Posts tagged ‘Michael Mann’
A leader lost: A bit of news we missed last week, but which seems appropriate to share on the day we observe the life and work of Martin Luther King: A memorial service was held Saturday for Thelma Price, a longtime Penn State administrator and civil rights activist who died on Jan. 8. She was 88. She came to the university in 1964 to serve as assistant dean of students at New Kensington, and later served as assistant VP of student affairs at University Park. The first charter president of the State College chapter of the NAACP, she was also a vocal advocate for minority students, earning the nickname “Mom” for her tireless work on their behalf.
Happiness and heartbreak: Sunday night was a memorable one for three former Nittany Lions, although one that NaVorro Bowman ’09 no doubt wishes he could forget. Bowman, the San Francisco 49ers linebacker whom NFL.com calls “arguably the best defensive player in the league this season,” went down in gruesome fashion in the fourth quarter of the Niners’ eventual 23-17 loss to Seattle. Afterward, his all-pro teammate, Patrick Willis, told reporters, “If he doesn’t get defensive player of the year, I don’t know what they go by. Most important, I just pray he’s all right.”
On the much brighter side, the Seahawks duo of Michael Robinson ’04 and Jordan Hill ’13 are going to the Super Bowl, marking the 43rd time in 48 years that at least one Penn Stater is on a roster for the big game.
Times up: Sunday’s New York Times carried a couple of pieces of note for Penn Staters. Michael Mann, distinguished professor of meteorology and arguably the world’s most famous climate scientist, wrote an oped for the Sunday Review in which he talks about embracing his role as a public advocate for awareness and action on climate change. On a very different topic, over in the Business section, there’s a profile of Ross Ulbricht ’09g, who is facing federal charges of computer hacking, drug trafficking, and money laundering as the alleged mastermind behind the online black market Silk Road. It’s disturbing, fascinating stuff.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
Impressive company: For a special October issue, Bloomberg Magazine chose the 50 most influential people in global finance, which includes the usual suspects like New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew. It also includes Penn State professor Michael Mann, famous for the hockey stick graph and his passionate stand against climate-change deniers, as one of the top global thinkers.
“Probably,” he smiled. “I think they’re probably superfluous, but it’s better to be safe.”
I’ve gone to probably a dozen Penn State Forum lunches in the past five years, and Thursday’s event at the Penn Stater Hotel was the first in which I’d seen a police presence. Three armed campus police officers—one from a K-9 unit—stood outside the packed conference room in which Mann spoke. I imagine they were there to stem any potential unrest after ads appeared on local radio this week urging people to boycott or protest Mann’s speech; I imagine those officers were aware as well that Mann has received death threats because of his work.
Mann, of course, is a climatologist, Penn State professor of meteorology and geosciences, and director of the University’s Earth Systems Science Center. If you know his name, it’s probably less because of his work—including his role in developing the iconic “hockey stick” model for measuring long-term global warming—than the reaction to it. U.S. Senators, state attorneys general, and TV pundits (among many others) have all gone after Mann in an attempt to discredit findings that show the reality and alarming rate of man-made global warming. If he’s not the favorite target of climate change deniers, he’s near the top of the list.
Mann’s speech Thursday was titled (more…)
Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann, who was at the center of the 2009 controversy dubbed “Climategate,” did not engage in scientific misconduct, according to a new report by the National Science Foundation.
The controversy arose when a computer server at a British climate-research center was hacked in November 2009, and emails among climate researchers—including Mann—were published on the Internet. Climate-change skeptics claimed that the emails showed that Mann and the others had manipulated data in order to reach the conclusions that global warming is real.
Penn State investigated Mann a year ago in conjunction with the controversy and also found no evidence of research impropriety. Several other bodies, including the National Academy of Sciences, have reached the same conclusion.
Mann’s website at Penn State contains links to some of the news stories about him, including one from last month in which he talks about the attacks he’s experienced from global-warming skeptics and others.
Tina Hay, editor
As the chief meteorologist for WGAL-TV in Lancaster, Pa., Joe Calhoun ’81 is concerned about the short term. Like most TV meteorologists, he has stories about viewers calling to ask whether it’s going to rain later that day and if they should cancel their picnic, or graduation, or whatever. He knows his viewers have bigger questions, too, about climate change, but he wasn’t always sure how to handle them. He’s been out of the classroom for a long time, and he wasn’t up on the latest science.
And that’s why he was part of a committee that helped to develop a one-day workshop in which Penn State’s top climate researchers gathered with about a dozen of the state’s television meteorologists to discuss the science of climate change.
“These are issues we need to address,” Calhoun said.
And as for the researchers? They wanted to explain the science to the meteorologists—in a politics-free, collegial environment—but they also wanted some help. As organizer Jon Nese ’83, ’85g ’89g, a senior lecturer in meteorology, explained, television viewers trust the meteorologists on their local channels, so by making sure that those meteorologists understand the science, researchers can make sure that television viewers are getting the best possible information.
Nese told the broadcasters, “You excel at telling engaging, simple stories about a complex phenomenon.” (more…)
Almost eight months after launching its inquiry, Penn State has cleared Michael Mann of any ethical or academic misconduct in his climate research. You can read the University’s release on the findings here, including a link to the full report from the panel of scholars who carried out the inquiry. You can also read how some of country’s biggest papers covered the story here, here, and here. Among the facts noted is that the Penn State panel interviewed researchers who have been critical of Mann’s work; as the New York Times’ “Dot Earth” blog sums up, “months of sifting … files by an army of passionate critics have revealed little more than signs he is a prickly, competitive, defensive scientist — hardly a rare species.”
In February, Mann was cleared of most allegations in a case that has become an international symbol of the contentious debate over global climate change.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
One of the great parts of the Campaign Kick-Off Celebration over the weekend was the educational sessions, which are designed to give attendees a sense of what kind of research and programs are happening on campus. I went to several over the weekend and learned a lot, but the one that made the biggest impression on me was the first one: Understanding Climate Change.
It wasn’t the science that grabbed me. It was that even though climate change has become a contentious issue, with Penn State professor Michael Mann at the heart of the recent Climategate episode, it wasn’t glossed over. William Easterling, dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, addressed a room full of guests that included Penn State President Graham Spanier and at least a handful of self-identified climate change skeptics.
“I am not a political person,” Easterling said. “I try not to stray into what the press is saying about climate change at any given time. I imagine the vast majority of research scientists are of the same ilk.”
That didn’t stop Easterling from giving a 45-minute lecture on climate change, explaining both the non-contested facts (there are some, he said, including that the greenhouse effect is real and that several lines of evidence show that the planet’s average temperature has been rising) and the areas where controversy has arisen (whether it’s man’s fault, and whether the temperature change is out of the ordinary).
Among the tidbits I picked up: Thanks to a National Science Foundation grant, Easterling has a lilac bush that he is monitoring, looking to determine whether flowers are blooming earlier; much of today’s science depends on high-end computer simulations that are used to test hypotheses, a process that has become an accepted part of the scientific method only in the past 15 years or so; and the BBC’s website has, in Easterling’s opinion, excellent explainers on climate and weather.
More important, I think, Easterling took questions from the audience, and he engaged directly with those climate change skeptics.
I’m not going to pretend I understand enough science to be able to follow all of the details of the arguments. (And I’m not alone; Andrew Revkin, who is widely respected for his coverage of the environment for the New York Times, said he has to wait for the peer-reviewed journals to weigh in—on this On The Media podcast.) But I do respect that the skeptics asked questions, and that Easterling answered.
Regrettably, time ran out as the discussion was really getting started. Easterling wrapped up by saying, “It wasn’t my intent to try to change your mind.” And he offered to continue the conversation via e-mail, too.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Michael Mann, the prominent climate researcher and director of Penn State’s Earth System Science Center, has been largely cleared by the University of wrongdoing in the so-called “Climategate” scandal.
In a report released this morning, a panel of University administrators found no evidence of professional misconduct in three of the four allegations—accusations that he hid or falsified climate data; deleted emails or information tied to British climate scientist Phil Jones; or misused privileged information—brought against Mann. On the fourth allegation—essentially, the question of whether Mann fudged his research findings—the panel decided it lacked the expertise to make a definitive call. The investigation will be passed on to a new panel, made up of five high-level faculty in engineering and the sciences, who will review the evidence and announce their findings in the next four months.
And you can read Mann’s statement on the findings here.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
We’ve gotten a number of letters to the editor lately from people who have, let’s just say, very strong feelings on the subject of global climate change—and especially on the “climategate” brouhaha involving Penn State meteorology professor Michael Mann. Some of the discourse has been a bit less than civil: One reader called Mann “this low life on our faculty”; another said, “I am embarrassed that Mr. Mann is a part of Penn State. I would be disappointed if the University wasn’t doing all they can to send him to a different climate.”
So I was very interested to see a profile of Mann in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. Writer Faye Flam came up to University Park this past week to interview Mann and has produced a fairly level-headed profile, one that examines the controversy in a calmer, more nuanced way. It’s worth reading.
Tina Hay, editor
I’m a fan of FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. They do a good job of trying to sort out truth from fiction in many public policy debates, and I’ve found that on any given issue—be it the health-care debate or stimulus spending or immigration—they will painstakingly correct misstatements made by both sides.
So I was interested to see them weigh in yesterday on “Climategate,” the brouhaha involving several climate scientists (including Penn State faculty member Michael Mann). In a nutshell, FactCheck.org says:
Climate skeptics are claiming that they show scientific misconduct that amounts to the complete fabrication of man-made global warming. We find that to be unfounded.
If you’re interested in the issue, I really recommend taking the time to read their analysis carefully. It’s very thorough and thoughtful.
Tina Hay, editor