Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Climate modelers have been "cheating" for so long it's almost become respectable"

The above quote from a Warmist modeller writing in "Science" magazine in 1997 gets a run every now and again so I thought I might say a little bit about it.

Warmists are of course very defensive about it, claiming that the quote is taken out of context. And they are right about that, though not perhaps in the way they would want. So let me start with an extended quote from the original:
Climate modelers have been "cheating" for so long it's almost become respectable. The problem has been that no computer model could reliably simulate the present climate. Even the best simulations of the behavior of the atmosphere, ocean, sea ice, and land surface drift off into a climate quite unlike today's as they run for centuries. So climate modelers have gotten in the habit of fiddling with fudge factors, so-called "flux adjustments," until the model gets it right.

No one liked this practice (Science, 9 September 1994, p. 1528). "If you can't simulate the present without arbitrary adjustments, you have to worry," says meteorologist and modeler David Randall of Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins. But now there's a promising alternative. Thirty researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, have developed the first complete model that can simulate the present climate as well as other models do, but without flux adjustments. The new NCAR model, says Randall, "is an important step toward removing some of the uneasiness people have about trusting these models to make predictions of future climate" (see main text).

The NCAR modelers built a host of refinements into their new Climate System Model (CSM). But the key development, says CSM co-chair Byron Boville, was finding a better way to incorporate the effects of ocean eddies, swirling pools of water up to a couple of hundred kilometers across that spin off strong currents. Climate researchers have long known that the eddies, like atmospheric storms, help shape climate by moving heat around the planet. But modelers have had a tough time incorporating them into their simulations because they are too small to show up on the current models' coarse geographic grid. The CSM doesn't have a finer mesh, but it does include a new "parameterization" that passes the effects of these unseen eddies onto larger model scales, using a more realistic means of mixing heat through the ocean than any earlier model did, says Boville.

Even when run for 300 model "years," the CSM doesn't drift away from a reasonably realistic climate, says NCAR's Climate and Global Dynamics director Maurice Blackmon. "Being able to do this without flux corrections gives you more credibility," he says. "For better or worse, we're not biasing the results as was necessary before."

The quote is from: "Climate Change: Model Gets It Right--Without Fudge Factors" by Richard A. Kerr.

So it sounds like a good bit of Warmism at first. It offers an alternative to fudging that works. But let's look closer. The first clue is in the journal abstract itsef. We read there: "The first results from this model imply that future greenhouse warming may be milder than some other models have suggested--and may take decades to reveal itself"

Not so rosy! Removing the fudges also removes the urgency! But it gets worse. In a commentary on the Kerr article we read:
The NCAR model produces a modest warming of about 1.8oC over 100 years. But it has the wrong greenhouse effect! The model effectively increases the CO2 greenhouse change by 1 percent per year, but everyone knows that the actual increase is 0.7 percent. Our figure shows the original result along with an adjustment for reality.

Figure 1. TOP: Temperatures predicted by Mitchell and Johns in a recent paper. The dashed line uses an unrealistic CO2 concentration of 859 ppm by 2050. The solid line estimates warming if the most likely concentration, as given by the United Nations, is used. BOTTOM: Temperatures predicted by the new NCAR model. The dashed line increases effective CO2 at 1 percent per year, but the known increase is 0.7 percent per year. The solid line estimates warming using the right value. The nominal starting time is around 1965.

This exercise is getting familiar. We had to do the same thing to the new model from the United Kingdom Meteorological Office (UKMO), featured in our May 12 edition. When we did, we got a total warming of only 1.5oC out to 2100 and a net change of only 1.2oC from current temperatures. When we do the same to the NCAR model, we get a change of 1.3oC from current temperatures.

So removing the fudges removes most of the warming! Pesky! No wonder the "Climategate" emails reveal that the fudging is back with a vengeance!

Carbon Dioxide and Earth's Future: Pursuing the Prudent Path

The above is the title of a large monograph available online. Below is the Executive Summary

As presently constituted, earth's atmosphere contains just slightly less than 400 ppm of the colorless and odorless gas we call carbon dioxide or CO2. That's only four-hundredths of one percent. Consequently, even if the air's CO2 concentration was tripled, carbon dioxide would still comprise only a little over one tenth of one percent of the air we breathe, which is far less than what wafted through earth's atmosphere eons ago, when the planet was a virtual garden place. Nevertheless, a small increase in this minuscule amount of CO2 is frequently predicted to produce a suite of dire environmental consequences, including dangerous global warming, catastrophic sea level rise, reduced agricultural output, and the destruction of many natural ecosystems, as well as dramatic increases in extreme weather phenomena, such as droughts, floods and hurricanes.

As strange as it may seem, these frightening future scenarios are derived from a single source of information: the ever-evolving computer-driven climate models that presume to reduce the important physical, chemical and biological processes that combine to determine the state of earth's climate into a set of mathematical equations out of which their forecasts are produced. But do we really know what all of those complex and interacting processes are? And even if we did -- which we don't -- could we correctly reduce them into manageable computer code so as to produce reliable forecasts 50 or 100 years into the future?

Some people answer these questions in the affirmative. However, as may be seen in the body of this report, real-world observations fail to confirm essentially all of the alarming predictions of significant increases in the frequency and severity of droughts, floods and hurricanes that climate models suggest should occur in response to a global warming of the magnitude that was experienced by the earth over the past two centuries as it gradually recovered from the much-lower-than-present temperatures characteristic of the depths of the Little Ice Age. And other observations have shown that the rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations associated with the development of the Industrial Revolution have actually been good for the planet, as they have significantly enhanced the plant productivity and vegetative water use efficiency of earth's natural and agro-ecosystems, leading to a significant "greening of the earth."

In the pages that follow, we present this oft-neglected evidence via a review of the pertinent scientific literature. In the case of the biospheric benefits of atmospheric CO2 enrichment, we find that with more CO2 in the air, plants grow bigger and better in almost every conceivable way, and that they do it more efficiently, with respect to their utilization of valuable natural resources, and more effectively, in the face of environmental constraints. And when plants benefit, so do all of the animals and people that depend upon them for their sustenance.

Likewise, in the case of climate model inadequacies, we reveal their many shortcomings via a comparison of their "doom and gloom" predictions with real-world observations. And this exercise reveals that even though the world has warmed substantially over the past century or more -- at a rate that is claimed by many to have been unprecedented over the past one to two millennia -- this report demonstrates that none of the environmental catastrophes that are predicted by climate alarmists to be produced by such a warming has ever come to pass. And this fact -- that there have been no significant increases in either the frequency or severity of droughts, floods or hurricanes over the past two centuries or more of global warming -- poses an important question. What should be easier to predict: the effects of global warming on extreme weather events or the effects of elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations on global temperature? The first part of this question should, in principle, be answerable; for it is well defined in terms of the small number of known factors likely to play a role in linking the independent variable (global warming) with the specified weather phenomena (droughts, floods and hurricanes). The latter part of the question, on the other hand, is ill-defined and possibly even unanswerable; for there are many factors -- physical, chemical and biological -- that could well be involved in linking CO2 (or causing it not to be linked) to global temperature.

If, then, today's climate models cannot correctly predict what should be relatively easy for them to correctly predict (the effect of global warming on extreme weather events), why should we believe what they say about something infinitely more complex (the effect of a rise in the air's CO2 content on mean global air temperature)? Clearly, we should pay the models no heed in the matter of future climate -- especially in terms of predictions based on the behavior of a non-meteorological parameter (CO2) -- until they can reproduce the climate of the past, based on the behavior of one of the most basic of all true meteorological parameters (temperature). And even if the models eventually solve this part of the problem, we should still reserve judgment on their forecasts of global warming; for there will yet be a vast gulf between where they will be at that time and where they will have to go to be able to meet the much greater challenge to which they aspire.


Strange logic

We read:
Small Nuclear War Could Reverse Global Warming for Years

Even a regional nuclear war could spark "unprecedented" global cooling and reduce rainfall for years, according to U.S. government computer models. Widespread famine and disease would likely follow, experts speculate.
Earth is currently in a long-term warming trend. After a regional nuclear war, though, average global temperatures would drop by 2.25 degrees F (1.25 degrees C) for two to three years afterward, the models suggest.

So it is too warm at the moment but a small drop of just over one degree Celsius would make it too cool? Getting that temperature just right sure seems to be tricky! How did we ever manage before Warmists came along?

More of those unprecedented "extreme weather events"

In 1833!


Extreme event reports strip out the uncertainties involved

For many years it seems to have been the desire of some scientists to look at a series of extreme events and say they are directly due to global warming. It would be an important piece of observational evidence as climate theories suggest that as the temperature increases so does the moisture carrying capacity of the atmosphere. This would increase the amount of precipitation.

However, it has always struck me as poor logic to say that while any individual extreme weather event such as a heat wave or severe precipitation cannot be attributed to the effects of global warming, when taken as a whole they demonstrate a trend that is consistent with predictions as theories say their likelihood increases in a warming world.

Stated like this, it is logical nonsense. If no single extreme event in an ensemble is due to a warming world then when taken together they cannot be taken as evidence for the contrary. Perhaps then only some of them are due to global warming and the others are what would have happened anyway? But which ones? What distinguishes the two groups? Such questions bring out the absurdity in this logic.

Weather is complex and variable and so is climate. Weather is influenced by large amplitude short-term events and has lots of `noise.' But then so does climate, long-term trends, noise and so-called decadal fluctuations all influence it as well as the weaker anthropogenic signal. If anyone doubts the natural fluctuations in the climate just consider what the global temperature has been doing in the past decade, and that in a world that is `getting warmer' most global temperature databases give 1998, twelve years ago, as the warmest year on record (due to a natural fluctuation, an El Nino.)

Reporting of extreme events has never been easier. Our electronic world is wired for catastrophe. Events that just a few decades ago would have been poorly reported, if at all, with sketchy information, witnessed by victims but not by scientists, are now scrutinised by flotillas of satellites, ground stations and reporters sending back instant information via the internet. Great care must be taken with such a severe selection effect. We know about the recent floods and heat waves in far more detail than we do of past events.

Two papers in Nature on the relationship between extreme events and man-made global warming have attracted a lot of attention. They have been uncritically described in some quarters as being the first time a clear link between global warming and extreme precipitation.

One of them, by Seung-Ki Min et al links rising CO2 levels to the intensification of rain in the Northern Hemisphere finding a result that has been reported as being worse than the models predicted. The researchers say that nothing can explain their results except the slow steady rise in temperatures caused by greenhouse gasses.

In the other Pall et al looks at the 2000 severe flooding event in the UK and its relationship to global warming. They use a series of simulations of the weather in 2000 with and without an increase in temperature caused by global warming and they conclude that global warming had an effect. One's confidence is a little dented by the fact that the simulations are based on seasonal forecast simulations made by Met Office scientists - the kind that were withdrawn from circulation to the public because their either were not accurate of because the public couldn't understand them, depending upon your point of view.

Not Proof

However, being consistent is far from proof. The idea that something is consistent with a theory is a scientific statement of very limited usefulness that many media commentators and reporters have taken at face value. Is it really a discovery to be reported with no caveats, as many media outlets did, if the majority of a series of computer simulations cannot reproduce real world data without greenhouse gas warming. Remember these are computer models with all the limitations that implies. And remember also this is the climate we are talking about, with all its unknowns an unpredictability.

Looking in detail at this research paper there are uncertainties in the modelling, the observations, their reduction and knowledge of other factors that might influence the climate in the same way.

But reading the abstract of the papers give no hint of the true nature of these uncertainties. This is Seung-Ki Min et al's abstract'
"Extremes of weather and climate can have devastating effects on human society and the environment. Understanding past changes in the characteristics of such events, including recent increases in the intensity of heavy precipitation events over a large part of the Northern Hemisphere land area is critical for reliable projections of future changes.

Given that atmospheric water-holding capacity is expected to increase roughly exponentially with temperature-and that atmospheric water content is increasing in accord with this theoretical expectation - it has been suggested that human-influenced global warming may be partly responsible for increases in heavy precipitation. Because of the limited availability of daily observations, however, most previous studies have examined only the potential detectability of changes in extreme precipitation through model-model comparisons.

Here we show that human-induced increases in greenhouse gases have contributed to the observed intensification of heavy precipitation events found over approximately two-thirds of data-covered parts of Northern Hemisphere land areas. These results are based on a comparison of observed and multi-model simulated changes in extreme precipitation over the latter half of the twentieth century analysed with an optimal fingerprinting technique. Changes in extreme precipitation projected by models, and thus the impacts of future changes in extreme precipitation, may be underestimated because models seem to underestimate the observed increase in heavy precipitation with warming."

The paper by Pall et al is little better;
"Interest in attributing the risk of damaging weather-related events to anthropogenic climate change is increasing. Yet climate models used to study the attribution problem typically do not resolve the weather systems associated with damaging events such as the UK floods of October and November 2000. Occurring during the wettest autumn in England and Wales since records began in 1766, these floods damaged nearly 10,000 properties across that region, disrupted services severely, and caused insured losses estimated at 1.3 billion pounds.

Although the flooding was deemed a `wake-up call' to the impacts of climate change at the time, such claims are typically supported only by general thermodynamic arguments that suggest increased extreme precipitation under global warming, but fail to account fully for the complex hydrometeorology associated with flooding. Here we present a multi-step, physically based `probabilistic event attribution' framework showing that it is very likely that global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions substantially increased the risk of flood occurrence in England and Wales in autumn 2000. Using publicly volunteered distributed computing we generate several thousand seasonal-forecast-resolution climate model simulations of autumn 2000 weather, both under realistic conditions, and under conditions as they might have been had these greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting large-scale warming never occurred. Results are fed into a precipitation-runoff model that is used to simulate severe daily river runoff events in England and Wales (proxy indicators of flood events). The precise magnitude of the anthropogenic contribution remains uncertain, but in nine out of ten cases our model results indicate that twentieth-century anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions increased the risk of floods occurring in England and Wales in autumn 2000 by more than 20%, and in two out of three cases by more than 90%."

The abstract is, of course, a technical shorthand summary of the paper's findings written for a scientific audience who should be well aware of the associated caveats. Some journalists and commentators however are not. Abstracts are almost always restricted in length by the journal concerned so it could be argued that there is no space for equivocation. Besides journals want definite results and don't want them diluted (in the abstract at least) with ifs and buts.

This is a problem because even in scientific circles when reviews of research are conducted positive statements are lifted from abstracts and passed on with none of the accompanying qualifications to be found in the depths of the paper. We have seen this in the way the IPCC gathered data and summarised it. Positive results are selected, uncertainties suppressed and then the results are amplified and simplified to produce a false certainty devoid of uncertainty.

No scientific statement based on observational data, let alone based on a series of computer `simulations,' should be made without a statement of uncertainty, and this includes the abstract of research papers. If the journal in question thinks it makes the abstract to uncertain, too long, or just isn't house style then it should change such things.

Likewise when preparing press releases based on research papers more care should be given to the uncertainties. This is Nature's press release;
"Anthropogenic greenhouse gasses have significantly increased the probability of heavy precipitation and local flood risk, report two papers in Nature this week. The findings are among the first formal identification of human contribution to extreme hydrological events. It has previously been suggested that human-induced global warming may be partly responsible for increases in heavy precipitation. However, because of the limited availability of daily observations, most studies to date have only examined the potential detectability of changes in precipitation through model-model comparisons. Francis Zwiers and colleagues studies rainfall from 1951 - 1999 in Northern Hemisphere land areas, including North America and Eurasia (including India). They show that human-induced increases in greenhouse gasses have contributed to the observed intensification of heavy-precipitation events found in approximately two-thirds of data-covered parts of Northern Hemisphere land areas."

The problem is that the results of scientific research enter the canon of commentators and policy makers without their associated uncertainties. In may cases such uncertainties are forgotten altogether and anyone who subsequently raises them is called a denier, rather than what they are which is being scientific.


It's the Warmists who get the big bucks from big oil and big business

Chris Field, the co-chair of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) working group told a St. Louis paper that American money spent on the IPCC "is a very good deal for the governments and for the world."

Field, echoed the recent warming alarmist party line of communicating better. He said he and the other smart people like him need to explain the science better to those less fortunate. And he said "the scientific community" should be more nurturing and help "people understand" both the importance of the IPCC, and "how science works."

Field may be hiding a bit of information that might help us "understand how his science" is paid for.

Field is burrowed into something at Stanford called the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI). At FSI he is working on an "FSE Project." It's not clear what FSE is, but...the project "is a thorough assessment of the climate consequences of converting landscapes from their previous uses to biofuels."

An initial review of Field's background and snout in the trough seems identical to any number of "climate scientists" (Field's scientific background is Biological Sciences. His PhD research was on Leaf Aging in a California Shrub) sucking off the National Academy of Sciences, NASA, NOAA, and other government teats.

Their use of government grant money allows them to maintain their ideological purity. Their purity allows them to criticize any critics as "shills for Big Oil," the standard warmist put-down.

Well, Dr Field has got some 'splaining to do, Ricky.

The FSE project is funded by the Global Climate Energy Program (or Project, they use both on different websites). And where does GCEP get its money? "About Us" reveals "The Sponsors" are: ExxonMobil, General Electric, Schlumberger, and Toyota!

In fact, "The Project's sponsors will invest a total of $225 million" in this Green boondoggle. Sort of like hush money--pay off the IPCC chairs and they'll leave you alone?

While General Electric is a Global Warming shill, the other three must certainly be in the man-made global warming hall of shame.

The enviro-whackos' constant refrain when criticized is: "You are a paid tool of Big Oil." As Field said in his interview with the St Louis paper, "I don't get any salary from the IPCC."

No, Dr. Field but you do get a salary from Big Oil!



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