Wyatt on Earth

by Marcia Glaze Wyatt, Ph.D.

Evolution of the Hypothesis

A Note to Reader:

The following story is one of how this stadium-wave idea evolved. The telling of that tale may be a source of encouragement for someone embarking on his or her own journey into the unknown. Regardless of whether or not the hypothesis stands the test of time, the unfolding of the stadium-wave idea, from seed to blossom, tells a story about not conforming and not giving up.

Evolution of the stadium-wave idea:

As with any work in science, many hands work to bring an idea to life. The stadium-wave hypothesis is no exception.  I first presented the stadium-wave hypothesis to my CU dissertation committee, circa 2008. This, after a year or two of the idea’s development. The response to my presentation was flat, at best.


You see; I had taken a path that I later realized was unorthodox. I did not follow someone else's lead. Returning to academe after a three-decade hiatus blinded me to rules of convention - i.e. fitting into the advisor's research niche. Not that I likely would have followed rules-of-convention at this stubborn age, even had I known they were there to follow, but I certainly discovered the perils of this approach - my first presentation to my committee being a stark example. But, my greatest blessing was to have been mentored by advisors who allowed me considerable independence. Of course, having such freedom comes with ample risk and no instruction manual, so going that route requires patience, no agenda, lots of time, luck, and good fortune. I certainly had the latter.

In the months to come, a paper caught my attention – Tsonis et al. 2007. Similarities in our ideas – climate as a network - seemed apparent. I contacted Dr. Tsonis of University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. He listened. That spontaneous encounter launched a trail of discovery! The ‘wave’ came alive. Sergey Kravtsov, a UW colleague of Dr. Tsonis, and Dr. Tsonis  joined the CU dissertation team. I went through 'comps' successfully, and was off and running - finally! Sergey Kravtsov coached me remotely. He designed a rigorous statistical approach with which to document the signal,  and taught me the coding with which to do this. The CU-UW ‘merger’ involved years of work on the ‘wave’, ultimately resulting in the stadium wave’s debut in the literature (Climate Dynamics (online April 2011; published 2012) : Wyatt, Kravtsov, and Tsonis (2012)). 


Work continued; this next step with John Peters. At the time John was a UW graduate student of Kravtsov. Together John and I worked to identify the stadium wave in indices reconstructed from model-generated data – John was the genius behind the Matlab coding.  This study was completed in mid-2011 and published through Springer (Wyatt and Peters 2012)).


The UW team diverted energy to other projects. I continued my stadium-wave investigations alone, expanding the stadium wave temporally (through proxy indices) and spatially - this latter step incorporating indices for Eurasian Arctic shelf sea ice and the Intertropical Convergence Zone.


In 2011, one of my co-advisors – Roger Pielke, Sr – brought to my attention a posting on Judith’s blog site regarding spatio-temporal chaos by Tomas Milanovic. It was a fascinating essay, the content of which seemed relevant to my work. I contacted Judy about it and about my work. She read my ‘project-under-construction’ and expressed interest. Fast forward several months. In January of 2012, Judy became the newest, and last, addition to my geographically diverse dissertation committee. She and I kept in touch on occasion. The expanded-stadium-wave study took final shape and was written up as chapter three of the Wyatt dissertation. Successful defense followed in early May, 2012.


Post-degree, I worked singly on converting a portion of dissertation chapter three into a paper. Submission was followed rejection and re-submission – the process was arduous. By late December 2012, things finally seemed to be coming together. In the meantime, I had heard through Dr. Pielke that Judy was interested in seeing this paper. She wanted to blog about it once it was published. I sent it to her just prior to submission of the newest manuscript version. She offered editing suggestions. Over the next several days, her extensive and well-thought-out edits tightened the paper’s message considerably. I was thrilled. For her unsolicited efforts, I asked if she’d like to be co-author. She accepted. After a grueling journal review, which enhanced the paper’s delivery further, the Wyatt and Curry 2014 paper was accepted (online: September 2013) and added to the slowly growing list of published stadium-wave research papers: Wyatt and Curry 2014.


From the time (~2007) the seed was planted in my head by works of Klyashtorin and Lyubushin, to the most recent paper (2014), seven years have passed. Many great minds have contributed to this effort: My co-advisors Peter Molnar and Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr., who supported me and remained patient through the wave’s development; Drs. Kravtsov and Tsonis, without whom the stadium-wave would have remained an unknown idea; John Peters who diverted his focus from his studies to work on code for the modeling project; and Judy Curry who showed interest and provided extensive editorial feedback,  enhancing the packaging of the message. 


With Judy leading the charge, the stadium-wave hypothesis gained considerable publicity post publication of Wyatt and Curry (online September 2013; published 2014). This is both good and bad. The good is that a study's exposure allows its new ideas to invite interest and spawn related research efforts. The bad is that sometimes an idea, especially a somewhat controversial one,  is morphed into being what it is not, and misconceptions about it can be hard to shake. People have the tendency to interpret content according to individual filters, with the end-result sometimes exaggerating what a research finding is or is not. Thus, an idea requires maintenance. It also requires an open mind, as the idea might not be correct, solid as it appears. One must always wish to find the right answer, not wish to have the right answer.


By no means do any of the authors involved in the study of the stadium wave assert that the propagating hemispheric signal is ‘proven’. It is a hypothesis that rigorously has been tested, has been shown to be robust, and, at the time being, appears consistent with observation. Only time and further research will tell…


[On that final note, as of Spring 2014, the stadium-wave hypothesis was challenged (Mann et al. 2014). The stadium-wave team, with Sergey Kravtsov taking the lead, re-visited the hypothesis and addressed the challenge of Mann et al. The new investigation by Kravtsov and his team uncovered more support for the stadium-wave hypothesis. Please see Publications page for the Kravtsov et al. (2014) manuscript outlining that study. Also on that page are two essays related to our work refuting the Mann et al. argument: "Disentangling Forced from Intrinsic Variability" and "Is the Stadium Wave an Illusion?"]