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Oxygen isotope ratio cycles support skeptical climate change view

Anthony Watts publishes the following chart over at Watts Up With That:


It has nothing at all to do with CO2 but instead with Oxygen isotopes (O18).  Why is that significant in the climate debate?

Oxygen isotope ratio cycles are cyclical variations in the ratio of the abundance of oxygen with an atomic mass of 18 to the abundance of oxygen with an atomic mass of 16 present in some substances, such as polar ice or calcite in ocean core samples. The ratio is linked to water temperature of ancient oceans, which in turn reflects ancient climates. Cycles in the ratio mirror climate changes in geologic history.

Connection between temperature and climate

The 18O/16O ratio provides a record of ancient water temperature. Water 10 to 15 °C (18 to 27 °F) cooler than present represents glaciation. As colder temperatures spread toward the equator, water vapor rich in 18O preferentially rains out at lower latitudes. The remaining water vapor that condenses over higher latitudes is subsequently rich in 16O.[2]Precipitation and therefore glacial ice contain water with a low 18O content. Since large amounts of 16O water are being stored as glacial ice, the 18O content of oceanic water is high. Water up to 5 °C (9 °F) warmer than today represents an interglacial, when the 18O content of oceanic water is lower. A plot of ancient water temperature over time indicates that climate has varied cyclically, with large cycles and harmonics, or smaller cycles, superimposed on the large ones. This technique has been especially valuable for identifying glacial maxima and minima in the Pleistocene.

Steve McIntyre notes:

Oxygen isotope series are the backbone of deep-time paleoclimate. The canonical 800,000 year comparison of CO2 and temperature uses O18 values from Vostok, Antarctica to estimate temperature. In deep time, O18 values are a real success story: they clearly show changes from the LGM to the Holocene that cohere with glacial moraines.


Given the high reliance on O18 series in deep time, one would think that paleoclimatologists would be extremely interested in a publication of the Law Dome O18 data and be pressuring Tas van Ommen on this point.


But despite the apparent opportunity offered by Law Dome, there has been virtually no technical publication of a high-resolution O18 or delD isotope series.

That’s not to say, however, it wasn’t offered:

On its face, Law Dome, which was screened out by Gergis and Karoly, is an extraordinarily important Holocene site as it is, to my knowledge, the highest-accumulation Holocene site yet known, with accumulation almost 10 times greater than the canonical Vostok site. (Accumulation is directly related to resolution: high accumulation enables high resolution.) The graphic below compares glacier thickness for some prominent sites for three periods: 1500-2000, 1000-1500 and 0-1000. its resolution in the past two millennia is nearly double the resolution of the Greenland GRIP and NGRIP sites that have been the topic of intensive study and publication.


A Climategate email shows that Phil Jones asked about the omission of the Law Dome series from the IPCC illustration in the AR4 First Draft. I asked the same question about the AR4 Second Draft. They realized that the Law Dome graphic had an elevated medieval period and thus, including it in the graphic would – to borrow a phrase from the preparation of AR3 – would “dilute the message” and perhaps provide “fodder to skeptics”.

Why would it “dilute the message” and provide “fodder to skeptics”?  Well look at the chart.  A clearly defined Medieval Warm Period and no hockey stick.

Speaking of “inconvenient truths”.

Much more on the subject here.


Twitter: @McQandO

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15 Responses to Oxygen isotope ratio cycles support skeptical climate change view

  • Know your sources, and take them for what they’re worth:
    Steven McIntyre (the primary source of these criticisms)…does not have an advanced degree….
    He is a prominent critic of scientific studies of temperature records of the past 1000 years that show increasing global temperatures. Stephen McIntyre has worked in mineral exploration for 30 years, much of that time as an officer or director of several public mineral exploration companies. “I’ve spent most of my life in business, mostly on the stock market side of mining exploration deals,” he said in 2009.
    McIntyre was also exposed for having unreported ties to CGX Energy, Inc., an oil and gas exploration company, which listed McIntyre as a “strategic advisor.  (A pretty good reason for developing anti-global-warming theories—like the apologists for tobacco companies decades ago, who mounted evidence and testimony that smoking did not have ill effects of our health.)
    Independent research has found that McIntyre’s critique may have “limited significance”.

    Now here’s some factual information: “The Law Dome ice core CO2 records show major growth in atmospheric CO2 levels over the industrial period, except during 1935-1945 A.D. when levels stabilized or decreased slightly.”
    When these anti-climate-change theories gain some level of  credence with the scientific community, then I start believing them; until then, I’m going to go with the scientists—in this respect, I am a conservative.

    • Nice try to change the subject … again. The chart is the point of the post as is the O18 and it’s significance. Why did you ignore those?

      • It was too sciency and didn’t have any pictures of polar bears photoshopped into a ridiculous position on the top of an ice flow as if they cannot swim and are afraid of cold water.
        Speaking of photo shopping the ‘science’ here’s another example of “scientific” activity from a couple years back.
        The original is called “the last polar bear” from

    • “Steven McIntyre (the primary source of these criticisms)…does not have an advanced degree….”

      Neither does Al Gore.

      • I have an “advanced degree” but will be the first to say that 5 years of hands on experience is probably better.

    • “Know your sources, and take them for what they’re worth:”
      Coming from you Tad and your daily obscuring points post, that’s kinda priceless,
      especially coupled with these words “When these anti-climate-change theories gain some level of  credence with the scientific community,”
      Right, the “scientific community”…the guys who believe “consensus” is an acceptable scientific methodology, the guys who got umpteen thousands of “scientists” and politicians to ‘sign-off’ on something to brow beat skeptics who wanted to apply scientific methods when the signatory ‘scientists’ and politicians had no grounding in any kind of climate science.
      But you’re right, approved scientific method now consists of James Hansen, of NASA, in written testimony to Congress in 2008, accusing skeptics of committing “high crimes against humanity and nature”.   The only thing Mr Environmental Warming Scientist missed was the demand that skeptics be taken to the nearest public square to be burned at the stake for their heresy.

    • Appeal to authority fallacy, ad hominem fallacy, red-herring fallacy, guilt-by-association fallacy.
      I could go on, but the guy is just an idiot.

    • Dumb fluck. Why on Earth would any petro companies oppose global warming ideas? They make a buttload of money on anything that increases the price of their products. There is no chance that their products can be “banned”, since entire societies would collapse in that case. Unlike tobacco, petroleum and its derivatives underpins all aspects of modern life, so it cannot simply be banned or quickly phased out even if you wanted to do so. Tobacco can be basically banned with impacts on mostly “only” the tobacco industry (and the poor addicts of course) without collapsing modern civilization. So petro companies and governments know that global warming regulations are only going to make them money in the near and long term. Why for instance does BP brand itself as “Beyond Petroleum” do you think?? They can make money off the traditional petro industry and cash in on the green rent seeking machine.
      And as for McIntyre being a shill for the petro industry… CGX took over a company he was a director of and he stayed on for a couple of years as an advisor… hardly an odd situation. Anyway, he is a mining expert, not an oil and gas man. He doesn’t “deny” climate change as such, he is interested in auditing various parts of climate proxy histories that are shabbily done.
      Finally, do you know the difference between oxygen and carbon dioxide? The Law Dome oxygen series is a *temperature* proxy. No one really disputes that CO2 levels have risen over the last couple of centuries. But the Law Dome oxygen series is the longest, highest resolution temperature proxy from the Southern Hemisphere, yet it was omitted from a study that has now been withdrawn from publication while it is fixed around the intelligence. Why would any good scientist omit the best data set available?
      You really are a (useless) tool Tad.

    • “When these anti-climate-change theories gain some level of credence with the scientific community, then I start believing them”
      Ha ha. And your definition of scientist is of course circular. Since you are not a scientist and do not know any scientists you really don’t know that most scientists in the “hard” disciplines are heavily weighted to the skeptic end of the spectrum.
      There isn’t even a falsifiable “theory” of climate change, so it really doesn’t constitute science in the strict sense. The science is settled until problems are pointed out and then magical unaccounted for effects are found to reinstate the settled science and the cycle repeats.

    • “except during 1935-1945 A.D. when levels stabilized or decreased slightly”

      You don’t find that curious? A decade of massive destruction involving CO2 generation and industrial expansion culminating in a couple of nuclear blasts during which atmospheric CO2 decreased ?

  • So they say the intellectuals at the IPCC thought there was just too much science involved with all of this.

  • The State Department has confirmed President Obama will skip the Rio+20 sustainable development summit in Brazil next week. It’s the third consecutive global environmental conference that Obama will miss after he avoided the last two UN climate talks in South Africa and Mexico. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Environmental Protection Agency head Lisa Jackson will lead the U.S. delegation.

    • Hey, send me to Rio!!!  I’ll get a LOT more done, I promise.  (Of what nature?…don’t ask…)