Recently, one or more of the University of East Anglia’s servers were hacked and a large number of private e-mails exchanges between researchers at Climate Research University were made public.
NASA climate scientist Gavin A. Schmidt writes on his non-NASA endorsed blog:
No doubt, instances of cherry-picked and poorly-worded “gotcha” phrases will be pulled out of context. One example is worth mentioning quickly. Phil Jones in discussing the presentation of temperature reconstructions stated that “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.” The paper in question is the Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998) Nature paper on the original multiproxy temperature reconstruction, and the ‘trick’ is just to plot the instrumental records along with reconstruction so that the context of the recent warming is clear. Scientists often use the term “trick” to refer to a “a good way to deal with a problem”, rather than something that is “secret”, and so there is nothing problematic in this at all. As for the ‘decline’, it is well known that Keith Briffa’s maximum latewood tree ring density proxy diverges from the temperature records after 1960 (this is more commonly known as the “divergence problem”–see e.g. the recent discussion in this paper) and has been discussed in the literature since Briffa et al in Nature in 1998 (Nature, 391, 678-682). Those authors have always recommend not using the post 1960 part of their reconstruction, and so while ‘hiding’ is probably a poor choice of words (since it is ‘hidden’ in plain sight), not using the data in the plot is completely appropriate, as is further research to understand why this happens.
Jones is quoted in New York Times on the subject and confirms that that particular e-mail is real, but the university says they cannot confirm that all the material circulating on the Internet is authentic.
You can read a few quotes from the e-mails at the Telegraph.
James Delingpole at the Telegraph claims these e-mails prove there was a conspiracy to hoax the world about global warming, but in my opinion a reading of this material only proves the CRU researchers were earnest, passionate believers in their research.
(Thanks to Trevor for the Telegraph link)