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« Misrepresenting hide the decline | Main | To politic or not to politic? »

Richard Milne on the divergence problem

This lecture from Dr Richard Milne is being commented on in the Paul Nurse thread. I'd actually come across it a couple of weeks ago, when it appeared on a Skeptical Science thread, but I'd held off posting about it because Ben Pile and I were supposed to be facing Dr Milne at a debate at Edinburgh University next week. Unfortunately the debate has now been cancelled, so here is the video.

Look out for the discussion of the divergence problem, which Dr Milne appears to think is a problem affecting bristlecone pines (there is discussion of a divergence in the Salzer paper he cites, but it's a divergence between ring widths and densities IIRC - nothing to do with hide the decline at all). Look out also for how he moves on very quickly over the question of whether the divergence problem can be shown to be a problem unique to the late twentieth century.

Amazing the things that Skeptical Science thinks are reliable, isn't it?

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Reader Comments (67)

'false experts with recent phd'

Prof Judith Curry (Santa Fe video)

"her comment about the ink being barely dry on Michael Mann's PHD thesis" ;(harsh)

;-) ;-) ;-)

Michael Mann's ink barely dry on his phd & 'hockey stick graph' all over AR3 and lead author, on his own work ;-)

I would have loved to see Ben and Andrew calmly pick this rubbish to pieces...

Nov 14, 2011 at 9:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Most of the things that Skeptical Science thinks are reliable are peer-reviewed papers and scientific work. You lot don't have that,

Really? That is news to me,

900+ Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skeptic Arguments Against ACC/AGW Alarm

Nov 14, 2011 at 9:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterPoptech

TerryS Nov 14, 2011 at 7:57 PM

Thanks, I agree "The Shoe is the Sign" or maybe its just a load of old cobblers.

Nov 14, 2011 at 9:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand

The Leopard In The Basement

Your post is an insult to the intelligence of all regular posters on this blog. Have you no shame?
You refer to Mr Milne as having charisma???

Nov 14, 2011 at 9:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterDung



Well I did attach the term "charismatic preacher" to concept of Milne taking over the UK Church of SkS!

Oh goodness didn't his funny stick and Darth Vader/David Bellamy impersonations ooze charisma to you?

I think he thought so ;)

Nov 14, 2011 at 10:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Jack Hughes

In Ireland some would describe him as a cute hoor.

Only in polite society, and inside of the Pale. Out in the West, where I spend time, more likely gobshite or bollix which can have several meanings, depending on the situation. These are the Hiberno-English phrases. The Gaelic ones are more colorful Cac ar oineach or "shite bag" (politely translated) comes to mind as does Shinach or "sly bastard"

Nov 14, 2011 at 10:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

The world's a kiln
according to Milne
from the pulpit
'CO2 's the culprit
You must believe this
or somethings's amiss'
he's now telling us
we're making a fuss
we're all heretical
missing theoretical
foundations solid,
deniers so squalid
skeptics pretending
hypotheses defending
our logical fallacies
are merely fantasies
for cherry picking
AGW's the king
contrary evidence precluded
selection bias now denuded
exaggeration it seems
is the norm for the Teams
when it comes to deciding
the impacts over-riding
Politicians lyrical wax
'Let's have a carbon tax'
That's one of the tricks
that will sub for a fix
of the climate so fragile
fraudulent action facile
environmentally ineffectual
economically detrimental
It's paradoxically sad
they're evidently mad

Nov 14, 2011 at 10:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

Just looked at that video on ytube and was looking at the comments and noticed this classic
Someone posted a reference to this site and the problems the botanist was glossing over ..and the mad response was this..

"a few mistakes so that means you can keep your ridiculous hands-over-ears world view? i'm lining you straight up against the wall when the green revolution comes."

Its a sad day when greens want to kill people in their mad little world.

Nov 15, 2011 at 12:40 AM | Unregistered Commentermike Williams

And once again comes the question why did the bristle cone pines stop recording actual temperatures in 1960?. No reasonable answer could be expected from Milne, he was too busy waving sticks at imaginary enemies so he glossed over the issue. But it is an intriguing question. A hunch tells me that answering that question might open new insights into climate research.


Nov 15, 2011 at 1:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterNik

If the bristlecone pines have no relation to temperatures after 1960, then there is no reason to suppose they are a consistently reliable proxy for temperatures before 1960.

All that data has to be thrown away. (And they know how to do that).

Nov 15, 2011 at 2:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

Ed Forbes Nov 14, 2011 at 6:01 PM

Have you seen anything that explains the meaning of "sign" in the following?

"Uncertainty in the sign of projected changes in climate extremes over the coming two to three decades is relatively large because climate change signals are expected to be relatively small compared to natural climate variability".

The theory says that temperature rises with increased CO2. I believe the ten year hiatus has taken them by surprise, so they are preparing for the position where the world cools by saying in advance that natural forces are swamping the signature of the CO2 as a driving force of temperature. In short if the world cools for thirty tears human emission of CO2 is still causing warming, we just can't see it.

Nov 15, 2011 at 4:49 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Maybe Milne's bendy stick was meant to show that he goes outdoors sometimes to see what is actually going on. His deathly pallor disproves this attempt.

Nov 15, 2011 at 7:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterHuhneMustGo

The article by Richard Black is very interesting. It is not about an IPCC report on global temperatures - it is about a report on "extreme weather" - i.e. a report exploring whether there are already more hurricanes that there would otherwise have been in Bognor Regis, or whether droughts have become more frequent in Cumbria than they would have been. Its also about attempts to predict trends in such extreme weather in the future. As climate modelling is known to be even less reliable for regional forecasts than globally, you would expect this to be a difficult topic, where any statement is hedged with lots of caveats. And there are indeed lots of 'maybe's there! This is encouraging - the trend whereby people like Kevin Trenberth claim every tornado was caused by climate change appears not to have made it into this part of the report. See e.g. this sentence, that Roger Pielke Jr. will like:

It's also explicit in laying out that the rise in impacts we've seen from extreme weather events cannot be laid at the door of greenhouse gas emissions: "Increasing exposure of people and economic assets is the major cause of the long-term changes in economic disaster losses (high confidence).

So they are not claiming that current weather patterns can be safely blamed on global warming. For the near future (next 10-20 years), they don't think that one can safely predict that bad weather will get worse, either. This is the context of the quote that geronimo and others have highlighted:

Uncertainty in the sign of projected changes in climate extremes over the coming two to three decades is relatively large because climate change signals are expected to be relatively small compared to natural climate variability.

I don't think this is saying that they don't know if global average temperature is going to go up or down. It means that they don't think they know for sure whether the number of hurricanes hitting the US (or the number of other extreme weather events) is going to go up or down in the next decade or so.

Despite this, they remain confident that extreme weather will get a lot worse in the longer term. This relies on the assumption, obligatory for IPCC people, that global temperature will have gone up a lot by then. Hence:

It is very likely that the length, frequency and/or intensity of warm spells, including heat waves, will continue to increase over most land areas...

And the like.

The end of the article is interesting too - Black seems to be saying that even if developed countries have not (yet, in his view) caused the weather to get worse thereby making life harder for people in developing countries, nevertheless, the developed world should still be paying to compensate for the bad weather they have not (yet) caused:

Governments of vulnerable countries argue that as developed nations caused the climate change problem, they must compensate those that suffer its impacts with money above and beyond aid.

Nov 15, 2011 at 9:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Harvey

Nik - Nov 15, 2011 at 1:16 AM

"A hunch tells me that answering that question might open new insights into climate research."

Well somebody should be saying something about it around about this time next year.

“The Dendroclimatic Divergence Phenomenon: reassessment of causes and implications for climate reconstruction”

Keith Briffa (PI), Tim Osborn, Tom Melvin

Start: - 12/09 End: - 05/12

“…..There has been much speculation, and numerous theories proposed, to explain why the previous temperature sensitivity of tree growth in these areas is apparently breaking down. The existence of divergence casts doubt on the uniformitarian assumption that underpins a number of important tree-ring based (dendroclimatic) reconstructions. It suggests that the degree of warmth in certain periods in the past, particularly in medieval times, may be underestimated or at least subject to greater uncertainty than is currently accepted……”

That is just an excerpt, need to read it all at:-

and scroll down.

Don’t know who is funding it or what (PI) stands for. I think it designates project leader?

Nov 15, 2011 at 10:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand

PI = Principal Investigator

Nov 15, 2011 at 10:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Matthews

Someone obviously perceives a need to shore up the 'Bristlecone Narrative' prior to the Durban beanfeast. Now the NYT are getting in on the act, assuring us that the 'rings are ... startlingly accurate' whatever that means.

Nov 15, 2011 at 11:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterChuckles

Some of you may wish to contribute to the rather one-sided argument concerning this travesty being carried on at Sceptical Science (SS).

Nov 15, 2011 at 3:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterShibui

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