Appeal of UEA’s Yamal FOI Refusal

Fred Pearce reported in the The Climate Files (page 54):

When I phoned Jones on the day the emails were published online and asked him what he thought was behind it, he said: “It’s about Yamal, I think”. The word turns up in 100 separate emails, more than “hockey stick” or any other totem of the climate wars. The emails began with it back in 1996 and they ended with it.

See here for a recent technical discussion of Yamal data and for tagged articles.

An April 2006 Climategate email (684. 1146252894.txt) referred to a regional chronology covering both Yamal and Polar Urals as follows:

we have three “groups” of trees:

“SCAND” (which includes the Tornetrask and Finland multi-millennial chronologies, but also some shorter chronologies from the same region). These trees fall mainly within the 3 boxes centred at: 17.5E, 67.5N; 22.5E, 67.5N; 27.5E, 67.5N

“URALS” (which includes the Yamal and Polar Urals long chronologies, plus other shorter ones). These fall mainly within these 3 boxes: 52.5E [SM: presumably 62.5E], 67.5N; 62.5E, 62.5N (note this is the only one not at 67.5N); 67.5E, 67.5N

“TAIMYR” (which includes the Taimyr long chronology, plus other shorter ones). These fall mainly within these 4 boxes: 87.5E, 67.5N; 102.5E, 67.5N;112.5E, 67.5N; 122.5E, 67.5N

A March 2007 email (780. 1172776463.txt) appears to indicate that the 2006 Chronology had elevated values around AD1000, as the 2007 email refers to an earlier version of the chronology with a “higher peak near 1000 AD”:

Here is the old version for you to compare with… the only noticeable difference is for the URALS/YAMAL region, which previously had a higher peak near 1000 AD.

Although I specifically drew the attention of the Muir Russell panel to the 2006 email as being very important in connection with their mandate to examine evidence “of the manipulation or suppression of data which is at odds with acceptable scientific practice and may therefore call into question any of the research outcomes”, the Muir Russell panel failed to cross-examine CRU on inconsistencies in their evidence to the panel with the contemporary emails in the Climategate dossier.

Earlier this year, I submitted an EIR request for the 2006 regional chronology and the associated list of sites. Both requests were refused. I then submitted an internal appeal to UEA, again refused.

While climate scientists frequently say that they are not in it for the money, UEA’s refusal was based not on the public interest, but on their claim that they would be financially damaged by disclosure of the 2006 chronology, saying that as “copyright holder”, they had “an expectation of making financial gain from” publication of the 2006 chronology and that disclosure would cause them
“financial harm via adverse impact upon reputation, ability to attract research funding, and funding arising from the citation of the publications within the REF process by which universities in the United Kingdom receive funding”.

I have now submitted an appeal to the Information Commissioner. See here for the appeal and here for the prior correspondence. The appeal includes a review of events, commenting unfavorably on a number of untruthful assertions made by CRU and UEA along the way as excuses for not providing data or not complying with FOI/EIR legislation.

Obviously, I think that their arguments are unconvincing. But aside from that, we often hear from the climate community that they are not in it for the money. Any climate scientist who has ever made such a statement should condemn UEA’s placement of the university’s supposed “financial gain” above the public interest. Unfortunately, the climate “community” have, as usual, stood by mutely. Will Michael Tobis or Andrew Dessler speak out against UEA’s refusal? Or will they maintain the silence of the lambs that we have observed in the past.


  1. Posted Sep 19, 2011 at 8:08 PM | Permalink | Reply

    A truly incredible effort. You couldn’t make it up if you tried – well I couldn’t.

  2. stan
    Posted Sep 19, 2011 at 8:17 PM | Permalink | Reply

    This is like watching a dual. Steve continues to bring his light saber. The Team continues to rely on smoke and BS.

  3. mpaul
    Posted Sep 19, 2011 at 8:20 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve, well done. Thank you for the sizable effort that went into this appeal.

  4. TerryMN
    Posted Sep 19, 2011 at 8:47 PM | Permalink | Reply

    “We’re not in it for the money, except for when we are.” ~UEA

    “Nick, help!!” ~Phil

  5. hunter
    Posted Sep 19, 2011 at 9:11 PM | Permalink | Reply

    What a shabby, cheap and sleazy game the team has played, and continues to play.
    The behavior of the UEA and the Mann contingent in the US screams out coverup, duplicity and cynicism.
    Keep up the good work. The sleazoids will fold, ultimately.

  6. justbeau
    Posted Sep 19, 2011 at 9:11 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Silence of the Lambs. Good one, Steve.
    Of course, it is more than merely Dessler or Tobis. It is the Royal Society and the National Academy of Sciences who have not upheld the cause of good scientific practice.

  7. jorgekafkazar
    Posted Sep 19, 2011 at 9:32 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Many thanks for the outstanding effort.

  8. kuhnkat
    Posted Sep 19, 2011 at 9:58 PM | Permalink | Reply

    ““financial harm via adverse impact upon reputation, ability to attract research funding, and funding arising from the citation of the publications within the REF process by which universities in the United Kingdom receive funding”.”

    When a company has been shown to cheat or defraud the public they can have all of the above consequences. Could they actually be quite honest with this response?

  9. bender
    Posted Sep 19, 2011 at 9:59 PM | Permalink | Reply

    “It’s about Yamal, I think”
    Geez, ya think? Given the thread that was being discussed at the time? And “the miracle that happens” when strip-bark trees cause GMT to rise? Phil’s a genius.

    • Posted Sep 20, 2011 at 1:00 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Indeed. But my hunch is the great man wasn’t taking everyone’s calls the “day the emails were published online” – meaning 17th November 2009 or a day or so later by the way? Jones did take the call from Fred Pearce and Steve’s right to highlight Pearce’s subsequent honesty about Climategate, especially coming from a Guardian journalist. He was part of the magic circle but he told something approaching the truth. It’s Pearce rather than Jones that is notable here. But most all Yamal.

    • Posted Sep 20, 2011 at 7:54 AM | Permalink | Reply

      A brain bigger than a mountain.

  10. Robert
    Posted Sep 19, 2011 at 10:44 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Incredible effort Steve. It’s truly a David vs. Goliath battle. I only hope this request is finally honoured.

  11. kim
    Posted Sep 19, 2011 at 10:52 PM | Permalink | Reply

    If you want to make pie, don’t pick cherries in larch orchards.

    Keep your fork, there’s more.

  12. Bernie
    Posted Sep 19, 2011 at 11:12 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Congratulations on an excellent and clear chronology of Yamal incident. There are a few typos, but if it has been sent they will have to stand.

  13. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Sep 19, 2011 at 11:50 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I probably should have pointed out that CRU’s prospects of getting published in Science are more likely to be adversely affected by making untruthful statements to Science editors about not being in possession of data than providing data to critics.

  14. ausiedan
    Posted Sep 20, 2011 at 12:30 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Being of a skeptical tern of mind, I periodically ask myself if my views about the causes of climate change are correct, or if I am just an old fogy, conservative, flat earth loving backwoods man.

    Then I read someting like this post.
    Searchers for the truth do NOT behave like the members of the team behave.

    snip – excessive praise

    • kim
      Posted Sep 20, 2011 at 12:46 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Excess is in the eyes of the beholden.

  15. dearieme
    Posted Sep 20, 2011 at 1:18 AM | Permalink | Reply

    The business of oil companies is oil; the business of universities is meant to be truth.

    • Duster
      Posted Sep 20, 2011 at 1:04 PM | Permalink | Reply

      The business of universities is education. Truth is found in the philosophy department or, according to theologists, in the religious studies department.

  16. kim
    Posted Sep 20, 2011 at 2:49 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Fear not, till Yamal wood do come to East Anglia, and now a wood comes toward East Anglia. Arm, arm and out! Blow, wind! come, wrack.

    H/t Shakespear or some other bot of the same name.

  17. observa
    Posted Sep 20, 2011 at 2:57 AM | Permalink | Reply

    The business of oil companies is oil and the business of climate change universities is business as usual.

  18. observa
    Posted Sep 20, 2011 at 3:06 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Then again perhaps the Team simply think of them as virtual sheds?

  19. DEEBEE
    Posted Sep 20, 2011 at 4:55 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Methinks UEA is correct abolut financial loss. If they release the chronologies, the amount of sandpapering done would be obvious which would harm them in attracting future funds.

  20. barry
    Posted Sep 20, 2011 at 6:48 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve Mc, if you wouldn’t mind spending 2 seconds O/T, could you state what you think is a reasonable time frame for the Medieval Warm Period? I won’t be following up, just wanted your opinion if that’s ok.

  21. geo
    Posted Sep 20, 2011 at 8:49 AM | Permalink | Reply

    “adverse financial impact upon reputation”!?

    They can’t possibly mean “people will laugh at how bad it is” as an excuse, can they?

    Perhaps they’re trying to say “if we can’t hold our data hostage, then how will our CRU staff force themselves into co-author status on papers they largely have nothing to do with other than providing the data we’re holding hostage in exchange for a co-author credit”?

  22. Hoi Polloi
    Posted Sep 20, 2011 at 9:42 AM | Permalink | Reply

    It’s time they get in touch with Stokes, Stokes & Stokes LLP.

  23. Alexander K
    Posted Sep 20, 2011 at 10:02 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Tremendous tenacity and intellectual firepower,Steve!
    The dam must burst at some time in the near future, with the pressure you are piling on these poor excuses for scientists and a university.

  24. Posted Sep 20, 2011 at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve, I’m a reader but not as studious as maybe I should be. My understanding was that they (the UEA) plan to release the missing Yamal information by Autumn of 2012, through a peer reviewed paper or the like.

    I’m as interested in seeing this information as anyone on this post, and the sooner the better. On the other hand, they did agree to provide that information by this time next year. Am I mistaken?

    Steve: Up until a few weeks ago, they had no intention of ever releasing the 2006 Chronology. And without the FOI request and resulting pressure, would never have done so.

    As I argue in my submission, the UEA has made untruthful assertions in their refusal and have subverted the Act through their wrongful use of the exemptions. Whether or not they now plan to release the data towards the end of 2012, these assertions and subversions should not be allowed to stand and set precedents.

    Nonetheless, the end of 2012 does set a date. A date that conveniently will prevent any response in academic literature prior to expiry of the AR5 deadlines – which they will undoubtedly enforce as against critics. Nonetheless, the chronology will perhaps emerge at that time presuming that their publication is accepted. Their undertaking makes no commitment to produce the data prior to publication of an article. (Some CRU articles have drifted for a long time.)

    I would also feel more comfortable if someone independent secured the data in escrow to guard against it being inadvertently “lost” or “adjusted” in the meantime.

    • stan
      Posted Sep 20, 2011 at 3:25 PM | Permalink | Reply

      There have been a variety of speculative comments such as this one (see e.g. the dustup with Spencer, Trenberth et al) that there is a concerted effort by the team to try to ‘game’ the AR5 deadline. I have no idea whether that is the case (although it certainly wouldn’t surprise me). If so, however, wouldn’t it be the scientific equivalent of the Maginot Line?

      Once upon a time, ‘stacking the deck’ in IPCC assessments may have allowed alarmists to play the appeal to authority fallacy with some limited political success. Could any alarmist still think it would be a smart political move now?! I would think that the very last thing that the IPCC could survive would be more revelations of error that could be tied to corruption of the science. If they don’t get their act together for AR5 and produce really first rate stuff, it will assuredly be the last assessment they do. I’m not sure they can survive revelations of any significant errors, even if they weren’t caused by an improper motive. But evidence of impropriety will surely cost it big time.

      Stated another way — I’m not sure the IPCC has have any credibility it can afford to burn in an effort to provide some cover to politicians. If it does, it seems to me it would blow up on the politicians and likely sink the IPCC.

      What’s the advantage of playing games to keep out an important study when everyone would already know it exists? It would just provide another opportunity to point out that the IPCC doesn’t represent the up-to-date state of the science so it ought just be ignored.

  25. manicbeancounter
    Posted Sep 20, 2011 at 1:44 PM | Permalink | Reply


    Thanks for your dogged persistence. The UEA comment about adverse impacts is worth etc.

    “financial harm via adverse impact upon reputation, ability to attract research funding, and funding arising from the citation of the publications within the REF process by which universities in the United Kingdom receive funding”

    There are two possibilities here. The first is that the data is about to be used in a major article. The second is that the data has such serious issues that the ramifications will seriously damage the reputation of the CRU, making future research grants more difficult to obtain. I would be surprised if were the former, as the data is now quite old. If it is the latter, then revealing the data is very much is the interest of the UK taxpayers, of which I am one.

  26. MikeN
    Posted Sep 20, 2011 at 6:46 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I think a minimum performance credibility wise would be to keep out Mann et al 2008 and 2009.

  27. TerryMN
    Posted Sep 20, 2011 at 8:29 PM | Permalink | Reply

    It’s my opinion that if UEA/CRU were either a drug or oil company, this would be plastered across all of the 24 hour news stations. Too bad that, for something this important, there aren’t any journalists to cover this sort of thing (I’m sure Andy Revkin and Keith Kloor are researching much more important topics).

    Odd too that Tobis, Stokes, Halpern, et al haven’t come by to illustrate the wickedness of your request either…

  28. observa
    Posted Sep 20, 2011 at 9:30 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Speaking of the inhabitants of virtual sheds and secret mens business it would be remiss of you all as it was me, to go there without thoroughly checking out their ‘Climate Change’ link to discover that-

    ‘Here we present informative and opposing views on what’s going on- and possible solutions’

    with a singular link to-

    ‘The Truth About Climate Change’

    there being no other items on the menu.

    which for lazybones and those who perpetually fail to do their homework on such things is here-

    So there you have it in a nutshell and skeptics and deniers everywhere must now explain the ONLY man-made warming since the 1970s and those predicting an impending Ice Age at the time, obviously have a lot more explaining to do.

  29. AntonyIndia
    Posted Sep 20, 2011 at 10:16 PM | Permalink | Reply

    That obtaining data from a publicly funded UK science department (not involved in any patentable work)long after it being used in publications can be much harder then pulling a wisdom tooth from a conscious lion in the year 2011 CE is really Hollywood scenario material. Call it: “Nothing to hide!!!!”.

  30. Solomon Green
    Posted Sep 21, 2011 at 7:46 AM | Permalink | Reply

    “financial harm via adverse impact upon reputation”. If accepted, that means that I can publish any fictitious claim,refuse to provide supporting evidence at the time and then later when challenged argue that publishing further information might expose the lie and bring me into disrepute, thus damaging my career.

    Should the Commissioner uphold UAE on this point you should take him to the Information Tribunal. My experience of the Tribunal is that you do not require a lawyer to argue your case and the Tribunal is not impressed either by the Commissioner or by the body whose information he is protecting. In the case in which I was involved the Tribunal ordered the local government to attend and to be represented and then found that four named senior officers (including three lawyers )of that municipality had lied. On the findings of the Tribunal the Information Commissioner was forced to order the municipality to produce more than one thousand documents that It had attempted to hide.

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