While drafting a post on ‘Phil Jones and the ‘expert judgement’ of the IPCC’ recently, a search of the CRU emails threw up a file that did not appear to be relevant to what I was looking for, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Since sceptics started raking through the Climategate emails, interest has focused on just a few dozen of the messages that contain egregiously alarming revelations about how climate research and the IPCC process is conducted. A large number of the emails appear to contain nothing particularly noteworthy. This is strange, given that they all seemed to have been grouped in a single folder for a purpose.

There is some agreement among systems analysts who have considered how this material became public that the FOI2009 folder that appeared on a Russian server in November last year was downloaded  in toto from CRU, and had probably been compiled there for a reason or reasons unknown. If this is the case, then it must have been the result of an exhaustive review of, and a process of selection from, a vast amount of material. The folder certainly doesn’t contain the whole contents of any particular mailbox.

The hacked or leaked file was named  FOI2009.zip  and contained a folder FOI2009, which was divided into two sub-folders: documents and emails. The emails folder is made up of 1073 files each of which contains an email, but many of these also contain chains of messages that are relevant to the primary message at the top of the page. The file that I came across (1168467907.txt) was one of these and contained five messages.

The primary email (dated 10th January 2007) is from Phil Jones to Sir Brain Hoskins, with copies to: “Susan Solomon”, “Kevin Trenberth”, “Brian Hoskins”, martin.manning, “Matilde Rusticucci”, “Phil Jones”, “Peter Lemke”, “Jurgen Willebrand”, “Nathan Bindoff”, “zhenlin chen”,”Melinda Marquis”. (The inclusion of Jones and Hoskins in the copies, in spite of their being  the author and recipient of the primary message respectively, suggests that this was a designated mailing list.) All are drafting or contributing authors to the IPCC’s AR4, Working Group 1 (WGI), Summary for Policymakers (SPM) except for Solomon, who is co-Chair of WGI and Marquis who is Deputy Director of the WGI Support Group. Only Jones, Hoskins, Trenberth and Solomon take part in the discussion in the message chain.

The subject under discussion is mid-latitude winds in the context of climate change and extreme weather events, and the way in which research findings relating to this should be summarised in the SPM.  The emails were exchanged just prior to the IPCC plenary session in Paris during early February 2007 that would finalise the text. It is important to note that government representatives who have the last word on the text attended this final meeting. The general subject heading in the SPM is Direct Observations of Recent Climate Change.

In order to consider the contents in chronological order it is necessary to start with the last message at the bottom of the page, or in other words, to read the contents from bottom to top rather than top to bottom.

The earliest message is from Sir Brian Hoskins to Susan Soloman.

(Message 1)

Brian Hoskins wrote: [Review editor of WGI Chapter 3 and a drafting author of the SPM]

Susan [Solomon]

Headline 2

I suggest the following:

At  continental or ocean basin scale, numerous changes in climate have been observed. Mid-latitude westerly winds (and the associated storms) have shifted polewards and strengthened. Other climate changes include precipitation,…..

I have taken the suggestion form SPM_327 to reverse the order of the first sentence.

The westerly winds sentence is essentially that in a headline in the TS.

I should much prefer not to include the bracketed itallicised phrase on storms. The evidence is less strong. There is some evidence for reduced numbers of storms also but no room to say that. It was not headlined in the chapter or the TS.

Best wishes


 my emphasis

Evidently a piece of copy concerning extreme weather is being hammered into shape and Hoskins has reservations because a claim of increased storm intensity may not be adequately supported by scientific evidence and there is also evidence that the frequency of storms is decreasing.

The next message is from Kevin Trenberth (a cooridinating a lead author on WGI Chapter 3) to Sir Brian Hoskins.

 (Message 2)

At 8:54 AM -0700 1/9/07, Kevin Trenberth wrote:

Hi Brian

Do you need the first part?  Are you rewriting the headline on SPM p5 lines 35-37 or are you adding an extra bullet on circulation? I thought we agreed on the latter, but your piece seems more like the former.

If we left the headline alone and added:

* Changes in large-scale atmospheric circulation are apparent and, in particular,  the mid-latitude westerly winds have shifted polewards and strengthened, altering storm tracks.

would be an alternative approach.  I think it is helpful to mention storm tracks but not be specific about how they have changed.

What do you think?


my emphasis

Hoskins’ initial reservations about the evidence of stronger winds, and the possibility that the frequency of  storms is decreasing have disappeared and been replaced by wording that suggests that only  the change in wind patterns is leading to stronger winds and worse storms. Evidently space cannot be found for any caveats.

At this point, one of the biggest guns in the IPCC process, Susan Solomons, provides priority and direction to the discussion, as any good chairman should. At all costs the scientists must deliver what the government representatives want to hear.

(Message 3)

Susan Solomon [Co-Chair, Working Group I, AR4) wrote:

Thanks Brian and Kevin for the help.
I agree with Brian about reversing the order in the headline sentence but agree with Kevin that a separate bullet is most helpful. I suggest we keep the headline short and simple and just leave the language we have about wind patterns being one of several things changing there. Otherwise it could be read as putting the circulation change into a very high prominence in the headline which isn't quite  the emphasis we were discussing, I think.

I tried to combine the suggestions and to keep things clear enough that governments won't complain about lack of specifics. If you look over the comments, you will have seen that above all they will not tolerate vague language. Anybody who was in Shanghai (or any other IPCC meeting) can attest to that so please please everybody help make things as specific as we can.

So my suggestion for the wind pattern bullet is:

Mid-latitude westerly wind speeds have increased in both hemispheres since about the 1960s. This has caused storm tracks to move towards higher latitudes. {3.6}

Regarding the headline that proceeds it, can we consider something like this:

At continental or ocean basin scales, numerous changes in climate have been observed. These include sea ice extent, precipitation amounts, ocean salinity, wind patterns, and [aspects of extreme weather] OR  [the frequency of heavy precipitation and of heat waves, the intensity  and duration of drought, and the intensity of hurricanes and typhoons.]

The ice sheets have been taken out of the above because they are moving to a consolidated sea level subsection, to deal with several requests for that.
Is the new option after wind patterns too specific? I am a little concerned that we will be challenged on that. We could keep what we have: ‘aspects of extreme weather’. Equally, I am worried that they will challenge the vagueness of ‘extreme weather’ so that is why you see two alternatives here.


my emphasis

What should a poor scientist do when the bosses want specifics? As Hoskins’ first message shows, there aren’t any other than to say that the scientific evidence for mid-latitude winds becoming a problem is a bit flimsy.

But Hoskins bounces back and he, if no one else, is still worried about the evidence that even if winds are strengthening, the frequency of storms may be decreasing. It’s difficult to blame extreme weather on climate change if there seems to be less of it about.

(Message 4)

Dear All

To me a headline should be kept simple with the detail in the bullets
below, so I prefer the simple version with “aspects of extreme weather”
but I guess I am outvoted on that!

For the first part of the bullet on the westerlies I should prefer to
revert to including the shift and also using the word strengthen rather
than increase (a number, such as the speed, increases):

Mid-latitude westerly winds have shifted polewards and stengthened since
about the 1960s.

The next part on the storms is problematic. I agree with Kevin that we
should steer clear of the causal langauage Susan had used. However
Kevin’s words seemed to link a shift in the storm tracks with an
increase in the winds. Also, as reviewed in 3.5.3, some papers suggest
that, in addition to a poleward shift in the storm tracks and an
increase in their average intensity, there is a decrease in the number
of storms .
This is probably too much for the bullet, so that a less
specific version may be required.

I think the whole bullet could be:

Mid-latitude westerly winds have shifted polewards and stengthened since
about the 1960s, with associated changes in storms.


my emphasis

This is a really skilful bit of drafting that completely avoids the real scientific issues. The wording implies that storms are becoming more of a problem, and also provides for any challenge based on the evidence of decreasing storm frequency with the weasel words, ‘associated changes’.

Finally, Phil Jones joins in, suggesting that if mentioning the storms is inconvenient, then why not just leave them out.

(Message 5)

Dear All,
Agree with Brian’s new bullet. I still think we will
get comments about what changes with storms. If this
is going to lead somewhere we don’t want it and cause
problems, then the final part is likely best removed.

Reading it again, better if we say .. since the 1960s.
About is a little vague.

Back in CRU on Friday. I may be able to get this hotel link
to work tomorrow morning.


my emphasis

Evidently Jones had the last word. The final wording in the SPM is as follows:

Mid-latitude westerly winds have strengthened in both hemispheres since the 1960s. {3.5}

Summary for Policymakers, Page 8

We have come a very long way from Hoskins’ first message to Susan Solomon.

When I fist glanced through this message - looking for something else - I wondered how it had found its way into the FOI209 folder. It seemed to be innocuous; just a group of scientists discussing the wording in a report. So I read it more carefully and realised that this email is in fact just the  kind of ‘dirty washing’ that the participants would really want to be kept out of reach of any Freedom of Information Act requests.

Ever since the Climategate scandal broke, and led on to Himalayagate and all the other criticisms of the IPCC WG II report, we have been told that none of the revelations have any impact on the big picture; the fundamental evidence for AGW. Yet here we find some of the leading figures in the IPCC process drafting what is supposed to be an objective assessment of research findings in a way that is astonishing.

Apparently there is something going on that is every bit as troubling as ‘hiding the decline’, rigging the peer review process, or refusing to make data available for scrutiny. It seems to reveal a culture where the priority is not science at all, but presentation. And in this instance it applies to the IPCC’s most influential document, the Working Group I Summary for Policymakers. Worse, it involves some of the biggest names in climate science.

It is true that the nature of mid-latitude storms does not provide clinching evidence either one way or the other in the climate debate. But that is not the point.

Assessment, as applied in the IPCC process, is to a great extent a matter of judgement. The most important revelation that the Climategate emails provide is an insight into the culture that exists within climate science. This has been variously described as ‘tribalism’, ‘circling the wagons’, and more recently by Judith Curry in an interview with Discover Magazine as ‘sloppiness’. It is these characteristics, far more than any specific instance of wrong-doing that cast doubt on the evidence for AGW.

When people talk about the fundamental evidence for AGW not being called into question they are considering only a few specific allegations.  But we rely entirely on the IPCC for that evidence. It is not too much to say that the evidence for AGW is the IPCC. If the IPCC assessment process is contaminated by a culture that is essentially concerned with presentation, then the whole of that process, and the conclusions that have been reached about global warming, require fresh scrutiny.

The above email suggests that, in this case at least, the IPCC’s priority was massaging the evidence to suit the message. In how many other instances is this the case?


H/T to KevinUK for his superb Climategate database with advanced search feature

28 Responses to “Hiding the decline – in the number of storms”

  1. 1
    potentilla Says:


    Nice work. This is an excellent example of the way in which the science is being presented by the IPCC. I waded through the IPCC 2007 report some time ago and it is clear throughout the report that it is attempting to promote a position. The report is a poorly disguised polemic. Issues that have been recently highlighted such as Glaciergate are just the obvious examples of exaggeration. The language of the whole report reflects a bias towards AGW. “Massaging the evidence to suit the message” sums it up nicely.

    I know a very senior scientist who was asked to be part of the IPCC team in the 1990s. He agreed to participate until he found out that the intent was to rubber stamp an AGW position so he withdrew. It appears the bias has been endemic in the IPCC from the beginning.

  2. 2
    manacker Says:


    Very good report. You are exposing just a very small tip of an extremely large iceberg covering a topic, which is not really that critical to the IPCC message, but the same exaggerations in wording can be found elsewhere in the AR4 WG1 and SPM reports.

    The handling of sea level, a topic more critical to the IPCC message, is a good example of bad science combined with outright dishonesty, in order to paint a false picture of late 20th century acceleration in the rate of sea level rise.

    The message is conveyed that global sea level rose at a faster rate over the shorter period 1993-2003 than it did over the much longer period 1961-2003, implying a late 20th century acceleration in the rate of rise.

    In actual fact, tide gauge records have shown us that the rate of rise was slightly higher in the first half of the 20th century than in the second half.

    Both periods saw large multi-decadal swings in the rate of rise in sort of a sine curve, so that a shorter time frame can always be shown to have a faster rate than a longer time frame (IPCC uses this same ruse in comparing temperatures).

    But even more damning than this bit of “smoke and mirrors” is the fact that IPCC has changed the method and scope of measurement with a simple footnote “data prior to 1993 are from tide gauges and after 1993 are from satellite altimetry”.

    Tide gauges measure sea level at several shorelines (where sea level has an impact on land dwellers), while satellite altimetry attempts to measure sea level of the entire oceans, except for areas near shorelines or at polar latitudes where satellite altimetry cannot measure.

    So IPCC is comparing measurements using one method and covering one scope over one time period with those using a different method and covering a different scope over another time period in order to establish an accelerating trend between the two time periods.

    This is “bad science” at best and outright skullduggery at worst.

    In addition, the sea level measurements from satellite altimetry have proven to be so totally inaccurate that the errors are often greater than the trends themselves, as conceded by the very NOAA scientists making the measurements.

    There are many more examples of similar dishonesty, errors or exaggerations in the AR4 WG1 and SPM reports.

    A blogger named PaulM has compiled many of these on a now-defunct CA blog and provided a good summary here:
    (See #10 on the Harmless Sky: Phil Jones and the ‘expert judgement’ of the IPCC thread)


  3. 3
    tonyb Says:

    Max #2

    This was a nice article by TonyN.

    You know my thoughts on sea level and I remembering posting the background to this some time ago. You then wrote an excellent piece (which I have kept).

    The bottom line is that sea levels are considered the ‘gold standard’ of the IPCC and their inexorable rise is taken as a given and rarely challenged. However Chapter 5 provides the background and it is clear that the perceived view is not borne out by the actual (inconvenient)facts.

    I am thinking of writing an article on the subject and it would help me to know at what level to pitch it. Before we had our discussion last year would you say that;

    1) Generally you accepted the traditional view of rapid sea level rises?
    2) You were rather suspicious but thought ‘they’ knew best?
    3) You were always highly suspicious but were surprised at the amount of incorrect information and inconsistencies displayed even within Chapter 5
    4) You held some other viewpoint.

    I am always amazed that this acceptance of sea levels is not challenged more robustly by sceptics and instead we concentrate on parsing global temperaturers to the ‘nth’ degree or the theoretical physics behind the precise degree of co2 needed to raise temperatures by scary amounts with and without feedbacks.


  4. 4
    PaulM Says:

    Tony, well spotted, that’s another nice ‘hide the decline’.

    The IPCC SPM statement
    “Mid-latitude westerly winds have strengthened in both hemispheres since the 1960s.”
    was described by Roger Pielke senior as
    “perhaps the most astonishing claim made in the report”
    just a few days after the SPM was published, see his blog.

    More on this story later…

  5. 5
    TonyN Says:


    More on this story later…

    Yes please!

  6. 6
    manacker Says:


    Regarding your query on the sea level issue, I would say that prior to SPM in February 2007 I generally accepted the forecasts on sea level rise. I did some checking on the tide gauge history and found that several sources going back to around 1880 showed an average rise of 1.7 mm/year (or 0.17 meters per century). Forecasts for the future were around 0.2 meters per century, which seemed reasonable.

    When SPM 2007 came out, my first reaction was to the projected temperature increase. While we had seen 0.6C warming over the past century, this was projected to be 1.8 to 4.0C (with a maximum of 6.4C). It just did not pass my “reality test” that we would see 3 to 10 times the warming we had actually experienced.

    So I got suspicious and dug deeper. The more I dug into SPM (the supporting AR4 WG1 report had not yet been issued) the more questionable things I saw. What made me most suspicious of all were actually two things: the arrogant “sales pitch” verbiage and the fact that all of the forecasts appeared grossly exaggerated compared to actually observed experience.

    My interest in sea levels started when I saw a 2004 report by Nils-Axel Mörner, a world expert on sea levels, who stated

    The late 20th century lack any sign of acceleration. Satellite altimetry indicates virtually no changes in the last decade.

    there is a total absence of any recent ‘acceleration in sea level rise’ as often claimed by IPCC and related groups.

    Mörner also stated that any forecast exceeding 0.2 meters over the next century was “nonsense”.

    These were pretty strong words, so I started digging even deeper. The more I dug, the more questionable the IPCC claim became, as I pointed out in my post above.

    The table attributing 1991-2003 sea level rise to various factors did not add up. The claims for the contribution from both the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets also turned out to be false, since long-range studies showed that both ice sheets had gained mass over this period. There was no way to check the claims on expansion due to warming or contribution from non-polar glaciers, but correcting the IPCC figure for just the two ice sheets put the 1993-2003 figure at between 1.4 and 3.0 mm/year (average of 2.2 mm/year).

    I then came across a report by Simon Holgate using tide gauge records. These data showed that the rate of rise had been slightly higher over the first half of the 20th century (1904-1953) than in the second half (1954-2003), and that the linear trend showed a slight deceleration in the rate of rise. There were several multi-decadal swings over the century in sort of a sine curve, varying from decadal rates of +5.0 to –1.5 mm/year, but no visible trend of late 20th century acceleration as claimed by IPCC.

    I then saw that IPCC had used the trick of switching methods and scopes (see earlier post) in order to get an apparent “acceleration”, so I checked the literature on satellite altimetry to measure sea level. I learned that, unlike measuring a non-moving surface such as an ice cap, measuring a heaving ocean is fraught with great uncertainty. A single ship’s deck can throw off the reading for several square miles. A report by Carl Wunsch stated that the 1993-2003 rate of rise was 1.6 mm/year (half of the IPCC claim of 3.1 mm/year), but that satellite altimetry was still to inexact to draw any conclusions. Another report by Cazenave et al. stated:

    satellite altimetry and in situ temperature data have their own uncertainties and it is still difficult to affirm with certainty that sea level rise is indeed accelerating

    I then came across a report by Scharroo and Miller of NOAA entitled Multi-Satellite Altimetric Sea Level Change 1992-2003: What Do We Know And What Not?. This report stated:

    The currently accepted value is 2.5±0.5 mm/year. [Note that IPCC has “stretched” this by 24% to 3.1 mm/year]

    However, every few years we learn about mishaps or drifts in the altimeter instruments,
    errors in the data processing or instabilities in the ancillary data that result in rates of
    change that easily exceed the formal error estimate, if not the rate estimate itself.

    So the scientists actually making the satellite altimetry measurements were confirming the conclusion by Wunsch and Cazenave that this method was still too inexact to draw conclusions.

    So why did IPCC switch from tide gauges to satellite altimetry?

    The answer is obvious. Tide gauge records were being run by independent organizations and individuals, such as Mörner and Holgate, who were not part of the AGW team, while satellite altimetry was run by the AGW-friendly NOAA.

    And this is supposed to be “science”.

    The whole thing stinks to high heaven.


  7. 7
    Steve E Says:

    For a group that now says its only problem is poor PR and messaging, it seems an awful lot of time was spent on wording and crafting a message for the IPCC SPM. Am I the only one experiencing dissonance?

  8. 8
    PaulM Says:

    The timing of this is interesting.

    The draft SPM was produced in April 06 and commented on by scientists.
    The ‘final draft’ was produced in Oct 06, with comments from govts (not scientists) issued on Jan 10 2007, exactly the date of this email. So they are discussing the very final version, that went to press a month later.

    Timetables and links to drafts and reviewer comments are here.

    Note that in the draft and final draft, there was no bullet point about wind strength at all. So this comment that Pielke describes as the most astonishing in the report was not seen by scientists, but inserted at the last moment (thanks to the steer of Jones, we now know). This trick of inserting things at the last minute into the final draft, to avoid the scientific review, is widely used by the IPCC, a good example being the dishonest comparison of 100 year, 50 year and 25 year trends (also very probably down to Jones, lead author of chapter 3).

    (Note that SPM327 refers to a comment on the final draft, by the government of Canada).

  9. 9
    manacker Says:

    Hide the Decline (as in rate of sea level rise over 20th century):

    Average rate of rise:
    1904-1953: 2.03 ± 0.35 mm/year
    1954-2003: 1.45 ± 0.34 mm/year

    Rate over second half of century was 29% lower than over first half.



  10. 10
    Dave McK Says:

    This is my first visit.
    The article is very intelligent.
    Thanks for putting it out to be read.

  11. 11
    Tom Forrester-Paton Says:

    Ever since I first read the Climategate emails I have wondered about that file name. Could it be that this was a file containing traffic the members of the Tree Ring Circus planned to EXCLUDE from FOI disclosure, should their efforts to to thwart the requests finally fail? Looked at as the outcome of a pre-emptive cull, the collection seems to make some sense, does it not?

  12. 12
    TonyN Says:

    Steve E:

    It would certainly seem that these messengers are being very economical with the information that is at their disposal.


    The timing is very interesting. I’ve checked the IISD Earth Negations Bulletin record of the plenary session and there doesn’t seem to have been any discussion of the mid-latitude westerlies.

    Tom Forrester-Paton:

    One of the questions that the Russell enquiry certainly should answer is the one that you pose. It will be very interesting to see whether that happens.

  13. 13
    Alex Cull Says:

    A very good article, Tony. Phil Jones, Susan Solomon et al come across rather like marketing managers discussing the launch of a product that they know is flawed and that will need some skilful handling in order to sell to as many people as possible without falling foul of trading standards. Extraordinary, really.

  14. 14
    mrjohn Says:

    These climate scientist guys have too much time on their hands.

  15. 15
    jorgekafkazar Says:

    I find this phrase damning:

    “…keep things clear enough that governments won’t complain…”

    In other words, the wishes of governments take precedence over the cautious and precise qualifying statements of actual scientific terminology. Talk about selling out. The report is obviously nothing more than a political instrument designed for propaganda purposes and has no scientific validity.

  16. 16
    PaulM Says:


    I have added this one to my list (number 40).

    While doing so I noticed one more amusing point. Brian Hoskins says twice that there is no room to mention the declining number of storms.

    In fact if you look at pages 8-9 of the SPM, where these bullet points are, there are about 10 blank lines of white space at the end of the bullet points on page 9 :)

  17. 17
    TonyN Says:


    When you add Pielke’s observations, which you linked to above, to what I’ve said in the header post it certainly seems worthy of a place on the list.

  18. 18
    Bob_FJ Says:

    Great article of yours!
    I’m Emailing it around to people that I think will understand its significance.
    Oh, and also, “re-writing Obama’s speech”

  19. 19
    Jay Taylor Says:

    Very well written post. Just discovered an excellent site with UK government documents on it – http://www.officialdocumentwatch.com is a really well built site and them seem to be very up to date – always posting the latest UK government documents released to the public. Worth a look.

  20. 20
    manacker Says:

    Jay Taylor

    From the site you cited:

    Beyond Copenhagen:
    The UK Government’s International Climate Change Action Plan

    Ed Miliband MP
    Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change


    Some excerpts:

    While the Copenhagen conference did not agree everything we set out for, we made real strides forward.

    The Copenhagen Accord is a hugely significant achievement. The commitments, which countries have put forward under it are consistent with global emissions peaking before 2020, which is crucial to put us on a pathway towards achieving our 2°C goal.

    The Accord’s provisions on finance and other support for developing countries are the basis for practical international action to make this happen. The rest of this document restates why we must act now, and sets out the UK’s vision of how the international community should now move forward.

    To achieve our 2°C goal, and ensure that developing countries are able to develop in a low-carbon, climate resilient way it will be essential that developed countries meet their commitments to provide sufficient financial and technical support in addition to existing development aid, to augment developing countries’ own action. This is a big ask: countries which grew in a high-carbon way have to not only transform their own economies but also help developing economies to take a radically different growth path.

    Key fact:
    A quarter of the world’s population still lives on less than $1.25 a day. One billion people lack access to clean drinking water; 1.6 billion, electricity; and 3 billion, adequate sanitation. A quarter of all developing country children are malnourished.
    Addressing these needs will get harder, not easier, with climate change.

    The Prime Minister is co-chairing (with Prime Minister Meles of Ethiopia) the new High-Level Advisory Group which will look at different sources of climate finance to help us meet the longer term target of mobilising $100 billion

    If countries build on the commitments made at Copenhagen, we believe that at Cancun the international community can make substantial progress towards a comprehensive, legally binding outcome to tackle climate change, which puts the world on a trajectory to limit average global temperature increases to no more than 2°C. That is an enormous prize and the UK is determined to do all it can to help secure it.

    OK. It’s all just a lot of political hot air, and Miliband probably won’t even be around in his job to witness the next global boondoggle at Cancun, Mexico, but this document still sounds very scary to me (and I suspect even more so to UK citizens).


  21. 21
    TonyN Says:

    Alex Cull:

    With your interest in transcriptions, the following might be worth a glance.

    Bishop Hill has a link to an Economist interview with Sir Brian Hoskin’s, who figures largely in the header post on this thread. He seems to be waxing lyrical about the extent to which the IPCC goes in representing uncertainty, something that we mere mortals who are more at home with the SPM’s than the main reports may find surprising. He also has things to say about modelling and understanding mid-latitude storms.

    The link is here:


    and am I alone in thinking that Hoskins demeanour and body language while he is answering some of the questions is rather disturbing?

  22. 22
    manacker Says:

    TonyN and Alex Cull

    I watched the Bishop Hill video twice to see if I could detect anything in Sir Brian Hoskins’ “body language” other than nervousness when answering some of the more pointed (if very civilly posed) questions. He seemed a bit unsure of himself, but I could detect nothing else (maybe a trained psychologist could do a better job).

    It is clear that Hoskins (as a scientist) was talking about the detailed 1000+ page AR4 WG1 report, rather than the 18-page SPM report, which everyone other than a scientist reads, when he talks about uncertainty ranges being clearly pointed out. The biggest problem that many people have with the SPM report is that this high degree of uncertainty is not expressed. Instead one is led to believe (in the very opening paragraphs and later throughout the report) that there is a high degree of certainty in the observations as well as the projections.

    Since the TAR, new observations and related modelling of greenhouse gases, solar activity, land surface properties and some aspects of aerosols have led to improvements in the quantitative estimates of radiative forcing.

    Since the TAR, progress in understanding how climate is changing has been gained through improvements and extensions of numerous datasets and data analyses, broader geographical coverage, better understanding of uncertainties, and a wider range of measurements.

    The understanding of anthropogenic warming and cooling influences on climate has improved since the TAR, leading to very high confidence that the global average net effect of human activities since 1750 as been one of warming…

    Etc. ad nauseam.

    Does not sound like there is much uncertainty or doubt at all, as Hoskins has expressed. (I also miss the part where Hoskins tells us the “models are lousy”.)


  23. 23
    Alex Cull Says:

    TonyN, Max, I’m not an expert by any means whatsoever, but Sir Brian Hoskins’s body language does appear to change quite dramatically throughout the video. At the start, he is extremely guarded and contained in his facial expressions (e.g., at the 2.00 mark) and his gestures, keeping his arms tightly folded in front of him. The 2.20 – 2.40 area is also interesting, when the interviewer talks about subconscious bias and group think; he nods very rapidly and appears to hang his head. He does open up considerably just before the 4.30 mark – this is where the interviewer asks him “How bad were the climate models when you started out?” and he answers “They were pretty lousy, and they’re still pretty lousy, really…”

    After this, his demeanour seems far more relaxed; it’s almost as if he feels relieved. It is impossible, of course, as it were to psychoanalyse someone at a remove like this (but naturally very tempting to try, anyway!); one interpretation might be that he was uncomfortable discussing the IPCC, but then far happier talking about the shortcomings of the early climate models (on safer ground, so he felt he could loosen up a bit?) The “they’re still pretty lousy” remark was surprising, though, and from that moment on, there was (perhaps) a feeling of “now I’ve said it, and can relax!” – even though there were more qualified statements to follow. This is strictly one possible interpretation out of many, I would stress, and one which probably reflects my own biases.

    It is interesting to watch the video with the sound off, just to focus on gestures and facial expressions (it’s fascinating to do this sometimes with TV programmes, as you notice different things.) Also, of course, it’s rewarding to read the words by themselves, to see what is revealed there. I’ll see if I can do a transcript of this interview (while it’s still available!) and will post a link.

  24. 24
    TonyN Says:


    Hoskin’s demeanour reminded me very strongly of Jones when he was giving evidence to the HoC Science and Technology Committee, here, about half way through.

    It is understandable that Jones was nervous, ingratiating and very guarded in his utterances on that occasion, but less so in the case of Hoskins when confronted with nothing more intimidating than an Economist journalist. And in both instances there seemed to be a suggestion that the interviewee does not really expect their answers to be accepted at face value, not the kind of self confidence that you would expect from someone with a clear conscience. But perhaps I am reading too much into it.

  25. 25
    Alex Cull Says:

    Just to say I’ve done a quick transcript of the Hoskins interview here. Hoping to add some more to this new site over the next few days – any comments and tips re formatting, searchability etc., will be appreciated.

  26. 26
    manacker Says:

    Alex Cull

    Thanks for making a transcript of the Hoskins interview (25). Let me give you my (unsolicited) comments.

    Following a general introduction without any “meat”, Hoskins states:

    And that just seems amazing – that a scientific argument based on evidence, and a couple of bits of that evidence may or may not have been expressed rather too strongly, or not checked enough, and the fact that that’s cast uncertainty on the whole seems amazing to me.

    Translation: OK. We (climate scientists) have let unchecked errors creep in and exaggerated the problem, but it amazes me that this should cast doubt on everything we’ve stated.

    There is a danger, and we must be aware of that. I think in general, IPCC has done a remarkably good job of actually giving a range of uncertainty – and this is full of uncertainty. I think when it has been used, usually not by the scientists involved, then certainty comes over in a manner which I don’t go along with, and I’ve often squirmed over, and I, for instance, think it could be a good thing to have people only involved in two IPCCs, maybe. Because then, that would – like US President, it gets over the danger of someone getting too involved and too stuck in there, and this danger of an in-group, which is a real danger. I’m not saying it’s happened, but I think there can be a danger.

    Translation: Climate science is full of uncertainty and IPCC has done a good job of pointing this out. It is usually not the scientists, but others, who overlook this uncertainty, with which I do not agree. Perhaps it would be a good idea not to let scientists be involved with more than two IPCC reports to avoid in-breeding of an “in-group” that controls the process.

    Living science in the headlines, and in the policy – and the headlines and in the politics as well, is actually a very difficult – and can be dangerous – game. We talked – we have said that going for the headlines by actually perhaps taking the more extreme rather than the middle of the range. And it can mean that people find it difficult to highlight the uncertainties because those uncertainties will be taken by others to say “You know nothing. And therefore we can’t base policy on what you’re talking about.” I sometimes wish economists were a little more open about theiruncertainties, and yet we base an awful lot on their predictions. So we should be open about our uncertainties but also that should not be a basis for saying “Well, we can’t use what you’re talking about.”

    Translation: The media and politicians use the extreme range of predictions and ignore the uncertainties involved in order to make headlines, but this should not be a justification for ignoring all the conclusions reached.

    To the question, “how bad were the climate models?”

    Ah, they were pretty lousy, and they’re still pretty lousy, really. They were terrible. They had difficulty representing the general sort of high pressure over the poles, and then the general westerly winds in middle latitudes, say. They were approximately right, but –

    Translation: They were and are lousy (no translation needed).

    You go back to the – well, I’m afraid I go back to the ’70s, and that’s when – yeah. They were really developing and they didn’t have an interactive ocean. And so they were really a very limited system and a very limited ability. So now, compared with that, they’re fantastic. But still, it’s a very young science, as I say, and it’s got a long way to go. And I think we know the sort of course we’ve got to go down. It’s always a mixture, really, of what is predictable and what isn’t.

    Translation: (Repeat of statement above, with addition that they were even lousier a few years back.)

    The next three answers go into more detail explaining why the models are “lousy” and cannot reproduce real conditions, with the rationalization that one can learn from mistakes.

    All in all, it is 1) an expression of amazement that a few exaggerations and errors in the science have caused a backlash of general disbelief, 2) a rationalization that while the scientists (and IPCC) generally stated the high level of uncertainty in climate science and projections, the media and politicians ignored this and concentrated on the most extreme forecasts 3) an observation that climate scientists, who stay involved in the IPCC process too long can become “in-bred” and should thus be limited to involvement in no more than two reports and 4) a concession that the models are and have been “lousy” in replicating real-life conditions.

    To me 1) shows a bit of naïveté on the part of Hoskins, especially in view of all the hype and hysteria and the multi-billion dollar impacts associated with AGW.

    Part 2) obviously refers to the (less read) 1000+ page IPCC AR4 WG1 scientific report and not to the (more widely read) 18-page “Summary for Policymakers”, which downplays uncertainty and exaggerates the level of certainty instead.

    Part 3) would point to ”in-breeding” within a small but influential group of scientists, including the “Climategate” offenders

    Part 4) is a clear concession that the “models are lousy”, and therefore, by extension, that the model-based projections of future AGW climate changes are also “lousy”.

    That would be my “take home” from the interview in a nutshell.


  27. 27
    Alex Cull Says:

    Max, I think you’ve pretty much summed it up. What also surprises me (although it really shouldn’t, as other defenders of the IPCC such as Bob Watson have said similar things) is the “perhaps a couple of paragraphs in 3,000 pages” remark. I wonder if he has been able to follow the “Amazongate”/grey literature debate?

    (I’ve relocated the transcript to here, BTW – second thoughts about starting yet another blog…)

  28. 28
    manacker Says:

    Alex Cull

    Yes. Hoskins’ “perhaps a couple of paragraphs in 3,000 pages” remark does reveal either a rather clumsy attempt to distract from the recently exposed IPCC errors and exaggerations or simply an amazingly naive lack of perception (or denial) of the impact of these errors and exaggerations on the credibility of the entire report and the IPCC itself.

    A tiny amount of cyanide will transform an otherwise wonderful bowl of clam chowder from a culinary delight to a death warrant. It does not take much.


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