Aerosols May Be Major Driver Of Arctic Warming: NASA

Interesting new research from NASA shows that aerosols play a much bigger part in Arctic warming than was previously thought:

Though greenhouse gases are invariably at the center of discussions about global climate change, new NASA research suggests that much of the atmospheric warming observed in the Arctic since 1976 may be due to changes in tiny airborne particles called aerosols.

Emitted by natural and human sources, aerosols can directly influence climate by reflecting or absorbing the sun’s radiation. The small particles also affect climate indirectly by seeding clouds and changing cloud properties, such as reflectivity.

Since decreasing amounts of sulfates and increasing amounts of black carbon both encourage warming, temperature increases can be especially rapid. The build-up of aerosols also triggers positive feedback cycles that further accelerate warming as snow and ice cover retreat.

In the Antarctic, in contrast, the impact of sulfates and black carbon is minimized because of the continent’s isolation from major population centers and the emissions they produce.

“There’s a tendency to think of aerosols as small players, but they’re not,” said Shindell. “Right now, in the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere and in the Arctic, the impact of aerosols is just as strong as that of the greenhouse gases.”

All models are wrong. Some are just more useful than others. This new research will make the useful climate models we have even better. It also points to a man-made pollutant that is both much easier to do something about, and which can have an impact on our perilous climate change trajectory.

I have already read a couple of blog posts that claim that this disproves global warming is really happening, and another that says carbon dioxide is off the hook so we should stop worrying about it. I hope people will read the full NASA release.

84 thoughts on “Aerosols May Be Major Driver Of Arctic Warming: NASA

  1. Goshdarn aerosol Rockets warming up Afghanistan no end; too hot for Cricket in Pakistan… have to park up a few dozen more jet squadrons I guess Otis?
    All models are not wrong – the ones I studied in the eighties allowed for aerosols and already taught that the jet engine was the main offender – just that no-one was gonna ‘out’ the story – or change a damn thing as they say;
    De Nial is not a river in Egypt…
    lazy sunday
    Safe to call it an inversion layer hey?

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  2. Interesting, so, CO2 does not seem to play as big a part in increasing global temps if this is correct. That makes Kyoto de-bunked. The Clean Air Act has helped increase temps at the Arctic, (a non-intended consequence). Due to a cleaner SH, the Antartic affect is much lower. Ties in well with John Holdren (Obams’s sci adviser) saying we may need to put aerosols in the atmosphere to decrease temps. A bit odd I thought.

    I suppose we will need another trillion dollars to study this effect now to keep the GW gravy train chugging along.

    BTW, all of the CO2 models are now wrong, even though before this they were no proving the doomsday we are supposed to be having as the temps this century have plateaued, not increased as the models say they would. Since 01/2001 the rate of increase according to GisTemp is 1.2 deg per century.

    Funny now, how it seems that the sun is playing a larger part in the warming, not CO2.

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  3. At least we can control aerosols without comdemning millions to ongoing energy poverty.
    We can live without aerosols.
    An energy starved economy is a different story.

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  4. As Benjamin Franklin said: “When fortresses and virgins get to talking, the end is in sight.”

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  5. The juxtaposition is inapt; the spread of aerosols is uneven – OB’s talkin about exporting it. Solar flares are pretty damaging when unfiltered, and the sun’s heat is entrapped on an exponential scale…..but the arctic has, largely, gone already. Breaking up and floating….you know….like Greenland and increasing amounts of Antarctica
    It’s a wee problem now…thought Owen should be interested, will keep a few links 4 you.

    “Unless you become more watchful in your States and check this spirit of
    monopoly and thirst for exclusive privileges, you will in the end find that
    the most important powers of Government have been given or bartered away, and the control of your dearest interests have been passed into the hands of these corporations
    : President Andrew Jackson, farewell address, 04
    March 1837

    the time he speaks of could well be ripe – even The Federal Reserve is a Private Corporation that operates outside Government Control – it’ll swallow all the money they t’row at it.
    Who is going to shut down a million jet engines?

    ….drive to arrive alive…

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  6. Nice back spin there Frog, because up until now you’ve been saying C02 warming has been causing this.

    Wrong again, eh.

    The more data they come up with, the sillier Kyoto looks.

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  7. BluePeter, big bro, GW Denier – this makes things marginally better, but does not undercut the role of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. These gases are known to have significant effects by virtue of their place on the solar absorption spectrum. That’s not going to go away, it’s proven.

    What this research says is that aerosols are in addition a major factor. No-one’s claiming perfect knowledge. But there is enough certainty that human emissions are a major influencer of climate. And not in a good way. Eventually this problem will be fully understood, but that time will be a long time into the future, and we have to act now on the basis of what is known.

    Owen McShane, you don’t seem to know what an aerosol is. If you’d read the article you would have found out. Aerosols are particulates caused by industrial pollution, most often coming from the exhaust pipes of diesel vehicles and the smokestacks of coal power stations.

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  8. - “These gases are known to have significant effects by virtue of their place on the solar absorption spectrum. That’s not going to go away, it’s proven.”

    Please explain what that means.

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  9. Hang on:

    “Sulfates, which come primarily from the burning of coal and oil, scatter incoming solar radiation and have a net cooling effect on climate. Over the past three decades, the United States and European countries have passed a series of laws that have reduced sulfate emissions by 50 percent. While improving air quality and aiding public health, the result has been less atmospheric cooling from sulfates.”

    Burning coal COOLS the climate?

    That’s f**king huge if true, isn’t it?

    Because if your aim is to cool the planet, shouldn’t you be encouraging as much clean coal burning (as in air quality) as possible?

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  10. BP – and the Chinese are going to cool the world burning OUR coal. Now, ain’t that funny.

    Sorry George – if this is correct take CO2 out of the equation as it affects the temp by sweet bugger all. All of the models based on CO2 should now be placed in a museum such as MOTAT.

    Also, we have been coming out of a mini ice so the temp is still rising. Aerosols have kept the temp low. In the 1930s the temp increased & cooled in 50s, 60s. My theory is that this was due to WW2 & the heavy industralisation that occured after this polluting the atmosphere. Then the clean air act plus GHGs plus the sun have been warming parts of the earth. But the role of GHGs is diminished.

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  11. # BluePeter Says:
    April 12th, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    > Burning coal COOLS the climate?

    Burning coal has a temporary cooling effect – the aerosols cool, the CO2 warms, but the aerosols only stay in the air for a short time. So, to simplkify things a bit, burning coal at one time causes cooling in the few years after that, but warming after that.

    The higher temperatures in the 1930s were probably caused by the decline in air pollution due to the depression meaning there were no longer enough aerosols being emitted to counteract the effect of the CO2 from burning coal in earlier decades.

    > Because if your aim is to cool the planet, shouldn’t you be encouraging as much clean coal burning (as in air quality) as possible?

    No. Clean coal won’t have any cooling effect. The cooling effect comes from the dirt that ‘clean coal technology’ filters out. To have the desired effect you would actually have to filter out the greenhouse gases but keep pumping the soot and sulphur into the air.

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  12. Oh, wait. The Nasa study appears to be nothing more than yet another computer model.

    Back to what you were doing, everyone.

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  13. Wat – so CO2 models good, other models bad? Or are models only good if they serve the religion of AGW?

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  14. Big Bro, Wat Dabney, GW Denier and Blue Peter,

    To make a strong counter-argument to any argument, it helps to first understand what the original argument is about, and secondly have as good an understanding of the subject of the argument as possible. This applies to all fields I am aware of.

    My suggestion to you is to go and do your homework.

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  15. samiuela,

    Please feel free to present what you consider convincing evidence for AGW.

    I have looked extensively and not found any.

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  16. # big bro Says:
    April 12th, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    > “Drug and alcohol abusers are costing taxpayers more than $50 million a year in sickness and invalid benefits.”

    > And you guys think it is a good idea to make it legal?

    I haven’t got the figures, but I think you’ll find the majority of that is due to abuse of alcohol, which is already legal. The current Green party policy on alcohol is to prohibit broadcast adevrtising, which would make only a very small difference, but there are no easy answers with alcohol.

    Marijuana, which the Green Party supports legalising, will account for some of the rest.

    Most of the rest is likely to be prescription drugs, and recreational drugs like heroin and P. We don’t as yet have a policy on heroin or P, but when we develop one it’s unlikely to be a policy to make them more available. I think the Green Party health policy includes some ideas for reducing opportunities for abusive use of prescription drugs.

    I would guess the figures don’t include tobacco, because such figures usually don’t, but including tobacco would make the numbers much bigger (after all, tobacco accounts for 74% of drug-related deaths in New Zealand). The Green MPs have supported every recent toughening of the laws to reduce tobacco abuse in New Zealand, and I imagine they would probably support more moves in that direction.

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  17. So as big bro is such a model of consistency, we can assume he wants to make alcohol and tobacco illegal.

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  18. my oh dear greenie flakes, trying to change the topic are we…….

    If the article above is correct CO2 warming is fucked, it is only a minor/no bit player in the climate change debate.

    Like communism in 1989 it will die.

    If aerosols are alarger player in temp s then this means CO2 diminishes a lot in importance, oh dear how sad.

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  19. Wat Dabney and Blue Peter,

    My statement was simply that a good counter-argument must be based on a good understanding of what the argument for AGW is, as well as a good understanding of the atmosphere and climate (well as good as is reasonably possible given the current status of the relevant sciences).

    I have not yet seen evidence on this blog that you have a good understanding of either the argument for AGW or a good understanding of the atmosphere and climate. I may be wrong; you may be climate scientists using pseudonyms, though your posts would suggest otherwise.

    I did not claim I have conclusive evidence for AGW (though if you are interested, you will find a lot of information here: http://www.realclimate.org/). I simply get tired off seeing you bleat on and on about how AGW is not happening for one reason or another, yet I have not seen any evidence that you understand the relevant issues at all.

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  20. By the way, that is about as direct as I can make my point with out getting moderated.

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  21. BTW:

    Goff appears to have had a change of heart about smacking?

    Looks like the Burrows amendment will be implemented, after all….

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  22. No, he was misinterpreted and has clarified:

    “We voted in favour of the legislation but there was an understanding all the way through that good parents would not be prosecuted for lightly smacking their child… and there has been no prosecutions of parents in those circumstances.”

    No amendments needed.

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  23. samiuela,

    Surely you can do better than that?

    If you have “done your homework” you should surely be able to, say, present the top three pieces of evidence demonstrating the veracity of the AGW argument?

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  24. OK Wat,

    This is the point I was trying to make (probably not very well): I don’t care whether you are arguing for or against AGW. I don’t believe you have provided any evidence on this blog that you are qualified to argue one way or the other. By qualified, I don’t necessarily mean you have a degree in atmospheric science or a related field. I simply mean you have not provided evidence that you understand (1) the argument for AGW or (2) atmospheric science or any related fields.

    Maybe I am wrong about your understanding of the subject, but if so, you haven’t demonstrated this in your postings on this blog. For example you claim all models are bad. What is your basis for making this claim? Do you even have a clue how climate models work? I’ll dig up more of your unsubstantiated claims if you want me to, but I think you get the point.

    I respect an argument founded on a reasonable understanding of the subject. I don’t respect arguments based on ignorance.

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  25. samiuela,

    – “I don’t respect arguments based on ignorance.”

    Again, I repeat my invitation to you to present your evidence for AGW, rather than just saying I must be ignorant.

    – “I’ll dig up more of your unsubstantiated claims”

    Please do so.

    – “Do you even have a clue how climate models work?”

    I don’t have to understand the details of their implementation; the question is whether they have predictive skill or not, and it is a demonstrable fact that they don’t. The IPCC computer models – which were programmed with the assumption that CO2 was indeed a significant driver of climate change – predicted continued rapid warming for the last decade, rather than the cooling we actually experienced. The models have therefore, as a simple matter of record, been conclusively exposed as worthless. Do you not agree?

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  26. The evidence for AGW is simple:
    – CO2 levels have risen substantially over the last two centuries faster than at any time in the past.
    – the rise in CO2 level coincides with the burning by us (mankind) of billions of tonnes of oil, gas and coal thus releasing CO2 into the atmosphere, therefore the rising CO2 levels were caused by us.
    – CO2 is a greenhouse gas. It absorbs certain infra-red frequencies. Therefore increasing atmospheric CO2 levels causes more absorbtion of infrared radiation from the earth’s surface thus reducing the amount of heat lost to space. Some of this heat is reradiated into space and some is reradiated back down to earth. The result is less heat loss and therefore an increase in global temperature. Hence AGW.

    wat – Which parts of this do you disagree with and why?

    There are other effects going on, such as variations in atmospheric dust concentrations and solar output. The earth’s albido varies. There are other greenhouse gases. Predicting how much atmospheric CO2 levels will rise for a given release of CO2 into the atmosphere isn’t exact. Even estimating the amount of CO2 being released isn’t exact. It is not surprising the models aren’t exact. However they do represent our best knowledge to date.

    What is your source for your claim that we are experiencing cooling? How do you explain the Arctic ice melting?

    Trevor.

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  27. Trevor29,

    I’ve come to realise it is not worth trying to describe the science behind global warming to many skeptics. The likes of Wat Dabney do not understand how scientists deal with uncertainty; they are more like lawyers who believe in the concept of innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. They are clever enough to find out what the uncertain aspects of a particular theory or observation are, and then proclaim that this uncertainty means the scientists do not know what is happening (at best), or even claim there is some kind of conspiracy by the scientists to push some sort of left wing agenda!

    I have also come to suspect that many of the AGW skeptics on this blog know virtually nothing about the science. I reckon that of the half dozen or so skeptics who regularly post here, 5 are just plain ignorant (I know of only one who appears to have a reasonable understanding of the science).

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  28. Bro; The D&A story is an example of why you shouldn’t believe everything you read.

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  29. George Darrock,
    I do know what aerosols are. And you describe them reasonably well.
    I happen to believe we can do without pollution from vehicles and power stations and we have the technology to do it.

    Hence I say “aerosols we can do without”. THere is no reason to tolerate air pollution. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant – it is essential to life on earth.

    Cleaning up pollution provides a net economic gain. Look at the gains to London since they cleaned up their air.

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  30. Owen – I beg to differ. CO2 is a pollutant, in so far as we exceed the earth’s capacity to absorb our waste, just as alcohol, when taken to excess, goes from being a relatively harmless drug to a deadly toxin. Just as there is a tipping point for the liver’s ability to manage the tipple, there is a tipping point for the atmosphere’s ability to cope with our CO2. The evidence is already mounting that the oceans at least are beginning to lose their ability to absorb our excess CO2.

    No one has suggested that we have to stop emitting CO2 completely, forever, but what advice would you give to a drunk whose liver is beginning to shut down?

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  31. I don’t want to get into that debate.
    I was trying to make the point that we do not need pollutants and can do without them.
    In this sense carbon dioxide is not a pollutant because it is essential to every living thing on earth. If diesel pollutants disappeared life would not go extinct.
    That surely is a significant difference.
    However, now that you make the case how did the Earth cope when carbon dioxide levels were so much higher than they are now – as in the carboniferous period?
    The answer is well known. The relationship between CO2 levels and the greenhouse “forcing effect” is logarithmic. It is a law of diminishing returns. The higher the level of CO2, the less effect any further increase will have. If the current level were, say, 20 ppm, the effect of adding an extra 20 ppm would be dramatic. But at the current level of around 380 ppm, the effect of an extra 20 ppm is trivial. The IPCC scientists accept this as fact, but postulate complex feedback mechanisms between CO2 and water vapour to justify their alarmist position. None turn CO2 into a pollutant the way diesel exhausts are a pollutant.

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  32. Owen McShane Says:
    April 14th, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    > In this sense carbon dioxide is not a pollutant because it is essential to every living thing on earth.

    The same substance can be both a fertiliser and a pollutant. Most of the pollutants that make our rivers unsafe for swimming in are in fact fertilisers, but that doesn’t stop them killing the life in the rivers.

    > However, now that you make the case how did the Earth cope when carbon dioxide levels were so much higher than they are now – as in the carboniferous period?

    People used to wonder how the world managed to keep warm enough in the carboniferous period, seeing as the sunlight was much weaker then. The answer is of course that the higher CO2 levels cancelled out the effect of the weaker sunlight.

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  33. Owen ventures into the science:

    The IPCC scientists accept this as fact, but postulate complex feedback mechanisms between CO2 and water vapour to justify their alarmist position.

    There’s plenty of warming potential left as CO2 concentrations rise. The main feedback is that a warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapour, which is in itself a powerful greenhouse gas. That’s not complex: you can observe the same effect any time you fly from Christchurch to Auckland. Auckland always feels sticky to me…

    Personally, I would describe the IPCC as conservative. The real alarmists are – on one side, the Lovelock, hell in a handbasket perspective, and on the other the “reducing carbon emissions will cripple the global economy” line of argument. The “balanced middle”, to quote Bob Carter, is somewhere around the IPCC.

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  34. The article said that in some areas aerosols had as much impact as CO2. Or to put it another way, over most of the Earth, aerosols have less impact than CO2. Of course any AGW denier will concentrate only on the former and ignore the latter entirely.

    Owen is correct in that adding 20ppm of CO2 has less impact when the concentration is already 380ppm than at lower concentrations. But what about adding 200ppm? And to make matters even more interesting, that logarithmic relationship he mentioned is temperature dependent! As temperatures rise, the CO2 molecules move faster so there is more Doppler broadening of the absorption frequencies, so the CO2 traps an increased amount of the infrared radiation, and additional CO2 becomes more significant.

    Trevor.

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  35. Two points.

    1
    Aerosols are “emitted by natural and human sources”
    Does anyone have the split between these two sources? If it is 80:20 then anything we might do would seem to be futile.

    2
    As far as the accuracy of predictive models is concerned, I postulate that the largest sum of money spent on predictive models has been spent on economic ones. I know for a fact that billions have been spent by the UK Treasury, and cannot believe that that is more than a percentile of what has been spent in other similar institutions, think tanks and brokerages. NOT ONE of them predicted with any accuracy the timing and extent of the current fiscal crisis, so how can we expect the climatological ones to do any better?

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  36. Trevor29,

    You are putting two and two together and making 22. It is entirely a matter of degree.
    Atmospheric CO2 is but a miniscule contributor to the life-sustaining natural greenhouse effect, which is overwhelmingly a function of water vapour. Even after anthropogenic emissions are included we are still talking about just a trace amount. Look at these charts:

    http://www.drroyspencer.com/2009/01/50-years-of-co2-time-for-a-vision-test/

    For someone to assert that such an imperceptible difference has had a stark (or even measurable) effect on the climate is patently ridiculous (especially as, post-Hockeystick, there is no longer anything requiring an explanation: without that fraud, we wouldn’t even be having this debate.)

    – “What is your source for your claim that we are experiencing cooling?

    I’m surprise you haven’t noticed the alarmists getting their excuses in about this. There’s been some exquisite back-peddling and assurances that global warming is really just “on hold.”

    http://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/uah_august2008.png

    – “How do you explain the Arctic ice melting?”

    Since the climate naturally changes all the, often dramatically, the real question is what grounds do you have for supposing that whatever has happened recently is unnatural. Really, with both the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age in very recent history, what grounds do you have for thinking that today’s climate behaviour is not just more of the same? Remember, some half the recent warming occurred before the war, i.e. before CO2 emissions rapidly increased. What caused that?

    samiuela,

    – “I’ve come to realise it is not worth trying to describe the science behind global warming to many skeptics. The likes of Wat Dabney do not understand how scientists deal with uncertainty…”

    Rather than retreating into self-aggrandisement and sanctimonious rhubarb perhaps you should “dig up” my “unsubstantiated claims” as you promised? You are repeatedly challenged on this, yet are always curiously evasive.

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  37. Now we are getting somewhere. We seem to have agreement that CO2 levels are rising, and that this is due to mankind burning fossil fuels, as well as some other activities such as burning forests.

    We also have agreement that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and that its greenhouse contribution is only a fraction of that of atmospheric water vapour.

    The only disagreement we have is on the amount of warming to be expected as the result of CO2 greenhouse effects. Wat describes CO2’s contribution as miniscule – clearly one of those “unsubstantiated claims”. What does Wat mean by miniscule – 10% perhaps? But if water vapour contributes some tens of degrees of greenhouse effect (sorry I haven’t seen a reliable estimate), then a 10% contribution from CO2 would be several degrees.

    Of course Wat and other AWG deniers downplay positive feedback effects. The more serious models such as those used by IPCC try to include known effects, such as the increase in atmospheric water vapour that follows from rising global temperatures, and the decreased reflectivity of the Earths surface that naturally follows from the polar ice caps melting. Wat and the like assume that these effects are insignificant.

    Essentially what is happening is that the IPCC and other climate researchers are using sophisticated models that incorporate as much as possible that is known about the science of global warming and atmospheric physics. The deniers are using their own models which ignore various known physical effects, claiming without justification that these effects can be neglected, and get – no surprise here – much lower predicted temperature increases, and then claim that the IPCC models must be wrong.

    I know who I would rather put my faith in, even if the prediction isn’t what I want to hear.

    Trevor.

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  38. Trevor29,

    As a warmist you really have a way with words. Please pray, can you tell this SKEPTIC (not denier) why the sea levels havent risen 1cm?

    I keep asking this question but I get a big blank.

    Also, wont Al Gore be miffed that since the election, New Zealand went from having to buy a billion dollars of carbon credits to being able to sell 250 million worth?

    See the “science” might be proven in your mind, and in a lot of SKEPTICS minds probably, the means to rectify the situation is far from proven.

    Sharlatans will abound in the carbon trading or taxation plan. So how about you focus on those?

    Are you seriously suggesting that carbon trading or taxation will actually reduce carbon emmisions?

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  39. Gerrit: Sea ice melting has no effect on sea levels. Only ice supported by land will increase sea levels when it melts and flows (or slides) into the seas, and that process is just starting.

    I personally am not suggesting that carbon trading will have much effect. Carbon taxation would be more effective IMHO, particularly if the government(s) used the funds to develop renewable resources and/or efficiency improvements.

    Trevor.

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  40. So all the ice sliding of Greenland has no effect? Those melting glaciers have no effect?

    Wasnt Al Gore scare campaign about rising sea levels? Was there not some Pacific Island being inundated and the people relocating to New Zealand?

    Well I’m certainly upset because I thought as the sea levels rose, my property being a street and up the hill a bit away from the beach, might actually become waterfront anmd worth a lotr more.

    Ah well, maybe it is for the better.

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  41. One decade of slightly above average volcanic activity would probably emit more aerosols than human kind has in the last 500 years.
    What are we going to do? put a giant catalytic converter on mt Ruapehu and White island?
    We don’t understand as much about our planet as the egg heads think we do, especially left wing egg heads with an axe to grind.

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  42. Yes, melting glaciers have an effect and the ice sliding off Greenland has an effect. It’s only just beginning.

    The other problem affecting low-lying islands is that storms are likely to be bigger as there is more energy available. This can result in higher storm surges due to the low pressures at the centre of the storm’s system being lower, which is not good if the storm also has bigger waves and stronger winds.

    Trevor.

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  43. Strings,

    Comparing economic models and climate models is like comparing chalk and cheese; you just can’t do it. Climate models are based on our understanding of the physics of the atmosphere (and newer models also include the ocean, land surface and so on). The only thing economic models and climate models have in common is the word “model”.

    This highlights the problem I have with the likes of Wat Dabney; they do not understand the subject well enough to make reasonable arguments either for or against AGW. While I’m at it, I might as well say that some of the authors in this blog on the other side (believing that AGW is happening) also fall into this category of not understanding the underlying science very well.

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  44. Wat, I have already highlighted one of your unsubstantiated claims, namely that all climate models are bad. You have not bothered to enlighten us on why all (or even some) climate models are bad.

    I suspect the reason you can’t enlighten us on this issue is because you don’t have a clue about how climate models work. The overriding point I have been making is that I strongly suspect your knowledge of the subject (climate) is not up to scratch.

    The ball is in your court.

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  45. Trevor29

    The other problem affecting low-lying islands is that storms are likely to be bigger as there is more energy available. This can result in higher storm surges due to the low pressures at the centre of the storm’s system being lower, which is not good if the storm also has bigger waves and stronger winds.

    Is that based on fact or just on a scenario that fits the picture you want to paint.

    Everytime I see the words “likely to be bigger” or “can result in” in an AWG proponents rhetoric, my SKEPTIC radar starts to see unsubstansiated claims and Al Gore style scaremongering.

    If we look at say the Wahine storm of the 10th April 1968 and set that as a bench mark, we can see that storms have not increased in depth or size.

    While that storm was a clash of a northern cyclone and a southern cold front, we have not seen one as bad since.

    So in the 50 year period, we have had no increase in storm activity or strength.

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  46. Storms are weather events. Their strength is the result of a combination of factors. No two storms are the same because these various factors are never the same twice. Therefore any discussion of the strength of future storms must be based on probabilities. We may never see a bigger storm than the Wahine storm 41 years ago, or we might see several bigger storms in the next decade – and that is the case with or without AGW. You simply can’t claim that there has been no increase in storm activity or strength based on one storm’s strength. In any case, whether we have or have not seen a stronger storm than the Wahine storm gives no evidence one way or the other about whether storm activity has increased.

    Trevor.

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  47. Trevor,

    So what would you base your ascertion on that

    The other problem affecting low-lying islands is that storms are likely to be bigger as there is more energy available. This can result in higher storm surges due to the low pressures at the centre of the storm’s system being lower, which is not good if the storm also has bigger waves and stronger winds.

    If

    Therefore any discussion of the strength of future storms must be based on probabilities. We may never see a bigger storm than the Wahine storm 41 years ago, or we might see several bigger storms in the next decade

    The two statements dont marry up.

    One you claim that AWG will create bigger torms, the next you say it is “probabilities”.

    Is that how the AWG science works?

    No wonder I’m a SKEPTIC.

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  48. Gerrit asked: “Is that how the AWG science works?”

    No, it is how the ‘science’ of AGW deniers works – take a statement including words like “can” and “likely”, mis-translate it into “will” and then point out the contradiction.

    Trevor.

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  49. samiuela Says:

    I agree that comparing economic models and climate models is like comparing chalk and cheese; the models themselves are at least that divergent. However, I was actually suggesting that the technique of mathematical modelling is in its infancy, and no model today can predict anything with greater than ‘high probability’ accuracy.

    AN example? The impact of land on weather has been studies for generation, and in North America they have spent billions developing predictive weather models. However, they cannot predict accurately what days in February it will snow in London Ontario – the best they can manage is a probability scale 12 hours out. This isn’t criticism, it’s just a reflection of the maturity of the science.

    Chaos theory has a long way to go before we define it and it ceases to be chaos. When that has been achieved (I’d postulate about another century for weather) some models will be dependable. Why only some? Because the data will not have the same accuracy and quality as the math.

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  50. Trevor29

    No, it is how the ’science’ of AGW deniers works – take a statement including words like “can” and “likely”, mis-translate it into “will” and then point out the contradiction.

    So you are asking us SKEPTICS not to contradict you even when issueing contradictory statement as you did about storms getting worse, but hang on, they may or they may not. We dont know.

    If that is your science you are welcome to it.

    I guess I’m from a different generation where science means something completely different to yours. Based on know facts and studies.

    Studies that show the oceans have not risen 1cm despite Warmist claims they would.

    Ah well, I will remain the SKEPTIC.

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  51. Gerrit
    while I hold no brief for either side of the argument, as I see far more imminent issues ahead of mankind than climate change irrespective of its cause, I do believe in science.

    There are two scientific ‘states’ according to Asimov. The first is a postulate – for instance, scientists once postulated that there might be a way to turn water into wine. The second is a ‘proof’ – for instance the first scientist that watered down his supply of wine to make it last longer established a proof., the proof being that he could do it on-demand, any where with the right equipment and materials. (OK, sick example but I can water down wine any time I like as long as there’s a tap, a bottle of wine and a drinking vessel).

    The point of a ‘proof’ is that it is totally consistent and replicable. Osmosis is not a postulate, it is proven; Heart replacement is not a postulate it is proven, etc., etc., etc..

    Climate science is mainly in the form of postulations at the moment. When it turns into proofs we will know what to do and how to do it. I have no problem with research to see if proofs can be achieved being funded, that is science; I have a big problem with postulates being presented as proven when there is no ability to replicably prove them. Something makes me think you are of the same opinion.

    So lets challenge assertions as to their status – proof or postulate – rather than allow disciples of one side or the other to meld emotion and scientific ambiguity to annoy us. Eh?

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  52. I guess I’m from a different generation where science means something completely different to yours. Based on know facts and studies.

    Science has never been based simply on “known facts and studies”. Science is often based on statistical probability. With the incomplete data we have, it is about the likely probability of different causes and outcomes as seen through the lens of risk assessment and management. This approach has led the vast majority of climate scientists to recommend urgent action. They are not claiming to have proved their position, but do claim that the probabability is reaching the high 90’s that AGW is occurring. And many are now saying it is already too late to avoid +2C of warming.

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  53. Valis
    what you are referring to is not science, it is statistics!

    99% of ‘medical scientists’ in the early 1800s believed that bleeding a sick person with leeches would cure their illness. It wasn’t true, but it was statistically ‘probable’.

    Please see my post on postulation and proof. I would be very interested to hear your views.

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  54. I read it before my previous post. Its fine as far as it goes, but is not enough to deal with the current situation. AGW is still a postulation, but what do you do when you have to make a life and death decision before science is able to move from postulation to proof? You ask your scientists how confident they are of their position and why. Probability theory does come into it and is a legitimate tool of science.

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  55. “What do you do when you have to make a life and death decision before science is able to move from postulation to proof?”

    Why, you work on probability theory of course, and as the probability is that the leeches will work (after all, every one agrees it’s probably true) and you kill the bugger – claiming as reasonable cause that you were brought in too late and so the cure didn’t work.

    That is my problem. Without scientific Proof there is a high probability, based on human experience, that taking action may make the problem worse rather than better.

    The climate situation today is not a life and death matter. There is time for the research to be progressed and proofs established. The ecology of our planet has dealt with catastrophes before, and will again no doubt. Didn’t I read last week about a large meteor that was likely to hit our atmosphere in about 15 years?

    Do not weaken me with bleeding, leave my body to build up my temperature so that the virus that is attacking me can be killed naturally, might be the earth’s plea.

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  56. Valis,

    Science is often based on statistical probability. With the incomplete data we have, it is about the likely probability of different causes and outcomes as seen through the lens of risk assessment and management.

    As I said, I had a different upbringing to Science.

    And as strings said, you are quoting statictics. Interestingly the earth has had a +2 increase in temperature in th past and guess what, it and the species survived.

    And if you are confinced that the “science” is right, why are you bothering to debate it. Why waste the energy, unless there is that .01% doubt the SKEPTICS have just a tiny point worth considering?

    Should you not be preaching how we are to prepare for that eventuality? Carbon reduction is already to late, no?

    Are you heading for the hills?

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  57. There’s an interesting video I saw on YouTube (sorry don’t have reference or link right now, but it doesn’t matter) that deals with this problem by constructing a 2×2 table. On one axis the binary options are a) the IPCC’s ‘postulation’ turns out to be correct and b) that the IPCC’s postulation turns out to be incorrect. Along the other axis are our binary action options: x) we do what we can to minimise GHG emissions and y) we do nothing.

    The cells of the table are then populated by the worst outcomes (i.e. greatest risk) for those settings. There are risks associated with every option of course. For example, if we take action to minimise GHG emissions, but the IPCC turns out to be wrong, then significant harm will be caused for some by the economic disruption and changes that are made. However these risks are dwarfed by those of doing nothing and the IPCC postulate being proved right.

    A more sophisticated version of this exercise would see each of the cells being weighted by the evidence for and against the postulate. As this is about addressing the arguments of those who are skeptics about the IPCC postulate, let me simply say that the balance of the risks associated with the two possible actions is so overwhelmingly one-sided that in order to justify not taking actions to minimise GHG emissions, the evidence against the IPCC’s postulate would need to be overwhelming. It is clear that it is not.

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  58. Kevin
    That’s a wonderful thing called a “Boston Matrix” as it was the basic tool used by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to explain to potential clients why they should pay large sums of money to BCG be advised on how to avoid corporate extinction. I’ve used it myself to great advantage over the years.

    One of the most startling uses of the technique I have seen was a version that laid out for Bear Sterns its options in the sub-prime market. The axis were There will/will not be a significant rise in the number of mortgages offered at above 95% of price, and there will/will not be a spread margin of 2% or more on those mortgages. The presentation was terrific, and clearly showed that the risk of not getting into the market was much greater than the risk of getting into it, from the perspective of the Bear Sterns share price. The Bear Sterns board was convinced. The Bear Sterns shares are worth nothing today.

    If life was as simple as a two dimensional binary matrix, Management Consultants would be out of business everywhere, as opposed to getting revenue at a worldwide average of US$450 per consultant hour.

    Sad. But. True.

    Happy daze.

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  59. Kevin,

    That is far to simple an analogy.

    As one who regular works on multi axis cnc machines, I know for a fact that simple x and Y plane trigonometry and geometry only works in a single plane.

    Now add a vertical Z axis, then add a rotating B axis to spin the Y axis 360 degrees. For good measure add an A axis to spin the Z axis 180 degrees and your mono level moel disapears in a multitude of possibilities.

    You need to think in multilevel axis (is there a plural for axis?) to get the true model.

    Because each axis will present you with a different picture. You need to be able to think in three dimensions and not many people can do that.

    Hence the simplification of your 2×2 table.

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  60. Well if you don’t like the tool, then simply ask the question: “What is the risk of not acting to minimise GHG emissions if IPCC is proved correct compared with the risk of minimising GHG emissions if they are proved wrong?

    Sure there is a range of complexity within each of the elements, but given the choice we have (acting vs not acting) doesn’t that get to the nub?

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  61. Kevin,

    N, the nub is that you have taken only one course of action. Specifically cutting carbon emmisions.

    Now as they take effect, the model changes and may well bring unintended consequences that need to be refactured into whatever model you have.

    It is far to simple to have a double axis model when there are any number of axis that can alter the model.

    Your model pretends that simply cutting the carbon output will create an equelibrium but you need to factor in what happens if you overshoot and cause earth cooling?

    A model should be much more then a simple 2 axis configuration.

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  62. And if you are confinced that the “science” is right, why are you bothering to debate it.

    Well on the one hand, I do mostly see it as not the best use of my time, but the idea that we shouldn’t listen to scientists just because something wasn’t proven 100% made me want to comment.

    Why waste the energy, unless there is that .01% doubt the SKEPTICS have just a tiny point worth considering?

    On the other hand, even when the science is secure, the politics is often not. Given the scientists are saying action is urgent, we must combat the naysayers who are trying to slow things down.

    Should you not be preaching how we are to prepare for that eventuality? Carbon reduction is already to late, no?

    It isn’t either/or. We WILL have to prepare because an increase in temp will occur, but we still have the power to influence how bad it gets. Otherwise in a few years time, we’ll be having the same argument about +4C.

    Are you heading for the hills?

    Not yet.

    How about answering my question? What do you do when you have a life and death decision to make but less than perfect information. It sounds like your response is to do nothing?

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  63. Valis

    I have answered your question.

    “What do you do when you have to make a life and death decision before science is able to move from postulation to proof?”

    Why, you work on probability theory of course, and as the probability is that the leeches will work (after all, every one agrees it’s probably true) and you kill the bugger – claiming as reasonable cause that you were brought in too late and so the cure didn’t work.

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  64. So because the experts are sometimes wrong, we should always ignore them. That is not a good enough answer.

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  65. I don’t think that is what it says.

    If there is reasonable doubt that the action is right, don’t take it. Any probability at all that the action might not be right must create reasonable doubt, as any trial lawyer will tell you.

    The people who said it didn’t matter how much smoke was pumped into the atmosphere back in the industrial revolution had no basis to make that decision on, and didn’t look for reasonable doubt. As a result there was smog and death.

    Let’s not repeat that error again! Let the science reach truths before we act – the earth is not going to die in the next five decades if we continue as we are, so we have time.

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  66. I don’t think that is what it says.

    If there is reasonable doubt that the action is right, don’t take it. Any probability at all that the action might not be right must create reasonable doubt, as any trial lawyer will tell you.

    No, it only creates doubt. Whether it is reasonable doubt, meaning we should ignore the claims the scientists are making, is a judgement call based on all the evidence at hand. You can’t turn this into a black/white question.

    Let’s not repeat that error again! Let the science reach truths before we act – the earth is not going to die in the next five decades if we continue as we are, so we have time.

    No one has claimed the earth is threatened. It will go on no matter what we do. Whether we are still residents and what quality of life we can expect are the questions demanding an answer. Deciding not to decide is itself a decision with far reaching implications. We just can’t avoid this issue by application of your simplistic formula.

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  67. No one has claimed the earth is threatened

    However

    Valis Says: April 17th, 2009 at 10:28 am

    AGW is still a postulation, but what do you do when you have to make a life and death decision before science is able to move from postulation to proof?

    Perhaps I was making a mistaken interpretation of your writing. I thought you meant the Earth was threatened. Mu apologies, you were thinking of your own descendents I see.

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  68. Not just my own, Strings. And I care about other species too, but when the potential consequences for humanity are so dire, that’s usually enough for an issue to be taken seriously. It shouldn’t have to encompass the very existence of the Earth to spur us into action.

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  69. Gerrit brought up the Wahine storm of 41 years ago as “proof” that AGW wasn’t causing bigger storms. This was a 1 in 100 year event? And we haven’t had a storm like it in the 41 years since. Would we expect to see a similar storm in that period? The answer is a probability – yes there is a reasonable chance that we would have a similar storm in that period, but a higher chance that we would not. The fact that we have not had a storm like that one since does not prove that storms are not getting bigger. All it proves is that we have had a bit of luck.

    This discussion of probability is only loosely related to the probability of the AGW theory being correct or wrong. Instead it relates to interpreting data which contains chaos or noise. And weather is one of the most chaotic phenomena I know.

    Trevor.

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  70. Your model pretends that simply cutting the carbon output will create an equelibrium but you need to factor in what happens if you overshoot and cause earth cooling?

    I don’t necessarily disagree, though an overshoot seems rather unlikely. But since we’re having so much trouble even agreeing the first problem is a problem at all, might we defer dealing with the second problem for just a bit?

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  71. Was cyclone Bola bigger that the Wahine storm? It doesn’t matter much since nothing would be proved or disproved one way or the other. And how do you compare them – peak wind speed, peak power, duration, total energy,…?

    Trevor.

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  72. The Wahine storm (or tropical cyclone Gisele) had a very low pressure of 968 hp over Tauranga which is equivalent to a moderate tropical cyclone. Bola was not that low but hat much of its energy realeased as heavy rain and was more destructive over all.

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  73. “If there is reasonable doubt that the action is right, don’t take it. Any probability at all that the action might not be right must create reasonable doubt, as any trial lawyer will tell you.”

    Releasing millions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere is an action. If there is reasonable doubt that this action is right, don’t take it. There is at least reasonable doubt that this action is right, yet all the AGW deniers want to continue with this action for long enough for the reasonable doubt to turn into concrete proof. By that time, the concrete will be a millstone around our necks, and it will be too late to take alternative actions.

    Trevor.

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  74. samiuela,

    – “You have not bothered to enlighten us on why all (or even some) climate models are bad.”

    I particularly like the “or even some” because I think it would be obvious to most people that when different models are producing vastly different predictions then, at best, only one of them could be correct.

    The question then is which one, if any, is correct.

    The answer? None of them:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/04/15/climate-models-vs-climate-reality-diverging-or-just-a-dip/
    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/mar_09_co2_report.pdf

    One more thing. Do you maintain that the Hockeystick is an accurate representation of the recent climate, or do you admit that the sceptics were correct, that it is completely worthless, and that events such as the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age (noticably missing from the Hockeystick) were in fact real?
    I particularly ask because you may remember that your computer models were wheeled out at the time as further “evidence”. Clearly, an accurate model could not possibly be in agreement with two wildly different climate patterns. So, do your models contradict the Hockeystick or do they contradict the generally accepted climate history with all its natural variations?

    Trevor29,

    – “Of course Wat and other AWG deniers downplay positive feedback effects… .Wat and the like assume that these effects are insignificant.”

    On the contrary, the feedback effects – positive and negative – are hugely significant and have always been absolutely central to the argument, if only because the direct effect of increased CO2 alone is so insignificant; the alarmists have to assume – on the basis of no evidence whatsoever – some sort of runaway positive feedback loop, otherwise even they concede (at least, those that know what they’re talking about) that they have no case.

    You would understand, I hope, that negative feedbacks control the climate (otherwise we wouldn’t be having this debate, the temperature having runaway eons ago.) Where is the evidence that an absolutely trivial increase in the greenhouse effect is going to throw things totally out of kilter?

    Incidentally, if you open the second of the two links above you’ll see a chart showing that Antarctic ice has been trending upwards for 30-year high. Why don’t you talk about that rather that just focussing on the Arctic which you (mistakenly) believe supports your position? Surely anyone genuinely interested in the truth of any theory should spend their time looking for evidence which contradicts it?

    I recommend the following roundup of the evidence against the AGW theory:

    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/reprint/markey_and_barton_letter.pdf

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  75. Strings,

    You write:

    “However, I was actually suggesting that the technique of mathematical modelling is in its infancy, and no model today can predict anything with greater than ‘high probability’ accuracy.”

    I don’t know what you consider to be infancy. The idea of using mathematical models to predict the weather goes back to Richardson in 1922 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_Fry_Richardson). Richardson’s model actually failed for reasons we understand today, but he was on the right track. The first computerised weather forecasting model was developed in 1950. Operational numerical weather prediction started in 1955 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numerical_weather_prediction). That’s almost 60 years of running weather forecasting models, based on ideas that are almost 90 years old. If you are interested, you should read up on the history of weather forecasting; it is a fascinating subject (OK, I’m biased on this :-) ).

    With regard accuracy of the models, there are theoretical reasons why a model can never be perfect. Basically, to be able to predict the weather perfectly we would need to be able to measure the current state of the atmosphere perfectly. Even if we had the physics of the model 100% correct, we can’t measure the initial state of the atmosphere accurately enough to make predictions beyond a week or two (note this is for _weather_ forecasts, not climate forecasts). This is why the weather prediction models cannot predict the weather in “London, Ontario” for next February (and you should never believe anyone who claims they can predict the weather for next February). They can do a much better job than the 12 hours you mention though.

    You may not be aware of how far numerical weather prediction has advanced in the last two decades. You probably take for granted five to seven day weather forecasts which have a moderate level of skill (of course the public always remembers the incorrect weather forecasts, and forgets the correct ones :-) ). Well, twenty years ago you would be lucky to get a moderately accurate three day forecast. The improvement since then is mostly due to improved numerical weather prediction models coupled with improved satellite observations of the atmosphere.

    Now returning to the subject of climate models. Whilst you can compare climate models with weather prediction models (and in some cases they actually share large amounts of computer code), there are some very important differences. The weather concerns time scales of a few hours to a week or two. The climate is concerned with time scales of months to years. The physics which dominate the longer time scales are different than what is important at the short time scales.

    Whilst weather forecasting models cannot predict the weather beyond a week or two, it is quite possible to predict the climate at much longer time scales. A trivial example is that anyone can predict it will be colder in winter than summer; we can’t tell you if it will rain on July the 30th, but we can predict the temperature is likely to be colder than on December 30. On the time scale of years we can predict how changes in concentrations of trace gases in the atmosphere will affect the climate. Of course there are uncertainties, and in some cases they are quite large. The sceptics tend to focus on all the things the climate models cannot do, and gloss over the things they are good at. For example, I would believe climate model predictions of what the global average temperature is likely to be in 50 years time. However I have serious concerns over predictions of how wet Victoria, Australia is likely to be in 50 years time (I don’t think the predictions are useless, just that they should be viewed with much more caution than the global average temperature predictions).

    I hope this non-technical description has been helpful.

    Cheers,

    Miuela.

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