available, so in this analysis the same value for urbanisation uncertainty is used as in the previous analysis [Folland et al., 2001]; that is, a 1σ value of 0.0055 C/decade, starting in 1900. Recent research suggests that this value is reasonable, or possibly a little conservative [Parker, 2004, Peterson, 2004, Peterson & Owen, 2005]. The same value is used over the whole land surface, and it is one-sided: recent temperatures may be too high due to urbanisation, but they will not be too low.


  55. dover_beach
    Posted Mar 14, 2007 at 6:36 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Dr Mike Coughlan is currently the Director of the National Climate Centre of the Bureau of Meteorology. Steve I think you ought to address him directly. I’d be surprised if a letter from me would even land on his desk, and despite the behaviour of Mr Jones, I think we should give his co-authors the benefit of the doubt. Here is an organisational chart of the BoM:


    I think he is located in Sydney, New South Wales. The contacts page is here:


    I hope this helps.

  56. Posted Mar 15, 2007 at 7:30 AM | Permalink | Reply


    it is one-sided: recent temperatures may be too high due to urbanisation, but they will not be too low

    I had to check, you are right, they changed their minds. You can verify this, look at Brohan et al Figure 12. Top figure, zoom very close at t=2000. Takes some time, but after few clicks, and with a good monitor, you’ll see blue band (bias error), it is one sided!

  57. Posted Mar 15, 2007 at 7:48 AM | Permalink | Reply

    So, UHI is taken into account:


  58. Posted Mar 15, 2007 at 8:02 AM | Permalink | Reply

    You can see the UHI uncertainty in Figure 11 as well, but then you need to zoom at least 6400 %

  59. Posted Mar 15, 2007 at 1:17 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Re 54 Willis, where Brohan et al say; “To make an urbanisation assessment for all the stations used in the HadCRUT dataset would require suitable meta-data for each station for the whole period since 1850. No such complete meta-data are available,”

    What a weasel out to say “No such complete meta-data are available”, The issue is the thousands of cities and of course meta data would be available for city stations.

  60. Willis Eschenbach
    Posted Mar 15, 2007 at 4:33 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Warwick, while their actions are a bit stoat-like, I suspect that even for the city stations there is meta-data which is not available, or which has an uncertain effect on the record. The problems with the stations include inappropriate locations (too close to buildings or roads, etc.), changes in location, changes in instrumentation, changes in averaging methods, changes in observation times, lack of maintenance, changes in surroundings (local heat islands), changes in cleaning frequency, changes in observation frequency, changes in elevation, and changes in instrument enclosures (from painting to repair to replacement).

    I doubt if even the city stations have all of this information back to 1850 or the start of the record, and even if they do, some of the changes will be hard to quantify.

    Given all of that, however, it does seem to me that the proper response is to correct what you can, rather than throw up your hands and say “Oooh, it’s all too difficult”.


  61. Pat Frank
    Posted Mar 15, 2007 at 5:26 PM | Permalink | Reply

    #’s 59 & 60 — and of course, after the exercise and the recognition of all the forever unknowables, whoever produces the trend line should admit in print that the result may have no relevance to any physically true temperature trend, and that certainly no trillion dollar decisions should be based upon it.

    That being true, of course, the response of any hard-minded funding agency would be, ‘What’s the point?‘ Likewise the response of any tenure-granting committee, along with, ‘So, why’d you waste your time on the effort?‘ and ‘Good luck in your future career and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

    No principal will ever admit the truth of the matter.

    Warwick and Willis, why don’t you write that paper? I’d bet anything that Energy and Environment would publish it. And like M&M’s first paper, I’d bet that Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen would make it freely available on the E&E top home page. That paper would be a knock-out.

  62. Posted Mar 16, 2007 at 2:23 AM | Permalink | Reply

    These one sided uncertainties puzzle me.. Bucket corrections are corrections, but UHI correction goes to uncertainties.. Maybe I took the wrong Stochastic Processes and Filtering Theory course. Willis and others, note that you can find Brohan et al figure data from here


    I wrote a Matlab file that reproduces those annual graphs:


    so it will be easier to zoom at the UHI uncertainty :)

  63. Posted Mar 17, 2007 at 10:57 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Confused again:


    UHI uncertainty is added to past values, 1850-1950 ? What is that thin blue line in #57 picture?

    Note that if they’d change the order, first bias uncertainty; then bias, station and sampling; then bias, station, sampling and coverage , you’d get a different figure with much larger proportion for bias.

  64. py
    Posted Aug 23, 2007 at 12:56 AM | Permalink | Reply

    One thing that is curious is the way that Brohan et al. jumps around confidence intervals. Folland et al. uses 2 sigma when describing bias errors. Brohan refers to Folland but then reports the bias errors at 1 sigma, but then jumps back to 2 sigma again in his plots.

  65. Posted Aug 23, 2007 at 1:44 AM | Permalink | Reply


    IMO Brohan et al. is very topical and has lots of mysteries, so you are not walking a well worn path ;)

    For example, see Figure 4:

    ( http://signals.auditblogs.com/files/2007/08/brohan4.PNG )

    and related text (my emph)

    Hypothesising that the distribution of adjustments required is Gaussian, with a standard deviation of 0.75 C gives the dashed line in figure 4 which matches the number of adjustments made where the adjustments are large, but suggests a large number of missing small adjustments. The homogenisation uncertainty is then given by this missing component (dotted line in figure 4), which has a standard deviation of 0.4 C. This uncertainty applies to both adjusted and unadjusted data, the former have an uncertainty on the adjustments made, the latter may require undetected adjustments.

    So the homogenisation adjustment uncertainty for any station is a random value taken from a normal distribution with a standard deviation of 0.4 C.

    So, following the logic, if you don’t apply any homogenization adjustments, the uncertainty for any station is a random value taken from a normal distribution with a standard deviation of 0.75 C. When we take a global mean using hundreds of stations, the difference between adjustments / no adjustments should be completely negligible. Thus there’s no need for

    The most common reason for a station needing adjustment is a site move in the 1940-60 period. The earlier site tends to have been warmer than the later one — as the move is often to an out of town airport.

    Imagine, all this effort for nothing.

  66. py
    Posted Aug 23, 2007 at 6:48 AM | Permalink | Reply


    Philip Brohan has very promptly and kindly responded to my email.

    As suspected, the urbanisation bias described in the paper is an estimate of the error only. The ‘best estimate’ values reported in the paper contain no systematic adjustments for urbanisation bias.

    Thanks for pointing out the homogenisation ‘mystery’. Presumably the gaussian with 0.75 C variance was derived by fitting to the known corrected/uncorrected station temperature differences in the histogram, and wasn’t some arbitary variance picked out of the air.

  67. Posted Aug 23, 2007 at 2:01 PM | Permalink | Reply

    As suspected, the urbanisation bias described in the paper is an estimate of the error only. The ‘best estimate’ values reported in the paper contain no systematic adjustments for urbanisation bias.

    OK, thanks! So that’s why red curve goes up from 1980 to present in here: http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=1276#comment-96316 (there’s lot’s of stuff in this blog :) )

    Presumably the gaussian with 0.75 C variance was derived by fitting to the known corrected/uncorrected station temperature differences in the histogram, and wasn’t some arbitary variance picked out of the air.

    Yes, that’s how they got 0.75. But I have this feeling that those adjustments do matter in the global mean series (like buckets do ), and the histogram method is not very good with time series stuff… Maybe it’s just me.

  68. DeWitt Payne
    Posted Aug 23, 2007 at 2:45 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Re: #67

    the histogram method is not very good with time series stuff…

    UC, Isn’t it true that there are effectively an infinite number (or at least n! where n is the number of data points) of time series that will produce the same histogram? Talk about throwing away information!

  69. Posted Aug 23, 2007 at 10:56 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Talk about throwing away information!

    Yep, take N samples from i.i.d gaussian, sort the data in ascending order, sort the data in descending order.. Histogram wont change. Adjust ’40s data down, and some other period data up, and you’ll get a bimodal histogram. I’m a bit worried about this step:

    So the distribution of adjustments is bimodal, and can be interpreted as a bell-shaped distribution with most of the central, small, values missing.

  70. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Aug 24, 2007 at 1:06 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Re Jones’ Australian data

    I have not had time to read all of the thread above, but will repost an email to me from Phil Jones from 2006. His email follows:

    —– Original Message —–
    From: Phil Jones
    To: sherro@bigpond.net.au
    Cc: Sheppard Sylvia (SCI) ks918
    Sent: Saturday, March 25, 2006 4:20 AM
    Subject: FW: Early global temperature data
    Dear Geoffrey,
    We no longer have the Australian station date we were using in the
    early 1980s. At that time we had a limited network. In the 1990s,
    the Australian Bureau of Meteorology began issuing a lot more
    station data each month. Up to that time it had been about 40
    stations internationally. Through contacts with personnel in Melbourne,
    we got access to the back data from all the new stations, so added
    these. In order to use temperature data, we need historic series
    with at least the 1961-90 base period. We now have access to over
    100 stations from BoM in real time.
    I wish more countries would release more data in real time like
    Australia. Some have, but not that many – and none release extra
    data in Africa, South America and southern Asia. We have
    managed to get extra historic data though in South Africa, Argentina
    and Brazil. We got the latter, though, on the agreement that we
    didn’t pass the data onto others, but we can use them in our
    gridded data. This condition also applies to a number of
    European countries – again only historic data, no real time. Australia
    is the only country to make additional data (additional to the about 1500
    exchanged by Met Services) to us in real time.
    I have looked back at a publication where we adjusted station
    records for homogeneity in the mid-1980s. We didn’t omit any
    Australian series then, but adjusted the following sites:

    Darwin, Townsville, Thursday Island, Gladstone, Forrest,
    Adelaide, Sydney and Norfolk Island. We still have these adjustments.

    In the mid-1990s, we compared our Australian temperature with
    a series developed by Neville Nicholls (then of BMRC, he has retired
    in the last few months and now works at Monash) and a student
    he had. Over the period from 1901-1992 we had a correlation of
    our two series of 0.92 and with no difference in trend over these
    92 years. This work was done before we got the additional
    station data (so in effect we had about 40 stations, whereas
    Neville and the student had almost 200). I can’t recall the student’s
    name (Simon ?).

    So, I can’t send you anything. We don’t have the earlier station
    data now.

  71. py
    Posted Aug 24, 2007 at 10:12 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Presumably the thinking here is that for most of the station data, the homogenisation corrections are small. It is quite an assumption though, seeing as the only data that they do have where the homogenisation correction is known, the data show something different (as in the histogram).

    Assuming that the stations for which the homogenisation correction is known can be considered a random sample from the total number of stations, why isn’t the distribution normal and not the bimodal distribution as plotted?

    Or am I missing something basic?

  72. Posted Aug 27, 2007 at 2:39 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Assuming that the stations for which the homogenisation correction is known can be considered a random sample from the total number of stations, why isn’t the distribution normal and not the bimodal distribution as plotted?

    That’s because of undetected adjustments, here’s how it goes

    1) There is a 1940-60 period where thermometers were moved to out of town airport. That necessitates negative adjustments for earlier record (take the UHI effect out).

    2) There are some positive adjustments (probably due to recent rural cooling, hard to tell because only histogram is shown).

    3) As you all know, the central limit theorem requires zero-mean bell-shaped distribution for everything. Thus, the bimodal histogram of known adjustments represents such distribution, but small values are missing. The bimodal histogram is not balanced, but

    this asymmetry is small compared with the typical adjustment, and is difficult to quantify

    That is, take hypothesized adjustment histogram, subtract observed adjustment histogram, make it zero mean, and you’ll get the uncertainty. All clear? :)

  73. py
    Posted Aug 28, 2007 at 12:07 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks for the explanation. It is really useful as I’m still trying to get a feel for what the data is like. Presumably the asymmetry will introduce some sort of bias in the overall trend given that the asymmetry lies in the ‘gross’ adjustments that are in a 20 year period.

    Given that the paper states that all of the station data has been adjusted, I’m still puzzled as to why both raw and adjusted measurements for each station haven’t been stored. I guess after reading this blog for a while, I shouldn’t be ;)

    Hopefully the marine data is of better quality ?

  74. Jean S
    Posted Aug 28, 2007 at 3:15 AM | Permalink | Reply


    Hopefully the marine data is of better quality ?

    Hmmm, see http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=1276

4 Trackbacks

  1. By Follow the Money.... - Debate Politics Forums on Sep 26, 2007 at 1:45 PM

    [...] in Bold Headlines, Claims Models, Methods, Software » Blog Archive » A GISS ModelE code fragment Climate Audit – by Steve McIntyre » East Anglia Refusal Letter Climate Audit – by Steve McIntyre » FOI Request to Phil Jones Climate Audit – by Steve McIntyre » [...]

  2. By The FOI Myth #2 « Climate Audit on Dec 29, 2009 at 8:36 PM

    [...] to repudiate the request by making untrue statements to support a claim for FOI exemption. In its initial response, CRU stated (1) that the requested data (even station lists for Jones et al 1990) were already [...]

  3. [...] [11]         S. McIntyre. (2007). East Anglia Refusal Letter.                  Available: http://climateaudit.org/2007/03/12/east-anglia-refusal-letter/ [...]

  4. [...] first refusal and my concurrent request for re-consideration on the grounds of unresponsiveness on March 12, 2007, their partial acquiescence on April 3, 2007, my follow-up on the part where they remained [...]

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