9 comments on “Open thread

  1. omanuel says:

    The global climate debate is the direct result of two great historical events:

    1. FEAR and CHAOS, mostly hidden from the public in August 1945

    2. A GREAT DISCOVERY, recognized with a Nobel Prize in December 1922

    These two events are summarized on opposite sides of this one-page paper

    Click to access CHAOS_and_FEAR_August_1945.pdf

  2. Brandon Gates says:

    Re: physics. I’d love to answer any questions you have about the contradictions you’re seeing. If I can. These two wiki articles, and other readings they’ve lead me to, have helped me cut through much confusion:


    I don’t doubt you’ve studied these on your own, I just want to impress upon you that I consider them unimpeachible, thoroughly tested and verfied theories. All else I believe about GHG effect and climate change follows from those physics. It’s the fluid dynamics that I struggle with, and then even harder the calculus and statistics.

    • Brandon:
      Actually, the graph shown in Wikipedia is the one that was used in my fifth class–Radiative transfer. Absorption spectroscopy shows up repeatedly. So far, in the classes, I am through:
      Instrumental records
      Radiative Heat transfer
      Convective Heat transfer
      Atmospheric circulation
      Clouds, Aerosols and Climate
      Oceans and climate

      I still have carbon cycle and forcings and feedbacks to go.

      I’m listing these so you’ll have some idea of what I have researched. The physics you mention are impeachable, yes, but as you note, the system is complex and interactions no all known. While CO2 can raise temperature, there are many other things that can moderate this effect. This is what I am working through.

  3. Brandon Gates says:


    Re: Climate model uncertainty and “failed” predictions over the past ~15 years.

    Click to access WG1AR5_Chapter09_FINAL.pdf

    From the Executive Summary starting on p. 743:

    There is very high confidence that models reproduce the gener al features of the global-scale annual mean surface temperature increase over the historical period, including the more rapid warming in the second half of the 20th century, and the cooling immediately following large volcanic eruptions.

    Most simulations of the historical period do not reproduce the observed reduction in global mean surface warming trend over the last 10 to 15 years. There is medium confidence that the trend difference between models and observations during 1998–2012 is to a substantial degree caused by internal variability, with possible contributions from forcing error and some models overestimating the response to increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) forcing. Most, though not all, models overestimate the observed warming trend in the tropical troposphere over the last 30 years, and tend to underestimate the long-term lower stratospheric cooling trend.

    Commentary: Contrary to the messages I am (possibly) reading into virtually all contrarian arguments (at the non-expert but well-informed level we both belong to), the climate modelers themselves and the IPCC itself recognizes the errors in the models, specifically noting that forcing errors have overstated surface temperature response to GHGs relative to actual observed recent response.

    The key here is internal variability, though it’s only medium confidence. If that is correct, the important takeaway is that internal variablity is not a trending phenomenon. IOW, over multi-decadal timeframes absent any other external (solar) or anthropogenic forcings (GHGs, land use changes, etc.) internal variablity causes oscillations in suface temperatures without net change to the total energy in the climate system.

    The simulation of large-scale patterns of precipitation has improved somewhat since the AR4, although models continue to perform less well for precipitation than for surface temperature. The spatial pattern correlation between modelled and observed annual mean precipitation has increased from 0.77 for models available at the time of the AR4 to 0.82 for current models. At regional scales, precipitation is not simulated as well, and the assessment remains dif ficult owing to observational uncertainties. {9.4.1, 9.6.1, Figure 9.6}

    The simulation of clouds in climate models remains challenging. There is very high confidence that uncertainties in cloud processes explain much of the spread in modelled climate sensitivity. However, the simulation of clouds in climate models has shown modest improvement relative to models available at the time of the AR4, and this has been aided by new evaluation techniques and new observations for clouds. Nevertheless, biases in cloud simulation lead to regional errors on cloud radiative effect of several tens of watts per square meter.
    {9.2.1, 9.4.1, 9.7.2, Figures 9.5, 9.43}

    Commentary: Precipitation is one of the most important outputs of models. It’s done on a geographically gridded basis so that various regions can prepare for any necessary adjustments, mainly agriculture and potable water for human consumption. When I say that the models are being used for more than just predicting average surface temps for the entire globe, this is one of the many outputs I am thinking of. If temperature were all that mattered, which you and I both recognize is just a convenient metric, this is one of the things I’m thinking about.

    Second paragraph points to one of the most difficult modelling challenges, cloud simulation. If there’s any strength to the argument “we can barely predict the weather a week in advance, how can we predict the climate decades in advance” this would be high on the list of places to identify a major point of failure.

    Climate and Earth System models are based on physical principles, and they reproduce many important aspects of observed
    climate. Both aspects contribute to our confidence in the models’ suitability for their application in detection and attri bution studies (Chapter 10) and for quantitative future predictions and projections (Chapters 11 to 14).In general, there is no direct means of translating quantitative measures of past performance into confident statements about fidelity of future climate projections.

    However, there is increasing evidence that some aspects of observed variability or trends are well correlated with inter-model differences in model projections for quantities such as Arctic summertime sea ice trends, snow albedo feedback, and the carbon loss from tropical land. These relationships provide a way, in principle, to transform an observable quantity into a constraint on future projections, but the application of such constraints remains an area of emerging research. There has been substantial progress since the AR4 in the methodology to assess the reliability of a multi-model ensemble, and various approaches to improve the precision of multi-model projections are being explored. However, there is still no universal strategy for weight ing the projections from different models based on their historical performance. {9.8.3, Figure 9.45}

    Commentary: Not much except to point out the complexities involved, the uncertainties, and most importantly the self-recognition of same.

    • Brandon:
      I actually do know that the IPCC is not nearly as confident as reported. If one actually reads the science section of the report, that becomes obvious. The same thing is true of many papers that were headlined. One was Marcott’s thesis in which Marcott himself said the “hockey stick” portion was not robust. It’s really like reading totally different theories/science when you look at what the media does and then what was actually written. I’ve tried to communicate this in what I write and in answering comments on the internet.

      Modeling is coming along, yes, and I have read there are computers large enough to maybe do 3D modeling. Wyoming has this supercomputer that is supposed to help with such modeling. Whether or not we can actually ever model effectively, who knows? Honestly, it’s kind of trying to be a psychic.

      I agree that the whole mess started when this was politicized. If we had politics out, the perhaps we could have helped shift toward more nuclear. Instead, we got “wind farms” and “solar farms” shoved down our throats. It seems unlikely either would have gone far without AGW and Al Gore. Now we’re stuck trying to explain why this was a bad choice.

      To a large degree, as you can tell, I agree with you. I am still trying to fit together the whole physics aspect–there are so many theories and contradictions. At this point, I understand the basics but can’t quite grasp the whole. I have concerns over assumptions that are made, etc. I have read other ideas as to why none of this works (the “slayers” and others that argue CO2 is not a greenhouse gas–which I am still unclear on why) and am trying to sort things out.

      I do understand being cautious when discussing AGW, though as you can see, I tend to just dive in and see what happens. I try to discuss calmly and keep things on subject. Sometimes it even works!

      • Brandon Gates says:

        I mainly wanted to answer you calls for references per our conversations with others elsewhere. I’ve found that keeping calm almost always works better than the alternative. Depends on who responds to me and how. I’ve actually been actively changing my approach to online debates in general. I’m a hardened Usenet vet mostly under a nym which I’ve abandoned in favor of using my real name and softening my rhetoric. If you can imagine that …

        I do appreciate people like you with strong opinions opposite my own who swim against the normal shouting and fury and actually discuss and debate.

        I started my own blog last week, first one ever. I felt I needed my own turf to be able to speak my true unfiltered thoughts and emotions, unfettered by the appropriate deference I give to others when I am a guest in their online space. It’s really scary. Did you feel that way when you started?

      • If you read the “About” page, the blog “Watching the Deniers” was my “inspiration”. That blog closed down last month but I’m still writing away! I wanted to get people to really think about the subject of global warming and not just react. It was somewhat overwhelming at first and it took me while to temper my responses. Some commenters had to be banned for the sake of civility. My other blog was on wind and that’s not nearly as contentious as global warming. I’ve been doing this for over a year and I obviously have learned to enjoy it because I’m still here.

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