sexta-feira, 22 de outubro de 2010

The ClimateGate Secret Meeting

A usual reader of the blog sent me yesterday an interesting news from a Portuguese newspaper. It deals with the classic Medieval Warm Period problem, in the most green Portuguese newspaper. I immediately recognized one of the worst environmental journalists in Portugal, dealing with one of my favorite issues. Interestingly enough, Ricardo Trigo, a portuguese climatologist, was trying to explain the pseudo-science behind climate change and global warming, confusing things like Greenland's vikings and Maunder's Minimum.

But what really interested me in the story was a reference to Phil Jones, the person in the center of the ClimateGate controversy. And references to a conference in Portugal, regarding the Medieval Warm Period. I spent some time trying to figure out what had happened. Turned out that I had not read the news with attention: the conference had happened a month before!

Between 22 and 24 of September, a symposium entitled "The Medieval Warm Period Redux: Where and When was it warm?" was organized in Lisbon, Portugal. The Climategate mob was here, including Phil Jones, Michael Mann, Malcolm Hughes and Raymond Bradley. I bet the main point on the agenda was how "to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period". The abstracts for the conference are available here. Probably, the best abstract of the symposium was for Malcolm K. Hughes (highlights are my responsibility):

We meant the title of our 1994 review “Was there a Medieval Warm Period, and if so Where and When?” (Hughes and Diaz, 1994) to be read in two ways. Firstly, it was to be read quite literally. Secondly, it was meant to be ironic. The literal reading was rewarded by an attempt to identify and synthesize records thought to be appropriate to this task. Irony was used to imply that, since a clear and simple answer was not forthcoming from the review, it might be useful to reformulate the question. Please read the title of this abstract in the light of this explanation of the 1994 title.

The trajectories of these two concepts (“Medieval Warm Period” and “Medieval Climate Anomaly “) will be traced. A case will be made for the abandonment of both of them, on the grounds that they are inappropriate, uninformative, and that they very probably divert attention from more revealing ways of thinking about the Earth’s climate over the past two millennia.

It is clear from many recent publications, especially many of the abstracts submitted for this meeting, that high-resolution paleoclimatology has moved firmly from the mode of descriptive climatology to that of physical climatology. As a result, there is little utility in picking over definitions of the geographic and temporal extent of putative epochs, especially in the Late Holocene. The pressing questions concern the dynamics of the climate system, and the relative roles of free and forced variations, whether the forcings are anthropogenic or not.

All the information I've got till now makes me believe that this was an almost secret meeting. No news transpired, not even here in Portugal. Given the abstracts, and the one seen above, their intentions are clear! If Ricardo Trigo kept his mouth shut, nobody would probably hear about it. So I wish to thank my loyal reader for bringing this to our attention.