Guest essay by Eric Worrall
If you thought open source temperature monitoring was an interesting approach to measuring climate change, you’re going to love the proverb temperature reconstruction proxy.
Exploring climate change impacts through popular proverbs
MAY 15, 2020 10:34 PM AEST
A study carried out by the ICTA-UAB presents a novel way of using the local knowledge embodied in popular proverbs to explore climate change impacts at local scales. It has been published in the journal Regional Environmental Change.
The proverbs related to environmental issues traditionally used by the local population in rural areas of Spain are currently considered imprecise and unreliable due to climate change impacts. This is the result of a study carried out by the Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) that presents a novel way of using the local knowledge embodied in popular proverbs to explore climate change impacts at local scales
The study used information contained in local proverbs to explore the impacts of climate change on climatic aspects of the environment such as precipitation, on physical aspects like snow cover; and finally, on biological aspects, such as flowering periods.
For example, the proverb por Todos los Santos la nieve en los altos, por San Andrés la nieve en los pies indicates the arrival and abundance of snow cover. So, according to the proverb, at the beginning of November (Todos los Santos is celebrated on November 1st) snow can be found on the peaks of the mountains, and by the end of the month (November 30th) it normally reaches lower altitudes. When they asked participants about their current perception of the accuracy of this proverb, many stated that the proverb barely reflects the current situation, as snow arrives now later and it is less abundant. And indeed, the scientific data and literature for the region shows a delay in snow periods.
…Read more: https://www.miragenews.com/exploring-climate-change-impacts-through-popular-proverbs/
The abstract of the study;
Using proverbs to study local perceptions of climate change: a case study in Sierra Nevada (Spain)
Regional Environmental Change volume 20, Article number: 59 (2020)
Local communities’ dependence on the environment for their livelihood has guided the development of indicators of local weather and climate variability. These indicators are encoded in different forms of oral knowledge. We explore whether people recognize and perceive as accurate one type of such forms of oral knowledge, climate-related proverbs. We conducted research in the Alta Alpujarra Occidental, Sierra Nevada, Spain. We collected locally recognized proverbs and classified them according to whether they referred to the climatic, the physical, or the biological system. We then conducted questionnaires (n = 97) to assess informant’s ability to recognize a selection of 30 locally relevant proverbs and their perception of the accuracy of the proverb. Climate-related proverbs are abundant and relatively well recognized even though informants consider that many proverbs are not accurate nowadays. Although proverbs’ perceived accuracy varied across informant’s age, level of schooling, and area of residence, overall proverb’s lack of reported accuracy goes in line with climate change trends documented by scientists working in the area. While our findings are limited to a handful of proverbs, they suggest that the identification of mismatches and discrepancies between people’s reports of proverb (lack of) accuracy and scientific assessments could be used to guide future research on climate change impacts.Read more: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10113-020-01646-1?utm_source=miragenews
Why stop at this level of absurdity? Researchers could try adding a control to their proverb proxy study. The obvious control would be the past predictions of local psychics.
Think about it. Psychics try really hard to be accurate and they are usually familiar with local proverbs, so by interpreting the past predictions of psychics, and measuring the accuracy of psychic predictions using the proverb temperature reconstruction, scientists could develop an empirical measure of the accuracy of local wisdom vs actual climate change over time. The psychic reconstruction proxy would be at least as inaccurate as proverb reconstruction.
Of course skeptics of subjective temperature proxies might prefer climate science to stick to better known temperature reconstruction techniques, such as tree rings, bore holes and snow lines.
But physical proxies sometimes produce unexpected results, like when the Climategate scientists carried their tree ring reconstruction forward into the instrumental period, and discovered to their horror that there was a massive divergence between the results of their proxy reconstruction and thermometer records.