Aussie Hockey Stick paper 'put on hold'

UPDATE: Leigh Dayton, “science” writer for The Australian responds to an email relating to this issue from one of my readers thus:

“I deal only with peer-reviewed science, not cherry-picked “evidence” from people not engaged in research.”

Only thing I can say is: wow. Yet another self-selected environmental activist, alas. Check out this article if you are in any doubt about her blinkered approach to climate. It even uses the “D” word.

Again, thanks to the tireless efforts of Steve McIntyre, truly a hero of the realist cause, the paper by Joelle Gergis (climate activist), which claimed a Hockey Stick in Australia (and who then refused to release the data), has been put on hold.

David Karoly writes to McIntyre:

An issue has been identified in the processing of the data used in the study, which may affect the results. While the paper states that “both proxy climate and instrumental data were linearly detrended over the 1921–1990 period”, we discovered on Tuesday 5 June that the records used in the final analysis were not detrended for proxy selection, making this statement incorrect. Although this is an unfortunate data processing issue, it is likely to have implications for the results reported in the study. The journal has been contacted and the publication of the study has been put on hold.

This is a normal part of science. The testing of scientific studies through independent analysis of data and methods strengthens the conclusions. In this study, an issue has been identified and the results are being re-checked.

We would be grateful if you would post the notice below on your ClimateAudit web site.

We would like to thank you and the participants at the ClimateAudit blog for your scrutiny of our study, which also identified this data processing issue.

Note that Karoly says McIntyre’s scrutiny “also” identified the issue, hinting that they had found it themselves independently. How likely is that? Where were all the peer reviewers? Missing in action? Blinded by their own ideology? Just a coincidence that McIntyre blows holes in it and suddenly they find a problem? D’ya think they’d have bothered if McIntyre hadn’t exposed the paper as being potentially flawed? I very much doubt it – it would have just added to the “consensus”.

McIntyre however cautions:

I urge readers not to get too wound up about this, as there are a couple of potential fallback positions. They might still claim to “get” a Stick using the reduced population of proxies that pass their professed test. Alternatively, they might now say that the “right” way of screening is to do so without detrending and “get” a Stick that way.

Why are they trying to “get” a stick? Is that science, or activism?

Read Steve’s post here.

(h/t Paul M – thanks)


  1. Baldrick says:

    “You are urgently warned against allowing yourself to be influenced in any way by theories or by other preconceived notions in the observation of phenomena, the performance of analyses and other determinations.”
    Emil Hermann Fischer (1852–1919)

  2. This is a good outcome and I would not have expected Prof David Karoly to step up to withdraw the paper, given he’s a member of the WWF’s Climate Witness (*pardon me while I puke*) Scientific Advisory Panel and so closely involved with IPCC. ( ) But well done Karoly. The key issue now is to ensure the withdrawn paper is removed from IPCC AR5 as soon as possible. It was referenced in the First Order Draft and it quite obviously shouldn’t remain now. Also, I wonder who the peer reviewers were who missed the flaws uncovered by Steve McIntyre and the ClimateAudit blog crew. Could one of the reviews have been the insufferable Mann his bad self? It’s fun to speculate.

    [REPLY – I too applaud Karoly’s willingness to engage with a “denier”. But just to clarify, the paper hasn’t been withdrawn, it is on hold while calculations are rechecked. We haven’t seen the last of this by a long way. Simon]

  3. Richard N says:

    Thankyou Mr McIntyre! We all smelt somthing fishy in the Gergis paper but it needs a true scientist like you to find the source of the smell. and to keep these warmists at least half honest.

  4. I’m finding it very difficult to have any faith in the peer review process. But this paper in particular was one I never trusted, in any case. Gergis appears to have set out with a preconceived outcome. It has back-fired on her. Hopefully the paper will be fully withdrawn and binned!

    • Sean McHugh says:

      I’m finding it very difficult to have any faith in the peer review process.

      I used to do a lot of arguing against Creationism and would frequently call on the ‘peer review’ argument. I visited my old newsgroup only today where I saw an old ally still using that argument. I won’t be using it anymore.

  5. That is right, the preconceived outcome is all important in climate science.

    All they need now is the Independent Employment Counsel to review the paper and she’ll be right mate!

  6. When we hear the word “science” our logical jump is to think of the natural sciences. My experience is that science these days means the social sciences. If you think of climate science not as about how climates really work but as a tool to influence human behavior in the name of an imagined future calamity, all this makes far more sense.

    In the deep recesses of various UN reports, it is extremely clear that is precisely what is going on. It’s like pedagogy shifting from how to teach a academic subject to being a tool for changing human beliefs, practices, and emotions. Very effective if no one recognizes the change in definition.

    The hockey stick is a model to change future human beliefs, practices, and emotions, not reflect actual conditions. There’s no control there.

    Or grant funding.

  7. Good!!

  8. “get” a stick comes from a climategate email from Briffa, whereby he says that if he does such-and-such he still “gets” a HS. Purely open minded research, of course.

    The crux of this bullshit is that there has never been any scientific justification for any tree rings, mud, whatever as reliable proxies for temperature. Gergis, Karoly, Manne and the motley crew simply choose the proxies that come close, and reject the ones that don’t. Ergo the circular reasoning.

  9. Man made global warming is nothing more than an excuse by the far left to try to force the working people of the world to fund their political beliefs. I for one am glad to see their efforts continue to fail under the weight of their naive incompetence and clear bias.

  10. bernie1815 says:

    While Steve was clearly a catalyst in dissecting this paper, JeanS another of the knowledgeable statisticians frequenting was the person who first raised the concern around detrending. There are, of course, many other statistical and conceptual issues with this paper.

  11. Sean McHugh says:

    This is the email I sent to Leigh Dayton, science writer for the Australian:


    Dear Leigh,

    I read with interest your newspaper article (The Australian) on unprecedented warming in Australia, as evidenced by the recent paper by the overtly political Gergis et al. That paper’s findings are now in serious doubt following review by Steve McIntyre and others:

    This is from Simon Turnill, the blogger whose investigations exposed the falsity of death threats, allegedly made to climate scientists at the Australian National University in Canberra:

    Aussie Hockey Stick paper ‘put on hold’

    Again, thanks to the tireless efforts of Steve McIntyre, truly a hero of the realist cause, the paper by Joelle Gergis (climate activist), which claimed a Hockey Stick in Australia (and who then refused to release the data), has been put on hold.

    This more technical description is quoted from the Bishop Hill site:

    Despite the flat refusal to allow replication of the paper, it was still possible to verify certain aspects of the filtering process. In particular, the data for the 27 proxies that had been used was available and so it would be possible at least to replicate the calculation that showed that these had significant correlations to their local temperature once the 1921-1990 trend had been removed. This task was taken up by statistician “Jean Sibelius” but rather remarkably he found himself unequal to the task:

    “Steve, Roman, or somebody, what am I doing wrong here? I tried to check the screening correlations of Gergis et al, and I’m getting such low values for a few proxies that there is no way that those can pass any test. I understood from the text that they used correlation on period 1921-1990 after detrending (both the instrumental and proxies), and that the instrumental was the actual target series (and not the against individual grid series).”

    Sibelius’s difficulties were confirmed by others, including Steve McIntyre, but perhaps most significantly, by CSIRO’s Nick Stokes, who is no sort of a sceptic. Stokes agreed with Sibelius that, when detrended, the correlations for the 27 proxies used in the Gergis reconstruction were insignificant, completely contradicting Gergis’s paper. However, extraordinarily, Stokes also ran the calculations without detrending and found correlations that were significant.

    “I’ve run Steve’s code with and without detrending, and with and without the Quenouille correction. Without detrending (but with zero mean) or AR1 correction all (exc maybe Madang) proxies do seem significant.”

    This seems to suggest that Gergis’s declaration that the correlations were based on detrended data was false and that she and her co-authors had indeed fallen foul of the circular argument noted above. The finding of unprecedented warmth reported in the Gergis paper appears as though it is a function of the methodology used rather than of the underlying data.

    And there is this from Anthony Watts:

    American Meteorological Society disappears withdraws Gergis et al paper on proxy temperature reconstruction after post peer review finds fatal flaws
    Posted on June 8, 2012 by Anthony Watts

    UPDATE: It appears the paper has been withdrawn and credit acknowledgement given to Steve McIntyre, see below:

    Jo Nova deals with the matter here. She majorly addresses the media handling of this (and other) global warming information. She asks the following:

    Will any of these media outlets update their news?

    (The Uni Melb news feed is here).

    On AM, David Karoly raved about how the study was strong because it relied more on observations not modeling (it is getting to them that skeptics keep pointing out they have no empirical evidence), and claimed he had “high confidence” in the results. (Is that the same kind of high confidence he has in future predictions of warming?)

    MATTHEW CARNEY: “Professor Karoly says the strength of the study is that it’s relied more on direct observations and measurements than climate modelling.”

    DAVID KAROLY: “Nothing is absolutely certain in science but we say with very high confidence because we have repeated the analysis alone for the uncertainties that the warming in the last 50 years is very unusual and cannot, very likely cannot be explained by natural climate variability alone.”

    How concerned are they with accuracy?

    Are all these media outlets happy to leave their readers or viewers with the impression that these results are robust, reliable, and strong? In truth, even before this paper was withdrawn, before it was promoted, investigative reporters had plenty to wonder about.

    Jo also shows why it would not have been necessary for a curious journalist to have a degree in climatology, in order to see a fairly simple problem:

    Did any journalist really ask any hard questions [not that hard S.M.] to start with?

    Let’s not bother to get into the point that the results of crunching the data 3000 different ways means their “confidence” came from models, not from the 27 proxies, most of which didn’t cover the full 1000 years, or the Australian mainland either.

    The litany, the message went on and on and on in the media and apart from Adam Morton in The Age, most investigative journalists never thought to ask the question “How much warmer are we now than 1000 years ago” because if they had, Gergis would have had to say “by a tenth of a degree”. (That much eh?) Technically it was 0.09C.

    The certainty of Australia being 0.09 of a degree cooler 1000 years ago comes down to observations from a batch of trees in Tasmania and New Zealand. (If we can calculate the regional temperature so accurately that way, why do we bother with a network of 100 thermometers? We could pop a max-min gauge next to those trees and “interpolate” the rest, No?)

    Why not skip the thermometers and just go with the trees? They’re accurate to one hundredth of a degree across a continent and sea.

    Note that the stated accuracy of most of the modern thermometers in the temperature monitoring stations, is plus or minus half a degree. That makes Jo’s last paragraph worth repeating: “Why not skip the thermometers and just go with the trees? They’re accurate to one hundredth of a degree across a continent and sea.”

    Leigh, will you and the Australian be correcting or at least cautioning with the earlier sensational revelation? Will you ease the need for readers to visit blogs to obtain the news (for free)?

    Best regards,

    Sean McHugh

    [REPLY – Great work!]

    • Sean McHugh says:

      I have received Leigh Dayton’s reply:

      Thanks S, but I deal only with peer-reviewed science, not cheery-picked “evidence” from people not engaged in research.



      Worse than we thought?

      Here is her profile page if anyone wishes to contact her.

      [REPLY – Wow, what an extraordinary response. Wilful blindness: ‘Maybe if I don’t look I won’t see anything!’ Very sad.]

      • Sean McHugh says:

        Here is the link to the profile that I announced but failed to include:

        Simon writes:

        Yet another self-selected environmental activist, alas. Check out this article if you are in any doubt about her blinkered approach to climate. It even uses the “D” word.

        Well how about this (bold added):

        In Canada, Dayton wrote and produced a nationally syndicated radio program, presented by David Suzuki. As well, she was a columnist for the national newspaper The Globe and Mail, and Vancouver correspondent for New Scientist magazine.

        Hell, I’d have been better off sending that email to The Age or the ABC.

%d bloggers like this: