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Zorita interview

Hans von Storch and a colleague interview with Eduardo Zorita at the University of Hamburg website. Zorita has some interesting things to say about climate models:

What would be your advice for young researchers who want to work on climate simulations?
Climate modelling is a quite broad and complex area. In my opinion, there are two dangers that a student should avoid. One is to get stuck in a daily routine of programming and launching simulations, and slowly forgetting that simulations are performed to answer some previous question. This question should be the main driver of the work, the model is just a tool. Climate models are nowadays so complex and require so much technical attention that it is easy to get off the track. The second danger is to fall in love with your model and lose sight of the real observations out there. Models are in this sense dangerous and climate models even more so.

I was also interested in his ideas for where some money should get spent.

What would you do with an additional million Euros for your research?
A million euros is nowadays not much. But to answer your question I would setup a project to understand the behavior of tropical clouds in the Late Maunder Minimum, at the height of the Little Ice Age 300 years ago, from proxy records and model simulations. This could give us hints about cloud cover changes in climates a bit different from the present and thus help us say something about the future climate change.

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Reader Comments (11)

Zorita's opinions are usually worth listening to. Keeping an eye on Die Klimazwiebel is a good investment for anyone interested in climate.

Aug 11, 2011 at 4:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Jones

looking back 300yrs using climate models ? A waste of a €1 million

Aug 11, 2011 at 4:55 PM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

Zorita's very enlightening thoughts on clouds from a year ago:

Klimazwiebel link.

"there are hints that some biological proxies are indeed capable of archiving information about past solar radiation at the surface"

Get your algorithms out!

Aug 11, 2011 at 4:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterFergalR

"A million euros is nowadays not much"

Whichever side of the divide you stand on, taking into account the current financial situation and the low esteem "Climate Science" is held in, that comes across as crass to any poor sod paying tax! Talk about Ivory Towers!

One wonders if they ever look out of the window or turn on the news channels! Quite depressing!

Aug 11, 2011 at 5:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

Lots of time for EZ and HvS. And this sort of thing is why:

[from the linked interview, emphasis added:]

What would you consider the most significant achievement in your career?
For the community, the main contribution I was involved in was the 'discovery' that climate reconstruction based on proxy indicators very likely provides only an underestimation of past climates. This means that past variations were probably larger than was originally believed. Privately, however, my most significant achievement was to switch from solid state physics to climate on my own, so to say, and with the help of the library, located in the 15th floor of the Geomatikum at that time.

Aug 11, 2011 at 5:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

BBD beat me to it - I was going to say that what caught my eye was that he thought his main contribution was his paper with von Storch and others in Science in 2004 "Reconstructing Past Climate from Noisy Data". This paper showed that the Mann et al hockey stick method greatly reduced the past fluctuations in temperature. This paper has been cited 260 times according to Google Scholar (which usually overestimates citations).

Aug 11, 2011 at 5:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaulM

PaulM, it has 158 citations according to Web of Knowledge and is clocking up about 20 a year. Not his most highly cited work, but he's probably right that it's his most significant piece so far.

BBD, I have a sneaking admiration for people who change field; I think it gives us a broader view than most scientists and helps avoid group think.

Aug 11, 2011 at 6:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Jones

"I would setup a project to understand the behavior of tropical clouds in the Late Maunder Minimum, at the height of the Little Ice Age 300 years ago, from proxy records and model simulations."

I freely confess to being a bear of merely moderate scientific brain. Can some boffin explain how an evanescent phenomenon like a cloud can be studied, or even described, three hundred years later?

Aug 11, 2011 at 9:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeff Wood

What would you do with an additional million Euros for your research?

I'd need a bit more, but I'd set up a decent sensor network in the SAA. There be monsters.

Aug 12, 2011 at 12:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

If I had a lazy €1M, I'd set up a trust to allow Josh to give up his day job. Where are you Josh? You're missed.

Aug 12, 2011 at 2:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterMique


You can't reconstruct single clouds of course, but you can try to work out the average cloudiness and how it varies with seasonality and height, using things you might be able to reconstruct such as air temperature and humidity. From that, you can say something about their radiative effect.

Cheers, Paul

Aug 12, 2011 at 4:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul B

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