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Who needs to update the HockeyStick graph – it’s only the fate of the planet at stake?

Posted By Joanne Nova On December 21, 2014 @ 2:23 am In Global Warming | Comments Disabled

Two weeks ago on the HockeyStick Update post we discussed the miracle of how the Bristlecones used in HockeyStick graphs had finally (sort of) been updated. I marvelled that 800 year old tree rings were easier to find than ones from 2002. Now 16 years after the MBH98 “seminal” (well, popular) paper was published, Salzer et al had finally found some rare modern trees and updated the temperatures after 1980, but gosh, the tree rings didn’t proxy for the red-hot rising trends of the modern era, instead they recorded a fall. That particular hockeystick collapsed (again).

It took a while, but Greg Laden bravely dropped in here on Thursday to share a link to his post on how skeptics are misunderstanding the update with “mind numbing” arguments.  My reply to him on the old thread may have gone unnoticed. So I’ll repeat it here (with slight edits). Perhaps Greg missed my reply?

Steve McIntyre has also taken Laden to task on his blog.

Greg Laden  December 19, 2014 at 12:54 am

A post on one of the studies you refer to here: http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2014/12/17/new-research-on-tree-rings-as-indicators-of-past-climate/

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Joanne Nova  December 19, 2014 at 1:41 am

Greg, thanks for popping in, thumbs up from me. Lets share your arguments with everyone here. Quoting from your link:

“More recently, climate science denialist JoNova took the new paper by Salzer et al to task using equally mind numbing arguments.”

What’s the scientific definition of a “denialist” Greg, or are you just namecalling? [I am still hoping Greg would answer this.]

JoNova notes that “after decades of studying 800 year old tree rings, someone has finally found some trees living as long ago as 2005. These rarest-of-rare tree rings have been difficult to find … The US government may have spent $30 billion on climate research, but that apparently wasn’t enough to find trees on SheepMountain living between the vast treeless years of 1980 to now.”
I’m sure the scientists involved in tree ring research would like to know where their $30 billion dollars went, but that’s another story.

The $30 billion went here. It’s out of date now, the real number is much higher.

I asked Malcolm Hughes about JoNova’s implication that there has been next to zero research on or with bristlecone pines over these many years. He said, “This post makes a big deal about the lack of updating of bristlecone pine chronologies since 1980. This is simply wrong. She fails to acknowledge that in 2009 we published on bristlecone pine growth rates in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) and put tree-ring data from Sheep Mountain out to the year 2005 in a publicly accessible archive.”

OK, so pushing multiple hockey-stick papers, and repeats and iterations in the IPCC reports plus press conferences is equivalent to quietly putting the data in a “publicly accessible archive”. As if listeners of MSNBC are trawling PNAS for loosely connected “growth rate” studies and hunting down the datasets while they drive to work. Good luck with convincing people that climate scientists are working just as hard to update their scary graphs as they did to create them.

JoNova also implies that the lack of tree ring proxy use for periods after 1980 is somehow suspicious, but as detailed at length above, the divergence problem is, well, a problem. Also, further work such as that reported here is likely to revive some of that data and allow it to be used, eventually. At the very least, future work with high altitude/latitude tree ring data will be improved by these methodological and ecological studies.

Yes, the divergence problem is real. Congratulations. And “one day” the data might be improved enough to “allow it to be used”. Or then again, we might turn it into a logo for the IPCC and put it on hats, banners, and posters all over the world instead. What would a scientist do, I wonder?

Climate science denialist Steve McIntyre has also weighed in on Salzer et all’s research. His post is truly mind numbing, as he treats Salzer et al as a climate reconstruction paper, and critiques it as such, but the paper examines the methodology of tree ring proxy use and the ecology of tree rings. McIntyre shows the same figure I show above (Figure 5 from that paper) and critiques the researchers for failing to integrate that figure or its data with Mann et al’s climate reconstructions. But they shouldn’t have. That is not what the paper is about. Another very recent paper by the same team is in fact a climate reconstruction study (published in Climate Dynamics) but McIntyre manages to ignore that.

Of course, Mann et al should not rush to integrate the new data with their 1998 Hockeystick. It’s only been 16 years that it’s been in the headlines, and there are only global agreements, billions of dollars and the fate of the planet at stake. Why hurry?

 This is Green B-lobby science at work.

As I said then:

More important than the details of one proxy, is the message that the modern bureaucratized monopolistic version of “science” doesn’t work. Real scientists, who were really interested in the climate, would have published updates years ago.

The screaming absence of this obvious update for so long is an example of what I call the “rachet effect” in science — where only the right experiments, or the right data, gets published. It’s not that there is a conspiracy, it’s just that no one is paid to find the holes in the theory and the awkward results sit buried at the bottom of a drawer for a decade.

To this evidently Laden, and Malcolm Hughes (of Mann Bradley Hughes fame) who corresponded with Laden about the post had little to say.

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