Story submitted by WUWT reader Nancy Green
There is a message in Marcott that I think many have missed. Marcott tells us almost nothing about how the past compares with today, because of the resolution problem. Marcott recognizes this in their FAQ. The probability function is specific to the resolution. Thus, you cannot infer the probability function for a high resolution series from a low resolution series, because you cannot infer a high resolution signal from a low resolution signal. The result is nonsense.
However, what Marcott does tell us is still very important and I hope the authors of Marcott et al will take the time to consider. The easiest way to explain is by analogy:
50 years ago astronomers searched extensively for planets around stars using lower resolution equipment. They found none and concluded that they were unlikely to find any at the existing resolution. However, some scientists and the press generalized this further to say there were unlikely to be planets around stars, because none had been found.
This is the argument that since we haven’t found 20th century equivalent spikes in low resolution paleo proxies, they are unlike to exist. However, this is a circular argument and it is why Marcott et al has gotten into trouble. It didn’t hold for planets and now we have evidence that it doesn’t hold for climate.
What astronomy found instead was that as we increased the resolution we found planets. Not just a few, but almost everywhere we looked. This is completely contrary to what the low resolution data told us and this example shows the problems with today’s thinking. You cannot use a low resolution series to infer anything reliable about a high resolution series.
However, the reverse is not true. What Marcott is showing is that in the high resolution proxies there is a temperature spike. This is equivalent to looking at the first star with high resolution equipment and finding planets. To find a planet on the first star tells us you are likely to find planets around many stars.
Thus, what Marcott is telling us is that we should expect to find a 20th century type spike in many high resolution paleo series. Rather than being an anomaly, the 20th century spike should appear in many places as we improve the resolution of the paleo temperature series. This is the message of Marcott and it is an important message that the researchers need to consider.
Marcott et al: You have just looked at your first star with high resolution equipment and found a planet. Are you then to conclude that since none of the other stars show planets at low resolution, that there are no planets around them? That is nonsense. The only conclusion you can reasonably make is that as you increase the resolution of other paleo proxies, you are more likely to find spikes in them as well.
As a primer for this, our own “Charles the Moderator” submitted this low resolution Marcott proxy plot with the Jo Nova’s plot of the Vostok ice core proxy overlaid to match the time scale. Yes the vertical scales don’t match (numerically on the scales due to the ticks being different and the offset difference), but this image is solely for entertainment purposes in the context of this article, and does make the point visually.
Spikes anyone? – Anthony
(Added) Study: Recent heat spike unlike anything in 11,000 years “Rapid” head spike unlike anything in 11,000 years. Research released Thursday in the journal Science uses fossils of tiny marine organisms to reconstruct global temperatures …. It shows how the globe for several thousands of years was cooling until an unprecedented reversal in the 20th century. — Seth Borenstein, The Associated Press, March 7th
Note: If somebody can point me to a comma delimited file of both the Marcott and Vostok datasets, I’d be happy to add a plot on a unified axis, or if you want to do one, leave a link to the finished image in comments using a service like Tinypic, Imageshack or Flickr. – Anthony