Unforced Variations: March 2012

This month’s open thread – for appetizers we have: William Nordhaus’s extremely impressive debunking in the NY Review of Books of the WSJ 16 letter and public polling on the issue of climate change. Over to you…

617 comments on this post.
  1. Ray Ladbury:

    Dan H.,
    Shall we list the other hypotheses we do not have sufficient evidence to rule out:

    1)Invisible Martian heat ray
    2)Invisible pink uniforms rubbing their little hooves toghether very fast
    3)Angels doing river dancing really fast on the heads of an uncountable number of invisible pins.

    Dan, the greenhouse effect + natural variability explains the data quite well–as the recent analysis by Foster and Rahmstorf showed. There is no need to posit mysterious mechanisms giving rise to mysterious oscillations.

    I do not think that you are sufficiently stupid not to realize what you are doing. The harmonic functions sine and cosine form a complete set of functions–add enough together, you can approximate any series, except at the edges. Change the period or add more sines and cosines, and you can keep playing this game indefinitely. And you will. Your goal is not to understand anything. Your goal is to obfuscate and forestall understanding, because you know as soon as kitchen light comes on, you’d better skitter for a dark corner.

  2. MARodger:

    Dan H. @497
    I would suggest it is particularly discourteous to paste so many irrelevant links into a comment as you do here.
    …the data does appear to oscillate about the linear increase. But don’t take my word for it, read was others have to say:” you say. The casual reader would be expecting links to corroborating references, but what do you provide?
    (1) A paper discussing trend plus wobble. It’s all about astrology but I enjoy a good laugh now and then.
    (2) BEST talks of small wobbles and no mention of linear trend. Irrelevant!
    (3) Reconstructing ancient PDO. No linear trend! Irrelevant!!
    (4) Curve-fitting. No linear trend!! Irrelevant!!!

    If you find references for your linear trend to be this elusive, perhaps you should take that situation on board and reappraise you ideas on the subject. Take it from me, the idea of some underlying linear trend is risible in the extreme.

  3. Susan Anderson:

    I can’t help but think Dan H. is rehearsing arguments that will impress more on sites where the audience is less capable of checking his assertions (they can hardly be called arguments when they fail to hold up at all). This is sad and dangerous. I also agree with those who say it’s time to stop dancing so delicately around the “L” word.

  4. Dan H.:

    I am not positing any mysterious mechanism. I do not know where you are getting that idea.

    The data could just as easily be described as a large increase, following by a slight decrease, another large increase and slight decrease, a recent large increase, and most recently, a slight decrease. While quite wordy, this describes the temperature data just as well.

    Theory dictates that an exponential rise in atmospheric CO2 levels will result in a linear temperature rise, but I think you know that already. During the 20th century, atmospheric CO2 levels followed a rough exponential curve, therefore, it would not be unreasonable to expect a linear response. The fact that temperatures fluctuated in the matter observed may be due to the many natural variations you mention. You can deny these fluctuations all you like, but they are still present in the data. It may well be that natural variability coincidently occurred in roughly 60-year cycles. Why are you so quick to dismiss this possibilty?

    I have no idea what MA was getting at.

  5. wili:

    It is sad to see this potentially very valuable site devolve into tail chasing. We are having some to the most extreme weather on record, with records not just being broken but totally obliterated. Can we talk about the implications of that instead of obsessing over a certain poster’s idiocies?


    Michigan has temperatures five standard deviations beyond normal–that’s something like a one in 5000 year event.

    How many such are needed before we can determine that something beyond normal fluctuations in temps is involved here?

  6. J Bowers:

    Slate reviews The Hunger Games in the context of dystopian effects of climate change in young adult fiction.

    Slate – Climate Change in The Hunger Games

  7. Hank Roberts:

    > Dan H. is rehearsing arguments

    And improving his simulation.

    I wonder where he’s applying what he learns here.

  8. Hank Roberts:

    Good pointer, thank you Susan Anderson; here’s the image and and excerpt:


    “… The result is an image showing how far from average the temperatures are. Yesterday, the analysis showed that Michigan experienced temperatures that were 4 – 5 climatological anomalies warmer than average (4-sigma to 5-sigma), the type of extreme that occurs between once every 43 years and once every 4779 years. Of course, using 30 years of data to estimate extreme events with a return period of centuries is a sketchy proposition. However, keep in mind that had we used a century-long climatology instead of using the past 30 years, yesterday’s warmth would have been classified as much more extreme, since the climate has warmed considerably in the past 30 years. It is highly unlikely the warmth of the current “Summer in March” heat wave could have occurred unless the climate was warming.”

  9. Walter Pearce:

    504 — Thanks for that Wili.

    If Dan H. had any intellectual honesty he’d have come clean here about what he learned from his PDSI adventure. Send the bore to the Bore Hole!

  10. Hank Roberts:

    correction, thank you to Wili for the Wunderblog pointer.

  11. SecularAnimist:

    Folks, to put it bluntly and frankly, Dan H. is a bullshit artist.

    Why the moderators don’t consign his comments to the Bore Hole, and why people continue to engage with his stupid and blatantly dishonest troll games, is beyond me.

  12. Ray Ladbury:

    Dan H.,
    A cyclic behavior requires a cyclic forcing. You certainly haven’t proposed any such mechanism–or any mechanism whatsoever that I can see. So if there is no forcing mechanism and insufficient data to suggest an oscillatory behavior, why the hell are we even discussing it?

    What I’m suggesting, Dan, is that we try to do science. Look at the observations. Look at the KNOWN forcings and other influences and see how much of the data they explain. Positing endless unknown mechanisms of varying characteristics to explain the data is not science. It is anti-science. It is worse than wrong. It is bullshit. Does that make my position any clearer?

  13. Kevin McKinney:

    #504 et seq.–Yes, it’s remarkable–definitely worth noting.

    The map seems to indicate that it’s not just Michigan, it’s also all of southwestern Ontario and most of New York, nearly all of Vermont, significant chunks of Massachusetts and Maine–and I mustn’t forget the Eastern three-fifths or so of Wisconsin.

  14. Dan H.:

    Yes, many of us here in Michigan are enjoying these four sigma above normal days – it is a real rare event for us to be this warm this early. On the flip side, my dad in Arizona is two sigma below normal. They received snow, while we were basking in warmth. As Jeff explained on his site, all this is due to blocking events, which are causing the jet stream to dip down into Mexico, and rise northward dramatically into Ontario.

    Very little research has been conducted in his area, with no trends observed to date.


  15. Hank Roberts:

    > very little

    = about 4500 papers since 2010




  16. MARodger:

    Dan H. @504
    No idea? If you consider a plea of ignorance to be an excuse for continued discourtesy, perhaps you should toddle off and learn some manners.

  17. t_p_hamilton:

    DanH said:”Wili,
    Yes, many of us here in Michigan are enjoying these four sigma above normal days – it is a real rare event for us to be this warm this early. On the flip side, my dad in Arizona is two sigma below normal.”

    4 sigma 2 x 10^-8
    2 sigma 5 x 10^-3

    Not even close to the same. The number of record highs is increasing, the number of record lows is decreasing. The odds of that being just due to chance, and not a shift in the distribution, are google sigma.

  18. tamino:

    Dan H. counters the 4-sigma heat in Michigan by referring to 2-sigma cold in Arizona as “the flip side.” Your homework assignment, Dan: look up the probability of a normal-distribution variable exceeding 2-sigma, and of its exceeding 4-sigma. Compare and contrast.

    Then Dan says “all this is due to blocking events.” There have been heat waves caused blocking events before — plenty of them — but not like this one. That’s the point.

    Casually dismissing the astounding record-shattering weather as “blocking events” requires either dishonesty, or an ability for self-delusion that buggers belief.

  19. SecularAnimist:

    tamino wrote: “Then Dan says ‘all this is due to blocking events’.”

    Which is somewhat like telling the lifelong chain smoker that the bloody sputum in his bathroom sink is due to coughing.

  20. Dan H.:

    OK Tamino, I’ll bite.
    How do you explain the record warmth?

  21. Hank Roberts:

    “Dan H. …. Let’s examine those ideas closely, shall we?”

  22. tamino:

    Once upon a time, there was a man named “Dan H.” He loved antique cars, and his favorite was an old roadster which he enjoyed taking on long trips. The only problem was that its cooling system wasn’t very good, so it would often overheat, especially on a long extended drive. He would then have to wait quite a while before it would run again. But these overheating episodes didn’t seem to cause any permanent damage, so he didn’t worry about them. He even had a pet name for his long extended drives — he called them “blocking events.” Whenever his car would overheat, “It’s all due to blocking events,” he would say.

    One day he decided to take a long trip to southern Nevada. He had his favorite roadster flown in from home because he wanted to drive across the famous “Death Valley.” Along the way, his car overheated. But this time, it didn’t just overheat, it reached record high temperature and the engine exploded.

    After having it towed (rather a long way) he was discussing the prognosis with a skilled mechanic, who informed him that the beloved roadster would never run again. “When I drive it in my home state, it overheats all the time!” he protested. “But it’s never exploded before. How could this have happened?”

    “Where do you live?” asked the mechanic. “Barrow, Alaska,” replied Dan H. “That’s your problem,” said the mechanic. “Sure, the long drive is what caused it to overheat, but what made it record-breaking heat was the change in climate between Alaska and Death Valley.

    “Nonsense!” ejaculated Dan H. “Climate change had nothing to do with it. It’s all due to blocking events.”

    The mechanic gave him an odd look, then said, “Do you have any idea how ridiculous you sound?”

  23. Kevin McKinney:

    #513–Dan, I really don’t want to pile on here.

    But I really struggle to explain to myself how it is that you write blithely that “Very little research has been conducted in his area, with no trends observed to date,” offering in support a link with an introductory literature review citing papers back to the 1924, using the phrase “early blocking studies, like Rex (1950),” and not actually getting to the present century before the end of the sample page (which is all that’s on offer for this link.)

    Oh, and saying nothing whatever about trends to this date or any other.

    Are you just throwing random stuff out to see if you can make people read it? It sure doesn’t look as if you read it yourself.

  24. Dan H.:

    Did you download the paper? Otherwise, you seem to be implying that a paper published in 2010, with data within the last few years does not meet your approval for recent? If you have reasons to believe that the authors were incorrect in drawing their conclusion, please state your reasoning. It seems to me that some people just automatically deny that which is inconvenient to their own belief system.

  25. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #519 Dan H.

    Ever heard of ‘Global Warming’? It’s a theory now substantiated by physics and observations regarding total radiative forcing and sensitivity, and in our current case of warming attributable to increased forcing agents form human/industrial means we are experiencing a change in trends pertaining to weather events driven by total change factors.

    You should look into it sometime. It’s pretty interesting stuff.

  26. adelady:

    “Theory dictates that an exponential rise in atmospheric CO2 levels will result in a linear temperature rise,… ”

    I really don’t want to pile on, but lurkers need to be warned off this slippery slope.

    There is no such theory. Climate theory allows for all the various forcings, responses and feedbacks involved in climate. By definition, this means that there cannot possibly be any such ‘linear’ temperature rise. Why not? Because the temperature drop after just one major volcanic eruption would destroy such a simplistic, not to say mindless, proposition.

    Anyone with further questions should move on to Foster & Rahmstorf.

  27. dbostrom:

    He’s having y’all on, probably. Repeating the person’s name is a mistake; quote if you must but don’t attribute. Naming the stink in the room doesn’t make it smell better.

  28. Michael Tobis:

    Blocking has long been a topic of interest to statistical and dynamical meteorlogy, but the climatological literature, if it exists, has been very hard for me to find. I’d appreciate any better pointers.

    Currently, I am of the opinion that the trends to extreme and sustained blocking meridional flow events, notably like the present anomaly and the similar Russian event of two years ago, are not predicted by theory or models.

    I tentatively would put this more under “unpleasant surprises in the greenhouse” rather than “told ya so”. It would be very interesting to see any predictions of such events increasing from before the Russian event, even informal ones. As far as I know there are none.

  29. wili:

    Here’s a relevant piece from ClimateCentral:


    “Global Warming May Have Fueled March Heat Wave Odds”

    It will take careful modeling to determine exactly how large a part GW had on this heat wave, but that usually-reticent scientists are willing to proclaim that GW likely played a role even before doing the fine-grained studies to absolutely prove it speaks volumes to me.

    Here’s Trenberth’s take:

    “Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said he views the situation somewhat differently. “Indeed [greenhouse gas-driven] warming is not dominant, but I suspect when all the evidence is in we will find that the event likely would not have occurred without global warming, the odds will be so low,” he said.”

  30. dhogaza:

    Dan H.

    It seems to me that some people just automatically deny that which is inconvenient to their own belief system.

    Oh, the irony …

  31. GSW:


    I don’t think RC guys have commented on this. So I’d be interested on their take.

    Do you see any significance to the recent US warming as further confirmation of anthropogenic C02 induced heat signal, or are we all just getting excited by weather?

    I think this is confined to the US. Other regions are normal/cool (?).

    Also if theoretically, we had a few weeks of exceptionally cold weather in the US, would this be confirmation of the exact opposite?

    The statement “one cannot attribute any particular weather event to AGW, but in a warming world this certainly what would expect” I interpret as No but Yes. Something a little clearer (for want of a better word) would be helpful. Thanks

  32. MARodger:

    Kevin M. @552
    He almost got the hang of using the appropriate form for his replies back @504 but its going to take a lot of training apparently.

    Proforma reply comment, Dan H. for the use of.

    I have no idea what ……….* was getting at.
    *Insert commenter name and comment number.


  33. wayne davidson:

    528 will, not a chance for this heat wave to have happened without the Arctic being so warm throughout this past winter. If this Arctic winter was expansive deeply southwards, bi-continental in size, on Eurasian and North American side at once, no way it would have materialized. Its simple, winter was much smaller in extent, mimicking directly the lesser volume of Arctic sea ice. Therefore its a matter of explaining why the Arctic, during great dark winters…. is warmer! AGW is without a doubt the answer, greenhouse gases operate 24 hours a day anywhere in the world especially at any time, in particular the numerous penetrations of southern in origin cyclones were another sign that sea ice is no longer very thick. Calculating probabilities of the heat wave is a secondary complement to reasoning. I find the dynamical meteorological explanations rather trivial when the Arctic is not commented about, describing winter without the Arctic is like describing summer without the higher sun at noon, the distances between regions often block meteorologists from seeing us.

  34. wili:

    Thanks, wayne. Pretty much what I think. One caution, though: An increasingly ice-free Arctic Ocean can (and I think has in the last few years) lead to increased precipitation as snow across much of the Northern Hemisphere, the albedo of which can mean longer winters. But the same water vapor can/does act as a blanket to keep the Arctic and surrounding area much warmer, and this, as you say, can spread to other parts of the NH. The places that did get snow this year in North America (parts of Alaska) really got dumped on.

    I don’t think we really have a good idea yet of what a newly open ocean at the top of the world will mean for global climate. This is a vast experiment where the observations are outpacing the theory (as discussed in a different context in the Rowland thread).

    Meanwhile, ClimateProgress has another post on the situation:


    As McKibben put it: “The weather this week, I think, is demonstrating that we better start making some choices. The temperature across America in March, as we come out of winter, the temperature is—it’s not just off the charts, it’s off the wall that the charts are tacked to.”


  35. Hank Roberts:

    > 504 … Dan H.

    It’s more bunk, as though he’d never heard tell that he’s wrong.

    Dan bunks > Theory dictates …
    Dan bunks > an exponential rise in atmospheric CO2
    Dan bunks > … will result in
    Dan bunks > a linear temperature rise …
    Dan bunks > … you know that …

    He repeats false claims.
    He repeatedly claims falsely that others support his false claims.

    Dan, if you’re not being paid for this public relations work, you’ve missed your calling in life, because you’re truly working at a professional level.

    Tamino among others pointed out specifically to Dan H.:


  36. Susan Anderson:

    Michael Tobis@~527, good way to put it. Though it’s a long shot, several of us check water vapor animations (h/t Tenney Naumer), and over time the increase in WV and energy is, we think, noticeable. This is a lay comment, but I believe the evolution of activity is visible over time. I agree with Wayne Davidson (now 532) that one must include the evolution of the Arctic area as an input to the forces at work.

    Rutgers has a nice selection of satellite visuals; the northern hemisphere one is particularly powerful, if hyperactive, and sometimes CONUS gives a better big picture of the contiguous US. I’m linking the NH WV animation here; useful menus at top of page there:

    This one is easier to use:

    GSW@~531, it is not difficult to check weather anomalies and information globally, any weather service provides this information, and most of the larger news organizations. It doesn’t take any knowledge of climate science to track global developments. All you have to do be curious and take a look for yourself. This gives the picture in a nutshell:

    (From NASA) Following through by taking a look, a brief item on how solar flares are not going to destroy us, which educated my ignorance. Such fun!
    “2012: Killer Solar Flares Are a Physical Impossibility”

    GSW, if you were paying attention to the Arctic you would see that the Barents sea is hugely covered with one-year ice while other areas are losing area. Just as parts of the US and northern Europe/western Asia have had some cold. It’s all about the entire picture, not selected bits of it.

    Hank Roberts, I thank Wili too, did wonder. I look at Masters Wunderground almost every day for the meterological expertise and visuals in the comments (larded with mishigass to skip over).

  37. John E Pearson:

    This is a little silly but: In
    516-517 t_p_hamilton and Tamino in responding to a poster’s disingenuous nonsense (in which it was implied that there was little difference between a two sigma event and a 4 sigma event) mentioned the probability of being some sigmas away from the mean (of a normally distributed random variable). t_p’s numbers are off and Tamino said to “look it up”. I point out here that one can estimate such probabilities in your head, probably in less time than it takes to look it up or load your favorite software. This at least gives the right order of magnitude and usually one significant figure. I personally find it useful to be able to do quick and dirty estimates w/out software and/or looking stuff up. That way you know if the answer your software gives is in the right ballpark.

    P = probability of being more than m sigma above the mean (of a normal distribution).

    P = Errfc(m/sqrt(2))/2 is exact . “erfc” is the complementary error function.

    FOr “large m” (i.e. m >=~2)

    P ~= 1/sqrt(2 pi m^2) x exp(-m^2/2)

    is a good approximation. The approximation improves with increasing m but it’s already pretty good at m=2

    Anyway exp(-m^2/2) ~= 10^(-m^2/4.6) (because log(10)=2.3).

    For m=2, 10^(-m^2/4.6)~=0.1 and sqrt(2 pi m^2) ~=5 so P~=.02.

    For m=4, sqrt(2 pi m^2)~=10 and P~=10^(-(4.6+m^2)/4.6) = 10(-20.6/4.6) ~=10^(-4.5)=10^.5 10^-5 = 3×10^-5 .

    2 sigmas: P= .02
    4 sigmas: P= 3 x 10^-5

  38. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #530 GSW


    For something more clear, think about it this way. Humans have increased the total energy trapped inside our climate system. This means that all weather is now occurring on a new forcing path.


    It’s all about the trends and the forcing.

  39. Marco:

    Response to inline comment 353: Yes, you did miss something. It’s a spambot! Just google the first line, and the original shows up here:

    [Response:OK. I fail to see why someone would quote from a Nature show on skunks, but then there’s a lot I don’t understand–Jim]

  40. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #533 holowanie poznań

    That’s a bot spam for a car add that made it through the captcha. Delete.

  41. GSW:

    @John, Susan,

    Appreciate the responses from you both. ;)

    It isn’t actually what I was curious about though. Just to reiterate,

    Is it valid to take a few weeks of anomalous temperatures in a region as confirmation, either way, of the ‘signal’ of an anthrogenically warmed planet?

    I get the impression from many of comments that it is indeed being interpreted this way, I was interested the views of the Climate Scientists however? (as much as possible avoiding the usual “No but Yes” reponse)

    Should some caution be advised?

  42. Hank Roberts:

    Yeah, some spambots defeat reCaptcha — a
    search for holowanie poznań
    finds: About 2,090,000 results

  43. Hank Roberts:

    PS — the spambot’s goal is to insert the clickable link (to mg-auto, behind the name) into the site so it shows up as connected to RC in later search results; the posted text may be random or copied from earlier in the thread, and is just to delay the site owner breaking or deleting that link to mg-auto )

  44. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #541 GSW

    When isolated the validity drops off because without the trend and the attribution you simply don’t have anything other than it is warm, or cold out.

    In context of current increased forcing and in consideration of all relevant natural and forced events and time scale, it is valid to say that this is expected in a warming world.

    It is also valid to say this particular warming event is occurring in a world where the forcing has been increased by human activity and ‘all’ weather is now occurring on this new forcing path which is warming biased.


  45. simon abingdon:

    #505 Wili. “Michigan has temperatures five standard deviations beyond normal–that’s something like a one in 5000 year event.

    How many such are needed before we can determine that something beyond normal fluctuations in temps is involved here?”

    Retrospectively you can find any number of individually very improbable events.

    Try predicting just one.

    [Response:Actually you will find the very low number defined by the pdf, more or less, assuming a sufficient observation time. With a probability density you are predicting the overall distribution, not the individual events themselves. That’s the whole point of creating it in the first place.–Jim]

  46. Kevin McKinney:

    #523–No, Dan, I would have to subscribe to be able to download the paper. I’d do it in a heartbeat if I had unlimited funds, but sadly that is a counterfactual.

    And as for “implying that a paper published in 2010, with data within the last few years does not meet [my] approval for recent”, try reading for comprehension. The point I made was that, whereas you said there was “very little research conducted in this area,” there was an extensive literature review documenting relevant work back to 1924, and work specifically on blocking from 1950.

    If your context for “this area” was specific to something further on in the body of the paper–to which most readers here will not have access–then may I suggest you should have been a little more specific in stating that context?

    You just make yourself look foolish when you say something which appears to be directly at odds with the source you cite.

    [Response:His goal of course is just to not look foolish to those who can’t discern the foolishness. When those who can point it out, he’s up against it. Classic SOP for denialists–Jim]

  47. wayne davidson:

    #534 Will Arctic Ocean dynamics are somewhat more complex, the models need input x ,y, z, soon x will be filled. Precipitable water over a colder ocean is nowhere as great over sea water 10 degrees warmer. There was a theory I heard long ago, claiming the Arctic Ocean was open giving the mega continental glaciers of our paleo past. I disagree essentially by the observation record, of which when the channels here were open late in the fall there was not much snow on the ground. The Arctic has consistently very little precipitation except for summers of late when surface temperatures exceed +10 degrees C.

    Susan, Dr Masters is one of the greatest online meteorologists doing excellent live contributions, he dishes out what I call modern meteorology which encompasses huge swats of the world, as opposed to your local TV presenter focusing on a State or provincial area, the presenters are hopelessly outmatched and outclassed by recent events and need to go global, as does Masters, they should do likewise. When they keep the narrow focus they get inspired by absurdity and create blogs like WUWT.

  48. Susan Anderson:


    I think the 131 years in 26 answers your query. I’m assuming you are not here to debunk.

    It’s not “yes but no”. It’s a way of putting things in proportion. One can’t go on forever ignoring all the detail when the detail continues to pile up. You need to be able to hold both things in your mind. Fact is, at this point no weather is uninfluenced but no single event is “evidence” in a court of law sense; you can’t isolate it but when a whole season is out of whack we’re human and note it confirms the loaded dice impression. Extreme events are particularly difficult to pin down, but if you leave them out you are biasing the overall picture even more. Insisting on 100% certainty is a way of preventing effective response until it’s too late. Stephen Schneider’s “Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save the Earth’s Climate” goes into the formation issues with descriptions of certainty at the IPCC.

    We are all human, and you mustn’t blame climate scientists, who are on the whole quite conservative, for the rash statements that some of us make in comment sections. Our hosts include us as they include you.

    I can’t help wondering if you were asking scientists to do your homework for you. I’m not a scientist but a follower and appreciator, and fascinated by world weather which I’ve been collecting for over a decade (think Russia, Africa, Pakistan, China, South America). I’m not young and enjoy complexity and paradox, so don’t mind a little uncertainty. You mustn’t isolate any of it – in the end it paints a clear picture. You might even enjoy fiddling with my water vapor links addressed to MT if you want to boggle your mind with the overall earth circulation and coriolis forces in action.

    As to the basic physics, that’s as close to certain as you can get, and has not been in question for almost four decades.

  49. Susan Anderson:

    GSW, sorry, specifically, no, you can’t isolate a few weeks locally. But you can’t leave it out either.

  50. Susan Anderson:

    To finish the thought, if an extreme weather event, wind, flood, drought, fire, and its concomitants famine, disease, and war, takes a life, a house, a livelihood, that is indelible. Masters pointed out that at this point 4 out of 5 households in the US have been influenced by extreme weather events recently though not necessarily to this life-altering extent. This is not something one can ignore or explain away.

    The personal and societal catastrophe represented in this simple statement is mindboggling, and in our human struggle to make sense of it or get past it we make choices that are not necessarily evidential. Scientists are trained to look past this and to take the long view.

    Some scientists are what is called “reductionist” – that is, they don’t admit things they can’t prove or study exist. Climate science crosses this boundary in that it *must* include the real world which is complex beyond description, hence models and all the study and hard work to bring into them as much real-world information and understanding as possible. Only the “higher”-level theoreticians, particularly in math and physics, have the luxury of dealing in “pure” science. We can only hope these dedicated professionals do the best job possible, which is why all the unnecessary sniping and political wrangling is so wrong.

    [Response:Just to clarify a little, reductionism is more of a philosphical strategy of how to approach a problem by decomposing it into its component parts and studying them in detail. It doesn’t imply a disconnection from the real world, nor does it necessarily serve as some boundary between theoretical and applied science.–Jim]