Climate Gate – All the manipulations and lies revealed 161

As a complement to my post Climate Gate – All the manipulations and lies revealed 156.

This time to UK institutions.

The FOI Myth #2

As noted in yesterday’s post, Nature recently editorialized:

If there are benefits to the e-mail theft, one is to highlight yet again the harassment that denialists inflict on some climate-change researchers, often in the form of endless, time-consuming demands for information under the US and UK Freedom of Information Acts. Governments and institutions need to provide tangible assistance for researchers facing such a burden…

Similar sentiments have been expressed elsewhere e.g. New Scientist here.

In today’s post, I’ll review FOI requests to UK institutions for data other than CRU station data and unarchived IPCC review comments, showing that these requests were reasonable, that the use of FOI was entirely appropriate and that complying with FOI requests enabled the matters to be dealt with efficiently and expeditiously. I’ve reserved FOI requests for CRU station data and for unarchived IPCC review comments to separate posts, because they are longer topics and raise different issues. Contemporary CA posts on FOI requests are here.

Thus far, I’ve identified three FOI requests for data other than CRU station data by myself or CA readers to UK institutions, none of which can be reasonably described as “endless, time-consuming demands for information”.

Jones et al 1990

On Feb 22, 2007, I submitted an FOI request to CRU for station lists and data for three networks (Russia, China, Australia) used in Jones et al 1990, which had been cited in IPCC AR4, then newly released. (As noted yesterday, a concurrent request for the same data was made to NOAA in the US.)

This request was expeditiously resolved when the requested information was placed online in April 2007 but not before CRU had first attempted to repudiate the request by making untrue statements to support a claim for FOI exemption. In its initial response, CRU stated (1) that the requested data (even station lists for Jones et al 1990) were already “publicly available” at NOAA, and (2) that they no longer possessed the “rural” data. I immediately asked the FOI officer to reconsider the ruling, observing that (1) it was (obviously) impossible to identify the Jones et al 1990 stations by inspection of the GHCN data sets; (2) my disbelief that Jones et al no longer even possessed a record of what stations they used. FOI officer Palmer quickly resiled from these untrue claims and reported:

upon further investigation and work, we have uncovered the annual input data for the paper of Dr. Jones from 1990.

This data was placed online in April 2007 (See cache here). The release of this data confirmed my previous surmise (see CA here, Feb 22, 2007) that the following representation in Jones et al 1990 about the Chinese network was untrue:

The stations were selected on the basis of station history; we selected those with few, if any changes in instrumentation, location or observation times.

I had surmised this representation was untrue because a contemporary technical report (NOAA NDP039) said of its 205-station Chinese network:

Unfortunately, station histories are not currently available for any of the stations in the 205-station network; therefore, details regarding instrumentation, collection methods, changes in station location or observing times, and official data sources are not known.

This misrepresentation became the theme in numerous 2007 Climategate Letters. One letter from me attached to a thread shows that I suggested that Jones issue a correction notice, something that Kevin Trenberth, an unlikely ally, also suggested. However, Jones decided to do nothing. (Climategate strands lead in all directions – I’m quite prepared to discuss the Wang issues, but would rather do so in a separate thread in a forthcoming post and focus in this thread on FOI compliance issues.)

IPCC AR4 Durbin-Watson Statistics

In May 2007, also arising out of AR4, I submitted a second FOI request to CRU (see post here) regarding the calculation of Durbin-Watson statistics in IPCC AR4, then hot off the press.

Although IPCC is supposed to only use results from peer-reviewed studies, in response to criticisms from Ross McKitrick and Cohn and Lins, Jones inserted his own statistical calculations (including Durbin-Watson statistics for temperature trends) into the AR4 chapter of which he was chapter author. I urge readers to consult the original CA post.

After carefully examining the AR4 references for Jones’ calculation – none of which was precisely on point – I asked Jones to clarify this (non-peer-reviewed) calculation as follows:

In Table 3.2 of IPCC AR4, you refer to Durbin-Watson statistics for various trend calculations, but do not show them. Could you please provide me with these statistics.

I am unfamiliar with any prior use of the Durbin-Watson statistic “after allowing for first-order serial correlation”. Could you please provide me your statistical reference showing how one calculates a Durbin-Watson statistic “after allowing for first-order serial correlation” and giving significance levels for the statistic “after allowing for first-order serial correlation”.

Could you please identify the statistical packages used in your calculation of REML trends and Durbin-Watson statistics? Would it be correct to say that (1) fitted a trend to the various series; (2) fitted an AR1 arima model to the residuals from (1)? (3) carried out a Durbin-Watson test on the residuals from (2)?

Where applicable, these requests are made under FOI provisions.
Thank you for your attention, Steve McIntyre

Copying the FOI officer should obviously not have been necessary but the Climategate Letters show unambiguously that Jones and associates had adopted a policy of unresponsiveness. Unlike requests without an FOI number, this request was resolved quickly and in a prompt and professional manner.

Gridded MXD Data Used in Mann et al 2008

Mann et al 2008 used gridded MXD data attributed to Rutherford Mann et al (J Clim 2005). Rutherford et al had stated that the gridded MXD was online at Rutherford’s website, but this was untrue.

In Sep 2008, I sent an FOI request (my third such request to CRU), asking for the gridded MXD data as sent to Mann and associates. I did not ask them for anything new or anything that had not already been sent to others. Had Rutherford et al lived up to their representations to Journal of Climate, the request would not have been necessary.

Whereas previous attempts to obtain this data directly or through the journal (edited by Andrew Weaver) had been unsuccessful, this request through FOI was resolved promptly and expeditiously by CRU placing the requested information on a webpage (see CA discussions here here

Interim Summary

Thus far, over the five year period from 2005 to 2009, I’ve located three UK FOI requests from me or CA readers not involving CRU station data or unarchived IPCC review comments (which I’ll discuss separately.) In making this summary, I’ve reviewed relevant CA threads. If readers are aware of any requests that I’ve missed in this inventory – other than station data/associated confidentiality agreements and IPCC comments, please advise me and I’ll amend accordingly.

Each of these three requests was reasonable and resolved promptly.

At least one of them would have been unnecessary had Rutherford (Mann, Briffa … ) et al complied with their explicit undertakings to Journal of Climate or had Andrew Weaver ensured that they had done so. In any event, complying with this FOI request took negligible effort as precisely the data had already been sent to associates.

In a second case (Durbin-Watson statistics), the FOI request would have been unnecessary if Jones had complied with IPCC policies not to use results not reported in the peer-reviewed-literature. In any event, the request was resolved quickly and professionally.

In the third case (the Jones et al 1990 networks), after a short delay resulting from false statements by CRU, the data was located and placed online and the matter quickly resolved.

Compliance with the FOI requests discussed above cannot reasonably be characterized as “endless, time-consuming demands” under the UK Freedom of Information Acts. A few readers observed yesterday that it was possible that non-CA readers (or CA readers of which I was unaware) had sent “endless, time-consuming demands for information” prior to Climategate. However, there is no evidence of such FOI requests (abusive or otherwise) in the Climategate Letters. Nor has such activity been mentioned at realclimate prior to Climategate. Nor is there evidence of such activity in the NOAA FOI logs.

In our review thus far, the FOI legislation seems to be doing exactly what it was supposed to do – and with negligible effort on the part of the scientists in question. I’ll get to FOI requests for CRU station data and unarchived IPCC review comments in subsequent posts on this theme, following which I’ll make some overall assessment.

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