from: "Michael E. Mann" <mannatXYZxyzginia.edu>
subject: Re: My turn
to: Tom Wigley <wigleyatXYZxyzr.edu>,Tom Wigley <wigleyatXYZxyzr.edu>, Phil Jones <p.jonesatXYZxyz.ac.uk>,Mike Hulme <m.hulmeatXYZxyz.ac.uk>, Keith Briffa <k.briffaatXYZxyz.ac.uk>,James Hansen <jhansenatXYZxyzs.nasa.gov>, Danny Harvey <harveyatXYZxyzque.geog.utoronto.ca>, Ben Santer <santer1atXYZxyzl.gov>,Kevin Trenberth <trenbertatXYZxyzr.edu>, Robert wilby <rob.wilbyatXYZxyz.ac.uk>,Tom Karl <Thomas.R.KarlatXYZxyza.gov>, Steve Schneider <shsatXYZxyznford.edu>,Tom Crowley <tcrowleyatXYZxyze.edu>, jto <jtoatXYZxyzrizona.edu>,"simon.shackley" <simon.shackleyatXYZxyzst.ac.uk>, "tim.carter" <tim.carteratXYZxyz.fi>, "p.martens" <p.martensatXYZxyzs.unimaas.nl>, "peter.whetton" <peter.whettonatXYZxyz.csiro.au>, "c.goodess" <c.goodessatXYZxyz.ucar.edu>,"a.minns" <a.minnsatXYZxyz.ac.uk>, Wolfgang Cramer <Wolfgang.CrameratXYZxyz-potsdam.de>, "j.salinger" <j.salingeratXYZxyza.co.nz>, "simon.torok" <simon.torokatXYZxyzro.au>,Mark Eakin <mark.eakinatXYZxyza.gov>, Scott Rutherford <srutherfordatXYZxyzchutes.geo.uri.edu>, Neville Nicholls <n.nichollsatXYZxyz.gov.au>, Ray Bradley <rbradleyatXYZxyz.umass.edu>, Mike MacCracken <mmaccracatXYZxyzcast.net>, Barrie Pittock <Barrie.PittockatXYZxyzro.au>, Ellen Mosley-Thompson <firstname.lastname@example.org>, "pachauriatXYZxyzi.res.in" <pachauriatXYZxyzi.res.in>, "Greg.Ayers" <Greg.AyersatXYZxyzro.au>,mannatXYZxyzginia.edu
Dear Tom et al,
Thanks for comments--I see we've built up an impressive distribution list here!
This seemed like an appropriate point for me to chime in here. By in large, I agree w/
Tom's comments (and those of Barrie's as well). A number of us have written reviews and
overviews of this topic during the past couple years. There has been a lot of significant
scientific process in this area (both with regard to empirical "climate reconstruction" and
in the area of model/data comparison), including, in fact, detection studies along the
lines of what Barrie Pittock asked about in a previous email (see. e.g. Tom Crowley's
Science article from 2000). Phil Jones and I are in the process of writing a review article
for Reviews of Geophysics which will, among other things, dispel the most severe of the
myths that some of these folks are perpetuating regarding past climate change in past
centuries. My understanding is that Ray Bradley, Malcolm Hughes, and Henry Diaz are
working, independently, on a solicited piece for Science on the "Medieval Warm Period".
Many have simply dismissed the Baliunas et al pieces because, from a scientific point of
view, they are awful--that is certainly true. For example, Neville has pointed out in a
previous email, that the standard they applied for finding "a Medieval Warm Period" was
that a particular proxy record exhibit a 50 year interval during the period AD 800-1300
that was anomalously *warm*, *wet*, or *dry* relative to the "20th century" (many of the
proxy records don't really even resolve the late 20th century!) could be used to define an
"MWP" anywhere one might like to find one. This was the basis for their press release
arguing for a "MWP" that was "warmer than the 20th century" (a non-sequitur even from their
awful paper!) and for their bashing of IPCC and scientists who contributed to IPCC (which,
I understand, has been particularly viscious and ad hominem inside closed rooms in
Washington DC where their words don't make it into the public record). This might all seem
laughable, it weren't the case that they've gotten the (Bush) White House Office of
Science & Technology taking it as a serious matter (fortunately, Dave Halpern is in charge
of this project, and he is likely to handle this appropriately, but without some external
So while our careful efforts to debunk the myths perpetuated by these folks may be useful
in the FAR, they will be of limited use in fighting the disinformation campaign that is
already underway in Washington DC. Here, I tend to concur at least in sprit w/ Jim
Salinger, that other approaches may be necessary. I would emphasize that there are indeed,
as Tom notes, some unique aspects of this latest assault by the skeptics which are cause
for special concern. This latest assault uses a compromised peer-review process as a
vehicle for launching a scientific disinformation campaign (often viscious and ad hominem)
under the guise of apparently legitimately reviewed science, allowing them to make use of
the "Harvard" moniker in the process. Fortunately, the mainstream media never touched the
story (mostly it has appeared in papers owned by Murdoch and his crowd, and dubious fringe
on-line outlets). Much like a server which has been compromised as a launching point for
computer viruses, I fear that "Climate Research" has become a hopelessly compromised
vehicle in the skeptics' (can we find a better word?) disinformation campaign, and some of
the discussion that I've seen (e.g. a potential threat of mass resignation among the
legitimate members of the CR editorial board) seems, in my opinion, to have some potential
This should be justified not on the basis of the publication of science we may not like of
course, but based on the evidence (e.g. as provided by Tom and Danny Harvey and I'm sure
there is much more) that a legitimate peer-review process has not been followed by at least
one particular editor. Incidentally, the problems alluded to at GRL are of a different
nature--there are simply too many papers, and too few editors w/ appropriate disciplinary
expertise, to get many of the papers submitted there properly reviewed. Its simply hit or
miss with respect to whom the chosen editor is. While it was easy to make sure that the
worst papers, perhaps including certain ones Tom refers to, didn't see the light of the day
at J. Climate, it was inevitable that such papers might slip through the cracks at e.g.
GRL--there is probably little that can be done here, other than making sure that some
qualified and responsible climate scientists step up to the plate and take on editorial
positions at GRL.
At 11:53 PM 4/23/2003 -0600, Tom Wigley wrote:
[Apologies to those I have missed who have been part of this email
exchange -- although they may be glad to have been missed]
I think Barrie Pittock has the right idea -- although there are some
unique things about this situation. Barrie says ....
(1) There are lots of bad papers out there
(2) The best response is probably to write a 'rebuttal'
to which I add ....
(3) A published rebuttal will help IPCC authors in the 4AR.
Let me give you an example. There was a paper a few years ago by Legates
and Davis in GRL (vol. 24, pp. 2319-1222, 1997) that was nothing more
than a direct
and pointed criticism of some work by Santer and me -- yet neither of us
was asked to review the paper. We complained, and GRL admitted it was
poor judgment on the part of the editor. Eventually (> 2 years later)
we wrote a response (GRL 27, 2973-2976, 2000). However, our response was
more that just a rebuttal, it was an attempt to clarify some issues on
detection. In doing things this way we tried to make it clear that the
original Legates/Davis paper was an example of bad science (more
bluntly, either sophomoric ignorance or deliberate misrepresentation).
Any rebuttal must point out very clearly the flaws in the original
paper. If some new science (or explanations) can be added -- as we did
in the above example -- then this is an advantage.
There is some personal judgment involved in deciding whether to rebut.
Correcting bad science is the first concern. Responding to unfair
personal criticisms is next. Third is the possible misrepresentation of
the results by persons with ideological or political agendas. On the
basis of these I think the Baliunas paper should be rebutted by persons
with appropriate expertise. Names like Mann, Crowley, Briffa, Bradley,
Jones, Hughes come to mind. Are these people willing to spend time on
There are two other examples that I know of where I will probably be
involved in writing a response.
The first is a paper by Douglass and Clader in GRL (vol. 29, no. 16,
10.1029/2002GL015345, 2002). I refereed a virtually identical paper for
J. Climate, recommending rejection. All the other referees recommended
rejection too. The paper is truly appalling -- but somehow it must have
been poorly reviewed by GRL and slipped through the net. I have no
reason to believe that this was anything more than chance. Nevertheless,
my judgment is that the science is so bad that a response is necessary.
The second is the paper by Michaels et al. that was in Climate Research
(vol. 23, pp. 19, 2002). Danny Harvey and I refereed this and said it
should be rejected. We questioned the editor (deFreitas again!) and he
responded saying .....
The MS was reviewed initially by five referees. ... The other three
referees, all reputable atmospheric scientists, agreed it should be
published subject to minor revision. Even then I used a sixth person
to help me decide. I took his advice and that of the three other
referees and sent the MS back for revision. It was later accepted for
publication. The refereeing process was more rigorous than usual.
On the surface this looks to be above board -- although, as referees who
advised rejection it is clear that Danny and I should have been kept in
the loop and seen how our criticisms were responded to.
It is possible that Danny and I might write a response to this paper --
deFreitas has offered us this possibility.
This second case gets to the crux of the matter. I suspect that
deFreitas deliberately chose other referees who are members of the
skeptics camp. I also suspect that he has done this on other occasions.
How to deal with this is unclear, since there are a number of
individuals with bona fide scientific credentials who could be used by
an unscrupulous editor to ensure that 'anti-greenhouse' science can get
through the peer review process (Legates, Balling, Lindzen, Baliunas,
Soon, and so on).
The peer review process is being abused, but proving this would be
The best response is, I strongly believe, to rebut the bad science that
does get through.
Jim Salinger raises the more personal issue of deFreitas. He is clearly
giving good science a bad name, but I do not think a barrage of ad
hominem attacks or letters is the best way to counter this.
If Jim wishes to write a letter with multiple authors, I may be willing
to sign it, but I would not write such a letter myself.
In this case, deFreitas is such a poor scientist that he may simply
disappear. I saw some work from his PhD, and it was awful (Pat Michaels'
PhD is at the same level).
Best wishes to all,
Professor Michael E. Mann
Department of Environmental Sciences, Clark Hall
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22903
e-mail: mannatXYZxyzginia.edu Phone: (434) 924-7770 FAX: (434) 982-2137