Flashback!!!! Dividing By Zero!!!! And Open Thread!


I don’t know, maybe it’s good to look back, from time to time. 

Way back in Nov, 2011, I wrote this post!

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.

Ahh, the memories!

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6 Responses to Flashback!!!! Dividing By Zero!!!! And Open Thread!

  1. Latitude says:

    It’s Goldilocks…..has to be just right

    • suyts says:

      Yes, but, the point is, there’s no math in it. It’s simply supposition. It isn’t based on any real mathematics. No one has a reasonable grasp of the lower value to determine a mean/average temperature.

      It’s all hokum and bs, which should have been obvious to the first year algebra student …. except some may not understand the “Goldilocks” necessity for tree growth. But, damnit! Other people did and didn’t point out the obvious! They allowed the division by zero and then argued against the rest of it!

  2. gator69 says:

    Years ago I read a great paper on a possible relationship between tree growth and solar cycles (since then I have seen similar actions in my own trees). It was written before the widespread use of the interwebs, and as far as I can tell it has never been digitized. I think I kept a paper copy, but it may be years before I find it again.

  3. Jim Masterson says:

    I didn’t get much feed back on that one, which is sad, because I thought it had some good literary imagery in it.

    Sorry James, but you posted that about 6 months and 22 days before I knew about your site.


  4. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    This article in the UK Telegraph is a perfect proof that Blair’s Law applies to your country too:

    Chelsea Manning may face solitary confinement over Caitlyn Jenner magazine

    Incidentally Blair is still doing well. You can vote which pie to use today.

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