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GLOBAL WARMING BOMBSHELL: Hockeystick Broken
MIT Technology Review ^ | 15 October 2004 | Richard Muller

Posted on 01/13/2005 4:20:13 PM PST by neverdem

A prime piece of evidence linking human activity to climate change turns out to be an artifact of poor mathematics.

Progress in science is sometimes made by great discoveries. But science also advances when we learn that something we believed to be true isn't. When solving a jigsaw puzzle, the solution can sometimes be stymied by the fact that a wrong piece has been wedged in a key place.

In the scientific and political debate over global warming, the latest wrong piece may be the "hockey stick," the famous plot (prominently displayed by the IPCC report, 2001), published by University of Massachusetts geoscientist Michael Mann and colleagues. This plot purports to show that we are now experiencing the warmest climate in a millennium, and that the earth, after remaining cool for centuries during the medieval era, suddenly began to heat up about 100 years ago--just at the time that the burning of coal and oil led to an increase in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide.

I talked about this at length in my December 2003 column. Unfortunately, discussion of this plot has been so polluted by political and activist frenzy that it is hard to dig into it to reach the science. My earlier column was largely a plea to let science proceed unmolested. Unfortunately, the very importance of the issue has made careful science difficult to pursue.

But now a shock: independent Canadian scientists Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick have uncovered a fundamental mathematical flaw in the computer program that was used to produce the hockey stick. In his original publications of the stick, Mann purported to use a standard method known as principal component analysis, or PCA, to find the dominant features in a set of more than 70 different climate records.

But it wasn't so. McIntyre and McKitrick obtained part of the program that Mann used, and they found serious problems. Not only does the program not do conventional PCA, but also it handles data normalization in a way that can only be described as mistaken.

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!

That discovery hit me like a bombshell, and I suspect it is having the same effect on many others. Suddenly the hockey stick, the poster-child of the global warming community, turns out to be an artifact of poor mathematics. How could it happen? What is going on? Let me digress into a short technical discussion of how this incredible error took place.

In PCA and similar techniques, each of the (in this case, typically 70) different data sets have their averages subtracted (so they have a mean of zero), and then are multiplied by a number to make their average around that mean to be equal to one; in technical jargon, we say that each data set is normalized to zero mean and unit variance. In standard PCA, each data set is normalized over its complete data period; for the global climate data that Mann used to create his hockey stick graph, this was the interval 1400-1980. But the computer program Mann used did not do that. Instead, it forced each data set to have zero mean for the time period 1902-1980, and to match the historical records for this interval. This is the time when the historical temperature is well known, so this procedure does guarantee the most accurate temperature scale. But it completely screws up PCA. PCA is mostly concerned with the data sets that have high variance, and the Mann normalization procedure tends to give very high variance to any data set with a hockey stick shape. (Such data sets have zero mean only over the 1902-1980 period, not over the longer 1400-1980 period.)

The net result: the "principal component" will have a hockey stick shape even if most of the data do not.

McIntyre and McKitrick sent their detailed analysis to Nature magazine for publication, and it was extensively refereed. But their paper was finally rejected. In frustration, McIntyre and McKitrick put the entire record of their submission and the referee reports on a Web page for all to see. If you look, you'll see that McIntyre and McKitrick have found numerous other problems with the Mann analysis. I emphasize the bug in their PCA program simply because it is so blatant and so easy to understand. Apparently, Mann and his colleagues never tested their program with the standard Monte Carlo approach, or they would have discovered the error themselves. Other and different criticisms of the hockey stick are emerging (see, for example, the paper by Hans von Storch and colleagues in the September 30 issue of Science).

Some people may complain that McIntyre and McKitrick did not publish their results in a refereed journal. That is true--but not for lack of trying. Moreover, the paper was refereed--and even better, the referee reports are there for us to read. McIntyre and McKitrick's only failure was in not convincing Nature that the paper was important enough to publish.

How does this bombshell affect what we think about global warming?

It certainly does not negate the threat of a long-term global temperature increase. In fact, McIntyre and McKitrick are careful to point out that it is hard to draw conclusions from these data, even with their corrections. Did medieval global warming take place? Last month the consensus was that it did not; now the correct answer is that nobody really knows. Uncovering errors in the Mann analysis doesn't settle the debate; it just reopens it. We now know less about the history of climate, and its natural fluctuations over century-scale time frames, than we thought we knew.

If you are concerned about global warming (as I am) and think that human-created carbon dioxide may contribute (as I do), then you still should agree that we are much better off having broken the hockey stick. Misinformation can do real harm, because it distorts predictions. Suppose, for example, that future measurements in the years 2005-2015 show a clear and distinct global cooling trend. (It could happen.) If we mistakenly took the hockey stick seriously--that is, if we believed that natural fluctuations in climate are small--then we might conclude (mistakenly) that the cooling could not be a natural occurrence. And that might lead in turn to the mistaken conclusion that global warming predictions are a lot of hooey. If, on the other hand, we reject the hockey stick, and recognize that natural fluctuations can be large, then we will not be misled by a few years of random cooling.

A phony hockey stick is more dangerous than a broken one--if we know it is broken. It is our responsibility as scientists to look at the data in an unbiased way, and draw whatever conclusions follow. When we discover a mistake, we admit it, learn from it, and perhaps discover once again the value of caution.

Richard A. Muller, a 1982 MacArthur Fellow, is a physics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, where he teaches a course called "Physics for Future Presidents." Since 1972, he has been a Jason consultant on U.S. national security.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Canada; Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; US: District of Columbia
KEYWORDS: climatechange; globalwarming; hockeystick; horsehockey; junkscience
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1 posted on 01/13/2005 4:20:13 PM PST by neverdem
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To: neverdem

This is old news.


2 posted on 01/13/2005 4:23:24 PM PST by AndyTheBear (Disastrous social experimentation is the opiate of elitist snobs.)
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To: neverdem

Oh. "Black Eye from Broken Hockey Stick".


3 posted on 01/13/2005 4:23:28 PM PST by bitt (Why didn't they shove Dan Rather out of the door in his underwear?)
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To: neverdem

John Daly, RIP, cracked the hockey stick theory as soon as it came out.


4 posted on 01/13/2005 4:28:36 PM PST by Always Right
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To: neverdem

I have to drive my SUV a full tear to feed 5 acres of rainforest.


5 posted on 01/13/2005 4:29:41 PM PST by Cold Heart
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To: neverdem

I did not need math to tell me the global warming nonsense is, well, nonsense.


6 posted on 01/13/2005 4:30:56 PM PST by BJungNan (Did you call your congressmen to tell them to stop funding the ACLU? 202 224 3121)
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To: neverdem

I wonder how Noam Chomsky feels about MIT Technology review publishing this report?


7 posted on 01/13/2005 4:31:59 PM PST by Lx (If dolphins are so smart, why do they live in igloos?)
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To: neverdem

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1248429/posts

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1245759/posts

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1245729/posts

</hall monitor>


8 posted on 01/13/2005 4:32:20 PM PST by Yardstick
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To: AndyTheBear
look at the date. it is old news for us, but an earthshattering sea change for the technical/liberal MSM to actually cover this. Buckhead and FR have changed the media world!

note that Nature rejected the paper and it went over to a "blog" on the internet, and now is getting more and more traction with those who can no longer stomach the monolithic leftist lie. that is the classical breakout, and very similar to the way the rathergate fiasco came about.

kyoto fans will be deeply saddened (but watch them claim it is necessary anyway!)

9 posted on 01/13/2005 4:33:28 PM PST by chilepepper (The map is not the territory -- Alfred Korzybski)
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To: chilepepper
I had read the paper back when it had come out (I occasionally frequent junkscience.com and co2science.com). I hope your right about it getting traction. The global warming as science shake down has gone on long enough.
10 posted on 01/13/2005 4:38:29 PM PST by AndyTheBear (Disastrous social experimentation is the opiate of elitist snobs.)
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To: AndyTheBear; chilepepper; Yardstick; neverdem; BJungNan; Always Right
Check out this:

Meltdown : The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by ..... and the Media ( author on Foxnews)

11 posted on 01/13/2005 4:43:25 PM PST by Ernest_at_the_Beach (A Proud member of Free Republic ~~The New Face of the Fourth Estate since 1996.)
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To: neverdem
Not only does the program not do conventional PCA, but also it handles data normalization in a way that can only be described as mistaken.

Like CBS, they liked the answer, so they didn't question the results. That is of course putting the best possible spin on it. The worst it that they did it more or less deliberately to fulfill their agenda.

While this could be simple incompetence, it sounds to me like an awfully hard mistake to make accidentally.

12 posted on 01/13/2005 4:44:00 PM PST by El Gato (Activist Judges can twist the Constitution into anything they want ... or so they think.)
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To: AndyTheBear; Yardstick

Check my link for the story. Someone else added "Hockeystick Broken". I searched the title with "match all words" and "match exact phrase" twice as well as an archive search.


13 posted on 01/13/2005 4:53:03 PM PST by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: El Gato

When government funds science, science becomes a whore of government.


14 posted on 01/13/2005 4:53:05 PM PST by annalex
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To: neverdem

RE: Apparently, Mann and his colleagues never tested their program with the standard Monte Carlo approach [!!!]

That's a big boo boo. What sort of real scientist would fail to do this?

RE: Did medieval global warming take place?

Well, we know this much. Vinyards in the UK and a place in Bavaria called "Valley of the Limes." Sure it's only circumstantial evidence, but it is hard to explain away with the Medieval Warming.


15 posted on 01/13/2005 4:53:07 PM PST by GOP_1900AD (Stomping on "PC," destroying the Left, and smoking out faux "conservatives" - Take Back The GOP!)
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To: neverdem

I think you narrowed your search too much by setting it to match all words. I just copied your title into the search box and did a quick "by title" search, and it pulled up those three articles (plus yours).

But whatever the case, taint no big deal.


16 posted on 01/13/2005 5:01:13 PM PST by Yardstick
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach

Thanks for the link.


17 posted on 01/13/2005 5:01:35 PM PST by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: El Gato

LOL!


18 posted on 01/13/2005 5:02:47 PM PST by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: JudyB1938; Robert A. Cook, PE; lepton; LadyDoc; jb6; tiamat; PGalt; Dianna; farmfriend; archy; ...

FReepmail me if you want on or off my health and science ping list.


19 posted on 01/13/2005 5:04:10 PM PST by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: neverdem; Ernest_at_the_Beach
And for fun, read Micheal Crichton's new book, State of Fear.
20 posted on 01/13/2005 5:09:40 PM PST by no more apples (my give-a-damn's busted)
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To: Yardstick; AndyTheBear
I found the title here, about 10th from the top.
21 posted on 01/13/2005 5:15:00 PM PST by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: GOP_1900AD

"Vinyards in the UK and a place in Bavaria called "Valley of the Limes." Sure it's only circumstantial evidence, but it is hard to explain away with the Medieval Warming."

You win the prize! Its not like these are obscure historical facts, vinyards in England suggests that the "science" is all wet. I also seem to remember viking accounts of the northlands being more green than they are today with the archeology backing the stories up.

I'm sure another FReeper can confirm this.


22 posted on 01/13/2005 5:16:28 PM PST by Owl558 (Please excuse my poor spelling)
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To: neverdem

I don't think it was poor mathematics at all. I think it was deliberate.


23 posted on 01/13/2005 5:16:49 PM PST by SALChamps03
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To: El Gato

Not only does the program not do conventional PCA, but also it handles data normalization in a way that can only be described as mistaken.
Like CBS, they liked the answer, so they didn't question the results. That is of course putting the best possible spin on it. The worst it that they did it more or less deliberately to fulfill their agenda.

While this could be simple incompetence, it sounds to me like an awfully hard mistake to make accidentally.


A favorite liberal saying "The ends, justifies the means", only to them.


24 posted on 01/13/2005 5:18:47 PM PST by Ethyl
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Comment #25 Removed by Moderator

To: neverdem
independent Canadian scientists Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick have uncovered a fundamental mathematical flaw in the computer program that was used to produce the hockey stick.

"Nevermind."

26 posted on 01/13/2005 5:20:58 PM PST by Maceman (Too nuanced for a bumper sticker)
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To: Owl558; blam; SunkenCiv; farmfriend

Pings to the GGG group!


27 posted on 01/13/2005 5:35:55 PM PST by Ernest_at_the_Beach (A Proud member of Free Republic ~~The New Face of the Fourth Estate since 1996.)
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To: GOP_1900AD
a place in Bavaria called "Valley of the Limes.

Never heard that. I'll now use it in my anti-global warming arguments.

In Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" he talks about how the plant was so warm and humid several 10,000 years ago that the Sahara desert was a grass land. Until the global warming "scientist" can explain why, I won't give them the time of day. Heck I grew up in the 70's when the new ice age was approaching.

This scare tactic is straight out of Machiavelli's "The Prince"

28 posted on 01/13/2005 5:36:13 PM PST by lizma
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To: SALChamps03; Ethyl

See the article at post #11 for why it might be deliberate.


29 posted on 01/13/2005 5:39:55 PM PST by Ernest_at_the_Beach (A Proud member of Free Republic ~~The New Face of the Fourth Estate since 1996.)
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach
Bjorn Lomborg Again
James Hogan
Posted on January16, 2003
In March I posted an item about Bjorn Lomborg, the Danish statistician who was pilloried after going public with the politically incorrect truth that most of the environmentalist litany is myth, and things in general are getting better, not worse. It seems that George Orwell's prescience of "Recdep," the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth, where news and history are rewritten to suit policy, is well attested to in Europe. For the story of the amateurish attempt to discredit Lomborg, making no attempt at objectivity and answering scientific references with slanted magazine articles, see James K. Glassman's Denmark's Ministry of Truth at TCS Europe. Lomborg's book The Skeptical Environmentalist was what started it all off.

The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World The Skeptical Environmentalist:
Measuring the Real State of the World

by Bjorn Lomborg

30 posted on 01/13/2005 5:45:56 PM PST by SunkenCiv (I last updated my profile on January 13, 2005)
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To: cogitator

ping


31 posted on 01/13/2005 5:46:48 PM PST by boris (The deadliest weapon of mass destruction in history is a Leftist with a word processor)
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To: Owl558
I also seem to remember viking accounts of the northlands being more green...

Where do you think "Greenland" got its name?

32 posted on 01/13/2005 6:00:38 PM PST by DuncanWaring (...and Freedom tastes of Reality)
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To: neverdem
Here's Mann's response

On Yet Another False Claim by McIntyre and McKitrick

I find it difficult to follow the arguments but for the technically minded...knock yourselves out.

33 posted on 01/13/2005 6:19:42 PM PST by liberallarry
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To: Owl558
Yup, they had a warmer climate in Scandinavia in the past than today -- all those damn vikings running around in SUVs along with all those factories in the 11th - 13th century really heated things up. I am sure glad All those steel mills and moved to China and the third world where there is no polution.

After all we can not let a first world nation pollute and we all know that there is no grime or pollution from a factory in Mexico or Red China where everything is pure and golden
34 posted on 01/13/2005 6:32:51 PM PST by GaryMontana (The future belongs to the bold, not the cowards who hide under rags (ragheads)!)
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To: neverdem; abbi_normal_2; Ace2U; adam_az; Alamo-Girl; Alas; alfons; alphadog; amom; AndreaZingg; ...
Rights, farms, environment ping.
Let me know if you wish to be added or removed from this list.
I don't get offended if you want to be removed.
35 posted on 01/13/2005 6:36:06 PM PST by farmfriend ( Congratulation. You are everything we've come to expect from years of government training.)
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To: neverdem

36 posted on 01/13/2005 6:48:29 PM PST by LibertarianInExile (NO BLOOD FOR CHOCOLATE! Get the UN-ignoring, unilateralist Frogs out of Ivory Coast!)
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To: El Gato
You mean they didn't have a Times New Roman Font back in the Medieval Warm Period either? /sarcasm

Seriously, I always thought the GW theory was bunk because even what I read about early medieval history and the late Roman Empire in archeological journals in the 1970's discussed the evidence for the Roman Warm Period and Medieval Warm Period and the intervening cold periods. Th evidence for large climatic swings was already seen at that time in the pollen, foodstuffs and written reports (e.g. the Franks crossing the frozen Rhine in the 5th century).

37 posted on 01/13/2005 7:14:46 PM PST by pierrem15
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To: neverdem
Global Warming models always seem to get taken apart.

I remember several years ago reading some items at www.sepp.org about the leading global warming model having a small problem...

THEY LEFT OUT THE OCEANS! 70%+ of the planet, LEFT OUT!

Dr. S. Fred Singer is one of, if not the leading scientist on debunking global warming.

His book Hot Talk, Cold Science is a must read.

38 posted on 01/13/2005 7:20:09 PM PST by Phantom Lord (Advantages are taken, not handed out)
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To: Always Right

"John Daly, RIP, cracked the hockey stick theory as soon as it came out."

He's dead? Oh dear, I was a fan of his 'Still waiting for Greenhouse' site, but now I see that it is gone.

I'm sorry to hear this. We lost a champion for common sense.


39 posted on 01/13/2005 7:25:48 PM PST by WOSG (Liberating Iraq - http://freedomstruth.blogspot.com)
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To: GOP_1900AD
a place in Bavaria called "Valley of the Limes."

Good Evening,

In that particular instance, Limes refer to a system of old Roman fortifications and not citrus fruit.

I believe they ran for some 500 miles along the Rhine and the Danube.

Cheers

40 posted on 01/13/2005 7:28:34 PM PST by Publius Scipio
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To: WOSG
He's dead? Oh dear, I was a fan of his 'Still waiting for Greenhouse' site, but now I see that it is gone.

Yes, it was sad to lose a man who did more to combat the propaganda of global warming than anyone. John was a mathematical genius who could cut through the global warming crap as fast as they could put it out, which is saying something. His daughter and a friend were suppose to keep up his site in his honor, but it is just not the same. John Daly was quite the one man show.

41 posted on 01/13/2005 7:30:21 PM PST by Always Right
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To: Phantom Lord

I found this story at www.sepp.org today.


42 posted on 01/13/2005 7:32:08 PM PST by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: neverdem; abbi_normal_2; Ace2U; adam_az; Alamo-Girl; Alas; alfons; alphadog; amom; AndreaZingg; ...
Rights, farms, environment ping.
Let me know if you wish to be added or removed from this list.
I don't get offended if you want to be removed.
43 posted on 01/13/2005 7:44:36 PM PST by farmfriend ( Congratulation. You are everything we've come to expect from years of government training.)
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To: liberallarry

here is a 'tell' - Mann now says it's a 'myth' of the hockey stick that it implies temperatures are higher in 20th century than at any time in 1000 years. hmmm, check that with the popular descriptions and scaremongering on global warming.

So M+M tell us Mann is wrong, get rejected by the 'in-crowd' at Nature, and post it for others to see ... and Mann feels the need to post retorts on the web as a way to wage his own PR campaign. I smell defensiveness. As Gomer Pyle would say - "surprise surprise".


44 posted on 01/13/2005 7:45:02 PM PST by WOSG (Liberating Iraq - http://freedomstruth.blogspot.com)
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To: Owl558

You didn't mention the cultivated fields in Greenland.


45 posted on 01/13/2005 8:16:12 PM PST by U S Army EOD (John Kerry, the mother of all flip floppers.I)
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To: neverdem

Having read some of the reactions to this work, I'm stuck on a simple point:

The statistics math can be argued to and fro, but ...

Why do they need such complex statistical jiggering to make the point about what the average temperature is?

That seems to be at least one hole in the hockey stick.

Then there is the difficulties of some of the proxy data ...

" Tree rings are created during the growing season, not over an entire year. They tell scientists little or nothing about annual climate. Think of it this way: This year (2000) there was a warm winter and early spring in the northeastern U.S., followed by an unusually cool summer and fall. These events largely are self-cancelling. As a consequence, 2000 will be fairly average. But the tree rings only will record the cool summer and thus give a completely false impression of the full year’s temperature.... To state the obvious, trees grow on land. Because oceans, seas, and lakes inundate 71 percent of the earth, tree rings tell us nothing about maritime climate. This is no small point. Oceans are the primary determinant of climate conditions throughout the world." - John Daly


46 posted on 01/13/2005 8:18:21 PM PST by WOSG (Liberating Iraq - http://freedomstruth.blogspot.com)
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To: neverdem

Here is the best refutation of the 'hockey stick', going directly to the temperature and proxy data, a more fundamental problem than the statistical methods used:

http://www.greeningearthsociety.org/Articles/2000/hockey.htm


47 posted on 01/13/2005 8:20:06 PM PST by WOSG (Liberating Iraq - http://freedomstruth.blogspot.com)
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To: chilepepper
kyoto fans will be deeply saddened (but watch them claim it is necessary anyway!)

It is neccessary! How else to limit progress? How else to limit increasing wealth? How else to end the increase in life expectancy? How else to reduce the world's growing food supply etc etc etc?

48 posted on 01/13/2005 8:24:32 PM PST by Straight Vermonter (Liberalism: The irrational fear of self reliance.)
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To: WOSG

Thanks for the link. It supports other articles I've read about sunspot activity and solar radiation. Bookmarked


49 posted on 01/13/2005 8:27:44 PM PST by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: neverdem
Uncovering errors in the Mann analysis doesn't settle the debate; it just reopens it.

I think the bigger question is, did Mann have any motivation for making the data trend one way versus another? Some bias perhaps?

50 posted on 01/13/2005 8:30:24 PM PST by Bloody Sam Roberts (All I ask from livin' is to have no chains on me. All I ask from dyin' is to go naturally.)
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