Thursday, 21 February 2013



by Vincent Gray


The following article in “Quadrant on Line”  by Michael Kile goes much further than my “The Triumph of Doublespeak” to pull all their arguments to pieces. He seems to have got into the meeting where they discussed comments and it is hilarious.

Doomed Planet

“Today’s debate about global warming is essentially a debate about freedom. The environmentalists would like to mastermind each and every possible (and impossible) aspect of our lives.”
Vaclav Klaus
Blue Planet in Green Shackles

Weird-weather shenanigans: Part I

by Michael Kile
February 9, 2013

Climate models are complex. Fortunately, more of their creators - and promoters - are being forced to defend publicly their alleged powers of simulation, attribution and prediction. But be warned: the new analogy-diced-and-sliced, pseudo-predictive climate-speak is shrewdly crafted to be more persuasive, near-term relevant - and scarier.

“Loading-the-dice” recently drew ahead of "connecting the dots", "whatever the weather, it's climate change" and "my way or the highway" as the favourite mantra for folk calling the climate shots down at the Carbon Cargo Cult Club (CCCC).

Load-the-dice: (Idiom.) 1. To put someone or something in a favourable or unfavourable position. 2. To affect or influence a result. Eg: Lack of sufficient disclosure loaded the dice against anyone seeking the truth. 3. (Gambling): To add weights to dice in order to bias them. 4. (Climate-speak): A rhetorical expression used to deceive the gullible, especially an audience involved in a climate-conversation with representatives of an alarmist government-funded agency.

How to do it: Decide what number (or outcome) you would like to try to roll with your dice. You can only weight it to increase the probability of one number. Decide what number would be most beneficial for you and your agency. Place it in a microwave for about twenty seconds; or leave them in a hot car with the value (or outcome) that you want facing the top. Let global warming do the rest.

For them, record cold snaps are “just weather”; a consequence of (unpredicted and unpredictable) “natural variability” overriding their warming “trend”.
Severe storms and heat waves, by contrast, are - “more likely than not” – increasing in frequency and

intensity because of (dangerous anthropogenic) global warming (DAGW).

Whatever happens atmospherically, of course, is now an “event” and – yes – invariably “consistent with climate change” (DACC), or with “climate disruption” (DACD).

Another phenomenon recently appeared too in the “weird-weather” space. CCCC folk are keener to promote – yet oddly reluctant to question – the dodgy “attribution” claims being made for “extreme” weather events (EWEs) by researchers.

Extreme, adj. 1. being of a high or of the highest degree or intensity: extreme cold; extreme difficulty. 2. (often pl.) either of the two limits or ends of a scale or range of possibilities: extremes of temperature. 3. (IPCC) occurrence of a value of a weather or climate variable above (or below) a threshold value near the upper (or lower) ends of the range of observed values of the variable. 4. ~ event; in climate attribution studies, when a modeler – unable to simulate real-world events or to explain away an undesirable outcome - such as the possibility there may be nothing “wrong” with the planet’s climate - joins a carbon cargo cult in Ushuaia: “end of the world, beginning of everything”.

Today’s dicey-dialectic has been traced by semantic cyber-sleuths to a cabal launched four years ago: the Attribution of Climate-related Events (ACE) initiative.

ACE’s inaugural meeting was held in Boulder, Colorado, 26 January 2009, at the Pei-designed National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Mesa Lab. Attendees included Myles Allen (Oxford University), Martin Hoerling (NOAA, USA), Peter Stott (UK Met Office, Hadley Centre), Kevin Trenberth (NCAR) and David Karoly (University of Melbourne).

ACE later released a four-paragraph statement. Its mission would be: “to provide authoritative assessments of the causes of anomalous climate conditions and EWEs”, presumably for government agencies and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 2013/2014 Fifth Assessment Report (AR5).
ACE’s “conceptual framework for attribution activities” would be: “elevated in priority and visibility, leading to substantial increases in resources (funds, people and computers).” With both a research and operational dimension, it would provide “a lot more concrete information in near real-time about what [was not about to, but] has happened and why in weather and climate.”

Robust, adj. 1. strong in constitution, hardy; vigorous. 2. requiring or suited to physical strength. 3. (esp. of wines) having a rich full-bodied flavour. 4. rough or boisterous. 5. (of thought, intellect, etc.) straightforward and imbued with common sense. 6. (esp. of climate models) able to withstand scrutiny in any weather; eg: ~ prophecy: the art and practice of selling one’s credibility for future delivery.

But just how “robust” – one of orthodoxy’s favourite adjectives – was the climate modelling underpinning ACE’s grand design? How could it be sold to the public “in the face of continuing uncertainty?” The participants agreed they sure needed “increased real-time numerical experimentation activity” – and a (dicey) narrative to kick-start waning public interest.

There was concern, too, that everyone must sing from the same song-sheet: “A consistent use of terminology and close collaborative international teamwork will be required to maintain an authoritative voice when explaining complex multi-factorial events such as the recent Australian bushfires” (author’s italics).

Three years later, Dr Peter Stott, now Hadley Centre Head of climate monitoring and attribution, and eight colleagues, again stressed the importance of reining in mavericks and having a unified “authoritative voice”; this time in a conference paper.

“Unusual or extreme weather and climate-related events are of great public concern and interest,” they noted, "yet there are often conflicting messages from scientists about whether such events can be linked to climate change.”
“All too often the public receives contradictory messages from reputable experts. If the public hears that a particular weather event is consistent with climate change they may conclude that it is further proof of the immediate consequences of human-induced global warming. On the other hand, if the public hears that it is not possible to attribute an individual event, they may conclude that the uncertainties are such that nothing can be said authoritatively about the effects of climate change as actually experienced.” (author’s emphasis)

Whatever you do, don’t confuse the public with chatter about uncertainties!
Imagine the furore if too many folk begin to suspect that nothing "can be said authoritatively about climate change" other than that (unpredictable) change is what the planet’s climate (and weather) does and always has done. As for seeing extreme weather events as other than the consequences of their alleged human cause, well members of the Carbon Cargo Cult Club would prefer that not be mentioned.

But why has there been an apparent shift of focus from long-term climate to near-term weather? Was there agency concern that public interest in the planet's French-fry fate a century hence - or perhaps “as soon as 2060”, according to the Word Bank’s Potsdam consultants – was declining, especially with the lack of global warming since 1997?

Whatever the reason, expect the orthodoxy – together with the decarbonising political elite, carbon capitalists, militant environmentalists and apocalyptic religious groups – to increase propagation of “loading-the-dice” rhetoric at every next storm, flood, drought, fire and nasty wind.

Tricks of the climate trade

by Michael Kile
February 11, 2013

Want to play the climate game? Make sure you cover all bases and potential outcomes. Discourage attempts to falsify your claims. Never give your critics criteria against which they could test the veracity of your pseudo-predictions and alleged attributions. Insist you know how to separate the “signal” (AGW “fingerprint”) from the “noise in the system” (random weather).

Trick: n. 1. A magical feat or device. 2. An adroit or ingenious act or device, knack; a trick of the trade. 3. Do the trick: (Informal); To produce the right or desired result.
If your ensemble (multi-model) simulations produce a glaring anomaly when compared with real-world data, explain it away by saying: “in this case there must have been more natural variability than we assumed in our models.” Hide uncertainties under a facade of faux confidence. Never hint that an ensemble approach is a neat way to keep your colleagues in the game.

Be harsh with anyone who asks if there could be something awry with model methodologies. Distract attention from your claim that you can “identify” a local weather impact of a global mean temperature rise of less than 1C a century -- allegedly due to the presence of 0.0385 per cent of an atmospheric trace gas -- in a world where the daily range exceeds 80C (-45C to +45C), and so on.

Dismiss heretics who worry about the uncertainty monster, especially those who claim that “large uncertainties in both the observations and model simulations of the spectral amplitude of natural variability preclude a confident detection of anthropogenically-forced climate change against the background of natural internal climate variability.”

In June last year, The Guardian’s Leo Hickman asked some climate scientists whether it was now acceptable "to blame extreme weather on global warming". Was there a “distinctive [AGW] fingerprint” in extreme weather events (EWEs) unequivocally caused by human GHG emissions?

Some, like NOAA’s Harold Brooks, placed each-way bets: “Our understanding of how global scale atmospheric changes affect tornadoes and severe thunderstorms is that global warming will make some of the [atmospheric] ingredients for them more likely and others less likely. As a result, it appears that long-term trends in tornado occurrence or intensity are unlikely to be large. Even without the planet warming, we would expect to see some years with many tornadoes and others with few tornadoes.” (author’s italics)

Other responses were dicey. Princeton University’s Professor Michael Oppenheimer is a dice-man. The alleged link between recent EWEs and increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions was, for him, “best represented by a 'loading the dice' analogy – as the world warms, the likelihood of occurrence (frequency), intensity, and/or geographic extent of many types of extreme events is increasing.”

Professor Michael “Hockey Stick” Mann of Penn State also was keen on “the analogy of loaded dice”. There had been, he said, a doubling in the frequency of record-breaking heat in the US, “relative to what we would expect from chance alone. Records were being broken at “nearly 10 times the rate we would expect without global warming. So there is no question in my mind that the 'signal' of climate change has now emerged in our day-to-day weather. We are seeing the loading of the random weather dice toward more 'sixes'. We are seeing and feeling climate change in the more extreme heat we are witnessing this summer.”

But how confident are they about detecting a climate change signal [DACC] in the “chaotic noise” of near-term weather patterns? One person who appeared to have doubts -– at least three years ago -- was Gavin Schmidt, a meteorologist with the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

In a 2009 interview, Schmidt said the problem with climate “predictions” to 2030 and 2050 was that they cannot be tested “in the way you can test a weather forecast”. The reason is that long-term trends take
“...about twenty years to evaluate because there is so much unforced (“natural”) variability in the system that we can’t predict – the chaotic component of the climate system – which is not predictable beyond two weeks, even theoretically. That is something that we really can’t get a handle on. We can only look at the climate problem once we have had a long enough time for that chaotic noise to be washed out so that we can see that there is a full signal that is significantly larger than the inter-annual or the inter-decadal variability. This is a real problem because society wants answers from us and won't wait 20 years.”

There was a more fundamental problem, too. Climate variables are “horribly non-linear” and “horribly complex”.
“There is never going to be a theory of climate. People have tried, but they all fall pretty much at the very first hurdle. It is 'irreducibly complex'. And you can't get away from that.”

Yet researchers claim today they can make meaningful model simulations “with and without forcing due to climate change” (DACC) and “compute differences in the probabilities of particular events.”

While Hickman’s other contributors all sang from the ACE song-sheet, some seemed more cautious. Was it because they had doubts about specifying EWE probabilities with and without DACC? Several emphasised the difficulty “in calculating the contribution of climate change to an individual extreme event”. (author’s italics).
For Michael Wehner, staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the “relevant question” was: how has the risk of an individual EWE changed because of climate change (DACC)?

In Wehner’s view, the risk of EWEs, particularly very severe heatwaves, “has already changed significantly due to AGW. He claimed the chances of the 2003 European summer heatwave, was “responsible for as many as 70000 additional deaths, at least doubled and likely increased by a factor of 4 to 10.” The chances of the 2010 Russian and 2011 Texas events had “undoubtedly increased,” yet apparently “these events could have occurred without the human changes to the climate.” By 2100, he predicted, today’s most EWEs will seem “relatively normal.”
Some, like MIT’s Kerry Emanuel, felt the orthodoxy could say something like “the annual probability of a heatwave of magnitude A and duration B before DACC was X, but as a result of DACC has increased to Y and is expected to further increase to between Z1 and Z2”. It would take, of course, some work to actually fill in the numbers X, Y, Z1, and Z2......Any statement that went “appreciably” further probably would involve “spin of one kind or another.”
Harold Brooks admitted attribution of EWEs was challenging. “We’re faced with two separate, but related, questions. How much did the planet’s warming contribute directly to the extreme event? The second more challenging question: how much more likely was the event because of a warmer planet?”

But is it possible to determine how any low-probability event (EWE) changes with changes in “average conditions”? The orthodoxy is not only asserting it can do so, but also claims weighted-coin or loaded-dice outcomes are analogous to probabilities in the EWE-space. But is this the case?

“If you flip a fair coin 100 times,” Brooks explained, “on average you get 50 heads, but 95% of the time you’ll get between 40 and 60 heads and, two or three times you’ll get 65 heads. If you get a weighted coin [or loaded dice] that is 55 per cent likely to be heads, it will be 10 times as likely that you’ll get 65 heads. The small change in the average chance means the chance of an extreme [EWE] becomes much more likely.”

Brooks claims this approach can be applied to temperature extremes. But how to determine whether any change in average temperature made it more likely atmospheric flows would be even more likely to occur than just by chance? How, indeed!

UEA’s Dr Clare Goodess did “not believe that it will ever be possible to look at a single event and say definitively if it would or would not have occurred in the absence of human influence. Paradoxically, however, she felt it was possible “to estimate the extent to which human activity has increased the risk of such events occurring. It has, for example, been demonstrated that human influence has more than doubled the risk of a hot European summer like that of 2003 occurring, and substantially increased the risk of flooding which occurred in England and Wales in autumn 2000.”

DACC attribution was, she admitted, “a more challenging task for rainfall and other weather variables than for temperature, and for areas smaller than continents.”

We soon enter the realm of the “seamless prediction paradigm” -- and EWE-climate pseudo-prediction. (For those interested in more detail, read this critique by Dr Henk Tennekes, a past director of research at the Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute.)

As for EWE risk analysis, any statement that describes the likelihood of a future climate or weather event occurring in terms of estimated “probabilities” is defined here as a pseudo-prediction.

Example:Calculating how the odds of a particular extreme event have changed provides a means of quantifying the influence of climate change on the event. The heatwave that affected Texas has become distinctly more likely than 40 years ago. In the same vein, the likelihood of very warm November temperatures in the UK has increased substantially since the 1960s.”

The state of climate science today resembles in some ways that of seismology. No seismologist has ever predicted the location and timing of any major earthquake, nor a climatologist a (DAGW-induced) EWE. Unlike the latter, seismologists not only admit they do not know how to do it, most do not expect they will ever know how to do it. Most seismologists therefore resist the temptation to make precise short-term predictions. Some, however, release probability statements, as climatologists are now doing for near-term EWE attribution. Mark Quigley, Senior Lecturer in Active Tectonics and Geomorphology at NZ’s Canterbury University, is one of them.

It is doubtful, however, that this kind of “probabilistic” risk approach will ever protect any community - be it in an active earthquake zone, a cyclonic belt or bushfire region.

Hence even if one accepts the validity of Team ACE’s EWE attribution ambitions, it is difficult to see how “authoritative assessments of EWE risk” would be useful; especially when they are to be “produced shortly after the EWEs in question when interest is at its height.”

ACE’s work has been useful for DACC alarmists, such as Christian Figueres, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary. “It doesn’t take a scientist to connect the dots,” she said late last year. “While none of these events can be exclusively linked to climate change, taken together they indicate we’re already in the midst of climate unpredictability, of a profound disruption of the Earth’s hydrological cycle the effect of which is still unknown.” Climate “certainty” is within reach, apparently, but only if UNFCCC is given the power and money to sort things out.

Everyone who’s anyone is now playing the EWE-climate game: loading dice, yet ignoring the uncertainties (see Part III).

Economist Paul Krugman did it in an op-ed column last July. Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, did it in Hobart on 15th January this year, when he kicked off the EWE conga line. President Obama did it to “rapturous applause” in his Inauguration speech, vowing to “preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God”, in a burst of rhetoric reminiscent of Al Gore’s Noah period.
“We will respond to the threat of climate change”, Obama promised, “knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations”. (Even more than dumping on them the formidable task of repaying trillions of dollars of national debt?)

Inspired by the decarbonising vibes now radiating from Capitol Hill, our prime minister did it hours later. Singing from the same song-sheet as Figueres et al, she reportedly said that while Australia’s summer EWEs could not be directly attributed to climate change, “the science indicated very clearly climate change means more EWEs.”
Let’s play it again, PM. While EWEs could not be directly attributed to “climate change” -- presumably code for DAGW or DACC -- the science “indicated very clearly climate change means more EWEs.” Down at the track, this would be a scratched horse. [Climate change, strictly speaking, merely describes a natural process – the changing climate. How could it be a cause of anything?]

Fortunately, not everyone has been duped by the new EWE-speak. When Bill Leak rolled his dice, he came up with this cartoon: “A Combet Nation of Fact and Fiction” (The Weekend Australian, 19-20 January, 2013). A perspiring Combet presents the national weather forecast against the backdrop of a continent in flames. “Our satellite picture shows,” he says unconvincingly, “the carbon tax bringing relief from the sweltering conditions we’ve all been....”

Professor Ross Garnaut, the Canberra Carbon Cargo Cult Club’s former climate change guru, also did it in a recent speech to China’s National Development and Reform Commission. “Climate change,” he warned, “takes us into unknown territory for human civilisation”. Australia’s extreme January heat and bushfires were the “latest of the increasingly common extreme weather events that carry a climate change [DACC] footprint.” (How does a fingerprint become a footprint?)

Garnaut is a dice-man, too. He also likes an each-way bet. He was on-message in Beijing. “The association of EWEs with climate change is complicated and can be confusing, because natural climate variability would anyway have introduced damaging extreme weather events from time to time.” Nevertheless, he claimed “we can characterise the way that global warming has affected weather in probabilistic terms by thinking of outcomes as being the result of the throwing of a standard dice with six faces” and so on. But can we?

This was, he said “the probabilistic sense in which climate scientists should be understood when they say that [while] no particular EWE can be said to be caused by global warming [DAGW], [nevertheless] EWEs will happen more often and the worst will be more extreme than before” [because of it.]

But can statistical probability be used in this way? Is the dice a legitimate analogy? Is EWE frequency comparable to a dice throw? To answer these questions, we must venture further into Garnaut’s “unknown territory” -- and into the belly of the beast.

Doomed Planet
“Today’s debate about global warming is essentially a debate about freedom. The environmentalists would like to mastermind each and every possible (and impossible) aspect of our lives.”
Vaclav Klaus
Blue Planet in Green Shackles
This year's climate model
by Michael Kile
February 12, 2013

Dr Peter Stott is now head of climate monitoring and attribution at the UK Met Office Hadley Centre. He was in Hobart in mid-January for the IPCC’s WG1-AR5 fourth Lead Author Meeting, with 254 other scientists from 39 countries. They met to “consider comments received during the Expert and Government Review of the Second Order Draft”.

As discussed in Part I and Part II of this series, the global climate “conversation” has become all about EWE risk and “the odds of events.” Stott made this clear in a nine-minute ABC RN interview.
Stott: “You can’t say that a particular event - a particular heatwave or particular drought was definitely caused – or not caused – by climate change [ie: DACC, DAGW]. But what you can do is look at how the odds of events has changed. Is CC changing the odds, or making particular types of weather events more or less likely?”
ABC: You say event-attribution is an emerging science. How do you quantify how much is due to AGW as opposed to natural climate variability?
Stott: “You need to look very carefully at the observations. Then you need to use climate models to calculate the contribution which can be attributable to human influence, as opposed to natural variability. So what you are really trying to do is to detect the fingerprint of human influence and to distinguish it from other factors....
...What you are seeking to do is to compare the probability of having a heat-wave in a particular region as it exists at present with the probability we would have had if we had not changed the climate....
...It is also important to point out that not all of these EWEs will be shown to have had a significant contribution from climate change [ie: DAGW, DACC]. Many of them will, but some of them also will be attributed more to the natural variability of the climate.”
But can climate models ever determine accurately the AGW contribution attributable to human influence, as opposed to natural variability? Is there something fishy going on here? What is the probability that climate changes all by itself?
Stott: “What we have done in this brand-new report is to gather analyses; to have looked at some EWEs of the previous year and put them in the context of climate variability and change.”
Stott’s “brand-new report” -- a research paper in the Bulletin of American Meteorological Society, Explaining Extreme Events of 2011 from a Climate Perspective -- had received, he said, “a very, very positive response from the scientific community ... the first example of near-real time attribution of a number of important extreme events occurring in one year.”
Stott did not mention the uncertainty monster during the interview, but he did admit that “to carry out such analyses and to make sure they are peer-reviewed and robust, this is really stretching the ability of the science and the scientists.”
His BAMS paper was more emphatic, stressing that “explaining the causes of specific extreme events in near-real time is severely stretching the current state of the science.” Nevertheless, he hoped this would the first of many annual EWE reports.
The IPCC, not surprisingly, agrees with him: “Extreme climate events can cause widespread damage and have been projected [not predicted] to become more frequent as the world warms”. But even it admitted last year that it is often not clear which extremes matter the most, and how and why they are changing” (IPCC interdisciplinary workshop, 2012).
Another joint-authored paper -- Attribution of Weather and Climate-related Extreme Events -- presented to the 2011 World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) conference, gives a revealing glimpse inside the EWE sausage – and it sure ain’t pretty. Event attribution, we learn, is a very tricky business. Yet despite big challenges, such as whether “causal factors [for climate events and extremes] can be identified and model deficiencies addressed,” Stott insists that further ACE research “could lead to improved predictions of such events in the future.”
Attribution seems to come down to a dodgy three-way bet -- and a loaded dice.
Here’s the bet: “Human influences have increased the risk of some extreme weather- and climate-related events, reduced the risk of others and, for some may not have affected the risk substantially”. Whatever the outcome, Team ACE can explain it away.
Here’s the dice: “A finding that human influence has not contributed substantially to the magnitude of a particular EWE may not be incompatible with a finding that human influences substantially altered the odds of such an event happening (especially a particular threshold exceedence).”
Heads I win, tails you lose.
Stott does admit, however, initial studies “highlight many of the challenges still to be faced”, the “considerable uncertainties that remain”, the uncertainty around alleged “causal links” and “whether relevant processes are captured adequately” by models.
One of them will be required reading in the “de-biasing” gulags proposed by pro-AGW social psychologists and purveyors of what might be called Lewandowsky Logic. It argues that “some cold events are consistent with the inter-play of on-going global warming and internal variability”.
A research group (Perlwitz et al) studied the “very cool 2008 climate conditions” in North America that “diverted strongly from the long-term warming trend observed over previous years”. Their “suite of model experiments” apparently “showed that an anthropogenic warming of North American temperature was overwhelmed by a particularly strong bout of naturally induced cooling resulting from the continent’s sensitivity to widespread coolness of the tropical and north-eastern Pacific sea surface temperatures.”
The study’s implications:
“...that the cool year in 2008 did not indicate that the climate was likely to embark upon a prolonged period of cooling and, on the contrary, the pace of North American warming was more likely to resume in coming years.”
As they say, go figure!
Stott’s concluding comments are also revealing: “While it is possible for an attribution service [such as ACE] to provide quantitative results, it is much harder to provide carefully validated results that include sufficient well-calibrated information that would enable a user to fully understand the capabilities and limitations of the information provided.” Needless to say, “in the interim it will be important to manage expectations."
In other words, don’t expect too much from us anytime soon.
Future “progress” apparently depends on – inter alia – “effective communication of attribution results, including remaining uncertainties”. Given we are told they are considerable, why do we rarely hear about them? It may be “effective” for ACE, but is it being economical with the truth?
No surprise, then, to discover even the UN-funded WCRP describes the quest for an atmospheric El Dorado - a “science underpinning the prediction and attribution of extreme events” - as a "Grand Challenge". Indeed, so much of a challenge that for David Karoly – who was at Team Ace’s foundation meeting four years ago in Boulder, Colorado – WCRP’s ambitious “climate information service” concept is only at "first draft" stage and still “needs consultation and feedback” from the CLIVAR, ETCCDI, GEWEX, WGSIP and WGCM model groups.
We learn something else from Karoly, too: there are “conceptual difficulties in validating model results against observations, first of all associated with (but not limited to) co-location in space and grid-cell data versus point measurements.”
Furthermore, any “improvements in longer term predictions of changes in the frequency and intensity of EWEs” will require “improved representation of key processes in climate models” and resolution of other complex issues.
When did the orthodoxy’s “authoritative” voice ever stress – or mention publicly - there are “conceptual difficulties” with the very models being used to determine EWE “probabilities”?
When did it reveal that “little is currently known about the predictability of the frequency of daily extremes at long lead times”? Does the political class know – or care - that “much work is needed to take careful account of uncertainty when delivering forecasts of extremes [EWEs] to users”? (Karoly, WGSP, 2012, white paper, I3).
When the word “mystery” appears in a peer-reviewed paper, it is time to sit up and pay attention. Did the 255 scientists in Hobart last month do so? Did they discuss the implications of this paper -The mystery of recent stratospheric temperature trends -- during their one-week IPCC lead author meeting?
If not, they should; for it challenges the orthodoxy’s “settled science” mantra. As blogger Doug Hoffman explained here last month: Imagine part of the atmosphere
“that is literally only 10km from anywhere on Earth, a component of our environment that science thought it understood quite well. Now imagine the embarrassment when a major review in a noted journal finds that previous datasets associated with this component are wrong - and have been wrong for more than a quarter of a century. Yet that is precisely what has happened. The area is the stratosphere. The impact of this report is devastating for climate scientists and atmospheric modellers everywhere.”
Even worse, the paper’s authors concluded “the new data call into question our understanding of observed stratospheric temperature trends and our ability to test simulations of the stratospheric response to emissions of greenhouse gases and ozone-depleting substances.”
Seeking laws of climate-change and attribution? Prepare yourself for a long wait. Some (funded) studies can go on forever. How many climateers can dance on the head of a pin, or tango on the hot-plate of uncertainty? How many other “mysteries” are lurking in the belly of the catastrophist beast?
EWE attribution for some is like a magic pudding, delivering preferred outcomes in any situation. But for others, it is a stinking stew comprised of “X” parts of an atmospheric human fingerprint, “Y” parts of natural variability and “Z” parts of the orthodoxy’s secret ingredients; with X, Y and Z determined by the chef’s mood on the day (and availability of goat entrails for climatic devination).
Meanwhile, the fight for credibility is warming up, for the stakes have never been higher. EWE peer-reviewers are becoming more pugnacious and pugilistic. Some are throwing away their dice and putting on the gloves. Will there be a bare-knuckle brawl in the Year of the Snake – and AR5?
“Climate is what a boxer trains for, but weather throws the punches (D Arndt, 2012, Stott Attribution analyses have the potential to inform the necessary training and adaptation options for societies in dealing with the punches weather and climate extremes throw their way” (Stott et al, 2012, p13).
Expect, then, even more promotion – and politicisation - of speculative science, packaged as settled science. For climate researchers have convinced themselves – and their supporters – that the "Grand Challenge" of EWE predictability is achievable some day (soon), and are desperate to convince you. Hence the dodgy claims about “unprecedented accuracy” of model simulations and so on (Karoly, WCRP, 2012, white paper).
But for folk stunned “with irritation at the gaps and limitations still present” (Stott et al, 2012, p14), Team ACE and WCRP’s fantasy of creating an “authoritative attribution service” and “actionable [EWE] science” is an expensive folie de grandeur, a quixotic quest more appropriate in Swift’s Grand Academy of Lagado than our time. Perhaps they should join the professor working on a project for “extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw inclement summers”. Or share a lab with the learned gentleman researching a novel method for uncovering political conspiracies?
Professor Cucumber, motivated by an optimism almost comparable to that of folk who believe “while much work remains to be done in attribution science.....the ability to put recent EW or climate events into the long-term context of climate change should improve as each year goes by”; told Gulliver that “in eight years more, he should be able to supply the governor's gardens with sunshine, at a reasonable rate.” The year was circa 1708.
WCRP’s research program also shines a light on the (lack of) knowledge base here. Despite the orthodoxy’s “authoritative” rhetoric, it needs to “develop better observational datasets, improve methodologies, make further progress in understanding [how] to assess and improve climate models”, and so on.
But models are the elephant in the room. As Professor G. Cornelis van Kooten explained recently in an essay, one “cannot base predictions on models that are not validated [against reality]. Yes, they contain well-known physical equations, but they also include a lot of ad hoc parameters and relationships based on weak empirical relations. Climate models are not validated, except against each other.”
Yet Team ACE has no choice but to use them to “calculate the contribution [“fingerprint”] which can be attributed to human influence as opposed to natural variability.” Has natural variability become merely an explanatory “sink” into which can be tossed any “odd stuff” left-over at the end of attribution process?
The big question, then – one the orthodoxy seems reluctant to ask itself, at least publicly – remains unanswered: Is this “human fingerprint” an artefact of the simulations used to “identify” it? Or is it a real phenomenon derived from, and detectable in, observed “patterns of global warming”? If the latter, where is the real-world empirical evidence for the alleged causal linkages?
As Judith Curry recently emphasised here: “on short time scales (decade to centuries), there is no satisfactory way of sorting out forced climate variability from natural internal climate variability unless you have a really good climate model that can adequately handle the natural internal variability on the range of time scales from years to millennia. Empirical methods have yet to do this in any sensible way...”
Furthermore, “until we better understand natural internal climate variability,
"we simply don’t know how to infer sensitivity to greenhouse gas forcing. The issue of how climate will change over the 21st century is highly uncertain....Oversimplification and overconfidence on this topic have acted to the detriment of climate science. As scientists, we need to embrace the uncertainty, the complexity and the messy wickedness of the problem. We mislead policy makers with our oversimplifications and overconfidence.”
If the EWE-climate dice is loaded, it is loaded against the sceptical, the confused and the curious. They do not want more deception, more half-truths and speculation. They want clear and frank disclosure of the crucial uncertainties, of the “possible confounding factors”, of “the many scientific challenges to be faced in developing a robust assessment process for EWEs”, and so on.
How much longer will the activist climate change brigade and decarbonising elites be permitted to get away with so confidently dishing up misleading analogies, each-way bets, pseudo-predictions and dodgy attribution statements in a carefully choreographed semantic smokescreen designed to discourage criticism and public scrutiny?
When prognosticating about the planet’s weather-climate future, the voices claiming to be “authoritative” must come clean: more facts and less fiction, please.
© Michael Kile, February 2013
Disclosure Statement: The author does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article. He has no relevant affiliations, except as author of the Devil’s Dictionary of Climate Change.
Copyright ©2012 Quadrant Magazine Ltd. All rights reserved.