Anthony Watts’ Tree Ring Obsession

Yet another tree-ring-centric posting from Anthony (pronounced anth-o-knee) Watts, showing his complete obsession with something minuscule and mindblowingly meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/11/18/wall-street-journal-on-mcintyre-global-warmings-most-dangerous-apostate

Watts will not allow fact to cloud accusation. All the charts on Global Warming show a sharp rise in the last few decades, from whichever reliable source. But Watts doesn’t see any of that. He’s fixated on Michael Mann’s Hockey Stick graph and trying to pull it down.

Tree rings. Now, trees, especially dead trees, are notoriously random in quality and style and abundance. You have to make reasonable decisions about which to keep in the data set as representative, and which to jettison. It doesn’t invalidate your results. In fact, it shows that you have done sufficient analysis to select the most accurate data.

But Watts digs deeper and deeper, just like his guardian angel Steve McIntyre, going on and on about tree rings, tree rings, tree rings. They’re more taken with rings than Gollum. Ah, my precious. Lord of the Tree Rings.

Enough of your obsessive-compulsive disorder, Anthony. But before we exit this niche science of tree rings for now, let’s look at what tree rings are telling us this week, shall we ?

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/a-treeline-story/comment-page-3/

“A Treeline Story : — ray @ 17 November 2009 : Some of the highest growing trees in the world are also the oldest—bristlecone pines (Pinus longaeva) from the Great Basin in the western United States (eastern California, Nevada and Utah). The oldest example is more than 4800 years old. Because of their longevity and growth at high elevations (where the growth of trees is generally known to be limited by temperature) bristlecone pines have been of particular interest to dendroclimatologists (paleoclimatologists who study tree rings to reconstruct past climate). Numerous ecological studies carried out at treeline sites all over the world show that temperature imposes a critical limitation on the ability of trees to produce new tissue; mean daily temperatures of 8-9°C are required, so recent warming will have particular benefits for those trees that have managed to eke out an existence for so long, living “on the edge”. An interesting characteristic of the western bristlecone pines is that their recent growth has markedly increased—ring widths have been higher than in previous decades… It is thus clear that the bristlecone pines from the highest regions, close to their growth limit, are showing a very strong response to recent warming, and indicating just how unusual it has been in the context of the last few millennia. Previous explanations have focused on possible CO2 fertilization effects (increasing water use efficiency) but there is no obvious reason why such factors would have affected only trees within approximately 150m of local treeline in different locations. Rather, the high elevation trees, close to the limit of growth, have responded positively to the recent increase in temperature just as ecological studies would have predicted…”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/6583144/Tree-growth-spurt-is-climate-change-smoking-gun.html

“Tree growth spurt ‘is climate change smoking gun’ : A growth surge seen in the world’s oldest trees has given scientists a new ”smoking gun” pointing to late 20th century climate change. Published: 8:00AM GMT 17 Nov 2009 : Temperature rises after 1950 are thought to be responsible for the unprecedented growth of bristlecone pines on high mountain slopes in the western US. Bristlecones are the longest living trees in the world, the record being held by one pine in California’s White Mountains that is almost 5,000 years old. Their enormous lifespans, combined with well-preserved trunks from even older dead trees, make them ideal for investigating regional climate change over long periods. Trees preserve the story of environmental change in their growth rings, the concentric dark and light bands that appear in the face of cut trunk. Wider rings indicate episodes of time when growth was unusually fast. US scientists studying the bristlecones looked at the average width of growth rings for 50-year blocks of time as recent as 1951 to 2000 and traced back as far as 2,650 BC. They found that pines close to the treeline, the altitude beyond which they cannot grow, had wider annual growth rings for the post-1951 period than for the previous 3,700 years. Regional temperatures had increased over the same period of time, especially high in the mountains. Only pines growing within about 500 feet of their treeline had experienced the growth surge. Generally, they were found at heights of about 11,000 feet or more…”

There you have it : tree rings validating the Science of Global Warming.

Now on to other more important matters : the heat content of the Oceans, for example : large, bold, unassailable evidence (although you know Watts, McIntyre, McKitrick et al. will try to knock it down, probably with the same range of petty argumentation they have used over tree rings) :-

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