Dog legs it after hot topic

dog chasing a horse

Gareth Renowden, in a recent post at his Hot Topic blog, apart from a flash of genuine humour in the heading (“dogging a fled horse”) offers nothing new and requires us to repeat ourselves in pointing out what our regular visitors already know: our questions are reasonable and NIWA has not yet divulged the answers to them.

Mr Renowden queries our statement that NIWA “merely” refers to the scientific literature, patiently explaining to us that “that’s where scientific knowledge is to be found, not in worksheets or computer records” (as though they are the only options).

But we were asking for the specific adjustments to the specific readings from particular thermometers, and we didn’t find them in the citations NIWA gave us. Is that clear enough? We need the adjustments, not references to documents that don’t contain them. If Renowden insists that those documents contain them, he must point them out to us.

He correctly asserts that NIWA’s response says the raw data is available and the methodologies are available. NIWA’s response makes no reference to the station histories and we’re surprised Renowden says they do. Some of the history is available in the CliFlo database, but not all of it.

They cite Salinger’s thesis and records of two conferences. Has Renowden seen the conference proceedings? Let him comment on the usefulness of their contents.

Get Salinger’s thesis from a library? Prove it!

We have yet to obtain a copy of Salinger’s thesis, though we have been working on it. We have been in touch with scientists who have seen it so we have some idea of its contents. It is not quite as helpful as NIWA leads us to believe, but we must of course reserve our judgement until we have it in our hands.

Renowden says he can order one from his local library. Let him order one and report what happens.

His glib advice of how we could construct our own version of the temperature series is far from practical and quite sabotages the purpose of our query, which is to hear NIWA’s statement of what they did and the rightness of it.

The importance of asking is that, in the only seven stations used for the national record, warming is induced in them only because of the adjustments applied to them. To any scientist in any area of study, that raises the question of why.

We know there are reasons for adjustments and have always said so. Why would we demand to see adjustments we thought shouldn’t exist? It is just wrong for Renowden to allege, as he does again here, that our paper claimed that there were “no reasons for any large adjustments”.

What we actually said was NIWA gives no reasons for them.

Don’t put words in my mouth

He says:

Treadgold seems to think that NIWA now accepts that “no reasons for large adjustments are known”, which is risible

and it would be risible, but I don’t think so and I didn’t say so. Where did I say that? He shouldn’t put words in my mouth.

I made a mistake, sorry

I made a mistake the other day, following a comment from James Renwick. That was to think that they had “no records” of the adjustments, and I’m afraid I made rather too much of that. Because what he meant to tell me (and he let me know quite promptly, for which I thanked him) was they had “no worksheets” from Salinger’s original efforts.

It makes little difference, however, to their inability to describe the adjustments with their reasons, because for good understanding you need both. Which is why they are reconstructing them.

Renowden’s huffing and puffing about the emails is empty nonsense. Let him say that the adjustments are in the emails. NIWA don’t even say that, although they deliberately implied so. Funny that they don’t release the copies, isn’t it? They know what’s in them, and it certainly is not the adjustments or their reasons.

Our paper too simple for most people?

Once more, for clarity, our study did a very simple thing. It looked at NIWA’s raw figures, on their web site, and graphed them. Then it compared that graph with NIWA’s own graph, on their web site. Noticing differences, it looked for the reasons. Finding none, it wondered what they were and asked NIWA for them.

Our paper did no more analysis than that, although it expressed strong opinions about the lack of warming before the adjustments. Those opinions were designed to stir the scientists into a dialogue with our scientists, where before there had been a decades-long refusal to engage.

Now, at long last, we have a courteous dialogue and a movement towards clear and open science on a topic that is indeed hot.

We thank NIWA for producing the adjustment schedule for Hokitika and look forward very much to seeing the remainder of the stations.

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4 Thoughts on “Dog legs it after hot topic

  1. Barry Brill on 13/02/2010 at 12:48 am said:

    Richard – If I understand your above entry, James Renwick has commented that NIWA DOES have records of the actual adjustments made to the raw data from the seven temperature stations.

    I find that claim puzzling. The Official Information Act request is posted on the CSC website as is the response from NIWA’s general counsel, Mr Mahood. The request clearly related to copies of ALL original documents (including NIWA’s computer records) relating to the adjustments, and NO copies of any records were offered in response.

    If Dr Renwick was correctly understood,it seems that NIWA may be perilously close to a breach of their legal duties under the OIA.

    • Puzzling is the word.

      Dr Renwick in an email said to me precisely this:

      Yes, the “original worksheets” used by Jim Salinger for his PhD study in the late 1970s have indeed been misplaced, or possibly destroyed. However, the original data upon which his calculations are based are still in existence. We are in the process of re-creating Jim Salinger’s work, and of documenting the adjustments necessary to the various stations – as we indicated in a media release in December. We can check our overall result against the Salinger NZ time series, to see if we get the same answer.

      Four days later, he said this:

      I think you misunderstood my mail last week – the original SOA [Schedule of Adjustments] isn’t gone, it was published in Jim Salinger’s PhD thesis, and has been used in NIWA for many years. What’s “gone” are “the original worksheets”, i.e. Jim Salinger’s working notes from this PhD study. But the results (the SOA, etc) are in his thesis.

      I take from this that Renwick is relying solely and completely on Salinger’s thesis for knowledge of the corrections to apply to the official seven-station temperature record.

      However, to put the cat among the pigeons yet again, today (Friday), just four days later again, the Coalition discovered from a reliable source that neither the actual figures for the adjustments nor their reasons appear anywhere in the thesis.

      Puzzling is the word.

  2. Barry Brill on 13/02/2010 at 12:54 pm said:

    The OIA request asked for copies of all NIWA’s records relating to the adjustments.

    Whether they gathered their information from a student’s thesis, an old textbook or just a bull session at the pub, the NIWA conclusions on it all had to be brought into their records at some point.

    We know the adjusted figures, and the warming trend they created, are in NIWA’s records, because they have been used in the notorious graph on NIWA’s website, and frequently cited by NIWA when offering advice to others.

    Is it possible that NIWA merely replaced the raw figures in the New Zealand national temperature series with the adjusted figures – making no record whatever as to their provenance, their magnitude, their calculation or their purpose? No, because Dr Renwick has said that NIWA has sufficient records to recalculate and justify all of the adjustments.

    Besides, NIWA has an express statutory duty under S 3(c) of the Public Records Act 2005 –

    “– to enable the Government to be held accountable by:
    (i) ensuring that full and accurate records of [its] affairs are created and maintained; and
    (ii) providing for the preservation of, and public access to, records of long-term value;”

    NIWA couldn’t enter adjusted temperatures into the national series without creating a “full and accurate record”. So where is this record?

    And the key question: Why did NIWA refuse to disclose computer records of the adjusted entries, and the data being used for reconstruction, when responding to the Official Information Request? What other records have they concealed?

    • We very much need a copy of the famous Salinger thesis. This student’s paper from 30 years ago plays a vital role in determining the national temperature record. If only we could discover precisely the role it plays!

      For all the shouting from NIWA’s supporters that we “have” the information we’re demanding from NIWA, because it’s in the “publicly-available” thesis, it is surprisingly difficult to lay one’s hands on a copy of it.

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