A short rant about another “hide the decline” incident in the climate domain with a short rebuttal

Advisory

If you are queasy, don’t like reading about what the author perceives as “broken science”, hit the back button now.

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Background:

1)  The “Hide the decline” phrase alluded to in the title above came out of the “climategate” e-mails.  Specifically, “hiding the decline” was about  climate scientists deliberately hiding a recent divergence between tree ring widths, ones that they were using as temperature proxies for a record of the past climate over many hundreds of years,  and measured temperatures over the past 50 years or so.  Those miscreant scientists wanted to hide a divergence in those two parameters;  namely, the tree ring widths were not responding in the same way in modern times as those scientists had assumed they did over in their past temperature reconstruction.  This divergence, or as they called it, a “decline” in the quality of the relationship between those two parameters was embarassing because if it was pointed out, it would have raised the need for tricky discussions about the use of tree rings to reconstruct the past several hundred years of temperature.  (Please read The Hockey Stick Illusion by A. W. Montford and ClimategateThe Crutape Letters by Steven Mosher and Thomas W. Fuller,  for the awful details about what these climate scientists were doing.)

2)  Point of view of the writer:  Still on the GW bandwagon, if grudgingly, due to the erosion of ideals of science in that domain.  What are those ideals?  Go to the NAS and their pub, “On Being a Scientist“, a primer for those considering a science career.  There are some senior scientists in the climate domain who need to go back and read this.

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Complaint Department

Another apparent “hide the decline” chapter in addition to the one described above has just been encountered by the author when a friend sent a link to the University of Alaska’s website on climate change.

What “decline” was hidden you ask?  The temperature one since the 1920s and 1930s in AK.

http://www.atmos.washington.edu/marka/tmean.alaska.annual.1925-1976.gif

Now the plot for the period of supposed fast runnup of temperatures due to CO2, the “blade” of the infamous “Hockey Stick” for AK after 1976:

http://www.atmos.washington.edu/marka/tmean.alaska.annual.1977-2010.gif

See anything going on there with the temperature?  Where’s the “blade”, the sharp runnup in temperatures at these sites?

Nope, you don’t see anything going on except for three very warm years in the early 2000s followed by cooler years up to the present.

So why would the University of Alaska edit their temperature record on the web to show only a rise in temperature that begins with the cold-in-the-Arctic spell of the late 1940s and 1950s, and omit the earlier warm spell in Alaska?  Perhaps they want the public to think that no one had a thermometer before 1950 in Alaska.  It would seem like it.

But, in reality, of course, just as the “hide the decline” climate scientists tried to avoid tricky discussions about tree rings and temperatures, ones that would inevitably lead to unsatisfactory conclusions, the folks at the U of AK apparently decided that they did not want the public who visit their web site to know that it was quite warm in Alaska prior to the late 1940s, indeed warmth that rivals the warmth of the 1990s into the early 2000s.

How would they explain that warmth?  Not very easily because then natural variations in temperature, ones that are not explicable today, would have to be addressed head on.  This would raise havoc with their “straw man” simple rise in temperature graph that begins in the 1950s in an apparent attempt to demonstrate the monolithic effect of global warming in Alaska.

To reprise a comment I left weeks ago on Judy Curry’s Climate Etc web site, this except from the Federal Trade Commission on deception in the consumer realm.  It should be applied to science reporting, and I am fervently hoping that the American Meteorological Society will adopt this in the Code of Ethics (aka, “Guidelines for Professiosnal Conduct”).  The  FTC statement below, re-written for science,  is being considered by the AMS for inclusion in their Guidelines:

“Certain elements undergird all deception cases. First, there must be a representation, omission or practice that is likely to mislead the consumer.”

When I see a graph like the one shown on the U of AK climate website it makes me think that today we are better protected as consumers of goods than we are as “consumers” of science.

The U of AK temperature graph is clearly meant to “mislead” those ignorant of the AK climate prior to 1949.  Good, conscientious science MANDATES that all of the data be shown on an educational site like that at the U of AK.  After that, they can show any graph they want, including the edited temperature graph that begins in 1949.  Then, if they can, explain why the edited one is so much better than showing ALL OF THE TEMPERATURE DATA THEY HAVE.  No one would have a problem with that.

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Acknowledgements:  The graphs of Arctic temperatures that are contrasted with that shown on the U of AK website are due to Mark Albright who has unceasingly worked to “clarify” so many dubious/exaggerated climate claims out there.  Mark is something of a hero to me for this work.  As are other scrutinizers of climate claims and data like McIntrye, Montford, Watts, Michaels, Ballinger, Judy Curry, Lindzen, Pielke, Sr., Jr. and so many more for their courage in taking on dubious “fire in the theatre” climate science claims in the first place.  We are all the better off for it, even those of us like me who still think that we have a gradually “global warming” future ahead with natural meanderings along the way.

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Comment received at Word Press by someone not selling me something about this “rant”.  This expert says that I went too far re U of AK and GW.  Must be posted since it makes some astute observations that I missed in my “heat”, so here it is.

“if you read the text on the university of Alaska’s web-site on “temperature change in Alaska” you’ll see that they emphasize the step-like change in the late 1970s and the PDO — and contrast this with what you might expect as a consequence of increasing trends in CO2 concentrations:

“Considering just a linear trend can mask some important variability characteristics in the time series. The figure at right shows clearly that this trend is non-linear: a linear trend might have been expected from the fairly steady observed increase of CO2 during this time period. The figure shows the temperature departure from the long-term mean (1949-2009) for all stations. It can be seen that there are large variations from year to year and the 5-year moving average demonstrates large increase in 1976. The period 1949 to 1975 was substantially colder than the period from 1977 to 2009, however since 1977 little additional warming has occurred in Alaska with the exception of Barrow and a few other locations. The stepwise shift appearing in the temperature data in 1976 corresponds to a phase shift of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation from a negative phase to a positive phase. Synoptic conditions with the positive phase tend to consist of increased southerly flow and warm air advection into Alaska during the winter, resulting in positive temperature anomalies.

Doesn’t sound like they are trying to sell the idea of anthropogenic climate change to me, but maybe that’s just me.
There are some locations with Alaska station data that begin prior to the 1940s,  you can access some of these from the Alaska Climate Research Center’s web-site at: