2011-04-17 06:42:10Bishop Hill critique of Muller Misinformation #2
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
60.231.60.165

http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2011/4/16/skeptical-science-on-the-divergence-problem.html

A bit weak - value judgement on how open the IPCC is about the divergence problem and value judgement on whether my "This indicates the divergence problem is restricted to modern times" is overstating the issue.

But comments at these blogs are always hilarious. Some highlights:

A good example why Skeptical Science should be ignored.

Disagreements, different interpretations? Fine.

Deliberately misleading and dishonest spin and bold, unsupported assertions?

OK, maybe, in an argument between friends about who caught the biggest fish last month.

But as part of the framework supporting the policy of spending trillions on non-solutions to a non-problem?

Not only tendentious nonsense but morally disgusting.

Septic "Science", that's more like it.

Familial conspiracy theories:

Isn't it John Cook who blogs on Skeptical Science? Is he by any chance related to the Cook 2004 mentioned above?

Not a big fan of mine:

Cook deliberately gets an awful lot of stuff wrong. This is a good example of it, but his site is filled to the brim with misdirection and misinformation.

Cook is, really, a master of propagandising. He's also prolific, which makes correcting his lies an arduous process. I use the word "lie" because I am satisfied that he knows there's a significant difference between what he presents and what is factual.

And who is this guy? Doesn't ring a bell but apparently he's our nemesis:

skepticalscience.com is neither skeptical nor scientific.

But then, they don't like me either.

2011-04-17 18:19:59
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.41.77

John,

Unfortunately, I agree with the OP's original point:

"Now this is a bit naughty. Cook did indeed suggest that the divergence was restricted to modern times, a paper that reasonable people can probably agree is not a firm basis for disposing of such an important question. But even the Fourth Assessment report quoted D'Arrigo et al saying that the divergence problem might be a manifestation of a non-linear response to temperature, something that would undermine the whole of the tree-ring approach to paleoclimate.  And a still more recent paper describes the evidence restricting the problem to the twentieth century as "limited". For Skeptical Science to pretend otherwise seems to me to be...a problem."

I raised this point repeatedly during the development of the SkS article: The real issue that is raised by the mishandling of the graphing is, Why can we assume that the tree-ring data are reliable prior to 1961, when we know that they are not reliable after 1961?

I do not believe it serves our purpose to promote a partial view of this situation: It's like going into battle with an unbandaged wound.

2011-04-17 23:05:45
grypo

gryposaurus@gmail...
173.69.56.151

Neal is right that we should do a more complete job on the tree ring divergence problem, but Bishop Hill isn't exactly being complete either by the way he describes the "new" paper describing the evidence as "limited".  It does say "limited" but the anthro cause theory is still one of the most important theories.  It is just difficult because of all the other local effects on tree ring growth.  The paper is from 2007, published after the IPCC and is a very complete synthesis of the divergence problem.  I read it a while back and I suggest anyone who writes anything here on divergence also do so. Here are some important conclusions of that paper:

Several possible explanations for the divergenceproblem have been reviewed herein. There is validevidence for both local to regional causes (e.g., droughtstress, physiological threshold effects) as well aspotential hemispheric to global scale environmentalcauses. These include changing stratospheric ozonelevels, which have thus far only been investigated in apreliminary manner and only for density, not ring widthdata (Briffa et al., 2004). Another potential large-scalefactor that merits further investigation is global dimming(Liepert, 2002; Liepert et al., 2004), as we have notedherein, but which needs to be investigated in much moredetail. These large-scale factors may be distinct frommore localized pollution effects (e.g. Wilson and Elling,2004; Yonenobu and Eckstein, 2006).This review did not yield any consistent pattern thatcould shed light on whether one possible cause ofdivergence might be more likely than others. Weconclude that a combination of reasons may be involvedthat vary with location, species or other factors, and thatclear identification of a sole cause for the divergence isprobably unlikely. The studies cited herein also variedwith method of analysis (e.g., regression, Kalman filter,modes of standardization) and site ecological conditions(e.g. latitudinal/elevational treeline or productive forest,coastal or interior sites). The issue is thus highlycomplex, with likely ecophysiological feedbacks cominginto play related to differences in environmentalconditions between sites, species and regions. Forexample, there have been recent shifts in patterns ofinsect infestation (G. Juday, Univ. Alaska Fairbanks,pers. comm. 2006), as well as forest dynamics that canpreclude a purely positive response to warmer temperaturesin areas of Alaska (Jacoby and D'Arrigo, 1995). Inshort, we believe the problem is real but that there doesnot appear to exist a single “divergence” phenomenonwith an underlying causal mechanism.

And 

There has been expressed concern that the divergence problem challenges the uniformitarianism assumptionin tree rings (e.g., National Research Council,2006). However, if the divergence is in fact anthropogenicin origin then it will only directly impact reconstructions within the past few decades. Some evidence suggests that this is the case, and that the divergence is limited, and unique to this recent period(Briffa et al., 1998a; Cook et al., 2004a). Nevertheless, there are still significant implications for the development of dendroclimatic reconstructions, as we have noted in this paper. For example, reconstructions basedon northern tree-ring data impacted by divergence cannot be used to directly compare past natural warm periods (notably, the MWP) with recent 20th century warming, making it more difficult to state unequivocally that the recent warming is unprecedented. Inclusion of divergence-affected tree-ring variations in the calibration period of such reconstructions could result inoverestimation of past reconstructed temperatures, and underestimation of recent warming. As noted, some researchers do not include the recent divergence periodin the calibration interval, which effectively decreases the opportunities for independent verification. Individual samples at a given site can be assessed to evaluate within-site differences in climate response (Esper et al.,2003a,b; Wilmking et al., 2004, 2005; Driscoll et al.,2005). Such information can be exploited to enhance theclimate signal at a given site, improving any resultant reconstructions of climate (Esper et al., 2003a,b;Wilmking et al., 2004, 2005).

The question: Why can we assume that the tree-ring data are reliable prior to 1961, when we know that they are not reliable after 1961?: is difficult to answer.  The data during the MWP in those tree proxies either carries high uncertainty if you don't use the divergent 20th century data to calibrate, or, if you do use it to calibrate, shows a warmer MWP with a different curve.  This is what McIntyre is talking about when he says he suggested that Briffa show both curves in the multi-proxy recon in AR4.  Briffa said that was inappropriate, which I agree with, I thought his handling was fine,(not that it matters what I think), but it has now been used to make Briffa look incompetent or fraudulent etc.  

I would send that question:  Why can we assume that the tree-ring data are reliable prior to 1961, when we know that they are not reliable after 1961?  to a paleoclimatoloigist in a email and ask if we can publish the answer.  Or just ask why it would be inappropriate to publish both curves in a reconstrution.  That would be the only way to take the onus off all of us non-experts trying to comment on a very complicated point.  

 

2011-04-17 23:14:32
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.41.77

grypo,

"I would send that question:  Why can we assume that the tree-ring data are reliable prior to 1961, when we know that they are not reliable after 1961?  to a paleoclimatoloigist in a email and ask if we can publish the answer.  Or just ask why it would be inappropriate to publish both curves in a reconstrution.  That would be the only way to take the onus off all of us non-experts trying to comment on a very complicated point."

Until we have a crisp answer to that question, I think it is counter-productive to defend the Climategate issue.

In boxing terms, there is "leading with the right," "leading with the left," and "leading with the chin." This is "leading with the chin."

2011-04-17 23:26:16
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
112.213.165.240

My understanding (based on John’s explanation) is that not all tree-ring series are divergent, and that the non-divergent tree-rings track the divergent tree-rings back to the Medieval Warm Period.

2011-04-18 00:01:17
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.41.77

Not all convicted felons are guilty, either.

But what would be your degree of trust in a convicted felon?

2011-04-18 03:08:32
Albatross
Julian Brimelow
stomatalaperture@gmail...
199.126.232.206

John and others,

I think you might need to speak to Mike (Mann) and Briffa about this, just to make sure that you have all your ducks lined up. then again, maybe you have.  DeepClimate is also really spun up on this stuff John.

If they or you erred, then i would advise acknowledging that.  However,  in my experience thus far is that the contrarians and despicable lieks of people like Montford are usually the ones who will not conceded that they got something wrong, and that  they in fact are the ones distorting, and playing loose with the facts.

Now I will talk though my hat a bit-- it is my understanding that the divergence problem is limited (as far as we know) to a particular dendrochronology from russia (Yamal).  Also, what is relevant is whether or not those data were included in a particular temperature reconstruction, if not, then of course it is a moot point.

I think that we can all accept that dendro chronologies have their limitations and issues, but some people's insistance/obsession that there is something nefarious associated with each and every decision and action is ludicrous in the extreme.

Montford and McIntyre are playing a very clever game here and employing many tricks of their own, however, I would argue that their tricks are indeed deigned to mislead.  

To me what ultimately matters are two things 1)  were the scientists honest or did they intentionally deceive? 2) were any mistakes or decisions or data processing techniques of consequence?  For example, incorporating M&m's criticisms of ther oroginal HS changed the temperature in the chronology by about +/- 0.05 K for God's sakes, and look at the montain that was blown up into by 5M.  

What people forget is that some of these techniques were cutting edge, it was a learning process, so mistakes were to be expected.  And importantly it is my understanding that the methods have been improved with time thanks mostly to the innovative work of mann and Briffa and others (not M&M).  As things have improved newer works have moved to the fore and the 1998 HS is no longer shown in the IPCC graphics, for example.

But if they did knowingly deceive then I am not going suggest trying to defend that, the costs in the long run are just too high and it benefits no one.

I do not know what a good strategy is here (Neal thoughts?)-- we do not want this to give their potential misinformation more attention or create the impression that there was indeed something nefarious going on.  The claim that scientists tend to be on the defensive a lot of the time.  Perhaps it is time to adopt a different approach.

One last be careful about wrestling with pigs.....Montford and McIntyre are as sly and devious and unpleasant as they come and have a devout, aggressive and mean-spirited following.  so i would not refer to them specifically but talk in general terms "The "skeptic" blogosphere has been a twitter with accusations..."

2011-04-18 03:38:50
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.41.77

Albatross,

I am more interested in peeling Muller away from the McIntyre/Montford school of thought than in trying to deal with M/M. We are never going to change their minds, because they will shift the argument to get the answer that they want. Whereas Muller has no necessary investment in the Climategate folks being wrong, he just has an investment in being right.

I think that the arguments already discussed make the case that the scientists were not acting with intent to deceive; and I think we could convince Muller of that point.

The weak point is that the main scientific issue, with which Muller ended the issue in his talk at Berkeley, is, "Why do you trust the tree-ring data before 1961 when you KNOW you cannot use it after 1961?" IMHO, the other errors done by the Climategate folks are just caption misdemeanors; the essential problem is that they allow the reader to miss this essential question. If we have a CRISP clear answer to this, then we can make the case that the scientists involved had this in mind, and were not being intentionally secretive about the truth; but just a bit careless.

Conversely, if we DON'T have a good answer for this, then even I would have to say that the Climategate people were sliding past the issue; not that they were trying to pull a fast one, but that they were being less than forthcoming about the weak points in their argument. That would be the way an advocate argues, not the way a scientist argues. (As someone who works in technical standards, I'm familiar with both modes of argumentation.) If that is the case, Muller will feel perfectly justified in castigating the Climategate folks for not upholding adequate scientific standards of discourse; and it would be best to just drop the issue with him: The more we hammer him on it, the more justified he will feel in his essential judgment (despite getting a few details wrong about the procedures of their error); and the less possibility of turning him around on other issues concerning objective reality.

2011-04-18 04:26:04
Albatross
Julian Brimelow
stomatalaperture@gmail...
199.126.232.206

Hi neal,

 

Thanks good thoughts.  i could have this all wrong but it seems to boil down to this.  Is the divergence problem representative of a larger-scale problem (i.e., geographically), or is it indeed probably just limited to a particular dendro record (i.e., Yamal).  If the former, then that has openly been discussed in the scientific literature and in the IPCC.

Jones has been quite clear on this issue with the WMO graph and the divergence, he says so in his interview with Sir Paul-- they did not want to simply splice the dendro and thermometer data witrhout clearly differentiating between the two, but the people preparing the document thought that would be too complicated for a cover graphic and for the intended audience.  So reluctantly the scientists agreed.  In retrospect they should have stood their ground, but who at the time would have honestly thought some obsessive compulsive chemist and mineral prospector would use it against them?  Anyhow, it was a ppor decision, and maybe that needs to be said.  In fact, it probably has been said repeatedly already.

And again, such an incident is hardly reason to cast doubt on the field of paleo dendrology, or for that matter climate science.

 

2011-04-18 04:35:47
Albatross
Julian Brimelow
stomatalaperture@gmail...
199.126.232.206

Neal,

Re the quoted text in your comment @17 Apr 2011, 6:19 PM.  I agree, but to a point.  Really, at the end of the day we are arguing nit picky details here, and the argument used amouts to what ifs and exagerrating the importance of what if and words like "limited".

What makes me furious is these guys are not presenting any credible evidence themselves, not advancing the science, they are being obstructionists.  I'm sure Mike Mann and Briffa very interested to know why those Yamal data diverge, that is a valid and importnat question.

But let us turn this around a  bit.  Surely is the divergence problem were present on a much larger scale, and say that it was not limited to modern times (post 1960), why the heck then is there such excellent agreement between the temperature chronologies derived using tree rings and those derived using independent data such as lake and ocean sediments, corals, borehole data and the numerous other proxies?  To me that is one inescapable weak point in their "argument" that the 'skeptics' ignore.  

And again, paleo temperature constructions are not solely dependent on tree rings, that point cannot be emphasized enough, b/c the contrarians want to make people believe that those tree rings are one of the key pillars of climate science and AGW.

2011-04-18 04:47:44
Albatross
Julian Brimelow
stomatalaperture@gmail...
199.126.232.206

Neal et al.,

Sorry for all the post, got a bee in my bonnet ;)

I like Neal's idea of ignoring the peanut galley (my words) and "speaking to" Muller. 

2011-04-18 05:28:47
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.41.77

Albatross,

Speaking to Muller, we need to understand how he will take it, in order to convince him - which I believe to be possible. However, this is how I think he would look at it, particulary for an article addressed to non-experts:

 

If there is a good reason to trust the tree-ring data before 1961, then it should really have been stated upfront that:

1) The post-1961 tree-ring data have been dropped as unreliable; but

2) We can still trust the tree-ring data before 1961, because ....

 

If there is no clear-cut reason to trust the tree-ring data before 1961, then it should have stated that:

1) The post-1961 tree-ring data have been dropped as unreliable; but

2) We are using the tree-ring data before 1961 as a best guess, because it GENERALLY seems to track with other proxies, such as ...

or:

1) The post-1961 tree-ring data have been dropped as unreliable; and

2) We are not using the tree-ring proxies before 1961 either.

 

Since none of these were done, Muller is never really going to take a liking to the procedure adopted in the Climategate transaction; however, we may be able to get him to at least stop mis-stating what they were attempting to do. The best we can do is to get him to accept is as sloppiness rather than as an attempt to deceive or to soft-pedal the weakness of the data.

I am not interested in addressing M/M's arguments. In this case, it is the responsibility of the presenters (the Climategate folks) to present the full evidence and case for the trend upfront. It is not good form to slip in weak data that you hope no one will notice; and then to counter-attack if someone questions you. You should be willing to say, "This part of the data is a little weak [and that would be the pre-1961 tree-ring data], but we think we can rely on it BECAUSE..."

In this case, as in so many political cases, it's not the initial problem, but the cover-up, that gets you in trouble.

2011-04-18 05:50:57
grypo

gryposaurus@gmail...
173.69.56.151

We need to be careful that we are all talking about the same thing here.  In regards to the question:  Why can we assume that the tree-ring data are reliable prior to 1961, when we know that they are not reliable after 1961?: there is no exact answer.  Nobody is unaware that their is no exact answer.  We are dealing with people (Muller, McIntyre etc) who are either (1) demanding an answer or (2) demanding that a certain "best" scientific PRESENTATION of that uncertainty be shown.  McIntyre (I am guessing that Muller is on that boat just because he seems to like it) says that the uncertainty should be shown by doing TWO reconstruction curves, both showing the divergence, but 1 that is calibrated against the divergent data and another calibrated w/o the divergent data.  Briffa called this inapropriate in the reviews for the IPCC w/o a further explanation.  McIntyre has yet to stop asking this question.  

On the other side, we have what the CRU thinks is the best way to show the data.  It is their submission to the Muir Russel report.  If you to page 37 and read the next few pages you will get their ideas on PRESENTATION.  It describes three different scenarios and why they present divergence as they do.

In the middle somewhere is the Muir Russell findings.  

33. We do not find that the data described in AR4 and shown in Figure 6.10 is misleading, and in particular we do not find that the question marks placed over the CRU scientists’ input cast doubt on the conclusions. 

34. The variation within and between lines, as well as the depiction of uncertainty is quite apparent to any reader.   All relevant published reconstructions of which we are aware are presented, and we find no evidence of exclusion of other published temperature reconstructions which would show a very different picture.  The general discussion of sources of uncertainty in the text is extensive, including reference to divergence and it therefore cannot be said that that anything has been suppressed. Presenting uncertainty in this way is a significant advance on the TAR.

35. We have seen no evidence to sustain a charge of impropriety on the part of CRU staff (or the many other authors) in respect of selecting the reconstructions in AR4 Chapter 6. This would require that all the conditions in paragraph 13 were met in respect of tree chronologies either used by, or created by, CRU. No evidence of this has either been presented to the Review, nor has it been assembled as a scientific study published elsewhere and subjected to scrutiny. For the same reasons we found no evidence that there is anything wrong with the CRU publications using the Yamal or other tree series. 

36. We find that divergence is well acknowledged in the literature, including CRU papers.  

37. In  relation to ―hide the decline‖ we find that, given its subsequent iconic significance (not least the use of a similar figure in the IPCC TAR), the figure supplied for the WMO Report was misleading in two regards. It did not make clear that in one case the data post 1960 was excluded, and it was not explicit on the fact that proxy and instrumental data were spliced together. We do not find that it is misleading to curtail reconstructions at some point  per se, but that the reason for doing so should have been described.   

 

In other words, WMO bad, IPCC 3 and 4 a little better (paper refs, explanations in text, etc.), and best would be to do what IPCC 4 did, but also include divergence in caption, not text later on.

So their are 2 questions, is the pre-1960 data good, answer is some may not be but not sure yet.  The 2nd question is how to present that uncertainty (this is the big question) and the answer has a broad range of possibilities.  I'd say we'll be on safe ground if we stick with the Muir Russell's answer.  We are not experts and neither are Muller or McIntyre.

2011-04-18 06:23:14
logicman

logicman_alf@yahoo.co...
86.145.235.170

John: I suggest you invite an expert in dendroprovenancing to write a guest article.

 

Here are some 'top of my head' points about how tree ring chronologies are tested for reliablility.

 

Land and marine architecture: harbor piles and pier timbers, ships timbers from wrecks - these can often be dated to exact year of construction from records.  Records often show the source of the timber and date of felling / import.

( I was out today by the Medway taking photos of such timbers, by a strange coincidence.  I'm trying to date sea level rise in the estuary.)

 

Antiques: materials such as canvas and paint are dated by various means.  In many cases the date of execution of a work of art such as a painted panel is know with high precision.  If the date of execution of a work is unknown, multiple lines of evidence such as paint, ink, style etc. can confirm a common chronology with the timber.

Causes of tree mortality and abnormality: often the exact date of a storm, landslide, earthquake, flood etc. is known with high precision.  These dates can be correlated to tree death and growth abnormalities with precision - especially where clusters of trees can be sampled.  Rates of decomposition can also be determined as a cross-check of dating methods.

A fine example of the methods: Dendroprovenancing a Dutch ship's timbers -

ftp://ftp.wsl.ch/pub/gaertner/Trace_Volumes/Vol_2_PDF/vanDaalen_et_al_TraceVol_2.pdf

 

List of 23 experts on dendrochronology and dendroprovenancing - with email addresses:

http://www.dendrochronology.iwoly.com/program.pdf

 

The ball is now back in your court.  :-)

2011-04-18 06:26:56
logicman

logicman_alf@yahoo.co...
86.145.235.170

I missed the most relevant point: if we can date tree rings accurately and know where the tree grew, we can correlate growth patterns to records and proxies for that area, period and climate.

2011-04-18 08:18:00
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.41.77

grypo:

Keep in mind that Muller's objection is rather different than McIntyre's: McIntyre and friends are claiming that the science is WRONG. Muller is NOT. Instead, he's saying, "The Climategate guys didn't present the data cleanly, they weren't upfront and honest about the nature, status and uncertainty of the data. That's not the way to present scientific results. That sucks."

If we want to get him to cool off of the Climategate folks, we have to be clear as to exactly where they fell short. Muller's misunderstanding of their exact procedures makes him assert that too much was done wrong. But we need to generate an "ideal presentation" of the data, in order to demonstrate the delta between what they did and what they shoould have done; which is not as big as Muller claims.

 

logicman:

A good and thorough presentation on how tree-ring proxying is done, and the justification for it, would be useful - especially if it would allow us to generate a crisp summary of why we are using the pre-1961 data for our best estimates of global temperatures.

Even if the answer is that we don't have a clear reason for trusting the tree-ring data, it is better to own up to that as the status of the data than to elide the issue.

2011-04-18 09:29:15This is a much more subtle question than Muller's other misinformation
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
60.231.60.165

It's fairly black and white misinformation when it comes to conflating Mann's hockey stock with Briffa's decline, or falsely claiming data was leaked at Climategate. But the question of whether tree ring density is reliable before 1960 is a legitimate scientific question - it's certainly not worthy of a Muller Misinformation post but would be interesting to examine nevertheless as a standalone post.

That said, I'm not particularly impressed with the Bishop Hill critique. There are several lines of evidence that tree ring density is reliable before 1960. The Cook et al paper (no relation) is rebutted by Bishop Hill using a snarky McIntyre post (hardly qualifies as "reasonable people"). There's the fact that tree rings track temp as far back as the instrumental record. And I seem to recall tree rings tracking other proxies although I can't cite a reference off the top of my head.

Nevertheless, a more cautious wording should've said "this indicates divergence is LIKELY a modern event" just to qualify any uncertainty. Particularly as the reliability of tree rings was not the point of MM1 at all - I only had one take home point in MM1 - Muller was conflating the hockey stick with the decline. This is why I do short posts these days and say as little as possible. The more you say, the more chance of providing a "cognitive window" - some statement that people will obsess over that allows them to miss the main point. As I recall, that paragraph about tree ring reliability wasn't even in the first draft, I added it after some feedback. I still probably should've included a "likely" as a qualifier but it's frustrating that the main point gets lost in all the noise.

2011-04-18 09:35:45
Albatross
Julian Brimelow
stomatalaperture@gmail...
199.126.232.206

Hi John,

"The more you say, the more chance of providing a "cognitive window" - some statement that people will obsess over that allows them to miss the main point."

I agree John-- this is all about prolonging the faux debate, and this is a very effective technique, and terribly difficult to not get suckered into playing that game.

IMHO, and maybe running couter to what I may have said above, I think it best to ignore the noise and move on-- this is all just a side show and designed to distract everyone form the real issues-- and to discuss the newest science and data and observations.

My two cents of unsolicited advice.

2011-04-18 10:20:39
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.41.77

John,

I assume you mean that:

"But the question of whether tree ring density is reliable before 1960 isn a legitimate scientific question"

=>

"But the question of whether tree ring density is reliable before 1960 is a legitimate scientific question"

 

\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

I don't see much point in going after Muller unless we want to change his mind. Maybe that should be done by direct communication rather than blogging. Making a case to the Bishop-Hill folks is way down on my list of priorities.

2011-04-18 10:54:17
grypo

gryposaurus@gmail...
173.69.56.151

Neal.  I think we can do what you are saying by merely using Muir Russell (but don't use the words "Muir Russell" because that will get you in nothing but another whitewash argument) recommendations for what is considered good presentation. The recommendations are hard to argue with, especially since we are playing Monday Morning Quarterback on papers written years ago.  We should also point out that the progression was toward getting better at showing divergence, even before climategate.  I'm not sure what action should be taken as far as how to present this to Muller, but I think we can agree on what we can present to Muller.  Something like, we agree that there are differences on how to present uncertainty in different situations and papers, and really interesting arguments can come from that, but we must not assume bad faith based on outsiders who clearly have their own biases.  We need to give the academics the freedom to make these mistakes or flourish without having these outsiders make up arbitrary "best practices" and then apply those across the board on past and present work.  I think as an academic himself, he can agree with that.

 

BTW and FWIW, John is correct that Hill's critique is poor, especially the part where he criticizes saying that TAR 3 did a poor job at discussing divergence.  Saying there is a 'variation in response' is quite legitimate.  Whether it is decline or not is completely irrelevant.  That information is only useful in looking for reasons for divergence.  Bad data is bad data. In fact, the term should be 'Hide the Variance’ ;)

2011-04-18 11:16:41
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.41.77

Are we agreed that we will develop a direct communication to Muller, to encourage him to moderate his antagonism for the Climategate folks?

2011-04-18 12:06:03MMs
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
69.230.97.203
Well I'd say we made our point on hide the decline re Muller, and Brad's article was well-worth re-posting. I'm not happy with MM #4, and think we should probably just scrap it. If Muller does something else to warrant a new MM, perhaps we can contact him before posting.
2011-04-18 12:06:45Lousy ipad typo
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
60.231.60.165

Neal, yes, I meant to say "But the question of whether tree ring density is reliable before 1960 is a legitimate scientific question" - lousy iPad, seems very easy to post typos when you post from the iPad (but it's so convenient and easy to check the forum while relaxing on the couch, how can I resist? iPad, I can't stay mad at you...)

Re contacting Muller, personally I think it would likely be a waste of time. Better minds than mine have already tried and gotten nowhere. You're welcome to have a crack at it but I'm pretty sure I've burnt any bridges of contacting him myself. I'm not too upset about that lost opportunity - I'm skeptical it would be a fruitful approach. The man has a huge ego and is fairly immune to criticism (and contrary to some opinion I've seen expressed, that is NOT an inherent trait of physicists - we are not ALL arrogant! :-)

My thinking is if he posts misinformation, I will attempt to make him accountable by posting about it. But only the egregious misinformation. His comments about the reliability of tree-ring density would not fall under the category of 'egregious misinformation' so I wouldn't be taking him to task for that - I don't think it's the kind of thing you need to expend any effort persuading him about either. Throw out the tree-ring density data and you have a range of other proxies to reconstruct temperature from.

If you'd like to contact him direct, Neal, go for it and let us know if we can help you in any way with your correspondance.

2011-04-18 12:55:03
Albatross
Julian Brimelow
stomatalaperture@gmail...
199.126.232.206

John et al., 

FWIW. You know what has been affective at times in my experiences similar to this?  I CC the message to the people who are being misrepresented etc., it is a bit of a strong arm approach, but it does place some pressure and onus on the person at fault (in this case Muller) to respond-- it makes it harder for him to ignore you.

And if he does ignore you or says PFO, then there are witnesses and you can say-- "look we brought this to his attention but...." or ideally, we bring it to his attention and he corrects the public record and/or apologises.

Anyways, just some ideas, but i do not think that someone contacting him would hurt, and to be honest given that Neal has a history with Muller, that cannot hurt.  People tend to be far more receptive to criticism or having errors pointed out to them by someone with whom they have had a positive relationship in the past, event the distant past.

PS:  Anyone else have a new iMac with a sticky CAPS lock key?  Aargh!

2011-04-18 21:30:17
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.44.233

Albatross,

I don't have any personal history with Muller, other than having been at UC Berkeley at the same time as he was getting started. My evaluation of him is based on reading and viewing his talks, and knowing something about the Luis Alvarez background in which he trained.

John,

My suggestion, if we are not going to try to change what he's saying about Climategate, is to let the issue drop, at least with him. He is never really going to think well of them, and their reputations have been more or less trashed anyway, so what do we have to gain from this? I would rather focus on trying to fix things we can fix.

However, if there is new territory for mis-statements, I think it would be better to try to handle it, FIRST, in a direct communication. I would be willing to take that on, if the situation arises.

I have done something slightly analogous a few years ago: In discussing Parker's 2004 paper refuting the UHI "error" at WUWT, I negotiated a collection of questions and issues from the WUWT crowd, clarified them to everyone's satisfaction, and then got Parker to respond to them. I think Parker was pleased to have a clear and non-redundant set of questions to respond to; and the WUWT folks were glad to be taken a bit seriously. I should have stayed around to negotiate the discussion that followed (as not everything that Parker said was clear even to me), but I was attacked by a fit of "real-life-itis" and had to bow out of the interchange.

(That was probably my "peak moment" at WUWT.)

2011-04-18 21:40:30New Muller transgressions
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
60.231.60.165
Well, one of my watchwords of late is experimentation so sure, if Muller comes up with another howler, sure, let's try your approach. Will be interesting to see how it eventuates.

Looking forward to Muller's next lecture to see what he comes up with :-)

2011-04-18 22:34:25
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.44.233

Keep me posted.

2011-04-18 22:48:29
grypo

gryposaurus@gmail...
98.191.11.162

Neal I think a good one to start with is THIS.  One, because i think what Muller is saying is important misinformation about policy, and Two, because I'd really like to hear the justification for his statement, as it would be revealing in to how much he really understands about the scope of science, and Three, he has said it several times.  But that would take coordination with Dana and her iupcoming post on the issue.  It would be nice way to engage him on a substantive matter that has to do with science, policy, and communication.

2011-04-19 01:23:45comment
Robert Way

robert_way19@hotmail...
142.162.191.164

On the divergence problem.
Perhaps it is worth noting that not all tree rings are poor proxies for temperature. I can think of Buntgen et al 2008 as a great example of tree rings which have been shown to follow temperature up to the 2000s. I think that the divergence problem is a big issue for the defense of this climategate stuff and we should take a rational response, i.e. not just follow what the paleo community says on the issue. Maybe ask a paleo guy whose not involved with the "team" for their thoughts. Zorita is somewhat fringe for example?

2011-04-19 02:07:12MM #4
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
64.129.227.4

grypo, as I noted above I'm not really happy with MM #4 and am thinking of just scrapping it.  Muller's comments on the issue weren't terribly bad really.  It's not something he should be talking about since it's outside his realm of expertise, but I don't think he said anything so inaccurate that we need to correct it.  If he brings it up again then maybe we can revisit the post.

2011-04-19 03:11:10
grypo

gryposaurus@gmail...
173.69.56.151

Dana

Perhaps, but I'm a bit leery of what his words will turn into.  Not just his, I get the feeling that the "we-have-time" will be pushed harder, and not by the usual fanatical denialists, but by people who are thought to be reasonable.  Remember that the overton window is important in these types of policy debates.  If mainstream science is thought to be alarmist, as opposed to intelligent risk analysis, then we have a problem saying anything that will be listened to.  Then the same people calling the science alamist will be same ones saying "we-have-time".  All of a sudden, they are seen as the reasonable ones, even if the message is dangerously unreasonable.  It's really the last step in science denial, when all other excuses have exhausted themselves.  It's not someting that needs to be attacked, per se, but something we should probably get ahead of.

2011-04-19 04:32:16revision needed
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
64.129.227.4

I agree, it's really the 'sensitivity is low' argument.  Hypothetically, if sensitivity is on the low end of the possible range (say 1.5°C for 2xCO2), then we can get up to 700 ppm CO2 before reaching the 2°C danger limit if aerosols continue to offset non-CO2 GHGs, which I suspect won't be the case, but is hard to predict.

So on the one hand, Muller is right that we won't reach 700 ppm for quite a while.  On the other hand, we have to start reducing emissions very soon to stay below 700 ppm in the future.

Maybe you're right, it might be worth doing this post after all, after another revision.  I'm just having a bit of a hard time getting the message quite right.  But maybe I could right it as a clarification of Muller's statements and a warning not to delay action in the hopes that we have more time than we probably do.

Also to be fair, Muller said if the anthopogenic component is low we have time, but if it's high we need to act.  I think I need to take some of the math out and focus on the forcings that show why we're confident it's high, and then explain even if it's low, we still don't have a lot of time because the magnitude of the task is so large.

2011-04-19 05:23:28
grypo

gryposaurus@gmail...
173.69.56.151

Dana, it's a good idea to hold off for more revision of what you are trying to say, I think.  Maybe we can get his clarification on it before continuing.  But, either way, the math will be hard because of the uncertainty involved -- and that's part of the larger point.  That using his results to set policy would be wrong due to what we don't know about how much aerosols have masked the temperature or when emissions will overcome aerosol forcing or how much extra energy perturbs the atmospheric systems or how much extra heat perturbs the hydrological cycle, etc, etc.  Policy is about how the energy laws affect real people, not what number is on any thermometer.  As much as people want to bring this down to numbers, it's just not that simple.  Also let's keep in mind his study is only doing land temps.  This one's a tough call.  I imagine SkS is going to have a lot of tough calls as the arguments against energy policy changes become more refined.  

 

To further get why I say what I say, I am very much against the IPCC giving numbers for "safe" temperature rise.  There's not enough knowledge about how the Earth responds to fast temperature (certainly not regionally) change to know that number. I go with it, but I don't like it.

2011-04-19 05:54:35
Hoskibui

hoskibui@gmail...
85.220.127.116

Every time people say we have plenty of time - because its probable just a small temperature change - I say that even IF the temperature rise wont be that big, it would still be necessary to reduce our emission because of ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is always relevant by my oppinion.

2011-04-19 06:03:08
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.44.233

The essence of what Muller said was, "If the human-caused component of the last century's warming is large, we're in trouble; if it's small, we have time."

On it's face, this is not a ridiculous statement. It only gets to be problematic if you can draw inconsistent conclusions out of it. I am not sure that going into a lot of detail about attribution to umpteen different types of gases is the right response. Maybe if you want to adjust his numbers it would work out; certainly there is SOME anthropogenic temperature increase, below which we would feel that we had a bit of breathing space.

In this kind of situation, I would not want to depend on a complicated chain of logic that I couldn't defend every link of; that includes the attribution table, because I can't stand behind the numbers.

2011-04-19 06:10:30revised
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
64.129.227.4

I revised the post again.  I kept most of the math, so it might still be a bit complicated, but I think the point is clearer.  It's not really critical of Muller, except to point out that his 'we have a lot more time' statement is not really accurate.  I also went more into why we're confident the warming is anthropogenic.

2011-04-19 06:17:28
grypo

gryposaurus@gmail...
173.69.56.151

Maybe the title "Muller Misinformation" isn't apt.  It's more like "Muller jumping to conclusions based on a very small sample of evidence"  :)

2011-04-19 06:28:19series
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
64.129.227.4

Well, that's the series name, and it's based on Muller's quote, so we're kind of stuck with Muller Misinformation.