Monday, August 16, 2010

Temperature proxies don't work

Yet they are central to the Warmist argument. No "hockeystick" without them

A reader draws attention to an important study on proxy reconstructions (McShane and Wyner 2010) in the Annals of Applied Statistics (one of the top statistical journals):

A Statistical Analysis of Multiple Temperature Proxies: Are Reconstructions of Surface Temperatures Over the Last 1000 Years Reliable?

It states in its abstract:

We find that the proxies do not predict temperature significantly better than random series generated independently of temperature. Furthermore, various model specifications that perform similarly at predicting temperature produce extremely different historical backcasts. Finally, the proxies seem unable to forecast the high levels of and sharp run-up in temperature in the 1990s either in-sample or from contiguous holdout blocks, thus casting doubt on their ability to predict such phenomena if in fact they occurred several hundred years ago.


This should knock Warmism into a cocked hat -- but it won't, of course

The Week That Was (To August 14, 2010)

Excerpt from Ken Haapala, Executive Vice President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

Last weekend a major ice berg broke off the Petermann Glacier on Greenland about 620 miles south of the North Pole. This is the largest ice berg to break off from Greenland in 48 years. Initial reports did not attribute this event to “global warming” and Professor Andreas Muenchow of the University of Delaware, who has been studying this glacier noted it had been growing for the past 7 to 8 years.

However, almost immediately some climate scientists were informing Congress that this was only the beginning. According to Professor Richard Alley of Penn State, we may pass a ‘tipping point’ in ten years and a rise in temperatures of 2 to 7 degrees C would wipe out Greenland’s ice sheet and sea levels will rise be some 23 feet (3 meters) submerging coastal cities. (Please see "Greenland Glacier Calving and Sea Level” by Nils-Axel Morner. Dr. Morner points out that this rate of sea level rise is many times greater than what occurred with the great ice of the Northern Hemisphere melted. The referenced article also points out that according to ice core borings, in the past 10,000 years Greenland has been as much as 2.5 °C warmer than today.

Also perplexing is that the ice cores show the current temperature is almost minus 31°C. A warming of 7°C would bring it to minus 24°C, hardly the melting point of ice.


Book of the Week: Heaven and Earth: Global Warming, the Missing Science by Ian Plimer exemplifies why so few geologists are on the great global warming express. By what some consider a slight of hand, the vaunted Summary for Policymakers by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) covers the carbon cycle for the past 50 years of the earth’s climate history. Plimer covers the carbon cycle for past 4,000 million years. Changes in the sun, earth, ice, water, and air of earth’s climate history are detailed in Heaven and Earth. Fiery volcanoes, slush ball earth, drastic changes in the carbon dioxide / oxygen composition of the atmosphere are all part of the remarkable tapestry of the history of this planet. Yet, life formed, changed it, and survived.

Perhaps Australia’s pre-eminent academic geologist, Plimer exposes the weak physical evidence of the IPCC in claiming that man is causing unprecedented and dangerous “global warming.” which, by focusing on the past 50 years, diverts attention from major inconsistencies in this hypothesis. The IPCC cannot explain that ice ages existed when the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was many times greater than today and many times greater than man could possibly make it by burning fossil fuels. The IPCC cannot explain why in the past 10,000 years the earth experienced periods warmer than today even though the IPCC asserts that carbon dioxide was roughly stable until the 20th Century.

During times of high carbon dioxide concentrations, life flourished. It did not stagnate or was threatened as the IPCC suggests. Plimer demolishes the fear due jour by US EPA and NOAA claiming “ocean acidification” from human carbon dioxide emissions will destroy much of ocean life. He describes oceans as complex chemical solutions in rough balance and that sea floor rocks and sediments of the earth are an important part of this balance which makes the oceans alkaline. [EPA experiments of dropping hydrochloric acid into sea water do not capture this vital balance.] As Plimer describes, millions of years of undersea volcanic activity emitting massive quantities of sulfuric acid and carbon dioxide directly into the oceans have failed to acidify them and man’s carbon dioxide emissions will not. [Side note: The volcanic hot deep sea vents that are rich in sulfuric acid and carbon dioxide feed a form of life that is dependent on chemosynthesis rather than photosynthesis.]

Although not for the casual reader, Heaven and Earth reveals much of what is ignored in commonly expressed climate science and is important for serious study of this complex subject.


The State of Earth's Climate 2009: How can so many people be so wrong?

Guest editorial by Sherwood Idso, Keith Idso, and Craig Idso

In a "Highlights" report of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's State of the Climate in 2009 document, which was prepared under the direction of the U.S. National Climatic Data Center, we can read the principal findings of what the document describes as the work of "more than 300 scientists from 48 countries." Their primary conclusion, as stated in the Report's first paragraph, is that "global warming is undeniable," and the Report goes on from there to describe "how we know the world has warmed." But this, and all that follows, tells us next to nothing about what has caused the warming, which is the crux of the whole contentious matter.

The Report next states, for example, that "recent studies show the world's oceans are heating up," which is fine; but then -- as if hoping no one will question them -- the Report says the oceans are warming, "as they absorb most of the extra heat being added to the climate system from the build-up of heat-trapping gases," which contention is far from a proven fact, and is -- in fact -- merely an hypothesis .... and a bad one at that, as we shall soon see.

Another fault of the Report is its hyping of "melting Arctic sea ice," while it remains silent on the state of Antarctic sea ice, which has been doing just the opposite as it has grown in extent.

Likewise, a major inconsistency of the Report is its stating, with respect to temperature, that "a particular year can experience record-breaking highs and lows in any given location," while, "as a whole, global climate continues to warm." This is very true; and it can also do so while, as a whole, global climate cools or remains unchanged.

And it implies the same thing for all types of weather phenomena (such as droughts, floods, hurricanes, etc.), which means that the occurrence of any unusually dramatic weather phenomenon in any "particular year" should imply nothing about the long-term trend of that phenomenon or the presumed trajectory of the global climate within which it is embedded.

Yet the Report goes on to describe six such extreme events that occurred in the "particular year" of 2009, which would have to have been done for no other reason than to imply that these weather extremes were caused by global warming, which flies in the face of their earlier contention that record-breaking low temperatures in any year say nothing about the long-term thermal tendency of the planet.

Last of all, the Report states that "people have spent thousands of years building society for one climate and now a new one is being created -- one that's warmer and more extreme," which leads us to wonder ....

How could more than 300 scientists from 48 countries possibly be so wrong? Any student of history and palaeoclimate well knows that earth's climate has changed dramatically over the past "thousands of years." During the central portion of the current interglacial period, for example, many parts of the planet were a few to several degrees Centigrade warmer than they currently are.

And only a thousand years ago, the Medieval Warm Period was holding sway. Although many of the scientists of Climategate infamy tried mightily to make that period of warmth "go away," the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change has for quite some time now posted a review of a different research project every single week that testifies to the reality of the Medieval Warm Period.

And that ever-growing body of research is demonstrating beyond any doubt that there was a several-hundred-year interval of warmth back then that was at many different times (stretching from decades to centuries), and in numerous places (throughout the entire world), significantly warmer than the Report's highly-touted first decade of the 21st century, and at a time when the atmosphere's CO2 concentration was far less than it is today.

What makes this particular failure of the Report so doubly damning is the fact that it claims that each of the "more than 30 different climate indicators" it has analyzed "is placed into historical context." That is obviously not true.

And for a parameter so central to the core of the global warming discussion as temperature to not be put into proper long-term context is inexcusable, although quite understandable, especially when one realizes the implications it would hold for the Report's unfounded contentions about the present state of earth's climate.

SEPP SCIENCE EDITORIAL #25-2010 (Aug 14, 2010)

The Holocene Temperature History of Northern Europe

The little ice age was exceptionally cold and some warming following that was to be expected. CO2 levels and temperature also shown to be out of phase

Discussing: Seppa, H., Bjune, A.E., Telford, R.J., Birks, H.J.B. and Veski, S. 2009. Last nine-thousand years of temperature variability in Northern Europe. Climates of the Past 5: 523-535.

Seppa et al. (2009) combined 36 nine-thousand-year-long pollen-based July and annual mean temperature reconstructions for the portion of Europe stretching from the Norwegian Atlantic coast to 26°E in Estonia and Finland and from 57°N in Southern Fennoscandia to 70°N, the latter 5000 years of which temperature reconstruction they compared to a stacked chironomid-based July mean temperature record based on data obtained from seven Fennoscandinavian sites.

Seppa et al. report that "the stacked records show that the 'Holocene Thermal Maximum' in the region dates to 8000 to 4800 cal yr BP and that the '8.2 event' and the 'Little Ice Age' at 500-100 cal yr BP are the clearest cold episodes during the Holocene," while the graphical representations of their data clearly indicate that the Little Ice Age was the colder of the two major cold episodes

Yet again, here is another major analysis of multiple paleotemperature records that reveal the Little Ice Age to have been the coldest interval of the entire Holocene. And with 20th-century global warming starting from the current interglacial's coldest point in time, it is only natural to expect that the ensuing warming would be rather substantial, irrespective of what the air's CO2 content might have been doing concurrently. And so it was.

But does the fact that the atmosphere's CO2 concentration rose substantially over the 20th century while air temperature also rose substantially (albeit more haltingly) not suggest that the CO2 increase was driving the temperature increase? Not at all; because over the prior seven thousand years, when Seppa et al.'s data show Northern European temperatures to have been steadily falling, earth's atmospheric CO2 concentration was slowly but surely steadily rising. And you can't get much more out of phase than that.


Another Green/Left boondoggle on life support

The Washington Examiner's Barbara Hollingsworth has some good news, the Dem's planned golden goose called the Chicago Climate Exchange is running out of money and laying off employees.
Reuters reports that a lack of Senate action on cap-and-trade legislation is forcing the Chicago Climate Exchange to lay off about half of its remaining "really talented" 50-employee staff.

The first round of layoffs by owner Intercontinental Exchange Inc., which acquired CCX in April for $604 million, began July 23 when about 20 people were let go. Employees were reportedly told that the American marketplace for carbon credits was being "restructured."

The only surprise is that Richard Sandor, who founded CCX in 2003 and was dubbed a Time Magazine "Hero of the Environment" in 2007, is being retained as an advisor. "Voluntary" trading of greenhouse gas emissions on CCX has all but dried up and prices have plunged from a high of over $7 per ton in 2008 to just 10 cents now, making recent stock market losses look rosy by comparison. Not exactly what Sandor, who once predicted a $10 trillion worldwide carbon market, expected would happen.

The biggest losers have been CCX's two biggest investors - Al Gore's Generation Investment Management and Goldman Sachs - and President Obama, who helped launch CCX with funding from the Joyce Foundation, where he and presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett once sat on the board of directors.


Peer review a very unreliable process

In my experience of peer review, the reviewers often don't seem even to read the paper -- JR

The Swiss online NZZ here has a report on the peer-review process and the problems plaguing it. Peer-review has become a leading topic in science in Europe and all over the world. The NZZ starts off: "Irritated by multiple scandals over the last years, many scientists are up in arms over the peer-review of scientific articles and are hoping for improvement... Many say there’s a need for reform."

Scientists say manipulation is as easy as pie. As a whole, the field of science is becoming overwhelmed by the flood of papers seeking publication. The NZZ writes that according to a Finnish study, already in 2006 1.35 million peer-reviewed papers were published, and the trend is accelerating: "And it is unclear whether the current large-scale peer-review process yields the correct, important results every time. Also publishers and peer-reviewers can make mistakes, as hanky panky like copying text and manipulating charts is especially easy in today’s computer age."

The NZZ does not name any particluar science field here, or anywhere else in the report. But for those familiar with climate science and the CRU e-mails, it sounds all too familiar.

The topic of peer-review has gained much importance over the years, as it’s the lifeblood of scientific careers. That’s one reason why the recent European Science Forum in Turin in early July was so jam packed.

The NZZ asks: Is the current system the best we have?

Based on a 2009 study by Adrian Mulligan of Elsevier publishing, the NZZ reports that one third of the scientists replied with yes, one third with no, and the other third were undecided. The survey sampled 4000 scientists.

With those results one could reasonably assume that half are not really convinced by the peer-review process. That tells me it needs to be reformed. There are many problems with it. The NZZ mentions some of them.

For example, some scientists say that papers do not even get reviewed by experienced scientists, but are often passed down to younger, less experienced colleagues who don’t really know how to do it.

The NZZ writes about being able to reproduce results: "Increasingly, peer reviewers are no longer able to reproduce the results of studies on their own – because the time and effort simply would be too much. Philip Campbell of Nature brought up that point in Turin."

Campbell says errors will always get by peer-reviewers, and sometimes even outright fraud. But that’s rarely the case, as studies such as one from Daniele Fanelli of the University of Edinburgh 2009 in the journal PLoS ONE shows. NZZ writes: "According to the results, an average of 2% of scientists admitted to having made at least one falsification. And up to 34% admit to having committed a dubious act."

Plagiarism is another problem. Fortunately, plagiarism-recognition software such as CrossCheck help to detect plagiarism. The software is based on publication data-banks.

Diagram manipulation is detected using the algorithms in programs for graphic processing. Other offences committed include ghostwriting, including co-authors who did not take part in the study and salami publication.

In my view, the NZZ report places too much of the blame on the sheer volume of papers that need to be reviwed and on human nature, and completely ignores the political aspects that have corrupted the process.

But in the end, its conclusion is correct: Peer-review needs to be reformed, as for now there is no other alternative system available.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


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