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Access to climate research data ordered

When it comes to obtaining research data, Canadian academic Steve Easterbrook said it best: “Any fool knows you don’t get data from a scientist by using FOI requests, you do it by stroking their ego a…

Demanding climate data won’t provide a new window into global warming. nasa hq photo/flickr

When it comes to obtaining research data, Canadian academic Steve Easterbrook said it best:

“Any fool knows you don’t get data from a scientist by using FOI requests, you do it by stroking their ego a little, or by engaging them with a compelling research idea that you need the data to pursue.”

“And in the rare cases where this doesn’t work, you do some extra work yourself to reconstruct the data you need using other sources, or you test your hypothesis using a different approach (because it’s the research result we care about, not any particular dataset).”

This wisdom was lost on Oxford academic Jonathan Jones, who chose to pursue climate data from the University of East Anglia through the UK freedom of information (FOI) system.

On 23 June 2011, he won the right to obtain the information after appealing the university’s refusal to release it to the UK information commissioner. In two related decisions, the commissioner found the information sought by Jones should be released.

Jones is not a climate researcher himself and the use he intends to make of the data appears to be purely symbolic.

“I am extremely concerned about the apparent pattern of secrecy and evasion [by climate researchers],” he said.

“My sole aim is to help restore climate science to something more closely resembling scientific norms.”

It is wonderfully ironic that an academic thinks pursuing legal claims will “help restore … something more closely resembling scientific norms.”

As a lawyer I welcome the move to turn science into a legal battlefield. Lawyers are naturally learned on all topics so we will be much better than scientists on finding all scientific truths.

Fred Pearce of the Guardian says “The decision … is being hailed as a landmark”.

Cooler heads than Pearce will see that the decisions are largely symbolic. The value of a decision of the UK information commissioner as a legal precedent is very slight.

Courts and similar bodies in the UK and other countries are not bound by the decisions. Even new cases before the UK information commissioner will depend on their own facts. A future case against university researchers may come to a different conclusion.

The Guardian article implies that the decisions establish some of the past dark claims against climate researchers are legitimate.

In fact, the decisions merely say that the exemptions under the UK FOI laws that the university relied upon do not apply and the information must be released. There is no finding of impropriety by the researchers involved or the university.

FOI laws in all countries, including the USA, Australia and the UK, provide many exemptions when information need not be released in response to an FOI request.

It was lawful for the university concerned to rely upon those exemptions in refusing to release the requested information. The exemptions are often complex and difficult to apply.

The appeal to the information commissioner is provided in the UK FOI laws and the commissioner has reached a different conclusion to the application of the exemptions than the university reached. Nothing wrong with that.

The implications of the decisions for climate science are likely to be equally symbolic.

The University of East Anglia is one of several repositories of global temperature records. The datasets involved are enormous and are largely already available to the public and other researchers.

Even if problems were found with the dataset used by the University of East Anglia, there are independent datasets (including sea, land and satellite records) that confirm rising global temperatures.

Multiple inquiries into the emails stolen from the University of East Anglia in 2009 (know as “Climategate”) have found that there was no misconduct involved.

So what do these decisions mean?

Very little in substance, but watch for the wild spin placed on them by people who want climate change to disappear without society needing to lift a finger.

Join the conversation

75 Comments sorted by

Comments on this article are now closed.

  1. Paul Richards
    Paul Richards is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Thanks Chris,
    that was clear to the point and a valuable heads up on the neigh sayers next step.

    I am sure others and myself will watch for future articles with interest, it is good to know the depth of understanding on GCC that our Australian academic community has. Our awareness has been raised, and time was well spent.

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  2. Sean Lamb

    Science Denier

    “Any fool knows you don’t get data from a scientist by using FOI requests, you do it by stroking their ego a little, or by engaging them with a compelling research idea that you need the data to pursue.”

    “And in the rare cases where this doesn’t work, you do some extra work yourself to reconstruct the data you need using other sources, or you test your hypothesis using a different approach (because it’s the research result we care about, not any particular dataset).”

    Not being a climate scientist…

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    1. Chris McGrath

      Senior Lecturer at University of Queensland

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Dear Sean, the situation is basically the same in climate science. There has been a great effort to make basic data even more accessible in recent years.

      The FOI rulings discussed in this article related to data referred to in emails that had been illegally obtained (aka "Climategate"). One of the reasons used by the university was that the data was already publicly available. The information commissioner disagreed for specific reasons given in the rulings. There is a wealth of basic climate data already publicly available though..

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  3. John McLean

    logged in via email @connexus.net.au

    One argument for FOI enforced disclosure is that when research is funded by the tax-payer then the tax-payer should get full disclosure of the data.

    Another is that the CRU, in partnership with the Hadley Centre, controls the most widely cited temperature dataset but has refused any independent audit of some or all of it.

    (The IPCC would hardly audit it when the Hadley Centre was created as an offshoot of the UK Met Office and it was John Houghton, chair of IPCC WG I, who headed the Met Office…

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    1. Mark Matthews

      General Manager

      In reply to John McLean

      I get the feeling John McLean that you feel that AGW is a hoax. I believe there have been 9 separate and independent enquiries into "climategate" and ALL have concluded that there was no foul play.

      I am genuinely interested to find out what the motivation for this hoax might be. Please enlighten us.

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    2. Andrew Richards

      Director

      In reply to Mark Matthews

      Somewhat Pythonesque comment Mark ("He's a witch!!"). Whether or not John Maclean is a sceptic the main thrust of his comment is the apparent lack of independent access to the original data. Sure, he moves to conspiracy theories fairly quickly but do we need to be enlightened as to motivations. Is his central statement correct?

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    3. Warwick Brown

      Retired

      In reply to Andrew Richards

      This FOI decision is very important, no matter that this writer thinks otherwise (or simply hasn’t been following “the conversation’ so to speak – unlikely seeing as he is in the field of climate ‘studies’).

      Perhaps, as he says through his Canadian writer, a request will get the information required. In certain case but not climate and not the team creating all the high profile studies units upon which the whole climate change campaigns are based. After all it was obstruction from one famous researcher…

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    4. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Mark Matthews

      "no foul play". An overview of the first 4 reviews is here:

      http://www.thegwpf.org/images/stories/gwpf-reports/Climategate-Inquiries.pdf

      The report notes that the principle allegations against UEA included:

      • that they deliberately obstructed access to data and methods to those taking different viewpoints from themselves;

      • that they failed to comply with Freedom of Information requirements;

      In its decision the UK information commissioner [ICO] noted:

      “40. Regulation 12(2) explains that the…

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    5. George Aranda

      Deakin University

      In reply to John McLean

      I'm just personally floored at the statement:

      "As a lawyer I welcome the move to turn science into a legal battlefield. Lawyers are naturally learned on all topics so we will be much better than scientists on finding all scientific truths."

      Really?

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    6. Jan Tilden

      Science communicator

      In reply to George Aranda

      I think that was meant to be ironic. (Note to self: never use irony in a blog post.)

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    7. Chris McGrath

      Senior Lecturer at University of Queensland

      In reply to John McLean

      Dear John. Glad you could join this comment thread. You make a good point that "independent validation of findings is a hallmark of science". The data in question is going to be released so no doubt if there is a smoking gun that proves something significant it will be found and make public. We should keep an open mind about this possibility but not so open that our brains fall out (varying Carl Sagan's adage).

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    8. Chris McGrath

      Senior Lecturer at University of Queensland

      In reply to Warwick Brown

      Dear Warwick, I agree that it will be interesting to follow if Steve or anyone at ClimateAudit can find something new in the data that is released. It seems highly unlikely but we'll have to wait and see until they report their findings. If they don't find anything new I wonder if that will convince them to accept the mainstream views on the reality of AGW.

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    9. Warwick Brown

      Retired

      In reply to Chris McGrath

      Thank you for your reply. It will be interesting to see what results (if any) come from the release of the particular information you mention in the main article (the Muir Russell FOI saga being peripheral - really to drill into the workings of at least one of the official enquiries into Climategate).

      The Jones one is important in opening up to the light the release of data, assumptions etc, the standard-release of which has been fought over for years in this particular area of science (perhaps only in this area of science). No-one could complain of whatever the data shows and I await proper analysis of it.

      In the long term, though, openness will better lay the groundwork for a full debate and doubters/supporters will have to have their arguments in the open air. Release of Climategate emails were a disaster for some, but if they prove the catalyst for this oppenness everyone will benefit.

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    10. Chris McGrath

      Senior Lecturer at University of Queensland

      In reply to Warwick Brown

      Dear Warwick, I actually think climate science has been very open and the allegations of hiding data are made by people (not you I might add) who simply don't like the results.

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    11. Chris McGrath

      Senior Lecturer at University of Queensland

      In reply to Warwick Brown

      Dear Warwick, adding to my last reply to you something I've pointed out later in the comment thread to James, if you want to look at the enormous amount of online climate data, Realclimate has collated relevant links to sources of code and data related to climate science at http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/data-sources/

      The dataset the subject of the UK FOI rulings, CRUTEM3, it is publicy available from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia at http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/

      The UK FOI commissioner found that this publicly available data did not satisfy the specifics of the FOI request that had been made but it seems very unlikely that there will be any material difference between what is already publicly available and whatever is now provided in response to the ruling (assuming that the University does not appeal the decision).

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    12. John McLean

      logged in via email @connexus.net.au

      In reply to Andrew Richards

      Stop being so mendacious, Andrew Richards I did not "move to conspiracy theories" at all. Your comment is in fact libel.

      I pointed out that inquiries were of hopelessly poor standard. Have you even bothered to investigate the facts or do you not care?

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    13. John McLean

      logged in via email @connexus.net.au

      In reply to Chris McGrath

      Chris, a couple of weeks ago I asked Ove Hoegh-Guldberg to justify his claim that a warming atmosphere would cause the oceans to warm. I pointed out that simply physics showed this to be impossible. You jumped in and defended Ove, then Ove came back to the conversation, but neither of you gave an answer to my request for an explanation.

      Do I need to submit an FOI request or subpoena both of you in order to get that answer - or an admission that you can't explain it - from you?

      That's one very good reason to get the lawyers involved - people making scientific claims and then refusing to respond to simple requests for explanations or data.

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    14. Chris McGrath

      Senior Lecturer at University of Queensland

      In reply to John McLean

      Dear John, I replied at the time that I considered your analysis was wrong and I cautioned you against putting it in your PhD. We can agree to disagree on this. It is a matter for you if you want to pursue it in your PhD.

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    15. John McLean

      logged in via email @connexus.net.au

      In reply to Chris McGrath

      And I asked you to substantiate that claim but you failed to do so. I asked Ove to substantiate his staements and likewise he failed to do so.

      In other fields we take a very dim view of people who make big claims but can't substantiate them. If such a comment is made about a person they might be charged with defamation. If a claim is made about a product then various Consumer laws are brought to bear. If it's a statement in the financial world then ASIC or other regulators demand answers or retraction.

      I don't see why science should be any different.

      In fact I think I'll seek advice on the matter regards taking legal action to lever an explanation out of Ove. I'm not one to hog all the glory Chris, so if I go ahead with it I'll be sure to credit you with giving me the idea to take this course of action.

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    16. Chris McGrath

      Senior Lecturer at University of Queensland

      In reply to John McLean

      Dear John, science is based on substantiating claims with evidence. The mainstream view on climate change is based on just this - "multiple, independent lines of evidence each converging on a single coherent account", as Naomi Oreskes puts it. You are wrong to suggest otherwise but you are free to pursue your ideas and try to get them accepted. Why bother to attack Ove over your ideas though - why not just submit them to a serious climate journal and try to get them published. It would seem to make a lot more sense and be a lot more satisfying but it's ultimately a matter for you.

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  4. James Szabadics

    BSc

    Surely the data for such important public funded research critical to the survival of the planets biosphere should not need to be specially requested. It should be published and available as an annex to the paper or a link for download provided so that further research can continue without any mandatory ego stroking or govt red tape delay.

    Stonewalling on this data is equivalent to delaying life and death vital research, if someone happens to find a problem with the data that will only help to improve our understanding and aid future research.

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    1. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to James Szabadics

      Exactly; perhaps the author of this article would care to respond.

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    2. Chris McGrath

      Senior Lecturer at University of Queensland

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      Hi James and Anthony. As I said in the article, there is an enormous amount of climate data freely available to the public. These FOI rulings involved access to data sent between researchers. One of the reasons the university said it shouldn't have to release the data was that it was already publicly available. The information commissioner disagreed and ordered it to be released. It now will be but there it is highly unlikely that there is anything new in the data beyond what is already available publicly.

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    3. James Szabadics

      BSc

      In reply to Chris McGrath

      Great. So the author of the paper in question should simply state in their references that the data used for their work is publically available at http:\\www.getthedata.gov.etc.etc

      If you have the data and the method you can eaisily validate the conclusions and build on it. If their data is not made available readily it just slows everything down needlessly. You cant easily build on research if you dont have the collated data and have to continually reinvent the wheel. It seems dumb and a bit backwards to not automatically reference and link data in the modern era of networked communications.

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    4. John McLean

      logged in via email @connexus.net.au

      In reply to Chris McGrath

      That's a stupid statement, Chris, and you know it.

      CRUTEM3 is the product of the processing of raw data. In order to independently validate that processing or to confirm various statements about temperature we need access to both the raw data and a clear description of the processing technique involved. CRUTEM3 does not provide that information.

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    5. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to John McLean

      Exactly, the method of adjusting the data before the public presentation is a key issue going to the reliability and integrity of the public information.

      Another pertinent issue is whether relevant data has been deleted. If the full release of what is available shows, despite the author's cheery optimism, that there is evidence of deletion then I think that would very much be to the point.

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    6. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Chris McGrath

      Are you saying that the FOI blocked dataset was the same as the CRUTEM3 data sets available at the UEA website? Even UEA didn't believe that as is evident from point 6 of the ICO decision.

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    7. Chris McGrath

      Senior Lecturer at University of Queensland

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      No, I was saying the CRUTEM3 dataset is publicly available. The university described the particular information requested as "highly similar data". We'll have to wait and see whether any significant difference is found. It appears a vanishingly remote chance but we'll see what unfolds over coming months.

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    8. Chris McGrath

      Senior Lecturer at University of Queensland

      In reply to Chris McGrath

      I see your point now and I realise that I was in error in my earlier comment that "the dataset the subject of the UK FOI rulings, CRUTEM3, it is publicy available".

      At paragraph 17 of one of the decisions, the information commissioner noted that "UEA confirmed that the actual CRUTEM3 from 2006 was never sent to Georgia Tech. However, a part of the station database that was used to develop CRUTEM3 was sent to Georgia Tech once ...". The commissioner went on to explain the differences.

      So, the CRUTEM3 dataset is publicly available but the particular, subset version of it that was sent between the universities is the subject of the FOI requests.

      As I said in my last comment, we'll have to wait and see whether any significant difference is found. It seems very unlikely though.

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    9. John McLean

      logged in via email @connexus.net.au

      In reply to Chris McGrath

      I've read all that material on the web site. It fails to describe what adjustments were made to raw data and is vague about the exact processing. Russian authorities told us in December 2009 (or was it 2010) that only 25% of the data it supplied to the CRU was used in CRUTEM3, so why did the CRU omit the rest of it?

      The CRU has (or should have) far more information than the little bit it puts on that web page and in the cited papers, many of which are not easily obtained.

      If my recollection is correct, the CRU has received substantial funding from US government departments. In that country full disclosure is expected of tax-payer funded research except on defence matters, so why shouldn't we expect similar full disclosure from the CRU?

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    10. James Szabadics

      BSc

      In reply to Chris McGrath

      Chris,

      I'm glad you are now admitting that the FOI request pertains to raw data and adjustment methods that are not made available and not published. You initially seemed to imply the laughable idea that CRU developed CRUTEM3 by simply adjusting data obtained from raw data on the realclimate blog. You make out that the FOI requesters, in some kind of Wizard of OZ like scenario, only had to click their mouse twice and go to a blog to get all the raw data abd CRU adjustment method for each station…

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    11. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Anthony Cox
    12. Chris McGrath

      Senior Lecturer at University of Queensland

      In reply to James Szabadics

      Dear James, there is no great secret to CRUTEM3 or hidden 'adjustment methods' that you imply. The raw data and methodology used to create it is well described and clearly documented. The FOI request related to a small subset of it. It's hard to see how this is novel or useful given that the whole CRUTEM3 is publicly available. If you don't like CRUTEM3 or any other similar product you are free to develop your own. The raw data is all there for you. Good luck.

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    13. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Chris McGrath

      Oh dear. I post graphs which are based on the data from the 2 leading ground based temperature sources, HadCrut and GISS and the 2 satellite temperature agencies, RSS and UAH and the official world based measurement of CO2 atmospheric levels, ESRL and I'm told there are better sources of information at a second rate blog which Jo Nova can and has repudiated while hanging out the washing.

      Did you look at the graphs Chris? You have written an article making light of a refusal by a central group of…

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    14. Chris McGrath

      Senior Lecturer at University of Queensland

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      Dear Anthony, the links you posted were to a website run by a computer programmer without any expertise in climate science.

      If you had lung cancer, would you go to a computer programmer to tell you what your chest scans showed? No, so why would you rely upon a computer programmer to tell you want complex climate data shows?

      Skeptical Science is based on mainstream science by climate scientists, nothing more, nothing less. You can look at RealClimate if you want to hear from climate scientists themselves.

      If you want to rely upon a computer programmer to interpret climate data, it's a matter for you but you shouldn't be surprised that other people disagree with your sources of information or point you to better sources.

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    15. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Chris McGrath

      Woodfortrees provides the data and graphing tools so that interested parties can graph the data. Are you saying the graphs are wrong? Are you saying I have misinterpreted them? If so please explain how.

      I don't understand your reference to chest scans; are you saying I need one?

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    16. James Szabadics

      BSc

      In reply to Chris McGrath

      Chris, you are wrong. You appear to have failed to look at what CRU says on this specific issue.

      Only adjusted data is available in CRUTEM3, the raw data and adjustments cannot be reviewed.

      From CRU website:
      http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/availability/

      QUOTE
      Since the 1980s, we have merged the data we have received into existing series or begun new ones, so it is impossible to say if all stations within a particular country or if all of an individual record should be freely available…

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    17. Chris McGrath

      Senior Lecturer at University of Queensland

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      To interpret complex and important information it is normal to turn to someone with specialised expertise.

      If you want to rely upon a computer programmer to interpret complex and important information about climate change you are taking a foolish approach.

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    18. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Chris McGrath

      Ok, I'll play; you're the expert; interpret the graphs.

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    19. Chris McGrath

      Senior Lecturer at University of Queensland

      In reply to James Szabadics

      Dear James, there is an enormous amount of raw global climate data and the data in CRUTEM3 itself is correspondingly enormous. The sources and methodology used to create CRUTEM3 are well explained and documented, including that they no longer hold the raw data used for some time periods. They are very open about that.

      As I said earlier, it seems very unlikely that anything will come of the release of the requested data but we'll just have to wait and see. It's important to keep questioning and thinking and not close your mind to new developments or information.

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    20. Chris McGrath

      Senior Lecturer at University of Queensland

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      No, I'm not a climate scientist. Look up the IPCC reports, any of the major national academy of science reports, the Climate Commission, or RealClimate if you want sound information on climate change. Skeptical Science has good, simple explanations with links to the peer reviewed literature on climate change as well if you prefer.

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    21. Jan Tilden

      Science communicator

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      I've had a look at Stockwell and Cox 2009 and what I see there is consistent with my understanding that, since we have entered a cool (wet) phase of the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) (the regime shift you identify in 1998), the overall warming trend due to AGW will be damped.

      Your conclusion is paraphrased by Stockwell as follows (in "Niche Modelling"):
      "Based on the dates of regime-shifts (established with statistical significance and corroborating oceanographic evidence), a presumed underlying…

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    22. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Jan Tilden

      That's a fair comment Jan but our concern was to emphasise the break pattern of temperature movement with such breaks being capable of going down as well as up. The paper was not meant to be a full analysis of integral macro-climatic phenomena like the IPO.

      Having said that there is no doubt that the IPO enhances ENSO as Professor Stewart Franks notes:

      http://www.ag.gov.au/www/emaweb/rwpattach.nsf/VAP/(99292794923AE8E7CBABC6FB71541EE1)~Climate+variability+in+the+land+of+fire+and+flooding+rain.pdf/$file/Climate+variability+in+the+land+of+fire+and+flooding+rain.pdf

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    23. Chris McGrath

      Senior Lecturer at University of Queensland

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      Dear Anthony, if 99 engineers told you a plane was unsafe and was highly likely to crash, would you get aboard?

      Governments and policy analysts understandably place greater weight on the mainstream scientific community, reflected in the IPCC reports, rather than outliers.

      I hope your analysis is right and the mainstream views on climate change turn out to be wrong, but I am not getting on any planes that you tell me are safe.

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    24. Chris McGrath

      Senior Lecturer at University of Queensland

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      Hi Anthony, interesting that you cite Stewart Franks and that your paper acknowledges assistance from John McLean and David Evans.

      Leaving that aside, I wonder if you accept that our atmosphere has a greenhouse effect and that greenhouse gases such as CO2 are rising due to human emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. If you accept those points, what do you think will happen to global temperatures?

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    25. Jan Tilden

      Science communicator

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      Okay. I agree with the conclusion of your paper, which carefully avoids going beyond the data "These results justify further development of more complex regime-shift models of temperature and rainfall for forecasting purposes, including at- tempting to decompose global climate into temporally and spatially differentiated regime-shift models."
      However, I disagree that you have rebutted claims of "cherry-picking". You said above your concern was "to emphasise the break pattern of temperature movement with such breaks being capable of going down as well as up". If the breaks are due to a cyclical phenomenon (in this case the IPO), and you pick out just a section where the data show a downward trend to do your projection, isn't that a form of cherry-picking?.

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    26. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Chris McGrath

      Chris, the Greenhouse effect is badly described because as you know a greenhouse is warmed by a lack of convection not by blockage of radiation; in any event the 2 competing ideas about the greenhouse effect on Earth and whether it exists and contributes to the global average temperature [GAT] are firstly from Gerhard Gerlich and Ralf D. Tscheuschner:

      http://arxiv.org/abs/0707.1161

      G&T in turn have been contrdicted by my old sparring partner Arthur Smith in his proof of the 'greenhouse' effect…

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    27. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Jan Tilden

      I don't think we can be accused of 'cherry-picking'; our intent was to look at the 20thc data and find whether there were more long-term factors at play; the Chow-Test used isolates dominant but infrequent regime-shifts in the climate. It was equally important to us to associate those breaks in the GAT found by the Chow-Test with well documented climatic events which could explain the breaks.

      This is what we did and this method is to be compared with the approach taken by Trevor Breusch and Farshid Vahid:

      http://cbe.anu.edu.au/research/papers/pdf/wp495.pdf

      B&V of course find similar breaks around 1976 but not in 1998 but they did not do any correlation with climate phenomenona; their's was an entirely statistical analysis, something Professor Garnaut ignored when he based one of his reports on their paper.

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    28. Chris McGrath

      Senior Lecturer at University of Queensland

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      Wow, so I take it from this that you don't accept the greenhouse effect and that you don't accept human activities are causing CO2 to rise?

      Or was all that obfuscation a simple mistake on your part and you hit reply before being able to collect your thoughts?

      If you don't accept those basic points despite all of the evidence supporting them then I think we should just agree to disagree because we are miles apart even on the basic parameters of these issues.

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    29. Jan Tilden

      Science communicator

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      I'm trying to get a clearer understanding of your statistics. The first breakpoint (1978) seems to be calculated on the basis of 100 years of Australian temperature data. The second (1998) on 33 years of sea surface temperature data. What happens if you look at the Australian temperature data for the same 33 years. Do they also show this break? Surely that would be a more valid comparison? Also, I'm assuming the justification for starting the second set of data (the ones that break at 1998) at 1976 is because that is (roughly) where the previous break is. So my other question is: did you look for significant breaks in the Australian temperature data up to 1978 (which would be called for, based on the same logic as looking for breaks after 1978) and if so, did you find any?

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    30. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Jan Tilden

      Look at Figures 1 and 2; Figure 1(a) is based on data from 1910 to 2008; the test gives a dominant break in Australian temperature at about 1978. The trends before and after this are not significant

      Figure 2(a) deals with Global SST from 1910 - 2008 and indicates a dominant break also at 1978. The trend before this is slightly increasing and after more so. To test the significance of that increase in trend after the break in the global SST data another F-test was performed on the post world SST data; that test showed a strong break down about 1997.

      We did not do a post - 1978 break test on the Australian data because the post 1978 trend trend was insignificant. My impression is that now with further data that another break, downward, in Australia would be apparent.

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    31. Jan Tilden

      Science communicator

      In reply to Jan Tilden

      Oops. That was a mistake, I'll try again.
      Let's just look at the global SST data. Analysing the data from 1910 to 2008 you found a significant upward break at 1978. You then took just the data from 1978 to 2008 and analysed that, finding another break (to more or less horizontal) at 1998. My question is, did you analyse the data from 1910 to 1978? There seems to be as much justification for doing that as there is for analysing the post 1978 data. Just eyeballing the data (no substitute for statistical analysis, I agree) it looks like there's a break from upward to horizontal at around 1950. And this is the kind of picture you'd expect from the IPO on top of an underlying warming trend (AGW?), that is, intermittent breaks from upwards to horizontal (or even slightly downwards) when the IPO goes from a warm to a cool phase.

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    32. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Jan Tilden

      The F-test will only catch a sustained break at the designated parameter; I agree that IPO, in Australia, and PDO phase shifts globally create considerable temperature variability. As I said before IPO appears to ameloriate ENSO as slide 4 from here shows:

      http://www.clw.csiro.au/conferences/GICC/franks.pdf

      See also: TWO CENTURIES OF COASTLINE CHANGE ON THE NORTH COAST OF NEW SOUTH WALES Dr Peter Helman Senior Research Fellow Griffith Centre for Coastal Management Griffith University, Gold Coast, Southport, Qld.

      The issue is whether the phase shifts over a completed cycle have a temperature trend impact; variability can be an oscillation or have trend implications.

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    33. Jan Tilden

      Science communicator

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      That Franks and Verdon slideshow has a graph that illustrates the issue I'm raising very clearly - the one on slide 6. It shows a global temperature graph from 1880 to about 2002 with a clear cycle of upward and downward temperature phases, which they attribute to the IPO. But just as clearly, the overall trend is up. And it would still be up if we added the next 10 years of data, with the IPO again in a cool phase.

      That being the case, I don't think you can really say (as you did a few posts back) that based on a comparison of temperature and CO2 graphs, "the evidence for AGW is vanishingly small" unless you add the rider "as long as you only look at the temperature data from the last decade".

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    34. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Jan Tilden

      The break in ~ 1976 is uncontroversial:

      [ http://www.arl.noaa.gov/documents/JournalPDFs/Seidel&Lanzante.JGR2004.pdf ]

      In itself the 1976-78 step in temperature is inconsistent with the heating mechanism of CO2 which heats on a logarithmic basis according to Beers Law; another step, down, either where we found it at ~1997-8 or in 2001-2 as Swanson and Tsonis found

      [ https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/kswanson/www/publications/2008GL037022_all.pdf ]

      would really contradict CO2 warming theory.

      I bet you're going to mention Keenlyside et al and Kaufmann et al now.

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    35. Jan Tilden

      Science communicator

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      No I wasn't going to quote them. And I'm not disputing either of the steps/breaks you identified in your analysis or trying to claim that either of them is wholly explained by AGW as clearly they are not. There's something else going on in addition. However, after the effects of the oscillations such as the IPO are factored out there is still a rising trend in global temperature. Are you saying that this overall warming trend is scientifically incompatible with AGW for some reason?

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    36. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Jan Tilden

      I am aware that bloggers like Tamino have detrended ENSO and volcanoes from GT data and still found increasing trends:

      http://tamino.wordpress.com/2011/01/06/sharper-focus/

      T dismisses TSI as a factor in the ENSO detrended data; this may be premature and I am aware of new research which suggests otherwise:

      "Global temperature (GT) variations over the 20th cen-
      tury and the glacial-interglacial period are commonly
      thought to be amplifed by positive feedbacks, particularly
      from greenhouse gasses…

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    37. Jan Tilden

      Science communicator

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      So the short answer is, this author offers an alternative explanation for the underlying warming trend. Can you please give me a reference to that paper?

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    38. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Jan Tilden

      It has just been submitted but provides a mechanism and elaboration of aspects of this paper:

      Scafetta, N., Empirical analysis of the solar contribution to
      global mean air surface temperature change, Journal of Atmo-
      spheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, 71(17-18), 1916{1923,
      doi:10.1016/j.jastp.2009.07.007, 2009.

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    39. Chris McGrath

      Senior Lecturer at University of Queensland

      In reply to Chris McGrath

      Updating my earlier post -

      The entire CRUTEM3 database of station temperature measurements has just been released. This comes after a multi-year process to get permissions from individual National Weather Services to allow the passing on of data to third parties and from a ruling from the UK ICO discussed in the article above.

      See: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2011/07/crutem3-data-release-except-poland/

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    40. Mark Matthews

      General Manager

      In reply to Chris McGrath

      OK Antony,

      Data is there. Now you can stop trolling sites like this and go off to prove the mainstream science is incorrect. Given that you already know this is the case, and that there is a HUGE amount of money available from interested parties to prove that AGW is a hoax, I expect to hear from the climate skeptics party shortly.

      I suspect it will all be put down to the left driving a socialist agenda to destroy western civilisation via the environmental movement.

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    41. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Mark Matthews

      I don't do troll Mark; and there is no money, huge or other wise, being directed to the sceptical view; however, huge amounts of primarily government funds is propping up the pro-AGW alarmist position.

      You are correct as far as you go in your final paragraph; there is that agenda; there are others; the corporate spivs are into this like rats up a pipe; the UN, like all bureacracies wants financial independence and will get it as banker for any international carbon trading scheme; governments see…

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    42. Mark Matthews

      General Manager

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      @Antony
      As far as I can ascertain. there are two sides to your theory.

      1. AGW is not happening
      2. AGW is being used by those in power to further their ends.

      The question is, did you start with 1 or 2? i.e. - did you hear about AGW and immediately think 2, then go about trying to prove 1 to strengthen your case?

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    43. Mark Matthews

      General Manager

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      Oh - and if you don't think there is HUGE amount of money available to those with the appropriate expertise to prove AGW is a hoax, you are talking to the wrong people. I suggest you try the Koch corporation, or maybe Exxon. How much have they spent so far?

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    44. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Mark Matthews

      Yeah, anyone can throw corporate names around. In respect of green advocacy funding try this for starters:

      "For many [environmental] organizations, the significant proportion of contributions are from ultra-wealthy donors. In his book The Climate War, journalist Eric Pooley reported that hedge fund trader Julian Robertson, who has a net worth of $2.2 billion7, gave the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) more than $40 million between 2005 and 2009 to support the group’s efforts on climate change, accounting…

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