Part 1 here. As a point of clarification, “station histories” in this post means the meta-data history i.e. locations and moves and are distinct from the “station data” in the form of the monthly averages.
In January 2007, the results of IPCC AR4 were announced. It re-iterated Jones et al 1990 as authority for the unimportance of UHI. The continued use of Jones et al 1990 by AR4 attracted my attention and, in Feb 2007, I re-examined Jones et al 1990 at CA, with my first discussion of the Chinese network here. See tag/china for posts related to this topic.
In the first paragraphs of that post, I set out a question that later became contentious (and which remains unanswered despite three “inquiries”):
The other key network in the seminal Jones et al 1990 on urbanization (relied upon in AR4) is their Chinese network. The idea that China between 1954 and 1983 – the age of Chairman Mao and the Great Leap Forward – could have achieved consistency in temperature measurement that eluded the U.S. observing system (with changing times of observation, instruments etc) is a conceit that seems absurd on its face. However Peterson 2003 in a recent literature review held the Jones Chinese network as one of only a few “homogeneous” networks. Jones et al 1990 described their QC procedures as follows:
The stations were selected on the basis of station history; we selected those with few, if any changes in instrumentation, location or observation times.
In this case, I have been able to track down third-party documentation on stations used in Jones’ China network and it is impossible that Jones et al could have carried out the claimed QC procedures. NDP039 states the following: http://cdiac.ornl.gov/epubs/ndp/ndp039/ndp039.html
Few station records included in the PRC data sets can be considered truly homogeneous. Even the best stations were subject to minor relocations or changes in observing times, and many have undoubtedly experienced large increases in urbanization. Fortunately, for 59 of the stations in the 65-station network, station histories (see Table 1) are available to assist in proper interpretation of trends or jumps in the data; however, station histories for the 205-station network are not available. In addition, examination of the data from the 65-station data set has uncovered evidence of several undocumented station moves (Sects. 6 and 10).
While it seemed implausible that stations in the Jones et al 1990 network weren’t a subset of the NDP039 network, to be sure, one needed to firmly resolve the longstanding mystery of the identity of the stations in the Jones network.
This time, I tried a different approach. A few months earlier, Willis Eschenbach had tried to get information on CRUTEM under the UK FOI. While Willis had been stonewalled, CRU at least had to respond. I tried to get the Chinese network using FOI – my first FOI to CRU. As became a later pattern, CRU refused, using an untrue and implausible excuse. Doug Keenan, an occasional commenter at Climate Audit, had followed up my FOI request with one of his own. I rebutted the university’s untrue excuse; Keenan complained to the Information Commissioner’s Office. The University reluctantly agreed to provide the information (which was posted up in April 2007, 17 years after the original article.)
As was my surmise, the stations in the Jones et al 1990 network were drawn from the NDP039 network, the majority of which were explicitly stated to have no station history. In April 2007, following receipt of the data, I did a number of posts at CA on the Chinese network e.g. here here here here here, analysis that we now know that Jones was monitoring. One of the few mentions of Climate Audit in the Muir Russell report was to describe the Apr 2007 threads as “Climate Audit attacks on Wang and Jones”, though the CA threads were nothing of the sort. Having more or less satisfied myself that the analysis of the Chinese network in Jones et al was worthless, my last post in the series on the China network was on April 19. I later took a look at other UHI analyses that supposedly proved that UHI was unimportant , with several posts on Peterson 2003 here and Parker 2006 here here here, also concluding that this analysis didn’t prove anything. Whatever the true contribution of urbanization to 20th century trends, it seemed to me that these various studies all suffered from conceptual defects. The failure of the Jones et al 1990 China network to define a “rural” network was typical, rather than exceptional.
Although Climate Audit had more or less finished with its consideration of the China network in April 2007, a new player, Doug Keenan, now entered on the scene. On many occasions, I had taken the position that I didn’t think that ‘fraud” was a useful way to frame the issues in climate science and had adopted blog policies against commenters making such allegations at Climate Audit, Keenan had a longstanding personal interest in research fraud, an interest that preceded his interest in climate science (see his website) and had a history of confronting scientists in a highly aggressive way.
Keenan had become interested in climate science and was an occasional commenter at Climate Audit. He noticed the problems with the Chinese network early in the CA series and carried out his own detailed analysis of station moves, concluding that the Jones et al 1990 claim of relatively few” moves was scarcely credible (the Beijing station had had 5 locations in 30 years), with a number of comments between April 3 and April 15 e.g. here here here here and others. While Keenan’s comments on the issue at CA paused in mid-April, he began directly confronting the scientists in question. (While climate scientists assume that Keenan was acting in concert with me, for the most part, I learned of Keenan’s actions after the fact and often long after the fact. )
On April 11, Keenan wrote directly to Wang cc Jones and me (I was copied on this letter, but not on subsequent correspondence) seeking an explanation of the apparent inconsistency between NDP039 and Jones et al 1990:
Phil Jones tells that all the meteorological stations were selected by co-authors and that he is unaware of how that was done. So my first question–can you confirm that you alone selected the Chinese stations?
I also have questions regarding the data from the Chinese stations. Briefly, how did you ensure the quality of the data? There has been discussion about some details of this at ClimateAudit: http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=1323#comment-102923 –see comment #31, and also #37.
Keenan sent a followup email to Wang on Apr 20, copying Jones (but not me), asking Wang to retract the China section of Jones et al 1990 and Wang et al 1990, observing:
84 meteorological stations that can be classified as follows. 49 have no histories 08 have inconsistent histories 18 have substantial relocations 02 have single-year relocations 07 have no relocations Furthermore, some of the relocations are very distant–over 20 km. Others are to greatly different environments, as illustrated here: http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=1323#comment-102970 [http://climateaudit.org/2007/04/03/freedom-of-information-jones-et-al-1990/#comment-102970]
The above contradicts the published claim to have considered the histories of the stations, especially for the 49 stations that have no histories. Yet the claim is crucial for the research conclusions.
Jones circulated Keenan’s email to his regular correspondents – Mann, Trenberth, Santer etc:
I can live with the web site abuse, but the Keenan letter knocked me back a bit.
Trenberth suggested that Jones “cast aspersions” not just on Keenan, but on me (something Trenberth had previously done in connection with the Hockey Stick):
the response should try to somehow label these guys and lazy and incompetent and unable to do the huge amount of work it takes to construct such a database. Indeed technology and data handling capabilities have evolved and not everything was saved. So my feeble suggestion is to indeed cast aspersions on their motives and throw in some counter rhetoric. Labeling them as lazy with nothng better to do seems like a good thing to do.
Trenberth also suggested that Jones issue a correction notice as a means of defusing Keenan. Mann suggested that Keenan be ignored. Mann also counselled against the “precedent” of responding on a blog (an odd comment from a realclimate coauthor), but one with which Trenberth agreed:
I do think it is dangerous to respond to an accusation made on a blog (a dubious one at that). It sets a bad precedent.
However, Santer thought that a response was “clearly required”. This is the context of one of the more famous Climategate emails (presaging Santer’s similar wish for Pat Michaels):
I looked at some of the stuff on the Climate Audit web site. I’d really like to talk to a few of these “Auditors” in a dark alley.
Jones complained to Santer that some of the Climate Audit posts were “awful”. Jones decided to “ignore the blogs”, observing that “the unequivocal statement in the SPM [IPCC Summary for Policymakers] will be clear in any response”.
On Apr 22, Wang (now in China) replied (reasonably enough) that he needed to look into the file and contact “the co-author, Ms. Zeng, who brought the data and visited SUNYA as a visiting scientist from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, during that time”. As noted above, Zeng was not a coauthor of Jones et al 1990, but was a coauthor of Wang et al 1990.
On Apr 30, Wang stated to Keenan (copying Karl, Zeng and Jones):
The discussion with Ms. Zeng last week in Beijing have re-affirmed that she used the hard copies of station histories to make sure that the selected stations for the study of urban warming in China have relatively few, if any, changes in instrumentation, location, or observation times over the study period (1954-1983).
Keenan continued to seek clarification from Jones, who told Keenan (see here) on May 17 that the Chinese network had been selected by Wang:
In late 1989 or early 1990 I contacted the co-authors on the paper from 1990 to ask them about rural station data in their (three regions). The purpose of the study was to extend the work undertaken with Tom Karl a year or two early on the contiguous US. Each of the three: Groisman (Russia), Plummer/Coughlan (Australia) and Wang (China) selected the rural stations in their region, based on their knowledge of the networks in those countries. Each had worked extensively on their respective networks. For China there was the additional network of urban stations.
I did all the analyses with the data they provided. I wrote the first draft of the paper and they provided comments on subsequent drafts before it was submitted.
Keenan was unconvinced by Wang’s unsupported assertion of April 30 about the station histories (which notably failed to explain the contrary statements in the contemporary technical report) and, on June 11, sent a statement to Wang cc Jones, alleging that Wang had “fabricated” the claim to have examined the station histories.
Wang immediately responded, re-iterating his claim that Zeng had had paper logs available to her at the time, but that the logs were no longer available to her. With a touch of (perhaps) sarcasm, Wang told Keenan to apply at the China Meteorological Administration website if he wanted the station histories.
The only valid scientific issue described in your June 11, 2007 e-mailed pdf file (attached here as reference) concerning our 1990 GRL paper is the “station histories”, while others are strictly your own opinions and therefore irrelevant to your inquiry. So let me elaborate further on this issue.
Digitization of the hard copies of “station histories” was prepared in 1989-90 by Ms. Zhao-Mei Zeng (IAP/CAS) only for the 60-station network, while the “station histories” of other stations, including those we used in 1990 urban warming study, were available in paper form, as I have already indicated in my 4/30/07 e-mail to you. Therefore, the use of the word “fabrication” in your document is totally absurd.
Concerning the current status of these hard copies of “station histories”, Ms. Zeng told me when I was in Beijing in April 2007, that she no longer has the access to these information because it has been a long time (since 1990) and also IAP has moved office. But if you are interested, you can make an inquiry to the China Meteorological Administration using the web site: http://126.96.36.199/ywwz/about/cma.php.
I believe that I have made it very clear what we had done with regard to the “station histories” in 1990 urban warming study. What and how you are going to proceed from now on is entirely your decision.
As an editorial comment here, while Wang may got some rhetorical satisfaction from his suggestion that Keenan try to get the station histories from China himself, this answer didn’t deal with the problem which proceeded to deteriorate. In my opinion, a more prudent answer on Wang’s part would have been to do what he could to locate the station histories (perhaps they really did exist despite NDP039) and put an end to the matter. In my opinion, as senior author of Jones et al 1990, Jones should likewise have urged Wang to try to locate the station histories. A similar opinion is later expressed by Wigley.
On June 18, I heard from Keenan on this topic for the first time since his last posting at CA in mid-April. He said that he had posted up a statement on the situation at his website and asked me to do a post at Climate Audit, which I did here. In this post, I observed once again:
Ms Zeng is Zeng Zhaomei, one of the coauthors of NDP039, the original report on the Chinese stations. It would be ironic if these “paper” station histories had survived all the turbulence of Maoism, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, only to disappear during the IPCC regime and then after DOE had made a special effort both to collect the data and meta-data. Given the particular efforts of the DOE program to collect metadata, it seems odd that data then available would not have been transcribed. However, even if there were paper histories in 1990 which Zeng failed to transcribe, it appears unlikely that these possibly unavailable, possibly lost station histories supported the quality control claim of Jones et al:
we chose those with few, if any, changes in instrumentation, location or observation times.
Keenan analysis of station moves for the network for which station histories were available in 1993 shows quite convincingly that the Jones et al claim that there were “few, if any” changes was false. Why was this claim made? It’s one thing to make an incorrect claim, but was there any reasonable basis for making the claim? If not, what word should be used? Is Keenan’s use of the term “fabricated” (which has technical meaning in most Codes of Conduct) justified?
As I observed at the time, it didn’t seem to me that “fabrication” accurately captured the nuance of what was going on here. However, if the station histories didn’t exist at the time, the claim to have used them for the selection process did seem to have similarities to the following precedent for “falsification” as the term is used in academic misconduct literature e.g. here
falsely reporting to a data coordinating center that certain clinical trial staff, who were certified to perform the procedures on the subjects, had done so, when they had not;
Instead of trying to resolve whether the station histories had or had not actually existed, as, in my opinion, he should have done, Jones instead tried to cut off any further supply of data to anyone connected with Climate Audit, writing Wang and Karl as follows:
“Think I’ve managed to persuade UEA to ignore all further FOIA requests if the people have anything to do with Climate Audit… Had an email from David Jones of BMRC, Melbourne. He said they are ignoring anybody who has dealings with CA, as there are threads on it about Australian sites.”
While I was doubtful of the station histories, neither was I comfortable with where Keenan had taken things. The following day, after reflecting on the situation, I emailed Jones suggesting that he issue a correction to their Nature article, acknowledging the apparent unavailability of station histories – an approach that Trenberth, an unlikely ally, had suggested two months earlier as a means of defusing Keenan’s allegations. I noted the letter at CA here )The letter turns up in the Climategate emails as well).
Jones et al 1990 cited a 260-station temperature set jointly collected by the US Deparment of Energy and the PRC Academy of Sciences, stating in respect to the Chinese stations:
The stations were selected on the basis of station history: we chose those with few, if any, changes in instrumentation, location or observation times.
This data set was later published as NDP-039 http://cdiac.ornl.gov/epubs/ndp/ndp039/ndp039.html , coauthored by Zeng Zhaomei, providing station histories only for their 65-station network, stating that station histories for their 205-station network (which includes many of the sites in Jones et al 1990) were not available:
(s. 5) Unfortunately, station histories are not currently available for any of the stations in the 205-station network; therefore, details regarding instrumentation, collection methods, changes in station location or observing times, and official data sources are not known.
(s. 7) Few station records included in the PRC data sets can be considered truly homogeneous. Even the best stations were subject to minor relocations or changes in observing times, and many have undoubtedly experienced large increases in urbanization. Fortunately, for 59 of the stations in the 65-station network, station histories (see Table 1) are available to assist in proper interpretation of trends or jumps in the data; however, station histories for the 205-station network are not available. In addition, examination of the data from the 65-station data set has uncovered evidence of several undocumented station moves (Sects. 6 and 10). Users should therefore exercise caution when using the data.
Accordingly, it appears that the quality control claim made in Jones et al 1990 was incorrect. I presume that you did not verify whether this claim was correct at the time and have been unaware of the incorrectness of this representation. Since the study continues to be relied on, most recently in AR4, I would encourage you to promptly issue an appropriate correction.
Regards, Steve McIntyre
Keenan continued to take a harder line in an email sent to both of us. Jones presumed incorrectly that this was a good cop-bad cop intended to break up the solidarity of the author team, telling Tom Peterson of NOAA:
The second letter seems an attempt to be nice to me, and somehow split up the original author team. I do now wish I’d never sent them the data after their FOIA request!
But it was nothing of the sort. I thought that a correction to Jones et al 1990 would deal with the matter as far as Jones was concerned and I had no interest in Wang (and provided little coverage of the Wang affair at Climate Audit.)
Unfortunately, Jones decided to ignore the suggestion that he issue a correction, instead regretting that the data had been provided in the first place :
I won’t be replying to either of the emails below, nor to any of the accusations on the Climate Audit website. I’ve sent them on to someone here at UEA to see if we should be discussing anything with our legal staff. The second letter seems an attempt to be nice to me, and somehow split up the original author team. I do now wish I’d never sent them the data after their FOIA
Trenberth reinforced Jones’ decision not to respond: “responding to these guys unless they write papers is not the thing to do”.
Jones Visits China
In July 2007, by sheer coincidence, Jones visited the Chinese Meteorological Agency in Beijing. He emailed David Parker telling him with some excitement that “sites move out of the city at regular intervals as the cities expand. So Beijing has 6-7 site moves since 1951!” ( a point that Keenan had observed a few months earlier):
I’ve been giving some talks here and have more tomorrow. At CMA I’ve found they have a homogenized dataset of 745 stations for the country which they are preapred to give me at some point for inclusion. They have adjusted for all site moves but not for urbanization. It seems that it is almost impossible for sites here to be rural (maybe only 1% of the total). Sites move out of the city at regular intervals as the cities expand. So Beijing has 6-7 site moves since 1951! Also China seems to be the only country that doesn’t use airport sites. None are located at airports. I’m going to give them my Chinese sites in return so they can do some comparisons. I’ll talk with their person (Mr Li ) more tomorrow.
This would have been an ideal opportunity for Jones to determine whether the station histories relied upon in Jones et al 1990 really did exist in the archives. It would be interesting to know whether Jones tried to do so and what was the result. And, if he didn’t, why he didn’t. Needless to say, none of the inquiries seems to have asked.
However, Jones’ visit to China and his introduction to Li did result in his decision to try to use the newer Chinese data to try to vindicate Jones et al 1990, an effort that resulted in Jones et al 2008 (coauthor Li.)
More to come in Part 3.