Of Rice and Men

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Anthony has posted on a recent study (behind a paywall) of rice production in Rice yields, CO2 and temperature – you write the article. The article claims that rice yields are falling, and will fall further, due to temperature changes.

I said I’d write the article if someone would send me the actual study, and a couple of WUWT readers came through, my thanks to them. Here’s my take on what the authors have done.

First, the good. They have used actual data from farmer’s fields, rather than theoretical data or greenhouse experiments.

Figure 1. Rice Fields in Ha Giang

However, there are some troubling things in the study.

First, it covers a very short time span. The longest farm yield datasets used are only six years long (1994-99). Almost a fifth of the datasets are three years or less, and the Chinese data (6% of the total data) only cover two years (1998-1999).

Now, if they were comparing the datasets to temperature records for the area where the farms are located, we could get useful information from even a two-year dataset. But they are not doing that. Instead, they say:

Data series from the weather stations at the sites were too short to determine trends. Instead, trends in Tmin and Tmax were based on a global analysis of ground-station data for 1979–2004 …

Unfortunately, they have neglected to say which “global analysis of ground-station data” they are using.

But whichever dataset they used, they are comparing a two year series of yields against a twenty-six year trend. I’m sorry, but I don’t care what the results of that comparison might be. There is no way to compare a two-year dataset with anything but the temperature records from that area for those two years. This is especially true given the known problems with the ground-station data. And it is doubly true when one of the two years (1998) is a year with a large El Niño.

For example, they give the trend for maximum temps in the winter (DecJanFeb) for the particular location in China (29.5N, 119.47E) as being 0.06°C per year, and the trend for spring (MarAprMay) as being 0.05°C per year (I get 0.05°/yr and 0.04°C/yr respectively, fairly close).

But from 1998 to 1999, the actual DJF change was +2.0°C, and the MAM change was minus 1.0°C (CRU TS Max Temperature dataset). As a result, they are comparing the Chinese results to a theoretical trend which has absolutely no relationship to what actually occurred on the ground.

To try to find out which “ground-station data” they used, I compared their temperatures for China (29.5N, 119.47E) with the CRUTEM3, CRU TS, and GISS records from KNMI. However, I could not match their numbers, although I could get sorta close. Worrisome.

Next, they have not mentioned autocorrelation anywhere in their study. This makes me think that they have not adjusted for autocorrelation, which is particularly important with short datasets.

Next, they base their predictions for the future on a single computer model of the regional changes. It is widely agreed that computer climate models are not very good at predicting regional changes, so that part of their study seems very weak.

I am most mystified by their use of the 26-year temperature trend. Why not use the actual year-by-year changes in the local temperature? The rice is responding to actual temperatures, not to a mathematical trend … so why not compare yields to actual temperatures?

So once again, we have questionable methods used with uncited data to give alarming results. It is too bad, because their premise is good, and so is their general approach (use actual farm data).

Color me unimpressed …

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76 thoughts on “Of Rice and Men

  1. They can’t get research funding without torquing the story, the data, the methodology and the News Release announcing their findings.
    No big hairy-scary we might all die story means no research funding next year.

  2. What a ridiculous study and ridiculous conclusion. As rice is grown in flooded fields, the moisture year to year is controlled by the farmer and would be, essentially, the same. The other major variables, temperature and CO2 concentration, even if you concede that they have increased to any significant amount during this short study, would only tend to increase crop yields, as has been shown in multiple studies. This is a joke.

  3. Well, we knew it was going to be nothing but hyperbole anyway. Thanks for looking into that for us, and thanks to the readers for supplying the study. I just can’t get to the point to pay for that stuff.

  4. Public release date: 19-Feb-2010
    International Rice Research Institute
    The Philippines triples its rice yield
    Los Baños, Philippines: In the last fifty years, the Philippines has more than tripled its rice yield, while the world average rice yield has increased only about 2.3 times.
    Despite being criticized as a poor rice producer because of its status as the world’s biggest rice importer, the Philippines has actually done remarkably well in raising its rice yields from 1.16 tons per hectare in 1960* to 3.59 tons per hectare in 2009**.
    In 2009, Philippine rice yields were actually lower than the previous two years due to the damage done by the tropical storms “Ondoy” and “Pepeng”. In 2007, average rice yields topped 3.8 tons per hectare and in 2008 they were 3.77 tons per hectare**.
    Rice yields in the Philippines are also higher than those in Thailand, the world’s biggest exporter of rice, where yields over the last few years have been around 3 tons per hectare*.
    According to estimates from the United States Department of Agriculture, the average world rice yield in 1960 was 1.84 tons per hectare and in 2009 it was forecast at 4.24 tons per hectare.
    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-02/irri-tpt021910.php

  5. More non-science (close to the word “nonsense”) from the CAGW’s.
    How can they posit a change in rice yields in response to global temp changes rather than the temps the rice plants directly experience?

  6. Hi Willis,
    Thank you for the review and write up!
    Do I understand correctly that this was a peer reviewed study that was then published by the US Nat’l Academy of Sciences? If so, might be quite appropriate to mention in your review with a question of why these clear problems you’ve noted were not caught by peer review – and even if not peer reviewed, why in the world is NAS allowing things like this past their editor on to publication? Do they publish anything??
    Next, might I suggest/ask that you add a few sentences explaining autocorrelation and its import with short data series?
    Regardless, as you note – to try to draw ANY conclusions wrt temperature effect on crop yields using two years yield data compared to a few decades of temperature trends is just ludicrous. I’m increasingly dismayed at what is passing for ‘science’ these days.
    Thanks again, keep up the great work!

  7. You have not touched on very many of the deliberate errors. The precipitation is not controlled. The CO2 at the fields is not measured. They don’t have a control group for the study which I know is hard to create. Even when rice is in water, the light, humidity and CO2 levels of the plant above the water affects the crop.
    We have no control over fertilizer , or soil conditions.
    The student is an economist and this is not close to a plant science study.
    I really like your picture. If the student was smart, he would have taken sample yields from 5-10 dozen of the individual teracces and seen what kind of varience there was from one little puddle to the next. If the natural yield variability is 18%, then that alone is outside the range of normal variation.

  8. So, they “found” a possible problem. Now they need additional funding for a more exhaustive study … something to tide them over for a decade or so. Then they can “study” a new facet of agriculture/climate and discover a new area requiring additional study that’ll take them through another decade.
    What a racket! Talk about job security.

  9. Rice in southeast Asia is fairly labor intensive as a crop.
    Walking through a rice paddy there several years ago was a fairly dangerous proposition although not as dangerous as walking on the berms. I hope never to do that again.
    In Arkansas they plant it by airplane. Lots of water moccasins as well. It would be interesting to see what the difference in yields per acre is. Like I said on the other thread, the study falls under the category of warmist propaganda.
    Good job Willis.

  10. How does the chinese demand for rice compare with state controlled chinese birthrate/population and that with global average temperature and change in rice production? Is temperature statistically relevant?

  11. How could the records of nearby weather stations be to short? We are talking of two to six year datasets. It must be a very rare weather station with a shorter lifetime than that.
    It would seem that for some unfathomable reason these “scientists” think that the rice is somehow teleconnected to climate trends in the past and/or the future rather than the weather during the growing season. It is true that the weather of the last few years will have some influence by way of soil moisture, the number of weed seeds in the soil etc, but no more than that.

  12. KW You must have missed the advances made by the dendro gang in science. They discovered a process called teleconnection in which tree ring width responded to, and was therefore a proxy for, temperatures elsewhere than at the place the tree was growing, and was in fact more directly influenced by those distant temperatures than by other aspects of growing conditions in the trees’ localities. The rice theory is simply a corollary.

  13. In other words:
    The obvious flaw is that local rice yields respond to local conditions ONLY. If no local conditions are used, there is no actual study.
    A rice plant doesn’t care what happens in the next field, let alone in the glaciers of Greenland.
    Ed

  14. Was that rice yield study peer-reviewed? If so, shame on the peers! Even to a non-scientist like me the following remark by Eschenbach alone:
    ” they are comparing a two year series of yields against a twenty-six year trend. I’m sorry, but I don’t care what the results of that comparison might be. There is no way to compare a two-year dataset with anything but the temperature records from that area for those two years”
    would have been enough to reject the study and return it to sender.

  15. The problems you cite are so obvious that even a child should be able to see it since you pointed it out. That level of logical challenged studies has become so common in climate science that it is practically the norm. You are being way to kind and giving them far too much credit. These are supposed to be scientists making these “studies”. There is no concept of cause and effect. They can’t even establish correlation. It is nothing but pure advocacy and I am getting sick of seeing science being so completely corrupted by it.

  16. So the Green Revolution continues to improve yields in China although at a slower rate. The initially more impressive gains from new hybrids of rice and better fertilization have now slowed to a more modest increase. However, better farmers with better knowledge STILL get better yields than their neighbors…
    And these “scientists” think THEY can filter out ALL this noise and come up with an AGW signal!!??? They truly think they can figure out what the farmers yields SHOULD HAVE BEEN had only the temperatures been different?
    What a HOWLER!!! LOL!

  17. This is too small a sample size.

    227 irrigated rice farms in six major rice-growing countries in Asia, which produces more than 90 percent of the world’s rice.
    Our study is unique because it uses data collected in farmers’ fields, under real-world conditions,” said Welch. “This is an important addition to what we already know from controlled experiments.”

    Nothing in the study that tells us anyone visited Asia. Use of the word “controlled” is incredibly misleading. Not speaking to a single farmer? This is as bad as the other thread that uses one thermometer for one country.

  18. The next issue is very serious. When they say it increased 10-20 % less than it could have or would have if the temps were cooler, how did they know what it WOULD have been? They have no accesess to audited reports of number of plants per acre at planting time. We have no honest way of knowing how accurate their actual number of plants per acre were planted. 227 farms in 6 countries requiers a lot of observers. They appear to have none.

  19. Crop yields vary from year to year from field to field based on so many variables. I have seen one field give 150 bu of corn and the one next door give 120 and then they flip the next year. There are just too many variables. The best years for corn are a cold wet start and then warm, sunny days with intense nightime storms timed every other week. Then dry, calm weather when in bloom, then a couple of heavy rains. Then hot conditions and then very dry conditions for harvest.
    So many variables – sun, wind, rain, temps, harvest conditions, pest conditions, etc. You just cannot control for these nor could you measure them at any granularity or exactness to know.
    It would be easy to verify CO2 response in a lab for rice.

  20. Thanks Willis for another excellent critique of what turned out to be yet another poor attempt to generate more climate alarm.
    This is a worthless study which tries to link change in climate to crop yields, which, in fact, depend not just on weather, but on many other other biological factors. I can’t understand how it managed to get through the peer review process, let alone be passed for publication.
    It is cargo cult ‘science’ par excellence!

  21. k winterkorn says:
    August 11, 2010 at 2:49 pm
    “How can they posit a change in rice yields in response to global temp changes rather than the temps the rice plants directly experience?”
    Just like Michael Mann thinks trees respond to global and hemispheric temperatures rather than the local climate they grow in.

  22. My next comments. Welch is an Econ grad student. So was I a long time ago. I also have degrees and education beyond a bachelors in 4 additional fields. I am also a farmer.
    Correct me if I am wrong, but UC SD doesn’t have a school of Agriculture. So he does google ag research? Wouldn’t we expect this kind of research to come from a school with an ag department and actual field tests under control?
    Texas A & M has tracked rice for 100 years. They may track precip and several other inputs but not daytime high and night time low temps. If he claims his flimsy study was peer reviewed, was it with greenie weenies ? Surely not some Ag Phd’s.

  23. Ed Fix says:
    August 11, 2010 at 3:06 pm (Edit)
    A rice plant doesn’t care what happens in the next field

    Oh I don’t know about that Ed. It might get in a bit of a paddy about it.
    Don’t paddy fields create their own microclimate anyway? Isn’t that why it’s such a successful crop?

  24. Table 9. Factors Contributing to Yield Losses (kg/ha of paddy) in Rice Production in South India
    http://www.fao.org/docrep/003/x6905e/x6905e05.htm
    Kerala
    South India
    Scarcity of irrigation water
    Drought
    Cold temperature at anthesis
    Lodging
    Low light intensity
    Soil salinity
    Low fertility
    Zinc deficiency
    Acid soils
    Alkalinity
    Iron toxicity
    Weeds
    Imbalanced use of fertilizer
    Aged seedlings
    Varietal problems
    Socio-economic circumstances
    Here is the problem and why we avoid non ag people from making claims in fields which they are not familiar.
    So peer review means he snags some other city kids, econ majors and they are impressed.

  25. ” the Chinese data (6% of the total data) only cover two years (1998-1999).”
    Typhoon Otto killed over 4000 in China from flooding, at the height of the rice season.

  26. Oh come on Willis. This is easy. The change in rice yields are the effects of the absolutely indisputable teleconnections and a novel time compression statistical approach, which is shone to be skillful and robust.
    [NOTE: Don’t forget to homogenize the PCAs]

  27. I think the real point here is why was this study put together in the first place. It wasn’t a study to determine what increases or decreases rice yields, it’s purpose was to try to once again join the chorus of “be afraid, global warming is going to destroy us, so we have to act to stop it, be very afraid.” They could have just as easy put together a study showing rice yields rising due to better genetics, more use of fertilizer, and even higher levels of co2, etc. Are we running out of rice? No, the amount of rice produced is more of an economic function that anything else. (Raise the price high enough and you will flood the world with rice no matter what the temperature is.) It was put together for the political purpose of scaring us one more time that the sky is falling. Well we aren’t buying this crap anymore, well at least not on this web site.

  28. This morning I was told by the news that temps were going up 7 degrees and seas would rise 7 metres because the large berg in Greenland was a symptom of runaway warming.
    Now to rice yields. I haven’t read the paper but I notice a comment saying the “researcher” didn’t speak to any farmers. As a farmer I always had a pretty fair idea of why a crop did well/did badly. Not science but based on experience. So talking to the local farmers may have illicited a better answer than global warming. Unfortunately for the “researcher” summer crops grow better in hot conditions than in cool provided water is not a limiting factor.
    Could it be that the drop off in production co-incided with the industrialisation of China and the move of the young away from farms to factories? I seem to recall newspaper stories about that time telling of the mass migration of young people looking for a better life in the cities. Take away the fit young workforce, particularly when Chinese farms are not mechanised, and you will have less field preparation, weed control and timely intervention. All three result in less production.

  29. tty and David S, those were my first thoughts, too. Going the Yamal tree one better, Asian rice is apparently teleconnected in both space and time to remote growing conditions. It’s strange that this remarkable property was never discovered in greenhouse experiments, but perhaps it only shows up at larger scales.
    This paper is actually quite exciting, since we may have at last discovered a significant source of the elusive chemical thiotimoline, the only known substance with even remotely similar properties:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thiotimoline

  30. Perhaps the idea is that the rice plant roots are rather long, and penetrate a long way into the earth’s crust (though not as far as the million degree region mentioned by our distinguished crazed vice poodle). Because of this deep probing of the planet’s thermal history, relatively small amounts of rice growth data, yield considerable information on planetary temperature data, and vice versa. Suffice it to say, that without considering _all_ the forcings we’ll never be able to understand, sorry model, sorry, create a set of illustrative unfolding future scenarios, which capture all the nuances. However, if we had any shred of knowledge or trust in our betters we would simply accept these findings without demur. Can I have a grant now please?

  31. For the sake of argument let’s assume going up is temperature, CO2, and rice crop yields. What do we get? More snap, crackle, pop. Mixed with melted butter and marshmallows and allowed to cool it’s not too bad.

  32. Willis, in the original thread they said it was the first ever study of its kind. I find that hard to believe. Perhaps they were refering to Western studies? In perusing their references, did you get any sense that they’d researched Asian literature for similar studies?
    Thanks, and thanks for the analysis of the actual paper. Good job.
    ————-
    I said in the other Rice thread that I’d check for historical records of Chinese rice studies. I didn’t have much Google-time, but I did find an interesting comment that the Chinese domesticated rice 6-8 kya. I am hoping to find historical records of the sort that “Emperor So-andSo” ordered hundreds of the court ‘smart-guys’ to study how to increase rice yields. OTOH, maybe it’s just been taken for granted for thousands of years that everyone knows good seed, good fertilizer, good weather, on a good plot is all you need for a bumper crop; why study what “everyone knows”?

  33. Meanwhile, at RC, we have but a bloodbath taking place as to just how wrong and deceitful Lord Christoper has been!
    Forget Nepal with its forged climate conspiracy, ignore Darwin and its agenda riven duplicity, gloss over Trenberths travesty but, mostly, celebrate that the the perfidious Peer has been revealed as the true anti-Christ by mental minnows.
    Forget appeals to fair play, arguments underpinned by logical appeal, none of that is considered relevant by the withered ranks of those whom defend the indefensible.
    Gavin and Chums, as much as you strive to associate with the bravery, or stupidity, of the Forlorn Hope of days thought extant the more your stance is revealed as stupid.
    A promotion, however gratifying, within the losing side, is but a hollow victory.
    Answer Anthony’s questions, respond to SMc’s probings but, mostly, quit your standard responses that place subjectivity, logic and hubris above reasoned argument.
    Otherwise, just take the beating but without the bleating!

  34. If the following report from the NWS is any indication, maybe we need to start growing more rice in coastal southern California!
    …..SO FAR THE MONTH OF AUGUST HAS CONTINUED THE VERY COOL THEME.
    THROUGH THE FIRST 10 DAYS OF THE MONTH…THE AVERAGE TEMPERATURE AT
    LOS ANGELES AIRPORT WAS 63.8 DEGREES…6.3 DEGREES BELOW NORMAL. IN
    ADDITION…THE AVERAGE HIGH TEMPERATURE WAS 68.8…NEARLY 8 DEGREES
    BELOW THE NORMAL OF 76.4 DEGREES. RECORD LOW MAXIMUM TEMPERATURES
    WERE SET OR TIED ON EACH OF THE FIRST 9 DAYS OF THE MONTH AT LOS
    ANGELES AIRPORT.
    AT SANTA BARBARA AIRPORT THROUGH THE 10TH….THE AVERAGE TEMPERATURE
    OF 61.1 DEGREES WAS 7 DEGREES BELOW NORMAL. THE AVERAGE HIGH
    TEMPERATURE DURING THIS TIME HAS BEEN JUST 67.2 DEGREES…NEARLY AN
    ASTONISHING 11 DEGREES BELOW THE NORMAL OF 78.1 DEGREES.
    AT SANTA MARIA AIRPORT…THE AVERAGE TEMPERATURE FOR THE FIRST 10
    DAYS OF AUGUST WAS 59.8 DEGREES…4.2 DEGREES BELOW NORMAL. THE
    AVERAGE HIGH TEMPERATURE OF 67.3 DEGREES WAS 6.7 DEGREES BELOW THE
    NORMAL OF 74.0 DEGREES. THE HIGH TEMPERATURE OF 64 DEGREES ON THE
    5TH TIED THE RECORD LOWEST MAXIMUM TEMPERATURE EVER RECORDED DURING
    THE MONTH OF AUGUST.

  35. One assumes that its actually worse than we thought since the rice production is apparently declining even though CO2 fertilizer effect should raise output.

  36. I wish that just for a change that Anthony and WUWT could find a mainstream peer reviewed article on the environment that meets the standards and expectations of the readers of this web site. I am usually asked to peer review about 30 articles per year and the quality submitted manuscripts is actually quite high, although most papers benefit from critical reviews. After a while, one gets the idea that the readers of this web site are against all peer-reviewed science.

  37. One word: Wormholes.
    Hansen and his buddies are smoking pot in a circle, One of his buddies takes some acid, and says, wormholes are destroying the Earth by creating space/time rifts into the past Earth. They ate rice for dinner, so the obvious conclusion is that wormholes are created from rice.
    And of course humans have to be thrown in there, because we wouldn’t be tree-huggers if humans were not evil and smelly.

  38. Y’know, a couple years ago, when Obama was elected, a college professor in environmental sciences told me how impressed she was that the incoming Obama administration spent SO much time at the National Academy of Sciences to learn about what they were doing, and what they wanted to research. So why do I think that this paper is a product of the time they spent there and is what the administration wants to hear? It’s more than an embarrassment, it’s a travesty.

  39. Forget the legions of false friends that bolster your defences Gavin. However admirably you’ve sustained them they’ll be the first to desert you.
    For months now, you’ve stepped into the breeches that they’ve deserted, you’ve taken the flak, the dismemberment that they’ed deserved and with hora whimper.
    Gav, you’re the Cowards answer to surviving. They say Run; you shout Fun. You die, they prosper!
    You fight; they flight. Nice one.

  40. BillD, some of the stuff that is being published is apparently for hyping in the media as opposed to being thoroughly researched. Besides, we don’t object to peer reviewed research as long as the review is valid and conducted by peers who have expertise in the science involved.

  41. *blech!* Bad science yet again. Thanks for your work, Willis!
    I’m more interested in the political drivers of this nonsense….is there some new focus on climate change in Asia? For example, look at the broo-hah over the IPCC’s mis-statements regarding Himalayan glaciers melting by 2035:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jan/20/ipcc-himalayan-glaciers-mistake
    What’s going on? Are the warmists seeking a new population to terrify? Considering that the PRC runs a classical iron-fisted command economy immune to nearly all outside influences, I have to wonder what they are thinking….

  42. Willis,
    Well, ya see? It’s like this: Proclamations of dooooooom and gloooooooom get all the headlines.
    You know the drill by now: If it bleeds, it reads.
    Kinda sorta like this: If you don’t have the facts, then pretend …

  43. @RoyFOMR
    I’ve tried to post at RC on that thread – drawing attention to the amusing contortion of this phrase: “Scenarios are images of the future, or alternative futures. They are neither predictions nor forecasts. Rather, each scenario is one alternative image of how the future might unfold.”
    …which apparently is not from a comic Gilbert and Sullivan style opera – but from an IPCC report.
    But sadly nothing gets through (the real climate patented gate keeping system is in play) making the thread a little one sided.
    Fortunately, his Lordship can fend for himself – my fortran77 climatology prediction program says that the brewing oratorical onslaught may add a few degrees to the UHI effect.

  44. Finally, does anyone else think that averaging high mountain tundra temperature anomalies with lowland plains anomalies, in order to adjust foothills anomalies, is a method that might possibly work but that it definitely would take careful watching, strict quality control, and a strong dash of common sense?
    Yes. It might work, but I doubt it.
    What’s to do… maybe use raw data, why are they messing with raw data so much?
    If you massage it enough, maybe it can give you what you want.

  45. How many GISS-padded data points does it take to equal 1 rice paddy?
    It would appear that GISS is steaming the results prior to the rice being harvested.

  46. “This paper is actually quite exciting, since we may have at last discovered a significant source of the elusive chemical thiotimoline, the only known substance with even remotely similar properties:”
    Gary, this is neither the appropriate time nor place to dredge up contentious and acrimonious debate about which of the founding fathers of AGW science, Asimov or Lysenko was the first to discover the source of it all. I fear you are being deliberately mischevious in order to prevent ground-breaking, peer reviewed research from throwing more CO2 light on the bigger picture.

  47. Mike {previous thread}says:
    August 10, 2010 at 1:03 pm
    “Published in the online early edition the week of Aug. 9, 2010 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences —a peer-reviewed, scientific journal from the United States—the report analyzed….”
    PNAS is not exactly peer reviewed in the generally accepted sence.{sic} If your buddy is a member of the national academy he or she can communicate it to PNAS and it will be published with nothing more than a spelling check.
    ———————————————-
    If that is correct, maybe explains a lot!
    While Mr. Welch could perhaps be cut some slack, surely some of the allied authors would have had some on the ground input.

  48. BillD says:
    August 11, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    I wish that just for a change that Anthony and WUWT could find a mainstream peer reviewed article on the environment that meets the standards and expectations of the readers of this web site. I am usually asked to peer review about 30 articles per year and the quality submitted manuscripts is actually quite high, although most papers benefit from critical reviews. After a while, one gets the idea that the readers of this web site are against all peer-reviewed science.

    That would be an incorrect idea. No one is against peer-review, we’d like to make it actually work, or work better where it is working.
    Also, I’m hitting the balls as fast as they are pitched. By that I mean I try to look over all of the articles in the field and find the ones that are obvious howlers. In addition I take on challenges like this one on rice. So my time is not long.
    However, if you think that there is a good study on climate out there, send it to me in an email and I’ll take a look. You can reach me at willis [at) taunovobay.com, with the usual changes in the email to foil the email harvesting robots.

  49. Thanks Willis,
    Looking for background yesterday I found the following amazing study:
    http://aob.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/95/4/695
    • Methods Rice plants were grown outdoors in plastic pots and moved at heading time to three temperature-controlled glasshouses under high night temperature (HNT; 22/34 °C), high day temperature (HDT; 34/22 °C) and control conditions (CONT; 22/22 °C). Grains were sampled periodically, and the time-course of grain growth was divided into rate and duration by logistic regression analysis. Endosperm cell numbers and cell sizes were analysed by digitalized hand-tracing images of endosperm cross-sections.

    I had to read a bit to understand that they reversed conditions for the plants, and HNT means at night 34C and during the day 22C.
    Better than cutting off frog’s legs and checking height of jump, since rice cannot croak/scream.
    It is amazing what is called science in this day and age.
    Anyway, maybe this is the origin of the harm brought from high night temperatures :).
    There seems to be hope though for the science and logic, in another abstract:
    http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/bsc/sspn/2009/00000055/00000001/art00014
    The effects of night temperature on biomass accumulation and plant morphology were examined in rice (Oryza sativa L.) during vegetative growth. Plants were grown under three different night temperatures (17, 22 and 27°C) for 63 days. The day temperature was maintained at 27°C in all treatments. The final biomass of the plants was greatest in the plants grown at the highest night temperature. Total leaf area and tiller number were also the greatest in this treatment. Growth analysis indicated that the relative growth rate in the 27°C night-temperature treatment was maximal between days 21-42 and this was caused by increases in leaf area ratio, leaf weight ratio and specific leaf area. Plant total nitrogen contents did not differ among treatments. However, nitrogen allocation to the leaf blades was highest and the accumulation of sucrose and starch in the leaf blades and sheaths was the lowest in the 27°C night-temperature treatment by day 42. Despite this, dark respiration was also highest, and both the gross and net rates of CO2 uptake at the level of the whole plant at day 63 were the highest in the 27°C night-temperature treatment. Thus, high night temperature strongly stimulated the growth of leaf blades during the early stage of rice plant growth, leading to increased biomass during the vegetative stage of the rice plants. As the CO2 uptake rate per total leaf area was higher, photosynthesis at the level of the whole plant was also stimulated by a high night temperature.
    Hey, the science is not settled :). Who would believe it!

  50. A lot like the flyer I just retrieved from the letterbox advertising ‘ADELAIDE’S PSYCHIC EXPO’ this weekend. With such abundant access to thiotimoline why on earth would you want to kill trees and expend all that CO2?

  51. It amazes me that a) someone would fund such a useless study and b) that anyone would publish such a study which provides no data of use. It seems that so long as it follows the official IPCC line of produce scare mongering papers, the quality of the work is regardless and it is published either way – this only seeks to undermine climate science in general and turn off the public. The public are not stupid, they known BS when they see it!
    Its not that the scientists are failing to engage the public, they are publishing rubbish purely to create an alarmist headline for the media. They will bring about their own end, without the help of sceptics or “oil funded lobbyists”!

  52. Just another typical example of climate ‘scientists’ publishing papers, where the standard of research would be rejected outright as being inadequate in any field of real science.

  53. BillD: August 11, 2010 at 4:52 pm
    I wish that just for a change that Anthony and WUWT could find a mainstream peer reviewed article on the environment that meets the standards and expectations of the readers of this web site. I am usually asked to peer review about 30 articles per year and the quality submitted manuscripts is actually quite high, although most papers benefit from critical reviews.
    WUWT is a commentary on “the puzzling things in life, nature, science, weather, climate change, technology, and recent news…” Good, quality, peer-reviewed articles should be thought-provoking, but not puzzling.
    And puzzling, rather than thought-provoking, is what’s been coming out of the “climate science” community for years…

  54. Lawrie Ayres says: August 11, 2010 at 4:05 pm…
    I notice a comment saying the “researcher” didn’t speak to any farmers.

    This says everything. The Big Disconnect With Reality. Just like turning good individual station records into anonymous gridded soup.

    starzmom says: August 11, 2010 at 5:11 pm
    …when Obama was elected, a college professor in environmental sciences told me how impressed she was that the incoming Obama administration spent SO much time at the National Academy of Sciences to learn about what they were doing, and what they wanted to research…

    Me too. Now I wonder if he was just learning ecneics so that he could more plausibly appear to support the BS. I read a very good account of Monica Lewinsky’s story (I like to see people in the round, not just all-bad or all-good) and one thing I remember is that in addition to Clinton’s charismatic, genuinely likeable qualities, he admitted lying, telling lies, as long as he could remember.

  55. This is only part of the continuing warmist policy. Some years ago the late Prof. Schneider advocated “exaggerating” man-made climate fears in order to scare the public. “You have to find ways to exaggerate the threat”

  56. Thank you, Willis, for this excellent and beautiful analysis.
    I think it bears pointing out that your critique is based on looking at what these researchers actually said they did. It is not based on ‘this is a paper by proponents of AGW, so we don’t like it no matter what’ – something continuously bleated about by those AGW proponents. That is a very important difference.
    And may I say that it warms the cockles of the heart of this old scientist to read your critique. My old professors would have done exactly as you did, had we handed in such a thesis. Only – they would not have been so kind but far more acerbic. And there would have been tears … oh yeah!

  57. Can anyone answer a question about ‘teleconnection’ – the effect whereby the growth of a tree or rice plant supposedly reflects global temperature but doesn’t match the local temperature…
    On the face of it, this sounds nutty. However, couldn’t the plant be responding to sunlight rather than temperature? Teleconnection then makes more sense if solar activity is affecting global temperature.
    However, this is just a random thought, not based on any data. I was hoping someone more learned could comment on this suggestion.

  58. A few articles back we spoke of University Administrators not being Researchers but just academic Politicians. Now we discuss yet another example of Peer Reviewed nonsense being published by “PNAS”, that just falls apart in your hands as you read it (thanks to Willis and others). Now I know I’m slower than Leif and a few hundred others here, but it just seems that there’s no one who knows anything that’s in control of anything anywhere and it looks like Fat Albert and his gang of misfit, global-warming, carpetbaggers and speaking-fee-collectors are running hollywood and the federal government and the united nations and every college and university, and every professional organization and publication on the planet.
    Did I get that right? Did I leave anyone out?

  59. I know this blog is for weather and climate scientists. But there are a lot of people out there you could serve and enlighten about the nonsense of AGW, IF you put your cookies on a lower shelf by explaining scientific principles and terms. I know one of the objectives of modern science seems to be to make things so complicated that everybody else is totally intimidated and in awe and worshipping the elitarian doctors and masters–That’s why they often talk in latin!–BUT this morning in our rice-producing country of Taiwan’s main AGW propagandiser English language shitsheet, “The China Post” carried this “research” as a scary harbinger article of AGW. I could not refute it, because I had to read this above twice to get the major drift. But if you would write in clearer terms (even explaining jargon in normal language in parenthesis like these) you might give normal people like me ammunition to refute the lies that get printed here, and most likely in other countries.
    You may fight the scientific war in some ways, but you must see that they–the warmists–are winning the propaganda war with their big media guns, and unless you fight AGW (like I do on my blog) with stuff that people understand, you can kiss your and our future of truth in science goodbye. They will win!
    They ARE winning, because the mainstream media are behind this globalist scheme to make a one world government. That is why I really admire Lord Monckton. He puts things more in terms lay people can understand and addresses normal folks.
    I know that you are scientists, but you could simplify more and explain things better. The comments below the articles are sometimes easier to understand than the actual article. I love this website, don’t get me wrong, but if your objective is winning the information war, you are mainly preaching to the choir, if you don’t write in simpler terms and explain difficult concepts and techincal terms. How about an on-board Climate thesaurus widget to look things up?
    Contrary to what a commenter wrote a little above this one, “The public are not stupid, they known BS when they see it!”, I find that the public reads newspapers and imbibes TV as Gospel! And that is why we have to change to reach out to the uninformed!

  60. The study uses correlations between farm yield and ‘weather variables’ from stations within 15-20km of the farm to build a statistcal model. That statistical model is then used to estimate the effect of changes in temperature over the 26 year ‘global analysis’ record on yield. Your post seems to suggest that the authors used the 26 year record to come up with their statistical model for how rice yield responds to temperature. This would indeed be silly, but it is not what was done.
    Additionally your post (and frankly the article so its probably not your fault) seems to indicate that the only thing used in the 26 year record as the ‘global value’ – i.e. they only cared about the global average. This is not true. They used the NCDC 5×5 degree gridded temperature analysis, and took the trend in the gridpoint containing each farm to estimate the effect of late 20th century climate change. This is a little hidden at the bottom of the ‘Data and Methods’ section.
    Finally, maybe I missed it, but I can’t find any place in which they used a general circulation model to predict anything. The only model they use is a simple regression one, in which they control for whatever they can, and estimate the effect of maximum and minimum temperature as well as radiation. The only real prediction of the future they make is to note that Tmin is projected to rise more than Tmax, potentially skewing the net effect towards a decrease in yield. However, they make a point of noting that their results should not be interpreted as a prediction of decreasing yields by 2100. The results refer to the marginal effect of warming and “should not be extrapolated to the nonmarginal warming that is projected to occur in Asia by the end of the century.”

  61. Data series from the weather stations at the sites were too short to determine trends. Instead, trends in Tmin and Tmax were based on a global analysis of ground-station data for 1979–2004 …

    Oh Yeah. The global trend is what influences local growth. That is why we in Wyoming are awaiting our day to enter the banana trade.
    Just use the local data, boys. If there is adequate variation in temperature, and if there is truly a significant effect, the data will show it. Have some faith.

  62. Willis, I didn’t read all the comments so it may have been mentioned but you appear to have missed the real malfeasance in the Rice article. The claim was that global warming had reduced the “rate of growth” in unit rice production, not the rate of unit production. I don’t care what dynamic system we are discussing, ultimately, as we approach optimum conditions, the growth curve approaches a horizontal asymptote and therefore the growth rate slows . Temperature records or no, the paper should have been rejected for this reason alone. For example, this slowing in growth rate in unit production can also be related to my increase in age, or the rusting of the Brooklyn Bridge.

  63. re: Lu says: August 12, 2010 at 7:52 am

    I know this blog is for weather and climate scientists. But there are a lot of people out there you could serve and enlighten about the nonsense of AGW, IF you put your cookies on a lower shelf by explaining scientific principles and terms. I know one of the objectives of modern science seems to be to make things so complicated that everybody else is totally intimidated and in awe and worshipping the elitarian doctors and masters….

    Hi Lu,
    Your comment is heartfelt, well written, and certainly brings up some legitimate points. I would like to try to address some of those issues.
    The first point I would like to make is that this site actually isn’t at all for just weather and climate scientists. While there are some who frequent the site, I daresay the majority are not. Some of us are scientists in other fields, and a lot of folks aren’t scientists at all. A large goal of this site, as I see it at least, is very much to help educate folks about some of the basic precepts of science – even if the mode of that education is thru reading articles that use those exact principals to deconstruct some of the shoddy ‘science’ that is out there – or to evaluate other potential causes than those being commonly cited.
    For non-scientists, it is difficult and a bit of a learning curve. The comments sections can be incredibly helpful as you noted yourself. A great use for them is for anyone who doesn’t understand a point to question it in the comments. Unfortunately you won’t always get a reply with a good solid answer – but more often than not you will and that’s far more than can be said for the majority of sites out there.
    I, and I’m sure many others, would love to see a ‘glossary’ of sorts- the problem is that it takes a large amount of time and effort to put something like that together. Folks posting here are volunteering their time as it is, and doing it out of personal interest in the topic(s) on their free time outside of their normal jobs. What I’d LOVE to see, although it still takes a lot of time and effort on the part of a site owner and site moderators, is a joint effort where everyone contributes to creating that ‘glossary.’ In that fashion an incredible amount of information can be put together far easier than if just site owner and moderators were to try to do the entire project – but it would still require a lot of time on their parts just to double check submissions, correct errors, eliminate repeat entries, create the format & layout & webpage(s) for the final product, maintain that page, etc…. This from folks who are already giving up hours and hours of their own lives to this site as it is.
    What probably could be done a bit easier is to provide links to some existing ‘science’ glossaries out there – there are bound to be some good ones. Even that requires searching them out, reading thru them or at least skimming to check quality, etc. How about you see if you can find a few and then provide links to Anthony in the tips & notes section? Obviously I can’t guarantee that he’d use them, but I would suspect he’d at least seriously consider it. Lord I speak REALLY tongue in cheek here because I haven’t checked myself to see if perhaps he’s already provided some links like that on the homepage!!
    Next, on the issue of articles being ‘too’ scientific and needing to include more explanation of the basic science. I feel for you there also. Even tho I am a scientist, I work in industry rather than academia – and I’m not a climate scientist, and since graduate school I rarely need to use more than simple basic statistical tests and concepts. Not to mention that the ‘jargon’ varies a bit from one discipline to another. So often there are issues in articles that I’d like to see elaborated on more also – be it to jog my own recollection of the pertinent statistics or because its something I haven’t run across before or what have you. In this article for example, I would very much like to have seen the autocorrelation issue expounded on with just a few more sentences or a paragraph. I posted to that effect and hoped to see either Mr. Eschenbach take the issue up with an update to the article, or someone else perhaps chime in here in the comments that way…. no luck so far. :0) Who knows, perhaps someone will note my second mention of it here and expound a little for me in a comment yet.
    Here again there are other aspects that one has to consider, however. First, if the author(s) change the audience aim, e.g., try to write more explanation of the basic science in their articles, then either those articles get both longer (perhaps VERY much longer) or they aren’t able to cover nearly as much ground, aren’t able to address as many different issues as they do. You would probably also wind up with less scientists, and especially less climate scientists, willing to take the time to wade through so much ‘basic’ stuff (to them), in order to read the articles – and if they don’t read them, they’re not going to participate and comment on them either. That would be a great loss to this site. As it is there is often quite a bit in articles that someone well versed in climate science would find to be pretty well known and simplistic…. So its very much a fine line – what is too much, what is too little – both in terms of the technical level in the articles and the length of the articles?
    Finally I’d like to address your comment about an objective of modern science being to intimidate anyone who’s not in the good ol’ boys club. Being human beings too, I’m certain that you are right and there are a few, perhaps even some, scientists who behave in that fashion either purposefully or subconsciously. And for all I know, in the academic circles that may have gotten worse in recent years, but I don’t know.
    What I can say for certain, however, is that there is a very deliberate and GOOD purpose for the jargon used by scientists that is not in ANY way intended to belittle or awe non-scientists. That purpose is to accurately describe exactly what they are referring to without having to write an entire book. Science, to some extent, is its own language that has developed over time – single words have meanings that often cannot be otherwise expressed without using one or even several sentences. It gets even more complicated because at times a word used in one discipline carries a different meaning than the same word used in another discipline. Regardless, phrases that sound so intimidating are often used in place of what would otherwise require far far longer explanations.
    Now any good scientist, who ALSO happens to be a good communicator in layman’s terms, can take almost any scientific word or phrase and make it understandable in basic terms to most people – with a little time and effort, and of course, sometimes far easier than others depending on the topic and the layman’s level of knowledge too. You can have excellent scientists who don’t also happen to be great at translating into lay terms, however. There really is an art to it and its quite often not an easy thing to do.
    There are, however, even single words that would take years of study for someone to fully understand all of the meaning and implications inherent in that one word (or phrase). For example, and forgive me, this probably isn’t the best example, but I could use the word osteomyelitis and that will sound utterly foreign and perhaps scary to a layman. I could then tell that layman that it basically means inflammation in bone. The layman might exclaim, ‘why didn’t you just say so!’ and assume that the ‘big word’ was used only to try to hide simple things and make the user appear superior and mysterious. What would be entirely missed is that a doctor or scientist in the field(s) dealing with osteomyelitis, when seeing the word, also thinks/knows of the entire process involved in osteomyelitis including osteoblasts, osteoclasts, various inflammatory cells, enzymes and proteins, the various known causes, treatments, how the surrounding tissue is likely to be involved or affected, etc. So the single word carries a lot more meaning to someone using it and in the discipline reading it than just the simple view that ‘inflamed bone’ would carry to the layman – because the term carries with it the various processes involved in the development, typical course of progress, treatments, etc.
    Or there are plenty of terms which, to explain, would require a domino effect of explanations of other key concepts… Who has the time and ability to teach an entire book or course of study in order to put each word or phrase into its full context? That’s why in order for one to become a good scientist, years of guided study are involved, in part so one learns the basic principals and precepts of science itself (e.g., how to properly use the tool that science is), and so one learns the meanings of the various words used within that discipline, and so on.
    Its like a mechanic calling for ‘channel locks’ rather than describing the configuration, shape, typical use, and so on of the type of wrench that got named channel lock wrenches… or the carpenter referring to ‘dry wall’ instead of the ‘processed wood product in an 8′ x 4′ x 1/2″ configuration typically used to build walls inside buildings that are subsequently painted or wall papered over to give a finished look to the inside of the structure.’ The mechanic and carpenter aren’t trying to be arrogant and mysterious to inflate their standing and block access to laymen by using terminology involved in their craft, any more than a scientist is. The terminology used within any discipline is just more relevant, accurate, meaningful, and concise than trying to put things into lay terms. We’re just often more familiar with some of the carpenter or mechanic’s terms than we might be with scientific terms, and so we take them for granted.
    In other words, some of what may easily be seen as arrogance, condescension, or an attempt to inflate ones position actually has nothing to do with those emotional aspects what-so-ever and are simply how to accurately communicate ones meaning within that field in a reasonably concise way.
    Anyhow, for whatever its worth I hope this brief look as some of the other aspects involved in the issues you brought up helps a little.

  64. Lu says:
    August 12, 2010 at 7:52 am

    I know this blog is for weather and climate scientists. But there are a lot of people out there you could serve and enlighten about the nonsense of AGW, IF you put your cookies on a lower shelf by explaining scientific principles and terms. I know one of the objectives of modern science seems to be to make things so complicated that everybody else is totally intimidated and in awe and worshipping the elitarian doctors and masters–That’s why they often talk in latin!–BUT this morning in our rice-producing country of Taiwan’s main AGW propagandiser English language shitsheet, “The China Post” carried this “research” as a scary harbinger article of AGW. I could not refute it, because I had to read this above twice to get the major drift. But if you would write in clearer terms (even explaining jargon in normal language in parenthesis like these) you might give normal people like me ammunition to refute the lies that get printed here, and most likely in other countries.

    Lu, thank you for your comment. I make every effort to make my ideas understandable to most readers, and I am sorry you found them less than clear. If you would point out the wording or the concepts that were difficult to understand, it would help me write better. I, like you, think it is important that everyone understands the issues.

  65. Marty Singh says:
    August 12, 2010 at 8:16 am

    The study uses correlations between farm yield and ‘weather variables’ from stations within 15-20km of the farm to build a statistical model. …

    Not so. The paper says:

    Data series from the weather stations at the sites were too short to determine trends. Instead, trends in Tmin and Tmax were based on a global analysis of ground-station data for 1979–2004 …

    So they are not using weather records from “15-20km of the farm”. Nor are they using the “weather variables” directly. Instead, and foolishly in my opinion, they are using trends in the variables …
    w.

  66. Willis: I suggest that you read the paper more carefully. The authors first determined the effect of changes in Tmin and Tmax on yield, presumably from monthly or daily temperature data at stations near there sites. The abstract reads: “The farm-level detail, observed over multiple growing seasons, enabled us to construct farm-specific weather variables…” AFTER they had determined that yield dropped X% for every 1 degC increase in local Tmin and improved Y% for every 1 degC increase in local Tmax, the authors may have wanted to put their results in context: How fast is GW causing Tmin and Tmax to change? They obviously couldn’t establish a realistic trend in Tmin and Tmax from a few years of local temperature data, so they calculated trends from 25 years of data (about 0.05 degC/year). From long-term temperature trends, they may have estimated that yields have been dropping X% every 20 years due to effects from Tmin and improving Y% every 20 years due to effects from Tmax (while changing for many other reasons too.)
    How do I know this interpretation is correct? I don’t. However, they found that increasing Tmax improved yields and increasing Tmin reduced yields. Over 25 years, both Tmin and Tmax have probably increased. There should be no way to determine that Tmin and Tmax have opposite effects on yield if both have been calculated from long term linear trends! Furthermore, Table S3 in the Supplementary Material also shows that there are different amounts of correlation between Tmin and Tmax during different times in the growing season. The correlation would have to be 1.0 if they were both increasing linearly and -1.0 if Tmin was increasing linearly and Tmax was decreasing linearly.
    It is far easier to determine the effect of changes in Tmin from greenhouse studies than from field studies. In the greenhouse, you can keep all of the variables in the greenhouse constant except for Tmin and vary Tmin to widely as desired. In the field, you get whatever Tmin Mother Nature gives you (without as much dynamic range as you’d prefer). The Tmin you do get isn’t a constant in the field, it probably varies 5-10 degC from day to day while the average Tmin (the number you put in the model) varies only 1-2 degC from season to season. The changes in Tmin that Nature provides come along with changes in Tmax, radiation, insects, nutrients, water, rice strain, pH, fungal infection, wind, heavy rainfall, humidity, planting density, seedling health, etc. If you are lucky and careful about what data you include, you may be able to develop a model that predicts how important the key variables are to yield. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible when changes in some variables tend to be correlated with changes in other variables. (Tmin may correlate with cloudiness because clouds block radiative cooling at night. Which one is the cause of poor yield?) Greenhouse experiments can go wrong, too. Maybe Tmin has an effect only when nutrients are limited and you chose to do your experiment in rich soil. However, it is much easier to get a misleading answer in the field than in the greenhouse.

  67. Willis,
    Frank is correct. The quote you are referring to is them using their statistical model and applying it to the long-term trend.
    Here is what they say about constructing the regression model:
    “Our general approach was to regress yield on weather variables and in some specifications, exogenously determined economic variables, whose inclusion improved the precision of the estimated weather impacts. IRRI and its partners
    collected data on crop establishment and harvest dates, production inputs, and yields for each farm in each season of each year. They also collected daily weather data from a single monitoring station at each site, which was within 15–20 km of nearly all
    farms at a site. This detail enabled us to construct farm-specific measures of weather variables defined according to the rice plant’s three growth phases (for each phase, means for Tmin, Tmax, and radiation and sums for rainfall).”
    It just does not make sense to regress the a 26 yr temperature record onto a 6 year yield record. Not that it is just scientifically unsound, but you just can’t mathematically regress vectors of different length against eachother.
    Frank – One other reason they stated for doing a field experiment rather than a controlled one is that farmers can correct for changing conditions by changing their fertiliser use etc. Thus this might offset some of the effect of the changes in temperature. Controlled experiments thus mught imply a higher sensitivity than in the real world.

  68. Frank and Marty, thanks for the clarification. You are correct and I was wrong, they did two analyses, one using local data, and one using trends from larger-scale data.
    I’m still not impressed by their methods. First, they don’t report (near as I can tell) whether their locally measured climate variables agree with the regional level climate variables or not. If they don’t agree, then looking at the trends is meaningless.
    Second, they have not made their data available, so there is no way to determine if they have done the math correctly.
    Third, they have not even mentioned the question of autocorrelation. Since temperature data is generally autocorrelated, and yield data is generally very autocorrelated, and their analysis is based upon the statistical significance of the various regression calculations, and statistical significance depends sensitively on autocorrelation, this is a serious omission.
    As a result, I see this as a work in progress, without a single verifiable fact in it. As I said, this is too bad, because it is an interesting analysis.

  69. Marty: I still think it is idiotic to look for effects in uncontrolled fields that you have demonstrated occur in the greenhouse and even crazier for granting institutions to invest money under these circumstances. First, find out where the optimum temperature is and how fast yields drop with changes in Tmin and Tmax. If one expects significant changes in yield in the field from changes in Tmin, then look for them. Tmax may be correlated with radiation, explaining why higher Tmax improves yields.
    Willis: Monthly temperature data is autocorrelated, but I don’t think annual temperature is. (I think Santer founded that a year’s worth of data provided about 3-4 degrees of freedom, not 12.) If all of the temperature data for one season is used to predict yield, there may not be a problem.

  70. Frank says:
    August 13, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Willis: Monthly temperature data is autocorrelated, but I don’t think annual temperature is. (I think Santer founded that a year’s worth of data provided about 3-4 degrees of freedom, not 12.) If all of the temperature data for one season is used to predict yield, there may not be a problem.

    Thanks, Frank. Annual temperature data is most definitely autocorrelated. Globally, it is typically on the order of 0.85 depending on the dataset. The HadCRUT3 global annual mean temperature dataset, for example, has a lag-1 autocorrelation of 0.88 …

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