A hands on view of tree growth and tree rings – one explanation for Briffa’s YAD061 lone tree core

Siberian_larch_trees

Siberian Larch - Larix sibirica - Kotuykan River Area, near Yamal - Source: NASA

One of the great things about WUWT is that people from all walks of life frequent here. We have PhD’s right down to Average Joe  that read and post comments here. Everyone has something to contribute.

A general truism that I’ve noticed through life is that the people that actually work “hands on” with the things they study often know far more about them than the people that study them from afar. As in the case of the surface stations project, top scientists missed the fact that many of the climate monitoring stations are poorly sited because they never bothered to visit them to check the measurement environment. Yet the people in the field knew. Some scientists simply accepted the data the stations produced at face value and study its patterns, coaxing out details statistically. Such is the case with Briffa and Yamal tree rings apparently, since the tree ring data was gathered by others, field researchers Hantemirov and Shiyatov.

Briffa_single_tree_YAD061

American Indians have been said to be far more in tune with the patterns of the earth than modern man. They had to be, survival depended on it. They weren’t insulated by technology as we are. Likewise somebody who works in the forest whose daily livelihood is connected to trees might know a bit more about their growth than somebody sitting behind a desk.

WUWT commenter “Caleb”, who has worked with trees for 50 years, wrote this extraordinary essay on Briffa’s lone tree core known as YAD061, which has a pronounced 8 sigma effect on the set of 10 tree cores Briffa used in his study. Caleb’s essay is  in comments here, which I’m elevating to a full post. While we may never know the true growth driver for YAD06, this is one possible explanation.

Guest comment by Caleb Shaw:

I’ve worked outside since I was a small boy in the 1950’s, and have cut down hundreds of trees. I always check out the rings, for every tree has its own story.

I’ve seen some rather neat tricks pulled off by trees, especially concerning how far they can reach with their roots to find fertilizer or moisture. For example, sugar maple roots will reach, in some cases, well over a hundred feet, and grow a swift net of roots in the peat moss surrounding a lady’s azalea’s root ball, so that the azalea withers, for the maple steals all its water.

I’ve also seen tired old maples perk right up, when a pile of manure is heaped out in a pasture a hundred feet away, and later have seen the tree’s rings, when it was cut down, show its growth surged while that manure was available.

After fifty years you learn a thing or two, even if you don’t take any science classes or major in climatology, and I’ve had a hunch many of the tree-ring theories were bunkum, right from the start.

The bristlecone records seemed a lousy proxy, because at the altitude where they grow it is below freezing nearly every night, and daytime temperatures are only above freezing for something like 10% of the year. They live on the borderline of existence, for trees, because trees go dormant when water freezes. (As soon as it drops below freezing the sap stops dripping into the sugar maple buckets.) Therefore the bristlecone pines were dormant 90% of all days and 99% of all nights, in a sense failing to collect temperature data all that time, yet they were supposedly a very important proxy for the entire planet. To that I just muttered “bunkum.”

But there were other trees in other places. I was skeptical about the data, but until I saw so much was based on a single tree, YAD061, I couldn’t be sure I could just say “bunkum.”

YAD061 looks very much like a tree that grew up in the shade of its elders, and therefore grew slowly, until age or ice-storms or insects removed the elders and the shade. Then, with sunshine and the rotting remains of its elders to feed it, the tree could take off.

I have seen growth patterns much like YAD061 in the rings of many stumps in New Hampshire, and not once have I thought it showed a sign of global warming, or of increased levels of CO2 in the air. Rather the cause is far more simple: A childhood in the under-story, followed by a tree’s “day in the sun.”

Dr. Briffa should spend less time gazing at computer screens, and actually get out and associate with trees more. At the very least, it might be good for his health.

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199 thoughts on “A hands on view of tree growth and tree rings – one explanation for Briffa’s YAD061 lone tree core

  1. Yup, that was my assessment of the situation on the other YAD061 thread. It seems rather intuitive to me.

    .

    ralph (14:55:35) :
    All this proves, is that when a tree gets tall enough to get its head above the tree-canopy, it grows quicker. Axiomatic, one would have thought. And this has been interpreted as Global Warming????

    Oh, dear. Its back to the Dark Ages of science.

  2. Stunning. I see an analogy in fishery scientists and fishermen.
    The science there seems disconnected from reality also.

  3. Please, don’t take this guy seriously. His post, although demonstrating a way with words, was not peer reviewed by experts in the field ;).

  4. You know this is just piss in the wind

    he has no phd and no Goverment funding, no-one will believe this sh*t :D

  5. “Therefore the bristlecone pines were dormant 90% of all days and 99% of all nights, in a sense failing to collect temperature data all that time,”

    That’s actually why they’re useful. In a ‘hot year’, those same numbers would be, say, 85% and 99%. Versus the cold year of 95% and 99%.

    A three-fold change in the time spent growing is a dramatic effect.

    On the other hand, picture the tree outside my house in Seattle. In a cold year, it might freeze solid enough to stop growth for, say, 21 nights. That is:

    You’d be trying to measure the difference in growth based on 365 days of growth versus 355 days of growth. And the ‘hot’ years would be identical to a normal year. So there is very little “swing” in the size of the rings (based on temperature alone) if the trees are unstressed.

  6. I’d have thought that if protecting developing countries from global warming was going to cost $100bn per year and that so much rests on one tree someone might have gone to check by now.

  7. “Please, don’t take this guy seriously. His post, although demonstrating a way with words, was not peer reviewed by experts in the field ;).”
    Robinson

    I don’t know. Maybe he showed it to the forester in the next field….?

  8. Excellent….just excellent.

    It is about time we felled the tree that AGW was built upon. Way to go Caleb!

  9. quote “His post, although demonstrating a way with words, was not peer reviewed by experts in the field ;).”

    Let’s make sure to correct that deficiency.

    Does anyone know any loggers? Australian, Austrian, Swiss, maybe some Indonesians, that should get enough knowledgeable people to review his comments. Certainly, it would get enough folks with common sense enough to shed light on the “other” experts.

    Trees with 90% down time – sheesh! Sounds like some Government employees I’ve seen.

    Excellent post! Thanks for elevating it Anthony!

  10. This is actually a huge mistake of our time, taking PhD’s at their word. I went through two degrees of physics and let me tell you, even very smart people from very good schools who took very difficult paths to professorship can indeed be very very ignorant.

    People will attack me for saying this, but it’s the truth.

  11. If I could quote Leonardo da Vinci – “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – excellent post.

  12. My ad hominem attack on Caleb:

    1. He is not using his real name, therefore the reasonable information he presents is invalid.

    2. He is not a climatologist, so he is not qualified to speak.

    3. My tree growth computer model, which includes the impact of manure, supports the Hockey Stick and the Team.

    4. Caleb is no doubt funded by Big Oil.

    5. Maple trees and/or maple syrup are not proxies for bristlecone pines or computer climate models.

    6. His comment did not come in the form of a Hadley CRU peer-reviewed scientific paper.

    7. The science is in, so Caleb’s point is moot anyway. The debate is over.

    8. He posted on WUWT, and is therefore discredited.

  13. “YAD061 looks very much like a tree that grew up in the shade of its elders, and therefore grew slowly, until age or ice-storms or insects removed the elders and the shade. Then, with sunshine and the rotting remains of its elders to feed it, the tree could take off.”

    In a temperate forest often all that needs to give way is a few trees whose boughs may overhang the young tree to see a surge.

    Above the Arctic Circle you probably see the greatest surges when an acre or more of competition, including other young competitors to give way as the sunbeams shine at so low of an angle.

  14. Great story Caleb, and one that brings a little of perspective to the issue. One thing you might consider however is that the canopy of the broadleaf hardwood forest of the NE is quite different than that of the boreal larch forest of the Yamal.

    The photo that Anthony provided above looks like the boreal forest I spent many years working in up in northern Canada. These’s not a lot of shade there and its really a single rather than multi-canopy environment. The amount of root space is also quite different due to the presence of permafrost.

    I do agree though with the general point you make though. Too many folks in climate science seem to do all their work in front of computers and do not consider field conditions when they make their analyses or conclusion. This may not be related to why Briffa’s data archive was missing the metadata, but I have to wonder.

  15. Tree rings may be missinterpreted. Tree LINES cannot.

    Rashit M. Hantemirov* and Stepan G. Shiyatov (2002) A continuous multimillennial ring-width chronology in Yamal, northwestern Siberia. The Holocene 12,6 pp. 717–726
    http://www.nosams.whoi.edu/PDFs/papers/Holocene_v12a.pdf

    This is the paper that provided the (unused) Yamal data.
    Look at page 720. It shows how tree lines have moved SOUTH over the last 700 years. Tree line reflect minimum growth temperatures.
    It has been getting progressively COLDER.

    • Dr. Keiller:

      This is your field of expertise not mine, but wouldn’t a simple tree line reconstruction of temperatures be complicated by forest succession and species changes?

  16. Alan S. Blue wrote:

    “Therefore the bristlecone pines were dormant 90% of all days and 99% of all nights, in a sense failing to collect temperature data all that time,”

    That’s actually why they’re useful. In a ‘hot year’, those same numbers would be, say, 85% and 99%. Versus the cold year of 95% and 99%.

    A three-fold change in the time spent growing is a dramatic effect.

    On the other hand, picture the tree outside my house in Seattle. In a cold year, it might freeze solid enough to stop growth for, say, 21 nights. That is:

    You’d be trying to measure the difference in growth based on 365 days of growth versus 355 days of growth. And the ‘hot’ years would be identical to a normal year. So there is very little “swing” in the size of the rings (based on temperature alone) if the trees are unstressed.

    If you want your trees to validate global warming, then I agree. If, however, you want your trees to measure average temperature throughout the year, then having them be dormant over 90% of the time is not going to tell you anything.

    Say the same thing happened with a thermometer used to measure air temperature: the liquid in the thermometer is water. Totally useless if put in an area where the temperature drops below freezing 90% of the time. You will never be able to determine the average temperature throughout the year.

  17. I think this is better than “Fanfare For Common Man” (Copeland) in that, as “The Plumber” in a previous thread did, asked a basic question – devoid of complex wording, stripped of all but very plain meaning. Caleb and “The Plumber” both say “Tell me why (this) is so?” seeing knowledge and understanding.

    As in a previous post, I say this (and other blogs) provide an opportunity for excellent scientists (You know who you are) to rub shoulders with (sarc on) the great unwashed (sarc off) who ask those questions you didn’t think to consider. This is true peer review – human to human – how do we use well and wisely this wonderful planet we live on?

    Thank you all, and thank you Anthony and the moderators for your hard work.

    Mike Bentley

  18. This is my take on YAD061:

    YAD061 was a young tree, not as big as those around it, living in the shades and just making it. Here comes a nomad tribe. They set camp nearby and cut that big ol’ tree that blocked the light from YAD061. Not only that, but the immediate area around YAD061 became their common toilets. The combined effect of more light and fertilizer made YAD061 very big in no time.

    Many years after, when all trace of the nomad tribe has been erased from time, two Russian guys come along with saws and see that big ol’ YAD061 and tell themselves that this tree looks perfect and old for a tree ring study.

    OH MY GOD! YAD061 MUST BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN ALL OTHER TREES SINCE HAS GROWN MORE THAN ANY OTHER RECENTLY… and this is how a future scientific myth started.

  19. All,

    Sub seeking to seeing – although the meaning is close…Damn fingers anyway!

    MJB

  20. As just a dumb ol country boy I can say authoritatively that Caleb is spot on.
    Many times some otherwise very smart people are not blessed with an over abundance of walking around sense.
    We all know what PhD means. Yeah, piled higher and deeper.

  21. I posted recently suggesting (tongue in cheek of course) a Nobel for Anthony and Steve. Sorry Anthony. My vote for a Nobel now goes to Caleb

  22. Caleb and Anthony:

    Very refreshing to read the common sense of experience; interesting to see Bill Hunter’s comment about how the circumstances for faster growth might be different in boreal forests. I’m learning a lot and appreciating it.

  23. If we wanted to see how the temperature changed in the last 150 years based on tree growth, there are billions of trees on earth older than 150 years that would tell us how things changed or did not change since then.

    The idea of using a large enough number of samples is exactly to avoid giving too much weight to a single tree. In fact, in a much bigger sampling YAD061 would have been rejected for those same reasons Caleb told us. If it is warm or the soil has changed, it should affect the whole forest in the same way. If other factors impact the growth of single trees, those samples will be rejected after statistical analysis (i.e. like more local sun and local fertilization).

  24. Alan S Blue,

    The problem with usine trees in that environment for “climate” estimations is that you are then measuring how many years have a 1-2 week hot spell that is warmer than usual. As we are all frequently scolded, one to two week hot (or cold) spells are weather, not climate. So measuring a tree that had a 1-2 week hot spell during a year and assigning a warmer climate for that year as a whole is a false and misleading assumption to make. Trees that are active for a larger portion of a year are more likely to show a cumulative effect reflective of the annual climate than trees that are only active for a few weeks. Unfortunately for scientists, the changes between warm and cold become much smaller and harder to measure in such trees (and less likely to make a hockey stick).

  25. Doug in Seattle,

    I agree with your general assessment, but the fact is that we don’t know what the local environment was for the tree in question. It may have been part of a sparse grove, or it may have been a young tree inside of an older cluster.

    It also may be that shade / sunlight was not the issue for this tree. It could very well have been an issue of water or nutrients. One could formulate several scenarios under which inadequate water existed for much of the tree’s life, then abundance was supplied – a rock uphill of the tree gave way, allowing water to reach the tree, for example. It could have been a root-binding issue, also, with some event near the end of the tree’s life eliminating the root-binding so that nutrients could be accessed and accelerate the tree’s growth. Or reindeer chose that tree to huddle around, giving the tree the benefit of their excreta. Who knows.

  26. BrianMcL – The whole point of the problem is that the data hasn’t been available until just now. It’s sort of like the Polanski affair, the clock stopped on Briffa the day he ran away from giving out data.

  27. Suppose for a moment that trees in the artic did actually start to grow faster as co2 levels went up – wouldn’t the direct effect of co2 on growth be a better and simpler explanation than an indirect effect through temperature?

  28. “A general truism that I’ve noticed through life is that the people that actually work “hands on” with the things they study often know far more about them than the people that study them from afar.”

    Wiser words have not been spoken. One wonders about the outcome of our healthcare system re-design, masterminded from afar by the clowns in DC.

  29. Don @ 14:10:39
    “This is the paper that provided the (unused) Yamal data.
    Look at page 720. It shows how tree lines have moved SOUTH over the last 700 years. Tree line reflect minimum growth temperatures.
    It has been getting progressively COLDER.”

    That seems like an incredibly obvious and important thing for anyone arguing about AGW to have missed. Is there some abmiguity in the tree line progression?

  30. Now, that’s something all the “Average Joes” who frequent this site can appreciate as an indictment tree-ring proxies. Each tree in the same location leads a different life.

    Outstanding post.

  31. While we are in more philosophical mode, does anyone know of “Meditation in a Toolshed” by Prof C.S.Lewis? He was in a dark old shed and saw a beam of sunlight shining through a space over the door. The beam was bright and striking with its specks of floating dust while everything else was dark. He was seeing the beam, not seeing by it. “Then I moved”, he says, “so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, through the cranny over the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, ninety million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam and looking at the beam are very different experiences.

    “But this is only a very simple example of the difference between looking ‘at’ and looking ‘along’. A young man meets a girl. The whole world looks different when he sees her”. Chatting to her is very precious and he is as they say ‘in love’. Now comes along a scientist and describes his experience from outside. For him it is all about genes and chemicals in the brain and a recognised biological stimulous… That is the difference between looking along and looking at and you can see lots of examples of this all day long. You get one experience when you look ‘along’ and another when you look ‘at’. Which is the ‘true’ or ‘valid’ experience? Which tells you most about a thing?
    In our time it is generally assumed that if you want to know about sexual love go to a psychologist, not lovers. if you want to undersand a mathematician at work go to a brain scientist, and if you want to understand tree rings where do you go? A Caleb out in the woods, or a Briffa siiting at his computer. One looking along and one looking at. The analogy nearly works, I think, and even if it doesn’t quite hold up it is nevertheless illuminating. The truth is that we need to look both ‘at’ and ‘along’. We need both Caleb and Briffa, but Briffa needs some integrity and humility, and both (all of us) need to understand what the other brings to understanding the phenomena of the world. End of philosophical musing. I hope it helps a little.

  32. That reminds me of the typical presentation of results in front of an audience…

    When the presenter says: “This is a typical result”, he really means “this is my best result”.
    When the presenter says:”This representative sample”, really means “this is my only good result, two were wiped when I spilled my coffee on them and the other two were chewed up by my dog”.

  33. Espen (14:32:04) :

    In order for the trees to absorb CO2 and grow, they have to be above zero and water and nutrients must flow through their root systems. Trees that are in a frozen environment for 90% of the time won’t grow much.

  34. Espen (14:32:04) :
    Suppose for a moment that trees in the artic did actually start to grow faster as co2 levels went up – wouldn’t the direct effect of co2 on growth be a better and simpler explanation than an indirect effect through temperature?

    A tree isn’t a CO2 sink — it will only take in the amount necessary to metabolize the nutrients it’s absorbing through its roots. If the amount of nutrients increases, the tree will grow additional foliage to increase its CO2 intake, but an increase in atmospheric CO2 will not affect its growth.

  35. Nice common sense post, but as the information is anecdotal rather than produced by a computer model surely it is disqualified?

    Anyone here able to pass any comment on the veracity of ice cores, which I look at with as jaundiced an eye as I do tree rings?

    tonyb

  36. Do you think we could get the guys who cut down the tree on the beach in the Maldives (that was showing no increase in sea level) to take out YAD061.

    Also, this post illustrates very well the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Another illustration is that knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, but wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.

    Anyone for dessert at Keith’s?

  37. Common sense. did Briffa even visit the area?

    Many people admire charles darwin,. I don’t. He had a theology degree and was carefull note taker. No one discredits his education because they like him.

    People don’t question Algore.

    Great article and great points he makes. we need more “calebs” so that we don’t waste a difficult experiment by forgetting something.

  38. One problem with the collection of tree growth data not often mentioned: the researchers aren’t botanists. They make assumptions that aren’t necessarily true. When they fail to collect and/or archive metadata, the numbers they get might as well be invented.

  39. Super post Caleb. While the areas from where these trees came were population sparse, there was still a randomness to the distribution, and so a tree could very well grow up in the shade of another. What didn’t occur to me was that the slow spreading of the roots could also send some of them to new sources of nutrients. Also, if the direction of waterflow down a hillside changed very slightly, a tree that wasn’t getting enough water might suddenly get much more. It seems to me that since these trees lived on the border of the northern tree line, the little ice age could have killed many of them off. Then, as we came out of the little ice age, the caracasses of the dead served as food for the living. I don’t have your experience Caleb, but it seems to me that the growth pattern on a tree could have inumerable explanations. Then, when you take evaluation methods for the data that amplify the differences because it’s considered “signal”, you can end up with virtually meaningless reconstructions; or reconstructions that are dominated by just a few trees. I’ll go back to Leif’s quote and say that I’m not sure that tree ring proxies can be trusted to tell us much of anything. A look at the spagetti graphs and the huge variations between the individual proxies also drives that home.

  40. Roger:
    “I agree with your general assessment, but the fact is that we don’t know what the local environment was for the tree in question. It may have been part of a sparse grove, or it may have been a young tree inside of an older cluster. ”

    This is one of the reasons that a large sample size is important, so that an outlier or two won’t effect your data to such a large extent. And it’s why Briffa’s tiny sample size is such a travesty. He’s suppose to be a professional, and he’s suppose to know this. Of course maybe he does know it, but he didn’t care because the series gave the result that he was looking for.

  41. I this proves that we need a process more than peer review. It needs to also reviewed by thoughtful intelligent people as well.

  42. Caleb,

    I have seen growth patterns much like YAD061 in the rings of many stumps in New Hampshire.The Team has millions in grant money. You might be able to make some serious dough by producing tree-ring series with those stumps

  43. Good explanation of just while tree ring data can be indicative of climate, it can never produce an accurate historic temperature even when well calibrated.

    Common sense is a vital to the scientific process. Once people get too close to a problem it is all too easy for them to stop seeing the wood for the trees.

  44. There are errors on both extremes. People are often more willing to believe what a PhD says merely because they have the degree but there are also lots of instances of people claiming to be equally or even better able to pontificate on a topic they have no education about because academia is seen as some form of elitism. Just look at politicians who decide to set the official value of pi at an even three because they want it to be that. Look at all the folk who have a “scientific” theory about something when they don’t know what a theory is. The belief that experts know nothing is at least as prevelant and damaging as the belief that experts know nothing. Unfortunately, this entire issue of climate science and the hockey stick debacle in particular will be a kick in the teeth to real scientists who are confronted with pseudoscience for generations to come. Creationists still harp about the Piltdown man, even though it didn’t fool nearly as many people as was portrayed. A hundred years from now astrologers will be telling astronomers that the sphere of fixed stars is a perfectly valid model and they only disagree because they are closed minded egg heads who don’t know anything about stars and make up all their data. “Remember global warming?” they will snear. That will be enough to convince the PTA to put horoscopes 101 onto the curriculum.

  45. Thanks for a real down to earth post based on hands on experience. This clearly answers the questions asked over at RC about “Communicating Science: Not just Talking the Talk” – in one simple work “bunkum”.

  46. It seems to me that the only thing tree rings can tell us is: During this time the tree did poorly and during that time the tree did well. Didn’t the whole dendro thing get started as dendrochronology? I think the papers that claimed to prove that any other information could be extracted from tree ring studies need to be looked at for evidence of good old boy review.

  47. Surely there is payola here somewhere from the maple syrup industry! :-)

    Thanks Caleb. Nice post.

  48. Caleb rocks. And Anthony rocks for giving Caleb the mike. And the commenters rock for adding depth, nuance, pressure-testing, other ideas and follow-on ideas.

    People, this is us working a problem well. Thanks.

    As for substance, I grew up in Yukon Territory where the forests were pretty much as depicted in the photo at top of thread. Not much competition for light. Semi-arid (15″ rainfall a year?). Cold as hell a lot of the time. And billions of trees sorting out their individual and collective fates. BILLIONS. And no two the same.

    For me, that’s the key. If Briffa and his ilk ever thought about the tree-ring proxy concept, and ever got out of their basements to gain a sense of the environment in which the data is generated by those “living thermometers,” they would never have dared to think, let alone sell, a model that rested on a trivial sample set of 1 tree, or 12, or even hundreds. Here and in other WUWT threads I’ve seen statistically-savvy commenters suggest that a randomized set of geographical coordinates should have been used to pick nearest tree; with that would have come a precise (and regularly checked/calibrated) system of taking samples from those trees and reading them; plus of course “chain of title” to ensure data integrity. And then (pre-set) rules for what can be discarded. Double-blind the thing. Run it like a clinical trial for a new drug. Basic scientific hygiene. Because the biggest risk in science is fooling yourself.

    That’s what Briffa and his friends seem to want to do. Sad. And once you start to do it, you start to think you’re pretty damned smart, and so you keep on doing it. The “Enron” mindset of being “the smartest guys in the room” is not just for energy derivative traders. It’s a mindset that almost always leads to the Enron outcome, however. Which is where Briffa and Co. may now be.

    It’s about humility and letting the world talk to you. Caleb probably gets more real truth from the forest in an afternoon that Briffa will get in his entire lifetime. I wouldn’t mind that, except Briffa wants to sell me a trillion-dollar pig in a poke.

    Enough. Again, Caleb, super job. And the post may generate some excellent follow-on for empirical testing/comment of how trees grow, and what they’re really telling us.

  49. Dare I say it, but, sometimes (particularly in technical or scientific fields):

    You can’t see the wood for the trees.

  50. I am going to name this tree “Andre” in respect to “Andre The Giant”. This single tree is much akin to having Andre in a room full of “normal” sized people. Sure, Andre will change the overall averages of height, weight etc, but he is not a trend or at all representative of the overall group. I can not accuse Dr. Briffa of cherry picking (but it sure looks like it from here.)
    Much of the science of the AGW believers theories can settled IF they release their data and source code.

  51. ********************
    Doug in Seattle (14:07:03) :
    I do agree though with the general point you make though. Too many folks in climate science seem to do all their work in front of computers and do not consider field conditions when they make their analyses or conclusion. This may not be related to why Briffa’s data archive was missing the metadata, but I have to wonder.
    ***********************
    The Twelve Disciples set of cores back up what Caleb said. The other Eleven Disciples tell us that the Twelfth is an outliar. (Yep, I mean outLIAR! – an out and out liar :) There was something different about the tree, probably something about its environment, just as Caleb said.

  52. RE: Alan S. Blue (13:41:02) :
    ——————
    “Therefore the bristlecone pines were dormant 90% of all days and 99% of all nights, in a sense failing to collect temperature data all that time,”

    That’s actually why they’re useful. In a ‘hot year’, those same numbers would be, say, 85% and 99%. Versus the cold year of 95% and 99%.

    A three-fold change in the time spent growing is a dramatic effect.

    On the other hand, picture the tree outside my house in Seattle. In a cold year, it might freeze solid enough to stop growth for, say, 21 nights. That is:

    You’d be trying to measure the difference in growth based on 365 days of growth versus 355 days of growth. And the ‘hot’ years would be identical to a normal year. So there is very little “swing” in the size of the rings (based on temperature alone) if the trees are unstressed.
    —————————————
    If the bristlecone pines reflected temperatures, they should show a growth spurt in the 1930’s to match Mann’s hockey stick.

  53. Unfortunately, this entire issue of climate science and the hockey stick debacle in particular will be a kick in the teeth to real scientists who are confronted with pseudoscience for generations to come.

    Wow, nail… head. Good strike. My view (I don’t have a dog in this race by the way in terms of AGW) is that the dissemination of pseudo-science is growing, precisely because people are losing confidence in the Scientific method. I’ve seen it, particularly on the web and more so in the mainstream media. This is almost inevitable in a culture where Science is done by press-release and politicians pick up and run with popular sentiment. There’s a kind-of destructive feedback between Scientists, the media and politicians. It’s a circle I can see no way of breaking, except of course through blogs such as this and legislation to put the ship back on an even keel.

    We are in culturally dangerous territory, as I think most people here can appreciate.

  54. Nice post, thanks Caleb and Anthony.

    First day of my first climatology class; prof’s main point “Don’t forecast with your back to the window.” Seems to fit here somehow.

    In dryer & warmer areas, it is often annual precipitation AND how it is redistributed in the landscape that affects tree growth and thus ring widths. For example, at the hillslope scale trees grow better in hollows (topographic concentration of surface and subsurface water flow) than they do on noses (topographic areas of dispersion of flow). Likewise, a very small dike or temporary interruption of subsurface and surface flow such as a few rocks or a dead tree can slow the flow of water and make it more available to plants.

    So, variations in annual precipitation and spatial variations in water flow paths both contribute to large variations in tree ring widths when temperature is not the limiting factor. One must consider a myriad of other limiting factors depending upon the site specific ecosystem properties.

    Some places it is temperature, others precipitation, others nutrients, and others the degree of insect infestation, etc.; and at a single place, all of these things can be important from year to year.

  55. mr.artday (15:42:48) : “It seems to me that the only thing tree rings can tell us is: During this time [this part of] the tree did poorly and during that time [this part of] the tree did well. Didn’t the whole dendro thing get started as dendrochronology? I think the papers that claimed to prove that any other information could be extracted from tree ring studies need to be looked at for evidence of good old boy review.”

    Amen. When they went from dendrochronology to dendrophrenology, that’s when the coprolites hit the impeller.

  56. Good job, Caleb.
    For a tree that has evolved to take full advantage of scarce sunlight, the Siberian Larch did exactly what nature programmed it to do…take off. I was thinking a wound healed or two trees joining.
    So, where is the documentary evidence of this tree ring cut? Drawing? Photo? I would think that the in-field researches would have done that. And, like archaeologists, the surrounding environment might be also documented.
    Preserved cut specimen or borehole core?
    Does anybody know if photos of tree ring cuts/cores are a common practice?

  57. Very interesting post.

    Just to add my 2 pence with a personal experience. 25 years ago the local authority planted about 25 trees, one outside each house in our street. Unfortunately for the trees the following two years had very dry summers. Some of us watered “our” tree, and some didn’t for those summers. Now over twenty years later the watered trees are still out growing the unwatered trees.

    Probably on no scientific value but interesting none the less.

  58. The Reverent Expert says, …….
    …-

    “The exhortation to defer to experts is underpinned by the premise that their specialist knowledge entitles them to a higher moral status to the rest of us.”

    “Specialist pleading

    ONE of the most influential contemporary cultural myths is that our era is characterised by the end of deference.

    Commentators interpret the declining influence of traditional authority and institutions as proof that people have become less deferential and possess more critical attitudes than in the past. However, it is less frequently noted that deference to traditional authority has given way to the reverence of expertise.

    Western culture assumes that a responsible individual will defer to the opinion of an expert. Politicians frequently remind us that their policies are “evidence based”, which usually means informed by expert advice. Experts have the last word on topics of public interest and increasingly on matters to do with people’s private affairs. We are advised to seek and heed to advice of a bewildering chorus of personal experts — parenting specialists, life coaches, relationship gurus, super-nannies and sex therapists, to name a few — who apparently possess the authority to tell us how to live our lives.

    The exhortation to defer to experts is underpinned by the premise that their specialist knowledge entitles them to a higher moral status to the rest of us. For example, …”
    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25979808-25132,00.html

  59. The Twelve Disciples set of cores back up what Caleb said. The other Eleven Disciples tell us that the Twelfth is an outliar. (Yep, I mean outLIAR! – an out and out liar :) There was something different about the tree, probably something about its environment, just as Caleb said.

    And the name of the Twelfth Tree shall be Judas.

  60. **********************
    rbateman (16:24:57) :
    Good job, Caleb.
    For a tree that has evolved to take full advantage of scarce sunlight, the Siberian Larch did exactly what nature programmed it to do…take off. I was thinking a wound healed or two trees joining.
    ***************
    Or maybe Judas experienced good fortune when one of his fellows fell around his base. Like in the picture above.

  61. Caleb’s post neatly brings to mind that old computer adage,
    “Bull Shit in – Bull Shit out,”

  62. Ha HA Robinson (13:34:58) :

    Please, don’t take this guy seriously. His post, although demonstrating a way with words, was not peer reviewed by experts in the field ;).

    Our erstwhile Team experts never get into the field

  63. When i look at the 12 graphs, the YAD061 has quite high 1950 temperatures.
    This would not support the final 1970-1995 warming much.

    What i then also see is that all the other 11 chosen temperature trends has a DIVE in 1950. These takes down the YAD061 high 1950 somewhat and thus support the global message optimally.

    Nice picking of the 11 …

    K.R. Frank Lansner

    REPLY: FYI, there are 10 graphs – Anthony

  64. Espen (14:32:04) : “Suppose for a moment that trees in the artic did actually start to grow faster as co2 levels went up – wouldn’t the direct effect of co2 on growth be a better and simpler explanation than an indirect effect through temperature?”

    Photosynthesis is an endothermic reaction requiring 15MJ of solar energy per kilogram of glucose. The irony is that a the presence of snowpack near a tree during a growing season can reflect more energy to the tree’s leaves. The influence of microclimate on tree growth can be profound.

  65. Could we combine new solar cycle low state date with the new tree ring discussion combined with the previously discredited Mann data? Can we walk and chew gum at the same time?

  66. Lovely posting, Caleb, sir.

    Utter sense.

    Not in the folksy sense for this is much, much more than that.

    This is scientific observation and logic tempered as happens so rarely with these dopey self-aggranizing AGW people.

    Thanks. Blast of fresh air.

    Alec Kitson

  67. What would be interesting would be to remove that single tree and rerun the analysis and plot the two together.

    That would make it apparent to all what that one tree means.

  68. Don Keiller (14:10:39) : [Hantemirov…] is the paper that provided the (unused) Yamal data. Look at page 720. It shows how tree lines have moved SOUTH over the last 700 years. Tree line reflect minimum growth temperatures. It has been getting progressively COLDER.

    Spot on, spot on! this is really important, thanks.

  69. Re Caleb’s Post

    I couldn’t agree more. There is a vast variability in tree ring growth which makes them poor proxies for temperature, CO2 etc. For example, we had trees on our farm which grew TWO rings in a single year when we had an unusual year where we in effect had TWO wet spring periods. We could not have known this happened if we had not been having the trees assessed by a forester to determine whether they were under ten years old and could be legally cleared to re-establish pasture. The trees in question could be accurately dated from aerial photographs as well so there was no doubt that we had trees which were less than ten years old which had twelve or more tree rings. The fact that this happened brings into doubt the chronology of tree ring data which is vital to determining its accuracy. If you can’t know how old the tree is from its rings then everything else about it is equally dubious. Nothing at all can be concluded from a false premise.

  70. I think Caleb’s reality check is a very pertinent one. I also respect his experience, particularly as I am currently trying to fell 30 feet of vigourous top growth in several stems on a tree overhanging and shading my house, which is so vigorous because it was cut back six years ago leaving a enormous bole and huge root system wanting to replace its crown. And I have the roof on one side, my telephone line on another and my neighbours line on a third side.

    We sometimes get so obsessed with temperature in proxies that other possible variables are assumed stable and ignored.

    Am I right in thinking that the very first hint of Steve’s breaking story was his posted comment on this site?

    http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2009/09/25/circling-yamal-delinquent-treering-records/

    I hope that eventually history will adequately acknowledge all those who have and continue to contribute their unfunded time and efforts devoted to the analysis, discussion and audit of the dendro and related data, facilitated, and perhaps only made possible, by modern internet communications.

  71. I’m not a climate expert and I’m not a statistics expert and I’ve only been reading on this site for a few days but I was simply shocked to discover how few trees these studies include. How can you make any meaningful conclusions based on 10 trees. Or even 34. Especially if you know nothing of the local factors affecting them specifically – nutrient availability, shade or sun conditions, water accessibility. It seems to me for these kind of studies to be even minimally valid you have to cancel out the effect of local variations of individual trees by having many, many more samples. Thousands would seem to be the bare minimum. They could have samples from 10 trees in that picture above and still not necessarily have a good representation of that one small area. How are ten trees spread out over an entire peninsula supposed to be taken seriously? Why didn’t it pass the smell test with Briffa and everyone else? Would it really be that hard to go out and sample 2000 trees using some objective criteria? And even if it is hard, it seems to me to be absolutely the minimum required to do the job properly. Ten thousand would be even better.

    This also reminds me of shows I’ve seen about the wine industry, where they claim that farmers know their fields so well that they know that the grapes from a particular row on a particular hillside make better wine than grapes a few rows over, for hyperlocal reasons of soil, sunlight, or whatever. They segregate those grapes and don’t mix them with the rest for just that reason, because they’re considered more valuable. How much do the researchers know about these trees they’re using in such small numbers? Anything?

  72. “Siberia photos

    In the gallery below you find photos from Yamal Peninsula and October Revolution Island, Russian Arctic. Photos that are not signed in caption were shot by me. Feel free to use my photos for educational purposes, but please refer to my home page as the source. Please respect the copywright of collegues who have contributed with photos to this site, and whose names are given in the captions.”
    http://www3.hi.is/~oi/siberia_photos.htm
    …-

    Pics/captions of interest from the above website to this reader:

    1. “Scene from an abandoned Russian military post, Yamal.”

    2. “A stump of birch from the Betula horizon. This shows early Holocene tree limit 200 km north of present. 1997.” (More)

    Yamal was one of the many Islands of Stalin’s GULAG Archipelago*.
    H/T Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn*.

    *”Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
    From 1945 to 1953 he was imprisoned for writing a letter in which he criticized Joseph Stalin – “the man with the mustache.” Solzhenitsyn served in the …
    http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/alesol.htm

  73. Does anyone really think the past climate of the earth can be determined from a dozen trees in Siberia? How about 1 tree?

    The data behind Briffa’s hockey stick can’t stand up to scrutiny in a well-lit room. Thank you to Steve McIntyre for turning the lights on. And thank you to Caleb for illustrating that there are other explanations for the unusual growth of YAD061.

    One tree!!! WTH!

  74. I would like to add that rings do not grow symmetrically. One will find wider ringson one side of a tree for a few years, and then 30 to 180 degrees away for a few years. .Conclusions about when growth occured are highly dependent on where the cores were taken. Murray

  75. The movement of the northern treeline limit southwards over the last few millennia is widely known. Here is a picture from Hubert Lamb (founder of the Hadley CRU:

    Sorry about the poor quality of the scan. The four inch hand-scanner I used cost several hundred dollars at the time I made it.

    It was the movement of the treeline that largely underpinned the classic Northern Hemisphere temperature reconstruction that was used prior to the Mann hockeystick in IPCC AR1.

  76. This reminds me of a story I saw on TV about the infamous Galveston hurricane of 1900. This was about the only time I watched the History channel (because it was about a hurricane). The chief meteorologist of Galveston was a man by the name of Isaac Cline. He was a smart man, famous for some of his advancements in weather knowledge. Yet he was bested by someone who was uneducated. In 1900, Cubans gave the warning that a hurricane was heading into the Gulf of Mexico. This violated everything Isaac Cline knew, so he ignored the warning. The result was thousands lost their life. Cline, being the arrogant know-it-all that he was, later claimed he warned the city. But that was just to cover his rear so he wouldn’t have to admit he was wrong.

    I’m also reminded of real-life experiences. There is a difference between book knowledge and real-world knowledge. There is no substitute for experience. I fix computers for a living. I am A+ certified. That is book knowledge. There are many things I had to learn to because certified that I have never used. In contrast, I had my first computer when I was 6. That was back in the DOS days when Tandy was still around. Yes, my dad bought a Tandy from Radio Shack. I do use my experience everyday. Sometimes I have to fix a problem when my competition did the book answer. My experience has given me an intuition: even if I don’t know what is wrong, quite often I can fix it anyway, but not always.

    Being educated does not mean you are smart or wise. The wisest people are the ones with the most experience in one particular field. Those who focus on everything cannot get enough experience in one thing to be an expert on anything.

  77. cbullitt (14:33:56) : The data you refer to (p720) is subfossil data, so there is nothing recent. Also, the dashed line (Distance 0) is the current tree line. So the trend over the past few hundred years seems to be warming. But for the Middle Holocene and earlier the treeline seems further north. So I think we can say that the claim that current temperatures are unprecedented is incorrect for this site.

  78. I think Briffa would have been better off using the rings on turtle shells instead of the rings on trees. McIntyre would have had a harder time finding them.

  79. We need more contributions from people who really know something and have been there, even PhDs. How about asking Dr. Schweingruber for a comment ?

  80. Lets give Caleb millions in grant money to study AGW and see what he comes up with. Now this is what the world needs is common sense and class. Thanks for amplifying Caleb’s comments and thanks Caleb for having the guts to simplify what some scientist said in 150 word run-on sentences with big four letter words that basically said: I was given bad data but the story is true.

  81. Henry chance (15:09:07) :

    “Common sense. did Briffa even visit the area?

    Many people admire charles darwin,. I don’t. He had a theology degree and was carefull note taker. No one discredits his education because they like him.”

    Darwin put his evolutionary theorising aside for many years and spent 8 years analysing many thousands of barnacle species. This work alone was sufficient to establish his reputation as a formidable scientist, not just in his day. His dogged persistence in this enterprise has inspired many a budding scientist, not just crusty old historians of science.

    BTW, many, if not most field biologists prior to the 20th C were clergymen. Do you reject Bayesian statistics because Rev Thomas Bayes had a theology degree, rather than one in mathematics? Sheesh…

    [REPLY – This risks evolving into a discussion of evolution. THAT TOPIC IS VERBOTEN. I’ll leave this for now, but some other mod. may snip it. ~ Evan]

  82. Snake Oil Baron (15:32:58) :
    Unfortunately, this entire issue of climate science and the hockey stick debacle in particular will be a kick in the teeth to real scientists who are confronted with pseudoscience for generations to come. Creationists still harp about the Piltdown man, even though it didn’t fool nearly as many people as was portrayed.

    From its “discovery” in 1912 until 1949 when Kenneth Oakley from the British Museum’s Paleontology Department received permission to use the fluoride test – the Piltdown man was given protected status at the Museum. Finally in 1953, Oxford professor of physical anthropology Joseph Weiner proved absolutely the fossils to be a fraud.

    In the interim many unsuspecting scientists (Arthur Woodward) were taken in. Others were forced to silently accept Piltdown’s “proof” of this version of Darwinian evolution. To disagree with the status quo endangered the skeptic’s professional reputation. And there were many who staunchly defended the find as the unassailable missing link.

    “That we should discover such a race as Piltdown, sooner or later, has been an article of faith in the anthropologist’s creed ever since Darwin’s time.”
    Sir Arthur Keith, Professor of Physiology Royal Institution, London, authorAntiquity of Man, 1924.

  83. ***********************
    REPLY: FYI, there are 10 graphs – Anthony
    ***************
    Oops! I guess I misinterpreted this from S.M.

    “by Steve McIntyre on September 30th, 2009

    Obviously there’s been a lot of discussion in the last few days about the difference between the CRU 12 and the Schweingruber 34. “

  84. The whole flap has left me rather stunned. Not only are the other samples ignored, but even the Yamal series in question is skewed around one tree.

    I simply cannot take it in. The evidence literally fades to near-nothing.

    The hockey stick seems to be what Lincoln referred to as the homeopathic soup made from the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death.

  85. Maybe as a very ordinary unscientific member of that great unwashed and increasingly puzzled public, I am wrongly reading the increasing strength of the subconscious signals from the science community.

    In all the science blogs I am reading, there is a long and increasing line of scientists that are appearing, to me at least, to be acting as apologists for the actions of Briffa and other climate scientists who have thrown up some pretty dodgy papers and results and on occasions, plain outright lies.

    Is there a deep seated fear in the science community that for the first time due to the all pervasive internet, a highly visible, [ and deliberate? ] distortion and corruption of science is happening in a very, very public fashion.
    Past major scandals in all of the history of science have only been fully known amongst a very small, select group of researchers but now the dirty washing is out there for all to see.
    Are the science apologists for the various questionable and to a layperson, [snip] actions of some climate researchers creating a fear amongst the science community that there will eventually be a massive public backlash from the public who through their taxes are the financiers of large sections of science?
    Will science as whole lose that aura that has so carefully been cultivated ever since WW2 when it was seen that the immense contribution of the allied scientists helped win the war and that the german scientists also nearly did the same for the axis powers?
    Is there a deep subconscious fear there amongst the scientific community that they are about to lose their standing and even a lot of financial support if this ongoing climate scandal is allowed to become a publicly accepted image that science is now becoming just a perverted cause used to prop up a power grabbing ideology.

    Well meaning science apologists for the despicable actions of their doomsday climate comrades does not go down very well with a public that is rapidly tiring of continuous declarations by “Climate Scientists” of doom and a catastrophic disaster that is only a few years away unless We Do Something! but which disasters have a strange habit of not ever showing up.
    We don’t like being taken continuously for mugs and we don’t like the mates continually excusing the nefarious actions of their comrades.

    Just call it as it is and clean your act up!

  86. I just have to say what an excellent post. It’s a real pity Caleb didn’t make it longer, because this sort of information is golddust AFAIAC. Well done to Anthony for giving us a practicing man’s perspective
    Paul.

  87. Besides Briffa’s Yamal tree-ring selections, the other tree ring data which contributed the most to Michael Mann’s hockey stick, is the Bristlecone Pine Tree’s dataset. The hockey stick was shaped through overweighting of these two datasets.

    Here is a cross-section from a BristleCone Pine Tree. You can not use these trees or any tree core for that matter, to determine a temperature signal.

    Here is Michael Mann (from his own website) holding a tree cross-section which has the Medieval Warm Period on one side and a Hockey Stick on the other side. Which tree core would have been the “best” one from this tree when it was still alive.

    What objective person would use tree-rings as temperature proxies after viewing these two pictures? No objective person would. They would look for other proxies which have been demonstrated/proven to be good temperature proxies.

  88. Patrik (13:24:48) :

    Stunning. I see an analogy in fishery scientists and fishermen.
    The science there seems disconnected from reality also.
    ————————————————————

    Yep. You are right on the button there….. The marine biologists working for fisheries management, use log book data gathered from fishermen to assess fish stocks so as to determine fishery policy…… It sounds good, but it ain’t science.

    The trouble with the marine environment is that it is hard and hidden. Fisherman aren’t scientists…. and scientists can’t find fish.

  89. Quoting Bill Tuttle (15:03:27) :

    “A tree isn’t a CO2 sink — it will only take in the amount necessary to metabolize the nutrients it’s absorbing through its roots. If the amount of nutrients increases, the tree will grow additional foliage to increase its CO2 intake, but an increase in atmospheric CO2 will not affect its growth.”

    Commenting:
    Bill, you may be on to something big! Imagine if we could direct all the BS from the AGW crowd onto the forrest floors. That would suck up CO2 like never before!

  90. Quoting:
    Bill Illis (18:43:25) :

    “Here is Michael Mann (from his own website) holding a tree cross-section which has the Medieval Warm Period on one side and a Hockey Stick on the other side. Which tree core would have been the “best” one from this tree when it was still alive.

    http://www.meteo.psu.edu/~mann/Mann/home/mann_treering.jpg

    Commenting:
    Bill, that is a stunning Mr. Monk-like observation. I stand agast at your keen intelligence (really!).

  91. I just emailed the editors at Frontline with this story. It would seem to me to be right down their alley. If I get ignored, I’ll know which side of the fence they are on. If I get a “Yes, we will investigate, and thanks for the tip”, then I’ll know they are on my side of the fence.

  92. As to peer review of Caleb’s paper; I can attest to his observation of tree growth facts.

    As to my bonifidies, I have cut trees from Yosmite to the Gulf of Alaska,Prince William Sound. from salt water to the Great Basin Desert. Conifers and broad leafs.
    Over 50 years experiance in the field. NDD

  93. Excellent.
    And may I say, Anthony, that I greatly appreciate this web site and forum. I’ve noticed that differing viewpoints have a voice, provided they don’t drag the discussion into the gutter. This afternoon I attempted to post a very respectful (albeit, opposing) opinion at RealClimate.com regarding the new evidence against the Mann graph. It was apparently snipped by the moderator. I suppose this is further evidence that “the debate is over.”

    REPLY:Thanks. Don’t feel bad, I’m banned from posting there also. – Anthony

  94. Bill Tuttle (15:03:27) :

    “A tree isn’t a CO2 sink — it will only take in the amount necessary to metabolize the nutrients it’s absorbing through its roots. If the amount of nutrients increases, the tree will grow additional foliage to increase its CO2 intake, but an increase in atmospheric CO2 will not affect its growth.”

    Wrong, sorry! Increased atmospheric CO2 enables the leaf stomata (breathing pores) to become smaller. This reduces the amount of H2O transpired during photosynthesis. The plant thus needs less water for a given unit of growth. Every agronomist knows that the major crop limiting factor is water.

    A recent estimate was that Australia’s water needs for crops & trees would reduce by 25% by 2100 under BAU CO2 increase.

    How scary is that? :-)

  95. Caleb rules. Last night I spent a couple of hours carefully composing an answer to Otto concerning how trees or regions might be shadowed from rain or sun and thus provide bad data to dendrologists. Due to my relative ignorance of my new browser I lost three compositions of more than 500 words each in which I cited personal observations of the microclimates of the drainages of the Bitterroot Range in Montana which clearly indicate that tree data, however carefully collected, cannot act as a proxy for continental, not to mention hemispherical, temperatures.The larger picture I contemplated was the missing meta data in Briffa. Caleb is the king of meta data. Want to see a reverse hockey stick? Come here and collect tree cores from south facing slopes in the Bitterroots then just one from Refrigerator Canyon northeast of Helena. Smash those into a model and it’s Ice Age in about five minutes. There’s some meta data for you

  96. Alexej Buergin (17:58:57) :
    “We need more contributions from people who really know something and have been there, even PhDs. How about asking Dr. Schweingruber for a comment ?”

    I asked a PhD friend to weigh in here, hope he does. He is also a regular Joe, a really good guy. He’s a professor and his specialty is forests and trees. And he has many years of field experience (e.g. in the forests).

    However, I believe that non-PhDs have made a substantial contribution on this thread. Caleb, many thanks for your excellent post.

  97. Of the 10 chosen cores used here, only two actually show temps at their highest points at the end of the 20th Century (one is YAD061 and the other one being POR031). If these 10 are the best representatives of the ‘climate signal’ alluded to by Biffra, then that is still pretty crap.

    What is going on with these guys?

  98. YAD061 is hereby renamed the “GENESIS TREE,” since it is the tree-of-knowledge whose metaphorical fruit we were tempted to sample. But alas, this time we might escape the sin of belief for which all humanity would pay dearly.

    This affair is truly breathtaking, even for an old cynic like me.

  99. This whole series of threads has been astonishing. As a biologist, I find it unbelievable that anyone would use tree growth rings as a proxy for anything without normalizing for other variables such as moisture. Most first-year graduate students would know better. If the records are too old to allow adjustments for other variables like rainfall, then they can’t be used as a proxy for anything at all. They can only be used as an indicator of rates of tree growth in a certain vicinity at a certain time- nothing more.

    Beyond that, the idea that you could perform a reliable analysis by applying only a subset of the available data (which, by default, are a small subset of the data from the total population if you could measure it) is laughable. It goes against all the principles of population biology. Granted, you can only measure what’s possible to measure, but the notion that you can arbitrarily exclude some of the sample and still reach a defensible conclusion is ridiculous. That’s the kind of thinking that causes one to fail a thesis defense. At least it did before the church of the Goracle became the arbiter of science.

  100. Whether or not Caleb’s theory about this tree is true, his knowledge explains why it is very important to have as many trees as possible contribute data to these studies. A 12 tree sampling is IMHO completely irrelevant and incapable of providing sufficient diversity of sources to prevent outliers from distorting the results.

    Whether it was wild animals droppings, a campfire pit regularly used close by, herd animals, clearing of competitor trees, deposition of ash or trash, etc etc. Briffa’s study should be kicked on the trash heap of scientific history along with Piltdown Man.

  101. Gerald:
    “That’s actually why they’re useful. In a ‘hot year’, those same numbers would be, say, 85% and 99%. Versus the cold year of 95% and 99%.

    A three-fold change in the time spent growing is a dramatic effect”

    Thanks Gerald. I learn something useful every time I come to this site.

  102. If the trees being sampled go dormant at an ambient temperature below freezing, then growth only occurs when the temperature is above freezing.

    Is there any data available on how linear the rate of growth is with respect to ambient temperature? Does this rate vary by species?

    Moreover, how can tree ring growth that does not take place when it is below freezing tell us anything about the winter climate at all? All tree rings tell us is how much growth took place above freezing. Does an extra warm summer work to cancel out an extral cold winter? How can it?

    It seems that tree ring data are perfectly suited to indicate how warm the warm weather was, but it tells us very little about the weather in the winter. Conversely, we cannot know if the climate is generally warming or cooling unless we can see the average of all temperatures over a time, not jutst when it was warm enough to have any ring growth.

  103. My Father has always said “there is no University in the world that offers even a half credit in common sense. If they did, they would likely have to out-source it”. Great post Anthony and Caleb !!

  104. Just like the eco-terrorists cut down a tree in the
    Maldives because it wasn’t showing seas rising, this YAL061 needs to be seen so we can see it’s sighting and environment, and if necessary cut the sucka down and ask for a recount based on the other trees.

  105. “Is there a deep subconscious fear there amongst the scientific community that they are about to lose their standing and even a lot of financial support if this ongoing climate scandal is allowed to become a publicly accepted image that science is now becoming just a perverted cause used to prop up a power grabbing ideology?”

    I think it’s the confederacy of the anointed. Here’s a link to an interesting book on the presumptuousness and blinkeredness of the in-cult of our age. It’s Science Is a Sacred Cow, published in 1950 but still relevant, and cheap (used) on Amazon:
    http://www.amazon.com/Science-Sacred-Cow-Standen/dp/0525470166/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1254539676&sr=1-1

    I posted a long review on Amazon consisting of the nuggets I found in it, which gives a good thumbnail of its contents.

  106. PS: Here are the first six nuggets from Science is a Sacredd Cow. Visit Amazon to check out the rest.

    15-16: Scientists are convinced that they, as scientists, possess a number of very admirable human qualities, such as accuracy, observation, reasoning power, intellectual curiosity, tolerance, and even humility.

    18-19 [Certain people (called “science fiends” later in the book)] suppose that because science has penetrated the structure of the atom it can solve all the problems of the universe. … They are known in every … college as the most insufferable, cocksure know-it-alls. If you want to talk to them about poetry, they are likely to reply that the “emotive response” to poetry is only a conditioned reflex …. If they go on to be professional scientists, their sharp corners are rubbed down, but they undergo no fundamental change. They most decidedly are not set apart from the others by their intellectual integrity and faith, and their patient humility in front of the facts of nature…. They are uneducated, in the fullest sense of the word, and they certainly are no advertisement for the claims of science teachers.

    23-24: Mr. Hillaire Belloc has pointed out that science has changed greatly, and for the worse, since it became popular. Some hundred years ago, or more, only very unusual, highly original spirits were attracted to science at all; scientific work was therefore carried out by men of exceptional intelligence. Now, scientists are turned out by mass production in our universities, and … they are very ordinary professional men, and all they know is their trade.

    26: As advertising always convinces the sponsor even more than the public, the scientists have become sold, and remain sold, on the idea that they have the key to the Absolute, and that nothing will do for Mr. Average Citizen but to stuff himself full of electrons.

    31: They will define these [terms] in tight phrases which convey a meaning only to those who already understand it.

    31: The dreadful cocksureness that is characteristic of scientists in bulk is not only quite foreign to the spirit of true science, it is not even justified by a superficial view.

  107. Here are a few more nuggets. (I couldn’t resist.):

    191: If this “critical openminded attitude” … is wanted, the question at once arises, Is it science that should be studied in order to achieve it? Why not study law? A judge has to do everything that a scientist is exhorted to do in the way of withholding judgment until all the facts are in, and then judging impartially on the merits of the case as well as he can…. Why not a course in Sherlock Holmes? The detectives, or at least the detective-story writers, join with the scientists in excoriating “dogmatic prejudice, lying, falsification of facts, and data, and willful fallacious reasoning.”

    123: Insight is not the same as scientific deduction, but even at that it may be more reliable than statistics.

    140: “There’s many a true word spoken in jest”; scientists are abominably solemn; therefore scientists miss many a true word.

    141: Science … must be absorbed in order to inculcate that wonderful humility before the facts of nature that comes from close attention to a textbook, and that unwillingness to learn from Authority that comes from making almost verbatim lecture notes and handing them back to the professor.

    168-69: Physical scientists probably deserve the reputation they enjoy for incorruptibility and unswerving devotion to pure truth. The reason for this is that it is not worth while to bribe them.

    176-77: But although in theory physicists realize that their conclusions are … not certainly true, this … does not really sink into their consciousness. Nearly all the time … they … act as if Science were indisputably True, and what’s more, as if only science were true…. Any information obtained otherwise than by the scientific method, although it may be true, the scientists will call “unscientific,” using this word as a smear word, by bringing in the connotation from its original [Greek] meaning, to imply that the information is false, or at any rate slightly phony.

    177-78: Our advanced and fashionable thinkers are, naturally, out on a wide swing of the pendulum, away from the previous swing of the pendulum…. They seem to have an un-argue-out-able position, as is the manner of sophists, but this is no guarantee that they are right.

    189: There are science teachers who actually claim that they teach “a healthy skepticism.” They do not. They teach a profound gullibility, and their dupes, trained not to think for themselves, will swallow any egregious rot, provided it is dressed up with long words and an affectation of objectivity to make it sound scientific.

    205-06: And yet, what if the average itself were wrong?… Is it not plausible, and even likely, that most of us have the wrong kind of brain wave?

  108. Well, in my mind, at least, the mystery of the MWP is solved. Here goes. First I found this post on CA from Jeff Id that contained a quote from Briffa. Let’s see if I can reproduce it.

    Jeff Id:
    In an attempt to discuss the issue of Briffa’s reply. The suspicion of readers about sorting of data is far from unjustified. This quote is from the Osborne Briffa 06 SI

    Osborn/Briffa:
    “We removed any series that was not positively correlated with its “local” temperature observations [taken from the nearest grid box of the HadCRUT2 temperature data set (S9)]. The series used by (S3) were already screened for positive correlations against their local annual temperatures, at the decadal time scale (Table S1). We removed series from (S1) that did not correlate positively with their local annual or summer temperatures (Table S1), or which did not extend into the period with instrumental temperature to allow a correlation to be calculated. The series from south-west Canada (named Athabasca) used by (S1) did not correlate positively with local temperature observations, but has been replaced by a new, better-replicated series (S10) that does correlate very highly with summer temperature (Table S1) and has also been RCS-processed to retain all time scales of variability”

    Back to Jeff:
    It’s not like he should be offended by peoples suspicions that he may have actually ‘sorted’ the data. It’s almost standard practice in paleoclimatology. I realize Steve suggested sorting may have been done previously by the original Yamal authors. IMO it’s still likely that the data was sorted before use. I don’t think I’ve said it any stronger than that in any of my writings.

    Back to me:
    I wrote this reply at CA.

    “Jeff, I’m holding my head. I’m falling out of my chair here. I simply can’t believe what Briffa is saying. That in itself guarantees that you are going to get modern temperatures that are higher than medieval temperatures. This means that all of the trees that don’t show 20th century warming are thrown out. And it is obvious that many trees don’t show the warming of certain periods of time. This means that you get 100% hits for trees that reflect 20th century warming and you get some much smaller percentage of hits for trees that reflect MWP warming. Trees have growing bursts for many different reasons. Shade from other trees; roots reaching nutrients at different times; hillside water flow changing to help or hurt the tree, etc. The chances that all the optimum conditions that supported growth in the twentieth century were also there in the MWP are practically nill for all the trees that were chosen. It seems to me that this builds in a huge bias for showing more 20th century growth. Do you have a link where I can get the quote that you gave. I have to put that in my archive.”

  109. Thanks for this post, Caleb.

    Occams Razor at work.

    Question: Where did common sense begin to filter out of scientific research?

    When real-world, real-time observations and field studies were supplanted by the computer lab.

    Hey…not to say that GCMs will not have some vital importance someday. They can not help us now, however, in their current form.

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  110. A sample of 10 of anything is too small to draw any conclusions unless 10 of whatever is all you have. In a forest of 10s of thousands of trees, picking just 10 at random may seem like a reasonable idea. Good statistical techniques demand that outliers be filtered out. However here we have an extreme outlier defining the last 10 years of climate debate! How anyone can call that “good science” with a straight face is baffling.

  111. As I am sure many have posted:

    1) Excellent post Caleb (I read it the first time around). Its forefulness lies in the fact that most of the scientists had long since lost thge wood for the trees. Enter Caleb with reality check.

    2) It reminds us that observation and data collection are paramount in scientific endeavors. This was stated at the beginning of the first science 101 (or whatever) but often gets a tad misty over the years.

    The AGW crowd is becoming increasingly exposed as a bunch of GIGO modelers (I did a lot of econometric modeling in my day, and can literally prove up is down through statistics if pressed) who have spent far too little time in the field measuring stuffs. Perhaps the offices at the UN and CRU are too comfortable? Maybe they could use them for something useful like sheltering the homeless, while we banish the AGWers to the poles for ice core work.

  112. This reminds me of the story of two physics professors who were chatting near a metal globe in a garden. One of the professors chanced to put his hand on the shady side of the globe and exclaimed sharply that it was warm – hot even. They then discovered that the sunny side was cool.

    For half an hour they engaged in an excited and heated discussion on the significance of this amazing find, factoring in everything from Kirchoff’s laws to Stefan-Boltzmann equations to anthropogenic global warming.

    Just when they had reached a consensus opinion that this was indeed an alarming manifestation of Global warming, where a particular “forcing” was not adequately represented, the gardener came along and rotated the globe. He said he did that at regular intervals to keep one side from getting too hot.

  113. My vote for a Nobel now goes to Caleb

    The reason must be because he’s out standing in his field.

    It seems to me that using tree-rings to try to ascertain paleoclimatic conditions is as much an art as a science. The only way to approach a useful degree of accuracy is to have a sufficiently large sample size. A single tree sample is likely to provide about as much information as an exit poll carried out on a single voter.

    I’ve cut down plantations of cedar and cypress in my time — trees that when given even growing conditions, tend to produce straight cylindrical trunks with symmetrically round cross-sections showing fairly regular and easy-to-measure rings. And one of the things I noticed early on was that a bunch of saplings of the same species planted in the same vicinity on the same date will result in a wide range of sizes of mature trees that show major differences in year-by-year ring growth. Even using such “uniform” sample conditions, which are unlikely to be found in nature, it must take considerable skill and effort at measurement and statistical analyisis to determine the size of the climate signal buried the background noise of the variation between individual samples. Useful though tree-ring data undubtedly is, I think Caleb is right to draw attention to the potential pitfalls of reading too much into data from limited samples.

  114. There is a pink thing in the center of the picture of the Siberian larches that can be nothing but Manbearpig.

  115. Holy cow don’t let the UN IPCC know about this or they might have to start using proper science (empirical stuff even) instead of the GIGO computer stuff they usually use !
    Anyway I think Gore Mann Briffa & Co should come back as trees (not cherry trees though) in their second life and we can get Caleb to manure them and see how thick they grow !

  116. In this context Bill Sticker should have a very honourable mention.


    Bill Sticker (22:05:13) : 28-09-2009
    Excuse my ignorance; but the thought occurs, having examined a number of felled trees and the timber therefrom in some quite old English buildings, is that tree rings, even in very tall straight growing species, are very rarely symmetrical. So taking a ‘core’ from the xylem to the heartwood. which is I believe the current method for establishing the amount of tree growth occurring in any one year, cannot be reliably used as a ‘proxy’ for anything but highly local environmental factors like slope, shade, rainfall, branch growth, damage and disease.

    If as observed, tree rings are generally asymmetrical in width and a sample core is only taken from one side of the tree, how can said core be said to form a reliable proxy for temperature and / or climate in the first place? The growth rings would have to be measured across the entire cross section of the tree and some kind of averaging formula used to give an approximate value for any given year.

    Just an anecdotal observation you understand. Please delete this comment if I have stated the blindingly asinine or obvious.

  117. Tuttle (15:03:27) :

    “A tree isn’t a CO2 sink — it will only take in the amount necessary to metabolize the nutrients it’s absorbing through its roots. If the amount of nutrients increases, the tree will grow additional foliage to increase its CO2 intake, but an increase in atmospheric CO2 will not affect its growth.”

    Bill, you are very wrong: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0cqsdIsFBU

  118. I wonder what conclusions future dendrochronologists will draw from tree ring sample taken fron the Las Vegas area, if looking at the tree rings without considering local influences other than temperature.

    They will show steady growth during the late 20th and early 21st centuries, perhaps leading those scientists to propose significant increases in temparature occurring.

    A silly example, I know, but it serves to illustrate that perhaps water is a more critical requirement for plant growth than temperature alone, since sufficient water confers the ability to regulate the plant’s response to high temperate (via transpiration/evaporation) whereas temperature of itself provides no mechanism for the plant to respond to water shortage other than shutting down progessively, with ultimate death.

    Caveat – I’m no botanist, my observation is the consequence of a broad scientific education in UK schools some 50 years ago (when schools taught the principles of science rather than a collection of tick box facts and opinions) and from a lifetime of growing my own fruit and veg. Oh, and a bit of common sense, which I have found often lacking in many otherwise brilliant, single-minded people who seem to lack the ability to take a broad view.

  119. Don Keiller (14:10:39) :
    Tree rings may be missinterpreted. Tree LINES cannot.

    Rashit M. Hantemirov* and Stepan G. Shiyatov (2002) A continuous multimillennial ring-width chronology in Yamal, northwestern Siberia. The Holocene 12,6 pp. 717–726
    http://www.nosams.whoi.edu/PDFs/papers/Holocene_v12a.pdf

    This is the paper that provided the (unused) Yamal data.
    Look at page 720. It shows how tree lines have moved SOUTH over the last 700 years. Tree line reflect minimum growth temperatures.
    It has been getting progressively COLDER.

    Yes … But … I would expect there will be a lag in that the tree line will recede with declining temperatures but the temperatures will decline first and the tree line will follow, and when temperatures increase it will be a while before the trees can expand their range into the newly warmed territory. What the lag will be I don’t know but (waving hands) I would think it would depend on a number of factors such as species, altitude, rainfall, soil types, rate of temperature change (slow change might allow the trees to keep up, fast might leave them father behind), etc.

  120. “Oh, dear. Its back to the Dark Ages of science.”

    No, that was sheep livers cut open to decide to go to battle.

    NOW, we have tree rings and ice sheets to decide on more tax.

  121. Slightly OT I fear, but following on from Caleb’s excellent post.

    ROM (18:41:02) :

    …Is there a deep seated fear in the science community that for the first time due to the all pervasive internet, a highly visible, [ and deliberate? ] distortion and corruption of science is happening in a very, very public fashion.…

    …Will science as a whole lose that aura that has so carefully been cultivated ever since WW2 when it was seen that the immense contribution of the allied scientists helped win the war and that the german scientists also nearly did the same for the axis powers?…

    I think ROM has put his finger on it. The problem is the professionalisation of science. Look back at the truly great scientific discoveries and you see individuals using their own or a benefactor’s money (Darwin(own), Newton (university), Faraday (benefactor) and Curie (university) as just a few examples). The science was driven by the curiosity of the scientist who then struggled to keep body & soul together somehow. Since WWII, when all available scientists were herded in to help the war effort (including poor old Alan Turing who was driven to suicide for being a poof [yeah, I know, you snipped it]), the Powers That Be have sought to reflect the glory on themselves by controlling all scientific effort. The result is obvious.

    People like Caleb (and there are many of them) are still making real, useful observations and only need a little training in evaluation and use of tools like statistics to make genuine scientific advances. This interweb thingie as well renders traditional peer review redundant, since it increases the bandwidth so hugely. Paper journals have to use peer review to winnow out the Green-Ink-and-Lots-of-Capitals brigade, but on blogs like this we can see all sorts of shades of opinion, experience and expertise and, in general, are quite good at sorting out those who foam at the mouth. Such is genuine peer review, the peers not being restricted to the narrow field of specialisation necessary to keep journal costs down but people from a wide range of backgrounds who often bring up facts that no narrowly specialised expert would know. I offer as evidence Drs. Leif Svalgaard, Roy Spencer and the Rogers Pielke. All prepared to offer their knowledge and to slap down the loonies so that we can all get a reasonable handle on what’s going on. !

    If Professors did not have to spend so much of their time satisfying the bureaucratic demands of institutionalised science they would be able to guide and train their students in proper protocols and warn them against Labrador-puppy-like enthusiasm, bounding from unwarranted assumptions to foregone conclusions.

  122. I have read again today the history of Isaac Newton delaying publication of his gravitational theory for years.

    “The distance from the earth to the moon was already known so that it was a relatively simple matter to calculate the circumference of the moon’s orbit. Dividing this length by the length of a lunar month then gives the speed at which the moon is travelling. And knowing this speed, Newton was able to calculate the centripetal acceleration of the moon toward the earth. Could this acceleration be due to the gravitational attraction of the earth?
    When he carried out the actual calculation, the two centripetal accelerations turned out to have different values. After rechecking his calculations, the discrepancy remained. It finally caused Newton to set his theory aside and to concentrate his efforts on other studies.”

    As we all know, at the end, Newton was right. When the distance of the Moon was later adjusted to a better value, he was able to prove that his law indeed provided the correct answer, and he finally made his theory public. Later, we learned that his gravitational law does not work when objects are moving at high speeds, but that is another history.

    It seems to me that science was better when papers where not peer-reviewed, but scientists had a true desire to understand nature. The theory of Newton was beautiful, but Newton considered that reality had some preeminence over it.

    Compare it with how some Climate scientists are handling the AGW hypothesis. There were some indications 15 years ago that there was a link between CO2 and temperature that could explain the observed warming. Models were construed that showed the relationship in the past (Mann, et al., for instance) and provided some forecasts for the future (such as the “hot spot”).

    As other scientists have been checking the consequences of the theory and shown that neither the past, nor the future, seem to be in accordance with the predictions, the AGW scientists have not, as Newton did, consider that there might be a problem with their theory, but rather than reality is less important than their theory.

    How sad.

  123. Even Wikipedia gives some clues about growth of Siberian Larches

    It is faster-growing than many other coniferous trees in cold regions, but requires full sunlight. When grown in plantations it should be kept widely spaced, and intensive thinning is required.

  124. Common sense trumps remote sensing. Not before time. Let’s hope this “new” reality will catch on…

  125. This reminds me of the joke of the scientist and the spider:

    A scientist decided to do research on spiders. The scientist showed the spider to obey their orders.

    The scientist put the spider on the table and ordered, come here!. The spider walked toward the scientist. The scientist wrote: When you talk to the spider, the spider obeys.

    Then he tore a leg off the spider and put it back on the table and ordered: spider!, come here!. The spider limped to the scientist. The scientist wrote: Even if you tear a leg of the spider, the spider keeps obeying.

    Then he tore another leg off the spider and put it back on the table and ordered: spider!, come here!. The spider limped towards the scientist. The scientist wrote: Even if you pull up two legs of the spider, the spider keeps obeying.

    Then he tore all the legs off the spider and put her back on the table and ordered: spider!, come here!. The spider tried to move, but he had no legs. The scientist wrote: When you tear off the legs of a spider she gets deaf.

    (Please, excuse my poor english. I’m not english speaker)

    Juan
    (from Spain)

  126. Great quotes Roger. Some of them deserve to go alongside those of Eisenhower, and hewed in stone.

    My only issue is that there are occasional teachers who DO teach a healthy skepticism. But many of those lose their jobs, or quit teaching, as a result.

  127. Like Anthony, I thought highly of Caleb’s post:I have also worked in the forestry business, though planting trees rather than cutting them down mainly. Hard but rewarding work.

    tallbloke (20:15:19) :

    Caleb (18:59:33) :

    Great post, Caleb, this is why I love this site. Insight from people with a lifetime of experience.

    My own lifetime of experience walking around the hills and countryside through forests has shown me the way a strong gust of swirling wind can knock down a stand of pine trees or larches in a tight, small area of forest. Especially where soils are thin and the underlying substrate is wet or sandy. Think about the effect on the trees immediately to the north of the suddenly cleared area, suddenly recieving much more sunlight with it’s warmth.

    No human intervention needed, natures processes can produce the variety of patterns we see in remote and ‘pristine’ areas, including trees which suddenly show growth spurts.

  128. Caleb might not make it to the Nobel Prize, but

    The Word of the Year is: “bunkum”

    You should give it a special place on WWUT. And again I ask: Who were the peers who reviewed Briffa’s paper?

  129. Pompous Git (18:04:58) :

    Henry chance (15:09:07) :

    “Common sense. did Briffa even visit the area?

    Many people admire charles darwin,. I don’t. He had a theology degree and was carefull note taker. No one discredits his education because they like him.”

    Darwin put his evolutionary theorising aside for many years and spent 8 years analysing many thousands of barnacle species. This work alone was sufficient to establish his reputation as a formidable scientist, not just in his day. His dogged persistence in this enterprise has inspired many a budding scientist, not just crusty old historians of science.

    BTW, many, if not most field biologists prior to the 20th C were clergymen. Do you reject Bayesian statistics because Rev Thomas Bayes had a theology degree, rather than one in mathematics? Sheesh…”

    In Darwin’s time it was compulsory for anyone teaching or researching in Oxford or Cambridge to take holy orders. This is largely what gave rise to the phenomenon of the “Church of England Atheist,” which went beyond just the sciences (the Rev Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, is another example. What do we make of his “believing six impossible things before breakfast” in the Looking Glass? Dodgson was a significant mathematician, working in mathematical logic).

    When Darwin took his degree in 1831, Cambridge did not offer a degree in natural sciences. This was instituted in 1851. By taking a theology degree, at the time, he was keeping his options open.

    During the time when the Church of England had real wealth, not just property (real estate) which it can’t afford to sustain, many clergymen with time on their hands were pioneering observers in all areas of ‘natural philosophy.’ We owe much of our further knowledge to their practical observations (like those of Caleb).

  130. Troubled Childhoods:

    I have looked at the raw RW archive for Yamal and the YAD group in particular, to see what, if anything, is unusual about them.

    I presume that the data are ring widths and if you sum them you get a radius.

    If so, there may be something unusal about the YAD group.

    I have calculated a radius for age for the last (most recent) 33 (all I’ve had time for) of the Yamal trees.

    At the start of the 20th Century the three oldest trees of the group YAD061, 041, & 121 (ages 97,97, & 95) were, by this measure, small for ther age, 061 particularly so at about 55% of the average. By 1995, two of these three were above average and the other (121) just a little below, 061 turned out to have the largest radius along its core of the three.

    Of the other two, YAD071 had a terrible time for its first 70-80 years and then perked up but is still below the average that I have calculated.

    YAD081, the youngest, ( only 25 in 1900), got off to a rocket start and was by 1995 the tallest of the entire group. At the age 0f 97, the same as YAD061 in 1900, YAD081 was about 70% taller than the average for its age.

    Now, I do not know anyting much about trees but perhaps, trees that have had a trouble childhood are prone to massive growtrh spurts in later years. I think this is what Caleb has told us. Well four of the YAD five were seem to have had a hard time for at least their first 70 years.

    Alex

  131. There is the “First Fallacy of Acadaemia”, which goes

    In acadaemia getting 95% results in an “A”

    Takes a fair bit of re-adjusting in real life to realize that there

    Getting 95% can result in a real cock-up

  132. Prof. Briffa is not an idiot. Anyone who has planted anything knows that the local environment affects growth. Briffa is one of the top dendrochronologists in the world. To suggest he isn’t fully aware of the most basic environmental factors that affect the growth of trees is ridiculous.

    Briffa knows exactly what he has done. There is absolutely no possibility that he has made a simple mistake. This data has appeared in prestigious peer-reviewed publications for 10 years. Not only does Briffa know exactly what he has done, all his co-authors and reviewers know too.

    Thanks to the tenacity of Steve McIntyre, what a large number of well respected scientists have known for many years, is now made public.

    Seriously, it is inconceivable that a large number of scientists were unaware of the paucity of the data. That is precisely why the journals other than Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. refused to enforce their own data availability policies.

    R

  133. What a strange world we live in.

    We have McIntyre and acolytes saying in one breath –
    1. It is not valid to sort samples before you analyse them. Briffa should have used all samples from the area, and then come to a conclusion.
    2. Then they say The 10/12 Briffa trees should not have been included as we have these 34 schweingruber(?) trees, and look no 20thC warming.
    3. Someone then says that the Briffa trees should have been included
    4. McIntyre adds them and finds a smaller hockey stick.
    5. McIntyre analyses the Briffa trees and find a golden hockey stick tree which provides most of the late 20thC warming.
    6. McIntyre then says this result is 8 sigma outside the normal and should not be included.
    How do you reconcile statement 1 with statement 6??????
    In my view if you are not allowed to sort for correlation between ring width and temperature over the period where we have instrumental records. Then you are not allowed to sort at all.

    Consider this scenario

    At a junk sale you purchase a number of instruments various environmental parameters over time. None are very accurate, and you have no idea which parameter they are measuring. You want to record temperature, so you set them up in the same location. Some years later you can afford a calibrated temperature recorder which you also set up in the same location.
    Some of these instruments will have recorded sunlight, precipitation, soil nutrient levels, fungal spore levels, ambient temperature, and temperature of the soil 1 metre down.
    If you want to know what the temperature was when you set up the first instruments do you
    a. normalise all readings of all instruments then average them.
    b. average them all without normalising
    c. compare the outputs from all instruments with the calibrated temperature recorder and throw out all that show no correlation. normalise the results remaining and then average them
    d. as c. but additionally throw out units deviating by significant amounts from the average.

    Which of a. b. c. is going to give you best historic temperatures?

    Personally as an engineer not a statistician I would go with d. or if insufficient instruments to find the outliers c.
    I realise that this is going to bias the results to giving the same result as the calibrated instrument, but may I suggest this is exactly what you want.

    It seems a statistician would go for 1 as this would not bias the result to valid temperatures. I just cannot understand this.

  134. jeez (14:17:50) : “This is your field of expertise not mine, but wouldn’t a simple tree line reconstruction of temperatures be complicated by forest succession and species changes?”

    Not a problem, the only succession here is from Tundra (treeless) to Tiaga (trees)
    As for tree species it would be the pioneer species- in this case Siberian Larch (Larix sibirica) growing in monoculture. This species has a number of adaptations to allow it to survive under these extreme conditions.
    (Mazepa and Devi (2007) Development of Multistemmed Life Forms of Siberian Larch Asan Indicator of Climate Change in the Timberline Ecotoneof the Polar Urals. Russian Journal of EcologyVol. 38, No. 6, pp. 440–443. Original Russian Text © V.S. Mazepa, N.M. Devi, 2007, published in Ekologiya, 2007, Vol. 38, No. 6, pp. 471–475.)

    JT “Yes … But … I would expect there will be a lag in that the tree line will recede with declining temperatures but the temperatures will decline first and the tree line will follow, and when temperatures increase it will be a while before the trees can expand their range into the newly warmed territory. What the lag will be I don’t know but (waving hands)”

    It can happen remarkably quickly- Esper and Schweingruber report “larger-scale patterns of treeline changes related to decadal-scale temperature variations”.

    Esper and Schweingruber (2004). Large-scale treeline changes recorded in Siberia. Geophysical Research Letters 31.

  135. You have said it all pretty much. Theory is great, the proof is in the physical observation based on reality, if they match up, the theory could be right, if they don’t the theory could be wrong. Simple really. One dosen’t need a PhD to work that one out!

  136. It is obvious that YAD061’s growth rate was caused by a change in its micro-environment. Briffa had to have known this.

  137. What are the Sources of Uncertainty in the Tree-Ring Data: How can They be
    Quantified and Represented?
    White paper on tree rings submitted by Keith Briffa and Ed Cook
    http://freespace.virgin.net/rob.dendro/Tree-Ring/Trieste_tree_rings2008.pdf

    Data Base/Archiving Needs
    The ITRDB is a great resource. It needs to be continually improved to allow easy storage
    of other than “usual” tree-ring width data. Improved meta data should be sought for all
    submissions, including tree dimensions and architecture and information on context of
    measurements (routinely including estimates of missing rings to pith). When standardised
    indices are archived, precise details of standardisation options should always accompany
    them. This should include detailed output from the programs used for standardization,
    such as the ARSTAN program. Only in this way can others replicate how standardized
    tree-ring chronologies were developed.
    However, it is not just the measurement data that should be highlighted in this discussion.
    As an example the following is a quote from Jonathan Palmer:
    Major crisis looming here are the physical samples. We are loosing the trees. Steady
    can tell you about his efforts in SE-Asia. In NZ, we have 40,000 year old ancient kauri
    being mined. I reckon it will be exhausted within 10 years. The holocene sites in 5 years.
    Saw-millers are already starting to buy farms so that they can secure some future supply.
    We have set-up an archive at a local museum for biscuits of kauri for future research
    programs. In other words I have adopted a fire-fighting approach – save as many
    samples as I can and hope there might be funding to work on them later. Steady has
    funded me over the last 5 years to collect silver pine (Halocarpus biformis) from the West
    Cost. We have multi-millennial chronos thanks to that investment – but some sources
    have been completely destroyed by the land being converted to dairy pastures. The other
    area is now a kiwi habitat sanctuary so the permit process for further sampling has
    become much harder. So, data archiving is vital, but I’m first trying to save samples!
    Many dendro people, in different parts of the world, could tell similar stories. PAGES
    highlighted this problem once, but little came of it. The sources of old tree-ring material
    are disappearing around the world and as old dendrochronologists whither away, their
    sample collections often disappear with them!

  138. *****************************
    Tim Groves (23:09:45) :
    It seems to me that using tree-rings to try to ascertain paleoclimatic conditions is as much an art as a science. The only way to approach a useful degree of accuracy is to have a sufficiently large sample size. A single tree sample is likely to provide about as much information as an exit poll carried out on a single voter.
    *****************************
    Before we accept any more tree ring temperature studies, shouldn’t we study the technique on all the various trees in various climes in order to demonstrate the technique works at all? If the response of tree growth to temperature is parabolic, then one can filter out a set of trees to “prove” a wide variety of hypotheses. In fact, that appears to be what is happening. Sample size might well be the least of problems.

  139. Sorry for the repetition, but it should have been posted on this thread;

    There is a paper awaiting publication in the highly influential UK ‘Beano’ (widely circulated among the next generation of environmentalists ) It has been peer-group reviewed by their resident subject-matter experts Biffo-The-Bear, and that world-famous ursine coprologist, Winnie-the-Pooh.

    The paper puts forward the scientific reason for the inclusion of outliers in the analysis of tree-ring data, in order to descry past climatic conditions.

    The hypothesis is based on the postulate that bears*** is deposited in woodlands. As it is rich in nutrients, it ought to give any nearby tree a growth boost for a season or so.

    So, records of tree-ring thickness variations may contain information on the fluctuations in the bear population, and so could act as proxy for past climatic conditions.

    Now as Bears are creatures of habit, they tend to ‘go’ in the same places. So there will be a need to pick tree cores that have anomalous growth-spurts …. aka ‘outliers’ …..

    http://www.daysgonebyshop.co.uk/883_1970-the-beano-biffo-the-bear-canvas-print.html

  140. Caleb:
    “Rather the cause is far more simple: A childhood in the under-story, followed by a tree’s “day in the sun.”

    I have just read a definition of Occam’s razor on WikiPedia. It includes the following:
    …To quote Isaac Newton, “we are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances. Therefore, to the same natural effects we must, so far as possible, assign the same causes.”
    To summarize the common understanding of the principle, “of several acceptable explanations [for a phenomenon], the most accurate and well-ordered theory of explanation is preferable, provided that it does not contradict the observed facts.”

    And an interesting parallel. R. J. Mitchell the aircraft designer once said to a test pilot; “If you read a document that you don’t understand then it’s no good” (or words to that affect).

  141. When the Mann controversy was raging over at CA the statement that struck me the most was the assumption that ring width increases linearly with temperature. It seemed bizarre that after ten thousand years of agriculture there was anything to assume, it had to be known. So I asked the arborists who come to take care of my huge maple trees. They explained that every leaf on a tree has its own tiny root and that the growth of a tree can be asymmetrical because one side of the tree gets more nutrients than the rest from the network of roots. This shows up as asymmetric tree rings and the asymmetry can vary from year to year because the distribution of nutrients can change.

  142. I haven’t had time to read the entire thread but I would like to point out that dendro studies are not or should not be done on trees of the same age.

    Core samples should be taken from one area and the trees should be at different stages of maturity. There are probably many ways to date the samples but in essence the rings are matched date for date to see if they all display the same signal.

    If the study is not done this way then you are only studying the life cycle of a particular species.

    Recent growth presents the problem of not undergoing the same compaction as the older deeper rings have endured as the tree matures.

  143. From the book “Rocket Men” by Craig Nelson, Chapter 11 “The Fluid Front”, page 147 hard cover version (about the early days of NASA):

    ” “We were going to launch a pig and we put him in the (Mercury) cradle and started monitoring him, and the pig died,” aerospace technician Alan Kehlet remembered of those very early days. “One of our secretaries was a farm girl, and she said, “If you’d asked me before you had the pig in there, I would have told you that you never put a pig on his back, that the belly fat on there will suffocate the pig.” And that’s exactly what happened. So we went from pigs to monkeys.” “

  144. I agree with what Shamus said in a previous Gore/Mann/Briffa ‘bad science’ post, “I blame CAGW on these tree fellas.”

  145. supercritical (06:12:42) :
    Bill,
    Any thoughts on the relevance of sample size?

    If you do not select for correlation with known tempreatures or do not choose known temperature responders then
    small sample – you can prove any temperature profile
    large sample – you end up with a horizontal flat line

    If you select on correlation with temperature then the more the better.

    But you need to read what they have to do to retreive sensible data – eg trees grow a different rates during their life cycle so you need to adjust ring width according to age. etc. Check out this Briffa paper:
    A Closer Look at Regional Curve Standardization of Tree-Ring Records: Justification of the Need, a Warning of Some Pitfalls, and Suggested Improvements in Its Application (2008) (draft paper)
    http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/people/briffa/Briffa_HB_2008.pdf

    Nothing seems to give a useful proxy to temperature. Some of the better ones are grape harvest and budbust dates. But these only go back to about 1300s.

    Note that grape harvest has not been converted to temp. so high temp = early harvest!

  146. Pompous Git (19:25:46) :
    Bill Tuttle (15:03:27) :
    …Wrong, sorry! Increased atmospheric CO2 enables the leaf stomata (breathing pores) to become smaller. This reduces the amount of H2O transpired during photosynthesis. The plant thus needs less water for a given unit of growth. Every agronomist knows that the major crop limiting factor is water.

    Oh, good Lowered — now we’ll have to consider pore core bores, too! But how does that affect my statement that an increase in atmospheric CO2 doesn’t *directly* affect the tree’s growth?

    Chris Schoneveld (00:45:09) :
    Tuttle (15:03:27) :
    …Bill, you are very wrong: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0cqsdIsFBU

    And rye grass isn’t a tree, Chris. To grass, *everything* is a nutrient.

    Except in my lawn.

    I’m not a botanist, but I *did* stay at a Holiday Inn Express one time…

  147. Here are a few other charts using Briffa’s data.

    Briffa used other tree ring series in his 2000 paper as well, but it is the small Yamal series which produces the hockey stick.

    When others saw how the Yamal series looked after it got processed by Briffa, they continued to use just this small specific dataset in other reconstructions (and discarded the other ones of course).

    Using all the trees that Briffa had available to him in regards to just Yamal, it is actually very difficult to see how it turned into such a hockey stick. We know he picked 10 trees out of the larger dataset but there is still something strange about it. Here is the raw tree ring widths from all the trees versus how the data turned out through selection and processing.

    And then the specific hockey stick tree, YAD061, there was actually 10 core measurements taken from it, and yes it has a hockey stick, but there is wide variation in the ring width measurements in each core/cross-section whatever was used.

    Tree rings do not provide any evidence of the past climate. They are just a bunch of numbers going up, around and sideways. It is amazing there are still scientists trying to use them.

  148. Thanks, Lucy. Here are a few more for you: More quotes from Anthony Standen’s Science is a Sacred Cow, [1950], 1958, Dutton Paperback.
    Used copies are available inexpensively on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Science-Sacred-Cow-Standen/dp/0525470166/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1213281131&sr=1-1

    25: It all comes down to correlations …. Very often they argue that the one thing caused the other, when it might have been the other way round. Executives have been found to have a large vocabulary; therefore, learn ten new words every day and you will become an executive. Or else, there will be an argument that, in principle, runs like this: a man gets drunk on Monday on whisky and soda water; he gets drunk on Tuesday on brandy and soda water; and on Wednesday on gin and soda water. What caused his drunkenness? Obviously, the common factor, the soda water.

    28: A theory is simply a well-tested hypothesis, but there is no sharp dividing line.

    35: There is more truth in an old wisecrack of Oliver Wendell Holmes: “Science is a good piece of furniture for a man to have in an upper chamber provided he has common sense on the ground floor.”

    43: Education, like everything else, goes in fads, and has the normal human tendency to put up with something bad for just so long, and then rush to the other extreme.

    69-70; 85: Lord Kelvin was so satisfied with this triumph of science that he declared himself to be as certain of the existence of the ether as a man can be about anything…. “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it….” Thus did Lord Kelvin lay down the law. And though quite wrong, this time he has the support of official modern Science. It is NOT true that when you can measure what you are speaking about, you know something about it. The fact that you can measure something doesn’t even prove that that something exists…. Take the ether, for example: didn’t they measure the ratio of its elasticity to its density?

    82: If the idols of scientists were piled on top of one another in the manner of a totem pole, the topmost one would be a grinning fetish called Measurement.

    112: Man is sometimes described as “one of the animals in a community of organisms,” although this gives quite a stretch, nay a violent yank, to the meaning of the word, “community.”

    177: The most “advanced” thinkers today [are] quite possibly the least reliable—just think of the advanced thinkers of yesterday.

  149. Caleb, well spoken. Your comment, “Dr. Briffa should spend less time gazing at computer screens, and actually get out and associate with trees more. At the very least, it might be good for his health” I have often said the same regarding climate scientists to experience weather which accumulates to climate. Playing computer games to prove hypothesises is just a circular mind game, the outcome is a given, based on the programming, regardless of the field.

  150. Here’s one more:

    68, 88, 179: “Physics is NOT a body of indisputable and immutable Truth; it is a body of well-supported probable opinion only …. Physics can never prove things the way things are proved in mathematics, by eliminating ALL of the alternative possibilities. It is not possible to say what the alternative possibilities are…. Write down a number of 20 figures; if you multiply this by a number of, say, 30 figures, you would arrive at some enormous number (of either 49 or 50 figures). If you were to multiply the 30-figure number by the 20-figure number you would arrive at the same enormous 49- or 50-figure number, and you know this to be true without having to do the multiplying. This is the step you can never take in physics.”

    Or other sciences.

  151. ***************
    bill (06:56:34) :
    Note that grape harvest has not been converted to temp. so high temp = early harvest!
    *****************
    Does harvest time depend on rain also? I assume vintners have studied this?

  152. For once I was not snipped by Surrealclimate, but clearly, Mike (Mann?) does not like real debate. Read the papers and make your own judgement…..

    Gavin, there appears to be a tension between the climate record as reconstructed using tree rings and that from tree lines.

    Rashit M. Hantemirov* and Stepan G. Shiyatov (2002) A continuous multimillennial ring-width chronology in Yamal, northwestern Siberia. The Holocene 12,6 pp. 717–726
    http://www.nosams.whoi.edu/PDFs/papers/Holocene_v12a.pdf

    Page 720 shows how tree lines have moved South over the last 7000 years, reflecting decreasing temperatures at the Northern tree line.
    Conversely the tree ring data, from the same location, says that 20th Century temperatures are unprecedently high.

    What’s going on?

    Mike, you say “Response: Forest ecosystems respond to climate forcing on multi-generational timescales. Evidence from fossil pollen, tree lines, etc. can thus in general only be used to infer climate change on multi-century timescales. They cannot be used to infer decadal timescale changes such as the anomalous warming of the past few decades.”

    Yet Esper and Schweingruber report “larger-scale patterns of treeline changes related to decadal-scale temperature variations”.

    Esper and Schweingruber (2004). Large-scale treeline changes recorded in Siberia. Geophysical Research Letters 31.

    Again this is confusing since I know that Esper is one of your co-workers.

    So do tree lines shift on centennial or decadal timescales?

    [Response: This characterization is misleading. Esper and Schweingruber were not looking at the shift of treelines in the usual sense (e.g. as determined in the more distant past by looking at relict stumps, etc.). Instead, they were looking at the modern past (20th century) where other sorts of evidence can be established to look at far more subtle shifts in the ecotomes, e.g. the germination dates of saplings, whether they were upright or not, etc. This sort of more subtle evidence cannot be extended to past centuries, hence they are unable to provide a quantitative reconstruction of past temperature in the past, and certainly don’t attempt any such thing in this paper. Moreover, even if they were able to do this, the migration of the treeline depends on factors such as permafrost distribution which is greatly influenced by winter temperatures. Tree-ring growth in these regions, however, is generally reflective of summer temperatures. So even if a quantitative reconstruction from treelines were available, it wouldn’t even be comparable in terms of the seasonality reflected by the record. In short, there is nothing there that challenges the quantitative climate reconstructions provided by tree-rings. Take your talking points elsewhere. -mike]

  153. Quotations from Henry Bauer’s well-reviewed
    Science or Pseudoscience (2001). This excellent book is available from Amazon for $21 by clicking: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0252026012/qid=1070360257/sr=1-3/ref=sr_1_3/103-2148347-8449427?v=glance&s=books#product-details

    2: as things stand, there is available no quick or easy guidance about what to believe, not only on the many matters over which apparently competent people differ but also over some where the experts seem to be in agreement. At times we do well to believe what we’re told; at other times we had better not. Sometimes there’s no better guide than the experience of what you’ve seen for yourself; at other times your eyes deceive you. We should be open to new ideas—but on the other hand we should always be skeptical and critical before accepting a new idea, for old beliefs are often well tested by experience whereas new ones may just be untested hunches. It’s good to see the whole picture, to be holistic, to be interdisciplinary—but on the other hand in many fields progress requires concentration on ultraspecialized techniques, theories, and facts.

    5: Science has itself become a sort of church, and scientists are in that sense also priests (Knight, 1986). Science nowadays like the church in earlier centuries feels responsible for the intellectual orderliness of society.

    6-7: Confronted with what they do not yet properly understand, those who claim to speak for science are reluctant to admit ignorance, and therefore their answers often discount or evade.

    7: much popular wisdom idealizes science. Perhaps the most common illusion is that science uses a “scientific method” that guarantees objectivity (Bauer 1992a; Bauer and Huyghe 1999).

    33: There exists no comprehensive account of all the premature or false trails that science has taken. By and large the history of science has focused on the successes of science.

    45: some things are common to almost all disputes, and they feature in anomalistics just as they do in arguments of other sorts. We close ranks to defend our bedfellows, almost irrespective of how incongruous and self-defeating that may become. Arguments feature obfuscation and red herrings more than attempts to settle the issue by evidence and logic. Mountains are absurdly made out of molehills like spelling and punctuation.

    Substantive issues get mixed up with personal ones. It tends to become a matter of who is right rather than of what is right. … Winning is what counts. Things are taken personally, arguments are made ad hominem, as though if the opponent can be discredited, the substantive argument has been won. One seeks ways of saving face, of putting it as though one had not been in the wrong.

    50: even some purely material phenomena are indubitably real despite our inability to explain them. Cosmic rays are generated by a phenomenon whose energy is of a magnitude that baffles our ability to conceive of a mechanism. The homing instincts and communicating ability of insects are unquestioned, while our explanations for them are tentative at best. The ice ages did occur, but we don’t understand how or why they came about. And so on.

    58: Whenever a claim is being supported by statistical argument, it is relevant to the estimation of statistical significance how often the experiment has been tried unsuccessfully, anywhere at all. There is the “file-drawer effect” ….

    79: Scientists … are reluctant to admit the depths of science’s ignorance. Yet perhaps the most apposite assessment of the gaps in modern scientific knowledge is Lewis Thomas’s remark that the greatest of all accomplishments of twentieth-century science has been the discovery of human ignorance.

    86: The god-professor was a characteristic feature not only of French science but also in Germany …. People who attained such a position, like Blondlot, could find it quite difficult to recognize that they had made an error, let alone admit it publicly.

    101: Lord Kelvin was dogmatically wrong about the age of the earth. … It seems that if one is wrong more or less in line with the contemporary conventional wisdom, the error is no basis for personal attack; but being wrong and against the grain brings personal abuse ….

    129: [Robert] Becker’s “Postscript: Political Science” (330-47) contains much that cannot be gainsaid: that greed and prestige-seeking are—or have become—about as common among scientists as outside science; that there are all too many instances … of petty jealousy and dishonesty; that the influx of huge research funds has corroded academic values; that “if it’s trivial, you can probably study it. If it’s important, you probably can’t.”

    197: Perhaps much more generally damaging than any given belief are the fanaticism and dogmatism that hinder some people from deviating in any situation from rigid ideologies.

    202: I believe it is important to resist not only religious superstition but also scientistic superstition, the notion that science and only science has all the answers.

    204 (Quoting Joseph Needham): “There has … always been a close connection between this rationalist anti-empirical attitude and the age-old superiority complex of the administrators, the high-class people who sit and read and write, as against the low-class artisans who do things with their hands. Just because the mystical theologians believed in magic, they helped the beginning of modern science in Europe, while the rationalists hindered it. We cannot say that all through history rationalism has been the chief progressive force in society.”

    Nor do right beliefs guarantee lack of harm; as ought to be well known, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    205: Those trained in science do not necessarily behave in socially useful rather than harmful ways, nor in individually useful rather than counterproductive ways.

    211: One often hears, “Just look at the facts.” The trouble is, even deciding which facts to look at involves making choices, generally subconsciously.

    221: When a matter is not yet clear, we have to be content with judging likelihood instead of insisting on a conclusive answer.

    223: (Quoting Gratzer): “No proposition is so foolish or meretricious that at least two Nobel laureates cannot be found to endorse it.”

    225: There’s a richly funny literature recounting the host of “expert” predictions that turned out to be absolutely wrong ….

    228: The judgment that a given unorthodoxy contradicts scientific knowledge is in most cases really a judgment that it contradicts some extrapolation from existing knowledge…. But extrapolating (and sometimes even interpolating) is always risky.

    229: The mysteries that science has cleared up are largely those where the phenomena are reproducible.

    230: no matter what opinion one reaches or how, something might pop out of the unknown unknown to prove it wrong.

    233: (Quoting I. J. Good 1978:337): “Many fallacies … have their origin in wishful thinking, laziness, and busyness. These … lead to oversimplification, the desire to win an argument at all costs (including the cost of overcomplication), failure to listen to the opposition, too-ready acceptance of authority, too-ready rejection of it, too-ready acceptance of the printed word (even in newspapers), too great reliance on a formal machine or formal system or formula (deus ex machina) … special pleading, the use of language in more than one sense without noticing the ambiguity (if the argument leads to a desirable conclusion), the insistence that a method used successfully in one field of research is the only appropriate one in another, the distortion of judgment, and the forgetting of the need for judgment.”

  154. tallbloke (02:41:57) :
    “My own lifetime of experience walking around the hills and countryside through forests has shown me the way a strong gust of swirling wind can knock down a stand of pine trees or larches in a tight, small area of forest. Especially where soils are thin and the underlying substrate is wet or sandy. Think about the effect on the trees immediately to the north of the suddenly cleared area, suddenly recieving much more sunlight with it’s warmth.

    No human intervention needed, natures processes can produce the variety of patterns we see in remote and ‘pristine’ areas, including trees which suddenly show growth spurts.”

    Quite right, and in arctic and northern temperate areas, a late spring or early fall ice storm can coat trees with ice to load them down and tear them down. I’ve lived through such storms, feels like you’re in a war zone as the trees crack and collapse around you. Next day the forest is much more open.

  155. I was delighted to see my comment elevated to the status of “Guest Comment,” and have been flattered by many of the nice things people have said about it. However I feel I gave a false impression, for many seem to believe I am far more honorable than I actually am.

    Therefore I would like to clarify that the reason I have spent so much time working in the woods is not because I am a successful lumberjack, but rather because I am an unsuccessful writer.

    If you have any experience with writers you know that a major aim of all writers is to avoid working a real job. If my life had followed the script I wrote for myself as a teenager, I never would have worked a real job at all. I only worked real jobs because I ran out of people to mooch off. Therefore I should not be equated with honorable people like “Joe the Plumber.”

    Many unsuccessful writers reach a point where they have to decide just how far they will go, to avoid getting a real job. Will you lie? Will you forge? Will you steal? Will you sleep with the editor?

    Being something of a prude, I would not go as far as some of my peers would, to get published. Some suggested this explained my lack of success, (though I myself think the reason for rejections was that my writing put people to sleep.)

    One trick, which my fellow writers seemed very adept at, was to get people to pay them for work they hadn’t done, and likely would never get around to doing. It was called “an advance,” and I had friends who were very good at getting advances. To me they seemed more like con artists than true artists. They were slick talkers, and landed an advance or endowment or grant, and spent all the money on wine, woman and song, and then awoke with terrible hangovers, flat broke. They called awaking with hangovers and being flat broke “the suffering of an artist,” and sometimes got patrons to pity them, and earned further grants and endowments and advances. It was quite a racket, but I was no good at it, and wound up washing dishes or cutting trees in the woods. Eventually I stopped telling people I was “a writer,” and just called myself “a landscaper and handyman.”

    Therefore, if you judge a man by the company he has kept, it should be obvious I don’t deserve some of the flattering comments people have showered on me. However I did learn one thing, during my time as an unsuccessful writer, and that was: “How to recognize a con-artist.”

    Naming no names, I often have felt I recognized the work of con-artists in the work of climate scientists, and have rudely and bluntly said as much. Over at Climate Audit my comments were quite regularly snipped, because I was too blunt. I feel Steve McIntyre deserves a great deal of credit for not allowing people like me to be rude and blunt, and to turn his site into a free-for-all. Rather than making accusations he keeps his cool, and politely states, “Excuse me, but it seems you made a mistake here.” I hugely respect his calm and collected manner, and am trying my best to learn how to emulate it.

    In the end I feel remaining calm and collected will bring truth back to the science of climate. Also I believe people will eventually learn as I have learned, and recognize real jobs are better than con jobs.

  156. Jarmo 9:29:09 wrote:

    ” Briffa has also studied tree rings in Sweden at Torneåträsk (1992). A recent study found out that the adjustments made Briffa wiped out MWP. The new study, with more tree samples, makes it clear that MWP was the warmest peiriod in the last 1500 years there.

    See http://people.su.se/~hgrud/documents/Grudd%202008.pdf

    No doubt some readers didn’t notice or didn’t have time to look at that pdf. But doing so is well worthwhile if only because it shows these papers don’t have to be nearly incomprehensible to get published.

    It is about as clear an explanation of dendrochronology in action as an amateur will encounter. It also is useful for those interested in the Briffa Yamal matter.

  157. Roger Knights: If your comments are intended to show that science, like any other endeavor, is subject to human error and frailty, that’s OK. If your intention is to denigrate science generally, then you’re being ridiculous. Many readers and contributors to this site, and many AGW skeptics generally, are scientists (including myself). My objection to AGW is that it is non-scientific, that is, it is not based on rigorous examination of all evidence and clear-eyed analysis with an agenda. That’s very different than just casting aspersions on science generally.

  158. Caleb (13:14:20) :
    I would like to clarify that the reason I have spent so much time working in the woods is not because I am a successful lumberjack, but rather because I am an unsuccessful writer.

    I thought you seemed more erudite than the average lumberjack. ;-)

  159. Caleb said” YAD061 looks very much like a tree that grew up in the shade of its elders, and therefore grew slowly, until age or ice-storms or insects removed the elders and the shade. Then, with sunshine and the rotting remains of its elders to feed it, the tree could take off.

    I have seen growth patterns much like YAD061 in the rings of many stumps in New Hampshire, and not once have I thought it showed a sign of global warming, or of increased levels of CO2 in the air. Rather the cause is far more simple: A childhood in the under-story, followed by a tree’s “day in the sun.”

    Right, fully right.

    A better proxy could be the whole production per hectare, because you will loose the individual effect of competition between trees. But on long period, we haven’t these datas. In natural forest, with irregular stands, the competition between young trees (or young trees and other plants) is very hard. The whole trees in the graphic show the same pattern at the begining of their life.

  160. I also suspected a clearing of the conopy would have the effect (I had commented on this on an earlier post). I worked felling trees for a large comercial estate for a few years and had also realised the tree rings tell a story of the tree, they always interested me.

    In order to use a tree as a climate metric you need to understand its surroundings, how it grew over time and how its surroundings changed. Just like weather stations, you can not apply a “one size fits all” equation. Thats something academics do all to often unfortunetly, and they just love the “black box” approach!

  161. I’ve worked in Southern U.S. forestry for about eight years now (IT, but I work with the forsters and have an ecology minor) and can tell you for sure that reducing competition can dramatically increase tree growth rates: it even has a name – “Release”. We do it in forest mgt. all the time, hitting competing vegetation with chemicals or mechanically, usually in the second or third year after planting. Around 7-10 years we often thin stands for the same reason. Yes, the tree rings get wider after release. Similar things happen in natural growth when the canopy is opened by e.g., storms, fire, or the fall of a dead tree. Growth rates and ring widths will shrink with renewed competition/stress, during heavy reproduction periods, or as the tree ages. Not making any AGW judgement one way or the other, just commenting that Caleb’s observation is accurate.

  162. Mr. Shaw states:

    The bristlecone records seemed a lousy proxy, because at the altitude where they grow it is below freezing nearly every night, and daytime temperatures are only above freezing for something like 10% of the year.

    I’ve been to the bristlecone pines several times in the summer, having camped and climbed nearby White Mountain (14,420′) three times. Mr. Shaw’s assertion is false.

    While it’s rarely WARM in the White Mountains, temperatures are above freezing for much more than 10% of the year, and there are many summer *nights* where the temperature is above freezing, necessitating only a light sleeping bag. I have stood on top of White Mountain (3500 feet above the Bristlecone forest) in shorts and a light shirt in July without being cold at all.

    I can’t immediately find complete temperature data, but please see

    http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/pinlon/all.html

    and search on “temperature.” You will eventually come to the sentences

    In July and August, mean monthly temperatures average 50 °F (10 °C). Mean monthly temperatures are below freezing from November through April.

    I have no views on the suitability of bristlecone pines as proxies, though from what I’ve read I agree with the skeptical position. But I think we should start by simply getting our facts correct.

  163. A global scare campaign demanding near-complete political and economic realignment… all resting on one person’s interpretation of one damn tree. Untold billions (…trillions?) wasted that could have gone to feed and clothe and shelter real human beings. And it’s not just wrong, it has every appearance of being a deliberate lie.

    People ought to hang for this. Not just the people who did it, but the people who we relied on to screen fact from fiction, whose word was taken that this was all true. They had a solemn responsibility to conduct due diligence and many of them took the food from the mouths of your children to support them for this purpose.

    This isn’t ‘ha-ha’ funny at all.

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