Documentation Of A Cozy Interaction Between An AMS BAMS Editor And Phil Jones

In one set of e-mails at

Climategate 2 FOIA 2011 Searchable Database

there is an  exchange of e-mails between an author and an Editor of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Association [Chet Ropelewski].  The paper was eventually published in

Mahmood, R., R.A. Pielke Sr., K.G. Hubbard, D. Niyogi, G. Bonan, P. Lawrence, B. Baker, R. McNider, C. McAlpine, A. Etter, S. Gameda, B. Qian, A. Carleton, A. Beltran-Przekurat, T. Chase, A.I. Quintanar, J.O. Adegoke, S. Vezhapparambu, G. Conner, S. Asefi, E. Sertel, D.R. Legates, Y. Wu, R. Hale, O.W. Frauenfeld, A. Watts, M. Shepherd, C. Mitra, V.G. Anantharaj, S. Fall,R. Lund, A. Nordfelt, P. Blanken, J. Du, H.-I. Chang, R. Leeper, U.S. Nair, S. Dobler, R. Deo, and J. Syktus, 2010: Impacts of land use land cover change on climate and future research priorities. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 91, 37–46, DOI: 10.1175/2009BAMS2769.1

but a key recommendation of ours was required by the Editor to be diluted.  I viewed then (and still do) that this was an inappropriate action by the Editor, and the just released e-mails suggests why Chet made this decision.

I have reordered the newly released e-mails so they are from the earliest to the latest, as well as highlighted in a few places.  The exchange started innocently enough when Phil Jones was asked to review a submitted manuscript by Chet Ropelewski. However, as the exchange continued Phil Jones slams the paper but without being a formal referee, and the Editor starts making his own review comments before he had received reviews from others. Phil should have recused himself from any comments on the paper.

I have interacted with Chet Ropelewski  in other venues  and thought him quite objective. However, this exchange exposes a coziness which is inappropriate for an Editor. It provides a good example of the “old boys” club even among those who are otherwise not tainted by the bias and prejudices we see is systemic in the leadership role in climate science.

The Climategate #2 e-mails are presented below

At 16:24 17/02/2009, you wrote:

Hi Phil,

Among the jobs that I can’t seem to retire from is Climate  Variability/Change Editor of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS). I’m asking for your help as a reviewer. The submission is “Impacts of Land Use Land Cover Change on Climate and Future Research Priorities” by R. Mahmood and 37 co-authors. Given the number of co-authors and their affiliations it is a challenge to find un-conflicted reviewers who know the subject.

My comment:  While Phil Jones is certainly well-qualified to debate aspects of our paper, he is not an “un-conflicted” referee.

The paper is actually a conference summary, fairly broad ranging, running 25 double-space pages. I would need comments in about 4 to 5 weeks.

If you are not able to serve as a reviewer I would appreciate  suggestions for alternatives, preferably outside the U.S. given the extensive list of authors, almost all of them from the U.S. I hope that all is well with you. I’ve “retired” after about 10 years at the IRI. I accepted a visiting scientist position at NOAA’s Climate Program Office and doing more program management than I’d bargained for. The plan is to go to a reduced schedule about a year from now and perhaps return to more  scientific endeavors.

-Chet Ropelewski

Phil Jones wrote:


Bit busy – as always – for the next few weeks. Can you send the abstract and the author list, to help me make some suggestions?



At 17:25 17/02/2009, you wrote:


Per your request. Abstract below. Auhor list attached. Thanks for your help.



Human activities have modified the environment for thousands of years. Significant population increase, migration, and accelerated socio-economic activities have intensified these environmental changes over the last several centuries. The impacts of these changes have been found in local, regional, and global trends in modern atmospheric temperature records and other relevant climatic indicators. One of the human influences on atmospheric temperature trends is extensive land use land cover change (LULCC) and its climate forcing. Studies using both  modeled and observed data have documented these impacts (e.g., Chase et al. 2000; Kalnay and Cai 2003; Feddema et al. 2005; Christy et al. 2006; Mahmood et al. 2006b; Ezber et al. 2007; Nunez et al…. Thus, it is essential  that we detect LULCCs accurately at appropriate scales and in a timely manner to better understand the impacts on climate and provide improved prediction of future climate.

The National Research Council (2005) has recommended the broadening of the climate change issue to include LULCC processes as an important climate forcing. The findings of this report state: “Regional variations in radiative forcing may have important regional and global climatic implications that are not resolved by the concept of global mean radiative forcing. Tropospheric aerosols and landscape changes have  particularly heterogeneous  forcings.

To date, there have been only limited studies of  regional radiative forcing and response. Indeed, it is not clear how best to diagnose a regional forcing and response in  the observational record; regional forcings can lead to global climate responses, while global forcings can be associated with regional climate  responses. Regional diabatic heating can also cause atmospheric teleconnections that  influence regional climate thousands of kilometers away from the point of forcing. Improving societally relevant projections of regional climate impacts will require a better understanding of the magnitudes of regional forcings and the associated climate responses.”

In short, the above discussion clearly identified the  importance of LULCC in the climate system.It has also been established in the literature that biases, inaccuracies, and imprecision have been introduced to the climate monitoring systems because of meteorological station moves, instrument changes, improper exposure of instruments, and changes in observation practices (Davey and Pielke 2005; Pielke et al. 2007a, b; Mahmood et al. 2006a). Hence, we also need strategies that will help us to detect and overcome these biases and thus lead to improved understanding of the role of land use forcing within the climate system.

This paper has two main objectives. First, it highlights LULCC and its role within the climate system. Examples include both long-term systematic change (e.g., agricultural land use change, deforestation) and short-term abrupt change (e.g., rapid urbanization). Second, the paper proposes a series of recommendations related to detecting LULCC from observed climatic records, as well as  modeling to improve our understanding of LULCC and its impacts on climate. The latter also includes discussion on why and how LULCC needs to be considered as a climate forcing and why it must be  included as a first-order effect in all climate assessments.

Phil Jones wrote:


I just knew it had to contain Roger Pielke Sr! It also has many  authors the same  from a paper in JGR that David Parker and others sent in a comment  about  that was accepted a few weeks ago. I can guess it will say the  same sorts of things.

 A lot of the things they are saying have been established haven’t. They are not as important as this paper will claim!

So David would be a good reviewer. I’d just get too stroppy with  them, as Roger never listens to anything said to him.

David is  David Parker Met Office Hadley Centre FitzRoy Road EXETER EX1  3PB UK  E-mail: REDACTED  Tel:REDACTED6649 Fax:REDACTED5681

 Don’t tell David I suggested him!

 Tom Peterson would be another good reviewer, but I can see there is at least one person from NCDC on the list. Another would be Kevin Trenberth, but again there is someone from NCAR in the author list.


Note inserted here. I did not know what “stroppy” means and others might not as well. It means “easily offended or annoyed; ill-tempered or belligerent”.

At 13:22 18/02/2009, you wrote:


Thanks for your suggestions. You confirm some of my concerns about this submission.I hope that we can cross paths again before I really retire. Best


Phil Jones wrote:


Glad to hear you have concerns about the paper! A lot of the issues  relate to the NCEP/NCAR Reanalyses producing temperature trends that are less than in the HadCRUT3/NCDC/GISS surface temperatures from the late 1950s. There is a paper by Kalnay and Cai (2003) that claims these differences result from Land-use/Land-cover effects – which is total rubbish. Once the Reanalyses (ERA-40 as well) get better after the satellite data start coming in all the differences disappear.

Attached is a nice paper on all this with ERA-40.

It would be nice to meet up again – are you back in the DC area?  If you are I should tell you when I’m next in the area. I’m assuming  you’re not planning a holiday in the UK at any time!


My Comment: I am inserting a side note here. The ERA-40 analyses that Phil refers to was subsequently shown to have major problems, as was discussed in the post

Indictment Of The ERA-40 Reanalysis In A New Paper “Erroneous Arctic Temperature Trends in the ERA-40 Reanalysis: A Closer Look” By Screen and Simmonds 2011

The e-mails continue

2009 08:51:20 -0500
from: Chet Ropelewski
subject: Re: Request for a review
to: Phil Jones <REDACTED>


Thanks for the informal comments and reprint. They will be useful for the review. I fear this submission is going to be a struggle.

Yes, I’m in the DC area again. My office is in Silver Spring. Give me a head’s up the next time you expect to be in the area. I planning to go to a reduced work schedule (3-days a week) early next year and expect to keep a hand in the game for a couple of years.

Our paper was published but implications from our meeting summary were required to be diluted. In our original submission we had a conclusion that read

The monitoring of existing climate metrics also needs to be significantly improved, as is discussed in our article. With respect to surface air temperatures, for example, there needs to be an improved quantification of the biases and uncertainties in multi-decadal temperature trends, which remain inadequately evaluated in assessment reports such as CCSP (2006).  We also recommend that an independent agency (such as the NSF) with scientists involved that are without a vested interest in the data, evaluate the robustness of these temperature trend estimates. In other words, this helps to overcome any concern regarding the same agencies that collect and analyze the data, also report on the accuracy of the data in climate assessment reports.

However, in the letter from Chet regarding his decision, he wrote

Finally, the last paragraph is not acceptable for publication in BAMS as it stands. A minor point is that this paragraph refers to this Essay as an ‘article” which is a very different kind of BAMS publication.  More importantly, the last two sentences un-necessarily imply that the scientists who have the responsibility for monitoring the climate are somehow “cooking the data”.  This kind of statement doesn’t belong in a professional journal.  I have no objection if you wish to suggest that an independent agency evaluates the “robustness” of the trend but do it in a way that doesn’t cast aspersions on our colleagues.

Thus, while our paper was accepted, we had to modify the letter with respect to the need to have an independent assessment of the quality of the surface temperature trend analyses.  We never implied that they “cooked” their data.

Our last paragraph in our paper became

The monitoring of existing climate metrics also needs to be significantly improved, as is discussed in  our essay. With respect to surface air temperatures, for example, there needs to be an improved quantification of the biases and uncertainties in multidecadal temperature trends, which remain inadequately evaluated in assessment reports such as from the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP 2006). We also recommend that independent committees (perhaps sponsored by the National Science Foundation) conduct these assessments.

This-mail exchange shows how much of an “old boys” network, the review process is. 

source of image

Comments Off on Documentation Of A Cozy Interaction Between An AMS BAMS Editor And Phil Jones

Filed under Climategate e-mails

Comments are closed.