Elephant Seals and PNAS Bias

Ralph Cicerone, President of NAS, personally reviewed Hansen’s recent article, which is available for free at the PNAS website here.

George Denton, a very distinguished paleoclimatologist of the older school – one whose work will undoubtedly long survive that of the Team, recently contributed an article entitled Holocene elephant seal distribution implies warmer-than-present climate in the Ross Sea”. The period in question was 1100-2300 BP. Unlike the Hansen article, the article here is not publicly accessible without purchase. Abstract for Hall et al:

We show that southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina) colonies existed proximate to the Ross Ice Shelf during the Holocene, well south of their core sub-Antarctic breeding and molting grounds. We propose that this was due to warming (including a previously unrecognized period from 1,100 to 2,300 14C yr B.P.) that decreased coastal sea ice and allowed penetration of warmer-than-present climate conditions into the Ross Embayment. If, as proposed in the literature, the ice shelf survived this period, it would have been exposed to environments substantially warmer than present.


  1. David Smith
    Posted Nov 19, 2006 at 11:14 AM | Permalink

    Steve, I think the links are backwards.

  2. Posted Nov 19, 2006 at 1:24 PM | Permalink

    I’ve swapped them around.

  3. Marshall
    Posted Nov 19, 2006 at 2:16 PM | Permalink

    Steve, text and PDF versions of the article are available for free via the menu links to the right of the abstract.

  4. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Nov 19, 2006 at 2:34 PM | Permalink

    I can’t pull down the elephant seal article.

  5. Marshall
    Posted Nov 19, 2006 at 3:29 PM | Permalink

    I can’t pull down the elephant seal article.

    Steve, it must be a problem with the Interweb tubes in Canada 🙂 The PDF file is 1.5MB – I can e-mail it to you if you wish.

  6. bender
    Posted Nov 19, 2006 at 3:46 PM | Permalink

    1100 y BP corresponds to the warming trend exhibited in the Cook et al. (2004) reconstruction, from AD 910-990. This is a warming trend that is both steeper and longer than the current trend (the one formerly described as “unprecedented”).

  7. Posted Nov 19, 2006 at 5:14 PM | Permalink

    Marshall, your links are mistyped: you have h t t p : / / h t t p / /
    You should remove the redundant second h t t p / / (spaces inserted to prevent the text being turned into links by misguided browsers.)

    But when I fix them, it’s still subscription-only.

    Bender, I’m sure I could dig it out, but if it’s not too much trouble could you link to information about the Cook 2004 reconstruction you mention? Thanks.

  8. bender
    Posted Nov 19, 2006 at 6:48 PM | Permalink

    Re #7 For a brief discussion of Cook et al. (2004), see:

  9. MarkR
    Posted Nov 19, 2006 at 7:36 PM | Permalink

    The big picture.

    Hanson (of NASA we put men on the moon)still can’t seem to manage to get all the lines showing temperature change to start at zero

    Even so both the lines for actual temperature come out at or below zero emission model prediction.

    What a k**z.

    Cicerone showed at the Wegman hearings that he was nothing more than a time served electrician

  10. MarkR
    Posted Nov 19, 2006 at 7:40 PM | Permalink

    Link to big pictur

  11. Nicholas
    Posted Nov 19, 2006 at 10:24 PM | Permalink

    According to Wikipedia the Roman Period starts in 510BC (start of the Roman Republic) and ends in 476AD (end of the Roman Empire).

    Those dates correspond to 2516 years BP through 1530 years BP. The theorized warm period of 2300 BP to 1100 BP has significant overlap.

    Could this be more evidence for a Roman Warm Period?

  12. Marshall
    Posted Nov 19, 2006 at 10:54 PM | Permalink

    #7 – Marshall, your links are mistyped

    Oops, sorry about that. I’m in S. Africa – maybe the article fee is only applicable to certain countries.

  13. Jared Espley
    Posted Nov 20, 2006 at 3:51 PM | Permalink

    Here’s the PNAS’ page charge policy which explains open access. The only bias PNAS appears to have is a monetary one. And actually I find the fact the articles are all free after 6 months very generous compared to other journals.


    Page charges
    PNAS depends, in part, on the payment of page charges for its operation. Payment of the page charge of $70 per printed page will be assessed from all authors who have funds available for that purpose. Payment of $200 per article will be assessed for Supporting Information. Authors of research articles may pay a surcharge of $1,000 to make their paper freely available through the PNAS open access option. If your institution has a 2006 Site License, the open access surcharge is $750. All articles are free online after 6 months. Articles are accepted or rejected for publication and published solely on the basis of merit.

  14. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Nov 20, 2006 at 4:23 PM | Permalink

    Hansen’s article is not 6 months old and it is open access. Science put the Wahl et al criticisim of von Storch and Zorita on open access, but left the original article on pay per view.

  15. Jared Espley
    Posted Nov 20, 2006 at 4:29 PM | Permalink

    Re #14:
    That’s why I assume Hansen et al. paid the extra $750 to have their article to be open access from the date of publication. Hence, my statement that PNAS’ only bias is monetary.

  16. Roger Bell
    Posted Nov 21, 2006 at 3:30 AM | Permalink

    Maybe it is OK for Cicerone to referee Hansen’s article if he retains his anonymity but I think it is wrong for him to make it known that he is the referee. He has become the publicist for the paper.

  17. Jared Espley
    Posted Nov 21, 2006 at 7:24 AM | Permalink

    Re#14 and the Science articles:
    I had to wait until I could get home to check the Science access issues since while I’m at work I have institutional access. From my home computer, the original von Storch article is closed access and both technical comments are open. This appears to be in keeping with Science’s access policy (http://www.sciencemag.org/about/access.dtl). So, again, I don’t see any overt bias on the part of the journals.

    Nonetheless, I sympathize your frustration with access issues. In an ideal world, all science articles would be open access.

  18. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Nov 21, 2006 at 9:50 AM | Permalink

    Jared, I’m not taking issue with open or closed access, but with what seems to be selectively open access. I don’t see anything in the Science policy which would call for the Comment to be open access and the original article closed access. Equally I don’t see anything in PNAS policy that would call for Hansen’s article to be open access and the elephant seal article closed access. It’s not something that I’ve researched – it’s just something that seems that way.

  19. Jared Espley
    Posted Nov 21, 2006 at 11:41 AM | Permalink

    Steve, I don’t want to beat a dead horse or be unduly argumentative but let me try to explicitly spell it out. In PNAS’ policy (quoted in #13):

    Authors of research articles may pay a surcharge of $1,000 to make their paper freely available through the PNAS open access option.

    Hence, it would appear that Hansen et al. paid this sum and Denton et al. did not. Hence, no overt bias beyond a monetary one.
    Regarding the Science papers(linked in #17):

    As a guest user, you’ll have access … to selected free sections such as Essays on Science and Society and Technical Comments, …

    Hence, the comments are free and the original article is not. Seems kind of goofy to me (the comments are pretty useless if you can’t read the original article) but it appears consistent and unbiased.

    I’m glad to see you pushing for more transparency in the scientific process (I think it’s needed) but I just wanted to let you in this case that there doesn’t seem to be anything shady going on.

  20. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Nov 21, 2006 at 1:30 PM | Permalink

    #19. OK, I see what you mean. Thanks.

  21. Posted Nov 22, 2006 at 2:35 AM | Permalink

    If anyone wants a copy of the the pdf – I have it.

  22. Lee
    Posted Nov 22, 2006 at 5:53 PM | Permalink

    16: Roger Bell,

    PNAS works differently from most scientific journals. It publishes papers submitted by members of the National Academy. If that paper is by someone other than the submitter (ie by someone not a member of the academy), the member/submitter is assumed to have acted as referee. If the paper is by a member of the academy and he is submitting his own paper, is is normal, perhaps even customary, to have someone else review the paper for that member, and to acknowledge that reviewer for hsi effort. what this does is force that reviewer to place a bit of his own credibility on the line with the submitted paper.

    That is far from “becom[ing] the publicist.”

    If you want to publish in PNAS rebutting Hansen, all you have to do is find a member of the academy who thinks your paper is important enough to apply his yearly publication quota to getting it published, and accurate enough to associate his name with it as submitter.

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