S.Fred Singer: Climategate Heads to Court

Posted: April 6, 2012 by Rog Tallbloke in climate, Legal, media, Politics

My thanks to S.Fred Singer, who has emailed me a copy of this new article, which also appears today at the American Thinker website, where Prof. Singer is a regular contributor.

Climategate Heads to Court
S.Fred Singer

As a climate scientist, I am quite familiar with the background facts that Prof Michael E. Mann (now at Penn State U) so shamelessly distorts in his new book “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines.”

First, the scientific background:

Mann’s claim to fame derives from his contentious (and now thoroughly discredited) ‘hockeystick’ research papers (in Nature 1998 and Geophysical Research Letters 1999). His idiosyncratic analysis of proxy (non-thermometer) data from sources like tree rings, ice cores, ocean sediments, etc, did away with the well-documented Medieval Warm Period (MWP — 900-1200AD) and Little Ice Age (LIA — 1400-1800AD) – documented by Prof. H.H. Lamb, the founding director of the Climate Research Unit of U. of East Anglia (CRU-UEA). Mann then asserted that the 20th century was the warmest in 1000 years. His temperature graph, shaped like a hockeystick (on its side) immediately became the poster child of Al Gore and the IPCC, the UN science panel, to support their claim of anthropogenic global warming (AGW).

Two Canadian statisticians, Steven McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, soon found serious errors in Mann’s analysis; they even showed that random data fed into Mann’s algorithm would produce ‘hockeysticks.’ To add insult to injury, while the 2001 IPCC report used Mann’s result to bolster its AGW claim, the most recent 2007 IPCC report no longer relies on it. Mann still defends it – sort of – and so do some of his uncritical supporters. We have had no word yet from Al Gore.

In his book, Mann distorts the e-mail record from the ‘Climategate’ leak; those e-mails have not been altered or edited in any way. They document a conspiracy among a clique of British and US climate scientists to control what goes into IPCC reports, and to keep contrary views by skeptics from being published in recognized science journals by manipulating the peer-review process.

The most complete discussion of the Climategate e-mails can be found in “The Hockeystick Illusion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science’ by Andrew W. Montford. A more technical discussion has been ongoing in McIntyre’s blog www.climateaudit.org.

Mike Mann also attempts to mislead readers by citing ‘facts.’ He does this by mixing up temperature level (measured in degrees C) with temperature trends (degC per decade) – hoping no one would notice. While current levels are high (since the climate is still recovering from the LIA), the trend has been essentially zero for more than a decade – in spite of rapidly rising CO2 concentrations.

In reading Mann’s original papers, I noticed something very strange: His temperature record (blue curve in the IPCC report) based on proxy data suddenly stops in 1978 and is joined smoothly to the thermometer record from weather stations (red curve), which shows a steep rise in temperature. By contrast, atmospheric temperatures measured from weather satellites show only insignificant warming between 1978 and 1997 — as do the independent data from weather balloons around the world.

Puzzled by this disparity, I e-mailed Mann (then at the U. of Virginia) and politely asked about his post-1978 proxy temperatures. All I got in return was a nasty reply – which only served to confirm my suspicion that Mann was hiding the data because they disagreed with the widely accepted thermometer record, which had suggested the existence of global warming. I believe that this is the true meaning of the phrase “Mike’s Nature trick,” used in the leaked Climategate e-mails — in conjunction with “hide the decline.” It all suggests manipulation of crucial data.

Naturally, I am anxious to learn if Mann’s suppressed post-1978 data show a warming. If they don’t, then the UN-IPCC’s case for AGW collapses – and so do all policies to control the greenhouse gas CO2. These policies include emission trading (‘cap & trade’), carbon sequestration from powerplants, and various costly schemes for developing alternative, ‘Green’ forms of energy. We may have already wasted hundreds of billions of dollars – for no good purpose. If so, then Mann and his supporters have much to answer for.

The Legal Phase

In 1999, Mann joined the U. of Virginia faculty as an assistant professor and left for Penn State six years later after failing to gain tenure. In fact, he was a member of my Department of Environmental Sciences, although we did not overlap.

In 2010, Virginia’s newly elected Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, following Virginia FATA (Fraud Against Taxpayer Act) law, issued a Civil Investigative Demand on the University for Mann’s e-mails, work notes, and other documentation. The University, a state-supported institution, has resisted this demand, citing ‘academic freedom’ and similar excuses. They have employed a private law firm and spent about $1 million so far.

I am quite disappointed by my University’s opposition to releasing Mann’s e-mails to Virginia’s AG. Those e-mails could clear up the mystery of “Mike’s Nature trick” and reveal hidden data. I am told that no objection was raised by UVa when Greenpeace requested the e-mails of skeptical faculty – including mine – under the Freedom-of-Information Act (FOIA). So much for the University’s ‘principled defense’ of academic freedom.
Virginia’s Supreme Court has now turned down AG Cuccinelli’s demand, based on a technicality in the interpretation of the Virginia law. But the American Tradition Institute is trying to extract Mann’s e-mails from UVa, using the FOIA. Their chance for success is good – particularly since the University now not only admits that some 12,000 emails exist (previously claimed to have been deleted) – but have released these e-mails to Michael Mann, even though he is no longer a faculty member.

As Tom Jackman reports (Wash Post, March 21): The ATI case began quietly in January 2011, with a FOIA request to UVa for e-mails to and from Mann and 39 people, involving five grant programs. Seven months later, UVa produced almost 1,800 e-mails, but said it was withholding another 12,000, which they argued were not public record, or were exempt under Virginia FOIA law 2.2-3705.4(4). The case is scheduled for argument on April 16 in Manassas (in Prince William County, Virginia), in suburban Washington, DC. From there, the case will likely begin its ascent up the appeals court ladder and is poised to make law on how Virginia institutions may use FOIA to withhold from some and give to others. Not to mention create an international stink — if Mann’s e-mails show he has manipulated climate change data, an accusation for which he claims to have been cleared.

As Jackman further reports, Mann said his shared interest, with UVa, in his e-mails means they can be released to him, but not to climate skeptics. The American Tradition Institute, the conservative group hoping to show that climate change scientists like Mann manipulated their data, argues that UVa can’t give the e-mails to one person and not another. By giving the emails to Mann, the University has waived any exemptions they’re claiming to the state Freedom of Information Act, ATI’s lawyer David Schnare argues.

Schnare then cited a Virginia Attorney General’s opinion from 1983 that once a public body disseminates any record, “those records lose the exemption accorded by” FOIA. Federal case law appears to be clearer that “selective disclosure…is offensive to the purposes underlying the FOIA and intolerable as a matter of policy.”
Meanwhile a new angle has developed in Vancouver, BC. Canadian climatologist Tim Ball jokingly wrote that “Mann should not be at Penn State but in a State Pen[itentiary].” Mann then improvidently sued Ball for libel. But this now leaves Mann open for the pre-trial discovery process, including a deposition under oath. We shall see how this case develops. Tim Ball has many ways to make his case in his defense. I am hoping he will focus on the suppressed post-1978 data. It would be fitting if Mann’s data are used to destroy the IPCC’s case for AGW.

One way or another, the truth will come out. And when it does, we will witness a major earthquake that will encompass IPCC scientists, politicians in America and Europe, and the UN. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait too long for this to happen.

S. Fred Singer is professor emeritus at the University of Virginia and director of the Science & Environmental Policy Project.  His specialty is atmospheric and space physics.   An expert in remote sensing and satellites, he served as the founding director of the US Weather Satellite Service and, more recently, as vice chair of the US National Advisory Committee on Oceans & Atmosphere. He is a Senior Fellow of the Heartland Institute and the Independent Institute. In 2007, he founded and chaired NIPCC (Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change). For recent writings see http://www.americanthinker.com/s_fred_singer/ and also Google Scholar.
With about 2000 other scientists who participated in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, including Michael Mann, he jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007

  1. Hans says:

    The Swedish Academy of Sciences regularly arrange 2 day seminars with varying titles which is open for public and students. Shortly after the publication of the Mann et al hockey stick article a seminar about climatology was announced. The advertised head speaker was Micheal Mann. I had prepared some questions since I from start considered his hockey stick article for what it has been shown to be, a fraud, or alternatively severly inaccurate and unprofessional. Several others had done the same. Mann never showed up in Stockholm.

    A guess is that he didn´t realised the character of this type of seminar when he accepted the role as head speaker. He shouldn´t have been able to avoid a number of hard questions which he would have been “forced” to answer in public and added to that lots of questions from professionals at other formal and informal meetings.

  2. vukcevic says:

    German medieval church builders confirm existence of the Little Ice Age

    German scientist Monika Korte from Deutsches GeoForschungs Helmholtz Zentrum Potsdam, surveyed orientation of the German medieval churches and found that from 1400s ( time when compass was brought to Europe) to about 1850s (when Gauss perfected magnetic measurements) many churches east-west direction is not consistent with the geographic east.
    From errors she calculated contemporary magnetic declination.
    I went one step further and plotted her magnetic data for Germany and compared to the Loehle temperature reconstruction obtaining pretty good match after introducing an average delay of 40 years.
    Delay could be a coincidence or it could be that the foundations were put down at a certain time, but date recorded would be some years later at completion.

  3. Michael Hart says:

    That’s one of the best short summaries I’ve read about “The Hockey Stick” debate. Even as a sceptic, I was quite late learning about this episode. I would guess that there may be many others.

    But, “One way or another, the truth will come out.” -I wish I could be so optimistic.

  4. davidmhoffer says:

    One way or another, the truth will come out>>>

    The truth is already out. It takes very little research to conclude that Mann’s work is fraudulent, that the evidence for the existance of the LIA and MWP is overwhelming, that this is well known amongst Mann’s colleagues who privately (in the climategate emails) express their misgivings yet publicly support him, that the data has been manipulated in what ought to be considered a criminaly offensive manner, and that the legal manipulations being employed by Mann and his supporters are nothing but desperate cover up tactics.

    The truth is already out, and has been for a long time. What we are waiting for is the wheels of justice, which turn agonizingly slowly, to catch up.

  5. tchannon says:

    That fits well enough with the oldest Greenwich data I could find when I was wondering about the solar 1780s problem.

    However, did they actually use a compass?

    Perhaps this needs some detailed work on building materials where anything which produced a curie point will have captured the magnetic field. Fire is a common feature of building work.

  6. vukcevic says:

    In the paper Korte has numerous references to compass, beside church orientation itself, many bell towers and other locations have sun dials, which also had to be positioned accurately by compass (see page 24)

  7. Scute says:

    There’s something I don’t get here. Fred Singer is speculating on the tree ring data that’s been hidden and what it might show if revealed. But isn’t this just the tree ring data in the Briffa decline that was discussed in the climategate emails and now in the public domain? It’s discussed in this video by the aforementioned McIntyre of climateaudit (12:40 to 13:15 ) http://m.youtube.com/index?Can someone tell me if it’s a different data set? desktop_uri=%2F&gl=GB#/watch?v=JlCNrdna9CI.

  8. davidmhoffer says:

    But isn’t this just the tree ring data in the Briffa decline that was discussed in the climategate emails and now in the public domain? >>>

    There were two temperature series based on proxy data in which the proxy data was truncated to hide the decline (in the temperature computed from the proxy data) referencd in the climategate emails. One was Michael Mann’s and the other was Phil Jones. However,that is only the tip of the iceberg. Mann’s original hockey stick paper was based on a computer program that produced a hockey stick with pretty much any climate data because it used statistical analysis to weight any data series shaped like a hockey stick heavier than data not shaped like a hockey stick. In other words, feed it multiple data sets and it would seek out the hockey stick shaped data and emphasize it over the rest of the data. Briffa did much the same thing by weighting one tree out of 12 as half the data.

    Mann’s sins hardly stop there however. One of his papers uses something called the Tiljander data series (which I don’t think was even tree rings, it was something else, I’ve forgotten what) and these were in as data points essentially referenced “upside down” from the rest of the data.

  9. Hans says:

    vukcevic says: April 6, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Vuc, do you know how the north pole has moved from around 1200 AD up to now and specifically where was it during the little Ice Age?

  10. vukcevic says:

    Hi Hans
    Yes, it all started as a Christmas puzzle about 4 years ago, on another blog, tallbloke may remember.
    I did two attempts to link temperatures to the North pole movement, first one with less accurate map produced better result than one with a more accurate map. Results are graphically synthesised here:
    If you come with anything better let us know.

  11. Hans says:

    vukcevic says: April 7, 2012 at 9:16 am

    Thanks Vuc,
    Highly interesting. I will digest your information for a while.

  12. gallopingcamel says:

    “To add insult to injury, while the 2001 IPCC report used Mann’s result to bolster its AGW claim, the most recent 2007 IPCC report no longer relies on it. ”

    I would sound a note of caution with regard to this encouraging statemement. Will the trend be continued into the IPCC’s AR5 due for publication in 2013? Take a look at the WG1 “Zero Order Draft” of chapter 5 (Paleo).

    The “Hockey Stick” lives on page 86, Figure 5.7a. Members of the Hockey Team (Mann, Hughes, Briffa, Trenberth, et al.) are cited over 200 times in the text of this ZOD while Craig Loehle gets one citation. Loehle is dismissed in one short sentence while the Hockey Team gets pages of commentary. So much for the idea that their psuedo science is discredited.

    At the IPCC, the Hockey Stick still rules along with the spirit of Lysenko.

  13. Vuk says:

    But Loehle has an unbeatable proxy that can’t be fiddled – change in the intensity of the Earth’s magnetic field

  14. Mushroomgeorge says:

    How long are we going to have to wait for the movie to come out? Brad Pitt as Anthony Watts, Chalize Theron as Judith Curry, Paul Giamatti as Mike Mann. Who is should play Fred Singer?

  15. Ian Campbell says:


    Without doubt it would be Christopher Lee!

  16. tallbloke says:


    MANASSAS, Va. — A judge is treading cautiously in a high-stakes case that pits the University of Virginia against a conservative institute seeking thousands of records related to climatologist Michael Mann.

    Retired Arlington Circuit Judge Paul Sheridan, during arguments in Prince William County Circuit Court on Monday, denied without prejudice a motion filed by the American Tradition Institute that contended the university waived its right to the records when it released them last year to Mr. Mann’s lawyer and, in essence, Mr. Mann himself.

    The ruling, while a defeat for ATI, means the group can make its case again at a later date.

    “He did the only thing he could do,” David Schnare, director of ATI’s Environmental Law Institute, said afterward, suggesting he may revisit the argument. “How can you say you don’t waive them when you gave them up to somebody?”

    Lawyers for the university maintained it did not waive its rights to the documents because it and Mr. Mann had a common interest agreement — in essence, the university and Mr. Mann are on the same side.

    Mr. Schnare tried to undercut that argument by saying that Mr. Mann, who has since left UVa. and taken a position at Penn State University, is now an academic “competitor,” and, therefore, an adversary of sorts.

    “He is the last person to whom the University of Virginia would want to give any proprietary information,” he said, adding that the university “selectively released” them.

    Judge Sheridan did not accept the argument.