Houghton on M&M at the Senate

I promise that I’ll get to Ammann’s answer. I’ve gotten sidetracked a little in documenting how Ammann’s unpublished work has been applied in the U.S. Congress. I’ll get to Mann’s letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee in a minute. Meantime here is an interesting comment by Sir John Houghton to the testifying before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on July 21, 2005 archived at creationcare.org here. I won’t comment much here on what Houghton said. Most of you will already know my position as Houghton’s position seems to be the Hockey Team party line. One new point here is Houghton saying that Ammann and Wahl deal with the bristlecone pine issue. I sure haven’t seen anything like that in their articles. The Hockey Team can barely bring themselves to use the word “bristlecone” much less try to explain Mann’s handling of bristlecones. Rest assured that Ammann and Wahl have not explained the bristlecones.

I’ve pointed out before that Ammann and Wahl’s submission to GRL was rejected and was only taken out of the garbage can after they got the editor replaced. (Compare the silence on this to the hysteria about Soon and Baliunas at Climate Research.) It is disquieting in the extreme that a corporation, like the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, should issue a press release announcing the submission of an article and then not announce the rejection. That would be a breach of securities laws requiring ongoing full disclosure for Canadian mining promotions, but seemingly not in climate research. It’s amazing the number of references that were immediately made to the UCAR press release to the U.S. Congress. I formally complained to Richard Anthes, President of UCAR about their handling of the Ammann press release and got a very unsatisfactory reply, but that’s another story.

Here’s Houghton’s testimony.

Senator Bingaman Question 8c
The Hockey Stick. In recent months, there have been assertions that the statistical method used to analyze global temperature data for the last several hundred years was biased towards generating the “hockey stick” shaped curve that shows sustained low and stable temperatures for hundreds of years with an extremely sharp rise in the last 100 years. Can you comment on whether the observations depicted in the hockey stick curve are, indeed, legitimate?

Senator Talent Question 6
What’s the status of the review of the Mann “hockey stick” temperature curve? I understand that studies by Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick suggest that it relied on the statistically insignificant bristlecone pine. Is the IPCC taking another look at that work, which forms the basis for much of today’s climate change debate?

Houghton Answer
I have received a similar question from Senator Bingaman(Q8c) [Senator Talent (Q6)]. I provide the same reply to both questions.

This is a fast moving area of research. Very recently the assertions by McIntyre and McKitrick (2005a, b) (MM), alluded to in the question (references at end of answer), have been shown by several papers to be largely false in the context of the actual data used by Mann and co-workers. Ammann (a palaeontologist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research) and Wahl of Alfred University have two papers, one in review and one in press, that reproduce the original results published by Mann et al in Nature in 1998 and Geophysical Research Letters, 1999 and prominently used in the IPCC Third Assessment Report. They demonstrate that the results of MM are due to MM having censored key proxy data from the original Mann et al (1998) data set, and to having made errors in their implementation of the Mann et al method. They specifically show that fifteenth century temperatures, related to the bristlecone pine issue, were not similar to twentieth century temperatures, as was suggested by MM.

Amman and Wahl issued a press release in May 2005 on this finding. Fuller details are at http://www.ucar.edu/news/releases/2005/ammann.shtml These authors state that they will make their full computer code available publicly.

A specific claim is made by MM that the "hockey stick" shape of the Mann et al reconstructions is derived from the way Mann et al normalise and centre their principal component pattern data. This has recently been tested. Rutherford et al (in press, Journal of Climate) have shown that essentially the same result as Mann et al is obtained using an entirely independent statistical method on similar data. This eliminates the step of representing regional tree-ring networks by principal components. The likely reason why Mann et al were able to successfully use their particular technique is because the structure of paleoclimate data is more complex than the temporal “red noise” tested by MM.

Other investigators have reconstructed climate over the past 1000 years using very different techniques and different selections of data. Some of these results are recent, and some were shown in Fig 2.21 of the IPCC Third Assessment Science Report, Climate Change 2001. These authors tend to find a greater magnitude of climate variability than did the Mann et al "hockey stick" results. In particular the "Little Ice age" centred around 1700 is generally cooler. Some of the more recent papers of this type show a Little Ice Age cooler by up to several tenths of a degree centigrade than any reconstruction shown in the Third Assessment Report in Fig 2.21, including that of Mann et al. However, all but one recent papers (Esper et al, 2002, Mann & Jones, 2003, Moberg et 2005, Huang, 2004, Jones & Mann, 2004, Bradley et al ,2003) find that the warmth of the late 20th century is still exceptional, as their reconstructions of the temperature level relative to the 20th century in the Medieval warm period are similar to the Mann et al results. Soon & Baliunas concluded that the late 20th century was not unusually warm but their methodology was flawed (Mann and Jones, 2003) as they equated hydrological influences with temperature influences and assumed that regional warmth corresponded to hemispheric warmth.

I am sure that the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report will fully take all these new findings into account. In the meantime, it is important to recognise that no evidence has emerged that seriously calls into question findings regarding the climate of the 20th century and the influence of human activities as described in the IPCC 2001 Report.

McIntyre, S. and R. McKitrick, 2005: The M and M critique of the MBH98 Northern Hemisphere climate index: update and implications. Energy and Environment, 16, 69-100.
McIntyre, S. and R. McKitrick, 2005: Hockey sticks, principal components, and spurious significance. Geophys. Res. Lett., 12, L03710, doi: 10.1029/2004GLO21750.
Anders Moberg et al, 2005. Highly variable Northern Hemisphere temperatures reconstructed from low- and high-resolution proxy data. Nature, 433, 613-617 doi:10.1038/nature03265
Bradley RS, et al,2003, Climate in Medieval time, Science 302 (5644): 404-405
Esper J, et al, 2002, Low-frequency signals in long tree-ring chronologies for reconstructing past temperature variability, Science, 295, 2250-2253.
Jones, PD & ME Mann, 2004. Climate Over Past Millennia. Reviews Of Geophysics 42 (2): Art. No. RG2002
Mann, ME and PD Jones, 2003: Global surface temperatures over the past two millennia. Geophys. Res. Lett., 15, 1820, doi:10.1029/2003GL017814, 20039:
Shaopeng Huang, 2004, Merging information from different resources for new insights into climate change in the past and future. Geophysical Research Letters,. 31, doi:10.1029/2004GL019781.
Soon W, Baliunas S, 2003: Proxy climatic and environmental changes of the past 1000 years . Climate Research 23 (2): 89-110 Jan 31 2003


  1. Pat Frank
    Posted Jan 13, 2006 at 11:39 PM | Permalink

    There’s more of them than there is of you, Steve. If you’re not careful, they’re going to have you running around trying to show where all their new-this-week Mann-corroborations are in error. That’ll both distract you from positive work and make you look like a mere contrarian. They’ll use that to discredit you.

    Maybe the thing to do really is to produce your own proxy reconstruction. You’ve essentially done that already anyway in your original E&E paper with Ross. You can make your proxies and methods entirely transparent, putting Mann & co. to explicit shame. I expect your reconstruction would show the MWP and the LIA with peaks and dips, respectively, entirely consonant with the 20th century temperature slope and magnitude.

    That will embarrass the IPCC and Houghton. And that’ll give the hockey team something positive they’ll have to try and refute, making *them* look like contrarians. And Mann’s continued stonewalling compared to you will leave him well exposed out on his branch.

    It’s clear the controversy isn’t going away. If Houghton, the IPCC, and the hockey team are really determined to get their way, they’ll use science as politics and go after your scientific blood. I’d bet there is a large flow of behind the scenes communication among them about how to deal with you.

    It would behoove you to map out a strategy for advancing your project, rather than just playing tactical catch-up every time they put up something new. You might want to gather a circle of professional colleagues committed to mapping and supporting that strategy. Otherwise the HS group and allies are going to cut you up. They’re playing politics, not science, and in politics discrediting opponents wins the game, justified or not.

    If you’ll permit me, I see your project as three-fold. One is to bring rigor to proxy reconstructions. More important is to bring accountability to climate science, especially in the IPCC context. The major one, though, is to stand up for scientific integrity. Science-as-politics as Houghton & co. are playing it on a global stage threatens to subvert the entire enterprise of knowledge. Establishing a position by personally discrediting those holding opposing views lowers science to the snake-pit of postmodernism.

    You need a vision for where you’re going, Steve, and you’ll need to pursue that vision no matter the baying after you. Their baying will get only louder as you succeed until, and I’m quite confident of this, it will at the end suddenly go silent.

  2. ET SidViscous
    Posted Jan 14, 2006 at 1:55 AM | Permalink

    Steve has addressed the point of doing his own reconstructive many times, and I think his position is the correct one.

    There is to date, no good way to do a reconstruction of temperature alone. Other than the statistical errors that he has pointed out, he has also done a decent job in pointing out that tree rings are not a good temperature indicator, as temperature is only one, a requirement for sure, component of tree growth.

    There are diatom reconstructions, there are radioactive half-life reconstructions, and on and on and on. But none have only the single factor of temperature. It would be nice to find one where the other factors are known and thus could be factored out, sadly I don’t think that is the case, at least with our knowledge at this time.

    The only thing Tree ring growth reconstructions, Mann et al in particualr, have shown us is that Trees are growing better now than in the past 1000 years (and even that not really). Increased tree growth shows us that the environment, for trees at the least, is getting better. How healthy trees means the death knell for civilization, and in fact the environment I’m not really sure.

    Steve has only done here is to point out the errors. He is not required to then revolutionize science by creating a bullet proof temperature reconstruction. Just as those that showed the Ponds-Fleischman cold Fusion experiment didn’t work were not required to actually create cold Fusion to show that Ponds-Fleischman hadn’t.

    There is a guy in the Philippines who claims to have a car that runs on water. He uses the battery to disassociate the hydrogen, then burns that in a standard internal combustion engine. This doesn’t work, because the car would go further faster if you took out the water, the IC engine and just ran it with electric Motors off the batteries. I don’t have to actually go out and create a car that runs off water to prove his car is Rubbish. Alls I have to do is take out half the components of his car, through in an electric motor and drive farther and faster than him. In fact anyone with a basic understanding of physics can see his car is rubbish, and prove it simply enough with math.

  3. Paul
    Posted Jan 14, 2006 at 3:17 AM | Permalink

    This is oe of the reasons I have a lot of problems with the way all these studies are used:

    Some of the more recent papers of this type show a Little Ice Age cooler by up to several tenths of a degree centigrade than any reconstruction shown in the Third Assessment Report in Fig 2.21

    False precision. I have concerns with satellite measures of “global mean temperature” that use such precision, but these types of statements based on proxy data are just ludicrous and lend false authority to the results and conclusions.

  4. Paul
    Posted Jan 14, 2006 at 3:21 AM | Permalink

    I am sure that the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report will fully take all these new findings into account

    What odds we will get a spaghetti chart in the 4th Assessment?

  5. T J Olson
    Posted Jan 14, 2006 at 3:22 AM | Permalink

    As a non-technical enviro lurker here, let me commend Pat Frank’s outline of what needs doing! I’ve mused along these lines myself, but have not put it down in writing as he’s done. A tri-fold counter-strategy is needed to put the HT in a vise.

    As for ET’s point that “There is to date, no good way to do a reconstruction of temperature alone,” I’m less certain. To be sure, it’s consistent with my occasional reads here. Or will Steve dispute this? He has, after all, made the consistent point that his contribution is negative and critical – not positive. To go forward on one of Pat’s planks requires a positive science-making stance instead of what he’s published up to now.

    Now, a second point ET makes is “The only thing Tree ring growth reconstructions, Mann et al in particualr, have shown us is that Trees are growing better now than in the past 1000 years (and even that not really).” Friday’s news from the Max Planck Institute by Frank Keppler

    that plant contributions to ambient methane may account for 10 to 30 percent of global atmospheric loading certainly mucks up a lot of “settled” science. Skeptics will want more evidence before this contrarian stance is accepted.

    How this will affect the HT-AGW skeptic debate is yet unclear. But the Australian notes that Keppler’s finding confirms previous results!
    “This report is consistent with research by New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research that reported a doubling of methane in the atmosphere over the past 200 years.” (I guess I’ve forgotten this bit – I have heard it before.) How does this change the observed temperature rise since the 70s? If true, how will this alter the “stick” claims of the HT?

    The story goes on: “That such a crucial piece of information, if correct, has been hitherto excluded from the science on climate change is startling, reflects the infant nature of the scientific debate and the risks of developing policy responses in such uncertainty.” Amen. But how can people of integrity and good conscience advance science in a world so clouded by politics, as Houghten’s testimony betrays?

    Hence, the difficulty of executing a well-founded strategy under uncertainty. I can’t envy Steve’s position, even though I admire his doggedness and agree with the necessity of his pursuit of an even more truthful and scientific one.

  6. T J Olson
    Posted Jan 14, 2006 at 3:25 AM | Permalink

    My links above failed to post; another try:




  7. T J Olson
    Posted Jan 14, 2006 at 3:27 AM | Permalink

    One last correction:
    re the “stick” claims, ought to have read “blade.”


  8. Paul
    Posted Jan 14, 2006 at 3:32 AM | Permalink

    MEthane from plants = increase positive feedback for forecasts. “It’s even worse than we feared”

    All great news for models don’t worry about that.

  9. T J Olson
    Posted Jan 14, 2006 at 3:38 AM | Permalink

    Ah! The detail in a press account of Keppler that leaped out at me (that was missing):

    “Concentrations of the [methane] gas in the atmosphere have almost tripled in the last 150 years.”

    Further comment, Paul?

  10. Paul
    Posted Jan 14, 2006 at 3:49 AM | Permalink

    I see the following occuring:

    1. New estimates of forcing gases will be built into the models which will be recalibrated to historical data. Modellers declare problem solved.

    2. The respecified and recalibrated models now have an additional positive feedback mechanism from CO2 to temp. (up to now it has been all resting on water vapour). Now we will also have CO2 => increased plant growth => increased CH4 => increased temp.

    What would be funny if this turns out to be true is that this will completely reverse modellers’ claims up to this point, vis. that there is limited negative feedback from this very route (from CO2 => increased plant growth and hence atmospheric carbon sequestration).

    We’ll just have to wait and see.

  11. John A
    Posted Jan 14, 2006 at 5:51 AM | Permalink

    I would have to disagree with ET as well on this point.

    The study by Keigwin (1996) which I wrote about here, shows a direct relationship between oxygen isotope ratios and surface temperature for the plankton under study. This robust result showed the Little Ice Age, the Medieval Warm Period, the Dark Ages cool period, the Roman Warm Period etc.

    The problem comes with the multiproxy study, where different proxies are used in combination, some of which are, to put it mildly, ambiguous in their temperature sensitivity. Throw in the problems of autocorrelation and persistence, and its anyone’s guess.

  12. per
    Posted Jan 14, 2006 at 8:36 AM | Permalink

    it strikes me that houghton has really gone out on a limb.

    The assertions (of M&M)… have been shown… to be largely false

    that is fairly strong language, and if it transpires that Houghton is unable to back it up at some future stage, I think he will find that fairly embarrassing. That must put an awful lot of pressure on Ammann to get published 🙂

  13. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jan 14, 2006 at 8:49 AM | Permalink

    #1. Pat, I appreciate the advice. I can’t say that I’ve ever had any particular plan as to what I was trying to do in this area. Mostly I’ve been just following up leads and doing things that interested me. As I’ve mentioned many times, I originally started work on MBH more as a crossword puzzle than anything else, without any expectation that anyone would be interested in my thoughts on the matter. I’d never written an academic article.

    However, every so often, it’s a good idea to take stock of what you’re doing and what you’re trying to accomplish. This is never easy and in this case, I don’t really know. I’m sure not making any money at it. I have no objection to making money and have actually done so from time to time. I’m flattered to think that a “circle of professional colleagues” would be interested in what I’m doing, but thus far I still not received any invitations to even give a seminar at a university. I think that I’ve got lots of ideas that I’ve barely touched and worth doing. I’ve received one invitation to coauthorship through the blog, but have not been pulling my weight so far on the paper (I will).

    I’ve certainly gotten used to hard-hitting Hockey Team attacks from all quarters and you’re right – there are more of them than there are of me. But don’t worry about that getting to me. I’ve put it up with it for a long time and I’ve gotten used to it. The blog is a great way to counter that. Two years ago, to the extent that I thought about Mann’s disinformation about our 2003 article, I was frustrated at the uncritical acceptance of some pretty preposterous stories by climate scientists. Now I can at least counter such disinformation and reach a more-or-less equivalent audience (a new example, google “ammann wahl realclimate” and the top listing is “climateaudit”.)

    I’ve been doing this so far, because I’ve enjoyed doing it. Having an audience is important – if I didn’t have an audience, it would be impossible to retain enough of an edge to keep at it. But I’ve been at it long enough now that it’s probably time for a little looking ahead and a little thought about what I’m trying to do – both things that are hard to do.

  14. muirgeo
    Posted Jan 14, 2006 at 10:45 AM | Permalink

    Re # 1 and #13


    Pat suggested, “Maybe the thing to do really is to produce your own proxy reconstruction.” You did not really address this issue. Have you already done your own reconstruction? You would tell us if you did? Right? Because I understand that professor Mann did some calculations and supposedly didn’t like the results so he didn’t tell anyone. That was bad of the professor.

    The way for you to win over your critics would be for you to publish your own proxy study done with proper statistical methods and proper proxies. If it showed something dramatically different you’d be in the limelight. Maybe a Science and Technology web log award, maybe one of Scientific America’s top 50 most influential…..or if the graph you create was just one more noodle in the spaghetti plate…then we could all at least move on…

  15. ET SidViscous
    Posted Jan 14, 2006 at 10:50 AM | Permalink

    So TJ, If Methane is such an issue we can look at it from a different perspective no?

    Human contribution to GW via CO2 is even less than expected, due to the finding of increased methane from plants. The problem was the 20th century enviornment movement, who helped to re-claim new forrestland, and plant new forrests (We have more forrestland now than at the beggining of the 20th Century), this has released much more Methane, which is a much more potent greenhouse gas. And see there is our problem.

    I assume you would be behind the Cleavleand protocol (which we’ll have later) which will involve money for massive deforstation and thus will save us from GW.

    John A; The only thing I would say is that that works well in the Sargasso sea, but you can’t get a true record of climate from one area. Can the same methods be applied in say the Berring Sea?

  16. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jan 14, 2006 at 11:08 AM | Permalink

    George, Ive not done any “alternative” reconstructions. I’m interested in changing tree line altitudes and latitudes as an indicator and have posted up some notes on these from time to time. The information on this tends to be older. I’d very much like to try to quantify this somehow, but the information is scrappy and anecdotal. One of the single most frustrating aspects of the voluminous tree ring data is their failure to systematically record sample altitudes.

  17. muirgeo
    Posted Jan 14, 2006 at 1:29 PM | Permalink


    Tree line altitudes and latitudes might be a good idea. Of course the changes are not high resolution as they occur over decades and centuries and do not have yearly components as tree rings and isotope studies do.

    So anyway have you not done any reconstructions because you don’t think there is a valid way to do them? Is time commitment an issue? Or our you looking for valid methods with the intent of possibly producing a reconstruction? The concerns over process you have with Mann and the IPCC are important but ultimately isn’t a proper reconstruction what climate science needs?

  18. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jan 14, 2006 at 2:03 PM | Permalink

    #17 – I’m just one person trying to do a lot of things. I’ve got a lot of material which is half-finished. I like to finish things before I start something else. I also want to be sure that I completely understand what others are doing. If you’re proposing something new, I think that you have to show why they other guys are wrong as well as why you’re right. If I were doing a study, I would need to rely on existing data (as Mann, Crowley, Moberg etc.) have also done. I’ve wasted a lot of time because of data access problems – otherwise I’d be further along. Maybe towards the end of the year I’ll get to it. The blog also takes a lot of time. I like it. Also if I didn’t do it, there’s be so much unrebutted disinformation piled up about me that any new proposals would undoubtedly be pooh-pooh-ed. At least this way, a lot of people realize that there’s two sides to the story and that the Hockey Team is not scoring goals at will and possibly not at all.

  19. John A
    Posted Jan 14, 2006 at 2:48 PM | Permalink

    ohn A; The only thing I would say is that that works well in the Sargasso sea, but you can’t get a true record of climate from one area. Can the same methods be applied in say the Berring Sea?

    I honestly don’t know. There are apparently other reconstructions using similar methods from elsewhere (mostly equatorial Pacific, if my memory serves). The point about the Sargasso Sea measurements was the drill cores were taken in a gyre of the Gulf Stream where the sedimentation rate was particularly high. I don’t know the global distribution of this particular plankton either.

    With all of the money spent of climate modelling, you’d think that someone would charter a ship and go find similar sites in the world’s oceans for a cut of the money. I suppose that such a course would run the risk of getting the wrong answer and the end of yet another environmental scare.

  20. ET SidViscous
    Posted Jan 14, 2006 at 3:00 PM | Permalink

    But that’s kind of my point. Personally, like you, I “like” that reconstruction, but it lacks worldwide distribution. Thus it’s always open to the argument that it is local, not global. I fear that while you might be able to locate some other areas that have a similar situation (the Sargasso sea is notably still in regards to ocean currents), your not going to get a good distribution. It’s similar to the surface temperature record that ignores ~50% of the earth’s surface (mainly oceans, and Africa).

    But I reckon your right, that no one is going to run the risk of getting “the wrong answer”.

    Thankfully barring elimination of the Human species, we will have the current temperature measuring technology, and as we go forward we will ave a more complte record that will show that on a geologic timeline, and upward trend of 30 – 40 is insignifigant.

  21. Ross McKitrick
    Posted Jan 14, 2006 at 4:26 PM | Permalink

    You’d think that if Senators Bingaman and Talent were so interested in our work they’d have, at some point, asked us about it. Like, maybe, phoned, or emailed, or whatever. We’re not hard to get hold of. And I hope Sen. Bingaman noticed that Houghton didn’t answer his question. Houghton probably doesn’t even know how the bristlecones figure into the story. Of course one doesn’t expect the Senators to see all of Houghton’s errors and misrepresentations, but like I say if they’re interested, we’re easy to reach. Also, I note that Sen. Talent seems to accept the view that the hockey stick is central to the climate debate. That being the case, did they really expect the guy who so heavily invested his credibility in it would be able to provide an objective answer to their questions?

  22. Pat Frank
    Posted Jan 14, 2006 at 9:56 PM | Permalink

    #13 — Steve, I gather there are a some climate scientists who post here in support of your work. They are already members of an informal circle of professional colleagues. Ross constitutes another member, but not so informal. JohnA is another, and perhaps your blog-derived collaborator is yet another. There is likely a number of astute people who appreciate what you’re doing and could help out. Maybe you should put out a request here on your blog, and choose some strategic partners from among those offering help. Don’t forget to thank the rest of the volunteers. 🙂

    Your project, which you say started out as personal interest, has not only taken on a life of its own, but has assumed major importance beyond even climate science. That importance comes from the response of Mann and others who have stone-walled their data and methods. That behavior is the opposite of scientific integrity. Science operates in large part on trust of integrity among researchers. It would grind to a halt unless we could all assume that others have done their work conscientiously and with a determination to do it correctly. That is the larger issue at stake here.

    Regarding ET’s comments in #2, if you don’t want to do a proxy reconstruction per se, why not a critical evaluation of proxy temperature reconstructions in general? Then you could explicitly point out the physical reasons why they are not yet worthy of trust. One or more physical climatologist might be willing to collaborate with you on that project. In so doing, you’d undoubtedly have to produce one or more spaghetti graphs. The best of those graphs would stand in some stark contrast to Mann’s, and so a paper on those lines would be a stone killing two birds.

    Steve, there’s an adage about people growing into their jobs. When you took on the project, you almost certainly didn’t know what you were letting yourself in for.:-) But your work has grown organically into one that, without exaggeration, is globally important. As you decide to pursue it, you’re going to grow to accomodate its demands; demands that will have been entirely unforeseen at the start. Honestly, given the political turmoil around the debate, I think you’re going to need help, advice, and knowledgeable support (I’m not qualified to volunteer) to proceed. And, as you surmise, it’s necessary sometimes to look up from the details of your work and examine the landscape to see where you’ve come, where you need to go, and who is coming to oppose you. Sage advice is critical for that. That’s especially true in a project such as yours which has radically transformed itself in completely unpredictable ways all the while it has grown to such astonishing importance. You’ve inadertantly ignited your own baptism of fire, Steve. Prepare to temper yourself.

    #5 – thanks TJ

  23. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jan 14, 2006 at 11:48 PM | Permalink

    Houghton said:

    Ammann (a palaeontologist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research) and Wahl of Alfred University have two papers, one in review and one in press,

    At the time, there was actually one rejected, one under review and none in press. But hey, who cares about facts; it’s the Hockey Team.

  24. T J Olson
    Posted Jan 15, 2006 at 7:15 AM | Permalink

    At least three different conversations are going on here on this thread? Three interesting ones.

    ET – I think the implications of Keppler at his point are much more uncertain at this point than anyone cares to admit. (Planck Insitute press release: “The Forgotten Methane Source” http://www.mpg.de/english/illustrationsDocumentation/documentation/pressReleases/2006/pressRelease20060110/
    Steve and others working in paleoclimatology have mostly focused on variance in CO2 levels produced by plants and captured in various ways because that’s the factor human impacts were thought most vulnerable to effecting. If Keppler comes along and finds out that the most potent GHG is changing and coming from a mostly previously ignored source, then the whole ball-game becomes a do-over in terms of the ground covered in the late 80s and early 90s in the AGW debate.

    First, let’s assume Keppler is correct. Then it becomes a question of learning which plants produce how much at which temperatures, latitudes, soils, and so on. What about humidity and altitude? as Steve has worked on. So many variables have to be reassessed, and getting a handle on them could well take years. And I doubt that many scientists working on plants (which reminds me: isn’t plant eco-climatology Pat Michael’s specialty? I think so – his assessment in the weeks and months ahead will be interesting to know), will go gently (er, rather, shoved) into that good night of having gotten basic plant productivity and emissions wrong for so long! There will be dismay and resistance to such findings, and even outrage.

    “The new finding is an ‘interesting observation,’ says Jennifer Y. King, a biogeochemist at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul. Because some types of soil microbes consume methane, they may prevent plant-produced methane from reaching the atmosphere. Field tests will be needed to assess the plants’ influence, she notes.” Methane plumes were assumed to be significant during rainy seasons becuase microbes relasing the gas were great then. But this research says there is methane during dry seasons as well.

    Then, after that’s done (phew!), we get to the issue of human impacts on plant productivity of methane after industrial agriculture begins and through numerous changing regimes of technology: +-? +++-? +—? It’s certainly much too premature to say whether or not the claim that plant methane has made great differences over the past 150 years is definite. That it may account for “10 to 30 percent” of global GHG’s leaves an enormous variance left to be nailed down through actual scientific measurement. Very labor instensive, very time consuming work.

    Keppler et al state: “we demonstrate using stable carbon isotopes that methane is readily formed in situ in terrestrial plants under oxic conditions by a hitherto unrecognized process.” If so, fleshing out the implications of this new process concretely could well result in much backtracking in global climate change related science.

    So many people thought they could trust ecologists to have global sources and budgets for GHG’s nailed down because they trusted them to know this stuff (involving basic chemistry and physics) – thus, this squandered trust could well be the first casualty in the climate debate.

    Roger Pielke, Sr, weighs in on the news at his blog and reports that he’s not hugely surprised. He quotes a scientist from the Guardian story, one whom he respects: “The result has come as a shock to climate scientists. “This is a genuinely remarkable result,’ said Richard Betts of the climate change monitoring organisation the Hadley Centre.” http://climatesci.atmos.colostate.edu/2006/01/ (See “Well-Mixed Greenhous Gases,” January 12.) Pielke notes, “We have already identified uncertainties of methane with respect to radiative heating in the Climate Science weblog of August 29th on global warming.”

    Perhaps next fall or winter will tell us if Keppler’s got the goods. By then we may know if theresolution of this dramatic new uncertainty will be quick or else take many years. Many bets may be off until clarity is restored.

    Meanwhile, the new Nature article (12 Jan 2006) becomes must reading for a lot of people. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v439/n7073/abs/nature04420.html The abstract from it concludes: “We suggest that this newly identified source may have important implications for the global methane budget and may call for a reconsideration of the role of natural methane sources in past climate change.” Thus, this bears watching by Steve and the rest of us as well. (The Planck Institute’s press release – link at top – provides the most intriguing details for the first read on this subject.)

  25. Follow the money
    Posted Mar 7, 2006 at 8:45 PM | Permalink


    “What odds we will get a spaghetti chart in the 4th Assessment?”

    I would guess about zero. But 100% you’ll see “science” explaining the pesky Medieval Warm Period was a local European phenomenon due to some goofy gulf stream patterns or such.

    Too much money to be made on Kyoto carbon credits to let science stand in the way.

  26. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Aug 7, 2008 at 4:02 PM | Permalink

    Ping. An excerpt from Houghton at the Senate:

    Very recently the assertions by McIntyre and McKitrick (2005a, b) (MM), alluded to in the question (references at end of answer), have been shown by several papers to be largely false in the context of the actual data used by Mann and co-workers. Ammann (a palaeontologist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research) and Wahl of Alfred University have two papers, one in review and one in press, that reproduce the original results published by Mann et al in Nature in 1998 and Geophysical Research Letters, 1999 and prominently used in the IPCC Third Assessment Report..

    Amman and Wahl issued a press release in May 2005 on this finding. Fuller details are at http://www.ucar.edu/news/releases/2005/ammann.shtml These authors state that they will make their full computer code available publicly.

    Three years later, the code and results become available. After they submit to AR4 and after it’s used by AR4. BTW at the time of Houghton’s testimony, one paper had been rejected – information that UCAR withheld for years; and the other paper was not “in press”; it wasn’t published until over 2 years later.


One Trackback

  1. By debunkers.org » Hockey Stick Under Fire on Feb 14, 2006 at 10:57 PM

    […] Some recent work by Steve: McIntyre has been having fun responding to purported rebuttals of his work. Review of Osborn and Briffa – a recent supposed confirmation of the Hockey Stick Comments (0) […]

%d bloggers like this: