Home > AGW, Climate Change, Data, Global Warming, Omniclimate, Science, Skepticism > “It’s Amazing How A Single New Observation Can Change An Entire Concept That Most Scientists Had Taken As True For Nearly Fifty Years”

“It’s Amazing How A Single New Observation Can Change An Entire Concept That Most Scientists Had Taken As True For Nearly Fifty Years”

No, the quote in the title is not from the remarkable “Cosmic pattern to UK tree growth” from the BBC

We tried to correlate the width of the rings, i.e. the growth rate, to climatological factors like temperature. […] the relation of the rings to the solar cycle was much stronger than it was to any of the climatological factors we had looked at. We were quite hesitant at first, as solar cycles have been a controversial topic in climatology

The quote is from SpaceDaily’s “Cassini Data Help Redraw Shape Of Solar System

Models of the boundary region between the heliosphere and interstellar medium have been based on the assumption that the relative flow of the interstellar medium and its collision with the solar wind dominate the interaction. This would create a foreshortened “nose” in the direction of the solar system’s motion, and an elongated “tail” in the opposite direction.

The Ion and Neutral Camera images suggest that the solar wind’s interaction with the interstellar medium is instead more significantly controlled by particle pressure and magnetic field energy density.

And still…isn’t that the way scientific dogmas evaporate?

  1. thewormer
    2009/12/28 at 17:41

    Cosmic rays vary with the solar winds, which in turn vary with sun activities, which should surprise no one that if the solar output fluctuates, then trees will react accordingly.

    The biggest problem with these studies is that the scientists improperly calculated the correlation coefficient.

  2. Alan D. McIntire
    2009/10/25 at 00:16

    If RAIN was the limiting factor for those trees, I can see that
    more cosmic rays implies more clouds implies more rain, but the paper states the correlation between cosmic rays and tree ring growth was greater than the correlaton between rainfall and tree ring growth, blowing my conjecture . I admit I don’t know a lot about botany, but I cannot think of any reason why the amount of cosmic rays hitting earth should directly have any effect one way or the other on tree growth. I suspect the correlation has something to do with comment number 21895 on Lucia’s Blackboard:

    “lucia (Comment#21895)
    October 18th, 2009 at 10:01 am

    You do realize that if trees don’t contain sufficient signal to make a reconstruction that fact limits the number of correct papers that can be published? Generally speaking, peer reviewers tend to favor papers saying a) “I tried X, found Y and what I found Y is statistically significant” rather than “I tried X and
    b) discovered there was no signal statistically significant information in X”.

    Since there is also a fairly well known tendency for journals to not really like comments or direct rebuttals, the result is you can get papers like (a) and then criticisms of (a). (Quite honestly, that observation is not even controversial. In most fields, bad papers are just ignored by nearly everyone except the authors and their co-authors and grad students.) ”

    In other words, they were looking for X, didn’t find X, but DID find a correlation with cosmic rays. They couldn’t publish a paper stating they found nothing, so they looked for 20 or 30 possible relationships, and naturally found one with only a 3 to 5 % probability of happening by chance alone. I’m sure further independent tests will show nothing-

  3. Luke Warmer
    2009/10/22 at 08:46

    I’ve just watched the end of that link – the Michael Mansfield comments are priceless – since 1848, floods in 1952 caused by climate change. Wow.

  4. Luke Warmer
    2009/10/22 at 08:43

    This link (via a comment at WattsUp..) is interesting:


    4.35 “I’m not a scientist and you’re not a scientist either, Andrew”

    The reverence of the (presumably infallible) scientist is interesting.

    4.52 “But what they [the IPCC] draw on is the best science available in the world about the changes …”

    “The scientific consensus is pretty strong and pretty clear”


  5. Henry chance
    2009/10/21 at 14:29

    Joe Romm attributed the southeast US flood to global warming. The river levels were similar to the 1919 flood. I also know we have a lot more surface acreage devoted to pavement and freeways that accelerate runoff. He, on climate Progress blamed the jet crash off Brazil as global warming before they found the crash site. The recent handfull of dead walrusses were blamed on global warming before people even went on the ground to examine them.
    Where are the heat related death reports for Mexico and Phoenix?

    I do realize many conclusions are biased by presuppositions. There are a lot of psych experiments to rely on.

  6. Robinson
    2009/10/20 at 21:46

    Has the Beeb been generally warm to the Svenmark theory up to this article?

    Actually, they’ve been fair if unenthusiastic. Every publication of an article about or associated with his hypothesis is usually post-scripted with a disclaimer that most other Climate Scientists disagree and usually some further confirmation of the CO2 bias. For example, in this very article, the last paragraph reads:

    If it is true that the mechanism is all about rays enhancing diffuse radiation, it would mean that ‘global dimming’ and ‘global brightening’ would have a big effect on tree growth and therefore on the absorption of carbon dioxide,” warns Ms Dengel.

    So, there you go. Always the attempt to weave CO2 into the narrative, presumably to ensure further funding for future work.

  7. 2009/10/20 at 19:51

    “NASA’s IBEX (Interstellar Boundary Explorer) spacecraft has made the first all-sky maps of the boundary between the Sun’s environment and interstellar space, called the heliosphere, and the results have taken researchers by surprise. A bright, winding ribbon of unknown origin bisects the maps. However, the discovery fits the electric model of stars perfectly.”

    In addition, see:
    Hannes Alfvén (Double Layers and Circuits in Astrophysics, IEEE Transactions On Plasma Science, Vol. PS-14, No. 6, December 1986

  8. geoff chambers
    2009/10/20 at 17:40

    Isn’t science interesting when, as in the Edinburgh tree-ring research, it’s about finding out something new? Isn’t it confusing when, as in the case of the Cassini probe, it’s couched in terms of “Oh dear, something new has turned up which we hadn’t bargained for”?
    When I’m not following Global Warming Hysteria, I like to keep up with Electric Universe thinking at http://www.thunderbolts.info
    They probably saw this Cassini result coming years ago.

  9. Luke Warmer
    2009/10/20 at 13:57

    papertiger – google is a simple cure for paranoia 🙂


    You can read the paper there and the authors cite another recent study – Dengel, Aeby & Grace 2009 “A relationship between galactic cosmic radiation and tree rings” New Phytologist 184: 545–551 with lots of other good stuff. The paper itself makes no reference to climate change directly although it does have a reference to Svensmark.

    As well as Svensmark’s research there’s also the CLOUD experiment at CERN and historically, as well as Douglas Hoyt’s comment above, there have been many other posited linkages to solar cycles in previous centuries. Herschel and Jevons thought there was a link between wheat prices/volumes and the solar cycle. Also there are papers on river flows including the Nile from Joan Feynman (sister of the more famous Richard) and some interesting stuff from Jan Veizer and Nir Shaviv.

    • papertiger
      2009/10/20 at 20:01

      I switched to Bing because Google encourages paranoia.

      The business lobby says it was the victim of an elaborate hoax this morning, when a group passing itself off as the Chamber announced at a press conference in Washington that it dropped its earlier opposition to the pending climate bill and was now “throwing its weight behind strong climate legislation.” You think the chamber of commerce was being paranoid?

      Dengel, Aeby & Grace 2009 “A relationship between galactic cosmic radiation and tree rings” New Phytologist 184: 545–551 – I don’t know these people. I’ve never heard of this magazine. Your link doesn’t work.

      I have no doubt about Svensmark his work or the cloud experiments at CERN.
      They leave no room for CO2 as a temperature driver and I accept that.

      Historic links between solar cycles and climate are ironclad as far as I am concerned but none of that changes the fact that the BBC study is 180 degrees out of step.
      Herschel and Jevons demonstrated that the price of wheat rises as the sunspot number drops. Have you checked the price of wheat lately? It’s a relationship that holds to this day.
      Feynman’s study shows the relationship as high solar activity causing dryer conditions in Egypt, low solar activity means flooding on the Nile, storm clouds over Kenya.

      You want paranoia? This Beeb study doesn’t change anything with the current knowledge except that it reinforces the Hockeyteam’s assertion that trees in California or Siberia are a proxy for world wide climates. That’s not something I’m willing to concede on the basis of the BBC’s reputation.
      Show me the tree rings tracking sunspots in New Zealand, Japan, India, Madagascar, Florida, Brazil, Alaska , Mexico, Chile… ect.

      Until then we are talking about magic Scottish trees.

    • papertiger
      2009/10/21 at 19:05

      Thanks for bringing up the Herschel, Jevons, Joan Feynman Nile River study.
      I had glossed these topics a couple years back, and it was worth my time to revisit the original work.

  10. papertiger
    2009/10/20 at 11:50

    Has the Beeb been generally warm to the Svenmark theory up to this article?

    According to the article more cosmic rays (higher percentage of cloud cover) causes better tree growth. Trees grow better in the shade? SInce when does that pass the sniff test?

    I smell a rat. And everyone of our fellow climate skeptic bloggers have bought into this story.
    What are the chances the Beeb would float a hoax, carefully taylored to ensnare skeptics with their own confirmation bias’?

    • 2009/10/20 at 12:04

      I think they say cloudy conditions mean more diffuse light, hence more light for the leaves that would otherwise be in shadow

      • papertiger
        2009/10/20 at 20:04

        How did they separate out the precipitation signal from diffuse cloud cover?

        Sounds like a furphy.

  11. Luke Warmer
    2009/10/20 at 11:28

    There are loads of examples like your pre-Cambrian one (from the previous post ‘how science will get rid of the AGW dogma’) of change occuring to the paradigm of a specialist area/community. What these show time and again is how dirty the fighting gets along the way and how poor the tools that the peeritarians and scientistic swear by, are at resolving these issues in the short term.

    However, the problem I’ve had with AGW all along (well since Dec 2006) is that I don’t think it actually is a single scientific paradigm. The IPCC essentially picked the winning points of view or interpretations from the many sharp-end expert arguments, controversies or uncertainties. In this way it created what I think of as the meta-paradigm of climate change. These were then wrapped in the simplistic certainty of SPM to prove the ‘distance lends enchantment’ argument.

    If you’re with me so far, you can see how this is going to be far more resilient to change than any previous controversy – a holed canoe might sink but it won’t if it’s tied to lots of other floating ones – similarly one single new observation won’t kill the meta-paradigm of AGW. It’s created a special kind of institutionalised confirmation bias.

    Consequently, we’ve entered uncharted territory in terms of u-turns/ revolutions/ death of dogma whatever you want to call it. I mean we have a Department for (Energy &) Climate Change now, so I don’t think the dogma can just evaporate.

  12. Douglas Hoyt
    2009/10/19 at 22:46

    As early as 1909 A. E. Douglass claimed that there was an 11 year cycle in tree rings related to the sunspot cycle. By 1919 he wrote a book called Climatic Cycles and Tree Growth: A Study of the Annual Rings of Trees in Relation to Climate and Solar Activity.

    So 100 years later the idea resurfaces.

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