The Wisdom of Solomon

If IPCC authors think that it’s important to improve the measurement of some variable, should they say so in an IPCC report?

You’d think that this would be exactly the sort of recommendation that policy makers would appreciate in an assessment report. For example, maybe IPCC scientists could have observed that there was in reality no “Great Dying of Thermometers” and recommended that GHCN collect data from the missing but undead thermometers. Or observed (if this was in fact true) that some station data was encumbered by confidentiality agreements and called upon governments of the world to free this elementary data.

Surely there would have been a ready audience for this sort of recommendation. And yet AR4 was strangely silent on this sort of practical recommendation. We get a fleeting glimpse into IPCC reasoning in a Climategate letter.

On May 5, 2005 (517. 1115294935.txt), while preparing for a conference in Beijing, Jones emailed Trenberth making the following reasonable (and one would have presumed uncontroversial) observation:

I think we both believe we should be saying somewhere what we should be measuring (how accurately, where and with what). If we don’t say this somewhere, AR5 will be in a worse state… IPCC has a lot of clout – much more than GCOS and/or WMO. It should be saying something about what we should be doing.

However, this doesn’t seem to have happened. The reason appears to lie in the elided sentence:

[WG1 Chair] Susan [Solomon] is against this…

Jones opined to Trenberth that he thought that “on this point she’s wrong” – a point where many Climate Audit readers would undoubtedly be able to reach common ground with Dr Phil.

I wonder why Solomon was against IPCC “saying somewhere what we should be measuring (how accurately, where and with what)”.


  1. Anthony Watts
    Posted Apr 12, 2010 at 8:22 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Why doesn’t Solomon want to state “saying somewhere what we should be measuring (how accurately, where and with what)”.

    Simple, it’s redundant. When you work for NOAA, you’re already CYA by this catchphrase that get stamped on everything “NOAA” now.

    “NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment—from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun—and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.”

    Here’s the tombstone for thermometers:
    Thermal Tombstone

    • Mike Davis
      Posted Apr 12, 2010 at 10:56 PM | Permalink | Reply

      It is obvious that NOAA took lessons from the Brothers Grimm!

  2. Jack Maloney
    Posted Apr 12, 2010 at 9:06 PM | Permalink | Reply

    When you stake your reputation on the notion that “the science is settled,” you cannot leave any room for questions, any possibility for doubt. That explains – but does not justify – a lot of the behavior on the Hockey Stick Team.

    • deadwood
      Posted Apr 12, 2010 at 9:14 PM | Permalink | Reply

      I wish it were otherwise, but facts appear to support your contention.

    • Grumpy Old Man
      Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 1:43 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Maybe slightly O/T. I am taking my first faltering steps in getting a grip on the the issues- in Layman’s terms of course. During my ramblings, I’ve come across the Thomas Kuhn philosophy of scientific progress. In the opening paragraphs, the words “struggle” and “revolution” are prominent and there is a distinct leaning towards Historicism, so one is forewarned on what to expect. A key part of Kuhn’s proposal, as I understand it, is that the proponents of a scientific theory are bound to defend it at all costs rather than working with others to confirm the theory by testing to destruction. (why should I release the data – you’re only going to attack me) The questions I would be grateful for the august and learned followers of this blog to pontificate upon are:
      1, Is Kuhn’s work the basis of the “new science” that AGW enthusiasts are so positive about?
      2, Does Kuhn’s work have any validity in the wider scientific community?
      Would the application of Kuhn’s philosophy go somewhere towards explaining the somewhat bizarre approach to scientific rigour as revealed by Climategate?

      • Craig Loehle
        Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 7:17 AM | Permalink | Reply

        One can say that Kuhn is a little bit over-simplified, but the basic idea is correct. When people invest their careers in an idea, it can be hard to change. The real problem arises in non-experimental sciences because proving an old theory wrong is never decisive. This includes of course all the social sciences, economics, and much of climate science. There are all sorts of lines of evidence but they have wiggle room for interpretation and are all observational. Especially for historical questions (how have hurricane numbers changed) the many biases in the data can never be checked against the “right” answer. Thus there are still Freudians around even though many lines of evidence are against it.

      • Paul Linsay
        Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 8:19 PM | Permalink | Reply

        In thirty years as a working physicist I never heard anyone discuss “philosophy of science” whatever that is. All the effort was towards making sure that instruments were understood, correctly calibrated and operational, and that calculations were right. Contrary to Kuhn, people would change their minds on the spot if the data proved them wrong or a better idea was presented.

        Observational science doesn’t work quite as well and is subject to take over by authorities in a way that experimental science isn’t because their views can’t be overturned by experiment. That’s what you see with AGW, and once they got mixed up with government via the IPCC, the interest in truth was completely subordinated to politics.

        • TAG
          Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 8:41 PM | Permalink


  3. timetochooseagain
    Posted Apr 12, 2010 at 9:12 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I’m for improving the observational system, but I’m unsure if the IPCC would be the best people to advocate this, for two reasons:

    First of all, improving the observational network should not be jeopardized by climate politics.

    Second of all, the IPCC is supposed to avoid advocating policy. Although this isn’t related to emissions reduction it is being approached as a matter of public policy.

    On the second point, the way I would probably be able to tolerate it would be if the emphasized what observational improvements would help in particular areas by saying that the present system doesn’t provide what is needed. That doesn’t per se demand improvements. But it does give the impression that they need to be done if you want to improve out understanding.

  4. Pat Frank
    Posted Apr 12, 2010 at 9:12 PM | Permalink | Reply

    So, well, there is a problem. If you state somewhere what you should be measuring, and how accurately you should be measuring it, there would come the natural questions, ‘What are you measuring now?’ and ‘What is the accuracy now?’

    This could lead to embarrassing revelations. Maybe the wisdom of Solomon, as refracted through the IPCC process, is to maintain a discrete silence on such questions, and to carefully not invoke them into existence by inopportune speech.

    Inopportune in a political sense, that is. In a scientific sense, such speech is basic.

  5. robert
    Posted Apr 12, 2010 at 9:21 PM | Permalink | Reply

    You’d think hansen would mention this in his new paper too…

    although he does say here, comments and criticisms are welcome at his email shown at the top of this page:

    Maybe Steve should send a comment

  6. Gerald Machnee
    Posted Apr 12, 2010 at 9:47 PM | Permalink | Reply

    snip – policy

  7. Steve Oregon
    Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 12:07 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I wonder where we would be today if it were not for McIntyre, Watts and the rest of the skpetic’s team.
    That’s not a pretty thought.

  8. Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 12:34 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Dear Steve,

    I actually disagree that the IPCC reports should try to dictate what research should be done and which questions need to be studied more carefully or more accurately than before.

    It’s not just because the IPCC is conquered by an agenda. Even if it were not conquered by an agenda, such an extra “power” – which would be a monopoly – would make it a tool that twists the science.

    If there are experimental projects that want to be funded, it’s important that there exists competition and that the competitors are judged by merits. That requires specialized “panels” or commissions that decide. A vague panel that wants to determine “everything” – but isn’t even able to figure out that Himalayan glaciers won’t melt in 25 years – is just not a good framework for that.

    So while, of course, I agree that the researchers should try to figure out what’s important and useful to study, they shouldn’t be doing so under a monopolistic organization, especially not one with an agenda.

    Best wishes

    • geronimo
      Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 2:33 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Lubos, note that Prof. Jones, a researcher, suggested the extension of the temperature studies. I am assuming, as one of the chief temperature collectors he was fishing for financial support, but, whatever his motives, he seems to have wanted to extend out knowledge of the temperature records. The IPCC is producing the SPM, using the current temperature data, and should, at the very least have pointed out the uncertainties as expressed by Prof. Jones and called for more research.

      • Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 6:02 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Dear geronimo,

        I understand what you’re saying but I disagree with such an “extension”, if you kindly allow. We have more than enough data on recent temperatures. ESA has even launched Cryo-Sat-II to measure the thickness of ice – it didn’t crash this time.

        What do the people expect? All these studies will show noise combined with some apparent or real, approximately 1 °C/century trend. And what? None of these details is really interesting and none of these details really influences the questions of “applications” in policymaking.

        The funding for all this not-too-important stuff should drop by 90%, back to the pre-AGW levels, not to increase!

        The number of people who study this thing should drop by 90%, too. The rest that does science because of the science and not because of the bandwagon or ideology will surely be able to do the same work – if not better – as the tumor inside climate science whose 90% is unproductive if not counterproductive.

        And within climate science, if I were deciding how to distribute the resources, I would surely strengthen serious theorists – who can be cheap – instead of expensive experiments or expensive modeling.

        Best wishes

        • Bernie
          Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 7:08 AM | Permalink

          I am not sure that there are enough reliable readings in the places that matter theoretically – though the enlarged satellite records will certainly help. However, since significant policy decisions are going to be made near term, it makes sense that we optimize the use of the best available historical data. In addition, Jones et al probably knew the limitations of their existing data. Better records from Siberia and northern China could have helped clarify temperature record. From this perspective, whether under the auspices of IPCC or not, more complete and accessible cliamte records would surely be a plus.
          With yesterdays events in Peru, an up to date temperature record would help evaluate claims that every event involving glaciers is due to global warming.

  9. robert
    Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 1:59 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve Oregon, “I wonder where we would be today if it were not for McIntyre, Watts and the rest of the skpetic’s team. That’s not a pretty thought. ”

    Lets not get a little over-dramatic here. Steve and some of the other contributors here do indeed help formulate and foster opinions on a whole host of issues but lets not attribute him to being part of the “skeptics team” firstly. Secondly, although I do have much respect for steve and would like for him to continue doing what he is, I do notice that there is a perpensity towards not auditing clearly faulty papers submitted by climate change dissidents. I understand he does a service to us all by bringing forth issues with regards to papers by proponents, but more does need to be done when considering faulty work done by skeptics.

    I think this site here could certainly be a powerful tool for auditing all climate studies and should not be restricted primarily to those which do not share his views. Quick thought, has anyone thought of just taking all the data from NOAA’s paleoclimate archives and creating one large review paper with multiple proxies that thereby tries to solve the issue of the MWP.

    Steve: I too am uncomfortable with excessive praise. I’ve offered this forum to authors who wish to critically analyze “skeptic” articles, but unfortunately this offer has attracted little interest among IPCC scientists.

    • David
      Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 2:56 PM | Permalink | Reply


      The problems within the Pro CAGW position are well documented, and as this POV is what is directing worldwide policy it makes sense to focus first on the problems within the community which is advocating policy.

      That being said I suggest you read, for example Craig Lehole’s climate reconstuction as outlined here at climate audit, and you will find some decent on-line peer review.

  10. geronimo
    Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 3:05 AM | Permalink | Reply

    robert: I think you’ll find that the “faulty work done by skeptics” is well and truly trashed along with the not so faulty work done by sceptics on the pro-CAGW web sites. There is no need for even handedness in these matters.

    “Quick thought, has anyone thought of just taking all the data from NOAA’s paleoclimate archives and creating one large review paper with multiple proxies that thereby tries to solve the issue of the MWP.”

    The issue of the MWP is that it has been airbrushed out of history by the current generation of climate “scientists” because it stands as an embarrassing denial of their theory of AGW. Almost all the non-manipulated proxy data show a distinct MWP, and there are plenty of data of tree lines and farms being way further north then than now. In short it appears that the hockey team have nailed their colours to the mast of a non-existent MWP, in those circumstances for them to come around and say the MWP is real and happened, even in the face of the most persuasive evidence, would beg the question why did it disappear in 1998, and open a whole new can of worms. In short you’re not likely to get the waters unmuddied by good science, there’s too much bad science that would then need explaining.

  11. Peter Oneil
    Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 3:18 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I find this e-mail confusing. should it not be the other way round.Its obvious that P Jones knows there is a problem but is taking the lazy way out by back healing the responsibility to the ipcc.In my opinion, he should have insisted that the maximum available information should be gathered. NOT the MINIMUM as implied.

  12. Peter Oneil
    Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 3:23 AM | Permalink | Reply

    cherry anybody

  13. Ron Cram
    Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 8:26 AM | Permalink | Reply


    If the IPCC is supposed to provide policymakers with a summary of the science on climate change, this should naturally include a summary of what we don’t know with suggestions for how we may narrow uncertainty. I agree with you that the IPCC would seem to be well within their charter to discuss shortcomings in the science and to suggest what should be studied and even how it might be measured. Contrary to Motl’s comment above, making such pronouncements is not in any way a “monopoly” as no one’s right to disagree has been trampled.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 8:46 AM | Permalink | Reply

      For example, the elephant in the room in climate sensitivity studies is cloud feedbacks – as it always has been. It doesn’t seem to me that it would be out of place for IPCC to recommend to policy-makers to prioritize research in this area. I think that AR4 (and AR3) should have had far more detailed discussion on this critical issue.

      • Patrick M.
        Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 2:27 PM | Permalink | Reply

        IPCC doesn’t have to recommend that there should be more more interest in cloud feedback studies. They just need to state that due to the lack of studies on cloud feedback they cannot forecast with very much certainty the global temperature trend into the future.

        More of a “Gee I wish I had more cloud feedback studies, sigh.”

  14. HankHenry
    Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 9:11 AM | Permalink | Reply

    “[WG1 Chair] Susan [Solomon] is against this…”

    The age old problem of hearsay. Is this really Susan Solomon’s position or is it someone invoking her name to steer a discussion the way they want it steered. Has Solomon made a statement anywhere about the climategate emails?

    • Stan Palmer
      Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 9:56 AM | Permalink | Reply

      I agree with this. having experienced years of office politics, I am quite familiar with the practice of putting words in the mouth of some big shot in order to stifle an unwanted suggestion. Some examples are: “I wonder how [insert name of a suitable big shot] would react if we did that” or “[Suitable big shot] hates ideas ike that.”

      My normal response to such comments is to ignore them or, if I am in a bad mood, suggest that we talk to [suitable big shot] directly. Invariably the objection is then dismissed as unimportant.

  15. Etaoin Shrdlu
    Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 9:54 AM | Permalink | Reply

    It would be most helpful for those of us laymen who are interested in educating ourselves on climate, if a list of all those mysterious acronyms could be posted.

    • Craig Loehle
      Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 10:00 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Look on the left under “Links”
      for this, but also WG1 is Working Group 1 of the IPCC.

  16. robert
    Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 10:16 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I think that your enthusiasm is somewhat misplaced in this context. Although I will not argue that some statistical analysis methods of mann and the hockey team did result in getting a very convenient result for them, I would not argue that this indicts all climate scientists. That’s a pretty far reaching statement you make when stating “current generation of climate “scientists””. You may dislike a particular team of them but many are very hardworking scientists who have worked very hard to get where they are. There are in fact very few climate scientists who are in the “club” with the mann et al. group and most go about their business with rarely getting published in nature and science and such.

    Secondly, how does stronger millennial or centennial scale variability disprove the current warming is not at least somewhat anthropogenically caused. I mean many of the climatologists that I have met not only support the existence of a MWP but argue that it depicts the same level of warming as up to the point of the 1980s. I think it is foolish to think that the warming since the 1850s is not at least 50% natural but I think it is also foolish to conclude that there is no AGW whatsoever. Especially since Harries et al. 2001 show increased infrared absorption by greenhouse gases using remote sensing since the 1970s and since Wang and Liang (2009) show the downward LW flux has increased since that time, as would be expected of an enhanced greenhouse. I get frustrated when I hear the statement that all AGW is lies and manipulation because anyone who is unbiased and completely understands the science would surmise that increases in Greenhouse gases would have an effect. The question is how much, not whether AGW exists. And pertaining to the auditing of just proponent papers; credibility comes from being able to audit ones own view also.

    Steve: There is no point trying to prove or disprove AGW in a few paragraphs. I’ve established a blog policy that posts on a thread have to relate to the thread so that every thread doesn’t turn into the same debate over and over. As I’ve said on many occasions as to why I don’t spend time working through ‘skeptic” papers, I have only so much time and energy and I think that working through papers being relied on by IPCC interests me more.

  17. Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 10:57 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I agree with Steve and Phil Jones on this one; there are too many gaps in our data.

    I’ve worked with climate data in more than 30 countries in most parts of the rich and poor world. In many of the countries which gained their independence in the 1960s and 70s meteorological data collection was not given a high priority. A similar situation exists in the countries of the former Soviet Union which became independent in the early 1990s.

    Steve’s point about clouds is also important. While we continue to know little about the extent (vertically and horizontally) of clouds, climate modellers will have a ‘get-out’ clause. Similar considerations apply to variations in albedo due to land-use and aerosol changes.

    The cost of combating climate change is widely quoted as 2% of global DGP – in other words 1 trillion/year. A small fraction of that on climate related data would help to resolve many outstanding uncertainties.

  18. Gerald Machnee
    Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 12:46 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Will any of the gaps and data problems be assessed in the next IPCC report?
    There are some good scientists working on the cloud effects. Will they be noticed in the next report? We wait.

  19. Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 1:00 PM | Permalink | Reply

    They weren’t averse to discussing this issue in the TAR. In the Technical Summary, page 78, it says

    Many factors continue to limit the ability to detect,
    attribute, and understand current climate change and to project
    what future climate changes may be. Further work is needed in
    nine broad areas. [1] Arrest the decline of observational networks in many parts of the world. Unless networks are significantly improved, it may
    be difficult or impossible to detect climate change in many
    areas of the globe.

    This text was then referenced to Section 14.2.1 of the main report.

    • Craig Loehle
      Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 2:45 PM | Permalink | Reply

      This is hilarious because most of the “decline” in obs networks is simply that they don’t bother to collect the data from stations that still exist (yes, of course some stations shut down).

      • sky
        Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 4:22 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Among the records that are NOT updated by GHCN, I’ve observed a significant correlation with historical record trend. Care to guess the polarity of that correlation?

  20. DaveJR
    Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 2:42 PM | Permalink | Reply

    “Arrest the decline of observational networks in many parts of the world. Unless networks are significantly improved, it may be difficult or impossible to detect climate change in many areas of the globe.”

    And wouldn’t that be a disaster? Climate change. Happening all around people and they don’t even notice! It’s the age old problem of a tree falling in a wood and noone around to hear it. The solution is to set up lots of microphones in the wood and make sure the noise is amplified loud enough for people to hear it. Dangerous things those falling trees…

  21. Solomon Green
    Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 3:00 PM | Permalink | Reply

    “Craig Loehle:
    One can say that Kuhn is a little bit over-simplified, but the basic idea is correct. When people invest their careers in an idea, it can be hard to change. The real problem arises in non-experimental sciences because proving an old theory wrong is never decisive. This includes of course all the social sciences, economics, and much of climate science. There are all sorts of lines of evidence but they have wiggle room for interpretation and are all observational. ”

    A century ago the famous mathematician, Georg Cantor, propounded the law of conservation of ignorance: “A false conclusion once arrived at and widely accepted is not easily dislodged and the less it is understood the more tenaciously it is held.”

    • Craig Loehle
      Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 3:57 PM | Permalink | Reply

      If I remember correctly, some of Cantor’s work was not only not accepted but was vilified. So, he knew whereof he spoke.

  22. Gerald Machnee
    Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 3:22 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Will they consider infilling to be an adequate replacement for the gaps? They are doing it already.

    • John Ritson
      Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 7:16 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Yes Gerald, due to the current perfection of climate modelling computer generated infilling is actually preferred over observation as it eliminates weather noise. It also allows us to robustly validate the models to 9 decimal places.

  23. Dany
    Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 4:32 PM | Permalink | Reply

    As Lindzen said in one of his papers, It is extremely difficult for the IPCC team to strongly suggest to the policy makers that much further basic research needs to be done, either on just temperature measurement, or on basic physical climate science ; indeed to use his words it would be an “embarrassment” for the policy makers to let it know that they devoted billions to a supposed climate crisis without the basic know how about climate ; this is why any research ‘shopping list’ should remain hidden deep in the report, which no one ever reads !

  24. Posted Apr 13, 2010 at 11:51 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Craig Loehle: This is hilarious because most of the “decline” in obs networks is simply that they don’t bother to collect the data from stations that still exist (yes, of course some stations shut down).

    I find it hilarious when they claim that it is just an artifact of being a “historical creation”. This manages to turn it from a sin of commission into a sin of omission. Wow, what an improvement! “We didn’t drop them over time, we dropped them as we created the set so any bias was built in at the creation” seems a weak excuse…

    Then we get the “Well, it’s because they don’t report electronically” where I’ve found at least 90% of truncated countries have real time live data on and METARS on line. (See Ogimet)

    Eventually the “excuse” ends up at: “It’s because they don’t issue CLIMAT reports”. Yet I’ve found a half dozen countries that DO and are still dropped ( Bolivia for at least a few years and Papua New Guinea come immediately to mind but there were others as well).

    So I’m still waiting for an “excuse” for truncating stations that holds up to scrutiny.

    The fact that NCDC creates both the USHCN and the GHCN and the stations dropped from GHCN are most often still in USHCN means they would have to move that data all the way from their right pocket to their left pocket for the USA stations… That they can’t find more than 4 stations near the beach in California for the GHCN, yet have them in the USHCN, speaks volumes to me…

    Finally, the world over GHCN is becoming the Airport Historical Climate Network. France. USA. Pacific Basin. All over 90% headed for 100% AIRPORTS. Hardly pristine rural climate sites. The complaint is often made “But how would they know what stations would warm to keep them in?” and the simple answer is “Airports grow and warm over time”. That is especially true over the baseline to present period as it incorporates the entire growth of the Jet Age.

    So, IMHO, the reason they don’t want to address the question of “what do they measure and why” is for the simple reason that the question itself is too much of an embarrassment…

3 Trackbacks

  1. [...] McIntyre points out that NOAA’s Susan Solomon saw fit to exclude a statement of measurements from IPCC WG1. With such certainty then, it’s no wonder she’s certain that our current [...]

  2. By Top Posts — on Apr 13, 2010 at 7:32 PM

    [...] The Wisdom of Solomon If IPCC authors think that it’s important to improve the measurement of some variable, should they say so in an [...] [...]

  3. [...] It is no surprise John Houghton was the first Co-Chairman of the IPCC from 1988 to 2002. This overlapped with his bureaucratic role as Director General of the United Kingdom Meteorological Office (UKMO) from 1983 to 1991. However, as Phil Jones notes in a May 5, 2005 email to Kevin Trenberth, “IPCC has a lot of clout – much more than GCOS (Global Climate Observing System) and/or WMO.” He makes this argument to suggest IPCC should push for more weather stations and better determination of global temperature. A good idea but doing so would undermine the certainty of IPCC claims. Steve McIntyre reports on this ironic event because it involved another influential bureaucrat, Susan Solomon, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) representative on the IPCC. Solomon, as Co-chair of Working Group I of the Science Report, illogically opposed Jones’ proposal. [...]

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