The multiproxy world has been a little quiet since AR4. Eerily quiet. But the Team has plans to liven things up in the June 2008-9 year with plans for a:
Broad announcement of [PR] Challenge to paleo, modeling and statistics communities (e.g., EOS, BAMS, PAGES, CLIVAR, PaleoList, AmStat, EGGS, Nature Reports).
They didn’t mention Climate Audit on their list. But we here at CA are always happy to help the Team. So allow me to notify the CA community that Caspar Ammann and other organizers have announced the Paleoclimate Reconstruction Grand Challenge, which has what appear to be a new website here unveiling its new website here. In theirstatement of goals, the Team stated:
The “PR” component of the name doubles for Public Relations (PR).
Before I discuss the Grand Challenge, let me mention how I learned of the Grand Challenge, which is sort of interesting. A few days ago, I checked the glacial progress of the former Osborn et al (2004, submitted), now Osborn et al (2008, submitted) and noticed the following submission on Osborn’s website involving the Jones group (Jones, Briffa, Osborn), the Mann group (Mann, Ammann, Wahl, and, in a special cameo appearance, Gavin Schmidt), the AR4 chapter 6 Coordinating Lead Authors (Jansen, Overpeck) and the Climate of the Past editor and editor-in-chief who handled the Juckes article (Goosse, Wolff).
Jones PD, Briffa KR, Osborn TJ, Lough JM, van Ommen TD, Vinther BM, Luterbacher J, Wahl ER, Zwiers FW, Mann ME, Schmidt GA, Ammann CM, Buckley BM, Cobb KM, Esper J, Goosse H, Graham N, Jansen E, Kiefer T, Kull C, Kuttel M, Mosley-Thompson E, Overpeck JT, Riedwyl N, Schulz M, Tudhope AW, Villalba R, Wanner H, Wolff E and Xoplaki E (2008) High-resolution paleoclimatology of the last millennium: a review of current status and future prospects. Submitted to The Holocene.
It’s like having a lot of syndicate bosses in the same place at the same time and it definitely caught my eye. Given the recent surveys of millennium paleoclimate methods by these authors (Jones and Mann, Rev Geophys 2004; Mann, Ann Rev Earth Plan Sci 2007; IPCC AR4 chapter 6), not to speak of the NAS Report, it seemed odd that they’d do yet another methodological review. [Note - for clarification of a concern expressed by a reader below, I do not imply that these scientists double as syndicate bosses or, in a later comment, as members of the Politburo. It is a common practice for analysts to look at who was at a meeting, with particular interest in new faces. This paper had some new names not previously linked to the core Hockey Team and the term, while probably too provocatively colorful, is intended only to be satirical of the parsing of who the new authors, including some self-satire.]
While I was familiar with many of the other names on the list, indeed some of their articles have been discussed here from time to time, there were some names that I was unfamiliar with. So I thought it would be interesting to look at the “new” members, in the way that an analyst might look at new members of the Politburo, one by one, and see what they did and see if there were any patterns. I went down the list one by one, considering in particular whether any of their work impacted prior discussions of MWP-modern relationships.
The “other” authors fell into a couple of distinct groups. Luterbacher had published several articles with detailed reconstructions of European climate after 1500, three of which were cited in AR4. A number of his co-authors, primarily modelers, are on the list (Kuttel, Riedwyl, Wanner, Xoplaki). I’m not aware of them getting involved in the MWP, but maybe they were expanding into new territories.
Some of the authors had published articles on individual proxies, in particular, corals (Lough, Cobb); ice cores (van Ommen, Vinther, Wolff and Mrs Lonnie); glaciers (Kull); dendros (Esper; Buckley from the D’Arrigo group; Villalba; Graham, a Malcolm Hughes coauthor). There were a couple of authors mentioned in AR4 chapter 6 in connection with glacial-interglacial contrasts (Schulz, Tudhope). Zweiers is a statistical specialist who’s co-authored a book with von Storch; he’s been prominent in attribution studies (e.g. IPCC chapter 9), and it’s interesting to see him in a paleoclimate context, being their token statistician, I guess. Curiously, nobody from the von Storch- Zorita group and nobody collecting high-resolution tropical ocean sediments.
After I’d gone through a first pass, there was one name left over – Kiefer. He wasn’t mentioned in AR4 and isn’t a name that I’ve encountered before. But it’s amazing what googling names turns up. Attaching a tag or two (perhaps climate, I’m not sure), I encountered his name in the minutes of the GCOS/WCRP ATMOSPHERIC OBSERVATION PANEL FOR CLIMATE, FOURTEENTH SESSION, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND, 21 – 25 APRIL 2008, online here. Phil Jones reported to the session:
Paleoclimatology has made significant advances recently, exemplified by the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of IPCC giving the subject a chapter to itself in the 2007 WG1 Report. Rightly or wrongly, the importance of the subject (particularly reconstructions for the last few millennia) is the highest it has ever been.
He then described both the origin of the paper by Jones and the gang of 29 and the Grand Challenge:
PAGES/CLIVAR organized an interdisciplinary session in Wengen, Switzerland in the summer of 2006 and a follow-up meeting will take place during May 2008 in Trieste, Italy. A large review paper from the Swiss meeting has recently been submitted (Jones et al., 2008). The aims of these meetings are to improve reconstructions of the climate of the last millennium as well as improving the simulations from climate models of the same period. Taken together, the Wengen meeting has led to a project called the Paleoclimate Reconstruction (PR) Challenge. The project to produce the climate model output and the required datasets is being funded by NOAA.
The PAGES newsletter in January 2008 contained a brief description of the Paleoclimate Challenge written by Caspar Ammann, stating:
Individual reconstruction groups (and anyone who would like to participate) will be brought together and issued a small set of realistic pseudo-proxy series and calibrated “instrumental data” drawn from the model output. They will be asked to reconstruct the simulated climate evolution to the best of their technique’s ability. By comparing reconstructions with the full, “true” model climates, each group can assess their performance in great detail. A key objective of this project is to document how much of the true climate can be described with the combined set of reconstruction results, to determine which aspects of the overall or regional climate are captured well, and whetheri mportant elements are being missed.
Kiefer was a coauthor of this article, described there as representing the “PAGES International Project Office”. The concept was also noted at the EGU in April 2008. Had I attended the EGU, I might have learned of the Grand Challenge on an earlier occasion. But in fact, learned of it only by trying to figure out who Kiefer was.
Now there is a website for the Grand Challenge, which appears to be hot off the press. The “Timeline” on the website commences in June 2008:
Year 1 (June 2008-April 2009):
- Form Challenge Steering Committee and launch communication for the 3 key groups.
- Broad announcement of Challenge to paleo, modeling and statistics communities (e.g., EOS, BAMS, PAGES, CLIVAR, PaleoList, AmStat, EGGS, Nature Reports).
- Collection of reconstruction codes, documentation, and related data.
- Collect existing model run data and prepare for pseudo-proxy calculation.
- Identify networks and develop forward models or off-line regression models for pseudo-proxies in consultation with key specialists. Pre-implementation review.
- Solicit input on reconstruction targets from reconstruction community. Review.
- Build Open Reconstruction Access Point Web Site.
Year 2 (June 2009-April 2010):
- Start Open PR-Challenge Intercomparison: pseudo-proxies from existing runs.
- Collect Open PR-Challenge Intercomparison results, summarize on website.
- Workshop “Data-Model-Integration” extension to PAGES Open Science Meeting.
- Prepare and run double-blind experiment at NCAR, disseminate data.
Year 3 (June 2010-April 2011)
- Collect and summarize results of the Grand PR-Challenge.
- Hold special session on the Grand PR-Challenge at AGU or EGU.
- Post-Challenge Assessment Workshop: New Horizons in Climate Reconstructions. Identify important issues to be addressed by individual communities or through collaborative working groups.
To be announced.
In their “Motivation” page, they note, without actually mentioning me, the following concerns as “clouding” their efforts:
Most concerns regarding available climate reconstructions arise from:
- The small number of proxies of acceptable quality
- Changes in proxy sensitivity to climate over time
- Small sample sizes
- Uncertainties in the ability of statistical algorithms to recognize and reproduce climate variations against the noise at various timescales.
- Differences in implementation of the “same” reconstruction algorithms
- ‘Tuning’ of algorithms and/or choice of proxy networks in order to achieve a desired result.
Such criticisms cloud efforts to provide an extended record that forms a crucial basis for climate change predictions. The paleoclimate community needs to find ways of reassessing its methods to build confidence in the reconstruction efforts.
Some of their “Broader community goals and benefits” are ones that readers of CA can hardly cavil about:
- Transparent discussion on the state of knowledge about climate of the last 1 – 2 millennia.
- Open access to reconstruction codes, documentations, data and validation methods and stimulation of use of NOAA Word Data Center for Paleoclimatology as the repository for proxy data.
- Enhance interaction between proxy-paleo, modeling and statistics communities.
- Enable the development of novel methods through well-documented presentation of current status (including successes and deficiencies).
- Emphasize the need for new approaches in handling uncertainty for both the reconstruction methods and the proxy data.
- Promote rigid intercomparison between climate interpreted from real world data, and that simulated by coupled climate models.
Excellent!! Now maybe we can find out how MBH99 confidence intervals were calculated; maybe Mrs Lonnie will get Lonnie to archive his data; maybe Caspar Ammann, the Grand Poobah, will release the Supplementary Information to Ammann and Wahl 2007.
Another of their goals:
- Identification of bad proxies: Test if standard pre-screening, or the reconstructions themselves, can identify questionable, non-consistent proxies within a proxy network.
Again, something that readers of CA can hardly cavil about. Indeed, it’s something that we’ve been suggesting for a long time.
Since Caspar Ammann is going to be the coordinator for this imposing new Team repository, we note that three years ago, Ammann announced a related plan on the UCAR website aiming to provide details of climate reconstructions at the UCAR website.
The general goals of these pages were stated above (see Millennium Home Page). In short, we want to provide the available climate reconstruction methods in an accessible format to the climate research community so that everybody can not only reproduce the individually published reconstructions, but that everybody can study the method’s behavior and evaluate strength and weaknesses.
That particular project did not result in accomplishing the stated objectives; its proximate objective seemed mostly to attack M&M. I hope that Ammann’s new enterprise remains more up-to-date than his last enterprise, where we still are told:
We are working on an update of this site and a cleaned-up version of the code since the Wahl and Ammann paper is accepted by Climatic Change and in press. Once GRL has reached a decision, we will also post the appropriate codes and illustrations here.
Ahem, Caspar – GRL rejected your submission in March 2005. Doncha think it’s time to announce it? In the description of the Grand Challenge to the public, Caspar Ammann stated:
Overall, the Challenge provides an opportunity for this branch of climate research to open up to the other disciplines, as well as to the interested public.
Sounds like a laudable goal. But when I recently asked Ammann for information on Ammann and Wahl 2007, his surly answer was:
why would I even bother answering your questions, isn’t that just lost time?
Answers like that aren’t going to win many PR Challenges.
Be that as it may, I hope that the Grand PR Challenge is successful in ensuring “open access to reconstruction codes, documentations, data and validation methods” from its own members and, if applicable, their spouses. I certainly expect to be near the front of the line asking for all of the above.