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A Closer Look at the ‘Climategate’ Computer Code

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An excellent post at Deep Climate looks into the exaggerated and false claims being made about the computer code released along with those stolen “Climategate” emails: McClimategate continues: Yet another false accusation from McIntyre and McKitrick.

How do they get away with it? That’s the inevitable question as I examine one of the most specious – and despicable – “climategate” allegations from contrarians, namely the oft-repeated claim that climate scientists at East Anglia University’s Climate Research Unit inappropriately adjusted certain tree-ring temperature proxy data to provide a better match with instrumental temperature record.

In an extraordinary interview with FoxNews in December of last year, economist Ross McKitrick alleged that scientists were “faking the match” between proxy and temperature data. McKitrick averred this was “not being honest with the reader” and even invoked a comparison to falsified experimental medical research. Stephen McIntyre of ClimateAudit recently claimed that the “artificial correction” seemed “to have entered the CRU toolkit” (in his submission to the U.K. parliamentary committee examining allegations arising from stolen CRU emails, no less).

Yet a close examination of the computer code and ensuing research bears out the key contention of the firm rebuttals from East Anglia University, as well as CRU scientist Tim Osborn, namely that the specific adjustments in question were for private exploration only and never incorporated into CRU scientists’ subsequent published temperature reconstructions. So, once again, McIntyre and McKitrick have made odious and unfounded accusations, based on non-existent evidence. They should withdraw these specious allegations immediately. [Don’t hold your breath. – ed.]

And here’s a quote from the submission to the UK Parliament by CRU paleoclimatologist Tim Osborn, that makes the deceptive nature of the claims about the computer code even clearer:

8. CRU’s Computer Code is Fit For Purpose and Does Not Reveal Secret Manipulation of Data

A small sample of my computer programming code was included in the disclosed files. It has been argued that comments within the code such as “Fudge factor” and “shouldn’t usually plot past 1960 because these will be artificially adjusted to look closer to the real temperatures” demonstrate that data have been manipulated in an inappropriate and undisclosed manner. My programs that were highlighted on BBC Newsnight that contained comments such as these were not the basis for any published article or dataset, and thus are not a valid indication of inappropriate data manipulation. If we do need to make adjustments to data that are scientifically justified, then we state clearly both the justification and the adjustment when we publish the article or dataset. In relation to the second of the two highlighted comments, it was simply a note that should have read “…because these will have been artificially adjusted…” to remind myself that I had applied an adjustment to this particular set of data (for the purposes of exploring the consequences of recent trends for the calibration of tree-ring temperature proxies) and that if I did plot them it would give a false impression of the agreement between tree-rings and temperature because of the adjustment. Thus, rather than indicating that an undisclosed adjustment would be made, it was a warning to avoid using adjusted data without realising it. To re-iterate: I have made no adjustments to data except those that are scientifically justified and stated in published papers. [Emphasis added].

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