Doing it yourselves

We’ve been a little preoccupied recently, but there are some recent developments in the field of do-it-yourself climate science that are worth noting.

First off, the NOAA/BAMS “State of the Climate 2009” report arrived in mailboxes this week (it has been available online since July though). Each year this gets better and more useful for people tracking what is going on. And this year they have created a data portal for all the data appearing in the graphs, including a lot of data previously unavailable online. Well worth a visit.

Second, many of you will be aware that the UK Met Office is embarking on a bottom-up renovation of the surface temperature data sets including daily data and more extensive sources than have previously been available. Their website is, and they are canvassing input from the public until Sept 1 on their brand new blog. In related news, Ron Broberg has made a great deal of progress on a project to use the much more extensive daily weather report data into a useful climate record. Something that the pros have been meaning to do for a while….

Third, we are a little late to the latest hockey stick party, but sometimes taking your time makes sense. Most of the reaction to the new McShane and Wyner paper so far has been more a demonstration of wishful thinking, rather than any careful examination of the paper or results (with some notable exceptions). Much of the technical discussion has not been very well informed for instance. However, the paper commendably comes with extensive supplementary info and code for all the figures and analysis (it’s not the final version though, so caveat lector). Most of it is in R which, while not the easiest to read language ever devised by mankind, is quite easy to run and mess around with (download it here).

The M&W paper introduces a number of new methods to do reconstructions and assess uncertainties, that haven’t previously been used in the climate literature. That’s not a bad thing of course, but it remains to be seen whether they are an improvement – and those tests have yet to be done. One set of their reconstructions uses the ‘Lasso’ algorithm, while the other reconstruction methods use variations on a principal component (PC) decomposition and simple ordinary least squares (OLS) regressions among the PCs (varying the number of PCs retained in the proxies or the target temperatures). The Lasso method is used a lot in the first part of the paper, but their fig. 14 doesn’t show clearly the actual Lasso reconstructions (though they are included in the background grey lines). So, as an example of the easy things one can look at, here is what the Lasso reconstructions actually gave:

‘Lasso’ methods in red and green over the same grey line background (using the 1000 AD network).

It’s also easy to test a few sensitivities. People seem inordinately fond of obsessing over the Tiljander proxies (a set of four lake sediment records from Finland that have indications of non-climatic disturbances in recent centuries – two of which are used in M&W). So what happens if you leave them out?

No Tiljander (solid), original (dashed), loess smooth for clarity, for the three highlighted ‘OLS’ curves in the original figure).

… not much, but it’s curious that for the green curves (which show the OLS 10PC method used later in the Bayesian analysis) the reconstructed medieval period gets colder!

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