Beef with Curry

With some heated Stoat on the side

I used to know Dr. Judith Curry pretty well — heck, she even gave me a jacket quote for Hell and High Water! Now I obviously don’t.

Everyone who follows climate science should read what is easily the most revealing interview I’ve ever seen a scientist give. Be sure to read all the comments, since they are even more revealing.

Curry 2.0 lumps Gavin Schmidt and Richard Lindzen together as basically two sides of the same coin — Not (see “Re-discredited climate denialists in denial”). She repeatedly labels the Wegman report — aka the “Independent” critique of Hockey Stick revealed as fatally flawed right-wing anti-science set up — a National Research Council report, which is a blatantly false statement. The Wegman report is to real NRC report on the Hockey Stick what Lindzen is to Schmidt.

She labels my blog, RealClimate, and all others in blogger Keith Kloor’s blogroll “warmist sites.” That actually is another untrue statement (he includes the anti-science website PlanetGore, for instance), but she’s annoyed he doesn’t link to the extremist anti-science site WattsUpWithThat! Seriously.


Curry 2.0 pigeonholes into the “warmist” tribe anybody who articulates the understanding of climate science that we now have ascertained based on direct observations, basic physics, and the peer-reviewed literature. But if she has a single disagreement with anyone in the anti-science tribe, she keeps it to herself.

I interviewed Curry 1.0 a number of times and quoted her work on the hurricane-warming connection at length for my 2006 book, “Hell and High Water” (click on “Look Inside” for back jacket quote). Later, I spent a day giving talks with her in various Florida cities. She reviewed large parts of my book and heard my give a couple of talks and I’ve never once heard her dispute my characterization of the science. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away — well, 2007, anyway — she wrote a response to Bjorn Lomborg in the Washington Post that would appear to be at completely odds with her current warmist-skeptic spin.

Since I’m a tad too focused on dealing with the climate-bill blow up to do a point by point, I thought I’d reprint — with permission — the excellent dissection of Curry’s comments by former climate modeler William M. Connolley (aka Stoat) titled, simply, “Curry”:

Eventually I decided to tone down the headline; Curry is wrong about a great many things, I think, but let’s be polite. So, all this is prompted by her Q+A for Keith Kloor. I fear I am going to have to read it. All of this segues into the “tribalist” stuff that I’m going to have to write sometime; but not now. Onwards.

So, Curry said the Oxburgh investigation has little credibility in my opinion…. When KK tasks her on this, she backs off a bit: what she means is, it doesn’t cover the areas she is interested in. Well, tough. If she wants her own inquiry, with her own terms of reference, she should set one up. I don’t see any ack from her that we’ve had two inquiries so far that have found nothing worth the effort. The septics have nailed their colours to the mast over this — as far as they are concerned, inquiries finding nothing necessarily implies black helicopters. Hopefully Curry isn’t going to fall off that cliff, but she is teetering.

Some of the stuff she says here shows evidence of failure to think. For example: Criticisms of the Oxburgh report that have been made include: bias of some of the members including the Chair — ah — she means that as an ex-Chair of Shell he is obviously pro-industry? Oh no, funnily enough that wasn’t what she meant (it is a shame that KK isn’t alert enough to push her on that one).

The other whinge she has is shamelessly derived from the septics not examining the papers that are at the heart of the controversies. Well, that too is spiffy. Unfortunately the septics haven’t said what papers they would have liked to have included, and so Curry doesn’t know either. Hopefully they’ll let her know in a while and she can pass the ideas on [Update: I missed a bit: they did let her know, and she has added one of her own. See the updates].

[JR: For background on Oxburgh report, see “Climatic Research Unit scientists cleared (again).”]

Corruptions to the IPCC process that I have seen discussed include. This seems to be the most deliberately provocative bit. What has she got to justify this? A repeat of the von S claim from 2005 that the IPCC folk writing the AR’s need to be independent of the work. I commented on Von S’s stuff a while ago… but that wasn’t the commentary I wanted. Oh well, I’ll repeat myself: I don’t think it is realistic to find a pile of independent experts to review this stuff. Anyone who knows it is involved.

As for the rest: it is very thin, and noticeably free of actual examples. Again, I think KK should have pushed her on this. However, the septics won’t care, because they get to use “IPCC is currupt says Curry” in their headlines and they don’t care about the details. I care, because Curry is making vague brad-brush allegations and seems to feel no need to substantiate what she is saying.

There is then some ranting about how the CRU inquiries didn’t cover Chapter 2.3 in the IPCC WG1 Third Assessment Report. Can Curry really have missed the NRC (and, less credibly, the Wegman) reports? Why does she want another one? The subtext here appears to be Curry-hates-Mann and wants people to keep having reports until one of them damm well convicts him of something, anything. She also doesn’t know what an “elephant in the room” is — the phrase means, something large and important that people aren’t prepared to talk about. And the MBH reconstruction is most certainly talked about.

What else? Well, a senior leader at one of the big climate modeling institutions told me that climate modelers seem to be spending 80% of their time on the IPCC production runs, and 20% of their time developing better climate models. As it happens, a small stoat I met on the footpath told me the direct opposite, and I believe it. So we’re in stalemate. The only difference is I’m not spamming my scuttlebutt onto a blog. Oh, wait…

And there is a huge rush of journal article submissions just before the IPCC deadlines. Bloody hell, really? Who would have guessed it, eh? It is also a fact that a large fraction of the scientific literature is derivative twaddle, of interest mostly to the people that need to push up their publication count. Everyone knows that too. But it keeps journals in business, and no-one can afford to step off the treadmill, so it keeps going. Never mind, people know to avoid the 80% that is dross, so (for those on the inside) it does no great harm, even if to those on the outside it looks bad. Just like the IPCC deadlines, really.

some topics where I think the confidence levels in the IPCC are too high — this section is at least defensible. I think it is wrong, and I think it is again rather telling that she chooses to skip over the actual content too lightly, but fair enough: there is room for disagreement there. Were she actually to make a substantive arguement, there would be something to talk about. But she hasn’t, so there isn’t, yet.

On speaking out JC: At the beginning, I… was very leery of getting misquoted by the media. WMC: “Ah, but now you have cast fear aside and show not the slightest regret for saying things that are very easy to misquote”. JC: “Gavin Schmidt and Richard Lindzen are saying, well, what you would expect them to say. I and a few others (e.g. Von Storch, Hulme) are trying to provoke reflection…” — ah, look at the casual careless lazy putting of people onto sides. GS is the opposite of RL. Meanwhile, thoughtful people like JC and von S are trying to think (mt picks up on this in the comments; it is an obvious point; again, I would have hoped that KK would have noticed).

Summary: I congratulate KK for getting the interview done, and note his comment #21 (in his comments) that back-and-forth is difficult (but I still think he should have tried). The major feelingI have from all this is that Curry won’t go into detail, and it isn’t clear if she hasn’t really thought it through, or is lazy, or is too busy, or is afraid to commit herself, or what. If she actually cares about all this, and she says she does, then she really needs to write it down, carefully, with examples and documentation. Let me raise one obvious specific: she has attacked the Oxburgh report for looking at the wrong, or not enough, papers. Which important ones does she think were omitted?

But… I hear you say, that was nothing but criticism. Shirley there was *something* good in what she wrote, or her fundamental premise? Who, after all, could disagree with calls for Integrity. Well, this as I said segues into the Tribalism stuff. And while we’re on Hidden Motives and other dark stuff, I do get the feeling that Curry is very Anti-Mann for reasons that she won’t articulate clearly. I think I’ll reserve any praise I might wish to offer Curry for later. At the moment I’m not that way inclined.

Addendum: I’ve just noticed At the heart of this issue is how climate researchers deal with skeptics. I have served my time in the “trenches of the climate war” in the context of the debate on hurricanes and global warming over at Romm’s place. To take the last point first: has she? Where? [Update: Curry’s answer to this is comment 31] Also, I’ve just noticed but not yet done more than skimmed it. I don’t think it answers my desire for more detail. On the first point: if that really *is* the heart of the issue… then why is she spending so much time on the periphery?

[Updates: Curry doesn’t quite say “I don’t hate Mann” but she does assert (see comment #21, which may or may not be carefully phrased I’m not sure) that she has had little interaction with him.

Also, (see comment 3) my snark about not proposing papers isn’t right: Curry *has* indeed parrotted the skeptics in proposing “Jones 1998 and Osborn and Briffa 2006”. I now need to see if these are interesting. That will first involve identifying the papers concerned; scholar proposes several Jones et al. 1998, but no Jones 1998, so I don’t know which one she means -W]

[Update: guesses seem to be correct, see comment 24. Curry confirms via email that the papers she means are:

1. Science 10 February 2006:”¨Vol. 311. no. 5762, pp. 841–844″¨DOI: 10.1126/science.1120514 Prev | Table of Contents | NextThe Spatial Extent of 20th-Century Warmth in the Context of the Past 1200 YearsTimothy J. Osborn* and Keith R. Briffa

2. GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 30, NO. 15, 1820, doi:10.1029/2003GL017814, 2003Global surface temperatures over the past two millenniaMichael E. Mann and Philip D. Jones

3. Jones, P. D., K. R. Briffa, T. P. Barnett, and S. F. B. Tett, High-resolution palaeclimatic records for the last millennium: Interpretation, integration and camparison with General Circulation Model control-run tempera- tures, The Holocene, 8, 455–471, 1998.I think #2 has been added now, and wasn’t one of the two listed earlier, but that is OK.


Since Curry doesn’t blog, and she hardly ever defines her terms, there really isn’t a lot more to go on to figure out what she believes.

I will (try to) do another post on this later this week.

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