Steig Professes Ignorance

On Feb. 26, I wrote a post on CA, “Steig 2009’s Non-Correction for Serial Correlation”, commenting on the Jan. 22 letter in Nature by Eric Steig et al. On Feb. 28, I sent Steig and his 5 co-authors an e-mail alerting them to my post and its content.

On Aug. 6, Steig and co-authors published a Corrigendum in Nature replicating my findings, but without mentioning my prior post. I wrote the editors of Nature a letter complaining that if the Corrigendum was received after Feb. 28, it would constitute plagiarism under Nature‘s definition as “when an author attempts to pass off someone else’s work as his or her own.” My letter to Nature, together with my e-mail to Steig and co-authors, is in Comment 60 of the CA thread on the Steig Corrigendum.

On Aug. 10, Steig wrote Nature Associate Editor Michael White the following letter, with a copy to myself:

Date: Mon, 10 Aug 2009 08:31:16 -0700 (PDT)
From: Eric Steig
To: mwhite@nature.com
Cc: mcculloch.2@osu.edu
Subject: regarding Dr. McCulloch’s claim

Department of Earth and Space Sciences
University of Washington, Seattle
August 10th, 2009

Dr. Michael White, Editor
Nature

Dear Dr. White,

I understand that Nature has received a letter from Prof. Hu McCulloch, claiming that the August 6th Corrigendum (to my paper in the January 22nd issue of Nature) is a plagiarism of his work. He makes this claim on the grounds that he posted an article on the blog climateaudit.org in February showing the same information as in our Corrigendum, and that he informed me of this in an email on February 28th. Any such email sent to me in February would have received notification that I was in the field in Antarctica until late March, and not receiving email. I was unaware of his post, and did not read it.

The accusation of plagiarism implies I have presented Prof. McCulloch’s ideas as my own. His ‘ideas’ in this case are the recognition that we did not account for autocorrelation in our data when calculating the significance of trends. While I regret that the published version of the paper didn’t include such a correction, it is obvious that I was aware of the need to do so, since in the text of the paper we state that we did in fact make this correction. Once I recognized that we had neglected to make the correction properly, we re-did the calculations using well-known methods, the details of which are available in myriad statistics textbooks and journal articles.

There can therefore be no claim on Dr. McCulloch’s part of any originality either for the idea of making such a correction, nor for the methods for doing so, all of which were discussed in our original paper.

Had Dr. McCulloch been the first person to make me aware of the error in our paper, or had he written directly to Nature at any time prior to the submission of our Corrigendum, it would have been appropriate to acknowledge him in the Corrigendum and we would have been happy to do so. To suggest that correcting an error in my own work, using standard methods, constitutes plagiarism is specious.

Sincerely,

Eric J. Steig, Professor
University of Washington

On August 12, White wrote me as follows:

Date: Wed, 12 Aug 2009 13:00:14 +0100
From: “White, Michael”
To: mcculloch.2@osu.edu
Cc: Eric Steig

Dear Dr McCulloch (cc to Dr Steig)

Thank you for your letter of 7 August 2009. Dr Steig sent us the below correspondence (which he cc’d to you) in which he outlined to us the sequence of events leading up to the submission of his corrigendum. In the light of this information, we see no need for further action on our part. If you feel that the description provided is not accurate then this is something that you would need to take up with Dr Steig directly or with his institution.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Michael White
Associate Editor
Nature

Since Steig professes ignorance of my post and claims that he had not read it, I can only take him at his word. Accordingly, I wrote White today thanking him for his prompt attention to the matter and withdrawing my complaint.

However, while ignorance may be an iron-clad defense against plagiarism, it is a rather dicey position academically speaking. Surely Steig and co-authors would at least read the vigorous and serious discussion of their paper on Climate Audit, the Air Vent, and other blogs, even if they do not deign to participate.

If Steig doesn’t follow CA, he must be the only person in all of climate science. It is well known that within 24 hours of when Steve McIntyre hinted on CA that there was a problem with the Harry AWS data used by Steig et al, Gavin Schmidt of NASA and RealClimate had reported the problem to the British Antarctic Survey, who manages the data. It is less well known that at 1:22 AM on Feb. 2, way down in Comment 171 of the Dirty Harry 4 thread, I noticed that there was also a problem with Steig’s AWS station #52. “Andy” quickly identified this as Racer Rock in Comment 173, and within 12 hours the BAS had already corrected the data!

Steig maintains that he did not receive my Feb. 28 e-mail to him, as he was in Antarctica, and that I should have received an automatic reply to that effect. While it is possible I did receive such an automatic reply from him, I can’t find it in my in box, spam box, or even trash box. I did receive such an automatic reply from him on March 17, in reply to another e-mail, requesting data. This indicated that he would in Antarctica until March 19, and could be contacted until then only by a special e-mail address posted on his website. There was no indication in the message that he would not catch up on e-mails received in his absence on his return.

I did receive an automatic reply from Michael Mann on Feb. 28, indicating that he was out of town and that important e-mails should be resent after his return, or he was not likely to read them. However, I had no reason to believe that Steig’s other 4 co-authors had not received my e-mail. Nevertheless, a new post on Real Climate does state that “Had Dr. McCulloch been the first person to make Steig et al. aware of the error in the paper, or had he written directly to Nature at any time prior to the submission of the Corrigendum, it would have been appropriate to acknowledge him and the authors would have been happy to do so. ” The key addition here is “et al”, indicating that none of the 6 authors learned of the error from my post, and that therefore all were as ignorant of the discussion here as was Steig himself.

132 Comments

  1. Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 4:19 PM | Permalink

    The email address you used was supposed to work in Antarctica as indicated by the email response I received on his other email address. In other words I don’t believe his other email would have given an automated response as it was still working.

    I’ve left a follow up question on RC as to why your email wasn’t received.

  2. William S
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 4:21 PM | Permalink

    For what it is worth, I attempted the following comment to RealClimate and received the notice it was “awaiting moderation” about an hour ago:

    Bill says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    “14 August 2009 at 4:32 PM
    Regarding the McCulloch email to Dr. Steig, didn’t McCulloch copy all of the co-authors of the paper? Were they also out doing real science and with only limited email capability?”

    Surprise, surprise, it did not pass the moderation test.

    • Richard
      Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 5:53 AM | Permalink

      Re: William S (#2), I sent a similar one – it also has not passed “moderation”.

  3. Andrew
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 4:22 PM | Permalink

    Dr Steig sent us the below correspondence (which he cc’d to you) in which he outlined to us the sequence of events leading up to the submission of his corrigendum. In the light of this information, we see no need for further action on our part.

    Hu: Steig took credit for finding an error in the paper which I found first.

    NATURE: STEIG TOLD US HE DID NOT KNOW. WE BELIEVE HIM AND NOT YOU [HE IS OUR BUDDY AFTER ALL]. THIS IS SETTLED AND WE WILL NOT PUBLISH CONTRARY INFORMATION. WE ARE FRICKEN NATURE DON’T DARE QUESTION US.

    Me: Golly, they didn’t need to be so rude…

    I think that this kind of behavior is really against Nature’s rational self interest and frankly may well be what makes people stop taking them seriously. Which would be really bad if they were actually correct, and should give pause to proponents of the Dangerous AGW policies and hypotheses…

    • Antonio San
      Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 5:34 PM | Permalink

      Re: Andrew (#3), Hu, I am afraid you have been very naive in granting Dr. White a letter withdrawing your complaint: at least, White should have requested a proof that Steig or his co-authors or soem one wrote a time stamped document with the calculation priorto feb. 28, 2009. This is the least an associate editor could do. These people are ruthless.
      As for Steig :

      There can therefore be no claim on Dr. McCulloch’s part of any originality either for the idea of making such a correction, nor for the methods for doing so, all of which were discussed in our original paper.

      Of course eric, but no one argues otherwise except that the “originality” here was just that Hu did it on Feb. 28, 2009 while Steig and his co-authors did not as no proof has been offered except Steig’s word.

  4. Mark T
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 4:22 PM | Permalink

    I believe in their ignorance.

    Mark

    • kim
      Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 4:38 PM | Permalink

      Re: Mark T (#4),

      Mark, you can believe in their ignorance, and I’ll believe in their disingenuousness. Together, we have the bases covered.
      ===================================

      • Calvin Ball
        Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 4:59 PM | Permalink

        Re: kim (#5), let’s coin a word – ignorenuousness. It means nobody told me what I didn’t want to know. Or alternately, the dog ate the homework.

      • Mark T
        Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 5:09 PM | Permalink

        Re: kim (#5),

        Mark, you can believe in their ignorance, and I’ll believe in their disingenuousness.

        So much for subtlety and irony, eh? :)

        Mark

    • Andrew
      Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 8:00 PM | Permalink

      Re: Mark T (#4), That reminds me of a quote from John Christy’s High School Physics Teacher “We should begin all our scientific pronouncements by saying ‘At our present level of ignorance, we think we know…'”

      And no, I am way to young and far east to have been taking Christy’s same High School classes in California in the sixties or so (am I remembering right? Not sure.) But I happen to recall him saying it.

      And incidentally, you will note that Christy never tried to personally take credit for that-but remember the source for DECADES so as to always be able to properly cite him. Quite a difference.

      Re: Alan Wilkinson (#31), Well, I’ve tried to email academics before and I suspect they rarely check (indeed, I’m still waiting on a response from David Douglass) (although I did email Christy once and got a pretty rapid response! :) )

  5. henry
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 4:43 PM | Permalink

    Had Dr. McCulloch been the first person to make me aware of the error in our paper, or had he written directly to Nature at any time prior to the submission of our Corrigendum, it would have been appropriate to acknowledge him in the Corrigendum and we would have been happy to do so.

    And imagine the screams if indignation we would have heard if a letter to Nature was recieved before anyone at Steig et al had a chance to look at the problem.

    Brings up a question, though – exactly who WAS the first to find the problem? He didn’t even acknowledge THEIR effort in the Corrigendum.

    He’ll probably come back and say it was a team member. In that case, it would have discovered in the proofreading, or when the paper was submitted to Nature (and read by reviewers).

    Either way, shows poor work by Steig et al.

  6. anonymous
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 4:55 PM | Permalink

    This is just the “mystery man” story all over again, this time with one of the “et al” playing the part.
    Clearly, they all received the email, one of them informed Steig before Steig had independently read the Climate Audit article. Thus since Hu neither was the first to “inform” Steig, nor to contact Nature, he was through some bizarre protocol of Science, Climate Style, neither worthy of a credit for pointing it out nor even the basic courtesy of a response.

    It’s quite disgusting.

  7. Jim Norvell
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 4:55 PM | Permalink

    Irrespective of everything else, I found this statement in the 2nd paragraph to be telling: “Scientists document their procedures and findings in the peer-reviewed literature in such a way that they can be double-checked and challenged by others”.

    Is this not the problem you have had with the Global Warming community over the years. None are willing to divulge either their methods or their data?

  8. Geo
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 4:59 PM | Permalink

    “Once I recognized that we had neglected to make the correction properly”

    Okay. And what was the mechanism resulting in that recognition?

    Isn’t that the key point here?

  9. benpal
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 4:59 PM | Permalink

    Even if Dr. McCulloch wasn’t the first to notify of the error, he would have deserved at least a polite acknowledgement of his notification. When stubbornness gets in the way of civilized human relations …

  10. anonymous
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 5:00 PM | Permalink

    Btw, just as with the continual “hidden workings” of their science making it as hard as possible for people to actually check their work, we have the situation again where climate scientists dont just come out with the straight facts. Instead we get “oh he wasnt the first to inform me” with no detail of who was. Clearly there had been no earlier comment to Nature regarding that or Nature would have come out up front and said “we had already been alerted of this and told a correction would be available in five months”.

    Come on Steig et al… if it wasnt HMC just who alerted you to the error in your paper and when ?

  11. ClimateAudit
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 5:01 PM | Permalink

    Stieg’s letter to Nature stated:

    Any such email sent to me in February would have received notification that I was in the field in Antarctica until late March, and not receiving email. I was unaware of his post, and did not read it.

    As others have observed, his answerback to Jeff ID stated that he was receiving email, as long as it was text under 30K (as Hu’s was.) Steig has provided no contrary documentation.

    But Steig’s receipt or non-receipt is really moot. Daniel Schneider got the email; Comiso got the email; Shindell got the email; Rutherford got the email. Any one of them could have noted that Hu had raised the matter.

    In addition, Gavin Schmidt is another possibility. We have the contemporary example of Gavin, the International Man of Mystery, notifying British Antarctic Survey of a problem identified at CA without mentioning CA. The information so far does not preclude a similar sequence with Hu.

  12. benpal
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 5:02 PM | Permalink

    Steig wrote:

    Once I recognized that we had neglected to make the correction properly …

    When did he recognize this and why did he go over his paper again?

  13. MikeN
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 5:05 PM | Permalink

    If this had been a patent application, McCulloch would have been awarded the patent.
    Why does sending the letter to Nature first matter?
    I’m surprised the editors of Nature let it stand at that.
    An acknowledgement is in order, unless Steig can document a communication prior to McCulloch’s letter.

  14. Geo
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 5:12 PM | Permalink

    Well, let me state that a little more clearly. Isn’t that the key point here *and Steig utterly didn’t address it in his response*?

    Unless I’m misreading his response. He seems to be saying the text of his paper stated the need for correcting for auto-correlation (and he’s using that as a defense), but he later “recognized” (thru some undetailed mechanism) it had been done incorrectly and so was re-done.

    So isn’t the question, how did he come to that recognition? Was he re-reading his paper and had an “ah ha!” moment? Did he see it here? Or did someone else who reads here flag him as to the issue (and possibly didn’t even tell him where they got it from)?

    Or am I missing something? At face value he seems to be defending himself against a charge of robbery by providing an alibi for an unalleged arson without ever getting around to providing an alibi for the night of the alleged robbery.

  15. buppity
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 5:26 PM | Permalink

    You guys might be fairly handy with statistics and pointing out errors here and there, but that’s akin to getting a swelled head over the efforts of a tax accountant. It’s laughable that you place this kind of importance to climateaudit.

    Now if you actually did some work on modeling and actually did the physics of climate science, you might get some more attention from the scientists.

    Crying over perceived slights on something similar to spell-checking is kind of sad.

    • kuhnkat
      Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 6:05 PM | Permalink

      Re: buppity (#19),

      We believe in your ignorance also!!

    • romanm
      Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 6:24 PM | Permalink

      Re: buppity (#19),

      Crying over perceived slights on something similar to spell-checking is kind of sad.

      So you don’t think that demanding a minimal level of competence in the pursuit of climate science is important? Tell me, was the “correction” in the corrigendum done correctly … or could it still be wrong?

      Now if you actually did some work on modeling and actually did the physics of climate science, you might get some more attention from the scientists.

      When you think that the modelling done by the “real scientists” is at a level of reliability where we should commit ourselves to multi-trillion dollar changes in our economies based upon the results, by all means come back and we will pay attention to what your “insightful” observations.

    • Terry
      Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 7:39 PM | Permalink

      Re: buppity (#19),

      You guys might be fairly handy with statistics…
      Now if you actually did some work on modeling

      Do you realize how completely ridiculous that is? If not, you need more help than I can provide.

    • oakgeo
      Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 7:53 PM | Permalink

      Re: buppity (#19),

      Sheesh, buppity, climate modeling is all about statistics; the Steig et al paper was a statistical re-working of historical statistical data. That is the whole point of this blog.

    • Richard
      Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 5:58 AM | Permalink

      Re: buppity (#19), Plagarism in science is not to be taken lightly.

  16. leftymartin
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 5:33 PM | Permalink

    Sounds like “the dog ate his email”, and did likewise with his co-authors. The CRU gong show appears another instance of canine attack.

    Truly, climate science is going to the dogs.

  17. Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 5:34 PM | Permalink

    I left an email at RC questioning the email availability for Dr. Steig, to that end I asked two questions, one was apparently deleted.

    First this got through.

    Dr. Steig,

    This is the email I received as an automated response Feb 6 which seems to indicate email access. Was there some other reason Dr. McCulloch’s email didn’t get received?

    Hello,

    I am in Antarctica until the middle of March. I will have email access via satellite, but text only is permitted, and 30 kB maximum file size. Please do not write except for essential matters. The email address is posted on my website at the University of Washington.

    Best wishes,

    Eric Steig
    [Response: Exactly. That's the autoreply McCulloch would have received.--eric]

    So since that missed my point that Dr. McCulloch used the other email I asked this.

    Hu used the other email as specified to reach you in the Antarctic in this automated reply.

    I do believe you figured this out first BTW and see no reason not to believe you so please don’t take my question that way.

    This response seems to indicate that you would have received Hu’s message while in the Antarctic by using your other email.

    I am curious about when you figured it out, and why the other authors didn’t notify you about Hu’s email or simply reply to Hu’s email.

    It would have been a much better thing to do to simply say, we’re already aware of the issue you point out and intend to issue a correction. Hu is about as polite a guy as you can find anywhere and IMHO certainly wasn’t out to embarrass.

    The second one was clipped. I’m not sure if he took it wrong or if he realized the message got through and he just deleted it. I was just curious about the timing so that probably was the problem that caused the snip. You just can’t tell with these guys.

  18. Fred
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 6:40 PM | Permalink

    It is truly amazing how fine the Nature gang can split legalistic hairs.

    What is even more amazing is that these very, very finely split hairs are be being used as prime butt covering material by the climate warming gang.

    Very finely split hair to cover very large areas of butt.

    • Terry
      Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 7:28 PM | Permalink

      Re: Fred (#25),

      Agree, and I’m not holding my breath for this to be put thru moderation, but as it worked the last time (not that anyone from the team reads CA) I’m going to post here too, for good karma.

      Terry says:
      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      14 August 2009 at 8:17 PM
      From the post:

      In this case, McCulloch’s comment on the paper were perfectly valid, but he chose to avoid the context of normal scientific exchange — instead posting his comments on ClimateAudit.org — and then playing a game of ‘gotcha’ by claiming plagiarism when he wasn’t cited.

      Since Dr. Steig had already discovered the error – why would it matter where Dr. McColluch posted his findings, either in e-mail to all of the authors, or a blog?

      Lest there be any confusion about this, we note that, as discussed in the Corrigendum, the error has no impact on the main conclusions in the paper.

      Have you recalculated the plot of Figure 4? In your original calculations, about 86% of the land mass shows a significant trend consistent with your conclusion. After your correction, a bit less than 50% shows a trend. Isn’t that a bit more than “no impact” or am I missing something?

  19. Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 7:35 PM | Permalink

    I had a nice conversation by email with Dr. Steig where he convinced me that he had not received Hu’s email despite all the chances for it to arrive. The email was private so it’s up to him to discuss but it was convincing so I actually closed comments at the Air Vent thread. How weird is that.

    Only in blogland.

    • conard
      Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 9:13 PM | Permalink

      Re: Jeff Id (#27),

      I am not surprised at this result and glad that you reported it– perhaps CA readers will have the good fortune of Dr. McCulloch and Mr. McIntyre following suit.

      cw

    • Ron Cram
      Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 2:24 AM | Permalink

      Re: Jeff Id (#27),

      But did Steig say he had not heard anything from his co-authors? I still cannot buy his ignorance. I do not believe it is the kind of error one would catch after publication. Most people don’t go looking for errors in one of their papers after publication. They will review a paper if someone brings up an issue, but they do not go looking on their own. All the evidence points to Steig being notified about Hu’s find, even if we do not now know the path the information traveled.

  20. Antonio San
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 7:35 PM | Permalink

    Indeed White could have simply offered the date Steig sent the corrigendum and at least the date Steig advised Nature that they missed something. that would have been proof.
    Obviously Steig seems to have some charms that he only exercize in private emails… as the airvent stop ventilating.

  21. Antonio San
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 7:36 PM | Permalink

    How about the other co-authors? Or were they just figuration?

  22. Alan Wilkinson
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 7:48 PM | Permalink

    How credible is the claim that all of the “Steig et al” simply ignored Hu’s email rather than any of them replying politely “yes, thanks, we already discovered that mistake and are submitting a correction to Nature”.

    Or is that not normal courtesy in climate science?

    • Gerald Machnee
      Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 9:22 PM | Permalink

      Re: Alan Wilkinson (#31),

      How credible is the claim that all of the “Steig et al” simply ignored Hu’s email rather than any of them replying politely “yes, thanks, we already discovered that mistake and are submitting a correction to Nature”.

      If they would actually have known about it, they would have sent a note saying yes, thanks. But it is the same as the mystery man on Superbowl night. After Hu informed them they got busy trying to figure it out without thanking Hu. If they knew about it beforehand, they may have published to meet the deadline. But true to form, do not expect the TEAM to give credit to CA. Note that Steig said he did not want to hear from Steve shortly after the paper was out.
      Next time, pose a mystery question “I think you made an error, but I am not sure where”.

  23. Bob H
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 8:18 PM | Permalink

    As I see it, Dr. Stieg has a problem: Either he knew about the error before he published the paper and knew the errors consequences, but published it anyway to get the effect he wanted, or he didn’t know the error was there until Dr. McCulloch sent him his comments, which would mean he was guilty of at least not giving proper credit, or possibly plagiarism at the worst. Either way, it doesn’t come out good for Dr. Stieg.

    An old saying: When you’ve dug yourself into a hole, stop digging.

  24. buppity
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 8:18 PM | Permalink

    Modeling as in deriving the greenhouse effect and comparisons of the data collected against what the models say. Does anybody do that kind of stuff on climateAudit?

    I have been reading CA off and on for awhile and only see analysis of the statistics. Pardon my ignorance if somebody can come up with an example of a competing model that provides some insight into climate changes.

    And I say that with due respect to your statistical analysis skills. If isolating statistical mistakes/anomalies is the narrow viewpoint of this blog, I will go elsewhere for the insight I would like to see.

    • James Lane
      Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 8:37 PM | Permalink

      Re: buppity (#35),

      Buppity, statistical analysis is, and has always been, what this blog is all about. So you will have to go elsewhere, and I mean that in a nice way.

    • David Jay
      Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 8:43 PM | Permalink

      Re: buppity (#35),

      Buppity:

      There is no need for an alternate model if you can’t rigorously reject the null hypothesis.

    • Pat Frank
      Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 8:59 PM | Permalink

      Re: buppity (#35), Didn’t you notice the name of the blog when you typed it, buppity? It’s ClimateAudit. So, suppose you stop the snobbish posturing. It looks hypocritical.

      If you want to see how, “Modeling [derives] the greenhouse effect and [compares with] the data collected against what the models say,” I recommend visiting Demetris Koutsoyiannis’ web site, here. Read the articles you find there. And do have a wonderful time.
      .

      Or you can read Matthew Collins’ lovely study of the HadCM3 and its inability to reproduce the artificial climate it had itself produced. Here‘s the abstract page. You’ll notice that despite putting the best face on “potential predictability,” the state-of-the-art climate model can’t predict a thing. And that’s given a climate for which the HadCM3 was the perfect model.
      .

      This is the message of DK’s test of GCM predictions against observation as well.
      .
      So, get off the high horse and get with the science, buppity. It doesn’t take a whole lot of study to discover that there is no complete and falsifiable physical theory of climate, and that the models in current view are predictively useless.
      .
      They make pretty graphics, though, don’t they.
      .
      Very convincing to the unlettered, those.

    • Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 10:00 PM | Permalink

      Re: buppity (#35),

      We’ve also asked climate scientists for the last couple of years to provide a reference to an engineering quality derivation of how doubled CO2 leads to say 3 deg C. I, for one, do not presume that this is an unreasonable result. But I would like to see a reference where the applicable calculations are laid out in a verifiable way. Thus far, we;ve been unsuccessful in getting any references that meet this simple criterion. If anyone ever provides us with such a reference, I’ve undertaken to analyse it. But so far the requests have not succeeded in getting such a reference.

  25. James Lane
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 8:30 PM | Permalink

    The problem is that Hu copied the email to all the co-authors. The “antarctic ate my homework” defence doesn’t really hold up.

  26. buppity
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 8:37 PM | Permalink

    At work, I wish I could design a hardware system using plain old statistics. Ultimately, however I find I have to do some analysis with support of some modeling and simulation. Statistics doesn’t do any good unless you know what you are trying to build.

    But then again it is nice to have all these interns and low-level “-ility” engineers running around checking the numbers. I think Steig is indirectly referring to you as “useful idiots”, someone who provides a support function but clearly has not provided the insight that the authors have spent most of their time developing.

  27. buppity
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 8:40 PM | Permalink

    Thank You James Lane, I will go away now.

  28. Gerald Browning
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 8:50 PM | Permalink

    buppity (#35),

    You seemed to have missed all the discussions of the serious mathematical problems related to forecast and climate models on CA. Why don’t you start with Sylvie Gravel’s manuscript (available on this site)
    and then look at the thread called “Exponential Growth in Physical Systems”. In particular see the discussions of the impact of inappropriately large (and unphysical) dissipation on the cascade of enstrophy and the resultant necessarily inaccurate parameterizations. And please explain the lack of mathematical justification for convective adjustment and its impact on the spectrum. After that we can discuss the impact of the unphysical error growth due to the sponge layer near the top of the model atmosphere.

    I reemphasize that there is no mathematical or numerical theory for extending model runs beyond a few days (other than wishful thinking).

    Jerry

  29. David85
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 8:50 PM | Permalink

    buppity,

    I’m still new here, but this blog seems to be more geared toward picking apart the individual scientific papers to see if all the numbers really add up (climate models or not). It seems that a standard “peer review” process isn’t always effective.

    Personally, I’ve lost patience with climate models because of how easy it is to make them produce any desired result without having even the slightest fidelity to the real world.

  30. rephelan
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 9:03 PM | Permalink

    I’m sorry, but I do not Dr. Steig’s explanation complete or convincing and neither should have Nature. The RC post and Dr. Steig’s letter to Nature are both full of suggestions but there is no hard assertion of any kind: nothing to indicate when Dr. Steig noticed his problem, who actually noticed the problem first, etc. Forthrightness would certainly set this matter to rest and Dr. Steig has not been forthright. His response is evasive. Dr. McCulloch has been gracious and I commend him for it. Personally, I would follow through with the suggestion by the editor at Nature to take it up with Dr. Steig’s institution.

  31. Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 9:12 PM | Permalink

    Steig Professes Ignorance

    Is that “ignorance” in the literal sense; or in the colloquial sense?

    • Mark T
      Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 11:45 AM | Permalink

      Re: Paul (#45),

      Is that “ignorance” in the literal sense; or in the colloquial sense?

      Hehe, you must be from Missouri. Nobody outside of MO seems to understand the colloquial usage. My wife is still convinced I’m insulting her intelligence every time I call her actions ignorant, even after I’ve explained my meaning repeatedly.
      .
      I can’t help but remember watching old reels of the 1954 Cotton Bowl game in which Alabama’s Tommy Lewis tackled Rice’s Dickey Moegle on a run from the 5-yard line and the announcer (with a heavy southern accent) said “Now that’s a ignorant play!” :)
      .
      Mark

  32. Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 9:18 PM | Permalink

    Just for the record, here is my reply to Michael White:

    Date: Fri, 14 Aug 2009 14:22:08 -0400
    To: “White, Michael”
    From: Hu McCulloch
    Subject: Re: Nature corrigendum
    Cc: steig@ess.washington.edu

    Dear Dr. White,
    Thank you for your prompt reply to my letter of August 7.

    If, as Dr. Steig maintains, he was unaware of my Feb. 26 Climate Audit article when he submitted his Corrigendum, and independently discovered or was notified of the serial correlation problem, then there was no plagiarism per se of my finding.

    I therefore withdraw my complaint.

    Thank you again for your careful consideration.

    Sincerely yours,

    J. Huston McCulloch

    • Antonio San
      Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 9:22 PM | Permalink

      Re: Hu McCulloch (#48), looks like Team co-authors do not exchange much these days…

  33. buppity
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 9:35 PM | Permalink

    pf, Thanks for the link to the Demetris Koutsoyiannis paper.
    Briefly scanning it, the math he describes on stochastic processes is my specialty. This should keep me occupied for a while. It will hopefully sate my curiosity.

  34. Anthony Watts
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 9:37 PM | Permalink

    The lesson here:

    Email is not to be relied upon. In communication issues of importance, the value of a physical delivery receipt trumps electronic communications every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 9:56 PM | Permalink

      Re: Anthony Watts (#52),

      Anthony, personally I much prefer delivery by email and do not like physical delivery.

      There’s no evidence that Hu’s emails were not received by the various Steig authors.

      We haven’t heard from D Schneider, Rutherford, Comiso, Mann or Shindell, saying that they didnt get the email.

      Let’s take Steig at face value and stipulate that, for some reason, he didn’t receive the email. The others did.

      Maybe the others totally ignored Hu’s email and some months later Steig had an epiphany that he had goofed. Presumably he sent the Corrigendum around to the various coauthors and, in all likelihood, Gavin Schmidt. Any of them could have observed – hey, Hu McCulloch mentioned this to us 4 months ago. WE need to mention this in the Corrigendum. While Steig may be the lead author, he is not the only author.

      • Anthony Watts
        Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 11:30 PM | Permalink

        Re: Steve McIntyre (#53),

        Hi Steve,

        I used to value email more than other methods, but now with so many online traps that exist, it is very easy to exclude an email reception on the basis of several possibilities:

        Spam filter ate it
        Anti-virus program prevented reception
        one of many Real Time Blacklists prevented SMTP authentication
        Network transmission failure
        Email server failure
        Email client failure
        accidental deletion
        etc….

        For issue of importance, email reception can easily be dismissed with the proverbial wave of the hand and is generally not disputable.

    • theduke
      Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 10:23 AM | Permalink

      Re: Anthony Watts (#51),

      Anthony: another lesson might be this: when you discover a major error in a paper published in an influential scientific journal, first inform the authors and the journal of your findings, and then publish them on CA and WUWT.

      • theduke
        Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 10:35 AM | Permalink

        Re: theduke (#93),

        I see that Nut makes the same suggestion in comment #59.

        Re: Steve McIntyre (#77),

        Given all this, I think it’s safe to say they – snip

    • Dave Andrews
      Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 12:38 PM | Permalink

      Re: Anthony Watts (#51),

      Anthony,

      You’re obviously correct. The email address HM used obviously only reaches the northern most tip of the Antarctic Peninsula and some poor postie has been chasing all over the continent ever since trying to deliver the physical version!

  35. cargocult
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 10:34 PM | Permalink

    Yeah… the planet is warming, the Arctic amplification is exceeding climate projections by a little, the tropical troposphere is warming as predicted, and the Antarctic ice shelves are breaking off and the Greenland ice rivers accelerating towards the coasts – and did you notice the increase in global drought?

    Instead of talking about science, let’s write smear letters quibbling about statistical methods and proper attribution of detection of minor errors…even if those are pretty minor errors that don’t change the general conclusion of incipient Antarctic warming:

    ScienceDaily (Aug. 15, 2009) — The thinning of a gigantic glacier in Antarctica is accelerating, scientists report. The Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica, which is around twice the size of Scotland, is losing ice four times as fast as it was a decade years ago.

    ScienceDaily (July 27, 2009) — The world’s ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record for June, breaking the previous high mark set in 2005, according to a preliminary analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center…

    ScienceDaily (June 22, 2009) — Modern glaciers, such as those making up the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, are capable of undergoing periods of rapid shrinkage or retreat…

    ScienceDaily (Apr. 4, 2009) — The Wilkins Ice Shelf is at risk of partly breaking away from the Antarctic Peninsula as the ice bridge that connects it to Charcot and Latady Islands looks set to collapse.

  36. henry
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 10:34 PM | Permalink

    buppity mentions:

    …Modeling as in deriving the greenhouse effect and comparisons of the data collected against what the models say

    Sounds to me that’s EXACTLY what ClimateAudit does – that is, whenever we can get the climate “scientists” to release the collected data…

  37. Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 10:37 PM | Permalink

    In any case, if Steig wishes to claim that he didn’t read Hu’s email, then the least he could do is to acknowledge that Hu was the first person to publicly state that the error bounds were incorrectly calculated. That, at least, would have been the honorable thing to do.

  38. JS
    Posted Aug 14, 2009 at 11:38 PM | Permalink

    An autoresponder indicates that the email was definitively received. What happens next is up to human behaviour.

  39. nut
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 12:27 AM | Permalink

    You are doing yourselves – and generally the wider community – a disservice by not notifying the institutions associated (either for the publication or responsible management) with the errors or omissions.

  40. Phillip Bratby
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 12:55 AM | Permalink

    Notwithstanding the Team’s inability to ever acknowledge that somebody else spotted their errors, isn’t the situation now as follows:

    Steig et al originally reported an Antarctic temperature change of 0.12 +/- 0.07C/decade which has become 0.12 +/- 0.10C/decade when correcting for autocorrelation and which, with an additional expansion for unresolved variance, becomes 0.12 +/- 0.12C/decade. Is it not the case that the result is so meaningless that the paper as it now stands would (or should) never have been accepted for publication in the first place. The paper should therefore be withdrawn, with a big press release saying the previous red Antarctic map on the cover of nature was in error and should be white, since there is no meaningful evidence of a warming trend.

  41. Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 1:57 AM | Permalink

    Team Guy: Yo, Steig…auto-correlation. Bit of a problem.

    Steig: I was busy. Stats are for wussies. We’re dying here.

    Team Guy: Yup, with you there; but, Steig, truth is that you got the numbers wrong.

    Steig: It’s not about the numbers….It’s about Truth. I got the Truth right.

    Team Guy: But there is this guy, Hu somebody, finance prof, he just shreds your numbers.

    Steig: Ignorant bastard. He thinks he can destroy Truth. I shall ignore him and use his numbers in my very modest Corrigendum.

    Team Guy:
    Thank you Steig…now, about those splices….

  42. Ron Cram
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 2:31 AM | Permalink

    Hu, I’m amazed Dr. White did not even mention the emails you sent to all of the co-authors. If I were in his shoes, I would wonder about correspondence between co-authors. Dr. White must not have a very inquisitive mind. If I were you, I would raise the issue with Dr. White.

  43. Mac
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 2:43 AM | Permalink

    Organisations employ email delivery systems that allow users to set up individual controls. The ICT people have dated backups, archives, that allow users to retrieve email correspondence in event of a catastrophic loss. It is possible to re-create an email audit trail from archived data that can determine the controls that users had in place.

  44. Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 2:49 AM | Permalink

    If you read the email, it is consistent with someone telling Steig about content of the post, sometime between the 26th when it was posted and the 28th when he and his coauthors got the email. Moreover, he is unrepentant, and doesn’t believe in acknowledging someone who points out an error under any circumstances i.e. “To suggest that correcting an error in my own work, using standard methods, constitutes plagiarism is specious.”

  45. Hoi Polloi
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 5:46 AM | Permalink

    I did receive an automatic reply from Michael Mann on Feb. 28, indicating that he was out of town and that important e-mails should be resent after his return, or he was not likely to read them.

    Say WHAT??? He calls himself a professional?

  46. Jonathan Baxter
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 5:47 AM | Permalink

    Steig should have acknowledged Hu, and he could have been more gracious about it when it was pointed out to him. However, plagiarism is about the worst crime you can accuse an academic of committing, and I agree with Steig that correcting an error using standard techniques does not really constitute plagiarism, even if he was indirectly aware of the discussion here.

  47. dearieme
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 6:10 AM | Permalink

    By the by, congratulations on the headline “Steig Professes Ignorance”. Though my favourite remains “Eighth Army Push Bottles Up Germans”.

  48. Rich
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 6:11 AM | Permalink

    For some reason this all reminds me of “Valdez is Coming” with Burt Lancaster. Takes all sorts I suppose.

  49. Craigo
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 6:36 AM | Permalink

    Accordingly, I wrote White today thanking him for his prompt attention to the matter and withdrawing my complaint.

    Congratulations for a very good attitude. You gotta know that they know that you know wherein lies the truth and I think that “The Team” will all be feeling a little peeved about all this. Perhaps all blushing or fuming a subtle shade of stiegian red?

    You really didn’t expect any other response from people who live in constant fear of being probed by the tireless warriors that contribute to this and other sites did you? That team CA et al can take apart a “peerreviewedpublishedpaper” in just a matter of days with real co-operative effort and highlight sloppy work and basic errors continues to fascinate me but reflects very poorly on the selfsame authors and their reviewers.

  50. Jacob
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 7:09 AM | Permalink

    Re: #60 Philip:
    The question of courtesy and Hu’s mention is of secondary importance. What is of primary importance is if Steig’s own corrigendum and the new error margins do indeed render the whole paper meaningless.

  51. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 7:34 AM | Permalink

    Steig has added the following comments at RC:

    [Response: I was unaware of McCullough's post until after he wrote to Nature and put up accusations of plagiarism all over the blogosphere. Writing in a fringe web site (and yes, it is a fringe web site) -- and, what's more, one that I have publicly stated I will not read (something which McCullough cannot possibly have been unaware of, unless he is willing to concede that even he doesn't read ClimateAudit) -- and then expecting to get 'noticed' is the height of self-aggrandizing arrogance. Grow up.--eric] Aug 14 8 pm

    Folks: Having been appraised of the facts of the matter, McCulloch has withdrawn his claim, which was very professional of him. I’m off on vacation, but will leave comments open for those who want to discuss general issues. Since the specific question of unsubstantiated accusations of plagiarism has been resolved, further comments insinuating of the he said/she said variety will be deleted. –eric]

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 7:55 AM | Permalink

      Re: Steve McIntyre (#75),

      In Steig’s shoes, I think that he should have left well enough alone. Hu’s complaint was not “unsubstantiated” – he had sent emails to all six authors notifying them of the very problem that was addressed in the Corrigendum. Steig’s excuse was that he personally did not receive the email because he was in Antarctica. Even though his answerback said that he was receiving short emails, one can envisage circumstances in which he did not receive the email.

      However, the other 5 coauthors did receive the email and no explanation of their behavior was provided. Nor do we know who, if anyone, notified Steig of the problem and whether their knowledge of the problem was “independent”. Hu’s decision not to pursue the matter was, under the circumstances, rather generous.

      Instead of leaving well enough alone, Steig has made new taunts against Hu, blaming him for not heeding a caveat in his answerback while he was away:

      McCulloch’s email, which provided no details but pointed me to his post, was sent while I was in the field in Antarctica, and would have received notification that I was in gone, and not receiving email for the next month.

      In fact, as Jeff Id observed, Steig’s answerback said that he had limited email access and was receiving short emails under 30K.

      Steig said that Hu’s email “provided no details”. Again this is untrue. Hu’s email provided relevant information as follows:

      FYI, I have recently posted a comment on your 2009 paper in Nature on Climate Audit, at http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=5341 . While I was able to replicate or virtually replicate the 1957-2006 trends you report on p 460 for the three regions and the continent as a whole, the 95% Confidence Intervals you report appear to have taken no account of serial correlation in the regression errors. When this is done, the CI’s are substantially wider than you report.

      Hu did not assume that Steig would notice the CA post and Steig’s accusations of “self-aggrandizing arrogance” are uncalled for. Hu sent an email to all six Steig coauthors precisely because he did not ssume that they would notice the CA post and wished to draw it to their attention. If there is any “self-aggrandizing arrogance” in this episode, it is the fact that the other five coauthors ignored this email from a highly qualified professor at Ohio State University (assuming that the dog ate Steig’s email.)

    • Mihcael Jankowski
      Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 8:26 AM | Permalink

      Re: Steve McIntyre (#75), I don’t know why Hu withdrew so readily considering the issue with the other co-authors having been notified. And considering Steig’s attitude since then, I think it would be appropriate for Hu to say, “Oh, it’s back on,” and remind Nature that the other 5 co-authors don’t have an alibi/excuse.

      How does this comment from Steig make any sense? “Writing in a fringe web site (and yes, it is a fringe web site) — and, what’s more, one that I have publicly stated I will not read (something which McCullough cannot possibly have been unaware of, unless he is willing to concede that even he doesn’t read ClimateAudit)”

      So because Hu reads CA, he therefore must be aware that Steig doesn’t read CA? What is the logic in that?

      Of course, it is all moot in the end. Hu isn’t a climate scientist, and therefore there is no way he could’ve found an error in a climate science publication.

    • TAG
      Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 6:54 PM | Permalink

      Re: Steve McIntyre (#75),

      With regard to the comment about “fringe website”

      The noted scientist J.B.S. Haldane made the followinbg famous aphorism:

      Four stages of acceptance:

      i) this is worthless nonsense;
      ii) this is an interesting, but perverse, point of view;
      iii) this is true, but quite unimportant;
      iv) I always said so.

      [John Haldane, Journal of Genetics, vol. 58 (1963)

      It seems that Steig’s criticism is following a well understood path.

  52. buppity
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 7:44 AM | Permalink

    Re: Steve McIntyre #53 — “We’ve also asked climate scientists for the last couple of years to provide a reference to an engineering quality derivation of how doubled CO2 leads to say 3 deg C. I, for one, do not presume that this is an unreasonable result.”

    That is a very good question. Some elementary thermo could conceivably show this to first-order. If this derivation was actually out there, I would think it would get plenty of attention.

    Steve: No, it can’t, because it requires water vapor and cloud feedbacks, which are parameterized in climate models. The first-order calculation gets to 0.8 deg C or so, which people might well decide to live with. The higher scenarios which are the ones that policy makers are worried about depend on water cycle feedbacks, which cannot be reduced to simple thermo. In the sort of exposition that I believe to be required, these major feedback loops would be described in careful detail together with the bases for the parameterizations. It’s not a small job. I believe that the focus of the discipline on little articles on Nature and Science is a major contributor to the present situation. In a science, the “science is settled”, but the engineering isn’t. How reliable are the parameterizations, what are the key issues in estimating sensitivity?

    • Dave Dardinger
      Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 8:10 AM | Permalink

      Re: buppity (#76),

      Some elementary thermo could conceivably show this to first-order.

      The thermo shows that the direct warming is about 1 deg C. Essentially everyone agrees on that. The question is what the feedback from water vapor is. And that requires allowing for clouds and precipitation.
      ..
      5. All these issues have been debated here and a little searching and/or asking will give you entry to the requisite threads.

      Steve- I;ve snipped this. As an editorial policy, I don’t allow one-paragraph discussions of “big picture” theory as otherwise they take over every thread; they seldom provide anything other than an exchange of opinion. And I prefer to use mainstream literature as a text and starting point, rather than debate people’s personal opinions.

      • Dave Dardinger
        Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 8:32 AM | Permalink

        Re: Dave Dardinger (#78),

        Re Steve’s snipping.
        Ok, I was going to complain, but I see that you essentially agreed with my point about what’s needed for an engineering assessment in your response to Buppity.

    • Scott Brim
      Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 1:19 PM | Permalink

      Re: buppity (#76)

      Steve McIntyre: “In a science, the “science is settled”, but the engineering isn’t. How reliable are the parameterizations, what are the key issues in estimating sensitivity?”

      Can an engineering quality study be accomplished without first enumerating the major deficiencies of the existing theoretical explanations, and then fleshing out a list of related subtopics and questions which need to be addressed before any firm conclusions can be reached? If some (or all) of these questions and issues currently don’t have reliable answers, or cannot be otherwise resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, then what kinds of further investigation and further analysis are required before any firm conclusions can be reached?
      .
      Just how does one go about producing an engineering-quality study which reliably demonstrates that 2xCO2 Yields 3C Warming?
      .
      If one approaches this effort using a disciplined project management philosophy, one soon realizes that the formal engineering study must be preceded by an engineering feasibility analysis which identifies the specific goals of the study; which identifies the major scientific topics to be examined and resolved; which lays the project groundwork for producing the study (funding sources, staff assignments, work breakdown structure, project schedule, etc.); and which sets out the procedural rules, the foundational assumptions, and the operational guidelines under which the study is to proceed.

  53. Steve Reynolds
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 8:15 AM | Permalink

    [...Writing in a fringe web site ... that I have publicly stated I will not read... -- and then expecting to get 'noticed' is the height of self-aggrandizing arrogance. Grow up.--eric]

    That statement brings to mind an image of my 4 year old grandson with his fingers in his ears saying he can’t hear me.

    • Terry
      Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 8:25 AM | Permalink

      Re: Steve Reynolds (#79),

      Traffic Rankings, from Alexa (google.com is #1):

      climateaudit.org: 76,885

      realclimate.org: 104,336

      Fringe web site, indeed ;)

      • Steve McIntyre
        Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 9:11 AM | Permalink

        Re: Terry (#84),

        For some inexplicable reason, CA isn’t currently listed at
        http://www.wikio.com/blogs/top/sciences ; it used to be (and ranked ahead of realclimate).

        • Terry
          Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 9:20 AM | Permalink

          Re: Steve McIntyre (#87),

          Weird… I submitted the site and got the following error:
          Submission cannot be treated because this feed appears to be already present in Wikio. If you think however that your site has not been indexed, contact us: info at wikio.com

  54. stan
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 8:17 AM | Permalink

    McCulloch has demonstrated that he is a gentleman and a scholar. The contrast offered by Steig and his fellow authors is illuminating.

    Steig’s “explanation” utterly fails to resolve the obvious problem of notice to his fellow authors. And regardless of whether or not he reads CA, we know that people closely associated with him do. One would have to be gullible enough to believe in the tooth fairy to believe that McCulloch’s post on CA was not known to at least one of Steig’s co-authors or associates within 24 hours of being posted.

    In my opinion, Steig’s professional reputation was not enhanced by the release of the original study — more than anything because it is ridiculous to make such broad sweeping conclusions on the basis of such spotty data. Because his response to Hu McCulloch is woefully incomplete, petty, and contains assertions which defy belief, in my opinion, he has now besmirched his own credibility. Of course, those are my own personal opinions. Your mileage may vary.

    In short, I don’t find his explanation believable. He may consider CA to be a fringe site. I consider his credibility to be beyond the fringe.

  55. Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 8:18 AM | Permalink

    If Steig doesn’t follow CA, he must be the only person in all of climate science. It is well known that within 24 hours of when Steve McIntyre hinted on CA that there was a problem with the Harry AWS data used by Steig et al, Gavin Schmidt of NASA and RealClimate had reported the problem to the British Antarctic Survey, who manages the data.

    Yep, clearly some agent reads these writings in a fringe web site,

    http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=3504

    Less than one day, and the bug I reported was corrected. I wouldn’t say that the code is more useful now, though ;)

  56. Steve Geiger
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 8:21 AM | Permalink

    beating a dead horse at this point, but did Steig et al. ever make an explicit statement as to how the ‘error’ came back to their attention? At least something to just put on the record as their ‘official stance’ on the issue (?). Unless I’ve missed something, it still seems highly likely that Hu’s “idea” was somehow conveyed to Steig (or et al.) one way or another…it would just be nice to nail down how Steig claims the error came to his attention. IMO, the allegation of plagiarism seems too harsh…but also clear is the pettiness of the Steig et al. group to not at least acknowledge Hu’s finding.

  57. Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 8:22 AM | Permalink

    “Fringe website”

    Nobody can escape the spanish inquisition

  58. Jacob
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 9:35 AM | Permalink

    I’m a great fan of this site, which I read daily (I’m on your side). I thing Steig is extremely rude and disingenuous. Still, the accusation of “plagiarism” was exaggerated. Leave petty personal disputes and name calling aside, and keep doing that which makes this site important: audit of scientific papers.

  59. Jacob
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 9:37 AM | Permalink

    … I think….

  60. Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 9:53 AM | Permalink

    Wikio: How are these rankings compiled?

    The position of a blog in the Wikio ranking depends on the number and weight of the incoming links from other blogs. These links are dynamic, which means that they are backlinks or links found within articles.

    Only links found in the RSS feed are included… Moreover, the weight of a link depends on the linking blog’s position in the Wikio ranking.

    So why doesn’t CA show at all?

    • John Baltutis
      Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 12:31 PM | Permalink

      Re: Lucy Skywalker (#92),

      From <b.Wikio when searching Blogs for http://www.climateaudit.org/

      Sorry, but we were unable to find a blog that matches your search.

      It seems “http://www.climateaudit.org/” has not yet been submitted to Wikio. If you would like to suggest this site to our editorial team, click here

      • Posted Aug 16, 2009 at 6:21 AM | Permalink

        Re: John Baltutis (#106), Rather than pester Steve in Erice, I tried to resubmit CA to Wikio, but with no success. The submission return claimed that the RSS feed was already logged. So I’ve emailed their enquiry line info@wikio.
        .
        Incidentally, in doing this, I could find no simple mission statement for this website, so I wrote the following, which also quotes a line from the Roadmap:

        Climate Audit carries out independent examination of material from Climate Science and represents an ongoing campaign to improve standards of data archiving, disclosure and due diligence in matters, particularly statistical matters, concerning the IPCC science conclusions on which global climate change policy is based.
        .
        Now I hope when Steve returns he might think about writing a page about this website’s history and purpose. I think such an exercise might help clarify that purpose and even get the website better acknowledged.

  61. Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 10:24 AM | Permalink

    Remember the old saying: “Don’t wrestle with a pig; you always get dirty.”

  62. MikeN
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 10:28 AM | Permalink

    Why is there a difference between Hu’s number and Steig’s?

  63. Barry
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 11:02 AM | Permalink

    Maybe the reason Steig is so belligerent is that he knows if an undergraduate had attempted such a … [snip

  64. Mark T
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 11:56 AM | Permalink

    Uh, since this is a thread on credit where credit is due, I got the specific names, date, and play details in my above post from Wikipedia. I did, however, watch the replay of this amazing play during the Missouri visit to the Cotton Bowl in which Tony Temple broke Dicke Moegle’s rushing record of 265 yards with 281 yards of his own. It was a grand day for Tiger fans. :)
    .
    Mark

  65. Mark T
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 11:57 AM | Permalink

    Uh, Lewis came off the bench to tackle Moegle, which is what made it ignorant.
    .
    Mark

  66. Stevo
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 12:07 PM | Permalink

    I assume the reason Hu withdrew the complaint is that he is aware that he does not have any proof that the emails were received and read prior to the submission of the corrigendum. As people are considered innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt, no further progress could be made without the cooperation of the other authors or their universities. (Which is unlikely to be forthcoming.) There is unlikely to be any advantage to be gained by trying.

    From the point of view of academic politics, I think this is tactically wise. People can recognise stonewalling when they see it. Everybody knows enough to have formed an opinion, even without absolute proof, and leaving the matter unresolved will now only lead people to imagine the worst. Napoleon said ‘Never interrupt your opponent when he is making a mistake’. Hu may well not want to consider them opponents, but even so, the logic of the situation is that there is no profit to him in expending any further effort chasing it yet.

    • Mark T
      Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 12:18 PM | Permalink

      Re: Stevo (#102), Very true, and now that the whole story is out, reasonable people can already be expected to draw reasonable conclusions regarding this situation. Hu need not do anything further. They have been outed, and no amount of damage control will change that except with the faithful, and even an admission of guilt would not have swayed their opinions anyway.
      .
      Mark

  67. Jason
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 12:08 PM | Permalink

    I posted the following comment on real climate. The parts which were removed by Steig are in bold. It is kind of funny how, even within the space of a single comment, the authors of real climate seem comfortable removing anything that disagrees with their views while preserving the parts they agree with.

    I think that, absent any surrounding context, when a scientist insists that they have done something independently, they should be believed.

    Sending Professor McCulloch a note saying: “Thank you for pointing this out. Serveral others have observed the same, and we intend to publish a Corrigendum in Nature to remedy this”, would clearly have been a good idea, especially in hindsight.

    The error in Steig is sufficiently obvious (having been observed in several other papers over a relatively short preceding period) that it requires no leap of the imagination to believe that numerous individuals noticed its presence in an article that received so much attention.

    But while I believe Steig on this issue, I also understand why reasonable people would not take his statements at face value.

    Just a few months ago, Gavin claimed that issues with the data used in Steig et al were discovered (by an unnamed person) independently of efforts at a certain unnamed website.

    Gavin subsequently admitted that HE was the unnamed person, and that his “discovery” came after he read about the potential issue on the unnamed website.

    When Dr. Steig now says (I think quite honestly) that he already knew about the issue, it is interpreted by many in the CONTEXT of Gavin’s interesting parsing of the word “Independently”. So while I disagree with those who immediately point a finger at the authors of the corrigendum, I don’t think they are being manifestly unreasonable given the surrounding context.

    I also don’t think it is unreasonable to ask the following: Are there any other corrigenda to Steig et al (concerning other issues that have been noticed including the curious autocorrelation calculation in the corrigenda itself) in the pipeline?

    After editing my comment, Eric wrote that he stands completely behind the paper as modified by the corrigendum.

    Did anybody ever come up with a reason why the median calculation of autocorrelation used in the corrigendum should be preferred to a more standard approach?

    • RomanM
      Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 1:24 PM | Permalink

      Re: Jason (#103),

      Did anybody ever come up with a reason why the median calculation of autocorrelation used in the corrigendum should be preferred to a more standard approach?

      I have posted a comment at RC twenty minutes ago pursuing that very question. It was in moderation the last time I checked.

  68. henry
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 12:09 PM | Permalink

    From Steig’s comments:

    Writing in a fringe web site (and yes, it is a fringe web site) — and, what’s more, one that I have publicly stated I will not read.

    Wasn’t there an exchange of comments when Steig accused someone at CA that his name was being mispelled?

    He HAS read this site, and people on the Team DO read this site – how else will they know when there are errors in their multi-authored, peer-reviewed papers?

  69. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 12:59 PM | Permalink

    I googled “steig autocorrelation”. The top entry was the “fringe” blog, Climate Audit. Indeed, it linked to Hu’s original post. I realize that Google is still a pretty exotic technology for the Team.

    Other “fringe” blogs on the first page were Jeff Id, Lucia, WUWT and Pielke Jr. , then the original Nature reference.

    Realclimate was on the second page, Beyond the Fringe, so to speak. .

    Beyond the Fringe was the title of a British comedy that slightly preceded Monty Python. For example, the following skit is carried out by contemporary realclimatescientists. The skit has aged quite well.

  70. Bruce Stewart
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 1:22 PM | Permalink

    Major props to Hu McCulloch for being much more gracious than was required. Only one thing matters, and that is the best possible science. In 50 years, when nature has had her say, little will be remembered but this: whether today’s science was close to correct, and if not, how the scientists behaved. You may be remembered as one who acted in the interest of the best possible science. Others perhaps not so much.

  71. Mihcael Jankowski
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 1:27 PM | Permalink

    I am still confused by Steig’s response to Nature.

    “…Once I recognized that we had neglected to make the correction properly…” suggests Steig himself discovered the problem.

    “…Had Dr. McCulloch been the first person to make me aware of the error in our paper…” suggests someone informed Steig of the problem.

    If the latter is the case, then since no acknowledgement to anyone was granted, it would have to be assumed the person who made Steig aware of the problem was a co-author. And, of course, all of the co-authors also had received Hu’s email.

    It all still smells rotten, and Steig isn’t helping himself with his attitude and secrecy.

  72. Mihcael Jankowski
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 1:31 PM | Permalink

    …and, of course, he only states there that he won’t RESPOND to Steve on this blog. He didn’t say he’d never read it again.

  73. Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 1:38 PM | Permalink

    Here is a comment I left on RC. Doesn’t seem to have made it through:

    “There is however a different way of criticizing scientific papers that is prevalent in blogs like ClimateAudit. This involves challenging, ‘by all means necessary’, any paper whose conclusions are not liked. ”

    Would you mind linking to the post in which ClimateAudit (or similar blog) used the phrase “by all means necessary”?

    Thanks in advance!

  74. Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 1:51 PM | Permalink

    And by the way, it seems to me that when Steig realized there was a problem with his paper, he should have immediately contacted the Journal to inform them of the problem and that a correction would be forthcoming. This is fair to the journal and would have protected him from any charge of plagiarism.

    Moreover, I can’t think of any good reason NOT to do it.

    • Minnesota Fats
      Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 2:39 PM | Permalink

      Re: brazil84 (#116),

      What if Steig had, with horror, realized that there was an error a week or two before publication, but didn’t say anything hoping no one would notice. He could then truthfully say that he discovered the error independently.

  75. theduke
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 2:10 PM | Permalink

    I submitted the following comment at RC at 12:09:

    There is an elephant in the room that no one here is discussing. Did Dr. Steig’s co-authors receive Dr. McCulloch’s email and if they did, did they impart knowledge of it to Dr. Steig?

    Spiked. No surprise there.

  76. Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 2:56 PM | Permalink

    “What if Steig had, with horror, realized that there was an error a week or two before publication, but didn’t say anything hoping no one would notice”

    I’m not an expert on scientific ethics, but it seems to me it would be unethical to act in that way.

    “He could then truthfully say that he discovered the error independently.”

    Agreed, but people would be reasonably skeptical of his claim.

  77. PaddikJ
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 3:37 PM | Permalink

    Communication w/ Antarctica is rather dicey – how do you get a comm satellite to stay in a stationary orbit at the poles? (you don’t – they’re very close to the horizon as seen from the research stations, with a narrow time & bandwidth window), so at least that part of Steig’s explanation is plausible.

    How his co-authors missed the the memo & failed to notify him is a little more mysterious.

    • TAG
      Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 6:47 PM | Permalink

      Re: PaddikJ (#120),

      Communication w/ Antarctica is rather dicey – how do you get a comm satellite to stay in a stationary orbit at the poles? (you don’t – they’re very close to the horizon as seen from the research stations, with a narrow time & bandwidth window), so at least that part of Steig’s explanation is plausible.

      Nunavut is a territory in the Canadian Arctic. They connect to the Internet over a satellite link. This is the same satellite that I am using to post this. Their ground station is located at Iqaluit on Baffin Island.

  78. Jeff Norman
    Posted Aug 15, 2009 at 9:04 PM | Permalink

    To settle this I think that Nature should ask Dr. Steig to independently prepare a comprehensive explanation of the original error, the maths used to correct the error and the impact upon his original comclusions. That is to say, he must like all good math students show his work to demonstrate that he understands the principles involved.

  79. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Aug 16, 2009 at 2:05 AM | Permalink

    While in the Excuses Department, here is an answer to the Big Oil accusation. (I hope dribbleglass.com do not mind the borrow).

  80. Posted Aug 16, 2009 at 3:38 AM | Permalink

    @ClimateAudit (13): If you re-read Steigs auto-reply then you will notice that he would not automatically have recieved emails <30k in the field. He is pointing to a site where there is field contact information. I guess that he had a completely separate field-email address and that one would enforce the 30k limit. (That has been the procedure when I have been in Antarctica.)

    • Armand MacMurray
      Posted Aug 16, 2009 at 7:57 PM | Permalink

      Re: Aslak Grinsted (#125),
      Aslak, apparently Hu emailed that “field email address”. This is consistent with his not receiving an out-of-office autoreply.

  81. curious
    Posted Aug 16, 2009 at 3:43 AM | Permalink

    Aslak – for info: the email Hu posted copy of comes in at less than 1kB as a text file and at 4kB as an Outlook format email.

  82. Posted Aug 16, 2009 at 6:23 AM | Permalink

    ps hope I haven’t just stupidly missed something. :)

  83. RW
    Posted Aug 16, 2009 at 5:08 PM | Permalink

    “If Steig doesn’t follow CA, he must be the only person in all of climate science”

    That’s a rather colossal exaggeration.

  84. Mark T
    Posted Aug 16, 2009 at 5:18 PM | Permalink

    Indeed, but it is also known as being facetious.

    Mark

  85. Posted Aug 17, 2009 at 9:00 AM | Permalink

    RE Aslak Grinsted #125, Armand MacMurray #131,
    I in fact didn’t resend my message to the temporary field address. If I got the autoreply, I would have assumed that my message would have been waiting in his regular inbox when he returned March 19. I don’t have any record of having received it on Feb. 28, but I did receive it in reply to a 3/17 e-mail requesting data, and so should have assumed then that it applied to the earlier message as well.

    My first reading of the later autoreply was that messages under 30K would be forwarded, but on rereading it, I see that no regular messages will be forwarded, and that anything really important should be sent to a special temporary account.

    So I have to take him at his word that he didn’t notice my message in the mountain of mail and spam that may have been awaiting him on his return, and that he personally had no knowledge of my post when he submitted the Corrigendum.

    If I had been more on my toes, I would have told White that if Steig could confirm that none of his 5 co-authors knew of my post either, I would be happy to withdraw my complaint. But that’s water over the dam now.

    As they say at RC, let’s move forward. In fact, I’ve got an idea, OT here, for a thread involving a small question for Aslak about two of his recent papers, now that we’ve got his attention. :-)

  86. Geoff
    Posted Aug 17, 2009 at 11:29 PM | Permalink

    I was amused to come across the following quote in a reputable climate journal by the editors:

    Most obviously, any repetition of data, discussions, figures, or text always requires a clear acknowledgment to an earlier publication. The omission of any such acknowledgment (as in this recent case) may delay discovery of the duplication, but more likely it will breed distrust when the overlap is finally discovered.

    I think most of us would agree with this guideline.

    They go on to say:

    It is not the role of a journal to police its community, but it is our role [the editors] to articulate, through both words and actions, our common scientific standards and aspirations.

    The part I found amusing was the citation:

    Derek B. Booth and Eric J. Steig, Commentary on duplicative publications, Quaternary Research, 2007, vol. 68, Issue 1, page 1

5 Trackbacks

  1. By Dropping the P-Bomb « Deep Climate on Aug 14, 2009 at 5:18 PM

    [...] Aug. 14: Here is McCulloch’s statement at ClimateAudit: Since Steig professes ignorance of my post and claims that he had not read it, I can only take him [...]

  2. [...] heard back, but hopefully that will pass the test. McCulloch is a bit incredulous, as he explains here. McCulloch writes that Steig indicates that “none of the 6 authors learned of the error from my [...]

  3. [...] Steig then wrote to Nature editor Michael White that he was in the field in Antarctica and not receiving e-mail when I had written him, that he was unaware of my post, and that he had not read it. White accepted Steig’s explanation, so I withdrew my complaint. See “Steig Professes Ignorance”. [...]

  4. [...] worse for Mann, McCulloch actually did notify the authors of the [...]

  5. [...] worse for Mann, McCulloch actually did notify the authors of the [...]

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