More Proxy Hijinx

Steve McIntyre digs into more proxy hijinx from the usual suspects.  This is a pretty good summary of what he tends to find, time and again in these studies:

The problem with these sorts of studies is that no class of proxy (tree ring, ice core isotopes) is unambiguously correlated to temperature and, over and over again, authors pick proxies that confirm their bias and discard proxies that do not. This problem is exacerbated by author pre-knowledge of what individual proxies look like, leading to biased selection of certain proxies over and over again into these sorts of studies.

The temperature proxy world seems to have developed into a mono-culture, with the same 10 guys creating new studies, doing peer review, and leading IPCC sub-groups.  The most interesting issue McIntyre raises is that this new study again uses proxy’s “upside down.”  I explained this issue more here and here, but a summary is:

Scientists are trying to reconstruct past climate variables like temperature and precipitation from proxies such as tree rings.  They begin with a relationship they believe exists based on a physical understanding of a particular system – ie, for tree rings, trees grow faster when its warm so tree rings are wider in warm years.  But as they manipulate the data over and over in their computers, they start to lose touch with this physical reality.

…. in one temperature reconstruction, scientists have changed the relationship opportunistically between the proxy and temperature, reversing their physical understanding of the process and how similar proxies are handled in the same study, all in order to get the result they want to get.

  • Alan D. McIntire

    I learned the same thing through experience years ago, when I used to handicap horse races. With all the factors involved, average speed rating last n races, weight factor, jockey factor, distance factor, days since last race, it was easy developing positive prediction patterns for PAST races.
    To be valid, however, the handicapping system had to predict FUTURE races also. Sadly for me, I wound up losing at a rate of about 9%. That was better than average, but I could have done just as well by not handicapping at all and just betting favorites.

    Those “past climate” programs suffer from the same flaw as my handicapping system did. To make sure you’re not just “curve fitting”, you’ve got to validate your model against future weather patterns-

  • s hanson

    This reminded me of something I saw on the Planet Green channel (directv). I am sorry as I can’t remember the story for exactly but it is one of the weekly presentations that (supposedly) talks about the happennings around the world relevant to the global warming scene. It goes along as all these programs do showing people and their proof for the warming conspiracy and then a scientist (I am sorry as I wasn’t paing a great deal of attention on the specifics so I can’t say who this person was) says “now this isn’t my opinion, this is concrete information obtained from computer modelling” etc. etc.. My point being that computer modelling was being treated as proof when everyone should know that this is a tool not a scientific measurment (and it is a tool that can easily be manipulated to show a conclusion you want it to show). This is television and I should know that the average person isn’t exactly computer or scientifically literate but I think this shows why some of the hysteria is succeeding.

  • michel

    The question is no longer about the validity of studies done by the Team. We know they will be wrong and misleading, the only question is what is wrong with this particular one.

    The interesting question is now about sociology and history of science, also great popular delusions and the madness of crowds. How does it come about that defending this sort of thing has become the Party Line in the climate science community?

    This is the question we have to answer. We know the studies are junk. Why are smart people writing them, and equally smart people defending them? Do they know they are junk? If not, why not? If so, what exactly is it that makes them defend them?

  • Jeff Shifrin

    Michel asks “We know the studies are junk. Why are smart people writing them, and equally smart people defending them?”

    I spent three and a half decades in the field of education in Canada. I saw many “educational bandwagons” come and go. They usually started in California, and then enthusiastically moved north-east. These bandwagons were certainly not as important as AGW since they were never accepted world-wide (North American and Western European students were the main victims), governments never considered destroying their countrys’ economies to join the bandwagon, and finally (and very importantly), it took less than a decade to show that the latest bandwagon had just as little merit as the previous one. Nevertheless, the principle of smart people doing junk research, and other smart people defending and promoting it was the same, and so I can answer the question very simply – SELF INTEREST!!

    To be one of those who starts a successful bandwagon, or at least jumps on the bandwagon early in the game is to be one whose career takes a giant leap upward. Conversely, to be openly skeptical of a bandwagon that is widely supported is to be one whose career is likely to take a giant drop downward. Had anyone heard of Michael Mann before he came up with his bogus hockey stick graph? What is his professional status now? Richard Lindzen was one of the most respected and admired profs at MIT and in the academic world. Has his refusal to join the bandwagon helped or hurt his professional status? If you’ve answered these two questions, I say QED!!

    Michel’s other question with reference to these studies (“Do they know they are junk? If not, why not?”) is an interesting one, and the answer is less clear. I often asked myself a similar question. (“Don’t these educators know that this latest educational bandwagon is just the latest BS to pass by?”) My personal view is that the answer varies from individual to individual. I think there are some climate scientists who just aren’t bright enough to be doing serious hard-core science. Now admittedly, Steve McIntyre is exceptionally smart, but consider the fact that even though the Team members persistently deny him access to their methods and refuse to make public their raw data, he (in a very short time) finds important mistakes in studies that they have spent years on. What does that say about their competence? I think that there are other scientists who are smart enough to know that these studies are seriously faulty, but are more than willing to overlook these faults. One reason for this behaviour is the aforementioned self interest, but another is “religion”. Many people (scientists included) have a need to believe in something. For most of these people, organized religion fills this need. However, scientists are generally less religious (in the conventional sense) than most people. For many climate scientists, AGW has become a religion. For them, it is truly a noble cause, and as with many noble causes, they believe that the end justifies the means. Thus, they see overlooking “inconvenient shortcomings” in these studies as being equivalent to a good parent telling a young child a “white lie” in order to keep that child safe. The problem, of course, is that the analogy is false. The parent is relatively “all knowing” compared to the small child, and when the child is old enough to make good decisions on his/her own, the good parent will tell the child the truth. Neither of these conditions apply to the climate scientists telling “white lies” to the general public.

  • Mitchel44

    I just find it curious that the same author, studying in the same area, and looking for the same kind of information, could not use all of the proxies he used in this paper,

    I wonder why?

  • hunter

    Historians will look back on this and just shake their heads.
    The fraud is blatant and easily documented, yet it just rolls on.
    But these abused proxy studies do prove one important aspect of AGW:
    AGW is not dependent in any way on facts or evidence.
    When the true believers realize they are in a corner, they simply try to dissemble and claim that since the greenhouse effect is true, AGW must be true.

  • Mac

    Interesting development within the climate model world – cracks are opening up.

    It is also noteworthy that a pro-global warming publication like the New Scientist chose to print such comments by Mojib Latif of the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences at Kiel University who is considered to be one of the world’s top climate modellers.

    Two decades of global cooling is going to destroy at lot of scientific, political and environmental reputations and careers. Organisations like the UN, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the WWF, etc, will inevitably find themselves taking a lot of flak for promoting scare stories over climate. Even eco-celebrities like Al Gore, Prince Charles and Bono will have no hiding place as skepticism takes root in the political process.

    PS Climate modellers get it wrong again.

  • markyg

    I was never that good at statistics at school. I always seemed to have a mental block.

    And yet I easily understand your arguments agsint their methods.

    How come I understand the limitations but the experts do not?

  • Gordon Sirmond

    I wonder if any of you have read Douglas Adams’ Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books. If you have cast your mind back to Deep Thought, the computer the mice designed to work out the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything. Before beginning his calculations Deep Thought told a deputation of philosophers, worried about loss of trade when the answer was found, that they had centuries of employment ahead of them trying to predict what his answer would be. So is climate change.

    We appear to now have two new world religions, AGW and the Antis. Both are entrenched, both condemn the others methods, both are convinced they are correct.

    This reminds me of the debate on evolution which has become polarised into what could be termed the Dawkins camp and, at the other extreme, the Answers in Genesis Camp.

    The point I’m rambling towards is that where climate change is concerned we still do not have enough evidence for either. Both have had their crackpot theories, both have their vested interest groups, both have researchers who stretch data almost to breaking point, both make unsustainable claims for their data both have supporters who will deliberately misrepresent evidence presented by the other side and both have layman shouting from the sides terrified that their life style might be to blame (for evidence of most of these look at the comments above).

    However until he passion is taken out of the debate and only the science is left we will ever establish the facts (not the truth, truth is a fact coloured by prejudice)

  • Hi, I think you are an intelligent author. But you want to try all the proxies in your paper.