Friday, January 20, 2012


cc: Edward Cook <>
date: Mon, 2 Jun 2008 07:45:38 -0400
from: Edward Cook <>
subject: Re: Palaeoclimate uncertainites
to: Keith Briffa <>

Hi Keith,

Thanks for the forwarded email. Was the graphic from Jonathan as well?

An inquiry now. There is a new post-doc in stats at Columbia via New Zealand, Matthew
Schofield, who wants to work on using hierarchical Bayes modeling to explicitly quantify
reconstruction uncertainty literally from the standardization step all the way to the final
reconstruction simultaneously. He wrote a rather horrid paper on this topic, submitted to
the International Journal of Climatology, using a terribly simplistic simulation to "prove"
that his method was demonstrably better than what we have done in the past. His lack of
understanding of what we do came through load and clear. To his credit, Matt contacted me
without knowing that I was a reviewer of his paper and we set up a meeting to discuss his
work. Manu Lall, my genius colleague here who know hierarchical Bayes very well, came along
too. I showed Matt a powerpoint presentation on the whole matter of tree-ring
standardization and its impact on climate reconstruction using Tornetrask data over the AD
interval as an example. Matt came away with a far better understanding of the issues and
the realization (drummed by me into his head) that he needs to work with real tree-ring
data to demonstrate his case in a believable manner. So the question I have to you is can I
give Matt the Tornetrask data to work with in his hierarchical Bayes modeling? Manu and I
would work directly with him and it would be great to have you involved as well of course.
I would be extremely careful in telling Matt about the Tornetrask data being strictly for
his private personal use in collaboration with us. He seems like an honest, earnest, young
man who just needs a bit of expert guidance to avoid simple mistakes in using tree rings.
The payoff could truly be quite special. Are you on board?

How is Amy doing? Will the operation be this week?


Dr. Edward R. Cook
Doherty Senior Scholar and
Director, Tree-Ring Laboratory
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Palisades, New York 10964 USA
Email: [1]
Phone: 845-365-8618
Fax: 845-365-8152
On Jun 2, 2008, at 4:34 AM, Keith Briffa wrote:

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Date: Sat, 31 May 2008 15:18:42 +1200

From: "Jonathan Palmer" <[2]>

To: "Keith Briffa" <[3]>

Subject: Re: Palaeoclimate uncertainites

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Hi Keith

Many thanks for including me in the net of opinions being sought. Here are some comments
and thoughts to use/ignore. Sorry for the delayed response.

1) sources of climate interpretational uncertainty how can this be quantified and

Not sure on how to deal with this (you and Steady are my hopes here!). I do however want
to push interhemisphere differences in data availability leading to interpretational
uncertainty. We simply haven't got the same network coverage of sites as seen in NH. Also,
the most interesting stories emerging are not aligned to the conventional PEP (North-South)
associations - for example the interdecadal pacific oscillation with the atlantic
multidecadal oscillation.

2) strategies for reducing these uncertainties?

My main barrow-push here would be to step-up international research programs and
particularly in the SH. Better spatial coverage. For example, we in NZ are progressing
too slowly due to a very limited funding pool. Read: NZ has multi-species potential,
Tassie has Huon pine, Ricardo has S America. Perhaps we need to develop a network (with
you and Steady) that aims at leveraging funding? Can you come south?

Steady is coming next year Jan-March for a couple of weeks - can you join us?

3) database / data archiving needs and ideas?

Misses the point. Major crisis looming here are the physical samples. We are loosing the
trees. Steady can tell you about his efforts in SE-Asia. In NZ, we have 40,000 year old
ancient kauri being mined. I reckon it will be exhausted within 10 years. The holocene
sites in 5 years. Saw-millers are already starting to buy farms so that they can secure
some future supply. We have set-up an archive at a local museum for biscuits of kauri for
future research programs. In other words I have adopted a fire-fighting approach - save as
many samples as I can and hope there might be funding to work on them later. Steady has
funded me over the last 5 years to collect silver pine (Halocarpus biformis) from the West
Cost. We have multi-millennial chronos thanks to that investment - but some sources have
been completely destroyed by the land being converted to dairy pastures. The other area is
now a kiwi habitat sanctuary so the permit process for further sampling has become much
harder. So, data archiving is vital, but I'm first trying to save samples!

So far I have 20' container and 4.5 x 6m shed with my samples stored in them. I am
starting to use Filemaker Pro for a relational database for all the data - a wonderful
example of this type of application was presented at INQUA by Phil Barrat at QUB (former
PhD of Mike Baillie but the silly sod burnt his bridge there). I'm using a similar
approach to Phil and have also roped in Gretel Boswijk at Auckland Uni. We are both going
to use the same database template and will store copied of each others archive (for
insurance etc). I have attached a copy of the template.


Your UK Department for International Development (DFID) has announced it will spend 100m
stirling on research in developing countries "into the impacts of climate change on the
poorest and most vulnerable people and helping communities, governments and the private
sector take action to help prepare for these impacts". My point is they are saying more
detailed climate impact models (with known uncertainties) might be useful for the UK - it
isn't for developing countries. What the developing countries need is grass-roots adaption
strategies. The science needs to not only be published in peer-reviewed (western) journals
but also other communication channels - such as video, community visits and the mass
media. A starting point might be the expectation that some publications are published
"locally" (and translated). This ofcourse means we are sacrificing our citation profile
etc. and currently means any academic losses potential RAE ranking. However, funding
agencies like NERC could be encouraged to make this a requirement (and this would then
hopefully spill into the RAE system).

Gotta go. Am en-route to Karachi for 3+weeks working for Steady. Let me know how it goes.



2008/5/16 Keith Briffa <<[7]>[8]>:

A General Call for Input to a Meeting on Palaeoclimate Uncertainties

PLEASE NOTE - this message has been sent to a representative selection of those working in
different tree-ring laboratories - please forward to those of your colleagues who would be
interested - THANK YOU

Dear Colleagues,

I have been tasked with drafting the 'White paper' in the general topic of 'Reducing
Uncertainties', in my case with a focus on tree-ring data. This is meant as the basis for
discussion at a wider meeting dealing with various high-resolution proxy data, being held
in Trieste funded by PAGES/CLIVAR.

Hence I am asking for specific input from any of those among you who wish to contribute
specific points or stress, even briefly or as concepts, areas of concern regarding present
work or future requirements.

The context is general dendroclimatology and the use of tree-ring-derived climate
reconstructions specifically for establishing the precedence of instrumental observations
in a recent multi-millennial context.

The specific issues I have been asked to address include:

1) sources of climate interpretational uncertainty how can this be quantified and

2) strategies for reducing these uncertainties?

3) database / data archiving needs and ideas?

The 'white paper' is only intended to be several pages long so specific ideas, concerns
etc. along the lines indicated, would be very welcome. I would then try to condense them
and draft the text.

I must complete this task in the next 2 weeks so brief, initial thoughts and points that
you consider must be included would be most welcome.

At present Ed Cook ,Rosanne D'Arrigo and Dave Frank are included among the participants (
Congratulations to Jan Esper on the recent arrival of a brace of beautiful girls - provided
they take after their mother that is) and I would particularly hope for input from them but
I know it is vital to get wider input from others working in this area of dendroclimatology
or who have real concerns with the issue of climate change detection and attribution and
the use of tree-ring data for model validation or work aimed at quantifying transient
climate sensitivity in the real world.

Any thoughts, specific text or important PowerPoint slides would be most welcome.

With very best wishes and thanks

Keith Briffa

15th May 2008


Professor Keith Briffa,

Climatic Research Unit

University of East Anglia

Norwich, NR4 7TJ, U.K.

Phone: +44-1603-593909

Fax: +44-1603-507784



Dr Jonathan Palmer

Gondwana Tree-Ring Laboratory

PO Box 14, Little River

Canterbury 7546

New Zealand

Content-Type: application/pdf; name="NZ Dendro-Archive.pdf"

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Professor Keith Briffa,

Climatic Research Unit

University of East Anglia

Norwich, NR4 7TJ, U.K.

Phone: +44-1603-593909

Fax: +44-1603-507784

[11] <NZ Dendro-Archive.pdf>

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