An internal investigation at Penn State University has cleared meteorology professor Michael Mann of all "climate gate" charges, in which Mann stood accused (both formally and in the blogosphere) of research fraud.
The review cleared Mann of charges that he falsified climate change data, manipulated that data, improperly refused to share his research data and--generally behaved badly by trying to discredit other researchers' work. The panel mildly rebuked Mann for not getting express consent from various researchers before sharing their work -- but that was it.
Why is this important? You'd have to recall the major furor that arose from the climategate controversy from last December -- specifically how a handful of emails from one university became proof, in the eyes of climate change doubters, that the global fraud they long suspected been laid bare.
Last November someone hacked thousands of climate related emails from the servers at the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia, one of the world's leading proponents of the notion that global warming is happening and is man made. Several of the emails, some going back more than 10 years, revealed the head of CRU, Dr Phil Jones, scheming with others how to criticize and marginalize those scientists who disagreed with the CRU's conclusions.
The most infamous email praises Penn State's Michael Mann of using a research "trick" to "hide the decline." What's that? Basically, scientists who used centuries worth of tree ring data to establish the baseline of global temps in the 20th century, could never explain why those same tree rings started showing a decline in global temps roughly after 1960.
Tree data showing global temps going down didn't mesh with actual recorded temperatures, so pains were taken, (most of the time disclosed, but sometimes not) to use actual temp recordings and "hide the decline" from trees. Sometimes, on the so called hockey stick charts that show global temps as a flat line and then a sharp upward spike are indeed mixing tree ring data and actual temps. Earlier this year the Penn State investigators, like most mainstream scientists, dismissed this part of the fraud charge, finding no "fraud' in the use of actual temp data -- the spiking part of the hockey stick -- which on its own is not in dispute.
You could call this an inside job, of course, and many will, but when a university formally investigates one of its own scientists for fraud, AND releases the report, that's serious. Click here for the link and you can judge for yourself.
But for Michael Mann, who was the subject of a hilarious and scathing You Tube spoof on "hide the decline," being cleared of research fraud is the sign of good day.
Not to mention -- so much for climategate.
Wyatt Andrews is a CBS News correspondent.