Briffa, Yamal, reputational damage, and all that

Keith Briffa has just published a new paper using the Yamal-Urals regional chronology data, something long sought after via FOIA requests. That data was withheld, citing it wasn’t cooked done with yet, and that releasing it would damage the reputation of CRU scientists.

After Climategate in 2009, I’m not sure how CRU’s reputation could be damaged any further, but that was the reason given for not sharing the data. Maybe it has to do with the lack of definitive hockey stick and the dwarfing of the present by the Medieval Warm period being counter to some of the unsupportable claims that have been made about tree ring data and unprecedented warming.

Steve McIntyre writes: 

In resisting the FOI, CRU said that production of the 2006 regional chronology would damage the reputation of CRU scientists. The 2006 version appears to be the “Urals raw” chronology illustrated in SM9 as Greater Urals (shown below), though it is not identified as such in my first reading. Readers can judge for themselves whether their foreboding was justified.

greater_urals-GU2

Read his entire essay here: Briffa 2013

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There was a program on NPR this morning with a professor
from a Pennsylvania University where the students are
instructed to plagiarize, I wonder if Briffa and Mann took
that course.

Lars P.

Leif Svalgaard says:
May 26, 2013 at 10:00 am
Compare Yamal with solar activity
Leif, help me on the above, what solar activity do you post there? TSI reconstruction?, sun spots? proxy?

Tenuc

Leif Svalgaard says:
May 26, 2013 at 10:00 am
“Compare Yamal with solar activity…”
Yes, no obvious connection between differing levels of solar activity and tree growth.
Strangely Briffa seems to think that there is a direct link between tree growth and temperature!

John Tillman

Maybe I’m just seeing things, but to me the Oort (low perhaps too early), Wolf, Spoerer, Maunder & Dalton Minima show up in this proxy data set. Possibly they did to Briffa, too, in which case they were not to see the light of day until dragged kicking & screaming years late from his files.

Lars P. says:
May 26, 2013 at 10:39 am
Leif, help me on the above, what solar activity do you post there? TSI reconstruction?, sun spots? proxy?
since traditional wisdom has it that all solar indices correlate on the time scale of the Figure, it doesn’t really matter which is shown, But specifically, it is a TSI reconstruction derived from the cosmic ray intensity measured in ice cores.
John Tillman says:
May 26, 2013 at 10:42 am
Maybe I’m just seeing things, but to me the Oort (low perhaps too early), Wolf, Spoerer, Maunder & Dalton Minima show up in this proxy data set.
Yes, you are seeing what you want to see. There are enough spikes to go around for wiggle matching to just about anything.

Once trust is broken, it is very difficult to rebuild. It is going to take more than one much delayed attempt at honesty and openness to rebuild the trust that an honest and honorable Scientist would have long since earned. Are we really sure their current release of data is not itself “adjusted” beyond contact with reality? At this point, I am unwilling to trust anything they say, write, or do.

Luther Wu

lsvalgaard says:
May 26, 2013 at 10:57 am
There are enough spikes to go around for wiggle matching to just about anything.
___________________
Indeed, but matchmakers abound.

Kasuha

Leif Svalgaard says:
May 26, 2013 at 10:00 am
Compare Yamal with solar activity:
____________________________________
I don’t see anything there but that does not mean nothing is there. Comparing a smoothed graph with spaghetti where you don’t clearly see where the mean is isn’t very effective. So while I am willing to agree that there’s no correlation, I still would like to see some more thorough analysis.

EW

Taking into account that the poor Yamal larches are able to grow only from June 16 to July 30 and even then they can be damaged by frosts, it is a very specific proxy to be wiggle-matched to the global yearly temperature.

Kasuha says:
May 26, 2013 at 11:25 am
So while I am willing to agree that there’s no correlation, I still would like to see some more thorough analysis.
In discussions elsewhere I have come across the ‘argument’ that if a dataset does not show the ‘expected’, obvious [‘it’s the Sun, stupid’] solar correlation, there must be something wrong with the data…

I continue to be amazed that they are still attempting to use these useless dendro proxies at all. From my perspective I would have thought a final fork had been stuck in them with the appearance of this work
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2008/06/13/surprise-leaves-maintain-temperature-new-findings-may-put-dendroclimatology-as-metric-of-past-temperature-into-question/
If a tree’s foliage, where all the photosynthesis that builds the tree’s structure, is not at ambient temperature what possible physical mechanism could exist that would allow a tree to encode a precise signal of ambient temperature behavior. That is a question I’ve posed in comments here quite a number of times over the last five years without ever getting an adequate response, or any response at all actually.

milodonharlani

Tree rings might be a proxy for moisture or growing season length rather than temperature directly.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

From Luther Wu on May 26, 2013 at 11:16 am:

Indeed, but matchmakers abound.

Greg Goodman will be around soon enough. He loves showing off his mastery of tools suitable for signal processing, which is perfectly fine and dandy since from the climate to the sun it’s all just collections of frequencies of (practically?) fixed periodicity. He’ll easily find the repeating signals in Briffa’s tree ring data, no problem.

milodonharlani says:
May 26, 2013 at 11:44 am
Tree rings might be a proxy for moisture or growing season length rather than temperature directly.
Wouldn’t a warmer climate have a longer growing season?

If I were to look at that graph with the expectation that it represents “global temperature” (as meaningless as that is), I would say there is nothing unusual happening. nothing happening now that hasn’t happened before on the same scale and rate of change.
So… what’s the point of the paper?

Latitude

Wouldn’t a warmer climate have a longer growing season?…
====
Trees can only tell you when it was just right….the tree bears

milodonharlani

lsvalgaard says:
May 26, 2013 at 11:46 am
milodonharlani says:
May 26, 2013 at 11:44 am
Tree rings might be a proxy for moisture or growing season length rather than temperature directly.
Wouldn’t a warmer climate have a longer growing season?
——————————————————————————–
One would think so, unless the greater warmth were concentrated in the winter, when most plants would be dormant, anyway, without materially affecting the other seasons.

Official Announcement to the Proles of Oceania:
“He who controls the present, controls the past.
He who controls the past, controls the future.” [1]
Some question the need for annual revisions to our past fictions. The Insoc Council for Sociopathic Science [2] has deemed these corrections mandatory, so that our trusted science can continue to expand New Think as our best protection against Eurasia….and world destruction from your CO2 ladened breath.
[1] 1984 by George Orwell
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insoc

For anyone who might be interested, here is the paper referenced in the WUWT post I linked above
http://www.sas.upenn.edu/earth/pdf/nature07031.pdf

Luther Wu

The poet’s on sabbatical
from ol’ State U of P
could no’ see the forest
for YAD 063

RomanM

The match (or lack thereof) between Leif’s solar and the chronology plot might be better seen here:
http://statpad.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/solar_and_chronology.jpg
It does not look that great from about 1000 to 2000.

Forgot to include this money quote from the above
“The oxygen isotope ratio (d18O) of cellulose is thought to provide a record of ambient temperature and relative humidity during periods of carbon assimilation1,2. Here we introduce a method to resolve tree-canopy leaf temperature with the use of d18O of cellulose in 39 tree species. We show a remarkably constant leaf temperature of 21.4+/-2.26C across 50 degrees of latitude, from subtropical to boreal biomes. This means that when carbon assimilation is maximal, the physiological and morphological properties of tree branches serve to raise leaf temperature above air temperature to a much greater extent in more northern latitudes. A main assumption underlying the use of d18O to reconstruct climate history is that the temperature and relative humidity of an actively photosynthesizing leaf are the same as those of the surrounding air3,4
.
Our data are contrary to that assumption and show that plant physiological ecology must be considered when reconstructing climate through isotope analysis. Furthermore, our results may
explain why climate has only a modest effect on leaf economic traits5 in general.”

Dave Wendt
I think most of us on this site have been-and remain-completely baffled as to why tree rings are considered a good proxy for temperature. This branch of science (pun intended) has been wildly over promoted as to its importance over the last 15 years or so.
tonyb

Luther Wu

how is he then a poet
when science is his role
called himself a laureate
’til busted by some troll
’tis “debate averse” not “made a verse”
that made some poor wag label
poetic license as his tool
“The Hockey Stick” his fable.

milodonharlani said
‘One would think so, unless the greater warmth were concentrated in the winter, when most plants would be dormant, anyway, without materially affecting the other seasons.’
Our best records show that winters have become warmer, the other seasons are pretty static. Here is CET all the way back to 1659 showing seasonal changes.
tonyb

I find it amazing that “reputable” scientists these days can come forward with results based on data, then when asked for the data for independent analysis, refuse to produce it and say, “We can’t give it to you because it might be used to harm our reputation!” And yet, journals are still publishing this garbage as science.
It’s like me sending off an article to “Science” claiming to have definitive proof of a species of Bigfoots living in Montana. Because of my connections to the review board, they greenlight my paper. And when other scientists say they’d love to see the proof, I say “I can’t give it to you– it might damage my reputation!” Then expect everyone to think that’s hunky-dory and I can go on to do my “science”.
It’s absolutely laughable. And I would be laughing were it not for the damage done to the scientific method by these buffoons.

John Tillman

So, then the consensus is that the Great Famine & Black Death are merely coincidental with the Wolf Minimum, c. 1280 to 1350; famines in Europe, Asia & Africa (Aztec famine maybe too early) and frequent nation-wide plague epidemics in England, for instance, with the Spörer Minimum, 1460 to 1550; Little Ice Age glacial advance, including the coldest known year (1709), with the Maunder, 1645 to 1715, and Dalton, 1790 to 1820, Minima, and that since pandemics, famines & freezes happen all the time, including during the supposed Minoan, Roman, Medieval & Modern warm periods, Holocene climate is hopelessly chaotic, not cyclic.
Sir William Herschel must have been a raving loon to imagine that the sun had anything to do with it.

@Leif Svalgaard:
OK. I looked. I see two series of wiggles. Some times they match ( peak in about 250 A.D. and dip in about 540 A.D.) and sometimes they don’t (broad deep solar peak in 1500 A.D. with dip and spike in the trees; while in 1000 A.D. the solar dips and the trees peak.)
Whatever you are trying to show me, I’m not seeing it. All I’m seeing is two series with different cycle wiggles that sometimes are in phase, sometimes not, and often kind of chaotic.
What am I missing?
In the tree series alone, all I really notice is that the 540 A.D. dip isn’t as big as I’d expect from historical records of the time, Then, that the post 1500 A.D. area is missing a lot of warm spikes while the post 1900 or so area seems devoid of cold spikes (but unimpressive to the warm spike side… i.e. it isn’t warm, we just don’t have cold fits).
Mostly it just looks like the data are noisy in a non-uniform manner.

milodonharlani

climatereason says:
May 26, 2013 at 12:22 pm
milodonharlani said
‘One would think so, unless the greater warmth were concentrated in the winter, when most plants would be dormant, anyway, without materially affecting the other seasons.’
Our best records show that winters have become warmer, the other seasons are pretty static. Here is CET all the way back to 1659 showing seasonal changes.
tonyb
——————————————–
That has been my impression generally, based both on proxy data, & for the recently past warming, experience. I’ll look at the CET. Thanks.

E.M.Smith says:
May 26, 2013 at 12:23 pm
@Leif Svalgaard:
OK. I looked. I see two series of wiggles. Some times they match ( peak in about 250 A.D. and dip in about 540 A.D.) and sometimes they don’t (broad deep solar peak in 1500 A.D. with dip and spike in the trees; while in 1000 A.D. the solar dips and the trees peak.)
Whatever you are trying to show me, I’m not seeing it. All I’m seeing is two series with different cycle wiggles that sometimes are in phase, sometimes not, and often kind of chaotic.

I think that was Leif’s point.

Luther Wu

E.M.Smith says:
May 26, 2013 at 12:23 pm
…”What am I missing? …
Mostly it just looks like the data are noisy in a non-uniform manner.”
_____________________
The only thing missing is the confidence to believe your own eyes.
Alternatively, you could wait for the fitters to show you whatever they’d have you see.

E.M.Smith says:
May 26, 2013 at 12:23 pm
Mostly it just looks like the data are noisy in a non-uniform manner
That was my point.

Luther Wu says:
May 26, 2013 at 12:29 pm
The only thing missing is the confidence to believe your own eyes.
Eye-witness accounts are notoriously unreliable…

JohnTillman
To judge your coincidences you might like to look at CET to 1538 (earliest 100 years my reconstruction) It is showing 10 year and fifty year anomalies and the steps in climate are interesting
http://climatereason.com/Graphs/Graph01.png
The larger blue lines show glacier retreat (towards top of page) and advance (toward the bottom) They are there for overall context although they are fairly basic at present as of course glaciers don’t change state as quickly as that.
Incidentally, to complete the picture the years between 1500 and 1538 will show temperatures around as warm as the period ending 2000. CET has declined sharply since then.
http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/hadobs/hadcet/
tonyb

milodonharlani
Sorry, I omitted the graph. Here it is.
http://climatereason.com/Graphs/Graph05.png
tonyb

John Tillman

climatereason says:
May 26, 2013 at 12:42 pm
—————————————
The national plague epidemics petered out after the turn of the 15th/16th century, so your warming early in the 16th is welcome, as I’m sure it was to the English of that day.
Of course it’s possible to recover almost any trend from data subjected to statistical analysis. Under torture, they will scream whatever you want them to say. However, historians from written records independently of (or in concert with) physical scientific observations or paleoclimatic proxy reconstructions “discovered” the Little Ice Age & Medieval Warm Periods before the current bout of data torturing by CO2-crazed “climate scientists” began in the 1980s. To me, their findings are robust, whatever the physical causes of longer-term warming & cooling cycles may be.

@Dave Wendt:

If a tree’s foliage, where all the photosynthesis that builds the tree’s structure, is not at ambient temperature what possible physical mechanism could exist that would allow a tree to encode a precise signal of ambient temperature behavior. That is a question I’ve posed in comments here quite a number of times over the last five years without ever getting an adequate response, or any response at all actually.

Trees (and many other plants) grow based on “degree days”. The Degree Day metric measures when ambient temperatures are in a range above a minimum and below the stagnation temperature (stress temp). Since for many species, the stress temp is well above normal for all but a small number of days, it usually does not apply. (In fact, is substantially ignored outside places like Phoenix Arizona. Something I’ve pointed out for years… The pseudo “panic” being pushed at us about heat hurting crop growth ignores the existence proof of Phoenix. We “lose” a month or two there mid summer to ‘over 110 F’ type temperatures, but in exchange pick up double that much or more on each cool end of the seasons. Check the Sunset Garden book for the growing season graph. Yet even then, the “summer slowdown” is only for SOME species…)
So the tree foliage tries to hold a more stable temperature below the max / stress level; so it can continue to grow (with a 90 F canopy in 110 F ‘weather’). It still racks up the degree days as it’s still growing just fine. On the cold end, transpiration doesn’t give much relief (where it does a great job cooling leaves in the heat). So growth ramps down with cold.
In a way, the growth is like a thermometer that is shut off in the cold, peak clipped in the hot, and rapidly transits from “off” to “full on” in a range from about 50 F to 80F. Other than that, it’s fine 😉
Oh, and if there’s a shortage of water, the transpiration cooling fails and heat stress can cause loss of leaves and truncation of growth for the season much like a freeze can do in the leaves too…
Oh, and in the Pacific Northwest a study found that most of the nitrogen budget of the trees came from bears catching salmon and crapping on the trees; so you must know the bear density and “where they like to poo” to get the nitrogen “flux” right… Tree growth is also a proxy for “bear poo”…
Is that what this meant?:

Latitude says:
Trees can only tell you when it was just right….the tree bears

😉
(Yes, I got the Goldilocks reference…)
@John Tillman:

Sir William Herschel must have been a raving loon to imagine that the sun had anything to do with it.

No. Jevons also studied the effect, and it is real. It just need not be the one you think.
CROP production quantity and prices vary with sunspot cycles.
It could be anything from water variation, to UV changes causing rust outbreaks on the grains or more / less disease among the farmers, to some subtle thing causing folks to get grumpy with the sunspots are down and decide to go on crusades rather than farm.
Furthermore, while Jevons looked at grain figures from places around The Empire (including India) the things you cite were more focused into Northern Europe / Central Europe. In those places the effects of variation in the Gulf Stream are very large. So it could easily be that anything from UV to magnetic to tidal variations from a lunar orbital resonance could be causing cyclical Gulf Stream / Atlantic Drift variations in sync with solar variations. That would then cause those plagues and famines to have the pattern match that was being seen, but ONLY at that end of the Gulf Stream. (In fact, in an article I’ve posted about before, it is shown that Florida gets warmer and the Desert Southwest of the USA gets wetter when Europe goes all cold and miserable from Gulf Stream changes. We win, you lose…)
Please note: I am not saying those potential links of UV et.al. are proven. I’m only pointing out potential alternatives / confounders.
So the first and largest problem with tossing rocks at Herschel and Jevons is to attempt to tar them with a “Global Climate Change” brush when they were in fact only addressing patterns in the data seen in Europe and partly in India. Regional at most. The second problem is to ignore that The Gulf Stream variation might well modulate Europe (and the Monsoon modulate India) in patterns that are solar correlated (and IMHO lunar / tidal driven in orbital resonance sync) while having no effect in other places; or even the opposite effect as demonstrated in Florida pollen / sediments data.
In short: In times of very low sun activity and low sunspots, I’d expect lousy crop years and high grain prices in Europe on average; along with greater cold and miserable wet rains making harvest hard. I’d further expect that to correlate with famine and plagues unless countered with modern food supplies and such. HOWEVER, I’d expect higher yields in the USA “Desert Southwest” (where we grow wheat in Arizona and New Mexico…) and warmer / wetter weather in Florida. So in any modern event, the major effect ought not be famine and plague in England, but a large influx of English tourists to Disneyworld and the French to keep making baguettes but using Arizona grain… 😉
So don’t be tossing Herschel under the bus just yet.

milodonharlani

@ climatereason, May 26, 2013 at 12:44 pm
Thanks again for CET graph. Instructive. I wonder how much the Met &/or the Had Crew have stepped on these data.
It’s great to have that series.

Leif Svalgaard says: May 26, 2013 at 10:00 am
Compare Yamal with solar activity:
NO doc,
Compare AMO (3 yr ma) and Yamal geomagnetic field change (11 year filter)
http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/YAMAL-GMF-AMO.htm

I wish Briffa would stop standing with one foot on the rowboat and one on the dock, and make a clean break with that bad crowd he’s been hanging out with. After all, this nonsense has been going on for years. Even a layman like myself can see the likely mistakes in his attempts to “draw out the signal” by excluding some trees and including others. (However at least he seems honest about doing it.) I could see it back in late September 2009, and (sounding more like a lumberjack than I actually am,) made a comment here at WUWT that Anthony raised to a “guest comment” post.
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/10/02/a-hands-on-view-of-tree-growth-and-tree-rings-one-explanation-for-briffas-yad061-lone-tree-core/
Come on, Briffa! Bite the hand that is feeding you, from that sinking boat, and take the hand of truth extended to you from the high and dry dock. If you keep trying to straddle the two sides, I fear you’ll end up all wet.

“Wouldn’t a warmer climate have a longer growing season?”
Not necessarily. A really super-hot July/August that warms up and cools down at the same time doesn’t have a LONGER season, it just had a HOTTER growing season. A climate that maintains a minimum of 40 degrees year-round (ie. no real “winter” to drag down yearly average temperatures) but has normal growth-temps time wouldn’t change at all.
Then there’s the flip side where if you had very long growing season, but little precipitation, growth would also be limited.
A higher yearly average isn’t easily correlated with a growing season or growth that I can tell. You can stipulate it (as the team does), but that doesn’t necessarily make it true.

John Tillman
My speciality is in locating historic written records and matching them with scientific studies
Here is my article covering the period 1538 onwards in which I am trying to compare the climate reconstructions of Dr Mann and Hubert Lamb back to the 11th century
http://judithcurry.com/2011/12/01/the-long-slow-thaw/
If you like history you will probably enjoy it.
tonyb

David L. Hagen

Physics Nobel laureate Richard Feynman made some pertinent observations on science:

Western civilization, it seems to me, stands by two great heritages. One is the scientific spirit of adventure — the adventure into the unknown, an unknown which must be recognized as being unknown in order to be explored; the demand that the unanswerable mysteries of the universe remain unanswered; the attitude that all is uncertain; to summarize it — the humility of the intellect. The other great heritage is Christian ethics — the basis of action on love, the brotherhood of all men, the value of the individual — the humility of the spirit. . . .
How can we draw inspiration to support these two pillars of western civilization so that they may stand together in full vigor, mutually unafraid? Is this not the central problem of our time?

Remarks at a Caltech YMCA lunch forum (2 May 1956)
The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman p 256

vukcevic says:
May 26, 2013 at 1:09 pm
Compare AMO (3 yr ma) and Yamal geomagnetic field change (11 year filter)
They have nothing to do with each other…

John Tillman

E.M.Smith says:
May 26, 2013 at 1:00 pm
———————————
All points well taken, although irrigated wheat in the SW is a pretty minor portion of US production.
Still & all, I find that the LIA (& prior centuries-long cold spells) is well supported as a global phenomenon, based not only upon its effects on agriculture, but other measurable climate proxies as well.
I’m reminded of Chinese citrus production & New Zealand glaciers, for instance, among many papers available covering affected areas around the world.
I’m glad that Leif comments here, keeping advocates of a role for solar variation in driving terrestrial climate (maybe throughout the solar system) honest & truly skeptical of all explanations for such a complex, possibly chaotic phenomenon.

John Tillman

@TonyB:
Excellent job of Mann-handling. CET is a wonderful resource. Too bad thermometers weren’t around during the height of the Medieval Warm Period.
Liked your citation of frequent contemporary comments on “unprecedented” cooling or warming. And this understated caveat:
‘Global’ records are much less reliable than local ones due to the manner in which they are assembled, and the reality of a meaningful single global temperature is the subject of much debate, as observed by French climatologist Marcel Leroux. ‘Yet, they know very well that there is not one “global” climate, but a large variety of climates, depending on latitude, geographic conditions, and atmospheric dynamics.’ (18)
Brown and Jones commented on the many instances of local cooling trends, seemingly recording different- and cooling- climates to that observed in the global – and warming- record (19)
The Berkeley earth surface temperature project (BEST) also confirm that one third of the Globes weather stations show a cooling, not warming, signal again demonstrating that no single global climate prevails. (20)
Consequently Leroux’s comments seem a reasonable premise, and the attempt to find a warming signal in every piece of data somewhat counter-productive.

It only shows that tree growth cannot be used as a reliable proxy for temperature analysis, because tree growth depends on too many various factors. For example, higher temperatures may accompany a prolonged drought that stunts the tree growth even more than a prolonged freeze (as everybody who lived in the mountains knows).
Therefore, making any conclusions, related to solar activity, from this graph is impossible, whether these conclusions are positive or negative. By proclaiming his negative conclusion, Leif Svalgaard is making the same inexcusable error as anybody who would see in this graph a connection with the solar activity. There is no connection; therefore, there cannot be any conclusion.

Alexander Feht says:
May 26, 2013 at 1:55 pm
It only shows that tree growth cannot be used as a reliable proxy for temperature analysis
Alexander Feht makes the inexcusable error of proclaiming that the graph shows that tree growth cannot be used as a proxy for temperature because it does not show the expected correlation. That [probably correct] conclusion has to be made on other [real] evidence.

lsvalgaard says:
May 26, 2013 at 1:17 pm
vukcevic says:
May 26, 2013 at 1:09 pm
Compare AMO (3 yr ma) and Yamal geomagnetic field change (11 year filter)

http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/YAMAL-GMF-AMO.htm
They have nothing to do with each other…
But they got same father (Helios) and mother (Gaia)
p.s. I have to look at few more locations within Arctic Circle; we know about the strong sun-earth link in the Antarctic
http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/TMC.htm
the Arctic would complete the picture, and open a new page in geo-solar science.
See you.