First here is Dr. Keith Briffa’s response in entirety direct from his CRU web page:
My attention has been drawn to a comment by Steve McIntyre on the Climate Audit website relating to the pattern of radial tree growth displayed in the ring-width chronology “Yamal” that I first published in Briffa (2000). The substantive implication of McIntyre’s comment (made explicitly in subsequent postings by others) is that the recent data that make up this chronology (i.e. the ring-width measurements from living trees) were purposely selected by me from among a larger available data set, specifically because they exhibited recent growth increases.
This is not the case. The Yamal tree-ring chronology (see also Briffa and Osborn 2002, Briffa et al. 2008) was based on the application of a tree-ring processing method applied to the same set of composite sub-fossil and living-tree ring-width measurements provided to me by Rashit Hantemirov and Stepan Shiyatov which forms the basis of a chronology they published (Hantemirov and Shiyatov 2002). In their work they traditionally applied a data processing method (corridor standardisation) that does not preserve evidence of long timescale growth changes. My application of the Regional Curve Standardisation method to these same data was intended to better represent the multi-decadal to centennial growth variations necessary to infer the longer-term variability in average summer temperatures in the Yamal region: to provide a direct comparison with the chronology produced by Hantemirov and Shiyatov.
These authors state that their data (derived mainly from measurements of relic wood dating back over more than 2,000 years) included 17 ring-width series derived from living trees that were between 200-400 years old. These recent data included measurements from at least 3 different locations in the Yamal region. In his piece, McIntyre replaces a number (12) of these original measurement series with more data (34 series) from a single location (not one of the above) within the Yamal region, at which the trees apparently do not show the same overall growth increase registered in our data.
The basis for McIntyre’s selection of which of our (i.e. Hantemirov and Shiyatov’s) data to exclude and which to use in replacement is not clear but his version of the chronology shows lower relative growth in recent decades than is displayed in my original chronology. He offers no justification for excluding the original data; and in one version of the chronology where he retains them, he appears to give them inappropriate low weights. I note that McIntyre qualifies the presentation of his version(s) of the chronology by reference to a number of valid points that require further investigation. Subsequent postings appear to pay no heed to these caveats. Whether the McIntyre version is any more robust a representation of regional tree growth in Yamal than my original, remains to be established.
My colleagues and I are working to develop methods that are capable of expressing robust evidence of climate changes using tree-ring data. We do not select tree-core samples based on comparison with climate data. Chronologies are constructed independently and are subsequently compared with climate data to measure the association and quantify the reliability of using the tree-ring data as a proxy for temperature variations.
We have not yet had a chance to explore the details of McIntyre’s analysis or its implication for temperature reconstruction at Yamal but we have done considerably more analyses exploring chronology production and temperature calibration that have relevance to this issue but they are not yet published. I do not believe that McIntyre’s preliminary post provides sufficient evidence to doubt the reality of unusually high summer temperatures in the last decades of the 20th century.
We will expand on this initial comment on the McIntyre posting when we have had a chance to review the details of his work.
30 Sept 2009
- Briffa, K. R. 2000. Annual climate variability in the Holocene: interpreting the message of ancient trees. Quaternary Science Reviews 19:87-105.
- Briffa, K. R., and T. J. Osborn. 2002. Paleoclimate – Blowing hot and cold. Science 295:2227-2228.
- Briffa, K. R., V. V. Shishov, T. M. Melvin, E. A. Vaganov, H. Grudd, R. M. Hantemirov, M. Eronen, and M. M. Naurzbaev. 2008. Trends in recent temperature and radial tree growth spanning 2000 years across northwest Eurasia. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences 363:2271-2284.
- Hantemirov, R. M., and S. G. Shiyatov. 2002. A continuous multimillennial ring-width chronology in Yamal, northwestern Siberia. Holocene 12:717-726.
Now a few points of my own:
1. Plotting the entire Hantemirov and Shiyatov data set, as I’ve done here, shows it to be almost flat not only in the late 20th century, but through much of its period.
How do you explain why your small set of 10 trees shows a late 20th century spike while the majority of Hantemirov and Shiyatov data does not? You write in your rebuttal:
“He offers no justification for excluding the original data; and in one version of the chronology where he retains them, he appears to give them inappropriate low weights.”
Justify your own method of selecting 10 trees out of a much larger data set. You’ve failed to do that. That’s the million dollar question.
Briffa Writes: “My application of the Regional Curve Standardisation method to these same data was intended to better represent the multi-decadal to centennial growth variations necessary to infer the longer-term variability in average summer temperatures in the Yamal region: to provide a direct comparison with the chronology produced by Hantemirov and Shiyatov.”
OK Fair enough, but why not do it for the entire data set, why only a small subset?
2. It appears that your results are heavily influenced by a single tree, as Steve McIntyre has just demonstrated here.
As McIntyre points out: “YAD061 reaches 8 sigma and is the most influential tree in the world.”
Seems like an outlier to me when you have one tree that can skew the entire climate record. Explain yourself on why you failed to catch this.
3. Why the hell did you wait 10 years to release the data? You did yourself no favors by deferring reasonable requests to archive data to enable replication. It was only when you became backed into a corner by The Royal Society that you made the data available. Your delays and roadblocks (such as providing an antique data format of the punched card era), plus refusing to provide metadata says more about your integrity than the data itself. Your actions make it appear that you did not want to release the data at all. Your actions are not consistent with the actions of the vast majority of scientists worldwide when asked for data for replication purposes. Making data available on paper publication for replication is the basis of proper science, which is why The Royal Society called you to task.
Read about it here
Yet while it takes years to produce your data despite repeated requests, you can mount a response to Steve McIntyre’s findings on that data in a couple of days, through illness even.
Do I believe Dr. Keith Briffa? No.