Cherries Jubilee

There are a couple of recent posts on WUWT about sea level. It starts with this indulgence in conspiracy theorizing, then moves on to this look at some sea level data from NOAA.

Let me summarize for you, in graphical form, what this last post really reveals:


I must be doing something right. Anthony Watts responded, and actually talks about the upward trend — you know, the one that’s obvious.

This is in sharp contrast to what he *wants* to focus on, as revealed by his post’s title: “Doing it yourself – the latest unsmoothed global sea level data from JASON shows a sharp downtick and slight downtrend”.


107 responses to “Cherries Jubilee

  1. Tamino,

    Could this be an effect of the la nina that started last year? If you ran a comparison between sea level rate of increase and the ENSO cycle would you see a strong correlation?

    To me it would seem logical and it would also seem that we can expect this type of cherry picking to happen every time a la nina comes around. Because whether it is sea level or temperature or sea ice levels, you can count on deniers to be predictable cherry pickers.

    -Mark S

  2. David B. Benson

    How To Make Cherries Jubilee

  3. What on earth would they have been saying just after 2000? Whole bunch of low outliers there. And what happened afterwards? :) OK, maybe a smiley is not appropriate, this is pretty depressing.

    And hey what about that data point just above the circle in late 2010 (?; the highest in the satellite record), the highest point in the record? Why did they ignore that when they were cherry picking? Well, we know the answer to that….

    This conscious decision by those in denial about AGW to ignore the statistically significant long-term trend and to knowingly distort the data grew tiresome a very, very long time ago already.

    Call the auditors….uWatts is hiding the incline.

  4. I’d like to see an analysis of how likely it is to get a data point at +/- 20 mm from the long-term trend given the length of the data set and the sampling frequency. I suspect that it’s pretty damn high, especially since there appears to be a similar positive anomaly in 2000.

    I’d do it myself except the data appears to be in available in only netcdf format which is a bit of a pain for me at the moment.

  5. As usual, a good post … but here’s an idea for you, as your blog is likely the best place for this.

    How about a Cherries Jubilee heading akin to your Climate Data Links, that offers your selection of top-10 cherry-picks, giving the identify of cherry-picker(s) a URL where discussed, and maybe a sentence or two of explanation?

    For example, I’d nominate as one member:
    Ed Wegman & Yasmin Said,

    For using McIntyre’s code that generated 10,000 (wrong-parametered) graphs, then sorted them in order of positive hockey-stickness, then W&S showed 12 graphs cherry-picked from the top 1%.

    That seems a different sort of cherry-pick than the usual “select the part of a time-series I want” games and has the added benefit of having been done by statisticians.

    Anyway, it would be nice to get a good selection of climate cherry-picks of various sorts in one place.

    [Response: Indeed!]

    • A couple of weeks ago I had the thought that it would be great to establish the Golden Cherry Awards for climate change, recognising the worst abuses of science in politics and the media.

    • Steve Metzler

      Gotta love on the one hand how Watts acknowledges that there is a clear upward trend, but on the other hand his complete lack of statistical savvy allows his mind to conjecture that a single data point constitutes a “downtrend”.

      The Dunning-Kruger is strong in that one. He doesn’t even understand how baselines work, as he has demonstrated repeatedly; even banning people who try to explain the concept to him.

  6. Here is another curve where you can start at 2008 and get an interesting result:

    It seems Antarctic sea ice is collapsing rapidly, at least given a properly cherry picked time period.

    • Which is why Watts all of a sudden stopped mentioning Antarctic sea ice from his quality-filled Sea Ice News reports, whereas he talked a lot about it (and how NSIDC never mentioned Antarctic sea ice in their monthly reports) when the Arctic sea ice went lower and lower (and his prediction was wronger and wronger) at the end of last year’s melting season. Transparent and pathetic.

  7. What’s going on prior to 1995, and why are you ignoring that? :-)

    • Steve Metzler

      Those are satellite measurements that NOAA publishes, which didn’t begin till 1992/1993. Simple as that.

  8. I guess you saw, Watts reponded to you. I was going to post a comment over there asking, why draw attention to a single down-tick? But then I read through the article again and couldn’t bring myself to say anything. Watts appears to see conspiracy behind every data point and broken link. How is anyone supposed to argue with that? The only thing that would convince him is if he somehow were able to go out and collect / process every single datapoint himself. Which he doesn’t need to of course, since there are so many independent lines of oh god I can’t bring myself to carry on….

  9. Fourth graph doesn’t show!

  10. Bengt Abelsson

    Slope 2,95 mm/ year
    What part of that message is hard to understand?

  11. Well, as WUWT now points out in their update how can you accuse them of ignoring the relentless sea-level rise when they show this in several graphs? I mean, you only need to look at the comments to see how no-one could possibly get the impression that the headline “…sharp downtick and slight downtrend”actually means that sea level has dropped significantly in recent years, disproving global warming.

  12. ’nuff said.

  13. Horatio Algeranon

    Perhaps they are actually making progress at WUWT.

    After all, they did focus on “all” those data points (since late 2009) — not just the last one.

    by Horatio Algeranon

    A trend of one
    Is a friend of none
    Until the others
    Think it’s fun.

    But fun it is
    Some might say “bliss”
    To jump into
    The great abyss.

  14. What is the rate of sea level rise per year? Is it more accurate to say that sea level has been rising at a rate of 1.6mm since 1900. Or would you state 3.1 mm per year starting in 1993. ?

    • Didn’t Tamino just write a post about acceleration in sea level rise? Hmmmm….

      Because sea level rise is averaged over such a wide area, and comparatively well measured, you only need a fairly short period to establish a trend. So yes, you can say that the current trend is 3.1 mm/yr although it would be more accurate to say the satellite trend is 3.1 mm/yr because this captures the interval of the trend, shows that you are using all the available data, and distinguishes it from the slightly different tide gauge trend for the same interval.

  15. John Mashey:

    For using McIntyre’s code that generated 10,000 (wrong-parametered) graphs, then sorted them in order of positive hockey-stickness, then W&S showed 12 graphs cherry-picked from the top 1%.

    Anyway, it would be nice to get a good selection of climate cherry-picks of various sorts in one place.

    And to make things worse, half of the “hockey sticks” generated from random noise are upside-down! (This can easily be verified by putting together a little matlab or scilab script and generating a sizeable ensemble of noise “hockey-sticks”).

    In spite of this fact, all of the noise hockey-sticks touted by M&M were all right-side up — this was a particularly sleazy way to “hide the decline”.

  16. You’ve inspired me to make cherry pie. Something good has come from this.

    If only all baked fruits were so useful.

  17. Funny how that data-point would have established a record as an outlier at any time before 2000, and been squarely in the center of the pack in 2005.

    What is that slope, by the way? Is it still around 3.3mm/year?

    • Good point, George D.

      It reminds me of a discussion in a recent IFC report of the 2003 European Heat Wave – a devastatingly hot 1-in-500 year event in 2003, expected to be a 1-in-2 event by 2040, and be cooler than average by 2060…

  18. Philippe Chantreau

    I know this is OT and I don’t want to give the impression that John Mashey hi-jacked the thread. But indeed, what M&M have done is beyond deception. The argument that Mann’s method generate hockey sticks out of random data is one of the most prevalent in the denialosphere. And it is all based on big fat lie.

    When I first read the DeepClimate post, I could hardly believe my eyes. That entire M&M paper is a masterwork in deception. I know that Tamino has a lot on his plate but it would be worth redoing the M&M paper with a different twist. Keep the random data sets, for reanalysis. On these sets of randomly generated data that come out as either up or down hockey sticks, analyze the set with other methods, generally accepted in statistics as reliable, to confirm whether or not the signal shown by Mann’s method is contained in the data. My guess is that it will be and that this would prove that, not only Mann’s method is good for extracting the real signal, but that the the real signal in temp reconstruction is an upward hockey stick, no matter how you look at it.

    I’m afraid my judgement is not the best on this. I’m still enraged from reading the DeepClimate post a few weeks back. The duplicity of M&M is beyond anything that McIntyre has ever openly shown, to my knowledge, on his miserable web site. A peer-reviewed, humongous lie. With computer code designed to show exactly what the authors want to show. The only reason why this piece of garbage ever passed peer-review was that certainly nobody had time to dive into the details of the computer code, and that certainly no reviewer imagined the depth of the duplicity behind it.

    • I have to say that anger is what I feel about the actions of the deniosphere and its apparent freedom to continue with more of the same.

      I’m just a layman; I can only imagine what those who have been systematically smeared and lied about for the last 2 decades or so must feel.

      I’ve said all along that legal action will be what it takes to stop the liars and frauds. Michael Mann is taking action against Patrick Michaels. What can be done about Cuccinelli? Isn’t there some law against someone abusing his position in pursuing a vendetta against someone you disagree with? Any experts on US constitutional law here?

      • True Skeptic,
        Michaels and Ken the Cooch have an advantage: they are telling people what they want to hear. It’s thos ebil gummint scientists who are rocking the boat. It would appear that the purpose of the human cerebral cortex is actually rationalization, with rational thought just being an unwanted and bothersome side effect. Don’t worry. Nature will straighten us out. May we all live long enough to hear the sons of the denialists cursing their fathers with their dying breaths.

      • Yes, but how can someone in Cuccinelli’s position do what he’s doing? Whatever faults we have in the UK’s system of government, someone like that would not last long (but we don’t have state AGs so I suppose it wouldn’t arise in the first place).

        I’ll also say that we have a tradition of Chief Scientific Advisors in this country, so science is well represented at the highest levels, regardless of political party. Our Conservative party is not anti-science, apart from a few extreme left-overs like Lawson, in the way the Republicans appear to be.

      • True Skeptic,
        Until Reagan, there was a strong tradition of scientific advisors on science as well. Reagan mainly listened to Teller. Bush I wasn’t particularly interested in science–except when he thought it might help him with “tha vision thing”. I joke that we could have gotten Clinton to double funding for NASA if we’d promised him an alien chick to screw–all we’d have had to do was dye a hooker’s skin green, and maybe glue a couple of extra bits on her. Then there was Bush II and his “faith-based science” program, and now Obama–who has mostly subjected us to benign neglect. At least he did re-institute the office of Science Advisor, even if he doesn’t listen to the advice.

      • Rattus Norvegicus


        I don’t remember who said it, but: “man is the rationalizing animal”. Mooney’s recent piece at Mother Jones just reinforces why this is true.

      • I see that for some reason I said Patrick Michaels when I meant Timothy Ball. Sorry about that!

      • I think that creationist anti-science laid a lot of groundwork for a certain community–a community that had traditionally held aloof from the political process, but which has become quite active with Focus on the Family, etc, etc, and which has captured Republican party to a large degree. Then the tobacco denial machine fed into it, sweeping in a some directionless Cold Warriors looking for a cause.

        It’s become quite the toxic stew.

  19. God here we go again, no warming since 2010! or in this case no sea level rise since 2010! Pathetic, remember back in late 2008 there was this big hoopla over at WUWT about how the sea level rise was flat. Then late 2009 came – with a new record – and we heard nothing but crickets from them.

    And now the brilliant, intrepid and plucky Mr Watts (not my words) has drilled down and uncovered the true reason for the delay in the sea level update, yes they are trying to hide the decline – that’s what it is, you’ve caught us – gosh you’re good! Can’t hide anything from you – You brilliant brilliant man you, such a solid intellect! I can only wish my brain was teaming with such warm solids!

    • Yeah, that’s how it works.

      Remember all that fuss about the 2008 cooling? “the global warming the Earth has experienced since 1977 appears to be over!”

      When temperatures went back up in 2009 and broke new records in 2010, that bold “prediction” was not a hot topic anymore.

      Not to mention the Surface Station Project that would prove that temperature anomalies were just made up…

      • There was some blowhard physicists who used to show up on RC all the time who predicted multi-year ice would be fully recovered by 2011. He stopped showing up.

      • Yes and they learned nothing. I remember the 2008 cooling and all the fluff that came with it. It’s deja vu all over again now they’ve re-forgotten what a La Nina does.

    • “Back from the Future”
      –by Horatio Algeranon

      The globe has cooled
      Since 2019
      Two tenths degree
      This I have seen.

      (In future travel
      With a time machine)

      And world sea level
      Has also decreased
      Since 2015 —
      Or 2020 at least

      So global warming
      Is in time-retreat
      Scant cause for alarm
      To the man on the street.

  20. The WUWT post that ignores the long-term trend for an imaginary short term decline is uncannily similar to

    But that was up days before the WUWT post

  21. Actually, if you apply Tamino’s Bet (You Bet!
    January 31, 2008 ) to the HadCRU data set, the not cooling since 2001 crowd is correct. 2008 and 2009 fall below the warming line indicating warming not happening. 2008 falls below the temp staying the same line, indicating cooling is happening although only in that one year. All without a volcano influence.

    [Response: You are mistaken.

    Either you missed the correction to that post (because some of the numbers were originally posted wrong, then corrected, and I’m not sure whether the “saved” version even has the correction — OR — you failed to account for the difference in zero point between GISS and HadCRU (since they use a different baseline period. Or both. But you most certainly cannot apply the numbers in that post (based on GISS) to HadCRU.

    I may as well do another post about it.]

    • That’s good news Tamino. I’ve been looking forward for a few years now for an update. :) Perhaps it’s worth doing this for all the major datasets? After all, whichever one(s) you leave out, you will be accused of choosing only the ones that suit your claim (oh, the irony!).

    • “I may as well do another post about it.”

      That would be nice since it looks like that’s one of the posts you had to take down after that nonsense with the commenter (sorry I’m vague on the details).

  22. Perhaps you should do another post. I think I followed your methodology. I computed the linear regression of the annual HadCRU data from 1975 through 2007. I came up with y(temp) = 0.018516(year minus 1975) – 0.09318. I computed the standard deviation of the residuals from the regression line to be 0.09456, or .18912 for two standard deviations. These numbers are quite similar to those you computed for the GISS data. So if you do the math for 2008, the lower bound value (regression line minus two std dev) is .431C whereas the actual value is .325C. For 2009 the numbers are .450C lower bound warming versus .443C actual. So two years in a row with statistically significant values negating the warming trend.

    I also averaged the annual HadCRU data for the years 2001 through 2007 and came up with 0.5629C. Applying the two std dev from the previous data set (which is I believe what you did), you get a lower bound of 0.3738C. The 2008 annual value of .325C is below this value, which is proof of some sort of cooling.

    Now some caveats. I took the annual HadCRU data from your chart in the You Bet post. I may be off a hundredth of C here or there, but is should not significantly effect the results. Also I am no statistician. I have rudimentary excel skills, which I applied to this analysis. I could very well be wrong.

    [Response: First, why take the data from a chart when you can download the correct values? See the “Climate Data Links” page for a link to the HadCRU data.

    Second, your arithmetic is wrong. Check it again, because using the linear regression formula you yourself state doesn’t give the 2008 lower limit you report. You’re way off.

    Finally, if you use the actual data rather than eyeballing it from a graph you get a different regression line and the 2001-2007 average value is nowhere near your reported 0.5629.]

    • “B Buckner”, your “rudimentary excel skills” aren’t sufficient.

      Folks, a dead giveaway of a lack of understanding is a complete lack of appreciation for significant digits. Cutting-n-pasting what Excel blorts out and presenting it as meaningful is a huge clue.

      “B Buckner” provides a perfect example.

      [Response: B. Buckner made an honest mistake and inquiry, and when his error was revealed, he accepted the correction.]

    • Thanks. That’s quite a collection you’ve posted at Skeptical Science. Why aren’t they at tamino.wordpress? Is there a space problem?

      BTW what does “The Yooper” mean? I’ve meant to ask for a while now. :)

      PS Tamino could you delete my other reply? I meant to place it here.

      • If Daniel doesn’t get to this right away, I am guessing that “Yooper” refers to a resident of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Had a college roommate from up there.

      • Daniel Bailey

        Deech56 has the right of it (thanks, BTW). Residents of the UP (Upper Peninsula of Michigan) refer to themselves as “Yoopers” and to those from the Lower Peninsula as “trolls” (because dey lives below da bridge, eh?).

        As for the discontinuity you reference, my recollection was a misunderstanding between our host, WordPress and a 3rd party best remaining nameless. Remember to save your Favorite posts offline, as the Archive is the Internet version of the Recycle Bin.

        The Yooper

      • Thanks for the info. :)

  23. This is how you described the chart I used to obtain the annual HadCRU data.
    “First let’s review the data leading up to the statement. Here are global average temperature estimates, all set to the same zero point (using the reference period 1950.0 to 1980.0), from NASA GISS, NCDC, and HadCRU:”
    You may have adjusted the data in some way, and I am comparing actual values to adjusted values. Hard to tell.

    [Response: Again I wonder, why use a chart when you can download the data?]

  24. Yes, i didn’t realize the data sets i was using were set to different baselines, ’50-’80 vs ’61-’90. this resulted in an offset of about 0.117C. Enough to tip the results to no decision, although 2008 is close.

  25. Yes, i didn’t realize the data sets i was using were set to different baselines

    Welcome to climate science, and goodbye WUWT!

  26. Marion Delgado

    They don’t just do normal cherrypicking there. I’ve pointed out repeatedly, that their model of analysis is to eliminate things that don’t fit their belief, as long as they can justify it. It means they don’t acknowledge that you don’t make a data set more accurate by selectively eliminating only all the high-end or all the low-end noise or errors.

  27. Jeff Baranchok

    The data is obviously noisy and every now and then we should expect a point that’s 3 or 4 standard deviations from the mean. It doesn’t mean anything.

  28. If you want to have a laugh, (or perhaps a good cry) check out the following thread on Watts web site for an exchange between Watts and me.

    After complaining about not being able to find an abstract for a new paper on paleo botany, because the PR gave the wrong month of issue in the periodical in which it was published, Watts gave 3 reasons why the paper, which he hadn’t actually read was wrong. I pointed out that his reasons were foolish, and that he hadn’t actually read the paper at the time. He never replied to the substantive points that I made, accused me of defending the mistake of the University PR group, which I didn’t do and said in an email, that his business activity made him to busy to hunt down the paper.
    Other posters including myself easily found the abstract on the Internet, and Leif Svaalgard found the paper:

    Click to access Peppe_et_al_2011.pdf

    Here are the essentials of the interchange:

    eadler says:
    April 19, 2011 at 1:56 am

    Anthony Says:
    Three things make me just as skeptical of this claim as of tree rings being a good proxy for past temperature:

    1. Liebigs Law, which I cover in detail here: A look at treemometers and tree ring growth
    2. The revelation that leaves seem to maintain a constant temperature: Surprise: Leaves Maintain Temperature, new findings may put dendroclimatology as metric of past temperature into question
    3. How do you calibrate such a thing? If using modern leaf response as a baseline, how do they know the response millions of years ago was the same?

    I’m sure we’ll learn more in discussion.

    I commented:
    All three of third points seem wrong to me.
    Liebig’s law doesn’t apply here, because the researchers are looking at multiple variable morphological analysis. All morphological variables do not respond in the same way to environmental variables that determine leaf morphology. In that way the impact of different combinations of environmental variables can be determined.

    The variables in tree rings are latewood density and ring width. These are combined with position in the range of the trees in an attempt to tease out the role of different environmental variables.

    Since we know that all climates don’t have a constant temperature, in order to keep a constant temperature during growth, the morphology of leaves has to change. The same may be said of humidity. Since the interior of leaves has to have liquid water, the morphology of leaves in a dry climate has to be different from the morphology of leaves in a wet climate.

    The third point is similarly misguided. Photosynthesis is based on physics and chemistry which is unchanging, and evolution optimizes the formation of plants over time to grow in different environments. The paper itself answers the question of how plant evolution has worked to optimize the features of plants to survive in different environments and provides the calibration.

    It seems to me that your skepticism is driven more by a desire to have the science shown to be wrong, than by an understanding of the underlying science, but I could be biased as well. At any rate, the experts in paleobotany, who study this stuff 24/365 are the ones who will sort it out over time. The number of experts, and the number of graphs, and the number of cititations make the paper quite impressive.

    When I chided him for commenting on the paper without reading it, he replied that I was unscrupulous and that I was given, “a permanent invitation to leave”. After calling me unscrupulous, he demanded that I keep the email, in which he informed me that I was banned, confidential.
    He seems happy to say whatever, knowing that there are many on his web site who will nod and cheer no matter how foolish it is.

    • W Scott Lincoln

      Do not question Anthony Watts. He is clearly an expert of every facet of climate science.

  29. He seems happy to say whatever, knowing that there are many on his web site who will nod and cheer no matter how foolish it is.

    You have correctly divined the zeitgeist of WUWT: Anthony is a god; the choir sings his praises. Even when he’s being an idiot–no, especially when he’s being an idiot.

  30. AW seems to be the distilled, compressed pure form of whatever essences of stupid are limiting action on AGW, he is the singularity of stupid.

  31. Daniel Bailey

    Tamino, I’m working on a post on a paper by Oliver Frauenfeld, Chip Knappenberger, and Pat Michaels, in which they examine annual Greenland ice melt extent from 1784 to 2009. The curious thing is that they truncate the available data at 2009, despite the acknowledged warming ongoing in 2010 (the paper was revised in December 2010 and just published on April 19, 2011).

    Given the record summer melt of 2010 (reported in September of 2010, with an SkS post in November of 2010 based on the October 2010 Arctic report card), were Frauenfeld, Knappenberger, and Michaels correct in their decision to not use the 2010 data? Or would it have not materially affected their paper’s outcome? Or is it another instance of drawing your curves and only plotting the data which supports it?

    Any help you can provide would be very appreciated. Either here or by replying to my email address.


    The Yooper

    [Response: Definitely read this:

    • This is silly. Remarkably so.

      How can you expect anyone to include data that isn’t available or finalised? How can you expect them to delay publication because of future data? By that insane logic, you would have to suspend publication indefinitely, as the melt goes on and on.

      Stop picking cherries. Let this study fall into obscurity as new data makes it obsolete. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

      [Response: Did you read the link provided? It was the reviewer of the paper who suggested that the more current data should be included, because it was available at that time, and invalidated the results stated in the paper.]

      • It was only partial data. Adding in an extra preliminary half a year because it fits the result you want is just as much cherry-picking as leaving out a year you don’t like.

        Yes, I know it was a reviewer. I disagree, that’s all.

        You know perfectly well that the final results for the year won’t have been in until some time after the end of the year. And, even if the review process had dragged out until the final data was available, it would still be a perfectly defensible position to not update it.

        However, once the 2010 data is in, the authors might very well submit an update to the paper. If they do (or don’t do) this, then perhaps we can start judging their motives.

      • Didactylos,
        I have to say that the decision to publish this paper is questionable. At the very least, Box’s review shows that the result is not robust, and that alone would have dissuaded me from publishing.

        We all know the denialists are not evidence based. It is not a service to science to continue to allow them to publish crappy papers that allow them to continue the pretense of evidenced-based opposition.

        Frankly, the presence of Michaels alone would raise serious doubts in my mind. That guy can’t breathe without lying.

      • Ray, if Box had re-reviewed the paper, then maybe his voice would have swayed the decision. But according to Box, he threw in the towel.

        He had already gone on record saying that the paper was “good”. The change to the title clarified the time span covered by the paper. I can see why the editor was satisfied, even if the end result is less than ideal.

        Face it, it’s just not a very good review. It jumps around, says one thing then the opposite, and at one point manages to omit that important word “not”.

        A crappy review for a crappy paper. It’s all best forgotten. Nobody cares. Except for poor Box and those he has convinced….

    • Steve Metzler

      Didactylos, hi,

      Let this study fall into obscurity as new data makes it obsolete. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

      Yes, that is how it’s *supposed* to work. But the way things are now, the likes of Watts and co. will get a few years free mileage out of the paper unless it is discredited right out of the starting blocks, like it should be. Surprised it hasn’t been featured on WUWT already.

      But, ah heck, even if it is discredited, that won’t stop Watts. Anything the cat drags in that purports to ‘refute’ AGW gets its few days of glory on the site, no matter how tenuous the claims.

      • Yeah, I have to admit that after last year’s record high temperatures, even I was surprised when they continued to use the “no warming since 1998” lie. I mean pretending that a whole year never happened–that’s chutzpah!

      • I don’t think the paper is startling or interesting enough to show much of anything. Obviously, the reviewer felt strongly about it. If, as he claims, 2010 was such a big deal, then we can expect some sort of rebuttal in the literature sooner rather than later.

        But if, as is perfectly possible, 2010 was an outlier, then the reviewer’s concerns will prove to be mere hyperbole.

        I honestly think the whole thing isn’t a big deal. We have satellite mass measurements which are far more informative, and, of course, with global warming the duration of the melt will be “unending”, so the paper’s conclusions about duration mean nothing anyway.

        I’m unfamiliar with the first two authors on the paper, so maybe they will be eager to update their own work. It’s just too tedious to assume that everybody is anti-science.

      • Okay, so maybe all the authors are equally biased. Still, I stand by my other comments.

        If the reviewer (Box) had continued reviewing, instead of throwing up his hands, maybe the editor would have rejected the paper. I’m confident the paper has other flaws besides the non-flaw Box got so excited about.

        I think Box let his emotions get the better of him.

      • Daniel Bailey

        Didactylos, Professor Box DID fulfill his fiduciary role as reviewer to the end (he links from his blog to his reviewer notes). And is STILL fulfilling it today, hence his holding of the author’s of the study to task for a fundamental failure of due diligence.

        Frauenfeld et al focused on melt season data (JJA) for the period 1784–2009, despite a discontinuity in data from 1820-1840. The JJA melt figures (of about 500 Gt ice mass loss) from 2010 were “in the can” and had entered the public realm by September of 2010.

        So in that sense, yes, final figures were publicly available. The authors were made aware of that fact, but opted to not include them. For which, under the scientific method, they are being held to task for.

        The Yooper

      • Their method also used annual temperature data, so even if the maximum melt extent figure was available, they still didn’t have all the 2010 data.

        When the paper was submitted, even the maximum extent figure wasn’t available.

        Scientists simply don’t generally update data during the review process merely because of new data due to the passage of time. Obviously it happens sometimes, but it’s unusual. Often, papers will have a cut-off date several years in the past, due to various data processing and availability issues.

        There’s a good reason for not adjusting the cut-off date after conducting the analysis. It’s a source of bias. Imagine what you would say if the situation were reversed….

        Reviewers aren’t God. The editor gets to decide whether to publish. Thus it is, thus it has been, and thus it ever more shall be.

        They even took Box’s comments into account and changed the title.

        Come on, folks. Save your outrage for something that deserves it (it’s not like there’s a shortage).

        And Box has not conducted himself well. He has broken the anonymity of peer review, he has refused to re-review the paper, and worst of all, he is whinging in public, burning up his credibility and his ammunition for future, more important battles.

        [Response: I disagree that revealing himself to be reviewer is questionable conduct. Anonymity is to protect the reviewer, if he chooses to forego it then I think that choice should be his.]

      • Daniel Bailey

        Not to belabor the point, or to continue to beat a dead horse unduly, but using the freely available GISS data one can see just how much warmer the JJA months of 2010 were vs the study period of 1923-1961.

        Given that, (from Tedesco and Fettweis, 2011) we see that 2010 ranks ahead of even the trumpeted 2007 by Frauenfeld et al.

        2010 data that Frauenfeld et al were made aware of well before final submissions, but chose to omit. Hence the cherries.

        The Yooper

      • Didactylos,
        I disagree. If I were publishing a paper and data became available that invalidated my conclusion:
        1)I’d want to know about it so that I could withdraw the paper myself
        2)I’d want to include it and redo the analysis to resubmit
        3)If I were the editor, then based on the fact that the result was not robust, I would reject the paper.

        Science is not just a “best-effort”. It matters whether results are right, and those who contribute to the publication process–from authors to readers–have a duty to make sure that the results are as correct and robust as they can possibly. The journal failed science in this case. Michaels et al. weren’t doing science in the first place.

      • Ray, I agree strongly with your 1 and 2. But do read Chris’s comments below.

        I disagree about these claims of “robustness”, because the paper’s “results” amount to little more than observations about the data. The observations are true(ish) for the time and data they apply to. Adding more data doesn’t change those results, it just makes them (even) less interesting, while changing the scope of the question.

        I can’t believe I’m babbling on about this still. Royal Wedding day and I’m bored witless….

  32. Definitely read this:

    Wow. It certainly fits in the Cherries Jubilee thread.

  33. Something’s going on at JGR-Atmospheres. They turned down my drought paper. They’ve published not only this latest travesty, but a lot of other stuff by deniers–an increasing amount, if I’m not mistaken. Am I imagining it or is there a trend here?

  34. I agree with Didactylos that Dr. Box hasn’t done himself any favours with this.:

    1. Box in his review ranked the paper “good”. This is a pretty clear sign to an editor that a paper is broadly likely to be acceptable. The main criticism of the original MS is that the study goes up to, and only up to 2009, whereas the original implies an indeterminate “present”. The timeline is now clearly indicated in the title. So if the paper is ranked “good”, and the timescale of the work is clear, is there really a problem?

    2. If Box thought that there are material flaws in the work he should have highlighted these and not marked the paper as “good”. If I were an editor and a reviewer stated that data for a year not yet completed should be included, I (as an editor) would likely find the authors complaint that this isn’t an acceptable criticism (since the year isn’t yet completed) to be justified.

    3. Box had the chance to re-review the paper. By the end of December (December 27th!) when he was asked to re-review, he would have been in a much stronger position to insist on inclusion of the 2010 data. But he chose not to. He could have made a point (that was easily countered in September), very strongly indeed in late December or January.

    4. We shouldn’t allow the behaviour of the dishonest and unscrupulous to provoke unnecessarily defensive behaviour in ourselves; it’s likely to backfire! I expect the usual suspects will make quite a meal of this. And when the next tedious dumping of confidential reviews is made to support whines about unfair editorial treatments, the whiners and their acolytes will be able to say “well Dr. Box dumped his confidential review on the web”.

    • So if the paper is ranked “good”, and the timescale of the work is clear, is there really a problem?

      Yes, absolutely. Changing the title to clarify the timescale is completely missing the point. The point is that the result is strongly sensitive to choice of endpoints, which renders it thoroughly uninteresting.

      • Not only do I disagree, Box does too, since he explicitly recommended the title be changed.

        What is wrong with everybody today?!

      • Yes, I agree that the paper isn’t particularly interesting. It doesn’t tell us much we didn’t already know, and the analysis of historical annual melt is somewhat dubious. It’s unfortunate that Dr. Box failed to make use of his opportunity as a reviewer to tackle these points robustly. Box’s 2009 paper on Greenland surface temperatures is excellent, and it’s a shame that he provided such a mixed message in a poor review to the editor. He rated the paper as “good” in his review and yet he clearly doesn’t think it’s “good” at all, to the extent that he’s attempting to rehash the whole thing on the blogosphere. I suspect that’s going to be counter-productive.

        My feeling is that Dr. Box has chosen to start a battle without realizing he’s failed to keep his powder dry. The confusion in Box’s style of presenting this issue is apparent in a comparison of his assertion at the start of his (Box’s) web site that: Had the authors considered all available data, their conclusion that ‘Greenland climate has not changed significantly’ would be impossible to make., with the paper itself.

        But nowhere in the paper do the authors conclude “that Greenland climate has not changed significantly”. That quotation simply isn’t in the paper.

        …and in fact the authors state in the very first two sentences of the paper:

        “Observations indicate that in recent years, surface air temperatures over and around Greenland have been considerably higher than during the previous four decades [Hanna et al., 2008], with record high temperatures during 2010 [Box et al., 2010b]. Likely as a result, Greenland’s cryosphere has been significantly altered.”

        The other conclusion seem pretty appropriate to me too e.g.:

        “The observed melt extent index during the 2008 and 2009 seasons was approximately 1/3 the magnitude of the 2007 value, while preliminary estimates place the ice melt of 2010 at their highest level since at least 1958 [Box et al., 2010b]. However, as our reconstruction indicates, if the upward trend in ice melt extent characteristic of the past 30 years continues into the future, even the 10 year moving average will soon exceed any melt that occurred during the past 226 years. Box et al. [2009] suggest that Greenland temperatures will continue to increase in phase with the observed Northern Hemispheric warming pattern.”

  35. t_p_hamilton

    chris asks:”So if the paper is ranked “good”, and the timescale of the work is clear, is there really a problem? ”

    YES there is, if just a bit more data leads to an opposite conclusion in spite of methodology being sound. That is, to anybody actually interested in what is really happening than the conclusions to be drawn.

  36. Did: What is wrong with everybody today?!

    BPL: We’re less accommodating to the deniers than you are.

    • Oh, back to the insults?

      Well, I’m going to stick to rationality, and if that upsets your agenda, then boo hoo.

      I’m not going to lie and distort facts even for the best of causes.

      Have you fixed the problems with your paper yet? I still haven’t had an opportunity to read it.

  37. [t_p_hamilton | April 29, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Reply

    YES there is, if just a bit more data leads to an opposite conclusion in spite of methodology being sound.

    Barton Paul Levenson | April 29, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Reply

    BPL: We’re less accommodating to the deniers than you are.]

    Unfortunately it’s Dr. Box in this instance who seems to have been “accommodating to the deniers”. He was in a privileged position to address this paper properly and chose not to do so. Now he’s turning what should have been a straightforward scientific procedure (review of a manuscript) into a blog circus. The latter especially is catnip to the denialists. Here’s what he could have done in his role as a reviewer:

    1. It’s not obvious what “opposite conclusion” specifically, t p hamilton is referring to in his post above. However if it is the conclusion in the abstract (which seems the most problematic to me): The greatest melt extent over the last 2 1/4 centuries occurred in 2007; however, this value is not statistically significantly different from the reconstructed melt extent during 20 other melt seasons, primarily during 1923–1961.”, then Dr. Box could have addressed this robustly:

    2. If Box had taken the opportunity to re-review the paper he could have made a very strong statement to the editor in January 2011 along the lines:

    “The melt data for the year 2010 is now available. Even if the authors are not yet able to do a reconstruction of the melt for 2010 according to their model it is clear and obvious that the Greenland melt for 2010 greatly surpasses that of 2007. The statement that the greatest melt extent over the last 2 ¼ centuries occurred in 2007 MUST be removed from the abstract, since otherwise the abstract contains a clearly false statement.”

    3. I personally think Box have let the authors get away with an inappropriate statistical analysis. The problem relates to comparing contemporary data (ice melt) having lower uncertainty with historical data (based on a small number of S Greenland temperature stations) to reconstruct an ice melt model. The latter necessarily has very high uncertainty especially at the 95% confidence level (however this was arrived at). It then becomes very easy to make somewhat meaningless claims that contemporary observations aren’t “statistically significantly different” from historical data. It’s at least partly for this reasons that IPCC comparisons make use of qualitative assessments (“likely”, “very likely” etc.) under these circumstances, and that paleotemp analyses generally don’t attempt to assess statistical significances between differences in contemporary and historical temperatures.

    If I were reviewing the paper, I would first have all consulted a colleague with expertise in statistical analyses in this general areas (you’re allowed to do this as a reviewer), and if I felt that this was justified, would have made the relevant point to the editor, and if it were warranted, insisted that statements of statistical significance be either removed or strongly qualified to make it very clear what specifically statements of statistical significance referred to.

    4. It’s normal as a reviewer that one has the opportunity to make both anonymous comments to the authors (Dr. Box has dumped his on his website), and confidential comments to the editor. If Dr. Box didn’t do the latter I think he was remiss. I would have said something like:

    “It’s unfortunate that a small number of scientists have taken advantage of the “light touch” afforded by the AGU review process to publish what turn out to be embarrassing flawed papers that were clearly submitted to advance non-scientific agendas [examples given]. The present paper tends towards this category, and it’s very likely, given the affiliations and history of some of the authors, that if the scientifically-unjustified statements highlighted in my review are left in the paper, these will also be used for scientifically-unjustifiable purposes. I leave it to the editor and his assessment of all of the reviews to consider what changes to the manuscript are appropriate. However I wish to make it very clear that as it stands, as indicated in my comments to the reviewer, the paper makes several conclusions and comments that are simply unacceptable in the light of independent data.”

    Something like that.

  38. You’re not going to get one, either. You can damn well wait till it’s published.

    BTW, what you call “rationality,” others call “lunacy.”

  39. t_p_hamilton


    You are criticizing the reviewer when the editor is at fault. When a reviewer says ” I would therefore not recommend accepting the paper without a revision that included 2010.” that is a rejection. The authors are responsible for their paper, the reviewer is responsible for pointing out things that are wrong, including unsupported. When a reviewer claims that a years more data would basically invalidate the point of the article (melting in Greenland lately is not more than other decades in 1900s), it is a serious breach of ethics to ignore the possibility. As far as Dr. Box asking another colleague about states, that is actually not kosher. The editor should pick a second reviewer more familiar with stats. If the stats were inappropriate as you claim, that is the authors responsibility again. The pattern is clear – the authors don’t really seem interested in how much ice is melting in Greenland.

    • 1. That’s wrong t p Hamilton. It’s perfectly appropriate and quite normal to ask a colleague for advice about a paper that one’s reviewing. One maintains confidentially by seeking advice informally, e.g. by asking : ”In a paper I’m reviewing the authors compare present empirical estimates of ice melt with historical melt reconstructed with a model, and make statements about statistical significance…. Is this justified?”, or if one feels a more detailed analysis is merited one emails the editor ” Dear Professor Editor, I have some concerns about the statistical analysis in the MS under review. I think these can be addressed by consultation with my colleague Dr. Smith. Are you happy for me to do this?. Alternatively one can recommend to the reviewer that an individual with appropriate expertise looks at some aspect of the paper.

      A reviewer can do any of these things. Publishers utilize a rather uniform “ethical obligations for reviewers” which the AGU conforms to. You can inspect this and see that so long as confidentiality is maintained, the reviewer is free to seek advice.

      2. I’m really surprised that Dr. Box didn’t address the stats. He published a rather similar paper in 2009 [L.M. Wake et al (2009) Surface mass-balance of the Greenland ice sheet since 1866, Annals of Glaciology 50, 178] in which quite very similar conclusions were made. His data have “error bars” but no analysis if statistical significance is made. Box and his colleagues must have considered appropriate methods of analyses, so one would expect this to be quite fresh in his (Box’s) mind..

      In fact a major conclusion from Wake et al (2009) is that (concerning Surface Mass Balance = “SMB”): ” All SMB estimates are made relative to the 1961–90 average SMB and we compare annual SMB estimates from the period 1995–2005 to a similar period in the past (1923–33) where SMB was comparable, and conclude that the present-day changes are not exceptional within the last 140 years.”

      3. The Editor seems to have done his job properly. He sent the paper to an individual with acknowledged expertise in the field [it’s none of my business who the other reviewer(s) might have been]. He took on board Dr. Box’s recommendation that the paper was methodology sound (Box marked it as “good”), which is a clear indication that the paper is likely to be publishable. The authors seem to have taken on board many of the suggestions of the reviewers.

      4. What the editor didn’t do was accommodate Dr. Box’s suggestion that the paper be delayed a year so that the 2010 data be included. Instead the editor (presumably) determined that the authors should put in a strong statement about the marked warming and melt of 2010, which they did. It’s pretty ridiculous to suggest that the authors should put themselves in the Borgesian situation of never being able to submit their paper since the data from the three groups used in their melt model is only available in the late Spring/Summer of the year following the summer melt season of interest. It’s ridiculous to suggest that it’s a “severe breach of ethics” not to go down this unreasonable route. One shouldn’t make up ad hoc pseudo “ethics”, or impose an incorrect view of what is or isn’t “kosher”, to support dodgy points of view (that’s what the deniers do!).

      5. This is a real storm in a teacup. The deniers have scored a teeny victory, and Dr. Box should be careful he doesn’t turn it into a more substantial one. Unfortunately Dr. Box wrote a really poor review (have you read it?). It’s full of mixed messages, and the editor will surely have noticed that however strongly Dr. Box felt about the subject he couldn’t be bothered to take 30 minutes ensuring his review was grammatical and contained sentences that actually contained consequent clauses. Box had the opportunity to make very strong recommendations by re-reviewing the paper in early Jan. He chose not to. Too bad…..

      6. I agree with your last point. The authors clearly don’t care how much ice is melting in Greenland. The 2010 melt is clearly anomalous and we’ll know quite soon whether this is a blip or is a portend of worse to come as Arctic temperatures return to their in-phase relationship with N. hemisphere temperatures (Box’s inference, which I tend to agree with). If the latter then the authors of the paper are going to look a little silly in a couple of years time (not that they care about that either).

  40. Daniel Bailey

    The point, among many, is that incorporating the latest data need not have delayed publication at all. The excuse that the data was not available just is not reasonable given that both the Tedesco and Fettweiss 2011 and Mernild et al 2011 papers each managed to reference this 2010 data in publications that came out prior to that of Frauenfeld, Knappenberger, and Michaels.

    Full post available over at Skeptical Science:
    Frauenfeld, Knappenberger, and Michaels 2011: Obsolescence by Design?

    The Yooper

  41. No Daniel, the data wasn’t available. The authors were using a method for reconstrructing historical and contemporary melt data based on the compilations of three independent research groups. The updated data for incorporating 2010 into the model analysis simply wasn’t available (of course we could investigate when exactly this data became available if we wanted to play at being investigative reporters!).

    Of course, even if a full analysis using the model couldn’t be made, Dr. Box was in a very strong position in early Jan to insist that strong statements about the 2010 melt be included (and a crassly incorrect statement be removed from the abstract – that seems the really problematic part of the paper in my opinion).

    Unfortunately Dr. Box decided that his role as a reviewer didn’t extend to a re-review. That’s really unfortunate. However I don’t see the point of complaining about it now…..

    Note that the two papers you link to in your post were submitted in Dec 2010 and Jan 2011, respectively. Some melt data (not that used by the authors of the offending paper!) was available then. The authors of the offending paper was submitted in August 2010 when no completed melt data was available.

    Again, Box could have addressed this in a re-review in early Jan. He declined.

    • Daniel Bailey

      Chris, as your ongoing dialogue with Dikran Marsupial on the SkS thread indicates, other scientists disagree with your interpretation. And that is fine; life in the real world works that way, so why should academia behave differently?

      Dr. Box, being an expert on Greenland glaciology, reviewed the paper and said it needed to consider the 2010 record melt before he would find it publishable. If it were then given back to him without that consideration, why then should he be obligated to re-review it?

      FKM were aware of the record melt, were aware that the data was available (seriously, do you think that if they’d asked for it that any of the researchers would have withheld it?), other researchers (Tedesco & Fettweiss, Mernild) were able to incorporate the record melt data into their papers and get published before FKM did. FKM opted to not include the data or reference it in any way that affected their conclusions.

      That, and the editorial decision-making (and not the reviewing), is the real story here. It is particularly telling that an anonymous reviewer, an expert in his field, felt so strongly about these issues as to be compelled to cede his anonymity and go public to seek redress of the situation. Had this been merely a situation where only a rebuttal had been sufficient, do you really think Dr. Box would have done all that?

    • Ray Ladbury

      What would have been the point of re-reviewing the work when the authors had decided to ignore his most important recommendation? That should have made it clear that 1)The authors were not interested in actually doing science and drawing rigorous conclusions; and 2)The Journal was not interested in enforcing rigorous editorial standards.

      Result: Another crappy paper in an increasingly crappy journal.

  42. Here is the Box review and author’s response from Knappenberger’s site :

    Reviewer #2 (Comments to Author):

    I rank the paper: “Good” because the paper’s methods seem solid. Yet, depth with regard to examining causal factors is missing. Further, the paper’s main point, as it seems, that recent warming is not without precedent, may already be obsolete because 2010 was such an extreme melt year AND that more warming in Greenland is likely simply for Greenland to be in sync with the northern hemisphere. The paper thus, in the very least, requires a revision that includes consideration of 2010 data. Yet, consideration of causal factors of cooling and warming and treatment of the Box et al. (2009) prediction, which for 2008-2010 has been accurate, would give the paper the depth consistent with JGR’s standard.

    We thank the reviewer for the relevant and helpful comments and suggestions which have greatly clarified and improved out manuscript! Our revisions/responses are described below.

    Major Critique:

    As is, the only depth of the paper is the statistical modeling, that is, the regressions to reconstruct melt area and comparison of the recent warming versus past warm episodes. There is theory to explain warming and cooling episodes in Greenland. Yet, the paper does include this important dimension. Therefore, to increase the depth or impact of the work, the paper should elaborate causal factors that explain the ups and downs in the reconstruction.

    Response: In our revision, we have included in our Background section an acknowledgement that there has been much work done to identify the causal mechanisms of multi-scale climate variability in and around Greenland and we included a listing of some of the potential underlying causes, citing the recent work of Box et al. [2009] for a more thorough description. (see lines 53–56).

    The primary objective of our work is to develop a proxy record of an index of total surface ice melt across Greenland such that recent direct observations could be better placed in historical perspective. As such, we, ourselves, did not independently seek to determine the specific causal mechanisms that may drive the variability in summer temperature or winter NAO which we show to be related to Greenland ice melt. As pointed out by the reviewer, there has already been a good deal of other work which has examined the potential underlying mechanisms. Relying on those findings, we have included a discussion of evidence of these influences on our findings (see the beginning of our Discussion section (lines 218–224).

    The paper may already be obsolete without considering the extreme melting in 2010. I would therefore not recommend accepting the paper without a revision that included 2010. The numerous statements throughout the paper, like that in line: 19 “We find that the recent period of high melt extent is similar in magnitude but, thus far, shorter in duration, than a period of high melt lasting from the early 1920s through the early 1960s.”

    Response: While we sympathize with the reviewer and would love to have our paper as updated as possible, practical issues get in the way.

    We don’t collect any data ourselves, but instead, obtain the processed melt data from various research groups, each operating on their own time schedule. The final/official release of the SSM/I brightness temperatures also takes about 6 months before it is available to centers like NSIDC. The updates in past years were therefore usually not made available to us until 6 to 9 months after the end of the melt season. In fact, the timing (August) of our original submission coincided with us finally obtaining the 2009 updates. Thus, waiting for the 2010 melt data would push the submission of our revised paper back until late spring or summer of 2011, at which point we may find ourselves again experiencing an interesting melt season which reviewers might feel important to include.

    We would like to note that waiting for one more year of data is not going to materially affect our analysis or conclusions. While the melt across Greenland has been elevated for the past 10 to 15 years (and continues in 2010), this period of time is still only about half as long in duration as the elevated (reconstructed) melt across Greenland from the 1920s through the early 1960s. So the addition of one more year of melt data (i.e., 2010), will not impact this comparison.

    Considering the above, we hope the reviewer will understand that it is only practical for us to incorporate melt data through the 2009 melt season. Recognizing that 2010 may be exceptional, we have added discussion of the preliminary indications for this most recent melt season (see lines 243–244).

    One thing different about the recent warming versus the 1920s warming is that Greenland climate continues to lag the northern hemisphere pattern… The work should therefore reflect on the prediction made in Box et al. (2009) that: simply to be in sync with the northern hemisphere pattern, Greenland climate must warm (after year 2007) by 1.0 – 1.5 C. In the years after 2007, that is, 2008-2010, this prediction has held true. And that still more warming should happen in Greenland in the coming few years is more likely than not. A major volcanic eruption, of course, see relevant literature, would cool Greenland’s climate for 1-3 years.

    Response: This is indeed a very interesting hypothesis and we have added this possibility to our manuscript (lines 247–248).

    The pre-1840 results should be abandoned because is cannot or at least it has not been demonstrated that there sufficient sampling to compare with the subsequent complete series.

    Response: We include a reconstruction back to 1784 because in our opinion the statistics do permit such a reconstruction: we include the models that we use (Table 1) and we modify the error bars accordingly (Figure 2). While the pre-1840 model is not as strong as the post-1840 models, we feel that the information that it provides (including the uncertainty intervals) is scientifically valid and provides interesting and useful information to the scientific community. We therefore prefer to retain our pre-1840 results, but make a modification in the text to better draw attention to the fact that the uncertainty bands are wider and the model not as strong (see lines 213–215).

    Title: A less ambiguous time frame should be included in the title than: “A Reconstruction of Annual Greenland Ice Melt Extent Going Back to 1784″ is needed…Something like: “A Reconstruction of Annual Greenland Ice Melt Extent 1784-2009″. Why? If the paper is published, some years down the line, the title would become ambiguous.

    Response: Good point! We have changed the title according to the reviewer’s suggestion and made a slight modification to the abstract (line 17).

    Minor Critique:

    line 12 “three decades” instead of “several decades”

    Response: We made the suggested change.

    line 52: the following statement seems not accurate: “Such a comprehensive, annually resolved reconstruction has not previously been undertaken, and will better place current observations of melt extent in a longer-term historical perspective.” Box et al. (2009) modelled an annually resolved temperature reconstruction for the Greenland ice sheet.

    Response: The Reviewer is correct in that Box et al. (2009) (and others as well) have modeled an annually resolved temperature reconstruction, but we were referring to our annually resolved ice melt reconstruction (not temperatures, specifically). We made this more explicit in the text (line 60).

    line 103 define “closely match” quantitatively.

    Response: This is something we have been attempting to do for quite a while, however our multiple requests to obtain the data from Steffen and Huff have so far remained unanswered. We have therefore clarified in the text (lines 120–121) that this is based on a graphical/visual comparison.

    line 124 define “quite similar” quantitatively.

    Response: We removed the sentence about other combination methods. For what it is worth, a PCA analysis of the three raw (unstandardized) ice-melt datasets produces a single significant PC that is correlated very highly (R = 0.997) with the standardized average.

    line 140: Does this relationship account for sub-monthly melt frequency? “Our Greenland melt reconstruction therefore focuses on the relationship between monthly average temperatures” I suspect a reduced sensitivity to melt intensity for 2 reasons: 1.) summer variability is minimal; 2.) a summer average of e.g. 0 C still includes periods above melting.

    Response: We did not investigate relationships between temperature and ice melt at a sub-monthly time scale. The melt data that we obtained (in 2 of the 3 datasets) did not allow for investigation at such a time scale. In our paper, we only used a single seasonal value for each year. We clarified this in the revised text (line 157).

    line 162: explain “the direct measure of JJA temperature subsumes the summer NAO influence.”

    Response: We meant that summer NAO primarily has a direct influence on the Greenland summer temperatures and that therefore, the direct observations of Greenland summer temperature already includes the impact of NAO variations. We added a brief bit of explanatory text (see lines 181–182).

    line 166 “winter conditions act to pre-condition summer ice melt through a snow/albedo response” certainly because of thermal erosion of heat content. “snow/albedo response” is vague and does not mention important heat content issue.

    Response: In the preceding paragraph (lines 164–172) in the text, we described the snow/albedo response a bit more thoroughly as “Hanna et al. [2008] suggest that enhanced winter snowfall results in increased summer albedo which decreases absorbed incoming radiation and reduces the amount of energy available for ice melt.”

    We think this is a clear description, although, admittedly, we are unsure as to what the reviewer means by the “thermal erosion of heat content” so we don’t know whether that is covered in our description or not!

    line 195: suggest “strong warming trend” instead of “strong positive trend”

    Response: We made the suggested change.

    line 195: “~1979-2009″ instead of “The last ~30 years”

    Response: We made the suggested change.

    line 211: By the same token as the arguments that the recent warming is not statistically unprecedented, the following statement need be substantiated using probabilities: “several sustained periods can be identified when a greater and/or more prolonged”

    Response: In response to Reviewer 3, we have largely removed our descriptions of the combined probability that previous years/periods may have exceeded the melt extend in 2007. So perhaps this mollified Reviewer 2’s concerns about our claims in this section.

    What we simply mean here is that visual inspection of the moving average in Figure 2 indicates a few periods: centered around 1935 (i.e. “the 1920s and 1930s”) and centered around 1950 (i.e. “the years around 1950) that have higher positive anomalies that stayed high longer than the current warming has.

    line 221-223: a good point: “It is worth noting that the satellite observations of Greenland’s total ice melt, which begin in the late 1970s, start during a time that is characterized by the lowest sustained extent of melt during the past century (Figure 2).”

    Response: Thanks.

    line 248: remove “much”, overstatement

    Response: We made the suggested change.

  43. Daniel,

    1. if you read Dikran’s comments you’ll se that he agrees with me that Dr. Box should have re-reviewed the paper. Most of the problematic conclusions and interpretations in the paper (‘specially the categorically incorrect statement in the abstract) could easily have been addressed very robustly indeed at that point.

    2. Dr. Box wasn’t “obligated” to re-review. It was entirely his choice. Sadly he didn’t take up the opportunity and as a result a paper with some very unsound conclusions and interpretations was published.

    3. The melt data wasn’t available in the form that FKM used for their model. The melt data published in Tedesco and Mettweis, and in Mernild was obviously available when the melt season was over (and presumably by December 2010 since tha’s when the first of the papers you mention was submitted). Dr. Box presumably knew this. If he had taken the opportunity to re-review the paper in late December-early Jan, he would have been in a very strong position to insist that the authors at least discuss this data in the context of their (FKM’s analysis). Sadly Dr. Box didn’t take up the opportunity to re-review the paper, and so this opportunity was lost.

    4. The editorial process was satisfactory. An editor can only work with the material provided by the reviewers. Sadly the main reviewer decided not to make the sort of contribution that could have turned a poorish paper into one that addressed the historical and contemporary Greenland melt properly in the context of a clearly anomalous melt season. That’s a shame for everyone involved…

    • Ray Ladbury

      Again, what would have been the point of another review. FKM made it clear that didn’t care about being right–only about making their point. The argument that including 2010 data was not practical is immaterial. If the data look to change your conclusion, you wait until it is available.

      • Ray, surely the point of re-reviewing would have been to ensure that a paper with some major misinterpretations wasn’t allowed to be published in the scientific literature .

        You’re right that FKM couldn’t care less about being right. It’s unfortunate that the reviewer best placed to address this had a hissy-fit and didn’t make the effort to ensure in a re-review in Jan 2011, that the paper was properly interpreted in relation to data that became available at least by Dec 2010.

        One can either get mad about stuff and bitch about it – or one can knuckle down and do something constructive about it..

  44. Daniel Bailey


    Obviously you know Dikran less well than you think. :-)

    You clearly have a narrative you’ve decided upon and are sticking to it. That is your right. Objective readers here are well-equipped to decide for themselves and I trust their judgement in this matter.

  45. This is just so silly Daniel. If I say “if you read Dikran’s comments you’ll see that he agrees with me that Dr. Box should have re-reviewed the paper.”

    and we can read what Dikram says with our own eyes:

    e.g. Dikram: ” At the end of the day, the real problem was that Box did not participate in the second round of reviews.”

    do we not accept that what I said is true? Or is there no such thing as truth but only “narratives”!? Unfortunately, objective observers in the outside world are being fed a narrative of misrepresentation of the science in relation to this paper, and that’s to a large part down to a reluctance of a reviewer to do a professional job of reviewing a paper. If Dr. Box had chosen to re-review the paper and insisted (as he was in a very strong position to do in Jan 2011) that offending statements be removed from the paper and the data properly interpreted in the light of data that was now available at least by December 2010, then this mess could easily have been avoided.

    That’s a reality. We all make choices in our personal and professional lives . In my opinion Dr. Box made a very poor one with respect to his role as reviewer. Too bad. It’s not the end of the world, but it would be nice if the error wasn’t compounded by a second poor choice of starting a blog circus by dumping a confidential review process on his blog…

    • Daniel Bailey

      Honestly, Chris, I am better-placed to understand where Dikran is coming from WRT to Dr. Box’s review; suffice to say he doesn’t share quite the same opinion of the review as do you.

      That being said, this dialogue has served its useful purpose.

      • Fair enough – you’ve got some priviliged knowledge that I lack! I can only go by the words Dikran types on the screen. He certainly considers that (a) Dr. Box should have re-reviewed the paper, and that (b) the authors should have interpreted their data in the light of the 2010 melt data that was available at the end of 2010 (else, according to Dikran, Dr Box should have recommended rejection of the paper) and that (c) the authors didn’t need to do a full reanalysis of their model incorporating the independent temperature/melt series that would later become available for 2010.

        That’s clear because he said each of those things, and they seem to be the essential things that we both agree about. Of course we don’t exactly agree about everything! Dikran considers that Dr. Box’s recommendation was that the 2010 melt data only needed to be considered as opposed to included, but that ambiguity only means that we get to (c) by a slightly different route (which is interesting).

        But yes the dialogue has been useful. It seems we all want to ensure that the science and understanding of global warming is properly represented (i.e. not misrepresented), but discover that there are somtimes some very clear disagreements about the approaches that should be used.

  46. Ray Ladbury

    In the end, it was the editors call whether to publish. It is certainly arguable that the first round of reviews raised enough red flags that it would have been prudent to hold off on publication until the 2010 data could have been incorporated. The editor by his actions made it clear he did not care if the paper was correct–he just wanted to get it published. Under these circumstances, why should Box carry out a second review, which of course would then necessitate a third review and so on? The editor is responsible for maintaining editorial standards. If they publish too many crappy papers, they wind up with a crappy journal–e.g. JGR.

  47. “New Hope Environmental Services is an advocacy science consulting firm”

  48. Deconvoluter

    Open Mind under attack. Irrelevant and obscure views on sea-level rise and other topics being used to hi-jack the responses to a good Guardian article ; for example here: