Guest post by Nancy Green
Tamino claims he has added 3 spikes to the Marcott et al proxy data and the Marcott et al process detects them.
This, he then proposes, is proof that there are no 20th century spikes in the Holocene. This claim appears to run counter to a prediction I made recently in a WUWT post; that as you increase the proxy resolution you are more likely to find spikes.
Having had my reply disappeared at Tamino’s site, I thought readers at WUWT might be interested. I don’t believe Tamino’s conclusion follows from his results. Rather, I believe he has demonstrated the truth of my original prediction. What needs to be understood is that adding a spike to the proxy data is not the same as adding a spike to the proxies. This is where people get confused.
The proxies are ocean cores or similar sitting in some repository. They are real, physical objects. To truly add a spike to the proxies you would need to travel back in time and change the temperature of the earth. This would then affect the proxies in some fashion, depending on the resolution of the proxies, how they respond regionally, including lags, gain or damping. The proxy response might also be affected by other unknown factors at the time that are not visible in the proxies. In other words, the spikes that you add to the proxies would have all the resolution problems that the proxies themselves have.
However, adding spikes to the proxy data is an entirely different animal. The proxy data is an abstract representation of the proxy. It is numbers drawn on a sheet of paper or electronic equivalent. Now you are adding (drawing) high resolution spikes onto low resolution proxy data, with no accounting for regional affects, lag, gain, damping or confounding factors. It should be no surprise at all that these high resolution spikes jump out. If they didn’t, it would point to a serious flaw in Marcott et al.
An analogy might help better understand the problem. Imagine for a moment that we are not dealing with temperature, but rather trying to detect planets around stars. We have before us a photograph of a star taken by a telescope on Earth. We look at this under the microscope. However, we find no planets because the telescope lacks the angular resolution to distinguish them from the star itself.
Now let’s go out to the star in question and add planets around the star and take more photos with our telescope. These planets are real objects. We know they exists. However, it will make no difference; we still can’t see the planets with our telescope. In this example we have added a spike to the actual proxy and it has made no difference.
Now let’s add a spike to the proxy data. Instead of placing planets around the star, take the photo from the telescope and draw a picture of a planet on it. This is an example of adding a spike to the proxy data. The photo is an abstract representation of the star and its planets, equivalent to the proxy data. Now examine the photo under a microscope and voila, the planet (spike) will now be visible.
What we are seeing in action is actually a form or misdirection used in stage magic. It fools us on the stage just as it does in science. It is our minds that create the confusion (illusion) between what the proxies actually are and what the proxy data actually is. The proxies are ocean cores – they are real objects. The proxy data is an abstract representation of the real object. However in our minds we are so used to dealing with real objects as abstract representations that we are fooled into thinking they are one and the same.
If anything, what Tamino has actually done is to prove the point of my original article. He has added high resolution spikes to the low resolution data and as predicted they are detectable. To conclude however that this somehow proves there are no 20th century type spikes in the Holocene makes no sense. As we have seen in this example, no matter how many planets you physically add around a star it makes no difference if you lack the resolution to detect them. This is no proof that they don’t exist. It is only after you examine them at sufficiently high resolution that they become visible.