TEX-86 proxy for past ocean temperature reconstructions challenged, possible 21°C error

From the UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON

Lab experiments question popular measure of ancient ocean temperatures

Understanding the planet’s history is crucial if we are to predict its future. While some records are preserved in ice cores or tree rings, other records of the climate’s ancient past are buried deep in the seafloor.

An increasingly popular method to deduce historic sea surface temperatures uses sediment-entombed bodies of marine archaea, one of Earth’s most ancient and resilient creatures, as a 150-million-year record of ocean temperatures. While other measures have gaps, this one is increasingly popular because it promises to fill in gaps to provide a near-global record of ocean temperatures going back to the age of the dinosaurs.

The study looked at Thaumarchaeota archaea, which are found throughout the world's oceans. These single-celled organisms have one membrane sac that encloses their bodies. This organism, used in the study, was collected from a tropical-water tank at the Seattle Aquarium. CREDIT University of Washington

The study looked at Thaumarchaeota archaea, which are found throughout the world’s oceans. These single-celled organisms have one membrane sac that encloses their bodies. This organism, used in the study, was collected from a tropical-water tank at the Seattle Aquarium. CREDIT University of Washington

But University of Washington research shows this measure has a major hitch: The single-celled organism’s growth varies based on changes in ocean oxygen levels. Results published in August in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences show that oxygen deprivation can alter the temperature calculations by as much as 21 degrees Celsius.

“It turned out that oxygen has a huge, dramatic effect,” said corresponding author Anitra Ingalls, a UW associate professor of oceanography. “It’s a big problem.”

Recent research shows these archaea, which draw energy from mere whiffs of ammonia, make up about 20 percent of microbial life in the oceans. Their bodies are plentiful in the ocean floor.

A method established in 2002 uses fats in the archaea’s cell membrane to measure past ocean temperatures, including during a major warming event about 56 million years ago that is one of the best historical analogs for present-day climate change, and a sudden oceanic cooling of up to 11 degrees Celsius during a period of low ocean oxygen about 100 million years ago, when other records are scarce.

Climate scientists found they could measure ocean temperature by looking at the change in the TEX-86 index, a temperature proxy named for the 86-carbon lipids in the cell membrane, which often tracks the surrounding water temperature.

The method seems to work better in some samples than others, prompting Ingalls and her co-authors to wonder about its physiological basis. The newly published experiments tested that relationship and found an unexpectedly strong response to low oxygen.

“Changing the oxygen gives us as much as 21 degree Celsius shift in the reading,” said first author Wei Qin, a UW doctoral student in civil and environmental engineering. “That’s solid evidence that it’s not just a temperature index.”

This means the TEX-86 measurements are inaccurate in parts of the ocean that may have experienced oxygen changes at the same time — for example, in low-oxygen zones or during major extinction events. This is exactly when the archaea are a popular index since other life forms, whose shells can provide a chemical signature for their growth temperatures, are absent.

It’s not known exactly why the archaea shift their lipid membranes. They may adapt to a temperature change by making their membrane tighter or less brittle in the new environment, Ingalls said. Low oxygen is another big environmental stressor.

“The envelope that encloses the cell is sort of the gatekeeper, and when stress is encountered of any kind, that membrane needs to adjust,” Ingalls said.

The new study is the first to actually look at how these archaea grow in different temperatures. These archaea are famously hardy — it’s the same group that lives in Yellowstone hot springs — but they have stymied attempts to grow them in captivity.

Qin was first author of a 2014 study that was the first to grow and compare individual strains of the marine Thaumarchaeota archaea under different conditions. He used samples from Puget Sound, a Seattle beach and a tropical-water tank at the Seattle Aquarium to show that related strains occupy a wide range of ecological niches.

In the new paper, he shows that the membrane lipids of different strains can have different temperature dependences. Some of them are a straight line, meaning they would be a good indication of past temperature, but others are not.

He also did experiments in which he changed the oxygen concentration of the air above the culture flasks. Results show that as the oxygen level drops, the TEX-86 measures rise dramatically, with reading spanning 15 to 36 degrees C even though all samples were grown at 26 C.

“This index provides an amazing historical record, but it’s very important how you understand it,” Qin said. “Otherwise it could be misleading.”

Knowing that oxygen affects the membrane structure can help improve interpretation of the TEX-86 record. Researchers can disregard samples from low-oxygen water to improve the accuracy of the technique, which as it is used now has error bars of about 2 degrees C.

“Plus or minus 2 degrees is not very good when you think about the sensitivity of the climate system,” Ingalls said. “This gives us a new way of thinking about the data.”

Next, the UW team hopes to do more experiments to learn how other factors, like nutrient levels and pH, affect these archaea’s metabolisms.

“We think there’s reason to believe that there’s all kinds of things that could affect the membrane lipid composition, not just temperature,” Ingalls said.

###

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation. Other co-authors are David Stahl, Laura Carlson, Virginia Armbrust and Allan Devol at the UW and James Moffett at the University of Southern California.

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83 thoughts on “TEX-86 proxy for past ocean temperature reconstructions challenged, possible 21°C error

    • No, alkenones are the product of photosynthetic algae whereas the TEX-86 measurements are of the membrane lipids from ammonia oxidizing archaea, totally different.

  1. Someone call Cooked, Looloo, Nutty and the gang and tell them to get busy scrutinizing all of the climate papers that used these little critters as their ocean temp proxies! Misinformation, false dichotomies, incorrect data! We must Learn from these Mistakes!

    • No, no, no. We don’t need to learn from mistakes. We merely need to massage them, blend them and average them all together and then they miraculously give the correct answer.
      /DoubleSecretSarc

  2. Here the info of the paper:
    doi: 10.1073/pnas.1501568112
    PNAS August 17, 2015
    It is paywalled, as far as I can see.

  3. “These archaea are famously hardy — it’s the same group that lives in Yellowstone hot springs — but they have stymied attempts to grow them in captivity” — but then there is mention of changing the oxygen levels of culture flasks. Were they being grown in captivity or not?

    • See “…samples from Puget Sound, a Seattle beach and a tropical-water tank at the Seattle Aquarium …”

    • How can something so ‘hardy’ be difficult to grow in captivity? That sounds contradictory. Are these archaea smart enough to know when they’re being held captive and refuse to cooperate with their captors? Or are scientists just not smart enough to replicate a suitable environment for these ‘famously hardy’ creatures? That statement raised a flag with me, as well.

    • Keep reading-
      “Qin was first author of a 2014 study that was the first to grow and compare individual strains of the marine Thaumarchaeota archaea under different conditions. He used samples from Puget Sound, a Seattle beach and a tropical-water tank at the Seattle Aquarium to show that related strains occupy a wide range of ecological niches.”
      The ones that live in Yellowstone hot springs are probably not called “marine Thaumarchoaeota archaea.” Thus Qin, the first author of a 2014 study, and that study was the first to “grow and compare individual strains of the MARINE archaea that belong to the same group of archaea that live in Yellowstone hot springs. But the Yellowstone archaea have stymied attempts to grow them in captivity.
      Qin demonstrated that even though the two sample strains (Puget Sound and Seattle aquarium) were related to each other, they have different ecological functions depending on where they were from.
      As far as replicating the environment that the Yellowstone archaea live in, I can only imagine that it is very hard to recreate all of the factors that exist in a millions of years old soup.

  4. What I look forward to is all of the retractions of all of the papers based on TEX-21 … yeah, that’ll be the day.
    w.

    • Thanks, Dave, but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water … we use proxies all the time in climate without even noticing. For example, we use the expansion of mercury as a proxy for the temperature …
      My point is simple. Some proxies are outstanding in the way that they track the underlying phenomena, and some proxies are … well … not. Really not.
      w.

      • If you had a good proxy for oxygen could you then calibrate TEX21 results to give a reasonable temp v time relationship.?

      • Sure, Willis, but expansion of mercury in a controlled environment is a proxy for temperature that is calibrated over a certain temperature range. It’s also not a proxy for anything else.
        Other proxies: pretty much everything we measure. Because what we think we’re measuring isn’t really what we’re measuring, for the most part. When we’re measuring current, we’re really measuring what that current generates in terms of magnetic field strength. When we’re measuring voltage, we’re measuring current induced by that voltage, by the same means.
        The quality of the proxy is really the subject; not that we are using proxies at all. If you have a proxy for e.g. temperature that is also a proxy for e.g. moisture, then it’s not a very good temperature proxy unless you had an independent measurement of moisture. And so on.
        Measurements of combined variables aren’t a problem. An insufficient number of independent measurements of those combined variables is.

      • @Stephen Richards –
        In theory, one could do that. The problem is that someone obviously overlooked one major variable, and there are likely others that would throw off this particular proxy.

      • A mercury thermometer is an excellent proxy for temperature in that it is subject to very few influences that are not directly related to temperature and those are well understood. Very few parameters, unfortunately proxies that rely on any living entity, well, not so good or simple. The old quote from my college days was, given the perfect conditions of temperature, water, sunlight, nutrition, etc. the organism will do whatever it damn well pleases. What makes it even worse is when proxies with known serious issues, say bristle cone pines/strip bark trees are used despite their issues and with willful disregard for same because the researcher likes the result, well…

      • Excellent point. We use models all the time in climate too! F=ma, PV=nRT, q=εσ(T^4) are all models. Some models are better than others at predicting though. That is why Dr. Pielke Sr., is always on about “skill”.

      • “Excellent point. We use models all the time in climate too! F=ma, PV=nRT, q=εσ(T^4) are all models. Some models are better than others at predicting though. That is why Dr. Pielke Sr., is always on about “skill”.
        yep.
        its models all the way down.
        even with measurements there is a model or theory of the device.

      • “Models are OK because everyone uses them”
        This reminds me of the famous quote of Ernest Haekel who tried to prove his “ontology recapitulates phylogeny” version of evolutionary theory by falsifying embryo drawings (omitting a limb bud here and there):

        … on 29 December 1908, Haeckel apparently admitted he had altered drawings of embryos, as quoted in Haeckel’s Frauds and Forgeries (1915) [9]:
        To cut short this unsavory dispute, I begin at once with the contrite confession that a small fraction of my numerous drawings of embryos (perhaps 6 or 8 per cent.) are really, in Dr. Brass’s sense, falsified … After this compromising confession of “forgery” I should be obliged to consider myself “condemned and annihilated,” if I had not the consolation of seeing side-by-side with me in the prisoner’s dock hundreds of fellow-culprits, among them many of the most trusted observers and most esteemed biologists.

      • So what else changes the volume of pure mercury (say 5 nines pure or better) at standard atmospheric pressure, besides Temperature ??
        I’d like to know the name of just one biological entity, that has some property that is known to be a function of Temperature, and no other physical variable.
        Only one. Don’t give the name of some whole class or family or genera or whatever, just one species will do.
        g and yes I know that one might concoct isotopically anomalous samples of mercury; such as for example a 100% sample of 198Hg (If you can make enough of it for a thermometer.)

      • Stephen.
        Those are not models. They are equations or formulae.
        Back to junior high school for you.
        Explain to me again why BEST hired an English major. Because a physics major would have burst out laughing?

    • Models are fine for long ago happenings but these lab experiments are measurements in the here and now. Missing oxygen as an important metric of growth for marine archaea is not fine. It seems pretty short sighted to me. I am surprised because research labs that I am familiar with usually start by preparing a list of likely influences then act accordingly.

      • Temperature itself is a proxy for the energy content.
        However, in the atmosphere, the water vapor (humidity) has a big affect on energy content. There is more energy in air at 80 (F) and 80% humidity than at 115 (F) and 15% humidity.
        Think about the use of anomalies for averaging temperatures, the actual energy would be all over the map (pun intended).

  5. You know something else, oxygen concentrations appear to have a direct effect on the growth rates of most (if not all) of the world’s organisms – hot or cold. I fail to see how this could not be taken into account in the original TEX proxy determination – unless it was and then immediately ignored.

    • There are those that could see a variance of 21C just through oxygen level as something useful. Now to find the diatom equivalent of THE Yamal tree.

    • According to Climate Science®, everything was exactly the same forever until Man came and mucked it up.

      • Did you mean “Man” or “Mann”? Not so sure about the former, but the latter is certainly suspect….

    • Don’t be silly! (sarc alert) Duh! I mean, this has been the established method of determining ACCURATE past temperature changes in the ocean for the past 13 years! Surely scientists figured out long ago that how creatures respond to temperature changes can’t possibly have anything to do with changes in their oxygen levels because global/ocean extinctions are always, ALWAYS, caused by only rising or cooling temperatures.
      😛

      • I am fairly certain that even I can inhibit the growth of/extinct any organism if I remove its oxygen long enough, but not so much if I decrease the average temperature around it by a couple degrees C. 🙂
        Fairly certain, at least.

  6. It seems as if all proxy methods have severe problems finding signal in noise. Like Rumsfeld said, there are known unknowns and unknown unknowns, and a lot of the latter. I still like my professor’s saying, it’s hard to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if he’s not there, but if you try really hard you can convince yourself you hear him purr, whether he’s there or not.

  7. Alarmists couldn’t be assuming Ammonia-oxidizing archaea haven’t evolved in 175 million years, could they?

  8. Just as tree rings are a better proxy for rainfall and habitat competition, than temperature.
    Another discovery from the department of the bleeedin’ obvious. But don’t forget that the Science is still Settled. /sarc
    R

  9. I stopped using the TEX-86 based reconstructions a long time ago (there are both temperature reconstructions and inferred CO2 levels from this methodology).
    An example is the high CO2 levels inferred from Tex-86 temperature reconstructions in the Pliocene produced by Mark Pagani (one of the world’s top experts on CO2). This paper has been cited 266 times already. When it overlaps with the Antarctic ice core levels, the methodology produces CO2 estimates which are two times higher so it was easy to stop using this method.
    http://www.geo.umass.edu/courses/geo763/Pagani.pdf

  10. I am confused. The article states that the organisms are found on the ocean floor, but they are used to deduce sea surface temperature. Can anyone explain that to me?
    Thanks.

  11. Let’s keep in mind that this is how science research is supposed to happen. They had a widely used proxy. They were curious about learning the physiological processes by which the organism changes when exposed to differing environmental conditions. They developed an experiment. The experiment gave them results they were not expecting. They concluded that previous research using the organism as a proxy may have to be revisited.
    Sounds like good work to me.

    • no throw the baby out with the bath water. that way we know nothing with certainty rather than something
      with uncertainty

      • That’s pure sophistry. If you only know something with uncertainty, you know nothing with certainty.

      • Steven, your models all the way down is a bit of a smokescreen, here. Surely you don’t put the spaghetti graphs in the same league as F=ma or E=mc^2 or G=k(m1*m2)/r^2. We can land a robot in a crater on Mars with these. Fanciful models with missing, incorrect and/or badly weighted parameters simply aren’t fit for predicting anything. Minor league modellers with an agenda aren’t in the same profession as the formulators for the mathematically expressed relations above. Think Mozart and a piano player playing his works, there is a difference between these musicians.
        I realize modelling climate is tough, but climate computer modellers could be more legit if they worked on their models to try to match outcomes rather than try to preserve a high climate sensitivity. Never has so much money been spent; so many ‘scientists’ employed; so much computing power been put into service; outside of climate science. And yet, the science hasn’t had a meaningful update in 30yrs. That is an agenda, Steven.

    • Well, timg56, you and I might believe that, but…these scientists just discovered something contrary (contrarian) about a popular method of determining ocean temperature changes. That means that credible (cough) “climate scientists” like Rasmus E. Benestad, Dana Nuccitelli, Stephan Lewandowsky, Katharine Hayhoe, Hans Olav Hygen, Rob van Dorland, and John Cook will have to eagerly “scrutinize this study continually” so that “we” can all learn something from the mistakes that the U of W surely MUST have made, since their findings could nullify 97%+/- of the studies done where these organisms were used as proxies.
      R.E. Benestad stated on Real Climate “What amazes me is that economists have been asked to participate in peer review of manuscripts submitted climate science journals. But economists and climate researchers are not peers. Why would a climate scientist like me review economy articles? -rasmus”
      But amazingly, he asked a bunch of people who are not climate scientists (like experimental psychologists) to participate in the peer review of climate science manuscripts and then publish a manuscript with him. Why would psychology scientists like that review (or write) climate science articles?
      *grin*

      • I assume that you putting “climate scientists” in quotes is indication that you would agree with me that Dana (Scooter) Nuccitelli, Stephan Lewandowsky and John Cook are by no means anything approaching a real scientist, climate or otherwise. Of the other 4, Katherine Hayhoe is the only one I recognize.

  12. Archaea live all over the planet and they have been around since before the planet had an Oxygen atmosphere. They belong to the Prokariots which are single celled critters that lack an organized cell nucleus. The article mentions culturing species from the shore around Puget Sound and related species from a tropical water aquarium in Seattle. But, many archaea are extremophiles and live in places that would kill anything else. So, you may have your choice: some probably live down there in the dark, subsisting on decaying biological material. Some probably like to eat methane clathrates too. Some live right at the beach. Probably a good number live in the surface water of the oceans and sink when they die, carrying their isotopic mixes with them. I suspect that my tale is not nearly involved enough though. I would ignore things that rely on this method since I can imagine some processes that would cause huge errors.

  13. In one way it not really news climate ‘science’ is built on models that fail and data which in reality is often ‘better than nothing ‘ in quality
    In any other area such issues would kill any idea of claiming ‘settled science’ but then this is not ‘science’ as we know it .

  14. A “good” proxy is something that does what the user wants it to do. A skilled user can always do that – even if he has to use it upside down.

  15. To me this proxy is perfect for Climatology ™ , you can produce whatever trends you desire.
    So whats the problem?
    It works as well as the historical land temperature data whereby Climatology produces a trend of 0.001C in an estimated Global average temperature from data with an error range of +/- 2C.
    Such science is impossible to parody any better than Mark Twain did.
    Truly amazing stuff.

  16. Off topic I guess but Bloomberg news reported NASA issued another dire warning about sea level rise. Back on topic – I guess the Dow Jones usefulness to alarmists as a proxy is now over. Unless a Mannian flip is employed.

  17. Meh… What’s an order of magnitude discrepancy in error-bar estimates.
    So what? I mean ” at this point, what difference does it make” between +-2C and +-21C….
    All it means is that ancient oceans were 21C cooler than today, so Gloooobal Waaaarming is even WORSE than we thought!!!!….

  18. Its not what you know you don’t know – its what you don’t know you know. One of the most ignored phrases of research (and the conclusions drawn from that research) is “all other things being equal”. They usually are NOT equal!

  19. This may be a dead end, sort of like trying to estimate the age of Earth by measuring the salinity of the ocean.
    Still, they may yet get something useful.
    Who said: “It is better to have an approximate answer to the right question than to have an exact answer to the wrong question.”

    • “Still, they may yet get something useful.”
      yes, imagine that.
      on the other hand the anti science types would much rather say that because we dont have perfect instruments, we know nothing.

      • I don’t see it as an imperfect instrument problem but rather not setting the original study metrics up to cover the things that influence the measurements.. Or worse, setting the study up to get the answer desired. Or even still worse, setting the study up correctly then throwing out the results that were not desired and keeping the one that was desired.

      • Stephen,
        Would you like to name names as to who these anti-science types are? In any case the question is just how imperfect the instrument is compared to how perfect it needs to be to measure the variable in question. Let’s see… 21 deg C… now what was it we are trying to measure?

      • Steven, you are mindlessly hyperbolic on this theme of people here expecting perfection. You are otherwise an honest, smart guy. I know you can’t be suggesting that sceptics are ruining good stuff, like activist types go on about. For doctrinaire contrarians, which certainly are present, you don’t have to worry about the damage they do – they do more damage to sceptics. You are being dishonest with yourself with this nonsense about “anti-science” type strawmen here. Surely there are more anti-science types in the warming science who are raging against sceptics. To be a good scientist is to welcome sceptics, but you know that. I think you may have a touch of the climate science blues epidemic brought on by the “pause”. Now there is the classic case of D’Nile that that used to be the schtick of psycotherapists before they succumbed to it themselves. I was wondering how you feel about the “Karl therapy” for the pause – just adjust it away. Do you go on these other guys websites and rail about anti-science, too?

      • If you require a certain standard of measurement in order to justify your claims , has is normal in ‘science’ then the failure to meet that standard is at least of cause for concern and its certainly not a good idea to claim ‘settled science’ when you know you cannot produce such valid measurements.
        Simply stuff really , its hardly science 101 and yet climate ‘science’ is based on measurements which they know are in reality of a standard that is ‘better than nothing ‘ becasue they cannot produce measurements to standards required.
        If you need 1,000 measurements, taken ever second and precession level of two decimal place ,but you can only get 10 measurements ever minute to 1 decimal place , then any results may well need to be taken with enough salt to keep the roads ice free through winter , no matter how much ‘modelling’ you do.

      • “on the other hand the anti science types would much rather say that because we dont have perfect instruments, we know nothing.”
        Name them! Name these “anti science types, provide evidence that they have said anything close to what you accuse them of saying: “Because we don’t have perfect instruments, we know nothing”, and then demonstrate how you know that they actually preferred to say that over anything else.
        Or maybe just explain why you chose to make such a ludicrous statement in the first place?

  20. An aside, if I may:
    Can someone please rationally explain to me what an “anti science type”, that Steve Mosher references, is?
    Especially here, where most everything I read is written with the flavor of a cynic and reduced using the scientific method. Isn’t that what the scientific method DEMANDS? Questioning?
    Just because [your pet] theory or hypothesis is uncomfortably questioned and/or challenged, even by the likes of me, a 40+ yo ex-sailor and Master Planner, does not make me – or any like me – “anti-science.” What it makes me is a seasoned cynic, spiced by 25+ years working for or with the Federal Government. Boiled down, I just don’t trust what is told to me as gospel, and my untrained questions should be SIMPLE for the likes of those with Educated Minds to answer – not to be dismissed out-of-hand as “beneath” them.
    Ironically, it would seem that the ones calling us “anti science” because of our uncomfortable questions are the ones who are, in fact, “anti-science.”

    • Sure. That would be the folks like the person I responded to that started all of this, who said:

      In my climate glossary, for the definition of “proxy” I say, “see also WAG.”

      That’s an “anti-science” point of view, one that doesn’t realize that all we have are proxies of varying degrees of fidelity to reality. As I responded to him above, we use the expansion of mercury as a proxy for temperature.
      Best regards,
      w.

      • I beg to differ Willis. After reading the link and information about the person who made the comment you objected to, the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates Mr Burton to be very ” pro-science”. He is clearly NOT an anti science” type.”His comment could at best be called “anti WAG proxy”, and being cautious about proxies in light of how often they are misused is a highly pro science method stance in my opinion. You even used the term “point of view”…and obviously someone can have an “anti proxy” point of view without being anti science!
        You just said yourself that proxies have varying degrees of fidelity to reality, so I’m sure you would agree that it is entirely UNreasonable to call someone who might just rank proxies on a scale from WAG (wild asked guess) to CFTR (complete fidelity to reality) an “anti science type”.
        Might I tongue-in-cheek suggest that your use of Mr Burton as a proxy for an anti science type was far more of a WAG than an actual scientific determination? 🙂

      • Yes, thanks, Aphan! I see that I should have been more precise. I was talking about paleoclimate proxies, which I defined in my glossary as “indirect methods of attempting to infer paleoclimate data from other things such as tree rings, sediment layers & isotope ratios; see also ‘WAG.'”
        I didn’t mean to start an argument, or toss any babies out. I’m pro-science, and pro-babies.
        I’ve made a slight tweak to the glossary entry, as a result of this conversation, to ensure that nobody thinks I’m disparaging the use of, for example, mercury expansion as a proxy for temperature. If anyone has any other suggestions for corrections, clarifications, expansions, or other improvements to my glossary, or to anything else on my sealevel.info site, please let me know!

      • Aphan and Dave, thanks for the clarification. The problem is that there are many skeptics out there that have knee-jerk reactions to terms like “proxy” and “computer model” and the like. Whenever they see “proxy” they automatically throw the study out. Whenever they see “computer model” they go “Yeah, a model,” and discount the study entirely.
        The problem, of course, is that there are models and then there are models, just as there are proxies and then there are proxies. Like people, some models and proxies are good, some are bad.
        And whether Dave intended to or not, his comment here was that for his DEFINITION of proxy, it says “see also WAG” … I’m sorry, but while proxies can be WAGS, it is assuredly not part of their definition.
        Here’s an example to illustrate what I mean. People can be jerks, but that’s not part of the definition of a person. If I said “In my glossary, for the definition of “person” I say, “see also lying SOB.”, you could reasonably accuse me of being misanthropistic and anti-human.
        Similarly, when a man puts forth that definition of proxy as “see also WAG”, he can reasonably be accused of being anti-science. I admit that he may not be anything of the sort … but he has presented himself as such.
        Best regards to you both,
        w.
        [or merely sarcastic. .mod]

        • “Aphan and Dave, thanks for the clarification. The problem is that there are many skeptics out there that have knee-jerk reactions to terms like “proxy” and “computer model” and the like. Whenever they see “proxy” they automatically throw the study out. Whenever they see “computer model” they go “Yeah, a model,” and discount the study entirely.”
          Willis, I know a lot of skeptics, but I have no evidence that any of them are like the ones you described, so
          I’m going to have to take your word on there being “many skeptics” who have “knee-jerk reactions” to certain terms that result in the “automatic throwing out of/discounting of studies entirely”. It certainly has not created a “problem” for me at this point.
          “The problem, of course, is that there are models and then there are models, just as there are proxies and then there are proxies. Like people, some models and proxies are good, some are bad.”
          First, proxies and models are nothing like people. They don’t make decisions, they don’t reason, they don’t have good days and bad days. Some proxies are accurate, and some are not accurate, and there is a field of proxies between the two. Same with models. People can be good, or bad, or a range of things between the two. But it is illogical/irrational to compare the goodness or badness of a PEOPLE to the goodness or badness of proxies and models.
          And whether Dave intended to or not, his comment here was that for his DEFINITION of proxy, it says “see also WAG” … I’m sorry, but while proxies can be WAGS, it is assuredly not part of their definition.
          Let’s examine EXACTLY what Dave’s definition says, because he linked to it intentionally-
          Proxies
          “Climate proxies” are indirect methods of attempting to infer paleoclimate data from other things such as tree rings, sediment layers & isotope ratios; see also “WAG.” ↑
          Do you see Dave’s definition…”Climate proxies are indirect methods of attempting to infer paleoclimate data from other things such as tree rings, sediment layers and isotope ratios”? The inclusion of “see also WAG” to me is the equivalent of your statement that “proxies can be WAGS”. It’s like you agree!
          But lets say that Dave is absolutely and completely ANTI proxy. He proclaims it everywhere, drives a car with “Anti-Proxy” painted across the trunk of it, and has several t-shirts with it stamped on them. Logic tells us that none of that would automatically prove that he is anti-science. You could attempt to insinuate that the definition of science with the definition of proxy are synonymous, but that also would be illogical.
          “Here’s an example to illustrate what I mean. People can be jerks, but that’s not part of the definition of a person. If I said “In my glossary, for the definition of “person” I say, “see also lying SOB.”, you could reasonably accuse me of being misanthropistic and anti-human. ”
          No Willis, I personally couldn’t based upon my own personal understanding of what constitutes reason and logic. I’d likely go to your intentionally linked glossary, and read something along the lines of “Person-a human being regarded as an individual; see also lying SOB” and I’d chuckle and determine that you understand BOTH the definition of a person AND that people can “also” be lying SOBs. I might irrationally and unreasonably accuse you of being misanthropistic and anti-human, but only if I resort to personal assumptions and inferences (without any evidence to support them) like, for example, thinking that your “see also” reference equates with “the writer of this glossary believes that all persons are lying SOBs and by default hates and is in opposition to all humanity. ” I don’t usually engage in irrational assumptions, but if I did, the lack of supporting evidence on your site would make me rethink my position before I blurted it out to someone else. I’d give you the exact same benefit of the doubt I gave to Dave.
          “Similarly, when a man puts forth that definition of proxy as “see also WAG”, he can reasonably be accused of being anti-science. I admit that he may not be anything of the sort … but he has presented himself as such.”
          Now, since that man put did put forth a real definition of proxy, and added “see also WAG”, the only thing you can reasonable accuse him of, based on the factual evidence, is being anti-proxy. If you think that your accusation should be viewed as perfectly reasonable and defensible, and NOT as a personal, emotional knee-jerk reaction to the term “WAG” that is eerily similar to the “anti-science” behavior you outlined above…then maybe I need to accuse you of presenting yourself as totally oblivious and anti-fact. (And possibly anti-semicolon…*grin*)

  21. I suspect the use of “anti-science term” is meant for those who think that there was no warming from 1978 to 1997. They used to be called “deniers” but the 19 year and continuing plateau period put an end to that term. The basic problem is the IPCC was given a mandate to study only manmade global warming. The 19 year plateau is proof that natural cycles are at work and the influence of carbon dioxide, if any, cannot be proven but has to be small at best.
    It is kinda like hiring a carpenter on a construction job and the only tool you give him is a hammer. Everything on the job site looks like a nail.

  22. What this study has done, obviously, is to cast serious doubt on a favourite palaeo-temperature proxy. The authors just rendered every study using the TEX-86 dubious, if not useless. But what does Qin say?
    “This index provides an amazing historical record, but it’s very important how you understand it,” Qin said. “Otherwise it could be misleading.” (Really?)
    Not rocking the boat? Other, less charitable metaphors spring to mind.
    If these micro-organisms are that sensitive to oxygen content of the overlying air, what other environmental parameters might cause other changes in the target parameter (which is, of course, the inferred ambient temperature)? pH? salinity (and permutations thereof)? oxygen content of the water (not the air)? water depth? turbidity? The list is limited only by one’s imagination. And if they feed off ammonia, perhaps the availability of ammonia might play a role? To use any organism as a really reliable proxy, you would need to conduct a series of experiments where you varied one environmental parameter at a time, and determined how each parameter affected your measurements, The you could build a correction matrix, and all you would have to do then is find other proxies that responded only to each of the interfering parameters. And to be sure of that, you would need to do controlled experiments on each of those proxies………………………….. and so on and so on. That would be rigorous science of the kind I learned. Anything else would be…………….. (fudging it?)
    Could it possibly be that living organisms are too complex to act as simple proxies for their physical environment?
    Thanks to these authors for a bit of real science, even if they wimp out about where it leads them.

  23. Letting the days go by
    Let the water hold me down
    Letting the days go by
    Water flowing underground
    Into the blue again
    After the money’s gone
    Once in a lifetime
    Water flowing underground
    And you may ask yourself
    How do I work this?
    And you may ask yourself
    Where is that large automobile?
    And you may tell yourself
    This is not my beautiful house
    And you may tell yourself
    This is not my beautiful wife
    Letting the days go by
    Let the water hold me down
    Letting the days go by
    Water flowing underground
    Into the blue again
    After the money’s gone
    Once in a lifetime
    Water flowing underground
    Same as it ever was…
    Same as it ever was…
    Same as it ever was…
    Same as it ever was…
    Same as it ever was…
    Same as it ever was…
    Same as it ever was…
    Same as it ever was…
    Water dissolving…and water removing
    There is water at the bottom of the ocean
    Under the water, carry the water at the bottom of the ocean
    Remove the water at the bottom of the ocean
    Letting the days go by
    Let the water hold me down
    Letting the days go by
    Water flowing underground
    Into the blue again
    Into the silent water
    Under the rocks and stones
    There is water underground
    Letting the days go by
    Let the water hold me down
    Letting the days go by
    Water flowing underground
    Into the blue again
    After the money’s gone
    Once in a lifetime
    Water flowing underground
    And you may ask yourself
    What is that beautiful house?
    And you may ask yourself
    Where does that highway go to?
    And you may ask yourself
    Am I right?…Am I wrong?
    And you may say to yourself yourself
    My God!…What have I done?!
    Letting the days go by
    Let the water hold me down
    Letting the days go by
    Water flowing underground
    Into the blue again
    Into the silent water
    Under the rocks and stones
    There is water underground
    Letting the days go by
    Let the water hold me down
    Letting the days go by
    Water flowing underground
    Into the blue again
    After the money’s gone
    Once in a lifetime
    Water flowing underground
    Same as it ever was…
    Same as it ever was…
    Same as it ever was…

  24. The sensitivity of any proxy to all perturbing variables, in hard science, has to be calculated and given a pass before any use of the proxy is acceptable. It is elementary poor science to use a proxy that has not passed such screening.
    My first undergrad job with CSIRO about 1965, involved feeding introduced cattle pasture plants with various amounts of nutrients, in controlled conditions in a glasshouse, then performing ANOVA type analysis. Once we had a feel for perturbing variables in the nutrition mixes, including higher order effects (like nutrient A response was related to nutrient B levels), we took the experiments to the field and grew the plants in a variety of the most common soils.
    From this, we determined what we considered to be an ideal supplementary mix of nutrients for real life, plus an affordable mix. There was some variation between these mixes, but we were not seeking numbers that were so accurate that, in the case above, one could determine a single number representing a condition 100 million years ago as the TEX-86 index was supposed to do. Frankly, the latter is impossible, because it is impossible to discover and quantify the perturbing variables to the extent required. Evolutionary changes, for one thing, become a factor that has to be quantified.
    (The head of the plant nutrition project, Dr Les Edye, was later awarded a CSIRO Medal for excellence in science. Several pasture grasses and legumes from abroad were assessed as suitable for raising beef yields and the country has benefitted since then. Townsville stylo legume Stylosanthes humilis is now widespread in the northern half of Australia. I did the first ANOVA analysis for stylo by hand using pencil, paper and eraser, by Fisher’s method, because calculators were hard to get and slow and mechanical. Perhaps this made us learn the ‘feel’ of our data better, which is a definite plus over feeding it blind into a computer).

  25. Steve;
    “No, if you know all things with uncertainty you know no things with certainty”.
    Are you certain of that??

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