Himalayan Sherpas as climate proxy

Himalayan Sherpas as climate proxy. (May 1, 2011) Anthony Watts reposts a “Bishop Hill” (Andrew Montford’s pseudonym) blog item mocking researchers for asking Himalayan Sherpas about changes in their environment (Biology Letters, April 2011). Anthony ‘piles on’ with a link to a twenty year-old anthropology book.

As reported by Richard Black of the BBC, apparently only about half of the villagers questioned reported that summers were starting earlier than they did ten years ago. This means the other half couldn’t be bribed to lie by the corrupt researchers I guess.

Their top line conclusions are that villagers are noticing signals suggestive of climate change.

Warmer weather, drying water sources, the advance of summer and the monsoon, new insect pests, earlier flowering of plants… all consistent with the basic idea of a warming world.

Anecdotal evidence is a favorite denialists talking point, but only when it goes their way. They like to report one person recalling that the beach height is exactly the same as when they were kid, but not when 250 people report about when flowers bloomed. Just a few days ago Anthony and his teammates were touting an opinion poll.

Selective as always, Anthony tells us about an imprecise research method but fails to mention that ways of successfully using it exist. Weak “remembered data” is better than a lack of data. Social anthropologists and social scientists live in that sphere and know how to use it with caution.

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