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Linking the climate-ecology attribution chain

Filed under: — Jim @ 19 February 2009

Guest commentary by Jim Bouldin, Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis

Linking the regional climate-ecology attribution chain in the western United States

Many are obviously curious about whether certain current regional environmental changes are traceable to global climate change. There are a number of large-scale changes that clearly qualify—rapid warming of the arctic/sub-arctic regions for example, and earlier spring onset in the northern hemisphere and the associated phenological changes in plants and animals. But as one moves to smaller scales of space or time, global-to-local connections become more difficult to establish. This is due to the combined effect of the resolutions of climate models, the intrinsic variability of the system and the empirical climatic, environmental, or ecological data—the signal to noise ratio of possible causes and observed effects. Thus recent work by ecologists, climate scientists, and hydrologists in the western United States relating global climate change, regional climate change, and regional ecological change is of great significance. Together, their results show an increasing ability to link the chain at smaller and presumably more viscerally meaningful and politically tractable scales.

For instance, a couple of weeks ago, a paper in Science by Phil van Mantgem of the USGS, and others, showed that over the last few decades, background levels of tree mortality have been increasing in undisturbed old-growth forests in the western United States, without the accompanying increase in tree “recruitment” (new trees) that would balance the ledger over time. Background mortality is the regular ongoing process of tree death, un-related to the more visible, catastrophic mortality caused by such events as fires, insect attacks, and windstorms, and typically is less than 1% per year. It is that portion of tree death due to the direct and indirect effects of tree competition, climate (often manifest as water stress), and old age. Because many things can affect background mortality, van Mantgem et. al. were very careful to minimize the potential for other possible explanatory variables via their selection of study sites, while still maintaining a relatively long record over a wide geographic area. These other possible causes include, especially, increases in crowding (density; a notorious confounding factor arising from previous disturbances and/or fire suppression), and edge effects (trees close to an
opening experience a generally warmer and drier micro-climate than those in the forest interior).

They found that in each of three regions, the Pacific Northwest, California, and the Interior West, mortality rates have doubled in 17 to 29 years (depending on location), and have been doing so across all dominant species, all size classes, and all elevations. The authors show with downscaled climate information that the increasing mortality rates likely corresponds to summer soil moisture stress increases over that time that are driven by increases in temperature with little or no change in precipitation in these regions. Fortunately, natural background mortality rates in western forests are typically less than 0.5% per year, so rate doublings over ~20-30 years, by themselves, will not have large immediate impacts. What the longer term changes will be is an open question however, depending on future climate and tree recruitment/mortality rates. Nevertheless, the authors have shown clearly that mortality rates have been increasing over the last ~30 years. Thus the $64,000 question: are these changes attributable in part or all to human-induced global warming?

Yes, argues a pair of December papers in the Journal of Climate, and a 2008 work in Science. The studies, by Bonfils et. al. (2008), Pierce et. al. (2008), and Barnett et. al. (2008), link observed western temperature and temperature-induced snowmelt processes to human-forced (greenhouse gases, ozone, and aerosols) global climate changes. The authors used various combinations of three GCMs, two statistical downscaling techniques (to account for micro-climate effects that aren’t resolved in the GCMs), and a high resolution hydrology model to experiment with the various possible causes of the observed climatic changes and the robustness of the methods. The possible causes included the usual list of suspects: natural climatic variability, the human-induced forcings just mentioned, and non-human forcings (solar and volcanic). Climate models were chosen specifically for their ability to account for important, natural climatic fluctuations in the western US that influence temperature, precipitation and snowpack dynamics, particularly the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, and El Niño/La Niña oscillations, and/or their ability to generate the daily climatic values necessary for input to the hydrologic model. The relevant climate variables included various subsets of minimum and maximum daily temperatures from January to March (JFM), their corresponding monthly averages, degree days (days with mean T>0ºC), and the ratio of Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) to water year precipitation (P). In each case, multiple hundred year control runs were generated with two GCMs to isolate the natural variability, and then forced runs from previous model intercomparison projects were used to identify the impacts of the various forcings.

The results? The authors estimate that about 50% of the April 1 SWE equivalent, and 60% of river discharge date advances and January-to-March temperature increases, cannot be accounted for by either natural variability or non-human forcings. Bonfils et al also note that the decreases in SWE are due to January-to-March temperature increases, not winter precipitation decreases, as the observational record over the last several decades shows. The April snow is a key variable, for along with spring through early fall temperatures, it has a great bearing on growing season soil moisture status throughout the western United States, and thus directly on forest productivity and demographic processes.

Link o’ chain, meet link o’chain.

Update: The new USA National Phenology Network is described here.

254 Responses to “Linking the climate-ecology attribution chain”

  1. 151
    Ken Boettger says:

    RE #22 and #34 Chuck Booth. These are perfect examples of Aeron’s #24 point on reticence.

    This is where you fail. “Just remember a definition for climate change is: averages, averages, averages.” No offense, but…

    Last time I gave you information on where to find real surface temp changes of 20 degrees from real NOAA data from local airports. Most of you have refused to look at that data using excuses like “do you have proof no one has looked at this data?” And some of you say “well just because it is happening there does not mean it is happening here or there…” and REFUSING to go find out for yourself!

    Yes, I do have proof that you have NOT looked at the data. If you have to ask, then yes, that you ask is proof that it has not been reviewed or considered seriously. You would not have to pose that question to me. Think about it. You are a scientist aren’t you? If ethical scientists had looked at the NOAA data, the data would have been prsented here as elsewhere, and given the severity of surface warming – they would be screaming bloody murder. THE FACT THAT IT HAS NOT BEEN PRESENTED ON RC IS INDICATIVE OF THE FACT THAT NONE OF YOU HAVE LOOKED AT IT SERIOUSLY.

    Averages at this point are a waste of time. Sure, I can take a profile of temps from 3 miles all the way down to the surface of the earth and say there is a 0.1 degree change in temperature. But ask yourselves what really matters? The temperature at 3 miles up or the 20 degree change in temperature AT THE SURFACE?

    We do not grow crops at 3 miles up! We do not use our air conditionsers 3 miles up! Ask yourselves what really matters here. I could care less what happens even 100 feet up. What matters is the zone where we live AT THE SURFACE. It is what happens at this SURFACE zone that will determine if we are here commenting to each other in 20 or 30 years.

    It is hear at the surface that we have to live. Sure, averages have their part to play, but to focus on averages is assinine at this point when we have such dramatic surface increases. It is what is at the surface that will kill us. It is here we need to focus our attention and to make the world aware.

    Some of you tell me we have to look at averages. OK, lets look at Average changes in SURFACE temps. I am told the ice sheets are melting. So the far north and far south are covered. We have warming. We have significant warming. I look at the melting glaciers on 90 percent of our mountain ranges around the globe. THEY ARE MELTING! I see it now in the NOAA data in my own home town and ask you to look at your own NOAA data. And what is the response here

    Reticence. Looking the other way. Denial. Bias.

    Certainly not science.

    The question is for YOU to show me where there is significant cooling to average out these majority of warming events that have been so fully documented?


    There was an article some years ago in the local science magazines of Albert Einstein. A picture of him upside down with a simple statement at the bottom “genius is the ability to look at things differently”.

    My formal background is in ecology and computer science. One of my peers wrote an article that all of you should consider seriously. Take a look at the images of changing agricultural zones. Everywhere there is warming. Nowhere is their cooling. Our changing SURFACE agricultural zone maps (as commonly found on the back of seed packets) – comparison of the zones from 15 years of data:

    You accuse me of stating only conditions in my own place of residence in my previous post. How absolutely unfair. NOT A ONE OF YOU WHO ATTACKED ME TOOK THE TIME TO LOOK UP YOUR OWN NOAA DATA AS I ASKED YOU TOO. My whole point of demonstrating the NOAA data was for confirmation from others. It was a scientific endeavor of proof of fact.

    And you wrote me off.

    And you call yourselves scientists???

    The above is Arbor Day Foundation data. It demonstrates a 20 degree change in SURFACE temperatures in the last 15 years. It confirms the NOAA data I presented in my post above. And it applies across the entire west coast. The question is, will we see another 20 degree change in SURFACE temperature in the next 15 years? THAT IS WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO HUMANKIND! Phuck the change in averages from 0.1 to 0.2. What matters is another 15 degrees change AT THE SURFACE from what was orginally 95 in summer 50 years ago, to 112 degrees last summer, and the potential for 135 in another 15 years!

    That is where the focus should be.

    Given the severity of surface temps and its implications in the zone in which we live, I could care less about averages. We have a serious SURFACE problem. Spending the next 15 years on the study of averages will likely assure our demise. We will have focused on the wrong thing.

    Meanwhile, the majority of you book worm types will say “the average is now 0.2 degrees of warming”. Some of you will say that is not significant change. Meanwhile real people and real ecosystems are dying at the surface.

    What matters is surface temperatures. Certainly, average temps have their part to play, but to focus on averages and not surface temps – the temps that will determine whether life on this planet lives or dies – is paramount. Most of you have your heads stuck in the clouds or up in the far north or south where they should not be.

    [Response: Please, no more ranting. I will delete anything else that doesn’t remain calm. By the way, you can shift a zone that is marked in 10 deg bands just by having a average temperature move from 9.9 to 10.1 deg C. – gavin]

  2. 152
    walter crain says:

    this may not be the proper thread. if not please redirect me.

    have you heard of “project steve”? if not google it.

    i thought project steve was such a clever way to “rebut” the obvious “denial” of the case/truth for the “scientific consensus” on evolution. (and those denialsists LOVE lists! semnate minority report, oregon list.) i’m almost sure a similar consensus exists in the case of “global warming”. the percentage may not be 99% like in project steve, it must be up there. i’m not a scientist so i can’t go around to my friends and have them sign this silly list. CAN YOU SUGGEST A FORUM for the idea of maybe a “PROJECT AL” (though al gore has problems) for global warming? maybe “project jim”?

  3. 153
    Chris Colose says:


    I figure you have nothing to do with the project, but I was wondering if you or anyone at NASA could provide insight into the recent rocket crash in Antarctica (which I gather was going to measure carbon dioxide sources sinks).

  4. 154
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Doug Bostrom, Let the failure review board do its work. As failures go, this one ought to be easy to resolve–unlike failures on orbit. They may even be able to retrieve some wreckage.

  5. 155
    Hank Roberts says:

    Yeah, they said the shroud just didn’t pop off. Nice satellite, but still in the box, no power, no visibility. Do we know if they intentionally caused it to fail to reach orbit, knowing it’d be dead on arrival?

    Good thing it went splash and didn’t go far enough to hit an ice shelf, or we’d be hearing the ice only broke off because they’d hit it with a climate science rocket.

  6. 156
    Hank Roberts says:

    Ken, Tamino sums it up. Did you read the thread there? You should go carefully through the whole posting he wrote.

    He sums up there — but you need to read his whole text befor you get to his summary:

    “… The upshot is that the commenter is correct that temperature has changed noticeably in Ellensburg (and nearby Wenatchee), but some of the extreme conclusions he draws are contradicted by the data. He’s also mistaken about scientists not examining the data: we do that a lot.

    “I think it’s also a good idea for some people to calm down. And for others to get more agitated. I’m in favor of drastic action. I oppose going ballistic.”

    Why not go ballistic? When you’re ballistic you no longer have any maneuvering capability. Aim and correct your aim.

    Why drastic action? You understand that. The problems are on our watch and are horrifying. We need to teach people how to think about them, how to analyze, how to do the statistics, or figure out who to trust who is doing them.

    Lots of us here are just amateur readers. Some are qualified scientists and great teachers.

    Learn from them. We all do, we all can.

  7. 157
    Hank Roberts says:

    Ah, the fairing was too heavy to haul to orbit:

    “… “The fairing has considerable weight relative to the portion of the vehicle that’s flying. So when it separates off, you get a jump in acceleration. We did not have that jump in acceleration. As a direct result of carrying that extra weight, we could not make orbit.”

  8. 158
    Jim Bouldin says:


    You are citing two of the same articles cited by Paul (one of them twice). There is NO REASON to believe that N saturation is a causal factor in most of the stands studied by van Mantgem et al. Their stands were almost entirely in rural western locations, away from urban areas, and thus large N sources. Such locations typically receive 1-3 kgN/ha/year, are typically N limited, and would thus generally benefit by N deposition, not be harmed by it. Where would this supposed N loading be coming from? The cited study by Jones et al was in an N saturated and heavily-ozone impacted forest in S CA, during a severe 5 year drought, infested with bark beetles and, in all respects, completely atypical of the sites studied by van Mantgem. By contrast, van Mantgem relate their findings to widespread changes in temperature and snowpack that are supported both by empirical data and the output of several regional climate models.

    See: Fenn et al., 1998. Nitrogen excess in North American ecosystems: Predisposing factors, ecosystem responses, and management strategies. Ecological Applications 8:706-733.

    Please, if people are going to suggest or perpetuate alternative explanations to their findings, do so with some knowledge of the factors likely to be involved.

  9. 159
    jcbmack says:

    Wow more heated thread than usual. Good post. There are definite limits to how much plant life can take, some we know or have an idea, many others we do not, but do we really want to wait for a lot more plant life to die out? This is serious business and not a game of I told you so.

    Also one or two regional changes are of interest, but not revealing of the larger picture, hence why there are so many data sources and methods employed in both observations and analysis of data.

    It is good the planet had CO2 sinks and that the natural system does offset CO2 emissions, but there are limits. Think of the human body, the human body can buffer a lot of acidic compounds and maintain a near neutral blood ph, but if the system is offset and the ph drops you have acidosis on your hands, the reverse and you alkalosis. Now, this is just an analogy, but think of the Ocean waters beginning to drop in ph and the water concerting into carbonic acid in the presence of CO2. Now this does not happen overnight, it actually takes a lot of CO2. The same goes for plant life, they have complicated biochemical cycles, and if you do not believe me,pick up a graduate textbook on Plant cycles and biochemistry or go to scholar. There are very real positive and negative feedback systems. Most humans do not die from having one cigarette do they? Again a comparative tool, but it has biological/ecological significance.

  10. 160
    Bernie says:

    Your citation caused me to go to the Arbor Day Foundation where country wide maps are displayed. Apparently the 2006 data is based on 5000 weather stations. I was looking for a rport on how they generated these maps. Do you have a citation since I couldn’t find one on the Arbor Day Foundation site?

  11. 161
    Hank Roberts says:

    “… (National Arbor Day Foundation 2006; This system identifies 11 different zones, each of which represents a 10-degree-Fahrenheit (5.6-degree-Celsius [°C]) range in average annual minimum temperature….”

    BioScience 57(11):929-937. 2007 doi: 10.1641/B571105
    Beyond Traditional Hardiness Zones: Using Climate Envelopes to Map Plant Range Limits

  12. 162
    jcbmack says:

    I do think that this is a crucial aspect of evidencing global warming, even though the models have so greatly improved. The climate- ecological chain is crucial for so many people to be able to see.

  13. 163
    Hank Roberts says:

    Oh, Bernie, they have a contact link on their page so you could ask Arbor Day Foundation directly for more info if you want to. Or, to take that one step further, take the string from the Arbor Day page and put it into Google; this result looks like it ought to lead you to what they were using.

  14. 164
    Richard Darksun says:

    Tropical savanah systems are also undergoing significant change: fire + climate + CO2 + grazing and may be a small but significant part of global “missing sink” (but seemingly neglected in 1990 national inventories for the Kyoto baseline see Kyoto Article 3.7)

    W. H. Burrows, B. K. Henry, and P. V. Back, et al., “Growth and carbon stock change in eucalypt woodlands in northeast Australia: ecological and greenhouse sink implications,” Global Change Biology, vol. 8, no. 8, pp. 769–784, 2002.

  15. 165
    Mark says:

    Well, Ken, when you look in an atlas there is a little graph showing monthly temperatures and a little blurb underneath talking about the climate.

    How do you think they get this information?

    By taking the average march temperature, rain, winds, humidity over decades and using the average as “well, on a march, it will likely be the average figure”.

    How would you do it if this is not science?

  16. 166
    Tyrone says:

    A recent report by Japan Society of Energy and Resources (JSER), which the western media has ignored, contends that any global warming is natural. JSER is the academic society representing scientists from the energy and resource fields, and acts as a government advisory panel. The report appeared last month but has received curiously little attention. So The Register commissioned a translation of the document – the first to appear in the West in any form. What is really interesting about this report is that these guys are not lightweights. Especially, Kanya Kusano, who is Program Director and Group Leader for the Earth Simulator at the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science & Technology (JAMSTEC).

  17. 167

    Tyrone, it sounds to me like yet another energy industry think-tank. I’m not making a final judgement for dismissing the whole thing out of hand, but it sounds at first hearing pretty familiar.

  18. 168
    Mark says:

    Tyrone, don’t give El Reg links. When it comes to weather/climate they are as bad as anything senator inholfe can manage to get up to.

    And a highly respected astronomer Patrick Moore says AGW is all a myth though he has no training in climate science (heck, I don’t think he even has a degree that isn’t honorary) so why is is impressive stature in astronomy commutated into a significant stature in climate science?

    Same deal here.

  19. 169
    Paul Gosling says:

    Jim Re – 143

    I think we are talking at cross purposes here regarding aspect/slope and this is hardly the medium for effective discussion. Have a look at the paper cited by Brain in 147 – perhaps we can agree that it is a complex issue and leave it there?

    Drought triggered tree mortality in mixed conifer forests in Yosemite National Park, California, USA. Guarín A,. Taylor A H. 2005 Forest Ecology and Management Volume 218, Issues 1-3, 229-244

    As for other factors. I think N deposition at these sites may be higher than your suggested 1-3 kg/ha/yr (see reference below). Many sites are relatively close ( less than 50 miles) to densely populated areas or areas of intensive agriculture, but again we cannot be sure of the effect on mortality, probably slight, maybe zero, but I would suggest we do not know? I don’t have access to Ecological Applications to see your reference I am afraid.

    Nitrogen Emissions, Deposition, and Monitoring in the Western United States. Fenn et al BioScience 53(4):391-403. 2003

    As for other potential impacts on mortality in addition to climate change, who knows, my remark about changes in species composition was an unwise throw away remark (thought see Guarín and Taylor), but my main gripe with the paper is that the authors did not seem to have given much consideration to other factors, leaving me questioning. Ok climate change is important, but how important 20% of the effect, 50%, 100%? Without consideration of all the other potential factors its not clear. Yet the spin of the paper is that the observed trend in mortality is 100% climate driven, from Canada to Southern California; is this likely? I have been obliquely accused of being a denialist by one poster because of my comments on this paper (ironic as my current funding is tied to looking at carbon sequestration in soils), I do not deny climate change, its primarily anthropogenic cause, or that it appears to be a major driver of increased tree mortality in the Western USA. What I will deny is that ecological processes can be reduced to simple responses to single factors, which this paper implies. I am sure the authors do not think this and it is a failure of journals like Science and Nature that to have any chance of getting published it is necessary to focus on the message and avoid any ambiguity or introduce doubt into the conclusions. However, my experience is that ecology is a complex subject, rarely open to simple answers and hence van Mantgems paper left me with more questions than answers.

  20. 170
    Bernie says:

    Hank (#161 and #163)
    Thanks. The article really doesn’t address how the new map was generated. I did send an email to arborday.
    Please delete if this is a duplicate. Captcha is playing tricks

  21. 171

    Further to my earlier post, I have now read some of the story Tyrone mentions, and judge it to be junk, containing logical inconsistencies and counterfactual statements aplenty.

  22. 172
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Kusano, JAMSTEC

    The Register is a humor magazine. This bit quoted there attributed to a Japanese climatologist seems utterly nuts; it’s attributed to a climatologist: “”[The IPCC’s] conclusion that from now on atmospheric temperatures are likely to show a continuous, monotonous increase, …”

    I’d bet they got pranked.

  23. 173
    Hank Roberts says:

    Bernie, try search term ‘isobars’ — that’s a weather map, showing contour lines with temperature ranges, that’s the basic idea, I’d expect done the same way Did you get to the page with the 5,000 site data files? Audubon links to it. I don’t know the specifics about generating those maps, but to make your own, try a few of these links:

  24. 174
    Rick Brown says:

    Re # 169 Paul Gosling
    Your comment that “. . . the spin of the paper is that the observed trend in mortality is 100% climate driven . . .” leads me to wonder whether you’ve actually read van Mantgem et al.’s paper.

    Those authors’ conclusion is: “We suggest that regional warming may be the dominant contributor to the increases in tree mortality rates.” (Which you could have known from reading the abstract.)

    This is virtually indistinguishable from your “I do not deny climate change . . . appears to be a major driver of increased tree mortality in the Western USA.”

    “major driver” vs “dominant contributor” A distinction really worth all the words you’ve expended here?

  25. 175
    Chris S says:

    From what i can make out the ‘report’ (partially) translated by the Register is an email conversation by five Japanese scientists published in the JSER house journal. How much the Register translation truly reflects said conversation is unknown, but I wouldn’t place too much credence on it, and I don’t find the attention paid to it (or lack of) curious. Much as I don’t find the lack of media reporting on the comments threads here and at WUWT curious either.

  26. 176
    Mark says:

    Hank, 173. I think you mean “Isotherms”.

    Iso: equal.

    Therm: temperature.

    Bar: pressure.

  27. 177
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #36, I think evolution is not OT. I think perhaps John’s implication may have been that we are changing the climates around the world (as this post indicates), which will spur species to evolve & adapt, which is neither good nor bad, just different.

    The problem is that if the changes are too rapid — and our AGW is pretty much lickty-split in geological measures of time — then species won’t have time to evolve and adapt, they will just go extinct. More local studies as the one above are good for assessing these types of problems.

    Add in all our other environmental assaults on species (we really do need a holistic vision — see CUMULATIVE IMPACTS: DEATH KNELL FOR COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS at ), then doom looms large.

    I’m just hoping we can avert making too many species go extinct (were already in the 6th great extinction level period)…

    … and at the very very worst it would stop at something like the end-Permian GW, during which 95% of life died out (I asked a biologist, is that “95% of life” or “95% of species”? to which she replied, “at that level it pretty much the same.”)…

    … and not (please please please) go into a Venus sydrome, runaway as on Venus, in which we doom all of life on planet earth a billion years ahead of schedule(see ). At that point evolution pretty much comes to an end on Earth.

  28. 178
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    On second thought re the rantings against scientific caution, this is sort of a good sign. It seems for most other environmental problems the debates have usually been between the scientists cautiously seeking to avoid false positives and the people worried about the problems and seeking to avoid false negatives. And that’s a good tension.

    However, on global warming it seems the debate has been almost exclusively between certain industries and their denialist lackies & paid officials, who refuse to admit AGW and its effects unless there is 99% to 101% confidence, and the scientists, who require 90 to 95% confidence.

    It has been a horrible horrible 20 years of this type of debate. And if the denialists and contrarians would just go away or shut up now (they’ve had their say, they’ve made their points ad nauseum), we could get on with the more productive debate between scientists and concerned laypersons/environmentalists, people who value life on planet earth.

    So my position is all things that can be in any way logically or theoretically linked to global warming are indeed caused by global warming (and us) until proven otherwise.

    Maybe we laypersons need our own hypothesis testing method — like Ho: GW is causing problems; Ha1: GW is not causing problems and Ha2: GW is not even real, with alpha at .01.

    We now live in a globally warming world; that’s our null hypothesis (for laypersons seeking to preserve life). And we need to act on that type of knowledge — that many bads are caused by GW — allowing the scientists to do their meticulous hard work of eventually proving what we already know.

    And if perchance scientists one day reach 99% confidence that there was no link between AGW and a particular effect, then at worst we would have become enery/resource efficient/conservative and bought into a lot of alternative energy for only 49 good reasons and not 50 good reasons.

  29. 179
    Rod B says:

    Ray, but how would one distinguish you scientists from other scientists, other than you defining other scientists away?

  30. 180
    Hank Roberts says:

    Rod B., have you heard the phrase “by their works….” used when discussing how to label people? Recommended.
    “The scientists who published -this- paper …. the scientists who published -that- paper.”

  31. 181
    Hank Roberts says:

    Mark, mapping isotherms and isobars — same software seems to be used for both by the hobbyists. No guarantee that’s what the gardening charts used. You’re right to caution against confusing data sets and labels.

  32. 182
    Jim Bouldin says:

    Paul, 169:

    To keep from completely blowing a gasket on this topic and letting your ideas get some sort of life in the blogosphere (and this is my last comment on it):

    1. van Mantgem et. al., contrary to what you say and as one of the strengths of the paper, chose their plots and/or did their analysis, carefully, so as to minimize the following potentially confounding factors on tree mortality (and this is not even a full list):

    -the possibility that some +/- recent disturbance led to a regeneration pulse in the past (and hence increased mortality via self-thinning during subsequent stand development)
    -the possibility that fire reductions have led to the same
    -the possibility that increased edge effects have changed the microclimate, increasing drought and T stress
    -the possibility that trop. ozone is responsible
    -the possibility that small tree sample sizes (via demographic stochasticity) are responsible
    -the possibility that large tree death has increased smaller tree death via crushing during tree fall

    2. The observed mortality increases occurred in 87% of the plots, and were ubiquitous across geographic areas, species, diameter classes, and estimated historic fire return interval classes.

    3. There is no reason, based on knowledge of natural N levels and deposition rates in the rural west, to suppose that N additions are even detrimental, much less contributing to tree death, and even less that they are a major player in same.

    4. The aspect claim doesn’t hold water, as I’ve explained twice above. As a further argument to what was already stated, even in the absolute worst case scenario (e.g. all 76 plots located on one aspect class and thus an extremely biased topographic sample, and completely unreasonable), you still have a definite trend in mortality across a huge landscape.

    5. Re: the cited Guarin and Taylor article: right in the abstract is stated the KEY POINT: “Temporal patterns of tree death were similar on north- and south-facing slopes and among species, but the density of dead trees was higher on north than south slopes” It’s the TEMPORAL PATTERN in death rate that matters, NOT whether you have either more dead trees, or higher death rates, on particular aspects. Thus the Guarin and Taylor paper fully SUPPORTS the concept that drought stress is directly or indirectly killing trees, notwithstanding the fact that they specifically chose sites that had high levels of mortality, unlike van Mantgem et al.

    6. When you use the word “spin’ you imply some sort of twisting the story to make it fit a preconceived idea, which is a pretty bad thing to accuse a scientist of doing. As Rick Brown pointed out, what you say they concluded, and what the authors actually said, are two entirely different things. Based on this and other comments, it does not appear that you carefully read the paper. I know the first two authors of the paper, and they are both excellent scientists, one of whom has worked specifically on water balance issues in montane forests, and I can guarantee that they would not have overlooked anything obvious (and gotten it through peer review at Science).

    7. The qualified conclusions of van Mantgem et al re climatic influences are clearly supported by the cited regional climate analyses. That’s MY claim here, and I’m sticking with it.

  33. 183
    Rod B says:

    Lynn (178) says

    “…if …contrarians would just go away … we could get on with the …debate between scientists and concerned laypersons/environmentalists.”

    What debate?

    “…my position is all things that can be in any way …linked to global warming are indeed caused by global warming… ”

    How scientific of you!

    Actually I don’t really mind your ardor, though your dogmatism is a bit disconcerting. The difficult is in completely ignoring the impact of mitigation. I know you believe there will be no negative impacts. But nobody knows. Just a bunch of both learned and unlearned people making predictions on both sides. It might prove to be no problem; it might prove to be disastrous. Ignoring the possibility is just as irresponsible as wasting energy.

  34. 184
    Rod B says:

    Hank, I’m looking for a short descriptive term that’s understood, accurate, and easy to type. “the-scientists-and-bloggers-who believe-in-and-support-AGW” just doesn’t quite make the grade. :-)

  35. 185
    dhogaza says:

    Hank, I’m looking for a short descriptive term that’s understood, accurate, and easy to type. “the-scientists-and-bloggers-who believe-in-and-support-AGW” just doesn’t quite make the grade.


    Or as said above: scientist.

    “believe in and support” is your attempt to – as always, since you are incapable of learning – to equate belief in science with religious beliefs such as intelligent design “theory” (which boils down to “I deny science”)

    You’re really a time waster, you know? Pretending to be rational, open-minded to reality rather than fiction, but when pinned …

    Gosh, you’re ideological.

  36. 186
    JoeB says:

    With respect to the evolution of new genera, consider just the Hawaiian honeycreepers, which in about 3 1/2 million years, from a single colonization event, evolved about 50 new species, 22 new genera, all in one entirely new (sub)family, the Drepanidinae.

  37. 187
    Mark says:

    Rod, B 183, how about “Climatologists”?

    An MD who believed that only God could heal would not be deserving of the title “Dr”.

  38. 188
    Paul Gosling says:

    Re 182.

    If I gave the impression that I was questioning the integrity of any of the authors of the van Mantgem paper then I apologise to them. My use of the word spin was perhaps unwise given its pejorative connotations; I should maybe have said the take home message of the paper was….

    Otherwise we will just have to agree to differ on this one.

  39. 189

    Re Kusano et al.: Sumimasen ga, kore-tachi wa bakayaro des’.

  40. 190
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod B. #183. A term exists. Given the fact that this is the side that embraces the evidence, how about “The Reality-Based Community”?

  41. 191
    kevin says:

    Rod: for starters, I don’t think it’s accurate to say that the people you seem to be trying to describe “support” AGW.

    Secondly, I’m not sure a dedicated term is necessary to categorize the group. We have flat-earthers, but what do you call non-flat-earthers? We have young-earth creationists, but what do you call people who believe in the standard cosmological timeline? It’s typically the dissenters from the mainstream view who have the dedicated term, right?

  42. 192
    Rod B says:

    Actually I was being serious in asking for a replacement term for “protagonist”, which, as it was pointed out, is not really an accurate descriptive for “you guys”; it implies more political activism with an agenda and proselytizing than is appropriate – also the problem with “supporter” as Kevin points out. (Though that was kinda tongue-in-cheek response to Hank.)

    But, I’m evidently not going to get any helpful suggestions. “scientists”, “climatologists”, “the good guys”, the smart ones”, “realists”, “saviors of humanity”, etc. are probably self-satisfying but just not discriminating enough sans an agenda. Maybe, if I can remember it, I’ll just go with “you guys”, opposed to, you know, “us guys”! Since you know who you are, it might work in RC.

    “Believer” is also not discriminating enough, though I’m not sure why it upset dhogaza so. You don’t believe AGW??

  43. 193
    Jim Bouldin says:

    Just had this wild-ass idea that maybe it might be more profitable and germane to discuss, say for example, attribution issues, temperature dependence of ecosystems, phenological shifts, or carbon sink issues, than on what to call people. Silly me.

  44. 194
    Mark says:

    RodB, why is “scientist” not right?

    Why is “realist” not right?

    You drop two for no stated reason.


    A scientist has a theory that is testable. Measurements are made to see if there is the expected correlation between variation of the principal elements and the expected result from the theory.

    If there is correlation, this is accepted on a temporary basis whilst there are few others who have managed to repeat the experiment, come up with their own and checked his results.

    This is not “science by consensus” but science by repeatability.

    If your theory and results are not repeatable independently, your theory is provisionally rejected until you have found a reason for the discrepancy or disagreements and refined replication of the experiment by other scientists has confirmed that there is now agreement between the theory of how reality works and how reality works.

    This seems to be what AGW scientists are doing.

    Denialists seem to be saying (like Gerhard I found out earlier) by denying that the other scientists are doing it right. Just denying that the results are valid.

    This is not science.

    Or realists. These are people who see what is going on and see that there is an explanation that is sufficient to explain what is going on. If they do not know enough to verify independently, they accept provisionally this explanation, having no ability to create a counter proposal. If they do know enough to verify, they check to see if the explanation is sound. They do not, like denialists, say “well, it could be something else. I don’t know what, but you can’t rule it out until you’ve looked, and you haven’t looked, so you can’t say it isn’t something else”.

    That is not taking a realistic stance.

    And do you believe that 2+4=6?

    Do you believe that there IS a squishy bit inside your skull that does the thinking?

    But these are articles of faith, are they not. You’ve never seen the inside of your skull. You have never proven 2+4=6 yourself. You just took it on faith.

    And that is why “believer” is a bad one to use. It then opens up the realm of religious experience analogies being used.

    You DO take 2+4=6 on faith.

    But this doesn’t mean 2+4=5 is merely another possibility of equal belief measured validity.

  45. 195
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Rod, I’ve been working on an airtight, one-paragraph summary of global warming. I’m curious to know what you think of it:

    Fundamentally, climate science is based on well-understood principles of thermodynamics. Before humans burned the sequestered carbon (fossil fuels) and released CO2, Earth was in radiative near-equilibrium with space. Humans introduced a sudden, 500-gigaton excursion in the global carbon budget. Because CO2 is a “heat-trapping gas,” Earth is now in disequilibrium with space. To return to equilibrium, the atmosphere must warm.

    The rest is details. Interesting details, to be sure, but the basic thermodynamics have been understood since Svante Arrhenius published in 1896.

  46. 196
    Rod B says:

    Mark, yes I did explain why “scientist”, e.g. is not sufficient. For the same reason “men and women” is not. But I’m just looking for a simple moniker. I’m not trying to redo the philosophy of science!

  47. 197
    Rod B says:

    Jim G. (195), In my opinion, 1. There is too much qualified agendized subjectivity — sounds more preachy than instructive. But that’s a style not a substance comment. 2. The rest and the devil is in the details. Other than that, it’s pretty descriptive for a paragraph.

  48. 198
    dhogaza says:

    There is too much qualified agendized subjectivity — sounds more preachy than instructive.

    He’s just reciting history, geez. Where’s the subjectivity? Be specific.

    Is this subjective: climate science is based on well-understood principles of thermodynamics.

    Is this subjective: Before humans burned fossil fuels, Earth was in radiative near-equilibrium.

    Is this subjective: Humans introduced a sudden (in geological timescales) 500-gigaton excursion in the global carbon budget.

    Is this subjective: (in essence) this means the atmosphere must warm.

    Tell us now, denialist (not skeptic), where is the subjectivity.

  49. 199
    Mark says:

    RodB, THIS is an explanation????

    ‘“scientists”, “climatologists”, “the good guys”, the smart ones”, “realists”, “saviors of humanity”, etc. are probably self-satisfying but just not discriminating enough’

    It is not.

    Look at the definition of scientist. I’ve given an appropriate analogue to the formal one above.

    Now you say this is no good because it isn’t discriminating enough?

    a) It covers the AGW scientists
    b) It doesn’t cover the anti-AGW scientists

    How much more discriminating does it have to be?

    If you’re talking about man vs woman, then saying one person is “male” and the other “female” is 100% sufficient to discriminate between them.

    But I guess you’re looking for something nasty but not so nasty it is obviously intended for that.

    Then no, you won’t get any help.

    From anyone.

  50. 200
    Mark says:

    Rod 197, so you object to the simple explanation because “There is too much qualified agendized subjectivity”

    Where is the subjectivity? Only in the last paragraph and there is no agenda there.

    “The basics of death is that all your bodily functions stop. There are more details on that, but they are interesting, if unimportant to the basic idea of death.”

    Again you don’t want simple. You want complex so there’s possibility to argue “it’s not happening”.

    So point out where in the physics you have that the simple explanation that Jim gave doesn’t hold?

    Is 500Gt wrong in any significant manner?

    Is CO2 trapping heat wrong in any significant manner?

    Is the earth being in equilibrium before a fast change in the atmospheric content wrong in any significant manner?

    Do you have anything to counter any of these that isn’t “well, yes, but the details are important”? Because “humans have two arms and two legs” is pretty good as far as factual truth is concerned. However, there are some quadriplegics so the detail shows something different.

    Does it mean that you don’t have two arms and two legs, Rod?