Treadgold and the NZ CSC: dogging a fled horse

The campaign by the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition and Richard Treadgold’s “Climate Conversation Group” to cast doubt on the NZ temperature record and to smear the scientists who have worked on it has stepped up a notch or two in recent days, following a response by NIWA to an Official Information Act request from NZ C”S”C secretary Terry Dunleavy. It seems Dunleavy and Treadgold didn’t like the answers they were given, because they immediately jumped on one small part of the response, and rushed out a press release throwing up their hands in in horror. Here’s Dunleavy:

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) has been urged by the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition (NZCSC) to abandon all of its in-house adjustments to temperature records. This follows an admission by NIWA that it no longer holds the records that would support its in-house manipulation of official temperature readings. [my emphasis]

In December, NZCSC issued a formal request for the schedule of adjustments under the Official Information Act 1982, specifically seeking copies of “the original worksheets and/or computer records used for the calculations”. On 29 January, NIWA responded that they no longer held any internal records, and merely referred to the scientific literature.

“Merely” referred to the scientific literature? That’s where scientific knowledge is to be found, not in worksheets or computer records. Treadgold developed the theme at his blog, under the heading FARCE: NIWA don’t have the changes:

Heads must roll – Turning into farce

In an astounding admission of ineptitude, after their former arm-waving and expostulations of injustice, NIWA have finally confessed that they cannot provide the adjustments they made to the original temperature readings in the official NZ temperature record.

Luckily for us, Treadgold later posted pdf copies of NIWA’s response, as well as Dunleavy’s original request, and so we can see for ourselves what NIWA said. Funnily enough, things are not quite as Dunleavy and Treadgold would wish us to believe.

NIWA’s response to Dunleavy essentially says that the raw temperature data is available, the station histories are available, and the methodologies used for the adjustments are available. That is all you need to reconstruct the long term temperature record for New Zealand. The CSC/CCG didn’t like this answer, and leapt on one sentence in NIWA’s reply. Here’s what Dunleavy asked for:

2. An explanation of how those original observations were processed to provide the current individual records. Please provide copies of the original worksheets and/or computer records used for such processing.

Here’s NIWA’s reply:

2. You sought explanations relating to the way in which original records were processed to provide the individual station records. The methodology is documented in the following publicly available sources:

  • Salinger, M.J., 1981. New Zealand Climate: The instrumental record. Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the Victoria University of Wellington, January 1981;
  • Salinger, M.J., 1977. Dunedin temperatures since 1853. Proceedings of 9th New Zealand Geographical Society Conference, pp.106-109; and
  • Salinger, M.J., 1979. New Zealand temperatures since instrumental records began. Proceedings of 10th New Zealand Geographical Society Conference and 49th ANZAAS Conference, Auckland, pp.13-17.

The original worksheets and / or computer records used for the calculations in Dr Salinger’s thesis work are the property of Dr Salinger, who no longer works for NIWA. NIWA does not hold copies of the original worksheets.

The fact that NIWA doesn’t have Jim Salinger’s PhD notebooks from 30 years ago becomes, in Treadgold-speak:

NIWA blundered in not keeping track of some important records that justify the country’s warming since the 19th Century, even if it inherited the problem from its predecessor in the Met Service, or the early behaviour of Jim Salinger, who did the work. […] Now NIWA has admitted in writing that it lost the original data.

What NIWA actually said was that the information was in the three papers listed. Nothing is lost. Everything is in the public domain. This is what happens in real science: knowledge exists in the literature. In fact, a lot of it is in Jim Salinger’s PhD thesis, a copy of which has been in the VUW library since 1981. Appendix C covers the details, I’m told. I could order it through my local library, if I really wanted to check the details. But even without that information, the CSC/CCG could take the raw data and the station histories and, using statistical techniques readily available in the literature construct their own long-term temperature series. That would be an independent replication of the method used by Jim Salinger and NIWA over the years. It might even be a valuable contribution to the state of knowledge. That’s how real science is done. Instead Treadgold prefers to fulminate on his blog, demanding apologies from David Wratt, NIWA, and today, Hot Topic. Here’s a flavour of his prose:

So will we discover what sort of a man is Mr Renowden? If he prefers to disagree with NIWA and to cling to the idea that there are reasons for large (or any) adjustments to the temperature readings, he should declare what those reasons are and what are those adjustments, to which stations. However, NIWA, whose cause he so vigorously defends, will be unable to assist him.

If, on the other hand, he agrees with NIWA, that no reasons for large adjustments are known, he should apologise to us, for we said just that in the paper he so vehemently disagreed with.

There is much more of this sort of stuff in his normal pompous and oleaginous style, most of it eminently ignorable. But he’s issued a challenge and so I’ll rise to it. The initial CSC/CCG “study” remains complete nonsense, and the claim in it that were “no reasons for any large adjustments” simply wrong. There are sound physical and historical reasons why adjustments are necessary, as I explained in my original post on the subject. The idea that you can simply link up sets of raw data without taking changes of location, altitude and recording gear into account is daft, and Treadgold and his team should have known that. Ignorance is not an excuse when you are smearing the work of respected scientists. Bizarrely, Treadgold seems to think that NIWA now accepts that “no reasons for large adjustments are known”, which is risible. How else would they go about preparing a full exposition for the web, which will appear later this month? [Hint: see above].

I also reported that the CSC had been told years ago that adjustments were necessary. Treadgold accepts that Vincent Gray and Warwick Hughes were contacted by Jim Salinger (then a NIWA employee), who gave them relevant information. But apparently, because the emails were addressed to individuals and came from Jim Salinger, not NIWA itself, then they don’t count. The fact is that Vincent Gray reviewed the CSC/CCG “study” before its release, but neglected to disclose this inconvenient knowledge to its authors. Once again, ignorance is not an acceptable excuse when you’re engaged in a smear campaign. Treadgold is shown to be dissembling, attempting to deflect attention from his own errors.

So what are we left with? A shonky “report” is published, scientists are smeared. The report is shown to be rubbish. The scientists respond to the criticisms by generating a new temperature series — with no adjustments at all — that confirms the trends in the longer series. But the CSC/CCG keep going, firing off an OIA request. Predictably, they don’t like the answer they get, so they resort to spin and misdirection. End result? Same as last time. Egg on face. Treadgold, his “Climate Conversation Group” and the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition merely confirm my initial diagnosis. Ignorant and intemperate hypocrites to a man.

31 thoughts on “Treadgold and the NZ CSC: dogging a fled horse”

  1. “Ignorant and intemperate hypocrites to a man.” couldn’t agree more.
    What a waste of time and space these people are. The thesis is there for everyone to read – it doesn’t belong to NIWA . If they want to read it why don’t they? They might learn something!
    I frequently traveled on the train with Jim to and from Wellington each morning and evening while he was completing his thesis. Obviously from time to the the subject was discussed – I’m sure he never envisioned that such a fuss over nothing would be made about it!

  2. So for the average person what are the facts,

    – The raw data does not show the same level of warming
    – Adjustments have been made
    – There is no documented reason for the adjustments
    – It is quite possible that the adjustments were made for legitimate reasons and the records have simply not been kept

    What should the average person make of this?
    a) Nothing, NIWA have no reason to lie and they are experts
    b) Until the reasons are shown to be robust and subjected to peer review the temperature record should not be used as evidence for any debate

    1. The raw data from eleven different stations, completely unadjusted, shows more warming! The changes were documented: the references are given above.

      R2’s reading comprehension: open to debate.

  3. Those are NOT the facts.
    There is documented reason for the adjustments in the thesis! Read it!
    The records have been kept – they are available to you and anyone else.
    The raw data from selected stations that are not subject
    to UHI show an even greater amount of warming.
    OH! You beat me to it!

  4. Propagandists like Treadgold and Dunleavy don’t care that they come across as fools and liars to those better informed; all they want is for someone, somewhere to publish their PR and siupport the illusion, for many, that there is an ongoing “controversy” about whether or not climate records showing warming can be trusted.

    In addition, they would like climate science experts like Hansen and NIWA to be smeared as partisan, which is why even the ridiculous Wrathall can be trotted out to represent “the other side”.

    Don’t expect shame from this lot; they are committed idealogues, “useful idiots” for those who profit hugely from the status quo.

  5. Do I understand you to say that the adjustments have been documented?

    The very purpose of an Official Information Request is to obtain copies of such documents. According to the Mahood letter, it seems none were available.

    Is it your view that a mere passing reference to an old unpublished student’s thesis is a sufficient release of data to allow NIWA’s “science” to be replicated?

    1. Read my post again. The NIWA response lists the publications in which the adjustments are documented. Salinger’s thesis was most certainly published: it was lodged in the VUW library, and you can request it via library interloan.

      But even if those publications were not available, it is still possible to reconstruct the series using the raw data, station histories and statistical techniques well described in the literature. As others have pointed out, though, they have no interest in that, they just want to sling dirt.

  6. A thesis is either published or not. This one isn’t.

    There are dozens of homogenisation techniques described in the literature. Which ones were used on Hokitika? Do you know? Does NIWA? Does anybody (other than the individual adjuster)?

    Where are the calculations? Were they accurate? How can other scientists verify or replicate?

    Why is it all such a closely-held secret?

    1. Further to this. Just because you have to use a library to get the information does not make something secret. Also, I take geophysical data from oil wells. I make all manner of adjustments to them all the time in accordance with well-published techniques and use the results without publishing the details of the adjustment. The processing that was done is hidden away in metadata that is accessible if you really needed it but probably tough for joe public to access. The difference here is that what I am doing hasnt suddenly become a political football.

      Also, we had a brief discussion some time ago on whether stratospheric cooling could be caused by other GHG. This arose from the incorrect analogy of the GHG effect as an insulating blanket. The reality is more complex to describe but cooling in the upper stratosphere is a signature CO2 effect.

      Detail at:

      I noted yesterday that Grumbine had made a go at a more readily understandable account of the physics.

      Instead of “insulation analogy”, it is better to think of GHG effect in term of realizing that earth is warmed by the sun AND by the atmosphere. The GHGs cause re-radiation of long wave, some of which goes back to the surface. Of course you can further confirm that the increase in CO2 is increasing the warming by be directly measuring either the increase in radiation coming from the atmosphere or by the decrease in radiation leaving the top of the atmosphere.

  7. Australis, you grab the thesis, check what he said he did, take the original data, do it again. Anyone in the science community can do this. However, this is just ridiculous. At the bottom of this is the idea that if you can cast enough on the temperature record, then global warming will just go away. Cant you see why that is absurd? On top of that NZ is hardly the place where you even expect to find a strong warming signal.

  8. Have you tried picking up the thesis form your local library? It’s about a thousand pages heavy.

    Try to get it from Victoria U : They say this thesis is on “restricted access” – limited to staff and students of Victoria only.

    In any event, nobody really wants to plough through a 30-year-old thesis. This was written in the period the world was fearing a new ice-age, before “greenhouse warming” began, before climate science was a discipline, before four IPCC reports and billions of dollars in research grants.

    What is relevant is the data and reasoning and calculations of NIWA when they recently constructed their 7-station temp record.

  9. I pick up theses when they are needed.

    And the “world fearing a new ice-age” is incorrect. Articles in Newsweek and Time? For survey of what was actually believed, try

    Actually, what do you think is so terribly missing here in terms of data and reasoning and is it somehow going to make global warming go away?

  10. For one thing, I think what might be missing are objective and fully-defensible reasons for adjusting the raw data downwards in respect of the period prior to 1960, and upwards in respect of the period after 1980. At the moment, ANY reasons are missing.

    No, I don’t think global warming will go away. But I think it’s possible New Zealand warming might prove to be a myth.

      1. He didn’t understand it first time round – Or more to the point didn’t WANT to understand it. I can’t see Australis accepting the obvious this time either. It doesn’t fit in with his world view.

    1. Try READING the material in the link I gave you from NIWA. Again, what is missing here that you think should be. As to NZ warming being a myth – what about the snowline then? Is that doctoring of photos if it is not caused by warming.

  11. Okay – so some detail on Hokitika adjustments has finally been released. (And I thought this blog said everything had been disclosed last year). Will look forward to examining it.

    The snowline fluctuates. Driven by changes in precipitation.

    1. The snowline varies with ESNO, but look at the trend. That is what distinguishes climate from weather. I think you will find snowline is heavily temperature dependent too.

      I struggle with your default position which appears to be:
      a/ the experts in this data cant be trusted and biased. We need some clueless amateur to analyse the data instead.
      b/ NZ cant possibly be warming whatever the rest of the world is doing so data must be wrong.

      Now why do you think this? If I am wrong about your thinking, then why the tone of posts?

  12. This fuss is an example of a meme floating around scientists covering their tracks by not providing worksheets, code, etc. for “audit”. I think its mostly a ploy because those doing the screaming wouldnt know how to audit the code anyway, but beside the point. I think normal best practice when uncertain about another scientist’s results is different and frankly better.
    If possible, you would redo the measurements/sampling from scratch. Obviously this is often not practical (only one set of historical temp readings – you dont have time machine; expensive to drill another well in identical position etc). Failing that, you would start with raw data and redo analysis with your software according to what you think best methodology is. Now if you get significantly different results, then at that point, you would start to examine the other person methodology in some detail to see if you can reproduce. Getting different results from slightly different methodologies can be very instructive and tells you something about reality (i.e. get ready to publish a paper). This is the likeliest outcome. It would only be if you cant reproduce the result using the stated methods that you would be contacting the author to find out what is going on. And you would probably go a long way down that road of checking methods before starting to compare codes. An error in the computer code is usually the least likely explanation for a surprising result. Now famously, this is what happened between RSS and UAH, but it was very unusual in that it turned out to be a bug with UAH code. I cant think of another example off the top of my head.

    Someone who cant recreate the analysis from methodology papers isnt qualified to audit a result.

    NZC”S”C kinda went down that road making their own analysis from raw data, apparently without understanding the need for homogenization of temperature station data. So far I would say this mostly reflects badly on their competence to doing such an analysis but by all means redo the homogenization using published methods. But as to question of bias that might creep in, I know who I would trust more.

  13. But that is much harder work… And it means that other scientists then can criticize any mistakes I might have made. That’s not very nice for me… Much easier to go through their work and find something – anything – to criticize. And if they wrote odd comments in their ‘code’ it’s even more funny…

    Seriously though… if anyone is actually interested in the process Phil describes, Tamino at Open Mind is doing exactly this on his blog – step by step replicating the global temperature index from the raw data. It will be interesting to see how closely his final result matches that of the existing indices.

Leave a Reply