Max Andersson

Grön politik. Oftast om klimatpolitik, EU, och integritet.

07 mars 2010

Climate sceptics are wrong about Phil Jones and SMHI

On March 5 the Stockholm Initiative, a swedish climate sceptic campaign group sent a press-release accusing the leading climate researcher professor Phil Jones of lying about the swedish meterological institute SMHI:s policy of not allowing others to disclose their climate data.

SMHI and some other meterological organisations have been allowing scientists to use data free of charge for research, but the researchers have not been allowed to release the data to the public. This concers only a small part of the data used in climate research, but the fact that the researchers are not allowed to release all of their data have been used by people who wish to discredit the findings.

I have written before in Aftonbladet about why the SMHI should release their climate data to the public so I found this pressrelease very strange and decided to fact-check it.
Climate scientist delivers false statement in parliament enquiry

It has come to our attention, that last Monday (March 1), Dr. Phil Jones, head of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (CRU), in a hearing with the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee made a statement in regards to the alleged non-availability for disclosure of Swedish climate data.

Dr. Jones asserted that the weather services of several countries, including Sweden, Canada and Poland, had refused to allow their data to be released, to explain his reluctance to comply with Freedom of Information requests.

This statement is false and misleading in regards to the Swedish data.

All Swedish climate data are available in the public domain. As is demonstrated in the attached correspondence between SMHI (Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute), the UK Met Office and Dr. Jones (the last correspondence dated yesterday March 4), this has been clearly explained to Dr. Jones. What is also clear is that SMHI is reluctant to be connected to data that has undergone “processing” by the East Anglia research unit.

Göran Ahlgren, secretary general
The correspondence can be found here.
This press-release have gained considerable attention on climate denier blogs but contains many factual errors. To begin with swedish data is not in the public domain. SMHI have recently made some data available on the internet for non commercial use, but under the explicit condition that the recipient is not allowed to disclose the data.

The license agreement is very easy to find, and if you are able to read swedish the license agreement can be read here. Paragraphs §3.2 and 4.1 are the relevant ones and here's a rough translation of §4.1
4.1 The Licensee does not own the right på disclose, send on, link to or in any other way spread the contents of the data and/or products that has been recieved in accordance with this agreement to a third part.
This is not public domain.

But it is however standard policy for SMHI, and for most of the european weather organisations. There are even some sort of common guidelines for this sort of thing. The SMHI and others are allowing scientists free access to their data, but they are not allowed to re-publish the data.

When I researched my article I asked the helpful and informative SMHI staff why this is so, and apart from the fact that the others are also doing it, they said they want to keep the responsibility for their own data to be correct. This policy is not unreasonable from a bureucratic perspective, but I do think it should be changed.

Anyway, the reluctance to let others re-publish their data is a matter of policy.

Another strange thing in the press-release is that the Stocholm Initiative is complaing about Phil Jones on March 1 not having read a letter from SMHI that wasn't even sent until three days later on March 4. I do believe that is a bit much to ask.

In that letter, which the SMHI sent after the hearings, they decided to make an exception and give the CRU permission to publish the data-set.

So in summary: The Stockholm Initiative accused Phil Jones of lying about the policy of SMHI, but the statement was actually true. And three days later the SMHI changed their minds for the better.

But the icing on this cake can be found in the transcript of the hearing in the british parliament. It turns out the statement that the climate sceptis accused of being a lie was not even made by Phil Jones but by professor Edward Acton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Anglia. It is still true, of course.

The Stockholm Initiative really need to start doing their homework.

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At 07 mars, 2010 23:58, Blogger The Blob said...

good spot. I was just reading through the transcript of the parliament hearing and was suprised when I got to the part where professor acton made the point about the Swedish data.

Having read skeptics accuse Jone's of lying I was completely astounded that they had not only got the facts wrong but also got the wrong guy.

Got onto google to see if anyone else had pointed this out and your blog post comes up first.

At 08 mars, 2010 01:34, Blogger Els said...

Mycket tack for this piece, Max Andersson.

If the Stockholm Initiative would start doing their homework, they would probably lose their raison d'être.

At 08 mars, 2010 09:42, Blogger Anders Martinsson said...

Snyggt jobbat!
Ju fler som uppmärksammar Stockholmsinitiativets lögner, desinformation och osakligheter desto bättre.

At 08 mars, 2010 14:39, Blogger Bo Jonsson said...

Mycket bra. Speciellt att du skriver på engelska, så att även folk i de anglosaxiska länderna får upp ögonen för haveristerna på SI.

Jag skriver en blänkare om det här på min blogg och länkar. Mitt bidrag till att sprida inlägget - via fler googleträffar.

At 08 mars, 2010 21:08, Anonymous Anonym said...

Det här då? Om offentlighetsprincipen motsvaras i UK av FOIA, är det inte detta som gäller?

4.2 För det fall data rekvireras av statlig eller kommunal myndighet eller motsvarande och som sådana underkastad offentlighetsprincipen, är parterna medvetna om att denna part under vissa förhållanden kan åläggas att utlämna information som inryms i allmän handling som annars skulle vara konfidentiell enligt punkt 4.1, ovan, till tredje part. Sådant utlämnande skall icke utgöra kontraktsbrott enligt detta avtal.

At 08 mars, 2010 21:34, Blogger Simon said...

You don't need to luck further than Stockholmsiniativets own text to suspect that SMHI:s data isn't public domain - if it was, how could they have any sort of problem with CRU republishing it, processed or not? This "press release" isn't even internally consistent. Good work, Max.

At 10 mars, 2010 19:26, Blogger mrsean said...

The SMHI may well have a standard set of conditions that prohibit redistribution of raw data by default.

However permission to pass on raw data was *not* the basis of Phil Jones' request, and these standard conditions were *not* given as the primary reason for refusing permission:

"Given the information that the version of the data from the SMHI stations that you hold are likely to differ from the data we hold, SMHI do not want the data to be released on your web site."

In other words it was refused on the grounds that it was altered. Now this may be subject to clarification, but this is very clearly the request and reasoning at the time.

At 10 mars, 2010 22:22, Blogger Max Andersson said...

When I have spoken with the SMHI about their policy on data disclosure, their main reason for not allowing scientists who are allowed access to their data to disclose it is that they are very concerned about accuracy. They want to keep the responsibility for the accuracy of their own data, and wouldn't want other versions of their data floating around on the net.

This was roughly what they told me about their policy in early december.

And then they got a letter from someone who not only wanted to re-publish their data, but also said that it's highly likely that part of it might differ from their current holdings due to homogenisation and quality control.

So they said no. It´s probably just as simple as that.

At 10 mars, 2010 22:32, Blogger mrsean said...

Thanks Max, I appreciate the reply.

So the position is that if the SMHI happened to have the data in question available on, say, FTP somewhere, they would have had no issue in principle with allowing that original data to be referenced?

As it wasn't readily to hand, they declined to allow a copy "in the wild" to be referenced as there was no guarantee it was an accurate copy of their data?


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