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A potentially useful book – Lies, Damn lies & Science

Filed under: — rasmus @ 29 March 2009

Lies, Damned Lies, and ScienceAccording to a recent article in Eos (Doran and Zimmermann, ‘Examining the Scientific consensus on Climate Change‘, Volume 90, Number 3, 2009; p. 22-23 – only available for AGU members - update: a public link to the article is here), about 58% of the general public in the US thinks that human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing the mean global temperature, as opposed to 97% of specialists surveyed. The disproportion between these numbers is a concern, and one possible explanation may be that the science literacy among the general public is low. Perhaps Sherry Seethaler’s new book ‘Lies, Damn Lies, and Science’ can be a useful contribution in raising the science literacy?

The book is about science in general and about how science often is miscommunicated in the media. It addresses a range of issues, such as how statistics often is misused, how scientific progress is made in general, that the ‘scientific method’ is not always as straightforward as one might like to think, the influence of stake-holders, the importance of knowing the context of the research, relationships between science and policy, and ploys designed to bypass logic. Many of the points made in the book are probably well known for the RC readership – albeit used in different situations to the case studies discussed in the book. There is also some discussion about AGW, amongst other subjects.

One little paradox is that the book claims (p. xx) that it will empower people of all ages and educational backgrounds to think critically about science-related issues and make well-balanced decisions about them. To me, that sounds like a big promise, and after having read the book, I started to wonder whether that statement is just the sort of claims it tries to make people become more skeptical about? Or maybe Seethaler really did succeed after all – because I saw how the arguments in her book could be applied to this promise?

The book touches on AGW, and does in general do a good job in my opinion. However, I cannot avoid bringing up some small details to pick at: The description of the greenhouse effect is not quite correct, as the reader gets the impression that it involves reflecting infrared radiation back to space (p. 84). That is not the case, as the energy from the sun lies mainly in the visible spectrum, and the infra red light from the Earth is a product from the absorption of the sunlight and a re-emittance due to Planck’s law.

Another point that I think is that the book discusses the controversy around AGW, but this can be a bit misleading. If you look in the climatological field, you may not see much controversy, but if you search the web, you may see something that looks like one. But I think that this controversy to a large extent is constructed out of thin air, an impression I feel is supported by Doran and Zimmermann’s, Eos article.

I get the impression that ‘Lies, Damn Lies, and Science’ has much in common with the older book ‘Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics’, and that they try to convey similar take-home messages.

‘Lies, Damn Lies, and Science‘ gives a nice collection of anecdotes and general tips. The book has a nice index and overview, so it’s easy to find your way through the book. I think the book is very useful for a lot of people – especially students, scientists, journalists, politicians, bureaucrats, and the voters.


335 Responses to “A potentially useful book – Lies, Damn lies & Science”

  1. 201
    J. Bob says:

    Walter, it sounds like you give up to easily!
    The fact that the EXCEL data came through was something. All that might be needed is to “pad” the blank spots in EXCEL with a character (i.e.) 0’s or periods. Then paste it to the site, where it can then be picked up, pasted in your spread sheet and plotted. I could generate a plots we used to send over the teletype (pre-fax). But a spread sheet could be put together in adjacent column blocks and sent. This would cut down the scroll length, and not clutter up the web site (thinking of you Gavin). I think it’s worthwhile to pursue that thread. It would allow some limited data transfer between the bloggers, and reduce some of this “he said she said”. Arguing over a plot that can be shared I think is more productive. You may disagree with me, as many others have, but at least we would have a clear ides what we are disagreeing about. Post what you think.

    Now Mark, I have put you off too long, for which I apologize. My purpose in this thread was to present a argument, or view, that is transparent that even my cranky neighbor could understand. As such, it is that the facts laid out that are important, not so much the person’s background. Let me say that I have graduate and post graduate degrees in science/engineering. As far as being “TO SIMPLE”, might I refer to one of Sherlock Holmes cases. Here a “Purloined Letter”, could not be found. The reason was that it was “hide” in plain sight, where no one though to look. It shows how it is all to easy to overlook the simple and obvious. I personally have seen “simple” computer operators point out programming errors, that PhD computer science majors could not see.

  2. 202

    “truth” #198:

    Their projections to 2050 and 2100 are based on the IPCC modeling, so once again are dependent on that being absolutely correct—and it’s admitted that there are many unknowns and uncertainties in important fields of climate science—so given all that, why would you discount the comment that was put out by KNMI and Hazeleger last December?

    Why do you want so badly to believe that uncertainty helps your case? Hey, it’s risk. Responsible decision makers prepare for risk by preparing for all of it, including the worst case. Imagine this to be a case where there’s a 90% probability — or why not a 10% probability — of a foreign power attacking your country. Would you seriously argue against preparedness, because of the “uncertainty” and the costs? We’re talking serious bucks there too.

    Uncertainty is not your friend.

  3. 203
    walter crain says:

    jim bob,
    i “gave up” because i figured it probably took you a lot of work to create that column(s) of numbers you posted. i could kind of see some patterns in there, but a picture of the graph would be sooo much better. i realized that you just don’t have the ability/capacity to post a picture somewhere on the web, so i did “give up” hope of ever seeing that graph from you. i wanted to see a “picture” of your line graph and compare it to that dot-graph we started with (and tamino’s graph). i would still like to see it, but i don’t use excel, so for me do anything in excel using your data would just be too huge an undertaking for me.

    timothy chase,
    wow…an awesome series of posts (and links). thanks.

  4. 204
    RichardC says:

    since we’re talking chicken, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” The egg. An animal which was *almost* a chicken laid an egg with a mutation, resulting in the first chicken.

    Or then there’s the other correct answer.. neither, it was the rooster.

  5. 205
    Mark says:

    “As far as being “TO SIMPLE”, might I refer to one of Sherlock Holmes cases. Here a “Purloined Letter”, could not be found.”

    But in the purloined letter, nobody looked on the mantelpiece.

    People HAVE run statistical significance tests on the data and found it supported the warming trend in a manner commensurate with CO2 increases from human generation.

    They’ve “looked on the mantelpiece”. It wasn’t there.

  6. 206
    dhogaza says:

    Alastair …

    Clouds keep the heat in at night and keep the heat out during the day, the question is which one is the more important. The net overall effect of more cloud is probably negative because they reflect the sunlight back into space in the first place.

    This is nothing but a statement of faith, not a hint of empirical data to back it up, not a hint of analysis. As a scientist you should know better, and you should know that this important issue is the subject of real-live scientific investigation. Rather than pontificate and engage in appendage-waving, do some research in the literature or someplace that summarizes the literature. I’ve heard rumors that the IPCC does that from time to time …

    And, by the way, we *are* experimenting with climate – by dumping large quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere. It would be preferable to run that experiment elsewhere, but apparently we’re committed to running it here at home. Indefinitely, if folks like you get their way.

  7. 207
    dhogaza says:

    J. Bob … why not take your questions about Tamino’s calculations over to his blog? He’s a professional statistician, and apparently you’re not, so it sounds like a good learning opportunity for you. And if you’ve caught him out in a blunder he’ll admit it. So go for it!

  8. 208
    pete best says:

    All the deniers are quoting WUWT and climateprogress these days as if it was gospel and slate relaclimate in the same way. For some reason the arguments on postings at the Guardian newspaper etc outside of the scientific sphere are just quoting these three web sites these days in a believer, non believer style.

    Its a good job that governments are listening to the IPCC and the scientific evidence and not the other places. Phew !

  9. 209
    Alastair says:

    Quote: “I’m sorry, but at this point I do not know how to put this politely: Do you actually read before responding? Are you familiar with what are called hyperlinks?

    I stated in my very first paragraph that melting has in fact taken place 310 miles from the South Pole.”

    Firstly, could could make a point without being so aggressive. On reading that article, yes in this case there were temperatures that were above freezing and therefore some degree of menting is possible. However, the bulk of the antarctic continent (land ice) remains far too cold to melt. The only areas that were shown to have melted were near the sea.

    Quote: “If you apply enough pressure it melts. Even when the ice is below freezing. Pressure lowers the temperature at which ice melts — and it does so for the same reason that ice floats — because ice takes up a larger volume than water. If pressure sufficiently compresses ice, the ice will turn to water even if the ice is below freezing.”

    How much pressure is enough pressure? You need extreme pressures for any significant decrease in the melting point to occur. According to this diagram, at least several MPa before any decrease occurs. Such pressures may occur under several kilometers of ice, but at these depths I doubt you would see any effects of surface warming.

    http://www.lsbu.ac.uk/water/phase.html

  10. 210
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Alastair, ever hear of ice skating? The weight of a 40 kg child standing on an ice scate blade is sufficient to cause water to melt locally. Amazing stuff, water.

  11. 211
    J. Bob says:

    #207, I never make a comment about Tamino

    #205, What data? From where? It would help if you would be more specific. As I said, I’ve used the Central English temp data 1659-2009 as a start. One step at a time.

  12. 212
    Mark says:

    “Firstly, could could make a point without being so aggressive.”

    cf

    “If you are an expert, as you claim please tell me this:”

    Firstly, can YOU try not attacking the integrity of scientists. If you refrain from that you may get more respect. Well, that may be too much to expect given your inability to think clearly, but you will get less aggressive responses.

    NOTE: I wouldn’t have brought this up if you hadn’t gone all Rita Hayworth over the responses to you first.

  13. 213
    Alastair says:

    Quote: “Alastair, ever hear of ice skating? The weight of a 40 kg child standing on an ice scate blade is sufficient to cause water to melt locally. Amazing stuff, water.”

    Wrong. Take a look at the wiki article:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_skating

    Wiki Quote: “Although high pressure can cause ice to melt, by lowering its melting point, the pressure required is far greater than that actually produced by ice skates. Frictional heating does lead to an increase in the thickness of the naturally occurring film of liquid, but measurements with an atomic force microscope have found the boundary layer to be too thin to supply the observed reduction in friction”

  14. 214
    Mark says:

    re J Bob. #207 was about how you’ve managed to discover that there is no evidence in the temperature history to show warming. You’ve already said you’re not a statistician. Tamino is. You’ve already said that it was simplistic. Maybe Tamino can show you where you’ve gone wrong.

  15. 215
    Alastair says:

    Quote: “Firstly, can YOU try not attacking the integrity of scientists. If you refrain from that you may get more respect. Well, that may be too much to expect given your inability to think clearly, but you will get less aggressive responses.”

    Like it or not, my comments regarding the inability to experiment with the climate system are a major point of weakness in climate models. It’s not the scientists I am attacking. Scientists are not demi gods and neither am I, we are all humble human beings. Without this kind of due diligence, these models wouldn’t meet the quality control requirements to be published in respectable chemical engineering journals (I’m a chemical engineer).

    Other sciences such as astronomy also are beyond experimentation, however this is a bit different from climate models. Climate models “predict the future”, the future cannot be observed like space can be observed.

    [Response:Yep. That’s the problem with the future. I think you’ll find it’s a generic issue across a whole swathe of sciences. – gavin]

  16. 216

    Alastair wrote in 209:

    Firstly, could could make a point without being so aggressive. On reading that article, yes in this case there were temperatures that were above freezing and therefore some degree of menting is possible. However, the bulk of the antarctic continent (land ice) remains far too cold to melt. The only areas that were shown to have melted were near the sea.

    Lenny Flank at DebunkCreation got a great deal more aggressive with young earth creationists when they refused to pay him any attention — or were generally somewhat more responsive than you — and I must say that there was a great deal less at stake with that issue than there is with climate change — which I go into in some detail at the end of 200. Additionally, the opposition to science wasn’t quite so well-funded. That adds to the difficulties we face — although you probably don’t bear any responsibility for that.

    What annoyed me the most was not the fact that you were claiming that Antarctica never got warm enough for ice to melt, but that you continued to claim it could only happen at 0 °C and that otherwise warming was irrelevant. That melting did not take place only at 0 °C, only at the surface, or for that matter was required before temperature structurally weakened ice had been pointed out by me and others. Regardless, you continued in your claims as if you hadn’t even seen words to the contrary or explored any of the links.

    And if someone is walking through life in that much of a daze, then yes, for their sake and for the sake of others I may very well get a little aggressive, particularly if the alternative in the short-run and long-run are so unappealing.
    *
    Alastair wrote in 209:

    Quote: “If you apply enough pressure it melts. Even when the ice is below freezing. Pressure lowers the temperature at which ice melts — and it does so for the same reason that ice floats — because ice takes up a larger volume than water. If pressure sufficiently compresses ice, the ice will turn to water even if the ice is below freezing.”

    How much pressure is enough pressure? You need extreme pressures for any significant decrease in the melting point to occur. According to this diagram, at least several MPa before any decrease occurs. Such pressures may occur under several kilometers of ice, but at these depths I doubt you would see any effects of surface warming.

    http://www.lsbu.ac.uk/water/phase.html

    “I doubt you would see any effect of surface warming”?

    Alastair, here are numerous points which that statement suggests you have never encountered before, even though though most of which have been repeatedly made before in one form or another in responses to you:
    * Ice does not have to melt in order to be structurally weakened;
    * Ice can be structurally weakened by a rise in temperature without actually melting;
    * Ice does not have to melt at the surface in order to melt;
    * Ice could melt at the base because of a combination of temperature and pressure;
    * In fact ice must melt at the base of glacier (to some degree) in order for that glacier to move in the first place;
    * For global warming to be an issue for glaciers, it merely needs to be able to speed up the rate at which they move towards the ocean;
    * Ice could melt because it is in contact with a warmer ocean; and,
    * Ice could be structurally weakened due to warmer temperatures such that it no longer is able to withstand the forces and stresses that it is normally subject to — including the waves of the ocean.
    *
    Alastair asks, “How much pressure is enough pressure? You need extreme pressures for any significant decrease in the melting point to occur.”

    You might also ask, “How might this be related to glaciers?” for example. But in any case it would help if you were to ask

    There are scientists who are studying these issues. Much of their material is made available on the web. They are performing empirical studies of one form or another in the fields and in the laboratories so that they can model the behavior of glaciers. Of ice shelves. Of ice sheets. Of sea ice. Ocean flow. The atmosphere. Radiation transfer within the atmosphere. Then these things get incorporated into numerical models and run in computers so that we can come the behavior of those models against physical reality. And if the process if thought important enough, it will get incorporated into a climate model.

    In fact, Gavin could give you a link to where you could get the model they used with the most recent IPCC — if that were of any interest to you. Not that you would be able to run it any more I would. But it is available for those willing to invest in the appropriate computer and who are able to invest the time.

  17. 217
    Hank Roberts says:

    Alastair, your belief that the icecap can’t be liquid water at the bottom is refuted by the people who’ve drilled holes and looked at it. Look it up:
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?sourceid=Mozilla-search&q=SN%3A++Glacier+and+Ice+Sheet+Hydrology

  18. 218

    Alastair made a couple of comments that I’d like to respond to from personal experience as a native of “Snow” Ste. Marie, Canada.

    First, it isn’t true that “You need extreme pressures for any significant decrease in the melting point to occur.” You don’t even need Ray’s 40-kg child on ice skates, though that is a dandy example. All you need to do is take ordinary snow into your well-mittened hands and squeeze it into a snowball. It’s partial melt and refreeze that makes it cohere; really cold snow won’t do it.

    Second, it isn’t true that snowfall is independent of temperature. Cold air is dry air; dry air doesn’t snow. Snowfall tends to be greatest just below the freezing point. (I can’t help but wonder whether this is part of the contemporary inland ice dynamics in Greenland.)

    Oh, and FWIW, a literary corrigendum relative to another subthread: “The Purloined Letter” featured Arsene Dupin (Poe’s French detective), not the redoubtable Sherlock.

  19. 219
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Alistair, Mighty selective in our quotes:

    The full quote is here: “When the blade of an ice skate passes over the ice, the ice undergoes two kinds of changes in its physical state: an increase in pressure, and a change in temperature due to kinetic friction and the heat of melting. Direct measurements[2] show that the heating due to friction is greater than the cooling due to the heat of melting. Although high pressure can cause ice to melt, by lowering its melting point, the pressure required is far greater than that actually produced by ice skates. Frictional heating does lead to an increase in the thickness of the naturally occurring film of liquid, but measurements with an atomic force microscope have found the boundary layer to be too thin to supply the observed reduction in friction[3].”

    Pressure also increases the plasticity of the ice, making movement, and therefore friction and heating more likely.

  20. 220
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    regarding Antarctic melting:

    “Although some ice sheet experts believe that the ice sheets are more stable, I believe that their view is partly based on the faulty assumption that the Earth has been as much as 2 °C warmer in previous interglacial periods, when the sea level was at most a few metres higher than at present. There is strong evidence that the Earth now is within 1 °C of its highest temperature in the past million years. Oxygen isotopes in the deep-ocean fossil plankton known as foraminifera reveal that the Earth was last 2 °C to 3 °C warmer around 3 million years ago, with carbon dioxide levels of perhaps 350 to 450 parts per million. It was a dramatically different planet then, with no Arctic sea ice in the warm seasons and sea level about 25 metres higher, give or take 10 metres.”

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19526141.600-huge-sea-level-rises-are-coming–unless-we-act-now.html?page=2

    So, we have someone arguing that it can’t, and an historical record that says it can.

  21. 221
    David B. Benson says:

    Alastair (190) — From the latter part of the 20th century onwards, scientists in many fields have increasingly turned to computational experimentation to advance their part of science. Many scientists can only observe as well. Astronomers and astrophysicists come to mind. Do you doubt thier beautiful explanations of stellar evolution and planetarty formation?

    On the sidebar, first link under Science you’ll find some important history: “The Discovery of Global Warming” by Spencer Weart.

    Horse. Water. Drink.

  22. 222
  23. 223

    Ray Ladbury wrote in 210:

    Alastair, ever hear of ice skating? The weight of a 40 kg child standing on an ice scate blade is sufficient to cause water to melt locally. Amazing stuff, water.

    Alastair wrote in 213:

    Wrong. Take a look at the wiki article:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_skating

    Wiki Quote: “Although high pressure can cause ice to melt, by lowering its melting point, the pressure required is far greater than that actually produced by ice skates….”

    The same section, How it works, also states:

    Experiments show that ice has a minimum kinetic friction at −7°C (19°F), and many indoor skating rinks set their system to a similar temperature. The low amount of friction actually observed has been difficult for physicists to explain, especially at lower temperatures. On the surface of any body of ice at a temperature above about −20°C (−4°F), there is always a thin film of liquid water, ranging in thickness from only a few molecules to thousands of molecules. This is because an abrupt end to the crystalline structure is not the most entropically favorable possibility. The thickness of this liquid layer depends almost entirely on the temperature of the surface of the ice, with higher temperatures giving a thicker layer. However, skating is possible at temperatures much lower than −20°C, at which temperature there is no naturally occurring film of liquid.

    Glaciers can slip at lower temperatures than 0 °C and increasing either the temperature (as with climate change) or pressure (such as at the bottom of a glacier) can increase the rate at which ice slips — such as when a glacier slips towards the ocean.

    Please see:

    The sheer weight of a thick layer of ice and the fact that it deforms as a “plastic” material, combined with gravity’s influence, causes glaciers to flow very slowly. Ice may flow down mountain valleys, fan across plains, or in some locations, spread out to the sea. Movement along the underside of a glacier is slower than movement at the top due to the friction created as it slides along the ground’s surface.

    NSIDC: Why Do glaciers move?
    http://nsidc.org/glaciers/questions/move.html

    But you may find a little more detail in class notes:

    Glaciers move in three ways: internal deformation, basal slip, and deformation of the substratum. Below the shallow surface zone of crevasses, ice behaves in a plastic manner, flowing in response to the pressure gradient. The rate of flow depends on several factors, of which temperature and pressure are most important. Warmer ice generally flows more readily than colder ice, and ice under greater pressure is softer than ice at lower pressure. Because of this, most movement by plastic flow takes place near the base (lowest 100 m) of glaciers. This explains how “cold” glaciers that are frozen to the substratum are able to move, and why many glaciers move faster in the summer than in the winter.

    ES 331/767 Lecture 2
    MODERN GLACIERS AND ICE SHEETS
    James S. Aber
    http://academic.emporia.edu/aberjame/ice/lec02/lec2.htm

  24. 224
    Alastair says:

    The whole point of the ice skating argument is the question of whether the ice melts due to the pressure exerted by the skater. It states clearly that the pressure exerted by the skater is far too low for this to happen. This is in agreement with the phase diagram that I posted earlier.

  25. 225
    Hank Roberts says:

    Ok, point to Alastair for persistent illustration of exactly the kind of argument the book describes.

  26. 226

    Bocco writes:

    Sorry BPL, you will have to give me another example, icarus is not an electronic only journal according to elsevier who publish it. Volume 200, issue 2 was dispatched on 25th of March 2009, only 2 weeks ago.

    It simply not true that information is harder to get at than 20 years ago, exactly the opposite is true. This does not mean that that I think access to information is good enough, access to disinformation has increased even more.

    You’re right, Icarus is still printed.

    It doesn’t go to Universities that have decided to provide only the electronic version, though, which includes the University of Pittsburgh.

    My experience has been that it’s harder to obtain data than it used to be twenty years ago. You can tell me I’m wrong, but I’m the one actually experiencing the data shortage. Understand, please, that I am someone who frequents the science libraries of the University of Pittsburgh, CMU, and Carnegie Library on a frequent basis. I’m not finding as much information as I used to be able to find. Stuff that used to be available as free PDFs on the web are now only available behind a paywall. If you haven’t got a ton of money or an institutional affiliation, you’re screwed. Period.

  27. 227

    I’m reading this exchange over Antarctica melting and I feel like banging my head against a wall. Does our “scientist” not understand the primacy of evidence over argument? The GRACE satellite says the Antarctic ice cap is losing mass. If it’s not melting, where is it going?

    Robert Heinlein said, “When you see a rainbow, you don’t stop to argue the laws of optics. There it is, in the sky.”

  28. 228

    Alastair wrote in 223:

    The whole point of the ice skating argument is the question of whether the ice melts due to the pressure exerted by the skater. It states clearly that the pressure exerted by the skater is far too low for this to happen. This is in agreement with the phase diagram that I posted earlier.

    Perhaps. However, the whole point of our discussion of ice in Antarctica is whether temperature has anything to do with ice loss even when the temperature is below 0 °C. You seem to have lost sight of that while pursuing your ice skater on a blog devoted to climatology instead of an ice rink.

    You wrote in 190:

    But we are talking about the effects of “global warming” on Antarctica. How much falls into the sea depends on how much snow fall there has been, this has nothing to do with temperature. If the temperature increases to -5C or -1C or -0.1C the ice cannot melt. Only when the temperature rises to 0C will any ice melt.

    Then there was the related issue of whether ice loss due to increased temperature could take place only if ice melted at the surface:

    You wrote in 209:

    How much pressure is enough pressure? You need extreme pressures for any significant decrease in the melting point to occur. According to this diagram, at least several MPa before any decrease occurs. Such pressures may occur under several kilometers of ice, but at these depths I doubt you would see any effects of surface warming.

    Then there were a long list of other issues which you appear to have simply chosen to ignore. Pressures, stresses, plasticities, the circulation of warmer water, the collapse of ice shelves which had been bottling up glaciers, mass loss, under ice rivers and so on. But not much reason to expect you to start paying them any attention now, is there?
    *
    Captcha fortune cookie: counting 889
    Seems like it might possibly be relevant at this point…

  29. 229
    Brian Brademeyer says:

    Re #204 >>.. neither, it was the rooster.

    Wrong, it was the dinosaur.

  30. 230
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Alastair says, “Climate models “predict the future”, the future cannot be observed like space can be observed.”

    Um, actually, it can. You just have to wait. And wait we did–30 years and warming all the time. Prediction. And simultaneously, the stratosphere cooled. Prediction. Ice melted. Prediction. Winters (first to last frost) got shorter. Prediction.

    In real science, Alastair, you get points for predictions. You get no points for saying things can’t be figured out. You sure you’re a scientist?

  31. 231

    #227 Barton Paul Levenson

    Thank you. I was thinking the same thing.

    A general point: WUWT and so many others are arguing about models and measurement accuracy and it seems they are ignoring the clear manifest signals.

    – Antarctica is losing ice mass.
    – Arctic is losing ice mass.
    – Jet-stream is shifting latitudinally.
    – Long-term trend is warmer.
    – Glacier retreat all over the planet.
    – All the things one would expect from a warmer world are happening.

    I’ve mentioned this before. Models are not needed to see what is in our face, but they are certainly handy for peering into possible, or even probable, futures based on the well reasoned science.

  32. 232
    Ian says:

    Alastair (in #215) said:
    “these models wouldn’t meet the quality control requirements to be published in respectable chemical engineering journals (I’m a chemical engineer).”

    Alastair, have a look at Cambridge’s Chem Engineering Computational Modelling group: http://como.cheng.cam.ac.uk/index.php . They have a decent list of publications in chemical engineering, covering method, theory, and applications. A bit of poking around there might change your mind about the merits of current climate modelling.

  33. 233
    Alastair says:

    Quote: “Um, actually, it can. You just have to wait. And wait we did–30 years and warming all the time. Prediction. And simultaneously, the stratosphere cooled. Prediction. Ice melted. Prediction. Winters (first to last frost) got shorter. Prediction.

    In real science, Alastair, you get points for predictions. You get no points for saying things can’t be figured out. You sure you’re a scientist?”

    If you take at look at the climate model predictions, they can’t even agree with each other.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Global_Warming_Predictions.png

    If the different model predictions are all so vastly different, how can we trust any of them?

    Asking a model to predict the future is a vastly more difficult task than correctly “predicting” the past. Models can be “tweaked” to agree with history but anyone knows that that doesn’t mean that it can correctly predict the future.

    [Response: Truly you are beyond hope. – gavin]

  34. 234
    Alastair says:

    Quote: “Truly you are beyond hope”

    Absolutely. Science has absolutely nothing to do with hope and everything to do with fact. To have blind trust in these climate models and not to question their validity is just that, faith, blind hope.

    [Response: The hope I had was that you would start to apply a little logic to your arguments. That has been dashed. – gavin]

  35. 235
    Deech56 says:

    Alastair, what’s happening here is that you are coming to a site in which you have the ear of some important climatologists and some very knowledgeable “students” (as Ray put it) of climate, yet despite your skill in the engineering field, you make some basic assumptions about models that are just not true.

    Like the rest of us (some of whom are also skilled in other scientific fields) it would be good to go to the “Start Here” button and check out some of the resources. Among them will be Spencer Weart’s opus on the history of climate science and the latest IPCC report, focusing on the sections on modeling.

    Please pay particular attention to the bases of climate models and the various predictions of the models (hint: Hansen 2006, stratospheric cooling, Mt. Pinatubo). The models do have their limitations based on physical uncertainties and computing power. What’s the saying? All models are wrong; some models are useful.

    You seem to have some experience with engineering models and standards. Think about how one would test climate models based on the limitations of observations and time. Predictions and verification are all part and parcel of science, which is hypothesis-driven. If you have some specific questions, you will find answers here.

    Good luck, and cheers.

  36. 236
    Mark says:

    “Asking a model to predict the future is a vastly more difficult task than correctly “predicting” the past.”

    a) The model doesn’t know if its the past or the future.
    b) Build a model that uses the physics of motion and gravity to model a pendulum. Now start it off and predict what it is going to do “in the future”
    c) 30 years ago, today was 30 years in the future. The models predicted pretty much what we see today 30 years ago

  37. 237
    Mark says:

    “If the different model predictions are all so vastly different, how can we trust any of them?”

    ask 20 people what the next number you roll on the dice will be.

    about 1 in 6 will get it right and you’ll see all six possibilities used.

    So why can we say that the average roll of a dice is 3.5, if all the predictions are so different???

  38. 238
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Alastair says: “If the different model predictions are all so vastly different, how can we trust any of them?”

    Gee, Alastair, on the one hand, you say climate is so complex we can’t understand it. On the other hand, you say that disagreement by a factor of 2, invalidates all model predictions. Maybe you need to take some time and figure out what it is that you actually believe. Once you, yourself, have a coherent position, maybe we can help you refine it.

    Meanwhile, the adults here have learning to do.

  39. 239
    Alastair says:

    OK, I’ll explain again. We know that over the last century, CO2 emmissions have increased. We also know that temperature has increased, at least in the latter part of the 20th century. Therefore, it’s no surprise that climate models have so far got this right, was CO2 the cause of the temperature increase? Possibly, but it’s difficult to proove, you can theorise but concreate proof is much more difficult.

    But here’s wehere the models change, now all the models “predict” that we are on the verge of a “tipping point” and that global temperatures will get out of control unless we take drastic action to curb emmissions “now”.

    [Response: Where do you get this stuff? Read the IPCC report to see what the models show. And surprisingly enough there is no model going around offering policy advice. – gavin]

    Now my concern is this, how do we know that this “tipping point” will occur and if so, how do we know how long we have before these drastic temperature increases will occur? You see, we can observe a gradual temperature rise over the last few decades, but we CANNOT observe that this “tipping point” exists. Now I’ve already explained that we can’t do experiments with the climate, therefore this “tipping point” is not something that can be shown to exist either by experiment or by histotical observation. Can you show me an example either in the past or on another planet where a step change in CO2 has caused abrupt temperature changes, ice cap melting and sea level rises. I’m not talking about change that’s occured over thousands of years, I’m talking about abrupt changes over short periods due to CO2 or greenhouse gas emmissions. How do we really know that the world is on the verge of acting in this way? And if this “tipping point” is true, how do we really know what concentration of CO2 is needed? Even if we were to burn all the coal and oil reserves on the planet how do we really know that this will cause a tipping point of runaway warming.

    In a nutshell, the models may be good at predicting recent gradual warming but for future tipping points, wait a minute.

    I really don’t know why people have to resort to personal attacks against myself, science should not be about being on a certain side of an argument. We should be able to consider all possibilities in an honest way.

    [Response: Including the possibility that you have absolutely no clue. – gavin]

    Anyway that’s it from me for a few days, a have a busy weekend ahead.

  40. 240
    J. Bob says:

    P. S. – What is Tamino.s site?

    [Response: http://tamino.wordpress.com/ – gavin]

  41. 241
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Alistair @239: Where in the hell are you getting this stuff? It bears no resemblance to anything I’ve read in the published or popularized literature. The models do not predict tipping points, because tipping points involve a change in the physics. An example of a tipping point would be the outgassing of significant amounts of greenhouse gasses from thawing permafrost or the oceans, or the loss of polar sea ice in the Arctic.

    Alistair, it is not a personal attack to say you are ignorant. Ignorance is the diagnosis. The cure is going to the “Start Here” button and starting to read. Learn the REAL science, not some straw man you’ve constructed for yourself or read somewhere else. THAT is the purpose of this site. You will find people here very happy to help you learn. That is why we are here, ourselves. The key to improving your reception on this site is to use it for the purpose it was intended: LEARN.

  42. 242
    Hank Roberts says:

    > chemical engineering
    A field much concerned with climate change recently. Perhaps some time spent reading journals within the field would help this Alastair catch up? Alastair could start anywhere in any library with the journals, for instance here, and work forward reading the citing papers.
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6TFK-4HR76NM-1&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=96244944aaf085c8c5d3a52338cb9389

    But it’s also good to look beyond just catching up on what’s happened in the last couple of decades in one’s own former specialty.

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?num=50&hl=en&lr=&newwindow=1&safe=off&cites=16187231149630165062

  43. 243
    dhogaza says:

    But here’s wehere the models change, now all the models “predict” that we are on the verge of a “tipping point” and that global temperatures will get out of control unless we take drastic action to curb emmissions “now”.

    It is no longer April Fool’s Day. Hint: go read and learn first, then come back and join in the fun. Displays of ignorance aren’t going to enhance your reputation ’round these parts.

  44. 244
    dhogaza says:

    I really don’t know why people have to resort to personal attacks against myself…

    You arrived here displaying a certain level of intellectual arrogance … coupled with mind-boggling ignorance.

    At this point, you’re probably going to receive fewer personal attacks, but a lot more laughter. People took you seriously at first, but you’ve worn that out.

  45. 245
    SecularAnimist says:

    Alastair wrote: “Can you show me an example either in the past or on another planet where a steep change in CO2 has caused abrupt temperature changes, ice cap melting and sea level rises. I’m not talking about change that’s occurred over thousands of years, I’m talking about abrupt changes over short periods due to CO2 or greenhouse gas emissions.”

    No, I can’t show you such an example — because the rapid and extreme anthropogenic increase in CO2 concentrations over the last century is unprecedented.

    However, large non-anthropogenic changes in CO2 concentrations that occurred much more slowly — over thousands of years — did indeed lead to “abrupt” (in geological terms) temperature increases, ice cap melting and sea level rises, as well as mass extinctions.

    Human activities are resulting in comparably large increases in CO2 concentrations, but over a period of decades, rather than centuries or millennia.

  46. 246
    J. Bob says:

    Don’t know last post took, so I’ll try again.

    #203 Walter-TO NOT GIVE UP. If you do I might never post here again. Wonder if I’d be missed? Try copying the data postings off this web site and pasting in what ever spreadsheet you have, and go from there. I checked your linear coefficients, and they were better then my initial ones. One of the things my old stat teacher insisted on is that we VISUALLY look at the data. Does it make sense, and if not why. You do not always need complex computer programs to think for you, trust your self and common sense. I worked for a while in one field where stats are a big thing in the protocol. A number of desks had a “How to Lie with Statistics” book. Does that tell you something? Again, try what you have done this last temp graph, and start looking at other long term graphs to get a perspective. Then make up your own mind, as you now have a basis to start from. Again, climat4you.com has some very good plots & data comparisons. This has been stimulating, and a challenge to try and condense knowledge and experience, and present it in a way that someone with less experience can understand it.

    #205,207,214 – Now I’ve not made any claims to statistics, up to now, but since you brought it up, you will make my long suffering wife happy. I am getting my head out of the blogasphere, and dusting my old statistical process references. I will be putting my head in some books, FOR A WHILE. Now I have to go digging up Wiener and Kalman and seeing if I still do have copy of MATLAB.
    I really think it’s a plot here, to get me to clean out the attic.

  47. 247
    Alastair says:

    Quote: “You arrived here displaying a certain level of intellectual arrogance … coupled with mind-boggling ignorance.”

    It’s not arrogant to ask critical questions. By contrast it is very arrogant to attack personally someone for having an opposing view or the general attidude that “we are the experts and you are nobody”. There are many climate scientists who are skeptics, don’t you think it’s arrogant to dismiss their arguments.

    Quote: “No, I can’t show you such an example — because the rapid and extreme anthropogenic increase in CO2 concentrations over the last century is unprecedented.”

    Then how can you be so sure that the models are correct if this is unprecedented, they all show rapid temperature increases over a short period. To be fair, maybe the models will proove to be correct, I’m not an expert but that doesn’t mean that I can ask questions of the models.

    [Response: Possibly you don’t realise that there is a difference between asking questions and presupposing the answers? – gavin]

    There is no need for personal attacks, there is no place for it in science and as such I won’t be posting any more comments here.

  48. 248
    SecularAnimist says:

    Alastair wrote: “Then how can you be so sure that the models are correct if this is unprecedented, they all show rapid temperature increases over a short period.”

    I didn’t say anything about models. Rapid temperature increases over a short period are already being observed.

  49. 249
    walter crain says:

    jim bob,
    well, don’t worry about me giving up. i’ll keep bugging you about it until i see a “picture” of your graph. i was too specific i suppose when i said i don’t use excel – i don’t use spreadsheets… i have no need to for my work (or pleasure…). there’s got to be a way you can “post” a picture of your graph somewhere, but i can’t offer instructions on that or a place to do it.

  50. 250

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