Saturday, July 14th 2012, 5:23 PM EDT
Dear Mr. Pearce
Yesterday, whilst waiting for my wife to join me in Marks and Spencer, I chanced to glance at the latest edition of New Scientist, in which your contribution appears [Tree rings suggest Roman world was warmer than thought]. I confess that, both for reasons of time and from a sense of disenchantment anyway with the populist rag, I did little more than skim read. However, I think that enough was gleaned legitimately to allow for comment.
The thrust of your piece was that the handle of the hockey stick was, in fact, correct. Somebody's recent study of tree rings had indicated that, whilst they might or might not be wider or narrower, much could be deduced from their density. From this it had been concluded that the past two thousand years had seen a warm temperature continuum of remarkable consistency up to about the middle of the 19th century, say. This, in turn, explained why our forebears had been able to cultivate vines as far North as York. Thence, the conclusion seemed to be drawn that Mann had been right all along in claiming a perilous temperature increase from roughly the advent of the Industrial Revolution, the blade.
Of course, MacIntyre's undermining of Mann's little frolic was not so much upon scientific grounds although, God knows, there was much science to it, as upon his blithe disregard for statistical rigour. You make no mention of this. Why, pray? Neither do you make any mention of Briffa's equally egregious pseudo-science directed at sustaining the original Mann fiction. You also overlook circumstances that are richly supported by multi-stranded evidence. Examples? Well, how about the fact that:
~even now viniculture is not pursued with much success in Northern latitudes in this country - or, indeed as far as I know, in any other, save where local topography is helpful, as in Germany, say;
~however warm the Medieval Warm Period may or may not have been, it was most surely followed by several centuries of real and readily perceptible cooling, to wit the Little Ice Age. For this latter, of course, there is a wealth of evidence not merely scientific but from the arts and historical records as well. Actually, in passing, the same may be said of the preceding MWP. Furthermore, for somebody seeking to make the case that you appear to be advancing, the happenstance of both the MWP and of LIA is acknowledged both by NASA and the IPCC, not to mention that bastion of scientific rectitude, The Royal Society. So I think that it should be taken as accepted fact albeit, most assuredly, not specifically because it carries the endorsement of those particular bodies.
Would you not agree?
The point, of course, is that, if this be so, then where is Mann's temperature continuum?
As a practising journalist, I presume that you would at least like to make some claim to being influenced by a measure of respect for objectivity. One wonders why then you continue so compulsively to try to defend the indefensible, and give credence to a manifest scientific mountebank.