Kerry Emanuel's Powerful Testimony on Climate

By Chris Mooney | March 31, 2011 4:08 pm

The defender of mainstream knowledge at the climate hearing today was MIT’s Emanuel, and  here is his testimony. It is really good stuff.

Emanuel starts out by observing just how much scientific history there is behind our current understanding of climate–over 100 years. Much of it is so well established that it’s something young scientists learn today as part of their very basic training:

Today, students at MIT and elsewhere can do hand calculations or use simple models of radiative and convective heat transfer to explore climate physics, and they find climate sensitivities in the same range as those reported in the first National Academy of Sciences report on anthropogenic climate change in 1979.

All of that notwithstanding, there are many uncertainties remaining (of course)–but as Emanuel sharply points out, these could cut in either direction, and those at the hearing (like John Christy) expressing confidence that warming will be on the low end are taking quite a leap of faith:

In soliciting advice, we should be highly skeptical of any expert who claims to be certain of the outcome. I include especially those scientists who express great confidence that the outcome will be benign; the evidence before us simply does not warrant such confidence. Likewise, beware those who deride predictive science in its entirety, for they are also making a prediction: that we have nothing to worry about.

Emanuel also addresses “ClimateGate”, and pulls no punches when it comes to the ridiculous over interpretation of “hide the decline”:

I am appalled at the energetic campaign of disinformation being waged in the climate arena. I have watched good, decent, hardworking scientists savaged and whole fields of scholarship attacked without merit. Consider as an example the issues surrounding the email messages stolen from some climate scientists. I know something about this as I served on a panel appointed by the Royal Society of Great Britain, under the direction of Lord Oxburgh, to investigate allegations of scientific misconduct by the scientists working at the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia. Neither we nor several other investigative panels found any evidence of misconduct. To be sure, we confirmed what was by then well known, that a handful of scientists had exercised poor judgment in constructing a figure for a non peer-reviewed publication. Rather than omitting the entire record of a particularly dubious tree-ring-based proxy, the authors of the figure only omitted that part of it that was provably false. If this was a conspiracy to deceive, though, it was exceedingly poorly conceived as anyone with the slightest interest in the subject could (and did) immediately find the whole proxy record in the peer-reviewed literature.

The true scandal here is the enormously successful attempt to elevate this single lapse of judgment on the part of a small number of scientists into a sweeping condemnation of a whole scholarly endeavor. When the history of this event is written, the efforts of those seeking to discredit climate science will be seen for what they are; why many cannot see it now is a mystery to me.

But probably not a mystery to your colleagues in the psychology department, Dr. Emanuel!

The thing that did not come up at the hearing, at least as far as I know: Emanuel is a Republican. If that doesn’t enhance his credibility in this area, it is hard to imagine what would.

Comments (52)

  1. It’s certainly far beyond the time when we should have started acting on all of this evidence. I do believe that there is enough evidence just in the past few seasons to show that we’re at or just past the tipping point for global climate destabilization. There are been more frequent hurricanes of greater magnitudes in both northern and southern hemispheres. On the west coast of the U.S., there has been record rainfall in a La Nina year — supposedly dry. On the east coast, there have been unprecedented storms during the past few winters, owing — perhaps — to greater than average global water evaporations. And there have been wilder swings of the jet stream, which is as close as we come, I guess, to a planetary-wide atmospheric oscillation.

    With extra energy in the system, there is more “turbulence” or “noise” or whatever you want to call it — greater departures from the norm, which to me — as a NON-climate scientist but as a high school Physics/Chem/Astronomy teacher and planetarium lecturer — that the shift to a new equilibrium has already begun.

    I am a great adherent of Greg Craven’s “How it All Ends” approach to the situation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mF_anaVcCXg .

  2. Wil

    I would feel more at ease with Mr. Emanuel’s testimony if he had mentioned, even in passing, his thoughts on the following Climategate topics:

    1. The intentional destruction of large amounts of key climate data. Real scientists virtually never destroy data, particularly if it supports their theory.

    2. The intentional and extreme resistance to Freedom of Information requests. To even have to file a FOI request to get ANY scientist to publish data, makes me profoundly suspicious.

    3. The intentional blacklisting and firing of honest, intelligent climate scientists, for asking reasonable and sound questions about Global Warming theory.

    4. The replacement of some or all board members of scientific magazines and journals, because they initially resisted publishing some Global Warming articles.

    5. The conscious addition of completely made-up “fudge factors” in software programs and graphs, to make the end result align with Global Warming theories.

    6. The removal and barring of hundreds of climate scientists (and other scientists) from Wikipedia, who had questions or doubts about Global Warming theory.

    7. The heavy editing or removal of about 5400 Wikipedia articles, with intent to eliminate any mention of the “Medieval Warming”.

    8. The willful ignoring of tens of thousands of scientists who were signing petitions, giving speeches, and attempting to publish papers that cast doubt on Global Warming theory, and the endless repetition of the lie: “the Global Warming debate is settled and it is unanimous”.

    These are just a few of the profoundly corrupt and dishonest activities that were revealed in the Climategate e-mails. They read like the minutes from a Mafia meeting, or the schemes of some extremely corrupt third-world dictator.

    It is beyond belief that Mr. Emanuel has not heard of these serious accusations, and many others, by now. Even the famously liberal Wikipedia board took the action of banning some of the offending Administrators (I hope that is the correct term). He would have actually gained ground by directly addressing these topics, rather than avoiding them or attempting to discredit those who rightfully point them out.

    That he fails to even mention them when discussing this topic, tells me that his credibility is completely shot. There is not a single thing he could say that I would believe on face value. Science has always been a special subject for me, and the level to which many climate scientists have apparently sunk has made me somewhat depressed and very disgusted.

  3. Ed Snack

    Powerful, you could also add Full of Disinformation and transparently false in some aspects. In other words, Emanuel is, like a majority of the so called experts, a liar.

    “Rather than omitting the entire record of a particularly dubious tree-ring-based proxy, the authors of the figure only omitted that part of it that was provably false. If this was a conspiracy to deceive, though, it was exceedingly poorly conceived as anyone with the slightest interest in the subject could (and did) immediately find the whole proxy record in the peer-reviewed literature.”

    The part omitted is not and has never been shown to be “provably false”, and Emanuel is, or most certainly should be, very well aware of that. It was and continues to be omitted because it does not fit with the narrative that some wish to convey. If it is false, he and any claiming the same should point to any proof of such.

    He was indeed on the Oxburgh panel in the UK, and a bigger bucket of whitewash is hard to imagine. Interesting that he states that the emails were “stolen” as the police have still not completed their investigation, and it is far more likely that the emails were released by a “whistleblower” concerned at the improper actions of many of those involved.

    Imanuel is certainly one of those we should not trust as he obviously has extreme difficulties telling the truth in this matter. and when the histories come to be written he will undoubtedly be seen for the dupe and shill that he has become.

  4. Chris Mooney

    “disgusted” “depressed” “liar” “dupe” “shill”….these words speak volumes.

  5. Skip

    Wil and Ed probably aren’t real people. More likely they are sock puppet personas created by firms like HBGary and Koch’s New Media Services as part of the disinformation campaign being waged by Koch Industries, Exxon, and the US Chamber of Commerce.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/02/16/945768/-UPDATED:-The-HB-Gary-Email-That-Should-Concern-Us-All

  6. Once I hear someone talking about “stolen” emails, I know they’re either extremely innocent or being deliberately deceptive. Either way, they’ve just undermined themselves.

    http://thepointman.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/why-climategate-was-not-a-computer-hack/

    Pointman

  7. John F. Pittman

    #4, Chris I agree, COnsidering how these were originally used to smear dissenting scientists such as Christy, all who have stooped to this should be taken into account. That that should ensnare the self proclaimed Team will no doubt, not cause you consternation.

  8. TTT

    The part omitted is not and has never been shown to be “provably false”, and Emanuel is, or most certainly should be, very well aware of that. It was and continues to be omitted because it does not fit with the narrative that some wish to convey

    …..the tree-ring proxies no longer even match with THERMOMETER DATA! How is that not a “provably false” data source? How is that not worthy of exclusion from ongoing research? And how is the very public and above-board description of the entire falsification-and-exclusion process supposed to be evidence of this sinister Sithian conspiracy that the Final Nail crowd keeps making up?

    “Climategate” is just the Paluxey “man-with-dinosaurs” footprints with more numbers involved: just another banner that the anti-science crowd waves with growing fervor every year, despite the, well, everything. The Final Nailers really blundered though, because as I’ve said here before, they chose to pick as their latest Final Nail something so tediously and minutely over-the-top technical that the general public tunes it out by reflex, whereas the people who know enough about the topic to comprehend what is being said know that it is a lie. The bitterness with which they cling to it reflects their disappointment that it wasn’t the Final Final Nail after all, and that they’ll have to keep working to find another one that was even more Finally Finaler than that.

  9. Chants

    Since you’re all about the science TTT, what do you have to say about Mr. Pat Frank’s comment about “true” and “false” in a scientific context:

    “‘True’ or ‘false’ in a scientific context, does not mean ‘happens to correlate with other data,’ or not.

    True or false with respect to data means objectively replicable. True with respect to data and theory means that a falsifiable theory has correctly predicted (and explained) the data. A false theory, of course, fails that test.

    Data that conflict with theory are false only if the observation or experiment is repeated and the prior data are shown to be, typically, the result of a methodological mistake.

    So in his scientific context, with respect to the tree ring proxy data, Kerry Emanuel’s claim of “provably false” is itself a false statement, because there is no falsifiable theory of tree-ring observables.

    The post 1960 data were merely ‘provably uncorrelated’ with the instrumental record.”

    http://climateaudit.org/2011/03/31/disinformation-from-kerry-emanuel/#comment-259620

  10. Susan Anderson

    Well the bullying anti-science zealots are out in force, innocent or not. But I’d suggest to those who actually follow these issues that you refrain from labeling those who adhere to these sadly ignorant ideas, as you might be wrong. The Oregon petition (those tens of thousands) has been demonstrated to include dead people and people who would prefer to have their names removed as they don’t agree with it, people with other specialties, etc. etc. and very few scientists with expertise in any relevant area, and to be run largely by a family out of a barn/garage, but it looks good to those who have their blinders on. The money supports an ever-expanding self-referential database of denialist claptrap, but it really does look more sciencey as time goes on – they are fast learners. This house of cards will only come down when the consequences and evidence are so far down the road to danger that it will likely be too late to do much. Earth has its own way of evening matters up, and wealth will only go so far in protecting its preservers from the escalating catastrophic events engulfing our home.

    Those who have taken the time to check what is really going on without their political blinders know that these manufactured scandals are just that, but enough publicity (including lots of people who should have known better, like Andy Revkin and George Monbiot) has been given to it that people’s confusion is understandable. I find evangelists for profit a disgusting breed, but a lot of people are taken in. I’d suggest a good look at the smug certitude of the political breed that claims it can vote down reality, and a careful consideration of what might be a safer path, but with infotainment at the ready, who has time to think these days.

    I am appalled and frightened by the influence denial of the truth has had, and the bullying it has spawned, and am moving to warning. There’s danger, it’s real danger, so start paying attention to world weather news over time, the change of seasons, the melting of ice, and the many signs as well as the social unrest of starving people trying to feed their children. Get real and look up real expertise, not people you approve of providing second- and third-hand information and confirmation bias as mental comfort food.

  11. TTT

    Chants @10: I think Mr. Franks is right when he acknowledges that the tree-ring proxies suddenly stopped matching instrumental data some decades ago and thus are no longer reliable.

    I also think he could and should have stopped his post right there since that is all that matters in it. The rest is vapid semantic quibbling, probably done in the hopes that an audience will be so distracted by the mere presence of a response that they will not notice the acknowledgment that the environmentalists were right. If tree-ring observables no longer match actual temperatures, then the theory that they serve as temperature proxies has been falsified and their exclusion is entirely appropriate.

    Unless Franks or yourself want to say that knowingly including temperature proxies that are known to be completely inaccurate is a better scientific approach, just concede that the climate scientists were right and move on to something else.

  12. Nullius in Verba

    “…..the tree-ring proxies no longer even match with THERMOMETER DATA! How is that not a “provably false” data source?”

    Because there is no reason to think – other than the failure to match measured temperature – that this data is any different to any of the rest of it. It wasn’t measured any differently, it wasn’t processed any differently, it’s not extracted from different trees, or trees in different locations, by different scientists, with different instruments, or stored or communicated any differently. There is absolutely no reason to think that the measurements have been corrupted or are incorrect. Those are the true and actual tree ring widths/densities.

    If tree rings can measure temperature, and their algorithm can extract it, then the results of applying the algorithm to the tree rings would be the temperature. If it’s not the temperature, then either tree rings don’t measure temperature, or there’s something wrong with their algorithms. This is what the sceptics are saying, and this is what the climate scientists are trying to hide.

    There’s a joke statistical ‘trick’ that makes it clearer. Plot a wiggly line on a graph representing the thing to be measured – say, the population of polar bears over time. Now plot the card values of a shuffled deck of Tarot cards on the same graph – a uniform scattering of points. Evidently some of these cards predict the polar bear population, and some do not, so go through the points and erase any that are not close to the polar bear line, since they’re clearly inaccurate. Perfectly OK to delete data if it’s obviously false, right? Now for the points that are left, join them up and label it “proxy reconstruction of polar bear population”. You can see at a glance that the proxy fits the observed data quite closely, and any casual reader who didn’t know what you had done to get here would think it looked quite reasonable.

    If you want to know what the polar bear population is, it’s obviously not sensible to plot all those points that are a long way from the line. OK, so you don’t know why they’re a long way from the line, and they were generated exactly the same way as all the others, but it would give the wrong message to plot them anyway and try to explain the issue. And for the time interval before you have polar bear data to check against, you have no reason to doubt the numbers, so you can just plot them – nobody can prove you wrong. It’s an excellent way to fill in those huge gaps in your data without leaving the comfort of your own desk.

    People keep telling me that there are dozens of other temperature reconstructions that all match, so they can all be believed, and the errors in one or two of them therefore “don’t matter”. But if they all match because the bits that don’t match have been chopped off, does their observation have the same persuasive weight?

    Understanding the issue of confirmation bias and how sampling bias can be introduced by any form of post hoc data-driven “correction” of the raw data is an essential part of any scientific education. Even for non-scientists.

  13. Nullius in Verba

    #11,

    Susan, if you don’t like others labelling people, wouldn’t it be helpful to avoid doing it yourself?

    “bullying anti-science zealots”, “denialist claptrap”, “evangelists for profit”, “the political breed that claims it can vote down reality” – do these really help to get your message across to people who don’t agree with you? Does it persuade, or motivate compromise? That’s just a suggestion, which you’re free to ignore, but I thought you might like to know that I didn’t find it motivating myself.

    Nobody is sceptical because of the Oregon petition – it’s only use is as an answer to false claims that there are no sceptical scientists, or to people who use the fallacy of argument from authority ad populam by citing long lists of scientists or scientific organisations who they say support AGW – like the “thousands of scientists” who make up the IPCC. Many of the people on those lists are not climate scientists, don’t agree, or don’t want to be listed there, too. Genuine climate sceptics regard the Oregon petition as being as meaningless a fallacy as the ‘consensus’ – so attacking it won’t persuade anybody.

  14. Chants

    TTT @ 13:

    “Unless Franks or yourself want to say that knowingly including temperature proxies that are known to be completely inaccurate is a better scientific approach, just concede that the climate scientists were right and move on to something else.”

    The better scientific approach would be not to delete the data in the first place, and then study why there is a divergence between the dendrochronology data and the actual temperature data.

  15. Pat

    The skeptics sound a lot more scientific than the “scientists”

  16. Chris Mooney

    @17 “sounding” scientific is the name of the game, isn’t it? everybody wants to sound scientific; nobody is anti-science; and yet, here we are. somebody’s wrong.

  17. Bobito

    @18 – Chris, perhaps everybody is wrong. Just depends on the exact question being asked. This issue is way to complex for one side to be 100% correct and the other side 100% wrong.

  18. Jon

    It’s like with intelligent design. “Can’t we be at least a little bit right? Right enough so science classes can ‘teach the controversy’ that we created?”

  19. bjedwards

    @15
    The denialism you exhibit is exactly the problem scientists like Emanuel have to fight endlessly.

    Your arrogance of ignorance is neither helpful nor intellectually honest.

  20. Richard

    TTT

    Has it never crossed your mind that if the tree-ring data haven’t matched the instrument record since 1960 then perhaps the tree-ring data was never a good proxy for temperature? That if this section is provably false, that the remainder is proved to be at best a coincidence? Since the data before 1550 have also been excluded for showing sudden increase (another fact hidden by the dishonest “researchers” of the hockey team) that does not fit the narative and the data after 1960 for showing a sharp decrease that does not fit the narative, either the narative is wrong or the tree rings are not a proxy.

    Of course Mann was told a few weeks before the leaking of the emails (it was one of the last in the leak, I understand) by a world authority on tree growth that tree rings could not be used as a temperature proxy. Still hasn’t stopped him relying on tree rings, has it?

  21. Jon

    The problem was with stripbark pines, not with tree rings in general. But now there are several other proxies other than tree ring and the findings are no different.

  22. thereisnofear

    Rather than omitting the entire record of a particularly dubious tree-ring-based proxy, the authors of the figure only omitted that part of it that was provably false.

    And Emanuel is the one complaining about ‘disinformation?’ Puh-leeeeze!

    The data is the data is the data. The data is only provably false if it can be shown to be collected, adjusted or preserved in an incorrect manner. But none of the climategate apologists has ever made this claim.

    What is provably false is the hypothesis that tree rings are a reliable proxy for temperature. This is what the data tell us. This is ALL that the data tell us. If the proxy declines post 1960 while temperature increases, it falsifies the ENTIRE global temperature reconstruction based upon those tree rings. There is no scientifically justifiable basis for claiming that the reconstruction is valid before 1960 and invalid after that date.

    Now, TTT wants us to believe that this is simply “something … tediously and minutely over-the-top technical” and that it amounts to nothing more than “vapid semantic quibbling.” These comments only demonstrate TTT’s lack of understanding of the fundamental scientific concerns that are at issue here.

    At a rhetorical level, the various millennial-scale tree-ring proxy reconstructions have been of immense value in convincing the unwashed that modern temperatures are unprecedented in terms of both magnitude and rate of onset. Mann’s hockey stick is the most prominent example, but there have been many additional reconstructions that rely heavily upon tree-rings to make the case for highly anomalous modern warming. And if modern temperatures are truly unprecedented, then the cause has to be anthropogenic.

    But, if the hypothesis that tree-rings are a reliable predictor of temperature is falsified, then by extension, all of the tree-ring reconstructions are also falsified. And therefore, the claim that the current warming period is unprecedented can not be established with any certainty whatsoever. Finally, if current warming is not unprecedented, then it can not be established that humans are the primary cause.

    So, TTT, this is not “vapid semantic quibbling.” This is at the very heart of modern climate science.

    This is also why Emanuel is so dismissive of the critics of “hide the decline.” He knows that the slightest concession on this point triggers an avalanche of crumbling “climate consensus” that will substantially wipe out much of what he has researched, taught, and advocated during his career. This must be prevented at all costs. A little disinformation and loss of integrity is a small price to pay.

  23. Nullius in Verba

    #24/25,

    I’ve answered this one already. Repeatedly.

    The strip-bark bristlecone problem is only one of the issues with the reconstructions. Go read The Hockeystick Illusion for a book-length examination of all the others.

    The first three graphs only go back 400-500 years – whereas the issue is to do with the MWP which was earlier. They don’t answer the question – we already know about the LIA. Several also show the warming starting around 1850 – i.e. the end of the LIA, not the post-1940 industrial boom.

    Borehole reconstructions depend on inverting the 1D heat diffusion equation, which blurs information rapidly with time. The result is heavily smoothed with poor resolution. The error bounds shown on the graph are not the actual uncertainty in temperature, as can be seen where the instrumental temperature wanders well outside the shaded lines. Boreholes also don’t work in areas where there has been moving ground water during the past few centuries.

    Like tree rings, stalagmites don’t come with a temperature scale, so you have to calibrate them against the temperature record. The records are scaled to line up from 1900 to 1950, so you need to look at how well they agree outside this section. During the calibration period and near its ends where the calibration constrains it the lines are tightly clustered, but they wander all over the place further away. You will notice how many lines are dropping after 1940-50, and where they get truncated. Also, there are older stalagmite records showing previous periods of warming.

    Glacier length is affected by many factors, particularly the amount of precipitation in the accumulation zone, the air humidity, and the resistance to flow from the glacier’s environment. Glaciers are like frozen rivers, and like rivers, their flow is not constant.

    And finally we come to the spaghetti graph that is the only one that actually goes back far enough to answer the question. But most of the lines on it are from tree-rings, contrary to the title – and include several of the truncated series we were just discussing. Only one of these purports to be tree-ring-free, and that’s the famous Mann 08 series in which the effect was achieved by putting in the Tiljander lake sediment core data upside down!

    The Tiljander cores were corrupted by modern-era ditch-digging leading to a massive surge of sediment after 1900, as reported in the original paper. Mann’s algorithm doesn’t know this, though, and simply lines it up with the temperature record to calibrate it to temperature. This turns the series upside-down (it gets a negative calibration coefficient), and the warm MWP now looks like a cold period and that brings the medieval average down enough to put it below the current temperature.

    So basically, out of all those reconstructions without tree rings supposedly confirming a hockeystick shape, there is only one – Mann 08 – that actually does so; one which is known to have other serious problems. It also doesn’t mention the other reconstructions without tree rings, like Loehle & McCulloch 08.

    Loehle is an interesting example, because his reconstruction initially showed an even warmer MWP (Loehle 07), but when he (voluntarily) showed the data and method to the sceptics at Climate Audit, they still raised objections to a small number of errors, which Loehle corrected promptly. (Sceptics don’t defend results just because they happen to like the conclusions.) An example of how science should be done.

  24. @Nullius in Verba You make your points remarkably clearly.

    Pointman

  25. Dave Arbuckle

    You guys cry over one conference where ‘supposedly’ information was suppressed, and with overwhelming evidence from nearly every scientific group in the world supporting it you say fraud ? give me a break.

  26. Dave Arbuckle

    How many glasiers have to break off Greenland and Anartica before you believe that something is wrong ? How many islands have to disappear into the ocean before you think there is a problem ? Does Florida have to sink before you get concerned ?

  27. Jon

    nofear: If the proxy declines post 1960 while temperature increases, it falsifies the ENTIRE global temperature reconstruction based upon those tree rings… This is at the very heart of modern climate science… Finally, if current warming is not unprecedented, then it can not be established that humans are the primary cause.

    There is tons completely wrong with what you said above. Just picking out the above few sentences from your statement: the problem isn’t with all tree ring proxies, it’s with one kind of tree ring, from stripbark pines (and as my link above shows, tree rings are just *one* kind of proxy). Paleoclimatology is *not* “at the very heart of modern climate science,” it’s just one line of evidence that’s gotten a lot of press because it produces dramatic graphs (hockeysticks). And you *can* show CO2 as an agent of recent warming without proxies, and here’s a whole page of studies showing it: http://tinyurl.com/heatisonline

  28. Sean McCorkle

    @26
    If the proxy declines post 1960 while temperature increases, it falsifies the ENTIRE global temperature reconstruction based upon those tree rings. There is no scientifically justifiable basis for claiming that the reconstruction is valid before 1960 and invalid after that date.

    If it can be shown that there is a known systematic, whose causes are known, which biases the data after 1960, and which is not present before 1960, then one can remove the post 1960 data without invalidating the rest of the data.

    … then by extension, all of the tree-ring reconstructions are also falsified. And therefore, the claim that the current warming period is unprecedented can not be established with any certainty whatsoever.

    Non tree-ring reconstructions are not invalidated even if all of the tree-ring reconstructions WERE falsified.

    Finally, if current warming is not unprecedented, then it can not be established that humans are the primary cause.

    Thats just wrong. The case for anthropogenically caused global warming is based on principles of spectroscopy and radiative transfer, conservation of energy, the very flat solar constant for the last 50 years, the historical record of burned fossil fuels and the observed increase of atmospheric CO2 and temperature rise during the last 50 years. Temperature data which precedes that time is not needed to make the case.

  29. Sean McCorkle

    (first submission of this seems to have disappeared – apologies for any duplication)
    @28

    Borehole reconstructions depend on inverting the 1D heat diffusion equation, which blurs information rapidly with time. The result is heavily smoothed with poor resolution.

    That in itself is not necessarily a problem at all. In fact smoothed data can actually help show trends on appropriate scales.

    The error bounds shown on the graph are not the actual uncertainty in temperature, as can be seen where the instrumental temperature wanders well outside the shaded lines.

    Given what you just said about the boreholes heavily smoothing (which effectively means averaging over larger time bins), then reduced uncertainties are exactly what one would expect from increased smoothing of noisy data.

    Boreholes also don’t work in areas where there has been moving ground water during the past few centuries.

    Any geologist worth their salt should be able to identify and dismiss those sites from further analysis. Thats not enough to dismiss borehole data.

    Like tree rings, stalagmites don’t come with a temperature scale, so you have to calibrate them against the temperature record. The records are scaled to line up from 1900 to 1950, so you need to look at how well they agree outside this section. During the calibration period and near its ends where the calibration constrains it the lines are tightly clustered, but they wander all over the place further away. You will notice how many lines are dropping after 1940-50, and where they get truncated.

    The only serious departures outside of the shaded error range are 1500-1580. Between 1600 and 1670 only of the proxy sets is beyond the error range, and between 1750 and 1825 one set skirts the edge of the error range while the the other two track quite closely with the stalagmite curve. All in all, the agreement doesn’t look so bad.

    Glacier length is affected by many factors, particularly the amount of precipitation in the accumulation zone, the air humidity, and the resistance to flow from the glacier’s environment. Glaciers are like frozen rivers, and like rivers, their flow is not constant.

    That’s addressed by Oerlemans via the determination of parameters c and τ (eqs. 1 and 2) for each glacier, no?

    So basically, out of all those reconstructions without tree rings supposedly confirming a hockeystick shape, there is only one – Mann 08 – that actually does so; one which is known to have other serious problems.

    Not so serious problems. After 1500, there’s clearly a hockey stick in all these data sets.

  30. thereisnofear

    Jon,

    The “decline” of “hide the decline” notoriety is not a strip bark. In fact, the strip bark pines exhibit the complete opposite behavior. That is, they spike upward dramatically in the 20th C, thereby supposedly confirming the modern warming, while Briffa’s MXD reconstruction declines post 1960. Two completely different problems, but the commonality is that they are both tree ring chronologies.

    Where is the scientific validation of any form of tree ring as a reliable temperature proxy for millennial scale reconstructions? You seem confident that they are fine except for Strip Bark Pines. But Briffa’s hidden decline proves otherwise. There is no justifiable reason for accepting it before 1960 and rejecting it after. You have not provided one here. Nor has anyone else.

    You seem to have completely ignored Nullius in Verba, who has clearly articulated why John Cook gets it wrong. At least Cook recognizes that there is a problem with strip barks. The problem is that he fails to recognize that most of the reconstructions that he shows in the spaghetti graph are in fact based upon tree rings, and that most of those continue to use strip barks in their rosters (As Steve McIntyre notes, strip barks are the ‘crack cocaine’ of the dendrochronologists.).

  31. Nullius in Verba

    #33,

    “If it can be shown that there is a known systematic, whose causes are known, which biases the data after 1960, and which is not present before 1960, then one can remove the post 1960 data without invalidating the rest of the data.”

    True. Very good.

    However, nobody appears to know of such a systematic effect. That’s the point.

    “Non tree-ring reconstructions are not invalidated even if all of the tree-ring reconstructions WERE falsified.”

    Not invalidated by this particular observation, yes.

    “Thats just wrong. The case for anthropogenically caused global warming is based on principles of spectroscopy and radiative transfer…”

    Be very careful about what question you are answering. Are you talking about “anthropogenically caused global warming” or “humans are the primary cause”?

    Yes, radiative-convective physics (don’t forget the convection!) predicts that anthropogenic CO2 makes a positive contribution to temperatures, but it does not say how large it will be, does not show that it is large enough to be detectable over the noise, or that more than 50% of the observed warming since 1950 is caused by it. (In whatever sense you can ascribe percentages of causality in a non-linear system.)

    That there is a positive contribution to warming does not, as you say, require historical data. But to claim that it is the “primary cause”, you need to know the natural background variation you are comparing it against. Since climate models cannot yet model the natural background variability (they tend to underestimate it) our only source of information on this is paleoclimate.

  32. thereisnofear

    Sean McCorkle

    If it can be shown that there is a known systematic, whose causes are known, which biases the data after 1960, and which is not present before 1960, then one can remove the post 1960 data without invalidating the rest of the data.

    I will grant you this premise. I therefore ask you to propose the known systemic that biases the data after 1960. Briffa, Jones, and other defenders of the “trick” merely claim that it is likely due to some form of anthropogenic activity, but provide no detailed mechanism. They have suggested that more research is necessary to identify it, but more than a decade on, nothing has emerged to substantiate the removal. They have “moved on.”

    And while you are at it, perhaps you could take a moment to document for us the reason for deleting the pre-1550 section of the curve:

    http://climateaudit.org/2011/03/21/hide-the-decline-the-other-deletion/

    Non tree-ring reconstructions are not invalidated even if all of the tree-ring reconstructions WERE falsified.

    Granted. However, each non tree-ring reconstruction needs to be evaluated on its own merits. As Mann08 demonstrates, these are not immune to poor method or data.

    It is instructive to review other published temperature proxy records, which is done here:

    http://pages.science-skeptical.de/MWP/MedievalWarmPeriod.html

    The assemblage of published temperature reconstructions in the past decade are predominantly supportive of a Medieval Warm Period that is comparable, or higher, than the present.

  33. Sean McCorkle

    @37

    We’ve been through this at least 4 times by my counting. I’m quoting you here:

    The actual rate of temperature rise (ignoring all the issues about data quality) are about the same as expected for CO2 alone. When you take the solar/cloud correlation into account, the rate of temperature rise is lower than expected, suggesting a negative feedback (the rise is multiplied by a number less than 1).

    Because energy is conserved, we know all other sources and sinks roughly sum to zero, sidestepping the need to know the details of the rest of the terms. CO2 is left as the dominant source. CO2 buildup is demonstrated to be anthrogenic based on a similar mass conservation argument. Therefore: AGW. Q.E.D.

  34. Sean McCorkle

    @38
    I will grant you this premise. I therefore ask you to propose the known systemic that biases the data after 1960.

    Scanning through this review, it seems like a pretty good case can be made for the lack of temperature response in growth is due to data from some samples taken in northern regions which also underwent droughts in the same period (citations on p4 of Barber et.al. 2000, Lloyd and Fastie 2002, and Jacoby and D’Arrigo 1995).

  35. Nullius in Verba

    #39,

    Yes, we’ve been through it before. So I’m sure you remember that when you have a lot of contributing factors of comparable size adding up to a similar sized sum, they are all left as “the dominant source” in that sense. It’s a physically meaningless statement; an arbitrary consequence of the terms you chose to combine in the description.

    And I have noticed that we’ve quietly switched topics from contributors to observed warming to a previous discussion about contributors to CO2 increase. They’re different things. That a half-degree rise is to be expected from no-feedback CO2 and we’ve observed a half-degree rise does not imply that the latter causes the former. (Nor would it suit your case if it had.) That would be a case of ‘confirming the consequent’.

    I’ve no doubt we’ll go through it all again in the future, too. I look forward to it. :-)

  36. Arno Arrak

    There are many distortions in Emanuel’s story but his defense of Climategate is what I want to take up. Within the last one thousand years we have seen the global temperature go up and down, starting with the Medieval Warm Period when the Vikings settled Greenland, followed by the Little Ice Age, which was in turn followed by warming from the early nineteenth century until the Second World War. From the Second World War until the beginning of 1998 there was no warming, not even that “late twentieth century warming” that Hansen’s testimony relied upon and IPCC says is unique in history. If you have not heard of this it is because IPCC does not want you to know that satellites cannot see this warming. Within the last one thousand years we have seen a Medieval Warm Period when the Vikings colonized Greenland, followed by a Little Ice Age, and that was in turn followed by warming from the early nineteenth century to the Second World War. The existence of this Medieval Warm Period meant that current warming as defined by the IPCC was not unique in history. Climategate files reveal that their scientists did not like the idea. Michael Mann eventually set about to rectifying the situation. He acquired tree ring proxy data for historic periods and from these he constructed a temperature curve lacking both the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age. He did not use all the proxies at his disposal, just those that showed the proper temperature profile. But there was a problem: his proxy data showed twentieth century temperatures going down, not up. This did not stop him because he had thermometer data showing rising temperatures which he attached to the end of the proxy data set. The composite curve looked like a hockey stick, with a handle of tree rings and a blade of thermometer readings. It made quite a splash when it was featured in an IPCC report. There are very few legitimate reasons for joining two separate data sets into a single curve. The only one I can think of is joining directly measured carbon dioxide values with older ice core data. But Mann simply did not like the way his proxy data behaved and substituted another data set he did like. The excuse that the data were wrong which Emanuel gives will not wash. You cannot say that data that you do not like are wrong but data that you do like are right. That makes his composite curve a scientific fraud, pure and simple. When Bjorn Lomborg published his “Skeptical Environmentalist” the global warming advocates immediately complained to the Danish Commision on scientific fraud. That was a complaint about what was published in a book, something totally unheard of before. They lost. But nothing like that happened to Mann. Numerous investigations have failed to point out that a scientific fraud has been committed. His program was eventually also shown to be rigged by Stephen MacIntyre and Ross McKitrick and produced a hockey stick, no matter what the input was. But despite all this nothing has happened to him, he is still in business, and is still pushing his curve. The only way to get away with this is with the support of a highly placed establishment. There is no doubt that the global warming establishment in academia has been able to protect him and to pull this off. The Oxford commission is just one attempt to whitewash the Climategate gang. This is a bubble and when that bubble bursts things will not be nice for the insiders pulling strings and blocking any contrary opinions from being published.

  37. Nullius in Verba

    #42,

    Arno, I think you may have got several stories mixed up.

    There was no warming from WWII to about 1975, but between 1975 and 1998 there was. Satellites can see it (even when operated by sceptics). The early stages of the Hockeystick story happened before the start of the period covered by the Climategate archive. Mann used many series without the Hockeystick shape – in fact, almost all of them look like random noise – but he used an algorithm that gave hundreds of times greater weight to the few that did. The hide the decline trick and grafting on the instrumental record to the proxies was in an entirely different study, that came later. It’s not true that Mann hasn’t been investigated in the same way as Lomborg – there were the North enquiry by the NAS and the Wegman enquiry that both heavily criticised Mann’s methods, and said they were incorrect. (Although they compromised politically and said part of his conclusion was nevertheless plausible.) Fraud is a dangerous accusation to make – it depends on motivation, which cannot easily be proved. (At least so far as the algorithm is concerned, I think it may, for example, have simply been incompetence. I’m not going to get into the other stuff that came later.) And I think you meant the Oxburgh enquiry.

    I recommend you get Montford’s book The Hockeystick Illusion for a more precise history of events. Otherwise it’s far to easy for your concerns to be dismissed.

  38. thereisnofear

    #40

    The review that you cite reinforces my point. First of all, the paper notes on p. 2 that:

    Despite the considerable efforts documented thus far to understand the divergence phenomenon, there is still substantial uncertainty regarding its possible
    causes.

    So, the postulate that a pretty good case for drought can be made must be measured against the author’s statement of “substantial uncertainty” regarding our ability to understand the divergence problem.

    But if we accept that drought is a likely factor in the divergence problem, then we have introduced a non-thermal, and non-anthropogenic causation. Once that is done, then it can no longer be asserted that drought has not similarly produced other major segments of the TR chronology that have virtually zero (or even negative) correlation with temperature. If a moisture deficit is the cause of the modern divergence, how can one be certain that similar episodes of drought in the pre-instrumental period are not also included within the TR record?

    The only way that deletion of the modern divergence is scientifically justifiable is if the cause is shown to be anthropogenic (the Tiljander sediment record used by Mann is a good example of this, where the modern record should have been deleted). But no such justification was provided at the time, nor has any been provided since. In fact, as D’Arrigo et. al. state in their Abstract:

    … limited evidence suggests that the divergence may be anthropogenic in nature and restricted to the recent decades of the 20th century, …

    I therefore reaffirm my point that it is scientifically unjustifiable to delete post 1960, and to retain the rest. If the modern period does not calibrate to temperature, then the deletion is just plain BAD SCIENCE.

  39. Jon

    Too funny. Send the man some Ayn Rand titles too, Nullius. Some day he’ll be able to spout those denier talking points and libertarian disquisitions just like yourself. A man has to start somewhere…

  40. Sean McCorkle

    FYI, here’s Paul Krugman’s take on this in today’s NY Times.

  41. TTT

    People keep telling me that there are dozens of other temperature reconstructions that all match, so they can all be believed, and the errors in one or two of them therefore “don’t matter”. But if they all match because the bits that don’t match have been chopped off, does their observation have the same persuasive weight?

    By any fair standard, yes, but that presumes a person capable of being persuaded by scientific evidence. It is no different from inferring evolutionary relationships through transitional fossils of species that are now extinct.

    There was a time when, clearly, both the tree-ring proxies, coral reef chemistry, pollen residue in submerged lakebeds, ice core gas composition, etc., all matched the instrumental record and matched each other. The tree rings “broke” a few years ago–nobody knows why. That doesn’t mean they never worked, any more than the day your car breaks down overwrites history to show that your car never worked in the first place. Enough proxies matched each other and the instrumental data for long enough that the system is very well-calibrated and can be “tracked” back in time. Of course, the system of ranking fossil ages by comparative stratification is also well-calibrated, but that doesn’t stop creationists from using this or that oddball sequencing chaos from this or that provincial earthquake in order to rubbish the whole thing and say the whole thing is a hoax.

  42. Nullius in Verba

    “There was a time when, clearly, both the tree-ring proxies, coral reef chemistry, pollen residue in submerged lakebeds, ice core gas composition, etc., all matched the instrumental record and matched each other.”

    How do you know?

    And how do you independently determine when it does and when it doesn’t during those times where you have no temperature record to compare it against, so that you can ensure you don’t include any periods in the past when the same situation applied?

  43. Dennis

    Which is the silliest?

    a. Arno Arrak #42 with his made up, what Mike Mann did story.

    b. TTT #47 with the “all the proxies matched the instrumental record and each other , then the tree rings broke ” fairy tale.

    c. Dr. Emanuel presenting his participation on the very brief and non-inquiring Oxburgh inquiry as evidence of his expertice in paleoclimate and then totally botching the the facts of the subject that he was supposed to investigate.

    d. Chris Mooney for describing answer c. as “powerful testimony”. Author of “Unscientific America”? Pot, I’d like you to meet Kettle, since your both black, you’ll have lots to talk about.

  44. Sean McCorkle

    @40
    So, the postulate that a pretty good case for drought can be made must be measured against the author’s statement of “substantial uncertainty” regarding our ability to understand the divergence problem.

    That can be taken as a precautionary hedge due to multiple possible working explanations described by the authors, which haven’t yet been ruled out.

    If a moisture deficit is the cause of the modern divergence, how can one be certain that similar episodes of drought in the pre-instrumental period are not also included within the TR record?

    If there is no additional precipitation record (such as glacial snow layers), I suppose thats right. However, that also draws into question the medieval warming period as well.

    I therefore reaffirm my point that it is scientifically unjustifiable to delete post 1960, and to retain the rest. If the modern period does not calibrate to temperature, then the deletion is just plain BAD SCIENCE.

    You know what, I’ll actually agree with this (for now). And ask, “so what?” Does this mean that the stalagmite proxies, borehole temperatures and equitorial glacier records are bad science? Are you now going to condemn all of climate science because of this? Does this mean that global warming is a hoax? If so, why stop there? Maybe ALL science is a hoax. Does every mistake that a scientist makes completely invalidates the entire field in which they work? How about all these cases of misconduct ? Does that mean that science is a sham and we should disregard ANY findings and results in all these fields?

  45. thereisnofear

    @50

    Please don’t make completely unfounded insinuations about what I believe or don’t believe. In any of my posts above did I make the claim that global warming is a hoax? And how could you possibly suggest that I would claim that ALL science is a hoax? Have I not spent the past several days trying to make arguments from science, and which you have now accepted (at least for now)? In fact, my greatest concern here is the integrity of science, which is what I have seen so profoundly distorted and manipulated by so many.

    For the record, I make no claims that global warming is a hoax. I also fully accept that there is a strong likelihood that human activity has contributed to modern warming. The radiative physics are quite firmly established.

    I do have serious questions, though, about the projected magnitude of that warming, particularly with respect to our understanding of feedback mechanisms, oceanic circulation patterns, gridded modeling of the earth’s atmospheric systems, possible solar influences, regional convective processes, and many other issues.

    And I especially have deep and abiding concerns about the scientific process that has led us to the present state of hysteria over pending climate doom. The hiding of the decline is just one of many examples of poor scientific practice amongst climate scientists. But what is most disturbing is that people like Kerry Emmanuel continue to excuse these incidents of scientific malfeasance as minor errors in judgement. These are not one-off minor errors. These results have had wide-ranging and dramatic influence on the course of climate studies.

    Did you take the time to look at the published proxy-based reconstructions that I linked to above? If you study them closely, you’ll notice that the majority of them suggest that the Medieval Warm Period was comparable, if not warmer, than the present. If we take all of the tree ring based reconstructions that have been proffered over the past decade or so, and discard them, then we need to confront the possibility that that current warming may have significant natural causes, and that the anthropogenic effects may not be a significant as is usually suggested. If it could happen during the MWP, why couldn’t it happen now?

    But, starting with Mann’s hockey stick, and followed by Briffa’s Yamal series, and the whole family of tree-ring based reconstructions that rely upon bristlecone pines (or their principal components), certain elements within the climate science community have successfully derailed legitimate climate science, and substituted group-think, confirmation bias, obfuscation and obstruction as the frameworks of exchange. Through their non-critical manipulation of the peer-review process that allows things like post-1960 amputations of data to pass, they have corrupted the climate science process.

    With the tree-ring reconstructions in their arsenal, they could argue convincingly that the Current Warm Period is obviously much higher than previous warm periods. The anthropogenic effect is so obvious, they reason. Therefore, we don’t need to waste our effort trying to better understand the complex interplay of natural terrestrial, atmospheric, and oceanic processes that may otherwise explain both the MWP and the CWP. No, its all got to be human made. Who are the real deniers here?

    I do not reject all climate science. But the poison that has issued from this small cadre has had a very toxic effect on the whole discipline. No, I do not reject all climate science. But I deeply mistrust some of the highly influential climate scientists. Only once they start to repudiate and disown the shoddy practices like hiding the decline can they hope to regain my trust, and the trust of many millions of skeptics around the world.

  46. Sean McCorkle

    @51
    I was referring to the third paragraph in #26, and using hyperbole to extend the inference that “if there is some mistake, it all must all be wrong” to ever larger groups to show the nature of the error.

    Did you take the time to look at the published proxy-based reconstructions that I linked to above? If you study them closely, you’ll notice that the majority of them suggest that the Medieval Warm Period was comparable, if not warmer, than the present.

    doing a survey of several of the plots, I get
    http://pages.science-skeptical.de/MWP/Rein-2005.html peak at 400-500 ad
    http://pages.science-skeptical.de/MWP/Axford-2009.html peak at 1100 ad
    http://pages.science-skeptical.de/MWP/Paulsen-2003.html peak 1400-1500 ad
    http://pages.science-skeptical.de/MWP/Liu-Z-2006.html – thin peak at 1300 ad looks like noise – an enormous trough just a few years before
    http://pages.science-skeptical.de/MWP/Justwan-2008.html – in the absence of error bars, this one is so thin it looks like noise
    http://pages.science-skeptical.de/MWP/Mangini-2005.html a bunch of spikes at 650, 850, 950, 850
    http://pages.science-skeptical.de/MWP/Linderholm-2005.html – thats a peak? if the grey is error, then it looks like a region of high unreliability.
    http://pages.science-skeptical.de/MWP/Holmgren-2001.html this one shows a bigger spike at 1500 ad where
    this one http://pages.science-skeptical.de/MWP/Martinez-Cortizas-1999.html shows the little ice age?

    Few of these plots resemble each other beyond either wishful thinking or confirmation bias of the eye. The position of the peaks and their widths vary like crazy. In my experience, shifting peaks that resemble noise typically turn out to be noise (or systematics). It makes me suspect that even their selection for inclusion might be a product of bias.

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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