RealClimate logo

Predictable and unpredictable behaviour

Filed under: — rasmus @ 13 March 2017

Terms such as “gas skeptics” and “climate skeptics” aren’t really very descriptive, but they refer to sentiments that have something in common: unpredictable behaviour.

Statistics is remarkably predictable
The individual gas molecules are highly unpredictable, but the bulk properties of the gases are nevertheless very predictable thanks to physics. More specifically the laws of thermodynamics and the ideal gas law.

The bulk aspects of the gases are a result of the statistical properties of a vast number of particles. Statistics is surprisingly predictable even if the individual cases are not.

Just look at Las Vegas and the insurance industry which make a living on the fact that probabilities (statistics) are predictable. Even economists pin their hope on statistics, and the medical sciences would never be where they are now without the predictive power of statistics.

A “gas skeptic” would say that you cannot predict the state of the gas because the molecules are unpredictable. This is analogous to saying that climatic states cannot be predicted because the weather is unpredictable (a “climate skeptic”).

Climate is weather statistics
Climate can be viewed as weather statistics. Early climatological work was dedicated to survey of how the weather statistics varied from place to place and over the seasons.

There are clear effects of physical factors (latitude, mountains, distance to the coast) on the statistical character of the weather and the weather statistics (climate).

In other words, the statistical properties are a result of the physical processes and conditions present and are readily predicted from e.g. geographical factors, seasonal variations in the solar inclination, the atmospheric composition and the planet’s distance to the Sun.

The weather statistics (eg probabilities) are predictable in spite of the chaotic and nonlinear character of weather itself.

Common misconceptions
There are some examples where the question about predicting the exact state is mixed up with the question of predicting the statistical properties of the system, even by people with some experience in climate research.

Some of them are useful for further learning, and there is a number of them in a ‘report’ (“Climate models for the layman”) that Judith Curry has written for a British interest group that calls itself “GWPF”.

Curry’s report has also been used to back Norwegian contrarians who support the effort of a populist politician to get a seat in the parliament.

The analogy to a “gas skeptic” above illustrates why Curry’s claim is misconceived because it is false that the climate models are unfit to make predictions about the future climate just because the atmosphere behaves in a nonlinear fashion due to the Navier-Stokes equations.

The Navier-Stokes equations describe the atmospheric flow (winds), but the key equations for climate change involve the laws of thermodynamics and the way the different gases absorb different frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum.

The most important nonlinear component in this respect include scattering processes, phase transitions, and cloud formation.

A potential feedback paradox
Curry also introduces a potential paradox in her report when she emphasises natural variations. The magnitude of natural temperature variation are regulated by feedback processes and have physical causes. The climate sensitivity also involve such feedback processes.

Any feedback process based on temperature will act on both natural and forced changes in the temperature. If such feedbacks result in pronounced natural temperature variations, they also imply that the climate sensitivity is high.

Examples of such feedbacks include increased atmospheric humidity and reduced snow/ice cover. Processes involving clouds are more uncertain, but they too are likely to be affected by temperature (convection) and act to modify the climatic response.

Natural variations may arise from both variations in the climatic state (eg ENSO, NAO, and PDO) or from external causes, such as changes in the sun and volcanic eruptions.

There are also feedbacks relevant to forced variation as well as internal variability which don’t always mean that higher amplitude natural variability necessarily indicates greater climate sensitivity.

For example, the fact that there is enhanced variability in the 3-7 year ENSO band is a result of climate dynamics (Bjerkenes feedbacks) resonating with wave propagation timescales.

Other examples include distinct oscillatory models of variability with decadal and longer timescales, related also to oceanic Rossby wave propagation and gyre spinup processes, or timescales associated with the AMOC.

It is possible to get enhanced variability on those timescales as a result of dynamical mechanisms without needing to appeal to higher climate sensitivity.

Nevertheless, the bottom line is that Curry must prove that the feedbacks involved in the natural variations are different to those affecting the climate sensitivity before she can conclude that natural variability dominates over a warming due to increasing greenhouse gases.

It’s not the sun
When Curry believes that the changes in earth’s temperature are due changes in the sun, it is important to keep in mind that the variations in the sun only affect as a small fraction of earth’s energy input. Amplifying feedback processes are needed to explain the magnitude of the observed changes.

Curry makes a point of the temperature increase before the 1940s, and that the CO2 concentrations were low then. But she seems to have forgotten that the forcing is proportional to the logarithm of the concentration: the effect of an increase is initially higher with lower concentrations.

The changes in the climate before 1940 were a result a combination of factors when there was an increase in the number of sunspots that coincided with increasing CO2-concentrations.

It is well-known that the sunspot record suggests an increase up to the 1950, but various solar indicators indicate no long-term trend in the sun since the 1950.

Only the increase in the greenhouse gases can explain a forced warming since the 1950s because no other physical forcings exhibit long-term trends since then.

Problematic statistics
Another issue is that early temperature record does not give as complete global data coverage as more recent measurements. The global temperature analysis is based on smaller sample in the early part, for which we expect to see stronger random sampling fluctuations.

This is consistent with what Figure 4 in Curry’s report shows. However, she misinterpreted this as being strong natural variability in the early part of the record.

Curry also makes the same mistake as John Christy by using the ensemble mean as a yardstick for the models (here): model evaluations must be based on the individual simulations taking into account the spread of the ensemble run.

It’s not just the temperature
The climate sensitivity is one indicator for the consequences of a global warming which only accounts for the change in temperature, but it is important not to ignore that changes in the global hydrological cycle may also have a severe impact on society.

It is possible that a weaker temperature increase is associated with a larger shift in the convective activity and more pronounced changes in the rainfall patterns (Benestad, 2016).

The comprehensive picture and consistency
I often find it useful to look at the comprehensive picture in science and look for consistencies, both when it comes to physics and the logic.

A curious twist in Curry’s report is (a) her claim that climate models have exaggerated climate sensitivity because they did not reproduce the observed warming over the 2000-2015 period and then (b) her emphasis on natural variations having scales of “weeks, years, decades, centuries and millennia”.

If the claims hypothetically were correct, then how would she know that the temperature variations over brief intervals are not just a result of the natural variations that she emphasised?

We should expect some brief periods with both rapid as well as slow warming (Easterling and Wehner, 2009), and some of the model simulations have indicated a weak warming over the same period. This is explained in the IPCC AR5 (Box 9.2).

Another question is whether the warming rate reported by the AR5 was correct, and more recent studies suggest artificially weak warming connected to changing observational networks (Karl et al, 2015). This has been discussed here. Hence, Curry’s claim about slower warming rates has lost substance.

There is a curious remark in Curry’s report about the climate models’ inability to match the phase and timing of the natural variations. Yes, it is true, but it is also a well-known fact.

The way it is stated in the report makes me think that Curry has not understood what the climate modelling community is trying to do, however. My suspicion is strengthened when she makes a point about the model simulations not including future changes in the sun and volcanic eruptions.

The elementary misconceptions revealed by Curry’s “Climate Models for the layman” surprise me. Does she really not understand the flaws presented here or is she trying to sow confusion?


  1. R.E. Benestad, "A mental picture of the greenhouse effect", Theoretical and Applied Climatology, vol. 128, pp. 679-688, 2016.
  2. D.R. Easterling, and M.F. Wehner, "Is the climate warming or cooling?", Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 36, 2009.
  3. T.R. Karl, A. Arguez, B. Huang, J.H. Lawrimore, J.R. McMahon, M.J. Menne, T.C. Peterson, R.S. Vose, and H. Zhang, "Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus", Science, vol. 348, pp. 1469-1472, 2015.

218 Responses to “Predictable and unpredictable behaviour”

  1. 151
    Toby Joyce says:

    Mike Flynn: “You might think that a run of 20 heads in a row means that a tail is more likely than a head, on the next throw. You would be wrong. The coin has no memory. Examination of past throws tells you nothing about whether the next throw will be a head or a tail.”

    Take the Bayesian view, Mike. Every coin toss is a test as to whether the coin is fair or not. If you get 20 heads in a row, assuming a prior probability of a fair coin = 0.5, the odds that the coin is fair turns out to be over 2 million to 1. If you got 20 heads in succession, would you seriously still think the coin is fair with those long term results?

    Similarly, with climate change, if the long term weather results are not those you expect from prior natural variation, but deviate significantly, then there is only one conclusion you can reach.


  2. 152
    Brian Dodge says:

    @Armando 14 Mar 2017 at 3:04 PM – “Explain please: the troposphere has not warmed quite as fast as most climate models predict”
    ” There are also processes with scales too small to be resolved by the model’s grid. The model represents these processes through combinations of observations and physical theory usually called parameterizations”. Like cloud processes, which start with ~100nm droplet formation at ~30% supersaturation in clear air through micron fogs, millimeter snow/rain droplets, and cloud ensembles from meters to 10’s of kilometers across.
    “Both [precipitation-BD] changes are significantly larger in observations than simulated in climate models, raising questions about whether models underestimate the response to external forcing in precipitation changes ” I suspect this is largely due to innacurate parameterizations of cloud processes.
    Precipitation moves water from the upper layers of the troposphere back to the surface(or lower layers in the case of virga). As cold precipitation falls through warmer moist lower layers, water condenses on the droplets surface, removing latent heat otherwise available to warm the upper troposphere. If model cloud process parameterizations underestimate how much water and latent heat this precipitation “pump” removes, they would underestimate increases in average and extreme precipitation (which has been observed), overestimate tropospheric heating (also observed), and underestimate climate sensitivity, because lapse rate feed feedback acts to reduce AGW.
    A denialist Troll Would say “models are wrong about precipitation changes, therefore they can’t be relied upon for policy decisions regarding fossil fuels or bridge and dam infrastructure”, deliberately glossing over “significantly larger” changes observed than expected, or implying lower rates of observed tropospheric warming(and higher climate sensitivity) are good news because “Exxon, Breitbart, Fox News, and Republican politicians are more reliable than climate models.”
    They hope to persuade you to ignore science like the following – Future increases in extreme precipitation exceed observed scaling rates
    Do you live downstream from Oroville dam? Do you feel lucky? Wanna buy some cheap recently cleared property in Mochoa, Columbia?

  3. 153
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    Climate change deletion finalized in Idaho

    The Idaho House of Representatives voted 56-9 to adopt Senate Concurrent Resolution 121 on March 24, 2017, thus finalizing the legislature’s decision to delete five standards — those discussing climate change and human impact on the environment — from a proposed new set of state science standards for Idaho.

    As NCSE previously reported, the House Education Committee originally voted in February 2017 to remove the five standards, on the grounds that they failed to present “both sides of the debate.” Despite overwhelming testimony from the public in favor of retaining the standards, the Senate Education Committee followed suit later in the same month.

    The recommendations of the two education committees were incorporated in SCR 121, which approves and extends temporary rules of state agencies subject to the legislature’s review. The Senate adopted SCR 121 on a voice vote on March 15, 2017, apparently with little discussion or controversy.

    On the House floor, however, there was what the Spokane Spokesman-Review (March 24, 2017) described as “lengthy” debate. Ilana Rubel (D-District 18) was quoted as saying of the deletion of the material, “This takes us into the dark ages of science denial, and is absolutely something we should not be doing.”

    But Scott Syme (R-District 11), who led the House Education Committee’s effort to remove the standards, was quoted as saying, “The overriding concern was we just wanted a little balance in it … In fact, we didn’t go as far as I really wanted to. And in retrospect, we probably should’ve exempted another five [standards].”

    More than one legislator quoted in the Spokesman-Review story emphasized that the legislature’s decision was temporary. “That means a team of science teachers will be back on the job this summer, for the third consecutive year, working on wording” for a revised set of standards for the legislature’s review in 2018, noted Idaho Ed News (March 23, 2017).

  4. 154

    Barton, beware the sound of one echo chamber clapping:

    The surviving TTAPS stone-wallers remain loathe to recall that their Strangelovian worst case was an admitted science fiction–

    Total global megatonnage peaked around the time of the Cuban MIssile Crisis, and the 25,000 megatone arsenal they elected to model & publicize had ceased to exist years before in consequence of the Reagan SALT talks.

    No alternative histories please, the real one was hairy enough.

  5. 155
    MA Rodger says:

    Vendicar Decarian @149,
    Sadly the statement being chastised (in The Independent item you link to) is but from a single denialist (David Whitehouse) and not from “climate-change sceptics.” The Independent is wrong to say it is the work of that happy band of liars the Gentlemen Who Prefer Fantasy, a bunch of unrepentant climate denialists which include Whitehouse.
    The offending statement from Whitehouse was the concluding paragraph of a tirade against a series of targets – the embargoing of scientific journals, the lazy practise of scientific journalism, the UK’s Science Media Centre, the BBC, scientific concensuses, balanced media debates – all this presented to the House of Commons Science & Technology Committee which has just reported back on its enquiry into ‘Science Communication and Engagement’ .
    Mind, Whithouse’s statement is a bit of a gem. Whitehouse is indeed saying he should be allowed to lie to the public (as indeed he does) because that is what unfettered free-speech and science is all about. He thus concludes his little rant thus:-

    “Some argue that free speech does not extend to misleading the public by making factually inaccurate statements. But it does. Being able to speak freely without censorship is fundamental to modern liberal democracies and is guaranteed under national and international law. Qualifications are made with regard to libel, slander and defamation and, in some countries, holocaust denial. The important point, and it took millennia and many lives to attain it, is that the freedom of speech principle does not mean that you have to be factually accurate. It is freedom, not accuracy or responsibility that is mandated. If someone says something others deem inaccurate then demand a say, not their silence. Whatever one’s stance one should criticise, highlight errors, make a counterbalancing case if it will stand up, but don’t censor, even by elimination. If this is done, we risk losing something essential to modern life.”

  6. 156

    Except that as few as 100 detonations in cities could set off a nuclear winter. I’m going to write that simulation, Russell. Meanwhile, read:

    Turco, R.P.; Toon, O.B.; Ackerman, T.P.; Pollack, J.B.; Sagan, C. 1991. Nuclear Winter: Physics and Physical Mechanisms. Ann. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 19, 383-422.

  7. 157


    Turco, R.P.; Toon, O.B.; Ackerman, T.P.; Pollack, J.B.; [Sagan, C.] 2008. Climate and smoke: an appraisal of nuclear winter. Sci. 247, 166-176.

  8. 158
    zebra says:

    Toby Joyce 151 and Brian Dodge 152,

    Comment like these are why I come here. I will surely plagiarize you.

    And why moderation to exclude spamming and trolling is greatly appreciated. A few weeks ago I might have missed them.

  9. 159
    Mal Adapted says:


    Mal is invited to calculate the odds of four coauthours of two papers in the journal of an ostensibly nonpartisan 100,000 member Association for the Advancement of Science ( membership by journal subscription only ) ending up as its Chief executive.

    Wait, wut? Are you saying the selection of CEO by the AAAS is supposed to be random? You sound like a Creationist: “A tornado passing through a junkyard would never assemble a 747, so there has to be an Intelligent Designer.”

    You, of all people, surely know that order arises from disorder all the time. You are undoubtedly correct that the process of selecting a CEO out of the disorderly AAAS membership has components that are, if not intelligent, at least orderly.

  10. 160
    Mal Adapted says:

    Vendicar Decarian:

    Climate-change sceptics say they should have right to ‘mislead public’ because of free speech

    This is currently the topic of a lively discussion on ATTP. My position is that a Constitution that enshrines the “right” of individuals to socialize their private costs regardless of the global aggregate cost is a suicide pact.

  11. 161
    Brian Dodge says:

    “It is freedom, not accuracy or responsibility that is mandated.”
    Bull—t. Responsibility is always mandated. US law “”The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.”
    People that don’t know what they are talking about often also conflate prior restraint “we’re shutting down your newspaper because you have a history of lying” with criminal/civil liability – “you said that, it caused harm, you are liable for it” – or as the Supreme court said in Schenck “…is within the power of Congress to punish, and is punishable under the(law, specifically the) Espionage Act.”
    If you falsely claim over the PA in a crowded theater where there is smoke “It’s just some overheated equipment, folks, there’s no cause for alarm – please remain seated” you can be held not just responsible, but also liable if the fire causes injury.
    see also

  12. 162
    Keith Woollard says:

    Sorry, gave up on this thread a while ago, but Zebra has just highlighted Toby’s #151 for me. This coin toss analogy is fundamentally flawed. Toby needs to learn that “natural” and “random” are not interchangeable.

  13. 163
    Scott Nudds says:

    Frost fairs, sunspots and the Little Ice Age
    Mike Lockwood Mat Owens Ed Hawkins Gareth S Jones Ilya Usoskin

  14. 164
    Scott Nudds says:

    @159 – It is the equivalent of shouting “No fire” in a crouded burning building.

  15. 165
    MA Rodger says:

    Scott Nudds @163,
    Your link leads to a paywall. This link gives access, allowing folk to read how Mike Lockwood, Mat Owens, Ed Hawkins, Gareth S Jones and Ilya Usoskin examine the links between the solar Maunder minimum, the Little Ice Age and the freezing of the River Thames.”

  16. 166
    zebra says:

    Keith Woollard 162,

    “natural and random are not interchangeable”

    But that’s exactly what he said– that was the point of the analogy.

    I remember from that endlessly nonsensical thread about paleoclimate that you seem to have conceptual trouble with physical phenomena.

    The “fair coin” is an abstraction. The outcome of a real coin flip is physically (naturally) determined. Unless the coin has been tested and is known to be free of tampering, it is reasonable to attribute the anomalous result to some kind of “forcing”.

    Particularly when there is independent evidence of the existence of a forcing.

  17. 167
    Leto says:

    Keith @ #162, I also gave up on this thread after it was dragged down into idiocy by Mike Flynn…

    But I agree the coin-toss example is not really worth trying to tie in to the weather-climate distinction. After all, the very reason we reach for a coin to toss, and not a rock or a glass of wine or a cat, is that a coin is a hard, uniquely symmetrical object with two discrete stable states in which it can land, and it is almost always unaltered by the throw. It was designed that way for aesthetic and practical reasons, but these same properties make it unusually resistant to any sort of analysis based on watching it for a while and then predicting its behaviour in a specific future throw. The exact opposite is true of most natural objects.

    A casino is typically full of similarly atypical objects, crafted specifically to avoid any sort of rewarding analysis (and to avoid any meaningful drift in their probability density functions over time).

    Gambling in other domains, such as sport (human or equine) is much more typical of the natural world, and there of course observation of performance is highly rewarding, which is why odds are placed on individual events. Try translating any of Mike Flynn’s comments to the horse-racing domain and they are shown to be the nonsense we all knew they were.

    And even then, despite the fact that coins and roulette wheels are so atypical, and reward observation so very poorly, we can still make very accurate predictions about their future probably density function, which as Tamino pointed out is the relevant feature for describing climate in comparison to weather. And in understanding the difference between individual events and in the probability density functions, there is profit to be made and insights to be won.

    Whatever Flynn was trying to say, it fails at multiple levels.

  18. 168
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Keith Woolard,
    Nowhere does Toby insinuate or even suggest that natural = random. His argument is simply one of Bayesian hypothesis testing.

    There is actually an excellent analogy to be made here–the hypothesis that climate has not changed is not credible in the face of the overwhelming abundance of data documenting events that would have been exceedingly unlikely given that hypothesis.

  19. 169
    Scott Nudds says:

    If not now, when?

    Are you ready to march for science?

    On April 22, scientists and science advocates will gather in Washington, D.C., and in hundreds of other cities around the world to take part in the March for Science, a historic event that may well be the biggest march in history in support of science.

    First proposed Jan. 22 in a conversation on Reddit, the March for Science quickly gathered more than 1 million followers on social media. Momentum was spurred by recent federal policy proposals to cut funding for scientific research and restrict the availability of data to the public. The march will also protest against the eradication of environmental protections and elimination of initiatives to mitigate climate change.

    Currently, 170 organizations have joined as partners for the event, representing a broad range of scientific disciplines, according to the organization’s website. They include the Entomological Society of America, the Society for Neuroscience, the Genetics Society of America, the Society for Research in Child Development, and the Center for Biological Diversity, to name just a few.

    When and where?

    The March for Science in Washington, D.C., kicks off with a rally at 10 a.m. local time on the grounds surrounding the Washington Monument — between 15th Street and 17th Street, bounded to the north and south by Constitution Avenue and Independence Avenue. The march is scheduled to start at around 2 p.m. local time, with the route still to be announced, organizers said on the March for Science website.

  20. 170
    Keith Woollard says:

    Rae @ 168,

    So, your first paragraph is clearly false. Toby has equated a coin toss with a probability .ne. 0.5 with the weather system not acting as he expects.
    And what on earth does your second paragraph even mean? Who said climate doesn’t change?

  21. 171
    Keith Woollard says:

    Moderators, please remove rubbish OT political posts like 169.

  22. 172

    On April 22nd, I will be lecturing on the relation between global warming and drought at Kent State East Liverpool.

  23. 173
    Keith Woollard says:


    and BPL @172

    Why is this allowed??

  24. 174
    Dan says:

    Moderators, please remove rubbish, anti-science commenters like 171.

  25. 175
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Keith Woolard
    Wow, so much wrong in only 4 lines…starting with my name. Perhaps, you think that I would take suggesting I am female as an insult. I do not. It just happens to be wrong.

    Second, are you familiar with the term “analogy”? I really don’t understand your objection to saying that if results deviate from those expected given a probability distribution, then that probability distribution probably doesn’t reflect reality. How is that wrong? Is it that you don’t understand what a Bayesian probability is?

  26. 176

    KW 173: moderators…..and BPL @172 . . . Why is this allowed??

    BPL: Because this is a blog about climate science. Look around at the posts, and the side article. Good grief, man, the name of the blog is “realclimate.” Where did you think you were?

  27. 177

    #173–Why is that allowed?

    Gee, tough question. Let me answer it with another.

    If I see a fire in a theatre, am I allowed to cry the alarm?


  28. 178
    Keith Woollard says:

    on at least six occasions you have addressed me you have my name wrong, I have pointed this out several times.

    The reason your analogy is wrong is because you aren’t comparing it with a PDF of natural causes, you are comparing it with the “no change” hypothesis

  29. 179
    Keith Woollard says:

    The reason I wanted to alert the moderators regarding thos comments is that they are OT. They belong in Unforced Variations

  30. 180
    Hank Roberts says:

    Word of the Week: Sea Lioning
    In social media, pestering a target with unsolicited questions delivered with a false air of civility.

  31. 181
    Killian says:

    Mr. Know it All said a bunch of propaganda that belongs in the borehole. I have not had comments removed here for quite some time, but used to for either talking about climate via things like soil, etc., or for “style” issues, aka telling it like it is to people who deserved even less than they got.

    Then you have posters like MKIA whose posts are literally filled with distortions, lies and that are, imo, crimes against humanity.


    Do you folks actually think open discussion aka “free speech” includes the right to lie/mislead, etc?

    PCified communication has played no small part in leading us all to 6C. It gave denialists equal ground, when zero ground was warranted, for a decade…. and still does, in fact. Right, Donald?

    I said ten years ago and I repeat now, it is OK, no necessary, for truth to be more important than avoiding the appearance of having not listened to some fool.

  32. 182
    Killian says:

    #19 benpal said So far for the facts and definitions. An article which purports to scientifically justify predictions on the basis of statistics should refrain from using terms that have nothing to do with neither weather nor climate, such as “skeptics”, “contrarians”, “populist”.

    And at last, the phrase “Curry’s report has also been used to back Norwegian contrarians who support the effort of a populist politician to get a seat in the parliament.” Refuting Curry’s arguments on the basis of alleged political implications is nothing more than ad hominem. You can do better, I hope.

    So says a skeptic? I think only skeptics need worry about being called out as skeptics, no? Showing that skeptics are drawn to Curry’s work is not ad hom, first of all. It shows the quality of person interested in her work, and the quality of person engaged in denial is a quality of person some, like myself, believe belongs in jail. Certainly, her work being used by such people does not prove the work is flawed, but after showing the work is flawed, how can it be inappropriate to show the work is also dangerous? It is, after all, being used to make it more likely the rate of deaths from climate change increases, no?

    We have, dear sir, a right to defend our lives.

    I wish this were hyperbole, but it is not.

  33. 183
    Killian says:

    Regarding Mike Flynn:

    1. Name is obvious… no?

    2. Reason for posting obvious, no?

    3. He seems quite aware the more a lie is stated the more it is believed. You have supported the believibility of lies heroically, folks.

    I’m ashamed of my part in this. No more false equivalence, please.

  34. 184
    Mike Flynn says:


    ” . . . shows the quality of person . . .”

    Maybe you could present facts, rather than ad hominem arguments.

    By the way, I’ve only pointed out that if you can’t even predict a coin toss usefully, claiming to usefully predict anything more complicated than a simple almost binary outcome is just silly.

    A twelve year old child with fifteen minutes instruction on naive persistence predictions is the standard you need to exceed, in order to be believed.

    Many people pay for psychic predictions. I assume many less pay for climatological predictions. Is there any demonstrable difference in measurable benefits from either? Governments may well decide to stop paying for climatological predictions, unless they seem some evidence of recorded benefit to date.

    Claims about the future are often wrong. I believe many people claimed that H R Clinton would be President of the US at this time. I assume some people actually got paid to come up with this outlandish and obviously incorrect claim.

    Climatological claims about the future may be right. Or wrong. I claim I’ll be alive tomorrow to see the sun rise. I might be wrong.


  35. 185

    Imho, comments with the scope to disrupt should be removed, if someone starts to yell repeatedly during class you also kick him out, don’t let the orchestrated, financial motivated derail your online communications. Comment sections are only as good as the moderators moderate them.

  36. 186

    MF: if you can’t even predict a coin toss usefully, claiming to usefully predict anything more complicated than a simple almost binary outcome is just silly.

    BPL: That’s a non sequitur. I can predict the sun’s future evolution seven billion years in the future, and that’s a far more complicated process.

  37. 187
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Keith Woollard,
    OK, clearly the problem is that you don’t understand Bayesian inference. In fact, the “natural forcings hypothesis” would favor a cooling planet (solar irradiance down from its peak in the 1950s, no documented changes in cloud cover sufficient to explain the anomalies).

    Still, you have it all over Mikey Flynn, who doesn’t even understand the value of statistical prediction.

  38. 188
    Mike Flynn says:


    As I pointed out, a twelve year old child can make the sorts of predictions you seem to claim are useful. A little like predicting the Sun will rise tomorrow. But that’s all beside the point really, isn’t it? Nobody has yet managed to make a thermometer hotter by increasing the concentration of CO2 between the thermometer and a heat source. No testable hypothesis (testable by rigorous and replicable experiment) seems to exist. Just a series of generally irrelevant and misleading analogies – usually accompanied by ad hom attacks.

    Apparently, the California drought is over. When will the next one occur (if ever), and can you predict its intensity and duration better than I? I trust you see my point. You might even agree that prediction is difficult when it involves the future.

    Ray Ladbury,

    I ask you to unleash your knowledge of Bayesian inference and statistical prediction to also tell us if there will be another drought in California, it’s intensity, and duration. I don’t believe it’s possible for you to usefully predict such things any more precisely than I can do myself, employing naive persistence forecasts. Maybe you could avoid the task by casting aspersions, or by attempting to be gratuitously offensive.


    Surely there must be some use for climatology. Feel free to ban or censor me if it makes you feel uncomfortable. Or you could provide a testable hypothesis.


  39. 189
    MA Rodger says:

    I see that Mike Flynn is back trolling again. Or is there an alternative explanation? We hear Mike Flynn telling us that he’d “only pointed out that if you can’t even predict a coin toss usefully, claiming to usefully predict anything more complicated than a simple almost binary outcome is just silly.” Could this conditional statement have any relevance to man or beast?
    Think – Parallel Universe!
    Well Las Vegas my desert!! But I never knew we were that close to a parallel universe where statisitcal analysis fails to work, so close that you can hear the moans of its hapless denizens.

  40. 190
    Richard Simons says:


    Nobody has yet managed to make a thermometer hotter by increasing the concentration of CO2 between the thermometer and a heat source.

    And no-one has ever increased the temperature of a tank of cold water by putting an insulated jacket around it. BUT add a heat source and the water warms up much more if it is surrounded by something that reduces heat losses. Earth has a heat source (the sun) and an insulating layer that is becoming more effective and, surprise, surprise! The Earth is heating up.

  41. 191

    MF: Nobody has yet managed to make a thermometer hotter by increasing the concentration of CO2 between the thermometer and a heat source.

    BPL: So you’re still insisting there’s no such thing as the greenhouse effect? Mike, take a course in planetary astronomy or climatology. Until you do that, we won’t be able to communicate.

  42. 192

    Mike Flynn, #188–

    “Nobody has yet managed to make a thermometer hotter by increasing the concentration of CO2 between the thermometer and a heat source.”

    No, that’s true.

    However, in 1859 John Tyndall made a thermometer *cooler* by interposing CO2 between it and a heat source (to wit, a Leslie cube.)

    Try again when you’ve figured out why that is evidence *for* a CO2-mediated greenhouse effect.

  43. 193
  44. 194
    Mike Flynn says:


    Yes. There’s no such thing as the climatological greenhouse effect.

    There doesn’t even seem to be a testable (by replicable rigorous scientific experiment) GHE hypothesis.

    Do you think I am being unreasonable in wishing to see some experimental support for the supposed GHE? Nobody can even say why the effect doesn’t seem to work in the dark, indoors, when it’s very cold, or very hot (as in the hottest places on Earth – characterised by a lack of the supposed GHG H2O), or inside a CO2 cylinder, and so on.

    Maybe I’m in error, and the GHE theory (it should have passed the hypothesis stage by now, I guess), may well explain the way in which the GHE operates,

    As to your demands that I waste my time at your behest, I suggest you use a radiative transfer equation to try to show the rise in the temperature of a thermometer as it is progressively insulated from its heat source by a gas of any sort. If you can indicate a specific part of the courses that you suggest that contradict normal physics teaching, I would be interested.

    I assume that climatology uses the same physics as geology, for example. I also assume that you agree with me in this respect.

    If not, could you provide references to the differences between climatological physics, and the physics used by say, Feynman, in his physics lectures.


  45. 195
    Ron Taylor says:

    I may be reading too much into it, but it seems to me that Curry’s position is refuted by Gaffney and Steffen in their recent paper: The Anthropocene Equation.

  46. 196
    mike says:

    great line at 159, Mal: “A tornado passing through a junkyard would never assemble a 747, so there has to be an Intelligent Designer.”

    Just glancing and skimming through discussion and it appears folks are enjoying feeding the trolls. Have fun, but don’t expect troll conversion to happen.

    Just to be clear: MKIA and KW appear to be trolls, right? We could toss a coin forever and they would never come up heads.

    Maybe I am wrong about that.

  47. 197

    MF: There’s no such thing as the climatological greenhouse effect.

    BPL: Okay, fine. So why isn’t the Earth frozen over?

  48. 198

    “I suggest you use a radiative transfer equation to try to show the rise in the temperature of a thermometer as it is progressively insulated from its heat source by a gas of any sort.”

    Um, Mike, you do realize that GHGS are transparent to visible wavelengths, right? And that the “heat source” in question is the sun?

  49. 199
    Mal Adapted says:

    Mike Flynn:

    Yes. There’s no such thing as the climatological greenhouse effect.

    Apparently all of radiative physics since Fourier is wrong, and modern climatology and meteorology are built on false foundations. Clausius, Clapeyron, Tyndall, Arrhenius and their 20th and 21st century successors: all that inspiration and perspiration for nothing.

    Or, Mr. Flynn has misunderstood.

    Anything’s possible. Hypothetical Hell, pigs might fly! If I were a betting man, though, my money would be on the past two centuries of science.

  50. 200

    BTW, Mike, that was a serious question. Why do you suppose I’m asking it?

    Why is the Earth’s surface not frozen from pole to pole?

Switch to our mobile site