Shiyatov and the Polar Urals

Nearly all readers agreed with the proposal (of my most recent post) for a comprehensive mapping and crossdating of all dead and living trees within one or more altitudinal transects in the Polar Urals, with the objective of achieving a crossdated dataset of at least 1000 subfossil trees and 500 living trees, each with accurately recorded coordinates and altitude. As opposed to the puny dataset used in the CRU chronology, which has less than 10% of this population and which, as archived, lacks accurate location and altitude information.

Several readers speculated that the costs of such a dataset would not be all that large and ought to be within the reach of the enormous climate science budgets. Rob Wilson wrote in – from the perspective of a practising (and, in contrast to CRU, actively collecting) dendro – saying that neither should the costs of such a program be under-estimated nor the difficulty in getting funding, concluding that such difficulties were the major factor in the shortage of long high-latitude chronologies:

As a quick response to Steve’s idealised approach. Yup – all well and good and I agree with it all. The reality is that for such replication requires multiple fieldtrips, several years (decades for Scandinavian work for example) and funding (plus bods on the ground). The reality is not so easy and funding is far from easy to acquire if you are considering, fieldwork, analytical costs (RW, MXD, isotopes etc), salaries etc. That is why there are so few millennial long chronologies from the high latitudes. The material is waiting there to be collected.

In a comment to the post, I observed that there was a punch line to it, a clue which a few readers understood but many didn’t.

The punch line is this: according to articles in peer-reviewed academic literature, the proposed comprehensive survey has already been done. (Indeed, the description of the recommended program was taken almost literally from an article by Stepan Shiyatov, who deserves great credit for carrying out a scientifically rational program for over 50 years under what must have been difficult circumstances.

In today’s post, I’ll summarize the extent of the Shiyatov dataset. (As a caveat, today’s post relies on information in peer reviewed academic literature; I have not personally had access to a digital version of Shiytov’s data.)

The “Polar Urals” Site
Shiyatov’s Polar Urals site is located on the east slope of the Urals mountains slightly to the west of the Sob River, which flows through a rare pass through the Urals. On ex ante grounds, the location appears ideal for paleoclimate work, as the vegetation goes from alpine tundra to open forest and then to closed forest over relatively short distances (less than a km). The area has been essentially undisturbed by human settlement. Subfossil trees and stumps are plentiful in the alpine tundra.

Over the years, six altitudinal transects have been mapped: the first in 1968, the second in 1983 and the most recent four since 2000.

Locations, methodology and counts for the first two transects were provided in Shiyatov and Mazepa 2011 (from which the following synopsis is taken). The existence of the other four transects is mentioned in Mazepa et al 2011, but without details.

Transect 1 was established in 1968 (or perhaps 1960?) on the east slope of a low foothill (312.8 m) of the Urals range (see figure 1 below). It was 860 m long and its altitudinal range was from 265 m to 190 m. Its upper transect was at 66.7779N and 65.425E. Shiyatov mapped the location of each tree and sapling on a 1:100 scale (769 standing and fallen dead trees and more than 4500 live trees: Shiyatov and Mazepa 2011), measuring the morphometrics of each. Shiyatov took cross-sections from each dead tree, from which ring widths were measured, successfully crossdating cores from 667 trees, most failures having only 30-40 rings.

Transect 2 was established in 1983 on the southeast slope of the Rai-Iz Massif (a name to keep in mind), 5.5 km to the north-northwest of the first transect (see Figure 1 below). It was 430m x 20m, from 340 m to 280 m (the then timberline). Its upper limit was tat 66.89125N and 65.581E. At this transect, all trees had died off by the 19th century, the coldest period in the record, though saplings and young growth had been re-established in the 20th century. Shiyatov mapped 252 dead trees (and the saplings), again taking cross-sections from the dead trees, crossdating 221 dead trees: Shiyatov and Mazepa 2011; Mazepa et al 2011.

The combined count of subfossil cross-sections from these two transects is therefore 1021, of which 888 are crossdated. Mazepa et al 2011 reported that the inventory of cross-sections from dead trees had been increased to 2262 (more than double the 1021 collected from the first two transects), but did not provide information on the proportion that had been crossdated. However, given that 87% of the trees on Transects 1 and 2 had been crossdated, one presumes that well over 1500 trees have now been crossdated. (Not complaining, by the way, about the 888 crossdated trees from Transects 1 and 2.)

Neither Shiyatov and Mazepa 2011 nor Mazepa et al 2011 provide count information on crossdated living trees. Shiyatov 1995 reported that more than 400 cuts from dead trees (209 from Transect 2) and 350 cores and cuts from living trees had been collected. Shiyatov 1995 reported a chronology to 1992, indicating that there had been a coring program in 1992, subsequent to the Schweingruber program in 1991. (Further evidence of 1992 coring exists in Climategate documents.) There is also evidence of a coring program in 1996 (also within Climategate documents). Thus, it seems entirely possible that there are more than 500 crossdated living trees in Transects 1 and 2 (but even if there are only the 350 trees attested in Shiyatov 1995, this is still an order of magnitude larger than the CRU dataset.)

Briffa et al 2013 provided no site map for Polar Urals – an omission that would not be tolerated in a geological report. It is also an omission that strongly suggests to me that no one from CRU has ever been to Polar Urals (or Yamal) – a neglect that is not due to inadequate funding as CRU received over US$400,000 for the project of which the present article is the major output. (Annoyingly, the site maps in the Shiyatov articles lack grid information – an oversight that needlessly complicates interpretation and which reviewers should have caught.) Fortunately, Shiyatov and Mazepa 2011 provide information on the upper transect location accurate to the nearest second. This information is used to locate the two transects on Google Earth below. Shown for comparison are site location information from Briffa et al 2013 (see further discussion below.)

polar urals google close annotated
Figure 1. Site map of Shiyatov’s Polar Urals site. Exact (six-digit) locations of the upper end of each transect is given in Shiyatov and Mazepa 2011. The direction and bottom end of each transect is estimated based on the running text of Shiyatov and Mazepa 2011. The point-locations are derived from the table in B13 SuppMat 3. The Sob River is visible in the top right of the image shown below. The above image was created using RgoogleMaps, a very nice package that I used for the first time in making this image. I’ll show the code in a comment to demonstrate its facility.


Schweingruber and CRU

Unfortunately Shiyatov has not archived this exemplary dataset, which has accordingly not received the notice that it is due. The only Shiyatov measurement data archived at ITRDB is a selection of his 1968 measurement data from living trees (russ001.) Remarkably, Briffa et al excluded this data from their chronology (for reasons which I regard as unconvincing), resulting in the ironic situation that it appears that not a single measurement from Shiyatov’s institution was used in Briffa et al 2013.

If CRU didn’t use any Shiyatov measurements, what did they use?

In 1991, as part of his large-scale northern hemisphere sites (a survey that yielded the surprising Decline), Schweingruber surveyed a number of sites in NW Siberia, including Khadyta River in Yamal and the “Sob River” site (reported to be at 66 52N, 65 38E and 250 m). Schweingruber’s samples seem to have been taken from the area of Transect 2 (though this is only a guess – it’s too bad that Briffa et al 2013 did not bother giving scientifically accurate location information on the Schweingruber program). The 1991 sampling yielded 42 cores from 22 trees, all of which were measured for MXD and RW in Schweingruber’s lab in Switzerland.

As a followup (presumably in 1991 or 1992), Shiyatov sent 53 subfossil samples (50 trees) to Schweingruber for MXD and RW measurement. These samples seem to have been cores taken from Shiyatov’s subfossil disks (though this is just surmise on my part.) These were later combined with Schweingruber’s samples from living trees to make the “pou_la” dataset, available at NOAA ITRDB. Briffa et al 2013 provide some previously unavailable details: their PU05 (SupMat3) purports to provide identifications and spans (as measured by Shiyatov) for samples sent to Schweingruber. Unfortunately, the identification nomenclature at NOAA is inconsistent with the PU05 nomenclature and no concordance is available: this is something that is very desirable.

The pou_la combination was used in Briffa et al 1995 (Nature), an influential proxy article in the 1990s. As a claimed contrast to medieval warmth in the north Atlantic, Briffa et al 1995 asserted that the 11th and other medieval centuries were regionally cold in the Polar Urals and that 1032 was the coldest year of the millennium. This conclusion was diametrically opposed to the conclusions of Shiyatov 1995, which concluded that the medieval period had been warm in the Polar Urals. Shiyatov was listed as a coauthor of Briffa et al 1995 and was apparently unperturbed by the apparent inconsistency. The Polar Urals chronology of Briffa et al 1995 was important in “colding” the medieval period of the Jones et al 1998 reconstruction – a phenomenon that originally attracted my interest.

Many of the earliest Climategate emails (1996) are between Briffa and Russian dendros, including Shiyatov. Although Briffa et al 1995 (and subsequent work) was arguably a bowdlerization of Shiyatov’s research, Shiyatov and coauthors were grateful to Briffa for his interest in the work. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, they were desperate for money, a recurrent topic in many early Climategate emails. CRU found some money for them and , in return, Shiyatov and others provided CRU with copies of data not elsewhere available. In 1997, CRU received a copy of an expanded Polar Urals measurement dataset (briffa-treering-external/stepan/rai-iz.rwm), one which is considerably expanded in the medieval period from pou_la. This was included in the Climategate-1 dossier, but was not then connected to Polar Urals. More on this dataset on another occasion.

In 1999, at Schweingruber’s request, Shiyatov sent 32 additional samples (32 trees) supplementing periods of low replication in the pou_la data, especially the medieval period. A letter referring to the additional samples is in the CG1 dossier. Briffa et al 2013 (PU06 in SupMat 3) provide a covering email from SHiyatov to Schweingruber which, in addition to describing the location (stem/root) of the samples, also provided the span as measured by Shiyatov. In this case (unlike pou_la), a concordance is possible between the PU06 nomenclature and the polurula nomenclature. For reasons not explained in Briffa et al 2013, Schweingruber’s measurements cover significantly shorter periods than the span reported in the Shiyatov email: the average difference is 44 years, with a difference exceeding 100 years in some cases. (That the Shiyatov spans derive from actual measurements can be proven, though this is outside the scope of the present post.)

In 2002, Esper incorporated the polurula data into the Polar Urals data used in Esper et al 2002 – the only multiproxy study of the period that used Polar Urals rather than Briffa’s 2000 Yamal hockey stick. In 2005-6, D’Arrigo et al also incorporated the polurula data into their spline chronology; for their final reconstruction, they used the Briffa 2000 Yamal chronology, which they incorrectly labeled as coming from Polar Urals (and refused to correct.) I noticed the additional core count in a draft of D’Arrigo et al 2006 and in late 2005 began to report the inconsistency between the implicit RCS chronology inclusive of polurula and the Yamal super-stick. The discrepancy between the Polar Urals chronology inclusive of polurula and the Yamal superstick has been a recurrent issue at CA.

Briffa et al 2013

The subfossil data in Briffa et al 2013 is drawn entirely from the Schweingruber measurement data. Although Shiyatov (one of the listed coauthors of Briffa et al 2013) has crossdated at least 888 subfossil cores from Transects 1 and 2, Briffa et al 2013 only used Schweingruber’s measurements, a less than 10% subpopulation. From this already small dataset, CRU argued that root collar samples were inhomogeneous and excluded 21 of 83 trees. In their recommended version, the count in the early 11th century is only two trees – far below recommended levels. Indeed, the supposed low replication at Polar Urals is used by CRU as an argument in favor of Yamal (which has its own issues.)

The living tree inventory of Briffa et al 2013 also begins with the Schweingruber data. ^ crossdated trees from Shiyatov’s 1968 program are at NOAA ITRDB (russ001.rwl), but these were excluded by CRU, who argued that, unlike the Schweingruber data, russ001 lacked MXD data. IN my opinion, this is all too typical CRU ad hockery, since lack of accompanying MXD data was not an issue for their Yamal data (or to my knowledge in any predecessor CRU publication.)

To the Schweingruber data, CRU added two small measurement datasets (purlasi and purlasi_sc), which appear to have been measured by Alexander Kirdyanov at Krasnoyarsk from samples provided by Shiyatov’s institution (presumably along the lines of the earlier arrangement with Schweingruber.) The reported altitudes of both purlasi and purlasi_sc are lower than the altitudes of Transects 1 and 2. There is a substantial apparent inhomogeneity in the purlasi_sc dataset, which has nearly double the average ring width of any of the other datasets and which is reported to be about 5-6 km distant from Transect 1. The inhomogeneity is of the same order of magnitude as the root collar inhomogeneity, but CRU do not describe a protocol which objectively precludes the one, while accepting the other. Again a topic for another post.

Concluding Questions

Briffa et al 2013 raises many questions, some of which I’ll cover in other posts. In concluding today’s post, I wish to focus on CRU’s failure to use the seemingly comprehensive Shiyatov dataset. Some questions:

- did CRU ask Shiyatov for the complete dataset of crossdated subfossil and living cores?
– if so, did Shiyatov refuse and why?
– if not, why didn’t they ask?
– did CRU not know about the existence of the Shiyatov crossdated dataset? if they did know, why wouldn’t they ask to use it: particularly since Shiyatov and associates were listed as coauthors?
– did any reviewers take issue with CRU’s failure to use the Shiyatov dataset? If so, how did CRU respond to the reviewers?

I’ve asked Osborn about this at Real Climate. My comment (see here) was held up in moderation for over a day, but has now appeared. Osborn has answered some other comments and will perhaps explain this as well.

Over and above the question of why CRU didn’t use the Shiyatov data is the question of why CRU didn’t even report the existence of the Shiyatov dataset in their history of dendro work at Polar Urals. It’s hard to imagine information more relevant than the apparent existence of 888 crossdated subfossil trees at Transects 1 and 2 plus hundreds of crossdated living trees. But these numbers are not reported in Briffa et al 2013. One wonders why.

Update: Tim Osborn stated at Real Climate:

We were aware that many additional wood samples were collected, measured and cross-dated in the Polar Urals by our co-authors, as part of their excellent ongoing ecological monitoring at the tree-line. In fact there are even more data, from more recently sampled material. As with the previous data, these are a complex mix of stem, root, prostrate forms, etc. and indeed many samples will not be suitable for dendroclimatological analysis using the basic RCS approach.

A preliminary analysis of some of the “stem” samples produces a similar picture of tree-growth change when using RCS processing as that shown by the Polar Urals chronology in our paper. We made this preliminary check to satisfy ourselves that we could proceed with our publication with the knowledge that we were not publishing a chronology that was likely to be contradicted when the more recent samples are analysed and published.

It was evident that much additional work will be necessary to examine and assess their suitability (and potential biases) when processing these data, and we had already demonstrated in our paper the difficulties in using the existing root-collar samples for example. I repeat that some, or many, of these will not be suitable for straightforward RCS processing because they are from prostrate or root-collar samples.

The dendrochronological data from this recent sampling have not yet been published and it is the prerogative of the Ekaterinburg laboratory to publish the first dendroclimatological analysis of the data that they have spent many years and extensive effort in collecting and processing. We hope to continue our long-standing collaboration with our Russian colleagues in this work.

Your question and other commentary at your blog may give readers the false impression that we have published using an inadequate dataset. This is ironic given your advocacy for publishing (a biased version of) this chronology when you believed that it would support an elevated Medieval Warm period, advocacy that extended to questioning our integrity for not doing so. It is unfortunate that you fail to acknowledge the careful analysis reported in Briffa et al. (2013) to demonstrate the biases that would arise from a naïve use of the Polar Urals update data. It is also unfortunate that you fail to acknowledge that Briffa et al. (2013) was based on a significantly increased set of tree-ring data for the adjacent Polar Urals and Yamal regions, with overall replication that is much improved over previous work.

As always, one has to watch the pea. The original transects were done in 1968 and 1983, yielding 888 crossdated subfossil trees and hundreds of living trees. And yes, Shiyatov and associates have done new work since 2000, but that is not an excuse for CRU failing to utilize subfossil data that was collected 30-50 years ago. Puh-leeze. Nor does this excuse CRU’s failure to draw attention to size of the data that they didn’t use.

Nor do I accept Osborn’s suggestion that I have endorsed the use of radially deformed trees. A concern with such trees (strip bark bristlecones) has been a longstanding concern at CA.

References:
Shiyatov et al 2011, url Climate-driven dynamics of the forest-tundra vegetation in the Polar Ural Mountains
Mazepa et al 2011, url Climate-Driven Change of the Stand Age Structure in the Polar Ural Mountains
Shiyatov 1995 url Reconstruction of climate and the upper treeline dynamics since AD745 by tree ring data in the Polar Ural Mountains..
Briffa et al 1995, ^.

35 Comments

  1. kim
    Posted Jun 27, 2013 at 4:26 PM | Permalink

    In Shiyatov trust,
    The coin is true, edges milled.
    CRU, the counterfeit.
    ==============

  2. Willis Eschenbach
    Posted Jun 27, 2013 at 5:29 PM | Permalink

    I am, as usual, amazed at the depth and the detail of the case that you present. Everything cited and tied up in a neat bow, laid out in a coherent chronological order.

    Well done … one might even say “done to a turn”.

    w.

  3. Beta Blocker
    Posted Jun 27, 2013 at 6:07 PM | Permalink

    From: An RC Question about Briffa etal 2013, Steve McIntyre: ” …. I realize that this is an optimistic proposal. CRU dendros prefer to stay in East Indeed, to my knowledge, no CRU dendro has ever even been to Yamal or Polar Urals. But there are capable Russian dendros who might be encouraged to take on this sort of program. From this sort of database, one could do real analysis, without having to listen to tiresome CRU whinging about poor replication. If one were lucky, one might even be able to accurately measure changes in treeline through the medieval period and Little Ice Age and modern warming, thereby obtaining a proxy that would be convincing to all parties to the debate. If the transect were properly marked, dendros could return to it in the future and definitively measure changes. ….. Optimistic or not, the collection of a dataset of over 1000-1500 crossdated cores from one (or two) well-located altitudinal transects at Polar Urals is one answer to the RC question.”

    Because the current hiatus in global warming is likely only a temporary interlude in the long-term upward trend of GMT, then the debate over climate change, its causes, and what if anything should be done about it, will continue long into the future.

    Would it not seem worthwhile to place a series of temperature sensors in close proximity to these erstwhile treemometers for purposes of determining, with the aid of reliable temperature data, what their growth response patterns actually are?

    After all, if we can afford to send a space probe to Mars, why couldn’t we afford to send some temperature sensors and their associated recording equipment to Russia?

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Jun 27, 2013 at 6:20 PM | Permalink

      Salekhard is a long-term nearby station. There is a station at Rai-Iz: seehttp://berkeleyearth.lbl.gov/stations/169884

      • Geoff Sherrington
        Posted Jun 28, 2013 at 4:36 AM | Permalink

        Geological mapping at fine detail would also be a good idea, even farming-type soil testing. Different rocks can often give soils of different fertility that can influence tree growth. I’m guessing, but this might explain your observation that “There is a substantial apparent inhomogeneity in the purlasi_sc dataset, which has nearly double the average ring width of any of the other datasets and which is reported to be about 5-6 km distant from Transect 1.”

        Steve: you’re right about this. in the case of bristlecones, there is a sharp vegetation contrast (between sagebrush and bristlecone) at a geological contact between dolomites and sandstone. The Rai-Iz massif has interesting geology.

      • Matt Skaggs
        Posted Jun 28, 2013 at 9:14 AM | Permalink

        Geology is certainly a possibility, but IMO cold air drainage, or to be precise the lack thereof, is more likely. Cold air drainage results in river corridors and high ridges that are comparatively cold, but the slopes in between are far milder.

        Steve: in early literature (Fritts, Lamarche), the preference of bristlecones for dolomite is directly stated. It’s not my speculation.

        • Matt Skaggs
          Posted Jun 28, 2013 at 11:24 AM | Permalink

          Steve,
          Sorry for the confusion, I meant cold air drainage in Yamal. Bristlecones tend to grow on high ridges and probably don’t benefit much from cold air drainage. Back in the days when information was gleaned from paper books, I recall reading in a book named “The Genus Pinus” that bristlecones had been documented to show multiple rings in single years. In most years in bristlecone habitat, soil moisture declines steadily following the snow melt, so they show the typical rapid spring growth followed by slower summer growth. But some years the winter snows fail to arrive and the cycle runs early. If a strong rainstorm then arrives in midsummer and raises the water table, the bristlecones begin a new cycle in the same year. “The Genus Pinus” was written seventy years ago or so, perhaps I will look for more up-to-date papers on this topic.

      • Bete Blocker
        Posted Jun 28, 2013 at 5:10 PM | Permalink

        From the Berkeley Earth metadata, Salekhard goes back to 1882. Moreover, if there are climate signal teleconnections occurring between the distributed array of Polar Urals treemometers and the nearby weather stations, at least the signals don’t have to travel all that far a distance.

  4. Timothy Sorenson
    Posted Jun 27, 2013 at 6:09 PM | Permalink

    Perhaps: not used = not the data they liked. Unsurprising.

  5. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jun 27, 2013 at 6:27 PM | Permalink

    As noted above, RgoogleMaps is a very useful package. Here’s the short script for producing the above map. (I experimented with labeling in Google Earth directly, but prefer the direct control in R.)

    library(RgoogleMaps)
    
    bb=data.frame(latR=c(66.77,66.87),lonR=c(65.4,65.77))
    MyMap <- GetMap.bbox(bb$lonR, bb$latR, destfile = "temp.png", map="satellite",MINIMUMSIZE=TRUE);
    #this function enables retrieval of a map with defined lat and long limits: I don't know how it deals with polar regions.
    
    transect1= xy.coords(x= c(65.5691667, 65.591760), y= c (66.8158333,66.814644)) #from GEearth est
    transect2= xy.coords( x= c(65.6491667, 65.653673),y=c(66.8552778 , 66.852305) )
    pu1= data.frame(lon=c(65+38/60,65+35/60,65+30/60), lat=c(66+52/60,66+49/60,66+47/60)) #  
    row.names(pu1)=c("schweingruber","purlasi","purlasisc")
      #from Briffa 2013 SupMat3 Table 1
    
    PlotOnStaticMap(MyMap) 
    PlotOnStaticMap(MyMap,lat = transect1$y, lon = transect1$x, FUN=lines, lwd=3,col="yellow",add=TRUE )
    	 #transect 1
    PlotOnStaticMap(MyMap,lat = transect2$y, lon = transect2$x, FUN=lines, lwd=3,col="yellow",add=TRUE )
    	 #transect 2
    PlotOnStaticMap(MyMap,lat = pu1$lat, lon = pu1$lon, FUN=points, pch="+",col="yellow",add=TRUE,cex=1.5 )
    TextOnStaticMap(MyMap,lat = pu1$lat, lon = pu1$lon, 
       labels=c("pou_la ??","purlasi","purlasi_sc"),col="yellow",add=TRUE,pos=4 )
    TextOnStaticMap(MyMap,lat = c(transect1$y[2],transect2$y[2]), lon = c(transect1$x[2],transect2$x[2]),
       labels=c("Transect 1","Transect 2"),col="yellow",add=TRUE,pos=1 )
    TextOnStaticMap(MyMap,lat = pu1$lat[1], lon = pu1$lon[1],
       labels="Rai-Iz Massif",col=5,add=TRUE,pos=1 )
    
    • Willis Eschenbach
      Posted Jun 27, 2013 at 11:39 PM | Permalink

      Thanks as always for the R code, Steve, it is priceless to an R newbie like myself.

      w.

    • Steven Mosher
      Posted Jun 28, 2013 at 1:51 PM | Permalink

      ya its a cool package. I have a couple of posts on it a while back.

  6. Posted Jun 27, 2013 at 6:37 PM | Permalink

    Steve, and community

    There is a huge opportunity for the dendro community in the high Sierra’s of California at this time. In June of 2012 a huge windstorm blew through the Sierra’s and toppled thousands of healthy trees at altitudes from 6,000-10,000 feet, Many of these trees are directly accessible from backpacking trails and would be an amazing resource for the dendro community.

    As an aside, here is a Sequoia in the Ansel Adams Wilderness above Lillian lake that is more than likely over 2,000 years old. This is the highest altitude Sequoia I have ever seen at this altitude of about 9,000 feet.

    http://www.panoramio.com/photo/92362688

    • Matt Skaggs
      Posted Jun 28, 2013 at 9:16 AM | Permalink

      That looks like a Sierra juniper to me.

      • Posted Jun 28, 2013 at 5:43 PM | Permalink

        Far bigger than a juniper.

        • Duster
          Posted Jun 28, 2013 at 9:38 PM | Permalink

          It is quite definitely not a “Sequoia.” True Sequoia are geographically limited to the Coast Ranges. The tree native to the Sierra belongs to a separate genus – Sequoiadendron – and is usually called a “Big Tree” or “Giant Sequoia.” I’ve no idea why, since the leaves don’t look at all like a true redwood’s. Matt is right. Tree in your photo looks like a Sierra Juniper. They are commonly small, but, they can reach 66 feet high according to Thomas Elias. If it were a Big Tree it would be a good 600 feet above the commonly accepted altitude limit. USFS notes that low temperatures are a limiting factor and available soil moisture through the summer drought is as well. They occur in groves typically mixed stands. Your photo shows an isolated tree – atypical, in a very high altitude – cold site, and in an exposed location without neighbors – also extraordinarily atypical since young Big Trees need sheltered environments. Last, the tree in your photo is not rooted in soil. It is rooted in granite.

        • Posted Jul 1, 2013 at 1:46 PM | Permalink

          Hmmm

          Interesting, could be. It irks me that sometime in the last ten years the definition of Sequoia has shifted to cover the coastal redwoods and now it seems that this is being pushed as the defacto name of the trees though as you note, there is little in common between them.

          I have been backpacking in the Sierra’s for over 30 years and have at many time seen individual Sequoias in various locations.

          The point of my post is that there is a major opportunity in the high sierra for dendrochronologists to sample a massive cross section of trees that have fallen between 6,000 to 10,000 feet. Many of them are available near the sides of roads and or on 4×4 trails.

        • Posted Jul 1, 2013 at 1:52 PM | Permalink

          Hate to post twice.

          Here is a picture of what is considered to be the largest Juniper tree.

          http://www.savetheredwoods.org/what-we-do/protect/BennettJuniper.php

          Here is a picture of our backpacking partner Ron sitting next to the tree.

          http://www.panoramio.com/photo/92538710

          You decide which is bigger….

        • Posted Jul 6, 2013 at 10:56 PM | Permalink

          Well I have learned something!

          Bet these trees could be used for dendro….

  7. Posted Jun 27, 2013 at 10:12 PM | Permalink

    In looking at the area of all this sampling, on Google Earth, it boggles my mind that they are sampling so close to the altitudinal tree limit, and where so many dead trees exist. Steve, do you know what is gained by that?

    In particular, looking at some of the Panoramio photos very nearby, there are areas without any trees at all – alive OR dead. This disturbs me.

    It seems like a VERY strange place to be taking samples of tree cores for climatic studies.

    Also, Steve, I have a concern about MXD measurements on dead trees. I am at least somewhat familiar with dead trees (who isn’t?), and my concerns is about the absolute density. As trees decay, the cellular structure dissolves away over time. While this may be attenuated by long, very cold winters, the freezing itself is destructive of cellular structure. So all dead trees would seem to have a declining MXD, and ones near altitudinal tree lines above the Arctic Circle would seem to be especially very problematic. Are the analyses accounting for this cellular degradation in some way, or is something being overlooked?

    Steve Garcia

    Sorry if this is a bit off-topic… But it goes to another part of the foundation of what is going on with sampling tree rings. I am (like you) greatly concerned that there are assumptions being made that do not hold up that are not being allowed for.


    Steve: I am mystified by your issue with sampling subfossil trees. WHy not? RW is used a;most entirely in the IPCC reconstructions, not MXD. The Shiyatov articles have much useful information, which you should read before expressing concerns. They explain some gaps between trees as due to local topography causing high accumulation of snow, which is then slow melting andpreventing germination.

    • Posted Jun 28, 2013 at 1:29 AM | Permalink

      Steve M –

      I am just expressing my concerns, and asking if THEY have addressed these things. I am aware that MXD is not nearly as common as RW. MXD data was certainly a very minor part of BEST data, as I recall.

      I have not looked up the Shiyatov papers, true. I only bat about 20% or less when trying to read academic papers (e.g. Briffa 2013), so sometimes I don’t even bother trying. My bad.

      I recently brought up the point about CRU folks not going out in the field. You pointed out that Briffa had done so, but not, to your knowledge in Siberia. You also expressed your understanding that none of the other CRU folks had, either. That all being the case, I have to wonder if the CRU people are doing due diligence and considering all the variables – or are they just taking data and crunching it? Briffa 2013 addresses the stump issue, and I applaud him for that.

      I guess I also have a similar question about subfossil trees – Do the trees shrink at all? This would affect the RWs, which could throw off the proxy conclusions by that much.

      Steve Garcia

  8. Don Keiller
    Posted Jun 28, 2013 at 4:18 AM | Permalink

    Two things for me standout here;

    1) Rob Wilson’s comment “As a quick response to Steve’s idealised approach. Yup – all well and good and I agree with it all. The reality is that for such replication requires multiple fieldtrips, several years (decades for Scandinavian work for example) and funding (plus bods on the ground).”

    That an active and practising dendroclimatologist is apparently unaware of this dataset speaks volumes for the openness and quality of the science in this area.

    2) “Over and above the question of why CRU didn’t use the Shiyatov data is the question of why CRU didn’t even report the existence of the Shiyatov dataset in their history of dendro work at Polar Urals.?”

    Could it possibly be because this data does not give the “right” answer?

  9. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Jun 28, 2013 at 5:44 AM | Permalink

    As I’ve noted on CA before, but some time ago, there is fascinating reading from Climategate if you search “money”. Much of it is between Briffa and the Russian dendros. It takes an hour or so to read. The grepper is at

    http://www.ecowho.com/foia.php

    Examples – parts deleted for brevity here:

    Dear Keith, March 6, 1996
    This year our laboratory received two small grants (approximately
    8,000-10,000 USD per year) from the Russian Foundation of Basic
    Researches (RFBR) for the next three years: the first one for
    developing the Yamal supra-long chronology and the second one for
    developing tree-ring chronologies from living trees growing at the
    polar timberline in Siberia (together with Vaganov’s laboratory).
    I and Valery Mazepa were in Krasnoyarsk during one month and
    together with E.Vaganov wrote the manuscript of book “Dendroclimatic
    Studies in the Ural-Siberian Subarctic”. We analysed 61 mean
    ring-width and 6 cell chronologies which we intend to publish in form
    of tables in the Appendix. We can send to you all raw measurements
    which were used for developing these chronologies.
    Yours sincerely Stepan Shiyatov

    As to timing, on 5 May 1997 to Briffa:
    2. This summer we intend to hold an expedition from the end of
    June to the middle of August in the southern part of Yamal
    peninsula to collect more samples of subfossil wood which have
    a great many of rings, are sensitive and cover the intervals
    represented by insufficient quantity of samples at present. We
    think that during this field season we must collect a necessary
    quantity of samples to develop a well represented 7000-7500
    years chronology. Next year we intend to collect subfossil
    samples of wood from the middle part of Yamal peninsula to
    reconstruct the dynamics of polar timberline during the
    Holocene in detail using a large number of tree remnants
    absolutely dated by dendrochronological method.

    Then 5 Dec 1997 from Briffa to the Russians.
    0881356379.txt- “Unfortunately, next year I have several major meetings to attend and present our joint results. Each of these meetings is very important. In March, I must give a major review paper at the PAGES open Science meeting in London. This must cover all dendro – or at least the best of it – which of course includes our own work! Early next year I will ask for the full data sets as they then stand, for Yamal and Taimyr so that I can try restandardising and calibrating against regional mean climate data. If there are not likely to be more data than I already have , can you let me know.”

    There are some fascinating incidental comments by others, like the existence of a MWP.

    • johnfpittman
      Posted Jun 28, 2013 at 8:54 AM | Permalink

      There are also discussions concerning other warm periods such as about 6000 years ago where the subfossil trees are well past the present tree lines.

  10. Bob Koss
    Posted Jun 28, 2013 at 5:55 AM | Permalink

    Here I’m going to speculate on a possible reason for the Shiyatov group not having archived all their tree ring data at ITRDB.

    After going through considerable effort to collect and closely examine all their cores using proper scientific methods, they were unable to discover a coherent signal in the cores. This wouldn’t make for a notable paper being published, if it was able to get published at all. Archiving at ITRDB would leave their work open to being selectively picked over, allowing someone to come up with a purported ground breaking paper with little scientific merit. Therefore they may have be loathe to archive the cores.

    Then there were the poor economic times in their country perhaps preventing them from being properly remunerated and recognized for their extensive work. This leaves me wondering if access to core data was related to those payments mentioned in the Climategate emails.

    Once again I say this is only my speculation, I have no evidence.

  11. Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
    Posted Jun 28, 2013 at 7:32 AM | Permalink

    Steve:

    I’ve said this before: you would have made a dangerous trial lawyer.

    One wonders how much other pertinent data there is mouldering in various research institutions gone moribund for lack of funding since the fall of the Soviet Union.

  12. Posted Jun 28, 2013 at 10:10 AM | Permalink

    Three speakers that help to bridge the ideological divide on climate change. http://bit.ly/135gvNa

  13. sue
    Posted Jun 28, 2013 at 10:16 AM | Permalink

    Steve, FYI, Tim Osborn has responded to your question at RC.

    “88
    Steve McIntyre says:
    26 Jun 2013 at 2:44 PM

    A question for Tim Osborn or someone from CRU. Various papers by Shiyatov state that he crossdated 888 subfossil trees and more than 400 trees from two Polar Urals transects, with coordinates and altitudes carefully recorded.

    Why didn’t CRU use this dataset in Briffa et al 2013 instead of the inadequately replicated dataset that it reported on? Did CRU attempt to obtain access to this data and receive a rejection? And why didn’t CRU report the existence of Shiyatov’s crossdated dataset in its review of previous work at Polar Urals?

    [Response: We were aware that many additional wood samples were collected, measured and cross-dated in the Polar Urals by our co-authors, as part of their excellent ongoing ecological monitoring at the tree-line. In fact there are even more data, from more recently sampled material. As with the previous data, these are a complex mix of stem, root, prostrate forms, etc. and indeed many samples will not be suitable for dendroclimatological analysis using the basic RCS approach.

    A preliminary analysis of some of the "stem" samples produces a similar picture of tree-growth change when using RCS processing as that shown by the Polar Urals chronology in our paper. We made this preliminary check to satisfy ourselves that we could proceed with our publication with the knowledge that we were not publishing a chronology that was likely to be contradicted when the more recent samples are analysed and published.

    It was evident that much additional work will be necessary to examine and assess their suitability (and potential biases) when processing these data, and we had already demonstrated in our paper the difficulties in using the existing root-collar samples for example. I repeat that some, or many, of these will not be suitable for straightforward RCS processing because they are from prostrate or root-collar samples.

    The dendrochronological data from this recent sampling have not yet been published and it is the prerogative of the Ekaterinburg laboratory to publish the first dendroclimatological analysis of the data that they have spent many years and extensive effort in collecting and processing. We hope to continue our long-standing collaboration with our Russian colleagues in this work.

    Your question and other commentary at your blog may give readers the false impression that we have published using an inadequate dataset. This is ironic given your advocacy for publishing (a biased version of) this chronology when you believed that it would support an elevated Medieval Warm period, advocacy that extended to questioning our integrity for not doing so. It is unfortunate that you fail to acknowledge the careful analysis reported in Briffa et al. (2013) to demonstrate the biases that would arise from a naïve use of the Polar Urals update data. It is also unfortunate that you fail to acknowledge that Briffa et al. (2013) was based on a significantly increased set of tree-ring data for the adjacent Polar Urals and Yamal regions, with overall replication that is much improved over previous work. --Tim Osborn]“

    • RobertInAz
      Posted Jun 28, 2013 at 11:10 AM | Permalink

      Trying to watch the pea. No real response on the “old data” and a lengthy response to why the newer, unpublished data was checked but not used.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Jun 28, 2013 at 12:05 PM | Permalink

      Osborn’s reply (and elsewhere) asserted that I have “advocated” the Polar Urals chronology:

      Your question and other commentary at your blog may give readers the false impression that we have published using an inadequate dataset. This is ironic given your advocacy for publishing (a biased version of) this chronology when you believed that it would support an elevated Medieval Warm period, advocacy that extended to questioning our integrity for not doing so.

      It seems very uncharacteristic for me to “advocate” a chronology as my position has been that without consistency between proxies such exercises are cherry-picking or apple-picking. I have no recollection of ever “advocating” the Polar Urals chronology nor was I able to locate any such advocacy in a quick review. Nor did Osborn provide any citation or reference for his claim that I “advocated” the Polar Urals chronology.

      My standard position has been that inconsistencies between chronologies need to be reconciled before either can be relied on. For example, in my submission to Muir Russell, I observed:

      The inconsistency between different tree ring chronologies is disguised… In the absence of any explanation of the substitution, there is reason to be concerned about the reasons for using one series rather than the other

      Here’s a similar statement made in response to criticism at Andy Revkin’s:

      Crowley interprets the inconsistency as evidence of past “regional” climate, but offers no support for this interpretation other than the inconsistency itself –- which could equally be due to the “proxies” not being temperature proxies. There are fundamental inconsistencies at the regional level as well, including key locations of California (bristlecones) and Siberia (Yamal), where other evidence is contradictory t.o Mann-Briffa approachs (e.g. Millar et al 2006 re California; Naurzbaev et al 2004 and Polar Urals re Siberia,) These were noted up in the N.A.S. panel report, but Briffa refused to include the references in I.P.C.C. AR4. Without such detailed regional reconciliations, it cannot be concluded that inconsistency is evidence of “regional” climate as opposed to inherent defects in the “proxies” themselves.

      If anyone can locate a statement in which I’ve “advocated” the Polar Urals chronology (in a context other than observing inconsistency), I’d appreciate the information.

      Briffa et al 2013 at least recognizes the need for the reconciliation that I’ve long advocated and has argued for the elimination of root collar samples on the grounds of inhomogeneity. The handling of inhomogeneity is a longstanding issue here as well. Briffa et al 2013 was an opportunity to address the matter with statistical competence, but CRU instead resorted to virtually intelligible squiggles.

      • Matt Skaggs
        Posted Jun 28, 2013 at 2:30 PM | Permalink

        I’m sure he is referring to these statements from 2010:

        “One of the battleground issues has been the addiction to Briffa’s Yamal tree ring series, while the nearby update of Polar Urals (with a pronounced MWP) was disappeared. [...] The elephant in the room remained the disposition of the Polar Urals site. A 1995 Briffa reconstruction from this site purported to show that 1032 was the “coldest” year in the millennium. Updated data had shown elevated ring widths in the MWP. However, Briffa hadn’t reported this.”

        As for whether this rises to “advocacy” I will let others decide.

        Steve: nothing in that statement is “advocacy” of one series as opposed to the other. The post in question is entirely consistent with concerns about inconsistency and the failure to account for preferring the Yamal superstick. Again, my base position has been: “In the absence of any explanation of the substitution, there is reason to be concerned about the reasons for using one series rather than the other.” This is not the same thing as “advocacy” of Polar Urals including polurula.

        • EdeF
          Posted Jun 28, 2013 at 2:47 PM | Permalink

          It doesn’t.

  14. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jun 28, 2013 at 5:20 PM | Permalink

    Readers should also take note of Lucia’s discussion of core selection in May 2012 here http://rankexploits.com/musings/2012/only-the-long-ones-hantemirov-liv-rwl-tab/.

    One of her readers linked to inline comments by Gavin Schmidt which said that the selection of cores would be fully explained in the forthcoming regional chronology. Needless to say, at Polar Urals, nothing of the sort was done.

  15. Posted Jun 28, 2013 at 6:05 PM | Permalink

    Steve

    Found this paper on Yamal temperatures in a comment over on Lucia’s blog.

    Very interesting temperatures from long term measurements in the area.

    No hockey sticks to see here either…

    http://met.no/Forskning/Publikasjoner/filestore/Ealat_Yamal_climaterep_dvs-1.pdf

    Dennis

  16. Peter Miller
    Posted Jun 29, 2013 at 3:39 AM | Permalink

    I cannot help but feeling the correct tree sampling method is similar to that of correctly sampling a soil geochemistry grid in geological exploration.

    To do it properly is a tedious, time consuming exercise, often requiring many hundreds, if not thousands of samples. A very few samples are rejected, such as those in stream beds, or from cracks in bedrock. However, all remaining samples are relevant to creating the final outcome and as long as the sampling is conducted under rigorous professional controls, it definitely helps you come find your mineral target.

    To say that an effective tree sampling program is impossible to do is just complete BS and a cop out by those more interested in preserving the results of flawed data collection, than in establishing the truth.

    Hundreds of billions of dollars have been wasted as a result of dubious ‘climate research’. One of the major contributory reasons for this was dodgy sampling and interpretation of tree rings from these Russian Arctic sites.

    Steve’s tenaciousness in this matter deserves all our respect, for we should remember there are precious few capable of keeping the ‘climate science’ fraternity honest – and they don’t like it, they really don’t like it.

3 Trackbacks

  1. By living giant … | pindanpost on Jun 27, 2013 at 9:43 PM

    […] This is a very old Giant Sequoia in California, from denniswingo in a comment at Climate Audit, in a discussion about dendro sampling of ancient trees in the Polar Urals. Shiyatov and the Polar Urals » […]

  2. […] http://climateaudit.org/2013/06/27/shiyatov-and-the-polar-urals/#more-18010 […]

  3. […] Failure to Use or Disclose the Shiyatov Dataset In a recent CA post, I observed that Shiyatov had crossdated 1021 subfossil trees from his 1968 and 1983 transects plus […]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,310 other followers

%d bloggers like this: