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« Kelly on the engineering challenge | Main | GCMs and public policy »
Sunday
Aug242014

Moonshine

The parliamentary briefing linked in the previous posting is very interesting. There are several bits and pieces worthy of comment. In this post I'm going to pick up on something Keith Shine FRS told the MPs about climate sensitivity.

  • The presentation gave an overview of the fundamentals of the climate system and discussed how sensitive the climate system is to increases in CO2 concentrations. AR5 stated that it was extremely likely that the temperature increase will be between 1.5°C‐4.5°C, although extremely unlikely that it will be less than 1°C and very unlikely of being greater than 6°C.
  • This is a slightly lower sensitivity limit than AR4 as the models become more refined, with representation of uncertainties in temperature rise in understandable semi‐quantitative confidence bands in AR5.

Now as readers at BH know, the reason for the change in the lower limit is nothing to do with improving climate models at all. As noted in the previous post it is a minor concession to the existence of a considerable body of observationally based studies that show that climate sensitivity is much lower than suggested by the GCMs. In fact the lower end of the GCM estimates given by the IPCC in AR5 is precisely where it was for AR4, at 2°C.

Why, we wonder, do climate scientists do not point the existence of the observational studies to parliamentarians?

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Reader Comments (51)

Climate alarmists hate observation only models.

Aug 24, 2014 at 11:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

Who is Keith Shine? Yes, I can google him, but where does he fit in?

Aug 24, 2014 at 12:12 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

It's One of the coldest Augusts in Decades; snow possible in Scottish Highlands and record cold night in Northern Ireland. The rumpiest parliament since the last recorded rump parliament.

Aug 24, 2014 at 12:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

Is it in their interests to point out anything which would threaten the gravy train?
Since it appears that many of the "climate scientists" are in fact climate activists as well is it in their interests (or the interests of "the planet" as they understand them) to point out inconvenient truths (Oh! the irony in that phrase!) which would argue against their objectives, always bearing in mind that mendacity is considered by the environmental activist to be a legitimate weapon in his/her armoury?

Aug 24, 2014 at 12:28 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

"Why, we wonder, do climate scientists do not point the existence of the observational studies to parliamentarians?"

Because some bright MP might question why taxpayers have had to pay for so much previous incorrect information.

Aug 24, 2014 at 12:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Is it in their interests to point out anything which would threaten the gravy train?

That isn't the only possible motivation. I think it's much better left as a pregnant why question, as the Bish does.

Aug 24, 2014 at 12:50 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

This is an example of an abuse of the Socratic method by the climate hype promoters. Instead of using question-and-answer to open up minds and to improve critical thinking, they are using twisted data and selective questioning to hide information and manipulate their victims to their desired point of view.

Aug 24, 2014 at 12:51 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Richard Drake

That isn't the only possible motivation. I think it's much better left as a pregnant why question

Why? It's doubtful they'll tell us whatever the answer is.

Aug 24, 2014 at 1:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

SandyS: Of course they won't. But keeping our options open, when we don't know, is much more powerful. What one might call the power of humility. The Bish, as usual, is bang on.

Aug 24, 2014 at 1:08 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

"..bright MP" A bit like fairy dust, not much in evidence.

Aug 24, 2014 at 1:37 PM | Registered Commenterdavidchappell

Here's a thought....

In the "old days" - scientist and explorers would go and explore - on foot - and get up close and personal with nature. Make notes, do beautiful drawings, spend literally years studying a particular area ......they would draw conclusions and make hypothesise based on EVIDENCE. They had to...

Now we have a generation of scientists where "reality" is presented to them via a computer screen - social media etc has made us all instant pundits, broken down barriers to communication (no need to carefully construct an idea and write it down in a despatch to London - now it's a quick Tweet or chat - instantly changed when needed)

Hence a disconnect between the observation and the model and the new generation will go with what the computer says !

Aug 24, 2014 at 2:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterHysteria

The sensitivity of the models didn't change much from AR4 to AR5:

The mean model ECS in AR4 was 3.21 K/doubling.
The mean model ECS in AR5 was 3.22 K/doubling.

The mean model TCR in AR4 was 1.76 K/doubling.
The mean model TCR in AR5 was 1.83 K/doubling.

Source: AR4 WG1 Table 8.2, AR5 WG1 Table 9.5.

Aug 24, 2014 at 2:54 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

So for any other technical topic we face, somebody says it might be down here or up there. But to make sure we'll have a bit more down here and a bit more up there - would anybody be investing in that type of claim. I know the tax payer will...but FFS!!

Aug 24, 2014 at 3:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterEx-expat Colin

'Observational studies'..?

Can't have them - they don't fit the models..!

Aug 24, 2014 at 4:17 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

"Why, we wonder, do climate scientists not point to the existence of the observational studies to parliamentarians"

(edited quote)

To me it seems glaringly obvious.

Aug 24, 2014 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

GCMs are too sensitive because they don't model clouds properly.

Clouds are hard to model. They scatter and emit radiation. They also transport energy, moisture and momentum over large distances. GCMs use cloud models that go back to the 60s and have remained very much at the macro scale and this is one of the main problems because cloud formation depends more on micro-physics. Cloud seeding is from natural and anthropogenic aerosols and all models lack resolution at these scales.

Globally the net cooling effect of clouds (with respect to no clouds) is about -20 W/m2. The water content of clouds is 100 times smaller than the water vapour content of the atmosphere, yet their effect on climate is huge. They increase the earth's albedo.

Any rise in ocean temperature increases evaporation -- increasing cloud cover --- increasing albedo and ... reducing temperatures. It is the natural way for that the earth's surface to offset any increases in radiative forcing at the TOA.

Clouds are the wild card driving GCM uncertainties.

Aug 24, 2014 at 5:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterClive Best

Because observational studies are the least reliable. They have short baselines, large confidence limits, are based entirely on surface temperatures without proper consideration of the full behaviour of the system or of energy budgets, and are too easily distorted by the assumptions and biases of the investigator.

Aug 24, 2014 at 5:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

This statement by Entropic man "made my day".
"Because observational studies are the least reliable. They have short baselines, large confidence limits, are based entirely on surface temperatures without proper consideration of the full behaviour of the system or of energy budgets, and are too easily distorted by the assumptions and biases of the investigator."
I guess that is what called "post modern science" that models overrule observations is there is a discrepancy. So if the next ice age rolls in and the models continue to show global warming, the warming will win at the next parliamentary briefing as the ice is about to push Parliament into the River Thames. I now better understand Entropic man's comments on this blog. I for one will want observations to overrule models if there is a disagreement between the two. How can you disprove a model if observations don't count?

Aug 24, 2014 at 6:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Peter

@EM
'Because observational studies are the least reliable'
Thanks, mate.
You've just stopped me having to borrow the bus-fare to Pisa!

Aug 24, 2014 at 6:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterGalileoFOMR

"Because observational studies are the least reliable"
"without proper consideration of the full behaviour of the system or of energy budgets"

Wow what a piece of anti-science. Observations are central to science and the validation of models.

What climate "scientist" has a proper consideration of the full behaviour of the system or of energy budgets? What on Earth does proper consideration mean anyway. Full behaviour - ha ha that's a good one!

Aug 24, 2014 at 6:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

Slightly off topic

This remark by Eternal Optimist should go viral.

"Years ago, I used to look at my thermometer to see how warm it was. Now I have to wait 60 years to find out. thats not progress"

Aug 24, 2014 at 6:26 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

Forgot to say, it was on Jo Nova's website

Aug 24, 2014 at 6:29 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

John Peter

"I guess that is what called "post modern science"...."

No, its just "bollocks"!

It is used to "justify" the assumption that our forebears, even those not yet to throw off their mortal coil, were not capable of making and recording "observations". An arrogance normally associated to prepubescent teenagers.

Aug 24, 2014 at 6:38 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

@clive best: 'Clouds are the wild card driving GCM uncertainties.'

Not true; Sagan's wildly incorrect cloud physics is needed to offset the juvenile mistakes in IR and radiative physics......:o)

Aug 24, 2014 at 7:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterturnedoutnice

EM,
Please show us citations and examples of your interesting assertion that observational studies are the least reliable.

Aug 24, 2014 at 7:59 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Observational studies got no ju-ju, no see heap big warmy. Enteritis Man, him-fella no like no see heap big warmy, no like observational studies.

Aug 24, 2014 at 8:06 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

EM,
Here is a summary of how models are considered by non-climate scientist types:
"A model is evaluated first and foremost by its consistency to empirical data; any model inconsistent with reproducible observations must be modified or rejected. One way to modify the model is by restricting the domain over which it is credited with having high validity. A case in point is Newtonian physics, which is highly useful except for the very small, the very fast, and the very massive phenomena of the universe. However, a fit to empirical data alone is not sufficient for a model to be accepted as valid. Other factors important in evaluating a model include:[citation needed]

Ability to explain past observations
Ability to predict future observations
Cost of use, especially in combination with other models
Refutability, enabling estimation of the degree of confidence in the model
Simplicity, or even aesthetic appeal

People may attempt to quantify the evaluation of a model using a utility function"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_modelling

Now empirical.....interesting word. Let's see how it stands in its definition:
Empirical research is a way of gaining knowledge by means of direct and indirect observation or experience. Empirical evidence (the record of one's direct observations or experiences) can be analyzed quantitatively or qualitatively.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empirical_studies

So climate science is rejecting observational studies since they are not lining up with the models, and we who point out this just might be a problem get flamed, lied about, denigrated as 'den!alists', told we should be silenced, etc.

Aug 24, 2014 at 8:14 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

entropic man:

Because observational studies...are too easily distorted by the assumptions and biases of the investigator.

.....whereas models are distorted much less that way.


Thanks for the laugh!

Aug 24, 2014 at 8:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterWijnand

To be fair to Entropic man , their merely following the first rule of climate 'science' , "when the models and reality differ in value its reality which is in error" , so for them its just normal practice.

Aug 24, 2014 at 8:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterKNR

Heap big warmy. LOL.

Aug 24, 2014 at 8:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterBloke in Central Illinois

Entropic Man,
Best laugh in a long time. Simple response to your "hypothesis", "Bull tweet".

Thoughts on the posed why,

Greed
Fear
Stupidity
Arrogance
Ignorance
Religious believe

Roughly in that order, and probably many more.

Actually I think your question gets to one of the root causes of why the CAGW steamroller has been so unfortunately successful. I don't in my mind separate the political head from the bureaucratic body, they are symbiotic components, the "Ying and Yang, of the democratic process as practiced in the UK .

"Yes Minister"

Aug 24, 2014 at 9:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Singleton

Let's go a little further into this reliability problem.

Short baseline. The oldest record, the CET runs since the 17th century for one region. The global record is134 years long. With cycles of 11 years and 60 years identified, this gives date too noisy and too short term for accurate determination of ECS.

Large confidence limits. The instrumental studies include Olson et al wit a minimum value of 0.6C for ECS and Tomassini et all with a maximum value of 9.1C. This is a range of 8.5C.
Among all the other studies the range is from 0.8 to 6.5 a range of 5.7C. The instrumental uncertainty range alone is 59% larger than all the other studies combined.

Limited records. The instrumental records depend on the surface temperatures. Perhaps you can demonstrate that proper consideration has been given to troposphere, stratosphere temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures. It would also be welcome to see mention of the latent heat absorbed by the ice melt as glaciers, ice sheets and Arctic sea ice volumes decreased.

Assumptions and biases. The highest instrumental ECS estimates come from climate scientists with pessimistic expectations; the lowest come from sceptics. There is too much demonstrated scope for observer bias.

Values. Average the modal values for all the instrumental studies and you get an ECS projection of 2.53C, well within the IPCC range. Are you happy to give this figure to Parliament?

Aug 24, 2014 at 10:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Entropic man

"Are you happy to give this figure to Parliament?"

Are you?

Will you be up front and center if the lynch mob comes?

Get it clear your are playing with the ability of people to live and strive. Understand if you intend to stand in the way of such progress there will be consequences. Fancy being one of the "consequences"?

Aug 24, 2014 at 11:23 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

jorgekafkazar Aug 24, 2014 at 8:06 PM

'Observational studies got no ju-ju, no see heap big warmy. Enteritis Man, him-fella no like no see heap big warmy, no like observational studies'

Somewhere there's a thread gathering together the nominations for memorable comments on BH. I'd post yours if I could find it.

Aug 24, 2014 at 11:32 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Pharos, I've copied it to the "Hall of Fame" thread.

Aug 25, 2014 at 2:55 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

I've clicked some time ago that EM just argues for the sake of it.

I have this (possibly unkind) mental image of one who, like the eponymous armchair general, is a bit of an armchair "academic"... Clever?.yes...Educated?...for sure...Unfulfilled?......beyond a shadow of a doubt....

Are you frustrated in your life-goals EM?

You simply cannot be a believer of your own propaganda.....I'm sure you have a couple of acolytes though who are doubtless in awe of your brain exertions....

Sorry mate, you have very little credibility with me.

Aug 25, 2014 at 3:53 AM | Unregistered Commenterjones

You get fed up with dancing on pinheads and ...................................arguing with em sometimes.

Its not a match is it?

No magnetic field = no atmosphere.
No sun = no life.
Whosoever named this planet should have called it - water.
Water, water everywhere and in the air too, it gives us the vapours.
Oceans, clouds, oceans, clouds + THE sun.
Heliocentric orbit gets kinked cos it's all tilted, Euler angles and stuff said Milankovich, means glaciation.
Planet water just to make it interesting flips its N and S every now and again.
Lots of times, all over planet water - volcanoes are going off - pumping all sorts of sh7t into our wonderful atmosphere, it gets hazy sometimes.
Cosmic rays - sunbeams and motes in God's eye.

All rather wonderful but a lot of unknown unknowns.

V ................... man made CO2 and a few half baked 'on the take' computer modellers.

I dunno, I go with planet water, naturally and the known known, that - nature loves equilibrium and it all wears down sometime.

Aug 25, 2014 at 7:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

EM - are you seriously suggesting an ECS of 2.53C ?

CET and 7 other surface datasets. These suggest a gentle recovery from the Little Ice Age, and that CO2 has feck all to do with it.

Aug 25, 2014 at 7:55 AM | Registered Commenterlapogus

CO2 has feck all to do with it.
And even if it does we have at least 2 degrees to go before we hit the inter-glacial peak so I repeat the question I asked the other day: "Why should I panic?"

Aug 25, 2014 at 8:50 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

So EM, presented with quotes and citations about observation vs. models, responds with nothing but a rambling anecdote and no actual answer.
But he is, after all, defending climate science, not real science.

Aug 25, 2014 at 12:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Are you happy to give this figure to Parliament?
Aug 24, 2014 at 10:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

EM - As I have said to Raff(?). Chandra (?) but which they found impossible to accept.

If you don't know, the correct thing to say is "Sorry - we just don't know".

Not to make some stuff up.

Aug 25, 2014 at 2:26 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

MPs have to deal with all sorts of subjects and therefore they will lack expertise in most of them. Even so, they should be capable of asking simple, pertinent questions. Unless they, and their researchers, are completely out of touch you would expect MPs to be aware that there has been a "pause" in global warming and that the predictions (or "projections" as some people prefer to call them) of models have, to say the least, not been very reliable.

Why on earth can't MPs ask questions about those subjects?

Aug 25, 2014 at 2:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

".... existence of the observational studies to parliamentarians?"


To be fair to EM... If I have understood it, the 'observational studies' are still exercises in predicting the distant future based on a raft of unverified assumptions. The difference is that their starting point is data from observations, rather than 'data' from models, themselves tuned and 'parameterised' from observations.

So it's [in my view] a case of choosing between two flavours of clairvoyancy rather than deciding between scientific observation and the output of 1000000 line Fortran programs. EM is simply explaining why clairvoyancy flavour 'A' is to be preferred over clairvoyancy flavour 'B'.

I don't think he was actually meaning that the output 1000000 line Fortran programs is more reliable that observational data.

Aug 25, 2014 at 3:47 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

OK Martin,

Then I look forward to him confirming that then.

Aug 25, 2014 at 10:33 PM | Unregistered Commenterjones


Why, we wonder, do climate scientists do not point the existence of the observational studies to parliamentarians?

Actually we do.

For example, if you actually listen to Keith's presentation at the Parliamentary briefing here, you'll hear that he does discuss observational studies.

Moreover, Keith points out that it was the observational studies that led to the lowering of the lower end of the ECS likely range in AR5 compared to AR4.

Aug 26, 2014 at 3:57 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts


Why, we wonder, do climate scientists do not point the existence of the observational studies to parliamentarians?

Actually we do.

For example, if you actually listen to Keith's presentation at the Parliamentary briefing here, you'll hear that he does discuss observational studies.

Moreover, Keith points out that it was the observational studies that led to the lowering of the lower end of the ECS likely range in AR5 compared to AR4.

[Edit - not sure if the link above is working properly, so here it is in full:

http://www.parliament.uk/audio/post/Climate%20Change/ProfessorKeithShineFRS.mp3

RB]

Aug 26, 2014 at 3:59 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

Interesting responses,mostly from a psychological viewpoint.

All I got was rudeness, which rather demonstrates the barrenness of your case against a scientific approach to climate sensitivity. When will you deniers (and in this case I use the word deliberately) realise that you win a scientific argument by having a better scientific case than the other guy?

I am am quite happy with an ECS close to 2.5. I regard the more extreme scenarios as low probability outcomes. I am quite happy to stand behind it when the outcome becomes so obvious that only an ostrich could deny it. Are you prepared to be lynched by a mob which blames you for the delay in doing something about it?

Aug 26, 2014 at 7:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Hunter

I provide numerical analysis and you complain that I ramble. It is said that it is only science if you can do it with numbers. How about some numbers to support your argument; or are you just a rambler?

Aug 26, 2014 at 11:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

"I regard the more extreme scenarios as low probability outcomes. I am quite happy to stand behind it when the outcome becomes so obvious that only an ostrich could deny it."
Aug 26, 2014 at 7:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

So that'll be when you've arbitrarily decided to return from the model world back to observations, then.

Aug 27, 2014 at 2:19 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Like Martin A, I'll throw you a bone EM.

The term climate sensitivity is really just a technical neologism. It is misleading to those who think of it as anything other than “this is what the models say will happen to temperatures over some time period x under CO2 conditions y.

In its strong form of “equilibrium sensitivity”, it is plainly just ridiculous to apply the concept to the never-at-equilibrium Earth.

In the weak form of “transient sensitivity” it is better to speak of “transient response”, and some more sensible people do so. It remains nothing more than the hypothetical slope of the changing temperature graph [of that thing called “climate”] over time in response to changed CO2 levels. That's all. It's a prediction of sorts. Dressed in words to confuse. But both forms are still abstractions from the models in that neither is a number that is directly measurable, nor even necessarily constant (stable) if it was measurable. [Constant water feedbacks? Yeaah, right.]

So why bother at all with an “observational study” of such a chimeric number? Yes, as Martin A indicates, and given what I said above, probably a fair question. But for me, at least the word observational suggests looking for it in what has actually happened to temperatures over many decades, not merely what is claimed will happen in the future. That is just another step down the rabbit hole.

Aug 27, 2014 at 3:57 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

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