For anyone who has paid attention, the dendroclimatology field has been rife with bad practices for years – cherry picking data sets, hiding modern data that shows “the wrong answer,” using bizarre statistical approaches, flipping data sets upside down, and utter resistance to data requests and any attempts at replication. Most of the really damning CRU emails are about various dendroclimatology studies, and Keith Briffa, lead author of this section of the last IPCC report, is right in the middle of it all.
The Bishop Hill blog has the story of Briffa’s Yamal data set that has many of these elements. I have been following this story for years at Steve McIntyre’s blog, but this is a very readable narrative. It will really put a lot of what in in the CRU emails in context. I highly recommend it. Seriously. In fact, I would go read some of John Holdren’s testimony in front of Congress on Climategate first, then read the Bishop Hill piece to get a sense for the whitewash.
Postscript: I have to laugh — when you see insiders in the alarmist community discussing the resistance to data sharing that really has no excuse, the excuse they use nonetheless among themselves to salve their conscience is the meme that “the FOIA’s were meant to be just harassing them and aimed at reducing the time they had to do real work” — ie they were (as the meme goes with skeptics) based on anti-science rather than any real desire to do science.
Here are a couple of bits from the Bishop Hill piece.
Meanwhile, however, McIntyre could begin to look at what Briffa had done elsewhere. It was not to be plain sailing. For a start, Briffa had archived data in an obsolete data format, last used in the era of punch-cards. This was inconvenient, and apparently deliberately so, but it was not an insurmountable problem — with a little work, McIntyre was able to move ahead with his analysis. Briffa had also thrown a rather larger spanner in the works though: while he had archived the tree ring measurements, he had not supplied any metadata to go with it — in other words there was no information about where the measurements had come from. All there was was a tree number and the measurements that went with it. However, McIntyre was well used to this kind of behaviour from climatologists and he had some techniques at hand for filling in some of the gaps….
Eventually, though, Briffa’s hand was forced, and in late September 2009, a reader pointed out to McIntyre that the remaining data was now available. It had been quietly posted to Briffa’s webpage, without announcement or the courtesy of an email to Mcintyre. It was nearly ten years since the initial publication of Yamal and three years since McIntyre had requested the measurement data from Briffa. Now at last some of the questions could be answered.