I was stunned to hear Professor Jones say this at the UK House of Commons Inquiry.
The most startling observation came when he was asked how often scientists reviewing his papers for probity before publication asked to see details of his raw data, methodology and computer codes. “They’ve never asked,” he said.”
The Jones et al 1985-86 hemispheric compilations which birthed “IPCC global warming” as we now know it, were both published in the American Meteorological Society (AMS) – Journal of Applied Meteorology. Online versions Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere.
To get a feel for how the Jones et al papers fared in review I have done a quick check of the page length and time spent in review for all papers in the two issues of Journal of Applied Meteorology containing the Jones et al papers.
Graphing the results we see that these large and complex papers did indeed move rapidly through the review process compared to most other papers in those journal issues. The “N” and “S” on the graphs marks the Jones et al papers. The second graph plots the Jones papers with some pages added assuming that the reviewers would have had to have read the main text sections (an additional 15-18 pages) of the accompanying US Dept. of Energy TR022 and TR027 documentation books. I have not added pages for the two Appendices which totaled hundreds of pages. I have not allowed for the reviewers to have made some checks of digital data – if that work is included than the Jones et al passage through review is even more lightning fast on a weeks per page basis.
Next I will look at issues in the papers that reviewers could have questioned the Jones et al authors about – had they done their job.
We must also remember that no “comments” on these papers were published in the AMS journals.
Text of press article
Phil Jones survives MPs’ grilling over climate emails
Commons committee tiptoed round embattled scientist and sidestepped crucial questions
Parliamentary climate emails inquiry – as it happened
Gaunt and nervous, but with his ever-smiling University of East Anglia vice-chancellor beside him, Phil Jones survived his grilling by MPs – probably profoundly grateful that he did not have to face questioning from an earlier witness, the equally gaunt but far from nervous climate sceptic, Lord Lawson.
Jones did his best to persuade the Commons science and technology committee that all was well in the house of climate science. If they didn’t quite believe him, they didn’t have the heart to press the point. The man has had three months of hell, after all.
Jones’s general defence was that anything people didn’t like – the strong-arm tactics to silence critics, the cold-shouldering of freedom of information requests, the economy with data sharing – were all “standard practice” among climate scientists. “Maybe it should be, but it’s not.”
And he seemed to be right. The most startling observation came when he was asked how often scientists reviewing his papers for probity before publication asked to see details of his raw data, methodology and computer codes. “They’ve never asked,” he said.
He gave a little ground, and it was the only time the smile left the face of the vice-chancellor, Edward Acton: “I’ve written some awful emails,” Jones admitted. Nobody asked if, as claimed by British climate sceptic Doug Keenan, he had for two decades suppressed evidence of the unreliability of key temperature data from China.
But for the first time he did concede publicly that when he tried to repeat the 1990 study in 2008, he came up with radically different findings. Or, as he put it, “a slightly different conclusion”. Fully 40% of warming there in the past 60 years was due to urban influences. “It’s something we need to consider,” he said.
Nor did the MPs probe how conflicts of interest have become routine in Jones’s world of analysing and reconstructing past temperatures. How, as the emails reveal, Jones found himself intemperately reviewing papers that sought to criticise his own work. And then, should the papers somehow get into print, judging what place they should have in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), where he and his fellow emails held senior positions.
But the committee will be hard pressed to ignore the issue after the intervention of no less a body than the Institute of Physics. In 13 coruscating paragraphs of written evidence to MPs, it spoke of “prima facie evidence of determined and coordinated refusals to comply with honourable scientific traditions and freedom of information law”, “manipulation of the publication and peer review system”, and “intolerance to challenge … which is vital to the integrity of the scientific process.” Ouch.
Jones’s most tenacious adversaries were largely absent from the hearings, however. No sign of Canadian rottweiler mathematician Steve McIntyre, the arch-villain of dozens of the Climatic Research Unit-crew’s emails. Or of Keenan, who accused Jones of fraud in a peer-reviewed journal.
And the MPs let Jones have the last word. “I don’t think there is anything [in the emails] that supports the view I’ve been trying to pervert the peer-review process in any way.” With that, he was gone.
Fred Pearce is environment consultant for New Scientist