Curry, part 2: the papers

My general feeling about Judith Curry‘s stuff over at Collide-a-scape was that it was all tolerably vague. But there was one specfic.

Over there, she copied Bishop Hill and proposed “Jones 1998 and Osborn and Briffa 2006” as key neglected papers.

More directly she has proposed:

1. The Spatial Extent of 20th-Century Warmth in the Context of the Past 1200 Years
Timothy J. Osborn* and Keith R. Briffa (Science 10 February 2006:
Vol. 311. no. 5762, pp. 841 – 844
DOI: 10.1126/science.1120514)

2. Global surface temperatures over the past two millennia Michael E. Mann and Philip D. Jones, GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 30, NO. 15, 1820, doi:10.1029/2003GL017814, 2003

3. Jones, P. D., K. R. Briffa, T. P. Barnett, and S. F. B. Tett, High-resolution palaeclimatic records for the last millennium: Interpretation, integration and camparison with General Circulation Model control-run temperatures, The Holocene, 8, 455-471, 1998.

Although I notice – pure co-incidence no doubt – that these are exactly the ones McI choses as “Every CRU hockey stick article “. Well all right: this isn’t co-incidence. She clearly has copied Montford, then McI. Which rather suggests that she isn’t doing a great deal of independent thought around this issue, but is merely picking up the septic blogosphere.

The actual 11 papers examined are given at the end of the Oxburgh report.

So the question is, is Curry (or her source, Montford) correct to regard 1 and 3 (and optionally 2) as “key” papers that obviously should have been included? Why are these papers so key? Curry says (pers comm., but also comment 111 at c-a-s, so I can use it the main issue re the selection of papers is that they didn’t examine the main paleo reconstruction papers, which many identify with the “hockey stick”, which is the main issue for the skeptics and that has the highest profile with the public but I think this is an error. The Oxburgh report wasn’t an inquiry into the Hockey Stick – as I said before, we’ve had those, we know the answers (and yes I know that different people have taken different things away from the NRC report; but I don’t see any great evidence that doing it again would make anything new). Nor was the point of the Oxburgh report to placate the skeptics, or the public. The panel’s stated purpose was that it was asked to come to a view on the integrity of the Unit’s research and whether as far as could be determined the conclusions represented an honest and scientifically justified interpretation
of the data
. If you don’t like that, then fine, start your own panel.

Over a c-a-s Curry also says (comment 96, see I did read that far) William, my source for the specific papers and why i think they are relevant to the UEA investigation is the documents submitted to the Parliamentary Select Committee. The issues and papers mentioned in these documents are the ones that are of the greatest relevance to the skeptics’ concerns. Well again this is tolerably vague. There are an awful lot of docs submitted to that inquiry, am I supposed to read them all to guess the ones she means? Quite apart from that, she says again are the ones that are of the greatest relevance to the skeptics’ concerns. This seems to be a persistent misreading of the Oxburgh report. It wasn’t set up to pander to the septics.

Is Curry really suggesting that an examination of any of the three papers above would have shown up problems? If so, what are the problems? Does she know what they are, but won’t say, or does she just have a feeling that there is something lurking in the background that close examination would spot. If so, why not examine them closely?

I’ll be grateful for any input on why these are so key, or pointers to other blogs that have made such suggestions. Please no personal comments, let us try to stick to actually examine the question at hand.

[Updated (oh dear this will be ahrd to follow) from c-a-s comment 269 My whole point is that I thought the Oxburgh committee should have done better than to select essentially the same papers that were listed in the UEA submission to the select committee, which are presumably the ones that shed CRU in the most favorable light. I thought they should have paid some attention to the main papers that the skeptics have issue with, which is why i parroted the papers listed by Montford, McIntyre, Hughes, etc. Or even a random selection of papers would have been better. My personal choice for the most interesting 11 papers isn’t all that relevant.

[Update: I added this as an extended comment at c-a-s; I’ll reproduce it here:

[Ah, but to note (thanks SB): I got Barton and Inhofe mixed up. Oops!] Also (comment 282) JC pretty well retracts everything she said about Wegman that I’ve commented on (the bit she doesn’t retract is something about Wegman shuold have been used by IPCC, or should have been rejected more politely; I don’t agree with that as far as I understand it -W]

@Judith: first of all, my thanks for your persisting in answering questions here. While I disagree with a large part of what you are saying, you definitely deserve credit for coming out here.

However, there is still a rather strong feeling of vagueness about much of what you’ve said up to now. Really, it needs writing down carefully (you’ve added some more detail in comments here, I now see, but some of it is wrong and (obviously, being a succession of comments) it is fragmented, so it needs checking and writing down coherently).

One of the few things you have been specific about is the “key papers” neglected by Oxburgh. I’ve even just blogged it: . But I think you have questions to answer: your first 2 key papers were lifted from Bishop Hill; and your second 3 from McI. So, as I said over there, ” Which rather suggests that she isn’t doing a great deal of independent thought around this issue, but is merely picking up the septic blogosphere”. So (this is a real question, not rhetorical): are you indeed thinking for yourself over the paper selection issue, or are you just repeating what BH/McI say?

Oh, and you ought to know by now: people with monikers like “Freespeech” on blogs are not the people you want to be agreeing with :-).

@JC, 114: “And also contact David Holland d.holland at, he has written an essay that documents much of this” – why contact him? Why hasn’t he published the thing? Free web space is not hard to come by. I’m sure Keith would be happy to host it if he can’t find any other space 🙂

@JC, 114: “This reconstruction was a marked departure from what appeared in the 2nd IPCC Assessment Report”. I think you’re betraying you ignorance, and your sources, here. Read – or perhaps go the whole hog and actually read the SAR. It doesn’t say what the septic blogs are telling you it says. Wegman: was commissioned by Inhofe Barton. You know that; can’t you speak his name? And since when was “was read into the House record” of the slightest relevance to scientific worth?

@JC, 125: “Wegman is very unpopular with the warmists because his 2006 NRC report” – err, you’ve got confused here. Wegman was the Wegman report. The NRC report was by North. also… aren’t you being just a little easy on Wegman, and dismissing DC’s criticism? Are you applying the same standards to Wegman that you seem to be applying to the IPCC? Is Wegman’s process important? Does it matter that the has plagiarised material? “Let me say that this is one of the most reprehensible attacks on a reputable scientist that I have seen, and the so-called tsunami of accusations made in regards to climategate are nothing in compared to the attack on Wegman.” – no; this isn’t plausible at all. You’ve lost your perspective on that one.

You say: Wegman… was asked to chair this effort by the NRC since he was Chair of NRCs Committee on Applied Statistics. – well, someone is very badly wrong here and I think it is you. Wegman was appointed by Inhofe, not NRC. NRC was North. See : “In 2006 a team of statisticians led by Edward Wegman, chair of the National Academy of Sciences’ (NAS) Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics, was assembled at the request of U.S. Rep. Joe Barton and U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield”.

Or read the report: (Hank thoughtfully provided a link, but should really have picked up on your NRC error. But I see SB has done the honours).


36 thoughts on “Curry, part 2: the papers”

  1. Those 3 as links:;311/5762/841
    Cited by 115

    (Click the link to see the Scholar search; there you’ll get the links to the “Cited by” and “Related Articles” along with the various other versions found, there’s always a chance one will be the full text at the author’s website if the original is paywalled)


  2. William, unless I’m mistaken in your c-a-s comment there are a couple of references to Inhofe that should also be to Barton. AFAIK Inhofe wasn’t in on the selection of Wegman, or at least there’s no evidence of such.

    [Oh B*ll*cks you’re right. Thanks -W]


  3. And I would repeat here for emphasis that before alleging a lapse on the Oxburgh panel’s part Judy could and should have asked Oxburgh (or the panel’s paleo expert Lisa Graumlich, or Kerry Emanuel who Judy knows personally) about the extent to which the panel considered those three papers.


  4. I am always puzzled when critics continue to bring up Wegman, seemingly forgetting that Mann, et al. have published two recent high-profile papers, complete with extensive supplementary information. Even the “hockey stick” argument has shifted. To continue to attack MBH98/99 is just so 20th century.

    Good posts, William, et al.


  5. Hat tip to DC for knowing the history of how Wegman got appointed, I’d never been aware of that part.

    Inhofe is not in this particular handbasket, he’s in the Senate. Barton is in the House and held those hearings (at the time, he was majority not minority leader).

    For details on how US Representatives are chosen, see “gerrymander” (varies in each state after each Census).


  6. They did look at one of the favorite denialist whipping posts, the Jones 1990 paper on UHI, as well as a follow-up paper on UHI from 2008.

    They also looked at both of the Briffa “hide the decline” papers from 1998.


  7. FWIW, have Curry and Webster put all the intermediate calculations, data, etc from their papers on a public archive?

    Unfortunately, she is increasingly behaving as someone under enormous stress. She is not crazy, but there is something difficult to understand going on.


  8. Hank,
    You can get the whole history here, including the NAS *objection* to the Barton investigation, here:

    … which is link repeated from a comment I directed your way here:

    But, yes, as usual SB is right on top of this stuff. And he was able to hang in KK’s; myself, I just wasn’t up to it.


  9. Actually the Inhofe-Barton conflation is pretty understandable since they are indistinguishable in every meaningful way.

    Good point, Deech. A key related one is that MBH ’98 was an early paper that got things basically right, notwithstanding its arguable imperfections. It’s peculiar how the septics (and now Judy) seem to think the paleos should be up in arms about it. Quite the reverse.


  10. We do not know who selected Wegman. We do know that he was approached by Jerry Coffey.
    We don’t know if someone else suggested Wegman to Coffey, or whether they asked Coffey to find somebody. Coffey is quoted in some detail in my CCC report. He has clear views.

    Inhofe was clearly involved in the 2003-2005 part of the recruiting and publicity for M&M.
    Then there was the handoff to Barton June 2005, seemingly to counter the fallout from the Phil Cooney fiasco. One might suspect a Myron Ebell idea, but we don’t yet know.


  11. Unfortunately, she is increasingly behaving as someone under enormous stress. She is not crazy, but there is something difficult to understand going on.

    She’d be better off trying to hide her decline …


  12. And four hits other than this thread for

    “8/4/455” +climate +blog
    including what may be the original announcement of starting CA, plus blogs Italy and Finland

    (only this thread if you search ‘blogger’ rather than ‘blog’ — variations matter).

    I have to go follow a couple of spiders around with a macro lens now; leaving further digging to anyone else with more time.


  13. She seems to have swallowed Wegman, without making the slightest attempt at getting any facts right. Inhofe would have done usual politicians trick, don’t hold an enquiry unless you already know the outcome.


  14. Steve: sorry, imprecision in language, specifically term “selected.”

    Barton claimed not to have met Wegman before the hearing.
    1) Either
    a) Somebody proposed Wegman, and somebody said contacting him via Coffey would be good, OR
    b) Somebody said: “Where do we get a statistician to do this?” and sooebody knew Coffey and said “I’ll bet he knows somebody” and he suggested Wegman.
    2) Presumably, Barton OK’d the choice, so that one might say “selected”.

    But I was thinking more of the 1) step. I mean, staff usually does the work, and either presents a menu of options to a decision-maker, or presents a plan for approval.

    BUT, the point to all of this is to be as precise as possible about what we know and what we don’t … because thinking you know something, when you don’t, can cause you not to be looking around in the right places.


  15. *cough* GMU *cough*

    STATS: We Check Out the Numbers Behind the News
    Weblog and articles highlight abuses of science and statistics regarding policy issues.
    Staff – Articles – In Depth Analysis – What Others Say

    spins like a helicopter, look up almost anything you know about.


  16. Eh, what’s this climate stuff about? I miss my regular diet of posts about rowing, punting, cycling, climbing and cheese.

    As for paper selection: are these papers, in particular, discussed in the now-public emails? And in any event, what exactly does she want?


  17. Way OT, but can anyone tell me what the comment policy over at Kloor’s place is? I posted a medium length comment with a single link in it asking (in a not terribly disrespectful way) why Judith thinks that Warwick Hughes or Willis had any credibility at all. I also provided a list of reasons why it was reasonable for the IPCC to dismiss the requests to include the Wegman report.

    Pushed submit and my comment disappeared into the ether.


  18. @ rattus #21
    Keith Kloor has said if your comment goes astray to email him in case it fell into his spam folder.

    And FWIW, I have no idea why Curry thinks Jones should have provided info to Hughes or Willis E. (She seems to make a habit of making judgements on what people SHOULD do, even when they are working in other fields, in small research units on the other side of the world.)

    Hughes is a member of the NZ climate coalition, a rabid denier group. Curry says Hughes is a scientist, but all he claims to have is a bachelor degree in geology (with honours) from the University of Auckland. He doesn’t list any postgrad quals or work history. He lists joint authorship of five published articles, two of which are comments, and all published between 1992 and 1997.


  19. Reading the interview with Curry cited by kkloor (who apparently knows her very intimately indeed, enough to call her Judy), I’m inclined to believe that what she says is true. I’m also inclined to believe that she’s learned precisely the wrong things from her earlier experience with the media – she’s come to believe that if she critiques minute distinctions she’ll be being balanced, and not be fully responsible for the distortion of media. But I think that’s fundamentally false.



  20. Hide the decline is primarily a hockey stick issue. Seems any inquiry into ‘hide the decline’ would need to go there.

    If the inquiry was not tasked with the e-mails, and just was going at credibility of research, then it seems that you should be tasked with the papers that have caused people to lose credibility in CRU.


  21. Regarding the genesis of the Wegman panel, it is *very* important to note that not only was there no official connection to the NAS or the NRC, but the NAS *objected* strongly to the Barton investigation in the first place. Also, the committee that Wegman once chaired is technically under the aegis of the National Research Council, not the NAS itself. The NRC is the “operational” arm of the joint academies.

    Perhaps the Wikipedia article W. quotes above should be updated to make these facts clear, as this confusion is a recurring problem. Those claiming that there was an official connection to NAS/NRC (besides Curry) include Ross McKitrick and the National Post’s Lawrence Solomon. I gave the link detailing all of this (and much more, including the key role of staffer Peter Spencer) before on another thread, but here it is again:


  22. On the papers themselves: Here is one of the CA posts that Curry presumably has in mind. It discusses Jones et al 1998:

    Here McIntyre shows that if you substitute two series he considers dubious, with two others that didn’t exist in 1998, you get a high MWP. This is held to be a “sensitivity analysis”.

    One of the McIntyre’s suspect sries is Briffa’s Tornetrask, which was apparently presented in Nature article from 1990 and another in Climate Dynamics (1992). (To get more info you have to hunt through a bunch of other CA posts, and I am not so inclined). I wonder if these are also papers Oxburgh “should have” looked at.

    I have no idea if McIntyre’s criticisms of this series, and Jones et al 1998 in general, has any validity or not. But nor do I see a case for scientific malfeasance that would have been covered by the Oxburgh inquiry’s mandate.


  23. As the the CA “A Fair Sample?” (“Every CRU hockey stick”) article referenced by W. demonstrates, McIntyre’s ultimate goal is to discredit IPCC TAR, in particular Fig. 2-21 (showing four NH “hockey stick” reconstructions).

    … Four of these articles were noted relatively favorably in my May 2005 post in which I first drew attention to the “trick” A Strange Truncation of the Briffa MXD Series (see image below). I had no complaint with the original Briffa articles – it was the IPCC spaghetti graph with its false rhetorical effect that bothered me. Even for veteran watchers of peas under thimbles, it’s pretty amazing that four CRU articles – that not only had had not been the subject of criticism, but had been used to locate the trick – were chosen as somehow “representative” of the CRU corpus, while the articles that had actually been criticized here were for the most part excluded. Every CRU hockey stick article (Jones et al 1998; Mann and Jones 2003; Osborn and Briffa 2006) was excluded.

    So, in addition to not taking any evidence from CRU critics or targets, the terms of reference for the execrable Oxburgh “inquiry” diverted its attention away from articles that actually were at issue to other articles that had actually been used as source material to identify the trick in the first place.

    (The linked image follows immediately after the text).

    If you are unsure how that image makes McIntyre’s case concerning the IPCC “trick to hide the decline”, I may be able to elucidate quite soon. ;>)


  24. W., can you put the italics in for the second para from CA in #29? (I keep forgetting that this blog requires repeating the “i” tag for every paragraph).

    [Done; don’t blame me blame MT -W]


  25. Sharon (25):

    On the contrary, I’ve never met Judy Curry in person, nor have I ever had interaction with her before last week.

    I call her Judy because that’s how she signs off on her emails to me.

    [These things are hard to tell. I’m not sure how to refer to people I’ve never met and have an unclear relationship with -W]


  26. Re: “warmist” and “environmentalist” as political labels:

    “… it’s not just also about communication, it’s also about politics. If you think about the future, you have got to think about that. You know, information is not advocacy. Those of us who are scientists, we pride ourselves on trying to obtain the best kind of information possible. But look at these three stories of three people where I work. I was branded as an environmentalist, and therefore a highly biased advocate and unreliable witness, because I measured — measured — as a scientist, the death of corals due to an oil spill, spending $3 million of your taxpayers’ dollars. Paul Dayton is an environmentalist because he measured the disappearance of fish from California kelp forests. And … Dave Keeling, who discovered how to measure the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, who measured it and kept measuring it, and therefore discovered that it was increasing, and therefore discovered the mechanism of global climate change — has been labeled as an environmentalist for making the measurements. The [Bush] administration has said, “Well, we have decided we are not going to use the scientific reports in what we do.” Science has been branded as advocacy. Facts have become dirty words.”


  27. Well, the discussion over a Kloor’s place was interesting for a while. Now that Willis, Shub, oneuniverse and Mosher has all shown up it is in the toilet.


  28. Dr. Curry writes that “My whole point is that I thought the Oxburgh committee should have done better than to select essentially the same papers that were listed in the UEA submission to the select committee, which are presumably the ones that shed CRU in the most favorable light.”

    When the Oxburgh panel was announced by the UEA on Mon, 22 Mar 2010, they sort of hinted at these papers being used – “The University, in consultation with the Royal Society, has suggested that the panel looks in particular at key publications, from the body of CRU’s research referred to in the UEA submission to the Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee.”

    So, it appears that she disagrees with the Royal Society as well as with the panel. How unfortunate that she didn’t notice this at the time and write to the panel or the panel members suggesting a proposed list of papers that she’d have found more satisfactory.


  29. The papers can be wrong too, they need to really research for them self too. Which rather suggests that she isn’t doing a great deal of independent thought around this issue, but is merely picking up the septic blogosphere???

    Thai Green Curry


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