Following are some comments on the claims in the Response of Mike Baillie (CCNet, 18 August 2009).

The Response claims that "anyone wanting to undertake research on tree-rings from the British Isles with respect to climate variables simply has to go into the NOAA World Data Centre for Paleoclimatology and access the data laboriously assembled, measured, documented and presented by workers at Queen's University Belfast".

Only a tiny portion of the data from QUB is in the World Data Centre (i.e. ITRDB). For example, there is no data in the ITRDB for prior to AD 1500; yet measurements go back 7000 years--as Baillie's own publications state.

QUB originally made the same claim, but has now admitted that most data is on disks that have not been uploaded. And the Assistant Information Commissioner has visited QUB, and confirmed that he saw much more data. That most of the data has not been uploaded and that QUB has been "deliberately withholding data of climatic significance" (Baillie's phrase) is thus provable, acknowledged by QUB, and independently verified.

The Response also claims that my post "gives the impression that data from only one Irish oak site is available, namely Garryland Wood". It further claims that my post implied "the individual tree data from Garryland is not available". These claims are not based on my main post, but on the page, linked by my post, at

That page presents a short, simplified, theory how Ireland is uniquely affected by the North Atlantic Drift and deep water formation and how this links with global climate. Briefly, if you had to pick one place in the world to study the climate, Ireland would seem to be it.

After presenting the theory to support that, the page gives a simple example, to illustrate that the theory works in practice. The example uses averages from one site in Ireland--Garryland Wood--and some basic mathematics--correlation and addition. This was done so that readers who are unfamiliar with the relevant science could judge the viability of the theory for themselves, at least to some extent. (The page was originally written for people who might not have any scientific training--staff at the Information Commissioner's Office and the Aarhus Convention Secretariat, to support my requests for the data.)

After presenting the simplified example, the page notes that a proper analysis should consider individual trees, trees at other sites, and more sophisticated mathematics. The claims of the Response are based on misrepresenting all this, as if the example comprised the only data and the only mathematics that were available. Those claims are thus baseless.

The Response additionally quotes from my post, "QUB researchers do not have the expertise to analyse the data themselves", and says that Baillie wants an apology for that. If Baillie has the expertise, why did he never publish any research using it? Moreover, I have had several discussions with Baillie over the years, and have a rough idea of his mathematical skills. The branch of statistics that seems most relevant for analyzing the data (multidimensional time series, probably nonlinear) is difficult and specialized: if Baillie can pass an introductory-level examination in the subject, I'll pay a large sum. (Note: I would not pass either.)

To summarize, the untruthfulness in Baillie's Response is so obvious that it seems unlikely that it was intended to be believed. Rather, this is perhaps just Baillie's way of saying "go away". Up until 2005, there would have been nothing that could be done. In 2005, though, the UK Freedom of Information Act came into effect. I look forward to seeing the Act enforced for such important data.

Douglas J. Keenan
The Limehouse Cut, London E14 6N, UK