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Do Climate Forcings Exist? Map And Territory In Climate Science

Some interesting ideas that are surfacing at Judith Curry’s “Cloud wars” blog post, leading to the conclusion that there might as well be no such a thing as a “pure” climate forcing.

A “pure” climate forcing (i.e. one that occurs only as a forcing to the climate system, not also as a feedback) is of course an independent input to the system. IOW it is an independent variable that will provide its “push” in a specific direction whatever the value of all other variables.

It sounds obvious (maybe not to the average Climate Believer) that a great deal of so-called forcings aren’t: clouds of course (both a forcing and a feedback, perhaps on different timescales); but also CO2 emissions (as noted by commenter Eric Ollivet), water vapor, and pretty much anything that happens in the atmosphere.

One is left with the influence of other planets, of volcanoes, and of course of the Sun. But are those true and “pure” forcings, really?

For example, who’s going to demonstrate that the atmosphere will respond predictably and progressively if the Sun input to it varies, and everything else remains equal? For all we know, the Sun could be a positive forcing up to a point, then negative, then positive again, or simply positive but by different amounts following a complex multi-step function that moves up and down, all according to the atmosphere’s initial status.

Actually, we can be pretty sure of all that complication, thanks to the Mpemba effect (and the Leidenfrost effect).

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Every reduction and simplification seems poised to destroy our ability to understand the climate itself. We might be ending up trying to apply statistics and/or computer models simply to distract us from the underlying truth: perhaps, in climate science, the only good map IS the territory. And the only hope to understand the climate, is by considering it whole.

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  1. AhmNee
    2011/09/25 at 21:21

    But you’re not a climate scientist, John. As if there was a single umbrella under which climate science falls, opposed to being comprised of multiple fields of science. If you don’t agree with warmists, you’re just not the right type of scientist.

  2. John Marshall
    2011/09/22 at 08:27

    I always described the Mpemba Effect as temperature dive, not knowing the real name for it, where the temperature of the hot liquid falls so fast that its temperature goes below that of the surroundings freezing before recovering. The cold liquid cools slower than the hot due to this.

    But what do I know as a mere geologist. What I do know is CO2 does not drive climate.

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