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10/15/2004: "Muller"

Today brings this article by Richard Muller in Technology Review, alledging that the hockey stick is broken. (For those new to this issue, the "hockey stick" is this view of the last millenia's climate, so called because it is essentially flat for most centuries in this millenia until it turns sharply upward in the 20th century.) He bases this on McIntyre and McKitrick's work, which was rejected when peer-reviewed by Nature.

I'm suspicious, because good science comes out of the peer-reviewed wash in some journal or another, and it seems to me one should refrain from calling peer-reviewed science wrong before it's shown to be wrong by another piece of peer-reviewed science. I'm also suspicious because Muller championed the work of Soon and Baliunas last December, also in Technology Review, saying that critics concerns "didn't necessarily mean that the Soon and Baliunas results should be ignored."

But the work of Soon and Baliunas was wrong--it was based on bad logic and was bad science, as I detailed in Scientific American. Either Muller doesn't understand that or choose not to see it. So it makes me skeptical that now again he's championing another attack on the work of Mann et. al., and this by non peer-reviewed science.

Replies: 30 Comments

on Thursday, October 21st, Dano said

It remains important for science to point out the erroneous nature of the Mann curve.


It's not just a Mann curve. But it isodd that he would say that.


on Thursday, October 21st, Jeff Harvey said

Eli, I was an Associate Editor at Nature a few years ago and they DO NOT reject manuscripts on the basis of space. If the article or letter is good enough, and is fully supported by the referees who were asked to review it, then it will be published in due course.

on Thursday, October 21st, George Sumyk said

Does anyone care to dispute these two statements attributed to Storch?
"We were able to show in a publication in 'Science' that this graph contains assumptions that are not permissible. Methodologically it is wrong:rubbish" and "It remains important for science to point out the erroneous nature of the Mann curve. In recent years it has been elevated to the status of truth by the UN appointed science body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This handicapped all that research which strives to make a realistic distinction between human influences and climate and natural variability"


on Wednesday, October 20th, Eli Rabett said


Ever publish? What you describe might be something one does and writes in the notebook, but almost never puts in the published article.

Judging from the syle of the programs, this is code inherited from a long line of graduate students and modified to suit.

on Wednesday, October 20th, Eli Rabett said

Dave D.,

Science and Nature and even the bloated Physical Review Letters reject just about anything on the basis of there being not enough space. Basically it is their was of saying go away, don't bother us

Been there. Done that

on Wednesday, October 20th, Yelling said


I am sorry that you feel that defending your point of view is a waste of time. However in that case I can see why you would not wish to engage in further discussion about Jaworowski!

However at least you now have an appreciation as to how the peer review process works.

Teddie: Take heart lad, "I know nothing" is the start of all wisdom. To quote from another poster a while back - Get thee to a library lad!!


on Wednesday, October 20th, Teddie said

Yelling, after failing to win a single argument based on merit, I have taken to dissembling.

on Wednesday, October 20th, Ted said

Yelling after your lame response on M&M wasted my time I do not wish talking to you.

on Wednesday, October 20th, Dave Dardinger said

Some arguments require detailed scientific knowledge to decide. But some only require simple logic. This is where I have a problem with those who state M&M's paper was 'rejected when peer reviewed.' M&M posted what they claim to be the coorespondence they had with Nature, and there are only two possibilities. Either M&M made this up out of whole cloth or Nature didn't reject their submission because of any defects in it, but because of a claimed lack of space (this is dubious, but it IS an excuse). So either you should be able to point to a Nature statement debunking M&M's claim as to why the paper was not published, or you should not be using a misleading statement concerning what happened.

on Wednesday, October 20th, charles said


Thank you for your response.

I'm mostly an observer on the subject of GW science. I do have some background in physics and software. In physics one always tests any formula against the known boundary conditions. In programing, one always inputs data for which the correct output is known to test the program. [Passing these kind of tests don't prove a formula or program correct but failure does prove a formula/program to be flawed.]

It seems to me that the GW scientists have been not sufficiently tested their studies/theories before passing them off to the politicians as "truth".

Mann (and the authors of similar studies) should do their own Monte Carlo analysis and publish the results for all to see. Scientific publications should demand that these basic test be performed.

on Wednesday, October 20th, Thomas Palm said

1. Monte Carlo methods can test part of Mann's work. It can test the method to combine the data, but not the reliability of the proxies themselves.
2. Muller has made no Monte Carly study of Mann's work. He has just reported on the work by M&M, and many doubt they did their job correctly.
3. Storch did a more relevant form of Monte Carlo test of the MBH paper. Mann claims he overstates the uncertainties, but there you have a valid scientific debate unlike the M&M complaints. What comes out of it remains to be seen, scientific results often have to be modified as better results come in.

on Tuesday, October 19th, Yelling said

Hi Ted:

And do the courses in electrical engineering teach critical thinking? Just asking because I am still waiting for your comments on the Jaworowski article.


on Tuesday, October 19th, Ted said

The technique of using a "Monte Carlo' analysis is taught at almost every electrical engineering program in the world. It seems those in climate circles need some learning to do.

on Tuesday, October 19th, John said


Good point. The von Storch paper does indicate that previous climate variability is larger than Mann thought.

However von Storch's work is based on models. So if you accept von Storch, then you implicitly accept climate models. If this is the case then it renders Mann academic. Why worry about the past if you can predict the future?

on Tuesday, October 19th, George Sumyk said

Why is it that in this commentary no one had mentioned the recent
paper by Storch, et al.
Is it totally irrelevant to this discussion

on Tuesday, October 19th, Dano said

If you have a point, charles, do the work and make it.

Go to the library, bring back some research, fire up your brain cells, and actually do something.

This means: if you have a point, make it. Back it up with some research. Analyze some stuff. Think about what people have written in the journals. Then show what you've thought about.

Otherwise, it just looks like you want to hand-wave, ignore, and trumpet.



on Tuesday, October 19th, charles said


1) Does anyone dispute the assertion that "Monte Carlo" analysis is a valid test of Mann's (and similar) work.

2) Does anyone dispute Muller's report of the result one gets when Monte Carlo analysis is applied to Mann's work?

3) Has Monte Carlo analysis been applied to works similar to Mann's?

4) Can anyone tell me why the scientific community has not already rigorously applied Monte Carlo analysis to Mann's (and similar) work?

on Monday, October 18th, James Nightshade said

Most people (including Muller) do not dispute the 'blade' because it is supported by direct measurements made by humans around the globe during the last 100 (or maybe 200) years.

But the interesting thing about the hockey stick graph was always the 'stick'. The whole point is that temperatures remain much more stable until the industrial revolution happens.

on Monday, October 18th, Jon H said

What relationship exists between MIT and Technology Review?

on Saturday, October 16th, Eli Rabett said


1. You have to have instrumental temperature data somewhere to tie your proxy data to, if you want to convert the latter into temperature

2. The tree ring/coral/etc records do extend to 1980 in the various Mann reconstructions.

Never mind

on Saturday, October 16th, Dano said

I always appreciate William's and Thomas' comments on SciEnv.

My reaction was much more visceral: what kind of author writes a persuasive essay using agitprop phraseology, as was done in the Muller? Likely not someone wanting to persuade scientifically.

Contrast my reaction to William's - his analysis is cogent and compelling as always.

Thomas' reaction implicitly recalls Tim Lambert's look at M&M and the simple mistakes they made.

Three posters, three reactions, three different reasons than the two David gave to be skeptical of the Muller article.


on Saturday, October 16th, Thomas Palm said

"What about this Monte Carlo analysis?"

Given their reputation I'd like to see someone reproduce it before I trust that M&M did it right and didn't mix degrees with radians or some similar mistake.

on Saturday, October 16th, charles said

From Muller article,

"Now comes the real shocker. This improper normalization procedure tends to emphasize any data that do have the hockey stick shape, and to suppress all data that do not. To demonstrate this effect, McIntyre and McKitrick created some meaningless test data that had, on average, no trends. This method of generating random data is called “Monte Carlo” analysis, after the famous casino, and it is widely used in statistical analysis to test procedures. When McIntyre and McKitrick fed these random data into the Mann procedure, out popped a hockey stick shape!"

What about this Monte Carlo analysis? Seems a pretty compelling point. Has this analysis been done on all like studies in addition to Mann? Results?

on Saturday, October 16th, JAG said

The biggest flaw with MBH's hockey stick is that it uses treerings etc from acouple of places for the period up to 1860 and then suddenly changes to a "global" temperature record 1860-2000.

They use apples and oranges on the same graph.

Why they do this when they could have used treerings etc up to current time?

Well if extend the treerings etc up to the 1960s you find an interesting increasing gap between the 2 sets from 1860 up to the 1960's

So the 2 sets do not validate each other.

But it makes a hell of a doomsdays graph, and that is probably the sole purpose for it.

on Saturday, October 16th, William Connolley said

I looked at M&M's complaint, on which Muller seems to base his article. See sci.environment:


As far as I can see, M&M, and Muller, are wrong.

on Friday, October 15th, John said


I doubt that it has stopped being criticized. Even if the industry related publications have stopped picking on it, as Harry Belafonte said in a song "it's still being carried on by a goodly band"!

That was the whole basis of the late Mr. Daly's piece on the Hockeystick except he never really says which paper he is criticizing and he uses data both from before 1400 and from the Southern Hemisphere.


on Friday, October 15th, Dano said

John C:

Understood. My comment was focused on which paper the Indy-fundeds use to demonstrate their claim. Or used to demonstrate (do they still write new papers about this, or has that all ended now?).



on Friday, October 15th, John Cross said

As I posted on another site several weeks ago, the reviewers made the following comments about M&M's work.

1) At this stage, I think any Correction or Retraction by MBH98 is premature and really not required.

2) The reply by MBH04 on the previous comment by MM04 addresses in. my opinion both points raised by MM04 in a convincing way. Although it is for a reviewer impossible to check all the technical details involved in this reply, they arguments used by MBH04 seem plausible, and I would say they are probably correct. This is of course no guarantee that the entirety of MBH98 work and conclusions are free of error.

3) In summary, judging from the present version of the manuscript and the response by MBH04, I now think that basis for MM04 has wavered and that further work , or further convincing evidence, would be needed to present a more solid case.

4) Considering the changes relative to the first version of MM04, it seems to me that the case presented by MM04 has weakened considerably.

5) Unfortunately, I have the impression that preconceived notions affect the potential "audit" by McIntyre and McKitrick. That would, of course, not mean that their assessment is necessarily wrong, but might explain the rather harsh and tricky wording used here and at other places by both parties, and I generally do not believe that this sort of an "audit" and rebuttal will lead to a better understanding of past climate variations.

Dano - also in his second paper on the topic (the 1000 years looking at the Northern Hemisphere) he comments on features which he says could be intreperted as a MWP and a LIA.


on Friday, October 15th, Dano said

Yes, John, that's an important point, and remember the spin of the Indy-fundeds is that Mann's analysis didn't find the MWP, therefore it is flawed; never mind the tiny detail of Mann's original paper never going back that far.



on Friday, October 15th, John Fleck said

Let me repost here a comment I made elsewhere:

It's worth noting a point which Muller somehow seems to have missed, but which Nature's anonymous reviewer #1 did not: that even after M&M's alleged statistical error is corrected, the resulting graph "still has the upward trend towards the end of the series, so this trend is not just an artifact of MBH's PCA procedure." In other words, the handle of the hockey stick may look quite different, but even in M&M's reanalysis it still has a blade. And it is the blade, after all, that is the issue of current interest.

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