Thankyou and a road map!

I want to extend a very big thankyou to everyone who has taken the time to visit, read and then, perhaps, pass a comment. The debate has been challenging, stimulating and above all polite.

Now I want to move on and consider some key topics and concepts in palaeoscience. Many of these will relate to my area of expertise which is isotope geochemistry and how we can use isotopes to help us characterize natural processes, reaction paths and kinetics. A subject that crops up time and again on the blogs is the oxygen isotope thermometer as applied to ice core, whether it be high latitude, polar or high altitude, tropical. My current idea is to present some of the underlying fundamentals and then move on to discuss some key papers, highlight unresolved issues and hopefully assess the robustness or otherwise of our estimates of past temperatures on different time scales: the last few centuries, the Holocene and then the glacial. Where possible I’ll post pdf’s of papers, raw data and calculations. I’ll also post copies of my lecture notes and some new material that I’m preparing for a new course, that hopefully will translate into a book.

At the same time as writing this blog I also currently hold a university teaching fellowship. During this tenure I am introducing open notebook science into my teaching and encouraging my research students to move over to an open notebook format. Data from my research will be archived and available in as close as real time as possible to my students, other scientists and you. Over the next 3 months I am embarking on an analysis of the hydrogen isotope composition of the Gomez Glacier, Antarctica. There will be about 2,500 sample analyses and about 1000 analyses of standards. These can be combined with my existing oxygen isotope data base and will provide the most detailed and documented set of analyses for an Antarctic Peninsula ice core yet done. The combined oxygen and hydrogen isotope data set will allow us to assess temperatures and source region conditions (temperature, humidity etc.) over the 150 year record of the core. I hope that by making this project public we will all learn a lot, and perhaps discover new insights into the data that may have hitherto been unseen.

It is with some trepidation that I do this. First is I need to get comfortable with the IT technology etc. I need to structure this blog appropriately so that information is readily available to those who want it, yet discrete for those who may be more interested in reading opinion pieces etc. and who don’t want to share in this ‘experiment’. Second, this is a very public demonstration of how I do science and I’m not very aware of how others have approached this, or what their experience has been. Many of my lab book entries will be tedious and concern issues of calibration, fault finding, validation etc. and sometimes the rate at which data appears may be slow. There is a real chance I might make a prat of myself. On the other hand I think it so important that others can share in my science that the benfits will far outweigh any negatives.

So please bear with me over the next week or so as I try and set this up. As background, over the weekend I’ll post copies of my Gomez Glacier work and the data base. They already exist at , but it will be easier if I collate them all at a single site.

Once again thankyou all for visiting the site.

18 Responses to “Thankyou and a road map!”

  1. PhilJourdan Says:

    The beauty of it is that it is YOUR blog. Some entries will be interesting to you and a small handful of others. Do not be discouraged if some entries attract few comments. Each piece will be a building block for how you are approaching your blog to arrive at different junctures along the way.

    Being in Network Engineering, I am sure some will be far over my head. But you have done a good job explaining some foreign concepts to me already, so I don’t think the subject matter will be dry and boring.

    Best of luck! But most of all, have fun!

  2. Broughton Says:

    What is the “carbon-offset” of having most of the land mass of the Northern Hemisphere covered in snow right now? I am in the midst of the “Snowpocalypse” near Washington, DC as I write this. Many of the usually snow-free areas of the USA are covered with snow. I also understand that Central Europe is unusually snowy this year. This has me thinking about the immense amount of sunlight that is being reflected as white light back into the universe. Perversely, the AGW crowd is saying that these blizzards are a result of global warming. If so, this is evidence of yet another built-in thermoregulator our planet has. That white light being relected back to space is not absorbed by “greenhouse gases” like infra-red light would be. White light is simply lost energy and it is cooling the planet.

    • harmonicoscillator Says:

      An interesting point of view. Only small changes in planetary albedo are needed to have a significant effect on the global energy balance. It will be interesting to follow the UAH tropospheric record over the following months after the record January temperature high.

      • Broughton Says:

        Now sea ice in the Arctic is expanding when it should be contracting by this time of year, lending further credence to my hypothesis!

  3. Harrywr2 Says:

    The great thing about blogging is that it is ‘your gig’.

    Be whoever you are. Doing it how ‘you would do it’ shows your unique thought processes.

  4. Richard J Says:

    Is this 150 year core record the most recent, ie mid 19thC to present?

    • harmonicoscillator Says:

      Richard, yes the record is just longer than the last 150 years. The core was drilled in 2007. Our theoretical resolution is better than monthly for the whole core. Thus we see strong seasonal cycles all the way back which allows us to accurately date by counting the cycles. These isotope cycles also match the peroxide record in the core which also has a strong seasonal component so we have great confidence in the dating. Unfortunately the amplitude of the seasonal record tends to decrease with time because of diffusion. Thus we see the peaks and troughs in the record smoothed out somewhat. We can, however, still recover the annual average compositions.

  5. Ausie Dan Says:

    I look forward to following your research with interest.
    Getting a better handle on the past is most important.
    Perspective is what has most been missing from the AGW claims.
    Without perspective, we can believe anything we like about the present.

    • harmonicoscillator Says:

      I agree. It is imperative that we develop a robust palaeoclimate record covering the Holocene at sufficient resolution to allow us to unravel climate cyclicity on different wavelengths. We also need to work on improving the robustness of our ability to easure past temperatures. This means developing proxies that have a direct thermodynamic link to temperature that can be verified in laboratory experiments. I’ll be writing about some possibilities for new palaeothermometers over the coming months.

  6. Richard J Says:

    Thanks for that. Sounds like the high definition core has the potential to yield an important reference base, valuable for possible future comparison with a range of records apart from instrumental and other ice core, perhaps varved marine and lacustrine sediments and biological growth rings. Would there be any possibility of detecting traces of the Krakatoa 1883 eruption, and the nuclear test era preserved in the samples?

  7. Alan Wilkinson Says:

    Great idea.

    I know it’s at the end of the road ahead, but I wonder what are your thoughts on publishing publicly-funded science behind private pay-walls?

    My view is that that is a system that has outlived its time.

  8. dearieme Says:

    In the words of Sir Humphrey, “That would be very courageous, Minister.” It’s not just that research has dead ends, bad hypotheses, idiot oversights, and downright blunders. It’s also that there are enough fellow researchers who are plain crooks that I’m not sure I would want to see my thoughts and data displayed for them to steal.

    How many? I don’t know – in a long career I came across three, and was warned in lurid terms against another two. Alas, being an FRS, holding an Oxbridge chair, and having been knighted by Her Majesty, does not guarantee that one is not a crook. Though I suspect that it does make it more visible, and more talked about, when one is.

  9. genezeien Says:

    To separate topics, go to “Manage Blogs” and under the Pages section Add Page. I’ve used this to keep subject streams from getting garbled in wordpress. People following your data collection/analysis can simply bookmark the appropriate page.

    Happy blogging!

  10. Otra de blogs, y una nueva forma de hacer las cosas. « Says:

    […] Thankyou and a road map!   […]

  11. Jimchip Says:

    Open notebooks have a great educational potential for ‘outsiders’. Also, I hope there is no criticism when one makes a boo boo in their open notebook. Criticism should only show up if one publishes the boo boo without having corrected it 🙂

  12. Jean-Claude Bradley Says:

    What an awesome project! I look forward to seeing how it develops.

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