Trinity College Presentation, March 2010

I mentioned in March that I was giving a presentation “next Wednesday”on Climategate at Trinity College, University of Toronto. (I’m an alumnus and was a guest member of the Senior Common Room last year.)

I meant to post up my talk at the time but forgot to do so and remedy the situation today. Here it is. In the original presentation, I inserted some video clips into the PowerPoint presentation. I regard Jon Stewart’s remarks as more insightful than any of the inquiries.


  1. kim
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 8:58 AM | Permalink

    Yup, ‘U’ dunnit. And Jon S. is nobody’s fool.

  2. kim
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 9:13 AM | Permalink

    Very lucid, Steve. This excellent precis is a fine book outline.

  3. jaymam
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 9:18 AM | Permalink

    “a dossier of several thousand emails” and “There are thousands of emails”
    I make it 1073 email files and a total of 4663 files but I could be wrong! Some email files contained quotes of other emails, so perhaps thousands could be OK.

    Steve: some of the 1073 files contain up to 6 or 7 emails. There are more emails than one thinks at first.

    • Duster
      Posted May 6, 2010 at 11:11 AM | Permalink

      I went through more than 100 of the email files when the zip archive first became available at tAV last fall and concluded that, counting the individual emails in the threads in those files, there had to be on the order of 2,000 to 4,000 individual emails in the archive. Some of threads appeared to be redacted as well, presumably by the individual that compiled the collection.

    • steven Mosher
      Posted May 6, 2010 at 3:36 PM | Permalink

      it’s not a particularly wise idea to question steve on details without checking them first in more than a cursory manner. Of course the first check we did was on the raw number of file names.. 1073 as you note. Those of us who took the time to read all the mails before opening our mouths, are aware that a fair number of files contain multiple mails. These are often threaded mails. the unique number of mails has not to my knowledge been posted but the network analysis programs would be your best bet to look for that number if it really interests you.

      • Skip Smith
        Posted May 6, 2010 at 4:14 PM | Permalink

        He did say 1073 email *files*, and noted that multiple emails were contained in some files, and even said thousands could be right, so why the hostility?

      • jaymam
        Posted May 6, 2010 at 7:13 PM | Permalink

        I’m just trying to be helpful as always. The phrase “thousands of emails” has been used very often in the media and I’d hate someone to prove it was wrong (i.e. less than 2000 emails). I have not seen an actual count of unique emails. That would be interesting but not important.
        Talking of which, is now a good time for the whistleblower to release some more really damning emails so AGW is all over and we can all get on with something useful?

  4. Mac
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 9:52 AM | Permalink

    you may want to review the comments by Dr Joe Farman, the man who discovered the hole in the ozone layer over Antartica.

    Although a warmist, Dr Farman is quite robust in his comments on the current state of climate science and the way the scientific establishment brushes aside specific criticisms. He also attacks the way Lord Oxburgh handled the review of CRU science.

    • Posted May 6, 2010 at 11:17 PM | Permalink

      “Too much too much money is going into expensive climate modelling computers, and not enough into basic observational science, he says.”
      For most of the analysis, simple maximum entropy models will suffice.

    • Faustino
      Posted May 18, 2010 at 12:18 AM | Permalink

      The banning of man-made ozone-depleting gases was seen as a major triumph for environmentalists in protecting mankind from dangerous solar radiation, and later an example for the AGW proponents.

      I was amazed to discover that the net effect of the very expensive banning of CFCs etc was to reduce that radiation by the amount achieved by moving 150 miles/250 kms further from the equator. That is, anyone concerned in London could have simply moved to Manchester to get the same benefit (and lower house prices). In practise, wealthy and even not-so-wealthy Westerners tend to move much further towards the equator – Melbourne to Brisbane, England to southern Spain, NE USA to Florida, etc, without apparently giving any thought to the huge (compared to CFC-effect) increase in radiation. (From my (very good) memory, can’t quote source.)

  5. Bernie
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 12:33 PM | Permalink

    This is a very nice summary. How did the audience respond? What types of questions did you get?

  6. Posted May 6, 2010 at 1:05 PM | Permalink

    tnx for the great read,

    The heaving breasts of climate science.

    LOL, I bet Steve doesn’t have a 10,000,000$ home.

    How come if the oil companies pay so much the other guys seem to have all the money?

  7. Bill S
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 1:19 PM | Permalink

    Thanks for posting the file, but does it really end at page 14? It seems to cut off in mid-thought there.

  8. dearieme
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 1:30 PM | Permalink

    “the Senior Climate Room”: very Freudian.

    Steve: 🙂 fixed.

  9. Dave Dardinger
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 1:40 PM | Permalink


    I was surprised how much you and Michael Mann looked alike (in a side view) in the photo. Separated at birth, perhaps? Sibling rivalry might explain a lot, eh?

  10. PJB
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 2:20 PM | Permalink

    I gather that the presentation was not recorded on video for further dissemination? Unfortunate.

    You are to be commended for such valiant persistence in the face of daunting odds. When AGW is classed along with “Piltdown man”, the M&M’s will be synonymous with the classic Davids vs. Goliath.

    Your contribution has reduced my “fear factor” by a forcing that rivals that of the GCM for CO2!

  11. stephen richards
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 2:32 PM | Permalink


    You didn’t say how it was received. Perhaps you got some feedback afterwards.

  12. EdeF
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 2:48 PM | Permalink

    They always tell you that a well-rounded college education should prepare you for a variety of jobs or careers, but who would have known that you could juijitsu from mining to climate! Well done University of Toronto! Good advert for the school. I think it would be really well received to have someone who has been out in the real world come in and give a talk about some of the real world issues. Great experience for the students.

  13. theduke
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 3:24 PM | Permalink

    Excellent presentation. The writing is engaging. I’d bet it could be the basis for a compelling book.

  14. Hoi Polloi
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 3:27 PM | Permalink

    Jon Stewart for President.

  15. Brazil Tony
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 4:08 PM | Permalink

    NSF data release plan:

  16. Jerry Franke
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 6:43 PM | Permalink

    Great title for an excellent presentation that succinctly skewers the fallen soldiers of the army of AGW.
    During a short stint as a quality auditor at a defense electronics company I was once asked by the VP & GM if I knew what the definition of “auditor” was. I replied, “Tell me.” He said,”An auditor is the guy who goes onto the battlefield after the battle is lost and bayonets the wounded.”

    • Geoff Sherrington
      Posted May 7, 2010 at 7:12 PM | Permalink


      Don’t you think that is a bit demeaning of Steve’s actual work? He does not use the bayonet. He uses the word and number weapons provided by the authors under study.

  17. Posted May 6, 2010 at 7:29 PM | Permalink

    I think the Spartans used to do that.

    • dougie
      Posted May 7, 2010 at 5:24 PM | Permalink

      that’s apt Shub.
      were at the ‘hot gates’ now.

  18. Anton
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 7:29 PM | Permalink

    Who are these “…Korean guy and someone from Berkeley..” of the Page 9 Steve’s presentation .?

    Steve Mc said “Seven years later the authors are still trying to get the article published”. … someone knows where to find that “rather mathematical” IPCC disturbing study ?


    • Acton Now
      Posted May 6, 2010 at 9:47 PM | Permalink

      Here it is…

      • Anton
        Posted May 7, 2010 at 5:41 AM | Permalink

        Many thx Acton Now.

        “Matching the results from the Monte Carlo experiment, the estimated standard deviation
        of the reconstructions from the inversion method is 1.45 times the true standard deviation, thus
        overestimating the climate variability”
        “The reconstructions by the direct estimation
        of a misspecified transfer function yield consistently erroneous and positive orders of the autoregressive
        process in Monte Carlo experiments and the empirical example.”
        ….mortal statistical blow.
        Climate science really needs on open access data to clear the debate.

  19. Posted May 6, 2010 at 8:05 PM | Permalink

    What I found most interesting is how citizen bloggers can use simple math and physics and derive the most fundamental behaviors in climate science. I became interested in trying to derive the rise in persistent atmospheric CO2 concentration a few weeks ago and was able to model the trends without much effort:

    I don’t really understand why ClimateAudit avoids taking on the CO2 rise. To me it seems much more fundamental than the temperature rise. As scientists and engineers we should be measuring and examining the primary observables first and secondary factors after that.

    • Brooks Hurd
      Posted May 6, 2010 at 10:02 PM | Permalink

      CO2 has been well covered elsewhere by others. Steve has his hands full dealing with other issues, which he covers extremely well as the PDF file clearly shows.

      • Posted May 6, 2010 at 10:52 PM | Permalink

        I really don’t understand the nature of this site then. Is this site meant to function as a journalistic fact checker, or is it intended to work out the scientific ideas?

        It sounds like the former. I understand having your hands full.

        • Geoff Sherrington
          Posted May 7, 2010 at 7:27 AM | Permalink


          Does the title of this blog site give you an answer?

        • Posted May 7, 2010 at 8:04 AM | Permalink

          Thanks. I welcome auditing of any work. Case in point: I am working on my own nickel to try to apply fat-tail probability models to all sorts of pressing issues. I have recently been interested in climate science theories and have come up with some very simple and straightforward ideas based on the physics and math.

          So if any of you auditors are interested in trying to discredit me, give it a try. I usually hang out at, but you guys here seem to be way more mathematically advanced on the statistics end then most of the people on that site are. I am very impressed by the level of effort that goes on here.

          BTW, all of my data and source is open. I don’t use anything very complicated.

    • Posted May 7, 2010 at 11:56 PM | Permalink

      Why does your graph begin at around 300ppm instead of 0? The actual growth rate of atmospheric CO2 since 1958 has been just over 0.4% p.a. Is that as alarming as you seem to think?

      • Posted May 8, 2010 at 2:36 PM | Permalink

        The atmospheric rise of CO2 has a dispersive rate-limited response to carbon emissions. The rate of increase of carbon emissions may start to slow down (because of peak oil, etc) but the rise will continue because of the persistent residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere.

        This is really cool modeling because it uses the idea of fat-tail probabilities, which most scientists are not familiar with.

  20. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 8:34 PM | Permalink

    For what it is worth, here is a summary or related events on the National Broadcaster in Australia, the ABC, earlier this week.

    (It’s 200 MB file, 1 hour long, so please snip if it’s too much bandwidth. I don’t know how to select the short bits of interest).

    Remember that here, Conservative = Liberal and Democrat = Labor (who are in Government, with Penny Wong the Minister for climate change).

    A nice question from the traditionally green moderator, Tony Jones, at 20 mins, but mainly go to 32 minutes where Conservative Senator Nick Minchin (who is retiring) talks about Climategate. Look at the audience reaction. Who is training all these people to hiss?

    Australia is about 18 months behind the Nth America in thinking (and a decade behind new Californian trendy stuff). Any comment on a typical “other world” reaction to compare to that given by the audience to Nick Minchin?

  21. Posted May 6, 2010 at 9:37 PM | Permalink


    Here is another version of the same graph in your post. 🙂

  22. AusieDan
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 10:00 PM | Permalink

    Geoff Sherrington – I saw the program too and noted the hiss, which came from a fairly youthful section of the audience, to the left of the camera (appropriately perhaps).

    Did you also notice that they quickly quitened down and were not heard again that night, when Minchin held his ground and shouted above their noise, and rapidly summarised the contents of the Climategate emails. He managed to condense Steve’s talk into a very effective twenty second grab.

    We need more politicans like Nick, to take the time to learn the facts and brave enough to publicise them.

  23. MattN
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 8:36 AM | Permalink

    I am shocked at the quote from Briffa regarding the sensativity of the tree rings. There are only 2 options I can think of. Complete and total scientific incompetence, or intentional scientific malpractice.

    “In the absence of a substantiated explanation for the decline, we make the assumption that it is
    likely to be a response to some kind of recent anthropogenic forcing. On the basis of this assumption, the pre-twentieth century part of the reconstructions can be considered to be free
    from similar events and thus accurately represent past temperature variability.”

    I cannot see how a legitimate scientist can utter those words with a straight face. We should hook a generator to Issac Newton’s grave so we can generate some free electricity from all the spinning he must be doing…

  24. Paul
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 8:59 AM | Permalink

    I am wondering if the full version of the speech is at the link provided, or is there a problem at my end? I have tried downloading it a couple of times, I get 14 pages, and it doesn’t seem to end on a concluding note, the last sentence I have reads “Jon Stewart had a similar take.” without giving Jon Stewart’s take.

  25. Posted May 7, 2010 at 2:01 PM | Permalink

    The war is off the chalk board and into the media arena. Until we get more solid climate data like ocean temps etc. this will probably go on for another 5 or 10 years. Some busy blogging ahead.

    • Brooks Hurd
      Posted May 7, 2010 at 2:56 PM | Permalink

      What has been mentioned and is badly needed, is to go back to the original source data and start from scratch. A first step might be to look at the data from truly rural stations which pass muster with Anthony’s team and compare it with data from stations that are obviously impacted by the UHI. This process has begun, but there are many parts of the land mass of our planet still to complete. This will give us the increase in rural and UHI impacted temperatures. Such comparisons will allow us to quantify the temperature increases in truly rural areas as well as the magnitude of the UHI (hopefully city by city.)

      • Posted May 7, 2010 at 5:10 PM | Permalink

        The focus ought to be on formulating a temperature index, and not the impossible task of calculating a “global temperature”.

      • Geoff Sherrington
        Posted May 7, 2010 at 7:08 PM | Permalink

        Brooks Hurd – complete recalculation

        I started on an exercise for Australia. Firstly, it is almost impossible to get raw data because the processing of the early metadata records is incomplete and besides, there is a reluctance of authorities to release it in case it shows errors of method or assumption in their early stage massaging.

        Second, using 15 stations chosen by others as truly rural (and looking at another 20 of my choice, knowing the history of the country fairly well) a strange effect appeared when using the first pass value-added data that authorities sell as a product. The effect was that in the last 40 years (the study period I chose) temperatures at seaside sites were more or less level in both Tmax and Tmin, whereas at inland sites there were trends in both Tmax and Tmin, showing increases approaching 1 deg C per 40 last years (linear fit was used for visualisation). In the absence of a mechanism to explain these differences, one has to accept the possibility of a value added error of unknown origin, or do more work to explain the physical anomaly. It cannot be a permanent feature, otherwise extrapolation backwards for a few decades soon produces unrealistic temperatures that differ from earlier observed thermometer temperatures. It is not a simple matter of presuming that the sea buffers temperature changes at coastal sites. My favoured physical hypothesis involves unspecified moisture/cloud formation changes, different over inland than over sea.

        Given that Australia contributes to estimates of global temperatures, a new calculation of global temperatures would contain this anomaly unless it was researched and corected beforehand. Unless this was done it would limit how useful the exercise would be. In summary, other counties need to be studied for data pecularities as well, before any large scale, grass roots reconstruction begins. e.g. in USA, there seems to be a division of behavior each side of the Rockies.

        I agree with the sentiment, but can see a lot of preparatory work to ensure raw data are truly raw and that irregularities are studied and corrected.

        • Posted May 9, 2010 at 10:25 PM | Permalink

          Geoff, Even though they are rural, many of the rural sites seem to be at airstrips. Even though they are mostly over desert, they are right next to whopping big tarmacs. My guess is that radiant heat and enhanced inversion at night may well be factors.

          I have been looking at this data lately. One thing I notice is that the diurnal range data is particularly weird, with clear anomalies (both ways) in many locations. I would think this would be a good way to weed out the problem sites.

        • Geoff Sherrington
          Posted May 10, 2010 at 4:29 AM | Permalink

          David, I looked at airport versus non-airport sites and found no significance. Also at the most northern half versus the most southern. No diff again. I am puzzled until I delve from time to time into the varius versions of temperature data and the magnitude of the adjustments. I still regard instrumental/recording/adjustment effects as having unexplained uncertainties.

          BTW, the most likely site to have airport problems is Broome where the airport cuts the town in two. Yet, Broome is one of the “no change” seaside sites, unless the change has been edited out without a notice.

          I agree with diurnal range being all over the place. Diurnal temperature range was used here as evidence of anthropogenic climate change

          Click to access Karoly_et_al_Science_2003.pdf

          and later in

          Click to access diurnalTempRange.pdf

          The trend variability at the station scale seems to be dismissed in favour of regional summaries, which are often a less sharp scalpel.

  26. stephen richards
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 7:43 AM | Permalink

    My big fear now is that the trend to sophisticated measurement instruments and methods is moving us so far away from the way things have been done in the past that the long records of temp etc that we already have will become useless. There are indications of this happening with the new sun measurements and the counting of “microspots” and “spots just forming but not numbered” that are also counted in the sunspot number. This sort of change will almost certainly migrate into other climate measurements and the climate ‘science’ community does not seem to have foprmed any sort of transition plan for these events. We are simply blundering into the destruction in value of our existing climate records.

  27. nc
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 11:47 AM | Permalink

    stephen richards I have read this sort of thing is happening with hurricanes. We are now able to see every hurricane formed where as in the past some would have been missed. More storms are also suspected of being called hurricanes, again in the past maybe not upgraded to hurricane status.

  28. Lance
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 9:26 PM | Permalink

    Steve’s talk highlights my favorite remark from the press during the climategate affair. It is from Simon Carr of The Independent, “I don’t know much about statistics but I know what I like.”

    You gotta love the British press. Well the actual journalists, not the activists.

  29. John
    Posted May 9, 2010 at 8:55 PM | Permalink

    Speaking of presentations Rutledge makes some interesting projections on CO2 and some interesting germane observations of Climategate and Steve.

  30. Michael Reed
    Posted May 10, 2010 at 9:15 AM | Permalink


    I’ve downloaded the PDF of your Trinity College presentation twice now and both times page 5 has been garbled. Is this somehow my fault, or is there something wrong with the file itself? Perhaps you could post a revised version which fixes the problem, if it is a problem.

    Much admire your work.

  31. Martin A
    Posted May 10, 2010 at 9:27 AM | Permalink

    Very clearly and dispassionately written.e

    The copy I downloaded ends abruptly with the line
    “Jon Stewart had a similar take.”

    But maybe that is how it is meant to end.

    • Martin A
      Posted May 10, 2010 at 4:42 PM | Permalink

      Yes, it’s obvious now that that’s the finish.

      I found the text of Jon Stewart’s “similar take”:


      STEWART: (Laughing) See, I tell you it’s nothing. He was just using a trick to hide the decline. It’s just scientist speak for using a standard statistical technique recalibrating data in order to trick you into not knowing about the decline. But here’s what’s great about science: in disagreement, we go back and look at the raw data.


      UNKNOWN FOX NEWS ANNOUNCER): University scientists say raw data from the 1980s was thrown out.

      (END VIDEO)

      STEWART: Oh for f**k’s sake! Why would you throw out raw data from the ’80s? I still have Penthouses from the ’70s! Laminated. What did you keep?

      (etc etc)

  32. Charles DrPH
    Posted May 10, 2010 at 4:05 PM | Permalink

    Steve, I see that they are invoking your name in the US Congress, please see:

    Click to access Sensenbrenner_OpeningStatement.pdf

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