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Science, narrative and heresy

Filed under: — gavin @ 3 November 2010

Recent blog discussions have starkly highlighted the different values and priorities for scientists, bloggers and (some parts) of the mainstream media.

For working scientists, the priority in any discussion about science should be accuracy. Methods, results, and interpretations must be clear, logically connected and replicable by others. For people who haven’t experienced a joint editing effort on a scientific paper, it might surprise them to see the strength with which seemingly minor word choices are argued over. This process is particularly stark in short format papers written for Science and Nature, (and increasingly for press releases), where every word is at a premium. For many scientists then, the first thing they look for in a colleagues more ‘popular’ offerings is whether the science is described clearly and correctly. Of course, this is often not the same as judging whether it succeeds in improving popular understanding.

Indeed, the quality of the science is almost always how a popular piece is judged by scientists, regardless of the final conclusion the author comes to. For instance, my review of Tim Flannery’s The Weather Makers was very critical, because his conception of how the science worked was poor, regardless of the fact that his conclusions are aligned to my own in many respects. The furor over the Soon and Balinuas paper in 2003, was much less about their conclusions, than about the nonsensical manner in which they had arrived at them (combined with disgust at the way it was publicised and promoted). Our multiple criticisms of Henrik Svensmark have focused far more on the spin and illogic of his claims concerning the impact of cosmic rays on climate than it is on the viability of the basic mechanism (which remains to tested).

The underlying principle is that proposed by Daniel Moynihan, that people might be entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.

The media on the other hand is mostly fascinated by the strength of the narrative. The enduring ‘heretic’ meme – the plucky iconoclastic individual whose ideas are being repressed by the establishment – is never very far below the surface in almost all high-impact scientific profiles, for instance, Freeman Dyson’s NY Times magazine piece last year. To be sure this is a powerful archetype even in how scientists see themselves (shades of Galilean hero-worship), and so it is no surprise that scientists play up to this image on a regular basis. Craig Venter is someone who very successfully does this, possibly with some justification (though YMMV). However, this image is portrayed far more widely than it is valid. Svensmark, for instance, has gone out of his way to mention that he works in a basement on a shoestring budget, having to work weekends and holidays (the horror!) to pursue his ideas. For such people any criticism is seen as the establishment reaction to the (supposedly revolutionary) consequences of their ideas. This of course would be the case for true revolutionaries, but it is a very common attitude among the merely mistaken.

It is not difficult to see the attraction in being seen as the iconoclast outside the mainstream in a scientific field that has been so polticized. There is a ready audience of misfits and partisans happy to cheer any supposed defection from the ‘consensus’, and there are journalists and editors who, in their desire to have ‘balance’, relish voices that they can juxtapose against the mainstream without dealing with crackpots. Witness the short-lived excitement a couple of years ago of the so-called ‘non-skeptic heretics‘, such as Roger Pielke Jr., championed in the New York Times. In truth, there is very little that is ‘heretical’ in any of these voices. Only someone with no experience with the way science is actually done — try going to an AGU meeting for example — would think that scientists being upfront about uncertainty and following the data where it leads is any kind of radical notion. The self-declared heretics do get criticised a lot, but not generally because of the revolutionary nature of their ideas, but rather because they often indulge in sloppy thinking or are far too quick to allege misconduct against scientists (or the IPCC) without justification, perhaps in order to bolster their outsider status. That does not go down well, but to conflate ‘mainstream’ expressions of distaste with this sort of behavior with the belief that the actual ideas of ‘heretics’ (about policy or uncertainty) are in some way special or threatening, is to confuse the box with the cereal.

There are a couple of tell-tale signs of this ‘Potemkin heresy’ that mark it out as not quite kosher. First, for the heretic who has a coherent alternative to the orthodoxy, it is very unlikely that this alternative will be in line with the thoughts of all the other outsiders. True heresy is actually very lonely. If alternatively, the ‘heresy’ consists of thinking that every idea that pops up is worthy of serious consideration, they are simply throwing away the concept of science as a filter that can actually take us closer to reality. If every idea must now and forever, be considered anew whenever someone brings it up, no progress is possible at all. Science works because it can use observations from the real world to move on from unsupported or disproven ideas. All ideas are in principle challengeable, but in practice, unless there is new information, old issues get resolved and put aside. The seriousness of a new ‘heresy’ then, can be measured in how much shrift is given to the crackpots. As Sagan said, one should always keep an open mind, but not one that is so open that your brains drop out.

The second sign that all is not well is in how well the supposed heretic understands why they are being criticised. Usually this is stated up-front by the critics – for instance, I have criticised Judy Curry for not knowing enough about what she has chosen to talk about, for not thinking clearly about the claims she has made with respect to the IPCC, and for flinging serious accusations at other scientists without just cause. Similarly, we have criticised Roger Pielke Jr. for frequently misrepresenting scientists (including me) and falsely accusing them of plagiarism, theft and totalitarianism. That both interpret these critiques as a disguised attack on their values, policies or scientific ideas would be funny if they were not so earnest. (For reference, we are just not that subtle).

Unfortunately, the narrative of the heretic is self-reinforcing. Once a scientist starts to perceive criticism as an attack on their values/ideas rather than embracing it in order to improve (or abandon) an approach, it is far more likely that they will in fact escalate the personalisation of the debate, leading to still further criticism of their conduct, which will be interpreted as a further attack on their values etc. This generally leads to increasing frustration and marginalisation, combined quite often with increasing media attention, at least temporarily. It very rarely leads to any improvement in public understanding.

The fact remains that science is hugely open to new thinking and new approaches. Indeed, it thrives on novelty. New data from new platforms, new calculations enabled by the increases in computing power and new analyses of the ever-increasing amount of observed data, each have the continual potential to challenge previously held ideas – if that can be demonstrated logically and with evidence to back it up. A recent example of a potentially dramatic new finding was the Haigh et al paper on solar forcing. If true, it would turn almost all work on solar effects on climate on its head, and they had no obvious problem publishing in Nature. This idea of knowledge sitting on a knife edge ready to flip whenever some new observation or insight arrives, is the reason why science is so exciting and fascinating. That is the reason why science deserves to be the story, and why journalists should be continuously searching for the ‘front page’ thought that will allow this story to be told to a wide audience. But all too often the real story is neglected in favour of a familiar well-worn, but inappropriate, trope.

It is clear that scientists’ obsession with clear thinking over narrative handicaps our attempts to communicate the seriousness of the climate change challenge. But since the media will continue to favor compelling narratives over substance, that is the method by which this debate will be fought.

542 Responses to “Science, narrative and heresy”

  1. 401
    simon abingdon says:

    #394 Ray Ladbury “Temperature rise IS the main negative feedback against increasing energy in the atmosphere. If some heat goes into warming the briny depths, that merely means that the radiating surface takes longer to heat up. It does not change the amount it must heat up to restore equilibrium.”

    Ray, I should like to repeat my earlier (#353) question “…might we here be talking about decades, centuries or millenia?”. What in other words does ocean heating imply for the urgency of the atmospheric warming issue?

  2. 402
    Jim Eaton says:

    Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. says:

    “Moving water is not that expensive, and we even know how to do it from experience in the great California Central Valley.”

    While we do move water from north to south in California, it should be pointed out that the California State Water Project is the largest single user of energy in California. It takes a lot of energy to pump water uphill.

    Aside from the water project’s destruction of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Rivers Delta ecosystem, the looming issue is what will happen with rising sea levels. The pumps sending water south are at the current sea level. It will not be too many years in the future before the Delta is part of San Francisco Bay. Finding a way to transport fresh water around this expanding sea of salt water will prove to be quite expensive.

  3. 403
    Snapple says:

    Kommersant in the News Again!

    The Russian business daily Kommersant trashed the British climate scientists last December and now they are trashing Russia’s foreign intelligence service (SVR).

    I just want you to appreciate the power of your adversaries. This is a very important battle for the scientists to win.

    The Russian business daily Kommersant attacked the British climate scientists on 12-16-09. This attack happened nanoseconds after the EPA finding about CO2.

    Cuccinelli’s brief to the EPA is off the Richter Scale for unintentional irony:

    “On December 15, 2009—the very day that EPA announced the Endangerment Finding—the Russian Institute of Economic Analysis (“IEA”) reported that CRU probably tampered with Russian climate data…”


    This “science” story was originally reported in the Russian language, but some information in the article was translated into English by Russia’s official press agency RIA Novosti and widely cited by climate denialists in legal attacks on the EPA. Kommersant claimed that the British scientists dropped many Russian temperature stations.

    Libertarians are sometimes not very sincere. They don’t like American government agencies, yet they seem quite dazzled by agencies of the Russian petrostate.

    Are Libertarians are being activists on the Russian government’s dime? How very naughty of them!

    Kommersant is in the headlines again because they attacked Russia’s foreign intelligence service, the SVR. This is not really hard-hitting, independent, investigative reporting. Those writers had never written on intelligence issues.

    Dimtry Sidirov, Kommersant’s former Washington bureau chief, says the paper “is very close to the Kremlin.” (Wash. Post)

    A Guardian reporter called Kommersant something like “respected” or “reliable” when he reported the latest wrinkle in the Russian spy story. The media often use the stock epithet “respected Kommersant.”

    I want to tell you about the so-called “respected” Kommersant, because I remember how they attacked the British climate scientists in an article that claimed the science was fudged because not all the climate stations were used.

    Kommersant’s source was the ECONOMIST Andrei Illarionov of the Institute for Economic analysis (IEA). He is also at the Cato. He is a “former Putin adviser and also worked for Chernomyrdin, who ran the Soviet Gas Ministry and its post-Soviet reincarnation, Gazprom.

    Supposedly Illarionov had a falling out with Putin, but still manages to spread denialism from “think tanks” in Russia and America. He also gets quoted in a “reliable” Kremlin mouthpiece–Kommersant—right after the EPA finding.

    This Kommersant (12-16-09) article about the British climate scientists was recycled by RIA Novosti. That article dropped Illarionov’s name but cited his IEA.

    Some of those organizations who petitioned the EPA cited the NOVOSTI article in their briefs.

    Do you think the Tea Party rank and file knows this?

    I doubt the Tea Party’s proletariat know that Attorney General Cuccinelli also cites the Novosti article that was based on the Kommersant article in his suit against the EPA. The funny thing is that Cuccinelli actually mischaracterizes what the Novosti article says. Why quote the Russians and then “fix” what they said?

    Novosti said that Hadley dropped some of the weather stations. Cuccinelli claims that Novosti said that CRU dropped some land temperatures.

    I think Cuccinelli probably had to “fix” the Novosti article because someone might notice that Hadley is responsible for sea-surface temperatures. I’d love to hear him explain that.

    Here are two posts that will take you to all the links that provide the evidence.

  4. 404
    Snapple says:

    It is possible there is some undisclosed connection between the Russian spy story and Russian corruption of the energy industry because last July Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty wrote an article titled: \Why The Russia Spy Story Really Matters.\

    Interestingly, this article—supposedly about those Russian spies, who seemed to have wandered off the set of \The Coneheads\ and ended up pruning hydrangeas in suburbia—actually all about corruption in the energy industry.

    \In Western Europe, Moscow has operated by making lucrative arrangements with foreign energy companies that become de facto lobbyists for the Kremlin within their own countries.\—\Why The Russia Spy Story Really Matters\ (RFE/RL, 7-9-10)

  5. 405
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jim Bullis,
    Regarding your can idea: Bad idea. Canals wind up being wonderful for transporting invasive species, they lose lots of water due to evaporation, they irreversibly alter extant ecosystems, and mostly they wind up being welfare projects for civil engineers.

    Jim, I intend this criticism in a friendly manner. You have a tendency to draw very strong conclusions about a subject before you have a thorough understanding of it. I realize you are busy and may not have time to study in detail, but that is what we have experts for.

    As an illustration, your conclusion that we don’t have to worry about warming because all we’ll do is heat the briny depths reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of radiative physics. It’s an esoteric subject, so I don’t fault you for that. I would suggest though that you might get into fewer flame wars if you listened a bit more to the moderators.

  6. 406
    JCH says:

    Snapple – perhaps you can help me find out the identities of these Spanish hydrologists:

  7. 407
    simon abingdon says:

    #405 Ray Ladbury

    “As an illustration, your (Jim Bullis’s) conclusion that we don’t have to worry about warming because all we’ll do is heat the briny depths reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of radiative physics.”

    Ray, what can I say? If a cold ocean is in contact with a warm atmosphere, heat will flow across the surface (by whatever means) until an equilibrium is reached. Given the thermal sluggishness of the oceans and the immensity of their volume such equilibrium may be a long time coming. If idealized equations and GCMs say otherwise, then so much the worse for them. They cannot properly be accounting for something that is obvious. (But I’m not surprised. Given previous exchanges I sometimes suspect there may be some out there who really do believe that a blanket will keep a corpse warm at night!).

  8. 408
    Ray Ladbury says:

    The exact time to equilibrium depends on how much of the deep oceans must also reach equilibrium. Best estimates are ~90% equilibrium on a timescale of 3-5 decades.

  9. 409
  10. 410
    Radge Havers says:

    “Suppressing dissenting views.” Mud is sticky:

    “Public support for climate scientists was also harmed, with polls showing that trust in them dropped to 40%, from around 60%, in the UK….

    Among those who had petitioned the EPA to change US environment regulations, using the East Anglia emails as evidence of meteorological fraud and manipulation, was Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private coal company. Its executives were so confident that climategate could be exploited as a global scandal that it even sent a memo to the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee when it began to deliberate the affair this year, accusing the unit’s scientists of “suppressing dissenting views”. (The committee disagreed and vindicated the unit.)

    The fact that companies like Peabody have exploited the East Anglia emails is revealing. As Bob Ward, policy director at the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, pointed out: “It is clear the leaked emails have been used by companies and groups with large financial interests in oil and coal production in order to oppose the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions”. The reverberations of climategate run deep and hard.”

    Climate change: science’s fresh fight to win over the sceptics at The Guardian.

  11. 411
    Snapple says:

    That story is all over the Internet, but Pravda is a really pretty lowbrow publication unless you like the girlie pictures.

    Perhaps there was a recent meeting of hydrologists and this was a paper they presented.

    I used to work for a hydrologist during the summer in the antedeluvian Age. I had to record all the water levels measured on paper graphs that were attached to wells all over the state.
    This was done with a pencil and plotted on a new graph. there were no computers in those days for this sort of thing.

    Pravda writers don’t understand anything they read, so everyone else is stupid.

    I looked over the Russian version, and they didn’t identify their sources.

    I will try to locate something similar, but you could try writing Pravda.

    On Climategate Pravda was citing Fox News. That was pretty jaring.

  12. 412
    Marco says:

    Find the differences:
    (only paper I can imagine)

  13. 413

    398 Mike Palin

    Water without salt in it does not get salty by evaporation.

    Something like a third of Los Angeles drinks water from the California aquaduct, which comes from the Sacramento river delta, before it becomes salty. The path to Los Angeles is about as hot and dry as anywhere.

  14. 414

    394 Ray Ladbury

    One slug of energy into the oceans will have the effect you describe.

    A steady flow of energy into the deep ocean will function just like outgoing radiation. And the three flows, incoming, outgoing, and sinking all have to be balanced to reach equilibrium at the surface.

    The ocean is really big. Think about it.

    The interesting point is what the sinking flow rate is and its dynamic characteristics. If one were looking at a transient response, as in feedback theory, there would be an integrator function in the loop. However, it appears that this is not an issue given the time rate of change of climate, in general.

  15. 415

    405 Ray Ladbury

    I recommend a drive down Interstate 5 from Sacramento to Los Angeles. You can do it on Google Earth.

    If you took that trip 50 years ago, it would look like Australia around Alice Springs. Now, you will see the most productive agricultural region in the world. Google Earth will not help you see 50 years ago.

    [Response: Oh is that a fact?–Jim]

    Yes, there are ecological issues. There are a fair number of parched fields with signs saying ‘Dust Bowl Created by Congress’. I think that means that the concern for smelt in the Sacramento River delta has over-ridden the need to produce food for millions. Yes, there are issues to work out.

    [Response: I’m curious as to what it is that makes you repeatedly spout complete nonsense on topics which you know nothing about and expect that people will just accept it uncritically. You convince no one but yourself with your assertions–Jim]

  16. 416
    CM says:

    Jim (#333, 350, 364),

    Thanks for clarifying in #350, which wasn’t up yet when I sent my #358.

    To your #364: No, of course I wasn’t agreeing that atmospheric temperature will not increase significantly. We all know the ocean takes up heat, and that’s factored into the projected temperature increase. If your point is that the models would have projected even faster surface warming if they had failed to take vertical heat transport into account, sure.

    You think the models haven’t handled vertical mixing well; I don’t know about that, but my layman’s impression is that ocean vertical (diapycnal) mixing is difficult to handle: that a variety of processes are involved, not all of them at all well understood, and that we lack the grid resolution to simulate them. My impression is that the parameterization of vertical mixing has indeed been a significant source of uncertainty in ocean GCMs, and hence in the determination of the transient climate response. (As opposed to the equilibrium sensitivity, which is not reduced by greater ocean heat uptake, cf. Ray’s comments.) So I’m not dismissing it as a factor.

    However, it’s also my understanding (corrections welcome) that the current uncertainty range in the AR4 estimate of a transient climate response (1-3 ºC) already includes the uncertainty due to a range of different parameterizations of vertical mixing. (If I understand Dalan et al. 2005 correctly.) So if you have new insights about vertical mixing that will give us a TCR of less than 1ºC, please show your work. Also, I think you may get into trouble reconciling this with observed warming.

    In your #333, you seem to be drawing general conclusions about the ocean mixed layer and downward heat transport from a graph of potential temperature and salinity in the central Labrador sea. But that is one of the few and narrow regions in the world where open-ocean deep convection takes place (along with the Greenland and Norwegian Seas, the Weddel and Ross Seas, a spot in the Mediterranean). And you’re claiming “strong trends over the last decade” from eyeballing a graph that covers a little over six years, and that is dominated by a 2008 event that the caption describes as “spectacular.” I don’t see how the view through this very special little window in space and time supports any conclusion about the mixed layer elsewhere and how climate scientists have got it wrong (and as Hank pointed out at #347, your remarks about the mixed layer seem to be directed at a strawman).

  17. 417
  18. 418

    [edit. Please stop driving these posts continually off topic, it’s a waste of everyone’s time]

  19. 419
    Snapple says:

    This Kommersant newspaper that attacked the British Climate scientists last December about the ignored temperature stations is owned by a Russian named Alisher Usmanov.
    He is tight with Putin.

    The Kommersant article was adapted by RIA Novosti (English) and the NOvosti article is cited by denialists who petitioned the EPA. Cuccinelli also cites the Novosti rewrite in his EPA suit.

    Usmanov owns a conglomerate of Gazprom metal companies and is the 100th richest person in the world.

    He is chairman of Gazprominvestholdings, the investment holding subsidiary of Russia’s Gazprom, where his role is to manage what Gazprom delicately calls its “most difficult and sensitive financial transactions.” (Wikipedia)

    They say a lot of very bad things about him on the Internet that make me feel ill, so I stick to what is pretty much true.

  20. 420

    simon 407: I sometimes suspect there may be some out there who really do believe that a blanket will keep a corpse warm at night!

    BPL: It will keep it warmer than if it had no blanket.

  21. 421

    Re moderator Jim response to my #415

    Critical discussion would be welcome.

    What is it about the California Central Valley that you dispute?

  22. 422

    #415 Jim Bullis

    You seem to not have all the facts in a row. The issue of the delta smelt, if yo draw the teleconnections likely, or very likely, is attributable to global warming along with land use changes, such as the impressive agricultural growth in the San Joaquin Valley.

    When you combine all factors and the loss of water coming from the sierra, you end up with upset farmers that say we want water.

    The environmental laws are not unimportant. But no one was expecting that much water loss this quickly either.

    So while it is convenient to blame environmentalists, the real culprit is likely or very likely the combination of land use changes (agricultural growth), drought, environmental laws and global warming.

    The fact that people are upset that some water is being held back does not address the real issues here. We’ve got a lot of people to feed and the precipitation trends are shifting away form existing infrastructure.

    You can blame the crazy environmentalists but that would be short sighted. if your going to have a trial and find someone guilty. Make sure you’ve got all the evidence. The modern day lynch mobs blaming environmentalists for degradation that comes from the fossil fuel industry and expansion beyond capacity is more than ironic, it’s bizarre.

    Economics: Balancing Economies
    October Leading Edge: The Cuccinelli ‘Witch Hunt”

    Fee & Dividend: Our best chanceLearn the IssueSign the Petition
    A Climate Minute: Natural CycleGreenhouse EffectClimate Science HistoryArctic Ice Melt

  23. 423
    adelady says:

    Jim, the distance between Alice Springs and Coober Pedy is about the same, 596 km or 370 miles. Might I point out that the only civilised way to live in Coober Pedy is in a dugout. A house blasted out of the opal bearing rock beneath the searing desert surface. I even attended a wedding in the dugout catholic church there. Alice Springs, Uluru, Coober Pedy, Woomera rocket range, – all these places are totally unsuitable for any major water infrastructure.

    As for salts in water. Rivers have to flow over _something_ to get from place to place. Different rocks and soils will give up different soluble compounds in this process. The further the water travels the more soluble compounds the water will acquire. The further the water travels the more of it will evaporate thereby increasing the concentrations of dissolved materials. Is that simple enough?

  24. 424

    416 CM

    My information on how the models handle the ocean interface references a quote from our host gavin, who I fully believe has solid knowledge of the models.

  25. 425

    422 Adelady,

    I have discussed this further on the “open thread” at:

    presently “awaiting moderation”. Hope to hear from you there.

  26. 426
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re simon abingdon, Jim Bullis

    There is an upper layer of ocean water (which I’m not saying is sharply defined) which tends toward equilibrium with the atmosphere on short time periods, under a few years. Greater amounts of the ocean interact flow are processed through this mixed layer over longer time periods. The heat capacity slows the decay of radiative disequilibrium (ie the approach to climatic equilibrium) but doesn’t generally halt it, so for global warming, the warming continues but more slowly. Eventually the atmosphere and upper ocean will be near equilibrium with radiative forcing, not when the oceanic heat sink has adjusted completely to the new surface conditions, but when the the remaining unused oceanic heat sink is in those parts of the ocean which are only brought to the surface at a very slow rate; at this point one can consider the upwelling of colder water (colder than what it would be in full equilibrium; there generally still can be cold upwelling water in a full climatic equilibrium state) to provide an external forcing to the surface environment, keeping the surface colder than otherwise by a small amount; this forcing decays over time.

  27. 427
    Mike Palin says:

    Jim Bullis @ 413

    “Water without salt in it does not get salty by evaporation.”

    Hmm, all natural waters have dissolved constituents – they give “fresh” water its flavour.

    “The path to Los Angeles is about as hot and dry as anywhere.”

    I’ve lived and worked in California and Australia long enough to tell you you have absolutely no idea what you are writing about. You need to spend more time reading and less time typing!

  28. 428

    424 Patrick 027

    Exactly, except I do not at all see things like simon abingdon seems to see things.

    You and I quibble about degree of how much colder the ocean makes it, and how long this ‘forcing’ lasts. And I only say it would seem to be something that will make a significant difference.

    My biggest concern is that the temperature of the atmosphere will turn out to be enough less than predicted that the whole science will get thrown out. Then try to get anything done to fix things.

  29. 429

    427 Mike Palin

    I was talking about the kind of salt that comes in sea water. That was the context of the conversation. We also have discussed previously a need to pay attention to accumulation of various mineral ‘salts’. And that has been a significant issue in the California Central Valley.

    I will check the data, but I would be surprised if Death Valley, China Lake, etc. and the Central Valley are not at least in the same climate league with much of Australia. Are you really saying otherwise; and people and sheep live there?

    See more at:

  30. 430
    David B. Benson says:

    Mike Palin @427 — That would be a good idea. Somehow, however, …

  31. 431
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jim, do you understand how the greenhouse effect works? Do you understand the how the energy balance works? Where do we need to start, because unless you think ALL the excess energy goes into the ocean, I can’t see how you are claiming the oceans will prevent climate change. Indeed, if the oceans are sucking up a significant amount of energy, that would likely require a higher climate sensitivity–and we’re even more in the soup.

  32. 432
    CM says:

    Jim #424, I’m glad we can finally agree on something: our host knows the models. So I’ve gone back and read your quote, in which Gavin was specifically talking about models used for the standard estimate of Charney sensitivity as opposed to fully coupled models (and how they don’t differ much in the long run anyway). An out-of-context Gavin quote, a Labrador Sea event, and a 1946 paper on ocean acoustics — and you’re able to convince yourself the surface won’t warm much? I must be crazy, wasting sleep on this.

  33. 433
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Simon Abingdon, Ah, but the warm atmosphere is not in contact with the cold briny depths, is it? There’s a layer of warmer water on top, isn’t there? Are you really this thick?

  34. 434

    429 Ray Ladbury

    I most assuredly never said heat going into the oceans would prevent climate change. I have repeatedly said that it would reduce the increase in temperature in the atmosphere, relative to what is predicted by models that do not consider heat going into the oceans. That is somehow different.

    Are you thinking that deep ocean temperature is part of the climate?

  35. 435

    423 Adelady

    Water flows over concrete in the California Aquaduct.

    Maybe you could suggest a better water route than the most direct path through Alice Springs.

    You might recall, I first mentioned a Northern water movement. You seemed to prefer debating about Alice Springs. Might this be a tactic to avoid discussing anything involving water distribution?

    Water distribution seems to rank higher than global warming as something to be defeated.

  36. 436

    430 CM

    Interesting how things are reframed here.

    The compendium of knowledge acquired during WWII by all the labs in the country published in 1946, you reduce to a paper on ocean acoustics.

    An inline response written by Gavin, the very one himself, becomes a quote out of context.

    I took the actual Gavin words to mean that the models are not coupled, though he maintains it would not matter much. That is my point of contention.

    [Response: You have misunderstood the comment completely. I was referring to a specific calculation which requires an fully equilibriated simulation. Most experiments – and this includes all transients for the next few decades – do not require this and so coupled models are routinely used. – gavin]

    The ‘Labrador sea event’ was a nine year record of temperature as a function of time and depth to a depth that is ignored in the models.

  37. 437
    Didactylos says:

    Jim said “I have repeatedly said” – yes, we noticed. Thank you.

    Your mistake is twofold: first, you are thinking that nobody has noticed this extremely obvious fact. Second, you are insisting that it is significant. You even go so far as to say “this would make the model results invalid”.

    Possibly you are making another mistake: you say “relative to what is predicted by models that do not consider heat going into the oceans”, but all models consider heat going into the oceans – it’s just that they don’t all model the ocean as the complicated system that it is. Instead, they use a very simplified model.

    And the simple model produces (as has been explained) very similar results to full earth simulators.

    I hope you realise that you sound a lot like those tiresome deniers who claim that since models are simplifications, and thus “wrong”, then they are useless.

  38. 438
    Rod B says:

    adelady (423), IIRC that was one of the major problems with the canal built to deliver drinking water to Tucson from the Colorado. Totally busted when completed.

  39. 439

    433 Didylos

    Perhaps you would identify which climate models are the simplified models and which are the complicated models. Then explain the differences.

    At one time I was told that all the modeling depended on the “Monterey Model” to some extent or other. Then it turned out that the “Monterey Model” considered the heat to be trapped in the ‘Mixed Layer’. Thus none of the models are valid, no matter how complicated they are.

    The Labrador data was particularly illuminating about the ‘mixed layer’ and how it decidedly did not trap heat.

    Since you are aware of these obvious facts, I am counting on you to fill me in correctly, where I make my many mistakes.

  40. 440
    Didactylos says:

    “Thus none of the models are valid, no matter how complicated they are.”

    You are inching towards truth. Just think, eventually* we will have models that are so complicated that they are, in fact, a planet. And then it will be valid. And it *still* won’t duplicate Earth.

    “I am counting on you to fill me in correctly”

    Gavin has already explained all this to you. I’m just moving the pieces around trying to find an angle that will fit inside your head.

    This isn’t rocket science. It’s straight from the Climate Model FAQ.

    * That is to say, never.

  41. 441
    David B. Benson says:

    Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. @439 — I reply on the Open Variations thread, where this exchange belongs.

  42. 442
    Hank Roberts says:

    > none of the models are valid

    Jim, Jim ….

    As to your question about different kinds of models, see here:

    “Spencer Weart’s Discovery of Global Warming features two chapters on the history of climate modeling: Simple Models of Climate Change and General Circulation Models of Climate …. ”

    Reading. It can’t hurt.

  43. 443
    Brian Dodge says:

    “Something like a third of Los Angeles drinks water from the California aquaduct, which comes from the Sacramento river delta, before it becomes salty.” Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 14 November 2010 @ 2:06 PM

    “Currently, water salinity in the California Aqueduct and the Delta-Mendota Canal ranges between 300 and 350 mg/l of total dissolved solids (TDS).” The Economic Effects on Agriculture of Water Export Salinity South of the Delta, Josué Medellín–Azuara, Richard E. Howitt, Jay R. Lund, Ellen Hanak;

  44. 444
    Jim Eaton says:

    #405 Jim Bullis

    “I recommend a drive down Interstate 5 from Sacramento to Los Angeles. You can do it on Google Earth.

    “If you took that trip 50 years ago, it would look like Australia around Alice Springs. Now, you will see the most productive agricultural region in the world.”

    I am old enough to have explored the San Joaquin Valley in my youth (no I-5 back then, just county roads). I also have spent time in and around Alice Springs, Australia. I can assure you that they did not look the same.

    The Central Valley Project brought water to the San Joaquin Valley, allowing landowners to convert agricultural lands already in production (dry farming, livestock) to irrigated crops and orchards. Runoff from those fields was sent to Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge, but in a few decades the selenium and salts in the runoff water caused such horrendous mutations in the wildlife that the refuge now is closed.

    In the Westlands Water District, 90,000 acres of irrigated land has been “retired” and allowed to be returned to dry farming. Many folks agree that the most cost effective solution to the selenium and salt problem will be to stop irrigation of most all of the lands in the Valley. Pouring fresh water on arid lands may allow one to grow crops in the short term, but without considering soil chemistry and environmental conditions, this may lead to costly unintended consequences that can be difficult — if not impossible — to mitigate.

  45. 445

    436 inline by Gavin

    Compare to see how things could be misunderstood.

    7 April 2008 at 11:20 AM
    Do you mean by, “simple mixed layer ocean” that the variations of ocean temperature with depth are not part of the analysis?

    [Response: In the standard estimate of the Charney sensitivity. no. Using fully coupled OAGCMs takes much much longer and has not yet become standard practice. In the GISS models, the difference in eventual temperatures (after hundreds of years) is on the order of a few tenths of a degree. – gavin]

    #436 today

    I took the actual Gavin words to mean that the models are not coupled, though he maintains it would not matter much. That is my point of contention.

    [Response: You have misunderstood the comment completely. I was referring to a specific calculation which requires an fully equilibriated simulation. Most experiments – and this includes all transients for the next few decades – do not require this and so coupled models are routinely used. – gavin]

    This is all just a confusion arising in trying to get to the real issue, which is how the ocean model works. That is the ‘mixed layer’ issue. We also discussed that previously, and in looking for that discussion I picked up the April 2008 discussion.

  46. 446
    Edward Greisch says:

    Countercurrents thinks it can solve the Science, narrative and heresy problem with a web wiki:

    “Building Climate Change Consensus:
    Mann Vs McIntyre, For Example
    By Bill Henderson

    Climate change is but one of the global scale ‘Bottleneck’ problems threatening our continuing evolution. A science-process, controlled-access wiki could be a key tool in looking down the road, quantifying dangers, and acting with due diligence to future generations”

    I doubt it.

  47. 447
    Edward Greisch says:

    Andy Revkin has dubbed himself “senior fellow for environmental understanding”

    :) :)

    Dr. Hansen deserves a title like that.

  48. 448

    It seems there is lots of advice and scorn, but never a comment on the meaning of the data at:

    Half a degree increase in seven years at 1000 meters seems interesting to me.

    My original interest was whether there was more like this over a wider region. Dare I speculate that the implications of heat being taken into the deep ocean are significant.

    Ah the scientific method; how sweet it is.

  49. 449
    Ray Ladbury says:

    OK, Jim, you ‘splain to me, if the oceans reduce the temperature of the radiating surface from what it would otherwise be, then how does the planet return to radiative equilibrium.

    And if it does not return to equilibrium, what keeps the surface temperature from rising?

  50. 450
    Mike Palin says:

    Jim Bullis @ 429

    “I was talking about the kind of salt that comes in sea water.”

    And where do you suppose the “salt” in seawater comes from?

    Read more, write less.