Right Opinion

Does the Hockey Stick Belong in the Penalty Box?

Joe Bastardi · Jun. 12, 2014

My wife is a big Rangers fan and I have been watching some of the Stanley Cup playoffs. I am a bigger fan of hockey in person. The game is as fast paced and tough as one can possibly get. Of course I like boxing too, and I remember once I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out.

Snare shot please.

Actually, I do understand the reason for fighting in hockey. I once met someone who lead the NHL in penalties when he played, and he explained it to me. It has to do with protecting people – except in hockey you don’t pay for protection; you have someone that makes the other guy pay by protecting your guy.

Since I have no attention span, whenever the word hockey appears, I naturally think of the hockey stick, made famous by Dr. Michael Mann. It is the indirect reason for some lawsuits right now that have people at each other’s throats over issues that, in my opinion, can be settled with open debate and transparency. It has also been referred to countless times as the reason immediate action must be taken to counter the onslaught of man-made global warming.

I am not one to skate on thin ice, so this is not a personal attack on Dr. Mann. But given the Stanley cup going on, I thought I would ask a couple of questions in a gentlemanly fashion about the Hockey Stick.

1.) If the medieval warm period was local, where was it cold? Is it right to assume that if there is no change in the earth’s temperature – as the hockey stick says – and if we know that a place was warm, shouldn’t you then show us where it was cold? I was not aware that in science you simply make that assumption without proof.

2.) The objection by a lot of people is that for 950 plus years tree rings were used, then discarded when it did not agree with thermometer recordings.

Here is a closer view:

Do you have sympathy for antagonists who are not allowed to see your code and question this? The other question (and this is for me personally): When did changing standards in the middle of a study become acceptable? I know I only have a B.S. in meteorology from PSU back in 1978, but in every physics or chemistry lab I took part in, every instrument and measurement had to be controlled – no switching any ways of calculation. Have things changed, or are they different for undergrads than they are once you enter the realm of PHD?

Now here is what is very puzzling.

Liu’s tree ring study, seen here, has no hockey stick.


a.) How does this study see the medieval warm period and the current warming, in line with the instruments, but your study does not? If your answer is pollution, then how can it be a representation of global proportions if there would obviously be differences here where pollution did not have an effect?

b.) Why should we accept the “hockey stick” with a change in methods of calculations when we have other examples that actually show the warming the thermometers are showing, but also show the previous warm periods?

c.) Would you not agree that the way to satisfy this, and many other questions, would not be in a court of law, but comparison of methodology and a free exchange of data and ideas?

Perhaps this is like a hockey game. There is a lot of blood in hockey, there are enforcers that make the opponent pay dearly for competing, and there seems to be a lot of skating around the main issue of what is really right and wrong with these studies. I guess it is up to the courts to decide who is on thin ice here, but the shame is that, at least in hockey, there is a winner and loser. It seems to me that without the freedom to truly examine and debate these ideas by looking at what was actually done, there are no winners here – only losers.

Joe Bastardi is chief forecaster at WeatherBELL Analytics, a meteorological consulting firm.

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