Climategate: How to Hide the Sun

The Climategate crowd successfully worked to obscure the connection between solar activity and climate. The leaked CRU e-mails reveal how.

In 2003, two Harvard-Smithsonian Professors, Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas, published a peer-reviewed paper in the scientific journal Climate Research which identified solar activity as a major influence on Earth's climate. This paper also concluded that the twentieth century was not the warmest, nor was it the century with the most extreme weather over the past thousand years. These two scientists reviewed more than two hundred sources of data. The paper specifically examined climate variations observed to coincide with solar variations. One of the more notable correlations cited in this paper is the well-documented coincidence of the Little Ice Age and a solar quiet period from A.D. 1300 to A.D. 1900. Soon and Baliunas asserted that the lack of solar activity resulted in cooler temperatures across the globe. The evidence they compiled also indicated that as the sun became more active global temperatures began to rise and the Little Ice Age ended.

In the past, the issue of the solar connection has always fallen down on one question; what is it about sunspots that cause a change in the climate? Soon and Baliunas identified the physical connection as solar wind, which varies on an eleven-year cycle similar to sunspots'. The solar wind is made up of high-energy particulate radiation and when strong enough, it has a visible effect upon the atmosphere in the form of auroral displays in the polar regions (e.g., the Northern Lights). Some instances of solar wind were so powerful that the aurora was seen even in lower latitude, as happened during the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia during the War Between the States (Civil War). Both armies were so distracted by the intensity of the display that the battle actually paused as the soldiers, North and South, watched in awe.

With such convincing evidence, the Soon and Baliunas paper became the target of a great deal of criticism from the gang led by the now-discredited Dr. Jones of the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at East Anglia University in Britain. The recently uncovered e-mails from him and his collaborators show an orchestrated effort to discredit the work of these two scholars.

What is also notable is that Soon's and Baliunas's references were the very same data that the Jones Gang had reviewed and suppressed. The data in question is known as proxy data. Proxy data is data compiled from tree rings, sediments, and ice cores, as well as other indirectly measured estimates of temperature. Correlating an accurate timeline for these data sets across the globe is supremely difficult, but these proxy data sources were beginning to indicate a cycle or signal which might expedite the process. This signal was thought by some in the Jones Gang to be a solar cycle.

The discussion of solar influences is brought up in an e-mail from Dr. Daly, dated 9 August 1996. Dr. Daly uncovered an eleven-year signal in the temperature data set from the island of Tasmania. He found this signal by using a mathematical signal analysis formula known as a Fourier Transform. It is clear from the tone of his e-mail that he knows this is not welcome news, but he goes on to state the following concerning the temperature data set compiled by the Jones Gang:

(I tried the same run [Fourier Transform] on the CRU global temperature set. Even though CRU must be highly smoothed by the time all the averages are worked out, the 11-year pulse is still there, albeit about half the size of Sydneys).

The eleven-year cycle corresponds exactly with the one observed on the sun. This fact was kept secret by the Jones Gang.

Correlating the timeline of these proxy data was identified as problematic by Dr. Wigley, another member of the Jones Gang, in an e-mail dated 12 Aug 1996. In his effort to correlate the data, Dr. Wigley concludes that the solar signal is strong enough to convince him that solar forcing is a major factor in climate change:

(4) Causes. Here, ice cores are more valuable (CO2, CH4 and volcanic aerosol changes). But the main external candidate is solar, and more work is required to improve the "paleo" solar forcing record and to understand how the climate system responds both globally and regionally to solar forcing.

What is significant about this paragraph is that it identifies the main cause of climate change as "solar forcing," not carbon dioxide (CO2). This fact was also kept secret.

Remarkably, this was exactly what Soon and Baliunas published in their Climate Research paper. The solar correlation became a lightning rod. More than a dozen e-mails from the Jones Gang discuss how to discredit Soon and Baliunas. Ultimately, the gang decide to compile a new paper to counter the conclusion made by Soon and Baliunas, as detailed in an e-mail from Dr. Scott Rutherford dated the 12 March 2003. Dr. Rutherford does not go head-to-head with the data presented in the Climate Research paper, but he seemingly wishes to "cook" other data to counter the honest work of Soon and Baliunas, as stated by the following:

First, I'd be willing to handle the data and the plotting/mapping. Second, regarding Mike's suggestions, if we use different reference periods for the reconstructions and the models we need to be extremely careful about the differences. Not having seen what this will look like, I suggest that we start with the same instrumental reference period for both (1xxx xxxx xxxx). If you are willing to send me your series please send the raw (i.e. unfiltered) series. That way I can treat them all the same. We can then decide how we want to display the results.

Dr. Rutherford goes on to suggest that Soon and Baliunas should be dealt with severely:

... there is nothing we can do about them aside from continuing to publish quality work in quality journals (or calling in a Mafia hit).

It seems clear that the Jones Gang felt threatened by the Climate Research paper. By all appearances, they saw the threat as significant enough to consider the scientific equivalent of evidence-tampering in order to hide the sun. Is this the kind of reaction we would expect from scientists interested in the truth? Or is it what we would expect from the infamous Mafioso John Gotti?

Perhaps William Shakespeare said it best in his famous play of conspiracy and intrigue, Hamlet: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."
If you experience technical problems, please write to