Lamb’s science to the slaughter

 In David Archibald’s post over at WUWT Premonitions of the Fall (in temperature) there was a comment from Dr Tim Ball that seemed worth giving a bit of separate life.

Hubert Lamb, Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia (Image source: click for link)

The full comment is here but I’ve excerpted most of it:

the IPCC has frozen climate science progress since its inception. Lamb knew what was going to happen as he recorded in his autobiography (1997). He created the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) because

“…it was clear that the first and greatest need was to establish the facts of the past record of the natural climate in times before any side effects of human activities could well be important.”

Lamb foresaw the potential architect for this diversion in the person of Tom Wigley who took over as director of the CRU. In my discussions with Lamb he said he felt his lack of computer skills was limiting. He hired Wigley to fill that gap at the CRU. He learned quickly it was a mistake. Here are his comments from the autobiography.

“The research project which I put forward to the Rockefeller Foundation was awarded a handsome grant, but it sadly came to grief over an understandable difference of scientific judgment between me and the scientists, Dr Tom Wigley, whom we appointed to take charge of the research.”

“The scheme had been to extract the information given in the wealth of descriptive reports of the nature of individual past seasons…”

“My plan was that these reports should be entered on maps of the reported weather character that prevailed in the individual seasons…”

The loss of this project underscores the problems Lamb anticipated because it is from such studies, Lamb recreated without the Rockefeller money, which is the basis for the material in Archibalds comments and Libby and Pandalfi’s predictions.

Lamb identified the problem with Wigley’s appointment and ultimately with the IPCC.

“My immediate successor, Professor Tom Wigley, was chiefly interested in the prospects of world climates being changed as result of human activities, primarily through the burning up of wood, coal, oil and gas reserves…”

“After only a few years almost all the work on historical reconstruction of past climate and weather situations, which first made the Unit well known, was abandoned.”

Wigley was instrumental in the application of computer models but as Lamb knew they were only to be as good as the data on which they were built. They were and continue to be a disaster, while Lamb’s work and the studies it engendered proves prescient.

The predictions Libby and Pandolfi made are based on Lamb’s work with midlatitude cyclonic and wind patterns. Wind remains one of the essentially overlooked components in climate studies. Hans Jelbring recognized this, but like any who knew and dared question what the IPCC were doing were subjected to attacks typical of politics rather than the open discourse essential to science.

As a result of this comment, I found myself reading parts of Lamb’s book: Lamb, Hubert H. (1977). Climatic History and the Future. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press (at least what I could read in the extended preview). Chapter 19 Manmade Climatic Changes is worth a look. It flows beautifully and is hiughly readable – the mark of a good communicator.  It is also refreshingly devoid of bias – in fact it feels almost strange to read such a text, clearly written by a consummate scientist, but completely even-handed in his reporting.  We might imagine he regularly rotates in his grave at the current state of  writing in climate “science”.

I note his plan was to enter historical data on maps and I rather think that maps presenting Anthony’s Surface Stations Data and/or all the historic reports gathered by TonyB might be rather more true to Lamb’s original intentions than the adjusted, highly homogenised data currently presented to serve the political purpose that so disappointed Lamb.

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12 Responses to Lamb’s science to the slaughter

  1. Verity

    As you know, last year I wrote ‘The long slow thaw’

    which compared Lambs temperature reconstructions with those of Michael Mann. In order to write it I had to do a lot of research and reading of the works of both authors and spent a lot of time in the Met office arcives and library and came across some of the material that Lamb himself had used..

    Lambs style has become unfashionable but to me it seems that he was head and shoulders above Mann in his diligence, all round knowledge and lack of an agenda. There is a lot of material out there that Lamb didn’t have access to, for example I am currently on the track of information that might give us some more definitive information as to when the climate deteriorated after the MWP and to that end have been looking through the records at Exeter Cathedral. However I don’t have the respurces necessary to purusue all the lines of enquiry so we need to persuade the Met office to reappraise Lambs work and to continue studies in his vein.

    Now that Lambs son-an MP- is ‘owning minister’ at the Met office, someone with influence might be able to engineer with him the need for the Met office to become more objective.

    • Verity Jones says:

      Hi Tony,
      I was hoping you’d be able to comment. His writing was everything I remember (style not content) from my now-distant days as student. The style may have gone out of favour, but IMHO that’s what’s wrong these days.

  2. Verity

    I am writing an article on periods of arctic melt through the holocene as a follow up to my piece ‘historic variations in arctic ice.’

    I have obtained hundreds of science papers on the arctic and they are almost universally poorly written, contradictory, confused and DULL!

    I hate to say, it but both Phil Jones and Michael Mann write well-Phil Jones in particular, who I suspect is rather more ambivalent about cagw than we might believe. For elegance of writing you have to go a long way (apart from Lamb) to beat Giles Slocum who demolished Callendars paper on co2 back in the 50’s.

    Click to access 001_mwr-083-10-0225.pdf


    • Verity Jones says:

      Slocum’s writing in that paper is certinly very good. Mann and Jones writing may well be good in terms of how they write, but as scientists their writing is much diminished by what they say, and certainly by what they leave out.

  3. John Shade says:

    Tim Ball has been doing (and I hope still is) great work in bringing our attention to Lamb’s legacy. CRU has of course done well financially and politically out of CO2 and temperatures, but at what cost to science and to society? We have seen their less-than-impressive attitudes and methods exposed for all to see in the Climategate emails and other documents. We have seen the climate-alarm bandwagon to which they contributed trundle on to produce societal loss through bio-fuels, windfarms, solar-panel farms, hindering of coal-fired and other conventional power stations, conversion of ‘good cause’ organisations such as WWF into highly-politicised fund-raising-through-scaremongering machines, and possibly the wholesale penetration of negative, scary, and destructive views about humanity and the environment into the education of even the very young. I suspect in the longer term, when this alarm over CO2 has faded from politics, and been raked over by scholars of many disciplines, Lamb will be seen as a moral and scientific giant in comparison with everyone else from CRU.

  4. Bloke down the pub says:

    Perhaps if Hubert Lamb’s son, the Lib Dem MP for North Norfolk Norman Lamb, had read his book, he wouldn’t keep voting for climate change legislation.

  5. Bloke down the pub says:

    Science of the Lambs?

  6. Doug Proctor says:

    The more time one spends in the climate debate, the more one realises that there are very few individuals running the show, and they have been doing it from the beginning. I know that sounds either trite or late-to-the-game, but it is normal in all fields to have a small group create and develop an idea without it coming to such large socio-political end. Perhaps Lysenkoism, Stalinism/GreatLeapForward/PolPotReinventsCambodia are equivalents. But those operated through a totalitarian regime in which the small clique of rulers could do whatever they wanted. The CAGW Cause operates across national boundaries through supposedly democratic processes of discussion and compromise. The “Team” as often described, has been more stable and focused for longer than I realised. Probably more than most realise.

    I have read a lot about the development of witchcraft in Europe. There were not many players at that time, but they had a ready audience and willing “field officers”, i.e. your next-dooor neighbours, to carry the (literal) torch. It would be interesting to time-plot the kings, magistrates and clerics who worked together to get the fear out. The witchcraft fear was also international, cross-religious and trans-Atlantic in its reach. If meme theory is valid, I suspect there are solid underpinnings to both.

    Now, having said this, how global is the fear of CAGW? It is persuasive in the capitalist west, but how much is it either believed or considered action-worthy elsewhere? Nothing coming out of the Maldives is worthy of consideration, considering the self-interest AND hypocrisy of the governement there (as with Vanatu et al). China, India, Malaysia – lip service by governments looking for handouts or the economic self-crippling of the West? The former USSR: same thing, what does the populace and government really think, what are they really about to do?

    The mid-East has a lot of real problems, but CAGW, if true, will impact them. Are they concerned? Are any Islamic states agitated? Now, lets try Central and South America, and Africa. Outside of handouts, are the people and leaders in these places worried about their extinction within 38 years (2050) as Hansen might have it?

    I’m answering my own question. The witchcraft craze of the 1400s – 1700s was a western European, Christian event. I can only see a similar support for CAGW. Is there a Satan-CO2-anti-Christ consistent theme here? Is Hansen a born-again Christian operating more from a religious requirement to save His creation from evil, than a scientist seeing a non-optional death of mankind through CO2?


  7. Reblogged this on The GOLDEN RULE and commented:
    A very good article dealing with the workings of “science” and the relationship of its validity to the presentation of it, the honesty of the presenter and the agenda bias that exists and influences it!

    “The research project which I put forward to the Rockefeller Foundation was awarded a handsome grant, but it sadly came to grief over an understandable difference of scientific judgment between me and the scientists, Dr Tom Wigley, whom we appointed to take charge of the research.”

  8. I have been reading through Lamb’s “Climate: Past, Present and Future” and will be posting a review shortly. It makes for much interesting reading, both historically and in how Lamb and others saw things in the 1970’s.

  9. ArndB says:

    The House of Lords (Session 1988-89), „Selected Committee on Science and Technology“ on the GREENHOUSE EFFECT, took evidence from a number of experts, including T.M.L. Wigley, p. 4ff; here p. 10/11, extracts)

    Lord Kearton
    29. Is not the degree of uncertainty influenced by the oceans? The oceans cover four fifths of the world’s surface.
    (Professor Wigley) The oceans are one of the major areas of uncertainty, and one of the major areas of required development in modelling. The models that are used today are basically atmospheric models, coupled to very simple ocean models………(cont.)

    Lord Clitheroe
    34. 40 years ago, my tutor when I was at Oxford was teaching me just this same subject, except that he was saying at that time the probability was that the raising of the temperature would alter the currents of the sea to make the climate of England colder rather than hotter.
    (Professor Wigley) I think that is extremely unlikely, although that is one of those stories that still crops up every now and again in the press.

    The last real climatologist was presumably HH Lamb. However, the ocean was not his subject either.

  10. Paul

    That is the most thumbed book in the climate section of my bookshelf. I would also thoroughly recommend ‘History and climate-memories of the future’ edited by Jones/Ogilvie/Davies and Briffa.

    They contribute just a couple of introductory pages (jones is nowhere near as committed to agw as he perhaps seems) whilst the rest is divided into various topics, including a chapter on the great warming of 1700-1740 which was every bit as great as the current one. It is a topic on which I hope to write in the future as we seem to have forgotten about it (despite my trying to bring it to peoples attention!)

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