the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Sesame Street Science

Posted by Jeff Id on November 27, 2009

In a never ending effort to help the media think, we must point out the detail of everything. Aren’t writers supposed to be the wordsmiths and reporters supposed to be detectives? If nothing else is hidden in plain sight, Steve McIntyre’s posts are. A reader asked if DOCTOR KIETH BRIFFA had a reasonable explanation for the DECLINE in temperatures in recent years as predicted by his scientifically perfect proxy’s. Well we do nothing at tAV if it’s not full service. I’m talking all the bells and whistles too.

Here is a link to a post Steve McIntyre did ….. way back in 2006.

Post number 529 at CA, that’s an old one.

In it DOCTOR Briffa ratinoalizes why these tree rings are still temperature despite ‘divergence’ problems.

It is salient to note that relative tree-ring width, and basal area increment, also show a relative decline and divergence from the temperature curve(s), arguing against the decline in density being a compensation reaction to increasing ring growth (as is seen in forestry soil fertilizing experiments). I would imagine that higher temperatures, and possibly some increasing sensitivity to lower summer soil moisture are involved, but some additional growth-limiting factor must also be implicated. Higher CO2 would be expected to increase basal area growth, so I consider it unlikely that this is the factor.

I’m starting to understand Briffa’s writing style. It seems to be -make absolute paper killing statements, an arm wave and ignore the previous. He’s got no clue what the tree ring data means!! None at all!!

Briffa et al. (1998b) discuss various causes for this decline in tree growth parameters, and Vaganov et al. (1999) suggest a role for increasing winter snowfall. We have considered the latter mechanism in the earlier section on chronology climate signals, but it appears likely to be limited to a small part of northern Siberia. In the absence of a substantiated explanation for the decline, we make the assumption that it is likely to be a response to some kind of recent anthropogenic forcing. On the basis of this assumption, the pre-twentieth century part of the reconstructions can be considered to be free from similar events and thus accurately represent past temperature variability.

What kind of jackalope ignorant science is this when you can simply make an assumption of WHAT YOUR DATA IS and then make a conlcusion that IT IS TEMPERATURE. It doesn’t even look like temperature so they chop the data off. My god this is not reasonable. How the hell and in what universe is this science??

The network was built over many years from trees selected to maximise their sensitivity to changing temperature…. However, in many tree-ring chronologies, we do not observe the expected rate of ring density increases that would be compatible with observed late 20th century warming. This changing climate sensitivity may be the result of other environmental factors that have, since the 1950s, increasingly acted to reduce tree-ring density below the level expected on the basis of summer temperature changes. This prevents us from claiming unprecedented hemispheric warming during recent decades on the basis of these tree-ring density data alone. Here we show very preliminary results of an investigation of the links between recent changes in MXD and ozone (the latter assumed to be associated with the incidence of UV radiation at the ground). For the time being, we circumvent this problem by restricting the calibration of the density data to the period before 1960.

Does this seem even slightly reasonable to anyone reading. Is there any one in the thousands of readers here who might think that this could in SOME REALM OF THE UNIVERSE make sense???

Insanity or lies–your choice.

Hide the decline!!

27 Responses to “Sesame Street Science”

  1. Will said

    I have just noticed on YouTube that the video featuring Mann in “Hide the decline” has been removed from the “Most Viewed List”.
    It was in the top 10 earlier today and with 163000 views should now be at the top.
    What goes on ?


  2. Tim G said

    Youch. I assumed they at least had a working theory as to why the tree rings stopped being a temperature proxy after 1960. You know, pollution or /something/. But “we just assume it must be something man-made and could never have happened in the past” is just nonsensical. I /honestly/ don’t know if these guys believe this stuff or not. But it sure isn’t good science.


  3. Jeff C. said

    Talk about a tree-ring circus…

    I’m a satellite systems engineer and have done my fair share of data torturing. If we have an on-orbit anomaly, we need to review the factory data to see if we can find something, anything, to explain what we are seeing and provide a possible fix. I’ve had some wild-ass hypothesis, but am lucky to have smart people around me to tell me if I’m full of crap when needed. How can that be so absent here? Is it the isolated academic culture? The political ideology groupthink? The grant money?

  4. Will said

    I do not want to harp on this but in an earlier posting I pointed out that “Hide the decline” has been removed from all of YouTube’s most viewed videos.
    As well as most popular videos. Now we have been complaining about the mass media not covering this story. This has been a great advert for ClimateGate.
    This video was fast becoming one of the most viewed vids on YouTube and it has now been “hidden”.
    Check for yourself –
    Has YouTube now also joined the mass media in hiding the decline ?

  5. crosspatch said

    It looks like it boils down to:

    “We select trees whose rings sort of look kind of like the temperature record except for the period when they don’t”.

    I will bet you can find periods of time where the DJIA matches the temperature record for certain periods but I don’t think that means that the DJIA was a thermometer during those times.

    The problem is that this isn’t just the fault of Jones and Briffa and CRU and GISS, etc. This is the fault of the entire community surrounding them. Why was this allowed to go on? Why were they not questioned more? I would hope that going forward there will be a more scientific process surrounding papers submitted by these people coming from the scientific community surrounding them.

    I seem to remember Peilke mentioning the poor quality of the surface sites in Colorado and I believe it got a response from Gavin Schmidt along the lines of “you only looked at Colorado, that is a small part of the total network, not enough to significantly impact the entire result” and another that said something like “it doesn’t matter”. So I believe that is when Anthony Watts decided to audit the entire USHCN network. So far he (Watts) has found only a small percentage of stations that meet the networks own standards with the overwhelming majority of stations having siting issues which bias temperatures high. The auditing is nearing a percentage of completion where the number of stations surveyed across the US *is* a significant portion of the total and it can be *documented* that there is a significant problem with the data (at least in the US)

    If Briffa is matching tree rings to surface data (especially “adjusted” surface data) then he is likely going to walk himself off into oblivion because the surface data he is matching the rings to in order to find “treemometers” is likely not really what the temperature is anyway. While US stations might be bad, we have no idea how bad ROW stations are. If we have a “high quality” network that appears to be producing junk data, what would one expect a “standard quality” network to produce?

    It is absolutely silly.

    On short, Briffa’s treemometers probably aren’t even treemometers over the period he believes that they are because he is comparing tree ring data to junk temperature data to begin with.

    Peilke’s issue of the quality of the observed data impacts every single other study that attempts to calibrate itself in some way against observations. If the observations are wrong, then Briffa’s treemometers are calibrated incorrectly to start with.

  6. jcspe said

    I often find myself wondering if I’m still sane when I read stuff like this post. I have not thought of any view other than a group of PhD’s have decided to try a gullibility test on the whole world and it is working.

    Extrapolate (pre-thermometer temperatures) when you can’t even interpolate throughout the data set. I can’t figure out why people’s heads don’t explode. Am I nuts? What am I missing?

    If it urns out that I am not nuts, then my nomination for the proper correlation to Briffa’s treering data will be the first 50 pages of numbers in the Moscow phone book after the listing for Freezia Nutzoff.

  7. Paul Z. said

    How ironic: a key figure in the ongoing leadership face-off in Australia’s labour party is named Joe Hockey. They’re fighting over the ETS bill:,27574,26407526-421,00.html,27574,26405324-29277,00.html

  8. Paul Z. said

    Happy Thanksgiving and Thanks for your efforts at The Air Vent.

    Wonder what Phil Jones is having for Thanksgiving? Oh, I forgot, he’s the turkey.

  9. hpx83 said

    I think the key to this whole argument is quite simple :

    Keith Briffa has proven that theoretically, his tree-rings COULD be related to temperature (but they also could be NOT related to temperature), the problem is that COULD means your still at the hypothesis stage. Not until you can prove that it IS due to temperature does it become a result. I guess this is why they still refer to the “AGW theory” and not the “AGW fact” – because there are no AGW facts yet.

    It all seems very much like some horrific orwellian science “newspeak”, where a “could” becomes a “should” or an “is” or a “by all probability and to be on the safe side”. To quote the objectivists :

    A = A,

    and until Keith Briffa with the same certainty can say that “tree-ring width IS a proxy for temperature” then the debate isn’t over.

  10. crosspatch said

    “until Keith Briffa with the same certainty can say that “tree-ring width IS a proxy for temperature” then the debate isn’t over.”

    And I don’t think that day will ever come. While temperature is certainly one factor in tree ring development (width and density), there are too many other factors involved. And while I agree that at certain times temperature can be the primary constraint, the degree to which it is constraining will vary with other factors. Maybe a nearby forest fire results in the dropping of a lot of ash that acts as fertilizer or a quick surface fire does the same thing. Maybe an animal dies in the root zone. Maybe wind patterns change and the pH of the rain changes making certain nutrients more or less available. While you can say, possibly, that temperature is the primary constraint this year, you can’t go back in time and know with any certainty what was the constraint in the past. Maybe an explosives factory blew up and spread a bunch of nitrates around. Maybe and old landmine corroded and provided extra nitrates. Maybe there was a dusting of volcanic ash that brought in trace nutrients. Or maybe one season was unusually sunny or unusually cloudy. Maybe a power plant or even a crematorium opened up nearby and changed pH or nutrients raining on the area when the wind blows from a certain direction or who the heck knows what. There are just too many things that can impact a plant’s growth and temperature is only one of them.

    Tree rings can give an overall picture of general growing conditions for a given year. Then can not tell you WHY the growing condition was the way it was that year. I will agree that all other things being equal, if the temperature gets cooler, ring width and density will change. It’s the “all other things being equal” part that there is no certainty of, particularly when you go back in time before any recorded history in the area.

  11. Paul Z. said

    Go, Aussies! Lead the way:

  12. jcspe said

    11.Paul Z. said
    November 27, 2009 at 5:31 am
    Go, Aussies! Lead the way:

    = = =
    I haven’t seen a single mention of any CRU emails in any of the Aussie links. Is their media capable of a total blackout? If the government calls new elections, will they be able to sustain the total blackout?

  13. Espen said

    Actually, i think the version with the decline in plain sight looks a lot like arctic temperature, which declined a lot in most of the second half of the 20th century. It even has the LIA in plain sight.

  14. dearieme said

    “Wonder what Phil Jones is having for Thanksgiving?” Presumably it involves stuffing.

  15. Joe NS said


    “To quote the objectivists :

    A = A.”

    If only. What we seem to be observing here are examples of the old mathematical algorithm for making fudge:

    1 = 2 for large values of 1 or small values of 2.

  16. pouncer said

    Is this email getting enough attention? 1069630979.txt

    Subject: Re: Workshop: Reconciling Vertical Temperature Trends
    Date: Sun, 23 Nov 2003 18:42:59 EST

    Dear All:
    The excuses seem to be becoming desperate. Unjustified assertion that I fail to understand “Myles’ comments and/or work on trying the detect/attribute climate change” does not stop the attribution study being an error. The problem is that I do understand what is being done, and I am willing to say why it is GIGO.

    Myles’ comments do not alter the fact that the masked data and the unmasked data contain demonstrated false trends. And the masking may introduce other spurious trends. So, the conducted attribution study is pointless because it is GIGO. Ad hominem insults don’t change that. And nor does the use of peer review to block my publication of the facts of these matters.

  17. Douglas Hoyt said

    If you look at the Briffa MXD time series for the northern boreal forests (see and compare it to the J. Murray Mitchell temperature reconstruction for the Northern Hemisphere (published back in the 1970s), they both look very similar. If I had the two data sets, I would do a comparison.

  18. De Vivar. said

    Jeff C. said
    November 27, 2009 at 1:28 am
    Why does no one tell them its a load of manure?
    Because for too long they have been able to say what they like and nobody has had the bottle to question their quasi science.
    Engineering is different, you have to be right, no grey area.
    In climate ‘science’ the are no rules, the discipline stems from an assortment of mainly humanities based subjects, eg, environmental science, geography sociology -even. Not PURE science at all and consequently not subject to rigorous testing.
    For too long they have spouted nonsense and now it is time the BS was exposed for what it is, Sesame Street Science.

  19. Viv Evans said

    This sentence from one of Briffa’s writings above made me gasp:

    ‘The network was built over many years from trees selected to maximise their sensitivity to changing temperature….’

    For biologists, ‘selecting’ to maximise a feature invariably means breeding. How else does one select for a desired character trait?

    Certainly not by traipsing (if they ever did that!) round some woods and choosing the trees which best fit one’s preconceived ideas.

    This is just one more glaring example that these ‘scientists’ have spent too long in their charmed circle, shuffling their poor data to make them look pretty – but haven’t got the faintest idea what actually happens in nature – and how Nature has and is coping with environmental stresses.

    I’d laugh my head off, if the consequences of their fraud weren’t so serious for all of us.

  20. Arn Riewe said

    And this passed peer review? This speaks volume about the peers

    Strip away the extras and the argument is:

    “we make the assumption that it is likely to be a response to some kind of recent anthropogenic forcing” to prove there is anthrogenic global warming.

    Is that simple enough for any journalist out there?

  21. Paul Linsay said

    The assumption of an human caused decline in tree ring widths is piled on top of the fundamental assumption that ring width corresponds to temperature. After ten thousand years of agriculture there is a tremendous amount known about the biology of plants. Yet somehow, these people couldn’t get themselves over to the botany department to learn if their assumptions are true. As one of the emails to them by a biologist pointed out, the assumptions are wrong.

    The whole field of paleoclimate seems to have this same flaw, assuming that some measurement is a temperature proxy without every having done a direct study to see if it is or what the confounding factors are. If it weren’t for the trillion dollars we’re expected to cough up for this stuff, it would be pathetic.

  22. Kenneth Fritsch said

    Great post Jeff ID.

    Cannot explain it, then conjecture (arm wave) it.

    Get that conjecture peer reviewed so that others can mention it in their peer reviewed papers and do so without detail so as to make the appearance that it is or at least might be explained.

    Then just to be sure the damage is contolled: snip it and hide it.

    Call that process what you may, but it is not science.

    PS: Notice the very critical requirement to attribute (arm wave)the divergence to anthropogenic causes so as not to implicate the treemometers potential failures in times past.

  23. Jeff Id said

    Thanks ken, it’s jaw dropping for sure. I hadn’t read this stuff before but Briffa has that style. He’ll put paper murdering comments right in the text, arm waive and move on to temp and certainty. It happens over and over in his work. He smashes RCS then uses it. Really an odd guy, perhaps he’s schizo or something.

  24. Douglas Hoyt said

    I answered my own question in comment 17 above and posted it at

  25. John M said

    Speaking of Sesame Street…

    The only question…which “Team” member will be assigned to play Big Bird?

  26. Kon Dealer said

    “Here we show very preliminary results of an investigation of the links between recent changes in MXD and ozone (the latter assumed to be associated with the incidence of UV radiation at the ground). For the time being, we circumvent this problem by restricting the calibration of the density data to the period before 1960”

    This is a joke. A few years ago I was a scientist working with British Antarctic Survey, down in the Antarctic, looking at the effects of elevated UVB on plant growth.

    The findings? Zippo, zilch.

    Elevated UVB had no effect on plants growing under the most marginal conditions possible, under the most elevated natural UVB flux in the World. So if it doesn’t happen here…

    Briffa is arm waving, looking more and more like a drowning man.

  27. John F. Pittman said

    If you go to the CRU email site and key search “larch”, you will find Dr. Briffa does have some other conclusions about Yamal and others. It makes what he has written more understandable, but it does not support homogeneity nor stationary processes. In fact, it supports the opposite. When veiwed wrt his recent statement, one can conclude that he has been working on these problems. I concluded after reading, that support of temperature reconstructions by Dr. Briffa needs more examination. After reading “larch”, use search for “sensitivity.” Of course if Jeff just happens to post my study, it has almost all of the emails quoted so one does not have to go back and forth. /end shameless plug for one’s self/ 😉

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