I want to begin this series of posts with something simple and silly – an issue that isn’t really important, but does show how ridiculous Mann’s actions can be. What better way than something with the incredibly stupid name, “Excelgate” (name coined by Mann’s defender Boris)?
Michael Mann argued in his book (Chapter 8, note #45) the early criticisms raised by Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick about the original hockey stick:
were false, resulting from their misunderstanding of the format of a spreadsheet version of the dataset they had specifically requested from my associate, Scott Rutherford. None of the problems they cited were present in the raw, publicly available version of our dataset, which was available at that time at ftp://holocene.evsc.virginia.edu/pub/MBH98/.
This claim is similar to what he told the Penn State Inquiry Mann now claims shows he was innocent of the charges leveled against him:
The issue of an “incorrect version” of the data came about because Dr. McIntyre had requested the data (which were already available on the FTP site) in spreadsheet format, and Dr. Rutherford, early on, had unintentionally sent an incorrectly formatted spreadsheet.
You’ll note in Mann’s book, he claimed his critics misunderstood the format of a file, yet Mann told the Penn State Inquiry the file in question was “incorrectly formatted.” It’s difficult to imagine why he’d give contradictory stories. It’s even worse when one looks into what those stories say.
Interestingly, a colleague and sometimes co-author of Mann’s, Tim Osborn, e-mailed Michael Mann (and several others) saying:
The mention of ftp sites and excel files is contradicted by their email record on their website, which shows no mention of excel files (they say an ASCII file was sent) and also no record that they knew the ftp address.
However, that was written years before the Penn State Inquiry and Michael Mann’s book existed. A more fair comparison would be between that e-mail and what Michael Mann said around the same time:
The spreadsheet file they used was a complete distortion of the actual Mann et. al. proxy data set, and was essentially useless, particularly in the earlier centuries. The authors had access to the full data, which has been available on a public ftp site for nearly two years. When they noticed, as described in their paper, some signs of problems with the Excel spreadsheet version of the data, one might think that they would have bothered to check the data available on our public ftp site.
In contemporary times, Mann said the “spreadsheet file they used was… essentially useless.” In his answers to the Penn State Inquiry he said the file was incorrectly formatted. Both of these contradict his book which blames his critics for misunderstanding a file. Obviously, if a file is “essentially useless,” we cannot the fault of people viewing it.
While the inconsistent stories are problematic, what is far more problematic is Michael Mann told a blatant untruth. He claimed, more than once, Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick requested the data “in spreadsheet format.” As his co-author observes, that contradicts the publicly available correspondence (contained in the last link). That correspondence clearly shows no spreadsheet was ever requested nor sent. In reality, McIntyre requested an FTP site for the data. He got this response from Scott Rutherford:
The proxies aren’t actually all in one ftp site (at least not to my knowledge). I can get them together if you give me a few days. Do you want the raw 300+ proxies or the 112 that were used in the MBH98 reconstruction?
This seemingly contradicts Mann’s repeated claim the data was already available in an FTP site. It certainly shows if there was an FTP site, it is not McIntyre or McKitrick’s fault for being unaware of it. They specifically asked for it and weren’t given it. Moreover, Mann’s own co-author wasn’t even aware of it!
McIntyre e-mailed Mann in November 2003, saying:
you are reported as stating that we requested an Excel file and that you instead directed us to an FTP site for the MBH98 data. You are also reported as saying that despite having pointed us to the FTP site, you and your colleague took trouble to prepare an Excel spreadsheet, but inadvertently introduced some collation errors at that time. In fact, as you no doubt recall, we did not request an Excel spreadsheet, but specifically asked for an FTP location, which you were unable or unwilling to provide. Nor was an Excel spreadsheet ever supplied to us; instead we were given a text file, pcproxy. txt. Nor was this file created in April 2003. After we learned on October 29, 2003 that the pertinent data was reported to be located on your FTP site ftp://holocene.evsc.virginia.edu/pub (and that we were being faulted for not getting it from there), we examined this site and found it contains the exact same file (pcproxy.txt) as the one we received, bearing a date of creation of August 8, 2002. On October 29, 2003, your FTP site also contained the file pcproxy.mat, a Matlab file, the header to which read: MATLAB 5.0 MAT-file, Platform: SOL2, Created on: Thu Aug 8 10:18:19 2002. Both files contain identical data to the file pcproxy.txt emailed to one of us (McIntyre) in April 2003, including all collation errors, fills and other problems identified in MM. It is therefore clear that the file pcproxy.txt as sent to us was not prepared in April 2003 in response to our requests, nor was it prepared as an Excel spreadsheet, but in fact it was prepared many months earlier with Matlab. It is also clear that, had we gone to your FTP site earlier, we would simply have found the same data collation as we received from Scott Rutherford.
In addition to what I’ve discussed above, this e-mail shows the file McIntyre received was prepared prior to his request, thus it couldn’t have been created in response to him requesting it. Moreover, the FTP site where Mann says the data was available contained the exact same material as the supposedly requested file.
McIntyre did not request a spreadsheet. No file was prepared in response to a request from him. The FTP site Mann says McIntyre should have used contained the exact same file McIntyre did use. He told all this to Mann, and Mann responded by forwarding the e-mail to other people (as seen here), leading to this comment by Mann’s sometimes co-author Tim Osborn:
I do wish Mike had not rushed around sending out preliminary and incorrect early responses – the waters are really muddied now.
Finally, Mann’s claim McIntyre and McKitrick’s results were due to their use of a particular file are false on their face. McIntyre and McKitrick closely examined the data errors in the file they received, comparing them in detail to the data provided by original sources listed by Mann et al (no quotes provided due to the length of this post).
Put simply, everything Michael Mann made about Excelgate was false. Not only was it all false, almost all of it was said without any basis. Mann was directly told the things he said were false, at least one of his sometimes co-authors indicated to him they were false, and Mann even expressed his own confusion about the various issues:
Take a look at this. You need to explain to us (don’t email this guy anything!) the various versions of the data. I’m really confused, and we need to know the precise history of when the individual MBH98 records were posted, and when the various matlab format files were posted, and in response to what requests, and these latest changes that were made on Oct 29, 2003??
we really now need to know exactly when the data were made available. They claim that the matrix versions of the data files were posted on the ftp site before their request for the data. I’m really confused by this.
Yet despite all that, Michael Mann has, for years, repeated his false claims about an Excel spreadsheet requested by Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick being the reason they got different results. He even told this fabricated story to one of the “investigations” which cleared him, and they made no effort to check his story.
That means when Mann now expects people to take that “investigation” as proof of his innocence, he’s basically asking them to believe his story which has no connection to reality. In reality, people should take this as proof that “investigation” was not an investigation in any meaningful sense, and its conclusions are untrustworthy, at best.
Or to put it even more simply, Mann has lied about this issue over and over, for years, despite all evidence showing his stories are untrue and those stories often contradicting each other.
And Mann’s defenders are cool with that.