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Phil Jones (left) is under fire for leaked emails about his global warming research. He denies wrongdoing and has refuted several of the claims made against him in a new interview.  (Source: Canada Free Press)
Climate expert asserts he did not knowingly publish false data

In November, emails leaked from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, which offered what appeared to be damning falsification of data and manipulation of the peer review process.  The emails resulted in the center's director, senior climatologist Phil Jones, to step down.

Mr. Jones, who was a frequent party in the leaked emails, is currently being investigated by several academic misconduct committees, including Muir Russell, former vice-chancellor of the University of Glasgow, UK.  However, he insists he did nothing wrong.

While he could not comment on whether he withheld or destroyed data from his critics, he did open up about the validity of his group's studies in an interview with the UK publication The Guardian.  Specifically the accuracy of Jones's famous paper on the urban heat island effect (raised temperatures around cities skewing global temperatures), in which he found it to be secondary to global warming was questioned.

The paper was published in 1990 and almost two decades later would draw fire from Doug Keenan, an amateur climatologist, in 2007.  Unfortunately, at that point Jones's co-author, Wei-Chyung Wang of the University at Albany in New York, had lost the list of climate stations used in the study, so the results could not be validated.  Jones admits that the loss was "not acceptable."

The weather stations used were in China and reportedly moved during the study's period.  Mr. Jones previously wrote, "We chose those with few, if any, changes in instrumentation, location or observation times."

Now he acknowledges that the stations did move during the study and that the paper may need a correction.  He states, "I will give that some thought. It's worthy of consideration."

However, he points out that the conclusions drawn appear to be correct.  In a much later paper published in 2008, he verifies the conclusions with a much broader set of Chinese data ranging from 1954 to 1983.  That paper, for which the station info is available, indicates that the need for correction in the 1990 work is not necessary on accuracy basis, but rather on a clarity basis.

For those who are quick to yell fraud, the standards of publication in 1990 were significantly lower than they are today, especially in the field of climatology.  It now appears that Jones did nothing explicitly wrong, merely published with the data he had, inadvertently overlooking that several of the stations had changed location.  Today, such a mistake would lead to a rejection, but in that era, such errors were relatively commonplace.

He says the flaws were ultimately the result of him trying to get data that wasn't easily available at the time to bolster and verify his conclusions.  He states, "I thought it was the right way to get the data. I was specifically trying to get more rural station data that wasn't routinely available in real time from [meteorological] services."

He ardently denies his critics claims that he fiddled with the peer review process or downplayed the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), an unseasonably warm stretch that occurred around 1000 A.D., which some suggest could be evidence that current warming is merely a cyclic trend.  He says that his critics are "trying to pick out minor things in the data and blow them out of all proportion."

He points out that the infamous email in which he wrote "I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin [Trenberth] and I will keep them out somehow - even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!" was not about a peer reviewed publication, which many have mistaken stated, but rather an IPCC assessment.  Assessments typically are more subjective in content and are not subject to the same level of scrutiny.  States Jones, "The IPCC is an assessment, it's not a review, so the authors have to know something about the subject to assess which are the important papers."

As for the MWP he comments, "We need more reconstructions from different parts of the world to reproduce a better history of the past thousand years.  Why don't they do their own reconstructions ... the work that's been published has been through the peer-review process. If they want to criticize that, they should write their own papers."

Jones certainly seems to be in a bad spot, following the leak and his temporary resignation, however many of his claims do seem to have feet.  Many of his remarks were taken out of context (e.g. mistaking comments on assessment for comments on a peer review).  Further, anyone who works in research today is well aware that the standards of publication were much lower in 1990 than they were today.  Thus, some of the inaccuracies can be explained by that.

Still, more questions do remain and Jones will have to account for them if he wants to restore his good name.



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RE: Science: It works
By Torment on 2/16/2010 12:09:47 PM , Rating: 2
Ummm....that's exactly how science works. You formulate a theory. From that theory, you make predictions. You then go looking for data to prove or disprove the theory based on the predictions (and if you don't think scientists are biased towards believing that data will verify their theory, then you haven't met any scientists).


RE: Science: It works
By rwpritchett on 2/16/2010 2:41:23 PM , Rating: 5
Torment: Theory is different from conclusion. Here is an example of the difference:

Theory = Man-made emissions are adversely affecting the climate. (data is not needed to propose a theory)

Conclusion = Yes, man-made emissions are affecting the climate with X amount of confidence. (data is needed to support the conclusion)

The conclusion should never come before looking for data. And yes, I am a scientist.. though not a climatologist. If you start with a conclusion, then your work is biased.


RE: Science: It works
By Torment on 2/16/2010 4:22:00 PM , Rating: 2
And those conclusions drawn based on data already collected. He was looking for further data. That his expectation was that it would reinforce his already drawn conclusions is not unexpected.

Do you really believe that scientists formulate theories with the equal expectation that they are wrong? Especially if data has already backed them up? Expectations are always biased, which is why we rely on method and peer review.

But this debate is fundamentally not about science. Which is why the deniers make such a noise anytime there is a bit of cold-associated weather some place (It's snowing outside my window! There is no global warming!). The opposition is not at all unlike the proponents of ID and creationism (and they are often the very same people).


RE: Science: It works
By porkpie on 2/16/2010 4:28:37 PM , Rating: 2
"Do you really believe that scientists formulate theories with the equal expectation that they are wrong? Especially if data has already backed them up? "

The problem is no data had backed up Dr. Phil here when he went looking to prove that UHI could be discounted in the global temperature record. Had he and his colleages not distorted data, hundreds of other researchers wouldn't have relied on their fallacious conclusion that the earth was actually warming to the degree they said it was.

" Which is why the deniers make such a noise anytime there is a bit of cold-associated weather some place "

All of which is NOTHING compared to the massive propaganda blitz we're hit with anytime warm weather strikes anywhere, or a hurricane or typhoon hits anywhere in the world. Hell, the NYT is already saying this year's record breaking snow proves global WARMING of all things.


RE: Science: It works
By Reclaimer77 on 2/16/2010 4:58:32 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
But this debate is fundamentally not about science. Which is why the deniers make such a noise anytime there is a bit of cold-associated weather some place (It's snowing outside my window! There is no global warming!). The opposition is not at all unlike the proponents of ID and creationism (and they are often the very same people).


That's funny. 5 or so years ago Congress and scientists said the lack of snow in Washington was proof of global warming. We heard predictions ranging from the decimation of the ski industry, up to the destruction of the ice cap and the rising of the oceans.

Three years ago, after a bad hurricane season, those same people said storm intensity and frequency was another indicator of global warming. And unless something was done, the problem would escalate.

Today, those same people in Washington, are saying this massive snowfall and winter across the entire country are proof positive that Global Warming, now "Climate Change", is a real threat to our way of life.

So who are the people making outlandish and dangerous predictions based on current weather again Torment ?? You guys can't have it both ways. You can't cry Global Warming when it's hot, and Climate Change when it's cold. That is NOT science. So which is it ??


RE: Science: It works
By amirite on 2/16/2010 7:13:03 PM , Rating: 2
So, because it snowed, that MUST BE PROOF!!!!!

OMG!! Let me look out the window so I can tell you when the next ice age is coming!!!!!!!!!11

You guys kill me with that crap. Look-out-the-window-science is so fail.


RE: Science: It works
By Yawgm0th on 2/17/2010 1:57:30 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
But this debate is fundamentally not about science.
It's not? That's entirely what my post was about. I'm not expressing any belief or disbelief in the effect of human activity on global temperature. I'm concerned about flawed or fallacious logic in any field of study, philosophy, or argumentation -- but especially a scientific one.

Deniers and advocates alike make anecdotal claims of proof or disproof of anthropogenic global warming. I would hope serious climatologists are making claims based on empirical, statistical data combined with a logical proof of causal relationship (or proof otherwise). The "debate", largely as I've witnessed it, is largely between armchair scientists and the politically motivated and involves none of the aforementioned logic. Even many of the actual scientists, as TFA indicates, are making claims without any basis to do so.

The political nature of the topic is such that it is hard to come to an informed opinion without a graduate degree in a field related to climatology as well as actual experience or knowledge of the field.

In any case, no scientist on either side should draw conclusions without sufficient data, nor should they look for data to support their conclusions or even their hypotheses. All data should be analyzed on its merit, and no conclusions should be drawn nor claims made unless they follow the scientific method.

While I will not disagree with your stereotyping of AGW deniers I will also point out that it is logically invalid to dismiss them entirely because many or even most of them deny based on faulty logic. At least some used sound logic and make valid points. Likewise, proponents of climate-based policy reform will reach and express conclusions drawn from similarly fallacious anecdotes (The snow on this mountain is gone; it must be man-made and we must act).


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