The paleoclimate community tends to split itself along two broad lines. Those that work with proxies and those with models. Proxies are the real world analogue to the past and include things like tree-rings, ice-cores, deep sea sediments and stalagmites. The chemical composition of these proxies depend on the climatic conditions under which they grew/were deposited. The relationship is known by calibrating to a modern example. Models, are computer generated simulations of past climate. They work on our understandings of physics and measurements of the real world, and attempt to recreate conditions on a global scale, that ideally (but not always) match the proxies. Both are incredibly useful techniques and both have their pros and their cons. And while the rivalry between the two is friendly, it is still passionate and heated*.
So is there a way to settle these scores? To decide once and for all which is better. Turns out, that at the PAGES conference there is: a beach soccer** match. One team of modelers, one team of proxy people. Bring it on!
On the second evening of the conference, after the poster sessions, the two teams lined up. Team Model in blue, and Team Proxy in yellow***. Beach soccer is five-a-side, but running on sand is tough, so there were plenty of substitutes. It was Team Model who got the early breakthrough in a close opening 15 minutes, but Team Proxy were able to soak up the pressure thanks to some excellent goal-keeping, and hit back on the counter-attack. After the first round of substitutions, Team Proxy hit three goals, before adding a fourth late in the first half.
In the second half Team Model responded with two quick goals, to bring back the contest. Goals were then traded throughout the second half, and despite Team Model looking the stronger of the two, some fine finishing from Team Proxy saw them hold onto their lead. The final score: Team Proxy 6: Team Model 5. Victory to the proxy!!! Of course, the modelers claim that the scores were probably within error and therefore indistinguishable – but they would!
Celebrations all round, the trophy presented, and fireworks enjoyed. Then to the bar for some beers. After all – if there’s one thing all paleoclimatologists can agree on, it is beer.
Revenge was taken for Team Proxy’s defeat four years ago in Corvallis. It has been settled, for the next four years at least. Proxies are clearly the better way of doing paleoclimatology.
* I like to think of it as being a sibling rivalry. These are always the most intense, and there is nothing better that siblings like than beating the other sibling. But the love is there, and if one side or the other is under attack, you can be sure the other will be the first to step in.
** Beach football that is. You know, football, the one played with the ball, and the feet.
*** insert joke here about how Team Model were actually able to get up and away from their computers and actually get some exercise.