Forget tree rings, old TV footage of trees in cycle races is the newest climate proxy

From the “desperation to find climate change everywhere” department comes this, this, thing…

Cycling : Tour of Flanders / Pro Tour Koppenberg NOTE: all these people stomping around and compacting the soils has NO EFFECT on the tress. Only climate change can do that…science says so.

TV coverage of cycling races can help document the effects of climate change


Analysing nearly four decades of archive footage from the Tour of Flanders, researchers from Ghent University have been able to detect climate change impacts on trees. Their findings were published today in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

Focusing on trees and shrubs growing around recognisable climbs and other ‘landmarks’ along the route of this major annual road cycling race in Belgium, the team looked at video footage from 1981 to 2016 obtained by Flemish broadcaster VRT. They visually estimated how many leaves and flowers were present on the day of the course (usually in early April) and linked their scores to climate data.

The ecologists found that the trees had advanced the timing of leafing and flowering in response to recent temperature changes. Before 1990, almost no trees had grown leaves at the time of the spring race. After that year, more and more trees visible in the television footage – in particular magnolia, hawthorn, hornbeam and birch trees – were already in full leaf.

These shifts were most strongly related to warmer average temperatures in the area, which have increased by 1.5°C since 1980.

“Early-leafing trees can be good news for some species as they grow faster and produce more wood”, says Prof. Pieter De Frenne from Ghent University, lead author of this study. “However, their leaves also cast shadows. When trees flush earlier in the year, they shadow for a longer period of time, affecting other animals and plants, and even whole ecosystems.”

“Some of the flowers growing under these trees may not be able to receive enough sunlight to bloom. As a result, insects can go without nectar and may struggle to find enough spots to sunbathe”, he adds.

Phenology – the study of natural phenomena that recur periodically such as leafing and flowering – is mostly based on long-term observations and repeat photography, with data often being biased towards common species or geographical regions. In this study, archive footage allowed the researchers to use previously unexploited records of twelve tree species in the Flanders region in order to build long-term datasets of phenological responses.

“Our method could also be used to collect data on other aspects important for ecological or evolutionary research, such as tree health, water levels in rivers and lakes, and the spread of invasive species. Only by compiling data from the past will we be able to predict the future effects of climate change on species and ecosystems”, De Frenne comments.

Television footage of cycling races lends itself well to research as these have relatively fixed routes and are organised around the globe, providing an opportunity to study a diverse range of species and locations that are currently understudied.

De Frenne points out that researchers could also take advantage of video material from other annual sports events such as marathons, golf tournaments and rally races, or even news coverage featuring open-air concerts or iconic landmarks surrounded by trees.


Pieter De Frenne, Lisa Van Langenhove, Alain Vandriessche, Cedric Bertrand, Kris Verheyen, and Pieter Vangansbeke (2018) ‘Using archived television video footage to quantify phenology responses to climate change’ is published in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution on 3 July 2018 and will be available here:

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July 3, 2018 12:31 am

The obvious flaw is “(usually in early April)” if the races are not on a consistent date then the information is usless.

David Chappell
Reply to  BillP
July 3, 2018 12:51 am

and are the same trees…

Adam Gallon
Reply to  David Chappell
July 3, 2018 1:02 am

Yes, same trees. The course goes up a number of cobbled climbs, Koppenberg, Oude Kwaremont & Geraadsbergen being the most famous.

Reply to  David Chappell
July 4, 2018 10:45 am

Not to mention the antics of groundskeepers, who may or may not have fertilized, watered, pest-sprayed, trimmed, and occasionally chainsawed said trees.

I could arrange any sort of “trend” with my own trees, depending on how religious I was that year about cutting back the wild cucumber (which climbs on and debilitates trees).

Basically, it’s “lay out a bunch of random snapshots of more or less the same area sometime during the same season, and claim they represent a trend solely because the attached dates let you put them in chronological order.”

Adam Gallon
Reply to  BillP
July 3, 2018 1:00 am

The races are, Tour of Flanders is held the first week in April.

Robert B
Reply to  Adam Gallon
July 3, 2018 5:00 am

The course has changed a lot since the 80s. Although many climbs are always used, one of those was only a regular inclusion since 1986. The start date has varied by 7 days in just the past 5 years.

Reply to  BillP
July 3, 2018 5:18 am

This alleged research is another subjective opinion masquerading as a gerrymandered science conglomeration.

A): Bicycle races are used that are not seasonally fixed points, i.e. XX days following or preceding the spring equinox; but, are instead general calendar references.
* 1) Milan‐San Remo, Usually held on the third Saturday of March
* 2) Tour de France, Traditionally, the race is held primarily in the month of July
* 3) Liège–Bastogne–Liège, often called La Doyenne (“The Old Lady”), It is held annually in late April
* 4) Tour of Flanders, (Dutch: Ronde van Vlaanderen), also known as De Ronde (“The Tour”) is raced every first Sunday of April

B): Vague general comparisons are used where:
* 1) low resolution films are compared to higher resolution films,
* 2) Films used are unknown color, granularity, speed,
* 3) Chosen foliage images are different perspectives, different vantage points, different distances under different clarity and weather conditions; e.g. an up close tree trunk with few branches image is compared to a full tree image taken from a distance,
* 4) No attempts to determine if plant damaging weather or insect infestations, or even if foliage was stripped by race attendees, affecting foliage.

C): Images were subjectively selected

D) Selected images are subjectively evaluated on a gross scale (0-4)

E) A smorgasbord of calculations were repetitively run until meaningful results were achieved.

Subjective decisions throughout this research strains credulity.

Joe - the non climate scientists
Reply to  ATheoK
July 3, 2018 5:31 am

C): Images were subjectively selected
D) Selected images are subjectively evaluated on a gross scale (0-4)

Same is true of the pictures of glacier retreat – They Always show an early 1900 photo then skip to the 1980’s /1990’s / 2000’s to give the impresssion most if not all the glacier return happened in after 1980 – when global warming accellerated.

Rarely do they show the glacier retreat during the 1920’s / 1930’s – Why – because that would the massive warming before the massive increase in co2

Ben of Houston
Reply to  Joe - the non climate scientists
July 3, 2018 11:28 am

At least with Glaciers, you have an objective measurement in feet, and it measures a net change over a long period of time. While you have to be careful what exactly you are measuring, that’s orders of magnitude better than this claptrap. How it passed the straight-face test, much less peer review, I have no idea.

Reply to  BillP
July 3, 2018 11:42 am

These results must be “adjusted” for local conditions.
– Back then, these cobble stone roads were the ONLY roads in the Ardennes. Today most of them are closed for all traffic except farm vehicles.
– Since these roads are no longer critical for mobility, they no longer receive road salts to keep them free of ice and snow. A layer of snow can protect the roots from extreme temperatures.
– The effect of the lack of lead, nitrates and carbohydrates from exhaust systems, due to mandatory catalyser systems, must be considered.
– The lack of sulfur in motor fuels and in coal for power plants has some effect on the global albedo.

– Oh, and the improved CO2 levels from starvation levels to barely adequate will have helped trees survive winter.

John in Oz
Reply to  Rlu
July 3, 2018 3:53 pm

Possibly add more people lining the roads so more CO2 from exhalation which the trees would love.

If they can spout cr@p, then so can I.

Kevin Lohse
July 3, 2018 12:38 am

In 2004, I planted a star magnolia bush in my garden because it came into bloom on April 10, the anniversary of my Father’s death. This year, the bush came into bloom on April 10. Proof positive that there has been no gore bull warming for the last 14 years. (!?)

Reply to  Kevin Lohse
July 3, 2018 6:03 am

Yes. It has been recorded that that one spot has not warmed. Tony Heller would like to hear from you. Be sure to ignore the single spots that have warmed.

Reply to  Alley
July 3, 2018 7:52 am

On the other hand, any single spot that has warmed is proof positive that CO2 is going to kill us all.

Reply to  Alley
July 3, 2018 8:16 am

Kevin Lohse was sarcastic, obviously. Well, not that obviously, obviously, since you missed the sarcasm

J Mac
Reply to  Alley
July 3, 2018 9:29 am

And now we know where the term ‘blind alley’ originated…..

Reply to  Alley
July 3, 2018 12:11 pm

You mean like the one tree out of 34 that was selected at Yamal?

Reply to  Kevin Lohse
July 4, 2018 12:35 am

At my previous house there was a cherry plum, primus cerasifolia, that I used to gauge whether it was an early or late spring. Over 32 years the earliest it flowered was March 1st and the latest was April 1st. The biggest effect was caused by the previous winter, cold winter, late flowering. There was no steady increase in the number of early flowerings.

Reply to  Kevin Lohse
July 4, 2018 10:48 am

I have a Nanking cherry that would confound them all. Last year it was completely done blooming by early April. This year it didn’t even bud up til mid-May. This proves that a frost giant has taken up residence in my back yard, leading to warming where the frost giant presently is not.

Moderately Cross of East Anglia
July 3, 2018 12:50 am

This is real desperation and anectodal rather than scientific research. By the same token many English readers will be familiar with a very famous piece of footag of a train journey from London Victoria station to Brighton, a journey of about sixty minutes, which was condensed into a couple of minutes or so. The original was shot in the 1930s or 1940s.

Recently the same journey was reshot in colour. I made a point of watching it out of pure nostalgia. But what struck me was how much more in the way of trees, shrubs and general greenery there seemed to be in the modern version .

This could be down to all sorts of things, like trackside maintenance, apparent rather than real difference when comparing black and white footage to colour, change in gardening habits or even more CO2 in the air. But I wouldn’t claim it was scientific proof of climate change.
Perhaps I should and apply for a grant ?

David Chappell
Reply to  Moderately Cross of East Anglia
July 3, 2018 12:59 am

Only a similar theme, a disused quarry I played in as a child in the late 1940s was, when I last visited about 10 years ago, totally overgrown with trees and bushes. Mother Nature doesn’t sit around twiddling her thumbs.

Wayne Townsend
Reply to  Moderately Cross of East Anglia
July 3, 2018 6:37 am

Of course, you’re doing it all wrong. You can’t use footage from the 1930s high temperature period (which they have adjusted out of the temperature data). You have to look for footage from the cool period of the 70s into 80s so that the “true effects” of Global Warming can be evident. Please remember to cherry-pick accurately.

Reply to  Moderately Cross of East Anglia
July 3, 2018 6:42 am

Perhaps it’s because the people living along the track aren’t living in abject poverty anymore and can afford the time to plant trees and shrubs in their back gardens. Many of the benefits of modern (western) living appear to be completely missed by the watermelon party.

Reply to  Hivemind
July 3, 2018 9:12 am

Its amazing how trees and foliage can grow in a mere 30 years.
“Bring me a…shrubbery.”

Reply to  Moderately Cross of East Anglia
July 3, 2018 4:24 pm

I have noticed the same. I live close to a rail line. Historical photos, taken in 1900 and 1920 show no trees on the embankments: now we have woodland. I put it down to rail operators not worried about trees any more whereas in days of steam they were cut back to minimise fire risk.

Reply to  Moderately Cross of East Anglia
July 4, 2018 9:20 am

In the clubhouse of the Ste. Agatha, Quebec golf course is a circa 1920 photo of the valley the course is built in. Very few trees due to logging boom of the early 20th century. Today, you can view off the deck, it is all forest again, except for the fairways and greens, which is a small part of the valley.

Reply to  Moderately Cross of East Anglia
July 4, 2018 9:26 am

Wow, it’s hard to correct Ste. Agatha to Ste. Agathe with spell correct turned on.

Reply to  Moderately Cross of East Anglia
July 4, 2018 10:50 am

Most often that sort of increased vegetation is due to the decline in grazing, mostly of sheep.

David Chappell
July 3, 2018 12:52 am

“insects … may struggle to find enough spots to sunbathe”
They should put their towels out earlier.

Reply to  David Chappell
July 3, 2018 4:20 am

David Chappell :
“insects … may struggle to find enough spots to sunbathe”
They should put their towels out earlier.

Reply to  Trevor
July 3, 2018 7:56 am

Do what I do when there are Germans: change hotels.

Reply to  Trevor
July 3, 2018 8:53 am

The French insects forgot their paperz.

Reply to  David Chappell
July 3, 2018 8:19 am

I thought all insect died, because, you know, pesticides

dodgy geezer
July 3, 2018 12:53 am

…Phenology – the study of natural phenomena that recur periodically…

As far as I can see, a herd-like stampede towards whatever scare is currently newsworthy is a regular and periodic phenomenon amongst the Homo Sapiens (Cue Edna Krabappel Ha!) species…

July 3, 2018 1:16 am

That’s not science. That isn’t a measurement of anything, it’s not even a decent observation…. what th’ hell?

Tom in Florida
Reply to  J.H.
July 3, 2018 4:30 am

Don’t forget the part where “They visually estimated”. Or better known as WAG.

Robin Matyjasek
Reply to  Tom in Florida
July 3, 2018 5:18 am

“They visually estimated” aha so this is a direct quote that dates from Nelson’s time…

Reply to  J.H.
July 3, 2018 6:37 am

Why would leaves come out earlier? Why would blooms be earlier?

Reply to  Alley
July 3, 2018 7:54 am

As others have pointed out there are many reasons for leaves and blooms to come out earlier, only one of them has to do with the temperature of the air.
Regardless, the so called study doesn’t show that the leaves are coming out earlier.
They don’t control for the different dates the race occurred on.
They don’t control for any of the other variables that impact the date of first leaf.

Reply to  Alley
July 3, 2018 9:16 am

Every year there are areas where trees “bud” early and are subsequently hit with late frosts.
This is not new.
The trees do not die, they adjust.

July 3, 2018 1:27 am

This reminds me of a conversation I had with the local head of the Conservation and Land Management (CALM) in SW Australia. I asked him what evidence he had to shut off a local national park to hikers because of the perceived threat of Dieback disease for which they spent huge sums putting in barriers, employing more staff etc to police it. He said he looked at old photos and found there were many more trees in the past than now, which shows the affect of the Dieback disease.

I burst out laughing. He asked why. I said because local fishermen used to regularly set fire to the bush in that park to make it easier to access their favourite fishing spots. This may be malpractice in a national park, but it had nothing to do with dieback disease. So I went and got a bunch of my dad’s old photos which showed that tree cover was variably from year to year. I then I asked him how many soil samples had been taken to prove Dieback disease existed in the park? He got angry and admitted none had been taken, but Dieback had been reported elsewhere in SW Australia. CALM to this day receives huge funding for Dieback disease control. I wonder what the motive was?

honest liberty
Reply to  pbweather
July 3, 2018 7:03 am

agenda 21

Reply to  pbweather
July 3, 2018 8:55 am

Job security.

Peta of Newark
July 3, 2018 1:48 am

Gospel truth:
In 2017, average temp for April in my garden was 9.6 degC
In 2018, average temp for April in my garden was 10.2 degC

Eat yer heart out ‘Global Warming’ – Nottinghamshire sets the pace!!!

Yet local farmers were grumbling (no surprise there of course) that:
“Nothing was growing”
“Couldn’t let livestock out of winter housing”
“Pointless planting potatoes, barley, carrots, (digester bound) maize or any springtime crop”

There is a small variety of fruit trees in my garden, apple, plum, pear and cherry.
When I moved in, Dec 2016, there had obviously been a truly epic apple crop
In 2017 I got virtually no apples or cherries but bucketfuls of plums and pears – ones I could eat!!!
(I have NEVER myself previously grown an edible pear, mis-shapen & miniature cannonballs is all I’ve ever known)

This year is going to be another epic apple year but no plums and no pears.
I am making myself really rather ill from eating cherries straight off the tree – never known anything like.

What gives? Would a Trend Line solve that one? Arm-waving or Ad-homs?
Or should I just go pick some more cherries, before the wild birds scoff the lot?

Awwwwww Ratz & Damn, just realised where I’m going wrong.
Only dog-walkers, old folks taking a stroll and people pushing prams come past my house.
A World Class cycle race would show that plum tree what for and get it producing some fruit.

Reply to  Peta of Newark
July 3, 2018 3:23 am

prune the plum

Reply to  ozspeaksup
July 3, 2018 4:25 am

ozspeaksup :
“prune the plum”
YOU HAVE TO HAVE A PLUM before you can make a PRUNE !

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Trevor
July 3, 2018 5:32 am

If you have a prune on your mind it is empirical evidence that you have been exposed to too many pictures of Maxine Waters lately.

Reply to  Tom in Florida
July 3, 2018 9:34 am

California Raisin.

Reply to  Tom in Florida
July 3, 2018 12:41 pm

You know, Tom, you could post a spew alert!!!

Just a courtesy. I had my nose in a mug of ice tea.

Robin Matyjasek
Reply to  ozspeaksup
July 3, 2018 5:21 am

Shouldn’t that use the past tense, as in “prude”?

Richard Brimage
Reply to  Peta of Newark
July 3, 2018 6:54 am

Those hard pears make fantastic preserves. Great on hot biscuits.

Reply to  Peta of Newark
July 3, 2018 7:14 am

“Yet local farmers were grumbling (no surprise there of course) that:
“Nothing was growing”
“Couldn’t let livestock out of winter housing”
“Pointless planting potatoes, barley, carrots, (digester bound) maize or any springtime crop”

Farmers know dang well and under what conditions they can plant or allow livestock out of winter housing.
Meaning, if you’re buying corn for July 4th, it ain’t grown locally as corn requires greater than 90 days, with most varieties requiring greater than 100 days till harvest. A number that does not take into account slow germination!
Milk farmers will allow their livestock out as soon as the fields can support cows with fodder and not turn into churned mud. They’re quite used to bringing their cows back into livestock housing anytime the weather turns sour.

Farmers know that cold ground, regardless of weather causes seeds and potato eyes to fail sprouting and often rot.
Corn slated for ethanol production is usually planted later in late spring, and allowed to grow, ripen and dry during late summer hot weather.
Your County/state agriculture extension services can provide you information on required temperatures.

They also provide plenty of literature regarding orchard crops care and pruning.

If allowed, pears will over produce one year and fail to produce much the next. Pruning and fertilizing increases fruit size and enables easier picking.
Pick pears before full ripeness. Pears kept in a fridge will keep, for awhile. Pears left in the sun or on countertops will finish ripening, (pears ripened in sunny spots tend to be sweeter).
Other fruits can be treated similarly, but they do not increase in sweetness, just ripeness (softer, more fragrant and less tart). Maximum sweetness for apples and peaches is best reached on the tree
Like cherries, few things match eating fully ripened fruit direct from the tree; peaches, plums, apricots, etc. Indeed, many of the finest dessert fruit must be self harvested, because they do not travel well; e.g. Belle of Georgia white peaches bruise badly just carrying them from a tree to the house. There are newer varieties descended from old time dessert peaches, but the best of them do not travel well, though a little better than several hundred yards to a kitchen.

Prune the tree in late December, January and early February. Some pruning can be performed later in the year, but avoid the spring sap season as the cuts do not seal well.

Farmers grumbling about topics they’re experts at is akin to people stating, “I saw my first robin today”. Which is meaningless when some robins overwinter in that locale, (much of the mid-Atlantic)

Reply to  ATheoK
July 3, 2018 9:26 am

A enlightening comment, just one quibble:
“but they do not increase in sweetness, just ripeness (softer, more fragrant and less tart). ”
Isn’t less tart …sweeter?
I was under the thought that ripening allowed conversion of more complex carbohydrates into simpler sugars.
Making attractive fruit is the purpose of fruiting trees. It’s how they get animals to spread their seeds.

Reply to  ATheoK
July 3, 2018 9:43 am

Good info, ATheoK. Obviously a real farmer.

Few believe me, but if I let my wild black cherries on one particular tree ripen to very soft, they are fairly sweet (no longer bitter) with their characteristic strong, wild flavor. Quite good.

July 3, 2018 1:56 am

A flower that spends the entire summer in the shade is worried about 2 weeks more shade at the start of spring?

And insects cant sunbathe? What, have their wings stopped working so they cant fly off somewhere sunny, like Portugal, or Casablanca?

Dear oh dear, what shall we do!

Ian W
July 3, 2018 2:37 am

It has been known and demonstrated for some time that plants including trees grow better when there is more CO2 available, this includes resistance to stressors like temperatures and lack of water. The entire planet has been greening in the last decades as shown by satellite imagery. What the students have observed in microcosm is what is happening across the planet. Plants were being suppressed by the low concentrations of CO2 and are now slowly recovering. Plants would almost certainly grow even better at the 1000ppm plus that market gardeners use in their greenhouses.

Reply to  Ian W
July 3, 2018 4:58 am

It’s the increased CO2 wot done it. As I look across the street from my apartment here in Sydney I see deciduous trees that still have quite a few healthy green leaves on, even at this time of year. Years ago there would have been only a few brown leaves left, or no leaves at all.

old construction worker
July 3, 2018 2:57 am

‘Analysing nearly four decades of archive footage from…’ Only four decades! To think tax payer paid for this study.

Steven Mosher
July 3, 2018 3:16 am

Now watch.
The other day on wuwt folks argued that we know there was an LIA because of paintings. Paintings..

Not a peep from others who claim to be skeptics.

Now watch all the flaws people find when its actual film
Used to support climate change.

LIA climate change, any evidence will do.
Modern climate change, doubt everything.

Cf the D word

Roger Knights
Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 3, 2018 3:22 am

I think those who scoff at this photo technique are an unrepresentative sample. It would be nice if polls were posted on threads like this to get a measure of average opinion.

Reply to  Roger Knights
July 3, 2018 7:59 am

I haven’t seen much scoffing at photo techniques in general. Mostly people pointing to some of the problems with this study.

Ian W
Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 3, 2018 3:25 am

Steven, See my post above – it can all be explained by more CO2 and the planet greening observed already by satellite.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 3, 2018 3:29 am

of course theres also paintings (cos film wasn’t invented) of the medieval warming too..
and rough dates as to when it was warm enough to build those abbeys n churches etc
and bespoke paintings from any period with provenance are a fairly good ref point.
my wattle tree flowers 2 weeks later than my neighbours just 100 yards away, well for thelast 10yrs it has.
this year ONE branch flowered at the last week of June and the neighbours is just showing budburst colours.
soil water and temps all the same.
nature does what it damn well pleases and it behooves us to remember that;-)

Bryan A
Reply to  ozspeaksup
July 3, 2018 11:06 pm

Birds are another indication of improvements in the ecosystem. Our local nests have just had their second fledgling groups graduate from flight school. The first was in mid April.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 3, 2018 3:44 am

Did they notify the trees??!! Did it change the biome classification? An earlier leaf date of trees is NOW iron-clad proof of climate change? Really? Did they document new species moving into the area and previous species being unable to be competitive in their native ranges? And, land use changes – were those analyzed to document any impact of urbanization?

Reply to  Emory
July 3, 2018 4:33 am

Emory…………careful you don’t RUB people up the wrong way !!!
ANSWERS ARE PROBABLY : No, no , no , maybe , doubtful and unlikely , no and no.
BUT on the other hand : SOMEONE , SOMEWHERE is probably SEEKING A
GOVERNMENT GRANT to find out that YOU have raised the issues !!!

Bryan A
Reply to  Emory
July 3, 2018 11:08 pm

Doesn’t leafing and greening earlier mean a more active and longer lasting carbon sink?
It would seem to me that leafing begins the activity of the woody carbon sink and early leafing leads to a longer sink season

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 3, 2018 4:10 am

What an idiotic comment Steven. Even more retarded than usual. You’re slipping.

Robert B
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
July 3, 2018 5:41 am

Might need clarification. Exactly what temperature are we talking about? Max, min or soil? Average max Sept temps ( here in Australia) for my town shows 0 trend for 1980 to 2016 and almost a degree for 1982 to 2017 so how significant do you think this very subject assessment from photos for the first two weeks of April, because even in recent years the start varied from March 31 to April 6, really is.
I haven’t read the paintings proxy that is referred to but I suspect that nobody tried to turn it into a quantitative trend to one decimal place.

Robert B
Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 3, 2018 6:48 am

The other day turns out to be over a year ago and nobody did any such thing. You wrote
“The painting is not a photograph. In fact, He painted the wrong boat. Weather than night was snow/ rain.
Not very cold for that location at that time of year
You can check Thomas Jeffersons weather Diary as well to see what that winter was like.”
And the reply from 2 hotel 9 was
“Yep, according to the eyewitness account you list it was a harsh winter, beginning early and lasting well into spring. Thanks for pointing that out!”
And as the following comment points out, the paintings show many scenes of people skating on frozen rivers that do not freeze anymore. He also points out how a cold snap of freezing cold is not enough but a long very cold winter is needed. The paintings show something very unusual while leafless trees in Flanders at the beginning of April is not. This requires fitting a trend to it.
You’re a disgraceful excuse for a scientist, Mosher.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Robert B
July 3, 2018 8:28 am

Technician, not a scientist.

David Chappell
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
July 3, 2018 11:24 am

Isn’t he an English major?

Reply to  David Chappell
July 3, 2018 2:21 pm

He should retake those English courses. That might improve his writing skills.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 3, 2018 7:58 am

As usual, Steven pretends that he understands what others have been talking about.

Most of the paintings being discussed illustrate things that can no longer be held because of climate changes. Such as ice fairs in London during the Little Ice Age.

People criticizing this study have been criticizing the methodology of the study.
You know, the actual science part.
Perhaps if you spent some time being a scientist rather than settling for mere trolldom you would already be familiar with that concept.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 3, 2018 1:55 pm

Mosher ==> Are you intentionally channeling an “angry ‘tweenage troll” with the above comment?
The study is one of phenology – the timing of things plant and animal — first leaf out, blooming, molts and color change for animals (like the snowshoe hare and many others). That the authors have used the tagline”climate change” to indict the hawthorns and magnolias for leafing out somewhat earlier in the Spring, when judged against an event that itself moves forward and backward against the same time scene by a week to ten days.
It is a fascinating of looking into the past when no other records have been kept.
The “climate change” connection is produced through excessive statistics, see the paper itself.
Had they stuck to their original hypothesis, that images could be used to “see into the past”, they would have had a winner. The effort to find some wee tiny link to climate change ruined the effect.
Phenology is the study of thew changing timing of things — if there were no changes, there would be no field of study.
It is only mildly interesting which plants have responded in which ways — to what can at best be considered “possible causes”.

Bryan A
Reply to  Steven Mosher
July 3, 2018 11:17 pm

Mr. Mosher,
Earlier greening is a sign of the Climate changing to one that supports a happier biome and increased productivity in the carbon cycle. Doesn’t sound much like the gloom and doom scenario C.C. is being portrayed as or that Climate Pessimists are proselytizing about.

July 3, 2018 4:00 am

“As a result, insects can go without nectar and may struggle to find enough spots to sunbath.”

Drivel. Pure, unadulterated, dimwitted drivel. Insects don’t SUNBATH. Not only is it misspelled, it shows ignorance of insects as a family unto themselves. Cave crickets, for example, don’t like sunshine. They prefer dark, damp places and show up in my bathtub when the weather gets cold. The ignorance is strong with this bunch.

This article is drivel. Any grant money these clowndog twits received for this slop should be returned with an apology for wasting time and pretending the “researchers” were doing anything besides watching reruns of “Coronation Street”. They are idiots.

I said earlier “stop giving money to these people.” This “study” is a good reason to stop giving them money. And turf them out at the end of the fiscal year. Tell them to get real jobs and do useful things like bussing tables and changing crankcase oil.

Ken Lonion
Reply to  Sara
July 3, 2018 7:27 am

I worked my way through college repairing cars and fixing air conditioners. Both trades need the use of some form of logic and understanding of how the systems work. Since I am convinced that there are large gaps in the researcher’s logic and understanding of their supposed field I do not think I would want them near my car or A/C. While changing oil does not need much logic you still would need to know which end of the wrench to use to unscrew the drain plug.

Reply to  Ken Lonion
July 3, 2018 12:26 pm

That’s a good point, and at the same time, I doubt that they know what a wrench is in the first place.

Reply to  Sara
July 3, 2018 8:01 am

An insect that sunbathes is also known as food for any passing bird.

Reply to  Sara
July 3, 2018 8:34 am

Actually, flying insect DO sunbath, to warm up so they can fly.
Bugs also occasionally sunbath, apparently because of germicide effect of sun rays.

Reply to  paqyfelyc
July 3, 2018 9:41 am

Good point, paqyfelyc, and I was a bit hasty in my reaction to the article, because I have plenty of photos of dragonflies enjoying the sun’s beneficial radiation, on the wing and at rest. I had a blue dasher sitting on one of my pots of plants after a rain, because the pot trays were loaded with water. They also come to my birdbath.
But in regard to the term ‘sunbath(e)’, the word I prefer is ‘bask’, which is what most of them do, anyway. They bask in the sun’s rays.

July 3, 2018 4:07 am

Well, that doesnt square with my observation.
I was in London the second week of April 1980 and I distinctly was disappointed to find no trees or bushes were in leaf when I got home to SW Ohio while new foliage was abundant in London area.
True fact.. does my observation count? At least to have someone go back and find a gardener’s journal?

July 3, 2018 4:31 am

The point of this “study” seems to have been an excuse to watch old Tour de Flandre films.

July 3, 2018 4:47 am

Were there any controls on their data/observations? Did they check precipitation records, look for insect infestations, etc., etc., ??? This is total BS.

Robin Matyjasek
Reply to  Glacierman
July 3, 2018 5:28 am

Absolutely agree. Too many unreported variables. Since there were no portacanin loos at that time, how do we know that the effects detected were not indeed due to “human intervention” of the seasonal fertiliser type?

July 3, 2018 4:54 am

One of the best indicators of this type are the Japanese cherry blossoms along the tidal pool in Washington DC. So much in fact the National Park Service publishes an estimated time of peak bloom so all the tourists can show up at the right time.

This year: “National Park Service. At a press conference on March 1, the National Park Service issued their first peak bloom prediction for the 2018 season. They predicted that peak bloom would fall sometime between March 17 to 20. On March 12, they revised that prediction to March 27 to 31. On March 23, they pushed it back again to April 8-12”.

Is this a trend starting to happen? Are we all in for a much colder global regime? The oceans are cooling.

michael hart
July 3, 2018 4:58 am

“Some of the flowers growing under these trees may not be able to receive enough sunlight to bloom. As a result, insects can go without nectar and may struggle to find enough spots to sunbathe”, he adds.

Personally speaking, fewer insects makes it a whole bunch nicer for me.
But apart from the insects being too damn lazy to fly to the top of the tree to sunbathe, perhaps the increased tree cover gives them more shelter and protection from predators. Of course the authors would then claim that the predators aren’t getting enough to eat.

Seriously, why are these people congenitally incapable of seeing anything good in any changes? Everything always has to be bad. (Yes, rhetorical question. I know the answer is: funding. No one ever got funding to study something that wasn’t under threat.)

Robin Matyjasek
July 3, 2018 5:15 am

I think that all this started with a mis-overheard Englishman’s comment: “poxy old tress…”

July 3, 2018 5:18 am

Really? 1981? Wow, the desperation is strong in these yahoos.

Robert B
July 3, 2018 5:18 am

The course has changed a lot since the 80s. Although many climbs are always used, one of those was only a regular inclusion since 1986. The start date has varied by 7 days in just the past 5 years.
There are large differences with altitude. Its very subjective. Less than 40 data points with average early April temperatures varying a lot so even a degree trend might not be significant ( you could get -ve trend by changing the start date). Bucket loads of homogenizing to correct for it and hard for anybody to check let alone reproduce.
This so appears to be playing along with thermogeddon to get taxpayer funding to watch the race rather than science.
I went looking for pictures and its really hard to find shots suitable for comparison. The Koppenberg would be the best but even in recent pictures, nothing is shooting except the grass. This photo from the 80s shows the valley to be pretty green.
comment image
In the end, my searching just gave me a good laugh. Enjoy

Eustace Cranch
July 3, 2018 5:49 am

Are there reliable temp records for that area? It would be good to know if there actually was an increase. If not, the article is even more ridiculous.
If that’s possible.

July 3, 2018 6:02 am

Odd how various proxies always show warming. When are we going to see a proxy that shows cooling? Boy, that would be a great time to celebrate, eh? I wonder what that proxy would be for “skeptics”?

Reply to  Alley
July 3, 2018 8:04 am

It really is amazing how trolls can manage to never see those things they are paid to ignore.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Alley
July 3, 2018 8:36 am

Try the remark above at July 3, 2018 4:54 am by rbabcock.

July 3, 2018 6:09 am

Ground stations show warming. Ocean temps show warming. Satellite data shows warming. Globally ice is melting, indicating warming. Permafrost is thawing. Migrations are towards the poles and to higher elevations, indicating warming. Blooms are earlier, indicating warming.

But let’s hold out to see if there’s any indication that the earth is cooling. Should we pretend that the earth will cool this year because of fewer sunspots? Let’s hope so, because we have been hoping that for several decades now.

In the mean time, the earth is warming and there are many proxies. Not sure why you’re surprised that there are so many responses to warming. When will this site post something that shows the earth is cooling?

Reply to  Alley
July 3, 2018 8:07 am

1) The notion that a few hundred probes can measure the temperature of the oceans to 0.01C is so dumb that only someone paid to be dumb could believe it.
2) That the world has warmed since the depths of the little ice age is not controversial. The claim that CO2 has anything to do with this increase is. In fact it remains in the category of not proven.
3) For someone who has suddenly fallen in love with proxies, I notice you are still ignoring the proxies that show that the Earth has been substantially warmer than it is today many times during the last 10,000 years, and none of those were caused by CO2.

Robert B
Reply to  Alley
July 4, 2018 1:14 am

It really is scepticism of the adjustments to the record so that the warming is consistent with being caused by humans. There is no doubt the climate changed. The Grand Pacific Glacier was renamed Glacier Bay a few years after the first petrol powered car was patented by Benz. A glacier 3/4 of a mile thick and 20 miles wide had already receded 65 miles a century before the 21st C pause that needed to be adjusted out of existence.

July 3, 2018 6:16 am

As the temperature range over day and night correlates very well to the air pressure, high/low, and their movements, I’m not quite sure where CO2 comes into it but…

john harmsworth
July 3, 2018 6:19 am

I guess it just depends how you look at things. Maybe trees leafing out early is a catastrophe. Or maybe it’s evidence of the adaptibility of living organisms.
Why do they imagine these trees have the evolutionary ability to adapt in this manner? It’s because spring is a highly variable event and trees have to be able to react!

Reply to  john harmsworth
July 3, 2018 6:50 am

The whole of England had more trees in the past. Perhaps it is that that has caused the warming? I see a correlation coming on. 🙂

July 3, 2018 6:23 am

I have been watching for leaf emergence for many years as a guide for planting certain vegetables.
It has only a secondary relationship to atmospheric temperatures. The deciding factors are soil moisture and soil temperature which are in turn determined by things such as winter snow cover, fall moisture reserves, depth of winter frost, the number of sunny spring days, convective winds, and yes (in some part) to atmospheric temperature.
In my area, I have seen leaf out as early as the end of April and as late as near the end of June (a result of drought).
As an indicator of global warming, I call B/S as a result of no real relevance.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  rockyredneck
July 3, 2018 8:40 am

And, I would suspect that the date of the last killing frost would impact soil temperatures. Focusing on a single number — the average global temperature — makes it easy to overlook the fact that most of the warming has been at night and in the Winter.

July 3, 2018 6:27 am

Love to see some footage of sea level rise. Notice there isn’t any ?

Reply to  dave
July 3, 2018 6:42 am

Be sure to make sure the air pressures are equalised if you do that comparison. There’s more than a few centimetres of ‘error’/’uncertainty’ there.

Same goes for all other sea-level comparisons – got to have a solid benchmark after all.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  dave
July 3, 2018 8:42 am

Yes, watching a real-time movie of grass growing would be more exciting than watching sea level rise.

July 3, 2018 6:41 am

Phenology is a new hot topic for obtaining climate change grant money — such studies nearly always contain dire warnings, in this case:
““Early-leafing trees can be good news for some species as they grow faster and produce more wood”, says Prof. Pieter De Frenne from Ghent University, lead author of this study. “However, their leaves also cast shadows. When trees flush earlier in the year, they shadow for a longer period of time, affecting other animals and plants, and even whole ecosystems.””
No mention of the positive effects on lengthening the growing season and food production — there is a blindness involved that is common to nearly all climate studies — blind to the knowledge that climate is not a “set in concrete” collection of weather conditions. Real world climate shifts around, timing changes, there are long, harsh winters and short mild winters, spring advances for a decade then retreats for a decade…..
Part of the problem is the definition of climate as “a 30-year average” — nearly every year will be above or below average — any shifting value will be away from the average and considered a threat — but it is just playing silly buggers with numbers.

July 3, 2018 6:58 am

Okay, much like tree rings are actually a measure of growth conditions, water, sunlight, temps, and God knows what else, the next new proxy is – trees on TV, where the last thing on the mind of the camera operators was the trees themselves. That’s like watching concert footage to see the jewelry preferences of the audience.

Walter Sobchak
July 3, 2018 7:05 am

From this we learn that trees can adapt to global warming. So can humans. It is not a real problem.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Walter Sobchak
July 3, 2018 7:21 am

But sunbathing insects can’t, apparently. Think of the insects!

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
July 3, 2018 7:42 am

We’ve seen this kind of claim before, regarding Cherry Blossom Dates. At least with the Cherry Blossom Festivals, there is a longer history than the 36 years of bicycle race photos (Washington DC records go back to shortly after the trees were planted in 1913; Japanese records go back much farther). And if you look at the entire record, recent “early” blooming is far from unprecedented.

Reply to  Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
July 4, 2018 4:03 am


Bob Cherba
July 3, 2018 7:44 am

I’m sure increased CO2 has nothing at all to do with this.

Duncan Smith
July 3, 2018 7:55 am

Ironic, many of these places would have been covered with lush thick forests centuries ago. They complained when the forests were cut down. Now they are complaining forests are growing back. Just cannot make these people happy, geesh! Would they just pick one or the other already.

July 3, 2018 7:56 am

These guys are really something. If trees get leaves early then other critters will not get enough sunlight.

That’s the whole point of forest. They shade out everything else and hog the sunlight for themselves.

Forests in northern latitudes are bleak ecosystem (fungus, ants, termites, a few birds,worms) by and large. Grasslands are much more productive. So, they are worried about those trees hogging sunlight, cut some of them down. Controlled burns are great in this regard. Diversity!

BTW, nobody denies the world has warmed up since in the last several decades. That is NOT the debate. The debate is whether this warming is unprecedented AND due to human activity. The debates isn’t serious, because the only human activity under serious investigation is the burning of fossil fuels. All other activities, like the creation of vast methane farms (rice paddies), deforestation and large scale farming efforts with a change in land use, are ignored in this discussion.

Reply to  joel
July 3, 2018 8:07 am

As is the fact that we only have a very short, all world, full-coverage temperature series to work with, who knows?

July 3, 2018 7:59 am


I read phrenology. On reflection, there may not be that much difference. 🙂

July 3, 2018 8:11 am

A good follow up would be a blind study of cores taken from these trees. The dendo folks cannot know where they came from though; just do the analysis. Lets see how the results correspond.

DJ Meredith
July 3, 2018 8:13 am

Notoriously absent is any analysis of the impact of Climate Change on the riders themselves. I see no discussion or measurements taken of rider’s forearms or calves to show the progression of degradation caused by increasing temperatures around the world, all brought to one location.
After all, the whole issue of Climate Change Gorebal Warmining is the negative effect on humans, yet there is no observations taken of the cyclists physiology which is a key metric.

Additionally, there is no accounting for the increased levels of CO2 that enhance growth along the raceway that come from exhalation from the riders. We need more research. More grant money.

July 3, 2018 8:39 am

The farmers must be loving the recent earlier planting season – nothing to dislike there.

Reply to  Chad Jessup
July 3, 2018 10:49 am

Planted area and farm diesel fuel use is way up.

July 3, 2018 8:46 am

“Some of the flowers growing under these trees may not be able to receive enough sunlight to bloom. As a result, insects can go without nectar and may struggle to find enough spots to sunbathe”, he adds.

OMG! Insects are running out of flowers in sunny spots!

Jeesh, this “study” would be hilarious if they weren’t actually serious.

July 3, 2018 8:54 am

Is that Alfred E. Neuman in the photo? I think we are going to need anthropologists to document the decline of research quality in the EU brought on by the climate change policy crusades. They will be groveling in the streets and alleys by 2030.

Steven Zell
July 3, 2018 9:43 am

The photo in the article shows most of the cyclists wearing short sleeves on what seems to be a sunny but windy day (the three flags all show a wind blowing from the left), but the trees don’t have leaves yet. Was this an unusually warm day during an otherwise cool spring, which would incite the cyclists to wear short sleeves?

Reply to  Steven Zell
July 3, 2018 11:22 am

Cyclists burn a lot of calories in a short period of time. As a result their bodies need to dump a lot of heat.

David Chappell
Reply to  Steven Zell
July 3, 2018 11:33 am

No, it’s a macho thing.

Mark Beeunas
July 3, 2018 11:02 am

OK, let me see if I got this right. Trees planted as saplings along roads with drainage ditches on one side and cleared areas on the other with some combination of mowing and farming, “scientists” then were able to discern variations in growth attributed to changing climate using photos/videos over a 25+ year period. Oh, and even more impressive is their use of the latest photo analysis software (I’m guessing) to subtract variations due to the normal growth as the trees mature. How could this fail?

Given that the climate between Tucson and Flanders are very different; here is my example: I planted an Ironwood tree or palo fierro (Olneya tesota) in my yard ~15 years ago. It is a relatively slow growing tree, but has done so steadily and in 2016 after 13 years it flowered for the first time, last year it did not and did again this year.
Cheers, Mark * * *

Gunga Din
Reply to  Mark Beeunas
July 3, 2018 4:15 pm

I have a male ginkgo tree in my yard.
It’s never flowered.
I wonder why.

Gunga Din
July 3, 2018 12:35 pm

The films/videos only go back to 1981?!
Lot’s of comments made already about the quality of the images and the time they were recorded.

I haven’t read all the comments but I haven’t noticed one that mentioned that “climate” is cyclic. ( I think 60 years is a fairly good “picture” of it’s downs and ups?)

This time, “Move along, nothing to see here” is accurate.

John F. Hultquist
July 3, 2018 2:53 pm

I’m not convinced we are doomed.
Where we live, a favorite flower is the Green-banded Mariposa Lily ( Calochortus macrocarpus ).

Photo: Mariposa Lily

We moved here in 1989. The Lilies bloomed about July 1st and peaked on the 4th – an easy date for us to remember.
This year the lilies started blooming – on Sunday, the 1st, and new ones will continue to show through this coming Sunday.
These are the only color in an otherwise brown/green landscape.
They do not go unnoticed. If the link doesn’t work, search for the green-banded Mariposa Lily with purple flower.

John Harrison
July 3, 2018 4:55 pm

I too have noticed a small trend in earlier leafing and flowering but accompanied by healthier growth. I have been subscribing this to increasing CO2 concentrations which didn’t seem unreasonable and the plants seem to be thriving on it. Should we be concerned for the future of our plants? This highly unscientific research seems to want to lead us to believe.

July 3, 2018 7:37 pm

Limited, circumstantial evidence is evidence valid within a limited, specified frame of reference in time and space. Inference or extrapolation (i.e. created knowledge) to larger frames, to global proportions, is useful, but accuracy is inversely proportional to the product of time and space offsets from the established frame of reference.

July 4, 2018 2:30 am

All that can be said is
“they didn’t find what they weren’t looking for

July 4, 2018 7:19 am

So, they have found something in one of our classics to support local/regional warming. Of course there are thermometer huts too, which indeed show a small increase in tenperature since the 1830’s, but even so, temperature in the first week of April can be from -10 to +20ºC in adjacent years. Not for nothing April is here called “freakish April” (untranslatable from Flemish/Dutch, but says it all about the unstable weather in that month).

Anyway, this kind of “science” looks at trends within extreme year by year regional variable weather, which has statistically zero significance…

For the rest, the Tour of Flanders is the start of the new season for one of the three main sports in our country:
– Billiards – in the pub
– Soccer – next to the pub
– Cycling – from one pub to the next pub

Greetings from the world’s beer country (300 kinds of beer – 11.35 million inhabitants)

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