Phil Jones Interview

h/t Bishop Hill


  1. Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 8:18 PM | Permalink | Reply

    In question G, Jones replies:

    “Of course, if the MWP was shown to be global in extent and as warm or warmer than today (based on an equivalent coverage over the NH and SH) then obviously the late-20th century warmth would not be unprecedented. On the other hand, if the MWP was global, but was less warm that today, then current warmth would be unprecedented.”

    Is this correct? Is the MWP the only time in the past that we may have been as warm as we are currently? Why would only a comparison to the MWP be “unprecedented”?

    • Craig Loehle
      Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 10:05 PM | Permalink | Reply

      The Holocene Optimum (6000 to 8000 BP) was substantially warmer than the MWP or today. This period is ignored in claiming “unprecedentedness” perhaps because it was “too long ago”.

      • Jimchip
        Posted Feb 15, 2010 at 10:32 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Re: Craig Loehle (Feb 12 22:05),

        There was/is discussion of moving from the term Holocene to Anthropocene. That may have something to do with it. Teamocene might be a better term for what the are studying.

    • oneuniverse
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 9:48 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Prof. Jones’ use of the word “unprecedented” was unjustified, and frankly absurd. It stood out, following as it did the care he took earlier in the interview to be precise with his use of language.

  2. Harry Eagar
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 8:32 PM | Permalink | Reply

    With regard to same quote picked out by JohnWho, so now Jones says Mann’s statement that the MWP did not exist could not have been based on data.

    I guess in some quarters, absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

    • Steve E
      Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 8:49 PM | Permalink | Reply

      It seems we’ve gotten as close as we can get–publicly to the disagreements between Jones and Mann (so far). You can almost read regret in some of those answers.

      Though speaking cynically you could interpret this as PR positioning. Jones is the tragic hero trying to do the right thing with just enough evidence to support his convictions.

      However, if that is the case, he comes across as Willy Loman. Still I’m more surprised by the answers he gave honestly than those he either avoided or those he gave the pat answers to.

  3. mpaul
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 8:54 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I think Jones is telling the truth, the primary reason that he refused to release data and code was because he knew it was sloppy and disorganized and didn’t want to be criticized for it. I imagine that when he first starting working on this, he never imagined it would become so important. I also believe him when he says he *believes* his work is correct.

    But — given the sloppy condition of the data and the poorly written code, the possibility of major errors looms large.

    If its now been established that it is impossible to replicate Jones’ work (because the underlying data is lost), then the entire body of work must be discarded and not relied upon for public policy purposes.

    • David Bailey
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 5:23 AM | Permalink | Reply

      I agree, students often start writing software and organising data without any significant software background – unless things have changed radically since I did my PhD (a long time ago!). I have seen some amazing goofs in academic software, and often supervisors are just not interested in that level of detail.

      Jones is ultimately responsible for the mess, but there is no need to demonise him if he starts to admit the problems, and sees the need for honest science in this subject.

  4. Doug Badgero
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 9:03 PM | Permalink | Reply

    If people bother to actually read this interview it has to do some damage to the CAGW popular consensus. His answers in the first link basically state that the rate of warming since the 1950s is not unique but can’t be explained by what we understand about nature…….so it must be us. This should also do some to help put a stake in the heart of the US EPA endangerment finding on CO2. As I understand it, the Supreme Court decision was based largely on the claimed unprecedented rate of warming. Dr Jones now admits that the most recent rate of warming is not unprecedented.

  5. Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 9:25 PM | Permalink | Reply

    It’s a great day for climate science. Doubts can be expressed, mistakes can be admitted!
    A new world order, and a very refreshing one.

    February 12th should become a public holiday.

  6. Calvin Ball
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 9:33 PM | Permalink | Reply

    This is a nice tapdance:

    The phrase ‘hide the decline’ was shorthand for providing a composite representation of long-term temperature changes made up of recent instrumental data and earlier tree-ring based evidence, where it was absolutely necessary to remove the incorrect impression given by the tree rings that temperatures between about 1960 and 1999 (when the email was written) were not rising, as our instrumental data clearly showed they were.

    It was absolutely necessary to remove the incorrect impression? Yikes.

    • charles the moderator
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 12:04 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: Calvin Ball (Feb 12 21:33),

      Quoting Michael Mann, Real Climate.

      No researchers in this field have ever, to our knowledge, “grafted the thermometer record onto” any reconstruction. It is somewhat disappointing to find this specious claim (which we usually find originating from industry-funded climate disinformation websites) appearing in this forum.

      And around and around it goes.

    • vboring
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 10:58 AM | Permalink | Reply

      The question format must not have allowed follow-up questions.

      Because, if it did, how could the interviewer possibly fail to ask the obvious:

      “If this tree-ring analysis diverged from the thermometer record from 1960 onwards, why does anyone think it is accurate for other times?”

  7. oneuniverse
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 9:36 PM | Permalink | Reply

    No question about the dubious UHI paper?

    • Jimchip
      Posted Feb 15, 2010 at 10:55 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: oneuniverse (Feb 12 21:36),

      Nah, there’s a ton of other bogus papers on top of that mere four-pager. “Statistically insignificant” :)

  8. dearieme
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 9:48 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Those addresses just give me Type 404 errors. (In Britain, 02:47 GMT)

  9. jim edwards
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 9:52 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I think the man deserves some credit.

    It’s easy to start down a slippery slope without noticing the danger you’re getting yourself into. Once in trouble, it can be hard to find a way out; I think this can be especially true when the troubled soul is in charge and under a spotlight.

    Assuming a person’s made mistakes, it’s hard to admit them to one’s self, let alone in a public interview with the BBC. His answers on AGW, generally, appear to be intellectually honest. The “hide the decline” appears to be a problem for him, but the bigger failings are harder to admit.

    Having gotten himself into this hole, Dr. Jones appears to be trying to get himself out, honorably. I hope I’m right and, if so, I hope he succeeds. I suppose the test will be if he accepts one of Steve’s offers to go for a beer, the next time they’re at the same conference.

  10. dearieme
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 9:56 PM | Permalink | Reply

    This may be the interview (via WUWT):-

  11. SimonH
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 10:33 PM | Permalink | Reply

    These are carefully answered questions, squeezed through the sieve of a public relations/press office at UEA. Of course he comes across as an amenable working guy, doing his best, against all odds.. yada. It’d be a pretty damn crap press office if he didn’t.

    Yes, it’d be difficult not to feel some empathy for poor old Phil, if I didn’t know – if I hadn’t known for a long time – what a proper little git he’s been in the past. If I didn’t know how freely he abused the basic tenets of science and scientific research with his offensive history of ad hominem attacks on anyone else who dared to criticise his work, or the work of his friends.

    So no. Bottom line, I take the WHOLE picture, including the sordid behaviour of Jones and his ilk over the last decade and more, and I reject the press office-manicured impression of a victim of cruel circumstance. In my judgement, I take ALL available evidence, not just the perpetrator’s testimony.

    • windansea
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 12:30 AM | Permalink | Reply

      yes the responses are well coached but I am impressed by the questions.

  12. Leonard Herchen
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 11:02 PM | Permalink | Reply

    He says that he thinks the current warming trend cannot be explained without a human caused C02 component, yet the previous trends of similar warming can be “explained”. This is rubbish.

    On a first read, the answer on hide the decline was pure filibuster. On a second read, however, I see that he thinks it necessary to hide from the reader the “divergence” problem. I don’t see how that can be justified. Other than the fact that the divergence problems makes paleoclimatic reconstruction from tree-rings useless as it doesn’t match the instrumental record where there is overlap.


  13. Alan Wilkinson
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 11:19 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Despite Jones’ support of Mann on the subject, there is clear evidence from NZ supporting the MWP in duration and extent to the NH. Even in that well-known sceptic hot-house, Wikipaedia:

  14. Bernie
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 11:33 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Why now? Why so revealing? Why the split with the HS Team? Why the back pedaling on so many core talking points?
    Something had to trigger this amazing set of admissions.
    One hypothesis is that Prof. Jones has learned who released the emails and files, why and what else is about to come out.

  15. Dave L.
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 11:40 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Does anyone know if Jones has retained legal representation? I ask this because if he has legal counsel, then he may have benefited from being coached on making public statements and giving testimony. What I am suggesting is that I would feel more comfortable listening to his testimony under oath than to a pre-arranged conversation with a news reporter.

  16. HotRod
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 2:15 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Very good questions. Mr Harrabin has done well from his WUWT appeal for intelligent sceptics to talk to. I like the format, of written questions written answers.

  17. stuck-record
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 4:06 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 2:15 AM | Permalink | Reply
    Very good questions. Mr Harrabin has done well from his WUWT appeal for intelligent sceptics to talk to. I like the format, of written questions written answers.

    Hot Rod,
    I’m not sure that’s right. Harrabin was interviewed on another BBC programme the other day (the Gabby Logan show, sorry, I don’t have a link to it). He was in a head-to-head with Doctor Richard North of the EU referendum site.

    Under criticism from Doctor North, Harrabin admitted that he has been doing a search for intelligent sceptics — the one he wrote to Anthony Watts about — but had so far come up blank.

    Harrabin is a true believer. But he is deeply worried. After years of dismissing all sceptics as lunatics and flat-earthers he is trying to reposition himself, and the BBC, as being on the side of the angels. His latest tactic is to say that the issue has never been about consensus, or certainty. The issue, he NOW says has always been one of evaluation of risk from climate change. I.e. the precautionary principle etc.

    • Sam
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 11:04 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Not quite correct – Harrabin is looking specifically for sceptics with academic tenure. Needless to say he can’t find any because all such have been sidelined and/or can’t speak out if they want to keep their jobs.

      There is an partial transcript of the interview online (Booker’s Sunday Times piece today possibly? – I read it earlier somewhere). Harrabin says he has had a awakening about the power of the blogosphere and the fact that many very well informed people are posting there on climate, but says it’s impossible to evaluate the degree of their expertise. There is a thread on WUWT following his request. He has turned down all suggestions so far (mainly retired academics, or Brits working in academia abroad)

      If he had been following the blogs for a few years, of course – which given he is paid to be informed in this area he should have done – he would know who to listen to and which bloggers (or commentators on same) know their stuff

    • WA777
      Posted Feb 15, 2010 at 11:29 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: stuck-record (Feb 13 04:06),

      From the guy that wrote a book on it:

      Sunstein, Cass R. “Throwing precaution to the wind: Why the ‘safe’ choice can be dangerous.” – The Boston Globe, July 13, 2008. LinkText Here

      Excerpts quoted:
      Main point: “Yet the precautionary principle, for all its rhetorical appeal, is deeply incoherent. It is of course true that we should take precautions against some speculative dangers. But there are always risks on both sides of a decision; inaction can bring danger, but so can action. Precautions, in other words, themselves create risks – and hence the principle bans what it simultaneously requires.”

      “In the context of climate change, precautions are certainly a good idea. But what kinds of precautions? A high tax on carbon emissions would impose real risks – including increased hardship for people who can least afford it and very possibly increases in unemployment and hence poverty. A sensible climate change policy balances the costs and benefits of emissions reductions. If the policy includes costly (and hence risk-creating) precautions, it is because those precautions are justified by their benefits.

      “The nations of the world should take precautions, certainly. But they should not adopt the precautionary principle.

  18. stephen richards
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 4:29 AM | Permalink | Reply

    jim edwards

    Don’t feel sorry for him. You are of course absolutely right but this guy waited until he had gone of the cliff and was hanging by a cord of 10 threads with one thread left intact. He is worried that the enquiry will find his work to have been poorly managed, lacking scientific rigour and NOT ROBUST.

    • jim edwards
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 8:43 AM | Permalink | Reply

      I think I’d feel less sympathy for Mann [who will likely not face the level of humiliation that Jones is]. With Mann we have the CENSORED file and a number of, what look like, calculated and deceptive statements. The appearance is that he did whatever necessary to move his career forward and get the world to see things his way.

      With Jones, I see a large effect on the debate, but not a lot of intent to misdirect the public. I think he’s an insular academic in his ivory tower who made a lot of bad choices. His ‘crimes’ appear to be sloppiness and willingness to go over the line to stifle a few ‘anti-science denialists’. It looks like near-suicide by a thousand paper cuts. You’re right that he’s had this conversion only after finding himself in the emergency room, but I can’t take joy in his suffering for being blind to the big picture.

  19. stephen richards
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 4:38 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Incidently, I think this is a collaboration directly between the BBC and the CRU. They have close contact on a regular basis via the MetOff, I suspect. They would have agreed the questions and the answers with both presses before this was published. Harrabin, Black, Monbiot et al will not be changing their views anytime soon don’t you fret.

  20. Judith Curry
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 7:47 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I am actually impressed by Phil Jones’ apparent honesty and genuineness in his recent interviews. This sounds very different from some others involved in climategate that definitely sounded like they had “lawyered up.”

    • kim
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 8:21 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Yeah, but isn’t the MWP better documented geographically than he admits? And I think he’s just had careful legal advice. Tom Fuller notes he can walk back nearly everything he says.

    • Bernie
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 8:27 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Prof. Curry:
      I would be interested in hearing your take on the import of his answers to the questions. Are we over-reading what he has said? Is it as devastating to the HS as some believe?
      I agree that it does have an “opening of the kimono” feel to his responses. However, the responses were developed in conjunction with the PR folks – which probably means lawyers were involved. I still am curious ass to what triggered this increase in openness. Something else must be happening behind the scenes.

    • Jimchip
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: Judith Curry (Feb 13 07:47),

      Professor Curry, with all due respect, I bet there were at least three lawyers looking over his shoulder when he typed those answers.

    • Tom Ganley
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 6:50 PM | Permalink | Reply

      “The phrase ‘hide the decline’ was shorthand for providing a composite representation of long-term temperature changes made up of recent instrumental data and earlier tree-ring based evidence, where it was absolutely necessary to remove the incorrect impression given by the tree rings that temperatures between about 1960 and 1999 (when the email was written) were not rising, as our instrumental data clearly showed they were.”

      Dr. Curry,

      The above part has me completely confused. Does Dr. Jones honestly believe that tree ring data is meaningfull only until there is actual temperature data against which to check it? I can’t make sense of this. What am I missing?

      • Jimchip
        Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 2:22 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Re: Tom Ganley (Feb 13 18:50),

        There are some fairly obvious fallacies with the verbal descriptions of the team’s approach and their defense was always that it’s in the math and data and that it’s hard to explain. McIntyre and others looked at the math and data and found some ‘fallacies’. There has been a longstanding “divergence problem” which always begged the simple question, if the trees diverge now then how do we know they didn’t before?

        There are also problems with what’s referred to as instrumental data, a lot of it is surface station thermometer output and Anthony Watts’ surface stations project says a lot about North American (US) stations.

        If you can’t make sense of what the team claims then you might not be missing much.

    • Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 8:12 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Perhaps AMS will just give him the Rossby Medal next year.

  21. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 8:32 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Judith, I had had some correspondence with Phil Jones over the years. It would not be far from the mark that my reaction to that correspondence was that I was “impressed by Phil Jones’ apparent honesty and genuineness” – quite different from others. I was very surprised at how active he was in poisoning the well for us.

    • kim
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 8:44 AM | Permalink | Reply

      I used to have a friend who’d respond with ‘I’m impressed’, and then wait a few seconds and boom out ‘Unfavorably’.

      Why should the leopard change his spots? Well, maybe he saw the elephant whilst confronting his mortality. I don’t know.

    • Jimchip
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 11:04 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: Steve McIntyre (Feb 13 08:32),

      People can get ‘caught up’ in events and not see straight. The behavior can’t be excused but one needs to look at actions and behaviors and not impute ‘darker motives’…Only “The Shadow” knows those.

      • Harry Eagar
        Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 1:08 PM | Permalink | Reply

        I think his being willing to respond to this interview — even taking account of the PR aspect, lack of followup and probable presence of lawyers — shows courage.

        Not a lot of sense, but courage.

        • Jimchip
          Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 2:32 AM | Permalink

          Re: Harry Eagar (Feb 13 13:08),

          I think it’s good that he made the statement just because parts of it were true and he did have to hedge a lot given the climate he’s in. Also, he was never the politician of the team…I picture him as more of the breezy CEO who did his ‘work’ and also wanted to sign off on everything he could. I don’t know about the courage…I guess it does take some form of courage to start owning up to actions and not just running and hiding. Courage for him would have been putting his foot down a long time ago, imo. He’s says he’s doing research and mentoring students. I imagine he’s good at that. He wasn’t good when he was with the team.

    • Judith Curry
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 2:26 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Steve, i don’t know phil jones personally, but my initial take on reading the emails is that he seemed to have drunk the Kool Aid provided by his U.S. colleagues on how to deal with the skeptics, avoid FOIA, etc., and it seemed a convenient shortcut for avoiding hassles especially since he seems to have been a lousy record keeper.

      • Jimchip
        Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 3:20 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Re: Judith Curry (Feb 13 14:26),

        There is this link from a thread during the NDET ‘alert’, some hypotheses about relationships, but I’ll buy “the Kool Aid provided by his U.S. colleagues”. They all have different motives but, since they were a ‘team’, their actions all dovetail. I’d mentioned then that he could have done it differently.

        I bet a lot of people wished they’d done it differently, not just the team who got caught drinking kool-aide with their hands in the cookie jar.

  22. ditmar
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 9:36 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Not much room under that bus. Where does this leave briffa, mann and the rest. I think it is possible that there is more data to be released from the whistleblower and that may also explain the dearth of activity from RC since the first tranche was released.they can’t because they are too busy assessing damage control.

    • Jimchip
      Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 1:26 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: ditmar (Feb 13 09:36),

      If any ‘investigation’ ever does it right there won’t be any need for whistleblower files- I bet CRU has all that’s needed and is still reluctant to share. As far as Briffa, Mann, and the rest?…I think they have to be like Phil now, as a start. Not a team, ‘independent’ (everyone for themselves). They may have thought about scape-goating and sacrificing team members (I thought Briffa was a target on Oct. 5, 2009) but I don’t think they can hang together enough to either pull it off or be believed, now.

  23. Rob
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 10:24 AM | Permalink | Reply

    E – How confident are you that warming has taken place and that humans are mainly responsible?


    I’m 100% confident that the climate has warmed. As to the second question, I would go along with IPCC Chapter 9 – there’s evidence that most of the warming since the 1950s is due to human activity.

    Doesn`t the IPCC rely on Jones and Wang`s dodgy china study showing little warming from UHI.

    • kim
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 10:33 AM | Permalink | Reply

      marty, at Tom Fuller’s just pointed out that his and Wang’s UHI study was used to calibrate the satellites. Poof.

  24. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Reply

    When Phil Jones, in his interview, says the following in the excerpt below I stopped reading.

    His reply is totally misleading in that what was being hidden was that the proxy was no longer following the instrumental record and not that the instrumental record was wrong. How uninformed does Jones think thinking people are? A scientific approach would have had to make that divergence a big issue – and certainly after the email put it in the public domain would be a proper time to detail issue and not evade it.

    Jones hand waves that an explantion for the divergence is available without actually talking about it. Of course, a tough interviewer would not have passed from that topic until some detailed answers were forthcoming.

    In my mind, either Jones is not a good scientist and does not understand the implications of the divergence or he indeed intended to “hide the decline”.

    I personally could care less about Phil Jones, the person, as I do not know him or intend to in the near future. What I can take away from his comments and those of other climate scientists who have commented on “hide the decline” is that very few have faced and addressed the implications straight on or in any detail.

    “The phrase ‘hide the decline’ was shorthand for providing a composite representation of long-term temperature changes made up of recent instrumental data and earlier tree-ring based evidence, where it was absolutely necessary to remove the incorrect impression given by the tree rings that temperatures between about 1960 and 1999 (when the email was written) were not rising, as our instrumental data clearly showed they were.

    This “divergence” is well known in the tree-ring literature and “trick” did not refer to any intention to deceive – but rather “a convenient way of achieving something”, in this case joining the earlier valid part of the tree-ring record with the recent, more reliable instrumental record.”

    • Dave Dardinger
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 1:02 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: Kenneth Fritsch (Feb 13 11:01),

      The problem with Jones’ statement is that

      the incorrect impression given by the tree rings

      Doesn’t explicitly refer to temperatures, but that tree ring are a valid proxy for temperatures. Sure, if everything is laid on the table it might be possible to rehabilitate tree rings as temperature proxies, but hiding the decline actually tries to hide the incorrect impression given by many climate scientists that the science is known and trying to audit it is akin to genocide.

    • ErnieK
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 1:56 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: Kenneth Fritsch (Feb 13 11:01),


      “That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.” (by Jimmy Buffett)

      Their explanations of the “trick” are so similar, one might think they had it written on the palms of their hands :-)

    • Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 5:49 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: Kenneth Fritsch (Feb 13 11:01), You make me think of Churchill’s words:

      “In war, resolution; in defeat, defiance; in victory, magnanimity”.

  25. JCM
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 11:06 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Well coached by the PR people. Compare and contrast this with his statement in ‘The Times’ re FOI requiring 18 hours be spent on a FOI request. Very poor crisis management at UEA. Stops well short of a full and clear apology for his behaviour re FOI, in fact he refers to consulting re ‘exceptions and exemptions’ which indicates he kept looking for ways to avoid the intent and spirit of FOI.

  26. Jimchip
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 11:09 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I appreciated Dr.Jones’ early statements in the ‘interview’ regarding statistical significance. I wish he had said stuff like that before. Given the current data from the ‘interview’ and other data from the past, the interview was not statistically significant.

  27. justbeau
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 11:10 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Dr. Jones, his university, and the Global Warming politicians have taken a lot of hits from the revealed emails. This seems like a carefully scripted PR response, by at least Jones and his university. Jones is not an unintelligent person; he can easily present himself well as thoughtful.

    At least this is a better response than Mike Mann. Dr. Mann wrote a strange opinion piece in the Washington Post, seemingly attacking Sarah Palin, presumably to try to earn sympathy from the left wing that questions about his scientific work were mere political attacks. This did not seem a sensible PR campaign, since Mann made himself look like a politican, rather than a rigorous scientist.
    Dr. Jones followed a more prudent PR approach. Salute good science. Disassociate himself from the Hockey Stick. Show some new found open-mindedness about the Medieval Warming period.
    These tactics give Jones some positive publicity, which he can surely use. Portraying Jones as a reasonable, nice man also indirectly protects the reputation of the IPCC’s Global Warming science, surely one intent of the PR campaign, naturally pursued through a friendly mouthpiece like the BBC.

    • Martin Ackroyd
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 2:31 PM | Permalink | Reply

      A week or so back a report of an interview with Jones was published by Times Online. To me his attitude seemed self-pitying, yet defiant and still contemptuous of people he seems to regard as adversaries. He also bemoaned that he had no training in PR.

      The blogged response was a cascade of comments that were – shall we say – less than uniformly sympathetic. Many offered advice to Jones.

      Perhaps he took to heart some of the suggestions to come clean. But also, I imagine, the responses will have been skilfully analysed by the UEA press office, who may well have given Jones some careful coaching on his replies.

      • justbeau
        Posted Feb 15, 2010 at 11:17 AM | Permalink | Reply

        I am trying to become less cynical and admit more compassion for Phil Jones. For the longest time, climate studies must have been an unimportant, minor field. Then it became a center of attention, with massive expectations and pressures. This cannot be easy for anyone, whoever was at the University of East Anglia.
        It seems like Climategate and stepping aside has helped Phil Jones to take stock of the bigger picture, and realize he himself harbors more doubts than get reported by the IPCC. That seems a healthy, brave admission. I wish him well.

  28. jv
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 2:03 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I am shocked in a good way at how much the tone has changed. It is going to be much harder for the media outlets to claim the science is settled when one of the high priests is saying it isn’t. Though I am sure some of the media outlets are up to the challenge.

  29. Martin Ackroyd
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 2:14 PM | Permalink | Reply

    How rapidly things can change.

    Three months back, could anyone even have imagined the BBC – the most on-message of all organisations – asking such questions?

    It’s an astounding turn around.

  30. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 3:45 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I actually drove by the original Kool Aid stand one day. It’s in the western Guyana jungle towards the Venezuelan border. I think that we were driving from Arakaka to Barama – not an everyday drive for most folks – and Jonestown was on the way.

    Apt name for the cult that drank the Kool Aid.

    • Gunnar
      Posted Feb 15, 2010 at 9:07 AM | Permalink | Reply

      LOL! Brilliant!

      You folks who are “impressed with his honesty” should be ashamed by your own gullibility. After attempting to swindle the whole world, “I lost the data” is not a credible excuse.

  31. Dave Andrews
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 4:04 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Jones says

    “The MWP is most clearly expressed in parts of North America, the North Atlantic and Europe and parts of Asia. For it to be global in extent the MWP would need to be seen clearly in more records from the tropical regions and the Southern Hemisphere.”

    Yet the climate science community let Mann get away with essentially deleting the MWP based upon a few tree rings from Sheep Mountain in the US, which in no way could be seen as having the same signature as Jones says the MWP has.


    • Harry Eagar
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 4:12 PM | Permalink | Reply

      If MWP is attested in those locations, that’s about as good coverage as instrumental observations for global temperature around 1900.

      I am agnostic about how much of the globe you have to observe before you can say you have a reliable global temperature, but <30% doesn't strike me as too much.

    • Craig Loehle
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 5:31 PM | Permalink | Reply

      The funny thing is that the CURRENT warming is much stronger in the northern hemisphere, just like the MWP (according to Mann & Jones). Maybe the S. Hemisphere is just more relaxed? Maybe there are as few paleothermometers in the south as there are weather stations, so lack of evidence has been taken as evidence of lack.

      • JCM
        Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 6:01 PM | Permalink | Reply

        What is the land mass north of the equator ?
        What is the land mass south of the equator ?

      • Michael Smith
        Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 6:25 PM | Permalink | Reply

        I’ve often wondered whether the current warming would be viewed as “global” if we didn’t have a thermometer record and all we had to go on was the sort of proxy data we use to evaluate the MWP.

        • Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 9:36 PM | Permalink

          snip – sorry, too far OT.

        • Harry Eagar
          Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 9:46 PM | Permalink

          Yes, almost. In 1987 I interviewed a chemist at Iowa State U. who had developed a method of easily determining substances at parts per trillion levels that had previously been undetectable below ppb levels.

          He took a glass of Ames, Iowa, city water, ran it through his machine and detected a number of chemicals that had never before been reported in any US municipal water.

          This was widely reported as: “Ames, Iowa, has the most polluted water in the country.”

          “Next time,” he told me, “I won’t say where the water came from.”

    • Jimchip
      Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 3:13 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: Dave Andrews (Feb 13 16:04),

      Dave, I always thought (since the emails were released:) that this 2003 email between Cook and Briffa was extremely telling with respect to what the insiders thought about the issue ‘privately’. Publically, “the climate science community let Mann get away with…” looks to be correct.

  32. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 7:18 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Jones says:

    I was justified in curtailing the tree-ring reconstruction in the mid-20th Century because these particular data were not valid after that time – an issue which was later directly discussed in the 2007 IPCC AR4 Report.

    If the ring widths or densities were measured wrong, then he could say that the data wasn’t valid. But there’s never been such a suggestion. The data is what it is. He was not justified in deleting the adverse results.

    There was no discussion of the issue in the IPCC 2001 report. Or in the First or Second Drafts of the 2007 report. No dendrochronologist submitted comments suggesting that the issue be discussed. One reviewer did object to the deletion of the adverse data and they grudgingly included a discussion which was never presented to external reviewers.

    • geo
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 7:42 PM | Permalink | Reply

      “Deleting the adverse results” was bad enough. To me what is worse is that those adverse results prove –until and unless the dendros can convinicingly explain otherwise– that there is no reason to rely on the pre-thermometer results either. Until they can show why the results are off in the latter 20th century, then there is every reason to suspect they could be off elsewhere by the same or more magnitude. Indeed, it is still my favorite theory for why they can’t “find” the MWP.

      • geo
        Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 7:47 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Oh, btw, I know (at least some) climatologists seem to really dislike actual experimenation –after all, it carries with it the possibility of being proven wrong, and unlike the rest of science, they don’t seem to feel they should have that burden.

        But isn’t the “divergence problem” something that actually should be amenable to actual testing over a period of years with various controlled greenhouse conditions to see if there is some temperature plateau or C02 plateau (or some other plateau) to tree-ring response to actually . . . .y’know. . . *settle* an issue that is actually reasonably capable of being settled relatively straight-forwardly?

    • Jimchip
      Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 3:35 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: Steve McIntyre (Feb 13 19:18),

      I think Jones has his own personal language and his words don’t mean what others might assume based on dictionaries. There are lots of Jonesisms and “valid” is one of those. IMO, “valid” to Jones means fitting in with his ideas and his ‘value-added product– the data no longer being relevant. So, it gives him the right to throw out what doesn’t fit and if it does fit then others will like that part. More of a climate artist, like a decorator, approach.

      Also, wrt to IPCC, it’s strange to me that there is still a tendency to ‘hide behind’ the IPCC report as the gold standard, especially when they try to say that ‘it’ was discussed under the strict IPCC guidelines. Phil should know better than that but maybe he hasn’t been paying attention or maybe they’ve decided to cherry-pick parts of the IPCC report to try to keep something of the carcass.

    • Kenneth Fritsch
      Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Reply

      I want to be objective in my criticisms of those climate scientists who fail to deal with the implications of the proxy divergence, but I am thinking lately that “hide the decline” is not at all descriptive of what the involved climate scientists are doing.

      After all this time that the topic has been in the spotlight and without any reasonable explanations by these scientists of what is causing the decline, other than the alternative one that says the divergence puts in doubt the validity of the proxy in current and past times, I have no other explanation for the lack of an exposition on the matter then flat out denial.

      A major clue that it is denial (or some other nice descriptor that can be applied to scientists) has been the obvious and silly word parsing that has been devoted to the issue without really dealing with it. If someone is in denial about a bad habit that they might have they would tend to hide any evidence of that habit and be hesitant to talk about it in any detail. That is unless they are ready to do something about it.

      • Jimchip
        Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 2:23 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Re: Kenneth Fritsch (Feb 14 10:08),

        Kenneth, I also agree with your other comment which I sorta rehash below.

        I think “denial” is a very good concept that covers a lot of the ground but I think it was even more sinister than one of those ‘bad habits’. IMO, the reason for the ‘trick’ and the need to ‘hide the decline’ was simply that the pre-1960 tree datasets coupled with the ‘modern, instrumental data’ and the ‘methods’ used to to stitch them together were used precisely because it gave the ‘look’ that they wanted. Some (many) could have been taken in by the way the team operated behind closed doors but it certainly wasn’t a boo boo that had to be covered up because of denial and perhaps the fear of embarrassment, need for a retraction, etc. Outsiders working in the broad field could have been (and maybe still are) in denial about not being more critical wrt to the team.

        Perhaps ‘denial’ in the sense of getting caught, and (perhaps wisely) not confessing, for the team and ‘denial’, in your sense, for the other innocents who might feel like they got taken and they should have known better. One magician rule is that skeptics are the most productive audience members IF they don’t know the trick. The magician can get them every time to the amusement of the other audience members.

        The team not only attempted to suppress dissent for the sake of their (in their own eyes) highly valued theory and opinions. They clamped down on others out of fear of discovery. I think it was highly intentional on the team’s part and one critical diagnostic might be to answer the question. Who kept up the discussion of the divergence problem and published ‘contrary’ datasets?

    • Peter Lloyd
      Posted Feb 16, 2010 at 6:43 PM | Permalink | Reply

      I believe that there is an even simpler explanation than the thoughtful ones above.

      The IPCC is not a scientific organisation. It is a PR organisation specifically set up to generate support for AGW. Those whose job it is to provide it with data therefore have that goal constantly in view.

      Furthermore, the British group of UK-government funded organisations, like UEA, the Met. Office, the Hadley Centre, the Grantham Institute and other Universities, have an equally over-arching but limiting scope, since their Government funding for climate research depends wholly on the provision of data supporting AGW.

      When this is your job, any data not supporting your reason for existence (and respect in the scientific community) is not valid.

  33. Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 10:02 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Could someone please tell me what instrument will measure temperature to an accuracy of two decimal places. And if you can measure to only one decimal place, what is the meaning of three decimal places.

    Period Length Trend
    (Degrees C per decade) Significance
    1860-1880 21 0.163 Yes
    1910-1940 31 0.15 Yes
    1975-1998 24 0.166 Yes
    1975-2009 35 0.161 Yes

    Steve: this issue has been discussed elsewhere. Not relevant to this thread.

  34. Craig Loehle
    Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 4:43 PM | Permalink | Reply

    In the experimental sciences, one’s concepts are subject to ugly refutation. In climate science, the paradigm has become more real than data. This is revealed in Jones’ referring to the decline as “misleading”. How could it be misleading? It is what the data does! It is misleading to Jones because it does not support the “truth” of continued warming. What it should tell him, as we have noted at CA 100 times, is that if the proxies misbehave then maybe they are bad little proxies and should not get to play in public.

  35. P Solar
    Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 6:21 PM | Permalink | Reply

    H – If you agree that there were similar periods of warming since 1850 to the current period, and that the MWP is under debate, what factors convince you that recent warming has been largely man-made?

    The fact that we can’t explain the warming from the 1950s by solar and volcanic forcing – see my answer to your question D.

    So the bottom line we can’t explain it with our naive and incomplete models so we conclude the rest must be CO2 and then arbitrarily adjust the climate sensitivity of CO2 forcing to make it fit.

    INCREDIBLE. And they call that “the science is settled” ?

    A recent reply I got from Met. Office Hadley informed me that their models have NO internal climate variability. Just external forcings.

    Yet on their web site they are still pushing these simplistic and obviously incorrect models as “the only reliable way of predicting future climate”.

  36. handaxe
    Posted Feb 15, 2010 at 7:57 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Jones in Nature:

  37. Eric L
    Posted Feb 19, 2010 at 6:55 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I see you haven’t put a post on Phil Jones’ comment on needing 15+ years to get a statistically significant trend. Of course, I know that’s because its not a story, but clearly a lot of people don’t know that because they think not statistically significant means the trend stopped (see Daily Mail article and all the blog references). You seem to be one of the most widely climate science bloggers from the not-so-pro-AGW camp and you have a good understanding of statistics, maybe you do everyone a service and write a post explaining the matter?

  38. VS
    Posted Mar 5, 2010 at 12:35 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Oh dear, I missed this blooper the first time reading:


    BBC – Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming

    Phil Jones – Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level.


    95% significance level… that’s REALLY not significant, is it?… hahahha ha ha

    [OK, for the non-statistics-nerds here, it's either a 5% significance level, or the value 0 is an element of the 95% confidence interval of the trend variable's coefficient estimate... Phil Jones made a 1st year student's mistake]

    ha…ha.. eh.. it’s funny… oh dammit, it is!

  39. Vincent Gray
    Posted Jul 3, 2010 at 8:13 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Jones has given the game away, yrt they are still claimimg validity for his useless temperature anomaly record. When will it be “corrected” and by whom? Jones et al are no longer Lead Authors for the IPCC. What will the new boys do?

6 Trackbacks

  1. [...] Posted by Jeff Id on February 12, 2010 This is a big improvement. How can you have a climate blog and not report on Phil Climategate Jones recent interview?  Like our good US president, the smackdown has changed his tone.  H/T again to Steve McIntyre, to which much is owed.   Climate Audit. [...]

  2. By Climategate Change « the Air Vent on Feb 12, 2010 at 9:57 PM

    [...] Posted by Jeff Id on February 12, 2010 This is a big improvement. How can you have a climate blog and not report on Phil Climategate Jones recent interview?  Like our good US president, the smackdown has changed his tone.  H/T again to Steve McIntyre, to whom much is owed.   Climate Audit. [...]

  3. [...] Phil Jones Interview h/t Bishop [...] [...]

  4. By Top Posts — on Feb 13, 2010 at 7:26 PM

    [...] Phil Jones Interview [...]

  5. By Phil Jones Q&A at the BBC « The Policy Lass on Feb 13, 2010 at 11:08 PM

    [...] CA has a post up with no commentary from The Great Puzzler… [...]

  6. By Q&A: Professor Phil Jones « ClimateMedia on Feb 14, 2010 at 4:41 AM

    [...] How can you have a climate blog and not report on Phil Climategate Jones recent interview?  H/T again to Steve McIntyre, to whom much is owed.   Climate Audit. A – Do you agree that according to the global temperature record used by the IPCC, the rates of [...]

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