Don’t you think that someone on the Team might have been a little curious as to what bristlecone ring widths have done during the past 25 years? For this, we have the classic excuse of Michael Mann and the Team for not updating bristlecone and proxy records is that it’s not practical within the limited climate budgets:
While paleoclimatologists are attempting to update many important proxy records to the present, this is a costly, and labor-intensive activity, often requiring expensive field campaigns that involve traveling with heavy equipment to difficult-to-reach locations (such as high-elevation or remote polar sites). For historical reasons, many of the important records were obtained in the 1970s and 1980s and have yet to be updated.
From the first moment that I got involved with paleoclimate, it seemed obvious to me (as it is to anyone not on the Team) that, if the classic “proxies” are any good and not merely opportunistic correlations, that there is an ideal opportunity to perform out-of-sample testing of the canonical Team reconstructions by bringing the proxies up-to-date. I wrote an Op Ed in February 2005 for the National Post entitled “Bring the Proxies Up to Date”, where I expressed the view that this was really the first order of business in Team world. While the addition of new proxies is also important and nice, this is not the same thing as out-of-sample testing of the proxies used in MBH99, Crowley and Lowery etc – especially the bristlecones.
I’ve continued to satirize this failure pointing out that several of Graybill’s classic bristlecone sites were easily accessible from UCAR world headquarters in Boulder and that no heroic expedition was required to update, for example, the Graybill sites to the west of Colorado Springs.
To get to these sites from UCAR headquarters in Boulder, a scientist would not merely have to go 15 miles SW of Colorado Springs and go at least several miles along a road where they would have to be on guard for hikers and beware of scenic views, they would, in addition, have to go all the way from Boulder to Colorado Springs. While lattes would doubtless be available to UCAR scientists in Colorado Springs, special arrangements would be required for latte service at Frosty Park, though perhaps a local outfitting company would be equal to the challenge. Clearly updating these proxies is only for the brave of heart and would require a massive expansion of present paleoclimate budgets. No wonder paleoclimate scientists have been unable to update these records since Graybill’s heroic expedition in 1983.
Pete Holzmann (Mr Pete), who lives in Colorado Springs, agreed with this satire and this led to what I’ll call the Starbucks Hypothesis: could a climate scientist have a Starbucks in the morning, collect tree rings through the day and still be home for dinner?
To make a long story short, last summer, when my wife and I visited my sister in Colorado Springs and I thought that it would be rather fun to test the Starbucks Hypothesis and I gave a bit of a teaser report in late July, promising some further reports in a few weeks, but I got distracted by the Hansen stuff. At the time, I mentioned that, together with CA reader Pete Holzmann and his wife Leslie, we visited some bristlecones in the Mt Almagre area west of Colorado Springs.
But I have a little secret which I’ll share with you as long as you promise not to tell anyone: our objective was to locate the precise site sampled by Graybill. Not just that. Prior to the trip, I obtained a permit from the U.S. Forest Service to take dendrochronological samples from bristlecones on Mount Almagre and we did more than look at pretty views; we obtained up-to-date bristlecone samples. I only went up Almagre on the first day. Our permit lasted a month and Pete and Leslie spent two more days on Almagre, finally locating and sampling tagged Graybill trees on the third day.
Altogether (and primarily through the efforts of Pete and Leslie), our project collected 64 cores from 36 different trees at 5 different locations on Mount Almagre. 17 Graybill trees were identified, of which 8 were re-sampled. All the cores are currently at a dendrochronological laboratory, where sample preparation and scanning steps have been completed. Cross-dating is now taking place. For the most part, we tried to sample non-stripbark trees in keeping with NRC recommendations, but some stripbarks were sampled to reconcile with Graybill. Of the tagged Graybill trees, the tag numbers do not reconcile with the archive identification numbers and, in the absence of any concordance, reconciliation may prove more difficult than one would think.
We will archive at WDCP detailed information on the location of all samples (current spreadsheet is here) , which has already been sent to the U.S. Forest Service. Photographs of each tree are shown gallery here. Here’s a fun presentation that Pete prepared of our Day 1 itinerary. Here is a Google Earth tour. If you run it and when Google Earth comes up, go to Tools “ Play Tour , you’ll have some fun.
Some expenses have been incurred for this expedition. Leaving aside travel expenses (which were vacation expenses that I was going to incur anyway), the jeep got a bad scratch on the first day and cost about $500 to repair plus some more repairs from Days 2 and 3; it’s going to cost a few thousand at the dendrochronology laboratory for the sample prep, scanning and cross-dating as this has been done on a contract basis. I’ve submitted an abstract to Rob Wilson’s divergence session at AGU and would like to present these results (and to cover Pete’s expenses if he can come). On the basis that we submit a data paper to a journal, publication expenses will be another $800-1000 or so (academic authors pay the journals to publish). This has been a Climate Audit project so I’d like readers who contribute to the top jar to think about a special contribution for the bristlecone sampling. Maybe Martin Juckes, James Hansen and Michael Mann will contribute as well – I’m sure that they are all anxious for the results.
I’ll add some more information later in the day. Right now I’m off to visit the dendro lab and see how things are coming along. In 2002, Malcolm Hughes sampled bristlecones at Sheep Mountain and nothing has been reported or archived from this study. In 2003, Lonnie Thompson sampled ice cores at Bona-Churchill and we’ve heard nothing about it. One might guess that 20th century dO18 levels were not high as, at the nearby site of Mount Logan, 20th century dO18 levels were lower than earlier levels, attributed to regional changes in circulation rather than temperature.
I’ve obviously been very critical of what appears to be opportunistic reporting of results. With my experience in mining speculations, I fully understand how much temptation that there is to delay reporting of “bad” results in the hope that later drill holes in the program will salvage things. But you don’t have any choice in the matter – you’re obliged to report the results. Plus investors are smart enough to now that delayed results are virtually never good results.
Right now I have no idea what the sampling will show – maybe it will show a tremendous response by the bristlecones in the past 20 years – perhaps due to CO2, nitrate or phosphate fertilization, perhaps due to temperature increases. Maybe they won’t go up and we’ll hear more about the divergence problem. I don’t expect these particular measurements to settle anything. But jeez, doncha think that someone would have tried to find out?
Anyway I promise one thing: the measurements are going to be made public as soon as I get them. Just like a mining project. No waiting for 5 or 10 or 25 years like certain people. No losing the data like other people. Whatever they show. As soon as I get the cross-dated measurement data, we will immediately send it to the World Data Center for Paleoclimatology (which I expect to take place within a few weeks.) I hope that this will set an example to the trade as to the type of turn-time which is practical.
I’m visiting the dendro lab today to say hello and I wanted this to be on the record before my visit. I’m not sure how far along they are, but I think that they’ve finished sample prep and scanning and have started cross-dating. I don’t expect any results, but they may be far along enough so that I’ll have an impression of what the result growth will have been. So I wanted to be on the record on the planned schedule prior to my knowing anything about the results, just in case I get an impression today of what the recent growth has been.
UPDATE 2 pm. OK, I’m back from the dendro lab in Guelph. They are further along than I expected. The longest core is 883 years (Tree 30A). This had a Graybill tag 84-55, but if you go to the archived measurement data
and look for ALM55 (which would presumably be the match), there are no corresponding measurements; there is obviously a sequence ALM01, ….; there is an ALM53 and an ALM60. Is there an alter ego somewhere or is it missing? Right now we don’t know.
After sanding the core is scanned. The measurement of ring widths is semi-automatic. For these bristlecones, earlywood and latewood was easy to distinguish. Using a magnified version of the scan, each ring is picked out (with the computer recording the pick). The computer then yields back the measurements. I’ve posted up a couple of print-screens showing the most recent widths for 30A and the widths in the mid-19th century.
Below is a print screen showing the 30A ring widths from 1124 to 2007. I’ll post up a re-plot at some point with a legible x-axis. For orientation in the absence of a scale, the upspike on the left is 1174; there are low values from 1353 through the early 1400s; there is a 1690 spike; 1865 and 1880 are upspikes; 1941 is a small upspike.
According to the Team hypothesis of a positive linear relationship between temperature and ring widths, the warm 1990s and 2000s should have yielded the widest ring widths in history. What do you think? This is only one tree, but my quick impression was that recent growth was not elevated. So this looks like a Divergence “Problem”. If CO2 or other fertilization has been a factor, then I hate to think what the growth would have been without the fertilization. Remember the NAS panel saying that the Divergence Problem only affected high-latitude sites? Maybe they should have done some testing before they opined on this.
BTW while I’m critical of how the Team uses dendro information, I think that it is well worth supporting the collection of dendro information, even if it’s meaning is not clear right now. It has the advantage of being well-dated – and when you see the problems with dating ocean sediments, it’s nice to have some records that are well dated. There’s a role for it; so please – no posts dumping on dendrochronology. The dendrochronologists who’ve been doing this work (and who I will credit in due course) are excellent people.
Tree 30A Ring widths. 2007 on right. i’ll replot this some time soon. For orientation in the absence of a scale, the start is 1124; the upspike on the left is 1174; there are low values from 1353 through the early 1400s; there is a 1690 spike; 1865 and 1880 are upspikes; 1941 is a small upspike.