Turney in the Climategate Dossier

turney googleplus Today’s post finalizes some notes made earlier this year on appearances in the Climategate dossier by Chris Turney, the leader of the Ship of Fools and an alumnus of the University of East Anglia (an affiliation featured in his Google avatar over his PhD instiution – see left).

Although it attracted no notice at the time, Turney’s efforts to create a “consortium” to obtain government funds was a prominent feature of 2009 Climategate correspondence. Indeed, the second-last email in the original Climategate dossier concerns Turney’s “consortium”. It turns out that Turney even had a role in the quality control that was so severely criticized in the Harry Readme.

Harry Readme
The Harry Readme, which attracted considerable derisive commentary during Climategate, contains the acerbic (to say the least) commentary of Ian Harris on the execreable quality control of his predecessors. One of these predecessors turns out to be Chris Turney, who was a junior coauthor with Mike Hulme and Phil Jones on four articles while attending the University of East Anglia in 1993-94 (see UEA list here.)

Although some early discussion on the Harry Readme presumed that it was connected it to the well-known CRUTEM temperature index, it was actually connected to a related (but different) project, CRU’s attempt to attribute absolute temperatures to various gridcells (“CRU TS”), as shown in the heading of the Harry Readme. (At the time, CRU defenders argued that CRU TS was not widely used, but it has been cited in studies cited by AR5 WG2 purporting to show that crop yields are adversely impacted by temperature.)

The development of CRU TS1.1 is described in two academic articles by New, Hulme and Jones in 2000, the first of which was New, M., Hulme, M. and Jones, P.D., 2000: Representing twentieth century space-time climate variability. Part 1: development of 1961-90 mean monthly terrestrial climatology pdf. In its acknowledgements, Hulme and Phil Jones thanked Turney (and five others, including Ian Harris) for their contributions to “data entry and quality control”.
acknowledgement to turney

Turney appears to have applied the quality control lessons learned at the University of East Anglia to his planning of the Ship of Fools.

Climategate and the NERC Consortium

In 2009, Turney was still at the University of Exeter, where he had been appointed a couple of years earlier after a stint at the University of Woollongong. His career to that point had been in pre-Holocene paleoclimate.

In late 2008, Turney had developed the belief that he and a consortium of paleoclimateers could get £3.5 million funding from NERC, the UK funding agency, for the contentious paleoclimate of the past millennium. He discussed the idea with Jones and Briffa in late 2008, following up in March 2009. On March 9, Turney, then in Copenhagen to attend a consciousness-raising conference (see report here) sent Jones, Briffa and Osborn (plus Brohan and Allan at the Met Office, cc Peter Cox at Exeter) an “outline bid for the NERC Consortium bid we discussed at the end of last year.” Turney added that “Exeter has suddenly gone mad with appointments of staff and postgrads”, the madness later spreading to other institutions, including the University of Bristol.

Turney’s outline (not in the CLimategate dossier) seems to have grandiosely proposed that they could solve the longstanding conundrum of effective climate sensitivity. Briffa counseled sanity:

[we] need to be clear that this sort of work is incremental -i.e. that not every (or any) proposed data/model project can really produce “comprehensive” data or answer to question of what is effective climate sensitivity.

Undeterred by Briffa’s caution, over the next few months, Turney expanded the potential “consortium” to include Gabi Hegerl, Simon Tett and Sandy Tudhope (Rob Wilson would later get involved.) Jones privately wondered to Gabi Hegerl, now involved, whether the Turney bid could be made “more focussed”:

Maybe we can work the Turney consortium bid into something more focussed?

Turney proposed that the consortium meet for a two-day retreat (to be funded by Exeter) in order to distill his two-pager into something concrete enough for the NERC December 2009 funding round.

However, the proposed retreat doesn’t seem to have materialized. In August 2009, Jones tried to write up a realistic proposal, but confessed that he was “floundering”. Simon Tett, by then also entangled in the proposed consortium, also confessed that he thought that Turney’s concepts were still far too general and grandiose:

I’m not convinced that what you are planning will do what is needed. I think the concept note still feels very general. Where is the focus and how will that focus improve scientific knowledge? How is the project a consortium?

Sandy Tudhope, a coral specialist, like the others, was supportive in general, but couldn’t yet discern realistic goals in Turney’s concept:

I understand Chris’ enthusiasm for moving forward, but like Simon feel we’ve not yet really pinned down the scope and novelty of our approach as much as we need to.

Eventually, Rob Wilson and Phil Jones proposed ideas that had been long advocated at Climate Audit. Wilson suggested that a co-ordinated “update” of key proxies would offer a purpose for the consortium (an idea proposed in the earliest CA posts);

from the proxy point of view, it seems to me that there should be a good rationale for the consortium if we emphasise the importance of a coordinated ‘update’ and ‘new’ sampling of key proxies and regions.

Jones suggested that it would be worthwhile to determine which proxies “do the work” and which are “superfluous” in “reconstructions like MBH” – a longstanding issue at Climate Audit (though there should be no mystery about which proxies “do the work” in MBH – the role of bristlecones has been explained over and over):

Not sure where this is taking us. There are a lot of good scientific issues when considering combining proxies. In reconstructions like MBH, which ones do the work and which are superfluous.

Both Osborn and Eric Wolff (of the British Antarctic Survey) were concerned about Turney’s vagueness and grandiosity. Osborn:

The composition of the consortium is strong, but the need for a consortium project still seems weak, related to the objectives being general and difficult to “measure” whether we have achieved them. In agreement with some others’ comments, it is unconvincing to say that a major aim is to determine climate variations over last 500 years with greatly reduced uncertainties.
(a) Uncertainties of large-scale reconstructions are not fully estimated, so difficult to claim that we will reduce something when we don’t know how big it is to begin with. (b) I don’t think we’ll “greatly” reduce them anyway.


if I was NERC I would want a little more on what I could expect for 3.5 MEuro.

Turney’s inability to set out any focus caused the correspondents to suggest that the proposed submission be pushed back to the July 2010 NERC round- a delay that Turney resisted though he conceded that the proposal “lacks a little focus”.

In late September 2009, the “retreat” finally took place to “to develop the Consortium bid”. Exeter funded all expenses. Turney documented ideas for further expansion of the Consortium:

Phil Brohan to invite Matt Collins ( Met Office) to work with Gabi Hegerl on the methodology/ phenomena WP;
Eric Wolff to invite Louise Sime to participate in the Modelling WP ( Isotopes)
Sandy Tudhope to talk with Simon Tett re leading either the modelling or constraining predictions WPs.
Rob Wilson ? to talk with Tim Melvin re Modelling WP (Trees)

In early October 2009, Exeter sent out Turney’s “overarching rationale” with the following components:

WP-1 Prioritization of globally significant areas and datasets (Hegerl) £500k
WP-2: Extending historical climate records using observational and proxy data (P. Jones) £500k
WP-3: Modelling the climate system and controls on proxies (Cox) £500k
WP-4: Synthesis of data generation and modelling (Turney and Brohan) £750k
WP-5: Using the past to constrain future prediction (Tett) £500k
This leaves £250k in hand for project management/ dissemination/conferences /meetings/travel etc – and small overbudgets if they occur.

The second-last CG1 email documents further developments in the efforts of the Turney consortium to get their hands on the NERC money.

How Times Had Changed
How times had changed since the opening email in the Climategate dossier. As Michael Kelly wittily observed, Climategate began with two minor figures fighting mosquitos in the Siberian wilderness, planning real research and wondering where their next microscopic funding would come from. Kelly:

Like an Aristophanes satire, like Hamlet, it opens with two slaves, spear-carriers, little people. Footsoldiers of history, two researchers in a corrupt and impoverished mid-90s Russia schlep through the tundra to take core samples from trees at the behest of the bigger fish in far-off East Anglia. Stepan and Rashit don’t even have their own e-mail address and like characters in some absurdist comedy must pass jointly under the name of Tatiana M. Dedkova. Conscientious and obliging, they strike a human note all through this drama. Their talk is of mundane material concerns, the smallness of funds, the expense of helicopters, the scramble for grants. They are the ones who get their hands dirty, and their vicissitudes periodically revived my interest during the slower stretches of the tale, those otherwise devoted to abstruse details of committee work and other longueurs. ‘We also collected many wood samples from living and dead larches of various ages. But we were bited by many thousands of mosquitos especially small ones.’

Kelly added:

They are perhaps the only likeable characters on the establishment side, apart from the exasperated and appalled IT man Harry in the separate ‘Harry_read_me’ document, and I cheered up whenever they appeared.

At the close of the Climategate dossier, the situation was the opposite. NERC is perceived as awash with funding. The Turney consortium seems more or less certain that they can get £3.5 million from the NERC; their main stumbling block was that their apparent difficulty in figuring out a coherent rationale for the funding.

Closing Kelly’s circle, it seems ironic, to say the least, that Turney, one of the scientists whose quality control was reviled in the Harry readme, should be the leader of the unfocussed consortium of the penultimate CG1 email.

Postscript: I presume that the Consortium proposal foundered, as in July 2010, only six months later, Turney was unveiled as a recipient of a lucrative ($3 million) Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship at the University of New South Wales entitled “Tipping points in Records of Extreme Events in Australasia: Using the Past to Understand and Plan for Abrupt Future Climate Change”. One of Turney’s first endeavours was as joint leader with Joelle Gergis of the Australian contribution to PAGES2K. Its second workshop was held at the University of Western Australia in April 2011. Host Pauline Grierson puffed that climate science was an “emerging strength” at UWA, which was supposedly developing “critical mass”. Grierson cited the importance of contributions from Stephen Lewandowsky and Kevin Judd. A month later, Turney was signatory to a multi-signature climate manifesto modeled on Peter Gleick’s similar U.S. manifesto the previous year. More on these events on another occasion.


  1. Posted Apr 23, 2014 at 11:13 PM | Permalink

    Your narrative reads like a detective story. Or more precisely a reconstruction of events far in the past. Yet it was only a few years ago.

    Well worth the read.

  2. Posted Apr 23, 2014 at 11:27 PM | Permalink

    My goodness, what a find!

    Turney, Briffa, Jones, Hulme and Lewandowsky, too?! What an amazing clamour of voices to add a verse to the “It’s a small, small world” song:

    But that aside, Steve, thank you for so many smiles and chuckles … all in one post! If I had to pick one for “quote of the week” it would be a very close tie between your:

    Turney appears to have applied the quality control lessons learned at the University of East Anglia to his planning of the Ship of Fools.

    and your:

    The Turney consortium seems more or less certain that they can get £3.5 million from the NERC; their main stumbling block was that their apparent difficulty in figuring out a coherent rationale for the funding.

    The latter of which gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Follow the money”, does it not?;-)

  3. KNR
    Posted Apr 24, 2014 at 12:43 AM | Permalink

    Its one of the side stories that although increasing levels of CO2 has not seen temperature increases in the way that supports ‘the cause’ claims , there has certainly been seen a massive increase in the number of people and funding in climate ‘science’
    From a poorly know and less cared about cousin of the physical sciences to the big league with more funding then it knows what to do with , hence all the poor papers and those ‘ramming ‘ climate into papers that have little to do with it.
    It is just a shame that the quality of the people working in the area has gone in the opposite direction, has the level of funding has gone up the level of basic scientific ability has dropped to the extent that the ‘professionals ‘ working the area cannot nor are they expected to perform at a good enough level normally required for an undergraduate.
    Although to be fair ,on the ego front they are world leaders .

  4. Posted Apr 24, 2014 at 1:21 AM | Permalink

    Perfect for a Hollywood movie, it’s always the same 5-10 names doing the rounds…

    Ps alas, “Seven Psycopaths” is already taken

  5. Posted Apr 24, 2014 at 1:32 AM | Permalink

    Found a possible title

    “Turney the Mooch”

    potentially with Tom Hanks


    • Posted Apr 28, 2014 at 11:10 AM | Permalink

      Re: omnologos (Apr 24 01:32), Maybe Minnie the Moocher would be a better “model”….

      She had a dream about the king of sweden
      He gave her things that she was needin
      He gave her a home built of gold and steel
      A diamond car with platinum wheels

      Seems a lot like the funding dreams — so…. watch?v=rC6JUA8cjoY on Youtube… The Blues Brothers…

    • Posted Apr 28, 2014 at 11:23 AM | Permalink

      Re: omnologos (Apr 24 01:32),

      Just a couple of verses — Omnologos can finish it…

      Turney the Moocher….

      He had a dream about new NERC funding.
      They’d would give him things that he was needing.
      A big icebreaker of plastic and steel…
      Around Antarctica he would wheel.

      They’d gave him his lab with grads and computers.
      Each project would be immune from refuters.
      Millions of dollars in new skiddoos.
      So penguins on the ice flows he could view.

      Hope it works out!

      • NikFromNYC
        Posted May 5, 2014 at 2:38 PM | Permalink

        Your ditty mirrors the tone and phrasing of Bowie’s fitting song Saviour Machine from the 1970 album The Man Who Sold The World:

        “President Joe once had a dream
        The world held his hand, gave their pledge
        So he told them his scheme for a Saviour Machine

        They called it the Prayer, its answer was law
        Its logic stopped war, gave them food
        How they adored till it cried in its boredom

        ‘Please don’t believe in me, please disagree with me
        Life is too easy, a plague seems quite feasible now
        or maybe a war, or I may kill you all

        Don’t let me stay, don’t let me stay
        My logic says burn so send me away
        Your minds are too green, I despise all I’ve seen
        You can’t stake your lives on a Saviour Machine”

  6. Posted Apr 24, 2014 at 2:12 AM | Permalink

    Climategate began with two minor figures fighting mosquitos in the Siberian wilderness, planning real research and wondering where their next microscopic funding would come from

    I found this comment particularly interesting. Until yesterday, I had seen climate science as a difficult subject that for a variety of reasons ended up not using the “skeptic method” (the method used by some but now not all “scientsts”). Then in a conversation yesterday about the impact of the internet and it’s key role in creating the skeptic community, I realised had not only created the skeptic community, but that it probably played a key role in galvanising the climate science community. As such I now hypothesise, that the internet tended to knit them together in an international reaching, but inward looking group.

    This would explain why they were so easily led into group think and why they reacted so hostily to criticism from those on the internet.

    And both from these comments and from a paper I read yesterday from Phil Jones in 1998, it does seem that climate science was using very moderate and even science-like language about 1998, but then something very dramatic changed in a relatively short time.

    In other words, the key “finding” of the climategate emails, would not be what one climate scientist said to another, but whether or not this was a closed inward-looking community or an open outward looking (so ill-defined group).

    If it is a closed, inward looking group, detached from the sobering influence of colleagues in other subjects at their University, this may go a long way to explaining the way they so easily accepted the lowering of standards (like Mike’s Nature trick) and it also explain how this close-knit group came to be actively hostile to alternative ideas and viewpoints.

    So, can someone from a University tell me whether there was a noticeable change in the way academics worked, influenced bythe internet around 2000?

    ** now skeptics are the enthusiasts and this methodology is absent from much of science).

    • michael hart
      Posted Apr 24, 2014 at 3:19 AM | Permalink

      “I recall giving lectures in the past when there would be one person who would disagree with something or all I said in an invited talk. The internet has allowed all these people to find one another unfortunately.”-Phil Jones [climategate email #2621]

      • Skiphil
        Posted May 6, 2014 at 12:42 PM | Permalink

        Heaven forbid that anyone should be allowed to disagree with Phil Jones (or Michael Mann). Far better to purge such miscreants from the halls of polite society….

    • Bob K.
      Posted Apr 24, 2014 at 11:27 AM | Permalink

      It’s a form of Gresham’s Law: bad science drives out good.

      • Skiphil
        Posted Apr 24, 2014 at 1:10 PM | Permalink

        perhaps “Ship of Fools” should be a metaphorical description for the whole UEA/Climategate crowd…..

    • Geoff Sherrington
      Posted Apr 25, 2014 at 12:33 AM | Permalink

      One can find a good selection from the Russians in Climategate with the key word search ‘money’.

  7. Posted Apr 24, 2014 at 4:33 AM | Permalink

    We. in Australia. are hoping that Exeter University or the University of East Anglia will recall Professor Turkey to Albion”s Shores. It would be worthwhile for the University of Woollongong or UNSW to chip in half the fare to be rid of the embarrassment. 

    • Mickey Reno
      Posted Apr 24, 2014 at 12:37 PM | Permalink

      C’mon, now… don’t be greedy. The Brits already took Lewandowsky. Before you get to dump Turney on them, I think they should take Gore or Mann or Gleick from the US. That’s only fair…

      Wait. What are we saying? We’re just arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Let’s seal up the hull by sending all these guys to Cuba or Venezuela, where they can extort their funding from operators of Electronics shops, like the Venezuelan government did. But first, they need an internal rule that all incoming climate scientologists must open an electronics store and fully stock it. Then sit back and imagine the wonderful, pro-science, socialist workers paradise that would necessarily follow.

    • Matt Skaggs
      Posted Apr 24, 2014 at 2:46 PM | Permalink

      Not to be a killjoy, but I must admit to cringing a bit at the comparison of Turney to Lewandowsky. Turney is a hardworking, serious scholar:


      despite having made some dubious decisions about mixing science and advocacy. Lewandowsky is just a clown.

      • Posted Apr 25, 2014 at 8:30 AM | Permalink

        some dubious decisions

        Yea, the Ship of Fools would be included in that area.

      • M Seward
        Posted Apr 25, 2014 at 9:12 AM | Permalink

        Looking at his metrics one might make that case I suppose but then there is the issue of his credibility courtesy of the “ship of fools” episode. His volume of work should be discounted accordingly IMO. After all the true value of science is in its quality not its quantity.

        There is a Youtube video of Richard Muller tearing into the Hockey Stick and Hide the Decline etc. At one point he states that confronted with such utter junk from a scientist his reaction would be to never read anything the scientist ever published. In other words the credit of that scientist as a witness in the proceedings of science would have been utterly destroyed. I could not agree more.

      • ztabc
        Posted Apr 25, 2014 at 1:28 PM | Permalink

        Chris Turney is ‘an international specialist in elemental carbon’ http://carbonscape.com/about/directors/ and indeed when I google “international specialist in elemental carbon” I get one hit. So Turney is *the* “international specialist in elemental carbon”. Apparently one of the things that the “international specialist in elemental carbon” does is organize ship-of-fools excursions. Lewandosky is “a cognitive scientist with an interest in computational modeling” (http://www.bris.ac.uk/expsych/people/stephan-lewandowsky/index.html) which is a similarly rarified field. They are clearly similar people – they have cornered impressive sounding (made up) fields – and now use these platforms to tell everyone else what to do.

        • M Seward
          Posted Apr 26, 2014 at 12:32 AM | Permalink

          On what basis do we need specialists in elemental carbon? Do we not have enough distributed knowledge about carbon in its elemental or compounded forms that such persons are even remotely useful?

          It seems to me that Turney is an international specialist in attention seeking and one way to do that is to self identify with a unique callsign/search id such as ‘international specialist in elemental carbon’.

          Not much wonder he could not even put together a coherent funding application.

          Then again perhaps self parody is the new scientific black.

  8. CaligulaJones
    Posted Apr 24, 2014 at 8:35 AM | Permalink

    I work in the health science sector, not climate science, but this eerily mirrors the same process with regard to research funding: there are highly qualified experts at science, there are highly qualified experts in “grant sucking”, but rarely do the same groups consist of the same people.

    There used to be a satirical magazine in Canada called FRANK (think of Private Eye in the UK and Spy in the US), which had a section called “log rolling in our time”. It was where famous authors would “blurb” the work on the back covers of novels. You never really notice how small the literary universe is…

  9. Posted Apr 24, 2014 at 10:54 AM | Permalink

    I’m on the edge of my seat now waiting for the next instalment.

    P.S. Typo? “execreable”

  10. cw cole
    Posted Apr 24, 2014 at 12:38 PM | Permalink

    In a reply to “HR” on 01APR2014 (ref your thread of 31MAR2014 “Neukum and Gergis Serve Cold Screened Spaghetti”) you indicated that you “…had been working at this off and on for a while.” This refers to your working toward understanding the consistency among proxies which needs to be established before “…dumping a lot of stuff into a hopper and making weighted averages”. Perhaps you might make a new temperature construction at some point. In this light, perhaps the consortium could now submit a grant application with the following very focused objective: This grant application for 3.5 million pounds UK shall be dedicated in full to cover all costs for maintaining in situ the strong climate science team assembled at University of Western Australia until “he who shall not be named” sorts this dendro stuff out for us.

    Joking aside, I hope some day to read from you of a temp construction sans “ad hoc” statistical methods. You should apply for a grant!

    Best Regards

  11. Frank
    Posted Apr 24, 2014 at 1:38 PM | Permalink

    Steve: The quality of climate science has been diminished by the growing funding and the biases of influential leaders. If you were forced to invest in paleoclimatology and wanted to produce the most value for the money, what areas would you invest it?

    As best I can tell, the reliability (if any) of tree rings depends on location. The tree line in the north and in mountains moves with significant climate change (MWP/LIA/CWP) producing a possibly insurmountable divergence problem. Greenland and Antarctic are beginning to look like swiss cheese from ice coring. Varves appear hopelessly variable.

    At the risk of heresy, more research into when existing proxies are useful temperature proxies appears to be needed. Any proxy that can’t reproduce annual or high frequency temperature change during the instrumental period isn’t much of a temperature proxy – but that gets into ex post screening.

    • Jeff Norman
      Posted Apr 25, 2014 at 7:44 AM | Permalink

      It has been my opinion, pretty much from the start, that if the IPCC truly cared about the climate, each and every assessment report would make recommendations on improving our understanding of the climate. Things like:

      – filling in the voids of the global surface temperature station network;

      – prioritizing the proxy records that correlate best with temperature and/or precipitation records;

      – updating proxy records to ensure they track the current, best understood trends; and

      – identifying developing areas worth pursuing (other than the pet projects of the lead authors).

      Expecting any individual like our host to assume such a responsibility is unrealistic.

  12. Winston Churchill
    Posted Apr 24, 2014 at 5:00 PM | Permalink

    It feels odd that Drake has not yet said how great this post is. I will await his arrival.

    • Posted Apr 26, 2014 at 10:26 AM | Permalink

      I do have a first name and I find those that only use my last slightly creepy. I’ve not had time to read Climate Audit this week. Hilary Ostrov thinks that this post is good so I’m sure I will as well in due course.

      Steve: use of the name “Drake” as a singleton is very common in Toronto right now. Drake is a prominent rapper from Toronto. He has also become involved and visible in the promotion of our basketball (Raptors) who are in a playoff right now against Brooklyn, with whom rapper Jay-Z (Beyonce’s husband) is associated.

      • Posted Apr 26, 2014 at 12:57 PM | Permalink

        Lacking the cool but appreciating the allusion.

      • Jeff Norman
        Posted Apr 26, 2014 at 7:02 PM | Permalink

        Oh, so it’s Jay-Z, not Drake, who is steering the Golden Hinde now.

        (BTW: I pronounce it Jay-Zed, mostly to annoy my children)

        • Drunkenson
          Posted Apr 29, 2014 at 7:10 AM | Permalink

          Like Phil Jones I find the internet brings like minds together.

          Glad to hear that I am not the only one who mispronounces prominent musicalists simply to annoy my children!

  13. little polyp
    Posted Apr 24, 2014 at 7:15 PM | Permalink

    Looking at the list of Australian supposed “scientists” who put their name to the manifesto, one can only weep. Pity a generation of students having to grapple with teachers who see higher ground than the null hypothesis.

    • Posted Apr 25, 2014 at 11:52 PM | Permalink

      Not just scientists. Innovation is a major driver of economic growth. On three occasions over a period of years, I had to seek academics for an innovation policy body from Queensland universities. I found no one with relevant expertise, but many experts on subsistence economics of PNG.

      My last published work (other than online) included a damning critique of work by the head of the economics department of UQ. When I recruited economics graduates for policy work, I had to train them.

  14. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Apr 25, 2014 at 12:28 AM | Permalink

    It is easy to imagine that perhaps 20 years ago there was a loose association of people, probably with East Anglia at the core, perhaps with some Potsdam Institute input. The nucleus, maybe with some mentioned above, gathered teams, many of the team members going off to destinations like my own Australia, to spread their message like modern day missionaries. Some seem to have reached high places of influence.
    Might I please ask, has anyone done the digging and succeeded in connecting the nucleus and teams, even in an incomplete and sketchy way? Does the network even exist? It might cause people to view the words of members in a different light if it was so.
    There are passing lists. Here is one, the composition of climate advisors to Deutsche Bank, here for 2014, more interesting around Climategate 2008-9. Do other lists mesh in to show an emerging picture of a network?

  15. Posted Apr 25, 2014 at 8:16 AM | Permalink

    Small detail – it’s Wollongong – not Woolongong.

    • Posted Apr 25, 2014 at 8:18 AM | Permalink

      Oopsie – it’s Wollongong – not Woollongong.

      • M Seward
        Posted Apr 25, 2014 at 8:59 AM | Permalink

        ….. and not to be confused with Woolloomooloo which is a bit north of Wollongongong let alone Woolloongabba which is a lot further north and a very important cultural site. And then there is Woolgoolga which is about half way (roughly) between Wollongongong and Woolloongabba. Nice beach from memory.

        Sorry, just couldn’t help myself.

        • Jeff Alberts
          Posted Apr 29, 2014 at 8:42 PM | Permalink

          We won’t mention Woolly Bully…

  16. M Seward
    Posted Apr 25, 2014 at 8:51 AM | Permalink

    Great post Steve. “their apparent difficulty in figuring out a coherent rationale for the funding” is an excellent proxy for their apparent difficulty in facing reality regarding climate change it would seem. LOL.

    As for the Postscript where Turney meets Lewandowsky, who needs satire when that happens? Two giant ego’s in two tiny minds flocculating to form something that creates even greater scientific turbidity. I attended both UWA and UNSW in the 70’s and, thank the Gods, was obviously was too early for the free koolade.

  17. pottereaton
    Posted Apr 25, 2014 at 9:52 AM | Permalink

    Rob Wilson:

    from the proxy point of view, it seems to me that there should be a good rationale for the consortium if we emphasise the importance of a coordinated ‘update’ and ‘new’ sampling of key proxies and regions.

    It seems to me that these people never miss a chance to pass up a good opportunity. Or as Edison said:

    “We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work”

  18. DrHans
    Posted Apr 25, 2014 at 10:52 AM | Permalink

    It’s so good when people look the part.

  19. mpainter
    Posted Apr 25, 2014 at 11:51 AM | Permalink

    It is very appropriate that the financing of these types be audited at this site. For example, how are the rap productions being funded in Oz? I bet that such types as Turney, Gerghis, etc., never gave any thought to a possible audit of their funding expenditures.

  20. Fred
    Posted Apr 25, 2014 at 5:52 PM | Permalink

    You get an honourable mention


  21. flyingtigercomics
    Posted Apr 26, 2014 at 12:03 AM | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Flying Tiger Comics and commented:
    Chris Turney of #shipoffools fame, another arts graduate turned climate “scientist”, makes print in #Climategate

  22. Posted Apr 26, 2014 at 1:28 AM | Permalink

    A biochar salesman with a manic Tom Cruise laugh who sails into the Antarctic when it is choked with sea ice?

    Sure. Give him all the money he wants. This is climate science after all.

  23. Posted Apr 26, 2014 at 4:04 AM | Permalink

    not really sure what the point of this post is.
    This is the problem with the CG e-mails – one see’s only a small part of many discussions over a 2 year period. You don’t even have the final proposal so how can anyone make a judgment of the scientific content!
    anyway – back story is that the project in the end did not get funded. The is more often the norm in science. Lots of organisational effort with often little success.
    Imagine you spent several hours writing a blog post and an independent arbitrator comes along and reads it before posting and says, ” sorry – not good enough” – Delete.
    Seeking funding is probably the most frustrating part of academia.

    • Ed Snack
      Posted Apr 26, 2014 at 5:41 AM | Permalink

      Rob, perhaps if they had a real idea to start with and not just a fishing expedition for more funds. Why hasn’t anyone applied for sufficient funds to, for example, update the Bristlecone Pine samples, or even enough money to BUY Linah Abneh’s samples out of whatever lawyer induced memory hole they’ve sunk into. Or could it be that such results are simply too “inconvenient” for the message ?

      • Posted Apr 26, 2014 at 6:39 AM | Permalink

        No fishing expedition – we had a set of clear aims and hypotheses.
        The overriding aim of the project which focused specifically on the tropics and Southern Hemisphere was:

        The core science aim of AUSTRAL is to quantify and understand climate changes in key regions and processes over the last 500 years to narrow the range of future climate projections. This analysis will be based on new and existing proxies and early instrumental observations together with climate model simulations. AUSTRAL will address the uncertainty surrounding the reconstruction of natural climate variability through research into the patterns and causes of past and future events.

        The project did not get funded through the UK. Chris went to Oz and battled on there. The recent Gergis/Neukom work is the product of that effort.


        why do people think that no attempt at updating sites is occurring. following your BP example, a simple google identifies the following paper titles since 2009:

        Recent unprecedented tree-ring growth in bristlecone pine at the highest elevations and possible causes

        Topographically modified tree-ring chronologies as a potential means to improve paleoclimate inference

        An annually resolved bristlecone pine carbon isotope chronology for the last millennium

        Five millennia of paleotemperature from tree-rings in the Great Basin, USA

        Potential of treeline bristlecone pine as a late Holocene climate record

        Steve: Rob, Ed Snack didn’t say that “no work” was being done. On the contrary, he pointed out that Linah Ababneh had updated bristlecone ring width measurements and that her results have received negligible attention and her measurements have not been archived – whereas Salzer’s results have been relatively widely cited. I also note that some of you references are not apples-to-apples updates of prior work, but, in some cases, different methods e.g. isotopes (also done by Berkelhammer and Stott on our Almagre samples) or “topographically modified” chronologies. As someone who’s seen the striking elevational differences, I think that there is scientific purpose in attending to such matters, but it’s not an apples-to-apples update. Finally, I note that the most recent work finally pays attention to changes in treeline altitude – something that I very much support as this has been a longstanding theme at Climate Audit. The modern BCP is well below the treeline elevation earlier in the Holocene – a phenomenon also observed at Polar Urals and (in respect to latitude) at Yamal. In Esper et al 2012, you commendably noted these changes at Yamal (though you used obsolete data.)

        • Pat Frank
          Posted Apr 26, 2014 at 7:57 PM | Permalink

          Rob Wilson: “The core science aim of AUSTRAL…” The way you all use proxies has no connection to physics Rob. Where’s the science?

        • michael hart
          Posted Apr 27, 2014 at 4:48 PM | Permalink

          “The core science aim of AUSTRAL is to quantify and understand climate changes in key regions and processes over the last 500 years to narrow the range of future climate projections.”

          Why do people think that more studies of proxies from the last 500 years will necessarily narrow the range of climate projections? A lot of money must have been spent on IPCC projections but I don’t see the range narrowing.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Apr 26, 2014 at 7:09 AM | Permalink

      not really sure what the point of this post is.

      Rob, I’m not really sure what the point of your complaint is. did you follow the Ship of Fools story? As I noted, I was posting up some notes on that story which I hadn’t finished when it was topical. Turney’s purported objectives for the junket were flowery and grandiose – a backstory that I didn’t repeat in this post, but which nearly all readers were aware of. I thought that it was entirely reasonable and relevant to observe that Turney’s prior draft NERC applications were similarly flowery and grandiose – indeed, that it was so vague that gave rise to questions by you and other CG correspondents, including Jones and Briffa, who, relative to Turney, appear as the adults in the room.

      The CG emails (and CG2 is more comprehensive than CG1) show quite clearly that you and other parties were frustrated with Turney’s vagueness and grandiose objectives. I think that one can safely draw that conclusion even without the final proposal. I agree that it would be better if the context were completed with the actual proposal. However, I don’t think that it’s needed to show the frustration with Turney. In other incidents, I’ve tried to obtain attached documents, but have been unsuccessful because UEA say (for the purposes of FOI) that the requested documents were destroyed [by Jones and Briffa], though, out of the other side of their mouth, they tell Parliament that nothing was destroyed.

      • johnfpittman
        Posted Apr 26, 2014 at 9:15 AM | Permalink

        The lack of update, and tree-line proxy impact not being used consistently with proxies is the real tragedy.

        I think Rob is correct. IF we had the final proposals, they would most probably be good, and definitely shed some light.

        But that just underscores Steve’s point. Using “Yamal” and “larch” as key words to search the CG1 files, one finds several good emails to the point of tree-line movement, and the discussion of relevance and need of updating. Yet, almost twenty years later, there is more heat on the subject, than light.

    • stevefitzpatrick
      Posted Apr 28, 2014 at 6:49 AM | Permalink

      The difference is Steve is not asking for public funding. Yes, lots of poor quality project proposals are not funded. But the rather frightening thing is the quality of some that are funded… like the ship of fools. Such a comedy of idiocy ought never get past the back of a napkin in a pub…. after one too many pints have been poured down.

      Steve: I also wanted to use Turney’s example to illustrate the changes in funding availability through the dossier. At the start, money was really tight and even sensible and practical projects were hard to finance. At the end, NERC seemed to be awash with money with the only problem for the Turney consortium being a halfway coherent rationale for separating NERC from their money.

  24. manicbeancounter
    Posted Apr 26, 2014 at 10:04 AM | Permalink

    From the postscript:-

    One of Turney’s first endeavours was as joint leader with Joelle Gergis of the Australian contribution to PAGES2K.

    The link is to a short article. A graph shows the relationship between Western Australian rainfall and Law Dome snowfall in the last 100 years. Climate Audit, as part of the criticism of the Gergis/Karoly Australasian temperature reconstruction looked at the unpublished Law Dome ice core data, observing it was nearly 10 times the thickness of the canonical Vostok data for the last 2000 years. So I detect slight inconsistency here?

    Steve: I did a quick check on the correlation between Law Dome accumulation and Perth WA rainfall for 1876-1991 (for which I had GHCN data handy.) The correlation was a Mannian -0.029.

    • FerdiEgb
      Posted Apr 26, 2014 at 10:50 AM | Permalink

      mbc, the catch area of the coastal ice cores like Law Dome is mainly from the evaporation of the nearby Southern Ocean and is influenced by El Niño like seasaws, as maybe the Western Australia rainfall is. The precipitation at Law Dome is an impressive 1.2 meter ice equivalent per year. The inland ice cores like Vostok receive far less precipitation, a few cm per year, but the catch area is from most of the SH oceans. Thus while the resolution is much better for Law Dome, the temperature proxy is far more regional than for Vostok.

      Steve: but Law Dome is almost directly due south of Perth in western Australia. So to the extent that it is “regional”, surely it is representing the region that is most relevant to western Australia.

      • FerdiEgb
        Posted Apr 26, 2014 at 2:21 PM | Permalink

        Steve, Fig. 1 in

        Click to access Turney_2010-2(91-92).pdf

        shows a negative correlation between winter precipitation in SW Australia and Law Dome precipitation. Not very impressive at first glance and with a positive anomaly over the past 4 decades. According to Tas van Ommen, the longest anomaly in 750 years of snowfall. They can calculate the snowfall at the Law Dome site based on yearlayer thickness, but how they can know the rainfall anomaly over the past 750 years in SW Australia I don’t know…

      • Posted Apr 26, 2014 at 7:50 PM | Permalink

        Perth gets its rain in winter, when the roaring forties winds come further north. There’s no obvious reason why that should be correlated with Law Dome – in fact, if the winds move north as a band, the correlation might well be expected negative.

        • manicbeancounter
          Posted Apr 28, 2014 at 5:06 PM | Permalink

          So why, if there is no reason for there to be a correlation – and when there is no correlation – should a team of climate scientists lead by Turney and Gergis, publish a graph, in an article sub-titled “towards data synthesis” that misleadingly indicates some sort of relationship?

  25. michael
    Posted Apr 26, 2014 at 7:51 PM | Permalink

    The ship of fools and this clown gets your money again, his idiocy put to risk the lives of everyone on that clown ship in danger, and to think that these Gaia worshipers are giving this incompetent nut all those millions, says it all, ship of fools.

  26. EdeF
    Posted Apr 26, 2014 at 10:59 PM | Permalink

    Read Rob Wilson’s 4th reference above: modern treeline at Sheep Mtn is at its lowest
    elevation in the last 5000 years. There are a few tiny BCP plants starting to grow
    up slope, and they make a big deal out of this. They correlated the tree rings with
    temperature data from stations contained in an area of about 200,000 sq miles
    surrounding the BCPs. It goes on from there.

  27. mfo
    Posted Apr 27, 2014 at 3:40 PM | Permalink

    Just skimmed so not sure whether this has been seen:

    A community White Paper
    for consideration by the
    Natural Environment Research Council, UK


  28. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Apr 27, 2014 at 7:46 PM | Permalink

    Rainfall or temperature affecting tree rings?
    I’ve seen 100-year data where there is a negative relation at a station between rainfall and Tmax, correlation coefficients around 0.6 – 0.7 and significant.
    In shorthand, ‘water cools’. It is not uncommon to find this. There is no relation of rainfall with Tmin, so there are complications when using Tmean, for the data I’m referencing. Could be a completely different picture in other climates, this being central Australia.
    It is elementary that one cannot attribute tree ring properties to temperature alone when there are known confounding variables. The variables have to be quantified and the math run again on corrected data. Unfortunately, that provides only a view as to what might be happening. It is mandatory to show cause and effect of perturbing variables, not just correlation.
    The whole dendroclimatology field seems to be constructed on a quite loose basis, one that would be rejected in harder sciences.

  29. AJ
    Posted Apr 29, 2014 at 7:21 PM | Permalink

    Steve… you’ve probably already seen it, but here’s Judith’s latest Mann-da-tory reading:


    For some reason I don’t think she respects MM much 🙂

  30. FerdiEgb
    Posted May 1, 2014 at 2:09 PM | Permalink

    Steve, as an aside, just here on TV, a film from The Guardian about the Ship of Fools! Nice view of Antarctica, including that they got stuck in the ice and their rescue. Of course not a word about the reason they got stuck…

  31. Posted May 11, 2014 at 6:57 AM | Permalink

    I couldn’t find a better place for this link so here goes. In a video here:


    Piers Corbyn states (with good reason IMO) that climate sensitivity to CO2 is zero. He gets paid to predict weather/climate based on Solar System electric/magnetic phenomenon. He claims a prediction accuracy of around 80%. He predicts a mini-Ice Age that started with the past winter and extending to about 2040.

5 Trackbacks

  1. […] The Climate Auditor has spotted Ship of Fools leader, Chris Turney in the Climategate files. Turney failed to get Grant funding for his planned paleo climate boondoggle, but the Gillard Australian Government’s Green funding fell for his sob story. The UNSW  was seen giving him $3million of yours and mine, on a failed foray into climate science in Australia, co-authoring the since retracted Gergis et al paper(gergisgate)! Turney in the Climategate Dossier » […]

  2. […] even had a role in the quality control that was so severely criticized in the Harry Readme. – Click here to read the full article […]

  3. […] stuff as Dr Turney builds a team of researchers while he angles for £3.5 million funding from NERC in the UK. Reminds us of the two underfunded guys doing the basic data gathering in Siberia – […]

  4. […] https://climateaudit.org/2014/04/23/turney-in-the-climategate-dossier/ […]

  5. By The Climate Change Debate Thread - Page 4041 on Apr 30, 2014 at 9:53 AM

    […] […]

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