Tag Archives: Hockey Stick

Hockey Stick exonerated. Again.

As you probably know, leading scientist Malcolm Hughes held a press conference today to announce what could be a game-changing result in paleoclimatology.

Flanked by coauthors Raymond Bradley and Michael Mann, Hughes said that thanks to new, better data, they’d finally succeeded in approximating a ‘hockey stick’ curve without the use of cheating—putting paid at last to denialist claims that the iconic temperature-reconstruction is somehow ‘fraudulent.’

Hughes et al. have written up their findings in HBM2015, due out next month. Here’s what the lesser outlets are saying about it.

masthead NYTThe instantly-recognizable “hockey stick” graph made its debut in MBH’98, a seminal article by scientists Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley and Malcolm Hughes that has been plagued by suspicions of monkey business ever since its publication last century.

That accusation, according to the authors of a major new peer-reviewed study, “is irrelevant.”

It turns out jiggery-pokery isn’t even necessary to get “essentially” the correct, hoccobacilliform  curve for historic temperatures, Dr Malcolm Hughes explained at a media conference today. That’s the take-home conclusion of a paper Hughes authored with colleagues Raymond Bradley and Michael Mann, which goes to print next month under the title Millennial Climate Reconstructions are Robust to the Addition or Removal of Shenanigans.

After eliminating any disreputable or disingenuous steps involved in producing the original graph, said the authors, they found it was still possible to get “just about as good a hockey-stickish result as most recent studies”—all without straying an inch from accepted climatological practices.

The finding is just the latest in almost two decades of independent vindications of the work of Mann, Bradley and Hughes in 1998.

Lead author Hughes said he hopes the new facts will silence once and for all the ‘skeptics’ who allege—vocally if not outright vehemently—that the disturbing diagram presented in MBH’98 is necessarily the product of sleight of hand.

But one coauthor, Dr Mann, failed to share his optimism. He interrupted Dr Hughes to say that in his experience deniers, as they’re technically known, seldom learn from their mistakes. A roomful of journalists tittered in sympathy.

Today’s revelation won’t be official until it comes out in November’s issue of Sap (the journal widely considered the Bible of dendroclimatology). Because of the extraordinary public interest in the findings, however—a function of the sheer urgency of the climate issue in general—the researchers decided it was unethical to wait. This morning’s media event was their way of giving the world as much notice as possible, as far away as possible from the noisy scrutiny of self-appointed literary critics.

Science-by-press-release is frowned on in normal fields of inquiry, but such are the existential ramifications of global warming theory—and the toxic counterarguments of its doubters—that the practice has increasingly become a necessary evil for climate scientists.

Which doesn’t mean they have to like it. Hughes, Bradley and Mann weren’t entirely comfortable with today’s publicity, and it showed. Throughout their remarks they had the resentful, almost haughty bearing of pure intellectuals dragged into the political spotlight against their will. We’d rather be in the lab—said their petulant mien—enriching human knowledge by discovering the next killer argument against hockey-stick denial.

Dr Raymond

One of the two non-lead authors of HBM2015; probably Raymond S. “Ray” Bradley, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

masthead nature copyHockey sticks seem to be popping up everywhere!

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A prestige press classic: Science historian Fred Pearce on the unhidden story of the ‘decline’

From a story by Fred Pearce—Dendroclimatologists blame industrial emissions for the sudden inability of dendroclimatology to measure the sudden climate change dendroclimatologists blame on industrial emissions—which  first appeared in the science pages of The Guardian:

No man’s proxy

But why the decline? What was behind this sudden, obviously unprecedented, divergence?

Using common sense, Mann, Jones and colleagues worked it out:

Things are going fine, botanically, for thousands of years. Then one day during the Kennedy administration, a new chemical (its precise identity still subject to debate) emitted by the pollution industry makes previously-compliant bristlecone pines fly into a tantrum and reject the science of bristlecone pines. The irritated individuals—some of the oldest living life forms on Earth—dedicate themselves, from the organelle level up, to a vendetta against peer-reviewed botany that continues to this day.

To hell with the literature on growth rings, MXD and the “proper” way to respond when the temperature changes, they thought. They were here, keeping their ghostly vigil over the American desert, when Moses first experienced the thrill of taking a life, and they were sick of letting ivory-tower dendro geeks 1% their age say when to decline, incline, submit or deviate.

After all, this wasn’t the Middle Ages anymore.

They were no man’s proxy. They had too much self-respect.

bristlecone 9

Twisted science: Bristlecone pines are “straight like denier logic,” quips Dr Michael E. Mann, whose PhD in physics enables him to extract “rings” from these miracles of evolution.

News of the physiological mutiny spread throughout the brotherhood of bristlecones like a shot (at least by Ent standards), thanks to the well-known, centuries-old, mainstream science of ‘teleconnection.’ Don’t be misled by the New Agey voodoo-science name: ‘teleconnection’ is no figment of Dr Mann’s imagination, no pseudoscientific deus ex machina born of a perfect storm of ambition, career panic and unscrupulousness. Far from it. You’ll find ‘teleconnection,’ of trees, in the index of any decent college-level Intro to Biology.

The long march through the literature: First steps

Eager to share this explanation with their colleagues—and subject it to the scrutiny of peer-reviewed scientific examination on the off chance that there was a minor flaw somewhere in their thinking—Mann and his collaborators had soon submitted a paper about the divergence.

Alas, replied the editors of prestige glossies like Nature, Science and the trade rag Sap, the thesis was too self-explanatorily true for its own good. An arboreal Internet; a xerosphere convulsed by trophic revolt; an unknown industrial byproduct that continues to sicken the oldest living species on Earth, and the government that allows it to happen? Yes, yes, all eminently plausible.

But where’s the hook? There doesn’t seem enough “new” here to justify a whole paper. Perhaps it’s more of a letters-to-the-editor job, they suggest.

That’s what Mann, Jones and subauthors try next. But it’s like flaying a baby. Their baby. They’d have to find thousands of words of fat to trim—and Mann isn’t in the habit of writing fat. Every word had a job. It was there for a reason: to feed its family. Michael Mann can’t stand to put a single hard-working American word out on the street, and he’ll be damned if he’ll do it to thousands.

This excerpt was reprinted with the author’s protest. —BK