Posts Tagged ‘Climate models’

Pointy-haired Climate Modeling (feat. Bonus Vintage Fred Pearce)

2010/02/26 1 comment

From Real Climate’s “FAQ on climate models“:

Multi-model Ensemble – a set of simulations from multiple models. Surprisingly, an average over these simulations gives a better match to climatological observations than any single model

And here’s the Dilbert strip of May 7, 2008:

Of course.


Here’s another attempt at linking Dilbert to the climate change debate. And of course Scott Adams is not exactly your average RC fan.


And now for the “Bonus Vintage Fred Pearce”, from a May 16, 2007 New Scientist article linked by Adams and penned by…Fred Pearce: “Climate myths: We can’t trust computer models

Finally, the claim is sometimes made that if computer models were any good, people would be using them to predict the stock market. Well, they are!

A lot of trading in the financial markets is already carried out by computers. Many base their decisions on fairly simple algorithms designed to exploit tiny profit margins, but others rely on more sophisticated long-term models.

Major financial institutions are investing huge amounts in automated trading systems, the proportion of trading carried out by computers is growing rapidly and a few individuals have made a fortune from them. The smart money is being bet on computer models.

Smart money indeed.

Don’t Be Fooled By Another Non-Climate Satellite

2009/11/04 1 comment

The SMOS satellite is flying, and it will provide data for around three years. A “probe tracking global warming impact on water“? Not by a long shot (what are three years for climate??).

Remember to always read it all and carefully so.

Scientists rely heavily on computer models to project weather and climate patterns, and the additional data will make predictions more accurate.

SMOS “has long been awaited by climatologists who try to predict the long-term effects of today’s climate change,” said ESA’s director of Earth observations programme Volker Liebig in a communique. “The data collected will complement measurements already performed on the ground and at sea.”

As sadly usual, in climatology observations are subservient to models, rather than the other way around…

Finally, A Model That Does Exactly What It Says On The Tin

Or…”What Are Climate Models Good For”

Instant climate model gears up – Simulation tool gives rapid feedback on implications of policy changes“, says “Nature News”.

What’s so good about it? Well, for once everybody should join in the celebration of a climate model that is presented for what it is (a policymaking tool for “negotiators to assess their national greenhouse-gas commitments ahead of December’s climate summit in Copenhagen“) rather than for what it is not (a scientific tool “used for a variety of purposes from study of the dynamics of the climate system to projections of future climate“, as rather naively claimed on Wikipedia).

Hooray for honesty and openness!

When Is A Climate Satellite Not Exactly A Climate Satellite?

2009/09/17 3 comments

I have just been at a beautiful presentantion at the British Interplanetary Society in London, by Jessica Housden of EADS-Astrium about the upcoming ESA “EarthCARE” satellite (beautiful especially to us engineering boffins that is).

Designing a Spacecraft to Observe Climate Change

Understanding of the atmosphere is a continual process, with scientists all over the world endeavouring to determine how our atmosphere works and how it is changing. One such mission, EarthCARE, will be observing several processes which will help scientists. How will this be done and how will the spacecraft work?

Jessica Housden is a systems engineer for the EarthCARE mission, which will observe water content and aerosol distribution in the atmosphere.

Ms Housden said that EarthCARE, designed to look at clouds and aerosols, will be up there for 4 years from around 2013 (don’t bet your house on that though…there’s lots to learn before it can actually fly).

Upon hearing that I suddenly realised something confirmed during the Q&A session later: the climate-change EarthCARE satellite is not exactly a satellite to study the climate.

For a start, 4 years are way too short a time to see what climate is doing, let alone to see it changing.

You see, EarthCARE is a climate-change satellite. Its measurements will be used to (surprise, surprise!) help climate modellers improve their models (as everybody knows, clouds have been particularly badly modelled up to now).

After all, that’s what it “says on the tin” (“Spacecraft to observe Climate Change“, not “Climate“). Nothing to fault EADS-Astrium for…still, I suspect in the upcoming future one will have to be careful about this apparently minute distinctions.

What about the Climate then? Well, EarthCARE would be a good starting point. For example one of its instruments is designed to measure incoming and outgoing fluxes, thereby answering many of the questions we still have about the planetary energy budget.

But you’d need a constellation of EarthCAREs for proper climate research, perhaps 5 or 6, if only to observe a particular spot more than once a month. And you’d need also a steady supply, to have enough of them up there despite the relatively-short 4-year lifetime.

There Is No Evidence

2009/07/13 1 comment

From Icecap why Global Warming Clearinghouse, here’s an intro to “There is no evidence” by Dr David Evans:

Let’s break down the case for human-caused global warming logically:

1) There is plenty of evidence that global warming has been occurring recently.
2) There is ample evidence that carbon emissions causes warming and that the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing.
3) But there is no evidence that carbon dioxide emissions are the main cause of the recent global warming.

The alarmists focus you entirely on the first two points, to distract you from the third. The public is increasingly aware of this misdirection. Yes, every emitted molecule of carbon dioxide (CO2) causes some warming – but the crucial question is how much warming do the CO2 emissions cause? If atmospheric CO2 levels doubled, would temperatures rise by 0.1, 1.0, or by 10.0C?

We go through the usual “evidence” offered by alarmists, and show that in each case either it:

• Is not evidence about what causes global warming. Proof that global warming occurred is not proof that CO2 was mainly responsible.
• Is not empirical evidence; that is, it is not independent of theory. In particular models are theory, not evidence.
• Says nothing about how much the temperature would rise for a given rise in CO2 levels.

[…]  If they just had some evidence of (3) they could just tell us what it was and end the debate.

[…] Typical Alarmist Offerings of “Evidence”: Polar Bears, Glaciers, Arctic Melt, Antarctic Ice Shelves, Storms, Droughts, Fires, Malaria, Snow Melt on Mt Kilimanjaro, Rising Sea Levels, Ocean Warming, Urban Heat Island Effect. Although each of these issues may say something about whether or not global warming is or was occurring, none of them say anything about the causes of global warming. It would make no difference to these issues if the recent global warming was caused by CO2 or by aliens heating the planet with ray guns.[…] Often the assumption takes the form that nearly all the temperature rises since the start of industrialization are due to CO2 rises, or that there are no other possible significant causes of global warming.

Computer Models are Evidence
Computer models consist solely of a large number of calculations that, individually, you could do on a hand-held calculator. So models are theoretical, and cannot form part of any evidence.

Computer Models Incorporate a Lot of Sound Empirical Science
Yes they do. The climate models contain some well-established science that has been verified by empirical observations. But they also contain a myriad of:
• implicit and explicit assumptions
• omissions
• guesses
• gross approximations.

A single mistake in any one of these can invalidate the climate models. Typical engineering models that mimic reality closely contain no untested assumptions, material omissions, guesses, or gross approximations. They are the result of mature understanding of the reality being modelled, and have been tested ad nauseum in a wide range of circumstances. On the other hand, climate science is in its infancy, individual models routinely fail most tests, the climate models are riddled with untested assumptions and guesses, they approximate the atmosphere with cells a hundred kilometres square and hundreds of meters high, and they do not even attempt to model individual cloud formations or any feature smaller than the cell size. Don’t let the word “model” fool you into thinking climate models are better than they are.

Richard S Courtney: Temperatures, Climate Models…And The Human Brain

2009/06/15 6 comments

(This is part of a private message from Richard S Courtney, answering a third person’s question: “what fundamental principles of thermodynamic, radiative forcing or radiation balance are in conditions to explain the fall of latest global temperatures observed by University of Alabama in Huntsville?”

Published with Richard’s permission)

I look at the records of global temperature and I see a series of cycles that are overlayed on each other. For example,

1. There seems to be an apparent ~900 year oscillation that caused the Roman Warm Period (RWP), then the Dark Age Cool Period (DACP), then the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), then the Little Ice Age (LIA), and the present warm period (PWP).

2. There seems to be an apparent ~60 year oscillation that caused cooling to ~1910, then warming to ~1940, then cooling to ~1970, then warming to ~2000, then cooling since.

So, has the warming from the LIA stopped or not? That cannot be known because the pattern of past global temperature fluctuations suggests that the existing cooling phase of the ~60 year cycle is opposing any such warming. And that cooling phase can be anticipated to end around 2030 when it can be anticipated that then either

(a) warming from the LIA will continue until we reach temperatures similar to those of the MWP


(b) cooling will set in until we reach temperatures similar to those of the LIA.

But this begs the question as to why such global temperature fluctuations occur. And I address that issue as follows.

The basic assumption used in the climate models is that change to climate is driven by change to radiative forcing. And it is very important to recognise that this assumption has not been demonstrated to be correct. Indeed, it is quite possible that there is no force or process causing climate to vary. I explain this as follows.

The climate system is seeking an equilibrium that it never achieves. The Earth obtains radiant energy from the Sun and radiates that energy back to space. The energy input to the system (from the Sun) may be constant (although some doubt that), but the rotation of the Earth and its orbit around the Sun ensure that the energy input/output is never in perfect equilbrium.

The climate system is an intermediary in the process of returning (most of) the energy to space (some energy is radiated from the Earth’s surface back to space). And the Northern and Southern hemispheres have different coverage by oceans. Therefore, as the year progresses the modulation of the energy input/output of the system varies. Hence, the system is always seeking equilibrium but never achieves it.

Such a varying system could be expected to exhibit oscillatory behaviour. And, importantly, the length of the oscillations could be harmonic effects which, therefore, have periodicity of several years. Of course, such harmonic oscillation would be a process that – at least in principle – is capable of evaluation.

However, there may be no process because the climate is a chaotic system. Therefore, observed oscillations such as ENSO, NAO, PDO and etc. could be observation of the system seeking its chaotic attractor(s) in response to its seeking equilibrium in a changing situation.

Very importantly, there is an apparent ~900 year oscillation that caused the Roman Warm Period (RWP), then the Dark Age Cool Period (DACP), then the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), then the Little Ice Age (LIA), and the present warm period (PWP). As I suggest above, all the observed rise of global temperature in the twentieth century could be recovery from the LIA that is similar to the recovery from the DACP to the MWP. And the ~900 year oscillation could be the chaotic climate system seeking its attractor(s). If so, then all global climate models and ‘attribution studies’ utilized by IPCC and CCSP are based on the false premise that there is a force or process causing climate to change when no such force or process exists.

But the assumption that climate change is driven by radiative forcing may be correct. If so, then it should be noted that it is still extremely improbable that – within the foreseeable future – the climate models could be developed to a state whereby they could provide reliable predictions. This is because the climate system is extremely complex. Indeed, the climate system is more complex than the human brain (the climate system has more interacting components – e.g. biological organisms – than the human brain has interacting components – e.g. neurones), and nobody claims to be able to construct a reliable predictive model of the human brain. It is pure hubris to assume that the climate models are sufficient emulations for them to be used as reliable predictors of future climate when they have no demonstrated forecasting skill.

So, my bottom line answer to a question that asks, “what fundamental principles of thermodynamic, radiative forcing or radiation balance are in conditions to explain the fall of latest global temperatures observed by University of Alabama in Huntsville ?” is

I don’t know because nobody can know, but I want to know.

And that is why I support attempts to quantify all the “fundamental principles” which you mention because that attempt affords the possibility of telling me what I want to know.

Stansted Climate Protest, or Why AGW Must Be Challenged

2008/12/08 4 comments

Major PR debacle for AGWers, one hopes, in today’s break-in at London’s Stansted Airport with thousands unable to leave for their expected destinations.

And it’s not just a matter of going home and rebook online: imagine how many pre-booked vacations have been ruined, family reunions postponed, business meetings cancelled, money wasted in giant taxi fares and expensive car parking, that will have to be paid again shortly.

Who would have guessed, of all people the climate protesters have prevented from flying a BBC journalist with plenty of AGW articles in his CV and a long-planned trip to Poznan to attend the UN climate talks. Is there a long, long ferry journey to Denmark in Mr Black’s future, one wonders?

Promises of bringing to protesters in front of a court of justice already abounds. However, in the recent past the UK Government has approved of apparently law-breaking climate-change protests, so I would’t bet anybody will be punished…


Actually the Plane Stupid’s plain stupid initiative of today comes out handy to demonstrate why AGW has to be challenged by everybody with a sane mind: because it has been portrayed in so dire terms, that people of various critical ability will do who-knows-what excessive actions in its name.

If 80% or more of the living species are threatened by humans, surely a terrorist attack will appear fully justified in many not-even-too-deranged-minds? People have been bombing each other for decades for far less than the well-being of the biosphere. One wished nonviolence figured more prominently in the Plane Stupid declarations.

Nothing is safe from “the threat of runaway climate change”, and no rights can be considered too important for AGWers to leave it untouched: our rights to move freely, to choose how to earn and how to spend our money, to plan for a holiday, to visit parents and other relatives abroad or even on the other side of the country, not to mention the right to think if not express the opinion that AGW is a big castle made of nothing like sand, they will all disappear sooner or later, if nobody tries to insert some sense in the climate discussion.

The strange bit is that even such an authoritative AGW group like the IPCC, and avowed catastrophiliacs such as Lord Stern, do not believe overdramatic actions are needed today, or tomorrow. Rather, they all advocate something to be done in the scale of decades.

And that is even more worrying: because in spite of what is actually meant by Stern, or by Al Gore, or by James Hansen or the UK Government,  at the end of the day their choice of words will always inspire simpletons to do something very very silly at airports and elsewhere; and Governments to curtail civil liberties in the name of the Greater Good That Could Not Have Been Portrayed Greater.

Perhaps more people will wake up one day to the fact that he transformation of society into a “Moral Police State” is the only way AGW  can be stopped, or so it is implied by those that portray it as the biggest challenge to humanity, a threat bigger than the terrorism, the source of everything wrong with the world today, the thing that will burn up the world to cinder, etc etc.

All statements, by the way, that rest on very weak foundations, because extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence. And we don’t have it.


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