from: "Mark New" <mark.newatXYZxyzgraphy.oxford.ac.uk>
subject: RE: letter to PiPG
to: "'Mike Hulme'" <m.hulmeatXYZxyz.ac.uk>
Thanks. I wrote to the Editor some time ago, saying...
I was alarmed to see the 'Global Warming' review by W. Soon and S. Baliunas in the latest
issue of Progress in Physical Geography (PiPG). You may be aware that these authors have
been the subject of heated debate in the climate science community, and in the public media
(for example, Appell 2003). The recent publication of an article in Climate Research (Soon
and Baliunas 2003) where the authors claimed that 20^th century warming is not the largest
climate anomaly in the last ~1200 years prompted (i) the resignation of several editors
from Climate Research because they felt the publication of the article had violated the
peer-review process, and (ii) a strong condemnation by leading scientists in EOS (Mann et
al. 2003) who were concerned that the flawed conclusions in Soon and Baliunas (2003) had
entered the public record in the US Senate as peer-reviewed science.
There is ample scope for criticism of the extent to which of Soon and Baliunas's review
accurately and fairly 'documents the quality' of General Circulation Models (GCMs) in PiPG,
and the article may well stimulate comments from experts in the field. However, I am more
concerned about the wider implications of appointing scientists who have consistently
received criticism for the methodology and conclusions of their peer-reviewed work (see for
example, Risbey 2002; Karoly et al. 2003; Mann et al. 2003) to publish review articles that
are not subject to peer review. PiPG has a wide audience, most of whom are not specialists
in climate science, and therefore unable to make critical judgements about the accuracy of
a review such as this. Moreover, many of your readers are likely unaware that subject
updates/reviews in PiPG are not subject to peer-review. Similarly, such articles can
easily be portrayed to the uninformed as being a publication in a "peer-reviewed journal",
which is substantially different to the article itself being peer-reviewed.
Without prior knowledge of where Soon and Baliunas sit on the Global Warming issue, their
PiPG review has the potential to seriously mislead a reader about the current capabilities
and limitations of GCMs: their 'review' is a catalogue of real and perceived limitations in
GCMs rather than a balanced review of achievements as well as problems in GCM modelling.
I have no objection to minority and non-consensus views being published: healthy debate is
to be encouraged and forces those involved to think more critically about their science.
However, reviews should be balanced and reflect the full range of opinions, and Soon and
Baliunas's article does not satisfy these requirements.
For future reviews (and this may be appropriate for all subjects), I would suggest that at
the very least you include a note from the editor stating that (i) the article is not
peer-reviewed, and (ii) the article reflects the opinions of the authors rather than
consensus in the discipline. A more rigorous approach would be to subject these articles
to the normal peer-review process.
Dr Mark New
Climatology Research Group
School of Geography and the Environment
University of Oxford
Appell, D. (2003). "Hot words - A claim of nonhuman-induced global warming sparks debate."
Scientific American 289(2): 20-22.
Karoly, D., et al. (2003). "Comment on Soon et al. (2001) 'Modeling climatic effects of
anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions: unknowns and uncertainties'." Climate Research 24:
Mann, M., et al. (2003). "On past temperatures and late-20th century warmth." EOS 84(27):
Risbey, J. (2002). "Comment on Soon et al. (2001) 'Modeling climatic effects of
anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions: unknowns and uncertainties'." Climate Research
Soon, W. and S. Baliunas (2003). "Proxy climatic and environmental changes of the past 1000
years." Climate Research 23(2): 89-110.
For your interest, this is the letter I am sending to PiPG on Monday. Phil - which
issue of EOS was Mike Mann's article in?
29 September 2003
Department of ???????????
Queen Mary College
University of London
I am writing to resign from my position as Editorial Adviser for the journal Progress in
Physical Geography. I do this reluctantly since I believe the journal continues to
fulfil a useful and important niche in the geographical sciences I remember my relying
heavily upon the journal as an undergraduate geographer more than 20 years ago.
I reached this decision after seeing the September 2003 issue of the journal in which I
noticed that Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas have been asked to provide the annual
progress reports for "global warming" for the journal and after reading their first
This choice of authorship truly baffles me. Both authors are in a department of
astrophysics. Neither author is a geographer or climatologist by training. Neither
author has published extensively in the field of human-induced climate change. And one
of the relatively few scientific peer-reviewed articles they have published in the field
of climate change - Soon, W., and S.Baliunas, "Proxy climatic and environmental changes
of the past 1000 years", Climate Research, 23, 89-110, 2003 seriously questions their
credentials to provide accurate and authoritative reviews in the area of "global
warming" (see article published a few weeks ago in the AGU weekly EOS: "On past
temperatures and anomalous late-20th century warmth" by Mann,M.E., Ammann,C.M.,
Bradley,R.S., Briffa,K.R., Crowley,T.J., Jones,P.D., Oppenheimer,M., Osborn,T.J.,
Overpeck,J.T., Rutherford,S., Trenberth,K.E., Wigley,T.M.L.; and also the editorial from
the publisher in the journal Climate Research by Otto Kinne "Climate Research: an
article unleashed worldwide storms", vol. 24:197-198; I attach copies of these articles
for your interest).
You will gather that I strongly disagree with your choice of author(s) for this annual
review. Given that my views as an Editorial Adviser to the journal presumably invited
into that capacity to cover the general area of climate change, although maybe I presume
too much were not even sought, let alone listened to, I utterly fail to see the point
of my continuing in this role or my name being associated with the journal. I would of
course be interested to hear of your selection criteria and of your process that led to
these two authors being invited to provide the "global warming" review for the journal.
Might I ask that you copy my letter to the member of Arnold publishing staff who is
responsible for PiPG.
Professor Mike Hulme