Monday, June 16, 2008

New findings may put dendroclimatology as metric of past temperature into question

Two links today to Anthony Watts' excellent blog 'Watts Up With that?'.

The first, highlights new research with potentially huge implications for how past climates are measured, interpreted and understood. Dendroclimatology is a specialized field which has become thrust into the forefront of policy discussion because of the important role dendrochonology plays in determining past climate reconstructions. Watts' post brings attention to research recently published in Nature that brings into question a basic assumption about past and present temperature changes:
  • The new findings not only challenge long-held precepts in plant biology, but could upend climate models that use tree rings to infer or predict past and present temperature changes.
  • "The assumption in all of these studies was that tree leaf temperatures were equal to ambient temperatures," lead researcher Brent Helliker told AFP. "It turns out that they are not."
Most activists in the discussion around AGW are not specialized scientists and blogs like Watts' and Climate Audit have been invaluable in bringing the underlying science into the foreground of the debate, raising awareness and keeping a wider audience apprised of developments in specialized fields.

Because of this activity, both Watts Up With That? and Climate Audit have achieved a high level of involvement from people from all aspects of the policy spectrum: activity that has made both blogs very popular but also subject to negative comments, leading both sites to grapple with the issue of how to moderate comments sections. Here is Watts' discussion of the dilemma he faces.

It is a sad commentary on the state of our civil society when reasonable, polite discourse is variously unwanted, derided, ridiculed, censured and/or otherwise sanctioned, with approved ideology or partisanship receiving more credence than reasoned analysis.

And then there's Hollywood.