Source of "hide the decline"? New paper finds that tree height shrinks with increased temperature

This new paper by Kempes et al published in the journal Plos One adds uncertainty to the already uncertain science of dendrochronology dendroclimatology and the attempts at tracking temperature from tree rings. According to this BBC story:

They found that a 2C (3.6F) increase resulted in the average maximum height of trees shrinking by 11%, while a 2C decrease in the nation’s average temperature saw a 13% increase in the predicted maximum height of trees.

Here’s a figure from the paper showing height change with temperature:

Figure S3 "A" - Predicted maximum tree height and temperature shifts. The resulting percentage change in predicted maximum tree height with a 2C change in mean annual temperature.

The BBC story continues:

“This looks at the basic physics affecting a tree, such as internal fluid flow and the structure of the canopy,” he told BBC News.

“We really wanted something that was based in those mechanisms but at the same time was, conceptually, relatively simple.”

He said tree branches formed a fractal, which meant that if you effectively cut off a branch and then enlarged it, it looked like a whole tree.

“If you nail down that network structure correctly, then you can use it to predict how things change with size.”

From this framework, the team then incorporated local meteorological data, such as rainfall and mean annual temperatures, to allow them to predict the maximum height of trees in the area.

When compared with official data collected by the US Forest Service, the team found that their predictions tied in closely with the actual measurements.

Clearly, there’s more to tree growth than a simple linear relationship with temperature, and this finding shows an inverse relation with temperature to tree height. Maybe this is why Briffa had to truncate uncooperative tree ring data post 1960 and Mike’s Nature trick was used to “hide the decline”.

Here’s the paper abstract, link to the full paper follows.

Predicting Maximum Tree Heights and Other Traits from Allometric Scaling and Resource Limitations

Christopher P. Kempes, Geoffrey B. West, Kelly Crowell, Michelle Girvan


Terrestrial vegetation plays a central role in regulating the carbon and water cycles, and adjusting planetary albedo. As such, a clear understanding and accurate characterization of vegetation dynamics is critical to understanding and modeling the broader climate system. Maximum tree height is an important feature of forest vegetation because it is directly related to the overall scale of many ecological and environmental quantities and is an important indicator for understanding several properties of plant communities, including total standing biomass and resource use. We present a model that predicts local maximal tree height across the entire continental United States, in good agreement with data. The model combines scaling laws, which encode the average, base-line behavior of many tree characteristics, with energy budgets constrained by local resource limitations, such as precipitation, temperature and solar radiation. In addition to predicting maximum tree height in an environment, our framework can be extended to predict how other tree traits, such as stomatal density, depend on these resource constraints. Furthermore, it offers predictions for the relationship between height and whole canopy albedo, which is important for understanding the Earth’s radiative budget, a critical component of the climate system. Because our model focuses on dominant features, which are represented by a small set of mechanisms, it can be easily integrated into more complicated ecological or climate models.

Here’s how the model and observations match:

Figure 1 - Maps of the continental United States comparing (A) observed and (B) predicted maximum heights of trees. (C) Histogram showing the distribution of deviations of the predicted maximum tree heights,

Full paper:

h/t to WUWT reader “SandyInDerby”

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John Tofflemire
August 8, 2011 1:00 am

The relationship between temperature can’t be linear since trees at some temperature trees diminish in size and don’t grow in the Arctic, Antarctic or at high elevations.

August 8, 2011 1:07 am

To begin with, it’s crazy to assume that ambient temperature affects predominantly the growth of plants.

JB Williamson
August 8, 2011 1:17 am

I think “The BCC story continues:” should read “The BBC story continues:”
Although maybe we could rename the BBC as BCC – any suggestions? 🙂

Fixed, thanks -Anthony

August 8, 2011 1:24 am

BCC == Backers of Climate Change

August 8, 2011 1:35 am

I suggest it should say that the paper adds to the uncertainty of dendroCLIMATOLOGY not dendroCHRONOLOGY. The latter is a well established science that is not party to all the political controversies around the Hockey Stick etc.
REPLY: Point taken, change made – Anthony

kadaka (KD Knoebel)
August 8, 2011 1:40 am

Of course someone will want to say “Huh huh, Watts is dumb. This say tree height, not tree ring thickness like you lying d*****s say ‘hide the decline’ was about.”
Maybe they’ll figure out the unmentioned relationship, that for a given amount of growth (mass increase) a tree can grow short and stout or tall and skinny. If the tree opts to direct its growth to being taller than otherwise, then the rings will end up thinner than otherwise. Makes sense.

Julian Braggins
August 8, 2011 1:43 am

There seems to be something odd about these findings.
I started work in the timber industry, measuring, felling, milling, and observing. Almost any ‘U’ shaped valley with planted or natural trees across it has the tallest near the bottom, forming a shallower ‘U’ across their tops.
A long planted driveway to a house on high ground with planted trees either side of the drive will have the taller trees at the road junction.
I had assumed (dangerous I know) that it was deeper soil and more moisture that caused the difference. Now it seems that the higher temperatures at altitude cause this – – – – oh, that’s not right is it?

August 8, 2011 1:44 am

Why on earth would any sane person assume that just one parameter – temperature – effects not only the rate of growth of a tree but its rate of growth over its whole lifetime. One would expect it to be determined by competition with other trees and plants, amount of water in the soil, amount of nutrients, amount of CO2 in the air, amount of sunlight etc.
Trees grow at a wide range of temperatures succesfully – you can see conifers of all kinds from Turkey to Norway. You can see palm trees from Torquay to Tobago. Any gardener will tell you that what trees really need is lots of water. That’s what really constrains their growth. Competition with other trees for water as they all get bigger will also constrain their growth severely. So if you have a forest that burns down, then new trees sprout from the ashes more or less at the same time they will grow like crazy until they start competing with each other for water and other resources.
If you really want to use trees as a proxy for temperature I would suggest using tropical plants that can’t grow if there are winter frosts and measuring their geographic extent over time. This would be pretty definitive but one hell of a job to do.

August 8, 2011 1:58 am

I was under the impression that trees grow in relation to the available light. Probably why trees in forests can be at differing heights within the same species. A casual stroll through a rainforest will show giant hardwoods growing tall in a clear canopy area whilst their seedlings struggling to grow under a dense canopy area.
There are so many inputs driving tree growth that to have this leap of faith is the leap too far. But as BBC reported science it is perfect because it could then be concluded that trees need cooler climates so CO2 must be responsible.

August 8, 2011 2:00 am

What happened to the Seqoias, Firs and Sugar Pines of the Sierra-Cascades?
The observations look ultra-conservative to me.

August 8, 2011 2:05 am

JB Williamson
Ha! HA! BBC = BCC = Blind Carbon Copy…
Very good and so true.
(BCC to BBC)

August 8, 2011 2:15 am

John Tofflemire,
Or….in active volcanoes.

August 8, 2011 2:52 am

Bottom line , tree rings are only any good to tell you about the tree their taken form , as there are simply to many unknowns to justify their use for other things. The real problem is the lack of long term temperature information for which the ‘rings’ have been brought in to try and cover, but as most people know ‘correlation is not causation’ and to try and claim one factor ,while ignoring or not knowing all the others, is to blame is just plan stupid.
[ 🙂 ~ ctm]

David Spurgeon
August 8, 2011 3:04 am

Blind/bloomin’ climate catastrophists?

August 8, 2011 3:56 am

I think it would be a good idear to plant australian blue gums they love the heat and bush fires

August 8, 2011 4:23 am

It can certainly be said that it’s much worse than we thought.
The question is: “what is it, that is certainly worse than we thought”?
Is it the future prospects for the climate?
Or is just the quality of the climatic scientific research that is the problem?

August 8, 2011 5:10 am

“We present a model that predicts local maximal tree height across the entire continental United States, in good agreement with data”
What data?
Where did they find a 7 degree temperature change?………..
………..there’s not one

August 8, 2011 5:45 am

kadaka (KD Knoebel) says: “If the tree opts to direct its growth to being taller than otherwise, then the rings will end up thinner than otherwise.”
The problem with your theorem is that are physical restrictions on how tall a tree can grow in relation to its girth. If a tree allocates insufficient girth to support its height, then wind (or even gravity) will snap it. A tree also has to be able to push water up to its top. The taller it gets, the fatter it has to get to do this.

John Silver
August 8, 2011 5:50 am

“uncertain science of dendrochronology”
There is nothing uncertain about counting tree rings.
I think you are suffering from the American disease of semanicitis.

Julian Braggins
August 8, 2011 6:01 am

John Marshall says:
August 8, 2011 at 1:58 am
I was under the impression that trees grow in relation to the available light.
To illustrate your point, thirty years ago I cut off a 4″ diameter Red Gum sapling on the shady side of a group of 200 year old gums. It was ~35′ high and I wanted a bushy tree there so I cut it at eye level, knowing they bush out. It did, for a couple of years, then one branch took over and before long it was up to the canopy, about 45′, and now is about 6″ diameter at eye level, hardly a mark where it was cut and not a branch for 30′.

August 8, 2011 6:07 am

BCC = British Communist Central.

August 8, 2011 6:18 am

A few photos of trees in Australia.
As you can see they get bigger as the temperature decreases!!!!
What a ????? – Sorry can’t swear on this blog
A few images for perusal
Not sure how to use images on this blog
[You did just fine with the image link. ~dbs, mod.]

August 8, 2011 6:19 am

There are some interesting exchanges in the ‘climategate’ emails regarding the ‘uncertain science of dendrochronology’. For example, this one from David Schnare to Eugene Gordon on Sunday, 4th October, 2009.

I’ve been following this issue closely and this is what I take
away from it:
1) Tree ring-based temperature reconstructions are fraught with
so much uncertainty, they have no value whatever. It is
impossible to tease out the relative contributions of rainfall,
nutrients, temperature and access to sunlight. Indeed a single
tree can, and apparently has, skewed the entire 20th century
temperature reconstruction.
2) The IPCC peer review process is fundamentally flawed if a
lead author is able to both disregard and ignore criticisms of
his own work, where that work is the critical core of the
chapter. It not only destroys the credibility of the core
assumptions and data, it destroys the credibility of the larger
work – in this case, the IPCC summary report and the underlying
technical reports. It also destroys the utility and credibility
of the modeling efforts that use assumptions on the relationship
of CO2 to temperature that are based on Briffa’s work, which is,
of course, the majority of such analyses.

Pamela Gray
August 8, 2011 7:06 am

Humans tend to want to plant things that do not like the conditions they are in and must be nursed along to make any kind of showing at all. So, if I may disregard native trees at the moment, I can tell you assuredly, when it is cold my garden can hardly manage to get out of the ground, much less grow at all. When warm, my garden springs to life, weeds and all, and calls me daily to my weeding chore amongst the jungle of tall garden delights.
That said, we had a cold, wet Spring that caused all things to delay their Summer glory. When we finally did get some warmth, we found ourselves in the midst of a banner year for pasture grass. Good thing. We ain’t gettin no third cutting on Alfalfa this year. This sudden change happened in one season. Not two. We had prolonged wet, snowy cold, then we had late warm in one season. I can’t remember grass taller than this. So what caused it? The prolonged wet cold or the delayed warm?

Theo Goodwin
August 8, 2011 8:24 am

What we can learn from Kempes et al:
1. This is real science which clearly shows that all work in paleo-climatology must be subjected to criticism on the basis of this science. (The real science part is that they are developing genuine physical hypotheses which can be used to explain and predict the behavior of various kinds of tree rings in various conditions.)
2. The data that support the Hockey Stick must be criticized anew on the basis of this work. (I have been screaming this for years. I cannot believe that it has taken this long for scientists to open the experimental side of paleo-climatology.)
3. Big parts of climate science are indeed experimental. (Why hasn’t this always been obvious? Have these people never seen an agricultural research station? Have they never seen a greenhouse?)
4. As Bomber_the_Cat shows above, through quotation, the IPCC was well informed that the claims of paleo-climatology were merely speculative. The IPCC suppressed this information.
5. Much of the work produced by Briffa and the others should never have been published and should never have received the blessing of a journal for the obvious reason that it was outrageously speculative.

August 8, 2011 8:33 am

And… if you look closely at the plot, there are no trees in Mississippi.

Doug Proctor
August 8, 2011 9:19 am

The study is continental in scope, but the relative grow is not just regional but very, very local.
I live on the eastern side of the Canadian Rockies but drive across to and hike in the the BC side regularly. Tree height is a function of temperature, moisture and wind, and different one side valley from another, as a result of the vagaries of wind and cloud patterns. Yet the pattern upslope from cool temperate to alpine and beyond is consistent. So the maximum height may show up as determined in this paper, but the relative height and growth is probably consistent as Briffa was looking at.
At the same time I can tell you that I did my own dendrochronological analysis of one (1) subalpine fir near at treeline in Alberta (to find out how slowly these trees at that position grow). The cut section showed huge variation one side to another, and some segments were missing growth entirely. Graphing the results made it look like there were years missing, also (step-functions in quadrants existed in 3 of the four quadrants at times, suggesting there were other, 4-quadrant “missing” sites also).
What I learned in the example and in the literature of Douglass, who invented dendrochronology, is that you cannot use a small sample, as individual trees respond individually, and that individual groups of trees respond to their particular, very, very local position. Of course you can have the lucky one tree that is the Rosetta tree of climate study, but that is unlikely. And whatever result you get will be inaccurate as you will blend different local conditions if your grouping gets too big, as well as too small.
Limits to knowledge. They exist everywhere except in the Hansen-Gore mind.

Bruce Stewart
August 8, 2011 9:24 am

Any attempt to relate this study to “hide the decline” has to be based on misunderstanding. Dendrochronologists are well aware that not all trees are equal as temperature proxies.The use of tree rings as a paleo-temperature proxy is based on selecting trees that, due to their local micro-climate, are limited by temperature and not rainfall, that is, trees near the tree line where rainfall is abundant. Fennoscandia offers such locations. (Don’t ask me how SW US trees qualify, but that’s a separate issue.)
There may well be a nonlinear effect of temperature on growth specific to trees that are temperature limited. But since there is no indication that trees in this study were selected to be temperature-limited, the conclusions do not necessarily apply to trees selected as likely to be temperature proxies.
For those with some knowledge of dendrochronology, this is about as basic as confusing climate with weather. Don’t think I’m defending all of paleo-climatology, just saying that criticism needs to be more robust..

August 8, 2011 9:52 am

Higher biomass almost always reduces relative tree-ring width, this why detrending is needed to resolve dendrochronologies, for example, and that very detrending also removes low-frequency (long-term) climate change signals from the same record if used as a proxy-this is dealt with in a 2002 Science paper by Jan Esper of the Swiss forestry service, and why Stahle at U. Ark. (who has done interesting work on ENSO using tree-ring materials, mostly from cypress as I recall, in N. Mexico-he would hesitate to use such records also in long-term reconstruction (part of the raeson for the resultant hockeystick, among other intentional factors like cherry-picking Yamal, etc.). Thus the very mathematical function required in dendrochronology reduces its effectiveness as a long-term record, unless sophisticated techniques are used with a high-quality dataset. Many problems observed in this blog result from promoted sub-standard research, so sub-standard results in high-standard journals is systematic in this case. I suspect this is why Kevin T. likes to throw away all proxies controlled by radiocarbon (as the indicative values here are often much better, e.g., lowland calcareous tufa with fractionated 18O in equilibrium with atmospheric temps. from short-term H20 reservoirs), this places greater emphasis on annually resolved proxies of inferior long-term indicative value, an important consideration when you wish to, say, put a spotlight on recent warming at the expense of past trends, as has obviously been the case in so-called climate science.

August 8, 2011 9:58 am

Am really not complaining, as I realise the page is very slow and tedious to load and navigate (well it is for me) – but I did put this in Tips page on August 4th !

Theo Goodwin
August 8, 2011 10:40 am

Bruce Stewart says:
August 8, 2011 at 9:24 am
“Any attempt to relate this study to “hide the decline” has to be based on misunderstanding. Dendrochronologists are well aware that not all trees are equal as temperature proxies.The use of tree rings as a paleo-temperature proxy is based on selecting trees that, due to their local micro-climate, are limited by temperature and not rainfall, that is, trees near the tree line where rainfall is abundant.”
Excuse me, but you seem to have forgotten the particulars of “hide the decline.” No critics have claimed that some particular phenomenon explained the decline. What we criticized was the failure of Briffa and others to undertake empirical research that would explain the decline. They did not do it at the time and they have not done it since. All Warmista pretended the problem did not exist.
When I cite this article as evidence against the scientific instincts of Briffa and others, I am simply pointing out that empirical research which would explain the decline is eminently doable and should have been done decades ago. In addition, I am applauding scientists who have undertaken research that is both empirical and experimental in a discipline, paleo-climatology, where outrageous assumptions about the reliability of proxies have been the order of the day for centuries. I hope that paleo-climatology is becoming scientific. The work that went into the Hockey Stick and involved the conscious decision to “hide the decline” was most certainly not scientific.

Richard S Courtney
August 8, 2011 10:41 am

I have read this thread with interest, but I am puzzled that nobody has mentioned the ‘elephabt in the room’.
Anybody with average or above inteligence must conclude from only a few seconds thought that the concept of ‘treemometers’ is plain daft. Many varibles would affect any tree more than temperature. But there were people of at least average inteligence who foisted this idea on the world and a countless number who accepted it.
Those who did the foisting and those not ‘intelectually challenged’ who accepted it must have known it was nonsense. But they did it and they got away with it for years.

August 8, 2011 10:47 am

I think that I shall never see a model lovely as a tree. I’ll call your attention to, in particular, Parameter Sensitivity (in Supplement S1), and Figure S2. Several exponents used in the model were estimates based on average values. Exponents have a lot of leverage, mathematically.
Note a deletion: “[Twenty] values less than minus 3 were omitted from the histogram.” Mike’s Nature trick strikes again? Figure 1C is called bimodal in the SI, but it doesn’t look significantly bimodal to me, there’s just a little bump on one shoulder. Was there a second peak that was lopped off? Where is the data?
Were seasonal patterns taken into consideration? I don’t see the words season, Spring, Fall, Summer, or Winter anywhere in the paper. Seasonally, low temperatures may be associated with more rain, boosting tree growth. On the other hand, lightning typically hits taller trees…
Note that use of just the tallest trees is problematic, a very narrow subset of the population from which to draw conclusions about trees. Once a tree grows above the forest canopy, its favored mode of growth may change. Microclimate is another huge factor, as Julian mentions above. Probably the most temperature sensitive factor is sap viscosity. High temperature, lower sap viscosity, more nutrients available for canopy and trunk growth–>shorter, stronger trees for the same effective leaf area. Taller isn’t necessarily better or healthier. Is this paper just more dildoclimatology? It’s hard to say without the model in hand, but I fear the worst.

August 8, 2011 11:04 am

As one who has been up in Canada’s high Arctic believe me trees are short in the cold and as one travel south trees tend to grow tall, larger, and thicker. Same with height of land – the higher you travel such as the Rockies trees growth eventually ceases entirely and disappears completely. Which means to me for tree growth one needs good soil, temperature, oxygen, moisture, and sunlight. Any one of the above lacking then tree growth is severely impacted. And of course I do not to fail to forget plate tectonics impacting the rise and fall of earth’s land mass nor the sun’s various cycles throughout history. The historical earth shows it had great trees up in the high Arctic when now-a-days any trees up in the High Arctic are a mere dream of what once was. Therefore, to me tree proxies are of no value when choosing an arbitrary date in a mere three or four place on an earth with a multi-billion year old history. What for instance if science were to only use petrified tree ring dating for only the high Arctic – what would be the conclusion? Or even tree dating from North of sixty? Well, that is the exact method today’s scientist use in isolation as proxies for the an entire planet – tree dating from today’s temperate zones. Once again today’s highlighted method are from temperate zones. Wow! Tree grow in temperate zones? Duh? Who knew?
Until science accepts that fact earth has a very dynamic history with multiple temperatures and extremes we all fail to deliver an accurate portrayal of this planet. It is no wonder why we become lost in the clutter –

Bruce Stewart
August 8, 2011 11:34 am

Theo Goodwin says:
August 8, 2011 at 10:40 am
Thanks for the clarification. More power to all who request more relevant studies. My comment was not meant for them, but rather for those others who mistakenly take this to be a dagger in the heart of treemometers. There may be such a dagger, but this is not it. Suggestions that it is are not robust criticism, for reasons that I indicated. Robust criticism may lead to improved science, weak sauce doesn’t help.

August 8, 2011 11:40 am

Richard S Courtney says:
August 8, 2011 at 10:41 am
Of course, Richard – the proxy treemometer value is very weak as a direct indicator because of the uncertainties and inherent factors other than temperatures affecting tree growth – but they are another ‘indicator’, and cannot be completely dismissed. Personally, I think they do find a use especially in cross referencing to other proxies – which of course is the merit in all the temp proxies, they are no good as standalone ‘proofs’ but as a group, showing similar trends, they do give us valuable insight.

August 8, 2011 12:07 pm

tree branches formed a fractal, which meant that if you effectively cut off a branch and then enlarged it, it looked like a whole tree

This is not true except for perhaps a (small) subset of trees. It reminds me of the “golden spiral” nonsense.

Brian H
August 8, 2011 12:11 pm

I’m not familiar with the mighty elephabt. Could you supply a link to a sketch or photo of one?

August 8, 2011 12:22 pm

Tree height shrinks with increased temperature?
As trees grow they begin to compete for light, moisture and minerals after awhile this competition will begin to slow each others growth, There are far more important and obvious influences on tree size. when It comes to tree height, temperature is insignificant compared to the other variables, when it comes to trees it’s all about the sugar!!
Carbon and oxygen are absorbed from the air, six molecules of water plus six molecules of carbon dioxide produce one molecule of sugar plus six molecules of oxygen.
This Molecule of sugar that the tree produces through photosynthesis is what the tree is after, the sugar gives the tree the energy to grow not temperature.
Less photosynthesis ==>Less Energy from sugar==>Less Growth==>Less Height==>Less photosynthesis. (It’s more complex, but this is the basic idea).
I’m lucky enough to live about 30ft from a Forrest (I can see it as I type this) and 100ft away from a couple of giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) trees, these trees are enormous and despite being in a far colder environment they have managed to grow to a height to match giant sequoias from warmer environments.
Some of the biggest influences the environment has on a trees height are (and there are too many to mention) Forrest density and geographical location, the other interesting thing about forests is that they create a kind of artificial climate both in temperature and composition of gases (although it’s a natural process) the understanding that forests regulate their own temperature should be enough for anyone to see error in this explanation for the height of trees.
One more interesting thing about trees is that many types of trees have evolved to take advantage of Forrest fires, the evolution of tree cones is a result of Forrest forest fires over millions of years, The cone its self needs temperatures from a fire to open up and release the seed enclosed inside it.
When I read reports from the “experts” the MSM reporters find, who suggest that a so-called rise of Forrest fires is a result of Man Made Climate Change? I’m Like “Whaaaaat?” 🙂 it’s so funny but not so when you realize they are for real.
Giant Sequoia:

August 8, 2011 1:15 pm

Has anyone commented on why the temperature changed for the year of higher temperatures? If you garden, you know that your plants are generally lankier/taller in cloudy, cooler weather since the plants reach for the sun. In sunshine, some plants grow faster but bushier; some will grow faster and taller due to more food; many get taller but not as thick. I would imagine that trees respond in the same way. Perhaps different species react in a diverse set of directions.

Brian H
August 8, 2011 1:20 pm

I dung belief yiz. You cain’t possubly live nexta a forest and not no howta spill it!

August 8, 2011 1:23 pm

Andy: How about a little more candor here? After all, WUWT isn’t RC. Dendroclimatologists interested in reconstructing temperature focus on trees where temperature is likely to frequently be a limiting factor. Thus Briffa focused on sites near the Arctic tree line in Europe and Siberia. Others choose trees at high altitude tree line. Dendroclimatologists interested in reconstructing rainfall choose trees in arid or semi-arid environments. In both cases, everyone recognizes that other factors influence tree ring width and these factors are part of the expected noise in the data analysis. Kempes is interested in the maximum height of trees (possibly as CO2 sinks). A different set of factors is appropriate for this analysis.

Theo Goodwin
August 8, 2011 2:48 pm

Kev-in-Uk says:
August 8, 2011 at 11:40 am
“Personally, I think they do find a use especially in cross referencing to other proxies – which of course is the merit in all the temp proxies, they are no good as standalone ‘proofs’ but as a group, showing similar trends, they do give us valuable insight.”
But doesn’t this take us into the realm of statistical magic and pea hiding? Just asking. Seems to me that what went into the Hockey Stick gives the lie to the use of tree rings as proxies.

August 8, 2011 3:29 pm

wait a moment
where are the empirical measurements to confirm this model has ANY bearing on reality ?
Why is so much of the thread above discussing this MODEL as though it was empirical research ?
OK I haven’t read the paper (why would I – it uses a model) but having been involved in Process Control modeling (not in detail) I know we can NOT model a Fractionation column in an oil refinery that only has some 30 odd WELL KNOWN AND WELL UNDERSTOOD variables. We spend a fortune on creating these models; and understand that they represent a snapshot of the process that is ok for training and SOME help in process prediction but has NO VALIDITY in doing any (repeat any) safety analysis modeling except for giving guidelines as to what should be investigated. Even for Process prediction; the older the model – the more useless it is (but still good for training !). An old model is anything that is more than 6 months old.
Models are not reality. They should only be used to demonstrate the terms of reference of some real world measurements; and as an INDICATION of how the theory being investigated MAY behave

Brian H
August 8, 2011 5:14 pm

But peter_dtm;
Your safety concerns deal with actual assets and people’s lives. Climate models merely provide projections which will determine the shape of the global energy economy, and whether hundreds of millions die of fuel poverty or not!
Oh, wait …

August 8, 2011 5:23 pm

Brian H says:
August 8, 2011 at 1:20 pm
I dung belief yiz. You cain’t possubly live nexta a forest and not no howta spill it!”
HaHaHa! too funny!! 1-0 to you 🙂
Momma said life is like a spellchecker you never know what ya gonna get! or was it a box of chocolates I don’t remember, who cares :), BTW look at your own spelling, it’s awful.

Brian H
August 8, 2011 6:44 pm

Yabbut, my mistooks was dumbliberate.

Brian H
August 8, 2011 6:46 pm

BTW, the existence of Forrest Gump is prob’ly why yore spellchecker didn’t Czech you, mate!

August 8, 2011 8:29 pm

For the temperature to get warmer by 1⁰C in the atmosphere; first need to get warmer by 0,5⁰C. When the atmosphere gets warmer by 0,5⁰C; especially on sealevel; where the density of the air is greatest – atmosphere expands up by 100m. Up there is minus -90⁰C. Intercepts appropriate extra coldness to equalize / counteract in about 3,5 seconds. That extra coldness falls, somewhere else and becomes colder = overall is same warmth units all the time. So, when discovered warmer some place – declaring that the whole planet is warmer is same as saying: the planet’s atmosphere is warmer at lunch time by 9degrees than before sunrise…?! Not funny. Temperature is controlled by O+N, not by CO2. Oxygen and nitrogen are 998999 ppm. If interested in real truth / proofs / facts Otherwise, Skeptics and Warmist are barking up the same wrong tree. Part of the atmosphere can get warmer, and always does. The whole atmosphere cannot get warmer or colder simultaneously! That’s what the laws of physics and my formulas say. The laws of physics are regulating the temperature, not the shonky climatologist!

August 8, 2011 8:32 pm

In same orchard, different health of trees. We are lucky that climatologist become agronomist. Going from east to west coast of Australia or USA; many different heights of trees / same CO2 level. Because H2O controls the climate, not CO2. Unfortunately, prof Plimer’s galahs in Australia cannot notice that. Reason for them the phony GLOBAL warming and the constant climatic changes are one same thing. That’s how they are dignifying the Warmist. That makes them more guilty about the ‘’flat rate carbon tax’’ than the Warmist. The neighbor is irrigating his orchard, I don’t. His trees have bigger rings – they are bigger, more prosperous trees; why? Same sunshine, same CO2 amount.
Verdict: Warmist should shove ‘’their tree ring theories’’ up their own rings!

Richard S Courtney
August 9, 2011 1:58 am

Your post at August 8, 2011 at 11:40 am is a classic example of troll misdirection.
My post at August 8, 2011 at 10:41 am pointed out that anybody with two brain cells to rub together must know that tree growth is affected by many variables so cannot indicate temperature. And I said the important issue is:
“But there were people of at least average inteligence who foisted this idea on the world and a countless number who accepted it.
Those who did the foisting and those not ‘intelectually challenged’ who accepted it must have known it was nonsense. But they did it and they got away with it for years.”
But you try to change that into a discussion of how good treemometers are.
This can only mean that you suffer from ‘learning difficulties’ or you are afraid to face the enormity of what was done by Mann, Bradley, Huges, Briffa etc. and their supporters.

Faye Busch
August 9, 2011 4:31 am

Is the standard of science education so low today that too many science graduates produce work containing ridiculous assumptions? (I have no science background, but sense it from my reading.)

August 9, 2011 7:18 am

Theo Goodwin says:
August 8, 2011 at 2:48 pm
In short, yes and no! I agree that pretty much all proxy temp data is going to be uncertain. However, when you compare, say, proxy temps from trees to those from ice cores, stalagmites, etc – that is when you may see a correlation which one may infer is most likely due to temperature. Taking one proxy on its own – especially trees, which are affected by numerous other factors such as water, co2, sunlight (e.g. volcanic activity), etc – does not provide a good standalone indicator, and certainly not in any real quantitative manner.

August 9, 2011 7:32 am

Richard S Courtney says:
August 9, 2011 at 1:58 am
I am not sure I follow your reasoning for asserting I have engaged in some form of classical troll misdirection, and respectfully request that you clarify that assertion.
Moreover, I am perfectly aware of the misdirection of Mann, Briffa, et al – which has been so amply demonstrated as fraudulent ‘science’ subsequently. However, to ‘diss’ tree proxies out of hand because of someone elses fraudulent use is incorrect, in my opinion, and this was the purpose of my post.
As for the insult in implying I have/had troll intentions and subsequent referring to my ‘learning difficulties’, I will let it slide on the reasonable presumption that you jumped the gun and/or I did not make my post clear enough for you. Suffice it to say that I do indeed know how to spell intelligence, and which I note from your post, that you do not! LOL

August 9, 2011 8:15 am

Richard S Courtney says:
August 9, 2011 at 1:58 am
and just so we are clear, as to who misunderstood who, you said..
My post at August 8, 2011 at 10:41 am pointed out that anybody with two brain cells to rub together must know that tree growth is affected by many variables so cannot indicate temperature.
and hence I am disputing that your categorical dismissal (‘cannot indicate temperature’) as incorrect. I am not disputing the inherent errors and uncertainties, but your simple dismissal is factually incorrect. Tree growth is indeed affected by temperature and this MAY well be able to be extracted from tree growth data. If you are disputing that (which you clearly are with your categoric dismissal), I fear it is yourself with the so called learning difficulties.
As regards your comment that those that foisted the hyper reliance (or reliability) of tree proxy data, and further those that accepted it as reliable – I could not agree more! But that still doesn’t mean tree growth proxy data is useless! (though obviously, in the hands of Mann et al, it certainly has proven to be so!)

August 9, 2011 4:18 pm

Kev from UK and Richard Courtney, stop insulting each other about tree rings. Even the earthworm knows that is better when is more moisture in the ground = better climate = bigger tree rings. Nothing to do with warmer planet or cooler. Same with stalagmites – if is more calcium = faster growth of stalagmites; calcium exhausted = less build up on stalagmites. Then animal bones decay = increase of calcium – has nothing to do with temperature. In the next gully was no dead animal to decay = less calcium for stalagmites and for the trees.
One using tree rings / stalagmites as climate indicator; only shows how low the Warmist can get. Proof that is too much money spent on the Warmist Mafia. Water controls the climate, not CO2. There is no such a thing as GLOBAL warming. If some area gets warmer ( as big city heat) air in the city expands – the extra volume of air goes up – intercepts extra coldness – that extra coldness falls some other place = that other place instantly gets colder = same amount of heat overall in the atmosphere. If your high intelligence can understand that: extra heat in the atmosphere is not accumulative – you will sleep better. You should join forces and blame whoever brainwashed you that carbon is bad; instead insulting each other about some superficial lies. It’s time to stop with the ‘’carbon footprints’’ nonsense and time for ‘’carbon fingerprinting’’ the Warmist opportunist. Plus, you should take them in a class action for ‘’brains degradation’’ I will be your witness. Both of you have being clogging my email with lots of Warmist dysentery for the last few days.

August 9, 2011 5:29 pm

Stefan Mitich says:
August 9, 2011 at 4:18 pm
actually Stefan – I would suggest you are over simplifying – extra calcium for stalagmite formation can occur for a variety of reasons, not least of which one could be acid rain! or more explicitly, increased atmospheric CO2 causing increased acidity in rainfall causing increased dissoluton of calcium carbonate (limestone to you) and thus causing increased stalagmite formation rate, or it could be just increased rainfall, (and I agree – perhaps dead animal bones too) etc, etc………the whole point being that all proxies are necessarily relative – but that the implied ‘relativity’ is not a fixed metric – and anyone that says otherwise is talking out of their rear end! So, with respect, I would suggest you understand the root causes of the formation of stalagmites before you diss them as historical climate indicators either!
FFS – am I talking a different language or what? – proxies are exactly that – fecking proxies and anyone who says they are pure cast iron indicators is a complete moron – they are simply indicators – nothing more, nothing less. But, and this is the major point – if a lot of them show similar trends – and the COMMON variable (between them) is temperature – then it is reasonable to assume that the common link is indeed fecking temperature! FFS – we measure distant planets and their atmospheres based on ‘proxy’ satellite data, etc, etc – it really is not rocket science – but it is still only an indicator – not a proven ‘record’. Is that so difficult to grasp and understand?
BTW – as far as I know – earthworms hate excess moisture in the soil – they tend to come to the surface to avoid drowning, but maybe I didn’t observe that fact correctly!
and another thing – of course, I agree that Global warming is bullsh*t – but don’t diss the basic science that allows proxies – they work for the skeptics too you know! otherwise how would we ‘know’ that CO2 was much higher in the past? it doesnt detract from the fact that proxies are useful and should be properly considered.
and as for Richard – I don’t know – but he seems to be avoiding the thread – perhaps he fails to realise that we are both on the same side? 🙂

Theo Goodwin
August 9, 2011 5:56 pm

Kev-in-Uk says:
August 9, 2011 at 7:18 am
I doubt that we have a disagreement. My one and only point in this matter is that any proxy is affected by several environmental factors. Each of those environmental factors must be understood. To understand them requires doing empirical research that leads to reasonably well confirmed physical hypotheses about the behavior of the proxy. I bet you do not disagree with that.
My point about Briffa and friends is that they found forty years of evidence which screamed “You do not understand the behavior of these tree ring proxies or tree rings are not suitable proxies for temperature.” In either case, empirical research was required. They hid that fact. They did not do the research. They still haven’t done it. Yet they still stand behind their so-called work. Just how bad a scientist can one be?

Theo Goodwin
August 9, 2011 5:57 pm

Incontrovertibly, unambiguously, and tragically yes. The standards for peer-review are in worse shape.

Theo Goodwin
August 9, 2011 6:34 pm

Faye Busch says:
August 9, 2011 at 4:31 am
Incontrovertibly, unambiguously, and tragically yes. The standards for peer-review are in worse shape.
I was answering Faye’s question in my post above.

Chad Jessup
August 9, 2011 8:33 pm

I suspect the saying about pine cones needing a fire to release its seeds is a myth, but I cannot offer any proof other than to say that little pine trees spring up on my property where no fires have burned. Also, the old dried pine cones littering a forest floor are turned into nothing but ash during a fire. I use pine cones to start the fire in my wood stove, and where I dump the ashes from the wood stove, no little pine trees have sprouted.

Richard S Courtney
August 10, 2011 2:04 am

Kev- in UK (and others):
The fact is
anybody with any sense,
anybody with a garden, and
anybody who had owned a pot plant,
And when an attempt to use trees as thermometers was made THEY DID NOT WORK
(hide the decline).
The issue is NOT whether treemometers are useful: they are not.
Kev, trees are not useful proxies for temperature: they cannot be.
Specious arguments about whether treemometers work obscure the issues.
The issues are
Mann, Hughes, Bradley, Briffa, et al. knowingly and with clear malice of forethought
Others accepted the daft assertiion that treemometers work.
There are still people who cling to the daft idea that treemometers work.
And I have no patience with apologists for Mann, Hughes, Bradley, Briffa, et al.

August 10, 2011 7:50 am

Theo Goodwin says:
August 9, 2011 at 5:56 pm
agreed entirely…
, I have not noted anyone defending Mann et al (and I don’t frequent RC, which is no doubt where any support would come from). The fact I am defending a proxy as of potential use (with the usual caveats over uncertainty) does not mean I am defending anything Mann et al have done. Aux contraire, I am very dismayed by their so called science in this regard.
I still consider my point to be valid, namely that proxies, especially in combination, do have some merit – and without them, we really cannot say much about any past climate that wasn’t written down and recorded in ways directly transferable to a measurement/mmetric of today!
In the context of say, the MWP, which is only really inferred from various proxies (and a few historicval ‘notes’) – and the reliance of the MWP as an indicator of past warmer climes and therefore making the current alleged warming less important – we, as skeptics must surely accept this information. If you don’t want to accept proxies per se, then we are in a real pickle – having to rely on manipulated surface station data and other observations held by our esteemed climate science bodies ! (Note – I am being sarcastic there!)
Currently, I’m sure nobody here would like to have to rely solely on such records? and thus, what choice do we have but to use all available proxies as generic ‘indicators’? As a scientist, and a skeptic – I will look at any and all available data and use/discard it according to its individual merit – Short of the Doc from Back to the Future, appearing in his shiny Delorean and whisking us off to past times – what other choice do we have?

Richard S Courtney
August 12, 2011 2:09 am

You say at August 10, 2011 at 7:50 am you say to me:
“The fact I am defending a proxy as of potential use (with the usual caveats over uncertainty) does not mean I am defending anything Mann et al have done.”
That is a ‘non sequitor’.
The proxy in question is treemometers. It was a ridiculous stretch to think or imagine treemometers could work, and when tried they did not. Mann et al. pretended treemometers did work.
So, when you defend treemometers as “a proxy as of potential use” then you ARE defending what Mann et al. did.
And you say to me:
“If you don’t want to accept proxies per se, then we are in a real pickle …”
That is a ‘straw man’.
The fact that treemometers are useless says nothing about the usefulness of other proxies for determination of past temperatures. Your assertion is akin to saying;
“If you say tomatoes cannot be used to make chairs then you are doubting that wood can be made into chairs”.

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