Putting the Hockey Stick in a Proper Context

Climate Change In Perspective

If you’ve been living under a rock, then you probably haven’t heard of the (now famous) “hockey stick graph.”


‘Hockey Stick’ was coined by the climatologist Jerry Mahlman, to describe the pattern shown by the Mann, Bradley & Hughes (MBH99) reconstruction, creating a graph that is relatively flat with a downward trend to 1900 which looks like an ice hockey stick’s “shaft” followed by a sharp, steady increase corresponding to the “blade” portion.  The hockey stick graphs have featured in the IPCC reports as evidence of Anthropogenic Global Warming, or AGW.

Note that the time frame of this graph is for 1000 years. That’s barely the blink of an eye in terms of the Earth’s 4.5 billion year existence. Also note that everything prior to 1855, the start point of the red line in the graph above, is not actual direct measurement of temperature, but inferred by proxy.

Greenland Ice Core Proxies

The compacted snow in Greenland Ice Cores above the 1855 level is too recent and not compacted enough to be usable in ice core proxies. But everything prior to that is usable, and goes back nearly 52,000 years.  Greenland ice core data doesn’t go back any farther than that. Temperature estimates are determined by analysing the ratio of Heavy Oxygen and Heavy Hydrogen to normal O and H in the samples of ice.
“Oxygen and hydrogen isotopes in the ice are analyzed to determine hemispheric temperatures because heavy water (water with deuterium instead of 1H), as well as heavy oxygen water, (water with 18O instead of 16O), have higher boiling points than regular water, and more heavy water gets into the atmosphere when global temperatures are high. The warmer the earth, the more heavy isotopes wind up in the ice. This has nothing to do with the temperature of the ice, it has to do with the temperatures at the evaporation sites.” [The evaporation sites from which the ice originated, which for this hockey stick graph are primarily from locations all over the Northern Hemisphere.] – scroll down to ‘Modern Warming’ at this link for a more detailed explanation of Greenland Ice Core Proxy derivations.

The Hockey Stick In Context

If you were startled or alarmed at the original Hockey Stick graph above then you may be even more shocked at what I will show you now! The graphs below will show you this ‘hockey stick’ in a proper context to human and geological history:

Original Hockey Stick (proxy data of Temperature) Graph 1 – 1400AD to 1855AD


The Red arrow points to the blade of the ‘stick.’  The ‘blade’ starts at about 1780.  Coal was only just beginning to be used in industrial applications: it was 1781 when James Watt patented his first continuous motion steam engine.  But not until 1804 when the first railway using a steam engine in Wales took place. 

Graph 2 – looking back to 800AD


Here we see the Medieval Warm Period Circa 1000AD, when the Vikings settled Greenland, and the Little Ice Age, late 1300’s to late 1700’s.

Graph 3 – going back to 2700 BC


1400 BC was even warmer than Roman Warm Period and the Medieval Warm Period. And look what has happened to the ‘hockey stick!’

Graph 4 – Back to 11,000 BC, the last full-on Ice Age


You should be starting to get the picture by now, but we have two more graphs to go:

Graph 5 – 50,000 Years Ago


Here you can see that the ice-age is punctuated by a wildly fluctuating climate pattern with extreme swings between very cold and not so cold periods. You can bet on it that many violent weather events occurred that dwarf anything of the Holocene, which is roughly the last 1/5th of the graph above.

Graph 6 – 425,000 Years Ago [The Last Four Major Glacial Epochs]  Reconstructed global temperature over the past 420,000 years based on the Vostok ice core from the Antarctica (Petit et al. 2001).


The ‘Hockey Stick’ is now an invisible blip in that little red outlined rectangle on the right, which is our current interglacial period. Previous interglacials(Red Spikes) were all warmer than our current one. 

The clock is ticking…

“A model of future climate based on the observed orbital-climate relationships, but ignoring anthropogenic effects, predicts that the long-term trend over the next seven thousand years is toward extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation.”

And this model is probably correct in ignoring anthropogenic effects because they really don’t amount to much in the long run. And I haven’t even touched on the effects from possible future volcanism which are known to have worldwide repercussions.

Thanks to Wikipedia for the Graph at the top of the post.
Thanks to Morgan Wright’s page: “Global climate change from a realistic, non-political point of view.” for the graphs 1 through 5.

Popular Delusions… and Climate Alarmism

In 1841 Charles Mackay first published ‘Memoirs of Historical Popular Delusions.’

It has been re-published many times since, and the title changed to “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.”
Here is an excerpt from the Foreward:

All economic movements, by their very nature, are motivated by crowd psychology. Graphs and business ratios are, of course, indespensable in our groping efforts to find dependable rules to guide us in our present world of alarms.   Yet I never see a brilliant economic thesis expounding, as though they were geometrical theorems, the mathematics of price movements, that I do not recall Schiller’s dictum: ” Anyone taken as an individual, is tolerably sensible and reasonable–as a member of a crowd, he at once becomes a blockhead,” …

Were this book written today, a whole chapter would have to be added that would be devoted to climate alarmism. And most specifically to the recent (late 20thC to now)  alarmism of the Global Warming variety. Though, to be fair and honest the 20th C. saw from time to time, alarmism of both the Warming, and Cooling varieties, of late, it is the Global Warming variety that has captured the fancy of the crowd much more so than the idea that Earth could be just around the corner from some prolonged cooling event. Indeed, Global Warming/AGW[anthropogenic global warming] terms have been replaced by the current popular term of ‘Climate Change’, which would seem to be a catch-all for whichever way the climate may swing.

Now, you may be thinking that climate change isn’t an economic movement, but you will have a tough time reconciliing that with President Obama’s war on Coal and his statement that electricity rates will necessarily skyrocket under his plan. If Obama actually cared about the economically disadvantaged , he would not be engaged in such an endeavor as a war on coal, or petroleum, or natural gas.  In addition to hurting the poor, Obama’s policy has had the unpleasant side effect of further politicizing science.  Frederick Colbourne has written a guest post at the Ice-Age Now blog that puts the magnifying glass to this more recent Popular Delusion of  Climate Alarmism.

Climate Alarmism an Extraordinary Popular Delusion

by Frederick Colbourne

In my opinion, climate alarmism would be just another example of “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds” rather than a ‘hustle’.  Except that climate alarmism is supported by governments that have aligned on the side of the promoters of the delusion and in so doing have politicized the science. State power is what makes climate alarmism a ‘hustle’, corrupting science in the process.Recently, the US lent its immense power to a global climate treaty intended to reverse global economic development by reducing access to cheap energy. The EU and Britain have signed on to promote and enforce what seems to me a cultish form of Luddism. While there have been Luddite movements since the early days of the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions, these movements were never popular in America, until now.

The nostalgia for pristine Nature that inspired Thoreau’s Walden and now inspires an influential minority of Americans was not popular in the past, but has become a pillar of the modern cult and delusion. The cult of Nature as Mother Earth is about as remote from Earth science as it is possible to get, which probably accounts for the number of Hollywood celebrities who act as acolytes.  The root of the delusion is that Nature is benign. Three days in the wild without the products of agriculture and industry would convince most True Believers that Nature is hostile, when in reality, Nature is indifferent to Mankind. (Perhaps Thoreau was able…  Continue reading

Mantle Subsidence – backtracking from an article in The Daily Mail


Pic: Trimble Knob, one of the youngest volcanoes on the East Coast. Credit: Virginia DMME

I saw this article today In the UK’s The Daily Mail. Being a Geology buff, I decided to see what it was about. Knowing that some deride the Daily Mail as a not-credible Conservative tabloid, I decided to see for myself whether this story was overblown sensationalist tabloid fluff, or whether it had any merit on its own.

Anyone familiar with the geomorphology of the Southeastern United States, knows that the Appalachian Mountains are old eroded fold created mountains and that the area to the South and East of the Ohio River valley generally slopes towards sea-level with Florida being very flat and mostly only just meters or less above sea level.  This is indicative of a general subsidence, or lowering of land mass over millions of years. To be fair to the Mail, they did acknowledge this long time frame in the article. So the ‘big one’ is not going to happen tomorrow, it’s already been happening and for millions of years.

Underside of North American Plate Peeling Off- and sinking into Asthenosphere:

The source of the Daily Mail’s article backtracked to this article by Science Daily, posted May 3rd, 2016.  Lending credibility to the Mail’s article with it’s somewhat sensationalist headline “Giant Chunks of Earth’s Mantle Falling Off…”
“According to Biryol, pieces of the mantle have most likely been breaking off from underneath the plate since at least 65 million years ago. Because the researchers found fragments of hard rocks at shallow depths, this process is still ongoing and likely to continue into the future, potentially leading to more earthquakes in the region, he said.” Biryol is the lead researcher of the study:

C. Berk Biryol, Lara S. Wagner, Karen M. Fischer, Robert B. Hawman.Relationship Between Observed Upper Mantle Structures and Recent Tectonic Activity Across the Southeastern United States.Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 2016; DOI:10.1002/2015JB012698

Also posted May 3rd at UNC Chapel Hill is this essentially same summation of the immediate above article.

Contemplating future maps of North America would only serve to confuse the issue, not only because of the great time scale involved with this kind of long term change, but because of countless other factors that would affect the design of such a map: Subsidence/Uplift, Ice accumulation/Ice melt, Erosion/Deposition,  the dynamics and changeability of tectonic plate motions.

But the idea of sections of the North American plate breaking off from below and thinning the area under the Southeastern states does explain how there came to be a few volcanoes in the vicinity of what is now Virginia:

“Instead, the team proposes that magma reached the surface as pieces of the thick crust beneath Virginia peeled away like sloughing skin — a process called delamination. Afterward, magma seeped through the newly thinned crust, reaching the surface through pre-existing cracks in the overlying rock. In this model, the Virginia lava is the chemical cousin of eastern Atlantic volcanoes, because their sources are both deeply buried leftovers from the breakup of Pangaea, the supercontinent. “– See more at: East Coast Youngest Volcanoes

And from the same live Science link immediately above:
The shedding crust under Virginia could underlie topographic changes in the Appalachians, such as their recent face-lift. The mountains are more rugged than they should be, given their age and the tectonic quiescence of the East Coast.