My Prediction for dO18 at Bona Churchill

In 2000, Lonnie Thompson drilled ice cores at Kilimanjaro which were published 2 years later. In 2003, they drilled ice cores at Bona Churchill in Alaska. They made a presentation at AGU with press release in 2004 about looking for (and not finding) White River Ash from an 803 AD eruption.

But no publications so far.

Here’e my prediction about dO18 levels at Bona Churchill.: 20th century dO18 levels will be more negative ("colder") than levels in the early 19th century – the opposite pattern to the pattern that Thompson is promoting for tropical glaciers.

There is evidence for this prediction over and above conclusions drawn simply from the lack of published results.

The evidence comes from a recent paper by Fisher and 22 other authors discussing ice core and proxy evidence from nearby. Here is the key graphic summarizing dO18 values for Eclipse ice core showing a dramatic and sharp drop in the 1840s (as well as a sharp change ~800 AD held to signal the start of the MWP.

Original Caption: FIGURE 3. (A) The d18O for PRCol (5 340 m asl) and the dD for Eclipse (3 017 m asl) ice core sites, smoothed with a 5-years low pass filter. At PRCol there is an abrupt shift in d18O of about 3 ca. A.D. 1840, that is not evident in the Eclipse record. The older NWCol Logan core also has a similar shift at the same date.We suggest that prior to A.D. 1840 the moisture flow was predominantly zonal with North Pacific sources of water, and after A.D. 1840 the flow was mostly “modern” delivering moisture from more southerly sources. The higher site receives relatively much more distant southern warm-source moisture than the lower. Compare the A.D. 1840 shift to that of A.D. 1976. (B) The deuterium excess plot for PRCol, indicating a major shift of moisture source ca. A.D. 1840. The larger excess points to warmer source oceans providing the moisture. (C) A plot of ENSO strength statistics implying that a regime shift occurred in the mid-19th century.

Fisher et al hypothesize a re-arrangement of hemispherical wind circulation patterns in the 1840s, taking place over only a few years, changing the moisture source and thus dO18 values.

The synoptic situation that would go along with the shift is that a deeper more northwest-centred Aleutian Low would draw moisture from farther south.Comparison of stable isotope series over the last 2000 years and model simulations suggest sudden and persistent shifts between modern (mixed) and zonal flow regimes of water vapour transport to the Pacific Northwest. The last such shift was in A.D. 1840. Model simulations for modern and “pure” zonal flow suggest that these shifts are consistent regime changes between these flow types, with predominantly zonal flow prior to ca. A.D. 1840 and modern thereafter. The 5.4 and 0.8 km asl records show a shift at A.D. 1840 and another at A.D. 800. It is speculated that the A.D. 1840 regime shift coincided with the end of the Little Ice Age and the A.D. 800 shift with the beginning of the European Medieval Warm Period. The shifts are very abrupt, taking only a few years at most.

So extrapolating from the nearby dO18 results, I project that 20th century dO18 at Bona Churchill will be relatively negative. Of course, it is highly likely that there are not just excellent, but really excellent reasons why results from Bona Churchill (probably showing lower dO18 values) have not been archived or even published.




  1. epica
    Posted Sep 5, 2006 at 5:06 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Pruahhh. And so you think seriously Thompson wouldnt published theses results because there might be a circulation related shift towards warmer SSTs (more depleted isotopes) instead towards warmer condensation temperatures (more enriched isotopes) on Bona-Churchill? And you think furthermore that the former is somehow in contradiction with global warming and the second not?
    Well of course you do. Sorry for asking.

  2. Louis Hissink
    Posted Sep 5, 2006 at 5:17 AM | Permalink | Reply


    What the late Stephen Jay Gould might have called “un-useful results”. Ones which can’t form the basis of a serious scientific paper and hence are filed or ignored.


  3. Louis Hissink
    Posted Sep 5, 2006 at 5:23 AM | Permalink | Reply


    Supporting THE paradigm.

  4. Louis Hissink
    Posted Sep 5, 2006 at 5:27 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I must add one extra comment – did the authors, cited, derive their data from uncracked or cracked ice cores?

  5. epica
    Posted Sep 5, 2006 at 5:46 AM | Permalink | Reply

    #4 You can do whatever you want with the ice (as long you dont melt it) the water isotopes are robust. Therefore one uses typically outer exposed ice to measure the isotope signal and reserves the inner part foe aerosols and gases.

  6. MrPete
    Posted Sep 5, 2006 at 5:48 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Re #1 be careful about presuming the conclusion.

    In fact, that may be one of the major Big Idea lessons of Steve M’s work.

    If warming can produce both depletion and enrichment in a certain time/space context, then what just happened to dO18 as a “direct temperacture” proxy in that context?

    Every time I return here, I’m amused — and horrified — by the latest careful demonstration of how easily people who are desperate to find guidance in the numbers will find what they’re looking for.

  7. MrPete
    Posted Sep 5, 2006 at 6:13 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Here is an interesting example of isotopes used for local analysis, with much background and illustration of various factors that complexify the situation.

  8. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Sep 5, 2006 at 6:15 AM | Permalink | Reply

    #1. epica, absolutely not. That’s not what I said at all.

    There’s a natural tendency to want to get “good” results out faster than “bad” results. In mining promotions, promoters always find a way to rush good results out and delay bad results. There’s enough delay in the Bona Churchill results that give me ground to believe that they will be “bad” results. Let’s see if I’m right – I’ve made an on-the-record prediction. I certainly don’t expect them to be totally withheld; I expect them to be published after IPCC 4AR. (They have already missed the cut-off date for inclusion). I do believe that if they had shown anomalous 20th century values, Thompson would have found a way to get them out in time to meet IPCC 4AR cut-off dates.

    I’ve been on record here for some time about the fact that Hughes has not published a peep about his Sheep Mountain update in 2002. If these ring widths were off the chart, I feel quite confident that we’d have heard about it. Again, I predict the Sheep Mountain bristlecone ring widths did not go off the charts in the 1990s.

    I would certainly not interpret a change to more depleted dO18 values at Bona Churchill in the 20th century as evidence against global warming. I’m quite convinced that 20th century temperatures are warmer than 19th century temperatures. Don’t set up straw men.

    However, such results from Bona Churchill would be inconvenient for an argument that less depleted dO18 values in the Himalayas are convincing EVIDENCE for an anomalous 20th century.

  9. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Sep 5, 2006 at 6:19 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Let’s not lose sight here of the interesting information in the paper by Fisher et al about regime changes.

  10. epica
    Posted Sep 5, 2006 at 6:35 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Different parts and cores of Mount Logan were published before, I think by three different groups working there. Interpretation of nearly everything there seems extraordinarily difficult. Neverless several publications made it to Science/Nature and many others were published in high level journals. I cant see anything why a particular trend on Mount Logan or on Bona Churchill is “good” and another is “bad”. Certainly there is no problem to get these results out and published. Thompson is working now with two drilling teams to finish, as he puts it, drilling before the last glaciers disappeared. I doubt that he is much now more than 4 months per year at home. I cant see anything particular in a 2003 drilling not being published yet.
    The proposed regime shift was suggested in many papers on Logan. Might be, or the mountain is just a mess.

  11. bender
    Posted Sep 5, 2006 at 7:29 AM | Permalink | Reply

    epica, what do you make of the Fisher et al article? Or do you think these results are meaningless, given the mountain is “a mess”?

  12. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Sep 5, 2006 at 8:21 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I think that the important thing, from a warmer perspective, about a changing wind pattern is that it removes the “see how Alaska is melting; must be global warming” from the “proof of” to the “compatable with” category. I.e. this is a normal sort of situation/change and while it may be a natural reaction of the global climate to an overall warming trend, it’s not proof of it.

  13. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Sep 5, 2006 at 9:54 AM | Permalink | Reply

    epica, as I said in my post, I’m sure that there are many "really excellent" reasons why the Bona Churchill results have not been published to date. My prediction stands: the Bona Churchill dO18 series will not have elevated 20th century levels. Do you agree with that prediction?

  14. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Sep 5, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Reply

    A thought experiment: if the results at PRCol had been the opposite – an upward step in dO18 levels – would they have been reported differently – perhaps as evidence of global warming and not as changing wind patterns? Why are smaller changes at Dunde evidence of global warming rather than changing wind patterns?

  15. Paul Dennis
    Posted Sep 5, 2006 at 10:26 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Guys, I’m back from my holiday and now about to go off for two weeks fieldwork in the west coast of Ireland. It’s a hard life! Steve, I’m sorry, I’ll miss your trip to Europe. I leave on the 9th and don’t get back till the 23rd September. Good luck at the conference and meetings.

    I’ve not read the Fisher paper yet, just looked at the figure you’ve posted. My interpretation of the data as presented, is that ca. the mid 19th century there was a sudden change in the dominant source area for the precipitation. The best evidence for this is the deuterium excess plot. Deuterium excess is: delta D – 8 x delta 18-O. The dominant control on the deuterium excess is the relative humidity in the source region where water is evaporating off the ocean. Temperature and other local conditions at the site of precipitation have little effect on the deuterium excess. The exception to this is where there is extensive evaporation of rain and surface water in arid regions. However these can be identified by a low gradient (4 – 5) on a plot of deuterium versus 18-O. My guess this isn’t a problem for these samples.

    Higher values are associated with kinetic isotope effects as a result of evaporation into an atmosphere of low relative humidity.

    The shift to higher values ca. 1840 would indicate a change in the evaporation conditions i.e. a change in the source region, or a change in humidity of the source region.

    The drop in delta 18-O doesn’t necessarily indicate a cooling. It is an indicator of the temperature difference between the source region and the area where precipitation is occurring.

    Interpreting the change in delta 18-O and deuterium excess in terms of a shift of source region associated with a regime change in the dominant air flow seems reasonable. A much more southerly source of vapour could produce both a depleted delta 18-O (larger temperature difference) and an elevated deuterium excess.

  16. epica
    Posted Sep 6, 2006 at 8:54 AM | Permalink | Reply

    #13 I really hope that Bona Churchill has some more depleted values for recent periods because that would prove that Logan is not a very local or even perturbed record (see the discussion in the paper on possible effects of wind scouring ). Any resemblance between the two records would be highly welcome since this would demonstrate a suffient regional significance (something which has been demonstrated for Thompson’s Andean icecores). We have to live with any result, but assuming, the Bona Churchill would be exactly the inverse of what it is, I dont see how this could make an argument in favor for the importance of GW happening or not. Therefore your remark #14 is mainly a question about psychology and I leave it to you to imagine what other people think and what their motivation is and stuff.
    Logan has huge variability which cant be explained by classical rainout intensity driven by condensation temperatures which is why there is also no nearby met stations which would show something resembling to the isotopes from Logan. Dunde has relatively small variability and the 20th century rise is exceptional in a 1000 year perspective. This does not necessarily mean that Dunde’s isotopes mean Temperature alone, but you could look at the different isotope records as a hydro-climatological tracer in its own rights. As Thompson’s PNAS paper explains this isotopic tracer often and at different locations shows unusual 20th century values. I have seen new, soon to be published isotope records from completely independent archives showing something similar.
    #15 Paul, I agree with everything you say, however condensation temps have a strong influence also on the XS and I am not sure if on Mount Logan circulation changes rather would produce something with opposite sign. A circulation change to considerably warmer source temperatures would also rise condensation temperatures and usually the local effects dominate for the isotopes and for the XS. The model Fisher uses should take all this into account, but for the moment I am not yet convinced of the circulation argument. In the Alps (Monte Rosa) thera are sites where you loose basically the entire winter snow and one could imagine that such scouring effects depend on comparably small wind strength changes.

  17. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Sep 6, 2006 at 9:26 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Don’t you have important scouring effects in the Andes as well? Wouldn’t the same argument apply?

    When you say that regional significance has been established in the Andes, what do you mean by that? The plots for Quelccaya, Sajama and Huascaran look pretty harum-scarum to me.

  18. epica
    Posted Sep 6, 2006 at 9:38 AM | Permalink | Reply

    # Certainly there is some scouring however with much smaller impact due to the relatively small seasonal isotope cycle and the defined rainy season. If you loose winter snow on Logan you shift the signal by nearly 10″‚° or so.
    The Andean records line up nicely on the decadal scale in the 20th century. It is very probable that the decadal variability we see before 1900 would line up as well if you shift peaks and lows around withing dating uncertainties. For the latter see the work of Stefie Knuesel from the University of Bern (think JGR 2003 or so).

  19. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Oct 22, 2006 at 9:33 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Just noticed this progress report from around Oct 2003:

    The analyses of the Bona-Churchill ice cores are now underway in the laboratories at OSU’s BPRC. The primary measurements that are being made continuously along the length of all cores include the concentration and size distribution of insoluble microparticles (dust), àŽⲱ8O, àŽⳄ, and concentrations of the major anion and cation species. The upper sections of the cores have been analyzed for total Beta radioactivity. The annual accumulation rate has averaged ~1100 mm of water equivalent over the recent past. As of October 2003 we have analyzed 5600 àŽⲱ8O, àŽⳄ, dust and chemistry samples representing 320 meters of the 460-meter deep ice core. The dust and calcium concentrations show distinct annual variations and the preliminary results suggest that the annually resolved record will cover more than 2500 years. This bodes well for the recovery of a very high-resolution record of past climatic and environmental variability from these cores.

    It sure is taking a long time.

  20. bender
    Posted Oct 22, 2006 at 9:51 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Re #19
    Yes, but not as long as those new, unpublished bristlecone pine chronologies.

  21. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Oct 25, 2006 at 3:19 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I finally broke down and bought An Inconvenient Truth. In a rare bit of insight, my local bookstore did not classify it in the “Science” section. The clerk foraged around – at first, he thought that it was in the Soociology section – which would have been an apt classification. However, it wasn’t there. He finally located it in the History section. And indeed there are some nice vignettes of Al Gore’s life interspersed through the book. Gore is almost exactly the same age as me and the vignettes and pictures of the 1950s and 1970s have much resonance for me. From his bio, Gore seems like a very decent man with a fine family. I also thought that he was shabbily treated in Bush v Gore.

    I’ll post some things about the book at length some time. On page 60-61 is a beautiful photograph of the Bona Churchill glacier taken by Lonnie Thompson’s team in 2002. MAybe Gore can get Thompson to release the dO18 values from Bona-Churchill.

  22. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Oct 25, 2006 at 4:24 PM | Permalink | Reply

    re: #21

    I also thought that he was shabbily treated in Bush v Gore.

    That’s because you weren’t and probably still aren’t aware of all the things which went on. The fact is Gore never had a chance of prevailing given the Republican legislature in Florida and the the Republican majorities in the US Congress but still hoped against hope something would happen, just as he buys the hockey stick unthinkingly. The only really bad players in the 2000 election were the networks for declaring Gore the winner in Florida even before a number of polling places in the panhandle had closed, and the Florida Supreme Court for riding roughshod over the Florida constitution.

  23. welikerocks
    Posted Oct 25, 2006 at 7:33 PM | Permalink | Reply

    #21-22 And I hope you let me say this..

    Steve, most of us Americans were just glad the political news & commercials for the election would stop, and we could go back to normal. But no. Al would not go away. It dragged on for months. Every vote counts! Al would say, and on 20/20 he said it again, and the interviewer (Leslie Stall maybe?) said, in frustration ” Yes of course they do, and these votes have been counted 3 times sir!”
    I am sure Al Gore is a nice man, but after awhile I thought he acted beneath the position he wanted to hold.

    President Bush was inaugurated that January but the media didn’t stop-, over and over for months -everyone is mad and hating the President for “stealing the election”. All news all the time. It continued constantly. 9/11 happened- that changes the headlines of couse, but the hate was still there and stewing and popped up all over the place, and it continues.

    (I have several friends , of various political parties, and they voted for Bush both times for that very reason, the hate coming from the other side was too incredible to believe, in your face, everywhere and they didn’t want to be a part of it -example : much like that guy who posted here with CC initials)

    The greatest threat to mankind IS the dis-information coming from the media
    It creates the hate and the drama, and is taking over the sciences too as we speak.

  24. Slevdi
    Posted Dec 11, 2007 at 11:23 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I am not an academic so I don’t know how to get from this abstract to the real paper:

    The abstract says the paper was published 3 years ago:

    1500 Years of Annual Climate and Environmental Variability as Recorded in Bona-Churchill (Alaska) Ice Cores
    Thompson, L. G.; Mosley-Thompson, E. S.; Zagorodnov, V.; Davis, M. E.; Mashiotta, T. A.; Lin, P.
    AA(Byrd Polar Research Center, The Ohio State University, 1090 Carmack Road, Columbus, OH 43210 United States ; Department of Geological Sciences, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210 United States ;, AB(Byrd Polar Research Center, The Ohio State University, 1090 Carmack Road, Columbus, OH 43210 United States ; Department of Geography, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210 United States ;, AC(Byrd Polar Research Center, The Ohio State University, 1090 Carmack Road, Columbus, OH 43210 United States ;, AD(Byrd Polar Research Center, The Ohio State University, 1090 Carmack Road, Columbus, OH 43210 United States ;, AE(Byrd Polar Research Center, The Ohio State University, 1090 Carmack Road, Columbus, OH 43210 United States ;, AF(Byrd Polar Research Center, The Ohio State University, 1090 Carmack Road, Columbus, OH 43210 United States ;
    American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2004, abstract #PP23C-05
    Publication Date:
    AGU Keywords:
    9315 Arctic region, 3344 Paleoclimatology, 1827 Glaciology (1863), 1600 GLOBAL CHANGE (New category), 1620 Climate dynamics (3309)
    Bibliographic Code:

  25. Posted Dec 11, 2007 at 11:36 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Slevdi, #24, wrote,

    I am not an academic so I don’t know how to get from this abstract to the real paper:

    The abstract says the paper was published 3 years ago:

    1500 Years of Annual Climate and Environmental Variability as Recorded in Bona-Churchill (Alaska) Ice Cores
    Thompson, L. G.; Mosley-Thompson, E. S.; Zagorodnov, V.; Davis, M. E.; Mashiotta, T. A.; Lin, P.

    This looks like it’s just the abstract of an AGU presentation, not a published article. But in the 11/12/07 thread “Gleanings on Bona Churchill,” Steve turned up a graph of the data at least. No CWP :+(

3 Trackbacks

  1. [...] by Thompson in 2002, press releases issued, AGU notice and then dead silence. A few years ago, I speculated that this dead silenced presaged “bad” drill results – “bad” in the [...]

  2. By Gleanings on Bona Churchill « Climate Audit on May 15, 2012 at 11:26 PM

    [...] for Thompson’s viewpoint: otherwise we’d have heard about it. Here’s one such prediction: Here’s my prediction about dO18 levels at Bona Churchill.: 20th century dO18 levels will be more [...]

  3. By The Quelccaya Update « Climate Audit on Apr 7, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    [...] [...]

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