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Rodent Reprise - Marmots Predict Global Cooling

We recently reported on a study in Nature showing that marmots respond favourably to increased atmospheric CO2 (or maybe biscuits). In the wake of the release of NOAA’s 2009 State of the Climate report, in which it is concluded that “global warming is undeniable”, we thought the marmots worth revisiting to see how they compared with the report’s Key Climate Indicators. After all, their cousins the groundhogs have been used in climate prediction for centuries, as have similar animals, and the University of Chicago apparently employs a yeti for the same purpose. We were therefore surprised that NOAA didn’t at least rate the marmots a mention. To rectify this, we here subject the Nature population to a rigorous statistical analysis in the style pioneered by our Friend Steven Goddard, graphic analyst (or is it anal graphicist?) extraordinaire and regular poster at the world’s most popular science website, Watts Up With That.

We begin with the orthodox
denialist scientific practice of carefully selecting the datasets we wish to compare. From the marmot record, the obvious data to use are those on adult mean mass (solid curve in Figure 1b); readers will agree that the familiar shape of that curve, particularly after 1998, shows that only mature marmots have the experience necessary to map climatic changes correctly. Of course, we need to verify this against other climate records, so we use the ones that have always demonstrated that global warming has stopped: the HadCRUT3 surface temperature record and various of the UAH satellite records. Next, we perform what Steven would modestly describe as an ‘innovation’ but which might in some circles be uncharitably referred to as a ‘trick’: plot them on the same graph, with suitably scaled axes, and stare at them for a while until a (non energy-efficient) lightbulb comes on.

First, we plot the marmot weights against the HadCRUT3 record:

Marmots vs HadCRUT3

It’s evident (under bad light and after some
inspiration) that with only a couple of exceptions and allowing, particularly in the marmot dataset, for noise, the agreement is rather good. What does this agreement tell us? It tells us that contrary to the findings of supposed ‘experts’, marmots can indeed predict climate: the criticisms of the Nature study in certain learned journals are proven ground(hog)less and the method of thoughtful interpretation of a nice graph once again shows its value.

What do the exceptions tell us? 1990 might suggest that marmots are not good at predicting El Nino events (see also 1983), but evidently they’re improving with experience: 1998 was spot on. 1992-1993 indicates they can’t predict volcanic eruptions: Pinatubo clearly caught them by surprise. From 2002-2006 they follow the downward trend in the HadCRUT3 record (which of course began in 1998), but they’re quite separated from it. Perhaps, being restricted in their range and altitude, this particular population of marmots might be unduly susceptible to the influence of local factors.

Let’s compare the marmot data, then, with another temperature record, the UAH lower troposphere over the 48 States. This record is likely to be a more appropriate comparison than the global surface one, because the marmots live in a State and being alpine are closer to Roy Spencer’s satellites (and to

Marmots vs UAH LT US48

While the early 90s discrepancy remains, agreement in the early 80s and in the 2000s is vastly improved. Furthermore, it is evident that the marmots anticipated the effects of the 1998 El Nino on their local troposphere ahead of time, suggesting they’re improving with experience and confirming beyond doubt our interpretation that they predict climate change rather than respond to it. Their slight delay in 2007 needn’t be seen as negating this, as being in an overall cooling period they obviously needed to assimilate more data before a (short) reversal of trend could be justified. And anyway, if CO2 lags the onset of deglaciation, why shouldn’t marmots lag the onset of El Nino occasionally? As predictors, they appear to be more skillful than NASA’s James Hansen but less skillful than atmospheric water molecules. This might be because the water molecules are globally distributed while Hansen is mostly confined to New York.

So, where does all this leave us and what sort of
erudite conclusions would Steven Goddard draw from such rigorous graphical analysis? Here are a few we can think of:

  • Marmots predict, not respond to, climate change including global cooling and should be recognized by NOAA as Key Climate Indicators.
  • Marmots are not good at predicting volcanic eruptions,
  • Marmot predictions are influenced by local factors. Tropospheric marmot populations worldwide should be added to the existing dataset.
  • Marmots have great potential in climate modeling, but although they’d be cheaper to run than current computers they might chew or pee on the wiring.
  • The heads of all government institutions and all yetis dealing with climate prediction should be replaced by marmots. This will mean their offices will need to be redecorated. Being close to marmot country, we at Friends of Gin & Tonic can supply the raw materials at very fair prices. Our contact email is at the bottom of the page.

We’re sure our intelligent readers can think of some more. Please comment!