Dividing by zero

Recently, I’ve been getting into some silly discussions regarding climate.  Like many skeptics, I don’t typically rely on nor parrot journal approved papers.  I prefer to think for myself as opposed to someone else thinking for me.  Apparently, some alarmists perceive this as a weakness in the arguments.  I don’t believe this.  If I can state scientific truisms without first referencing some ideological dissertation that is masquerading as a work of science, then I think I’m a bit further ahead of my verbal sparring partners.

In the last couple of days, the silly hockey stick has risen its ugly head again.  The newly released emails showing that there was, indeed, a consensus on Mann’s stick, and presumably, the clones, shows, it is garbage.  In spite of these revelations the alarmists persist and insist that it is a piece of science because it was published in a journal.

As I’m sure most of the readers here are aware, there have been several published papers statistically refuting the sticks(hockey stick graphs).  And, of course, there were responses defending the hs.  This was the impetus for me writing “I wanted to be a statistician.”(This should be read first for literary context.) I didn’t get much feed back on that one, which is sad, because I thought it had some good literary imagery in it.  But, using that imagery, viewing this back and forth, we see that they have my first love up on a pole and she’s dancing for them.  Philistines.  Worse, in a recent discussion, a journalist referenced a recent study that was using “A Bayesian Algorithm for Reconstructing Climate Anomalies in Space and Time.”  This is a bitter pill to swallow.  Now, my first love isn’t dancing on a pole for a select few in a gentleman’s club, she’s a party girl being passed around to and used by anyone in the most vile manner.  This is the equivalent of mathematical buggery.  Those aren’t Philistines!  She is in the hands of Sodomites!  I wont get into a discussion as why this is wrong, I’ll just to tell you that the Bayesian method requires first, a belief.  If this belief is unfounded, then no amount of new evidence introduced will render a good result.  This is to say, if the original prior(belief) is implausible then it doesn’t matter how many steps you take, you’re stepping down to hell.  And this is the difficulty cli-sci-turned-dendrochronologists-turned-crystal-ball-gazer types run into.   BTW, dendrochronology, in this case, is a misnomer.  Chronology refers to time, not temps.

The first questioned asked should be, “Can we determine the temperature by gazing into a tree ring?”  The answer is, of course not.  You don’t believe me?  Take a core of a tree, make it a bristlecone, if you like, and then send it to anyone, Mann, Briffa, whomever, and then ask them what the temps were for years x,y, and z.  A critic of that approach might say something stupid, like, “that wouldn’t be fair, there aren’t enough variables known!”  And, I’d respond with, “Exactly!”.

But, on this, I’ll play along for a bit, and I’ll give them a few “gimmees”.  First, let’s examine, briefly, what makes a tree ring.  For that, we’ll turn to Professor Kim D. Coder.  I won’t regurgitate her instruction, but I will quote some pertinent comments.

“A growth increment represents hundreds of internal and external variables put into an equation with only one answer – tree survival and growth.” And, “The four dominant environmental features accounting for most of the variation in ring width are precipitation, light (quality and quantity), temperature (as it moves away from 70 – 85°F optimum), and relative humidity (micro-site and boundary layer). These features influence the tree instantaneously, but the tree’s response will include biological adjustments which occur over various lengths of time. The lag time between sense and final response activities can lead to incomplete or inappropriate reactions to major changes.”

Ok, so, hundreds of variables, and even when properly quantified, reactions are not always predictable.  But, this is a general bit of information.  What about bristlecone?  A few fellows have recently looked into the “divergence” problem we are all familiar with.  While I’m not really interested in that, often one can pick up useful information tangential to what the study is investigating.  The fellows names are Matthew W. Salzera,1, Malcolm K. Hughesa, Andrew G. Bunnb, and Kurt F. Kipfmuellerc .  I’ll quote from the section titled, The Role of Temperature. ………..

“This global model of treeline suggests a narrow range of growing-season temperatures of treelines at different elevations around the globe ………..  Recent direct observations of xylogenesis (wood formation) coupled with soil, air, and stem temperatures provide strong corroboration for temperature-limited growth in alpine and boreal conifers (36). The reported critical value of mean daily temperature for the onset of wood formation is 8 to 9 °C, ……………. It follows that tree establishment, survival, and growth at upper treeline requires that temperatures at critical times of year consistently equal or exceed this general minimum temperature for wood formation. Even with sufficient moisture to support growth, tissue formation (ring growth) could not occur if the threshold temperature was not met for a sufficiently long period. Clearly, this reasoning may be extended to fluctuations of temperature and growth from year to year, or from decade to decade, as well as along elevational gradients.”

Ok, so conifers, need to have a daily mean of 8-9°C (that’s about 46°F) to grow….. tree rings.  The growing season is short, but even shorter in cold places.  But, we’re attempting to determine a mean temperature with these trees.  When determining a mean, one must have at least two values.  In cold places, we can get one value, sort of.  The high temps.  But, we don’t know what the low is.  We cannot know what the low is because zero growth only means a temp so low as that it did not achieve a persistent mean temp of 46°F.  The ring doesn’t grow, but, it does not recede either.  There is no negative ring growth size to correlate with lower temp values.  A tree ring will not grow in persistent 10°F, just as much as it won’t grow in persistent -20°F. 

So even assuming proper and equal soil nutrition, light and quality of light, humidity and precipitation.  (we all know that’s impossible.)  We still wouldn’t know what the mean temps were because we have no lower value!  Not on a daily, seasonal, yearly, decadal or century scale.  They are doing the equivalent of  dividing by zero!  There is no amount of odds grasping, stepping, prior or posterior posturing and posing that will make this simple scientific fact go away!  They can Bayesian, monte carlo, or lasso, it doesn’t matter. The original belief was unfounded and wrong.  These Sodomites are trying to convince people they know the decadal mean of a point in time because they know whether or not 46°F was or was not achieved for a few weeks per year of a particular decade.  They are treating numbers like a ball-boy on a Syracuse basketball team!  That’s no way to treat a lady, even if she isn’t faithful.

References are in the links provided.

“Yamal” means “End of the World.”  Yamal is the northwest part of Siberia.

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32 Responses to Dividing by zero

  1. kelly liddle says:

    On a related matter the risk of death due to climate change is increasing in Australia. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-11-30/climate-change-to-kill-australians2c-report-says/3703062/?site=melbourne
    ABC is our government owned national broadcaster that is independant.

    • suyts says:

      Again with the mosquitoes. One of the many fallacies in cli-sci that just won’t die.

      I truly love independent reporting. I wonder who told them to run this …… clap trap. The elderly and infirm are being put at risk if they don’t have cheap and reliable energy to warm them during the cold and cool them in the heat. Does the ABC not read or watch news regarding other places of the world? Such as Northern Ireland?

    • Mike Davis says:

      The greatest historical out breaks of Mosquito borne diseases were in cold climates rather than warm climates. Some current out breaks are happening in neighborhoods in Mexico just across the border from areas that are not being affected.
      It is not temperature related as much as it is to overall living conditions.
      Cold kills more people every year than heat and heat related problems have been controlled by cheep electricity allowing more people to have climate controlled homes.
      So called attempts to reduce warming by reducing energy use only puts more people at risk of being affected by weather conditions.
      Your first sentence is BS and I am only saying you were told BS not accusing you of spreading it. Your ABC is a political misinformation distributor!

      • suyts says:

        When I lived in Alaska, where temps often got down to -30 to -40 below, after the spring breakup, mosquitoes would be so thick you could literally see a swarm of them a block away. I have never seen anything like it before or since.

  2. Mike Davis says:

    I own a tree farm and live here to watch trees grow. I did my own landscaping each time I bought a house. I happen to like and appreciate plants of all types. Needles to say I studied trees and plants.
    Even their “Tree Line” issue is faulty because over time the tree line changes with long term weather patterns as does the temperature limiting location of the trees. Density of plants would not be obvious in any of their studies as trees tend to self thin as required.
    The most important thing to remember is the “Hundreds” of variables that determine the growth rate of a tree. Those change each year for any given tree. As far as BCP goes there are differences in each ring depending on where it is on the tree. I can also see that on my own trees that I have cut down but not as dramatic as what is seen on a BCP and other strip bark species. We have the Eastern Cedar / Juniperus virginiana which is not a real Cedar but is also a strip bark species. There is no corelation in the width of the rings in any year from point to point on the trunk.
    I think CA has a couple of pictures that show this.
    I will look!

    • suyts says:

      Cool, if you get the pics, link them…..I’ll put them in.

      But, yes, hundreds of variables. But, for argument sake, I allowed that even if all of the variables were consistently optimal, they still couldn’t get a mean temp!!! This continual statistical discussion detracts from the science.

      • Mike Davis says:

        In extreme conditions they may be able to guess the temperature for three months, tops,
        Don’t mean SQUAT!
        In the desert some trees had two growth periods each year, Spring and Fall when temperatures were optimal!

      • suyts says:

        Right, the literature I looked at stated that there are “false” rings. That is to say, extra rings that give the false impression of a year.

        And, yes, 3 months tops, for tree in ideal climatic regions. Yamal isn’t one of them. Neither are the high altitude trees. I just can’t believe so many people accept the illogical notion that someone could find a mean temperature from tree rings through statistical wizardry. They’re simply inventing a number that isn’t there. Its a work of fiction. And, I hate to say this, but David Appell was right. There are skeptics that buy into this when it produces the answers they want.

  3. Mike Davis says:

    I could not find any pictures of rings but found this:

    • suyts says:

      Yeh, that takes me back. This little post has given me a secret. But, I’m not letting go of it until I understand the implications. It has kept me pondering all day. Which is why I haven’t been all that active on the blogs today.

  4. Mike Davis says:


  5. Mike Davis says:

    Enlarge this photo centering on the wood and observe the regularity of the ring width, actually lack of:
    http://www.meteo.psu.edu/~mann/Mann/index.php ;)

  6. Latitude says:

    One tree does not a chronology make………………. LOL

    • suyts says:

      Exactly, and no amount of trees make a temperature.

      • Mike Davis says:

        You are wrong about that! New research shows that trees regulate the temperature where they are to the optimum conditions for growth. On my property I have a small valley that has many trees. It maintains a more constant temperature than any other location on my property. It is cooler during the day and warmer during the night and on cold days. It is protected from wind blowing from most directions as the west end hooks to the south and the east end rises to a ridge.
        Trees create their own environment, Make temperature> ;)

      • suyts says:

        lol, ok, but you still can’t tell me what the low, and thus, mean temp for any given period of time by looking at a tree ring, or multiple rings. ;-)

        • Mike Davis says:

          I can only know that the tree grew during those periods when it produced rings.
          I never claimed there is such a thing as a treemomiter, just that trees revel when optimum growing conditions existed. See my response to Steven regarding past temperatures.

  7. Mike Davis says:

    Cold temperatures are more restrictive to tree growth than warm temperatures. Very cold tends to be very dry and sap the moisture from the trees killing them. Drought conditions will do the same but it takes longer. I once lost a yard full of trees within two days of temperatures in the teens. It was only six or seven trees but I was not the only one in town that lost trees that Winter.

  8. Latitude says:

    speaking of trees…..I know, biology is harder than math ;)

    When forests evolved…..CO2 levels crashed
    …when grasses evolved……CO2 levels crashed again

    Present CO2 levels are limiting to C3′s and C4′s and CAM’s…………….

    • Mike Davis says:

      As with every thing else trees are supply limited.
      I used to feed my trees and give them plenty of water to promote growth, Way back when. I learned through study that feeding and over watering trees actually made them weaker and shortened their life span. Pick trees that naturally grow in the region you live and give them enough water to get established. Trees also require a different watering schedule than grass. I ended up doing Desert / arid region landscaping because I lived in the desert. Now to grow trees I let them spread their seeds or gather seeds from one area and spread them where I want new trees to grow.
      I spend more time cutting down unwanted trees than planting new trees.

    • suyts says:

      “I know, biology is harder than math” —- it always was for me!

  9. HankH says:

    What should have been very problematic to statisticians in climatology (if there are any) is Briffa’s decision to use one tree that was very different in growth pattern from the other nine trees used in his tree ring study. Removing that one tree (YADO61) results in a graph line that might be best coined as a pool stick. I’m sure he knew that. If not, he flunked statistics 101. I’m not surprised that Briffa cherry picked trees for his study but I am surprised that none of the people going gaga over the results of his study didn’t notice his study had no statistical power – none at all!

    Seriously, the first thing that jumps out at me like a monster in a B horror flick is when you remove one data sample and it dramatically changes the results, you’re dealing with a sample size that is inadequate (under powered). How the study even made it to submission (with any belief it might make it to publication) underscores how successful the “team” was at rigging the peer review process and how confident they were that their studies would get published no matter how bogus the results were.

    • suyts says:

      Of course everything you say is true, Hank. But all of that is an academic exercise. Briffa may as well have simply drawn his stick and then manipulated to numbers to get the results he wished for. Which, is basically what they all did. Because there is no lower value to get a mean from …

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