A reply to Shakun et al – Dr. Munchausen Explains Science By Proxy

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

There’s a new study entitled “Global warming preceded by increasing carbon dioxide concentrations during the last deglaciation”, Shakun et al. (paywalled, hereinafter Shakun2012). The paper claims to show that in the warming since the last ice age, CO2 leads temperature. Anthony wrote about it in his post “A new paper in Nature suggests CO2 leads temperature, but has some serious problems“. The press release says (emphasis mine):

A new study, funded by the National Science Foundation and published in the journal Nature, identifies this relationship and provides compelling evidence that rising CO2 caused much of the global warming.

Lead author Jeremy Shakun, who conducted much of the research as a doctoral student at Oregon State University, said the key to understanding the role of CO2 is to reconstruct globally averaged temperature changes during the end of the last Ice Age, which contrasts with previous efforts that only compared local temperatures in Antarctica to carbon dioxide levels.

“Carbon dioxide has been suspected as an important factor in ending the last Ice Age, but its exact role has always been unclear because rising temperatures reflected in Antarctic ice cores came before rising levels of CO2,” said Shakun, who is a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Post-doctoral Fellow at Harvard University and Columbia University.

“But if you reconstruct temperatures on a global scale – and not just examine Antarctic temperatures – it becomes apparent that the CO2 change slightly preceded much of the global warming, and this means the global greenhouse effect had an important role in driving up global temperatures and bringing the planet out of the last Ice Age,” Shakun added.

The good news about the paper is that they have provided the temperature records (Excel spreadsheet) for the 80 proxies used in the study. My compliments to them.

Me being a suspicious fellow, however, I figured “trust but verify”, so I plotted up the temperature records that they used. I always begin with the original data, without any additions or distractions. Figure 1 shows the data that they used.

Figure 1. Records and types of proxies used in the Shakun2012 study 

As you can see, some of the ice core records are down where we’d expect them to be, well below zero. Those are the GRIP and NGRIP records from Greenland. But there are some oddities about these proxies.

See more


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