Another IPCC claim contradicted with new science

Remember this story bandied all over the press from 2008?

click to enlarge

Well, not so fast.

In the IPCC  Working Group 2 of the IPCC’s AR4, the “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” section here, the idea that plants shift to higher elevations in a warming world is cited in many places. For example:

There’s an IPCC table of such effects:

This new study directly contradicts at least some of the IPCC’s forecasts on the impact of global warming causing elevation shifts of flora.

From the University of California – Davis

UC Davis study shows plants moved downhill, not up, in warming world

Increased precipitation is the key, authors say

In a paper published today in the journal Science, a University of California, Davis, researcher and his co-authors challenge a widely held assumption that plants will move uphill in response to warmer temperatures.

Between 1930 and 2000, instead of colonizing higher elevations to maintain a constant temperature, many California plant species instead moved downhill an average of 260 feet, said Jonathan Greenberg, an assistant project scientist at the UC Davis Center for Spatial Technologies and Remote Sensing.

“While the climate warmed significantly in this period, there was also more precipitation. These wetter conditions are allowing plants to exist in warmer locations than they were previously capable of,” Greenberg said.

Many forecasts say climate change will cause a number of plants and animals to migrate to new ranges or become extinct. That research has largely been based on the assumption that temperature is the dominant driver of species distributions. However, Greenberg said the new study reveals that other factors, such as precipitation, may be more important than temperature in defining the habitable range of these species.

The findings could have global relevance, because many locations north of 45 degrees latitude (which includes the northernmost United States, virtually all of Canada and Russia, and most of Europe) have had increased precipitation in the past century, and global climate models generally predict that trend will continue, the authors said.

“As we continue to improve our understanding of climate-change impacts on species, we will help land managers and policy makers to make more informed decisions on, for instance, conservation efforts for threatened and endangered species,” Greenberg said.

He added that the study underlines the importance of an investment in basic science, as the results are based on historical data collected by the U.S. Forest Service in the 1930s, a program that was supported by New Deal spending after the Great Depression.


The study is titled “Changes in climatic water balance drive downhill shifts in plant species’ optimum elevations.” Greenberg’s co-authors are: graduate student Shawn Crimmins (the lead author); assistant professor Solomon Dobrowski (a UC Davis alumnus) and research analyst Alison Mynsberge, all of the University of Montana; and assistant professor John Abatzoglou of the University of Idaho.

Funding was provided by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service.

More information:

UC Davis Center for Spatial Technologies and Remote Sensing:

h/t to Chris Horner

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January 20, 2011 3:36 pm

Dang, they figured out that plants have seeds….
…is there no limit to their intelligence
Now if they would just figure out that plants evolved to do better with elevated CO2 levels……….
and, last time I checked, no plants = no us

Green Sand
January 20, 2011 3:40 pm

Watts goes up must come down?

January 20, 2011 3:40 pm

This shows that where a plant species grows best is multi-factored. Temperature may push up, but more precipitation may push down for species that like water. There may be other factors as well depending on specific plant species. How much sunlight (think changes in cloud cover.) How much CO2 (some species may treat increases CO2 like more the above studies species treat precipitation and hence do better and move down.)
There may also be indirect impacts depending on other species and how they react (including non plant species.)

January 20, 2011 3:40 pm

Oh well, up is down… Whatever. Look, stop focusing on the details. Get out there and buy some carbon credits already!

January 20, 2011 3:41 pm

Day of the Triffids. It’s worse than we thought.

January 20, 2011 3:52 pm

This makes a lot of sense since few plants are effected by a “sunburn” while many thrive given enough moisture. Then only conter-acting effect will be plants with a greater capacity to use the moisture and over-canopy the plants already there.

January 20, 2011 3:58 pm

Funny how the evidence magically supports whatever the latest theory is. Plants move uphill! Look at this table of plants moving uphill! Now, plants move downhill! How long until they forget about the above table and find some examples of this?
Just like the snowfall theories…

January 20, 2011 3:59 pm

The whole thing was ridiculous from the beginning. Fractions of a degree Centigrade in the average temperature won’t have any effect on plants whatever and it takes years of significantly above or below max/min temperatures to shift a population. Naturally occurring genetic variability has more effect than this ridiculous theory.

January 20, 2011 4:01 pm

So, assuming good moisture levels, i.e. increased precipitation, plants prefer a warmer environment? I know I do.

Richard Sharpe
January 20, 2011 4:09 pm

Oh come on! Don’t you know that Global Warming caused plants to move down hill, and move uphill and to stay still, all at the same time.
Anthropogenic Climate Disruption also does that, as does Climate Challenges (whatever they are).
That’s Climate Science!

January 20, 2011 4:36 pm

The IPCC report might have been right about plants seeking comparable temperature ranges. Maybe the plants didn’t get the memo that it was actually warmer and that is why they moved to slightly lower elevations to find actual comparable temperatures. No matter how you look at it, it obviously isn’t something worth worrying about let alone even taking notice of.

George E. Smith
January 20, 2011 4:40 pm

You simply wouldn’t believe some of the things that scientists are discovering; or maybe postulating anyway.
Take AGM for example; Anthropogenic Global Movement. How often have we been told that our ancestors came out of Africa. So Pildown man didn’t just evolve somewhere in England by himself.
So we finally accepted that maybe our ancestors did come out of Africa.
Well you simply won’t believe what they are now suggesting.
On page 20 of the 7-Jan 2011 SCIENCE, in a NEWSFOCUS article some scientists have made a momentous suggestion. They are now suggesting that in their trek out of the African Continent; those ancient nomad ancestors of ours actually came from North Africa. Who would have imagined that ? I guess their first thoughts were that they came from East Africa; well like Obama’s father did you see.
So how does this work; our previous ancestors from Kenya or maybe Tanganyika, hopped a cruise ship, and set off for India; but somehow that idea doesn’t seem to fit. so now they want us to believe that these guys set off for the suez canal, and then crossed there into the Sinai, and off to Israel; perhaps through the gaza strip.
Well I just never would have imagined people going north to get out of Africa; just is so unseemly ! Well of course the Sahara desert was like Minnesota, a land of ten thousand lakes back in those days; and who wouldn’t want to go there on the way to the middle East with all that oil. So this was only 130,000 years ago, and you can see what a mess those trekkers made of that pristine region in north Africa; turned the whole place into a desert.
Well that is science for you; just when you thought you understood something; they tell you maybe it wasn’t so.

January 20, 2011 4:45 pm

So where does this leave us with the story of the Snows of Kilimanjaro? Is it just clearing of forests or is it plants not growing as well at higher altitudes eg because of less precipitation? Anyone out there got any ideas?

January 20, 2011 4:48 pm

A typical ivory-tower science?

January 20, 2011 5:11 pm

Uphill, downhill, who cares? The thing is the plants are moving and it is all human’s fault. Be afraid be very afraid it is the revenge of the plants. Have you ever tried to out run a plant?

Jimmy Haigh
January 20, 2011 5:12 pm

Did the IPCC get anything right?

January 20, 2011 5:15 pm

As a skeptic i would still say that this study is as much bull as the others.
If they move uphill or downhill would very much depend on the already existing climate/latitude of the said place.
In a country where you have cold and wet climate they would move upwards while opposite would be the case i guess in places that were already hot and dry.
The treeline in scandinavia for example was actually much higher during early parts of holocene when climate was warmer than present time. Now we have mostly just tundra at altitudes were we had trees some thousand years ago.

January 20, 2011 5:26 pm

Come on now your not being fair here, how can you expect the IPCC to compete with such basic science? I mean where’s the super computer, the modelling, the fancy conferences in far away places and the political activists? Of course the clincher that tells us all it can’t be right, there’s no hockey stick graph telling us we are all doomed…doomed…

Darren Parker
January 20, 2011 5:27 pm

Water is life. It is soul. Literally.
electricity is spirit. It is Will.
the two combined are LIFE.
sea water and blood are almost the same

Ian W
January 20, 2011 5:31 pm

The next thing we’ll hear is that one of these studies has found that the botanists are right that tree rings are also affected by other factors than just air temperature.
That might cause a decline that is hard to hide.

January 20, 2011 5:31 pm

quote” The findings could have global relevance, because many locations north of 45 degrees latitude (which includes the northernmost United States, virtually all of Canada and Russia, and most of Europe) have had increased precipitation in the past century, and global climate models generally predict that trend will continue, the authors said.” unquote.
I thought that the global climate models were predicting drought?

Lew Skannen
January 20, 2011 5:34 pm

One of my little projects has been to use Bayesian analysis to produce my own email spam filter by detecting telltale key works.
If I did the same for AGW hysteria articles one of my first keywords would be “OVERWHELMING”.

January 20, 2011 5:38 pm

As a general comment about plants and animals, anyone who has a pet or plants, will know that water is the most important thing as indeed it is for humans, not temperature. Higher temperatures mean we need to use more water to survive.
I sometimes wonder if all this AGW science is done by people with no commonsense or at least, no experience of life, pet animals, no gardens, and don’t live near the sea.

January 20, 2011 5:39 pm

Did the IPCC get anything right?
Yes, they got the most important part of the conference right – the date of the next conference.

January 20, 2011 5:48 pm

In the temperate regions of Australia, when its hot, its fine and the rainfall is low and plants and anmals generally retreat to the locations where thay can survive.
When its rainy its cool. The average temperatures do not vary much from year to year but the rainfall sure increases substantially. On the one hand, plants and animals can then spread out to live at least temporarily in what would have been quite unhosptial regions (until these dry up too much again).
In the short run, when its is raining like at present, many animals and plants are drowned. The area has to be repopulated later from the dryer areas.
The is a cycle in the weather and in life here in Australia.

January 20, 2011 5:57 pm

“In terms of size for example, the human genome contains about 3-4
billion base pairs of DNA, whereas corn or maize, is perhaps a less
complex organism contains a similar number of base pairs. Some pine trees
and lilly plants contain 10-100 times as much DNA as a human, most of
which does not appear to encode any genes.”
All the better to survive the continual climate/environmental changes they have been subjected to, for millions of years.

Robert Jacobs
January 20, 2011 6:02 pm

CO2 Science has been on this for years.
Higher CO2 enables all plants to manage with LESS precipitation, thus colonizing more arid areas DOWNHILL or uphill, as higher CO2 enables nearly all plants to improve their flexibility to thrive in variant ecosystems. Lastly, as noted above, a few tenths of a degree centigrade is not likely to make the slightest difference anyway, since the same species managed through the last ice age (a few degrees centigrade) and because the variation is only at the margins, affecting average temperature, not median temperature distributions.

Ed Caryl
January 20, 2011 6:13 pm

Are they sure it was rainfall? Did they measure the temperature change at each location?

Baa Humbug
January 20, 2011 6:22 pm

We can argue details all we like. The fact of the matter is that they are well organized, (centred around the IPCC), whilst we are a bunch of well meaning, strong headed rabble, (centred around exceptional blogs like this one and others).
We need to be better organized, else papers like this one will disappear into the noise.
When the AR5 comes out, we’ll be complaining that papers like this one didn’t receive due consideration and the whole circular game will be perpetuated.
In the meantime, policy makers are introducing new measures at a steady pace.
Even if a ‘smoking gun’ was to be exposed at some stage in the future, the new measures will be nigh on impossible to unwind.

Jim Steele
January 20, 2011 6:27 pm

I have been researching similar claims in the Sierra Nevada. Camille Parmesan published about the Edith Checkerspot moving northward and upwards. In California’s Sierra Nevada logging moved upslope after the 1950’s and this created openings and new additional habitat adjacent to the butterflies natural habitat on rocky outcrop. These new resources provided new source populations that buffered the species when some populations were lost during bad weather years. On the coast and at lower elevations the butterflies experienced a loss of habitat that removed many of these source populations thus making them more susceptible to extinctions She claimed however that it was global warming causing low elevation extinctions while improving higher elevation habitat. And the AGW crowd loved the story.
Using some of the same data from the Sierra Nevada she co-authored a paper with Easterling and Thomas Karl titled “Climate Extremes: Observations,
Modeling, and Impacts”. The butterfly extinctions that had been observed during a long term study and were all attributed to cold events, but blamed on AGW caused extreme weather. But the really weird part was the extinctions only happened to the populations in the newly created logged areas. There the butterflies had switched to feeding on a annual plant that was susceptible to bad weather. The natural populations still fed on a perennial plant in the rocky outcrops and those populations thrived during the very same cold events. Although the two populations were within a mere 50 meters apart, and experienced the same identical climate, the population extinctions in the logged area were then heralded as evidence of climate change disruption. Amazing such a claim led her to be one of the few IPCC biologists.
The research she based these claims on was done by her soon to be husband and titled “EVOLUTIONARY RESPONSES OF A BUTTERFLY METAPOPULATION TO HUMAN- AND CLIMATE-CAUSED ENVIRONMENTAL VARIATION” if anyone is interested.

Eric Anderson
January 20, 2011 6:38 pm

Good to see this counter study to the naive, simplistic idea that temperature will cause plants to migrate higher. Of course this later study is itself focuses on just a small set of parameters. Hopefully folks will soon clue in that we have very lkittle idea what is going on. Good to keep studying the issues, but let’s hold the pronouncements for a while.

Jim Steele
January 20, 2011 6:40 pm

For chris1958 who asks about Kilamanjaro:
The Snows of Kilamanjaro have been definitely linked to changes in moisture that both reduced the resupply of snow but increased short wave radiation.
Here is an excerpt.
“Today, as in the past, Kilimanjaro’s glaciers are markedly characterized by features such as penitentes, cliffs, and sharp edges, all resulting from strong differential ablation. These features illustrate the absolute predominance of incoming shortwave radiation and turbulent latent heat flux in providing the energy for ablation (Kraus, 1972). A considerably positive heat flux from either longwave radiation or sensible heat flux, if available, would round-off and destroy the observed features within a very short time, ranging from hours to days. On the other hand, if destroyed, the features could only be sculptured again under very particular circumstances and over a long time. Thus, the existence of these features indicates that the present summit glaciers are not experiencing ablation due to sensible heat (i.e. from positive air temperature). Additional support for this is provided by the Northern Icefield air temperature recorded from February 2000 to July 2002, which never exceeded −1.6 °C,”

Bob Diaz
January 20, 2011 6:41 pm

It’s only the IPCC, Mad Magazine has more credibility.

DJ Meredith
January 20, 2011 6:42 pm

Plants growing contrary to predicted behavior is just more proof of global warming.
Global warming is causing unpredictable responses that could only be attributable to global warming. Global warming is making Everything goofy. We’ve passed the tipping point.

January 20, 2011 6:45 pm

Maybe the authors of those studies cited in IPCC should have consulted actual botanists before they jumped to their conclusions.

January 20, 2011 6:46 pm

That research has largely been based on the assumption that temperature is the dominant driver of species distributions. However, Greenberg said the new study reveals that other factors, such as precipitation, may be more important than temperature in defining the habitable range of these species.

In the first attempts (during the late 19th and early 20th century) to determine climate change in recent (ie historical) times, the interest was mostly in precipitation. Thus, most of the proxies used at the time were established to measure predominantly rainfall. These proxies included tree ring data from forests growing at the dry margins of their range (eg redwoods in Sth. Cal). They also included agriculture records, and records of the success and failure of agri-based civilisation.
In those days, in mid lats, the climate impact concern was primarily with the impact on agriculture. More precipitation was mostly considered to have a positive effect, as more precipitation (eg, caused by the polar circles of storm paths reaching more equatorial) allowed ancient civilisation to flourish in north Africa and central Asia, where there is now desert. But also negative, and this especially in higher lats — eg they noted that too much rain in Ireland had contributed to the potato famine.
Thus, as with the plants in this study above, so with (agri-based) civilisation: in the early days of climatology, the research was largely based on the assumption that precipitation is the dominant driver of climate impacts.
It was with the concern during the 1960s and 70s over the anthropogenic temperature effect of aerosol and CO2 that temperature began to dominate also in the concern over the impacts of the changes that these might cause. This seems to be how we got to the question of precipitation changes as a secondary impact of climate change, as an impact caused by warming.
This shift in the science is apposite in Australia at the moment because, in fact, the big climate impacts over the last two decades has been lack of rainfall, and then too much. And that these variations in precipitation, which can be attributed to natural climatic variations (ENSO), are of such great proportion that they pale any concern over anthropogenic warming measured in fractions of a degree.

George Turner
January 20, 2011 6:47 pm

Note to science: There’s a reason top gardeners carry watering cans, not air conditioners.

January 20, 2011 6:53 pm

Certainly is isn’t surprising to find another projection by the IPCC that is wrong, but I am also skeptical about this study. The case of wolves in Yellowstone is the reason why.
Long ago it was decided that ridding Yellowstone of wolves was the best ecological thing to do. The result was devastation. The elk population balloned like the national debt and that put enormous pressure on the ecosystem affecting many other species.
It was a disaster. Now the wolves are back and the elk are nervous. They only go near water when they need to and the ecosystem is much better off.
The effect of wolves was the most significant ecological impact in Yellowstone (other than the other stupid idea of not letting natural fires burn). Any study of plants and animals there would be flawedbecause the other effects dominate.
What other changes to animals and fauna were not included in this or other studies? The impact of man on apex predators has been very significant. That will cause more change than the fractional warming in the past 100 years.

john S.
January 20, 2011 6:56 pm

Actually, i found the whole article, and esp. the headline to be a head scratcher. Plants are not ‘driven ‘ up or down hills. They may extend their distribution up or down hill where the conditions permit, but they are not really ‘driven’. I suppose the word was used to fit the narrative. It should also be noted that plant communtities do not exist in a vacuum. One species cannot extend it’s range without another species (or group) retreating (or shifting). The point would have to be that plant communities are likely to move up hills as the conditions become warmer (milder) if the limiting factor is temperature (as it would be around here in northern BC). They will move downhill if the limiting factor is moisure (more specifically, a reduction in moisture levels in key seasons).
I find it less than satisfying to debunk studies which made no sense (or had no relevance) in the first place. They do no more to debunk global warming than they did to prove it in the first place. This kind of research is popular with grad students who need a thesis.

Charles Higley
January 20, 2011 6:56 pm

And let’s not forget that CO2 allows plants to start growing earlier in the Spring even without any warming. The two-weeks-early flowering in England can to accounted for by increased CO2 and not the non-warming of recent years. Of course, this means that some insects are out of sync with the plants, but they will adapt just fine to these slow changes. And the birds that eat the insects will figure out to follow the bugs.
So, changes in range are not only due to changes in temperature. Surely, in some cases rising CO2 has allowed regions to grow plants earlier (at lower temperatures), and attract insects earlier, and thus attracting other predators, etc.
Of course, the simple-minded (pro-warming) biologists will always interpret earlier growth and flowering to warmer temperatures, even in the absence of higher temperature readings. After all, they are sure it’s warming, why should they check?
A biologist in Texas, a couple of years ago, announced that virtually every mammal species in North America exhibited global warming effects by increased or decreased populations. OK, basic biology tells us that predator-prey relationships show a boom and bust pattern with a period that is largely decadal in scale. So, her results are not unexpected; they are totally predictable. The kicker is that the 10 years she covers is within the last 15 years during which there has been no statistically significant warming and even some cooling. Her study is complete drivel in terms of climate.
It might be useful as a mammal survey, to somebody. Oh well.

January 20, 2011 7:02 pm

Ed Caryl says:
“Are they sure it was rainfall? Did they measure the temperature change at each location?”

January 20, 2011 7:31 pm

Tomorrow all will be well when it’s announced that climate change has always been expected to drive plants north, south, up or down. Funny how they change/modify their predictions/forecasts after the occurrence happens, and not before.

Bryan A
January 20, 2011 7:36 pm

I think a better question to ask would be
Is the Flora shifting to a higher altitude or merely increasing it’s range to include the higher altitude?
If the alteration is a net increase in area coverage, it would likely mean that the biology is adapting to the increasing CO2 by creating a larger CO2 sink.

January 20, 2011 7:45 pm

Help land managers and policy makers. Why would that be an objective before their prediction has been proven and before they have been asked. Or was that the reason for the research.
They are probably, already, making a list of conservation measures and endangered species and regulations to save the land, plants and animals before they are actually endangered. After all it pays to be prepared.

R. de Haan
January 20, 2011 7:58 pm

“UC Davis study shows plants moved downhill, not up, in warming world”
If they would have temperature data of the location where the study was performed I am sure the downhill move of the plants took place “in a cooling world”, not a warming one.

Anything is possible
January 20, 2011 8:08 pm
January 20, 2011 8:51 pm

The MSN article is a puff piece (different from a Puffington piece) in that it has a cute story line but no data. I’m left with a mental image of an evil Thermageddon herding Shasta daisies up slope 100 meters. And that makes me laugh.
The article does not say the range of these plants moved, or if the range of the plants expanded to include the higher slopes, or if there was a population congestion problem or soil condition/PH, or there were more or fewer competing flora/fauna in or out of abundance that may or may not have encouraged these ambulatory asters to pack up and move on, or any other idea of cause.
Plants are opportunistic, f’crapsake. They can’t be ushered, chased, or herded. They move into an area of easy pickings or better pickings and leave areas of lesser pickings. Herds of buffalo work the same way. They don’t hang around areas with lots of buff poo and barren soil – they go where the grass is greener and the air is fresher, so to speak.
So to continue this idea of opportunism – let’s say that increased CO2 in the atmosphere creates welts of stomata in the Shasta daisies and they find breathing easier up slope and not only that, there’s less competition, less shade, fewer critters eating them or in the case of tourons blustering forth from their Winnebago’s, fewer beheadings at the hands of greyheads who don’t realize just what a pest Shasta daisies are back home in Wisconsin.
So is there a serious science page that has the root data that inspired this MSN writer to MSU? (make stuff up)

John Brookes
January 20, 2011 9:08 pm

Good to see science improving. Long may it continue.

Darren Parker
January 20, 2011 9:24 pm

The grey headed flying fox has not been affected by global warming – it’s boundary range change was due soley to land usage changes. That is, thousands upon thousands of acres of native bushland were turned into farm land. They are being disingenuous at best.

Darren Parker
January 20, 2011 9:26 pm

Oh and with the ecotard hippies it’s not a tipping point, it’s a tripping point and they’re well past that

January 20, 2011 10:16 pm

Two comments:
This paper was funded by the US govt and published in Science. That seems to run counter to the conspiracy theory that all non-disaster AGW-related research is suppressed. Wonder how this slipped through?
The “the IPCC work is all based on clueless modelers” meme is getting old. Table 1.9 lists actual papers that actually studied this stuff. If you actually take the time to look through the references of IPCC AR4, you’ll see actual references to actual scientific papers! Much of it based on actual empirical research! See for the Chapter in question, WG2, Chapter 1.
Also, out of curiosity, I found: WG1, Chapter 8 lists 5 Lindzen papers, and Chapter 9 references Lindzen and Giannitsis (2002). I see references to Pielke… Christy… Spencer…

January 20, 2011 10:21 pm

Wait… they’re comparing with the Wieslander study from the 1920s and 1930s. I’m pretty sure most of the years since then have been colder in the Sierras and mountain ranges of California, but I’m sure you could add a few words about that, Anthony.

January 20, 2011 10:28 pm

Wonder if Wattsupwiththat team has seen this yet
A Scientist from Indian Space Research Organisation has published a paper claiming 44% of observed GW can be attributed to GCRs, somewhat inline with Henrik Svensmark’s findings.
Ramesh is Minister for Environment in India who earlier strongly backed and provided the much needed publicity to IPCC’s Himalayan blunder

Tim Folkerts
January 20, 2011 10:52 pm

“Another IPCC claim contradicted with new science”
Where is the contradiction? Do you not understand these two simple ideas, and that they can work in concert or in opposition?
* Changes in temperature will affect where plants thrive.
* Changes in precipitation will affect where plants thrive.
“This new study directly contradicts at least some of the IPCC’s forecasts on the impact of global warming causing elevation shifts of flora.”
No, sorry. The 2008 story discussed evidence that increasing temperature allows plants to thrive at higher elevations. That is not contradicted by anything in the new study, which discussed evidence that increasing precipitationallows plants to thrive at lower elevations.
“the new study reveals that other factors, such as precipitation, may be more important than temperature in defining the habitable range of these species.”
Imagine how laughable this would all be if the topic was how changes in fruit-eating affects you. An earlier study showed that the vitamin C in the fruit was good for you, but then “the new study reveals that other factors, such as precipitation pesticide residue, may be more important than temperature vitamin C in defining the habitable range of these species health effects of eating fruit.”
Would chris still sarcastically say “Oh well, up is down… ”
Would joshuahedlund still sarcastically say “Funny how the evidence magically supports whatever the latest theory is. ”
Would Richard Sharpe still sarcastically say “Oh, come on! Don’t you know that Diet caused health to move down hill, and move uphill and to stay still, all at the same time.”
Would George E. Smith still sarcastically say “You simply wouldn’t believe some of the things that scientists are discovering; or maybe postulating anyway.”
PS For those who haven’t realized, press releases often have significant errors. Reporters often butcher science. Blogs often sensationalize news. If you want to understand anything about the science, don’t trust the headlines in the press release: “UC Davis study shows plants moved downhill, not up, in warming world”. That headline is intentionally provocative and potentially misleading (but at least it is not out-right wrong, like “Another IPCC claim contradicted with new science”). The actual paper is : “Changes in Climatic Water Balance Drive Downhill Shifts in Plant Species’ Optimum Elevations”. This title makes it much clearer that, while temperature is indeed a factor, water can in some cases be a more important factor. I haven’t read the whole paper, but I suspect it also makes this point clear.

January 21, 2011 12:01 am

In the Alps is land abandonment, not climate change:
Tree line shifts in the Swiss Alps: Climate change or land abandonment?
Although, as it is standard practice, they leave open the climate change option in the conclusions, to avoid the wrath of the cAWG establishment and to prevent the risk of funds withdrawal for future research.

January 21, 2011 12:03 am

The last century has seen changes in temperature and rainfall both rising globally with local variations. Ecologies respond according to which factor dominates locally and which factor is most important in enabling them to extend into new areas.
That changes occur in the range (up or down) and flowering dates of plants is a measure of the climate change that has happened, not its cause. And the fact that some plants exploit the increase in rainfall does not refute that others exploit the increase in temperature.

January 21, 2011 12:10 am

Hmmm. If you consider this report in the light of the immediately preceding post, “Surface temperature uncertainty, quantified,” the argument could be made that in reality the planet has cooled. This would agree with many of the rural USHCN stations where prior to “adjustments” and “homogenization” the trends were flat or somewhat cooling. Just a thought. It could well be the data and the adjusters are the problem.

Alexander K
January 21, 2011 1:23 am

As a boy growing up on farms, it’s a wonder that I wasn’t trampled by migrating flora as the seasons changed. On long summer days I used to lie in the long grass looking up at the shapes the clouds made and was never aware of plants moving about.

John Marshall
January 21, 2011 1:49 am

Most of these claims are based on previous observation. Much of the species search, even today, is carried out by amateurs helping a couple of scientists get some data within a short time scale, like between tides on a shore line. There is no guarantee that these well meaning amateurs get it right. The fact that a species is observed somewhere that it has not been seen before is not proof of climate change only poof that it has not been seen there before. This would be true in the remoter parts of the world where no previous research had been carried out.

January 21, 2011 2:06 am

“Climate change and terrestrial biomass: what if trees do not migrate?”
Global Ecology and Biogeography Letters – 1997

January 21, 2011 2:22 am

This is why observation is better than models:

“Running the model for 1000 years predicted that the area covered by pines will increase from 10% to between 24% and 59% of the study landscape.”

Jerry from Boston
January 21, 2011 6:34 am

“George Turner says:
January 20, 2011 at 6:47 pm
Note to science: There’s a reason top gardeners carry watering cans, not air conditioners.”
George, that’s an hilarious line! My sisters, who are avid gardeners (one of whom is a Master Gardener), will love that!
Thanks mulchly!

January 21, 2011 7:15 am

“…many locations north of 45 degrees latitude (which includes the northernmost United States, virtually all of Canada and Russia, and most of Europe) have had increased precipitation in the past century…”
I’m confused. I thought we were supposed to be worried about the threat of sudden extinction from droughtageddon.

January 21, 2011 8:02 am

I am finding it extremely difficult to grasp why anyone thinks such studies are significantly worthwhile and validate AGW or any other ‘short’ timescale climate change events. The fact of finding flora or fauna in slightly different places is entirely dependent on local environmental factors (which include everything from weather to folk or animals wandering around with plant seeds on their feet, etc!)
As someone has already mentioned, tenths of a degree temperature changes are unlikely to be manifestly evident or observable within changes/movements of species or habitats – and when you add in all the local environmental variables it is impossible (IMO) to define any link with temperatures.
Yes, I can see that over many many decades, centuries even, treelines or suchlike might be observed to ‘shift’ – but this would have to be in an entirely ‘natural’ setting with no external affect i.e. completely isolated to be validated as ‘natural’ and without some other influences.

Ken Smith
January 21, 2011 2:14 pm

I don’t think anyone mentioned that NPR’s Morning Edition had a story on this topic morning. It would seem that NPR is trying pretty hard to faithfully keep up the appearances in regard to AGW orthodoxy, while finding creative ways to discuss data that doesn’t quite fit.

January 22, 2011 7:37 am

Keep up the confirmation bias, you’re doing real well. How about this?
Well that is a newspaper article — I wonder if any scientific studies have been done on
range shifts vs climate? Wait a mo’, I just discovered something called Google Scholar. Dang it,
those pesky scientists and their peer-reviewed published research.

January 22, 2011 9:53 pm

I’d be careful about lauding this as “pro skeptic” as the latest propaganda talking points being pushed by the AGW side is that an acceleration of the “hydrological cycle” is due to AGW.
I suspect they are just “positioning” for the problem that species are not moving up hill and things are not being dryer. Watch out for a “more is less” moment as dry becomes wet and up becomes down….

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